Archive for the ‘Hill stations’ Category

A Ride on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway alias ‘Toy Train’

Posted on March 27th, 2010 by govind  |  Comments Off

Darjeeling Toy Train
Darjeeling Toy Train

It is the happiest moment for anyone’s life when one gets a chance to refurbish one’s childhood memories. No wonder childhood days occupy a prized place in our lives and when we go down the memory lane our hearts get rejuvenated. Same thing happened with me when I boarded Darjeeling Himalayan Railway alias ‘Toy Train’ in Siliguri after completing my official work. During my childhood days I would always get fascinated by slow puffing of steam locomotives and its sound chuk-chuk still remains close to my heart. During those days any passing by steam train attracted me and I would rush to my balcony to see it. I used to stand in my balcony even after train moved away from my sight, lost in its left behind smoke trail.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway alias Toy Train is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway from Siliguri to Darjeeling in West Bengal which is managed by the Indian Railways. It is among the most enjoyable of India’s toy trains which connects Jalpaiguri in the plains to the lovely hill station of Darjeeling. This toy train was constructed between 1879 and 1881 by Gillander Arbuthnot & Co. in order to accomplish the vision of Franklin Prestage, an agent of Eastern Bengal Railway Company. Due to its historical, cultural and economical importance this train was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
The train has only 2 coaches, First Class coach with capacity of 12-17 passengers and the second class coach with capacity of 30 seats. I purchased the ticket of first class and boarded the train to begin the journey of 86 kilometers. The train begins from an elevation of 100 m from Siliguri and reaches up to an altitude of 2,200 m in Darjeeling. Throughout the journey I was mesmerized by the ambiances of passing by destinations.

Through the wide glass window of the toy train one can see the majestic beauty of the Himalayas with its snow covered peaks glistering in the sun rays. During its journey train passes through Mahanandi valley, tea garden landscapes, monasteries and forests of pine and oak trees which are enough to stimulate your soul. I was completely engrossed in the natural panorama and it incited several thoughts inside me regarding the mystic nature. The journey was no less than a motion picture epitomizing natural beauty. Sometimes the natural scenic beauty was interrupted by the smiling people and running children when the train passed through some town or market.

The most interesting part of this joy ride was when train passed through the Batasia Loop. This is an interesting track-loop between Ghoom and Darjeeling where train corkscrews through a tunnel. During its turn I was enthralled by the spectacular view of Darjeeling town with the Kanchenjunga and other snowy mountains in the backdrop.

After 8 hours ride I finally reached Darjeeling at 4:30 pm. Though I was alone but I never felt it because my heart and soul were wallowing in joy as the train journey was offering breathtaking views of the fascinating places.
I took this ride to redecorate my childhood memories but this romantic journey added new section to my cherished memories.

My Kerala Houseboat Tour

Posted on February 25th, 2010 by admin  |  Comments Off

Of all my school memories, what I miss most? My answer to this, without any second thought, would be ‘Summer Vacations’. Being a wanderer and an explorer, I often feel like a caged creature after joining the corporate world. But I am really grateful to my brother who planned a relaxing

Kerala Houseboat Tour
Kerala Houseboat Tour

trip to Kerala. I applied for leave in my office and contacted a reputed Indian travel agent. While going through the Kerala travel guide, we decided to opt for a Kerala houseboat tour.

We arrived at the Cochin Airport and booked in a nearby hotel. Post lunch, a travel assistant escorted us to the Cochin Harbour. We hired a houseboat (traditional Kettuvallom) there at economical rates. The houseboat, consisting a bedroom, living area, deck and kitchen, was no less than a luxurious room in a star-rated hotel. Our first halt was Fort Cochin, a renowned ancient structure. We also paid short visits to the Dutch Palace, Jewish Synagogue, St. Francis Church and Chinese Fishing nets the same day. The evening was spent at leisure, and we enjoyed awesome sea-food in dinner on our boat.

Next morning, we headed for Munnar – the famous place for Cardamom hills & green tea plantations. That entire day was devoted for trekking, so we enjoyed the best of nature walks amidst aromatic plantations there. For night stay, we were booked in an economical hotel. Next morning, we started our exploration with Eravikulam National Park. While roaming in the dense greens I clicked a few mountain goats (locally called the Nilgiri Tahr), and visited the Mattupetty Dam & Dairy Farm, Old Munnar Town, and the town market also.

Day four was completely dedicated to Alleppey – the Venice of the East! While cruising across the serene backwaters there, I had a closer look to the local villagers and their lifestyle. What I enjoyed most was the sunset. Similarly, our next destination, Kovalam was also spell-binding. The Ayurvedic resorts dotting the coastline in Kovalam add to the beauty of the place.

Lastly we preceded for Thiruvanthapuram, where we covered the Museum complex, Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Science & Technology museum, Veli tourist village, Aakulam boat club and Shangmugham Beach. So, this week-long trip in Kerala was actually a remarkable experience. I was amazed that spending days on waters could be such a unique and unforgettable experience.

Gulmarg Tourism: A Heavenly Trip to a Heaven

Posted on January 29th, 2010 by admin  |  Comments Off

 Gulmarg Tour Gulmarg Tour

I had never thought that my adventure fever would take me to a journey where I could enjoy beauty as well as thrill at highest. The best part was when I saw the Indo-Pak border with naked eyes, and I had goose-bumps. Friends, it was Gulmarg – the meadow of flowers – the gem of Jammu & Kashmir. While going through the Gulmarg tourism guide, I came to know that the place was discovered by the British in 1927 as a superb hill resort. Moreover, it served as a favourite place of Emperor Jehangir who collected 21 different varieties of wild flowers from here. And it was real!!

Anyways, I was lying amidst magical meadows, snow capped mountains, and picturesque alpines that have altogether provided wonderful background for several Bollywood ventures. Although it was a one-day trip, I decided to keep my luggage in a hotel before leaving for some exciting adventure sports. On my way, I also paid a short visit to the shrine of Baba Reshi, a Muslim mystic saint.

My adventure journey in this region of Baramulla district of J&K started from Khilanmarg, where I enjoyed the best skiing of my lifetime. I hired the skis and sticks, snow boots, woollen socks, mufflers, windproof jackets, goggles, and caps. I was accompanied by a ski instructor who taught me the proper way to perform skiing. That short class offered by him was quite helpful in blind slopes.

After skiing for around a couple of hours, I searched for a restaurant where I enjoyed awesome Rogan Josh, a traditional non-vegetarian dish. Next I headed for the Alpather Lake, a picturesque alpine lake that remains frozen until late June. As an adventure seeker, I wished to take the one-day & 13 km trekking route from Gulmarg to the Alpather Lake, but later I dropped the idea and decided to go for a nature walk amidst the pine forests.

I also paid a visit to the gorgeous green golf course in Gulmarg, which boast of being the highest golf course in the world. This way, it was an ideal trip that offered me beauty as well as thrill. The place was mesmerizing. After all, it was a heavenly trip to a heaven!

Nainital- The Crowd Puller!

Posted on December 17th, 2009 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

 Nainital Lake Nainital Lake

Traveling is the most beautiful and rejuvenating activity for me in this world. Nothing compares the pleasure of exploring new destinations. The spark of traveling in my heart never fades away and this time it took me to Nainital. Again I was ready to learn and grow, to stretch my limits and appreciate overwhelming nature fashioned by the almighty. Some of my friends came along as their world also orbits around traveling.

In the early hours of the morning when I stepped out of my hotel room, I was elated to see the calm and beautiful Naini lake. As I walked towards the lake my eyes caught sight of the rising sun whose orange rays cloaked the hill tops, making them look like a heap of gold. Enjoying the boat ride on the lake I saw a White-throated Kingfisher perched on a boat feasting on a fish. It was a sight to behold.

The lake is the most attractive feature of Nainital. It is a fresh water natural lake, which is highly picturesque. Here one can enjoy boating in three different types of boats- yacht, rowing boats and paddle boats. The road running parallel to the lake is called Mall road, which is dotted with wonderful trees, hotels and shops.

Next we went to the Naina Devi temple located on the northern shore of the lake. It is a famous temple dedicated to Maa Naina Devi ( an incarnation of goddess Parvati). The pujari of the temple told us an interesting legend associated with the temple and the lake.

Our next halt was the enchanting Naini Peak, also known as the China peak. We reached there on ponies, enjoying the journey to the hilt. The romantic, peaceful and blissful aura of the peak captured my heart and I tried my best to capture such a pristine beauty in my camera. The peak offers breathtaking views of Nainital. From there we headed towards the city for lunch. We dined at one of the restaurants named Khana Khazana and the food it served was really tasty. As we moved out of the restaurant after having a hearty lunch it started to rain.

My friend Monika commented, “it is also a part of the adventure”. We immediately bought umbrellas from the small shops lining the road, and when I saw Tahir’s umbrella I burst out laughing. He had bought a huge ‘family-size’ multi-colored umbrella. Anyway it was sheer fun to stroll through the mall road in rain with the funny umbrellas.

Day 1: Shimla- One Can never Get Enough Of It!

Posted on November 12th, 2009 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off

At an unearthly hour my phone rang. I reluctantly dragged myself

Shimla City Shimla City

out of the deep dreamless slumber to receive the call. It was Monika, a friend of mine who I affectionately call ‘my travel comrade’. She is one person in my entire social network who inhabits my world ( a world overflowing with the passion of traveling). Before I could even finish saying ‘what happened, everything alright’ she interrupted in between and said “I and some of my friends are going to Shimla next week. I am sure you are coming”. Her ‘am sure’ clearly reflects how well she knows me. Of course, my answer was ‘yes’.

The next thought that crossed my mind was ‘what about the boss’? Well here I am not talking about taking my boss along (the only thing I like about him is  the presence of his absence). The question was how to ask for 5 days leave. Anyway I was sure I will somehow manage to open up my boss’s Buddhahood, as these five days were the steps for me to Nirvana. For me traveling is tantamount to Nirvana.

After a not-so-bad journey by car, we a group of 7 people ( Monika, Tahir, Shakeel, Sanjog, Abhishek, Deepika and me) reached Shimla, the Queen of Hill Stations at around 8:30 pm. We were booked in the Clark’s hotel, which is one of the finest hotels in Shimla.

Post breakfast, we set out walking towards mall road and enjoyed the healthy and soothing environment of Shimla to the hilt. How much we crave for such a pollution free environment in Delhi. It is a perfect place to unwind.

Our first halt was Mall Road, the main shopping street of Shimla.

Shimla Night Life Shimla Night Life

The interesting thing about it is that no vehicles are allowed on this road, which allows tourists and locals to move about easily and freely. It was constructed during the British rule. It is lined with many showrooms, departmental stores, restaurants, stalls and emporiums. This is the best place to shop for the colorful handicrafts of Himachal Pradesh. From beautiful shawls to pottery items, all are available here.

Post lunch we headed for our next destination, the Ridge Road, which runs east to west alongside the Mall Road. On its east side it leads to Lakkar Bazaar, a wooden craft market. The Ridge Road offers mesmerizing views of the majestic mountains. Other attractions here are the neo-Gothic structure of Church dating back to 1844 and a tudorbethan styled library built in 1910.

In case you wish to get photographed in a typical Himachali dress, colorful traditional dresses are available here on rent. After a lot of struggle to choose the best one for myself, I found an attractive fiery red dress. Deepika chose maroon. The experience was overwhelming.

Ladakh Tour- Exemplifying Natural Beauty!

Posted on September 3rd, 2009 by admin  |  Comments Off

Ladakh

Ladakh

Continuing my tradition of exploring the incredible destinations of India, this time I packed my bags and headed to Ladakh in the month of December. Visiting this wondrous destination in the winter is an absolute enchantment. It is popularly known as “Little Tibet” because of its similarity to Tibet in terms of geography and culture. As I reached this beautiful land I felt as if I had landed on some new planet inhabited by only a few people. Here the pure white snow not only cloak the mountains but the roads also. The sights of the mountains, plains and romantic lakes punctuated by beautiful Gompas (Buddhist monasteries) are simply overwhelming.

I along with Mukesh, my guide, started exploring Leh early in the morning . Hemmed in by snow-covered peaks of the fascinating Himalayan range, Leh has bewitching attractions to capture the hearts of tourists. Mukesh suggested to explore Leh on bicycle (for adventure) as it is a small city. I like his idea and we made a move towards the arresting 17th century royal palace with 9 stories. It still retains its old-world charm, despite of being almost in a state of ruin.

The next attractions we visited were the Namgyal Tsemo and the Soma monasteries. After my visits to the beautiful monasteries I decided to dine out at one of the restaurants where we relished delectable momos and thukpa (noodle-based soup). Then we hired a taxi and reached the valley of Zanskar, which has much higher altitude than most areas in Ladakh.

Shyok Valley

Shyok Valley

Its rugged landscape was mind-blowing. We also visited its monasteries, which had their own charm.

The next attraction on my list was the Shyok Valley, which has a great attraction, the Shyok River. As I had come to Ladakh in winter, the river was frozen and the sight was breathtaking. I spent hours enjoying this creativity of nature. As the day was drawing to a close I retraced my steps to the hotel I was booked in.