Monday, 11 January 2016

Visit to Capital Delhi and divine Amritsar

Every year, we plan a long trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year, it was not possible to plan in the month of February hence we decided to visit in the month of January. This time we selected Delhi – Amritsar – Bharatpur Bird sanctuary – Ranthambore National park – Sariska National park and Jaipur. To avoid length of blog, I have divided it into 4 parts. In this part, will like to share my travel experience from Delhi and Amritsar

Without a doubt, travelers for this trip were me and my wife Renuka.

Golden Temple, Amritsar
Golden Temple, Amritsar

About Delhi and Amritsar:
               Delhi, the capital of India is a historically and culturally rich city having strong connection with Indian history. From tourism point of view, it consists of heritage sites, art, museums, monuments, gardens, religious buildings and shopping mall.
             Amritsar is the home of Harmandir Sahib also known as the Golden Temple, the divine and cultural center of the Sikh religion. It is also famous of Wagah border (road border between India and Pakistan) which is 28km from Amritsar. The nearest city to Amritsar is Lahore (50km) from Pakistan and Jalandhar (85km) from Punjab, India. Amritsar is also a favorite place for foodies.

Out entire Travel plan
  • Pune to Delhi Indigo flight on Thursday night – 7th Jan 16
  • Train to Amritsar on Friday Evening – 8th Jan 16
  • Day in Amritsar and late night train to Agra for Bharatpur
  • 3 days in Bharatpur and evening train on 13th Jan 16
  • A Day in Ranthambore for 2 safari (original plan was of 3 Safari but we missed it due to train cancellation). Late evening Private cab on 14th Jan for Sariska.
  • A Day in Sariska for 2 Safari and evening public transport bus for Jaipur – 15th Jan
  • 2 days in Jaipur and Jaipur to Pune night Flight

Day 0: 7th Jan 2016 – Pune to Delhi
              We started from Pune to New Delhi by Indigo airways at 11.30 PM and reached New Delhi by 2 AM. It was heavy fog in Delhi but we were lucky that our flight was not delayed. We took rest at the airport terminal. 

Day 1: 8th Jan 2016 – Delhi – Amritsar
              Our actual destination was Amritsar but as our train to Amritsar was at 4.30 PM, we decided to utilize our morning time to visit a few places from Delhi. At 5 AM, we left Delhi airport and boarded the Delhi Airport Metro Express (DAME) for New Delhi station. I had heard a lot about this metro line and it did not disappoint me. Ride till New Delhi was comfortable and quick. We had some snacks in coffee outlets near station and left for India Gate.
              We boarded yellow line metro for Central Secretariat Metro Station. As I said it was foggy day so it was difficult to enjoy the beauty of India gate. But we enjoyed the cold weather and practice parades for upcoming Republic Day. I had been to Delhi 5-6 years back and had visited most of the tourist places. India Gate built as war memorial located at the end of Rajpath. Names of more than 80 thousand soldiers who died in First World War are written on the memorial. Architectural style of the monument is of triumphal arch and often compared to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and the Gateway of India in Mumbai. Below the India gate arch, Amar Jawan Jyoti (flame of the immortal soldier) is placed and manned round the clock by soldiers from the three services of the Indian armed forces.

Parade practice for Republic Day
Parade practice for Republic Day

              Our next destination was Rashtrapati Bhavan (House of The President of India). It is built in Indian architectural form consists of 4 floors and 340 rooms. You can see from outside. Also we visited parliament house of India. It is the circular shape building and combination of British-Indian Architecture. You can see it from Rajpath and photography is strictly not allowed due to security reasons.
              We went to Karol bagh area as my friend’s brother Sanat was staying in a hotel there for office purpose. After getting fresh, we 3 went to a nice south Indian hotel named Om Saravana Bhavan for an authentic breakfast. He left for office and we went Noida to meet my office colleagues from Noida branch. We spend some time with my colleagues and had lunch together. We reached New Delhi station to catch our train to Amritsar.
              There are many places to visit in New Delhi. We have been to this place before hence we skipped those places for this trip. You can visit Akshardham, Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar, Bahai Lotus Temple, Mughal Garden, National Gandhi Museum and Railway Museum etc.

  • Flight Pune – Delhi and Jaipur – Pune: INR 7500/- per person
  • Shuttle bus to Delhi Metro from airport: INR 50/- for 2 person
  • Airport metro to Delhi station: INR 100/- for 2 person
  • Coffee and light snacks at Delhi station: INR 50/- for 2 person
  • Metro ticket: INR 08 to INR 15 (Dependent upon route)
  • South Indian Breakfast at Saravana Bhavan: INR 380/- for 3 people
  • IRCTC Delhi to Amritsar: INR 935/- for 2 person

Day 2: 9th Jan 2016 – Amritsar:
              We reached Amritsar at 11 PM on 8th Jan. Train was delayed due to weather conditions. We had not booked any hotel so our first task was to search for a hotel near the Golden temple. With the help of auto driver, we shortlisted a basic budget hotel named MG Residency.
               We woke up early morning to visit the Golden temple which was at walkable distance. It was an amazing experience to visit Sri Harmandir Sahib also known as Golden temple. It is the holiest place of Sikh people. In 16th century a Sikh Guru excavated a tank which was called pool of holy nectar (liquid) and the temple Harmandir Sahib, an abode of Gods, was built in the middle of this tank.

Ik Omkar....Holy bath at Golden temple, Amritsar
Ik Omkar....Holy bath at Golden temple, Amritsar

We at Golden Temple

             You have to remove your foot-wear outside temple and cover your head with handkerchief. If you don't have a handkerchief in your pocket, those are available at every entrance point without any chargers. Leave it at any exit point while going back. Here foot-wears are collected by volunteers at the counter & tokens are given. Never ever think that those who attend the shoe counter would be paid employees. They are devotees offering 'kar sewa' (service with their hands) which is one of the highly adorable features of Sikhism.

Golden Temple


Golden Temple from different angle

               We entered in the Golden temple complex and our first reaction looking at the place was, it is simply fabulous. Entire complex is built very beautifully with the golden temple at the center. Golden temple is surrounded by Holy water tank. Due to cold weather, we skipped holy bath but spend more than 2 hours in temple premises. After capturing the beauty of the temple in our camera, we went for breakfast.

Golden Temple complex
Golden Temple complex

Golden temple view from museum building

              Amritsar is famous for food. There are many places which tempt foodies to visit. Considering day visit, we decided to go different places for our meals. We had delicious Amritsar paratha’s at Bade Bhai Ka Brothers Dhaba. Definitely a must visit place for food lovers. After breakfast, we went at the Jallianwala Bagh. Jallianwala Bagh is a historical place from India. Indian freedom fighters sacrificed their lives in this place for our freedom. Most Indians are aware of the reason behind Jallianwala Bagh. British official Dyre has ordered open fire on innocent people who had gathered at this place to peacefully protest against the British rule in India. There is a water well where people jumped and walls are marked with many bullet marks. Now this place is converted into beautiful garden. There is small room, where you can find old newspaper article, photos and historic information about Jallianwala Bagh.

Amritsari Paratha at Breakfast

Guest is our God

Jallianwala Bagh lens
Jallianwala Bagh lens

Bullet marks on wall

Shahid well

               We went to the hotel for check out process and kept our bags in hotel’s clock room. We hired an auto for local sightseeing, had lunch at Sarhad restaurant and saw the Wagah border ceremony. Our first destination was Durgiana Temple. It is similar to the golden temple but small in scale including the fact that it is situated in the middle of the temple lake. The golden top contains figures of the dasha avatars, whereas the silver doors are mainly of Durga, Parvati, Laxmi, Ganesha, Trimurti and mythological stories. If you have spare time, then visit this temple else you can skip it.

Durgiana Temple, Amritsar
Durgiana Temple

               Our next place was Mata Lal Devi temple. Temple is quite simple but divided into 2 parts. One is temple and other consist of a type of magical mystery tour through narrow caves and corridors with replicas of famous shrines from around India. This is set on two upper floors. It is very colorful and makes for an enjoyable 30 minutes. At some points you have to get down on your hands and knees to crawl through the narrow tunnels.
              Now our journey began towards the Wagah border for evening flag down ceremony. It was 1 PM in clock and we were feeling hungry. We took break at restaurant Sarhad which is located in Atari village which is the last village before India-Pakistan border. This restaurant serves typical Pakistani cuisines which is very tasty. Menu mainly focused on non veg meal but they also have variety of vegetarian dishes as well. Ambiance of Sarhad is nice and you can see lot of painting on walls. They claimed as Sarhad restaurant is the last restaurant before the Wagah Border, about a kilometer away from the Wagah border. You can get street food and local Dhaba’s between Sarhad and the border.

Sarahad Hotel
Sarhad Hotel

Typical Pakistani cuisines at Sarhad hotel
Typical Pakistani cuisines at Sarhad hotel

              We got to know that all wooden furniture was brought from Lahore. Also Sarhad restaurant had two mini trucks (vehicles) parked in the garden area. It was painted by a famous Pakistani artist named Haidar Ali. All paintings portray the story of India-Pakistan friendship. We had tasty veg and non veg meal before we headed to the India-Pakistan border.

Sarhad Vehicle

India - Pakistan Friendship vehicle

              We reached at the Wagah Border by 2.30 PM. There are milestones that say India-Pakistan border ahead and Lahore 22km, which gives you an altogether different feeling. Wagah border was the only road link between India and Pakistan till 1999. Now Aman Setu from Kashmir is another road link between the two countries. Many locals approach the tourists for face painting or flag painting of the tricolor. We were excited to witness the event.

Way to Pakistan, Wagah border
Way to Pakistan

               The Wagah border ceremony takes place in the mornings to raise the flags and in the evenings to lower the flags from both sides. The flag lowering ceremony is open for tourists without any cost. Border is open from 10 AM to 4 PM to cross the border with valid documents. After the flag ceremony gates are closed. For winter Closing (Flag lowering) ceremony take places between 4.15 PM to 4.45 PM. Try to reach before 3.30 PM to get better seat/stand to enjoy the parade by BSF. This event is marked by the enthusiasm and patriotism which can be experience from start to end. Loads of Indian patriotic songs are played on which people dance with full energy. It was an amazing experience to witness Army action from both sides. Watching your neighboring country from few meters gives a different feeling and also how safe you feel in your own country. 

Wagah border
Wagah border

Crossing border, From India to Pakistan

Proud to be an Indian...
Proud to be an Indian...

               There are 3 options to reach the Wagah border – by hired vehicle, hired Auto or sharing vehicle. Sharing vehicle leaves 3 PM from Temple but the drawback is that it reaches few mins before ceremony which means you might lose a chance to get a better seat. We hired an auto for the evening. After lowering flags from both side, gate was closed for the day. People are allowed to come close to border gate for few minutes. VIP people get change to stand very close to the Gate whereas others have to keep few feet distance. VIP seats and non-Indian seats are located very close to Gate. Only army relatives are allowed in VIP stand. We saw some tourists arguing on VIP stand but why can’t people understand that army people sacrifice their family life then they deserve VIP treatment.
At Wagah Border

Flag lowering ceremony at Wagah border
Flag lowering ceremony at Wagah border 

Flag lowering ceremony

              You can see Pakistan land as well from stand. A thought came in my mind that, you can see greenery/farms on both sides, trees on both sides, birds, animal and even nature on both sides then why we need a border? This is not about these two country but applicable for entire world. Anyways, we left this beautiful place after sunset. We had light snacks and coffee at Sarhad and then reached back to Amritsar. 

Fence makes a huge difference?
Sunset at Wagah border
Sunset at Wagah border

               We spent some time in the market for shopping and then had tasty dinner at Kesar da Dhaba. It’s very basic place considering the ambiance but tasty food is available due to which it is most popular place in Amritsar. After dinner, we had couple of hours in hand before boarding the train to Agra/Bharatpur so we decided to visit Golden temple for night view. The Golden temple looks very different and beautiful at night and I highly recommend to witness at late night. We enjoyed the night view and spent some time meditating in temple area. 

Golden Temple at Night
Golden Temple at Night

          After 11.30 PM, we left Amritsar for Agra visit followed by Bharatpur stay. Train was running late due to heavy fog in the morning which affected our travel plan. To avoid blog length, I’m writing on Bharatpur in my next blog.

Night view from Building terrace 

Blog on Bharatpur, Paradise for Bird watching: Coming soon!

  • MG Residency Hotel stay: INR 1200/-
  • Auto cycle from market to temple: INR 30/-
  • Breakfast: INR 195/- (Amritsari kulcha paratha, Panner paratha with chole and 2 patiyala glass lassi)
  • Hired Auto for Wagah border: INR 700/- Local sightseen and Wagah border. (Rent car chargers starts at INR1200/-, shared vehicle starts at INR 100/-)
  • Sarhad restaurant: INR 1287/- for 2 persons (1 veg, 1 non veg, 6 butter Roti, juice and coffee)
  • Locker chargers at Border: INR 20/-
  • Dinner at kesar ka Dhaba: INR 179/-
  • Battery Auto from temple to station: INR 100/-

Contact numbers for your reference:
  • Bhupendra Singh Auto driver: 09417408659
  • MG Residency Hotel +91-183-2554935, 2554936

Sarhad Hotel

Sunset and Trade Gate between India and Pakistan

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Pashan Lake bird watching 2016, Pune

The winter season is delight for bird watchers. I love to do bird watching and bird photography hence doesn’t want to miss an opportunity with my Camera. There are many places around Pune where you can see migratory birds. I visited Pashan Lake in the month of Jan 2016. You can spend plenty of time by just watching birds and their activity. 

Spot Billed Duck
Spot Billed Duck

About Pashan Lake:
               Pashan lake is artificial Lake near Pashan area. The lake was built in 1990s to supply drinking water. Pashan lake has a total catchment area of 40 square kilometers (15 sq. mi). Now water quality deteriorated due to quantity of sewage water and other effluents mixing in the water. This Lake area and surrounding area attracts migratory birds and so is popular spot for bird watchers from Pune.There is narrow footpath Nature trail along Lake. Nature trail is best place for Bird watching and to capture photo.

To reach Pashan Lake, join Paud road (by flyover from Dashapuja Ganesh temple) from Pune city – Paud road – chandani chuwk – Do not join on national highway – From Chandani chuwk take right (which goes towards Pashan area) –Pashan Road – Drive till Pashan circle – Take left on circle – Do not take right turn towards Pashan-Sus Road –Keep looking for an old arch on left – Take left there – Drive around 1 km and park your vehicle to explore area.

For footpath nature trail, if you are facing to Lake then keep walking on left side – You will find narrow footpath which goes inside forest – Keep walking and explore other trails on right side which take you close to water body. Please mind you steps as some part of land close to lake is quite middy or covered by water plants.

Jan 2016: Kothrud to Pashan Lake (Distance is approx. 9-10 km)
             I’m regular visitor for Pashan Lake for bird watching in every winter. It is just as paradise place for bird watchers and that to so close to the city area. There is a small island in-between Lake which is home for most of the wet land bird. It’s better to carry binocular. Many migratory wetland birds travel to Pashan Lake. Due to low monsoon in year 2015, less number of birds arrived in the lake area.

Spoonbill at Pashan
Spoonbill at Pashan

Better to visit Pashan area from Nov to Feb. From Feb water level gets reduce hence you can go on trial around lake to explore more birds.
I don’t know what to write more on Pashan Lake so I will post list of birds which you can see in Pashan Lake. You can help me by adding birds name which you have seen in this area.

Ruddy sheldduck at Pashan
Ruddy sheldduck at Pashan

Red wattled Lapwing
Purple Moorhen
Mahratta Woodpecker
White breasted Kingfisher
Brahmin Duck
Ashy Wren warbler
Indian Pipit
Glossy IBIS
Red-rumped swallow
Common Coot
Common Pochard
Asian Paradise Flycatcher
Jungle Babbler
Green Bee-eater 
Spot-bill Duck
Little Cormorant
Laughing Doves 
Purple Sunbird
Cotton Teal
Forest Wagtail
Pheasant tailed Jacana
Pied Kingfisher
Grey Wagtail
Indian Whiskered Tern
Shoveller Duck
Yellow Wagtail
House Crow
    Painted stork     Large pied Wagtail
Jungle Crow
Pied Bushchat
Open billed Stork
Small Blue Kingfisher
Purple heron
    Spoonbill stork
Bonnelli's Eagle
Pond Heron
    Wooly necked stork
Rufousbacked Shrike

Redvented Bulbul
Magpie Robin

Below are snaps taken during my various visits to Pashan Lake.




Spot Billed duck family

Spot Billed duck

Purple swamphen

Glossy ibis

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni

Friday, 1 January 2016

Pune’s Bird Paradise - Bhigwan, Diksal bird watching in 2016

I visit Bhigwan at least once a year for bird watching and this year was not an exception for my activity. I and Renuka decided to start New Year 2016 with visit to Bhigwan. Plan was to spend 4-5 hours in Bhigwan (main location is known as Diksal village) and come back home by late afternoon.

Greater Flamingo... Clicked in year 2015

About Bhigwan Bird sanctuary:
Bhigwan, a catchment area of Ujani Dam, is about 105 km from Pune on the Pune-Solapur highway (NH 9). An area of about 18000 hectares has been proposed as a sanctuary for migratory birds. It is an amazing place to see wet land migratory birds like Bar-Headed Goose, Greater Flamingo, Ruddy Shelduck, many spices of ducks and many more birds.

To reach at Diksal village (near Bhigwan), easy way is Pune – Hadapsar – Join Solapur highway – Drive your vehicle 100km from Pune on Highway – Do not use Bhigwan flyover – Take left at Bhigwan square on highway – Drive 3 to 3.5km – Take right for sanctuary. How to identify correct right turn is; you can spot water tank tower (yellow colored) on that T junction at left hand side of road. Otherwise ask local villagers about Diksal / “where can we see Rohit bird (Marathi name of Greater Flamingo bird)?”

You can spend half day or full day along with your camera and binocular. More than 60 bird’s species can be found in this backwater.

Travlers for this trip were Me, Renuka and Father-in-law Girish ghospurkar.

1st Jan 2016: Bhigwan Bird sanctuary (Total distance travel by car: 230km):
               As we had to cover around 105-110km so we decided to leave Pune before 5 AM and we managed to leave on time. Soon we touched Solapur highway. Road condition of highway was excellent. Due to wide and smooth road, we were able to reach Bhigwan in less than 2 hours. We told our boatman friend Bharat Nagare to arrange some breakfast. We were excited to see the migratory birds.

Ruddy Shelduck at Bhigwan
Ruddy Shelduck at Bhigwan

Painted Stork
              When we reached the village at around 6 AM, I was not surprise by looking at back water. Water level was quite low as compare to last year and main reason was fewer monsoons in India in year 2015. After some tasty breakfast we left for bird watching in the boat. Since it was a first day of year 2016, we were the only bird watchers in the catchment area.
               We got to know that very few Flamingos were landed in Bhigwan backwater hence less chances to spot them. We were totally fine as every year we saw a lot of Flamingos groups. We saw a group of Woolly neck storks and we went in that direction. Every year we hardly manage to see Birds like Wooly neck stork, bar headed geese but this year then came in large numbers. We spend more time on clicking them.

Woolly neck Stork

Woolly neck stork and bar headed geese at Bhigwan
Woolly neck stork and bar headed geese at Bhigwan

Northern Pintail at Bhigwan
Northern Pintail at Bhigwan 

Northern shoveler

bar headed geese at Bhigwan
bar headed geese at Bhigwan

               We left that place to spot other birds. We went on other side of catchment area by boat. We saw huge group of Painted stork. We spend around hour and watched there morning activity, sun basking etc. Besides Flamingo, we spotted Woolly Necked Stork, Coot, ibis, bar headed gooses, Ruddy Shelduck (aka Brahmini Duck), Northern Shoveler, Garganey Duck, Comb Duck, northern pintail and many more.

I got my catch...Sea gull at Bhigwan

Painted Stork

              It was quite bright now, and we slowly made our way back to village by boat. During our return journey, we decided to take a walk on the bank of Dam. Bharat left with our extra bags to his home and we joined him after an hour. After some nice click during trail, we came back. Our trail ends on a good note.

Open billed Stork

Bar Headed gooses

We returned to Bharat’s house and had lunch on highway and returned home by 4 PM. If you want to witness beauty of migratory birds (Our guest) then what you are waiting for.

Bird List which we saw in Bhigwan:

Greater Flamingo
Garganey Duck
Wire-tailed Swallow
Pueple Swamphen
Pochard Duck
Common Swallow
Common Moorhen
Bar headed Duck
Red Rumped Swallow
White-breasted Waterhen
Common Teal
Purple Rumped Sunbird
Glossy Ibis
Northern pintail
Red Avadavat
Black Ibis
Domicile crane
Spotted Munia
Oriental White Ibis
River Tern
Black Drango
Asian Open bill Stork
Common tern
Red-Wattled Lapwing
Painted Stork
Gull billed Tern
Yellow-Wattled Lapwing
Woolly Necked Stork
Grey Heron
Common Sandpiper
Purple Heron
Western Marsh Harrier
Spotted Sandpiper
Pond Heron
White Throated Kingfisher
Curlew Sandpiper
Cattle Egret
Common Kingfisher
Black Tailed Godwit
Median Egret
Pied Kingfisher
Black Winged Stilts
Large Egret
White eye Pochard
Northern Shoveler
Eurasian Spoonbill
Pallas Gull
Ruddy Shelduck
Little Cormorant
Brown headed seagulls
Spot-billed Duck
Yellow Wagtail
Black headed seagulls
Common Coot
Grey Wagtail

Comb Duck
Green bee-eater

Below are snaps taken during my various visits to Bhigwan 

Boating at Bhigwan for bird watching

Close up of Painted Strok

Spoon Bill

Woolly neck stork

Ruddy Shelduck

Mile sur mera tumhara....Sea gulls at Bhigwan

Lets fly home...Open bill stork

For More Photos, Click here

  • Car Petrol: INR 1500/- (Avg INR 67/Lit, Total distance cover by car was 230km) 
  • Toll on NH-09: INR 30/- (Return toll) 
  • Toll 2 on NH-09: INR 50/- (Return Toll) 
  • Boat ride: INR 1200/- for boat (Normal chargers are INR 1400-1600/- per boat) 

Contact number:
  • Bharat (Boatman from Diksal): 9766292989. 

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni