Written by Nadakishor Gopinath.
Introduction by his Father:
Ever since we went on a North Indian tour in July 2018, I was behind my children Nandakishor and Gayathri to write their own account of our travel following my long story published in this blog called Discover India – North India Tour with family, a travelogue. After that long and intermittent persuasion, I got a product out of Nandan, this week. He is studying in The Indian High School (IHS) of Dubai in 9th std. – Gopinath Peetikayil.
The first destination of our long trip to North India during the June – July 2018 was New Delhi. The capital of India welcomed me and my family through the Indira Gandhi International airport. I was startled by the size of the airport terminal and the crowd of travelers. My father was appreciating the airport terminal, while I had been gaping at it. After having our breakfast, we set of to the hotel booked online on a local cab.
On the way, we stopped at many popular attractions of New Delhi. One of which was the Qutab Minar. We spent about 30 minutes in Qutab Minar. The guide explained to us about the construction of this wonderful minaret and the various emperors who maintained it. Our next destination was the India gate. We also had a sneak-peek of the parliament house. Following this, we went to the courier office. We also got the opportunity to visit the Lotus Temple of Delhi. This temple is unique due to its flower shape, as the name suggests. The place was so crowded that we were split into lines and were forced to wait in line for quite long to enter the famous building. We took some pictures and left soon. As there turned out to be a lot of luggage, we had to take help from the courier service to send most luggage that might hinder our travel, off to Kerala, my native state.
After the work at the courier’s office, we reached our hotel in Karol Bagh, Delhi. The name of the hotel was Delhi Darbar. The hotel had a great ambiance as it was in the middle of this crowded bazaar.
A trip in the midst of my favorite Football World cup:
I was eagerly waiting to check-in to our room as the world cup match between France and Argentina was just about to begin. My mom wanted to go out and get a good deal for some clothes in the bazaar as it was known for inexpensive materials. We also took some wonderful photos in our new digital camera. By the evening, we had to rush through Delhi traffic to the New Delhi railway station as we had a train to catch at 5 pm. The train was to Kalka. We went to Kalka because it was the place where our Toy train journey to Shimla would begin. This railway station keeps a unique train to Shimla and predictably, it is listed as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
First Destination – Shimla, Queen of the Hills:
The train is generally smaller in size than the other trains. Hence, we booked a hotel in Kalka for dress change and refreshment. Then we started our journey towards Shimla early at 3 AM in the morning. The train route to Shimla was wonderful and I could not take my eyes of the window. It was one of the best parts of the trip. Shimla is also known as “Queen of hills” due to its scenic beauty. After a long journey in the toy train, we reached Shimla before noon. The train station was high up on a mountain. We spotted a lot of mountains and clouds. It was very cold in Shimla and I was shivering, but it seems that this was not even a fraction of the actual cold weather here, which happens during the winter season.
We took our luggage and started walking towards the taxi stand. We met a taxi driver and asked him to drop us at a restaurant close by. The driver, whose name was Bhim took us to a nearby restaurant close to the Mall road of Shimla. He also asked us to contact him for any help. The restaurant was in the main street of Shimla. We could see cycle rickshaws and bullock carts while having breakfast. I found them quite interesting as all I used to see, were motor vehicles and their smoke. Later, we went to a hotel. This hotel, as well as most of the others in the trip, was booked online. The hotel’s name was Alpine Heritage. The receptionist was very kind with us and lead us to our reserved room. We took rest for a while and then decided to leave for some shopping in the popular Mall Road of Shimla.
Roaming in Shimla:
Mall road of Shimla is the main street with commercial shops in Shimla. We also tried to bring something for our relatives and friends, back home in Kerala. We had fruit salad and then went to our hotel. The next morning, we called the driver who picked us up from the train station and requested him to take us to the famous Jhaku temple in Shimla. This is a temple of Lord Hanuman. It holds a 108 feet high idol of Hanuman, which is visible from all over Shimla. At the entrance were a family of monkeys welcoming us with a mischievous smile and a warning to keep your belongings safe. After our prayers, we had the offerings with a lot of other devotees. We had intended to go for a cable car ride, but we did not have enough time. So, we left by car to Chandigarh.
Off to Chandigarh for a Train to Amritsar:
We had to catch the train to Amritsar. Thus, we did not have enough time. The only place where we halted was at a restaurant to have food. Fortunately, we reached in time and caught the train to Amritsar. By the time we reached Amritsar, it was late night and we managed to get an autorickshaw. To make things worse, we could not find our hotel. We were going into random streets with barely any light. We ended up in the center of a town and my father got out to ask someone for directions to the hotel.
We had no hope of finding the hotel, so we got another hotel and asked for a room to stay. The staff checked and then accepted. They told that we will not get a large room because we did not book priorly. We got a standard room, but it was not neat and tidy. Moreover, we cannot criticize them as they have at best, given us a room.
One of the problems that we faced was that we had not eaten dinner. It was almost midnight, so we had not bought any food. By the time we realized this, it was late and there was no room service available for the food. Fortunately, the room boy answered our call and somehow managed to buy some food from a restaurant that was nearly close.
At the Golden Temple.
My father was not a fan of late night-dinner that too from an unknown restaurant. Then I had bath and slept dreaming, about the next part of our trip. Early in the morning, we set off to our next destination which was the famous Golden Temple. It is a shrine of the Sikhs and was close to the hotel in which we stayed. We reached Golden Temple in a rickshaw. When we reached, there was an unbelievable amount of crowd queued in the entrance. After we left our footwear, we were supplied with headcover. We had to wait for a long time to get inside the temple. The suffocation and blockage caused my sister to feel uncomfortable and dizzy. I had the feeling too but somehow managed to tolerate it. The people around tried to help her by providing bottled water. After some time, she felt better and my parents were relieved. The fishes in the large pond at the middle of the temple was fun and relaxing to see, which calmed me a bit. After we took our own time to pray, we took some rest inside the temple and had the offerings.
Jallianwala Bagh & Wagah Border:
Next in Amritsar, was Jallianwala Bagh. It is always a memory of the British rule in India and their merciless killings. This Tourist place was quite depressing to watch, especially the bullet holes on the walls. After some shopping and food, we left to watch the Wagah border Ceremony. This was my father’s favorite part of the trip and just as wonderful as described by him. I have to accept the fact that I also was afraid of something terrible like a bomb-blast. Leaving that aside, the patriotic calls gave us a feeling of pride to be an Indian. We then left back to Delhi by air.
Back at Delhi, sick at the Hotel:
On reaching the Delhi airport returning from Amritsar, we were waiting in line for a cab when my sister started feeling sick again, this time with a temptation to vomit. We did manage to reach a hotel room, but me and my mother fell sick too. This taught us an important lesson of travelling to be careful of the food being eaten. After two days, we were back to our health. Next, we travelled to Faridabad in the Delhi metro. It was my first train journey in India. The purpose was to visit my mother’s cousin, settled in Faridabad.
Off to Mathura & Agra to see the great Taj Mahal.
Our next plan was to visit Taj Mahal through Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna. Visiting the ISKCON temple in Mathura gave me a blissful feeling. We were explained about the specialty of the various places in Mathura by the taxi driver. After some time in Mathura, we proceeded to Agra. The Taj mahal was one of the places in my Bucket List. I believe that every Indian should visit this true “Wonder of the World” and proudly look upon as it symbolizes love and compassion. Going to the Taj mahal was a treat to the eyes because of its beauty and landscape. Next, we went to Agra Fort, which is a necessity for every traveler to the Taj Mahal and Agra. Apparently, they are known as sister monuments of Agra. This Fort was the place where many Emperors took shelter and today, me and my family where on the same land. Apart from viewing the magnificent fort, I also had fun with some squirrels inside. These two monuments in Agra, taught me a lesson of how things can be preserved for a long time, if taken utmost care of. Our return to Delhi was the most peaceful of all the travel, thanks to the Yamuna express way but something not very peaceful was the tire puncture when we were on the end of the express way road and entering Delhi. We had to wait for some time before resuming our travel.
At the lap of River Ganges, Rishikesh & Haridwar:
We also visited the holy places of Rishikesh and Haridwar were my dream of touching the flowing Ganga was achieved. It is believed that the holy river has the power to remove the sins of any person who comes in contact. We also visited Dehradun, the main feature of which was the Doon school. The school is famous for the standard of education, which explains why many celebrities have received their education from here. My father advised that anyone who works hard and sincerely can obtain education from the Doon School of Dehradun.
Back at Chandigarh and off to Manali and Rohtang pass:
We were then on train to Chandigarh from Delhi where Bhim, who we travelled with in Shimla, was waiting for us. He accompanied us in the cab journey to Manali, explaining to us about the significance of the place while driving through tough roads and bumps. The Beas river was a true beauty to see while our drive to Manali. We visited the Hadimba Devi Temple. I had some fun time with sheep and rabbits, right there in the temple premises. Then, we left for the most awaited part of the trip, Rohtang-pass. It is a high mountain pass in the extremes of Manali. This was my favorite part of the trip and really made me think about what “cold” actually means. The uphill car ride was amazing because of the lush greenery on either side. On reaching, the top which was just the beginning of a road to Leh Ladakh, I was traumatized by the coldness. I felt like a change in metabolism of my body, with sudden feelings of stomach pain and headache. I realized that my body has never been exposed to such a cold weather which made the AC look like nothing. Though it was a little tough, the pain had a gain of seeing the beautiful ice blocks. We had Hot tea from the top.
It was a memorable journey and will always remind me of how wonderful my country truly is.