Journeysmatter

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Mesmerizing #Cambodia – Valley of Thousand Lingas – Kbal Spean

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Hundreds of lingas sculpted on rocks lying on the river bed of Kbal Spean

On a trip to any country in South East Asia, it is a rarity to not come across a Hindu Temple – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia, all of them have benefited from contacts which they have had with India over the centuries.

Map of SOuth east Asia 900 CE showing various kingdoms

THe region of Kambuja had deep connects with India between the 6th/7th century right up to the 12th/13th century. Not only Kambuja, Monstates(present day Myanmar), Champa (central and south vietnam), Annam (North Vietnam), Java and Malaya regions too benefited from Indian influence – all without use of force or economic coercion

Historian RC Majumdar writes in his lecture series, Ancient Indian Colonization in South-east Asia, “The term Hindu is used here in a very broad sense. As is well-known, the word Hindu is derived from Sindhu, the name of the mighty river on the western border of India. The parsis used this name to denote also the territory lying on the bank of the river, that is to say that part of our country which was known to them. Gradually the name Sindhu in its phonetically changed form Hindu came to denote the whole of this country. Advent of the Muslims necessitated the use of two different terms to denote the two distinct classes of people. Henceforth the term Hindu came to denote the people of India other than the Muslims.”

This Diwali vacation, i had the opportunity to visit Cambodia, a vibrant tourist hotspot famed for the UNESCO world heritage Angkor Wat temples, beach city of Sihanoukville, historic capital city of Pnohm Penh and of course the mighty Mekong river which emerges from Tibet and nourishes countries on its way before emptying in to the South China Sea.

With Siem Reap being the only stop in #Cambodia, my effort was to go beyond Angkor Wat and explore the visible remnants of the region and how Indian culture had an influence. One such place of Interest is Kbal Spean, an Angkor era archeological site which is also called as the Valley of 1000 lingas.

Before embarking on a trip to Kbal Spean, one has to purchase the Angkor Pass – One day for USD 37, Three day for USD 62 and Seven day for USD 72. These are available at the complex on the main road to Angkor Wat. Kbal Spean is an hour’s ride from Siem Reap and the access begins at the Kulein mountains. Enroute is another major temple complex of Banteay Srei with Banteay Samre being a detour. The three put together form a day excursion. It is important to note the timings in order to avoid disappointment.

The walk to the valley of the 1000 lingas begins at a checkpoint. It is 1.5 kms but takes a good 40 minutes as one navigates slippery rocks and rough terrain. Stairs are available at steep climbing points but one definitely needs to watch their step at every point to avoid a fall. Pause and take a look at breathtaking views of the forests below, the rainforest canopy, natural rocky outcrops, tough creepers and climbers and of course a few reptiles. There are countdown boards egging you on during the short but tricky trek.

Way to Kbal Spean where nature mesmerizes you

The Walk to Kbal Spean from the base camp is about 1.5 kms and takes a good 40 minutes across boulders, rocky paths, natural rocky outcrops, valley views and beautiful creepers and vines

For the majority of visitors Kbal Spean is a picnic spot with a waterfall to cool off; The first sight of the lingas carved in to the river bed just made me bring my palms in union. It was not just about the reliefs of Siva, Vishnu, Brahma, Lakshmi that were carved in to the river bed but how the thoroughness with which Indian culture and civilization , in all its aspects would have been imbibed in Kambuja (ancient name of the great kingdom of present day Cambodia)

Two bas relief's showcasing the trinity brahma, vishnu and siva

Top above, Siva and Parvati on Nandi; Vishnu reclined on sesha with Brahma emerging from his navel. Below – Lord vishnu, Brahma and lakshmi on a lotus at Vishnu’s feet

Scholars, priests, merchants and persons of various hues who travelled from India to Kambuja desa left a distinct imprint whether it was about a religious, ethical & spiritual life, spirit of piety & renunciation and most importantly the concept of emancipation from birth & deaths. A peek in to texts of scholars, archeologists and historians who have taken immense pains to read through inscriptions (In sanskrit and Khmer) will tell us that all the cultural maturity was achieved between the 6th century and 12th century. The indian influence was without any force or economic colonization. The 700 golden years of Kambuja desa ended as India was trampled upon by the Mughal empire and Cambodia remained a French protectorate till atleast the 19th century.

Images of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva

Brahma, Vishnu and Siva at various points in rocks strewn across the river bed in Kbal Spean

The site at Kbal Spean was discovered by Jean Boulbet, french ethnologist in the year 1969. Cut off during the Cambodian civil war, it was not until 1989 that the site was thrown open for visitors.

4 images of lingams and snanadronis at various places on the river bed

Not only the presence of lingas on the river bed, there are a number of Snanadronis without their lingams. Snanadronis are sculpted structures which drain the water flowing over the lingam

During the period from 6th and 12th century, Kambuja Desa began as a Saivite (rever Shiva as the supreme being) kingdom. The Angkor Wat temple was dedicated to Vishnu (Vaishnavite – Vishnu as the supreme being) around mid 12th century before Kambuja desa embraced Theravada buddhism as its main religion. The Kbal Spean site is said to have been carved during the 11th and 12th century which saw the reigns of some of the greatest kings of Kambuja – Suryavarman I and his successor UdayadityaVarman II. The kings had laid out very clear rules in society – conduct of oneself, treatment of seers & the learned and priests & physicians being held in high esteem.

Lord Siva is venerated across many temples in the world. THe most commonly worshipped form is the linga and the linga is kept cool with a continuous dripping of water at its head. The Kbal spean site with its “SahasraLingas” (1000 lingas in Sanskrit) has a continuous stream of water flowing on top of it. The water having flown over the sacred lingas enters the city of Angkor thereby said to be blessing the city.

Lingas on the river bed and representation of Shakti

The full stretch of the river bed over which the river flows bathing the lingams perpetually and keeping them happy and cool. There is also a grid pattern with the water flowing out representing the Yoni, a representation of Shakti, Siva’s consort

The carving sites have been fenced off to ensure that visitors dont desecrate the holy site. Still, one can reach out and grab a hanful of the cool water that has flown over the lingas and drink up without fear of any contamination. On a hot afternoon it is an absolute delight.

Walking downstream one can watch revellers below a cataract which further flows over many more lingas before meandering its way through the forests and entering the city of Angkor.

4 images of a rainforest stream, waterfall, a chamelon and tree mushrooms

The downstream area of Kbal spean is full of vibrance. Cataracts, reptiles, mushrooms and beautiful Rain forests dot the landscape

Having visited Kailash Mansarovar in the year 2015, the import of the visit to Kbal Spean and the opportunity to be in his presence was not lost on me. The place is pure energy and brought out a determination in my wife who despite a tricky trek was able to make it and savor the moment.

After this visit, i came back and immersed myself in two books by a highly respected historian of India – Shri R.C Majumder. Kambuja Desa – An Ancient Hindu Colony in Cambodia (Sir William Meyer Lectures 1942 – 43) and Ancient Indian Colonization in South East Asia (The Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad Honorarium Lecture, 1953-54). These opened the door to understand the extent of influence of India in the region. Needless to say, i am restless to go back to Cambodia and explore other wonderful places of the Kambuja Empire.

Getting to Siem Reap – Siem Reap is served by major Flag Carriers who also service india. Regular services from major Indian cities to #Bangkok (Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways), #Kualalumpur (Malaysian) and #Singapore (Singapore/SilkAir) will get you to Siem Reap with just one halt. The Visa facility too has been eased with the introduction of e-visas. Hotels are in plenty and one can find hotels to suit one’s budget with the assistance of an excellent ground travel agent. Travel agents offer excellent service right from suggestions on hotels to suit budgets, tying up with a registered guide, park tickets based on the interests and other add ons like a visit to the magnificient Tonle Sap lake.

Discovering Food Trails of #Amritsar

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Part 1 of my blog on a rejuvenated Amritsar focused on the newest attraction in town, The Partition Museum, dedicated to the pain and suffering endured by millions during one of the largest and most brutal mass migration in history. The museum has since officially opened for viewing and more sections are being opened in a phased manner.

Part 2 focused on the serene Darbar Sahib (The Golden Temple), Akhal Takht, Sarovar and its surroundings. I spent a whole afternoon exploring the nooks and corners of the Darbar sahib complex, learning about the contributions made by the Sikh Gurus, ordinary folk, Armed forces, Agricultural community and the role of Punjab in shaping the history of this great country.

In the 3rd part, i share my experiences and feelings about the newly minted precincts of The Heritage street, another tragic memorial from the freedom struggle – The Jallianwala Bagh and finally the humble Guru ka Langar.

A trip to Amrtisar is not complete without savouring what is on offer. There is plenty to gorge on in and around Heritage Street but the nooks and alleys offer plenty more. The internet is full of info on eating joints in Amritsar; Kesar da dhaba, Chungi’s kulche , Amritsar fish and tandoori chicken joints and many more are well researched and covered by ardent foodies.

One such Foodie and an ardent fellow travel blogger is Mr Harish Bali of visa2explore. His VLogs on Food Trails across Delhi, Agra and now Amritsar will make you want to follow him on his trails. Apart from detailed videos on the joints, he has provided details of all the joints as notes to his VLog. Here is a link to Mr Bali’s delicious journey in Amritsar.

Kanha sweets, another well documented and frequented eatery is one such place that is worth visiting for breakfast. Seems to be located more for the convenience of college going folks on Dayanand nagar; The DAV college is a stone’s throw away. Great pooris, chhole, Alu launji are enough to settle in to your stomach and provide you with the required energy OR sleep. The pickle seems to be a speciality and one can watch fellow visitors chomp away. A plate of two ghee fried pooris costs 80 bucks. Many of them follow up on the pooris with a plate of Sweet Halwa. Two pooris did me in and i felt my trip almost coming to an end. After this, other joints in Amritsar felt like a distant dream.

Unlimited Chhole, Alu Launji, Onions and a sweet n Sour pickle

The Poori Breakfast at Kanha Sweets – Unlimited Chhole, Alu Launji, Onions and a sweet n Sour pickle

They also have a sweet stall right up front selling dry sweets, Bengali sweets and fresh rice firni.

Dry Sweets, Bengali sweets, Rice Firni and a Glass of Lassi with loads of cream to top up

Kanha Sweets – At the store front, Dry Sweets, Bengali sweets, Rice Firni and a Glass of Lassi with loads of cream to top up

Staying on DAV college road, once the street lights come on, a roadside joint comes to life. Made from mango pulp, sugar and sundried, this is a joint that virtually stretches the mango to an all year delicacy. The most interesting part is the variety that is on offer – a sweet variety, a sour variety and when served with a variety of spice powders (chilli, coriander, fennel, black salt) and a dash of lime, it elevates the taste and introduces you to a completely new set of possibilities. Watch people buy by the kilo for their homes and gatherings. A must visit; Dont mind the mosquitoes though.

The Roadside Aam Papar Shop outside DAV college, a take away sour Aam papar with spice powders and a Dash of Lime

The Roadside Aam Papar Shop outside DAV college, a take away sour Aam papar with spice powders and a Dash of Lime

A meal was something that i could not have handled. On such occassions, one can settle for a chaat – many light snacks without feeling light on oneself and the pocket. Brijwasi chats near Crystal chowk on Cooper road is a popular joint. A great place to hangout with friends and share multiple plates of Chaat. Begun in 1958, the second generation seems to be doing a fine job of handling the quality of offering.

Aloo tikkis, bun tikkis and Dahi Bhallas are popular chaats in the North of India

Aloo tikkis, bun tikkis and Dahi Bhallas are popular chaats in the North of India

Spaced out, one can taste them all and enjoy the fares on offer.

Coming up – A failed visit to the Attari – Wagah border and an opportunity for Farm Stays.

 

A Rejuvenated #Amritsar – Part 3 Heritage street, Guru ka Langar and Jallianwala Bagh

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Guru ka Langar Community washing of utensils

Part 1 of my blog on a rejuvenated Amritsar focused on the newest attraction in town, The Partition Museum, dedicated to the pain and suffering endured by millions during one of the largest and most brutal mass migration in history. The museum has since officially opened for viewing and more sections are being opened in a phased manner.

Part 2 focused on the serene Darbar Sahib (The Golden Temple), Akhal Takht, Sarovar and its surroundings. I spent a whole afternoon exploring the nooks and corners of the Darbar sahib complex, learning about the contributions made by the Sikh Gurus, ordinary folk, Armed forces, Agricultural community and the role of Punjab in shaping the history of this great country.

In the 3rd part, i share my observations and feelings about the newly minted precincts of The Heritage street, another tragic memorial from the freedom struggle – The Jallianwala Bagh and finally the humble Guru ka Langar.

A walk through the Heritage street starts right from the town hall, crossing the installations of parliament, Dr BR Ambedkar, The statue of Ranjit singh ji, crossing the Jallianwala Bagh right up to the gates of the Harmandir sahib.

Town Hall Red sandstone building, replica of parliament building of India, bust of Dr Ambedkar and Maharaja Ranjit Singh ji statue

A walk on the Heritage street begins from the Town Hall, crossing the replica installation of the Parliament of India, bust of Dr. B.R Ambedkar and the grand intersection with the mounted statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh ji

The Heritage street is teeming with visitors at all hours. The place gets a magical feel once the lights come on in the evening.

Heritage street, Amritsar

Portion of Heritage street from Darbar Sahib right up to Jallianwala Bagh. Teeming with life.

Multinational eateries, Indian coffee shops, local dress material sellers, sellers of trinkets and souvenirs, shops selling spices and local delicacies, juices, lassi all vie for your attention.

Heritage street at twilight

The Heritage street now has ample room for people to move around, benches to rest and most importantly numerous selfie points

You will notice that there are no overhead electric cables; They have all been channeled underground. All the shops sport uniform facades and the signboards too have been kept identical. The place looks sanitized and seems to have moved away significantly from its original self. However, given the considerable amount of footfalls in the area, this is a welcome change.

A large square or Piazza

Numerous places to rest and take selfies

The local body, during its revamp of this precinct has now brought out a streamlined package of art, culture, political homage, history and devotion. Maintenance via the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Movement) can bring in increased footfalls and the resulting opportunity.

Bhangra and Gidda performers

Bronze replicas of Bhagra and Gidda by women performers on Heritage street is a beautiful introduction to the Art and Culture of Punjab

Jallianwala bagh was cruelest of the many ghastly acts perpetrated during the British regime. Punjab was under extreme martial law during this period of 1919 led by the extremely oppressive and repressive Lt Gen Michael O’Dwyer. An estimated 6000 to 10,000 protestors were pummeled with over 1500 rounds of fire. Estimated that over 1000 died and many more grievously wounded. The inhuman nature of the regime was such that even the wounded were not tended to and were left to bleed and die. The monument is a painful reminder of sacrifices made by the thousands for the sake of the country.

Images from Jallianwala bagh of the eternal flame, memorial monument and a bullet ridden brick wall

The Jallianwala Bagh memorial. One reaches the garden after walking through the narrow lane which is the only access. The bullet ridden holes and the eternal flame

The Langar is a revolutionary concept and a long standing tradition in place since the time of Guru Nanak Ji since 1521. It was started as an effort to feed hungry travelers and bridge communities divided by caste by ensuring that everyone eats together in front of the almighty. Wholesome vegetarian food is served throughout the year 24 hours a day. Before the food is served, a prayer (Ardas) is recited over the completed preparations and it is blessed with the passing through of a sacred knife (Kirpan).

I had the opportunity to partake of two rotis, dhal, kheer and a cup of tea. Absolutely no dogma that one has to visit the Darbar sahib before visiting the langar. The mind does not rest till the stomach is taken care of.

Community dining hall, meal of roti, dhal and kheer followed by a glass of tea

The Guru Ka Langar Dining Hall. A modest meal of 2 rotis, Maa ki Dhal / lentils and delicious Kheer. A cup of tea

One activity that was hugely satisfying to take part in is the washing of the plates and cups used by fellow devotees and visitors. This is a voluntary activity that almost every visitor performs within the langar complex. They come in silently, pick up a scrub and go about the task of soaping the utensils. Once completed, other volunteers come to pick them up and carry them over for a wash in fresh water. Other volunteers are busy wiping the clean plates dry, women peeling garlic and many more rendering yeoman service within the kitchen and the dining hall.

Volunteers washing used plates, peeling garlic and cutting vegetables. Plates neatly stacked for distribution

Volunteers washing used plates, peeling garlic and cutting vegetables. Plates neatly stacked for distribution

A final walk around the Darbar Sahib complex presents you with various monuments and memorial slabs erected to remember difficult moments in Sikh History, Operation Blue Star being one which my generation has read about. The sentiments are there to read and silently absorb the enormity of the event and the impact that it has had on the history of this country. One thing i walk out with is that for the Sikh, country is the foremost and they rever deeply the land in which they live.

Coming up in part 4 a survey of the food scene in Amritsar and a visit to the Atari (Indian side) – Wagah (Pakistan side) border.

 

 

Hotels & Homestays of Rajasthan – Jaipur

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The Golden Camel

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

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Map of Rajasthan

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

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Sunset from Damodra

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.

Hotels and Home stays of Rajasthan – Jodhpur & Ranakpur

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Entrance to the Mehrangarh Fort

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. 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.

Day 3 – The Drive to Jodhpur

We started off early by saying bye to the Ramada resort, and drove down from Udaipur to Jodhpur. It was a 5-hour drive which was long yet comfortable because of the smooth and single roads along with the good highways. It was easy also because of the 3 stops we had in-between.

Our first stop in-between the journey to Jodhpur was DevShree in Deogarh. It is a boutique homestay. Owned by Mr Shatrunjay Singh and Mrs Bhavna Kumari, this is a small yet elegant property with currently 7 rooms. Inspite of a small amount of rooms, this homestay provides top-class facilities with excellent and spacious rooms. It is an amazing place for a mini getaway. The environment here consists of a lake, trees, birds including peacocks. You can eat food that feels like its home-cooked and experience a heritage stay. In today’s generation, such home stays are coming up rapidly and they are a must-visit. We had lunch here and spent time chit-chatting with the owners who have a charming personality as they were related to some of our old friends.

Devisree Deogarh, Mosaic corridor, The Haveli

Devisee Deogarh. A Heritage Home Stay with views of the Mehrangarh Fort

The Lounge, Dining area and luxurious seating

The interiors of Devisree Deogarh

The royalty, a Stuffed Owl, Water boiler and hot snacks

Interesting artifacts and snacks, of course

We next had a short stop for a property visit in Rohetgarh. This is also a nice place which is a heritage garden resort, situated in the outskirts of Jodhpur. It has got a very rural and rustic flavor and serves as a good base for travellers in the outskirts of the Jodhpur city, wanting to travel in the city.

Handwork and Garden seating at Rohetgarh

The Home Stay – RohetGarh in Ranakpur

We finally ended our drive by arriving into the city of Jodhpur and staying for 2 nights at a heritage homestay know as Ratanvilas. This place may be small and simple but the staff are extremely warm and helpful. The food here is simple and delicious. The property also includes a swimming pool that is set in a garden surrounded by a number of plants and flowers. It is a very peaceful place providing all facilities except for the wifi in rooms but in the common area. It is a very good choice for a short stay of maybe 2 nights in Jodhpur..

Ratanvilas

A Well laid out Meal to end the day

Day 4 – Exploring the Sun City

This was the second day of our stay in Jodhpur. Again, a fresh new day with good breakfast and a day full of hotel visits and city sightseeing.

After breakfast, me and my mother first went to the Mehrangarh Fort which is one of the largest forts of India. It was built around 1460 by Rao Jodha and is made up of thick and strong walls. It is also very high. This place is a very good place to know about the ancient Rajput period.

Mehrangarh_1

Entrance to Mehrangarh – Welcome by Lord Ganesh

 

This place displays a variety of artifacts, paintings and royal objects obtained from the Rajput period. There are several galleries in this fort, that give us information on different things in the empire. One of them was the “Palanquins”- royal means of travel, usually used for the queens and princesses of the royal family, to travel from one place to another. They are also known as “palkis”. Another gallery displayed the armour used in the Rajput period by the soldiers and the kings. They look amazing, as they protect the person (who is wearing it) from being injured by any kind of explosive or harmful objects used by the enemy.

Jodhpur from above Mehrangarh fort

The external Facade of the fort and view of Jodhpur

Another gallery displayed the different paintings made by the nobles and other people during that period. They are fascinating and may be better than the paintings of today’s generation, as they are intricate and display moments that took place in the royal court. Each painting here displays a story or function taking place. This gallery also displays pictures(or I would say real diagrams) showing, how the brushes and paints were made during this period. There were many such more galleries in this fort displaying the other artifacts of this period. This is a wonderful place to visit and it is clean and well maintained. You can also view the “blue-city” from here and buy souvenirs in the Mehrangarh Fort Shop, having mugs, t-shirts and other interesting things related to the royal family of Jodhpur.

Murals of the Goddess

The Devi Murals at Mehrangarh

We then visited a luxury resort-Raas Haveli, a 5-star resort facing the Mehrangarh fort. This place has a romantic setting and is extremely peaceful, unlike the other rajasthani hotels who have cultural performances every evening and are very lively. This place is having a natural environment and is very calm. The staff are very kind and willing to serve and this place is most visited by foreigners. You will not find any board throughout the property, including the entrance, because the owners want their guests to feel as if they are staying at their home and not any hotel or resort.

Luxurious RaasHaveli, Swimming Pool, A Rickshaw and views of the fort

RaasHaveli of Jodhpur

After that, we bought some kachori and lassi in a famous snack shop on the way, and went back to the hotel, as it was getting very hot and I got a slight headache. After a short break in the afternoon, we went out to explore the local markets of jodhpur. These markets are extremely lively, as they are selling all kinds of things, which are bought by the locals at all times of the day. The markets are very long and never ending! You will find the saris, kurtas, western dresses and the traditional suites having the “ghotapatti” (glass like work on cloth materials) work on them, in a separate side. The crockery and cooking utensils are sold on another side of the market. These markets are crowded and big, but they are worth visiting!

Getting there – Jodhpur too 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.