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Monday, October 31, 2016

Enchanting Mount Abu



Mount Abu is one of the most beautiful and enthralling cities in Rajasthan that offers you adventure and relaxation at the same time. Surrounded by surreal hills and abundance of natural beauty, this quiet little hill station is a favorite spot for honey moon couples or short vacations with family. Located 163 km from Udaipur and 233 km from Gujrat, Mount Abu has a mixed culture influence of Rajasthan and Gujarat both. Here are few tips and must do’s while planning a trip to Mount Abu. 
            
1.        1. Don't miss the sun rise- Mount Abu is known for its spectacular sunrise. Usually it’s the other way round that people like sunsets. But here for me the experience was different. 

   





Hotel Udaigarh Heritage Retreat



Our hotel Udaigarh Heritage Retreat was located on an elevated  road which gave us a nice vantage point. The rocky hill right outside the balcony where we stood upon, was a perfect location to click sunrise. Oh boy! I am speechless. The pleasant October weather makes it the most recommended time to visit Mount Abu. The chill in the air caresses you gently as you watch the Sun rise behind the mountains and paint the sky in golden hues.



    
   2.   Rent a bike- The best mode of transport in Mount Abu is rented vehicle. Bikes are rented at Rs 300 per day and Cars around Rs 500-1000. From authorised agents to pan waalas, almost all shop keepers rent two wheelers. From Honda Activa to Bajaj Pulsar, they have it all. They keep your DL as security while you enjoy the day out on two wheelers. In case your two-wheeler breaks down or troubles you, the shop keeper would be just a call away. The authorized agents might just refuse to rent bikes in the middle of the day and say that booking a bike should be done at 8 am only. However, walk a little further and every shop keeper will ask if you need a bike. Make sure you fill the tank with petrol. (Ofcourse you pay for it). Since Mount Abu is a small place, sightseeing on two-wheeler is most suggested here. All you need is a DL. 

3.       3.  Do visit Dilwara Jain Temples- The 1000 year old temple can put Taj Mahal to shame! It is gorgeous. Every nook and corner boasts of architectural prodigies. Built on marbles, the temple is dedicated to Jain Gods and leaders. The whole premises houses a cluster of temples built in different eras. The main complex has temple with sculptors of Jain Gods in a row. Few enclosures have preserved aesthetics from ancient times that were excavated. The temple premises is open to public 12 noon to 5 pm. Camera and mobile phones are not allowed inside. Perhaps that’s the only turn off where you wish for a camera! The priests would tour you through the temples narrating the history and facts of temple.




The temple is run by the local governing bodies with Jain clan, and not under ASI, hence has minimum renovation or commercialization. Run solely on charity, the temple is still intact the priests would ask for voluntary donation for maintenance of temple. Guests do not mind shelling out some money for the noble place. The comparison of TajMahal and Jain Temples by the priest bears a testimony to the fact of the latter’s unmatched beauty and exquisiteness. 

   4.  Nakki Lake, Sunset Point – The lake draws a lot of crowd since this is only lake and is highly commercialized. Not only boat men, but small time vendors around the lake also earn well owing to huge footfall. From eating stalls and magic shows to toys for kids and fish food, you will find everything here.








Sunset point, not very far from Nakki Lake is a hotspot every evening. As the name suggests, this place is to view the setting sun behind the mountains. You can ride upto the parking spot beyond which no vehicles are allowed. You either walk, mount a horse back or hop onto a manual cart which they call helicopter. The kilometre long road is steep and tests your endurance big time.  Once you reach the spot, take a flight of stairs to a hilly area. That is Sunset point where Sun seems to be close and you soak in its warmth. Mind you, the place would be very warm during summers. We could escape the heat because of the pleasant weather. 




                                          







The place is overcrowded and littered. Don’t expect peaceful or undisturbed ambiance here. The serenity is only in the sky when the Sun changes its position.  

   5.  Trevors Tank- This place is for the adventure lovers and wildlife junkies. Trevor’s Tank is a breeding lake for crocodiles in the middle of a forest. Spooky enough? I don’t know why is it called a tank!


     It’s a lake and the crocs do come out for breakfast. Pay 30 INR per person as entrance fees, another 30 for the two wheeler and ride into wilderness. The bumpy, broken, raw road running through the forest is a little more than a kilometer. You gotta be really careful while driving on this road! I was scared of carnivores waiting to prey on us. 


Entrance to the sanctuary


Entrance to the view point for lake


Lake view point



The silence of the forest is deadly.  After the kilometer ride, park your two-wheeler at the lake entrance. Watch fish and occasionally crocs in the murky water. The care taker of the area revealed there are five crocs in the lake and they are visible during morning when they are fed. Damn! We were late to reaching there? The place turned noisy with people coming in and the chances of spotting crocs turned bleak. Obviously, more the noise, more the reptiles avoid showing up. Only a single croc was visible at quite a distance basking in the Sun. Meanwhile as we consoled ourselves watching beautiful fishes and enjoying cool forest breeze, a large croc suddenly appeared in the water, getting people excited. Looked like it hated the paparazzi and quickly disappeared under water.


Vantage Point



There is a nice vantage point built on a hill in the forest. Only the strong hearted can go there seriously.


Vantage Point

 The isolated staircase shadowed by overgrown trees is frequented by langurs. Usually they never harm you, but you can never rely on wild animals’ instinct. While husband went to the edge of the vantage point to take pictures of the lake and the croc, I stood far behind him on a raised platform taking panoramic shots. My heart skipped a beat when I turned around and saw two mongoose like creatures on the stairs. Thankfully they crept away before I could react. Gosh, I cursed my adrenaline rush. What if a panther or big cat suddenly attacked us? We were no way prepared! I urged husband to leave the place after the goosebumps moments. 

There are tourist places in Mount Abu like Guru Shikar,  which we gave a miss. Guru Shikahr is 18km away from Mount Abu. Its hill top with a solar observatory (not open for public). The thought of travelling that far to a hill top did not excite us, hence we let it pass. You can visit places like Peace Park, Bramhakumari Ashram, Adhar Devi Temple as well. 

Essential tips for Mount Abu - 
-Always carry something warm. Remember this is a hill station and weather turns chilly during evenings. 
-Dont miss the super delicious daal baati churma and bajre ki moti roti. 
-In the market, gorge on warm kesar milk. It has less of sweet content and great aroma. 

-While renting two-wheelers, please wear helmets. Road safety is essential anywhere. 
-Mount Abu is a plastic free area. Respect the sanctity of the place for God's sake. 
-Beware! Mount Abu has a huge CRPF station. Any criminal activity or miscreants would not be spared. Our hotel was located opposite to the CRPF station.  
-When you enter Mount Abu, at the toll the private bus would charge Rs 10 per person as toll adding fifteen more minutes to the waiting time. Well that was upsetting. Wasn't toll supposed to be a part of the ticket fare? Plus something like should be collected from passengers in advance, not on the spot! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Evening sky watch ~ Udaipur



Udaipur has undoubtedly the most beautiful sunsets. I feel lucky to have witnessed the luxurious hues of the sky as the fiery Sun sets, cooling off the heat in the lakes. There are various points in Udaipur to enjoy the views of sunset. I captured sunset from three places; Gangaur Ghat, Deendayal Updhayay Park and Banks of Lake Pichola on two different days.  This photo blog will capture the tangy orange and sweet pink luminous colors of sunsets that I witnessed during my trip to Udaipur in October 2016.


Pink sky- Gangaur Ghat- 5:30 pm (This was Day 1)
The rest of the sunset views are Day 2 on wards-

Lake Pichola bank - Around 5 pm 


View from Deen DayalPark @5:30 pm

Pastel hues. View from Deen Dayal Park@ 5:56 pm

Panoramic view from Deen Dayal Park @ 5:58pm 

Sun down,. View from Deen Dayal Park@ 5:59 pm


 JagMandir: View from Lake Pichola bank@ 6:36 pm

 JagMandir: View from Lake Pichola bank6:37 pm



                                                 

  



Jag Mandir after Sun down@ 7 pm











Thursday, October 20, 2016

Here's why Sajjangarh Zoo in Udaipur a must visit

  
As the incredible Rajasthan always welcomes with the warm “Padharo maahro desh”, we keep coming to the princely state for more History, culture, art and adventure. So here we went on exploring more of Udaipur on the second day of our trip.

We reached Sajjangarh Biological Park (sanctuary) as suggested by friends.  .
Gate on left leads to the Zoo. Gate on right is for palace entry
The entry tickets has a separate counter fifteen meters away from the main gate. 
Ticket costs Rs 30 for Indians and Rs 300 for foreigners. Still camera charges are Rs 80 and Video Camera charges are Rs 200.

Timings- 9 to 5:30 pm daily, closed on Tuesday  

Spread over a total area of 36 heactares, this park was established with the objective of conserving endangered flora and fauna and developing among visitors an empathy for wild animals. The zoo is flagged with boards on wildlife conservation and protection.

You can tour the park on foot. I do not recommend it, since its too tiring and hot under the sun right on your head. The walking paths are without shades.

Or else you can buy tickets for Golf Cart at Rs 50 each for a 90 minutes ride. The carts that accommodates 6 people in one go, are noiseless and battery operated, hence cause no pollution or disturbance for the environment.  The only limitation- The cart moves only when full. The management might convince you to pay Rs 60 in case you want to make it move early.

The third most exciting mode of travelling is bicycle. These non fancy-no gear-manual cycles can put you through a real endurance test. They charge Rs 20 per hour. One can cycle through the whole sanctuary in less than two hours. Needless to say, we chose to cycle. 

The only mistake we did - We did not cover our heads. 
Advisable- Carry a hat/stoll/cap to protect your head from direct sun, lest you should be dehydrated/get headache.  

Cycle ki sawari
The pathways are beautiful and very well maintained. Sajjangarh Zoo is a polythene free area dotted with bins and banners that discourage people from littering.



                          


It is a visual treat to see several species of animals in large allocated spaces. Meeting Ostrich was a pleasant surprise. 




                                  
Witnessing tortoises fight with each other was amusing. Who could imagine these slow timid creatures fighting? But they did! 

The most interesting enclosure was of the croc’s. The tank had glass walls for the visitors to look into the croc’s eye. However, the reptile chose to relax on the sand and not enter into the water. Huh, tough luck! 

We also saw the four legged animals which had committed suicide in front of Salman Khan’s car. The black buck.  hehe.


Black Buck


A resting tigress 
Wolf enclosure


Some treks were steep where we had to drag the cycles along. The whole cycling experience is just wonderful.

  • Wear shoes else cycling or walking would be difficult. 
  • Carry water with you. Though the zoo has water coolers at short distances, your golf cart may not stop everywhere.
  • Please maintain silence lest you should scare the animals.

The Monsson Palace, on the adjacent road is also visible from the zoo. The heat slowed us down and we kept taking short breaks under trees' shade. By the exit time, we literally fled with our cycles without looking at the animals since it was too hot! I don’t remember how many times we had refilled our water bottles. Sweating and tired we returned the cycles post two hours of adventure.

As we exited the Zoo with bagful of memories and camera full of pictures, we contemplated whether or not to visit the Monsoon Palace. To know what happened next, read here.