Day I: Kerala Tour: Give in to the sweet seduction of Kovalam Beaches!

Posted on July 1st, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off on Day I: Kerala Tour: Give in to the sweet seduction of Kovalam Beaches!

 Kovalam Beach Kovalam Beach

Drudgery of daily life’. Sounds familiar na! This is something which everybody experiences but magic lies in creating some moments of happiness, punctuating the monotony. For me happiness is synonymous with traveling. And whenever I think of traveling two names bounce around in my mind; Monika and Anand as they are also absorbed in the wonder of traveling. We have been friends since college days and over the time we have also become travel comrades. Out of the three of us, Anand is the most fortunate soul when it comes to taking leave from office. History repeats itself; this time also he got leave quite easily. We asked him what spell he casts on his boss! He smiled and said, “simple, I work hard and you girls hardly work, this is the reason”. Again, as usual, he without missing the opportunity started pulling us and also gave us some funny tips on how to handle a difficult boss.

Monika and I had a hard time getting a seven day’s leave. Hold on; the worst part of the story is that we work in the same organization, which makes it all the more difficult. Jittery and hyper, we were waiting for the acceptance of our leave. Gosh! Sometimes these bosses act like a nagging mother-in-law. Finally our big boss approved our leave, but only for 4 days.

Taking glee in our victory we set out on our much-awaited journey to Kovalam. We flew down to Thiruvananthapuram airport in Kerala and after covering a distance of 16 km by car reached the mesmerizing Kovalam, the beach town. Affectionately dubbed as the ‘Land of coconut groves’, Kovalam is among the most fascinating attractions of Kerala, God’s Own Country. After refreshing ourselves we headed towards the Lighthouse beach of Kovalam.

I have always been in love with Kerala and have traveled to this place several times. It was as enchanting as ever. Every visit to this destination becomes a special memory for me. Anand hails from Kerala but because of his professional carrier he and his parents stay in Delhi. He was so happy to be here and I could clearly see it on his face glowing with joy. As we were talking how wonderful we were feeling to be here, Monika said, “ what greater delight is there than to feel in rhythm with nature, to leave behind the nagging bosses and rat-race of urban life and feel like a free bird”. With a grin, I said, “I completely agree with you sweetheart”.

Once a traditional fishing village Kovalam is one of the most fascinating destinations of Kerala which is famous for its beaches. Its vegetation, natural beauty, salubrious climate, peaceful environment, mesmerizing blue water of Arabian sea, white sand and swaying palm trees leave tourists spell bound. There are three beaches in Kovalam: the Lighthouse beach, the Hawah beach and the Samudra beach. The lighthouse beach is the largest and the most popular one and is named so because of the presence of a lighthouse here. All the three beaches are separated by rocky headlands. We reached the top of the lighthouse and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the beach and the town. The experience was simply overwhelming.

Kovalam was one of the most prominent tourist spots in India during the hippy era. To add more adventure to our visit to the beach we indulged in parasailing and the pleasure was unlimited. Next was the swimming session. Being a non-swimmer I decided to stay back while Anand and Monika went for swimming.  I could see them enjoying like kids. Sitting on the shore I was enjoying the views of extensive stretch of sand, lashing waves and limitless sky. And the cool breeze was blowing a melody into my ears. I can’t express in words what a wonderful feeling it was! A feeling which was feeding my soul with peace and joy. I also collected some sea shells to take back home as a memory of this place.

Next we went to the nearby restaurant to pamper our taste buds with some amazing south Indian dishes. After gorging on the dishes we again went to the beach to capture the beauty of sunset as the day was drawing to a close. And the sunset view was breathtaking, mind-blowing and enchanting. The rays of the sun had cloaked the sea in golden hue and the birds were freely soaring in the sky. The unfathomable waves had taken a different look altogether and the moon was slowly making its presence felt. And the ‘wow’ factor had completely taken over…

We came back walking to our hotel as it was located near the beach. Post dinner we again went to the beach for a walk. The view of the beach in moonlight was completely different. We sat there and chatted for an hour while enjoying the charm of the sea. This was the end of our beauty and adventure packed day. The next day we were slated to go for blissful Ayurvedic massage at Somatheeram ayurvedic resort which is the oldest Ayurvedic resort in the world.

I had already started dreaming with open eyes! And ended my day with a short poem dedicated to Kerala:

How heavenly Kerala is! a paradise on earth!

Epitome of natural beauty, this land transports you to the world of rapture

Relishing its glory, drunk on its beauty

Offering heartfelt thanks, I bow before almighty who festooned this land with natural wonders.o

Taj Mahal Where Eternal Romance is Etched in White Marble

Posted on June 17th, 2010 by govind  |  Comments Off on Taj Mahal Where Eternal Romance is Etched in White Marble

 Tajmahal Tajmahal

The brilliance of forts, palaces, tomb and mausoleum are the popular drawcards of Agra which lured scores of tourists since centuries. It is one of the most sought after destinations of India Tourism famous worldwide for the Taj Mahal which is the undying symbol of love. Though I had heard, read and listened about this place since my childhood days but never visited this land of romanticism ever before. Last weekend my friend insisted me to visit this place and on Friday night we left for Agra.

Early morning after taking refreshment at my friend’s house we went to see Taj Mahal, ‘the epitome of love’ and ‘a monument of immeasurable beauty’. The moment we entered in the premises we were stunned by the imposing beauty of this grand structure. The beauty of this magnificent monument is beyond the scope of words. The thoughts that come to my mind while watching the Taj Mahal of Agra are not just about its phenomenal beauty but are also about the immense love of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal which was the reason behind its construction.

When I touched this epitome of love and romance, I felt its charismatic feature and realized that why it is so much famous round the world. The construction pattern of Taj Mahal is a fusion of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architectures which make this monument a stupendous one. The principles of self-replicating geometry, along with symmetry of architectural elements can also be seen in the design and layout of this edifice of love.

Delicate pierce work, Arch of Jali, Inlay detail, Incised painting, Calligraphy and Herringbone are the ornamentations done on the surface of Taj Mahal. Though all these pattern of decorations are metaphor complementing this building of love but the Calligraphy work impressed me the most. The Calligraphy of the Taj Mahal mainly consists of the verses and passages from the holy book of Koran. It was done by inlaying jasper in the white marble panels. Out of 114 verses and passages of the holy Koran one can find 15 verses and passages on the wall of Taj Mahal.

This monument is the culmination of human imagination which took 22 years to be built by 20,000 skilled artisans. It is a monument of enduring love which reveals its mystery and charm when one visits it without being in a hurry. From morning till evening we stayed here seeing, analyzing and discussing its various features. The backdrop of river Yamuna and foreground of beautiful Mughal Garden add extra charm to this tombstone. Though we were physically exhausted but the soul stimulating beauty of Taj always refreshed us and insisted us to explore some more hidden aspects of this flamboyant structure.

The beauty of Taj Mahal fascinated us for hours and finally we adieu this splendid monument with a promise to visit it again. It is not possible to decipher the hidden love, romance and beauty of the Taj Mahal in a single day, though visitors do this but for me it is not the matter of a single day. After coming out from Taj Mahal premises we returned to our friend’s house where we had lip smacking food in our dinner which was cooked by my friend’s mother. The whole night I remained engrossed in the beauty of Taj Mahal which was lingering in my mind.

Day 2- Jaisalmer Tour

Posted on June 3rd, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off on Day 2- Jaisalmer Tour

 Jaisalmer Sand Dunes Jaisalmer Sand Dunes

On our way to Jaisalmer I was chatting with Anand and Monika was relaxing her tired muscles at the back seat of our Innova car. He shared that he always nurtured a desire to travel to Rajasthan desert and experience the beauty of unfathomable sand dunes and the lifestyle of Rajasthanis. Smilingly I said, “I am hopeful that this Jaisalmer trip will show you a slice of the life, which you always wanted to see and experience”. Finally we reached Jaisalmer, the wondrous city of Rajasthan.

We were booked in Narayan Niwas Palace, which is one of the finest heritage hotel of Rajasthan. It is a majestic heritage property consisting of several sandstone structures with intricate carvings. It was a great experience to stay in this heritage hotel.

Jaisalmer is a fascinating city of Rajasthan where tourists can experience the rustic charm of sand dunes, the royalty of heritage hotels and the colorful life of villagers. The natural beauty of this place is simply mysterious and enchanting. This city is affectionately dubbed as the ‘Golden City’. It was established in 1156 AD by Rawal Jaisal. At one point of time it served as an important trade route connecting India to Egypt.

Post breakfast we embarked on our journey to explore Jaisalmer attractions. Our first halt was Jaisalmer Fort which is popularly known as Sonar Quila(the Golden fort). It is located on Trikuta Hill and is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan. The Fort was shining like a jewel in the sun rays and was looking stunning. Our guide Rupesh told us that it was once inhabited by the Rajputs and Bhati Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal was the founder of this fort. This wonderful royal structure reflects a perfect amalgamation of Rajput and Mughal styles of architecture. There are 99 bastions inside the fort but we could see only a few. This fort with three layers of walls was mainly built for defense purpose.

After a delicious lunch at one of the restaurants in the city we were ready for the most adventurous part of our journey. We headed towards the Sam Sand Dunes which is located at a distance of 45 km from Jaisalmer. As we reached the sand dunes I felt as if I have stepped into the times of Alladin. There we enjoyed camel safari and treated our senses with a breathtaking sunset view. Captivating natural beauty, peaceful ambiance and adventurous camel ride, all this really made our day!

In the end Anand said, “ I am overwhelmed”. This one sentence was enough to express that our Jaisalmer Tour had served more than we expected.

Day 1: Royal and Mystical Tryst with Jaipur, Rajasthan

Posted on April 8th, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off on Day 1: Royal and Mystical Tryst with Jaipur, Rajasthan

Jaipur City Palace
Jaipur City Palace

For me traveling is tantamount to happiness. When I travel  I feel in rhythm with the universe. ‘Discover India’ is one of my favorite programs on Discovery channel which never fails to capture my travel-obsessed heart. This time after watching a program on Rajasthan attractions the fancy to see the royal and opulent palaces of the raja-maharajas struck me. I, since my childhood days, cherished a grandiloquent piece of whimsy to live like a queen in a palace and to wander like a nomad on the sand dunes.

Assailed by my ardent desire I decided to visit Rajasthan. Monika and Anand, my friends who I affectionately call my travel comrades joined me on this tour. Well all three of us belong to the same breed of human beings, who get transported to the world of rapture upon hearing the word ‘travel’.

Rajasthan, the very word conjures up images of stunning palaces, majestic forts, people dressed in colorful clothes with a bright smile on their faces and last but not the least the unfathomable sand dunes. It is truly a land of contrasts. From lush green gardens to desert, Rajasthan has it all. Our first halt in Rajasthan was Jaipur , the Pink city. We were booked in one of the best heritage hotels of the country, the Samode Palace to taste royalty in plenty. Royal treatment begins at the entrance gate of the palace and it lasts till you slip into deep dreamless slumber and then again you wake up in the lap of luxury. This palace is a celebration of the rich cultural heritage left behind by the raja-maharajas of the bygone era. We reached here in the evening.

Anand had come to Rajasthan for the first time and was enjoying it to the hilt. He said, “I am completely bowled over by the extravagantly royal and traditional ambiance of the Samode palace”. Seeing his delight I said, “Dear, it is only a sort of amuse-bouche before the Rajasthan’s classy attractions are served up – City Palace, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Amber Fort and Lake Palace.

Now it was time for some rest and refreshment by the pool. The poolside pavilions done to perfection and the gorgeous green garden overflowing with scented flowers and a variety of trees were a treat for the senses. We were here for candlelight dinner. Sounds overwhelming! Enjoying the beauty, luxury and royalty of the ambiance I smilingly said, ‘ I am loving being in the lap of luxury’. And Anand, who never gives a miss to an opportunity to pull my leg, immediately replied, well, “Living in the lap of luxury isn’t bad, except that you never know when luxury is going to stand up”. Hearing his witty remark all three of us burst out laughing. No wonder we were enjoying ourselves and every moment of our tour was truly worthwhile.

To pamper our taste buds we ordered traditional Rajasthani dishes and some exciting sweet dishes. I, a fitness freak, for the first time left behind the undesirable thoughts of counting calories and was all set to give in to the temptation as the delicious regional cuisine was irresistible. After eating to our heart’s content we headed towards our respective rooms, rather royal apartments, and slipped into the bed. The next day we explored the fascinating and royal structures of Jaipur:

City Palace
It is one of the most royal attractions of the city. A perfect combination of Rajputana and Mughal architectural styles, the palace has stunning apartments such as Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Mahal, Diwan-e-Aam and Diwan-e-Khas.

Hawa Mahal
Reflecting the glory of Rajputana architecture, Hawa Mahal is an architectural marvel. The walls of this wondrous structure are pierced with more that 900 windows. These were especially designed to allow the royal ladies to see the street processions without themselves being seen.

Amber Fort
Majestic, grand and stunning, such is the Amber Fort of Jaipur. Fashioned out of marble and red sandstone, it is charming amalgamation of Rajput and Mughal style of architecture. It was built in 1592 by Raja Man Singh I. Its mesmerizing exterior and stunning interiors, never fail to impress the visitors. The huge courtyards, beautiful carvings, stunning mirror work, mosaic work, secret pathways and wonderful apartments of the fort speak volumes about its glorious past.

Flaunting the quintessential Rajasthani features, Jaisalmer is a mystic city. It was the second destination on our itinerary. With great memories of royal experiences, we bid goodbye to Jaipur and headed towards Jaisalmer.

A Ride on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway alias ‘Toy Train’

Posted on March 27th, 2010 by govind  |  Comments Off on A Ride on Darjeeling Himalayan Railway alias ‘Toy Train’

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.

Rajasthan Cities- They have the history, tradition, and grandeur!

Posted on March 12th, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off on Rajasthan Cities- They have the history, tradition, and grandeur!

Udaipur LakesUdaipur Lakes

The moment I stepped into the incredible land of Rajasthan the ‘wow’ factor took over. And it did not fade away till the very end of my Rajasthan tour. As I had expected from Rajasthan, its attractions were royal, beautiful and majestic. Hospitality seems to come naturally to this land of raja-maharajas. Enveloped by the charm of the fascinating beauty of this destination I started my journey with its most romantic city, Udiapur.

My travel-obsessed heart could feel the air of classy warmth and charm in Udaipur. I was booked in The Oberoi Udaivilas, one of the finest heritage hotels in India. With its majestic aura, royal treatment, stunning interiors and warm hospitality, it had left me spell bound. After gorging on delicious breakfast I along with my guide Bhupender Singh headed towards the enchanting City Palace. Its interiors are embellished with royal paintings, mirror work and carvings. The palace complex encompasses several magnificent buildings, terraces, courtyards, corridors, pavilions, hanging gardens and museum. The Manak mahal, Mor Chowk and crystal gallery are the structures I liked the most. The palace also offers a picturesque view of the Pichola lake and Lake palace( one of the most luxurious and stunning heritage hotels of India).

Udaipur is popularly known as the ‘City of lakes’ which is famous throughout the world for its charm. Its foundation was laid by Maharana Udai Singh in the year 1568.

While coming out of the City Palace my gaze froze at a tree awash with bats. It was truly a sight to behold. From there I moved to Lake Pichola and enjoyed a boat ride. It was such a refreshing experience. Built in 1743, the Lake Palace is set amidst the lake. Post lunch I visited Fateh Prakash Lake which is a huge and beautiful water body. For a moment I felt as if I am in some southern region of India, somewhere near Kerala. Rajasthan truly has different colors and flavors to offer to tourists.

As I also had to explore some other cities of Rajasthan I decided to make a move from Udaipur towards Jodhpur. But how could I have left without enjoying shopping in this colorful city. I halted at the market and I joyfully indulged in shopping, ended up buying eight tie and dye suits and two saris. Really, it is impossible to resist shopping in Udaipur.

Sitting in the car with a mind overflowing with wonderful Udaipur memories I headed towards Jodhpur. The other cities of Rajasthan in my itinerary were Jaisalmer and Jaipur. These princely cities are the brightest jewels of this Rajput land.

My Kerala Houseboat Tour

Posted on February 25th, 2010 by admin  |  Comments Off on My Kerala Houseboat Tour

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.

Keoladeo National Park- The Birds Paradise

Posted on February 11th, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off on Keoladeo National Park- The Birds Paradise

 Bharatpur National Park Bharatpur National Park

Beautiful, colorful and vibrant! Birds teach us a lot about life! My torrid affair with birds bring me to Keoladeo National Park time and again. It was indeed a time stopping experience to witness the drama of birds in one of the world’s famous sanctuaries. The other day I was reading a nature based book “Srishti” in which I came across some information on birds by S. Baker. Dr Salim Ali, the father of ornithology in India. It read the bird is known to pair for life. ‘The cranes are most affectionate birds, pairing for life’. Isn’t it interesting!

Keoladeo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the incredible state of Rajasthan. Sprawling over an area of 232 sq km, the Park is also known as Bharatpur National Park. With its picturesque landscape, beautiful scenery, impressive wildlife, Keoladeo National Park is a great place to visit. It is a home to around 370 species of birds. The endangered Siberian cranes are also spotted here during winters.

It was a dream tour for me as I treated my senses to a variety of enchanting birds. I rented a bicycle to explore the Park. One of the interesting scenes I saw was a pair of cranes playing or fighting for twigs. Till the end I could not make out whether they were playing or fighting. Anyway it was interesting to watch. As I moved further I saw spider webs at a distance. I immediately stopped the bicycle and went close to it to observed it from close quarters. The web was hanging between two small plants with some dew drops shining brightly. At the corner of the web I spotted two spiders with yellow and white dots. I had no clue about its species but anyway they looked awesome.

As I was scouting for birds at a water body my gaze suddenly hit a python who, I guess, was sleeping or may be sunbathing. I immediately took a few steps back for safety reasons but at the same time it was a moment to behold. Without disturbing it I moved further in search of other wildlife. Then a few meters ahead I sighted Rosy Pelican, Spanish Sparrow, Red Crested Porhard and Flamingo. I wondered how wonderful these creatures of nature are!

As we moved on, I and my guide Sher Singh were greeted with the sights of cormorants, kingfishers, geese, herons, woodpeckers, parrots and egrets. I was seeing parrots after a long time. I remember when I was a kid parrots were quite common but today we rarely see them in our environment. Today sighting a parrot is no less exciting than the sighting of a tiger.

I was ecstatic at the sight of all the birds and other wildlife I saw in the Park. With cherished memories I came back to the Bharatpur Forest Lodge which is located within the Park and is run by the government. The next morning I woke up to the melodious chirping of birds. It was such a heart warming experience. This ended my Keoladeo National Park tour but my affair with wildlife continues.

Gulmarg Tourism: A Heavenly Trip to a Heaven

Posted on January 29th, 2010 by admin  |  Comments Off on Gulmarg Tourism: A Heavenly Trip to a Heaven

 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!

Varanasi Tour- The Path To Enlightenment

Posted on January 14th, 2010 by Pooja Chaudhary  |  Comments Off on Varanasi Tour- The Path To Enlightenment

 Aarti at Dashashwamedh_ghat Aarti at Dashashwamedh_ghat

Assailed by the profound urge to take a step forward on the path of ‘learning’ I with one of my close friends Shivani landed in Varanasi. I went there with a seeking mind and deep inside my heart I was sure that I will experience something great here. This was my first visit to this most famous spiritual center of India. I had heard a lot about this ‘city of life’ and was here to learn something about life.

Varanasi, also known as Banaras and Kashi, is one of the oldest cities in the world. Beautifully located on the banks of the sacred river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, this city is the ultimate pilgrimage site for the Hindus. The legend goes that this city was founded by Lord Shiva and it also finds mention in several Hindu scriptures such as Rigveda, Skanda Purana, Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. The history of this city dates back to around 5,000 years. Symbolizing Hindu renaissance,Varanasi is the center of knowledge, culture, spirituality, philosophy, arts and crafts.

We arrived at Varanasi in the early morning. We were booked in the ‘Palace on Ganges’, a heritage hotel which is ideally located on the banks of one of the ghats of holy river Ganga at Varanasi. Post breakfast we headed towards the ghats of Varanasi, which are around 80 in number. The sight of countless temples, pilgrims bathing in the holy water and sadhus engrossed in their bhagti was truly overwhelming.

It is believed that by taking a bath in the holy river Ganga at Varanasi frees one from the cycle of birth and death. With that faith I and Shivani took a dip in the waters of holy Ganga and it was such a great feeling which can’t be described in words. After that we went for a boat ride and passed through various ghats. The cool air and an ambiance steeped in peace and spirituality was a great thing to experience. We also came across the ghats where cremation is done. Well all I can say is that Ganga ghats are the places where we can actually see life and death together.

The evening aarti was something I was eagerly waiting for. We came to the famous Dasaswamedh ghat which is famous for evening aarti. After participating in the aarti we sat at the ghat for sometime. The view of the thousands of earthen lamps immersed in the waters of the sacred Ganga was simply uplifting. The ghat was shining brightly like a jewel. What a wonderful feeling it was to sit at such an amazing place, completely steeped in beauty and peace.