Blue me Away !!

Theres something magical about the water in Maldives. It had a very soothing feeling to it. Every person is sure to fall in love with this place. Like i mentioned in my earlier posts , i had never seen so many shades of blue ever and i clicked so many pictures but still couldnt capture the beauty of Maldives.

I would love to share some more pictures of the place just so that you are tempted to go there ;)

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I like this shade of blue.. it has such a calming effect !!

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Taken from the boat..on our way to the fishing village.

DSC_4925On our way we could see so many resorts pass by…Can u see the change of color to ink blue ….

My favourite picture of the lot

My favourite picture of the lot

DSC_4908I loved how every few minutes the color changes… its like god was constantly painting the town Blue ;)

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We stopped at Bandos Island resorts at Kaafu Atoll. Another amazing place to be. The reef at Bandos is one of the best in North Male atoll we were told. It was very different from the resort we stayed at. They had Jacuzzi Beach villa’s, garden villa’s and deluxe rooms. Even without a water villa, the resort was really good.

At Kaafu Atoll

At Kaafu Atoll

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I just loved this @ the Bandos

I just loved this @ the Bandos

And then we moved on to our resort, soaking in the beauty of the island. Seeing the ever changing color of water , the lush green vegetation and lots and lots of corals.

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I had fallen in love with this place.

The gentle breeze, the gushing waters, the pearl white beaches, the turquoise colored lagoon, the different aquatic creatures (some which i had seen for the first time)  and the beautiful landscape all making me believe that this is what people mean by Heaven. Maldives will always be my favourite destination because this is where i fell in love…with him.

Liebster Award Nomination!

I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award and it surely feels good. Just a few months into blogging and here i am with this nomination. Thank you Andrew from the World Journey Discover for the Nomination, its really special. I appreciate it and cant thank you enough. Sorry for taking so long to reply..

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Here are my answers :

1. What’s the country you most want to visit that you haven’t visited yet?

#  Has to be Iceland without a doubt.

2. Why (do you want to visit it)?

#  Read a lot about Iceland and yet its a mystery to me. The ever changing landscapes, waterfalls, glaciers etc all seem to be so inviting. Would definitely want to go on a road trip here.

3. What is the most awkward situation you’ve found yourself in when travelling?

# Nothing as of now. And i hope i dont get into such situations.

4. What’s the one thing in your pack you never go travelling without, and why?

# Ofcourse my Camera. I cant think of traveling without a camera, it lets me capture the memories of the place forever.

5. How has your blog changed since you began it?

# Its just been a few months since i started this blog. It was just to write about the places i visited ; my travel diary . And nothing has changed since then its still my travel dairy more like a travelogue that i share with my online friends.

6. What’s the most satisfying thing about blogging?

# It helps you connect with fellow travel bloggers. Helps you make friends with people you never met. Makes you share your experiences with them.

7. What camera do you use and why would/why wouldn’t you recommend it?

# I use my Nikon D3000 and am super happy with it. Its something that’s always there with me when i travel.

8. What’s the most relaxing place you’ve visited?

# Maldives. Its , like i  have told a hundred times , heaven on earth….where you love doing Nothing.!!!

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9. What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve been in whilst travelling?

# The crazy driving in Rajasthan had put me in an accident-like-situation but luckily i survived. The thought of it still scares me.

10.  What’s your biggest travelling regret?

# That i dont get to travel as much as i would love to.

 

And now my nominations. Here’s the list :-

1. Travel tales of life

2. Urge to wander

3. Wandering Souls wander travels

4. Bruised Passports

5. Maverick Bird

6. World is a Book

7.  Another day 2 paradise

8. Life is a Vacation

9. Booted Tales

10. Me & my Random Thoughts

My Questions :

1. Which is one place you would want to go back to again?

2. Do you have a favorite souvenir from any place?

3. The 3 things in your backpack that you dont travel without?

4. Do you plan your trip well in advance, like a fixed itinerary before you set out  or believe in just booking the tickets and hotels and go with the flow?

5. Do you like the beaches more or the hills more?

6. Which is the one place you would highly recommend to your fellow travellers?

7. Which is the one place you would not like to go again and Why?

8.  List any 5  destinations and tell us why its your favourite?

9. One thing that is on top of your bucket list?

10. Who or What is you inspiration to travel?

The rules :

1. Thank the person that nominated you (and link back to their blog).

2. Answer 10 of their questions.

3. Nominate 10 blogs.

4. Ask 10 of your own questions

5. Let your nominees know they have been nominated!

Rat temple !

Although i am not scared of Rats but these little creatures make me feel eww. Despite of this feeling I still wanted to visit Karni Mata Temple famously known as the Rat Temple whenever i visited Rajasthan. Being so close to Bikaner i could not miss this chance.

The entrance of the temple.

The entrance of the temple.

The Temple is situated at a place called Deshnok 30 kms from Bikaner and houses the official deity of the royal families of Bikaner and Jodhpur. Although i had expected what i would see here, still the whole feeling of being inside a temple with Rats running here and there made me a little uncomfortable. But everything just disappeared once I was inside. The Entrance of the temple was beautiful with typical Rajasthani architecture, carvings and marble walls.The doors had carvings of Shiva and other gods alongwith carving of tiny rats .  The Marble carvings at the entrance were just brilliant.

The brilliant marble carvings.

The brilliant marble carvings.

Once inside the complex you see Rats everywhere. Thousands of Rats either sleeping or running or feeding on food given to them by visitors. There were large bowls of milk kept here and there, and the rats were busy drinking from it in a very systematic way. Although the smell was replusive, yet the place had a spiritual feeling. These Rats are considered sacred and are taken care by the priests and the devotees. It seemed as if these tiny creatures were not bothered by the number of people visiting. They were happy in their own world. They dont bother you , so you dont bother them.

Rats just at the entrance.

Rats just at the entrance.

Busy eating oblivious of the curious eyes..

Busy eating oblivious of the curious eyes..

You can see the powerful idol of Karni Mata inside the temple and Rats all over the idol,  it seemed like home to them and the goddess their mother. Goddess Karni Mata, is said to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga and hence a lot of people visit the place to seek her blessings. I could see the rats feeding on the Prasad, but it looked like an every day affair.

Feeding on the Prasad.

Feeding on the Prasad.

The story goes as such, that a devotee of Karni Mata came to her with her dead child and she promised to help, by bringing the child back to life. However, she failed because Yama, the god of death, had already taken away his soul and incarnated him in a human form. Disappointed as she was, Karni Mata announced that her clan/tribe would die and be reborn as rats and then as humans but would not fall into Yama’s hands. And thus, the Rats inside the temple are considered to be Mata’s devotees.

in every corner ...

in every corner …

on the steps, in the verandah, in the passage...

on the steps, in the verandah, in the passage…

Some say, if your bitten by them its good luck, while some say its auspicious even if they just run over your feet . Our driver told us that there are 1-2 white Rats in the temple complex which are not so easily spotted. But if you happen to see them then that means with whatever wish you have come here , that wish will be fulfilled. I was hoping and praying that i see atleast one those white Rats but hard luck :(

Peacefully sleeping

Peacefully sleeping

Here i was trying to avoid stepping on one of the rats and there i saw this little boy playing so peacefully with them. He cuddled them, petted them till they fell asleep. Strange, but I found it cute .

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While some might find this whole thing bizarre, for me and some others this connection between the Lord and the rats is a spiritual experience which is beyond words. The place is an experience in itself . And I would recommend it ro anyone visiting Bikaner just to see the uniqueness of this Temple, where thousands of tourists come to worship these long tailed rodents.

Bikaner

On our way from Jaisalmer to Jaipur, we stopped at Bikaner for a few hours to break our journey. After our delicious Rajasthani lunch at a restaurant in Bikaner we headed straight to the Junagadh Fort. It was a massive fort made of red stone and had a series of gates that one has to pass to enter the fort.

Junagadh fort unlike other forts in Rajasthan was not built on a hill, that was a surprise to me.

The Fort Complex.

The Fort Complex.

Rao Bika, the second son of Rao Jodha who was the founder of Jodhpur was the first one to built a fort in Bikaner even before Junagadh fort was built. The stone fort still exists but is in ruins. The city of Bikaner was founded by Rao Bika in the year 1478. It was only later,after 100 years that the city of Bikaner flourished under the rule of Raja Rai Singhji , the sixth ruler of Bikaner who ruled the city from 1571 to 1611 AD. The Junagadh fort was then built under the supervision of Karan Chand, a trusted aide of Raja Rai Singhji. History has it, that despite repeated attempts to capture the fort, it could not be captured. Only once when Kamran Mirza, the second son of the Mughal Emperor Babur had captured the fort for one day, he was then defeated by the Rathors and had to return back to Lahore.

The fort where twenty kings have resided, was once called Chintamani Durg, but was later named Junagadh, when the royal family moved out to their new palace residence.
However, The Raja Rai Singhji trust founded by the Royal family has put in a lot of efforts to maintain the fort and the museum within. They also provide guided tours to visitors for a minimum cost. The person who took us around was a very old security guy who has been here for ages and before him his family too worked with the Royal Family. He was systematic in his approach , provided a lot of information while showing us around and answered all our questions with a smile.07_Bikaner (55)

As soon as you enter the Fort , you come across this massive red colored wall with steps on each sides.(pic below). It was such a beautiful sight and my favorite part of the fort. As we entered inside, we could see there was restoration work going on one side of the palace. Hence, we coudnt click the famous cannon which was captured by Maharaja Gaj Singh, the 14th ruler of Bikaner, in 1808. Its a small cannon but the guide told us that it has a lot importance in the history of Bikaner.

My favourite part of the fort complex.

My favourite part of the fort complex.

Restoration work in progress.

Restoration work in progress.

When we went further inside I could see that there were lots of courtyards and each of them were different . The courtyards then led to different palaces or Mahal like the Karan Mahal, Anoop Mahal, Phool Mahal, Badal Mahal, Durbar Hall , each one an architectural marvel, some with rubies and emeralds studded, some with gold dazzling chandeliers, white washed marble walls, motifs of flowers, glass inlay work, and 1100 year old Sandalwood throne. Beautiful paintings on the walls, lattice work on the windows , use of red stones and marbles in the construction, everything was a visual treat to the eyes. My favourite was the door made from Walnut tree wood. It looked as if it was made just yesterday. Kudos to the efforts of the Trust who maintain the place.

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The beautiful cielings

The beautiful ceiling.

The palace complex has a museum within the fort called the Junagadh Fort museum which was established in 1961, with lots of objects in display. A huge collection of armouries, sofa sets, tea sets, spoons, mirrors, gold and silver howdahs, thrones, palanquins,sanskrit and persian manuscripts, war drums, royal costumes, paintings etc. A special mention to the huge Haviland Plane which was on display, the guide told us that the King of Bikaner had good relations with the British and this plane was gifted to him by the Britishers as a friendly gesture.

The Junagadh fort is a grand affair and something very different from the Mehrangarh fort of Jodhpur. It took us 2-3 hours to see the whole place  and this was just a small portion of the fort that is open to the public.

The Marble seat was used by the King .

The Marble seat was used by the King .

The view of Badal Mahal.

The view of Badal Mahal.

When we came out and were about to leave, the guide told us there was a small museum just outisde the fort but within the premises that we should not miss. We walked towards the small complex facing the fort palace. This museum called PRACHEENA is founded by the present princess of Bikaner has some of her personal and some royal collection in display. Its surely not to be missed.

One thing that comes to mind when I think of Bikaner fort palace is “Grand” , yet I see a lot of people giving Bikaner city a miss. The Rao Singhji Trust is doing a great job and the Palace itself is so beautiful and full of history that more and more people need to know about it.

Jaisalmer – the golden city

We reached Jaisalmer late in the evening when it was almost dark. Tired and exhausted i just had my food and retired to bed. Morning when i got up, i was least expecting anything extraordinary from the place. But the moment we stepped out i came to know why this city is called as the golden city. Everything from the houses, shops, hotels etc were golden in colour or it has probably got to do more with the yellow sandstone that has been used extensively in the construction of these, and the shining golden sun just added to the sight giving this place a honey-golden feel.  The one thing that kept following us everywhere we went were the Cows….where ever you see there were cows all around. Maybe its because major part of the population lead a life grazing their flocks and herds.

Jaisalmer Fort- the second largest fort in Rajasthan.

Jaisalmer Fort- the second largest fort in Rajasthan.

Jaisalmer is surrounded by Bikaner, Jodhpur and Pakistan border. Jaisalmer was a major route for trade between Indian and Arabian Merchants. But when Mumbai emerged as an important port for sea trade, Jaisalmer’s land routes just faded away. Further the India Pakistan partition led to the closure of the routes completely.

Jaisalmer lies in the Thar Desert and boasts of the only living fort in India, with one fourth of the citys population still living inside the fort. Although its something that is a major attraction for tourists , i personally felt that the fort was not clean and nobody made efforts to keep it clean. With large number of families living inside the fort, temples, shops, restaurants etc inside the fort the amount of garbage and trash that you see makes you disappointed. Especially after visting forts like the Amer Fort and Mehrangarh Fort.

But despite of all this, The Jaisal fort is major tourist attraction especially with the foreign tourists. Its the second largest fort in Rajasthan with a 30 feet high wall  and has 9 bastions, 92 of which were built between 1633 and 1647. The jain temples inside the fort just makes you go Wow. The architecture is awe inspiring. We walked and walked and came across such beautiful architectural gems that we couldnt get our eyes off them. The view of the City from the fort was amazing.

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Beautiful Architecture of the Jain Temples.

Beautiful Architecture of the Jain Temples.

Patwon ki Haveli and Salim singh ki Haveli are also major attractions here. Its definitely worth a visit. The Jali work windows or Jharokas that had got me mesmerised at Mehrangarh Jodhpur again managed to get me excited at Patwon ki Haveli. Its also the best place to get some amazing photo-ops.You will be speechless looking at the architecture and your camera wont stop clicking.

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Patwon Ki Haveli

Later in the evening we visited BaraBaugh a garden complex that contains a set of royal cenotaphs or chhatris of Maharajas of Jaisalmer. It was so beautiful , and with the setting sun in the background the place looked just out of this world. The hill with the cenotaphs are frequently visited by tourists whereas the garden is highly neglected.

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Chhatris of Bara Baugh

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Cenotaphs of Bara Baugh

Shopping is another attraction here, with locally made bedsheets with beautiful designs, shawls, carpets, jewellery,amazing handicrafts especially puppets etc. You will also find musicians playing their instruments in every nook and corner of the fort giving it a very soothing feeling.

Being a Desert , Jaisalmer majorly depends on Tourism.  Like our guide said , the local people here are so much depended on tourists for their livelihood that even kids know spanish, german and french more than English. And we actually saw a lot of people/ guides talking spanish and german to the foreign tourists.

Our Hotel - the rooms were basic but the food was amazing.

Our Hotel – the rooms were basic but the food was amazing.

The one thing that i thoroughly enjoyed in Jaisalmer apart from the food was the Desert safari. I could easily compare it with the Desert Safari that i took in Dubai and surely theres nothing that could even come close to it. But Jaisalmer’s Desert Safari has a charm of its own. A very local, Indian and soothing feeling. I felt i was living a dream. The Camel ride was scary but super entertaining. We had a 10 year old kid taking care of our camel which added to our fear. But soon we realised that he was a Pro. And then seeing the sun set at the Thar desert was the most thrilling experience ever.

My favourite shot of the setting sun at the Thar Desert.

My favourite shot of the setting sun at the Thar Desert.

my singing campanion at the desert.

my singing companion at the desert.

Although cleanliness was something that bothered me, but still Jaisalmer had its own way of winning me over. Its definitely a great place to unwind and losing yourself to desolate landscapes and artistic monuments.

A visit to Kuldhara a ghost town, with haunting stories which i dint dare visit this time as i was too scared after hearing all the stories is still pending. Maybe next time when i have gathered all the courage.

 

Paradise Island Resort – A Photo Essay

I could go on and on about Maldives & never get tired of it. Here i am with another photo essay dedicated to this beautiful island nation that got me mesmerized.

From the moment i stepped into Maldives i was head over heels in love with this island nation. It is known to be the smallest Asian country with 1192 coral islands grouped in a chain of 26 atolls, out of which 185 islands are home to its inhabitants while the rest are used for tourism. When a hotel staff told me this i was shocked, my reaction was “one resort is one island?” It is also the lowest country in the world but the most beautiful one.

With captivating ocean views of Indian ocean, deep blue lagoons, white sandy beaches and first class accommodation, Maldives is surely an unforgettable experience. This post is a photo essay of our journey in this island.

The dock outside the Airport..from where a speedboat takes you to the resort

The dock outside the Airport..from where a speedboat takes you to the resort

Some resorts have Sea plane service to ferry their customers to the hotels.

Our resort from the speed boat.

Our resort from the speed boat.

We stayed at Lankanfinolhu island , which is in North Male atoll . Our resort was called the Paradise Island Resort and it was the best choice we ever made.

I loved spending time by the poolside.

I loved spending my time by the poolside.

Our over water villas with steps down to the crystal clear water.

Our over water villas with steps down to the crystal clear water.

View of water villas from the beach villa.

View of water villas from the beach villa.

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I spotted so many of these outside my room.

It was a soothing experience relaxing  just a few feet above the Indian ocean, watching the sky merging with the blue water.

The sit-out outside our room.

The sit-out outside our room.

This was my favourite place.

This was my favourite place.

And his too ;)

With beach just a few steps away, fishes all around you, crystal clear water where you can see your reflection and ocean right outside your room but yet so private, we certainly did feel we were in paradise.

Our Resort

Our Resort

The never ending beachside.

The never ending beachside.

I could never get enough of  Maldives and i definitely want to go back again , maybe to another island , another paradise.

Agra fort – A brush with history.

Agra, is a place full of history, architecture and stories of love & war. We planned to visit Agra after spending 12 days exploring Rajasthan. I mostly wanted to see Agra just for Taj Mahal but Agra fort surprised me. Its etched forever in my memory . We had no fixed itinerary and just a day to go. But I made the right decision to spend a few hours in the Agra fort before heading back to Jaipur to catch a flight back home.

The Agra fort seemed like a regular fort with red walls from outside. My first impression was “what’s so great about it?” It seemed nothing like the things I read but I dint know what was in store for me inside. As soon as I entered the Fort, I could see things that I had read in the book come alive. The huge chain which was just at the entry point was the same one the old lady had banged In order to seek justice from Emperor Jahangir for her son.

The main Entrance of the fort.

The courtyards, the gardens , Angoor Baugh which was the Mughal kings favourite place, everything was just so beautiful.

Angoor Baugh..

The courtyard which used to hosts bazaars for the ladies of the harem, this courtyard was then turned into a lawn by the Britisher’s. The terrace area where Mehrunissa or Nurjahan the most powerful empress of king Jahangir used to sit and play chess with soldiers doubling Up as horses,Wazirs etc.

The well maintained courtyard.

The same terrace which was then Aurangzeb’s  personal courtroom, still maintained by the authorities.

Aurangzeb's Seat...made of precious gems.

Aurangzeb’s Seat…made of precious gems.

Rohanara and Jahanara’s palanquin or doli shaped rooms which was built by their father Shahjahan with a wish that his daughters get married. Jahanara’s room , the place from where he used to sit and watch the construction of Tajmahal.

Can you see the palanquin shaped room?

A closer view of the room...Its from here that the Emperor used to watch the construction of Taj mahal after being captured by his son.

A closer view of the room…Its from here that the Emperor used to watch the construction of Taj mahal after being captured by his son.

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Another view of the room with the terrace.

The terrace from where you get spectacular views of the whole of Agra City with Tajmahal and Yamuna river in the background. The fort palace, the rooms, the courtyard etc the decor of which spelt elegance and royalty.

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The Mughal story was an interesting one and I was always curious. It helped that I knew a bit of history before I visited this place because it helped me connect instantly.

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The massive walls

The few hours that I spent at the Agra fort was my brush with history and also with the characters that had mesmerized me and made me read the The taj trilogy (my favourite of the lot being Feast of Roses ). Even before the guide could tell , I knew what I was looking at , glad that I had read all the three books from the series. This was my most memorable part of the trip. The book gave my trip a new dimension . Even if you have not read the book, go for it , I am sure the place will surprise you ..and you’ll love it.

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Note: There are lots & lots of guides waiting outside to get hold of you. Make sure you take one who is govt recognised, it’s a good way of knowing the history of the place. If you don’t want a guide, you can still see the place on your own. There’s a small entry fee.