Showing posts with label Incredible India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Incredible India. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Touring Rampuriya Havelis, Bikaner



With intricate art and vibrant colors inching throughout the exteriors, the cluster of Rampuriya havelis in Bikaner is a visual treat. This lesser known city of Rajasthan is an offbeat place to travel. Thanks to these colorful havelis. Located in the old part of the city, Rampuriya havelis were homes of the wealthy merchants many decades ago. Had the heritage property not been turned into a heritage site by the authorities, they would have been in ruins, hence damaging the chances of the little tourism they get. Visitors are not allowed to enter the havelis but can tour the lanes and settle with capturing the beauty through lenses.


Guarded by an aged man donning traditional Rajasthani attire, these havelis left me with a mystic charm. If the buildings look so gorgeous on the exterior, imagine the rich details of the interiors.

Guarding the heritage


The bulky locks with chains on the doors, the colorful windows, the carvings and paintings on the walls date back to the 1400's. Imagine 600 year old buildings! As I walked through the tiny lanes, the view of the adjacent buildings intrigued me deeper into the old city.









Intricate art 



Rich details in every corner 


Ancient homes so beautiful

Vibrant colors of the architecture

Old  is always gold




The grandeur of the past  




ENTRY FEES-
None.

BEST TIME TO VISIT- 
The heritage buildings can be visited any time of the day, though I suggest morning or evening for photography in better light. Day time can get extremely warm with unbearable heat in Summers..

November to March is an ideal time to visit Rajasthan which otherwise scorches with 50 degree centigrade temperature.

HOW TO REACH
One can easily reach the place via auto or taxi. If your hotel is close by in the old Bikaner city, you might was well walk.

GOOD TO KNOW- Bikaner is a small town of Rajasthan with still developing infrastructure. While the old town charm remains the same, do not expect good roads or open spaces. The lanes are congested, air pollution is high and the old town is quite untidy.

P.S- This trip of mine was in March 2019. The post made it to the top post of the day and was featured on Indiblogger home page.

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers



Sunday, February 3, 2019

All about planning a trip to Nathula Pass




Sikkim was one hell of a trip for us (husband and me). After a lot of surprises and changes in plan, I wasn't sure if  we would be able to make it to Nathula Pass. At last we found a travel agent in Gangtok Gandhi market, who made necessary arrangements at 1000 INR per person. (It varies between Rs 700-1000 depending on the season.) Booking a whole taxi costs around Rs 2500 which is recommended for a group or family travelling together.

P.S- Visitors are required to fill up a form with details which is submitted by the agent at the border authority office. The forms are queued up for next day and signaled for 'permit'.  Hence one must apply for the same a day before the intended visit.

For altitude sickness and breathlessness, it is recommended to have popcorns. Buy a packet or two from vendors at the taxi stand.


The shared taxis (usually Tata Sumo or Bolero) ferry ten people in one go. We left sharp at 9 am with 8 more people as co-passengers. The breathtaking views on the old Silk route of 53 km from the taxi stand to Nathula Pass left us speechless. The views changed from emerald cover of mountains to tree tops wrapped in fluff of clouds. The rapidly changing landscape compensated for the little challenges on the curvy road. Narrow roads along with solo bikers slowed us down and we got stuck at a check post for half an hour. Yet our excitement throughout the journey remained on a high.


Be prepared for road blockages or broken bridges that happen due to avalanche and the only people who take responsibility to repair the damages is Indian Army. Roads are a lifeline of Sikkim as well as strategically important due to proximity from China. Hats off to our Army who rapidly come into action and keep everything moving.

P.S- Due to this bridge construction, entry to Nathula was stopped for two days. Luckily the roads were opened just a day before we inquired. Do get in touch with Sikkim tourist information center before you make booking for Nathula.




Our stoppage on the way where we were greeted by a furry lot. 

Enroute Nathula

The driver would usually stop midway for a short break. Advisable to to relieve yourself or fuel up with food during the break, since the facilities vanish as you near Nathula. Your driver would have a collaboration with these tiny eating joints, where you are required to place your order for lunch in advance.

(Food is quite costly; one plate of fried rice was Rs 180 and a humble thali of rice, daal and dry veggies was priced at Rs 200.  But its okay. Given the harsh terrain where logistics support is negligible, that's how they make a living)

Vegetation started thinning and temperature dropped gradually as we sped through the uphill curves. Our co- passengers had come to a common consensus to visit Nathula Pass first followed by Tsongmo Lake and Baba Mandir on the way back.










Stepping out at an altitude of 14000 feet in spine chilling cold towards Nathula Pass post was a life-learning. We took one step at a time on the stairs, slowly inching towards the Indo-Chinese post facing each other. Icy wind hit our ears and lack of oxygen made us breathless. But you know what kept us going? It was the Indian Army soldiers who had a smile on their face while braving the odds. Nothing puts them off guard or off duty even in sub zero temperature.

An Army personnel narrates stories of the post formation, the ill-fated war and history of Chinese invasion. Both the country's flag flutter in chilled winds, each representing the respective nation's pride. While you can look at the Chinese guard post and sometimes their soldiers on inspection rounds, photography is strictly prohibited. We were told that Indian tourists out of excitement take pictures and post on social media which Chinese use as a propaganda against India. They have accused India in past of war preparations.

PS: If caught, mobile phones are confiscated. You cannot use DSRL at all. You can carry your camera but in no case would be allowed to use it.

Imbibing the story and paying our respect at the war memorial, we made our way out through the canteen grabbing some jalebi and momos. Army also sells small collectibles and gift items worth carrying home as memories. We bought a wall poster on which has a space to paste a picture and write the date of visit. This was the best collectible from Nathula for us.

P.S- Do spend a little at the souvenir shop. It can be an amount as small as Rs 50. The money goes to Army welfare. This is the least you can contribute to the brave-hearts on duty. 

Enriched with a sense of pride, saluting the heroes of the nation and paying a quite homage at the war memorial, we bid adieu to Nathula hoping to come back some day again.   Our next stops were Baba Mandir and Tsongmo Lake.





P.S- My trip to Nathula was in October 2018.
This post made it to Indiblogger Homepage as Featured Post of the day as well as the Top Post of the Day.
Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers 
Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers




Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Touring Sikkim's largest monastery: Rumtek




Visiting temples or monasteries rarely make it to my priority list unless they are exceptional. Never had I thought about seeing any monastery on my trip to Sikkim. However, after reading about the unique History and having heard a lot from the locals, husband and I made quick plan to visit Rumtek; the largest and most popular monastery of Sikkim.


Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers



22 km from the capital, Rumtek stands  at an altitude of 4900 feet against the backdrop of the beautiful Himalayan Range. Made in mid 1700, Rumtek is home to hundreds of monks with a long history of clashes over stewardship of the monastery and its contents. Heavily guarded by ITBP, the monastery is under strict surveillance 24x7.
The heavily guarded entrance 

P.S- Weapons or sharp objects are restricted to entry. Use of camera/mobile phones are allowed in the outer premises, not inside the assembly hall.

The pillar of good luck

A pillar stands across the main temple in the center of the courtyard where tourists engage themselves by throwing coin on the top of the pillar. The coin if perches the pole is said to bring good luck.




Rich and vibrantly colored murals in the traditional, Tibetan painting style grace the entrance of the main temple. Here, on each side of the door, stand life-size images of the four guardians of the universe: Virudaka, Virupaksha, Dritarashtra, and Vaishravana, protecting the four directions, respectively. (photography is allowed only till point)







The assembly hall leaves you breathless. The spacious and intricately decorated Main Shrine Hall is supported by robust red pillars. Long, round silk banners and ancient thangkas hang from these columns. One side of the main hall houses a complete set of religious scriptures dating thousand years ago. The ornate details and paintings on the walls are truly mesmerizing. (Photography is not allowed here). 


The main assembly hall is surrounded by the monks' quarters and through them leads a path towards the Golden Stupa and the Nalanda Institute of Higher Buddhism Studies. The Golden Stupa contains the precious relics and holy remains of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. You can meditate or pray here and feel the positive aura surrounding you. (Photography is prohibited here)


The Nalanda Institute is a center dedicated for Buddhism studies.


Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies



You can buy souvenirs at the little shop near the Nalanda Institute's complex or capture nature's bliss around. I was impressed to see how the authorities conserve nature and make the most of the resources available. City dwellers need some serious learning from them.


Road conditions: 
The road condition is extremely bad in patches. Since the ride is bumpy and uncomfortable, the slow drive will elongate the journey. Recommended to visit Rumtek during the day or else the bumpy roads are not visible in the dark due to absence of street lights. Apart from few settlements and shops, the entire road is isolated.

Timings- 10 am to 5 pm everyday

Total time to spend: 1 to 2 hours

P.S- This trip of mine was in October 2018.
This also made it to Indiblogger's Featured Post and Indiblogger's Top post.


Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers






  

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Adrenaline Rush - Zero Point, Sikkim




Sikkim is an incredibly beautiful state and every place in this state exudes an enigmatic grandeur. One among them is Zero Point. Husband and I were fascinated to visit this place as we were intrigued to know how it feels at the last outpost of civilization in knee deep snow.  My late father-in-law had served in NEFA valley. Hence husband wanted to see a similar place where his dad was posted. Zero Point undoubtedly topped the list. A big salute to Indian Army which operates in harsh conditions, guarding the Indo-China border 24*7.




A day before your visit to Zero Point or Yumesamdong, your driver/travel agent would have submitted your documents in advance, which are checked on the day of visit. Zero Point is usually not included in North Sikkim itinerary and travel agents charge Rs 3000 extra for this trip, clubbing Yumthang Valley with it. Your homestay would provide you with packed breakfast (usually bread butter/jam) since you would have to leave early morning.

The distance from Lachung to Zero Point is 51 km and roughly 30 km from Yumthang Valley.
(We first went to Zero Point and stopped at Yumthang Valley on returning from Zero.)



Hilly topography, harsh weather and proximity to China perhaps made it impossible to build roads. You would experience sharp turns and jerks throughout the road journey. Nonetheless the beautiful untouched nature around makes up for painful ride. The breath-taking sight leaves you mesmerized. After all its the journey that matters.




As you ascend higher, vegetation starts diminishing and rocky terrain becomes more prominent. The roads tend to get very slippery and extremely dangerous during snowfall. Ask your driver to drive slowly and very carefully on this route even when not snowing. Rash driving is not an option here. Give way to Army trucks whenever you see. Army personnel wave at passing vehicles as a gesture of wishing happy journey and making you feel good. Waving back to them is a nice gesture.

On the way, don’t forget to stop at ‘Jalebi Point’ for yummy snacks which are made by Indian Army personnel. Their motto is to bring a smile to faces and not let anyone go hungry.
P.S- Food items at Zero Point are expensive and the hygiene is not really trustworthy.  Advisable to refuel yourself at this stop. Hot samosas and jalebis felt absolutely amazing as we famished. (Remember our breakfast was just bread butter?)  

The super bouncy ride comes to an end at the Zero Point Parking. At 15000 feet above sea level, the place is covered in snow most of the year. When it hasn’t snowed, it would be biting cold.


We were at loss of words with the exhilarating beauty of the place. The Sun hid behind the greyish clouds and the chilled winds kissed our skin. Wood-fire at a nearby tea stall made us feel colder and we pulled our jackets tighter. The white blanket of snow seemed to beckon us as our body tried to adjust in the sub-zero temperature. Thankfully we did not feel uneasy because oxygen level isn’t low here unlike Gurudongmar Lake. While we felt ecstatic being surrounded by snow wondering what was China doing behind those gigantic mountains, our heart went out to Indian Army that braves these challenges everyday just to keep us safe. A heart-felt thanks and grand salute to them.


Enjoy hot snacks at the little shacks here, play with snow, enjoy nature at its "whitest most" and take home good memories. A usual protocol is to leave within an hour lest the parking should be full or  weather conditions worsen. Avoid Zero Point during rainy season.

Overall the place has nothing except for being an important landmark before China. However the exotic beauty of this place keeps you charmed.

Travelling to such places often changes your perspective about life and lot of things. The distance between life and death could be a thing as small as a wrong step on the hills or slipping on the rocks. We could somehow re-live the conditions what dad had endured during his service in NEFA. Our trip to Zero Point was also in his commemoration.  

P.S- This trip of mine was in Oct 2018. In case you have queries on planning your trip to North Sikkim or Zero point, feel free to reach out at shilp3005@gmail.com or leave your query in comments below. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Inside Rangji Temple, Vrindavan






The holy town of Vrindavan, is home to ancient history dating centuries ago. The karamabhoomi of Lord Krishna, Vrindavan hustles with people all year, irrespective the weather. Among several temples dedicated to Lord Krishna, I found a temple from the South Indian origin, the Rangji Temple. Driven by curiosity, husband and I could not stop ourselves from visiting this beautiful temple, much different from others in Vrindavan. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Rangji Temple is a beautiful concoction of the north and south Indian architecture.






Rangji Temple History- Build in 1851, this is the largest temple of Vrindavan that houses Lord Vishnu, Lord Ram, Goddess Sita, Lord Lakshman, Lord Venugopala and Lord Ramanujacarya. The main priests are South Indian Brahmins. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple, and non-Indians are given access to the first two gateways only. With the outer walls towering at a height of 773 feet and width of 440 feet, you can imagine the vastness of the space enclosed within.

Here is my photo blog on the beautiful Rangji Temple- 


One of the gateways










Priests in the main prayer hall


Smaller temple inside the premises
 

Gold plated pillar towering at 50 feet, this is called the Dhwaja Stambha


 A kund in the temple premises




The dwelling spaces of the priests and elderly


Walkway of the ashram


How to reach- Vrindavan has a major monkey menace. Hence exploring the place on foot is not advisable. Hire a rickshaw or shared auto to reach Rangji Temple which is close to Gandhi Chowk.

Timings:
Summers- 5:30 to 10:30 am and 4 pm to 9 pm
Winters- 6-11 am, 3:30-8:30 pm


P.S: This trip of mine was in Jan 2018
Also this post made it as the top post on Indiblogger home page. 

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Featured Post

Bali Bird Park

Your trip to Bali would not be complete without visiting the beautiful Bird Park. Located in Batubulan of Gianyar region, Bali Bird Park ...