Gan Island – for Serenity Seekers

gan islandI had always daydreamed about watching the sunset on an island where palm trees cast slender shadows along a stretch of bone-white beaches with luminous blue waters… well you get the picture. A recent trip to Gan Island in the Maldives brought that fantasy alive.

Maldives means ‘garland of islands’ in Sanskrit and you only need to peep from your aircraft window to see why. Sprinkled 15,000 feet below are dozens of azure coral specks with names that sound like something one might say while tickling a baby: Dhiddhoo, Kudadhoo, Funadhoo, Nilandhoo, Goidhoo… I am on board the first international flight from Colombo to Gan Island in the Maldives. Prior to the Srilankan airlines flight one had to take a rickety seaplane from Male to reach Gan.

There’s a whiff of history in the frangipani-scented air at Gan. During World War II, Gan island was used by the British military as a naval base due to its strategic location. From 1941 to 1976, Gan served as a strategic outpost for the British Navy and later the Royal Air Force. Much of the military infrastructure remains intact, including the runway. Reminders of the British influence can still be seen today in the landscaping and in the style of buildings.

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A short 20 minutes exhilarating speed boat ride lands me at Canareef Resort where a sunset villa bang on the beach with spacious four-poster bed and a private Jacuzzi awaits. Before diving into a leisurely seafood lunch, I wander out to claim my own scoop of beach on this talcum-shored island, stretch out in my hammock and listen to the surf. This is good life. The beach is scattered with Adirondack chairs, perfect for greeting the morning sun or the evening sunset. Fortunately, there are no snoozing sunbathers as I trek down to the water. If you are a stickler for solitude, Gan would be hard to beat. The island claims a population of only 30,000 which means the chances of finding another set of footprints on the beach are quite rare.

Things to do at Gan island

Watch the dance of the dolphins

Maldives is home to several species of dolphins, including Spinners, Bottle-Nosed dolphins and pilot whales. One way to enjoy the island is to go in search of these wild yet extremely friendly dolphins around the island while watching the sunset. I was amazed to watch them jump and race with our speedboat almost as if performing for us while frolicking in the ocean.

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Discover the jewels of the ocean
Many a ship has met a watery grave on the shallow reefs of Maldives. This has led to some spectacular wrecks on the ocean floor of this tropical diving paradise. One such enthralling dive site is the British Loyalty Shipwreck that came to rest in 1946. Built in 1928, this 5.583 ton oil tanker was torpedoed twice during the Second World War. It was left in Addu Atoll after the British withdrew from the Gan Island. It’s fascinating to witness how marine ecosystems adapt to and takeover these sunken rusty relics of human civilization. Coral reefs growing over the hulls of wrecked ships, create a magical home for local marine flora and fauna. Living symbiotically among the coral are parrot fish, clownfish, wrasse, angelfish, triggerfish and turtles.

Grab rod and reel for some fishing

A fishing trip on a modern speedboat is a great experience for any wannabe Hemingway. Head out during the day for tuna and sailfish, or go at night to catch grouper, snapper, squirrelfish or barracuda. Live bait in the form of trigger fish, sprats and mackerel are scooped out from a large tank beneath the boat and hooked on the line and dropped over the side. Round off the trip by barbecuing the day’s catch. Sadly I caught none.

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Learn how to windsurf

If you are up for some adrenaline ride the winds and negotiate strong waves at Gan. It is a great feeling to glide across the water – even better if you could do this for hours on end. It is just you, your board, the ocean, and the wind on your face. The season for surf lasts from March-October.

Watch the sun sink on a boat cruise

A sunset boat cruise aboard a dhoni, the wooden boat that is the Maldives’ standard mode of transport, is a blissful way to end the day. You can cruise around uninhabited islands, where you’ll be served drinks and snacks while local musicians play their traditional bodu beru drums to attract dolphins.

Canareef - Arrival by Dhoni

Witness life under the waves

For years I heard and read about scuba diving – the thrill of seeing colorful fish, the peacefulness of being in the water and so on. The wet-suite, flippers, swimming goggles, inflatable jacket, oxygen tank… diving is a bit challenging but definitely stunning. Even as seawater fills my throat and fog clogs my mask I am thrilled with the scenery and the opportunity to swim with groupers and turtles.
Note: The key is to keep your breathing nice and steady, and use calm, controlled movements. And be conscious not to touch, knock or stand on any coral – it took thousands of years to look as beautiful as it does!

Island tour

When you have had your fill of the sea and its treasures head out to see some World War 2 relics near the beach area. You can cycle to the next island of Meedhoo to catch the oldest cemetery in the country, Koagannu. It was built about 900 years ago for the burial of the island’s first Muslims, and it was here that many of the ancient rulers of the islands are buried. The perfectly preserved low-rise, pale-blue buildings are where British soldiers were housed. Astra, a gorgeous Art Deco cinema that still shows films is a must visit.

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Getting there: Gan island is just a hour and twenty minutes flight from Colombo. SriLankan Airlines operates four flights per week to Gan International Airport.

Where to stay: Canareef Resort is at a short 20-minute speedboat ride from Gan International Airport. Choose the sunset villa which comes with great ocean views, Jacuzzi and an open to the sky bathroom. Call: +960 689-6677.

Best time to visit: January to April is the nicest time with average temperatures of 28 degrees. July to October is the wet season with slight showers but still pleasant.



Richa Chadda – Girl uninterrupted

richa in white
Richa Chadda doesn’t mince words or beat round the bush. She is direct… just like the characters she plays with unblinking conviction. The award-winning actress speaks straight from the heart on movies, men and more…

Continue reading “Richa Chadda – Girl uninterrupted”

Hong Kong for first timers

Yes the same shot of Hong Kong you see in every Hollywood movie featuring the city


They say – a minute in New York is a second in Hong Kong. And I could why. My first trip to HongKong was nothing short of spectacular. The glamorous billboards and ubiquitous skyscrapers, glitzy pubs and cafes of Lan Kwai Fong, the melt in the mouth din sums, the nostalgia inducing boat rides at Victoria Terminus…


Walking the streets endlessly for hours watching locals and ex pats going about their business never felt so good.


But what I loved most about Hong Kong is the vibe — throbbing and pulsating with energy. For someone who loves the city life,  it’s infectious and addictive.

Hop on board the Star Ferry  

To get an up close look at life in the charming city, hop on board the Star Ferry. For just 3HKD you will be treated to one of the most scenic boat rides in the world. The boat ferries passengers from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and back.


The Victoria Harbour also happens to the most photographed harbours in the world. So be armed with your cameras. The best time to ride it is in the evenings.

The Mid-Level escalator in Hong Kong

It’s quite astonishing to find an escalator (the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator) cutting through the hustle bustle of the city. The Life spills over on to the streets on both sides of the 2624 ft escalator. They only move in one direction, and go with rush hour — in the mornings they go down, and in the evenings they go up. It’s not only a touristy must-do, but very practical too.

The night is always young at Lan Kwai Fong – the party district of Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong is where you head to paint the town red. The atmosphere saddles from stylish wine clubs, sedate cafes and raucous sports bars.  The area comes alive at night when the action spills on to the streets. Even if you are not a party animal, LKF is a great place for people watching.


Strolling along Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade is one of the best ways to see the beautiful views of the Hong Kong skyline and bustling Victoria Harbour.


This amazing city is a melting pot of food, culture and fun just waiting to be discovered.



Desi Deli brunch with Maria Goretti

I love a good brunch. Who doesn’t? The playful dance between breakfast and lunch, sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week and allows you to lull around in bed for hours after waking and still get all your favourite breakfast foods. It’s also a great reward to a good workout. Nothing like working up a good sweat and then eating some good food.

But what makes brunch at one of your favourite restaurants even better is when it’s a co-creation between the chef and a well-known foodie and celebrity. The Desi Deli Sunday brunch is one such delight.

Continue reading “Desi Deli brunch with Maria Goretti”

I found my paradise in Maldives – Gili Lankanfushi

glm_crusoe-residence-exterior-with-hammockIt’s not hard to see why Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives keep winning Travellers Choice awards for luxury hotels

My shoes were collected and stowed away the moment I stepped into the luxurious speed boat that came to pick me up at the airport. Gili Lankanfushi  has a ‘No News No Shoes,’ policy. They were returned to me only when I left the resort for my flight back to India!

Continue reading “I found my paradise in Maldives – Gili Lankanfushi”

Beach dining at Estella

You may not be able to slip off your shoes and sink your feet into the sand beneath your table but you can do the next best thing – of enjoying an outstanding meal while being serenaded by the lovely sea breeze and the magnificent sunset at Juhu beach at Estella the newest restaurant in town.

The bar at Estella

Undoubtedly dining beneath the stars, with the sound of the tide nearby, heightens the sensuality of an already pleasurable meal. Estella is upscale but casual with superb service to boot. The modern Australian meal served here encourages you to linger on, while soaking up the ocean views and some great people watching on the beach.

I loved the bread basket with zaatar bread, sundried tomato focaccia and the chedder cheese straws served with smoked hazelnut butter and herb garlic butter. It’s easy to stuff up on them if you don’t know what’s coming next

Grilled scallops with miso honey cream and carrot foam


The grilled scallops with miso honey cream and carrot foam is exquisite. The presentation too is breathtaking. The seafood al ajilio (with clams, shrimps and scallops) is another must try here. The sherry saffron garlic butter sauce is quite addictive.

Lamb on spinach and flaky pastry


The star of the show for me was the lamb served on a bed of spinach and flaky puff pastry. The banana and caramel parfait with tangy kiwi marmalade was delightfully reticent in sugariness.

Plum and frangipani tart


If you drink go for the Yuzu Sour which is a bitter, sour and sweet drink of singleton of ord malt with Japanese yuzu.

Surya and me at Estella


In Estella I have found my wedding anniversary spot (which is approaching soon). It’s romantic and the music is kept low, so we can hear each other venting.

Estella, Nichani Kutir, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai. Open only for dinner. Meal for two: Rs 5000



Salmon Soirée  

A recent dinner hosted by the Norwegian Consul General H. E. Torbjorn Holthe at his residence in Bandra was a revelation in the simple and quick ways salmon could be included in a meal. 

Passionate foodie and home cook deputy Consul General Yogi Shergill rustled up a simple meal of Salmon filet with sour cream, red chilies & soya sauce, Grilled Salmon filet with Tandoori marinade and pan fried COD filet. 

Vegetarian options included a ceaser  salad (Yogi, you need to give me the recipe for it) and aloo gobi. 

Tandoori marinated Grilled salmon

The evening rolled off with some fine wine and appetisers – smoked salmon on toast with a drop of mayo and mustard. Light,  easy and hugely yummy. 

Salmon fillet
Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon with mayo
Smoked salmon on toast with mustard

The evening was a revelation in more ways than one. I didn’t know that salmon is anadromous. They are born in fresh water, migrate to the oceans and return to fresh water to reproduce. Folklore has it that they return to the same spot where they were born to spawn. Interesting, isn’t it. 

With the Norwegian Consul General H. E. Torbjorn Holthe

The dishes truly captured Norwegian love for their favorite Salmon and the counsel general does hope that we give it some love and attention as we do to our beloved pomfret and mackerel. 

With deputy Consul General Yogi Shergill

Nivedita Jayaram Pawar 

Escape to Saj By The Lake

Should you need a nudge to get out of Mumbai and expand your sights, let me introduce you to a young resort just three hours away. It goes by the name Saj by the Lake and it’s warm and welcoming.Continue reading “Escape to Saj By The Lake”

5 things you must do at Aamby Valley

I love the rain. It’s my favourite weather. The smell of wet soil just when it begins to rain is not only sweet, but brings new hope and makes you look forward to the rainbow and sunshine. So when life throws you a rainy day, play in the puddles! Or better still head to Aamby Valley a picturesque resort nestled amidst mountains and lakes, just 23 km from Lonavala.

chalet at Aamby Valley
The Aussie Chalet I stayed in

A visit to this scenic and mammoth resort was long overdue and thanks to Food bloggers Association of India (FBAI), it finally happened last month. So here’s a first person account of the five things you ought to do at Aamby Valley.

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Vegetarian? Try Juno’s Pizza

masterchef PIzza - 1Hot or cold, thin or fat, round or square, cheesy or saucy – there is nothing like a pizza meal. What’s not to like about a hot, freshly baked pizza, with its crispy edges and soft centre, moist with tomato sauce?

Just the smell and the heat radiating off a pizza makes me hungry. This simple dish of bread, tomatoes and cheese could probably be Italy’s best gift to the world.Continue reading “Vegetarian? Try Juno’s Pizza”