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Saturday, July 24, 2010

DELHI-AGRA-JAIPUR--THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE OF INDIA









My decision to visit the capital metro was not a pre-planned one. We were planning to go to the Pink city of India- Jaipur – where my sister and family reside. Due to the non-availability of direct train to Jaipur from Trivandrum (one weekly train from Ernakulam only), we had to opt Rajadhani Express and therefore we decided to go for two day roundup to Delhi and Agra.

We were supposed to start at 7PM on 5th of November, but due to the reschedule of the train, we could only start at 6.15 am on 6th.of November from Trivandrum. The seats were almost vacant, may be due to the rescheduling and we had a whole compartment for us till New Delhi. The kids had a good time and so did we. The pantry was good and provided the requirements. On the 8th we reached rather at an odd time -3AM at Nizamudeen railway station. We were picked by a friend’s friend of mine, Mr. Mohan who had arranged room for us at Hotel India Palace Hotel, Karol Bagh, NewDelhi (Ph 28750595, 41547695). The typical nature of the economy hotels in Delhi are that they don’t keep tariff card and charges room rent according to the situation. Therefore always check the tariff before you check in the hotels otherwise there is every chance of getting cheated. Because of the late arrival we had to reschedule our programme. We checked in at the hotel at 4AM and then got ready by 10 am for sight seeing. We hired a taxi (Tata Indigo) from near the Kerala House –the rate was reasonable Rs 850 for a whole day. I forgot the name of the driver and since I felt that he is genuine in his approach, the trip plan was left with him.



First we went to Rashtrapathi Bhavan. The security there was so tight that vehicles were not allowed to park near the premises. After quickly dropping the visitors the cars go for a round up and returns to pick them up.
Our next spot was the Indira House. Some sought of grief, respect, love, loss, the emotions we went through there is rather unexplainable. The house is neatly arranged and the exhibits include the saree, bag etc. worn by Indiraji when she was shot. The spot where she was shot is kept in a glass enclosure. We could find Malayalam newspaper in the exhibition area there.



We then moved on to the famous Qutab Minar. We had to pay Rs.10/- as entry fee but for foreigners its Rs 250/-. Built by the Muslim King, Qutab-ud-din Aibak and completed by Iltumish, it is a magnificient structure of 72.5 metres. Heavy rush prevented us from staying there for a long time.
Our lunch was from Saravana restaurant where our driver dropped on our preference for a veg. restaurant. Though the waiting time there was too much, we had a good lunch provided the rates were on the higher side. We couldn’t enter the Lotus temple, Monday being holiday there. We could get the glimpse of the architectural marvel of Bahai faith from outside, took some pictures and moved on to RajGhat.


The other national shrines like Shanti Van (Jawaharlal Nehru), Vijay Ghat (Lal Bahadur Sastri), Shakti Sthal (Indira Gandhi) and Vir Bhumi (Rajiv Gandhi) were near by. The atmosphere is very calm and the greenery and quietness adds to the beauty. Then we had a round up by car through the road to see the Red Fort and Juma Masjid. The irregular octagonal structure on the banks of Yamuna –the Red Fort is surrounded by a wall of about 2.5 metres. Due to shortage of time and heavy traffic we had to limit our visit inside these monuments.


During the evening time we reached near India Gate. The 42 metre high, free standing arch originally called All India War Memorial evokes in us the patriotic feel of a true Indian. Even though noisy because of the visitors, street vendors etc., there is serenity in the atmosphere. The names of the soldiers are inscribed along the walls of the arch. The eternal flame to honour Amar Jawan is protected by the sentries. They are very alert and security is very tight there.
To experience the journey through the metro rail we left the taxi at Rajiv Chowk. The kids enjoyed the short travel so did we. We reached the hotel by 8 pm.
Next morning we reached the New Delhi Railway station by an auto. The train, Taj express, was on time (7AM) and we reached Agra Cantonment by 10.15AM
My brother-in-law and my parents joined us in Agra from Jaipur. They reached by 10.30 AM and we hired a taxi for Agra sight seeing. After negotiation a prepaid taxi was hired for Rs 650 for 8hrs. Whether it is too much or reasonable I don’t know, but it was the only alternative. If you want to go to Fatehpur Sikri as well, it would be Rs 850/-. There is no much places of interest in Agra other than Agra Fort and TajMahal.

After having Darsan at Balaji Temple we went to Agra Fort. It’s a huge fort of which only 60% is open to the public. There is an entry fee of Rs 20. The entry is through a door like bridge which can be closed when needed. It took almost an hour and a half to have a quick round about there. The architectural skills and engineering has to be appreciated. From the fort we could get a glimpse of the Taj Mahal. There is a deep trench all round outside the fort which is said to have built to protect the fort from the enemies during the ancient times.


Next spot was the Taj, but in between we were taken to the U.P Handloom House. Taj Model, banana silk saris, mosquito repellent bed sheets etc. were the specialities. Those were made by the prison inmates said the sales men. We don’t know whether there is any cheating or the prices were on the higher side. But one thing is certain – the driver gets commission everywhere. We bought some saris, marble models and bed sheets. We had our lunch from a nearby veg. restaurant and moved on to the Taj –the pride of our nation and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Our driver arranged tickets through nearby gate. So we had to walk only 500 metres. Otherwise the walking distance is more. But the fact is that instead of paying Rs 25 (for 5 adults) we had to pay Rs.110. There too the driver earns. With children our choice was more comfortable. So we knowingly accepted it. The sculpture and its beauty is something inexplicable, that’s an experience. We spent almost two and a half hours there exploring the nook and corner. Although photography is prohibited many were taking photos with their mobiles. The entry to the tombs of Mumtaz and Shajahan was prohibited. People were seen throwing coins inside the wire mesh there! I don’t understand the history or secret behind it.



Carrying fond memories of Taj, we reached Agra Fort station to catch the Ajmer Sealdah Express to Jaipur at 8PM. But the train was late by 2 hrs. We decided to dine outside, but to our disgust we couldn’t find any good restaurant there. In spite of the bad condition of the road, traffic and showers we some how managed to find a restaurant which was bit far from the station. Apart from the world famous monument the condition of the city is really pathetic. Better not to explain about the neatness! It is another wonder that how a place which is attracted by lot of tourists, mainly foreigners could be maintained like this. I found a lot of foreigners in the railway station waiting for the trains, which are most often delayed, with their hands on the head. They couldn’t even get clean water or food. A part of the waiting room at the railway station was closed and it was hard to stand all the while. The place was very much occupied by passengers and nobody seemed to adjust. Then only we saw a boy of about 12 years who seemed to be in charge of collecting money at the pay and use toilet inside the room. Seeing my daughter and son he waved and smiled at them. We understood that he was dumb. Making friendship with them he became a little lenient. He took a key and opened the part of the room for us. He was trying to say in his language that it is opened only for special people. Through his behaviour he easily conveyed that his happiness is in getting tips. What all characters do we meet in a journey? U.P is poor in exploring the possibility of attracting tourists and it seems that there is not commitment in this area on the part of State Government. We gave our little friend some tips and moved to the Pink City by 10.15 pm in Ajmer Sealdah Express.
We reached my sister’s house by 3.15AM. We had a small shopping from Gourav Tower, in the evening where kids enjoyed many rides and all.
For a change we opted to go for Jaipur sight seeing with the conducted tour of the Rajasthan Tourism Department-Jaipur Darsan. We booked for it from the information office at the railway station. It’s only Rs 200 per person. The timing is from 9am to 6.30 pm. We were picked from the first point-Birla Mandir, opposite the Jaipur Development Authority which is fully on white marbles.

The first place of visit for the all the tour operators of Jaipur Darshan is the Birla Mandir as I could find lot of buses parking outside. One thing I couldn’t digest is the way in which the foreigners were treated. The streets were filled with beggars and I could find them even snatching food materials from the foreigners creating utter nuisance to them. Even from their body language I could find that they are upset with the service that is being rendered for the money collected from them. The authorities are neglecting the problems caused to the visiting tourists. In fact I am of opinion that these beggars, mostly women and children, should be rehabilitated at the expense of Government and they should not be allowed to trouble the visiting foreigners which would only help to create ill-reputation to our nation.

The Pink city- Maharaj Sawai Jai Singh II is the founder of this city. The city has 9 gates all around. We entered the Pink city through the Chand Pol gate. We could only see pink everywhere which gives the name to the city. The newly constructed buildings too are painted pink. Every house, shop, walls etc. are of pink colour. We reached the Hawa Mahal. The Hawa Mahal built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Prathap Singh is the most recognizable monument of Jaipur. It’s a 5 storied semi octagonal monument with 365 windows –a fine piece of Rajput architecture.


Our next point was the Jantar Mantar. It’s really interesting. The huge masonry instruments used to study the movements of constellations and stars in the sky throws light on the intelligence of the society of the 19th century. It was built by the Maharaj Jai SinghII. The entry fee is Rs 20 per head.

Nearby Jantar Mantar is the City Palace and the SMS Museum. They are a blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture. Again there was an entry fee of Rs 40 and the camera charge of Rs 50. The palace has 4 entries. The present king lives there. Two flags were hoisted there. The guide informed that the smaller one if hoisted half way mark shows that the king is inside the palace.


It has to be mentioned that the guide was not at all good. It is the tourism department’s responsibility to check the quality of the guides. In spite of knowing Hindi and English we found it hard to collect information. If I am not wrong, Rajastan Tourism Department is rated as number one in India and from them such kind of lapses are not expected. We spent about 50 minutes in City Palace. The mixed fruit salad from the street vendor outside the museum with some salt and pepper at Rs 20 was really worthy and refreshing too.
We then moved to Nahargarh fort which is outside the Pink city. Cresting a hill about 600 feet above the city, the fort was built in 1734. The walls of the fort run along the ridge and within are the architectural beauties like Hawa Mandir and Madhavendra Bhawan. The guide left us near the entrance and we had to see all round without any assistance. There was an entry fee of Rs10 per person and we had to walk about 1km to reach top. We could see private vehicles entering and going above. It was really contradictions. It was almost lunch time and there was a small restaurant inside one of the old buildings. Of course to mention the menu one ordinary Thali meals costs 125rupees. (Just watch the picture taken) The fort is full of monkeys and that too harmful ones. One came and snatched the plate of a foreigner who was sitting outside. She was too scared and yelled. She was served inside later. After lunch it was time to check in the bus! I think the Tourism department intends to loot the tourists by giving lunch break in this place as there is no other option for food available for the tourists.






Our next point was the Jaigarh Fort. Standing on a hill top overlooks the palaces and the city of Amber. The world’s biggest cannon on wheels – the Jai Ban is positioned there. It has 20ft long barrel. 100kg gun powder has to be pumped into the cannon for a single shot. And to mention the entry fee! Rs 50 per head.



Then we proceed to the Amber Palace which is really worth seeing. From downhill, jeep has to be hired at a rate of Rs 200/-. The road is narrow and rocky. The Amber palace is remarkable as much for majestic grandeur of its surroundings as for its sturdy battlements and beautiful palaces. The palace complex is lavishly ornamented and displays the riches of Amber. Sheesh Mahal is a chamber of mirrors. The lattice windows, exquisitely painted doorways, halls, finely sculptured pillars etc. crave for attention. Everywhere it’s clean and secured too. The maintenance is also good. After spending 2 hrs there we had some shopping outside. The handicraft items were cheap and remarkable of the Rajasthani craftsmanship.




Our next point was the Kanak Vrindavan, a newly restored temple and garden – a popular picnic place with beautiful gardens. On the way we could see lots of peacocks dancing in the hill slopes. We had half an hour break there. The bus stopped near a restaurant where the guide directed us for tea. A very small cup of tea was charged Rs.10. but after a while we discovered that the opposite side shop was selling good tea that too in a big cup for Rs 5. What an idea setji! That is business!





Due to shortage of time, Jal Mahal (a palace set in the middle of Man Sagar Lake) and The Birla Planetarium were cut off and we got down near Albert Hall. Albert Hall is a graceful building found in 1876 in honour of the visit of Prince Albert to Jaipur. The climate had a subtle change during evening; we were finding it hard to withstand the chilled atmosphere. If you ever visit Jaipur don’t forget to enjoy the delicious milk products of SARAS.
Our return journey to Trivandrum was in Jaipur-Ernakulam Express Train carrying some sweet memories of our journey through the golden triangle.

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