Go Goa!

The monsoons are away and winter is creeping in! The perfect time to get some sun and relax. Goa is definitely one of the most popular tourist destinations in India and I am sure a person who has never been there would love to go and a person who has been there would want to go again! One can never be tired of Goa!

Here is an itinerary which explores the best of Goa in 3 days. There are plenty of additional activities which can be done if you have time. Please do send a note in the comments section and I shall share a modified itinerary with you! But then Goa is all about relaxing and chilling and basking in the sun and having nothing else to do!

Click here 3 day itinerary in Goa  for more details! This link has all the details right from food to the activities to the places to be and the things you need to carry!

 

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Souvenir Shopping at Agra

Hello Traveler!

Do you like bringing back mementos from your trips? I do.

Over the years, I have gathered quite a few mementos and have a lovely collection! A conch-shell from Andaman, geisha doll from Tokyo, Painting of the Maldivian beaches, shells collected at the shores of Kanyakumari and more… Do comment to let me know about souvenirs your collection!

Here is a list of things to buy at Agra!

Click here to see what you should buy while at Agra!

Cheers!

 

 

Photo Walk. Beautiful scenic places in India!

Hi there!

This post contains beautiful pictures from my road-trips in India! The prompt was a contest to post photographs of some of the most memorable road-trips in the country!

 

I started a massive photo-hunt and unearthed some beautiful pictures which were stored in some remote corner of the memory card in my mom’s phone. Well, this virtual world is not that different. I remember dusting the brown layers on the album cover with a soft orange cloth as a child. And it always opened the curtains of the mind’s eye and deported me to the scene. I could hear the waves  crashing at the sea-shore, smell the fragrance of those beautiful flowers on the road. Seeing the photographs on digital media makes no difference. The sound of the folder clicking open unwinds the curtain in the same manner.

Here are the pictures – hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I did reliving those memories!

Trip to Munnar

Trip to Kanyakumari

I have had a few people asking me if these photo’s were edited. The answer is NO! I have clicked the above pictures using a One Plus phone. No filters have been used. Here is a link to check out the latest One Plus product. If you are planning to invest on a good phone do check this out! If you click on the link and make a purchase it will help me as I will receive a small commission.

Please click on the love sign if you like it, and my heart will brighten up as a token of gratitude! Do connect on Twitter to see more!

Keep reading to know more about these places and how to get there!

Ta!

North-East India : A photographic Journey

The Himalayas never fail to impress anyone. As the path trails, the scenic beauty engulfs the traveller. Here are a few pictures from my journey in July 2008.

  • Travel Route : Guwahat – Tejpur – Bomdilla – Tawang – Dirang – Guwahati
  • Duration : 5 days
  • Mode of Travel : A Sports car with a local guide
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Madhuri Lake, or so it is called, ever since Madhuri Dixit Nene visited the place to shoot for the Bollywood movie Koyla
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Bliss! When she came down to Earth, this was her residence.
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The mountains. Salute to the Indian soldiers who camp here to protect the Indian borders
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Yaks!
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Twin Lakes, Arunachal Pradesh
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Another view
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Sela Pass, the highest point
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View from the Checkpost
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Sela Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in this region. I have taken this picture from the Internet since my camera battery ran out of charge the day we visited Sela Lake, and it would be sheer injustice to the post if I do not have a picture of the most beautiful place visited during the trip
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Nuranang Falls, Tawang District, Arunachal Pradesh, India.
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An open road and your favourite song, is sometimes the therapy you need
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Dirang. A view from the Hotel
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Apple orchard at Dirang
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A monastery on the road
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The monastery inside is as peaceful as the nature outside
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Pitcher Plant, Nepenthes truncata
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River bank, along the Kaziranga National Park
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Canoe ride to the island for the ‘Tiger Safari’
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Tent House!
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The inside is quite modern, well equipped with a clean bathroom
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Random water-falls on the road

DSC05530.JPGKamakhya Temple, Guwahati

Cannot get enough of the Himalayas?

The Himalayan trail to Spiti Valley

The above link is the photographic journey to the Chandertal Lake in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh.

Do share your thoughts on the beautiful Himalayas! I am keen on hearing from you!

 

Why Fatehpur Sikhri is a MUST visit from Agra

The architecture. It is beyond brilliant. The intricate details and carvings on red sandstone and white marble is unique to the Mughal Sultanate, and is a visual treat for the eyes. I wish the walls could whisper about the grandeur and charisma of this magnificent empire!

Jalal-ud-din Mohammed Akbar, the greatest emperor of the Mughal dynasty, had built the twin cities of Fatehpur and Sikhri between 1571-1585. The capital city of Sikhri is an example of meticulous urban planning of medieval times. This ancient township  is protected by a 11km long fortification wall. A tomb is dedicated to the Sufi saint Salim Chisti. The palace complex houses various important buildings. A tour of the city is like walking into the pages of your school history text book – only to realize that no words can do justice to the pristine glory of the mighty Mughal empire.

How to get there?

By Road from Agra

It is only 37 km away from Agra, towards the west. An hour’s drive from the beautiful mausoleum city.You can hire a cab for approximately Rs 2000 (an air-conditioned Indica which is a four seater) and the price varies based on the number of people commuting. Your hotel will be able to help you with this booking.

Note: The Taj Mahal is closed on a Friday, but Fatehpur Sikhri isn’t.  The Taj Mahal is open to tourists on full moon nights (once a month) and the view is of paramount beauty. So plan your tour itinerary accordingly.

What to Carry?

  • Carry a cap to avoid the blazing sun and sunscreen during the day in summers
  • Warm clothes – It can get icy cold during November to February
  • A good pair of walking shoes
  • Cash – the cab driver and local shopkeepers do not use debit / credit cards
  • A good camera
  • Water bottles – it is allowed inside
  • Some snacks to eat on the way (not allowed inside the monuments).

Entrance Fee (subject to changes)

  • Indian nationals : Rs 40
  • Foreign Nationals: Rs 550
  • Additional camera charges apply

Traveller’s Tip:

A tour guide is essential to explain the nitty-gritties of the architecture. Beware of cheats! An official guide would be wearing a white uniform and will have a license. He would charge you approximately Rupees 1500 and would not bargain. You could wait for another travel group to split your expense. However, many fake tourist guides roam at the entrance to con the tourist with a fake ID card and similar uniform. They agree to a lesser price but often provide false information or no information at all.

Sikhri

Babur, the descendant of Chengiz Khan, had noticed a small village and name it Shukri (meaning shukriya or thank you) when he defeated Rana Sangwa at Khanua in 1527. Akbar, Babur’s grandson called it Sikhri and made it his capital between 1571-1584.

Diwan-e-Khass 

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Diwan-e-Khass (The Jewel House)
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The pillars are a blend of Indo-Islamic architechture
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The ornately carved central pillar is believed to house the throne of Akbar while the Ministers were seated at corners of the passage

Ankh Michauli – The Imperial Treasury

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The crevices in the wall suggest that the Royal Treasure Troves filled with gold, silver and copper coins were placed here

Palace of Jodha Bai – Shabistan-i-Iqbal

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The design of this building draws inspiration from Rajput traditions and Hindu architecture and was also equipped with a kitchen based on the request by Akbar’s favourite queen
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One of the walls of Jodha Bai’s palace lined with various designs of the Rajput Queen’s jhumkas or earrings

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While some historians believe that this was the Hindu prayer hall Jodha used, others refute by suggesting that Jodha had a summer palace and a winter palace. Akbar was the only Mughal emperor who allowed his queen’s to follow their own religion. The Jalal carefully examined the doctrines of all religions, customs and ceremonies and blended the best practices to start a religion called Din-i-Ilahi

 Turkish Sultana’s Pavilion

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Rukaiyaa Begum’s Pavilion. The paintings adorning the walls have faded with the sands of time. The beauty and finesse of the Persian silk curtains guarding the entrance to the chambers can only be imagined
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A verandah facing the Talao. Intricacy herself would have sculpted the walls of the Turkish Queen. The delicate carvings on the friezes, pillars and pilasters of the stone masons can be mistaken to be teak wood carvings

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Panch Mahal

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Badgir (wind catcher) consists of four storeys of decreasing size. It was meant to mitigate the intense summer heat
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No two columns are alike on the first floor. Several designs such as bell-and-chain motif, floral patterns and tiny circular blossoms are carved on these walls
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The ground floor consists of 84 columns (an auspicious number for the Hindus, the first storey consists of 56 columns, the second storey 20 , the third 12 and the top storey is a domed kiosk supported on four pillars 

Hujra-i-Anup Talao

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North-east of the Talao is a beautiful structure described as a ‘superb jewel casket’

Fathehpur 

The twin city of Fatehpur – meaning land of victory was built next to Sikhri. However, Akbar had to abandon Fatehpur-Sikhri due to the saline content in the water and scarcity of water in this region.

Jami Masjid Complex in red sandstone 

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The Badshahi Darwaza, the entrance used by the Emperor to enter the Jami Masjid complex.
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Pillared bays in Jami Masjid
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The remnants of the ceiling once adorned with marvelous paintings and colours. A look at the centre of the dome shows signs of the last designs peeling off
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The Masjid, the principal building of Fatehpur consists of an open courtyard. The inscriptions on the wall gives an idea regarding the construction and commissioning of the mosque

Darbar of Salim Chisti in white marble

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Akbar sought the blessings of Shaikh Salim Chisti who predicted the birth of his sons, heir to the throne of the Mughal Sultanate. The dargah marks the profound reverence and respect the Sultan had for the saint
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The intricate jali work architecture unique to the Mughal Empire, resembles carved ivory instead of white marble. The devotees tie a sacred thread around the jali to seek blessings of the famous Sufi saint
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The pillars around the dargah consists of sepentine brackets which spring from the shafts. The space between the curves is filled with jali work
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The marble screens around the tomb draw different patterns such as pentagon, hexagon and octagonal patterns. The early morning sun casts beautiful shadows which leaves the tourist spell-bound

Buland Darwaza

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The Buland Darwaza (Lofty Gate) was built to commemorate the conquest of Gujarat. This imposing gate is made up of plain red sandstone framed in white marble. Verses from the Holy Quran are inscribed on the structure which can be seen from far distances.

A sincere attempt to show the magnitude of this architecture. The gigantic gate characterizes the assertion of power and dominance of the most successful Mughal Emperor.

Souvenir Shopping

Click here to read about what is famous at Agra, what to buy, and tips for tourists!

If you liked the article, don’t forget to hit the ‘Like’ button to encourage a beginner like me! Thanks for sharing it on social media to help the friend who is planning a trip!

Have you seen the road trail from Manali to Spiti Valley? Click on the link to see the lofty Himalayas and beautiful pictures of Chandertal Lake. The road-trip to Spiti Valley

Shubh Yatra (Happy Journey)!

Sub-aqueous tittle-tattle

‘Maldives’ is home to some of the most beautiful beaches, islands and resorts in the world. The mesmerizing blue waters of the Laccadive Sea romancing the chalk white sands on the beaches is paradise for the newly-wed couples who want to spend a cozy honeymoon out there! The crystal clear waters and the twinkling night sky is a star gazer’s delight. However, 99% of Maldives remains yet to be explored. 1190 coral islands dot the Maldivian archipelago. And here lives the colorful glitterati of this country.

Why choose the submarine ride among a plethora of activities?

Maldives offers several water sports such as snorkeling and scuba-diving, but only the expert few can navigate to the coral depths hidden in the ocean-bed. The myopic with thick glasses and water-phobics miss on the aquatic life, almost always.

The Whale Submarine ride is perfect for the novice – a feast for the eyes, a visual treat of flora and fauna. A million fish playing hide and seek among a thousand shades of chlorophyll – set deep beneath a layer of electric neon blue.

The ride is a pleasure for all! There is child who now knows that a boat that moves under water is called a s-u-b-m-a-r-i-n-e and considers it an achievement to spell it! The excited old couple holding hands to peep into the world beneath the waves! The curious teenager who holds his breath to see National Geographic Live in a real time screen – where it pricks when you pinch yourself in awe.

Best Time of The Year: December-April.

A budget traveler can eye at the monsoon discounts during June-September

How to Get There?

Contact details of the Government’s submarine ride program (helps if you are staying at a hotel and planning your own itinerary). A ferry ride is available from Male’ to the Whale House.

Tel: 3333939 / 7903939
Email: sales@submarinesmaldives.com.mv

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Speedboat ride to the depths of the ocean

Traveller’s Tip: You could request the resort to include this activity (as a freebie to your package or at a discounted rate). The rates were $120 per head in December 2016. This works best since you are taken to the ‘Whale House’ and a beautiful ride to the reef is complimentary. However, do check on the timing with the resort. The ride is available between 9:00 am to 8:00 pm for 90 minute slots. However, the resorts try to find a slot which suits them best to optimize the ferry ride. This may hinder with the timings of other activities you might have planned for the day – but skipping the other activities can be one of the best things to do in life!

What to Carry?

  1. A good sunscreen lotion with a high SPF
  2. A Go-Pro Underwater Camera to capture the marine life

What to expect?

The floating Whale House is well equipped with a restroom (the submarine is devoid of one), a vending machine with light refreshment and wet tissues.

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All set!

The friendly staff assist you to climb down the stairs and find your seat. Ahoy! There begins the descend. As the fathometer reminds you of the plunging depths and the screen ahead turns a deeper blue, at 25 metres below sea level the vessel stops to show you one of the most breathtaking views to behold!

The reefs hide the wonders of creation in the heart of the ocean. Fish – big! small! colorful! transparent! Fish with fins of different shapes and sizes! A scuba diving expert accompanies the vessel and feed the fish while more flock over. The vessel hovers for about 40 minutes, 20 minutes for the person sitting on the left deck and then the passengers exchange sides. If you are lucky you can devour this visual feast for longer (especially when the vessel is half full).

 

 

The exhilaration, the fascinating allies of the mermaids and the visual delight will bring back a smile each time you think of the aquamarine beauty.

 

The Enchanting Fairy Hall

The Fairy Hall, is located at Gobardanga, North 24 Paraganas District of West Bengal, an hour away from the Bangladesh border. This picturesque and exquisite palatial home, built by the Yamuna, a tributary to the mighty Ganges, has witnessed the pages of history turn yellow and wither away. This guest house which belonged to the erstwhile Zamindar family of the region, is a monumental relic to the grandeur and magnificence of the Rajahs of pre-independence era.

Legend has it that the oldest of the Zamindar’s four sons, Shri Jagat Prasanna Mukherjee shifted to this guest house after a family tiff. The original home, which was six times the size of the current home was demolished and the remnants were turned into a Government college once the Zamindari system was abolished in the country.

The Fairy Hall has been built with regal tastes. The vestibule at the entrance houses a huge billiard table, and the walls are adorned with treasures of the Zamindar’s shikar. Bison heads, Antelope horns and Elephant tusks make way for life-sized potraits of the residents of yore, the women clad in the finest of silk, glittering rubies, turquoise, emeralds and sparkling diamonds. Shimmering chandeliers sway gently to add to the exuberance. Gifts from other emperor’s adorn the shelves of the mahal. Chinese vase from the Ming Dynasty, Sword hilts covered with gilt, a grain of rice with a 141 character message inscribed on it, are a few of the many. The Fairy Hall also houses a naachghar with small patterns on the wall, for the women of the family to peep and enjoy the various forms of entertainment. The Zamindar’s were connoisseurs of art, and talent was always appreciated and awarded.

The tradition of celebrating the Durga Puja has been continued by generations since 400 years. Come September and members of the family arrive from different parts of the globe before the blowing of the conch shell announces the arrival of the Devi Goddess with her children. The fun, frolic and peals of laughter unites the younger generations as they perform the various rituals in the last few days of Navratri. 

The warmth of the family members, the determination to perform the ancestral puja with utmost reverence and the humble pride of their ancestral lineage sets the family apart from others. Even today, folks from the village bow in respect to the members of the family who help anyone in need in various capacities. The villagers do not hesitate to turn in for shelter during floods and incessant water logs.

The ‘Prassanamoyee Ma Temple‘ , an avatar of Goddess Kali just outside the gates has a history of its own. Sculpted as a result of a dream, by the unique artist who created the idol at Dakshineshwar, this temple is known to have answered many a prayer. People from faraway lands have come with mannats and have never returned empty handed.

Although a three hour journey from the city of Kolkata, not many are aware of this tranquil and serene beauty. A vernacular movie shooting location, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles are some of the famous personalities who have visited this charming abode. The lush green lawns are a good picnic destination, but only with prior permission from Mr Swapan Prasanna Mukherjee and his siblings, who takes care of their ancestral home preserving it from the silent gnaws of time.

Photo Courtesy: Souvik Prasanna Mukherjee