Mysore Dussera

Yes! i know I have been away for really long, but I almost haven’t had any time on my hands. But, mom, dad and I, did sneak out some time to head to Mysore for the festival of Dussehra.

Now what is Dussehra and where is Mysore? You may ask.

Dussehra is a festival celebrated widely in India in almost all the states. The main essence of Dussehra is the triumph of good over evil as the Hindu Lord Rama had defeated Ravan, a king known for his wisdom who misused his powers for the evil. The funny thing though is, the Dussehra of the North India as compared to the Dussehra of the South India are so different. (they don’t call India the land of diversity for nothing).

Mysore is a historical city around 150 kms of Bangalore in Karnataka. The city has a royal family and although the royal titles have been abolished in India, the family is still widely recognized in the region and the beautiful palace remains. Now Mysore Dussehra really is something to see. The whole city is lit up and the palace has week-long celebrations, both public and private. Thanks to a friend of a dad’s friend, we scored some passes to see some private functions of the king on two days.

Our first night, we went for the king’s darabar, the king holds court that is. Now I’m not too sure what really happens here, but I do know he gives out gifts to the people who work for him. This is a private affair and like I said, we were really lucky to go in.

See photos below:

Below is the rituals taking place at the durbar. I couldn’t get to click a good photo minus the cover as I preferred to watch the scene in content rather than clicking photos. But sitting behind the curtain is the king. Under that golden umbrella.

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Below you can see the long shot of the durbar (where the king sits and holds court). This was done after the king left and we had some time to look around.

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Below you can see the Mysore palace, all lit up. Putting pictures from two different cameras.

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Day Two, the function was in the morning. It starts with a wrestling game (which we sadly missed because we were late), and then a procession. The procession took so loooong to start that honestly, it did get a little boring. While waiting, we did see the king coming in again and the elephants saluting him and then he went in. And then we waited again. I wasn’t that keen on the procession, but we got to see a different side of the palace this time. 🙂 The procession is open to the regular public but the seating is in the pen in the heat. We on the other hand got to sit in the palace and watch.

Below is the venue of the wrestling match.

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See below the venue where we were seated. One side was just pillars, and right next to it were steps where we could sit and watch the procession from. Sort of like a balcony.

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The gorgeous ceilings.

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And some more pictures of the palace.

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No, I didn’t dare to touch these animals. I know they’ve been dead for years, but no.

Below you can see thr oyal lift, complete with it’s own mini chandelier which is hard to see because it was so bright, that it just came out as a blob of light in the photo. ( We didn’t really have much time to change settings and then click photos)

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And finally, the festivities end with a ceremony where the throne is tied on the lead elephant, who then salutes the king and after around 45 mins to 1 hour, the throne is taken off. What disturbed me a little was the condition of the poor elephant. Why? Because that throne is 850 kilograms of pure gold!! Yes. 850 KILOGRAMS OF PURE GOLD! But a lot of locals told me, these elephants are trained by specialists.

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I hope you enjoyed these pictures. 🙂 And I promise to post more from now on. 🙂

Srinagar, Jammu And Kashmir, India

Jammu And Kashmir, is without a doubt one of the most beautiful states in India. It’s even called ‘jannat’ which means paradise. And the irony is, this place is riddled with the most un-paradise-ey problems- violence and terrorism. Because of these reasons, many areas are not accessible to regular people. But it’s capital -Srinagar is. So when my best friend Mel took a trip to the place and sent me these photos, I was awestruck.

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Such a breathtakingly beautiful place! Thanks Mel, for the photos.

Travelling to India

Warning: This is a pretty long post.

Many a times, I read in the paper about untoward incidents that happen towards foreign tourists in India and I always find one thing common – Absolute lack of information. For example: A few days back I read about a couple that were cycling from one city to another and pitching tents for the night in the middle of nowhere. Anybody in their right minds in India will tell you to never ever do that but sadly, they didn’t have proper guidance.

I’m not saying India is a 100% safe country. Like any other country, you need to know your list of do’s and don’ts and places to go and places to miss. Sadly, when I researched about travelling to India, most of these important points seem to be missing. So I thought I’d do a post on that today, in hope that anyone who is travelling to India will be better prepared and therefore will have an awesome and safe trip!

Now India is a big country.. with mainly 4 zones. Very distinct North, South, East, West.

See below the major tourist destinations in India:

Delhi (North) : Capital of India. Lots of beautiful historical monuments. Old markets. Shopping. Lots of nice places to eat and drink. Tends to be a little unsafe for women at night so do not venture out into deserted areas or think of taking a walk at night. In the afternoon, public transport can be used. There is a Metro and there are autos(three wheelers with who you do need to bargain). But if you’re going to head out for the night, book a cab in advance. This city is beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Trusted cabs: Meru and Ola.

Agra (Uttar Pradesh, North/Central India): Very close to Delhi, this is the home of the famous Taj Mahal. A one day trip can easily be made here from Delhi. Your hotel can probably help you out with a car or tell you about some cab service that do this.

Jaipur and Udaipur (Rajasthan, West): Full of historical forts and palaces. They are not metro cities per say, but very high on tourism.

Mumbai (Maharashtra, South West): aka Business Capital of India. Advance warning, this city can be hot and overcrowded. But once you overlook that fact, there is plenty to do here. Great places to eat. Nice nightlife. Lots of shopping. And on the plus side, it’s much more safe than Delhi. Autos, taxis and local trains are the local mode of transportation. Though I suggest stay away from locals if you do not like crowds. And autos and taxis don’t go everywhere. There are certain areas where only autos ply and certain areas where only taxis. You could check with your hotel once you land. Not as many historical monuments to see as Delhi though. Trusted cabs: Meru and Ola.

Goa state (South West) : A small state, you can party here or absolutely sit back, have a couple of beers and relax. Famous for it’s shacks and seafood and of course the beach. Major areas: Calangute and Baga which are very close to each other and Anjuna.

Kolkata (West Bengal, East): This city runs at it’s own pace. Filled with a rich history and lots of influence from British era, this city is relatively cheaper than the others. Good shopping and a couple of places to see. The Bengalis (the natives of the state) are knows for their sweets and fish.

The State of Kerala (South): Famous for it’s backwaters, houseboats and ayurveda. I remember doing a trip here where we took a house from Alleppey aka Alappuzha, stayed overnight and reached Kumarakom Lake Rest, Kumarakom, next morning and spend some time there.

Apart from this there are many other places to travel to:

North: Amritsar, Shimla, Manali, Dehradun, Leh & Ladakh. to name a few.

West: Ajmer.

South: Coorg, Kodaikanal, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pondicherry, Humpi

East: Darjeeling, Gangtok.

These are just a few. There are many many more.

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Image via: http://www.mapsofindia.com. Pretty good website. Check it out.

Other Info:

-We Indians, when travelling, many a times use our instinct to judge a place. If you do not have a trusted guide, do NOT wander off or think of going to a place you do not know much about.

-Try and only stay at good hotels. Say, Rs.4000 ($74) and above. I’m not saying that all hotels below this price range are bad and not trustworthy. Just that you might not be able to judge how good or bad a hotel is. If you have someone who would know, or know for sure that a particular hotel is good, then cool.

– The most popular mode of inter city and state transportation in India are trains. However, not all of them will be a pleasant experience for you. Shatabdi and Rajdhani are the good ones. No matter what, book an AC coach. If you are talking about overnight travel on train, think again. Many a times, the bathrooms of these trains are not that good. Also, train tickets get booked out month in advance.

– There are tonnes of buses that run between cities. The AC Volvos are good for an overnight journey. You get on at night and reach destination in the morning. Problem? Most of these buses do not have bathrooms and usually stop once or twice in the night. If that’s not a problem for you, these buses are pretty decent. A trusted website to book bus tickets : www.redbus.in

-You could also book a cab to go from one place to another if it’s within 7-8 hours journey one way. You could contact your hotel for more info.

– And of course, flights! Jet Airways is the best in general flights and GoIndigo is the best for low cost airlines. Others are good too though.

– Some websites where you can book: www.makemytrip.com, www.yatra.com , www.goibibo.com, and http://www.expedia.com.

– Buy bottled water. If you’re going to go to a good restaurant, you may not need to worry about this, but otherwise, stick to bottled water. Example: Bisleri.

– While the cheap street food is absolutely delicious, think twice before eating it. What may be perfectly healthy for us, may not be the same for you. Why? Our bodies are used to and immune to it.

– While wearing shorts or dresses or is not a big deal, do not go overboard. Wearing something with a crazy cleavage will only attract unwanted attention if you’re out on the road.

– When heading out at night, always book a cab in advance.

– If confused about where to head out to eat, you can look at www.zomato.com. They give a comprehensive listings of the restaurants in the city along with photos, menus and reviews.

– At any point, if you need a number for anything, JustDial to the rescue. www.justdial.com . They also have numbers you can call on.

Well this is about it. I don’t know if this will help anyone right now or not, but I just thought why not? Locals are the best people to give advice on how to travel in their land. And what better platform than this.

If there is any more information that any of you may need, feel free to shoot a question.  🙂 I’ll be happy to help.

Delhi Loving

So, Ze Boy is going to Delhi for 10 days in the second week of March and Delhi being my hometown, I am putting together a list of places for him to go to and it’s making me want to go too!

Delhi, even with it’s hundreds of drawbacks, is a charming city. It’s a perfect mix of old and modern. The modern side of it is just like other metro cities, malls, restaurants, etc. But the old side of it.. is really something. (Note: I am not talking about Old and New Delhi specifically when I say modern and old.)

Firstly, Delhi is a city/state, full of history and it’s very evident with the number of monuments there. In the photo below,

1: Qutub Minar

2. Lodhi Garden

3. Agrasen Ki Baoli

4. India Gate

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Another thing I love about Delhi is it’s old markets. In the photo below,

Top Row: Chandni Chowk: Part of Old Delhi, this market is quintessential Old Delhi. Narrow busy lanes and wonderful to shop from. From home decor to jewellery to Indian clothes and absolutely delicious food, all can be found

Middle Row: Sarojini Nagar : This market is the bomb! Dresses start from Rs.150 (around $3) and go onto maximum Rs.500 (around $10). Actually, coming to think of it, I’ve never bought a dress for more than Rs.350. And the best part? It’s all export surplus. So the designs are fabulous. Also, it’s not only clothes that you can find in this market, but everything! From shoes to furniture to everything!!

Bottom Row :Connaught Place: This is no cheap shopping but this market is old. My garndmom tells me stories of when she used to live in this area and they never fail to fascinate me. Today, it’s one of the most posh areas in Delhi.

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PS: I would love to post some of the clothes that I’ve bought from Sarojini, but to give you a better idea right now, you can check out these blogs:

http://www.indianbeautycentral.com/2012/03/spring-summer-collection-in-sarojini.html

http://www.phdinfashion.com/2011/03/sarojini-nagar-shopping.html

http://vanitynoapologies.com/2012/01/complete-low-down-on-thrift-shopping.html

Also, none of the images are mine. Yay google!

Suriname – The Country

So, one of the many ways I pass time is looking out for new places to travel and then planning out an imaginary trip in my head at the same time. While dreaming today, I found out about a country – Suriname. No, I did not know about it before today. Yes, very ignorant of me. 
Anyway, thought I’d share some photos.

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Link to the image: http://www.unique-southamerica-travel-experience.com/suriname-tourism.html

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Link to the image: http://i.gadling.com/2011/08/12/the-worlds-top-ten-most-desolate-countries/

Beautiful isn’t it? 

Someday

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So this is a small village called Giethoorn in Netherland with no roads. What you’ll need are boats! Yes! “Oh, I’ll row over to your house right now. Be there in 10.” So cool! And I know its very similar to Venice and Kerala, but this place does have some charm to it.

Someday!

Link for the image:http://www.funlobby.com/200907291269/village-in-holland-with-no-roads.html