December 31, 2011

Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-III) (Jaipur Day 1 - Continued)

Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds):
Hawa Mahal is a 5 story lattice structured pyramid shaped building that is 15 meter high from its base. Entrance to Hawa Mahal is not from the front side which is shown in pictures but from a side road approaching towards backside of the building. Entry fee is Rs. 10 per person. Most of the local people discourage you to go on top of the building stating that there is nothing inside the building. They say that it is not worth spending time by going inside. But on the contrary I found this building a marvelous architecture which is worth a visit up to the top floor. From the top you also get a 360 degree view of the city and an ariel view of Jantar Mantar, Pink City, Nahargarh etc. So do not hesitate and devote at least an hour or more to explore the building.
Hawa Mahal Introduction

Entrance of Hawa Mahal

Inside court

View from the Top
Nahargarh fort on the far hill as seen from Hawa Mahal Top

Inside view from top floor

Badi Chaupar from top
Front view from the Road

Govind Dev Ji Temple:
It was around 0400 PM and we spend around six hour in three monuments namely City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal including intermediate rests. Now we inquired about the old temple of Govind Dev Ji which is in the same campus of City Palace near Jaleb Chowk. But we were told that the temple will be closed now and can be visited after 1745 hrs. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. This temple is must visit place due to several reasons. It is very old temple and considered an important temple of Lord Krishna outside Vrindavan. Also it is mentioned in Guinness Book for the largest RCC roof span in the world without any pillar.

Guinness Record
Prasad of Halwa and Pakodi is distributed at the exit gate of temple. Timing for Aarti are 0430 to 0500, 0730 to 0845, 0930 to 1015, 1100 to 1130, 1745 to 1815, 1830 to 1945 and after 2130 to 2200 hrs. Timings change as per seasons also, so it is better to know the timings beforehand. 
How to reach temple

Albert Hall Museum:
As the temple was closed we planned to visit immediately the Albert Hall Museum, which closes by 1730 hrs. We reached there by a paddle rickshaw within 10 minutes. It is situated outside walled city on the road in front of New Gate. It is a historical museum displaying Royal collections, artifacts and a 4000 years old mummy too. Images of some artifacts are here for a feel of the museum. The place is worth devoting 1-2 hour if you are interested in historical time-travel. Photographs of the museum building and some of the displayed artifacts are shown below.

Handmade statue of artist making lac bangles

Display of string instruments

Musical instrument in larger than life size

Bal Ganesha made of marble
Wood Carving on door panel
Pigeons outside Albert Hall 
Birla Temple:
After visiting the Albert Hall Temple we proceed towards Birla Temple (Laxmi Narayan Temple) which is situated on the same road ahead at a 10 minutes paddle rickshaw drive. It is a Hindu temple among many such Birla Temples across the country and is built by finest quality marble. You may also see mythological scenes on stained window glass. It is situated at the bottom of the Moti Dungari fort, which forms a nice backdrop for temple in the night. After sunset this complex provides stunning views. Moti Dungari fort at the top of the hill is like any Scottish fort and is opened only once in a year (on the day of Shivratri, as per hindu calendar) for public viewing. An added attraction is another temple dedicated to lord Ganesha, at the bottom of the Dungari fort. You may find some foreigners also visiting the Birla Temple. Here are some pictures of the place.
Side view of Birla Temple
Front view Birla Temple
Way to Ganesha Temple and Moti Dungari Fort 
Moti Dungari Fort in night
Stained glass window depicting Lord Shiva's family
Lord Shiva's Temple in the campus
Lord Ganesha temple at Moti Dungari base
Full view of Ganesha Temple
The Birla Temple complex gives you best feel if you visit it in evening and see it before sunset and after sunset lighting. After this we again took an auto rickshaw back to Govind Dev Ji Temple and had a darshan. After offering our puja to Lord Krishna, we returned back to the hotel. It was 2000 hrs and time for dinner. Next day i.e. 21 December 2011 was scheduled for visiting the forts of Jaipur, which is covered in next part of the article.
Next: Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-IV) (Jaipur Day - 2)

December 30, 2011

Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-II) (Jaipur Day 1)

After loss of one complete day due to train delay, we were forced to curtail some points in Jaipur and covered only important destinations in 2 days stay at Jaipur. First day we decided to cover the main points in city by ourselves without any travel assistance. First of all we reached the City Palace complex, which is situated inside walled pink city, by an auto-rickshaw. Actually you do not need to hire a taxi for the city part of your tour as all the points are nearby and can be easily and quickly covered by auto-rickshaw. City palace complex has Main City Palace, Hawa Mahal (Palace of wind), Jantar-Mantar (Observatory) and Govind Dev Temple (Deity of Jaipur).

City Palace:
Entry to City Palace can be made by two gates i.e. either from Virendra Pol or from Udai pol. Entry tickets to City Palace cost INR 75 (for an adult), INR 35 (for a child) and still camera charge INR 75. Photography is allowed only outside, display galleries and exhibits can not be photographed.  You can have a feel of various beautiful buildings inside the complex in following photographs.
Map of City Palace Complex
World's Largest Silver object

Artistic work on a metal door
Decorated doorway
My Wife Ragini trying hands at Rolls Royce Phantom
Mubarak Mahal
Mubarak Mahal
view after entry from Virendra Pol
Jantar-Mantar (Observatory):
The Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Sawai Jai Singh II, the king of Jaipur. These were built at 5 places but the observatory at Jaipur is largest and in best condition. Jantar and Mantar are Hindi language words meaning Instrument and Formula respectively. This is at two minutes walk from City Palace gate. There are lot of instruments for different astronomical purposes and their accuracy is mind boggling.  You can avail a guide as well as self audio guide to understand functions of each instrument. It has been declared a world heritage center by UNESCO. There are approximately 20 sets of fixed instruments. Entry fee is INR 20  and Still camera fee is INR 20.

After visiting Jantar Mantar, we walked towards Hawa Mahal (Palace of wind) which was at a 10 minutes walk. It has been described in Part III of this series.

Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-I) (Journey Begins)

We planned for a trip to the Golden Triangle circuit of Indian tourism sans Delhi, on long pending demand of our kids to visit some historical place. We planned to mature it this winter vacation of schools. I could not think of any other historical place better than the world famous 'Indian Golden Triangle Circuit' and place suitable for a week's holiday. As you might be aware that Delhi, Agra and Jaipur form the famous Golden Triangle of tourism, as depicted in following picture.
The Golden Triangle
Total 6-7 days are sufficient for exploring the Golden Triangle circuit if you want to see all the places with due detail and comfort. As we had already traveled Delhi, we excluded it and covered only Agra and Jaipur in this trip and added a day's trip to Vrindavan and Mathura on the last day, the reason being the unavailability of return reservation from Agra to Lucknow. Last two places are related to the Lord Krishna and are one of the sacred places of Hindus, however the whole Mathura Vrindavan circuit needs 2-3 days for a proper visit and feel of the place.

The itinerary for this trip was designed as mentioned below:
  1. 19 Dec 2011 : Departure from Lucknow at midnight 00:25 Hrs by Marudhar Express (Train No. 14863)
  2. 19 Dec 2011: Arrival at Jaipur at 12:00 noon (Stay at Hotel Arya Niwas)  and visit Jaipur
  3. 20 Dec 2011: Visit Jaipur
  4. 21 Dec 2011: Visit Jaipur
  5. 22 Dec 2011: Departure from Jaipur at 11:45 Hrs by Bikaner Kolkata Express (Train No. 12495) and arrival at Agra at 15:40 Hrs (Stay at Hotel Taj Plaza on East gate side of Taj)
  6. 23 Dec 2011: Agra/Fatehpur Sikri
  7. 24 Dec 2011: Agra
  8. 25 Dec 2011: Departure from Agra at 11:30 Hrs and visit Vrindavan and Mathura and board the train to Lucknow i.e. Patna Mathura Express (Train No. 14863) at 22:00 Hrs.
It is not possible to get train tickets and accommodation in good hotels in this region at the eleventh hour during November to February, as it attracts maximum number of tourist in this time period. Therefore, all the train tickets and hotel reservations were booked online, well in advance, to avoid any last time hassle, as this is a peak period for Indian as well as foreign tourists. As this time is peak winter in the north India, we preferred AC coaches in train to make our journey comfortable and  to reduce the size of our baggage by eliminating the  heavy blankets/quilts. I personally like sleeper class in long train journeys as this ensures maximum feel of the route in contrast to AC couches which gives you more comfort but isolation from the local feel.

A few days before our day of start, fog started increasing day by day, making the trains delayed by several hours including cancellation of few trains. This created a fear in our mind that if our trip will be matured or not? On the scheduled day we reached the Charbagh Railway Station, Lucknow and found that our train is just half an hour late. But our happiness could not continue longer as railway authorities started declaring further delay in arrival of train which rose up to 7 hours. Ultimately our train arrived at 0700 hours in the morning against the scheduled arrival of 0005 hours, making it late by 7 hours and we reached at our first destination Jaipur in midnight at 2355 hours of 19 December 2011, approximately 12 hours late than schedule. So our first day scheduled for Jaipur was spoiled in train journey. All we did was sleeping and praying for the train to reach Jaipur as early as possible. Fortunately this was the first and last hiccup in our trip and on the next morning of 20 December 2011, we found  weather at Jaipur very clear, sunny, pleasant and not so cold as in Lucknow.

Jaipur (20 December 2011):
Review of Hotel Arya Niwas, Jaipur:
Our booking for stay was in Hotel Arya Niwas (, which is a mid range hotel located at Sansar Chand Road, approximately 2 km from Jaipur Railway Station. Check in was quick and smooth and we were relaxing in our room within 5 minutes. It is a very nice, clean and comfortable hotel run by a family and has a pleasant and calm environment  everywhere. However if you are fond of non-veg food and a few drinks in the comfort of your room, this is not a hotel for you as they are vegetarian/no bar and have limited room service hours and that too for some selected items only. They have a  good hygienic restaurant (Chitra Cafe) which serve homely and healthy food from 0600 to 2200 hrs. In the night hours they run a small pantry which serves tea, coffee and some ready-made items for late night requirements. They have a big green lawn and a long corridor equipped with furniture to enjoy your meals in open air. Hotel also has a souvenir shop, small business center, Library lounge, WIFI Internet (paid) and  a travel desk, all these to make your stay and travel comfortable. We would love to stay again in this hotel as this was a safe and clean place for the kids to wander here and there in the hotel, to order a few things themselves and enjoy it. 
Enjoying Breakfast in lawn of Hotel Arya Niwas
My Younger Son Pradyumn
Enjoying breakfast in the lawns of Hotel Arya Niwas
A view of our hotel room
Rooms are neat and tidy, equipped with all amenities 
and with simple decor. One extra bed was provided 
for elder son and the room was big enough for accomodating it.
Kids enjoying their favorite channel on Hathway digital cable
Beautiful indoor lounge and mini library in the hotel

If you give importance to cleanliness, hygiene, calm and peaceful stay, this hotel is for you and worth the money. We got a good sleep quality in this hotel. I am recommending this hotel for those who prefer these parameters but there are many other good hotels on similar pattern, built on a heritage property, and you can search them on

Next : Two nodes of the Golden Triangle (Part-II) (Jaipur day-1)