There were endless days when I would travel for hours just to savor the best bites. I still jump at the idea of traveling somewhere far to eat. And, the first thing I research about while planning a trip is food! Continue reading
I have always loved Goa, even before I visited. One of those places you just belong to in your imagination. Last year, husband and I made a sudden plan to visit Goa in July since we were occupied with multiple things in the preceding months and were moving to the US in August.
Bundi is one place that took me by surprise and an amazing one at that! Tourism has been the focus of Rajasthan since long, but I had no clue that such tiny towns are frequented by British and French travelers in huge numbers. I, personally, had never heard of Bundi, so was curious to know the place after I read many snippets about it over the web.
Little know-how: Bundi is a small city in Rajasthan, situated 210 kilometers from Jaipur. Its famous for mural art, ornate forts, lakes and Baoris (step-wells). The famous writer, Rudyard Kipling, once stayed at Sukh Niwas Palace by the Jait Sagar Lake and his book Kim is inspired from Bundi.
I saw tiny blue-colored houses surrounded by the mountains with Bundi Palace prominently standing on one side. Atop the hill, you can see the walls of Taragarh Fort which runs through the city.
After checking in Hotel Bundi Haveli, I set out to explore the Bundi Palace and Taragarh Fort on foot. Location-wise and otherwise too, the hotel was a good pick and I was quite glad to book the same.
I would recommend everyone to explore (some part, at least) the city on foot as its charming and you might stumble upon something unique! Though, next day I set out on car to wander as I had to leave early.
Why I totally adored Bundi and regretted staying there for just one day?!
First impressions always last, and the way we were welcomed at Hotel Bundi Haveli made us happy about our choice! Nothing grand happened, just the genuine smiles and caring attitude impressed us. The receptionist even handed us a map of Bundi and informed us about all the places we can visit along with directions. It was fun to use a physical map in this day & age.
Apart from the service, we loved how beautifully the hotel was maintained. Its basically an old haveli, converted into a hotel.
While coming back from the Bundi Palace, I noticed a shop where an old man was busy with colors & brush outside and a lot of finished paintings in the tiny room inside. The man patiently showed me around his shop and talked about the painting techniques, colors and stories drawn.
His work was detailed, intricate and elaborate. I just loved how poised and calm this artist was and that he never pestered me to buy his paintings, just silently went back to his work when I left!
The Food! I was surprised to find so many options for continental cuisine in Bundi when I did a Google search. I tried Out of the Blue for dinner and Lake View Restaurant for breakfast.
The pizza and pasta at Out of the Blue was one of the best I have ever had. What really makes this place truly incredible is the panoramic views it offers, of the city and lake. You just have to walk up a never ending flight of stairs to reach here. But, at the end of it you wouldn’t regret it.
Breakfast at the lake-view restaurant was another beautiful experience. We had banana pancake and cheese-tomato sandwich while sitting in front of the Naval Sagar Lake.
This little boy was helping his parents serve as he had an off from school. We enjoyed our breakfast thoroughly which was fabulous.
There’s so much to see in Bundi from Bundi Palace, Chitrashala, Taragarh Fort, to the numerous Baoris & Lakes. I sat by the Jait Sagar Lake to understand how Kipling must have felt, spent hours to see the murals at Chitrashala, and walked down the stairs at Raniji ki baori to admire the architecture, yet wanted to see more!
Bundi was Lethal! I would visit again, and this time for a longer period.
This was one of the rare trips wherein I didn’t plan anything, packed my bags in 15 mins and hopped inside our car to reach a place I had never heard of. As much as I love planning my itinerary, I just couldn’t do it this time. It was a long weekend and I was occupied with work at office so couldn’t get time to plan in advance. I didn’t even get time to pack properly, so threw in whatever was handy and started our journey early in the morning.
Trivia about the place – Ramgarh is located in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand. If you travel from New Delhi, this town is 25 km ahead of Nainital. Standing at an average elevation of 1,158 meters or 4,980 feet, this little place was once the cantonment of the English Army (Like every other hill station in North India). Ramgarh is famous for its vast orchards which are adorned with peaches, apricots, apples and pears as well as ashrams established by Rabindra Nath Tagore and Narain Swami.
Since the trip was unplanned, we had to drive down (which I totally love) and figured out two routes to reach the place. One was through the main Nainital highway and the other one through Bazpur, Jim Corbett, Bhimtal etc. Nonetheless, the second route had scenic stretches so we chose that and it took us approximately 8-9 hours to reach. I would though recommend the main highway as the road condition is much better.
Ramgarh Retreat: After a long and beautiful drive, we reached our destination where we had booked a room at Ramgarh Retreat (Due to last minute planning, only this was available). This property is owned by an elderly couple from Delhi and was built few years back only. With a total of five rooms in this huge house, we were allotted one with a valley-facing sit-out area on first floor.
The flawless service and hospitality of the owners and their helps was worth an applause. Throughout our holiday, we just relaxed and sat by our room’s huge window, which offered panoramic views of the valley. More so because there was no scope of venturing out as it rained continuously and heavily, bringing down the temperature to an uncomfortable level. Still, I was cherishing each and every moment in that house as we were the only guests at that time and received all the attention!
Food: We were served various delicacies such as Butter Chicken, Mutton, Dal, Paneer Bhurji, Vegetable Pakoras, Halwa etc. during our stay. The food was placed very neatly on the table and served well. Menu was pre-decided and I somehow liked it since I didn’t have to contemplate what to order. Coming to the taste of it, the cook turned even the simplest dishes like Dal into something magical and we just couldn’t stop complementing him!
The house was decorated quite tastefully and was worth exploring in itself! With a lot of windows and lounges, the house is any book-lovers paradise. We were also shown the second floor which again had a very nice sit-out area and a better view of the valley.
What really took our breadth away was the moment we got up next morning and looked outside! The clouds were floating, dancing and hiding everywhere.
Some holidays are just meant to unwind….♠!
Visited – 3rd-5th April, 2015
Trip Cost – INR 12,000 (Approx.)
As a traveler, I am always curious to visit unexplored regions to discover something unique. This time my research led me to Mahansar in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. The whole region is brimming with old colorful havelis (mansions) decorated with eye-catching murals, built by rich traders during the 18th to 20th century. These murals depict mythological and historical events with images of Hindu Gods, Animals, Battlefields, Kings etc.
We drove (approx. 270 kms) from Noida, UP and reached our destination in about 6 hours. It took us longer than usual as we were lost in between and took a route with road work in progress. Otherwise, road conditions are very good and its advisable to know the exact route through web search before traveling. Those traveling from other cities can come to Jaipur by air or train and hire a taxi to reach Mahansar. The landscapes and highways leading to the region are totally worth a drive. At times, you witness massive green fields and then you suddenly come across barren & unwelcoming pieces of land, accompanied by the magnificent Aravali hills.
Some of the destinations (if you have interest in wall paintings & old havelis) one can explore in the Shekhawati region are Mandawa, Nawalgarh, Mahansar and Churu. I chose Mahansar because I could manage to book a stay at the fort itself. Although, the whole region has quite a few decent accommodation options.
Our stay at Mahansar Fort was wonderful, solely due to the impeccable service provided by our hosts, Bhagwati and Seema Singh (owners of the fort). They took care of everything themselves and made sure that we felt comfortable. Food was also prepared by the hostess, all by herself, and I must mention that she specially included a non-veg delicacy in our dinner menu since we proclaimed our love for chicken while talking! Coming to the taste of it, I found the food simple and very homely.
Post lunch, we went out to explore the village which was a typical Indian village with various old temples and havelis. The nearby Mandawa region is also well-known for its havelis, so I would recommend others to explore the same. We stayed at the Fort for one night and completely enjoyed the hospitality of our royal hosts (Bhagwati Singh is a direct descendant of the Thakurs of Mahansar).
We were also offered some local wine by our host which I felt was infused with cardamom and had a strong flavor. Though we wanted to stay longer to see the famous havelis, we couldn’t do so this time. In fact, Bhagwati helps his guests in exploring the village and enlightens them with historical trivia about the place. I believe, had we stayed back we could have cherished the artwork. That gives me a reason to go back…♥
Earlier, I had no fascination for Rajasthan and now I keep scouting for more and more remote villages and forts. That’s the aura of Rajasthan, it just sweeps you off your feet. This time we ended our trip too soon, but in my next visit I would capture the artwork of old havelis for sure.
Visited – 6th Feb, 2015
Intrigued by the rich culture & history of India, I decided to scout for a non-commercial & secluded Fort near Delhi for a short trip. After multiple searches over the web, I was glad that I found Dadhikar Fort in Alwar (Rajasthan). This Fort was built in the 11th century by King Chand and is situated right in the middle of a village atop a small hill!
There are two routes to reach this Fort (I traveled from Noida, UP) once you reach Alwar, one through a village and another through the city. Luckily, Google Navigator took me through the village route and I could witness the rustic beauty of our country which we miss while rushing to work everyday. There were farms all across, kids eyeing us curiously, truckload of sheep baffled by the sudden invasion of a car in their territory, buffaloes enjoying sauna in man-made pools etc.
We saw a huge pool on our way and right across that we spotted Vijay Mandir, the private property of Alwar’s prince. The journey is always the best part about traveling, and is sweetened exponentially if the destination turns out to be equally mesmerizing.
Drive to the Fort’s parking from its main gate was a little scary as its not concrete but nonetheless, the Fort’s owner has done a phenomenal job in taking you completely through the lifestyle of Emperors. After we parked, we had to walk uphill inside the Fort to reach our room which was a Duplex suite (Mahavan) and their best, as per traveler reviews. The view from our room’s terrace was spectacular as we could see the whole village around us and felt protected by a hill behind the Fort.
We headed for lunch after check-in, a buffet served on table, since we were the only guests at that time. The spread was vegetarian, i.e paneer ki sabzi, dal, papad ki sabzi, baingan, pasta in white sauce and a dish made with corn. Apart from the corn dish, everything else was delicious. Similar was the dinner experience as far as taste is concerned, however the candle-lit terrace environment made the experience delightful.
The Fort’s current owner has put considerable amount of effort in restoration, considering it was completely ruined when he bought it from the last descendant (Quick fact – He paid INR 50 lakh to acquire it). The walls are adorned with old pictures of the ruined Fort and how the work has been done.
Moments to cherish –
They decide and choose different venues for lunch, dinner and breakfast everyday, so we could explore different parts of the Fort. And, the dinner was candle-lit on one of their terraces!
Service was in line with Rajasthan’s famous hospitality.
Areas of Improvement –
Very sadly, they don’t serve non-veg.
Should arrange folk performances (On weekends, they do arrange) on weekdays as well, considering they were quite occupied on a Tuesday.
Some tips that may come handy!
Take the village route to reach the fort. Its simply fun!
Go out and explore the nearby village.