Taj Mahal and Agra Fort are awesome…

The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort are definitely two of the must see places in India and to a good extent, in the whole world. In fact Taj Mahal is in the must see list of tourists from all over the world and not just India. It has become a symbol of India for many of the Hollywood movies as well.

Beauty of Taj Mahal

Once you visit the Taj Mahal you can make it out why it is so popular. It may not come across as as magnificent as it you may have imagined it to be, as was the case with me, it’s outstanding nonetheless. And the whole compound in which it is located and the structure itself is fairly huge to make you a little tired in the end.

When you visit the Taj Mahal keep a few things in mind, like you should take the electric car from parking to ticket counter, we took the camel-cart, it was enjoyable but he deliberately takes you shopping and we didn’t like it that much.Also, they’ll not allow you to take any eatables or bags inside, so be careful you don’t carry anything else it becomes a hassle for you.

Agra Fort stands tall

To me Agra Fort looked more magnificent than anything, especially the entrance. It is not very far off from Taj Mahal and is a must see place too. The Jehangir’s Hauz was quite nice and the architecture was impressive too. The view of Taj Mahal from Agra Fort is really amazing too.

On a whole, the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort do a complete justice to the name and fame they carry and are places you should not miss visiting at least once.

 

Qutub Minar, a breathtakingly awesome tourist destination in Delhi

Qutub Minar, I believe after India Gate must be the most visited and preferred weekend destination in Delhi for people of Delhi and a must visit place for the tourists which come here from all over the world. Not just the tallest minaret in India and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a prestigious honor indeed, this is a place which has a history spread over years and years and rulers after rulers.

Focusing strictly on the world of today, Qutub Minar in Delhi is a photographer’s delight. You look at Qutub Minar from any place around its complex and you see something different, something new and something unexplored to the eye. Its awesome and its just awesome.

And what made my visit even more memorable was the breathtaking maneuvers of pigeons and other birds, the way they all all of a sudden started flying in a flock as big as I had never seen. If you are lucky you might see it first hand when you visit there, if you miss it, don’t mind it. You will still be overexcited and content with the main attraction, the Qutub Minar itself.

Jaipur – the Pink City, Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, Choki Dhani and lots…

Amer Fort, Jal Mahal, Hawa Mahal, the Pink City, Choki Dhani – Jaipur has been attracting tourists from every corner of the world and it deserves the credit for living up to the hype and for being the fabuluos place it is. Forts, handicrafts, snake charmers, even the cycle rickshaws have a tinge of royalty attached and they all know how to treat their tourists. And in spite of being on the radar of countless tourists, it still manages to maintain its position as a place which you leave with happy and long lasting memories.

Amer Fort is matchless

The biggest highlight of Jaipur, in my view, would be the Amer Fort. I have seen a few palaces and quite a few in Rajasthan itself but Amer Fort stands out. It is huge, very beautiful and looked complete. If you want you get the elephant ride, else you can walk up. This place leaves a lasting impression and an urge to come back again.

Jal Mahal can disappoint you

Jal Mahal on the other hand was a big disappointment and that was not because of what it is but due to the garbage lying all around.
It can at best be a stop over for 15 minutes and you’ll be done with it. Maybe they clean it from time to time, but when we went it was like a trash can.

Hawa Mahal and Bapu Bazar

Hawa Mahal, which is in the old Jaipur, or the Pink City, is one-of-its-kind place. It doesn’t really offer you much per se, however, going to the top floor (not the actual top floor, you are not allowed there) and looking around has a charm of its own. And when you look around you see Jantar Mantar, the Pink City and a nice view of the forts all around.

Right next to the Hawa Mahal is the Bapu Bazar and this is one place that pulls you to buy all kinds of handicrafts and a lot of other stuff. If you visit Jaipur, Bapu Bazar should be on your list.

Choki Dhani is good too

Jaipur is known for many things and Choki Dhani is the latest entry to that list. It has managed to capture the attention of tourists in its own way though it’s nothing more than kind of picnic spot which could have been located anywhere in the world, except it is themed on Rajasthani traditions, food and everything else. You should pay a visit to this artificial village and you are quite likely to like it too.

Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah – the Shrine of Moinuddin Chishti

Peace of mind is what most of us look for and peace of mind is what you get when you visit the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah – the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
Resting place of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, also known as Gharib Nawaz (Benefactor of the Poor) is one place I had wanted to visit for a long time and visiting it eventually meant year 2012 could not have ended on a better note. And what’s better, I also visited Pushkar, the Land of Brahma and prayed at the Brahma temple, an opportunity not many get in their lifetime.

Reaching Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah

We started off our last trip of 2012 at 6am from Gurgaon and after a 350 km and 7 hour road journey we reached Ajmer-e-Sharif ajmer11-e1356502790115Dargah at around 1pm. The road trip was enjoyable as usual and reaching out in time meant (it is open from 9 am to 5 pm only) we could spend as much time as we wanted at the Dargah itself.

After you enter Ajmer, you can find the Dargah through the road signs or by asking people. The roads closer to Dargah are narrow and there is lot of traffic, but that happens around such places, so don’t worry too much about that.

Things to keep in mind

If you are taking your car, there are few things that you need to know. Close to the Dargah, you’ll find parking space in private properties of shopkeepers and others. They charge you Rs 100 for 2 hours and they expect you to be back in 2 hours. You’ll have to leave your belongings including camera and car keys with them. If you come late, they’ll ask for more money.

From there you can walk up to the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah, though auto-rickshaw people will tell you it is very far off and charge you Rs 150/-(you can bargain and get them down to 100, at least we got one at this rate, though we walked eventually), you should walk as it’s a 10 min walk through the bazar and you can enjoy that too.

ajmer31-e1356502807187Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah Committee members help out

We met this gentleman, well he walked up to us, and gave us a few guidelines and met us in the Dargah. We were told by our friends that he’ll ask for money later on, but when we offered him same in the end, he politely refused. Anyhow, he took us around the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah and well, that was very helpful. The high point of the praying was I could touch and kneel down at “the mazar” and felt elated to no end. And yes, if you want to donate, you can do so at the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah Committee office and also get a receipt of the same.

Qawwali recital should not be missed

I wanted to listen to qawwali and well as luck would have had it, the qawwali guy turned up in time and was going to play at the exact spot we were sitting at. So that meant we had to move and it also meant we were closest to him.

After praying there, we came out and had our lunch right outside in a restaurant. The food they served was really nice and reasonably priced too. In the end, it was a memorable visit and did bring a “lot” of peace of mind.

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Pushkar, Brahma’s Temple and Land of Brahma

Pushkar, the Land of Brahma and the place which has the only Brahma’s Temple in the world – there are a few others, but this one is the “one,” is the king of pilgrimages, as the legend goes. We visited it a few days back after we had prayed at the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah – Shrine of Moinuddin Chishti and came back satisfied and elated.

11km from Ajmer

After visiting the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah, we moved on to our next destination, stop for the night and most sacred of religious places in India, Pushkar. Though it’s only 11km from Ajmer, we didn’t find the right directions due to lack of proper signages and ended up taking the longer 22km route. We didn’t mind it much eventually for two reasons; one- we did enjoy this route, and two- we came back by the 11km route so didn’t miss anything including enjoying the breath taking view of Ajmer city from a distance.

Pushkar – the bazaar, the foreigners, the food and the books

We went to the temple next morning, and the evening we spent in the town was amazing for many reasons. First important thing, you can walk through the entire place and have one of the most memorable evening strolls you’ll ever have in life.

You’ll find local handicrafts, endless variety of western-eastern mix colorful clothes esp for women and all kinds of food joints. You’ll find a lot of foreigners from all over the world sipping coffee, eating pan cakes and sandwiches and of course dressed in sadhu-dresses and sadhu-haircuts.

The stuff you get there is unique and reasonably priced. Even if you don’t buy anything, make sure you eat in some street restaurant, they serve delicious food that you’ll remember forever. And if you are a book lover, well then you are up for a rare treat. I found books there which I have never seen any where.

Brahma Temple

Brahma Temple, needless to say, is the reason we went there and was undoubtedly the highlight of the visit. They don’t allow you camera, bags, etc. inside and these you can deposit at one of the shops near to temple. The feeling you get in the temple is beyond words and if you are religious or spiritual person, you’ll be amazed.

The temple complex also has other smaller temples like Indra Temple, Kuber Temple, Saptrishi Temple and many others. When we went there there were not many people around and that gave us ample time to spend in the temple.

Pushkar Sarovar, the lake

The Pushkar lake has a legend attached to it and we loved this lake too. However acting on the advice of our friends we decided not to entertain the local priests there, a fact those preists didn’t like. In fact they said you can’t click pictures of the lake without paying money for it, as if we were going to listen to them and pay.

Anyhow, that was not a nice experience but still memorable.

Interesting all along

Overall, Pushkar has immense religious importance and was worth every moment we spent there. And lest I forget, among all the above while roaming around in the bazaar you’ll also be able to enjoy the art/paintings of Kikasso, the Indian Picasso.

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Jodhpur – Blue City, Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada and a lot more

“A poor man earning just 100 rupees a day eats only that food which is cooked in desi ghee.” This was the response the restaurant manager gave us when we inquired after feeling that every food item (and it was very reasonably priced) that we were eating at his restaurant at the Nai Sadak Chowraha in Jodhpur tasted to have been cooked in desi ghee. And this was just one of the memorable take-aways from the last stop of our last trip of 2012.

After praying at Ajmer-e-Sharif and Pushkar and driving for close to 600 km, we finally reached Jodhpur – a historic place, a major tourist attraction, the blue city, the sun city and a lot more.

Remarkable Mehrangarh Fort

Mehrangarh Fort is the biggest attraction in Jodhpur and we were really excited to visit it. The fort is on the top of a rocky hill and the narrow road leading up to it goes through old habitation. The fort is really majestic and could be among the tallest especially when you look at it right after crossing the main entrance.

Inside the fort you will be mesmerized by many things which includes the area at the far end overlooking “the Blue City”. When you stand there with over dozen canons looking over the area. And when you look down and see the blue color all around, well that scene is like no other you would have seen ever in life.

The museum within the fort is the other place you’ll love. It let’s you peek into many aspects of the royal life like all kinds of palanquins, armory, swords, a few guns and many other things. You go there and you’ll find plenty of things you’ll love to watch, feel and buy too.

 

The interesting Jaswant Thada

On way down from the Mehrangarh Fort we made a quick stop over at the Jaswant Thada. Well this is a serene place with a nice lake and a great structure, however, beyond that it doesn’t had much to offer. You can visit this place and cover it in under one hour the most, that includes parking the car, buying the tickets, clicking lots of pictures, and moving out.

Outstanding Umaid Bhawan Palace

The next stop for us was the Umaid Bhawan Palace which is on the other side of the city. It is a heritage hotel now but you can pay a visit to the museum and if you love cars then you’ll fall in love with the vintage car collection there. It was here that I saw a Cadillac and a Rolls Royce from a foot away with only a glass separating us.

Inside the museum we saw a lot of royal heritage and loved every part of it. Since it was almost 5 pm, the closing time, we rushed through many things but still enjoyed it to the fullest.

Kaylana Lake is good too

We decided to conclude our day by spending the evening at the Kaylana Lake. We had seen on Google maps that it was a big lake but while we asked about directions from locals they were all surprised as to why we wanted to go there and we were amused by their responses. This meant that it took us a lot more time than we had anticipated and we won’t have reached there had there been no Google Maps and Navigation applications.

However, the lake was not very impressive but was not a total disappointment either. We clicked some nice pics there and came back to the Nai Sarak for some shopping and eventual dinner at the same local restaurant. This concluded a really memorable day for all of us.

575 km in under 10 hours

The next day proved to be the icing on the cake as we started off at 5.30am from the hotel and had a great drive back to Gurgaon. And in under 10 hours we reached Gurgaon, a record of sorts for all the road trips we have had in 2012. Driving through a deserted road from Jodhpur to Beawar, a spectacular 6 lane highway from Beawar to Jaipur via Ajmer and then an ever traffic ridden Jaipur to Gurgaon highway, it was as good as it gets.

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Sherlock Holes – A Game of Shadows, read Guy Ritchie – A Game of Shadows

Guy Ritchie – A Game of Shadows or Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows, which one it is? This is a one confusion that might cloud your mind, one conundrum you might find yourself pains at trying to solve and more often than not it’s the former you might find yourself believing at.

If you saw the first Sherlock Holmes production from Guy Ritchie and if you have seen the earlier productions from his stable you’ll know what I mean when you see Sherly, beg your pardon, Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows. Let me warn you here, ‘Sherly’ was not unintentional, it was totally intentional, though I hope Sherly’s (oops again) brother Mycroft (ha ha) who roams around naked (ha ha ha ha) in the house doesn’t mind me using the name.

Guy Ritchie trade mark

One of the favorite objects of Guy which he uses and presents in most elaborate manner in his movies is a Revolver or a Gun and he loves showing us even more elaborately how a shot is fired from a gun. Now imagine what will happen when he decides to give his trade mark rocknrolla twist to Sherly’s story and that too when Sherly’s villain (can’t say movie’s villain, something the villain himself tries to point out in the end) in fact ends up being the owner of biggest weapon manufacturer.

So what this means is that you’ll come to know not only how a gun works but also how a machine gun, a rocket launcher and so many other weapons actually work. You may not see Sherly’s journey of how he solves the case (which BTW he takes up suo moto, ha ha ha) but you will surely see journey of a rocket or a bullet in the most lucid manner.

Still worth a watch

Any how, the movie though definitely is Guy Ritchie – A Game of Shadows, yet you can still enjoy it a lot especially if you have not seen any of the Sherlock Holmes’ TV series or movies earlier or if you don’t mind experiments even the ones which are not very logical.

‘We did it for Sachin’ – When India won ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

“We did it for Sachin”, said Yuvraj. “Sachin has carried the burden of a nation for 21 years, it is time we carried him on our shoulders”, said Virat Kohli.

And, “ Disappointed but the better side won ”, said Sangakara.

May be just a few opinions of the players who lived the most memorable moment of their lives on 2nd April, 2011, but these did sum up the emotions of an entire nation and beyond, these could not have been more profound.

It is a day that people who love Indian cricket dearly and who were close to being indifferent to the most happening event for a long long time will never forget; not today, not tomorrow and not forever; it is a day to be cherished forever and ever.

India has won and won the ICC Cricket World Cup hands down-lets rejoice in the moment- it eventually is Team India’s gift to Sachin Tendulkar.

Not to be missed, Yuvraj Singh won the Man of the Tournament and he says it was for all, his teammates, his family, his gurus, and Sachin; not necessarily in this order.

The winner Indian team’s skipper M S Dhoni said it all when he said, “This was the goal we wanted to achieve and everyone gave his best”.

Indiaaaaaayaaaa….India….

King’s Speech will leave you speechless

I must confess at the onset, I was very skeptical about King’s Speech. I had my doubts about the movie considering the kind of plot I thought it had. My fears I thought were coming true when Colin Firth first was shoo in and then won the Oscar. The Academy has worked quite hard to earn a bad reputation (we’ll come to that too, but not now) and I was not sure they wanted to spring a surprise by acknowledging some real talent sometime soon. But…

King’s Speech is one gem of a movie. First, may be you were aware of it already I wasn’t, there was a king to grace the British throne who had speech problems- used to stammer, to be precise. But there was such a king and Colin made him come alive on the screen with perfection.

Oscars regain some lost sheen

The movie was so engrossing that the time just flew by. Colin is so convincing in the movie that in his next movie you would be surprised to see that this guy actually doesn’t stammer. A movie that I was anticipating to be more of a bore turned out to be a movie that I could enjoy sitting through (last time that happened was with Inception).

By awarding Colin Firth the Oscar for Best Actor the Academy has done itself a lot good. Interestingly, looks like good days are back again in Oscars, even Christian Bale won his first Oscar for The Fighter, only for Supporting Actor, but they had to make a start some day, somewhere. I am glad they finally did.

Long live the Colin King!

Bannerghatta National Park…

Staring into the eyes of a tiger standing less than two feet from you can be an experience in itself and when the tiger is loose and you are inside a cage (well almost) the experience is so hard to describe. Enjoying the safari in the Bannerghatta National Park- only one hour drive from Bangaluru (Bangalore), was just one such experience.

Starting from deer to crocodile to bear to tiger and lion, there was lots to intrigue and intimidate anyone and everyone. The cage (bus actually) was the one in which were seated the humans and free (almost) were the wild animals.

 

What topped the entire safari was the attitude of the tigers- from the looks of their demeanor they had we-don’t-give-a-damn attitude. For we humans it was so thrilling, a once in a life time kind of experience, and for them it was an everyday routine affair. They were right- we see tigers very very rarely but they see humans daily.

Anyhow, it was quite a memorable trip and since I was with my family it had all the fun I could have asked for.

Next time you visit Bangaluru (Bangalore), make sure Bannerghatta National Park is part of your itinerary.. And get ready to get thrilled..