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Old 5th April 2011, 15:18   #1
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Default To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!

Dates: Sat 02 to Mon 04 April, 2011
Route: Pune - Ahmednagar - Aurangabad & back
Travel Party: noopster (Mr, Missus & junior) + our friends (Mr, Missus & junior)
Steed: VW Vento 1.6 AT Petrol (just completed 3000 km)
Attractions planned: Ajanta or Ellora, Daulatabad fort, Bibi ka Maqbara
A teaser:

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Last edited by noopster : 5th April 2011 at 15:27.
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Old 5th April 2011, 15:29   #2
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Default The planning's the best part!

A long weekend is a precious commodity that every working person longs for. Some years you don't have a single one, like all of 2010, and others you have two in the same month, as in April 2011!

Well- the 22nd-24th April long weekend is blocked for a family function, so we decided to plan something special for the April 2nd-4th one. The fact that it was World Cup Finals weekend meant that it had to be within 4-5 hours of driving from Pune so that we could check into someplace nice, watch the game on Saturday and do the rest of the sightseeing on Sunday and whatever we could on Monday before heading back.

Our next-door neighbours/good friends (a couple with a kid, just like us) were also enthusiastic and we started scouting a venue. Summer's hit with a vengeance already and that pretty much ruled out the beach. Neighbours suggested Mumbai but that's ghar ki murgi for us and who wants to eat dal on World Cup weekend !

So I was idly looking at locations within 250 km when suddenly one stood out: Aurangabad. Fellow bhpian dot told me that the drive (4 lane all through) was "delicious" and that perked my ears up. A few trips to tripadvisor, stolen in the middle of incredibly busy workdays, and I was convinced that it would make a great destination.

The rest of the gang was lukewarm but I had saved the killer punch for last: a booking at the Taj Residency at a truly fabulous rate (I texted dot about the deal I got and he was almost ready to pack his bags & join me!)

I am not a cricket fanatic the way a lot of people are but told the group very firmly (as D-day approached and the Men in Blue marched on) that India were in the final and so any plans to be made had to factor in one evening spent lolling in front of the television with room service and little else! The ladies decided it would be an ideal time to check out the spa/pool/whatever else was on offer without us pesky men in their hair.

Day 2 (Sunday) was Woman's Day as far as I was concerned and we would do whatever they decided.

Day 3 was return day so at the most some light sightseeing in the morning was the most we could hope for.

We were all set!

Last edited by noopster : 5th April 2011 at 19:33.
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Old 5th April 2011, 17:36   #3
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Default D-Day: Saturday 2nd April 2011

D-Day dawned and it was a slightly cooler day than normal. Which meant by the time we hauled bag and baggage into the car and took off, the hour was almost 8 am. A whole hour behind schedule, but the lack of traffic meant we were able to ease our way onto Nagar Road through the city in a matter of 15-20 minutes. Nice start!

The open road:
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We planned to stop for breakfast on the way to Ahmednagar and our friends recommended a place called The Smilestone. Problem was: nobody was quite sure where exactly it was! Turned out it was almost all the way to Nagar . Like pilgrims desperate for a sight of the holy grail, we craned our necks at every turn in the road. Till we finally beheld this wonderful sight:
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As it turned out, it was worth the wait.
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Hunger sated, the kids ventured out into the beautiful grounds abutting the property.To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!-aurangabad-015.jpg

Only to discover the most amazing sight!
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Up close with the ostriches
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Please don't tell me they're emus: I've already been hauled up as a big city bumpkin for getting sugarcane fields confused with cotton in my Goa travelogue!

A final view of our lovely breakfast spot before hitting the road again:
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Old 5th April 2011, 17:57   #4
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Default Aurangabad ahoy!

Back on the road again, some lovely sights. The 4-lane highway from Pune to Nagar and then Aurangabad is quite amazing. Positively ribbon-like in stretches. I had to exhort my fellow companions to make use of the cameras at their disposal and one of them finally started clicking.

A row of windmills dotting the hilly landscape. Our Maharashtrian farmers take alternative energy sources very seriously, it seems
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The mandatory funny painted sign on the back of a truck: of course we had to wonder who the unfortunate Diksha was!
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We reached Aurangabad without much incident. The only sore point was my archaic Vento ICE. After getting used to USB ICE in my Swift, it's like going back to the stone ages! My friend improvised some sort of laptop to FM transmitter to ICE linkup and we started listening to some 80s pop and rock. Much better than the inane FM stuff we were forced to listen to till then!

As we approached Aurangabad, someone directed us to the Ellora road to find our hotel. Which, as it turned out, was a mistake. After about 5 km we asked at a petrol station and some helpful natives pointed us on the right track, viz. back to the main road. We grumbled a lot- traffic was heavy, it was hot and the kids were hungry!- but no choice. Headed back to the main road and then turned off, this time correctly at some place called the Baba petrol pump chowk. We were told to look for Dilli Gate which is the landmark closest to the Taj Residency. Soon enough we saw it.
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Home suite home!
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Last edited by noopster : 5th April 2011 at 19:56.
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Old 5th April 2011, 18:31   #5
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Default Vignettes of Ellora

Our first destination was the Ellora caves, about 35 km from Aurangabad on the Aurangabad-Mumbai highway (there is a prominent turnoff to the right which you cannot miss). The last time I have seen these man-made marvels was back in the mid-80s when I was too young to appreciate much anything. We parked at the main cave (Kailash caves) and an intrepid rickshaw driver offered to take us on an express tour covering each of the main distinct art forms on display: Hindu, Jain and Buddhist. Since we didn't want to tire out the kids, we gladly agreed: at 250/- per rickshaw, it seemed a steal. For the record, the official tourism department guide charges a ridiculous 750/- and we were pretty sure we didn't want to spend the rest of the day spelunking anyway!

En route to Ellora: a nice 2-lane highway reminiscent of the old Bangalore-Mysore road. Alas such roads are fast disappearing under the barrage of GQs and expressways!

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First view of Ellora! Pretty impressive.

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Ellora is primarily shilpakala (sculpture) while Ajanta is chitrakala. The caves are really beautiful. We got just a sampling of the whole lot but I for one was quite happy with what I saw. My friend's wife knows a little about history and was adding to what our "guides" were telling us.

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Attached Thumbnails
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Last edited by noopster : 5th April 2011 at 18:50.
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Old 5th April 2011, 18:47   #6
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Default Delightful Daulatabad

We'd made up our minds that either Ellora or Ajanta was doable, certainly not both, in the time we had available and keeping the fatigue factor in mind. Ajanta is actually 100+ km from the town, so Ellora got the thumbs up. It helped that Daulatabad fort, which according to tripadvisor reviews, was a "not-to-miss", was on the same road. We'd also been advised to visit Daulatabad towards the evening when the sunlight is less harsh, so we killed a few hours grabbing an uninspiring dhaba lunch and shopping at a Himroo arts centre on the highway.

Around 4.30 pm we started off for Daulatabad fort. Obviously we weren't intent on scaling it, but even the architecture at the base of the fort is pretty amazing. This is easily the best fort I've seen in Maharashtra, though our North Indian friends were less easily impressed. The inevitable comparisons with Laal Killa were made.

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Daulatabad was the place the unfortunate Tughlaq moved his capital to from Delhi. He was forced to move back soon enough, at an extremely high cost of life and expense. Didn't get re-elected, am sure
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Some more pics of this extremely imposing fort.
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Last edited by noopster : 5th April 2011 at 19:18.
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Old 5th April 2011, 19:51   #7
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Default Last stop: Bibi Ka Maqbara

The last touristy thing we did was visit Bibi ka Maqbara. The bibi is in question being Aurangzeb's wife, after whose death her son built the "mini-Taj" in her memory.
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We found a guide here as well, who for Rs. 150/- gave us the full tour and tossed in a couple of original shayaris as well.

The maqbara is pretty much white plaster compared to its marble counterpart up Agra way, but the finish is quite good. You don't get the sense of "knockoff" when you see this in isolation. My wife remarked she's happy she saw this before the real thing! The Taj of course is in a different league altogether.
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My friend's wife was eager to get some shopping done so we wrapped it up pretty quick. One last group pic courtesy our poet-guide-photographer
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Old 5th April 2011, 20:20   #8
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Default Re: To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!

Trip Stats & Summary:

Total distance covered: 602 km
Total driving time: 10 hour 05 mins
Peak speed: 140 kmph (very small stretch on Nagar-Pune stretch where absolutely no traffic was visible)
FE: 12.8 kmpl on MID (12.26 as per tank full to empty method)
Driving style: Spirited!

Highlights:
  • Daulatabad Fort- truly impressive!
  • Ellora Caves- worth seeing.
  • Taj Residency- fantastic service, truly five star! Memorable experience. We'd debated between this and Lemon Tree but in the end the decisive argument was "Taj is Taj!" And believe me it was.
  • India winning the World Cup!!! Watched it in the hotel room and loved every moment.
Lowlights:
  • Got fined by the Aurangabad traffic police for (of all things) an illegal U-turn. There was a traffic signal (which was green onward and red for oncoming) and I took the turn though I was aware there was a roundabout just ahead where I should have legally turned. My wife was like, what's with you? you never do that, which I took as a good sign. Didn't argue with the cop, quietly allowed him to challan me (100/- for an illegal turn)
  • Another cop tried to play smart by insisting that my license (issued in '93 by Versova RTO, a rare card-type license for that era) was fake. He demanded to see my car papers. I turned around as if to acquiesce then turned back and asked him loudly in Marathi, "What do you mean, fake? This is a genuine license issued by our state government!" He was taken aback then started getting angry, at which point I turned to the other cop (the "good" cop who'd originally booked me) and said beseechingly, "How can saheb say that it's a fake?" etc. etc. The good cop calmed the other guy (and me) down and didn't insist on checking the papers. We parted with a handshake and he was kind enough to give us directions as well. There was an ulterior motive in my faux aggression, though: I didn't have my original papers (never carry them, after hearing about how they get stolen from parked cars and only carry a xerox) and in any case I haven't got my RTO smart card from VW Pune yet!
  • The way our national monuments are maintained is a disgrace. There is nothing to attract a tourist to this city. The 5-stars are apparently for European car execs who frequent the city. Hell, we were hard pressed to find a restaurant fit for a family in the middle of the day and had to return to our hotel and order room service! The only place we could find a couple was at the Baba Petrol Pump (where incidentally I got challaned).
All in all, it was a wonderful trip- a time for bonding with friends and family. The kids loved it, though truth be told that was the Taj effect more than anything else. The adults really unwound and the drive (yours truly solely with driving rights) was sublime.

My Fräulein was a dream to drive and the only sore point was me filling Club HP regular unleaded instead of my usual Shell Super (Price differential of 12 rupees+ as of today) which made the engine audibly louder and introduced some jerkiness in the ride as well. I seem to be getting better at mastering the kickdown to accelerate and don't even realise am doing it anymore (except for the engine note that goes HIGH). Managed to avoid any major traffic jams or mishaps along the way. Kids were well-behaved and fellow passengers were comfortable despite the heat.

Note to self- do more long weekend trips. Though today at work, I can hardly concentrate! Busy planning the next of these.

Last edited by noopster : 5th April 2011 at 20:28.
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Old 6th April 2011, 13:39   #9
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Default Re: To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!

Bumping this thread to feature in the New Posts section. Thanks mods for moving this from assembly line.
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Old 6th April 2011, 14:03   #10
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Default Re: To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!

Wow! its always awesome to read your noopster, the last one being Goa (my fav destination!) Do post some good pics of the Taj if you can.

Isn't Ajanta the bigger caves of the two? I'd visited Ajanta a long time back and remember others mentioning it being more beautiful. Anyways, the point is that you had a good holiday! The deal that you mentioned you got for the stay at the taj; was it online or did you call them up and bargain a bit?

Cheers,
Varun
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Old 6th April 2011, 14:05   #11
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Default Re: To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!

Good read and pictures. Though I have passed through Aurangabad and Ajanta many times, I am yet to visit any of these places.

And yes, those are Emus at the The Smile Stone.
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Old 6th April 2011, 14:12   #12
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Default Re: To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!

Nice write up noopster.
BTW I was searching for the Vento in your snaps
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Old 6th April 2011, 14:35   #13
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Default Re: To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!

Anoop, lovely TLog. Truly, a great read.

Even I had done Ajanta & Ellora back in the mid 80's when anything historical was of no importance at all. Reading about it, plus the awesome road, has already set the bug in my mind. Plus, the killer deal that you got at Taj is an added bonus.

As soon as I saw the first post, I was about to write -"How could you miss the World Cup finals?", till I read further to see, it certainly was on the agenda.

P.S: Sorry to spoil the party for you, but the "Ostriches" that you clicked at Smile Stone ARE actually Emu's .

EDIT: This post offficially brings my post counts to 100! Glad that it reached this figure on such a wonderful thread!

Last edited by Swanand Inamdar : 6th April 2011 at 14:37.
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Old 6th April 2011, 14:43   #14
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Default Re: To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!

Quote:
Originally Posted by misguidedmisile View Post
Wow! its always awesome to read your noopster, the last one being Goa (my fav destination!)
Thanks misg. That feels good!


Quote:
The deal that you mentioned you got for the stay at the taj; was it online or did you call them up and bargain a bit?
Tripadvisor has this facility where they open several travel website windows simultaneously to offer you a comparative view so you can choose the best deal. I got a rate of 3750 plus 10% taxes and a net discount of 500/- for registering with Travelguru.com and went ahead. Am fairly comfortable buying stuff especially travel online and thankfully it went smoothly. Net rate was 4K per room, which I thought was awesome for a full-fledged 5* hotel. One of the sites listed the rack rate as 11,500/-!!

Quote:
Do post some good pics of the Taj if you can.
Sure. Here goes:
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pjbiju View Post
Good read and pictures. Though I have passed through Aurangabad and Ajanta many times, I am yet to visit any of these places.

And yes, those are Emus at the The Smile Stone.
Damn- I knew it! My friend assured me they were ostriches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swanand Inamdar View Post
Anoop, lovely TLog. Truly, a great read...This post offficially brings my post counts to 100! Glad that it reached this figure on such a wonderful thread!
Thanks for the compliments! Nice to see you here, and glad you got your century on my thread!

Quote:
As soon as I saw the first post, I was about to write -"How could you miss the World Cup finals?", till I read further to see, it certainly was on the agenda.
Ha! You must have known we are two of a kind when we bumped into each other at McD's escaping home the day of the quarters! WC was very much part of the plan and here's the proof:
To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!-aurangabad-064.jpg
Of course there are other pics of the celebrations that followed that *cannot* be shared, for obvious reasons

Last edited by noopster : 6th April 2011 at 14:51.
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Old 6th April 2011, 14:52   #15
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Default Re: To Aurangabad I Vent-oh!

Hi Anoop,
First of all the title is unique / amazing / hilarious. I am closely following all your travelogues / pieces of information about the Vent-Oh that you post. I am soon going to join the VW-Owners-Vent-OhOh Club . Anyway the photos have come out really well. Also I never knew that the Taj Residency in A'bad was quite as impressive.
I was especially laughing to read how you had handled those A'bad cops. Puneri habits of creating your "U" turns seems to have caught up with you. Those poor innocent A'bad folk must have been amazed by your innovative style though.

Well just one experience I had is speak Marathi when in Maharashtra and leave alone cops even the customs people in Mumbai Intl Airport leave you alone and treat you with respect. (I think its true for every state and its local language).

Any more pictures coming our way....say no pictures of your ride ??? Taken at Ajanta or in front of the Ellora...!!!
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