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Last month I went on a road trip from Gurgaon(Haryana) to Chail and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, India; with my cousin and a friend.
It was a nice escape from torturing heat of Delhi, driving on Delhi- Chandigarh highway and through the serpentine roads of Himachal. We started in the morning at around 7:30 am, took a halt for breakfast at the famous Sukhdev-Amreek Dhaba, Murthal for butter-drenched parathas with chach and lassi, and then continued non-stop till we reached Sadhupul.
Sadhupul is a small village in Himachal Pradesh on the way from Kandaghat to Chail, based around a small bridge constructed over the hill river “Ashwini”. The waters are quite shallow here and you can easily walk through it. There are few sheds with tables and chairs arranged in the middle of the river and a small restaurant serving you maggi, pakoras, omelette, tea, drinks, etc. Though you can enjoy few hours in the evening here but move on before it gets dark as the roads are narrow and not in good shape.
We reached Hotel Chail Palace by around 6:30pm, where we were greeted by lots of monkeys, ready to snatch on anything they could. But luckily we were not carrying anything loose, thanks to the information gathered from TripAdvisor. You all must be cautious of the monkey menace at the Chail Palace!!
After check-in we drove towards the Deluxe Log Hut which is about 1 km deeper into the forest area. The path was too narrow and scary; just a few inches mistake and our car would have gone deep into the valleys. The hut was quite simple with basic facilities and lots of mirrors all-around(I hope you can guess the purpose well !!). The attendant was quite helpful and provided us good room service. The food was also good. Night was too cold as expected. We got up in the morning, took some nice shots and went for local sight-seeing. There isn’t much to see in Chail. We first saw the Palace which has some nice paintings and ornate maharaja style furniture. Overall, it was an awesome experience at the Palace, with fresh mountain air and towering pine trees all over. Then we went to Kali ka Tibba, which is a small temple of Kaali Maa, made in white marble ,situated at a great height. It has idols of many other gods too. The views from here are spectacular. Its so peaceful here that the only sound you will hear is of fresh air gushing through. This place is not to be missed at all. Later, we went to the Gurudwara situated near the main market area.
By this time we were too hungry and headed straight towards the Sharma Bhojnalaya, which is about 2-3 kms uphill on the way to Shimla. It is a small family run dhaba with very basic furniture and nothing attractive for the eyes. But you will get nicely prepared home-style food which your taste-buds and stomach will really love to have. We had few parathas and tea and were ready for our next destination- Shimla. On the way, we stopped at Himalayan Nature Park, Kufri. It is a small zoo with few animals and a museum. Adjacent to it is the Potato Research Institute of India.
After drive of about 40kms from Chail Palace, we reached at Hotel Kapil, Shimla. It is a small hotel in Lakkarbazaar area near the Mall road. The room was nicely done and had a beautiful view of the valley. After few hours of rest, we went to the mall road for evening stroll. Sunset was really worth watching from the Ridge.
Though it was not the peak season but still the crowd was huge. There were school kids, teenagers, newly married couples on their honeymoon, older couples and all sorts of people, everybody enjoying in their own ways. There are many things to entertain tourists like horse riding, plays, folk dances and lots of eateries serving momos, pakoras, kachori, gol-gappe, gulab-jamun and variety of shakes and juices. Here, on the Ridge, is the famous Gandhi statue, the State library and the Church. You have to move slightly down on the other side of the Ridge to reach the Mall, which is a long road with innumerable shops and restaurants on both sides. There is also a Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex on the Mall. If you are interested in theatre and art this place should be on your must-visit list. There is a guided tour and plays are showcased here regularly.
Next morning we had our breakfast at the hotel and checked-out. There are many places to see in Shimla like Jakhu Temple, Tara Devi Temple, Kali Bari Temple, Kalka-Shimla Toy train but we had to miss most of them due to time shortage. Kalka- Shimla railway will get you through the breath-taking spectacular views of Himachal valleys with very tall pine trees all over. We had that mesmerising experience during our last trip to Kasauli.
We went on to the Viceregal Lodge, also known as Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. It was formerly the residence of the British Viceroy of India. They have a guided tour of about 30 minutes which will take you through the marvellous architecture inside the lodge, all made of wood with beautiful carvings. There is also a huge lawn outside where you can relax if you have the ample time. There is also a library and a souvenir shop where you can buy some books, postcards, t-shirts, etc.
After that we went to Annandale, the Army museum. It houses some big artillery guns and many other weapons, mannequins of army personnel in different uniforms, posters showing some great achievements of our brave soldiers, details of various UN missions, etc. There is a huge golf course for the army personnel. This place is really beautiful, very well maintained and a bliss for the eyes and the soul.
That was all from my Chail-Shimla trip. And we drove back to our hometown !!
If you love travelling and have that passion to drive, you would be enthralled to know that there are many foreign countries where you can drive with your Indian licence.
With Left-hand driving:
Great Britain(England, Scotland and Wales) allows foreigners to drive with their home country’s licence for one year but only for the class of vehicle which your licence permits.
In Australia also you can drive with your Indian licence. But in Northern Territory, it is permitted only for a period of three months.
You can enjoy the breath-taking drives all along the New Zealand, but you should be at least 21 yrs old to rent a car there.
South Africa is another country with left-hand driving where you can drive with your valid Indian licence. Make sure your Indian driving license is valid, is entirely in English and it has your photo and signature. Some vehicle hire companies ask for an IDP(International Driving Permit)when hiring a car. Confirm it, so that you can have it in time.
With Right-hand driving:
You can drive for a period of one year in USA with your Indian licence. You also need to have a copy of the I-94 form, which shows the date you entered the US.
Indian visitors can drive in Germany for up to six months against a valid Indian driving license. It is advisable to get an IDP, otherwise, obtain a translation of your Indian driving license from any German diplomatic mission.
France allows Indian drivers to drive for a year against a valid Indian license, as long as they also carry a French translation with them.
Everyone’s favourite alpine country with its turquoise lakes and snow-capped mountains allows Indian visitors to drive for up to one year on a valid Indian driving license.
Norway allows Indian nationals to drive its roads for three months after entering the country.
- You need to hold a valid driving license and a valid passport.
- Fill out and submit form CMV 4-A and medical form CMV 1 and CMV 1A, with attested copies of your passport and Indian driving license. This can be done at any regional transport office (RTO).
- You will also have to submit three-to-five passport-sized photographs.
- You must show a valid visa for the country in which you wish to drive.
As everyone knows, Taj Mahal is one of the Wonders of the World and recently ranked among top three Landmarks in the World. It is the pride of India and a symbol of Love.
I had visited Taj long time back when I was a kid and always wanted to visit again. This week finally I went to see Taj Mahal while going to Dhaulpur (Rajasthan) for my friend’s wedding. I was really amazed to see such a marvellous and beautiful monument. I could imagine the tremendous planning and hard work that had been put into constructing the beautiful landmark, and that too in those times, without any sophisticated tools and machinery. I will surely visit it again and again!
I will take you through the pictorial tour of Taj Mahal with some useful information:
How to reach (from New Delhi)
- By Road: 215 Kms, around 3-4 hrs via Yamuna Expressway (Toll Tax Rs. 300-400 for private vehicle). 8-lane highway, Speed limit 100kmph. Restaurants and restrooms available on the way.
- By Train: Agra Cantt. is the nearest station with no. of trains connecting to New Delhi. Bhopal Shatabdi (12002) at 6:00am takes just 2 hrs from New Delhi to Agra. Taj Express (12280) at 7:05am takes 3 hrs from Hazrat Nizamuddin. Both these return back in the evening.
- By Air: Air India operates flights between New Delhi and Agra, but there isn’t any point when you can reach in same time at lower costs.
Where to stay- There are a number of hotels in Agra ranging from Budget to 5 Star ones, you can check on TripAdvisor for ratings.
- Car parking is about 1 km away from Taj Mahal entrance, battery-operated autos are available for hire from there. You can also take a camel ride to the Taj Mahal from there.
- It is good to hire a guide but don’t forget to bargain well.
- Entry Tickets: Rs. 20 for Indians, Rs. 750 for Foreigners and free for children below 15yrs of age.
- Audio Guides are available for Rs. 71 per person. These are very informative if you have time to listen. Alternatively, you can look to Audio Compass Apps for iOS and Android.
- Shoes are not allowed inside the Taj Mahal. Facility is available to keep your shoes or you can buy a shoe cover if you don’t want to remove the shoes.
- Eatables are not allowed inside.
- Timings: Sunrise to Sunset, Fridays closed.
- Other things to see: Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri (45kms/about 1hr drive) and the Fort of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, also known as Baby Taj Mahal.
- Click for Official website of the Taj Mahal.
Waah Taj !!
Few days back I went to a wonderful art exhibition for elephant conservation at Art Spice Gallery, N-Delhi. There is on display a very good collection of beautiful, heart-touching paintings by a Singapore based Indian artist Alpana Ahuja. This is a fund-raiser event organised by Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre located in Agra, India. The contributions from sale of paintings will go for the elephant conservation initiatives of Wildlife SOS.
Smt. Maneka Gandhi, Hon’ble Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development, Govt. of India inaugurated the show on 22nd August,2014.
On view till: 19th September, 2014 from 10:00 am to 07:00 pm.
Venue: Art Spice Gallery, The Metropolitan Hotel, Bangla Sahib Road, New Delhi, India.
About the Artist
RSVP here or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Link to Wildlife SOS: http://www.wildlifesos.org/rescue/elephants/sanctuary-haryana
They also have…
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Travellers from across the world have ranked India’s Taj Mahal among the top three landmarks in the world. The top two places were taken by Machu Picchu in Peru and Angkor Wat in Cambodia respectively.
Some Facts about the Taj Mahal:
- Before his accession to the throne, Shah Jahan was popularly known as Prince Khurram. Shah Jahan fell in love with the beautiful Arjumand Bano Begum and married her, making her his third wife. Arjumand Bano Begum was christened by Shah Jahan as Mumtaz Mahal, meaning ‘the chosen one of the palace’ or ‘the jewel of the palace’.
- Shah Jahan lost Mumtaz Mahal when she died giving birth to their 14th child.
- For the transportation of construction materials for Taj Mahal, more than 1000 elephants were employed.
- As many as 28 different varieties of semi-precious and precious stones were used to adorn the Taj.
- Depending on what time of the day it is and whether or not there’s moon at night, Taj Mahal appears to be of different colour every time. Some even believe that this changing pattern of colours depict different moods of a woman.
- Passages from Quran have been used as decorative elements throughout the complex.
- On the sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, 99 names of Allah can be found as calligraphic inscriptions.
- Taj Mahal was built in stages, with the plinth and the tomb taking up roughly 15 years. Building of minarets, mosque, jawab and gateway took additional 5 years to be completed.
- Different types of marbles used in construction of Taj Mahal were brought over from different regions and countries: Rajasthan, Punjab, China, Tibet, Afghanistan, Srilanka & Arabia.
- Many precious stones and Lapis Lazuli(a semi-precious stone) were ripped-off from Taj Mahal by Britishers during the Indian rebellion of 1857.
- Taj Mahal attracts 2-4 million tourists annually with over 2 lakh from overseas.