Shades of history at Vivaana, the culture hotel

In the arid land of Rajasthan lies Shekhawati, a region synonymous to beautiful palaces and havelis rich in fresco work of art, explores Nitika Bajpayee…

Magnificent forts and palaces, men clad in colourful turbans, women wearing chunky jewellery and bandhini odhnis, camels lazing in the desert— all these visuals conjure up in front of the eyes the moment one talks about Rajasthan. The state has always been a top preference among foreign travellers and wayfarers who choose Rajasthan for its exotic setting.

The façade at Vivaana

Rugged landscape

Rajasthan is my maternal home and over all these years, I have extensively travelled across the state, mostly to be a part of the family functions. Though I have been to most parts of the state, some places always skipped from my itinerary and Shekhawati is among them. Recently, this very friendly couple – Atul and Devna Khanna, invited me to come and visit their 120-year-old havelis, which are now converted into a culture hotel called Vivaana. On a rainy morning, along with my hosts, I started off my journey to Churi Ajitgarh, where Vivaana is situated. The weekend trip to Shekhawati was perfect to refresh my senses from the regular city grind.

The journey to Churi Ajitgarh, which lies at the confluence of Bikaner, Jaipur and Delhi, took not more than five hours by the road. Poised quietly inside the triangle that is made at the mini desert region of north Rajasthan, Churi Ajitgarh shares its boundaries with Mandawa and Jhunjhunu and is by far, one of Rajasthan’s best-kept secret. While on our way to Vivaana, Atul shared some history about the village and the two havelis, which he acquired about five years ago. Churi Ajitgarh, the village was originally named Churi Jodha after the Jat Jodha who along with his family came her and settled down. According to local folklores, the ladies of Jodha’s family used to fetch water from the nearby village Ghodiwara. One day, the women of both the villages had a fight and the women of Ghodiwara taunted Jodha Jat’s family asking them, “Why don’t you ask your husband to dig a well of your own.” Jodha Jat’s ladies asked him to dig the well to avenge their insult. When he failed to dig the well, the ladies made him wear bangles (churies) around his wrist and hence the village came to be known as Churi Jodha. The village is now known as Churi Ajitgarh after the then ruler, Maharaja Ajit Singh, who also got the Ajitgarh fort constructed in the village. After this dollop on the history, I sat back and eagerly waited for the distance to Vivaana to grow shorter. Enroute to Churi Ajitgarh, we crossed Mandawa and Jhunjhunu. Maddening pace of city life, endless traffic jams, and stifling work cubicle were all conveniently forgotten at Shekhawati, where leisure of a different kind provided a refreshing escape from the metropolis.

Experience the way royals thrive

Experience the way royals thrive

Frescos coming alive

The region is nothing less than a semiarid dreamscape, where I was greeted by dazzling fields, fluttering fabrics, dry desert air and numerous fresco painted havelis and palaces. I noticed Shekhawati was not more than a sleepy little region except during the winter months, when it bustles with wayfarers who stop by to appreciate its laidback charm.

After crossing through Sikar and Jhunjhunu, two prime Shekhawati quarters, we reached Vivaana. Upon my arrival, I stood in front of the massive iron gate of the 120-year-old haveli. The unparallel fresco paintings and typical Rajasthani architecture truely makes Vivaana a compelling place to visit and gives an unforgettable magical experience to those who visit these havelis with two courtyards.

Enchanting

Enchanting

Vivaana is secluded in the heart of nowhere, but this is what makes it different, truely! Amused and thrilled to trace a mix of local people clad in saffron attire, foreign junkies, Israeli backpackers and international tourists in this palatial haveli, I advanced towards my room. Lavishly decorated with mural paintings and colourful frescos, my room was a perfect blend of the classic and the contemporary. After relaxing a bit, I set out to explore the property. Atul and Devna accompanied me and showed me the 23 beautiful suites and rooms, the state-of-the-art restaurants and the bar along with the swimming pool.

The world at Vivaana is a seamless transition from the old-world charm to modernity. Inquisitively, I asked Atul to give me a brief backgrounder about this haveli and what made him buy this humungous structure. “After hunting around the region, we finally came across the Ram Pratap Nemani Haveli which was everything we were looking for and well worth the pain endured,” Atul said, explaining that the two havelis that make Vivaana belonged to the Nemani Family, who were the descendants of Bakshi Ram Nemani and Ram Dayal Ji Nemani, the two Seth brothers who were brought to the village by the then ruler-Fateh Singhji in the early 19th Century.

“The Ram Pratap Nemani haveli shone in the light of the solo lamp post nearby and at the first sight, we were confident that we had reached our destination. No stone was left unturned to procure the Haveli and today, it stands tall and proud as Vivaana,” added Devna, Atul’s lovely wife.

Slice of the bygone era

Continuing our tour of the property, I realised the best part of the havelis are the picturesque frescoes which bring the place alive. The frescoes all around the havelis depict mythological and historical themes. They include images of Gods, Goddesses, animals, the life of Lord Krishna and also some erotic frescoes. The techniques employed for these frescoes were elaborate, and comparable to the Italian frescoes of the 14th century. The colours were mixed in lime water or lime plaster and were then made to sink into the plaster physically through processes of beating, burnishing, and polishing. All the pigments used were prepared with natural and primarily household ingredients such as kohl, lime, indigo, red stone powder and saffron. The frescoes at Vivaana are complemented with mirror work and intricately carved wood work. Once the hurricane tour of the property was over, I set out for a camel safari on the nearby sand dunes. Catching a glimpse of characteristic desert birds such as larks and beetles and numerous peacocks, was a glorious sight. The following morning, we went around the Shekhawati region, which got acquired its name from the erstwhile ruler Rao Shekha. While ruling the region, the Shekhawats built many magnificent forts in their thikanas, main region of their rule. Every thikana in the region has a fort and there are as many as 50 forts and palaces that were built by Shekhawat kings. And today, many of these forts and palaces run as heritage properties. The hotel manager told me that the entire Shekhavati region has time and again mesmerised millions of tourists who come here to see these beautiful painted havelis. Also, the region has aptly been dubbed as the ‘Open Art Gallery’ of Rajasthan.

Slice of royalty

As I ventured out to see some of these painted havelis, the driver told me that not only havelis, Shekhavati is also home to various small fortresses, minor castles, mosques and step wells. He told me it is best to avoid the car and take a camel safari to enjoy the beauty of this land of well-preserved havelis. Now, it is your turn to venture into the land of havelis and be a part of the bygone royal era.

Quickies…

  • How to reach – Jhunjhunu is the nearest railway station for Churi Ajitgarh. This railhead is connected to all the cities in India by trains.
  • Sanganer Airport located in Jaipur is nearly 150km away from Shekhawati.
  • The Organic Kitchen at Vivaana serves a variety of world cuisines and local flavours
  • Vivaana derives its name from Lord Krishna and means the ‘first rays of the Sun
  • For Reservations at Vivaana email at heritage@vivaana.com or call +919811276231

Rishikesh – A fresh getaway

The waters are blue and clear, the air is crisp and nippy. I am sitting on the promenade facing the clear waters, the sound of the gurgling Ganges is soothing to the ears. Thick jungles dot the other side of Ganges. I ask a local native about the same, and he says it’s the boundary of Rajaji National Park. Oh my Rajaji National Park is just across the shore, I wonder. I am in Rishikesh, the town synonymous with the whole idea of white water rafting in north India.

Soak in some fresh air

This is not my first visit to Rishikesh. But whenever I come here, the spiritual town seems new and unexplored. To me, Rishikesh has always been that magical land where adventure and spiritualism walk hand in hand. Situated in Uttarakhand, Rishikesh can be approached by road and by rail via Haridwar.

 

Here I am, by the banks - five months pregnant

Here I am, by the banks – five months pregnant

Biding goodbye to Delhi on weekends is a good idea, and the roughly five hour drive to Rishikesh is not very tiring. On a Friday morning, I began my sojourn to Rishikesh, this time with an idea to just relax and soak in the freshness the land boasts. Enjoying the breakfast aboard the Dehradun Shatabdi, I charted out my plan to explore Rishikesh. By the time the train reached Haridwar – the nearest railhead for Rishikesh –  my itinerary was set. The half an hour drive from Haridwar was scenic and minus the otherwise traffic struck roads. This time, we had taken the route that connects Rajaji National Park to Rishikesh. Thick blanket of jungle was running on both my sides and a shy animal doing a peek a boo enroute. The route is clear and is not known to many. The best part of approaching Rishikesh via this route is that it connects you with the wildlife and gives you a good chance to spot exotic birds.

The soothing scenery

The soothing scenery

After a while, I reached my place of stay for this trip. On the banks of the awe inspiring, tranquil Ganges lies a delightful retreat named Ganga Kinare. This hotel has majesty in a land where spirituality and nature are perfectly blended. There is hardly any need to freshen up when in Rishikesh, the fresh air breeze coming from the hills is enough to fill your lungs with eternal calm. A quick lunch at the café and I was ready to explore the riverside boutique hotel which boasts of a waterside esplanade. I was taking a quite stroll alongside the sinuous river on the other side of the shore I spotted a baby elephant. The elephant was approaching the river, perhaps to satiate its thirst, but this sight gave my camera a good exercise. I was busy clicking the images when I spotted a bigger elephant at a distance, and this one was indulging in a sand play. After a while the two animals slowly ventured inside the jungle.

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Go spiritual

It’s a sin to not indulge in some yoga when you are in Rishikesh, often touted as ‘the world capital of Yoga’. And I was at the hotel that has played host to the coveted ‘International Yoga Week’ nine times in recent years, and continues to be a pivotal space for Yogic gurus to impart their teachings. Dusk was still an hour away when I began my yoga session with the instructors at the resort. The session was conducted on the corridor overlooking the magnificent Ganges and I don’t know why but the same pranayam felt different and did some magic to my senses. The exclusive river ghat owned by the hotel allowed me to take a dip in the holy waters. The rooms at the resort are a sheer bliss for those looking for peace serenity and beauty. Since every room in the hotel offers a panoramic view of the river and mountains, it feels good to sit back and enjoy the scenery from the comforts of your room.

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Evenings are incomplete without attending the Ganga Aarti and when in Rishikesh, it becomes mandatory to go to Parmarth Niketan to attend the grand aarti. Here, children from the Parmarth gurukul dress up in yellow and saffron dhoti kurtas and herald the aarti by singing Hanuman Chalisa. People from all walks of life – locals and foreigners – sing along with the kids and light diyas on the ghats. To reach Parmarth, you have to hire a boat that takes you across the Ganges.

The promenade that leads to Parmarth is dotted ???????????????????????????????with curio shops that sell anything and everything you may wish to take home from this holy abode. You can buy some nice junk jewellery or rudrakh beads or simply indulge in some window shopping. After some retail therapy, you must and definitely must try the traditional Indian food, cooked in pure desi ghee at the Chotiwala restaurant. The delicious vegetarian Indian food, cooked with much love by the cooks at the Chotiwala will surely tantalize your palate.

Time for adventure

Early morning is the best time to visit Neelkanth Mahadev, one of the venerated temples in the holy city of Rishikesh. A 45 minute drive on the curvaceous ghat road will take you to Neelkanth Mahadev which stands tall between the valleys of Manikoot, Brahmakoot and Vishnukoot. Surrounded by thick woods and two gurgling rivers – Pankaja and Madhumati – the temple attracts Shiva devotees from far and wide. Apart from devotees, the 12 km long stretch from Swarg Ashram to the temple is also thronged by trekkers and adventure enthusiasts. The picturesque landscape of the area lures one and all and the twitter of birds just adds more life to the serene calmness. If you are lucky, you may even find a shallow waterfall on your walk in the woods.

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After your tryst with spiritualism, it’s time to don your adventure cap and enroll for adventure sports of your choice. Many consider Rishikesh as a haven for white water rafting which shuts only during monsoon months. But since summer is harsh in this region, the next two months are perfect to indulge in the sport. Here in Rishikesh, you can of course opt for white water rafting and choose the distance as per your preference and expertise. Apart from white water rafting, you can also go for bungee jumping, surfing, kayaking, cliff jumping, rock climbing, rapelling and mountaineering. There are a lot of adventure sporting companies that organize jungle camping, and beach games by the riverside.

Rishikesh has all the elements to make your weekend getaway a relaxed one. This fall, if you are looking to rejuvenate yourself, we advise hit the accelerator and go for a road trip to Rishikesh.

Tourism ‘Oscar’ for ‘God’s Own Country’ – Kerala

Golden Gate Award in Silver Category at ITB-Berlin for Kerala Tourism’s The Great Backwaters Television Campaign

Kerala Tourism’s hugely popular global multimedia campaign to promote the backwaters has won the prestigious Golden Gate Award at the Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin (ITB-Berlin) – 2015, the world’s leading travel trade event.

The state tourism department bagged the silver prize at the Das Golden Stadttor (Golden Gate) Awards presented in the German capital on Thursday night. Kerala Tourism Secretary Shri G Kamala Vardhana Rao, who is leading the state tourism delegation at the ITB 2015, and Shri Suman Billa, Joint Secretary in the Union Tourism Ministry and former state tourism secretary, received the prize at a glittering awards ceremony.

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Kerala Tourism received the Golden Gate Award’s Silver Prize in the Mulimedia-campaign category. The award was presented for The Great Backwaters campaign in the television-commercial medium.Conceptualised by Kerala Tourism’s creative and marketing agency Stark Communications, The Great Backwaters campaign had won the Golden Gate Gold Prize in the Print category at the ITB-Berlin last year. Earlier, Kerala Tourism had won the Golden Gate Silver Prize for the hugely successful ‘Your Moment is Waiting’ ad campaign in the print category.

The Great Backwaters campaign of Kerala Tourism was notable for its use of aerial photography for the first time in the country on such a wider scale, covering the state’s backwaters as a single destination. A renowned aerial photography team from Finland had conducted the photography using helicams launched from the makeshift platform of a boat to capture the beauty and essence of the vast backwaters.

Presented every year at the ITB-Berlin, Golden Gate Awards, dubbed the ‘Oscar in tourism communication’, are considered the ultimate recognition in global tourism communication. The awards, in its 14th year, provide worldwide attention to the tourism industry.The awards are handed over to the tourism representatives and their creative works in different categories. The works are judged by an international jury based on a point system. Each category receives a gold, silver and bronze award. The award ceremony is held every year under the patronage of the German Federal Association of Film and Audio-Visual Producers.

Kerala Tourism Secretary Shri G Kamala Vardhana Rao and Joint Secretary in the Union Tourism Ministry (2) (1)

“We are honoured by the remarkable recognition for the Great Backwaters Campaign at the world’s biggest travel trade event,” said Kerala Tourism Minister Shri A P Anilkumar. “The award shows the significance of our state on the world tourism map,” he said. “The honour in Berlin will inspire us to promote our state further across the world. Our efforts are aimed at promoting Kerala in the most creative and effective way to a larger global audience,” Shri Anilkumar added. “We are highly confident that during ‘Visit Kerala 2015’, we will be accomplishing many more awards in various other categories,” said Kerala Tourism Secretary Shri Rao. He also added that the state tourism is committed to a substantial growth in the number of visitors to Kerala from across the globe.

Besides The Great Backwaters campaign, Kerala Tourism’s unique marketing strategies last year also included the theme branding of the hop-on-hop-off boats in the backwaters through a public contest among the state’s artists, the successful branding of the Mumbai Metro Train and several multimedia marketing initiatives during road shows and at industry exhibitions abroad.

Grape Escapade 2014 – A Tribute to Taste

Wine tasting is something that we all want to do, be it on a Sunday afternoon brunch or at a wine festival. So when we talk about wine festivals, how can we forget Goa’s Grape Escapade.

Goa’s most looked-forward to wine festival, The Grape Escapade 2014 is being hailed as the best ever in terms of attendance, operations, flow and offerings. Over 50000 people will experience a blend of fine wine, lifestyle, haute cuisine and entertainment over 4 days. Over a period of time the festival has come to be known as one of the biggest lifestyle festival in India.

Grape Escapade - Fashion show

Apart from being the only festival of its kind in Goa, the Grape Escapade is also touted to be one of the most popular gourmet festivals till date. Scheduled to take place from the 6th to the 9th Feb 2014 at Campal Grounds, Panaji-Goa, the festival will bring together restaurateurs, hoteliers, wineries and lifestyle brands, all under one roof. While live music and entertainment sets the tone for the evening, wine tasting sessions by an accomplished sommelier and food connoisseur will be conducted. Adding to the vibrancy, are special variety entertainment acts, jazz sessions, fashion shows and a beauty contest. More than 20 wineries will pour wines, while around 15 restaurants and catering companies will offer a range of gourmet food classics, including barbecues, pasta, oriental cuisine and other delicacies. Vegetarian options, chicken, and meat dishes will also be available, as will a bevy of luscious sweet treats.

In addition to wine, food and art, the festival has an elaborate stage set-up with a variety of musical entertainment, which features some of the best local performers in blues, jazz, world beat, as well as dance and other non-musical performances.  The festival also adds economic value to Goa every year as it brings together restaurateurs, wineries, and hospitality and lifestyle players. The Grape Stomping, which is a tradition at the festival, is a source of much delight and fun for the visitors and is an intrinsic part of the festival this year as well. Nikhil Agarwal, Sommelier & Director of All Things Nice will be conducting wine tasting sessions and pairing activities during the festival.

Grape Escapade 2013

The Grape Escapade begins from 6.00 pm onwards and is open to all. The festival is organized and supported every year by Goa Tourism.

Mr. Dilip Parulekar also announced the launch of tourism-related mobile app by RZ2 Games Pvt Ltd. which is into development of mobile application in Goa for last 7 years. The salient features of this Mobile Application covers the basic information required by a tourist such as demography, boarding and lodging, travel, important numbers, must see places, events, important details, do’s and don’ts while in Goa, etc. Any event happening in Goa can be listed and marketed by using this application.  This application can also help promote Goa as a destination for health care/dental cosmetic and also promote any hinterland of Goa, which are not on the main tourist map.

The schedule for Grape Escapade 2014 –

Day I Thursday 6th  Feb

6.15- 6.45pm Inauguration at the hands of the chief guest
6.45- 7.10pm Dance Performance – Sunder And Group
7.15- 8:10pm Trios (Andre Juke Box)
8:15pm onwards Live Band (brothers in arms)/(Alcatraz)

 

Day II  Friday 7th  Feb

6.00- 7.00pm Sigmund and troupe.
7.00- 7.20pm Africans Acrobates
7.20- 8.15pm Band “ evergreens”
8:15pm Live band (Crimson Tide)

 

Day III  Saturday 8th  Feb

6.15- 7.15pm Joe solo
7.15- 7.35pm

7.35- 8.15pm

Bollywood Dance performance “impressions”
Fashion show by ‘Siobhan D’silva’
8.15- 9.00pm Grape Stomping
9.30pm Live band(Carlos and Friends)

Day IV Sunday 9th  Feb

6.15- 7.15pm Kingfisher voice of Goa / duet / trio
7:15- 8:00 Acrobat performance by “Canon Bros”
8:00 -8:15 Grape Escapade Queen Contest
8:15- onwards Live Band and Dance troupe “Syndicate

 

 

Surprise your lady love with weeklong Parisian experience

Enchanting, inspiring, dazzling – Valentines’ Day in Paris is all these things and more! From the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower to the glittering Champs Élysées the city exudes romance and sparkling glory. This Valentine’s Day Trafalgar, the world’s leading guided holiday company is offering you a chance to whisk your lady love for seven unforgettable nights to the city of lights – Paris.

Paris Week By Trafalgar

 

Your fantastic journey starts with a guided sightseeing tour featuring unmatched views of the Champs Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower. Get abroad a romantic cruise on the Seine River as you serenade your lady or visit the famous Fragonard Perfumery and Museum. For a royal experience visit the Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles, renowned for its stunning interior and spectacular ornamental gardens. The leisurely Paris Week Tour with Trafalgar gives you the opportunity to explore Paris in your own time and at your own pace. You will never tire of the city’s attractions and there is always something new to discover. Ideal for culture lovers, Paris offers an array of famous museums and galleries including the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre and the Pompidou centre. Shop in chic boutiques and elegant department stores or simply relax at an outdoor café and watch the world go by. When the sun goes down, the city is still bursting with life. Wander through the Latin Quarter and dine in Bohemian Montmartre. Don’t miss a spectacular cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge or Nouvelle Eve. You can also make the most of your stay with a selection of optional excursions, including the home and gardens of the Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, at Giverny.                            

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So this Valentine’s Day get ready for an unforgettable weeklong romantic escape to Paris!

 

For bookings visit www.trafalgar..com

Coorg, a paradise on earth

This was the view from the window of my room in Coorg. Thick blanket of mist was hanging on to the thick rainforest, and thousands of birds chirped their hearts out. For those of us who live in metro cities, visiting a hill station or a coffee county like Coorg is a sheer delight if it happens only once a year, however, for the locals, its their way of life. They are used to the monsoon that continues for seven months. No wonder they have coffee to keep them warm, day in and day out. The moment I arrived in Coorg, my hosts welcomed me with black coffee with a dash of jaggery and buoy, that was the best cup of coffee I have ever had in life.

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Venue: Vivanta by Taj, Madikeri Coorg

Photo: Nitika Bajpayee

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A green escapade

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The jigsaw puzzle pieces lay before my eyes and I was to decipher what the puzzle held. I was flipping a travel magazine when I came across an envelope with a jigsaw puzzle. This was part of the campaign run by the Gujarat Tourism to promote its historical and cultural assets. I deciphered the puzzle and was ecstatic to see an image of ancient Somnath Temple beaming before my eyes. And I was charmed. I pondered over the vibrancy the land of Gujarat bestowed on its visitors. And as luck would have it, soon I was in the celebrated land of Gujarat.
Like a wide-eyed tourist, with visuals of the legendary Amul way of life in Anand running at the back of my mind, I kick started my sojourn in the Milk Capital of India. After a short flight from Delhi to Ahmedabad, I zipped passed the grassy meadows and small establishments along the Ahmedabad-Vadodra Expressway. My destination was Anand. The name instantly takes each one of us to the legendary White Revolution initiated by Late Dr Vergese Kurein, the man behind making milk deficient India to the largest milk producer in the world. Anand is situated at a distance of about 70 kms from Ahmedabad, so I travelled for about an hour to hit the place.
Nature’s bounty
Crisp monsoon breeze woke me up from my slumber. I was almost in Anand. Peeping out of the cab window, I noticed some senior citizens walking on the roads, regardless to mention, with copies of ‘Gujarat Samachar’ in their hands. All this informally indicated my arrival in Anand. We did a little detour to reach Vallabh Vidyanagar, where Madhubhan Resorts and Spa (hosts for my stay) is situated. Spread in the sprawling 20-acre area, the resort highlights the verdant surroundings of the region. The resort welcomed me in to its expansive outdoors filled with manicured lawns and old world structures. After relishing some authentic Gujarati breakfast foods like Khaman and Khandvi at the coffee shop, I checked in to the elegant Mandavdi Gom Cottage situated in the Chiku ni Pol area of the resort. The resort highlights the nuances of Gujarati architecture mixed eclectic modern designs and amenities. Taking a walk in the natural setting of the resort took all my sleep-deprived fatigue away.

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Timeless modernity
A quick lunch and I was all geared up to explore the city. First on my itinerary was to visit the Amul Dairy situated in the heart of the city. It is amazing to watch how an initiative that began with a single move is today touches every single Indian in some wayt. I watched thousands and thousands of packets of Amul Butter being packet and loaded in to the trucks. Smiling, I continued my stroll to the Sardar Patel Memorial in the city. The museum has preserved the work and memories of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the great political leader of the nation.
Going to Gujarat and coming empty handed is a sin, told a friend over the phone. With some retail therapy on my mind, I began my shopping spree and bought some knick-knacks penchant of Gujarat like Sheeng dana, Khari besides khakra and chhunda. Anand is also a great destination if you want to buy trousseau ensemble. Picking up some jewellery and a Gujarati panethar (bridal saree), I came back to the resort where I was treated with an authentic Italian dinner at the Kauzina restaurant. While at Kauzina, one must try the Cheese Chilly pizza, which comes up as an interesting dish.
Inviting localesF22_0628
Next morning, shimmering rain, clear swimming pool lagoon, flocks of ducks waddling under the sun less sky greeted me. Very rarely in life, our senses are satiated by a place and here at Madhubhan, I was totally satiated. My agenda for the day was set. Combating thunder mixed torrential rains, I along with the marketing executive of the resort made our way to the Pavagarh Fort. As we our destination situated in the Panchmahal district about 86 km from the resort, silhouette of the magnificent fort appeared. Pavagarh Fort is famous for the ancient Mahakali temple, which round the clock attracts smarms of pilgrims. The hill of Pavagarh rises from Champaner in three stages and this plateau lies at an altitude on 1471 feet. The fort is also known as the birthplace of Gujarat’s famous musician Baiju Bawra. To reach the hilltop where the temple is situated, we took the ropeway ride and had a mesmerizing view of the emerald vistas of the valley.
On the foothills of lies Champaner, the city founded by Vanraj Chavda the prominent of the Chavda Kingdom in the 8th century. The Champaner-Pavagarh Archaeological Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 and is another interesting place that one can’t afford to miss. The moment I entered in to the complex, spellbound I watched the magnificent Jama Masjid, which ranks amongst the finest architectural edifices in Gujarat. My camera didn’t stop clicking as I had a look at the intricately carved out stone structure of the Masjid. While coming back, I watched the green corridor of the expressway, which was now flourishing with numerous waterfalls evolving from the hills around the area. A round trip from Anand to Pavagarh, after having spent the day in the tranquility of the history bestowed land left me spellbound. Back at Madhubhan, I relaxed by the swimming pool munching on authentic Mexican snacks offered.
While at Madhubhan you can either choose to savour the traditional Gujarati style ‘Mandavdi Gom’ Cottages which are replete with intricate woodwork and old world charm or live in the deluxe rooms which are perfect for corporates. A place where greenery abounds, luxury knows no limits, recreation takes on a new meaning and tradition isn’t just a concept from a book, Madhubhan is where bliss isn’t just a desire, but a divine experience, close at hand. Savour traditional Gujarati cuisine or witness the spectacular historical nuances around the city, lounge by the pool or at indulge in shopping, Anand has it. With vibrant memories I came back to reality from the vibrant state of Gujarat.

Travel around:
Vadtal Swaminarayan Temple
Dakor Shri Krishna Temple
Ancient relics at Lothal
Akshardham Temple
Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary

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Fun and frolic at Universal Studios

Fun and frolic at Universal Studios

When summer rolls around, it is time to start planning your vacation. And California is one state which is full of attraction for kids from all ages. From Disneyland to the world-class aquariums, zoos, historical museums and outdoor activities, California will keep your family engaged and hopping. Go behind the scenes at Universal Studios and climb aboard one of the park’s trams, with state-of-the-art HD monitors adding to your experience at every seat. You’ll also get an opportunity to visit the real movie sets to discover how a movie is made. See real set pieces from the movie King Kong and be spooked by the likes of Norman at the Bates Motel or a certain mega-shark from one of the scariest movies ever made. The regular Studio Tour is included with park admission.
For even more insights into the movie-making process, consider splurging on the VIP Experience, which includes valet parking, refreshments, and your own private guide taking you to real sound stages and back lots. Only Universal Studios lets you ride the movies and go behind the scenes of a real working movie studio. Take adventure to the next dimension in Shrek 4-D, the attraction that puts you in the action with hair-raising, eye-popping experience.

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Mystic Point opens up at Hong Kong Disneyland

Mystic Point opens up at Hong Kong Disneyland

Summer vacation is the best time to visit Disneyland. And if you are visiting Hong Kong Disneyland, there is a surprise awaiting your arrival. Mystic Point, the final chapter of the current expansion project is now ready for you to throng. Complete with the iconic Mystic Manor, which features one of the most sophisticated systems ever built by Disney, a themed photo area called Garden of Wonders, a new restaurant and a merchandise shop,, the castle creates a fully immersive experience within Hong Kong Disneyland.

Mystic Point focuses on immersing families in the story with its detailed design. There are more than 7,000 artifacts throughout the themed land. In the Garden of Wonders, several ancient sculptures and mosaics with unbelievable 3D illusions are displayed. Kids will enjoy viewing these from different angles to unlock their mysteries, which offer the most bewildering and mystifying photo-taking experiences! Hong Kong Disneyland is ready to bring you on an eye-opening journey. Are you ready to embark on this mysterious adventure?