Category Archives: India

Offbeat Kochi with Ramada Resort Cochin

The rains had given us the slip for most of our time in Alleppey, but the day we chose to drive to Cochin, the skies turned grey and a light drizzle cloaked the landscape in mist. We had spent a wonderful two days at Ramada Alleppey and now it was time to enjoy a quintessential resort holiday at Ramada Resort Cochin.

Colourful umbrellas for sale at Fort Kochi
Colourful umbrellas for sale at Fort Kochi

And while we did see the quintessential Chinese fishing nets and Kochi’s backwaters, we also discovered new things to do in and around Kerala’s scenic capital. Read on for more.

Lakeside cottages and pool

Ramada Resort Cochin

It was my second time in Cochin but my first in one of a row of stilt cottages that curved along an impossibly long lagoon overlooking the Vembanad Lake. Inside, the cottages featured everything that five star rooms do and a balcony that offered a wonderful view of the pool and the shimmering lake beyond.

The view from our balcony
The view from our balcony

The only eyesore was an upcoming building on the other side of the lake but that’s the price of development. Swimming at sundown and floating along the canal instilled a deep sense of serenity in our travel-loving souls. Of course, we also created a racket playing with the beach balls (bring a Frisbee too if you own one!).

Wining and dining

A lavish meal of local delicacies at Fennel, Ramada Resort Cochin
A lavish meal of local delicacies at Fennel

The Ramada brand is known to cater extremely well to guests’ culinary demands and this resort was no different. Fennel is their multi-cuisine restaurant and we enjoyed excellent lunches and dinners here, consisting of authentic Kerala cuisine (such as avial and appams) as well as other Indian delicacies. A live band and magician kept us entertained on many of those occasions.

Coconut pannacotta at Pearl Spot
Coconut pannacotta at Pearl Spot

Pearl Spot is known for its seafood but we being vegetarians, posed a challenge to the chef. And he more than rose to the occasion. While the pineapple rasam and numerous paneer and mushroom-based dishes bowled us over, the winner of our meal there was the unimaginably delicious coconut pannacotta with its numerous textures and real coconut water jelly nestled within the layers of creamy pannacotta. We also enjoyed great Mexican cuisine at The Mexicana.

Club 11 Hundred
Club 11 Hundred during the day

Club 11 Hundred is their bar with lots of character and signature cocktails that pack a punch, not to mention great starters.

Spice shopping

Different varieties of cinnamon sticks
Different varieties of cinnamon sticks

On our first day in Cochin, we were too late for the city tour (but you can read more about Cochin here) but there was no way we were going to skip shopping for spices. Fort Kochi’s spice markets are THE best and you’ll find the largest cardamom pods, supremely fragrant cloves, special varieties of black pepper and cinnamon and the most flavourful tea masala, not to mention various flavours of tea itself. While there are many inside Jew town, we found our treasures in a little shop near St. Francis Church, which is the first European church built in India.

Kathakali show at Cochin Cultural Centre

Kathakali performance
Kathakali performance

From evening until night, we sank back in our seats and allowed ourselves to be enraptured by the performers on stage at the Cochin Cultural Centre. An educative session on the various expressions, gestures and sounds used in Kathakali, the signature performance art of Kerala, was followed by the actual thing, accompanied by live music by a vocalist and instrumentalist. Before the performance, we had also been lucky enough to see the artists getting into their fearsome on-stage avatars. The Kathakali performance re-enacted a scene from the Mahabharata where Lakshmana has an altercation with Surpanakha.

An artist gets ready for the Kathakali show
An artist gets ready for the Kathakali show

This was followed by a kuchipudi dance performance by a young danseuse and an electrifying display of kalaripayattu, the artistic martial art form famous in Kerala by several sinewy youngsters. The audience consisted predominantly of foreigners who seemed quite impressed by it all. At the end of the show, we took pictures with the talented performers, as did many others in the audience.

Posing with the performers
Posing with the performers

Kodanad Elephant Training Centre

We were up at 5 AM on our second day in Cochin but sleep was but a small sacrifice for the morning splendours of Kodanad Elephant Training Centre. The centre opens at 8 AM but we were there by 7:30 AM on that rainy morning and spent half an hour looking for a loo and the ticket vendor.

Walking through the Kodanad Elephant Training Centre
Walking through the Kodanad Elephant Training Centre

At 8, we were allowed inside and our walking trail through the forest on the Southern banks of the Periyar River began. Signboards led us to the area where the elephants were being held.

Kodanad Elephant Training Centre

We were early enough to see them being fed in their enclosures and it was most glorious to see two tusked elephants waving their heads while a caretaker filled their buckets. Further ahead, we spotted two deer enclosures holding sambhar and chital deer respectively.

Spotted (sambhar) deer at Kodanad Elephant Training Centre
Spotted (sambhar) deer

We also spotted clusters of red sandalwood and other plants and trees in the orchards. The centre is a 90 minute drive away from Ramada Resort Cochin and a great way to get closer to nature. It is open until 5 PM on weekdays (we aren’t sure of weekends).

Ayurvedic spa

We’d already tried abhyangam, the full body massage that’s the most popular option among Ayurvedic treatments at Ramada Alleppey. So we decided to be more adventurous this time – Ankita went for a Kizhi treatment, which is done using herbal pouches, and Mohit tried shirodhara, the nervous system soother done by dripping oil on the forehead. Both our treatments were uniquely relaxing and rejuvenating. The herbs in the Kizhi treatment had a wonderful odour that almost smelt edible! The pouch contained curative fried fresh herbs, rock salt and Ayurvedic powders.

Ayurvedic spa at Ramada Resort Cochin
Ayurvedic spa

Mohit had a hard time washing off the litres of oil that had been poured on his forehead but the deep sleep he went into after the treatment made him feel like a new person. Whatever the treatment, it always includes a head and face massage as well. Milk is added to the oil used on the head, while Eladi oil is used for the face. For the body, the therapists use Dhanvatantaram or pinda tailam with karpuradi (camphor). But the best touch in our opinion, is the rasnadi powder they rub on the hair after the treatments to prevent cold and fever due to excess oil.

Speed boat ride

Need for speed: View from the speedboat
Need for speed: View from the speedboat

We’ve saved the best of this trip for the very last – if there’s one reason why you should go to Cochin and stay at Ramada Resort Cochin, it’s their speedboats. It’s the most hair-raising experience you can have in the backwaters, whizzing past fishermen, beneath bridges and fishing nets with the water working up a storm in your wake and the wind whipping through your hair.

Mohit pretends to drive the boat
Mohit pretends to drive the boat
A local man fishing in the Cochin backwaters
A local man fishing in the Cochin backwaters

The boats are very stable so you can stand and enjoy a 360 degree view of the Vembanad Lake as your boatman navigates expertly. The rides last for 30-45min and ours was the final one before sunset. Look out for a video of the ride on our Youtube channel soon and subscribe so you don’t miss out!

If you wish to experience the impeccable service and hospitality of Ramada Resort Cochin, click here. And sign up for a Wyndham Rewards membership to enjoy free nights in exchange for your reward points.

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Romancing the Punnamada backwaters with Ramada Alleppey

Ramada Alleppey is a hotel with a resort-like ambience, so you get your swimming pool, luxury Ayurvedic spa, stunning backwater views and leisure games at the price of a five star business hotel (upwards of Rs 5000 per night). We spent two nights here last month, where the days were windy and cloudy and yet, the Rain Gods spared us their unfettered wrath. It was the perfect weather to lie back and enjoy the gentle rhythm of the backwaters on a wooden houseboat. Of course, we did a lot more than that but this post is dedicated to the splendours of Alleppey or Alappuzha and the various ways in which Ramada Alleppey helped us soak in the joys of God’s own country better.

View of Ramada Alleppey from our boat, at sundown
View of Ramada Alleppey from our boat, at sundown
After a refreshing pear and guava-based welcome drink,
After a refreshing pear and guava-based welcome drink,
We checked into our spacious Junior Suite
we checked into our spacious Junior Suite
Junior Suite at Ramada Alleppey
that came with an inviting bathtub
and a gorgeous view of the backwaters.
and a gorgeous view of the backwaters.

We divided our time in Alleppey between the hotel, the backwaters and the city itself. The top three highlights of our stay at Ramada Alleppey would be the outstanding food, the wonderful spa and proximity to the Punnamada backwaters. Ankita even shed her shyness to sing in public after a long time during the karaoke night at the poolside shack. There’s also a swimming pool and a few outdoor games at the hotel (again reinforcing the resort-like ambiance) but we remained immersed in the natural pool of paradise beyond the banks. The staff is ever-gracious and makes you feel at home.

The manager of the hotel told us that around 60 rooms at Ramada Alleppey are reserved for Club Mahindra members, which is around half of the total accommodation. With three banquet facilities that can accommodate a floating crowd of 1200, the hotel is a great choice for events and weddings as well.

Experiencing the backwaters

Posing from the kettuvallam
Posing from the kettuvallam

The beauty of the backwaters is best expressed in verse:

We swish by at a serene pace
No wish to win any godforsaken race
The birds, the breeze and the sky are ours
And the water that quivers with banana leaves and fallen flowers
The clouds gather as the day matures
Whispers of an impeding storm reach these windy shores
Now we’ve left the trees behind and we’re in no man’s land
So it’s time to depart from this expanse so grand.

Backwaters cruise in Alleppey
Paddy fields, smaller fishermen’s boats and long canoes full of school children passed us by
Backwaters cruise in Alleppey
as our boatman kept us floating along at a gentle pace.
We'd lie down on the wooden boat and gaze at the coconut treed sky or dangle our legs on the side and let the water tease our toes.
We’d lie down on the wooden boat and gaze at the coconut treed sky or dangle our legs on the side and let the water tease our toes.

From 1 to 4 PM, the hotel also operates a ‘lunch on cruise’ that anyone can sign up for. In the near future, shikaras (long narrow boats that can go into narrow inlets and canals, unlike the larger houseboats) will also be available for use. We didn’t try the jet skis and speed boats but you definitely should!

Food and drinks

World in the Pot, as the name indicates, is a multi-cuisine restaurant attached to their Chinese restaurant China Town. We tried both local Kerala cuisine and Chinese dishes on various occasions and came away highly satiated. Funnily enough, the ground floor bar Pegs n Pints was deemed to be too unsafe for us due to the predominantly male, and on rare occasions, unruly crowd. It’s priced more attractively than the swankier roof-top bar, Venice, which also happens to offer stunning views of the entire coastline. The design and vantage point of the outdoor terrace surrounding the bar makes it the perfect spot to watch the annual boat races (the Nehru Trophy race begins on 12th August, so maybe you should pick up the phone and book your spot right now!).

Heavenly cream of tomato soup to kick off lunch
Heavenly cream of tomato soup to kick off lunch
Puttu with kadala (not seen here) for a traditional Kerala breakfast
Puttu with kadala (not seen here) for a traditional Kerala breakfast
Dinner at China Town, Ramada Alleppey
Vegetarian sizzler for a hefty dinner
Tripping on cocktails and delicious starters at Venice, the roof-top bar
Tripping on cocktails and delicious starters at Venice, the roof-top bar
The luxurious interiors of World in the Pot: Who wouldn't want to dine here?
The luxurious interiors of World in the Pot: Who wouldn’t want to dine here?

Abhyangam treatment at the spa

The four-year old Essence Spa at Ramada Alleppey is probably the best the town has to offer. We both chose the full-body Ayurvedic massage, called Abhyangam, on the advice of Dr. Shiny. Our therapists Diana and Arun used neela bhringadi oil for the head massage, dhanvataram oil for the body and the highly celebrated kumkumadi tailam oil for our faces. No part of our body was left out during the wonderful 90 minute massage (including shower time). The advantage of Ayurvedic massages is that they employ powerful oils and herbs, whose effects often last much beyond the therapy room. Currently, the rooms are separate for men and women but Dr. Shiny told us that they are planning to build a couple spa room. The seasonal karkidaka treatment routine is also an excellent option for those seeking relief from monsoon maladies.

Essence Spa at Ramada Alleppey
Therapy room at Essence Spa

Practical information

We’d definitely recommend Ramada Alleppey for a complete experience of Alleppey and its backwaters. And while we’re working on another post where we tell you about other attractions in the city, why don’t you take a look at this (Alleppey will be celebrating the 65th year of boat races in 2017):

Nehru boat race at Ramada Alleppey

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Mumbai: An unlikely addition to your bucket list

A lot of people come to Mumbai to find a job, make a life or fulfil a dream. But do a lot of people aspire to travel here? Does Mumbai inspire the same kind of awe that Cherrapunji or Spiti Valley do? Probably not, but it’s definitely deserving of a different kind of awe. Because quite simply, there’s no other city like Mumbai. No other place comes with the kind of chaos, tolerance, haste and multitude that this city does. As a tourist, you might balk at the impossible fullness of Mumbai’s trains and the stench of its seedier areas. But peel back the layers and you’ll also find inspiration in its seafront and stories, its history and heart.

The sea

Marine Drive in the rains
Marine Drive at dusk

The Arabian Sea snakes along Mumbai’s coastline, endowing the city with many scenic seaside spots. The queen among them has to be the iconic Marine Drive, immortalised in numerous films, songs and literature. Be it in the wee hours of the morning when the promenade is full of joggers and dog walkers or at the mysterious time of dusk, when the sea shimmers in hues of pink, saffron and indigo, Marine Drive is ceaselessly lovely. If you keep walking along the promenade, you’ll reach Nariman Point, where you can sit in quiet contemplation. Bandra’s Bandstand and Carter Road offer much scope for romancing the sea as well. You can climb down the steps and make your away across slightly slippery rocks to get up close and personal with the waves (unsafe during high tide). If you’re driving, the route along the Bandra Worli Sea Link will leave you awed. You can also get a good view of the entire sea link from Bandra Fort. The beaches at Juhu, Versova and Mahim (Dadar) are also among our favourite slices of Mumbai’s shoreline.

The architecture

CST station, Mumbai lit up in the night
CST station at night

Time has stood still in the arches and domes of South Mumbai’s stately edifices, with a little help from restoration work. The sheer magnificence and detailing of CST station, the erstwhile Victoria Terminus is enough to put the city on your bucket list. For a small fee, you can explore the inner chambers of the station complex and enjoy bird’s eye views of the city. Other heritage buildings in the area include The Times of India building and David Sassoon Library. The entire walkway on either side of D. N. Road feels like a journey through Mumbai’s colonial era. The Gateway of India monument is a short ride away from CST station and an epitome of architectural excellence. From the ferry point, you can enjoy boat rides on the sea and even go up to Alibag or Elephanta Island. The CSMVS and Bhau Daji Lad museums are also treasure troves of fascinating history.

The gardens

Maharashtra Nature Park
Maharashtra Nature Park

We love discovering little havens of natural beauty even in concrete jungles. While Aarey Colony may be under threat due to the imminent metro line, the gardens at Malabar Hill, Powai and Maharashtra Nature Park in Dharavi are still available for a welcome break from urban life. We wish Mumbai had its own version of Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens or London’s Hyde Park but the charming Hiranandani Garden at Powai with little fish ponds, lakes and stone sculpures is a pleasure to visit. And if you like bird-watching and studying bees and butterflies, Maharashtra Nature Park, overlooking the mangroves of Mithi River is a must-visit. We’ve also spent many cheerful evenings at Kamala Nehru Park and The Hanging Gardens at Malabar Hill.

The shrines

Mount Mary Church, Bandra, Mumbai
Mount Mary Church

Mumbai was, is and will always be a wonderful amalgamation of different cultures, communities, tongues and faiths. One of the best ways to get a sense of the city’s culture is to visit its picturesque temples, churches and mosques. The Haji Ali Dargah situated off the coast of Worli is one of the oldest and best known shrines in the city. Mount Mary Church in Bandra is another well-known landmark, especially during Christmas and the annual Bandra Fair. The seaside Mahalakshmi Temple and ISKCON Temple in Juhu are worth visiting for their beautiful architecture and spiritual significance. We also love exploring little known churches in the by-lanes of South Mumbai.

Need to know

Things to do in Mumbai - history, architecture

Eat: Streets take on a special significance in the Maximum City, for that’s where its residents come to shop, and that’s where they come for a flavourful bite. Mumbai’s street food specialities include vada pav, a kind of potato burger, pav bhaji, which is a gravy eaten with buttered Indian buns and various kinds of ‘chaat’ such as bhel, pani puri, sev puri, ragda pattice and dahi puri. If you’re worried about hygiene, try these at small-sized restaurants such as Som at Chowpatty.

Shop: Colaba Causeway has been our saviour since college days for its selection of pocket-friendly, yet trendy clothing, shoes, bags and accessories. Linking Road at Bandra is another option if you’re in the suburbs. But if you’re looking for speciality or bulk items, Crawford Market is your best bet. Here, you’ll find everything from cooking chocolate to decoration items and party masks.

Stay: There are several hotels in Mumbai to suit every budget, as well as homestays and guesthouses. The city is home to several luxurious five star hotels such as ITC Maratha near the airport and ITC Grand Central at Parel. These luxury collection hotels offer fascinating glimpses into Mumbai’s Maratha past and British colonisation and special weekend offers for staycations.

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The curative power of friends and a good breakfast

Somehow, pancakes and eggs do a much better job of soothing ruffled feathers than pasta or biryani

If you really love someone, meet them over breakfast (and that includes yourself). Don’t be weighed down by the carbohydrates of a heavy lunch or the illusory high of drinks at dinner. Allow good conversation, a sunny table and honeyed pancakes to infuse freshness into your life and spirit. And a nice double espresso can do wonders to bring you back to the pleasant present. You smile, you laugh and you learn to live in joy for the rest of the day.

I’ve had some of the best breakfasts in my home city – Mumbai. Be it brun maska and mawa cake at an Irani café or croissants and coconut crepes at a French one, the city has always filled my belly with good food and my soul with utter contentment. My best friends are also my favourite breakfast buddies. Over forkfuls of syrupy waffles and inappropriately large bites of basil and mozzarella sandwich, we nudge each other to offer up our dreams, secrets and pet philosophies. And they add their own unique flavour to the dishes.

Sometimes, I breakfast with a pen and book instead. We’ll bond over hot chocolate and talk to each other in verses, with nothing to interrupt us save a twittering bird or an interesting song. Books are just like people in that they both get consumed into your own self, altering you ever so slightly. And with both, you learn a different nuance every time you do a reading.

Whether your preferred breakfast company is of the breathing or the bound kind, here are twelve cafes and restaurants in Mumbai that won’t disappoint. Each one has a special place in my memories and all have borne witness to minor mutations in my view of life.

  1. St. Xavier’s canteen: Chocolate croissants, illicit affairs and struggling to fit in

But after a while, I simply stopped struggling. I wasn’t ready yet, to stop being a child and start being a ‘cool’ teenager and that was all right. I spent my days reading, writing, studying French and learning HTML, while my peers found boyfriends, bunked classes and auditioned for plays. I learnt that it is possible to be content doing things that are different from the norm.

P.S.: I don’t know if they still serve soft, warm croissants oozing with dark chocolate sauce. But back in 2005-06, they were legendary. And they only cost 15 rupees!

  1. Cha Bar, Oxford Bookstore: Exotic teas and the reassuring fragrance of books

Cafes in bookstores are one of the best inventions of our time (assuming they didn’t exist until the 20th century). You find a table, a book finds you and good tea keeps watch while you’re wrapped up in each other. Cha Bar was my first introduction to gourmet tea (I was pursuing my graduation then). One sip of their Kashmiri Kahwa could make me feel as elite as the crisp sari-clad artist at the next table.

Honorary mentions: Markiv’s Café for coffee and croissants, 210 Degrees for decadent pastries

  1. Gaylord Café: Kona coffee and wrought iron chairs

All I have are happy memories of this outdoor café, attached to one of the oldest restaurants of the area (Churchgate). Good friends, new friends, books, pens and solitude – I’ve brought them all to this place and they’ve all left happier and more caffeinated. My only grouse is that they’ve discontinued the fluffy whole wheat muffins.

Must try: Chocolate tart, tea cakes and muffins

  1. Food for Thought, Kitab Khana: Dark chocolate, apple tea and flavoured cupcakes

I finished reading the lion’s share of ‘Sophie’s World’, a fictionalised guide to philosophy, at this café in a bookstore. Whatever the temperature outside, I could never get enough of their perfectly sweet and tart apple tea. And their hot chocolate was as dark and murky as the mysterious portions in my book. Also, delicious as sin.

Tip: Have the cupcakes, priced at just Rs. 50 each (as of 2016)

  1. Suzette’s Creperie: Feeling French, watching people and passing time

I’ve been to two of their outlets. The one at Bandra has al fresco seating, which I love. The one at Nariman Point is smaller and stuffier, but dear to my heart for it has often helped me play the waiting game. Owned by a French woman named Suzette (but of course), the crepes here are perfection – both sweet and savoury varieties. I’ve met some forgettable people in those days (early working days) but perhaps the café remembers.

Honorary mention: Candies at Bandra (the one at Pali Hill), for its ample space and salad buffet

  1. Starbucks, Fort: Space, solitude and freedom

The only problem is their beverages are too light and lukewarm. On the plus side, the food is scrumptious – special mention to the chocolate muffin and paneer sandwich. This is the largest Starbucks I’ve seen and the area upstairs assures undisturbed privacy, not to mention an interesting view of the people downstairs. The best part is you can sit for hours without ordering anything new – perfect for getting work done. I’ve had some great business meetings at this Starbucks as well – I guess it’s lucky for me.

Honorary mention: The sea-facing Costa Coffee at Carter Road, Bandra offers breezy climes and a relaxing view

  1. Kyani & Co: Snobbish Irani café with humble pricing

You could eat and drink at this iconic Irani café for as low as 50 rupees but the waiters would have you believe otherwise. Be prepared for dismissive (bordering on rude) service and waiters who vanish before you’ve even finished speaking. But the mawa cakes, custard, tarts, puffs and tea make up for all of it. It’s strange but Kyani is special to me through a friend, who has enjoyed many lonesome breakfasts here and shared their accounts with me.

  1. Grandmama’s Café: A happy place where you’ll never go hungry

If ever you feel like the clouds in your life are obscuring all the rainbows, head to Grandmama’s Café. There are three outlets in the city (as of today) and all of them sport cheery interiors that are full of light. The menu is choc-a-bloc with waffles, pancakes, salads, eggs, sandwiches and pastries. Take a bite of their vanilla pancake, served with cinnamon fruit compote, vanilla ice-cream and maple syrup and contemplate the joy of existence. I was at their Dadar outlet with a friend yesterday and I can still hear the music – classic oldies played at just the right volume.

  1. The Nutcracker: Eggy goodness in a kitschy café

There isn’t much space here, so find a table quickly and order as much as you can stomach. Everything here is uber tasty and often heavy, so make this a brunch rather than breakfast. I travelled for over an hour to make it here for breakfast on a Sunday morning, but it was worth it, for the curative powers of friends and a good breakfast.

  1. Khar Social: Heaven in a tray, and drinks if you’d like them too

I have only a small number of close friends, so every other café/restaurant on this list reminds me of the same person. Memories of cheery conversations rush back, but I can remember exact experiences and weather details. Happiness isn’t all that easy to forget. By day, the Socials (there are several) are bright and lively breakfast joints. By night, they are bars that attract a youngish crowd.

I loved: Kiran’s Big Apple breakfast with pancakes, Oreos, fries, scrambled eggs and toast, all for Rs 280

  1. Annapurna Restaurant, Matunga: Give in to all your dosa idli fantasies

It’s tough to pick a favourite in a locality that’s dotted with authentic Udupi restaurants but Annapurna is special, for this is where my parents and I shared plates of perfectly prepared idli sambhar, uttapam and pineapple sheera after a hectic day of wedding shopping. I’m a Tam-Brahm with regular access to South Indian delicacies but I still don’t tire of tucking into Mysore masala dosas at restaurants. I think it’s all about the coconut chutney for me.

Honorary mention: Ram Ashraya, near the station

  1. Aaswad, Dadar: Quintessential Marathi fare in an artsy, air-conditioned ambience

I love a good Maharashtrian breakfast and Dadar is the best place in the city to get it. A few years ago, an acquaintance and I went searching for the famous Aaswad. It was unimaginably crowded, and after a 15 minute wait, we managed to get a table. “Be quick,” the waiter’s eyes seemed to signify. Poha, sabudana upma, missal pav and kothimbir vadi – this restaurant spins magic with everything on the menu. And you get to look at local art while you eat.

Go, meet a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Treat them to waffles and fresh juice. And enjoy the way their face breaks into a smile.

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Delhi in 48 hours

Cover the lion’s share of New Delhi’s architectural marvels, garden paradises and culinary secrets over an exciting weekend.

If you find yourself in India’s regal capital city for just 48 hours, fret not. While you may not be able to explore every single landmark of Delhi, you can get more than just a taste of its atmospheric Mughal-era monuments and stately government headquarters.

Day 1

Parliament, Ministries & President’s House

Rashtrapati Bhavan

The Sansad Marg area, bordering the Southern Ridge Forest is a beautiful quiet neighbourhood full of manicured gardens and palatial political abodes manned by tight security. Citizens are free to stroll across the area and gawk at the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhavan, which serves as the President’s house, the Parliament of India and the Defence and Home Ministries, fronted by lovely fountains that serve as a great backdrop for photos. Yes, you can pose for pictures as long as you don’t cross the barricades. One thing to note is that vehicles cannot be parked in this area so it’s better to park elsewhere and come to Sansad Marg on foot, or keep driving around for a good view.

India Gate

India Gate

As you drive along Rajpath Marg, you’ll see the famous arch of India Gate slowly coming into view, until you’re at its very doorstep. The war memorial pays homage to the 82000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died between 1914 and 1921 during the First World War. Their names are inscribed on one side of the arch. Around the main arch, you’ll also find clusters of bright flowers, gardens, a fountain and minaret. Beneath India Gate is the Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, which has served as India’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since 1971.

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

This is one of the most beautiful monuments in Delhi and deserves a detailed exploration. The stunning main structure may remind you of the Taj Mahal but here, the marble is interspersed with red stone and the turrets have azure tips. The tomb is housed inside this structure and there are various chambers and doorways that demand examination. Remember to look up, for the domed ceiling is surrounded by intricate latticed windows. There are many other tombs housed inside lovely structures in the Humayun’s Tomb garden complex. The octagonal Isa Khan Tomb enclosure predates Humayun’s Tomb by 20 years and is incredibly detailed as well.

Agrasen ki Baoli

Agrasen ki Baoli

This historical stepwell on Hailey Road has 108 steps and is made of red sandstone. Possibly named after the wealthy Agrawal community, the protected monument offers a stunning view from above. If you’re the adventurous kind, you may undertake the journey to its far-off depths, where bat nests and the dank smell typical of underground places await you. You can circle the stepwell at every level, admiring the inner arches.

Red Fort

Red Fort

End your first day in Delhi with a visit to the iconic Red Fort and perhaps a sound and light show at dusk. The fort complex is vast (over 250 acres) with over a dozen important structures that are often far apart, so be prepared for a lot of walking. You’ll often see eagles circling over the tall red sandstone towers, while happy tourists walk beneath the curved arches. Not all the structures inside the complex are red; some are pure white with grey patches due to age. On the pillars, you’ll often see Islamic style floral motifs. Don’t miss the Freedom-Struggle Museum, which lets you walk back in time to India’s fight for independence.

Akshardham Temple

Akshardham Temple
Courtesy: Pixabay

In case you decide not to go for any sound and light show (there’s a good one at Purana Qila as well), you can drive to the outskirts of Delhi to visit the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, the largest Hindu temple in the world. The opulence and perfection of this temple complex cannot possibly be described in words. Walking around its pools that reflect the surrounding towers is a sublime experience. For a fee, one can enjoy a cultural boat ride, watch the Sahaj Anand water show, visit the three exhibitions and the sunken lotus garden. Photography is prohibited.

Day 2

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar

The sprawling Qutub Complex, a captivating melange of ruins, gardens, tombs and temples houses the Qutub Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world. You’ll have to walk quite a distance to get the entire minaret in your frame! Seen from up close, the minaret has various inscriptions in Arabic and Nagari characters, which tell the story of its origin. Other landmarks in the Qutub Complex include the Alai Darwaza, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosquem, Tomb of Iltutmish, Ala-ud-din khalji Tomb and Alai Minar.

National Rail Museum

National Rail Museum

A one of its kind museum of trains and everything related to them, the Rail Museum is a wonderland for children and adults who are fascinated by vintage engines. You can walk among displays of actual steam locomotives built by different companies with placards displaying the details of their mechanics and lifespan. There is also a musical fountain, indoor museum and cafeteria at the museum. The interactive indoor museum is excellently built, featuring many games and quizzes that encourage you to explore India’s fascinating rail history.

Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar

At first sight, Jantar Mantar looks like a collection of interestingly shaped structures that seem to be oddly spiritual in nature. But it’s actually a set of 18th century observatories constructed by Maharaja Jai Singh II, a keen lover of astronomy. There are four main yantras, housed within six structures. Back in the day (around 1724 AD), these instruments gave quiet precise readings and enabled Jai Singh II to prepare a revised set of astronomical tables.

Lodi Gardens

Lodi Gardens

This impossibly vast garden and monument complex replete with storybook lakes, architectural marvels, lush foliage and rich biodiversity will truly charm your soul. While locals come here to walk, play, perform yoga, feed the swans or engage in bird-watching and photography, the tourist in you will be drawn to the three-domed Bara Gumbad Mosque full of Arabesque stucco decorations and paintings. Then there are the tombs of Muhammad Shah and Sikander Lodi, after whom the gardens are named. Watching the sun set beyond the Sheesh Gumbad is an ethereal experience.

Lotus Temple

Lotus Temple Delhi

End your two-day tour of Delhi with a visit to the lotus-shaped Baha’i Temple, a place of worship with no affinity to any one religion. 27 free-standing marble-clad ‘petals’ were arranged in triads to form nine sides and construct the temple. The temple complex is spread across 26 acres and includes nine pools and serene gardens. Though it’s not open to visitors at night, the temple looks arresting from the outside when it’s lit up.

Fact file

Stay: Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon and Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport are convenient options for touring Delhi as they offer top-notch five star facilities, city tours in luxury cars and classy accommodation with excellent views. Both hotels have in-house spas where skilled masseurs can bring solace to your tired feet after a hectic day of sight-seeing.

Eat: Bella Italia, a cheerful Italian restaurant with woody interiors and kitschy wall art is a great option for lunch or dinner. Wildfire at Gurgaon is a part of the international chain of gourmet Brazilian restaurants and a must-visit for meat lovers. Enjoy a quick lunch buffet at Vito or Café G and evening drinks at Hangar, an aviation-themed bar in Delhi and Connexions, a 24 hour bar in Gurgaon.

Shop: A trip to Delhi is incomplete without a visit to Delhi Haat, famous for its collection of Punjabi juttis, jewellery, dress material and other artefacts.

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