Wednesday, 28 March 2012

3.6.12: Amber Fort, Jaipur

Mr. Khan, Aunty Truli's friend in Jaipur arranged a driver for us to tour around the city and beyond.  Beyond because later that evening, he drove 35km to get to Chowki Dhani but I will write about that later.  :P  When we were in Hawa Mahal, I heard the guide pointed out to Amber Fort.  I was curious so Luke and I consulted the book.  It turns out to be one of our most amazing finds in Jaipur.  :)

Amber Fort or Amer Palace is the only place in India where we hired a guide.  Mainly because it was 200 Rupees cheap.  Few things I found interesting about Amber Fort and the area:

1.  They have two entrances, the moon and the sun door.  As I remember, the sun door is for common people and the moon door for royalties.
2.    The queen was kept hidden from everyone.  She watched shows or parades over her small window facing the courtyard.
3.  There are two palaces inside, the Winter Palace and the Summer Palace for obvious reasons.  Each queen got her own room.
4.  The Summer Palace used to be adorned by actual precious stones.  The Winter Palace is made of mirrors so the fire will reflect during performances.
5.  The rooms for the king's mistresses is constructed in labyrinth style and noone is allowed to see anyone, not even the mistresses unless they are in the common ground.
6.  The king tried to make saffron garden to no success.  The soil  is unsuitable for growing saffron.
7.  The fort is surrounded by man-made Lake.
8.  There are still royalties, ei Kings and Queens in Rajasthan. 
9.  Just like most palaces in India, the design on the palace entrance is hand painted with natural dye.  Gold and precious stones were used too.

I was attacked by a black faced monkey in Amber Fort.  Good thing I was quick to react, quick to react "fuckkkk!"  LOL!  I wasn't even looking at it.  I think it saw it's reflection on my sunnies and was distraught by it.  You can certainly feel my embarrassment and fear after the incident.
Amber Fort is located on top of a hill.  The drive was amazing.  It feels like I'm on a different country.  Well I was, but it feels more like Morocco as described by my friend.  :)


This entrance is hand painted with natural dyes, precious stones and gold.
The garden inside the palace.
The Winter Palace being cleaned.  I can imagine how it was a painful task.
The saffron garden and the man-made lake surrounding it.
Original piece of door from centuries ago.
Snake charmer. It sucks his snake didn't dance!  He didn't do a very good job of "charming" it and yet we still need to pay.  :P

TIPS:

1.  Take a guide.  He will tell you inside secrets and tell you the story of each room.  We paid 200 Rupees for the both of us.
2.  Bring food and water but keep your litter.  There was only few cafes at the end of the tour.
3.  Do not tease the animals to avoid getting attacked.
4.  Do not go with the guide when they say, I'm gonna show you something about Rajasthan, how they make this and that.  Yeah, it was interesting but they will take you to a big building selling souvenirs and you can't exit until you see everything.  Luke and I were a victim of this.  Thank God we have the courage to say no.  Hehehe.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

3.6.12: Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Three places to visit whilst in Jaipur's Pink City - 1.  Jantar Mantar  2.  City Palace  and 3.  Hawa Mahal.  These places are within close proximity with each other. When in doubt, ask.  :)

I wasn't interested in Jantar Mantar nor the City Palace.  Luke wanted to see Jantar Mantar though.  I told him that we saw the exact same thing in Delhi(only in red) on our way from Janpath but he couldn't recall.  

Jantar means instrument and Mantar, calculation.  It is a collection of astronomical instruments. But if you ask me, it looked more like a sculpture exhibit.  I didn't how know it functions but it is amazing to see how they can built something so modern hundreds of years ago. 

If you want to know more about Jantar Mantar, click here.
 Hawa Mahal can be seen from Jantar Mantar too. :)

 There are lots of squirrels in India. I've seen lots in Red Fort.



Tuesday, 20 March 2012

3.6.12: Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Luke always consider what I want.  I won't disagree with that.  When he asked me where I wanted to go, I said Jaipur and Goa immediately without thinking and researching.  Little did I know that that's the best decision that I did.  I had so much fun everyday on this trip and still enamoured with India but I was most stimulated on the places that I picked.  :)

We only had a full day in Jaipur and for our first stop, Hawa Mahal.

Hawa Mahal means Palace of the Winds.  It is made of pink and red sandstone. That's how much I know about it.  We didn't pay for a guide. :P  It's architecture design is amazing and made me wish that I know more about architecture and design.  It's honeycomb fascade is the thing that attracted me most to it.

Entrance Fee:  50 Rupees






Saturday, 17 March 2012

3.5.12: Candolim & Aguada Bike Tour

Are you staying in Candolim area?  Have you rented a motor bike and still have few hours to spare?  I think this "quickie" activity will suit you.

I woke up earlier than expected in our last day in Goa.  I felt like I needed to explore the place some more.  Luke on the other hand felt like sleeping still.  He was knackered driving me around Goa.  I wanted to take photo of Calangute for this blog but he didn't like the busy vibe there so we ended up exploring the Candolim area instead.

There are few places that you can't miss when visiting Candolim & Aguada:

1. Aguada Fort

I think there are two ways to get to the Aguada Fort. One following the Taj Holiday Village route overlooking the Sinquerim beach and the other by following the road signs to Aguada Fort and Aguada Jail.  Here's a map to illustrate better:

route a.  Following Taj Holiday Village(Vivanta by Taj) signs.
route b.  Following the road signs to Aguada Fort and Aguada Jail.

 2.  Sinquerim Beach

A very stunning beach with white sand. This is quieter than most beaches in Goa. A stone throw away from Aguada Fort(route a).
  
3. Aguada Jail

Photography not allowed. :P  
The Aguada Jail is a fully functional jail still.
Curiosity lead us here when we didn't like what we saw in Aguada Fort following route b.  Luke and I agreed that we've been to better fort, like the Red Fort in Delhi.

It is very interesting to drive around Goa because you will see cows and elephants on the road. I used to see elephants every morning when I visited my mum in Thailand for 6 weeks.  In India, seeing cows on the road is normal.  Monkeys are everywhere in Jaipur and Agra.  

Here are few things that you need to know when you are driving in Goa:

1.  You need a license in case the police stops you.
2.  Helmet is a must.  We did use helmet on our trip but we saw lots of people without it.
3.  You will be driving in intersections and busy roads.  Stay alert for incoming vehicles and animals.  Remember you are in India and cows, elephants, dogs and any sort of animals are free to roam around the streets.
4.  Do not forget to check your horn.  In India, everyone uses the horn.  In turning, you need the horn so is when you need to overtake.

We only saw elephants in the morning.  I am assuming that this must be an early morning blessing.

Where to Eat in Goa?

We love to eat as much as we love to travel.  Wherever we were, Luke and I would always eat good food or at least try the area's speciality.  In the mornings, we get free breakfast buffet from our hotel, snacks/crisps for lunch and we go to restaurants for dinner.  These were the restaurants that we tried in Goa.

1.  Gato Loco

I picked this restaurant because I liked the al fresco ambiance and the small bulb lights.  Yes, I am gay that way.  I had enough of curry at this point on our holiday and wanted to eat normal food.  I saw Paella and that did it for me.
I was happy when I saw my order as it was stuffed with seafood.  Taste wise, I was disappointed.  Biryani rice was used instead of the normal paella rice and it was strong on spices.  I ate seafood only. :)  Luke liked his meal on the other hand.  I tried it but wasn't really satisfied.

The owner was very entertaining.  She asked if I liked my meal and I had to lie and said yes.  Our meal came to 800 Rupees which I think was okay.  Tax is included in the menu price too.  



2.  Republic of Noodles

Is located in Lemon Tree Amarante Hotel and is Times Food Awardee for the year 2010-2011 as 'Best Pan Asian Restaurant in North Goa'.  It serves South East Asian Cuisine.  

I was very surprised how much effort they put in the interior of the restaurant.  It is Asian themed .  We ordered Tom Yum for starter, I had beef rendang and Luke had Thai noodles.  The tom yum wasn't as spicy as I liked it to be.  My beef rendang tasted amazing but they cooked it in thai red curry style.  I wonder if I actually had beef as cows are sacred in India. They even beep shows cooking with beef.  Luke didn't like his Thai noodles.  He got high standards with Thai food as he used to live there.  The serving is massive.  

Our bill was expensive.  We paid over 2,100 Rupees for everything.



3. Over the Flames, The Crazy Mango Tree

According to Luke's theory, it was called the crazy mango tree because the mango tree that they had on the restaurant had it's roots sticking out everywhere.  It looked like a mutated log with roots on both ends.  

We found this restaurant on our night motor bike ride tour to Calangute.  Initially, Luke wanted me to pick a place to eat but I can't decide.  Decision making isn't my strongest point.  :P  I was overwhelmed but how much choices I have.  

We wanted to eat Goan food.  Goan food I found are mostly seafood meals.  We ordered fish for starter, a kingfisher which costed 700 Rupees.  We had fantastic curry cooked in a clay pot and a paneer(cottage cheese) in gravy which I was addicted to.  This restaurant served the best meal in Goa at a very reasonable price.  Luke and I were dreaming of the meal still the next day.  :)

Friday, 16 March 2012

Lemon Tree Amarante, Candolim Goa

We did everything last minute on our trip to India.  Luke booked my flight one week before our trip and the accommodations are booked just before we arrived, usually with our flight leaving the next day. The only thing that we booked 1 week in advance was the train.  Even then, we were wait listed from New Delhi to Agra.  It annoys the hell out of me.  Luke was as usual, more relaxed than I was.  

We were torn if we are gonna go cheap with accommodation, (mind you, Luke was spending £100 per night at least with hotels and the trip was for 12 days)  or splurge but no Marni at H&M.  Luke decided to splurge and it was the best decision that we did.  I realised that in Candolim area, the only beach front were the beach shacks.  Shacks if I may describe, are restaurants by the beach made of nipa huts.  I was shocked by this as it looked closer to the beach by google earth.  Hahahaha!  I was used to having accommodations overlooking the beach.  I'm one of the lucky ones. :)

Lemon Tree Amarante is an upscale resort that offers 65 guest rooms and suites.  Each room offers a flat screen, a dvd player with DVD to borrow from the front desk, cable TV, toiletries and air-conditioning.  Each room gets 2 liters of bottled water replenished daily.  They have swimming pool for kids and adult, gym, spa, coffee shop and a restaurant called Republic of Noodles.

The Room:

I was disappointed at first when we got to the room.  I was expecting a better view but we had the neighbour's fence instead.  It didn't affect my good impression of the room though.  It was clean, smelt fresh, spacious and in line with the hotel's Portuguese theme.  I hate that they put two beds together to make one bed.  Luke and I once again ended up sleeping on separate beds. :(

Over All Impression:

I would definitely stay in the hotel again.  The place is safe, clean and the staffs friendly.  No tips required.  The breakfast buffet is good although I'm not a fan of Indian food for breakfast.  

TIPS:
  • Wanting to use the pool? Go early as it gets very busy.  Most guest would leave their towels on the sunbeds which Luke and I despised.
  • Staying in?  Borrow dvd from the front desk.
  • Off to the airport?  The hotel service costs 2000 Rupees vs the 1200 Rupees taxi at the hotel entrance.
  • Wanna explore Candolim?  Use their complimentary bike.









Thursday, 15 March 2012

3.4.12: Bike Tour: Panaji, Goa

You have to understand that all the shots were done in a hurry.  If not for this blog, I won't take photos of Panaji and will just enjoy the bike ride with my fiance.  But I love you my readers so I did this for you.  :-P

Goa is best explored with a motorbike.  I know that by experience. It's not your usual beach destination on a small island. Well it's not an island to start with.  It is more like a developed city with big roads and intersections. You can travel by auto-rickshaws too but that will cost you lots of money.  A motorbike can go for 250 Rupees for 24 hours but you have to pay for the gas.  We paid 400 Rupees for a full tank but used half of it for more than 30 kilometers bike ride.  It was the most fun I've been in India.  I thank Luke for being my driver in India and putting up with me when I got frustrated looking for the tourist spots.

As you all know, Luke like to buy guide books.  I found a page telling us how to explore Panaji.  The directions was badly done though we ended up near Miramar beach.  The spot was actually the beginning of Panaji. If you see the Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion church then you know that you went too far.  It was a good starting point for our trip though.  We took the small road at the right side of the church and kept on driving from there until we found the St. Sebastian Chapel. It is another white church on the right side of the road so keep you eyes peeled.  It is fittingly located in St. Sebastian Road.
Our trip started with the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception,
 Pato Bridge
Do not go on Sundays. Churches are closed.  St. Sebastian Road where the St. Sebastian Chapel is. It is adjacent to Rua Natale.

  The next 3 photos were taken in Rua Natale
 Rua Natale is filled with multi coloured houses.
This reminded me of Nando's.  The chicken triggered it!

and ended with Maruti Temple.

I google mapped(if there's such a thing as google mapped) the direction to show you roughly how we did our tour. It was less than 2 km apart.
  Did I tell you that Panaji used to be a Portuguese settlement?  This explains the colour coded and colourful houses and tiled signages.  This also explains why there are so many churches in Goa.  I've never been to a place with churches and chapels 5 minutes away from each other.  More than what my country have!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

3.4.12: Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa

Luke and I wanted to explore Goa by motor bike.  I thought he was gonna let me drive despite not having previous driving experience(I'm that crazy) and no driver's license.  I'm glad he didn't as the roads in Goa are busy!  I was constantly having heart attack whilst on the motor bike. LOL!  Luke wanted to go to Old Goa and I wanted to go to Panaji.  We ended up in Old Goa first then stumbled upon Panaji.  Goa government, please put up more signs!!!

Bom Jesus literally means Holy Jesus. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a UNESCO World Heritage site(as most of the places that I've been in India and have written entries here) and is located in Old Goa.  In here lies the body of St. Francis Xavier. 


Entrance Fee: FREE, you can visit the art gallery for a fee but we didn't go.

Reminder:

Please dress appropriately as you are entering a sacred place.  



Tuesday, 13 March 2012

3.2.12-3.3.12: Candolim Beach, Goa

2 things that I didn't realise prior to my trip to Goa - 1. Not all beaches are located in an island and 2.  not all sands in famous asian beaches are white.  I now know how ignorant I was.  Luke made me realise how lucky I am living in the Philippines where white sand is normal.

In Goa, we stayed in Candolim.  Candolim is 2 km away from Calangute which is a backpackers haven and Baga beach.  It's not as busy as Calangute which is a good sign if you wanna relax.  There is an abundance of restaurants and bars catering to different cuisines, small spas everywhere and there is a guaranteed flea market every 5 minutes or so of walking.  The beach is busier than the streets though.  The sea shore is wide which I like, lined with the usual sun beds.  Most of them are free if you buy a drink or snack from their bars.  Local woman selling sarongs and tunics are rampant.  Most women who sell sarong would also offer massages on the beach, manicure and pedicure.  The current is very strong.  I don't think you can swim in the water.  It is good to play in the water though.  You can tell by my video that I had fun.  :)
video

Do not underestimate the waves.  This photo was taken before I hit my head in the sand and scratched my shoulder.  I wouldn't advise kids to go unsupervised.

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