Assam – The hidden beauty of North East India – Photo Journal
Having grown up in Assam, and having spent a considerable amount of my childhood there, I sometimes really miss the greenery, the clear skies and untouched beauty of this north east Indian state. The beauty of Assam can only be witnessed rather than described, it is naive and simple. Even a random walk in a village is would to etch ones memory forever.
These are a few moments I captured from my recent trip to Assam and the simplicity in the beauty is profound, see for yourself!
Inside Rang Ghar in Sivasagar, said to be one of the oldest surviving amphitheaters in Asia built by the royals of Assam, the mixed hues of green and brown are enough to tell a tale about how old this place is.
Cannons used during wars of the Ahom Dynasty in Talatal Ghar, Sivasagar. So much of history behind these cannons, yet they have withstood time.
Out on a walk into a village around Sivasagar, I happened to capture what I would call a perfect image of serenity. I still have it up as my laptop wallpaper, in someways the gradual mix of the blue skies into the green fields relaxes my eyes every time I look at this picture.
Some places are like hidden gems, and this is one of them. Tilinga Temple in Tinsukia is mystical in so many ways. Tie a bell, small, big, medium whatever size you choose and and it is said your wish will be granted. I was amazed by the sheer volume of bells that were tied, bells were dangling from everywhere I could set my eyes on.
Lord Shiva is widely worshipped in Assam. How could I not visit one!
If one have ever read a little about Assam, they must have come across Majuli, the largest river island in the World, and soon eroding.
The most popular way of showing respect to anyone in Assam is to present an Assamese gamosa (kind of white towel with red borders). I was lucky to witness one in the making by the locals at a village.
Kamakhya Temple is one of the most famous temples in India and strongly believed upon by the Hindus. In itself it is a tourist attraction too.
Kaziranga National Park, the world’s only sanctuary with the largest population of the one-horned Rhinos. A visit to Assam is incomplete without a visit here. The landscape inside is untouched and stunning!
As I was about to leave the National Park after visiting the lazy rhinos, I spent some time with this pair of elephants, the mother and the baby.
Assam is spectacular, and these memories and many more will always capture a special little place in my heart!
India has a rich and long standing colonial past, and there are some gem of places where one can dine & wine in the company of such old world charms. One such place is the colonial looking pretty place perfectly named ‘Corner Courtyard‘ and conveniently tucked into a corner in Hazra, Kolkata. This place is often hailed for being one of the most romantic places in the city and I might as well agree!
The Space: If you are a fan of cozy, bright and white colored interiors, if colonial old world charms appeals to you, and if you are looking for a quiet romantic meal, this is your place. The place has a striking interior with white walls with mirrors and frames hanging on them, huge dangling lights, big windows and a shelf full of travel books of India and Kolkata, the most unique look of the place is the wall with a 100+ door knobs of all shapes and sizes, pretty chairs all in shades of pastel; all this put together, it works out to be a perfect place for a cozy family dinner or a romantic one with that someone special.
Food & Drinks: The place specializes in continental cuisine, in fact one of the places in the city serving Italian and French cuisine pretty close to authentic. My favorites!core they serve really loaded and well done bruchettas, the pizzas and pastas can be ordered without second thoughts. Watch out for the Grilled chicken ‘The Californian’, it sure tasted as well as it sounds.
What’s unique: Definitely the huge wall full of colorful door knobs of all shapes and sizes, such a stunner!
Watch out for: It is best to ask the waiters for the best options available. I have tried to not listen to them and order as per my liking but I was kind of disappointed, so it is always to best to ask!
Pocket Pinch: The quantity is typically European in nature, by which I mean very measured and this left me with a feeling that the hit on my pocket was on a harder side. A dinner with drinks for a couple could be anywhere around Rs 3000+. Quite expensive with a rather not so full stomach!
India has a touch of so many worlds, it has got a place for all cultures, people and religion and it is always a visual treat to witness such an amalgamation. One such place is Pondicherry, after years of wanting to visit this place, last month (February 2017) I finally found myself in this tiny French colony of Pondicherry.
How to Reach: Best way to reach is to travel to Pondicherry from Chennai. Chennai is at a distance of approx 170 kms. By bus or car its takes 3-4 hours. Best and cheapest option is to travel by bus, bus tickets range from Rs 100 – 400 depending on the type of bus. For a more comfortable journey you can hire a car for an expensive fare of Rs 3000 one way.
What not to expect in Pondicherry:
Well, to be honest when we hear about Pondicherry we picture pastel colored French buildings and architecture, lovely bakeries and a hip culture. Upon visiting this place I realized that this is only partially true.
This is not GOA: Sometimes Pondy is compared to Goa due to its beautiful beaches and influx of foreign tourists. But unlike Goa, Pondy doesnot have shacks like Goa, nor a late night pub or club culture. The beach side cafes and restaurants close at 10:00 PM dot. The ones not beach facing have a buffer of 1 hour and close at 11:00 PM exact.
‘Tiny’ French colony: The most popular part of Pondy is indeed very very small with a capital S. The rest of Pondy except Heritage town in pretty much like a typical, regular south indian city, so do not expect an extensive French town full of beautiful buildings.
Early nights:Pondy is not the best for the lazy souls. The beach side restaurants shut down at 10:00 pm dot or else expect to be almost thrown out. If you wish to push your nights a bit longer past 10 pm, best bet would be to dine and wine at one of the not so beach side cafes\restaurants to be able to chill till 11 pm. But! Do expect an annoying waiter to be over your shoulder every 10 mins reminding you its time to leave once it is past 11 pm
Language problem:In case you are not able to find a hotel or accommodation in Heritage town, be ready to struggle a bit, well lets make it quite a bit owing to the prominent language problem. Hindi and English are not commonly spoken except for specific areas in Pondy. I being an Indian had a tough time moving around in the city, imagine what it might have been for someone not from the country.
A teeny weeny bit less hospitable:Okay this is only my personal opinion and no one needs to agree with it, also maybe these opinions are due to specific experiences I had, but nevertheless somehow I had instances in restaurants and hotels where I faced some reluctance or lack of warmth while addressing lets say an issue I was facing. Maybe its the influx of foreign tourists and dollars that has attributed to this or something else I am not too sure about.
I would like to add that hope this post does not discourage anyone from travelling to Pondy, rather it should help you from getting disappointed by setting the right expectations about this tiny lazy extremely pretty French city of Pondicherry.
One of the highlights about a desert holiday is camping in the sand dunes. On my recent trip to Jodhpur I happened to stay at Camp Thar Oasis and I can agree that it is one of the best camping sites in Jodhpur. The moment you enter the gates of the resort and are greeted by the warm gentleman at the gate with a handsome moustache you know you are in for a great stay.
Location: Located far away from the city, this place truly is an oasis in the middle of the desert with expanses of desert and sand dunes around it. The moment you enter the Resort you can see the sprawling lawns and the swimming pool brimming with clean blue water.
Camps & cottages: You can opt to either stay in the camps or the cottages. The cottages are very well maintained, spacious, and well equipped with all basic necessities. the cottages have maintained the essence of Rajasthan with paintings on the walls of the cottages.
The camps are located at a distance from the cottages at a more secluded area. The camp area has an oasis in the middle of it which adds to the experience of staying the sand dunes. The camps are extremely well maintained with beds, washrooms, etc.
Restaurant: The restaurant is equipped with a massive bar and serves delicious food, both indian and continental. The staff too was very polite and warm in their approach.
Do not miss the dinner at the campsite in the middle of the desert under starry skies accompanied with drinks of your choice, amazing Rajasthani folk music and dance.
Cons aren’t many. But yes the only not so good thing about the location is that it is quite far from any of the cities and if you are in for a short trip staying here is not the most convenient option.
I must conclude that I am totally in love with this place I must say 🙂
Things you need to know before visiting the Kumbhalgarh Fort:
The place usually gets very crowded during peak season (September – March), so make sure to reach early to be able to have a not-so-rushed visit
The stairs inside the Fort are pretty steep and narrow, so be careful, not very convenient for people who have problem with small spaces (claustrophobia)
Take a guide who can help you around the Fort to not get lost. Do bargain
The walk up to the Fort is pretty steep, so be well equipped with proper walking shoes and a water bottle since it could be exhausting
Being at the Fort during sunset is one of the best things to do, since it is a captivating view
You might consider watching the Light and Sound show in the evening, although it is too much of talk and less about the Fort, watch at own risk (it is in Hindi language though!)
Eat properly before going up there, since to walk around the Fort properly is pretty time consuming
Mornings and Evenings are best time to visit
What you need to know about the’GREAT WALL OF INDIA’:
For the longest time we only knew about The Great Wall of China and its history, but we have a close counterpart in India as well which happens to be the Second Longest Wall in the world after The Great Wall of China. Unknown to the outside world for a very long time, this place is now gaining popularity, Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajasthan, India also referred t now as the GREAT WALL OF INDIA.
Built in the early 15th century by the Great Maharana Kumbha and further extended in the 19th century, this fort is also where The Great King & warrior of Mewar, Maharana Pratap was born. History has it that this is the invincible Fort which could not be conquered even by the mighty Mughals alone, only together with the armies of Delhi, Amber and Marwar they were able to break through the Fort. This Fort is a standing icon of the bold and unbreakable Rajput glory and spirit.
The Fort is a safely protected by the massive snake like meandering Fort Wall which is 15 kms long and 1150 m to 1200 m in height, the wall is as thick as 12-25 feet and broad enough to allow an army of eight horses to ride abreast. It runs through the mountain cliffs and valleys of the Aravalli ranges sometimes going uphill or taking a descent structured with long walk ways, stairs and seven huge gates. Also within the Wall it guards 360 temples. Along with the Fort the Wall encompasses around some of the forest ranges of the Kumbhalgarh National Park which helps in the safe keeping of a few Indian endangered species, it is home to the famous panthers & leopards of India and also a variety of other wildlife. The Wall is an standing proof of the brilliant architecture from the Rajput era, built with such brilliance that even after 700 years of its being it still stands tall unmoved. It is this wall that is known as the second longest continuous wall on the planet after the ‘Great Wall of China’.
Who doesn’t like palaces, camels rides, royality and feeling like a prince or a princess in some ancient place. We all love to think of it and maybe visit such a place and indulge in the stories behind it. Rajasthan in India is such a place, full of palaces, deserts, sand dunes, vibrant clothes and lovely music and folk dance. Although Rajasthan is very big and each city is equally different and beautiful, for the last month on 2016 I was lucky to be in Rajasthan and visited Jodhpur.
‘Must do’s’ in Jodhpur:
Camping in the desert: The spectacular Thar Desert is spread across Jodhpur, and one of the best things to do in Jodhpur is to indulge in the Desert experience. There are quite a few Camps and Resorts in the vicinity of Jodhpur city. You could either stay in the Resorts; for a more indulgent experience stay in one of the Deserts camps on the sand dunes. The camps offer various types of stay packages equipped with meals, you can also opt for a Camel safari – a must do; as well as the Jeep safari for a more thrilling feel; best taken in the evening or early morning. http://ourlittletravelbook.com/review-thar-oasis-jodhpur/
Dining in the desert: There can be no experience more etching in the memory as that of dining under the expanse of the starriest skies in the middle of the desert, served along with traditional Rajasthani folk dance and music. The set ups are usually ethereal with sofas lined up around the performance area along with bonfire. The hospitality is usually impeccable with great service of starters and drinks being served during the performance and the dinner is usually served indoors.
Explore Mehrangarh Fort: Without doubt Mehrangarh Fort is the best place in Jodhpur. Perfectly perched on the hill top it is as picturesque as can be. Invincible and one of the more prominent forts in India constructed by Rao Jodha way back in 1459 AD. It is an art and architecture lover’s heaven. Throughout done with extreme detailing, the grandeur of the Fort is extraordinary. The entire Blue City of Jodhpur is visible from the Mehrangarh Fort.
Admire the Umaid Bhawan Palace: The Palace is placed on the highest point of the city and is comparatively more recent, being constructed in 1929. The palace represents a mix of Indian and European architecture, with 347 rooms, it is one of the largest private residences in the world and is partially also the residence to the former royal family, while the remaining part is a museum and the other owned by Taj Palace Hotel.
Obsess over a Rajasthani Thali: Being in Rajasthan and not obsessing over Rajasthani food is a crime. The best way to do so is to fill your stomach with the elaborate spread of food served in a Rajasthani thali. Look out for dal baati churma, gattey ki sabzi, makkey ki roti, panchmel ki Subzi, kheench, moong dal halwa all of which are local delicacies. For the most amazing thali go to Gypsy Restaurant in Jodhpur city. Other options for great food are Shandar Sweet home, for great ambience & food are Hanwant Mahal, Indique & On the Rocks.
Try the Local street food: Personally I have to say, do try the Pani puri or golgappas here. There are like nothing you have ever eaten before. Served with a choice of 5 pani options (watery dip) like sweet, hing, imli and others they are just mind blowing. Also try the super spicy Mirchi Vada to ignite your taste buds.
Shopping: Just like Rajasthani food, the things to shop on offer are equally tempting. Surrounding the Clock Tower is the bustling bazaar, Sardar Market. Everything starting from home décor, jutis(shoes), silver jewellery & Bandhej sarees in vibrant colors can be found here. Personally my opinion is that the most economical and best quality shopping can be done from National Handloom Cooperation on Nai Sarak, it is like a one stop shop for all things in one place for really affordable prices.
How to reach Jodhpur:
By Air – Jodhpur has its own domestic airport located at 5 kms from the city and is well connected with all important metro cities. Flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Udaipur and other important Indian cities serve Jodhpur on a daily basis. Cabs and autos are available outside the airport and can be hired to travel to any part of the city.
By Train: Jodhpur is well connected by train will all major cities.
By Road: Direct buses both luxury such as Volvo & state buses ply from Delhi and Jaipur. The Roads are very well maintained and one can also drive from the nearby cities.