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Remember the exotic setting in the movie ‘Dil Se’ where Shahrukh Khan grooved to the song ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ with Malaika Arora in colourful attire, flanked by gorgeous, sun-bathed hills? I’m talking about the same train atop which the duo danced. This is the train that runs between Ooty to Mettupalayam in the hills of Nilgiri.
When in Nilgiris, take a joy ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and you will return home as a happy soul. Built by the British in 1908, trains running on this route still rely on the steam locomotives. Listed as World Heritage Site as an extension of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, the train site is also known as Mountain Railway of India.
The blue coloured train strides ahead through the 46 km, passing through 16 tunnels and tall girder bridges. There are over 26 viaducts that fall on its way, making the journey loaded with fun and adventure. The route will take you through the interiors of the district. You may see people ploughing the terrace fields, bright coloured houses, pine and teak trees, shrubs ballooning with coffee and pepper and beautiful waterfalls.
As you look out from the window, you may notice local kids waving you happily. Since the train passes through the residential towns of Ooty, Lovedale, Wellington, Coonoor, you will see the way locals thrive here.
Nestled in the lush Charotar region of Gujarat, Anand is a perfect haven away from the city madness. The jigsaw puzzle pieces lay before my eyes and I was to decipher what the puzzle held. I was flipping a travel magazine when I came across an envelope with a jigsaw puzzle. This was part of the campaign run by the Gujarat Tourism to promote its historical and cultural assets. I deciphered the puzzle and was ecstatic to see an image of ancient Somnath Temple beaming before my eyes. And I was charmed. I pondered over the vibrancy the land of Gujarat bestowed on its visitors. And as luck would have it, soon I was in the celebrated land of Gujarat. Like a wide-eyed tourist, with visuals of the legendary Amul way of life in Anand running at the back of my mind, I kick started my sojourn in the Milk Capital of India. After a short flight from Delhi to Ahmedabad, I zipped passed the grassy meadows and small establishments along the Ahmedabad-Vadodra Expressway. My destination was Anand. The name instantly takes each one of us to the legendary White Revolution initiated by Late Dr Vergese Kurein, the man behind making milk deficient India to the largest milk producer in the world. Anand is situated at a distance of about 70 kms from Ahmedabad, so I travelled for about an hour to hit the place. Nature’s bounty Crisp monsoon breeze woke me up from my slumber. I was almost in Anand. Peeping out of the cab window, I noticed some senior citizens walking on the roads, regardless to mention, with copies of ‘Gujarat Samachar’ in their hands. All this informally indicated my arrival in Anand. We did a little detour to reach Vallabh Vidyanagar, where Madhubhan Resorts and Spa (hosts for my stay) is situated. Spread in the sprawling 20-acre area, the resort highlights the verdant surroundings of the region. The resort welcomed me in to its expansive outdoors filled with manicured lawns and old world structures. After relishing some authentic Gujarati breakfast foods like Khaman and Khandvi at the coffee shop, I checked in to the elegant Mandavdi Gom Cottage situated in the Chiku ni Pol area of the resort. The resort highlights the nuances of Gujarati architecture mixed eclectic modern designs and amenities. Taking a walk in the natural setting of the resort took all my sleep-deprived fatigue away. Timeless modernity A quick lunch and I was all geared up to explore the city. First on my itinerary was to visit the Amul Dairy situated in the heart of the city. It is amazing to watch how an initiative that began with a single move is today touches every single Indian in some wayt. I watched thousands and thousands of packets of Amul Butter being packet and loaded in to the trucks. Smiling, I continued my stroll to the Sardar Patel Memorial in the city. The museum has preserved the work and memories of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the great political leader of the nation. Going to Gujarat and coming empty handed is a sin, told a friend over the phone. With some retail therapy on my mind, I began my shopping spree and bought some knick-knacks penchant of Gujarat like Sheeng dana, Khari besides khakra and chhunda. Anand is also a great destination if you want to buy trousseau ensemble. Picking up some jewellery and a Gujarati panethar (bridal saree), I came back to the resort where I was treated with an authentic Italian dinner at the Kauzina restaurant. While at Kauzina, one must try the Cheese Chilly pizza, which comes up as an interesting dish. Inviting locales Next morning, shimmering rain, clear swimming pool lagoon, flocks of ducks waddling under the sun less sky greeted me. Very rarely in life, our senses are satiated by a place and here at Madhubhan, I was totally satiated. My agenda for the day was set. Combating thunder mixed torrential rains, I along with the marketing executive of the resort made our way to the Pavagarh Fort. As we our destination situated in the Panchmahal district about 86 km from the resort, silhouette of the magnificent fort appeared. Pavagarh Fort is famous for the ancient Mahakali temple, which round the clock attracts smarms of pilgrims. The hill of Pavagarh rises from Champaner in three stages and this plateau lies at an altitude on 1471 feet. The fort is also known as the birthplace of Gujarat’s famous musician Baiju Bawra. To reach the hilltop where the temple is situated, we took the ropeway ride and had a mesmerizing view of the emerald vistas of the valley. On the foothills of lies Champaner, the city founded by Vanraj Chavda the prominent of the Chavda Kingdom in the 8th century. The Champaner-Pavagarh Archaeological Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 and is another interesting place that one can’t afford to miss. The moment I entered in to the complex, spellbound I watched the magnificent Jama Masjid, which ranks amongst the finest architectural edifices in Gujarat. My camera didn’t stop clicking as I had a look at the intricately carved out stone structure of the Masjid. While coming back, I watched the green corridor of the expressway, which was now flourishing with numerous waterfalls evolving from the hills around the area. A round trip from Anand to Pavagarh, after having spent the day in the tranquility of the history bestowed land left me spellbound. Back at Madhubhan, I relaxed by the swimming pool munching on authentic Mexican snacks offered. While at Madhubhan you can either choose to savour the traditional Gujarati style ‘Mandavdi Gom’ Cottages which are replete with intricate woodwork and old world charm or live in the deluxe rooms which are perfect for corporates. A place where greenery abounds, luxury knows no limits, recreation takes on a new meaning and tradition isn’t just a concept from a book, Madhubhan is where bliss isn’t just a desire, but a divine experience, close at hand. Savour traditional Gujarati cuisine or witness the spectacular historical nuances around the city, lounge by the pool or at indulge in shopping, Anand has it. With vibrant memories I came back to reality from the vibrant state of Gujarat. Travel around: Vadtal Swaminarayan Temple Dakor Shri Krishna Temple Ancient relics at Lothal Akshardham Temple Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary
sand and sun, surf and laze, blues and reds, zest and ode, blossom and cherry, red and nose, love that’s pure
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