Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Trip to Vaishno Devi and Places to Eat


My 7th or 8th trip to Vaishno Devi shrine and this one after 9 years was a refreshing trip with the family. Well, lot of them have asked on the itinerary of the trip, please note there shall be description of places to eat also in between so here it goes.

  1. Take the Swaraj Express train from Mumbai to Jammu Tawi [For train info click here]
  2. Make sure to do the following, get down at Ratlam to have their famous hot Poha from the station which has their special Ratlam sev
  3. Then next day the foodie fun starts, have Kulcha and Chole at Ambala Cantt [only Rs. 20 for 3 Kulche and bowl of Chole]
  4. Then get down at Ludhiana to have another dose of hot Puri and Chole
  5. If you still have some place left to eat get down at Jalandar for the same
  6. Get down at last stop Jammu [You have no other option now] and do not find any food here. Get to the Taxi stand which is just outside the station.
  7. Pay Rs. 1000 and get yourself an Indica to go to Katra. 
  8. Tell the driver to stop at Ashok Restaurant near Nandini Tunnel for some awesome crunchy Paneer Pakode [Rs. 70 per plate]. The guy maybe be snobby but the paneer is super soft inside.
  9. Have some Goti Soda from a store nearby.
  10. Reach Katra, find a place to stay. Please note you will get rooms ranging from Rs. 5000 per night to Rs. 500 per night so depending your budget. [Note: Every taxi driver has connection with some Hotel or the other, never go there as the prices may be inflated because Taxi wala get their cut]
  11. Refresh yourself and take hot water bath. And then walk or take a rickshaw towards the main market depending on the distance you are from the hotel.
  12. If it is your first time, ask where Mayur Hotel is, place is nice and clean and food is really awesome. Ranging from Dosa to Paratha to Sandwiches
  13. If you are interested in local food, search for Maa Vaishno Dhaba near Subhash Hotel [lane before 6x6 Bikaner Chaat Bhandaar]
  14. Enter the Hotel, check the menu on the wall and order the all the parathes. Lemme tell you, you can have 3 of them and not feel full and total cost would not come more than Rs. 500
  15. Roam the market, feel the energy and enjoy the window shopping. 
  16. Next day, get up early morning around 6:30 am, get fresh and ready. Have some tea with toasted bun and lots of amul butter [Rs. 20 per piece]
  17. Go to the parchi counter, stand in line [new rule: everyone now has to stand in line to get the parchi]
  18. So if you want to do helicopter booking, do it now as it gets full [Shrine Board Link] or go to Banganga in rickshaw. You will be haggled for horses [do not talk to anyone there] and pithus [pithus are helpers who carry your stuff and each one has an ID which they give to you. If you are carrying a bag or two suggested to take one as they are very helpful]
  19. Reach Banganga, go through the security [Note: No ciggies, lighter, tobacco, guns, bullets, alcohol allowed]
  20. Now starts the main decision point, take a horse or walk 12 KMS to the Bhavan. Well if you think you are fit, I suggest start walking or if you are not fit then take a horse. Every horse has a fix rate ask them to show the board where prices are written down. 
  21. If you walk up, avoid the stairs which are more than 100 because it will affect you later. There are few with 500+ steps AVOID THEM
  22. On the way, have chat, Chole, Goti Soda, Salads [note: Garlic and Onions are never used in any food item in Katra]
  23. The walk would end in 4 hours max. [Note: There are battery cars which charge Rs. 300 for 5 Km ride but you will reach the Bhavan in 15 mins. Worth it if you are in a hurry]
  24. Go to the cloak room, remove everything except your clothes and dump them in the locker. Keys will be with you.
  25. Start walking through the security and you can feel the energy [if you want more energy make sure you take bath in the naturally chilled water flowing from the mountains]
  26. Complete the Mata Darshan...and then have lunch at one of the dhabas.
  27. Take a Ghoda to Bhairav Temple [Why ghoda the 2 KM feels like 10 kms due to the steepness till the top]
  28. Do Darshan at Bhairav Temple. Take some photos, soak up the sun, enjoy the view.
  29. Start to walk down, pass Ardhkuwari and make sure you have some hot samosa or gulab jamun.
  30. Reach Banganga and shout JAI MATA DI!!
Next blog will be about trip to Shivkodi......