04
Aug 11

Hyderabad 2010: Day 2 — Golconda Fort

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.

Golconda Fort guide map Hyderabad India

Golconda fort entrance guards fort Hyderabad

A small 'guard's fort' outside the main enclosed fort

Golconda fort entrance Ramesh Loiyumba Hyderabad India

Golconda fort entrance tower Hyderabad

This is the main entrance

Golconda Fort map Hyderabad India

To the left and right as you walk in are artifacts like knives, armaments, and other relics

Golconda Fort entrance hall Hyderabad India

Golconda Fort entrance clap sound echo Hyderabad

From the spot where the girl is standing, if you clap, not only does it echo loudly in here, but it can be heard all the way up at the highest point of the fort. It was designed to work for the guards as a warning mechanism in the olden days. Amazing.

Golconda Fort guide Ramesh Loiyumba Hyderabad

This was our guide, at the end we decided to hire him. He told us the rate was Rs. 600, to be paid at the end of the tour.

Golconda Fort directions Hyderabad

All that we were going to be seeing inside

Golconda Fort ground view Hyderabad IndiaGolconda Fort path Hyderabad IndiaGolconda Fort cavern tunnel windows Hyderabad

Golconda Fort guide Hyderabad India

The guide would stop at designated places and begin explaining the various design aspects and history behind this impressive fort

Golconda Fort school kids weight Hyderabad

Unfortunately, I don't remember anything what the guide told me about this tunnel

Golconda Fort iron weight Hyderabad

Apparently this heavy metal weight was used to test the strength of soldiers during recruitment

Golconda Fort iron weight Ramesh Hyderabad

Whatever it was for, none of us could barely even manage to lift it even a milimetre off the ground. It was that heavy!

Golconda Fort tunnel Loiyumba Ramesh HyderabadGolconda Fort cavern Hyderabad IndiaGolconda Fort palace complex Hyderabad India

Golconda Fort Nagina Bagh garden Hyderabad India

Nagina Bagh

Golconda Fort lens flare Hyderabad IndiaGolconda Fort well Hyderabad India

Golconda Fort steps up Hyderabad India

We headed up

Golconda Fort steps up to prayer hall Hyderabad India Golconda fort edge broken wall Hyderabad

Golconda Fort way to Ramdas jail Hyderabad India

We were going inside here next

Golkonda fort priest Ramdas jail Hyderabad India

Ramdas worked as a revenue collector for the ruler at the time. He was jailed here for defiance and in the years he spent inside, he carved Hindu deities on the wall so he could pray.

Golkonda Fort temple Ramdas Jail Hyderabad India

Hindus today visit to pay obeisance to Ramdas

Golconda fort sunlight shining through Ramdas jail Hyderabad India

Ramdas got a pretty spacious jail... but not much ventilation

Golconda fort open window Ramdas jail Hyderabad India

Golconda Fort above Ramdas jail Hyderabad India

This is from on top of Ramdas jail

Golkonda fort old Hyderabad IndiaAs 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.

Golconda fort guide explaining tour Hyderabad India

Amidst a few cannons, we got a 'high level' tour of Hyderabad

Golkonda Fort high view Hyderabad India

(Panorama comprised of 10 shots)

Golkonda Fort bottom half panorama Hyderabad India

The bottom half of Golconda fort (Panorama comprised of 9 shots)

Golkonda fort view ruins Hyderabad

The palace ruins

Golkonda fort Ramesh Mithun Loiyumba Hyderabad

Asked our guide to take a photo of us

Golkonda fort Ibrahim mosque HyderabadWe continued up towards the citadel.

Golkonda fort way to citadel Hyderabad

Golkonda fort Jagadamba Mahankali temple Hyderabad

Sri Jagadamba Mahankali temple

Golkonda fort citadel view down Hyderabad

Golkonda fort citadel clap Hyderabad

Our guide demonstrated the amazing acoustic engineering of this fort. Not only could you hear the claps from all the way down there but he also demonstrated how the guards communicated from as high up as the citadel with the help of another guide down below.

Golkonda fort citadel Hyderabad

The citadel

Golkonda fort citadel no writing on walls sign Hyderabad

With this sign I knew what to expect...

Golkonda fort citadel wall writing damage Hyderabad

...so imagine how awkward it was seeing (some idiot(!) with) my name etched on the walls here. Argh!

Golkonda fort darbar hall citadel visitors Hyderabad

Golkonda fort view Hi-tec city panorama Hyderabad

Hi-Tec city in the distance (Panorama comprised of 6 shots)

Golkonda fort citadel view Hyderabad

Golkonda fort baradari hall writing Hyderabad

The 'writings on the wall' are here inside as well. How sad. A fort that survived for centuries couldn't survive the 'modern' Indian populace.

Golkonda fort citadel darbar hall tourists HyderabadGolkonda fort citadel darbar hall window HyderabadGolkonda fort citadel Ramesh Loiyumba HyderabadGolkonda fort citadel darbar hall Hyderabad

Golconda Sri Jagadamba Mahankali temple bullock rocks

The rocks resemble a bullock

Golkonda fort citadel steps down HyderabadGolkonda fort durbar hall citadel Hyderabad

Golkonda fort steps to palace ruins Hyderabad

We made our way down to the palace ruins

Golconda fort pillar steps Hyderabad Golkonda fort stone cave HyderabadGolconda fort palace ruins arches Hyderabad

Golkonda fort stone wall Hyderabad

Pretty massive stone walls

Golconda Fort stone wall Hyderabad

Took this looking up against the wall

Golkonda fort stone walls HyderabadGolkonda fort from down Hyderabad IndiaGolkonda fort stone palace HyderabadGolconda fort palace ruins HyderabadGolkonda fort palace ruins gated HyderabadGolkonda fort palace ruins islamic design HyderabadGolkonda fort royal palace ruins Hyderabad IndiaGolkonda fort palace ruins Hyderabad India

Golkonda fort palace ruins heritage Hyderabad

It's amazing to wonder what life would have been like back in those days

Golkonda fort palace ruins history Hyderabad

Golkonda fort palace ruins amphitheatre Hyderabad India

The fountain looks like a new addition to the courtyard

Golkonda fort palace ruins hall Hyderabad

But something far more impressive was inside here

Golkonda fort royal palace acoustic hall Hyderabad

Our guide told us of these "whispering walls" inside this corridor. You could speak in one corner of the hall and one could hear it faintly from the adjacent corner. I didn't believe but we tried it and it actually worked!

Golconda fort whispering walls Hyderabad India

The kids surely loved it

Golkonda fort palace ruins speaking walls Hyderabad

Definitely one of the best highlights in Golconda Fort

Golkonda fort Royal palace ruins inside Hyderabad

Golkonda fort palace ruins light tunnel Hyderabad

Golconda fort acoustic hall Hyderabad

The guide explaining the unique acoustics of this hall as well

Golconda fort Royal palace hall Hyderabad Golkonda fort royal palace sign Hyderabad

Golconda fort royal palace lawns Hyderabad

We were nearing the end of our hour-plus long tour

Golconda fort royal palace garden hyderabad Golconda fort royal palace ruins light smoke HyderabadGolconda fort royal palace ruins sunlight flare HyderabadGolconda fort museum garden HyderabadGolconda fort old rifle cannon balls HyderabadWe were finished with the tour, and our guide led us out of the fort.

Golconda fort clapping entrance tourists Hyderabad

Score of visitors were still trying out the 'clapping' effect

Golkonda fort guards fort entrance Hyderabad

There is a light & sound show once the sun sets, but we didn't feel like staying for it -- so we watched it on YouTube instead :P

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.

Golkonda fort old unique bus tour Hyderabad

A unique tour bus we saw while waiting for a ride back to Lakdi ka pul

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!

Karachi bakery line for fruit biscuits Hyderabad

By the time I got to the counter, they had run out of the smaller boxes, so I got away with two big boxes instead

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.

GVK one Shopper's Stop Hyderabad mall

Just about every mall was netted up because of the Telangana unrest

GVK One Hard Rock Cafe Hyderabad mall

We went mall-hopping but got bored rather quickly as the offerings were nothing impressive

Taj Krishna hotel Banjara hills Hyderabad

Taj Krishna Hotel

Kacheguda railway station at night Hyderabad India

In the evening, we walked to Kacheguda station and boarded our train back to Bangalore

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.

Sure, there were two other sights we missed, like the historical Chowmahalla Palace and Ramoji Film City… but we just shrugged our shoulders and rode the happy train back to Bangalore.


31
Jul 11

Hyderabad 2010: Day 1 — Eat Street, Charminar and Mecca Masjid

Date: 26th December 2010

After beginning this year with a visit to the UAE, then Singapore, Malaysia & Thailand later in the year, I capped off my 2010 travels with a trip to Hyderabad. The main purpose of the visit was to attend a friend’s wedding, but we (my usual travel buddies Ramesh and Loiyumba) decided to go a bit early to do a bit of sight-seeing.

This wasn’t my first visit to the capital of Andhra Pradesh. I first came to Hyderabad in 2002 to visit my brother when he worked there briefly.

In some ways I was looking forward to this trip because it was after a span of nearly 9 years that I got to travel by train again. We boarded the Kacheguda Express from Bangalore Cantonment station in the evening.

Kachiguda Express Indian train sleeper bed Loiyumba

Loi didn't wait too long to cuddle up in his sleeping bag and doze off

We arrived in Kacheguda station (not Hyderabad’s main railway station) at a chilly 5:45am. We had reserved a room for us three at Nand International, a nearby hotel, so we figured we could walk it there. But after walking for around a minute or two, we couldn’t spot the hotel and the auto drivers we passed by were telling us they could take us there for just Rs. 10. Figuring it was cold and we had luggage, we got in… and literally 5 seconds later, up the same Station road we were at, we were dropped at Nand International! Pissed at the fact all he had to tell us was to walk a few steps further to get here, we shouted at the auto driver — but relented from ruining our morning and just paid him Rs. 10 to get lost.

We checked in to our three person bedroom/family room.

Nand International three bedroom Kacheguda Hyderabad hotel

Costs Rs. 870 ($19/€13) per night for this centrally air-conditioned room

Since we were still sleepy, we crashed for a few hours.

Got up around noon, had tea and pondered about where to have lunch. In a city famed for its food, we weren’t keen on hitting up the street food joints near Charminar straight away. So we decided to go to a place called Eat Street.

Eat Street Necklace road Hyderabad India

Cost nearly Rs. 60 to get here by auto from Kacheguda Station Road

Eat Street is just some food court by Hussain Sagar Lake, one of the largest man made lakes in India. We passed through scanners (apparently security is pretty tight in Hyderabad) and walked in to a not-so-busy food court.

Eat Street food court Hussain Sagar lake HyderabadEat street open air food court Hussain Sagar lake HyderabadWe checked out the various stalls, some open open for business… some not. You get your usual choice of South Indian, biriyani (of course), chaats, western fast food, etc. But despite being in the city famous for its biriyani, I wasn’t going to eat it from just about anywhere.

Eat Street biriyani fried chicken fries Hyderabad

So I had burger, fried chicken strips and fries instead. Lame, I know.

Ramesh and Loi both tried out the biriyani and they described the food as: “sucks” and “horrible”. So there.

Eat Street Hussain Sagar lake Mithun Ramesh Hyderabad

Loiyumba took this photograph using his camera

Hussain Sagar lake Hyderabad India

Hussain Sagar lake (Photograph by Loiyumba)

Hussain Sagar lake Buddha statue Hyderabad India

There are boat rides in the evening to go to the Buddha statue (Photograph by Loiyumba)

Post-lunch, we already feeling a sense of ‘boredom’ and wondered what to do next.

Hussain Sagar lake park tarot reader afternoon Hyderabad

We left Eat Street and aimlessly walked through the park around the lake

Hussain Sagar lake park afternoon Hyderabad Hyderabad colourful houses dish antennas cartoon wall

Hyderabad book fair 2010 stalls people India

There was book fair going on

Hyderabad book fair 2010 stalls India

It was the annual Hyderabad Book Fair

Ram Gopal Varma autobiography Telugu book

Hyderabad book fair 2010 stalls afternoon India

Considering none of us have the habit of reading books much, we left fairly quickly

Hyderabad lake park afternoon India

Prasads Imax theatre Hyderabad mall

Crossed the road over to Prasads

The one good thing about Hyderabad is that they have an IMAX screen, and it can be found at Prasads on Tank Bund Road. The security was pretty tight before entering here as well (I take it’s because of the Telangana issue?). We checked out the mall a bit before going to collect our pre-booked tickets for Tron which was playing.

After checking out Prasads, we stepped out, took an autorickshaw and went to see Charminar, Hyderabad’s iconic structure.

Way to Charminar Musi River bridge Hyderabad

Charminar market bazaar Hyderabad

There are many old bazaars leading up to Charminar... and traffic was very congested

We eventually asked the auto driver to stop and decided to walk it further up.

Charminar pearl bazaar shops Hyderabad India

Plenty of pearl stores here, Hyderabad pearls are quite famous

Charminar fort entrance Hyderabad India
Charminar road crowded HyderabadSyedi book seller Charminar fort Hyderabad

Charminar fort Hyderabad India

The road goes all around Charminar

Charminar Tiffin centre South Indian food Hyderabad

I ate from here on the third day, really good South Indian food!

Charminar literally translates to “four towers”. Minar or minaret  being the towers or pointy structures you find in just about every mosque and char which just means four.

Charminar fort blue sky Hyderabad India

Built by ruler Qutb Shah in 1591 AD

Charminar fort entry visitors Hyderabad

There was a queue going half way around Charminar

Charminar fort street kids old coins Hyderabad India

Old coins for sale. Genuineness unconfirmed.

Charminar fort visitors queue Hyderabad India

We queued up, paid the Rs. 5 entry fee and entered

Charminar fort entry Hyderabad India Charminar no spitting sign Hyderabad India

Climbing stairs Charminar minaret Hyderabad

You climb narrow stairs up one of the minars

Climbing up minaret Charminar inside Hyderabad

Charminar stairs minar Hyderabad

The walls were quite cold

Charminar balcony view woman Hyderabad

You obviously get a better picture of the surrounding from up here

View from Charminar bazaar HyderabadBut walking through the halls, I couldn’t really help but not ignore something.

Charminar inside writing damage wall Hyderabad

The walls

Charminar wall damage inscribed Hyderabad

It's quite apparent how badly the walls have been vandalized the past few years by callous visitors

Charminar ceiling islamic architecture Hyderabad

At least the ceilings were hard to reach

Charminar wall names scratched Hyderabad

It's an appalling sight in many of our heritage monuments

No writing damaging walls sign Charminar Hyderabad

Despite the efforts to curb the practice and a law making it a punishable offence...

Charminar wall writing damaging wall Hyderabad

... even to this day, to some worthless citizens of this country, it's still a joke. As if these historical monuments are just another building to them.

Charminar arches ceiling Islamic architecture Hyderabad

Laad bazaar bangles street Charminar Hyderabad

Laad bazaar a.k.a 'bangles street' -- guess why it's called so

Charminar main hall ceiling design Hyderabad

The open hall in between the four minarets

Charminar inside hall wall writings HyderabadCharminar open hall design Hyderabad

Charminar ceiling pigeons Hyderabad

Five pigeons

Charminar Laad bazaar road Hyderabad India

Charminar traffic view from top Hyderabad

Traffic is quite messy (and very busy) around Charminar

Mecca Masjid view from Charminar Hyderabad

Mecca Masjid, where we were headed next

Palace opposite Mecca Masjid Charminar Hyderabad

Nizamia Unani Hospital, opposite Mecca Masjid

Charminar Loiyumba Ramesh Hyderabad India

Charminar circle view down Hyderabad

It was time to head back down

Charminar steps down minar tower Hyderabad

Down another minar we went

Bangles Street bazaar Hyderabad IndiaCharminar arch islamic design HyderabadCharminar ceiling design from ground HyderabadCharminar angle shot HyderabadCharminar done, we decided to sit in a cafe to have something to drink.

Charminar restaurant falooda Hyderabad

Ramesh played it safe with Pepsi, while myself and Loi had *extremely* sweet falooda

Gajini-ki-shaadi film poster Hyderabad India

As seen inside the cafe

Gajini-ki-shaadi Hyderabad poster

Looks like there is a parallel film industry within Hyderabad making low-budget unofficial sequels to mainstream film releases :)

Excessive sugar intake complete, we decided to quickly step inside Makkah Masjid.

Charminar circle crowds Hyderabad India

Nizamia Unani hospital opposite Makkah Masjid Hyderabad

The markets are quite bustling in these parts

Mecca Masjid mosque Hyderabad India

Mecca Masjid is the biggest mosque in Hyderabad and one of the oldest in India

You have to leave your bag and shoes at the counter and walk barefoot once past the gates.

Mecca Masjid mosque Charminar Hyderabad

Mecca Masjid sunset pigeon feeding Hyderabad India

People had gathered to see hundreds of pigeons being fed grains

Mecca Masjid evening pigeon feeding Hyderabad

Not very exciting... but still

Mecca Masjid pigeons Hyderabad mosque

Mecca Masjid pigeons flying evening Hyderabad

It's always such a photo moment when hundreds of them fly away at once

Mecca Masjid entrance hall Hyderabad

I decided to check out the mosque

Mecca Masjid prayer hall muslim Hyderabad India

The main prayer hall

Mecca Masjid prayer hall mosque Hyderabad India

Wonder what those honeycomb-like bags hold

Mecca Masjid side visitors Hyderabad

Went around the mosque

Mecca Masjid behind hyderabadMecca Masjid grounds Charminar Hyderabad

Mecca Masjid pigeons evening lamp posts Hyderabad

Pigeons, pigeons... there are a lot of them

Mecca Masjid pigeons electric wires Hyderabad

Needless to say, there's a lot of pigeon poop on the ground

Mecca Masjid fountain Charminar HyderabadWe left the mosque and decided to call it a day.

Punch Mohalla Charminar Hyderabad

Took a rickshaw back to our hotel

Charminar bakery road Hyderabad evening

That's a heap of bread crumbs and rusk being sold in bulk. Not very hygienic in these conditions I would presume.

Once back in Nand International, I was quite cheesed off. Despite claiming to provide 24 hours hot water, when I opened the tap, I only got cold water. Went to the reception to complain and the man with a straight face told me it only comes on from 6am to 6pm. I then raised my voice and told him “well, that’s not what it says on your website!” and demanded I need hot water as it was quite cold (which it was outside). Only then did I get a bucket of hot water. So a big thumbs down for Nand International because of that.

Post rant, we concluded day one in Hyderabad with dinner at nearby three-star hotel restaurant where we had, yes, biriyani.

It was alright, but I would have much better biriyani in the next few days.

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