Postcards from…is a series about one picture perfect capture from a place I have recently travelled to. I am just back from a short monsoon holiday to the southern Indian state of Karnataka and the postcard is from one of the most picturesque and atmospheric places that I visited during this trip — ruins of the Rosary Church at Shettyhalli.
This Church was built by French missionaries in the 1860s. This was abandoned in 1960 when the Hemavathi dam was built and the reservoir created partially submerged the church when the water levels rose during the monsoons. The monsoons had not fully set in when I visited, so was able to see and walk around the ruins of the Rosary Church.
When I visited you the February 2017, it was a trip of many firsts — the first time I was travelling to the Northeast region of India, the first time I visited Assam, the first time I visited a wildlife sanctuary (as an adult), the first time I brought back fresh produce from the Uzanbazaar market in Guwahati for my Amma, much to her surprise and great delight, and many more firsts.
The trip materialised out of the blue with an invitation to be a part of journalists and travel writers from the organisers of the Rongali Assam, a cultural festival to be held in Guwahati in the first week of February 2017. Even, as I sent in my acceptance mail to the organisers of Rongali, I was already planning how I could do some independent travel on my own in Assam.
Some research later, I zeroed in on visiting Kaziranga, Sivasagar, and Hoollongapar for a three-day independent trip before I joined the rest of the group for the Rongali Festival. It has been more than two years since that trip, but I can still remember the wide-eyed excitement and thrill I felt when I landed in Guwahati, and which lasted me all through the trip. When I boarded my return flight to Mumbai 6 days later, it was with a suitcase full of souvenirs and brochures, a heart filled with happiness and also memories and experiences of a trip like no other.
Let me give you a glimpse into what my Assam trip was like.
I first visited Bikaner in February 2013 as part of a larger tour of Rajasthan with a group. Bikaner, the fourth-largest city of Rajasthan, was our first stop and it turned out to be the perfect introduction to the state as well as the perfect beginning to what turned out to be a great trip.
Five years later (and almost to the day in February 2018), I was back in Bikaner courtesy an invitation from Narendra Bhawan. And this time around, thanks to their curated trails, I was able to explore new places — the havelis and markets of Bikaner — and re-visit old ones like the royal cenotaphs. In addition, I also visited the Laxmi Niwas Palace and Bikaji ki Tekree, the site of the first fortified settlement in Bikaner. I also got the opportunity to travel out of the city into the desert one evening for a sundowner and a special dinner. An unexpected bonus of this trip was getting introduced to two master artists of Bikaner and an opportunity to see their work (more about this in a separate blogpost!).
Presenting my “Bikaner Revisited” experiences, beginning with a brief history of the city.
At first glance, the red sandstone structure that is Narendra Bhawan Bikaner doesn’t stand out or give any indication to the luxury boutique hotel that it claims to be. In fact, it looks more like a haveli or mansion of a merchant rather than the one-time residence or palace of Narendra Singhji, the former king of Bikaner.
Once past the rather modest entrance gates, you will cross a small courtyard covered with paving made from the same deep red sandstone, that Narendra Bhawan is constructed from — the local building stone. You will then pass through an arched entrance and climb up a few steps clad with golden yellow Jaisalmeri stone. And that’s when the change happens !
The floor tiles change to colourful vintage tiles. Carefully curated artefacts fill your sight, and deep and luxurious furniture beckon you to sit down and take it all in… But, wait for there is more to see and explore. You pass through a door and enter the very bold and beautiful foyer where large black and white tiles create a chequered floor pattern. Glass cabinets with the most interesting curios twinkle in the light reflected from the art deco lamps on the ceiling. At one end of the long foyer is a bright red piano…
You look around in wonder and accept the welcome drink offered to you by the ever smiling and friendly staff of the hotel and let it all sink in. This is how my Narendra Bhawan Experience began.
Postcards from… is a new series and is all about one picture perfect postcard from a place I have recently travelled to. I was in Uzbekistan (my second time!) last week, revisiting some old favourites and visiting new places.
This postcard is from Rishtan in the Ferghana Valley of Eastern Uzbekistan, famed for its fruits, art, and automobile manufacturing units. No prizes for guessing what is the theme of this postcard is. 🙂
There are two ways to explore the former Danish colony of Tranquebar (or Trankebar as the Danes spell it) or Tharangambadi (as it is known officially). The first is as a day trip from Pondicherry or Nagapattinam or any of the nearby temple towns and the second is to base yourself at Tranquebar, like I did, and then explore the town at leisure.
This coastal town is on the east coast of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, about a 100 km south of Pondicherry. Either way, you will soon discover that the sea and the citadel of Fort Dansborg at Tranquebar are its best known sights.
In fact, the first thing a visitor to Tranquebar will see is the Dansborg citadel — to me, it looked like a giant slice of commercial kesar ice cream shimmering (or melting) in the heat.
And if you stay at The Bungalow on the Beach, like I did, then a view of the sea and the Dansborg Fort, is a constant (see the header and the photo on the left).