While packing my bags for holiday, the thing that kept on bringing a smile on my face was the destination – Hyderabad. It is known for its courtly speech and manners, historic monuments and a distinct cuisine.
The feeling of going on a holiday came the moment I saw my train, A P express, at the New Delhi railway station. My train was on time, luckily! This train runs daily with fare ranging from Rs 465 to 2901.
I loaded my luggage and greeted my co passengers. The journey from Delhi to Hyderabad is 26 hours. These 26 hours just fly by if you indulge yourself into some book, play cards, eat snacks or simply sleep.
The best time to visit Hyderabad is from April to September. Founded in 1591 by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth sovereign of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, Hyderabad was built on the banks of the Musi River in a grid format with the help of Iranian architects and modeled on Isfahan in Iran.
The next task after de boarding the train was to find the accommodation. There are a variety of hotels with good service, features and within the range of your pocket. It’s because the city sprawls so much, you need to be careful about the hotel location if you want to avoid a long commute and traffic bottlenecks. Plentiful budget accommodation can be found around the Nampally railway station and in Abids, Koti and other new city areas for a few hundred rupees a day, and tourist attractions aren’t very far off. However the facilities tend to be basic, the towels aren’t necessarily clean and air-conditioning tends to be extra. It might make sense to pay a little more and choose mid-range accommodation. At Rs 1500 per day, I settled myself in hotel Gopi, in Nampally. I wanted to stay in high fared Green Park, Ista, Marriot or Taj; but I do not want to spend all my money on accommodation.
I made myself comfortable in the room and soon dozed off.
After a quick breakfast, I began exploring the city of Hyderabad.
If you really want to explore a city, go local. Travel in the public transport, eat the local food, this way one can feel the essence of the place. That’s why I chose to travel by Maxi Van, locally named as ‘veera’. In good 10 bucks, I reached my first destination Birla Mandir.
The delicate carvings on white marble are very attractive, but sadly, cameras and camera mobiles are banned. After enjoying great view of the city, from the Naubat Pahad (mountain); I moved towards my next destination.
At Necklace Road I saw this artificial lake, which is a historical landmark, built during the reign of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah in 1562 by damming the Musi. Hussain Sagar Lake forms the boundary between Hyderabad and Secunderabad. This is one of the few walk able places in the city. At the center of the lake stands a famous statue of the Buddha installed in 1992. Boat rides from Lumbini Park to the statue are available at low fare.
Next I reached Golconda Fort. It is advisable to set aside two hours for this 16th century capital of the Qutb Shahi, to do justice to your visit. One can easily get lost in this massive space. Prefer hiring a guide who is genuine and knows the history of every inch of the place and will show you with expertise the echo/architecture system built into the fort that the ruler used as a communication/spying system. Not to miss here is the light and sound show which starts at 5:30 and tells the story of the fort, It’s worth seeing.
I took the auto rickshaw, indulged myself into a negotiation with the driver over the fare, and finally succeeded in coming back by meter. In no time I was asleep.
Next day I woke up with plans to go filmy. As my destination today was Ramoji Film City. It’s a 2 hour drive towards east of the city. I took a local bus from nearest bus stop. In Rs 60, I was standing outside the record holding studio for being the world’s largest. It’s best to come here with spare time to roam around this vast area and also with full stomach, as inside the food stalls sell food at gold and silver rates. The place also has a playfield for children.
The people of Hyderabad are so gentle and sweet. On my way back I met a family, and they gave me a lift till Adarsh Nagar. One thing that I can never remember fluently in this place is the names. They are so difficult, hard and confusing. They resemble to the names of some fighter planes. Lakdikapul, Tarnaka, Panjagutta and so on (I can recall only these). I thanked the Reddy family for the lift and also the tips that they gave me about the city.
Thankfully I got the 6 pm show at B.M. Birla Planetarium and Science & Technological Museum, situated in Adarsh Nagar. The show can be enjoyed at minimum fare. The Dinosaurian at the upper level is interesting. It contains a complete skeleton of a dinosaur Kotasaurus yamanpalliensis discovered in the village of Yemanapalli in 1988. Later, I scrolled in the local markets. I purchased a talcum powder of a distinct Mogra fragrance. And also got some nice local food to satisfy my taste buds, the falooda was an amazing cooler for my stomach at 25 bucks. Also I found a nice necklace of sandstone for Rs 450; it was so attractive that I could not resist it.
I took a taxi for the hotel and went to have my dinner out. I went to a famous restaurant ‘Chutneys ‘. The most famous Hyderabadi dish is the Hyderabadi Dum Biryani, so I had to taste it and got to know why it is so famous the moment I picked it in my mouth. It tastes heavenly. I also had South Indian food, though the restaurant also serves North Indian food, but it will be best if avoided. In Rs 200, I had a wholesome meal.
Hyderabad has a very low North Indian population. Hence do not try for North food in restaurants, one you may not find it; two it will scare you!
The next morning, I ordered Hyderabadi special Irani chai. It’s like a mixture of Kashmiri tea and a good masala tea.
I left for Pathergatti, to witness the symbol of Hyderabad. But do not forget your sun block or in the changing climate of Hyderabad you would not even recognize yourself.
I decided to walk. It is a calm place to walk through the 2 km stretch in the morning. But you cannot expect the same calmness once the shops are open. At 9 am, I was the first one to enter the Char Minar. Literally “Four minarets”, this structure was built at the very spot at which Quli Qutb Shah prayed for the end to the plague epidemic. The Charminar has long been the icon of Hyderabad. The towers rise to a height of 48.7 m above the ground. It is closed on Fridays. Atop the minarets, you get a panoramic view of Hyderabad city. From there I could clearly see my next stop, i.e., the Mecca Masjid and the Laakh bazaar.
Mecca Masjid is one of the oldest mosques in the city and easily the biggest. Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah began building it in 1617. The entrance arches are made of single slabs of granite. It is believed that Muhammed Quli commissioned bricks to be made from earth brought from Mecca and inducted them into the construction of the central arch of the mosque, which explains the name of the mosque. Its architecture is so unique and gigantic that anyone can go head over heels on such huge panels spread across such a wide area.
The Laakh Bazaar is an exotic lacquer and glass bangles market, next to Charminar. The bangles there are a piece of artwork and also very costly.
Another symbolic representation of Hyderabad is done by pearls. Pearls of different types, styles, color, size and only god knows what not about pearls one can get there. I got a plain string of pearls for 500 bucks. Many false vendors also lurk around tourists, beware! I suggest Mangat Rai, a pearl shop near char minar.
Round the city, there are cooperative stores offering wide variety of silk saris. Within Rs 500, I purchased two silk saris for my mother.
Another place in Hyderabad is Abids, it is posh shopping complex. I went there and found that the biggest Big Bazaar store lies there. It is probably the first big bazaar store to be set up. My North Indian taste buds by now had started rejecting South Indian food.
I settled myself into a north Indian restaurant “Pape da Dhabba”. In 200 bucks I had a lavish lunch, that too North Indian!
My next stop was a historic shop famous by the name of, G. Pulla Reddy. These iconic chains of sweet shops serve the best mysore pak that can ever be made. I ate two pieces and felt like heaven. Even got some packed for taking back home.
I went on to explore the minimally present night life of Hyderabad. At places like 10 Downing Street, with in 500 bucks you can get nice music, good crowd, but small dance floor. Firangi paani and Sparks have nice hip ambience with reasonable rates.
The day’s work and dancing in heels made me sleep the moment I reached my bed.
Next day as it was my last day in Hyderabad, I packed my bags and went out to see the city alive for the last time in my memory. I reached the Salar Jung Museum, situated in Afzalgunj at 10 am. I took the Rs 15 ticket. This collection belonged to the Salar Jungs, Prime Minsters of Hyderabad. It contains paintings, furniture and other objects that the Salar Jung got from the West. The collection of Nizam jewellery is displayed only on special occasions. Free guided tours lasting two hours each are available at scheduled times, four times a day. Cameras, bags and liquids are not allowed inside.
Each and every piece inside the museum speaks for the vast and rich history of Hyderabad.
I had many experiences in the city. But the best one is when the locals call you “Amaa”, which in North India is said to an old lady. Here in South, it is the way of addressing a girl or a woman!
Many call it the City of Pearls, the City of Nawabs, the Biryani City, but when I turned back to look at Hyderabad for the last time before my flight, for me it was a city filled with memories!