Saturday, March 31, 2012

The sound of silence in Lodi Gardens

There is almost something magical about the silence in Lodi Gardens. Lovers make out in silence there.Auntiji's walk by without their usual chatter.Writers come by here for inspiration. You can actually hear the silence where human sounds are drowned out  and all you can  hear is  the ducks quacking..the birds chirping.. and the squirrels chittering. It's a little bit surreal for India. In fact all the respective factions looked upon at disapproval at one noisy youngster indulging in noisy horseplay,while the couple making out passionately(but silently) in the grass nearby was discreetly ignored :D

The beautiful lawns at Lodi
The beautiful lake in the gardens
View above from my spot in the grass
The extensive gardens  have several archaeological monuments within them.It's like a bit of paradise with some history thrown in..what more could you ask for?

The last Mughal ruler of India's tomb

Inside  the tomb

A fort in the garden
And yes...I'm quite hopelessly in  love with this place.Don't expect me to be really objective about it.:)

Vandy's Tips:
  • Close to Jor Bagh Metro Station.However it might be better to get down at INA,since you have better chances of getting autos to Lodi from there.
  • Visit the nearby Indian Habitat Centre(IHC) by foot.Several interesting cultural events happen here.A food court is also present in IHC.
  • Humayun's Tomb is a nearby attraction.I went directly to Lodi that day since I was desperate for a spot of green after living in Gurgaon's concrete jungle.
  • Lodi is pretty safe for women.I was just one among the several women who were there alone.Of course try to be there between 07:00 -18:00 hours,just in case. Better safe than sorry.
  • Don't litter in Lodi.If you do,I just might kill you.Leave this one pristine piece of earth alone!!
  • Young couples apparently come here to make-out without any interference from the guards and the police. I did feel amazed that no 'maama'(Chennai lingo for police) was present to collect 'vasool'.
  • It would be wonderful to catch sunset or sunrise in the gardens.And yeah,you have free entry to this place.
  • A few heritage walks are conducted here by the archaelogical department and some amateur groups.I plan on catching one next time.The history in this place just makes it extra special.
  • The Lodi Gardens was apparently a one time popular film shooting spot.You never may still catch a few here by random.
  • A book,some snacks,a bottle of water,sunglasses and a mat should be enough to make your day here if you like spending time alone like I do.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vandy travels to Jaipur

With just a weekend to spare before my Mom's trip back to Chennai, we decided to head out of Gurgaon for a short trip. Jaipur was the most logical choice, being just 4 hours away from Gurgaon.

We boarded a crappy bus run by one of the many private bus companies in Gurgaon at IFCO Chowk. The seats were dirty and the bus was in a rickety condition. A truly miserable ride compounded by the cold winds that blew through the cracks in the bus. The people at the bus stand advised us to book the VOLVO buses for future trips. Lesson #1 learnt.

Finally, when we landed in Jaipur and reached our B&BJaipur Friendly Villa,we heaved a sigh of relief. We took advantage of the cosy room,and rested for a few hours.  Shveta, our host at the JaipurFriendly Villa, told us that several of Jaipur’s tourist attractions are located in the old city, reachable either by walk or by cycle rickshaw.  So after a yummy breakfast, we headed out to the City Palace in the old city by auto-rickshaw. We just wanted to do a relaxed tour, so we decided to skip the tourist bus or hiring an auto-rickshaw/cab for the day.

Bird's eye view of City Palace
Intricate marble exteriors of City Palace

The City Palace has splendid architecture and visual appeal. I found out a curious fact about one of the rulers of the Rajput dynasty. He had a patron who took  his widowed mother and him  in after they got thrown out by his uncle. Based on the advice of a poet, he killed his patron and seized his land. And he had the poet executed afterwards. Apparently he disapproved of the advice, even though he followed it out of his own greed. The Jaipur royal family mourns this day every year to this day, by wearing black. An amusing example of royal hypocrisy if you ask me!
Hawa Mahal
Strategically placed windows to spy upon the world and not be spied upon!

The Hawa Mahal, closely located from the City Palace was built for the women of the royal household. It has several tiny windows, which provide a view of the outside world, without revealing the women to the commoners.

Jantar Mantar, a World Heritage monument is  an interesting scientific monument that provides the date and time based on the sun and moon’s position. Also closely located to City Palace, it might be a worthwhile bet to rent one of the English audio guides available here to understand the intricacies.It's also possible that it might be  an interesting experience to hire a local guide,and watch him spin a new story each time about the instruments there :p

After visiting two palaces, we developed 'palace allergy' and wanted to see a fort. A trip out of the city to visit Amber fort was probably not worth the trouble it resulted in. We managed to get pick pocketed on the way back in our bid to save money by using one of the several city coaches which ferry people between the Old City and the fort. Lesson #2 learnt. :)

We decided to recoup our losses with some hearty street shopping, by heading back to the old city. Jaipur has this in plenty in addition to being filled up with palaces and forts. You literally have vendors pulling you inside their shops along Hawa Mahal Bazaar, Bapu Bazaar and Johri bazaar. We picked up some Jaipuri puppets, kholapuri slippers and several other knick knacks along the way.

One of the best things we discovered on the way was the yummy Pewar, a cottage cheese(paneer) based sweetmeat at LMB Hotel, Johri Bazaar. LMB is apparently famous for its mithai, and especially it's Pewar.

Pewar at LMB

Vandy’s Tips
  •  Book a train from or the KSRTC Volvo buses if you're travelling to Jaipur from Delhi/Gurgaon. The buses run by the private operators’ sucks, and from the looks of it, not particularly safe either.
  • Several of Jaipur's attractions are located quite close to each other in the walled old city. A really budget option is the KSRTC bus which operates its starting point from the Railway station or KSRTC hotels. A more relaxed option would be to hire an auto-rickshaw for the day for 300-400 Rs. However, if you're fit enough to walk or use a cycle rickshaw, you could just take an auto to the city, and then walk around for the rest.The last and most expensive option of renting a cab for the day,is only for those who really don't feel they can handle the touts  or have some physical disabilities.
  • A combo ticket is available which gives you a reduced price on entry to  Hawa Mahal,Jantar Mantar and a couple of forts.I tried purchasing this ticket,but the counter guy claimed he had run out of tickets! You could try your luck though.
  • Don't miss out on the Pewar at LMB. It's truly spectacular.
  • Jaipur, like any other tourist city is prone to tourist scams and pickpockets. But hey, they'll just try to cheat you out of a few hundred bucks or try to make you buy some crappy knick knack. It's not really known for violent crime. So just chill out, and chalk it up as a not very expensive life experience :)
  • Jaipur Street shopping is fun. You will end up  being surprised by the stuff  that you can buy for 100 bucks. Just ignore the starting price the vendor quotes.
  • Read Shooting star's rajasthan guide,Lonely Planet's thorntree forum and my favorite Jaipur wikitravel. Jaipur is part of the popular touristy 'Golden Triangle',so there's no dearth of information about it.
  • Next time,I'll be making a trip to the Jal Mahal,which I glimpsed on my way to Amber fort.It looked truly lovely,and I heard that many an Indian movie song has been shot here.
P.S: I went a bit crazy with Picasa 3,so please forgive my mild  photographic offenses :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Vandy relocates to Gurgaon

This is probably going to be the first of a series of posts on Delhi and Gurgaon. I recently relocated to Gurgaon from Chennai, for a job role within my company, more suited to my interests and aspirations. At least that’s what I tell most people, so that they stop questioning my sanity. Why would a non-Hindi speaking tamilian girl relocate to Gurgaon/Delhi, an ostensibly unsafe city with ‘bad people’ lurking around?  Actually, I don’t really have any sensible answer to it. I just decided to move, because I could. Maybe my travel feet were just getting antsy, from being grounded in Chennai for the past 1.5 years. Earlier to that I was travelling a lot to Europe for company work, and my travel fix was sated by that.

Coming down to the reality…it’s been early days in Gurgaon and Delhi.12 days to be exact. I’m staying in company accommodation in Gurgaon, with my mother till the end of the month. I get a cab drop to and from office to my hotel. I could have an insulated existence if I chose to. But when has that ever been my way? My mom and I have been stepping out of Gurgaon, quite a lot, thanks to the excellent services of the Delhi Metro.

On Dilli…
We’ve been tripping along the popular shopping joints in Delhi...Karol Bagh, Chandni Chowk, Janpath, Pallika Bazaar, Connaught place,Dilli Haat and Lajpat Nagar. I’ve been learning Hindi numbers by bargaining with the shopkeepers and the rickshaw chaps. And astonished at the range you can bargain with. They reduce the price to 10-25 % of the initial asking price, if you just walk away. Sometimes, I think that here that may even try to sell you the world for ‘ek sou’ rupees!
And I’m totally amazed that the puny rickshaw wallahs here. They seem to be able to tow some mighty bulky looking aunties without any machine horsepower. Possibly one of the healthiest residents in this city of foodies, with all that exercise.
The food …’s simply amazing! I went crazy on all the street food I could lay my hands on, and ended up with Delhi belly. But totally worth it …kachoris,pani puris, lassi, sindhi chicken ..Endless varieties. Yummy!

On Gurgaon
The best part about Gurgaon, according to me is my new team. Early days, but I do seem to fit in pretty well there. Cross my fingers, and hope for the bestJ
Gurgaon has plenty of malls and plenty of construction dust. A friend refers to it as ‘MudGaon’. The good part is I’ve managed to find accommodation at walk able distance from office, which reduces shitty commute time. And good roommates. Believe me that matters a lot.

As I mentioned earlier, these are early days. I’m still not yet over the fact, that I did such a thing. I can still feel the excitement over experiencing a change. Will this feeling also change? Definitely. But for now, I’m just going to go along with the flow.

Vandy’s Tips for anybody new to Delhi and Gurgaon

  • Delhi has an excellent metro system that connects with Gurgaon. Buy a metro card, which saves you 10 % of the fare, and standing in queues to buy tickets. You can recharge your card, at any station which has a working recharge machine. If you’re a female, enjoy skipping the mad rush with the first compartment of the train, reserved for women.
  • Delhi is a beautiful city with several historical monuments.A metro pass should suffice to visit most of them. 
  • Gurgaon is a city for the mall addict, with several malls near the MG Road Metro station, and along the NH8 road.
  • You need to speak at least broken Hindi, to communicate with shopkeepers, rickshaw wallahs and people on the street. They do not understand English, leave alone speak it. Of course, within offices and malls you should be able to get by easily with English.
  • Street food in Delhi markets is simply amazing. Totally worth any resultant Delhi belly!
  • The Delhi shopkeepers are very generous with all their didi and beti talk with women. Do keep a watch over them, as this does not mean that they won’t try to sneak in some casual groping whenever they can.
  • Shopping in delhi markets is a bargainer’s paradise. Feel free to quote upto  10-15 % of the initial price the shopkeeper quotes. If he disagrees, just walk away. Usually, they reduce the price after that. Try this at a couple of shops to discover the bargaining range of the product.
  • Safety issues for women. Statistics,news channels and several of the city's long time residents point out that Delhi is one of the most unsafe cities for women. So be careful, and try to limit solo trips to before 8 pm. Buy a pepper spray.
  • You can search for accommodation on,,, etc.
  • Read  Shooting Star's excellent delhi guide.
  • Be open to the place. Especially if you’re from South India, things will be different for you here. Forget all your prejudices and make your opinions based on your own experiences.
  • Delhi's location makes trips to several parts of North India a weekend affair.Happy travelling! Read

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vandy travels to Delhi and Uttarakand for OBT

If you're part of the corporate world like me,you must have heard of OBT - Outbound Training.It's an exercise that involves transporting the members of a team to a location outside of office,so that the informal atmosphere fosters team building. At least that's what the official tagline says it is!☺

This was on our planned agenda:
25th Jan - Leave for Delhi from Chennai via flight
26th Jan -Watch Republic Day parade in Chennai.Delhi sightseeing.Depart for Jim Corbett National Park,Ramnagar,Uttarakand
27th Jan -Reach Jim Corbett Park.Overnight Stay at La Perle Resort.
28th Jan -Team building.Jungle Safari.Overnight Stay at La Perle Resort.
29th Jan - Depart for Gurgaon via Delhi.Overnight Stay at Gurgaon.
30th Jan -Workshop in Gurgaon.Depart to Chennai

To really be honest,I'm not really a big fan of OBT's,but I never turn down a chance to travel free to someplace new☺ I had been to Delhi once,Gurgaon once,but I had never been to Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakand,a reserve forest for tiger conservation. I had read about it on some travel blogging sites,and I mentally marked it as a place I wanted to visit.And then voila ..this opportunity arrives!

I've visited Delhi once before, back when I was in college.And I remember falling in love with its streets riddled with ancient monuments and tombs at almost every corner.It's a pity that this beautiful city has the much 'deserved' reputation of being one of the most unsafe cities for women.It just reduces the freedom to get lost in a place and really enjoy it.

This time around I had a chance to fulfill a childhood dream ..that of watching the Republic Day Parade in Delhi.I was excited,but I didn't expect to be blown off,after several years of watching it live on TV.It didn't take much for me to lose my cynicism though ...the magic started right after the helicopters showered flowers on our stands at the start  of the event.I really enjoyed watching the colourful floats,dances and especially the airshow.The stunts pulled off by the multiple people on bikes was spectacular.I don't have any pictures of this event or Akshardham(which we also visited),as cameras,mobiles are banned here.A real pity!

Akshardham is a spectacular temple for tourists.It has its own food court and what not,but didn't really have that spiritual feeling that comes from a place of worship.Yeah,I am an atheist and I don't worship,but I do enjoy the calm that emanates from some holy places.I guess perceptions may differ,but that's just how I felt.It's a great place to visit if you wish to admire its architecture,eat good food or take part in its rides,which is still a pretty good deal.

We stayed in the La Perle Resort in Uttarakand,which had a spectacular view of the River Kosi. I will be using the pictures taken by my colleague Saravanan Subramanianhere,with his permission.

View of River Kosi from the resort

We did an elephant safari on a severely underfed elephant,and managed to spot the usual suspects ..birds,monkeys and deer. Till we happened upon a surprise tiger ...but a python.It was in the process of digesting its last meal,and was sunning itself out in the sun.Apparently this takes quite a long time,as the snake was spotted at the same location the next day.

Python resting after consuming its prey

The  process of actually spotting tigers is apparently quite a time consuming process,if you plan to do it in the Jim Corbett National Park. The tigers are quite aware of the touristy trails,and make an effort to avoid them.It depends on luck and at least a week of jeep safari rides at the different entry points to the Park to actually spot tigers.But don't let that deter you.The Jim Corbett Park is  a beautiful national reserve,and is host to wide variety of birds,monkeys and deer ..which are quite luckily  used to the attention that they get from camera clicking tourists.

Animals spotted @Jim Corbett National Park

You can also spot tiger footprints and tiger shit which all the guides will claim is from a tiger which has just gone across ☺

Mysterious footprints in the sand

We managed to squeeze in a day trip to Nainital* as well,a beautiful hill station despite being highly commercialized.The high points of the touristy do's in Nainital include the beautiful lake and the admittedly awe-inspiring view points.

Views from Naintal

Vandy's Travel Tips:
  • This was a completely touristy corporate trip.This particular travelogue is completely written from that perspective.
  • Jim Corbett National Park,Uttarakand is a popular tourist attraction,especially as a weekend trip for Delhiites.However,don't expect to see tigers if you are just planning it as a weekend trip.And hey ..'Tiger pakkalena parvala',as they sell decent tiger t-shirts at the Park,which don't cost the earth as tourist souvenirs.Take those home,and add to the tiger conservation effort.
  • Learn to speak basic Hindi,if you're travelling in the north .Not that many people comprehend English here even in the cities,compared to the south.Note to Self,especially!
  • Delhi is chockfull of historical places to see,and with plenty of shopping to do - suiting all budgets.You can bet I'm going to be seeing all of them* ☺
  • Nainital can be done as a   day trip from Delhi.Beautiful,but a very commercialized hill station.However on speaking to some locals,they told me that there are some spectacular trails that can be reached from Nainital by car,if you want to go to less commercialized places.
  • Street food,the metro and shopping in Delhi* rocks! The metro has made most of Delhi easily accessible by public transport.
  • Gurgaon* is full of high rises and malls,and is luckily connected to Delhi by metro.And,thus providing for my future weekend escapes.
*As a special footnote,Vandy will be relocating to Gurgaon* from Chennai  on Feb 18th 2012 and will be blogging about her travels in Delhi and Gurgaon quite a lot in this blog,and her comedic situations that are likely to arise from being a non-hindi speaker there in
*Saravanan takes awesome pictures of landscapes and of people(err..if you beg him persistently ☺).You can view his facebook album at Jim Corbett,applicable only to those who are his facebook friends, of course
* I took the pictures in Nainital,evident by their amateurish look☺

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vandy travels to Yelagiri

I was itching to make a trip out of Chennai, after a planned trip with friends to Pondy fell apart.I was thinking about Tranquebar, but after I roped in my Mom into this impulse trip, she suggested Yelagiri. I researched both places , and it seemed like Yelagiri was a better choice for chillaxing, and so that’s where we finally went.

It took us about 4.5 hours of drive from Chennai,with a half-hour stop at Saravana Bhavan,Velur for breakfast. I booked a driver for our car, since I wasn’t used to driving highways or hills. He let me drive on the highways from Porur to Velur,teaching the zen like code of conduct followed by highway drivers, compared to rash city drivers.Somehow,my  mom managed to  maintain a facade of calm, while I learned to weave between tanker lorries and buses  at 100kmph:)

Views from the resort
 I booked the Taj Zeenat Resorts based on favourable net reviews and the reasonable prices they charged.And it ended up meeting all my expectations.The resort consists of  11 and a half acres of beautiful  garden and forest, with  basic cottages thrown in.Awesome food was also provided at the resort,which made it very convenient,since there are not too many  good restaurants in Yelagiri.The only negative would be the slow service,but that didn't bother me since I just came to Yelagiri to relax.

Yelagiri itself is a charming hill station,an unassuming poor cousin to the Queen(Ooty) and the Princess(Kodai).It luckily hasn’t yet fallen prey to over commercialisation found in the popular stations, making it a haven for people who just want to get away from the madding crowds.On the other end,you don’t even have a petrol  station or good food choices in Yelagiri,so be prepared for it.It’s just a place to go if you want some peace and calm among the beautiful hills.

@Puganoor Lake
 After a great lunch and some rest we headed out to the Puganoor Lake.The lake is a popular spot for boating,and is surrounded by a park with a separate play area for kids.If you have lots of time to kill,boating could be an option.It doesn’t cost much,and the place is mostly empty,except on weekends.

@Nature Park

We moved onto The Nature Park,just a few km from the lake.This spot definitely deserves a visit,and if you have time to see only one spot in Yelagiri,this is it.A very well maintained park,with scores of flowers,trees,rock gardens and fountains.The only minor irritant here would be the occasional ‘louu jodis’ in the park. They seemed quite restrained in their PDA in the park(compared to Chennai at least),but irritatingly felt the need to mark their love on plant leaves and rocks with eternal proclamations of love.I’d rather they have their PDA,and leave those poor plants alone!

The rest of the evening was spent in with pleasant chit chats with my Mom and reading Dork on the park swing of the garden in the resort.Total bliss! After an excellent dinner,I completed reading the rest of Dork and had a wonderful nap.

The next day was just spent lazing around in the resort,enjoying the pleasant weather,and stuffing ourselves with the awesome food. I also managed to squeeze in a short trek to the top of a nearby hillock with a guide,in midst of all this obvious decadence.

We left for Chennai at 12 pm,and made it in by 4 pm.A halt at Ambur for biriyani in between,just gave the finishing touches to a perfect day.

Vandy's Travel Tips:
  • Yelagiri is a good choice for people from Chennai(250 km)/Bangalore(160 km)  who just want to be in the hills and enjoy the pleasant weather(18-25 degree C).Not too many places to see or things to do.
  • Trekker’s delight with multiple trekking options.I enjoyed my short trek,and next time I’m taking the Swami Malai trek from Mangalam at sunrise.
  • Food choices are not too many,so it might be better to eat in the hotel/resort that you stay in.
  • I would definitely recommend Zeenat Taj Resorts as a mid-range accomodation option  with a price tag of Rs 1500(+12.5% tax) for a cottage.You can get yummy home cooked food for a decent price tag of around Rs 450(lunch,breakfast,dinner). Service will be slow,but who cares have all the time in the world here :)
  • If you’re planning on driving here,fill up your petrol/diesel before you climb up the Yelagiri hills.
  • The forest honey and jack fruit sold here is a worthwhile buy.
  • Recommended travel website: 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hello World!

I've finally decided to get off my fat ass and start this travel blog.I've started reading this blog called zenhabits which really inspired me enough to just get started with this blog.So I did :)

I've travelled quite a bit already actually - Ireland,Greece,Sweden,Denmark,Poland,Finland,Netherlands, Belgium,Austria,Germany,U.S.A,Singapore and India.So all the material is already there just needs to get out from my head and onto this blog.Here's to hoping I get to travel a lot more in 2012 and post in this blog!

Here's to good intentions and 'Living your Life with Passion'!