a curious glance

(little bit of what I see)

Tag: Incredible India

Pushkar and Its Vibrant Shades

My last trip was in November, and if you have been reading my blogs, you would know how itchy my feet would have gotten without a trip for a little over 3 months. Well, you would also know about my soul sister and that she has been my most dependable travel partner (well only a handful of our friends are unmarried now and free to roam around!!). There was a long weekend approaching, and we could not just sit at home and let it go to the dumps.

Thus, began the contemplation for a place to go, and the idea was not just to explore a new town but to meet fellow travelers to share the experiences. Both of us have done solo tripping in the past and literally seen the transformation in us. Like, I can now easily initiate a conversation with any globetrotter; I used to be so damn shy earlier. It makes you more open towards the world. Now, Rajasthan is one state that attracts tourists in abundance, especially the foreigners who wish to absorb the true culture of India. In addition, I have already covered all major tourist places in Rajasthan. Pushkar was the only city left unexplored and the various travel sites are full of praises for the holy city. Trust me, there is much more to the city than the sheer holiness and that is the reason that the youth swarms the city.

Now, another friend of mine who went to Pushkar a year ago had mentioned about Zostel (India’s first backpackers hostel) and after a quick check on my best travel guide, Tripadvisor, we made a reservation for Zostel. Oh, and this reminds me that the same friend had introduced me to Tripadvisor years ago. Thanks mate, the site makes travel life very easy! I will let my verse and the pictures describe Pushkar. However, it’s worth a mention that Zostel is a cool place to stay and it made our trip successful because we befriended people with the same interest as ours- TRAVELLING. Nevertheless, a word of caution, if you volunteer for any of the treks organised by Zostel, please ensure you wear trekking shoes, even when they say that sports shoes and the kind are not required. The trek would actually turn out to be climbing a steep-barren-thorny mountain and you will continuously curse the guide en-route to the sunset point. However, once you reach the top, the view, the sunset and the breeze will literally cool you off.

The terrain of the trek for sunset

Pious, warm and much more

Its youthful radiance to allure

Sit by the lake for immense quietude

Or feel the thrill at an hilly altitude

The hues of dawn, incredibly aesthetic

Rays dazzling the lake, most artistic

Do not be confined in the holy charm

Mingling with people does no harm

Climb that hill for a picturesque sunset

Believe me; it serves as perfect day-end

Move to the much acclaimed roof top joint

Overlooking the city, chat away the night

And the endless list of rules to spoil the fun

That humankind always finds to overcome….

 

Waiting for the sunrise

Hues of sunrise

A prayer to the sun God

When lake acts as a prism

Savitri temple at hill top

The beginning of the trek

End of the trek to reach to the sunset


When I say do not limit yourself to the holy world of Pushkar, I intend to say that there is fun part to the city as well. You could either chose to relax or instead take the treks, go cycling to the outskirts of Pushkar, and more importantly, you could visit at the time of camel fair, and experience the true colours of Pushkar.

How did we reach Pushkar- We took a Shatabdi from Delhi to Ajmer. Pushkar is hardly 30 mins away from the city of Ajmer-e-sharif Dargah. You could take a bus or a private taxi, depending upon your budget. We even hired a Scooty to travel in and around Pushkar, it was as cheap as 200 bucks for a day. So, a stay in Zostel, train tickets, taxi, and food (Rajasthani food never disappoints you) would have not costed us more than 5k per person (we have not done the math yet, so can only give you an approximate figure :D)

We took a short stop over at Ajmer to pay our visit to the Dargah and capture the Ana Sagar Lake:

Also, follow the pictures below to know the legends about the city of Pushkar:

These pictures are from the walls in Zostel…


Goa, A Gang Of Girls And Pictures Galore

Remember, I mentioned in my very first post of this site, that I have been pestering my friends for a trip to GOA?? Let me quote from that post, “Trip, trip, trip, my soul sister had been chiming continuously since the beginning of year. Well, I very well knew the hidden meaning – Goa, Goa, Goa…. I have pestered my other friends for a year now, taken desperate planning initiatives, but could not land in Goa. Work, Marriage, Budget Constraints, are a few reasons out of the many, that Goa seems a farfetched idea for us. The timing is just never right. Well, we will make it happen together is the pact.”

I decided to quit my job to explore other career options, and my last days would coincide with my soul sister’s 30th birthday.. How could we have not taken this opportunity to reinstate our Goa plans…. Perfect timing it was! I could no longer wait to land in Goa with all my friends together.. Anyway, one of my friends already broke the pact earlier this year! We would someday go together, but in between, whoever gets to go, shall go. I guess this is the new unsaid pact….

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Anjuna

We were a group of five girls:

  • Soul sister’s sister from the same mother
  • Her best friend, who is ever ready for a trip and wanted to celebrate her best friend’s 30th Birthday
  • The first person I befriended in my Ex-organisation. You will understand our friendship when I say, she flew from Mumbai for a weekend to be part of my happiness
  • Soul sister
  • I

Gang of girls and Goa was fun and safe. What is the most important aspect when it involves a group of girls and a trip? Safety, right? We rented a car and drove around Goa and thus we were not dependent on anyone. Thanks to Google maps, we could reach any of the destinations with ease.

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And what do you want to do in GOA??? Party, hit the casino and laze around in the shacks on the beaches… Some may want to do adventure sports, it was not on our list..

Let me begin with partying, we went to Club Cabana, and were so amazed by the ambiance and the feel of the club. It is a Must go place! Open air, on a hill, so close to the stars, economical entry for girls, stags not allowed and unlimited drinks is the short description of the place. Dance if you want or just sit at the poolside, talk and stare at the stars. This was our first night, and we would not happen to see crowd better than this in any of the upcoming days in Goa.

We hit Anjuna beach the next afternoon and spent time at Curley’s, the ever famous shack.. They had a slow service as it was crowded, however their chocolate muffins are to die for (not many would try them when in Goa 😉 ) We wanted to go to Casino, but all of us were contemplating a minimum expenditure of 4k on a casino. 4k was the minimum entry fee at Deltin Royale, there are other low-priced casinos as well. We checked a few out, and settled on Deltin Jaqk, as the entry was 1K cheaper. Moreover, it was the only one that looked decent apart from Royale. We spent 15k on Roulette. All of us played roulette. We did win in between, in fact I had recovered my entry fee but then the greed and fun got better of us and we finally came out with only 500 bucks! Actually, 15k included unlimited drinks and food, but we did not like their service and the food was average. Casino turned out to be good for experience sake and we got to use probability after ages. At least some Math taught in school turned out to be usable 😀 The friend from Mumbai (she prefers to call herself a Mumbaikar now, huh!?) has been to Royale earlier and says it is way better.

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We spent the next afternoon in a shack on Candolim beach. There is only one licensed to operate on this beach currently, otherwise adventure sports stole the show on this beach. We ate lunch at Inferno; their Chicken Chettinad and fish curry was scrumptious. The day before we ate lunch at Fisherman’s cove, their food was tasteful too. Mumbaikar had a flight to catch in early evening and we thought we would drop her and cover some part of South Goa as well. We were staying at an apartment in Candolim, North Goa, booked through Airbnb. But damn it, Goa is vast and the roads in North Goa are so small that once you are stuck in traffic because someone parked a car or even worse, a bus on that one lane road, the only option is to take a u-turn (thank god for no dividers) and follow some other route.. We had to do so thrice during our stay. After we dropped her, we could cover only one beach of South Goa. The sunset was mesmerising and peaceful.

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Candolim

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Colva, South Goa

In the evening, after lazing in our apartment for a little while, we went to Baga beach. The shacks are open until late in the night and there are tables with candle light, spread on the sand, only a few steps away from the water… The entire aura was pleasant and untroubled. I would have stayed there forever staring at the moon with the harmonious sound of waves in my ears, if Mr. Special or shall I say, “Future Husband” had accompanied me. However, with the group of friends, we chatted, played dumb charades and then called it a night…

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Baga

More Pictures-

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Ranthambore: An Encounter With The Tiger Or Not….

My feet were itchy, my last trip was in June and it was September now. It was an indication that they would have to soon land in an unknown territory. I was initially planning a trip to Pondicherry with my parents, but we cancelled on it, as we have to save for something else. While Pondicherry remains on the list of places to visit, I had to think of a place nearby that would not burn a hole in our pocket.

I have never been on a wild life safari. Whenever I have considered national parks earlier, it was time of the year when they are closed. A quick internet search revealed that Ranthambore opens in the 1st week of October. Moreover, between Corbett and Ranthambore (both near to Delhi), the latter is more famous for Tiger sightings. Now, one could easily drive to Ranthambore, but we chose to travel by train. There are few options of trains from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur and travel time is 5-6 hours. Unlike Corbett, Ranthambore does not have hotels/resorts within the park. However, I wanted to have a jungle experience, and Tripadvisor came to the rescue once again. In fact, there is a list of hotels on www.ranthamborenationalpark.com, I picked hotels from this site and read reviews on Tripadvisor to finalize.

I booked train tickets, hotels and then safari. I actually delayed booking the safari. I was busy with some other developments in my professional life, so I did not search much about the safari. It is only when I reached our destination, I realized that how important it is to book a safari as early as possible. Ranthambore National Park is huge and is thus divided into 10 zones for people to visit. It is a common belief that probability of sighting a Tiger is higher in zones 1 to 5. And, earlier you book, better chances of you landing up in these zones. One could book either a jeep (shared by 5 people) or a canter (14-17 people). If you book through an agent, jeep costs 1500 per person while canter costs 900 per person. The other option is to reach Ranthambore and stand in queues for current safari booking. This is cheaper but people usually prefer booking beforehand. I did book ahead of our trip but not early enough to land in one of the prime zones.

Before I begin my day-by-day travelogue, an important question for you all: Do you guys travel with your parents? Do you ensure that they get a break from their monotonous life too? I am lucky that my parents like to travel, so it does not require much of convincing. Maybe, I got my travel genes from them and I have taken that interest to another level. When we were kids, my parents tried that my brother and I get to travel (either through school trips or as a family trip) and now I ensure that the tradition prevails. We, of course had an advantage as our mum is a school teacher.

Day 1:

We take a 7 am train and reach Sawai Madhopur by 1 in the noon. Our resort, Tiger Moon, is around 12 kms away. There is an option to take a taxi or auto. Auto charges 250-300 bucks and taxi charges 500 bucks. Tiger Moon, with variety of flora has a forest feel to it. Sometimes in the night, a leopard might give you a visit in the resort. Machli, the famous tigress, which died recently, has even swum in the pool of Tiger Moon.

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Bamboos

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Mangu, the owner’s dog

We had no plans for sightseeing on our 1st day. Our resort was pretty good and all we wanted was to relax and laze around. Tiger moon goes a step ahead to ensure that one feels close to nature, it does not provide wifi or TV. Yes, you read it right, no TV. My mum was disappointed; she would miss the season finale of 24! However, the hotel gives you a plethora of indoor games as options. We spent the evening playing carom, ludo, snakes and ladders and antaskshari. I played these games with my Mum-Dad after ages. It was an evening full of nostalgia. Now, let me tell you my dad loves to cheat in games and he is a smart cheater. So, rather than concentrating on our moves in the game, my mum and I direct our attention to his moves. Moreover, like a kid, if he were losing, he would make sure to spoil the game. So, if a snake bites him, I am talking about the game not the real ones. Apparently, there were a few found in our resort the previous night. So, if a snake bites him, he would discontinue and scatter all the pieces on the board. We fought and laughed a lot. It was a good family time far away from the social and artificial world.

Another good thing about hotel packages in Ranthambore is that they are inclusive of all meals. Even morning and evening tea/coffee are included. Rajasthan is famous for its food, and the hotel made sure to offer the taste of Rajasthan but in a bit bland way to cater to foreigners as well.

Day 2:

We had an early morning safari. Canter had come to pick us up at 6:30 am, and we were all set and eager to sight a Tiger. As I mentioned earlier, we were not lucky enough to get into zones 1-5. Our morning safari led us to Zone 6. It was farther off from the main zones. As we moved deep into the zone, it started sinking in that it was more of a hill than a dense jungle. I had a completely different picture in mind. We did spot Deers in abundance but no luck with Tiger or any other wild animal. Even the guide in our safari did not seem interested to talk about the history of the park. All of us in our safari were disappointed, and to add to our misery a co passenger said that they saw a Tiger yesterday in zone 8. Everyone bombarded them with questions, “When?”, “Morning or Evening?”, “But zone 8, really?”, “Can you show us pictures?” and etc etc. This became the only interesting thing about our safari.

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I had not given up on sighting the Tiger, I made up my might to book another safari the next day. A lot of people do sight Tigers, so will we. I went to my resort manger and following is our conversation:

“Could we get a jeep safari for tomorrow evening? “
He was sure about his reply:
“No, ma’am, you are too late to get a jeep”.
“Okay, what about a canter”
“Yes , I can try”
“I do not want to go the same zone again.” (I had earlier thought I would request for Zone 1-5 but since I was told about a sighting in Zone 8, I did not mind that either.)
“Ma’am, I cannot guarantee that, we get to know about zones at the last moment”
“No, please, not the same zone”
He did not speak, after seeing his not so positive reaction, I continued:
“Please, please, any other zone”
“Ma’am okay, I can guarantee you a visit to one of the zones from 1 to 5, but you will have you pay extra”
“Sorry, what, why?”
“These are the primes zones”
“Oh, okay, I get it, how much extra”
“1200 per person”

The desire to sight a Tiger in its natural habitat led me to pay the extra amount. I am not sure, why did he wait so long to ask for the extra money.

Convinced, we will see the Tiger the next day; we set our foot in the Ranthambore Fort that evening. The fort lies within the National Park region and sometimes one can see Tiger crossing the road from one zone to another on the way. I had my eyes open, so was our driver’s, he was a good man and narrated many stories about the area and tigers. The Machli and the pool story came from him. He has even patted Machli, he claimed. Now a jeep to fort and back costs 1000 bucks. He made us spot a crocodile on our way. He was much better than the actual guide in the safari earlier that day.

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Within the fort, lies the famous Trinetra Ganesh Temple (Three eyed Ganesha Temple). Locals believe one’s wish would most certainly fulfil with the visit to the temple. It is at a certain elevation and is not much of a comfortable walk. It has around 250-300 ancient style stairs, but with the trust in God, people make sure to climb them. Fort is scenic, has a lake and one would spot a few peacock/hen and a lot of Langurs.

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When we were on our way to the temple and my parents took a halt to rest, a group of students joined us. They were full of excitement, as they had spotted a Tiger on their way to the fort. I asked them what time exactly. And voila, 10 minutes after we had crossed that path! Some could spot the Tiger at no cost, we paid extra, we better do the next day.

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Spot the Bird!

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Our resort had organised a cultural night with Rajasthan’s folk music and dance programme. It was fun, the kid who was part of the group was talented and more. With the musical beats in our ears, we called it a night.

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I have to mention, that a family in our resort saw two Tigers in a single safari in Zone 4 that evening. We were all the more passionate for our encounter with the Tiger tomorrow.

Day 3:

We lazed around in the morning, did some local shopping and after lunch went for our evening safari. Mum, “we will see the Tiger, I kept saying”. Well they say, only if you think positive, would positive things happen. Canter came to pick us up around 2:30, and I am sure you can guess my first question, “Which zone are we heading towards?” Zone 5 was the answer, to my relief.

Thankfully, the guide this time was well informed, and talked about history of the wildlife in the park. We again spotted a lot of Deers and their different breeds. Another point of comfort was that Zone 5 was like a real jungle, with vast greens of trees, langurs, birds and large lakes. We saw a wild boar as well. The guide and the driver stopped the canter and the noise of the engine to concentrate on other noises and hints for the tiger. We went real deep into the forest, this safari lasted much longer than the earlier one. Did we spot a Tiger? No, we did not. However, the zone gave us many scenic views, so we were not disappointed largely.

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We were shown a documentary on Tigers that night in the hotel, Sher Vilas. Yes, we changed hotels this morning, as Tiger moon was not available for three nights. Sher vilas was quite opposite of Tiger Moon, as it had open spaces, garden and offered outdoor games like Volley Ball.

We took a train back home the next morning. Over all, Ranthambore is a great weekend away. You could easily cover it in two days. The weather is pleasant in this time of the year, it even rained one of the evenings. The safari was a good experience, even if we did not see any Tiger in its natural habitat, we did see a few other animals in wild and not caged. The way, they should be!

Pricing of hotels:
Tiger moon: 6800 for three people, including all meals
Sher Vilas: 5000 for three people, including all meals
I booked the hotels through Tour My India


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