Saturday, June 25, 2011

New Delhi - How to go, places to visit, things to do

Prelude: "Lonavala", suggested a friend. Another friend remarked, "Naaaah, been there many times, How about Matheran ?". Soon various options followed: Malshej Ghat, Ratnagiri, Shirdi, Tugareshwar. Then out of the blue, comes a suggestion, "Lets do the Amarnath Yatra". Everyone stares at the friend.Silence follows."Yeah, right", was the reply and the discussion moved to other topics.Obviously, chuckles followed later. Amarnath yatra....gotta be joking...!!!. 



The Preparation: Over the time, one thing never that changed was, this friend's persistence with the idea. On a get together, early this year, this friend brought up this idea, yet again. Can't really recall when I actually fell for this spiritual-cum-adventurous idea. I guess, it was only when another friend said,"Who said 90% ?, I am 100% surely going to be on the trip", and was quite excited about the trip. His innocent, simple, child-like excitement somewhat spread like virus in the group. At least, I somehow caught it. Not sure of the tickets, leaves from office, accommodation or any logistics . It was a Yes, from me.


The permit :
For doing the Amarnath Yatra, one needs a permit. The Sri Amarnath Shrine Board starts issuing permits around early May. One can get these permits from J&K Bank.They have a lot of branches all across the country. We need to fill an application form and submit it with an ID proof at the bank itself. In case, you are planning to go for the Amarnath Yatra, make sure you are aware of two things - (i) Date from when the permit forms are available (ii) Actual dates of Yatra. The Government of India publishes the dates of the Yatra, which usually lasts for two months. Its better to apply for the permits early, as, you would get initial dates of the Yatra. The permit has the date on which you can enter the holy cave. This year the dates of the Yatra were from 29th June to 13th August. As we applied early, we got 30th June permit.


Tickets:
Next were the travel bookings.With just around one month to go, we still hadn't booked our tickets. Eventually, when we did chalk out an itinerary, we sat down to book our train tickets. Obviously, we didn't get tickets on the preferred train - the Jammu Tawi Express. We had to settle for a detour with New Delhi being our base station. Here are our tickets details : 
From     - To   - Train Name  -   Departure -  Arrival     
a)      Mumbai -Delhi - August Kranti Rajdhani - 24/Jun/11 - 25/Jun/11 
b)      Delhi - Jammu - ANVT Jat SPL - 25/Jun/11 - 26/Jun/11 
c)      Jammu - Amritsar - JAT BTI EXP - 3/Jul/11 - 4/Jul/11 
d)     Amritsar - Delhi - AMRITSAR SHTBDI  - 5/Jul/11 - 5/Jul/11 
e)      Delhi - Mumbai - MUMBAI RAJDHANI  - 5/Jul/11 - 6/Jul/11  

And here's our itinerary of 13 days : Mumbai - New Delhi - Jammu - Srinagar- [Baltal - Yatra - Pahalgam] - Srinagar - Jammu - Amritsar - New Delhi - Mumbai. . 

Items to Carry: 
In case, you need help with the items to carry. Here's what we took - might help you in case you take up a similar trip.
Clothes :    6 shirts, 6 pants, 5 shorts ,5 t-shirts ,6-8 kerchiefs ,undergarments
Footwear : 4-5 socks,   canvas shoes / trekking shoes,   sports shoes,   slippers
Bed : Pillow - 1,   Bed sheet - 2 : (i) thin bed sheet, (ii) thick bed sheet
Toiletries : Bathing soap - 2,   oil,   shampoo,   comb,  tooth brushes - 2,   toothpaste,   tongue cleaner,   shaving cream,   shaving brush,   razor,   Vaseline,   cold cream, sun screen lotion,  towels - 2,   deodorant,   washing soap - 2,   mug / Large bottle,   Tissue rolls - 3,   Paper soap - 3-4
Warm clothes : Gloves,   Thermal wear - top,   Thermal wear - bottom,   ear plugs,   jacket , sweater inner - half,   sweater outer - full,   monkey cap,   muffler

Documentation : entire trip ticket copies - 2,   Amarnath darshan permit,   PNR Nos. list , Team phone nos.,   Emergency numbers,   ID proof,   Pen,   Papers
Food : plate - 1,   spoon - 1,   glass - 1,   water bottle, Dry fruits, Theplas.
Others : camera case,   camera battery,   camera charger,   mobile,   mobile charger,   watch,   Cap,   torch,   pen knife,   plastic bags - 6,   rain coat - top,   raincoat - lower,   matches,   General medicines,   Travel Bags - 2 (i)Large  (ii) small for 2-3 days items.

Luckily everyone got leave from their respective offices, D-Day 24th June - Yatra Begins....

First stop New Delhi.

New Delhi: The capital of our country. Visiting the place has always been cherished by any Indian tourist. The rich culture, heritage and political importance of the place is evident from the architecture visible in the monuments, people. If you have the new age places like the Connaught place, engineering marvel in the Delhi Metro, architectural brilliance in the Lotus Temple. You get an Old Delhi feel in places like Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid and the Red fort. The various cuisines offered by Delhi are not to be missed too. The Dahi bhalla, Aloo Tikki, the parathas and various other delicacies just strike your taste buds wanting for more.  The recently held CommonWealth games and the metro train have transformed the very fabric of travel in Delhi. We visited Delhi twice on our trip, once before going to the Yatra and second time was when we were returning from the Yatra enroute to home. This was my second trip to New Delhi.

How to go there / travel around:
To reach Delhi, there are a lot of options - train, place, road(it can get hectic though). We booked our tickets on the August Kranti Rajdhani Express, mainly because there was a stop at Borivali. The other Rajdhani doesn't. The perks that go along with travelling on Rajdhani are : food, bedding, tea, coffee etc. The only glitch, they wake you up very early :( We had a nice journey with cards, dumb charades and good night's rest being the highlights of the journey. We reached Hazrat Nizammuddin around  1100 am. We had booked for a vehicle for our pick up via a local friend who had a travel company in Delhi. However, there were other options too, which we came to know as soon as we got out of the Hazrat Nizamuddin station. We were greeted by hordes of cab drivers. Surely, we could have been taken for a ride, had we not booked earlier.There were autos, prepaid taxis as well. However, you need to stand in a queue to register for a prepaid taxi.Our's was a seven seater Innova, and it was going to be our mode of transport for the day in New Delhi. To travel in New Delhi there are a lot of options - the roads are pretty wide and mostly devoid of potholes. Luckily we never faced any traffic the whole day, which made our lives easier. Then, there is the ring train, which is pretty much like the Mumbai local train, except it is green in colour. And finally you have the Metro train which in itself is a site seeing place. 

Places to see / visit:

Akshardham :  If you have been to Delhi and not seen the Akshardham, trust me, you have missed a great spectacle. The sheer size and architecture of the temple will leave you awestruck. It is located on the National Highway 24, on the way to Noida from Greater Delhi. You can either travel by road or you can take a metro to Akshardham metro station. You cannot carry any electronic items, sharp items inside, not even cameras.  Built by the Swami Narayan sect, the temple has culmination of 15000 years of Hindu traditions. You can also see the life history of Swami Narayan retold in the form of pictures and commentary. There is even a boat ride, gardens, canteen, musical fountain, Giant screen. If you found that, the outer temple is something to be spell bound, wait till you go inside. The interiors of the temple are equally awe - inspiring.  Click here for more information.


Chandni chowk:  This place has a lot of history attached to it. With Red Fort and Jama Masjid in its vicinity, makes this place a must see one. One of the busiest and oldest markets in the country, there is an Old Delhi feel to the place.There is a constant noise of honking cars, some fight somewhere, commotion everywhere.No wonder this place has featured in many hindi films - Delhi 6, Chandni Chowk to China, Kabhi Khusi Kabhi Gham etc. You can see cycle rickshaws, people in traditional clothes, selling old coins, beggars, cart pullers, people selling water, fruit salads, sweet shops.  And in the midst of all this you have the famous parathe wale galli, which was naturally, our main point of interest :).  To can reach Chandni Chowk, you may get down at the Red Fort and walk from there. Then, there is the Chandi Chowk metro station as well. As you enter the famous galli (street), you will find various shops, all selling different types of foods items - sweets, juices, fast food items, lassi. Although, the primary item was the Paratha. There are these little restaurants serving different varieties of parathas - Aloo, Gobi, Paneer, Mixed veg. etc. And the various chutneys that come along with it, just make it all the more irresistible. And just don't miss the lassi. Served in a kulhad (earthen tumbler) with the malai topping. This lassi is one of a kind, and should not be missed. Another point to note, the food there is very hygienic too. And after savoring the food to our full, our mission to Chandni Chowk was achieved!!


Red fort : A stone's throw away from Chandni chowk is the Laal Qila. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan  in 1638, this vast fort is now one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites. The Prime minister of India holds his national address on the 15th of August every year from this very monument. The very spot from where the address happens is visible from the ground. Covered by a bullet proof podium like structure, right in the center of Red Fort, surely it must offer a great view. No wonder, the monument is chosen as the location for the Prime Ministerial address, as the Red Fort was considered to be the symbol of power during the Mughal era.  On the outer side, the main fort is separated form the outside by a large canal,which is supposed to be filled with water from the neighboring Yamuna river, however, it doesn't seem so now, with dense vegetation filling up the void. There are a lot of important structures within the fort - Diwan-E-Khaas, Diwan-E-Aam, etc. There is an entry ticket that needs to be purchased to explore the fort inside.We refrained from venturing into the fort due to time constraints.After a few clicks we were off to our next destination.

Lotus Temple : This place, also known as the Baha'i temple of faith is a major tourist attraction. The lotus like structure has got many world architectural awards. Built primarily for the Baha'i faith, there is no restriction on any other faith. Sermons from different faiths can be read out in different languages. We were lucky to witness the sermons being carried out. Due to the unique structure of the place, it gave a very peaceful atmosphere inside the temple. People were asked to be quiet before they entered the Place of Worship. This meant peace and quietude in the temple, the sermons sounding even more divine with echos of the noise resonating inside. The only glitch we couldn't understand the language :) 

India Gate: Our evening was spent at the India Gate. With gardens all around the place and with the great monument in the center, made it a fantastic place to be in the evening.The place was filled with evening revelers, picnickers, youngsters, kids, families and hawkers. People were clicking pictures near the monument, along with the army personnel who were busy parading the place. Kids were cooling off in the fountain and near by pond. The place was buzzing with activity. India Gate, built as a monument for the army people who gave their lives for the country even has a shrine at the bottom of the monument. The shrine contains a fire burning continuously from 1971- The Amar Jawan Jyothi. Also known as the flame of the immortal soldier. We spent most of the evening at the monument reveling at the spectacle, watching people having a great evening time and wondering why Mumbai never has such places.

Rashtrapati bhavan / Parliament : These are two places we couldn't visit as it turned too late. But, it is worth mentioning that visiting the place, one does get a feel of the political importance of the place. The roads, the traffic and the security arrangements around the place give a bureaucratic presence to the place. Some of the roads were closed as it night and that stopped us from getting a closer look. May be on our next trip, we could visit the place.


Metro Metro train was visited by us on our return trip, i.e. when we returned back from the Yatra in the last leg of our journey, on our way back home. We wanted to ensure, we didn't finish our North trip without travelling in the metro. If there was one thing that we felt travelling in the metro was - pride. Truly, to have something like this in India is really a proud thing. We had to purchase plastic coupon coins which could be used on the metro.  There was airport like security check too. Although, we had to travel a short distance i.e. from NDLS to Chandni Chowk, but the experience was great.And the good thing is people have been taking a great care for the transport system.Very easy to travel, comfortable and cheap too.


Conclusion : We had our dinner at the Connaught place, before moving on to the Anand Vihar Terminal for our next leg of journey. We had to catch a train to Jammu. All in all the trip to Delhi was a short one, but a good one. Delhi has definitely changed over the years, for the better for sure, not so sure what the important people of Delhi have done for  the rest of the country though. For all aspects,  whether its places, monuments, food, people, well all I can say in Facebook lingo, "I like Delhi".

Coming up next : Entering the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the amazing road trip from Jammu to Srinagar, the food along the way, the adventure and much more.. 

5 comments:

  1. Nice Details, just one info regarding cell network, MTNL/BSNL post paid have the best network in Amarnath Yatra route. So make sure there are as many people as you can manage to have that network.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Not manage its a MUST cause ther are chances that ppl might get seperated during yatra cause of diff pace of ppl so mobile with BSNL post paid sim cards is a must for yatra.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gr8 Job Krish ... Like the details ... Just one update ... that plastic coupun is actually RFId's issues by Delhi Metro for ticketing and entring the platforms :-) ... looking forward for rest of the trip details ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. And Vamzi U forgot the most imp thing Tissue papers & rolls they r more important then the permit, actually no one bothers to check the Yatra Permit its not reqd at all but U will surely require those tissue rolls as the lavatory facilities are pathetic.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for the comments gang, true, a BSNL post paid is a must on the Amarnath Yatra. Was'nt aware of the RFID. However, coupon seemed more easy to understand to a larger section of readers. Well, regarding the tissue papers and rolls, you are bang on - an absolute must, indeed. But don't agree with the Yatra permit importance, if none of us had the permit, we would'nt have made it to Sonmarg without it.

    ReplyDelete