Glimpses of sacred Pushkar!

My friend wanted to spend her new year outside Delhi and I wanted to spend it at some quaint place so that is how Pushkar happened. There wasn’t a much hassle in selecting a place to stay in Pushkar, as zostel is there in Pushkar. This was going to be my second stay in Pushkar Zostel. Staying at zostel or any such hostel can be learning in itself. It allows you to open up to strangers in a friendly way yet maintaining your own space. Sometimes, you get to meet interesting people and sometimes you’ll bump into really funny characters but you’ll surely enjoy if you have the guts to take in anything with not much tantrums.

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Sunrise at Anasagar Jheel, Ajmer

We started our journey on Friday night (best day to escape from the chaotic world of technological slaves: P). We were suppose to board bus from Bikaner House and upon reaching there I was excited to see famous Pandara road market just a few steps ahead to Bikaner House. Pandara road market is very famous among night riders in Delhi because some food joints (also the famous Gulati’s Restaurant) remain open late in night. The reason for my excitement was to hit the market unknowingly at night when lights were gleaming and people were in festive mood. We gulped in some hot badam milk to beat cold, located our bus and then finally boarded it. Journey from Delhi to Ajmer was a smooth ride in spite of the fact that there was dense fog on the way. We reached Ajmer with the break of dawn and waited for our friend who was supposed to pick us up from Ajmer and stay with us at Pushkar. On the way, he showed us various points which we would have missed otherwise like famous jogging point for Ajmeriites. There is nothing better than watching a rising sun and seeing the people breathing in fresh air and bucking up for their day. We too stopped for some time and soaked the freshness of it to revive our lost energy due to overnight journey.

 

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Books and Tau @ Zostel, Pushkar

Entering Zostel is entering into a fantasy world! The colorful common area assures a comfort stay; paintings on wall depict various stories related to Pushkar. I especially loved the one which says “something in Hebrew” because there are many places in Pushkar where it is written only in Hebrew and not in any other language. Room was to be allotted at 12:00 noon, so we got ready in the common bathroom (of course one at a time :P) and headed to calm our taste buds with scrumptious street food. With so many foreigners coming to this place, one can easily find cafes serving multi-cuisine food along with Rajasthani food. I was surprised to see roadside eating joints serving middle-eastern food like Falafel & Humus and even more astonished to see locals talk in Hebrew so fluently. I guess the settlement of lot of Israelis have made the influence on both tourism as well as locals here. Anyway, we were more interested in trying authentic Rajasthani food and since there are many things you can try road side, I’m listing it here for the convenience of writing as well as for reading: 🙂

  • Poha: We went to a famous cart in front of Varah ghat which serves Poha (a kind of flat rice). The man who serves Poha is Sonu and is very polite and sweet. He was happy to tell that some foreigner has already mentioned about his cart on google (internet). It was just for 10 bucks! We never had such tasty Poha at such a nominal price. The other food item that we tried at the same cart was Daal Pakwan. We named it as desi pizza! It was new and good in taste.
  • Jalebi: After having delicious breakfast one can have freshly prepared Jalebi with Rabri.
  • Lassi: It is prepared in a wooden whisk and served in earthen pots. Gulab lassi is also a hit among locals.
  • Malpua: This is strictly not-to-miss dish which unfortunately we missed and will have to go back to try it.
  • Mirchi Vada: Popular breakfast for Rajasthanis. Try it if you can handle the hotness of chilli that is filled with mashed potato, onion and spices.
  • Fresh Juices: Do not forget to quench your thirst with freshly prepared juices.
  • Falafel: Gorge on Falafel, Humus with Pita bread donned with garlic (to suit the Indian taste buds) at Ganga Restaurant. The owner here was fluent in Hebrew!
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Magnificient Sunset @ Pushkar

After having heavenly food and feeling content, one can take long stroll along 52 ghats around the holy lake. That is what we did to digest our food and take in the city vibes in the best possible way. In the daytime, ghats keep bustling with pilgrims taking a dip in holy water (which is unfit for health but religious fanatics don’t mind about dirty water). It is preferable to wear slipper/chappal that can be removed easily as while walking on the ghats you’ll have to remove footwear at certain places especially when walking near lake. We saw lots of foreigners performing pooja (prayers) near ghat. In the evening we went to the sunset point to immerse ourselves in the hues of sunset forming reflections on lake, musicians playing ektara and nagara, town reverberating with the chants of Aarti. For me it was a beautiful evening to end the year with and hope for a peaceful 2017. By the night, town was surrounded with loud music (please read it as bad speakers) playing various popular Hindi, English and Punjabi, Rajasthani songs. Songs like “tip tip barsa pani” which tickled our ribs; but it was quite safe to roam around. We then took time to call or message our loved ones and wish them ‘Happy New Year’s 🙂

First Sunrise of 2017!

First Sunrise of 2017!

Next day was planned to hike to Savitri Temple which is on a hill top and is a sunrise point. I couldn’t hike till the temple and we decided to rest somewhere in the middle from where we could get to see a perfect sunrise. The time just before sunrise is very sacred especially when it is going to be first sunrise of the year. We were drowning in the moment when sun was rising. It was beautiful!

In the afternoon, we took our seats in Laura’s café and lazed there till early evening. People there at Laura’s café are really nice and sweet. Don’t miss to go there if you are in Pushkar. My two close friends drove down to Pushkar from Udaipur to meet me. I was overwhelmed with their gesture. It is all together a different feeling of meeting friends at a place away from your home.

Pushkar is also a home for only Brahma Temple in the world and a historical Gurdwara which was visited by tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It offers peaceful vibes to the otherwise wandering mind of city dwellers.

Time spent at Pushkar was enchanting with lots of shopping done in the colorful by lanes of the town with a good start to New Year. I wish that this year brings more peace in the world. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! (a little late though).

Here goes the sneak peek of two days at Pushkar:

My Himalayan Odyssey!

Clouds are rumbling; teeming rain, as I sit to pen down my experience of a weeklong stay in Himalayas. My Himalayan Odyssey! It’s been more than 4 weeks that I’m back from yet another unforgettable road trip. Trips that are adding up to my life! It was surely a wonderful journey and I’m equally excited to write about it along with the sound of rain drops falling on the window.

As usual, journey started on Friday night. Friday – happiest day of the week for all Grey-collar workers! 😛 There is no need to worry about food when on National Highway -1. There are lot of “Dhabas (small kitchen)” on the way. The famous place for Dhabas and food is, Murthal. We stopped here, at Gulshan for dinner. The first destination was Manali! We were four friends, connected to a string of same passion. Harpal, an expert in driving and well versed about the places to which we were travelling. Joy, “Google Maps” as I call him and a dexterous photographer! And the two girls who were filled with  enthusiasm of exploring the new places. Taking advantage of Harpal’s travelling experiences; we stopped at every beautiful spot on the way to Manali. Slowly, we were absorbing the beauty of hills. There was a place en route Manali, where on our right were the hills, and on left was the Beas River. Sky was gheraoed by smoky clouds and we were chasing it in our little car. It was fun looking at the roads.

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On the way to Manali!

Finally! Happily tired, we reached our destination on Saturday evening. Manali is approximately 16 hours drive from Delhi. We chose to stay in a budget hotel with only basic amenities. We were satisfied with whatever there was in that hotel as we were too tired to go in search for another hotel. Sometimes it’s better to be content with what you have got! 🙂 We then met two friends – Nimit and Sabby, who are from Delhi, and had arrived Manali from Leh. Nimit is an awesome photographer and a humble soul. Whereas Sabby is a cheerful photographer who is fond of selfies. It is always good to meet someone you know at a far off place.Though, they confused us a lot about our next destination. We finally had dinner at Johnson’s Cafe (one of Manali’s best restaurants) along with some live music that was playing there. We then retired to deep slumber.

 

Apple Orchards, Manali!

Apple Orchards, Manali!

Day 2:

Being a morning person, I woke up before dawn, went out of the room and let the cool breeze of mountains rejuvenate me with its touch. I witnessed the rise of sun, slowly fading away the night’s darkness, and moving clouds making the snow clad mountains visible to the eyes. We then went deep into the apple orchards that was just opposite to our hotel and enjoyed clicking apples and posing with them. Till the time we got ready for our next place, the daylight was bright and  sun was over our head with deep blue sky and white cotton like clouds. There are very few times when sky is that blue in Delhi!

Manali Morning!

Manali Morning!

We then headed towards Rohtang – Pass. A beautiful pass from Manali! One has to cross this pass for going further to Leh. A permit is required to go there. Since we had not got the permit before hand, we could only go till the barricades or check post where the permits were checked. We had breakfast at river side and soaked up the sunshine of mountain sun. I love to sit with my face towards sun. I abhor any use of sunscreen lotion as “I love tans”. And I 20150726_174118believe – “Any makeup cannot be better than a tan“. Yes!  I got tanned :). En route we enjoyed watching huge mountains, driving on steep hilly roads, water falls and everything from a simple rock to its people. I was in a world of my own. Listening and humming to the tunes of Kishore Kumar (my favourite singer). By the evening we were back to the city and decided to take a stroll in the market. As a travelling ritual, I found out about a Gurdwara (a Sikh Temple) in the locality and went to pay my homage there. I am a strong believer of Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Holy book of Sikhs), and travelling is making my belief more firm. We munched on evening snacks at Saba Restaurant. I then came back to the hotel. The night was longer than usual as we were confused about our further travelling plan. Actually we had to go to Leh, but due to bad weather, we had to cancel it. So finally, Kinnaur in Himachal was decided.

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Day 3:

With deep heart of not going to Leh, we started our journey to Kalpa, a small town in Kinnaur district of Himachal. There are two ways of reaching Kalpa from Manali. One is via Jeori Pass and other is via Shimla. We chose the former one! We stopped at a very small restaurant on the way, run by a simple husband and wife. The food was tasty! More than taste it was their humbleness and simplicity that added to the taste. Though estimated time to reach Kalpa was 10 hours, but it actually took more than a day to reach there. One, because we were stopping at every beautiful spot and trust me whole route was beautiful 😛 🙂 And secondly, because of the rains and cloud bursts, we got landslides and rocky roads.

Clicked near Shoja

Clicked near Shoja!

There was not even a single time when we had to buy a water bottle. Every time the water was finished, we stopped at a waterfall on the way to fill the bottles and I didn’t miss a single chance of washing my face with the fresh water of hills :). Every time my hands got freeze! The most difficult drive was to Jeori Pass. It took around 4 hours to cover a stretch of just 5 kilometres. Kudos to the experience of Joy and Harpal! We safely passed the deadly hilly road. I exaggerated it a little 😛 But yes I was scared out of my wits! There was rain on the way and we crossed amidst clouds. Though I was afraid but I enjoyed it. The best part was, stopping at a village called Shoja for a tea break and having tea amidst mountains. We also happened to see a foreigner who was cycling on the hilly road. I somehow envied him of riding a cycle on such a beautiful road of my country. I wish to do it someday! Taking 2 – 3 tea breaks on the way, we halted at Rampur for the night.

Day 4:

Rainbow, Kalpa

Rainbow, Kalpa

We again started our journey to Kalpa (with a hope of reaching in 5 hours). Yes we reached Kalpa, only in the evening though :D. Ohh! I forgot to mention about the people that we met on our way. I remember names of some; I spoke to some, played with some and clicked some. The pictures with their names (if I remember) will be shared at the end of this post. There’s a memory of this day; we happened to stop at a place called Urni for a tea. Tea is a saviour in hills! While the tea was getting ready, we were sitting and chatting, and suddenly there was a sound of “boom!” friend’s iphone had fallen down and the screen got broke. All our life, we will never forget this place and this incident :P. I’m sure my friend is going to laugh when he reads this :).  Kalpa welcomed us with a full rainbow in hills. Due to incapability of my camera, I was not able to click a picture of it but it is captured in my heart forever. Till the time we found a hotel, moon was rising from behind the famous “Mount Kailash” (one of the peak in Kailash range). I just couched in a plastic chair and watched the moon filling up the darkness of night with its bright shine. Kalpa being a small town retires early in a day as compared to cities. So after a difficult search operation, we got food to satiate our day long hunger. We then tried some night photography and retired for a sleep sound after a long drive in hills.

Tea is a savior in Hills!

Tea is a savior in Hills!

Day 5:

_DSC0072 (2)Kalpa is located close to the foot of high Kinner Kailash. Kinner Kailash is the legendary winter home of Shiva. There is a spectacular sight early in the morning when the rising sun touches the snowy peaks with crimson and gold light. As suggested by locals, we woke up early to have a sight of “Golden Peak”. Though we didn’t really experience anything like that, but the simple sight of Kinner Kailash in itself was spectacular. I went up to a little height and remember being guided by a deaf-mute man. His smile has put a deep impression on my heart! After sometime, we could hear chanting from a temple and whole town was immersed deep in those chanting. Mind was at peace! Every living being from a single leaf to a beautiful flower to its people, was diffusing positive vibes. We visited a very old monastery in Kalpa and missed going to a famous suicide point there. With this positive vibes, we left Kalpa for Chitkul.

Inside Monastery, Kalpa

Inside Monastery, Kalpa

 

En-route Kalpa

En-route Kalpa

Terrain from Kalpa to Chitkul changes drastically! From high, dangerous hilly roads, we were welcomed to a beautiful valley of Sangla – Chitkul. Green mountains, flowing river and plethora of flowers, looked like a fairy tale. Chitkul is still an unexplored place, so there are not much hotels. But there are not much tourists either. So you can easily get a room there. After having some rest and food at hotel, we went to the river side to spend a peaceful evening. It was relaxing! I had a thought of being a ferociously flowing river and making my own way just like River Satluj. The setting sun in west and moon rising from east – north (I guess so), was mesmerizing. It was a full moon night! By the time we were back to our hotel, we were hungry. We tried food at Samaa Resorts. It’s a resort maintained by a very humble couple; Manmeet and Manali (we are now friends on facebook too). This is one more thing about travelling that I like – “making friends”. The food was good. We actually didn’t expect food of that level of taste. I wish the couple good luck for their future endeavours. Whole night, there was a sound of flowing river and rumbling of trees. I slept in ease with those sounds.

Spectacular Chitkul!

Spectacular Chitkul!

Day 6:

We again lazed around river and embraced its beauty. It was and extraordinary spectacle! I’m speechless to describe its beauty! It’s far away from my words. And I have incapability of describing His beautiful world. All my life I have believed in “magic”. It happened here at Chitkul. It was magical! I’m a kind of person who would like to sit and watch the beauty of the place rather than capturing it. It is because of the enthusiasm of my friend who goes beyond limits to click pictures. I owe one of my best pictures of the trip to him!

Chitkul Morning!

Chitkul Morning!

 

Day 7:

We started our “Nonstop” journey back to Delhi. Thanks to Harpal! I was almost in half slumber while coming back. There’s a lot that is left unsaid. Many memorable moments those are in my mind. Not making it too long to read, I decided to end it here. The post is only about my experiences and I’ve not shared much about the route. Get in touch with me if you want any information about reaching the place.

Little girl, Manali

Little girl, Manali

Old man at a restaurant, Manali!

Old man at a restaurant, Manali!

Cute Kid, Manali

Cute Kid, Manali

Little boy - Kaku!

Little boy – Kaku!

The highway girl - Aarushi!

The highway girl – Aarushi!

Mountain girl - Ananya!

Mountain girl – Ananya!

Mom and daughter duo, Manali

Mom and daughter duo, Manali

Hats off to truck drivers for driving on narrow roads of hills!

Hats off to truck drivers for driving on narrow roads of hills!

Kinnaur Kid - Riya!

Kinnaur Kid – Riya!

Kinnaur Lady 1!

Kinnaur Lady 1!

Kinnaur Lady -2!

Kinnaur Lady -2!

Storage house in Chitkul! Every family have their own storage house.

Storage house in Chitkul! Every family have their own storage house.

Houses in Chitkul be like!

Houses in Chitkul be like!

I envy those who studied here. A school building at Kalpa!

I envy those who studied here. A school building at Kalpa!

A Temple, Kalpa

A Temple, Kalpa

Samaa Resorts, Chitkul!

Samaa Resorts, Chitkul!

Full Moon, Chitkul!

Full Moon, Chitkul!

 

A day of Spiritual Rejuvenation!

There are times when all of a sudden you start feeling low. And there is no reason for this low ebb of your emotions. I was going through the same wave. I think it’s the traveler’s soul in me that gets edgy after a period of time. Nine hours of sitting keeps me in a cage where I’m always dreaming of opening my wings and breathing in an unknown destination. Well! This ‘feeling low’ was the result of the everyday dreams that wants me to move out of the daily regime and explore the unknown, make friends, write stories and gorge on delicious food.

The place decided for weekend’s getaway this time, was Amritsar. The spiritual center for Sikh religion. It is home to the Harmandir Sahib (an important Sikh shrine). And also houses the Sikh temporal and Political authority, Akal Takhat. Apart from that it is also known for Indo – Pak Border, Jallianwallah Bagh, and of course it’s food :). Since childhood I have been visiting this place, that now it is like a second home to me. My parents have always encouraged me for traveling but the idea of solo trip in India is a NO-NO for them. Still I managed to convince them for Amritsar.

Blue Hour at Golden Temple, Amritsar

Blue Hour at Golden Temple, Amritsar

There are many trains from Delhi to Amritsar. My journey started on Friday from Delhi on Amritsar Shatabdi. This train departs at 16:30 from Delhi and reaches Amritsar at 22:55. I always make a point to book window seat. So I was in my coach on confirmed window seat with only a book as my companion for the journey. As train started moving at speed, I started turning pages of my book, and also the day was slowly coming to retire. The feel of watching setting sun from the moving train with a book in your hand is amazing. The feeling of watching the retiring sun took over the feeling of clicking a picture of it. So I didn’t click any. I had a family sitting next to me who were on vacation. They were really nice and three kids in that family were very cute. But towards the end of the journey their jabbering was intolerable. Phewww! Anyways still they were not that annoying. There were two middle aged men in the train who did not miss a single chance of stare at me. At one point, I got little scared, as they were aware of the fact that I was traveling solo. The best way of ignoring their stare was to avoid eye contact with them. And I did exactly the same! In spite of the fact of men ogling at fellow female travelers (solo or with company), I support the idea of traveling because I feel traveling has made me learn the art of alertness, sensing the people with negative vibes and avoiding them. Anyways, train was little late and I breathed in ‘City of Gurus‘ at around 23:45. Quite an odd timing for a female! Parents and friends who knew about this trip were worried back at home. I too, was worried! Traveling has also made me learn the art of hiding my worries from my loved ones and taking it all alone with strength. I hired a rickshaw which charged 40 bucks. The distance from railway station to Gurdwara is approximately 2.5 km and it took around 10 minutes to reach the place. The area around Gurdwara is always bustling with crowd. So, food retail outlets like Subway, CCD, McDonald’s, Giani’s Ice cream and few other restaurants were opened till late at night.

Since it was not a planned trip, I had not booked a hotel and I had to spent a night in Gurdwara’s premises. It is very safe! There are hundreds of pilgrims sleeping on the Sarovar side and many more doing sewa (Service) like cleaning the floor, and reciting Gurbani (Holy Hymns). I decided to take a short nap before taking a dip in Holy water. I woke up at around 2:00 in the morning (you don’t feel that it’s 2:00 in the morning until you see the time in your watch as it is always full of people).  I got ready and headed to bow my head in front of Guru.  The aura of being inside the shrine (Gurdwara) with hundreds of other people who are dipped in faith is unexplainable. You need to be there to experience it! Tears automatically rolled down from my eyes. I experience it on every visit. After listening to Gurbani for some time, I came out to click photographs in blue hour and rising sun. It was only 6:00 in the morning and I was already so hungry. So before stepping out to search out a hotel, I decided to hop on some food. Punjab and Punjabi’s are known for their rich food. Food is not a problem in Punjab. Especially if you are in Amritsar. At any hour of time, you can get food, both inside or outside Gurdwara premises. I had heard about Giani’s Tea Stall on Queen’s road but never got a chance to pay a visit. So I hired a rickshaw to the place. It’s not very far from the shrine. This stall is years old and is famous for its masala cha(tea). Do not miss it if you are a tea addict! The creamy masala cha was sufficient to release the journey’s stress. I then  moved on to a hotel named Sita Niwas. It is a budget hotel. The room was very small and was not clean and I was too tired to search for another hotel. I slept for 2-3 hours before I started my food trail at Amritsar.

Immersed in yellow lights!

Immersed in yellow lights!

Breakfast @ Kanha Sweets

Breakfast @ Kanha Sweets

The first destination for breakfast was Kanha Sweets. It is in Lawrence road. Auto wallah charged 100 bucks for it. You can bargain till 80 bucks. If you are good at bargaining! Reaching there I got to know that this place is always crowded and one has to wait for sometime before getting a table. I got a table to share with two school girls, Manvi and Swati. Both of them were sweet enough to share their piece of information about the place. And I promised them to write about them in my blog. I hope that they read about it :). The poori chole at Kanha were tasty! After having breakfast I headed back to the shrine and devoured a much needed cup of coffee at CCD.

Mashaal @ Jallianwallah Bagh

Mashaal @ Jallianwallah Bagh

It was already noon and scorching sun was over my head. I went back to room to spend peaceful summer afternoon and cool myself. By the evening, I was ready to visit Jallianwallah bagh. This is a park which was built in the memory of people that were massacred on the occasion of Baisakhi by British Raj on orders of Gen. O’Dwyer. He was later assassinated by Sardar Udham Singh as the revenge of Jallianwallah bagh massacre. Late evening was spent inside the shrine again. The day had already retired. By now, Crescent moon had replaced scorching sun. I headed towards Langar Hall’ (kitchen) for food. The food served in Langar is simple. The best thing about Langar is that there is no discrimination. Everybody sits together in a row and waits for the food to be served.

It was 23:30, I then headed to my room. I had train in morning at 4:20. I left hotel at 3:30 and started my journey back to home.

It was a quick one day of ‘Spiritual Rejuvenation‘ at Amritsar. It filled me with positivity and I’m again back to my daily routine. Already feeling an urge to explore unknown.

The food joints that I missed out in this trip (but I have already visited in earlier trips) are:

1) Kesar Da Dhaba – for finger licking paranthas and lassi
2) Ahuja Di Lassi – for delightful lassi
3) Gurdas Ram Jalebi Wala – for mouthwatering Jalebis
4) Beere Da Chicken – for tempting non veg delicacies dipped in lots of butter

 

The place I missed is ‘Indo – Pak Border’ or ‘Wagah Border’. It is particularly known for the elaborate Wagah Border Ceremony that happens at the border gate, two hours before sunset each day. The flag ceremony is conducted by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers.

People preparing food for Langar

People preparing food for Langar

 

Happy Clicking!

Happy Clicking!

People at Wagah (from previous visits)

People at Wagah (from previous visits)

 

Sunrise @ Golden Temple

Sunrise @ Golden Temple

The Niligiri Town – Coonoor!!

The idea of a solo trip, 36 hours of train journey, crossing 5 Indian states and reaching the destination was enough to excite me. It caused a stir in the air. The journey was from Delhi to Bangalore. The train was supposed to cross 5 sates; UP, MP, Maharashtra, AP, Telengana and finally reach Karnataka. The train was scheduled at 20:45 and since morning I was experiencing butterflies in my stomach. It was due to nervousness of first time traveling alone. Anyways! I boarded train from Nizamuddin Station and it was on time. Dinner was served immediately after the train started. The train crew was good in service and took good care of passengers. But the food was not good and I almost avoided it till I got hunger pangs. Uff! It was painful but watching the changing terrain outside was fun and I didn’t mind railway catering service serving bad food :).

 

Matteo Coffee, Bangalore

Matteo Coffee, Bangalore

After spending 2 nights and 36 hours in train, I breathed in the AC (Air Condition) city of India, Bangalore. The morning air was fresh and weather was cool. In India, you have to be careful about Auto Wallahs. They can easily fool you if you are new in the city. I was fooled too and paid almost double the fare to reach my brother’s place. I was in Bangalore for about a week; strolling streets of AC city on my own, doing cafe and restaurant hopping and buying souvenirs for the lovely people in Delhi. Spending a week there seems less to me, as Cafe Culture is so strong in Bangalore that I feel so much is still left to explore. I will some other day write about Bangalore and would rather focus on the main subject of this post.

 

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Entrance to a Village

Weekend getaway was planned to Coonoor, a hill station in Tamilnadu. Surrounded by Nilgiri Hills, it is the second largest hill station of Tamilnadu after Ooty. With years, Ooty has become more crowded and commercialized. So for a peaceful weekend, Coonoor was selected. Distance from Bangalore to Coonoor is approximately 290km and it took around 9 hours to reach there. After crossing Bandipur Forest Reserve, Karnataka and entering into Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Tamilnadu, there is a check post and you will be charged hefty fine for carrying alcohol with you. Tamilnadu Government doesn’t allow carrying alcohol from other state and rather promote sale of alcohol in Tamilnadu. So if you are traveling to Coonoor via Mysore, it is advisable not to carry alcohol with you as the amount of fine will be greater than amount of bottles of alcohol. Tragic Story!!

 

A bridge on the way

A bridge on the way

Anyways, surpassing huge coconut trees in Karnataka, you will be welcomed with Eucalyptus trees and tea plantation in Tamilnadu. The 36 hair pin bends that lead to Ooty gives the picturesque view of the valley which is also a part of Western Ghats. It was a moment of wow!! Greenery of Nilgiri Hills, azure sky, blossoming flowers, and clouds all added to the excitement. Transcending further on the steeped roads of hills, we finally reached “The Nest” – home stay at Coonoor. The simple rice and daal was heaven for devil (hungry stomach) in us. After having food, we decided to walk in the tea estates around the guesthouse. Sun was playing hide and seek and the houses in sun rays were looking like colorful painting. The world is beautiful painting created by Thee. Since we were short on time, the attendant at guesthouse suggested us to go to see Ralliah Dam next morning and we were warned about encountering bison on the way.

 

Ralliah Dam

Ralliah Dam

Not caring about any bison, fearless!! We got ready to visit Ralliah Dam next morning. It is a 1km uphill trek which goes from tea plantation to a forest. The walk to the dam is scenic and silent. Going uphill you will see waterfalls, wild flora including various sizes of mushrooms and at least once you will talk about Man vs. Wild. We too did :). The dam remains filled with water after monsoon being the major source of water for the town. If lucky enough you can get to see Malabar Squirrels. They have got beautiful color and it is fun to watch them :). After spending some time in peaceful surroundings of dam, we headed back to the guest house and literally had finger licking south Indian breakfast. The best part of choosing home stays is you get to eat authentic home made food of that region.

I got a tan and I read somewhere that “tans will fade but the memories will remain forever”. True that!! Memories are forever.

The journey to Coonoor was breathtaking and stay was peaceful for mind and soul. I am thankful to my brother for organizing this wonderful trip. Here is a picture journey of Coonoor.

The Nest - home stay, Coonoor

The Nest – home stay, Coonoor

The tea garden

The tea garden

People of Coonoor 1

People of Coonoor 1

People of Coonoor 2

People of Coonoor 2

The tea garden and Nilgiri Hills

The tea garden and Nilgiri Hills

The Painting

The Painting

The Tea Estate

The Tea Leaves

The view

The view

Another Painting

Another Painting

Sun rays falling on houses

Sun rays falling on houses

Rambling in the blue city!

Here I am, with yet another travelogue. This time writing about a quick escape to have a peek into the rich heritage of the royal family of Jodhpur. Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur. It is also called the blue city because of the houses in the city painted in indigo. Earlier, only Brahmins were allowed to paint their houses with indigo color that depicted their high class. As of now, not many houses are in blue color(as shown in the pictures on Google) but anyone can paint their house with indigo, shunning off the social barriers.

There are direct trains from Delhi to Jodhpur and takes around 10 hours to reach Jodhpur. It is also well connected to major cities like Jaipur via roads.Belonging to a class of  working professionals and always getting less leaves than required (story of every working person. Sigh!!), we prefer to travel during night so that we get whole day for wandering and exploring the city.

The journey started on Friday night on Mandore Express at 9:15 pm from old Delhi railway station. As per IST (Indian Standard Time), train ran late and we got little late to reach our destination. Finally, after around ten and a half hours of journey, we breathed into the city which greeted us with a unique scent. Crossing the narrow alleys of the city in auto (which the hotel owner had sent for pick up), we reached our hotel. Hem Heritage is a simple hotel with basic amenities. The streets around the city are not clean. After getting fresh and satisfying our empty tummy, we were ready for rambling around the city.

 

#Jawsant Thada
Jaswant thada is a mausoleum built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in his memory. It is made up of very finely carved sheets of white marble. The intricate jali work on the windows shows the prolific work done by sculptors. As per the locals, such a fine marble is used to build up this cenotaph that it glows when sun rays fall on it.

Jaswant Thada

Jaswant Thada

 

There is a also a a beautiful pond with lotus floating in it, surrounded by lush green garden.

Just outside it there was a man playing a long instrument. As of a curious nature, I went to him and asked about the instrument. It was Ravanhatha, “Ravan” used to play this instrument while worshiping. It was like Indian version of violin. We tried our hands on it and the music that came out was as bad as it can be. To all those who are reading this,  I would request that if ever anywhere you come across such musicians, acknowledge their talent by giving them some money. It won’t pinch our pocket but will be of some help to them.

 

#Mehrangarh Fort
It’s one of the largest forts in India built by Rao Jodha. It is built few meters above the city and is enclosed by thick walls. There are many palaces in it which are carved beautifully. On climbing the narrow stairs that lead to the top floor, one can see the view of city along with the huge cannons on display. Yes! you can get a picture clicked with cannons and boast about it on a social networking site 😛 :D. We spent few hours clicking pictures here and of course getting ourselves clicked :).  It’s a huge fort and you can surely get tired. But don’t worry!  there is a restaurant in the fort area, you can quickly grab a bite of Rajasthani delicacies and re energize yourselves. The fort also have treasures like armory, guns, swords, palanquins, musical instruments  from that era.10631148_10152394480213471_600199889968817592_o

Though it was only 5 in the evening, we decided to go back to Jaswant Thada and spend our time there. It’s at lesser height than Mehrangarh Fort but height is good enough to have a view of city. We relaxed, talked, danced, sang and desperately waited for sunset. Just after the sunset, the cool breeze started blowing and city was immersed in lights. The view was mesmerizing. We tried light trails and took some really nice shots and left the place with happy hearts.

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We then headed to gypsy restaurant for a Rajasthani Thali. They have a fixed price and menu for thali that serves unlimited food. The food was good enough to satiate hungry evil in us. We then walked towards our hotel singing some really cheesy Bollywood numbers. We were drunk without even drinking ;). After hatching a plan for next day, we went to catch some Z’s.

The day started early for me and one of my friend, as we wanted to witness the sunrise. Walking on the steep road, huffed and puffed, we managed to reach Mehrangarh Fort. The cool breeze,  fort lit under moon light, moon playing hide and seek with clouds, the stars, the view was majestic and is unforgettable.

Sunrise View

Sunrise View

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Ready for Zip Lining

It took me to a different world. The feeling is unexplainable. It is something that can only be felt. Anyways, as the sun rose, we heard roaster crowing, we saw people waking up from their sleep on their terrace and getting busy with their day’s activities. One thing we noticed was that almost every terrace had a design made by marble on the floor. I don’t know whether it carries some significance or it is just for decoration, we just noticed it. In some time, day started getting hot and we headed back towards our hotel where other friends were getting ready for zip-lining to get an adrenaline rush. Absorbed in the aura of sunrise, two of us decided to unlax.

We then went for breakfast to Jhankar restaurant. Food was awesomely bad but we had great time in consoling ourselves about the greatness and richness of food. Not satisfied with the food, we finally headed towards our last stoppage – Umaid Bhawan.

#Umaid Bhawan

Umaid Bhawan is a private property maintained by royal family of Jodhpur. It was built by Maharaja Umaid Singh to give employment to the people of Mewar. Only a very small area of it is open for public in which there are treasures on display that marks the testimony for richness of the royal family. The glassware from Belgium, the old fashioned clocks from Italy, Greece, Paris and paintings of His Highness will surely woo you. And if that is not enough! the vintage car collection which includes the car used in “Mard” movie of Amitabh Bachan will surely make you go gaga over the rich heritage of the royal family. It was now time for lunch and after having a heart breaking food in the morning we wanted to have something awesomely good to gratify gastronome in us. We headed towards the restaurant in Hanwant Mahal for experiencing the royalty. It was a really splendiferous meal

We then reached our hotel, packed our bags and started journey back to Delhi making plans for our next trip 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unforgettable Memories of Havelock!!

Since I have started this blog to share my travel stories, here is one from my archives…

 

Sunset at Havelock

Sunset is the opening music of the night.

Of all the very few places which I have visited till now, Havelock   Island remains closest to my heart! It  is a beautiful island within the Andaman group of Islands. The only way to reach there  from Port Blair is by a steamer or a ship. It takes around 2 hours on ship to reach Havelock from Port Blair.  On reaching Havelock Island, you will be greeted through its green alleys.

 Even the travel sites and agents have some great deals for the place. Few of my friends have just been there for their honeymoon. (Yes! the place is also famous among newly the weds.)

I have some very fond memories of this place. The sunset at Havelock stirred a connection in me for  the mystic natural beauty of the place.

Andaman being closer to Chennai from one side and Kolkata from the other, so it happens to have dwellers from both Tamil Nadu and Bengal region.  I remember learning my very first Bengali word “Bhalo” from a little Bengali girl aboard the ship. She only spoke Bengali and while I was trying to understand what she meant,  her mother intervened to explain the meaning of the word. The incident would be remembered by me through out my life. This was the day when I felt in love with my surroundings. The fiery red colour of sky stirred all sorts of romantic emotions in me. Being there was bliss indeed!

Sunset at Havelock

Sunset is a wonderful opportunity for us to appreciate all the great things the sun gives us!

Sunset at Havelock

In silence I looked at the sunset and thought about God.

Sunset at Havelock

I long to get lost, inside the evening-twilight.

I meet “me” in the time between sunset and darkness.

I meet “me” in the time between sunset and darkness.

Orchha – A Hidden Gem!!

Orchha is an idyllic town on the banks of Betwa river in the Tikamgarh District of Madhya Pradesh. Orchha means “hidden”. It is aptly named, as for many years it remained hidden in the dense forest. Until 15th century, when Bundela Chieftain Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh founded this place and decided to build his kingdom here. The construction work of Orchha fort was started under his rule but was completed by one of the strongest successors and rulers of Bundela kingdom – Raja Madhukar Shah. It is written in the pages of history that Raja Rudra Pratap Singh died while saving a Cow from a Lion. Orchha is a quaint village dotted with magnificent palaces, temples and cenotaphs. The palaces depicts the emaculate work of artisans on Hindu and Islamic architecture.

The journey started from Delhi by Bhopal Shatabdi. Jhansi is the nearest railway station to Orchha. It is 20k.m from Jhansi. By the time we reached Orchha half a day was already passed. And we were suggested by locals to start our sightseeing to Orchha from next day as there is a single pass valid for a day to visit all the palaces, temples and cenotaphs in Orchha. So we decided to explore the town on bicycles which were available from our homestay on rent. Surpassing the alleys of Orchha, we reached on a bridge built over a river that connects town from one end to a Nature Reservoir on the other end. The picturesque rocky shores and river were mesmerizing. We crossed the bridge and reached Nature Reservoir.

Cenotaphs from Banks of Betwa River

Cenotaphs from Banks of Betwa River

There is a sunset point on the banks of Betwa River. The only way to reach that point is through reservoir. There is a minimal charge of Rs.15 for Indians to enter the reservoir. And it has many small sanctuaries in it. It was a rainy day so we didn’t get to see any sunset but the fizzling sound of Betwa was magical. The flowing river seemed to me as if some musician is playing a stringed instrument. It was already dark and we had to go back to our homestay. It was Shivratri and streets were full of Mobile DJ’s and people dancing to the beats of bhajans.

Day 2 started little late as we were tired because of cycling done on previous day. After having a stomachful breakfast we headed towards fort complex. An arched bridge leads to the complex. The Fort houses 3 palaces:

The gateway to Jahangir Mahal

The gateway to Jahangir Mahal

1) Jahangir Mahal: It is the most princely palace of the complex. It was built by Raja Vir Singh Bundela for his friend Saleem, then the Emperor of India, to welcome him on his visit to Orchha. The gateway to the palace is splendid. A large door is haunched by two elephants and above it are windows and balconies. There is a large courtyard in the centre of the palace. And one can see stairs leading to the balconies of the three storeys palace. The jharokhas, domes, balconies, rooms, chhatris  clearly depicts the fecund imagination of Raja Vir Singh  and the influence of Mughal architecture on him. Some of the rooms in the palace have murals of Gods and Goddesses on the walls.

Courtyard of Jahangir Mahal

Courtyard of Jahangir Mahal

2) Raja Mahal: It was started by Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh in 15th Century and was completed by Raja Madhukar Shah in 17th century.  In the centre of the Mahal is a huge stage to hold the prformaces of the artists of that time. It is not as fascinating as Jahangir Mahal.

3) Rai Praveen Mahal: Raja Indrajeet Singh (brother of Raja Vir Singh) had many dancers and poetess in his courtyard. But the most beautiful and intelligent in the reign was Rai Praveen. Even Emperor Akbar was enchanted by her beauty and asked for her to be sent to Delhi. On reaching Delhi, Rai Praveen impressed the Emperor with her love for Raja Indrajeet Singh and she was sent back to Orchha. This palace was built by Raja Indrajeet Singh for her.

After exploring palaces, it was time for a tea break. I strongly believe that we Indians tend to drink tea not only to energize ourselves but to sit and share our experiences. After having sumptuous  pakodas with finger-licking green chutney, we headed towards river to explore the cenotaphs or chatris built at the banks of the river. It is very unusual to see cenotaphs built for Hindu Kings as tombs are  associated with  Mughal Rulers. Entry to some of the Chattris is open but we didn’t go inside as the closing time for Cenotaphs is 5:00 pm and only 10 minutes were left. One can see vultures sitting on the top of the domes.

Day 3 started early as we wanted to see the Betwa river in the morning. The ghats were buzzing with activities. People were bathing and washing clothes. We again went to the sunset point from the reservoir (not to see the sunset in the morning 🙂 but because that was a clean and a silent place). I will not forget to mention a special member we met at the river side “Gaddu – a crab”. We gave him that name  and played with him:)

Top View of Laxmi Narayan Mandir

Top View of Laxmi Narayan Mandir

It was a day to visit temples of Orchha and we started with Lakshmi Narayan Temple as this was the first temple on the way. A large slope leads to the temple. The temple looks like as if it has a triangular shape but it is rectangular in shape. It was built by Raja Vir Singh Bundela. It combines the feature of temple and fort. The unique temple is not abided by its traditional definition and features as it lacks the presence of any idol. More surprisingly, it even allows the visitors to step in with their footwear. Some rooms of the temples have beautiful murals showcasing the scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharta, hunting scenes and even paintings of Britishers having a drink.

Mural inside Lakshmi Narayan Temple

Mural inside Lakshmi Narayan Temple

The next was Raja Ram Temple. It was actually a palace which has been converted to a temple. History says that Raja Madhukar Shah was a devotee of Lord Krishna but his wife Queen Ganeshi was a devotee of Lord Rama.  One day Madhukar insisted his Queen to accompany him on a pilgrimage to Vrindavan. But Qeen was adamant and wanted to go to Ayodhya. Angry Madhukar Shah left the room and said to his Queen you can go to Ayodhya if you want to but you can return to Orchha only when Lord Rama comes with you. It is said that Lord Rama in his childhood avatar accompanied Queen to Orchha but ordained that – “The place where I sit first shall become my temple and I shall not be removed from that place.”. The Chaturbhuj temple was built for Lord Rama. But when Queen reached Orchha, it was already night, so she placed Lord Rama in her bedroom. In the morning, she was not able to move Rama’s statue  according to Rama’s ordain and therefore, the palace was converted to a temple. The popular hymn for Lord Rama by locals is –

“जग व्यापक राजा राम के दो निवास हैं खास| सुबह ओरच्छा में प्रकट, रात अयोध्या वास|”

A dome at the top of the Chaturbhuj Temple

A dome at the top of the Chaturbhuj Temple

Then  was Chaturbhuj Temple. This was the temple built by Madhukar Shah to house the idol of Lord Rama. But since the idol could not be shifted to this temple. It was dedicated to four armed – Vishnu, hence named Chaturbhuj Temple. It is surmounted by four conical shikaras on the four corners.

The day ended by seeing Light and Sound Show at Fort Complex which was entertaining and informative both. Thanks to the show, I have been able to write about Orchha.

The visit to Orchha was small and simple. It is a calm town bearing testimony to the grandeur of Bundela Kingdom.