Showing posts with label holiday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holiday. Show all posts

Monday, October 31, 2016

Enchanting Mount Abu

Mount Abu is one of the most beautiful and enthralling cities in Rajasthan that offers you adventure and relaxation at the same time. Surrounded by surreal hills and abundance of natural beauty, this quiet little hill station is a favorite spot for honey moon couples or short vacations with family. Located 163 km from Udaipur and 233 km from Gujrat, Mount Abu has a mixed culture influence of Rajasthan and Gujarat both. Here are few tips and must do’s while planning a trip to Mount Abu. 
1.        1. Don't miss the sun rise- Mount Abu is known for its spectacular sunrise. Usually it’s the other way round that people like sunsets. But here for me the experience was different. 


Hotel Udaigarh Heritage Retreat

Our hotel Udaigarh Heritage Retreat was located on an elevated  road which gave us a nice vantage point. The rocky hill right outside the balcony where we stood upon, was a perfect location to click sunrise. Oh boy! I am speechless. The pleasant October weather makes it the most recommended time to visit Mount Abu. The chill in the air caresses you gently as you watch the Sun rise behind the mountains and paint the sky in golden hues.

   2.   Rent a bike- The best mode of transport in Mount Abu is rented vehicle. Bikes are rented at Rs 300 per day and Cars around Rs 500-1000. From authorised agents to pan waalas, almost all shop keepers rent two wheelers. From Honda Activa to Bajaj Pulsar, they have it all. They keep your DL as security while you enjoy the day out on two wheelers. In case your two-wheeler breaks down or troubles you, the shop keeper would be just a call away. The authorized agents might just refuse to rent bikes in the middle of the day and say that booking a bike should be done at 8 am only. However, walk a little further and every shop keeper will ask if you need a bike. Make sure you fill the tank with petrol. (Ofcourse you pay for it). Since Mount Abu is a small place, sightseeing on two-wheeler is most suggested here. All you need is a DL. 

3.       3.  Do visit Dilwara Jain Temples- The 1000 year old temple can put Taj Mahal to shame! It is gorgeous. Every nook and corner boasts of architectural prodigies. Built on marbles, the temple is dedicated to Jain Gods and leaders. The whole premises houses a cluster of temples built in different eras. The main complex has temple with sculptors of Jain Gods in a row. Few enclosures have preserved aesthetics from ancient times that were excavated. The temple premises is open to public 12 noon to 5 pm. Camera and mobile phones are not allowed inside. Perhaps that’s the only turn off where you wish for a camera! The priests would tour you through the temples narrating the history and facts of temple.

The temple is run by the local governing bodies with Jain clan, and not under ASI, hence has minimum renovation or commercialization. Run solely on charity, the temple is still intact the priests would ask for voluntary donation for maintenance of temple. Guests do not mind shelling out some money for the noble place. The comparison of TajMahal and Jain Temples by the priest bears a testimony to the fact of the latter’s unmatched beauty and exquisiteness. 

   4.  Nakki Lake, Sunset Point – The lake draws a lot of crowd since this is only lake and is highly commercialized. Not only boat men, but small time vendors around the lake also earn well owing to huge footfall. From eating stalls and magic shows to toys for kids and fish food, you will find everything here.

Sunset point, not very far from Nakki Lake is a hotspot every evening. As the name suggests, this place is to view the setting sun behind the mountains. You can ride upto the parking spot beyond which no vehicles are allowed. You either walk, mount a horse back or hop onto a manual cart which they call helicopter. The kilometre long road is steep and tests your endurance big time.  Once you reach the spot, take a flight of stairs to a hilly area. That is Sunset point where Sun seems to be close and you soak in its warmth. Mind you, the place would be very warm during summers. We could escape the heat because of the pleasant weather. 


The place is overcrowded and littered. Don’t expect peaceful or undisturbed ambiance here. The serenity is only in the sky when the Sun changes its position.  

   5.  Trevors Tank- This place is for the adventure lovers and wildlife junkies. Trevor’s Tank is a breeding lake for crocodiles in the middle of a forest. Spooky enough? I don’t know why is it called a tank!

     It’s a lake and the crocs do come out for breakfast. Pay 30 INR per person as entrance fees, another 30 for the two wheeler and ride into wilderness. The bumpy, broken, raw road running through the forest is a little more than a kilometer. You gotta be really careful while driving on this road! I was scared of carnivores waiting to prey on us. 

Entrance to the sanctuary

Entrance to the view point for lake

Lake view point

The silence of the forest is deadly.  After the kilometer ride, park your two-wheeler at the lake entrance. Watch fish and occasionally crocs in the murky water. The care taker of the area revealed there are five crocs in the lake and they are visible during morning when they are fed. Damn! We were late to reaching there? The place turned noisy with people coming in and the chances of spotting crocs turned bleak. Obviously, more the noise, more the reptiles avoid showing up. Only a single croc was visible at quite a distance basking in the Sun. Meanwhile as we consoled ourselves watching beautiful fishes and enjoying cool forest breeze, a large croc suddenly appeared in the water, getting people excited. Looked like it hated the paparazzi and quickly disappeared under water.

Vantage Point

There is a nice vantage point built on a hill in the forest. Only the strong hearted can go there seriously.

Vantage Point

 The isolated staircase shadowed by overgrown trees is frequented by langurs. Usually they never harm you, but you can never rely on wild animals’ instinct. While husband went to the edge of the vantage point to take pictures of the lake and the croc, I stood far behind him on a raised platform taking panoramic shots. My heart skipped a beat when I turned around and saw two mongoose like creatures on the stairs. Thankfully they crept away before I could react. Gosh, I cursed my adrenaline rush. What if a panther or big cat suddenly attacked us? We were no way prepared! I urged husband to leave the place after the goosebumps moments. 

There are tourist places in Mount Abu like Guru Shikar,  which we gave a miss. Guru Shikahr is 18km away from Mount Abu. Its hill top with a solar observatory (not open for public). The thought of travelling that far to a hill top did not excite us, hence we let it pass. You can visit places like Peace Park, Bramhakumari Ashram, Adhar Devi Temple as well. 

Essential tips for Mount Abu - 
-Always carry something warm. Remember this is a hill station and weather turns chilly during evenings. 
-Dont miss the super delicious daal baati churma and bajre ki moti roti. 
-In the market, gorge on warm kesar milk. It has less of sweet content and great aroma. 

-While renting two-wheelers, please wear helmets. Road safety is essential anywhere. 
-Mount Abu is a plastic free area. Respect the sanctity of the place for God's sake. 
-Beware! Mount Abu has a huge CRPF station. Any criminal activity or miscreants would not be spared. Our hotel was located opposite to the CRPF station.  
-When you enter Mount Abu, at the toll the private bus would charge Rs 10 per person as toll adding fifteen more minutes to the waiting time. Well that was upsetting. Wasn't toll supposed to be a part of the ticket fare? Plus something like should be collected from passengers in advance, not on the spot! 

P.S- My trip to Mount Abu was in October 2016

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Marvellous Manali

For corporate professionals, a three day holiday calls for a vacation, and there is nothing better than hill station to rejuvenate yourself! Hubby and I chose Manali in Himachal Pradesh for a short trip.  The beautiful hill station is more than five hundred kilometers from Delhi, which takes 12 hours+ to reach. Book your Volvo tickets from Himachal Pradesh Tourism Desk in Himachal Bhawan, Mandi House (Delhi) or Chandra Lok Building in Janpath, (Delhi).  The latter also books hotels for Himachal. Bookings can be made online as well from
Rohtang Manalsu

Carry food with you for the long 12 hour journey. Volvo leaves from Kashmiri Gate/Himachal Bhawan at 10:30 &10 pm respectively and reaches Manali next day around 11 am.

Instead of hiring a taxi, we chose to walk with our bag packs from the bus stop to our hotel. Vibrant flowers, warm sunshine and fresh breeze (the perks of walking) welcomed us as we checked into Rohtang Manalsu  located on Circuit House road, a little away from Mall road.

Itinerary Day 1

1-Himdimba Devi Temple

Hidimba Devi temple
Post lunch, we left for the famous Hidimba Devi Temple, just 1.5 km from our hotel. 

I love road signs 

The Mahabharat History says, Bheema (the strongest Pandava) married Hidimba during the Pandava exile in forest. Hidimba stayed back in Manali and continued to meditate as Bheema left. The temple dedicated to Devi Hidimba, is believed to be centuries old, carved on stones and deodar wood. Make this place a must visit during Manali trip.

2. Great Himalayan Forest

Few meters away from the temple is the open worship place of Ghatotkach (Bheema’s son). The tranquil place is surrounded by Dungri Forest, also named as the Great Himalayan Forest, entry for which is 5 rupees person.

Dungri Forest

Walk through the forest trail, let fresh air wrap you while you soak the refreshing greenery. The sun shines through the thick tall trees, offering a marvelous natural view. Managed to get some amazing pictures as we spent quality time there.

Beware of hawkers selling saffron and shilajit to every couple they spot. Also, politely refuse the ladies loaning mountain rabbits at 20 Rupees to pose for a picture with you. F.Y.I. it is against Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. I did not raise a hue and cry over it because law & order is not strict in H.P, and the ladies were earning a living for themselves. Thirdly, I did not want to spoil my vacation. Seeing a white lady renting a python for picture, did not surprise me.

3. Mall Road

Mall road bustles with life all day long. Dotted with restaurants and travel agent shops, the entire stretch of road offers you everything from grocery to fancy clothes. There is also a flee market on the left where you can go shopping without burning a hole in your pocket. 

Do buy Fruit Burfi there, which is a specialty made of fruit extract, very low on artificial sweets. You’d love the guava burfi for sure! Looks like aam-papad, but it is a pure fruit pulp extract.
Guava Barfi
Bought this delightful box of sweets from Nature's Hut, Mall Road. 

4. Tibetan Monastery

Take a right turn on Mall Road for Tibetan Monastery.   The small neat temple houses a large Buddha statue and is decorated by Tibetan artefacts. (Photography restricted inside the temple) 

The rolling bells or prayer wheel surrounding the temple is said to bring good luck when rotated in the right direction, coupled with the chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum.” A true delight to your senses.

And not to forget my furry four legged friends who shook hands, err paws with me. This one made my day. They photo-bombed us as well.

Late in the evening, we approached the Hiamchal Taxi Operators Office, Govt authorized place for tourist transport. The board on display clearly mentions the rates of transport to Rohtang and Solang. However, here is a fresh update. National Green Tribunal has recently banned all snow activities in Rohtang (skiing, snow mobile, horse riding) to curb pollution. Also, there is a limit to the number of taxis entering Rohtang. Against the fixed rate of 2400 (on display board), the taxi driver asked for 1500 INR to ferry us to Rohtang as well as Solang Valley. You need not book a taxi for early morning and leave at 4am for Rohtang. Though the ban may be lifted in near future.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

My top 5 travel destinations

Travelling thrills me and I admit being bitten by the ‘traveler bug’. I have travelled to quite a few places and dream to travel to many more, because I just don’t get enough of the “bug”. Sharing few top destinations of my choice-
Dalhousie- Visiting Dalhousie was on my wish list since a long time till the dream came true in April of 2014. An all-girls trip to this pretty hill station was fun and mesmerizing. Known for its beautiful landscapes, serene splendor of nature and amazing weather, Dalhousie charts as one of the most romantic places in hill stations. At a distance of 558km from Delhi, there is no direct connectivity of the places. We boarded an overnight bus from Delhi to Pathankot covering around 480 km and hired a taxi from Pathankot covering around 83km. The tiresome journey and patience finally paid us when we entered Dalhousie. The place is breathtaking. Before checking into our hotel, we detoured for Chamera Lake, a major boating point and hydroelectricity project for the district. The entire alley was scented with beautiful pink roses. The foggy hills, the lavish greenery, the sparkling waters, the cloudy sky, made us speechless. As the taxi ferried us to our hotel, I was absolutely stunned by the location of the hotel Silverton estate.Post a refreshing welcome drink and tour of the marvelous property built during British time, we headed for sightseeing. We covered Subhash Chowk, the little Gandhi market and Panchpula waterfalls on day 1. Every place is a must see for all.


Day 2 was trip to Khajjiar,DiankundandKalatop. Mind you, it was the 3rd week of April and was surprising chilly. Against our expectations, we experienced snowfall in Diankund. Ah it was a place to die for. Khajjiar, called the mini Switzerland of India was the cherry on the cake. A huge pastureland surrounded by coniferous trees and a little pond in middle, sheep grazing by, cold winds from the hills and an array of colorful flowers were remarkably astounding. One would be awed by the natural beauty of Dalhousie. A must see destination for nature lovers and a superb place for honeymoon

Agra- Every Indian must visit Agra, because it is has one of the Seven Wonders of the World and was declared UNESCO world heritage site. One does feel proud to see the great Taj Mahal that was built in 22 years (1631-
Taj Mahal
1653) with the orders of Shah Jahan, dedicated to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The white marble structure stands as the symbol of love and clever architecture of an era without technology. Easily approachable from Delhi via Noida expressway, Agra is at a distance of 232 km only, which can be covered via bus, own vehicle, train or flight. As you spend around 3 hours in Taj Mahal appreciating the beauty and the grandeur of the bygone time, you would also feel sad for the depreciating structure and the physical harm done to the Taj. If only the authorities were not looking after the monument, it would have been in ruins today. Besides Taj Mahal, one must see Old Fort just 2.5 km apart. I was speechless the moment I entered it. The huge monument still stands tall with pride and sets a remarkable example of perfect ancient architecture. Be it the Deewan-e-khaas , Deewan-e- Aam , Jahangiri Mahal,Sheesh Mahal or the entry gates for the Army, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the fort comprising a blend of white marbles & red sand stones. The ancient engineering has no equals and nobody can reproduce the magic with the same grace and perfection. Some portions of the fort are not accessible to the public, of course for security reasons .The portions which are open for all, are masterpiece of creations.  Once you are in Agra, don’t miss trying various sorts of petha (angoori, pan, saada) and moth-kachori, a staple snack.It is out of the world! Avoid Agra during April to June due to peak summers.

Jaipur- Named as the pink city, Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is a seamless blend of History and modern lifestyle. Formed by Raja Man Singh, Jaipur offers some of the finest forts and palaces that attracts tourists from the globe. One of them is the Jaigarh Fort. Located at 400 meters above the Amer Fort,  the fort offered a bird’s view of the city to the army of Jai Singh. The main attraction of this fort is the giant canon, referred as Jai Vaana in Hindi.
Hawa Mahal

Its 20 feet long barrel that weights about 50, and has a diameter of 11 inches. With a range of 22 miles, the cannon is said was fired only once. The specialty of this cannon was its free rotation in any direction. Imagine mounting such a heavy piece on wheels and rolling up the hills during those that time! Beautifully carved at the mouth scroll and body, the cannon stands protected as a masterpiece made by the skilled craftsmen then.  Indulge in the royal Rajput architecture of the massive Amer Fort that takes more than 3 hours to stroll around. The fort houses artifacts of Rani Jodha’s paalki, the king’s lifestyle, handcrafted trunks, beds, entertainment rooms and many more. One can enjoy live puppet shows, an art that is slowly fading. Among the other must see things in Jaipur are Hawa Mahal, Rani Padmawati Mahal, Nahargarh Quila, Rajmandir (a movie theater built in British style) and Choki Dhani ( A modern reconstruction of old Rajasthan with culture, food and games on display). In 400 INR entry fees, Choki Dani offers you a lot more than what meets the eye. Because of connectivity to adjoining cities like Ajmer, Pushkar, Neemrana and Alwar, Jaipur contributes a lot to Indian tourism. Avoid visiting Jaipur during April to July when temperature soars higher than 50 degrees.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia- Apart from serious sports, Australia has great places too. The Great Barrier Reef is an absolute must visit for every human on this Earth. This water body on the planet is the largest structure visible from outer space! Need any more reason to be there?  This 2,300 km-long ecosystem encompasses countless reefs and islands made of over 600 types of hard and soft coral. The reef structure was built by tiny organisms coral polyps thousands of years ago. Sedimentation of rocky deposits, volcanic eruptions and other geological shifts formed the barrier reef which eventually became a popular tourist destination.

The barrier reef is home to a wide diversity of life. Among the seven natural wonders of the world, Barrier reef’s crystal blue offers breathtaking view of islands and marine life. The Great Barrier Reef is a breeding area for humpback whales, migrating from the Antarctic and is also the habitat of a few endangered species including the Dugong (Sea Cow) and large Green Sea Turtle. In recognition of its significance, UNESCO listed the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1981. With activities like scuba diving, sky diving, sailing and many more, the natural wonders are experienced. Personally I feel awed by how much the creator has blessed us with so much to see and appreciate! This place has been on my travel list since childhood!

Amritsar- My workplace demanded me to travel a lot during the initial stage of my career. One of the destinations was Amritsar, Punjab.
Golden Temple
I have been lucky to visit the place twice and soaked in all that I could. Connected via Volvo and train, Amritsar sees a mahor footfall each day towards the majestic Golden Temple and Wagah Border. At a distance of about 450 km from Delhi, Amritsar boasts of a closely knitted culture along with hospitality and warmth in people. A memorial in Jallianwala Bagh speaks of the tragedy meted out to thousands of people by General Dyer which holds a very important place in History. These three places in Amritsar are major crowd pullers. As you start your day with a dip in holy water in Harmandir Sahab’s pond, the serenity of the Gurudwara instantly fills you with devotion. A long queue at the Gurudwara entrance is managed by the management very efficiently. It is believed that an ardaas (prayer) is always answered by the almighty if done with pure heart. The Gurudwara is home to several homeless and poor and thousands volunteer to participate in Gurudwara maintenance, as it is believed that sevaa to mankind is sevaa to God. Half a day at the Gurudwara spending peaceful moments followed by langar, again managed so efficiently, makes you come back here each time.

The retreat ceremony at Wagah Border every evening is something to watch for. Wagah border between India and Pakistan where high tension prevails, is guarded by Border Security Force (BSF). The borders are barred by gates where the flags of both the countries are retreated in the evening and thousands gather to watch the cultural ceremony that takes place with great enthusiasm. Mind you, one needs special permission or pass to sit in the VIP block and watch the function from a short distance. I have witnessed the entire saga that comprised an opening march by lady officers, dance on patriotic numbers, BSF soldiers’ aggressive salute, face off with Pakistan Rangers and roar of slogans from both the countries. The ceremony is a treat to eyes and certainly gives you goosebumps! The energy, the colorful life, great food and beauty of Amritsar keeps seeing me visit frequently.
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