Friday, March 30, 2012

Jaipur : Sightseeing

On the last day of my Jaipur trip I decided to explore the Jaipur city monuments. On priority basis we zeroed on Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Albert Hall Museum and Birla Mandir. But lastly we were able to cover only three of them living City palace and Jantar Mantar behind.
hawa_mahal

Hawa Mahal
albert-hall-museum
Ram Niwas Palace
jaipur_city_palace

City Palace, Jaipur
How to reach monuments in Jaipur?
All the important monuments in Jaipur can be covered easily by either public or personal vehicles. Birla Temple, Museum Albert Hall, Hawa mahal, Jal Mahal and the forts are mostly on the same route and you need not to divert much.
Places to see in Jaipur
Hawa Mahal
Our first destination was Hawa Mahal. Here I took the guided audio tour which is an incredible option to explore this architectural marvel.
hawa_mahal

Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, and designed in the form of the crown of lord Krishna. It is a unique five storey structure with 953 jharokhas (small windows).

hawa_mahal

Courtyard of Hawa Mahal

hawa_mahal

It was built of red and pink sand stone. After every few meters there is a mark for guided audio tour and numbered accordingly. It’s a must have if somebody is interested in history and don’t want to hire a guide.

hawa_mahal

These colorful glasses allow outside views but nobody can see inside

hawa_mahal

Inside Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal is situated in the heart of the main market of Jaipur. There was a roundabout and 8 paths were crossing each other outside Hawa Mahal. Wherever you take your eyes it’s all pink. What a city! A delight for heritage lovers.

jaipur
jaipur

Albert Hall Museum

Our next destination was Albert Hall Museum. It is the oldest museum of the state and functions as the State Museum of Rajasthan. It was named after King Edward VII (Albert Edward), who visited the city as the Prince of Wales.

albert-hall-museum

The building is situated in Ram Niwas Garden. It is also called the Government Central Museum. Here again I took the guided audio tour though it was very long and I had to finish it in a rush.

albert-hall-museum

Birla Temple

The last stop was Birla Temple. I can rate this best among the Birla Temples I have seen in Delhi, Bhopal and Patna. Though the one in Delhi is quite big but its white structure outnumbers others.

birla_temple_jaipur

Where to stay?

Jaipur Hotels vary to suit all needs and preferences. Ranging from star hotels in Jaipur to low cost budget hotels, Jaipur has it all. There are a good number of budget hotels in Jaipur that offer good comfort and facilities at affordable prices.

What to eat in Jaipur?

Recognised as a Rajasthan speciality, Dal-batti-churma, is a wholesome Rajasthani meal. A deep-fried sweet dish, Ghewar is in great demand during festivals. What is interesting about Rajasthan is the variety of rotis one gets, even in the smallest eating place. Bajre Ki Roti, Makki Ki Roti, Jau-Channa Ki Roti, Besan Ki Roti, Cheelra, Paratha, Puri, Methi Puri, Rumali Roti… the list is endless. Gatte ki subji, Rajasthani curry, Mangori, Pakodi and Ker Sangari, the traditional subjis, are part of the daily meals here. A papad - plain or masala – is a must to sum up meals, as a tradition in Rajasthan.

Best Bargains in Jaipur!

Just behind Hawa Mahal, there is a place which has one of the largest shops of Jaipur and belongs to some trust related to Queen of Jaipur. I bought few bed sheets and a blanket which was reasonably priced and had some quality stuff. One can also buy any kind of Gem here. The street outside Hawa Mahal is famous for shopping. There was a famous ‘Zohari Bazar’ for gems and jewelry.
It was my third day since I left Delhi, and neither I was on hills nor in the forest and still I was enjoying. It could happen only in Jaipur. This is another side of Jaipur. I clicked this image outside of city palace which showcases the royalty and glamour of high style living and just outside the walls this was what we called harsh reality. Most of the tourists face this kind of situation, especially those with families.
It was time to call off the day as we planned to leave early morning for Delhi. Completely satisfied with our excursion we all decided to come back to Jaipur whenever get a chance.

Jaipur : Chokhi Dhani

Chokhi Dhani is a unique Village Resort that showcase the spirit of Rajasthan. Chokhi Dhani literally means a prototypical village that offers an ideal rural experience. Away from the modern life the old-world charm in the resort showcase the right blend of traditions and modern amenities in a typical ethnic environment.

How to reach?

Chokhi Dhani was some 30 km from the main city. It can be easily reached by public or personal vehicles. We reached Chokhi Dhani around 8 in the evening.

chokhi_dhani

The main entrance was not impressive neither the location. It was looking like just another big Dhaba, the kind we see on Murthal on Delhi-Panipat highway. Though there was a long queue for parking and we forced to park outside the parking area on highway due to lack of space.

Places to see

There were three kinds of ticket in Chokhi Dhani that included the meal charges. We took the ticket that was of 500 Rs. per person and includes the entry fee and a meal. Due to rush, our scheduled time for the meal was 10.30 on the night.

chokhi_dhani

There were so many shops selling different Rajasthanis cuisine

chokhi_dhani

We entered inside and I was totally surprised and impressed with its offering. It’s like a big rural party, like the one I used to see during my childhood in Sonpur, Bihar. Though Sonpur is famous for its cattle fair, but besides cattle treading there was each and every kind of activity. One can buy clothes, eat almost anything, for entertainment there were magic shows, dance programs, and hell lot of things. After so many years I felt the same madness here.

chokhi_dhani

Either horse ride, came riding or bullock cart, whatever you want

chokhi_dhani

Few caves were built inside Chokhi Dhani, in one of them I got this…

chokhi_dhani

Wherever I moved my eyes something was happening. I want to list the few… Kalbelia dance, magic show, palmistry, camel cart, horse riding, foreigners are dancing with small children, boating, bullock cart, a tree decorated with lamp, haveli like small houses, paintings on the wall etc. etc. etc.

chokhi_dhani

Boat riding was also an option

chokhi_dhani_boat_ride

I enjoyed a lot and the last thing I would have thought was taking a break. I want to write this in bold letters, THIS IS A TRULY AMAZING PLACE. If you ever go to Jaipur never miss Chokhi Dhani, even you can plan a trip of Jaipur just because of this place.

chokhi_dhani

We started roaming around, clicked lots and lot of images, and moved to an area which had the houses where one can stay. It was most fascinating place of entire Chokhi Dhani. Havelis of different shape and sizes, beautifully designed and made of solid material like cement, still appeared like they are made of clay. With dim lighting they were looking so natural.

chokhi_dhani

Where to stay?

chokhi_dhani

The staying option can be arranged in Chokhi Dhani too. Otherwise Jaipur Hotels vary to suit all needs and preferences. Ranging from star hotels in Jaipur to low cost budget hotels, Jaipur has it all. There are a good number of budget hotels in Jaipur that offer good comfort and facilities at affordable prices.

What to eat?

Finally it was time to have food and it was so sumptuous that we forgot to click the images. There were 5 kinds of vegetables, 3 kinds of chapattis, curd, Sweets, Desi ghee and I don’t know what else. After the meal my only thinking was that if they fed so much then for some extra charge they should also provide a bed so that one can sleep then and there if felt so. But indeed it was a bad idea even I can’t imagine people sleeping and burping at this beautiful place. So, I scolded myself for such a bad dreaming and we came out more than happy, filled till neck, and started the engine to find a bed as soon as possible.

Jaipur : Forts (Jaigarh, Nahargarh, Amer)

The most popular Jaipur attractions are the ancient palaces and forts, with elaborate architecture that serves as a glorious reminder of their royal heritage. Jaipur is one of the well planned cities in India. The roads are wide and sparsely inhabited.  Though I can’t compare it with madness of Delhi traffic but it was quite eye pleasing to see well paved tar where you can drive at a maximum speed of 60 kmph. Yes it is true the maximum speed limit is 10 kmph more in Jaipur than Delhi.

jaipur_city

Bird’s eye view of Jaipur city
jal_mahal

Right from Jal Mahal, the era of royalty begins.
jaipur_fort

Forts are located on top of hills and gives an amazing view of Jaipur city

There are three forts in Jaipur: Amer or Amber Fort, Jaigarh and Narhargarh.

Jaigarh Fort of Jaipur
Jaigarh was mainly used as a defense system against invaders and also secured the famous Kachawas treasury. Jaigarh Fort is one of the few forts in India which stands completely intact. It is known for its extensive walls, watch towers, and many citadels. During the emergency period in India, excavations were made in Jaigarh Fort to find any hidden treasures. However, the excavations were unsuccessful, but signs of the excavations are still visible today.

jaipur_fort_jaivan_canon

Jaiwan canon which was never used for war

Jaivan (Victory Canon) is lies in Jaigarh Fort. It is said to be largest moving canon in Asia. This canon was never used in war and was fired only once.

Nahargarh Fort of Jaipur

Nahargarh was mostly used as a residence by the Kachawas rulers, especially by the maharanis during the hot summer months. Nahargarh is located on a mountain top behind the City Palace of Jaipur.

nahargarh_fort

It is said that there was a secret passage between the Nahargarh and the City Palace so in case of enemy attacks the maharaja and the royal family could escape to the fort.

nahargarh_fort

The Kachawas Rajputs were descendent of the Sun, following the dynasty of Lord Rama through Kush, one of his sons. The Kachawas Rajputs originally ruled Gwalior in central India. After the king Ishwar Das, his sons were forced to flee Gwalior, and found solace in Rajputana. Ishwar Das’s son Sodh Rai conquered the area of Dausa by attacking and killing the Mina chiefs (tribal chiefs). After this conquest the Kachawas Rajputs was known as the Rajas of Dausa, and when the capital of the Kachawas kingdom was moved to Amber they were known as the Rajas of Amber. Finally in the 18th century the capital of the kingdom was moved to Jaipur and the Rajas of Amber became the Maharajas of Jaipur. The Maharaja of Jaipur is the titular head of the Kachawas Rajput clan.

nahargarh_fort

We had a great time visiting these forts. A part of Nahargarh fort is converted into an open restaurant. It is an ideal place to sit lazily in winter days and to have some beer with snacks, as we did.

Amer Fort of Jaipur

Amer Fort was used not only as a defense system from intruders but also served as the main residence for the Kachawas rulers.

jaipur_fort

These walls were used to spy on enemy activity

jaipur_fort

The fort was no longer used by the royal family. This fort was served as the Jaipur’s former capital and reminds about Jaipur’s past glory.

jaipur_fort

A preparation for royal wedding was going on during our visit.

Jaipur : Kite Festival

Jaipur is a part of the famous golden triangle that connects Delhi to Agra and a must visit for Indians as well as foreigners alike.
jaipur_kite_festival_11
The pink city Jaipur is incredibly colorful and also known as Paris of India. It is the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan. It was founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber, after whom the city has been named. The list of things to do and see here is very elongated. Besides things, that can be seen anytime in the year, my Jaipur tour had an added attraction… the annual kite festival that is held on 14th of January every year.
jaipur_kite_festival
How to reach Jaipur?
Delhi to Jaipur is around 260 km. Jaipur is well connected by many trains to most of the major cities in India. Apart from these trains, a special train called “Palace on Wheels” which covers all popular tourist destinations in Rajasthan is also available. Sanganer Airport located at Jaipur is nearly 10 km from the heart of the city, and taxi charges about Rs 200 from the Airport to the city. A/C deluxe bus services are available from Delhi. It charges about Rs 750 for a person. However driving through a car is most pleasant among all. Depends upon traffic it takes 4 to 5 hours to reach Jaipur. I started around 2 pm and reached Jaipur by evening. My accommodation was planned at a friends place which was near to Birla Temple. We had dinner and call of the day to start early the following day.  
Places to see in Jaipur
It was decided to first witness the kite festival at Jal Mahal and then to cover the forts of Jaipur.
jal_mahal
Jal Mahal is a palace located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur. The lake palace is surrounded by Aravali hills. It is a combination of Mughal and Rajput era of architecture which is pretty common in Rajasthan.
jal_mahal
It’s a five storey building and four floors are in the water. Jal Mahal is known for its majestic architecture and sophisticated design. This palace was built by Sawai Pratap Singh in 1799 AD. I heard from locals that soon it is going to be converted into a luxurious hotel.
Back to kite festival, it was a splendid cultural extravaganza.
jaipur_kite_festival
The venue was packed with Indian and foreign tourist and locals alike. There was a sense of excitement on every face.
jaipur_kite_festival
The land and sky were filled with colors. Colorful kites were floating in the sky and the crowds were cheering on every move.
There was a famous kite master of Jaipur; Babu Khan. He must be preceding champion because he was alone getting 50% attention of media and tourists and also flying the longest chain of kites.
jaipur_kite_festival
Then started the culture and dance program. One can easily notice the way people of Rajasthan dress themselves, especially the ladies. It was exceptionally colorful coupled with bangles and ornaments.
jaipur_kite_festival_13
Like me everybody wanted to have the share of these unforgettable moments.
jaipur_kite_festival_4
At Jal Mahal parking was free and guides were available for as low as 50 Rs. These guides usually have arrangement  with local shopkeepers. They persuade tourists to buy footwear and clothes. We hired a guide; he took us to some shop, since we were not interested in wasting time in shopping so within few minutes we asked to proceed for next monument that was Kanak garden near to Jal Mahal.
kanak_garden
He told us that he will wait outside and we went to explore the monument. When we came back he had already left without taking any money. I guess the guide charges are not enough for them and they largely depend on the commission that they earned from shopkeepers.
Kanak garden is a famous shooting location for Bollywood films.
There were temples of various deities
kanak_garden
It was located in a picturesque landscape
kanak_garden
Where to stay in Jaipur?
Jaipur Hotels vary to suit all needs and preferences. Ranging from star hotels in Jaipur to low cost budget hotels, Jaipur has it all. There are a good number of budget hotels in Jaipur that offer good comfort and facilities at affordable prices. Also there are number of home stay options are available on www.rajasthantourism.gov.in
What to eat in Jaipur?
Recognised as a Rajasthan speciality, Dal-batti-churma, is a wholesome Rajasthani meal. A deep-fried sweet dish, Ghewar is in great demand during festivals. What is interesting about Rajasthan is the variety of rotis one gets, even in the smallest eating place. Bajre Ki Roti, Makki Ki Roti, Jau-Channa Ki Roti, Besan Ki Roti, Cheelra, Paratha, Puri, Methi Puri, Rumali Roti… the list is endless. Gatte ki subji, Rajasthani curry, Mangori, Pakodi and Ker Sangari, the traditional subjis, are part of the daily meals here. A papad - plain or masala – is a must to sum up meals, as a tradition in Rajasthan.

Jungle Camp & Ken River Lodge : Panna, Madhya Pradesh

Panna is the twenty second Tiger Reserve of India and fifth in Madhya Pradesh. It has a total area of 545 sq km. The Ken River flows through the reserve from south to north. The climate of this region is tropical. Summers are too hot and very uncomfortable, but the chances of encountering the wildlife gets maximized. Winters are cold and comfortable and the temperature generally remains under 25°C. Apart from the tiger; wolf, chital, sloth bear, chinkara, and sambar are commonly found here.
jungle_camp_panna
How to reach Panna National Park?
BY AIR – The nearest airport is at Khajuraho at a distance of around 57 km from the Panna National Park. There are daily Air flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Varanasi from Khajuraho.
BY RAIL – Satna, at a distance of around 90 km, is the nearest railway station. It is a major railway hub and is connected to many places in central and western India.
BY ROAD – The nearest bus stand is Panna connected to Khajuraho and many other places in Madhya Pradesh by a good road network. Madla, at a distance of around 24 km southwest of Khajuraho, is a good transportation center. One can get buses and other road transport modes from here to the Panna National Park.
panna_tiger_reserve
Places to see
Panna National Park, Pandava Falls, Mines of Panna (permission is required from Govt. Agency)
Where to stay?
jungle_camp_panna
Here I am going to introduce the two staying options near Panna Tiger Reserve. One is Jungle Camp which is located next to the entrance of the Tiger Reserve and another is Ken River Lodge where I visited for brunch and boating.
jungle_camp_panna
Though my stay was for a very short duration in Jungle Camp but I was impressed with the facility. It was tented accommodation with a proper wooden door. As it was adjacent to the Tiger Reserve so it was good from a security point of view.
jungle_camp_panna
The room was air-conditioned with a double bed, cable connection and excellent washroom facilities. The charge includes the breakfast and dinner.
The safari was finished at 12 in the noon and I still had 6 hours to kill before I could catch the train. So I decided to visit the ken river lodge for boating and brunch.
ken_river_resort
Ken River Lodge is an ideal setup at the bank of River Ken, in complete isolation.  The entire property is made of woods and surrounded by forest. A rustic charm is a prime advantage of this place.
ken_river_resort
The restaurant overlooks the River and an ideal place for bird watchers.
ken_river_resort
They have their own boat that we used to take a stroll in the river.
ken_river_resort
A few years back this property was washed away in floods but owners rebuilt it and now it stands to offer an unforgettable experience to its visitors. Though I have not stayed here but it seems to be an option for my next visit.
What to eat?
The best eating option in Panna is the Machan or the tree-house restaurant of the Ken River Lodge. The restaurant serves excellent Indian buffet meals and is particularly known for their tandoori items.
WEBSITE – http://www.pannatigerreserve.in/index.htm