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Monday, March 30, 2015

Birthday weekend in the city of TAJ-Agra



This was probably my eighth or night visit to Agra. Every time we had some relative from Kolkata visiting us, my father would plan a one day trip to Agra- Mathura- Vrindavan. But this time our Agra visit had an exciting twist to it. It was not a day trip to see the Taj Mahal; it was a three day weekend visit to our sister's place in Agra. So, this was a chance to see Agra up and close.  What was more thrilling was that we drove down to Agra from Delhi via the much famed Yamuna Expressway. Not to forget, it was my birthday and nothing could have been better than celebrating it with Didi, Jiju and their two sweet daughters.


We started at 12:00 noon from our residence in Delhi. Yamuna expressway is a delight to anyone who loves driving. The smooth wide concrete road had scanty traffic and is flanked with beautiful scenery and posh constructions coming up on both its side.  This was the first time my husband Rupam was driving such a long distance. We were a bit petrified as we heard numerous tales of ghastly car crashes on the expressway. As a safety measure Rupam got his car tyres filled with nitrogen. Beside this slight anxiousness on our mind, rest of our long drive experience to Agra was pretty smooth. Before moving ahead you got to check the beautiful Yamuna expressway out in these pictures.


TAJ EXPRESSWAY


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I was looking forward to a road trip since a long time. It was the day today; and I was enjoying every bit of it. We diverged from the expressway at Mathura to visit Rupam’s engineering college. For reasons unknown I was keen to see my husband’s college. We took a quick halt at Mathura McDonalds to refuel ourselves. Unlike the highway Mathura roads were narrow and congested and the drive was rough.


MATHURA OIL REFINERY. A GLIMPSE ON THE WAY

HALT AT MCDONALDS MATHURA



Rupam had ear to ear smile as he entered Anand Engineering College. He was nostalgic after meeting few old professors and evidently proud to see his college titivated and sprawling over acres of land.


AT HIS ENGINEERING COLLEGE

ANAND ENGINEERING COLLEGE





We reached Agra in the evening. Agra was pretty hot. The climate change, although not very pleasant, but wasn’t too discomforting too. It is a good idea to visit Agra only between October to March when the Sun is not too harsh. 


SADAR BAAZAR , AGRA

It was supposed to be a chilled out three days break and hence we did not have much places on our 'TO GO' list in Agra. We visited the Sadar Bazar; which is apparently the best market place in Agra and undeniably a heaven for shoe lovers.



SHOE SHOPPING SPREE

Guys if you ever plan for Agra trip, make it a shoe shopping trip. The market has amazing leather shoes, boots, sandals, ballerinas, stilettos etc etc. You think of leather shoes and the lacklustre images of black or brown boots crops up in mind. I was floored to see the leather footwear in all latest designs, cuts and colours and that too in an unimaginably low cost. We shopped till our hearts were gratified and I am so proud of my collection now :))


LEATHER SHOE MARKET


HORSE CART RIDE TILL THE TAJ

Agra is the city of Taj and the foremost attraction for anyone visiting Agra. However, no one at home seems to be keen to go to Taj. It is like ghar ki murgi dal barabar. Finally I managed to drag Roopam to drive us to the Taj mahal. Hell! We chose a wrong day to visit. It was a Friday and the Taj Mahal is always closed for visitors on Fridays. Next morning once again we went to see the Taj Mahal and this time little Mehal came along. As this was my eighth or ninth visit here, I too had lost curiosity in spending much time here. We just clicked lots and lots of pictures, took a round around the compound and returned before the temperature got too hot to handle. 

 


THE TAJ MAHAL


SPLENDID ARCHITECTURE

I saw rest of the Agra sitting in car as shown by my personal guide Mr. Rupam Roy Chowdhury. Let’s take a sneak peak in and around Agra roads as captured by my camera.

    
AGRA FAMED PANCHI PETHA

AT THE TAJ MOHOTSAV

Agra hold a splendid heritage site; one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. This city can be so much more than what it is. It can be turned to a traveller’s paradise. 

 

Sadly, the authorities have not yet taken keen interest in overhauling the city’s substructure. 

 

 

It can be so much more than what it is and capable of earning much more fame worldwide. A city that has a legacy of one of the wonders of this world, is not in its best state for sure.


 

 

Our weekend trip was approaching its end and it concluded with me stepping in the next decade of life. I had a perfect birthday eve with family. It’s not how exotic the location is where you travel; it is always how exotic the memories that you make there.

MID NIGHT BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

 

Journey back home in Delhi was pretty smooth with a break in Highway Dhaba. Thank to whosoever invented GPS and navigation system. We were always on the right track.


`JOURNEY BACK HOME


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Doodhsagar Waterfall; A must in Goa travel itinerary

While preparing travel itineraries for our honeymoon trip to Goa, I pinned DoodhSagar Waterfalls to my list. We were laughed at when our friends got to know that we are planning to trek to some godforsaken waterfall during our Honeymoon trip. Goa in itself is one of the coolest travel destinations in India and there are better and even cooler things to do there. The mocking comments of my friends failed in changing my mind and thank god the mockery did not affect my decision.


So, this blog is dedicated to all my oblivious friends. Let me start with few pretty pictures of this enormous fall (they say a picture is worth a thousand words. So let me save a thousand words and pin these pictures instead.)

 


OH SO BEAUTIFUL DOODHSAGAR

 

Doodhsagar, literally means a sea of milk. Yes it does look like a sea of milk descending down the hills in four tiers. We were staying in Nazri resort near Baga and Calangute beach. This means we were near the west coast line of Goa and were supposed to travel roughly 75kms to reach Doodhsagar. Considering the scorching day heat of Goa, the long travel did not appear too appeasing. We started at the crack of the dawn.


Our taxi halted at a small village kind of a place. From this point we were supposed to rent a jeep to reach the falls. As a cost cutting stunt on our extravagant honeymoon trip, we decided to share a jeep with three college kids. We were more than glad to have the chirpy college bachchus(kids) as our company. Before we move ahead, you got to check these pictures out. Ascending the way to the waterfall through deciduous tropical forest, a bumpy jeep ride, crossing a wide water body on the way, elephants, halt to get fanny from a local on the way, all this was rather audacious for me. I was really happy getting a taste of adventure on our not so adventurous Goa tour.

 

 


WHO CARES ABOUT THE DESTINATION WHEN THE WAY IS SO ADVENTROUS


 

On the way we learnt from the college kids that the waterfall is a nature’s border between Karnataka and Goa and it is the tallest waterfall in India flowing 1017 feet tall. After an adventurous 30 minutes bumpy jeep ride we reached a point beyond which we had to trek to reach the waterfall. I loved every bit of my walk till the falls. I had to remove my heels and walk the rocky landscape barefoot. We crossed narrow dwindling cross bridges. We walked through natural springs of cold water and we hiked a rutted rocky way.

 

CROSSING NARROW WOBBLY BRIDGES


Although the adventurous me was enjoying to the hilt, I was scared of Rupam skidding off from one of these rocks and hurting himself (till now my 10 days old husband gave me an impression that he is some-what fragile and handle with care kinds ;)). Nevertheless he was least delighted by this rough walk.


THE ROCKY TERRAIN

 

We managed to reach the waterfall safe. It was a sight to behold. The waterfall descending down in four tiers was superlative. The water pictorially appeared as river of flowing milk and ended at an immaculate pool.


AT THE FOOT OF FALL

TOO EAGER TO JUMP IN THE POOL

 

We chose a rock just opposite the fall and settled there restfully to enjoy the exquisiteness of nature. The water gushing down the hills drenched the air around. What a respite it was in the sweltering mid-afternoon. We did not miss posing around in mushy poses and getting clicked. We were a honeymoon couple after all. Wink Wink!!




We spent an hour in the serenity. The playful monkeys jumping around made Rupam grasp my sandals like his most prized possession. I could have spent the entire day sitting there and soaking in the peaceful bliss. 
THE NATURAL SWIMMING POOL
 

People enjoyed swimming in the natural pool and taking a dip under the water fall. But my extra cautious husband would not let me go inside the water :( Husbands can be overtly possessive at times :( Anyways, I had a good time; and time spent well isn’t worth complaining ;) Right??

SOME PEACEFUL TIME WITH NATURE


WALKING  UP THE TROPICAL FOREST

We trekked back to our jeep and bid adieu to Doodhsagar . Much after our Goa trip we learnt that the falls can be enjoyed through a train journey as well. One thing is worth mentioning about DoodhSagar waterfall. The famous Bollywood flick Chennai Express was shot with Doodhsagar waterfall at the milieu. After this Bollywood prominence, it gained even more sightseers to its acclaim. How I wish I knew this earlier; I could have instantly shut my friends up when I was scoffed at for visiting Doodhsagar   :D

 

BOLLYWOOD MOVIE CHENNAI EXPRESS SHOT WITH DOODHSAGAR AT THE BACKDROP


PS: It’s a charm for all trekkers and a must visit for all those who love to soak in nature’s     tranquillity.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Visit to Golden Temple and Wagah Border

Out of all, I love writing travel blogs the most. Although in 'Black & White ', it gives me a chance to relive those wonderful moments. I was just thinking about how I love going places, clicking pictures, and writing about them; and how I get to write about it so less as I do not get to travel that frequent. 


PS:- A week back I made this birthday wish to get hired by a consultancy firm and get to travel every nook and corner of this amazing round thing called EARTH :P


But Hey! Just when I thought I have no place left to write about, I got reminded of our trip to Amritsar and Goa. I never wrote about these places and ironically these two trips were the most memorable ones. We went Goa for honeymoon and in Amritsar we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Let me save Goa experience for another blog. Here is my blog on first anniversary celebration in Amritsar.


FIRST WEDDING ANNIVERSARY @ THE GOLDEN TEMPLE



For reasons unknown I felt that we should celebrate completion of our first year of marriage in a place of religious significance. I am neither too religious nor ritualistic. Can't recall what influenced me to zero it on Amritsar. We did not want to waste our anniversary day traveling. Hence, we started for Amritsar on November 20, 2012. Since it was really long that we were missing the fun of rail journey, these four hours train journey was real fun. I still miss travelling with open windows in train. As children we cousins used to fight like crazy for the window seat while travelling to Kolkata. Now, neither the closed windows of Shatabdi appeared so appealing, nor we bothered fighting for it.


It was pretty hot in Amritsar. The transition from Delhi's November chills to Amritsar's hot climate was not very appeasing. The city of Amritsar is small and bustling with life. The rickshaws outnumbered cars on the street. We took Rikshaw from the railway station, which was the only mode of transportation available till our hotel. Due to narrow over crowded alleys, no car/ taxi were allowed beyond a point nearing Jallianwala Bagh. Our hotel was in close proximity to the Golden Temple. It was just a minute’s walk to the temple compound. Once settled inside our hotel room, we decided to spend rest of the afternoon inside and leave for Jallianwala bagh in the evening.



Jallianwala Bagh has a gloomy history. We all have read about the unfortunate massacre that is marked as a black spot on the face of history. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed my trip to Jallianwala Bagh. 

BULLET MARKS ON THE WALL



HUGE PAINTING OF THE MASSACRE


THE WELL WHERE MANY JUMPED TO ESCAPE THE FIRINGS


TAKING A GLANCE INSIDE THE WELL


The bullet marks still intact on the walls, the sight of well where hundreds of women jumped with their children to escape from the bullets of British troops, and the huge painting of the unfortunate day were enough to upset the spectators.  


Here are few more clicks in and around Jallianwala Bagh:-


THE AMAR JYOTI


We left the bagh before sundown. Now we had entire evening to our credit and we were game to go shopping. I knew that Amritsar is the place to get good phulkari suits and jooties. We bought phulkari suit material in plenty for all the ladies of the family. It was astonishingly so cheap here as compared to Delhi prices.

Next on the list was Amritsari Jootis. There market sprawling just opposite the Golden temple had plenty shops displaying vibrant and trendy Amritsari Jooties. I was in awe of them.

AMRITSARI JUTTIS IN VIBRANT COLORS

I bought just one pair realizing soon enough that Rupam is getting annoyed with my shopping spree. However, in the succeeding days of Amritsar trip I managed to sneak in the market near to our hotel and buy some more goodies for myself ;). Just can’t understand why guys are so anti- shopping…..


ON COMPLETING 365 DAYS TOGETHER

As the date on calendar changed to November 21, and the clock struck 12 at midnight. I got the small Britannia cake pack out which I had stealthily bought with a tiny candle as a surprise. But we know well that this mid- night candle blowing is no more a surprise these days; it has become more of a tradition :). Though, Rupam acted well and looked pleasantly surprised on this gesture of mine.


It was our special day and we started it by visiting Harminder (meaning Temple oF God) Sahib informally known as The Golden Temple.  The sun rays hitting hard the golden structure of Darbar Sahib made it look splendid. The Golden temple gleaming bright yellow amidst the Amrit Sarovar looked beautiful.

THE GOLDEN TEMPLE

Gurudwara Harminder Sahab was buit in the 16th century by Sikh Guru Arjan. Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered its upper floors with gold in early 19th

ALL THAT IS GLITTERING IS REAL GOLD

century and hence came the name Golden Temple. More than 1lakh pilgrims visit the Golden Temple every day.



LONG UNENDING QUEUE

WAITING TO REACH THE DARBAR SAHAB

We had to wait in a long queue for around 45 minutes to visit the Darbar Sahib (inside of Golden Temple). The Darbar has four entrances which signify the openness of the Sikh culture. As a matter of fact, the construction of Harminder Sahab was done with much thought and the structure was built underlining the principals of the Sikh culture. Inside the Darbar lies the sacred Guru Granth Sahib the holiest text of Sikhs.

SOME MORE PICTURES AROUND THE TEMPLE


SOME MORE PICTURES AROUND THE TEMPLE


SOME MORE PICTURES AROUND THE TEMPLE

After exiting the Darbar Sahib we sat for a while beside the Amrit Sarovar having delicious Kadha Prasad and watching friendly fishes appearing and disappearing playfully.



It was afternoon and the sun was blazing hot by the time we left the Golden Temple.


We were fasting since morning and the hunger pangs were killing us. On the preceding day we had lunch and dinner in Brother da Dhaba and Bharawan da Dhaba respectively. Two famous and busy dhabas of Amritsar standing wall to wall. The story underlying is very interesting and very filmy. The restaurant was originally run by two brothers who parted ways owing property dispute. Now, both brothers run two different and very successful Dhabas which stands adjacent to each other. One named ‘BROTHER DA BHABA’; another named ‘BHARAWAN DA DHABA’. 


TWO FAMOUS AMRITSAR DHABAS


Anyhow! Today we were craving for famous Amritsari Fish Tikka and Amritsari Chicken, and we wanted to have it in a dhaba only. As per my internet research, there are plenty dhabas in Amritsar serving mouth watering non- vegetarian food. To our dismay, we did not find even a single ‘family’ dhaba serving non- vegetarian food. All good dhabas restricted themselves to vegetarian food only. This was disappointing! Food was a big consideration when I zeroed on Amritsar and a die-hard non-vegetarian food fan, I can’t imagine being deprived of it while on trip. 

SARSO SAAG, MAKKA ROTI AND PHIRNI

 


FAMOUS AMRITSARI KULCHE


Not finding a good dhaba, we decided going to a famous fine dining restaurant in Amritsar, Crystal Restaurant. Thank god for this discovery. We had lip-smacking non-veg food to our heart’s content.

AMRITSARI TAWA CHICKEN @ CRYSTAL RESTAURANT


We left for Wagah Border straight after lunch. Since childhood days I heard great stories about the parade in Wagah. Anything about Indo- Pak anyways creates a stir of emotions. Honestly, I wanted to visit the Wagah Border since a very long time.

The cab was parked roughly one kilometer before the spot. From there we started walking towards the site. Thousands of people come to see this evening parade at Wagah every single day.

 

WALKING TOWARDS WAGAH

On reaching the spot, we climbed up a stadium like place. The men and women were seated in different zones. In front of stadium stairs was a clean wide road for parade and flag run by mango people. 

 

 
MARCH PAST AT WAGAH

 

NATION IS IN OUR HANDS... AND IT'S SAFE!!





A PROUD SOLDIER



 Towards our left was the enormous gate that separated land as India and Pakistan. We could see the stadium on the Pakistan side. The spectators were miniscule on their side. Just handful school kids to be precise. But the roars of pride from both Indian and Pakistani spectators grew equally strong and loud as the parade progressed.


SPECTATORS AT PAKISTAN SIDE OF WAGAH

SPECTATORS AT INDIAN SIDE OF WAGAH


The 45 minutes event had first aunties, uncles, children, girls and boys participating in a relay with the National Flag in hand.

THE FLAG RELAY

 

Then there were March pasts by the border security forces. The national pride, our national Flag was brought out for hoisting on the Wagah border with utmost respect.

 
BRINGING IN THE NATION'S PRIDE WITH UTMOST RESPECT

 Both countries’ flags were unfurled and raised with the setting sun at the backdrop. That was a moment of pride and everyone stood in admiration.

PROUD CITIZENS CHEERING AS THE NATION'S FLAGS UNFURLS




The huge gate of Wagah was unlocked, and soldiers from both the countries came face to face and shook hands. This was the moment everyone was waiting for. Bharat mata ki jai was all that I could hear at that moment.




THE WAGAH GATE OPENS

SOLDIERS OF OUR NEIGHBORING COUNTRY

The event ended with everyone shaking legs on patriotic bollywood numbers and

POSING FOR A CLICK

trying hard to get clicked with the soldiers. I did not make an attempt to compete with the mob to get a picture clicked with the soldiers. Instead I got a click with Tiranga.

 

PROUD OF THE NATIONAL FLAG

TIRANGA

AN AVID PHOTOGRAPHER CAPTURED

On the way back our driver suggested woolens/ blanket shopping from a factory price outlet. We picked a blanket and a jacket at a bargain price. The shopaholic me was evidently very happy. Rest of the evening was spent loitering around the market place, having tea by roadside stalls and then finally visiting one of the renowned Dhaba for dinner. Kesar ka Dhaba is a name many would know.  We ordered for stuffed parathas and stuffed every inch of our tummies with it. 

 

STUFFED PARANTHAS AT KESAR DHABA

 

I heard that Golden Temple looks gorgeous at night. We went back to witness this and to soak back in the tranquility we had experienced at the day time, sitting by the Amrit Sarovar. Truly, the gorgeousness of the Golden Temple increases manifolds at night. Check out for yourself.

 

THE GOLDEN TEMPLE AT NIGHT


We sat by the sarovar till midnight savoring some more Kadha Prasad. We just soaked ourselves in peace and beauty of the place.


The Amritsar trip was short and inexpensive. Yet it was among the most memorable ones. I am writing this blog more than a year after the trip. Still I could recall and relive each and every event of the trip while writing this blog. Really wish to thank God/ fate / or some power unknown, for giving these small shots of happiness in this busy and maddening life. CHEERS!!


PS:- This small incident deserves a special mention. As the rikshaw puller progressed towards our hotel in Amritsar, he kept telling us about the Golden Temple, Amritsar, its food etc etc. He was evidently very proud of his city. Among many things he told us about Amritsar, there is one thing I can never forget. This rikshaw puller literally turned back, and with an expression of great proud and honor he said “Sahabji, Amritsar shehar chahe chota ho; par yaha roz lakkho log aande hai… aur humare shehar vich koi bhukka nai sonda….. Harminder Sahib K langar mein garib aur amir dono ko roti mildi hai…… Langar khana zaroor shabji!! ”