Monthly Archives: April 2016

Morocco Code : The coast is clear!


Day 6

Breakfast was standard fare, except for an omelette that arrived in a tajine, and some excellent vanilla yogurt! We checked out from Riad Maktoub, and happily got into the car, when Hisham told us that we’d be walking up. That took us about 20 minutes, and we were early enough to miss the crowds that would soon arrive from Marrakech. The site is a kasbah which apparently still has a few families staying inside. The rest of the population had shifted to the opposite side of  the river, (that looked more like a stream) because it had electricity, transportation etc.

On the way up, we met “Picasso Abdullah”, who painted using indigo, saffron and tea+ sugar. The fantastic part of it was how the colours changed when he heated the paper. This was an old ‘encryption’ technique, he said. Ait Benhaddou has also appeared in Hollywood fare, (including Gladiator) and more recently as Yunkai in Game of Thrones. The view from the top was fantastic.



Morocco Code : Ain’t Hollywood, but..


Day 5

The sun apparently woke up early in this part of the world. So we did too, to watch it rise. 6’o clock, brutal! A little over an hour on camels took us back to Yasmina. Though we had to ask for some tech support in between, the bath felt really refreshing. The breakfast brought us back from our elated state – stale, and the worst mint tea we had on the trip. But, to be fair, they’re in the middle of nowhere, so things must be tough to maintain.

We returned the way we came, and chose to skip an archaeology museum visit on the way. For the second day running, we had a long way to go – close to 400km.

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Morocco Code : Enter sand man!


Day 4

We had a day long drive ahead, and had to make an early start. Breakfast done, we set out, towards the Sahara. We first passed a town called Ifrane. Set in the Middle Atlas, this town is locally called the Switzerland of Morocco and has snow during its winter months. Its “hill station” image meant that it had a huge number of villas which were apparently rented out for weeks. The town is also famous for the Al Akhawayn university.

Next up was Azrou, which means ‘great rock’, and is home to forests where the Barbary macaque is found. We stopped at what seemed a tourist spot. Our first attempt to shoot a family pic resulted in an NSFW image! We also caught an aspiring Formula 1 driver! More

Morocco Code : Two Fez’d


Day 3

We woke up reasonably late, at least by our usual itinerary standards. Our guide was scheduled to meet us at the hotel around 9.30, and that gave us time for a relatively simple breakfast (that’s a distant cousin of the Kerala porotta on the plate) and a mini tour around the riad. The view from the terrace, as had been indicated by our elderly host, was amazing, though I oscillated between freezing to death and being blown away by the wind in the five minutes I spent up there!


Abdul, our guide for half a day, promised to show us the ‘real’ Fez. Dressed in a djellaba, he was a middle aged man, with a son who was born the same year as the one in which the current king took over the rule. He was also quite talkative, as most guides are wont to be, and had a great many adjectives for himself – great, modest (in the same breath), honest, and lucky were a few. Hisham drove us to the (old) medina, and he described how it had many quarters, and each quarter had five essentials – a mosque, a hamam, a bakery, a school for the kids, and a fountain. These days, Batman as well. (check the image for the bat mobile) More

Morocco Code : Fez down!


Day 2

We woke up to a bright morning, and a lovely view of the mountains from the riad’s balcony. But despite having a restaurant, ‘their’ breakfast was served in a restaurant at the medina. Hisham joined us for a heavy fare that included hung curd, homemade butter, olives, and their version of peanut butter (but of thinner consistency, and made with almonds and olive oil) called amlou. During the meal, a gust of wind almost dropped a patio umbrella on me. I escaped, and the panicking restaurant owner rushed to thank the local gods by splashing some ‘holy water’ from the top of the umbrella on to me! 😐

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Morocco Code : Blue Up

Morocco was never a plan, until it was! We have a running list of places we’d like to travel to, and had zeroed in on Africa this time. Yes, that’s not really zeroing in, but you get the idea. Our choice of vacation spot and our timing didn’t match, and Morocco became the wildcard! There is a connection though, but that I shall get to in the end.

We took Etihad’s night flight to Abu Dhabi, but not before eating some lousy Chinese at BIAL! Something surreal happened at Abu Dhabi – right next to the gate for our flight to Casablanca was one for Cochin, of all the places in the world!  After confusing fellow Malayalis by speaking to D in Keralese, and boarding a flight to Casablanca, I realised that I had massively underestimated the flying time for the second leg – it was almost 10 hours! But sleep and in-flight entertainment meant I had no reason to complain. The Big Short was a fascinating watch – what performances, and what a tale! Also managed to watch Creed – a lot of it at 2x though.

Day 1

Immigration at Casablanca was a breeze. I had been a little worried because the visa (at roughly Rs.7000 pp) had our middle names only as an initial, unlike our passports. But except for one idiot, who whacked D’s Reynolds pen, the experience was smooth. Free WiFi helped! :) A bit about Casablanca. My romantic notion of that place, courtesy a song and a movie, had been shattered during the planning stage thanks to our tour operator and the internet. Apparently, it’s now just a big cosmopolitan city like any other!  More

Tom Yum Thai

First published in Bangalore Mirror

I realised recently that if you want to save on the time and expense of international travel, and yet explore the cuisine of Southeast Asia, all you have to do is travel from one end of 12th Main to the other – The Fatty Bao, Mamagoto, One Night in Bangkok, Phobidden Fruit! These establishments though, are largely gastro pubs, and barring very few exceptions, end up costing as much as that international trip! And thus I wondered how a Thai restaurant on CMH road would play it. Though on the main road, it’s pretty well hidden, and the presence of a clinic on the ground floor might intimidate or assuage, depending on how you see it. (map) Perched on the top floor, its terrace section easily outscores the indoor option. So much so that we saw people waiting for a spot outside, even though there were tables vacant inside! The high roof, the Buddha, all lend a certain sense of calm, and with the kind of weather we’re having, the ambiance outside is spot on for a good dining experience. It also manages to minimise the potential damage that can be caused by “Hits of MLTR” playing in a loop.

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We, the storytellers (2)

There is a quote that has found its way into many posts on this blog – “Judging a person doesn’t define who they are, it defines who you are.” I still subscribe to that. However, motivated by the daily outrage on social platforms on everything ranging from a Coldplay video to a newspaper calling the city by its old name – Bombay, to each other’s political or religious belief systems, and by the behaviour of people around, (and myself when I introspected) I decided to go further along that quote. The result was this tweet


Cough Syrup Surrealism

Tharun James Jimani

I’m not sure I really ‘got’ this book. The obvious story line is not really complex – Charlie, a Mallu boy in Chennai, whose dad expects him to become an IAS officer just like him, gets sucked into a world of drugs, music and sex, every fifth page. He also has an identity crisis, and like Peter Pan, refuses to grow up, despite quite a lot of self flagellation and advice from his parents and friends. A nineties kid who refuses to acknowledge, let alone accommodate the noughties, his relationships are anything but simple.

Mao (a figment of Charlie’s imagination) might get irritated, but I wondered if this was the only level this book was operating at. The narrative (and this is not necessarily criticism) is very Charlie-like. I always had this feeling that there was subtext I was completely missing out on. On many occasions, I plodded through text – the Charlie analogy I’d use is that it’s a bit like smiling at pop culture references you haven’t really got. Charlie’s thoughts – for example, mixtapes and body parts – would make for a great conversation when stoned. I wondered quite a few times whether that condition was a prerequisite to reading the book! I’m not even sure if the author meant for this to work that way, but when we have a title that has cough syrup and surrealism, that thought is bound to cross your mind. More