Sunday, August 14, 2016

Road trip to Bidar (from Hyderabad)

Day – 31st July 2016

Bidar, situated in the north eastern part of Karnataka lies close to the Telangana-Karnataka border and is famous for the grand Bidar Fort. The place is around 130 km from Hyderabad and is a very good option for a one-day road trip.
Bidar Fort
It was a cloudy Sunday. We started at 8:00 am in the morning from Gachibowli, Hyderabad. We had hired an Innova cab and used google maps to get the route. There were some renovations happening but overall a good drive. It took us around three and a half hours to reach Bidar which included a 45-minute stop for breakfast. There is a good stretch of greenery along the way that makes the drive even more refreshing.

Directions –

We travelled via Lingampally and then it’s NH65 till Zaheerabad, where you take a right turn on SH14 to Bidar. Once in Bidar, you take a right on the Fateh Darwaza Road towards the Chaubara (clock tower). See below map for help.

There are quite a few places to explore inside the fort, that surely impresses you by its grandeur and scale. Major attractions being the remains of Diwan-i-am and Diwan-i-khaas, Solah Khamba Mosque, Rangin Mahal and Bidar Fort Museum. Authorities mostly keep Rangin Mahal locked to keep it away from the reach of rogues who generally scribble on the walls. You can still ask the guard there to show you around in his presence.

The weather actually added to the beauty of the place. Amidst light drizzles, the remains appeared mystical under the cloudy skies. 

Solah Khamba Mosque

After spending a fairly good amount of time in the fort, we went to see the remains of the Bahmani Tombs. The tombs are situated nearby, in Ashtoor which is just a 10-minute drive from the fort.

Remains of Bahmani Tombs
Remains of Bahmani Tombs
Gurudwara, Bidar was the last stop of our trip. The clock ticked 3:30 pm by the time we reached Gurudwara premises. There are a few dhabas (eating joints) on the street just before the gurudwara entrance. We had a nice lunch at one of the dhabas (Rinku Restaurant, if I recollect the name properly). The food quality and taste exceeded our expectations. I would surely recommend this place.
After devouring our meal, we went to the Gurudwara. The shrine is dedicated to Guru Nanak Dev and is very clean and peaceful. Just being there gave a very calm and soothing feeling. We spent some time in the garden before starting our journey back home.
Park at Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib
Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib

Some Considerations and what to see

  • When to go - Weather plays a major role in making or marring your experience of the fort. It’s definitely not a place to go on a hot sunny day since exploring the fort involves a good amount of walking in the open. Rainy season or winters is an ideal time to go to Bidar.
  • When to start and leave - Start early so that you can explore the fort before the sun is at its strongest in the afternoon. Also, prefer to leave well before dark. We left for Hyderabad at around 5:30 pm and found it a little difficult to drive in the dark with trucks also moving on the road.
  • What to see –

    • Bidar Fort and Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib are the two must visit places.
    • The Bahmani Tombs present some really beautiful architecture however, since the place is un-guarded with no presence from administration, it was flocked by groups of uncouth youth. Certainly not a place to go with family.
    • Narasimha Jharni a popular cave temple is also situated in Bidar. One has to walk through an excavated cave filled with water upto chest level to have a glimpse of the deity. The shrine was closed for renovation during our visit. You can check once prior to going there.

Happy Travelling!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi

Time Period: 1st Week of June
Duration: 5 Days

A quick vacation thought got us landed in Malaysia. That’s pretty much how it got planned. I remember shortlisting the places and Malaysia met all our requirements. It’s a short travel, easy Visa process, great parties and secluded islands.

We flew with Air Asia, which was a comfortable 4hrs flight from Hyderabad, India. We landed in KLIA2 and hired a cab to our hotel in Bukit Bintang. First impression of Kuala lumpur being an amazing skyline and crowded roads with traffic moving by inches.

View from KL Tower

Crystal Fountain @Pavilion
The city's infrastructure is very impressive. One thing that I felt is in abundance is shopping malls. Pavilion situated in Bukit Bintang is a great shopping destination. The place is huge with a good number of retail outlets and food options.

Kuala lumpur nightlife is pretty amazing with some nice places to party. We had a real good time at Skybar which offers a great ambience complemented by lively music. Also, Changkat Bukit Bintang is a paradise for party goers with a good number of restobars and pubs.

Below are the highlights and all that we explored.

Day 1 - KL Tower, Aquaria KLCC and Petronas Twin Towers
The entry tickets can be booked online or bought at the respective places. Generally, hotel travel desks and nearby travel agencies ask you to buy the tickets from them (just to earn some commission)by saying all sorts of things, simply ignore them.

KL Tower (with Petronas Towers in the background)
You get a nice view of city’s skyline from KL Tower. However, I felt it’s not worth the price. KL Tower and Petronas Towers are visible from almost anywhere in the city. Aquaria KLCC however, is a must visit place. You actually get a chilling feeling with sharks swimming just above you.

Aquaria KLCC

Day 2 – Genting Highlands
Next morning, we took an Uber from our hotel to KL Sentral, and bought tickets for Go Genting (bus) and Genting Skyway. Go Genting buses departs every 1 hour and you should prefer booking it online.

Go Genting
There are a good number of food joints in KL Sentral, some of them serving mouth watering local delicacies. We had a nice brunch in KL Sentral, before boarding Go Genting. It was a 1-hour ride and then a 15-minute skyway to Genting Highlands. The place has some good casinos and a few other attractions. You can shop, dine and roam around. All in all, a day well spent.

Genting Skyway
Genting First World Hotel
Day 3 – Langkawi: Eagle Square
Langkawi as expected was a complete contrast to KL with very less vehicles on the road and all the solitude in the world. It was a quick 1-hour flight from KL to Langkawi and then a cab to our hotel, Bella Vista. We later rented a car in the evening. The public transport is next to nil and the cab fares are actually very high. It’s better to rent a car from airport (preferably online, as you can get some good deals) that you can drop at the airport on your return.

View from Bella Vista

Day 4 – Believe 5D Museum, Kilim Geoforest, Black Sand Beach, Night Market
There are two similar art museums in Langkawi. We went to the one in Kuah. If you are a selfie lover and someone who loves to get clicked, then this is a place for you.

Kilim Geoforest was definitely the highlight of our trip and it was a wonderful experience. A guided boat tour in Kilim river with mangrove forests on each side and some amazing views. The day ended with a beautiful sunset at the black sand beach close by.

Black Sand Beach, Langkawi
In the evening, we went to the night market. Night markets in Langkawi are held every day of the week at different fixed locations. It offered some good local sea food and we tried some yummy satays.

Day 5 – Lake of the Pregnant Maiden, China Town Kuala lumpur
We had an island hopping tour planned for the next day. However, due to less time and some technical issues with our boat we only visited Dayan Bunting island. Lake of the Pregnant Maiden on the island is a delightful and refreshing experience. You can take a swim in the lake and do boating.

Lake of Pregnant Maiden

After a 1-hour flight with Malindo Air, we were back in Kuala lumpur at KLIA1. Lack of time and group’s majority favored China Town over Batu Caves. We had a good amount of time for shopping but I would say, China town is only for folks who can bargain well. Haggling is a very common sight. We bought a few stuff at 1/5th of the initial quoted price, so that gives you an idea of how much can be bargained.

China Town, Kuala Lumpur

We had our return flight to Hyderabad, India from KLIA2.

What not to miss
  • KLCC Aquaria
  • Batu Caves
  • Kilim Geoforest Park
  • Lake of Pregnant Maiden

Some considerations
  • Currency exchange – Take a small amount with you. We got the best rates from Once in Malaysia, withdrawing from ATMs is a better choice than taking a large amount with you. Also, Money Exchange at KL Sentral 1st floor offers good rates.
  • Transport from airport (KLIA1 and KLIA2) – There are a good number of options to/from airports. For a group of 3-4 folks, budget cabs can be preferred.
  • Prefer online booking for city attractions (KL Tower, Petronas Towers, KLCC Aquaria). You can get some good deals there.
  • Cabs at odd hours can be really expensive, Uber is your best option there.
  • Considering the lack of public transport in Langkawi and a relatively easy drive with only a few vehicles on the road, you can prefer self-drive.

Happy Travelling!