Travel


Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying: “I would stay and love you, but I have to go.”

Travel

Dubai Airport–Terminal 2


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Inaugurated on May 1st 1998 to alleviate congestion at Terminal 1, Terminal 2 catered to scheduled, charter and special interest flights during special occasions. A few years ago, when Iraq was served by charter flights of Jupiter Airlines, we used to travel to Baghdad from Terminal 2. It used to be a small airport with lacking facilities in contrast to the Terminal 1.

Now, Terminal 2 is home to Dubai’s budget airline flydubai, which launched operations on June 1st, 2009. Undergoing a massive makeover, Terminal 2, hub for flydubai is now completely transformed. This terminal is also used by low-cost airlines, charter flights and airlines coming in from CIS countries and Iran.

Today, I was returning to Baghdad after vacation. This time I was traveling by flydubai. I visited Terminal 2 after a long gap of several years. It’s looking much brighter and filled with a number of shops and eateries. It was in the morning, around 6.30 am. I found people queuing to get into the famous restaurant belonging French chain of bakery restaurants – Paul.

As I was traveling by Business Class, I headed towards the flydubai Business Class Lounge.

The ground floor was a bit crowded but the first floor is more spacious and good for relaxed seating. I preferred to sit at a corner with a power connection to charge my mobile. I also breakfasted there.

The staff at the lounge are quite polite and nice. The first floor is quite peaceful and I managed a small nap. My layover time was around six hours.

There’s a free secured wifi at the lounge and the speed is quite good. I wish that the lounge had more space to add a few showers. There’s no facility for showers in this lounge.

I also roamed around the duty-free shops. Although the area is quite small as compared to other Terminals of Dubai International airport, but the shops are well-stocked.

It’s a small nice terminal and I liked the makeover.

#JackDaniel – "enjoy a moment with Jack" at Terminal 2 of #Dubai #airport.

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Travel

Falcon Gold Lounge, Bahrain


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This time while traveling to New Delhi from Baghdad, I took the Gulf Air flight. I normally prefer the UAE based airlines for convenience. Gulf Air doesn’t service Baghdad on Sundays. Etihad and Emirates haven’t yet started the service since the shooting incident. So, the transit point is Bahrain International Airport. Although it’s quite an old airport but other airports in the neighbourhood have developed at a faster pace. While on flight I read a Bahraini newspaper, where the king has decided to go for modernization and expansion of the airport.

Bahrain International Airport was the first airport to open in the Arabian Gulf. The first chartered flight landed in Bahrain in 1927, followed by regular commercial flights between UK and India from the 1930s. Since then, the airport has served as a midpoint linking the East and the West, utilising Bahrain’s strategic location in close proximity to key markets in the Middle East.

I am now sitting in Falcon Gold Lounge. It’s the Gulf Air’s First and Business class lounge at Bahrain International Airport. Gulf Air is the national airlines of Kingdom of Bahrain. It’s a nice lounge with contemporary setting. The personnel here are quite friendly. A panoramic view of aircraft taking off and landing provides a diverting backdrop to the sleek minimalist Arabian style incorporated throughout the lounge. Elevated seating areas offer comfort and privacy to guests. It offers offers a place of serenity, away from the hustle and bustle of the departure area. One can have a view of the main apron from the lounge.

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I have to spend seven-hour layover time here. That’s a lot of time! So I thought of blogging while sitting in the lounge and sipping hot coffee. Yes, the wifi in the lounge is quite good.

Gold Falcon Lounge — First and Business Class Lounge of Gulf Air at Bahrain International Airport 🍮🍲🍩🍳

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Family, Heritage, Leisure, Travel

Ugrasen ki Baoli


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My dad has come to Delhi for attestation of some documents by Iraqi embassy. So, mom and I also accompanied him to Delhi from Ranchi.

I went with my dad. Mom was resting at the hotel. After depositing the document at Ministry of External Affairs for their attestation before it’s attested by the Iraqi embassy, Dad & I went for a walk from Patiala House towards Connaught Place. We then walked into the historic Ugrasen ki Baoli.

Ancient Indians used to build water temples as well as earliest forms of step wells and reservoirs.

Ugrasen ki Baoli (a.k.a. Agrasen ki Baoli) is one of such step wells in Delhi.

It is designated a protected monument by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). It’s a 60-meter long and 15-meter wide historical step well on Hailey Road near Connaught Place in New Delhi.

Baoli or baori is a Hindi word (from Sanskrit vapi, vapika). Water temples and temple step wells were built in ancient India and the earliest forms of step well and reservoir were also built in India in places like Dholavira as far back as the Indus Valley Civilisation.

Although there are no known historical records to prove who built Agrasen ki Baoli, it is believed that it was originally built by the legendary king Agrasen during the Mahabharat epic era and rebuilt in the 14th century by the Agrawal community which traces its origin to Maharaja Agrasen.

From the core of the well. It’s now closed to avoid accidents. It had water before. My dad also saw water in this Baoli.

The Baoli is a unique blend of architecture with an impressive design known to have existed centuries ago. The red stone walls of the Baoli, dressed with a series of arched structure are grim and desolate, but still beautiful.

The Baoli is made up of a series of superimposed arches supported on piers or columns. It consists of 103 steps made of red stones.

The Baoli had water till recent times, but now it has dried up and one can see the bed of the reservoir.

Bed of the reservoir

It is a cool and silent place in the heart of the capital. The silence deepens as one moves to the bottom of the stairs, and the gradual increase in the gurgling sound of pigeons, and squeaky chatter of bats echoing off the stone walls makes this place creepy.

Agrasen ki baoli

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

The mystic architecture is definitely worth a visit.

Family, Food & Drink, Heritage, Leisure, Travel

India Gate at Night


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India Gate is the pride of Delhi. An imposing structure, the gate was built in memory to the of the 90,000 Indian soldiers who laid down their lives during World War I.

The India Gate is a war memorial located astride the Rajpath. 13,300 servicemen names, including some soldiers and officers from the UK, are inscribed on the gate.

The India Gate, even though a war memorial, evokes the architectural style of the triumphal arch.

India Gate at night

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

In 1971, following the Bangladesh Liberation war, a small simple structure, consisting of a black marble plinth, with reversed rifle, capped by war helmet, bounded by four eternal flames, was built beneath the soaring Memorial Archway. This structure, called Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, since 1971 has served as India’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

During the night, India gate is dazzled by floodlit and the fountains nearby are lit up with colored lights. People throng the lawns around the India Gate in the night.We went there yesterday to enjoy the splendor of India Gate. There are many vendors selling tea, ice creams, chanachur, toys etc.

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We spent sometime there and returned after having dinner at Pindi Restaurant in Pandara Road, New Delhi. We had lovely chicken dishes and then returned to our hotel.

Dinner with @judhajitr and @jagrataroychoudhury at Pindi in Pandara Road, New Delhi

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Family, Heritage, Travel

Jantar Mantar, Delhi


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Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

I have come to Delhi with my mom & dad for a couple of days for getting my dad’s graduation degree attested by Iraqi embassy in New Delhi. We are staying at hotel The Park in New Delhi. It’s just opposite to the iconic architectural masterpiece of 18th century – Jantar Mantar.

A lovely view of Jantar Mantar from our hotel room window

Mom and dad were remembering this place as mom used to wait with me in the lawns of Jantar Mantar for dad to come from his office and pick us up for shopping etc in Connaught Place area. I was toddler then. :-)

Dad and I walked across from our hotel to Jantar Mantar.

The Jantar Mantar is an equinoctial sundial, consisting of a gigantic triangular gnomon with the hypotenuse parallel to the Earth’s axis. On either side of the gnomon is a quadrant of a circle, parallel to the plane of the equator. The instrument is intended to measure the time of day, correct to half a second and declination of the Sun and the other heavenly bodies.

The jantars have evocative names like, Samrat Yantra, Jai Prakash Yantra, and Mishra Yantra; each of which are used to for various astronomical calculations. The primary purpose of the observatory was to compile astronomical tables, and to predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets.

ASI is carrying out some renovation at the site

Designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye, they embody several architectural and instrumental innovations. This is the most significant, most comprehensive, and the best preserved of India’s historic observatories.

It is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period.

The site is one of five built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur as he was given by Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah the task of revising the calendar and astronomical tables. The construction was completed in 1724.

The primary purpose of the observatory was to compile astronomical tables, and to predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets. Some of these purposes nowadays would be classified as astronomy.

Between 1727 and 1734, Jai Singh II built five similar observatories in west-central India, all known by the name Jantar Mantar.

They are located at Jaipur (Jantar Mantar (Jaipur)), Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi. While the purpose of the Jantar Mantars is astronomy and astrology, they are also a major tourist attraction and a significant monument of the history of astronomy.

Travel

Returned to Baghdad


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I went to India on a two-week vacation on June 6 to attend to some family events. In the meanwhile, the security situations in Iraq deteriorated suddenly as ISIS overran large swathes of the north and west of the country and seized over half a dozen cities, including Mosul.

40 Indian nationals were abducted from a construction site in Mosul. 46 Indian nurses are also stranded in Tikrit hospital. These caused a great concern not only in India but around the world. The Indian media is giving wide coverage of the happenings in Iraq.

I was in communication with my colleagues in the bank. They informed me that the situation in Baghdad is okay and there’s no new development in Baghdad that might be a cause for worry.

My friends and relatives in India were apprehensive of my returning to Baghdad. Some advised me against it. However, returning to Baghdad is my call of duty. As always, my wife and my son stood by me. With their good wishes, prayers and blessings of my elders I began my journey from Ranchi yesterday.

The immigration official at the passport control desk refused me when I replied to him that I was going to Baghdad. I talked to him that I am working in Baghdad and was in India on vacation etc. He was acting on the travel advisory issued by the government of India on June 15 2014, wherein Indian nationals were advised to avoid travel to Iraq in view of the precarious security situation prevailing in Iraq. He then directed me to his senior. I talked to him and showed him my residency permit and ID badges in support. Also, I told him that I am a consultant and my bank arranges for my security. He then agreed to let me travel to Baghdad.

The incoming flight from Abu Dhabi to Baghdad was almost half full. This flight generally remains full. There were only a few foreigners like me in the flight. Fewer passengers meant less time through the immigration process.

As I cleared the immigration formalities, the driver called me to inform me that he’s already at the airport waiting for me. Thanks to my colleague Ali Alwan! I took my bag from the carousel and walked out of the airport terminal. We drove out of the airport and entered into the city. It looked normal. As we drove past the market area near our house, I could also see women walking around in the sun.

At the end, I reached my Baghdad home safe. I changed my dress and joined my office immediately.

It was a journey with mixed thoughts, some fears & apprehensions but it was a nice, safe journey at the end. After all, it had lots of good wishes of my friends and relatives and blessings of my elders besides support and prayers of my wife – Jaya and my son – Babai.

Art, Leisure, Religion, Travel

Tathagata Tsal


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The Buddha Park of Ravangla, also known as Tathagata Tsal, is situated near Rabong (Ravangla) in South Sikkim district, Sikkim, India.

Tathagata is Sanskrit and Pali word. It’s used to refer to Lord Buddha. The term is often thought to mean either “one who has thus gone” (tathā-gata) or “one who has thus come” (tathā-āgata). This is interpreted as signifying that the Tathagata is beyond all coming and going – beyond all transitory phenomena.

Lord Buddha is quoted on numerous occasions in the Pali Canon as referring to himself as the Tathagata instead of using the pronouns me, I or myself. This may be meant to emphasize by implication that the teaching is uttered by one who has transcended the human condition, one beyond the otherwise endless cycle of rebirth and death, i.e. beyond suffering.

This place was constructed in 2006-13 and features a 128-foot high statue of the Buddha as its centerpiece.

The site was chosen within the larger religious complex of the Rabong Gompa (Monastery), itself a centuries-old place of pilgrimage. Also nearby is Ralang Monastery, a key monastery in Tibetan Buddhism.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama consecrated the colossal 128 foot hammered copper statue of the Buddha, which he had earlier named Tathagata Tsal, at Ravangla.

The statue of the Buddha marks the occasion of the 2550th birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha.

There’s huge gate with murals depicting Jataka tales – on the previous lives of Gautam Buddha.

Massive statue of Lord Buddha at Rabongla in Sikkim

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

The temple closes for public by 5:30 p.m. We just managed to get in as last visitors of the day. The main temple is below the huge statue of Lord Buddha. It has a huge hall and the walls have images of Lord Buddha and on his life.

There’s a museum too but we couldn’t see it as it’s getting closed.

There are a large number of steps to come down to the park and walk up  a large number of steps to get to the temple.

After getting out of the park, we had “jhal muri” and hot tea from street vendors. We returned to Gangtok through beautiful green road.

Art, Leisure, Religion, Travel

Char Dham [Siddhesvara Dham]


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Char Dham or Siddhesvara Dham is a unique pilgrimage tourism venture of the Sikkim Government developed as “ Pilgrim cum Cultural Centre” having a 108 ft statue of Lord Shiva and replicas of four Dhams of the country at one place at Solophok hilltop in Namchi. Namchi is the headquarters of the South Sikkim district. Namchi means Sky (Nam) High (Chi) in Bhutia. Namchi is situated at an altitude of 1,675 m (5,500 feet) above mean sea level.

Char Dham are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. It comprises Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram. It is considered highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during one’s lifetime.

DSC02882The four most revered Dhams of the Hindus–Jagannath, Dwarika, Rameshawaram, Badrinath have been replicated in this fantastic complex to benefit the devotees and tourists.

Char Dham is a popular pilgrimage destination of Sikkim, which also has some interesting history connected to it. The principle deity here is Lord Shiva. It is believed that during the Kurukshetra war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, this place was where Arjuna worshipped Lord Shiva. It is also believed that Lord Shiva, pleased with Arjuna, appeared before him as a hunter and blessed him which helped Pandavas in winning the war.

Badrinath temple

The temple complex is divided into 4 parts – the statue of Lord Shiva along with 12 jyothirlingas, four dhams, a Sai Baba Mandir and the Kirateshwar Statue besides the Nandi bull.

For the consecration of the Dham Shri Jagadguru Sankaryacharya Swami Swarupananda Saraswati did the “Pran Prastisha” of the Dham.

There are replicas of the “Dwadash Jyotirlingas” (the twelve jyothirlinga) of Somnath, Mallikarjuna, Mahakaleswar, Omkareshwar, Kedarnath, Bhimashankar, Viswanath, Triambakeshwar, Vaidyanath, Nageswar, Rameshwar and Grishneshwar surrounding the statue of Lord Shiva and the Char Dhams.

There is a grand statue of Kirateshvar Mahadev and a temple of Shirdi Sai Baba too.

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In Hindu mythology, it is believed that Lord Shiva, after losing Sati in Agnikund, had gone into seclusion and became a hunter in the forests of Sikkim. There is also a famous Kirateshwar Mahadev Temple at Legship, in West Sikkim along the banks of River Rangeet.

There are Tulsi plants (Ocimum tenuiflorum) growing over 6 ft!

Tulsi plants

The Dham has stay facility for the devotees at “Yatri Niwas” which can accommodate more than 90 people at a time.

There’s a restaurant serving thali in the afternoon. We had thalis of food before leaving this place for Rabongla. The food was yummy!

The environment here is serene and divine. It’s a nice place and we felt blessed visiting all the temples.

The Siddhesvara Dham has won the National Tourism Awards 2010-11 under the category of “Most Innovative/Unique Tourism Project” by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.

Art, Leisure, Religion, Travel

Samdruptse: Wish Fulfilling Hill


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On our way to Char Dham, we went to Samdruptse, near Namchi.  Samdruptse is situated at around 75 km from Gangtok.

Samdruptse literally means ‘wish fulfilling hill’ in the Bhutia language. Painted in shimmering copper, pink and bronze, the awe-inspiring and gigantic 45m-high statue of Guru Padmasambhava, aka Guru Rinpoche, lords over the forested Samdruptse ridge and is visible for miles around. The views are spectacular across and the statue can be seen from across many places in Sikkim and Darjeeling.

Huge statue of #Guru #Rinpoche at #Namchi overlooking parts of #Sikkim, #Kalimpong, #Darjeeling in Eastern India.

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Padmasambhava was born into a Brahmin family of Northwest India. According to tradition, Padmasambhava was incarnated as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Oḍḍiyāna in the present Swat Valley of Pakistan. His special nature was recognized by the childless local king of Oḍḍiyāna and was chosen to take over the kingdom, but he left Oḍḍiyāna for northern parts of India.

It is the highest statue of Guru Padamasambhava in the world. His Holiness the Dalai Lama laid the foundation stone of the statue in October 1997. It was completed in February 2004. Within the complex, there’s a permanent photo exhibition of archival images documenting Sikkim’s cultural, natural and artistic history.

The land of Sikkim, at the border of India and Tibet, was consecrated as a hidden sanctuary for the Buddha’s teachings by the great master Padmasambhava, who blessed it with the vajra wisdom of his body, speech, and mind. He is considered as the second Buddha.

The path leading to the hill-top is lined by coloured flags with Buddhist hymns were being played through sound system placed along side the pathway.

People have been stacking stones to make cairns. Earlier used as messengers, signs and landmarks in unoccupied lands, locals suggest that they are also known to bring good luck for travellers.

Guru Rinpoche is the patron saint of Sikkim. Padmasambhava is said to have transmitted Buddhism to Tibet, Bhutan and neighboring countries in the 8th century CE. In these lands he is better known as Guru Rinpoche (precious Guru). He introduced the people of Tibet to the practice of Tantric Buddhism.

It is also said that the Samdruptse hill is actually a Dormant Volcano.

Myths say that the Buddhist monks have been going on top of the hill and offering prayers to the volcano to keep it calm.

In the hillock at the back of the statue, Buddhists place their prayer flags and built cairns stacking stones to bring good luck to them on the top of ‘wish fulfilling hill’.

We had hot tea at the restaurant in a complex outside the entrace to the temple…
…and then went ahead for Char Dham.
Family, Food & Drink, Leisure, Nature, Travel

Temi Tea Garden


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We planned to visit Char Dham in Namchi. We left the hotel early after having our breakfast.

The road to Namchi from Gangtok is via Temi Bazar. The road cuts from the National Highway at Singhtam. The scenic beauty is excellent on the sides of the road.

A picturesque restaurant near #Singhtam on our way to #Namchi in #Sikkim

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

Temi is famous for its internationally renowned tea, which is sold under the name Temi tea. We stopped at the garden, which is about 60 kms from Gangtok.

One can savour the breathtaking view of temi tea garden from the road.

It’s one and the only tea estate in Sikkim, which produces top quality tea in the international market.

Temi tea garden is considered one of the best in India and in the world.

The garden is laid over a gradually sloping hill.

Amidst tea shrubs at Temi Tea Garden in Sikkim

A photo posted by I.RoyChoudhury (@iroychoudhury) on

The tea produced in this garden is also partly marketed under the trade name “Temi Tea”.

There’s a restaurant selling hot momos and tea. Momo is a type of dumpling native to Nepal, and in some communities in Tibet, Bhutan.

We enjoyed the lovely tea with hot momos and fale. Fale (falay) is another Himalayan cuisine but not as popular as momo. Fale is Tibetan style puff pastry filled with minced goat/lamb meat. Then we drove towards Namchi.