Friday, January 23, 2009

Trip to Bharatpur-Fatehpur Sikri-Taj, Agra

17th Jan 09 7AM Started from Gurgaon for Bharatpur accompanying a group of 175 people including children. We had hired five 35 seaters deluxe buses and some guests were travelling on their own. It was a corporate family leisure outing which is a yearly affair and our company Around Delhi was doing it for the third time for them. The route taken-Gurgaon-Sohna-Palwal-Kosi-Mathura-Bharatpur. The road was clear though a little bumpy, but we reached Palwal from Hero Honda Chowk, Gurgaon in 90 mins.
10:00-11:20 AM Bfast at Country Inn, Kosi. A nice resort with lot of open green areas and the bfast was wonderful with good choice.
1:30 PM Reached Kadamb Kunj where the lunch for the whole group was arranged. We were staying at both Kadamb Kunj and Uday Villas as we needed about 65 rooms.
3:30 PM After lunch and check ins we proceeded to the Bhartapur Bird Sanctuary for a visit, Keoladeo National Park welcomes birds from all over the World during the winter months and this attracts tourists from around the Globe to see them. After taking the tickets for the guests and the buses we entered the park and parked at the second barrier in the park, the place from the wet lands start and the real birding is possible. One can either hire a rickshaw or a bicycle to visit the sanctuary, a few battery operated vans are also available. Remember to carry your binoculars and a bird book, if you have one. The rickshaw pullers are trained guides and can help you in identifying the avian population. There is a lot of water this time after a long gap and even boating is possible in the park. The various species seen were painted storks, egrets, sarus crane, black headed ibis, kingfisher, Indian and purple moore hen etc.
7:30-10:30 Evening party with tambola and cocktails with bon fire.

18th Jan 09 9:30 Am After breakfast headed to Fatehpur Sikri, which was just 15 km away. The stretch between Bharatpur and Agra is being four laned with work going on at many places, but is much better than before and hopefully work will be completed soon. At Sikri, like Taj Mahal, one has to park one's vehicle about one km away and take a battery operated van to reach. Fatehpur Sikri, a World Heritage site came into existence when Mughal Emperor Akbar wanted to make Fatehpur Sikri his headquarters. So he built this majestic fort. But due to shortage of water he had to ultimately move his headquarters to Agra Fort. One of the main attractions here are the Buland Darwaza, Dargarh of Salim Chisti and various Mahals of Mughal Emperor Akbar and his navratnas. Tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti is famed as one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in India. Situated near Zenana Rauza and facing south towards Buland Darwaza, it enshrines the burial place of the Sufi saint who lived a religious life here. The mausoleum, constructed by Akbar as a mark of his respect for the Sufi saint, was built during the years 1580 and 1581.

11:30 PM moved to Agra for seeing the Taj. The road after reaching Agra was really crowded and it took a lot of time in the city, it's high time the city roads in Agra improve to at least national standards. We again took the battery vans to reach the Taj. Even after having seen Taj so may times before, it's sight never fails to satisfy one's senses. Being a Sunday, it was quiet crowded and the frisking at the entrance took us a lot of time to enter. After the visit to the Taj, we had our lunch at the Haveli restaurant on the Fatehabad road. The food and arrangements were simply amazing and very well handled. Soon it was time to head back to Delhi and we reached back Guragaon at 10 PM having started at 5 PM from Agra. Though the tour was a very hectic one, the guests had their money's worth having seen and enjoyed so much in such a short time.
Dr. Anand,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fort Unchagaon, Heritage Hotel in a Village setup

Some time back I had visited a nice and a different kind of hotel close to Delhi. The place was Fort Unchagaon, about 130 k from Delhi near Garh near the Moradabad Highway(a heritage resort near Delhi). This 19th century fort was made by ancestors of Raja Surendra Pal Singh, the present owner. The drive to the place takes you through a village road for about 10 k along the irrigation canal after heading on the NH24 for about 100k. The ride was a little bumpy in the last few km. The hotel offers two kinds of rooms Fort house and the Collector court, fort house being the bigger rooms in the main building, while the Collector court rooms are smaller in size.

We were greeted by a huge doorway and some very green lawns before entering the Fort House building. We were given a room in the Fort House itself which was really big in size though not a very luxurious one. The room had a living room and a bedroom with nice heritage feel and look. There are also rooms in the annexe, called the Collector's court. These rooms are smaller in size but still quiet good. We had a nice sumptuous and delicious lunch which was like home cooked food with a nice variety of dishes. For recreation there is a newly built Swimming Pool, badminton,TT, cricket etc. There is no TV in the rooms but a common TV with a dish is available.
After lunch we went for a horse ride after choosing a horse from the Fort house stable and went for a village tour. We saw some real country side with mango orchards, village style living and saw pottery making and jaggery(gud)making. We even tried our hands at pottery making which did not turn out to be that easy. We also went till the Ganges and enjoyed some boat ride by local boatsman, though we did not see any dolphins but we were told that they were some times seen in this area.

In the evening we had some tea in the lush green lawns and played some table tennis. There was a small cultural programme in the evening with bon fire, which we enjoyed with some drinks. Overall the stay was quiet comfortable with very hospitable and trained staff and some nice food and peaceful surroundings.

Click Here for Fort Unchagaon Pictures

For booking call Seema 9891458220/Anand 9811193634
Around Delhi

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stay inside the Corbett Forest-Hideaway River Lodge

I have stayed at various resorts in Corbett like Hideaway,Infinity,Ramganga and Riverview and also at Government run guest houses like the ones at Dhikala and Gairal. While you enjoy the resorts like Hideaway and Riverview because of their food, facilities and Ramganga for it's excellent location along the Ramganga river, you still long to stay inside the core area of the Corbett Reserve forest area to get that jungle feeling. You get that satisfaction while staying at Dhikala but the facilities including basic ones like the food,running hot and cold water and service leave you really unsatisfied. Also the bookings are not easy to secure and difficult to book.
So when I was offered a chance to stay inside the jungle with no phone connectivity, luxury tents with attached bathroom toilets I jumped at the idea. For the first night we stayed at Corbett Riverview and enjoyed the hospitality there with nice accommodation in cottages and excellent food to boot. Next day early morning (6AM) we had some hot tea and headed for Durgadevi gate, the hotel having already acquired our full day permits for us. The four wheel drive through the forest was nice though very chilly in January morning. On the way to Jamun, the location of our camps, we saw the barking deer,lots of spotted deer,many bird species and hint of a leopard(not sure). For reaching the camps we had to cross the Ramganga river which can be done on a jeep if the water level is low or an elephant oterwise. We preferred to do it on an elephant and what a ride it was as we could some fishes in the crystal clear water from the elephant back.
On reaching the camps we were awestruck by the awesome view of the forest from a height and the Ramganga River, the surrounding forest too was dense and very green. The camp area was surrounded by a wire fencing which we were told is electric, powered by solar power to prevent the wild animals to stray into the jungle area. Accommodation is in Luxury camps in the jungle spread over a 12 acre area with attached bathrooms and English toilets with running water. It was breakfast time and we were treated to a sumptuous meal and the taste was as good as one we had at Riverview resort. We were given hot water in buckets for our bath (running cold water is available 24 hrs)and after freshning up it was time to go for some fishing along the Ramgagna river. Permits for fishing have to be obtained and the norm is catch-photograph-release. We were joined by some guys from England, who had come all the way just for the jungle experience and Mahaseer fishing. They were staying at the camps for a week.It was a wonderful fishing session and though being our first time we still enjoyed it a lot. We could not catch anything ourselves but our English friends had some nice catch.
In the evening after sunset though it was quiet nippy but the cacophony of jungle sounds and the amazing view of the night sky with infinite stars made it all worth it. Around a bon fire we enjoyed some drinks along with chicken malai tikka and seekh kebabs. The kind of service and food the camp people provided was amazing and difficult to imagine in this difficult terrain. It was also exciting to believe that you are surrounded by a plethora of wild animals including the Tiger itself. We were told that Tiger sightings has been done from the camp itself and we were hoping for the same ourselves.
We were given a solar lantern to help us on our way back to the camp. On reaching the camp we found that the bed had been made with a hot water bottle tucked in to make it warm. We were woken up in the night by some loud animal howls which seem to be coming from very near,probably some pack of jackals.
Next morning we went for a elephant safari in the jungle but the tiger still eluded us though we had a lot of other sightings. Soon it was time to go back to habitation as we boarded the jeep, we were half way through when the driver

stopped the jeep in the mud track and told us to keep silent. We realised how still the jungle was and we could not hear anything except the birds. We saw a pair of spotted deer who were standing absolutely still and in rapt attention. And then we saw what we had been waiting for, the sight of the Tiger itself, strolling carefree, oblivious of our presence and the five pair of eyes that were following it. It was my first Tiger sighting in the wild and it was exciting as well as nerve wrecking. The approximately one minute sighting was something we will remember for long and one that will keep us coming back to Corbett, specially the Hideaway River Lodge.
Click here for more info on River Lodge and packages.
Around Delhi


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