The Hogtown Vegan- Experience And Review

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So this was the last place we went to and it was definitely our favourite. As you can probably tell by the name it’s vegan and offers a bunch of amazing foods most of which are vegan alternatives for meat based foods. The place itself is really cozy and has a really cool vibe.

We ordered the buffalo wings and the Philly cheesesteak with a side of fries and as you can probably see below their portions were huge. We had to take most of the Philly cheesesteak with us because we couldn’t finish but it was so worth it. The fries were the best fries we had in Toronto and their cheese was so good. It didn’t taste like real cheese that much but it just had such a nice flavour to it that it didn’t even matter. The price was also really good for the amount we got which is always a plus!

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Overall, I absolutely loved this place and would definitely recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the neighbourhood. I’m so glad we this was the last restaurant we went to in Toronto because it really lived up to the hype!

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Udupi Palace- Experience And Review

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This is another restaurant that we were super excited about. We hadn’t had South Indian food in forever and we were really looking forward to trying this place out. Plus the Udupi Palace had really good reviews online and the food looked good so we were excited.

When we first walked in we saw the beautiful decorations. They were so pretty and gave the restaurant a really nice Indian feel to it. The paintings were really beautiful in particular and they were so nice to look at while were eating.

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We ordered the fries, the assorted palace hor-d’oeuvres, the idli manchurian and the vegetable uthapam. The fries are fried potatoes so literally there is no way you could mess that up (some people do apparently…) so we loved them. The assorted palace hor-d’oeuvres were really good and the portion was great for the price. The idli manchurian was the best out of all the dishes and I am definitely going to try to replicate that one at home! The uthapam was good but bland- it didn’t have much spices or the right amount of salt for my sister (I didn’t try it myself because I was preoccupied with the fries…). I would definitely recommend checking out this place if you like Indian food and especially if you’re a fan of South Indian food because their idli was amazing and their dosa’s have gotten really good reviews too although I haven’t tried the dosa’s out myself.

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Overall, I think we had a great experience here and the majority of the dishes we had were absolutely delicious.

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Cosmic Treats- Experience And Review

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So Cosmic Treats was the second restaurant we went to on our first day in Toronto. We had heard a lot of good reviews of it online so we were looking forward to it and had high expectations. However, unfortunately we were a little disappointed by it.

So let’s start with the cupcakes. We ordered one vanilla and one chocolate. They both looked really good and the vanilla one had little bunny ears (it was during the Easter weekend). The taste was a little too sugary for us and it was one of those things where the first few bites taste amazing but then your mouth is just like TOO SWEET STOP. The flavour was really good though I can’t complain about that.

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We also ordered some cheese sticks to balance out the too sweet cupcakes and to be honest they were only just okay. Like they weren’t bad but they just were not great. Maybe it’s just me and I personally didn’t like it. The filling was jalapeno flavoured cheese which I felt was too jalapeno-ey (I don’t know how else to describe it…). The cheese’s texture was nice though- it was hot and gooey and soft.

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So that was my experience at Cosmic Treats. The cupcakes were nice and the cheese sticks were okay-ish. I would recommend going there just because the neighbourhood is so cool and hipstery you will love it especially if you like graffiti and artsy areas.

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Planta Queen- Experience And Review

We were famished by the time we reached Toronto so we decided to head straight to Planta Queen- a vegan Asian restaurant we had been hearing so much about. Our reservation was for a little later but they were so sweet and said that we could we could sit down earlier.

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The restaurant itself was absolutely gorgeous with paintings of dragons and lots of trees and chandeliers. It was a really fancy place which honestly I felt a little under dressed for. I felt like I should be wearing a shiny dress or something… 😂

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Now on to the main stuff- the food! We had the General Lee’s Cauliflower, Kung Pao Eggplant and plain sticky rice.

What we loved:

It looked absolutely delicious and tasted even better. We ended up finishing everything and were super satisfied with the meal. It tasted very authentic like something you would have at an authentic Chinese restaurant which was really nice because sometimes when people try to create a vegan version of something it kind of loses that authentic flavour.

The staff were super nice and friendly and they let us sit down even though we were early which was super sweet of them. The server also kept checking up on us and making sure we didn’t need anything even though they were quite busy. The food was also cooked well and arrived quickly so we didn’t wait too long which is always nice.

What we didn’t love:

The portions were not the best compared to other Asian restaurants. They weren’t really less but it wasn’t a large amount like you would get at a regular Chinese restaurant. Since it was on the expensive side I expected the portions to be larger than they were. I usually get much larger portions for a lower price when I get takeout.

However, it was definitely worth it since it tasted really good and I think it was a fun experience to have.

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Overall, it was a fantastic experience- the food was great, the service was great and the restaurant itself was gorgeous.

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Travelling In Toronto- Day 2

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First we decided to head to Starbucks to have a cup of coffee and kind of wake ourselves up which was honestly the best way to start the day.

Next we went to check out Thompson Hotel which had a gorgeous view of Toronto. It was such a gorgeous place and had an amazing view! It also had a really awesome huge bookshelf painting which I thought was super unique and cool.

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After that we walked around a little more and explored everything which is so fun to do in Toronto because there are so many unique stores everywhere with the most fascinating things. We then went for lunch to The Hogtown Vegan which had such a great and relaxing vibe.

Once we were done with lunch we headed to the bus station and headed home.

Overall it was such a fun trip and I mostly had lots of great experiences! The only thing I didn’t love was the traffic which was quite annoying sometimes but that’s to be expected in the city.

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Travelling To Toronto- Day 1

As some of you who have read my earlier post know I decided to do a little bit of exploring in Toronto a few weeks back. It was an absolutely amazing experience and we had so much fun there. We were also able to try a bunch of vegan restaurants but I’ll write about those on separate posts because we had so much fun at all of them I need to review them in detail!

So when we first arrived we decided to go for an early lunch and then do a little exploring. We pretty much walked around a little bit going into random shops and looking at everything- it was more fun then it sounds I promise! Then we checked into out room and freshened up a little before we headed out again.

Then we headed to Nathan Phillips Square to check out the Toronto sign and New City Hall. It was gorgeous and the weather was beautiful so we had so much fun looking around, taking pictures and getting some fresh air.

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Then we decided to go for desert and snacks at Cosmic Treats because we were kind of hungry from the early lunch and there was still a lot of time before dinner. The area that it was in was really cool and hipstery with lots of graffiti art and really cute little restaurants and stores. If you’re ever in Toronto I would highly recommend stopping by Cosmic Treats and then taking a walk around the neighbourhood. It just has such a cool vibe.

After finishing our snacks and taking a look around the neighbourhood we decided to head to Kmart since we were looking for some Korean food we couldn’t find where we live. It was a really cute little place and we got everything we were looking for and more!

After we finished our shopping we decided to head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We were both really excited because we were going to this South Indian Restaurant called Udupi Palace and we hadn’t had South Indian food in months!

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After dinner we were a little tired so we decided to head back to the hotel and look around since it had a historic vault and other cool historic areas. After that we decided to head to bed since we had an early morning the next day.

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We were also able to get a really good deal on the room thanks to booking.com which I would definitely recommend checking out if you are looking to book a room anywhere.

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Quotes About Travel

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All About Cham Dance: A Ritual Dance By Tibetan Monks In Ladakh (Guest Post)

Bored with usual work and daily routine??? Feeling to snap out and see the some nature’s beauty??? Yes, of course everyone deserves a get-a-way. A cool, pleasant, scenic place would be a best fit. You got it right!!! I am setting the mood to introduce you to the wonderful and holistic trip of the Leh-Ladakh Tour. The Leh-Ladakh Road Trip is famous for bikers and road travelers.

The Leh-Ladakh trip by means of road is best if the tour is through the Manali to Leh highway. This highway remains open for only five months in a year but has the amazing sightseeing places all through the way. Apart from sight-seeing, the main and the best tourist attraction of Leh and Ladakh is the dance form called ‘Cham’. This Cham dance is associated with the Tibetan Buddhism.

Legend behind Cham

The word ‘Cham’ literally means ‘dance’ in Tibetan local language. As told by the people of Leh-Ladakh region, Cham is a very vibrant and colourful dance. The history of this dance dates back to 8 th Century and is known to be started by Guru Padmasambhava. The then King of Tibet, Trishong Detsen requested Guru Padmasambhava to help him get rid of the evil spirits which were not allowing the construction of the Samye Monastery (currently located in Tibet). As per the legend, the evil spirits used to destroy the construction in the night which was done that morning. To address this situation, Guru Padmasambhava then drew lines on the ground that invoke tantric powers and danced using tantric mudras (hand gestures) to please gods. This ritual was successful in driving away the demons.

Places to witness Cham

Though Cham, has taken its origin in the Tibetan region, it traveled through the borders of Bhutan to enter India. This dance is a prominent tradition in the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. All the Buddhist monasteries following the Tibetan culture perform this dance. The North- Eastern States of India like Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Jammu & Kashmir and West Bengal are the regions which are the house for these lovely monasteries. But to be more specific, the belt of Manali to Leh-Ladakh has some of the most famous ones like the Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, Diskit Monastery, Alchi Monastery, Lamayuru Monastery, Spituk Monastery, Matho Monastery etc.

All of these Buddhist monasteries wide spread over this Leh-Ladakh Road trip route are the some of the Indian centers for this traditional dance of Cham. This dance is performed only by the Buddhist monks who are called as lamas, during festivals of these monasteries. The calendar of each monastery is different which differ dates of their annual festivities. Mostly these take place between the months of January to August, thus standing out to be the best tourist attractions in this region.

Attractions of Cham

The main attraction of Cham is the beautiful and vibrant coloured masks which the lamas wear during the performances. Amidst the music produced by the long horns, drums and cymbals, Cham is performed by the initiated lamas to depict the stories of saints and gods fighting over the evil. The Cham performers usual carry elaborated costumes and masks made up of clay and cloth pieces. The dried masks are then paints with multitude of colours portraying various emotions and expressions like anger, fear, happiness, evil, ego etc. These masks are also at times coated with metals for certain characters.

The Cham dance masks are usually three or four times bigger in size than a normal human head. With the sharp edges and other structures there is quite a possibility to have bruises for the lamas wearing them. To avoid this, the lamas drape their forehead and neck with cotton pads of layers of cloth.

Besides masks, the lamas also wear robes which are bright coloured. They also wear ornaments for showing few characters in the dance. These robes and aprons are generally made of silk and have different patterns on them. When the dancers perform to the tranquilizing music these robes flying in the air or make an umbrella effect around their waists giving a very real feel of the depiction.

All the dance costume is wore over the usual dress of the monks. The normal costume consists of the mask with long broad sleeved gowns with short triangulated capes known as tippet. The mantle is generally decorated differently for different characters. The colour of the dress is also significant as it imports some iconography.

Significance of Cham

Cham, being an art of cleansing the evil spirits, slowing paved its way into the Indian Himalayan region monasteries mostly is the Leh-Ladakh region. The dance is only reserved to the lamas and is not documented due to its tantric powers. It is passed from one generation monks to the next generation monks only. It initially it was performed only in the hidden parts of the monasteries but as of today it’s can also be viewed by the large number of tourists.

There are different forms of Cham which are performed during different occasions all around the year. As spoken earlier, the Cham that narrates the win of good over evil is a highlight to the Tibetan New year celebrations. Many of the Cham forms feature exorcism of evil spirits. A very common scene of these exorcist narratives of Cham is the capture of evil spirits of human effigy made of dough, wax, yak butter or paper.

The dancers who dress up as various deities, demons, heroes and animals act and dance as though they have been possessed by the souls of the characters. This Tibetan traditional dance is considered to be a form of meditation by the monks. As layman for the dance form and gestures, the people also consider this dance as blessings from the gods to protect them and wipe out the evil influences.

Preparations for Cham

The dancer lamas – who perform this dance, have to meditate lasting from few days to weeks before the performance to invoke the protective deities within themselves. On the day of performances, the lamas feel the deities within and perform reciting sacred chants and gestures. These chants and gestures are from the tantric Buddhist studies which attract and capture the evil from the world.

For the lamas, this dance is a way of abolishing the evil from the world. This is a way of saving the word from the evil influences. This form of dance shows the path of liberation to the monks. We can witness this if we can make our way into the monasteries and stay with the monks.

Cham in Leh-Ladakh Festivals

The ritual of Cham, is a very common aspect of all the monasteries in the Leh-Ladakh road trip regions. In Ladkh, Cham is performed during the various celebrations Tshechu (the new year), Guru Padmasambhava’s birth anniversary etc.

Hemis Festival

Hemis festival, which commemorates Guru Padmasambhava’s birth anniversary is celebrated in the annually in the Hemis Monastery, in Ladakh. This is the most joyous occasion and is lighten up with the performance of Cham Dance or locally called as the Mask dance. This is a two day festivity which is a very promising event which attracts viewers from all over the glode.

Location

Hemis Monastery is located 45 km from Leh and is tucked on the western banks of river Indus. The only way to get there is by car or a by a bike from Leh. This is one of those monasteries in Leh-Ladakh region which offers stay inside the monastery.

Cham at Hemis

The Hemis festival takes place for a whole two days generally in the month of July. This is the most happening festival of the whole Ladakh area. This brightens up the place in preparations for the festival, it’s just not the locals who are involved in this festival but also thousands of people around the globe come to witness this festival and the fascinating fiesta the Cham dance.

The two day itinerary of festival is described below

Day 1:

On the day one, Ladakh starts the dazzling festival with some rituals performed by the head priest of the monastery. This can be witnessed from the courtyard of Hemis monastery. They bring out a huge idol of Guru Padmasambhava into the courtyard and adorn it with decorations. This is ritual is followed by the Ladakh’s most pulsating dance performance of ‘Cham’. The performers first seek the blessings of the head of the monastery and then gather around the flagpole at the center of the courtyard to perform. This continues till the dusk.

Day 2:

Ladakh remains as energetic as it is all through the first day of the celebration. The Cham performance again commences with a small opening ritual. The melodious music which has the cymbals and drums along with human voices bring in mystic vibes. The dance starts with a slow tempo and gains momentum gradually.

During the course, people destroy the clay sculptures of demons which were discussed earlier. Finally the black hat dancers smash the sculptures and throw the broken pieces in four different directions showing the end of negativity.

Other festivals with Cham Dance

Apart from Hemis monastery, there are many more monasteries which perform the Cham dance in the Leh-Ladakh region. You can be a part of Cham Dance in Lamayuru Monastery. This is situated in the Srinagar-Leh highway which is 15kms from Fotu la. The Yuru Kabgya festival of this monastery is dedicated to Yama, the God of Death and Guru Padmasambhava, who is considered the second Buddha. This festival takes place in months of June and July which has the extravagant Cham dance performed by the lamas.

The Phyang Monastery located in Ladakh, 15 km away from Leh is another prominent place for the Cham dance. The Cham plays an important part of the Phyang Tsedup Festival, dedicated to Jigten Gombo, the founder of Dringumpa Monastic Dynasty. This festival is celebrated between the end of July and August months.

Spituk Gustor festival and Stok Guru Tsechu Festival of the Spituk Monastery in Leh are home for a magnum experience of Cham. The Spituk Gustor festival celebrated in the month of January is for the world peace and well-being while the Stok Guru Tsechu Festival celebrated in February is for removing the evil spirits by receiving the spirits of deities.

The Thiksey Monastery located 19 kms from Leh in Ladakh also stages Cham as a part of the Thiksey Gustor Festival. ‘Gustor’ means ‘sacrifice’ and is celebrated during the month of November.

Matho Monastery or Matho Gonpa located 26kms from Leh in Ladakh hosts the Matho Nagrang Festival in the month of February. This is the only one belonging to the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. The Matho Nagrang Festival is two day festival which is popular for two oracles, one being the lamas spending one full month of meditation before the festival in preparation for Cham and the second being the predictions made by them about future happenings.

Ladakh Festival is also a famous stage for the Cham dance. This is celebrated every year in Leh and its villages. It takes place in the Polo ground of Leh which has many events like archery, polo and other cultural events from the villages.. Among them the most significant is the one when Cham dance is performed. This is celebrated mostly during September before the tourist season closes.

Conclusion

The Leh-Ladakh Road trip is a life time experience and should be a part of everyone’s bucket-list. Now with this interesting Cham dance information, the Ladakh tour should be considered as the top most priority in the list. Keep in mind to clash your trip with one of these lovely festivals which will make your tour loaded with memories. But just you keep you informed never forget your full photographic equipment as it is worth capturing every moment of these extravagant moments of the Leh-Ladakh Road Trip or the Cham dance experiences.

Why waiting, book your tickets right away to tick off the Leh-Ladakh road trip off your bucket-list.

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How To Travel When You Suffer From Social Anxiety (Guest Post)

Objective: Travelling with Social Anxiety

You scroll down your Instagram feed and watch people travelling to every corner of the world. Looking anxiously at your screen you might think “Damn If it wasn’t for my anxiety, I’d travel all the time”.

Well, today is your lucky day. I will tell you how to travel the world from the comfort of your social anxiety.

Should I travel alone?

Short Answer, yes. Long Answer depends on the situation. There are certain places that travelling alone might not work. These would be places that are crowded such as Cancun Mexico, London UK, Las Vegas USA.

In these places you might feel like you stand out like a sore thumb. Because they’re centered around public events like: concerts, sports stadiums, nightclub raves. Which most people that have social anxiety would not be too fond about anyways.

Many people with social anxiety tend to realize that travelling alone is the best way to travel. What does this mean? It means that when they’re in large groups, they tend to get overloaded.

What if I don’t want to go alone?

More people? No problem, this is the safest way to go travelling. A major bonus to go with a few people means that you don’t need to do most of the talking.

Some people feel social in spurts, but always do not feel like talking. Travelling with outgoing friends, works well for when you just want to go along for the ride.

The best strategy is to go with 2-4 friends. This means you have enough people to entertain each other; yet, not enough to get left-out/ignored the whole trip.

Who should I go with then?

Outgoing socially active friends.

Life-long friends

Friends that share your same interests: Hiking, nature etc.

People that are not exhausting for you to be around

Choosing a Country to Vacation to?

I can’t choose a specific country you should go to. What I can do is telling you specific ideas.

Go to Countries That are From Different Cultures

Being in a foreign country makes it easier to interact with locals. This is because you’re not as worried about following the norms. Why? because you don’t even know they exist.

When I visited Ghana, Africa. Greeting people was easy as 1-2-3!

I did not mind just saying what’s up to different people or sounding weird. Why? Because I had no idea how normal people acted in their culture.

On top of that locals are more lenient and receptive to tourists. Firstly, because its always refreshing to meet new people. We always want to make a great first impression to visitors.

Secondly, the stereotypes of all tourists being loaded with cash might not hurt either

Countries Where People Don’t Speak Your Language

Many claims that being in a foreign country and not speaking the language is awesome. This is because the focus of your conversation is more on communicating your point.

Compared to being in a country where they speak the exact same language. Now your worried about how they think of what you said, and if they found your jokes funny etc.

Find Object/Event Focused Activity

Social anxiety gives people the “don’t know what to say syndrome“. Sometimes you feel like you know what to say, other times you don’t to learn more about speaking publicly with anxiety, check out my guide on public speaking with social anxiety.

Event Focused Activities

Museum
Opera
Napping on the beach
Take Pictures
Explore Nature: Hiking, scuba diving etc.

Pick a Tour Guide:
A tour guide makes travelling with social anxiety a breeze. Their job is to guide you through fun experiences and do the talking and schmoozing for you. You can learn more about choosing the perfect tour guide here.

What if I can’t find a professional tour guide?

No problem. You can always choose activities at a resort with instructors. Having an instructor is the simplest way to enjoy a new place without knowing the ins-n-outs. Plus, I’m sure they would not mind giving you some tips on local places to explore. Especially if you ask nicely (give a nice tip!).

What If I don’t want to give a tip?

Never enough for you huh? Alright then, why not catch up with an old friend? The best tour guides are people that have been living in that city for years, and that you know personally. Not only will they know the city well, they will know what you prefer!

Conclusion

Just take your travelling plans one wave at a time. Remember, your “job” as a tourist is to have fun. The standards are set low for you, to be honest. Being respectful and polite already puts you ahead of the pack. Safe travels, … and wait. Don’t forget to bring me a souvenir.

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Top Travel Tips For Introverts

Great tips!

Bonded By Adventure

Hey travel lovers and welcome back to a whole new year of blogging! We have some great posts for you in 2019, but for now we are going to be sharing with you some of our favourite travel tips for introverts in celebration of World Introvert Day.

  1. Always travel with headphones, a book and maybe even a sleep mask – If you are too nervous to talk to people then this is one of the easiest ways to avoid conversation without appearing to be really rude.
  2. Try a retreat – There are plenty of different options for retreats available, whether it’s writing, spa, yoga, or something else. Retreats tend to offer a calm and quiet space in pristine natural settings. You will probably end up surrounded by like minded people who like to keep to themselves.
  3. Order room service – This can be a nice break if you have not…

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