Showing posts with label Destination India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Destination India. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Jodhpur~India Travels


Jodhpur is a state in Rajasthan, it was founded by Rao Jodha  in 1459. It is commonly known as the blue city as it has many blue buildings. There is no real evidence to support why the buildings in Jodhpur are blue, but rumour says that the Brahmins who lived in the outskirts of Jodhpur painted their houses blue to differentiate them from the rest of the population.



There are many places to visit in Jodhpur and on our recent visit we stayed over for two nights during which we had the opportunity to visit Mehrangarh Fort, which is situated on the hill tops outside Jodhpur city and overlooks the city of Jodhpur. 



The fort was constructed in 1459 by Rao Jodha.  It is surrounded by a thick, 10 km long wall with seven gates. The fort has beautiful architecture and intricate sculpting and carvings. 


The pink stone architecture is constantly being renovated and repaired to keep it in good condition. Every effort is made to keep the authenticity of the building and the detailing  and repairs are all done by master craftsman.






The detailing work on the structure is stunning created all by hand, it indeed was a labour of love and the craftsman must have had astounding skills to create such a magnificent piece of work.



The rooms and courtyards have narrow staircases leading to the royal residence with beautiful porches and carved doorways. The rooms have adorned walls and mosaic floors with intricate patterns and eye catching stained glass windows.




The rooms most famous in Mehrangarh Fort are Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana, and Daulat Khana. 



The rooms make up part of the museum where the age old treasures are exhibited together with paintings, exquisite collection of palanquins, howdahs, royal cradles, miniatures, musical instruments, costumes, furniture as well as cannons on the fort's ramparts.



Not far from Mehrangarh Fort is Jaswant Thada, a white marble memorial built in remembrance of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. Jaswant Thada is popularly known as the ‘Taj Mahal of Marwar’.  Marwar being another name for Jodhpur. The Jaswant Thada is completely built with marble stones. It has a unique feature that the marble stones sets off a warm glow when the rays from the sun catch it.



The Memorial is built like a temple with domes and pillars and there is a natural calming aura and ambience with in the rooms. Inside the walls are adorned with portraits of past rulers and Maharajas of Rajasthan.




There are also beautiful gardens surrounding Jaswant Thada which have  gazebos doted around where you can sit and enjoy the tranquility of the place and its surroundings.



There are many other nearby places to visit in Jodhpur if time permits such as such as Mandore Gardens, Kailana Lake, Umaid Bhawan Palace museum,  Masuria Hills Garden and Balsamand Lake.

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park is next to Jaswant Thada. It was created in 2006 to try and restore the natural ecology of a large, rocky wasteland next to Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.




Shopping in Jodhpur is a must, the most popular place to visit is the Sardar Market near the Clock Tower. Here you you find local as well as tourists walking through the local market where you can buy anything from fruits and vegetables to spices, homeware and also clotings. Jodhpur is famous for its handicrafts, pottery, costume jewellery and dyeing materials. Most popular buys are embroidered leather mojaris (shoes), painted woodwork, dye fabric, jewellery, miniature painting, and Bandhini sarees a very unique design and print that Rajasthan is famous for.


Our trip to Jodhpur was indeed very pleasurable, the weather in February was comfortable and not too hot. Ideally an extra day would have given us more time to do more sightseeing and catch a Rajasthani folk dance show too.


Whilst in Jodhpur, I also had the opportunity to meet Neelam and Nikki from Verhomal spices you can read all about their story in my previous post here.


To read about my other posts in the India Travels series see the links below.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Choki Dhani ~ Jaipur


On my recent blog post in my India travels series, I wrote about my trip to Jaipur, one of the highlights of the trip was to Choki Dhani, a rural village setting decorated with traditional artefacts and furnishings and serving Rajasthani cuisine in a very authentic and homely way.




 We enjoyed the village atmosphere and the Rajasthani ambience which was created by performances of traditional Rajasthani dance.


The dancers balanced stacks of pots on their heads whilst standing on steel tumblers. the sheer balancing and dancing to rhythm was mesmerising.


The Melody and tunes orchestrated by Rajastani musical instruments was very authentic and folklore musicians were really good as they performed folk songs .


There were many stalls selling ethnic wear, hand crafted bags, shoes and regional mirror work clothing. We particularly liked the fact that many old trades of carving, weaving,  printing etc were showcased at Choki Dhani, not only did it give tourists like our selves an insight to these fascinated trades but it also kept the livelihood of these tradesmen alive.

 At Choki Dhani we were able to see the art of carving printing blocks by local artisans and later saw the blocks being used to print fabric with fabric dyes. The designs were intricate and beautiful.



We were able to participate in making our own pot using a hand turned pottery wheel. It was wonderful to see that the age old art of pottery was being promoted and kept alive.



Lakh (glass) bangle making  and handmade glass jewellery was also on show at this place. The glass beads were hand made as were the Lac (glass )bangles bangles.


Jaipur is well known for its thread work embroidery, mirror work on bags and clothing and also for hand weaved rugs. The beautiful and colorful rugs were each hand weaved as the weaver laboriously weaved thread after thread to make intricate designs on the hand loom.



There were many stalls where you could sample Rajastani snacks and cuisine, and participate in magic shows, and join in some Rajasthani games also.


Finally to complete our experience we enjoyed a wonderful Rasthani Thali (platter of food) at the Choki Dhani restaurant which again was an experience in itself. After being grandly escorted like VIP guests to the courtyard restaurant we were invited to sit on the floor cross legged on plush cushions.

The waiters served a large selection of traditional Rajasthani cuisine on banana leaf plates and bowls set on low tables. We adorned Rajasthani turbans as we enjoyed our food.



The food was delicious and plentiful and it just kept coming, It was indeed a rich gastronomical experience and one I WILL NEVER FORGET!!!



Guests can also check in and stay at the Choki Dhani resort, which I believe is magnificent , however we already had our rooms booked at the Hilton and so did not have the opportunity to stay there. If you want to see and experience an authentic Rajasthani cultural experience, I would highly recommend a visit to Choki Dhani.


To read about my other posts in the India Travels series see the links below.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Jaipur ~ India

My India travels continues as we head to the magnificent state of Rajasthan and the city of Jaipur often known as the pink city. Jaipur was established in 1727 by Jai Singh II, and it is one of the largest city of Rajasthan. Jaipur is magnificent with beautiful architecture, it has the most eye catching and majestic fortresses, palaces, temples and beautiful havelis. The best time to visit this place is between October and March. The weather although is hot is still bearable.
On our recent visit to Jaipur we visited a few of the key sightseeing places:

Amber Fort



Amber Fort is situated next to the Maota lake on the rocky hill of Cheel ka Teela (Hill of Eagles) that overlooks the Jaipur. It was built by Raja Shri Maan Singh JI Saheb’ (Maan Singh I) and It dates back from the 16th century. The fort can be reached by car, on foot or by elephant rides which take you to the grand entrance of the fort. 



Inside the palace there are many state rooms, lots of beautifully carved architecture, courtyards and chambers. The most intricate and beautiful room in the fort is the Sheesh Mahal the Mirror Palace. The walls and ceilings are carved with floral patterns that are inlayed with glass mirrors. It is thought that if a candle is lit in the Mahal, it will replicate a starry night. The Maharaja built this room for his queen who wanted to sleep under the stars but since Royal women were not allowed to do this this was to replicate the experience of sleeping under the stars.


To make the most of the fort I would highly recommend getting an English speaking guide who will be able to give a detailed history and tour of the fort.

Hawa Mahal- Palace of Winds


Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 and it was an extension of the city palace. The palace spans out over five floors and the inside boasts beautiful and intricate Rajput and Islamic architecture. It has a very iconic honeycomb structure created by pink sandstone. These structures are actually the palace windows made from detailed  lattice work made in a typical Marwari design. It was thought that the queens and the royal women in palace used to sit behind the windows, out of sight so they could watch royal processions or religious ceremonies. The windows also provided air to travel through the lattice to keep the palace cool hence it was given the name Hawa Mahal meaning palace of winds.

Jal Mahal- Water Palace


The Jal Mahal the water palace set in the middle of Lake Sagar. It appears to have only one story which is visible from the banks of the lake, however the palace has an extra 4 floors submerged under water. It is not possible to visit the palace but you can view it from the banks. Along the banks of the lake there are a few stalls selling tourist souvenirs, photographers offering to take photos in Rajasthani attire and also camel rides. A typical visit to the Jal Mahal will be less than 30 minutes, just enough time to take some photos

Nahargarh Fort- Abode of tigers




Whilst in Jaipur we also visited Nahargarh Fort, Nahargarh which means 'abode of tigers'. It is located in one of the oldest mountain ranges of the world, the Aravalli Hills. The fort can be reached by car along a long winding mountain road, there are many places to stop to admire the beautiful and spectacular views of Jaipur. 



It is known that Nahargarh Fort, Amer Fort and Jaigarh Fort are all connected and were used as defence for each other. The fort is a two storey building with many rooms and beautiful Indian and European style of architecture.


Apart from sightseeing, shopping in Jaipur is plentiful, there are many shops on MG Road and lots of bazaars leading off the main road too. You can buy clothing and ethnic attire, hand-dyed and embroidered textiles, pretty jewellery and delicious food. The city is a rainbow of bright colours and it is very visually appealing.



Since we only spent two nights in Jaipur we wanted to make the most of the city, together with sightseeing and shopping we were looking for a Rajasthani cultural experience whilst dining. This we found when we visited Choki Dhani, which captures this perfectly in a rural village setting decorated with traditional artefacts and furnishings and serving  Rajasthani cuisine in a very authentic and homely way. Our experience of Choki Dhani was very enjoyable and it is worthy of a separate blog post which is next on the agenda.

Time permitting there are many other places to visit in Jaipur such as the Jaigarth Fort, Jantar Mantar stone observatory and  Birla Temple. Since we only had two nights to spend in this beautiful city. I think we managed to pack in all the key things we wanted to experience.  

To follow my India travel series do check out my previous post:


Jaipur- Choki Dhani
Jodhpur

Monday, 27 March 2017

My 15 top travel tips for India.

This is my second post in my Travel series, In this post I am going to share my best 15 tips that I recommend when travelling in India.




The best time to travel to India is between October- March, this is when the weather is at its best. India is a very large country and there is so much to see and do that you really need to plan your itinerary to cover small sections of the country. This year we planned our trip to see Rajasthan. India is very diverse, there is a huge difference in the lifestyle and mentality of people. Large cities in India are very cosmopolitan and modern and are in par with western countries but in the rural towns and villages people still have orthodox beliefs and follow traditional lifestyle and customs.

My 15 top travel tips for India:

1. If you are staying in a hotel that has a safety deposit box, store your passports and extra money in there and only carry what you need for daily use on person. If there is no safe then invest in a bum bag or body belt to keep your pass ports and extra cash safe on person.

2. Be careful and discreet when taking money in and out of your purse. Have two purses one with a small amount of cash to spend in the day and a second purse securely placed at the bottom of your rucksack / shoulder bag with the remaining spare cash.( Tip pin your purse to the lining of your bag with a nappy pin, this way no pickpocket will be able to take easily it even if they tried.)


3. Do not wear skimpy cloths, not all places in India are modern, avoid shorts, miniskirts and vest tops. Be warned people will stare, they find foreigners intriguing, my advice is to fit in and not draw attention to yourself. In India you can get really nice cotton trousers and cotton kurta tops for a few pounds. Purchase a few and wear them, they are comfortable and keep you cool too.





4. Wear comfortable shoes, roads and pavements are uneven and lots of tourist places have dirt tracks and are in remote places.

5. Carry a thin shawl / scarf with you, many religious places will expect you to cover your head as a mark of respect. Be respectful in religious places.

6. Carry a couple of pairs of cheap cotton socks, you are not allowed to wear shoes in temples and mosques, you will need to take them off. It’s much nicer to walk with socks than bare feet and you can discard the socks if they get dirty, keeping your feet clean.

7. A lot of tourist spots charge for using cameras, the charge is a couple of pounds at the most. Some temples / forts do not allow photography or filming be respectful and don't abuse the system.

8. When taking pictures of locals, do ask permission, a lot of them will happily let you take a photo although don't be surprised if they ask you for payment. Generally a ten rupee note will keep them happy that is about 15 pence!!!





9. Carry a bottle of water with you at all times as it can get rather hot and you should keep hydrated.

10. Toilet facilities in India are not the best so be prepared and carry a toilet roll, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser in your bag.

11. In India unless you are in government run shops or large department stores where prices are fixed, it’s normal to haggle. The rule of thumb is to offer half of the asking price and haggle from there.

12. Take care when you get approached by beggars, if you give to one, in less than a blink you will be surrounded with more than you can manage. Do not encourage it although seeing small children begging is heart breaking.

13. In most tourist spots you will be harassed with tour guides, only use government approved ones that carry an official Id.

14. Travelling in rickshaws is dirt cheap but hold onto for your life, there are no seat belts or doors and always hold tight your belonging do not leave them unattended.

15. Last but not the least, be careful with food. Although street food looks tempting it can give you a bad tummy, there are no food safety standards in India, and you never know how long the food has been sweltering in the heat. Also do not add ice to your drinks and make sure if you enjoy a glass of sugarcane juice on the streets its not diluted with tap water.



Above all go with the flow, in India nothing happens in a hurry, be patient, traffic stops to let animals pass, people skim in and out of traffic and there are no highway code rules. People in India are happy, they are really friendly and welcome tourists, so respect their country and people and you will have the most amazing experience of your life.

To follow my India travel series do check out my previous post:


Rishikesh

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