Sunday, February 25, 2007

Days in the Deccan

Hyderabad has been a lot of fun!

A great mix of meeting up with family and friends and seeing a new city.

My first night here, Scribbler took me to a lovely waterfront restaurant along the shores of Hussein Sagar, Hyderabad's man made lake. R, a mutual cousin (from the Goa branch of the phamily) joined us as well, and since I hadn't met him in something like 15 years it was quite the reunion!

Friday was a full day of lectures for Scribs, so I took off to the "old city" to amuse myself. Unfortunately I forgot that in a predominantly Muslim city, most attractions are closed on a Friday, so after a quick peek at the Charminar and a round at the Salar Jung Museum to see the Nizam's Jewels that were on display I decided to call one of my aunt's old school friends and go visit her. 2 hours and 3 buses later I was standing hesitantly at the side of the road waiting for her to pick me up! Meeting J and her family was worth the effort and later that evening she took me to an artisan's village where I picked up 2 lovely Tanjore paintings for our house.

Getting back to the very other end of town to CIEFL was quite an adventure, and if it were not for an extremely kind girl who I met at the bus stand, I might still be lost in the city! Not only did she give me a ride to a less crowded bus stop, but she waited till I got onto the right bus and gave me detailed instructions for my change over! Thanks a bunch Pratipa... where ever you are!

Golconda Fort was supposed to be on the agenda for Saturday, but Scribs and I both slept in and we had to revisit our plans. Before we could decide anything concrete, J called and told us that if we wanted, we could get to her place in the early evening and then she'd drive us to the fort and back to catch the daily sound and light show at sunset! Mighty pleased with this plan, we set off for the old city again and this time stopped in at the Chowmahalla Palace which used to be the seat of the Asaf Jai dynasty and the official residences of the Nizams (the rulers) of Hyderabad.

The second time around, the journey to J's place was far easier and that evening we drove to the ancient fort of Golconda which is located on the outskirts of the city. Once a mighty establishment that was the seat of the Deccan Empire, most of the fort now lies in ruins. Every evening at sundown a sound and light show walks visitors through the Fort's impressive history, outlining important events and offering an insight into bygone times.
After a very well rested night at J's place and a lovely "home made" breakfast, Scribs and I reluctantly said goodbye to J and her family and made our way back home. Stopped off for lunch at the Paradise Restaurant, Hyderabad's most famous landmark that started off as a simple one room Irani restaurant and is today a 4 floor, multi cuisine restaurant! R was able to join us again, so the "cousins" enjoyed a lovely and utterly delish biryani lunch together later washed down with ice cream at the funniest little ice cream parlor nearby. Back at CIEFL now and just a few hours left here in Hyderabad before I have to catch my train to Hampi. From IT city, to the ruins of an ancient empire - my journey goes on!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

On the road again

Left Bombay last evening and took a 13 hour bus ride to start off the next leg of my "Discover India" tour.

First stop, Hyderabad to meet up with cousin Scribbler who is doing her Masters in Literature at CIEFL. Will be spending 4 glorious days trying to catch up on a backlog of 2 years worth of random chats and general gossip. Of course we do that on msn, but its just not the same!

After Hyderabad, will be moving on the ancient city of Hampi (the seat of the Vijaynagara Empire) and then to Bangalore where I will catch up with more cousins - not so well known, but nice enough to let me crash at their places regardless! Its then on to Mysore, Somnathpur and Sravanbelagola for quicky day trips and heading back to Bombay on March 8th.

Tune in to updates on what, when and where in the world is the Pixy Princess!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Puzzles and Prezzies!

Somehow I got switched over to the "new" Blogger. I tried to sign in today and the old one simply didn't exist anymore! Talk about being arm twisted into something! 

Then when I was trying to create a google account, I was told that I already have one! This was news to me. I have no recollection what-so-ever of creating anything like that. Good heavens, I only JUST turned 26 yesterday, and already things are fading from my LTM. what's next? Night blindness and tunnel vision? Phantom pains in my joints? *gulp*

On the flip side, I did have a lovely birthday!

I was able to celebrate with my gradparents and my B'bay family after 6 years. My Nana hosted a little "party" lunch for a few close relatives and friends and we had a lovely Chinese lunch from 5 Spice - which I was told was THE latest thing in Chinese take out - followed by delish cake-and-ice-cream, follow by a hilarious round of "personities" which left all the participants helpless with laughter!

My birthday present to myself was a free-for-all at the nearest bookstore where I came away with 8 new friends for my bookshelves.

Other exciting prezzies included a beautiful new wristwatch from Nana and Papa, a earing and chain set and clothes from Very Best Friend and her family, more clothes from the family, a diary and book - I Capture the Castle - from my cuz Scribbler her fiance and finally loads of do-what-you-what-with-it cash from other family that will definitely come in handy on my upcoming trip to the south of India. Quite a nice haul I say!

Just when I though my day was done, some of my friends swung by and took me out for Birthday drinks which was a very nice end to a very nice birthday! 

More fun follows tonight at another friend's place who's birthday is also on the 16th.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Meet the Grandparents

Just realised that since I've been yammering on and on about "my family" et all, it might be usedful if you can see what they actually look like!

We begin with two of the nicest most amazing grandparents in the whole's
Nana and this is Papa and here's the two of them looking too cute for words! Jolly good for 93 and 83 eh??

Friday, February 02, 2007

A bit blue in the blue city....

Arrived into the "blue" city of Jodhpur this morning - the final stop on our 11 day Rajasthan tour. After the calm of Pushkar, the friendlyness of Udaipur and the wild beauty of Jaisalmer, Jodhpur seem almost mundane but for the imposing fort that overlooks the city. Very tired and beary eyed we stumbled towards the hotel we had pre booked only to find that they were NOT prepared for us and the washrooms were in a deplorable condition. Feeling quite miserable, we dumped our bags and headed out to find breakfast, but it was too early for any decent joint to be open. Since Charlene had to catch a 1 pm flight out to Delhi, we decided to head right to the fort and get that off our list of "things we have done!"

The fort was absolutely spectacular and our guide was the funniest old man who kept distributing toffee to all the workers in the fort! Unlike Jaisalmer fort where my camera decided to die on me, I was able to take (literally) hundreds of pics at Jodhpur and they can be seen here and here and here and many more online!

In the brighter light of day, our accomodations didn't seem half as bad and after Charlene had freshned up, we parted ways and our company was reduced to two. Feeling rather triste Charmaine and I spent the rest of the day wandering aimlessly around Jodhpur and in an affort to cheer up called our respective homes and had a quick word with our families. Later we chanced upon this little internet cafe and have been surfing away for the past hour or so now.

Although our holiday has been wonderful and we've seen and done more than we'd imagined, I think Rajasthan and its "wildness" is gnawing on us just a wee bit and we're both longing for our own beds and more so our own SHOWERS again! Seriously, I would give anything for a shower with even semi warm water and any sort of pressure other than a drizzle right now!

Taking up from my last narrative, I can now say without doubt that my fav place in Rajasthan was Udaipur. Perhaps it was the fact that it was the place where we stayed the longest, hence we were the least "hassled" there. We had ample time to take in the sights and sounds of the city at our own pace and there was time enough to just relax instead of being in "tourist" mode 24/7. The City Palace (incidently one of the largest palace complexes in the world) - the first of many that we saw - took my breath away with its intricate carvings and ornate windows and minutely decorated pillars.

Of course, when in Udaipur one MUST attend one of the nightly screenings of the 007 movie Octopussy which has the distinction of being set in the city and filmed on site at many of the famous havelis and palaces around. Bond movies are always rediculous in my (humble) opinion and this one is the pinnacle of unrealistic storylines! Heaps fun all the same!

After 3 glorious days in the "white" city, we moved on westward deep into the Thar desert to the border town of Jaisalmer. On the way we stopped for early morning chai in Pokhran a tiny little blurb on the map unknown until 1997 when India used this blurb to conduct nuclear testing. Call me finicky, but I refused to drink the tea there!

I found Jaisalmer to be a curiously timewarped place. Inspite of the thousand of tourists that flok there each year, the city still manages to shroud itself in a veil of mystique and at times is totally oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world just ushered in 2007.

We spent one night camping out in the desert and did a camel "safari" early the next morning. Watching the sun rise over the distant dunes definitely ranks in my top 10 "most awesome life moments"! I also loved the very unique feel to Jaisalmer Fort which unlike Jodhpur was a "living fort" with over 2500 individuals who till today live and work within the ancient walls that yet encircle the marvel of architecture that majestically rises out of the desert sands. Built entirely out of the yellow sandstone commonly found in the region, from a distance the fort seems to be almost a flicker of the imagination as it shimmers in the heat of the midday sun. I could almost imagine the fort's architects using this trick of the sun as a defense against potential invaders. And it worked too, as according to the historical references it all its existance, only once did the fort fall into enemy hands - and even then, very briefly.

And that brings me back to the present. We have one more day in Jodhpur tomorrow and then we take the overnight train to Jaipur where we'll catch our flight back to Bombay.

My adventures will cease - for now - but the memories will be forever.

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