Outlook Traveller https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/ Outlook Traveller en 2019-08-22 16:44:33 ITC Kohenur's And Its Many Facets of Luxury https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/itc-kohenurs-many-facets-luxury/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/itc-kohenurs-many-facets-luxury/ 2018-08-14T10:00:15+05:30 article Where earlier flagships like the ITC Grand Bharat and the ITC Grand Chola said go big or go home, the ITC Kohenur has chosen a Kohenurs closest local competition in the luxury level is its classical elder sister, the ITC Kakatiyaleaving Kohenur to play the more vivacious, contemporary, cosmopolitan youngster, though with her roots firmly at home. However, that need to carve out a distinct identity creates an Indian luxury hotel that unapologetically embraces modernity. Take the 1,200 sq ft vertical garden wall across the courtyard from the startlingly futuristic sandstone-hued club wing, tapered like a gemstone awaiting setting, smoothed around the corners like the weather-worn rocks around Durgam lake. This is architectural boldfacing, where the Kakatiya is copperplate cursive. It is also good ecological design, reducing heat gain and maximising heat loss from concrete.

Of an evening, the coruscating golden brilliance of its arrayed windows might blind you to its solid green credentialsbut a LEED Platinum rating is only to be expected, despite the many LEDs. Solar panels, water recycling, dimmerseveryone does. Kohenur bottles its own drinking water to cut out plastic, middlemen and transportation miles. Brand Shunyaqua is coming to guestrooms too shortly, replacing the ubiquitous mineral water bottles. Forgotten grains are already enlisted across menus. Its a rare talent, acknowledging and erasing the travel industrys ecological footprint.

Another is privileging a sense of place in the era of cookie-cutter hotel rooms, the same furniture in a different city each jetsetting night. Kohenur establishes it with a thousand Laad Bazar bangles cascaded over the reception desk with its fruity Karachi Bakery-style welcome cookies, the bidri-patterned pillars of the main Golconda Pavilion restaurant, the jamuni welcome drink at Dum Pukht Begums. Local wines and brews stock the sideboard in guestrooms. This celebration of living tradition extends to city excursions designed along shopping, food, Qutb Shahi and Nizami trails, plus workshops showcasing local culinary styles, emerging artists and artisanal products in their current avatars.

Yet, its Fabelle truffles, microgreens sprinkles, diamond-burst chandeliers and faux-peacock throne selfie spot reassures the HITEC City visitor that the Kohenur is not just resting on traditional laurels. In the room, iPads access the mood lighting, the room service menu, the television, the temperature. Business-ready meeting spaces are everywhere. The biggest win, though, is size: the Kohenur manages to stake out the luxury of space with the largest room sizes per category locally, with most rooms boasting a balcony or at least a lovely view of Durgam Lake, with Golconda Fort shining in the distance. F&B is priced smart smart tooreasonable, not inflatedthough room tariffs advertise guestroom grandeurs.

Yes, the Kohenur lives up to its Persian namesake for size. The leitmotif of jewels runs through the property in other ways too. The Peacock Bars glass-mosaic ceiling art and blue marble counter are echoed in the mosaic bathroom tiles and the presidential suites bath and bar areas. Floors and walls, cushions and carpets, and panelling everywhere echo the lines of a radiant-cut diamond. Jewel tones of purple and aquamarine upholster both guestrooms and meeting spaces scattered throughout the property. The banquet wing sees Nizami jewellery recreated as artwork to flank the pillar-less ballroom.

The flavour of home is a priceless treat, so a Local Love menu takes pride of place at Golconda Pavilionwhen the local families are lining up for the Andhra rasam at midday in midsummer, over the ice creams and fun international salad bar (an excellent beet and ashen goat cheese with wild berries to a cold, coal-black charcoal chicken), you know they have a good thing going with their delicious haleem, tamalapaaku bajjilu (betel leaf fritters), pappu charu (homestyle dal soup), ivy gourd with peanuts and chillies (both favourite flavourings hereabouts), beerakaya paalu korma (milky ridge gourd stew), chapala vankaya koora (fish curry with brinjals), prawns with gongura (Indian sorrel) and dossakai mamsam (lamb with lemon melon)and excellent homemade curd. You could be summer-holidaying at your favourite aunts.

Speaking of, Dum Pukht Begums will pull back its purdah soon and kindle its chandeliers on a more hard-won version of local cuisine, the fiercely protected and poetically named dishes of genteel homes, such as the beet-stuffed seb zamini (ground apple) patties and dakhni chowgra, a quartet of seasonal greens, which currently include fenugreek and sorrel. The purple-and-white dining room is reminiscent of a local aristocrats apartmentredolent of hospitality that begins at home. Here, luxury smacks of authenticity. To wit, be warned the minty Meenakshi paan at the end makes no concessions to amateurs.

Luxury acquires a more playful flavour at the crowd-pleaser Chinese restaurant, Yi Jing. The menu is authentic, yet family friendly, with a contemporary cleverness. Walls of reclaimed railway-sleeper wood and old door jambs lining the lobby, partitions accented with old enamelled colanders and trolley wheels. Good old-fashioned regional Chinese cooking lends itself to a soupon of dinner drama where the chef twirls out his hand-pulled noodles in front of the duck oven hanging from a crane hook. Yes, they do the Beijing duckand much local seafood alongside the sea bass and colourful infused tobiko roe. They wrap char siu chicken in a pretty pastry of swan feathers instead of basic bao. Sake and edamame dumplings mock up an undoctored pod. Dessert is delightfulanise caramel custard with Sichuan pepper streusel, an aggressively toasted pecan, a miniature salted caramel meringue, a tangy pane of aam papad, umami porcini ice cream, typifying the balance of five flavours in a traditional Chinese dish. In the ITC tradition, this new brand shows excellent promise for good meals.

By autumn, Italian dinners at Ottimo and its adjacent Skypoint (premium) bar and cigar lounge will look to steal the spotlight. But luxury of choice is already evident at the Peacock Barindoors and outdoors; lounge seating or barstools; small plates of the kokum-marinated karimeen fry and steamed for the single shot-downer or cosy couple, or more ample portions for the business-suit bunch closing the deal over a drink; and eatery-themed cocktail stories their own advertorial. It is as true of the Golconda Pavilions array of breakfast pancake batters and matching butters (pistachio, jaggery, coconut cream), or the in-room dining options for vegetarian or even saatvik diners, locavores, sustainable pescatarians, comfort (bowl) cravers and parents of healthy-eating youngsters.

Health is a particularly highlighted luxury at Kohenur. The spa spread over three floors is an expected service, perhaps. Less expected is the Wellness category offeringvitamin C-infused showers, Swasthya-minded minibar and bedtime beverages, and a gimmicky radiation-cancelling to offset the device-ready desks.

Yes, the Kohenur is a gem. And if there are still aspects of a diamond in the rough, it nevertheless leaves no doubt of its determination to be rare and precious.

The Information

Location: In Madhapur, HITEC City, just around the corner from Jubilee Hills; 20 mins from Hyderabad airport

Accommodation: 101 executive club rooms, 78 tower rooms, 43 ITC One rooms, 13 wellness rooms, 4 deluxe suites, 3 luxury suites, 1 presidential suite, 1 grand presidential suite, 19 one-bedroom and 8 two-bedroom serviced apartments

Tariff: ?17,000 (club), ?20,000 (tower), ?22,000 (wellness), ?27,000 (ITC One), ?30,000 (deluxe suite), ?35,000 (luxury suite), ?2,50,000 (presidential suite), ?3,50,000 (grand presidential suite), ?30,000 (one-bedroom apartment) and ?35,000 (two-bedroom apartment)

Contact: +91-40-67660101; itchotels.in

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Regenta LP Vilas Is All About Big Stakes and Big Spaces https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/regenta-lp-vilas-big-stakes-big-spaces/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/regenta-lp-vilas-big-stakes-big-spaces/ 2018-08-13T10:00:14+05:30 article It easy to get bowled over by the open layout and use of natural light at the Regenta LP Vilas, The cavernous lobby is abuzz as we arrive. Spry young men in sports gear whizz in and out, adding that very special energy that emanates from sportspeople, and its kind of catching. Our charming hostess swiftly handles the check-in and escorts us up to our rooms, all of which open on to an expansive corridor. A wonderful contrast to those dimly lit narrow passages favoured by even some of the fanciest hotels.

Space, I discover to my endless delight, is something the spanking new Regenta LP Vilas Hotel, a short distance from the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, has capitalised on in every way. And to add to that charm is the propensity for making the most of natural light. Clearly, Abhishek Goyal (the totally hands-on, Swiss-trained hotelier and owner-MD) and I are on the same page about this. The 74-key Regenta, now under the management of Royal Orchid Hotels, has made judicious use of Indias materials and crafting heritagesandstone from Sikanda, marble from Makrana, chandeliers from Firozabad, jewel-toned carpets from Agra, brassware from Moradabad, and woodcraft from nearby Saharanpur.

My room opens to a longish carpeted space ending at a picture window with views of a lovely Doon forest-scape. The guestroom serves up clean lines complete with mandatory cupboards, minibar, TV and desk space, but comfort is paramount, with cosy beds and a bathroom sporting fluffy towels and Biotique products. The open-air Jacuzzi, up on the terrace, is another allurement to explore.

Having driven up from Delhi, I welcome the invitation to shed all stress, along with ones clothes, at Amara Spa, with treatments by Kama. Practised hands ease away the kinks and cribs of crazy deadlines and big-city mayhem. I meet a man in the lift, who seems sporty. We exchange pleasantries. I discover hes a cricketerfrom Afghanistan. I never knew the Afghans played cricket. It appears a team was put together and trained by India, and they are in town because they are good enough to have a regular practice ground, the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Dehradun. They played Bangladesh in the T20 series and beat the hell out of them.

The Regenta LP Vilas is fast becoming a venue of choice for big parties and events, simply for its massive banqueting space, the largest in all of Uttarakhand at one lakh sq ft. Regenta is looking at big stakes as a MICE and wedding destination, and its glamour quotient is on the rise with Bollywood after hosting Karan Johars Student of the Year team.

The Information

Location: Down the road from the IMA; 12km from Dehradun Railway Station and 39km from Jolly Grant Airport

Accommodation: 74 rooms, including suites and family suites

Tariff: From ?4,500 doubles, taxes extra

Contact: +91-1357165000; Regenta LP Vilas Hotel

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Kabini: Searching for the Call of the Kapila https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/A-view-of-Kabini-river-from.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/kabini-searching-for-the-call-of-the-kapila/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/kabini-searching-for-the-call-of-the-kapila/ 2018-08-12T09:02:35+05:30 article The river Kabini nourishes small villages by its banks, magnificent animals in the jungle, and beautiful birds. Also, it beckons travellers to return who've visited The first time we went to Kabini was back in 2013. Having just moved back from the United States after 11 long years, we were excited to explore the gorgeous state of Karnataka, a place we would call 'home'. Every long weekend we had, we made full use of - packing our bags and heading out to discover a little more. It was on one of these trips that we found ourselves in Kabini.

The thrill of a jungle safari was unparalleled. It was our first time in a jungle and to be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a majestic leopard was beyond thrilling.Our guide was wonderful, as he explained the secrets of birds and animals during the whole three hours. During an early morning boat safari, we saw a herd of elephants peacefully bathing on the banks of the Kabini, or the Kapila, as called otherwise. We didn't want to miss anything that Kabini offered. Unfortunately, the trip was over too soon.Over the years, the images faded in my memory but I was left with a lingering, yet strong, feeling. It was a feeling of absolute calm. I knew, without doubt, that one day I would go back.

Fast forward five years later. The call of the Kapila was still alive and we decided to pay heed. Packing our bags, we set off to one of the many lodges that line the banks of the river. I am, by nature, a restless traveller. My idea of a vacation is scourging through websites and blogs to find out hidden gems. Thus, by the time we left, Iwas armed and ready with a list of things to see, do and eat.

We reached the resort and I walked over to the waters edge. Small, gentle waves welcomed me back. Does a river carry with it a stream of consciousness? Does it have memories of those who touched its shores?It had been five long years but the feeling of bliss was the same. The list of things to do floated down the river, Kabini would decide our itinerary.

The next day, we ventured into the forest. A hush fell over the bus the moment we passed through the forest guard checkpoint. We rode through the jungle listening intently and scanning the environment for a glimpse of the stripes or pug marks. No matter how hard our guide tried, we failed to see a big cat. But instead, we spotted deer, the little ones tailing their mothers; elephants; eagles; vultures; blue jays; dozens of peacocks, each more graceful than the other;and bison. Though we came out a tad disappointed, nevertheless, the three hours in the jungle was magical.

The next day we took a long boat ride down the river. As we floated, we were amazed to see how the Kabini opened up. The Kabini has much to offer - fiery sunsets with shades of crimson,magnificent beasts near its jungles, gorgeous birds, and not the mention the river itself. She moves quietly and, in moments, with urgency. She ebbs and flows as it pleases. She sustains life on either side of its banks - humans and animals alike.

Though it was soon time to head back to the city, I knew that the Kapila would call for me again. And, as usual, would be back to create new memories.

TheInformation

Getting there:Kabini is about a 4.5-5 hour journey from Bengaluru by roadif you take the NH 275 and SH 33. Kabini is well connected by KSRTC buses. The nearest railway station is Mysore, which is about 80 km away.

Stay:There are a number of luxury accommodation options available. Some of the popular resorts include Evolve Back (formerly Orange County), The Serai, The Bison and Waterwoods.

Best time to visit: Summer months are considered best for spotting wildlife.

Insider tip: If your primary objective is wildlife spotting, then the government-run Jungle Lodges (contact: 8228264402/03/05) is your best option for accommodation. Guests get to explore the jungle in open-top jeeps while others do so in mini-buses.

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The Classical Chic Vibe of Radisson Blu MBD Noida https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/classical-chic-vibe-radisson-blu-mbd-noida/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/classical-chic-vibe-radisson-blu-mbd-noida/ 2018-08-11T10:00:31+05:30 article Here's one impressive hotel for youafter a stunning makeover, Radisson Blu MBD Noida is all in its old-world luxury best Sometimes minimal can be plain boring, and sometimes luxury shouldnt be subtle. Thats why I like the reinventedor, perhaps, reborn is the right wordRadisson Blu MBD Noida. Last year, they launched their Priv rooms, with a classical European look that could be best described as eclectic baroque, designed to impress. And it does. For design talent they had to look no further than Sonica Malhotra, Joint Managing Director, MBD Group. Under her expert care, traditional meets the innovative, classical meets the contemporary.

If you like old-world luxury, this is for you. And it goes beyond the looks. When I finally checked into my Priv room only recently, my personal butler fussed over me, made my meal reservations and escorted me to them, unpacked my bags, sorted out my laundry, made coffee, and so on. The refurbishment had continued and when I checked it was in a spanking new lobby under an impressive chandelier. TCB (The Chocolate Box), their award-winning cake shop, had re-launched in the lobby area. Their popular all-day diner, S18, named after the iconic Noida sector in which they are located, too had returned in a new avatar. It was now an all-day brasserie and was called SXVIII. The shift to Roman numerals wasnt a mere cosmetic touch: the food offerings now include some top-notch Italian dishes, the likes of which have probably not been plated in this part of town.

New offerings at SXVIII include fennel- and saffron-infused seafood soup, cream of parmesan, tuna nicoise, spinaci e ricotta tortellini, oven-roasted sea bass, Osso Buco (braised lamb served on a bed of saffron risotto), and Australian Rack of Lamb. Theres also a new pizzeria section with a choice of dark rye, buckwheat and millet bases. The new coconut crme brle is to die for.

But some things should not change. Im thankful, therefore, that RED (Rare Eastern Dining) is holding own to its identity. Step into this dark cave for the sort of Oriental food Indians love, only done much, much better. Chef Lim from Singapore has helmed it for nearly 15 years. Its like dining with a dear uncle...who also happens to be a gifted chef. Lim personally chats up every table about food preferences and then rustles up a tailor-made meal. His Singapore chilli crab is legendary as are the Japanese bento boxes and the wasabi ice cream.

Thats the great thing about this hotel: just the right amount of change, without tinkering with what aint broke.

The Information

Location: L-2, Sector 18, Noida 201 301, Uttar Pradesh; approx. 24 km from Indira Gandhi International Airport

Accommodation: 131 rooms including 20 deluxe, 34 business class, 5 crescent, 50 prive premium, 5 prive crescent, 11 prive classic, 3 executive suites and 3 prive suites

Tariff: ?9000 (deluxe), ?10,500 (business class), ?13,000 (crescent), ?14,250 (prive premium), ?15,500 (prive crescent), ?16,500 (prive classic), ?27,000 (executive suite) and ?29,000 (prive suite); taxes extra

Contact: 0120-4300000; Radisson Blu

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Balakhana Villa For an Idyllic Summer Retreat https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/balakhana-villa-for-an-idyllic-summer-retreat/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/balakhana-villa-for-an-idyllic-summer-retreat/ 2018-08-10T10:00:37+05:30 article The 18th-century Balakhana villa in Maheshganj is a picturesque summer retreat away from Kolkatas busy city life Driving from Kolkata to Maheshgunj, I measure the time in the nostalgia of idyllic days filled with blue skies and high piled clouds, white feather fronds growing in the fields now greener than ever with the monsoon rains. Maheshganjs reputation, though, rests on the exploits of the owners of the 200-year-old Palladian mansion, Balakhana, a neelkothi as the bungalow was called. It housed the 18th-century indigo planters with more comforts than Europe could ever provide.

In the heyday of the villa, Maheshganj village boasted an airstrip where Kitty Hawks would come zipping out of the sky carrying freedom fightersNetaji was in fact ferried to an urgent meeting in the area. Today the hamlet lies on the high road to places like Mayapur and Krishnanagar, and Balakhana acts as a tranquil weekend refuge from the bustle of the same places. This is a sanctuary where one can pop in and out with boat rides on the Jalangi at sunrise for an added flow to the experience.

It all seems very rustic until you come to the red pillars that mark the Balakhana entrance. The house isnt visible from the road or the gate. It rises up out of the foliage as you progress down the drive. Balakhana is a villa embellished with turrets and storeys. The terracotta-coloured pediment above the white pillars conceals in the shade of green chiks hanging from it 12,000sq ft of living space, with a verandah that stretches along the front of the house.

A Frenchman was responsible for building Balakhana in the 18th century. After the indigo trade faded away, it was bought by an enterprising Englishman named Henry Nesbitt Savi. He then sold it in 1875 to the family that still owns it, the Palchoudhuris.

The estate reached glory of a more flamboyant kind under Biprodas Palchoudhuri, the first owner, and his son Ranojit. Ranojit the pilot of the Kitty Hawkwas also a hunter and was often called in to deal with marauding crocodiles in the Sunderbans. The heads and claws of some of his trophies decorate the walls of the snooker room. Satyajit Ray shot the wedding scenes of Apur Sansar in the old compound of the estate while, the crew of the film occupied the house or notun bari as it was then called.

In more practical times, the family decided to reinvent the house as a heritage homestay, opening up an almost forgotten way of life to travellers while preserving apart of Bengals architectural history.

Inside, every inch of Balakhana evokes bygone grandeur. The rooms have the old high ceilings of bungalows designed to trap every bit of cool air with marble flooringa must in those days without air-conditioning. Beautifully polished mahogany furniture is everywhere. Savis high four-poster bed still graces the bedroomit requires a climb of four steps to reach the mattress. Guests are fed fruits, vegetables and milk farmed from the estate, and there is always a family member at hand to deal with any dietary preferences that may come up. However, the order of the day is traditional Bengali fare culled from old cookbooks along with a tried and tested cottage cheese recipe that dates back to Savis time.

Balakhanas long verandah offers restful views of the sprawling gardens from its antique recliners and planters chairs. You can rest a glass of bel sherbet on the marble-topped table and birdwatch comfortably with an informative book to refer to. Or look out at the stars in the evening. Take a walk through the gardens where you might find a solitary indigo plant as homage to the history of Balakhana. For more sophisticated entertainment, if youre feeling like getting into the zamindari mode, you can try your hand at cue sports in the snooker roomthe table was made by Calcuttas C. Lazarus and Company, legendary for their exquisite period furniture. Balakhana is a return to those long-ago days where the rhythm of the rain or the flight of a rare butterfly can be the perfect antidote to a busy life in the city.

The Information

Location: Maheshganj, Nabadwip Ghat Road, Nadia District, West Bengal. Approx. 120km (4 hours) from Kolkata

Accommodation: Three AC rooms and two non-AC rooms

Tariff: ?3,500 including breakfast (taxes excluded)

Contact: +91-9831328486; Balakhana Villa

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Experience the Royal Heritage of Brijrama Palace https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/experience-royal-heritage-brijrama-palace/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/experience-royal-heritage-brijrama-palace/ 2018-08-09T10:00:28+05:30 article Brijrama Palace gives visitors a feel of its royal heritage with subtle modernity in the holy city of Varanasi That is Gaay Ghat, my guide points out. Varanasis ghats have interesting backstories, but foreign tourists always found the name funny. So, to emphasise the origin, that is, the cow, an additional a was added. As we float down the Ganga on the motorised bajra, she indicates other ghatswhere scenes from the acclaimed film Masaan were shot, where a lesser-known but equally important wooden Nepali temple stands, the burning ghat where the fire never goes out, the Jantar Mantar close to it painted in a vibrant pink, and finally Dashashwamedh Ghat where the famous Ganga arti takes place every evening. Youll go there this evening, I am promised after being regaled with stories from Varanasis past during the ride.

Soon the bajra begins to turn towards a ghat called Darbhanga. But the dominant brownish sandstone structure standing on the riverbank is more interesting. As we come closer, I see finer details and also, at the bottom, what seems like an elevator. Thats the oldest elevator in the country, Im told. It was installed a 100 years ago to make the erstwhile maharajas commute easier.

Inside the old-fashioned elevator, Im immediately transported to a bygone era. I feel a smile coming onI feel in my bones that it is going to be an interesting weekend. I enter a small foyer tastefully decorated with sofas, and hand-drawn golden frescoes along the ceiling. The walls have ornate carvings that add to the heritage look. The use of sandstone gives the place a cooling effect but also a royal and opulent touch. Its no wonder that Brijrama Palace is wowing guests since it opened two years ago.

The palace is one of the ancient citys oldest landmarks. It was initially built as a fort in the early 1800s by Shridhar Narayana Munshi, minister for the estate of Nagpur, and the evidence remains in its doorways, which are small, to make entry difficult. The fort and ghat was acquired by Rameshwar Singh Bahadur, the king of Darbhanga, in 1915, when it was turned into a palace. But after it fell into disarray for many years, Brijrama acquired the property in 1994. It took almost 20 years to carry out the restoration work (one can see the evidence in old black-and-white images) to make a property fit for guests.

The palaces location makes it difficult to reach by car as Varanasi is famous for its narrow lanes. Its easier to fly into the city, the point at which the Brijrama hospitality starts, and then take an hour-long road journey to reach Bhisasur Ghat near Malviya Bridge. A bajra comes to pick you up at the ghat and showcases the best views en route to Brijrama Palace. The whole journey is an experience, and is a great start to a luxurious weekend.

My room is beautifully done up in shades of red and pink Banarasi, with a comfortable bed, ornate chairs, traditional lamps and colourful paintings, the usual tea- and coffee-making facilities, and to my joy, a copy of the magazine Im employed at. There is attention to detail that impresses. A quick shower later, I come out to explore. The hotel is built around a courtyard or Bada Aangan where two statues, discovered during the restoration period, are displayed. From any of the three storeys, one can look down to the courtyard. The corridors that surround the open space are elegantly designed in shades of silver, black and cream. It gives off a royal feel, which you come to experience and expect here.

I make my way up to the Kamalya Terrace for complimentary snacks in the evening. One can soak in the beautiful view of the Ganga while munching on finger foods on customised china. The property offers 34 rooms, but if one really wants a fabulous view to wake up to, book one of the four suites with a panoramic view of the river.

The Information

Location: Darbhanga Ghat, Varanasi. Approx. 26km (90mins) from the airport

Accommodation: 34 rooms, including suites

Tariff: From ?15,000 approx.

Contact: +91-9129414141, Brijrama Palace

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The Pyramids of Sudan: Egypt's Lesser-Known Neighbours https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Pyramids-Sudan-ancient-city.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/the-pyramids-of-sudan-egypts-lesser-known-neighbours/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/the-pyramids-of-sudan-egypts-lesser-known-neighbours/ 2018-08-09T09:35:09+05:30 article While tourists usually go to Egypt to see the architectural wonder of the pyramids, head to neighbouring Sudan the next time to see similar pyramids Pyramids are fascinating monuments. Built thousands of years ago, they still stand, a true test of time and ancient engineering marvel. Egypt is most popular with tourists. They come from far and wide to Giza, across the Nile from Cairo, to see the Great Pyramid and the others in the same complex. Tours are plenty, some even go on camel rides to the other side to get beautiful landscape photographs of the pyramids. However, while Egypt gets so much world attention, neighbouring Sudan barely gets a mention. Did you know thatthe country has almost double the number of pyramids than Egypt?

I've always been fascinated with pyramids. have always been an attraction.I got a chance to visit Sudan when I was deputed on an oil exploration assignment to the country some years ago. I'd always heard of Egypt but when I heard of the pyramids in Sudan, I knew that I had to visit. I cajoled my colleagues to visit the monuments at the first opportunitythat arose. It came at the end of the tourist season when the sun was still hot. That didn't deter our mission. We drove to the nearest pyramid site of an ancientcity - Mero- in the Nubian region.

The ancient city of Mero is located on the east bank of river Nile, near the city of Al Bagrawiya. It is the last great burial site of the Royal Black Pharaohs or the Kings of Kush. Merois easily accessible by road, about 200km northeast of Khartoum, the capital, which located just south of the confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers.

The region from Khartoum to the north is better known as Nubia and had seen the rise of three major kingdoms. It was ruled by the Kushite dynasty since 2600 BCE.Apart from Mero, the other two big Kushite kingdoms developed around Kermaand Napata. Whereas the first Kushite kingdom (around Kerma) developed a unique, exclusive culture; Napata and Merowere greatly influenced by the Egyptian way of life. The kings of Napatain northern Sudan believed in burial customs the way ancient Egyptians did. They even employed Egyptian artists in creating the architectural gems.While the Napatan region was occupied by Egypt in later years, the third Kushite kingdomcontinued the practice of building pyramids at Mero from the royal city of Al Bagrawiya.

The pyramids at Merorange invarious sizes. The larger ones were made for royalty while the smaller ones for nobles. Unfortunately, when I went, I found many pyramids were damaged and saw restoration work on. While we've all heard of stories of plunder by grave robbers and early adventurists in Egypt, Sudan, too, faced something similar. We found out that Giuseppe Ferlini, an Italian treasure hunter and adventurer in the 19th century, had smashed the tops of at least 40 such pyramids in search of gold. It gave me great joy to see that various countries are collaborating to preserve and conserve these pyramids today. While much work remains to be done, the pyramids have stood the test of weather and time for centuries, and will remain so for many more years.

The information

Getting there: The pyramids at Meroare located in the north of the country. It's best to travel from Khartoum. While there are no direct flights from India to Khartoum, Gulf Air, FlyDubai, Air Arabia among others fly between the two countries. The best time to visit Sudan is during the winter. A trip toMero can take a full day. Bring your own food and water, cap, umbrella and camera. If you don't want to do the journey on your own, use one of the many travel agencies in Khartoum who organise trips to see the pyramids. They can range from day trips to longer ones. More info:info@sudan-tourism.gov.sd

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Independence Day Getaways To Take In 2018 https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/featured-landour-rokeby.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/independence-day-getaways-take-2018/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/independence-day-getaways-take-2018/ 2018-08-08T20:00:16+05:30 article From Landour to Ganpatipule, we tell you about beautiful destinations in India that you usually skip. Use the Independence Day holiday to take off and Although Independence Day falls promptly on a midweek day, we aren't letting that dampen our holiday plans. Take a couple of days off either before of after Wednesday and make it a 5-day long weekend. From Landour to Tranquebar, Shillong to Ganpatipule, we're telling you about four lesser-explored destinations that will let you unwind.

 

From Kolkata to Shillong

Kolkata, give Darjeeling and Kalimpong a much-desired break and plan a trip to Shillong. This Northeastern city, capital of Meghalaya is a beautiful destination to explore, and what doesnt hurt matters is that its only a 2-hour direct flight from Kolkata.

Do: There are beautiful waterfalls to explore from the popular Elephant Falls in the city or the Dainthlen nearby in Cherrapunjee. A stroll along Wards Lake is also pleasant, and for the most adventurous, even a boat ride. You can also go shopping at Meghalaya Handloom and Handicrafts to buy local handicrafts from the state.
Eat: One cant miss out on the street food in Shillong, be it the jalebis fished out straight from a paper bag, pork momos, aloo muri and jadoh . A good place to get a mix of these items is Police Bazaar. Other popular cafes and restaurants include the Caf Shillong and Trattoria.
Stay: Built as cottages with thatch huts, Ri Kynjai offers a gorgeous view of the Umiam lake. Budget travelers can explore accommodations near Police Bazaar.

 

From Delhi to Landour

Its the weekend, and youre longing for something a little reclusive. While others are well on their way to higher, more crowded hillsNainital, Manali and beyond, theres a smaller town up the hills of Mussourie that is a nest of peace. Take a train from Delhi to Dehradun, and its a 1.5-hour drive from there.
Do: We wouldnt say theres so much to do as there isnotto doyou can not worry and not be stuck in traffic (most people travel by foot here). However, a small itinerary can go like this: visit the sunset point at Laal Tibba, play with the local dogs at Char Dukaan, rent a bicycle around the hills, and buy jams and peanut butter from Prakashs shop.
Eat:The humblest and most delicious meal comes at Chaar Dukaan (the centre of all activity in Landour). There are literally four shops, and we recommend the maggi, chai and bun omelette at Tip Top. Have hearty meals at the restaurant in Rokeby Manor, and end on a sweet note at Landour Bakehouse (the almond xxx is just the right amount of sweet).
Stay:Smaller groups can stay at the cosy boutique hotel Rokeby Manor or in one of their cottages spread across Landour. For homestays, there is the wooden delight Bethanys Inn or a more colourful Dolmas Inn.

 

From Mumbai to Ganpatipule

Far away from the rather crowded Chowpatty and (magically) perpetually, dirtyVersova beach are the clean sands of Ganpatipule.About 8 hours from Mumbai, it is hard to believe Ganpatipule isMaharashtrahtra.Either drive down the bumpy road or take a train to Ratnagiri, which is the closest station.

Do: Ganpatipule is blessed with a gorgeous eponymous beach as well as the Malgund beach, which boasts of patches of black sands and sunsets out of a paintbox. Its best to lie down there with a book in hand and no agenda.
Eat: Get a taste of the local Malwani cuisine at Hotel Sameer, where you must try the shrimp achaar or have a thali at Hotel Naivedya. The food in this town is simple and unpretentious, yet packed with flavours from local ingredients.
Stay: Can it really get better than staying in a treehouse? We think not. Perch yourself up at Atithi Parinay, a tree lodge and homestay in Ratnagiri, Ganpati Phule . Another hotel to consider is Blue Ocean Resort (which has an in-house Sukho Thai Spa).

 

From Chennai to Tranquebar

Tranquebar (or Tharangambadi) is a town with Danish origins and history steeped in every step is your lesser explored spot to visit this extended weekend. It is a 6-hour drive from Chennai and an 8-hour drive from Bengaluru.

Do: Visit the Dansborg Fort and the New Jerusalem Church. You can then swing by the Maritime Museum for a bit of sea history. It is a postcard-perfect town where you will find stunning architecture and a hint of blue wherever you turn.
Eat: Find place inside the Bungalow on The Beach restaurant which offers seafood and other local dishes.
Stay: Neemranas property Bungalow on the Beach is just where you should park yourself for the long weekend, and not move.

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Around The World In 6 Dumplings https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/dumplings-around-the-world.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/around-the-world-in-6-dumplings/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/around-the-world-in-6-dumplings/ 2018-08-08T14:50:11+05:30 article Be it steamed momos in Nepal or fried empanadas in Spain, samosas in India or pan-fried gyoza in Japan; the humble dumpling is found all I love dumplings. There I said it. What's not to love about them, right? Fried, steamed, boiled, soupy, sweet, savoury - each and every style is delicious and a meal in itself. Almost each country has a version of some form of dumpling. Southeast Asia to Europe, South America to India;the flour, water and oil batter (usually with some regional changes) is celebrated with stuffings of all different sorts. As we all know that food binds people together, why not a dumpling or its far-reaching cousin, right? We let you travel around the world, one dumpling at a time!

Gyoza from Japan

When we think of dumplings, the Gyoza definitely comes to mind. This dumpling from Japan is pan-friend and are meat stuffed little pockets of heaven. The thin wrappers are stuffed with ground meat(usually pork), chives, cabbage, ginger, soy, sesame oil among others. Some think of the gyoza as pot stickers but unlike the latter, these are smaller and more delicate. First, the bottom of the gyoza is pan fried till nice and brown, then the top part is steamed. The dumplings are then served with a dipping sauce made of soy, ginger and vinegar. The Chinese cousin of the Gyoza is the Jiaozi.

Momos from Tibet and Nepal

Very popular in India, the humble momo is now being served with various kinds of stuffings, including chocolate! The momo is a small steamed bun with meat or vegetable stuffing with its origins in Tibet and Nepal, popular in the Indian regions like Ladakh, Darjeeling and Sikkim. Today, the momo has taken over India and can be found in high-end restaurants and roadside stalls. Traditionally, in the mountain regions where it originated, yak or buffalo meat would be used as stuffing but in India, elaborate vegetarian options are also served. Don't forget the hot and spicy tomato-chilly chutney or the 'momo sauce' served on the side!

Polish pierogis

When in Poland, don't forget to try these delicious small dumplings. Sweet or savoury, they will leave you wanting more. Once the stuffing is wrapped in uneven dough, the pierogis are boiled till cooked through, then served with a topping that can range from melted butter, sour cream to chives etc. The stuffing can range from meat to cheese, potato to fruit.Did you know it's Poland'smost-beloved dish?

Italian ravioli

Who can not go to Italy and not eat ravioli, correct? The dough sheet is spread out long and thin. Another rectangular sheet is laid on top, while small portions of fillings arespaced out. The fillings can range from cheese to spinach and mushrooms, tomato to shrimp, or anything under the sun. The pockets are cut out, then boiled till they start floating (that's how you know they are done), and then served with a sauce. Marinara is most common but my favourite is burnt butter with sage and garlic!

Empanadas from Spain

The humble empanada is very popular in Spain, Portugal and South America. Originally from Galicia, these little flaky pastries are mouthwateringand deelish. The little pocket is made by folding the dough around the stuffing which can range from meat, seafood, vegetables to even fruits. They are then deep fried or baked till the crust is flaky. They are wildly popular and a perfect snack when hungry!

Indian samosas

What an empanada is to Spain is the samosa to India. The dough usually has a filling of potatoes, peas, spices; then its sealed in and deep fried in hot oil. The piping hot fried snack is best enjoyed in the rains with chai and gossip on the the side!

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Untold Monuments of India in Pictures https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/untold-monuments-india-pictures/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/untold-monuments-india-pictures/ 2018-08-08T10:00:49+05:30 article A series of panoramas that goes on to show that centuries-old Indian monuments are still quite the spectacle. A photostory by Amit Pasricha Trust Amit Pasricha to channel his mastery of an art form into a well-thought-out initiative. I am now moving towards using my photography, the most powerful language in existence today, as a tool for change, says the award-winning Delhi-based photographer, whos been published in over two dozen prominent books on India, about his recent India Lost and Found (ILF) web initiative. In a world where news and information is consumed in tiny, oft-embellished capsules and where instant gratification has taken centre stage, he feels people are missing out on a vast, in-depth understanding of the fascinating universe of Indian culture and heritage. The disconnect has had a devastating effect: we are losing our lesser-known monuments to bad conservation practices, neglect and the real-estate lobby at an incredible pace.

ILF is the photo story of the untold monuments of India. These sites today represent the most visible aspect of civilisations past, like gates to a hidden world, says Pasricha. The project is an attempt to create a virtual museum of thought, so that when people visit these sites, they may be able to imagine the pulse of the place and the past civilisation. The initiative harnesses the power of social media and photography, with an umbrella knowledge network using these images to bring alive the past. Currently accessible through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts, the bank will soon be available through a visually rich website. Hundreds of pictures are up already, and 40 are being added every month. This knowledge, thus created by us, will belong to all, says Pasricha.

Its nothing if not ambitious. In the end we can all look upon this as a crowd-creative project and seed the search engines of the web in such a way that for decades to follow, the web mirrors the very idea we seed into it now and not the cut and paste bad information we are subjected to today, elaborates Pasricha. Backing him is an impressive network of patrons, including the likes of Aman Nath, William Dalrymple and Arvind Singh Mewar. The gorgeous images in this photo essay are just the tip of the iceberg.

For more, visit facebook.com/IndiaLostFound and instagram/IndiaLostAndFound

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Viewpoints In And Around Pune That Offer Mesmerising Sights https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Pawna-Featured-shutterstock.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/viewpoints-around-pune-offer-mesmerising-sights/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/viewpoints-around-pune-offer-mesmerising-sights/ 2018-08-08T10:00:09+05:30 article Get away from the rush of the city by visiting these natural viewpoints around Pune which are sure to leave you mesmerised While Pune is popular for its student culture and never-ending list of universities, the city is also loved for its natural beauty. Unlike Mumbai and many other metropolitan around the nation, Pune is a must-visit if you want to get away from the everyday rush of life. A city in the process of becoming a top tier city, Pune offers unconditional beauty in every one of its corners. Here is a list of places in and around Pune that one shouldn't miss. These are places that offer the most mesmerising viewpoints and offer an opportunity for a conversation with nature.
Parvati Hill
A hillock in the Pune, Parvati Hills is a popular location among the locals. Offering an epic panoramic view of the city, the hill is named after the Parvati Temple built here during the rule of the Peshwa dynasty. After a relatively simple 30-minute climb to the pinnacle, one can see the skyline of Pune merge with its low-lying skyscrapers. Elegantly weaving a harmony between its man-made structures and natural wonders, the view from here enigmatically captures the calm and order that encapsulates the lives of the locals.
Khadakwasla Dam
A 45-minute drive from Pune, the Khadakwasla Dam was recently completed and is now a major water source for the city and its nearby areas. Drive through the lush green hills of Lonavla on the way while munching on theMaharashtrian special vada pav orsome pakodas (highly recommended during the monsoons). Safe for visitors during the heavy rains, the site is a visual treat to the eyes as the vastness of the sea captures the imagination. Close to the dam is the Sinhagad Fort, which should also be on list of places to visit.
Vetal Hill
Located in the heart of Pune, the Vetal Hill is the highest point in the city. A favourite of early morning joggers and walkers, there are several trails laid across the hill. Follow the trails leading you to the top; once you are there you'll be able to see that landscape of the hills. A small lake coloured of cobalt blue takes its place between the low lying shrubs and weed. Look further beyond, you can see a trail of mountain ranges that extend beyond the city.
Pawna Lake
Often overlooked as a destination, Pawna Lake is a must-visit for a scenic viewpoint around Pune. A 2-hour drive from the city, the best time to be here is during the monsoons when the rains add life to the sun-soaked lake. Surrounded by a lush green foliage and an array of mountains, one can feel at home here. Sunrises from Pawna are highly recommended, watch as the sun rises from the protection of the mountains and unravels itself in all its glory while lifting the blanket of mist and darkness. You can also climb up to the Tunga Fort near Pawna lake for an even more elevated view.
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The Best Senior-Citizen Friendly Locations Around The World https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/senior-citizen-travel-on-th.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/best-senior-citizen-friendly-locations-around-the-world/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/best-senior-citizen-friendly-locations-around-the-world/ 2018-08-07T15:06:22+05:30 article From the wilderness of the Australian outback to the backwaters of Kerala in southern India, senior citizens are travelling all over the world for adventure Once you've been bitten by the travel bug, it is hard to let go. While travelling is fun and adventurous, it can get exhausting and for senior citizens who want to see the world, it can get tough. However, in recent times, there has been a significant increase in travel among senior citizens. According to Make My Trip, their platform has found a15per cent increase in the number of bookingsforinternational destinationsamongsenior citizens. There are a number of reasons - disposable income, the affordability of international travel, and most commonly, to go and meet children settled abroad. Many group tours for senior citizens are also on the rise for first-time travellers. Many tour operators are offering special group packages which can be luxurious and customised. According to MMT, senior citizens using their website for international destinations, are opting for guided tours with tour managers, Indian meals, and relaxeditineraries.

When picking a place to travel to, keep a few things in mind - interesting things you want to see, the availability of public transport, and food preferences. While one is travelling for leisure, try and have an experiential holiday at that! We bring you five places to choose to travel to if you are a senior citizen.

Italy

The country is known for art and its museums and architectural gems are a major attraction for visitors. For senior citizens, transportation isn't that tough with taxis. Walking is best but take your time to appreciate the surroundings. Rome, Florence, Milan - they all have pretty cafes to sit by the roadside after appreciating the fine arts in a museum. You would want to avoid the summers, though the weather is sunny, as Italy receives a large number of tourists then. The winters are colder but discounts will be aplenty.

Japan

Japan is one of the most senior-citizen friendly countries. With over 20 per cent of the population above the age of 70, the government tries to make everyday an easy venture for the elderly. Japan attractions offer discounts to seniors but one may need to ask. Tokyo is a great tourist spot. From tradition to modern, food to heritage, the city offers tourists a lot of options. However, the language barrier maybe an issue.

Australia

Australia is one of the most senior citizen friendly countries. The transportation system in the big cities is easy and the laid back attitude is inviting. A lot of Indians settle Down Under for job opportunities or go there for education purposes. Thus, the continent makes for a great parents' attraction! Australia is great for wildlife, natural beauty, food and sports, in tandem with its great city attractions. Don't forget to check out koalas and kangaroos while there!

Rajasthan

Rajasthan is always a good idea! Dance, music, forts, sand dunes, rural villages, pretty jewellery, and great food; what's not to love about visiting this state in India? Though Rajasthan is a popular destination among senior citizen travellers, one needs to keep in mind the hectic nature of travel it can lead to with so many things to see. Fly to Jaipur, Jodhpur or Udaipur; or just take the train to reach the state. Taxis are easily available to travel within cities and outskirt tourist attractions. There are plenty of budget to high-end stay options to give you a royal feeling!

Kerala

Kerala is an ideal family destination. Surrounded by beautiful landscapes, rivers, beaches, and hill stations, this place is a well-blended mixture of spirituality and adventure. The best time to visitKerala is from September-April as the weather isbetter. The most recommended stay option is the houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala. It gives you a traditional feel of the place while transportation to get around is easy.

Thus, senior citizens are going to far flung places, eager to enjoy everything the world is offering!

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The Sun Temple of Modhera is an Artisanal Wonder https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/sun-temple-modhera-artisanal-wonder/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/sun-temple-modhera-artisanal-wonder/ 2018-08-07T10:00:22+05:30 article The Sun Temple at Modhera might be called as the lesser-known counterpart of Konark, but its exquisite artisanship tells us a different story altogether A very Calcuttan thing to do every year is to visit the beach town of Puri nestled in the Odisha coastline. While some go there for religious purposes, I had recently gone after a sojourn of a few years to laze on the beach and gorge on delicious seafood. It is perfect for a weekend getaway and nearly always includes a day trip to Konark to see the magnificent ruins of the famous medieval Sun Temple.

This time, as soon as I entered the darkened weather-beaten complex of intricately carved stone, a testament to time, I had the strangest dj vuI was back in the tiny village of Modhera located at the other side of the country. Reminiscing about the lesser-known (as some would say) Sun Temple in Gujarat was fascinating given how two very different regional architectural structures had sprung up in opposite parts of the subcontinent within the same time frame and were dedicated to the same Vedic deitythe sun god Surya.

Last year, when I was writing my thesis on Pichvais, the beautiful cloth paintings that hang behind the idol of Srinathji in the temple at Nathdwara and in the homes of devotees, a visit to Gujarat and Rajasthan seemed necessary. Researching and conducting field work in the month of May in Ahmedabad is definitely not ideal, but I used my free time to experience the diverse variety of architecture, textiles and food the city had to offer. As a student of art history, I had read about the architectural styles that had coexisted in this part of the country. Having come this far, I knew Id absolutely regret not visiting the Sun Temple of western India, especially after writing an essay on it in college. After considering student-friendly options of taking a bus and travelling the local way, I succumbed to the heat and opted for a comfortable taxi. It turned out to be a good decision because I had the most interesting driver who was also a great conversationalist. He narrated stories and legends of the regions history.

The day-long trip I had planned included two historical sites and covered a distance of nearly 300 kilometres. The road cut across contrasting sceneries of quaint villages and industrial hubs. We first drove to Patan, which was originally built as a fortified city in the eighth century by the Chavda dynasty. The city is famous for two thingsthe ornamented stepwell known as Rani ki Vav and the ancient textile tradition of patola.

Given the sporadic and scarce rainfall received in western India, stepwells are pretty much ubiquitous here. Innovative water storage and harvesting methods were thought of and placed within elaborate structures. Stepwells had different names in different areasvav, boali, bavadi and so on.

Rani ki Vav, one of the deepest stepwells in India, is located within a complex of stone paths cutting across sprawling well-manicured lawns. As you approach the centre of the park, you catch a glimpse of a strange elongated crater. I wasnt quite sure what to expect and was awestruck by the richly ornamented multi-tiered stepwell as I descended the high steps leading into the crater. I think it was the inconspicuous setting leading to an unexpected architectural wonder that really ignited my senses.

Resembling an inverted temple, the stepwell was built by Queen Udaymati in the 11th century in memory of King Bhima of the Chalukya dynasty. A tribute quite apt given the symbolic sanctity and sacredness attached to water. The walls are divided into horizontal registers covered in sculptures and panels representing different religions, mythologies and social scenes. One can only gasp in admiration at the talent, aesthetic sensibilities and dedication of the craftspeople and engineers who created this masterpiece without the help of modern technology. What was truly fascinating were the panels of geometric motifs in checks and diamonds, which are also found in the patola saris of the regionan example of how art forms borrow from one another. A similar trend is also seen in the figurative motifs of the Baluchar textiles of Bengal, which have been borrowed from the surrounding terracotta temples. Even though only a small section of the stepwell is accessible to tourists, the seemingly never-ending rows of carved pillars are a sight to behold.

I was slightly apprehensive about visiting the temple next. What if it was overshadowed by the magnificence of the stepwell, even though they were completely different structures? Heading back to Mehsana district, as I approached the charming village of Modhera, the urban landscape was replaced by tree-lined roads and simple homes on either side.

After a short walk from the car park, I was greeted by the profile of the Sun Temple, reflected in the green waters of the kund or tank before it. As I walked in with other tourists and locals, I was stunned into silence by the temples grandeur. It was not as immense like the one in Odisha, but it had a strong retrospective quality. The silence of the water, the structure and the people around it were oddly comforting.

The east-facing Surya or Sun Temple at Modhera is the earliest dated temple in Gujarat, having being built in 1026 CE, as per the inscription found at the site. Like the Sun Temple in Konark, the one in Modhera is not a living temple. It comprises three parts, built in the Maha-Gurjara style.

The beauty of Indian architecture lies in its ability to borrow from various artistic trends across regions and borders, and adapting those styles to create something unique. The chariot-like structure of Konark, for example, is replaced by three individual yet-connected structures that form the home of Surya in Modhera.

The first section is made up of the rectangular stepped tank, commonly known as Surya or Rama kund. An interesting aspect of the kund is that it is marked by 108 miniature shrines at different levels, which can be accessed by staircases found all around the tank. I walked around, taking in the exquisitely carved deities, but was unable to view all the shrines.

Each one had its own individual charm and was a precursor to the beauty of the main part of the temple that lay ahead. From afar, the geometric projected sandstone shrines were a contrast to the calming plain waters now home to vibrant aquatic life. Philosophically, the placement of the tank is quite apt because it is mentioned in the Vedas that the birth of the sun was from the great cosmic waters. Beyond the tank are remnants of an ornamented pillared gateway known as the kirti torana, which leads to the next structure known as ranga mandapa or sabha mandapa.

The exterior of this open-pillared hall topped off by a linear roof is covered in sculptures and panels depicting deities, social scenes, flora and fauna, and geometric motifs. It is a testament to the artisans skill that each element transitions harmoniously into the next one, allowing every viewer to create their own narrative. Amorous couples are placed in rows, while divinities belonging to both the Vedic and Puranic pantheons decorate other sections of this hall. The dense richness of the exterior is mirrored on the pillars and ceiling inside. Each pillar is topped off by stalky figures, their extended bodies stylised as though the entire weight of the temple is on their shoulders. The light streaming in from the open cavities illuminating the ornamented pillars that represented scenes from the epics, battles, hunts and festivities are especially captivating.

The ranga mandapa leads to the main shrine of Surya known as the gudha mandapa, which is further divided into three partsthe assembly hall, the vestibule and the sanctum sanctorum or garbha griha. The statue of Surya used to stand in the last section, sparkling in the rays of the sun on particular days. Once again, an example of true architectural ingenuity. On the garbha griha once stood a towering spiral, which has now crumbled to its base.

As the day came to an end, I found the perfect shaded spot on the side of the temple. There were a few of us waiting to see the last rays covering this sandstone wonder, and I could only imagine what a spectacular sight it must have been when the main idol used to be illuminated by the sun during an equinox.

The Information

Getting There
The closest airport to Modhera is Ahmedabad, which is well connected to different parts of the country by regular flights. It takes about two hours by road to reach Modhera from Ahmedabad. The most comfortable option is taking a taxi because it gives you the flexibility to make an independent itinerary. I had asked my hotel to arrange it for me (?3,000 for the whole trip, food and tips excluded). Another option is to take a bus to Mehsana and then another to Modhera.

Where to Stay
Ahmedabad has stay options across all budgets. I would recommend a stay at the pols (in the old walled city) where many old havelis have been converted into boutique hotels. French Haveli (from ?2,500 singles; frenchhaveli.com) and the Dodhia Haveli (from?5,000 doubles; frenchhaveli.com/dodhia-haveli-hertiage-suites) are two such options.

Where to Eat
Its best to eat a meal in Ahmedabad and carry snacks with you for the long road journey. One will come across various dhabas and roadside eateries and they usually serve vegetarian fare.

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Finding Fireflies In Maharashtra https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Fireflies-lowres.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/finding-fireflies-maharashtra/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/finding-fireflies-maharashtra/ 2018-08-06T15:18:49+05:30 article Millions of fireflies light up a small village in Maharashtra and leave us spellbound The car jerked while taking a turn and broke my slumber. Outside, the Mumbai traffic and the muggy summer weather had been replaced by a slight chill in the air. The high-rises had been replaced by a brown rocky landscape, interspersed with a house here and there. This is Bhandardara, said Omkar, my charioteer for the journey, as we whizzed past farmers tilling bajra and rice fields, blooming marigold patches and umpteen mango trees. My phone suddenly came to life. Make your calls now, he advised.

He was right. We reached Rajur, the last major town, 16 kilometres from my destination, and my mobile service died. But it was all okay. It gave me time to appreciate the natural beauty of rural Maharashtra. The brown earth and rocky trajectories, coupled with the various shades of green trees and fields gave me a sense of tranquilityoften missed in a fast-paced city.

I was on my way to Purushwadi, a small village in Maharashtra, about six hours from the states capital, to see fireflies.

As a city dweller, we often feel a disconnect with our primordial roots. While we decorate our homes with artificial fairy lights, it is a lot more thrilling to see natures fairy lights in the wild, or so I imagined. I smiled as we came to our pit stop.

A tall lanky man with a wide loveable smile greeted me. Introducing himself as Tahnaji, he played out my itinerary over cups of sweetened lemongrass tea. I was putting up at the Grassroutes campsite, a short walk from the village. A rural community-based tourism organisation, Grassroutes gives visitors a taste of the rustic life. Purushwadi is one of the villages the organisation works with.

You know whats funny? Tahnaji asked en route to the village for the first order of businesslunch. The village is called Purushwadi but there are more women than men here. I laughed with him as we walked up the winding road; he nonchalantly, me reminding myself to increase my cardio activity. Suddenly, he stopped and plucked a few blackberry-like fruits from a shrub. I hesitated but my cast-iron stomach reminded me that it would be fine. So all fears aside, I popped one into my mouth. Fair warning: the taste of fresh karonda berries is addictive.

The village itself was very picturesque. Made up of about 110 families, the main income is from agriculturegroundnuts, rice, bajra. Fruit trees were abundant jamun, dates, mangoes. The houses were made with cow dung and painted in vibrant colours. Chickens and roosters ran around, cows mooed, shy children soon lost all

fear and greeted me, and the village folk made me feel welcome. We crossed the primary school located next to a temple and the general covered space used during festivals. The school walls were brightly painted, depicting numbers, alphabets and even a cartoon of Tom and Jerry! Tahnaji informed me they plan on introducing computers soon.

I was taken to Meera bais house, with bright pink exteriors and cool and welcoming interiors. We sat on the floor to eat traditional Indian fare of rotis, daal and sabzi that her daughter-in-law, Savita, served. It was simple Maharashtrian food, but I swooned at the first bite. The villagers make do with some fresh produce while the utilities and essentials come from a weekly market at Rajur. Despite running a household of 10 (six family members and four chickens), Meera bai was cheerful and urged me to eat till I could have no more.

Stuffed and sleepy, all I wanted to do next was curl up in my tent. But that could be a bad ideaI could very well sleep through the fireflies phenomenon. So, with Tahnaji, I took the road downwards, towards the river. Just beside it, there was a groundnut field. As locals went about separating the nuts from the leaves (which are dried and used as fodder), I was given some freshly pulled ones to devour. But the snacking didnt stop there. Along the road, I learnt about fruits and berries which have medicinal and Ayurvedic propertiesand let me warn you, most of them tend to be bitter in the raw form. But it never hurts to devour some fresh mangoes and dates, plucked straight from the trees.

The afternoon quickly gave way to dusk and a walk back from the Mora nadi (river) showcased a spectacular sunset. But more than the pretty pictures captured on my camera, my excitement grew at the thought that it was nearly showtime.

Darkness descended slowly as we made our way back. I squealedI could see fireflies near a tree! Best spotted during the weeks leading up to the monsoon, fireflies have a short lifespan but they bring so much joy to those around in that limited time frame. Tahnaji promised me a much more spectacular show after dinner.

He wasnt kidding. At first, I thought too much puran poli had made my imagination run riot. Fireflies were everywhere. This was Enid Blytons enchanted forest with thousands and thousands of shining little dots all over trees, bushes and shrubs. Whole sections of greens lit up like a Christmas tree before plunging into complete darkness. As we walked towards the river and groundnut field, the glow from the fireflies literally guided. Street lamps and torches seemed so mundane. One particular tree near the river attracted the most fireflies, making it sparkle like it was Diwali. I was told fireflies glow to communicate with one another. Staring mesmerised at the tree, I didnt realise there was a glow right next to my ear. The alert Tahnaji quickly captured the firefly and transferred it to my open palms. I was amazed at the beautiful creature as it lit up. It explored my hand fearlessly. Earlier we used to capture fireflies and keep them in bottles to use as sources of light. Once we learnt it was wrong, we simply stopped, my guide said, as the firefly flew away.

My city body was exhausted and it was a long walk back to the camp. But I couldnt tear my eyes away from the Disneyesque sparkles around me. We can see more along the way back, wise Tahnaji pointed out. As we walked back, bushes and shrubs lit up, as if clearing a path just for me.

Back in my tent that night, I dreamt of the beautiful forest. I just knew that I had seen nature at its enchanting best.

Grassroutes organises the Fireflies festival in MayJune; stay in tents or a village homestay (from Rs 2,500 for singles) at Purushwadi; vegetarian meals, guided activities and tours are included. For more information, visit grassroutes.co.in

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20 Harry Potter Experiences Around The World https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/featured-harry-potter-pixab.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/harry-potter/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/harry-potter/ 2018-08-06T11:47:20+05:30 article On 20 years of Harry Potter, we solemnly swear that this list will inspire you to take off on a world tour just to see Twenty years ago, JK Rowlings first book on the Boy Who Lived (also known as Harry Potter in larger circles) was released worldwide.500 million copies,over 80 translations and 8 movies later, the love for Harry Potter and his magical world is only growing.

Hop on to your broomsticks and tour the world of Harry Potter by taking these 20 experiences around the world.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Hogwarts grounds may be off-limits for apparition (honestly, Ron, dont you read?), but we have found you a secret passageway. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is Universal Studios gift to Potterheads. Take a ride on a dragon-turned-rollercoaster, go on a Hogwarts tour with simulated Harry, Ron and Hermione, shop for chocolate frogs at Hogsmeade and buy a wand at Ollivanders in Diagon Alleyjust dont get into a fight with Malfoy, will you?

The park is in Orlando, Florida and in Osaka, Japan. Find out more here.

Hogwarts Express

Who said you need a letter from Hogwarts to take the Hogwarts Express train? Start your journey at the Kings Cross station where the train takes off. Then, take a rideonthe Jacobite Steam Train (which was painted red for the movies). Lastly, visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct where the iconic shot of the Express steaming its way towards Hogwarts is shot in the movies.

Hogwarts Locations

Hogwarts is one place that all Potterheadsdream of visiting. Though that might never happen, we can always go to places where different segments of Hogwarts were shot. One can go to Oxford, the place where Harry danced on the Yule Ball or the Black Park where we see the trio andFangslurking in the Forbidden Forests. If you are a Quidditch fan, visit the Alnwick Castle where Harry and Malfoy slugged it out for the snitch in an action-packed match between Gryffindor and Slytherin. Also, makeyourway to the Durham andGloucesterCathedrals where other parts of Hogwarts were shot.

Elephant House

Elephant House is one of the places where theHarry Pottermanuscripts were first penned down. JK Rowling is known to have been living in Edinburgh, Scotland while writing the first half of the series. Today, Potterheads flock to the caf, in which the loo is covered with Harry Potter graffiti, quotes and memorabilia, undoubtedly by fans.

Leadenhall Market

Every year, new wizards and witches would go through the congested streets of Diagon Alley to purchase their books and clothes. Leadenhall Market could be called London's very own Diagon Alley for muggles, and was partly used for shooting in the first film. Take 10 minutes to walk through the place and see if you canspot shades of the wizarding marketplace here.

Always Cafe

Always Caf in Hanoi is Vietnams tribute to Severus Snape and JK Rowlings fantastical world. What the eatery lacks in space, it makes up for in its magic. Cloth hangingsrepresenting all four houses, Umbridges decrees and posters for the Undesirable No. 1 arent the only things decorating the walls here. There are broomsticks, potions to drink and from what we hear, butterbeer, which comes pretty close to what we imagined.

Here Lies Dobby

This ones a little emotional, but talk of Harry Potter is incomplete without his trusted friend and elf, Dobby. In the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1, Dobby was shown being buried by hand by Harry near the fictional Shell Cottage. This scene has been shot on Freshwater West Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and is visited often by fans to give Dobby, the free elf, socks and flowers.

The Nook Cafe,Philippines

Ever wondered how you'd look in a Gryffindor robe or on Harry's Nimbus 2000? Well, here at the Nook Cafe inQuezon City, you can try on the Hogwarts uniform and ride Harry's trusted broomstick. Also, make your way to the copy of Harry's room under the stairs at the Dursleys. And why not drink a glass of Butterbeer when you are there?

Privet Drive

Mr and Mrs Dursley may be perfectly normalthank you very muchbut their house at 4, Privet Drive is no more. In fact, it is one of the most visited spots by Harry Potter fans. The faade of the Dursleys house was shot at 12, Picket Post, an actual residential area in London.

Bonus: After Sirius left it to him, Grimmauld Place was Harrys only other home. in Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, the scenewhere houses 11 and 13 parting way for number 12, Grimmauld Placewas shot atLincoln's Inn Fields in London.

Millennium Bridge, England

Playing a part in the sixth movie of the Harry Potter franchise, the Millennium bridge is rocked to its core by a gang of Death Eaters marking the beginning of Voldemort's reign of terror. You can visit this iconic suspension bridge in London, over the River Thames.

The Harry Potter Play

The Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play is another way to hang on to every last thread of magic. Granted, the script when it was released as a book was pretty much terrible. The play itself, however, is supposed to be a rather enchanting performance with great visual effects and a stellar cast. It is showed at the Palace Theatre in London, and is mostly booked out.

Get tickets here.

NYC Quidditch Team and Tournaments

He has caught it.HARRYPOTTER WINS IT FOR GRYFFINDOR! How many times have we watched the scene in the Chamber of Secrets or felt the adrenaline of the game through the vivid descriptions in the books? EverySundayin New York, fans gather in Central Park to play Muggle Quidditch as five teams battle it out to be crowned winners.Swing by if youre in the city, and stay away from the bludgers.

Georgian House

Give the plain ol hotel rooms a rest, and camp at Georgian House in London. This hotel has a special Wizard Chamber. This almost Hogwarts-like dorm room disguised as a hotel room is hidden behind a bookcase, and has everything a witch and wizard needs cauldrons, trunks, stone archways. fireplaces, and ofcoursee, a hearty breakfast.

Make a booking here.

The Bookstore in Portugal

Livraria Lello in Portugal a bookstore conjured right out of imaginationfilled from head to toe with bookcases with a grand burgundy staircase that leads to further books. Rumour has it that when JK Rowling was teaching in Portugal, she visited this store and was inspired by its staircase for the series.

Harry Potter tours

Magic is in every corner of England, and you too can find it. Severus, oops, we mean several groups in London organise walking tours across the city, with visits to popular film locations interspersed with trivia. A few even host treasure hunts.

Harry Potter Studio Tour, Warner Bros., London

Go through an original Harry Potter studio tour at Warner Bros. in London. See breathtaking sets, original costumes, and authentic props that were adorned by your favourite stars. Discover the artistry in every stitch of the Wizarding world while you visit the Great Hall and Diagon Alley as well.

Bad Owl Coffee, Nevada

Experience the food and drinks of the wizard at this Harry Potter-themed cafe in Nevada. Have their special Butterbeer Latte and drink till your craving is satisfied. Stay away from the dementors hanging on the wall and make your way to the Hogwarts acceptance letters threaded to the ceiling. Slyther-in to the cafe to have a truly magical experience.]]> 5 Sunrise Points In Asia To Watch Out For https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Feature-Wikimedia-COmmons.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-sunrise-points-asia-watch/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-sunrise-points-asia-watch/ 2018-08-06T10:00:39+05:30 article Here's a list of sunrise locations around Asia that you must visit. Watch as the sun rises from its sleep to clear the blanket of The alarm rings frighteningly loudly at 7 in the morning waking you up from your deep slumber. You grudgingly get up to follow the same old routine that has been ingrained into you. Why not break away from this monotony? Go these five locations across Asia while testifying to thesurreal beauty of incredible sunrises.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Bordering the Pacific Ocean to its west, Vietnam is home to one of the world's most natural wonders, the Ha Long Bay. It is the nation's most popular tourist location with gigantic limestone pillars rising from the clear turquoise waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Visitors come in abundance to this stunning location with many opting for cruise tours where you can sleep on board. The sunrise at this gorgeous location is for certain worth its weight of gold. You wouldn't want to sleep through this moment of magic as the rays of the sun hit limestone pillars and the turquoise waters creating an unforgettable memory.

Mt Batur, Bali

While many itineraries of Bali include its temples which hold a deep connection to Hindu mythology, one should make time from the busy schedule to watch the sunrise from the top of Mount Batur. To get to the top, a challenging trek of two hours is required, but believe us, youreffortwould be worth it. From the peak, you'll get a vision of the sunrise from above the clouds. Observe the stars in the sky fade as the vibrant rays of the sun spread their elongated wings.

Bagan, Myanmar

The ancient plain of Bagan is covered by more than 2,000 temples. So, just imagine yourself sitting on topof a pagoda, which is several centuries old, as the orange and gold rays of the sun sweep across the blanket of darkness. While the sun rises to its peak, watch hot air balloons lift off and fill the skies. The most popular location to witness this epic sunrise is theDhammayangyi temple, which is almost always flooded with people. You can also go to theLow ka OushangPagoda which happens to be less busy.

Pidurangala Rock, Sri Lanka

Surrounded by acres of hills, the Pidurangala Rock is one of the most beautiful sunrise locations in all of Asia. Before you see the sunrise, you need to trek to the summit of Pidurangala which requires indescribable grit. From the pinnacle of the hill, one might feel as if they are on the roof of the world as scores of trees and shrubs lie beneath what seems like an unending jungle covered by a layer of mist. As the sun rises, the deep mist lying over the jungle rises giving way to a panoramic view of the Pidurangala Rock which stands tall and proud overlooking the rest of the forest.

Chandrashila Parvat, India

At the summit of Tungnath, which happens to be the highest Shiva temple in the world, the Chandrashila Parvat has a place among the Hindu legends. Believed to be the place where Lord Rama meditated after defeating Ravana, the Chandrashila stands for the 'Moon Rock'. Offering a view of the Himalayas, the sunrise from here is one you wouldn't want to miss. Requiring a trek of around 5 kilometers to reach the top, one can witness the sun rise from the mountains and disperse its light across the Himalayas turning the night sky into different shades of orange and yellow over time.

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Heritage Holidays in India: Shimla, Memories of an Empire https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/shimla3_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/heritage-holidays-in-india-shimla-memories-of-an-empire/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/heritage-holidays-in-india-shimla-memories-of-an-empire/ 2018-08-05T09:27:44+05:30 article Set amidst beautiful hills and mystical woods, Shimla is one of most aesthetically planned cities in India. The colonial architecture and churches, the temples and In the pre-dawn glimmer, Platform 7 of New Delhi Railway Station buzzed like a kicked beehive. Staggering, red-jacketed coolies; grumbling passengers stranded amidst seas of luggage, fleets of vendors and in the middle of it all stood the venerable Himalayan Queen. I took my seat and waited for the train to leave. This hustle and bustle is part of a great annual tradition the flight to the hills. Those who can afford to do so flee to London and New York. But with the Himalayas so near, there has always been a more traditional and less costly alternative.

In the 18th century, as few as one in three East India Company officials made it back to England alive, so devastating was the climate of Bengal; but in the hills there was no malaria, no cholera and no typhoid. By 1822, Capt Charles Kennedy had built the first house on the Shimla ridge. Soon, many followed and by 1864, Shimla had become the summer capital of the British Indian Empire.

Every April, when the heat of Kolkata became unbearable, the entire bureaucracy and the top brass of the Raj military used to trek over a thousand miles to the cool climes of Shimla. Despite its extreme remoteness and inaccessibility, Shimla was, and remains, the ultimate symbol of the enviable if often criminally careless self-confidence of the Raj: only an empire ridiculously certain of itself could have contemplated ruling one-fifth of mankind, for seven months of the year, from a remote Himalayan village connected to the outside world by a goat path.

In the wake of the viceroy followed the cream of Raj society, including the greater part of British Indias womenfolk. While the administrators got on with the running of the empire, the women set about organising races and dances, picnics and flirtations. As most husbands had to stay behind in their stations, women outnumbered men, and romance was inevitable. As Kipling put it:

Jacks own Jill goes up the hill, to Murree or Chakrata;

Jack remains and dies in the plains, and Jill remarries soon after.

All this ended more than 60 years ago, yet it is a world as distant as that of the ancient Romans. What, I wondered, was it like today? To find out, I packed a stack of Kipling books in a bag and booked a berth on the Himalayan Queen.

The Mall

Just walking up the Mall, Shimlas main street, you come across Shimlas most iconic structure the Anglican Christ Church. The church has been in operation since 1857. The Sunday morning service here is an absolute musical pleasure.

Timings Summer 11.00am1.00pm & 2.006.30pm; Winter 10.30am5.30pm; Sunday service 9.00 11.00am Tel 0177-2652953

A little way down the Mall is the Gaiety Theatre, the place for amateur theatricals during the Raj. After a five-year restoration project, it was opened to the public in 2009. The players on Gaietys stage have included Rudyard Kipling while the viceroy, Lord Lytton, wrote and staged the play Walpole.

At the end of the Mall promenade lies Scandal Point, a memory of Shimlas once libertine lifestyle. For tame as it may appear today, Shimla was in some ways a sort of red light district for the Raj. In Kiplings Plain Tales From the Hills, the same plot repeats itself over and over again: after the boredom of a remote posting, the young Englishman goes up to Shimla where, bowled over by the sudden glut of fair young English women, he falls in love with a Mrs Hauksbee or a Mrs Reiver one of the towns carnivorous memsahibs.

The Mall is one the longest stretches of open-air, purely pedestrian shopping in the world and forms the core of the notified Heritage Zone of Shimla. The horse rides and ice-cream vendors draw children. Close by is Lakkar Bazaar, famous for woodwork, with several souvenir shops. Theres an ice-skating rink on the slope below Scandal Point.

Jakhoo Hill (7,500ft), towering over the ridge, is Shimlas highest point. It is crowned by the famous Jakhoo Hanuman temple, with an extravagantly gigantic statue of the monkey god. Sunset views here are especially magnificent during the monsoons. En route to the temple is Rothney Castle, residence of AO Hume, believed to be the founder of the Indian National Congress. While the route from the ridge is the standard one, a track variation may be made from Sanjauli to pass through a thick wood of oak, rhododendron and cedar.

Observatory Hill

The old Viceregal Lodge is perhaps the most resonant of old structures in Shimla. Its a grim Scotch baronial confection variously compared to a lunatic asylum and Londons Gothic St Pancras Station. For despite appearances, there was always a deadly serious side to Shimla. The viceroy was the spider at the heart of Shimlas web. From his chambers in the Viceregal Lodge, he pulled the strings of an empire that stretched from Rangoon in the east to Aden in the west. Shimla may have looked like some English seaside resort, but the town was in fact one of the great political capitals of the world: at its height, it was nearly as powerful as Paris and Berlin. Amongst the events that played out here was the momentous decision taken to partition India.

In the evenings, the viceroy would hold balls as grand as anything thrown by the Russian Tsar, his only rival in Asia: At the viceroys evening parties, wrote Aldous Huxley, the diamonds were so large they looked like stage gems. It was impossible to believe that the pearls in the million-pound necklaces were the genuine excrement of oysters.

Today the Viceregal Lodge houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. When the lodge was first built, Londons smartest outfitters, Maples of London, supplied the furnishings, and it was said that the Indian income tax was introduced to pay for it all. Though little of that old glory remains, one can still walk around in some portions of the first floor, including the main hall and a small museum, which are accessible on a nominal ticket. The institute is surrounded by attractive grounds while the hill has some good short walks.

Entry Indians ?40; Foreigners ?65 Timings 9.00am4.00pm

If you go there by foot, there are interesting stops on this 2-hour walk from the Mall.

St Michaels Cathedral was built for the towns Catholic community by Lord Ripon, whod turned Catholic at 46. A little ahead is Gorton Castle, secretariat of the Imperial government of India. It is now the HP Accountant Generals office. Further on, Himachal State Museum has a display of the states cultural and archaeological heritage. The gallery on miniature paintings is especially noteworthy. Inverarm, the building that holds the museum, once housed a member of the viceroys Council.

Shimlas legendary walks

Within 2 km of the Viceregal Lodge is the Kamna Devi Temple, just above Boileauganj. It has good views of the town, airfield and the ranges. You can also walk to Potters Hill, which lies past the university campus at Summer Hill. This is where Shimla once got its clay pots and pitchers. Past this lie the Chadwick Falls.

Amongst the most popular walks is The Glen. It is a thickly wooded ravine with a stream flowing through it and quite attractive once you cross the initial 656ft or so. Annan-dale is best known as a helipad. This large glade has a golf course and is surrounded by thick deodar woods with a charming temple by the edge. It was once the place for fancy fairs and polo.

A walk towards Chhota Shimla could include a look at the exterior of the Tudor-framed Raj Bhavan once Barnes Court the state governors residence.

Other excursions include the Tara Devi Temple. The views are spectacular! One of Shimlas best-kept secrets is the village of Bihargaon, approached from the cemetery below St Edwards School. Thick woods, an open glade and the Dhanu Devta Temple, a splendid example of local architecture, make this an unusual excursion. Amongst the Buddhist monasteries is Kasumpti, 7km from Scandal Point and accessible by car.

WHERE TO STAY

Shimla offers plenty of hotels across all budgets, including some that are housed in heritage buildings. Woodville Palace (Tel: 0177-2623 919, 2624038, Cell: 09218552832; Tariff: ?5,00012,000) was the home of the Maharaja of Jubbal. The green-and-white building and towers of The Oberoi Cecil (Tel: 2804848; Tariff: ?21,0001,00,000) are a landmark in Shimla. The luxury hotel boasts a tea lounge, an indoor pool, a spa and rooms with views of the mountains.

The Oberoi Group also runs the Clarkes Hotel (Tel: 2651010/ 15; Tariff: ?9,00013,000) on the lower Mall. Originally built in 1835, the Chapslee (Tel: 2802542; Tariff: ?22,50030,000) housed Lord Auckland before it was bought by the Maharaja of Kapurthala.

Hotel Springfields (Tel: 2621297-98, Cell: 09817022244; Tariff: ?4,80011,500) is another lovely option in Chhota Shimla. The luxurious Hotel Combermere (Tel: 2651246-48, Cell: 09816077907; Tariff: ?5,60015,500) is conveniently located next to the passenger lifts going up to the Ridge. Hotel White (Tel: 2656136, Cell: 09816076422; Tariff: ?1,8004,500) is a decent option with lovely views.

WHERE TO EAT

Himachal Tourisms Ashiana Restaurant, right on the Ridge, is very popular. Devicos has a bar and offers Indian, Continental and Chinese food. Baljees is hugely popular, with a choice of Indian, Chinese, Continental and Thai cuisines. Wake and Bake Caf is another frequented eating joint. Indian Coffee House, Dominos and Sagar Ratna (south Indian) have outlets on the Mall Road. Trishool Bakers, next to Gaiety Theatre, has good confectionery. Embassy, near the Lifts, offers good food and nice seats by the window.

Caf Sol at Hotel Combermere offers tasty European-style food. For the ultimate dining experience, theres always The Oberoi Cecil. Try the chhole bhature at Sita Rams in Lakkar Bazaar.

FAST FACTS

When to go Summer is the best time to visit Shimla. Spring and autumn are lovely too. Shimla is bone chilling in winter

Tourist offices

Himachal Tourism

The Mall, Shimla

Tel: 0177-2652561, 2658302

HPTDC

36, Chandralok Building

Janpath, New Delhi

Tel: 011-23325320/ 233

W hptdc.nic.in

STD code 0177

GETTING THERE

Air Flights to Shimlas Jubbarhati Airport have been discontinued for now. Chan-digarh Airport (115km/ 4.5hrs) is connected to Delhi. Taxi costs ?3,0003,500

Rail Nearest railhead: Kalka Railway Station (80km/ 3hrs), connected to Delhi by the Kalka Shatabdi and Himalayan Queen, to Kolkata by the Howrah-Delhi-Kalka Mail and to Mumbai by the Paschim Express. Taxi costs ?1,6502,500

Road NH5 connects Shimla to Panchkula, and NH152 to Ambala on NH44 Bus HRTC has bus services from ISBT Kashmere Gate, Delhi

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller GetawaysHeritage Holidays in India

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48 Hours: All You Need To See And Do In Victoria, Canada https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Butchart-Gardens-Victoria-C.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/48-hours-all-you-need-to-see-and-do-in-victoria-canada/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/48-hours-all-you-need-to-see-and-do-in-victoria-canada/ 2018-08-04T09:46:18+05:30 article With lush greenery, beautiful whales and butterflies, delicious food and architectural gems; Victoria in Canada is a perfect weekend getaway spot in north America As the ferry came close to the dock, I peered out of the giant window. Victoria looked pretty. Many confuse the name with the Australian state but I was at the capital city of the Canadian province of British Columbia, at the tip of Vancouver Island. Named after Queen Victoria, of course, at first sight, the city looked quaint. From the ferry I saw old palatial buildings; manicured lawns and pretty peonies; tourists and locals walking by, some hand in hand; I was eager to soak in it all. I had just about 48 hours to explore Victoria, and had much to see!

If you find yourself in Victoria for a weekend break from Vancouver, anywhere in the United States and Canada, or maybe even during a long trip to, heres what I recommend you do to pack in a true essence of the place:

Check out the Parliament Building and Inner Harbour

The large neo-baroque buildings can be seen from miles away. The blue domes make them stand out against the crowd. The green lawns and pretty flowers give the place a very homely yet tourist feel. Why? Because the area sees a large number of tourists walking up and down, taking pictures from every angle, and posing with the buildings in the backdrop. The inner harbour, in front of the Parliament building, is well-loved. With boats, yachts and ferries, the harbour makes for a pretty picture. One can also see seaplanes! At night, the parliament building lights up and makes for pretty Instagram posts against the night sky.The area has a ton of cafes and restaurants which are mostly full all day. Red Fish Blue Fish, located in the inner harbour, has become extremely popular and the line often snakes towards the edge of the pier. I waited in line for over an hour to see their take on the plain ol' fish and chips and left with a massive wild salmon sandwich and an additional plate of fries. All for just $16 CAD.

Walk down Government Street and browse through books

I don't know about you, but I love bookstores. I found a great one on Government Street, one of the city's most well-loved touristy and commercial streets. Munro's has been serving bookworms for over 50 years in the city of Victoria and is a delight for visitors. Started by Jim and Alice (wait for it - the 2013 Nobel Prize-winning author) Munro, in the 1960s in another location, it's current location is a gorgeous neo-classical buildingin Old Town. Now deemed a heritage building, Munro's is often named among 'the most beautiful bookstores' in the world. I could see why as I browsed through the different sections for hours and bought myself stationery (instead of the eight hard-covered books I'd initially thought of getting) to remind me of the gorgeous evening I spent in the old-fashioned shop with high ceilings.

Be merry in China Town

Canada's oldest China Town is in Victoria. Located just off Government Street, it's the second-oldest in Northern America. The China Town is typical of many found around the world - dragons, red lanterns and Chineserestaurants. However, what makes it stand apart is the fact it has the narrowest commercial street in Canada! Fan Tan Alley runs from Pandora Avenue to Fisgard Avenue and hosts shopping stores, cafes and an art gallery. Don't forget to walk through it in the evening as red lanterns light up above the street. It's pretty unique!

Say hello to beautiful whales

Have you ever been what watching? If not, I suggest you go. Though its a matter of luck, seeing whales in the open sea is something you'll remember for ages. Take a whale watching tour in the morning. There are various operators so choose the one you think best. Leave the harbour and make your way towards Race Rocks where an old lighthouse stands. Though the setting makes for pretty pictures, its the seals, sea otters, and sea lions found on the rocks of the now-ecological reserve, the main attraction. A little further away, you maybe in luck if you sight orca whales. I did and was delighted. I managed to see at least six whales and it definitely made my day! The whole tour takes about three hours and do carry a warm jacket on the boat.

Fly with butterflies (in your mind of course)

The Victoria Butterfly Gardens isn't that old but has become a must-visit destination in the vicinity. Enter a tropical climate, a world of butterflies and flamingos, of toads and birds, of tortoises and insects; it is child-friendly and a place of wonder for adults. As you enter, there are over 70 species of butterflies that fly around you. The colours are stunning - from bright blues to vibrant yellows, you will leave awed. I for one got so involved with a tortoise trying to climb a small rock, that I cheered it on till it reached its goal as butterflies flew past it! The adult tickets are priced at $16.50 CAD.

Enter a magical world at Butchart Gardens

If you want to visit one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, this is it. The Butchart Gardens have been in bloom for a 100 years, sculpted and created over an old quarry by Jennie and Robert Butchart. Right from the Sunken Garden to the Japanese Garden, there are 55 acres of natural beauty and over 900 varieties of plants to gaze at. Do make it a point to visit the Rose Garden when in full bloom. With over a million visitors each year, one can spend hours and hours here. Apart from the natural beauty, be a child and take a ride on the Rose carousel. And don't forget to take home a souvenir from the gift shop!

This itinerary will be more than enough for 48 hours. Though these may not seem like a lot, trust me it will be more than enough for a weekend getaway in Victoria!

Getting there: Air Canada flies directly from New Delhi to Vancouver. Take a ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island after that.

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Discover Imphal's Food Culture In These Eateries https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/70mm-facebook.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/discover-imphals-food-culture-in-these-eateries/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/discover-imphals-food-culture-in-these-eateries/ 2018-08-03T09:30:37+05:30 article Find time from the heritage, war history and the elusive sangai deer to explore the soul of Imphalit's food With travel comes food; food being the only true factor that bring people together. When we speak of Manipur, one of the eight northeastern states in India, not much is known. Imphal, the capital city of Manipur was the seat of the erstwhile Kingdom of Manipur, now home to the glorious ruins of the Palace of Kangla. The city is seeped in history and natural wondersfrom royal seat to the World War II's Battle of Imphal to the very rare and elusive sangai deerthere's so much to do in Imphal. But while you are checking the city out, you'll need to eat too. Manipuri cuisine is an experience to be hadfrom bora, sinju to the finest cup of freshly brewed coffee; whether you are a cafe hopper or street food fan, there's something for everybody in Imphal. Here's a round-up of six of the best places to eat (and some more) one can explore while in the city.

1) Forage
Here the food is real and experiences even better. Forage, located in Thangmeiband, serves both Mediterranean and Northeast inspired cuisines they lovingly call "Neighbourhood Menu". For the region's good traditional dishes, go for the Neighbourhood Menu. Be advised: non-vegetarian and full of local spices (read Hot). Mediterranean & Elsewhere Menu has food from Southern Europe with a twist of local herbs. Watch this space for more information on live bands, poetry recital etc. In short, everything interesting. This fun corner at the cafe is called Happening at Forage).
2)70mm Cafe & Restaurant
This is where art and good food comes to life. The cafe, with studio setting, is artistic, quirky and will give you a feel-good feeling as you walk around admiring the best of Manipuri cinematic displays. And of course, good food, courteous hosts and lively environment with performances like poetry reading, live music, among many other interesting activities.
3) 9 Hills Bistro
Visit 9 Hills Bistro in Deulahland for delicious quick bites. This kid-friendly restaurant has good shakes and burgers. From wraps to subs and burritos, the restaurant is a real fast-food haven in town.
4) Hot Pot
First thing first--here it is Cash Only. The restaurant is located in Wangkhei, good for family and one of the best places that serve authentic traditional and regional food.
5)Sangai ContinentalA good stay option too, Sangai Continental, one of the best boutique hotels in town, is home to The Wild Rice. They excel in Indian fares, especially curry and tandoor items; Oriental is good too. Their open and live kitchen gives you a good view of your food being cooked. Hit Sangai Continental for best of Indian dishes. The hotel is located in Thangal Bazaar.

6) Luxmi Kitchen
Probably one of the most popular food joints in Imphal, Luxmi Kitchen, located in Wahengbam Leikai in Sagolband, is a household name. It's light on the pocket and heavy on the quality of food. Come here for a good and hearty Manipuri lunch; their thali is class apart. It's Open for lunch only so the services are available only till 3pm (and people throng this place). If this does not ignite your curiosity to explore the local Manipuri cuisine, then it's hard to imagine what will.
Other popular food joints worth mention and visit include Imoinu Lamphel (an all-women run restaurant in Lamphel), Hotel Wonrei in Chingmeiron near Hotel Classic Grande), Central Perk in Thangmeiband, and Prince.
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Travel Around The Globe To Visit The Most Picturesque Cricket Stadiums https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Feature-Flickr.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/travel-around-globe-visit-picturesque-cricket-stadiums/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/travel-around-globe-visit-picturesque-cricket-stadiums/ 2018-08-03T08:33:07+05:30 article Experience the thrill of a cricket match while soaking in the everlasting views in these stadiums. Here are five cricket grounds with a breathtaking view Imagine yourself sitting in a jam-packed cricket stadium. Those around you are chanting 'VI-RAAAT-VI-RAAT" as the Indian Captain makes his way onto the pitch against the backdrop of the snow-capped Himalayan Mountains. Every shot he plays is met with a cacophony of thunderous applause and cheer. Cricket remains the first love of many sports enthusiast around the country. Ardent followers fill up every space in a stadium when the Indian team plays. This cricket season, why not travel the world while visiting the most picturesque stadiums of the sport?

Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, Dharamshala
Globally recognised as the home of Dalai Lama, Dharamshala is a tourists' delight. Encapsulated by mountains, Tibetan architecture, and never-ending sights to see, the winter capital of Himachal Pradesh is now also loved for the picturesque stadium it houses. Situated at an altitude of 1,457 meters, the HPCA Stadium lies with the snow-covered Himalayan Mountains in the background. Offering a mixture of colourful and elaborate architecture, every seat in the stadium gives a breathtaking view of the cricket action on the pitch against the Dhauladhar mountains. Visit on a match day to be awed by the rapturous volumes of cheering from passionate fans.
Newlands, Cape Town
Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town, South Africa opened in 1888 is one of the oldest grounds in the sport. A momentous grounds known for hosting historic matches, the ground is overlooked by the Table Mountain and Devil's Peak. Add the lush green lawns and the stadium's aesthetic value is unrivalled by any other. Catch a seat for the New Years' Test match, which witnesses a full capacity stadium. Delve into the spirit of the game as the soothing surroundings add to the unbounded enthusiasm of the supporters.
Galle International Stadium, Galle
Located by the Galle fort and fringed by the Indian Ocean on two sides, the Galle International Stadium is considered to be Sri Lankan National team's lucky venue. Identified as The Esplanade before, the stadium offers a surreal view to those visiting. The Galle Fort, built first by the Portuguese in the 16th century, maintains a polished appearance even after 423 years and regularly witnesses an influx of tourists. Overlooking the stadium, the Galle Fort is an afterthought of Sri Lanka's past while the sporting amphitheatre is a stark representation of the nation's present.

Beausejor Cricket Ground, St. Lucia
The Beausejor Cricket Ground was recently re-named to the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground in tribute to the West Indian captain, Darren Sammy. He led the West Indies to a T20 ICC Championship victory over India in the final in 2016. Surrounded by lush green Beausejor hills on all of its sides, the stadium is a place of wonder. Situated on the outskirts of Rodney Bay in St. Lucia, the locals are a handful when their teams are playing. With an extremely amicable atmosphere, the ground offers a welcoming vibe to those making their way to the stadium for the first time.
Saxton Oval, Nelson
One of the newest stadiums in New Zealand, the meagre 6,000 capacity Saxton Oval offers a mesmerizing a view for cricket lovers. Situated in the Kiwi city of Nelson, one can see the mountains engulfed within a blanket of clouds on the far horizon on a cloudy day. On a clear day, the mountains can be seen basking the warm rays of the sun from the stands of the Saxton Oval. Surrounded by open ground, the stadium offers a getaway from the busy life of New Zealand suburb.
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Top Restaurants To Dine At In Europe https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/fetaured.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-restaurants-dine-europe/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/top-restaurants-dine-europe/ 2018-08-02T17:28:15+05:30 article We take you on a culinary route through Europe, one Michelin star at a time. A trip to Europe is incomplete without mentioning its food. And how can it not be when in just a small country such as Switzerland, there are the highest number of Michelin star restaurants in the world (118)? Through this guide, we take you to five exciting restaurants that you must eat at for a fine dining experience in Europe.

 

Epicure at Le Bristol
Paris, France

At Epicure, the three-star Michelin restaurant in France, there always seems to be a garden party. Chef Eric Frechnon holds the fort at this indoor wonderland here, with his signature dishes such as the stuffed maraconi with black truffle, artichoke and duck foie gras, duck with blackberry leaves, cardamom and liquorice, and selection of seasonal cheeses. For dessert, pick between their cocoa beans dish, which has cocoa nibs caramelized with sea salt, and cocoa ice cream and a strawberry sorbet in a meringue shell, among more.

True to the name, the restaurant will be best appreciated by someone who likes fine dining.Tip: Make sure to break the bread served with each courseits light and delicious.

Make a reservation here.

Osteria Francescana
Modena, Italy

Achieving the status of the Worlds Best Restaurant wasnt particularly easy to achieve for Osteria Francescana, and nor is getting yourself a table here. With only twelve tables to boot, Chef Massimo Botturas brainchild is one of the busiest restaurants in Italyand for good reason. This restaurant in Modena, Italy was the first to experiment with traditional Italian food and take it above hearty pasta and pizza. Its best known for its set course tatsing menu, and his dishes titled as conversations unto themselves, include the popular Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different textures, and the dessert Oops I Dropped The Lemon Tart.

If you are as relentless in your pursuit to have a meal here as Bottura was in the making of the restaurant, success (and one of the best meals of your life) will soon be yours. Whatever youve tasted before this, from the Caeser Salad to a tagliatelle, lets just say, Bottura does it better.

Make a reservation here https://osteriafrancescana.dinesuperb.com/

Taiko, Conservatorium Hotel
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Taiko sits rather opulently on third floor of the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam. The restaurant, done up in chic black-and-white interiors, serves contemporary Asian cuisine.

It is helmed by Executive Chef, Schilo van Coevorden, and dishes such as the Wagyu Beef, miso eggplant, gyoza appetizers (including dumplings) and the sushi make people visit it repeatedly. The fact that they have a live Taiko player as an accompaniment to its dinner every evening is definitely music to our ears.

Book a table here. http://www.taikorestaurant.nl/en/home-2/

Laurent at Cafe Royal, Hotel Cafe Royal
London, UK

Chef Laurent Tourondel is known for his restaurants in the U.S., Hong Kong, the Caribbean but Laurent at Caf Royal is his first foray in Europe. The recently, although just recently open, has already become popular for its service and International cuisine. Breakfast is a big affair here with a variety of teas and coffees, home baked baguettes, madeleines and more sweet treats and other savoury items. They have an open grill with grilled meat and fish, and a cocktail bar to rave about.

To make reservations, email restaurants @hotelcaferoyal.com or call +44 (0)20 7406 3310

Anne-Sophie Pic at Beau-Rivage Palace
Lausanne, Switzerland

The two-starred Michelin restaurant in Lausanne is eponymously named after Anne-Sophie Pic, a third generation chef from France. The restaurant allows one to gaze over a view of both the French Alps and Lake Leman while tucking into a hearty fine dining meal.

The menu is divided in two sections Emotions include seasonal and inspired dishes, whereas the Pic Collection includes more traditional dishes from her family classics.

Reserve a table by emailing on asp@brp.ch or calling +41 21 613 33 39

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Edinburgh In August: The City of Festivals & War Memories https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Edinburgh-city-Scotland-city-of-festivals.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/edinburgh-in-august-the-city-of-festivals-war-memories/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/edinburgh-in-august-the-city-of-festivals-war-memories/ 2018-08-02T09:18:31+05:30 article Edinburgh is the world city of festivals. It has about 12 throughout the year which generates about 320 million in revenue. In the summer, even In August,the North Sea is still warm though the UK coast is windswept and drenched in slats of rain. Yet it is in this northern capital of Scotland that one realises what an English summer means and every dollop of sunshine is gods gift. July-August is when half-a-dozen festivals swamp Edinburgh and if you are not there, you have surely missed something in your have-been-to experiences. Edinburgh is the world city of festivals, it has about twelve throughout the year which generates about 320 million in revenue. For glimpses of the summer festivals, even a week in Edinburgh is worth every penny.

Edinburgh International Festival (August 3-27;for art, theatre, music, films, talks)

The 2018 festival begins with an outdoor digital performance celebrating Scotlands Year of Young People and reflecting on World War I. The beginning of this Fest is said to have been on a romantic moonlit night when Rudolf Bing and soprano Audrey Mildmay were strolling down Prince's Street after watching a performance of John Gay'sThe Beggar's Opera in 1942. Audrey said Edinburgh could be a wonderful setting for a festival. Bing was Glyndebourne's General Manager. Nazis had occupied art cities Salzburg and Munich; bombed by the Allies, London was blitzed. The idea stayed with Bing and in November 1945, the International Festival in Edinburgh was announced. The first Fest took off finally in 1947. People donated coal rations to light up the venues and their castle, community kitchens fed thousands.

The inaugural fest was a turning point in the life of one of the worlds greatest conductors, Bruno Walter. He had conducted the Vienna Philharmonic since 1907. Forty years on, his daughter had been murdered and his wife had died in grief. The Nazis had blacklisted him, when Edinburgh called. In every year was thus born a litany of stories from the IntFest until in the 71st year, in a befitting tribute, First World War is a theme. As many as 2,750 artistes from 31 countries will perform in this festival. Edinburgh Internationals sales in 2017 topped 4.3m from 450,000 plus footfalls.

This years stellar show is Five Telegrams, inspired by the words communication and telegrams sent by young soldiers in 1918. The production projects digital artworks and live participation together to consider themes of machines and codes, censorship, propaganda and reconciliation ideas that resonate powerfully in contemporary life.

Working closely with 59 Productions, Scottish composer Anna Meredith has crafted the orchestra. Describing the process, Richard Slaney, Managing Director of 59 Productions, says, Some of the new communication techniques seem at first glance archaic, but when you dig into it, the themes are really common to how we communicate today - the need for swift, concise communication via a telegram and the potential for that communication to be misinterpreted or not put across the whole message feels an awful lot like social media. We worked with historians at the Imperial War Museum to examine some of these themes.

He added, Unsurprisingly it was some of the personal communications that were most emotionally affecting - maybe because of the mundanity and briefness of the conversations: Please send 1 bottle of Horlicks awfully useful for this kind of life, but mostly because in the piles of papers we saw, most ended with a notification of death - letter, letter, postcard, letter, postcard regret inform - over and over again. There are no surviving veterans of the First World War and. Even the Second World War has far less personal significance to young people today

Of the 4 million men mobilised by the British Empire, 1.5 million came from India. The army of sepoyscontribution to Britains war effort was the largest in terms of manpower, yet their history is largely invisible; in part because many were semi- or non-literate and left relatively few traces of themselves in diaries and letters.Some were buried where they fell, far away from their homes. In the words of choreographerAkram Khan, they were estranged from their own histories, homelands and countrymen, becomingxenoi (which translates as stranger).

In Xenos,Khan resurrects the ghosts of these Indian soldiers on August 16-18. Using classical kathak and contemporary dance, he explores the story of a shell-shocked sepoy trapped in a trench, standing at the porous border between East and West, the present and the past. Also choreographed by Khan,Kadamatiis a companion piece toXenosthat draws on themes of identity, migration, connection, and hope to mark the end of the First World War.

Still marked by shrapnel and stained with mud from the Somme, the music manuscripts byCecil Coles, an emergent composer from the early twentieth-century,could have been lost forever if not for his daughter. They were eventuallyrediscovered inGeorge Watsons college in Edinburgh. Transcribed in the trenches, often with hand-drawn lines when manuscript paper was short, Coles' compositions bear the physical mark of combat parts of his final suite, Behind the Lines, are still incomplete, having been destroyed by shellfire.His life was tragically cut short by a sniper while he was carrying injured soldiers away from combat. On August 9The National Youth Orchestra Scotlandwill pay tribute to Coles.

Geoff Sobelles fringe hit of 2014,The Object Lesson and Home, a show about different kinds of haunting will offer magic and illusion aplenty.Druids production,Waiting for Godot,will also be revived.

The IntFest will close with theVirgin Money Fireworks Concerton August 27. Over 400,000 fireworks will bathe Edinburgh Castle, all choreographed to the music of theScottish Chamber Orchestrain Princes Street Gardens below.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe (August 3-27; art, theatre, music and everything else entertaining)

About 2.7 millions tickets sold for 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows at about 300 venues in 2017; this is the biggest such art-music-theatre festival in the world. The Royal Mile takes on a life of its own during these two months, acrobats, street shows, magic and music all find space in that long stretch of past and future. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, the charity that underpins the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this year even has performances by and for Autistics, genetically believed to be holders of rare talent. The fringe began as a sideshow, by a dozen groups not allowed to participate in the first Edinburgh International. Now the two festivals have made peace and carry on side by side, both ticketed and both patting eacho ther on the back.

Apphia Campbells monologue, Woke, that won accolades in 2017 returns with gospel and blues songs. It fuses the lives of two women: a Black American student who fights for civil rights in the wake of Ferguson and Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Liberation Army in the 1970s, who became one of the FBIs most wanted. Women solo performers made their presence felt in 2017, and this year is expected to be better. Mark ORowesThe Approachtells the stories of three women trying to make sense of their lives. Nine Foot Nineis Sleepless Theatres examination of women taking up space. Zoo Co theatre take aim at gender expectations with Sirens. It is a story of three sirens who wash up on Hastings beach and ancient Greece and 21st century England collide. Any man who hears their voices will die instantly, which is a pain, and 2018 isnt really the right time to be a demi-goddess whose only job is to sit naked on rocks and look beautiful. With an electro-folk soundtrack, Sirens has a deaf inclusive cast and BSL inclusive narrative (which means the cast will sign during the show)as well as beingcaptioned.

A huge lot of comedies will dominate this years fest, among them Nish Kumars. The Mash Report host has been the man for sharp political comedy for the last few years, and this year hes back, albeit with a show billed as a work-in-progress. Theres acute political humour also fromAhir ShahandAyesha Hazarikaon the left,Fin Taylor antagonising everyone in the middle andGeoff Norcotts Toryism at the extreme right. Last year Shazia Mirza rocked. Last year the amazing acrobatic show Cirkopolis was a rave.

Edinburgh Art Festival (July26-August 26)

The artists here are presented in partnership with British Council Scotland, Edinburgh College of Art, The University of Edinburgh and the National Galleries of Scotland.

This fest includes Sympathetic Magickby Ruth Ewan. It uses the ancient art of street performance to bring magic onto the streets of Edinburgh. Visitors can expect to come across magical experiences such as The Class Struggle Rope Trick or other political magic tricks developed during the project around the festival sites.

Artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset will be showcased. Warmed Air is a site-specific performance within the historic Anatomy Lecture Theatre and Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh University. The show brings together visual art, somatic movement, astronomy and medieval music in an interdisciplinary collaboration by Steven Anderson, Laura Bradshaw, John Clark, Laura Gonzalez, Paul Michael Henry and Ruth Pollitt.

Internationally renowned Dunedin Consort returns to National Galleries of Scotland with a programme inspired by the Dutch master Rembrandt.Under Nicholas Mulroy they present works by the Dutch composers Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and Constantijn Huygens, which are juxtaposed with music by seventeenth-century luminaries including Heinrich Schtz and Henry Purcell, specially selected to complement Rembrandt's exploration of human subjectivities.

The Edinburgh Book Festival (August 11-27)

Last year, to commemorate 200 years of the newspaper, The Scotsman, its former editor Ian Stuart wrote a book, Scotlands Story, which was showcased at the BookFest.

This year, The Hidden, features hip hop, opera, music and more, plus special performances involving artists from Rwanda, South Africa, Australia, presenting life stories in the most unexpected ways. The Fest brings booklovers one-off performances exploring three most interesting books of recent years: Isabel Greenbergs graphic novelThe One Hundred Nights of Hero; Mexican superstar Yuri Herrera and his noir classicSigns Preceding the End of the World; and Scotlands own literary leading light Ali Smith with her much-lovedHow to Be Both.

The Right Kind of Chaosby David Leddy is a unique book where, over a 10-day period, readers receive a series of strange, unsettling instructions via the text messaging service WhatsApp. A mysterious political strategist teaches you how to survive in the land of the free. The event combines digital technology with innovative storytelling, rich socio-political research and a uniquely unnerving emotional punch.

The BookFest also presents a live show based uponLife & Times of Michael Kby J M Coetzee, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 1983.

Also, don't miss The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: (August 3-25); Monday to Friday; 100 minute performances with fireworks display. Happens at the Edinburgh Castle entrance.

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From Great Hunters to a Green Village: Khonoma's Story https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Traditional-architecture-Khonoma.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/from-great-hunters-to-a-green-village-khonomas-story/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/from-great-hunters-to-a-green-village-khonomas-story/ 2018-08-01T18:55:00+05:30 article From the land of great hunters came forth great nature conservators; this is the story of Khonoma, India's first green village My helmet visor failing to keep precipitation off my face, one nearly-frozen hand wiping water off my phone's screen and Google Maps failing us miserably by showing us a blank screen for direction...these were just few of the challenges we, a group of five, faced on our way to Khonoma.It was the darkest of nights when Cyclone Mora hit the northeastern side of India. Mother Nature finally took pity on us and stopped pouring down as we struggled to find the right cut on the side of the road, a short-cut route to reach the village.

As we stopped to re-figure our plans, in the quiet of the night we heard voices drifting from the other side of the hill. We followed the sound and after an hour saw flickering lights of a village ahead. Lay in front of us Khonoma, our pitstop, our much-needed shelter for the night. Our host, Neikedolie Hiekha, was waiting for us atthe Dovipie Inn. After a warm welcome with piping hot black tea did I realise the exhaustion I felt. It was almost midnight and pitch dark outside, butthanks to the flickering faint street lights, I could see the layout of the khel (a residential territory). Narrow and elevated cobbled stone paths connected one home to another in a serpentine fashion, pots of colourful geraniums adorned most houses, my careless inspection of woodpile startled a tomcat...I was starting to like the bucolic vibes around me. Cold won that night and forced me to retreat to my room, one of the six well-appointed rooms at the Inn. In my heart I could not wait for the day-break, but sleep came as soon as the head hit the pillow.

That May morning was cold. As I rushed outside to take in the warm rays of the sun, my eyes went to the beautiful exterior of the inn and the outdoor sitting room, designed in traditional Angami ways, complete with logs for seat and a firepit. My team members decided to tinker with their bikes for our onward journey later that day while I sat down with Hiekha as he began telling me every little bit about his beautiful villageKhonoma.

Khonoma, India's first Green Village, has a very interesting story to it and every little aspect of my stay there supported that. Butterflies, big and small, fluttered all around us (butterflies are indicator of a healthy environment); tidy Naga traditional houses; beyond the locality boundary I could see the thick forest cover. Khonoma of the past had a different history altogether.

For Nagas, hunting was a lifestyle. Right from their forefathers, hunting and foraging was an integral part of life; stuff that Naga traditions are made of. Then came the days of Raj. The British left the country but left their guns behind. The erstwhile hunting and foraging for sustenance turned into commercial activities. There were more resounding gunshots than birds chirping and tigers roaring; collection of wild herbs and vegetables turned commercial and slowly the forests turned from green to an ominous brown. Because of rampant and mindless exploitation of the once verdant forest, the people realised they were getting lesser and lesser vegetables, and animal/bird encounters dwindled to none. Amid it all, there stood a deeply forested hill with a face on itaccording to legends, the face is of Chiikhie-u, the goddess of animals and birds. Thanks to human actions, it was starting to look like the goddess was none too happy. This touch of tradition brought the much-needed realisation that corrective measures needed to be placed.

Under the guidance and awareness works of some nature-conscious people, the village elders finally gave a verdict that banned all forms of hunting and misuse of forests. A restricted section of the forest was assigned for all timber needs. However, the locals would have to follow the old laws of the forest that if one must cut an adult tree for housing purposes, it should be done in a way the tree could grow back again. No trees were to be cut for commercial purposes and zero tolerance policies towards hunting were introduced. So much so that there were even vigilantes who helped nab many poachers and illegal loggers.

It was going to be a long way for the forest to heal; meanwhile, concerns were also raised about the drastic decline in the population of Blythe's Tragopan pheasant, Nagaland's state bird. The species faced near-extinction and it was only the timely realisation to start captive breeding that saved it. Close watch and conservation work started, one egg at a time.

The ban of hunting did stir up some dissent in the community as it would mean turning a new leaf. Here comes the community spirit; the people of Khonoma have a very strong sense of community and present a commendable spirit of teamwork. So, for the love of their forefathers' forest and land, the community agreed to look into new possibilities. First, the ban on hunting happened on the Dzukuo Range and with time, animals and birds started to come back to the forest. New ways of earning though the forest surfaced in the form of eco-tourism. This conservation drive led to the formation of Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary (KNCTS). This total ban on hunting and logging caught the attention of the government and huge funds were sanctioned to develop Khonoma as India's first Green Village and an upcoming eco-tourism destination to watch out for. Under this initiative, environment-friendly solar-powered street lights, green waste baskets were installed and many houses were selected ashomestays, another alien initiative. Along with these homestays, Inspection Bungalows and an Interpretation Centre-cum-museum were established to put more focus on local art and handicrafts (Khonoma is popular for handwoven bamboo baskets). On October 25, 2005, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio inaugurated it and formally declared Khonoma as a Green Village.

At a distance of 15km, there lay the quaint and tiny hamlet Dzuleke, efficiently following the conservation drive and presented itself in its green best upon our short day trip. The village headman hosted us with a generous lunch and told us how they do sustainable Himalayan trout farmingonly fish what is sufficient for youwhilst showing us around his home, also a homestay. Note: the only way to Dzuleke is through Khonoma. As I was taking a walk around, a friendly passerby stopped to point at a nearby dark forest. "We protect that forest" said the man with pride.

From being known as a village of great hunters, the present-day Khonoma is known as a No Hunting village and all these for the love of the nurturing nature, crucial for their sustenance. It's the sense of giving back to the nature that makes Khonoma and its people special. My visit to this quaint village was an eye-opener and writing about it was of an utmost importance. The forest no longer wakes to the sound of gunshots.

The Information

Where: Khonoma, 20km from Kohima, Nagaland

How to Reach: By Air Nearest airport is Dimapur; By Road Dimapur to Khonoma is 71.9km via NH 29; By Train Nearest railhead is Dimapur.

Where to Stay: Dovipie Inn, a 6-room inn by Neikedolie Hiekha is a good stay option. All twin-sharing rooms have hot water, basic amenities for a comfortable stay. If you are interested, Dovipie Inn can arrange for village tours, treks, transportation; for wildlife enthusiasts, there are birding and butterfly spotting tours; traditional fishing can be arranged on request.

Tariff: Naga Babbler double occupancy; ?3500 per night; fireplace and attached bathroom; laundry service is available. Deluxe Room from ?2500 double occupancy; attached bathroom and laundry service is available. Dormitory 4-bed from ?800 per person, ?300 for extra bed; attached bathroom and laundry service is available.

Contact: +91 8575185649, +91 7085896732; info@dovipieinn.com

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Find A Slice Of Home At The Royal Heritage Haveli In Jaipur https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/face.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/rest-relaxation-encouraged-royal-heritage-haveli-jaipur/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/rest-relaxation-encouraged-royal-heritage-haveli-jaipur/ 2018-08-01T18:10:30+05:30 article We spent a while at this 300-year-old hunting lodge-turned-hotel, and found ourselves a slice of home My phone is ringing off the hook. I grumble and mutter to myself, mentally making a long list of things to do over the next week. 'The sound of this bee is too loud,' I complain about the present, while Itoy with unimportant thoughts from five years past.

Out of nowhere, a smallchampa flower drops on to my lap. I look up from the screen and look around to see that I'm next to a pool, on a recliner chair and under the sun. I closemy to-do list, smiling and close my eyes. Nothing should come in the way of this.

AtJaipur'sRoyal Heritage Hotel by Niraamaya Retreats, there are many small reminders such as these, asking you to slow down and pause. These could be found under the large Kigelia tree, in between the archways, on the green lawns, or like with me, with these meaningful white flowers.

Rooms

Owned by the royal family of Jaipur, the Royal Heritage Hotel has, in its own inanimate way, seen life through its 300-year history. It has been a family home, a hunting lodge, a school and on one occasion, an army supplies storage roomnot in chronological order.

The hotel is run by Angelique and Pradip Singh (and now managed by Niraamaya) and is a consequence of years of both building from scratch and restoration. There are 19 suites, each tastefully done in Indo-European dcor, but with a twist. Instead of on the wall, there are intricate frescoeson the ceiling, making the process of getting out of bed a lot more difficult. And in place of tiles on the bathroom walls, theyve been put on the floor, leaving the walls in most cases, a blank white sheet.

These suites usually come fitted with a reading nook, or a sit-out balcony, a writing desk and a dilemma asking one to choose between a stocked mini fridge (usually unhealthy) and a kettle for green tea (definitely healthy). Each room has its own colour schemesome marigold in hue, another a pretty pink, while another may be washed a light turquoise blue from head to toe.

The most sought after suite, however, is room 104, also informally known as the Blue Room. It has an imposing door with a brass wooden knocker, and a stunning indigo-coloured theme through the space. It is also one of the grandest suites in the hotel, perhaps, owing to the fact that it was the private zenana, where the unmarried women would stay in earlier times.

There are different categories for roomsthe classic suite, superior suites, premium suites, and the royal signature suite.

Food

If youre looking for a food itinerary, it should go something like this:

Start off your day at Kigelia, where breakfast awaits. The options spread over homestyle paranthas to fancier Eggs Benedict (or Florentine, for the vegetarians). Lunch and dinner, toocan be taken in the outside balcony, with a traditional Rajasthani fare. We highly recommend trying thepapad ki chutney, which can actually be eaten as main dish rather than just an accompaniment. Theirspecialities also include the narangi (tangerine-flavoured) mutton and laal maas.

The recently opened Caf Samsara, which is also open to visitors, is a beautiful cafe serving light snacks and salads.Settle in here for an evening tea (or coffee hot off the French press), a snack and have a piece, or three, of the honey peanut pies.

End the day with drinks at Mehrab, the regal bar at RHH. The cocktails, including the watermelon martini (ask for the gin version) each have an extra something to them. If conversation fails, the family beagles, Muffin and Zoya, will be there to keep you company.

Facilities

Although it is the place for R&R, there's still plenty to do in the property itself. Take a leisurely lap in the pool, walk barefoot on the lawns or take an impromptu cooking lesson to learn heirloom recipes from the family.

Theres even a croquet lawn right next to the swimming pool, thankfully with none of the off with their heads paraphernalia. Shambhavi, one of the owners daughters helped us go horse-riding on Marwari horses in the property. These beautiful horses, which were once used as war horses, are indigenous to the region of Rajasthan. After we trotted on Kajri and Sita, we fed the horses gur and carrots, and learnt a rule of thumb: keep your fingers straight, lest you want the horses to think of them as more carrots.

The experience were most likely to look back and remember, though, is the spa, which has been recently taken over by Niraamaya. We indulged in a Kerala-style ayuvedic spa here, and made no claims to battle with sleep. One can pick between aromatherapy and ayurvedic spa treatments here.

Overall experience

On looking back, it is our hosts, Angelique and Pradip, who added a lot to the experience. At every dinner, they would come by and stop at the guests' tables simply to enquire how their day is going, or recommend something to eat. Their daughters, Shambhavi and Shivangni, too, do their rounds around the property , often making one feel that they aren't at a hotel but at a warm family dinner. Mealtime conversations with themare a flurry between discussions on food, wearing pin less chiffon saris (yes, it is an art) and royal anecdotes.

We realise, with attention to details such as a comfortable kaftan dressing gown, the pretty underside of a swaying pool umbrella and a thoughtfully laid out chocolate as nightcapover here, its all in the little things.

Where

The Royal Heritage Haveli is located in the Khatipura district on the periphery of Jaipur, making it a 30-minute-drive from the main city.

Tariff

Rs 6,000 for the Heritage classic suite and up to Rs 15,000 for the royal signature suite

Contact

www.niraamaya.in/royal-heritage-haveli-jaipur/

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The Poke Bar In Delhi Is A Must-Visit For Poke Lovers https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/The-Poke-Bar-Lodhi-Colony-Delhi-Poke-Bowl.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/poke-bar-delhi-must-visit-poke-lovers/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/poke-bar-delhi-must-visit-poke-lovers/ 2018-08-01T09:46:52+05:30 article The Poke Bar in Lodhi Colony serves a comforting bowl of healthy goodness with delicious signature cocktails, all in a whimsical space in the heart What is Poke? No, definitely not Pokemon. Not remotely close.It'sa delicious bowl of healthy taking the world by storm! Okay, okay, that isn't the actual definition but its actually raw and marinated fish, served with rice and vegetables with a dressing, and served in a bowl. Its a healthy trend which is gaining popularity all over the world and has finally come to theNew Delhithanks to The Poke Bar in Lodhi Colony. Poke (pronounced po-kay, meaning to slice) is usually served as an appetiser in Hawaii but with Japanese foods enjoyed worldwide, a poke bowl today has almost become a quick-fix sashimi bowl with flavours from the Asian country incorporated in servings. Nonetheless, a good poke bowl is packed with nutrients and is a filling meal.

Where

The Poke Bar is in Lodhi Colony in south Delhi, inside the space at Guppy.

Ambience

As you make your way inside Guppy, after a short stop at the bicycle store next door, Poke Bar is on the right. The space is small but vivacious. There are pops of colour literally everywhere and gives it an overall whimsical feel. The bright colours are inspired by the fashion district or Harajuku, in Tokyo. The tables have crossword puzzles with enticing prizes on offer like find all the words and get a cocktail on the house. There is immediate joy as you take a seat and wait to order.

Menu

The menu adds to the whimsical feel of the place. Set on a clipboard, one can either choose Guppys signature poke bowls; or make ones own, ticking off the choice of proteins, grains, mixes, dressings and crunch with the pencil attached. There are some starter choices on offer from the main Guppy menu like the oh-so-deelish pork belly (a must-have, in case you were wondering). The cocktail menu is also inspired by the Tokyo touch. Signature cocktails like Tokyo Summer and Harajuku High pair well with the poke bowls.There is also a sushi-sashimi bar one can order from if in the mood.

Recommendations

I tried the Tsukiji Tuna Bowl from The Poke Bar's signature poke bowl section. Fresh tuna, braised onions, a cucumber pickle, sesame seeds, tanuki, Himalayan salt, garlic shayu and shiso ginger came in a large bowl after we finished off our starters (pork and gyoza). Even though you've gone for poke, don't miss out on the Guppy's Signature Pork Belly as a starter. Melt-in-your-mouth slow-braised pork belly with soy-honey glace is the stuff of dreams. The exotic mushroom gyoza, too, was nice but the pot stickers paled in comparison to the meat.

I've had poke bowls in New York and the tuna bowl at The Poke Bar had its moments. The portion size is enough for one. The tuna was fresh and the freshness paired well with salty and gingery ingredients in the black bowl. My friend made his own bowl, excited to use his imagination to mix and match flavours. Though in the end he ended up creating a vegetarian bowl with kale, I preferred mine.

We ended the meal with black coffee, matcha pudding and mango tart, to savour some sweetness after a poke bowl meal. The pudding was really good, not too over-powering but right with its balance between matcha and caramel. The tart was sweet and paired well with the bitter coffee.

Pocket pinch

The approximate pocket pinch for two would be Rs 2,000 including drinks.

Contact

011-24690005/The Poke Bar

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Ranger Ranger: Stories About Indian Rangers And Their National Parks https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/featured.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/ranger-ranger-stories-indian-rangers-national-parks/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/ranger-ranger-stories-indian-rangers-national-parks/ 2018-07-31T16:20:46+05:30 article How a project is shifting the narrative of wildlife journalism from statistics to stories of the people around them In the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, orphaned rhinos are suffering from constipation. A 36-year-old veterinarian spends his days examining these little animals, often flitting between his two main worriestheir poop and their milk.

On the dusty lands of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, the first woman forest ranger of the Desert National Park has an unpredictable daily to-do listfrom putting her child to sleep, protecting the Indian Bustard to fighting literal fires with the local villagers.

Meanwhile, Northeastern tribes near the Pakke Tiger Reserve have their hands tied up with handicraft. They make artificial hornbill beaks made of fiberglass in exchange for real beaks from locals in an attempt to conserve the majestic bird whose beak reputation precedes it.

In the deluge of headlines that hit numbers on the head, and texts that rarely rise above startling statistics, who tell stories such as these? Through the ongoing Ranger Ranger project, Delhi-based journalist Sonali Prasad does.

Ranger Ranger is a series of reported articles that take you behind the curtains of wildlife in India. The project aims to tell (and in many cases, show) stories of people working in the backgroundforest guards, rangers, tribals, veteranians and village volunteers, to name a few. In short, of those men and women working tirelessly to ensure that the tiger is alive and protected and the baby rhino has regular bowels.

It all began when Prasad came across a report that highlighted that India had the highest rate of forest ranger mortality in the world. This was back in 2015. In the conversation about conservation and animals, no one talks about the people protecting them, says the reporter.

At the time, Prasad was an environmental reporter in New York for Columbia University. In 2016, she won the Pulitzer Travelling Fellowship, and came to India to begin this project. I started this in order to humanise concepts such as climate change, biodiversity and extinction. If I represented facts on climate change and biodiversity, it wouldnt connect with readers, she shares.

This is why in the past two years, Prasad has visited six national parks in India, from Haratput, Intangki, Sariska, to Pakke, Desert National Park and Kaziranga, spending extensive periods of time among both the people and creatures alike. She has written about the lesser-known creatures in the parks, such as the orange-spotted Tokay gecko lizard in the story A Legion For The Lizard. In Resurrecting Paper Tigers, she writes about the almost phoenix-like rebirth of tigers in Sariska. These stories, are up on the Mukha website, and are a collaboration between Prasad and other photographers, illustrators and designers.


The Thick of the Problem

When reporting about the people, Prasad didn't want to idealise them. They come with flaws. There is a lack of training, and a treatment of their work as a government job, she says.

However, the problems they face are very real and all too often neglected, sometimes because of a communication gap with their seniors. In Desert National park, Sukhpali, the first female guard to be employed faces basic problems of water, electricity and security. At Sariska National Park, the forest guards didnt have sweaters and were too cold to the bones. At most national parks, there is also an underlying strained relationship between the people of the forest and villagers.

Prasad, after each visit, sends the written articles back to the chief conservator or the forest head, along with observations made. There is an action taken to correct the problems, although slow. For instance, a few months after the Sariska visit, she received a photograph of the rangers wearing their new sweaters.

The upcoming projects will involve a visit to Central India to cover fish species in Madhya Pradesh and to Goa to talk about the guards who protect mushrooms from being overharvested. She is also going to the Maldives to write about Manta Ray conservation.

Going Offline

On the event of World Tiger Day (July 29) and World Ranger Day (July 31), Ranger Ranger has arranged an offline exhibit at Jor Bagh metro station. This installation has been put in association with WWF, and will be on display till August 10.

An information panel with photographs and excerpts from four main stories has been set up. Commuters who are interested in reading furthermore can simply scan the QR code and be redirected to the main article online.

This is Ranger Rangers first such event, and in the future too, Prasad hopes to spread the stories as far as possible in whatever medium possible. I only hope that there is some change, and some kind of impact. That is, after all, what journalists work for.

Read her stories here. Find out about the event here.

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Srinagar: Of Wood, Water And Heritage Holidays in India https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Srinagar1_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/srinagar-of-wood-water-and-heritage-holidays-in-india/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/srinagar-of-wood-water-and-heritage-holidays-in-india/ 2018-07-31T09:58:28+05:30 article Srinagar lies on the banks of the Jhelum river, and has a cool, pleasant climate all year round, contributing to the perpetual influx of tourists Even after years of insurgency, army occupation and frenetic tourism, Srinagar hasnt lost its charm. To the outsider, already drunk on pherans, yakhnis and shikaras, it continues to feel like a medieval city by the Jhelum. During the Mughal era, Srinagar was a favoured summer retreat for royals who left behind picturesque gardens. Then came the British, who were not allowed to buy land here. Hence, they made local boats into the now legendary houseboats. The city was the summer capital of the erstwhile Jammu Kingdom and continues to be so to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Dal Lake and Houseboats

From the time the houseboats on Dal Lake served as floating homes for the British to todays tourist hubs, they continue to be an important part of Srinagars heritage. Along the iconic Dal, covering an area of 21sq km, a long and cheery boulevard lines the waters on one side, and a series of tourist interest spots on the other the Shankaracharya Hill (with a 6th-century Jyeshtheshvara temple on top), an entertainment park, the Mughal Gardens, numerous shops, restaurants and hotels. The colourful shikaras and houseboats attract your attention with their bright yellow canopies and dark maroon carpets. They advertise full spring seats and in one case a smiling owner. And that, definitely, is Kashmiri heritage.

Shikara rides ?500 per hour

Jama Masjid

In the heart of the old city, the first sight of the Jama Masjids expanse, its pale stones and tall spires, can take your breath away. Originally built by Sultan Sikandar in 1394, the Jama Masjid was damaged by fire thrice, each time being rebuilt by the reigning local sovereign. It was reduced to ashes again in 1620, and rebuilt by Jehangir and Shah Jahan, only to burn again in 1674. They say when the news reached Aurangzeb, he was more concerned about the chinars in the vicinity, and then went on to build the beautiful monument you see now. The most remarkable feature of the masjid are the 378 pillars of devdar wood that hold up the wooden ceiling. The courtyard is a pleasant space with a fountain, lawns, chinar trees and a backdrop of the Hari Parbat Hill.

Khanqah of Shah Hamdani

The most photogenic of Srinagars old buildings, the Khanqah (a holy place associated with a Sufi saint as well as a place for gathering, praying and studying Islam) is perched on the right bank of the Jhelum. Mir Sayyad Ali Hamdani was a 14th century sage who left his native Iran to avoid Timurs oppressive reign and visited Kashmir thrice. He was such an energetic proselytiser that many credit him with the spread of Islam in Kashmir it is said that he converted 37,000 locals in a few days. Many miracles are attributed to him as well. This spot commemorates his first visit to Srinagar in 1372.

The building you see today is a wonderful melange of wood carving, colourful green-and-yellow painting on the walls and a dominant spire on top. Note the stone plinth on which the structure stands it belongs to a temple that stood here whose priest became Shah Hamdanis first disciple. Non-Muslims and women cannot enter the main hall, but can walk up to the door and look in through a window.

Pathar Masjid and Zaina Kadal

For the best views of old Srinagar, walk over to the new Zaina Kadal bridge at sunset and capture the Jhelum as it winds past the old domes and wooden structures, under the old wooden bridge, and past the Khanqah of Shah Hamadan. Close to the Zaina Kadal is Noor Jehans Pathar Masjid. Rare for Srinagars monuments, this one was built using limestone. Its patroness then managed to get the mosque bad press by saying that it had hardly cost more than her jewelled shoes. The scandal was so great that the horrified local clergy boycotted it and the mosque has suffered many indignities over the years, the least of which are a few bullet holes from an encounter. It is nonetheless an impressive building with a pleasing garden.

Shalimar and Nishat Gardens

Commissioned by Jehangir for Noor Jehan in 1619, Shalimar Bagh is a four-terraced spectacle of chinars and water courses. The most interesting element here is a baradari, a summer house, with black marble pillars from Pampore and gorgeous painted ceilings. Jehangir had named his garden Farah Baksh (delightful). He loved Kashmir so much that he visited Srinagar at least 13 times. Shah Jahan had the garden extended, the Pathan and Sikh rulers of Kashmir used it too, and under Ranjit Singh it even hosted European visitors.

Nishat Bagh is carved out of a hillside, built over 12 terraced levels, rich with magnificent old chinars and flowers, with a central water channel punctuated by fountains. It was commissioned by Nur Jehans brother Asif Khan in 1633. Legend says that Shah Jahan, was so taken by the garden that he expressed his appreciation thrice to Asif Khan in the hope of getting it as a gift. To no avail. This led to a minor falling out between the two; for a while Shah Jahan actually turned off the water supply for Nishat, which came through his Shalimar!

Entry Adults ?20; Children ?10 Timings AprilOctober 9.00am sunset; NovemberMarch 10.00am sunset

Hazratbal

Standing on the far side of the lake, its white marble reflecting gracefully in the waters, Hazratbal is the only domed mosque in the Srinagar area. It is important because it holds a sacred relic, a hair, of Prophet Muhammad, referred to as the Moi-e-Muqqadas. The story goes that the hair was brought to Bijapur by a descendant of the Prophet. He sold it to a Kashmiri businessman, Nur-ud-Din Eshai. Aurangzeb then seized it and sent it to the Ajmer Dargah, but later restored it to the owner. The Moi-e-Muqqadas reached Kashmir in 1700 when Eshais daughter, Inayat Begum, built this shrine to house it.

Hari Parbat and Rainawari

The hill of Hari Parbat is crowned by the 16th-century fort of the same name. It was built by the Afghan ruler Shuja Shah Durrani. The fort dominates the city from almost any angle. This has not been lost on the Government of India, which preserves the heights of Hari Parbat as a panopticon for the security forces. Local tradition also acknowledges the hill as a site of power for more ancient and occult reasons. According to legend, the entire valley used to be a massive lake inhabited by the malicious demon Jalodbhava, until the goddess Sati dropped a pebble on his head. The demon was crushed when the stone expanded into a mountain Hari Parbat.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The most charming of Srinagars staying options are the houseboats. They have decent deluxe rooms, carved wooden furniture, attached loos, decent breakfast and dinner, and a common balcony. Rates are fixed by the Houseboat Owners Association and usually range between ?2,1004,800 (room only) and ?3,4007,400, with meals.

Amongst the top-end houseboats are: Welcom-Heritage Gurkha Houseboats (Tel: 0194-2421001, Delhi Tel: 011-46035500; Tariff: ?10,00015,000, with two meals) that float peacefully on Nigeen Lake, and Butts Clermont Houseboats (Tel: 2430325, Cell: 09419056761; Tariff: ?7,500, with meals) in Naseem Bagh at the Hazratbal end of the Dal Lake. The most expensive of Srinagars hotels are The Lalit Grand Palace (Tel: 2501001-02; Tariff: ?18,0001,75,000) and Vivanta Dal View Srinagar by Taj (Tel: 2461111; Tariff: ?18,0001,25,000). A cheaper alternative is Blooming Dale Cottages (Tel: 2502157, Cell: 09419007023; Tariff: ?3,0003,500) near Dal Gate. Badyari Palace (Cell: 09018084043; Tariff: ?3,6004,100, with two meals), accessible from Boulevards Ghat 9, is another pleasant budget option.

Most hotels have restaurants that serve good Kashmiri food.

AROUND SRINAGAR

Martand Sun Temple (60km)

Martand is a rewarding visit for anyone interested in Kashmiri heritage. The 8th-century Sun Temple here is located on a hilly plateau with a backdrop of the snowy Peer Panjal.The choreography of carved stone, elegant pillars and graceful arches is a pleasure. The temple is ascribed to Lalitaditya Muktapid of the Karkota Dynasty, a great builder.

Avantipur (30km)

The Avantiswami Temple ruins are on the Srinagar-Pahalgam Road. The temple was built by king Avantivarman, the first ruler of the Utpala Dynasty of Kashmir in the 9th century. It is dedicated to Vishnu and offers some recognisable sculptures and carved stones.

More temple remains

The temple at Pandrethan on the outskirts of Srinagar is a well-preserved monument. It retains a pyramidal roof one of the few intact exemplars of this distinctive Kashmiri form. The familiar trefoil motif is also present in four vents at the top of the pyramid. There is also an exaggerated projection of pilasters and porches on all four sides of the structure, a strangely Gothic feature. The temple is identified as the Shiva Rilhaneshvara temple, built by Rilhana, Jayasimhas minister, around 1135. However, Pandrethan is itself a much older site. The name is in fact a contraction of Puranadhistana, which means Old Capital. This was the site of the original Ashokan capital of Srinagar. The area has now been absorbed into a military base and civilian access is difficult. There are a few more worthwhile alternatives. The 11th-century temple at Payar, near Avantipur, is tiny, while the 9th-century CE Vishnu temple complex at Buniar near Baramulla, is considered the best preserved of the larger Kashmiri temples. At Naranag, near Wangat, off the Srinagar-Sonamarg Road, stands a complex of temples, two of which are ascribed to Lalitaditya. This is a very ancient holy spot. Though it suffered from the depredations of Hayavadana, a notorious rebel baron during the reign of Jayasimha in the early 12th century, the sacred spring here still flows.

FAST FACTS

When to go AugustOctober; DecemberJanuary for snow

Tourist offices

J&K Tourism

Tourist Reception Centre

Srinagar

Toll Free Cell: 09596098882

Tel: 0194-2502279, 2502284-85

Fax: 2502281

Helpline: 09596078884 (24x7)

W jktourism.org

JKTDC

TRC

Srinagar

Tel: 2502274, 2502290, 2502270-71

W jktdc.co.in

STD code 0194

Tip Only post-paid mobile connections work in J&K state.

GETTING THERE

Air Srinagars Sheikh-ul-Alam Airport is connected by direct flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and Jammu. Pre-paid taxi to the TRC on Residency Road costs ?600. JKSRTC also runs shuttle buses between the airport and the TRC (?70)

Tip You cant use a smartphone screen and must show a printed ticket to enter the airport.

Rail Nearest railhead: Jammu Tawi (298km/ 9hrs). The taxi stand outside Jammus Tourist Reception Centre (Tel: 0191-2546266) has taxis to Srinagar for approx ?5,000. Shared taxi costs ?60 per seat. JKSRTC runs several semi-deluxe and luxury buses to Srinagar every day

Road Srinagar is on NH44, connected to Jammu via Udhampur, Patnitop, Banihal, Jawahar Tunnel and Avantipura. The highway is hilly, but well-maintained

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller GetawaysHeritage Holidays in India

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Things To Do Around National Parks That Are Closed During Monsoons https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/feature-1.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/things-around-national-parks-closed-monsoons/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/things-around-national-parks-closed-monsoons/ 2018-07-30T16:04:46+05:30 article The season to visit the national parks may be over, but that doesn't mean your plans have to be. Pack your bags and head to A popular holiday destination during the winters and summers, the National Parks in India close during the rainy season. Prohibiting visitors from coming, the aim is to protect animals who breed through the monsoon. Furthermore, the areas around and within the confines also become increasingly dangerous toventure into. But, should that stop you from visiting these areas? Well not really. There are still many other places around these parksthat can be visited. to upliftto your rain-soaked spirits.
Jim Corbett National Park
India's oldest National Park is closed during the monsoons as specific areas around the park become too dangerous with the oncoming of the showers. However, this shouldn't stop you from making your way toareas surrounding it. If you do wish to visit the park during the heavy rains, the Jhirna zone is kept open. Jeep safaris are available in the mornings and will take you to the buffer area of the park the park, the Sitabani zone for a duration ofthree hours. 25km away from the city of Ramnagar lies the Corbett Waterfall, a gift from Mother Nature, where one can see as the watercascading down the rocks from a height of 60ft against the backdrop of a serene surrounding. Afterwards, you can take a drive to the Garjia Temple, located 14km from Ramnagar and the mid of river Kosi. Drive a little further and you'll reach the Sitabani Forest Reserve where legend, if believed, isthat Goddess Sita spent her days in exile here. The Sitabani Temple is also nearby and is where Goddess Sita is believed to have entered Mother Earth.
Kaziranga National Park
Declared a Tiger Reserve while also accommodating two-thirds of the world's great one-horned rhinoceros, the Kaziranga National Park has always been a must-visit for wildlife lovers. Despite the area being cordoned off due to the rain, the spaces around Kaziranga may spark a lot of interest. The Kakochang Waterfall is a popular attraction, flanked by coffee and rubber plantations offering a pleasant getaway. From here, one can observe the ruins of ancient Numaligarh as well as the tea gardens ofHathkhuli, Methoni, Difalu and Behora Borchapori. Close to the National parkare the ruins of Deoparbat. Famous for archaeological ruins located at the top of the hill, the broken statues offer insight into the culture of the natives of Assam.
Ranthambore National Park
Another well-renowned location among animal admirers, the Ranthambore National Park is home to innumerable different species of animalsmost of which are inaccessible during the rain. But, don't get too disappointed. Ranthambore is a city of wonders and hosts several mind-boggling destinations. Start off by paying a visit to the Khandar Fort, which houses seven temples. One of those is a Jain temple composed of exquisite carvings of Jain gurus. Observe the structure and the location of the fort, which was thought to be impenetrable. Make your way to the Surwal lake next. Approximately 10km from the main city, this place is highly recommended if you are a fan of watching a beautiful sunrise. Reach before sunrise and pick a spot from where you can be awestruck by the blissful scenery that surrounds you as the sun wakes up from its deep slumber.
Kanha National Park
A three-hour drive from the Kanha National Park lies the pilgrim town of Amarkantak. The lush green of the town can be attributed to a diverse variety of medicinal plants. Take a diversion to the bank of the Narmada from where you can go across to the temples from medieval ages. The Pataleshwar Mahadev Temple and the Narmada Udgam Temple are popular spots and possess unique forms of architecture. Soothe your tired souls by observing the scenic locations of the temple. The Dudh Dhara Waterfall has to be next on your list. A place where Maharishi Durvasa meditated according to Hindu texts, this place is also where Mother Narmada gave the Prince of Rewa a divine vision in the form of a milk stream, resulting its present-day name.
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A Fan's Guide to Lord's Cricket Stadium in London https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Feature-3.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/fans-guide-lords-cricket-stadium-london/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/fans-guide-lords-cricket-stadium-london/ 2018-07-30T15:11:27+05:30 article Ever wondered what it is to sit inside the Pavilion at Lord's or to have your name engraved upon the Honour Board? Well, here's a Ishant Sharma comes running in, all guns blazing to Moeen Ali. Dug in, and he is OUT. Ali takes his eyes off the ball and ducks into it. He gloves it to short leg, who makes no mistake. Half the ground erupts into an uncontrollable cheer while the other half is stunned into absolute silence. Sharma throws the killer punch as India can now dream of winning a first Test at the Mecca of Cricket in 28 years.
Four years after that iconic victory in 2014, Lord's is all set to host the increasingly important Test series between India and England. At the top of the bucket list for cricket lovers, this ground in England represents the humble beginning of the sport before it came to the global fore.
If you're a cricket lover, Lord's is your ideal retreat. A tour of Lord's is taken on a daily basis, where one is shown the different locations around the ground. The tour will give you an opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Home of Cricket and explore some of the most famous sights in the world of the sport. So, if you're going for a match, book yourself some time on the tour.
Steeped in 200 years of history and tradition,there are several areas of Lord's that are must-visits. The Pavillion, which is the main survivor from the Victorian Era, is the first on the list. The area contains several important sections of the ground such as the dressing rooms, used by players for changing. Interestingly, each dressing room has a separate balcony from which players can watch the match. Also, in each of the two dressing rooms, you'll come across honours boards, made to commemorate all the century scorers in a Test match played here. Bowlers are also appreciated and those who take a five-wicket haul or ten-wicket haul are giventributes.
While going to these rooms, one will walk through the Long Room. Described by cricket writer Lawrence Booth as "the four most evocative walls in world cricket", the room is lined with paintings of famous cricketers and administrators from between the 18th and 21st century.
After you have taken a tour of the Pavillion, walk towards the JP Morgan Media Centre. This media centre was made especially for the 1999 World Cup. The lower tier of the centre is capable of holding nearly 100 journalists, while the top tier is reserved for radio and TV commentators. Furthermore, the centre offers a mesmerising panoramic view of the entire ground.
Finally, remember to visit the MCC Museum, which is the world's oldest sport museum and contains one-of a kind memorabilia, the Ashes' Urn, kits of several English captains over the years, portraits, sculptures, among many other things. The museum has numerous kits of crickets from generations past and the copy of Wisden from WWII. Currently, it is looking to add new showpieces as its popularity seems to rise at an unbelievable pace.
Getting There: There are several direct flights plying from Delhi and Mumbai to London. Airlines such as Jet Airways, Air India, British Airways, among others run a nearly 10 hours non-stop flight. You get your UK Visa by booking an appointment at the embassy, with the Visa valid for up to three months. It is highly recommended that you do not book your flights until your Visa has been confirmed.
To book a spot on the official tour of Lord's, register here.
To book match tickets, go here.
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Revisit India's Past At The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Feature-Jami.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/revisit-indias-past-champaner-pavagadh-archaeological-park/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/revisit-indias-past-champaner-pavagadh-archaeological-park/ 2018-07-30T11:00:31+05:30 article Off the beaten path, Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is said to be Indias only complete and unchanged pre-Mughal Islamic city Round the year, hundreds of Hindu and Jain pilgrims visit Pavagadh, around 55km from Vadodara, the third largest city in Gujarat. But only a handful know that they are entering a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Known as the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, the area won the honour in 2004.

According to UNESCO, the site is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city, a living cultural heritage.

The area contains prehistoric (chalcolithic) sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of the state of Gujarat as well as ruins of fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations, from the 8th to 14th centuries.

The Kalikamata Temple on top of Pavagadh Hill an important shrine for the Hindus. At first glance, it looks no different from popular Hindu pilgrimage centres of north India. But accompanied by a local historian, you will be able to see ruins of former palaces and temples. Pilgrims either walk up the hill or take the cable car.

The Jain temples mostly belong to the Digmabar sect and are scattered in groups in Pavagadh and Champaner. The twin towns are located about five km apart.

It is said that Champaner was founded in the eighth century by King Vanraj Chavda. According to historians, along with neighbouring Pavagadh, it formed an important buffer between Gujarat and Mandu in Malwa (now Madhya Pradesh). The Chauhan Rajputs, who conquered the area around 1300 AD, ruled here for nearly two centuries. Although several Gujarat Sultans tried to capture Pavagadh, it was finally Mahmud Begda who managed to capture it, made it his capital and patronised a spate of constructions.

One of the key criterion that earned the region its World Heritage Site status is the perfect blend of Hindu-Moslem architecture seen in many of the buildings. The Great Mosque (Jami Masjid) is said to have served as a model for later mosque architecture in India.

Conquered by Moghul emperor Humayun, the region slowly lost its importance and faded away. Pilgrims continued to visit to the Kalimata Temple but the ruins were overlooked. During the British rule, surveyors mentioned the ruins strewn here and some preliminary studies were made.

Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda initiated a seven-year study of the region in 1969, which brought light the growth and identity of the city.

Today, one can see part of the fortification, including the giant catapult stands apart from ruins of palaces, lakes and stepwells, gateways, granaries, etc.

Getting There: Champaner is 45 km by road from Vadodara, the nearest airport and rail link. Ahmedabad is around 190km from Vadodara by road.

Gujarat Tourism (https://www.gujarattourism.com) runs a Toran tourist lodge in Pavagadh. If you are looking for a luxury option, try Jambughoda Palace (http://www.jambughoda.com/index.html). You may stay at Vadodara and make a day-trip to the World Heritage Site. Carry sun protection gear, drinking water and snacks. Proper shoes must. November to February is the best time.

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Sarai At Toria: A Responsible Escape by the Banks of the Ken https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Sarai1_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/sarai-at-toria-a-responsible-escape-by-the-banks-of-the-ken/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/sarai-at-toria-a-responsible-escape-by-the-banks-of-the-ken/ 2018-07-30T09:30:17+05:30 article The Sarai at Toria is located only half an hours drive from Khajuraho. It lies on the banks of the River Ken, less than 2 My mother often recalls her childhood spent in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh her father would take foreign tourists into the forests to live in tents and photograph the wildlife. She would tag along on those excursions and observe everything around her and lock it away in memory. Years later when I was a child, shed tell me about the tall grasslands, the cracking of dry leaves on the forest floor and the red mud that would be thrown up in the air after a vehicle passed by. I listened but didnt think about it much, until, that is, I visited the Sarai at Toria. Located on the banks of the River Ken, opposite the Panna Tiger Reserve, the Sarai at Toria is run by Raghu Chundawat, a conservation biologist, and Joanna Van Gruisen, a former wildlife documentary filmmaker. A cross between a homestay and a hotel, this delightful country-side getaway is perfect for those with an interest in wildlife and an eagerness to learn more about the regions culture and its varied attractions, including the world-famous Khajuraho Temples.

A half-hours drive from Khajuraho airport, the Sarai At Toria has been named after the neighbouring village of Toria. My taxi turned off the main highway onto a dusty kuccha road that leads to the property. The Sarais parking lot is connected to the main portion of the property by a narrow bridge that stretches across a canal, which joins the Ken. While it may look like its a long way down to the water, Joanna mentioned that the water level can reach the bridge during the monsoon. Tall, dense grass flanks the paths, which lead to the cottages and the baithak. Dont ignore the grass, for its home to a beautiful little insect called the jewel bug, which looks like a green bauble. The baithak (common living room) is a wonderfully inviting area which makes you want to kick off your shoes and lounge on the comfy sofas. This is where you can access Wi-Fi and chit-chat with other guests over a cup of masala chai or coffee. Since it is open on all four sides you can listen to the sound of the Ken rushing by and admire the surrounding countryside. Joanna met me here and we sat down for a quick chat while I tucked into a simple lunch of buns, carrot soup and spinach quiche followed by warm apple pie. Yum! I had just about an hour before my first activity so I headed to my cottage for a quick siesta.

Joanna and Raghu were determined to create a haven that would be environmentally friendly, so they set out to build cottages with locally available construction materials using traditional techniques acquired from the local villagers. These, and a design from their mud-experienced architect, Eugene Pandala, ensured that the cottages would stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The walls and floors of the cottages are made of mud while the roofs are covered with a thick layer of grass. I noticed that my cottages rust coloured floor had a shiny surface. This is the result of a unique craft wherein cement is mixed with natural mineral oxides and then applied on the floor to give it a buttery smooth finish. Since the mineral oxides differ, each cottage comes with a different floor colour. Plenty of natural light filters in from the windows and I certainly didnt feel the need for artificial cooling even though this part of the country can get murderously hot in the day. Everything here is run on solar power, so remember to switch off the lights and fans when youre not around. Hot water for a shower comes from a heater outside the cottage it uses burnable waste materials and wood for heating. The natural shampoo and soap in the bathroom are sourced from Neev, an NGO in Bihar devoted to womens development. Satisfied with my inspection and feeling very pleased with the ethnic chic interior decor, I plopped down for a nap before heading down to the Ken river for a boat ride.

The Ken is a major river of the Bundelkhand region and flows through Panna Tiger Reserve. During the evenings, if youre lucky, you may spot a few wild animals on its banks drinking water. I could see hoof prints of nilgai in the wet mud near the waters edge and I wondered if Id be lucky enough to catch sight of anything that evening. I was accompanied by Jaipal, the resident naturalist of sorts, and Raju, who is a fisherman by trade. Both of them have worked at the Sarai for years and hail from nearby villages, as do the rest of the staff. The trunks of submerged trees and reeds stick out of the water along with several clusters of large boulders, which make for good perches for many birds. I saw plenty of lapwings and wagtails, a striking black and white woolly stork and an ibis. Rajus sharp eyes caught sight of a jackal grooming herself on bank. Luckily Jaipal had carried a pair of binoculars so I got a good look at her. There was a slight disturbance in the water to our left and we turned just in time to see a crocodiles tail slithering off the rocks. A moment later its eyes rose out of the water, staring directly at us. It was thrilling to see that ancient reptile but I quickly made sure my arms werent anywhere near the edges of the boat after that. The main attraction of the boat ride is the sunset; and sure enough the giant yellow ball put on a spectacular show for me. Its firey yellow reflection in the water gradually grew shorter as it began to dip lower. Meanwhile the sky turned from a pale blue, to orange, then pink and finally purple. No matter how many sunsets I witness, each one seems special.

Back on land I just happened to glance up and was star struck. Quite literally. The Milky Way, in all her glory, was visible that night. I couldnt take my eyes off her. After years of city living, and knowing theres no point in trying to stargaze thanks to pollution, this was an exquisite treat. It looked as though the strands of a diamond-studded necklace had drapped itself across the midnight-blue sky. Raghu mentioned that I was very lucky since the sky hadnt been that clear the previous night.

On the way back to my cottage after dinner I glanced around nervously, half expecting a wild boar to come charging out of the grass, but an accompanying member of staff assured me that no dangerous animals visit the property and that the Sarai was far enough from the tiger reserve. I know I was being silly, but still heaved a sigh of relief. The song of crickets is loud here and youll be surrounded by it. It was such a pleasant change after the jarring honks of vehicles in the city. Since the cottages are spread around the property each guests gets a mobile phone which can be used to call Joanna, Raghu or the reception in case of an emergency during the night. Dont be startled if you hear noises after dark owls, jackals and other harmless nocturnal creatures do emerge but theyre as keen on avoiding you as you are them. The cutest and tiniest frog Id ever seen, no bigger than my little fingers nail, was on my porch one night.

Youll need to rise early if youre going for a morning safari in Panna Tiger Reserve. Slightly bleary eyed but well rested, I made my way to the baithak at 6.15am the next day, where I was given a hot cup of tea before setting off with Raghu. Panna holds a special place in Raghus heart. Its where he conducted a pioneering 10-year study on the tigers of Panna, and formed a close bond with those magnificent felines, even if it was one-sided. Just a few years ago, Panna lost all its tigers to poaching. As a result, tigers from other national parks and reserves had to be introduced into this region to balance the predator-prey ratio. The current tiger population is stable but its a constant battle to keep poachers at bay and educate villagers about the importance of protecting the tiger. It didnt take long to catch sight of Pannas residents since we were on flat open ground, in this case a wild boar followed soon after by a female sambar deer. She crossed the muddy red trail directly in front of our vehicle and I managed to get a few excellent shots of her. We left the open grassland behind and began ascending a rocky path, which is when we came upon a massive male sambar with a spectacular set of antlers. He was as startled as we were and darted off into the underbrush, but those few seconds were exciting nevertheless. Seeing one up close made me realise how huge adult male sambars can become.

Joanna always sends guests out on safari with a picnic basket to keep hunger pangs at bay. After driving around for about two hours we stopped near a cliff, which also acts as an excellent viewpoint for sweeping vistas of the reserve. I devoured a few slices of delicious banana cake and cheese straws and washed it down with coffee, all the while admiring the landscape spread out below us. These cliffsides are usually the favoured nesting grounds of vultures, but we saw only one. I couldnt help but worry for the future of these old world birds, whose survival seems bleak around the globe.

During the second half of the safari we passed by a troop of langurs who were drinking water from a shallow pool. By the looks they gave us, I think a few curses must have been thrown our way for disturbing them. Two herds of spotted deer, not far from each other, were resting under short trees growing in the midst of tall grass, providing the perfect camouflage for them. A female nilgai with her nervous babies, who darted away even though we were quite far from them, a couple of giant wood spiders sitting in their webs, a chinkara, and a few birds such as peregine and black winged eagle were some of the other creatures I got to see. No tiger but still enough to make for a fulfilling safari.

For a glimpse of village life, you can go for a walk till Toria village and back. I was accompanied by Jaipal and we shared an interesting chat about his life in his village. We passed by several friendly little kids en route and a herd of goats very intent on heading home as the sun set, even with no shepherd to guide them. The villagers are fairly used to the Sarais guests and theyll greet you with a ready smile. At one point there were several langurs around us but they were focussed on eating something in the fields on either side of the path and ignored us.

One of the best things about travel is the people you meet. That night I ate dinner with an American family, who were travelling around the world for a year, to expose their children to an array of cultures. Prior to arriving in India, theyd been in Mongolia living in a yurt surrounded by snow! Quite a contrast to Madhya Pradeshs climate in October.

While Ive been lucky to have eaten good food at most of the places Ive visited during my travels, the Sarai at Torias varied changing menu deserves special mention. Its not fancy, the food isnt heavy and rich, but you come away after every meal licking your lips, wishing you could accommodate more in your tummy. Thats how I felt. From simple yet delicious Malwa dishes, crisp dosas and sambar - better than any Ive eaten at Naivedyam or Sagar Ratna - to freshly baked bread, sticky toffee pudding and vegan yogurt, the chefs here get everything right. Many of the herbs and vegetables used in daily meals come from the Sarais own organic garden. Such is the popularity of their food that guests can request for a cooking class to learn how to prepare these dishes at home.

I felt a slight pang the day I had to leave. Out here by the Ken, you can forget your urban worries for a while, and bask in Raghu and Joannas warm hospitality. Make new friends. Sit on the comfortable swing to read a book or let the sound of the river lull you to sleep. Go sightseeing or dont do anything at all. Theres no need to rush. You will be disconnected out here (my cellphone couldnt catch a signal and the cottages dont have TVs) and what a relief that was.

Highlights

Solar powerEmploys localsOrganic gardenEducate local children on the importance of wildlife conservation

FAST FACTS

When to go 1 October to 15 April

The Sarai at Toria

Mela Wali Gali, Village Toria

Dist Chatarpur - 471101

Madhya Pradesh

Tel: 0124-4062481

Cell: 09891796671

Email: saraiattoria@gmail.com

W saraiattoria.com

Tariff ?17,800, includes all meals, Wi-Fi, boat ride and village walks

Activities

Boat rideBirdwatchingCooking classVillage walkVisit Khajuraho TemplesSafari at Panna Tiger ReserveVisit Ajaygarh Fort

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Khajuraho (20km/ 30mins) offers connections to Delhi and Varanasi. Taxi charges ?1,5002,500Rail Nearest railhead: Khajuraho Railway Station (18km/ 30mins) is linked to Delhi by the UP August Kranti express. Taxi charges ?1,5002,000Road Drive from Khajuraho to Bamita; take a left here and its another 910km to the Sarai at Toria

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller Getaways Responsible Escapes

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The Case For Couchsurfing: How, What & Why https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/featured-image-1.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/case-couchsurfing-india/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/case-couchsurfing-india/ 2018-07-29T13:18:20+05:30 article Travellers share their experiences staying with locals and opening up their homes to strangers from around the globe. It was Halloween in 2015, and the people in Italy were out celebrating. While looking out the window, Rittika Modwel, a freelance events manager from Delhi, found herself in a fix. She had a sprained back, an empty itinerary and only one day left in Milan.

As this was her first solo trip, she didnt want to miss out on seeing the city. The next morning, as a brainwave struck, she messaged a few members on the couchsurfing website at about 6.30am, asking to meet up. In only about 3 hours, she got responses from all three locals from Milan, who agreed to show her around. The first arrived at the doorstep of her B&B on a vespa, with an extra helmet for her. She was shown around the city centre and they had breakfast together.

Member numero duo and she grabbed coffee while he showed her which souvenir shops are a hit and miss. And third was an Italian dream. They had a late lunchwine and pizzaand they walked around a street gallery, before he dropped her off to the airport.

It was a really great experience to see the place from the eyes of a local, Modwel said. It didnt hurt that he was cute either, she added.

Couchsurfing is a service that lets a community of travellers connect, meet each other, stay at a locals place, or open up their home to othersfor no cost.A community-driven platform, both couchsurfers and their hosts leave reviews for each other, and similar to the concept of AirBnBs, they must verify themselves.Unlike a hotel, there are no check-in or check-out timings. After you sign up for the service, you can find members in a city who are accepting guests and contact them with your travel dates.

The members are from everywhere, from a small village in Italy to Mumbai city, and so you can travel to a city where you know no one, and stay at a locals home.

For people who are used to staying at luxurious hotels, it can be hard to explain the appeal behind couchsurfing. In fact, the concept asks us to defy everything we have always been trained not toto trust strangers.

Jaita Guha, aged 42, a marketing professional in Mumbai, said, You have to trust your instincts. While choosing a host, there are enough profiles to choose from, and you can read reviews and make a decision.

But it isnt just couchsurfers who are taking a risk; hosts who open up their homes take a massive leap of faith as well. People who have been using the platform for while having difference advices to offer. One host suggests meeting a potential couchsurfer at a caf first before committing to hosting them, while a well-versed couchsurfer advises on checking into a hostel first and then meeting the host. The common advice from everyone though is to thoroughly read through references.

If you are hesitant about hosting someone or just simply lack that kind of space, you can choose to just show people around your city, or help give them local insight. The first person I showed around was from South Africa. I took him for a meal around town, and we went to Marine Drive. Another traveller I met wanted to have a thali meal, and went out. She gifted me a box of chocolates in return, said Guha.

So how backbreaking is couchsurfing really? Not all that much. From what we hear, the couch in couchsurfing is only a blanket phrase (pun intended). Hosts offer whatever spare space they canit could be a couch or a mattress, but also, spare rooms.

For Sharmistha Chaudhuri, 31, who has done her fair share of couchsurfing, the experiences have usually been more than pleasant. I havent actually ever had a couch. I have had proper bedrooms and once, even a whole apartment to myself in Paris. Its been great, said the Delhi-based editor.

Couchsurfing is a great route to take for the budget-traveller. But that is not the only reason people take it. Mulchand Dedhia, a 33-year-old entrepreneur who has hosted and couchsurfed with over 50 people, feels strongly about this. It isnt all about people coming and staying for free. Thats not the best way of looking at it, said the Mumbai resident. It helps you become a local when youre travellingyou can see the local neighbourhoods, eat authentic food, meet your hosts friends.

On the flipside, hosts find it culturally enriching to meet travellers too. Although couchsurfers arent required to pay for their stay, small gestures go a long way with hosts. Modwel, after her Italian escapade, hosted several people in Delhi. Everyone who came brought a lot to the table. Someone knew juggling and tried to teach it to us, there was a French guy who was extremely sweet and babysat my doghe even insisted on cooking me and my flatmates a 4-course French meal! Others have had travellers leave them notes, bring them souvenirs or snacks from their city.

The guests are mostly backpackers from abroadfrom Israel, France, Spainvery few Indians couchsurf within the country itself. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Indian men on the platform who are from the same city messaging to catch upI dont reply to them, shared Modwel.

Dedhia has found couchsurfing to be a great way to meet interesting people, from someone who cycled all the way from Manali to Kanyakumari to a man who, following the lead of Vernes book, was travelling around the world in 80 days. As Dedhia stays with his parents, the experience has been an eye-opener for them too. This has given my parents perspective too. Initially, they were skeptical, but now my mom looks forward to cooking lavish meals for the guests because she loves feeding people.

For Chaudhuri, hosting in India has also been a way to show off her local culture. Her most memorable experience involves food. Once, she was hosting someone from Spain whod never tasted Indian food before. She insisted on taking him to a nearby restaurant, and giving him an introduction to the cuisinewhich of course, began with butter chicken. After the meal, he said that I cant believe Ive never had this in my life. Thank you.

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What A Drive From Mumbai To Delhi Looks Like https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Camels-featured-Rishad-Saam.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/drive-mumbai-delhi-looks-like/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/drive-mumbai-delhi-looks-like/ 2018-07-28T10:30:08+05:30 article We take the classic road from Mumbai to Delhi, but with a twist through Rajasthan It is 4.54am, and Ahmedabad seems to be a city of ghostsones that it across the road on their sputtering motorcycles. Milkmen, along with the others who render essential morning services, are shrouded in heavy shawls against the cold, the wispy morning fog adding to their ethereal appearance. Our journey has just begun: we are headed towards Nalsarovar, about 70 kilometres to the southwest of Ahmedabad. The instrument cluster inside the BMW 520d registers 9C.

Yesterday, this car had made short work of the 550km between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, via Udwada. I remember a childhood drive to Gujarat in the early 1980s, when the road was nothing but a narrow strip of tar through dense forest beyond the outskirts of Bombay; the only smattering of urbanity had been at Surat and Baroda. Yesterday, however, it had been a continuous metropolitan sprawl.

While the roads are definitely wider, smoother and quicker, you may not find the quintessential romance of the long drive here. The road to Nalsarovar, though, is a different story.

I drive past a few tea stalls while blitzing through Ahmedabad, hoping to stop for tea a little further away, but the road is densely forested, and its little hamlets still deep in slumber. However, the gleam of a furtive eyeball by the roadside tells me something lurks in wait.

On backing the car up, we see two magnificent nilgai (blue bulls) partially hidden in the foliage. Were soon at the crossroads near the Nalsarovar ticket booth, but my morning cup of tea remains elusive. Villagers crouched around a re say the tea shop will open shortly, but the ticket window beats them to it.

The car park in Nalsarovar is a kilometre from the magnificent lake; one can board boats to explore this shallow waterbody spread over 120 square kilometres, and its 36 varying islands. Sailesh, our boatman, asks us to hop onto his motorcycle, forsaking the usual Maruti Suzuki Eeco vans used to transport visitors.

Thankfully, Sulochana behen has set up her teacart by the makeshift quay. The hot brew is laced with spices, and generously mixed with milk that has travelled straight from the cow to the pot. There is no question about its legitimacyDilbahari, her buffalo, stands tethered to her cart.

The basic boat fare covers a round trip to Dhrabla Island and back. It isnt daylight yet, but we set off on our wooden boat as a magenta glow approaches the horizon.?As Sailesh pushes it along with a long pole, we actually hear the birds in the Nalsarovar Sanctuary before we see themthe utter of wings and occasional squawks. As the day grows stronger we spot cormorants, Brahminy ducks, white storks and the occasional pelican. Somehow, we are the rst to arrive on the islandeven the local ladies, who rustle up a great breakfast thali comprising bajra rotlas, spicy garlic chutney and lumps of raw sugar, arrive a few minutes after us.

As soon as they land, one goes in search of dried wood to re the stove, while another begins kneading dough; thick rotlas are soon roasting on an ancient- looking iron pan. Needless to say, their smoky aroma, coupled with rich unsalted butter, makes for a delicious bite. Sailesh is in a benevolent mood after the meal, taking us back the long way around, and we go past many little islands that offer a view of the lakes avian population.

Our boatman also recommends going to Vadla Dam, 18 kilometres to the north of Nalsarovar. The birds are plentiful over there and youll have the whole place to yourself, he whispers, as if afraid that this juicy bit of information will travel over the water and reach tourists on neighbouring boats. We take his advice and drive there. The unsealed roads are dimpled with craters, and I grimace as the cars underbelly occasionally scrapes the road.

Luckily, Vadla delivers as promised we see purple herons and painted storks right from within the car. On the wetlands around the dam, a solitary purple moorhen lounges with a sedge of demoiselle?cranes; egrets are perched plentiful on the shrubbery. Satisfied with our sightings that morning, we head towards the Modhera Sun Temple. It is almost always deserted, and has a beautiful stepwell adjacent to?it, perfect for moments of contemplation. Today, eight school buses wait in the parking lot, but the kids are so in awe of the architecture that they mostly keep mum.

Our avian adventure and temple strolls mean we cant make it to Jaisalmer that night, so we halt at Sanchal Fort Hotel?in Barmer, Rajasthanits spacious,? airy rooms are a comforting oasis in the desert. The cook serves a fiery lal maas that is cooked to perfectionthe meat curry is to Rajasthan what vada pav is to Maharashtra. Scrambled eggs at breakfast dont quite meet my benchmark, but a beautiful morning, and the tarmac in Rajasthan saves the day.

Though dunes envelop both sides of?the road, visibility is great; there are no surprises waiting to jump onto the road, meaning I can stretch the cars legs a bit. We encounter camel carts, herds of livestock and a few cars but all in all it is a quick dash of two hours from Barmer to the Suryagarh hotel in Jaisalmer. The five-star property truly makes you feel like royalty, right from the rose petals that shower down upon?you during entry. A modern construction built in the style of a medieval fort, the hotels sprawling expanse is perfect for rest and repose. Numerous peaceful nooks line Suryagarhs courtyard, and peacocks prance about its lush lawns.

We plan to grab a bite and head out towards Jaisalmer Fort, but there is nothing quick in the Rajput cookbook, and nothing that can be rushed in their code of hospitality. After a lavish lunch, exertion or exploration doesnt seem very attractive, so I spend the rest of the day lounging on the comfortable bolstered couch in a shaded garden pavilion. By 6.15am the next day, we head to the fort.

Popularly called Sunehra Qila due to the honey-gold sandstone hues at sunrise and sunset, it stands as a regal symbol of the hardy survival instincts characterising the people of Rajputana. Founded by Bhatti Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal around 1156 CE, the fort was strategically placed on the old caravan route between the Far East and Central Asia. With the rise of the shipping trade and development of Bombay as a port, the town would have gone the Hampi way and become a ruin, if it were not a perfect border outpost, as proven in the 1971 Indo- Pak war. Today, Jaisalmer is a bustling tourist town. Mazes of colourful bazaars, intricately carved Jain temples, and restaurants serving authentic cuisine dot the area. A government-authorised bhang (marijuana) shop also sells loaded lassis and psychedelic cookies. Just outside the fort are famous havelis, their exquisite design and sheer richness an indication of a once prosperous community. The Patwon ki haveli is the one to watch out for, as is the haveli of Salim Singh.

Interestingly, the latter was an ambitious Prime Minister who tried to rival the then Maharaja by building a mansion two storeys higher than the kings palace unfortunately, the king tore it down.

That evening, we drive to the Sam Sand Dunes. Forty kilometres to the west ?of Jaisalmer, it is home to a camel and sand fair that comes alive every evening, where locals lead tourists on gaily-decorated rides into the Thar Desert. One also has a choice of going on camel carts, or hiring a jeep.

The road from Jaisalmer to Bikaner promises to be good someday, but ongoing road works mean there is no pleasure in the journey. However, the Narendra Bhawan Palace is a luxury boutique hotel in Bikaner that is perfect for relieving this driving-induced stress. Recently revamped with touches of 1920s architecture and furnishings, the palaces quirky rooms are decorated to celebrate various periods in the life of Narendra Singh, the last reigning Maharaja of Bikaner. It is a modern-day manifestation of memories, housing colourful stories within it storeys. The rooms are differentiated as follows: Residence, Prince, Regimental, India and Republic, each representing different phases in the kings life as he went from a young prince during the British Raj to a proud member of the young republic.

Within 500 kilometres of Delhi, we ?do not want to get mired in the mayhem of rush hour traffic, so we leave exactly?at 3.59am. The temperature hovers around the 4 mark, and the roads are not only satin smooth but also delightfully deserted. I slot the car into Sports mode, where it mimics a lioness out on a hunt, slight touches to the throttle delivering instant bursts of speed.?We cover 300 kilometres in less than three hours as Rajasthan starts to break its slumber; by the time we cross into Haryana from the Jaipur-Delhi road, it is wide awake. This drops our average speed by more than half, and we need four hours to cover the remaining distance. There are more than 150 flights a day between Mumbai and Delhi, and more than four quick overnight trains. Even taking the most direct route by road gets you from the financial capital to the national capital in about 19 hours. However, our aim was to take an unusual route to enjoy the journey, and the relationship between the car and these two magnificient states delivers a triad that abounds in delight.

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Book Review: A Gourmets Journey https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/A-Gourmet-Journey.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/book-review-gourmets-journey/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/books/book-review-gourmets-journey/ 2018-07-28T10:00:48+05:30 article Read Jasleen Dhamija's A Gourmet's Journey to open your doors to food as her vivid details inspire to rustle up your own recipes, experiences and Mama would fill my pockets with almonds and give me a block of thickened sugarcane gur, mixed with spices and dry fruit, when I left for school. I would walk all the way carrying my wooden slate and bag in one hand and the spicy gur in the other. The moment I read this sentence, I could paint a picture in my headthe road, the trees dotting it, the little girl going to school, the blue skies she would have seen and the old-timey homes she would have crossed. It transported me to an era Ive only seen depicted in films or read in bookssimpler times when technology had yet to invade every moment of our being.

Jasleen Dhamija, the renowned Indian art textile historian, has painted vivid pictures with her writing in her latest book A Gourmets Journey: Discovering the Exotic and Erotic in Food. Growing up in Abbottabad, Dhamijas work with the United Nations enabled her travels far and wide, and in the midst of it all, her relationship with exploring new foods, friendships and countries. Each page is dotted with food anecdotes and easy recipes curated from her travels.

Dhamija fondly recollects her tryst with Afghan neighbours who brought preserved fruits during her Abbottabad days, when Mahatma Gandhi stayed at her uncles place, or the the daily foods like daal and karhi the family consumed. Traversing the length of the country, her first exposure to different tastes came about in 1944, en route to a friends place, where each railway station highlighted a different delicacy.

However, it was travelling with her mentor, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, which opened her senses to a vast variety of cuisines. From a Vaishnav feast in Imphal to an Anglo-Bengali meal in Calcutta, wazwan and Kashmiri Pandit delicacies in the north to Chettinad food down south; every page is an explosion of flavours that one can taste while reading. Interestingly, it was in Iran and Africa she learnt of seductive aphrodisiac foods. My cuisine become not only multi cultural, but also more exotic, she writes of her time in Iran. Probably the most outrageous meal she had was in Denmark, with a complete stranger at breakfast, feasting on caviar and champagne!

The pages tell tales of meetings with Roberto Rossellini and Federico Fellini among others, their friendships based on food. The former even introduced her to a dessert which she loved, despite not possessing a sweet tooth. Not to mention the many flirtations that came her wayan ambassadors son, a sociologist, a director, and even a princeall trying to woo her with different cuisines.

I smiled as I turned each page, vividly imagining the authors life journey. I couldnt wait to head to my kitchen and rustle up the flavours Dhamija has so delicately exposed readers to through her words.

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Reasons To Visit Goa During Off-Season https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/river-rafting-featured.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/reasons-visit-goa-monsoon/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/reasons-visit-goa-monsoon/ 2018-07-27T13:02:39+05:30 article Reasons why its worth making a trip to Goa in the off-season, come rain or sun Goa in the off-season isnt everyones glass of fenni. Once you can look past the mush, theres a lot to be exploredfrom the gushing waterfalls and local watering holes to the hidden shacks that stay open and cycling tours you can take from one island to another.

Cycle around the city

An 82km bicycle ride through the mangroves or perhaps the chance to go island-hopping in Goa? The Bicycle Trip Goa is one such company that organises offbeat ways to explore Goa, all on two wheels. These personalised tours, are usually of medium difficulty, and show you different sides of the city, whether through a dessert crawl or a vintage tour of Goa's historic sights.
Find out morehere.


Feast on

That the shacks in Goa are mostly shut can be a deterrent to those who love to eat, but theres a lot more to explore. A little birdie tells us thatRocketin Anjuna not only serves up burgers with a lot of meat, but also becomes a hub on Wednesday nights. With open mic nights every mid-week, the musicians of Goa get together and perform, making music a perfect accompaniment to the monsoon.

Zeebop, a restaurant-shack in Majorda, too is located on the beach, and is the place to go for seafood in the monsoon. Also swing byPousada by the Beach,a lovely family-run restaurant (with dogs) that is known for its good food and even better service.

 

Go on a rainy drive

Its almost an injustice not to see the lush greenery of Goa in the monsoon, and the best way to do that is by going on a drive. Locals often take off in the car or two-wheeler to visit the Tiracol Fort, which is located on the northernmost tip of Goa. The drive to the Fort is through Panjim, past paddy fields, amidst palm trees, and is frankly, almost as scenic as the view from the fort.

In fact, you can even stay at the Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel while you are there, making it a quick overnight trip.

 

Take a mini staycation

Whether youre visiting for ashort duration or are planning to stay awhile, no rule stops you from taking a vacation within a vacation. Hitch a ride to the Wildernest Nature Resort in Chorla Ghats and call yourself a happy camper. This beautiful property, albeit two hours from Goa, is where the monsoons can best enjoyed with a cup of tea from the wooden cottages, and with a view of the Vazra waterfalls.

 

 

Raft in the rapids

Whoever said that Manali and Rishikesh are the only places for river-rafting in India hasnt yet tried it in Goa. This monsoon, roar through the rapids of the Mmhadei River in Goa. This is an activity that only takes place between June and September each month, when the rains increase the volume of the river enough to make this a bumpy ride. The white water river rafting journey begins (and ends) at a meeting point in Sattari, Goa. You can pick from two slots for this two-hour-long ride: 9.30am or 2.30pm.
Book ticketshere.

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5 Places To Go Zip-lining Across The World https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/The-Sasquatch-Upside-Down.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-places-go-zip-lining-across-world/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-places-go-zip-lining-across-world/ 2018-07-27T11:00:54+05:30 article Zip-line past the skyscrapers in Dubai, above the dense forests of Alaska, or over the rainforest valley in Canada while experiencing an adrenaline of thrill, Sliding down ziplines can be scary but fun.

Ziplines is probably the nearest you can get to flying.Harnessed securely to a wire that is connected to two points at different levels, you rush along in a gravity-assisted journey, over landscapes that may range from natural to urban. The earlier you are able to overcome the sense of shock at the launch, the more you will enjoy the thrill of the ride.

Cape Town Ziplines, South Africa

Catch a glimpse of some great South African topography while on a zipline tour in Cape Town. Reopening after two years, in partnership with Go Pro, the Cape Town Ziplines is located within the Silvermist Estate on Hout Bay Road in the heart of the Mother City. This all-weather 2.3km long zipline is a SA Forest Adventures initiative. Said to be one of Africas longest and highest ziplines, its 240-metre-long cable is suspended 70 metres above ground. Cables range from 190 metres to just under 500 metres, with the tour lasting around two hours, according to the organisers. The zipline is accessible from all major transport routes including the Hop-on, Hop-off City Sightseeing Cape Town Bus. The excursion starts with an exhilarating 4x4 trail up the mountain. Silvermist Estate has a number of facilities, including a restaurant, conference facilities and other team building options.https://www.saforestadventures.co.za/

Sasquatch, Canada

Spice up your visit to Canada by taking a ride on the Sasquatch zipline, said to be the longest of its kind in the country. The over 2km long line is located in Whistler Village and spans the temperate rainforest valley the Fitzsimmons Valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. The zipline is operational only in summer. Even getting to the launch area is part of the fun. You may either opt for the Van/Shuttle, where guests are transported from the Carleton Lodge to the launch area by van ride up Blackcomb Mountain. Or, you may take the Peak2Peak Gondola option, where guests are transported from the Carleton Lodge to the launch area, first by the Whistler Gondola, then the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which brings guests over to Blackcomb Mountain, and finally a short van ride down to the launch area.https://whistler.ziptrek.com/tours/sasquatch/.

Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah

Now you can ride along the worlds longest zipline from the top of UAEs highest mountain, Jebel Jais. Located in Ras Al Khaimah, it was certified by Guinness World Records as the longest zipline on the very day it opened in February 2018. The 2.83km long zipline starts from a height of 1,680 metres above sea level. Participants will complete the longest flight itself in two to three minutes. Once completed, guests will reach a suspended landing platform where they will be transferred to a second line to complete their journey back to the ground. To reach the launch area, visitors may avail the shuttle transfer operated by Jebel Jais Tours from Ras Al Khaimah City, Al Hamra area and Al Marjan Island to the UAEs highest mountain peak, Jebel Jais.https://jebeljais.ae/

XLine Dubai Marina, Dubai

Go slide down the worlds longest urban zipline, shooting past the skyscrapers located along Dubais Marina. This second XLine ride promises to be more exciting than the one running in Downtown Dubai. It goes over land and water at up to 80km/h, and takes riders from 170m down to ground level. You can also ride in tandem with family or friends. It is open9am to 5pmevery day. The XLine meeting and check-in point is at the Dubai Marina Mall.http://xdubai.com.

Icy Strait Point, Alaska

A 90-second thrill ride that takes you over dense forests and offers a panoramic view of Port Frederick and surrounding islands to end at the beach at Icy Strait Point, 1.5 miles away from the town of Hoonah, Alaska. A favourite activity with passengers of cruise liners, ZipRider operates six zip lines side by side. Guests are driven up the mountain to the top station of the ZipRider for the launch.https://ziprider.com/rides/icy-strait-point/.

Information: Zipline (also known as Flying Fox) is an adventure sports that is gaining popularity. But every ride company has its pre-set rules regarding age, weight and medical conditions of guests who can ride the zipline. Loose dresses are best avoided. Wearing close-toed shoes must. Instructors advise not to keep anything in your pockets or carry bags or cameras in your hand because you may lose them while travelling. Listen carefully to the instructions provided at the beginning of every ride.

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Krishna Temples In Gujarat You Cannot Miss https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Jagat-Temple.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/krishna-temples-gujarat-cannot-miss/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/krishna-temples-gujarat-cannot-miss/ 2018-07-27T11:00:13+05:30 article Learn of the legends passed down from one generation to another and witness the unfolding of traditional rituals at these Krishna temples spread across the A spiritual tour of the famous Krishna temples of Gujarat is not only interesting because of the various legends associated with them but also for the opportunity they present to see the unfolding of traditional rituals being performed for centuries.

Dwarka

One of Gujarats most popular tourist destinations, Dwarka is located on the tip of the Saurashtra peninsula, on the shores of the Arabian Sea. Round the year, pilgrims flock to the 16th century Dwarkadhish Temple (also known as Jagat Mandir) located in the heart of the town. There are many legends surrounding why Krishna settled in Dwarka. It is also popular as one of the Char Dham (four holy spots) associated with the worship of Vishnu; according to popular belief, Vishnu takes his bath at Rameswaram, meditates at Badrinath, dines at Puri and retires at Dwarka.

Interestingly, one of the events described in the mythologies that the old city was submerged in the sea has been vindicated by excavations made by the Archaeological Survey of India that found remains of an old fort and other artefacts pointing to the existence of an old city. Other attractions in Dwarka include the Gomti Ghat and Temple, Samudranarayan Temple, Rukmini Temple (Rukmini was the chief consort of Krishna), the Lighthouse, etc. The Dwarka beach attracts a lot of visitors during sunset. Dwarka is on the Ahmedabad-Okha rail route while Jamnagar, about 140 km away, is the nearest airport.

Beyt Dwarka

According to legends, Beyt Dwarka, an island on the Arabian Sea, was the original abode of Krishna and his wife Rukmini. To reach Beyt Dwarka, you have to travel by rail or road (about 30km) to Okha, from where you have to take a local ferry to the island. The regular ferry is cheap but the overcrowding may seem daunting. You may hire a boat to yourself or share it with a few people but it can be a costly ride. From the jetty at Beyt Dwarka, the temple is about 15 minutes walk away, and the way littered with cow dung. Hand-carts (chargeable) are sometime available to carry elderly passengers to the temple.

Dakor

Dakor, around 40km by road from Anand, is famous for its mid-18th century Krishna temple dedicated to Ranchhodrai. The main temple is situated on a platform in the middle of a sprawling complex. The main cupola reflects the Maharashtrian style of temple architecture. Paintings depicting the various events in Lord Krishnas life can be seen on the inner walls of the main hall. On festive days, the hands of the four-armed idol are covered with golden gloves studded with gems. The temple remains open from 6am-12 noon and 4pm-7pm daily (but timings may vary on festive days).The temple dedicated to the gods consort, Lakshmi, is situated some distance away. Every Friday, the god goes out in a procession to visit her. Dakor can be easily reached by road from the nearest rail stations of Nadiad and Anand as well as from the nearest airport in Vadodara (80km by road) and Ahmedabad (90km).

Shyamlaji

There are several legends associated with this Krishna temple located on the bank of the Meshwo River, around 130km from Ahmedabad. The presiding deity is known as Sakshi Gopal (not to be confused with Sakshi Gopal of Odisha) or Gadadhar. The walls of the two-storied temple is engraved with tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Tulsi-Shyam

Travellers often combine a visit to the Gir National Park of Gujarat with a trip to Tulsi-Shyam, located inside the forest. The black stone idol is said to be very old. There is a sulphur spring near the temple and local people trust its curative powers.

Bhalka Tirtha

Located between Veraval and Somnath, Bhalka Tirtha marks the spot where Lord Krishna was mortally wounded. According to legends, the god was sitting on the branch of a tree and a passing hunter mistook his foot for a bird and shot an arrow at it. The temple is known as Mahaprabhujis bethak. The place where he died is known as Dehotsarg.

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A Delhi Heritage Holiday, Where Stories Are Set In Stone https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/delhi4_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/a-delhi-heritage-holiday-where-stories-are-set-in-stone/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/a-delhi-heritage-holiday-where-stories-are-set-in-stone/ 2018-07-27T09:12:10+05:30 article From historical monuments to crowded shopping malls, from Mughal gardens to the Delhi University campus, Delhi has multiple personalities making it 'The good, the bad Like aged wine, Delhi becomes more graceful, more valuable and more alluring with every passing decade. The citys magnificent history and vestiges of lost empires guarantee it a place in the canon of great ancient cities such as Constantinople and Rome. Yet, the citys state-of-the-art infrastructure betrays her true metropolitan nature. Delhi is a financial and educational hub, absorbing more than 2.5 lakh migrants annually. An average of 15 million tourists flock to the city each year due to its reputation as a cultural hotbed. With three World Heritage Sites, indisputable botanical beauty, posh colonies and slum areas, Delhi boasts real character.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO:

Most of Delhis tourist sites are spread over three broad areas Central Delhi, the seat of govern-ment; Old Delhi, which has managed to keep its vibrant, unique past alive; and South Delhi, the realm of posh residential areas, markets and malls

CENTRAL DELHI

Between 1911 and 1931, Indias Colonial rulers aimed to create a new capital district in the heart of Delhi that would symbolise their power. The area was developed to a design by British architect Edwin Lutyens. To this day, the awe-inspiring Rashtrapati Bhavan atop Raisina Hill, looking down the Rajpath, remains a glorious emblem of India's sovereignity. Post independence, the grand buildings, spacious vistas and tree-lined boulevards of Lutyens' Delhi became the abode of the political and bureaucratic elite and evolved as the power centre. This is, arguably, the greenest, cleanest and most attractive part of the city.

Rashtrapati Bhawan

This phenomenal structure was designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, with the aid of a town planning committee. While the building is closed to the public, the architects attempts to integrate Indian features in the design are evident in the faade. Nearby, the two Secretariat buildings, called North and South Block, are built on a platform. Behind the buildings are Mughal Gardens.

India Gate

Down the road from the gates of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Rajpath culminates at India Gate. This statly monument commemorates the Indian soldiers killed in World War I. Today, the green lawns surrounding the arch are a popular communal space for citizens, who come here during breezy summer eveningsor sunny winter mornings to have a picnic.

Janpath and Connaught Place

The erstwhile Queens Way is now called Janpath. This long road sweeps past ministerial residences, the National Museum and luxury hotels, and leads to its namesake market, famous for boutique stores and pavement stalls. Nearby is Connaught Place, Delhi's premier shopping district. Designed in typical English fashion by Robert Tor Russell in 191331, it is an arcade boasting retail stores, restaurants and other commercial establishments.

Jantar Mantar

This 18th-century observatory on Parliament Street was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur (16991743). It comprises six instruments, of which the largest is the Samrat Yantra, a sundial.

Purana Qila

Believed to be the oldest amongst the citys monuments, Purana Qilas foundations were laid by Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor. However, the Afghan leader Sher Shah Suri expanded the complex by adding more buildings, the ruins of which can be seen today. Dont miss the Sher Mandal, a two-storeyed octagonal building, and the grand Qila Kuhna Mosque. A sound and light show is held here in the evenings.

Entry Indians ?20; Foreigners ?200

Humayuns Tomb

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Humayuns Tomb (1565-66) is the first of the famous garden tombs of the Mughals. The main building, its water channels, fountains and gardens have all been beautifully restored today.

Entry Indians ?30; Foreigners ?50

Lodhi Gardens

Delhi Sultanates lesser-known Sayyid and Lodhi dynasties built the little architectural gems around which these gardens were planned. Landscaped in 1968 by Joseph Allen Stein, today they are a joggers delight and picnickers haven. Check out the 15th-century Bara Gumbad, the Shish Gumbad and the tomb of Sikander Lodhi.

Safdarjungs Tomb

This is the tomb of the viceroy of Awadh, Mirza Muqim Abul Mansoor Khan, built by his son Shuja-ud-Daulah in 1758. Its unmistakably built in the architectural tradition of the Taj onion dome, garden et al.

OLD DELHI

Shahjahanabad, as this area was once called, was established in 1648 by the fifth Mughal, Shah Jahan. It was a hub of politics, culture, poetry and arts, trade, and the sheer pursuit of leisure. After the revolt in 1857, the old city was largely destroyed by the British.

Red Fort

Among the Mughal citys best preserved monuments are the Red Fort (Lal Qila), complex, named after the red sandstone from which it is built, and the ethereal Jama Masjid. The Red Fort, in particular, makes visitors reel under the cumulative impact of marble, pietra dura, gilded pillars and delicate carvings. Not to be missed are the red sandstone Diwan-i-Aam with its painted marble canopy; the Khas Mahal and its intricate lattice screen, the adjacent Diwan-i-Khas; the Shah Burj and the Moti Masjid, named for the lustre of its marble.

Entry Indians ?351; Foreigners ?500 Closed Monday

Jama Masjid

Mughal emperor ShahJahans Jama Masjid is one of the finest examples of the three-domed Mughal mosque. A few relics of Prophet Muhammad, including a hair from his beard, his sandals and his footprint in marble, are preserved in a pavilion of the Jama Masjid, along with two copies of the Quran.

Entry Free Timings 7.00am 12.00pm & 1.306.30pm (no entry for non-Muslims at prayer times) Minaret entry Indians ?10; Foreigners ?100

SOUTH DELHI

Qutub Complex

In 1192, the defeat of Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan at the hands of Muhammad Ghori ushered in Islamic rule in India. Ghori made Turkish slave-promoted-to-general Qutubuddin Aibak the steward of Delhi, beginning the Slave Dynasty. Local Hindu and Jain temples were dismantled to make way for the Quwwat ul Islam Mosque, with intricately carved pillars, and a west-facing prayer hall.

The star attraction of the complex, however, is the Qutub Minar (12001210), the construction of which was started by Aibak and completed by Iltutmish, his son-in-law. This 73-m-high sandstone and marble tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Iltutmishs tomb and madrasa, built by the king himself in 1235, is a deceptively simple building, with Quranic injunctions on all sides. Allauddin Khilji built the Alai Darwaza (1311), on the southern side of the Quwwat ul Islam mosque. The rust-free Iron Pillar of Mehrauli that stands in the courtyard is a 5th-century relic that bears an inscription eulogising the Guptas.

Entry Indians ?30; Foreigners ?500; Children (below 15) Free Timings Sunrisesunset

Tughlaqabad Fort

The Tughlaqabad Fort (circa 1320), built by King Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, is a vast stonescape hugging a rocky spread. Scramble up on the grassy hillocks of the fort to admire the views. The tomb of Ghiyasuddin (1325), is just opposite the main gate of the fort.

Hauz Khas Complex

Hauz Khas is a pleasant enclave of pillared verandahs that once served as madarsas. The tomb of Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1352) is also located here. These buildings are arranged in an L-shape around a hauz (water tank), built by Allauddin Khilji in 1300. Hauz Khas cuts a pretty picture, especially since the area has been developed as a quirky, bohemian

space in recent years, boasting boutiques, art galleries and cafs.

Museums

Most of Delhis museums are unmissable. Amongst them, the National Museum (Entry: Indians ?20, Foreigners ?650; Timings: 10.00am5.00pm; Tel: 23792775/ 23019272) at Janpath enjoys the pride-of-place. Its collection spans over five millennia, from Harappan sculptures to Mughal miniatures. The National Gallery of Modern Art (Entry: Indians ?20, Foreigners ?150; Timings: 10.00am5.00pm; Tel: 23384640/ 2835) at India Gate has contemporary paintings, sculpture and graphic art.

PLACES OF WORSHIP

The Jama Masjid, built between 1650 and 1656, is the most revered mosque in the city. The Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya is the final resting place of the Sufi saint and his disciple, poet Amir Khusrau. It was built in the 14th century.

The Bahai House of Worship, also known as Lotus Temple, is a beautiful structure that resembles a lotus. It attracts numerous visitors.

Amongst famous Sikh temples is the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, where Guru Har Kishan, the 8th guru of Sikhism, lived when he visited Delhi in 1664.

Several British-era churches evoke Delhis Colonial past. St James Church (1836) at Kashmere Gate is the oldest church in the city.

WHERE TO STAY

Luxury hotels

The Taj Mahal (Tel: 011-23026162, 66566162; Tariff: ?15,9005,00,000 approx) is a favourite for its highly personalised services, luxurious rooms and good restaurants. The Oberoi (Tel: 24363030) a leisure-and-business hotel, is much favoured by globetrotting executives. It was under renovation at the time of research. The Imperial (Tel: 41501234; Tariff: ?22,5002,00,000) is elegant heritage hotel with an atmospheric old wing and beautifully refurbished public areas. ITC Maurya (Tel: 26112233; Tariff: On request) overlooks the greenery of the Delhi Ridge and is celebrated for its Bukhara restaurant.

The Lodhi (Tel: 43633333; Tariff: ?20,00070,000) is stylish, elegant and unique in its understated aesthetics. The Park (Tel: 23743000; Tariff: ?7,00020,000), Indias first boutique hotel, offers a slew of award-winning restaurants with delectable dishes.

The Roseate (Tel: 33552211; Tariff: ?14,50030,000) is an outstanding property with water bodies and verdant premises.

Mid-range hotels

Vivanta by Taj Ambassador (Tel: 6626100; Tariff: ?10,00027,000 approx) is located close to Khan Market and Lodhi Gardens. Jukaso Inn (Tel: 24350308-09; Tariff: ?5,0006,000), situated in one of Delhis top residential areas, is a modern, friendly establishment. Shervani (Tel: 42501000; Tariff: ?5,0006,500) offers good rooms with modern amenities.

Budget options

Ginger New Delhi (Tel: 66633333; Tariff: ?1,9052,326) is a neat, value-for-money hotel near New Delhi Railway Station. In the Paharganj area, trustworthy establishments include Grand Godwin (Cell: 08860081991; Tariff: ?2,0002,500), behind Sheila Cinema, and Metropolis Tourist Home (Tel: 23561794, 23561782/ 94, 23585492; Tariff: ?2,0003,500) near Imperial Cinema. Hotel Namaskar (Tel: 23583456/ 2233; Tariff: ?400700) is near New Delhi Railway Station.

Bed-and-breakfasts

Some of Delhis better-known B&Bs include Amarya Villa (Tel: 4103 6184; Tariff: ?4,90010,000) in south Delhi, with good home-cooked meals, B Nineteen (Tel: 41825500; Tariff: ?9,000) with Humayuns Tomb as its backdrop and Eleven (Tel: 24351225, Cell: 09811088966; Tariff: ?5,500) in a Nizamuddin house with a lush lawn.

WHERE TO EAT

Central Delhi

The N-Block in Connaught Place is a hub for restaurants. Try Bercos for an Indo-Chinese meal, Nizams Kathi Kababs for non-vegetarian rolls, Nirulas Pot Pourri for the salad bar buffet, Wengers for bakery items, patties and kebabs and the old fashioned United Coffee House and Embassy for good solid food.

Khan Market has restaurants such as Big Chill, Market Caf, Town Hall, Smokeys and Perch, all offering great ambience and music with great food.

Old Delhi

Karims near Jama Masjid is a non-vegetarians paradise, from the basmati badam pasanda to the mutton burra. In addition, the dhabas of Paranthewali Gali are famous for their deep fried, stuffed food. Methi, rabri, matar, banana: you name it, theyve got it.

South Delhi

Olive Bar and Kitchen, near Qutub Minar, boasts great Mediterranean cuisine. Diva in Greater Kailash II, is the best fine dining Italian restaurant in Delhi. Oh! Calcutta in Nehru Place serves unforgettable kankra chingri bhapa and smoked hilsa, while Swagath in Defence Colony has excellent Chettinad dishes and seafood. TGI Friday offers fabulous pork ribs and good Tex-Mex dishes

FAST FACTS

When to go Delhi is a furnace from mid-April to July. Between July and October, visit if you dont mind the humid heat caused by the monsoon. It can get quite cold in December and January, an excellent time to enjoy soft sunlight on broken columns and soul-warming roasted sweet potatoes on the streets. But from October to November (autumn) and February to March (spring) Delhi is perfect

Tourist Office

Delhi Tourism Development Corp, Coffee House, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, New Delhi Tel: 011-23365358

W delhitourism.gov.in

STD code 011

GETTING THERE

Air Delhis Indira Gandhi International Airport is linked to most domestic airports in the country. Pre-paid taxi stands and radio taxis are available at both terminals, domestic and international

Rail Delhi is served by Old Delhi, New Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin, Sarai Rohilla and Delhi Cantonment stations, which boast the best rail connections

Road Delhi is served by AH1 from Kolkata via Bardhaman, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur and Agra; NH48 from Mumbai via Surat, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Ajmer and Jaipur; AH1 from Amritsar via Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Ambala; and the Agra-Lucknow Expressway and the Yamuna Expressway/ NH19 from Lucknow

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller GetawaysHeritage Holidays in India

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This Accommodation Package In Prague Is Perfect For Foodies https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Trdelnik.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/accommodation-package-prague-perfect-foodies/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/accommodation-package-prague-perfect-foodies/ 2018-07-26T10:30:23+05:30 article Reward your taste buds in Prague with a special package by Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It includes your stay, free beer, and a whole lot of Mandarin Oriental, a beautiful five-star hotel in Prague has launched an accommodation package, theCzech Foodie Fan,especially fortravellers that love to eat. Starting from EUR 335 (excluding taxes) for a minimum two-night stay, the packageincludesa guided tour of Czech food shops and restaurants with a food expert, an insight into the history of Prague's culinary culture and architecture, a Czech beer tasting, as well as a luxurious accommodation at the five-star hotelall for two people.

The Czech Foodie Fan package, which is available all year round, also includes a daily buffet breakfast offering innumerable varieties of foods at the hotel's Spice Restaurant and Bar. Guests will be given a traditional Czech snack when they returnfrom their daily tours along with the a copy of theInsiders Prague Foodie Map,which highlights the popular culinary destinations in the city.A selection of Czech beers will be given to the guests to taste once they return to the restaurant from their busy day of tour bringing a packed day to a close.

All this also includesan exciting four-hour private guided tour of Prague of the historic city center where one can experience the dynamic Czech culinary culture. Before you tuck yourselves in and retire for the night, remember to have the special Czech sweet treatwaiting for you.

Have spare time leftover and wondering where to go on your own food journey? Well, the Michelin starred restaurant Le Degustation has to be a must-visit. An elegantly designed dining roomlit up with chandeliersmakes the space look like a theatergearing up for a massive performance. Although the restaurant doesn't open for lunch, the dinner is worth visiting for. They only have a set tasting menu and are renowned for their mind-boggling selection of wines. La Degustation sure packs a punch.

If a set-menu is too restrictive for your liking, you might want to make your way to another Michelin-starred restaurant in the city, Field. Having earned that star a year after its inauguration, it is a place of designed to soothe your eyes. Combining a sophisticated plating inspired by Czech traditions with exquisite taste, Field is a foodie's haven.

For those you who have a sweet-tooth, you must try the traditional Slovak rolled pastry, Trdelnik. Made bywrapping the pastry dough around a wooden or metal stick, the dough is then roasted over an open flame and coated with sugar or cinnamon and is a popular street-food item.

This, and more, is only the beginning to your food and feasts in Prague. Who knew Czech had so much to offer?

Book theCzech Foodie Fanpackage online atwww.mandarinoriental.com.

Getting There: There aren't any direct flights to Prague from Delhi or Mumbai. However, there are several airlines which offer connecting flights such as Turkish Airlines and Air France. You must apply for a Schengen Visa when flying to the Czech Republic.

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Shekhawati: Of Frescoes, Moustaches and Heritage Holidays in India https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Shekhawati-Frescoes-and-Hand-Painted-Badal-Mahal-of-Shahpura-Haveli-Shahpura.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/shekhawati-of-frescoes-moustaches-and-heritage-holidays-in-india/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/shekhawati-of-frescoes-moustaches-and-heritage-holidays-in-india/ 2018-07-26T09:43:53+05:30 article Shekhawati reflects the ingenious and unparalleled profusion of wall paintings that can be seen intricately executed in its numerous temples, havelis and forts Located on the corridor through which trading caravans moved freely between Delhi and the ports of Gujarat, Shekhawati was a prosperous region in the 19th century. It was also an important link on the Southern Silk Route that connected West Asia with China. The thakurs and the business community had a symbiotic relationship the thakurs protected the trade from brigands in lieu of which the merchants paid a security fee. Little wonder then, that the entrepreneurs of this region amassed great fortunes until the rise of the British Empire, when the dominance of its imported goods destroyed this trade.

Gradually, most of the merchant families Goenkas, Poddars, Ruias, Birlas and many more migrated to the port towns of Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Bombay (now Mumbai), slowly establishing a stranglehold over commerce between India and Britain. The tradition in those days was that whoever made it big would come back and build four things: a haveli, baoli, temple and dharamshala. With their multiplying wealth, they went on erecting colleges, cenotaphs, grander and grander havelis and finally, when nothing else could be thought of ordered that the havelis be painted. Tourists flock to Shekhawati to catch a glimpse of these marvellous frescos.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The village of Mandawa, with its cluster of hotels, is the most suitable base for exploring the region. The best of the painted towns are within a 50-km radius from here. Plus, this is as equipped as a town gets in these parts for fulfilling tourists needs. However, do keep in mind that theres no direct rail link to Mandawa. Youll be getting off either at Jhunjhunu, Dundlod or Nawalgarh, about a half hour ride from Mandawa. Once there, you can hire a car to take you to the surrounding towns but dont forget to carry two essentials. First, get schematic maps of at least the major towns such as those of Mandawa, Nawalgarh and Churu provided in The Painted Towns of Shekhawati by Ilay Cooper. Without these, its impossible to locate the havelis. Second, a pair of binoculars will come in handy for close-up views of murals high up on the walls, especially the erotica!

Tip Some havelis have a nominal entry fee of ?30100 per person. Since these are private properties, permission can be rightfully refused by the caretaker, so do respect that.

Mandawa

Mandawa came into being in 1756, when Nawal Singh built the fort that has now been turned into the hotel called Castle Mandawa (Tel: 01592-223124, 223480; Tariff: ?7,50024,000). Its highlight is the Gulab Rai Ladia Haveli, whose murals are exceptional, especially in the variety of their themes: scenes from the life of the owner with the fort in the background; a curly-headed Greek portrait; a woman giving birth; a couple kissing in a train compartment and another on a chair. Its difficult to say if this erotica was at the owners request or an artists rebellion against an oppressive society, but it provides a refreshing counterpoint to the tediously ubiquitous portrayals of the unforgiving types gods, royals and colonialists.

Bansidhar Nevatia Haveli shows the Wright brothers maiden flight and a European making a telephone call, as well as a rather nationalistic tug-of-war between a strongman called Prof Ramamurti and a motor car driven by an Englishman. Sneh Ram Ladia Haveli has a sitting room with a rather amateurish group portrait of rulers of various princely states. On the other hand, consider the almost photographic portraits of the merchants who owned the haveli. These were done by a man called Babu Lal who, in a rare exception, signed his works. At Murmuria Haveli, the artist attempts to set Indian themes against European backgrounds Krishna shepherding cows in a typically English countryside, for instance. Double Goenka Haveli has amusing erotica painted on the outer left wall a woman having sex with two men and Krishna making love to a gopi. Access to this wall is through a narrow passage from inside.

Amongst the stay options here is Desert Resort (Tel: 223245, 223514; Tariff: ?9,00019,000), associated with Castle Mandawa, which has a swimming pool. Hotel Mandawa Haveli (Tel: 223088; Tariff: ?2,5005,500), located near the Sonthaliya Gate in Mandawa, offers comfort at down-to-earth prices. Hotel Shekhawati (Tel: 223036; Tariff: ?1,2002,800) on the Mukundgarh Road has even lower prices, offering 25 rooms to the budget traveller.

Mahansar

A charming, laidback little town, Mahansar is the traditional business bastion of the Poddar family, which moved its flourishing business in chintz and opium here in the early 19th century. They commissioned some of the most accomplished murals in Shekhawati. Among them, the Sone ki Dukan (Golden Shop), which was actually the head office of the Poddars and was so called because of the lavish use of gold in the murals inside, is easily the piece de resistance. Whoever painted the murals was not only a consummate illustrator but also possessed a great sense of colour and composition. In particular, check out the elaborately depicted war between the armies of Rama and Ravana, Ramas wedding and Vishnus incarnations.

Nearby is the Mahansar Fort, founded by Thakur Nahar Singh in 1768. A portion of it has been turned into a heritage hotel called Narayan Niwas Palace (Tel: 01595-264322; Tariff: ?1,6002,250).

Location 28km north of Mandawa

Nawalgarh

Most of the havelis in Nawalgarh are now in a state of disrepair, the only exception being the Poddar Haveli, which has been turned into a museum. The murals in this early 20th-century haveli have been carefully restored to their original glory. The museum also exhibits wedding costumes of different communities of Rajasthan.

In terms of artistic brilliance, the painted ceiling of a small room in the fort called Bala Qila stands out. The small room, studded profusely with mirrors, is circular. And the murals, lustrous and colouful, depict an artists impression of the cities and armies of Jaipur and Nawalgarh in the 1850s. It costs ?10 to enter.

Stay in Nawalgarh at Hotel Roop Niwas Kothi (Tel: 01594-224152; Tariff: ?5,00012,000), a sprawling mansion inspired by Italian originals. It has well-kept gardens and also arranges horse safaris.

Location 28km southeast of Mandawa

Tip It would not be wise to go without bookings in the tourist season (October February).

WHERE TO EAT

Most restaurants in Shekhawati serve banal Mughalised fare. If you are looking for authentic Rajasthani cuisine, you will have to make a special request to the cook. You can dine at most of the hotels mentioned here after making reservations.

FAST FACTS

When to go The Shekhawati region can boast the hottest summers and coldest winters of the northern plains, which should make the travelling seasons obvious. The winter nights are, therefore, bone chilling while the days are pleasant

Tourist Office

RTDC

Bikaner House, Pandara Road, New Delhi. Tel: 011-23389525, 23383837

W rajasthantourismindia.com

STD codes Mandawa and Bagar 01592 Mahansar 01595 Nawalgarh 01594

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Sanganer, Jaipur (183km/ 3.5hrs), connected daily to all the metros. A taxi will charge you ?810 per km to Mandawa

Rail Nearest railhead for Mandawa: Churu (55km/ 1hr). Bikaner Intercity connects Delhi to Churu

Road Shekhawati lies within the angle formed by NH48, NH52 and NH11, which connect Delhi to Jaipur and Jaipur to Bikaner, respectively. Take NH9 (Rohtak Road) to Bahadurgarh, then NH334B to Loharu, via Jhajjar and Charkhi Dadri. From here, district roads lead to Mandawa, Surajgarh, Bagar and Jhunjhunu

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller GetawaysHeritage Holidays in India

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Travel Across Europe And Visit Famous Football Stadiums https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Feature-2.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/travel-across-europe-visit-famous-football-stadiums/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/travel-across-europe-visit-famous-football-stadiums/ 2018-07-25T13:49:12+05:30 article Visit the paradise of football, Europe, and explore the history behind each club while taking in the experience of live football Every fan dreams of watching the club they support play live at their home stadium.While the recently concluded FIFA World Cup left the fans on a high, the football fever is showing no signs of slowing down. The football season is about to begin as top clubs across Europe prepare for the 2018/19 season. Well, this upcoming season, why not travel across Europe by visiting famous football stadiums spread around the continent?

Allianz Stadium, Turin
As Cristiano Ronaldo rises up to an oncoming delivery from a corner, the crowd rises with him watching on as he heads the ball beyond the extended reaches of the goalkeeper. The 41,000-strong crowd erupts with screams of 'RO-NAL-DOOO' as the ball rustles the corner of the net. Take this breathtaking moment in as for the next few minutes with every Ronaldo touch, the crowd will erupt into a louder cheer. Home to the most successful club in Italy, Juventus, this stadium has seen anunbelievable amount of joy over the years. On your quest to visit the grand stadiums of Europe, this magnificent arena has to be on your list. While on your tour of the stadium, enter the dressing rooms where the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Zinedine Zidane, and Gianluigi Buffon once sat.
Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
The Yellow Wall of Dortmund remain the most fearsome group of supporters in the world. Creating an intimidating home atmosphere, the stadium with a capacity of over 81,000 people is renowned to strike fear into any opponent of BVB Dortmund. If you are going on a match day, you are sure to be awestruck by the frightening intensity of the crowd as the German rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone overwhelms the stadium. Also, visit the BVB Dortmund museum, the Borusseum located nearby providing insights into the history of one of Germany's top clubs.
Allianz Arena, Munich
Home to FC Bayern Munich, the Allianz Arena is an architectural marvel. Widely recognised for its exterior of inflated plastic panels, the stadiumhas been nicknamed 'Schlauchboot' or inflated boat. The stadium is also known for its colour-changing exterior, depending on who the home team is. It becomes a deep, poignant red when Munich host an opponent, while a pure white when the German National Team plays here ,and blue when TSV have a game.
Stade de France, Paris
Having hosted the World Cup 1998 final and the Euro 2016 final, the Stade de France is a prominent stadium in the landscape of European football. Often taking responsibility for the largest of sports events, the stadium is set to play a huge part in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. On your visit here, take your notice to the roof of the stadium which is in an elliptical shape symbolising the universality of sports in the country. The stadium not only houses footballing extravaganzas but also the matches of the French rugby teamand track and field competitions, too.
Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
Named in the honour of ex-President of Real Madrid Football Club, the Santiago Bernabeu is known for the Madrid faithfuls. A team aimingto climb the highest echelons of club football, Real Madrid's 81,000-capacity stadium matches their powerful ambitions. A scene of cultural difference, Santiago Bernabeu and the Camp Nou provide for the most heated rivalries between fans during El Clasico matches as Real Madrid take on Barcelona. A symbol of Spanish nationalism and identity, the stadium serves as an indomitable monument to the rest of the nation. One can feel the pressure felt by those donning the jersey of the club by walking along the corridors, which honour the club legends and showcase the (seemingly) uncountablenumber of trophies the team has won since its inception in 1902.
Camp Nou, Barcelona
The home to Real Madrid's arch-rivals, Barcelona, the Camp Nou is the largest stadium across Europe with a capacity nearing 100,000. Contrary to the Santiago Bernabeu, the Camp Nou is a strong representation of the Catalonian identity. Its slogan, Mes Que Un Club or More Than A Club, exemplifies the earlier notion. Not only is it home to the club, FC Barcelona, but also to every individual who identifies themselves as a proud Catalonian. Take a seat among the devoted fans as every goal is celebrated like a victory and every loss like a bitter defeat.
Old Trafford, Manchester
The Theatre of Dreams remains the spot of utmost fascination for Manchester United fans. Over a 100 years old, the stadium bears the history of the club to its core. A proud torchbearer for Mancunians, Old Trafford maintains a close relationship with the fans. As you walk around the outside of the stadium, you'll come across statues of great managers of the club like Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby who took United to the pinnacle of English football. You'll also come across a tribute to what the United fans call the Holy Trinity, a statue marking the accomplishments of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton.
Anfield, Liverpool
You'll Never Walk Alone in its true form takes over the crowd as Liverpool FC welcome their opponents on a European night. The fierce environment that is created by the Anfield fans is enough to send chills down anyone's spine. The home to the most successful English club in Europe, Anfield is one of the oldest grounds in Europe. Opened in 1884, the stadium is close to the heart of the fans. Holding an annual ceremony for the fallen 96 at the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, Liverpool is trulythe fans' club and Anfield is their paradise.
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In Search Of The Mylari Dosa In Mysore https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Mylari-Dosa-featured-option.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/search-mylari-dosa-mysore/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/search-mylari-dosa-mysore/ 2018-07-25T13:23:37+05:30 article Legend says that the Mylari dosa in Mysore is the softest in all the land. A rickety auto ride and a twenty-minute-search later, we found Imagine a dosa. Now imagine a pile of soft dosas. Now imagine the softest dosas to ever exist served with a big dollop of white butter on top. Were talking about the Mylari Dosa, Mysores favourite dish found in a humble restaurant.

Hotel Vinayak Mylari, despite its name, is anything but. Rather, it is a cosy six-table eatery with a total of up to five items on its menu. Let that not underwhelm you, because each of these dishes is packed with a punch. This includes the Mylari dosa, Masala Dosa and idli (with no sambhar) and if one isnt in luck, are often sold out by evening.

They sell about 200 idlis on a good day, and on the weekend up to 300. Having heard much about its rival item however, we order ourselves a couple of plates of dosa. The dosas, round and folded over itself in half, comes with butter on top, white chutney on the side (and if the masala variant, then with an onion and potato filling inside).

They are done perfectly well, and are so soft on the inside that youd be temped to liken the dish to the Japanese cheesecake. After finishing one, we call for one more, and after finishing that, yet another.

In spite of its popularity, the Mylari Dosa isn't easy to track down in Mysore. A combination of impostors, fake signs and misdirections from Google Maps make the quest particularly trying. Eventually, however, when you see a plate of the most delicious butter dosa coming towards your table, all's forgiven and seems right with the world.

So how can one identify the real Mylari dosa? In the neighbourhood of Nazarbad with tiny lanes and even tinier shops, the difficulty in locating this one shop is unsurprising. The wafer-coloured walls blend into one another, and at least three joints claim to be the original Hotel Mylari. Follow our clues, and youll never be fooled again. Here goes: The original Vinayaka Mylari has a green sign with the words the Old Original Hotel Vinayaka Mylari printed in red. It occupies the corner of a building, next to Giri Stationery store, and is closed on Wednesdays only, thank you very much.

This chain was established 25 years ago by my great grandmother, says Usha Rani, who now runs the place, and is usually known as the friendly face at the counter.When we ask her what she likes to eat here, she tells us, rather matter-of-factly, I can have 3-4 masala dosas in one go. No problem. We concur.

The timings atHotel Mylariborder on unusual too, with it being shut during prime lunch hours at 1.30pm and reopening again at 3pm. But those who value their idlis being soft and dosas buttery will switch their other meals around to accommodate this one.

As we leave, the last customer for the noon, a local policeman is tearing into a plateful of the masala dosas, with a renewed sense of duty. Wistfully, we leave, already planning our next meal.

Address:79, Nazarbad Main Road, Near Police Station,Doora, Mysore

Getting There: Mysore is a 4-hour-drive from Bengaluru. One can fly into the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru and reach Mysore by car, orbus.

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Must-Visit Ancient Universities Around The World https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/shutterstock_615732341.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/must-visit-ancient-universities-around-world/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/must-visit-ancient-universities-around-world/ 2018-07-25T11:32:58+05:30 article From Oxford to Nalanda, take a virtual tour around the globe while visiting some of the world's oldest institutions. Some of these exist simply as Universities and librariesfrom around the world have been the foundation of modern education. In India, they've played an essential part in the makeup of the society since the times of the Indus civilisation. The Indian subcontinent houses many such ancient institutions of learning, from North-West Pakistan to East India to even Bangladesh. Interestingly,these centres of education in the area were dedicated to teaching the Buddhist way of thought and life,and with the influence of Buddhism growing, many notable universities such as the ones in Nalanda and Somapura were established to propagate the teachings of Siddharth Gautam.

The Western world and North Africa is also home to such ancient universities, however, not as old. Unlike the Indian subcontinent, majority of its ancient schools run to this day. Each organisation values its history while displaying it with pride.
Takshashila
Chanakya, the great Indian teacher, brought the legendary leader of the Mauryan dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya, to this remarkable center of education to complete his schooling. Named after the son of Lord Ram's younger brother Bharata, Taksha, the place is considered to be a place of holy sanctity by Hindus. It is also valued highly by Buddhists as this phenomenal institution was where the Mahayana Sect of Buddhism took shape. Located in the Gandhara province of Pakistan, Greek historians described Takshashila as well-governed and wealthy.
Nalanda
Sacked by Turkish invader Bakhtiyar Khalji in 1193, the destruction of the university ran parallel to the decline of Buddhism in India. A large attraction for students from all over the world between the 5th and 12th century, Nalanda University is located in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Established by the Gupta dynasty in the 5th century, the university offered courses in astronomy, astrology, medicine, literature, logic, among many others. Over the past decade, restoration processes to develop the ancient Nalanda University as a modern day institution have begun. Pay a visit to this historic location to learn about Nalanda's unprecedented contribution to the development of Buddhist imagery. In the same state of Bihar, among the Hiranya Parbat is the ancient Odantapuri Mahavir University. Take a trip there and see another prime example of a Buddhist marvel.
Somapura
Situated in Bangladesh, Somapura is another must-visit site in your quest to travel across the world through ancient universities. Abandoned by the Muslim rulers in the 12th century, the university was a major center of learning for Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. While on your visit here, observe the slight variations in the ornamental terracotta warriors on the outer walls showcasing the influence of each religion in its foundation. One of the five great monasteries to be established during the Pala dynasty in Bengal, its Buddhist architecture influenced those from as far as Cambodia.
In addition to the above three, the Indian subcontinent has several more such unique and important institutions spread all across. However, all of its ancient colleges remain as ruins. Although there are ongoing restoration projects on several such universities such as Nalanda, there are too many that remain as fragmented as before and serve a disparate symbolic value.
Al-Karaouine
The oldest existing, continually operating college in the world, Al-Karaouine is located in the North African nation of Morocco. Started with an associated madrasa, the design is a genuine reflection of Islamic culture. A series of arches create a feeling of intimacy and continual majesty. The minarets have been redesigned to match the other North African counterparts. While paintings, woodcarvings, and plasterwork with an added modern twist take you back to the 9th century.
The University of Bologna
Moving further north from Morocco, Italy is home to another of the world's oldest universities. The University of Bologna, started in 1088 AD, is still in operation and is one of the most prestigious schools in the nation. The city of Bologna, a major urban center for centuries, is famous for its churches and towers. As you take stroll along the corridors of the university, look up at the ceiling to observe the intricately drawn paintings of its notable alumni. Also, walk through its Law classrooms which are designed like the ancient Roman courts.
The University of Coimbra
Started by King Dinis is the late 13th century, the University of Coimbra went through a number of relocations before settling down in the Portuguese city of Coimbra. Special to the university is the Praxe, a body of rituals and customs founded upon ancient traditions weaved into the student life in the institution. Go along to see these unique rituals from centuries past to understand the making of this college body. Taking place in October/November is the special parade known as the Latada which you must make time for. The students march through the streets of the city where they are baptised by the Mondego River.
Oxford University
The most well-known college of the modern times, Oxford University is every student's dream. Spread across the city of Oxford, the institution has several parks open to the public. The most elegant of parks is the Botanic Garden on the High Street, which houses over 8,000 species of plants. Another place that makes Oxford University stand out is its hub of entertainment, the Sheldonian Theatre. Breaking away from the Gothic past, the 16th-century architecture takes inspiration from the Theatre of Marcellus in Rome.
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Take a Heritage Holiday in India: Feeling Blue In Jodhpur https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Jodhpur1_FI.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/take-a-heritage-holiday-in-india-feeling-blue-in-jodhpur/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/take-a-heritage-holiday-in-india-feeling-blue-in-jodhpur/ 2018-07-25T09:42:51+05:30 article Jodhpur is known as the Sun City thanks to the bright and sunny weather all year round and the Blue City because of the large There is something magical about Jodhpur. I knew that when I first set foot here as a child and my most recent visit only confirmed that belief. Pink sandstone and clear blue skies greeted me once again as I stepped out of the train into the hustle and bustle of the Station Road. A lot had changed and yet, in many ways, nothing had. Jodhpur was no longer as green as it used to be, and the winds of modernity had taken away some of its delectable small-town feel. But, like a reassuring constant, the Mehrangarh Fort loomed over the skyline, as it did in my memories.

I had lived in Jodhpur for a few years a decade ago, and on this return, waves of nostalgia swept me over. A part of me felt like a tourist, marvelling at angles and perspectives hitherto unexplored, discovering treasures amidst everything I had taken for granted when I was a resident of the Blue City. A part of me rejoiced at what I knew was indeed my homecoming and I savoured every part of the trip, exulting in the rediscovery of Jodhpurs architecture, colours and history.

Rao Jodha of the Kanauj family founded the house of Jodhpur in Marwar, the Land of Maroo or death, thus named because of the regions extremely hostile living conditions. Their first capital was at Mandore, an honour which went to Jodhpur after the Mehrangarh Fort was constructed towards the end of the 15th century. The fort was built with defence in mind, and the slopes and the sudden twists and turns in the structure were meant to hinder the movement of enemy elephants. There was good reason for this too the state was often at war with the neighbouring Rajputs and Mughals.

Nevertheless, the Rathore clan managed to hold on to its possessions and expanded over time. It eventually rose to become one of the strongest and biggest kingdoms of Rajasthan, along with Mewar and Amber.

It is said that at the time of Independence, Jodhpur was so prosperous that it was slated to be the capital of the new state of Rajputana in the Union of India. However, because of its distance from Delhi, and assorted political factors, it lost out to Jaipur.

ORIENTATION

Jodhpur is Rajasthans second largest city. The Old City that lends it the name Blue City is to the north, around the Mehrangarh Fort. It opens up into what is now the main city via the Sojati Gate and the Jalori Gate in the southern walls of the fort. The original capital of Mandore lies to the north of the town. The Station Road is the hub of all activity. A good place for shopping, it has a number of budget hotels and several travel agencies. The Station Road leads on to the Sojati Gate and Nai Sarak areas, which are the important commercial hubs. The airport is situated near Ratanada, 6km from the main town.

Jodhpur has good local transport, comprising buses and autos (for some reason, more popularly known as taxis). The main bus stand is at Raika Bagh and the local buses take you almost anywhere within Jodhpur and also to Mandore and Kaylana Lake, on the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer Road. Autos dont run on meter and what you end up paying will mostly depend on your bargaining skills. Ideally, the fare should range between ?75100 for a short distance and ?10 per km for a full day-trip around the city.

The most comfortable way of moving around is to hire a taxi from a travel agency or hotel. The average fare is ?2,5003,000 for a day.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Umaid Bhawan Palace

The palace is a magnificent structure representative of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. It is made of sandstone that has been put together without the use of mortar.

Umaid Singh, the then Maharaja of Jodhpur, ordered the construction of the palace in order to provide employment to the people affected by the famine of the late 1920s. The project took 15 years to complete and gave employment to 3,000 artisans. In 1977, following the abolition of the princely states privy purses, the current royal Maharaja Gaj Singh converted a part of the palace into a hotel. Today, the palace is divided into three sections: the royal residence, the hotel that is now run by the Taj Group and a museum. The royal wing is closed to tourists. To enter the hotel, one has to pay a cover charge of ?6,000 per head, which is then adjusted against the expenses of eating and drinking inside the hotel.

The museum has a display of royal artefacts collected over the years, such as crystals, clocks, crockery and anything else that might have caught the royal fancy. The clock collection is perhaps the most interesting of all.

Location To the east of the town, adjacent to the cantonment Museum entry Indians ?30; Foreigners ?100 Timings 9.00am5.00pm Photography Not allowed

Mehrangarh Fort

The most imposing structure in Jodhpur is also the biggest fort in Rajasthan. Built atop a 150-m-high hill in 1459 by Rao Jodha, the fort has withstood many a battle, as is evident today from the marks of cannonballs on the fort walls. The entrance ticket has to be bought at the main entrance at Jai Pol, built by Maharaja Man Singh. From here you can either climb up or take the elevator service. For me, the best part of any visit to the fort is the walk up to the ramparts, and beyond that to the temple located in one corner of the fort. The view from here, of the entire city, is simply breathtaking. To the south you can see the Umaid Bhawan Palace and closer to the fort, the Old City, famously painted blue to ward off Marwars terrible heat.

There is a museum here with an exquisite collection of artefacts, including some very fascinating war booty and even more fascinating armoury (perhaps some of the deadliest looking swords one might ever get to see). The first several rooms of the museum are arranged around a courtyard called Sangar Chowki, where coronations were held until 1952. Inside, in the delicately worked sandstone apartments, there is a wonderful collection of palanquins and elephant seats (howdahs), the outstanding one being a silver howdah gifted by Shahjahan. It is decorated with a relief of lions, whose faces look peculiarly like shocked Rajput warriors. Up one level is a room full of excellent miniature paintings in the Marwar style of the 18th and the 19th centuries. After this comes a series of apartments decorated with gilded wood, Murano glassware and Chinese tiles an opulent mix-and-match from different regions and historical periods that covers every available square inch of space. The royal splendour of the first family of Marwar is evident in the spread of costumes on display.

The Zenana Mahal and the Phool Mahal have frescoes and stained glass. If you want to pick up souvenirs, the museum gift shop has designer items as well as stalls run by local craftspersons.

When youre done with the museum, turn left and take a 500m walk past the Chamunda Mata Temple to catch wonderful views of the Old City. Return to the right of the museum to exit the fort via Loha Pol, where you can see handprints of Raja Man Singhs widows, who committed sati in 1843. On your way down youll pass Rao Jodha Ka Phalsa, where folk musicians will greet you. This used to be the last point of the old fort in the times of Rao Jodha. Walk past Fateh Pol and turn right for Jai Pol to exit the fort. To get to the Old City go straight down from Fateh Pol.

Entry Indians ?70 (50 per cent concession for defence personnel, students below 18 and senior citizens); Foreigners ?600 (including audio guide) Timings 9.00am 5.00pm Photography ?100, Videography ?200 Guide fee ?200 (4 pax)

Jaswant Thada

This is a beautiful marble cenotaph built by Sardar Singhji in the memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, who ruled over Marwar in the latter part of the 19th century. Jaswant Singh tried to set up a welfare state and was known for his reform measures. The grounds around it became the crematorium for subsequent rulers.

Location 500m from the Mehrangarh Fort Entry Indians ?15; Foreigners ?30 Timings 8.30am5.00pm Photography ?35 Videography ?50

Mandore

The erstwhile capital of Marwar, Mandore lies on the outskirts of Jodhpur, about 9km north of the main city. The Mandore Gardens today are better known for the cenotaphs of the former rulers, built not in the style of chhatris, but like temples. The Hall of Heroes and the Shrine of the Three Hundred Million Gods here are worth a dekko. Further ahead lie the ruins of the abandoned Mandore City, which today serve as the stage for a number of cultural programmes. Also at Mandore is a temple dedicated to Mirabai.

Garden timings 8.00am8.00pm

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace (Tel: 0291-2510101; Tariff: ?45,0008,00,000) offers a royal experience. The hotel offers a luxury spa, an indoor swimming pool and other sports facilities. A heritage hotel now, Ajit Bhawan, near the Circuit House (Tel: 2510610/ 410; Tariff: ?12,0001,75,000), was built to be the home of Umaid Singhs younger brother. The hotel offers luxury tents and exquisite rooms. An excellent heritage-cum-homestay option is the Ratan Vilas Haveli (Tel: 2614418; Tariff: ?4,2507,500), on Loco Shed Road, a 1920s villa set in a garden centred around a pretty courtyard, with exquisite antiques dotting the house.

The best mid-range option in town is Devi Bhawan (Tel: 2511067; Tariff: ?3,2853,725), a guesthouse set around a spacious garden. The rooms are large and clean, with antique wooden furniture.

The Chokelao Mahal Terrace is an evening restaurant at the Mehrangarh Fort. You can enjoy a beautiful view of the lit up city as you enjoy a traditional Rajasthani thali on the ramparts. The non-vegetarian thali is highly recommended. Booking in advance is mandatory to get a table.

Nirali Dhani, on Chopasani Road, is another option if you want a traditional menu and ambience. The cover charge per person includes an unlimited supply of food. The Gypsy restaurant chain is very popular. Their chhach and thalis are worth trying. On the Rocks, near Ajit Bhawan, has a bar and a discotheque and boasts of lovely confectionery. Dont miss the kachoris, samosas and mirchi vadas served at Sojati Gate.

FAST FACTS

When to go October to March

Tourist Office

Tourist Reception Centre

RTDC Hotel Ghoomar Campus

High Court Road, Jodhpur

Tel: 0291-2545083

Cell: 08769347849

STD code 0291

GETTING THERE

Air Jodhpur Airport is connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Udaipur

Rail Jodhpur Junction is connected to Delhi (Sarai Rohilla Station) and other major cities in the state and the country

Road Travellers from Delhi should turn off NH48 on to NH25 at Beawar. At Bar, turn right onto NH112 for Jodhpur via Nimaj

Read more in the new Outlook Traveller GetawaysHeritage Holidays in India

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Greece: Go Beyond Wars and History, Drink Wine Instead https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Santorini-Island-Greece.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/greece-go-beyond-wars-and-history-drink-wine-instead/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/cuisine/greece-go-beyond-wars-and-history-drink-wine-instead/ 2018-07-25T09:02:14+05:30 article Greece has so much more to offer than just the usual touristy to-dos. Go on a wine trail in Santorini as you roam around the The first sip of Aidiani, one of Santorinis indigenous grape variety, brought a broad smileon my face. I know there was more to come from Greeces blue-hued baby. With 4,000 years of wine-making tradition (one of the oldest in the world), Santorini was on my bucket list of wine regions to visit and I made it there this spring.

My hotel balcony was on the east coast of Fira, the capital of Santorini. Witnessing a magnificent sunrise and then taking a breezy walk through the by lanes, I found myself high up on the hill on the western coast. The view of the volcanic calderas, the blue-domed, white washed houses, and churches on the terraced slopes made for a picture-perfect photograph. It's the same shot you see in every generic shot of Santorini, it is where numerous Bollywood songs are choreographed.The descent, however, was quicker and I stopped by a family-run bakery for breakfast - Svornos. It has been in operation since 1896.

Greece has a long history of wine making and it has stood the test of time- the volcanic eruptionin 1646 BCE which devastated the island, occupation by the Romans, the Normans and finally, the Ottoman Turks. The volcano has blessed the island with a layer of soils, and the stones give the wines ofSantorini a uniquecharacter.

I chose to go to Sigalas for the Sigala wine, synonymous with the region, and the one up north in Oia, famed for its sunset views. The road from Fira went around the mountains to reach Imerovigli which stand at over 1000 ft above sea level and after a few more curved bends, we descended into Oia and went further down to the winery at sea level. The glaring sun looked upon us as I was handed over an aromatic and crisp glass of Aidiani. The wine spoke volumes. It's no wonder the wines of Santorini are world class andmathematician-turned-winemaker Paris Sigalas' winery is a must visit for enthusiasts.

Fetaand goats cheese, olives, tomatoes, olive oiland capers are the key elements of the regional cuisine. The foods demand wines withbracing acidity to complement them. A wine could be labelled Santorini if it has a minimum of 75 per cent said grape,Aidiani and Athiri could be used for the rest.

The barrel aged version of Sigalas Santorini speaks the story of the revival of the Greeces wine making heritage which was merely confined to production for personal consumption. If people have read history they would know about Greek wines! For multiple reasons we couldnt leverage on our 4,000 year old heritage earlier however we are now making heads turn with the quality of wines from the island. Dionysus the Greek god of wine and theatre is watching over us and we are ready to be or rather we are in the best wines of the world, Paris said.

Santorini is the largest of the Cyclades measuring just about 90 sq km. There are public buses and 50-odd taxis (or so they say),its best to hire a bike, a quad bike or a car forhe place. I took a bus back to Fira in dire need of a siesta after glasses of wine and good food, to witness the sun set.The temperature had dipped and the sky was changing colours. The evening twilight saw the neighbouring cliffs light up thanks to the buildings, making it a spectacular sight. With a glass of Vin Santo, the legendary wine from Santorini, I could only reminiscence about the day well-spent.

Tips for your Santorini trip:

For the best bars, tryPK cocktail bar(Fira), Theros Wave Bar(Vlyhada), andFino Cocktail bar(Thira)
For delicious Greekfood, tryCasa Di Tein Thira andPetrosiainOia
For wineries, visit Domaine Sigalas (Oia)and Domaine Argyros (Thira)

Getting there: There are no direct flights to Greece from India. Carriers such as Jet Airways, Etihad and KLM among others offer their services to Athens. From the capital city, take a domestic flight or a ferry to Santorini.

The author is a wine and liquor expert, and founder of The Happy High

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5 Best Palace Hotels in Gujarat https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Navlakha-Gondal-featured.gif https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/5-best-palace-hotels-gujarat/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/5-best-palace-hotels-gujarat/ 2018-07-24T16:55:51+05:30 article Step back into time at these palace hotels in Gujarat and get the complete royal treatment Take a break from your regular tourist circuit for a regal holiday at these palace hotels of Gujarat. Once home to the royal family, these hotels are easily accessible from major cities such as Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara, etc. Do remember to book in advance as some are popular as wedding and film shooting destinations, and can be packed to the brim.

Garden Palace Balasinor

Relics from the past, period furniture and a grand layout are not the only attractions of this late 19th century palace, accessible from Ahmedabad. It is the generous hospitality offered by the royal family that breathes life into it. Be it sharing anecdotes from the past or a royal recipe, accompanying visitors on excursions, the royal family is eager to make their guests feel at home. The heritage homestay can also be the base for some interesting excursions (chargeable) that can be arranged through the palace. A visit to Raiyoli Dinosaur Fossil Excavation Site or a hike to Dhamod to see the Laliya Luhar fort ruins may involve some walking around but are worth the trouble. The nearest air and rail hub for Garden Palace Balasinor is Ahmedabad (86km away).

Find out more here.

Jambughoda Palace

After the royal family decided to open a part of their residential palace, not far from Vadodara, as a guest house for visitors, it catapulted to fame as a home for nature lovers. The Jambughoda Sanctuary is just a kilometre away from this over-a-century-old home. And with Jambughoda Palaces own sprawling garden and the organic farm beyond, it is hard to get any nearer to nature than this. The hotel can also arrange for safaris, visits to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Champaner and Pavagadh (25km away by road), visits to Sankheda village (30km away) where you can see local artisans making lacquered teak wood furniture, and other nearby attractions. A special request may earn you an opportunity to dine with the royal family. Jambughoda Palaceis around 80km from Vadodara, the nearest airport and railway station. Ahmedabad is 190km by road. The hotel can arrange for pick-up from Vadodara on separate payment.

Read more here.

Gondal Palace

The royal family of Gondal has opened up two of their palaces for receiving guests. The late 19th century Orchard Palace was initially built to house guests of the royal family. It is here that you will find the royal railway saloon converted into a suite, complete with rooms with inlaid finish and English washrooms. The orchards adjacent to the palace are also home to peacock families and many other birds.
Located on a riverbank, the late 19th century Riverside Palace was once the residence of the Crown Prince of Gondal. While staying at these place, do not miss the vintage and classic car collection lovingly maintained even today. Also, you may pay a visit to the Naulakha Palace built in 1748 AD. The former living quarters have been converted to a museum displaying a wide range of royal paraphernalia, including textiles, brassware, silver caskets, toys, motor sports trophies, among others. The Heritage Gondal Palacesare accessible from Rajkot (about 40km away by road), the nearest airport and railway hub. Ahmedabad is around 250km away by road.

Book a stay here.

Nilambag Palace Bhavnagar

Located in the commercial city of Bhavnagar, this mid-19thcentury palace offers rooms and cottages that reflect the regal splendour of the yesteryears. Made of Rajula stone, the grand structure was designed by a German architect, Simms. Elegant chandeliers light up the Darbar Dining Hall as your meals are served at the ornate Burma teak banquet tables. Go for some local sightseeing, especially to Gujarats oldest library, the Barton Library, Takhteshwar Shiva Temple, Victoria Park and the beaches near town. Short excursions to Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary and the Palitana Jain Temples can also be arranged for you. The Nilambag Palaceis located in the heart of Bhavnagar. Bhavnagar is connected by air, road and rail with Ahmedabad.

They also run two other heritage properties.The Narayani Heritage Hotel is located on the same premises as the Nilambag Palace and share some of its facilities. The Gopnath Bungalow, the former summer palace, is located on the seashore.

Read more here.

Darbargadh Poshina

Indulge in some royal hospitality as the owners of this palace hotel, accessible from Ahmedabad, welcome you into their fold. As it is located near Gujarats border with Rajasthan, the palace kitchen is known to serve dishes typical to both states.If you are keen, the royal family may also share some of their old recipes with you.
Poshina is also the place to learn about the tribes residing here. A few days after Holi, the Chitra Vichitra Fair, is held nearby. Take a tour of the tribal villages to see the artisans at work, making terracotta toys to silver jewellery to forging swords. There are also old Hindu and Jain temples around. You can also combine a trip to Poshina along with that of Mt Abu. Darbargadh Poshinais accessible from Ahmedabad (about 180km away by road) and Udaipur (about 145km away). The nearest railway station is Abu.

Find out more here.

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5 Treks To Go On In Maharashtra During The Monsoons https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Sahyadri.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-treks-go-maharashtra-monsoons/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/5-treks-go-maharashtra-monsoons/ 2018-07-24T12:39:02+05:30 article Don't let the rain dampen your spirits. Embark on these five treks to forts around the state of Maharashtra for a picturesque experience. Due to its unusual topography, Maharashtra has reveled in different forms of fort construction depending on the region and location. Forts, over the years, have almost become synonymous with the state. The Marathas gave monumental importance to them as they remained their strongest defense against invaders.Spread across the state in hundreds, the forts are a keen attraction to those visiting Shivaji Maharaj's home state.As the monsoon season nears its peak, treks to these forts become an extremely alluring proposition.

LohagadFort
Standing at an elevation of over a 1000 meters, the Lohagad Fort is located in the Sahyadri ranges overlooking the lush terraced valley. Still in its prime condition, the Iron Fort as it was once called was an indomitable task to climb for invaders. A true gift of military architecture, the trek towards the fort is rather straightforward. One can keep an eye out for a variety of birds and monkeys. However, do not get too playful with the latter who will try to steal your food at any given time. Offering a picturesque view of the Western Ghats, take a few minutes out to take in this natural marvel.
Difficulty: Easy
Average Duration: 3 hours
PratapgadFort
We all have the evening cup of tea at home. Ever wonder what chai while watching sunrise from the top of a hill might feel like? The Pratapgad Fort, renowned as the Valor Fort, is an ideal location to complete such an effervescent fantasy. Divided into the upper and lower segments, the fort houses temples dedicated to Mahadev and Goddess Bhavani. A symbol of cultural integration and harmony, a dargah in commemoration ofShivaji's enemy, Afzal Khan is also built here. The Pratapgad Fort is one with dark walkaways, sultry chambers, and a maze of ponds. Beware of where you step as there are several trap doors that open to a 100 meter fall. The trek to the top is eventful as you'll come across a breathtaking view of the western coastline of India. As you climb higher and higher, you'll be able to kiss the clouds while being surrounded by a view of rolling green hills.
Difficulty: Medium
Average Duration:2 hours
RatangadFort
Called the 'Jewels of the fort', the Ratangad Fort is located on the boundary of the Ahmednagar and Thane districts.Almost400 years old, the defense structure is renowned for theAmruteshwar temple, containing carvings dating back to the 8th century. From the top, one can see the WilsonDam and the numerous waterfalls. Over the years, continuous cascading of water has led to the formation of water cisterns along the fort. The trek is a simple one, walk along the banks of the Pravara River and climb a set of iron ladders to reach the massive structure. If you're interested in capturing the entire fort in a single frame, walk around the ridges.
Difficulty: Medium
Average Duration:2 hours
Rajmachi Fort
Consisting of twin fortresses, Shriwardhan Ballekila and Manaranjan Ballekila with a wide plateau encircling the fort, Rajmachi was used as a strategic fort to control trade routes. Lying in the Sahyadri mountain range, Rajmachi is a popular location in the monsoons. Encompassing of a mere 40-minute climb to the top, the trek will take through a journey of pure elation as you pass by waterfalls drizzling onto the rocks. From the top, you can see the clouds engulf the mountain ranges in the distance, creating a mystic scenery.
Difficulty:Easy
Average Duration:1 hour
RaigadFort
One of the more challenging treks, Raigad served as the capital of the Maratha empire under Shivaji. Another fort located in the Sahyadri mountain ranges, one can use the Raigad Ropeaway, an aerial tramway, to reach the top of the fort in 10 minutes. However, for those wanting to do this the hard way, the trek will take you up to 3 hours. Upon reaching the top, you can view the execution point calledTakmak Tok, a cliff from where prisoners were thrown to their deaths. Called the Gibraltar of the East, the valleys around the fort are adorned in green. Also, visit the Jadgishwar Temple and Shivaji's tomb which are located nearby.
Difficulty: Medium
Average duration: 3 Hours
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Of The Moais and Men of Easter Island https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/moais-men-easter-island/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/destinations/moais-men-easter-island/ 2018-07-24T10:00:41+05:30 article Seeing Easter Island's majestic statues and marvelling at the centuries-old enginerring feat is a rite of passage for a curious voyager There was no telling where he was looking. I hauled my backpack and camera bag to the far end of the platform, and could still sense his eyes on me. Further afield, three seniors stood examining his face. Their body language seemed to imply that they too could feel his gaze. Over five metres and with a top knot to boot, his was a presence hard to ignore. There were other moais along the Ahu Tahai site but he was the only one on the whole island that had eyes. They are no longer made of coral, as they used to be, but that searing stare is enough to help envisage the power that the gaze of hundreds of moais would have once wielded over this enchanted land.

An amalgam of Polynesia and Latin America, Easter Island is one of the remotest populated islands in the world. It is a part of Chile, but the closest inhabited land mass, the Pitcairn Islands, is over 2,000 km away. If Easter Islands remoteness wasnt intriguing enough, it is dotted with nearly 900 massive human figures or moais and it is these mysterious stone monoliths that are its well-deserved claim to fame.

Touching down from Santiago at the main town of Hanga Roa in the morning, we were greeted by sights that were hardly extraordinaryfamilies picnicking on hillocks, youngsters frolicking on the beach, dive companies soliciting tourists. It was textbook Polynesia, but with one difference. The quotidian activities of island life were being played out under the imposing aura of the moaisin singles and in multiples, they loomed large all over the island.

The moais date to somewhere between the13th and 16th centuries, and are found on elevated platforms or ahu across the island. Being closest to Hanga Roa, Ahu Tahai, the area around the eyed moai, is one of the most visited platforms on the island. The photogenic silhouettes that its moais cast against the light of the setting sun are another reason for its popularity.

Our moai viewing was spread over three days, leaving us time to sample the islands famed seafood. Tuna is a local speciality and is served up in numerous delectable ways from ceviche to curry. There is no dearth of elegant clifftop eateries where one can enjoy the days catch, with views of the ocean and sips of the local tipple, pisco sour.

Local man Jojo guided us through the ahu, putting together the moai puzzle as it appeared before the pieces were thrown hither and thither by vandals. For every moai that now stands repaired and upright, ten others lie decapitated and dismembered, awaiting restoration.

Like much of history, the story of the moais treads a fine line between history and mythology. It is believed that the statues were commissioned by families to venerate a deceased head of a clan. Their size and grandeur was meant to correspond with the wealth and social standing of the clan.

The Rano Raraku volcano is one of the highlights of the island. This is the birthplace of the moaiswhere festival they were carved from volcanic ash. Theories abound about how the moais were transported to their ahu, but the consensus is that they were moved upright using ropes. Moais that did not make it to their ahu lie scattered around in varying stages of completion, considered to be mere stone edifices. It is on installation atop the ahu that the moais are believed to take on magical powers and be elevated to an otherworldly status. The ahu are close to the coast and most moais face inland, as though keeping a watchful eye over their land and legacy.

Amid the moai viewing, we grabbed an opportunity to visit one of the many guava plantations in the area. The orchard was heaving with luscious fruit, and we unabashedly filled belly and bag to capacity.

Ahu Tongariki on the south coast of the island is the best place to appreciate the scale and range of the moai project. At this ceremonial site stand 15 majestic moai on the largest ahu. Ravaged in turn by man and nature, this restored site has moais of varying sizes and detail, and is a testament to the carvers technical mastery.

The tradition of building moais continued until newer powers began looking askance at it. A battle for supremacy ensued and a new order was createdthe birdman cult. This cult was associated with the last stop of our island circuit, Orongo, and seemed a logical transition from the moai spotting.

The contestants for the annual birdman competition were heads of different clans chosen by local shamans. Each contestant appointed an acolyte, a warrior of sorts called hua, to compete on his behalf. The competition required the huas to descend the cliffs of the island, swim to the tiny islet of Motu Nui more than a kilometre away, and bring back the first egg of the sooty tern bird. The hua to first accomplish this would be the winner, making his master the birdman or the Tangata manu. The birdman, thus attaining a demigod status, would shave his head and live in seclusion for most of the year. The ones to actually benefit were his clansmen, who were given priority access to the best of resources. And, of course, the winning hua would be married to the islands most alluring maiden.

At Orongo, the ceremonial village that was once the site of the contest, the stone houses that were occupied by contestants stand impeccably restored, as though frozen in time. Vivid petroglyphs indicate the gravitas the birdman commanded. The islet of Motu Nui appears deceptively close, hiding within its craggy surface tales of broken eggs, bruised egos and dead huas. The sooty tern, however, no longer visits Motu Nui, perhaps settling for a less bloody islet to raise its young.

While the repair work undertaken with the efforts of archaeologists like William Mulloy and support from countries like Japan has restored Easter Islands moai glory, it is in the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum that the loose ends are finally tied up. It is also here that one gets to see a specimen of the original coral moai eye and the only distinctly female moai, of which there were said to be a dozen.

Deifying men through stone statues and elevating them to supernormal status by way of perilous contests may be in the past, but manhood is still integral to Easter Islands narrative. Competitions testing masculine strength and endurance are still part of the culture, and are of the kind that would almost fall within the league of Ironman challenges worldwide. One contest, for instance, requires participants to source the material for a canoe, build one themselves, run downhill with it and then row it to victory. Jojo wistfully talked about his days as a strapping young athlete, while concurrently voicing relief at the relaxed standards in these competitions for men of a certain age!

Given the ubiquitous nature of moais, one cant help but wonder what it was like for 6,000-odd Easter Islanders to live under the constant weight of so much history. Jojo says that while most locals acknowledge the monoliths as a valuable part of their heritage, they no longer believe the monoliths have any spiritual connotation or influence on their identity. That identity is attributed to the sense of kinship imparted by their shared Polynesian heritage, albeit one that is under threat of being lost amid the cultures and religions that have washed onto these shores since.

Kari Kari Cultural Ballet is an organisation working towards promoting the islands Polynesian culture. Their repertoire of traditional art forms gives young people, like Jojos daughter, who is a lead dancer in the ballet, a chance to stay connected to their roots. The troupe puts on a Polynesian spectacle that provides a welcome change from the hackneyedbe it dance routines that take us on a journey to a different era, or costumes that challenge prevailing notions of modesty.

With the alien influences and homegrown revolutions that it has borne, Easter Island has evolved into a worthy flag bearer for diversity. Its multiple names, Rapa Nui (Polynesian) and Isla de Pascua (Spanish) itself are a case in point. Today, Easter Islands dominant vegetation of tropical fruit may be completely foreign, and its people part indigenous and part immigrant. However, its most commanding feature, the unassailable moais standing guard along its coastline, is wholly and distinctly its owneyes or no eyes.

The Information

Getting There
Most major carriers fly to Santiago, with stopovers in the US or UK (transit visas are required). LATAM Airlines operates nine flights a week from Santiago to Easter Island. (Return fare from ?30,000.)

Other options are Ethiopian Air from Mumbai & Delhi via Addis Ababa and Sao Paolo or Emirates via Dubai. (Return fare approx. ?1,00,000.)

Where to Stay
If you do not plan to hire a car, it would be easier to stay in Hanga Roa, the islands main town. Tauraa Hotel, where we stayed, and Hotel Puku Vai are reasonable choices with tariffs between ?13,000 to ?20,000 per night (hoteltauraa.com, pukuvaihotel.com). Outside of town, there are self-catering cabins to choose from. Cabanas Tokerau is an option with sea-facing rooms and sunset vistas (approx. ?8,800 per night; cabanastokerau.cl/en).

At the super premium end is the all-inclusive Explora Rapa Nui (explora.com). The 3N package starts from ?2,35,000 for double occupancy and is inclusive of lodging, meals, transportation and sightseeing.

What to Eat & Drink
Seafood in Easter Island is quite fresh. The speciality is tuna, best enjoyed as cevichea preparation of raw tuna cured in lime and mixed with a variety of condiments.

A traditional meal is Umumeat and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven with hot stones. The local tipple is pisco soura traditional Chilean drink made from pisco (a clear brandy), lemon juice, sugar and egg whites. Homegrown tropical fruits and fresh juices are other must tries on Easter Island.

What to See & Do

Moai spotting is the chief activity. Many people do so independently, but for a better understanding of the historical significance, opt for a guided tour. We chose Green Island Tours (gitourseasterisland.com). In warmer months, water activities like swimming, snorkelling and diving are popular. Spend an evening watching a showcase of local dance and music. A few companies put up performances on different days of the week. Ballet Kari Kari (?1,600 per person) is highly recommended.

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Head to Lucknow, the Pearl of Avadh, for a Heritage Holiday https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Bara_Imambara_Lucknow_FI-1.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/head-to-lucknow-the-pearl-of-avadh-for-a-heritage-holiday/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/head-to-lucknow-the-pearl-of-avadh-for-a-heritage-holiday/ 2018-07-24T09:48:32+05:30 article Lucknow lies in the middle of the Heritage Arc. This bustling city, famed for its Nawabi era finesse and amazing food, is a unique mix The city of Lucknow has never been as glamorous as Delhi or as important as Agra. It has always been a provincial seat of government, and these were glittering Mughal capitals. But for a brief period between 1722 and 1856, it shone brighter than any other star in Hindustan. The men responsible for this came from Persia and ruled in this time for a while as vassals of the Mughal emperor, later as kings in their own right. They bequeathed a unique Indo-Persian culture to their province of Avadh. Ever since, Lucknow has been a byword for cultural refinement. Here the Urdu language was refined, here was created the magic of the tabla and sitar, and of Kathak, northern Indias most refined dance form.

Lucknows rise began in 1775, when Asafuddaulah, the fourth Nawab of Avadh, abandoned the Avadhi capital Faizabad to set up court in Lucknow, 127km away, on the banks of the Gomti. He set about creating one of the most cosmopolitan capitals in 18th-century India. By the time Asafuddaulah died, in 1797, Lucknow was firmly the centre of the Avadhi universe. His successors added more extravagant buildings to the city, which gave an air of unreality to Lucknow. Even in medieval times, it was a thriving city. But for most Indians, Lucknow will always be associated with the splendour of the nawabi era.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The Founders Flamboyance

Asafuddaulahs Rumi Darwaza is the symbol of Lucknow. It formed the western side of a great courtyard in front of the Bara Imambara, which may have been a market place. When Asafuddaulah chose to build the Bara Imambara in 1784, he seems to have embellished the existing western gateway, turning it into the spectacular archway we see today. Stately processions of elephants, horses and camels carrying nawabs, the British Resident and his retinue, and pilgrims, passed through this magnificent gateway.

Imambaras

Found all over Lucknow, imambaras are peculiar to the Shia faith and hold taziyas (symbolic tombs), but can also be burial places. The architect of the Bara Imambara, Kifayatullah, is buried within the building he created next to his nawab. This imambara is both the first and the largest of its kind in Lucknow. All are welcome in both gardens and imambara, but there are restrictions on non-Muslims entering the adjoining Asafi Mosque (also called Jama Masjid).

The great central hall of the imambara measures 163ft then the worlds largest vaulted hall to stand without wooden supports. You will find the tombs of Asafuddaulah and his relatives, and a collection of old gilt mirrors, chandeliers and ornate taziyas here. Lose yourself in the Bhul-bhulaiya, a structural device to distribute the weight of the vaulted roof below. It provides a panoramic view of the complex.

Visit the baoli that leads off the eastern side of the gardens. There was once a magnificent set of rooms surrounding the deep well here. It is the only remnant of the Macchi Bhawan Fort, which was built over the adjacent hill in medieval times, and became Asafuddaulahs first home until he built Daulat Khana.

Having seen the Bara Imambara, it is interesting to compare it with the two other important imambaras here. The Hussainabad Imambara is decorated with black and white calligraphic patterns. Buried here are Muhammad Ali Shah and his mother. For many years, the Sibtainabad Imambara housed a carpenters shop and government offices. Eventually it was vacated, and restored. Its interior is bare compared to the other imambaras.

Located on the banks of the Gomti and easily recognised by its large, shallow dome is the Shah Najaf Imambara. It was erected in 1814 27 by Nawab Ghaziuddin Haidar. The interior of Shah Najaf is a blaze of light from numerous chandeliers and giant candlestands given as gifts to embellish the building. Here too are some of the best taziyas. Ghaziuddin transformed the nawabi court into a kingdom, with the full support of the British, who were delighted at this further weakening of the Mughal Empire. Shah Najaf was the scene of fighting during the recapture of Lucknow by the British in 1858, and contemporary photographs show the building and its defensive walls pock-marked with shots from Company firearms.

The Nawabs Palaces

Four great palace complexes were built in Lucknow during the nawabi era. Only a handful of buildings remain of the last two palace complexes. The Macchi Bhawan Fort was demolished between 185890. On its site is the Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, erected in 1912. Asafuddaulah also built the Daulat Khana Palace complex. In its time, it comprised elegant havelis, with small palaces and sarais draped along the Gomti. Today, it is difficult to imagine what it looked like, but a walk around the site will still uncover things of interest, many added by later nawabs. The Hussainabad Clock Tower, which boasted the largest clockface in India and one that could be illuminated at night, is a famous landmark here.

The most important building is the Asafi Kothi, now mutilated by encroachments that make it almost impossible to see what a fine Palladian-style house it was. Asaf-ud-daulah held his durbar here.

Head back towards the town and you will go past the Chattar Manzil Palace, begun by Saadat Ali Khan. This was the man responsible for building Hazratganj, connecting the inner city to the excess of monuments on the riverbank. This elegant building, renamed Farhat Baksh, utilised the river water to cool it in summer. It, and the adjoining Chattar Manzil, now form part of the Central Drug Research Institute.

To the south stand the Gulistan-i-Iram (Rose Garden of Paradise) and the curious Darshan Bilas, whose faades imitate those of other Lucknow buildings. The Lal Barah-dwari, once a durbar hall and later the throne room of Nasiruddin Haider, lies in a direct linewith the Farhat Baksh, though the British ruined the symmetry by driving a major road between the two.

Qaisarbagh One Last Fling

The last and greatest palace, Qaisarbagh, was built between 1848 and 1852, but occupied by its builder, Wajid Ali Shah, for only four years before his deposition. It has undergone much demolition and subsequent rebuilding, but it undoubtedly was a handsome series of gardens and European design, with a number of follies where theatrical events would be staged. The Qaisarbagh buildings were among those demolished by the British. The Fairy Bridge in the north of the main garden is in a sorry state. The impressive gateways which lead into the garden are choked by traffic hurtling along the roads which now criss-cross the site.

Chowk stories

Change the mood by visiting Chowk and eating some of the best street food you will find anywhere. Although Chowk itself runs in a straight line between Gol Darwaza and Akbari Darwaza, the little winding streets off it bend and double back in seemingly random patterns. Temples, mosques and sarais are hidden away, up steep paths, evidence of the pilgrims who came to visit the Tomb of Shah Mina, the 15th-century Muslim mystic. The renowned Farangi Mahal is here, a seminary established in the 17th century as a gift from the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. But the buildings the emperor bestowed on the mullahs had previously belonged to the Company in its earliest days, which is why it is still called the Foreigners House.

Remnants of the Raj

Among all the foreigners who came to Avadh and its rich capital, none were more insidious than the officers of the East India Company. Posing as advisors to Asafuddaulah, they collected a huge annual subsidy from him. The steady interference by the Company led to a gradual decimation of the Avadh Court, which outraged the populace. When the Mutiny broke out in May 1857, Avadh was ripe to respond. Lucknow rose in a revolt whose consequences saw the eventual dissolution of the Company. The cantonment four miles north of Lucknow was burnt to the ground, and the British barricaded themselves into the Residency on one of Lucknows small hills. Here, they were besieged for many months by sepoys under the determined leadership of Begum Hazrat Mahal, a wife of Wajid Ali Shah, and her young son Birjis Qadr, who had been crowned king in the nawabs absence. The siege assumed almost mythological importance in Victorian Britain. Rescued by the Company Army in March 1858, the defenders of the Residency were led to the safety of the British cantonment at Kanpur. During the winter of 185758, Lucknow, briefly independent again, prepared to defend herself from avenging Company troops. She lost and the nawabi period was finished forever.

The ruins of the British Residency in Lucknow are a poignant reminder of the heroism on the part of besiegers and defenders alike. The museum inside is a must-see. Do inspect the model of the complex at the time of the siege, complete with ballrooms, the Bailey Guard Gate and the church (now in ruins), and the sheer number of native buildings outside that surrounded the compound, later blasted away to clear a passage around the Residency.

Excavations continue on the site of the native hospital that was built by the British for Indian patients, as well as the barracks for the sepoys. Artefacts found here include a silver-plated stick, bayo-nets, fragments of English dinner plates, and imported wine bottles. A few skeletons have been uncovered too. Also visit the little cemetery near the ruined church, where the Resident, Sir Henry Lawrence, lies buried, an early victim of the siege. The resting places of the Indians who fought to defend their deposed nawab and their country are, unfortunately, largely unknown.

Banarsi Bagh, an old nawabi garden houses the State Museum, a post-Independence building con-

taining a wealth of material on the Hindu origins of the city. Only a small portion is devoted to the nawabi period. At the rear of the museum is a curious graveyard of British-era statues. The Sound and Light Show at the Residency depicts the history of Lucknow, along with the siege.

Monument entry ?55 Videography ?25 Timings Sunrisesunset Sound and Light Show ?25 Timings 7.30pm (1 November14 March); 8.45pm (15 March31 October)

The Seats of Power

of Sardhana.

Martins Wondrous Folly

The road past Raj Bhavan takes you into the grounds of La Martiniere College. Described as palace, tomb and college, it is an extraordinary building, a memorial to a remarkable man, Claude Martin, who was a Major General in the East India Companys army. La Martiniere was his country house, then named Constantia and several miles outside the city. It is now one of the best schools in India, immortalised by Kipling as St Xaviers in Partibus in Kim. Because it is a working college, you cannot just turn up and expect a tour, but it is worth making an advance appointment with the principal, who may arrange for you to be shown around.

The Nawabs English Manor

Near La Martiniere are the remains of the Dilkhusha Palace, an English countryhouse erected in 1805 for Saadat Ali Khan. It is based on a Palladian house in England, but was subtly adapted for the north Indian plains. It stands in ruins today, but the still gives an impression of the former grandeur of this nawabi hunting lodge.

You can also visit newly-restored memorial to General Sir Henry Havelock, a Company commander who died during the final relief of the Residency. The grave has been restored, and is now a plea-sant garden.

WHERE TO STAY

Vivanta by Taj (Tel: 0522-6711000; Tariff: ?15,00032,000) offers an excellent view of the silver Gomti and La Martinire on the opposite bank. Specially visited for its Avadhi cuisine at Falaknuma Restaurant, Clarks Avadh (Tel: 2616500-09, 2620131; Tariff: ?9,00015,000) on MG Road is also an important Lucknow landmark. La Place Sarovar Portico (Tel: 4004040; Tariff from ?3,000), from the Sarovar group, is on Shahnajaf Road.

The three-star Hotel Gomti (Tel: 2611463, 2612662; Tariff: ?9003,000) on Sapru Marg is amongst UP Tourisms prized properties, offering all the necessary facilities. Hotel Arif Castles (Tel: 4098777; Tariff: ?6,5007,500) is on Rana Pratap Marg.

WHERE TO EAT

The Nawabs were great connoisseurs of cuisine and to them can be credited the creation of such Avadhi delicacies as galouti kebab, kebab paranthas and not to forget an entire technique of cooking dum pukht. Those who want to savour these joys should head to Naushijaan on Chaina Bazaar Road in Hazratganj. Tuck into majlisi and galouti kebabs. Dip into aflatooni korma with a gigantic Afghani parantha and round off your Nawabi repast with shahi tukra.

Do not miss out on Tunde ke Kebab. The original outlet is in Chowk. The traditional Lucknow brunch comprising nehari and kulcha at Rahims, opposite Tunde, is dynamite.

On a sidestreet just off Hazratganj, amongst crowds thronging Shuklas Chaat House, youll discover peas simple green peas spiced, soured with lemon juice, cooked dry and hand-pounded to a light consistency. Also try golgappas Lucknow-style in Chowk. Each puri comes with a different stuffing. You start with the zeera flavour and move on to hing, pudina, lemon etc. till your tastebuds cant take any more teasing.

FAST FACTS

When to go Winter is the best time. Summer sees blazing heat, while the monsoon season is muggy

Tourist offices

UP Tourism Reception Counter

Hotel Gomti

Tel: 0522-2611463

Directorate of Tourism

Paryatan Bhavan, C-13, Vipin Khand

Gomti Nagar, Lucknow

Tel: 0522-2308993/ 017

UP Tourism

Chandralok Building

36, Janpath, New Delhi

Tel: 011-23322251

W uptourism.gov.in

STD code 0522

GETTING THERE

Air Lucknow International Airport at Amausi is connected to most major cities across the country

Rail Lucknow Junction is connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities

Road Lucknow is directly connected to New Delhi by the Agra-Lucknow Expressway and the Yamuna Expressway/ NH19. The city is linked to AH1 that connects Delhi to Kolkata via Agra, Kanpur and Varanasi. Lucknow is linked to Kanpur by NH27 and to Bhopal by National Highways 27, 34, 44 and 146 Bus Private and state buses connect Lucknow to other cities

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Edifices Of Memory: Enjoy A Heritage Holiday In Agra https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Agra1_FI_1.jpg https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/edifices-of-memory-enjoy-a-heritage-holiday-in-agra/ https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/hotels/edifices-of-memory-enjoy-a-heritage-holiday-in-agra/ 2018-07-23T23:11:53+05:30 article Home to one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal in Agra is a sneak peek into the architectural history with other Home to one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal in Agra is a sneak peek into the architectural history with -other structures such as Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri nearby. It makes for a must-visit destination for tourists and locals alike.The monuments of Agra hide in their penumbra numerous stories about the mighty Mughals: tales of their loves and passions, their devotion to the arts, their tremendous energy and lust for power. Agra became the theatre where this fascinating dynasty played out an entire range of human emotions on a titanic scale. However, their most enduring legacy remains the monuments they built, which continue to spellbind their audience to this day.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

If you want a serious look, spend at least four days exploring Agra and Fatehpur Sikri.

Taj Mahal

Commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the Taj Mahal was built to house the remains of his wife, famously known as Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 14th child in 1631 CE. Construction began in 1631 and material was sourced from all over India and overseas. While the signature white marble was ordered from Makrana in Rajasthan and jasper from Punjab, other precious stones came from far and wide the jade and crystal were brought from China, carnelian from Arabia, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan and so on. In choosing the very best of everything, Shah Jahan left no stone unturned. The mausoleum was completed in 1648 and the out-lying structures such as subsidiary tombs, waterworks as well as the gardens five years later, in 1653.

The complex can be reached via three entrances, namely the Western, Eastern and Southern gates. The latter, in the middle of the chaotic lanes of Taj Ganj, is relatively less crowded. Once you enter the mausoleum complex, it is a short walk to the impressive Darwaza-e-Rauza or royal gate. This gate is 105- ft-tall and features 22 chhatris at the top that are said to represent the 22 years of construction of the complex. Made of red sandstone, the royal gate is adorned with intricate marble work and imposing archways and framed with inlaid verses from the Quran. The central arch here offers a full view of the entire complex the mausoleum, its four minarets and the ornamental Persian gardens.

The Taj Mahal is set in a vast garden divided by walkways and water channels into four smaller parts). The base structure of the Taj is a cubic building with chamfered corners that creates an octagonal architectural footprint. Each of the 180-ft long sides of this octagon is embellished with an iwan (vaulted hollow space, walled on three sides) framed by a pishtaq (arched gateway to the iwan). Two similar pishtaqs, one stacked above the other, flank the iwan on either side. The short, chamfered sides of the building replicate the stacked pishtaq design, thus making the building appear symmetrical from all directions. The base is crowned by a large onion-shaped dome, 58ft in diameter and 213ft in height, perhaps the most defining feature of the mausoleum owing to its sheer scale. Four additional domed chhatris, much smaller in size, are placed on the main domes four corners, and do well to underscore its massive proportions. All five domes are topped by distinctive gilded finials. Four 163-ft-tall minarets frame the raised plinth that the mausoleum rests upon. These pillars, each topped by a chhatri, maintain the general sense of balance and add three-dimensional detail to the edifice. They are tilted about four degrees at an external angle to prevent destroying the central structure in the event of an earthquake.

In its use of harmonious decorative elements the Taj Mahal has no parallel. Quranic verses are inscribed in various sections of the mausoleums outer walls, in an ancient Islamic calligraphic script known as Thuluth. Made of inky jasper and inlaid in marble, the calligraphy presents an arresting black-on-white contrast. The lower walls are adorned with dados (marble panels) with carved depictions of blooming flowers that break the monotony of a plain expanse of marble. However, the most notable architectural attribute that is repeated throughout the complex is pietra dura (a formalised inlay technique). Although the art originated in Italy, its most sumptuous expression can be found in the Taj Mahal, where semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, jade, crystal and amethyst are embedded in geometric and floral designs on the marble surface.

The interior of the mausoleum is far less ostentatious, organized as it is around an octagonal chamber adorned with low-relief carvings and a lapidary of gemstones. However, the tranquil simplicity of the hall seems to be an ideal setting for the cenotaphs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan, which are surrounded by a delicate filigree screen. Beneath these cenotaphs, at garden level, lie the true sarcophagi. Try arriving at the Taj at the break of dawn so that you are one of the first few to enter the complex.

Tip Buy shoe covers before you enter the Taj. You will not be required to take off your footwear if you don these. Carry water with you. Eatables are strictly prohibited here and security checks are strict even diaries/ notebooks are not allowed! Deposit your belongings, for free, at counters near the ticket offices.

Entry Indians ?40; Foreigners ?1,000; Citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries ?530; Children (below 15) Free Timings Sunrisesunset Closed Friday

Agra Fort

This fort is a testimony to the Mughal Dynastys unparalleled aesthetic and architectural sense. Built over time by Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, it has the impression of all the four emperors preferences and styles. However, only 25 per cent of the fort is accessible the rest is occupied by the Indian army.

It was during Shah Jahans reign that the fort took on its current shape. When he was deposed by his son Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan was imprisoned in this very fort, in a tower that overlooked his beloveds mausoleum, the Taj Mahal.

An imposing 70-ft fortification wall encloses 94 acres of land within. The entrance gate is inlaid with mosaic work, with elaborate patterns on the floor, and was reserved for the royal entourage. As you climb up, to the left are the quarters now used by the Indian army. Ahead is another grand gate, with the Jahangir Palace to its left. There are sprawling lawns near the army quarters as well as the Jahangir Palace.

Built by Akbar, the faade of the Jehangir Palace has religious symbols of Christians, Muslims and Hindus, in alignment with his secular doctrine Din-e-Ilahi. The palace has been constructed in the Indo-Islamic architectural style; the faade made of red sandstone has two chhatris at both ends. The sandstone walls kept the interiors warm and hence Jehangir Palace was the designated winter residence of the rulers. You will find remnants of the temple that Akbar built for Jodha Bai, which was later destroyed by Aurangzeb.

Next, head towards the Hawa Mahal. The hollow walls of the building allowed water to trickle in the gaps, which kept the room naturally cool.

Further down is the Sheesh Mahal, now inaccessible to visitors; you can only look through the grills. This palace is actually a Turkish bath made by Shah Jahan for Mumtaz Mahal. The interiors are of limestone, with pieces of glass fitted on the walls.

A little ahead of the Sheesh Mahal is the Noor Palace. Originally made of sandstone, it was trans-formed by Shah Jahan into white marble. This is where Shah Jahan was imprisoned for the last eight years of his life. The smooth marble walls of the palace are inlaid with lapis lazuli, granite, black onyx, coral and turquoise that glow in the light, making for a mesmerising sight on the night of full moon.

The passage ahead leads to a hall, which was used by Shah Jahan as a prayer room. This room directs one to the beautiful Diwan-e-Khas, or the special court pavilion. The magnificent slab of black onyx, imported from Belgium, where the king used to sit, is still present. Known as Takht-e-Jahangir (Seat of Jahangir). On the other side of the courtyard are the administrative halls, accompanied by a colonnaded corridor. At one end of the corridor is what used to be a prayer room for the ladies of the harem. Enclosed with intricately patterned jalis, the limestone walls kept the temperature low.

This prayer room opened up to the Diwan-e-Aam. The king used to sit on a pedestal where the Peacock Throne, bedecked with precious gemstones and the Kohinoor diamond were kept. This colonnaded court is currently the venue for the Sound and Light Show.

Entry Indians ?40; Foreigners ?550; Children (below 15) Free Timings Sunrisesunset Sound and Light Show Indians ?40; Foreigners ?150 Timings Hindi 7.158.15pm; English 8.159.15pm

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The Oberoi Groups Amarvilas (Tel: 0562-2231515; Tariff: ?70,0009,00,000) has a fantastic location, just 600m away from the Taj. The Clarks Shiraz (Tel: 2226121; Tariff: ?8,00025,000) offers easy access to the Taj as well. Budget options include Hotel Taj Plaza (Tel: 2231 010; Tariff: ?1,2005,000) and UP Tourisms Taj Khema (Tel: 2330140; Tariff: ?2,0003,000) near the Taj Eastern Gate.

Capri in Hari Parbat serves good north Indian and Mughlai fare. For a decent variety, try Pinch of Spice at Wazirpura Road.

AROUND AGRA

Fatehpur Sikri (37km)

Akbar built this city in the little village of Sikri, west of Agra, owing to the hallowed presence of Shaikh Salim Chishti, the Sufi saint who told the heirless king that he would soon be blessed by sons. Akbar chose red sandstone to minimise the stylistic clashes arising from the mixing of Timurid, Persian and Indian architectural styles. An astonishing city took shape: pavilions and courtyards, domes, balconies, gardens, cupolas, tanks, pools and baths. The architecture sheltered the occupants from the harsh north Indian sun, but also allowed for the play of filtered or refracted light and air through latticed windows and doors. Fourteen years after its construction, Akbar and his court left Fatehpur Sikri forever, moving the capital to Lahore. You can follow the spirits of Akbar, his wives, his Nine Jewels, ladies of the harem through Buland Darwaza the highest gate in India, Jodha Bais Palace, Maryams House, Birbals House, Daulat Khana, Diwan-Khana-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Aam and Pachisi.

Entry Indians ?40; Foreigners ?510 Timings Sunrisesunset Photography Free Videography ?25 Tourist Information Tel 2421204

FAST FACTS

When to go In the cold season (November to March)

Tourist offices

UP Government Tourist Office

64, Taj Road, Agra. Tel: 0562-2226431

UP Tourism

Chandralok Building

36, Janpath, New Delhi

Tel: 011-23322251, 23711296

W uptourism.gov.in

STD code 0562

GETTING THERE

Air Agras Kheria Airport is connected to Delhi by Air India, which operates flights only in winter

Rail Agra is served by four stations Agra Cantt, Agra Fort, Idgah Agra Junction and Raja-ki-Mandi. Scores of trains connect Agra to Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai and Kolkata

Road Agra is connected to Delhi and Kolkata by AH1. The newly opened Yamuna Expressway (Toll fee: ?510, same day return) from Gautam Budh Nagar in Noida offers an uninterrupted drive (2.5hrs) to Agra

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