Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tour Diary of Our North Indian Trip!


27th Apr 2012, Kochi – Delhi:

We departed from The Bungalow at 0830 for Kochi  Airport and reached there by 0920Hrs. Check-in and other formalities  were completed by 1000Hrs and waited for the Flight to arrive. We were flying on Spice Jet to Delhi and it was our first hand experience of Spice Jet . We embarked the flight at 1050Hrs. Interior was Ok same as other flights like Jet Airways. Our seats were 14 D,E & F. Our daughter, Olivia, occupied the window seat and my Husband on the aisle Seat.  I was sandwiched in between!    We started to  proceed to runway around 1120Hrs, indeed the flight was sharp on time; first impression was good.
 As soon as we were up in the sky, food was served. While booking we have ordered for 3 Non-Veg meals. Meal was hot but nothing  more than that. Was it worth the price…..hmmmm…….I don’t know. The Meal packet which was served contained Rice and a piece of Paratha (smallest size I have ever seen) with Chicken curry, Dal (lentils) and mango pickle and a piece of chocolate cake as pudding. We were given a choice of beverage, like coke, fruit juice or lemonade to choose from.
1310Hrs we were at Mumbai Airport. Passengers like us, who were proceeding to Delhi, were asked to stay on board, others disembarked. 1410Hrs we were on to runway for Delhi, again on time. Had a nice nap and by 1620Hrs we were at Delhi Airport. I was impressed with Spice Jet for their punctuality, I believe, that’s what every passenger expect from their airline.

Olivia at New Delhi Airport
Picked up our baggage and walked straight to the Pre-Paid taxi counter. Then on taxi straight to YMCA. We had booked Deluxe Double room with an extra bed for my daughter. YMCA…..Ah….location….one of the best a person can ask at Delhi. Right at Connaught Place. Our tariff included Breakfast  & Dinner . Room was OK but I believe the price is for the location was rather than for the amenities in the room.
After Checking In straight away we headed to see India Gate in an Auto-Rickshaw. 
India Gate






Good place to spend evening . Had a photo session  and few “Golgappas” (or called Pani Puries).
Eating Golgappas!!!!

 Approximately  100 years ago, in Dec 1911, the British Raj shifted their capital to Delhi from Calcutta. By 1930Hrs we caught an Auto-Rickshaw back to YMCA. Dinner was buffet  with Chicken Curry, Brinjal (Egg Plant) Curry and Dal along with Rice & Chappati.  Followed by  Custard pudding.




28th Apr 2012:
Today morning we departed from YMCA at 0530Hrs to catch Bhopal Shatabdi express which  leaves  from New Delhi Railway station at 0615Hrs. Train departed from Platform #1 at sharp 0615Hrs. Morning Tea was served immediately upon departure from New Delhi Railway Station. By 0700Hrs Breakfast was served. Breakfast was included in the ticket charge. Though we asked for Non-vegetarian they just  served us Vegetarian Breakfast.
Interior of Shatabdi Express
Breakfast at Shatabdi Express


First stop was at Mathura, Train reached by 0725Hrs. Stoppage was for about 2 minutes. Next stop was Agra Cantonment Station. By 0810Hrs, Train was at Agra. 






Our Guide Vijay Sharma  was waiting outside C4 compartment. Immediately took us to the white coloured Toyota Innova Taxi car. Drove straight to Taj Mahal and by 0830Hrs we were at  Taj. Vijay is good at his “Story Telling” he knew almost  all the details  about the Structure, construction and history associated with Taj; what more do you need , he even turned out to be a good photographer too!! Most of the Photos  what you see here at Agra are taken by him on our camera. By 1030Hrs we were out from Taj.  Please  note that Taj is closed on Friday.
One of the classic photos of Taj Mahal taken by our guide!



Olivia Holding Taj Mahal!

Main photo spot at Taj Mahal is the place, where the photo looks like, the person is holding the Taj Mahal. If you visit Taj, don't forget to take these photos. Our guide, Vijay, again turned out to be an excellent photographer.

Our Hands as Canopy around Taj Mahal!
From Taj we went straight to Agra Fort which is about 10 minutes drive. By 1140Hrs out from Agra Fort and headed straight to the village called Fatehpur Sikri which is about an hour  drive.


Inside Agra Fort
Fatehpur Sikri  is built by 3rd Mughal Emperor Akbar at the place where his Hindu wife Jodha Bai was blessed by Islamic  Sufi  saint Salim Chisthi and gave birth to his only son. Akbar named him Salim (later called Emperor Jahangir), in memory of the Sufi  saint.  It’s an architectural beauty with the biggest gate in Asia called Buland Darwaza.
Buland Darwaza

Baby Taj
By 1430hrs we were out from Fatehpur Sikri and had lunch on our way back to Agra. Next stop at Agra was Sikandra, Tomb of Akbar. From Sikandra went to next mausoleum called Itmad-Ud-Daulah; also called Baby Taj. Bulit by Noor Jahan wife of Emperor Jahangir, in memory of her Father.
From Itmad-Ud-Daulah we went straight to Mehtab Bagh. It’s across the river Yamuna. 







Taj Glowing in the Evening Sun, a view from Mehtab Bagh.
 I was lost in thought "Whether my Husband ever make something similar like this for me :)"
Dreams...... don't have boundaries!!!!!!



Evening at Mehtab Bagh is a must visit as we could see the beauty of Taj glowing in the evening sunlight from this side of the river. It’s  really worth watching!!!


















That was our trip to Agra and headed back to Delhi by catching the same Bhopal Shatabdi  Express . By 2025Hrs train arrived.Very soon dinner was served on board. We reached back at New Delhi Railway Station by 2225Hrs.

29th Apr 2012:

Interior of HOHO Bus
HOHO Bus
Today was our day for exploring  Delhi.  So, after breakfast  we  walked down to the Hop on Hop off (HOHO) bus service centre which was a 5 minutes walk from YMCA. We bought 3 tickets for INR 300/person, child is charged half but its not by age but by height and the cut off height was 3 feet. Though our daughter Olivia, is only 11 but she is as tall as me, so Olivia failed the height ‘test’ . Bus runs every 45 minutes. Along with the ticket, they give you a list of items which they will cover .This is also available on their website http://www.hohodelhi.com/  Its prudent to do some homework and decide well in advance which all places you want to cover on the day. We  did the same and it helped us in saving our time. The ticket is valid for 2 days but we couldn’t use it as HOHO service is closed on Monday as most of the monuments are also closed on Monday. So our ticket was valid for  next working day that was Tuesday but on that day as per our schedule we will be at Shimla.

Red Fort, Delhi
We first disembarked at the second stop of HOHO, Red Fort. 

After visiting Red Fort we took a cycle rickshaw to Juma Masjid, though it might have been a 20 minutes walk to there, we decided for cycle rickshaw because of the heat. It was an experience by itself. 
I was riding on cycle rickshaw after so long !

Juma Masjid, delhi

Rajghat


We alighted the next bus and disembarked at Rajghat; the burial ground of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of  the Nation.












Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb: Taj Mahal was said to be  built on architectural design of  Humayun’s Tomb.











After Humayun’s Tomb, got off at Saket Malls to have lunch and relax!

Qutub Minar
By 1600 we were back on HOHO bus form Saket and our next destination was Qutub Minar.














Jantar Mantar



After Qutub Minar we went to Jantar Mantar which  was very close to YMCA. Bigger Jantar Mantar is at Jaipur.

Later back to the hotel. 











30th Apr 2012:

Today was the day to visit Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament  and North & South Block. We just walked around. Night caught Howrah – Kalka Mail from Old Delhi Railway station, which was late by 45minutes.

Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential House) Gate.


Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential House).



North & South Blocks.

Indian Parliament House.


























01st – 03rd May 2012:
Though the train was late last night  but reached right on time at 0430Hrs at Kalka. At Kalka we alighted Kalka – Shimla Shivalik express  also called Toy Train. It’s a journey worth taking.

Shivalik Express at Kalka.



Seating arrangement of Shivalik express:
One side there are 2 seats and other side its one.  Another thing what I have noticed is that the Chair can be pulled to sit facing front or back of the train. This is specially useful if you are going in a group, then you can adjust  the seat in  such a way that the 2 chairs of the adjacent rows will  be able to face each other.
Interior of Shivalik Express.
(Seat can be adjusted facing forward or rear  as shown in above photos)


Train started at 0530Hrs. Ticket includes  morning Tea and Breakfast.  Shivalik Express is having only one stop between Kalka and Shimla, which is Barog. Train stopped at Barog to get breakfast on board. Breakfast was served as soon as Train departed from Barog.

The Station and the place is named after a British Engineer who was entrusted to construct  a tunnel for Kalka – Shimla rail line. He started the  work from both the sides of the hill and when the tunnel work from both sides reached the middle they were off by few metres. British Indian Government imposed a symbolic fine on him. Barog felt humiliated and committed suicide at the site of the tunnel which he constructed. His name struck to the place.

Barog Station and Tunnel.

Barog Railway Station.

Toy Train at Bargo Railway Station.


The station is worth seeing, mouth of the tunnel is at the end of  the Railway station.


Train passed through hilly terrain of pine trees……so beautiful. I would like to say this where Journey becomes  equally, if not more  beautiful than the destination.


1030Hrs Train Reached Shimla. We were staying at a Hotel in Mall Road . Taxi cost from Shimla Railway station  to the hotel  was INR 120/. Our room was luxury room facing the valley. Location of hotel is very important at Shimla as Mall road is closed for vehicular traffic; so if you don’t select right hotel, you will end up walking a lot.
Shimla Railway Station.



SHIMLA:
Shimla is a beautiful town with pedestrian friendly Mall road, where vehicles are banned, is having Heritage Buildings like Gaiety Theatre,  Post office,  Shimla Municipal Building etc . Ridge, where Christ Church is situated , is above the Mall Road.
Beginning of Mall Road, Vehicular Traffic is banned. 
Christ Church.

Inside the Christ Church.




 Christ Church is having beautiful stain glasses inside and pews are having reserved  brass plates markings, like first row on both left & right sides for “H.E. The Viceroy” .
Pew Marked & Reserved for Viceroy!

Pew Marked & Reserved for
the Governor of then Punjab Province!














Second row on the left side “ H.E.The Governor” and on the second row on the right side  “H.E. Commander In Chief”.Wall of the church contains Memorial plates which are worth going through and talks lot of stories of the years gone by!!



Gaiety Theatre is another important Heritage buildings on the ridge and mall road. Beautifully restored to its original beauty, offers a guided tour of the building. I can well imagine the hall filled with English men & women. Evening there was a cultural program, we enjoyed it for about 15 minutes.
Gaiety Theater.
Gaiety Theater Interior; the Centre back Cubicle was reserved for The Viceroy.































FOOD @ SHIMLA:
While reading above  you must not get misunderstood that Shimla offers only Heritage Buildings and Scenic beauty. No…..if you enjoy in keeping your taste buds happy then food is another aspect a visitor should keep in mind while visiting Shimla. Following are the place I found good and would like any visitor to Shimla to try out ; without which your visit to Shimla will be incomplete. A word of caution, these place, which I am going to tell, are not the best & beautiful  restaurants and at most of them you will have to stand and eat……but its worth.

1.Sita Ram & Son: Situated at Lakkar Bazaar offers very tasty Choley Bhatura.





2. Tripti  Bakery: Situated  again at Lakker Bazaar, slightly ahead of Sita Ram, offers excellent Pastries at middle class price.


3.Baljees: Situated on Mall Road offers very good Gulab Jamuns & Rasmalai’s …..one of the best I had.





4. Aunty’s  Chinese Food Shop:  You have to walk down the stairs next to Baljees and turn right at Middle Bazaar. There you will find Aunty’s Chinese Daba. You might have to wait outside to get your turn. Wow….. one   of the best Chinese food I ever had.  For Starters  you can have Veg & Non-Veg  Momos  and carry on till your stomach allows.










04th – 06th May 2012, Manali:
4th morning  0700hrs we checked out of our hotel in Shimla. Caught Taxi to New Inter State Bus Terminus of Shimla and boarded Himachal Road Transport Corporations Deluxe bus to Manali. It departed Shimla at 0800Hrs. It was a long 9 hours drive. As soon as we departed Shimla Temperature started rising and we had to remove our pull overs. It remained so till Kullu. 2 hours prior to our arrival to Kullu, the bus was travelling along the river Beas and time just flew by. We reached Kullu by 1530Hrs and they asked us to change our bus . This bus departed Kullu at 1600Hrs. As soon as we departed the town of Kullu the temperature started coming down and could see Apple trees. Then….there were few snow covered mountain tops. It was indeed a  beautiful sight to be seen.  Later   we checked in our hotel.     

River Beas



5th morning  we had to get up early and around 0500hrs we got into the cab and proceeded to the Snow point on the way to Rohtang La (pass). The advantage of leaving early is that there will not be any rush at snow point. On the way we picked up snow dresses on rent and also ski plus the guide. On the way there are lots of shops  selling  these snow dresses on rent.  Taxi  drivers  usually stops  at a place where he will be getting his commission, anyway try to bargain.. We said we don’t want to do ski and don’t require a  guide, then he reduced the rate to one fourth!  Driving to the snow covered mountains  is worth the drive. When we reached somewhere on top, the road was closed and  we were asked either  to walk or hire special permit SUVs  or use Mountain  Bikes. SUVs will take you far on the mountain and Mountain bikes will take you about 4 Kms.  Whatever you are choosing try to  bargain hard. As we have seen lots of snow, even sea becoming ice during  our sailing days;  we decided not to go further away and to use Mountain Bikes as we have not gone on them.
Snow Covered Mountain!

Olivia Skiing!















If you have not seen snow then  it might be better to use SUVs as they ‘promise’ to take you to a place where there are more snow. I don’t know whether that is true or not, as I have seen that  once you are on your way to see snow on mountain then everyone , including your taxi driver, is involved in squeezing money out of  your pocket; so watch every step you take.

As we drove on Mountain bike we could see snow patches , some patches are bigger and some are small. After about 3 or 4 kms we stopped near a big patch of snow. It is not soft fresh snow but hard ice, so you have to be careful while climbing. We did some skiing and took some photographs; by 0830hrs we were back to the place where our taxi was parked.  By then there were huge crowd and lots of taxies. The more  late you are, the more far will be the parking point  so earlier the better.


Hi, Its me.....sliding through snow!!!!



Mountain Bike.
















From there we departed for  Solong Valley. Its famous for Cable Car and for  Para Gliding. We went on Cable Car, it took us to a mountain top where we got a good view of the snow covered mountains and pine trees. After spending about half an hour we got the Cable Car back. 

Cable Car at Solong

Cable Car


View from Cable Car

After disembarking from Cable car.

Paragliding, snow covered mountains looks amazing.

Apple gardens  were our next sight,  it was on our way back to the hotel.  Some had flowers and few small apple fruits.

Mall road of Manali is small compared to Shimla and its like any other  Indian Shopping street but quite cheap compared to ShimlaVehicle is banned along the small stretch of Mall Road and unlike Shimla there are no places to sit on the Mall road.

7th  - 8th May 2012, Chandigarh:
We said bye to the snow covered Himalayas; our bus by Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) to Chandigarh was at 0900Hrs from Manali Bus Stand.  It departed sharp on time and 11 hrs of drive through hairpin curves of mountain was treacherous. We reached Chandigarh by 2000Hrs; by then we all were dead tired and took an auto to our hotel.  Had Dinner and went to bed.
Rose garden and Rock Garden are the main things to see at Chandigarh. After coming from hills it was too hot  and so we covered the gardens quickly. One thing I must admit that it was the best and the only planned city I have seen in India.

Rock Garden

Rose Graden
















For shopping  its not a favorite city and I felt  things were more expensive than other places.  As our next & last stop  was Amritsar, I thought of spending  some time there for shopping.





10th – 12th May 2012, Amritsar:
On 9th we caught bus from Chandigarh to Amristasr. It was a private bus of Maharaja Bus company and the bus were much cleaner than  the Government  buses which we used in Shimla and Manali. It was about 5 Hours trip and roads were quite good. We reached Amritsar by 1800Hrs.
Next day we went to see Golden Temple
At Golden Temple.

On Top of Golden Temple.


Golden Temple is  really beautiful and we went  through the complete temple complex and had “Langar” (Free lunch) there. We had heard about Langar , so just thought of giving it a try. As the old saying says “ When you are at Rome, do as the Romans do" . Even during our sailing days, always we make it a point to try the local & main food over there.  It was interesting.  Langar consisted of Chapatis, One veg curry, Dal and  a Sweet . The Hall , were food was served was really clean and neat. The way they served food was really incredible!

On way back we went to Jallianwala Bhag. Evening  we  went  to the  Waga Boarder and saw the Sun set flag lowering ceremony.  It was also worth seeing.



Bullet Marks at Jallianwala  Bagh

India-Pakistan Wagha Boarder.


BSF Jawans Marching to Lower Indian Flag
Both Indian & Pakistani Gates opened,
can see Pakistani Rangers & Indian BSF Jawans.





Armitsar is better place for shopping and I indeed did lots of shopping .










12th May 2012:
We departed Amritsar by morning 0930Hrs Train for Delhi and the train reached Old Delhi Railway station by evening 1800Hrs.
Delhi  greeted us with strong wind and shower.  Caught an Auto Rickshaw from Old Delhi Railway station to Nizamuddin Railway station. Auto Rickshaw was running on Gas and was stopping on the way. It took more than an hour to reach Nizamuddin Railway station.
Our train, Duranto Express,  was from Nizamuddin station to Ernakulam Junction (Station for Kochi) was at 2130Hrs. It departed on time.


13th  & 14th May 2012, On Board Duranto Express:

We were on our  First Class AC compartment of Duranto Express. It is a point to point train service and  has only two stops; Starting station and ending station, there will be technical halts. Train was quite clean and neat. As soon as we boarded we were given a bottle of water each. Two Bed sheets, One pillow and Blanket. After the Train Ticket examiner left we all went to bed. It was a coupe for 4 people. A part from three of us, there was   another elderly man of about 70s.
13th morning when we  woke  up  we were served with tea & biscuits at 0630Hrs. It was same like Shatabdi Express. At about 0830Hrs they served Breakfast, first cornflakes, followed by Egg omlet, bead butter & Jam with coffee and fruit juice. Lunch was with Soup,  chapatti, Rice, one veg curry and chicken curry. At 1630hrs Tea was served and dinner at 1930hrs.
Duranto Express outside 1st Class AC Compartment.

Inside our Coupe.

Breakfast - Non Veg.

Soup prior to Lunch/ Dinner.

Lunch/Dinner as served in tray.

After uncovering Aluminium Foil.

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