Misadventures in and around Hyderabad – City of Pearls!

It was supposed to be a West Rajasthan tour, we had booked the train tickets almost 3 months back. Anyway, tickets didn’t get confirmed and my one month’s research on those places was put aside. With just 10 days to go, I cancelled the tickets; bore the burnt of cancellation amount and looked forward for planning another trip. I had 5 days leave in combination with weekends. It would have been a criminal waste of time to sit at home, preferred to see Diwali celebrations across State. Few days back, a friend had mentioned about Hyderabad and Lepakshi was always at the back of my mind (came to know about it through Epic Channel). Thought of combining both and added a third place – Warangal, after learning about its location from a movie -Rudhramadevi. Movie was supposedly shot at Warangal and on researching more about it, realized it has more history than just what few people know. Added Alampur to same for Navabrahma Temple, another architectural wonder.

In short span, plan was drafted- Hyderabad -Alampur – Warangal – Lepakshi from 11th Nov to 15th Nov, 2015.

Now, only hindrance was the transportation. Checked the buses, I had discussed about it for lengths from bus to train and finally settling for Airways. Booked the Jet Airways flight (Rs. 3052) for early morning 7.20 am on 11th November 2015. My friends came to my home previous night itself, to avoid travelling early morning from afar. We booked the return by Sleeper bus (Rs. 2408) from Bangalore. I left the in-between journeys of 2-3 hrs for local transport, because I couldn’t book the same against long waiting list. Also, the overnight long bus journey from Hyderabad to Lepakshi was booked (Rs. 605). Last was accommodation, thanks to Cleartrip, we got a good deal for 2 nights stay at Hotel Geetanjali for Rs. 1098/- . Thus, everything was set.

We boarded the flight, reached Hyderabad on time and after waiting for some time for bus to add more passengers, by 9.30 am, we were on Airport Shuttle bus to Hyderabad city (Rs.180/-). Bus took half an hour to reach main city and dropped us just opposite Paradise takeaway restaurant. We took an auto (Rs.120 after much bargaining came down from 200) to the Hotel Geetanjali at Tilak Road. We checked in, and took another 2 hrs to unpack and get ready for the city. Breakfast was already served in the flight, hence that time was saved. Shocking part was about to hit us in short time. We had actually booked the same auto for sightseeing for Rs.800, the one we had hired to reach hotel.

First place, we decided to check was Salar Jung Museum. And, it shocked us to our wits when we found that it was closed for Diwali. And the auto driver further informed us that all the places would be closed. I didn’t account for the fact that during Diwali, Government operated places would be closed.  Because on one of my trip to Jaipur during Diwali we didn’t face any of this problem, infact whole of Jaipur was decorated with lights and all the places were open for Public. That was the time, I had decided not to stay at home during Diwali instead experience this festival throughout India.

But, here with no options left, we decided to check on Alampur and postpone Hyderabad sightseeing for next day. As per the information, that I had collected about Alampur- where the Navabrahma temple was located, supposed to be 2.5 hrs away. We asked the auto driver to drop us at MG Bus stand. Offcourse, he collected his share for taking us around which was barely 2-3 kms-Rs.100/-. We realized later, he was fleecing us. At bus stop, there was another drama, that unfolded. No one knew where Alampur was, or anything about Navabrahma temple. We were surprised at their ignorance about this historical place. Even the bus conductors and driver stared blankly, when this question was put forth. After going around, here and there, looking for buses that would drop us at Alampur, we were about to give up when one of them said, that one can go to Alampur via Kurnool.

We asked the conductor how long it would take to reach Kurnool because half day had already gone, it was 12.30 pm. He replied almost 3.5 hours, instead of wasting the day in hotel room, calculating the time, we thought we would reach by 3.30 to 4.00 and in 1 or 2 hours wind up the Navbrahma temple and take the bus back to Hyderabad, hence took the risk. Seat was available and the journey to Kurnool started. On the way, I saw the Zoological park, which was open, we cursed the auto driver for giving us false information, we could have stayed back and covered those places that were open. Instead, we were on never ending route, hour after hour passed, we were getting agitated. We had always experienced the fast driving of Government buses all round the other states. But here, these drivers drove at their own leisure and we realized the mistake of getting into the ST bus. We reached Kurnool at 5.30 pm. Already in foul mood and hungry, and some auto drivers suggesting that it would take 2 hours to come back from Navbrahma temples, and further when we negotiated and said that we are short on time, another one said time taken would be 1 hour. We were bit skeptical on trusting them, decided to drop the idea instead looked for a restaurant to satiate our hunger. With hope to include this place in next trip to Telangana, we skipped the Navabrahma Temples. It was a veg restaurant, on asking for masala tea with ginger to relieve the headache, we got Sunti Cha. No tea powder, plain milk with sunti (dried ginger). Something different to taste. All the way to Kurnool, just for Sunti Cha!

There was Hyderabad bus every hour, round the clock, we got into one, scheduled to leave by 7.00 pm and hoped to reach Hyderabad by 10.00 pm, just because, I kept hammering the driver about it’s speed, he replied it would be fast. Thankfully, it was an express, we reached Hyderabad by 10.30 pm, dozing off during the entire journey.  We took an auto back to Hotel again for Rs. 100/-(just for 2-3 kms, Mumbai Fares are cheaper). A whole day had passed with nothing extraordinary to report about.

Next day, we decided to tour Hyderabad. Left Hotel by 8.00 am. Hardly, there were any souls around, had tough time finding a restaurant for breakfast. After walking around a bit, we saw a café, which was serving food, but breakfast served was like lunch, Kheema roti, khichdi etc. We decided to settle for khichdi and tea. After this brunch, we thought of opting for bus, instead of autos, who were fleecing us right through our nose(Rs. 150-200 for short distances), we asked for the bus to Golkonda. Each one, whoever, we asked gave different number to catch the bus. We were wondering how could this be possible, after looking out for every bus and asking the driver whether it will go to Golkonda, a good Samaritan, came forward and asked us from where we were and where we wanted to go etc. He said instead of waiting for direct bus, which will take a long waiting time, why not break the journey and catch a bus which will drop at some centre point and we can further take another bus from there. We agreed for same, also, he told us to take the Daily bus pass (Rs. 70), with which we can travel whole day. We informed the conductor that we wanted to go to Golkonda Fort, and hence requested him to let us know, the convenient stop to get down. He advised us to get down at Mehdi Patnam and catch a direct bus to Golkonda. After alighting at Mehdi Patnam bus depot, many buses were going through this Bus Stand. We watched out for Golkonda Bus. Thankfully, a bus arrived and it had Golkonda written in English, we caught that one and reached Fort by 10.30 am.

Bus goes through the main gates which is manned by the Army, because of training ground inside the Fort. Bus slowly climbed up and stopped at the bus stand, next to the entrance of the fort. We hired the guide to understand the importance of the fort.

Golkonda Fort is an enormous Fort known for it’s brilliant engineering and architecture, built in 12th Century by Kakatiya Kings. It is located at a distance of 11 km from the city. The name Golkonda is derived from the Telugu words “Golla” and “Konda” which together means ‘Shepherd’s Hill’. The eight gates and 87 bastions was later built by Qutub Shahi Kings.

He shared different charges, depending on the area one wants to cover, the cost increased. We settled for whole fort (Rs. 750) because after coming all the way and not going through every nook and corner would have been waste. We started exploring, there was shooting going on for some movie starring Nagarjuna. We were amused at the ongoing scene, which seemed funny, no wonder the retakes that happen at shooting is boring as well as looks funny compared to big screen. And yes, we did sighhhh at his sight 😉

The whole fort can take around 2-3 hours. The most amazing part of the Fort was its acoustics system. The sound of clapping at the entrance can be heard at the ‘Bala Hissar’ which is the highest point of the Fort and almost a kilometre away. This system was apparently used for communication purposes, especially to alert Royals in case of any attack. When we reached the highest point, guide signaled to some person, who clapped at the entrance and we could hear it there. It was worth hiring the guide rather than roaming clueless about the place. Within the citadel or Bala Hisar are the Silah Khana, Nagina Bagh, Ambar Khana, Akkanna-Madanna Offices, Ramdas Jail, Darbar hall, Baradari, Hammams, Mahals, Royal Courts.

We continued further and explored till 12.30 pm.

We were hungry and needed something to eat, there are eateries outside fort. We bought some Egg & Veg Puffs before leaving for Qutb Shahi Tombs, which were hardly 1.5 kms far. For Rs. 30/- i.e. Rs. 10 per sharing, we got down at the entrance. It had a humble appearance from outside, once we started walking in, we realized that there were more than 7 tombs. As per the records, the Qutb Shahi tombs complex consists of 30 tombs, mosques and a mortuary bath. The tombs belong to the rulers of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty, their Queens, Children and the Nobles, who faithfully served them, spanning the 130-year period from 1543 to 1672. All of them were built in a grand scale. Some of the structures had the Blue & Green tiles still intact. There was a lady selling cucumbers, we ate that to quench the thirst and to keep ourselves cool. We decided to leave the place by 1.30 pm and go for Birla Temple.

We were hungry hence, decided to feast on famous Hyderabadi Biryani, on inquiry, the auto driver suggested that Café Bahaar serves best Biryani in the city and we should try it. We decided to give it a try. And we did not regret it a bit, it was indeed best. We had ordered for family pack biryani, which turned out to be too much for us. I being foodie, who lives to eat, managed to eat more compared to my two friends, who eat to live.

Half of the Biryani, we parceled and hoped to give it to someone and did so. A family pack biryani is enough for 4 adults or 3 heavy foodies.

We decided to skip Birla Temple, and head towards Salar Jung Museum. We walked towards flyover, where the bus to Afzal Ganj would stop. After 10 minutes of walking and waiting, bus arrived and we got down at Afzal Ganj Depot. Salar Jung Museum was 1 km away, we decided to walk. We opted to wind up SJM by 4.00 pm so that we won’t miss out on Charminar, which closes by 5.00 pm. Salar Jung Museum, was three storey, enormous & magnificent structure. Baggages were not allowed. Salar Jung Museum is open on all days except Fridays and on all public holidays. Timings: 10 AM till 5 PM

Camera was allowed with a fee. We purchased the ticket for one camera and hurriedly went through one door after another wondering in awe at the collection that was displayed.

Salar Jung Museum was built by Mir Yusuf Ali Khan who was also known as Salar Jung 3, then Prime Minister of Nizam of Hyderabad. I usually do not like Museums, they way they are organised or artifacts are kept. But, this was an exception. One of the best museums I have seen. The museum is home to some of the beautiful art collections in the world. It is the third largest museum in India and the biggest one man collection of antiques in the world. Mr. Salar spent huge amount of his earnings in collecting the antiques. For more than 35 years of his life, he was on look out for precious items that he can add to his treasure. Some of the items that are put on display were acquired by him from his father Mir Laiq Ali Khan (Salar Jung 2) and grandfather Nawab Mir Turab Ali Khan (Salar Jung 1). The museum has been declared as an Institute of National Importance. The Museum was opened to public on 16th December 1951. Earlier, it was an ancestral Palace of Mir Yusuf Ali Khan, known as ‘Diwan Deodi’. It was a private museum which was inaugurated by then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1968, entire museum was shifted to its present location in Afzalgunj.

(There are more than 40000 artifacts and 50000 books. The stack has Indian art, Islamic art consisting of numerous illuminated Korans, European displays, Persian carpets and Middle and Far Eastern art. Indian art collects. The rich collection of Indian art contains stone sculptures, metal wares, and paintings. The most popular display is definitely the Veiled Rebecca made by Italian Sculptor Giovanni Maria Benzoni. It is an amazing white marble statue which is splendidly carved.

It is not the big displays that catch your attention. It’s the small objects like Jahangir’s dagger, Noor Jehan’s fruit Knife, the man-woman statue and jeweled swords that make you gasp in awe. The collection of weapons and books is also quite appealing. The most cared for display in Salar Jung Museum are the many manuscripts that have been collected from around the world. Also notice the 100 year old clock that still is in perfect working condition. It is a great attraction for the kids as every hour, image of a bird comes out of the clock. A complete gallery is dedicated to items that interest small children like toys, model trains and puppets from all over the world. There are around 38 rooms in the building over which the collection is spread. There are 20 rooms on the ground floor and 18 on the first floor. – Sourced from Web)

As the clock struck 4.00, we left the museum in an auto for Charminar. It is situated in a very crowded place. There is bazaar on all four lanes from Charminaar.

We were dropped some 0.5 kms away from Monument. One of the strangest thing was one of the whole lane was lined with shops dedicated to dental treatment (wondered why so many of them at one place? :-/ ).

There were two queues, one for the temple adjacent to Charminar and another for monument itself, which was thankfully smaller than the former one. Bought the tickets and were guided into the small spiral staircase, which kept going up and up, only one person at a time can climb the steps. After spiraling, we finally found the light and reached the top. One can view the entire Hyderabad city from all its four sides. Mecca Masjid was few steps away, some constructions were going on. We decided to skip it, suddenly, we remembered the Chow Mohalla Palace was left out. We decided to give it a try before it closes down. We came down passed through laad bazaar, offcourse making plans to come back soon to buy those lovely colorful bangles. We dashed through the busy street, Chow Mohalla Palace was 1-1.5 kms away from Charminar.

Since, we were informed that it closes by 5.30 pm, we almost ran. Managed to reach with bated breath only to be informed that it closes by 5.00 pm. The guards were indifferent to our plight. We returned to Laad Bazaar and shopped like there was no tomorrow.  We left Charminar area by 8.00 pm, had difficulty in getting an auto. Eventually managed to get one, a rookie.  We first told him to take us to Karachi Bakery, since we wanted to buy some stuff, I found the stuff usual, hence skipped it. Later, we told him to take us to Paradise for Biryani. Unfortunately, he didn’t know the way, and we kept going round and round asking people for directions, after an hour we landed at Paradise – take away restaurant. We got two parcels and returned back to the hotel. Ate heartily and we dozed off.

Next part of the trip: Warangal & Ramappa Temple

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