Monday, December 29, 2014

Janakpur - Birth Place Of Goddess Sita.

We kick started our very first International bike ride from India to Nepal. Excitement levels were sky rocketing as we entered Nepal via Kakarbitta which is 30 km from Siliguri. The roads leading to Nepal are simply stunning with tea plantations on either side showcasing a green canvas on Mother Nature's lap. Also, we had our first glimpse of snow clad mountain peaks en-route to Janakpur.

Having heard so much about Nepal's hospitality and beauty, we had our first hand experience almost immediately as we got the best of the roads to ride on. The country is strikingly beautiful with the mighty Himalayas on your right and green pastures on either side of the road. The bright colored beautiful looking compact homes are one of the few striking things that you cant even imagine in your dreams.

Janakpur is one of the most holiest places in Nepal. Legend has it that this was the birth place of Goddess Sita and also this is where Lord Ram and Sita were wedded. To mark the significance of these two events, stands tall two magnificent temples - 'Janaki Mandir' & 'Ram Sita vivah mandir.' The Janki mandir is stunningly built in Islamic style with large domes and Ram Sita mandir, adjacent  to Janki mandir, is built like a Pagoda.

Surprisingly, these temples are not very old and were built in 1910. The other significance of Janakpur is the Ram mandir built in 1882. The best way to see this place would be to go for an early morning/evening walk. It is great to see this mandir still in it’s former state and also spend time soul searching.

The most impressive event in Janakpur is the "Ganga Aarti." Elaborate rituals are performed daily in the evening around 6 pm. This ritual is performed by three pujaris, dressed in their best attire, they never miss a beat and are always in sync. The bhajjans are very catchy, so do not be surprised if you start tapping your feet and start humming along with the other devotees and slowly move to trance state.

The beauty of this place is that you can pretty much see the entire town gather on the banks of river Ganga for the daily Aarti. In an age, where time is money and people are just looking at more opportunities to expand their business, this town shuts down their business religiously before the Aarti. It feels like they have shut down their worries too and come together as one big family to sing along giving them a sense of peace and contentment.

We checked into Hotel Welcome. This is one of the best properties to stay in Janakpur. They have huge and spacious rooms and bath, comfortable bed and 24 power backup. They serve good food - the biryani & masala chai is highly recommended. Also, their service is exceptionally good. The owners are very kind and helpful and are always available to take care of their guests. Another best part about the hotel is their prime location. All must visit places are within 500 mt and can be covered by foot. However, the only con is the hotel is getting a face lift and there is no lift facility as of now.

Very close to Ram mandir is the Roof Top restaurant, which is a must try. One of the best places to dine in Janakpur. The service is very good and prompt.

Next Stop Koshi Tappu

Monday, December 8, 2014

Himalayan Motorcycle Odyssey!

"It's a part of our life that we spent in the mountains."

Our love for travel, road, mountains and the bike took us to the Himalayas for a road trip that we would cherish and take to our graves. The three of us, Guy, Girl and Motorcycle headed out in search of salvation to Nepal, Bhutan and the hidden treasure, Sikkim.

Our trip started with Nepal, then we rode to Sikkim and from there we headed to Bhutan. During the entire trip of 50 days, we covered 4269 km. We made hotels our homes, fell in love with Momos, Nepali thali, Datshi, Paa, people, culture, roads, landscapes and many more.

Our Route Map
It is very difficult to put in words all the fun and excitement that we had over these two months. However hard we think, we are running short of words to describe how awesome we felt and how lucky we are to do things that our hearts have always craved for. Over the last several days, we spent a part of our lives with the incredible people of North East India, Bhutan and Nepal.

This adventurous road trip on our motorcycle took us to three places that are an extension of the graceful Himalayas, but are unique in their own way and left us enchanted by their magic. Nepal offered us a chance to see some of the most exotic migratory birds in Koshi Tappu, the birth place of Goddess Sita - Janakpur. We rode on an elephant back into the Royal Chitwan national park in search of the imperil one horned Rhino. Katmandu treated us with abundant heritage and history, we had spectacular views of Himalayas from Pokhara and visited the birth place of Buddha - Lumbini.

Our very own Sikkim offered us a change to see one of the highest lakes in the world - Gurudongmar lake, 16th century Rumtek monastery, second capital of Sikkim - Rabdentse Ruins, glimpse of super rare and highly endangered wildlife, rode on the second highest bridge in Asia, saw the gears used by the great Tenzing Norgay.

Bhutan - The awesome Kingdom that puts Happiness ahead of Money. A country that does not believe in traffic lights, yet maintains impeccable driving sense. Home of the breathtaking Tiger nest monastery.

All of this would not have been possible without the help of an integral part of our family - our Royal Enfield motorcycle. He turned out to be the best companion to do this trip with. Throughout the testing climatic conditions and terrible roads, he did run like a champ and never gave us any trouble or threw fits around. True to his tag line -"Made like a gun, goes like a Bullet," this machine is indeed a true legacy. We just fell in love with our bike all over again.

This trip will always stay very close to our hearts.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Best of Mysore

Mysore puts one in a spot as it has so much to offer- palaces, zoo, bird sanctuary, temple, church, museums, lip smacking food, art, the list keeps growing... We have compiled a few of the best of Mysore.

Lalitha Mahal Palace: Once a Royal home, now a heritage hotel run by The Ashoka Group, this palace is tucked away from the city en route Chamundi hills. This stunning palace was one of the locations in the famous Rajinikanth movie 'Muthu.' Visitors are charged an entry fee of Rs.100, and you are treated with a delightful cup of hot beverages. One feels the essence of peace and tranquility amidst forest over looking Chamundi hills. Also, you can go back in time and experience royalty by taking a buggy ride around the palace.

 Jaganmohan Palace:  Just a stone's throw away from City Palace is the fine art gallery at Jaganmohan Palace exhibiting phenomenal work of Raja Ravi Varma, artillery, intricate woodwork, extensive ivory artifacts such as comb, stirrer, jewel box, hair pins, board games, hand fan are just a few to list. Life of Buddha depicted on a massive ivory tusk, Japanese painting on silk cloth, work of Shakespeare depicted on silver wall hangings, antique musical instruments, miniature of Ambavilas palace in marble, medieval currency are the other interesting exhibits.

If the above mentioned does not cease to amaze you, check out the exclusive oil painting - "Glow Of Hope" this beautiful painting depicts a women carrying a 'Diya' in one hand and covering the glow with the other hand to protect it from the wind. The artist has captured the ultimate glow through her fingers beautifully. No amount of words can do justice to the painting, we stood there admiring the work in awe. The museum has rightly dedicated an exclusive room with fine aesthetics to portray this exhibit.

To be further surprised, walk towards the first viewing gallery on the ground floor of the museum to witness a 10-feet high French clock, made in 1818, churn it's magic. Every hour the miniature soldiers march around with soft music playing in the background. Every 15 minutes one can hear the clock chime and if you observe closely on the top left corner of the clock, one can see a soldier beating a drum which syncs with the seconds hand of a clock. This clock not only shows the time but also denotes the month, date & day of the calendar year.

Rail Museum: This small museum dedicated to old locomotives is rooted in the corner of the city, right next to the railway station. If you love machines, this place is a must visit. The highlight of the museum is "The Maharani Saloon" - yet another fine example of what royal life is all about. This carriage was exclusively designed to keep the Maharani comfortable with a movable cot, writing table, fans, chandeliers, comfortable bath, great aesthetics, exclusive servant room, followed by another carriage which housed the royal cook and dining area. All of this luxury costed the Royal family Rs.29500 in year 1899.

The 'Travelling Crane' built in 1885 is another engineering marvel exhibited at this museum. This crane could lift weights upto 5 ton and can swivel to 360 degree. This was used during accident and restoration work, best part being this is in perfect working condition.

Saint Philomena Church; Built in Neo Gothic style in 1936, this massive structure stands tall attracting devotees and tourists. Do go there to admire and appreciate the architecture and sheer class of the monument. The special feature of the church is the passage to the basement housing the relic of Saint Phelomena under the main altar.

Chamundi Hills: 15 km from Mysore city is Chamundi hills, the adobe of Chamundeswari. It is one of the most famous and much visited pilgrimage site in Mysore. Apart from spirituality, you have stellar panoramic view of Mysore city. Do stop at the view point to get a bird's eye view of the racecourse, Mysore palace, karanji lake & the city.

The mere fact of visiting any religious place is for solace and inner peace, however, the ground reality is completely different. People push, shove & scream at one another to catch a glimpse of the deity. The drive to Chamundi hills is brilliant, on either side you are treated with lush green forest. On the way back do stop over at Sand Art Museum.

Last but not the least Ambavilas Palace:

Dasara Fiesta In Mysore

If you have to experience the extravaganza of Indian celebrations one should witness any one of the many festivals celebrated across the Country. This time we headed to Mysore to celebrate Dasara. Dasara is one of the most important festivals in India, it is celebrated to wade off bad fate.

Everyone in the city is in celebration mode & the mood is electrifying. The highlight of Dasara is not just the mysore palace but the whole city is decked up like a 'Dulhan' stunningly beautiful! The streets of Mysore are lit up from sunset till late in the night. On the first day of Dasara, the top brass of Karnataka state assemble at the Palace to inaugurate the celebrations, this is followed by cultural events. It is very vibrant & the whole city is gathered to celebrate the festival as one big family.

The entire Palace complex is beautifully lit up using 1 lakh bulbs during the festival. On the first day of the celebrations it was not just man made lights but also the weather gods that sent their blessings in the form of gentle drizzle & lightning making the evening even more memorable and pleasant. The mood is so romantic that you would fall in love with the palace, the city, the festival & India.

The women of Mysore get into their competitive spirit to show heir creative side & they deck up the entrance of the Palace with colorful & mind-blowing rangoli, post that the best is judged. Everyday at 6 pm the camels, horses & elephants are decked up and taken out on a parade.

If you are around the Palace during dinner time head to Red Pepper Restaurant, next to Woodlands theater. Clubbed with great service they serve lip smacking food, their Kalmi chicken kabab is a must try. If you are a meat lover head to RRR restaurant for a feast, though the menu has limited options, the food is finger licking good. For vegetarians, the veg. thali is awesome with dollops of ghee to go with rasam, sambar and rice.

We checked into Kings Kourt hotel, the staff is very courteous and helpful, they greet you with a smile. The rooms are very spacious and comfortable. They have a very good travel desk with great service and attractive pricing. One of the few hotels that serves amazing and piping hot complimentary breakfast. However, the restaurant is a little overpriced. The hotel is at walkable distance from Mysore Railway station. All major tourist attractions are within 6 km radius.

Like we clean our homes during festivals, Mysore ensures the entire city is spic and span for Dasara, the government offices look as elegant as heritage homes. We had a great time celebrating the festival at Mysore with the locals, the city was so warm and courteous that we felt at home.

Needless to say, your trip to Mysore is not complete without digging into yummy mysore masala dosa and sipping filter coffee.

Mysore just does not stop to amaze one with the Palace, the other specials of Mysore can be found here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Photo Blog - Mysore Sand Art Museum

One of the lesser known place in Mysore, an artist, Gowri has created wonderful art using sand - the place and the artist deserve great appreciation. She has not only created art but has also given life to the sand structures. Be it the scenes from Mahabharat or ancient civilization, disneyland, marine life, wildlife, Chamundeswari, lord Ganesha- all of them are astonishing. This place has to be on your to do list. It is 4 km from Ambavilas Palace and on the way to Chamundi hills. This museum is open from 8 am to 5.30 pm and entry costs Rs.40.

Rest Of Mysore. Festival of Mysore