Pristine Andhra: Horsley Hills

Pristine Andhra: Horsley Hills

Hills exude an undulating charm that rejuvenates the senses, taking away all the stress. Horsley Hills offer the same. Situated in the otherwise hot and humid Andhra Pradesh, the hill station acquired its name from once the collector of the Cuddapah district in the state – WD Horsley, who chose the region as his summer residence.

The quaint ghat road, quiet and verdant landscape, welcomes you here. Situated at high altitude of 1,265 metres, the setting here looks straight out of a storybook. The pristine hill station offers a slice of tribal life, as the Chenchu tribes inhabit the region.
The scent of jacaranda, gulmohur and eucalyptus is just enough to suffice your senses as you enter into this new world. Today, wherever the sight goes, you will see shady slopes, natural forests, luxurious plantations, spice creepers, shrubs and thick territory where plants and animals thrive together.Witness the beauty of flowers like reeta, shikakai, amla or spices like bay leaves. Sandalwood, red sanders, blue gum, mahogany and bamboo will greet you on the narrow roads. Offering captivating natural beauty, the place is a perfect recluse for the sun-scorched.

Those looking for a quiet holiday can sit by the banks of Lake Gangotri or take a boat ride. Cruise along the river is sure to make your holiday a memorable one. After the scenic boat ride you can visit the Environmental park of the Horsley Hills Museum. Those looking for some adventure can opt for Zorbing, which is offered in Horsley Hills apart from rapelling, rock climbing and trekking. Horsley Hills is one of the lesser known places where zorbing is conducted. The charm of rolling in a sphere, generally made of transparent plastic, performed on a gentle slopeis unmatched. It allows the rider to roll downhill and the fun is unlimited.

How to reach
Nearest airport is at Bangalore, situated at a distance of 165 km. State transport buses and taxis ply to the hill resort of Horsley Hills. There are daily buses to Horsley Hills from Tirupati, situated 160 km.
Where to stay:Accommodation is easily available at Horsley Hills.

Main attractions: Zorbing, trekking, rapelling and rock climbing

Best time to visit: March to October

Photo courtesy: Andhra Pradesh Tourism

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Gwalior: A royal getaway

Gwalior: A royal getaway

I felt nippy air when I opened the window of my room. In the wee hours of the morning, I hurriedly readied myself to go to the railway station to catch the train that would take me to Gwalior. I was visiting my brother who was studying in the royal city of Gwalior. Early in the morning, with a backpack, I entered the Hazrat Nizamuddin Station in New Delhi with enthusiasm of a wide-eyed tourist. I was eager to pack as many sights in a single day.

The moment Taj Express chugged into the boundaries of Madhya Pradesh, passing through places of tourist interest like Mathura Junction and Agra Cantt, I fished out the guidebook and got ready to hit a major tourist trail.

Entwining history
Upon descending from the train, I visited the Indian Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), where my brother was studying hotel management. Lush green lawns of the sprawling campus of the institute greeted me. I was delighted to see students looking dapper in white and black uniforms. After exchanging pleasantries with my brother’s friends, I opted out and decided to see the city. Along with my brother, I did a whirlwind tour of all the hot-spots he recommended as I just had only a day in hand. As we stepped out of the IHM campus, I watched a group of foreigners who were engaged in bargaining with an auto-rickshaw driver. Inspired by the ‘Atithi Devo Bhavah’ advertisement that I had watched recently on television, we rushed to the group and sorted out the confusion over fare. In turn, the foreigners offered if we would like to see the city together as a group. Both of us were thrilled to witness such humility from people from a different land. We agreed to see the city and my brother took us on a guided tour. At every step, we breezed through the sights and followed a leisurely pace. It was my chance to imbibe the city’s unique essence, which makes it what it is today.

Located 490 km north east of Indore, Gwalior is the shy cousin of the financial capital of Madhya Pradesh, but in no way less accomplished. Gwalior is home to great historical monuments, professional institutes. Despite the halo of education buzz, Gwalior continues to be known as the ‘tourist capital of Madhya Pradesh’.
Quick getaway
While walking in the city, we watched traces of history. At almost every curve and bend, the charm of the bygone era gripped our attention. We started our solitary sojourn with the epitome of the regal past of the city – the majestic Gwalior Fort. The magnificent fort is based on a sandstone hills, and the building’s exterior is a classic example of the medieval architecture.
Being largest one of its kind, the fort carries mystical legends. One of the folklore states that Suraj Sen, prince of the Kachhwaha clan of the 8th century built the fort on advice of sage Gwalipa. Today, the fort bestows panoramic view of the valley at the footsteps of the grand building. The grand monument has been a bystander of the layers of history over several hundred years of different dynasties.
Some great martyrs of the country like Tantia Tope and Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi have made this fort their battlefield. There is something with history, once you observe historical facts, monuments or artifacts you are transported to a different era. I was in a different era all together when I watched awe-inspiring image of Garuda and the crisscross pathway that are boarded by statue of Jain Theerthankaras carved into rock faces.
The foreigner gang was now busy clicking pictures, taking information from the elusive guides. Jai Vilas Palace was next on our agenda. For the uninformed, Jai Vilas Palace is a perfect example of a European styled palace, now converted in to a museum. The pristine white façade of the building exudes the charm of Italian, Tusan and Corinthian architecture. Constructed by Maharaja Jiyaji Rao Scindia, Jai Vilas Palace is adorned with furniture from European districts of Versailles, Italy and France. There are about 35 rooms in the palace, which have been converted into a museum – Scindia Museum.
The palace turns into a spectacle for travellers and wayfarers with the gripping architecture, lush sprawling laws and exquisite interiors. Home to a great collection of antiques from the Scindias’ time in power, the palace displays attractive Belgian chandeliers, swords that were once worn by Mughal rulers Aurangzeb and Shah Jehan, silver dinnerware, and a glass cradle from Italy. The palace looks ethereal with heavy draperies, tapestries, fine Persian carpets and European furniture.
Local treats
After having a doze of history, my brother and I excused ourselves from the group.Famished, we approached a roadside dhaba to enjoy the local treats. In Gwalior, people swear by the oily kachories, mouth-watering samosas served with mint and tamarind chutney and spicy potato curry. After eating to our heart’s content, my brother urged me to buy sweet delights from the region – gajak from Morena. I was informed by the shopkeeper that Gwalior is a cradle of great dynasties and still intrigues travellers with its fascinating history. The city embraces beautiful structures like a sandstone mosque, rock temples and marvelous statues. Apart from heritage properties and museums, Gwalior is also remembered as the birthplace of Tansen, the great musician of all times. The sprawling city of Gwalior is a place where tradition is entwined with modernity and which emanates historical appeal to the tourists. I witnessed the same at the Tomb of Ghaus Mohammed, a mausoleum of the 16th century Afghan prince who adopted Sufism.
We paid obeisance at the mausoleum and moved towards the last destination for the day – the Man Mandir Palace. Constructed during the 16th century, Man Mandir Palace dwells in a momentous place in the country’s history. Though the palace complex has not survived the beatings of time, it still holds its elegance intact and gives a chance to the visitor to go back to the medieval period. Elegantly designed tiles, nicely carved stonewalls, vast chambers adorn the palace. My date with history and this beautiful city came to end with the visit to Man Mandir Palace. Chomping delicious gajak, we made our way back to the IHM campus, where I was served a nice dinner by the students.

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Sumptuous meal @ Southern Spice, Taj Coromandel, Chennai

Sumptuous meal @ Southern Spice, Taj Coromandel, Chennai

The bedrock of fine living and hospitality in Chennai, Taj Coromandel is back with the country’s most iconic South Indian specialty restaurant. To offer its guests the quintessential South Indian experience, Southern Spice has reinvented itself as a ‘culinary destination’ for food connoisseurs and gourmands from across the world.
Authentic ingredients, traditional flavours and homemade recipes come together to ensure a an exotic fare that is traditional yet modern. The new Southern Spice is an essence of the 15 years of extensive research by the restaurant’s expert Chefs, reflecting the culinary legacy of the four southern states. The Chefs have put together a unique compilation of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies after widespread culinary journeys into the interiors of Tamil Nadu (Dindigul, Madurai, Karaikudi and Virudnagar), Kerala (Kozhikode and Bekal), Andhra Pradesh (Vijayawada, Vishakhapatnam and Bhejwada) and Karnataka (Mangalore, Kundapur, Udupi and Karwar), acquiring knowledge, cooking techniques, compiling family recipes and traditional banana leaf fare.

Photo courtesy: Taj Coromandel

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Jhumroo @ Kingdom of Dreams

Jhumroo @ Kingdom of Dreams

Lights, camera, action! Synonymous to the glam world of Bollywood, these three words are like mind, body and soul of Indian cinema. But that’s Bollywood. Capturing the spirit of Bollywood with musical shows like Zangoora, Kingdom of Dreams, the mega entertainment centre is again in the limelight. After the massive success of drama packed Bollywood musical Zangoora, the Great Indian Nautanki Company has now come up with another promising musical that celebrates the spirit of Kishore Kumar.

Indians have this habit of celebrating things that are really close to their hearts, just like cricket. Jhumroo, complete with that retro look, peppy songs, psychedelic colours and all that bling, celebrates the spirit called Kishore Kumar.

Experience the true blue colours of Bollywood as Kingdom of Dreams celebrates the spirit of Kishore da with their latest show Jhumroo.

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Tea territory @ Dooars in Jalpaiguri

Tea territory @ Dooars in Jalpaiguri

Tea tourism in India is a buzzword. Think tea and verdant hues of tea gardens conjure up in memory. Holding my cuppa of green tea, I stood in the balcony of my room in Chalsa in the Jalpaiguri district of North Bengal. Sprawling blanket of fragrant tea gardens lay in front of my eyes. Fresh monsoon shower had just greeted the region, which made the
setting look straight out of a storybook. This was my first time in this offbeat region snuggled amidst thick rainforest, lush tea gardens and paddy fields, so no doubt I was excited to the tee. I was looking forward to a laidback and relaxing holiday so when monsoon started knocking my doors in Delhi, I decided to chuck conventional holiday destinations and pay a visit to the land of one horned rhinos, never ending tea
estates and Buxa tigers.

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Regal Regalia

Regal Regalia

Melting pot of cultures, bespoke experiences in Kolkata are offered to every traveller. Take your pick!

Victoria Memorial in Kolkata is an epitome of power, architecture and the regal days of the Raj

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Lonely Planet launches “Lonely Planet for the Indian Traveller”

Lonely Planet, the numero uno in providing the travel content, marked its entry into the Indian market with the launch of ‘Lonely Planet for the Indian Traveller’, its official series of ten outbound travel guides customized for the Indian traveller.

A first of its kind product, Lonely Planet’s first locally produced guides for outbound destinations have been tailored as per the Indian travellers’ needs and sensibilities.

The collection consists of travel guides for 10 outbound destinations namely Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bhutan, China, Great Britain, London, France and Italy. ‘Lonely Planet for the Indian Traveller’ guides have been anchored by Indian authors living in respective countries who are aware of Indian travellers’ needs. The guides ensure travellers discover the best of a destination and return with great stories to share. Ideal both for planning and when in a country or city, the guides contain vital travel information including the must-see sights, shopping locations, Indian restaurants and local food recommendations, family ideas, itineraries and more.

Caption: Mr Sesh Seshadri,General Manager of Lonely Planet India,Tony Wheeler, Co-Founder- Lonely Plant & Mr. Matt Goldberg, CEO, Lonely Plant

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Alleppey, the Coir Capital of India

Alleppey, the Coir Capital of India

An enchanting ride through the inviting backwaters of Alleppey is not sole attraction of this land. As sun turns everything in to ember shades, fisher women sing symphonies while turning the bundles tied on to their waists, into twisted thin coir ropes.

Coir industry is about 200 years old and blooms in the coastal hamlets of the country, Alleppey in Kerala in particular.

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Hampi in Karnataka calls for a visit

Hampi in Karnataka calls for a visit

My love for visiting heritage-rich destinations this time took me to Hampi. Defined by UNESCO as as World Heritage Site, Hampi undoubtedly is one of the grandest creations of the medieval times. Known for its architectural excellence, Hampi radiates an old world charm. Rock cut structures, temples, forts and animal stables that are scattered around this surreal town make Hampi as one of the most thronged places in Karnataka, and a quick getaway from Bangalore.

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Royal romance in the Blue City, Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Royal romance in the Blue City, Jodhpur, Rajasthan

The elegance of Jodhpur, the Blue City of India, lies in its rugged beauty and myriad hues of cultures. Epicenter of the Marwar region of Rajasthan, the city highlights the very essence of Rajasthan with its beautiful palaces and remnants from bygone era.

Here in Jodhpur, sits the majestic Mehrangarh Fort, one of the largest forts in the country, a picturesque remnant of the state’s royal heritage.

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Temple inspired decor @ Southern Spice, Taj Coromandel, Chennai

Temple inspired decor @ Southern Spice, Taj Coromandel, Chennai

Reflecting a flavour of each of the four southern states, various elements combine to present a grand and sensuous ambience, Southern Spice at Taj Coromandel is designed by celebrated Ed Poole of Poole Associates.

Inspired by the temple architecture of the Chola, Pallava and the Pandya dynasties, which ruled the south Indian states, the interiors of the restaurant features columns, artefacts and murals from this era. The hand-tufted carpets designed in traditional kolam / rangoli pattern welcomes you in true South Indian style. With granites adorning the foyer and the flooring, a series of granite base silver leaf columns support the intricately carved lotus designed roof panels.

The resultant perimeter arcades act as circulation paths, found in traditional temple plans, while the central hall forms a grand room in the spirit of the South Indian palaces.

Photo courtesy: Taj Coromandel

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Mysore gears up for the Dasara celebrations

Mysore gears up for the Dasara celebrations

The land of sandal soaps, incense sticks and silk sarees, Mysore is also the shy cousin of the country’s silicon valley. As the home turf of Wodeyars, Mysore is all about heritage, culture, beautiful gardens and much more.

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