Varkala Bus Dancer


Energetic … Infectious … Brilliant!

I wanted to go to a beach a few miles from where I was staying in Varkala, Kerala (India) and as I was waiting at the bus stop, a bus full of students stopped and told me to get on. I though it was a public bus, but they were apparently on a school trip to a beach farther north up the coast.

As the bus started down the road, the music went on and the kids started dancing and singing. They all wanted to take a photo with me as we neared my destination and as I got off the bus I asked who I should pay and how much. They told me “don’t worry” as they drove off into the Kerala sunset waving goodbye as they continued singing. 

Enjoy “Varkala Bus Dancer”! 

— Varkala Beach, Kerala, India


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Title: Varkala Bus Dancer

Key Words: Varkala Bus Dancer, Varkala, bus, dancer, dancing, dances, dance, music, video, Kerala, India, student, trip, road, beach, travel, value, TravelValue

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Dal Lake? More Like A Big, Dirty Pond!


Dal Lake
Adjacent To Upper TCV Complex
Dharamsala Bus Road
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India

When I first heard about Dal Lake, I pictured a “sacred” and serene mountain lake as advertized. But when I arrived, what I saw was a large pond contained by concrete, so murky that you cannot see the bottom through six inches of water. 

There are a couple of small “cafés” (shacks that sell instant coffee and tea), but you probably do not want to spend more than a few minutes here. The auto-rickshaw (chuk-chuk) ride from McLeod Ganj Main Square is 90 rupees ($1.45) each way, so I recommend saving your $3 and having a nice lunch instead.

The only reason I gave Dal Lake 2 Bombs (and not 1) is because of the lovely mountain setting, but you can experience that anywhere in the area without spending another 180 rupees.


CombatCritic Gives Dal (Pond) Lake 2 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!



Key Words: Dal Lake, Dal, lake, pond, attraction, TripAdvisor, Yelp, McLeod Ganj, McLeod, Ganj, Dharamsala, Dharamshala, India, Dalai Lama, bus, road, TCV, CombatCritic, travel, value

Good, Reasonably Priced Fare In A Country Not Well Known For Great Italian


Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen
Jogiwara Road, Market Area (Upstairs)
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India 176219
Prices: $$$$$
Dining Room
Jimmy’s is the only restaurant in town that serves only Italian food … bruschetta (learn how to pronounce it Americans), pasta, pizza, main courses with actual meat and more! You have to look up and on the right as you walk up Jogiwara Road (from the direction of the Dalai Lama’s Temple) about halfway through the McLeod Ganj “market” (shopping area) on the way to the Main Square to see Jimmy’s neon sign up on the third floor.

TV and Asian Style Seating Area
The restaurant is large by Dharamsala standards and nicely appointed with marble-top tables, nice modern colors, plenty of windows, and movie posters on the walls. They have a large screen LCD TV, which happened to be televising a cricket game while I was there. There are two small areas, one in the front as you walk in and another in the back near the TV, where those with good knees can sit at a low table on mats Asian style. Being an old military retiree and disabled Veteran, I went for a table and chairs.
The menu is large with numerous antipasti (appetizers), both veg (vegetarian) and non-veg as they are referred to here, several primi (first courses), including pizza and pasta dishes, as well as homemade ravioli, lasagna and gnocchi, and, finally, secondi (second courses – think meat) where you can choose from chicken, mutton, or pork prepared in a variety of ways. They also have many drinks, including milk shakes and lassi (a yogurt-based drink found throughout India similar to a milk shake, but without the ice cream).
Veggie Bruschetta
For my antipasto, I decided to try the mixed grilled vegetable “bruchetta” (90 Rupees/$1.46 – spelled “bruschetta” in Italy and unlike the pronunciation used by most Americans, pronounced “brew-sket-a”, not brew-shet-a, as the “sch” in Italy is pronounced like “sk” is in English). What I received was four large toasted slices of the best Italian-style bread I have had in India to date with an abundance of tasty grilled veggies (eggplant, mushrooms, onion, and bell peppers) with melted mozzarella cheese on top. Normally, bruschetta is served with cold vegetables (tomato, vegetables) on top and no cheese, but I was quite pleased with the taste. Bravo!
Gnocchi in Pesto Cream Soup, I Mean Sauce
For my primo, I chose the handmade gnocchi with ham in a pesto cream sauce (190 Rupees/$3.10). The gnocchi was excellent and perfectly cooked, not too chewy and not falling apart in my mouth, and the sauce was flavorful, not requiring salt, pepper, or added cheese as is the case with most pasta dishes I have had in India, but with a touch too much garlic (and I love garlic). My only complaint, and I shared this with the owner before leaving, was the same as at many restaurants in the U.S., and that is that there was far too much sauce. Proper pasta is served “al dente” and lightly basted in the sauce just prior to serving by flipping the pasta in the pan containing the heated sauce, but many restaurants outside of Italy overdo the sauce and mine was more like a thick soup with the gnocchi and ham being overwhelmed by the sauce. The owner shared with me the reason it is served this way and that is because his Indian customers are used to thick sauces (think curry, jalfraizi, and vindaloo) and believe that al dente pasta is undercooked, so he is catering to the majority of his clientele. Fair enough.
Chocolate Milk Shake
Feeling hungry and decadent, I also ordered a chocolate milk shake with ice cream (120 Rupees/$1.95) because I had read that they had an excellent peanut butter milk shake (not on the menu) on TripAdvisor. If you order a milk shake in India, do not expect what you normally think of a shake in western countries as they do not contain ice cream unless so stated. Drinks in India are routinely lukewarm as refrigeration is not great and ice is not a good idea because of potential water-born illnesses, so your milk shake will likely not be cold and frosty as you would expect. Mine tasted good enough, but the ice cream was not fully blended and at nearly $2 it was probably one of the worst values in my restaurant experiences here in India.

I spent Thanksgiving in Dharamsala, so because there was no turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, or pumpkin pie, I decided to have the next best thing … ITALIAN FOOD! Normally eating a bowl of thupka or thenthuk (Tibetan noodle and vegetable soup), I splurged and ordered Jimmy’s Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (“Insalata Caprese” – Salad From Capri In Italian – 120 Rupees/$1.95), an order of garlic bread (40 Rupees/65 cents), and the Penne Romano (al dente penne, olive oil, garlic, chili pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese – 150 Rupees/$2.40).

Penne Romano
The insalata Caprese was actually very good with an abundance of fresh, sliced tomato, slices of mozzarella cheese, a little lettuce, and drizzled with an light olive oil and vinegar dressing. The mozzarella was sliced a bit too thin compared to the Italian equivalent and you would normally have fresh basil (instead of lettuce) on top with extra virgin olive oil (no vinegar), but it was excellent nonetheless. The garlic bread (the bread is made fresh and in-house) was perfectly seasoned and toasted, and the perfect accompaniment to the tomato salad. The penne Romano, although arriving far too soon and shortly after my antipasto had arrived, was al dente just the way I like it and the olive oil and garlic sauce tasty although a little too dry. A bit more olive oil would have helped, but it was delicious in any case.

CombatCritic Gives Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen 8 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!


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Key Words: Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen, Jimmy’s, Jimmy, Italian, kitchen, pasta, pizza, restaurant, McLeod Ganj, mcloed, ganj, Dharamsala, India, Jogiwara, road, market, CombatCritic, travel, value, menu

On the Border … Surprisingly Good for a Chain!


On The Border – Barry Rd.

8340 NW Roanridge Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64151

Website: OnTheBorder.com
Phone: 816-759-2270
Price: $$$$$

I usually do not review chain restaurants, but I was pleasantly surprised on a recent visit to On The Border, a Mexican restaurant chain found many places across the country.

I decided to go because I was havin’ a hankerin’ for tacos that evening and recalled hearing the TV commercial about their “Endless Tacos”.  I am not usually a fan of “all you can eat” restaurants and promotions because I tend to to just that … eat all I can…AND MORE!

It was a Saturday night and the place was packed, but only had to wait ten minutes for a table.  I was greeted by Kelsie, a lovely and personable young lady who just graduated from Northwest Missouri State and is planning on becoming a registered nurse…BRAVO Kelsie!

I ordered a house margarita, the Guacamole Viva!, and Endless Tacos, but being rather busy it took ten minutes or so to get my margarita.  It was tasty enough, but a little “light” on alcohol for the price.

Kelsie arrived shortly thereafter with my Guacamole Viva! which she prepared tableside with two ripe avocados, a little salt, fresh cilantro, diced red onion (I would have used white onion), a splash of lime juice, and chopped tomato.  I am “The Guacamole King” and famous for my delicious guacamole.  A guacamole purist at heart,  I normally ditch the tomatoes (usually a filler in restaurants to make it look like you are getting more, but paying mostly for the much cheaper tomatoes), use finely chopped white onion, and added a clove of garlic or two.  Guacamole Viva! was good nonetheless, but the chips (and salsa) that came with my meal were too thin and broke half the time I dipped…very unnerving!

The Endless Tacos come with spanish rice and beans, black or refried.  You get three (your first go-around) and get to choose from three meats, ground beef, shredded chicken, or pulled pork (carnitas for you non-gringos).  You also get your choice of tortilla, corn or flour, soft or deep fried.  I chose two ground beef tacos in fried corn tortillas and one pork in a soft flour tortilla.  I also dispensed with the rice, knowing that I was not going to waste a bit of room on the cheap “filler” and go for the gusto with the tacos … AND I DID!

The beef tacos were excellent, coming with plenty of meat, some shredded cheddar cheese, and a small amount of lettuce and tomato on the plate (for all three tacos – more tomatoes required!).  I added some refried beans, guacamole, and salsa to the beef tacos and they were excellent!  Unlike Jalisco, which I reviewed a week or so back, the taco shells remained firmly in one piece, a sign of an expert taco maker and the way I prefer them. 

The pork (carnitas) tacos were also very good.  The meat was bountiful and cooked just right, there was a little cheese (I would have liked a bit more), and the tortilla much larger than the corn and toasted just enough to remain pliable, but soft enough to contain the beans, guacamole, and salsa I added.

In all, the meal was very good and I ended-up getting seven tacos.  You should know that after the initial “three” tacos, subsequent “endless tacos” come only in pairs of two, so my second order was a replica of the first, but I only ended-up getting two beef tacos.  I had to order the other pork taco later, but when it arrived there were two, so I took home the seventh taco along with the extra guacamole fro lunch the next day.

I must say that the highlight of my meal was Kelsie. She was sweet and attentive, following up just enough and not too much to make my meal enjoyable and stress free.  Best of luck to you Kelsie in your nursing career!  If you are as good a nurse as you are a server, your patients will be in very good hands!






CombatCritic gives On The Border 6 BOMBS OUT OF 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD! 

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