Royal Rajasthan: 7 Wow Places for your 7 Vows


ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY pick out seven dream locations in Rajasthan for the ultimate destination wedding 


Few places can match Rajasthan for the sheer opulence and grandeur it imparts to a destination wedding. With forts and palaces doubling up as venues, there’s no better location for Maharaja style nuptials. Ghodis (horses) are too plebian; here the groom arrives in style on elephant back or in a vintage car.

Monuments brought alive with 3D laser mapping, processions carrying mashaals (torches) and entertainment that ranges from local folk musicians to international pop stars; whatever you want, if you have the budget, you can get it. Here’s a look at seven wow places for your seven vows.


Suryagarh, Jaisalmer
The splash of celebratory orange safas (turban) over fort turrets and ramparts, lavish floral arrangements, starry skies and a cool desert breeze; Suryagarh on the Jaisalmer-Sam Road has wowed many as an unforgettable wedding venue. By day, mandaps and pavilions bedecked with orange and white parasols add colour while thousands of lamps light up niches around the Bawdi (stepped tank) by night.

With classy rooms in the main building for guests and exclusive haveli and suite Residences in a quiet corner ideal for the bride and groom’s family, the 77 rooms can accommodate the whole band, baja, baraat. Rait Spa offers specially designed beauty and wellness therapies for a pre-nup, using locally sourced Thar sand and Luni river salt, besides a stunning indoor pool and gym.


The top notch cuisine blends the best of international fare with Indian cuisine, served in a variety of dramatic locations – from a lavish Halwai Breakfast in the central courtyard, Silk Route Dinner and Sangeet at the Enchanted Garden by the Lake to Wedding by the Bawdi at the Baradari pavilion of the Celebration Garden. Small celebrations take place in the Mehendi Terrace and musical evenings at the Tulsi Garden. Sundowners, strains of the algoza (double flute) and performances by Kalbeliyas and Manganiyars on the dunes culminate in fireworks, making it an unforgettable exeprience.

Kahala Phata, Sam Road, Jaisalmer 345001
Ph +91-02992-269269, 78271 51151
Tariff Rs.14,000-1,00,000

Jet Airways flies to Jodhpur, from where Suryagarh is 285km/5hrs by road.


Located south-west of Delhi in Alwar district, Neemrana’s advantage is its proximity to the national capital. Set against the Aravali hills, the sprawling 15th century fort palace is one of India’s oldest heritage hotels and a destination in itself. The Rs.7 crore renovation project took 15 years and it shows! Cascading down a hillside over 12 tiers of lush landscaped terraces, Neemrana is a stunning location for weddings. From the first regal wedding in 1992 (a London-Singapore affair) to a Punjabi royal bash, it has played matchmaker in many an alliance.

Various functions can be held in the fort’s seven palace wings overlooking 6 acres of terraced patios, alcoves and magnificent gardens like Uncha Baag, Mukut Baag and Sirmaur Baag. Blending Sultanate, Rajput, Mughal and colonial styles, each room is unique – Paashan Mahal (Rock Palace) is built around a rockface of the Aravalis, Uma Vilas has terrific hill views, Chandra Mahal was the old Hall of Justice while Francisi Mahal is a French suite. Enjoy alfresco dinners, Ayurvedic massages, two swimming pools – Raj Kund and the exclusive Surya Kund and Mahaburj restaurant serves excellent Rajasthani and North Indian cuisine.


There’s plenty to do for guests with camel rides, audio tours, camel cart rides to an 18th century stepwell, vintage car rides and a 5-track Zipline, the first in India, by Flying Fox. Being a hill fort, be prepared to walk and climb high steps to reach different levels. For a smaller, more intimate experience, try Neemrana’s Hill Fort Kesroli near Alwar.

122nd Milestone, Off Delhi-Jaipur Highway, Neemrana, Alwar District 301705
Ph 01494 246007, 9310630386
Tariff Rs.6,500-28,000

Jet Airways has several flights to IGI Airport, Delhi from where Neemrana is just 108km


Steeped in romance and the beauty of its seven lakes interlinked by canals, Udaipur has hosted many a celebrity wedding. In 2004, actress Raveena Tandon got married to film distributor Anil Thadani at Jagmandir Island Palace at Lake Pichola and the whole place transformed into a giant film set with Bollywood biggies flying in from Mumbai. The venue was immortalized in the Bond flick Octopussy.

New York hotelier and Bollywood dilettante Vikram Chatwal married model-turned-entrepreneur Priya Sachdev in 2006 with lavish pre-wedding parties like the masquerade-themed Fantasia that took place in the Zenana Mahal of the City Palace. The sterling guest list of 600 from 26 countries included Bill Clinton, Naomi Campbell and P Diddy, flew in on chartered planes from Bombay, Udaipur and Delhi during the 10-day bash.


Jagmandir Palace featured again in the marriage of tycoon Sanjay Hinduja with Anu Mahtani in one of the mega wedding spectacles of the country. The global cuisine from 16 countries was served to 16,000 guests in a week-long celebration. There were traffic jams; caused not by the BMWs flown in from Mumbai for transporting guests but due to 208 private chartered planes! The wedding bill alone was £15 million with top artists like J-Lo and Nicole Scherzinger performing at Manek Chowk, a Mughal garden in the City Palace. The mehendi was held at the Shiv Niwas heritage hotel while the starlets stayed in £3,000-a-night luxury suites at Oberoi Udai Vilas.

Besides Fateh Prakash Palace and Shikarbadi Hotel in Udaipur, the HRH Group also lets out Gajner Palace, Karni Bhawan Palace in Bikaner and Gorbandh Palace in Jaisalmer for regal weddings. Udaipur’s advantage is the profusion of excellent lakefront hotels that serve as great nuptial venues. Ferry guests in style at the Taj Lake Palace, opt for a Wedding Package at The Leela Palace or escape to the hilltop fort palace of Devigarh.

HRH Group of Hotels, Udaipur
Ph +91-294 2528016-19, 1800 180 2933, 1800 180 2944
Tariff Rs.23,500

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur 313001
Ph +91 0294 2428700, 2428800
Tariff Rs.29,000 onwards

The Oberoi Udaivilas, Haridasji Ki Magri, Mulla Talai, Udaipur 313 001
Ph +91 0294 243 3300
Tariff Rs.30,000 onwards

Jet Airways flies to Udaipur

Umaid Bhawan Palace/Jodhpur/India

The big ticket wedding of actress Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar in 2007 didn’t last as long as it took to build the Umaid Bhawan Palace, but that doesn’t dent the eternal charm of Jodhpur. The opulent golden-hued sandstone palace floored well-heeled guests like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Mick Jagger, Sting, Diana Ross and others. Set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens with 347 rooms, it is the sixth largest private residence in the world, with as many as four indoor and six outdoor venues to accommodate a dream Maharaja style wedding.

The palace has a private museum (with a Champagne Museum Walk), marbled squash courts and a subterranean pool under the palace decorated with zodiac signs on the pathway. Pamper yourself at Jiva Spa. Typically, a two or three-day wedding celebration begins with a cocktail dinner by the Poolside, a Mehndi ceremony at Mehrangarh Fort, Sangeet at the ornate Marwar Hall and Wedding-cum-Reception at the famous Baradari Lawns.


The Mehrangarh Fort itself is a great location for a destination wedding as the lofty citadel is lit up in laser lights while the revelry on the ramparts continues late into the night. For a price, wedding planners can also organize an elephant polo match for guests. Don’t want to break the bank? Try Ranbanka Palace or Ajit Bhawan.

Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur 342006
Ph +91 291 2510101, 2510100
Tariff Rs.77,400

Jet Airways flies to Jodhpur


Deogarh Mahal
Located between the two nodal hubs of Udaipur and Jodhpur, Deogarh or the Fort of the Gods was once the fourth largest jagir (estate) in Rajasthan. In the aristocracy of the Mewar court, the Rawats of Deogarh were counted among one of the sixteen umrao’s (senior feudal barons) of the Maharana of Udaipur. Built around 1670, their citadel is now a luxury heritage resort run by the Deogarh family.

Its 75 rooms stretch across three locations just 5km/15 min apart – 16 luxury Swiss camps at Khayyam, four exclusive suites at the renovated lakefront hunting lodge Fort Seengh Sagar and the rest at the Mahal (palace). Each room is reflective of a different era with Gokul Ajara, Moti Mahal and Ranjit Prakash rooms dating back to 350 years! With wide courtyards and terraces, there are several locations for various events.


Gala evenings feature folk music and dance while one has a choice of theme dinners – Royal Desert Dinner at Khayyam with folk artists, Lake-side Dinner at Seengh Sagar or a Chowki dinner with low seating on chowkis, silver ware and typical Rajasthani menu. Fruits, vegetables, milk products and oils are all in-house, lending freshness to the typical Mewari cuisine. The Mahal can take care of all your needs – from elephants, buggies, royal processions, vintage cars, mandap décor, puja accessories, fireworks right down to the purohit!

Deogarh Madaria, District Rajsamand 313331
Ph +91-2904-252777, 253333
Tariff Rs.8,500-25,000

Jet Airways flies to Udaipur and Jodhpur, from where Deogarh is 135 km and 175km respectively.


With its pink sandstone monuments, opulent palaces and festive spirit, the Pink City seems perennially drenched in celebratory hues. No wonder, businessmen, Bollywood stars, TV actors, royal scions, NRIs and foreign visitors, all make a beeline to Jaipur for their nuptials. Shivraj Singh, the prince of Jodhpur, got married to Gayatri Kumari of Askot here in a glittering ceremony in 2010. Jaipur’s advantage is the wide range of hotels geared up to host a wedding, with all facilities at hand – brass bands, vintage cars, elephants, artists and the best of shopping.

The stunning monuments and palaces like Raj Palace and Jai Mahal Palace also form a great backdrop for pre and post wedding shoots. Taj Group’s Rambagh Palace, voted among the top romantic hotels in the country, offers multiple locations and experiences. The royal meal is served in peacock thalis at the Rambagh Lawns, while private lunches are arranged at the royal hunting lodge.


You could have an intimate family dinner in the Rajput Room or a royal Indian feast at the former palace ballroom Suvarna Mahal, with 18th century French décor and massive crystal chandeliers. Saving all that money for your honeymoon? Opt for Shiv Vilas Palace or Alsisar Haveli in town or drive out 43km northwest of Jaipur to Samode Palace, snug in the Aravalis. For nearly two and half centuries, the palace and its tented camp Samode Bagh have hosted weddings. Have the mandap or sacred fire in the beautiful courtyard and a royal banquet in the opulent Darbar hall.

Samode House, Gangapole, Jaipur 302002
Ph +91-141-2632370, +91-1423-240013-15

Alsisar Haveli, Sansar Chandra Road, Jaipur 302 001
Ph +91-141-236 8290, 236 4685, 510 7157

Jet Airways flies to Jaipur


When Katy Perry and Russell Brand got married in 2010 at Aman-i-Khas, a luxury resort outside Ranthambhore tiger reserve, it didn’t escape the attention of wedding planners and matchmakers looking for theme weddings! A local priest officiated over their grand Hindu wedding and Katy even put on a nath (nose ornament) and mehendi for the occasion. The nuptials featured a procession of 21 camels, elephants, horses, dancers and musicians. Part of the Aman group of hotels, the venue (and its tariff) is ideal for small, exclusive gatherings.

Each of the ten high-ceilinged tents is inspired by the airy abodes of Mughal emperors while on hunts or expeditions. You can opt for a ‘Machan’ wedding with the ceremony (sans the sacred fire) taking place on a platform 20 ft off the ground and guests watching the proceedings from elephant back. For a more regular affair, choose a swank hotel like Nahargarh to tie the knot.


Aman-i-Khas, Sherpur-Khiljipur, Ranthambhore Road, Sawai Madhopur
Ph +91-7462 252 052 Email
Tariff Rs.1,06,000

Nahargarh, Village Khilchipur, Ranthambhore Road, Sawai Madhopur 322001
Ph +91-7462-252281-83 Email
Tariff Rs.25,000

Jet Airways flies to Jaipur, 160km from Ranthambhore


Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared as the Cover Story on Destination Weddings in the October 2016 issue of JetWings magazine. 

Bad Ragaz: Heidi-ho from Heidiland


PRIYA GANAPATHY visits the medieval spa town of Bad Ragaz, riding in horse-carriages past quaint Swiss villages and alpine meadows, a setting that inspired the literary character Heidi


Zurich from the skies was a muddle of green tree clumps and brown gabled rooftops broken by tall clock towers and a river running through. I landed not to explore this global hub of finance and banking but to romp in the hills where ‘Heidi’ roamed. Boarding the 7.43am train to Bad Ragaz, a spa village frequented by the rich and famous since Baroque times, I was treated to Switzerland’s many moods gliding across my window.

The steep craggy mountains possessed a frightening beauty that suddenly slipped into childlike innocence in its rolling meadows and valleys where curious cows wore tinkling bells and ducks floated along the shimmery lakes of Zurichsee and Walensee. Now and then, a waterfall slithered down like a white snake in the misty grey landscape as sailboats bobbed gently by the pier. In this dream state, wispy ribbons of clouds cut low across hills and swept past rambling barns and a tumble of wooden chalets festooned with fiery blooms in baskets and ivy riddled walls.


The train soon pulled into Bad Ragaz station, set in the foothills of the Pizol Mountains in the Canton of St Gallen. The Rhine Valley spa town presented a sublime welcome – its encircling lofty peaks were dusted by the season’s first snowfall while the town was wet and aglow after a sun shower. Home to only about 7000 people, the historic town totes an 800-year old legacy of healing in its soothing thermal waters.

It is believed that the hot springs emerging from the cavernous tracts of Tamina Gorge were discovered in 13th century by two hunters from the Benedictine Abbey in the Pfӓfers mountains. The abbots decided to tap its curative powers and built the earliest bathhouse at the source, accessible only by strapping and lowering people using ropes. Pilgrims flocked in, willing to risk everything for their health and well-being; some were left there for an entire week to heal!


The trend gained momentum after noted physician Paracelsus von Hohenheim validated the purity of the waters in 1535. Since then, Tamina’s 36.5˚C waters have healed czars and commoners alike. It wasn’t until the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz was built in the 1840s that Bad Ragaz gained recognition as a spa destination. Little did the abbots realize how they seeded the concept of modern spa tourism. Even the invalid little Clara in Johanna Spyri’s children’s classic “Heidi” published in 1881, came to these waters to cure her paralysis.

Last year marked the 175th anniversary of channelling the Tamina waters to the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz where guests enjoy its abundant curative powers on tap or in its waterfalls, pools, saunas and steam chambers. Knitting its heritage, luxe modernity and hi-tech medical facilities seamlessly, its two hotels Grand Hotel Quellenhoff & Spa Suites and Grand Hotel Hoff Ragaz draw the elite with world-class health and well-being treatments.


The resort was walkable from the station but we hopped into our van, not wanting to lug our bags all the way. It was a bright day that seemed perfect for a tour of the sprawling resort and its premises, which extends over 500 acres into the valley. Unlike other spa towns, the resort was really the core identity of the place as the town grew around it. Yet, with no formidable walls, it melted seamlessly into the town in a welcoming embrace. Perhaps the very nature of its design and the promise of its founders to be open to the public, make it unique. While large spaces are open to public, certain zones are exclusively meant for guests, ensuring complete privacy.

Our host Kathrin Boerger-Bechtold said that in the old days, those who knew the value of therapeutic waters, hazarded an arduous journey to take advantage of this ‘blue gold’. Outside, the valley glittered in the sunshine and the encircling mountaintops wore a snowy marbled texture. The resort’s media manager Martin Leiter ushered us towards a fantastic luncheon of seafood, cheesy delights, fine desserts and great wine. Of the eight restaurants, the Michelin-starred Abestube had been recently relaunched as ‘Igniv’, Swiss chef Andreas Caminada’s gourmet nook!


A few hours of rest and we were ready for supper at Zollstube, the traditional Swiss restaurant with all-wood interior, antler lamps and hunting trophies. We huddled together for excellent Zurich-style veal and hay soup (yes, a delicious concoction made with hay!) Inspired by the décor, I ordered game meat – sautéed deer escalopes, yellow mushrooms, red cabbage and Brussel sprouts.

Another special offering from restaurant manager and ace sommelier Sondra Klutz, was the aptly named Quelle 36.5 (quelle means spring water). Dressed in a red, black and white dirndl (traditional Swiss dress), Sondra told us how this in-house craft beer was created using Tamina thermal water! Dessert was a delicious glass of Toblerone mousse and marinated strawberries.


The next morning, after an aqua fit lesson and a low-cal Cuisine Equilibreé  menu – a 3-course 600-calorie meal, we strolled to the town square to board the sunny Schluchtenbus to the famed Tamina Gorge. Like other fabulous discoveries by monks – from champagne to coffee – Tamina’s hot water springs too were discovered in 1240 by Benedictine monks. The narrow road leading to the historic gorge is accessible by foot, bus or horse-drawn carriages. No other vehicle is permitted here, so many prefer to walk up.

“I’m Heidi from Heidiland”, our storyteller guide introduced herself, adding that it really was her Christian name, a common choice of parents in these parts! She narrated Tamina’s history as we trod down the 450 m tunnel to the fountainhead with the thundering waters of the Tamina River roaring in our ears.


We entered the Altes Bad Pfӓfers (old thermal spa), a Baroque building built between 1704-1716 to see how things were done for nearly two centuries. It was a virtual museum with old relics and even a baroque kitchen that once served 500 guests. Today, it also houses an excellent restaurant and has a small renovated chapel with ancient wall tracery, dedicated to St Maria Magdalena, patron saint of the sick.

Heidi whispered conspiratorially, “The monks carried the paralyzed people all the way through the rocky crevasses and finally lowered the patients down using ropes to a platform from where they again carried them through a natural tunnel right up to the spring itself, where they left them for days in the water. Nice and cosy, all the time at 36.5 degrees! That was the basic cure. The monks even brought food and wine from the cultivated blue burgundy vineyards in neighbouring Malans.”


The journey was deeply mystical for it reminded us of how grim things would have been in the past with poor access to this remote locale. We walked along the sunless pathway past jagged rock faces swept into the thundering soundscape of water that tumbled into a stream below, before reaching the site where it all began – the sacred grotto of Tamina behind a sheet of glass, bubbling and gurgling out 7000 litres of thermal water per minute. After a quick visit to the museum, we hiked back to the resort along the narrow road.

Channelling the waters from a spring deep in a grotto, the resort was a grand aqua haven comprising the colonnaded Helenabad, the Sportbad and open Garden pool besides the public Tamina Therme, replete with an outdoor rocky waterfall and panoramic views of snowy peaks. Carrying forward the vision of its founding architect Bernhard Simon, the place retains much of its historic architecture but reinvents its ambience and infrastructure to complement modern demands of luxury. In-house designer boutiques, two golf courses, a casino, ski safaris, outdoor activities, Harley Davidson bikes and low-slung sports cars to zip around the countryside besides a dog-friendly code; all add up to its lavish appeal.


It was tough to tear ourselves away from the relaxing massages, luxuriating soaks and sumptuous meals but the carefree Alpine hills which inspired the book “Heidi” beckoned us to Maienfeld for a true taste of Heidiland. En route, we stopped at a local flea market and the Fromm vineyard in Malans to try the signature Pinot Noir with Francesco Benvenuto, the resort’s passionate Italian sommelier. However, the guided tour with founder Georg Fromm, regarded among Switzerland’s finest wine makers, was a bonus. We clip-clopped in a quaint horse-carriage down the narrow lanes of Grison canton past vineyards, torkels (wine bars), wooden chalets and meadows where herds of cows gawked with odd curiosity before we reached Heididorf.

It was a return to innocence as scenes from “Heidi”, the book I won in a school elocution contest came flashing back. We trudged up to Heidihaus, the 19th century homestead regarded as Heidi’s original house, a souvenir shop and a museum replete with statues, models and props that brought the book to life… Just a little further down was Switzerland’s smallest post office, perfect to mail a ‘Wish You Were Here’ postcard to the world.



Getting there: Swiss Air flies direct from Mumbai and Delhi to Zurich (8 hr 55 min). A train from Zurich Airport to Zurich HB connects to Chur via Bad Ragaz, a 1½ hour journey.

Stay: Grand Resort Bad Ragaz

For more info, visit

Author: Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared on 11 Sep 2016 in Sunday Herald, the weekend supplement of Deccan Herald newspaper.

Melbourne: Hidden Secrets Tour


ANURAG MALLICK goes on a Hidden Secrets Tour through Melbourne’s Central Business District with local artist Nicholas Jones. The Lanes and Arcades walk uncovers the secrets behind the city’s most iconic buildings and bylanes.


‘Meeting under the clock’ at Flinders Street Railway Station
Dominating Federation Square, is the Art Nouveau building of Flinders Street Railway station, built in 1909-10 in Edwardian style. The pattern of striped bare red brick and white plaster is interestingly called Blood and Bandage! One of the longest railway platforms in the world, running over four city blocks, its western end has a ballroom and there’s a jogging track on top!

A row of clocks in front earlier displayed various train timings so that people returning from Sunday Church could see what time their train was. It became a bit of a Melbourne tradition to ‘meet under the clock’. Though the building is beautiful, it is not as grand as India’s Victoria Terminus, leading to an apocryphal lore that the plans for the train stations in Mumbai and Melbourne got mixed up in the post!


Eureka Tower and the Gold Rush
The 91-storey Eureka Tower is the tallest completely residential structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Many are fascinated by its appearance that looks like a calculator or ruler – Melbourne in the 1880’s was the wealthiest city in the world, rich from its gold trade. The skyscraper was built in memory of the 1854 Eureka Stockade at Ballarat, where miners revolted against unjust taxation and were eventually killed.

The blue and white represents the Eureka flag, the building’s 24 carat gold-plated exterior represents the gold rush while the red strip symbolizes all the blood spilt! SkyDeck, the 88th floor observation post offers dizzying views.


Why St Paul’s Cathedral is twin-coloured
Built at the site of the first ever church service in Melbourne, St Paul’s was originally a small wooden church later rebuilt out of loose stone. The present edifice was designed by ecclesiastical architect William Butterfield. Unfortunately, the architect was so busy the plans were shipped from England and the church ended up askew – 90-degree off axis!

Built as a flat top church out of locally sourced blue stone in the 1870s, the top spire of St Paul’s cathedral was added later out of Sydney sandstone. The difference in shades is apparent and tourists often remark, “It’s great they’ve cleaned the top part, when are they going to clean the rest of it?”


‘Having a drink with Chloe’ at Young & Jackson pub
The site of the Prince’s Bridge Hotel (named after Prince Albert), where the Young & Jackson Pub now stands, was purchased for £100 at the first Melbourne land auction in 1837 by John Batman, the city’s founder. A stone tablet outside the pub commemorates the incident. The pub’s famous inhabitant is Chloe, an 1875 nude painted in Paris in the Salon style by French artist Jules Joseph Lefebvre.

Back in the day when Melbourne was a puritanical colonial backwater, the painting was put up in the National Gallery leading to clergymen demanding that she be removed as it affected the social moral fiber. She was taken down and kept in storage between 1883-1907, until the pub owners bought it for 800 pounds; today it is independently valued at $5-6 million. Since women were not allowed into pubs those days, a naked woman gave the impression of a Gentleman’s Club and ‘having a drink with Chloe’ meant a visit to the pub.


Platform 2 Artist Project & Sticky Institute
The subterranean Campbell Arcade was built just before the 1956 Melbourne Olympics (dubbed as the Friendly Games) to take pressure off the train station. Forgotten for many decades, in 1995 local artists formed an initiative called Platform 2 Artist Project in the Degraves Street Subway (Platform 1 was on Spencer Street, Southern Cross Station) where the display cabinets served like an art gallery!

In the small clutch of shops is the legendary artist-run Sticky Institute. If you write a book of poetry, a comic book or fanzine on your favourite band, you can print it, staple it and put it up here like a locally produced mag.


Use Melbourne’s first escalator at Manchester Unity Building
In 1932, in the middle of the depression, Melbourne was hit badly and thousands of young men were desperate to find work. The result was Manchester Unity Building. Running three eight-hour shifts with non-stop construction, nearly one storey was built a week and the whole building was finished within a year.

Marvel at its copper elevator doors, mosaic tiles and relief work on the ceiling (depicting gold mining, farming and the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932). Walk past the Latin motto on the floor Amicitia Amor Veritas ‘Friendship, Love & Truth’ to the first escalator in Melbourne.


The Newspaper House mural
Rupert Murdoch’s father Keith Murdoch built Newspaper House in 1933 for the Murdoch family. The mosaic tiled façade features a quote ‘I’ll put a girdle about the earth’ taken from Shakespeare’s The Midsummer Night’s Dream – pretty accurate for the Murdochs’ sense of ambition.

It was designed by local muralist Napier Waller, who also did the murals at Myer, Melbourne Town Hall, State Library of Victoria and the T&G Life Building. Not many know that Waller served in the first World War and his right arm got blown off in 1916 in France; as a result, he had to retrain to work with his left hand!


Checking the time at Royal Arcade
The oldest arcade in Australia, the 1869 building with ornamental Italian architecture was based on Galleria in Milan. The faint lettering on the exterior ‘1912 BATH’ indicate its use in the past. Beautiful hand made tiles lead into a hall lined with premium shops. It’s only when you turn and look back you see two seven feet giants.

Gog and Magog have been striking the clock – built by Thomas Gaunt & company – since 1892. This was where gentlemen in the past would stop to check their fob or pocket watches to make sure they are on time. On the far end in the corner is a figure of Father Time keeping a watchful eye.


Flinder’s Lane
This was the hub of Melbourne’s garment industry, so anyone who wanted a suit, a hat or boots came here. The number of clothing firms in the ‘Lane’ reached 610 in 1939, right until the early 1960s. When people took clothes out into the Lane they had to cover it with calico to stop people pinching the design. The Lane is home to luxury French label Chanel who have a flagship store at the fashionable “Paris end” of the city.

Full of structures related to the textile industry but now known for its SoHo atmosphere, boutique hotels, cafes and bars, it connects to smaller lanes like Degraves Street and Manchester Lane, where a piece of public art pays tribute to its textile history – a giant zipper running down the laneway.


Presgrave Place’s 3D graffiti
Melbourne is a city that teems with graffiti, be it AC/DC Lane or Union Lane, a tiny alley between David Jones & Book Building given to local street artists in 2008 as a graffiti mentoring project. But at Presgrave Place off Howery Place, you’ll find no space for aerosol cans.

After someone put up a framed artwork and stuck it to the wall in 2007, the alley became a bit of an artists’ shrine. Strange arrangements, curious collections of plastic dolls, installations of rats with parachutes, 3D graffiti to a miniature Mona Lisa with 3 plastic soldiers pointing guns at her. It even has its own Banksy – except he’s called Kranky!


Author: Anurag Mallick. This article appeared on 26 July 2016 in Conde Nast Traveller online.

Pepper Trail: Treehouse luxury


Tree-houses, colonial charm, Kerala cuisine and jeep rides around the estate and a wildlife sanctuary, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY enjoy their plantation stay in Wayanad


We trudged up the wooden ramp that snaked 40ft above the coffee bushes in a gentle ascent to the Woodpecker Treehouse. Inspired by local Wayanad tribal styles and built on a sturdy jackfruit tree, our lavish perch came with wood-panelled walls, fine décor, luxurious bathroom, a wide balcony with easy chairs besides a country style four-poster bed next to a tree jutting through the floor. While we’re no strangers to Kerala or treehouses, Pepper Trail was definitely the most luxurious perch we had been to. Its twin, the Hornbill Treehouse was a little further away.

Every morning and evening, we’d sip coffee, watching barbets and sunbirds flit about while Racket tailed drongos and Malabar Grey hornbills competed with their vocal calisthenics. Lost in the cacophonic din of urban living, even silence in the rainforest sits on an underlay of crooning cicadas. We sat watching the constant rain beat down on the heart-shaped pepper leaves that quivered in the cool wind.


Apparently, when the British were taking the pepper plant back to England, the Zamorin of Calicut had scoffed, “They may take our pepper vine, but they cannot steal our Thiruvathira Njattuvela” (the 15-day assault of the monsoon that triggers the fruiting of the pepper)!

Our arboreal existence drew the attention of a boisterous troop of macaques, who would peer through our windows in the hope of biscuits or bananas and romp on the railings in wild tantrum displays. Snootily, we became the burra sahib and memsahib who would descend from their lair only to feed.


Pepper Trail is a good place to know your poriyal (dry fry) from your ulithiyal (roasted shallots in spicy tamarind coconut gravy). The genuine warmth of our host Anand Jayan was apparent as he patiently explained how farm fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from the 200-acre coffee, tea and spice plantation was used to make irresistible home-style delicacies.

Meals were served under the tiled roof Pavilion, its deck hovering over a swathe of coffee shrubs broken by the shade of tall silver oak shade and jackfruit. From cheruvayur pindi toran (tempered green gram) to chena mizhaku pereti (yam fry), nendra pazham curry made of ripe bananas to kayi toran, stir fried with unripe ones; each meal was a culinary journey.


A common local produce like coconut had been reinterpreted into a chapati
 and coconut milk chicken curry. Sometimes, the chicken came in a varatherecha curry with roasted ground masalas or as Chicken kizhi (bundled in a leaf pouch, Ayurveda style) with mint chutney. The diversity of the repertoire can be gauged from the fact that when a Japanese couple came here for three weeks, no dish was repeated! The lean staff toiled away like genies, speaking in hushed tones ready to take care of every need, appearing and disappearing magically to make the holiday experience, a private indulgence. With a maximum occupancy of ten guests, it’s truly personalized service.

After two days of trudging up and down from the treehouse, we moved to the 140-year-old Pazhey Bungalow the ‘old’ plantation bungalow. Set in a manicured garden, the upstairs houses the Mackenzie Suite, in honour of the estate’s original owner Colin Auley Mackenzie who founded the Mangalam Carp Estate in the late 1800s. Mackenzie was a Scottish pioneer planter who was part of the first wave of colonial planters in India.


After he died in 1920, Anand’s maternal grandfather PB Kurup came from Africa and bought the colonial estate in 1932. Long before biotechnology had taken off in India, this biotech pioneer got into the manufacture of distilled water and extraction of oil from eucalyptus, patchouli and bergamot… People called him Techno Kurup.

The ground floor, with its offices and red oxide floors was renovated into the Malabar Suite, with a hall, bedroom, sit out and the old chemical storeroom converted into a large ensuite bathroom! The philosophy of the place is rooted in Anand’s vision of creating special places to stay – a dream he nurtured even as a child. Taking up his father’s challenge, he renovated it with utmost care. Each Basel Mission roof tile and anjali (wild jack) wooden board on the wall was removed, numbered and put back.


The old glass swivel windows on its façade have watched history unfold. With heirloom and colonial furniture collected from antique shops, this wood-scented hideaway is ideal for solitude or romance. Lounge in wicker plantation chairs or in reading nooks where speckled piculets peck at windows indignant at their own reflections, or relax in the secluded balcony overlooking a backyard garden with bamboo thickets and trees frequented by scarlet minivets.

The sprawling estate is great for birding besides leisurely walks to understand how coffee and tea are cultivated. Guests can participate in farm work, as experienced hands harvest coffee, tea and spice, using centuries old methods. In the heart of the estate, fed by natural springs, the acre-wide natural reservoir forms the focal point for local flora and fauna. Perfect for fishing or a leisurely canoe or coracle ride, this is one spot where you’d like to linger. Or laze in the pool and get an Ayurvedic spa therapy.


We decided to head out on an open jeep ride around the plantation. Lined by cheery orange and red heliconia, the driveway cut through the expansive estate with tea bushes on one side and coffee on the other. Driving through the buffer zones of Muthanga and Bandipur wildlife parks, we spotted seven elephants, wild boar and numerous chital (spotted deer).

It was time for dinner by the time we returned. The piece de resistance was the mola ari payasam or sweet porridge made of bamboo rice, jaggery and coconut milk. Each time the bamboo flowers – once every hundred years – the entire bamboo forest dies. It’s a fascinating natural phenomenon that’s as tragic as it’s beautiful. After blossoming, the flowers produce a fruit called ‘bamboo rice’, which is collected and stored for future use. Last year was a bumper harvest in Wayanad. Who knows it would be decades before the flowers would bloom again, but we wouldn’t wait that long to return…



Getting There
Located at Chulliyode, 10 km from Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad, Pepper Trail is 100 km from Calicut International Airport, 130 km from Mysore, 250 km from Bangalore and 280 km from Cochin.

What to See/Do
Visit the old Jain shrine converted into an ammunition dump by Tipu Sultan (hence the name Sultan Battery), hike to Edakkal Caves in the Ambukuthi hills to see the Neolithic cave drawings dating to 6000 BC and go on wildlife safaris in Muthanga and Bandipur.


Pepper Trail
Mangalam Carp Estate, Chulliyode
Sulthan Bathery, Wayanad
Ph: +91 9562 277 000

Malabar Suite Rs.11,750
McKenzie Suite/treehouse Rs.14,750
Inclusive of breakfast, Meals Rs.600 lunch, Rs.750 dinner

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the August, 2016 issue of Outlook Traveller magazine.

KL Confidential: 10 local experiences in Kuala Lumpur


ANURAG MALLICK & PRIYA GANAPATHY live it up like locals as they take in the signature experiences of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur

The evolution of an old mining town to a centre of trade and commerce is the stuff of dreams. However, here are a few leads to help you discover and get under the skin of Kuala Lumpur, a cultural cauldron of diverse communities and traditions and one of Asia’s most beautiful capital cities.

Royal Selangor pewter factory IMG_4357_KL-Anurag Priya

Learn how to make pewter at the Royal Selangor factory
As you fly into Kuala Lumpur, you spot large brown swathes cutting across the greenery. These are relics of the tin mines that made Malaysia the world’s largest tin producer in the 20th century and established KL as a mining town. No visit to KL is complete without a trip to the Royal Selangor Pewter factory, set up in 1885 by a young pewtersmith Yong Koon who came from China to British Malaya in search of fortune.

On a guided tour, watch workers engaged in casting, hammering, polishing and finishing products. Learn how pewter is made using 97% tin, with a little copper and antimony added for strength. After platinum, gold and silver, pewter is the world’s fourth most precious metal.

Royal Selangor pewter factory - largest tankard IMG_4452_KL-Anurag Priya

In the old days, it was used as currency, shaped into animal figurines like crocodiles, elephants and tortoises! With time, craftsmen found its low melting point and relative softness ideal for designing artefacts. Soon household, decorative and religious objects were in demand for the burgeoning Chinese population.

Don’t miss the old tin mining dredge, a replica of Petronas Towers, the hand imprints of former workers and the world’s largest pewter tankard – measuring 6½ ft, weighing 1.53 tons with a capacity 2796 litres. A master craftsman also teaches you how to fashion molten metal into your own pewter artefact. If it’s a fiasco, there’s always the souvenir store!

IMG_4973_Anurag Mallick

Grab some ‘Mud’
It was at the muddy confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers that the frontier town of Kuala Lumpur first developed – kuala literally means estuary in Malay while lumpur is mud. And the most enthralling way to get to know KL is to watch a musical based on its origin. Set during the 1880 tin mining boom, ‘Mud’ traces the journey of three friends – Mamat, a Malay, Meng, a Chinese and Muthiah an Indian, who come to the town in search of opportunity.

Here, they meet a host of colourful characters and their shared stories and strange encounters are an apt portrayal of this diverse, multi-cultural city. The historic venue is Panggung Bandaraya at Merdeka Square, a Mughal style building, where town planning meetings were held in the past. Cost RM60, Timings 3 pm and 8:30 pm

Batu Caves IMG_4464_KL-Anurag Priya

Follow the Tamil temple trail to Batu Caves
As you trawl the streets around China Town, the top of a Dravidian temple spire catches your attention from afar. Founded in 1873 by local Tamil leader Thamboosamy Pillai, the Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu shrine in Kuala Lumpur. During Thaipusam in mid-January, a massive silver chariot transports the statues of Lord Murugan and his consorts Valli and Teivayanni across KL’s streets, before reaching Batu Caves in a procession of 8 hours that covers 15 km.

The devout throng the 140 ft high gilded statue of Murugan, the largest in the world, after climbing the 300 odd steps to his hilly abode set in a knotted outcrop of limestone caves. At the base of the steps, volunteers hand out wraparound lungis to be suitably attired. The area bears a distinctly Indian flavor with a clutch of banana leaf restaurants like Dhivya and Rani serving coconut water and North-Indian, South-Indian or Jain meals to tired pilgrims. Stalls sell garish sweets, souvenirs, ‘Call India’ SIM cards and Tamil literature alongside titles by Nietzsche and Camus!

Durian IMG_4264_KL-Anurag Priya

Learn to appreciate the durian
Love it or hate it, the spiky tropical fruit with sticky sweet flesh wears its laurels like a crown of thorns, often drawing extreme reactions. British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace described durian as “a rich custard highly flavoured with almonds”, though others have been less charitable. Novelist Anthony Burgess compares it to “eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory”. Chef Anthony Bourdain described its taste as ‘indescribable’. “Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” Travel and food writer Richard Sterling dismisses its odour as ‘pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock’, which can be smelled from yards away.

For this reason, durian is forbidden in hotels, subways and airports. But if you visit KL between June to August, the streets are lined with stalls selling durian and exotic fruits like rambutan and mangosteen… You’re handed out plastic gloves to avoid getting your hands messy. The durian craze is so much, you also find fried durian, durian ice-cream, cakes, crepes and pancakes. To the locals, it is the ‘King of Fruits’, which smells like hell, but tastes like heaven.

Hungry Ghost Festival IMG_4279_KL-Anurag Priya

Catch a local festival
Though Malaysia hosts several big-ticket events like Malaysia International Gourmet Festival, Citrawarna (Colours of Malaysia), Malaysian Moto GP at Sepang, 1MYES or 1-Malaysia Year End Sale, its charm lies in smaller festivals. Home to diverse ethnicities, Malaysia hosts an event or festival in some nook every day! Whether it is Deepavali, Christmas, Thaipusam, Hari Raya (Ramadan) or Chinese New Year, each festival is celebrated with equal fervor.

During the Hungry Ghost Festival, people make food offerings and burn paper money to keep the ancestors in the spirit realm happy! During the Mid-Autumn Mooncake festival, a lunar harvest celebration of the Chinese community, people make an array of small round cakes with exotic sweet fillings like lotus seed paste or durian. The annual Merdeka (Independence) Day at KL’s historic Merdeka Square is a good opportunity to witness the cultural diversity displayed in colourful parades and floats.

Central Market IMG_5041_KL-Anurag Priya

Go shopping in Central Market or Chinatown
In 1888, Chinese kapitan (community leader) Yap Ah Loy developed the wet market by Kuala Lumpur’s riverfront into Central Market, which was later given an Art Deco facelift by the British. Today a vibrant cultural and craft centre, it is a great place to buy batik clothes, Javanese masks, Bornean beadwork, Petronas tabletops, wood carvings, sculptures and other souvenirs. There are shopping avenues dedicated to various communities – Chinese, Malay, Indian, Portuguese and Baba-Nyonya.

Drop by at the ARCH store for heritage gifts – 3-D miniatures, bookmarks, magnets and made-in-Malaysia products representing the world’s greatest heritage landmarks. Pick up traditional kites like wau bulan (moon kite) or wau burung (bird kite) also available in miniature size, besides bunga berbaling, a Malay batik motif of a twining vine. Drop by at the Tenmoku store for exquisite glazed pottery like vases and decorative artefacts. Or if you’re up to some haggling, head to Chinatown for t-shirts and street shopping.

Malay Baba Nyonya cuisine IMG_5011_KL-Anurag Priya

Try local street food at Jalan Alor
Malaysian cuisine is truly a melting pot of diverse flavours, a mix of Malay, Indian, Chinese and colonial influences of the British and Portuguese. The best place for street food is undoubtedly Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang where stalls dish out ethnic Malay specialties like Kajang satay, Sarawak laksa, Mee Foo (fried noodles) and popular Chinese fare. Tamil settlers run banana leaf restaurants and serve Roti Canai (like a Kerala paratha, but derived from the city of Chennai).

Another popular genre is the South Indian Muslim cuisine of Nasi Kandar – biryani rice served with assorted non-veg curries and fries. In the old days, hawkers often carried all the dishes in baskets strung over their shoulders (kandha) and would set it down on street corners to open pop-up restaurants. One of the most successful of these is Pelita Nasi Kandar. Chinese traders who settled centuries ago and speak Malay specialize in a genre called Nyonya cuisine – a combination of Chinese ingredients cooked with Malay herbs and spices. At Precious Old China, try Nyonya delicacies like beef rendang, asam fish fillet, ayam pong teh, lady’s finger kerabu, chui pei tofu, coconut rice and sago gula Melaka, sago pearl pudding dunked in coconut milk sweetened with palm sugar.

Aquaria-IMG_6460-KL-Anurag Priya

Make a ‘scared face’ at Aquaria KLCC
Easily the most popular attraction at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre Complex, the 60,000 sq ft oceanarium is a maze of delights. Spread over two levels, Aquaria traces the journey of water from land to sea starting in the misty highlands, through rivers, rainforests and mangroves to coral reefs. Be awestruck as you walk past the Piranha Tank and Electric Zone to the Riverbank Jungle with Asian small-clawed otters, Coral walks and shipwrecks, and observe over 250 different species besides over 5,000 land and aquatic animals from Malaysia and around the world.

The 300 ft underwater tunnel is fascinating, as are the interactive information kiosks on fish and turtle conservation. If you’re lucky, you can watch the sharks and rays being fed. Before you go, pose for photographs with dramatic and thrilling backdrops, which are quickly Photoshopped before being printed instantly as a framed souvenir.
Cost RM64 Ph +603 2333 1888

Petronas Towers IMG_5171_Anurag Mallick

Experience Petronas Towers
Built at the site of Kuala Lumpur’s race track Selangor Turf Club, the Petronas Towers held the record for the world’s tallest building between 1998 to 2004 and are still regarded as the highest twin towers in the world. With an upmarket retail space called Suria KLCC at the base and the KLCC park with fountains and jogging track, it is more than a landmark. Experience the spectacular cityscape as you go up to the Skybridge and Observation Deck on the 41st and 42nd floor – limited tickets for the first thousand people every day!

Cost RM35-85 Timings: 9am-9pm (Closed on Monday and 1-2:30pm on Fri)
Ph +603 2331 8080 Email

Grafitti IMG_5098_KL-Anurag Priya

KL By Cycle Tour
If you think a Hop On-Hop Off bus tour is too sedate for your liking, try their new initiative in partnership with Visit KL. KL By Cycle is a fun way to tour the city – from the oldest park Perdana Botanical Gardens built in 1888 to heritage structures like Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Royal Selangor Club. Pick up a rented cycle from the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery at Dataran Merdeka for a solo Free and Easy Ride or a Guided Group Tour. It’s the most eco-friendly and relaxing way to explore the city, its alleys and heritage buildings.

RM 30-45 Ph +603 2691 1382 Email

Malay Chinese street food on Jalan Alor IMG_4266_KL-Anurag Priya 


Getting there
Jet Airways and the national carrier Malaysia Airlines Berhad fly direct to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, 50km south of the city.

Where to Stay
Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur Ph +60-3-27826000
Seri Pacific Ph +60-3-4042 5555

For more info, visit

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the August 2016 issue of JetWings magazine. 

Mauritius: Dive right in


Undersea Walks, Sub Scooter, Sea Karting, Quad Biking and snorkelling with dolphins; the tropical paradise of Mauritius has a lot on offer for the adventure seeker, discovers ANURAG MALLICK

Driving on Mauritian roads IMG_1951

“The French ruled us for nearly a century and the British for about 150 years, which is why Mauritians don’t drive on the right like the French or on the left like the British, but right in the middle of the road!” joked Ivan, the resort manager at Radisson Blu Azuri. Fortunately, if it’s adrenaline you seek, Mauritius is packed with enough adventure…

Though the island measures roughly 60X40 miles (about as large as Coorg), what sets Mauritius apart from other tropical destinations is the wide range of experiences for visitors. Fringed by coral reefs and clear blue waters, one may snorkel and kayak without leaving the comforts of your resort.

Chamarel viewpoint IMG_2124

We got our chance the next morning at Azuri’s private beach. Like many of the sights here, the resort was built around a sugarcane factory – its old dilapidated chimney left untouched as it overlooked the pool and Le Comptoir restaurant. After an ‘Eye Opener Juice’ of strawberry lemonade and a hearty breakfast, we set off for Gran Baie north of the island for a Solar Undersea Walk.

Locals played dominoes in the shade of the tree-lined beach. Boats bobbed in the clear blue waters while some set off from Sunset Boulevard on sportfishing expeditions to snare Marlins, Tuna and GT (Giant Trevallies). A transfer boat quickly transported us to the diving platform moored just inside the lagoon reef. John, the captain, briefed us.

Solar Undersea Walk platform IMG_1656

As we got ready to descend the ladder into the sea, our guide asked “Hey Bob Marley, are you gonna wear that rastaman cap and your glares on your sea walk”, motioning to my headgear I had forgotten to take off. “Can I?” “If you want to… The head doesn’t get wet!” And with that, the Undersea Walk patented helmet was strapped on. The distortion-free flat glass window panels allowed great visibility in 2-3 m depth of water while solar panels converted oxygen from the air to provide us a constant flow of fresh air from the surface.

On the sandy sea floor, the swimming monitor passed us crumbs of bread. “I’m not really hungry”, I motioned. “It’s for the fish,” the guide signaled back. “Aaaaah!” Despite the oxygen supply, being underwater does make you a little slow. A flurry of striped fish converged on us for a nibble. In what would be a relief to many, most water sports in Mauritius do not require a knowledge of swimming.

Blue Safari Subscooter inventor Luc Billard IMG_1703

The next stop was Trou aux Biches where Blue Safari director Luc Billard had developed a patented Submarine Scooter. “I’ve never ridden a scooter underwater”, was the common refrain. “Very easy, see those two shiny foot pedals? You press it, the scooter moves forward, you leave it, it stops. And that’s the steering.” I imagined the worst – ramming into corals or each other or worse still, mowing down the instructor, but luckily discovered that its speed was a leisurely 3km per hour.

A shared bubble was placed over me and my pillion, the platform was lowered and five scooters set off in Bond fashion. Not Daniel Craig kind, but ala Roger Moore, with strange gizmos, underwater lairs and 70s production values. The movement was quite imperceptible but the feeling of being on your own 3m under the Indian Ocean was exciting. With oxygen pumped into the vestibule, we breathed naturally enjoying a 360-degree view of the marine life – grotesque brain corals and iridescent parrotfish. The best part was the freedom to speak with your co-passenger. “So Miss Renu, traffic signal se left ya right?”

Sea scooter IMG_1700

Blue Safari also ran an excellent submarine tour that lets you observe the beauty of the seabed and the workings of a ballast system. Incidentally, they are the only submarine operator in Mauritius and the entire Indian Ocean! As the submarine dives 35m to the sandy bed, it’s the closest you’ll feel to landing on the moon. There’s limited place aboard the 10-seater and 5-seater subs, so it’s best to book early to watch stingrays and turtles glide past the ghost-like wreck of Star Hope.

Don’t let the alarming number of shipwrecks around the Mauritian coast worry you, as most of these wrecks were deliberately submerged to create artificial reefs. To the north and northwest of the island, dive for angelfish and barracudas around Silver Star (39m) or the Japanese trawler Stella Maru (24-28m), inhabited by blue triggerfish, reef fish, octopuses and moray eels. The wreck of TUG II (17-19m) on the west coast is an easy dive that throws up stone fish, leaf fish and scorpionfish. To the south west, watch trevallies and tunas hunt down smaller fish at Hoi Siong (16-28m). The forty odd dive sites can be reached within 20 minutes from the coast.

Hotel Shanti Maurice IMG_1340

Away from all the action of the north, Shanti Maurice in the quiet south was truly a great place to pause and catch our breath. Walkways lined with tropical foliage led to private villas with thatched roofs spread over 36 acres. A coral reef circled the curved beach with a jetty to the right and the surf crashing against black volcanic rock on the left.

Since the resort offered only non-motorized watersports such as windsurfing, sailing, pedal boats, snorkeling and kayaking, the beach was always tranquil. After endless rounds of spiced rum cocktails at the Rum Shed, rustic beach-side barbecues at the Fish Shack and full body massages at the in-house Nira Spa, we were ready for more action.

La Vanille Crocodile Park-Croc meat IMG_1262

Though much of the French-Indian-Creole-Caribbean-Chinese mix that comprises Mauritian cuisine is accessible to Indians, there’s plenty of adventure on the plate too. At La Vanille crocodile park, after feeding giant Aldabra turtles, petting iguanas and holding baby crocs, we tried crocodile meat.

It tasted like chicken (bit chewier) and in an ironical twist, the restaurant was called Le Crocodile Affamé (The Hungry Crocodile). Guiltily, we explored the 3.5-hectare reserve with enclosures full or crocs and caimans, endemic bats with 1m wingspans and an insectarium with 23,000 species – including dazzling bugs and butterflies.

Casela DSC_0103

One of the top wildlife attractions in Mauritius is Casela, a nature reserve where visitors can pet lions, feed giraffes, pose with caracals, go on a wildlife safari to watch rhinos or have ostriches clapping their beaks at you. “I think he wants you to feed him,” said the guide, though to me it seemed like he wanted to feed ON me. For the shy squeamish sorts, there’s plenty of Dutch courage available.

No Mauritian holiday is complete without rum tasting, best experienced at rhumeries (rum factories) like Chamarel, St Aubin and Chateau Labourdonnais. Besides stunning viewpoints, Chamarel boasts sights like Seven-Coloured Earth, the odd exhibits at Curious Corner and the island’s highest waterfall.

Chamarel Rummery IMG_1537

If you don’t happen to be a water person, there’s enough adventure on terra firma – golfing at spectacular courses like Heritage and Tamarina to hiking trails in the central highlands and peaks like Le Pouce (The Thumb), Pieter Both and Mount Piton – at 828m, the highest peak in Mauritius.

We went quad biking across the undulating terrain of at La Vallee des Couleurs, a nature park with four waterfalls and the third longest zipline in the world. Offroading to a viewpoint, we zoomed down half a kilometer over the ‘23-coloured earth’, unique to this volcanic island. I went belly down, miraculously keeping my flip-flops on!


However, the number one activity in Mauritius is Sea Karting – the thrill of a jet boat with the safety and stability of an inflatable raft. We zoomed out on Black River in V-formation to the south west coast of Mauritius with stops at the spectacular Crystal Rock and the dramatic Le Morne Brabant mountain. We had no luck with dolphins as we were busy trying not to collide into each other as we bounced on the waves.

With top speeds of 70km/hr, Sea Karts are fast. Our slow evolution from Octopussy to Spectre was complete. The 1-hour excursion was easily my most enjoyable 60 minutes in Mauritius (half-day or full day guided tours also offered). Thankfully, the drive to Hotel Sofitel-Imperial at Flic en Flac was short.

Hotel Sofitel-Imperial pool IMG_2104

The reception and restaurant opened out to a large swimming pool that spilled onto a white sandy beach with the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean receding into the distance. Being on the west coast, it was one of the best spots to catch the famed Mauritian sunset, though we got Sega dancers, fire-eaters and acrobats along with the view! The prawns and fish flew with surprising agility from the grill to our plates to our mouths, as we rounded off a splendid dinner by the sea.

The final act was a dolphin cruise and snorkeling trip after breakfast. We grabbed our flippers from Christine Sofitel Boat House and set off into the big blue. It was a bouncy gangsta ride. Maybe we should have gone easy on the dholl-puris (Indo-Mauritian version of the Bihari staple dalpuri or dal stuffed paratha).

Swimming with dolphins IMG_2415

For all the activities in Mauritius, nothing could prepare us for the sight of wild dolphins skimming the waters. An entire school, maybe a hundred or so. Whenever a group approached a boat, excited divers jumped off like kamikaze warriors in a bid to swim with the dolphins. We were happy to watch the spectacle from the boat, before heading off towards Le Morne to snorkel the reefs.

“Quick, make a wish. That’s a paille-en-queue!” said the boat captain. By the time I could decipher his French pronunciation, a white long-tailed bird swooped down from the lush mountains towards the sea and disappeared. The Tropicbird, named after its distinctive ‘straw-tail’ was the symbol of the national airline Air Mauritius. It was considered lucky to spot one. “So what did you ask for?” “That I come back to Mauritius for a better look at it!”

Grand Baie Sportfishing trips IMG_1628


Getting there
Located 4700km west of India in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is a tiny speck in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar.

There are direct flights by Air Mauritius and Air India from Delhi and Mumbai (7hrs) to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport at the south of the island.

Shanti Maurice IMG_1149

Where to Stay
Hotel Shanti Maurice, Chemin Grenier

Hotel Radisson Blu Azuri

Hotel Sofitel Imperial, Flic en Flac  

Hotel Paradis & Dinarobin, Le Morne

Hotel Sofitel-Imperial beach weddings IMG_2088

Adventure List

Blue Safari, Trou aux Biches
Sub Scooter for two MUR 5800, Submarine tour MUR 4400/person
Ph +230 265 7272

Solar Undersea Walk, Gran Baie
10:30 & 1:30 Mon-Sat
Ph +230 263 7819

Fun Adventure Sea Kart, La Balise, Black River
MUR 5500 per Seakart (up to 2 adults + 1 child)
Ph +230 5 499 4929

La Vallee des Couleurs Nature Park Quad Biking IMG_1307

Quad Biking & Ziplining, La Vallee des Couleurs Nature Park, Mare Anguilles
Ph +230 5471 8666

Segway & Walking with lions, Casela World of Adventures, Cascavelle
9am-5pm, MUR 740 entry fee, activities extra
Ph +230 401 6500

Christine Sofitel Boat House, Flic en Flac
Ph +230 453 8975

Sea dive IMG_2502

For more info, visit

Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority
Victoria House, Port Louis Ph +230 15 45

Mauritian Scuba Diving Association
Route Royale, Beau Bassin Ph +230 454 00 11

Mauritian sunset IMG_2006

Author: Anurag Mallick. This article appeared as part of the Islands Special Cover Story in the July, 2016 issue of Outlook Traveller magazine.

Ale and Arty: The history of beer


On the occasion of International Beer Day, celebrated on the first Friday of August, ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY trace the journey of beer in a lager than life story


After water and tea, beer is the third most popular drink in the world. Such was its value in the ancient world that it was part of the daily wages of the workers who built the pyramids in Egypt! Before learning to make bread, prehistoric nomads used grain and water to make beer – it’s almost as if man had learnt to drink before he learnt to eat. Speaking of priorities, if the world was coming to an end and you were reprimanded for stowing away a few cases of beer, tell them that Noah’s provisions on the Ark included beer.

Besides being the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the world, beer is also the oldest, with a history of nearly 12,000 years. It dates back to the early Neolithic Age or 9500 BC, when cereal was first farmed. As hunter-gatherer tribes settled into agrarian civilizations based around staple crops like wheat, rice, barley and maize, they stumbled upon the process of fermentation and thus started brewing beer. According to anthropologists, beer was the driving force that led nomadic mankind into village life…It was his appetite for beer-making that led to crop cultivation, permanent settlement and agriculture.

Guinness Storehouse Dublin-Original containers IMG_6241_Anurag Mallick

Though the earliest known alcoholic beverage is a 9,000-year-old Chinese brew of rice, honey and fruit, the first barley beer was born in the Middle East and is recorded in the written history of ancient Iraq and Egypt. In Mesopotamia, the oldest evidence of beer is a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl.

The early beer was cloudy and unfiltered and was usually drunk with a straw to strain the bitter solids from the brew. As early as 3000 BC, the Babylonians had nearly 20 different types of beer. They were so finicky about the quality of beer that if someone brewed a bad batch, he would be drowned in it as punishment!


Some of humanity’s earliest known writings refer to the production and distribution of beer. The Code of Hammurabi included laws regulating beer and beer parlours. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the ale-wife Siduri dispenses this ancient advice to Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk – ‘Fill your belly. Day and night make merry’. Early Sumerian writings contain numerous references to beer; including The Hymn to Ninkasi.

Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir (barley bread) in the big oven, Puts in order the piles of hulled grains, You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground…You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort… Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat, It is like the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.” At a time when literacy was limited to the privileged, the prayer to the beer goddess doubled up as a method of remembering the recipe for the common folk! It also gives us a deep insight that in olden times the ‘brewsters’ were mostly women.

Germany biergarten IMG_0010_Anurag Mallick

The Finnish epic Kalevala, based on centuries old oral traditions, devotes more lines to the origin of beer and brewing than it does to the origin of mankind. Beer was spread through Europe by Germanic and Celtic tribes in 3000 BC, when it was brewed on a domestic scale. By 7th century AD, beer was being produced and sold by European monasteries. The early European beers contained fruits, honey, plants, spices and narcotic herbs like hemp and poppy. Hops were a later addition, first mentioned in Europe around 822 by a Carolingian Abbot and in 1067 by Abbess Hildegard of Bingen.

From 1000 AD, beer began to be bittered with wild herbs such as bog myrtle, lemon balm, borage, St John’s wort or elderberries. Hops were added to beer to reduce the putrefaction caused by micro organisms. The 12th century Old Icelandic poem Alvíssmál says, “Ale it is called among men, but among the gods, beer.”

Guinness Storehouse Dublin-Process IMG_6260_Anurag Mallick

The practice slowly spread across Europe and reached Britain by the middle of the 15th century. The British drinking song ‘Beer, Beer Beer’ gives an apocryphal origin – ‘A long time ago, way back in history, When all there was to drink was nothin’ but cups of tea, Along came a man by the name of Charlie Mopps, And he invented the wonderful drink, and he made it out of hops.’

The popularity of the English pubs, alehouses and taverns in the 17th century gave rise to a popular phrase. Keeping a watch on the alcohol consumption of patrons was always a big problem for bartenders, who would sometimes scribble ‘p’ or ‘q’ on the tally slate to indicate the pints and quarts consumed. As a reminder, the bartender would recommend his patrons that they ‘mind their Ps and Qs’ in all honesty. Today, the bartending term implies to mind one’s manners.

Germany beer IMG_0980_Anurag Mallick

One reason for the beer’s universal popularity in the medieval age was the poor quality of drinking water – rivers and canals were often contaminated by animal or human waste and beer seemed a safer alternative to drinking water. In the Middle Ages, the largest brewers were the monasteries. Besides generating a large revenue, beer was a refreshing break from the austere lifestyle and could be enjoyed even while fasting. In some monasteries, it was permissible to have as much as five litres a day.

Not surprisingly, it led to quite a few tipsy clerics. Legend has it, Alpirsbach in Germany was so named when a glass of beer slipped from the hand of an inebriated monk and rolled into the river, causing him to exclaim, ‘All Bier ist in den Bach’ (All the beer is in the stream)! Even today, Alpirsbacher Klosterbräu is brewed from pure spring water. The oldest monastic brewery Klosterschenke Weltenburg has been brewing its delicious dark beer since 1050. With over 1200 breweries scattered between Bremen to Munich, Germany is easily a place of pilgrimage for beer lovers with Munich’s Hofbräuhaus in Bavaria the most famous beer hall.

Germany Klosterbrau IMG_0236_Anurag Mallick

In 1516, William IV, Duke of Bavaria, adopted the Reinheitsgebot (purity law), perhaps the oldest food-quality regulation still in use today, where the only allowed ingredients of beer are water, hops and barley-malt. Prior to the late 18th century, malt was primarily dried over fires made from wood, charcoal or straw, and in 1642, from coke. Beers made from malt roasted with coke is called ‘pale ale’ though the term wasn’t used until 1703. Thus early beers had a smoky flavour and brewers constantly tried to minimize it.

With the invention of the steam engine in 1765 and the onset of the Industrial Revolution, beer moved from artisanal and domestic manufacture to large scale production. Technological advancements of the 19th century brought about great advancements in the beer making process. The development of hydrometers and thermometers allowed the brewer more control of the process and greater knowledge of the results.


In 1817 Daniel Wheeler invented the drum roaster which led to the creation of dark, roasted malts, contributing to the rise of porters and stouts. Porter, a darker version of beer, was invented in England while stout is a more full-bodied or stouter version of porter. The discovery of yeast’s role in fermentation by Louis Pasteur gave brewers methods to prevent the souring of beer caused by undesirable microorganisms. In 1864, he also developed pasteurization to stabilize beers – 22 years before the process was applied to milk!

In the nineteenth century, beers from the Bow Brewery in England were exported to India by sea. By the time the pale ale reached Indian shores after a long sea voyage, the beer would get spoilt. In order to prolong its shelf life, brewers added more hops (a natural preservative), and the India Pale Ale or IPA was born – a refreshing bitter brew for the tropical climate.

Guinness Storehouse Dublin-Pouring the perfect pint IMG_6293_Anurag Mallick

It was another accident that gave the world its number one stout – Guinness. At the St James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin, the Irish ground barley was overheated, resulting in the trademarked ‘Black Stuff’. And the rest was history. Today, the Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction. Visitors begin their journey at the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass (the hollow of the building is shaped like one), continuing up through seven floors filled with interactive experiences.

See the Director’s Safe with a sample of the original starter yeast, check out Arthur Guinness’ 9000-year-old lease for the brewery site, learn to pour the perfect pint and drink using the five senses. At the top, have a pint in the rooftop Gravity Bar for higher education of a different kind. Beer enthusiasts often say that the Guinness in Dublin tastes better than anywhere else. This is largely due to the hard mineral-rich spring water from the Wicklow Mountains favourable for stout.

IMG_6900 Quell 36.5 Bad Ragaz craft beer from Tamina Thermal Waters_Anurag Mallick

Regions have water with different mineral components better suited to making certain types of beer, thus giving them a regional character. Pilsen has soft water well suited to making pale lager, such as Pilsner Urquell while the waters of Burton in England contain gypsum, which is ideal for pale ale. The process of adding gypsum to water by some brewers is called Burtonisation! Recently, the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in Switzerland’s most famous spa town had brewed a special beer called Quell 36.5 made from the healing thermal waters of the Tamina River!

Singapore’s iconic beer brand Tiger runs an excellent Brewery Tour as well. In a 45-minute guided tour, unravel 80 years of brewing history at the Visitor center as you challenge yourself with a specially created multimedia brewing game, a tour of the brew house and learn to tap your own beer in the packaging gallery. A 45-minute beer appreciation session follows as you sample the range of brews at the Tiger Tavern.

Tiger Beer Singapore IMG_1082_Anurag Mallick

Beer forms part of the pub culture of beer-drinking nations such as Germany, Belgium, UK and the US, and led to the evolution of activities like pub crawling, pub games, drinking songs and beer festivals. In 1810, Munich established Oktoberfest as an official celebration. Held between mid-September and the first Sunday in October, the 16-day event draws over six million visitors and nearly 5 million litres of beer are consumed! A special dark, strong beer called Wies’nbier is brewed specially for the occasion. The Bier & Oktoberfest Museum in Munich, housed in a 14th-century timber-framed building, enshrines all the Oktoberfest regalia from earlier editions.

In the 1830’s Bavarians Gabriel Sedlmayr of Munich and Anton Dreher of Vienna developed the lager method of beer production. And as German immigrants moved to the US the 1850’s, brewers introduced cold maturation lagers, giving rise to brands like Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors, Stroh, Schlitz and Pabst. However, modern brewing took off in the late 1800’s due to critical factors like commercial refrigeration, automatic bottling, pasteurization and railroad distribution. In the 1870’s Adolphus Busch employed double-walled railcars and a network of icehouses to make Budweiser the first national brand.

Windmills Craftworks Bar 02

Today, the US is leading the way in the latest global trend of craft beer. A microbrewery or craft brewery is usually independently owned and produces small amounts of beer, characterized by their emphasis on quality, flavour and brewing technique. In Bengaluru, a city that has long loved its draught beer and wears the crown of India’s ‘Pub Capital’, craft beer has taken off with brewers boldly using Indian flavours. Till a few years ago, words like basmati, banana, clove and coriander would have seemed out of place in a brewery; not any more.

When the American craft brewery from Ann Arbor, Michigan, came to India in 2012, it introduced signature varieties like Sacred Cow IPA, Brasserie Blonde, ChaiPA, Garam Masala Pale Ale and the malty Belgian tripel. Windmills Craftworks in Whitefield, known for their excellent beer and American diner fare in a jazz theatre setting with book-lined walls offer great Stout, Helles, Hefeweizen (German wheat beer), Golden Ale and IPA. With equipment and a brewmaster imported from the US, they stick to the international nomenclature. And if you haven’t made up your mind yet, start with a tasting set of six.

Windmills Craftworks Beer

The spirit of experimentation goes on at Toit where patrons can imbibe coffee and chocolate ‘Dark Knight’ stout, Basmati Blonde – described as a ‘love child of India’s Basmati Rice and German Pilsner malt’, besides special ales infused with chilli, passion fruit or millet and jaggery. Be it Porter at Barleyz or Apple Cider at Prost, Wheat at Vapor or Stout at The Biere Club, craft beer lovers are spoilt for choice.

With aficionados loving the complexities of craft beer over regular bottled beer, the trend has established strong roots in cities like Mumbai, Gurgaon, Chandigarh and Pune. Here, in Bengaluru, love for the amber fluid is quite strong. If you throw a stone, chances are you’ll either hit an app developer or a microbrewery.

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared as the Cover Story on 31 July, 2016 in Sunday Herald, the weekend supplement of Deccan Herald newspaper.