One life to celebrate!
Hello, yes, the New Year has just started and I’ve already gone into flashback mode. Well, it was the kind of refreshing and rejuvenating trip that brings a smile to my face every time I think about it. In the penultimate weekend of 2013, everyone I knew was travelling somewhere – but we didn’t want to go very far away from home, and zeroed in on Chandigarh, just a few hours away by train from Delhi.
We boarded the Shatabdi Express one cold wintry morning, ready to spend a few days in green, leafy Chandigarh. I have to add that my nerves were quite frazzled when I left, but as soon as we left the squalor of Delhi back lanes for the lush mustard fields of the countryside, my mood improved considerably.
(Travellers tip: If travelling on the Shatabdi, try to travel in the Executive class. You not only get more spacious seats, but also a warm croissant with your breakfast) 🙂
Ah Chandigarh, a beautiful, planned city with such tree-lined avenues, fresh air, wide roads and numerous parks. It’s a beautiful city, with an understated charm and air of sophistication. Any internet search will tell you that it is India’s first (and only???) planned city, designed by ace architect Le Corbusier. It also has the highest per capita income in the country – and signs of prosperity and wealth are evident at every corner – from the tall, well-built people, to the huge houses and expensive cars, Chandigarh lives up to its reputation of being the ‘garh’ of rich, flamboyant Punjabis.
Here I’m putting down five things I did in Chandigarh that made my trip a memorable one. If you are planning to visit anytime soon, please take notes 🙂 :
1. Visit to Sukhna Lake
For your instant dose of peace and calm, in the lap of nature, look no further than Sukhna, an artificial (man-made) lake but really well maintained and picturesque. Of course if you visit on a holiday, it will be really crowded, with families ready to picnic, young people just hanging out or eager tourists (like moi!!!). But once you sit in your boat and leave the shore behind, a thick air of serenity envelopes you. There are scores of paddleboats in the shape of swans and painted in the brightest colours available, but I opted for the more sedate shikaara. If boat rides soothe you, DO HOP IN!
There is also a flock of ducks to keep the kids entertained. Quack!
(Traveller’s tip: Once back from your ride, you H A V E to try the fruit chaat available in the lake complex. Such fresh fruits, large chunks of papaya, oranges, guavas, served with a dash of orange juice and a sprinking of chaat masala. Just YUM!)
2. Satara market
So Chandigarh is organised into sectors and each sector has its own market, yet the market of Sector 17 (‘Satara’ in Punjabi) is the most famous. Spread over a huge area, its sprawling to say the least. With all major brands, it is certainly a shopper’s delight. Shop to your heart’s content or just chill with friends, you won’t realise how time flies by in this posh haven for shoppers.
3. Pinjore Gardens
Situated in Panchkula district of Haryana, Pinjore is a short 45 minutes drive from Chandigarh and is a beautiful terraced garden. Built during the time of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, it was restored to its former glory by Maharaja Yadavendra Singh of Patiala, hence also known as Yadavendra Gardens.
Pinjore is laid down in the form of seven terraces, each complete with beautiful fountains, perfectly manicured lawns and rows of marigolds, gleaming like pots of gold in the winter sun. I spent a couple of hours here, just soaking in the peace and tranquillity. You can carry a book to read if you want, but I just sat in silence, watching time go by. Very relaxing!
4. Elante Mall
What can a typical mall rat like me do in any city? Find a new mall to explore. And I went into Elante mall with very lofty recommendations. It is touted as the largest mall in Punjab and neighbouring states, and yes, it is HUGE. It houses several premium brands and has some decent food options as well. So you can safely spend several hours here..I went on Christmas, and boy, was it packed! Still a lot of fun.
5. Pal Dhaba
After so much sightseeing, we had worked up quite an appetite. And what is a trip to Punjab without some delicious Punjabi food? On the recommendation of our cab driver we went to Pal Dhaba in Sector 28, a place flocked by both locals and tourists. A typical dhaba, with no- frills decor and one had to literally squeeze in…but the food was something else.
They have an extensive non-vegetarian menu with some dal and veg options thrown in as well. We ordered a masala chicken, butter chicken and stuffed tandoori parathe. To keep it short – it was mouth watering-ly delicious. Such robust hearty flavours, succulent pieces of meat and big portions, this was the best meal I have had in recent times. The thing that really worked for me was the freshness of the ingredients – from the coriander in the salad to the cottage cheese in the paranthas, you could literally smell the freshness. This place is HIGHLY recommended for a gratifying meal, high on taste and flavour, but at very reasonable prices.
(Travellers tip: Pal Dhaba is also frequented by famous people. Indeed, I saw a sardarji in a bright yellow table turban in a meal, and he was *grin* Daler Mehndi, the extremely popular Punjabi singer!!! He was so jovial and waited patiently as people queued up to click pictures. – so do look over at your neighbour’s table – you could spot a celeb too)
Hmmm…writing about Chandigarh makes me want to go back again. I came back relaxed and rested, maybe just a little heavier after eating all the yummy food 🙂 Let me stop with sharing Daler paaji’s song that was once compulsory in all north Indian weddings…have fun !!!