Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ludhiana- A City Founded By Two Chefs

Ludhiana the legendary city that gave India Martyr Sukhdev, located in the old banks of Sutlej was our second stop en route Ladakh. The land of five rivers gave us an amazing and wonderful opportunity to relive our good old college days we headed to the "Museum Of Rural Life Of Punjab," which is in the Punjab Agricultural University campus. This wonderful two storied museum gave us an comprehensive tour of amazing culture and glorious past of Punjab. The artifacts include archaeological treasures from Harappan, Aryan, Gupta and Medieval antiquities in terracotta, specimens of old coins and seals. The false ceiling inside the museum is from the 18th Century.

The other galleries exhibit pottery, kitchen utensils, murals, farming equipment, musical instruments, spinning and weaving, ornaments and jewelry. A massive traditional cot and huge trunks for storage are the highlight of the museum. The best part was amazing black and white pictures of each item were placed right besides the artifact giving visitors a clear understanding of it's usage.Visiting hours if from 9 am to 5 pm and entry ticket is priced at Rs.10.

"Dr. Uppal Museum." that showcases water and power resources of Northern India. The model here depicts the rivers, irrigation system, roads, railways, the evolution of Himalayan rivers. A large model of Punjab and neighboring valley have been depicted in open air outside the museum. The construction of the model inside the museum involved 900 topographical sheets and the location of about one lakh elevation points by the team of workers involved in building the model. Entry ticket is priced at Rs.5. The model also depicts the salt flats, Tibetan plateau, salt range and Indo Gangetic plains.

We fell in love with the university and spent several hours here. We had lunch in one of the many student canteens. Piping hot masala maggie, huge plate of veg manchuria and a big glass of lassi in all just costed us Rs.95. We sat in the lawn and enjoyed unending conversations. The massive university campus was very clean. It is a bird watchers paradise and we spotted a flock of grey hornbill which is a rare sight even in National Parks. Early mornings one can rent bicycles and take a spin around the campus for Rs.30 per hour.

Gur mandi market in Ludhiana is a shoppers paradise. Lanes and by-lanes are dotted with shops selling anything and everything and then there is always plenty of street food. It looked like you can walk into any shop and try your hand at any north Indian delicacies. We in particular liked Chawlas.

Craving for Italian food the perks of a good city offered us "Colonial Resto Cafe" in Sarabha Nagar, pakhowal road. We ordered the penne pasta in red sauce which was very well done. The best dish was their spicy shredded chicken which was not too fiery and the chicken was beautifully cooked with a blast of flavors. The crunchy bell peppers and diced garlic added a good punch.

We checked into Hotel Mirage the hotel offers spacious rooms, clean sheets and comes with all modern amenities. What we really liked about this hotel was their excellent service quality. The staff were very courteous. The only drawback being it is a little in the out skirts. In our case since we were on our bike commuting was not an issue. The hotel is opposite Bhai Wala Gurudwara in Daad village.

If you are on a road trip to this part of India be very careful, unfortunately like most other parts of India, people do not follow traffic rules and regulations. One over speeding car almost took us out in one of the narrow lanes of Ludhiana.

Road-trips are our personal favorite and guarantees ultimate fun, adventure, lot of flexibility and freedom. But at the same time, there is lurking danger and very serious threat to life and property if you are not cautious or want to be over adventurous. Just a second of lapse in concentration could result in disaster. We saw several mangled remains of vehicles all along the highway but a gut wrenching moment was when we stopped for one of our chai breaks and saw a Hyundai Creta totally mangled and smashed. Looking at the car, we could guess what could have happened to the driver and passengers and for a second we could feel the chills in our spine. While on the highway always be focused never ever over speed, try and avoid driving or riding after sunset.

Machines can be dangerous as well if not handled well. Also, a few moments of unwanted adventure or heroism on the road could turn out to be disastrous and unfortunately in some cases it might drag innocent victims too in this misadventure. To avoid such bone chilling consequences and to ensure not just ones safely but also safety of other on the road it would be best to follow the law be well within the speed limit, alert at all times and above all respect the machine.

Your train or flight tickets can always be rescheduled whatever maybe the cancellation charges or loss, it is not worth risking your lives. Always remember the motto should be "Leave early, ride slowly and reach safely."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Patiala- Fine Example Of Punjab's Historic Grandeur!

Patiala-the land of salwars, parandas and pegs. We experienced the scenic beauty of Punjab once we took a deviation from the Delhi- Amritsar highway towards Patiala. We were welcomed by green archways across the road and beautiful paddy fields on either side. Riding our bike with scenic landscape made us feel so blessed to be citizens of a country that is gifted with all from mountains, hills, snow clad peaks to beaches and wildlife. We were further welcomed by a canal that looked more like a river.

The city has a royal feel to it with some amazing roads and historic monuments, the most famous being the Qila Mubarak Complex. Built in 1763 by Baba Ala Singh, this Qila or fort with a magnificent gate and multiple courtyards speaks of rich architecture and grandeur. It also had its own underground sewage system. Sadly, this  age old building is now in absolute shambles and ruins. It was a sorry sight to see such a monumental and historic building being neglected to an extent that in the year 2004, it was listed as 100 of World's "most endangered monuments."

While we were there, massive restoration work was taking place. As we walked around this monument, among everyday tools we noticed two massive cannons very casually laid around. The insides of the monument are in terrible condition with broken windows and crumbling walls. We were not able to help but wonder how glorious and awesome this complex would have been in it's hey days. Sincerely wish and hope that post restoration this monument might be able to do justice in providing a glimpse of its glorious past.

The Punjab tourism organizes Patiala heritage walk every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Shahi Samadhan, just 600 mt away from Qila Mubarak, from 8 am. This great fort seems to spread across acres, however, encroachments have led to cramped settlements to an extent where even the massive fort walls have not been sparred. Tons of shops have started their businesses and have ruined the beauty of the fort wall. If you plan to visit Qila Mubarak, early morning would be a better time as it could get chaotic during the day due to the massive market.

Every city in Punjab has amazing Gurudwaras and Dukh Nivaran is no different. According to the local tradition supported by a hand written document, a local visited the ninth guru of Sikhs - Guru Tegh Bahadur and requested him to bless his village as it was plagued by a mysterious disease. The Guru visited the village (now a part of Patiala) and in a short time the village got rid of the disease. The place where the Guru sat and preached is known as Dukh Nivaran, literally meaning - eradication of suffering. The calm and serene Gurudwara guarantees solitude and inner peace.

It stands testimony to actual service, their exclusive parking space is provided free of cost to devotees. They serve amazing food, portable water and prasad free of cost without any discrimination. It is an undeniable and irrefutable fact that the Sikh community contributes immensely towards the rich culture and heritage of India. The local community comes together as one and is dedicated in offering service to patrons who visit the Gurudwara without expecting anything in return. Photography is prohibited inside the Gurudwara so please respect the sanctity of the place.

Another magnificent monument is Sheesh Mahal. Built by the then Maharaja of Patiala in 1847, it portrays his love for arts and literature. The palace is decorated with murals, mirror work, art depicting poems and the artisans were from Rajasthan and Kangara. This palace was a prime example of grandeur with terraces, gardens, artificial lake and a grand suspension bridge- Lachman Jhoola. The palace also houses a museum that has artifacts, paintings, manuscripts and a massive medal collection. The green vegetation and the calm environment attracts a lot of birds. Early morning would be the perfect time to visit this place. It is open from 7am. In our opinion, Patiala is maybe not yet ready for tourism despite having rich legacy and historic monuments. Like the Qila Mubarak, Sheesh Mahal was also under renovation and we were not able to take a detailed tour but we really enjoyed catching a glimpse of whatever was left.  An important note to keep in mind is that almost all attractions in Patiala are closed on Mondays.

The freedom that a road trip offers is parallel to nothing. As we were traversing across the streets of Patiala, our hawk eyes spotted a humble and very interesting ice cream parlor- "Harbans Ice cream." This 25 year old shop opposite the Dukh Nivaran Gurudwara prepare their own ice cream and have an extensive menu plus are very economically priced. We went for Paan ice cream and being born and raised in metro, we expected the ice cream to come "Paan flavored" but we were taken aback to see actual ingredients of paan in the ice cream. We ordered grilled sandwich that came with good amount of veggies and amazing flavors.  A bottle of fresh badam milk loaded with nuts seemed to be a hot sell here and it tasted wonderful. We were served generous quantity and were charged a mere Rs.105 for all three. This place would any day give Swensen's, Baskin Robbins and the likes, a run for their money.

While at Patiala, it is a must to visit "Ambala Chaat House" in YPS road near Women's college. In our opinion, they serve the best and most impressive, elaborate pani puri in the whole of India! Satrangi golgappe as it is called, comes with 5 different flavors of water (paani) - Jeera, Pudina, Heeng, Theekha and Khatta meetha. Plus two puchkas topped with thick curd and the other with chutney (sweet and spicy.) This amazing culinary treat is priced at Rs.40 and is totally worth it. Believe us when we say you cannot have more than one plate as it is too heavy with generous amount of aloo and channa stuffing and the flavored water is ice cold! The place is very hygienic and run by very kind and courteous people.

If you have a sweet tooth, Gopal Sweet Shop in lower mall road would be your Mecca. Their exclusive specialty is the two varieties of "tart"- cashew and badam. Though not very sweet it has a good taste to it, just a dash of sugar syrup on the crunchy dry fruits with a base of tart. Their service is amazing, despite being a busy shop they were very courteous and helpful. The kesar badam milk and dhoklas are a must try here. They have a very wide range of delicacies to choose from and just one mere visit will not cut it.

If you are in mood for exclusive vegetarian Punjabi food look no further than New Sheetal Restaurant in lower mall road. Even on a Monday evening, people had to wait in queue to grab a table and their lip smacking food totally justifies the waiting period. We ordered dal makhani, paneer gravy, missi roti, sheetal special roti and butter roti. Their pricing would blow you off and make you wonder if it is actually 2016. All of this put together costed us Rs.132 and mind you the portions were generous. After a heavy dinner we headed to Sheetal ice cream parlour, a perfect place to taste different flavors. We tried mixed fruit and kaju pista ice cream. Served in one of the most crispiest cones that we have ever had and again generous quantity of ice cream costed us only Rs.35. With scenes like this, we were contemplating if we should actually relocate to Patiala.

For this trip, we considered trying out accommodation apps and it was our very first experience using OYO rooms and we had a very pleasant stay. We got very generous deals and stayed at hotel Polo Club in lower Mall road. Set in a residential locality, the hotel boasts of charming, spacious rooms with all modern amenities and clean bathrooms. The staff were very courteous, helpful and prompt with their service. Their restaurant serves amazing food, we started with the traditional Patiala Biryani that was very well complimented with boondi raita. The only drawback of the hotel is that they do not have exclusive parking and the entrance to the hotel is a little odd and uncomfortable.