Siddis: A Tribe Lost In The Pages Of History

What are the chances of meeting an Afro-American who can speak Hindi, knows which part of the country Indian prime minister hails from and claims to have a great grandfather from Gujarat too? I would say none except that I met someone just like that on my maiden trip to USA at Times Square, New York, of all the places!

I had then, laughed off his claim as a gimmick to get friendly with us and sell the city bus tour package.

A year later I was at the inner gate of Gir National park that led to safari trail inside and there in the thick of jungle was a cluster of brick and thatch huts solely occupied by what seemed like a group of Africans.

At the resort that evening, I was surprised to see bare torso fire-breathing men, dancing to drum beats and some strange words that had only faint semblance to an African tribal music. They had their black faces painted in red, blue and white zig-zag lines; heads crowned with straws sticking out of a mosaic print blue bandanna and wore a matching blue mosaic print skirt.

Fire breathing tribals

Fire breathing tribals

Those men belonged to a Siddi tribe with its roots in Africa. Settled in a small village, Sirvan, skirting the only abode of Asiatic lion at Gir national Park, they lead an obscure life doing odd jobs as drivers, mechanics or labourers coming in limelight only during tourism season of October to June when they are asked to perform by the nearby resorts to entertain the guests.

“This is our fourth generation born and brought up here in Gujarat” Hamza, a young performer told me when his group was performing one evening at the resort.

With only their physical features reminding them of their ethnicity, all families of Sirvan village have completely adapted to Gujarat, eating Gujarati food with as much relish and communicating in local language as much fluently. Separated from their roots for more than three centuries, they strive to keep their music and dance rituals alive but now it has only little traces of the Goma Music of Africa. The dance performances at the resorts seem more like buffoonery meant to elicit laughter and that extra fifty or hundred rupees tip from the tourists and most youngsters of the tribe do not even know the meaning of the certain African words of the songs they dance to.

Siddis, descendents of Bantu tribe of Africa were also called ‘Habshis’. The term may have been derived from Al-Habsh, Arabic for Abyssinia. They were brought on Indian soil as slaves and soldiers. Some Siddis broke the shackles of slavery to establish their small provinces in some parts of Maharashtra, Hyderabad and Karnataka. The Siddis residing near Gir Forest are the descendents of slaves brought by Portugese for the Nawab of Junagarh. The members of this tribe settled now in different parts of India still struggle today to call a piece of land their own.

As he went about collecting tips from all the guests at the resort that night after the ‘Goma’ musical dance and fire breathing performances were over, Omar the wise elderly man of the troupe commented as a matter of fact “History has forgotten us…”

I sat wondering about the complex relationship of these original expatriates with India….As if reading my thoughts he joined his hands in a last Namaste of the evening and told me simply…“There is nothing for us in Africa now…India is our country; it is our home and all our people are here!”

Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Adalaj Vav: An Illustration of Love and Religious Tolerance

This post was first published at Open Road Review.

The longer version is here:

 “It’s amazing what people do for love.

It’s even more amazing what love does for people”

It was for this love, for her deceased husband Veer Sinh chieftain of Vaghelas, that Rani Roopba, consented to marry Mehmud Begada, the slayer of her husband himself, on a precondition that he would complete the construction of ‘Adalaj ni Vav’, the step-well at Adalaj, that her dead husband had begun before being killed in war.

Again it was for his love, for this beautiful woman, that Mehmud Begada agreed to honour her wish and instead of destroying the Hindu motifs adorning the walls of magnificent well added some Islamic motifs during completion of the step-well showing a great religious tolerance in an era when Muslim kings were defacing, plundering and destroying Hindu temples.

And all for the love for her husband, the queen, after the completion of the structure, chose to kill herself and jumped to her death in the well shaft itself. Though aware of the benevolence shown by the Muslim King, she preferred to keep the flame of her first love burning over a promise to another man.

Bhairon Singh had happily parroted away the whole story in part Hindi and part Gujarati when he was convinced of my interest in hearing him out. He was this middle-aged, thin, dark, dhoti-clad man who had appointed himself as guide. He usually sat under the shady tree in the small lawn adjoining the step-well, only occasionally getting up to offer his services to tourists. Though he was happy with whatever anybody paid him as ‘bakshish’ or fee for his effort but most tourists turned him down.

Few mythological figures

Few mythological figures

As we had ascended the steps out of the landing platform, after having feasted our eyes on the stone tapestry and exhausting our camera battery, to show ourselves out, he had lumbered towards us, expectation writ large on his face.

In me, he found a history enthusiast listening patiently, so he took me all around the well pointing out various images on the stone railings of octagonal well shaft which hardly had any water. Six grave-like structures atop the roof of step-well passage roused my curiosity and another story tumbled out of the guide’s mouth. The graves were supposedly of the six craftsmen who designed and carried out the construction. When Mahmud Begada, asked the craftsmen if they could replicate a similar ‘vav’ at any new place, the unsuspecting architects proudly nodded in affirmation. But the king wanted the design to be unique so he sent the poor men to the gallows allowing only their lifeless bodies to rest near their creation.

Aimed to function as a perennial water supply to the villagers, a centre for social gatherings and a cool retiring shelter for fatigued parched travellers, this step-well constructed in 15th century, descended five levels below the ground with each floor a veritable display of artistry. The entire interior of walls replete with delicate lace like geometric and floral patterns and equally ornate beams and pillars resembled more like an exquisitely embroidered cloth.

Floral motif on the walls

Floral motif on the walls

Intricate floral motif

Intricate floral motif

But, post the introduction of canal system by British, these step-wells, once a hub of all social, cultural and religious activities of villagers, for want of patronage, gradually succumbed to negligence.

A delight for art connoisseurs’ eyes, the surviving few tell the tales of an artistic and architecturally rich bygone era. These art galleries of sorts, having braved many calamities, seen many wars and fought thousands of storms for more than 600 years mutely illustrating a lost era of love, dedication, commitment and exemplary craftsmanship, seek attention now in their vulnerable senility. Unless conserved and preserved, these architectural marvels exhibiting such riveting art, will be lost in sands of time forever…the crumbling walls turning into just another carved stone block encased in glass coffins on museum floors…lifeless like the entombed artisans who created them….

View through the passages till wall of water shaft

View through the passages till wall of water shaft

Looking back, the only regret I experienced was the inaccessibility to the four lower levels, which rendered fragile from natural wear and tear over centuries were off-limits for visitors.

The trip never felt like a waste of effort. Here stood an illustration of love, religious tolerance and unity surviving for more than 600 years while today the two communities were embroiled in issues as trivial as beef, pork and vegetables….

The trip left me wondering…. Will Hindus and Muslims ever join hands again?

Travel facts:

  • Popular among tourists, the Adalaj step-well is situated 18 kilometres north of Ahmedabad and is 5 kilometres  from the capital city of Gujarat, Gandhinagar.
  • Ahmedabad is well connected to other parts of country by road, railways and air. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport, the international airport at Ahmedabad,  has flights operating to several countries. The nearest railway station to the stepwell is Kalupur.
  • There are few shops around the stepwell where beverages are available but for a proper meal, it is better to travel back to city.
Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

10 Trips in Twelve Months: 2015, A Year of Travel

travel1I guess I took this quote literally this year… Yes we travelled and travelled a lot with as many as ten different trips sprinkled over the year.

The year began with a bang with a para-gliding event within the city of Barmer to increase awareness about adventure sports. Having the advantage of acquaintance with the staff conducting the event, I utilised the opportunity to the fullest and every time there was nobody queueing up for a ride I went and strapped up to fly again and again..

All strapped up for a fun ride in air

All strapped up for a fun ride in air

Hardly the adventure was over when we with friends planned an overnight stay at Khuri, a lesser known desert safari site few kilometres from the much popular Sam sand dunes at Jaisalmer. The best thing was that my post on Khuri “Oasis At Khuri” was picked up as guest post by HappyTrips a travel website launched by Times Internet.

Setting Sun as backdrop for our 'couple-clicks'at Khuri

Setting Sun as backdrop for our ‘couple-clicks’at Khuri

The weekend at Khuri was one of the best with all friends bonding over tea in kulhars, dal pakoras and at evening with beer that stayed chilled courtesy the dipping temperatures of Great Indian Thar desert in January night, around a raging camp-fire and kalbeliya dancers swaying to drum beats and folk songs.

The weekend of Valentine’s Day being second Saturday, was a day off from school and office so who was to stop us from planning another quick getaway? With plans of making it to Munabao Railway station, the railway transit point on the Indo-Pak border, to witness the passenger exchange across border when gates are opened , we decided to drive from Barmer.  However our hopes were dashed when we found that the train exchange would be over by the time we would reach Munabao (later we did see the glamorized version of passenger exchange in the movie Bajrangi Bhaijan). Undeterred we decided to go to Tanot Mata mandir and Longewala instead…the 1971 Indo-Pak war site much popularised in the movie Border.

Beyond the fence lies Pakistan

Beyond the fence lies Pakistan

Tanot temple is maintained by BSF and Army; even the priests are soldiers who take up duty on rotation.

Tanot Temple where devotees offer handkerchiefs to the goddess as remembrance...

Tanot Temple where devotees offer handkerchiefs to the goddess as remembrance…

With approaching final exams in school, I had no plans of travel but the selection by BlogAdda team, as one of the winners, saw me travelling to Delhi alone for India Today Conclave. I very obviously had a blast at the conclave and not once did I worry about the ongoing examinations!

After a brief lull, we found ourselves contemplating travel during summer-vacations…after all who wants spend a month and a half trapped in a house with an over-energetic-nothing-to-do tween who either wants to watch television whole day or eats your brain off by lamenting ‘what-to-do-next-because-there-is-nobody-to-play’!

Beginning the holiday with a visit to the exquisite Sun Temple at Modhera, the fine embroidered step well Adalaj Vav, the modern offering of two great minds artist MF Hussain and architect BV Doshi Amdavad ni Gufa all in and around Ahmedabad, we proceeded to Hyderabad finally culminating our spree of holiday with a drive at Tamhini Ghat!

Sun Temple at Modhera

Sun Temple at Modhera

The cave "Hussain Doshi Gufa"

The cave “Hussain Doshi Gufa”

Stepwell of Adalaj with intricate stone work

Stepwell of Adalaj with intricate stone work

Fort from the Bala Hissar gate

Fort from the Bala Hissar gate

Torrential rains at Tamhini ghat

Torrential rains at Tamhini ghat

Soon it was time to shift base from Rajasthan to Tamilnadu and we took up a tiring herculean road trip from Barmer to Thanjavur driving in our wobbling twelve-year-old Indigo Diesel Car. En-route we first visited the magnificent Jain temple at Ranakpur and city of lakes Udaipur. The trip lasted six days with overnight stays at Surat, Pune, Belgaun, Bengalore besides Udaipur before we parked outside the temporary quarters at Thanjavur!

Jain temple at Ranakpur

Jain temple at Ranakpur

View of palace from lake Pichola

View of palace from lake Pichola

Settling down in a new city, new house, new state where it is a task for us to make any conversation(because locals speak only Tamil and ‘kunjum kunjum English’ ) made us long for a break again. We flew all the away  back to Gujarat from Tamilnadu for a trip to Diu and Gir National Park.

Nagoa beach, Diu

Nagoa beach, Diu

Lioness paused!

Lioness paused! (Gir national park)

Its been almost three months in Thanjavur now. This place will be my home for next one and half-year and I have just begun to explore this historic town replete with colorfully painted temples. The Brihadeshwara Temple built by Chola kings and renovated later by Maratha kings is the biggest attraction of this town and I am yet to visit it…

Ceiling of palace of Serfoji Mahara, the Maratha King

Ceiling of palace of Serfoji Mahara, the Maratha King

A year of travelling has increased my appetite and feet itch ever more so for another such extravagance in the coming new year. I am already bubbling with excitement to visit Coorg, Hampi, Madurai, Rameshwaram, Chennai, Chettinad and other areas around my new place of residence…

Call it a dream… a hope…a desire that has taken birth deep in my heart with all this travel…Ah! to feature in Travel Magazines…Conde’ Nast, National geographic Traveller, Outlook Traveller, BBC Traveller…(this pitching thing really stumps me however….more like scares me no end! I find writing easier than pitching monster…..)

I have yet to learn to pen an eye-catching article befitting the magazines…

Yet the hope floats and dreams soar….

Even as 2016 knocks at my door!!

 

 “I’m sharing my #TalesOf2015 with BlogAdda.”

Also Read:

http://astonishingindia.net/2015/07/14/oasis-at-khuri/

http://astonishingindia.net/2015/02/18/1971-battle-at-longewala/

http://astonishingindia.net/2014/08/11/the-great-indian-thar-desert/

http://astonishingindia.net/2015/07/02/the-fire-altar-sun-temple-at-modhera-gujrat/

http://astonishingindia.net/2015/11/14/two-days-in-ilaha-de-cama/

http://astonishingindia.net/2015/11/23/born-free-in-wilderness-of-gir/

http://astonishingindia.net/2015/09/30/a-poetry-in-stone-ranakpur/

http://astonishingindia.net/2015/11/08/fast-tracking-through-udaipur-the-venice-of-east/

http://astonishingindia.net/2015/07/07/a-rainy-day-drive-at-tamhini-ghat/

http://astonishingindia.net/2015/07/19/in-search-of-diamonds-at-the-shepherds-hill/

 “I’m sharing my #TalesOf2015 with BlogAdda.”

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

5 Reasons That Are Making Me Question Travel Blogging

These are just my feelings not meant to disregard hard work of other travel bloggers.

As the year draws to an end I look back on my journey as travel blogger…I am still far too insignificant in this burgeoning crowd of travel writers and bloggers.

When I started writing about my travels, I genuinely wanted people from other countries to know about the wonderful place that my country was. Gradually I understood that writing travel posts did not mean only the information about that particular destination but also the experiences of journey and place…people are interested more in stories and not history of architecture and kings!

As I read more and more blogs and gained my set of visitors who approved and appreciated my way of writing, the hunger to write a better prose took hold of me and I got into more elaborate and descriptive text. But along the way I came across few glaring trends which are making me question this whole business of Travel Blogging.

  • How I left my job to travel:

travel 1It seems anybody and everybody is dropping their jobs to follow their passion to travel and share their experience. I have read at least fifty such articles(and there are many more) where the person is leaving his or her job and exploring the world.

All big publications are hyping such stories “How I left my so and so job to travel”. As soon as one big publication carries a story, the next travel magazine is ready with another such travel blogger’s story. Is it so easy? Really?

Many of these bloggers also claim that they have earned while on move enough to pay for their trips … Of course there are definitely few such people, but so many? I wonder…

May be I am naïve, but I feel that for those who are single, such a move might be easier than the ones with a spouse and kids. I mean who is going to pay for bills, school fees, house maintenance etc. unless one of the partner has a proper job and is not bitten by travel bug?

I usually travel with my husband and kid in tow (solo only if husband is not on some out-station duty and is in same city to keep our daughter safe at home)….So does that mean I am not fit to be a travel blogger? I travel mostly during school vacations so that we can relax together and spend some time free of all work and worries. Does that lessen my experience? Does that disqualify me as a serious storyteller?

  • The Mad Rush:

travel rushThe rush to destinations for promoting is almost like the gold rush….everybody wants to be at the same destination and write about everything in a bid to outdo each other. Shouldn’t the travel blogging mean stories from all around the world or from one’s native country where one has travelled because he or she genuinely wanted to be there?

But this trend of herd mentality makes the stories look similar with hardly any difference. Recently various tourism departments(Indian and International), were pushing hard for Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Diu, Jordan, Machu Pichu(I recently read an article which says Machu Pichu is overrated!) and it seemed everybody rushed in there like the news channel journalists hot in pursuit of a spicy scoop!

I wonder if I will succumb to this trend somewhere down the line……

  • Lists:

to-do-listI usually am not comfortable with lists so I never wrote a post like “5 things to enjoy at X place…”, “10 things to eat at  Y…” etc but then I found all publications were encouraging listing of things and so I finally ended up writing a post on Nainital which surprisingly for me, was appreciated quite a bit.

Everybody is making lists of ten best things to do at some place or other but do these lists tell us all about the  essence of the place and all that place has to offer in terms of experience? Can a place be entirely understood in few lists?

This would be my third ‘List’ type post too…. Am I getting in the groove of current trend and becoming like everybody else? Should I join in the race or continue to go slow and steady?

  • Pictures and personal experience:

travel3

In trying to write all about personal experience there are blogs which carry the most ordinary and hardly artistic picture of even a flower-pot with caption ‘view from my window‘ ….

Not that my pictures are the best but I find it ridiculous to post such pictures….

The trend however points out that people enjoy such pictures and personal experience of ‘the best vada pav I ever had‘ kind of posts. Either I am strange or these days anything goes…

  • Quantity over quality:

typing-on-computer-clip-art-169499There are so many blogs on travel now but with mundane text and full of grammatical errors with hundreds of posts….

Yes there is a huge quantity of posts in many blogs but the quality is hardly commendable.

I like to read nice sentence if it is in English and hence stopped following a few blogs because of irritatingly poor construction of sentence even though those blogs have thousands of pictures and hundreds of posts.

I wonder whether I am being unnecessarily picky and choosy…because everybody else seems to be okay with the quantity and least concerned with quality!

Some bloggers who might read this post may dismiss me as a newbie, insignificant and not good enough blogger who is still coming to terms with networking etc but I blog and want to share my travels along with information about history, architecture, folk lore and how to reach etc.. However I definitely do wonder now and then….

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Six Steps To Responsible Tourism

Why do we travel? To our villages and to our ancestral homes in far-flung remote areas because we want to reconnect with our roots…we need assurance of our existence. We travel to experience new places because we need to escape from the daily monotonous cycle of work-success-work…to savour few moments of no worries, to value our work. Some travel for love of food… some travel to return and feel safe in known environs!

Travel rejuvenates, reunites and brings a sense of belonging with the world….

But then why we, many a times, abuse the beauty and sanctity of not only the destination but also the journey? I believe, I, as a thinking, educated, intelligent social human, have a moral duty to not only be a responsible traveller but also stop the miscreants from destruction of nature and heritage.

I have almost always met resistance from those who purposely destroy the surroundings, when I try stopping them but I try nevertheless because sometimes fellow travellers have supported me and we together could stop such culprits. To bring about a lasting change and promote responsible tourism here are few things we could do ourselves and make others do it too….

  1. Stop writing on monument walls
Scratched walls at Qutub Shahi tombs, Hyderabad

Scratched walls at Qutub Shahi tombs, Hyderabad

There is no place, no monument or tree trunks where I have not seen people scratch their names, profess their love or carve out their cheap fantasies…. Whether it is the artificial cave at Vaishnodevi temple, the fort walls, the rocks on a nature trail… all bear evidence of such people with itchy hands …even the pristine white Taj Mahal (Yes! I caught a teenager drawing a red permanent marker line on the rear wall of Taj Mahal. When I stopped him from doing, his mother was shameless enough to ask me who I was to scold her son and that the monument did not belong to me!!)

Our monuments are our cultural and architectural pride, our fauna and flora finds their place in mythological stories…..Let us not mar our heritage by marking them with crudely scratched names and symbols of love but also prevent those who find defacing our monuments and nature amusing.

“A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural educational aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies— all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.”—Steve Berry

  1. Save ecosystems

Earth is not dependent on us….we are dependent on earth! The smallest of insect, smallest of marine creäture, the tiniest of plant…all form the ecosystem of different places. If we destroy even a single element, the whole system will spiral down towards destruction.

I was visiting this Baijnath temple at Kausani on the banks of Gomti River. The ancient temples though somewhat in ruins inspired a sense of calm and peace in me. The gentle murmur of the river was like trance music to my ears…the distant snow-capped mountains seemed ethereal in the golden sunlight…the whole ambience induced a contentment and bliss. The tranquillity was suddenly disturbed by the impudent chatter of a group of careless young men who found it very amusing to throw bits of paper as food for the fish who had become accustomed of eating small pieces of ‘prasadam’ and had clamoured to the shallow bank of river. Again due to my habit of standing up against such people I objected but they did not heed to my protests until a policeman walked up to them and reprimanded them.

River Gomti flows gently beyond

River Gomti flows gently beyond

Is it so difficult to not be so callous? As a responsible traveller and tourist it is time we prevent such careless people from causing harm to flora and fauna and save our environment to last more than our lifetime.

  1. Respect local culture and Shun Noise

Travelling is fun and as a big family or group of friends we travel to savour the quality time with our close ones….we enjoy, we chatter away, we show our happiness…… but our fun can become noise for other. Each place has its own culture and personality and natives of that place may not be as enthusiastic as us about the choice of our music or loud, happy expression of holiday fever.

My idea of enjoyment should not become jarring disturbance of other. Respecting the local sensibilities makes for a responsible tourist.

  1. Save water

Lakes, rivers and oceans that is the only water we have for drinking and other usage and for our forests and wildlife….and it is depleting fast. With no water, earth would heat up; drying the vegetation, killing slowly the birds, animals, marine life, insects and ultimately humans. We need water for our survival….

This is one issue that needs to be addressed on war footing, definitely because lakes, rivers, waterfalls look amazingly beautiful with flowing water in their green environs. Using up this water in excess would leave us with nothing to appreciate.

Haven’t we all seen people leaving taps open after drinking water or in public toilets or demanding unlimited supply in hotel rooms? There is just as much water and we need to be careful in spilling it. Many hotels have made it a policy to release hot water for limited time and this should be made mandatory at every place.

On our part we must close taps whether it is us who has operated it or it was left running by foolish people…. Use less water for bathing and avoid bathtubs altogether!

  1. Throw garbage in dustbin

Face it…not all are careful about throwing garbage in dustbins. People driving swanky cars throw cigarette butts, a tissue, a parking ticket and anything that might make their car look untidy out of their car windows without giving much thought and have the nerve to lament that there aren’t enough dustbins around.

Dumping site of snack packets or war victory site?

Dumping site of snack packets or war victory site?

I was much pained after finding empty snack packets tucked away on the platform which displayed the Pakistani armoured tank that Indian army captured at the Battle of Longewala after thwarting the enemy attack. Is that how we respect the efforts of our brave soldiers who prevented the enemy from entering into our country? Do people travel and make deliberate effort to show their callousness?

Leaves and flowers of plastic ?

Leaves and flowers of plastic ?

There is so much garbage everywhere that I feel ashamed when I see foreign tourists covering their noses or read about westerners taking special health measures before travelling to India.

Yet, there is Asia’s cleanest village in our country at Mawlynnong, Shillong. In this self-sustaining small village, people do not dispose off plastic wastes on streets….they mostly use paper bags and recycle, reuse and clean their village themselves. If one village in India can do it….why can not the rest of the country?

The Americans levy a fine of thousand dollars if caught littering. Before our government starts such a drive let us enter in the fray to make our country a real “Swacchh Bharat”…. Let us throw our garbage only in dustbins.

  1. Do not spit

What on earth does inspire an urge in people of our country to spit uninhibited at every place after every few minutes is beyond my understanding. Red stains of tobacco adorn the walls of modern cities as well as some secluded walls of  historic structures…. the  city bred people, who consider themselves a class above the tobacco spitting uncouth villagers, however mark their presence at tourist destinations by spitting bubblegum instead.

STOP People!! Our culture is to draw ”Rangoli” not  spit art…

As a responsible traveller I try to avoid damage….Let us join hands in preserving our heritage…

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

Life lessons I learnt while snorkelling at Andaman Islands

 “The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish”- Jacques Yves Couousteau

 So I agreed to a trip to Andaman Islands with the highlight of itinerary being snorkelling at Elephant Beach.

I felt as buoyant as the boat that rode over the inky blue ocean, the improvised motor reverberating noisily over the waves, leaving a frothy trail in its wake. The incandescent sun let its rays dance on water forcing its colour to change from inky-blue to blue-gray to inky-blue again as the shore neared.

The silver-gray sands on the beach were cool, despite the sun blazing with its full heat, prompting the kids, too young to snorkel, to frolic, build their sand castles, play mermaids and turn into mini Picassos on the huge sandy canvas while we awaited our guide who would introduce us one by one to a colourful world that existed under those ebbing and rising waves.

Huge tall trees that had long ago stopped being alive laid dotting the beach but somehow they never looked lifeless instead looked like sentries guarding the vast shoreline and the marine life. Rustic as those fallen trees looked, I was much attracted to capture them on film before it was my turn to try my hands at snorkelling.

Deep waters scared me to death, even of a swimming pool. Whenever we spent time at beaches, I would venture out in the sea but till a distance where water was only waist-deep and I could feel the earth beneath my feet. I was content combing the beach for shells and pebbles.

On our last vacation in 2009 to Andaman Islands, something changed however. Before we left for our vacation, I had forced myself to step into the tamed waters of the huge swimming pool to learn the basics of swimming.  I was hardly comfortable in the floating technique, when my husband declared that he had booked all flights and accommodation for our vacation at Andaman Islands.

Excited and overconfident of my new floating skills, I forgot all about my fear of deep water. And on a crisp January morning after a delayed flight from Pune, a rushed boarding at Chennai, we finally reached Port Blair at six. After catching up on the missed sleep, we were finally ready to explore the small islands, historical cellular jail, the marine museum, the beach and to binge on freshest seafood.

A day-and-half at Port Blair later, we shifted to our tents at Havelock Island. Next day was planned for a boat ride to the Elephant Beach and snorkelling afterwards.

Tent accommodation at Havelock Island

Tent accommodation at Havelock Island

Feeling upbeat about the whole swim-in-sea adventure, I donned the almost new swimwear and applied a generous amount of water-resistant sunscreen. I was pretty excited for a novice swimmer!

On route to Elephant Beach

On route to Elephant Beach

Fallen trees at the Elephant Beach

Fallen trees at the Elephant Beach

But sermons and ‘Lifestyle Gurus’ don’t help; some lessons are learnt in life only after one experiences certain situations first-hand. And I learnt mine while snorkelling at Andaman Islands.

  • Will to change

Change is definitely scary but once we embrace the change, it is quite refreshing. I was always missing the fun everybody else had during our beach vacations because I wasn’t going in the water. But in my heart of hearts, I did want to feel the water. I wanted to change myself from a scared onlooker to a participating fun seeker.

If I wouldn’t have had the will to change, I wouldn’t have gone for swimming lessons, wouldn’t have courage to face fear. I would have then missed the fun yet again.

  • Conquer fear

At the beach, I started having cold feet again. After much coaxing from dear husband and assurance from guide, I finally decided to face my fear and wore the snorkelling gear to wade into the water. Initially my body refused to even float but as the guide pushed me further into the blue-green water, I was mesmerised. My fear gradually dissolved in the salty ocean introducing a beautiful breathtaking view of the hidden world.

Had I sat back and let my fear control me, I would have never agreed to snorkel, guide or no guide and the vacation would have been just like any other beach holiday with me collecting the seashells while everybody else enjoyed.

Fear is in our mind; an obstacle that stands in way of progress. We just need to look into its eye and then it liberates us. One step forward and we are free of our fear forever.

  • Get out of the comfort zone.

We become so habitual of the everyday things and create a comfort zone around us. It becomes difficult to get out of this zone to try something new and the fear creeps in.

As soon as I wore the snorkelling breathing contraption, I was uncomfortable, I felt gagged at first. But, once in the sea face-down staring at the ocean floor, I saw the most exquisite creatures  with fins and fronds, shoal of some tiny colourful fish some transparent, some striped swimming past me. I saw the corals of all shapes and sizes; long and branching like twigs of a tree, some like pock-marked small rocks, the seaweeds growing among the corals…. the most beautiful shades of blues,  sea-urchins, star-fish and seashells all in vivid yellows, warm reds, bright oranges and striking greens. It felt as if I was walking inside an aquarium. It was so surreal. Had I refused to wear the breathing gear, I would have never known the beautiful world under the sea.

There are thousands of things to see and explore in the world, we just need to get up and go!

  • Faith on self

When I first put on the snorkelling gear, I kept telling myself ‘I can do it’. I didn’t exactly take to water as fish do and I was scared too initially but I had faith on myself that if I kept pushing I would eventually enjoy the sea. The faith kept me going, I relaxed and let the guide steer me deeper into the ocean.

“I can do it” are strong words that influence our brain into doing almost everything. Nobody knows us better than ourselves. We can achieve our hearts’ desires only when we trust ourselves and have faith on self.

My adventure in Bay of Bengal opened my eyes to a beautiful water-world and life just as Robert Wyland says:

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Born free: In wilderness of Gir

A moment of silence after the collective gasp soon turned into excited yet hushed murmurs as soon as the bus carrying us, the ever-yakking homo-sapiens, came abreast to the tawny beasts taking a break in the shade of broad-leafed teak tree. Everybody clamoured to one side trying to capture at least one image of the magnificent and graceful lioness who had parked herself there, moments ago post a hearty meal.

The lioness accompanied by adolescent cubs was not willing to be the object of fascination for the mere mortals, who, she knew, did not have courage enough to survive a single roar at such close quarters and hence had caged them-selves in a motored metal box.

This was her domain…her home…the wilderness…She was born here…Free…a mistress of her own will… If she deemed it fit to humour us, the two-legged camera-toting puny living things, she would stay and let us ooh and aah at her cost but she was in no such mood and with a bored gaze she dismissed us all….It was for only few minutes that she let us all have a glimpse of her before sauntering away in the deeper cover of the forest.

Home to about 523 Asiatic lions, the former hunting ground of the Nawabs of Junagarh, Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary also known as Sasan-Gir, in Gujarat was established in 1965 and spans an area of roughly 1400 square kilometres. With definite trails marked for the safari enthusiasts, the denser parts of the Park are strictly off-limits or so it seemed when our trail ended on a makeshift blockade displaying ‘Entry Prohibited’ sign.

Even after spending the better part of night standing in a queue and luckily or unluckily landing at the first spot when the forest department staff began the distributing permissions for safari, much time was lost in waiting for the guide to turn up while we waited in the jeep. We should have been on Route no. 1 assigned for our jeep, at six in the morning at the least. The morning twilight had brightened up fast and I had my apprehensions of missing the lion family who as the sun rose higher, would take refuge in the deeper, cooler and denser part of the forest.

My concerns were validated and the morning jeep safari of first day at Gir Forest was a disappointing excursion. Had we reached at the permission counter just few seconds late, we would have been on the second jeep on Route no. 2 where we later came to know; one lion family had dragged its day’s first kill and sat devouring it in plain sight, oblivious to the excitement of the visitors.

We on the other hand came across a golden jackal at the water-hole, few nilgais (bluebulls) and herds and herds of chital (spotted deer) with one curious young one straying much closer to our jeep.

Golden Jackal at a man-made watering hole

Golden Jackal at a man-made watering hole

Curious at our intrusion; the spotted deer

Curious at our intrusion; the spotted deer

Deer that strayed away?

Deer that strayed away?

The rising sun filtering through the deciduous forest did nothing for our dampened spirits. Disheartened, as we made our way back to the park entrance, the jeep driver and guide signalled us to be quiet, for their trained ears had heard a low grunt. Our hopes raised we promptly held our breath to strain our ears as well and sure enough were rewarded with another growl. The king of the jungle was however nowhere to be seen. After a good ten minute of patient wait, the guide deduced that the chances of lion heading back towards an open area were rare. The driver also was concerned about the time taken for safari exceeding its limit.

Pugmarks along the trail

Pugmarks along the trail

As we resumed our drive back, the jeep came to an abrupt halt again just 200 meters from where we had heard the lion grunts. The driver showed us the fresh pug marks along the trail, however reminding us again that it was unlikely that any of the pride members would wander back from interiors of the forest.

Sighting the pug marks was a consolation prize and yet it gave us a new hope and reason to try our luck on yet another safari the next day.

The Interpretation Zone of Gir National Park at Devalia runs regular bus safari tours within a smaller some 400 hectare area cordoned off from Gir Park by a chain-link fence. The probability of spotting a pride in its natural habitat is higher here.

We boarded the bus, our safari entrance tickets in hand, at around nine in the morning. I was sceptical again about the possibility of spotting the elusive lion family with the sun bearing down upon us with all its radiance. Half an hour into the safari and I started fretting about another failed effort.

The bus reached a fork on the trail. A wrong turn and chances of spotting the royal family would have slimmed further. Two men, however, emerged from behind a tree and waved at the bus driver pointing in the direction where the lioness with four adolescent cubs had wandered off post their meal. The driver seemed as much eager as the visitors to finally see what they had travelled for, from various parts of the country.

“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne — bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.” Karen Blixen

And my joy did bubble over at the sight of the sinewy golden-fur lioness more regal than the lions that we would later see at the end of safari. Her fear-inspiring enormous size made me feel inadequate…I felt glad I was inside the bus and not at her mercy in the forest. Yet her languorous indifference towards us left me amazed. Much like a fierce queen, she was unperturbed by our presence and seemed to say:

“Danger? Hah! I walk on the wild side…I laugh in the face of danger”

Lioness paused!

Lioness paused!

Mission accomplished our bus took the return route in a hurry but as we neared the end of trail, we could spot two lions lazing, yawning in the open next to the trail. Smaller in size than the African lions with their manes also sparser than their far-off cousins, these lions did not look as grand and majestic… They seemed much docile than the lioness and the cubs we spotted earlier. Only later did we realize that the forest staff kept two jeeps ready with guides who ambushed and drove those lions out in open so that the visitors to the park left as a satisfied lot…. and it seemed to be the regular affair.

One of the lion who was forced out from deep forest for visitors

One of the lion who was forced out from deep forest for visitors

Yawn!! When can I sleep people?

Yawn!! When can I sleep people?

Though it was highly improbable that we would have witnessed a crouching lion camouflaged by the high yellow-brown grass ready to pounce on its prey yet the practice of forest staff to flush out the lions for sake of visitors’ did not seem ethical to me.

And I was relieved that our sighting of the majestic lioness was very much a serendipitous encounter; the way it is supposed to be on a safari.

Happy at our fortune of seeing the ferocious felines in their home, I couldn’t help but sing Hakuna matata….it means no worries, for rest of your days…hakuna matata, hakuna matata…”

Facts:

Safari:

  • The permissions for safari are booked three months before the date of  proposed safari. On the spot permission from the forest department can be acquired early in the morning. The permission office opens at six in the morning but people start queueing from 3 am because only some 15 to 20 permissions are given every day.
  • The jeep safari costs around 1200Rs per jeep for one hour.
  • e-permits are non refundable and do not include cost of guides, vehicles and camera fees.
  • The forest is closed for visits from 16th June to 15th October every year.
  • e-permits can be obtained from girlion.in

Stay:

All kinds of budget hotels and jungle resorts are easily available at Sasan Gir. Gir Jungle Lodge is near the entranceof the national park. We stayed at ‘Savaj Resort‘ for 8000 Rs per day with three meals. The food was Gujrati cuisine; absolutely tasteful, hygienic and cooked in home style. The staff was very helpful and polite.

Visitors usually combine a visit to Diu and Gir. Diu has some very nice beach resorts like Radhika resort, Kostamaar Resort, Hoka Island Resort.

Getting There:

Gir is connected via road to Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Diu. Private taxis and buses ply on these routes.

Related articles
Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Para-sailing in DIU: A #TravelLoveStory

Fun and adventure sports at Diu with a little sprinkling of love…

STREETTROTTER

To everyone who thinks that Travel is all about exploring and finding yourself…well, it is also about romance, meeting and being with that someone special, and little love stories! Heard about those dreamy kind of 5-second love stories on the Subway? Or, bumping into someone on the road, only to never travel apart since? Or drooling over the guy/girl sitting next to you on the airplane? Travel, is filled with love, in all sort of ways, and this series – #TravelLoveStory by StreetTrotter will feature how people experienced ‘love’ on their trips…

Schools had closed for Dusshera vacations and we were eager to travel… We started with many options including Diu and Gir National reserve. Almost all other options like Lakshdweep Islands, Sikkim, Alleppy fizzled out because flights and hotels were already teeming with tourists. Being busy with work, we were late in making our travel arrangements. And this is the story of how DIU happened…

Traveling all…

View original post 981 more words

Posted in Travel India | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Two days in Ilaha-de-Cama

Portugese called it Ilaha de Cama, The Isle of Calm. And true to its name Diu  is one laid-back calm town.

Ours was the only car that seemed to occupy the wide metalled road besides an odd motorbike or pick-up van here and there. There was no hustle-bustle otherwise a very common site on any given time and day in all Indian cities. Curious, I observed aloud in my mother tongue. The resort’s cab-driver who also doubled up as our city-guide, a Gujrati, happened to understand my Marathi lingo. He shared his pearls of wisdom with us…

“It is a ‘dada-dadi, nana-nani’ town!” (It is a grand-parents town)

“How so?”

“Because only parents and grandparents have houses here. Their children are all NRIs and visit once a year”

And truth is the cab driver might not have exaggerated even… Primarily a fishing town, it is the tenth least populated district in India with an area of only 40 square kilo meters. Had we not stopped at different places, the ride through the city would have been over within an hour or so.

All we wanted to do at Diu during the two-day stay there, was to indulge in leisurely walks down its un-crowded beaches letting our feet sink in the soft clean sand with Arabian sea kissing our feet now and then…

Yet we asked our local city-guide-cum-driver his opinion. He chalked out the itinerary for the next day. To my pleasant surprise, he told us about the adventure sports right there on the Nagoa beach just across our resort!

So of course without wasting much time we headed straight for para-sailing over the sea the same day!

Local knowledge is always practical so the next day heeding our driver’s advice we went along with the itinerary he chalked out for us. And honestly two days are more than enough in Diu…

So here is  Ilaha de Cama dentro dois dia or what to do in Diu in two days…..

Portuguese Fort:

Visit the most important Portuguese fort in Asia if history and old buildings excite you.

This formidable and imposing structure was built in 1535 and is surrounded by sea on three sides and protected by a moat connected to sea on side of the approach gate.  Besides the Governor’s palace, barracks for garrison, churches and state offices, the fort also had a small prison.

The guide at the fort told us that even today the prisoners are kept in the fort prison and that part of fort was not for tourists. I wonder what stories must be caged within those stone walls….

The larger prison by Portuguese, Fortim-do-Mar also known as ‘Panikotha’, is in the middle of the sea. It has a church and a light house. The Panikotha was closed to visitors as it is being developed as either a restaurant or museum.

Panikotha or Fortim-do-Mar from the moat side of the fort

Panikotha or Fortim-do-Mar from the moat side of the fort

Due to some weird orders,  the guides are not allowed with the visitor inside the main area of the fort where they are most needed. Since we were on our own, the various rooms and their purpose was as good as a guessing game for us. Roaming within the stone structure we could identify two churches, a bastion, a lighthouse and a room where some old armoured guns (and I was guessing they belonged to the second world war times) were kept rusting in the sea breeze.

With no one to give an account of history, we spent time in taking pictures of whatever suited our fancy.

An abandoned and forgotten chapel with weeds and a padlocked gate

An abandoned and forgotten chapel with weeds and a padlocked gate

St. Tigo's Church or is it St. Iago...

St. Tigo’s Church or is it St. Iago…

Armoured guns lying in a state of neglect

Armoured guns lying in a state of neglect

Brick vaulted passage

Brick vaulted passage

Royal insignia on fort wall

Royal insignia on fort wall

Canon to protect fort from sea-side

Canon to protect fort from sea-side

The Union Territory came under the possession of Indian government only in 1961. For fourteen years even after India became a Sovereign Republic, Diu was still occupied by Portuguese Empire. In December of 1961, Indian defence forces launched Operation Vijay and took hold of the territory  finally.

The fort lies today in need of much attention or it will be reduced to a pile of stone soon taking down with it a slice of Indian history.

Earlier on way to the Portuguese fort we had stopped for few minutes at Shell Museum which has quite large personal collection of shells by a Mr. Fabario an ex-captain in Merchant Navy and is worth a look.

St Paul’s Church:

An hour was more than enough at the ruins of Portuguese fort with information and stories restricted to a stone plaque. Our cab driver suggested the St Paul’s church next. And off we went to visit yet another much-in-need-of-overhauling relic.

A man sat selling candles just outside the church. We bought five candles among the three of us to light at the altar.

Named after St Paul, the apostle of Jesus and dedicated to Lady of Immaculate Conception, this church designed in Baroque style of architecture is one of the oldest church in India. The church must have been a beauty once upon a time….and it still held its head high from outside with its beautifully carved decorations in white stucco. The inside story is however very different.

Once inside I felt sad to see the condition of the church. The statue of St Mary at the altar and other intricate decorations which are all of Burmese teak have lost their shine and the paint of blue-white barrel-vaulted nave and the white walls was peeling with large patches of seepage. There was hardly anybody  praying in the church. The general neglect by locals appalled me no end….

St Pauls Church

St Paul’s Church

Slightly miffed we headed towards the Gangeshwar Temple. With a poetic reverence, somebody had told me that the sea waves reach out to Lord Shiva here everyday. Intrigued, I made it a point to visit this temple.

Gangeshwar Temple:

This is one of the interesting things to do in Diu….. be it for sake of devotion to pray at this sea-side temple or just to see the crashing waves rushing in and small crabs scrambling away to hide in rock cracks.

The temple is much revered and the five shiv-lingas are said to have been installed by the Pandavas. If that is really the case, I wonder how the idea of making lingas in the small rock cave would have originated in mind of the Pandavas? The lingas are approached by a flight of stairs going down towards the sea.

When we reached the temple, it seemed somebody had already done an elaborate prayer because all the lingas were covered with flowers and milk. We waited not only for the devotees to finish with their prayers but also the huge wave which was supposed to wash the lingas.

After some five to six big waves which crashed on the rocks but failed to reach the shiv-lingas, we were rewarded by Lord Shiva and the sea swelled up in a huge wave which rushed past the rocks crashing noisily  with great force and the sea water  washed over the shiv-lingas wetting our clothes in the process.

Sea waves reach the Shiv lingas during high tide

Sea waves reach the Shiv lingas during high tide

It was almost noon by the time we left the temple and went for a quick view of INS Khukri memorial and another church. Both were disappointing but may be it was the wrong hour of the day. We soon left for Naida Caves before lunch.

Naida Caves:

Another enjoyable site, these visually delightful caves have resulted from the rock mining which was discontinued later to keep these caves. It is more like open to air maze. The trees and plants growing through the caves give it a mysterious look. Sunlight filtering through various gaps creates wonderful images of light and shadows on cave walls.

Sunlight filtering in through many gaps in the roof of caves

Sunlight filtering in through many gaps in the roof of caves

Caves have trees growing inside them

Caves have trees growing inside them

As we roamed around the caves, we lost our way. Taking the roughly cut stairway on the cave wall, we finally scrambled to the top of the caves. Trekking along the top we had to be careful of small and big gaps on the surface which opened directly  on the bottom of the caves.

With the Portuguese practice of afternoon siesta still very popular among the locals, our cab driver, with approaching lunch time had become quite restless and impatient. He was quite surprised to see us finally trekking down the top of the caves!

With only beaches left to be enjoyed on the itinerary, we decided on having an authentic Portuguese cuisine and headed towards O’Coquerio Restaurant. But since we had not pre-ordered, we did not get any food there. Instead we opted for very satisfying pure vegetarian food at Cat’s Eye Restaurant of Hoka Resort.

We relieved the cab-driver cum city-guide from his duty and decided to enjoy the beaches at our own pace and time….after all beaches are for leisure walk and fun in sea, not some spot to be ticked off on the to-do list.

Building castles..

Building castles..

Since we had already indulged in para-sailing, the earlier evening, as soon as the guide informed us about the adventure sports at Nagoa beach, we settled for a lazy walk along the sandy and at places rocky shore-line fringed by Hoka palm trees that were brought by Portugese.

While my daughter busied herself with a sandcastle I strolled down farther and suddenly found myself tele-ported to moon surface!!

Ha! Just Kidding…but the rocky surface near the sea looked so out-worldly….Really..I had walked quite far and the sandy part of the shore was left much behind. I sat down to wait for my daughter and husband to catch up on those craggy rocks. A whole colony of tiny shells, the size of a pin-head  lined the crevices, waiting for high tide to sweep them back in the ocean.

See....I am tele-ported on the moon

See….I am tele-ported on the moon

By the time we finished with our exploration of moon surface by the sea, it had started swelling and protesting with huge waves crashing noisily…eerily….. May be it was the time for night owls and the sea was warning us to return in the safety of our resort… We decided not to tempt the natural forces to turn hostile and walked back through the sea-side park…

Sea roaring away at late evening

Sea roaring away at late evening

Our two days ended. We were happy to Do Diu like Diuans Dorelax, laze around and have a chilled beer!!

Trivia:

  • Afonso de Albuquerque, second  Portuguese governor introduced Alphonso(Hapus) mango in India and has the origin of its name after the governor.
  • Hindi word Balti’ for bucket finds its roots in Portuguese word ‘Baldi’ for bucket

Fact File:

Getting There:

Diu, an island, is connected by bridge road to Gujrat and has no railway access. The small airport has a single flight from Mumbai everyday.

Within the town, auto-rickshaws, two-wheelers are common or the resort arranges for pick-up and sight-seeing.

Stay at:

Some good resorts are lined along the beach. Kostamar resort, Radhika resort, Hoka Island resort are some of the good ones. We stayed in Kostamar Beach resort right next to Nagoa beach and utilised the evening hours to the fullest because of its proximity to sea.

Eat at:

Roof top restaurant at Kostamar is known for its sea-food. O’ Coquiero serves authentic Portugese food but needs a pre-order with minimum order for six people. We loved the Cat’s eye Restaurant at Hoka Island resort with its earthy home style cooking of vegetarian food.

Also read:

Adventure sports and the fun at beach  at http://streettrotter.com/2015/11/14/para-sailing-in-diu-a-travellovestory/

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fast-tracking through Udaipur, The Venice of East

Meandering through the narrow crowded streets of this gorgeous old city, negotiating the sharp turns, taking in the little glimpses of  people and their way of life we rode around in a black and yellow auto-rickshaw bumping at obscure speed-breakers and protruding stones our bones rattling in silent protest….we avoided a cow here, a bunch of dogs there, an on coming scooter, a child running aimlessly, a woman who washed the tiny verandah, and in bargain, splashed water on who ever dared to walk past the house, another man who trashed his garbage right there on the street side……

We thanked profusely, our auto-rickshaw wallah, for depositing us in one piece at the gates of City Palace finally….

We had only little more than half a day in the City of Lakes, Udaipur that lies ensconced in the safe and abundantly fertile Girwa valley on the southern slope of densely forested Aravalli Range.

Named after its founder Maharana Uday Singh II, Udaipur also is referred to as the Venice of East because of the many lakes in the city. Just as one peeps from Mehrangarh Fort at Jodhpur and gets a glimpse of blue houses, similarly Udaipur has white houses all over and is known as White City.

View of the white city from the palace window

View of the white city from the palace window

Panoramic Udaipur from atop the hill

I had, as a twelve-year-old,  visited the beautiful city and heard tales of its grandeur. I wanted to visit again but I couldn’t have chosen a more bad time. Not only I had to skip seeing some important landmarks of the city for lack of time but also because I was completely exhausted since last few days.

Travel usually perks me up and so it did this time… I was all excited to experience the land of Rajputs of Mewar….the body however was not responding, signalling instead to rest and recuperate. But my fascination to visit historic monuments won and we hired an auto-rickshaw for the city palace.

The entrance, a large but plain gateway known as ‘Badi Pol'(Big Gate) for the palace, surrounded by shops, people and more people and more shops made it difficult to imagine that it could be an entrance to a huge grand palace complex. I was little worried that we had reached a wrong place …

Crowded First entrance 'Badi Pol'

Crowded First entrance ‘Badi Pol’

Once we entered the gate, however, we got the real glimpse of royalty with ornate and huge gateway leading to the largest palace of its kind in Rajasthan. We spent an hour or so in the palace marvelling at the huge collection of paintings, silver ware, carriages, furniture, wall murals, sculptures, architecture of the huge palace, the courtyards, the mirror halls… and yet we were able to see only a part of the palace.

Palace wing overlooking the courtyard

Palace wing overlooking the courtyard

As our tour ended we were definitely hungry but I stopped for a quick shopping just outside the palace complex and bought some block-printing wood stencils. Instead of immediately gorging on food, we made a trip to nearby Jagdish Temple only to find it full of devotees and afternoon arti (prayers) was on in full tempo..

Jagdish Temple

Jagdish Temple

Though it was difficult to step inside past all those who sat on the floor but the exterior of the temple was equally ornate and exquisite example of stone art.

Temple exteriors

Temple exteriors

A duel between elephants was entertainment for kings depicted on temple walls

A duel between elephants was entertainment for kings depicted on temple walls

Scenes of hunting on temple walls

Scenes of hunting on temple walls

With only few hours in beautiful city of Udaipur, we had to prioritize what all to visit before retiring for the day. We were sure we wanted to go for the light and sound show at the city palace later in the evening which however we missed because of misinformation of timings. By the time we finished a delicious Rajasthani Thali for lunch, it was already late noon and we settled for boat trips in Lake Fatehsagar and later  Lake Pichola as to-do things while in city.

The boat ride at Fateh Sagar lake was a flop show with the Nehru park a mess because of excessive flood like rains in earlier months. We returned to the boat deck instead of wet lawns to wait for ferrying back.

Lake Pichola was next on our to-do list  for another boat ride.

Boating on the serene blue Lake Pichola

Boating on the serene blue Lake Pichola

An hour went by sailing at the lake, the skies changed from red yellow to greys and so did the distant hills. The time seemed like it was on fast track as were we. The day was over and we missed out on many other worth visiting palaces of Udaipur.

I think I need to go again to Udaipur soon…

Fact File:

Reaching there:

Udaipur is well-connected by air, road and rail from all major cities. We drove from Barmer and reached in about 7 hrs. Roads were almost good with some very rough patches in between.

Stay:

Almost all luxurious high-end hotels give their services in this beautiful city but there are home-stays, resorts and budget hotel options as well. We stayed at Shree Vilas:Vilas by Lake.

Must dos:

With less time at hand we settled for City Palace, Jagdish Temple and boat rides at Fateh Sagar and Pichola Lakes. If I knew better, I would have spent more time at Lake Pichola. A boat ride at Pichola Lake is not to be missed. Visit Jag Mandir at Lake Pichola and dine at the restaurant which caters all kinds of cuisines. Monsoon Palace or the Sajjangarh Palace atop the hill is where kings spent time during the rains and is worth visiting. Jagdish temple, Gulab Bagh, Shiv Niwas Palace, Shilpagram, Saheliyon ki Bari are other important touristy spots. Bagore ki Haveli arranges for  evening traditional dance which is one of the best. Take the rope-way to Karni Mataa temple while at the Pichola Lake to see the panoramic view of the city and enjoy the view when gradually city lights up. There is a vintage car museum too , a private collection of he current regent.

Eateries:

We ate a delicious Rajasthani thali at Santosh Bhojanalay recommended to us by the locals for its dal-baati. There are many restaurants catering local cuisine, just pick and choose according to the looks of it.

Posted in Travel India | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments