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From the Char Minar

After watching a documentary about the Moghul invasion of India, I was intrigued by Hyderabad’s Golconda Fort.  It was said that this was the furthest point they reached in India and it was famous for its diamonds.  The most famous one being the Koh-i-Noor diamond which weighed 105 carats.  It is here that they built Golconda Fort, an acoustic piece of architecture where if you clap your hands under one of the domes at the entrance of the fort, it can be heard all the way up on top of the hill.

So last weekend we decided to bus it to Hyderabad and although the distance was only about 500 km from Bangalore, it took us basically the whole night.  So we got off work at 17h30 and took a short drive (well, relatively speaking so in Bangalore terms, it took us about 30 minutes to get there).  While waiting for the bus, a couple of our party decided to have some street food.  Now knowing that I would be stuck on the bus for at least 12 hours, I decided it was safer not to attempt any just yet.  Luckily they were fine.  So anyway, the bus finally left Bangalore city at around 10pm after sitting in traffic and having multiple stops and starts.  Mind you, we were supposed to have left by 18h45.  And we finally found out what AC Sleeper 2-1 meant.  The guys found out the awkward way – haha.  So basically it means that on one side of the aisle, there’s a bed for two people sharing and on the other a single sleeper bed.  Luckily I got the single sleeper.  However one of my friends got to share his with a hot guy – coincidentally from the same company too.  Although I don’t think my friend thought he was particularly appreciating the fact that he was sharing a bed with another guy.  Anyway, I’m just saying I wouldn’t have minded swapping with him.  Too late I guess!

View of Char Minar from the Laad Bazaar.

4 June 2011

We finally arrived in Hyderabad and wow they weren’t kidding when they told us that it was way hotter than Bangalore.  And here I was thinking Bangalore was boiling so you can imagine my discomfort when we got there.  It was only 9am and there were already beads of sweat on my forehead.  The taxi we had booked took us straight to the ECC, the campus hotel since our company had another branch in Hyderabad (as well as in many other cities).  It felt so good to finally get fresh and ready for a day of sight seeing!

We met with the guys from the Pune campus at noon and we set off to see the Char Minar in the center of town.  Already I could see that apart from the heat, I’d much prefer Hyderabad.  The roads seemed less congested.  Well, all of this is relative to Bangalore of course.  As we drove through the city, even my friends were amazed at how much more like a planned city this looked when compared to Bangalore.  However, I must say, now that I’ve been based in Bangalore for over a month now, the city is starting to grow on me.  Anyway, back to our little journey.  When we got to Char Minar, we hired a guide and he took us up to the top where we could see a 360 degree view of the city.  It was quite amazing.  Among many things, Hyderabad is famous for its pearls and its bazaars filled with bangles.  Apparently, he told us that if a girl buys bangles from that street, she will get married within a year.  So I bought two.  One for me and one for my cousin.  Hee hee… well, that was a pretty good sales pitch and I bit.

Mmm seems they too want to get married within the year! 🙂

The Mecca Masjid

These little girls were too cute running around amidst the pigeons.

Afterwards, we walked past more street stores towards the Mecca Masjid.  Women aren’t allowed inside because apparently some of the marble inside is from the Mosque in Mecca.  Anyway, so we had a look around and some of the kids wanted their photos taken so I obliged.  Then it was time to head off to the Chowmahalla Palace around the corner.  Inside, the gardens were well maintained and the inside was beautiful.  The palace had a collection of all the antiques and furniture.  It was basically like a museum.  Finally we needed to find a place to eat (but not after stopping by the street vendor for some coconut juice – mmm definite thirst quencher).  We went to eat at the open food court by Hussain Sagar Lake.  I had some mango kulfi and a smoothie – perfect ending to a hot day.

We then scooted off to Golconda Fort because apparently there is a sound and light show and it told the story of Hyderabad and how it was built and rebuilt over the centuries.  Then, fright of my life, we got back to the hotel and I couldn’t find my wallet!  I had checked everywhere and it was nowhere to be found and I was thinking of all the things besides the money that were in it and the thought of having to reapply for all my cards and ID’s.  While I was stressing about losing my wallet, the boys on the other hand were getting ready to go out to meet some girls we met during the sound and light show.  So basically I ended up stressing the whole night hoping and praying that I’d find it somewhere.

Anyone for some water?

The fruits here are amazing. This pomegranate was too beautiful to eat - but he ate it anyway 🙂

We couldn't resist this shot.

5 June 2011

The next morning my friend and I decided to go to the fort early so that we could be the heat when we had to climb up the hill.  We left the hotel at 7am thinking we were smart and thinking that the boys were going to suffer having to climb up in the heat since they were only coming by at around 10h30.  Well, it was a mistake because the fort only opened at 9am so instead we decided to have breakfast in a cafe close by.  And that day must’ve been my lucky day because I thought, oh I might as well try my luck and call the cab driver to see if by some odd chance I dropped it in the taxi.  So you can imagine my relief when he said, “Yes, madam it’s here, I will bring to you at 11.30”.  Turns out my praying the night before paid off.  And then when it came to buying our tickets at the gate, foreigners have to pay Rs100 whilst locals only pay Rs5 and obviously I thought, really, I’m lugging around my camera looking like a tourist, and me passing off as a local was next to impossible but when I handed him the Rs100 note, he asked for Rs5 change and he gave me back my Rs100!  Score.

After the fort and then taking the taxi back to get my wallet from the driver and giving him a thank you reward, we finally met up with the boys at the Qutb Shahi tombs, just a kilometer away from the fort.  There we exchanged stories and turns out, they had a pretty good time!  By then it was nearly 2pm and we were all starving so we decided to go to this restaurant that was famous for its biryanis that was recommended by our driver.  And since Hyderabad was already famous for its biryani, we decided have our last meal there before heading back to our cities.  The place he took us to was called Paradise and I can only imagine how loaded the owner must be because it was multiple floors, packed to capacity with a waiting area as big as a classroom.  Finally after about 20 minutes, we got to savour their dishes.  I had the mutton biryani and although it was fantastic, I must say, it still does NOT beat the taste of Al Watan in Inglewood, Los Angeles.  That Pakistani restaurant, as simple as it is, makes the best biryani and lamb korma.  Mmm… now I can’t wait to go visit my parents!

Golconda Fort.

Mini meeee!

The fort from below. Thank goodness it was cloudy otherwise I would've died from heat.

I love their love of symmetry!

Qutb Shahi Tombs

Some R&R and escape from the heat.

"I have a secret"

Adios amigos! (in The Char Minar)