Saturday, 18 February 2017

Chandigarh Airport's Evolution: From a Civil Enclave to an International Airport


In the past couple of years Chandigarh International Airport has seen unprecedented growth. Not long ago majority of the people from Chandigarh and the areas in its vicinity had no other option but to hit the road and undertake an arduous five hour journey (approximately) to Indira Gandhi International Airport New Delhi  in order to take an onward flight to the rest of the world. However with the Airport in Chandigarh going international in September 2016, a lot has changed. Not only is Chandigarh now connected directly with two international destinations but also the list of major Indian cities directly connected with the city beautiful has increased. Let me take you on a step by step journey describing the evolution of the Chandigarh International Airport.

  • Chandigarh Airport was initially connected with only Delhi in 1970s.
  • In the early 1990s it was directly connected with Jammu but this flight was later discontinued.
  • In the next few years a direct flight to Leh was started by Air India but this scheduled service was also suspended after a while. Meanwhile, Delhi continued to be the only destination directly connected with Chandigarh.
  • The next big development came with the introduction of a direct flight service to the financial capital of India i.e. Mumbai. For the next few years Mumbai and Delhi remained as the only direct flight options for the tricity residents.
  • 2011 - A new terminal was inaugurated  and with this Chandigarh Airport was declared a Customs Airport.
  • 2014 - Airasia India and Indigo announced direct flights to Bengaluru, Karnataka.
  • 2014 - Srinagar became the fourth destination to be directly connected with Chandigarh
  • 2015 - Chandigarh International Airport terminal building was inaugurated by Honourable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi.
  • 2016 - In September Sharjah (U.A.E.) became the first city outside India to be directly connected to Chandigarh.
  • 2016 - Soon Chandigarh also got a direct flight to Dubai (U.A.E.)
  • 2016 - On 31st December, Air India decided to resume direct flights between Chandigarh and Leh after more than a decade.
  • 2017 - In the first week of January, Pune became the sixth domestic destination to get a direct flight from Chandigarh
  • 2017 - Hyderabad was connected by a direct flight to Chandigarh on 20th February.
  • 2017 - The eighth domestic destination to be connected with Chandigarh will be Jaipur. Jet Airways plans to operate a direct flight on this route.
  • 2017 - Air India plans to start a direct international flight from Chandigarh to Bangkok, Thailand in May. The schedule for the same is yet to be finalised.


Total Destinations - 10

International Routes with frequency

  1. Chandigarh - Sharjah (thrice weekly)
  2. Chandigarh - Dubai (daily)


Domestic Routes with frequency

  1. Chandigarh - New Delhi (15 flights daily)
  2. Chandigarh - Mumbai  (7 flights daily)
  3. Chandigarh - Bengaluru (3 flights daily)
  4. Chandigarh - Srinagar (2 flights daily)
  5. Chandigarh - Leh (thrice weekly)
  6. Chandigarh - Pune (5 flights in a week)
  7. Chandigarh - Hyderabad (daily)
  8. Chandigarh - Jaipur (daily)

Friday, 16 December 2016

Part 4/4: Roadtrip From The City Beautiful to The Blue City - The Convocation Ceremony & Exploring Osian

Day 4
I woke up early in the morning and quickly got ready for the big day. Within the next few hours an Honorable Judge of the Supreme Court of India would confer a law degree upon me. This was the main reason why we had planned a road trip to Jodhpur and I didn't want to be late for it. I reached the venue well in time and the function started with an oath taking ceremony. The Convocation ceremony went really well and by lunch time I got free.

With friends at the Convocation
After getting the degree :)
After bidding adieu to my college friends and Alma Mater, we headed towards Osian also known as the "Khajuraho of Rajasthan" for its temples. It is roughly an hour's drive from Jodhpur and the topography changes drastically. This can actually be termed as the starting point of the Thar Desert and the vegetation around here was scanty. At many places the two lane highway was partially covered by sand.
Jodhpur to Osian

Kikar Tree en route Osian, Rajasthan

The journey from Jodhpur to Osian was really exciting and we were able to spot a couple of peacocks and a herd of deer. There were numerous windmills along this stretch of road.
NLU Jodhpur to Osian
Windmill Farm
Osian is famous for its ancient temples as well as sand dunes. We went for a camel ride, enjoyed at the dunes and visited the famous Osian Temple.
Osian Temple
On our way back we decided to do off-roading by indulging in some dune bashing and as expected we got stuck. Fortunately a few Samaritans volunteered to tow our car with their Jeep.
Dune Bashing
After reaching back after a long day we decided to check out Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel which is one of the best and most expensive hotels in India. We were humbled after having a look at the tariff of this hotel and decided to head back towards the old city area for dinner.
Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel

Skyrocketing Room Tariffs


Day 5
Though we were a little tired after such a long and eventful day, still we decided to start our return journey towards Chandigarh via Ajmer, Jaipur and Delhi in the night itself. We had planned to meet a couple of common friends in Delhi in the afternoon. Boney decided to drive and with an excellent stretch of road and almost negligible traffic we cruised smoothly towards our destination. Luckily most of the areas in Rajasthan don't encounter as dense fog as we have in Northern states of Punjab and Haryana, else driving at night would have been an arduous task. We drove non stop and managed to cross Jaipur before dawn. Near Rewari (Haryana) we were forced to crawl at a snail's pace due to heavy traffic and dense fog conditions. Still we managed to reach Delhi at 10A.M. in just under 10 hours.
Jodhpur to Delhi - 600 KM
After spending a few hours with our friends in Delhi, we decided to pay obeisance at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib before heading back home. The last leg of our road trip from Delhi to Chandigarh was equally exciting and we stopped at Murthal and had paranthas at Sukhdev Dhaba. We reached back home safely at 2 A.M. with unforgettable and priceless experiences.
The Final Leg of the Road trip: Delhi to Chandigarh
2411.1 km covered in 5 days

  • Total distance covered - 2411.1 km
  • Total number of days - 5
  • Group Members - Nikhil, Robby & Boney
  • Car used for the road trip - Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire 
  • Route: Chandigarh - Rohtak - Neemrana - Alwar - Bhangarh - Jaipur - Ajmer - Jodhpur - Osian - Jodhpur - Jaipur - Rewari - New Delhi - Chandigarh
  • Total Toll Tax Paid - Way too much :D

Part 3/4: Roadtrip From The City Beautiful to The Blue City - Exploring Ajmer & Jodhpur

Day 3
Early in the morning we bade goodbye to Jaipur and headed towards Ajmer. The 130km long early morning drive on the NH-8 was very comfortable and refreshing.

Jaipur to Ajmer via NH-8
Jaipur to Ajmer
We had breakfast in Ajmer and paid obeisance at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah. The shrine has the grave (Maqbara) of the revered saint, Moinuddin Chisti. It attracts million of pilgrims not only from India but also from abroad. The dargah is situated in the heart of the city and can be easily accessed by auto or other modes of transportation. Expect a lot of rush and plan your visit accordingly. 
An unknown jewel, hidden away in Ajmer is the Nasiyan Jain Temple which offers an intricate display of the Jain religion's view of the structure of the Universe. Every article in this temple including the walls and floor platforms are gold plated. Next we did boating at Ana Sagar Lake which is surrounded by Aravalli Mountains.
Ana Sagar Lake, Ajmer
Soon it was time to hit the road again in order to reach my University in Jodhpur on time. I enjoyed the drive  from Ajmer to Jodhpur specially after crossing the town of Beawar.

The Aravallis played hide and seek with us and this discontinuous range of mountains gave us company for quite a while.
En route Jodhpur


Ajmer to Jodhpur - 205 KM
We reached Jodhpur in the afternoon and I took my friends for a tour of my University campus. After meeting my professors, batchmates and juniors, we decided to head towards the cleanest and most prominent fort in India i.e. Mehrangarh Fort.
Moot Court Hall, NLU Jodhpur
The aerial view of the Blue City from this Imposing fort situated at a height of 125m always brings a smile on my face.
The Mehrangarh Fort

We were lucky enough to reach here before it got closed and once again our student ID cards came handy to purchase dirt cheap entrance tickets to this fort. There is an option to use the elevator to reach the main fort but being high on energy we three decided to race our way to the top. We explored this fort and clicked loads of pictures here. The beautiful Umaid Bhawan Palace is also visible from the terrace of this Fort.
Umaid Bhawan Palace as seen from the Mehrangarh Fort
The huge collection of cannons kept at the top of the fort was impressive.
Panoramic view of the Blue city from Mehrangarh Fort

Sunset

After exploring a few more spots in Jodhpur my friends dropped me back to my college where the Vice Chancellor was hosting a dinner for me and my batchmates. It was a day well spent and meeting all my college friends in the evening after a long time and reliving good old times with them was truly the cherry on the cake.

Part 2/4: Roadtrip From The City Beautiful to The Blue City - Exploring Jaipur

Day 2
We started our day with typical Rajasthani breakfast and gorged on mirchi bada, pyaaz kachori, bhujia parantha and maakhaniya lassi.
Rajasthani Breakfast
Next we headed to the old city and used our student ID cards at the Jantar Mantar ticket counter to buy a combined entrance ticket for the numerous tourist attractions in Jaipur.
(Tip: All students must carry their school/college ID cards when travelling to Rajasthan, in order to avail extensive discounts on most of the entrance tickets)
Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
The main tourist attractions include Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, City Palace, Jaigarh Fort, Amer Fort and Nahargarh Fort. The City Palace, Jantar Mantar and the Hawa Mahal are in close proximity to each other and can be conveniently covered on foot. We first visited the City Palace and admired the grandeur of this Palace. We also crashed a royal wedding that was organised inside the City Palace premises.
Having a gala time at the wedding


Puppet Show at the City Palace

City Palace
Our next stop was the Jantar Mantar which houses various mind boggling ancient structures which were used to make accurate calculations regarding the date, time, solar/lunar eclipses etc.
Jantar Mantar
The Hawa Mahal has a number of windows at each level which have been built in such a way to ensure efficient ventilation through the corridors of this monument.
Hawa Mahal
The next set of tourist attractions i.e. Amer Fort, Jaigarh Fort and Nahargarh Fort, lie on the outskirts of the city roughly at a distance of 12-15km from the city centre. All the forts have a mystical charm and if time allows one must visit all of them.
Panoramic Aerial View from the Amer Fort


The mighty Amer Fort
Try and plan your day in such a manner that you cover all the tourist attractions by early evening and then head towards the Nahargarh Fort before sunset.
The stunning spectacle that awaited us at the Nahargarh Fort is hard to describe in words. Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great fervour in this part of India and we were fortunate enough to witness the celebrations from the terrace restaurant at Nahargarh Fort.

Fireworks :)

The pink and auburn hues of the horizon were beautifully complimented with the towering and sparkling fireworks. Soon the sky was engulfed with umpteen number of Chinese lanterns. It was one of those priceless moments which left the three of us gazing at the sky in awe.

The aerial view from the Nahargarh Fort
There is an amazing and equally informative light and sound show at the Amer Fort in the evening but due to paucity of time we had to skip it. We decided to spend the evening at Chokhi Dhani .
Chokhi Dhani, Jaipur

Chokhi Dhani, meaning ‘special village,’ is a mock Rajasthani village 20km south of Jaipur, and is totally worth visiting. There are open-air restaurants, where one can enjoy a tasty Rajasthani thali, and there’s a bevy of traditional entertainment – dancers, acrobats, snack stalls – as well as adventure park–like activities. Chokhi Dhani is truly a concept capturing the vibrant spirit of Rajasthan. We tried Bajra ki roti with Jaggery and Lasson (garlic) ki chutney and simply fell in love with the Rajasthani food.
This old lady had magic in her hands
The charges for traditional Rajasthani dining is Rs. 600/- for adult and Rs. 350/- for child.

Traditional Rajasthani Dinner at Chokhi Dhani
For a day which had started with us indulging into delicacies like Mirchi badas and Kachoris, there couldn't have been a more perfect way to end it than by having a sumptuous Rajasthani meal here at Chokhi Dhani.


Part 1/4: Roadtrip From The City Beautiful to The Blue City - Exploring Bhangarh & Alwar



Day 1
“Robby lets at least meet once and decide the tentative itinerary before setting out on this road trip tomorrow morning”,  I frantically said realising that we hadn’t even decided on the basic route before venturing out on the 2000 kilometre long road trip, leave aside the packing and other arrangements. Sensing the urgency Robby immediately coordinated with Boney (the third member of our group) and we all decided to meet at the Sukhna Lake in the evening.
A couple of days ago, Boney had randomly come up with this idea of accompanying me for my University’s Convocation ceremony in Jodhpur. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we had chalked out a rough plan for a four to five day long road trip to Jodhpur. At the Sukhna Lake all three of us came up with numerous suggestions after an hour long session of brainstorming and finally it was decided that we’ll start for Jodhpur early in the morning. We were bursting with excitement and the wait for the sunrise grew all the more difficult. Just as we were about to head back to our respective homes, Boney casually expressed his desire to begin the journey as soon as possible. It was at that moment that I proposed to leave for our destination at night itself. The spark in my friends’ eyes, upon hearing this, was more than sufficient to indicate their willingness to this new exciting proposal. The more we had tried to plan, the more unexpected this journey unfolded to be.
We started the packing right away and in less than a couple of hours we were good to go. It was the month of January and we began the journey at 11pm. It was decided that at all times two out of the three members would stay awake and the back seat of the car would be used as a bunker by the third member. Boney decided to drive first and Robby gave him company in the front while I dozed off on the back seat to get some rest before the long drive ahead.
First Leg of the journey: Chandigarh to Neemrana
Just as we left the City Beautiful behind, we encountered our first big challenge. What had been a clear winter night sky had suddenly been engulfed with dense fog and the visibility dropped to less than 20 metres.

We were left in a dilemma whether to abort this plan and wait for the sunrise or to continue our journey towards New Delhi at a snail’s pace. With hope of encountering better weather conditions ahead we continued travelling towards Ambala on NH-21. After Ambala, dense fog and the busy traffic of the Grand Trunk Road posed even more difficult driving conditions. It was not before crossing Karnal, that the fog cover had become lighter.
Robby now decided to take a nap and I moved to the driver’s seat. At Panipat, we took a detour and decided to avoid Delhi’s traffic by going towards Rewari via Rohtak. This was an excellent stretch of highway but the only peculiar thing about it was the unexpectedly large speed breakers at irregular intervals. As it was secluded to a great extent, we didn’t feel very safe while travelling on this stretch of road in the wee hours.
Our first stop was Neemrana Fort Palace which was about 40km from Rewari. We reached there at 6 in the morning and found the gates of this heritage property closed. In the meantime we roamed around and explored this Heritage hotel property from outside. The entry fee and the meals at Neemrana Fort Palace were steeply priced at roughly Rs 2000/- per person. Not having such an exorbitant budget and with the option to explore loads of other attractions in Rajasthan, we decided to move ahead towards our next stop Alwar.
Neemrana Fort


Nikhil (me), Boney and Robby at the Neemrana Fort Entrance
With the break of dawn we got our first glimpse of the changed vegetation and topography. The 80km drive from Neemrana to Alwar was scenic and there were a few barren hillocks and plain patches along this state highway, which tempted us to indulge in some off-roading.
The aerial view from the top of this hillock was breathtaking
Alwar is a big town in Rajasthan and houses a number of tourist attractions. The Bala Quila and City Palace are worth a visit but what really left me and my friends awestruck was the majestic Siliserh Lake. This lake is on the outskirts of Alwar and is in close proximity to Sariska National Park. It is quite big in size and is surrounded by Aravalli Mountains. There was an entrance fee of Rs 50/- which was totally worth the panoramic views offered from a restaurant/hotel maintained by RSTDC. Boating facility is also available here.
Siliserh Lake
Panoramic View of Siliserh Lake
Our next stop was Bhangarh which was the highlight of our trip. The two and a half hour drive from Siliserh Lake to Bhangarh was not very comfortable but the sheer excitement to explore India’s most haunted place kept us going. The bumpy ride through rural and forest area was rewarded by the awesome view of the ruins of Bhangarh and the Aravalli Mountains.
Neemrana Fort to Bhangarh Fort via Alwar

One needs at least 2-3 hours to explore Bhangarh properly and no person is allowed to stay back at this spooky place after sunset. As we climbed up and explored more and more ruins, the three of us definitely felt some sort of supernatural and negative vibes emanating from the surroundings. By late evening, good sense prevailed and we dropped our perverse idea of staying back at Bhangarh after sunset.

The Ruins of Bhangarh Fort


We continued our journey towards the Pink City which was roughly around 2 hours drive (85km) from Bhangarh. The entire stretch of road from Alwar to Jaipur via Bhangarh is deserted and in bad condition. Hence it’s advisable to carry sufficient petrol and a spare tyre. It was around 8pm when we reached our hotel in Jaipur.
Bhangarh Fort to Jaipur
 

After taking a quick shower, we stepped out to explore Jaipur. The roads here were in an excellent condition and we drove around to get a feel of this city. Jaipur offers a number of places to hangout and the culinary delights available here are hard to resist. After indulging in some gourmet delight at the famous World Trade Park, we went for a long drive to Nahargarh Fort.
Hawa Mahal at Night

Spotted a deer en route Nahargarh Fort

Long Drive on Empty and Winding Roads
The winding road to this fort (located on a hill top) offers spectacular aerial view of the pink city. We hadn’t taken proper rest for more than 24 hours now and we didn’t even realise when upon reaching the hotel room we dozed off and slept like a baby.