72 Things To Do In NITK

The freedom and roughness that you associate with a government institute in India; a residential setting in a quiet and yet, cosmopolitan city; a location on the coast that connects you to South India’s most interesting hotspots; fellow students who’ve mastered the art of being freakishly smart while remaining ‘chilled out’, and most spectacularly, the promise of a reputed degree once it’s all over. It certainly is hard to find a combination that works better than this. Consider yourself fortunate if NITK Surathkal is indeed where you are.

Looking back at the four fabulous years I had spent at NITK, I am proud to say that I surpassed the standards I had set for myself while I was in college. I write this e-book in the hope that it inspires you to live the high-octane college life that you’ve always desired.

The e-book is now available for a free download by clicking on the link below. Happy reading!

12 hours in Varanasi

If there’s one place that means the world to politicians, spiritual seekers, travellers and historians alike, it’s got to be the holy city of Varanasi. Dubbed the ‘spiritual capital of India’ for its prominence in the development of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, Varanasi is also one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. The lure of the city was impossible to resist and I found myself travelling on my own on yet another unplanned trip. I boarded the Shiv Ganga Express from Delhi on the night of Friday, October 16, spent a little more than twelve hours in Varanasi and was back in Delhi at noon on Sunday. You should find this post useful in case you’re looking to spend around 12 hours in Varanasi.

Here’s sharing my itinerary with you.

1. Arrival at Varanasi

Alley leading to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Clueless about where to begin, I arrived at the Manduadih railway station at 8 am and learnt that the Kashi Vishwanath temple was nearby. I also learnt that the more frequent alternative to the intra-city buses was the shared autos that plied between fixed points in the city. In less than half an hour, I was at the famed temple savouring the incredible feeling that I was visiting the holy site that most Hindus try to pray at at least once in their lives.

I then walked along the teeming streets outside the temple and got onto a tempo that took me to Sarnath.

2. Sarnath

Mulgandha Kuti Vihar at Sarnath
One of the four places of pilgrimage that devout Buddhists visit, Sarnath is situated at a distance of ten kilometres from Varanasi. You could stroll around the site, visiting the monuments and reading up on their history. However, nothing would quite beat the wonder that you will experience circling the Lion Capital, looking up at the imposing structure adopted as India’s national emblem.  You will almost feel waves of power and Dharma radiating from the pillar. Pity that no electronic devices were allowed near the monument for me to capture the moment. 

A Benaras Saree

3. The Ghats

It was by accident that the auto driver dropped me at Kashi railway station. I would advise you to stop by here as well since the double decker Malviya Bridge here is what marks the start of Varanasi’s celebrated Ghats. My leisurely two hour walk from the bridge to the Dashashwamedh Ghat was undoubtedly the most vivid memory of my trip to Varanasi.

Malviya bridge
Something that I found interesting was that different Ghats were earmarked for independent purposes such as bathing, washing or cremations. At one of the cremation Ghats, I had some difficulty eluding a zombie-like man who pursued me imploring for money that he needed for the ‘moksh’ of his deceased children! I’d also suggest that you visit the neighbourhoods beyond the Ghats and take in all the activity going on there.

The submerged Scindia Ghat

4. Ganga Aarti

Ensure that you arrive at the Dashashwamedh Ghat at least half an hour before the 18:00 Ganga Aarti to secure for yourself a good view of the ceremony. With people witnessing the chants and the lamps both from the Ghats and from the boats on the Ganga, you’re sure to take delight in the spectacle. I did, however, feel that the event was perhaps a bit commercialized. You wouldn’t miss much by leaving the premises say, an hour after the ritual begins.

5. Ramlila

Outside the Dashashwamedh Ghat 
There was still some time to go for my 22:30 train back to Delhi and I made up my mind to visit the UNESCO recommended Ramlila in Ramnagar. I was in no mood to miss my train and get stuck in this otherworldly city but the allure of the occasion was too much for me to ignore it.

The Ramlila was nothing like I had imagined it to be. There was a makeshift stage at the end of a large maidan where thousands (including the King on his elephant!) sat together watching the re-enactment intently. Although the dialect being spoken in was unintelligible to me, I did relish the atmosphere at the event.

Considering the countless instances I’ve had to rush to catch a train, I wasn’t unusually tense about this time. Nevertheless, I was relieved when I arrived at the platform less than a minute before the departure of the train. I was back in Delhi the next day at noon.


Visiting Varanasi feels like going back in time. You wouldn’t feel completely at ease owing to a variety of reasons but you would be enthralled seeing things that you had thought you’d only be able to imagine. The Kyoto Varanasi Partner City Agreement signed by Prime Ministers Modi and Abe is undoubtedly the best way forward for this city which is supposed to have remained inhabited for several millennia. I find it incredibly exciting to envisage Varanasi becoming a thriving modernized city while retaining all the elements that give it its enchanting mystical aura.

12 hours in Chandigarh

India's wealthiest, cleanest and most well-planned city: My need to satiate my curiosity about what I had always heard about Chandigarh got the better of me in the second week that I moved to Delhi. None of my regular travel pals lived in the national capital and I opted to travel on my own to see for myself how sophisticated the city actually was. I boarded the Kalka Mail on the night of Friday, September 11, spent about ten hours in Chandigarh and was back at Delhi the next night on Saturday. You should find this post useful in case you’re looking to spend less than 12 hours in Chandigarh.

Here’s sharing my itinerary with you.

Ever seen an Indian city that has roads like these?

1. Arrival at Chandigarh

I arrived at Chandigarh at 7 am on Saturday, September 12 owing to a delay. Guess you’ll just have to get around the fact that most trains run late in North India.

On arriving at Chandigarh, I learnt that city’s bus stand was located at Sector satara (seventeen) and that buses to all parts of the city could be boarded from there. I’d suggest you buy the 40 rupee AC bus day pass to slash your commuting costs. Unlike how it is in other Indian cities, the bus system here is so efficient that this might end up being the only amount you’ll spend commuting in Chandigarh.

2. Sukhna Lake and Rock Garden

Sukhna Lake

If you’re looking to just “visit places” in Chandigarh, you’d end up disappointed since the city barely has any tourist attractions. Your visit here would be more about appreciating how better organized and less chaotic it is compared with other Indian cities. In any case, you could spend some time relaxing at the lawns near Sukhna Lake and then move to the Nek Chand Rock Garden, a place that I found quite interesting.

Nek Chand's story

A section of the Rock Garden

3. Rose Garden and Panjab University

The Rose Garden, named after former President Dr Zakir Hussain

Unless you’re a botanical geek, don’t bother visiting Rose Garden. It isn’t worth your time at all.

I also visited the Panjab University just to take in the college atmosphere that I was missing so much. I’d highly recommend eating here if you’re looking for a meal that’s both delicious and light on your wallet. Exploring the campus did bring back memories of the great times we had spent at NITK.

4. Mohali

I proceeded to Mohali in the afternoon just to pay a visit to the PCA stadium. It was here that Dravid scored his career-redeeming 136 back in 2008. His triple century partnership with Gautam Gambhir here finally brought to rest all the calls for retirement that he had to endure that year and he went on to finish his career in style before eventually retiring in 2012. I can still remember how delighted and relieved I was after this particular Mohali innings. With these memories and all the Kings XI Punjab hoardings outside the stadium, seeing the empty stadium was an interesting experience.

Where the magic happened!

5. Back to Delhi

My little trip to Mohali had almost made me miss my train back to Delhi. Boarded the 16:30 train that arrived at Old Delhi Railway Station a few minutes past 21:00.


A “well-designed Indian city” does sound like a paradoxical phrase, doesn’t it? One look at our well-touted “millennium city" and your convictions will only be reinforced. And yet, with its grid iron pattern of roads, garden-like roundabouts, efficient public transport services and wide spotless roads lined with trees, the Le Corbusier designed Chandigarh does quite manage to disprove that paradox. Visit the city and see what it's like for yourself!

Hampi: Paradise for the adventurer

The ruins at Hampi

Rock climbing, cycling, trekking, swimming, boating and camping. We’ve all had numerous opportunities to try them out, haven’t we? Now picture yourself trying out ALL these activities at a single location. And no, the site I’m referring to isn't one of those pseudo-adventure resorts. What I'm talking about is doing all this amidst the deserted ruins of a three hundred year old empire!

Well, that’s Hampi for you, capital of the Vijayanagar empire and also another of India's 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

At the Vittala Temple

The three of us were in our final semester at NITK and were running out of time to visit the one place we hadn't explored until then. One evening, we promptly made up our minds to skip a few classes in order to acquire a four day break to visit Hampi. Here's sharing our experience with you.


Day 1 – Thursday, March 12:
00:00 to 05:00 – Train from Surathkal to Madgaon
07:00 to 15:00 – Train from Madgaon to Hospet (where we passed by Dudhsagar again!)
15:00 – Auto from Hospet to Hampi

Day 2 – Friday, March 13:
Exploring the site and visiting the ruins

Day 3: Saturday, March 14:
08:00 to 15:00 – Kamalapur and Virupapur Gadde
16:00 to 20:00 – Train from Hospet to Hubli
23:00 – Train from Hubli to Madgaon

Day 4: Sunday, March 15
06:00 - Arrival at Madgaon
07:00 to 12:00 – Train from Madgaon to Surathkal


1. Arrival at Hampi

Ruins by the Tungabhadra

On arriving at Hampi, the auto driver who had brought us from Hospet Junction dropped us at a shack next to the Tunghabhadra. Without further ado, we rented bicycles and spent the evening riding around the town. The site was deserted sans a few foreign tourists. The broken stone temples, the humongous boulders, the green banana plantations and of course, the mighty Tungabhadra flowing through the town gave it a magical feel that I had never quite felt in any place that I had been to. Although only ten kilometres separated Hospet and Hampi, it all felt like we were in a different world altogether!

At dusk, we visited the market and had an amazing dinner at our shack, after which we walked to the river and sat at the broken stone monuments by the river.

2. Exploring the ruins

An elephant bathing in the Tungabhadra

I was reminded of my solo adventure to Kurnool while the three of us swam in the Tunghabhadra the next day at dawn. We spent the day riding, walking, trekking and climbing boulders to capture the feel of the town the best way possible. After lunch inside the Virupaksha temple, we were, a few hours later, offered a traditional meal by a few villagers. 

Entrance to the Virupaksha temple

The road where the Emperor’s grand processions were held, the market where diamonds were sold even on the streets, the temples that were some of the grandest in the country - the prosperous town of Hampi was pillaged and razed to the ground by the Deccan sultantates after the Battle of Talikota in 1565. It seemed incredible to us that all that was left of the grandeur and pomp of the Empire was rocks and boulders that meant nothing today. It was a way of being taught that nothing really is permanent in our world.

3. Camping amidst the ruins

After another satisfying dinner, we decided to check out from our shack. After waiting for the town to go to sleep, we walked discreetly to the ruins near Hemakuta and waited for the perfect opportunity to give the security guards the slip. We sneaked up the boulders, searched for a safe spot and pitched our tent. And thus, we had illegally camped amidst the ruins of the ancient empire!

What a night!

4. Kamalapur

The locals we had spoken to the previous night suggested that we visit Kamalapur, a locality situated ten kilometres from the ruins at Hampi. It was our last day at Hampi, and taking into account all the final year farewells and events we had lined up back in NITK, this was going to be the last of all those adventurous trips the three of us had gone on together. We spent the morning riding through the barren parts of the ruins near Kamalapur before heading back to Hampi town.

Temple pond near Kamalapur

5. Virupapur Gadde - the other side of the river

We went on a boat that took us to the other side of the river and found an exciting hippies' restaurant. With the view of the river, the psychedelic pictures on the walls and the tasty food to eat, lunch was an interesting affair.

6. Return

The train from Hospet to Madgaon wasn’t available on Saturdays and this meant that we had to take a train to Hubli followed by another to Madgaon. We could have avoided the trouble of taking three trains simply by going on the direct bus from Hampi to Mangalore, but where was the fun in that?

Exhausted after all those sleepless nights in Hampi, we were back at NITK on Sunday afternoon.


 Commuting: Like Pondicherry, Hampi is best experienced on bicycles. Rent one the moment you arrive at the town.

 Stay: With plenty of shacks in Hampi, you shouldn’t have a problem looking for a place to stay. However, understand that these shacks lack the comforts that hotels provide. Make do with what’s available.

 Food: Cheap and delicious. What more could you ask for?

I've seen a lot of travel bloggers raving about Hampi on various forums on the internet and it isn't very difficult to see why they do so. Ironically, despite it being one of the best places that can be visited from NITK, I know of only a handful of people from college who've been to Hampi. A pity, to be honest - something that needs to change. There's something about the ruins and the history associated with Hampi that lets you lose yourself completely in it. Couple that with how it brings out the adventurous side in you and you'll find that Hampi truly is an adventurer's paradise.

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