My Mont Blanc Moments

Happy new year! Here is the first post of 2016!

Everyone visiting Europe has their very own Jungfrau or Mont Blanc moment. Well, this winter trip (read here) started with mine. Not once, but twice.

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A Selfie with Mont Blanc – Not bad for starters!

1. The Easy Jet Flight

Our EasyJet pilot from Nice to Geneva took us around the summit. One full round. And I was seated perfectly on the left side window of the flight. A day of clear skies, I was first treated to the snow clad Alps range. A couple of minutes later, the captain announced, “Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls – we are now passing Mont Blanc on our left.”

What followed was cries of “C’est magnifique“… “Superb“. With fresh snow dumping over the previous two days, it looked like a pristine untraveled virgin land. A short clip would have made some justice to what we saw, but most of you know how slow I am. Given my turn around time, that will follow a little later.. For now, here is a shot from the flight window from the MotoG.

Mont Blanc Plane

The only peak with a halo in the Alps that day. Rightly so!

2. Aiguille Du Midi, Chamonix, France

The original way for a tourist. Chamonix is a small touristy town at the base of Mont Blanc. A one hour bus ride from Geneva. When you reach the ticket counter of the cable car, you realize that you are in for a royal pricey ride ( € 59 from base and back)! A 20 minute cable car ride divided into two levels takes you to 3777m. This level boasts of man-made terraces that offer a 360° view of the French, Italian and Swiss Alps.

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3842m view. It was dumping for a couple of days. Blessed with this view!

A lift will take you to 3842m from where you will have an unrestricted view of Mont Blanc in the south. The major attraction at 3842m is the Step Into The Void glass cage cut over a 1000m precipice of the mountain. The board reads – ‘Not for the faint hearted’.

But then there are some people who jump with wings (base jumping). I caught one. Here is a clip I took at 3842m. The Glass box in the background!!

Attractions at 3777m include – a restaurant (try the hot chocolate cafe by the window seat) & a souvenir shop, an adventure sports museum and beautiful terraces.

Once done with the summit excursion, there is a souvenir and coffee shop at the base. Eat and drink something. Because the high-altitude-oxygen-deficient air gives you a lingering headache.

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They call it the Tobleron Mountain for a reason!

Chamonix is a small and beautiful town. Houses are characterized by sloping roofs to drain the snow/ rain and dark colors to keep the interiors warm. The town also has restaurants serving traditional French and Swiss dishes. Dig into some cheese fondue, raclette and hot wine.

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Characteristic houses, quiet streets, clean air and the snow clad Alps.

PS: The super expensive Mont Blanc pens have nothing to do with this peak!

That pretty much sums up my Mont Blanc moments. I plan to post a video too, but that needs some learning first! 

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Happy are the Holidays!

Hola from España!!

Though it’s a bit late – Wish you a Merry Christmas and may the new year bless you all with good health, happiness and prosperity.

Boom: The blog enters the 4th calendar year in 2016. January and February are going to be a full of blog-posts and postcards here! So stay tuned as I plan to bombard this page with my winter break.

The first semester ended on the 18th, post which December has been kind because it has taken me places (literally).

The castle and cathedral of Segovia in the background!

The castle and cathedral of Segovia in the background!

Last week – I had my very own Mont Blanc moment both onboard the Easyjet flight and at Champonix. Also, my first sightings of truckloads of fresh snow here. Geneva was foggy and cold in the beginning. It was a family break after 4 months. I was pampered by my cousin while I was there.  Amsterdam was just the same (read here) – a little cold though than last time. Brussels was wonderfully mysterious while Brudges and Ghent were some of the coziest and prettiest towns I have ever been to. Madrid was alive and kicking 24/7 while Toledo’s old town was laid back yet intriguing. We also did a day trip to Segovia, another medievial Spanish town.

Next up, we are bringing the  new year’s in Barcelona and the first three days of 2016 will see us visiting Paris!

And hence, Happy are the Holidays!

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Going Around & Round: Jaisalmer & Jodhpur

Well another page added today. Its one of my first attempts at making travel videos. I plan to learn this art slowly. I have promised myself a Go Pro Hero+ if.. and only if I can manage this well.

I visited Jaisalmer and Jodhpur last year. And the posts are here:

  1. Jaisalmer : sun, sand, dunes, camels and castles (Click Here)
  2. Jodhpur: Snapshots from The Royal City (Click Here)

This Video-blog is not about the towering architecture or the grandeur in which the Rajputs built their castles, forts and towns. This video is about 3 friends who spent their break there.

So three friends planned to taste a bit of the royal heritage of the Rajputs. Not the usual bacpacking types because when the costs got higher, they started spending more.  The trip started from Ahmedabad with no expectations. Because we were going to visit the desert in the October heat. A road journey to Jaisalmer. Beers under the starry nights and a Camel ride after breakfast. Some bashing on the dunes and a visit to the Jaisalmer City Palace & Fort. A night journey to Jodhpur by train and the fabulous Mehrangarh Fort during the day. The Flying Fox ropeway around Mehrangarh. The tasty chicken & mutton delicacies all along the way. And some more beers. So many memories.

And yes this video!

The Song: Atlas Hands by Benjamin Francis

Another one hopefully soon. Visits in Nice, Eze and Monaco planned in the next month. I will write soon.

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Post Cards from Amsterdam

A two hour flight took me from the land of Bonjour, Bonjour to Hallo, Hello. I was so glad that I could finally communicate in English.  Relief .. more than happiness. 

I spent an afternoon in Amsterdam. So my time there was pretty limited. Only this time. Because I know I am going to keep going back there. So this post is not about whether you should go to BullDog, Red Light District, Heineken factory or Club Up/ Trouw. Because Amsterdam is much more than sex, drugs and booze. All I am going to do is post pictures of this picturesque town. Because there is a charm – of vintage buildings, cobbled streets, canals, bicycles, food and much more.

What a Post Card! (The Traveling pose has reached the Netherlands!)

The Railways: The Netherlands boast of a dense network of railways. This photo here shows one of their intercity sprinters, and yes, they allow bicycles on the trains. And passengers with bicycles have a separate compartment.

Netherland's Railways: A Dense Train Network with a separate compartment with those traveling with bicycles!

Netherland’s Railways: A Dense Train Network with a separate compartment with those traveling with bicycles!

Amsterdam Central Station: This one has both domestic as well as international terminals. This view welcomes you when you step outside.

First Attempt at Monochrome here - Just as I stepped out of the station

First Attempt at Monochrome here – Just as I stepped out of the station

And then looking back, the architecture of the station reminded me of our very own CST/ VT Station in Mumbai. And it was crowded too. Felt so much at home. Here is a shot from outside.

Amsterdam Central Station - That VT/CST feeling!

Amsterdam Central Station – That VT/CST feeling!

Names in Amsterdam: I feel the Dutch were a practical bunch. They did not make a big fuss over the names they gave to their monuments. Unlike us. For e.g. this square was built on the Dam in the olden days, the Square is called the Dam Square.

The Dam Square because there was a once a dam here!

The Dam Square because there was a once a dam here!

Don’t be surprised if the New Church is still called the New Church after centuries!

When you hear the Bell, Run as hell: I was told this as part of the walking tour. Dutch don’t cycle because cycling is their hobby or their sport, they cycle because for many, it is the only means of transport. And they are pretty serious about it. They absolutely hate people on their cycle paths. (experienced)

Pretty serious cyclists. Don't miss with them.

Pretty serious cyclists. Don’t mess with them.

Tilted Buildings: Yes, Buildings lean slightly forward on to the street. I don’t know why and how! Also, each house has a hook on the top which is used with a pulley to pull furniture and other bulky items because their staircases and doorways can’t fit them.

The houses are narrow too . Don’t even to try and think about the reason. Because no sane person will get it. Its Tax Planning. Taxes were proportionate to the width of the houses from outside. So, narrow houses = less tax. And i always thought, gujaratis and marvaris are the best!

Tilted Building with Hook on Top. Heights of Tax Planning!

Tilted Building with Hook on Top. Heights of Tax Planning!

Must Have!

The Stroopwafel and Cupcakes!

Candies, Cupcakes Stroopwafels: Almost every street has  a candies and cupcake shop. Don’t miss out on these. And do try the Stroopwafel. You can get it at the duty free at the airport terminal too but for all of these, roadside stuff is the best.

Canals, Canals and some more Canals: I don’t think I need to speak about these. Just find the right one and take a picture. Try and get those cycles and flower baskets in the frame.

Canal, Cycles and Flowers completes Amsterdam!

Canal, Cycles and Flowers completes Amsterdam!

A Night Stroll: The still water, the lights, a windmill, the stillness in the water and reflections. I loved taking a stroll later in the night. Though, I think it will be prettier to click pictures just after the sun has set.

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And the windmill!

The stillness of the water makes is perfect. You need to carry a prime.

The stillness of the water makes it perfect. You need to carry a prime.

Museums: No, I dint go to any of them. Next time. But I did get this shot at the Rijksmuseum.

The Rijksmuseum entrance!

The Rijksmuseum entrance!

PS: I have always tried to avoid humans in the frame especially while clicking architecture. Last time, I received some advice that you need an element to balance it off so that the viewer can gauge the scale. I really agreed because it did make sense. And because this is my first attempt, this is going in my year book.

And ofcourse #IAMSTERDAM: You can find these letters at three places. One behind the Rijksmuseum, second at the Schipol Airport, and a scaled down version in the courtyard of the Amsterdam Museum.

#IAMSTERDAM. Check.

#IAMSTERDAM. Check.

That’s about it for now. Until, I travel again (soon).

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A Month on the Road (called Promenade Des Anglais)

I am sitting in the terminal waiting for a flight to…. Waiting because its delayed by 3 hours and all I can do is look back at my time in Nice, France. Today, 1 month of the 10 months. 10% done. That was quick.

Yes, I have signed up for a MSc in Corporate Finance and Banking at the EDHEC Business School. (sounds really-so-very fancy with money money money written all over it.)

The EDHEC Business School has a campus (basically a couple of buildings) on the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice, France. Wrong place but its commendable that they set up a course which is highly acclaimed all over the globe which attracts people from so many places. The international students day boasted of 36 nationalities.

Just to prove my theory that the school is in the wrong place, I clicked this picture from the jet just before landing. I am supposed to be focused on my future and for once, plan my career and not go with the flow. Here..?IMG_20150825_121630657

And if this wasn’t enough, this is the view from my library and one of the classrooms.

The Library/ Classroom View on the left! Day Dreaming Point!

The Library/ Classroom View on the left! Day Dreaming Point!

So do I write about Nice? No I haven’t seen the old city enough to write about it yet. (But I shall soon). Don’t ask me what I do on weekends. Its mostly Wayne’s, sweeping, pocha (i don’t know what its called in English), laundry, sleep and cooking.

But I am going to write about something else. Trying my hand at something different. When we travel to a foreign land, however educated we are, we tend to have a preset about the country and its people. Some of them are true, but not all. Here are 7 of the things I observed (there are more but then for Harry Potter fans 7 is most powerful magical number – JK Rowling)

  1. French are NOT snobbish people: Atleast, not in Nice. I can vouch for that. People say they don’t even talk to each other. They are rude. They don’t acknowledge you. But my experience – I walk down the street and these people won’t know me but if we do have an eye contact- they will be like Bonjour/ Bonsoir (good day/ good evening) all the time. I remember telling my parents in the 2nd week that all of them should be sent to Mumbai or Dadar station in particular. There will be so much staring and glaring, they will forget wishing every random person.

    A weekend dinner in Nice - Old Town

    A weekend dinner in Nice – Old Town

  2. The French Language: Every blog tells you to learn the language before you step in France. And that’s what they told me before I went to Gujarat as well. In Gujarat I used to be like: ‘Maine gujarati avadto/ khabar nathi’ (I dont know Gujarati). So from experience, I used the Google Translate app to learn: ‘Je ne parle pas francais. Je comprend un peu de francais.’ (I don’t know the French language. I understand just a bit).  And the app also teaches you the heavy accent as well.
  3. Bread. Bread. Bread. Pain: That ‘Pain’ in the header is what they call Bread here in France. And the Baguette is the biggest (longest) Pain of all. Its warmed in the morning for breakfast. Stuffed with meat and vegetables for lunch and then something like for dinner as well. I am trying my best. And I know I am failing. Big time. Because my variety of bread includes frozen, just warm, half burnt and completely burnt. I miss Indian cuisine.

    The Baguette is the Biggest Pain i.e. the longest bread!

    The Baguette is the Biggest Pain i.e. the longest bread!

  4. Cutting Coffee: And I miss the cutting chai too. Standing on the nukkad with that chai and trying to convince bhaiya that it will be good if he puts a little more tea powder sometimes. The French have their own version of Cutting Cafe here. And you have to convince them here to not make it strong and add milk. They don’t like milk or anything else messing up with their cafe.

    The Cutting Coffee. PS: My friend's iphone is a scale!

    The Cutting Coffee.
    PS: My friend’s iphone is a scale!

  5. Afternoon Nap: I used to get irritated with people from Pune and Rajkot because they shut shops, clinics and even banks in the afternoon to catch up on sleep. The French are exactly the same. They are known all over the world to be one of the most productive work forces and the secret – the afternoon nap. Trust me when I say this, you cannot get work done between 1230 to 1430 hrs. No don’t even think about it.

    No working on Sundays and Mondays. And an average 2:30 mins break in the afternoon!

    No working on Sundays and Mondays. And on an average 2:30 mins break in the afternoon except Friday and Saturday. Thank you!

  6. Working Hours: And its not just about the afternoon nap. If they have office timings, they will abide by it. For eg, My landlord works weekdays from 5pm to 6pm. I went rushing to him on Friday morning at 1230 hrs. And I told him that the tap in the washbasin is leaking and water is flowing away. He dint come to fix it. He gets paid for an hour, so he works for an hour. And believe me, he knocked my door at 5pm that evening to ask if everything was fine.
  7. C’est la vie: This expression basically means ‘This is life’. And who wouldn’t agree more when you have your evening run here.

    Evenings on the Promenade Des Anglais. Time: 8pm!

    Evenings on the Promenade Des Anglais. Time: 8pm!

And there are many more things. Like – we lock our bicycles back home, the folks here lock their motorbikes and scooters to the ground. But these guys love their cars. And they park it just like how we see it in fairy tales, maybe. Just perfect.

Perfectly arranged. Perfectly designed! Just like the fairy tales!

Perfectly arranged. Perfectly designed! Just like the fairy tales!

That’s all for now. Free food by EasyJet beckons. I will write about many more places soon. Till then. À bientôt! (chal milte hai)

Next up: Nice, Amsterdam, Marseille.

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Heartwarming & Heartbreaking: Royal City of Mysore

A 2 hours flight from Bombay, took us to Bangalore. My friends and colleagues have always spoken about the orgasmic Bangalore climate. The first step outside the plane, I knew why!

The Bangalore airport is huge. And because it is huge, it is ages away. So the to-&-fro travel costs a bomb. Because I had quit my job, I had tried to save on the flight cost by booking mid night flights. The taxi ride in the city nullified that completely.

Our destination was Mysore which is 3 hours away from Bangalore. We left early in the morning as we dreaded the Bangalore traffic (we heard some terrifying stories. much worse than the western express highway in Bombay).

Mysore is the 3rd largest city in the southern state of Karnataka. It was the capital of the Mysore Princely state which existed under the Wodeyar dynasty till 1947. The city is famous for the Mysore palace which is one of the most visited tourist places in India after the Taj Mahal (here) and the Golden Temple (there).

The city is small and beautiful. Based near the Chamundi hills, it houses the Rangantithu Bird sanctuary and Tipu Sultan summer palace on the outskirts. Also, Mysore Zoo and Mysore Palace in the centre.

The Rangantithu Bird Sanctuary: The largest bird sanctuary in the state with roughly 170 species of birds which have been recorded there (A notice board there mentioned that). But, we could easily spot the painted stork, Indian cormorant, streak throated swallows and the Asian openbill. However, we missed out on the boating and seeing the birds and crocodiles up close because rain water released from the KRS dam upstream had raised the water levels of the Kaveri river near the danger mark.

The Painted Stork in flight!

The Painted Stork in flight!

The Tipu Sultan Summer Palace: I loved this palace. Well maintained lawns and restored interiors make this worth a visit. The paintings depicting the various wars are not just beautiful but they depict great stories with minute details (photography is banned inside – so no pictures). Farsi inscriptions, teak pillars and archs with beautiful floral motifs have the charm of the era gone by.

The Entry to the Summer Palace!

The Entry to the Summer Palace!

Mysore Zoo: A large collection of animals, birds and reptiles. One of the very few zoos in our country which is not only professionally managed but has also employed trained staff who love the animals. The tiger  and lion enclosures are the ones which get the maximum attention. A good place to click animals here. I know you won’t get the kind of high of clicking animals in the wild, but its good enough for my travel year book.

The Tiger Moment!

The Tiger Moment!

Sleeping is a priority!

Sleeping is a priority!

THE MYSORE PALACE: Yes, the title deserves the CapsLk. We toured inside the palace during the day. And then came back in the evening to see it under the lights. Yes, with hundreds and thousands of small bulbs the entire palace is lit up on weekends and public holidays from the outside. And trust me, you are going to take this back with you. You will forget the interiors of the palace pretty easily but this picture will stay with you. Maybe, foreever. Who knows. So take a look at the castle from the Viewing Point at Chamundi Hills and then run back to take this picture in the Palace promenade. You will have roughly 40 mins to do this!

The Palace in the evening!

The Palace in the evening!

The Golden Temple: Bylakuppe is a small town near the eastern border of the Coorg district around 80 kms from Mysore. It is famous for the Namdroling Monastery also know as the Golden Temple. Around 80,000 Tibetan expatriates have settled here after coming to India in 1959. Its a good peaceful break – quite different from the crowded Mysore or Madkeri.

om mani padme hum!

om mani padme hum!

Yes, we did visit the Coorg district. We drove to Madkeri the next day just to feel the mountain air through the coffee estates. We bought spices and coffee chocolates and had the madkeri special chicken curry at a restaurant on the top. Life.

So why was it heartbreaking then!

It was heartbreaking because of our very own people. The Mysore Palace for example attract lakhs each day. Its basically like a huge line in and a massive crowd inside each room. Just like you visit a famous temple. Now the line is full of people who care a shit about the history, architecture or anything otherwise related to the palace. They have been given a checklist of things to do in Mysore. the palace is one such thing and all they want to do is complete it.

Next example is the zoo. I think we love to behave like animals when we see animals around. Calling out to animals. Shouting. Throwing in food. At such places, we need constant supervision.

And don’t even think about going to Vrindavan Gardens for the light show. Give it a miss and see it on youtube – if you have to prove it to someone that you visited it. I had reached there on time but I never made it inside. I wont be surprised if we read about a stampede situation and men, women and children killed on the bridge built over the dam water.

Mysore is hearwarming. But never again.

It took a while to update this one. That’s because I have changed continents. I have moved to Côte d’Azur, Nice in France. Hopefully many more travel stories to come and soon I will add the ‘Europe’ page to my blog. 

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Jaipur IV – Amber Fort – A Photo Essay

Amber fort is normally the first place to see for all tourists in Jaipur. And that’s what we set out for once we were ready. I am no history buff but the grandeur and artistic beauty of this fort-palace will make you fall in love with it.

A Uber taxi can ferry you from the city to the fort which is 10 kms away. Uber charges about Rs7 per km and an additional Rs200 to go to the Amber Fort. But I think that’s still less that what local autorickshaw guys will rob you of.

Now for the fort. Its not just for any Archaeological Photography lover but for any one who can see the effort involved in planning and setting up this huge fort to perfection.

Take the guide here too. Same process. ID card. Government approved rate chart. And you are off! Here are some anecdotes..

  1. The Cobbled Path to the Top: Its a 15 min walk or a 10 min elephant ride. The elephant ride costs Rs 1000/- so we dint take it 😛 We walked but yes there were these Spanish girls ahead on the elephant giving us company. a
    A local guy was trying to sell them a beautiful bedsheet on the way up. He started with Rs 50 and came down to Rs 15 without the girl saying anything. Finally he said, ” Say something, atleast let me listen to your voice.” She smiled, but dint say anything. This awesome sales guy shouted, “Te amooo! ( I looove you!)” and she finally spoke with a lot of joy, “Yo tambien te amo!”. She dint buy the bedsheet but she went ahead happy – someone in a foreign land spoke her language.

    The Spanish Girl took the elephant ride to the top

    The Spanish Girl took the elephant ride to the top

  2. The Entry into the Palace: You enter the complex through the Suraj Pol (the Sun Gate) – so called because it faces the direction of the sun. You walk straight through Jaleb Chowk and buy the tickets at Chand Pol. This gate leads to the old town outside the fort.  I like these names. Rings a nice bell. Then you enter into the administrative building of the complex through these tall flight of stairs.

    The entry to the fort!

    The entry to the fort!

  3. Diwan-e-Aam:  As a subject of the kingdom or as a tourist, you will be first produced in the Diwan-i-Aam known as the Hall of the Public Audience. Forty pillars intricately carved and designed, these are built in red sandstone with white shell plaster. As you plead your matter, the king will be seated in the raised platform -made of marble with embossed precious stones shimmering in the light!

    Diwaan-e-Aam

    Diwaan-e-Aam

  4. Kacheris!!!: You know how our government offices work. The file moves from one clerk to another officer to another manager then a deputy general manager and then t0 who-so-ever approves it. Amer Fort has 27 of these kacheris (revenue office cubicles) besides the Diwan-i-Aam. But each meant for a different department and they functioned amazingly well – not just efficiently but also transparently. A lesson to be learnt.

    27 Kacheris (Revenue Offices)

    27 Kacheris (Revenue Offices)

  5. Ganesh Pol: I clicked a different angle of the Ganesh Pol here. The Queen used to sit in the small window above and welcome the King by throwing flowers from the top. Ganesh Pol – so called because of Lord Ganesha’s idol on top of the doorway – is the gateway to three ‘pleasure’ palaces!! No-words!! Our kings were known to be casanovas or whatever!

    The Ganesh Pol

    The Ganesh Pol

  6. Diwaan – e- Khaas/ Sheesh Mahal: The Hall of the Private Audience was built in the room which has latticed windows, a floral ceiling of elegant alabaster work and glass inlay. In hindi – the sheesh mahal 😛 The flame of a single candle reflected in the tiny mirrors transforms it into a starlit sky (tip: focus the ceiling and take a picture with your flash on). The Diwaan-e-Khaas overlooks the a Mughal styled garden known as the Aram Bagh – The Pleasure Garden. OK!!

    The Diwaan-E-Khaas and the Aram Bagh!

    The Diwaan-E-Khaas and the Aram Bagh!

  7. Kesari Kyari Bagh: Returning from one of his travels or maybe war from Kabul, the king brought along saffron (kesar) seeds/ plants along with him. He planted them here. But the harsh climate in Jaipur was never conducive for growing saffron here. Then converted into a lovely garden with star shaped centre between the Maota Lake. Today, it is home to a refreshing flower bed.

    The Kesar Bagh

    The Kesar Bagh and the Maota Lake

  8. Sukh Niwas: This part of the palace is so aptly named. Direct translation – Comfort House. Something that gives you happiness and satisfaction. Who lives here? Yes, the Queens. I think there were 3-4 separate houses for the queens. Lot of  happiness, comfort and satisfaction aka sukh!!

    Sukh NIwas - Comfort House

    Sukh NIwas – Comfort House

  9. Chugli Khana: Ok, so this is interesting. The courtyard of the Sukh Niwas has a structure in the middle. Its called Chugli Khana – Gossip House.  Built for all the queens for pleasant evenings. And I always thought that sister-wives (that’s what the relation among common wives is called right?) wont even look into each others eyes!

    Chugli Khana - Gossip House

    Chugli Khana – Gossip House

  10. Water Storage Systems & Natural Ventilation: Rain water harvesting and natural cross ventilation – all an integral part of the entire complex. When you are here, ask your guide to show you the way to the rain water harvesting tank below the sukh niwas. All the water rolls into the tank. Once the tank is full, the excess water flows in the Maota Lake. And yes, the complex allows the air to flow freely.

    Yes there are vents so that the passages are airy. But the vents are at an angle so as to keep the dust out! Brilliant idea!

    Yes there are vents so that the passages are airy. But the vents are at an angle so as to keep the dust out! Brilliant idea!

  11. Art and Colors: Look closely at all the designs and paintings around. The colors mostly from vegetables (like brinjals, tomatoes, carrots, etc) look fresh even today. The marble carvings and sculptures are unique. So unique that the artisan’s hands were cut off after the work was completed. So that they wont produce another copy.

    (L-R) The first one is near the Sheesh Mahal. Look clsely there is a butterfly, a flower, a honey bee, a flower all in one structure. The second one is on the ceiling at the Ganesh Pol The right on exactly opposite the Sheesh Mahal. This is a wall piece! My favorite!

    (L-R) The first one is near the Sheesh Mahal. Look clsely there is a butterfly, a flower, a honey bee, a flower all in one structure. The second one is on the ceiling at the Ganesh Pol The right on exactly opposite the Sheesh Mahal. This is a wall piece! My favorite!

  12. The Bollywood Connection: The guide while describing these huge cooking utensils explained the Jodha-Akbar movie shot where Jodhabai (Aishwariya Rai) cooks for Akbar (Hrithik Roashan). Then he said, these utensils are not owned by the Royal family. Ashutosh Gowariker – the movie director left it behind and forgot to clean his mess. He seemed quite serious about the addition made by Bollywood here.
    The Jodha Akbar utensils!

    The Jodha Akbar utensils!

    The Jaipur series is done. I have literally dragged myself to the end but i think i have done justice to the pink city. I am not sure what I will write next. Mysore or may be Nice. Yes, I fly to France in the next ten days! A year in Europe! actually a year in the French Riviera! And Guess what, my school has organised a bus tour of Nice on the first day itself.

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Jaipur III – Jantar Mantar – A Photo Essay

Back from a refreshing trip in Mysore – Bylakuppe – Madkeri, I am currently jobless. I have begun my year long break – sleep later into the mornings, eat homemade food, love my afternoon siesta, read a lot of books, listen to music, go out for shopping and prepare for the year long break. I am happy. Getting into a happy lazy routine..

Built under Sawai Jai Singh II’s rule in Jaipur, Jantar Mantar at Jaipur is the largest and best preserved among the ones in Delhi, Ujjain, Mathura and Varnasi. Located near the City Palace in the centre of the Old city, please visit this place during day time. 11am – 1230pm should be a good time. And yes take the official guide. Even though they sound as if they have memorized the text of each instrument, they are pretty knowledgeable. One look at the government approved rate card and their ID badge – you should be good. Take a guide – thats the only way you can enjoy this place.

PS: All instruments are inclined at 27 degrees, the latitude of Jaipur so that it is in plane with the equator.

1. Built between 1728 and 1734, the observatory has been described as the most realistic and logical landscape in stone, its 16 instruments resembling a giant sculptural composition. Let’s take a tour of a few…

The Entire Complex of Jantar Mantar - Must Visit!

The Entire Complex of Jantar Mantar – Must Visit!

2. Narivalaya Yantra: One of the sundial is used in Winter (when the sun is in the southern hemisphere) and the other one in Summer (when the sun is in the northern hemisphere). The instrument consists of a thin, rod-like gnomon fixed perpendicular to the masonry dial. The dial is set in the plane of the equator, and the gnomon points to the south pole (for the winter instrument) or the north pole (for the summer instrument). Local solar time is read off from the angular position of the gnomon’s shadow on the dial.

This is the Northern Sun Dial - If you see carefully you can see the shadow at 11 am (Jaipur local time)

This is the Northern Sun Dial – If you see carefully you can see the shadow at 11 am (Jaipur local time)

3. Jal Prakash Yantra: These two sunken hemispheres map out the heavens, the stars and constellations. The two make the complete hemisphere. A small ring is suspended from cross wires. Its shadow projects the position of the sun onto the inscribed celestial map. The guide told us that there is a story which says that Jai Singh invented this himself – just to verify the accuracy of all the other instruments in the observatory.

The ring is suspended by iron wires. Cant see the shadow here. :(

The ring is suspended by iron wires. Cant see the shadow here. 😦

4. Ram Yantra: Two identical structures – which complete the circle when seen together – complete the reading which determine the celestial arc from the horizon to zenith, as well as the altitude of the sun. Vertical columns support an equal number of horizontal slabs. Though they are constructed at a distance they are complementary to each other. In the centre of the two units there is a perpendicular rod is fixed. This particular rod is of the same height as the building. The shadow of this rod determines the zenith distance and the altitude of the sun.

Your entire Geography of the Northern & Southern Hemisphere including the summer and winter solstice will be revised here!

Your entire Geography of the Northern & Southern Hemisphere including the summer and winter solstice will be revised here!

5. Yantra Raj Yantra: By far the most complicated instruments to make and then for me, to understand. Note that this is a circular disc of 7 different alloys so that the shape does not change due to weather erosion.  The hole in the center of the instrument is the position of the Pole Star. The outer circle is graduated in 24 hours of 6 fractions each. The inner circle has 360 degrees, each of 6 sub-divisions. The most important planets are marked in outer circle at their corresponding position in the sky. By placing a separate disc in the hole(which is graduated from 0 degree to 180 degree), of instrument, we can calculate the positions of various planets and dividing by time interval, the speed of rotation of a particular planet is calculated, the dates of Sun & Moon eclipses as well as the Sun-set, Sun-rise, Moon set time is calculated. Phew!

Complicated but an interesting instrument.

Complicated but an interesting instrument.

6. Rashivalaya Yantra: This is a set of 12 pieces, each of which represents a zodiac sign. They were haphazardly distributed and I remember asking the guide as to why aren’t they symmetrically organised. As this represents different zodiac signs, each of them faces a separate constellation. This instrument is used by astrologers to this day to draw up horoscopes and its the only one of its kind in the entire world. Too much brainy stuff around here!

The Aries Instrument. One of the 12 signs!

The Aries Instrument. One of the 12 signs!

7. Laghu Samrat Yantra: The small sun dial is said to be constructed exactly at 27 degrees North and calculates Jaipur’s local time up to an accuracy of 20 seconds ( the watches on your wrist will give you an accuracy of 1 second). On each side of gnomon, there are two quadrants. The left for time in the morning and right for afternoon. Both the quadrants are divided by 6 hrs., further into 60 min, and each minute by 3 parts of 20 seconds. With the help of the shadow of the gnomon which falls on one of the quadrants , we find out the local time of Jaipur

The Sun Clock - 20 seconds accurate!

The Sun Clock – 20 seconds accurate!

8. Samrat Yantra: Literally means the King of all Instruments. It was Jai Singh’s belief that higher the height of the gnomon, more accurate would be the time. This one gives the local time up to an accuracy of 2 seconds ( yes all other watches give us an accuracy of 1 second).  The gnomon is ninety feet high and has niches in to wall so that storms do not affect the instrument. The gnomon is right angled wall and the hypotenuse has steps to climb up. The hypotenuse has also a scale to find out the altitude of the sun. The hypotenuse points towards the pole On either side of the pole is a masonary quadrant. the centres of which lie on the edge of gnomon. The edge of quadrants are graduated in hours, minutes and seconds. In this scale one minute has been divided to the extent of 30 parts, this way it is accurate upto 2 seconds. The guide mentioned this huge sundial also helps to forecast the crop prospects for the year but I never understood how! I think I was just too overwhelmed by what we had achieved in the 18th century.

The six feet Frenchman will give you a scale. The King of Instruments - 2 seconds accurate!

The six feet Frenchman will give you a scale. The King of Instruments – 2 seconds accurate!

That’s about it, then. You can read this blog post when you visit Jantar Mantar in Jaipur again. I have taken care and checked the accuracy of the information. Mostly taken from the sources like the Archaeology Survey of India and then cross checked with travel books.

Btw THE VISA is home. Current mental situation: Scared = Excited. Full confusion. Its going to be a long year ahead.
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Jaipur II – Monuments & Architecture

It is my last couple of working days and I am all set for “My 1 year Sabbatical”. Ofcourse it isn’t a paid leave and ofcourse my employer is not going to give me my job back. Risks…ss, they warned!

Over to our next part!

Jaipur is the capital for a state ruled by the Rajputs. The monuments are rich, intricately designed and strategically placed in the walled city. The unique characteristic of its architecture is very popular in the whole world not just among travelers but also architecture students. The architecture across the state depends on the Rajput Architecture School which was a mixture of Mughal and Hindu Structural design.

Why This Mix?

When I visited Fatehpur Sikhri (read here), I noticed something different. The complex was mostly designed under the Mughal School of Architecture. However there were two buildings – Birbal’s house and Jodha-bai’s palace.  I asked my guide the reason for this difference then and his answer will make up for a really good start to this blog post.

My guide said that the Rajputs rose to prominence from the 8th to 12th century establishing Hindu princely states in Rajasthan and Saurashtra (part of Gujarat today). During the Islamic invasions from the 11th to 16th century, the Rajput kingdoms proved to be major obstacles to the complete Muslim conquest of Hindu India. However, during Akbar’s reign, the Rajputs accepted Mughal authority and were admitted into the emperor’s court, given positions in the government and army, and formed martial and marital alliances. A fusion of Rajput and Mughal art and architecture were important influences on one another once the power came into contact. An important aspect which I realized while backpacking across Rajasthan

The Monuments of Jaipur

1. Amber Fort + Jaigarh Fort

The Amber Fort is approximately 15 kms away from the center of the city. It opens up at 8am in the morning with lot of open spaces. We took 2-3 hours in the fort. I have decided to cover it in a different post – A Photo Essay with stories from our Guide. Till then – here is one of the shots on the way.

We will get inside these walls in the next post!

We will get inside these walls in the next post!

2. Jantar Mantar

The Jantar Mantar is a collection of astronomical instruments built under the rule of Rajput King Sawai Jai Singh and completed in 1738. Another post to explain a few of the instruments. I will never be able to make justice with my pictures and descriptions – this was the highlight of my trip there.

More inside Jantar Mantar later!

More inside Jantar Mantar later!

3. City Palace

The centre of the city for me. It is a huge royal complex of gardens, courtyards & buildings which house a museum, a textile gallery and some old weaponry inside. Best to be visited when the sun is out in the afternoon. I did not like the state of the horse carriages. Badly maintained and just stacked against each other.  (Entry Fee: Indians – Rs 75 Foreigners – Rs 300)

Chandra Mahal inside the Palace!

Chandra Mahal inside the Palace!

Mubarak Mahal now houses the textile exhibits and also a shop which is super expensive!

Mubarak Mahal. Now houses the textile exhibits and also a shop which is super expensive!

The Peacock Gate, one for the albums!

The Peacock Gate, one for the albums!

4. Hava Mahal

The Wind palace! I think this is the face of Jaipur. The palace is built in such a way that is basically a high screen wall built so that the royal woman can view the festivities on the street without being seen from outside. It has 953 small windows called jhorokas decorated with intricate latticework. The pink sandstone and the latticework keeps the palace cool even during the summers. Just a short walk from the City Palace, the entry is through an imperial door. With double storied buildings on three sides, the complex also houses galleries with glass work on the second floor. Another good place to escape the high temperatures during the afternoon. A well restored palace.

Yo! The Travel pose with that beauty in the background

Yo! The Travel pose with that beauty in the background

5. Central Park – Amar Jawan Jyoti – Vidhan Sabha

The Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial was built to honour the bravery of Jaipur’s legendary martyrs and soldiers. A quiet place you must visit. The best combo will be to take a evening walk in the Central Gardens , proceed to the memorial and see the VIdhan Sabha in lights!

The Amar Jawan Jyoti makes quite a postcard!

The Amar Jawan Jyoti makes quite a postcard!

6. Jal Mahal

Jal Mahal is built in the middle of Man Sagar lake. It will fall the right while going towards Amer Fort. I know I know, you won’t be allowed inside. But a selfie with the Jal Mahal in the background won’t hurt either!

Jal Mahal ; You cant get in, but its worth a picture for your travel diaries.

Jal Mahal ; You cant get in, but its worth a picture for your travel diaries.

7. Nahargarh Fort

It’s a long way out. And if you are going here don’t forget to be sure how you are going to travel back. Arrange travel for both ways. Very Important!

First the Fort – It stands on the edge of the mountain ranges. It was a place for retreat for the Kings. Fort Walls extend over the surrounding hills, forming fortifications that connected the Jaigarh and Amber Fort. The Palace is beautiful with numerous rooms and archways overlooking the City. But we have destroyed it. We have written our names on the walls promising our love to our partners at the expense of our heritage. Period. (Entry Fee: Indians – Rs 75 Foreigners – Rs 300)

Nahargarh Fort Entrance.  palace for the royal weekend!

Nahargarh Fort Entrance. palace for the royal weekend!

Now walk a little ahead.  And there is café here. This place offers the best view of the city at sunset. And you won’t believe it, The Rajasthan Tourism Development Corp – RTDC serves beer and starters here! DO-NOT-MISS-THIS!

RTDC - Rajasthan Tourism does this for you. A Beer with that view!

RTDC – Rajasthan Tourism does this for you. A Beer with that view!

That’s about it.

I have finished this post from the airport. On my way to Bangalore! Many more stories to follow!
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Jaipur I – Padharo Mhare Desh!

Its been crazily long that I stepped out with my camera. Three top reasons. One: Saving for a year in Europe.Second: Laziness. And Third: Lazzzzzinesss. But I did step out in June. Went to Junagadh for a full-scale Gujarati wedding – Garba and Ghagra, Fafda and Jalebi in the fist week of June! And then, Jaipur!

I have had a weird past with Jaipur. I have visited this place 4 times during my internship for work. Stayed in some top notch hotels in the center of the city with the best of friends with a chauffeur driven cars available on call. (Oh, I loved those perks!)

But Auditing Banks can be a pain. A time bound schedule of 10-12 hrs a day. Yes, we had our evenings and nights free, but the monuments of the Pink City were closed by 6pm. (they still do!!)

Later when I settled down in Ahmedabad in the later half of 2013,I started visiting one Rajasthan city over weekends (you can find the write-ups here). When I came back from Jodhpur, I earnestly planned for a weekend in Jaipur. In-fact I planned it thrice, of which I booked non refundable travel tickets twice and even went ahead and booked hostel accommodations the last time. But, I never ended up in Jaipur. This – we Indians call – Panauti.

After coming back from Jaipur, I have been struggling to put the contents together in one post. There is too many places and too much information, I am breaking it into a series:

  1. Jaipur  I – An Introduction to the Pink City
  2. Jaipur II – Monuments & Architecture
  3. Jaipur III – Jantar Mantar – A Photo Essay
  4. Jaipur IV – Amer Fort – A Photo Essay

We always enjoy going back to the places we love. For me, Jaipur is one of them. Jaipur – means the land of victory. Built in the earlier 18th century by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II under the architectural guidance of Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, Jaipur is one of the earliest planned cities of the country. In 1853, when the Prince of Wales visited Jaipur the entire city was painted Pink to welcome him. That’s how it earned the name – The Pink City. The climate here can get a bit rough in summer with temperatures ranging from 34-40 degrees celsius. The winters (Nov – Jan) are mild her and this is the best time to visit this place. And Hello! Its not just about Forts & Castles, we will first talk about Food & Shopping!

Here are some of the things you should do while in Jaipur:

Food .. Shop.. Food.. Shop.. Food

  1. LMB & Rawat Sweets: I was first introduced to LMB by my office seniors. A small dish of ragda pattice and gol gappas can be polished off with atleast a couple of dishes of rasgollas. Or you can go the traditional Rajasthani way of having Dal Bhaati Choorma. But dont forget the rasgollas. And if you need to carry some sweets back home, ask them to pack Ghevar and Mohanthaal.

    The Ghevar, Raj Kachori, Dahi Chat and Rasgollas from LMB!

    The Ghevar, Raj Kachori, Dahi Chat and Rasgollas from LMB from 2008!

  2. Choki Dhaani: 23kms away from the city, is a Rajasthani themed village complete with puppet shows, traditional dances, open air massage parlours and dinning shamianas. Get the massage, have a camel ride and keeping eating n eating n eating. Do keep one of the evenings free for this.

    The Choki Dhani Shamianas, The plate full of Rajasthani cuisine and Me! (2008)

    The Choki Dhani Shamianas, The plate full of Rajasthani cuisine and Me! (2008)

  3. Indian Coffee House: Oye, The original Indian Coffee House has a branch in Jaipur! And like is always is, the food is amazing. Top your masala dosa, idli and upma with a nice Coffee. I had a refreshing Cold Coffee. Mutton eaters, they have the Mutton Masala Dosa also!

    Don't be worried with the paisa's in the menu! Just Eat!

    Don’t be worried with the paisa’s in the menu! Just Eat!

  4. Lassiwala: This is an addiction here. One, beware of all fakes, Shop No 3 on MI Road is the place you need to visit. Two, you have to have two glasses. These are one of the most delicious and creamy lassis you will have in India.
  5. Shopping: Rajasthan is known for its colors and fabrics. You will find Kurtas, Dresses, Saris and Scarfs in all colors and patterns for all ages. Jaipur markets are also known for Lakh ki Chudiyaan (bangles). And also Bedsheets and Wall Hangings for your house. You will find  all this at Bapu Bazar and Johari Bazar. Don’t forget to Bargain Hard at every shop! Shopkeepers here learn European languages – German, French and Spanish along with English. I think its part of a government initiative for increasing tourism in the region. Don’t be surprised to see roadside shopkeepers talking effortlessly in a foreign language.

    The Lakh ki Chudias (bangles) at Johari  Bazar!

    The Lakh ki Chudias (bangles) at Johari Bazar!

  6. Dinner: MI Road is the place. Next to the Jaies Hotel, there is a small dhaba where you get Makke ki Roti and Sarson ka Saad. Traditional punjabi stuff. Close by is the Copper Chimney (Not the chain of Copper Chimney) which serves good chicken tandoori, lal maans and cheap Old Monk 🙂 Must Have!
  7. And then there is architecture… something for the next post.

    You will love every bit of The Jaipur Architecture!

    You will love every bit of The Jaipur Architecture!

This is just the beginning.. and once there – you will love Jaipur!

As I serve the last week of my notice period at the Big Blue, I hope I will find time to complete this series. Will be meeting Bangalore , Mysore and Bylakuppe in about a week’s time. Super Excited  🙂

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