Mehrangarh Fort and Palace: A Photo Essay

The Mehrangarh Fort located in Jodhpur in the state of Rajasthan is one of the largest forts in India and one of the must-see places in the city.

The mammoth fort was built by Rao Jodha, the founder of Jodhpur, in the year 1459 and sits atop a hill 410 feet above the city. The landmark structure is visible from almost everywhere throughout Jodhpur.

Mehrangarh

Entrance of the Fort

A trip to Jodhpur is incomplete without a trip to the Mehrangarh Fort and Museum. There is an entrance fee of Rs. 100 for Indians and Rs. 600 for foreigners. There are audio guides as well as tourist guides at the Fort and hiring a guide is recommended to learn and understand the history. The Fort is so vast that it is easy to miss a few parts and important points while touring on our own. There are separate still and video camera charges of Rs. 100 and Rs. 200 respectively.

Mehrangarh is also the first one to instal a lift inside the premises to ferry people who are unable to walk on the steep incline to the top of fort. But the service comes with separate charges.

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The massive outer area of the Fort

 

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A mini replica of  Mehrangarh

 

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A geological wonder

 

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Yep, it’s really very high

 

The Fort is divided into different galleries which depict the life and times of the Maharajas. The galleries house a varied collection of beautiful palanquins, paintings, armoury and everyday items which were used by the royals.

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Portraits of the rulers of Jodhpur in chronological order

 

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The King’s bedroom. Yes, BEDROOM! 

 

Moti Mahal:  Palace of Pearls

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According to our guide, the little crevices in the wall were specially designed to decorate them with lamps. The ceiling of this room, full of tiny mirrors, reflects the light from the lamps like small beads, giving the illusion of over a thousand pearls illuminating the place.

 

Sheesh Mahal: Glass Palace

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There is no dearth of opulent mirrors in the entire palace. This small room is adorned with mirrors and artistic paintings throughout from top to bottom. The original roof (lying below) was replaced later as it had collapsed. Even one candle could light up the entire room!

 

Phool Mahal: Palace of Flowers

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The Palace of Flowers was built by Maharaja Abhay Singh as a hall of private audience. This gold plated room with flowers and portraits adorning the walls and pillars will leave you in awe.

 

For the royal baby

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This mechanical cradle was gifted by the local civic body to the king and the queen on the birth of their prince. The outstretched hands of the two ladies sway the cot for the soothing sleep.

 

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Royal hookah 🙂

 

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Dramatic scenes on the rooftop

 

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View of the Blue city from one of the windows at Mehrangarh

 

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The cannons on display

 

Mehrangarh at night

We had booked a fort view hotel which also had a rooftop restaurant. Throughout our stay we dined with the Mehrangarh stunningly lit up for company.

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Nupur

Restaurant Review: Grandmama’s Cafe, Pune

The popular Mumbai hangout place Grandmama’s Cafe has set up shop in Pune and we couldn’t be more excited!

The food here is derived from three grannies — one from Bombay, a Parsi granny and an Italian granny. Needless to say, there are a plethora of options available for vegetarian and non-vegetarian hungry souls.

The pretty interiors resemble an English countryside cottage with pretty frames, swings, lace curtains and planters giving it a classic yet contemporary feel. The unusual flooring in the outdoor seating area is patterned with soft green carpet and provides a garden feel. The exterior in white and teal with bicycles hanging with a basket of flowers stands out amid the dimly lit street. At the two-storied cafe, we preferred outdoor seating to enjoy the cool weather. The ambient lighting provides a dreamy and charming atmosphere. The spacious place makes it comfortable for large gatherings or a cozy romantic meal.

We started our dinner with Jalapeno Mac and Cheese Sticks, Fish Fingers, Chicken Croquettes and Classic Bruschetta. The Jalapeno Sticks had just the right amount and size of Jalapeno and were amazingly cheesy. The Panko crusted Fish Fingers served with tartar sauce were delicious. The Chicken Croquettes, unlike most places, had quite a decent amount of chicken and is a must try. The Sticks, Fingers and Croquettes were all served hot — plus points for that. The Bruschetta had generous amounts of toppings of fresh tomato, olives and mozzarella, and was absolutely refreshing after all the fried food.

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The yummy Jalapeno Mac and Cheese Sticks

For drinks we ordered a Watermelon and Basil Cooler and a Jasmine Lychee Iced Tea. The Cooler had big chunks of watermelon and wasn’t too sugary which made it a perfect drink. The Jasmine and Lychee combo was distinctive and flavourful. The drinks menu at Grandmama’s Cafe is extensive and serves everything from coolers, hot and cold coffees, different varieties of teas, juices and shakes. The all-day cafe also serves breakfast with options of eggs, waffles and pancakes.

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Watermelon and Basil Cooler

For our main course, we chose their Grilled Basil Chicken. The chicken breast served with mushroom barley risotto, garlic spinach and herb sauce is delectable. The chicken was grilled to perfection and the risotto was delicious. The dish serves one and has the right amount of quantity.

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Grilled Basil Chicken

The menu also includes pastas, pizzas, shawarmas, burgers and sandwiches, fondue and Parsi food. It has something for all  palates. The dessert list includes classics like Apple Pie, Salted Caramel Cheesecake, Tiramisu, Red Velvet and Mudcake, among others.

The place is kid-friendly and offers valet parking. If you want to spend a lovely time and unwind with friends and family, then head over. The cafe is as insta-friendly as it can get. If you want to add some zing on your insta page and make people jealous, Grandmama’s Cafe is the place to be.

Grandmama’s Cafe, ahead of Lane 7, South Main Road, Koregaon Park, Pune and is open from 11 am-midnight.

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Nupur

Monsoon Getaway: Khandi

We are in the middle of the peak monsoon season and everywhere you look, the surroundings have turned into a lush green.

The rain brings many childhood memories and one of them is going to the outskirts of Pune to watch and play in the mesmerising waterfalls.

Blessed with a lovely terrain, there are a plethora of options from Pune to enjoy the rain in its full glory.

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Rice harvesting on way to Khandi

One such spot is Khandi. Located close to the Thokarwadi dam, Khandi is gaining popularity due to the pristine environment and comparatively less crowd.

While travelling from Pune, take the old Pune-Mumbai highway and turn right at Kanhe Phata before Kamshet. The road leads to Khandi village and along the picturesque road there are numerous small and big waterfalls.

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One of the many waterfalls in the region

The first prominent waterfall is the Jagtap waterfall (a private one) which is a good spot if you are travelling with a family. They charge Rs. 100 per person to enter the waterfall.

A few minutes ahead from Jagtap waterfall one can soak in the beautiful views of many other waterfalls. Be careful while venturing into them as the rocks beneath get slippery.

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It’s difficult to resist the temptation of playing in a waterfall

At some of the falls, there are designated parking spots managed by the villagers to earn some income and they charge a parking fee of Rs. 50. It may vary in different places.

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A small pool at the base of the waterfall where one can enjoy

Expecting many visitors during the monsoon, many villagers have set shop and are serving hot home-cooked veg as well as non-veg local meals.

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Local home-cooked meals are the best

The condition of the road is decent. Personal transport is recommended as Khandi is at a considerable distance from the highway. State transport buses ply in the interior but are limited.

Weekday would be a good time to visit as weekends see a maddening rush. The narrow roads get jam-packed and create long traffic snarls during the holidays.

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Sanjay

 

What to see and do in Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Sitting on the edge of the Thar desert, Jodhpur, popularly known as the Blue City, is steeped in history. The erstwhile capital of the Marwar, the city was established by Rao Jodha, a chief of the Rathore clan, giving the city the name of Jodhpur.

Jodhpur connected by air, road and railway from all major cities in India.

Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan but is relatively small and the tourist attractions can be covered in 2-3 days.

Mehrangarh Fort
Perched on a hill, Mehrangarh Fort is the landmark of Jodhpur. One of the largest forts in India, Mehrangarh rises 410 ft above the city, making it visible from almost everywhere throughout the city. The Fort was built by Rao Jodha as a residence for the royal family. Mehrangarh Fort has been pictured in many Hollywood and Bollywood movies too.

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

A visit to the Fort is free but you can see only a limited area. To enter inside and see the museum, there is an entrance fee of Rs. 100 for Indians and Rs. 600 for foreigners. There are audio guides as well as tourist guides at the Fort. The charges for the tourist guide depends on the number of people. Hiring a guide is recommended to understand the complete history of the Fort and the artefacts in the museum. Make sure you hire an official guide which are right outside the ticket window. There are separate still and video camera charges of Rs. 100 and Rs. 200 respectively, which isn’t too much considering the sheer amount of architecture and beauty one gets to capture.

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, Rajasthan

The museum has different galleries depicting history, arts and culture, and way of life of the rulers. Each gallery is fascinating to see and understand how the royals lived and fought. The gallery that houses the armoury that was used during wars with its history is gripping.

Mehrangarh Fort

The top of the Fort offers panoramic views of the entire old and new city below. Many houses in the old city area are still coated in different shades of indigo blue making it a beautiful sight.

Inside the Mehrangarh Fort, there is also a gift shop to buy souvenirs. A little ahead of the shop are stalls by local artisans selling locally-made mojiris, sarees, jewellery and other trinkets.

An international company called Flying Fox conducts zip line activities from inside the Fort which passes over the old city.

Jaswant Thada
Maharaja Sardar Singh built this cenotaph in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. It serves as a cremation ground for the royal family. Set amidst lush green trees, there is a lake with some ducks swimming in it and a garden around.

Jaswant Thada

The strikingly white marble mausoleum is an oasis in the city, offering panoramic views of Jodhpur below and the Mehrangarh Fort. Once inside, its vastness provides a calm and comforting environment.

The entrance fee is Rs. 30 for Indians and Rs 50 for international visitors. There is so separate fee for camera.

Umaid Bhavan
The current residence of the royals, the palace gets its name after Maharaja Umaid Singh who commissioned it. The construction of Umaid Bhavan was completed in 1943. The Palace is perched on a hill a few km away from the main city. The magnanimous property is part residence and part luxury hotel. This is where Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas had their dream wedding 🙂

Umaid Bhavan, Jodhpur

A small portion of it has also been converted into a museum. The museum has a vast exhibit of personal items of the royal family ranging from paintings, watches, cutlery etc. There is also a section detailing the architectural inspiration and history of the palace and Jodhpur. There is a small souvenir shop inside the premises too but the items are expensive.  The entry fee is Rs 30 for Indians and Rs 100 for foreign tourists.

Toorji ka Jhalra
As I had never seen a stepwell before, I did not want to miss an opportunity of visiting one. Stepwells were built in an ingenious way so women could have easy access to water all year round depending on the water levels. Legend says Toorji ka Jhalra, near the Mehrangarh Fort, was built by a Queen, consort of Maharaja Abhay Singh in the year 1740.

Toorji ka Jhalra,  Jodhpur

The old city area, where the stepwell is situated, has seen a transformation of sorts with the restoration project the government undertook. There are high-end hotels, shops and restaurants surrounding the stepwell. The stepwell itself also has undergone a transformation and is currently functional.

During my visit, locals were jumping and swimming in the water to beat the rising summer temperature.

Clock Tower/Ghanta Ghar
Built by Maharaja Sardar Singh, the Ghanta Ghar, or Clock Tower, is a famous landmark in Jodhpur. The Tower is lit up in the evening making it easily visible in the crowded maze of shops.

Ghanta Ghar: Clock Tower, Jodhpur, Rajasthan

There is a shopping area surrounding the Tower and also outside it selling clothes, jewellery and other trinkets. There are many shops selling souvenirs too.

Mandore
Located approximately 9 km on the outskirts of Jodhpur city, Mandore is an ancient city that was once the capital of the Rathore clan, before Rao Jodha founded Jodhpur.

Cenotaph at Mandore, Jodhpur

The Mandore Fort, now in ruins, is one of the major attraction. The Mandore Garden premises also are home to several temples and Dewals of the rules of Marwar.

Mandore

It served as a cremation ground to the royals and cenotaphs of rulers can be found here. There is also a museum depicting the history. The entrance fee for the museum is Rs. 20 for Indians and Rs 100 for foreign nationals.

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park
Situated in the area below the Mehrangarh Fort, the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park was created to maintain and restore the natural surrounding and ecology.

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park

The park is open all year round and one can see different flora depending on the season of the visit. Not many people visit the park when they visit Jodhpur and if you are lucky you can have the entire park to yourself. The charges for entry are Rs 100 and one can hire a naturalist to guide and explain the various aspects for Rs. 200.

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Nupur

World Environment Day 2019: Reflections

This post is inspired by an incident which happened a few days back — the death of many mountaineers on the world’s tallest mountain.

Every year, aspirants from across the world visit Nepal in the hope to conquer the mighty Everest. Some do, some don’t. Some live to tell the tale, some aren’t fortunate.

The photos of the long queue to reach the summit were shocking to say the least.

Many climbers I know have expressed a desire of dying on the mountains, dying doing something they love. But the odds of it happening are little. But imagine dying on the world’s highest peak, not because of harsh conditions or the personal restrictions, but because there were too many people! Just preposterous!

People are dying because there are too many people. The wildlife is dying because there are too many people. The forest cover is depleting because there are too many people. The natural resources are falling short because there are too many people.

A dry river bed. Villages around the vicinity depend on this backwater for their daily needs. But with Maharashtra facing intense drought and record low levels of water availability, the dependents are worst-hit.

How do we, as humans, live with this?

The Earth is ours as much as it is of the other living things.

Its time we look beyond our personal interests, our greeds, our wants, our needs, and work towards creating a balance before nature is forced to create one for itself. Cos then, humanity won’t survive.

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Nupur

Mango Pyali Appreciation Post

This is a mango.

Mango

 

King of fruits. Also my favourite.

Mangoes are generally available in India from the month of April to June, depending on the variety of the fruit. There are more than 500 varieties of mango in the world.

They can be cut like this and eaten.

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Or this.IMG_5236[3]

Or sucked.

Or juiced.

The point is, the mango can be eaten in different ways. And once you have consumed every amount of it, you will eventually at some point look like this.

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That is what a mango does to you.

Well, as the title of this post suggests, this is a Mango Pyali appreciation post.

For the unaware souls, Mango Pyali is a dish served in Cream Craver, a restaurant in Pune, India.

This is how the Mango Pyali looks.

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Slurp…!

A large bowl is filled with Mango ice-cream, plain cream, a little bit of mango pulp/juice and lots and lots of juicy mango pieces.

All the ingredients come together in a perfect balance to create this wonder.

It is the most delicious mango dish I have ever had.

If you are in Pune or plan to come here, miss this not.

 

One down.

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One more to go.

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Nupur

Wanderers – Abhilasha Kale

After a long hiatus, we are back with our Wanderer series featuring fellow travellers and their experiences while on the road.

Meet 28-year-old Abhilasha Kale, a banking professional whose beagle Coco is the love of her life. Her hobbies include Indian folk dance, painting and driving. Abhilasha recently discovered the joys of solo travel and hopes to undertake many more solo voyages.

What got you hooked to travelling?
My job has its own perks like travelling to some 5-star destinations for award functions and many other non-monetary incentives. But those were very touristy and short trips. I always wanted to travel solo but never got the courage to go for it. I have never even liked the idea of eating a Pani Puri alone on the streets. So I really wasn’t sure if I would like a solo trip. A trip with myself… just my own company. The only fear I had was to get bored. Once when I questioned a friend about this solo trip idea, he replied, “How can you get bored with yourself?” That changed my mind and I thought of doing a solo trip soon. I luckily had 15 days holiday pending at work and I had to finish that before March end. I had saved those holidays for my wedding which was called off just 45 days before the date. After getting myself out of 4 months of depression, I took a random trip in March. What better way to find your happiness again and set your priorities right. I had heard a lot about Himachal from my friends who had already visited. So started off with my solo trip to Himachal.

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This photo was  clicked during my way down to Barshaini from Tosh. I decided not to take the cab and instead walk. I followed this local who offered to show me the way. This was my most memorable walk till date.

Which is your favourite travel destination? Why?
I have visited Udaipur, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Bhutan, Meghalaya, Himachal -Kasol, Tosh, Manali, Coorg, Punjab, Goa, Phuket and Phi Phi. Rest all the trips were too short to say that I have been there. Out of all these, my favourites are Bhutan, specially Paro city. If only I could fly in easily and cheap to Paro, I would go again. Next favourite is Meghalaya because of its greenery and tranquillity. I had stayed in homestays in Cherrapunjee forests and I can’t forget that experience ever. I have been a person who loves jungles, forests, trees and monsoons… and hence Meghalaya was a complete package for me.

Which is your least favourite destination? Why?
I am not a fan of mahals, palaces and historical monuments. So Rajasthan is something that I wouldn’t prefer.

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This was the first photo that I took as soon as I reached the Manali Zostel. It was cloudy when I reached Old Manali and the weather was an absolute paradise.

Tell us one travel experience that changed your outlook about life
My recent solo trip to Himachal changed me a lot. I had healed enough before the trip but still had regrets, guilt, doubts, dissatisfaction and a lot of self-pity. I had wounds which had almost healed but had scars left behind. When I took this trip, I was already low on confidence due to events taken place in my life. I was a bit reluctant to talk to other solo travellers. But things started changing from the 2nd day of my trip. I started exploring places on my own, consciously smiled and manually made myself realise that it’s okay to travel and roam around all alone and it is not boring. In a few hours, I started liking my own company. This solo trip gave me a lot of time with myself. Most of the times, I had my breakfast and lunch all alone in some cafe… and I relished it. Self-reflection, analysis of daily things and understanding myself… knowing myself and my strengths is all that I could do in this lone time. I started loving my company… I realised I was feeling happier with time. I no more sulked or cribbed… in fact i soaked myself in nature, my own company and all that came my way. I interacted with the locals, fellow travellers.. heard their stories, learnt different lessons from each. At the end of my trip, I found my true self. Self-worth and self-love is what I learnt and discovered. My priorities were set and re-organised. Things around me seemed less complicated, my happiness was the top priority for me. All the daily unwanted things which worried me initially went on a backseat and I had found easy ways to deal with them.

Tell us your must-have packing items
Sunscreen, moisturiser, first aid, small sack since you might wanna leave the bag pack at your hotel or hostel and move around with limited stuff in a small sack. Limited clothes, if possible, 2 different sim cards from different network operators since there could be areas which wouldn’t support a specific network. In this case, the other sim has always helped me. I had travelled to a very cold place like the Himachal for the 1st time and I was lame to underestimate the weather. I was unaware that one can also get tanned or burnt in such weather. I just expected frostbites. Applying enough moisturiser and sunscreen even at such places is important.

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Location: Pink Floyd Cafe, Tosh village. Had Lebanese food for brunch. Food was okayish but the view made it special.

Which is your dream travel destination?
Norway or Finland for spotting the Northern lights

Any upcoming travel plans?
If time and budget permits, then a solo trip to Europe covering Amsterdam, Giethoorn in Netherlands, Budapest, Prague. If in India, then its Bir billing, McLeodganj and Dharamkot.

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Things to do in Manali

After an epic trip to Himachal Pradesh last year, it was vacation time again.
As usual, choosing a destination was confusing. Beach or mountain?

The mountains won, and we headed to Manali for a quick three-day break.
Taking a flight from Pune to Delhi and then an overnight bus to Manali, we finally made it to Moustache hostel, our base for the next three days.

There was an extended winter this year and luckily we got to witness snow.

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The snow-clad Himalayas

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My first snow experience 

From a sweltering 35 degrees Celsius, we shivered in 7 degrees Celsius (The night temperature used to drop down to -4).

Also Read: Why camping in Tosh should be on your bucket-list

We headed to Manali with the intention of relaxing and doing an occasional small trek. There were a few advertisement pamphlets in our hostel which gave us an idea of what all can be done in this mountain town. With a high excitement level, we set out to explore what Manali had to offer. The first thing that caught our attention was the mighty Beas river gushing down, in a hurry to reach her final destination.

If you are a first time visitor, here are a few things you should do and see.

What to Do
Whether a leisure traveller or an adventure seeker, Manali has something for everyone. From being a popular adventure sports destination to a place that provides peace and tranquillity to the mind, Manali is for everyone.

Solang Valley

Winter wonderland – Solang Valley

  • Solang Valley

For those interested in adventure sports, Solang Valley is the place to be. Located around 14 km from Manali town, it takes approximately an hour to reach by a local cab. Skiing is one of the most popular activities in Solang Valley when there is a blanket of snow. The summer sees a change with skiing generally being replaced by Zorbing. Other adventure sports include paragliding and trekking. There are many government as well as private agencies who conduct adventure sports in the region.

  • Rohtang Pass

The most popular attraction near Manali is the Rohtang Pass. Around 50-odd km from Manali, one needs to obtain a permit to visit. There is a cap on the number of vehicles that can cross in one day and the permit needs to be taken well in advance. In winter the roads are generally shut due to heavy snowfall in the region. Unfortunately, during our entire stay, the road to Rohtang was closed due to recent snowfall in the area. Make sure you confirm beforehand before making any travel plans.

  • Treks

For trekking enthusiasts, this region is a paradise. One can undertake many short treks and expeditions from here. The easiest of them is the Jogini Waterfall trek, which begins at a village named Vashisht. The Jogini Waterfall trek can be done in a day and provides some stunning views. One can also take a Lama Dugh trek or a little difficult Pandu Ropa trek.

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On our way up

Also Read: Monsoon Trekking: Do’s and Don’ts

  • Temple

The Hidimba Temple, an ancient cave temple is dedicated to Hidimba Devi. According to mythology, Hidimba was the wife of Bhima in the epic Mahabharat. Even if you are not one who visits temples, try not to miss a visit here. Amidst a perfect setting of deodar trees, the carved structure and the surroundings are very picturesque. The temple which is built of wood and stone is located in Dhungri Park.

Where to Eat
There are a lot of cafes and restaurants that offer local and international cuisine. As Manali also witnesses a high influx of international tourists, there are restaurants that serve Italian, Israeli and Tibetan cuisine too.

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Thukpa, a local dish consisting of noodles and soup

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Hot momos in the cold weather

There are a few popular places that should be visited. The Lazy Dog has a nice ambience and offers a river-side seating with a view of the mountains. Cafe Kathmandu is a comfortable place with inside and outside seating along the river. The sound of flowing water makes it even more peaceful. Other popular places include the Sunshine Cafe, Drifters Inn and Cafe and Dylan’s Coffee House.

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The narrow alleys of Manali are lined up with cafes and budget accommodations

Where to stay?
Manali has a plethora of options for the budget as well as the luxury traveller. There are some incredible homestays that offer a very personal experience of the locals and their day-to-day lives. The town also boasts of five-star properties that offer stunning views. Economical hostels and BnB’s are also present in large numbers. Depending on the budget and comfort level, one can opt for either of them.

Also Read: 7 best hill stations near Pune you must visit

Taking Care
While travelling in a private vehicle, one has to be careful in the ghat section. The mountain roads are very narrow and are considered as some of the most dangerous routes. The possibility of landslides and roads getting washed away is a frequent occurrence. Traffic jams are very common and a major reason for them is impatient tourists breaking the line to overtake and creating a mess. While travelling to Solang Valley, we experienced falling rocks. Thankfully, our driver skillfully dodged the small rocks.

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Falling rocks and traffic jams are a way of life here

Local cabs charge a bomb for sight-seeing or travelling between places. In case of a landslide when the buses can’t go, the local cabs make a quick buck charging exorbitant rates from tourists who are in a hurry to reach their hotels.

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Getting stuck with a view 🙂

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Sanjay

Restaurant Review: Botanica, Pune

After a long, tiring day, we walked into Botanica — The Greenhouse Bar, a recently-opened restaurant at the new Raja Bahadur City Centre where the Raja Bahadur Mills earlier stood. The newly developed centre is an upcoming commercial hub.

As we entered the City Centre, a wide open space with beautiful dim lighting greeted us. Once inside the restaurant, we were transported to another world. The chic yet practical decor caught our attention. With a bright blue and green colour scheme and a touch of rust orange, the decor was a cheery and refreshing change from the latest design fads. Different varieties of novelty plants stacked high on shelves, provided a very soothing effect to our dreary souls.

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Botanica’s vibrant outdoor seating area

The restaurant has both, indoor as well as outdoor seating options. We chose to sit outside and enjoy the cool summer breeze. The outdoor seating area is large, and good for both small and large groups. Right in the middle of the seating area is the revolving bar which accommodates 25 people at a time. If you are part of a large group, the revolving bar is a good place to sit and make some memories. The indoor seating area carries the same decor theme. Warm lighting and hanging plants from above give a very cosy feel to the otherwise large space.

Botanica02The indoor seating area

As the name suggests, Botanica — The Greenhouse Bar serves an array of options for alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic drinkers. From mocktails and cocktails to international liquor brands, they serve everything. Glancing through the drinks’ menu, we opted for their signature cocktails. We chose the Say Wha? and Blood and Sand. The Say Wha? was a super interesting tequila-based cocktail with avocado, curry powder, lime and honey. The different combinations blended well and had a unique taste.

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Our refreshing drinks

Choosing an appetiser from their extensive menu was a task as we wanted to experience a variety of dishes. After contemplating for a while, we asked the chef for recommendations. After asking our food preferences, the chef served us The Caesar Variants Eat Me Prawns Salad. The fresh bowl of salad with generous amounts of well cooked prawns, olives and lots of cheese was a perfect start to our meal. The Caesar Salad is also available in chicken and vegetarian option.

Next, we tried the evergreen Chicken Kebabs. Served with a flavourful green chutney, the kebabs were delicious and to die for. With just the right amount of masala and spice, the soft chicken was tandoor-ed to perfection.

Opting for a seafood dish next, we dined on the classic English dish, Fish and Chips. Though I am not a fan of basa, the fish was delectable. The fish was fried, but there was absolutely no oiliness in its texture or taste. The chips too were hot and freshly prepared, served along with tartar sauce.

In the vegetarian segment, we gorged on the Fat Indian Plate. Beautifully presented, the plate had generous pieces of paneer marinated in tikka masala. The soft and succulent pieces were delicious and melt-in-the-mouth. Served with green chutney, salad and kadak naan pieces, the dish is an absolute must have.

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The Fat Indian Plate

We also tried the Smoked Cheese Asparagus Tartlette. The crunchy bite-sized tarts were filled with asparagus mixed with smoked cheese. On the sweeter side, the tartlettes were delectable.

The dish next on our mind was Chilly Pepper Fry Chicken. With just the right amount of masala and the well-cooked chicken, it was served with Ulta Tawa Paratha. The quantity served is enough for the dish to be a meal in itself.

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The super tempting and delicious Chilly Pepper Fry Chicken

For the main course, we settled for a Veg Pasta. The steaming hot pasta in white sauce was just what we needed when the temperature started to cool down. Digging in, the pasta was heavenly and super creamy. The garlic bread served with the pasta was fresh and hot too.

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Paasssstaaaa…!!

The restaurant serves a plethora of options for vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians with Indian and Continental cuisine and fusion food.

For your sweet tooth, there are options of Bailey Berry, Mango and Mascarpone Truffle and Guava Matcha Semi Fredio, among others.

Be it a private dinner or a large group, Botanica — The Greenhouse Bar has a little something for everyone. The restaurant with its sprawling space is family and child-friendly.

Address: Botanica — The Greenhouse Bar is located at Raj Bahadur City Centre, behind Sheraton Grand Hotel, Bund Garden Road, and is open from 5 pm-12.30 am. There is ample parking space available at the venue.

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*****

Nupur

A weekend in Seoul

Not seen on many traveller’s list until recently, Seoul has been rated as one of the best cities to live in, and it has everything one can ask for.

The capital of South Korea, it is the largest city in the country. It has an excellent public transport system, the roads are lined up with restaurants and cafes and there is kid and disabled-friendly access to most places.

Seoul has witnessed a long history of different Korean dynasties and was also invaded by the Japanese forces.

We spent a weekend in this vibrant city and tried to capture its pulse by visiting some of the popular and unmissable sights.

Though I would recommend you spend more than just couple of days in Seoul, if you are time-bound like we were, check-out the below places.

GYEONBOKGUNG PALACE
Seoul has five palaces, all close to each other and the Gyeonbokgung Palace is the largest and grandest of all. The main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, the home for the kings, it was destroyed in a fire during a war. The palace was rebuilt much later only to be destroyed by the attacking Japanese forces. Restoration work was taken up post-war and the entire palace complex has been rebuilt to its original form.

GYEONBOKGUNG PALACE

The main entrance of the Palace

As you enter from the main gate called the Gwanghwamun, guards in traditional Korean attire keep an eye on you. The ‘change of the guard’ ceremony takes place at the main gate every hour and is a sight to watch.

GYEONBOKGUNG PALACE

Artistes performing during a cultural show at the main palace

GYEONBOKGUNG PALACE

The traditional roof has a peculiar architecture and vivid colours

Strolling through the palace complex took us more than an hour and we hadn’t even seen the entire complex! Divided in different parts, the palace built in Korean style, houses traditional paintings and artifacts of the bygone era.

WAR MEMORIAL
The national war memorial depicts the entire military history of Korea. The exhibits showcase the earlier dynasties that ruled, the Japanese invasion, the North-South divide and the allied forces that took part in the wars. A dazzling display using scale models gives us an idea of the strategies that were used in the war zone.

The memorial doubles up as a museum and has artifacts from the yesteryear and different war zones. An entire passageway is filled with the names of soldiers from different countries who fought in the wars and laid down their lives. India too gets a mention. The memorial is a treat for history and war buffs and it takes approximately two hours to visit all the exhibits.

SEOUL TOWER
The Namsan Seoul Tower, located on the Namsan mountain is primarily a communication and observation tower. Turned into a tourist attraction, the tower provides stunning panoramic views of the city below. The tower is visible from almost every locality of Seoul.

Seoul Tower

At around 700 feet, the tower is the second highest point in Seoul

One can either climb up the mountain or take a ride in the cable car. There is an option of one-way and return tickets for the cable car. Once above, one can roam around the mountain and soak in the breath-taking views. There are restaurants and shops located in the premises. Considered as one of the most romantic spots in Seoul, people bring padlocks to find love and express it. There are thousands of them in almost every corner which makes for a pretty picture.

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Looking for love…

Tower locks

The tower premises is adorned with these colourful locks

There is an entrance ticket to go up the observation deck which is on the 90th floor. The views from above are obviously mesmerising. There are multi-cuisine as well as Korean restaurants inside the tower. Evenings make a beautiful sight with the city down below being lit up.

STARFIELD LIBRARY
If you are a book nerd, we suggest you don’t miss out on the Starfield Library. It’s not a tourist spot but it will leave you in awe. Located in Coex shopping complex in the snazzy Gangnam area, the library boasts of more than 50,000 books! The two-floored centre has escalators and 99.9 per cent of the books are in Korean. You might have to hunt a little for English books but the entire ambience is just fabulous.

Starfield

Yep, that’s a library and it’s stunning

And what’s surprising is that the library has no doors! You won’t even know when you have walked into it.

MARKETS
Seoul has many local, traditional markets. One of the oldest markets is Namdaemun. A centrally located one, Namdaemun caters to every category and budget of shoppers. From household goods to souvenirs and electronic goods, it has everything.

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One of the many alleys of Namdaemun market

Namdemoon

Koreans are fashion obsessed. They even have a variety of clothes for dogs

The market is like a labyrinth and it is easy to get lost. There are a number of gates to it so remember the one which you enter from. It is one of the best places to buy souvenirs and locally-made goods and we got a lot of them!

Myengdong, on the other hand, is a busy shopping destination for young and brand-conscious crowd. A lot of local and international brands are present here.

There is music playing and people casually dancing on the street and the atmosphere in the evening is just eclectic.

Baked Cheese

This tasted so delicious

Myeong-dong

Local snacks

There are dozens of restaurants and street food vendors and they are all hygienic. There is a lot of vegetarian street-food too, so spending an evening gorging on them should not be a problem for vegetarians. We spent an entire evening enjoying the food and the revelry and it is highly recommended.

Facts:

Reach: There are direct flights from Mumbai/Delhi to Seoul.
Stay: Seoul is huge and you will find many options depending on your budget. The Itaewon area is where most international visitors stay.
Eat: Korean food is not bland. It has tons of flavours and exotic (for us) ingredients. Honestly, it is difficult to find food if you are a vegetarian but not impossible. Must eat is the traditional Bibimbap and Ramen.

Bibimbap

I could die for this Bibimbap

Remember: Communication might be a problem as not all Koreans are well-versed in English. Use of translation apps will help. Don’t depend on Google Maps as it does not work in South Korea effectively.

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Nupur