Date: 27th December 2010
Day two in Hyderabad started a bit late, on purpose. We were lazy to get out of bed and only decided to do so around lunch time. We took an aurorickshaw and headed towards Lakdi ka pul, as we were advised by our Hyderabadi friend that there are frequent buses from here to Golconda Fort.
We had lunch from one of the restaurants behind the main Lakdi ka pul bus stop, (edit: Ramesh tells me the name was New Paradise Hotel) and yes, we tried the biriyani from here as well. It was alright.
Post lunch, we took the bus that dropped us to Golconda Fort. The entry fee was Rs. 5 for Indians; foreigners have to pay Rs. 100 ($2.2/€1.6) I believe. No extra charge for cameras, but there is a Rs. 25 levy for video cameras/camcorders.
At the entrance we were approached by tour guides to whom we initially said no. But one young chap told us he’ll give us a brief introduction and overview of what all there is to see inside. Only after that need we take a decision whether to hire him as our guide or not.
As we stared into the panoramic view from atop Ramdas Jail, we asked our guide if there was a better vantage point from where we could see Hyderabad city. He asked us to follow him off the beaten path through some shrubs and thorn bushes outside of the walls of the fort.
We had to pay Rs. 600 (Rs. 200 per person) at the entrance gate where the guides stood. But as we walked out, I could overhear other guides quoting Rs. 300 to some and Rs. 500 to other groups, and the groups spoke in Hindi or Telugu (the native language). It’s only when we exited I noticed there wasn’t even sign proclaiming how much guide charges were.
So we came to the conclusion the charges for a guide are decided based on how one appears! If you dress like an city slicker/outsider and speak English, you pay more. If you look middle-class (which all three of us are honestly) and converse in front of the guides in a local language, you’ll probably be quoted lesser. If you’re white… I’m sorry.
I still recommend Golconda Fort as a ‘must see’. Easily one of the most impressive forts in India’s heritage. Unfortunately, one that badly needs some renovation and cleaning up. But I doubt preserving the city’s heritage ranks high as a priority for Andhra Pradesh’s politicians.
There is actually a day 3 and 4, but unfortunately, it just occurred to me as I began to write this series that I didn’t copy over the next days photos from the camera 🙁
Sucks, I know. But here’s what I did the next day, erm, in words. I went back to Charminar, alone, to do some pearl shopping for my mother. After visiting a few stores, my last experience made me reconsider buying pearls from here. The salesman quoted around Rs. 1800 for a cultured pearl necklace, but as I resisted, he came down to Rs. 1200, then Rs. 600! Then Rs. 500! Then Rs. 300! I walked away wondering what the true value of these pearls really were.
Oh, the best biriyani I had on this trip was at Hotel Shadab on High Court Road just as you are about to enter Madina Market near Charminar. I entered having not heard about the place before but took the plunge just looking at the sheer number of people inside. They have a very old seating area downstairs and a much fancier, air-conditioned ‘family room’ upstairs where tourists were sitting their respective guides. I ordered the chicken biriyani and though it did take around 10 minutes to arrive, it was worth the wait! God, was it so good!
I’m not a fan of Hyderabadi biriyani because most of the them I have had were usually dry and rather tasteless. Shadab’s biriyani was essentially a meal for two. You really get your money’s worth of quantity. I don’t know how they do it (considering it was already late in the afternoon), but the chicken was piping hot and so tender (extremely well cooked, you could tell from pure white colour of the meat). On top of the chicken, they layered the rice in two halves. One half being masala-coated and the other being the regular basmati rice. The rice was very soft and once mixed with the spicy-masala (and curd) it was delicious! Highly recommended!
At my table sat a local IT engineer who struck up a conversation with me and I asked him if the famous Paradise Restaurant was better. He told me he preferred Shadab’s to Paradise these days, as Paradise “used to be good,” but he also told me there are other small eateries spread throughout the city that serve very good biriyani that live up to Hyderabad’s reputation as India’s ‘biriyani cpaital’.
After lunch, my tablemate was kind enough to even drop me at Karachi Bakery, another Hyderabad institution I had plans of visiting. This bakery chain is quite famous for their fruit biscuits. So famous that they sell out hundreds of boxes by the hour and you often have to queue up for it!
Day 4 was our friend’s wedding in the morning and post lunch, just to kill time, we took an auto to Banjara Hills, Hyderabad’s posh locality.
After my second visit to Hyderabad, my opinion hasn’t changed — I still wouldn’t live here. In fact, all three of us were itching to get back to Bangalore city because we were quite bored here. Maybe it’s the Telangana issue that has tarnished the city’s status, but we just didn’t find the place ‘exciting’ to say the least.