Showing posts with label Travel blogger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel blogger. 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.

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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.


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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

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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. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Himalayas Calling - Here's the perfect itinerary for North Sikkim




Sikkim, the jewel of North East, is a small state yet has so much to offer. Explore more about North Sikkim and the best plan for a North Sikkim Trip. 

Things you need to know before planning North Sikkim trip- 

-A non resident of the state cannot travel to the northern part of Sikkim. To enter the borders of North Sikkim, you need a permit, which would be obtained by your travel agent or driver.
-In case you are a biker, you have to arrange for your permits through an authorized travel agency.
-Carrying plastic water bottles in North Sikkim is not allowed. Hence carry your own sipper or water bottles. A surprise check may lead to a penalty of Rs. 5000. 
-Being close to China, security threats are high and being in a rough terrain, chances of mis-happenings too are high.
(See the rough broken roads that look scary)



Cost of travelling to North Sikkim:
-In case you are traveling solo in a group package, the cost would be between 3-4k. (May go higher in peak season.) This cost includes food, accommodation and site seeing for 3 days, 2 nights.
-In case you are travelling as a group/couple, the package cost would range from 19-25k for 3days 2 nights (May vary depending on the number of days and season).
-Travelling solo booking a full car to yourself would be a costly affair. (Might cost 20-25k)


 Places that are usually included in North Sikkim itinerary-

Lachen- Gurodongmar Lake- Chopta Valley- Thangu- Kaala Pathhar
Lachung- Yumthang Valley- Hot Water Springs- Zero Point

For your convenience, have a look at the map of Sikkim to understand the location and Geography.



The itinerary for North Sikkim 

Usually visitors are picked from Gangtok. However if you have booked your stay in some other place, do let your travel agent know about it (the cost of package may vary thereafter) 

Day 1- Gangtok to Lachen (Overnight stay in Lachen)

This is a 7-8 hours of journey by road. Narrow curvy roads with potholes and landslides in between may slow you down at times. Nevertheless the journey to a green paradise is absolutely sunning.

On the way you would get to see Seven Sisters Waterfall (The waterfall that falls through seven steps), Singhik Village for the view of enormous Kanchendzonga range and the gorgeous Chungthang confluence.



Seven Sisters Waterfall



Lachen Accomodation- Lachen speaks of many homes stays and small budget hotels. Your travel agent would have made your booking in advance. My stay was a nightmare, so I would skip talking about it. Ask your agent the name of your accommodation and search for reviews online.   If you find your stay to be pathetic, call your agent and protest.  

Day 2- Lachen to Gurudongmar, Chopta, Thangu Kala Pathhar, back to Lachen (Stay overnight)



An early morning drive from Lachen will take you to Gurudongmar Lake, a breathtaking fresh-water lake at an altitude of 17375Ft / 5225M.

Your hotel/home stay will provide you with packed breakfast (usually bread butter jam) or make a pit stop at check post in the village where you can enjoy maggi, thupka and tea.

The first check post opens at 7:00 am where your documents would be checked and approved for entry. The next stop is fifteen kilometers further where the final checking is done. Since washroom facilities are limited, advisable to get relieved wherever you stop. Same goes for eating joints.
Pit stop for breakfast in Lachen


The entire journey from Lachen to Gurodongmar is bumpy and quite rugged. Only the last few kilometers before Gurodongmar is smooth. Nevertheless all the pains taken would seem worth when you look at the sparkling blue water of the beautiful lake. As the legend goes, the lake in the 15th century was blessed by the Sikh leader Guru Nanak and stopped a part of the lake from freezing in order to provide drinking water to villagers in Winters.






P.S- Do not run or do strenuous activity since lack of oxygen would make you feel breathless, nausea,  tired, weak.

While returning from the Lake, visit Chopta Valley or Kala Pathhar for the beautiful mountains. In Feb-March Chopta Valley blooms with colorful flowers and feels like paradise. Thangu Village is the name of the settlement across the Chopta Valley. Further Kala Pathhar (the black mountain) awaits you with lush green landscape and snow in season. An early morning departure and a super-bumpy ride would leave you exhausted as you return to your hotel in Lachen for Lunch. Get some rest and depart for Lachung. (2-3 hours journey). Spend the day at leisure exploring the local culture or just letting the wind caress your face.

Day 3- Lachen to Zero point, Yumthang Valley, Hot Spring and back to Gangtok. 

Wake up early to catch the morning beauty. Leave from your hotel with your packed breakfast around 6:30 am and head to Yumthang Valley. (A 25 km stretch). The serene river flowing through the green pasture land with the snow capped mountains in the background is a view to die for. No kidding!  Further, the drive through Yumthang Valley seems straight out of a postcard.
Yumthang Valley
The Himalayan lifeline through Yumthang

Throughout the beautiful journey on the curvy roads dotted with vibrant tree tops, do wave back to the army personnel and make a pit stop at the Army canteen named "Jalebi Point", for hot jalebis and samosas. Zero Point, the last outpost before China Border offers you an out-of-the-world feeling and if lucky you might experience snowfall. It just feels amazing how you made it to the last border post of India with China on the other side. 


Zero Point

Return to Lachung for lunch. Soon after drive to Gangtok and end your memorable road trip as you check in to your hotel in Gangtok. 
Lachung Accommodation- There are several homstays in Lachung. Dont expect royal hotels in this remote part of Sikkim. Homestays are cosy, neat and beautiful. We recommend Kalden Residency, run by two friendly sisters. They rooms are bright and pretty, the view from the tiny balcony opens to infinite lines of sky touching the touching the  mountains and rivers. Its one amazing place to stay in.
https://www.makemytrip.com/hotels/kalden_residency_i-details-lachung.html

While booking your trip, do keep in mind- 
-Your package cost must include food, lodging and permissions. At any point in time should the driver ask you to pay for anything, deny.
-Usually Zero Point and Kaala Pathar are not included in the itinerary and they charge Rs 3000 extra for each point.
-Negotiate well and they might include it in your travel plan. It is advisable to skip Chopta Valley and Thangu. (They are just view points and included in the itinerary for the sake of it)
-Your package cost will not include anything extra. Not even a bottle of water. Carry your own sipper.

Be prepared for the following in North Sikkim- 
-Shops sell products at high price (as they have to get things from Gangtok). Stock up with popcorn, dark chocolates and light snacks to beat nausea and hunger pangs.
-Even in the month of May or June, the weather remains cold.
-Always carry your original documents and a copy with you all the time. You might be asked to prove your identity by Army. 
-Do not take pictures of Army cantonments or artillery. Failing to adhere to these might get your phone/camera confiscated. 

Feel free to get in touch in case you have queries for North Sikkim. Would be more than happy to help. 

P.S- This trip of mine was in October 2018 . Also, the post made it to the top post of the day on Indiblogger homepage. 

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