How could I stay at home when I had 9 official holidays at office. And so another great trip was planned to see Forts, Palaces, and the great Taj mahal. We had made some small plans few months back for the Annual shutdown but those were grounded long back. Reason being that people would go home for such a long holiday etc. But I am staying at home, so why should I be at home for 9 full days when I could be having so much fun :)) . I had literally thought of going alone but suddenly it came to my mind that Sreejith was also there. And offcourse he was game for it. Just two days before leaving even Ankit also joined in and we were three of us. So we booked a Cab (indica) and started on thursday, 28th Dec 2006 for another great trip.
Sreejith , Ankit and I went to Noida a day before (i.e. wednesday) and we had to stay at Raheja's place. He was still in Noida. We went for eating pretty late , thanks to the great bus we took from GZB to Noida that took 1/2 hour in starting from GZB. But we got this great idea of watching a movie and we went for Happy Feet. Ummmm!! Awesome movie. The penguins were too cute, and the best one among them were that short sweet nasty penguin which used to crack jokes after jokes. Best of them being
"I can hear them wanting something....Meeeeeeee"
"You have done everything penguinly possible"
The movie was definitely a brilliant start to set the mood for a great trip. We went back home and had dinner. Post dinner we chatted and played dumb-charads for sometime. We had called the Taxi at 6:00 o'clock and it was already 3:00 so we decided to get a long sleep :P .
Well, the inevitable happened. Nobody woke up in time, and fortunately my sleep broke at 6:45 AM. We finally managed to leave Noida at 7:45 which was not bad. The journey
till Agra was good. The best thing was our great driver, who unfortunately did not know how to drive properly and even worse, he felt he was a great driver. We had to stop on the way thanks to the punctured tyre that we saw great yellow fields and took few photographs in Shahrukh/Kajol's tujhe dekha to ye jaana sanam getup :) .
On our way we had our breakfast at the great A1 Plaza. I wanted to try it thinking that it might be good. It was not so bad either, other than a bit too oily Bathuras and Pooris. But this was just a beginning. We reached Agra around 11:30 and straightaway went to see the greatest monument of Indian History - Taj Mahal. Agra Government has done a good job in putting battery powered vehicles and allowing only animal pulled carts to avoid pollution in the premises. We just saw a queue of people and enqueued ourselves. Sreejith went to buy tickets and checkin the baggage. When he didnt return for 15 minutes I went to check for him . Huh! I had a good view of the line. There were atleast 300 people before us. Bothra was right when he said 'go early to Taj, it gets crowded'. We were discussing ideas like Taj should have 'online checkin facilities', 'exclusive for 1000 ppl at any time' stuff when somoe great guy suggested us to go stand in the 'male queue'. Huh! what the hell, there were enough males in our line that we never got a doubt that there was only a single line when actually the male line was just 10 people long :( . Anyways, we saved close to half an hour and entered the great monument.
The first view itself was breathtaking. Taj mahal looked so pure and beautiful that I felt like sitting and viewing it for a whole day. When we reached closer we found shoes lying everywhere with a board sign 'put ur shoes here' with so small an arrow that we could not really see properly. So we also started taking our shoes off just in front and a security guy said 'Shahjahan ko acha lagega agar aap joote yahan rakhenge to' , and we started ROFLing when we actually went to other side and noticed the small arrow pointing to the 'shoe parking area' :) .
Taj mahal is really beautiful, but the surroundings are dirty. The River that flows behind it is hardly a river with water color close to black. The gardens around Taj
are very nicely maintained. Someone can really spend hours just sitting and watching Taj from some distance. We also sat on a bench for sometime to get a good feel of Taj. We came out around 3:00 o'clock and went to Agra fort. It was not very crowded and was mostly under reconstruction. I was thinking what is the point of having an old monument if they have to break it and rebuild it again, but who cares as long as they have something to see . We had a quick tour as Sreejith was not willing to walk anytime :P so we left and went to Fateh Pur Sikri.
Well, Fatehpur Sikri was really a bad experience. I mean the place was ok, but the people who called themselves Guides were terrible. Starting from 125 Rs for a tour coming down to 20Rs the guys were not leaving us. It was really a terrible thing to see. They were stopping cars on the way , running with them sometimes. We had a quick tour of Fatehpur also and it was getting dark so we left for Jaipur.
As soon as we got out of Fatehpur we met with a Jam. It took us 1/2 hour to get out of the jam and we had come on the wrong road :(. We had to again go through the jam to take the right road :(( wasting another 1/2 hour on our way. At 8:00 o'clock we finally took the highway to Jaipur. On our way we again stopped at A1 Plaza and this time we ordered Palak paneer and Dal Makhani. Well my theory is that its really tough to make a bad Dal makhani but A1 disproved my theory. The food was just Terrible and we took a vow that we would never stop on A1 again. Ankit and I were sleeping in the back seat and Sreejith was trying hard to keep the driver awake by singing songs and dancing on the front seat. Thanks to him we are still alive. We checked into a hotel in Adarsh nagar at 1:00 o'clock and went straight to sleep.
The next morning was beautiful. I had a chat with Nitin about what to see in Jaipur
and we had a long list of Tourist spots to cover. We started with the Jaigarh fort which was quiet amazing. There was a 250 Ton Cannon on display that looked giagantic. There was a small shop which was selling 'mitti ki saree' and '100/250 gram ki quilt' and funny stuff like that. It was a part of our guided tour so we had to see all this too. There were few lawns and lots of empty space in the middle of the fort. The view from the corners of the fort was great. We could see the whole jaipur city, Amer palace etc. From Jaigarh fort we went to Nahargarh and we were really excited when I pointed a parked girls college bus to Sreejith and Ankit. And there were indeed lots of girls and as soon as we got down of our car we started following them. But soon we were asked to leave that place as it was their private party. Huh! poor gals, could not see enough of we guys :) .
Nahargarh fort was funny, as in it had nothing much inside other than lots of small rooms with 4 doors each. The terrace was good with a panoramic view of the whole city. There were small handle like iron structures embedded in the terrace walls and we made a theory that the fort was tied with wires and was picked from some other place where it was actually made and was dropped here. We went to the open air restaurant to have some refreshing drinks. We were delighted to see the menu with lassis, juices etc. Juice was not available, Milkshakes were not available, lassis were not available. Huh! only beer was. So we left the place, with few poor ppl who had followed us to the restaurant with hope of getting something good.
Next spot was Amer palace. What a great place - not for beauty, but for the kuflis that we had there. The fort entrance area was torn apart into pieces as if they were making place for a large Discotheque. The sheesh mahal was inside Amer palace which was decently ok. Other than that there was not much to see in Amer palace as half of it was under re-construction. Till now we had been bugged so much with Guides that Sreejith made a huge effort to avoid them. He started saying 'saar see this', 'saar this is made of this' to us so that everyone around would feel he is our guide. We got so frustrated with Sreejith's 'saar this that' crap once that we ran away and lost him. And after 10 minutes we hear his voice 'kaka' from the top of the fort which he did not know how to come back from. Finally we came out of the fort shouting loudly - 'great place yaar', 'really awesome' so that more people would get curious to go inside. And after another round of great Kuflis we left for Birla temple.
On our way back there was another spot called 'kanak vrindavan'. We paid 7 rupees for the parking so we stayed 10 minutes to make for those 7 bucks. It looked like a small garden from outside with few less than 10 yrs old playing inside. We were cursing people for naming it a tourist spot but I later came to know that there is a lake inside the garden and its quiet beautiful from inside. No regrets though for not seeing it.
We were quiet hungry and wanted to eat somewhere, but we could not find any damn restaurant for a 10 km long stretch. Finally we found a Mall - city pulse with subway boards on it so we went to have a quick lunch. But Ankit and Sreejith once sat on the chairs did not feel like getting up at all. Out of the blue they were liking the quietness of the Mall (quiet empty at 4:00 in afternoon). We went to birla temple
and sat outside it talking about various things. The marble structure all around was giving a very soothing feeling. Around 6:00 o'clock when it started getting darker marble turned very cold and it was difficult to stand barefoot on it.
We left for Gaurav towers in Malviya nagar which is supposedly the most happening mall in Jaipur with MacDs, Shoppers stop, and everything. I was waiting for a friend who I had to meet and so Sreejith and Kaka also stayed for sometime. Their next destination was 'choki-dhani' which is a very famous place in jaipur. Its like a small village with puppet shows, camel/elephant rides, boat rides, and typical rajasthani food. I had already been to Dhola-Ri-Dhani in Hyderabad so I skipped it. While waiting in Gaurav towers we started playing Dumb-charads again with Sreejith's best acting for the movie Italian job ;).
Early next morning we started for Udaipur. The highway is awesome. We had an average speed of almost 70-80kms. Though Sreejith was a bit afraid of the driver's way of driving but he still made us reach everywhere early. On our way we stopped at few places to take some photos of the scenic beauty. We also stopped at A1 dhaba for
breakfast again. I was a bit amazed to see that this one was 50% more expensive then other one we had been to. Till now we had been to A1 thrice, dinner time, breakfast and brunch time. Though I felt like seeing it in lunch and snax time too but Sreejith and Ankit would have kicked me hard if I had shown my feelings again. Our next stop was Chittorgarh fort which comes on the way to Udaipur around 130 kms before.
The fort was enormous. It had more number of different temples than I would have visited until now. Because of its enormity the density of people was a bit less making it a better place to see. It stretched to 13 kms end to end.
There were two palaces , a museum , a big garden, lots of lawns and more than 15 temples inside its premises. After spending a full two hours we continued our journey to Udaipur.
The first hotel we saw for staying was quiet cheap - 150Rs/ room. We could imagine what kind of room it would be but I still went and saw it out of curiosity. Well, there were still some good hotels in Surajpol area that is close to Railway station and bus stand. We checked in , got fresh and went out. Our first stop was Fateh sagar lake. We were just half an hour late for boating. But we were determined so we enquired and found another place called 'sukhaida circle' where there was a small pool of water (20 feet radius) with a tall fountain in the middle. We boated for 15 minutes , hitting other pedal boats on our way and went to Fateh Sagar lake again. From far we could see a small fort like structure hanging in air at the top of hill. We were curious to know what it was. We could hear some loud music coming from the other side of the lake. So we just went for a drive around the lake. The road surrounding the lake was great. At one spot I proposed to stop for a while to which kaka said 'nahi yaar sunsaan ilaaka hai' as if someone would be looking for three 25 year old guys there. We actually reached the place where the music was coming from and it looked like some private party. We still did not know what we were going to do on the new year eve. We had decided to buy newspapers in the morning and search for all such parties we could go to.
We had another plan in mind. To go to Ranthambore national sanctuary on 31st evening and stay there for the night. Quiet Adventurous eh!! so we had decided to enquire about that too. While coming back towards our hotel we came across a Theatre with Guru's poster too. We stopped, thinking of wasting 2 hours in a movie having nothing else to do in the night. But that was the 'next change' and we had already seen kabul express so we left out plans. It was really bad to miss a 35Rs ticket movie when we have to pay in excess of 100 bucks everytime in Delhi.
We left our Car at around 9:00 o'clock cose to our hotel. We went to two travel agencies to enquire about Ranthambore and nobody had any idea. We found an internet Cafe too and thought to look for information where its always available - internet. All we could find was Hotels with rents 3000 upwards, totally above our budgets. So we killed the plan. We also found a login open in gmail in the Cafe and sent a mail to that id from the same id saying 'h@ckin is a p@rt of l1fe'. Poor fellow will have a hard time finding out who did it. While logging out I double checked that my passwords were not remembered anywhere to avoid getting a similar mail in my account later :). We found this incident so funny that we were calling ourselves 'Ranthambore hackers' and we were actually giggling thinking of this incident everytime a travel agency was coming in our way.
We had our dinner in a good restaurant named Sapphire which served decently delicious food. Only missing part was juice which we had avoided there as it was a bit overpriced at 35 bucks. So we found a juice shop after our Ranthambore hacking incident around 11:00 o'clock. We drank dreadful pineapple juice at some juice shop which killed all our desires :(( . We started roaming on the streets post that just to see what all was there. Udaipur was much better in terms of restaurants and eating places than jaipur. We came across a hoarding saying 'Dhoom 2007' at 'Apani Dhani' and we thought of going there for celebrating the new year eve. A bit further we found Cafe-Coffee-day and thought of having a coffee but I insisted on going further on the road to check what was there. I saw a board pointing to hotel Lake palace so I told sreejith and Ankit to come saying its only 200metres. Sreejith was in his general mode of avoiding walking and was furious when he saw the board actually saying 600 metres . I told him that we were three of us so 200 metres each but this mathematics did not help and we had to go back. We went to CCD and had smoothies and pastry and then we went to our hotel.
All the nights sreejith had disturbed us with his snoring. And even worse was his Alarm on his phone. He wont wake up with the alarm ever, instead I had to wake up with his Alarm. I even kept the phone on his ear once and still I had to switch it off as he was still unaffected . Anyways, early morning on 31st we went straight for boating in Fateh Sagar lake. The Steamer takes you to Nehru park in the middle of the lake which looks beautiful and green with hills and water all around. There was a restaurant in the middle of lake too that was connected with the nehru park . We had a long chat about few innovative business ideas in the restaurant. Sreejith had bought few lolli-pops also which made us look like overgrown kids. After coming back from Nehru park we enquired about the fort that was hanging in mid air last night. It was Sajjan garh fort. The fort and the drive to reach there was really awesome. It was a wild life sanctuary with sharp hairpin curves. Both Fateh Sagar and Picchola lakes were visible from the top. It looked like the highest point of Udaipur. We could see
lake palace and city palace too from the top. After seeing this fort
when we were coming out we saw few monkeys (langoors) doing some tricks too which Sreejith and Ankit did not let me photograph also :( .
We left for city palace from Sajjan garh. City palace was a bit over priced being a privately owned one. The palace was more of a museum of old paintings, weapons etc rather than a palace. It was quiet huge. Taking any type of
camera inside would cost 200 bucks which offcourse we did not pay but nobody checked inside. So we took few pictures inside too :) . The pichola lake was visible from one side of the palace and we could see people boating to reach Lake palace hotel too. It looked good. It was the same place where the James Bond movie Octopussy was shot. We were so tired roaming inside city palace that we
felt like getting out of it terribly. But it was mostly one way inside, one who enters has to see it all. Finally after an hour of walking inside we came out and thought of having lunch. We went to this sucking place called 'cool place' where the guy gave two closed bottles of Soda and few lime pieces on ordering 'Fresh lime soda' . The restaurant owner took the meaning of 'self service' literally it seems.
As we had to go to Apani Dhani in the night we thought of eating light so we went to a Sweet shop and ate 'pyaj kachori' which we had heard are a speciality of the place and they were actually pretty good. Ankit and I drank a glass of milk too which was also good.
We had to leave for Apani dhaani around 8:00 o'clock and we had to see the light and sound show in Maharana Pratap memorial so we had some one hour to kill. We went for boating again in Fateh sagar lake and Kaka and I took the pedals. Sreejith had nothing to do so he was terrifying us by pushing his weight on either side and making the boat unstable. The light and sound show was quiet terrible. It was too longish and looked like a history lesson with background effects. But the fountains outside the light show were good. We came out of the place at around 8:15 and to our surprise we found that the driver was not there. We started thinking and drew lots of conclusions starting from he is an idiot to he must have met with an accident. But fortunately he came back after sometime.
We reached Apani Dhaani around 9:00 o'clock and the place was overcrowded. The main lawn was full of people and a stupid Clown was doing some magic. We went and sat at a bit secluded place for 1/2 hr or so and chatted. People were having a hard time in getting snax also but we managed to have some. Around 10:30 we went for dinner which was just ok. After that we came back and sat on a khatiya and started chatting . The DJ was fine in the beginning but later they brought some stupid singer who was singing old songs. We had guessed that at 12:00 o'clock the song that will be played will be 'waiting for tonite', 'mitwaaa' and one more but the song that was played (actually sung) was 'happy new year..' . Huh! atleast the fireworks were decent. We left the place around 12:30 thinking whether to start our journey back right away or get some sleep. Sreejith did not trust our driver's capabilities so we thought of starting in the morning.
Our journey back was equally eventful . We had covered close to 170kms in the first two hours itself. We had hardly a total of 400 bucks in cash and we were quickly running out of feul . We even stopped at one petrol pump and the poor fellow started generator for feuling the car but was pissed off when we asked him to fill diesel for 100 bucks :P . We asked the guy to accept card to which he said 'show the card' which was quiet hillarious as cards were not accepted there. We thought of going to another petrol pump asking to accept cards and give our Biz cards instead :P but we did not. After a long drive when we were finally close to Gurgaon we found Fog all around. Sreejith showed us lots of Malls in gurgaon and after dropping him we started towards Ghaziabad. Ankit took a bus to Meerut and I came home.
The trip all in all was a very good and different experience than most of my other trips. Trips to Mahabaleswar, Simla, Rishikesh/Mussouri, SriSailem, Goa were all adventuruous with lots of scenic beauty but Rajasthan trip was more of a trip down the history. The more I see places in India the more I feel is left to see. Even in Rajasthan we could not see Jaisalmer, Ajmer, Jodhpur etc . Well another trip may be..Another trip is already in pipeline, lets see if it goes as planned.