What’s happier than an impromptu trip? Nothing, really! So when a friend was getting married in a town close to Visakhapatnam, a few of us packed our bags, bought super expensive tickets on Indigo (the price plummeted soon after much to our chagrin.) We reached Vizag late one Wednesday. The airport is extremely basic, bathroom have manual locks, the cargo folks get the fragile bags out and walk them to the conveyor belts – you get the gist.
This journal entry will is mainly to write about the food experience in AP, but of course I’ll throw in my bits of travel wisdom for the fellow wanderers. We reached Vizag and later that night made way to Srikakulam, and crashed almost immediately. The next day, hungry we went to check out the Grand café next door. A huge variety, but the most interesting one was the 70 mm dosa. Of course we ordered that amongst other things, and it literally spanned across 2 tables. Came with a generous variety of chutneys and sambar, this was quite a feat! Also shows the Telugu folks love for movies, they include the names in just about everything! The next morning we were back in Vizag Airport, which by the way is more barren than it looked in the night. They must really fix things up here, given that this is the largest city of AP.
But a little while later, when our friendly neighborhood driver Moses came and picked us up, and we started our journey to Araku – that’s when we got a real good look at the city. Wide roads, multi lane traffic, several development projects underway, good connectivity to nearby smaller towns and villages – things were well in order. As we made our way out of the city, we stopped at a small roadside place called Hotel Nanditha for a quick breakfast of fresh idlis, a buzzing place.
After about 2 hours of drive down the meandering roads on the valley, we reached Araku, and made way to the Chaparai Waterfalls. The first thing you’d notice are the roadside stalls making chicken fry and bamboo chicken, and selling them with their red sugar canes. What’s Bamboo Chicken you ask? They stuff chunks of spiced and marinated meat into freshly cut bamboo, and cook it over fire, without water or oil. The result is nice, soft and flavorful well cooked chicken. Quite hot in spice levels though, but hey, we were in AP! The waterfall itself didn’t have much water, but the really interesting part is there are natural rocks opening up the way for the waterfall and creating waterslides for people to play on. While the water wasn’t a lot in December, these fissures in the rock during heavy rains could be dangerous. It’s not really a glorious sight, but a popular hang out for the local kids.
The next stop was the Tribal Museum, before which we stopped at Hotel Star Annapurna for a quick lunch. The place was crowded – with locals and tourists. We were recommended their Biryani, and their mutton fry biryani was glorious. They also have a dum biryani on their menu, so don’t get confused. This basically had a curried mutton with rice served together, not dum cooked together. The meat was soft and delicious, and totally rich, was divine with the rice. One of my best meals of the trip, undoubtedly.
The Tribal Museum features handicrafts from local tribes, and also has galleries of their livelihood, culture, lifestyle and art. The main gallery, where photography isn’t allowed, has some extremely life like sculptures and depiction of tribal history and traditions. For example, a tribal marriage happens when a man publicly spits out water at a woman! Aside from this gallery, which is actually the last building, other things aren’t as interesting. There’s a small pond for boating, which is not too clean, and I wouldn’t recommend it.
The Coffee Museum next door is quite fun, though poorly maintained. They have an interesting illustration of the history of coffee, and do stock up various types of coffee powder, pepper and chocolates. There’s a pretty café outside, which probably gets rarely cleaned, and had flies everywhere. I tried a cold coffee, which was delicious, and also picked up some coffee chocolates, which had quite the kick! Last stop for the day was the Padmapuram Botanical Gardens – pretty, well maintained. Gardens really aren’t my thing, but was nice to walk around under the setting sun.
Dinner was room service in Krishnatara Comforts, a simple quiet place, overlooking a medium sized lawn. No frills, the rooms were big and airy, 3-4 windows, a balcony with a small sit out, a huge bed, television, quite a big bathroom. We were so beat! The food was quite good, and the airy room, and quiet surroundings soon lulled me to sleep. My last thoughts that night were that check out is at 10 am, God help me wake up!