Saturday 27 September 2014

A Walk in the LAKES - The Ambleside Walk

I would count Lake District among the most beautiful areas of England abounding in outstanding natural beauty with several large and small lakes, hills and undulating plains.

Sailing Boats on the Windermere Lake at Ambleside

One of the areas in the Lake District is the Ambleside. It lies between Windermere and Grasmere. One can reach Ambleside after getting down from the train at Windermere and taking stagecoach after that.

Come on in, the water is beautiful, marathon swimmers at the start of their swim at Ambleside

The Windermere Lake at Ambleside is popular amongst the long distance swimmers and I saw these four swimmers who started their marathon swimming of 21 miles! Now most people cannot even run that distance leave aside swimming. When I enquired I was told that they would go from this end of Ambleside all the way to Windermere and back and would reach only in the early hours of morning. They were starting their race late in the evening. These events are organized by The British Long Distance Swimming Association (BLDSA).

Rowing in the beautiful Windermere lake at Ambleside 

I also saw several persons rowing on the lake. The lake is surrounded by hills increasing the visual effect of the place. The Windermere lake is 17 km long and is probably the largest in the United Kingdom.

Streets of Ambleside are lined with flower beds

The town itself is not very big but the roads are lined with flower beds increasing the beauty of the place. Most of the town buildings are still Victorian.

A riot of colours, Ambleside

The trees during the season were of various shades of green, red, yellow, purple and brown. On the lake besides the rowing and swimming activity I saw several sailing boats as well though most of them were without the sails probably because it was already late in the evening.

I hope I am able to again visit The LAKES soon and do some hiking in this land of poets.

Also Read-

A Walk in the LAKES - The Keswick Walk
A Walk in the LAKES - The Windermere Walk
A Walk in the LAKES – The Grasmere Walk

Monday 22 September 2014

Siliserh Lake Palace – Does the Government Need to Run Hotels?

Just 15 km from Alwar is a beautiful man-made lake and adjoining the lake is the palace Siliserh Lake Palace. The palace has been taken over by the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) and converted into a hotel by the same name.

Siliserh Lake & Siliserh Lake Palace Hotel, Alwar, Rajasthan

There are no other hotels in and around Siliserh. Assuming that it is a palace that has been converted into a hotel (as is the trend in Rajasthan with so many other properties) I was quite excited when I had booked a room online. The online pictures seemed quite enticing.

The Silserh Palace- surrounded by dense vegetation on one side & lake on the other three sides

When I reached the place I was quite fascinated by the beauty of the place as the lake is surrounded by Aravalli hills – so I thought I had made the right decision. But my first shock was when the room I had booked (a non-AC as it was not summers) had the door almost falling. On top of that inside the room there were at least 15-20 lizards and lots of mosquitoes. When I protested about this they showed me some other rooms which were equally bad with paint chipping and the rooms in itself in a state of disrepair.

Beautiful view of the Silserh Lake from the hotel

Finally I asked for my room to be upgraded to an AC room for which I had to shell out extra money. After moving into the new room as I felt the room to be warm (due to permanently closed windows) I started the AC but within an hour the AC conked off and I had to spend a miserable night in that room. In the morning an electrician came and repaired the wires and assured me that now it will run properly. As the whole day I was out of the hotel I had no inkling of what was in store for me. The next night after starting the AC it kept tripping the whole night spoiling my whole night.

Silserh Lakae Palace Hotel in a state of disrepair

Also as this is a secluded place the hotel is the only place for meals and they do not give you too many options on the menu.

My question is why should a government be in the business of managing (mismanaging?) hotels? Why not ask a private player to run it instead who can market it properly as well as also do the maintenance of this heritage property in a better manner.

The traditional Rajasthani architecture being spoilt by a bad paint job

Also instead of just keeping a few boats and speed boats this place can really be developed into a hub of water sports activity.

Also read stories of places in and around Alwar –

Siliserh Lake near Alwar, Rajasthan
Cenotaph of Bakhtawar Singh of Alwar
Water Tank at City Palace, Alwar
Bala Quila – Alwar’s Way of How Not to Promote Tourism
Jaisamand Lake near Alwar, Rajasthan 

Friday 19 September 2014

Skywatch Friday - Edinburgh, Scotland

The Scots have voted yesterday in the referendum to decide whether they would stick with the United Kingdom or would they like to be an independent nation. The results of the referendum would be known today. What I can gather from the news reports is that it would be a close call either ways. Whichever ways the Scots choose to go it is their decision and I would respect that. Scotland is one of the few regions (nation?) which has abundant spectacular natural beauty and would remain one of my favorite destinations. So I thought of making this Skywatch Friday post on Edinburgh, capital of Scotland.

View of Edinburgh from the vantage point of the Portuguese Cannon on the Calton Hill, Edinburgh

The above photograph was taken at the Calton Hill, also known as Athens of the North with the Portuguese Cannon in front and the Stewart Monument on the right. In the background one can see the Clock tower as well as the Edinburgh Fort and the church.

View of Edinburgh and the North Sea from Arthur's Seat

One gets spectacular 360 degree views of the whole Edinburgh city as well as the North Sea if one climbs the Arthur's Seat.

A Water body inside Holyrood Park , the City in the middle and the North Sea in the background

The Arthur's Seat is part of the Holyrood Park and the various trails inside the park give hikers great delight as one can view the Edinburgh and the surrounding areas from various angles.

This post is part of Skywatch Friday.

Also read:

Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh

Edinburgh's Calton Hill - Athens of the North

Old Calton Cemetery

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Monday 15 September 2014

The Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok

Inside the Royal Palace is the most venerated Buddhist site of Thailand - The Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha.
The Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok

The name itself is a misnomer as the Buddha is not made of emerald but of green jade. The locals call the monastery as Wat Phra Kaew. The story goes that when the Buddha statue was discovered in 1434 in a Stupa in Chiang Rai it was covered in a plaster. When part of the plaster peeled off the monk who saw the green stone underneath thought it was made of emerald and somehow the name of Emerald Buddha stuck. The origin of the statue is believed to be in India.

Pilgrims praying in front of the Royal Monastery, Bangkok 

In front as well as inside pilgrims light candle and joss sticks as well as place flowers and pray. What is interesting is that though it is a monastery no monks stay here and only on royal ceremonies the monks come from outside. This is so as the monastery also serves as a private praying place for the royal family.

Inside the monastery the walls are covered with murals depicting life of the Buddha. Outside walls of the monastery are covered all round with several statues in gold and the walls itself are gold plated.

Decorations on the outer walls of the Wat Phra Kaew Monastery

Despite the fact that the Emerald Buddha is located here since 1778 (for more than 200 years it was in Laos) the monastery looks like new and is well maintained. And despite the fact that there are always lots of tourists thronging the Royal Palace there is no disorder and the crowd management is very good.

The Emerald Buddha with gold costume

The Emerald Buddha sits on a golden throne and the costume of the Buddha is changed thrice a year as per the season by the King in a ceremony though I am told that now as the King is quite old this ceremony is performed by his son.

Photography inside the temple is not allowed. Also as is true for most temples in Thailand one needs to be properly attired. If you are not then you can buy or take on rent appropriate clothing near the entrance of the Royal Place. The entrance fee of 100 Baht is valid for the whole of the Royal Palace.

Also read:

Phraya Nakhon Cave in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in Thailand

Would you like to have a separate waiting room to yourself?

Tourism in Thailand: Lessons for India

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Thailand

Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace

Skywatch Friday - View of A Halo from the Royal Palace, Bangkok

Friday 12 September 2014

Skywatch Friday - View of A Halo from the Royal Palace, Bangkok

I had gone to see the Royal Palace and the Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok and while touring the place I incidentally looked up towards the sky and I saw this perfect round halo around the sun.

A Halo viewed from the Royal Palace, Bangkok

Not only was the halo there but it stayed for quite some time before it vanished. It is difficult to watch towards the blazing sun either with the naked eye or through your the viewfinder but I did manage to click few photos of the halo with the spires and dragons of the Royal palace as well as Royal Monastery.

Halo around the sun from the Royal Palace, Bangkok

A halo is caused by the rays of the Sun passing through the ice crystals in the clouds and is normally visible only at a particular angle. I have always associated the halo around the Sun or the Moon as precursor to bad weather.

The Royal Monastery in Bangkok and the halo in the sky
Maybe some day I would be able to post the pictures of a halo around the moon as well!

This post is part of Skywatch Friday.

Also read:

Phraya Nakhon Cave in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in Thailand

Would you like to have a separate waiting room to yourself?

Tourism in Thailand: Lessons for India

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Thailand

Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace

Sunday 7 September 2014

Asia Bazaar: A drab affair of Delhi Tourism

Crafts on display at the Asia Bazaar, Delhi

I had got an email invite to the Asia Bazaar being currently held at the Nature Bazaar from 5th to 14th September 2014. As the invite said that besides Indian stalls from various states there would be handmade products from countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Maldives, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam etc., I decided to go there on Saturday. If one wants to go there by Metro then the closest station is the Chattarpur Metro Station from where it is a walkable distance.

The event has been organised by the Delhi Tourism and besides the above-mentioned countries there were stalls from Kashmir, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

I was completely disappointed by the stalls from the Asian countries as it seemed that a formality of putting a stall has been done as very few items were on display and even the ones on display were either too jazzy and not very fashionable. The fashionable Pakistani ladies suit which are a craze among the North Indians were missing – what ladies suits were on display were not worth buying. Even on the Tajikistan stall I found that they had kept only stoles and not much else.

Even the food courts had not much on offer – there were probably 5-6 stalls only. I tried the spinach momos and the mutton momos at the Himalayan Cafe which were good though on the expensive side. There were supposedly some folk cultural performances from various parts of India but I did not see any performances going on during the time that I was there.

I hope that the next time Delhi Tourism organises something they are able to bring better craftsmen and products from these countries as these countries are so varied and rich in the crafts. Also wider publicity should be given to the events as I noticed very few persons had come even though it was a Saturday.