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Old 31st August 2009, 14:25   #16
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Glad to see you getting a hang of how to post the pictures. They really remind me of my trip there. Keep the pictures coming
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Old 2nd September 2009, 01:16   #17
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Lovely log. Best part is that you stayed at all good places.
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Old 3rd September 2009, 14:57   #18
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Day 8 : Taragarh-Kangra-Palampur-Dharamsala-Taragarh

After a lovely & hearty breakfast(I could afford a hearty breakfast as today was a light and short drive) we left for Dharamsala & Mcleodganj.The drive to Dharamsala was a pretty uneventful one.The drive by itself was pretty scenic but nothing magnificent.

We passed by the Jwala Mukhi Temple(Jwalaji) enroute to Dharamsala.We decided to stop at the temple on our return.

Frankly Dharamsala & Mcleodganj was a big disappointment.The moment you begin your ascent to Mcleodganj,one begins to wonder if one is still in India.The place is littered with shops selling all kinds of "foreign" stuff.None of the shops cater to anything remotely Indian and the kind of people roaming around the streets also gave us a very weird feel.Maybe the fault was with us as we did not know what to expect and was expecting the unknown.Though HVK had given us a fairly good idea as to what to expect(read that as expect nothing).

We stopped at the Namgyal Monastery and the place resembled a modern refugee camp.Ofcourse our hearts went out to the displaced people(we kept putting ourselves in their position and wondered what it would be to go through such a trauma).We paid our respects at the monastery.Something funny that we noted was that the Buddha structures were surrounded by Marie Biscuits,Nutella choco creams,Kit Kats etc.When we asked people,they told us that they were the offerings of a large majority of Americans & Europeans.With all due respect to them & their sentiments.

Yet another example of the "Indianness" that exists in India.True to the tourism board line which says Athithi Daivo Bhava.Behind the Namgyal Monastery was the Dalai Lama Palace.It was indeed quite an experience to see a place where a "living God" resided.All over we could see people paying their obeisance to The Dalai Lama at the gate.

The whole visited lasted less than 45minutes.Yes a note must be made of the fact that the place is extremely unclean and the shopkeepers make a killing selling all kinds of things and last but not the least,they really do not want the Indian customers to come to their shops.

From Mcleodganj,we decided to go back to Taragarh Palace.Enroute we had lunch @ the Mahindra Resort.It is the only decent place eat on the route.

We stopped at Jwalaji as well and paid our respects.Considering the number of people who turn up at these places,I am sure a lot more can be done in terms of cleanliness and upkeep of the places.

We were dying to come back to tranquility and peace @ Taragarh Palace.It indeed was a slice of heaven.No wonder the kings & royalty come and take up such pristine and untouched places.We had a light lunch and took a short 40 winks.

In the evening took a long leisurely walk in the palace gardens and surroundings and before we knew it night had begun to set in and so had the biting cold.Our hearts grew heavy as we would have to leave the place tomorrow morning and that definitely wasnt a good prospect.

The peace & tranquility that we enjoyed @ Taragarh coupled with the service & pampering that we received,I doubt if we would ever enjoy something like that anywhere else....
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Old 3rd September 2009, 15:55   #19
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Day 9: Taragarh-Pathankot-Gurdaspur-Wagah-Amritsar

Sonu kept telling us that the most interesting aspect of this trip would be at Wagah Border.Hearing that we were all keyed up to reach Wagah Border.

No hearty breakfast again because the drive was a long one and was filled with twists and turns.

We left Taragarh around 9am.The entire drive was a descent drive as we were going down to the plains now and so we were able to manage good speeds.

We felt a tad bit sad as we were bidding our final goodbyes to the ice & snow & the mountains,As the plains began to jump on us we were literally looking back through the car windows back to the mountains,almost as if telling them that we indeed would miss them and also thanking them for a most peaceful and fantastic past 7days.

We reached Pathankot and stopped at the entry check post.Punjab has a weird rule,One has to pay an entry tax of INR 300 per day and one needs calculate approximately how many days one is going to stay in Punjab and depending on that make an advance payment.I found the rule to be very vague and weird.

We entered NH-1 at Pathankot.The roads were not in the best of shape but were still decent.We sped through lush green fields.We did a brief stop at Gurdaspur for some yummy sugarcane juice.

After that we sped along straight to Wagah.It was a feeling hard to express when we began to see milestones saying Lahore-30kms and so on.I am not sure I would find the right words to do justice to those feelings.

We stopped for lunch at a dhaba just before Wagah.Again a hearty meal of parathas & lassi.By now we were getting tired of the lassis & parathas and were dying to see some Udupi restaurants.Compare this with our state of mind on the 1st day and you would know how 7 days of parathas & lassis changed our minds.

After a quick lunch headed off straigh to Wagah.We reached Wagah by 3pm.Well & truly before the Beating Retreat Ceremony.

The Beating Retreat ceremony is a 45 minute ceremony which begins at 1630 during winters and at 1730 during summers.

Something to be aware of for people visiting Wagah.Dont be taken in by the hospitality of the people running the innumerable dhabas and eating places near the Border gate.They force you and cajole to buy something from their shops and in return offering you chairs to sit on till the gates to the gallery open.The moment you sit on those chairs they keep coming with cold drinks etc and then in the end make a fracas of charging for things that you havent ordered for or taken.Considering the humongous crowds that come in there its quite a mess.

The gates opened at precisely 1620 and the crowds just surged in.Hats of to the BSF people for maintaining their cool with such unruly bunches of people.Not once did I see them shouting at the people who did not care a hoot for the advice or the instructions.

Just a small tip for people visiting the border,make sure you get yourself seats in the first few galleries and not in the last galleries.The last few galleries are so far off that one cannot see a thing.Also if you have a senior citizen then you can walk straight up to the officers and they would give you a premium seat.

The show began and whole show was an impressive one with full of energy and stomp marching and bringing down the two countries flags.The Indian side show is performed by the Indian Border Security Force and the Pakistani side show is performed by the Pakistani Rangers in their black Pathani suits.The foot stomping and huge soldiers carrying the Indian Tricolour is quite a spectacle.This followed by nationalistic songs just peps up the whole mood.

Following the show,we did a brief visit to the BSF stall.Not many things on offer.We began to head back to Amritsar around 1800.

By then it was peak hour traffic time and it took ages for us to reach our hotel in Amritsar.We were booked at Hotel MK International.Surprisingly they advertised themselves as the only star hotel in town.And they were pretty good for a non-star hotel being advertised as a star one.We could see photographs of famous Bollywood personalities and politicians & leaders staying in the hotel.But now there is a truly brilliant hotel that has opened.Its called Ista and people who have stayed there say its an out of this worl experience.

We quickly changed and freshened up and headed off to the Harmandir Sahib more popularly known as The Golden Temple.

The Gurudwara was still bustling with people.Apparently the Golden Temple never shuts its doors & more interestingly one finds people coming into the temple all through the day & night.The tank surrounding the temple had crystal clean water.

We went in and paid our respects.After coming out we spent an awfully long time outside with our legs in the water and gorging on the yummy and delicious Kada Prasad.We wondered if we were bullied through in the temple by the people who frequent the place on a more regular basis than us.Just a passing thought.

After sitting around for close to an hour we decided to have dinner at the "Langar".The management gurus all over the world can learn a lesson or two from the way the langar is run.Clockwork precision and everything happening to the T.Simple food,rotis,dal & water.But dont think we have tasted anything so yummy and so divine till date.

We headed back to the hotel by 11 in the night.Before we realised we had sleep overcoming us and both of us were soundly sleeping away in dreamland.What a day we had had.A day soaked in history..
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Old 3rd September 2009, 16:09   #20
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Some more pictures from Wagah & Amritsar
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Old 3rd September 2009, 16:15   #21
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Some more pictures from Wagah & Amritsar
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Old 4th September 2009, 09:38   #22
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Day 10 : Amritsar-Delhi

It was an early start day.Breakfast was pretty ordinary.Bordering on the lousy and the restaurant was all dark and dinghy.Had a quick eat and jumped out of the hotel.

We went straight to the Jallianwala Bagh.We couldnt get to Jallianwala Bagh the previous day as the gates close at 5pm.There is a reason behind the 5pm gate closure.Local people told us that people are generally not let in after 5pm as voices still come out from the well into which thousands of people had jumped and given up their lives.The proof of General Dyer's cruelty.

The Jallianwala Bagh is now well maintained and has a memorial in place as well.It also has an impeccable garden which is well maintained.The infamous well is now cordoned off and fenced.As we were walking through the place,an eerie feel came over us and we could smell the deaths of thousands of people.Surprisingly and thankfully people there strived to maintain a certain degree of silence which was welcome.A thought definitely goes out to the people who were shot col-blooded and seeing the space between the two buildings,its just so mind numbing.

After coming out of Jallianwala Bagh we headed off to the Golden Temple to pay our respects before we left Amritsar.The temple looked so different in the sun than what it looked under the moon.The transformation was so stark and both the sights had their own beauty.Somebody told us that the shoes and footwear that we leave at the shoe stand gets polished at times by the time we come back and the people who do it and collect the shoes are all some of the big shot business people and well to do people.Its all done as a part of the service.The temple was so very well guarded and the tanks so very well maintained by the "Nihangs"(Nihang - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). Somebody tries to take a dip in the water at an unauthorised place and before you know the famous spear of the Nihang would be at your back.

After coming out of the Gurudwara,we did some shopping around the place.Something very weird is about the parking.The police around the temple do not let Non-Punjab registered vehicles to park near the temple.I am not sure what is the logic behind it.The areas around the temple are a total mess,with noise and dust and pollution of all sorts.But the moment you enter the temple,the serenity and peace hits you on your face.Quite am amazing transformation it is.The same goes for the city(or whatever little we were able to see of it).City is pretty crowded and very congested.

Before getting into the car ,we decided to have yet another round of sugarcane juice,this juice was to later play truant.

We got into the car and got onto the highway NH-1 towards Delhi.Once we got into the car,we had this sudden brainwave.Why not do Agra as well?

It was just a question and the neither of us waited for an answer.The decision was made in a split second.Yes lets go to Agra.Thanx to the Reliance Netconnect card,immediately logged,rescheduled the tickets,made hotel reservations etc and it was all done.Agra it was.

Driving straight to Agra was too much of a job especially considering the fact that we had left Amritsar only around 12 in the afternoon.Moreover it was a Thursday,which would mean that we would be able to go see the Taj only the next day which was again a Friday.Now something to note is that the Taj is closed for the public on a Friday.So it would have been a waste of a day staying at Agra.So we decided to stay the night at Delhi and leave for Agra,the next day.Hotel reservations were finalised at Delhi for the night.

We sped through NH-1.Amazing road and we were doing amazing speeds.At one point we felt we were going too slow and one look at the odometer set our hearts pounding,the Innova was on 120 and we didnt feel a thing.

Stopped for lunch at a dhaba after Ludhiana and I knew something was going wrong inside with my body system.I couldnt pin point it but I knew something was on its way wrong.

Continued the journey and reached Delhi outskirts by 7.We were back to the Commonwealth mess and it took us 3 hours to reach Gurgaon.

Stayed the night at Gurgaon and it was a terrible night thanx to the full blown stomach upset which had set in.Reason:the sugar cane juice.Per se it was not the sugar cane juice,it was the way in which I opted to drink the sugarcane juice that was the culprit.I told the person not to mix the mint leaves with the juice and apparently its important that mint leaves are mixed with the juice in those parts of the country.Nevertheless by the next day morning things were a lot better and we were raring to go.
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Old 4th September 2009, 09:53   #23
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Day 11: Delhi-Agra

After a late breakfast,we caught up with a friend at Gurgaon and had a quick lunch.

Left for Agra around 2pm.The Delhi-Agra road was again a pleasure to be driving on.We just sped through the road and reached Agra by 6pm.We took a quick glance of the Taj during sunset and then headed off straight to The ITC Mughal Sheraton.We had decided to indulge in a bit of royalty and so had booked ourselves at The Mughal.

The chandelier in the hotel lobby must have the biggest that I have ever seen in my life till date.The hotel is a bit dated and the staff are not as entusiastic as one would expect from a Sheraton.There was a stark difference between the old staff and the new staff.The new ones were over eager and the old were too bored.But anything non-living in the hotel was a sight to withhold.Grand walkways,brilliant rooms.It was as good as a palace.

A note here is the way hotels in Agra try to convince people to take a Taj view room.The reality of the matter is that the Taj can only be seen from a hotel room in case of a full moon day.Now a full moon day exists so very rarely and the taj is also not lighted up in the night,so there goes the view.The only thing a person is left with is the premium tariff that one ends up paying for a Taj facing room.The difference being a close to INR 5000 rupees in most places.

Dinner was oriental for a change at the Oriental restaurant in the hotel and we settled in for an early night.We did go and take a look at the Kaya Kalp Spa which has been so avidly written about in most magazines.It looked heavenly,though we were in no mood for it.

Sleep came fast and we were in the same city as the famous Taj was in.Wonder how many people actually feel that way though,to be in the same city as the beautiful Taj....
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Old 4th September 2009, 10:12   #24
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Day 12: Agra-Delhi Airport

After breakfast,we checked out of the hotel.We again experienced the tired and bored service at the breakfast table.We were met by our guide for the Taj.We realised later that a tour of the Taj minus a guide would have been such a loss.Luckily for us,the person accompanying us was so very nice.

Thanx to all the pollution issues surrounding the Taj,cars are no longer allowed till the Taj.All vehicles are stopped almost a kilometer before the Taj and from there various options like Camel rides,Battery operated autos are available.We opted for the battery operated vehicle which dropped us at the entrance.

At the entrance,its utter fracas.You need to prove yourself to be a "Resident Indian",otherwise by default you are declared a NRI.So people please make sure you carry something to prove that you are resident domestic Indians.The reason why this happens is because the entry fee to the Taj for Indians is just INR 20 whereas for the NRI and the hapless foreign tourists,its a whopping INR 750.So the counter staff are always in a hurry to brand you as a NRI.We finally had to produce our PAN cards to prove to them that we are Indians.Told them next time round we will carry our Form 16s to prove that we pay taxes as well.

After that it was pure history,as we walked through the gates of the Taj.The guide told us all the finer details.Thanx to him we even managed to have the famous Taj photographs.

The only added attraction for the 750rs entry ticket is that they get to wear a coverall on their shoes as entry into the Taj is not permitted with footwear.The funny part though is that the place is littered with used coveralls and we saw people walking around with the used coverall.We however preferred to walk through barefoot.

The walk around the Taj took close to an hour and a half.Was crowded for sure and this apparently was off season as the schools were yet to close.Couldnt imagine what it would have been during the season time..

By the time we came out,our Taj photographs were ready and waiting for us at the gate.

From the Taj we headed off to the Agra Fort.Another place which is pointless going to without the help of a guide.Its fun and interesting to go with a guide.Its a different story how much of it is historically correct,but its fun to hear them.

The tour around the fort took us another hour.

From thereon it was straight to Delhi.We decided against buying the famous Agra Pethas,though we were tempted to buy them.

Reached ontime for our flight back to Hyderabad.Bid our adieus to Sonu and the Innova,which was home for us for 12 days.What a fantastic 12 days we have had.It would stay with us forever and we cant wait to go back and relive those memories again.The hills,the mountains,the snow,the ice,the skis,the yaks,the chingus,the royal palace stay at Taragarh,the drive through the hills,the beating retreat at the border,the golden temple,the taj...the list is endless.

Thanks to all you for taking out time to read this..Till the next time,thank you and happy T-Bhping
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Old 4th September 2009, 10:19   #25
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Some more pictures of the Taj & the Agra Fort
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Old 4th September 2009, 11:23   #26
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Good one but let me correct some places.
The place where you take a right turn towards Panchkula is Shahbad (not shahpur).
The cross roads at Panchkula. Left takes you to Zirakpur and then onto Ambala/Patiala, Straight on takes you to Chandigarh-Kharar-Kiratpur and ofcoure the right takes you to Shimla.
At Sundarnagar, what you see are not Pir Panjal ranges. The range you saw were more of Dhauladhar ranges than anything else.
The temple enroute to Dharamshala is Chamunda Devi and not Jwala mukhi.
The black dressed guards from Pakistan belong to the Satluj Rangers.
These are only corrections as others make these travelogues as reference points when they plan their own journeys. Please dont take them otherwise.

Last edited by wanderernomad : 4th September 2009 at 11:30.
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Old 4th September 2009, 11:34   #27
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Hey thanx for that and for taking the time out to correct them
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Originally Posted by wanderernomad View Post
Good one but let me correct some places.
The place where you take a right turn towards Panchkula is Shahbad (not shahpur).
The cross roads at Panchkula. Left takes you to Zirakpur and then onto Ambala/Patiala, Straight on takes you to Chandigarh-Kharar-Kiratpur and ofcoure the right takes you to Shimla.
At Sundarnagar, what you see are not Pir Panjal ranges. The range you saw were more of Dhauladhar ranges than anything else.
The temple enroute to Dharamshala is Chamunda Devi and not Jwala mukhi.
The black dressed guards from Pakistan belong to the Satluj Rangers.
These are only corrections as others make these travelogues as reference points when they plan their own journeys. Please dont take them otherwise.
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Old 4th September 2009, 21:09   #28
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Interesting read!
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Old 7th September 2009, 14:06   #29
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Thanx IndiI finally got around to completing it
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Interesting read!
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Old 7th September 2009, 16:07   #30
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Good detailed description of the places covered

If you don't mind sharing, Can you tell how many kms Innova covered during your entire trip and how much you had been charged for that?

Thanks!
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