Posted by: Rasma R | August 31, 2016

Thimphu, Bhutan


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Our armchair travels take us from India to Bhutan a Buddhist kingdom on the eastern edge of the Himalayas. It is a country known for its monasteries, fortresses or dzongs and dramatic landscapes. We are going to take a look at the capital Thimphu which lies in a valley in the country’s western interior. The city is the seat of government and known for its Buddhist sites.

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Trashi Chhoe Dzong is an impressive fortress that sits on the west bank of the Wang Chhu. This was the site of the formal coronation of the fifth king in 2008 and it hosts the city’s biggest annual annual celebration, the colorful tsechu festivities. The name of this dzong means Fortress of the Glorious Religion. It was once home to the National Assembly and now is home to the Secretariat, the Throne Room and offices of the King and the Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance. The whitewashed two-story outer structure has three-story towers at all four corners that project out over the walls. On the eastern side there are two main entrances. The southern entrance leads to the administrative section and is off-limits to visitors. The northern entrance leads to the monastic quarter, the summer residence of the dratshang or central monk body.

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Entering from the northeast visitors are greeted by the four guardian kings and the step are flanked by the images of Drukpa Kunley, Thangtong Gyelpo and Togden Pajo (the founder of nearby Phajoding Monastery). You’ll be impressed by the architecture in the courtyard. A large utse separates the northern monastic courtyard and its Lhakhang Sarpa from the southern administrative courtyard. In the northern assembly hall is a large statue of Sakyamuni the historical Buddha and the thrones of the current king, past king and Je Khenpo. There is a painted mandala on the ceiling. The large open-air courtyard on the north side of the dzong hosts the dances of the annual tsechu festival in September.

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For a colorful adventure head for Thimphu’s Weekend Market which is located on the west bank of the Wang Chhu. Vendors arrive on Thursday and stay until Sunday night. You’ll find a large variety of items like souvenirs, clothing, incense, spices and different kinds of food.

Changangkha Lhakhang (Monastery)

Changangkha Lhakhang (Monastery)

Changangkha Lhakhang is a popular fortress-like temple that sits on a ridge above central Thimphu. The temple was established in the 12th century on a site that was chosen by Lama Phajp Drukgom Shigpo. It is traditional for parents to come here to get auspicious names for their newborns or to get blessings for their young children from the protector deity Tamdrin. Children are blessed by a phurba or ritual dagger and given a sacred thread. Inside are impressive murals. If you give the resident astrologer your birth date he will consult divination charts to decide which kind of protective prayer flags will benefit you. Take the time to see the shrine to the tshomen or mermaid in the central courtyard and see the great views from the back kora or pilgrim path with its beautiful black and gold prayer wheels.

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National Memorial Chorten is a large Tibetan-style chorten or stupa (a mound-like or hemispherical structure that contains relics). This is one of the most visible religious structures in Thimphu and for many Bhutanese the focus of their daily worship. This whitewashed chorten is decorated with richly painted annexes that face the cardinal directions and feature elaborate mandalas, statues and a shrine dedicated to the popular king.

Weaving classroom at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum. Thimphu, Bhutan.

Weaving classroom at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum. Thimphu, Bhutan.

The National Institute for Zorig Chusum is commonly known as “the painting school” and offers four-to-six-year courses which give instruction in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts. Students specialize in painting, woodcarving, embroidery or statue-making. The showroom sells good-value pieces made by students.

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The National Textile Museum is the city’s best museum and is part of the Royal Textile Academy. This is the place to get to know about Bhutan’s living national art of thagzo or weaving. The ground floor displays royal ghos including the wedding clothes worn by the fourth king and his four wives. On the upper floor you can learn about major weaving techniques, styles of local dress and types of textiles made by women and men. In the museum shop are some interesting books and fine textiles. No photos. Across the courtyard is the Royal Textile Academy conservation center, where visitors can observe a small group of weavers working on their looms.

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Simtokha Dzong was built in 1629 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is said that this site guards a demon that had vanished into the rock nearby. That is why it was given the name Simtokha from simmo (demoness) and do (stone). This site was also placed in a strategic location to protect the Thimphu Valley and the entryway to the Dochu La and estern Bhutan.
Officially it is known as Sangak Zabdhon Phodran or Palace of the Profound Meaning of Secret Mantras was the first dzong built in Bhutan. Dzongs date back to 1153 but this was the first one built by the Zhabdrung and was the first structure to incorporate both monastic and administrative facilities. It is the oldest dzong to have survived as a complete structure. Above the dzong is the Institute for Language and Culture Studies.

The utse is three-stories high and behind the prayer wheels around the outside there’s a line of more than 300 fine slate carvings that depict saints and philosophers.  The large central figure in the central Ihakhang is of Sakyamuni and is flanked by the eight bodhisattvas. The dark murals inside the Ihakhang are some of the oldest and most lovely in Bhutan. In the western chapel you’ll find the statues of Chenresig, green and white Taras and an early painting of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. In the eastern goenkhang tiger tails and guns hang from the pillars. The protector chapel is dedicated to the protectors of Bhutan – Yeshe Goenpo (Mahakala) and Pelden Lhamo.

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Tango Goemba was built by Lama Drukpa Kunley in the 15th century. Today it serves as a university for Buddhist studies and is the residence of Gyalse Rinpoche, an important trulku (reincarnated lama), who is recognised as the seventh reincarnation of the fourth desi (secular ruler) Gyalse Terizin Rabgye (the founder of Taktshang Goemba. This is a popular place to visit during the memorial of the death of Zhabdrung Jigme Chhogyel in April or May and is known as the Zhabdrung Kuchoe.

From the parking lot you’ll follow a trail that goes up 280m and as you head up this spiritual path you’ll be able to read Buddhist quotes to inspire you. When you get closer to the monastery first visit the meditation cave where log ladders lead into a little chapel that features a large crystal, carried here from Tibet. It is used in visualization meditations. Here is also a statue of the Zhabdrung as well as the local protector Bayup, riding a horse. Tango translates as “horse head” gotten from the natural shape of this rock outcrop.

At the main three-story goemba are several chapels that you can visit. On the 3rd floor are the zimchung or living quarters of the fourth desi where you can receive a blessing from his walking stick. At the base of Tango Hill a new Buddhist college campus was built in 2016 to replace aging goemba buildings.

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The National Institute of Traditional Medicine was established in 1978. Here you can find medicinal plants collected from remote corners of the Bhutanese Himalayas, such as Lingzhi, Laya and Lunana. At the institute pills, tablets, ointments and medicinal teas are made. The small museum displays some of the 300 herbs, minerals and animal parts that Bhutanese doctors choose from. Of particular interest is yartsa goenbub (cordyceps), the high-altitude “Himalayan Viagra” which is actually a caterpillar that has been mummified by a fungus. This unusual “worm-root” sells for up to $25,000 USD per kilogram in China. If necessary and you don’t feel too well the on-site clinic can prescribe all natural medicines or treatments free of charge.

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A huge 51m-tall steel statue of Buddha Dordenma stands at the entry to the Thimphu Valley. In the massive three-story base is a large chapel and inside the body itself are 125,000 smaller statues of Buddha. The massive Buddha looks at its best in the morning light and at night when it’s illuminated. This statue was made in China and reassembled in Bhutan. The paved road that leads to the site, also known as “Buddha Point” passed by a Hindu temple and is also a popular biking route. Nearby is a 3.5km mountain bike trail. This area is also called Changri Kuensel Phodrang after the former palace of the 13th Druk Desi which once stood here.
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The National Library was established in 1967 to preserve ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts. It offers impressive architecture and you can see some great historic photos. On the top floor is a copy of a letter sent from the Druk desi or secular ruler to the British army officer and surveyor Samuel Turner in 1783. On the top floor are also traditional books and historic manuscripts and include texts from the famous Tibetan printing presses of Derge and Narthang. There are scriptures from all religious schools. Most of the books are Tibetan-style, printed or written on long strips of handmade paper stacked between pieces of wood and wrapped in silken cloth. The carved wooden blocks used for printing the books are also on display.

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It takes 45 minutes to hike up to Cheri Goemba, Bhutan’s first monastery. The monastery was established in 1620 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. This is an important place for meditation retreats, with 30 monks living here for three years, three months and three days. The goenkhang (chapel dedicated to protective deities) features the two protector deities of Cheri and Tango. Then it’s a steep climb to the Demon-Subjugating Monastery, built into the cliff where the Zhabdrung overcame local demons. Keep an eye out for tame brown gora (mountain goats) grazing on the monastery grounds.

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Pangri Zampa was founded in the early 16th century and is a college for traditional astrology. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal lived here after he arrived in 1616 because this temple appeared in the vision which directed him from Tibet to Bhutan. In front of the complex are two huge cypress trees that are said to be the biggest in the country. It gets it’s name from the photogenic traditional bridge beside the complex. Drolma Zhingkham Lhakhang was built next door by the Royal Grandmother and is dedicated to the 21 images of Tara. Nearby is Dechenphu Lhakhang, home to Gyenyen, the valley’s protective deity but it’s not open to tourists.

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Motithang Takin Preserve was originally established as a zoo but since the fourth king decided that a zoo wasn’t in keeping with Bhutan’s environmental and religious convictions the zoo was closed. The animals were released in the wild but the takins, Bhutan’s national animal were so tame they took to roaming the streets of Thimphu looking for food. The solution was to make a preserve for them. As you go up the trail you get to a large fence enclosure where the takins can now live in peace.

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You can get fantastic views of Thimphu Valley from the Bhutan Broadcasting Service or BBS Tower which rises 2685m over the city. The area is known as Sangaygang.

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Dechen Phodrang is the site of Thimphu’s original 12th century dzong. Since 1971 it has been home to the state lobra or monastic school which offers an eight-year course to over 250 students. The 12th century paintings in the goemba’s main chapel have been restored and on the upper floor you can see a large figure of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. There is also a chapel dedicated to protective deities.

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Voluntary Art Studio this is a studio and art gallery that is the main center for local artists. The studio’s goal is to promote both traditional and contemporary Bhutanese artworks, provide vocational training for young artists and to be a meeting place for artists. Here you can see the latest exhibit and speak to the artists. Outside in the public park you can also see some art pieces displayed.

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Visit Nado Poizokhang Incense Factory for an interesting and sweet scented excursion. Here at the traditional workshop 10,000 incense sticks are handmade per month. Visitors can watch the production process or browse for products in the nearby showroom.

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The Royal Botanical Garden at Serbithang is just a few minutes drive from Thimphu. It is a wonderful place to visit during the spring and summer. There are various kinds of flowers and medicinal plants and it is a great place for a picnic. The garden is located on the side of a hill offering great views of Thimphu Valley. You can look over the Bhutan landscape and see temples, monasteries, stupas, prayer wheels and colorful prayer flags.

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The Royal Botanical Park at Lampelri is also known as the Rhododendron Garden. It is the first botanic park in Bhutan and forms the backdrop of the Dochula Pass. This is a nature reserve that is rich in flora and fauna. You can feel close to nature here and listen to birds twittering and the distant barking of a Barking Deer. Among the species that make their home here are monal pheasants, blood pheasants, musk deer, tiger, leopard, red panda and the leopard cat.

Blood Pheasant


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The Rhododendron Garden offers 46 species of this flower. The park has various vantage points, trekking routes, a lake and a canteen.

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You can also enjoy the Dochula Pass which is a mountain pass in the snow covered Himalayas within Bhutan on the road from Thimphu to Punakha. Along the way you can see 108 memorial chortens or stupas known as “Druk Wangyal Chortens”.

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Posted by: Rasma R | August 28, 2016

Agra on the Yamuna River

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Usually in our armchair travels the last place we visit before moving from one country to the next is the capital city. In this case I have made an exception and left the city of Agra as the last city we’ll visit in India. This is because this city is home to the fabulous Taj Mahal. Agra sits on the banks of the Yamuna River in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

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The Taj Mahal is one of the finest monuments ever built. In 1983 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site. This world-renowned wonder at times is referred to as the epitome of love. It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Construction was started in 1632 and completed in 1653. The lovely monument sits on the bank of the Yamuna River. There are two smaller red stone buildings, one is a mosque and one a rest house. To be able to enter the mausoleum you have to put a cloth around your feet just like for any other temple in India. It is possible to rent a piece of cloth. You can see impressive marble carvings decorated with precious and semi-precious colorful stones.

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Within the Taj complex, on the western side of the garden you’ll find the small but excellent Taj Museum. On display are a number of original Mughal miniature paintings, among them a pair of 17th century ivory portraits of Emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. There are also some well-preserved gold and silver coins, architectural drawings of the Taj Mahal and some celadon plates. It is said that these plates will split into pieces or change color if the food served on them contains poison.

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The Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah is a Mughal mausoleum. People also refer to it as a jewel box, Baby Taj and even a draft of the Taj Mahal. This tomb was commissioned by Jahangir’s wife Nur Jahan, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, who had been given the title Itimad-ud-Daulah or Pillar of the State. The mausoleum sits in a large cruciform garden that is criss-crossed by water courses and walkways. The walls of the mausoleum are white marble, encrusted with semi-precious stone decorations such as cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx and topaz.

Agra - An Architectural Marvel of India tourism destinations

Agra – An Architectural Marvel of India

In Sikandra, in the suburbs of Agra is the tomb of Akbar the Great. This is an important Mughal architectural masterpiece built between 1605 and 1613. It was Akbar himself who began the construction of the tomb, according to Tartary tradition. The South Gate of the tomb is the largest with four white marble chatri-topped minarets. The buildings were built from deep red sandstone. An inscription on the mausoleum reads: “These are the Gardens of Eden, enter them to dwell eternally”.


Mankameshwar Mandir is an ancient temple devoted to Lord Shiva.  Legend says that the Shiv linga here is covered by silver metal and it was founded by Lord Shiva himself during the Dwapara era. A flight of stairs will take you down into the sanctum sanctorum. The temple complex includes several small temples.

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Mehtab Bagh is a garden complex that overlooks the Agra Fort and the Yamuna River. The name of the garden means moonlight garden. It counts as one of the most scenic spots in Agra. It is one of the eleven similar gardens built by the Mughals. It was built by Emperor Babur and offers an awesome view of the Taj Mahal. The garden is a recreational complex with pools, fountains and trees.

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One of India’s most historic structures and a UNESCO World Heritage site is the Agra Fort. The fort was the seat of the Mughal Empire. It took 4000 workers and eight years to build the fort. It was completed in 1573. The 94-acre fort has double ramparts with massive circular bastions. The fort is accessed through four gates. The grandest gate is Delhi Gate and was the gate for the king’s formal entry.

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Take a look at the impressive Octagonal Tower which is also known as Musamman Burj. It was built by Shah Jahan and dedicated to his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The tower was built for the ladies, it has a fountain outside and a huge verandah. Unfortunately this was the place that Shah Jahn spent his last years, imprisoned by his son. From here he could gaze out and see the Taj Mahal. When he died his body was taken by boat to the Taj Mahal.

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Another structure in Agra Fort is Jahangir’s Palace, where the Rajut wives lived during the rule of Akbar. It was built in a mix of Hindu and Central Asian architecture. This palace was a token of the great Mughal emperor, Akbar to his beloved son Jahangir, who later succeeded him as emperor. There is a huge bowl which is known as Hauzi-Jahangir, carved from a single stone and holds fragrant rose water.

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Kinari Bazaar is a most colorful market. Here you can purchase most anything clothing, shoes, fabrics, jewelry, spices and even marble work. There are many snack stalls. Don’t be surprised to see a buffalo or a working elephant making their way through the crowds.

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Soami Bagh is a huge, white marble mausoleum which houses the tomb of Sri Shiv Dayal Singh Seth, the founder of the Radhassoami Faith. It took 80 years to build. Inside you’ll find a 1904 painting that shows what the mausoleum should look like when finished, complete with a gold-latticed dome.  This has become a work-in project undertaken by devotees.

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Chini-ka-Rauza is the Persian-style riverside tomb of Afzal Kahn. He was a poet who served as Shah Jahan’s chief minister. The tomb was built between 1628 and 1639. It sits in a wonderful spot down an avenue of trees on the east bank of the Yamuna.

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On the banks of the Yamuna River is the lovely Rambagh Garden. This was the very first garden of the Mughals that was built in India. The garden was created to entertain the Emperor’s guests and as a place where the Emperor and his loyal people could relax. The garden is popular for its design and natural setting. There are four main sections that are criss-crossed by waterways and pathways. Since it sits on the banks of the Yamuna River the garden draws its water from it. The water gets distributed throughout the park in a cascade that has been built over three terraces. You can also see some ruined houses that were built from red sandstone. The first level of the garden has flowers and vegetables, flower beds on the second and tanks and terraces on the third.
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When visiting Agra take the time to visit the lovely city of Fatehput Sikri, just around 25 miles away. This city was built between 1569 and 1585 and due to lack of water was abandoned. Now visitors are starting to return to this ghost town. Here you can see ornate Mughal architecture and tour mosques, squares and palace rooms. It is advisable to rent an electronic audio guide. It is now a UNESCO Heritage site.

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Visit the pearly white Moti Masjid, a holy place in Agra. It was built by Shah Jahan so that court members had a place to worship. It consists of 12 arches facing from the North, East and South. The main entrance is on the east side. The prayer chamber is ornamented with intricate designs. The sanctuary is sheltered by three bulbous-sized domes.

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Relax by the lovely Keetham Lake also known as the Sur Sarovar. This is a most scenic lake in pentagonal shape. There are artificially created islands for shelter and breeding grounds for migratory birds. Here you can find over 100 species of migratory and resident birds. Some of the important aquatic birds that make their home here are: Little Gerbs, Cormorants, Darter, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Paddy Bird, Cattle Egrets, Large Egrets, Smaller Egrets, Little Egrets, Night Heron, Indian Reef Heron, Black necked Stork, white Ibis, Spon Bill, Greying Goose, Bar headed Goose, Lesser Whistling Teal, Ruddy Shelduck, Pintail, Common Teal, Spot Billed Duck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Shoveler, and Comb Duck.

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Posted by: Rasma R | August 24, 2016

Delhi, India


Delhi is India’s capital territory and officially known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The city is home to the imposing Mughal-era Red Fort which is a symbol of India.

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The Mehrauli Archaeological Park is a forest park with lots of ruins of tombs, palaces and colonial follies. As you enter the park the first monuments you see are the tombs of Balban and Quli Khan.

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The park’s most impressive structure is the Jamali Khamali Mosque which is attached to the tomb of the Sufi poet Jamali. Inside the tomb you can see upon the intricate incised plaster ceiling Jamali’s verses.

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To the west is the Rajon ki Baoli, a majestic 16th century step-well with a monumental flight of steps. Walking from here towards Mehrauli Village you’ll see Adam Khan’s Mausoleum which at one time was used as a British residence, then a police station and then a post office.

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One of Delhi’s most captivating mausoleums is Humayan’s Tomb. It was built in the mid-16th century by Haji Begum, the Persian-born senior wife of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. This tomb mixes Persian and Mughal elements, creating a template that strongly influenced the Taj Mahal. The tomb, other monuments and gardens went through a restoration in 2013. The arched facade is inlaid with bands of white marble and red sandstone. The building adheres to the strict rules of Islamic geometry, with an emphasis on the number eight.

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In the beautiful gardens you can see green parakeets. There are also the tombs of the emperor’s favorite barber and Haji Begum. As you enter the complex to the right is Isa Khan’s Tomb which is a fine example of Lodi-era architecture. Further south is the monumental Khan-I-Khanan’s Tomb. The site has a new visitor center.

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Jama Masjid is India’s largest mosque and can hold up to 25,000 people. It towers over Old Delhi. It was created by architect Shah Jahan and built between 1644 and 1658. This mosque has three gateways, four angle towers and two 40m high minarets. It is constructed of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble. Entry is from gates 1 or 3. At the entrance you can purchase a ticket and climb 121 steps up the narrow southern minaret. From the top you can see one of the features that architect Edwin Lutyens incorporated into his design of New Delhi – the Jama Masjid, Connaught Place and Sansad Bhavan (Parliament House) are all in a direct line. Visitors should remove their shoes at the top of the stairs. There is no charge to enter the mosque but there is a camera charge.

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The impressive Red Fort was converted into a barracks by the British. It is protected by a amazing 18m-high wall and the monuments here were built with marble and sandstone. Shah Jahan founded this fortress between 1638 and 1648. Every evening except for Mondays the fort hosts a sound and light show with colorful spotlights and a portentous voice over that highlights key events in the history of the Red Fort. When you purchase a ticket you can also visit the museums inside the fort and there is a fine audio tour available.

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Hazrat Nizam-ud-din Dargah is the marble shrine of the Muslim Sufi Saint, Nizam-ud-din-Auliya. He died in 1325 at the age of 92 and his mausoleum became a point of pilgrimage for Muslims from across the empire. There are many nearby Mughal tombs since kings and nobles wanted to be buried as close to the saint as possible. Other tombs in the compound include the graves of Jahanara (daughter of Shah Jahan) and the renowned Urdu poet Amir Khusru. It is interesting and inspirational to sit down on the marble floor at sunset and listen to Sufis singing rousing gawwali or Islamic devotional singing. There are other tombs scattered about and you’ll also see a huge baoli or step-well.

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Of special interest is the Qutb Minar Complex. The first monuments here were built by the sultans of Mehrauli. The complex hosts The Qutb Festival of Indian Classical Music and Dance every November/December. You can also see many different ruined tombs and monuments.
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Akshardham Temple is a mixture of traditional Orissan, Gujarati, Mughal and Rajasthani architecture. It is a most fascinating structure where you can take a boat ride through 10,000 years of Indian history as animatronics tell stories from the life of Swaminarayan and musical fountains. The interior features a journey through Hindu mythology with 20,000 carved deities, saints and mythical beings.

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Lahore Gate is the main gate to the fort and it looks toward Lahore in Pakistan, which is the second most important city in the Mughal Empire.

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Just beyond the gate is Chatta Chowk where once silk and jewels were sold and now you can purchase souvenirs. At the eastern end of the bazaar you’ll find the arched Naubat Khana that once accommodated royal musicians and was a parking lot for royal horses and elephants. Upstairs in the Indian War Memorial Museum you can see an impressive collection of historic weaponry.

Walking toward the north you’ll come to the Museum on India’s Struggle for Freedom. Walking through the dilapidated barracks you’ll find a deserted baoli or step-well which the British used as a prison. A causeway leads to the Salimgarth, a fortress built by Salim Shah Suri in 1546. It is still occupied by the Indian army but visitors can visit the ruined mosque and a small museum.

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The National Museum displays rare relics from the Harappan Civilization, Buddha’s 4th to 5th century BC effects, antiquities from the Silk Route, exquisite miniature paintings, woodcarvings, textiles, statues, musical instruments, an armory with practical weapons and a suit of armor for an elephant.

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Gandhi Smriti is a poignant memorial at the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by a Hindu zealot on January 30, 1948, after campaigning against inter-communal violence. You’ll see concrete footsteps leading to the spot where Gandhi died, marked by a small pavilion. Adjacent is a house where Mahatma Gandhi spent his last 144 days. The rooms have been preserved as he left them. You can see dioramas depicting scenes of his life and upstairs is an interpretive exhibition Eternal Gandhi. In Gandhi’s room you can see a walking stick, spectacles, a spinning wheel and a pair of sandals.

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The lake at Hauz Khas, meaning royal tank was built by Sultan Allauddin Khilji in the 13th century to provide water for Siri Fort. Here you can see many birds and it’s surrounded by parkland. There are the ruins of Firoz Shah’s 14th century religious school and tomb with an amazing calligraphy-covered incised plaster ceiling.

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To get to the lake shore go through Deer Park where you can see many deer and a popular drumming circle.
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The colonial heart of New Delhi is Connaught Place, named after the paternal uncle of George V. Whitewashed, grey-tinged streets radiate from the central circle of Rajiv Chowk, lined with shops and restaurants. The outer circle is technically known as Connaught Circus and the inner circle as Connaught Place however locals call the whole area CP.

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Just for the wonderful scents alone you must visit Delhi’s wholesale spice market. There are huge sacks of herbs and spices and you can purchase everything from lentils and rice to giant jars of chutneys, pickles, nuts and tea.

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Mosque of Sheesh Gumbad, Lodhi Gardens


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Lodi Gardens is a peaceful park dotted with the crumbling tombs of Sayyid and Lodi rulers including the impressive 15th century Bara Gumbad Tomb and Mosque as well as the tombs of Mohammed Shah and Sikander Lodi. There’s a lake that is crossed by the Athpula eight-piered Bridge, dating from the reign of Emperor Akbar.

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Right in the center of Delhi is the amazing 42m high India Gate, standing in the middle of a crossroad. It commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during WWI. This memorial shows the names of over 13,516 British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan War of 1919.

The foundation stone was laid by the Duke of Connaught in 1921 and was designed by Edwin Lutyens. Under the arch an eternal flame burns to remind the nation of the soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pakistan War in December 1971. At night it is illuminated by floodlights and nearby fountains are lit by colorful lights. The India Gate is surrounded by lush green lawns where people enjoy picnicking.

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Posted by: Rasma R | August 19, 2016

Blogger’s Recognition Award


It is an honor to have been nominated for the Blogger Award for the first time. I have never gotten an appreciation award and was more than glad to accept. I was nominated by Mike Senczyszak. He has a great blog where there is always something interesting, fascinating or impressive going on. His blog is titled Solsbury Hill

I suggest you check out his blog and one of his latest posts which in itself is interesting about a business he has opened up :

As per the rules, I’ll be answering some questions as follows:

How did I get into Blogging?

It was early days and I was just stumbling around writing bits and pieces on various sites. Suddenly someone mentioned that I should try my hand at blogging. My first effort was over at Blogger but I will tell you this is a bit amusing. Not knowing what blogging was really all about I put in some posts which people seemed to like but each of them I put in as a new blog. I had no knowledge of what was going on. Then I moved over to write for another site leaving my blogging behind. It was then that someone mentioned WordPress. Through WordPress I learned what blogging was all about and ever since then I have been writing up a storm and enjoying every moment. I even returned to Blogger and I am now doing things correctly. Personally I love to blog in both places and I am enjoying it very much.

What two pieces of advice do I have for new Bloggers? 

  • Well first of all I strongly suggest you don’t do what I did – do not enter the world of blogging knowing nothing about it. Do some reading right here on WordPress and see what is happening in the blogging world. Make your choice about what you would like to share with others and then bravely step forth and set up your own site.
  • Once you have begun blogging do it with your heart and soul. Never be afraid of sharing anything that you wish to share. You might think – Will it interest anyone? Soon you will see that you find people who relate to what you are writing about. Once you start to get followers you will be elated and then the true spirit of blogging will take over. Just never, ever stop and put all doubt aside. Full speed ahead and keep on blogging.

Once again thank you for the nomination and for enjoying my blog. Let’s keep on blogging and let’s meet up in cyber world.

As per the rules I’ve nominated 15 great Bloggers below and the official nomination and rules will be sent to each of them.

Posted by: Rasma R | August 19, 2016

Jaipur the Pink City

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Our armchair travels had taken us to Jodhpur the Blue City now we go from blue to Jaipur the Pink City. Jaipur is the capital of the Rajasthan state in India. The city was founded in 1727 and now is known as the Old City or Pink City for the trademark color of its buildings.

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Mubarak Mahal  (Wekcome Palace) part of City Palace was built in the late 19th century for Maharaja Madho Singh II as a reception center for visiting dignitaries. It is a multi-arched and colonnaded construction built in a mix of Islamic, Rajput and European styles by architect Sir Swinton Jacob. Today it is part of the Maharaja Sawai Mansingh II Museum where you can see a collection of royal costumes and impressive shawls. An incredible exhibit is the capacious clothing of Sawai Madho Singh I. They say that he was 2m tall, 1.2m wide and 250kg.

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Diwan-i-Khas (Sarvatobhadra) an open courtyard with a pink-and-white, marble-paved gallery at its center. The Diwan-i-Khas or Hall of Private Audience was where maharajas consulted their ministers. You can see two enormous silver vessels – 1.6m tall and supposedly the largest silver objects in the world. Maharaja Madho Singh II used these vessels to take holy Ganges water to England for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.

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Diwan-i-Am or Hall of Public Audience is home to an art gallery. Exhibits include a copy of the entire Bhagavad Gita scripture handwritten in tiny script and miniature copies of other holy Hindu scriptures.

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The Anand Mahal Sileg Khana – the Maharani’s Palace is home to The Armoury. This has one of the best collections of weapons in the country. Many of the ceremonial weapons have elegant engraving.

Toward the palace’s inner courtyard is Pitam Niwas Chowk. Here you’ll see four glorious gates that represent the seasons.

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The Peacock Gate – autumn

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The Lotus Gate – summer

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The Green Gate – spring

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The Rose Gate – winter 

Finally there is the private palace the Chandra Mahal, which is still the residence of the descendants of the royal family. You can take a 45-minute Royal Grandeur guided tour of selected areas.

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Galta or the Monkey Temple sits perched between the cliff faces of a rocky valley. You’ll find hundreds of monkey making their home here, both macaques and langurs. At the gate you can purchase peanuts to feed them.

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The temple has a number of sacred tanks, into which some daring people jump from the adjacent cliffs. The water is supposedly very deep and fed from a spring that falls through the mouth of a sculpted cow. On the ridge above Galta the 100m Surya Mandir rises and it can be seen from the eastern side of the city. A 2.5km-long walking trail stretches up to the temple from Suraj Pol and you can walk up from the Galta side to have views over the city.

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Birla Lakshmi Narayan Temple this impressive marble edifice lies at the foot of Moti Dungri Fort. It was erected by the wealthy industrialist Birla family. The temple has stained-glass windows depicting scenes from Hindu scriptures. Ganesh, the protector of households is above the lintel and you can tell the quality of the marble since Ganesh can be made out through the marble which is almost transparent. The images of Lakshmi and Narayan have been carved from one piece of marble. Inside the temple many deities of the Hindu pantheon have been depicted and on the outside walls are historic figures from other religions among them Socrates, Zarathustra, Christ, Buddha and Confucius.

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Hawa Mahal is Jaipur’s most distinctive landmark made of pink sandstone like a honeycombed hive rising up five stories. Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh had it constructed in 1799 to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the life and processions of the city. The top offers amazing views. There is a small museum open Saturday to Thursday that displays miniature paintings and some rich relics like ceremonial armor. Be aware that it can get claustrophobic in the narrow corridors in the interior.

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Adjacent to the City Palace you’ll find Jantar Mantar, an observatory that was begun by Jai Singh in 1728. The construction resembles a collection of giant unusual sculptures. It was built to measure the heavens and the name is derived from the Sanskrit yanta mantr, meaning “instrument of calculation”. In 2015 the observatory was added to India’s list of UNESCO World Heritage sties. This is the largest and best preserved observatory of all of the five that Jai Singh built.
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Iswari Minar Swarga pierces the skyline near the City Palace. This minaret dates back to the 1740s and was built by Jai Singh’s son and successor Iswari. For superb views of the city you can head for the top of the minaret.

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Nahargarth Fort was built in 1734 and extended in 1868. It overlooks the city from a sheer ridge to the north. Supposedly this fort was named after Nahar Singh, a dead prince whose restless spirit disrupted construction. No matter what was being built during the day it crumbled at night. The spirit of the prince agreed to leave if the fort was named for him. The views are wonderful here especially at sunset. You can rest and have a beer at the restaurant.

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Royal Gaitor the royal cenotaphs, just outside the city walls, beneath Nahargarth are a place to visit and to relax. The stone monuments are beautifully and intricately carved. Among the maharahas honored here are Maharajas Pratap Singh, Madho Singh II and Jai Singh II, who has the most impressive marble cenotaph, with a dome supported by 20 carved pillars.

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Sisodia Rani Palace Garden is located 6km from the city and consists of a pair of formal gardens. The first has grand formal terraced gardens with fountains and statuary. It was built in the 18th century for Maharaja Jai Singh’s second wife. Overlooking the gardens is the Sisodia Rani Palace, whose outer walls are decorated with murals that depict hunting scenes and the Krishna legend.

Vidyadhar-ka-Bagh is the second park of similar formal garden but is presently closed to the public.

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The Central Museum has found a home in the florid Albert Hall, south of the Old City.It was designed by Sir Swinton Jacob and combines the elements of English and North Indian architecture. Here you can see an eclectic array of tribal dress dioramas, sculptures, miniature paintings, carpets, musical instruments and an Egyptian mummy.

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The lovely Jai Mahal is located upon the beautiful Man Sagar Lake. It was built in 1799 by Madho Singh as a summer resort for the royal family. It can be accessed via a causeway at the rear.

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Shree Sanjay Sharma and Research Institute is a museum that displays precious objects collected by the parents of Shree Sanjay Sharma, who died as a boy. There are rare manuscripts and Indian art from around the country. A set of 18th century paintings of yoga postures, elaborate locks, shoes, temple architecture drawings, beautiful royal games, 19th century paper cut-outs, illustrated alchemy books and a whole lot more.

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The Modern Art Gallery is housed in an old theater on the first floor of the Ravindra Manch building. You can see impressive contemporary work and a collection of some of Rajasthan’s major painters and sculptors.

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One interesting tourist spot is the famous Statue Circle. It is located at a busy traffic junction and a popular place to hang-out. It counts as the most famous circle known in the Pink City. You can get different kinds of snacks from the vendors. It is also a famous tourist picnic spot and a favorite place for evening walkers and morning joggers. It was built as a tribute to Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of the city.

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The circle encompasses a life size statue of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh Ii, made of white marble. He was an ardent lover of astrology so the statue shows him holding an astrological diagram. The memorial is decorated with brilliant lights and multi-colored fountains.

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Posted by: Rasma R | August 15, 2016

Jodhpur the Blue City

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No this city is not sad. In this case it is a blue city because the dominant color of the buildings and walls in the Old City is blue as far as the eye can see. There are many wonders that Jodhpur can offer and is located in the Thar Desert of the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan.  Traditionally, blue signified the home of a Brahmin, but there are non-Brahmins here too. The blue appears to glow with a mysterious light and the blue tint is thought to repel insects. It is also known as the “Sun City” because the city enjoys bright and sunny weather all through the year. The Old City circles the fort and is bounded by a wall with several gates. Of course this city has now expanded greatly beyond the Old Blue City.

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Mehrangarh is one of the most awesome and magnificent forts in India. It is perched upon a rocky hill that stands 120m above Jodhpur’s sky line. The fort battlements are 6m to 36m high and have been chiseled from the rock upon which it stands. The fort is still run by the Jodhpur royal family and is full of history and legend. Mehrangarh’s main entrance is at the northeast gate, Jai Pol. It’s about a 300m walk from the Old City to the entrance or you can choose to take a winding 5km auto rickshaw ride.

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Jai Pol was built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1808 following his defeat of invading forces from Jaipur. The 16th century Dodh Kangra Pol used to be an external gate before Jai Pol was built and you can still see the scars of 1808 cannonball hits. Once you’ve passed through Jai Pol the main route leads to the left through the 16th century Imritia Pol and then Loha Pol, the fort’s original entrance, with iron spikes to deter enemy elephants. Just inside of the gates are two sets of small hand prints, the sati (self-immolation) marks of royal widows who threw themselves on their maharajas’ funeral pyres – the last to do this was Maharaja Man Singh’s widow in 1843.

Rooftop restaurant with view on Mehrangarh Fort. Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Rooftop restaurant with view on Mehrangarh Fort. Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India

Past Loha Pol is a restaurant and Surah Pol gives access to the museum. From the museum you can continue on to the panoramic ramparts all lined with impressive antique artillery. Also worth exploring is heading right from Jai Pol, where the path winds down to  Chokelao Bagh, a restored and lovely Rajput garden that was planted in the 18th century and then you can exit through the Fateh Pol into the old city quarter of Navchokiya.

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One of the largest gardens in Rajasthan is Umed Garden. This popular garden offers visitors green lawn, blooming flowers and lots of other things to delight the eye. You can learn a lot about the rich history of the region’s past in the many forts and palaces to explore here. The garden spreads for 82 acres and has been made so that visitors can stroll about and enjoy the flora and fauna. It is located close to the  Umaid Palace. 

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Roses dominate this garden and there are tall Ashoka trees, sparkling fountains and even a zoo. At the zoo you can see many different birds in their natural environment. Among the animals on display are many varieties of crocodiles, monkeys, deer, leopards, lions, tigers, ostrich, zebras and emus. The garden is constructed that you can enter it through any one of the five gates which bring you into different locations of the garden. The garden was conceived for the purpose of educating kids about the beauty of nature and the importance of protecting it.

Umed Garden has a Walk-In Aviary constructed in 1978 which is home to many common and exotic birds. There are African and Australian parrots and duck swimming in a pond. All of the birds and animals live in natural surroundings. Opposite the aviary is a large cage for bears. Take the time to visit The Government Museum which is within the garden complex and is a major tourist attraction.

Sardar Government Museum was built as an impressive example of Rajput architecture carved from sandstone. The galleries around Shringar Chowk or Anointment Courtyard display India’s best collection of elephant howdahs and Jodhpur’s royal palanquin collection.

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Off Daular Khana Chowk one gallery displays textiles, paintings, manuscripts, headgear and the curved sword of the Mughal emperor Akbar. Another gallery is the armory. Upstairs you’ll find a gallery of miniature paintings from the sophisticated Marwar School and the lovely 18th century Phul Mhal or Flower Palace, with 19th century wall paintings that depict the 36 moods of classical ragas as well as royal portraits.

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Takhat Vilas was the bedchamber of Maharaja Takhat Singh (r 1843–73), who had 30 maharanis and numerous concubines. The amazing and lovely ceiling is covered with Christmas baubles. The impressive latticed windows feature more than 250 different designs. You can also see the Cradle Gallery which exhibits the elaborate cradles of infant princes and the 17th century Moti Mahal or Pearl Palace, which was the palace’s main durbar hall (royal reception hall) for official meetings and receptions with wonderful, colorful stained glass.

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Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park is a 72-hectare park the sits in the lee of Mehrangarh. It has been restored and planted with native species to show visitors the natural diversity of the region. The park has walking trails which will take you up to the city walls, around Devkund Lake where you can see local birds, butterflies and reptiles. If you prefer, you can take along a local guide who can inform you about the native flora and fauna. The most pleasant temperatures are in the early morning or in the late afternoon. There is a visitor center and a small cafe.

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Mandor Gardens are situated 9km north of Jodhpur center. Mandor was the capital of Marwar prior to the founding of Jodhpur. The gardens have rock terraces and are home to playful grey langurs. There is the soaring Chhatri of Maharaja Dhiraj Ajit Singh, combining Buddhist and Jain elements in its architecture. This enormous, edifice has a high spire, a pillared and domed fore chamber and fine sculpture that includes small carved elephants and lions. The memorial also marks the spot where 64 queens and concubines committed sati on Ajit Singh’s death in 1724.

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Opposite you’ll find the 1720 Chhatri of Maharaja Dhiraj Jaswant Singh I, with a large pavilion and a vast dome on an octagonal base. It has a gallery that is supported by huge pillars.

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A path winds 350m behind the gardens and leads to the extensive remains of Mandore’s fort on the hill above. The fort is now home mostly to langurs, dogs and cows.

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Umaid Bhawan Palace sits on a hilltop, 3km southeast of the Old City. Gaj Singh II, the current royal incumbent, still lives in part of the palace. It was built in 1929, designed by British architect Henry Lanchester and has 365 rooms. The building is mortarless and incorporates 100 wagon loads of Makrana marble and Burmese teak in the interior. A large part of the building has been turned into a grand hotel. Casual visitors aren’t welcome at either the royal residence or the hotel but can visit the museum which is to one side of the building. Here you can see photos of the elegant art deco design of the palace’s interior and there is an eccentric collection of elaborate clocks. You can also see the maharaja’s highly polished classic cars, displayed in the front of the museum near the entrance gate.

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The impressive Jaswant Thada is a milky-white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. It sits above a small lake 1km northeast of Mehrangarh. It’s quiet and peaceful spot with great views of the fort and the city. Built in 1899, the cenotaph has some lovely jalis (carved marble lattice screens) and displays portraits of Rathore rules dating back to the 13th century. There is also a memorial to a peacock that flew into a funeral pyre.

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An old city landmark is the century-old clock tower which is surrounded by Sardar Market and has triple gateways at its northern and southern ends. From here the narrow and winding lanes of the Old City spread out in all directions. Heading toward the west you’ll find yourself in the very heart of it with crowded alleys and bazaars that sell everything from vegetables to spices to sweets to silver and handicrafts.

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Sardar Market is one of the oldest markets of Jodhpur. It may be noisy and dirty but it sure is also colorful and most likely has up to 7,000 match-box sized shops. You can buy practically anything your heart might desire. It gets really crowded during tourist season which is just four months long and shopkeepers depend on tourists for their living.

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Another popular garden is Jodhpur Nehru Park, stretching for 14 acres. It was developed as a park for children. There are is a fountain, a pond, swings, and flowerbeds, trees and plant.

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Balsammand Lake is a popular picnic spot surrounded by hills. It’s an artificial lake that was built in 1159 A.D. The lake is located about 7 km from the main city on the Jodhpur-Mandore Road.

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Next to the lake is Balsammand Palace, an eight-pillard palace with three entrance gates. Maharaja Sur Singh constructed the palace in 1936 as a summer pavilion.

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The lake is surrounded by lush, green gardens. You can stroll through the trees, past the rose beds and around pools with water lilies. There are also groves of mango, guava, papaya, plum, banana, pomegranate and other kinds of fruit. The embankments of the lake, right in front of the palace, have domed structure that offers fabulous views of the lake. You can also see peacocks, blue bulls, jackals and fruit bats in the trees.

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On the way to the lake you’ll see the Maha Mandir, a hundred pillared temple that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. A walled town was built around the temple.

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60 km south-east of Jodhpur is Sardar Samand Lake. This is a lake for bird watchers and you’ll find many different kinds of migratory birds here. Visitors enjoy the placid water and scenery. Among the birds here you can see the yellow-legged green pigeon, Himalayan griffon and Dalmatian pelican.

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On the way to the lake you can spot roaming wildlife of the region such as Black Bucks, Neelgais and Chinkaras. The countryside is dotted with lively villages. On a hill overlooking the lake stands the summer palace of Maharaja Umaid Singh. At one time it was the hunting lodge of the royal Jodhpur family and has now been converted into the Sardar Samand Lake Resort.

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Shastri Circle is a traffic roundabout in the middle of Jodhpur. At night it looks fantastic with lights lit up and fountains.

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Guda is a Bishnoi village that is home to exotic wildlife and nature. It’s a habitat for thousands of migratory birds. Visitors can see Demoiselle cranes frolicking by the lake. Antelopes and Black Bucks come to drink at the pond. Guda is surrounded by scenic beauty marked with Khejri trees. There is also a manmade lake and the village is sort of like a desert oasis. It is a great place to experience and learn about tradition and customs of tribal life.

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For a real adventure head out on a Camel Safari in the Thar Desert. During your camel ride you’ll be able to enjoy miles of golden sand. The safari takes you to tourist destinations such as Meherangarh Fort and some of the other previously mentioned. You’ll also be delighted by Bishnoi villages, picturesque lakes and wildlife habitats.


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Posted by: Rasma R | August 10, 2016

Mumbai, India


Our armchair travels now take us to the west coast of India and the large, sprawling city Mumbai formerly called Bombay. The city is famous for being home to the Hindi-language Bollywood film industry.

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The Gateway of India is an impressive arch that faces toward Mumbai Harbor. It was built incorporating the Islamic styles of 16th century Gujarat. This arch was built to commemorate the royal visit of King George V in 1911 however it was not completely finished until 1924. The gateway has become a popular gathering spot for locals and for people-watching. This is the spot where you can see it all from giant balloon sellers to photographers to vendors and so much more. In March you can participate in the Elephanta Festival with classical dancers and musicians. Every day boats depart from the gateway wharf for Elephanta Island.

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Outside of rock-cut cave, Elephanta Island. Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Outside of rock-cut cave, Elephanta Island. Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

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Take a trip to Elephanta Island which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was created between 450 and 750 A.D. and the labyrinth of cave temples represent some of India’s most amazing temple carvings. The main temple is dedicated to Shiva, the destroyer, creator and preserver of the universe. The Portuguese named the island Elephanta because of a large stone elephant near the shore. It collapsed in 1814 and the British moved it to Mumbai’s Jijamata Udyan garden. You’ll find a small museum on site which offers informative pictorial panels of the origin of the caves. When exploring it is advisable to purchase  Pramod Chandra’s A Guide to the Elephanta Caves. Once you have arrived you can walk or take a miniature train to the caves. Along the way are souvenir stalls and curious monkeys to guide you.
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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus certainly a mouthful and difficult to pronounce. This is Mumbai’s most impressive Gothic building and monumental train station. It was built in a mixture of Victorian, Hindu and Islamic styles with buttresses, domes, turrets, spires and stained-glass. If you look carefully you can see incredible dog-faced gargoyles on the central tower and peacock-filled windows above the central courtyard. This amazing train station was designed by Frederick Stevens and completed in 1887. It was officially renamed in 1998 but locally it’s known as VT or Victoria Terminus. It has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Flora Fountain is also known as “Hutatma Chowk” and has been one of India’s heritage sites since 1960. It was built in 1864. This fountain was named “Flora” derived from the name of the Roman goddess of flowers. The square wall within which the monument was erected is called Hutatma Chowk. It is surrounded by such institutions as the famous Bombay University, Bombay Stock Exchange and the Gateway of India. The fountain stands illuminated at night.

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Taj Mahal Palace is an amazing hotel and Mumbai’s most famous landmark. It was built in a mix of Islamic and Renaissance styles and is India’s second-most photographed monument. It was built in 1903 by Parsi industrialist JN Tata. This is the hotel where many lost their lives during terrorist attacks in 2008 and the fully restored hotel re-opened its doors on Independence Day 2010. It is well-known for being the first hotel to employ women, the first to have electricity and once housed freedom-fighters (free of charge) during the struggle for independence. Today the hotel stands proudly facing the harbor and Gateway.

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Chhatrapati Shivaji (Maharaj) Vastu Sangrahalaya is Mumbai’s biggest and best museum, displaying a mix of exhibits from across India. The domed museum was built in Islamic, Hindu and British architectural styles. Visitors can see impressive Hindu and Buddhist sculpture, terracotta figurines from the Indus Valley, Indian miniature paintings, porcelain and interesting weaponry. There is great information provided in English and audio guides are available in seven languages. Two of the upstairs galleries are comfortably air-conditioned and at the entrance you’ll find a fine cafeteria and museum shop.

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Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum is a gorgeous museum built in 1872 in Renaissance-revival style. It was once known as the Victoria & Albert Museum. The museum contains over 3,500 objects centering on the history of Mumbai like photos, maps, textiles, books, manuscripts, Bidriware, laquerware, weaponry and exquisite pottery. Contemporary music, dance and drama are featured in the new Plaza area and for your comfort there is a cafe. You’ll also find a museum shop on the premises. The museum building has found a home in the lush gardens of Jijamata Udyan. On the grounds to the east of the museum is the giant statue of an elephant which was once located on Elephanta Island.

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Prince of Wales statue in the gardens

Jijamata Udyaan was once known as Ranichi Bagh or Queen’s Gardens. It is a combination zoo and garden located right in the heart of Mumbai. It was laid out in 1861 and is one of the oldest zoos in India.

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At one point the zoo was let down but underwent renovation. Now visitors can see exotic species like jaguars, zebras, Humboldt penguins, tigers, Asian lions, wild dogs and more. Additions to the zoo are a separate animal holding areas, animal exercise yard, viewing area, underwater viewing area and many other useful and necessary improvements. The project is the work of M/S Highway Construction Company who renovated the Woodland Park Zoo in the state of Washington in the U.S.

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Iskcon Temple is a fascinating place to visit. Located more out in the suburbs it has a key part in the Hare Krishna story, since founder AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada spent long periods of time here and you can still see his living quarters. The temple grounds come to life during prayer times when devotees pray accompanied by kirtan dancing, hand cymbals and drumbeats. Murals in the compound detail the Hare Krishna narrative. There is a fine Iskcon Hotel and canteen.

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For those who love horses and the excitement of horse racing there is the Mahalakshmi Racecourse owned by The Royal Western Turf Club. This is an elite sports club and this is a renowned horse racing track in the country and looked upon to be one of the greatest circuits in Asia. The Grandstand is also on the list of heritage structures. The racecourse was built upon marshy flatlands around 100 years ago. The renowned Indian Derby is held every year on the first Sunday in February for the members of Mumbai’s high society. During the racing season from November to April business tycoons, actors, celebrities and other elite come to watch the races. Over 100 horses are trained before the racing season begins.

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Visitors find it amazing that just 90 minutes from the busy metropolis you can find the quiet and lush nature of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Here you’ll find 104-sq.-km. of protected tropical forest. You can enjoy bright flora birds, butterflies and even wild leopards. There is a trekking ban in order to protect the wildlife living here but you can go walking in the woods along with the Bombay Natural History Society.

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On your own you can rent bikes, take a shuttle to the Shilonda Waterfall, Vihar and Tulsi Lakes, where boating is available and to the impressive Kanheri Caves. The caves are 109 dwellings and monastic structures for Buddhist monks 6km inside the park. They are not all accessible and developed over 1000 years dating back to the 1st century B.C. Don’t take the lion and tiger safari since the animals are all in cages and enclosures. There is an information center with a small exhibition inside the park’s main northern entrance. The best time to view birds is from October to April and butterflies from August to November.

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If you are a Bollywood fan or are interested in what goes on during filming head for Mumbai Film City. It is located near the national park. You can see real life-like gardens, mountains, lakes, homes, cities and villages. It is a favorite venue for Bollywood film shootings. It was constructed by the Maharashtra state government to promote the growth of the film industry. Almost 1000 sets can be put simultaneously in this city. It is spread across 520 acres and is open to the public but prior permission should be taken to visit Film City. One of the main attractions for visitors is to see a film shooting with its all star cast. More than 900 films along with TV shows are filmed here.

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Haji Ali Dargah is a lovely Indo-Islamic shrine which looks as if it’s floating like a sacred mirage. This was built in the 19th century and contains  the tomb of the Muslim Saint Pir Haji Ali Shan Bukhari. There is a legend that says the saint died while on a pilgrimage to Mecca and his casket miraculously floated back to this spot. Keep in mind that it’s only possible to visit the shrine at low tide via a long causeway. Thousands of pilgrims cross it daily especially on Thursdays and Fridays donating to beggars along the way. It is visited by people of all faiths.




Global Pagoda rises up from Gorai Creek offering a breathtaking sight of this golden 96m-high stups modeled after Myanmar’s Shwedagon Pagoda.  Its dome houses relics of Buddha and was built entirely without supports using an ancient technique of interlocking stones. The meditation hall beneath it seats 8000. There is a museum dedicated to the life of Buddha and his teaching.

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Take the time to visit Khotachiwadi. This neighborhood will let you see how Mumbai life was before high-rises took over. This is a Christian enclave with lovely two-story mansions. There are wonderful quiet winding lanes to explore and it is particularly beautiful when decorated at Christmas time.

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High Court is an elegant neo-Gothic building dating from 1848. The design was inspired by a German castle. Visitors can explore the building and attend cases where you can see court officials in starched white tunics with red cummerbunds and scarlet berets. Unfortunately inside no cameras are allowed.
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Malabar Hill is Mumbai’s most exclusive neighborhood located at the northern end of Black Bay. Here you’ll find an enclave of serene temples, bathing pilgrims, traffic-free streets and picturesque pilgrims’ rest houses. From here you can see Chowpatty and Marine Drive.

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Marine Drive was built on reclaimed land in 1920 and arcs along the shore of the Arabian Sea from Nariman Point past Girgaum Chowpatty and onto the foot of Malabar Hill. It is lined by art-deco apartment building and is one of Mumbai’s most popular promenades and a wonderful place to watch the sun set. At night when all the lights are twinkling it has earned the nickname “The Queen’s Necklace”.

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Girgaum Chowpatty is a popular city beach. It is quite active in the evenings when the stalls open up at the beach’s southern end. It is not advisable to take a swim here. However on the 10th day of the Ganesh Chaturti Festival in September millions flock here to submerge huge Ganesh statues.

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Mani Bhavan is a tiny museum that has found its home in the building where Mahatma Gandhi stayed when he visited Bombay from 1917 to 1934. The leader formulated his philosophy of satyagraha (non-violent protest) and launched the 1932 Civil Disobedience campaign from here. Some of the exhibitions include a photographic record of his life, along with dioramas and various documents and letters.

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The Nehru Center is a cultural complex that includes a planetarium, theater, gallery and an interesting history exhibit, Discovery of India. The tower is striking architecturally. It looks similar to a giant cylindrical pineapple and the planetarium resembles a UFO.

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St. Thomas Cathedral is a lovely cathedral that was begun in 1672 and finished in 1718. It is the oldest British-era building in Mumbai and was once the eastern gateway of the East India Company’s for – the “Churchgate”. It was built in Byzantine and Colonial-style. Its interior is full of impressive colonial memorials.

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For all amusement park lovers there is EsselWorld which was established in 1989. The amusement park area along with Water Kingdom stretches over 64 acres of land. Both of them together count at India’s largest amusement and water park as well as Asia’s largest theme water park. The park offers fourteen family rides, eleven exciting thrill rides and fifteen children’s rides. The park is also home to Mumbai’s first ice skating rink a total of 3,400 sq. ft.

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There is a dance floor that lets people hold parties at the park with colored lights, high definition audio and a glass dance floor. You can enjoy Riki’s Rocking Alley a bowling alley that consists of a built-in arcade and restaurant. There are many different other places to eat like the well-known Domino’s Pizza among others. The park has the Fab-5 which are EsselWorld’s and Water Kingdom’s mascots.

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In 2010 EsselWorld opened the horror ride “Monsters In the Mist”. This is a indoor dark ride with a track and car system. It runs for four minutes through a dark den that is filled with mist and fog with lots of thrills and adventures along the way. It consists of over 20 scenes supported by state-of-the-art animatronics and hi-end audio. It was designed by renowned international dark attractions manufacturer “The Attraction Factory” headquartered in Missouri, U.S.A.

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Posted by: Rasma R | August 5, 2016

Darjeeling, India

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The beauty of armchair travels is that at any moment you can be any place in the world and discover new and wonderful things. From the Andaman Islands we step onto the mainland of India. Our first stop here is a lovely town Darjeeling, located in the West Bengal State of India in the Himalayan foothills. It is well-known for its distinctive black tea that is grown on plantations doting the surrounding slope. The town’s backdrop is Mt. Kanchenjunga, among the world’s highest peaks.

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The region’s most famous monastery is Yiga Choling Gompa. You can see impressive old murals and it’s home to some 30 monks of the Gelugpa school. The monastery was built in 1850 and enshrines a 5m-high statue of Jampa (Maitreya or “Future Buddah”) and 300 beautifully bound Tibetan texts.

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Close-by is the fortress-style Guru Sakya Gompa, which conducts prayer sessions between 5:30AM and 7:30 AM.

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Downhill you’ll find the active Samten Choling Gompa which has the largest Buddha statue in West Bengal, a memorial chorten dedicated to German mystic Lama Govinda and a small cafe.

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Halfway between Ghum and Darjeeling you’ll find the huge Druk Sangag Choling Gompa also known as Dali Gompa, inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1993. It is known for its vibrant frescoes and is home to 300 Himalayan monks who study philosophy, literature, astronomy, meditation, dance and music. Prayers are said between 4PM and 6PM.

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It’s spectacular and amazing to watch the sunrise from Tiger Hill (2590m) as the dawn breaks over the spectacular 250km stretch of Himalayan horizon, including Everest (8848m), Lhotse (8501m) and Makalu (8475m). This incredible skyline is dominated by Khangchendzonga (“great five-peak snow fortress”), India’s highest peak and the world’s third-highest. Many people come to see the sunrise so you’ll find yourself in some traffic but it’s all worth it once you get to the summit. The best views are in autumn and spring.

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Located on the zoo grounds is the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute founded in 1954 and has provided training for some of India’s leading mountaineers. Within the complex is the amazing Mountaineering Museum which houses sundry details and memorabilia from the 1922 and 1924 Everest expeditions, which set off from Darjeeling. Among the displays you can see the Carl Zeiss telescope presented by Adolf Hitler to the head of the Nepali Army.

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Beside the museum, near the spot where Tenzing Norgay was cremated, stands the Tenzing Statue. The intrepid Everest summiteer lived in Darjeeling for most of his life and was the director of the institute for many years.

The institute runs 28-day basic and advanced mountaineering courses from March to May and September to December.

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Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is one of India’s best zoos and was established in 1958. Living in rocky and forested environments are species like Himalayan bears, clouded leopards, red pandas and Tibetan wolves. The zoo has a snow leopard-breeding center and is home to the world’s largest single captive population of these leopards. The zoo stretches for 67.56 acres and sits at an elevation of 2,134 meters above sea level and is the largest high altitude zoo in India.

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Among the rare and endangered species are snow leopards, red pandas, Himalayan salamanders, Tibetan wolves, Himalayan mountain goats and Siberian tigers. The zoo has more than 200 species of trees, plants, shrubs, climbers, medicinal plants and about 60 varieties of orchids.

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Entering the zoo at the main gate you’ll see some curio and souvenir shops. Right in front is the Aviary, a huge circular bird cage. There are all kinds of different birds including Rose Ring Parakeets, Hill Mynas, Ring Necked Pheasants, Blue Gold Macaws and others.

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You can see Himalayan black bears and yaks roaming about. A snow leopard has been imported to Darjeeling recently from the Dudley Zoological Gardens in the U.K. The 2 year old snow leopard is named Makalu. Altogether there are now 10 snow leopards at the zoo.

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Observatory Hill is sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus. It was the site of the original Dorie Ling Monastery that gave Darjeeling its name. Devotees come to a temple in a small cave to honor Mahakala, a Buddhist protector deity also worshipped in Hinduism as a wrathful avatar of Shiva the destroyer. The summit is marked by several shrines, colorful prayer flags and the ringing of numerous devotional bells. A path leads up the hill through giant Japanese cedars. Watch out for marauding monkeys.

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The Chowrasta or the Mall is the town center of Darjeeling. This is a wonderful public square where four roads meet. It is a great place to take in the sun, people watch and see wonderful views of the mountain range. One side of the mall is lined with pine trees and the other side with boutique shops. There are benches all around upon which to relax.

There are two lovely scenic parks located just a few miles from the Darjeeling town.

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Rock Garden has wonderful terraced gardens at different levels which have been cut through the rocks with amazing waterfalls.

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Ganga Maya is a park that is more spread out, has a beautiful stream flowing through it on a valley, flower gardens, fountains and more.

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Senchal Lake is part of the Senchal Sanctuary which is one of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries of Darjeeling Hills. A mountain spring feeds the lake and is the main reservoir supplying water to the town. The lake is surrounded by trees and forests. Among the trees are oaks, pines and birch. There are more than 350 types of flowering plants including rhododendrons and orchids.

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The Senchal Sanctuary covers an area of around 39 including the lake and is considered to be one of the oldest in India, opening in 1915. You can get a guide to take you around. Among the wildlife here are Himalayan black bears, barking deer, leopards, monkeys, flying squirrels, wild dogs, scaly ant eaters and many more.

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Among the birds you might see golden back woodpecker, emerald cuckoos, black-backed pheasant, red jungle fowl, hornbills, Babblers and Sunbirds.

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If you enjoy playing golf there is a 9-hole golf course at the Senchal area. It is supposedly one of the highest golf courses in the world.

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Perched on a hillside you’ll find the Japanese Peace Pagoda. This white pagoda is one of more than 70 pagodas built around the world by the Japanese Buddhist Nipponzan Myohoji Organization. During the drumming puja (prayers) sessions, visitors are offered a hand drum and encouraged to join in the rituals.

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Visitors enjoy the scenic Singalila National Park, offering spectacular views of the Himalayas. If you prefer you can hire a guide. The park is known for its incredible peaks and panoramic views. This is a trekker’s paradise with a variety of mountainous vegetation, fauna and birds. Some of the wildlife you might encounter includes rare and endangered species like the Red Panda, Black Bear, Leopard, Tigers, Clouded Leopard, Serow, Leopard Cat, Barking Deer, Yellow-throated Marten, Wild Boar, Pangolin and Takin.

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Take the time to ride the amazing Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, affectionately called the Toy Train. It made its first journey along the precipice-topping, 2ft.-wide tracks in September 1881. It is one of the few hill railways still operating in India and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It offers regular diesel and steam service and joy rides.

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The Happy Valley Tea Estate dates back to 1854. It is well worth a visit when the plucking and processing are in progress from March to November. You’ll be guided through the aromatic factory and will learn how green, black and white teas all come from the same leaf. It covers 437 acres at an elevation of 2,100 meters above sea level. It has become one of the major tourist attractions in Darjeeling.

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While riding back on the toy train or walking back from Tiger Hill keep a look out for the famous railway loop – Batasia Loop. It goes around the open-air Gorkha War Memorial, erected in honor of the brave soldiers from the region who lost their lives in WWI and WWII. The loop covers an area of 50,000 square feet and transverses spirally through tunnels, landscaped parks and hillocks in this 1,000 foot high descent. There is a local crafts market nearby.
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Bhutia Busty Gompa temple originally stood on Observatory Hill. It was rebuilt in its present location by the chogyals of Sikkim in the 19th century. You can see some fine murals that depict the life of Buddha. Khangchendzonga provides an impressive backdrop.

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Visitors enjoy the scenic Rangit Valley Ropeway. The 40 minute ride takes you from North Point to the Takvar Valley Tea Estate, It is quite a spectacular view as you glide over the green tea bushes of the plantation.

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Lloyd Botanical Gardens are pleasant gardens displaying an impressive collection of Himalayan plants particularly orchids and rhododendrons.  You’ll find a map posted at the office at the top of the park. In the middle section you’ll find a large collection of fern and conifer trees along with Alpine collections. There is a separate greenhouse which displays some 150 species of cactus. The lower section has colorful exotic plants from various countries in the world. The most striking here is the weeping willow and there are two living fossil trees brought from China.

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The Neora Valley National Park is one of the richest biological zones in the north-east. This park is famous for being home to one of the largest populations of red panda in India. It was established in 1986 and has several endangered and rare species of flora and fauna.

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The Railway Museum is a heritage museum with an interesting collection of memorabilia from the bygone days of the railway. In an outer courtyard you can see Baby Sivok, the oldest engine of the railway.

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Of particular interest in Darjeeling is the main clock tower in the town center.

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When you want to relax after a full day’s activity walk on over to Joey’s Pub. This English style pub was built in 1948 and is one of the prime attractions for tourists. Here you can try some mid-priced drinks and snacks while listening to light classic rock and blues.

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Posted by: Rasma R | August 1, 2016

The Andaman Islands


Located in India’s Bay of Bengal The Andaman Islands are an archipelago which consists of about 300 islands. These islands are well-known for their palm-lined white-sand beaches, mangroves and rain forests. These islands are surrounded by coral reefs that support marine life among them sharks and rays. Visitors can enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling as well as water hiking, windsurfing and fishing. Some of these islands offer ocean side camping and hiking. Both the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a union territory of the Republic of India.

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Bharatpur Beach can be found at the jetty near the Neil Islands. It is famous for its coral reefs and white sandy shores. The best time to visit here is during the mornings and evenings. Neil Islands have often been termed as the coral capital of Andaman. If you’re not too much into snorkeling you can bring along a hammock and a good book to read. You can stroll the beach and relax on some of the benches along the way. There are vendors who sell coconut water.

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Popular among visitors is the cellular jail also known as Kaala Paani or black waters. It remains one of the most infamous remnants of India’s struggle for independence. The jail is located at Port Blair and favored by visitors. The prison was begun in 1896 and was completed in 1906. The bricks used in the construction were imported from Burma. The building has seven wings designed in a criss-cross pattern. A tower rises up in the center and was used by prison guards. The prison was mainly used as solitary confinement of the prisoners. The wings were built so that the front of each cell only saw the back of the cell opposite it. Today this cellular prison has been turned into a hospital with 500 beds and 40 doctors, serving the local population.

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Baratang Island has fascinating limestone caves that should not be missed. The caves are an impressive natural wonder and you get to take an exciting speed boat journey to see them. The boat ride is covered with a canopy of the forest which is home to the indigenous “Jarwa” tribe. It is not advisable to go into the water since it is home to sea crocodiles. Inside the caves you can see amazing stalacites and stalagmites and erosion has created unusual shapes inside the caves. You can explore in the company of an experienced guide who’ll be able to tell you some interesting facts about the local tribes and the history of these caves.

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Marina Park also known as Samudrika Marine Museum is located at Port Blair. It is managed by the Indian Navy. This establishment was built to create awareness about the conservation of aquatic life and resources in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Here you can also discover all there is to know about these group of islands and the social and tribal life of the people that live there. The park consists of five sections and you can see miniature models of the islands displayed along with large tanks that contain natural coral reefs and different kinds of aqua flora and fauna that is unique to these islands.

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The Havelock Islands are located on the western coast where you’ll find one of the most popular beaches in India Radhanagar Beach. The waters are calm and crystal clear. You can participate in such activities as scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, boating and so much more. For some added excitement you can take elephant rides. The loveliest time here is at sunset.

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Viper Island is an island that is home to snakes. The island is famous for the ruins of a jail that precedes the cellular jail. The jail was used to incarcerate political prisoners and visitors can still see the ruins of the gallows. This is a most picturesque location and one of the most important tourist destinations in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

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The Great Nicobar Island is the largest of the Nicobar Islands in India. The island is sparsely populated. Even though it was severely affected by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean it has made a recovery. This island is known for its rainforest that is home to a diverse wildlife and is part of the World biosphere reserve. The unusual location of the island has made it home to several unique species of fauna and aqua fauna. The island is also home to the indigenous tribe called Shompen, which is one of the oldest tribes in the world.

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Take a look at Campbell Bay where you can see crab-eating macaques, giant robber crabs, megapode and Nicobar pigeons.

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A twenty minute boat ride will take you from Port Blair to Ross Island. Here you can see impressive Victorian English ruins since this was once the former administrative headquarters for the British in the Andamans. At one time this island was referred to as the “Paris of the East”. Today you can still see the old English architecture and you can walk through landscaped paths and many of the buildings are labeled. At a small museum you can see historical displays and resident spotted deer. Ferries to the island depart hourly from Aberdeen Jetty located behind the aquarium in Port Blair.

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If you head on up north you’ll discover a giant outdoor adventure playground made just for nature lovers. This is home to a world-famous turtle nesting site, Andaman’s highest peak – Saddle Peak and a network of caves to explore. There are white-sand beaches and some of the best snorkeling. In Diglipur which is the second largest town in the Andamans you can get Internet access. It’s famous for its oranges, rice and marine life.  You can relax and visit the tranquil coastal village of Kalipur.

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Posted by: Rasma R | July 28, 2016

Colombo, Sri Lanka


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In our armchair travels we’ve been traveling about Sri Lanka. Now we have arrived in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. In history it was a port on ancient east-west trade routes and has been ruled by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. It is a city with a mixture of colonial buildings, high-rises and shopping malls.

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Golf lovers will especially like the Royal Colombo Golf Club, right in the heart of the city. However even if you don’t play golf you will enjoy it here since it is a tranquil place where you can watch others tee off and relax in the natural surroundings. The scenic landscape has some rare species of flora and fauna. At one time this was a 96 acre farm. It was founded more than 130 years ago and is the second oldest Royal Golf Club located outside of the U.K. In the club house you can find an extensive array of historic golf memorabilia.

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As you enter The National Museum you’ll find a large stone Buddha smiling at you dating from the 9th century. Here you can see displays in galleries dating back to 1877 of all kinds of art, carvings and statuary from Sri Lanka’s past, as well as swords, guns and other paraphernalia from the colonial period. There are also impressive 19th century reproductions of English paintings of Sri Lanka and an amazing collection of antique demon masks. You can also find the wonderful royal throne that was made for King Wimaladharma in 1693 as well as 9th century bronze Bodhisattva Sandals. The grounds are shaded by lovely banyan trees.

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The Old City Hall dates back to 1865 and was built during the British era. On the ground floors you’ll find old trucks and municipal equipment on display. Tip the attendants and they’ll take you up the vintage mahogany stairs where you can take a look at the old council chambers and see replicas of the town’s first councilors in 1906.

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The Dutch Period Museum has made its home in the 17th century residence of the Dutch governor. The building has been used as a Catholic seminary, a military hospital, a police station and a post office. There is a lovely garden courtyard. On display you can see Dutch colonial furniture and other artifacts.

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Viharamahadevi Park is Colombo’s biggest park and was originally called Victoria Park. It was renamed in the 1950s after King Dutugemunu’s mother. There are lovely flowering trees that bloom in March, April and early May. At times elephants that have been used for ceremonies wind up spending the night in the park, enjoying a feast from the palm branches. There are benches upon which to rest, walkways for strolling, lovely landscaping and playgrounds.

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The most important Dutch building in Sri Lanka is Wolvendaal Church dating from 1749. At the time that the church was built this area was a wilderness beyond the city walls. When Europeans mistook roaming jackals for wolves the area became known as Wolf’s Dale or Wolvendaal in Dutch. The church was built in the form of a Greek cross, with walls 1.5m thick. The real treasure here is the Dutch furniture. Dutch governors has a special pew created with elegant carved ebony chairs. The workmanship on the wooden pulpit, baptismal font and lectern is just as impressive. The stone floor includes the elaborate tombstones of long-forgotten Dutch governors and colonists.

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St. Anthony’s Church is one of the most interesting shrines in the city. It looks just like a typical Portuguese Catholic Church. Inside it’s more sub continental. You can see devotees making offers or prayers to a dozen ornate statues. The statue of St. Anthony is said to be endowed with miraculous qualities. No photography is allowed.
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The centerpiece of the vibrant Fort is the Old Dutch Hospital dating back to the early 1600s. It has been restored and is now home to shops, cafes and restaurants. You can take a pause and have a cold drink while admiring the thick columns of its arcades.

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World Trade Center

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The Fort was once indeed a true fort during the European era. At that time it was surrounded by the sea on two sides and a moat on the landward sides. Today it’s an unusual mixture of modern structures, like the World Trade Center and red-brick institutions from the Colonial-era, like Cargills and Millers. An impressive landmark is the clock tower at the junction of Chatham St. and Janadhipathi Mawatha, once originally a lighthouse.

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To the south of the Fort is Galle Face Green, a long stretch of lawn that faces the sea. Originally it was cleared by the Dutch so that the cannons of the Fort would have a clear line of fire. Today its lawns are a popular place to meet. You can see joggers running by, kite flyers and walkers. It gets crowded on the weekends and food vendors are on hand to feed the masses.
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About 5km south of the Fort and 2km inland you’ll find Cinnamon Gardens which is Colombo’s ritziest address. At one time this area was covered by cinnamon plantations. Today you can delight in elegant tree-lined streets and posh mansions, as well as the city’s biggest park, some sports grounds and museums and galleries.

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Right in the center of Cinnamon Gardens is the 50-acre University of Colombo (also known  as the University of Ceylon) campus. It originally opened its doors as the Ceylon Medical School in 1870. The campus is surrounded by long tree-lined avenues lined by colonial-era mansions.

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Of interest is the Italianate Baroque Saifee Villa dating from 1910 and the nearby turreted College House from 1912.
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Independence Memorial Hall sits in the very heart of Cinnamon Gardens. It is popular as a recreational venue for joggers, strollers, students from the university and families relaxing. This stone edifice commemorates Sri Lanka’s independence from the British Empire in 1948. The monument has lavish symbols of the island’s rich history and political freedom. At the very entrance is a statue of D.S. Senanayake, Sri Lanka’s first prime minister, surrounded by four stone lions with protruding eyes. While visiting don’t forget to take a look at the basement museum that displays interesting exhibits that showcase Sri Lanka’s colonial history and struggle for independence. There are also cultural exhibits demonstrating Sri Lanka’s ancient literature and arts.

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It is believed that Buddha visited the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara temple on his third visit to Sri Lanka. It is a most impressive temple. The original was destroyed by Indian invaders, restored and destroyed once again by the Portuguese in the 16th century and finally the Dutch restored it in the 18th century. It is located about 7 km northeast of the Fort.

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Gangaramaya Temple is run by one of Sri Lanka’s more politically adept monks, Galboda Gnanissara Thera. This is a vibrant temple that has a library, a museum and an amazing eclectic array of bejeweled and gilded gifts that had been presented by devotees and well-wishers over the years. This temple is the center for the most extravagant Vesak celebrations in Colombo.

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De Soysa (Lipton) Circus is a bustling roundabout that is occupied by the popular Odel Department Store. Right opposite is the Cinnamon Gardens Baptist Church dating back to 1877. South of the church is the Dewata-Gaha Mosque from 1802.

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A lot of old buildings are being renovated on Chatham Street. One of the grandest is the old colonnaded 1914 Central Bank building called Central Point. The beautifully restored interior has Greco-Roman detailing and features the tallest chandelier in Asia. There is also a museum  displaying local money.

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Overshadowing Slave Island is the 350m Lotus Tower, opening some time in October 2017. The top of the tower is meant to resemble the Lotus flower. This tower will be equipped with telecommunications equipment and tourist attractions that include an observation deck at the top and a water park at the base. It is being financed by China.

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Old Galle Buck Lighthouse was built in 1954 and is surrounded by old cannons. You can climb up onto the large central terrace for spectacular views of the ocean and the commercial port.

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The National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka or Dehiwala Zoo is located in Dehiwala, a suburb of Colombo. The zoo is home to a variety of animals like birds, snakes, fish, monkeys and other animals. There are also some animal shows featuring seals and elephants. You can find a number of kiosks selling drinks and snacks. There are benches upon which you can relax while observing rhinos and giraffes. The zoo is also home to sea lions, horses, zebras and crocodiles. The chimpanzees are always ready to entertain.

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Arcade Independence Square is located in Colombo 7 and is part of the process of beautifying the city. This is one of the best places in Colombo to relax, shop and dine. The Arcade is lovely especially at night when all lit up. There is an interesting lion sculpture and an aquarium. The plants and pathways make it more interesting. There are many shops to explore and you can also purchase Sri Lankan products. Visitors can also enjoy the Ceylon Theater’s Empire Cineplex for entertainment. It is also a great place to relax, do some people watching or enjoy the lights when they come on at night.

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