Friday, 30 January 2015

QIBAO WATER TOWN – TRAVEL GUIDE

Shanghai is a beautiful urban metropolis and there are a lot of things to see and experience in Shanghai .I went to Shanghai on a business trip and after 2 weeks of exploring the city I wanted to head out to the country side .Qibao was recommended to me by a few colleagues as it was very easy to get to by subway and was close to downtown Shanghai.

Qibao Water Town Shanghai
Ancient Stone Bridges of Qibao
Qibao displays its history in its water canals, old buildings and beautiful stone bridges. You can walk along the old streets, do a little shopping and try out the amazing local cuisine. It was disappointing to see that most of the old buildings have been renovated over the years ,only a few tea shops by the canal and restaurants at the entrance to Qibao still preserve their old Chinese architecture.
Canal in Qibao Water Town Shanghai
The big canal that runs through the centre of the town 
I chose to visit Qiabo as it is the closest water town to Shanghai and it is easily accessible by the subway (direction are given below). Most of the old buildings have been restored and only a few old buildings still preserve the traditional architecture. The water town of Qibao was built during the Five Dynasty Period around thousand years ago. Qibao in Chinese means seven treasures, it is believed that seven treasures are buried around the town. The town is crossed by two big canals and along the water lanes stand a large number of well preserved traditional houses, restaurants and shops. 
  


It would take you about 3 hours to explore the entire town , have a traditional meal and take a boat ride along the canal. The best time to go would be around 4 in the evening as once the sun sets the old buildings long the canal are lit up and  its beautiful !

Qibao Water Town at night



Street Food

  •  Qibao is known for its speciality cuisine, hong shao rou (“red braised pork”), cooked using a combination of ginger, garlic, aromatic spices, chilli peppers, sugar, light and dark soy and sometimes rice wine.
  • Another speciality is Beggars chicken, whole chicken wrapped in mud shell then baked .Just crack open and enjoy the deliciously slow cooked chicken.
  • Soupy dumplings , the dumplings are filled with crab, chicken or pork and also frozen stock .When the dumplings are steamed in bamboo steamers the stock melts and its a burst of flavour biting into these juicy dumplings
  • Banana rice cooked in bamboo tubes is yummy

Street food in Qibao
Pork Trotters and Frog Legs
Soupy Crab Dumplings

Things To Do

  • Have tea from the tea houses by the canal
  • Visit the miniature engravings museum
  • Stroll around the Qibao garden temple and pagoda. Entrance to the pagoda is 5 yuan
  • Take a boat ride around the canal
  • Eat at Tianxiang Restaurant which serves authentic local cuisine
Small Pagoda at the entrance to Qibao
water town shanghai
Beautiful Qiabo on a rainy day


Getting There 

Take Subway Line 9 and get off at Qibao Station. Leave from Exit 2 to the old town , walk towards the road junction and take a left turn. The entrance to Qibao city is a huge gate which is hard to miss.
Qibao is a nice place to go try real local cuisine, but as a water town its not great .Most of the old buildings have been built over and there is hardly any of the old architecture left .What makes Qibao a popular destination is that its easy to get to .I would suggest going there late evening , once the bridges and buildings are lit up, its beautiful !

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

THE GRAND BANGALORE PALACE

Through the years Bangalore has had many changes including the name itself, the one thing that hasn't changed in this beautiful city is the grand Bangalore palace. Located in the heart of city  you can step into the splendorous world of the kings and queens for a taste of British royalty.

The palace was built as a boarding school; construction started in the year 1862 and it was completed in 1944. In 1884 the palace was bought by the Maharaja of Mysore and is now owned by the Mysore Royal family.


The architecture of the palace has a mixture of Tudor architecture with a hint of Gothic Influence. At a first look the palace shows very strong resemblance to the Windsor Castle in London. 
Bangalore palace
Entrance of the Bangalore Palace

Interior D├ęcor 

The ground floor consists of 2 open courtyards ; the smaller courtyard has a Spanish theme to it and the bigger courtyard is Arabian inspired.The Spanish courtyard has granite seats covered with bright blue ceramic tiles . The interior are decorated with elegant wood, carvings and Victorian furniture. 

Bangalore palace courtyard
Spanish Courtyard

Beautiful tiles imported from Spain
In the first floor of the palace is a huge Durbar hall where the Maharaja used to address the assembly . The Durbar hall is by far the most beautiful room in the palace with large stained glass windows, beautiful chandeliers  and intricate patterns on the wall.

inside Bangalore palace

The beautiful wooden stairs that lead to the Durbar hall . A giant elephant head is hung on the wall of the stairs along with several paintings 

Grand Wooden Staircase
The Mysore Royal family loved to hunt and it is pretty evident from the photos of hunting parties posing with their kill and all the furniture made from animals ( Elephant foot chairs, antelope leg stools etc)

Elephant foot stools 
Furniture made with deer legs
Kaleidoscopic patterns of the Bangalore palace
The interior walls of the palace are adorned by old paintings belonging to the mid-19th century, including some Greek and Dutch paintings.

Paintings on the wall

Colourful Belgian lamp shades







palace grounds
The palace is open to visitors everyday from 10:am to 5:30 pm .When I visited the palace a movie was being shot and certain sections were not accessible.There is a entry fee for taking a tour of the palace and its quiet expensive.

  • 225 for Indians
  • 450 for foreigners
  • 675 for a camera pass
  • 1000 for video camera
  • 100 for mobile camera 
Bangalore Place is worth a visit and it will take you about 2 hours to cover the entire palace.

Monday, 26 January 2015

A MISTY MORNING AT NANDI HILLS

After spending weekend after weekends eating out, drinking beer and watching movies, a road trip was long over due. So over a Friday night beer session with friends we made plans to head to Nandi hills the following morning. Nandi hills is a ancient hill fortress 60 KM from Bangalore city. Now days it is a popular picnic destination and the perfect location to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Nandi Hills Bangalore
Nandi Hills Morning


Road Map

From Hebbal flyover take NH7 and take a left diversion (about 10km after passing by BIAL airport flyover) with a signboard in English “Nandi Hills 22 km.

Nandi Hills


The Air up there 

We started the trip at around 5 in the morning and reached Nandi hills just as the sun was coming up.At the highest point Nandi hills is 1455 above sea level and the view from up here is amazing.

Nandi hills was once home to Tippu Sultans summer abode because of the beautiful climate thorough the year.The landscape of the hill is really beautiful ,covered with vegetation mainly consisting of eucalyptus and coffee. The hill has been named after the famous statue of a mythical bull who stands guard at the temple gates.



Things to Do

  • Good spot for Landscape Photography
  • Have a weekend picnic with family and friends
  • Nandi hills is a god destination for bird watching
  • Go for a tour of Grover vineyard .For 1000 per head you get to learn the wine making process and sample 5 different wines in the cellar (www.grovervineyards.in)
  • Visit the beautiful Bhoganandishwara Temple

Beware 

  • Foggy lens problems is common
  • Don’t feed the monkeys and be careful while walking around with food
  • Heavy fog can lead to reduced visibility while driving






Sunday, 18 January 2015

ROADTRIP - HESSARGHATTA GRASSLANDS

Hessarghatta lies about 30 KM from Bangalore City and it is probably the last surviving grasslands in Bangalore. Its amazing how the scenery changes once you reach Hessarghatta, beautiful grasslands, blue sky and patches of trees on the horizon. We did a road trip to Hessarghatta last summer, although the weather was hot we had a amazing trip.

 HESSARGHATTA GRASSLANDS

The vast grasslands provide hunting grounds for birds of prey and with a nice tele-lens you can get some awesome bird photos .If you love photography , you can spend an entire day taking pictures of the landscape, sunset at the lake , birds etc.

 HESSARGHATTA GRASSLANDS

Our Native Village is a small eco resort in Hessarghatta and we ended up going there for lunch and to take shelter from the hot summer sun .The food was nice and they have a decent wine bar .The resort has a very rustic ambiance and it beautifully done up .The service was excellent and I highly recommend the place to anyone visiting Hessarghatta.The other famous resort in Hessarghatta is the Taj Kuteeram which was big disappointment ! they had a very disgusting looking expensive buffet and very very rude staff !!!

Our Native Village Resort Bangalore
Our Native Village Resort Bangalore

Things to do in Hessarghatta
  • Photograph birds of prey in action
  • Take landscape photos
  • Visit  nrityagram (Closed on Mondays )
  • Chill out in Our Native Village resort

Things not to do
  • Please dont litter , its really sad to see the beautiful landscape littred with beer bottles , plastic waste etc
  • DONT visit Taj Kuteeram , the place sucks .Bad service , bad food , rude staff , expensive

Trip Itinerary
  • Left at 10:30 am from Whitefield and we reached by 12
  • Drove around the grass lands
  • Went to Taj Kuteeram for lunch as it was really hot , the place sucked so we walked out
  •  Went to Our Native Village , had lunch and chilled there till about 4
  • Explored the grasslands
  • Started our journey back at 6