The Floating Palace


Udaipur is often called the Venice of the the east. I haven’t visited Venice, but I’d still prefer it to be called the Udaipur of the west! I’ll let the pictures of the Jag Niwas Palace at Lake Pichola do the rest of the talking:

A portion of Jag Niwas Palace
Against the most beautiful blue skies
The Island Palace
The central tower
Jag Niwas Island
The lawns
The Floating Palace
The boundary walls

More photo stories from Udaipur


This is post #28 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


Follow along on other social channels:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr

MG Marg at night


One of the things that we found particularly nice about Gangtok, was how clean the city was—despite the extreme weather, the huge influx of tourists, and the logistical challenges of a mountainous terrain.

In the three days we spent, the constant rain may have dampened our hopes of seeing the snow-capped Himalayas, but the stone paths of MG Marg raised them up, and how! In the light pitter patter of the rain, the smooth tiled paths transformed into a beautiful kaleidoscope, reflecting the colourful lights of the shops on either side.

Here’s a sampler:

MG Road, Gangtok
Welcome to MG Marg
Benches in the rain
Benches waiting for company
Gangtok at night
Vibrant nightfall
MG Road in the rain
Shopping

In response to this week’s Photo Challenge: Transformation
This is post #26 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


Follow along on other social channels:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr

 

Thank you :)


Today is a special day. I hear it’s the Thanksgiving weekend around most places in the world. And while I have very little knowledge of this holiday, as it’s not something my family celebrates, I find it a lucky coincidence that it is today, that I am reaching a milestone.

This post, is number 300 in the lifetime of this blog.

Yes, it’s a small number compared to so many other bloggers around the world, but if you had told me a few months ago, that I’d be here, today, writing my three hundredth post, as part of a month-long blogging challenge, I would have probably called you insensitive.

Over the past twenty three days, I have been at the receiving end of much love, and a very dedicated readership. Many of you have told me how much you have enjoyed reading, and especially loved the pictures I have posted here. And it fills me with joy.

Knowing that someone out there, cares for the stories I have to tell, matters a lot to me. And so, I want to say, thank you.

thank-you


This is post #23 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


Follow me on other social channels:
FacebookInstagramMediumTwitterGoogle PlusFlickr

The haveli next door


Lal ghat is perhaps the most tourist-y area of Udaipur, filled with havelis-turned hotels. Most of the hotels and cafes in the areas now boast of roof-top dining, and we explored as many as we could. One particular one, though, stood out. Jaiwana haveli was highly rated on Trip Advisor, and we headed straight there after our visit to the Monsoon Palace.

“Is the roof-top cafe open?” I asked at the reception. “Yes, it is! And if you’d like to use the washroom, then it’s on the ground floor—there isn’t any upstairs!” The man at the reception smiled and answered. We thanked him and then climbed up the narrow and steep staircase to the open-air dining area. It was around eight o’clock,and it appears that we were the early birds that night. The tables were all empty, and we took the best seat in the house—the corner table, with a splendid view of Lake Pichola and its illuminated islands. We picked our menu, and then immersed ourselves in the soft sounds of the waves of the lake and pleasant rain washed air. We could see portions of the City Palace in front of us, and all the heritage hotels—which were once palaces—on the opposite side of the ghat. Below us, were a few anchored boats, and other rooftop cafes, and way off in the distance, was the hill we had just visited. And then, out of nowhere, came a loud noise, startling us.

We looked around. There was an elderly lady seated behind us, and having recognized our searching glances, she offered an answer. “That’s the cultural program at Bagore ki haveli. It takes place every evening.” In the darkness of the candle-lit night, we couldn’t see her face clearly, but something in her voice sounded gentle and elegant. We continued to talk, and asked her about the other items on our list of things to do, and how might we plan them.

Shortly after, our delicious dinner arrived, and we noticed the lady giving instructions to some of the waiters. That’s when we realised, she was probably part of the management of the hotel, if not the owner.

The staff treated us so beautifully, it was hard to believe, especially after the harrowing time we had experienced at another famous tourist destination (more on that in a separate post). They thanked us multiple times and asked us to review them on Trip Advisor. This sweet hospitality, we later realised was common to all the cafes we visited. We made a mental note of the service, and decided that we’d visit again.

As we were winding up, other tourists began trickling in, and the moment we got up, one staff member placed a placard on our table. It was marked “Reserved”.

Bagore ki haveli Panorama
Bagore ki haveli with Tripolia gate, along Gangaur ghat

Before we visited Udaipur, our itinerary included the sound and light show at City Palace. Having heard the cheers of the crowd, and the recommendation by the lady at Jaiwana haveli, we decided to skip that and attend the cultural programme instead—a decision we are very thankful for!

The next morning, we visited the museum at Bagore ki haveli, and returned in the evening for the cultural show.

While my phone wasn’t able to capture the beautiful ambience atop Jaiwana at night, here are some pictures atop the haveli next door—Bagore.

Lake Pichola Panorama
Panoramic view of Lake Pichola atop Bagore ki haveli
View from a window of Bagore ki haveli
View from one of the windows of the haveli
The Chhatri in water
The chhatri in the water

Photos taken with a Moto G3. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream


This is post #22 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

The other Victoria Memorial


Victoria memorial in India is pretty much synonymous with Kolkata. But Allahabad has its own version too. Built with Italian limestone, this monument was opened in 1906. It resides in Chandrasekhar Azad Park (named in honour of the freedom fighter), originally called Alfred Park (to commemorate Prince Alfred’s visit to the city), and commonly known as Company Bagh (possibly a reference to the East India Company). Hey, don’t ask me why so many names!

Here are a couple of shots taken on an early morning in September.

Victoria Memorial, Allahabad
Straight on

There used to be statue of the Queen, to whom this was dedicated. Since its removal, the open skies have filled in.

Victoria Memorial, Allahabad
Up close, in perspective

This is post #20 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Pots of fire


“I don’t think we’ll be able to catch the dance show. They’ll probably cancel it with this much of rain.” Sitting on a bench around a tree in the courtyard of the City Palace, two umbrellas and the narrow roof above us couldn’t prevent us from getting wet.

Earlier that day we had visited Bagore ki haveli and had seen the venue of the cultural program conducted every evening—an openair theatre assembled in the courtyard of the heritage building with a shamiana for a roof.

The stage
The Stage

Eventually, the clouds decided to pause the shower. We left the Palace and walked towards Gangaur Ghat. We stopped for coffee and a cinnamon roll at one of the cafes to recharge our (and my phone’s) batteries and then walked over to the haveli.

Tripolia
Tripolia—three tiered gate of Bagore ki haveli. Just beyond the gate is Gangaur Ghat

We looked at the ominous clouds and asked the guard about the program. “Oh! Don’t worry about the rain! We have all the provisions here. The show is definitely on.”

We bought our tickets as soon as the counter opened and then proceeded towards the theatre. The key to getting a good seat is being the first to enter. We weren’t the first, so the best we could manage was the second row at the mattresses laid out in front of the stage, barely a few feet from the stage.

7 pm. The musicians began performing the rather cliched Rajasthani folk song ‘Kesariya balam’. Soon after, the emcee walked out and welcomed the audience. The stage was ready for some very colourful peformances. First up, Chari dance.

Chari dance is a folk dance performed traditionally by ladies from the Gujjar community of Rajasthan. Living in the desert, ladies often travelled for miles to collect water in a ‘chari’. It is the celebration of this ritual of collecting water that is depicted in this folk dance.

Pots of fire
The ‘Chari’ waiting to be lit for the programme

Just as the emcee finished explaining the significance of the dance, the show began—on the stage in front of us, and from the heavens above.

In walked the ladies, dressed in colourful traditional attire, balancing pots of fire on their heads. Down came the shower of raindrops, applauding their entrance. The shamiana held up rather well.

The ladies clapped and swayed, moved around in circles and spun more times than my head could count. Out they walked to thunderous applause, drowned under the sound of the downpour.

Spinning
Spinning with a pot of fire on her head!

There were more dances, followed by the puppet show. Traditionally, it is the puppets who take centre stage, and the puppeteer stays behind a screen. But at this show, the puppeteer takes centre stage, revealing his craft.

The most thrilling performance came, quite fittingly at the end. A lady entered, balancing two pots on her head. Dancing gracefully, she made her way to the table kept at the back of the stage. She placed her hand on the raised floor behind the table, and then placed her palm on her forehead—a salutation to the stage.

She climbed up the table, still balancing the pots. And sat down. She bent forward, and picked up a kerchief placed on the table, with her lips.

The crowd applauded.

She climbed down, an assistant came and placed more pots on her head. In the meanwhile, another assistant unrolled a cloth package on the table. Out came shards of glass. She went back to the stage. She made the saluting gesture, and climbed above the table again.

We may have been seated on the floor, but we felt edgy. More than once my hands clutched my face. If the pots on the head and the shards of glass were not enough, the shamiana overhead was threatening to give way under the weight of the rain. A few drops of water were beginning to trickle down.

We all gasped in silence. I was too nervous to take any more pictures, my palms pressed against each other, in front of my face, praying with the dancer, as she walked on the table and began thumping her feet on the glass.

Dancing on glass
Pots on her head, glass beneath her feet

We all collectively heaved a sigh of relief and applauded for the marvelous performance.

The assistant climbed up a chair, and we assumed it was to help her unload. But no. There were more pots coming.

Eight! The crowd cheered, and the applause didn’t stop. Nine! We all went crazy.

And then the musicians began singing that classic song, “Dama dum mast kalandar”. Ten! The crowd went wild. We were certain the cheers of the crowd could be heard a few blocks away—we knew because we had heard the loud cheers of the audience the day before!

As the emcee walked out to wrap up the show, the crowd still applauding the performance, he announced something even more bewildering. The lady who had just captured our imagination was a ripe seventy years old!

If you visit Udaipur, be sure to catch the cultural show, and please buy the tickets for the camera. Most of the arts on display are on the verge of extinction, and the proceeds of the tickets are the only way these arts can be sustained.


Photo taken with a Moto G3, edited with Image Composite Editor and Befunky. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream


This is post #15 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

The temples of Mylapore – a photo story


Mylapore is to Chennai, as Chandini Chowk is to Delhi. One of the oldest residential areas of Chennai, Mylapore is home to a colourful bazaar as well as a number of temples. Last year, we decided to explore this area on foot.

We began our journey at the Kapaleeshwarar Kovil.

Gopuram at entrance of Kapaleeshwarar Kovil

Of the numerous beautiful temples of Tamil Nadu, the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Mylapore, Chennai is one of my favourites. The detailed sculptures on the gopurams, the elaborate kolams on the floor, and the peaceful ambience of the temple always leave me spellbound.

Kapaleeshwarar Kovil

We then walked towards Santhome Basilica. On the way, we saw a beautiful Jain temple.

Jain temple in Mylapore

The temple was closed, so we continued walking.

Santhome Basilica

Being Christmas time, the Church was decorated with colourful linen and stars.

Inside Santhome

San Thome Basilica was built in the 16th century by Portuguese explorers, after demolishing the original Kapaleeshwarar Temple which stood on the grounds.

There is a small museum next to the Church which has architectural remains from older constructions, including some distinctly Dravidian motifs. Strangely, the plaques on the exhibit attribute it to the Church, even when the stone sculpture is clearly distinct from the rest of building materials on display.

Our next stop was the Marina Beach Lighthouse.

Marina Lighthouse

No, we didn’t have to climb all the way up. But it sure was interesting to look down the flight of stairs!

Staircase inside the Marina Lighthouse

The viewing area at the top of the lighthouse is quite narrow, and it was quite crowded. Nevertheless, the view was amazing!

Marina Beach from the lighthouse

With the sweeping panoramic views of the beach done, we decided to walk towards the sea.

Sadly, the state of this world-famous beach was not as beautiful as its surroundings. Nearer the sea, the beach looked more like a dump yard than a space to relax in. The only solace, for us, was the sounds of the sea – the waves caressing the sand and filth with equal warmth. Humanity may attempt to seek redemption and forgiveness through spiritual and religious pursuits, but isn’t it ironical how that concept of cleanliness, that is the holiest of them all, is still some distance away?*

Our route map:


* I don’t mean to pick on Chennai. In fact, it is a relatively cleaner city, as compared to many of its northern counterparts (especially the temples).


This is post #14 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Mario’s legacy


Mario de Miranda was a celebrated Goan artist, illustrator and cartoonist. He began his career in the Times of India in 1953. He passed away in December 2011, and was posthumously awarded the Padma Vibhushan (India’s second highest civilian honour) in 2012.

There are four galleries dedicated to his art viz. Panjim, Porvorim, Calangute and Mumbai.

Having spent two full days in Calangute, with the Gallery just over a kilometre of where we stayed, we felt it would be quite an injustice, not to visit. And so, with barely an hour left for our departure, we decided to make a dash towards the Gallery.

Mario's Gallery
Mario’s character welcomes us at the porch
Hello
Hello, it’s quite sunny here. Maybe you’d like to step inside

At the Gallery, we were treated to a mouthwatering array of everyday objects adorned with cartoons.

Souveneirs with a difference
Souvenirs on sale
Mario's legacy
Lampshade with Mario’s cartoons

While most people associate Goa with cashews and feni, we found the gallery to be a treasure trove of very unique souvenirs.


Photos taken with a Moto G3 and Moto G4. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream.


This is post #7 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Myths about Monsoon Palace


Researching for our trip to Udaipur, we had heard and read about the amazing views of the Aravalli hills from the Monsoon Palace, especially at sunset. The Monsoon Palace was constructed specifically for the purposes of observing the monsoon clouds—and what better time to visit the Palace than in the monsoon!

It had poured heavily the day we reached Udaipur, and it appeared that the heavens above would deny us our visit to this Palace. Amazingly enough, the rain stopped in the early evening, and we headed out to catch the setting sun under a rather overcast sky.

From what we had read in the travel reviews, it was a long trek uphill, and not much upstairs, apart from a neglected building; that one must carry food and water, as there were no food stalls; and keep them safe as there were lots of monkeys who would snatch away your food. And so we went, fully prepared with snacks and water, tucked in a canvas bag, secured safely with the modern miracle called a zip.

Atop Monsoon Palace
Atop the Monsoon Palace

It turns out, either this place hasn’t been reviewed by travellers for a while, or I ended up reading every old one!

So I’m going to attempt to set it right, by debunking all the myths (and adding one observation) about the Palace.

    1. The building didn’t really look neglected or decaying.
    2. There is a restaurant there.
    3. There are also public water dispensers (as with most other monuments)
    4. There are no monkeys (except for one big Langoor, that had probably been hired to keep the red ones away)
    5. There are lots of multi-legged insects. Not dozens or scores or hundreds, there were literally thousands of centipedes/caterpillars/millipedes (I have no idea which of those they were) on the stone steps and walls—possibly due to the rains.

What each of the travel reviewers did get right, though, were the views. To quote one reviewer, “the views are to die for”.

Such was the breathtaking view of the Aravalli hills at sunset, that neither my words, nor my pictures could do justice to it.

We spent a couple of hours drenched in the golden hues of the sun, and as grateful as we were to be in presence of such magnificence, there was one greedy thought still lurking within, “if it weren’t so overcast!” Oh well. 🙂

So what were the great views, that captivated us, you ask? I’ll leave that hanging for one more day.

In the meanwhile, here’s a peek.

Monsoon Palace
Monsoon Palace just after sunset

Photos taken with a Moto G3, edited with Image Composite Editor and Befunky. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream


This is post #4 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

The temple at Tiger Hill


We had had a rather strange morning. Waking up at 3:30 am, to be stuck in a traffic jam around 5 am, and then racing against the sunrise to get to the top of Tiger Hill. We missed the famous golden Kanchenjunga due to bad weather, but took away some interesting memories nonetheless.

We are extremely slow travellers. And on that foggy morning, we were the last of the tourists to slowly descend the hill, soaking in every inch of the natural beauty and scores of colourful flags. Somewhere along the path, lay a beautiful temple with more strings of flags than any other place we’d seen.

Temple on Tiger Hill
Temple towards the base of Tiger hill.

It was also very quiet, ignored by all the tourists scrambling to get into their cars to visit the next item on their list of places to see. We wondered why this one was missing on anyone’s itinerary.

Our own ‘package’ didn’t include this, and with our driver asking us to hurry up, all we could manage were a few quick photographs from the outside.

Prayer flags!
Prayer flags galore!

I did a quick search on Google, and sadly, could not find the name of this temple; there weren’t any tourist brochures or itineraries that mention this place. I’m not sure if visitors are permitted to enter (they must be, if there are so many flags here!) If they are, and if you have the time, perhaps you could add this to your list. If you’ve visited the temple, I would love to hear your story.


In response to this week’s photo challenge: Peek

Photos taken with a Moto G3, edited with Image Composite Editor and Befunky. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream


This is post #3 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging


Update: The temple is called Senchal Singha Devi Temple. Thank you, Lori for doing the research for me 😉