Nothing I can write about my last country on this journey will do this subcontinent any justice. This isn’t a place to visit or fetishize; it’s a place that just is, and demands for you to just be.
Home cooking – everywhere
You just can’t beat it.
Punjabi Chinese Food – Kolkata, India
Tasty tast tasty…it’s a local hangout somewhere near the city centre; just ask for it. It served truly the best sweet lassi I have ever had. The food was also fantastic.
Brown Bread Bakery – 17 Tripura Bhairavi; Varanasi, India
A great hole-in-the-wall that serves cuisine from all over the world including China, Europe, and Thailand. Their Chicken Biryani was sumptuous, as well as their delightful cheese plate and oven-cooked pizzas. Although the prices are beyond the range of a normal meal in Varanasi, you’re paying extra for Brown Bread Bakery’s support of a local school.
New Keshari Ruchikar Byanjan – Dasawamedh Ghat Rd; Varanasi, India
A family favorite, this is a big restaurant that can accommodate large groups of people. Very comfortable place to kick bnack and order a feast while you chomp away at Varanasi’s best vegetarian restaurant.
Neelam’s – Close to the Golden Temple; Amritsar, India
This is a conveniently place restaurant that serves delicious vegetarian food and banana lassis. Don’t miss “Neelam’s special” which is a variation on the masalas by adding dried fruit in the middle. A fantastic place so good I went twice.
Moti Mahal Delux – Along M.I. Road south of the Fort; Jaipur, India
A Delhi chain I can swear by. Great ambience, service, A/C and not to mention their legendary butter chicken. Although quite expensive, it was worth every penny of the delicious entrees, lassis, beer, and kulfis I had. Ignore the live music in the evenings…I suspect they employ unfair child labor.
Lonely Planet lists this as the best saffron lassi in the area. like THE BEST. And it really was. Sweet and smooth.
A fantastic restaurant with the favorites: Butter chicken and a deliciously cooked garlic chicken. But what you’re really paying for is the sick view of the Fort, as you can see above. Just lounge here and relax; it’s a great place to reflect on everything you’ve seen and the staff won’t care for how much you lounge around. Just be prepared to pay the bill.
We stopped here since it just happened to be next to us during lunchtime. Although it was a nice rooftop restaurant with an interesting “bhang lassi” on the menu, the food wasn’t memorable and I think I got sick after this meal. Not recommended.
The Tasting Room
A great dining option in Mumbai that was pretty affordable for a fantastic variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. My beef tenderloin was a little stretchy in terms of texture, but the salmon and vegetarian dishes were very well prepared. Comfortable atmosphere for a gathering of friends.
Wasabi – Taj Mahal Palace; Mumbai, India
Mumbai’s elite restaurant in the Taj Mahal Palace, with the famous Morimoto as its executive chef. You pay for what you get: some of the best food you will ever have in the city. Just be prepared for the prices.
…and at this point I pretty much get overwhelmed with so much eating out beyond the guidebook that I lose track of everything.
Health Rating of India after 30 days…
- # of bug bites: 50+
- # of Immodium used: 2
- # of Pepto used: 2
- # of Advil used: 0
- # of antibiotics used: 2
- # of total medication used: 6
- Creams used: Sunscreen, DEET, Lemon Eucalyptus, Bugbite Relief
Quality of healthcare: If you got the money, you’re fine. If you don’t, you’re screwed. Larger cities have better healthcare while the rest look to larger cities for help. I was told by residents in Hyderabad that Andhar Pradesh has a great healthcare system where the government subsidizes all healthcare treatments; so in theory, a beggar on the street can get a brain operation for free.
Sanitary Conditions: You don’t have to look too hard to realize it’s one of the worst on the planet. But the people are tougher for it.
$600 USD in 30 days, which approximates to $20 USD/day. The goal was to spend no more than $25 USD/day.
Breakdown for 30 days: $600 spending
Goal: $25 USD/day
Spent: $20 USD/day
The Saturday Club – 9 Wood St.; Kolkata, India
If you’re okay with possibly being the only foreigner in this upscale sports club, then it’s barely worth a stay. Has a great tennis court, swimming pool, restaurant, and open-air lobby with a fantastic internet connection and lounge, but the rooms are barely worth the money you’re asked to pay for.
Price: $60 USD/night per person
Internet: Fast internet cafe ($0.50 USD/hour)
Other Amenities: Spacious lobby, restaurant, secure environment.
Ganpati Guesthouse – Meer Ghat; Varanasi, India
A guesthouse that knows how to please any backpacker: large rooms with great fan or A/C, good security, friendly staff, and a public space set up so that everyone in the guesthouse can get to meet and become fast friends; within only 2 hours I made 6-7 new friends with whom I could share a boat down the river, have dinner, and see a music show.
Price: $18 USD/night per person
Internet: Spotty and unreliable ($0.75 USD an hour)
Other Amenities: Great public space for meeting other travelers
Hotel Indus – South of the Golden Temple; Amritsar, India
A standard 2-star hotel only worth staying for the unbeatable rooftop and room views of the Golden Temple. It’s expensive, but you’re paying for a view and the privacy of getting the splendor of the temple all to yourself.
Price: $40 USD/night per person
Internet: Reception will allow you to use their internet for free, which is slow and unreliable.
Other Amenities: Best views of the Golden Temple from its rooftop restaurants and its 3rd floor rooms
Rajputana Guesthouse – 24-B Ganesh Colony, Imli Phatak, Near Vidhan Sabha; Jaipur, India
Although it’s situated right next to the noisy railroad, the moment you step onto the premises you’re treated immediately like family. Nowhere else on this journey have I been taken in and taken care of so well. The owner, Priti, will go to the end of the world and back to make sure your stay in not only Jaipur, but also Rajasthan, goes as smoothly as possible. Rooms are huge and airy. I loved it here.
Price: $10 USD/night per person
Internet: Free internet access…but slower than molasses.
Other Amenities: Become part of a wonderful family, great breakfast options (not free), and your entire trip in Rajasthan planned out for you.
Nukkad Guesthouse – Udaipur, India
The owner of Nukkad is Raju who is the brother of Priti, the woman who I befriended that owns Rajputana Guesthouse in Jaipur. Lonely Planet should have written volumes about how great this place is; it really should have been their best pick because what I found in Nukkad was an absolute havens of havens in the town of Udaipur. Even though Raju was busy with renovations on the roof of the guesthouse, he somehow was able to attend to everyone’s needs without hesitation. He even took me on a motorbike ride to the countrysides of Udaipur simply to show me a slice of his future property and to take pictures of a side of Udaipur few tourists ever get to see; that’s how close to family he makes you feel when you’re staying at his place.
Price: $12 USD/night per person
Internet: Free internet access…but slow
Other Amenities: Become part of a wonderful family, great breakfast options (not free)
Padma’s Guesthouse – Hampi, India
Padma is friendly, but in a direct, somewhat impersonal, and business-savvy way. Although it’s a family guesthouse with great views of Hampi, it runs like a motel.
Price: $14 USD/night per person
Other Amenities: Padma can book anything for you, including last minute train tickets at 5am in the morning
Cavala Hotel – Baga Beach, Goa
Standard mid-range hotel with a very famous restaurant and well known swimming pool. A good mix of locals and foreigners stay here, while it’s also in a great location.
Price: $10 USD/night per person
Other Amenities: Free breakfast, free popular swimming pool
Hotel Empire International – Museum Road, Church Street; Bangalore, India
Relatively more expensive (but you’re in Bangalore now!) mid-range hotel with a very popular rooftop restaurant. It’s also in the prime location for Bangalore nightlife, as well as having a very attentive and professional staff. However, beware of countless insects that pretty much own the place.
Price: $30 USD/night per person
Internet: Relatively fast single computer for 30 rupees/hr.
Other Amenities: Free breakfast
Lakshmi Lodge – Mamallapuram, India
Probably one of the most popular places to stay in Mamallapuram given its giant swimming pool, seemingly limitless number of rooms, and attached internet cafe. Rooms are standard, although a few doubles include a nice swingset or a balcony.
Price: $10 USD/night per person
Internet: Attached internet cafe (over 15 computers!) at 40 rupees/hr.
Other Amenities: Swimming Pool, some doubles have random things like a balcony or a swingset
– At time of posting in Shanghai, China, it was 89.6 °F – Humidity: 66% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy