Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yeh dilli hai meri jaan…

(An aside: My absence from blog world for the past 3 weeks does not mean I had nothing to say – blame it on year-end blues, and ofcourse, travel and its associated sins of gluttony and sloth :D. I promise to be back with vengeance whether you like it or not :p)

A hard-core Delhi-ite that I am, it had been a while since I rediscovered the historic grandeur that define the very character of this capital city of India. Thus, fulfilling my long pending promise to Vish to take him sight-seeing, I fell in love with Delhi all over again.

The fuzzy sun rays through the wintery misty on most of the days kept us motivated for our touristy visits!

The Red Fort or Lal Quila was our first stop-over. Dad sportingly took leave from work and drove us around.
The drive through the old “walled” city – areas of Daryaganj, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk - reminded me why my visits to these places were so infrequent. The narrow streets, crowded with teeming millions, is not exactly my idea of a vacation.

However, the warm welcome by this much celebrated red sandstone monument made all the en-route traffic worthwhile.

The buildings and structures within the fort are reminiscent of an eclectic fusion of Persian, European and Indian art forms.

Diwan-i-Aam or the Hall of Public Audience…

Diwan-i-Khaas or the Hall of Private Audience…

The two Zenanas (women’s quarters) - Rang Mahal and Mumtaz Mahal boast of splendid architecture in marble.

Moti Masjid, also known as the pearl mosque – This was Aurangzeb’s personal mosque…

Finally, the Hayat Baksh Bagh (Life Bestowing Garden) with the Jal Mahal in the foreground and the British quarters on the extreme left in the background.

Right opposite the Lahori (the main visitor’s gate) gate of Red Fort lies the paradise of Chandni Chowk. If you are willing to excuse the pedestrians who elbow their way literally through you and the constant shouts of shopkeepers, step into the haven for good food and a one-of-it’s kind shopping experience.
Epicurean specialties of this place include paranthas – all kinds of imaginable and unimaginable varieties (lemon, mint, cashew, chilli, etc etc) deep fried in pure desi ghee; chaat items like dahi bhalla, aloo tikki; and Indian desserts, my personal favorite being rabdi ki khurchan!
(Some sound advice: Ignore the run down appearance of the place, forget hygiene and don’t count calories!)

We wrapped off Day 1 of our city tour with a quick visit to Raj Ghat and India Gate.

Raj Ghat – This is the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi

India Gate – The national monument of India that commemorates the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.

The Amar Jawan Jyoti (flame of the eternal soldier) at the India Gate renders a very solemn air to the place.

The other must-see places on Vish’s list were Qutb Minar and Lotus Temple.

Qutb Minar is the world’s tallest brick minaret and is most prominent for its Indo-Islamic architecture.

The ruins in the Qutb complex are evocative of a tremendously regal era gone by.
Some pictures for you to enjoy…

The Lotus Temple is the Bahá'í House of Worship. The dense fog didn’t help us as far as photography was concerned…

Vish has still a long list to go - But like they say, there's always a next time!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

At the shore…

Spent a rainy Saturday sight seeing locally :).

Two years in Chennai and this was my first trip ever to Mahabalipuram, popularly abbreviated as Mahabs!
A pleasant early morning drive on ECR (which is also promoted as the Entertainment corridor with a series of theme parks, beaches, resorts and boat houses) to Mahabalipuram/ Mammallapuram, leaving the noise and pollution of the buzzing city behind, is such a relief.

The sea that welcomed us at the Shore Temple was quite boisterous…I love the sight of waves crashing on rocks…

The exquisite Dravidian architecture of the temple is an absolute WOW! What was hilarious ofcourse was the entry fee – Rs 10 for Indians and Rs 250 for Non-Indians!
It’s a pity that this wonderful structure is getting ruined/eroded because of the continuous sea breeze and nothing really is being done to preserve it…

The cyclonic torrential downpour during the day did nothing to deter our crazy spirits. Inspite of the incessant rains, we were able to complete the tour of the temples, the pancha rathas (five chariots), the caves, Krishna’s butter ball, Descent of the Ganges and Arjuna’s penance - Each beautifully and intricately carved sculpture reminiscent of the grandeur of Pallava art.

After lunch at Moon Rakers (a non-veggie’s delight and a veggie’s nightmare), we headed towards Mudaliarkuppam – on ECR, around 50 kms before Pondicherry. This is a boat house that offers water sports such as water skiing, water scooting, boating etc.

Given the weather conditions, we were not allowed to ski/scoot.
However, the boating experience through the backwaters was a lot of fun. We were transported in a motor boat from the back waters to an almost-exclusive beach – we thoroughly enjoyed playing in the warm saline waters, splashing and falling with the waves and collecting sea shells!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The call of the wild…

(2010 could easily qualify as “the year of the travelogues” for me…have made so many trips this year - and no, I am not complaining!)

This weekend it was the call of the wild –a safari adventure to the lush greens of Mudumalai (in Tamil Nadu) and around.

A lot of firsts this time around too…And here they are…

Tree Houses!
Yep, we actually got to stay in a tree house – a bamboo structure on stilts on top of a tree – a little rickety but the highlight was the visit by a monkey through the window. No amount of shrieking and shooing could deter it from keeping away!

Here’s the tree house we stayed in…

We crossed a river stream on a cable while being attached to a free moving pulley. I felt a little scared in the beginning – the moment when you have to just let go – that primal fear of not having any support to cling on – but after all the cajoling and cheering from everybody I did let go, and lo behold – suspended mid-air is so much fun!

Managed posing “up in the air”…

Jumaring is a basic rock climbing technique wherein you use ascenders on a rope to climb. At our resort, a rope was suspended from a tree and we had to climb to the top. This activity required immense physical exertion. I realized that pulling your body up is the most difficult thing ever. My fore-arms and shoulders have been aching for days together since then. The free-fall after reaching the top was as thrilling as any roller-coaster ride.

We also did the wild life safari but it wasn’t too great. We got to see:
  • Peacocks…

  • Langurs…(check out the dude’s expressive eyes)

  • Monkeys…(cute yet dangerous)

  • A lone wild tusker (elephant)…

  • Bisons (from really far off)…

  • An immensely adorable tree squirrel…

  • And of course the spotted beauties (deer)…

P.S. No tigers (Mudumalai has a count of 86 tigers) and no huge herds of elephants :(.


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