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My Latest Adventures – Srinagar – Part 3

The morning next day was bright and shine, contrary to our expectations as the weather reports earlier had suggested it to be cloudy conditions in Srinagar. Our schedule for the was supposed to cover the local tourist spots of the city which were- Pari Mahal, the Mughal Gardens and the very famous Dal lake. We left the hotel early morning for our very first destination which was “Chashme Shahi”. To our escort was a local taxi which was a Travera. The taxi driver was a local Kashmiri which was quite evident from the unique accent he had while talking. He suggested us to first visit Pari Mahal which was a few kilometers ahead of the Chashme Shahi gardens.

Pari Mahal has was something less of a palace (mahal) and more of a step garden. This terraced garden was situated above a hillock from where the complete view of the Dal lake could be seen. The Mahal had six terraces each having  beautiful and well maintained gardens. After enjoying the beautiful view of half of the valley from Pari Mahal we came down from the hill to visit the Chashme Shahi , which is known for a natural water spring coming out of it.  The naturally effluent water was really cold. The tourists stood in queues to get a photo clicked with the natural source of water.

Next up were the Mughal Gardens, first one was the Nishat Garden situated right in front of the Dal lake.  An interesting fact about the garden was its architecture. It had 12 terraces which represented the 12 Zodiac Signs. There were channels of water running throughout the stretch of the garden.  It was adorned by various trees like that of Chinar, Chestnut, Wlanut etc. The Garden was an assortment of garden, lake and mountains which gave it the look of Paradise. 

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Our next destination was the Shalimar Bagh.  The most pleasant sight in this garden was the beautiful Kashmiri school kids which came on an outing with their teachers to the garden. There was a huge fallen Chinar tree around which the school kids were playing games. The cascade of the Chinar trees were planted across the entire length of the garden, one of which was marked 400 years Under one of these gushy shady Chinars we relaxed on a rug which we were carrying, very handy to sit wherever one feels like.

The adventure shall continue in the next post …
Till then admire this cute Kashmiri girl who specially posed for the camera.

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My Latest Adventures – Srinagar – Part2

I found Chandigarh an exceptionally beautiful and well planned place. Now we were looking forward to our next destination and that was Srinagar. We got a bit confused as to how we should undertake the journey, by road or by air. We finally decided that it will be best for us to take a direct flight from Chandigarh to Srinagar.

After a wonderful sleep we got up fresh in the morning and were all ready to leave our friend’s house right on time. We had a fantastic start of our journey – the front wheel of the car got flat! Yes, the moment we all settled inside the car and were saying our goodbyes to the family, the driver discovered a flat tyre. We got delayed by half an hour to reach the airport, but managed to check in on time.

Our flight for Srinagar was via New Delhi. It took us nearly three and half hours to reach Srinagar. The skyline was clear and I could see the big Himalayan ranges. The moment our plane crossed the massive Pir Panjal range I had the very first glimpse of the valley. Needless to say it was breathtakingly beautiful!

Most of the people travelling were tourists and there was lot of excitement in the air. A young and handsome Kashmiri boy was waiting for us in the airport arrival lounge. Within minutes all our luggage was packed in the boot of the car and we were whisked from the airport to the hotel. We had planned to stay in a hotel near the Dal Lake (the famous lake of Srinagar). Two nights we had booked for a boathouse stay.

The hotel was exactly, how it looked in the brochure. It was exceedingly peaceful with spacious rooms and huge gardens. The beds were very comfortable with clean soft Egyptian cotton fitted sheetsFirst view of Srinagar. After freshening up, we were served tea and coffee in the room itself.

So finally we were here. Those who don’t know anything about this place, I would like to give a quick summery. Srinagar is situated in the Kashmir Valley and attracts large number of travelers from all over. This magnificent city lies on the banks of the Jhelum River which is a tributary of the Indus River. The city is well-known for its stunning gardens, lakes and houseboats.

We had plans to visit nearby places like Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Phelgam as well. In my next write up we shall catch up with our visit to the mugal gardens and the famous dal lake.

Till then Cheers!

The Pink City – Jaipur – Hawa Mahal

After having our lunch we went to see the legendry Hawa Mahal also known as the ‘palace of winds’. I had seen the picture of this place on various travel guides but this place was much more impressive in reality. Initially we stood across the road taking its pictures with so much traffic whizzing by. The market was buzzing with routine activities and there amidst this entire hum drum was standing this palace with five storied exterior a fascinating landmark of Rajasthan. This palace was built with the purpose to provide a place from where the ladies of the royal family could see the royal processions going down the market area through the small windows decorated with intricate latticework. In all there are 953 small windows. Our guide told us that this palace was designed in the form of Lord Krishna’s crown. Come to think of it the exterior does looks like a crown. The palace is built of red and pink sandstone. Its architecture is good and apart from crown it also looked like a beehive.

There is a big courtyard with a fountain in the middle just as you enter the palace. It was probably a place where the royal people used to celebrate the festivals. We had to climb through a narrow passage to reach the upper floors. There were no stairs, just a ramp to reach there. The view from the top was fantastic. The royal ladies must have had a great time watching from there. There was some nice stain glass window work inside the palace as well.

We had a good time here. Again the shopkeepers were kind of trying to lure us to buy things but we were now smart enough to evade them. We rushed back to the hotel to relax and pack our things as we were to leave for Agra the day after.

I am so glad that I came to this part of India. There are so many memories for me to visit whenever I am low or alone. Who so ever is reading this blog must make a genuine attempt to have a tour of Rajasthan.

So long………

The Pink City – Jaipur – City Palace & Jantar Mantar

Next day we went to see The City Palace in the heart of the Jaipur city. Many buildings, well planned gardens, temples and huge courtyards are the part of the complex. There are four gates to enter into the City Palcae. One gate is reserved for entry into the palace by the royal family only. There was a snake charmer sitting right outside the gate, but it is better if you don’t stop there to have a look at his snakes as they start asking for money afterwards. Just before the main complex of the palace is a place called Mubarak Mahal or Welcome palace. This was constructed with the purpose to welcome the dignitaries. Though now it is turned into a museum. One could see the royal costumes, shawls, silk sarees, royal cloths, jewelry and many types of musical instruments. The most amusing part was the pajamas of King Madho Singh. He was over seven feet tall and weighed 250 Kilograms. Interestingly he had 108 wives….my goodness!

On the west end of the city palace is the Chandra Mahal. It is a seven storied building. Only the ground floor which is turned into a museum is open for the public and rest of the floors are the residence of the descendants of the royal family. At the entry of the palace is a beautiful peacock gate. Many beautiful paintings, mirror work and floral decorations could be seen in the palace, but there were signs everywhere that photography is restricted. In the inner courtyard of the Chandra Mahal there are four small gates that are designed in such a way that they depict the four seasons.

The most attractive feature in the hall of private audience are the two giant silver urns, who have also made a place in the Guinness book of world record for having the largest capacity. These were made by the King to carry the Ganges water when he made his trip to England as he did not wanted to drink water in the foreign soil. The red turbaned men who stand there as guard just get into the frame while taking its picture and then demand money for being photographed. So beware of them if you plan to visit this place. One could see so many parrots flying. The queen’s palace is turned into an armory museum with all kinds of weapons. It was good, but between Amer Fort and City Palace I would definitely rate Amer fort a better bet.

Very near to the City Palace was Jantar Mantar. It’s an observatory that has many devices to measure time and make scientific and astronomical calculations. Built from stone and marble each instrument carries an astronomical scale. Our guide tried to explain to us how the instruments worked. I liked the Sundial.

We were pretty hungry after going through the palace and the Jantar Mantar. Our guide had some specific place in his mind for taking us for lunch. After lunch we planned to just scan the marker area, in case we find something interesting. The water bottle which I was carrying was really handy as one gets really thirsty wandering in the hot sun.  A tip of advice is to carry loads of water; well we can’t carry the silver urns like the King… and also to apply good sun block cream, otherwise the chances of skin burn are immense.

Shall get back to you tomorrow…..

The Pink City – Jaipur – Amer Fort

After having had a wonderful time in the elefantstic we bid our farewell to the entire team working there and made our way to Amer fort on elephants. It was a royal ride of about half an hour to the top of the hill where the fort is located. We enjoyed a magnificent view of the surroundings without wearing out our shoes. With its large ramparts, series of gates and cobbled paths the fort is located high on the hill overlooking a lake. We could see so many local as well as foreign tourists there. The place was buzzing with excitement. Till now I have seen many forts in India, all of them have some unique factor of its own. Amer fort is made up of red sandstone and marble. There is a four level layout plan in this huge palace and each level has its own entry gate and courtyard. One enters the palace through the sun gate and here in the first courtyard armies used to hold their victory parades while returning from the battle field and the females of the royal family used to witness it through their windows. The second courtyard had Diwane-e-Aam or “The hall of public audience” where the king used to listen to the grievances of the general public. There was also a place called Diwane-e-khass or “hall of the private audience”. The private quarters of the Maharaja were in the third courtyard where he lived with his attendants and his family. One could see two beautiful buildings here across the courtyard. One is the mirror palace and the other one is the hall of pleasure. With glass inlaid panels and multi- mirrored ceilings and mirror mosaics the palace looked beautiful. Something very interesting is what we noticed around the mirror palace. At the base of one of the pillars there is a magic flower which has seven unique designs of fish tail, a lotus, a hooded cobra, an elephant trunk, a lion’s tail and a scorpion. Though over the period of time it has worn down but one can still feel the magic. The hall of pleasure or ‘sukh mahal’, is a masterpiece in itself as a cool climate is artificially created there by winds that blow over the water cascade within the palace. The innermost courtyard and the palace used to be for the royal ladies with many living rooms. Some part of it was roped off and we couldn’t see the inside, only had a glance from the outside.

All in all it was a good experience the only disappointing part was that the hawkers there were trying to sell all kinds of things to the tourists. Even if you were not interested they would just encircle you and insist about having their stuff.

We could not see the light and sound program as we were in a hurry to get back to the hotel after a hectic day. Our guide told us many interesting stories related to the fort. One of them being the king’s visit to one of his queens who were living in the same quarters but different chambers. He said that no one could make out as to which queen the king made the visit to, now as all the doors were connected to the common corridor and courtyard I just wondered how it could remain a secret??

The Pink City – Jaipur – Elefantastic

“Have you ever been in close proximity with elephants?” Was what our guide asked us when we met him after having  the breakfast. Well with close proximity if you mean riding them then of course we have done that,”no..no that’s not what I am asking said our guide”. ”We shall be going to a place called Elefantastic where we will be staying with the elephants for full day and also shall spend the night there”. Now that was really cool! And we were also to visit a fort called Amer fort which was near to the place of elephants. We had a small back pack for the night and in a very excited mode left the hotel.

As we were about to enter the elephant village, to our surprise we saw two elephants greeting us and then they started walking along our car. The staff gave us a warm welcome and the manager of the place Rahul made us feel very comfortable. After the greetings and tea we were taken to get acquainted with the area and the giants who lived there. IT WAS FUN. The trainers with the elephants were very gentle with them and made us also feel like a part of the team; well that was the role we have to perform now. First of all they asked us to bond and familiarize with the elephants. When meeting the animal for the first time they need to catch your smell. Then we were told to stroke them and try to communicate with them looking into their eyes. We got busy feeding them after the introduction and there was so much to learn about their feeding habits. We had a wonderful session of painting the elephants as well. The skin of the elephants is so thick but painting them is a traditional art and I must say quite an interesting one.

We had lunch in the village house itself with so many local delicacies. The family that provided us with the lunch was quite affectionate and all of us enjoyed their company. The house was simple with simple wooden furniture, but despite them being simple people they had rich hearts. After having had our lunch it was time to take the royal elephants for bath. We were told that in the morning the elephants take shower in the farm itself but in the afternoon they go to the lake. It was fun riding bare back on the elephant and then getting into the lake and getting all wet. We scrubbed the elephants and also had a swimming session there. After the thorough washing in the evening we took a pleasant ride on the most amazing elephant through the amazing jungle. That was an experience in itself. The funniest part was that we were asked to bake breads for the elephant. Cooking bread the Indian way was just a wonderful experience. I wonder if the elephant liked what I made for them….but one thing I am sure of is that they understand the language of love.

And just to watch the elephant go to sleep is a unique and peaceful experience. Around 12 they go to sleep and after they were asleep we came back to our camp to rest for the night. We were told that next morning we were to get up at 5 o clock to go back and wake the elephants.

It was such a different day for us. I enjoyed it. To be with the nature and elephants…it was a perfect combination. Tomorrow we shall be going to the Amer fort again on elephant back so I am looking forward to that.

See you guys in the fort now…..

The Pink City – Jaipur

Our journey from Udaipur to Jaipur was by train. Well it was not one of my best journeys I would say but definitely a memorable one. We were travelling in the AC coach, there were many local people, and most of them were on vacation. One little girl came and stood next to where I was sitting, She was kind of staring at me, maybe because of my skin, when I smiled at her and said hello she started prattling something in her native language of which I could not make anything. Her father then gently took her by hand and asked her to settle down in her seat. Then he told me that he was an engineer and was working in south India. Along with his family and friends they had come on small vacation.  One thing I have noticed about India is that it is such a vast country that from north to south and east to west it goes through sea change in topography, food, culture, language so many things but still they are one. At one station a man climbed in our coach and he had a musical instrument with him. He started playing it and sang so many songs in high melodious voice. There was no need of any mike to him. Once the songs were over he went to every passenger for his reward. Some were pleased enough to give him some coins, others didn’t even bothered to look at him. On behalf of our group I gave him 10Rs coin, he was excited to have it and when he said ‘Thank You’ in English I was quite surprised as that was the last thing I expected of him!

In Jaipur we had our booking done in hotel Trident. From the railway station we took a taxi for the hotel and like our hotel in Udaipur this hotel was also built alongside a Lake, this one was called Mansagar Lake. I must say that the hotel was ideally located. One can enjoy the scenic beauty and can enjoy the sunset and sunrise against the backdrop of the Aravallis hills. The moment we entered the hotel we were kind of pampered by the staff. While the check in formalities was going on we were offered cool drinks which was great respite from the heat outside. Our room had a lakeside view, and the view was very refreshing. After having a good wash we went to the main restaurant. The food was delicious. I must say that Indian cuisine can be very addictive, at least I got addicted to it. With excellent service and facilities we were bound to have good time in the hotel….that I was sure of.

In the evening we went to see the Jal Mahal as it was the nearest place to the hotel we were residing. Infect we could see it from the windows of our rooms. Major portion of the palace is immersed in the water and only the top floor is visible above the water that is why it is called by this name. ‘Jal’ meaning water here. There were traditional wooden crafted boats to ferry the tourists to the palace. The palace is built in red sandstone and on the terrace of the palace is a garden. The view from there is picturesque. There are towers on each corner of the palace. Earlier some restoration work was going on so the place was not open to tourists but now we could see fairly good crowd enjoying. So many different kinds of birds who are breeding and residing in the lake area could be seen as well. It was time to get back. While coming back I took the oars from the boatman for a while just to see how it feels to splash the oars in the clear water of the lake. It was fun but I couldn’t do it for much time. We were yet to chalk out our program for the next day, so let’s see which part of Jaipur finds us tomorrow!