Two spectacular resorts in Cherrapunjee that will win over your hearts!

Cherrapunjee, famed for being one of the wettest places on earth (Mawsynram being the wettest) is breathtakingly beautiful and serene. The beautiful roads and the lush valleys and the forever foggy landscapes made us fall for them right away. Over the next three days, this love only grew stronger. Although the heart has no reasons, we can definitely tell you that these two places – Café Cherrapunjee Resort and Sa-I-Mika Park & Resort – had a huge role to play.

We drove from Guwahati to Cherrapunjee and had already booked our stay at Café Cherrapunjee a couple of days ago, but there was a certain anxiety, probably stemming from the fact that our stay in Guwahati had been not so great. We drove for a couple of hours to reach Sohra, the historical name of Cherrapunjee, and driving through the Sohra-Shella road, I saw a beautiful scene – stone-walled cottages with strikingly green coloured roofs and just as I was about to whisk my phone out to click a picture, we took a turn towards the cottages!

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This was our stay! This was our actual stay!! Yes, we had visited their site and booked the stay but images on the internet are not meant to be taken seriously, right?

We were overwhelmed by the beauty of this place! The clear blue sky behind the beautiful cottages, tall and lush green pine trees, smoke coming out of the chimney in the central cottage, this was a scene out of an old movie based in Scotland…but only, it was real. I vividly remember jumping around like an overjoyed kid as soon as the car came to a halt! The moment still makes me smile.

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Our room was in this cottage

Café Cherrapunjee had stolen our hearts and we were happy it had! Based in Mawdok village, midway from Shillong and the main Cherrapunjee Market, this quaint and beautiful place will make you want to stay back forever. The cottages are cozy, outstandingly clean and have a rustic charm. Tents are also available if you want to be adventurous. The age-old Dak Bungalow is converted to a restaurant/café where the staff (more hospitable than anyone you have met) whips up some delicious and heart-warming food. The cell reception is weak here and the resort has no WiFi, giving you the perfect opportunity to disconnect with the world and reconnect with your self and your travel partners.

When at Café Cherrapunjee Resort, remember to carry cash to make the payment (you will be making part payment via net transfer) as they do not have a network and can’t accept cards. You can always transfer the amount but the weak cell reception is a pain.

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Places Nearby: Dympep village is a ten-minute walk from the resort so you can visit some picturesque places here along with the Duwan Sing Syiem Bridge.

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Duwan Sing Syiem Bridge

After having checked out of Café Cherrapunjee, we did not think any other stay can make us this happy but found another beauty hidden amidst the meadows and mountains of Sohra – our second stay at Cherrapunjee – the Sa-I-Mika Park and Resort.

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Sa-I-Mika Park & Resort

A place designed to help you experience simplicity. This resort is much bigger in expanse and has a charm of its own. The various cottages here are all designed to replicate the simple Khasi lifestyle. Some cottages have hardwood flooring and stone walls while some other resemble the architectural style of the time when corrugated sheets were used to make houses. Fireplace, comfortable beds, khaats and muddas, and cleanliness mark the very spacious rooms here.

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The resort does not provide WiFi or televisions and yet we were not at a dearth of things to do. Explore the vast landscapes around, play with the dogs, go hiking or watch the stars under the clear beautiful sky – and we did all of these. And even ran inside our cottages at crazy speed when the rain started hammering down on us that evening! The next morning we headed to the common room for a simple but hearty breakfast and found out that many live gigs are hosted there. If only one was on when we were here…. but that just gives us an excuse to go back, right?

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Breakfast at Sa-I-Mika

Places Nearby: Mawsamai Caves, Seven Sisters Falls, Nohkalkai Falls, Mawlynlong Village and Living Root Bridges to name a few.

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The Orange Roots Cherrapunjee Resort is nearby and you can head here to enjoy a pocket-friendly and lip-smacking vegetarian meal prepared by the local Khasi women.
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Book Cafè – Ningxia Lù (Ningxia Road), Qingdao

We tend to find the most amazing places when we are least expecting them.
On our recent trip to China, on a cold winter day, we had decided to explore the city on foot. After some shopping, we were just roaming around and that is when saw this cafe – Book Cafè – we exchanged stares and ran towards it!

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It is a huge cafe on the side of a bustling street and right next to Ningxia Lù metro station. This place is also well connected by local buses if you decide to take one.

Entering, we saw huge stacks of books arranged properly in pillar-like shelves. Cozy and inviting sofas along one side and a few tables on the other. The interiors were beautifully designed and made us fall in love with the place at first sight.

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The cafe was almost empty barring a few people who were lost in their books.

For non-Mandarin speakers, it does get a bit difficult to understand the menu but the staff was very friendly and those who understood a bit of English helped us through our dilemma. We ordered our coffee and decided to makes ourselves comfortable upstairs.

Until our coffee arrived, we browsed through the books and explored the cafe. There were a lot of beautiful paintings and books up for sale. Most of the collect is in Mandarin and if you understand the language, this cafe is a heaven to be lost in for hours.

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We browsed through a few books and interacted with the staff trying to get to know the city better while our coffee arrived. The best part about the coffee was the cute Chinese cutlery that they used.

After spending about two hours here, we decided it was time to go, but would definitely love to visit this place again – hopefully with better knowledge of Mandarin.

Summer House Café [Todi Mill, Lower Parel]

The weekend aways makes us happy. But this time, it left us elated! Like any other day, we zeroed in on a location to satiate our growling tummies. We had heard the place we had selected – Summer House Café, is an amazing one, we just did not know the enormity of the amazingness and hence, were more than underprepared for what hit us once we landed here!

Summer House Café is a dreamy setup, a beautiful place! For us, it felt like another world! Just far away, another country, another landscape, ‘coz surely, something this amazing could not have been here all this time, right?

The white and blue facade with bamboo sticks forming a part of the wall reminded us of a shack in some beach country. Then we entered through the doors and were awestruck by the bustling area and it literally took us a few minutes to take everything in.

Looking around, we wondered, how the wooden beams and columns fit perfectly, how just the right amount of light enters through the glass windows and how beautiful it would be to stare at the sky in the evening.

The ambience makes everything look better. The area is very spacious and superbly lit during the daytime and transforms to a dim lit, fine dine come evening. That’s the upper level. The lower level is still the den of activity. It is a house to comedy shows, band performances, crazy retro dance nights, reading clubs and painting workshops to name few. When we were here, by the evening, a workshop on knife painting led to a colourful chatter here and then, just like in the movies, the entire scene changed to become host to a movie launch party. And we sat there, hogging and marvelling!

The menu here is a maze! There is so much variety that you are confused and yet the humble staff say that they know the variety is limited! Coming to the staff, the service is prompt and friendly and the Chef surely knows how to win you over, en route your stomach!

Here is what we hogged on at Summer House Café –

Yuzu Pineapple Smash – A refreshing combination of lime, yuzu (a citrus fruit giving the drink a slight tart) and basil. Thyme and fennel seeds added a mind-blowing aroma and flavour.

Blueberry Twist Smash – A tangy concoction of blueberry, lime and orange. Rosemary adds a very refreshing flavour. This one packs a sure punch!

Yuzu Pineapple Smash & Blueberry Twist Smash
Yuzu Pineapple Smash & Blueberry Twist Smash

Jalapeno Cheese Poppers – Crispy batter-fried poppers with mozzarella cheese and made spicy with lots of chilli flakes and jalapenos. These are better spelt as ‘perfection’! Pop these and see the cheese oozing out! But make sure you have the poppers before someone snatches them off the plate.

The Haystack Salad – Sprouts, bell peppers, tomatoes, black beans, cucumber, lettuce, corn and more! And topped or rather stacked with crispy tortilla chips. There is a slight hint of sweetness in the salad owing to the ingredients and we would have better liked it with a little bit of black pepper if not chilli to ease out the sweetness.

Nachos with Salsa and Sour Cream – Fresh, crispy tortilla chip loaded with chopped tomatoes, spring onions, jalapenos, black beans, and a tangy salsa sauce. The cheese sauce and sour cream are wonderful!

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Indian Vegetarian Platter, Veg Mezze Platter, Jalapeno Cheese Poppers

Indian Vegetarian Platter – The intense and spicy flavours of the dishes in the Indian vegetarian platter were mind-blowing. Spicy masalas that do justice to the preparations. There were three items in the platter – Char grilled paneer chunks with a smokey flavour and marinated in strong spices. Pineapple presented in a chatpata avatar that we definitely had not tried earlier. The masalas overshadowed the inherent sweetness of the fruit and left a delicious preparation on the sticks.

Soya Kebabs were the star of the show in this platter. Soft soya, marinated in a very spicy sauce, stuffed with veggies, paneer and nuts. This one was amazing! It was served with a yoghurt based dip and a non-spicy mint dip.

Veg Mezze Platter – Consisted of crispy and delicious falafels, feta samosas and crispy soft pita bread. Sticky rice balls were made with the thicker rice, slightly crisp on the outside and had a filling of veggies and a little bit of cheese. The dips are mind-blowing, especially the hummus. We did not really enjoy the feta samosas as they were a bit oily and a little bland for our taste.

Thai Veg Curry – Lots of exotic veggies in a superbly fragrant curry spiced with Thai herbs. It has a mildly spicy aftertaste. We loved the fact that it has just the adequate amount of creaminess and spices. Recommended!

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Thai Veg Curry

Sundried and Cherry Tomatoes, Bocconcini and Fresh Basil Pizza – Thin crusted pizza that is topped with bocconcini. The combination of bocconcini and the tomato based sauce were marvellous. Topped with sun-dried and cherry tomatoes and basil leaves, this pizza is a delight. We especially loved the crusty corners and the fresh aroma added by the basil.

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Sundried and Cherry Tomatoes, Bocconcini and Fresh Basil Pizza

Pesto Tomato Basil and Mozzarella Sandwich – Overloaded with cheese and pesto, this is a simple yet delightful sandwich in a crispy panini bread. The sandwich primarily has lots of tomatoes and a non-spicy pesto sauce.

Tiramisu – Tiramisu here is a must-have! Not only is it perfect, it also has a surprise for you! The creamy dessert is served in a glass along with rum soaked bread. We could not figure out why this bread tasted so good even after we had scavenged it through the deep ends of the glass. The chef then let us in on this secret. The strong essence and flavours that the rum bread and coffee add are mind-boggling!

Mega Brownie Sundae Mug – This should be called Mega Happiness Sundae Mug! Delicious, soft and crunchy brownie with lots and lots of vanilla ice cream that was threatening to melt! Made a hell lot messy and tasty by the chocolate sauce and finished with a cherry on top!

Carrot Cake With Whipped Cream – A soft spongy cake with intense cinnamon flavour, lots of nuts and whipped cream. We loved how gooey and soft it was.

The Ultimate Banoffee Pie – If we were not averse to bananas, this one would have been the dessert for us at Summer House Café. It is without a doubt on the sweeter side, but the toffee sauce makes you want to dig in for just another bite till you have licked the glass and the spoon and maybe even the plate! Heavenly!

Overall Experience:  First, the ambience blows you away and then you are washed over by the astonishingly delicious food and delicate flavours! We were looking at each other with baffled expression after every bite!  Highly recommended!

Summer House Café – Google Maps

Summer House Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Artika Café [White Town, Pondicherry]

First look at Artika Café and you feel like you are in a slow-motion video of some lost town. Time probably, literally stops here! Artika Café is one of the best places to laze around in Pondicherry.

 

It is essentially a black and white shot, with a random table or two adding the colours. Dry leaves and white bougainvillaea decorate the courtyard, giving the feel of a never-ending autumn. The quietness here can be the brand ambassador for Pondicherry’s ‘Peaceful Pondicherry’ tagline! This peacefulness is what drew us here and kept us here and what made us never want to get up and leave!

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A narrow and beautiful shrub covered path led us to the graffiti and mural-covered courtyard. There are a few tables in the open courtyard and a few lounge chairs in the shade covered area to just stretch and relax.

There are a few tables inside as well, in an old, pretty worn-out house but we chose outside, obviously!

There is an art gallery and a shop inside, which sort of seems like the thing in Pondicherry!

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Once we had taken in the amazing surroundings and rested for a few good minutes, we asked for the menu, which is another surprise. They give you a big handmade paperboard menu that is handwritten – art all the way!

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There are quite a few breakfast options, sandwiches, baguettes and crepes to pick from.

They have some really good combos to pick from. The food ranges from affordable to average pricey but one can easily find something

 

according to their budget.

Another good thing here is the free WiFi for as long as you want.

The service is prompt and super friendly.

 

 

We had a Ratatouille and Cheese Sandwich. The aroma of the ratatouille being prepared made our mouths water! The sandwich was delicious, non-spicy ratatouille with lots of veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and more with lots of mozzarella cheese! It was lip-smacking!

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Ratatouille & Cheese Sandwich

We also had Mango Lassi which was more like thick mango pulp smoothie! It was very refreshing and filling!

Artika Café and Gallery should be where you head to, to chill on a hot summer day or to get your work done in peace. And if nothing, a few hours of peace don’t hurt!

We had an amazing time at Artika Café, do tell us about yours!!

Artika Café [Pondicherry] – Google Maps

Artika Cafe Gallery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kasha Ki Aasha [White Town, Pondicherry]

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“I think I am in the wrong place!”

“Nope, definitely, this is someone’s home. We are in the wrong place!”

This is how the conversation will go when you first enter Kasha Ki Asha – that you have entered someone’s really well-kempt home and there is no way that a café exists here. Pass by those rooms with handicrafts and khadi kurtas and bags and you reach the centre of the home which again reinforces your belief that this is someone’s home and you are trespassing!

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With a small central verandah with lots of flowers, a metallic statue of the dancing God and a few females going about their business, it has got to be a home, no?

Well, it is, but it is a home converted to an art gallery and also houses a café upstairs.

Breathing a sigh of relief that we have to be hungry no longer, we climbed up the narrow staircase to come face to face with the rooftop café and then… and then we smiled!

 

Kasha Ki Aasha is a dream we all had but never got. A terrace with cane furniture to laze on, lots of plants to keep it cool…. a space where we could relax and spend all our days and evenings and maybe even nights! Away from the chaos and cacophony, one can chill and be at peace at this café for as long as they want. And delicious homecooked food doesn’t hurt either!

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We spent hours here, hogging and just sitting, doing nothing, at some points not even talking…just being quiet! That is the type of place Kasha Ki Aasha is. And if you love such places, you will love this one!

The women who run the café come upstairs from time to time to ask for any order or you can go to the stairs and holler for someone but apart from that, they let you be. No one keeps poking asking if you want anything more, something we Mumbaikars, or for that matter, metro-dwellers are not used to!

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Coming to the food, they have a small menu and also serve some specials apart from the menu. The quantity is decent and one cannot help feel that the prices are a little high. That kept aside, the food is delicious! Their European and Thai thalis are hot selling and pretty famous! They also serve beer and wine. We stuck to mostly Indian options or Indian with a twist. Here’s what we tried and loved:

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Traditional Indian Breakfast – Soft steamed idlis with a bowl of sambhar and a groundnut and coconut based chutney.  The sambhar is non-spicy but had the perfect maa-ke-hath ka taste! The quantity of sambhar is a little less and you may have to ask for another bowl. The chutney is delicious too, with no hint of spiciness.

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Chappati & Dal Fry – Two large and soft chappatis with slightly crispy centres and a small bowl of dal. Dal again was non-spicy but yummy with lots of onions and ginger. This preparation is again served with the chutney.

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Chappati & Dal Fry

Pizza Dosai – Before we tell you what it is, we will tell you that it is delicious!! Two plain uttapams with lots of veggies on top – chopped tomatoes, onions, capsicum and more. This is then finished with lots of cheese! It tastes very slightly sweet owing to the tomato based sauce used to mix the veggies and the batter but the combination overall is amazing and something different!

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Onion Dosai with Chutney – Crispy and thin onion dosas. These were again bang-on yummy and can be had even without that chutney!

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Onion Dosai with Chutney

Black Bean Burger – The black bean burger has two black bean based cutlets with a slightly charred and smokey flavour, topped with tomatoes, capsicum and onions. It is served with a cold macaroni salad that is spiced with black pepper and is delicious. Each of these can be had separately and the combination is lip-smacking.

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The café is open only until 7 p.m. which is really sad considering the ambience is perfect for spending your evenings!!

All in all, Kasha Ki Aasha is an amazing place with good food and should find its way to your list of places to visit in Pondicherry!

Kasha Ki Aasha [Pondicherry] – Google Maps

Kasha Ki Aasha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Canteen 18 [Heritage Town, Pondicherry]

Sometimes, wrong roads lead people to the right places.

One such wrong road led us to discover Canteen 18. We were headed towards our hotel and we saw a small little eatery, at the corner of a street, just in the passing. Little did we know a split second would have that much impact. The moment we were fresh and ready to feed our growling tummies, the first place that we mentioned, together, was that small eatery at the corner – Canteen 18!

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We walked to the eatery, located in the lane behind a very busy MG Road. A sharp contrast from the chaotic main road, this street and Canteen 18, both, are a solace. First look, and you are bound to smile. A small cooking area, with 3 tables and a capacity to seat not more than 10 people, this place is charming in all certainty.

The place is run by two people and sees an influx of locals and foreigners alike. The menu is not very large in general and really small, like 5 items small, for vegetarians. And yet we recommend you go here, even if you have to pick the same combination in a burger and a croissant (this is for vegetarians, others have options), we still strongly recommend you do not miss out on this one! Have a bite of their burgers or croissant sandwich and you will know why!

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We tried the Paneer Veggie Burger and totally loved it! The patty had a slightly charred and smokey flavour and went so well with the molten mozzarella. Add to that their lip-smacking Barbeque sauce and it was heavenly!

We also loved :

Veggie Croissant Sandwich > A slightly crisp and buttery croissant that was stuffed with veggies, sauces and mozzarella, just like a sandwich would. But it tasted soooo soo good!

Affogato, which was only ₹90 – a perfect treat!

Canteen 18 is a dreamy place and definitely something you have to treat yourself to. Imagine a quiet road, open-air cafe, aroma of delicious food filling the air. Doesn’t seem much like India? Well, that’s where Pondicherry will surprise you!

We don’t even wanna imagine how beautiful this setting would be in monsoons! Another Pondicherry trip seems like a great idea at this moment!

 

Canteen 18 [Pondicherry] – Google Maps

Canteen 18 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato