Category Archives: Food

Shri Thal, Jaipur: A great place of everything Rajasthani, fun, food, peace, ambiance, music, hospitality!

Amidst all these stressful times when there are talks of Covid19 all over, round the clock, it is difficult to keep yourself aloof from the surroundings. We are confined at home 24×7 for many days, which for people like me who like to talk, host tea, lunches, dinners and most importantly taking morning and evening walks are feeling the heat beyond measure. Travel is out of the question, don’t know till when.

Hence, I decided to share with you the wonderful evening with my cousin Aarti and her husband Mohit in Jaipur. When I expressed the desire of eating daal, baati, choorma, she planned this outing for me. I fully trusted them for their choice and voila! What a choice it turned out to be!! It became a memorable evening!!!

Around 8 PM on 25th January we reached Shri Thal which looked to me mini chowki dhaani. Incidentally, the place belongs to Aarti’s good friend Ms Nidhi Upadhyay, a first-generation women entrepreneur with many prestigious awards in her thaali. We were accorded a very warm and traditional welcome at Shri Thal with their service staff. The seating arrangement was informal – Moodhas and Manjis and we were served raab as a welcome drink.

Shri Thal Village Restaurant, Jaipur is a Rajasthani Village in the City. This concept & idea of Village Theme Restaurant in the City came to Mrs. Nidhi Upadhyay’s (Managing Director – Shri Thal Village) mind looking at the busy lifestyle of Jaipurites, where it is practically not possible to get out of the city to experience the village ambience. For them, Shri Thal Village is an ideal place to enjoy ethnic Rajasthani Food, Village games & fun etc. The Restaurant is located on Queens Road in Vaishali Nagar, which is in the heart of Jaipur accessible from anywhere within 15-20 minutes of drive.

So, something about the ambience, it has a mini fort-like façade and a huge entrance door with a mud wall village structure with traditional mandana painted all over the walls, dry grass clad huts, water bodies & fountains. It is lit up in the night lit up with traditional lamps & village statues.  It has Entrance Munim (Cashier) Counter Hut, Gaming Zone Huts for Shooting the Baloon, Ring Game, Chai Ki Thadi etc. There are 3 dining halls named after Rajasthani Folk Dances as Ghumar, Ghorbandh and Panihari.

What to say of Rajasthani cuisine meticulously designed by Nidhi herself who is a culinary expert and a passionate food presenter which included Jaipuri Aloo Pyaz ki Subzi & Dal Panchmel, Bikaneri Papad Mangdi, Jodhpuri Gatte, Traditional Dal Bati Churma, Bajri ka Khichda, Rajasthani Kadhi, 2 Types of Chutneys (Coriander & Garlic), Snacks like Moong Dal Kachori, Kofta, Mini Samosa, Jalebi, Rabdi Malpua etc. Wow! I was confused to the core, what to eat, what not to eat. Aarti helped me with that, I had a great time relishing food and hospitality of the people there.

I and Aarti danced to the beats of Dhol and some other traditional instruments, watched Kathputli dance sitting on Manji with childlike enthusiasm. It was an evening, where my mind was empty and heart full…there is so much to be enjoyed, which we waste in unnecessary complications of life.

No wonder, Nidhi Upadhyay has been awarded “Corporate Diva Award” by FM Tadka – Rajasthan Patrika Group for Shri Thal Village Concept in an award ceremony at the Hotel Marriott, Jaipur.

idhi came to Jaipur after 14 years of marriage from Jodhpur, originally belonging to Kota. During these years she received many job offers from hotels & schools, as word had spread about her talent for cooking, but she could not take it up due to home priorities. But as kids had grown up, thus her husband Ajay, who had been admiring her talent all through, thought of opening a restaurant for Nidhi in Jaipur by the name of Shri Thaal Village. It was gifted to her on her 14th wedding anniversary i.e. 9th May 2011.

What a tribute from a loving husband for her talented wife!

Way to go Nidhi!!

If you are in Jaipur, mark it in your itinerary.


Glimpse of Rajasthan’s rich culture at Chowki Dhaani, JAIPUR

While searching for some old photographs in my hard-drive, I landed at Jaipur folder of our trip, we undertook a few years ago, which will always be etched in our memory for various reasons. It was a long-awaited family trip and we were visiting Jaipur together for the first time as I was to present my magazine to Chief Minister Smt. Vasundhara Raje Scindia…( Edition dedicated to Vibrant Rajasthan).

One evening, we planned to visit Chowki Dhaani, which was some kilometres away from our place of stay…we were little reluctant to go there as it was very cold wintry night. But as always Tanya insisted and we set out for Chowki Dhaani.  From outside I could not make out anything where we had landed, but inside…

…the Royal treatment awaited us and as we moved on…the FUN added on!

At Chowki Dhaani entrance

If you have not visited yet, you will surely visit the place after reading my blog post.

Right from welcome to exit, we were engulfed in lively and lovely Rajasthani culture where we enjoyed Rajasthani Thaali, Camel Rides, Mehendi, Kalbelia Dance, Nut Tamasha…what not! See it to believe it.

So, for the uninitiated, Chokhi Dhani in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India is a concept capturing the vibrant spirit of Rajasthan and ensuring a perfect Rajasthani experience.  Inbound and native tourists have a desire to experience the unique Rajasthani culture. The real Rajasthan, the villages, the paintings, Bani Thani art, the wall decorations, Dipak wall, the fresh air, the evening performances, the enthusiasm, the ‘manuhar’ (a delicate request to eat till your heart’s desire), the traditions, the costumes and at last but not least the Feelings.

It is aimed at preserving and encouraging the village art and culture, to get today’s generation closer to the roots and the globe trekkers to see Indian village life. The place is just away from the hustle of the city centre where nature is alive, natural scenic views are ready to serve you and where you can feel the fresh air of Indian rustic villages. A place which is not too far to reach, situated on a national highway booming with peace and quiet. You will instantly notice the friendliness and smiles; Chokhi Dhani reception, they have the best cooks from royal palaces and artisans from all over Rajasthan.

Enjoying authentic Rajasthani Jeeman

We had Jeeman at Chaupad – Dining Hall, especially known for its shape – Chaupad Jeeman Ghar. In India, Chaupad is an ancient game of Royal families like today’s Ludo, which has four straight paths joint in the center. This is what “Chaupad Jeeman Ghar” has in its shape. It has four straight rows meeting at the center. Each row has 20 persons’ sitting capacity where you find best of Rajasthani dishes like Batis sunk into pure ghee with Choorma, a traditional dish of Rajasthan and more.

After Jeeman, it was entertainment time, believe me you have that in plenty!

There are many folk dances in Rajasthan and all are performed here. Like Ghoomer, Potter Dance, Kalbeliya – the Snake Dance, Bhopa-Bhopi Dance and Terah Taali Manjira dance. We danced to our heart’s content.

Folk Dance And Music Show – Chaupal Nach Gan Re

Kalbeliya tribes of Rajasthan were once nomads of the desert are world famous for their Kalbeliya dance form. Its high beat music, fascinating serpent-like dance and fast body movements captivate all visitors.

In Bhopa-Bhopi dance artiste tells some old folk stories of Indian Folk God or king in sort of song and they dance on it.

The Chari dance a.k.a. the Bhavai folk artiste dances with 7 to 11 pots on her head or in some shows they dance with taking the lighted pot on their heads

Acrobatics On A Bamboo – Nat Ro Kartab

The brave artiste balances himself on a bamboo without the protection of a safety net beneath.

Traditional Fire Act

Watched the traditional fire play and it seems as the person is eating fire! The fire act is simply mesmerizing.

Thee Bioscope station at Chokhi Dhani Ethnic Village gives you a glimpse of Rajasthan and complete family can sit side by side around 6 people together watching the bioscope film.  The whole thing is a great simple experience of watching old reel film depicting Rajasthan scenes and people.

We were there right from 6 PM till the time it shut its doors!

Information courtesy:



Bachpan wali woh Diwali…Aaj Kal ki yeh Diwali!

Day started with receiving Diwali wishes on Whatapp since early morning, followed by early cooking, watching Rangoli – Diwali Special on DD National, house cleaning and preparation for the evening pooja.  But…I did not forget to listen to PM Narendra Modi’s Mann –Ki- Baat on radio which was based on Diwali and Festivities surrounding it! I can safely say it was the Best Diwali described ever!!  He expressed Diwali’s significance in a very unique way; he dedicated this Diwali to Soldiers of the country that guards our borders while we celebrate.

 This year it was a low-key Diwali for Vaghela house-hold as my father in law moved on his eternal journey who immensely loved Diwali followed by Gujarati New Year which was a big celebration in Vaghela House hold with patriarch “Pappa”  and “Dada” who took great interest in all the celebrations.  We all miss his presence this Diwali!! He will always be missed!!!

 Daughter Tanya is here from hostel joined with her friend Dhruvi which brought lot of joy and festivities to the festival.  Festivities started with Dhanteras Pujan at office where like one big happy family we joined hands to celebrate, there was lighting, finery, jewellery, traditional dress, puja, mithai, gifting, receiving, family gathering and what not…followed by Dhanteras Puja at home. Like all years, this year’s Diwali is also big on Laxmi Puja which I would be performing in special Temple Border Kanjeevaram saree received from for Laxmi Pujan. Thanks Triveni for making festivities even more special…

Saree courtesy: Triveni Ethnics
Saree courtesy: Triveni Ethnics

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 This Diwali was made even more special by fond memories of Diwali celebrations in our childhood by one of the most revered poet by writer & poet Gulzar which I am sharing with you below. What a beautiful expression through –  बचपन वाली वो दिवाली.

हफ्तों पहले से साफ़-सफाई में जुट जाते हैं, चूने के कनिस्तर में थोड़ी नील मिलाते हैं,

अलमारी खिसका खोयी चीज़ वापस  पाते हैं, दोछत्ती का कबाड़ बेच कुछ पैसे कमाते हैं, चलो इस दफ़े दिवाली घर पे मनाते हैं  ….

दौड़-भाग के घर का हर सामान लाते हैं, चवन्नी -अठन्नी  पटाखों के लिए बचाते हैं

सजी बाज़ार की रौनक देखने जाते हैं, सिर्फ दाम पूछने के लिए चीजों को उठाते हैं, चलो इस दफ़े दिवाली घर पे मनाते हैं ….

बिजली की झालर छत से लटकाते हैं, कुछ में मास्टर  बल्ब भी  लगाते हैं

टेस्टर लिए पूरे इलेक्ट्रीशियन बन जाते हैं, दो-चार बिजली के झटके भी  खाते हैं, चलो इस दफ़े दिवाली घर पे मनाते हैं ….

दूर थोक की दुकान से पटाखे लाते है, मुर्गा ब्रांड हर पैकेट में खोजते जाते है

दो दिन तक उन्हें छत की धूप में सुखाते हैं, बार-बार बस गिनते जाते है, चलो इस दफ़े दिवाली घर पे मनाते हैं ….

धनतेरस के दिन कटोरदान लाते है, छत के जंगले से कंडील लटकाते हैं

मिठाई के ऊपर लगे काजू-बादाम खाते हैं, प्रसाद की  थाली   पड़ोस में  देने जाते हैं, चलो इस दफ़े दिवाली घर पे मनाते हैं ….

माँ से खील में से  धान बिनवाते हैं , खांड  के खिलोने के साथ उसे जमके खाते है

अन्नकूट के लिए सब्जियों का ढेर लगाते है, भैया-दूज के दिन दीदी से आशीर्वाद पाते हैं, चलो इस दफ़े दिवाली घर पे मनाते हैं ….

दिवाली बीत जाने पे दुखी हो जाते हैं , कुछ न फूटे पटाखों का बारूद जलाते हैं

घर की छत पे दगे हुए राकेट पाते हैं , बुझे दीयों को मुंडेर से हटाते हैं, चलो इस दफ़े दिवाली घर पे मनाते हैं ….

बूढ़े माँ-बाप का एकाकीपन मिटाते हैं, वहीँ पुरानी रौनक फिर से लाते हैं

सामान  से नहीं ,समय देकर सम्मान  जताते हैं, उनके पुराने सुने किस्से फिर से सुनते जाते हैं, चलो इस दफ़े दिवाली घर पे मनाते हैं …

Best tribute to our bachpan ki diwali!

diwali-9 diwali-5

Diwali has always been my favourite festival. I start preparing for the festival at least one month in advance with shopping, scouting for gifting ideas, decorations, diya making & buying etc. Diwali brings immense joy to me personally. Entire year I wait for Diwali as it is a great social, religious, religious and festivities oriented festival, I love everything around Diwali…weather also take a turn for the better! Not only this, it is the time of the year when I like to introspect about the year gone by and prepare for the future dreams…wish dreams were horses. No Diwali goes without remembering DIWALI we use to celebrate at our home town Gwalior amidst battery of family members, buas, cha-chas, dadi-dada, bhaiyya, bhabhis, didis…everybody. For female members it was kitchen time all five days whereas we children enjoyed festivities with new dresses, sweets, delicacies, crackers, rangoli…to top it all outstation visits in Diwali vacation.

You can watch PM Narendra Modi’s Manni-ki-Baat here!

Diwali is big Puja time particularly Laxmi Pujan…which I do with lot of enthusiasm and fervour as ever.


Wish all my readers a very happy Diwali & Prosperous New Year!!



For whom my heart beats!

It was one pleasant January morning of year 2004, when I was awaiting my medical clearance for moving to Canada. Till then I had never ever taken a health report as I considered myself quite healthy who believed only others go to hospital, not me.

Read on to know what happened next.


As expected the bell rang from the lab but there was a shocker for me… I was diagnosed with high blood sugar levels and high BP. That time the only thought which occurred to me was that my plans will be in jeopardy of moving to Canada, but it was my husband who said think of your health first. All of 39, world looked different for me, suddenly from being a happy go lucky woman, healthy, working professional, engaging wife and hands on mother… I was diabetic too. My heart retorted, I just refused to accept that this has happened to me.

A self-confessed foodie, my thought went to the ice creams, desserts, shakes, juices…which I loved on my platter, day after day! Never missed an opportunity to gorge on anything tasty. Most importantly the thought which bothered me was of my young daughter Tanya and doting husband Mukund, how they will cope with this, particularly if this condition spills over and damages my heart too. I was haunted by the thought that life would no longer be the same for me, if at all I am going to live long.

But with my grit and determination towards my condition, I became hale and hearty over a period of time. From my experience I can tell all women that our duty is first towards us, so that we are able to fulfill our duty towards our loved ones. First thing First. I consulted a Diabetologist who cleared few myths surrounding diabetes, that patient is incurable, patient is more prone to heart disease or one  should give up completely on sweets, fruits, drinks, fats, carbs…everything. Doctor gave me a complete diet plan which topsy-turvied my morning schedule. But I stuck to my guns…I have to be fine for my loved ones. My mornings started with jogging, followed by healthy breakfast and lunch and light dinner.

Most importantly, Doctor advised “Switch to Saffola”. Since then I am on that routine and Saffola has been a constant companion. I motivated many of my family and friends to use Saffola. Exercise, walking I still do…but I have become relaxed about food. Blogadda reminded me once again that I have to be healthy. I fully support #ProtectHerHeart initiative of Blogadda and Saffola.

After receiving the mail from Blogadda, I promptly took the “Weight -Heart Test” on Saffola website ( where I was detected with 6% risk of heart ailment where as my husband Mukund is 100% safe, fortunately! So lots need to be achieved as far as I am concerned. We can do many activities together to make the condition more acceptable like morning walk or round of Yoga. As far as food is concerned we are already on near boiled food, raw vegetables, salads, milk, sprouts, low crabs, low starch…which are must to keep my blood sugar levels in control. Now there is a need to take at least a Kilo Meter long walk after dinner, which we should take together. We will start it from tomorrow itself…but does tomorrow ever come? It has to if I have to be fit and fine.

This weekend I plan to join Garba Workshop to make most of the Dandiya Nights this Navratri, this is good for my heart in many ways, physically heart is in good condition and mentally I am happy. Win win situation both ways! Though husband can’t dance to save his life, though a Gujarati.

My husband Mukund very promptly and regularly attends to my diabetes related conditions like monthly blood tests, giving medicines in time, keeping me free for my exercise routine, morning walks, giving up on his favourite Jalebis and Fafdas and switching to Saffola! This is a joint effort indeed to keep ourselves healthy. We have successfully achieved that. As a patient I have received lot of compassion and dedication from my family, and today I am having a healthy lifestyle and an exciting lifestyle.

I request all women to take care of  your heart specially and if there is a condition, don’t lose heart. Believe me it is not that difficult!

Statuary Warning: May be read as my real life account.

I am joining the Saffolalife #ProtectHerHeart initiative and pledging my support to better heart health in Association with BlogAdda.

Kuala Lumpur invites foodies to showcase culinary skills at Big Kitchen Festival 2015

Showcasing Kuala Lumpur as a diverse gastronomic destination in South East Asia

The city of Kuala Lumpur is set to come alive amidst a 3-day food festival at the iconic Dataran Merdeka later this month. Kuala Lumpur City Hall in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, is proud to present the inaugural Kuala Lumpur Big Kitchen Festival 2015.Heating its way from the 29th to 31st May 2015, the food festival will bring together gastronomic delights from the 13 Malaysian states, making local and international foodies spoilt for choice with the range of over 60 food counters serving up only the best.

This was announced by Y.Bhg. Datuk Seri Hj. Ahmad Phesal Hj. Talib, Mayor of Kuala Lumpur at the media launch which simultaneously introduced its participating chefs, sponsors and partners held at Samplings on the Fourteenth in Berjaya University College of Hospitality.

According to Euromonitor International, Kuala Lumpur is ranked 9th out of 100 leading cities for tourist arrivals in its annual Top City Destinations Ranking 2013.It is no surprise that Kuala Lumpur made the Top 10 list, as one of its attractions is the variety of food it serves which has always created a lot of interest with visitors from around the world.

The Kuala Lumpur Big Kitchen Festival 2015, taglined “Bringing You the Gastronomic Experience”, is the ideal platform to introduce Kuala Lumpur as the ‘MELTING POT’ of South East Asia. The food festival will serve delectable dishes ranging from street food right up to fine dining while highlighting Kuala Lumpur as the GASTRONOMY HEAVEN to the foodies around the world.
Incidentally Kuala Lumpur Big Kitchen Festival 2015 is a walk the plan initiative under Kuala Lumpur Tourism Master Plan 2015 – 2025, positioning Kuala Lumpur as a Malaysian cuisine heaven. One of its criteria is to create a food festival in Kuala Lumpur.
Chefs on board the Festival:
Curated by UK Based Malaysian Chef and Kuala Lumpur Food Ambassador, Chef Norman Musa, the festival will also witness a host of celebrity chefs who will thrill and entertain with live cooking demonstrations and workshops throughout the Kuala Lumpur Big Kitchen Festival 2015.
The list of participating chefs besides Chef Norman Musa include:
• Chef Wan – Celebrity chef
• Chef Dato’ Ismail Ahmad – Celebrity chef
• Chef Isadora Chai – highest ranking Malaysian-born chef
• Chef Adu Amran -London-based Malaysian culinary expert

Chef Malcolm Goh – Culinary Executive & Supervising Chef of AFC‘s “Great Dinners of the World”
• Chef Firdaus Hanan – UiTM Culinary Lecturer & Host of Astro Maya’s Makan
• Chef Dr Ezani – winner of MasterChef Malaysia Season 1
• Chef Izyan Hani – winner of MasterChef Malaysia Season 2
• Chef Jochen Kern – German born Director of the School of Culinary Arts at
Berjaya University College of Hospitality
• Chef Anis Nabila – Celebrity chef
• Chef Darren Chin – Celebrity Chef & owner of DC Restaurant
• Chef Kamarul – Celebrity Chef
• Chef Martin Yan -Chinese-born American chef and food writer & host of award-winning cooking show Yan Can Cook
• Chef Will Meyrick from UK – Top Chef Indonesia judge
• Chef Claire Ptak from UK – owns a bakery and café, the Violet Bakery & her latest book named after it
• Chef Cyril Rouquet from France – French Masterchef finalist 2011
• Chef Mark Jarvis from UK – previously Head Chef of the Bingham

Visitors will get the chance to meet with local and internationally renowned chefs as they conduct cooking workshops and demonstrations, give talks and interact with them. Visitors can also learn to prepare and cook some authentic Malaysian dishes, and get some useful tips from the experts themselves during the festival.

About the Festival: The 3-day festival will transform Dataran Merdeka into 8 QUARTERS to include every facet of Malaysian food – Negeri, Warung, Manisan, Food Trucks, Warisan, Samplings, The Dulang and Mayor’s Courtyard. Each Quarter will be set up in a unique presentation serving everything from one’s favourite childhood dish to science defying “molecular gastronomy” dishes.
Negeri – This zone will feature the various signature cuisines that represent the 13 states of Malaysia.
Warung – This zone features handpicked stalls or warung that offer some of the country’s best street food fare such as Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai and Char Kueh Teow.
Manisan – This zone will have all kinds of sugary delights from traditional ice creams and candy to more localised sweet treats like cendol.
Food Trucks – food trucks have become a growing trend in modern KL’s food offerings. These mobile eateries serve up interesting fare from fusion dishes to traditional delicacies that are prepared from inside a food truck.
Warisan – This zone showcases the many traditional preparation techniques and instruments preserved for many years and recipeshanded down from the elders.

Samplings – The Samplings zone will have a list of 5-star hotels in the city serving up some of their signature menus in bite sized portions.
The Dulang – “Dulang” is the Malay word for tray,that serves “Nasi Ambeng” – a traditional communal dining and bonding experience that is popular in the southern state of Johor.
The Mayor’s Courtyard – Guests are in for a special experience in the Mayor’s
Courtyard. Set in an indoor air-conditioned space, top chefs and culinary experts will whet the palette in preparing their signature gourmet cuisines. Participating restaurants and establishments in this area will showcase nothing but the best in the world of fine dining.

The festival will also have various interesting pop-up stalls :
• The FAMA market selling tropical Malaysian fruits and fruit juices
• The Spices and Malaysian purees “on- the go” stalls
• Tuck shops selling Malaysian snacks like kerepek, coconut candy and dodol plus these shops will hold experiential demonstrations for tourists on heritage food like kuih bangkit, kuih bakar and kuih bahulu that will be made on “pangkin” with the “makciks”
With a single entry ticket, visitors will have the opportunity to attend all the cooking workshops and demonstrations (based on a first-come, first-serve basis as seats may be limited), listen to gastronomic talks and be entertained by cultural performances.
About the Festival Competitions: To create more excitement during the festival, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall has organised the Big Challenge which includes three competitions. First, the KL Big Kitchen, Big Race, a cooking competition which includes racing against time to buy ingredients at KL’s oldest market, Chow Kit Market and returning to the Big Kitchen site at Dataran Merdeka to cook a dish. The second competition is the KL Signature Mocktail Competition, open to Malaysian amateurs or professional mixologists to create KL’s signature mocktail. Finally the KL Signature Dish Competition, a competition only open to Malaysians, is in search of a unique, signature dish using local herbs and spices.The winners of each competition will receive Cash Prizes, a Trophy from the Datuk Bandar Kuala Lumpur and gifts sponsored by the festival’s partners.

Interested participants can download the entry forms from the festival website:


Cornito Food Bloggers Meet, Health Bhi, Taste Bhi!!!

I was part of Cornito Food Bloggers Meet during Food & Hospitality Expo on January 24, 2015 and I must say my day was well spent. My culinary skills were put to hard test and I must say it was quite a challenge as I can taste food, I can write about food, I can appreciate food, I can criticize food…but cooking food…not really my cup of tea. But I took up the challenge! & Voila, what an experience it turned out to be competing with experienced food consultants, food professionals, food bloggers, home – makers…with out thinking about anything, I got on to cutting, chopping and was totally confused whether to concentrate on decoration, dressing, toppoings, taste, health …what?

Then I decided that it should be dash of everything and came up with some good looking decoction. I must say CORNITOS had provided with all possible toppings right from bell peppers, corns, sprouts, alfa alfa, parsley, red-chilli sauce, myonnees cheese, butter, ketchup, mustard sauce…which we need to use by selecting two Nacho flavours – Olive & Herbs and Thai Sweet Chilli – why this odd combination?

Most important thing on my mind was my recipe should look tempting and nutritious and healthy for all family members. I tried various permutations and combinations and prepared a dish which had all healthy ingredients with tangy taste.

I named it Nacho Delights – with base line – Health bhi, taste bhi!!!
Our culinary skills were judged by none other than Celebrity Chef Shipra Khanna and I was delighted to have her around. I forgot all about contest, I was just admiring her all through. I must say she was very friendly and modest to the core. She gave very wonderful tips. I walked away with tropy and hamper from Cornitos. My day was made!

I must thank staff of CORNITO staff who had organised the Meet and were very organised and cordial.

Look forward to more such participation. It gave me a new high…

My husband and daughter commented…cook something like this for us too!


Double Tree, Double Delight at Hotel Hilton in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

Our last and final destination was Johor Bahru, though I had been to Johor Bahru briefly in 2009, but I saw it in a completely new light with this Mega FAM trip organised by Malaysia Tourism. After paying tribute to shopper’s Mecca – Johor Premium Outlets located on the outskirts of Johor, we reached Hotel Double Tree Hilton. Somehow I got the feelers that this hotel and our stay would be unique here. How true my senses turned out to be! A very warm welcome awaited us and a complimentary Cookie Card was given to us on arrival. A cookie lover, that I am, I wasted no time in getting my cookie. The cookie is given to every guest who checks in the hotel. I was curious to know about this and I was told that hotel gives out approximately 77,000 chocolate chip cookies each day adding up to more than 28 million cookies annually. Since 1995, Christie Cookie Company has been the keeper of their secret cookie recipe. That’s why they taste so good!

Double tree
Ideally located in the Central Business District, within walking distance of the Persada Convention Center, the contemporary DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru overlooks the surrounding city and the Straits of Johor. Here you can enjoy easy access to City Square shopping and attractions including Johor Zoo and the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque. Changi International Airport and Senai International Airport are easily reached from the hotel.

Mr Amarinder Sadana, Director, Business Development accompanied by Hadi Abdullah, Sales Manager took us around the hotel where many more surprises unfolded. More on that later. A very hospitable staff took us to our rooms which were very spacious, well-lit, well-equipped and could see swimming pool located on the 13th floor. It was heavenly experience to sit on the window and watch Johor’s skyline from hotel’s window early morning.


Next morning our day began with breakfast at Makan a multi-cuisine restaurant manned by expert chefs and other staff. Food was just awesome like Pancakes, Omelettes, Stews, Sausages, Croissants, fresh salad bowls, juices, breads, idli’s what not. That was best part of the day. I looked forward to that every day. Indeed Makan Kitchen is an eclectic mix of famous cuisine prepared in live, interactive kitchen showcasing diversity of many native favourites from different states of the country.

Mr Sadana and Mr Abdullah took us round the hotel and we were witness to some really luxurious suits which are best suited for royalty where one could unwind in a spacious guest room, offering city or Straits water views, a large desk, 40″ LED TV and WiFi. Not only had this it had facilities for a kitchenette, laundry facilities and Executive Lounge access.

Mr Sadana said, “You can hold a business or social function at our hotel with 13,993 sq.ft. of event space, including two magnificent divisible ballrooms, five meeting rooms and an outdoor terrace. Whether you have a corporate business meeting or your dream wedding, we will do it with élan.” He added, “We have 335 well – appointed guest rooms and suits including 22 apartment style suites.”
During the tour, Mr Sadana took us to 13th floor where swimming pool was located. This was the outdoor pool with separate pool for children.

After this he took us to Tosca – Fine Dining Italian Restaurant and believe me I had never seen such wonderful restaurant in any of my international sojourns. Tosca is located poolside of 13th floor. Mr Sadana added, “Our Italian Trattoria and bar offer rustic Italian food prepared with contemporary flair for lunch and dinner, along with stunning views over the Straits of Johor. Not only this it also offers dining options ranging from indoor, private family dining room with transparent kitchen, poolside and private rooms.” Wining & Dining would certainly be a treat here with friends, family and business associates.


Their friendly and attentive staff provided personalized service throughout our stay. No wonder they call it CARE (Create A Rewarding Experience). “From your arrival to your departure — and everything in between — we’ll go above and beyond to make you feel cared for,” quipped Abdullah.

Our stay was signed off with Breakfast meeting at the Coffee Shop adjacent to The Food Store where we were joined by Mr Edzuar Zar Ayob Azari, Director, Tourism Malaysia, Johor, Mr Shyam Nath Nair, Honorary Chairman, Malaysian Association of Hotels, Johor Chapter and Mima Melisa Shahban, Tourism Officer. Their interactions in a separate story…
The Food Store offers café style stmosphere for a quick cup of coffee and juice. You can choose to eat in or “Grab & Go” with a wide variety of freshly made pastries and sand witches which are available throughout the day.

For Bookings & Other details, you can write to:
Call: 6072786868 or visit the website:
After having sumptuous lunch comprising of Chicken Soup and Barbequed Chicken with very friendly Mr Abdullah, who did not forget to give us box of cookies which my daughter Tanya gorged on my arrival in Mumbai.

– Photos by Bienu Verma Vaghela

Tourism Malaysia Road Show in Mumbai on March 18, 2014

 March 18, the Malaysian delegation led by the Minister of Tourism and Culture, the Honorable Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz and other top officials from the Ministry of Tourism is in Mumbai. 

As part of the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 (VMY 2014) celebrations, Tourism Malaysia is  unveiling a host of new marketing initiatives during their annual sales mission in India from March 12 to 20, 2014 in the cities of Kochi, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi.

Minister of Tourism and Culture, the Honorable Dato' Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Azi
Minister of Tourism and Culture, the Honorable Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz

While the primary objective of the Minister’s visit is to strengthen Malaysia’s standing as a dream travel destination and increase tourist arrivals from India, Dato Nazri is also looking forward to driving strong support from both the Indian travel trade fraternity and media for the ongoing Visit Malaysia Year 2014. Malaysia has launched its 4th VMY2014, with the aim of luring 28 million tourist arrivals and 76 billion RM (over 23 billion USD) in tourism revenue.

During his visit, the Tourism and Culture Minister is scheduled to meet and engage members of the media at a press conference to provide them with first-hand information and updates on Malaysia’s tourism industry.

Besides unveiling new marketing initiatives for the Indian market, the sales mission is also a platform for Malaysia’s tourism industry players to strengthen ties with their Indian counterparts. The mission will see top Malaysian Tourism Officials interact with key tour operators, associates from travel, service & hospitality sector in all cities to discuss and explore areas for collaboration to attract more Indian tourists to Malaysia.

Tourism Malaysia’s Indian Sales Mission is holding road show in Mumbai on March 18, 2014. 

 About Tourism Malaysia India

Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, popularly known as Tourism Malaysia, was established to promote Malaysia as a top-of-mind tourist destination showcasing Malaysia’s unique wonders, attractions and cultures; develop domestic tourism and enhance Malaysia’s share of the market for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE). Tourism Malaysia’s objective is to promote Malaysia as an outstanding tourist destination and make the tourism industry a major contributor to the socio-economic development of the nation. In India, Tourism Malaysia offices are conveniently located in cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai.

This year, Malaysia celebrates its fourth VISIT MALAYSIA YEAR (VMY) with the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia”. During the celebration of VMY 2014, the country will be abuzz with various colourful parades, carnivals, festivals, shows, events, conventions and celebrations. These will cover a wide range of activities from sports and culture to festivals and arts, reflecting a celebration of the diverse lifestyles and customs of Malaysia. It will contribute to the Government’s target to receive 36 million tourist arrivals and RM 168 billion in receipts by 2020, as outlined in the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan (MTTP) 2020.



– Bienu Verma Vaghela

Experience ‘Glamping’ at the incredible Hornbill Festival in Nagaland!

For some unknown reasons…Nagaland has always fascinated me and I am sure you too would be interested in knowing how to explore the land of Nagas. I came across this beautiful advertisement talking about Nagaland which caught my fancy and I was compelled to share it with you. If you are designer, photographer or an adventurer – Hornbill festival of Nagaland is for you!

Naga Rock bands, Night bazaars, Naga delicacies, Naga rain forests, Naga Handicrafts, Naga dance performances…all set to regale you during your five trip during the festival. Kohima Camp, Nagaland, introduced by ‘The Ultimate Travelling Camp’ crosses into the realm of the unknown, exploring the unexplored, showcasing the cultural treasures of the Land of the Nagas, in the exotic state of Nagaland, hidden in the north-eastern part of India.

So if you have always wanted to enjoy the complete outdoor experience with all the benefits of luxury ‘glamping’ – the buzzword for Glamorous Camping is made for you. With the ultimate travelling camp, you can participate in a happy calendar of events and celebrations across the country! Chase a dream – in style, truly nomadic, mobile camps with all the luxuries civilization has to offer in the best locations, capturing the most perfect views.
Here comes the Kohima Camp in Nagaland, one such extraordinary location. It’s a designers’, photographers’, and adventurers dream come true. Coinciding with the native Hornbill Festival, this expedition takes you to the heart of Naga Heritage where 16 tribes of Nagaland come to celebrate. You can here enjoy the performances, fairs, food, archery, ceremonies and much more, all the while surrounded by pristine rain forests and rolling hills that are just wanting to be exploited. Each tent is designed in a soft focus of desert colours with colonial furniture reminiscent of the Raj.

Hornbill Festival in Nagaland continue

Naga tribal people in traditional outfit celebrating the annual Hornbill Festival at Kisama, Kohima, Nagaland, India

Naga tribal children in traditional outfit during the annual Hornbill Festival at Kisama, Kohima, Nagaland, India

Women of the Samdom tribe with traditional headdress at the annual Hornbill Festival, Kohima, Nagaland, India, Asia






Konia Camp, Nagaland, introduced by ‘The Ultimate Travelling Camp’ crosses into the realm of the unknown, exploring the unexplored, showcasing the cultural treasures of the Land of the Nagas, known as the last head hunters, in the exotic state of Nagaland, hidden in the north-eastern part of India.

For the benefit of my readers, I am giving the 5 –day iterinery for the festival which is on till December 10, 2013.

Day 1: Arrive into Dimapur * Transfer and check in at Kohima Camp, Nagaland

This afternoon, following your arrival into Dimapur. You will be driven to Kohima Camp, Nagaland, will be about two and a half hours through lush, rolling forests, with a halt mid-way to stretch your legs and have a few refreshments. On your arrival at the camp, located at the foothills of the gigantic Japfu Mountain, soak in the serenity of the surroundings as you are accorded the traditional welcome of the tribes of Nagaland. You will then be accompanied to your superlative luxury tent, where the check-in formalities will be completed. Spend the evening relaxing in the peaceful environs of the camp. Enjoy a drink by the campfire followed by a feast skillfully created by our Chef, as you sit down to your first night’s dinner in the lap of nature and luxury.

Day 2: Visit the spectacular Hornbill Festival and explore the quaint Kigwema village of the Angami tribe

After a leisurely breakfast, drive to the Kisama village for the spectacular Hornbill Festival. Revel in this marvelous riot of colour as you watch all 16 tribes of Nagaland show off the rich fare of diverse cultures and traditional arts that is Nagaland. You can witness the attire, folk music and dance forms, headgear, cuisines, paintings, handicrafts, and other intricacies of the varied tribes and sub-tribes of the state. The highlight of the festival is not only the music, both traditional and contemporary, and dance; you will also be enchanted by the display of exquisite handicraft and handloom. Adding to the excitement is a motor rally, traditional sports like wrestling and archery, a literary fest, and fun events like climbing a greased bamboo pole or chilli eating contests.Having built up an appetite, you return to camp for a sumptuous lunch after which you can choose to relax in its serene surroundings. Or you may choose to explore the charming Kigwema village, just a few kilometers drive away. In the evening, you have the option of returning to the festivities of the Hornbill festival, in the capital city, Kohima. Get into the spirit of the festival as you enjoy the music of one of the many talented Naga rock bands or scour the night bazaar for local artefacts and Naga delicacies. Be inspired by a fashion show featuring traditional tribal wear as well as contemporary designs or be entertained at the Miss Nagaland contest.

Day 03: Visit the Hornbill Festival and revel in the rustic charm of the Jakhama village

This morning, after breakfast the excitement continues as you revisit the Hornbill festival where you spend the rest of the morning immersing yourself in this vibrant extravaganza. In the afternoon, following a leisurely lunch, revel in your luxurious surroundings at the camp as you enjoy a book, play a game of chess or go for a stroll. Or if you still want to further immerse yourself in the Naga culture you may choose to visit the village of Jakhama, 5kms drive from the camp. The name Jakhama is derived from ‘Mejakhama’ which means ‘laying resistance against intruders’. The village was the first line of defense against the neighboring Manipur kingship. Jakhama’s prosperous houses, built in unique styles and designs, are a sight to behold. Visit the great granaries where families can store grains for years. End your visit in high spirits with a glass of the local rice beer called ‘khie’.

Day 04: Visit the Hornbill Festival and enjoy the folklore of Phesama village

After breakfast this morning head out for your last day at the Hornbill festival. Enjoy the festivities with the tribes as they hold you in thrall with their distinct costumes and perform traditional Naga dances and ceremonies. Following lunch, if a little relaxation is in order spend the afternoon at leisure in the tranquility of the camp. Or you may wish to explore the Phesama village, the nearest village to the capital Kohima, on the southern front. Interact with the people and listen to folklore rich in local mythology around a bonfire in one of the ‘morung’ – the traditional institution where these stories have been passed down through the generations. Later this evening, you have the option to enjoy the cultural festivities in Kohima for the last time. Return to the camp sated from the exhilarating experience at the festival, with memories to last a lifetime!

Day 05:Excursion to Kohima and village Khonoma

This day you will explore the treasures of Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. Kohima played a key role in World War II, where the Naga tribes fought alongside Allied forces against Japan on the tennis court of the British Deputy Commissioner’s house. Visit the beautiful war cemetery built on a terraced hillside for the brave hearts that died in the war and visit a private museum that holds some of the best artifacts from World War II. From here, continue to the Angami village of Khonoma where you’ll relish a local lunch. Admire the traditional architecture of carved gateways and surrounding stone walls, visit morungs and participate in indigenous games like wrestling with the local warriors.

The picturesque state of Nagaland is bound by Assam in the west; Myanmar in the east; Arunachal Pradesh in the north and Manipur in the south, forming a part of what are known as the Seven Sisters, the seven states of North East India, full of rolling hills and verdant rain forests. The Naga people, comprised of 16 proud tribes were once headhunters. The tribes retain much of their traditional and cultural heritage visible in their elaborate costumes and ritualistic headdresses which incorporate tiger tusks, bear skins, hornbill feathers and other symbols.

For more details to visit Hornbill festival at: or Email: or call: 1800 123 0508.

Plan your 48-hours, the Chiang Mai way in Thailand!

You can start your day by checking in Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai, in the heart of city, says Maida Pineda in CEI.

Read here the excerpts:

Day 1:

The 281 – room hotel hosts events for 10-1500 people at its indoor and outdoor venues. Corporate guests can enjoy themed coffee – breaks celebrating Northern Thailand’s unique traditions like puppetry, fruit carving, culture from nearby hill tribes and SA paper umbrella paintings.

On a trip to Chiang Mai in 2006, Dutch Father and Son, Mark and Mike spits saw a young elephant injured after it stepped on landmines. They have since mounted an open-air exhibit of life-sized baby elephant statues painted by top artists from more than ten cities at the Elephant Parade House. You can channel your inner Picasso by painting your miniature souvenir.

You can also learn how to cook authentic Northern Thai dishes like lab kai (Spicy chicken salad) and nam prik at Pantawan Cooking School. Set in traditional teak house with 12 cooking stations, an herb garden and an organic farm, the school provides a memorable cooking class and dinner.






After dinner you can take a 10 minute walk to the Night bazaar for some serious shopping. Check out the market on Wui Lai Road on Saturdays and Sunday Market from Tha Phae Gate down to Ratchadamneon road.

Day 2:

Hike among basket ferns, evergreens and fig trees just outside the city in Doi Suthep – Pui national park. You can be part of travel package for morning exploration of the park with visits to the Doi Suthep temple, Forest restoration Nursery and Hmong village. After trek to Montatharn Falls, you can enjoy hearty breakfast.

Now you can proceed to Chiang Mai’s tradition of making paper from elephant droppings at the city’s latest attraction, the Elephant PooPooPaper Park.

Have lunch stop over at Rak Thanam Restaurant and enjoy authentic Thai dishes in a 60-year – old Lanna house and river side garden.

You can look for ample photo opportunities at Art in Paradise, an illusion museum featuring works by 3-D artists from Korea. Strike a pose with larger than life animals, iconic scenery and more.

For dinner head to The Chedi Hotel which is former British Consulate building now houses a restaurant that serves northern Thai and Pacific Rim cuisine for upto 120 people. Sip a cock tail on bar’s relaxing day beds.

Before hitting the bed, experience the Lanna Tok Sen Massage at the Shangri-La Hotel’s Chi Spa. A local healing practise, Tok Sen uses a wooden instrument to tap away negative energy and muscle tension.

I have planned my next trip to Chiang Mai, have you?