FUN AND FROLIC DESTINATIONS

If U r Looking For Good And Convenient Holidays Then These R The Places Where U Can Enjoy With Many Awesome Pleasant Surprises --Of Lost Splendours-A voice from the past tells many a royal tale in the rain-soaked ruins of Mandu --

 

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....For A Perfect Holiday !

It's time to jet off your own slice of paradise and soak up some winter sunshine.Imagine a warm cozy campfire,set on sheer white sands of an exotic beach,or a hill station,where the cool breezy wind plays with the dews of nature.And experiencing them becomes just so wonderful,when it comes with a desirable package.So, just don't let any excuse ruin this wintry holiday,where you might just get lucky with our Santa's gifts or get some revel at the New Year's enigmatic parties.

 RAJASTHAN !

is a vibrant ,exotic state where tradition and royal glory blossoms in sand and desert.A visit to this wonderland during the winter months --October to February will leave a lasting spell on your mind.

Jaipur ---

Jaipur is the first planned city of India,located in the desert lands of Rajasthan.The city that once had been the capital of the royalty,now serves as the capital city of Rajasthan.The uniform shade of pink colouring the walls continues to enthrall visitors day after day.

Getting there : Airport - Sanganer Airport,Rail Station - Jaipur Railway Station

Must visit : City Palace,Hawa Mahal,Jantar Mantar,Jaigarh Fort,Nahargarh Fort,Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh,Jal Mahal and Amber Palace & Fort

My recommend : Traditional Bandhini and Sanganeri fabrics ,head to Johari Bazaar

Travel tips : Experience the rustic feel of true Rajasthan at Chokhi Dhani

Jaisalmer ---

This desert fortress is one of Rajasthan's most exotic and unusual towns.Jaisalmer is often described as the 'Golden City'.

Getting there : Airport - Jodhpur Airport (300 kms away is the closest airport),Rail Station -Jaisalmer Railway Station

Must visit : Jaisalmer Fort,Nathmal Ji-Ki-Haveli,Salim-Singh-Ki-Haveli,Patwon-Ki-Haveli, Tazia Tower,Gadsisar Sagar Lake,Desert National Park & Sam Sand Dunes.

My recommend : Visit Jaisalmer during the Desert Festival in February.The camels are a major attraction of this festival and they are all brightly decorated.

Udaipur ---

India's most romantic city,Udaipur's center is the beautiful Lake Pichola,which reflects white temples and palaces and the Arvalli Hills

Getting there : Airport -Maharana Pratap Airport ,Rail Station -Udaipur Railway Station.

Must visit : City Palace Complex,Lake Pichola ,Fateh Sagar Lake ,Jagdish Temple ,Saheliyon ki Bari,Sajjangarh Fort & Bagore ki Haveli.

My recommend : If you're visiting Udaipur during winter,don't miss out on the Craft Festival at Shilpgram.You can pick up some terracotta wares,mirror -work fabrics and miniature paintings.

Travel tips : Choose a hotel close to Lake Pichola,which is the center of all activities and possibly the center point from where you can explore the city at ease.

KERALA !

This season one of the most favoured destinations in India.Few of the hot spots you can visit in Kerala are Munnar,Kumarakom,Alleppy,Thekkady and Kovalam.

Munnar ---

Located away from the usual din of flocking tourists,the green hills of Kerala are some of the best-kept secrets of the God's Own Country.Munnar offers some of the best varieties of tea,coffee and spices like cinnamon,cloves,cardamom and pepper.

Getting there : Airport -Cochin,Rail Station -Ernakulum

Must visit : Eravikulum (Rajamalai) National Park,Anamudi Peak & Tea Museum

My recommend : Speed boat ride at Madupatty Dam

Travel tips : Carry light woolens while travelling to Munnar in winter.Try traditional Kerala cuisine served on plankton leaves at Sarvana Bhavan situated in the city center.

Kumarakum ---

Kumarakum gives you the chance to enjoy the lush mangrove forests,swaying coconut trees,paddy fields and waterways filled white lilies .A visit here starts with trip to the famous Vembanad Lake.

Getting there : Airport -Cochin,Rail Station - Kottayam Junction.

When to go : Plan a trip here between October and March.

Must visit : Vembanad Lake - Asia's largest fresh water lake and Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

Alleppey ---

Alleppey (or Alapuzzha) is one of the most exotic backwater locations in Kerala

Getting there : Airport -Cochin,Rail Station - Alleppey

Must visit : Alleppey Beach

My recommend : Backwater cruise from Alleppey to Kumarakonam

Thekkady ---

Thekkady has the most fascinating wildlife sanctuaries located in this region.The sanctuary gives you a chance to watch wildlife at close range ; it is home to a large number of elephants and few tigers ,langurs,gaur among other wild animals.

Getting there : Airport -Cochin ,Rail Station Kottayam Junction

Must visit : Periyar Tiger Reserve

My recommend : Bamboo rafting,camping and night trekking

Travel tips : Do not venture into the forest without a guide.

 GOA ---

With 131 kms of coastline,Goa is a sun-soaked paradise.Known for its delicious seafood,cashew feni and beautiful beaches.Goa's beaches are a great place to indulge in water-sports like snorkeling,jet skis,paragliding or simply beach relax at a shack.The real essence of Goa lies in its winding lanes,with a church at every corner.

Getting there : Airport -Dabolim,Rail Station -Madgao (south) and Karmali (north)

Must visit : Fort Aguada,Anjuna Flea market which happens every Wednesday,Ingo's Saturday Night Market and the Party Cruise on Mandovi at night.Adventure activities like parasailing,Jet/Water -Skiing around Sinquerim - Candolim - Calangute.Salim Ali's bird sanctuary on Mandovi.Sri Manguesh Temple ,Shantadurga and many others are located in South Goa.The churches of Basilica of Bom Jesus,Se Cathedral,Church & Convent of St.Francis of Assisi,Chapel of St.Catherine,Church of Our Lady of the Rosary,Royal Chapel of St.Anthony and more to visit.

My recommend : Scuba-Diving at Grande Island,Dolphin - Spotting,which is conducted off Goa's beaches.

Travel tips : Hire a bike and explore the paradise on your own.

PONDICHERRY ---

Away from the hustle and bustle of big city,Pondicherry is a quiet little town on the southern coast.Pondicherry has tree lined boulevards,colonial heritage buildings,the spiritual scene,the endless stretches of unspoilt virgin beaches,backwater.

Getting there : Airport Chennai,Rail - Pondicherry

Must visit : On Beach Road visit Ashram Press,Town Hall,War Memorial ,lighthouse,Selva Mansion & French Consulate General.The other places you can visit are Sri Aurobindo Ashram,Manakula Vinayakar Temple.Around Pondicherry you can visit Arikamedu and Auroville.

Travel tips : If you are interested in buying antiques and sculptures,they are available in the shops on the road to Auroville .The shops are open only in the evenings.

My recommend : Hiring a cycle or an ungeared scooter.There are many shops that rent out these vehicles .Some provide drop and pick up facility.

SHIMLA ---

The capital of Himachal Pradesh which is rich in tradition and natural beauty.Shimla is surrounded by pine,deodar,oak and rhododendron forests.It's well developed facilities,easy accessibility and many attractions make it one of India's most popular hill station.

Getting there : Airport -Jubbarhatti,Rail Station -Dharampur

Must visit : Enjoy a majestic view of Choor Chandni Peak on the tourist trains,the Shivalik Palace and the Shivalik Deluxe between Kalka and Shimla stations,Jakhoo Hill tallest of the seven hills in Shimla crowned by the Hanuman Temple .For shopping visit the Mall Road.Include a trip to Kufri(22kms from Shimla)where you can enjoy a ride on yaks near the fine ski slopes.

Travel tips : During winters,climate in Shimla is dry,always carry lotions with yourself.Also,shops are open in Shimla from Monday to Saturday,10am till 8pm.

My recommend : Ice skating is possible in Shimla up to March,though Kufri and Chail are on the outskirts of town

OOTY ---

Located in the mountainous range called the Nilgiris ' Blue Mountains '.The weather is quite pleasant throughout the year and gets cooler in winters.The name Udhagamandalam is derived from the TODA word "Othakal-mund" which means "house in mountains".

Getting there : Airport Coimbatore,Rail Station -Coimbatore is the nearest major rail station from where you can catch the Toy Train to Ooty.

Must visit : Botanical Gardens,Rose Garden,Ooty Lake,Union Church,Trinity Church,Snowden Peak,Cairn Hill,Glenmorgan & Pykara Lake.

Travel tips : You can take hand gliding courses.If you enjoy fishing,there are lakes and streams where you can revive your hobby.

BEST HOTELS ---

City : Goa

Hotel Name : Sunkissed Resort (3 star)

Executive deals : Breakfast

City : Goa

Hotel : Royal Orchid Galaxy(3 star)

Deals : Complementary Dinner and Breakfast

City : Oooty

Hotel :Darshan and The Monarch (3 star)

Deals : Breakfast

City : Shimla

Hotel : Shingar and De Perk (3 star)

Deals : Welcome Drink,Breakfast and Dinner

City : Pondicherry

Hotel : Mass (3 star)

Deals : Breakfast

 

WAYFARER

A voice from the past tells many a royal tale in the rain-soaked ruins of Mandu,

“What words of mine can describe the beauty of the grass and the wildflowers? They clothe each hill dale, each slope and plain.

     I know of no place so pleasant in climate and so pretty in scenery as Mandu in the rainy season What I have noticed is but a small part of the many beauties of Mandu”. 

     The Mughal Emperor, Jahangir, raved about the splendour of Mandu during the monsoons. For me, it was time for a reality check. Driving through one of the 12 majestic gates that led to the largest fortified city in the medieval world one rain-drenched morning, I looked longingly at the misty distant silhouette of a crumbling Afghan tomb. All around me was a blanket of green that ranged from the light jade green to the darkest emerald.

As we climbed up, the valleys below were ensconced in idly floating clouds that progressively turned dark and grey. Minutes later I found myself driving through the precincts of the erstwhile Shadiabad, the City of Joy.

     It begins pouring as I raced all the way to the resort. The tattoo of rain helped my spirits soar and I found myself humming as I checked into my room and looked out of the window. The green expanse was good for my computer-strained eyes, I told myself.

     All it took was a good breakfast and I was ready to keep my date with the ghosts of Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati in the lofty pavilions that overlooked the dewy Nimar plains and the meandering strip of the Narmada. The romantic story of two music-loving souls reverberated in my mind as I walked up to Roopmatis Pavilion. A little later I was standing on it, gazing at the distant stretch of hills, vales, plateaus, and forests blurred by a veil of mist. The moment seemed to last an eternity.

Baz Bahadur’s palace with its huge courtyards and high terraces had once echoed with duets rendered by the two lovebirds. My guide, Iqbal, demonstrated the astounding acoustics of the music hall by rendering a piece in Raag Malhar, a fitting tribute to the season. He had a good voice, too. According to legend, in the early 16th century, Baz Bahadur, the ruler of Mandu fell in love with Rani Roopmati, an accomplished singer.

     The Rani was a devout worshipper of Narmada and wouldnt eat till she had a darshan of the river. The thick cloud cover in the monsoon played the villain making it impossible for the Rani to see her beloved Narmada. Then divinity intervened. Roopmati dreamt that the water in Rewa Kund came from River Narmada. The Rani no longer had to depend on a clear sky to break her fast.

     Braving the rain that had now, mercifully, turned into a drizzle, I made my way to Jami Masjid. The king and his subjects assembled for their communion with the Almighty here in this masjid with its decorative mihrabs and the innumerable domes.

     From there it was a hop, skip and jump to the precursor of Taj Mahal. Hoshang Shahs tomb with its imposing dome and marble construction was where Emperor Shah Jahan sent his architects for inspiration.

Out in the rain once again, we drove to Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Khiljis palace where he had lived with a harem full of 15000 women. He built exotic pleasure palaces, to accommodate his huge harem, and gave them quirky names like Jahaz Mahal and Hindola Mahal.

     The Jahaz Mahal, sitting betwixt the two lakes, with its cool pools and breeze swept terraces and a promising view of the once glorious Munj Talab and Kapoor Talab, is a dreamy set up. It is an incredible construction with a 7-ft pool on the first floor, fed by a Persian wheel and a fantastic filtration system that could teach modern engineers a thing or two about water-works. 

     At the other end is Hindola Mahal, the Swing Palace, so named because of its sloping support walls that resemble the sides of a swing? 

     Theres also the interesting tale about Gada Shahs shop and house, in which a merchant sold potent products to the sultan to rev up his sexual prowess. With his vast harem, the sultan must have patronized the merchant immensely, for him to acquire so much wealth and power. 

     The Rain Gods had decided to take a rest and my enthusiastic guide was still waiting to show me the bounties of Mandu. Rather patronizingly, Iqbal informed me that Mandu could not be appreciated in a couple of days. It required a couple of months for a visitor to take in the beauty of the place. Entranced by the magic unfolding before my eyes, I acquiesced humbly. 

     Therere many mahals and tombs that most tourists dont bother about. They come and see just two or three of them and go away feeling satisfied,” his sermon continued. You must see as much as possible”.

 

Relentlessly, he took me on a tour of the umpteen mahals: the Hathi Mahal and the Dai ki Chotti Bahen ka Mahal; so many mahals that I soon lost count of them. With my feet in squelching shoes and my clothes dripping water, I followed him like the proverbial lamb. 

     All I wanted to do was to sit in Roopmatis pavilion and watch the clouds floating by. Maybe I could have written a few poems while at it. Time and tide wait for no one nor did they wait for me. I realized that hours were gliding away. I bid adieu to Iqbal and Mandu but not before swearing to him that Mandu was one of the loveliest places I have visited, especially during the monsoon.

Travel trivia:

The Narmada River flowing by Mandu is said to be blessed by Lord Shiva with purifying powers. According to a folk tale, once every year Ganga herself becomes so polluted that she visits Narmada disguised as a dark woman to take a purifying dip.

 

Ready reckoner

 

Getting there: The closest airport is at Indore. Hire a cab from Indore to Mandu, which is about 99km away. The nearest railway station is Indore and there are umpteen trains from all over the country to the city. There are regular bus services plying between Indore and Mandu.

Where to stay

:
There are several options for staying at Mandu. MP Tourism has cottages at Malwa Resort where an A/C room costs Rs.1790 and an air-cooled one is Rs.1090. It also has cottages at Malwa Retreat, which offer AC rooms at Rs.1490. For reservations dial 07292-263235 or email at:
mresortm@mptourism.com or mretreatm@mptourism.com. Hotel Rupmati, another option, has rooms that range from Rs.600-Rs.750. For reservations dial 07292-263270.

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