A photo blog and Supporting information guide for Yatris preparing to travel to #KailashMansarovar organized by Ministry of External Affairs, India

A photo blog and Supporting information guide for Yatris preparing to travel to #KailashMansarovar organized by Ministry of External Affairs, India

From June 11th of 2017 till September 2017, 1430 lucky yatris will be able to accomplish a cherished goal – One of successfully completing the Holy Kailash and Mansarovar Yatra. The Yatra, excellently organized by our Ministry of External Affairs with support from Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam, ITBP, Sashastra Seema Bal and the Chinese authorities is a massive exercise in logistics, co-ordination and participation. The Yatris can do their bit by preparing well, staying fit and extending their co-operation to the organizers and fellow yatris. I have been part of Batch 5 of the Yatra during 2015. This photo blog captures my preparatory experience with supporting visuals wherever possible. I see this as my way of paying back to the Holy feet of the lord himself. Om Namah Shivayah!

BAGS – The bags are carried throughout the yatra with the help of mules. It is better to stick to a maximum of 10 – 12 kgs. Select a light weight duffel bag which is water resistant and a good duffel bag. Check out the choices available here for duffel bags and day packs. At the Gujarat sadan, the organizers provide you with a plastic/fertilizer bag to seal the bag. Add your identifier like a satin tape with name and batch number. This is useful when luggage is picked up and handed over at the lipulekh pass. Keep one empty small bag which can be left at Gunji with clothes you may not need. REMEMBER – As you climb altitude, shed your bag weight and get lighter.

Bags and packing for Kailash
Starting Top Left Clockwise 1- A Tarpaulin material water resistant duffel bag which gets transported throughout the Yatra. Use Plastic covers to line the insides and pack your stuff. Should be around 10 to 12 Kg maximum. A Day pack – for carrying on self or with the porter containing a change of clothes, medicines and thermals. A smaller bag which can store used items that can be either left at Dharchula or Gunji and collected upon return 2. Day pack by Quechua – Forclaz 30 Air 3. Tatonka – Medium size Duffel Bag 4. Waist pouch with Passport and Cash – always on self 5. Packing at the Gujarat sadan Using fertilizer grade water resistant bags, ropes and identifiers like satin tapes and yatri name and registration number on the bags.

MEDICAL KIT – The following 9 items are more than sufficient for your entire Yatra. This is apart from any other medication that your physician has advised. Listen to the advise of doctors at Batra Hospital in Delhi, ITBP hospitals in Delhi and Gunji. If you have to take a Pony + Porter both on the Indian side and Chinese side, take them. You will need them when your legs tire. It also helps to stabilize your breathing and settle your blood pressure. If you feel the need for an oxygen can, you can find one at Taklakot in their markets. For Altitude sickness – TR Coca 200 Drachms / Coca 6x can be purchased from any homeo clinic in your home town or in Delhi. Follow the schedule as advised and it should keep you in good shape till you start the descent back.

Essentials in the bag
From Top Left – Band Aid Strips, Paracetamol Tablet, Anti Allergic Tablet, Vaseline lip balm to avoid chaffed lips – to be kept in pant pocket, SPF 30+ cream on face, hands and exposed parts – to be used from day 2 regularly till return, Vaseline petroleum jelly – rub in nostrils before sleeping for easy breathing, Neosporin powder for any wounds before bandaging, Candid anti fungal and bacterial powder – dust in to socks before slipping on shoes. Muscle relaxing cream for any sprains

HYDRATION – Important to stay hydrated throughout the trip. Often long walks can leave you short of salts. Keep sipping water every 30 minutes and consume ORS/Electral if you feel drained of energy. Ask your porter/pony handler to fill up water from the streams on the indian side and experience the goodness of nature. Nothing can beat the taste of a natural spring.

Water bottle, ORS and Electral
A water bottle of maximum of one liter that can fit in to the sides of your day pack, a packet of ORS or Electral to support your water requirements and salt replenishment. If water is exhausted, ask your pony handler or porter to fill it from the nearest stream. It is absolutely safe. Please consume water every 30 to 45 minutes and an average of 3.5 to 4 liters per day. Don’t stop drinking water even if you don’t feel thirsty.

OTHER SNACKS – Make small sized packets of dry fruits and sugar candies. They are excellent for snacking during long walks in the sun. Keep some in your day pack and some in your trouser pockets.

Dry fruits and sugary sweets
Make small packets of dry fruits – Walnuts, Almonds, Dried Grapes, Dried Figs and sugar sweets to keep you fit when you walk long distances – on an average of 15 – 20 kms per day. Keep them in your day pack or in the pockets of your trousers

CLOTHING DURING INDIAN SIDE TREKS  – On the Indian side treks begin at 5 – 530 AM and yatris reach their guest houses post lunch around 2 / 3 PM. It is usually sunny and one sweats extensively during such treks. Stick to simple cotton t-shirts (around 6 should be enough) and a water resistant trouser; Two such trousers are sufficient for the entire trip. Rain coats are fine but keep it only for the upper part. Advisable to keep two pairs of strong shoes. One for a lower altitude and one for higher altitudes.

Clothing for the Yatra on the indian stretch
When walking on the indian side from Dharchula to Gunji via Sirkha, Gala and Budhi it will be quite sunny. Use a cotton T-Shirt, wear a water resistant trouser (no jeans) and wear shoes which give you enough grip. Use cotton socks in this stretch. If it rains, carry a rain coat (2 pieces). You can leave them in Gunji in a spare bag if you feel you don’t need it. The trouser, usually has multiple pockets to store instant snacks, ORS and medicines if required

CLOTHING DURING HIGHER ALTITUDE TREKS  – Starting from Gunji after an extra night of acclimatization, treks are always on a higher altitude. During this period it is wise to switch to full hand t-shirts with trousers, liberal application of sunscreen, sun goggles and full UV protection caps. One may also use Quick drying T-shirts during this stretch. They can be purchased from here

Full T shirt and Trouser
When walking at higher altitudes starting from Gunji up to chinese side and return, use a full length, quick dry t-shirt and a water resistant trouser. The full hand t-shirt will keep you safe from UV rays. For high altitudes and snow, use a stronger shoe which is water resistant as you may have to cross streams, walk in ankle/knee deep snow.

CLOTHING DURING THE PARIKRAMA – Clothing during the parikrama needs care and attention to avoid exposure to the wind. Starting from the crossing at Lipulekh to Dolma, exposure to winds is going to be high. During these times, it is important to have three layers of clothing as given below – T-shirt, Fleece Jacket and a wind + water proof jacket. Apart from these, important to have the right protection to cover your face to avoid chafed lips. Useful to have anti-frostbite socks if possible else woolen socks too will suffice.

Yatra Clothing
Starting from Navidhang where yatris depart at 3 AM, right up to completion of the Yatra, it is advisable to wear 3 layers. Inner layer is a T-Shirt, On top of the T-Shirt, you can consider wearing a warm fleece jacket and finally a Wind, snow and water proof jacket. The final jacket should completely cover your neck and should have a hoodie provision. Trousers can be the same water resistant one. Use either a woolen socks or a

FOOTWEAR – Important to carry two pieces of robust footwear. Break in to them atleast a month before the Yatra and feel comfortable walking in them. Go for shoes with Ankle support. You can review the models for lower altitudes and higher altitudes. Gaiters are extremely useful to avoid any leeches or insects getting in to your legs, stones and even snow. Hiking poles are an absolute must especially while crossing streams and checking for depth of snow. Buy one which can be adjusted for height.

Footwear and walking
On the left is a low altitude trekking boots usually used up to 10,000 – 12,000 feet. On top of the green shoes are Gaitors which are used when walking on slush or Snow to avoid leeches and snow seeping in to shoes. On the right are shoes with heavier tread and increased water resistance useful when walking in higher altitudes. Use the extensible hiking poles (green and red) while walking. Use only one pole during hiking.

HEAD GEAR – Extremely important considering the UV exposure, sun rays, winds and reflection of sunlight from the snow. Avoid any temporary blindness that could come out of reflected light by having a wrap around goggles always accessible.

Head and Hand gear during walking
Cap with UV protection, Wollen beanies to wear, Microfibre to protect against harsh winds especially at higher altitudes in Lipulekh pass and Dolma La. Complete eye protection from UV rays and sunlight reflecting from snow. One has to make sure that the eye wear can be worn with a neck band and hung on the neck. Leather gloves during high altitude and windy terrain are more effective in keeping one warm

GUEST HOUSE / YATRI NIVAS WEAR – During overnight stops at Yatri Nivas’, it is important to be appropriately clothed and also stay protected as the overnight temperatures dip to single digits on the Indian side and sub-zero on the chinese side.

Guest house resting wear
On the left – Simple wear when in the guest house. A cotton track pants, Cotton t-shirt and a shell jacket and/or Wind protection jacket. On the right – Quick dry underwear. Having 4 or 5 of them can help you through the Yatra without any pressure of having to wash them and waiting for them to dry.

THERMALS – Thermals have a very important function at high altitudes and at low temperatures. It is important to understand the function of Thermals and use them appropriately. Recommended to go for one pair of Cotton thermals and one pair of synthetic thermals. Use is described in the image below.

About Thermals
Thermals – When to wear them and How to use them. On the left are Cotton thermals and on the right are polyester mixed thermals. On the indian side and up to 10,000 – 12,000 feet, cotton thermals can be worn during night before going to bed. Wear only thermals when going to bed as it can keep you very warm. No other layer on top of it. During Yatra and at higher altitudes wear the other thermals. If during the yatra you feel the need for a thermal pant during walking, wear one and then put on a water resistant trouser on top. Simple rule – At night, only thermals will suffice. During walking, it is optional.

This Yatra is led by extremely competent liaison officers who are well oriented, well equipped and one who has a direct line with the ministry regarding the status and well being of the yatris. Our only job is to listen to the instructions regarding safety & comfort given by the officers along with ITBP & SSB officers and KMVN guides. This guide follows the official document provided by the Ministry; Any other items required over and above the official list is as per the discretion of the yatri.

Wishing you all a successful Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2017

A Rejuvenated Amritsar Part 1- The Partition Museum

A Rejuvenated Amritsar Part 1-                      The Partition Museum

Harmandir Sahib or The Golden Temple as it is known worldwide, The Akal Takht, Jallianwala Bagh and Attari – Wagah border are the regular attractions in a 1N2D itinerary of Amritsar. Now, all that is set to change and a rejuvenated Amritsar is inviting you to stay a little longer and explore.

Amritsar is part of the Indian state of Punjab and just before the local government elections held in December 2016, the state authorities threw open the Heritage Street, starting from The Town Hall up to The Golden Temple. Though it didn’t prove to be sufficient for the incumbent party to return to power, the Heritage street has enough in it to bring in more tourists as it has breathed a new life to this stretch, which i last heard was chaotic and disorganized.

The Town Hall is a 140 year old Heritage Building and until recently housed the local civic body. One if its newest residents is “The Partition Museum”, set up by The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust , a not for Profit NGO.

Town Hall entrance and Partition Museum entrance
The 140 Year old Town Hall of Amritsar and the Partition museum located within its precincts

Seventy years have passed since the traumatic events of partition that lead to the birth of two nations; but until “The Partition Museum” was conceived, there was no memorial, no designated space and no commemoration of any kind to document the migration that led to the creation of the two countries of India and Pakistan.

The Partition museum is dedicated to victims of the event, its survivors and, lasting legacy. Apart from original Newspaper clippings, the museum has reproduced moving images by Margaret Bourke White, the legendary photographer and documentary film maker of LIFE magazine. Bourke white went about her assignment in an unfazed manner, unmindful of the chaos of a newly divided subcontinent. The images are part of her work, Halfway to Freedom.

Margaret Bourke white, a Life Photographer in a White spree and Lee Etington, edit reporter
LIFE photographer Margaret Bourke-White (L) w. LIFE edit reporter Lee Eitingon, posing in beautiful Hindu saris. Courtesy of TIME archive and Getty Images

April 5th 1947 was Lord Mountbatten’s last ditch attempt to persuade Mohammed Ali Jinnah for a united India, citing the difficulty of dividing the mixed states of Punjab and Bengal, but the Muslim leader was unyielding in his goal of establsihing a separate Muslim State. With the British Government having granted in principal approval to grant independence quickly, things moved quickly leading to August 14/15, 1947.

Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a talented barrister who had no knowledge of India and had never been to India before, was tasked to head the Boundary commissions of Punjab and Bengal, which would draw the line across these provinces along religious lines. In two months, little must he have imagined that this drawing of borders would lead to Twenty million people migrating to a new homeland in one of the greatest and most painful upheavals of contemporary History.

Lord Mountbatten and Sir cyril Radcliffe
Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India and Sir Cyril Radcliffe a Barrister at Law. The architects of India’s partition

The Partition Museum captures these gripping and unfortunate moments in a section with the aid of newspaper clippings and a recounting in chaste Punjabi by Kuldip Nayar of his interview with Cyril Radcliffe in the year 1971. Radcliffe is believed to have told that Pakistan is lucky to have got Lahore; Pakistan was understood to have been upset over losing Gurdaspur.

Also reproduced is the poem by WH Auden titled “Partition” which sums up Cyril Radcliffe’s pressures and state of mind.

Generous patrons have donated preserved letters that were exchanged with their friends and loved ones after the borders were drawn up, letters to authorities on either side enquiring about their properties and holdings and many more gut wrenching communication. Amritsar and Lahore are just 30 kilometers away but for those torn by the events, the line in-between must have made it feel like a few light years away.

The museum is adding more sections by the day and in 12 – 18 months time hopes to complete them and add a wealth of information to one of India’s darkest chapters of History.

The Partition museum is also creating a digital platform by documenting oral histories of partition survivors and their families.

Spend a good 3 hours in the museum and expose yourself to this bit of history which changed the fortunes of this sub-continent.

Getting to Amritsar – Amritsar is served by an International airport that has direct flight connections from New Delhi and Mumbai. Currently Air India, Indigo, Jet Airways, Spicejet and Vistara service Amritsar. Plenty of trains ply between New Delhi and Amritsar and it takes between 6 to 7 hours for the 465 kilometer journey. One can even drive on the NH 44 in order to reach Amritsar.

Where to Stay – Amritsar is home to International chains like Westin, Holiday Inn etc., and Indian chain hotels like Taj whose newest property Taj Swarna has kicked off its operations. Finding a hotel to suit your budget is never a problem. Offbeat Farm stays have also picked up and give you an even more authentic experience.

Margaret Bourke White and Lee Eitington Image Courtesy – Time Magazine Archives/Getty Images

Facts concerning the Partition Courtesy – The Partition Museum

Continue reading “A Rejuvenated Amritsar Part 1- The Partition Museum”

The Sweetness of Chettinad – Part 2

The Sweetness of Chettinad – Part 2

After a road trip across Rajasthan, my daughter Rashmi takes another shot at blogging. This time she talks about a trip in to Chettinad in the state of Tamilnadu. This road trip, beginning from chennai is spread over 2 Nights and 3 Days. The route traverses through Chengalpattu, Tindivanam, Villupuram and Trichy over a duration of 7 hours. There are a number of clean and hygenic breakfast & lunch joints with toilet facilities on the highway. Hiring a comfortable SUV with an experienced driver-guide is important. The highways are wide and multi-laned with short stretches which may turn narrow. Experienced driver-guides maintain a steady speed with safety as a top priority. Part 1 of this blog explored the journey from Chennai to Kanadukathan, explorations within Visalam and its Gastronomic delights. In the second and concluding part, she explores the rich sights and sounds of Chettinad replete with audio visuals. Here she goes….

Good Morning! What better than going for a swim to kick start your day. I got up by 7a.m, went for a nice swim, had some simple yet delicious breakfast, and gave a kick-start to my day!

As soon as we finished our breakfast, we headed towards the reception, where we would meet our guide, who would take us in and around Karaikudi. Infact, the hotel itself provided us with a guide, who is a member if their staff. So basically, the guide wasn’t outsourced from some other hotel or company.

We started off our sightseeing by visiting the RAJAS’S PALACE- A huge, traditional Chettinad Mansion in Kanadukathan district. We got a glimpse of that mansion from it’s exteriors itself as we didn’t want to spend too much of time on the history of that place because we had many other interesting things to see and know about. The mansion had beautiful exteriors. It had been recently painted and beautified. There were these splendid carvings on the walls of the mansion of Gods and Goddesses, which added more glitter to the beauty of the mansion. Anurag Mallick and Priya Ganapathy in their blog write, “The massive residence belonged to Chettinad’s most famous luminary Dr. S.Rm.M. Annamalai Chettiar, founder of the Indian Bank and Annamalai University. For his philanthropic efforts, he was made Diwan Bahadur, conferred with knighthood and given the hereditary title of Rajah of Chettinad by the King of England in 1929”.

The Raja's Palace front view
The Raja’s Palace in KanaduKathan, Chettinad

Next, we headed towards our guide’s house. The guide was pretty eager to show us his family’s house, so that we could get an idea of Chettinad architecture. It comprised of vintage Athangudi tiles, High Roofs, Vintage Clocks on the wall and, pillars connecting the ground of the house to the roof, and an open courtyard in the center , known as the “Mittam”, which is usally used for weddings and other family ceremonies.

A traditional Chettinad Home as it is. Pillars or "Thoons", Teak wood doors and Ceilings, Athangudi tiles and Heavy Doors
A traditional Chettinad Home as it is. Pillars or “Thoons”, Teak wood doors and Ceilings, Athangudi tiles and Heavy Doors

Once we thoroughly looked around the house and the guide, with complete interest, finished explaining the history to us, we headed towards a #Handloom and weaving centre where we we saw Cotton #sarees being made by manually made machines, with dyes and threads of various colours.

The Handloom Weaving center, Raw materials like colored threads, Hand weaving instruments like Charkha and loom and finished products
The Handloom Weaving center, Raw materials, Hand weaving instruments and finished products

We were told that it takes about one and a half to two days to complete one spree. Watch the accompanying video where the Weaver begins the process of weaving his magic

The process is quite long and tedious as it involves the shifting of threads, placement of the lever and other equipment, in order to get the right pattern on the spree. Watch in Part 2, the handloom process.

These sarees are sold to various cities in western India and North India, where there is a hughe crowd for all of these handmade stuff.

The next and most exciting place, which was the place where #Athangudi tiles are made.The preparation of Athangudi tiles is something that makes Chettinad famous.

Athangudi tile making workshop, Mud, coloring process, tile making and finished product
The Making of #Athangudi Tiles

Athangudi tiles are prepared in a unique process in which local soil, along with cement, baby jelly and synthetic oxides are used. The main colors that you shall find on these tiles are black, white, red, yellow, olive green and deep orange.

The tiles are cast from the locally available clay that is first burnt and then glazed. These tiles are special because they are sun-baked, which takes about a few days. But the whole process of getting the design on the tile and moulding it takes only about 3-5 minutes.

These tiles are used for flooring, wall cladding- in both interiors and exteriors. We were very happy to see the entire process of making a single Athangudi tile- from colour mixing to shaping and putting the glass. These tiles are exported to various countries, from where officials come and place orders.

Once we left from the Athangudi tile-making site, we headed toward a place where we got the real “sweetness” of Chettinad. We headed towards a house, where there was an “All Ladies” group preparing traditional Chettinad Sweets. such as “Adhirsam”, “Thenguzhal Murukku”, “Mahizhampoo Murukku”,”Mullu Murukku” and “Seepu Seedai”.

Women working the Bakshanam in a hot cauldron of coconut oil, finished Bakshanam
Ladies Self Help group in the business of making #Bakshanam. Time to sample Adhirsam, Thenguzhal, Mullu Murukku and Seepu Seedai

Made entirely of Rice Flour and using coconut oil, these snacks are prepared fresh everyday and are completely sold out by close.

Many of these groups also supply to stores across Tamilnadu where there is demand throughout the year. The best among all of them was the “Adhirsam”. I considered it as the ultimate sweet due to it’s taste, texture and flavor which included jaggrey, and coconut oil as well. So its pretty obvious that we can’t leave Chettinad whithout buying packets of these delicacies prepared by the lovely hand of these women, who do it passionately and carry on the family business with tons of confidence and courage.

Once we bought everything, we headed towards a vegetarian restaurant, where we quickly packed some lunch , which we would have once we headed back to the hotel. In between, we made a stop at a Saree Shop where we found a variety of cotton sarees, from simple and elegant to glittery and attractive. Since we all were starving, we quickly drove back to the hotel and reached by 2p.m and had some good lunch that we had packed on the way, and had a nap. The evening was quite free as we had completed most of the sightseeing during the day. So we decided that we would chill by the lawn in the evening, with a cup of tea and some of the snacks that we had bought earlier in the day. We didn’t really step out anywhere in the evening and had a light and simple dinner.

Phew! That was a long day… Good Night!

Getting there: Chennai is connected to all major cities across India and the world. From Chennai, chettinad is a 7 hour drive.

The Sweetness of Chettinad – Part 1

The Sweetness of Chettinad – Part 1

After a road trip across Rajasthan, my daughter Rashmi takes another shot at blogging. This time she talks about a trip in to Chettinad in the state of Tamilnadu. This road trip, beginning from chennai is spread over 2 Nights and 3 Days. The route traverses through Chengalpattu, Tindivanam, Villupuram and Trichy over a duration of 7 hours. There are a number of clean and hygenic breakfast & lunch joints with toilet facilities on the highway. Hiring a comfortable SUV with an experienced driver-guide is important. The highways are wide and multi-laned with short stretches which may turn narrow. Experienced driver-guides maintain a steady speed with safety as a top priority. Here she goes….

Chettinad, the unexplored part of South India and Tamil Nadu. It is a place which contains the real essence of Tamil Nadu, where one shall discover the glory and heritage of ancient mansions built decades ago and opens us up to understand south Indian culture and their business instincts.

I recently went on a Short holiday to Chettinad in the month of December along with my family, and if you ask why chettinad, it’s because we all our bored of doing the same old Tirupati, Navagraha temples, Madurai, Kodaikanal and etc…So for a change, we decided to explore an unexplored part of Tamil Nadu which is Chettinad.

Chettinad itself feels like a small state like Goa, which is surrounded by serenity, nature, beauty and warmth. We drove down from Chennai to Kanadukathan, which is a district in the Chettinad region itself. It took us about 6 hours non-stop to reach Kanadukathan, where we stayed in a heritage property known as Visalam, which is managed by CGH Earth Group of hotels, which has over 10 properties across India, mainly in Southern India. So we decided to stay there for 2 nights and 3 days and personally I feel that even after spending 2 days in such a small region, I never felt like leaving Chettinad because anyone who ever comes here, gets settled in the homely atmosphere of Chettinad.

So as soon as we entered the district of Kandukathan, we immediately drove to our resort Visalam, where we were given a very warm welcome by the staff, who welcomed us in the traditional south Indian way along with refreshments and bangles for the ladies and angavastra- which is a part of the traditional south Indian costume for men worn like a dupatta.

Visalam by CGH earth
The CGH Earth property – Visalam at Kanadukathan in Chettinad

Sanjeev Sanyal in his recent best seller, The Ocean of Churn – How the Indian ocean shaped Human History, pays glowing tribute to the chettiar business community of Kanadukathan. He writes, “Tamil chettiar merchants and moneylenders spread across South East Asia. In Malaya the lent to Chinese Tin miners and European platers, and in Burma they supplied credit to farmers. They operated through a system of guild-like firms and agencies, usually run by members of the extended family. One of the largest of these firms, established by Muthiah Chetty in the early 1900s was headquartered in Kanadukathan in chettinad”. It was wonderful to visit a part of history and learn of how well regulated Non Banking Financial Organizations were. He also mentions the role temples played in re-capitalizing some of these businessmen who lent to businesses.

Visalam who lends her name to the property, the courtyard and the sitout
The Courtyard or Miththam within Visalam. Spacious and an airy seating area.

As soon as we checked in, we were given 2 cosy and extremely spacious rooms for the 4 of us and we spent the rest of the afternoon by ordering some simple lunch and taking rest. Next in the evening, when we all got freshened up and had some tea-coffee along with snacks, we got dressed for some photography and a visit to the Pillayar Patti Temple, which was about 15 minutes away from our resort. The temple is dedicated to Karpaka Vinayakar (Elephant headed god, Son of Lord Shiva). It is considered as a very holy temple where hundred’s of people come every day to get the blessings of the lord, who is said to be very powerful. In this huge cave temple, there are rock cut images of Lord Shiva and many other Gods and Shrines as well. As soon as we got a beautiful darshan of the Lord, we headed back to our hotel as it was quite dark and there was nothing much to see after sunset. We headed back to our hotel and went around the property, clicking photographs and discovering chettinad heritage- the glorious mansion, Athangudi tiles on the floor and Traditional vessels for cooking and serving.

Kitchen wares - cooking and serving, Radio and a water boiler
Clockwise from Top left – Porcelain pickle Jars, an antique and working Radio, Water boiler, Brass serving vessels, Brass cups and cutlery and brass storage vessels for water and other kitchen ingredients

We were also told about the history of visalam.

It was originally built by K.V.A.L.M Ramnathan Chettiar for his loving daughter Vishala. Except for occasional family weddings, the mansion was rarely used. CGH earth while renovating have spared Visalam from the stress of renovation and have just breathed a fresh lease of life in to it with restoration. Using original materials like Burmese Teak wood, the new managers have retained the original charm while making rooms, polishing the marble floor and putting up exquisite woodwork.

Next, we had a delicious and traditional south-Indian Dinner, which was served on a banana leaf. It was a complete meal with starters, a main course and of course, a desert too, which were all completely prepared in a south Indian way!

Masala Seeyam, Sweet Pongal, Vellai paniyaram
Starters Left – Vellai Paniyaram OR Deep fried Rice Pancakes with Danker, a Dip of Tomatoes, onions and Tamarind Right – Sweet Pongal made from Rice and Jaggery with Masala Seeyam, a deep friend lentil and rice dumpling with Coconut chutney
Main course - rice string hoppers, idlies, Dosa with a variety of sides
Clockwise from Top Left – Idiyappam with a Curry, Idlies with a Mix Vegetable Curry, Idlies with Sambhar and Dosa with a Brinjal Curry

Dessert and warm milk to end the day
For Dessert – Masala Milk and Kavani Rice, a purple sticky rice pudding, a product of south asian influence

After that, we headed back to our rooms for a sound sleep that we needed, to begin a fresh new day!

Getting there: Chennai is connected to all major cities across India and the world. From Chennai, chettinad is a 7 hour drive.

More in Part 2

Hotels & Homestays of Rajasthan – Jaipur

Hotels & Homestays of Rajasthan – Jaipur

Rajasthan is a popular destination India that gets extensive coverage in foreign countries. Palaces, Desert Camping, Festive colors, Safaris, Fairs, Religious circuits; the state packages everything that ‘The Land’ has to offer. Rajasthan has one of the best road and air connectivity in the country and tempts many in to taking road trips across the state. The blog below, authored by my daughter Rashmi, seeks to capture the beauty of Rajasthan through her eyes and words. The trip was organized towards the closing stages of the tourist season in the month of March. The weather is warmer than usual during the day but the evenings are pleasant with the hangover of winter. This road trip across Rajasthan was done over a period of 7 Nights and 8 Days.

In Part 1 of the road trip, we covered Udaipur. In Part 2 of the road trip, we covered Jodhpur and Ranakpur. Part 3 of the road trip was the experience from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. Part 4 of the road trip was our experience was a Haveli at Nagaur which is en route to Jaipur.

Day 7 – Jaipur

Good morning! An early start would always annoy me but at the end, I’ve got to accept it! We started off with freshening up, Packing up our bags and heading to the restaurant for breakfast. Our breakfast was pretty early as we thought that if we left early for our last destination, Jaipur, we would get to relax more in the hotel and roam around in the markets more peacefully and be more energetic. We just had a bowl of cornflakes and fruits for each of us. We thought that we could fill ourselves by having some paratha but unfortunately, it took a little longer than expected to serve it to us. We instead asked them to pack them in a small box and give it to us, so that we could eat it during our journey. We then left the resort after breakfast, by checking out and straightaway headed to our car, departing for Jaipur.

We didn’t really stop anywhere, but we saw Pushkar on the way. I did read and find out that Pushkar is a holy city and is famous for its Camel Fair held every November. Also, the city of Ajmer is located just about 14 kms (9 miles) from Pushkar. Ajmer town houses the Dargah (resting place) of Saint Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti. This Dargah is visited by people of all religions. We didn’t stop in Pushkar because the weather outside was burning hot and we did not want to get more tanned!

We then finally entered Jaipur, an extremely lively city with the metro and various famous monuments and buildings. Our hotel was ITC Rajputana, which is a 5 star luxury hotel.

ITC Rajputana building, Silver door, Reception area and Lobby
The ITC Rajputana, Jaipur
The Lobby, Chandeleirs and a Golden Camel
The Lobby and Lighting at ITC Rajputana

We checked into our hotel and surprisingly got an upgrade to a luxury category. We were escorted to our room which was extremely beautiful and elegant looking. It was almost afternoon by the time we settled down, we ordered some rice to our room because that is the only food that fills us! We also had the parathas(paneer and gobi), which were also delicious. We rested on the bed for a while..My mother wanted to visit the markets in the afternoon to buy some dress materials and gifts for relatives. I was really tired after all the journey and kindly refused to go with my mom, which she happily accepted. While my mom was between the clothes of the market, me and my grandfather had a tiny nap. By the time my mom returned, it was evening and we were scheduled to have dinner with one of my mom’s well known tour operator in Rajasthan. Unfortunately, he couldn’t turn up for some issue but his representative came to our hotel and gave us a bag of sweets and chocolates, on behalf of the head tour operator). That was nice… We roamed around the hotel for a while, saw the paintings put up as an art exhibition by someone on that day and spent some time in the lobby. We finally headed for dinner where we already had our buffet dinner package included. Dinner was super delicious and excellent. We had a slow an amazing dinner time at the restaurant, chit-chatting, listening to the music being played and seeing the people coming and going. Dinner filled us and we ended our long day, finally by getting into comfortable clothes and watching some T.V till late night…Hmm, That was indeed an awesome day!

Day 8 – Jaipur at leisure and Departure

This day was the last day of this beautiful work cum personal trip..The departure day! I was a little sad because I never wanted to leave any of the resorts and the trip was so enjoyable, meeting new people and visiting new places. We got ready and headed for breakfast..   The breakfast hall was full but we had been reserved a table which was very nice of the staff. Breakfast provided a wide variety of different cuisines and juices(including vegetable juices) which was very impressive. We had a filling breakfast and then left the hotel for some sightseeing. We just took a short ride in the city and we also saw the Hawa Mahal, Amer fort which is spectacular and visited the markets to buy some clothes for me with the typical jaipuri elephant print.

Amer Fort and Maota Lake
The Amer Fort, Jaipur

That was just a short ride and then we headed back to our hotel to pack our luggage and get ready to check out in a while. By the time we cam down to the reception with all our bags, it was nearly later than noon. Luckily, we got an extension for our checkout time as our flight was later in the afternoon and nearly evening. Till then, we did some time pass in the lobby and had some beverages in the restaurant. Time just flew and finally the moment came, when I had to finally say bye to the last and one of the favorite hotel of this trip. We left by saying goodbye to all the smiling faces and a goodbye to the city of Jaipur. The airport was about 15km from the city which was not much distance. We came to the airport perfectly on time and bid adieu to our driver, who was extremely good and warm, with a small gift. As usual, we completed all the airport procedures which I don’t think need to be explained! Rajasthan, a place nobody can forget was finally ready to welcome me next time…

Thank you so much to the Government of Rajasthan, which has made the state beautiful and the biggest amount of thanks to the people of rajasthan, who add the essence of love and warmth in the state..Good bye Rajsthan! Hope to see you soon !!

Getting there – Jaipur is well connected by air from all parts of the country. Jet AirwaysAir IndiaIndigo and Spicejet are airlines offering connectivity to Jaipur. Jaipur has excellent rail connectivity and  Indian Railways offers convenient trains from all major metros. Jaipur is just 5 hours driving distance from New Delhi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hotels & Homestays of Rajasthan – Nagaur

Hotels & Homestays of Rajasthan – Nagaur

Rajasthan is a popular destination India that gets extensive coverage in foreign countries. Palaces, Desert Camping, Festive colors, Safaris, Fairs, Religious circuits; the state packages everything that ‘The Land’ has to offer. Rajasthan has one of the best road and air connectivity in the country and tempts many in to taking road trips across the state. The blog below, authored by my daughter Rashmi, seeks to capture the beauty of Rajasthan through her eyes and words. The trip was organized towards the closing stages of the tourist season in the month of March. The weather is warmer than usual during the day but the evenings are pleasant with the hangover of winter. This road trip across Rajasthan was done over a period of 7 Nights and 8 Days.

In Part 1 of the road trip, we covered Udaipur. In Part 2 of the road trip, we covered Jodhpur and Ranakpur. Part 3 of the road trip was the experience from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. Our next destination was Nagaur en route to Jaipur. The distance between Jaisalmer and Nagaur is about 325 Kms to be covered in a duration of 5 hours. A Haveli homestay was our primary attraction and we made it a point to experience the stay.

Nagaur – A city that finds mentions in the Mahabharata

It was another day with the start of a drive from Jaisalmer to Nagaur, which is a stop between Jaisalmer and Jaipur. Since the drive from Jaisalmer to Jaipur is almost about 10 hours which is very long, we broke down the journey at Nagaur which is halfway between Jaisalmer and Jaipur.

We started off our day with a hearty breakfast at Suryagarh, in the restaurant, which serves authentic Rajasthani delicacies. There are a few items that are mostly present at every hotel for breakfast like eggs, paranthas and a lot more things…This place also had the traditional sweets of rajasthan and the authentic Dal Pakwaan which is is also known as lentil crackers..We had a yummy breakfast and headed to the reception to check-out.

Parathas, Dal pakwan, Sweets and a masala tea making session
The Well set buffet breakfast options

We had a last few glimpses of the spectacular resort and finally left the property with a vote of thanks to all the staff who work hard day and night to keep their guests happy.

Next, we had a drive from Jaisalmer to Nagaur which was about 5-5.5 hours. We didn’t have any stops in between our journey..We straight away went to our resort which is a part of a fort that has been restored into a resort. Our resort was Ranvas at nagaur, which is a decent 4 star property.

Ranvas Welcome card, Swimming pool, Courtyard and the reception area
The Haveli at Ranvas at Nagaur

The environment is filled with plants, bushes, birds and trees. During our stay, the resort seemed to be quite empty but it had a vip guest staying, Mr Amit Shah, The president of the nation’s ruling party BJP. He had come for some program to Rajasthan, hence, a few of his people were also staying at the resort. It was almost afternoon by the time we reached our resort. We rested in our room for the resort of our afternoon, which was large and very spacious. Our room was built in a typical earthern style with all modern amenities. The place is filled with a long history and rooms form havelli’s here. There were like 2 rooms sharing a common garden with a big swing , to form a haveli. Our haveli was known as “Shekhawat Ji ki Havelli”. The rest of the afternoon was spent in relaxation, surfing and freshen up services given by us to ourselves! We then went out and roamed around the resort, at aroun 6 pm and took some wonderful pics. Check them down below!

Entrance to the Haveli, Peacocks in the garden, Open courtyard
The Aesthetically marvelous Haveli
Living area, Bedroom and relaxing chairs
The luxurious interiors of the Haveli

We also got a chance to see some beautiful peacocks in the garden, with their royal colurs and sweet voice. It was also a coincidence to meet the manager of the resort who was on rounds. He was the one who told us about Mr. Amit Shah staying in their resort. We had a little talk with him and just saw the whole property which also included the fort, a part of which was under renovation, and also the resort store, which was unfortunately closed for the day.

Then, we just sat down around the restaurant and chit-chatted and did some surfing on the net and then had dinner in the restaurant, which was facing the front of the property. The restaurant was empty except for some people who came a little later, by the time we had finished(9pm). For dinner, we ordered some lime juice to drink, tandoori roti, ker sangria(desert beans), Peas pulao and some dal makhni. Our dinner was light and filling. It is always a habit to give a bowl with water and a slice of lemon in it at the end of every meal, at an indian restaurant. But in terms of this, the restaurant was pretty unique. They did not serve the above but got a bowl of water for each of us and added a capsule like thing into it in front of us, which immediately turned into a small sized towel that could be used to clean our hands. This really surprised us and we appreciated the hotel’s thinking for such a unique idea..

Structures within the Haveli area
Twilight at the Ranvas Haveli, Nagaur

Then, we headed back to our room and got lazy..Me and my grandfather watched our missed episodes of our favourite tv programs on the ipad, and then talked a litte & dozed off for the rest of the night! Gotta early start tomorrow!

Getting there – Nagpur can be accessed easily from Jaipur which has a well serviced airport.  Jet AirwaysAir India, Indigo and Spicejet are airlines offering connectivity to Jaipur.   Nagaur also has a railhead and Indian Railways offers convenient trains from Jaipur.

Hotels & Homestays of Rajasthan – Jaisalmer

Hotels & Homestays of Rajasthan – Jaisalmer

Rajasthan is a popular destination India that gets extensive coverage in foreign countries. Palaces, Desert Camping, Festive colors, Safaris, Fairs, Religious circuits; the state packages everything that ‘The Land’ has to offer. Rajasthan has one of the best road and air connectivity in the country and tempts many in to taking road trips across the state. The blog below, authored by my daughter Rashmi, seeks to capture the beauty of Rajasthan through her eyes and words. The trip was organized towards the closing stages of the tourist season in the month of March. The weather is warmer than usual during the day but the evenings are pleasant with the hangover of winter. This road trip across Rajasthan was done over a period of 7 Nights and 8 Days.

In Part 1 of the road trip, we covered Udaipur. In Part 2 of the road trip, we covered Jodhpur and Ranakpur. Udaipur to Jodhpur is a 260 Km (161 miles) drive via NH8 and NH65 taking approximately 4 hrs and 30 mins. Jodhpur is the “Sun City”, second largest city in Rajasthan and served as the seat of the erstwhile Marwar Kingdom.

Jaisalmer – The Golden City

It was another day with an arrival into a new destination, Jaisalmer. We had an early and yummy breakfast at Ratan vilas and set drove down from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer. It was approximately a 5 hr drive (280 kms/177 Mi). Jaisalmer is mostly surrounded by the Thar desert and we had our resort in a desert. It was long but comfortable.

We visited a desert camp in between our journey. It is known as Manvar desert camp. It is a wonderful place with a natural environment,providing rooms and tents set in the desert, to their guests. The tents here are mostly booked and that’s what my mom prefers the most. The tents are 9 to 10km away from the main rooms and they are reached through jeeps. The jeep ride is fun and you see all the villagers and trees and shrubs. The tents are of excellent quality and are of 2 categories: deluxe and super deluxe . Anyone who wishes to experience a desert like stay, can come here and enjoy the essence of the desert.

A typical Delux camp tent, sit out, rows of tents and the camp transportation
The Layout of the Camp
Deluxe and super delux tent rooms, courtyard, dining area and the perimeter
Luxurious and arty interiors of the camp

Finally, ended in a warm welcome with sweets and drinks, at Suryagarh, Jaisalmer . It is a 5 star luxury resort which is in the Thar desert and you will get all the services you need, inspite of being in a desert. This is an awesome place and nobody would ever feel like getting out from here. The architecture of this place is very beautiful and We luckily got a room upgrade, a room with a larger amount of amenities and a better view. The staff are also amazing. The rooms are extravagant, making this place a number 1!

The Suryagarh Palace Doorman, entrance to the resort, resort walls lit during twilight
The Most friendly Welcome at Twilight
Twilight courtyard, entrance to the inner sections, swimming pool and welcome art
The courtyard of Suryagarh at Twilight
The Suryagarh palace and the courtyard
Suryagarh Palace blends in to the desert

We rested in the afternoon after a long journey and later visited another desert camp, which was just about 20 minutes away from our resort. Its name is Damodra desert camp, which is a small desert camp with 10 tents. This place is very scenic and is a small camp, with a complete view of the Thar desert. This place is a basic 4 star camp, providing spacious tents and good food. Cultural programs take place here every evening with a wide place to sit in the middle of all the tents. The owner of this place also lives here only and is a very kind hearted person. You will also find the camp’s cute dog, who is also very well behaved and moves around all the guests! We saw this property, talked with the owner for a while and headed back to our resort, where we thought of relaxing. We relaxed in the dimly lit open space near the restaurants where there were people relaxing and chit-chatting, clicking photographs which we did too.. Took a few photographs, roamed around the resort and then headed to the restaurant where we were to have our dinner.

The camp layout, tents, social congregation area
The Damodra Desert Camp readied for a mesmerizing twilight experience
The lone tree silhouetted against the setting sun
The Setting sun sets the stage
Art deco furniture, traditional rss and marble tortoise
Warmth of the Damodra Camp

We did everything slowly and ordered some delicious food, out of which, some of them were Rajasthani delicacies. I wasn’t in the mood of eating rajasthani food again for dinner and instead had some Mediterranean sandwich, which to my surprise, tasted really very good with all veggies, French fries and a yummy dip. Have a look at my food!

My mom and grandfather went desi..They had the bajro no rotlo, Ker Sangri curry- desert beans that grow only in Rajasthan, crispy Amchuri Bhindi- dry curry of dried ladyfinger with some Dal Makhni. That was indeed a yummy dinner with no desert because we were extremely full…

Sandwich, Roti and Ker Sangri
The mediterranean Sandwich and Bajra rotis
Parathas, Dal pakwan, Sweets and a masala tea making session
The Well set buffet breakfast options

That was indeed the end of another glorious day….

Getting there – Jaisalmer has a military airport and is sparingly used by Chartered flights. The best way is to drive in from Jodhpur. Jodhpur is now connected via Air. Currently flights to Jodhpur originate only from Mumbai. Jet Airways and Air India are the only airlines offering connectivity, often with a hop at Udaipur or Jaipur.  Jodhpur also has a railhead and Indian Railways offers convenient overnight trains from Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.