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Old 15th December 2009, 09:34   #16
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Hi Umar,

Really looking forward to this Travelogue of yours. Please update it at the earliest as it is more than 10 days now. Please try and add some snaps of the Jodhpur market, like the chappal and Mishrilal Lassi store etc. Thanks a lot.
Inspiration at last !

I was thinking nobody was interested in reading this travelogue anymore since there were no comments coming in, but your comments proved it otherwise

I will post the next part later tonight...
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Old 15th December 2009, 12:35   #17
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Umar,

You should've gone to Guda Bishnoiyan, Kailana Lake etc. Should've tasted Daal, Bati 7 Choorma at Pushpa Dal Bati shop near Jalori Gate.

And please complete the travelogue at the earliest..
I wish somebody had told me about Pushpa Dal Bati earlier :(

Will ensure it is on my list in my next trip there (which I am sure will happen).

Next time, I am planning to keep it a nature trip (parks, et al).
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Old 15th December 2009, 12:49   #18
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Inspiration at last !

I was thinking nobody was interested in reading this travelogue anymore since there were no comments coming in, but your comments proved it otherwise

I will post the next part later tonight...
people were not commenting probably because they are busy reading your travelogue!! very nicely written and depicted, umar. you deserve a round of applause.waiting for the rest of it.
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Old 16th December 2009, 20:01   #19
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I did the same trip from 1st - 10th Dec but the route was reverse.

Delhi (Start)
Jaipur (Halt)
Ajmer (Break)
Udaipur (Halt)
Jodhpur (Halt)
Jaisalmer (Halt)
Sam Dunes (Halt)
Bikaner (Halt)
Delhi (End)

Quite enjoying your log, pls continue.
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Old 18th December 2009, 10:29   #20
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Default Desert Triangle Travelogue (Rajasthan) – Part 4 (Venice of East – Udaipur – and Back)

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.
There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”
– Jawaharlal Nehru

More of such adventures awaited us as we started from Jodhpur towards Udaipur about 9 AM in the morning. The breakfast was served in fine bone china crockery of Newton’s Manor and there was also something new I saw on the dining table there – a toast holder ! It was a steel frame that held 4 toasts at a time and looked classy. Sitting on that dining table, serviced by well mannered butlers, you felt what it would have been like in old British days. We left Jodhpur with a mixed feeling – sadness for not being able to explore more of wonderful Jodhpur and its surrounding areas while excited with the prospects held by the most romantic city in India (as claimed by many travelers), Udaipur.

The road from Jodhpur to Udaipur is supposed to be excellent, just like all other roads in Rajasthan we experienced, and we were expecting to reach Udaipur in 4 or 5 hours maximum. However, we didn’t realize the effect heavy vehicles can have on speed while driving on a 2 lane road. NH 65 is the route frequented by commercial traffic from Ahmadabad, a key industrial hub in West India, and there is a constant stream of trucks on this route until you enter the state highway going through the beautiful Aravali range.

As you enter the state highway, the deterioration in the road conditions is evident with increased bumps and unevenness of the road. However, the fact that terrain is becoming more mountainous is definitely a factor attributing to this condition. It was an amazing sight as the hilly range unfolded itself in front of us and we started seeing a different flora and fauna altogether. The true nature of Rajasthan’s diversity was being revealed in these crevices of Aravali hills.

Originally we had planned to reach Udaipur directly but due to the road conditions, it was almost 1 PM when we reached Ranakpur. Something clicked in all of us and we decided to make Ranakpur a stop-over instead of coming back from Udaipur as we had originally planned, and I am glad we took that decision. After parking the car in the temple complex, the first sign I saw was of the food complex and we all gravitated towards it automatically. As we entered the big hall, we saw the signs around us notifying that the food complex stops serving food at 1 PM sharp. With 10 minutes to 1, we were all glad with the timing of our arrival. It was almost like a divine doing. There is a charge of Rs. 25 per person for the food and there are benches laid out in rows along with high rise tables where everyone sits in a line to savor pure Jain food.



The food is completely “Satvik” (pure) in nature which means that no garlic or onion and the spices are kept at a bare minimum. The food was very delicious and highly suitable for a traveler taking a midway stoppage like us. After eating our lunch we started towards the beautiful Ranakpur temple complex. Ranakpur temple complex contains many temples but the most outstanding of them is the Adinath temple and this is the one people refer to when they talk about Ranakpur temple. I am told that the beauty and grandeur of these temples rival the beauty of Dilwara temples in Mount Abu. The architecture is intricate and each carving is done with a spiritual purpose with even the directions of the temple signifying Jain beliefs. This place is one of the 5 major pilgrimages of Jains and you can experience the peacefulness of this place as you walk around the complex.



The Ranakpur temples were built somewhere in 15th century carved on the slopes of a hill and the setting of this complex in the midst of all the natural beauty gives this place a serenity worth experiencing. As you experience Rankapur temples, any doubt about why this place was one of the 77 nominations made for the new seven wonders of the world is vanquished.



Given that we were already running behind our schedule, we tore ourselves apart from Ranakpur and started towards Udaipur once again. In our drive through the valleys and hills, we came across a small pond fed by a stream where we stopped for a quick inspection to see where the water was coming from. A small silent stream of water from nowhere fed the pool which looked shallow from the surface.



However, we found a very interesting sign board when we tried to get up close and personal with the pool. The sign talked about 9 deaths by drowning in that pool and the way “9” was written, it impressed upon us that there was room for more on the board. So, we got back on our route and finally joined the excellent multi-lane NH 76 which took us by delight with its magnitude.



However, there was some stone blasting going on the route and a dearth of road signs pointing towards the entry to Udaipur city which delayed us further. After asking a couple of people, we were finally able to enter the city of Udaipur from the Fatehpura side around 4.30 PM.

My friend had visited Udaipur once before and felt confident about the city routes and we started tracing our path towards our accomodation - Jaiwana Haveli. Jaiwana Haveli was a random selection from a plethora of options we found on the internet and this place interested us most for the price it offered at the specific location. It is bang-on the Pichola lake front, situated in the heart of the old fort city.



However, the area where it is located – Lal Ghat – is primarily the foreign tourist hub and heavily congested like any other old city in India. However, most of the major attractions are within walking distance from this place and this hotel has a great view of the Lake Palace and Pichola lake from its roof top restaurant. The rooms are below average in my opinion and very stark in comparison to the places we had stayed previously in our trip. It’s an average choice if you have a budget of Rs. 2000 per room for a night and are comfortable with simple and clean rooms.



After checking into our rooms, we decided to take a stroll in the market which seemed very attractive as we drove through it while coming to our hotel. The shops are loaded with interesting items like silk cover diaries, leather goods, clothes, paintings, et al. I was amazed to find a large number of tailor shops there specializing in western outfits. After a brief chat with one of the shop owners, I realized that its a major business in that area where foreigners get their expensive dresses stitched in less than half the price compared to their local country. Enterprising indeed ! There are some great shops selling the famous miniature artwork of Udaipur and I would specially recommend a shop run by a lady by the name of Durgesh. She was the only person I found genuinely interested in doing business while providing the customer a good value for money. Most of the other folks seemed to be in the loot mood prevalent in any tourist city. Her shop would be on your left as you go towards the City Palace museum from Jagdish temple and she also runs a diary shop where all kinds of leather and silk bindings are available. I bought a beautiful set of 3 “Bani Thani” paintings from her as well as a couple of good leather bound photo albums and diaries. Must buy for any visitor to this place.
After a satisfying shopping spree, we came back to our room and decided to go over to Jagat Niwas Palace hotel (which was just behind our hotel and we didn’t realize it until we reached its door) for dinner. If I were to go back to Udaipur again and stay in that area, I would choose hotel Jagat Niwas which is actually a haveli converted to a heritage hotel. The restaurant serves excellent Chinese and Continental but Indian food remains a dream for the chefs here. The crowd is 99% foreigners, so I would not take this assessment as a negative for this place but would recommend this place for its great view of the lake and ambience to people who are comfortable with continental cuisine. The price is a bit on the higher side, but you would not feel robbed if you had a great seat with a good view of the lake from the terrace of the restaurant.
After a great dinner we came back to our hotel and turned in for an early morning. We expected our next day to be a whirlwind round but it was amazing how quickly we finished all sight seeing and started wondering on what to do next on our second day in Udaipur. We entered the City Palace museum complex with a guide who entertained us with all the interesting tidbits from the lives of the kings and queens of the palace. Here are few photographs to share some of the interesting things we saw in the palace.









After visiting the museum, you can visit the other part of the palace where the crystal gallery and sunset terrace is located. This portion also contains entrance to the current residence of the erstwhile kings of Udaipur. You can take a short boat ride to nearby Jag Mandir Island, which has the crumbling remains of a small (abandoned) 17th-century palace. Jag Mandir has some stunning carvings, including a row of huge elephants and a finely crafted cenotaph (although we didn’t see them, it’s a recommended visit given you have the interest and time). We were pretty tired from our trip to the City Palace and it was around 1 PM when we decided to go to the Vintage Car Museum where 22 of the most exquisite cars from the kings’ collection are displayed. There is also a restaurant in the complex where a very filling thali (unlimited vegetarian lunch) is served. We arrived at the car museum and were awestruck with the machines kept in those garages. They are very well maintained and each one of them has a piece of history embedded in it. The royal family knows how to take care of their prized possessions.



We then moved into the heart of the city around 4 PM to just wander around and experience the city. I was somehow feeling no attraction for visiting some of the other landmarks in the city like Saheliyon ki Badi and Sajjangarh Palace. I just wanted to experience the city and its people for a change and that’s what everyone in our group agreed to do. We roamed Udaipur’s bazaars and and made a few discoveries. One of them was a great shop for buying Bandhej (popular Udaipur cloth work) work at Hathi Pol. Its a small shop called Navrang just under the mosque at Hathi Pol. This guy was reasonably priced and had a good variety of sarees and suites which our women companions leveraged to its most. After becoming few thousands poorer, we started moving back towards our hotel and decided to visit the cultural program at Bagor Ki Haveli which was located near our hotel.



The program starts at 7 PM and has cultural programs on folk music and dance performed by authentic Rajasthani artists. This was a moving experience for all of us and I am sure whoever has witnessed this program can attest to what I mean. You can feel the pain of the singer as he sings a soulful song and you will feel jubilant when the dancer turns around in joy. This is one event I cherished most in my whole trip and its memories are sure going to live with me for a long time to come.



We had planned our dinner at Ambrai restaurant which is situated at water level right on Lake Pichola across from the Lake Palace Hotel and the City Palace Museum (on the river bank opposite to our hotel). Its a beautiful place to relax and unwind. Reservation is a must as the waiting time can be pretty long since people tend to stay on for long periods of time due to the location of this restaurant. The food is exceptional and service is perfect. A must do for your Udaipur trip. Four of us played a memorable round of truth-or-dare at our table by the lake and returned back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.



Next day we started on our journey back to Jaipur with a stop planned at Ajmer. However, Chittor and Pushkar just happened to us and we reached Jaipur a satisfied and tired lot.

Chittor was a last minute decision as we left out hotel in Udaipur and we decided to just stop by and at least have a look at the famous Vijaystambh (Tower of Victory). It also felt a little awkward to leave the land of Rajputs without paying homage to the city of the great warrior king Maharana Pratap.



We reached Ajmer around 4 PM and parked our car in a shop which is the standard practice near Dargah. I left all my money and belongings in the car expecting a lot of beggars and pick-pockets as advised by my friends. The Dargah is a peaceful place and it was not that crowded at the time we reached inside it. We were able to see the mosque and the resting place of the Sufi saint who had even Akbar The Great walk barefooted to meet him. Although the Dargah complex is highly commercialized, the serenity of the place is something that doesn’t go unnoticed as you move around the compound. The huge vessels used for cooking food for the poor is worth a peeking into if you can get a chance. They were a gift from the Mughal emperors and are several hundred years old. We were out quickly from the Dargah and decided to visit Pushkar.



Pushkar lake is currently undergoing maintenance and it has been dug up for deepening and cleaning. There was no water in the lake and some of the larger temple complexes around the lake had stored water in small pools for ritual use. The place definitely has a strong spiritual pull which you can’t ignore even after all the commercial humdrum around you. After a quick visit to the famous Brahma temple, we started back for Jaipur.

We reached back to my friend’s house around 10 PM and ate at Kanha’s on the way back. Good food and a tiring day ensured a good night’s sleep in a cosy Jaipuri cotton-filled blanket as the night turned cold and the sky got darker. Next day we found why Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan - where every city was exceptional and a deserving candidate in its own right.

To be concluded in next part.

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Old 18th December 2009, 14:33   #21
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Default Making of Part 4

I wasn't finding the time to complete part 4 of my rajasthan travelogue although the motivation was there in the form of comments from few of the kind BHPians, so rolled up my sleeves and started writing the post at 12 AM - midnight. It took me 5 hours to put this post together and then I found that Team BHP site was not opening

So, went to sleep and tried again as soon as I got up and was delighted to find it working again. And here it is for your reading and visual pleasure.

Do post your comments to help me complete this travelogue with the final part which I plan to write during this weekend.
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Old 19th December 2009, 10:35   #22
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Hey Umar,

Thanks a ton yaar. I am eagerly looking forward to the final part. Please do post some snaps from Ajmer. I do know that cameras are prohibhited in Dargah but if you have taken any snaps from outside or of the shops please do post them.
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Old 21st December 2009, 10:51   #23
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Hey Umar,

Thanks a ton yaar. I am eagerly looking forward to the final part. Please do post some snaps from Ajmer. I do know that cameras are prohibhited in Dargah but if you have taken any snaps from outside or of the shops please do post them.
I didn't click any pictures in Ajmer because I felt it unwise to take out anything out from the car even in that bazar leading to Dargah.

As a matter of fact, the security there makes you deposit even your leather belts and anything else that you may be carrying.

As you would have guessed, final part is getting delayed due to marathon movie weekend and I am going to squeeze it somehow this week...
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Old 21st December 2009, 21:53   #24
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Great pics and very nicely written! How was the parking space at Jaiwana Haveli. Was it ample and secure?
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Old 22nd December 2009, 02:17   #25
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Great pics and very nicely written! How was the parking space at Jaiwana Haveli. Was it ample and secure?
Thank you !

Parking is definitely an issue at Jaiwana. They took our keys and kept managing the space throughout our stay. It was hasslefree and safe since the management took care of the parking, but risky (in terms of scratches or dents) for sure.
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Old 23rd December 2009, 19:29   #26
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I didn't click any pictures in Ajmer because I felt it unwise to take out anything out from the car even in that bazar leading to Dargah.

As a matter of fact, the security there makes you deposit even your leather belts and anything else that you may be carrying.

It was a wise decision Umar. The Dargah bazaar is a hub for pickpockets and they donot spare any one. Have heard several instances of even visinting senior government officials being targeted. Besides after the tragic blats, cameras have prohibited inside,


Ranakpur is surely one of the most under-rated destination on western circuit till now. The temples of Ranakpur are at par with taj in their intricate craftmanship and are unspoiled by time. The sanctum santorum is still lit by the century old tradition and you won't find electric fittings any where.

If time permits, Kumbhalgharh fort in vicinity is worth a dekko.
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Old 27th December 2009, 21:38   #27
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Hi Umar, great write ups. I have always been fascinated by the rich history of Rajasthan. Been to these places a long time back. Infact dont even remember properly as i was hardly 12 back then.
Planning to be back there as soon as i can. For a start, i am thinking of a quick drive to udaipur/chittorgarh and back from mumbai. This is the place closest from mumbai and can be done in 4 days.
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Old 8th February 2010, 13:56   #28
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Default Part 5 (Final) - Adieu from the Pink City of Jaipur




Rajputs were a people with great foresight. Their alliances throughout the history were made based on a surprisingly accurate assessment of the future political conditions long before they came to passé. This gift of foresight is what ensured their survival and allowed them to hold positions of power even when most of the independent rulers in India were going through turbulent times. It comes as no surprise to find most of the historic places in Rajasthan still under private ownership of the erstwhile Maharajas of the state while no other state can claim a similar fate during the rules of Mughals, then British and finally under free India.



Jaipur – meaning the City of Victory literally – is the result of the foresight and planning abilities of Sawai Jai Singh II who ruled the region from the forts of Amer (also written as Amber) in the 1700s. As the Mughal rule started to dwindle in India, Jai Singh realized that the times ahead were going to change and living inside a Fort would not provide the ideal conditions to flourish for his royalty and his people. Scarcity of water and an increasing population helped take the decision of moving to the plains as well. Originally called “Jainagar”, Jaipur didn’t get its current nickname of “Pink City” until 1853 when the Prince of Wales visited Jaipur and the whole city was painted pink to welcome him during the regime of Sawai Ram Singh.

To understand the beauty of the modern city of Jaipur with its well planned avenues and an architecture that reflects its royal heritage in a truly just manner, it is worth its while to see the splendor of the forts of Amer. There are primarily 3 forts inside the walls of Amer. At the base is the fort of Amer, 11 kms. from the city of Jaipur followed by Jaigarh Fort above it and then Nahargarh Fort on top of the mountain range. Amer Fort is essentially a palace with a lot of beautiful buildings inside its premises.


The fort is entered through the 'Dil-e-Aaram' Garden, laid out in the traditional Mughal style. An imposing flight of stairs leads to the 'Diwan-e-Aam' or "Hall of Public Audience", which has latticed galleries and double row of columns each having a capital in the shape of Elephants on the top.

To the right are steps that lead to the small Kali Temple having huge doors made of silver. The larger white marble Shila Mata temple, has the image of Goddess Kali, brought by Raja Man Singh from Jessore in East Bengal, now Bangladesh.
As you enter the fort compound towards the inside buildings, you have to past through a magnificently two tiered decorative gateway called Ganesh Pol. It is covered with elegant frescoes and pavilions having fascinating Lattice work screens.



Inside the complex you will find the 'Jai Mandir', or "the Hall of Victory", with a glittering ceiling with mirror pieces on stucco and elegant inlaid panels. In front of the Jai Mandir is the 'Sukh Niwas' or "the hall of pleasure" with a door made of sandalwood, inlaid with ivory with a channel running through, which formerly carried cool water acting as an air cooler.



I believe the most amazing piece of architecture inside Amer Fort is the 'Sheesh Mahal' – the hall of Mirrors known for its craftsmanship in mirrors. It is the most spectacular of the lot with thousands of mirror pieces adorning the walls and the ceiling. Any streak of light makes them sparkle and illuminates the entire room.



As you go through the Amer fort complex, you realize it was actually meant for the pleasure of the royalties and as you start looking for the defense part of the fort, your eyes instinctively raise up towards the looming shadows of Jaigarh fort. A dark and strong looking fort stands protectively over the delicate complex building of Amer and we started towards Jaigarh fort after spending about 2 hours inside Amer.



The drive to Jaigarh fort is beautiful as you start getting an unbeatable view of the city of Jaipur lying below the feet of the mountains. Jaigarh fort is one of the few military structures of medieval India preserved almost intact, containing palaces, gardens, water reservoirs, a granary, an armory, a cannon foundry, a tall lookout tower and a giant mounted cannon called the Jai Baan (Victory Bow), the largest foundry cannon in the world.

One good thing about Jaigarh fort is that they allow cars to be taken inside the fort for moving around. This is a good option if you have a car with you. As you enter the fort, you will see some canal-like construction connecting Jaigarh fort with Amer fort complex below. These canals were used frequently by horsemen to ride between the forts and there are many secret routes which were used in times of war. You can see a lot of flora and fauna that is being preserved in these hills thanks to a national reserve park program run by the government. We witnessed deers, peacocks, parrots and other small game in the shrubs.



I believe the most popular attraction in Jaigarh Fort is Jai Baan and it uses about 100 kg of gun powder to fire a shot ball weighing 50 kg. It is believed that this cannon was only fired once during testing in 1720 and has a range of 35-40 kms. Nobody really knows the truth about its range and might, but you cannot help dropping your jaw in awe of this impressive feat of human craftsmanship.



We spend a lot of time looking out to the hill ranges from the ramparts of Jaigarh fort and there is a sense of masculinity that this fort generates which is well complimented by the feminine charm of Amer fort below it.



By the time we started for Nahargarh fort – the last of the 3 forts – it was over 5 PM and the sun was on its way down. But we made it in time to complete the trilogy. Nahargarh, meaning the “Abode of the Tigers", was built by Jai Singh to bolster the defense of Amer.

The fort has a cluster of 12 suits for queens and a master suit for the king. The fort presents the most outstanding view of the city lights which we were lucky to witness. Nahargarh also has an exclusive heritage hotel with only one room and a popular restaurant.



We were more interested in checking out the shooting spot of “Rang De Basanti” movie and it really looked wonderful although with a lot of garbage in the water.



After the sunset, we drove down from the hill down towards Jaipur and stopped at the road side park opposite Jal Mahal – a beautiful palace standing between the waters of lake Man Sagar. It is stunningly beautiful and will draw a sigh from you as you witness its beauty magnified many folds on the shimmering water in the darkness of the night.



That night was our wedding anniversary eve and our friends had planned a surprise cake cutting for us in their house. It was a day to remember and an unforgettable night made more so by the charm of the city of Jaipur.

Next day we had planned to look around the city and we started from the most significant building of the city – City Palace. It is definitely one of the best palaces I have seen so far. I would run out of words if I started to write about all the wonders inside the complex so here are few photos to speak instead of me.



City Palace - Entrance



City Palace - Center Hall



City Palace - Peacock Gate



City Palace - Sandstone Elephant



City Palace - Dragon Portrait

It was lunchtime by the time we finished City Palace and we went to a great local restaurant for lunch based on our friend’s recommendations. We went looking around the markets of Jaipur and got a flavor of the local city. The day included Pyaaz Ki Kachoris, Mawa Kachoris, Lassi and jewellary shopping (in the same breadth!) on MI road, and many other attractions. However, we were done with our fill of sight seeing for the trip and were already looking forward to our evening in Chokhi Dhani that night.



Here are some of our photos from Chokhi Dhani. It was an amazing experience and nothing compared to what I had expected given my impression of the place from my visits to Dhola Ri Dhani in Hyderabad. I was expecting the food to be amazing but was let down a bit, probably because I had already tasted great food in our trip across Rajasthan.









Of course, Jaipur (or Rajasthan for that matter) is too magnificent to be captured in so few words or to be seen in such a short span of time. However, it gives you a taste of its ancient charm that keeps calling back to your soul long after you have returned back to your soil.
As the night got colder and the woods in the fire turned red, we geared up for our journey back to Hyderabad the next day, for there is no place like home indeed.

“For sure, No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

<Series Written By: Umar Khan>

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Old 8th February 2010, 15:09   #29
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The photo of the embers looks bewitching! wish there were a pair of hands just over it enjoying the warmth as well in this photo.
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Old 12th August 2010, 14:59   #30
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Amazing travelogue.This is a treasure trove for anybody wishing to do this circuit.Outstanding
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