Thursday 30 May 2013

MMT Offers a Switzerland Ski Contest

Do you fancy Switzerland? I guess it would be a rare person who doesn’t fancy that beautiful place. After all Bollywood has made it so popular in India.

Pristine Beauty

We all remember DDLJ and its beautiful scenes shot in Switzerland. And even a partial list of other movies is quite impressive. Movies like Chandni, Darr, Dil To Pagal Hai, Mere Yaar ki Shaadi Hai, Jab Tak Hai Jaan etc been shot in Switzerland. And these are just Yash Chopra movies!

To promote Switzerland Tourism MakeMyTrip is offering a contest where you can win a Trip to Switzerland. If you end up on the top of the game you can win a Free Swiss trip. Now does that sound attractive? So check out the game!

It takes a bit of a time to load if you are on a slow net connection but once loaded it is easy. It is a Ski Game and the higher you score the higher the chances of winning that free trip to Switzerland. There are Rs 2000 worth International holiday vouchers to be won as well if you score at least one star.

To play the game you need to login with Facebook. It will also ask for permission to post publicly on your behalf which you can skip. You need to collect badges everywhere you see and you get penalized for some of the things as well. But before you take the plunge do check out the terms and conditions as well at the bottom of the page.

Once you click on play the first question they ask is if you have web cam, if you say no you can still play the game using the arrow keys. As you pass each level a package will be unlocked. The leader at the moment has 67350 points. Fancy challenging that?

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Bucket List Destination- Maldives

When I think of Maldives I think expensive. Whenever talk in my circle has turned to Maldives Tourism the conclusion has been expensive. So I have yet to venture that way but it is on my bucket list. But my bucket list is quite stretchable and destinations keep changing.

Once while I was surfing the web (and I was in an expensive mood) I saw a deal which looked reasonable to me. So I called up the call center numbers listed there (this is quite an old incident) and it made for quite an interesting conversation.

The first thing that I learned was that the prices listed on the website were per person per night on a twin sharing basis and not for a solo traveler. Since then I have noticed that this is a common trade practice with the package tour industry. I wonder if they do not like solo travelers or what? When I told them I wanted to travel solo there was a silence at the other end. So I asked, will the price double for me? She said no but it would be higher than the twin sharing basis. Now I was getting somewhere or so I thought.

And then the young girl blurted out, “but what will you do there sir? We mostly get people who look at it as  Maldives honeymoon destination and you would be bored stiff by your own.”  I kid you not, this is an actual conversation I had. I tried for one last time, saying “I can spend time by my own, I can read a book or go for photography so being alone is not a problem.” Then the talk came down to the airfare and that as I was booking quite close to the departure date, I would be getting pretty high airfare. That was the end of the conversation. Why do I get a feeling that she was not interested in selling Maldives to me alone?

Sunday 26 May 2013

A Powerful Day in the Millennium City

In the scorching summer if you happen to be in the National Capital Region but specifically outside Delhi then  you can have a harrowing time.

A Kingfisher on a 'powerless' line 

I will just narrate the story of yesterday about how 'powerful' the city of Gurgaon is. Gurgaon is known as the 'Millennium City' though I have my doubts as to which millennium people are referring to. I am specifically citing only Sushant Lok and DLF here as these were areas I was in yesterday.

Yesterday there was no electricity first from 10.15 AM to 1.45 PM and as if this was not enough then there was another cut from 3 PM to 3.30 PM and then another one from 4.45 PM to 7 PM. And I am only talking about the electricity cuts that I noticed as for some time I was also on the roads so there could have been more cuts at that time as well. Even later in the night in DLF-I also while eating in a restaurant there were electricity cuts thrice!

And even if there is 'power' I noticed that there is so much of constant fluctuation that the air-conditioners are more of show pieces as in such low and fluctuating voltages the AC's won't run. I am sure all electrical appliances die prematurely in Gurgaon.

The Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) charges much higher rates for the electricity than Delhi but what is the point of charging higher if there is still no electricity. Or if there is electricity the quality of it is so bad with high voltage fluctuations.

I know a couple who shifted to Gurgaon just a couple of days back first from US to Jamshedpur where they said they had 24 hours electricity and water thanks to the Tata's providing these to the city there. When they shifted to Gurgaon what a welcome they are having for the past few days with no electricity as as yet they have not been able to install an inverter!

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Ranthambore Fort - Places of Worship

In continuation to my post on Ranthambore Fort other important places inside the fort are the Mahadeo Chattri, Samanton ki Haveli, a mosque (13-14th Century), Jain temple and Ganesha temple (5th century).

Ganesha Temple at Ranthambore Fort

In fact the temple attracts the maximum local tourists. Also the area around the Ganesha temple was the only dirty place inside the fort compared to the other religious places.


As people throw grains and other food stuff the area was literally choked with Langurs and rats! Though langurs are comparatively docile as compared to the monkeys but I saw them also attacking few pilgrims to snatch away the food.

Tying items for wishes to be fullfilled

The pilgrims tie some trinkets (be it necklace, hairband, bangle etc) on tress and plants if they have made a mannat (wish). Also noticed people making small chortens (nothing to do with Buddhism) of few small rocks (8-10 rocks) which also had the same connotation as the ones tying the trinkets - the probable difference being that in this case people were wishing for having as strong a house as the fort!.

Dargah Kazi Peer Janab Sadrud-Din

The Dargah Kazi Peer Janab Sadrud-Din is located near one of the ponds at one corner of the fort. It was built in the 13-14th century and has a cemetery in the foreground and a gate or Pol in the background. It is well maintained  by the overseers of the Mosque.

Jain Temple

The Jain temple pujari boasted that the temple precedes the fort. The fort is considered as one of the holy Jain Tirath (pilgrimage) site. The fort was associated with Jainism during the reign of Prithviraj I of the Chauhan dynasty.

The fort has several other religious structures like the Shiva temple etc as well.

Also read:
Ranthambore Fort
Ranthambore National Park

Saturday 18 May 2013

Ranthambore Fort

Ranthambore Fort is located within the Ranthambore National Park and one has to pass through part of the park to reach the imposing fort complex. Ranthambore Fort is near the Sawai Madhopur town in Rajasthan. One can take a direct train from Delhi to reach this town as it is on the main Delhi-Bombay rail network. 

Ranthambore Fort wall on a high rocky outcrop

There is confusion as to the date when the fort has been built. According to one state government information the fort has been built around 944 AD whereas the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) states that it has been constructed by Raja Jayanta in 5th Century AD. The Yadavas ruled over it till they were thrown over by Prithviraj Chauhan in 12 Century AD. It still stands tall after nearly 1100 (or shall we say 1500?) years. The most famous ruler of this place was Rao Hammir and the palace inside the fort is named as Hammir Palace. 

Pond inside the Ranthambore Fort

The fort is built on very high rocky outcrop (nearly 700 feet above the surrounding area) and then additionally has insurmountable walls. The fort is spread over  102 hectares and the fort wall circumference is 5.4 km. It is considered as one of the strongest forts in India. This is due to the fact that normally most forts have one strong defence mechanism but Ranthambore has several – built at a height, high walls, surrounded by jungles and water bodies.

32 Pillared Chattri

The 32 pillared Chattri (Cenotaph) looks impressive. It was built by the king's son in memorial of 32 years of the kings rule. The cenotaph was built on a Shiva temple that has a Shivlingam. The temple is dark and the priest invited us to come inside but I declined. Adjacent to this is another half built 32 pillared cenotaph that was being built by the queen. 

A half-finished 32 pillared cenotaph

The fort has several ponds and lakes inside the boundary walls as well as outside. While some of the structures like the Hammir Palace and the cenotaph inside the fort are being restored by the ASI others do lie in a dilapidated state. The Hammir Palace is closed to the public as restoration work is going on.

Hammir Palace

Other important places inside the fort are the Mahadeo Chattri, Samanton ki Havali, a mosque, Jain temple and Ganesha temple. I would be writing a separate post on the religious structures inside the fort.

View from the fort of the water body inside the Ranthambore National Park

Surprisingly there is no entry fee to enter the fort complex. It may be due to lots of locals visiting the fort to go to the Ganesha temple but I feel they should start levying some amount and use that for the upkeep of the place. The locals can be exempted from this charge.

What is the fun in writing your name on the walls?

The amount collected in such way can not only be utilized for upkeep but also then they can keep security guards so that people do not spoil the monuments which are of national importance.

Also read: Ranthambore National Park

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Neergarh Falls: Rishikesh

Neergarh waterfalls are not one but a series of waterfalls. I had gone to Rishikesh with a batch of students and was staying in the Brahampuri area outside the town on the banks of the river Ganges.

Waterfall with the view first bridge

As part of our adventure program we did  a small trek which started from the milestone 234-235 on the National Highway 58 (Rishikesh-Badrinath). It is not a very long trek as the total length from the roadside till the top is only 1.5 km but part of the stretch have some steep gradients. One gains a total height of about 600 meters. One can reach the top in 45 minutes to an hour.

Resting Spot

There are two bridges on the waterfall - one in the middle and the second near the top waterfall. There are some resting stops as well where cement benches have been made. Also there are 3-4 places where one can get tea and other refreshments including the one at the top.

A serene waterfall

At three places on the stretch the waterfall makes a pool where if one so desires can take a dip to cool oneself. I liked the waterfall in the middle as somehow most people going up miss this one and I had the waterfall and the pool to myself for quite some time.

Natural way of chilling your drink

The highest fall is supposed to be a twin waterfall but either due to less water there was a single waterfall or maybe as there is rappelling done here the second waterfall has been manually closed.

Neergarh Waterfall & Rappelling

The rappelling experience is good for the ones who have never done it before otherwise the length to rappel face is not too big. Also they call it wet rappelling so when initially told at the camp I was excited that maybe the rappelling would be in the waterfall itself. But the only wet part of the rappelling is the fact that when you reach the bottom you hit the pool and therefore the shoes etc may get wet. Due to this reason they ask you to remove the shoes and climb barefoot till the point from where you rappel down. I did not take my shoes off till I went up and then took them off and put them in my knapsack so that I had the advantage of climbing with my shoes on and also saved them from getting wet also!

Chill yourself

As some persons rappelling down do loose the balance in the end they get completely wet and that leads to their inhibition being lifted and then people do play in the pool and even go under the waterfall.

Coming down from the top till the road head may take less than half the time one need to go up as it is all the way downhill.

Also read: Garud Chatti Waterfalls in Rajaji National Park

Sunday 12 May 2013

And then there was a rainbow

Today evening Delhi and the surrounding areas got rain and much needed relief from the 40+ temperatures. While is was raining the sun was also out and I knew that these are perfect conditions for a rainbow so came out of the house looking for one and lo and behold there was a beautiful rainbow.


Thursday 9 May 2013

Sethani Ki Chattri

Sethani Ki Chattri is a memorial cenotaph located at the entrance of the town of Farrukhnagar if one is coming from the Jhajjar side. As the name in Hindi suggests it is a memorial cenotaph built by a merchant in memory of his wife.

Sethani Ki Chattri, Farrukhnagar

The structure is two storeyed and has eight arched openings on each floor. The cenotaph has several beautiful frescoes that have survived the wear and tear with time by nature and man. It has been built in 1861.

Fresco Ceiling

Farrukhnagar town can be reached by taking the Pataudi road from Gurgaon and then further down taking the Jhajjar road. It is about 60 kms from Delhi.

A woman at war

The structure has the architectural blend of both the Rajasthani and Mughal styles. The structure, unfortunately, is in utter state of disrepair and even trees have taken root in the building.

Indian wrestling competition

Indian wrestling has been traditionally a popular sport in India and the same has been depicted in the above fresco.

Trapeze Artists

Another popular theme is the tightrope walk performed by the trapeze artists.

A Lover trying to reach his beloved

The frescoes inside and outside have very interesting and popular Indian motifs and despite the fact that these were painted more than 150 years back they still retain the shine and colour.

Outside walls of the cenotaph

Some of the painted tiles on the outer walls have started falling and need urgent attention.

Why do we spoil our heritage?

And my constant grouse again - Sethani Ki Chattri is also being spoiled by Indians (mainly locals in this instance) like all other monuments in India by scribbling their names and putting comments on the walls. When would we learn to not to spoil the beauty of our ancient heritage?

View of the stepwell from an arch of the cenotaph

Just in front of this cenotaph is the Ali Gosh Khan Baoli or stepwell that has been taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). So why can't the ASI take over this structure as well?

Also read: Ali Gosh Khan Baoli in Farrukhnagar