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Our travel to Goa, the party capital of India: 24 February – 2 March 2021

And an unforgettable travel it was .

24 February 2021

Departed for Goa by Indigo Airlines Flight 6E 2024 from IGI T2 New Delhi leaving  @ 11.50 AM.  Arrived at Dabolim International Airport @ 14.30 hrs .

Found the terminal very crowded as a result of dozens of flights landing at the airport from different destinations. Proceeded to the Hotel via Laxmi Travels provided cab [ 45 minutes’ drive] . Hotel Vivanta by Taj [ VbT] where we had reserved our accommodation, also sent a hotel cab to pick us up which was waiting in the basement in the Airport Terminal but as the battery of the phone went dead, the driver was unable to contact us  !

Arrived at the Hotel to a warm welcome by the Hotel GM Ashok Vasudevan and his team with a cool drink . Room very well furnished and washroom provided with all requisite amenities.

Full marks to the Housekeeping team led by young Manager Pradeep .  

RIVER CRUISE  

Took  the 5.45 PM Sunset cruise , buying tickets from Laxmi Travels Agency’s Office near Customs House @ Rs 950 p.p. for VIP seats .

Enjoyed an evening sail on Paradise ship along the Mandovi River, packed with entertainment, Goan folk songs  and dance performances, giving us the real feel of Goa’s traditional culture . The panoramic views of  Panaji from the top-most deck of the cruise as the ship passed by beautiful old  buildings incl: Goa Legislative Assembly , made it an unforgettable experience.  

Returned to Hotel by 8.15 PM in time for dinner by hailing a cab parked on the street [ Rs 200 ] . And a grand welcome dinner it was, to mark our 45th marriage anniversary . A private room all to ourselves at the Chinese restaurant Tamara with F&B Manager Soujesh  himself present to take care and suggest different mouth licking dishes , cooked to perfection . The dining table was decorated with rose petals arranged in  letter 45 with a chocolate cake that was cut by us , with pictures being taken by Soujesh – who made a short video as well .

A chocolate cake , a bouquet of rose flowers ,  a basket of fresh fruits and a nicely made up bed with rose petals sprinkled on it awaited us when we returned to our room to retire for the night .

25 February 2021

9:30 AM : Drive to Aguada Fort  : At one point in time this formidable and impregnable Portuguese fort in India , still has crumbling ramparts which talk of majestic times. The upper part of the Fort houses a lighthouse, gun powder room, bastions, and a large underground moat for freshwater storage. The name Aguada comes from the Portuguese word for water agua. The fort was a place for ships to replenish their freshwater supplies. Visitors should ideally plan to spend 45 minutes here .

Admission fee: Rs 20

Fort Aguada overlooks the vast breathtaking imposing river Mandovi’s confluence with the Arabian sea

Sinquerim beach , adjoining the luxurious Taj Fort Aguada property was our next stop , but found the approach road under repairs .

After spending some time at Condolim beach , returned to Hotel for rest as we found the weather rather hot .

In the evening , covered Vagator beach , about 22 km from the Panaji. Vagator beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Goa that is enclosed with soft white sand and speckled by huge black rocks, coconut and palm trees. It is famous due to its dynamic cliffs and its secluded nature. This beach is divided into two beaches named as Big Vagator and Small Vagator. Facing towards the right side of sea, there is North Vagator Beach (Big Vagator) while on the left is Ozran beach (Little Vagator). The view of the sunset through the rocks is quite marvellous. It is a part of 30 km stretch of beach seashore along the west coast of Goa.

A visit to the Vagator beach is a must for all tourists

Driving 3.5 kms from Vagator beach , we spent some enjoyable moments at the very well illuminated Thalassa in Siolim for light snacks and drinks . Awesome ambience and full and full of diners .

Chatted for a while with its delightful Greek owner Ms. Marikety Grana . Returned to Hotel by 8.00 PM. in time for dinner at the Latitude [ see picture below taken from the the 4th floor ].

26 February 2021

Dona Paula Beach : Currently under renovation . So we just took 2 pics of the skyline and departed . Water sports activities are the highlights of this beach . The Beach is named after the daughter of one of the Viceroys of India, Dona Paula de Menzes.

According to the legend , Dona Paula was the young daughter of Portuguese Viceroy Don Antonia Caetano de Menezes, and fell in love with a local Goan fisherman. When the Viceroy found out about their affair, he became very angry and forbade his daughter to meet her lover again. Extremely sad and upset, Dona Paula couldn’t think of life without the fishermen. She felt unbearable pain and immense sorrow without him. When this pain become insufferable, she decided to end her life. In the name of her immortal love, she drowned herself in the Arabian Sea. This way, a true love story came to an end and become a historical reminiscence.


When the Viceroy knew that he had lost his beloved daughter, he was overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. Left with nothing but the memories of his innocent daughter, he decided to name the Arabian Sea area “Dona Paula”. This place is a tribute to an eternal romance and love, and gives a message that, if you are ever going to love someone, it should be like Dona Paula’s, pure and heartwarming.

Miramar Beach : A 2 kms long beach, within 3 kms of VbT . You need to cover close to 250-300 metres walking on the sands from the road to get there . Here lies the Samadhi of Goa’s first Chief Minister Late Dayananda Bandodkar.

The beach sits on the confluence of the Mandovi River and the Arabian sea, offering splendid oceanic views.  Miramar Beach was originally called Porte de Gaspar Dias by Portuguese settlers in Goa, but the name was later changed to ‘Miramar’, meaning “to look at the sea.”

The silvery stretch of white sand is girdled by blue oceanic waves on one side, and a string of palm trees on the other. The beach is a perfect destination for picnics, barbeque parties and casual meet-ups alike, and is popular among both families and honeymooning couples. In winters, a large number of migratory birds, including plovers and gulls, can be spotted here.

SE Cathedral . Or Se Cathedral de Santa Catarina, is a famous landmark in Goa , exhibiting Portuguese – Manueline architectural style .

This 16th-century masterpiece took 80 long years to finish and is one of the largest churches in the world. The Cathedral attains to the west of the great square called Terreiro de Sabato and has its face turned to the east. A flight of steps approaches its beautiful courtyard.  It was consecrated in 1640 and was built to honour the triumph of the Portuguese over the Muslim rulers of the city.

Owing to such a magnificent aura and the glory, Se Cathedral has been stated as a world heritage site by UNESCO. It is known as the largest church in Asia, and also has a giant bell and its elegant architecture makes it a majestic white beauty. Se Cathedral also endures the honour of being the seat of the Archdiocese of Goa. Se Cathedral is home to the historic “Golden Bell” which is famous around the world as it is the largest bell with a rich sound.

It is located right opp: Basilica of Bom Jesus. We engaged a guide who tooks us around the huge complex which also comprises of a Museum in an adjoining building .

Basilica of Bom Jesus . The Church has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage .The Church completed its construction in the year 1604 and stands as an epitome of the Portuguese colonial architecture and Baroque architecture.

It is located in Bainguinim, about 10 km from Panjim, and attracts several tourists from all across the world. The Church is known to hold the relics of St. Francis Xavier, who was known for his phenomenal insight and therapeutic healing powers. Even after 400 years of burial, the remains are said to be in good condition and are taken out every decade. It is, in fact, one of the Seven Wonders of the World of Portuguese origin.

‘Bom Jesus’ is a word of Latin origin and translates to ‘Holy (or Good) Jesus.’ The rooftop of the church is triangular, and is inscribed with the initials ‘IHS’, which translates to the Jesuit emblem meaning ‘Jesus, Savior of Men.’ 

The façade of the Church constitutes a main altar flanked by two more altars. The main altar is decorated with a statue of St. Ignatius Loyola overlooking and protecting Baby Jesus. The surroundings are frolicked with paintings and carvings directly from the Bible, and it also has a gallery that inhabits oil paintings belonging to the years 1973 and 1976. 

Evening : Passed by Church of Our Lady Mary Immaculate Conception – a grand white coloured structure perched high on some 100 steps [ closed by the time we reached there ! ] . The colonial Portuguese Baroque style Church was first built in 1541 as a chapel on a hill side overlooking the city of Panjim. It was eventually replaced by a larger church in the 1600s as part of Portuguese Goa’s religious expansion

The architecture of Mary Immaculate Conception Church close to the main shopping areas of Panaji takes your breath away in amazement

18th June Street : Shopped for high quality cashews and pistachios at Zantyes and spices including cardamon /cinnamon from S G Enterprises close by , on 18th June Street .

Azulejos de Goa – Famous for Portuguese design hand painted ceramic mugs and tiles .

A short visit to Azulejos de Goa /Centre for Indo-Portuguese Arts [CIPA] located on D B Bandodkar Avenue in Panaji turned out to be an unexpected highlight of our stay in Goa . It was set up by an enterprising young man named Orlando de Noronha post his travel to and stay in Portugal some 23 years ago . Apart from this business, Orlando has recently started a small cafe adjoining the shop in a bid to revive the original Goan food delicacies . Orlando presented an original Goa carnival tile based on a sketch prepared by the famous Goa based cartoonist late Marlo Miranda .

Spent some time at Shri Maruti Temple which is situated on top of of the Altinho hillock overlooking the Fontainhas district in Panaji, It is dedicated to lord Hanuman, the Monkey God and enshrines Lord Hanuman as the presiding deity.

The Maruti temple is beautifully lit up at night and as it is brightly lit , the temple is easily visible from a distance. One can approach the Maruti Hanuman temple by following the old Margao road that runs parallel to the Qurem creek. At night you can view the illuminated City from the top .

27 February 2021

11 AM:  A pleasant meeting with Hotel GM Ashok Vasudevan that lasted 30 minutes when we exchanged notes of common interest . I conveyed to him our sincere appreciation of the courtesies extended to us by the very efficient VbT staff in all Departments .For our holiday travel towards the end of the year . Mr Vasudevan suggested that we consider visiting Rajasthan [ Udaipur – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer ]  instead of Andaman & Nicobar Islands that we were planning to .

5 PM: Taj Convention Centre and Resort : Met Mr Sameer Khabesia, Senior Manager in charge of events ,  as per appointment arranged by a senior staff of Vivanta by Taj upon my request to VbT General Manager to discuss the possibility of hosting an international conference in 2022 .

At the Taj Convention Centre and Resort

Sameer took us around the various facilities that the property is equipped with to be able to host Conferences up  to 500+ attendees with ease and efficiency . It is located very close to Dona Paula Beach and is able to draw on facilities available with adjoining Cidade De Goa in case of need .

Visited Shri Radhakrishan Temple in old Goa which has deities of Mahalaxmi , Ganesha and Radha Krishna . Shopped for sarees at Nita Sarees started by an enterprising woman, originally from Mumbai .

28 February 2021

9.30 AM: Checked out from the Hotel after thanking the staff on duty and paying tips to the very courteous security staff . Proceeded to Colva , S. Goa via a cab arranged by VbT Duty Manager Vishwajeet @ Rs 809 .

We were pleasantly surprised to see Housekeeping Manager Pradeep following behind our car , barely 5 minutes after our departure , simply to present expensive gifts in the form of  Ayurvedic skin care creams . That was a gesture that I am going to rememebr for long .

Checked in at Club Mahindra Accacia Palms  at 11.45 AM after a comfortable drive that took us about 45 minutes and allotted room No 409 in “Stork” block at the end .

Although the premises are nice and well maintained, no comparison with facilities available in the Club Mahindra resorts that we have stayed at before – in Coorg and Mussoorie for instance , perhaps because of the fact that this is a licensed/franchisee property not owned by Club Mahindra itself .

The day being too hot , cancelled the scheduled plans of visiting various beaches during the day . Visited the clothing shop Tourist Corner in Colva beach right behind the property , late in the evening  and bought colourful pyjamas and designer T Shirts for children and grand children , one for myself as well !

1 March 2021

Following Lunch at Ripples restaurant and rest , started packing bags for our departure next day . Printed out our boarding passes and baggage labels issued on line .

4.30 PM: Visited Utorda / Majorda beaches [ both close to each other and quite similar in appearance with several beach shacks ] engaging a Swift Dzire cab from the Cab counter located inside the Resort [ Rs 1800 ] .

Betalbatim beach is about 15 minutes drive from Majorda beach . Enjoyed seeing tourists flying high in the air paragliding [ Rs 1000 for less than  15 minutes ] .

Returned to the Hotel by 6.30 P.M.

7.30 PM: No programme at the Resort in the evening except  loud music blaring  – Bollywood theme show as publicized  or otherwise ! Dinner at the Ripples where musician Daniel regaled us with old Bollywood songs while playing on his guitar . I gave him company singing ‘ ghe ghe re sahiban, pyaar mein dhokha nahin” from the movie Bobby [ originally a Goa folk song ]  , ‘ Dil ke jharokhe mein tujh ko bithakar “ from the movie Brahmchari and “Abhi na jaao chhod ke …” from the classic movie Hum Dono ” , bringing back happy memories of my early childhood .

2 March 2021

Checked out at 12.15 PM  for transfer to Dabolim Airport by Goa Miles App provided cab . Our Indigo Airlines flight departed on time at 3.30 PM , landing at IGI T2 around 6 PM where our trusted cabbie Moti was waiting to pick us up . End of a memorable travel that will linger in our minds for quite sometime to come  .

Our planned travel to Rajasthan this year – the land of palaces, forts, havelis ,temples, gardens, lakes and the great Thar desert .

Jodhpur, is a refreshing impression of the royal era of Rajasthan and takes us back in time, to 15th century. It is the second-biggest city in the North-Western State of Rajasthan. Jodhpur is approx 625 kms from New Delhi and can be easily reached by Air, trains or buses . There are numerous places to visit that showcase the beauty of the place and offer an unforgettable travel experience.

Cities and places to be visited , starting from our intended travel from Ranakpur via Udaipur .

Located in village of Ranakpur near Sadri town , 100 kms from  Udaipur , Ranakpur temple is one of the five major pilgrimages of  Jains. It is one of the largest and most important temples of Jain cult. Ranakpur Jain Temple stands as an exquisite testimony to India’s cultural heritage. The construction of the temple is believed to have begun in the 15th century and took nearly 50 years to be completed .

Ranakpur Jain Temples

At the age of 32, businessman Dharma Shah visited Shatrunjaya, the foremost among all the places of Jain pilgrimage and took the vow to lifelong celibacy. He felt the spontaneous urge to build a temple of Lord Rishabh Dev. The legend has it that one night, Dharma Shah dreamt of a Nalinigulma Viman, which is considered to be the most beautiful among the celestial planes. He decided that the temple should resemble this heavenly Viman. It has 1444 pillars, with carving unique to each of them .

There are 3 other temples in the same complex, including a temple of the Sun God,  all well worth a visit. One kilometre away from the temple complex is the Amba Mata temple . There is a canteen inside the temple that serves vegetarian meals at an affordable price . Timings for visit are stated as 7 AM to 5 PM with a small entry fee

Full of majestic historic monuments and sitting close to the immense Thar desert, Jodhpur’s rich ambience engulfs you like a time warp. The numerous blue-painted houses, the colossal Mehrangarh Fort, and a slew of other age-old attractions all seem to bring history to life here.

Jodhpur  is the second-largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan  with a population surpassing 1.6 million. It was formerly the seat of the princely state of Jodhpur State. Jodhpur was historically the capital of the Kingdom of Marwar, which is now part of Rajasthan. Jodhpur is a popular tourist destination, featuring many beautiful palacesforts,havelis,  temples and parks , set in the stark landscape of  Thar Desert. It is popularly known as the “Blue City” among people of Rajasthan , the colour being associated with Lord Shiva . The old city circles the Mehrangarh Fort and is bounded by a wall with several gates While in Jodhpur, don’t forget to cover other major attractions like Jaswant Thada, Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum, Balsamand Lake and Mandore Garden. Jodhpur lies near the geographic centre of the Rajasthan state, which makes it a convenient base for travel in a region much frequented by tourists.The City featured in The New York Times‘ 52 Best Places of 2020.

Jaisalmer, the ‘Golden City’ as it is fondly called, is one of those olden cities in Rajasthan that has been attracting globetrotters for a long time now. The destination still looks like a city stuck in time but in a good way ! Renowned for its old-world charm, warm and welcoming people, golden-hued houses , havelis and, of course, the Golden Fort or Sonar Quila,

If you haven’t yet wandered in the narrow lanes of these old and colourful Rajasthani cities, then you are absolutely missing out on a great experience !  Month of December is the right time to be in the twin cities of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer.

To get the best out of your travel to the colourful land of Rajasthan , I suggest to follow this 9-day itinerary :

First day : Depart from New Delhi for Udaipur by  Air India or Vistara departing from  IGIT3    . Suggest to reserve accommodation in Aranyawas Hotel [ 5 kms from Ranakpur temples]  . Phones :  96626 43366 . Engage a cab at the Udaipur Airport to get to Ranakpur . 2 hours’ drive [ distance : approx 100 kms ] , approx. fare Rs 2000 .

RANAKPUR

ARANYAWAS HOTEL

In a valley, and surrounded by abundant fruit orchards, this collection of relaxed holiday cottages is 7 km from the Sun Temple and 20 km from the Aravalli mountain range.

Featuring tiled floors and wood furnishings, the relaxed, country-style cottages are decorated with subtle artwork and come with sitting areas, walk-in closets, en suite bathrooms and private balconies.

Second Day : After breakfast , visit Ranakpur temple, Sun Temple and Shri Amba Mata Temple , nearby .

The ancient Ranakpur Sun Temple

Sun Temple of Ranakpur is also known as the Surya Narayan Temple. This 13th-century Temple was re-built in the 15th century after destruction. Sun temple is built with white limestone with a delicate ornamental work.

After spending approx. 3 hours at various temples , have lunch in the Canteen inside the Ranakpur temple or at La Pizzeria which serves pizzas baked in wood fired ovens .

Proceed to Jodhpur thereafter . 160 kms , 3 hours’ drive. Cab fare Rs 3,500 approx.  

JODHPUR

Second Day in Jodhpur : Haveli Inn Pal , Opposite Lake Gulab Sagar , Nr Clock Tower. Look for a deluxe room facing the Lake . Phone Nos : 0291- 2612519 , 98280 77510 / 94141 45479 .

HAVELI INN PAL

Till 2000 A.D this had only been a private residence of the Pal family and after many years of sympathetic renovations and alterations, doors have now been opened for the travellers to come and stay here and feel the bygone era.

Haveli Inn Pal’s restaurant on the terrace provides mesmerising views of the massive Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhawan Palace and surrounding Blue City .

TOORJI KA JHALRA

Constructed in 1740, Toorji Ka Jhalra, commonly called Stepwell of Jodhpur, is an intricate design of Stepwell, one of the few remaining structures depicting the traditional water management systems of Jodhpur. This architectural wonder was built by the queen-consort of Maharaja Abhaya Singh, a sign of the age-old tradition of the region where royal women were in charge of overseeing the public water works. The design and structure help onlookers comprehend the lifestyle of the earlier generations who had used it in its prime, with the site serving as the local watering hole for its time.

The Step Well is barely 350 metres walk from the Clock Tower

This 250-year-old structure was made using the famous rose-red sandstone found in Jodhpur. More than 200 feet in depth, it was once adorned with intricate carvings of dancing elephants, medieval lions, cow waterspouts, and niches that showed various deities. There were two levels of access and a separate tank which were meant to receive water from the wheel system powered by the bullocks. Its impressive design attracts many tourists .

CHAMUNDA DEVI TEMPLE

The famous Chamunda Devi Temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga and is located at the end of the Mehrangarh Fort. Rao Jodha got the main idol of Chamunda Mataji for the temple from Mandore in 1460. Every year, during Dusshera, millions of devotees gather at the Fort to get a glimpse of the temple.

The temple is located within walking distance from Clock Tower . 5.30 AM is the best time to be there for the morning Aarti .

Third Day :

MEHRANGARH FORT

Mehrangarh is one of the largest forts in India. Built around 1459 by Rao Jodha, the Fort is situated 125 metres above the City and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Inside its boundaries, there are several Palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards. A winding road leads to and from the City below. The imprints of the impact of cannonballs fired by attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second Gate. The main Palaces are Moti Mahal, Phool Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Zenana Deodi, Takht Vilas and Jhanki Mahal. Moti Mahal was the hall of private audience. Its ceiling is decorated with gold leaves and mirrors. Seashells were crushed and blended with plaster to give a polished look to the ceiling. The Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) remains intact to this date, with its gold filigree ceiling and stained glass windows. Sileh Khana has a collection of the varied weapons including gem-studded shields and armours for war elephants.

To the left of the Fort is the chhatri of Kirat Singh Soda, a soldier who fell on the spot defending Mehrangarh. It is one of the major attractions frequented by tourists from all over the globe. Rudyard Kipling aptly said that the fort is “a Palace that might have been built by Titans and coloured by the morning Sun”.

There are seven Gates, which include Jayapol (meaning ‘victory gate’), built by Maharaja Man Singh to commemorate his victories over Jaipur and Bikaner armies. There is also a Fattehpol (also meaning ‘victory gate’ ), which commemorates Maharaja Ajit Singh’s victory over Mughals.

The Fort is built on Bhakur-cheeria which means the ‘Mountain of Birds’. The fort derives its name from Mehr-Garh, where “Mehr” means Sun and “Garh” is Fort [ the Rathore dynasty was a believer in the Sun God ]

An admission fee of Rs 60 is charged from all domestic visitors . 2 hours should be set aside for the visit to the Fort . Services of licensed guides are available at the entrance to the Fort .

JASWANT THADA

A beautiful memorial in marble often described as the “Taj Mahal of Marwar”, Jaswant Thada was built in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singhjill of Jodhpur (1873-1895) by his son Maharaja Sardar Singhji (1895-1911) completed in 1906 A.D. The main hall has been built like a temple where puja (ritual) is also performed. The worship of ancestors is common to the Rajput clans.

This is a monument that no tourist should miss visiting while in Jodhpur

There is an entrance fee of Rs 30 for domestic visitors . Open from 9 AM until 6 P.M.

RAO JODHA DESERT PARK

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park was created in 2006 out of a large, rocky wasteland beside the Mehrangarh Fort. The park was built to restore the natural ecology of this neglected terrain and has become a prime tourist attraction of the city today. The rocky ravines are densely populated with the indigenous flora of the Thar desert, there are over 200 species of plants at this ecopark. The region was established as the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park in 2006 but it was only in 2011 that the public could visit and explore it. It is one of the few places where the real terrain and vegetation of Rajasthan can be witnessed in its natural environment.

The attraction has been one of the famous places for nature lovers and Geologists. Visitors can see the rock formations, the crystal formations, the natural canals, a wide variety of other rocks, plant and animal species which are specific to this region. The Park, partly, was also established for the architectural restoration of the historical monuments in the region.The Park is divided into sections that visitors can explore to learn everything about the Desert Rock Park in Jodhpur.

Located at the foot of  the Fort . the admission fee is Rs 100 per visitor . Senior citizens will be well advised to cover 400-500 metres on foot to view the scenery as there are no battery operated carts to ferry visitors across the huge Park.

MANDORE GARDENS

Mandore Garden is one of the best tourist spots in Jodhpur. The garden with royal cenotaphs attracts tourists for experiencing the architectural style and attractions of the Garden.

Fourth Day

UMAID BHAWAN PALACE/MUSEUM

Built between 1928 and 1943, the sprawling grandeur of Umaid Bhawan Palace can be seen for miles around. It is the world’s largest private residence. Part of the Palace is a luxury hotel, part of it royal quarters, and some of it is dedicated to the Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum.

The Museum charts the history and heritage of Umaid Bhawan. It tells the story of how Maharaja Umaid Singh appointed a well-known Edwardian architect to design the palace in an art-deco style. It also displays an archive of pictures taken of the Palace over the years, as well as a unique antique clock collection.

Umaid Bhawan Palace – a feast for the eyes

The Museum also houses a whole range of historical artifacts that belonged to the royal family, including everything from trophies to weaponry, along with an impressive vintage car collection. There is a small gift shop located just outside for those looking to take souvenirs home. An admission fee of Rs 30 is charged per visitor .

MAHAMANDIR TEMPLE

Located at a distance of 3 km from Mehrangarh Fort and 4 km from Jodhpur Junction, Mahamandir Temple is a Hindu temple situated on Mandore road in the city of Jodhpur . Mahamandir Temple was built in 1812 CE and is well known for its marvellous piece of architecture that stands on 84 beautifully carved pillars. These pillars display intricate stone carvings that depict yoga postures.

The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva

Well-designed traditional motifs are studded on the pillars and walls of this temple .

MACHIA BIOLOGICAL PARK

This Park  was conceptualized in the year 1982-83. The Park is basically the satellite zoo of old heritage Zoo of Jodhpur. Machia Biological Park has an area of 41 ha out of 604 ha of Machia Forest Block.

The Park is noted for its rare and distinct types of animals which include wild cats, mongoose, desert fox, deer, monitor fox, monkeys and so forth. An exclusive bird point inside the Park makes a perfect location for avid birdwatchers, from which a variety of exotic birds can be spotted.

The Park is located on Kailana Rd, near Kaylana Lake, Kamla Nehru Nagar, 8.5 kms away from the City . Admission tickets: Rs 30 per person .

SHOPPING IN JODHPUR 

Jodhpur is a shoppers’ paradise . Look out for Rajasthani flashy fabrics, chic mojaris, authentic antiques, handicrafts , traditional jewellery, spices, gift items etc which are available at these colourful markets in the City , the shopping experience quite different from what we usually experience at the big shopping malls and stores selling branded goods in the major metro cities .

Clock Tower Market –  Finest Variety Of Spices : must buy Mathania’s red chilli .

Nai Sarak – For Famous Bandhej Fabric

Sojati Gate Market – Rajasthani Handicrafts, Souvenirs and More

Mochi Bazaar – One Stop destination For Jodhpuri Jutis

Umaid Bhawan Palace Market – For Classic Antiques

Kapraa Bazaar – Best For Traditional Fabrics

Sarafa Bazaar – Delicate Handicrafts Like Fabrics and Antiques

Tripolia Bazar – A Shopper’s Hub

Consider moving around in a tonga or an auto in narrow lanes.

Famous eating joints:

Shahi Samosa : 95/B Clock Tower Road, Nai Sarak Rawaton Ka Bass, Kandoi Bazaar . Best known for Samosas and Mirchi Vadas .  M: 99290 63489 .

Arora Chat Bhandar : Nai Sarak . Near Shahi Samosa . For the best mouth licking chat in town . M:  90010 20010

Gulab Halwawala : Shop No 258, 3rd B Road , Sardarpura . For the most delicious halwas . M: 94141 20550

Chaturbhuj Rameshchandra : Sarafa Bazar , Inside Jalori Gate , Pungalpada, Vyapariyon ka Mohalla. It is a famous 100 years’ old shop for flavoured gulab jamuns and kalakand . M : 94141 31765 .  

Chaudhary Namkeens : 2’nd B Road, Sardarpura . [ best mirchi vadas, imarti and magar kachori cooked in desi ghee ] . Ph: 029 1243888  / M:  94149 12798  .

Shivam Namkeens : Main Jalori Gate , near Jai Hind College , Dhoraji [ speciality : Onion Kachoris , Mirchi Vadas , Gajar Halwa ] . M: 87661 80363 .

JAISALMER

Fifth  day :  Bidding adieu to the Blue City, proceed to Jaisalmer post breakfast  @ 9.30 AM – 5.5 hours’ travel . Reserve accommodation in Helsinki House/Boutique Helsinki @ Bera Road, Opposite Pushkarna Bera . M: 97726 36457. [ Maru Khan – Owner/Manager : 7610087886 ] . Hotel Helsinki House is a family run business that has charmed tourists from all over the globe . Its success has allowed the owners to create a new and exciting space- Boutique Helsinki which has kept the traditional design of Jaisalmer’s hand-carved sandstone facades with beautiful modern interiors featuring local Indian marble. The rooms are beautifully designed to provide a luxurious stay that captures the magic of India.

Evening free for moving around to get a feel of the Golden City as Jaisalmer is called .

Sixth  Day :

GOLDEN FORT

The Jaisalmer Fort also goes by the name Sonar Quila (Golden Fort) as it rises from the desert itself and seems to become one with the golden hues of the sand. The setting sun adds its own magic and shrouds the fort with mystique. The fort is constructed in the classic style of the royals by local craftsmen.

More than 800 years old , the Golden Fort has been declared as a world heritage site

Consider visiting local eateries which serve delicious ethnic dishes at  Dusshera Chowk . The Golden Fort is among very few ‘living forts’ in the world, where nearly one fourth of Jaisalmer’s population still resides.  

JAIN TEMPLES OF JAISALMER

While moving about inside the Fort , look out for the historic Jain temples dedicated to famous Jain hermits known as ‘Tirthankars’ (wise teachers who taught people how to attain nirvana). Like all other structures in Jaisalmer, the temples are carved out of yellow sandstone. They have been built in the famed Dilwara style which is known for its beautiful architecture.

There are seven Jain temples in total which are built during 12th and 15th centuries AD. These Jain temples are dedicated to different Jain tirthankars. Among these temples, the biggest one is the Parsvanath Temple and is most attractive; others being Chandraprabhu temple, Rishabdev temple, Shitalnath Temple, Kunthanath Temple, and Shantinath Temple.

JAISALMER GOVERNMENT MUSEUM

Established by the Department of Archaeology and Museums, it is a prime attraction for tourists visiting Jaisalmer. The most striking display is the trophy of Rajasthan‘s State bird Godawan (the great Indian bustard).

Traditional household items, rock-cut crockery, jewellery and statues from the 7th and 9th century AD displayed here are remnants of the city’s rich cultural heritage. Some of the fossils on exhibit here are stated to be nearly 150 million years old ! Entry fee : Rs 5 per visitor .

PATWON KI HAVELI

Among all the things that make Jaisalmer so popular, “Patwon Ki Haveli,” also known as the Mansion of Brocade Merchants, tops the list. Patwon Ki Haveli is a cluster of five large havelis in Jaisalmer. Built in 1805 by Guman Chand Patwa, it took the workers almost 55 years to complete the first haveli. With an interesting history, Patwon Ki Haveli is actually the first and the largest haveli to be constructed in Jaisalmer. Accordin g to histor , Patwa was an extremely wealthy man and a well-known trader of his time. Due to his riches, he could afford to build a luxurious palace and thus ordered the construction of separate stories – one for each of his five sons.

The exquisite Patwon Ki Haveli which actually is a cluster of 5 Havelis

Once home to the Patwa family, today the cluster of havelis is occupied by the Rajasthan government’s art and craft department. Its beautiful architecture, creative mirror work, intricate carvings, lovely paintings, and its rich goldish yellow color is what makes this cluster of havelis a favorite among tourists and locals alike. Entrance fee: Rs 30 per visitor .

GADISAR LAKE

Gadisar Lake was constructed in the 14th century by Maharawal Gadsi Singh to meet the water needs of his arid lands. Considering its importance, many small temples and shrines were constructed around it, transforming it into a pilgrimage centre and a major tourist attraction.

Gadisar Lake flanked by temples and shrines

Travellers can spend  sometime boating in the Lake for 30-45 minutes . Also check out for Temple of Lord Shiva on its banks , Tilon ka Pol [ beautiful archway] and Desert Cultural Centre and Museum .

BADA BAGH

About 6 kilometres to the north of Jaisalmer,  lies Bada Bagh, also called Barabagh (literally Big Garden). This Garden complex houses chhatris or royal cenotaphs of the Maharajas of Jaisalmer State, including that of Jai Singh II. The location of the Garden is such that it offers wonderful sunset vistas to tourists.

The royal cenotaphs at Bada Bagh that are worth a visit, especially during sunset

Seventh  Day :

DESERT NATIONAL PARK

The Desert National Park displays the best of the Thar desert’s ecosystem and its varied wild life. The Park is formed of undulating sand dunes, jagged rocks and dense salt lake bottoms . Various species of animals such as black buck, chinkara and desert fox inhabit the Park.

The highly endangered Great Indian Bustard, one of the world’s heaviest flying birds, can also be seen here. In winter, the park hosts an incredible variety of migratory raptors such Himalayan and Eurasian Griffon Vultures, Eastern Imperial Eagle, and the Saker Falcon.

SALIM SINGH KI HAVELI

This Haveli was built in the first half of the 18th century and a part of it is still occupied by descendants of the original residents. The high arched roof is supported by carved brackets designed in the shape of peacocks. Legend has it that there were two additional wooden storeys that made it match the Maharaja’s Palace in height, but he ordered for the upper level to be demolished.

As I understand , this exquisite Haveli is not in a very good condition now !

BAZAARS OF JAISALMER

Unlike shopping malls , high end boutiques and designer labels that we find in big metro cities , shopping in Jaisalmer offers a completely different experience to all travellers alike . The famous street markets in Jaisalmer enable the shopaholics to relish the essence of traditional Rajasthani culture for which travellers from across the world flock to this colourful paradise in earth .

Sadar Bazar – Carpets and paintings

Bhatia Bazar – Silk fabrics

Sonaron Ka Baas – Silver jewellery

Pansari Bazar – Home decor items, clothes

Manak Chowk – Leather items

Seema Gram – Scarves and handicrafts

THE FAMED SAND DUNES

Imagine yourself amidst the desert, the yellow sandstone buildings surrounded by the glorious dunes, and further enhanced by the golden rays of the sun. This is what a trip to Sam Sand Dunes will feel like. Stretched across the Thar desert, sand dunes in Sam must necessarily be a prominent part of Jaisalmer travel itinerary . 

One of the most idyllic places to wind down and get in touch with nature, one can explore plant and animal life here too. Take a camel ride and go on an enjoyable trip to tour the dunes.

Many desert campsites organise cultural programs for visitors to witness the Rajasthani culture. There, you can witness musical nights, folk dances, puppet shows, and a chance to relish the aromatic Rajasthani cuisine.

Visitors can indulge in star gazing, stay at one of the beautiful desert camps, explore the vivid desert life and watch the sun go down. I propose a same day trip in the evening  @ 4.00 PM  to one of the Desert camps , 40 kms away , for an experience of lifetime .

Eighth Day : Jaisalmer War Memorial and Museum / Longewala War Memorial 

JAISALMER WAR MUSEUM

The Indian Army has commemorated the sacrifices of their soldiers in a beautiful display at this War museum, situated at the Jaisalmer military base. This Exhibit is primarily to pay respects to all the brave soldiers who took part and lost their lives in the 1965 India-Pakistan war and the 1971 Longewala battle. A visit to this Museum lets you see a number of captured tanks and other memorabilia from the battle, instilling a sense of immense pride in your country and its soldiers. The Museum  features an audio-visual room where they screen movies about the  Battle.

The Museum also has a war memorial replete with many war trophies and vintage equipment, along with tanks, guns, and military vehicles, murals of soldiers who lost their lives in the war, and weapons which were used during the same. The Air Force has given a Hunter aircraft, which was used during the Battle of Longewala in the 1971 Indo-Pak War, as a present to the Museum. Located on Jaisalmer-Jodhpur Highway, 11 kms from Jaisalmer , it is truly one of the places that you cannot afford to miss. An admission fee of Rs 30 per visitor applies .

LONGEWALA WAR MEMORIAL                                                   

One of the first major engagements in the Western sector during the Indo- Pakistani War of 1971, the Battle of Longewala is an inspiring tale of courage in the face of unconquerable odds. A shining example of the courage, bravery, and valor of the Indian soldiers, the Battle of Longewala created history on 4 December, 1971, when about a hundred Indian defenders halted the advancing troops of about 2000 Pakistani soldiers and 60 tanks.

The Memorial showcases the comprehensive win for India in the battle against Pakistan in 1965 .

To celebrate the grit and steely resolve of the Indian soldiers who stalled Pakistani forces from their aim of cutting deep into the Indian Territory, the Desert Corps at Longewala constructed the Longewala Was Memorial. An inspiring destination, this War memorial commemorates the valor and the supreme sacrifice of our brave soldiers, instilling in you a sense of pride when you visit this site.

Recommended eateries in Jaisalmer :

1.  Desert Boy’s Dhani: This restaurant is large and spacious and offers authentic Rajasthani cuisine. You will be touched by their hospitality and can taste the real taste of Rajasthan. They won’t fail to make you part of Indian traditions as they also have enclosed sitting area which has comfortable mattresses laid down on the floor with the low rise tables to give you conventional Indian dining feel.

Desert Boys Dhani

2. The Lal Garh – Encapsulating the tantalizing view of the glorious Jaisalmer city, the Lal Garh is a dinner with a view. It has an open-air seating arrangement that provides an alluring atmosphere, especially after sunset. The restaurant specializes in Italian, Indian and Seafood dishes. The Lal Garh opens late at around 12:30 PM and runs until late night till around 3:30 PM. Amazing hospitality and delicious food have also helped Lal Garh win a number of awards and hearts.

Lal Garh restaurant is located on the terrace of this breathtaking property

3. 1 Gate Restaurant : Sitting atop the boutique hotel of the same name, this split-level, open-air terrace has dramatic fort views and a mouthwatering menu of authentic vegetarian Italian and Indian dishes. Also on offer are excellent wood-fired pizzas, delicious desserts and good strong Italian coffee. Wine, beer and cocktails are available.

The I Gate Hotel and Restaurant on top of it whose architecture leaves you awe struck

4. D’ Desi Aroma: Desi Aroma meaning taste in India , blends Rajasthani and Chinese cuisine to create a casual dining experiences with higher level of creativity. Savour  their local favourites along with other  cuisines such as South Indian, Chinese and Mexican foods in a peaceful and natural environment with a garden and pool in the vicinity . Located on Ramgarh Road, Opp: Shiv Madi Mandir , it is one of the nicer restaurants  in Jaisalmer .

D’ Desi Aroma offers a wide ranging mix of North and South Indian and Continental fare apart from traditional Rajasthani dishes

5 . Restaurant Romany : Restaurant Romany offers food so very  unique and delicious that it is a treat to the  tastebuds. Romany is one of the top rated restaurants  on Tripadvisor. It  is located in Dhibba Para area with great ambience and stunning views of Jaisalmer Fort and the City .

Romany Restaurant enhances your dining pleasure with great views of the Fort and the City

Ninth Day : 8 AM: Jaisalmer –Jodhpur Airport  to board afternoon return flight by Air India or Vistara .

For any assistance ,  please contact Veera Jalam for prompt attention on info@ trottersjaisalmer.net  : Phone : +91 87693 50404         

     

Trotters Agency Office in Jaisalmer at Shop No. 7, Gopa Chowk, Fort Road

Travellers will do well to budget a sum of approx . Rs 110,000 for the 8 nights/ 9 days’ trip, airfares included . There are excellent medical facilities in Jodhpur [ Medipulse Hospital / Kamla Nagar Hospital ,for instance ] which might be difficult to find in the much smaller city that Jaisalmer is . I may, however, recommend that travellers stay 2 days in the beautiful lake City of Udaipur before proceeding to Ranakpur , reducing their stay in Jaisalmer by 1 day .

Thank you for reading . Hope to see you there – this winter . As the locals say in Rajasthan “Padharo mhare desh mein” – welcome to my State .

Jaisalmer – an unique part of India Incredible:

If you are intending to travel to Jaisalmer this winter and require stay, transport and camel safari related assistance – look no further .

TROTTERS

Trotters is  a small local travel agency in Jaisalmer which was founded by late Del Boy in 1990. His nephew Veera Jalam joined him in the business  13  years ago at an early age .

Having their roots in the travel industry for more than 30 years, Trotters is proudly run and managed by the villagers from the desert who believe in offering the highest standards of hospitality.

Being villagers from  Thar Desert, Trotters know the ins and outs of the desert and this helps them in providing a wonderful, raw travel experience. What differentiates them from the others is that they love their camels and value their guests. their team of cameleers, local guides, camp staff and jeep drivers work day in and  day out to provide  the best experience possible.

Over the years,  Trotters have evolved and partnered with various reliable, like-minded travel companions who aim at sharing the same travel experience with others. This has enabled them to offer a completely unique travel experience ranging from a simple sightseeing tour to complex camel safaris, from a simple stay in a hotel to an exotic stay in a luxurious desert camp, from arranging a simple pre-wedding shoot in the dunes to complex destination weddings, they do it all. Not only that, they have a team of friendly, well-experienced professional guides and taxi drivers to enhance visitors’ travel experience in the best way possible.

In the City , the traditional phrase ‘Padharo Mhare Desh Mein ’ is followed , which means that you are welcome to our country/village. This not only stands as a welcome message but also reveals the hospitality of the people of  Rajasthan.

Welcome to the silence of the vast Thar desert :

While on a camel safari, travellers are taken to remote parts of the desert on an off-the-beaten-track . Fresh and delicious food, bottled water, warm bedding, professional English-speaking guides and a personal camel is guaranteed . Trotters take the utmost care of their camels to ensure that they are both healthy and happy. They respect the environment and  endeavor to minimize the impact on the desert landscape, ensuring  that all the waste is brought back to Jaisalmer after every trip, where plastic and glass is recycled.

Veera can be reached at info @trottersjaisalmer.net . Phone : +91 982 892 9974 . As far as we are concerned , we are confident that we will be taken very good care of by Veera and his team during our intended travel to Golden City – as Jaisalmer is known as – towards the end of this year .

All pictures courtesy : http://www.trottersjaisalmer. net .

Jaisalmer [ Rajasthan] -the land of forts , havelis , lakes and camels . The great Thar desert . And then there is Bouquet Helsinki .

Khamma Ghani – a traditional greeting in Rajasthan .

Opulence , thy name is Boutique Helsinki ( Jaisalmer – Rajasthan ) . 5* treatment @ 3* prices . This property, located in a hotel precinct away from the hustle and bustle of the town but only a short walk to Jaisalmer Fort and the marketplace, is the sister hotel to Hotel Helsinki House. The reference to “Helsinki” is a tribute to the city that gave Ali Khan (the owner) the opportunity to turn his childhood dream into a reality. Ali Khan was born in a small village town 30km outside of Jaisalmer. He arrived in Jaisalmer at the age of 7, to work for an Uncle.

This is a true rag to riches story of a desert boy who dreamed of one day building a hotel and through many years of hard work, and a little bit of luck , his vision became a reality.Hotel Helsinki House is a family run business that has charmed tourists from all over the globe and its success has allowed the owners to create a new and exciting space- Boutique Helsinki which has kept the traditional design of Jaisalmer’s hand-carved sandstone facades with beautiful modern interiors featuring local Indian marble.

The rooms are beautifully designed to provide a luxurious stay that captures the magic of India. Property Managers Obai and Maru leave no stones unturned to ensure that the guests are fully satisfied and return home with very happy memories of their stay in it .

We will ourselves stay at this exquisite property in the last week of December . Won’t you join us to soak in the fun and the adventures , and spend time at the Sonar Killa to experience the by gone era , where time has stood still since last several centuries .Jaisalmer – a land like no other place on earth . Gujarat mein bahut samay guzar liya , ab “padhara mharo desh mein “ . Jaisalmer waits for you .

And then there are desert camps in  Sam’s dunes – 40 kms from Jaisalmer . In Thar desert- one of the largest in the world . Here you can spend a delightful evening witnessing traditional folk dances by dancers dressed in colourful costumes and watch the sun  go down  .  Experience the joy of going on a camel safari while you are there and relish ethnic Rajasthani food.  If you wish, you can  spend a night here in one of the several  luxuriously furnished swiss tents provided with complete amenities .  A  memorable experience is guaranteed .

Our dream travel to God’s own country -the State of Kerala , South India

Our travel to the State of Kerala , South India, took several months of planning . When to go, where to go, where to stay , what places to see , what to do , where to shop and dine at, et all .

Finally , the day arrived . We departed from IGI Terminal 3, New Delhi for Kochi on 30 November by Indigo Airlines arriving at Kochi International Airport @ 18.30 hrs. Picked up by cabbie Nizam provided by KOCHI TAXI 24X7 [ Phones :  4842600888 /  WApp: 9497600888 ] driving a new model  Swift Dzire car .

Kochi Day 1

It is a sheer delight walking along the corridor at the Airport                                                      looking at walls decorated with ornate motifs and paintings

Few words about Kochi International Airport will be in order .

It is the first airport in India developed under a public-private partnership (PPP) model and was funded by nearly 10,000 non-resident Indians from 30 countries.  It is the fourth busiest airport in India in terms of international traffic and eighth busiest overall. The Airport is a primary base for Air India Express operations which is also headquartered in the city.

On 18 August 2015, Cochin International Airport became the world’s first fully solar powered airport with the inauguration of a dedicated solar plant .  On 26 July 2018, the airport was selected for the coveted Champion of the Earth award, the highest environmental honour instituted by the United Nations .

Proceeded  to Treebo Zion Trip Plaza , 2 kms from the Airport . Located at Church Junction , Airport – Kariyadu Road, Akapparambu, Nedumbassery , Vappalaserry , Kochi 683572 , this is a small bed and breakfast hotel just about good for a short overnight stay.

Day 2 – 1 December .

Checked out  from the hotel around 8.30 AM after a light  breakfast served in the room  .

Kochi Day 2.1

A bright start to Day 2 

To Athirapally Falls , a 75 minutes drive along plantations on either sides . This is a wondrous site – also referred to as Niagara Falls of India –  where blockbuster Bollywood movie Bahubali and Ravan were shot . [ Admission fee : Rs 40 per person + Rs 20 charge for vehicle ]  . A walk on a 1 km long uneven cobbled path leads to the Falls .  At  the end of the path and after going down , visitors can have a side view of the falls . However, fuller view of the Falls can be had from a location on the main road leading to the Falls .

Athirapally Falls – Walking back uphill on an uneven cobbled path can be a difficult experience for senior citizens or those suffering from knee joints pain . Wooden ramp broken at several points makes walking without support even more difficult !

Thereafter , we proceeded to Vazachal falls, 5 kms further away  – which turned out be an amazing  experience with walk limited to just about 200 metres , enjoying full view of the falls from a very close proximity  [ Admission fee : Rs 40 per person + Rs 20 charge for vehicle ]

Departed  for Kochi @ 12.30 p.m. Serene Kochi has been drawing traders, explorers and travellers to its shores for over 600 years. Nowhere else in India would you find such an intriguing mix: giant Chinese fishing nets, a 450-year-old synagogue, ancient mosques, Portuguese- and Dutch-era houses and the crumbling remains of the British Raj. The result is an unlikely blend of medieval Portugal and Holland and an English village grafted onto the tropical Malabar Coast. It’s a delightful place to explore, laze in arty cafes and relax at some of India’s finest homestays and heritage hotels. It is also an important centre for Keralan arts -traditional and contemporary. [ Text courtesy: http://www.lonelyplanet.com ] .

Checked  in at Treebo Trend The Qasr, Colombo Junction, Market Road, Near Masjid Noor, Kochi 682 011 .

Post light meals served in the nicely furnished room  , we went  for a quick half-day sightseeing tour of Fort Kochi . St. Francis Church was our first point of call . Originally built in 1503, it is one of the oldest European churches in the coutry  and has a great historical significance as a mute witness to the European colonial struggle in the  subcontinent .

                    A war memorial dedicated to Indian soldiers who died during WW1 is located                        in front of St Francis Church 

The Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this Church, but after 14 years his remains were removed to Lisbon .

It was quite a sight looking at Chinese fishing nets where huge nets are dropped from boats moored on the banks to catch the fishes. The Chinese Fishing Nets are fixed land installations, used for fishing in a unique method.

Chinese fishing nets – an innovative mechanism to catch fishes

These nets are fixed on bamboo and teak poles holding it horizontally by huge mechanisms so as to pull them down into the sea. These nets are weighed by large stones tied to ropes. Operated by a team of six fishermen, the height of the Chinese fishing nets is around 10 meters, each sprawling to 20 meters over the water body.

There are charming cafes and shops selling textiles, antiques, handicrafts , spices and natural oils  on Synagogue Lane – Jew Town Road . We bought  spices of different varieties at Highlands Spices shop in Jew Town . We could not visit the famed Paradesi Syngogue at the end of Synagogue Lane , however,  as it was closed by the time we got there around 5.15 P.M.

While driving along ,  we noticed one Shop selling traditional Silk sarees made by weavers in Kerala and bought a few at down to earth prices .

Historic Mattancherry was built by the Portuguese in traditional Kerala style . Former colonial buildings mix with religious ones including mosques, churches, Hindu shrines and an ornate Jain temple.

Dined at Indian Coffee House quite  close to the Hotel  where we relished crisp masala dosas  and hot filter coffee at just Rs 86  before returning to the Hotel for overnight stay.

Day 3- 2 December 2019 :

After a good sleep on a comfortable bed , we checked out post breakfast @ 9.00 AM for Alappuzha , 65 kms away,  almost  1.45 hours drive .

Alappuzha (or Alleppey) is a city best known for houseboat cruises along the rustic Kerala backwaters, a network of tranquil canals and lagoons. Alappuzha Beach is the site of the 19th-century Alappuzha Lighthouse. Punnamada Lake’s snake boat races are a well-known annual event.

Arrived at  Johnney’s Houseboat , near Punnamada Finishing Point [ Contact: Joseph Johnney : Phone: 80753 50114]  for a 4-hour cruise in backwaters on board deluxe houseboat named “Whispering Maid” . The traditional houseboats , called ” kettuvallams”, have wood harvested from local jackfruit tree plantations, hand – stitched by local craftsmen with coconut fibre rope. The ride covered the backwaters with dozens of  Ayurveda clinics  [ reportedly unlicensed ! ] and beautiful resorts  lined up on either sides .

 

A ride in the backwaters in Alapuzzha  aboard a deluxe Houseboat is a life time experience.

Sumptuous vegetarian meal was  served on board as per our choice . Due to hot weather and humidity , however , we cut the ride short by an hour and de-boarded around 3 P.M.

Full body massage at Life Care Ayurveda Panchkarma and Spa near Trium Resorts, Punnamada Finishing Point [  Akhil : 9048414173  ] from  5.15 PM to 6.45 PM , was a great rejuvenating experience for both of us . [ Paid Rs 3500 in all ]  .

Life Care 1.jpg

While in Alapuzzha ,must go in for a treatment in one of these Ayurveda Clinics esp if you are suffering from joints pains or for rejuvenation even otherwise .

Transferred to a small 3-room guest house [ Maya Residency in Punnamada ]  2 kms away , for overnight stay where we were quite well looked after by its owner, a delightful lady called Maya Madhu [Phone : 9847081198].

Accommodation in this homestay is quite comfortable at an affordable price

Day 4 – 3 December 2019

Post check out from the guest house  and proceeded to Mannalarasala Sree Nagaraj Temple , P.O. Haripad  [ Phone : 0479 2160300 ] – 33 kms away , about 55 minutes’ drive . Mannasarala Sree Nagaraj Temple is a very ancient and internationally known centre of pilgrimage for devotees of serpent gods . This famous Nagaraj temple is nestled in a forest glade , like most serpent temples .The temple is full of statues of serpents set up in different  places and is very calm and peaceful . Bought special turmeric paste  at the temple which is supposed to have curative powers .

                          At the Serpents” temple located in a forest area

Proceeded  to Lakesong Resort on Ammankari Road , Kumarakom , 35 kms away , 55 minutes drive [Phone : 0484 2774999/9446001498 ] . Checked in at the 5-star resort  where we were welcomed by 2 pretty saree clad girls with garlands and application of  haldi/kumkum  tilak on the forehead . Walked around the amazing complex with awesome landscaping  and coconut trees all around and took a small canoe ride on a small canal within the hotel complex itself   .

                                  Lakesong Resort – it simply takes your breath away . 

Thereafter ,  spent some time at the Lakesong Ayurkshethra  housed in an elaborate traditional model structure with decorative handcrafted wooden carvings,  to understand various kinds of Ayurvedic treatment that the Clinic offers . We enjoyed our meals at a restaurant overlooking the Lake , which comprised of delicious vegetable pulao and mixed raita . After a 2 hours siesta , we went on  a complimentary boat cruise offered by the property from 5-6 P.M. and watched the sunset while we were returning .

The restaurant at the Lakesong Restaurant serves delicious regional and continental cuisine . Right : Picture taken during the boat ride in the evening 

The backwaters in Kumarakom is said to be rich in marine life especially pearl spotted fish, tiger prawns, crabs and many more. There is also a bird sanctuary in close proximity that we could not visit due to long walk involved !

Day 5  – 4 December 2019

Checked out post breakfast [ the most delicious and varied during our trip ]   and proceeded to Deshadan Cliff and Beach Resort , Kurakkanni Cliff, Varkala [ Phone : 48423 21518] : 130 kms, 3.5 hours’ drive .

Deshadan – Verkala Cliff  beach is 200 metres away walking along a very narrow lane 

Not so well known, Varkala is a perfect place for a holiday getaway to enjoy golden beaches and is also rich with history. Papanasam Beach, also known as Varkala Beach, is one of the best beaches in Kerala because of the view it offers from the cliff top. Like its name suggests, its water has medicinal properties and is believed to wash off one’s impurities and sins. There are some Tibetan shops in Verkala Cliff  road from where we bought a few souvenirs, ending our visit  with light snacks and coffee atop a restaurant overlooking the  sea .

           View of the Verkala beach . Centre : Shops lined up along the road on the Cliff  

Later at the time of evening Arti , visited Janardhanaswamy Temple, also known as Varkala Temple , a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, built 20 centuries ago. A significant feature of the temple with a beautiful entrance gate,  is a huge old bell which is considered an oblation to the temple.

K11

The awesome entrance to Janardhanaswamy Temple

Day 6 – 5 December  2019

Checked out post breakfast and proceeded to Poovar Islands,  75 kms away , close to 2.15 hours’ drive . It was an amazing experience to go for a boat ride [ cost: Rs 2000 for a one hour ride ] amidst dense mangroves which opened out suddenly to a large backwaters . Unspoiled and unexplored, enveloped by the most serene backwaters and opening out to the Arabian Sea and a golden sand beach, Poovar Islands is truly a window into paradise and is unique in India for the amazing Villas and restaurants which are afloat on the backwaters .

                      Views from the boat during the ride in Poovar Islands take you by surprise 

Located about 30 kms from Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, the island is accessible only by a 10-minute boat ride .

Checked  in at Abad Harmonia Ayurveda Beach Resort , Chowara P.O. Vizhinjam , Kovalam . [Phone : 48441 44000] ,  30 kms away .  This is a very nice resort with superior rooms /cottages and dense plantations all around with a nice swimming pool right in the centre facing the lobby and cottages. The resort has an Ayurveda Center which is managed by a qualified doctor and experienced masseurs and sells herbal medicines and natural oils for wellness.

                     Abad Harmonia – It is a delight to spend some quality  time in  natural                                       surroundings

Took some pictures of elegant structures close to the Adimalathura beach [  within 500 metres walking distance ] which is not so clean , inhabited by fishermen .

                      Structures like these close to the Beach are a delight to look at

Post our meals at the restaurant  and  rest , spent time at Kovalam Beach, 20 minutes’ drive from the Hotel . Unlike other beaches in Kerala, Kovalam beach is not that much big. But it is one of the most favourite beaches in the State among tourists which is largely due to clean water, interesting beach activities including surfing , delicious regional cuisine and affordable stays , with a lighthouse at one side , and several shops selling all kinds of wares on the other .

                                          The very vibrant Kovalam beach

Day 7 – 6 December 2019

Post a delicious buffet breakfast, we moved over to Kanyakumari in neighbouring Tamilnadu State , 85 kms away .

Famous for colourful sea-shores, tall coconut trees and paddy fields, Kanyakumari is one of the most serene places in India. The coastal town has pristine big and small beaches which make it one of the most popular beach destinations in the country. At the southern tip of the country , Kanyakumari is the confluence of 3 Oceans , Arabian sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal .

Unfortunately, we had to wait for nearly 90 minutes to obtain a road permit at Regional Transport Office, Poovar for crossing over to the State of Tamilnadu that caused us a great deal of inconvenience . After arrival in Kanyakumari , we went around  Vivekanand Exhibition Centre which is devoted to the life of Swami Vivekanada [ 1863-1902]  , also referred to as “ Wandering Monk” . We could not visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial , however, as  due to high tide, ferry services were suspended .

A view of Vivekananda Rock Memorial in the background . Right: Vivekananda Exhibition Centre 

After shopping for cotton sarees and lunch at Shravana Restaurant on the main road leading to the Seas , we returned to the Hotel around 4 PM.

Day 8 – 7 December 2019

Checked out from the Hotel and proceeded to the capital city Thiruvananthapuram  , which unlike other places that we had been to , was sizzling at 31 deg C  !  Checked in at Treebo Trend Amalas Residency – a 3 star hotel located centrally  on Power House Rd, Chalai Bazaar, Chalai.

Amalas

Amalas Residency – a budget hotel in the heart of the City

The hotel rooms are spacious and well furnished with all requisite amenities and kept quite clean with a wide open space in front for parking of vehicles . However, the staff, although quite courteous ,  is a bit careless , forgetting to provide much needed bath towels , tea cups / saucers , glasses etc. in the room before we checked in .

Spent time going around famed Attukkal Bhagavathy temple and  having darshan of the deity. The temple is located in Attukal in a sprawling complex. Goddess Bhadrakali (Kannaki), mounted over ‘vethala’, is the main deity in this temple. Bhadrakali, a form of Mahakali, who killed the demon king Daruka, is believed to be born from the third eye of Lord Shiva.

                                  Devotees lighting shining brass lamps at the Temple

The temple is renowned for the annual Attukal Pongal festival, in which over three million women participate,  A festival that has figured in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the single largest gathering of women for a religious activity, the Attukal Pongala continues to draw millions of women with each passing year.   Devotees believe that all of their wishes will be fulfilled by the Goddess, and help attain salvation.

Visited Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple , located less than 1 km away from the Hotel , at 4.45 P.M. As per tradition, wore a dhoti and angavastra bought at a nearby shop prior to the visit .

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Wearing a cotton dhoti and angvastram prior to the visit to                                                    the Temple was an interesting experience for me .

It may be noted that  wallet, mobile phone, bags etc are not allowed inside the temple . The Shrine is one of the most revered abodes of Hindu deity Maha Vishnu. The reason for it  is that God resides in Anantha Shaiya (in supine position on the giant serpent Shesha) with a lotus attached by its stem to the Lord’s navel and on the divine flower sits Lord Bramha. In the sanctum sanctorum are also present two consorts of Sri Vishnu, Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, a rare sight. This  temple is one of the richest in the world. We were fortunate enough to get a quick darshan of the deity within 15 minutes, buying special tickets worth Rs 50 each.  Entering from South Gate of the Temple, we had to walk quite a lot to get to the sanctum sanctorum . While leaving, we witnessed a huge procession of devotees waiting to enter the temple on return from their pilgrimage to Sabarimala Temple .

Day 9 – 8 December 2019

Being the last day of our travel, we took a leisurely walk along the markets close to the Hotel . Parthas is a very nice place for shopping for clothes for the family , a must stop during stay in the capital city . We bought cool cotton sarees quite affordably priced and also looked at dresses for kids .

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#38/1515, Near Power House, Power House Road,                                                                          Chalai Bazaar, Pazhavangadi

Napier Art Museum was our last stop . Kerala’s rich cultural heritage is in full display here.  The architectural style of the Museum is a mix of Indian, Chinese, Kerala and Mughal Schools of Architecture. Built in the 19th century, it has its own natural air-conditioning system. It contains a host of historical artefacts including bronze idols, ancient ornaments, a temple chariot and ivory carvings. We were especially impressed by the Japanese shadow-play leather that was used to depict the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

                           The architecture of the Museum leaves you speechless .

Named after a former Governor General of Madras , John Napier , this  huge complex comprises of Art Gallery ,  Children Activity Park,  Aquarium,  Natural History Museum and a Zoo . A delightful place that must be  visited during travellers’  stay in the capital city , Thiruvananthapuram . Admission charges [Museum]  : Rs 20 per person  [ Zoo] :  Rs 30 per person .

As it was quite hot , quenched our thirst while leaving  with fresh coconut juice sold by vendors sitting outside the main entrance and relished bites of  sliced “kerry ” – raw mango sprinkled with lemon juice and salt  !

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Goodbye Kerala. Thanks for being such a great host .

Got dropped off at the Trivandrum International Airport Terminal 2 at 4 PM  [ a mere 10 minutes’ drive from the Hotel ! ] for our return flight home by Air India , which unfortunately arrived 90 minutes late from Maldives resulting in great deal of inconvenience to the passengers . The mid-sized international Airport offers all amenities and facilities for passengers including lounges , cafes and  shops selling branded goods, spices, coffee  and traditional handicrafts . Arrived at IGI Terminal T3 around midnight with happy memories of our 9 day dream travel to God’s own country . If during our lifetime, we travel to Kerala again, we intend to go to Kollam , Munnar and Wyanad – amazing places that we could not cover in the present trip for lack of time.

Memorable experiences:

Day 2 :   Gazing at the gushing waterfalls in Vazachal                                                              Day 2:    A walk on the stone paved street in Jew Town, Kochi                                              Day 3 :   Our stay at the luxurious Lakesong Resorts in Kumarakom – a hamlet of villages.  Day 5 :   Boat ride along the mangroves in Poovar Islands.                                                    Day 8:    Darshan of deity at the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

Acknowledgement :

KOCHI TAXI 24 X7 owner Cherian Chesin who provided valuable tips in advance of our travel .

Our taxi driver Nizam – very courteous , very punctual , smartly dressed , so very helpful and knowledgable . Doubled up as our photographer too  !

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[ In front of South Gate of Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple – a highlight of our travel ]

Treebo Corporate Office [Bangalore ]

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For coming to our rescue instantly  whenever we needed support during our stay in their franchisee properties in Kochi and capital city, Thiruvananthapuram .

Front Office Manager and supporting staff at Lakesong Resorts , Kumarakom – our stay there was probably the best part of our 9-day travel

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The viewing area at the rear of our deluxe cottage

Thanks to all viewers  from India , Qatar and United States at the time of editing this blog for one last time .

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 250 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Our pilgrimage to Pune, Mumbai and Aurangabad in Western India

22 February – 1 March 2019

22 FEBRUARY 2019

To Pune International Airport by Indigo Airlines from New Delhi  IGI T1D @ 15.00 hrs. arrival @ 16.50 hrs .

6.30 PM – The 8-day travel began with a brief stopover at  Dagdu Shet Halwai Ganpati Temple, located at Budhwar Peth . The temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesh and is arguably the most famous one in Pune. This temple was built in 1892 by a sweet maker who lost his son to the plague. The temple played a crucial role in inspiring Lokmanya Tilak to organise the annual Ganesh festival to unite Indians to fight for freedom from the British.

Overnight stay at Treebo Grand Emerald – Pimpri -Chinchwad. Plot Number 63, D- Block, 1, Nigadi Bhosari Road, Nigadi. Phone : 93228 00100 . Direct Phone : +(91)-20-67312200. This is a comfortable affordably priced property, approx 24 kms from Pune Airport . During evening traffic rush time, it can take 60-75 minutes to get there from the Airport !

23 FEBRUARY9.45 AM: Departed  for  Bhimashankar ,110 kms drive that takes approx. . 2.5 hours.  Bhīmāshankar is also the source of the river Bhima, which flows southeast and merges with the Krishna river near Raichur.  For elderly people, “palkis” are arranged @ Rs 750 each as several steps have to be covered down and up to get to and return from the temple .

Left for  Pune @ 2.45 PM. Spent time while returning at Himayat Bagh – also known earlier as Mughal Gardens . This is a 17th-century Garden that now houses the Fruit Research Station and Nursery, which is a part of the Vasantrao Naik Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth, Parbhani. It is located near Delhi Gate in Rauza Bagh area .

Dinner at the splendid Golden Curry Restaurant in Treebo Grand Emerald Hotel before retiring to bed after a long day .

24 FEBRUARY 10 AM  : Visited Shaniwar Wada, the seat of power of the Peshwas or Prime Ministers of the powerful Maratha Empire which was a dominant power in India between the 17th and 19th centuries. This Palace was built in 1730 in honour of Peshwa Bajirao Ballal Balaji Bhat for services rendered to the Maratha Empire. As per local legends, even today Shaniwarwada is dreaded for supernatural activities on the full-moon night !

People believe that the fort is haunted by the ghost of Bajirao’s grandson Narayanrao, who was murdered by his family. After the British took over the region, fort became of residence of British officers for a decade until 1828 when a major fire broke within the fort. What caused this fire is still unknown but the entire fort was destroyed in it. The fire burnt for seven long days and after it was extinguished, only the huge walls and gates remained, everything else was destroyed. The fort was abandoned after the fire and no one has lived here ever since. The fort opens at 8 AM and there is an admission fee of Rs 10 per person. A Sound and Light Show also takes place in the evening for which charges have to be paid for separately .

12 .15 p.m. : Aga Khan Palace is a national monument of India’s freedom movement. Built in 1892 by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, the Palace witnessed some remarkable events that define India’s freedom movement against the British.

Gandhiji, his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his close associate  Mahadev Desai were imprisoned here during the Quit India movement in 1942. Both Kasturba as well as Mahadev Desai [ who died soon after his imprisonment ] were cremated here . A small part of Gandhiji’s ashes are also kept here . During the tour, the visitors will realize why  the Aga Khan Palace is a memorial to Gandhiji and his simple life.  

Departed  for Mumbai @ 3.00 PM – 2.5 hrs away . Stopped over at the picturesque Lonavla on the way for buying mouth licking “chikkis”  made of jaggery mixed with almonds/dry fruits, peanuts  and the like .

lonavla chikkis

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An  awesome view of Lonavla valley as we drive towards Mumbai from Pune.

Arrived in Mumbai @ 6.30 p.m.

Enjoyed delicious snacks at Gupta Chat in King’s Circle , hub of food joints , close to renovated Matunga Central Railway Station .

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Overnight stay at Matunga , Mumbai Central  at my elder sister’s apartment facing Mumbai’s first garden-under-flyover  inaugurated recently . Named Nanalal D. Mehta Garden, it is located under the Tulpule Flyover on Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road.

25 FEBRUARY10 AM: Mahalakshmi Temple : This  is one of the most famous temples of  Mumbai situated on  Bhulabhai Desai Road in Mahalaxmi area. It is dedicated to Goddess Mahalaxmi . The temple was built in 1831 by Dhakji Dadaji (1760–1846), a Hindu merchant.

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Babulnath Temple : Situated on a small hillock near Girgaum Chowpatty, close to Marine Drive , it is one of oldest temples in Mumbai City, Shiva in the form of the Lord of the Babul tree is the main deity in this temple. We were fortunate to be present at the time of afternoon Aarti .  Senior citizens/ladies with young children can use the lift for going up and coming down paying just Re 1 per person for up and down travel .

Mumba Devi Mandir : It is an old temple in the city dedicated to Goddess Mumbā, the local incarnation of the Devi. The Temple was first built in Bori Bunder in 1675. It  was destroyed and reconstructed at Zaveri Bazaar [ Jewellers market ] , Bhuleshwar in 1737.

Since ancient times, the Koli fishermen and Dravidians offered their prayers to Mumbadevi at this temple and still continue to do so. Car parking here  is quite a problem !  One of the 12 infamous terrorist attacks of  November 2008 [ also referred to as 26/11 ] were carried out here by the miltant group Lashkar-e-Tauba  !

Shree Siddhi Vinayak Temple : Located in Prabhadevi area over a huge area, this is where residents and visitors come in large numbers , especially  during Aarti time in  the evening , to have a “Darshan” of Lord Ganapati . There is a special gate in the temple for the benefit of senior citizens and the infirm which ensures quick entry . The temple presents a splendid view when illuminated during late evenings . It was originally built by Laxman Vithu and Deubai Patil on 19 November 1801 and is one of the richest temples in Mumbai.

The temple has a small mandap with the shrine for Siddhi Vinayak (“Ganesha who grants your wish”). The wooden doors to the sanctum are carved with images of Ashtavinayak (the eight manifestations of Ganesha ).  The inner roof of the sanctum is plated with gold,  and the central statue is of Ganesha. In the periphery, there is a Hanuman temple as well.

The long day ended on  a happy note with a grand party at the NSCI, opp: Haji Ali, overlooking the Arabian Sea  to mark our marriage anniversary .

26 FEBRUARY11 AM :  Visited the very splendid Shri Narayani Dham constructed out of red stones in typical Rajasthan architecture . It is located at Lonavla ,  90 kms drive from Mumbai which takes about 2 hours to cover . The temple –constructed 17 years ago in 2002 –  is dedicated to Goddess Narayani and is one of the famous places of sightseeing in Lonavala.  The main deity of the temple is Ma Narayani and on either side of the main shrine are shrines dedicated to Ganapathi, Hanuman and other Hindu deities. The deities are beautifully decorated with glittering jeweleries. The entrance is a 4 storeyed structure, with fountains lined up on the pathway from entrance to temple.

The temple has large Halls and gardens sufficiently large  enough to host marriages and receptions . It also has several airconditioned  bedrooms with attached toilets so that the devotees coming from long distance can stay comfortably. Visitors can have delicious vegetarian meals in the dining room at very affordable prices . There is also  a Goshala where visitors can feed the cows.

27 FEBRUARY :  5 AM: Left for Aurangabad by early morning flight by Jet Airways from International airport departures . Checked  in the early morning hours  at Treebo Trends Sonia Hotel ,6-A, Town Center, Jalna Road, Sambhaji Nagar, N 1, CIDCO. [3 Kms from the Airport via Highway – Less than 10 minutes drive ] .

The property is owned and managed by Mr Subodh Gite , a very affable  person  I was happy to make friends with . During my conversation with him, he assured me that guests staying at this Hotel will receive utmost attention and best of hospitality .

10 AM: Visited Bhadra Maruti temple  dedicated to Lord Hanuman in Khuldabad on way to Ellora caves. At this temple, the idol of Hanuman is portrayed in a reclining or sleeping posture.

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The approach  to the temple is unfortunately in a bad condition with no repairs in sight !  Several shops selling flowers and “kandi pedas” [ sweets ] abound in the vicinity .

To Ellora Caves – 110 kms from Aurangabad .  Cave 16 with the gigantic Kailash temple and Cave 12 with a two storey monastery is a must see. Kailash temple is notable for its vertical excavation-carvers started at the top of the original rock , and excavated downwards , exhuming the temple out of the existing rock . In all , 34 monasteries and temples, including those devoted to Jainism and Buddhism , extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff .

Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. It is estimated that about 200,000 tons of rocks were scooped over several years to create this monolithic structure . Built in 8th century by Rashtrakuta king Krishna 1 , Ellora Caves is now a UNESCO heritage . An amazing collection of structures that simply leaves you spellbound  !

Visitors can opt for a guide against payment of Rs 500.  An admission fee of Rs 40.

Grishneshwar [ Lord of Compassion ]  temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlings dedicated to Lord Shiva  in the country and is located within a distance of  500 metres from Ellora Caves . All men must take off their vests before entering the temple premises .

 

This 240 ft x 185 ft temple is the smallest Jyotirlinga temple in India. Halfway up the temple, Dashavataras of Lord Vishnu are carved in red stone

Returned to Aurangabad around 6 PM . Overnight stay at the Hotel .

28 FEBRUARY  : 9.30  AM:  Ajanta Caves – 105  kms away from Aurangabad . However,  the driving time is approx. 3.30 hrs as the road to the Caves from Aurangabad city is under major repairs . Ajanta Caves are 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which date from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE. The entire complex has been maintained nicely with beautiful landscaping all around . A shuttle bus takes you to the entrance to the Caves from the parking spot [ fee of Rs 20/person either side] . As the approach to the Caves is quite steep [ via steps or ramp ] , elders can opt for the visit riding on “Palkis” @ Rs 1500 /person [ essentially a wooden Chair lifted by 4 persons ] . Admission fee : Rs 40/person.

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In front of the steps leading to Ajanta Caves

Ajanta Caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotion through gesture, pose and form. The site is a protected monument in the care of the ASI . Since 1983, the Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site . Ajanta Caves constitute ancient monasteries and worship-halls of different Buddhist traditions carved into a 250’ wall of rock.The Caves also present paintings depicting the past lives and rebirths of  Buddha, pictorial tales from Aryasura’s Jatakamala, and rock-cut sculptures of Buddhist deities.

While vivid colours and mural wall-painting were abundant in Indian history as evidenced by historical records,  Caves 1, 2 , 16 and 17  of Ajanta form the largest corpus of surviving ancient Indian wall-painting and are a must see .

There is a Maharashtra Tourism Department managed Café here which serves meals at affordable prices and a MTD run Guest house as well .

3.30 P.M. Left for Aurangabad . Enjoyed delicious mango kulfis at Bombay Kulfi in a market on Jalna Road before returning to the Hotel for overnight stay .

B ombay Kulfi

1 MARCH : 9.45 AM: Bibi Ka Maqbara . It is a tomb which was built during 1668-69  by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s son Azam Shah in the memory of his mother, Rabia –ud-Daurani.  It bears a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal in Agra, the Mausoleum of Mumtaz Mahal –  wife of another Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

Due to this resemblance, it is also called the Dakkhani Taj (Taj of the Deccan ). Bibi Ka Maqbara is the principal monument of Aurangabad and its historic city. Admission fee : Rs 20 per visitor . Well worth a short visit .

Siddharth Gardens : This  is a beautiful garden in the heart of the City ,  well-known for housing a wide variety of trees and shrubs. Covering a large area, the garden is beautifully designed and very well-maintained, which allures tourists from all over the city and the country.  Colorful flowers, majestic trees and fountains are the main highlights of the garden.

There is a small aquarium in the garden  where we noticed several varietes of fishes . In the premises, there is also a memorial to the brave Indian soldiers who laid their lives while fighting in the wars . Admission fee: Rs 10/visitor .

Aurangabad is famous for its handwoven Paithani and Himroo Silk Sarees and the Mughal Silk Store in the heart of the City offers a great selection of these .

Checked out from the Hotel @ 3 p.m. to board  Air India flight for New Delhi landing @ IGT Airport  T1 @ 7.30 P.M.

End of the trip with pleasant memories . I would very much like to visit Aurangabad again in the near future with my friends , esp. from overseas .

Note by the Author : October – January is the best time for visiting these places .

 

My travel to Prayagraj [ Allahabad ] and back by Prayagraj Express [ 12417/18 ] from New Delhi : 9-11 March 2019

According to Wikipedia , Prayagraj Express is one of the “first” ISO 9002 certified trains of India because of its security features and high priority on the Indian Railways. No wonder .

 

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The features on the the train that I checked out during my overnight journies from New Delhi to Prayagraj [ Allahabad ]  to and fro :

– Well dressed and courteous TTE
– Smart youngmen wearing name badges attached to each A.C. coach with the responsibility of ensuring that spotlessly clean linen/blanket is provided on all berths,
including replacement of used linen at intermediate stations
– Provided with Wifi courtesy Railwire in association with Google
– Clean/non smelling Western style toilets incl: bio toilets
provided with soap dispensers
– Floors swept clean
– No charts pasted on the coaches – list of WL/RAC passengers whose seats were finally confirmed showed on digital charts put up on the very clean platform provided
with signages showing location of each coach prominently
– trash bins provided on either sides of the coaches
– no vendors noticed entering the coaches
– pest control management with checks every 3-4 days
– facility provided for cleaning a particular spot in the coach further or attending to           some other requirement – just send a request as :

SMS to 58888 or 9200003232 by typing
CLEAN< Space ><10-digit PNR number>< Space >SERVICE TYPE CODE – [ C for Clean , B for Linen/Bed roll , P for pest control ]

– reading lights provided on each berth with convenient phone/laptop charging points
– software programme via QR or web link for giving feedback on the travel
– timely departures although there were slight delays on  arrival while reaching Prayagraj and while returning to New Delhi

A complete departure from some terrible experiences that I have had on some train journies not so long ago .

 

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A mention about the transformed Allahabad Jn Station as well. It is illuminated in pink/yellow colours in the evenings giving it an amazing look – quite unlike the dull red/yellow coloured facade of railway stations that we have been used to seeing . Again quite clean and very well lighted . All facilities at the Station nicely signposted .

Well done, Indian Railways .

BADHAI HO

On strong recommendations from my daughter backed by Avijit Das Patnaik ‘s review published in WordPress few days ago , we decided to check this Hindi  movie out for ourselves .

We were not disappointed . Rather pleased that we accepted the recommendations of these 2 wise guys . Wouldn’ t say that this is the best picture of the year , but certainly one of the better ones that have come our way in recent years .

All the actors play their role to near perfection . Ayushman Khurrana is maturing as a fine actor with great facial expressions . Neena Gupta has certainly come up with her best performance till date. And the good old Surekha Sikri (Dadi of Balika Vadhu fame ) has you laughing in splits with her strong admonitions . The very refreshing and radiant Sanya Malhotra performs pretty well as the hero” s office colleague and love .

But the best applause for acting should be reserved for Indian Railways employee Gajraj Rao as the father placed in a rather piquant situation, with embarrassment changing to pride in the later part of the movie . I especially liked his gesture of making and serving tea [ ginger included ! ] to his unwell wife and ageing mother in the early morning hours ,a lesson for us senior citizens who take their wives for granted .

The picture makes you laugh , it makes you curse those who talk of ” sanskars” and is also successful in making your eyes swell at times , esp. in the absorbing post interval session .

I give this one 4 Stars out of 5 . Do not miss it .

PS: One of those rare occasions when I gave the customary Popcorn box a miss . Just couldn’t adjust myself to paying an exhorbitant Rs 210 for a small packet !!

The very memorable travel to the princely City – Jaipur with a group of students [ 22-23 October 2018 ]

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The amazing Hawa Mahal – Iconic landmark of the Pink City

Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan State in North India , was founded on 18 November, 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II , who ruled Jaipur State from  1699-1744 . Jaipur is located at a distance of 280 kms from New Delhi and is about 6 hours drive from Noida along NH8 via Gurgaon  .

Jaipur is also known as the Pink City so named as Pink is the dominant colour of its  buildings throughout the City . It was painted in Pink by Maharaja Raj Singh in  1876  on the occasion of visit of  British  Prince  Charles.

Jaipur is famous for its exquisite jewellery, hand printed textiles and handicrafts. The present population of the City is estimated at 3.7096 million .

Apart from  Jaipur , prominent cities in Rajasthan are Ajmer-Pushkar , Jodhpur-Jaisalmer, Bikaner , Udaipur-Chittorgarh  , Bharatpur – Alwar  . The famous Jain temples of Mount Abu are also located in  Rajasthan State .

Places visited during the 2-day trip to the Pink City were : Hawa Mahal , Jantar Mantar , Birla Mandir , Albert Hall/State Museum , Statue Circle , City Palace , Jal Mahal [ a Palace in a Lake, viewed from a distance ] and the majestic Amber Fort while departing .

The trip comprising of 16 students [ 11 girls+5 boys] and Class Teacher from Setu School was flagged off at 0545 hours on 22nd October  .

After a 45 minutes  stop over at King Express Highway Cafe, Behror  for a cup of tea, the group arrived arrived in Jaipur  at 12.30  PM .

Checked  in at Kalyan Hotel , Hathroi Fort, Ajmer Road, Near Vidhayakprui Police Station Jaipur  [ at the back of famous Khasa Kothi on M.I.Road ]  . Phone : 9314501591 . Lunch at the Hotel  [ rather expensive for a 2-star hotel that this property is ! ]

3  PM -8.00  PM:  City  Sight seeing .

Covered  Hawa Mahal [ Palace of Winds] getting there via e-rickshaws from Hawa Mahal Bazar . Hawa Mahal, which is constructed of red and pink sandstone , sits on the edge of the City Palace, Jaipur. The structure was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh [ Admission tickets :  Rs 50/adult , Rs 10 for students holding valid School ids ]

View of the City street and the fort beyond from inside of Hawa Mahal

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Views of the massive Jantar Mantar complex from Hawa Mahal .Jantar Mantar monument  is a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734. It features the world’s largest stone sundial, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Drove to Birla Temple  in the late evening hours. The temple was constructed in 1985 by Birla family and is made of white marble . Birla Mandir in Jaipur is part of one of the several Birla mandirs located all around the country. The grand temple is located on an elevated ground at the base of Moti Dungari hill /fort . The temple is sometimes also referred to as the Laxmi Narayan Temple. The views of the City from the elevated location of the temple at night hold the visitors spell bound . Visitors are required to take off their shoes before entering the temple and pay Re 1 per pair for storage .

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Thereafter we passed by Albert Hall – also known as State Museum. The sight of the Museum illuminated in multi colours by laser during the late evening hours was simply awesome .

Had light meals at a wayside cafe as there are huge parking problems on the main roads which made it very difficult for the mini bus to be parked .

Day 2

Checked out from the Hotel at  9.30 AM post breakfast on rooftop restaurant on the 3rd floor . Visited Albert Hall again and went around exhibits on display on the ground and first floor .

Albert Hall functions as the State museum of Rajasthan. Of special significance is an ages old mummy placed at the basement of the Museum alongwith other relics from Egypt .  It is situated in beautifully landscaped  Ram Niwas Gardens outside the city wall opposite New gate . Admission tickets are priced at Rs 40 per adult  [ students @ Rs 20 ]

But the most amazing visit was to the residence of the Royal Family – the City Palace Complex [ Admission fee : Rs 130 for adults , Rs 70 for children above the age of 12 years, senior citizens – Rs 110 ] where we spent over 2.5 hours engaging an official guide to show us around [ fixed rate : Rs 500 -2 hours ] . The palace was constructed by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. As most structures in Jaipur, this Palace also reflects the fusion of Mughal and Rajput architecture. The City Palace complex is spread over a large area occupying one seventh of the old city of Jaipur. It has a sequence of gardens, buildings and courtyards, temple and museum to give it a grand view that reflects its historical importance and magnificent royal grace. Its outer boundary was built by Raja Jai Singh and other structures by his successors to add charm to it. We had the opportunity to witness the shooting of a Hollywood movie at the Diwan-e-Khas of the City Palace and to be entertained by the performance of puppets at the entrance .

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Thereafter the group proceeded to the majestic  Amber Fort [ climb to the fort via electrically operated vehicles – Rs 50 for 2 persons – elephant ride costs upto Rs 1100 for 2 persons ] . Amber fort was built in the 16th century by a trusted general of Akbar, Maan Singh. Later, Maan Singh started to rule the area surrounding the Fort which was called as the Amer state. The Fort is located 11 kms from the City and is open to visitors from 9 AM until 6 P.M. It is an important tourist destination in the City. [ admission tickets: Rs 50 per adult , Rs 10 for students ] .

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Note : Visitors can save substantial costs and time by purchasing a composite ticket which covers admission to 7 major attractions in the city. Available at all booking counters . Also to avoid delays on account of heavy traffic on roads leading to Hawa Mahal/ Jantar Mantar/City Palace , it would be best to leave from your Hotel latest by 8.15 AM .

The trip concluded with shopping for hand printed sarees , quilts [ 100 gms  ! ] ,chunnies and sweets at shops located on the main road at the starting point of the Fort . Departed for Noida at 5.30 PM  stopping over for an hour at a wayside Dhaba on NH8 for meals .

Arrived at Noida @ 23.30 hours carrying happy memories of the 2-day trip .

A Post on Face Book which I specially liked .

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Acknowledgement : The author expresses his sincere appreciation to Mr. Ravi Kaul,Chief Trustee, Setu School, for the financial support extended by the School which enabled coverage of a substantial part of the trip expenses.