Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Orchha - the land of Architectural History

We were planning a holiday and looking for a new destination.  We were anyway planning on visiting St. Jude’s Shrine in Jhansi. While looking for hotels, I came across some lovely resorts in Orchha.  Researching on this new place opened up quite a few interesting facts and snippets of history.

I got to know that Orchha is a town in Tikamgarh district of Madhya Pradesh state, India. The town was established by Maharaja Rudra Pratap Singh in 1501, , who became the first King of Orchha. Orchha was the seat of an eponymous former princely state of central India, in the Bundelkhand region.

Orchha lies on the Betwa River, 80 km from Tikamgarh & 15 km from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. The medieval city of Orchha seems to have frozen in time, its palaces and temples still retaining their original grandeur.

HERITAGE  -  A visit to this ancient capital of Bundelkhand, with its 16th and 17th century palaces and temples situated on the banks of the Betwa river, will give you a glimpse of a bygone era – the ‘India of the Maharajas’ http://orchha.org/
The Jahangir Mahal is considered to be a singularly beautiful specimen of Mughal architecture. The Uth Khana(Camel Shelter) where the King's camels were stationed is right next to the fort and is a must see. Tourists can also climb on the roof of the Uth Khana and get a fastastic view of Orchha town. The ruins behind the fort complex is an even greater watch. It makes a tourist travel back in time and is an integral part of a visit to Orchha. It houses the residences various military officers, ministers (housing, roads etc.), gunpowder factory etc.. Numerous cenotaphs or chhatris dot the vicinity of the fort and the Betwa river. (Wikipedia)







Explore :
In the Laxminarayan Temple and Raj Mahal, vibrant murals encompassing a variety of religious and secular themes, bring the walls and ceilings to rich life. Strewn around the area are the little shrines and memorials, each with its own poignant history, each contributing to the nostalgic beauty that is Orchha.

Stay –

I stayed at Amar Mahal and was very pleased with my experience there. For more details, please visit my post on Trip Advisor. (MarieNaviMumbai)
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g319728-d646763-r223123617-Amar_Mahal_Hotel-Orchha_Madhya_Pradesh.html#REVIEWS

Amar Mahal is located on a small hill, a stone’s throw away from the impressive cenotaphs along the Betwa river.  This location offers panoramic views of the monuments and surrounding landscape.  The resort is built and decorated in the traditional Bundelkhand architectural style and is spread along lush lawns and well kept gardens offering a picturesque and relaxing environment for a vacation.







  
Getting There -
Nearest airport is at Gwalior (119 km), which is connected with regular flights from Delhi & Bhopal.
Orchha lies on a diversion from the Jhansi-Khajuraho road. Regular bus services connect Orchha with Jhansi. Tempos and taxis are also available.
 Nearest railhead is Jhansi (16 km), on the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai main lines. All major mail and express trains stop at Jhansi.

DO VISIT -
JEHANGIR MAHAL:
Built by Raja Bir Singh Ju Deo in the 17th century to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir to Orchha. Its strong lines are counterbalanced by delicate chhatris and trellis work, the whole conveying an effect of extraordinary richness.
CHATURBHUJ TEMPLE:
Built upon a massive stone platform and reached by a steep flight of steps, the temple was specially constructed to enshrine the image of Rama that remained in the Ram Raja Temple. Lotus emblems and other symbols of religious significance provide the delicate exterior ornamentation. Within, the sanctum is chastely plain with high, vaulted walls emphasizing its deep sanctity.

LAXMINARAYAN TEMPLE:
A flagstone path links this temple with the Ram Raja Temple. The style is an interesting synthesis of fort and temple moulds. The interiors contain the most exquisite of Orchha's wall paintings. Covering the walls and ceiling of three halls, these murals are vibrant compositions and cover a variety of spiritual and secular subjects. They are in excellent state of preservation, with the colours retaining their vivid quality.
RAM RAJA TEMPLE:

The Ram Raja Temple is perhaps the most important though unusual of all the temples in Orchha. This is the only temple in the country where Rama is worshipped as a king that too in a palace. According to legends, once Lord Rama appeared in a dream to king Madhukar Shah and directed him to build a temple for him. The king followed the instructions given by Rama and brought his idol from Ayodhya, the birthplace of the lord. However, the construction of the temple was not complete when the idol arrived from Ayodhya. So it was kept in the palace for the time being. Later, the king remembered that in the dream Lord Rama had specifically mentioned that his idol could not be removed from the place where it has been originally kept. This led the king to abandon the construction of the temple and instead the palace where the idol was kept was converted into a temple.

Friday, September 14, 2012


A WALK IN THE HILLS

Sweet corn roasting over an open coal fire slathered with melting butter and sea salt,  the silky taste of rich chocolate walnut fudge, crisp crushed peanut chikki, pleasant cool winds, rolling hills, icy cold showers of rain, traffic snarls on a Sunday,

WHERE WERE WE ? !!!  We were at LONAVALA.

The hubby and I were due for a long awaited complimentary welcome holiday from Sterling Holidays Resorts Ltd.  After hemming and hawing for months together, we decided to take the well earned break during the first week of September. It was not the ideal month to travel to Lonavala but our dates were running out.

Since it was going to be a short weekend break for 2 nights / 3 days, I zeroed onto Hotel Mayur Sterling, 3 kms from the main town area. It’s a lovely hotel located between Khandala and Lonavala’s market area.

Lonavala is a popular hill station beautifully located amongst the hills and valleys of the Sahyadri range in Maharashtra, India, about 100 kms from Mumbai and 69 kms from Pune and is located at a height of 625 meters above sea level.  Lonavala, located by Sir Elphinstone, the then Governor of Bombay Presidency in 1871, derived its name from a Sanskrit word Lonavli means caves.  

Khandala is 5 km before Lonavala and gifted with abundant natural beauty, set at a height of 625 m.

Both hill stations are great for a honeymoon or a family vacation during the weekend and is bestowed with many historical forts, ancient caves and wonderful serene lakes.

WHEN TO GO 

Summers (April and May)  are quite mild while Winters i.e. November-February, are cool.  It rains heavily during the monsoon especially between June and September. The best time to visit Khandala or Lonavala is between October and May. It is not advisable to visit during the Monsoon.

HOW DID WE GET THERE  

By Air : Khandala / Lonavala does not have an in-town airport. To reach the place by air one has to fly either to Mumbai or Pune Airports.

There are plenty of buses from Mumbai and Pune.

We took a bus from Chembur Naka (Mumbai) at around 7 am. It takes around 2 ½ hours to Lonavala.  I enquired earlier and did a thorough research on where to board the bus, disembark, how to get to the hotel, how far was the main shopping area .

The hotel advised us to alight at Khandala exit on the Expressway.  We walked down a little slope to Hotel Kamath where we had breakfast after  which we hopped onto an auto for the hotel. The auto charged us Rs 70. I am not sure how many kms it was but it took us around 10 mins.

There is a green Dargah along the Old Mumbai Pune Highway and a little stony path sloping down from the side of the Dargah which leads to the Hotel. The staff welcomed us warmly and were very gracious during the entire stay.

Our room was clean with a little balcony overlooking a picturesque view of the neighbouring hillside dotted with homes. Everything was green as it was during the monsoons and clean washed fresh with the rain.



DAY 1

We stepped out for lunch which was at Kumar Resort , Lonavala market. The auto charged us Rs 50.

I must add that the auto fares are pretty steep in Lonavala. Most of our expense was in commuting between the hotel and main town. What might have been only Rs 12 (minimum fare) in Mumbai was costing us Rs. 50-60.  It was Rs. 60 till the Lonavala station.

The road branches off from Kumar Resort winds its way to the Lonavala station and is lined with lots of  shops, MacDonald’s, etc.

We walked down from Kumar Resort to St. Joseph’s Church. We passed a shopping complex, National Chikki Mart, Rupam Chikki, Cooper’s , shops selling toys, expresso coffee, a small takeaway (the Uttapam and Sheera is good there), swimming costumes etc.

There is a roundabout midway which turns right to Bushi Dam and Amby Valley. The road straight ahead leads to the church and station.

St. Joseph’s Church is a very old church, built in 1867. It is a small church but with a beautiful interior, high wooden arched ceiling, golden chandeliers, wall lamps, a beautiful Tabernacle and Sanctuary. The altar is circular similar to Mount Mary, Bandra, Mumbai.




The ambience is prayerful and peaceful. The congregation is lively. The Mass we attended was during the Novena of the Nativity of Our Lady. It was a lovely spiritual experience .

Dinner was back at the hotel . This time the hotel advised us to take the Masti Package which was for Rs 480 (for 2 meals per day, per person). When we went down for dinner, we found the entire hotel at the buffet table !!!  Everyone had opted for the same.

The buffet was wholesome with unlimited food , good service and a colourful spread !!!

DAY 2

We decided to spend our second day relaxing by the swimming pool. My little son and hubby enjoyed themselves splashing around .  After all that swimming , we were hungry !!

We had signed in for breakfast and dinner in the Masti Package. So we hopped into an auto again and got off Radha Krishna Restaurant for lunch.

The evening was spent in our balcony sipping tea  and taking in the lovely view across. It was so peaceful, relaxing. It was also raining heavily throughout out stay but it was a different feeling. Hill stations during the light monsoons …  Well !!! One has to experience that for themselves.

DAY 3

Time to return to Mumbai and home. We took a bus from Neeta’s Inn where Neeta Volvo buses stop by on their way from Mahabaleshwar, Pune etc.

WHAT TO SEE

Tourists travelling to Lonavala can visit a lot of caves, parks, dams, lakes. Please visit http://lonavala.mumbaigetaways.com/places-to-see.html

But the scenery and greenery is to die for.

WHAT  TO BUY

Fudge  - This old-fashioned silky smooth fudge that's dotted with just the right amount of nuts is sure to appeal to sweet tooth of all ages. Cooper’s (a Paris establishment close to the church) is associated with the most delicious fudge especially the the CHOCOLATE ALMOND was much better I felt. Far more silky.  Strawberry fudge wasn’t so bad either.

Cooper's, a hole-in-the-wall shop near Lonavla station is responsible for a whole population of travellers taking a detour to the hill station.taking a detour to the hill station while on their way to Pune or beyond. Their products high on taste but don't expect a swanky store that dishes out dessert in fancy packaging. In fact, it's nothing more than a counter guarded by staff and the lady owner.

For more information please click on links below .. 

Chikki – Energy bars made from jaggery, glucose and sugar which provides nourishment and energy to the human body. Therefore it is a highly nutritious food, easily digestible, chewable and gives instant energy.  Chikki does not contain synthetic agents like preservatives or food colours and is suitable for all ages; even children and expectant mothers. 

There are a lot of varieties; the most popular being Peanut Chikki , Groundnut Chikki.
 Peanut Brittle/Chikki is a healthy, delicious traditional candy made from peanuts and jaggery. It can be eaten alone or with snacks and is a perfect replacement for chocolates.

The Chocolate Butterscotch chikki was tasty too !!!  My little son loved it.

Maganlal – They are an old establishement  and well established. In fact they are celebrating 125 yrs. http//maganlal.com

They sell a lot of things besides chikki and fudge in Mango , Strawberry and a lot of other flavours. Their Chocolate Bites - Mango, Litchi, Orange. Strawberry, Pineapple.
They have pre packed Gift packs  .






Monday, July 30, 2012


It all began with a spiritual desire and a vow to be fulfilled… at Infant Church, Nasik. Nasik is a city in Maharashtra, India and is located 180 km from Mumbai and 202 km from Pune. The shrine has its own website which I scoured for information about travel, lodging, mass timings etc. http://www.infantjesusnashik.com/


Infant Jesus shrine - Nasik


The Shrine does have a Pilgrim Rest House for pilgrims at a nominal charge and subject to availability upon arrival, for a maximum of two days (48 hours), only for "Pilgrims" to the Shrine. The website now claims that the Rest House has been renovated to provide better accommodation facilities to pilgrims and senior citizens. Pilgrims may also find suitable accommodation at reasonable rates in Hotels - next to the Nasik Railway Station. Shalom Guest House, Durga International Hotel and Hotel The Landmark are very close to the Shrine.

After food for the soul, there is food for the body at the Canteen behind the Shrine in the same premises which provides meals at reasonable rates. However, meals have to ordered and paid for in advance.

The Shrine Remains Open Daily from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

A little about the statue of Infant Jesus which originated in Prague; the devotion has spread to all corners of the world. 

(As per the website www.infantjesus.com – Infant Jesus of Prague - The Devotion to the Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague began in the Czech Republic and has since spread from central Europe throughout the world. While little has been said about Christ's infancy, through His words; visionaries and saints, we have learned much about the importance of the 'state of infancy' and the child-like qualities that one needs to adopt in order to enter into God's kingdom.


Infant Jesus - Prague

The sweet face of the Child Jesus attracts visitors through its beauty. The right hand of the child is raised in blessing, while his left hand holds a sphere surmounted by a cross – the whole of our universe rests in his hands…

The very qualities of child-like simplicity, trust, humility and dependency that characterize children need be contemplated, accepted and eventually adopted in our own lives as we live and struggle in a world of challenges and contradictions. Not so much 'childish' as child-like in nature, through prayer we humbly ask the Holy Infant to wean us of our need to control our family, friends and own personal lives as He teaches us to surrender all things to His will. With trust and faith in His words: "Ask and you shall Receive, Knock and the door shall Open", we actively place our needs in His little hands in the hope that He will continue to show us what it means to be more like Him.

In this respect, as our encounter with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords deepens, the lessons taught and shown to us through this particular devotion become even more crucial to our ability to successfully navigate through a chaotic world.)Replicas of the original statue have been made in countless thousands throughout the world. Today, it is familiar to every Catholic and inspires all to venerate the holy image with a devotion to the Christ-Child. So many graces have been received by those who invoke the Infant Jesus novena for 9 consecutive hours. “All who approach the miraculous statue and pray there with confidence” receive assistance in danger, consolation in sorrows, aid in poverty, comforts in Anxiety, light in spiritual darkness streams of grace in dryness of soul, health in sickness and hope in despair”.



Infant Jesus - Nasik 



Many a curious devotee has wondered as to why the holy Shrine of the Infant Jesus came to be located at Nasik, The Propagation of the devotion to the Infant Jesus which spread like wild fire was started by Fr. Peter Lewis S. J. (1915-1992) in Nasik

Our excitement grew as the day drew closer. Our trip was coincidently planned soon after the Shrine feast which is usually celebrated in February. We were looking forward to finally visit the famous Shrine and had planned a day trip. Besides, our little son had never been there before.

We boarded the bus from Mumbai on foggy morning in February at around 7:30 am. We were dropped off in front of Hotel Dwarka, Nasik by 10 am. There is a little restaurant near the hotel where we went for breakfast before moving on to the Shrine.  

After that it was a rush to get to the Shrine before the last mass at 12 noon; we did make it well ahead of time. There are plenty of auto rickshaws at the crossing where the bus drops off the passengers from Mumbai; the bus carries on to Shirdi.

The Shrine has a simple facade and a nondescript interior. What draws the pilgrim is the resplendent statue of Infant Jesus behind the altar. Such calm and peace in the church and such childlike innocence coupled with overwhelming regality. The statue itself represents Jesus as a very small child, wearing a simple gown. This statue, sublime in its simplicity, is dressed in a white alb and royal robes to express the thought that is common to all Christians, that this child is a king of the house of David, and, what is more, that Jesus is Son of God and God himself; King of Kings and Lord of Lords.



Infant Jesus - Bangalore



The sermon was inspiring and encouraging. The prayers were meaningful.  My little baby a little over a year old fell asleep towards the end exhausted from the long (for him) bus journey.

After the mass, we visited the Souvenir shop on the premises and bought a replica of the statue and some other significant religious articles.

Since it was close to lunchtime, we made our way towards the back of the Shrine to the common washrooms and canteen. I had a Veg meal as it was during Lent (and I abstain from Non-Veg during that period) and my husband took the Non-Veg meal. Both were equally nice and tasty; the exception was the Chicken curry in the Non-Veg meal which my son enjoyed. In all, It was a slow relaxing meal in a near empty dining hall. 

It was 3 pm and time to return to Mumbai and home. We stepped out of the Shrine gate and I saw the board directing all to Shalom Guest House a little ahead, to the left. It takes about 5mins to get there. I had heard of this place from the Shrine website but couldn’t find any pictures. This time we got a good look at the place in case we require to stay there in future.
The tariff is Non AC (2 beds) Rs 950 and AC Rs1150. Extra mattress is Rs 200. Checkout time is 1 pm. Tel: 0253 – 2414119, 2421213. Mob: 9604662703

We hopped into an auto sharing with 2 others and got down at the Bus Depot (I think it was Bombay Naka). 
There were a line of travel agents and luxury buses lined up. We got the bus quick enough and were on our way back to Mumbai.

An unforgettable trip with memories for keeps.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What a Beautiful World

God's creation of this beautiful world is spellbounding. There is so much to see and discover ; the ferns, the flowers, the fields, the beautiful skies in all its hues and colours..... I could go on and on.....

If you come across any publication who needs a place to be covered to promote it, do let me know. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

My Panchgani Diary



My   PANCHGANI   Diary

THE IDEA - The rolling hills and silver oaks invited us to visit them at Panchgani. We had heard a lot about the breathtaking view from every corner of Panchgani and were intrigued. So finally, we decided to make the trip in December 2009. Yes! My mother and I are just back from the cozy town of Panchgani.



THE PLACE - Panchgani is around 21 kms (30 mins) before the other more popular and populated sister hill station, Mahabaleshwar. It is in the state of Maharashtra, India and an ideal place for a quick getaway. The travel agents tried very hard persuading us to go to Mahabaleshwar instead but we were firm on our decision.

http://www.indiatravels.org/panchgani.htm tells us About Panchgani


Panchgani earned fame when John Chessen, a British Warrant Officer founded it in 1854 and formulated it with a grant from the Governer of Bombay. He chose the place to experiment and to create it into a European-style health resort. The ancient building, Parsi cottages and exquisite boarding schools tucked away into the hills make a splendid sight. The hill station is located at an altitude of 1334 metres above sea level. It's a delight walking along the wooded walkways and the lush trees and vegetation. One can even have a glimpse of the Krishna as it meanders through small hamlets and valleys.

Panchgani has the Krishna River that meanders through its farms, ravines and hamlets on one side and the coastal plain on the other, which has a mystic charm about it. The whole area is covered with lush greenery. There are several scenic spots and well laid out paths, which are ideal for trekking.


Moving around town can be via hired cabs, or even horses and bicycles. On foot, one can experience the wonders of nature and breathe the fresh mountain air.

HOW DID WE GO THERE - So we booked our bus tickets from Mumbai to Panchgani bus stand. That’s what I kept asking for as I had booked our stay at Hotel Summer Palace which was close to the bus stand and shopping area. The bus tickets were around Rs. 400 /- per seat in a Volvo AC bus. It seems that all buses plying to and fro to Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar are AC ones; they don’t run semi-AC buses any more.

Room tariff for our super deluxe double bedroom at the Hotel Summer Palace was around Rs 650/- per day.

OUR JOURNEY - We set out on a sultry Friday night from Mumbai by the 10:30 pm bus. There was a halt at around 12 midnight at the swanking Food Plaza along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Most of us got down, used the washroom, and grabbed a bite and a cup of coffee.

Once done, the bus set off on its 6 hour journey to Panchgani where we arrived at 6 am. It was pitch dark and freezing cold. As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were surrounded by taxi drivers wanting to drive us down to the hotel. Drive!!! Are the hotels so far away?!! These are the thoughts which might come to the minds of my readers.

You see I had done a lot of research before booking our room. There are several hotels in Panchgani. Some are 2.5 km away from the Market. Some are at a walk of 15 mins away (without being loaded down with luggage and bags!!!).

WHERE WE STAYED  - I asked them for directions to our hotel and we were told that it was within walkable distance down the road. I had already enquired at the Front Desk before booking and was informed that it was around 2 mins away from where the bus stops. So we were prepared for a little walk. We hoisted up our bags and moved ahead, trying our best to get our bearings and did realize that the bus had dropped us off on the main market street and had carried on straight ahead to Mahabaleshwar.

We asked for directions at a roadside tea stall where the owner was brewing steaming hot tea. Since it was all dark, the landmark given to us was the streetlamp and Mala’s outlet and we turned right from there down a sloping road and were soon at our hotel. We were met by a closed door and sleepy hotel staff wrapped up in their blankets; one of which got up and handed us the room key. Once we got there, we put down our bags and stretched out our tired selves on the warm, cozy and comfortable bed and were soon fast asleep.


I T I N E R A R Y

DAY 1 :
We were woken up at 8:30 am by the doorbell. It was a kind staff member informing us that hot water would be available only till 10 am. So we went about our ablutions and called room service for breakfast consisting of buttered toast, scrambled eggs and tea. The bill totaled Rs 300 for 3 days breakfast.


Now that we were fully awake (as my mother said later, the 2 hrs sleep did us good!!), we drew aside the window curtain and took in the beautiful view of the hills covered in mist right outside our picture window. The considerate hotel manager had given us a room on the topmost floor. There were 2 schools in front of the hotel. Panchgani is known for its vast number of prestigious boarding schools.

The sun was shining brightly but I noticed a lot of people walking around wrapped in shawls or cardigans. The hotel was in a quiet lane.

Once done with breakfast, we moved out of our hotel and walked up to the top of the slope, to the Main Road/market street/shopping area. We decided to walk around the place and discover its nooks and crannies. We saw the well-known Vidya Niketan Co-educational School just opposite our lane. This is where we met our bus, 3 days later, back to Mumbai.

Now that we were at the market street, we decided to walk up and down. We walked up first, in the direction, towards the place we stepped off the bus from Mumbai. The shops were open and there were plenty of shops. Oh my!!

WHERE TO SHOP - We saw a shop selling pure honey , fruit punches, chana (white chickpea), juices, squashes, sweets, groceries, hardware, home essentials, stores, vegetable market, fresh stock etc. etc. There was even a Cottage Industries Emporium selling hand crafted Kashmiri items and clothing where we shopped in the evening, at the circle where the bus stops. A husband and wife run the shop which deals in silks, pashmina’s, silk embroideries, shawls, carpets, leather goods, wood carving, jewellery, paper machie, dress materials. It is situated on the Main Road. Cell: 09890590546, 02168-241722. The owner, Mr. Tariq was very helpful when my mother bought a whole lot of cardigans and shawls for herself and her sisters. He also has a wonderful stock of Indian wear and men’s pullovers, winter jackets etc. along with Kashmiri handicrafts. And, if I may say so, he serves very nice tea to selective customers. This being my mother’s declaration!!

As we walked down the Main Road or market road, we came across a garden, a Mapro factory outlet and passed by the lane leading to Hotel Prospect, IL Palazzo. I had visited the website of these 2 hotels and was keen on seeing them for real.

Hotel Prospect was the first hotel in Panchgani, built in 1912, run by a Parsi family. It is a good 15 mins walk away from the Main Road, secluded inside a quiet, winding lane. We stepped through the huge, wrought iron gates kept wide open onto the flower lined driveway. We met the jovial elderly gentlemen owning the hotel along the way. He was on a short mid morning walk and welcomed us in and asked us to explore the property. We did peep in but didn’t go upto the office as all the details were on their website.

It was lunchtime soon and we were hungry walking around. The mountain air added to it all. There is a shopping centre close to the post office which has around 3 or 4 restaurants. Lunch was at the canopy covered courtyard of the Red Sea restaurant (pix at the end of post).

As soon as we stepped out of this open air restaurant, we came across an old man selling slippers in various colours for Rs 100 each. I bought 3 pairs in mauve, pink and dark blue. They were so comfortable to wear. I request all my readers to patronize this old man who makes the slippers at home.

We had a short nap after lunch.

WHAT TO SEE - Our hotel manager told us that a sight seeing tour of Panchgani tourist spots would cost us Rs 350 and take around 3 hours, beginning at 3 pm.

Sights to see in Panchgani courtesy Wikipedia -
Sydney Point: This point is situated on a hillock facing the Krishna Valley. One can see from here the glittering waters of the Dhom Dam, and Pāndavgad and Mandhārdeo.


Table Land: This flat large expanse of laterite rock is the second longest mountain plateau in Asia. Some spacious caves including the “Devil's Kitchen” are visible from here.

Parsi Point: This scenic point is situated on the way to Mahabaleshwar, and overlooks the Krishna valley and the blue shiny waters of the Dhom Dam.

Devil's Kitchen: Situated at the south of the table land, the Devil's Kitchen has a mythology associated with it: It is believed that the Pāndavas of the Mahābhārat epic had stayed here for a while. Pāndavgad Caves (near Wāi) are also said to be built by them then

So we met the cabbie below at around 3 pm which took us first to Sydney Point, close to Hotel Ravine. There is a breathtaking view of the surrounding hills and the Krishna river flowing in between, at the foot of the hills.

The next stop was the Tableland which is the second highest plateau in Asia, the highest being the Tibetan plateau. The Tableland has a circumference of 6 ½ km and takes around an hour to cover by the horse buggy/carriage or by foot. We did it by foot to where the horses take the tourists to view the surrounding landscape. The tableland is at a walkable distance of 20 – 30 mins from the Main Road, past Mr. Tariq’s shop, up the slope towards the St. Joseph’s school.

The last stop was Parsi Point and then back to our room till we stepped out for dinner and a little shopping at the Mala’s outlet close to our lane. They sell the most amazing fresh jams, squashes, syrups, fruit chews, cordials etc.

The shop on Main Road selling honey, also stocks cashews, chikki, and the most tasty and delightful chocolate-walnut fudge (Rs 120 for a 250 gm box). I recommend all to try it. We did buy some strawberry and choco-walnut fudge in Mahabaleshwar but it wasn’t as nice as this.

DAY 2:

Oh, we can go visit there too !! - We decided to make a day trip to Mahabaleshwar considering it being a short distance of 21 kms or 30 mins away by bus. We made all the enquiries the previous day. The bus depot is on the Main Road and Mr. Tariq advised us to take the “green luxury” bus which passes by every hour through Panchgani on the way to Mahabaleshwar. The tickets are Rs. 18 per person.

So, soon after a hearty breakfast, we set off to the bus depot and waited for the “green” bus! We discovered that there are local State Transport “red” buses every 15 mins to Mahabaleshwar but opted to take the green bus as I suffer from hill road sickness.

The bus came around 11:20 am and after a short halt of 5 mins, set off. We arrived at the Mahabaleshwar bus depot at around noon. The bus depot is opposite the petrol station. We have been to Mahabaleshwar twice before and are familiar with the place. So we strolled down the market place and shopping area lined with shops crowded with tourists and touristy things. It is a highly populated and busy place. We did visit all the shops though as the colourful, attractive displays pulled us in. Lunch was at Nukkad Restaurant close to the church.

TIP: They do have a washroom in the premises which was a welcome relief.

Dessert was at Strawberry Den in the market place which dishes out the most amazing Strawberry and Cream for Rs 60. It has loads of strawberries, cream and ice-cream. This is the most popular place.

TRAVEL TIPS - My advice to all fellow travel sickness passengers who suffer from this discomfort would be to have lunch as soon as you get to Mahabaleshwar, i.e. if you are traveling up from Panchgani and have to return in a few hours. You can do your shopping after lunch, the walk and after lunch duration helps digestion and you will be able to make the journey back by bus.

We arrived at 12 noon but I made the mistake of having lunch around 1:30 and we were done by 2:15. We had already seen everything and visited all the shops; did our shopping. There was nothing much left to do after lunch and we would have to while away our time for atleast 2 hrs. before I could hop onto a bus. That was too much time to kill. We did walk around for around half an hour but how much more?! So we returned to the bus depot to see if I could make it back by bus. There was a ST bus about to leave and we stepped in. I felt squeamish as soon as I set foot in so I retreated. The “green” bus would come only after an hour, so we asked around for a taxi to Panchgani.

There is a taxi stand just outside the bus depot. We were already aware of the charges of Rs 350 to Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar, one way. We didn’t have a choice. My mother was tired already, I was feeling unwell and so we hopped into the cab and sped away to Panchgani. The cabbie did tell us that a trip to from Mahabaleshwar to Panchgani and back would cost us Rs 425. He dropped us outside our hotel in 25-30 mins.

We were exhausted and took a nice long nap till evening. Dinner was at the same restaurant.

DAY 3:

What else to see - Mr. Tariq had told us about Sherbaug and we had seen it advertised everywhere. He told us that it was a nature theme park and that we would find it quite interesting. So we set out soon after breakfast and decided to walk down to Sherbaug. We left the market road, past Hotel Ravine, Hotel Mount View, and Hotel Mount Castle etc. The entrance fee is Rs 300 per person and Rs 50 for a camera. The entrance has a jungle theme to it with an artificial blue stream of water continuously flowing. The entire park has a quaintness about it with winding pathways where people can walk in single file, through archways, past waterfalls, gardens, flower beds, horticultural spaces, all along guided by signpost saying “This Way Please”, otherwise one can just lose oneself in this labyrinth.

You suddenly cross a wooden bridge to come across an Art Gallery where Mr. Tariq has his other shop. It was a surprise for us too. I did buy a Kashmiri embroidered short tunic in white from there. There is a restaurant close by; food cooked by local housewives and served by students in a village style ambience.

Next to this is the dinosaur cave and the cave of ghosts. I cannot describe any of this as we didn’t venture in.

We did stop for a chilled glass of “Maaza” and then carried on. Too soon we reached the exit and left the theme park walking past a blue stream of flowing water.

We walked back to our favourite restaurant for lunch at around 2 pm and then a short nap at the hotel till evening tea.

Dinner was light and ended with a glass of hot chocolate.

THE RETURN JOURNEY  –

We had to meet the bus back to Mumbai outside the Vidya Niketan School at 9:30 am. The bus begins at Mahabaleshwar.

TIP :  I had my breakfast around 8:30 am and we boarded the bus at 10 am which was a wise decision since I was the only lady who was not “sick” in the bus. The other passengers had boarded the bus at Mahabaleshwar and a little out of Panchgani the bus had to stop for all the “sick” passengers. I faced the same ordeal on the 2 earlier occasions when we were traveling down from Mahabaleshwar.

We were back home by 4:30 am.

My mother and I were both heartbroken when we left Panchgani and wanted to linger on and on. There is a kind of calm and peace still there, free from tourists (of course we made the trip just before the season time begins around Dec 20th). Unlike Mahabaleshwar where one has to travel to be with nature, Panchgani offers the regular tourist a chance to be with nature anywhere in the town itself.


WHERE TO STAY  : -

For Hotels – more information at www.mahabaleshwar.com

We stayed at Hotel Summer Palace, Tel: 02168 – 240523, 240538. Pictures of the room we were in can be viewed here - http://www.panchgani-sheeshmahel.com/
Hotel Gitanjali - http://www.hotelgitanjali.com/
Hotel Prospect - http://www.prospect-hotel.com/
Hotel IL Palazzo - http://www.ilpalazzo.co.in/
All hotels in Panchgani - http://www.panchganihotels.com/
WHAT TO SEE : -

Sherbaug - for information and pix - http://www.sherbaug.com/ ,


WHAT TO BUY  : -

For jams, jellies, syrups, strawberry chews, etc. visit  MALA’s - http://www.malasfruit.com/
MAPRO's - http://www.maprofoods.com/