East Indies Mansion – Heritage home stay, George Town, Malaysia

Home stays are my all time preferred stay options. I love the idea of home setting, cozy rooms, warm bed and off-course little corner table with chai kettle. Well these things are something you get in hotel too but lacks personal touch. On the contrary, home stays are run by warm home owners and local people working in there. They aren’t taught by professionals to smile and hence, that piece sets the experience apart for me. A warm chat with them over the chai, just adds the zinc to the chai flavor.

When we booked this place during our visit to Malaysia, we didn’t exactly read its history. We just happen to book them on Agoda since it had high ratings. When we reached there, from outside the house looks like any normal house in George Town. Situated in the Little India street, in the heart of UNESCO Heritage

Zone of George Town, the charming East Indies Mansion, also known as the house of Koh Lay Huan, is a delightful place to stay that you will love. Spacious, quiet and breezy verandas; they all speak of the long history that breathes through the house. A little part of me just dream’t of owning a house like that some day.

This gorgeous historic mansion first built in 1793, is now a restoration result of three original Chinese houses. By looking at the East Indies Mansion from the street, we never imagined how immense the interior could be. A spacious entrance hall with a reception that opens into quiet veranda adorned with a plants and flowers everywhere and a lounge area that urges you to read a book or just relax and enjoy the silence. The veranda leads to various rooms and common dinning area and some more verandas. Every corner of the house is blooming with plants and flowers.

The architecture of the house is built on the principle of 5 elements – a common phenomena in Indian and Chinese architecture. The open veranda invites fresh flow of air and rain water that cleanses the house on all sides symbolising prosperity to seep into the house and into the lives of the people. The original frame of the house, walls, floors and most of the relics of the various house owners have been preserved which are on display at every corner. The house is a visual treat and one could spend hours adoring the heritage relics and details sprinkled all over the house.

East Indies Mansion features three spacious rooms (Standard Suites – Nutmeg), two large apartments (Deluxe Suite and Duplex Quadruple Room – Cinnamon), two family apartments on first floor (Family Suite – Anistar and King Suite – Clove) with each room serving a special feast to the eyes. We livid in Nutmeg which was a perfect place for 2 people on budget. 1 of the Nutmeg rooms has an tiny attic with a single bed and just perfect if you have toddler or 3rd person along. The staff is warm and attentive. The common dinning area has a well equipped kitchen which guests can use to cook some breakfast or coffee.

This mansion is also close to all stunning Chinese temples, amazing restaurants and other attractions of George Town making it a perfect choice to stay when in George Town. I would definitely love to visit them again someday and experience this house once again.

(Read my entire Malaysia tour with a tour to Kuala Lampur, Taman Negara, Cameroon Highlands, and George Town. Read about our other unique stays and cafes.)

Here is a visual tour of this gorgeous 230 years old mansion:

Dinning area with this beautiful window panes

The owner seems to be obsessed with rattan furniture and it just goes perfect with the mansion’s vibes

Gold lettered house name is gorgeous

One of the lounging areas. I just wanna live here forever

Akhil and his coffee

Nutmeg room where we stayed

I almost wanted to flick that porcelain kettle on the left. In my defense its insanely adorable ūüėõ

Lounging area outside Cinnamon room

These pastel metal chairs for tiny tots is just too cute

Such bohemian vibes

They have these windows installed in so many areas. Such cool tip to keep the house cool and airy

They haven’t missed any details in this home

The intricate carvings of this wooden support is utility with beauty

Etched mirror

They have lotus growing in many such pots

Here’s a happy soul with her cuppa


Taman Negara | Travel Guide

‘Taman Negara’ which lietrally means National Park in Malay. It has flourished since the land rose from the sea during the Jurassic era, around 130 million years ago and even ice ages haven’t affected the forest. The oldness of the area is due to its southerly location which left it untouched by the ice ages and glaciers.

Within the park boundaries there are tigers, Malayan tapirs, elephants, wild boar, various species of deer, leopards, sun bears, civets and wild ox, to name just a few.

Add to this between 200-300 species of birds and thousands of insects making their lives on the jungle floor. Taman Negara has one of the richest ecologies on earth, protected both by its impenetrability and Malaysian law. Prior to the Jurassic period, the entire Malay peninsula was submerged underwater. As a result, sedimentary rock and limestone make up the fertile base of Taman Negara and its interesting cave system. Most of Malaysia’s fossils have also been discovered within the limestone of this national park.

Choosing Tour agency:

Easy way to experience this beautiful forest is to book a tour with agencies. The package can be chosen depending on appetite for adventure. There are various agencies and they keep cropping up. However, its best to stick to more reviewed and visited agent. Adventoro, Taman Negara Travels, NKS, Taman Negara Asia, and Tour HQ to name a few. We chose NKS as they had most number of reviews and looked decent with quiet some felxibility (will talk about it in package section).

The catch is, that there are multiple websites offering tours, however, there are only 4 agencies who will officially take you inside the forest. I am guessing these are the only government certified agencies and hence most of the website that we see are like agents who make a commission on tourists brought the key agencies.


Variety of packages differs basis level of adventure, number of days and type of stay. Most packages have easy activities that most people to perform. For extreme adventure of trek in deep forest, there are specific local guides whom you can connect with through tour operator when you reach to Jerantut before confirming package and collecting travel voucher. Unfortunately i found very little information about such guides and hence I did’nt take any chance as there were no reviews.

We choose 3 days 2 night package which was perfect amount of time to be spent in the forest since we are easy going on adventure front.


Canopy walking: This is almost an hour long walk and real fun way to see depth and height of the forest. This was quiet fascinating adventure and ideal for most age group. However, people with acrophobia need to be cautious. But its definitely a once in lifetime experience.

Jungle night walk: This was most exciting thing to do in this package. You are armed with just a guide and each person with torch light. The guide will take you on a pathway so the walk is bit easy but be ready to see insects and mammals which you would only see in wildlife books. We spotted antilope, jungle spider, scorpion, varieties of snakes, wild bore, exotic leopard cat, etc.

Next day, we took a night walk by ourselves and we happen to spot deers and leopards (leap). It was the best thing to do with bunch of travelers from across globe.

Meet Buket Tribe: Perhaps the most notable aspect of¬†visiting Taman Negara is visiting the Orang Asli, or ‚Äúoriginal people.‚ÄĚ The indigenous people¬†of this area actually refer to themselves as the¬†Batek. Although their population numbers are low‚Äď just a few thousand‚Äď they are very much present along the banks of Tremeling River.¬†The Batek are a nomadic tribe who still largely survive by hunting and gathering. Their diet consists of fruits from the jungle, yams, fish and small animals such as¬†monkeys and squirrels, which they hunt with blowpipes and poison darts.¬†The Batek¬†are a peaceful people. Their palm-thatch hut villages are arranged both roughshod (reflecting their nomadic nature) and communally (with a shelter and table to share whatever food is foraged). Food is distributed equally, with portions reflecting the numbers of each household.

The freshness in the air was unmatched to the purest place I have experienced till date.

Rapid Shooting: The highlight of the tour came when we were allowed to attempt using the blowpipe, which they use to hunt monkeys and other small animals. The Batek are skilled enough to take down moving animals from 50 yards away. But of course everyone in our group struggled to get a dart to stick into a stationary target just a few feet away.

Cave Tour: There are many interesting caves in the park other than Gua Telinga. These have mostly been scupltured by underground rivers flowing through limestone outcrops. The caves are located in isolated area of the park, 2.5 hours boat ride form Kuala Tahan then proceed for 3-5 hours trekking. Among the popular caves are Gua Telinga, Gua Kepayang Kecil, Kepayang Besar, Gua Luas, Gua Landak, Gua Tumpat, Gua Siput, Gua Cemara, and Gua Peningat. Unfortunately during our visit the caves were shut by government for preservation.

Flora & Fauna: Being one of the oldest forest, the flora & fauna has a unique charm. Most of the trees are extremely tall and some of them are so huge that humans are tiny speck standing in front of these gigantic beauties. To put things into perspective, this national park boasts 10,000 species of plants; an astounding 150,000 varieties of insects; 100 types of slithering serpents; 1,000 types of butterflies; and hundreds of other animals including tapirs, elephants, rhinoceros, pigs, leopards and more!

Undoubtedly a treasure trove of flora and fauna, the National Park also has an abundance of epiphytes; more than 3,000 over plant species as well as 246 species of ferns found across the land. There are also numerous endemic plants such as the Tahan Serdang Palms and Tahan Bertam, to name a few. Intriguingly, there are also wild grapes and rare species of orchids just waiting for you to discover. However, the jewel in Taman Negara’s crown is definitely the notorious Rafflesia flower, said to be the largest in the world! The flower is rare; it takes six to nine months to bloom but only lasts three to four days.


Floating Boat Restaurant: They are really good to eat local cuisines served in the simplest plastic bowl and smile and warmth. I loved the prawn soup and ate them many times. You get amazing malay meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We stuck to local malay cuisines and that happened to be the best bet. There are couple of cafes for some coffee.


The stay will always be part of the tour package so we don’t need to go there and search for one. There are variety of options to select from. There are lush resorts, homestays and hostels. We chose a homestay called Rainbow and it was a clean and hygienic place. The tour agents tie up with local people who let out their homes for tourists and it works perfect. Our room had a lovely river view (we had insisted the tour agent when we started our journey) and equipped with air-conditioner (which we didn’t need at all). They had lovely lounging area outside the room with decent book collection left by travelers.

Tip: We created our Malaysia itinerary in such a way that after Taman Negara we had to visit Cameron Highland. The tour agents usually provide a pick up and drop from hotel for some extra cost which is perfect and ended up being cheaper.

Here’s a little virtual tour of our trip:

Canopy walking

Such pretty ferns

View from our room

Akhil enjoying some alone time



Was talking to an older buddy

Ratan tree (our beloved ratan furniture is made from this)

Just to give a perspective of how tall the trees are at this forest

Thatched roof house of Batek tribe

Humble life of the tribe

I love this capture. Those eyes, the frail body, beautiful curly hair and our peek-a-boo

Batek tribe

Beautiful hand carved box of poisonous darts used for hunting. Collectible items

This was definitely one of the most memorable trip

Check out Malaysia trip post for complete itinerary.

Year of 2018

Like every year end, 2017 ended with fun, friends and food. Followed by guilt and self question on where am I on the goals set for myself.

Today morning, while doing my weekend-random-facebook-scrolling-ritual, I bumped onto this amazing video by John Assaraf. In this video he very well states the problem of setting goals and not following them. And also how people just dont end up achieving them because they aren’t ‘committed’ to them. (we all know we gave reasons and a ton of them)

In the video John asks to list down the goals, the timelines and 3 things required to achieve that goal. And i think its a fabulous way to be committed. However, in the long run, i have come to detest big goals with no pathway. I have realised that goals need to have clear breakdown of month by month and day by day. I immediately got down to designing my own calendar for the year for 2018. Wherein on each day I can plan what i want to and track it with a simple check-box next to it. I am going to put this calendar to try for myself. So here I am sharing the calendar design for free for all guys who wish to use it – Goal Calendar 2018. I am sharing the excel file for you guys to create your very own customised goals calendar.

If you do download and use the 2happysouls calendar, please do let us know how did you use the calendar? Did you achieve anything with its usage? If you made any of your own little change which is effective in usage/ measurement? Or if you have a completely different way of tracking and measuring your goals, we would love to know.

Lets get the 2018 started on a freaking awesome note!

5 Books to read in travel time

source: unknown

Christmas is around and so are holiday & travel plans. Travel plans completely de-stresses me and fills me up with lot of comforting experiences and good memories. Its like earthen pot from which you empty the old water, rinse it and fill it up with fresh new water.

And which travel plan can be complete without a book. None. I completely love the idea of stimulating my mind with some specific varieties of books. I do not force myself with current best books as the world of books started way before I was born. So there is lot of catch up to do for me anyway.

Autobiographies: I love digging deep into autobiographies of people i look up to. The de-stressed mind and serene views (which I like to surround myself generally when i am travelling) helps me visualise their stories and experiences better. I could totally be sitting in a bus crossing beautiful forests or mountains while eating the delicacies served in the biographies and actually ponder of how their life would have actually looked like for them.

The autobiography of Lee Iacocca is one of my all time favorite. Buy it here!

Motivational: This section is classified as self-help as well but I prefer sticking to the motivational kinds. I love reading motivational books about people, experiences & stories. The kind of books generally makes me reflect on life.

Recent best motivational book I read was “When breath becomes air” by Paul Kalanithi. Buy it here!

Drama: And who doesn’t love a little bit of drama in life. Whether its through book or through theater. And such books generally get me times on different thought tangent. Remember the time when we all read Eat Pray Love and got into thinking of this life and how we stop ourselves from free from our past. Which even at the point when I read, I didn’t understand quiet well. It took me some time to get around it. Buy it here!

Poem: I am not very poetic person but its a good idea to have them handy especially while travelling. The poem lets you put color of words while enjoying scenic view. I recently came across a new poet, Mausam Pandya, who has put together her compilation of poems. Buy it here!

Adventure: Adventure books actually make me want to jump out of my seat and get going. And Tin-Tin series can just do that. It makes me want to travel to Morocco or Libya or Tunisia and probably get into a whirl wind of such adventures. Btw there is a wiki page on list of locations mentioned in Tin-Tin books. Buy it here!

I would love to know your favorite travel books.


Travel Guide – Punakha, Bhutan

Punakha is the old capital of Bhutan and hence is has a lovely monarch charm to all the buildings. It’s a beautiful and peaceful city.

Most of the roads in Bhutan are bumpy and full of hair pin turns which made it difficult to commute from one city to other. Few years back Bhutan government decided to change its capital to Thimphu to make it more accessible for locals and international. One of the reason why we chose Paro, Punakha and Thimphu in our tour as they are very well accessible.

Visiting Punakha can be a day’s trip as there are limited tourist attractions, incase there are no hike plans.


1. Punakha Dzong is arguably the most beautiful dzong, especially with the beautiful flowers growing around in contrast with the huge white walls of the dzong. Punakha dzong was the old building of government until the new Thimphu dzong. This is still a very important dzong as all the kings of Bhutan have been crowned here. This dzong has stood the test of time and many calamities such as fire and earthquake. The courtyard has a beautiful bodhi tree which was transported from Bodh-Gaya, India about 40 years ago to bless the dzong. The body of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is still said to be preserved in this dzong but definitely only monks and monarchs are allowed to visit on special occassions. ps. Zhabdrung is a title used to refer great lamas in Tibet. This dzong is a must visit and do not forget to hire a guide to tel you the history of Punakha & dzong.

2.¬†Chimi L’hakhang Temple was built in 1499 located in Lobesa¬†after the site was blessed by the “Divine Madman” the maverick saint¬†Drukpa Kunley. He is known to have subdued a demon of Dochu La with his ‚Äúmagic thunderbolt of wisdom‚ÄĚ and trapped it in a rock.¬†He was known as the “Mad Saint” or ‚ÄúDivine Madman‚ÄĚ for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism by singing, humour and outrageous behaviour, which amounted to being bizarre, shocking and with sexual overtones. He is also the saint who advocated the use of phallus (errect penis) symbols as paintings on walls and as flying carved wooden¬†phalluses on house tops at four corners of the eaves. The monastery is the repository of the original wooden symbol of phallus that Kunley brought from Tibet. Make sure to get the divine blessing by the priest who shall bless by touching the phallus on visitors head, particularly women who would like to beget children.

3. Suspension bridge is located very much near to the Punakha Dzong and is the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan built above the Po Chu river. The bridge is broad and built in a very nice way and you will be amazed to see that it doesn’t shake so much which can cause a sudden amount of panic among the tourists. The bridge also connects to the nearby villages. There are mountains surrounding the bridge from all the sides which also gives a breathtaking view.

4. Dochula Pass is technically a place to visit when travelling from Thimphu to Punakha. Its a beautiful pass which has 108 stupas built as a memorial in honour of the Bhutanese soldiers who were killed in the December 2003 battle against Assamese insurgents from India. This place is especially popular for the panoramic Himalayn mountain range view in the days of clear sky.

5. Rafting in Puna Tsang Chu river which is a confluence of Po Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers of Punakha. The rafting is a day trip, however, warm weather is preferable to enjoy the rafting experience. Read more details on rafting here.


In Punakha, most good places to eat are either located in Khuruthang or Lobesa.

1. Phuenzhi diner is one of more recommended restaurant located in Khuruthang. unfortunately i couldnt eat here as they had the entire diner booked for party.

2. Lobesa village restaurant

3. Dochula resort restaurant

4. Druk Wangyel Cafe is a brilliant place for especially for breakfast located near Dochula Pass. The food and service is really good here. The chocolate eclair was delicious and creamy. The restaurant overlooks the mountains and huge stone fire place in the middle of the restaurant makes it a very cozy and warm place to spend time with family, friends or just by yourself.

5. Roasted corn sold on the highway is lovely way to exprience the Bhutan corn while you munch away through your journey. They have a unique style of roasting the corn. Make sure to see by yourself.


While visiting Punakha, we stayed in Thimphu hence i did’nt get to experience any stay experience here personally. However, some of the famous recommendations are¬†Zhingkham Resort, Hotel Yeosel Rabtenling, Hotel Zomlha, & Damchen Resorts.


Read my other travel guides on Bhutan, Paro, Thimphu and about the homestay experience in Paro.

Here is the virtual look at my Punakha visit:

Serene moment with precious people

Student at the monastery with pepsi bottles – after all everybody likes to have a taste of modern life.

Mandatory group pictures

The 6 storey administration office building in the dzong. People in olden days really loved stairs

I love how a keera/ simple scraf is used to carry the kids around by locals of Bhutan

Temple of Mad man. Look around and you shall notice phallus even on prayer flags

Huge phallus painted on a house wall

Bodhi Tree at the Punakha dzong

Adorable kid at highway on a corn stop

108 stupas at the Dochula Pass

Beautiful vintage Druk Wangyel cafe at the Dochula pass


Beautiful dzong of Punakha overlooking the MoChhu river

Prayer wheels

Paro Penelop Dawa Penjor Heritage Farmhouse, Paro

While we were planning for the stay options in Paro, we had very limited choices due to the Paro Tshechu festival. Most of the stays were booked, including the expensive one as Taj. We had already booked our flight tickets, which meant we really had to hunt for a stay else be ready to camp out (quiet an intriguing option but nights can be brutal unless you have proper warming things).

After a strong pursuit over sites such as airbnb & all other booking sites, we started going through the list of hotels listed on various Bhutan tourism site. And finally we found this homestay who also had rooms available. Bingo! It was a small moment of rejoice as we almost started thinking of cancelling trip.

The reviews on their facebook page of the homestay really got us inpressed. The booking is done by one of the son РJigme Dorji Рof the 8 children in the family and mainly the homestay is serviced by his sister, mother and a brother. Did i mention that the family also lives in the same house which really added the dash of local flavor in the entire experience.

The homestay is a ground + 2 storey home with beautiful view of their own farm at the back. They grow their fruits & vegetables in this farm, organically. My widow opened to apple & pear tree and beautiful sunflowers blooming in the morning. Its a great place to enjoy the trip whether you choose cuddling in the blanket or basking in morning sun while strolling around. I am usually an early riser and when I am travelling, i am usually up at 5 am to catch the morning light.

There are some negative of this homestay –

The mother served us local dishes topped with lots of love and butter. We ate Ema Datshi – which literally means chilly & cheese and it was just mind blowing. We tried some Kewa Datshi (potato), chicken maru, beef maru of the many many things. The food was shared with the family in their traditional dinning room while we talked about Bhutan’s history, religion, & culture.¬† There were elaborate talks on military, food, rituals and tradition & their love & respect for India. It was intriguing to know about family’s history and the interesting stories of Jigme’s grandfather who was a Penelop in Paro – loosely translated as the adviser to the king.

The experience at the homestay made me pen down specifically about this homestay. This just happened to us and it was lovely indeed!

Read my detailed travel guide on Paro and read the cover post for Bhutan to know about overall cost, etc.

Detailed travel guides on Punakha & Thimphu coming soon.

A visual trip in the homestay:

Apple picking

The red luscious juicy apples

The blooms in the farm

View from my room

Traditional breakfast enjoyed with some butter tea

The traditional dinning room

Beautiful pear tree in full bloom

‘Kaka’ (The cat at the homestay) basking in the sun

This was one biiig door

The family & us with Jigme on extreme right

Thimphu Travel Guide

Thimphu is the capital city of Bhutan but just unlike any other capital cities. This valley city is filled with younger generation as its also one of the major hub for institutes of the country.


1. Tashichho Dzong is the Thimphu Dzong located north of the city on the west bank of Wang Chhu river that hosts the city’s biggest annual bash, the colorful Tshechu festival. (This festival is held for 3 days beginning on 10th day of 8th month of lunar calendar.) This Dzong has two claims to fame as it was built without nails and also the first Dzong to be built in the country. The Dzong, itself, is much the same as many others in the country and therefore nothing special about thus, nonetheless, it is still a nice place to visit. The 3D art on the wall makes the visit worthwhile and leaves one with beautiful experience of art and ancient stories. They do have a flag hoisting/ change of guard performed every evening at about 5pm.

2. Changangkha Lhakhang is a popular temple, perched like a fortress on a ridge above central Thimphu. It was built in 12th century and one of the oldest temple (800 years old) that stands still. The design of the walls of the temple have a unique shape and feel to it. The view from the temple is simply beautiful and serene.

3. Buddha Dordenma has a huge 51 meter tall Buddha statue  that commands the entry to the Thimphu valley. The massive 3 storey base houses a large temple while the statue is said to be filled with 125000 smaller statues of Buddha. The best time to visit this statue is morning light while the evening illuminated statue has a lovely charm too. While we were visiting this place, there were about 1000 monks sitting at the feet of the Buddha chanting prayers for day long which was part of a 3 month religious ritual. This Buddha point is also popular biking route with a 3.5km mountain bike trail branching off from Buddha point to Depsi, near Babesa.

4. National Textile Museum gives a peek into the traditional woven art, Thagzo. There are royal garments on display spilling the splendid royalty for the world to see. They have a gallary with details of their weaving techniques and various pieces of their attire. This was a rather fulfilling experience for a clothing lover like me. Their clothing just talks how the people have brought versatility in their garment making them unique piece which definitely made me feel like buying one for me.

5. Weekend market is every photographers dream. There are some souvenir shops to pick from else this place to good to stroll about and get a feel on the local life.

6. Hikes around the city Being a valley city, this place has lots of hiking option to offer lasting from short few hours to few days. Here are some options to explore from.


1. Zombala (original) is a highly recommended place for Bhutanese cuisine enthusiast. Almost everything is good here though I highly recommend the thukpa & momos. Any local will tell you the best momos in town can be eaten here. Its a cheap & local joint near Hong Kong market and expect a queue. We happened to share our table with a group of monks and I could see the same satisfaction on their face. Slurrrrp!

2. Babesa Village Restaurant is another lovely joint frequented by local in Babesa, which is bit in the outskirts of Thimphu city. This charming restaurant offers traditional Bhutanese cuisine in a lovely century-old building, one of four still standing incongruously right next to the Paro‚ÄďThimphu highway. The building is decorated with antiques and the food includes such local dishes as tasty ribs,¬†lom(dried turnip leaf) and¬†mengay, optimistically described as ‘Bhutanese pizza’.

3. Bhutan kitchen is a warm place serving Bhutanese cuisine in the heart of the town. Dive into the local dishes such as ema datshi and thukpa. Dont miss out on the complimentary shot of arra (the local firewater) or sud-ja(butter tea) at lunch.

4. Ambient cafe is highly frequented by expats and chances of bumping into a mountain bikers is very high

5. Hotel Jhumolhari is a lovely place to indulge with your spouse/ family


1. Druk Heritage Residence is lovely home converted into cottage villa. Along with cohesive homely feeling they offer spacious rooms with bath tub and free wifi. It has bar to soak yourself in the lovely cold evening.

2. Damchoe’s Guesthouse is lovely traditional home located in the outskirts of Thimphu with an organic vegetable garden of their own. It has warm owners & amazing view to offer.

3. Norzin Lam is in the central road and most of the hotels are concentrated on this road, near Clock Tower, almost next to each other.


Read complete guide on Bhutan, with detail travel guide on Paro, homestay in Paro and Punakha.

Here is a visual tour of the trip:

View of Bidh Dordenma. That beautiful crazy sky!!!

Thimphu city in evening

They might as well call it gateway to heaven on earth

Just can’t get enough of that sky

Original Zombala restaurant

This old lady was a lovely lady who spoke to me for few mins but i didn’t get a word.

Postcards from Thimphu