Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sundarbans - Reaching there...

This time we were 4 of us - 2 couples - Anirban & I and My sis-in-law & her husband. But thats not how they should be introduced...right? So let me reframe it....Anirban & I and Tiu & Chintoo. mmm..I prefer to use the names we call them with. It was 'puja' then and a lots of resistance from our parents. They wanted us to stay back home in the festive time. They were quite reasonable in asking so but we had a short chutti and wanted to do a usual.. so decided to spend 2 days with them and rest 2 with tigers ;)

So here we go....Anirban had already arranged for everything. We were going from Kolkata in a bus of Bengal tourism, and then would board a launch at some 4 hrs away from Bengal, by bus. Thats how I measure distance while traveling. For the first time we had a trip all planned. Lodging, food, sight seeing - everything was being taken care of by Bengal tourism.

We started early morning. My eyes were on the people we would be spending next 2 days with. We had a couple from Germany, a group of 4 ladies from Australia, 2 bengali families, 1 family from Orissa, and last but most important a family from Bihar... Most important because they were most loud and entertaining people in the trip. We were served breakfast soon after we started.

This family from Bihar and the group from Australia were our neighbors in the bus. My most of the time was spent listening to and observing them. It was real fun. They started with basic introductions. You can very well imagine the language problem. But the Man of the family was smart he prodded his kids to start the conversation. could be 2 reasons...he didn't want to take the risk of starting the conversation or kids were better at the language. I must compliment the kids here. They very successfully started the conversation and then all the family members joined in. I also got pretty good idea about the people around me...and that too without actually interacting. After 2 hrs we stoped at a petrol pump where we were told to freshen ourselves...a small dirty loo was there which we all were supposed to use. We Indians are quite used to it but imagine the situation of the foreigners. Anyways all of us were standing in the queue, where I got the chance to interact with one of the youngest in the Australian group. Got to know from her that in the group she has her mother, her aunt, mousi as we would call, and aunt's friend. Then we were served hot road side tea which was good.

Another 2 hrs and we were at Sonakhali from where we were supposed to get a launch. The bus stopped, we all got down. Australian group, I and family from Orissa were amongst the first ones to get down. By now we had got acquainted and had started talking...While we were talking we, my new Australian friend and I, kept walking without even realizing that rest of the group was following us...
So here we were leading the whole team to the launch without knowing ourselves where actually it is. Apparently Anirban and Chintu were calling us not to go further but we didn't hear. Now we all were at the spot where lots of local people are there and 3 launches are waiting for their people. I just took a wild guess and got into one that was nearest, assuming that this is ours. Whats the harm actually nahi hogi to utar jayenge..;)..And as earlier everyone followed the leader, oh which was me. Fortunately, all my guesses were right and we landed at the right launch. Wow we would be spending the next 2 days, 1 night on this. Great!
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jaipur Trip...

The Journey

There was no big group this time, it was only Anirban and I. We decided to travel at night and save a day. Our bus was from Bikaner house at around 9.00pm. So we came back from our respective offices at the usual time. I was not at Google then, so came back at 6.30pm ;) All the packing had been done a night before to avoid the last minute rush.

We reached Bikaner house on time. It was too cold. We had some hot coffee and waited for the bus eagerly. It was 10.00pm and we were still waiting...It was 10.30pm and we were still waiting. On inquiring at the counter we were told that the bus can be here any moment now. We were happy :). It was 11.00pm we found ourselves still waiting for the bus. But believe me it was not bad at all...
Chilled air, lots of people waiting - some families interacting and some losing their patience, - some reading without any effect of the bus getting late, - some like me sitting and observing people around and being happy about the fact that there is something unusual happening. Anirban was roaming around inquiring at the counter at times, busy talking to friends over the phone at times and talking to me at times..:)

Finally the bus arrived at around midnight. Nothing great about the journey though, as we were all sleeping ;) I woke up early in the morning to enjoy the early morning view and get the feel of the city. We reached at around 6.00 in the morning.

The City

We, as usual, had come with no definite plans. Got down from the bus, took a rickshaw and told 'rickshaw walla' to take us around. There's nothing like riding a rickshaw in the early morning :). After inquiring at 2-3 places, finally got a good place to stay.

At reception while Anirban was busy negotiating, I went through the leaflets and information brochures about the city 'Jaipur'. Wow! found one interesting information. There is 'Elephant festival' today evening in the city :) So we only have today first half to go site seeing. There's Holi tomorrow and office day after. So we went up to the room, freshened up, had breakfast 'aaloo prantha' and meanwhile told the receptionist to arrange for a cab for us in an hours time.

And here starts 'exploring Jaipur city'. The cab driver, a middle aged man with big mustache, was more than happy to be our guide and tell us all the details about the city. The moment we sat in the car he started of... this is a city of glorious past....all the names of the rulers that ruled the city with all their family details. Though we were not very keen on hearing that but still looking at the enthusiasm with which he was narrating, we heard him patiently.

The first place we visited was 'Hawa Mahal'.

It was a nice bright day, with lots of interesting people around.

Then we went to a place where we could buy lots of Rajashani stuff...Jaipuri rajai, dress material, jewellery, decoration pieces...and many more things. Probably drivers have a kind of contract with these people...he was praising the stuff to a suspicious level ;). We didn't buy anything.

Next on the list was 'Amber fort'. On the way our driver cum guide narrated us the full history of the place. Don't want to get into which now :) Could see the fort from was awesome, couldn't wait to reach there.

The fort is beautifully built, surrounded by a boundary wall 12 km long.

Thereafter, we went to the only Meera Krishna temple in the world. It was quite near to the fort and is not very frequently visited by the tourists. It was very calm and quite there.

That was it for now. We were hungry, so decided to have lunch on our way back and get ready for the elephant festival.

The Festival

We relaxed for a while in the hotel and then started for the Elephant Festival.

It was great. Beautiful ladies in colorful dresses were there to greet us all. A traditional welcome was done with Colors and Aarti. Most of the spectators were foreigners.
The inauguration was done by the tourist minister of the state. And then started a series of interesting things. The agenda items were - Elephants' fashion show, I mean decorated elephant parade :), Elephant Polo, Tug of war, Performances by locals, and much more...

Enjoyed it thoroughly!!!

To our surprise we were the only people in the hotel that night. It was fun ;).

The 'Holi' Day

Now starts our journey back home. Another great experience. We had not booked our return tickets, thinking that we will take a night bus as we came. But..... that day no vehicles on the road....Why didn't it occur to us earlier that we will not find anything on a festival day. Next day was our office so no taking chances. Somehow we managed to find an 'autowala' to take us to the railway station. Roads were all empty, except for a few boys groups roaming around with their painted faces and lots of policemen and police vehicles.

We were lucky enough to get the Shatabadi tickets for the same day afternoon, of course after much hard work. It was Anirban running around to arrange for the tickets. I did my favorite thing...sat and observed people. No, actually, I was taking care of our luggage as well. ;) The train was in the afternoon, so waited on the station for half a day. There was no hustle and bustle of the routine days at the station. It was all very quite. Had lunch at the railway canteen.

Journey back was comfortable. Office the next day better reach on time and rest.
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Friday, December 7, 2007

Trip to Nainital - Concluding

We explored the area that evening and got to know that there are many places we can visit the next 2 days. There are places like bhim taal, naukuchia taal, Sat taal, Kausani, Ranikhet, Almora and so many more. As usual again a discussion time... so many places to visit? After much discussion, came up with the idea of not visiting many places but to enjoy the near by areas. Had to keep something for next time as well na...hehe.

Also managed to find a good Bengali restaurant. Let me tell you a typical thing about Bengali people....I am Bengali by marriage... Whichever part of the country they are in, they will find 'Bengali food' and they... or shall I say we... love Bengali food.

Next morning after getting fresh and having yummy Aaloo Paranthas, we started for Bhimtaal and Sattaal. Nice roads, Gulzar songs, wonderful view... enjoyed the always. Bhimtaal was good.
Had hot 'Bhuttas' there.

It started raining the moment we reached Sat taal. Wooowww...thats what we wanted. Now who all want to get wet with me..;)...all...great! Decided to boat in the rain, have u ever tried....its awesome.

Also spoke to people around, and planned to come on a full moon night the next time :).

Lunch time! Had some rajmah chawal...most of people didn't enjoy it though.

Started our journey back. The best part of having your own vehicle is that you can stop wherever you want to.

So while going back to Nainitaal we halted at 4 places....not for food or tea but just to enjoy the view and the weather.

Good that we came in rainy - because its off season so no high rates and lot of people and two - just drive a stretch with good view, nice music and fog around...You would know :)

Reached back at around 6.00pm in the evening. Everyone, except Anirban and I, decided to go back to hotel and rest for a while. And we decided to go and have some Chinese food ... Anirban's favorite! Had nice chicken momos....not me...I am vegetarian...Thats the tragedy of our life, Ani's pukka non veg and I do not eat non veg. :(

Now is the party time! Elaborate meal, some drinks, loud music and masti. Had a blast that night... :)

Early around 6.00am I heard someone outside. And to my surprise, it was 'maalish wala'.... Anyways didn't get the malish (massage) done but me and Anirban got up to enjoy the view outside.

Everyone, except Avijit, was still sleeping.... Now where is Avijit? You should be able to thing he really enjoy doing. his car... :)

Decided to go the same day afternoon. Check out was at 10.00am, so decided to have breakfast in the Bengali restaurant I mentioned earlier. We all packed up and started climbing up to the parking with our luggage. Up and up and up......ahhh finally we reached. Had 'Luchi Dum aloo' a typical Bengali breakfast.

Journey back was not as enjoyable, not because we were tired but because we took the different route and got stuck in a traffic jam for around 4 hours.... :( We were expecting to reach at 9.00pm but reached at 2.00am. We really enjoyed the drive on dark sleeping roads with soft music.... Gulzaar is great!!!

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