Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day 2 - Of 12 days of North India Trip

Day 2:

This is a part of trip report of my North India Tour from Sep 22nd to Oct 4th. This is Day 2 of the trip.

23rd morning at around 8 am we started to Hawamahal. Before entering the fort we had to search for a hotel for breakfast. One thing a Bangalorean misses terribly when he moves out of the city is the lack of restaurants or hotels. In Bangalore, you will hardly find yourself hungry for a long time, since at every corner you have “Some Corner” or “Some Darshini”. After a km of walk we could find a 3 start hotel; Samosas and Kachoris were available for breakfast along with very costly Idli. :) May be it is just the regional difference that makes me feel how anyone could eat Samosa or Kachori for breakfast? Chittra was interested to try something interesting and she ordered something she had never heard of before. Girish's eyes were really sharp. He had been observing (and later we all) a tall lady in the hotel reception during our breakfast. Though someone directed him to the washroom, his steps continued towards reception.

After the costly breakfast, we came back to Hawamahal; we hired a guide and started exploring the place. One thing about the Kings of Rajasthan is that they had several wives (some king had as many as 23 wives) and countless keeps (same king had 373 keeps). Isn’t that surprising (or interesting? :)). There used to be a very sarcastic smile on the guides’ face when they used to talk about this.

Hawamahal also called as Wind Fort is famous for its unique architecture. It has as many as 950 windows in total around a small fort, 350 of them being on one wall!! The interiors of the fort are really well made. Hats off to the designer of this master piece. I wish we had something similar to Hawamahal (No AC) as our IT office. :-) Guide charged us nominal price for his lecture and he tried to influence us to take him to the next location, Jantar Mantar, as guide. By that time, I guess all of us were bugged with the history lecture. We decided to go on our own.

“Just 2 minutes walk” said Larry and started walking towards Jantar Matar, and it ended up becoming 15 minutes walk under the burning Sun. By the time we reached Jantar Mantar, there was no energy left in me to bear the heat. We had just started to get acclimatized and it was becoming unbearable. I just could not walk around or stand in this place; I wanted to find some shady place and just lie down; I didn’t want to take photos too. Finally I could find one such place under a tree near the compound and that’s it. Meanwhile, Larry and Sangeetha were exploring the place. Shashi (Aunty :-)) covered her face with a stole to save herself from tanning and as she walked in, she looked like a terrorist :-) No offence! Girish wore his bluish sun glasses and was sitting in another corner. Chittra was grinning again and again looking at our goggles as if she looked like a princess of Egypt in her sun glasses. Wine color Sun glasses.. LOL. Sangeetha has fun time taking "Gandhiji ke Theen Bandar" sort of picture of myself, Girish and Larry.

Jantar Matar

It was just around 12 in the noon and we decided to call up the driver and go to Udaipur. Aunty and Chittra did shopping whenever they got any opportunity. Surely their trip expenses would have exceeded anybody else’s.

After the terrible lunch at the hotel we packed out bags again and dumped them in the Innova and headed towards Udaipur which is around 410 kms from Jaipur and it is a close to 6 hours journey on a highway. We decided not to drop by Ajmer since there is only a Darga to be visited. However we decided (rather “I”) to go to Pushkar, to see the World Creator’s temple. Lord Brahma’s temple can be found only at this place in India. I am too lazy to type the history behind Brahma, Pushkar and his mistakes which lead him not to be worshipped anywhere on the earth. Googling will surely help. Following are few of the pictures taken around this place.

The drive to Pushkar after it took deviation from the highway, was interesting; It crossed several Rajasthani villages and colorful temples; I listened to Hotel California Live Acoustics n number of times, courtesy Sangeetha's iPod. When I was bugged I tried reading "God Father", courtesy, again Sangeetha. By the time I could figure who this "God Father" is I was bugged with the book too! and we reached the Brahma Temple. There was nothing much to do there apart from visiting the temple and roaming around a bit.

Pushkar Streets

Hoping that we would reach Udaipur by dinner time, we left from Pushkar. Our dear driver took a different route to avoid the toll tax on highway and few extra kms, which lead us to a terrible journey. It turned out to be more than 6 hours of journey from Pushkar to Udaipur. The journey never seemed to end. The traffic was more and the high intensity beams from the Lorries did not allow anyone to sleep either. I tried to entertain my friends with few real stories that I have come across. Everyone carefully listened to me and had a time pass but no one admitted that it was really entertaining. The stories were like typical Indian movies with sad ending. ;-) We stopped on the way for dinner. By this time, we were slowly hesitating to eat the Rotis and curries but still there was no option. I had spoken to a person in Udipur to keep our rooms booked for a day; we woke him up in the midnight when we reached Udaipur and collected the keys.

That ended our tiring Day 2.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Dream Destinations" - A Tour of 12 days in North India

18th September 2009 was the day for which I had been waiting eagerly. It is not that I had a date with some beautiful girl or something, but it was the day since when my 16 days of vacation was starting.

During the time I waited for this day, there were plenty of plans crossed my minds as well as my friends’ who also got so many days off. Lawrence and Sangeetha had got 7 days off; Sriram had got only 3 days off giving him 9 days of vacation. Later on I tried to influence Girish to pull him for this trip and he too agreed; and then Chittra and Shashi joined who also had 7 days off.

First of all the plan was to go to Manali-Leh. It was ruled out since Sriram could not have made it because of the lack of so many days to cover it. Then our plan shifted to “Valley of Flowers Trekking” in Uttaranchal. But then it was again a flop show since Uttaranchal Tourism folk informed us that it is the end of the season and the roads are already closed. Then there was Lawrence’s master plan with Gangotri-Gomukh plan. There was a problem with this plan too; that we could not get the permission for trekking to Gomukh from Gangotri from the Uttaranchal Forest Dept for the dates we wanted.

Finally, we decided to go ahead with “No Plan” – which, in the end, worked out much better. We booked tickets to Jaipur for 22nd Sep and fro tickets from Delhi for 4th Oct. Between 22nd and 4th there were no cabs, hotels, or anything booked in any of the places that we planned to visit. From this point onwards till the flight took off, every hour was counted, lot of shopping was done (adding to the trip expenses), and gmail status message was changed several times. In the end "No plan" turned out to be "Gangothri-Gomukh" plan, all lead by Mr Lawrence Mesquita. :)

Today I am just trying to fetch or recall those moments of happiness, abundant beauty of the places we visited, joy of being with friends for such a long time, beautiful journey which seemed eternal, the best jokes which made us ROFL, the frustration out of hunger which made us yell at each other, the groans of the tiredness while trekking and so on.. Though all those moments are still stamped in my mind as fresh as they were then, I don’t trust my memory and want to put down everything here. This is for my reference when I want to look back on these 12 days. If there are readers to this page, you may read it at your own risk or just skim through the photographs. :)

Here it goes from Day 1 to Day 12.

Day 1:

On Sep 22nd Tue, I did not require an alarm to wake me up early in the morning since I was eagerly waiting for that moment. More than me my mother had so much of excitement that she prepared lot of eatables for us, spending a lot of time in preparing them a day before. I fought with her since she was making me carry some more weight (didn’t realize the importance of it basically). I yelled at her and said I will dump it in the airport only and board the flight.

At around 9 am when I reached airport I could see Girish, Chittra and Shashi waiting near the entrance. Sangeetha too joined in. Lawrence was supposed to travel from Goa to Jaipur. Sriram was supposed to start after 3 days to join us in Delhi.

First thing which I noticed on the airport was Shashi’s huge travel bag, and the next moment I was convinced since I knew she would be doing a lot of shopping for her boutiques that she has set up in Bangalore. Sangeetha’s Wild craft bag looked taller and heavier than her. To exaggerate this further it looked like Sangeetha's poster on a wild craft bag :-) lol. Chittra looked dreaming about feeling the snow in Himalaya and stepping on a desert land in Rajasthan. Girish looked, as usual, very cool and calm (the only time I found him unusual was in Delhi.. Read on..) We had few sandwiches before we boarded the flight.

At around 10.15 am the flight took off from Bangalore after a nice ;-) air hostess gave the travel instructions. I and Sangeetha had seats next to each others'; also Chittra and Shashi. Unfortunately Girish had to sit between two old gentlemen and it was fun to see his face. I thought the oldies would have bugged poor Girish; at the end it turned out to be the other way.

As the flight took off to cross the sea of clouds and reach the sky, our enthu also had reached the heights. It is such an amazing feeling to be so high up in the sky and look down to find the roads and rivers look like paintings. The top view of Sahyadri Mountains as we were approaching Mumbai was breathtaking! As the flight moved closer to Mumbai, the beautiful view was replaced with never ending Slums. I thought “Slumdog Millionaire” was an exaggeration but then the real view was even worse! The slums looked hooked into the hills, apart from several kms of stretch on the ground level. Slums start just an inch after the airport boundary. Anyways.. There was a half an hour break in Mumbai. After that the flight took off to Jaipur.

Just before the landing in Jaipur, we got a message that there is a turbulent wind and we may experience a bit of it before landing. It was one of the scariest landings. We got out of the flight after the landing to experience even worse. Hot blow of wind in the Jaipur airport was threatening. It was nearly 40 degrees Cel of temperature. People grinned at me looking at the jacket I was wearing. Next moment I took my jacket off and boarded the bus to the terminal. After collecting the bags, none of us wanted to leave the shade and get under the Sun to search for a taxi. We managed to hire a prepaid taxi, Innova, from Airport asking him to take us Hawamahal Road.

We did not know even a single hotel in Jaipur, because of our so called "No Plan" plan. Driver too came to know and he said he would guide us. He took as to few hotels all of which were 3 stars. I don’t know what made him think we are so rich. He was finally making fun of us saying that we will have to be on footpath for cheaper accommodation. After a lot of roaming around we got to a place called Sugandh Retreat, close to the bus stand and a complex called Amber Tower. The accommodation was good and reasonably priced. By this time I could hear the empty stomachs crying out of hunger. Only then I realized the importance of the Chapathis that my mother had packed for all of us. The Chapathi and typical North Karnataka Chatni Powder and paste of red Chilly is kind of trademark of my mom's cooking skills; it tasted heavenly to be honest.

I negotiated with the same driver for our drive to Udaipur and Pushkar for the next day and places within Jaipur. It worked out cheap and best for us. We paid him 9000rs for taking us to Chokhi Dhani on the first day evening and then to Udaipur on the second day. In the evening, after a brief walk nearby we headed towards Hawamahal Road from where I had asked the driver to pick us up. We headed towards a famous village resort called Chokhi Dhani..

Chokhi Dani is a unique village resort where one gets to experience typical Rajasthan Colors. Chokhi Dani means a “fine hamlet”. The interiors look really grand and like a Rajasthani Village itself. There are lot of folks dancers who perform, few Rajasthani Emporiums, Camel rides, Cart rides, puppet show and Rajasthani dinner service inside the resort. They charge 350rs for your time spent in Chokhi Dhani which includes a dinner.

Good Earning for Choki Dhani Owners

It was a good start for my camera too but there was no proper lighting to assist me. It was quite dark with the only light
coming from the lamps. I tried few slow shutter shots and was quite happy with the results. :)
Dancers Performing in Chokhi Dhani
Puppet Show
Dinner at Chokhi Dhani
It is a big place and we got to roam around for quite some time. We got to see every unique thing about Rajasthan from Cultural activities to Food. The Rajasthani folk dance was good to see - We, joining the folks with few steps was fun – Camel Ride was kiddish, the Kulfi tasted very sweet. Finally the dinner with Typical Rajasthani Servings was new experience for us.
Funny thing happened when we were waiting to wash our hands before dinner. Lawrence does not like waiting and to irritate him there was a girl who was taking a lot of time to make way for others. Lawrence said slowly "Haath do rahe ho ya phir naha rahe ho" and apparently her boyfriend or husband overheard it. Good that he took it lightly. Otherwise I could imagine Lawrence getting hurt with injuries on his face :) The servings were quite new to us but Dal Bhati tasted very nice and small Jelebies were tastier. The peaceful dinner pretty much ended our day 1.

We headed back to the hotel having planned for the next day.