Friday, 30 December 2011

The Taj Mahal-Seven Wonders Of The World

The Taj Mahal is 3 Hours Drive From Our Airbnb Apartment-Reunite in Delhi-The Ideal New Delhi Accomodation



The Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal has been around for 360 years  and draws more than 3 Million visitors annually. On 25 Dec 2011, middle of the holiday season all over the world, 80,000 tickets were sold not counting visitors below 15 yrs of age who do not need a ticket.Such is the popularity of the Taj Mahal as a tourist attraction. Located in Agra, 200 KMs from New Delhi, the capital of India, The Taj Mahal was completed in 1653 after 22 years of hard work by more than 20,000 contruction workers, calligraphers, inlayers, sculptors, stone cutters and off course the architects and designers all of whom were accumulated from various parts of Asia depending on the local expertise. The Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders Of The World.
Main gate of Taj Mahal
The main entrance to the Taj Mahal has 2 striking features. One is the Holy Koran ,inscribed by the calligraphers in the white border .The letters at the top level, 30 feet high, appear to be the same size as at the ground level. Secondly you can count eleven small white domes on top of the gate. For each year of construction activity one dome was made.After twenty two years the same number of domes was ready and they were mounted on the tops of the  two gates, eleven each. Since the workers did not know how to count and keep track of the years ,this was their simple method of keeping count of the years.
The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan ,Emperor of India, in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631  and completed in 1653.At that time in 1632, Shah Jahan was the richest and the  most powerful person in the world. The 4 minarets surrounding the Taj Mahal are inclined outwards by 2 degrees to prevent damage to the main dome in case they collapse during an earthquake or storm.
The Fountains & lawns of the Taj Mahal with the reflection.

There are Sixteen lawns , and fifty three  fountains around The Taj Mahal, to mark the year of completion of the Taj Mahal i.e1653. Built at a cost of Rs.40 Million at that time, The Taj Mahal is 55M wide and about 55M Tall.The grave of Mumtaz Mahal, 30 ft below the ground, is exactly aligned with the centre of the main gate and the Tombstone has  the name Mumtaz Mahal  inscribed  in Arabic in gold letters with a picture of Shah Jahan's Peacock Throne.The throne is today in Iran ,looted away by the Persian Invader Nadir Shah in the  year 1738.

Inside The Main Gate
This is the inside of the Main Gate. I found a guide exasperatedly looking for the eleventh member of  his group, muttering why do tourists go crazy at the first sight of The Taj.He found her lying on the floor in a corner of the main gate  trying to photograph The Taj from some special angle. Such is the effect of The Taj on the human mind.The Scale, Grandeur and Magnificence of the monument can be felt and experienced only by personally visiting the place.

Remains of the water tank for the Black Taj Mahal
River Yamuna behind The Taj
River Jamuna behind The Taj
 At the back of the Taj Mahal is the River Jamuna and across it Shah Jahan had built a tank of water. On moonlit nights the reflection of The Taj could be seen in the tank and it used to appear black. So there was a White Taj Mahal which was reflected in the water tank at a particular time and on some particular dates atop an inverted Black Taj Mahal . It was quite a sight and Shah Jahan used to invite his guests to enjoy the symmetry of the two Taj Mahals. Later on the water tank gave birth to a myth that Shah Jahan wanted to build another black Taj Mahal and was stopped by his son Aurangzeb and put into prison at the Agra Fort.The imprisonment was the result of a war for succession which resulted in Aurangzeb killing his three elder brothers and taking over as the Emperor of India, and Shah Jahan being imprisoned in Agra Fort from where he could see his favourite Taj Mahal and also  where he died eight years later, and was  buried next to his wife inside the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is now just 2 hours away by the New Expressway and is a must see for visitors to Delhi. When in Delhi stay at our Airbnb Apartment Reunite In Delhi. It is ideal New Delhi accomodation for upto 8 guests. 

video

Upon watching the Video of The Taj Mahal one can judge its magnificence by comparing the size of the visitors who are walking on the platform to The Taj Mahal itself. The number of visitors at the time of filming can also be estimated.


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Details of The Taj Mahal and it becomes clear why it took 22 years to complete and also why it is counted among the Seven Wonders Of The World.
Inlaid Spandrels and Poem Calligraphy at The Taj Mahal
Inlaid Spandrels and Arabic Poems  Calligraphy

Marble Sculptres on the Minarets.

Plant Motifs on the walls of the TaJ Mahal

Green and Orange Semi precious Stones Inlaid in Marble



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There is now a new super highway for reaching the Taj mahal from Delhi. The Yamuna Expressway is a 6-lane , 205 km long, controlled-access expressway, connecting Greater Noida with Agra in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is India's one of the longest six-lane controlled-access expressway stretch. The total project cost was US$2.0 billion -Rs 13000 Crore.



In a first for military aviation in India, Indian Air Force on May 21, 2015 successfully landed a French Dassault Mirage-2000 on the Yamuna Expressway near Raya village, Mathura, at about 6.40 am. The drill was part of more elaborate trials to see how many other highways can be used for emergency landing of defence aircraft. The next stretch on sight is three km of the Agra-Lucknow Greenfield Expressway.









Monday, 26 December 2011

Koh Samui

Beach of Koh Samui
The second largest island of the Kingdom of Thailand,Koh Samui, still has the air of an isolated, carefree, self sufficient , exotic holiday destination and is dotted with swaying palm trees and surrounded by clean white sandy beaches. Till 1989 the only way to get to Koh Samui was by boat and only the most fearless tourists ventured there. With the airport came western tourists, hotels, resorts, roads, malls and showrooms of all possible international brands.Even the fishermen now  use green lights at night to attract the fish. Thailand is among the top destinations among places to travel and Koh Samui is the most popular tourist place. 


Koh Samui Airport
Samui Airport ,owned by Bangkok Airways opened to commercial flights in 1989. Bangkok Airways is a boutique airline operating out of Thailand . Samui Airport has a quaint ,homely ,small town air about it with multicolored flower beds aesthetically positioned both inside and outside the Airport. There is no air conditioning at the airport and the tourists start enjoying the tropical Koh Samui  weather at the airport itself. At 9Deg N the weather is more equatorial than tropical.The 560 KM Bangkok Airways flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui takes about an hour.
Moonrise at Koh Samui
The 21KM by 25Km island has a shoreline fringed with palm and fruit  trees and in the center is a rain forest covered hill. Moon rise at Koh Samui is magnificent. It appears big almost like  the setting sun, but which is actually rising into the sky. Then we realise that it the rising moon and not the setting sun.This is the result of the most investigated Moon Illusion because of which the moon appears much bigger at the Equatorial Horizon than at its zenith. Scientists say it is psychological, but it is definitely a combination of some optical/retinal effects. 

Resort at Koh Samui
We stayed at an excellent resort on the beach complete with swimming pools, modern luxury  villas with all possible amenities, a restaurant serving the best of Thai and Indian cuisine. The South Thai cuisine is a mixture of Malay and  Indonesian and is known for its excessive spiciness. An island will also always have excellent sea food also. Thai massage is very popular all over the world for its therapeutic benefits and involves stretching and deep massage. The resort also provided the Thai Massage facility. 


Yatch Ride at Koh Samui
Yacht Ride at Koh Samui
The Resort is  owned and run by Oceans Elite  who also provide Luxury Yacht Charters.Koh Samui is surrounded by more than 60 islands known as the Samui Archipelago which provides and excellent cruising ground. The service on the Ocean Elite Yacht was truly first class and the crew was confident and experienced.Near one of the islands the Yacht was stopped and the more enthusiastic members got a chance to jump into the ocean and try out their snorkeling and diving skills. Used to swimming pools with continous filtered water their enthusiasm did not last long.


Library Bar at Koh Samui
Koh Samui has a large number of pubs,cafes, restaurants,night clubs,discos,bars  along the beach serving up all kinds of entertainment,drinks and night clubs which are all popular in any tourist place.This is picture of the Library Bar Cafe on the beach of Koh Samui. It had many swimming pools with yellow lights. There was also a library with many books,making me wonder,who would read a book when you have Kindles,I Pads and several kinds of Tabs. 
Snorkelling at Koh Samui
Yatch at Koh Samui
Crew
The expert crew of the Ocean Elite Yacht.



The Phosphorescent wake of the Yacht .


Chinese Lantern
At night we released Chinese Lanterns on the beach.The luck of a person ,releasing the lantern,is supposedly proportional to the height attained by the lantern. The trick is to hold the lantern after lighting the wax, and then release  it when it starts pulling up hard .It will go up fast and , maybe,very high.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Ronda -The Most Startling City of Spain

Ronda,situated in the most mountainous area of Spain, is indeed the most startling city of Spain.The Bus Tour from Malaga to Ronda passes through Fuengirola and then the  road  heads up into the hills.As the bus climbs into the hills the long Mediterranean coast can be seen for along time. 
El Navasillo Restaurant
Two hours after starting the tour takes a breakfast stop at El Navasillo restaurant, where traditional Spanish Breakfast is served in a rural kind of setting. Local bread called Pan Cateto was served with Olive oil.Navasillo is about 15 KMs from Ronda.
El Navasillo,Spain
The mountains are a constant companion all along the way and the road is now new,smooth  and wide.The guide frequently pointed out the old road to Ronda and it was in such a dilapidated  condition that we could not believe anything other than a horse could have travelled on it.
Dark Clouds At El Navasillo
The dark clouds gathering on the mountains at Navasillo and they continued to follow us the whole day in Ronda also,breaking into a slight drizzle now and then.
New Bridge ,Ronda
Ronda is divided into two parts by the El Tajo Canyon which has been carved over the centuries by the Guadelevin River.There are 3 bridges over the gorge of Ronda, The Roman, Old and New Bridge. The new bridge was completed in 1791. The View from the new bridge is indeed breathtaking.
Bull at Bull Ring Ronda
Bull Fighting is a National Sport of Spain which dates back to prehistoric times in the Mediterranean where Bulls were sacrificed in Greece.In Ronda it started in the village squares and was later formalised with the building of the Ronda Bull Fighting Ring.
Ronda Bull fighting Ring
In 1572 King Phillip II created the Royal Cavalry order of Ronda which was an order for Noblemen to promote the proper training of noblemen in horsemanship,athletics and the spearing of bulls from horseback. If anybody can withstand a 500Kg bull charge and spear him,he can face any enemy in battle.


Mock Bull fight Ronda
The famous bull fighter of Ronda was Pedro Romero who killed more than 6000 bulls in his life of 102 years without ever sufferring as much as a scratch.Killing a bull involves using a special sword to sever the main blood vessel of the heart so asto bring down the bull instantly with a fountain of bull blood streaming out of the wound.

Bull Ring Details, Ronda
The bull ring of Ronda is the most elegant amongst all others in Spain and consists of double arches with each stand having 5 rows of seats,leaving no uncovered seating. The 66M dia ring is surround by a lane formed by two walls of sandstone-i think it is for safety.
There is a bull pen from where the bulls thunder into the ring. Outside there is amuseum which has weapons,saddlery and best of all paintings and old photgraphs fom which one can get an idea about the actual hapenings at the time.A guide is most useful because he can keep you spell bound by his enthralling pantomine of the fight.He does not leavemuch to imagination.
Santa Maria Church, Ronda
The Santa maria Church of Ronda.
Yatchs at Marabella, Spain
On the way back from Ronda the tour stopped at Marbella which is the most popular town amongst the wealthy visitors  of Northern European Countries. At the beach front can be seen huge Luxury Cruise ships and Luxury Yatchs . 


Marabella Luxury Yatchs
The popularity of Marbella was somewhat marred by some kidnappings in the eighties , but since then it has recovered its status as the most sought after holiday destination in winter amongst the Rich and the Wealthy.
Ernest Hemingway visted Ronda and was so impressed by the place that he based his famous novel For Whom The Bells Toll in Ronda.
The Chapter 10 scene  where landlord are being thrown off a cliff is the cliff in Ronda and is based on the happenings in Ronda in 1936.

When you plan a visit to Delhi in India, do stay at our Airbnb Reunite in Delhi. It can comfortably host a group of upto 8 persons.


video

Friday, 16 December 2011

In Malaga-Europe's Capital Of Culture

Malaga ,the Southernmost big city of Europe was founded by the Phoenicians from Tyre Carthage 2800 years ago making it one of the oldest cities in the world. It was subsequently ruled, in succession , by the Romans, Arabs and finally by the Spaniards . The remains of the castles,forts, stadiums and other buildings built by the rulers  from the Phoenician, Roman, Arabic and Spanish eras  display the long and rich history of Malaga. In addition the famous artist painter Pablo Picasso was also born and lived in Malaga. Both these facts  have made Malaga a major contender for the title of  "2016 European Capital of Culture".Spain is one of the top destinations for travellers and in Malaga there are many interesting tourist places.
Refurbished Phoenician Ship in Malaga Spain
Refurbished Phoenician Ship, Malaga,Spain
This is a Phoenician ship which was discovered in almost perfect condition under the water and was subsequently brought to the surface and refurbished to make it appear as close as possible to what would have been the original ships plying between Malaga and Tyre.I think they are called Galleys which were independent of winds and were powered by rowing galley slaves.
Alcazaba, Malaga Spain
The Alcazaba and Roman Theatre,Malaga, Spain
The Alcazaba is a Moorish fort which was  built in the mid-11th century.This is the best-preserved  citadel in Spain. Adjacent to the entrance of the Alcazaba are the ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre built probably in the 2nd century BC. Some of the Roman era materials were used in the Moorish construction of the Alcazaba.In 1487, Ferdinand and Isabella captured the city from the Moors after a long siege, and riased their flag inside the inner walls.


Orchards Inside Alcazab


The whole complex is built upon a hill in Malaga and overlooks the port and is enclosed by 2 walls. The first wall encloses the entire hill and the second inner one is dotted with  defensive towers.
Inner Walls Of Alcazaba, Malaga,Spain
The entrance into the inner wall is through gates as the one shown in the picture and there is considerable use of Multifoil Arches which was a popular element of Moorish architecture seen in the Andulasian area. As you wander inside the Alcazab you cannot help imagining the life of the people living in Malaga in the 11th Century AD with attackers constantly trying to break in and capture the place ,which the Spaniards in any did in the 14th Century.
Gardens Inside Alcazaba,Malaga, Spain
There are several gardens,orchards  and fountains inside the Alcazab along the pathways and they show that the citadel was built with a lot of planning where importance was given to all aspects of life.


Fortifications Of The Alcazaba, Malaga, Spain



In the middle of the inner wall is a museum which besides artefacts recovered during excavations also houses the armoury where one can see the various kinds of weapons, artillery, ammunition used in those times and it is quite amazing that even in the 11th and 12th century the weapons in Malaga were quite advanced.
Picasso Museum, Malaga, Spain
Pablo Picasso the famous artist painter was also born 1881  in Malaga and there is an entire museum devoted to him. His contribution to the development of painting, printmaking, sculpture and ceramics is well known. The Renaissance palace of the count of Bellavista was converted into Picasso museum in honour of the famous reknowned artist.

Picasso Painting on Malaga Railway Station
Many of his paintings can be seen on facades of buildings in Malaga. Besides being a painter Pablo Picasso also wrote more than 300 poems. Besides being a celebrity Pablo Picasso and his works of art are the pride of Malaga and its residents.

Narrow Streets of Malaga,Spain
The  buildings in Malaga are influenced by a mix of Moorish, Arab, Roman styles of architecture built on both sides of narrow streets. In fact so narrow that cars cannot enter them and the  motor-cycle is the popular vehicle by choice.

Streets Of Malaga, Spain
A walk through the streets in Malaga, lined with gardens of fruit laden trees  is an experience by itself and this feature is unique to Malaga .
Restaurant Serving Paella, Malaga, Spain
Or you can drop in  for lunch at restaurants which serve excellent sea food, various kinds of fish,lobsters,sardines  caught freshly from the nearby Mediterranean sea -in fact the best you can ever get-along with local cuisine of which Paella is very well known the world over. It is a saffron seasoned rice preparation cooked along with chicken or seafood or  mutton or  vegetables depending on ones choice and preference. The food can be complemented with the best of the Spanish wines from Malaga's several vineyards.  

Evening Cafe, Malaga, Spain
Several cafes open up in the evenings in Malaga and it is an excellent experience to sit in a cafe and see the life go by. The waiters are courteous and attentive and remain very busy throughout the evening.There are HD TVs installed everywhere but the programs were in Spanish. The coffee,tea,cocktails are all very good though the food could be better and  the servings are huge. As the evening progresses it becomes cold to be sitting outside unless one is appropriately dressed. Some of the cafes have live music also and it is indeed enjoyable sitting in the open under the twinkling stars.
Christmas Tree ,Main Square, Malaga, Spain
A Christmas tree at the  main square in Malaga, a week before Christmas.

Street Of Malaga at Night, Spain

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Holiday in Costa Del Sol



The Mediterranean at Costa Del Sol
Costa del Sol translates into Coast of the Sun and is a region in the south of Spain on the Northern coastline of the Mediterranean sea.It  has the warmest winter of Europe and therefore people living in the dark and freezing countries of  north Europe head to this region for a week long holiday in Costa Del Sol for its sun and warmth.For this reason Spain has become a top destination and Costa Del Sol the most popular tourist place.
Beach at Costa Del Sol
 Tourists from Asia had to wear warm clothes in the month of December but most of the other  tourists were roaming around wearing beach clothes and spending the whole day in the non heated swimming pool from 7AM on wards. British Airways flies  to Malaga via London in about 14 hours of flying time with a 6 hour break at Heathrow London. Malaga International Airport is an extremely busy airport with Spain being No.2 rank  in terms of tourist arrivals in Europe and No4 in the world.
Club La Costa Spain     
Club la Costa is an excellent resort in Costa Del Sol   which has heated and non heated swimmimg pools which were overflowing with swimmers and in December,with Christmas just a week away ,the temperature was awarm 17 DegC.The resort has  excellent restaurants serving Spanish food accompanied by pitchers of Sangria wine/cocktail.The extensive sea-food spread consisting of fish, crab, lobster , the fresh morning catch from the Mediterranean,was especially exotic. For entertainment there is a show of Spanish Flamenco Dance in which the guests were also invited to take part. You can  find  a video of the same show at the same Club la Costa restaurant by the  name Club la Costa Flamenco Nights on You Tube. 
Club la Costa Restaurant at Costa Del Sol, Spain
Flamenco dance comes in many forms one of which was traditionally performed impromptu around a fire at dinner time by the Gypsies and another in which there is a ballet or a theatre kind of  performance . Flamenco involves vigorous and rhythmic tapping of both feet and complex arm movements. Artists become experts only by the age of thirty and perform upto the age of fifty because maturity is an essential part of Flamenco. 

Plaza Mayor, Costa Del Sol, Spain
Close to the Malaga International  Airport ,about 30 Minutes by train from  Fuengirola is Plaza Mayor  one of the largest leisure cum entertainment cum shopping and dining center. For the first time we saw a movie in 3D I MAX format. It was about marine life but it felt like we were under the ocean ourselves surrounded by all kinds of underwater creatures of the deep. 
Fountains at Plaza Mayor, Costa Del Sol, Spain
In addition there are all kinds of restaurants, bars, fast food, shopping, games, bowling alleys, discos  , Gyms and fountains -an overall lively and exciting place where a full day can be spent.    
Architecture at Plaza Mayor, Costa Del Sol, Spain
The architecture of Plaza Mayor is traditional with its building facades, streets, squares, green spaces , roofs creating the feel and style of an Andulasian Village. If you are not sunbathing on the beach or the weather is bad ,the best place to spend the day in Costa del Sol is at Plaza Mayor.  
Cable Car, Benamadina, Costa Del Sol, Spain
 Another major tourist attraction of a holiday in Costa del Sol is the cable car system at Benamadina which takes you up into the mountains to a height of 2500 ft in 15 minutes in a 4 seater Cable car.  The destination is the peak of the Monte Calmorro among the Sierra Nevada group of mountains.

     
4 Seater Cable Car

From the peak ,on a clear day one can see from strategically placed viewing points , the entire Costa del Sol region including the snow covered peaks to the north and Gibraltar also. 



There is a superstitious belief that if the monkeys on Gibraltar vanish, Gibraltar will no longer be a British Territory.During WWII Winston Churchill tried increase the population of the monkeys(Barbary Macquakes is the technical term) by importing them by the hundreds from Africa.


Donkey at Mount Benamadina, Spain
In addition to the viewing gallery there are Donkey Rides also included in the Cable Car Ticket. 

The more adventurous can climb down on foot or if feeling more energetic Mountain Bike down all the way.By the way the cable cars can carry bikes also.
Walk Down From Mount Benamadina, Spain
While coming down on the cable car ,we saw that almost all houses-100%- had a small or big swimming pool on the roof. Spain is one of the top destinations and Costa Del Sol has excellent tourist places around it. 
Costa Del Sol and Mediterranean from Mount Benamadina
A holiday in Costa Del Sol is one of the best ways to explore the Sun and Beaches of Spain.