Musings of Nikhil Chandra on travel, photography and life inspirations.
  • Palace on Wheels: Luxury Train Travel in India

    To trace the royal lineage and confounding mélange of Rajasthan what better way than the tourist train Palace on Wheels itself. This revered luxury trains in India is also recipient of the coveted World Travel Award for the 4th best luxury train in the world.

    Palace on Wheels Train

    A joint venture between Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) and Indian Railways, the luxury Palace on Wheels started its operation in 1982. The train showcases the splendid land of Rajasthan redolent with its royal past. A royal journey laden with story of romance and valor of Rajput Kings of yore unfurls as the train embarks on a whirlwind odyssey which span across Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Chittorgarh, Jodhpur, Sawai Madhopur and Bharatpur.

    During this 7 nights and 8 days journey, myriad colors of Rajasthan will paint a fascinating canvas on your mind. Sprinkled across these meticulously selected destinations is an array of resplendent fortresses, sparkling palaces, wildlife sanctuaries, undulating sand dunes of Thar Desert and amazing concoction of colors and culture.

    Guests Boarding Palace on Wheels

    Palace on Wheels is fitting name given to the train as it is much more than an ordinary train traveling experience. There are total 14 cabins in the train named after various regions from where princes of yore ruled, each suffused with and tradition and culture of that particular kingdom.

    The cabins come with attached bathroom and are equipped with facilities such as TV, intercom and channel music. To ensure the royal pomp and exclusivity, a personal attendant or Khidmatgar are separately appointed for each cabin to take care of your personal needs.

    Palace on Wheels

    Not just the journey, itinerary and facilities, but a gourmet dining experience is also in store as you traverse the course of a memorable voyage. There are two elegantly appointed restaurants in the train, Maharaja and Maharani.

    Served to tantalize your taste buds in a relaxing ambience are authentic Chinese, Continental, Thai and Indian cuisines along with savory seafood and Mexican dishes. A well stock bar with selection of top brands of wine, liquor and liqueur is the perfect place to sit back and enjoy in perfect nonchalance.

    Palace on Wheels Bar

    But the pick of this journey - notwithstanding the fascinating destinations - is when you are on board the Palace on Wheels. Watch the landscape spool like illuminating scroll and marvel at the amazing kaleidoscope presented to you. Get the first hand picture confounding for its sheer diversity. Relive the lives of erstwhile maharajahs as you get the true picture of the lives of the kings. Palace on Wheels will enthrall you with its sheer imperial aura. To say that you will rediscover the romance of elegant traveling on board will not be an overstatement as whole journey will become the part of your experience.

    All photo courtesy

  • Red Fort, Delhi: World Heritage Site

    Red Fort needs no introduction. It is a UNESCO inscribed World Heritage Site which speaks volume about its cultural value. It is also one of the most visited tourist attractions in Delhi. When constructed, Yamuna flowed by the boundaries of the fort complex which has now given way to Ring Road.

    Do I recommend a visit here? Yes I do. Because I love my city for its cultural and heritage treasure troves.

    Throne of Mughal

    Red Fort also happens to be the last of historical cities established in Delhi. It was - as was the tradition of rulers building their own capital - established as the capital of Mughal Empire by Shah Jahan and named ShahJahanabad.

    Check out the Delhi heritage walks which are awesome ways to explore rich heritage of Delhi.

    Alas the old gives way to new and so the material from nearby Firozabad (now in ruins and known as Firuz Shah Kotla) which happened to be the fifth city of Delhi established by Firuz Shah Tughlaq, were salvaged to construct this sprawling red sandstone palace complex.

    The structures that today stand inside Red Fort are in dilapidated state as the entire complex and structures of note inside - which were adorned with precious stone and gems - were ransacked and looted by British Soldier when the 1857 rebellion was quelled.

    Diwan-i Khas, Red Fort, Delhi 02

    The structures now stand desolate and forlorn in the sprawling complex devoid of their glory but looking at Diwan-i-Aam and Divan-iKhas which are built in white marble as typical of Mughal Architecture after Shah Jahan came to rule the empire - you could get a glimpse of the awe these would once have inspired. Same is the case with Zenanas and various pleasure gardens and pavillions.

    Do not miss out on Mumtaj Mahal and Naqqar Khana which have been converted into museums and houses various artifacts from Mughal era.

    The fort is easily accessible and the nearest metro station is Chandni Chowk. Numerous buses also ply on this route.

    If you are a tourist in Delhi, I'd recommend HOHO Bus which will take you not just to Red Fort but almost all important monuments, attractions and museums of Delhi for just INR 350 (Full Day Tour). I recommend this because it ensure that you are not fleeced by touts, so called guides and tuk tuk walas and taxis.

    A word of caution though. No guide accompany you to the attractions if you choose HOHO Bus so have your concept about the attractions you are traveling to clear beforehand.

    BTW, Red Fort is a paid monument and will cost you INR 10 if you are an Indian and INR 250 if you are a foreigner.

  • Kumbh Mela

    My friends say I have springs in my feet. They say so because I could not sit still. I was bitten by the travel bug ever since my first trip (or more appropriately my first trek) to Dodital in Uttarakhand with my college friends.

    It’s not that I didn’t use to travel before. As far back as I can remember, I was always traveling, thanks to my dad’s job. I used to explore jungles, hills and streams but those were more of a childish escape e, sometimes from home and later from school.

    Traveling took a serious turn after the Dodital trek and every weekend our close knit group of friend would vanish from Delhi to be footloose in Himalayas…we loved Garhwal.

    But traveling has taken a toll since I have entered professional life - You see the corporate slave, held on a tight leash.

    So out of blue moon, when one of my colleagues proposed that we should go to Prayag Kumbh Mela on one extended weekend, the temptation was simply irresistible.

    Here’s a brief intro to Kumbh if you are not aware.

    Read more here:

  • Bike Trip to Ladakh

    Till this day in my life the bike trip to Ladakh from Delhi happens to be the perfect escape that I had.

    Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be
    An act of breaking free from confinement or control

    Imagine getting wet in ice cold water; sleeping at 15,000 feet without acclimatization, riding in 3 feet mud, across vast stretches of sand and dirt, desert, witnessing a land slide and thereafter beholding azure sky and emerald water of Pangong Tso. What else could contribute a perfect escape?

    My trip to Ladakh was a perfect escape for me from the din and sultry weather of Delhi. It was a bike trip which made me a staunch believer that four wheels moves the body; two wheels move the soul.

    Chang La Pass, Ladakh

    On the second day after we leave Delhi, we are crossing Rohtang La. It is awesome. We are adrift in an ethereal world, riding above wispy cloud. Since we are the first to cross the massive traffic jam just a little below we are greeted by a world deluged in eerie quiescence.

    I love Himalaya which has always been there to offer me escape I need from the drudgery of city life. Being footloose in rolling mountain-escape of Himalayas is always an enriching experience, as much about spirit as about landscapes.

    At each towering mountain passes, we stop to soak in the awe inspiring sight. How do I describe the brilliance of contrasting beauty obvious in valleys and undulating mountain peaks as we ride down the meandering road?

    Leh - Srinagar Highway

    It is similar to the distinction between the void described by soul in the hustle bustle of a megalopolis and the apparent divine perceived by heart on the rocky mountain road.

    We cross the Chang La on the 3rd day of our arrival in Leh. It is near evening and I am a bit bored after being continually surrounded by barren beauty of Ladakh.

    And lo and behold! I catch the first glimpse of Pangong Tso.

    The day is drawing to the end but I now feel as fresh as I do when I wake up in the morning. Everything that is manifest at that particular moment, that I could behold and everything that is real turns out to be abstract.

    As I near the lake and all of us sit there by the bank, silent, unable to talk, mesmerized. Sitting by the bank of Pangong Tso is cathartic. It invigorates our spirits. It is seducing and we do nothing. We don’t need to because it’s a conscious decision.

    We spend minutes, then hours by the lake. We are set drift amidst awareness and transient. It is at that moment that it sinks in. I realize that this trip to Ladakh will ever remain my perfect escape.
    Because you just can’t improve on perfection.

    Gata Loops, Leh-Manali Highway

    Find more travel information on Ladakh.

  • 10 Easy Packing Tips for Wildlife Tours in India

    Its that time of year when the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in India open their gates to wildlife enthusiasts.

    I have visited quite a few wildlife sanctuaries like Sariska, Bharatpur, Hemis, Ranthambore to name a few but still have Jim Corbett, India's first and most celebrated National Park in my to do Bucket List.

    So I have made myself a promise that I am definitely gonna visit Jim Corbett by the end of this year. While this thought crossed my mind, I thought "why not share some packing tips for wildlife tours in India from my past experience and share it with my fellow travelers who might be interested in doing the same." So here I am with 10 tips on how to pack for wildlife tours in India.

    Packing Tips for Wildlife Tours in India

    Pack as light as possible which is true not just if you are planning wildlife tours in India but even if you are traveling to any part of the world.

    For game drives, khaki and light-colored (except for white) clothing is recommended. Neutral colors ensure that you blend in with surrounding and don?t alarm the animals.

    Do pack a wide-brimmed hat for protection from the sun, as is a high-SPF sunscreen.
    Never forget to pack a sandal or a pair of flip flops. They are lightweight and come especially handy when you have to take showers or walk between camps.

    Binoculars are a must pack for every traveler to make the most of their wildlife excursion in India. And sharing isn't recommended since no one wants to miss the fleeting glimpse of the tigers passing by.

    Carry capris as they tend to be lighter weight fabric than longer pants and provide a little more coverage than shorts. Wearing jeans could get awkward especially when it's hot.

    A good camera with telephoto zoom and extra batteries with international charger would really add to your wildlife excursion experience. It would definitely help if you make it a point to carry the inverter which could be plugged into car cigarette lighters.

    Make sure that you book your lodging well in advance if you are traveling during November till February as it is the peak season for wildlife tours in India.

    The number of entries to some of the National Parks in India like Jim Corbett, Bandhavgarh and Ranthambore are regulated daily by the government, so be sure to book in advance.

    An iPad to click, store photo, shoot video, magazines & reference book for field reference which really helps if you are bird watching in national parks such as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary or Periyar.

    If you are planning a trip to the Indian wilds, I'd like to recommend the website Wildlife Tours in India , which I believe might help you research and plan your trip to wildlife sanctuaries across India.


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