Friday, 31 October 2014

Drive to Aamby Valley

The purpose was driving. To a new place. Not too far, not to close.



The agenda was to drive till Tamhini Ghat, laze around, watch the hills from a distance and gaze at the sky.

We had not planned much expect the meeting point and time. We all met at Western Express Highway near WEH metro station at 7:00 am. We took the new Chembur Santa Cruz Link Road. Getting through Vashi – Belapur – Kharghar – Panvel was easy as Mumbaikars were still sleeping (I think). We decided to hit the Mumbai Pune Express Highway. It was a smooth ride on the expressway till the toll plaza.



Toll


Mumbai Pune Express Way



Tunnel Approaching

We had a short stop at the Food Mall for breakfast and then resumed our drive. The climb to the ghat was surprisingly quick considering it was weekend when Mumbaikars head to Lonavala.

Zig Zag Roads




We didn’t halt at Lonavala and headed to Tamhini Ghat. We dint halt at Bushy Dam and continued ahead. Passing Bushy Dam we crossed Tiger Point of Lonavala, 15-20 mins from Bushy Dam. We decided to halt there on our way back. Around 5 kms ahead we crossed the Lion’s Point. We again decided to enjoy the view on our way back.







To reach Tamhini Ghat, the route would take us through the super luxurious residential colony Aamby Valley. The drive was through narrow ghats and the drive was amazing.

Beautiffullllll



The road was pretty smooth up to Aamby Valley which was unsurprising. Considering the super rich and affluent of the country own residential mansions in the place, the route to Aamby Valley is expected to be amazing.







The dense forest through which this route passed was at places so dense that the shrubbery blocked out the sun and plunged the route in darkness.

By now we had started feeling restless considering the slow and meandering pace that we had till now. Coupled with absolute loneliness on the route and horrible roads, safety concerns cropped up. By a vote it was decided that we will abort the journey to Tamhini Ghat at the current point and will not pursue this route any further.


Lion Point



From there on it was a pretty standard return journey.  Being Sunday afternoon, it was time for the rich and famous to take out their big toys back to Mumbai. As such we had a series of Porsches, Mercs and Audis overtaking me us at regular intervals.










On our return we stopped at Lions Point. The view from there was spectacular.  This is a sight worth traveling all the way. It is guaranteed to de-stress, rejuvenate and maintain your mental hygiene!
We stopped over again to savour baked corn with masala and lemon. Had lunch in Lonavala and then headed to Mumbai.

The drive was nice and smooth. It rejuvenated all of us and we were full of energy to be back in the corporate world.  Will be heading again sometime to explore Tamhini Ghat.

Points:

Places to see:
Mulshi Dam, Tamhini Ghat, Karla Caves, Khandala.

Things to buy from Lonavala:

Chikki, fudge and jelly chocolates. You will find these items in various flavors in the numerous shops lining in the streets of Lonavala.

Caution:
Drive slow especially while driving the steep hill.


Read 10 things to do in Mumbai





Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Upcoming Travel: Sikkim

The time has come for me to indulge in a vacation to the very beautiful north eastern state in India – Sikkim. (I haven’t been there as yet, but I am saying this based on what I see, read and hear). This will be my first trip to North East India and I plan to stay for roughly nine days in Sikkim. 


I have been planning this trip for a long while in my head and I am very happy that I am finally doing it. With the tickets done and hotels booked, I am all geared to fly to Bagdogra (Bagdogra is in West Bengal and is the closest airport to go to Sikkim. Sikkim does not have any airport) and be closer to the mighty Himalayas. 

I generally have a planned itinerary and I do have an idea of the geography that I am going to cover. 

I will be covering four places – Gangtok, Lachen (North Sikkim), Lachung (North Sikkim) and Pelling (West Sikkim).


I am very excited and looking forward to my trip. A detailed travel blog with tips, advice and photograph will be up after the trip.  I hope I will have lots of photographs, stories and experiences to share with you all. 

More to follow…


Friday, 17 October 2014

Prem Mandir, Vrindavan

It was in July this year that I went to Mathura. On this visit I got a chance to visit a newly constructed temple in Vrindavan – Prem Mandir – temple dedicated to Lord Krishna.

We headed to Prem Mandir in the evening to enjoy the beautiful work of lights. Since it was a weekend there was huge crowd at the entrance of the temple. Once you enter the temple compound, the crowd seems to vanish. The temple is so huge and beautiful that you tend to get busy appreciating its beauty.

The entire temple is made with white marbles. In the temple compound, few major instances of Lord Krishna have been wonderfully depicted. In the evening the entire temple and the garden is beautiful lit with synchronized colourful lights. It is a sight to see. There is also a musical fountain show in the evening.


It is rightly said that “A Picture is worth a thousand words” So let the pics say it all:

Prem Mandir
Entrance of Prem Mandir











The Beautiful Temple - The Beautiful Carvings




Musical Fountain






Read about my visit to Shiva's Kopeshwar Temple near Kolhapur.

How to reach:-
By Road- Easy connectivity from Agra (70 km on NH2) and Delhi (145 km on NH2).

Nearest Railway Station- Mathura Junction (MTJ) 10.5 km

Nearest Airport- Agra Airport 75 km. 

From Railway Station there are 2 ways to reach here. One goes inside the city of Mathura via Bhuteshwar Road, via Birla Temple and you will find Prem Mandir. Other one goes through High-Way (National Highway 2). On National Highway 2 you can get in Vrindavan by turning in left (you can see large statue of Godess Durga nearby this area).

Temple Timings:


05:30 a.m.- Mangla (Morning) Darshan and Aarti.
06:30 a.m.- Bhog Darshan and Prayer
08:30 a.m.- Shringar Darshan
11:45 a.m.- Aarti
12:00 noon - Temple Closes
4:30 p.m. - Evening Darshan and Aarti
5:30 p.m. - Bhog and Prayer
7:00 p.m. - Musical fountain show with beautiful light show.
8:00 p.m. - Aarti
8:15 p.m. - Shayan Darshan
8:30 p.m. - Temple Closes

Please Note:

There is no entry ticket. There is a canteen in the premises which serves light snacks. Don't forget to buy souvenir  and prasaad for your loved ones from the shop near the canteen.

My Advice:

Enjoy the beauty of Prem Mandir in the evening. You will be able to see the temple during the sunset, enjoy the beautiful carvings on the white marble. As the sun sets the lights will be on and you will see the temple all lit up with lights. These lights are syncronized and change colours every 3 seconds. Do enjoy the musical fountain show at 7 o'clock in the evening.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

10 Things to do in Mumbai

Planning a trip to Mumbai???


I will tell you what to do in the ‘City of Dreams’.. Here is a list of 10 things that are duly recommended on your visit to Mumbai.

1.       Sunset at Sea Front
Sunset at Juhu Beach
Mumbai which is made of seven islands comprises of many beaches. The three popular beaches of Mumbai are Girgaum, Juhu and Bandstand. While Girgaum is located in South Mumbai, Juhu and Bandstand are in North Mumbai and close to each other. Juhu and Girgaum are fun to be visited in the evening with lots of people enjoying the cool breeze and the sun especially on weekends. At Bandstand you will find hordes of fans waiting outside Shahrukh Khan’s and Salman Khan’s residence.

My Advice:  At Bandstand, walk further towards the Bandra Fort leading to the end of the road. Climb up the fort, sip in some tea to enjoy the most spectacular view of Bandra-Worli Sealink.

At Juhu and Girgaun Beach, go for a morning jog. The beach is a sight in the morning with clear sky, sea and the sand. There is hardly any crowd on the beach in the morning. If you can, visit the ISKON Temple which is near the beach. Attend the morning aarti.. It connects with you spiritually.

2.       Marine Drive


Marine Drive at Night
Marine Drive is one of the most famous landmark of Mumbai. It is a place where I recommend you to sit, relax and enjoy the sea. Enjoy a walk on this 3 kms stretch to rejuvenate and re-energize youself. Enjoy the waves, the view, the sunset. This is one place where you won’t get tired of looking at the sea. Here, you will feel as if the sea is soothing you, calming you down, giving you peace. At night, when the street lights are switched on, the view of Marine Drive resembles a necklace and is thus known as ‘Queen’s Necklace’. Marine Drive becomes a dance floor on the eve of Diwali, New Year and when India wins a cricket match. There are lots of eating joints at the Marine Drive. You can have a leisure dinner at Pizza By the Bay, or at the restaurants of Intercontinental and Hilton. An economical option is Crystal (opposite Girgaun). You also have an option of New Yorker’s, Cream Centre, Sukh Sagar, Dominos and CafĂ© Ideal.

3.       Gateway of India


Gateway of India
      This is the monument which was built during British Rule in India. It is bang opposite the Hotel Taj and is facing the sea.

My Advice: You can take a bus or a cab from Churchgate Station or CST. You can catch the ferry to elephanta Caves from here. Colaba Market is walking distance from here. You can stroll in the market, don’t forget to bargain before buying anything from here. Enjoy a mug of beer at Leopold.


4.       Travel in local train


Travel in Local Train
How can you be in Mumbai and not travel by the life line of the city – local train. This city runs and survives on three train lines – Western, Central and Harbour. Local train is the fastest and the cheapest mode of transport in Mumbai. If you have not travelled in the local train then you have not felt the pulse of the city. Recently Mumbai has added Metro and Monorail to its facilities of public transport. 

Interesting Facts: You can buy earrings, rubber bands, petticoats, leggings, books, hair clips, farsan in the train (In Ladies Compartment). People hang out of the train even if the train is empty. They like the feel of air on their face in their hair. Though it gives you a nice feel, it is risky and duly not recommended especially to people who are traveling in the local train for the first time. Another interesting fact is that people actually have a separate group of train friends with whom they share their breakfast, their family issues and their happiness. You might also notice a group of people in the train singing Bhajans with instruments. Weird but its true!!!


My Advice: The experience of travelling in a local train can range from exhilarating, frustrating and sometimes frightening. Therefore, I recommend you to travel in a local in non peak hours. Thus, ensuring a safe entry - exit from the local and a comfortable ride. Take a ‘Return’ ticket so that you don’t have to stand in the queue for buying a ticket again. Also, please confirm from the fellow passengers which side will the platform of the station will come.

5.       Play at Prithvi Theatre or NCPA




Another thing that you should not miss when in Mumbai is watching a play at Prithvi or NCPA. This city has a strong liking for Theatre. The plays generally emotes the current situation of the society be it be in comedy or a satire. It will leave you thinking and will touch a chord with you.

The vibe of the place is energetic and enigmatic. The crowd consists of youngsters and oldies alike. You will see college students wearing jeans and t shirts and senior citizens in sarees and Kurtas. The culture of theatre is very strong in Mumbai and don’t be surprised if you see Nasrudeen Shah or Shobha De or other theatre and bollywood personalities sitting beside you and watching the play. Get ready to enjoy the fascinating experience.

Cafe at Prithvi Theatre
My Advice: NCPA has tickets priced according to seating arrangement. The tickets will be priced more if you want the seats closer to the stage and the front view. The seats on the sides of the stage are priced economically. Marine Drive and Girgaum Beach are close to NCPA.

In Prithvi all the seat tickets costs the same. It is highly advisable to be early because the seats are on first come first serve basis. Prithvi has a restaurant right outside the theatre. Sip in tea, relax and enjoy the aura which this place has. ISKON Temple and Juhu Beach are in close proximity to Prithvi Theatre. You can try combining all together.

You can book the tickets on bookmyshow.com

How to Reach: NCPA is located at Nariman Point in South Mumbai. You can take a train to Churchgate if you are on western line or take a train to CST if you are on central and harbour line. Take a cab from Churchgate or CST. Share cabs are also available from both the stations.

Prithvi Theatre – The closest station is Vile Parle (Western Line). Get in a rick from there to reach Prithvi Theatre.

6.       DDLJ at Maratha Mandir


DDLJ at Maratha Mandir

Even if you have seen DDLJ a million times go and see it again at Maratha Mandir. It is the place which has set the record for longest running movie in “Guinness Book of World Records”.  Till today a daily matinee show is running for the movie. You will be shocked to know that still, after so many years; you won’t be able to get the ticket if you don’t go early. You might have to buy the ticket in black. It is a different experience to watch DDLJ after so many years in a theatre among the fans of the movie. The whole experience will be nostalgic. By the way, DDLJ will complete 1000 weeks of running in December 2014.

How to reach Maratha Mandir: Go to Mumbai Central Station. Exit to the east side of the station and come out of the Mumbai Central Main station. Right opposite Mumbai Central Main Station is Maratha Mandir.

7.       Siddhivinayak Temple, Haji Ali, Mount Mary Church


Siddhivinayak Temple
      If you are in a mood for devotion, then Mumbai has various options. You can visit Mount Mary Church or Siddhivinayak Temple (Lord Ganesha Temple) or Haji Ali Dargah.

Siddhivinayak Temple is the faith, hope, strength of Mumbaikars. The temple is devoted to Lord Ganesha and has hordes of devotees visiting it everyday. This temple is frequently visited by politicians and bollywood film stars who come here to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha.

Haji Ali Dargah
Located in the middle of the sea Haji Ali Dargah is a place one should go. It gives you an opportunity to witness the city from a distance, feel the waves splashing on the rocks and enjoy the soulful qawalis. You will be amazed to see that the majority of the people visiting the Dargah are non-muslims. I don’t know if it is out of curiosity or faith???

Mount Mary Church
Mount Mary Church is the most famous church in Mumbai devoted to Mother Mary. It is believed to have healing powers and any person who prays honestly gets his/her wish fulfilled. You can catch a glimpse of the Arabian Sea from the church. Every year in September a seven day fair is organized on the occasion of the birthday of Mount Mary. Numerous stalls are installed selling religious objects, books, clothes, candles etc.

My Advice: To reach Siddhivinayak Temple Dadar is the closest railway station. Avoid going to the temple of weekends and Tuesday. Try going for the morning arti. There is hardly any crowd in the morning and you can have a good darshan.

For Mount Mary Church get off at Bandra Station and take a rick or a bus.

Head to Haji Ali between 5:00 and 6:30 pm to witness the beautiful sunset. To reach Haji Ali, get down at Mahalaxmi Temple on the western line a take a cab. Weekends are more crowded than weekdays. The lane that connects the city to the Dargah is very narrow and can be missed easily. Keep an open eye to locate the path. 


8.       A Ferry Ride


Enjoy a Ferry Ride
What’s the point of coming to Mumbai and not experiencing the sea. The feeling of being in the middle of nowhere with no visibility of land is adventure in itself. Catch a ferry to Elephanta Caves (UNESCO Heritage Site) from Gateway of India. Or if you are in a rush take a 30 mins ferry ride along the coast. 

Please Note: You can take a taxi from Churchgate Station (Western Line) or CST (Central and Harbour Line) for Gateway of India. The first ferry from Gateway for Elephanta is at 9:00 am and the last ferry from Elephanta is at 5:30 pm. It takes around 45 mins from gateway to Elephanta. There is no facility of night stay at Elephanta. The ferries do not run during monsoons i.e. from June to September.

9.       Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)


Chatrapati Shivaji Terminals (CST) at night
You have seen CST in numerous bollywood movies. In fact, it has been the introduction shot to the city in so many movies. Whenever the hero comes to Mumbai, he is shown taking a taxi outside CST Station. The famous song “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire was shot on the platform of this very station.

It is a railway station and is a terminal not just for local trains but for long distance trains too. and the head office of central railways. It is one of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage site and is a splendid example to Victorian Gothic Architecture. You will see glass panels, engravings on stone of flowers, birds and animals . The carvings are exquisite.

My Advice: Go for the heritage walk that Central Railway has started. The walk starts with the in-house museum followed by a tour of the building. CST is illuminated with colourful lights at night which gives it a different aura and a look of a giant palace. Have a look at the World Heritage Site in the evening as well.

Point to Note: The heritage walk is open to public on weekdays between 3 pm and 5 pm and cost Rs 200 per person and Rs 100 per student if you are carrying your college or school identity card. You can reach CST by taking a train from Central or Horbour line or taking a taxi or bus from Churchgate if you are on Western Line. It was earlier known as Victoria Terminus.


10.   Bhelpuri, Vada Pav, Barf Gola, Pau Bhaji


Collage of Street Food in Mumbai
Mumbai is a place of million of hawkers. Everywhere you will find stalls selling sandwiches, bhelpuri, vada pav, bhaji pav, bun maska. When in Mumbai do savor the Mumbai Snacks.

My Advice: For finger licking Pav Bhaji head to Sardar’s. It is a five min walk from Mumbai Central Station. Enjoy the Pani Puri at Elco’s in Bandra West. They use mineral water to make the pani and you have an option of enjoying it sitting on red coloured plastic stool by the road or in an AC restaurant on the first floor. If you are a sea food person, Mahesh Lunch is your place. It has various joints – Fort, Elphinstone, Juhu. Bachelorr’s is the hangout place for shakes, smoothies and juices. They have shakes and ice creams which are completely unheard of. You can enjoy the Barf Gola at Girgaun or Juhu Chowpatty. Try the kheer at Crystal which is opposite the Girgaun Chopatty. Try the bun maska and chai at the small stall outside Churchgate Station. If you want to sit, relax and converse head to Tea Centre which is walking distance from Churchgate Station. Try the Chicken Tikka Rolls at Bade Miya behind Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

Other things you can indulge in are:

a.       Shopping at Linking Road, Hill Road and Colaba
b.      Bandra Worli Sea Link
c.       A visit to the Dhobi Ghat
d.      Walk in Fort Area
e.      Dabbawallas
f.        Essel World, Water Kingdom, Imagica
g.       Visit to Chor Bazaar
h.      Water sports at H2O
i.         Prince Wales Museum


Mumbai has many weekend Getaways :
a) Hill Stations - Matheran, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Lonavala, Khandala
b) Beaches – Alibag, Kashid, Kihim, Murud, Harihareshwar, Ganpatipule