Sunday, November 24, 2013

Little Rann - Hotel Review

                                                    Little Rann - Hotel Review

                                                           Kooba Hut
During any wild life trip, I normally try and concentrate on the content than on anything else including accommodation the place offers. While there are many national parks in India which offer good accommodation but my experience suggests to not to expect much rather look for good sightings in the park itself. But I do crave for good food while away from home since it keeps you in good spirits for long safari’s which can be tiring at times.

Last week we decided to go to the Little Rann of Kutch near Dhrangadhra in Gujarat known for its splendid beauty and the Wild Ass Sanctuary. This place is famous for Wild Asses (as the name suggests) and vast number of birds that arrive here at the advent of winter. Though the bookings were done much in advance, we did not spend much time researching for places offering accommodation around the Little Rann simply because we came across the Devjibhai’s website ( which seemed a nice place. When I went through the content of the site, I immediately decided to book it for the tour.

This place owned by renowned wild life conservationist and photographer Devjibhai Dhamecha offers Kooba huts as well as home stays at reasonable rates. When I spoke to Devjibhai, he assured me not to worry about too much about food and he would take care of our needs. Since our basic necessity - good food was taken care of by him, I didn’t waste much time and booked a Kooba hut for a weekend.

The plan was to stay overnight at Sankheshwar Parshvanath and travel to Devjibhai’s place the next day. Even though the driver was a local, he struggled to locate the place. That is when I called up Devjibhai for help. He asked me to hand over the phone to the driver. But I kept it on speaker for me to hear as well. I wasn’t surprised to know how well Devjibhai knew the places around Dhrangadhra (he is into this business for almost 35 years) because he explained every detail minutely. He gave concise instructions about every sign board, every road and every landmark. We were about 40 kilometres away but it did not require a second phone call to Devjibhai asking for directions again. Needles to say, we were impressed!!

When we reached his place, a little boy (Devjibhai’s grandson – Vikram) opened the gates for us. Soon I met the warm and hospitable Devjibhai himself who let me settle down in the beautiful and comfortable Kooba hut. When I enquired about lunch, he assured me that it wasn’t ready yet but would be ready in the next 30 minutes. A little later, Meena ben appeared at our door step and introduced herself as Devjibhai’s daughter. She courteously asked us what we would like to eat. She was well aware that we were travelling from Sankheshwar and may only like to eat Jain food hence she wanted to check if there were any special requests so that the arrangements can be made immediately. It is then we felt a bit of hustling amongst the family members to ensure we were comfortable. On learning we weren’t quite fans of what she had prepared, she quietly prepared another vegetable in a really short time ensuring our satisfaction. A little while later we were served with an authentic, hot, delicious and home-made food comprising of Chappatti, Vegetables, Dal and Rice.

This place in the Kidi village, is managed by Devjibhai’s family which I felt really helps them manage the place really well. The family was really hospitable and constantly assured we feel at home.

Post lunch, Devjibhai asked us the reason why we chose to visit the little rann and was happy to know we were bird-watchers. Next he did what he does best. He showed me a map of the rann and enthusiastically explained what to expect in the 3 safari outings planned for us. While I curiously enquired if the temperatures really dipped at night, the family proactively made arrangements of adequate blankets in the hut so that we enjoy our stay.

While I was wondering who we’d be doing the safari with, my questions were answered with the entry of Ajay Dhamecha. Ajay too like his father is a photographer and a bird-watcher. Most importantly, he knows the place so well. On the safari’s, we were joined by Dominique Brugiere from France. It was a joy to have him on board, because it meant we didn’t have to refer Salim Ali’s book (The book of Indian birds) for identification of sighting of previously unseen species since we had two knowledgeable guys alongside us. We really had a great time in the LRK sighting a really good number of birds.

On the day when we were to leave, there was a change in our plans at the last minute. Devjibhai immediately ensured we had proper lunch before leaving, thus making the stay memorable.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sunset colours in vibrant Udaipur

While on a self-imposed hiatus, I sat sipping coffee near the window of my hotel room overlooking Lake Pichola and had a postcard-perfect view of the famous City Palace. The lake was possessed of a mesmerizing charm and looked stunning in the early morning light. The surrounding temples, ghats and hotels made it look more dramatic.

I was in Udaipur  – the city chosen as the best in the world in a poll by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2009, where history, culture, architecture and style intersect in an unparalleled environment, and home to people from the Rajput clan whose favorite pastimes are horse-riding and polo.

We reached Udaipur from Pushkar. While travelling in Rajasthan, you can visualize the beauty of everyday village life. Young and gentle women wearing colorful clothing and living in incredibly small houses still manage a serene smile on their lips – something incredible in itself. It was as if I was transported to a never-seen-before India.

Udaipur town is different, though. Crowds and sudden traffic jams were evident the moment we got there. Afternoons are warmer even when the climate is supposedly at its best in winter. But the setting sun grabs your heart with a fierce intensity and that is when the true Udaipur emerges. The historical forts and hotels look stunning in the fading evening light.

Most hotels are havelis and the walls of the hotel rooms and corridors are adorned with photographs of royal lineage. You can drink and have a candlelight dinner on the rooftops of these hotels while the surroundings can make any event memorable.

Udaipur is an ideal location to spend a couple of days without getting bored and the places can be explored by foot. The City Palace is an opulent spectacle and a feast for any camera. You can spend an entire morning in the museum drooling at the artifacts used by the erstwhile rulers of Rajasthan. The vintage car collection at Hotel Garden near the City Palace has Chevrolets, Fords, Mercedes et al and is a treat for discerning connoisseurs.

Culturally significant landmarks like the Nathdwara temple, the Jagdish temple and the Eklingji temple make Udaipur irresistible. People who have an eye for architectural grandeur can also visit the Kumbhalgarh Fort, the birthplace of the Rajput hero Maha Rana Pratap. A few kilometers away from Kumbhalgarh is the famous Haldighati arena where the Mughal emperor Akbar defeated Rana Pratap, who fled the scene and lived in oblivion but refused to accept the lordship of the Mughals, which made him the hero that he is today.

The aeons-old Ranakpur Jain temple is exquisitely carved. An authentic lunch at the Jain dharamshala would make you think that the chefs here are the best in the world.

If you have mastered the art of bargaining, you are at the right place for shopping. The moment you enter any shop, the owner and his assistants make you sit comfortably before starting to show hundreds of varieties of carpets, bedsheets, kurtas, pants, and many other materials of rich tapestry. You can also shop for exquisite antiques, postcards, jewelry and more. A word of caution – the place can burn a hole in your pocket.

One striking feature of this place is that the local people treat travelers with utmost respect and make them feel special. This desert city has many more surprises in store. It is a must for the owners of a cluttered mind. You’ll return home entirely enamored.

Published on Yahoo Travel blogs: