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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hyderabad in a hurry


Almost all major American news papers are covering India as a travel destination, this the 2nd in a series I have seen... Hyderabad in a hurry. 

36 Hours in Hyderabad, India
Courtesy of NY Times

http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/travel/36-hours-in-hyderabad-india.html pagewanted=1&smid=fb-share


Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times
The Taramati Baradari, a pavilion said to have been built for a king’s courtesan. More Photos »



SITUATED in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad is a juxtaposition of old and new unlike any other city in India. While Microsoft, Google and other technology giants have offices in the glass and steel structures in the district known as Cyberabad, the history of this more than 400-year-old city is just as alluring as destinations like Jaipur and Agra, with sites like the 13th-century Golconda Fort, once home to the famous Kohinoor diamond, and the iconic Charminar monument in Hyderabad’s teeming Old City. In the past, Hyderabad was often overlooked as a tourism destination. But in recent years, sleek hotels, restaurants and night spots that cater to the 20- and 30-somethings working in the information technology industry have been attracting jet-setters from around the world who come to discover the past and experience the rapidly evolving present.
Multimedia
Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times
The tombs of Mah Laqa Bai, a highly regarded Urdu poet from the 18th century. More Photos »

Readers’ Comments

Friday
5:30 p.m.
1. SUNSET OVER THE CITY
Skip the standard guidebook suggestion of catching the Sound and Light Show at Golconda Fort, and head to the Taramati Baradari (Gandipet Road, Ibrahimbagh), the beautiful pavilion not far from the fort that was supposedly built for the favorite mistress of one of the 17th-century Golconda kings. Legend has it that her singing reached the king as he sat on his throne at the fort less than two miles away. Stand in one of the archways, and watch the sun set over the fort and on the 16th- and 17th-century tombs of the kings.
8 p.m.
2. A TASTE OF ANDHRA
Andhra food has a reputation as the spiciest in India so get ready to face the heat at Southern Spice (Road No. 3, Banjara Hills; 91-40-2335-3802; prices from 150 to 300 rupees, or $2.85 to $5.75 at 52 rupees to the dollar), a perpetually packed casual spot that’s a local standby. The South Indian thali served in a round steel plate is the most popular order, with more than a half-dozen small dishes that might include fried cabbage with peanuts and coconut, rasam (a lentil soup with tamarind), curried eggplant and mounds of rice. Round out your meal with fiery sides like chepala pulusu, a kind of fish stew in tamarind sauce (290 rupees) and gongura mutton (295 rupees), mutton cooked with sorrel leaves.
Saturday
8 a.m.
3. FAITH AND POETRY
Most visitors don’t make it out of the city to Moula-Ali, an area a few miles north that is named after Hazrat Ali, who is believed to be the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. A shrine atop a hill pays homage to him on the spot where he was believed to have left the mark of his palm. The 20-minute climb is well worth the views of the city. On your way back into town, stop at the tombs of Mah Laqa Bai, a highly regarded Urdu poet and a famous courtesan from the 18th century. The tomb and the gardens around it have been recently restored with financing from the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
11 a.m.
4. PEARL SHOPPING
Hyderabad processes many of the world’s pearls, which means the selection is extensive and the buying more wallet friendly than other places. Though there is no shortage of pearl vendors, Mangatrai Pearls and Jewelry (5-9-46, Basheer Bagh, End of the Flyover; 91-40-2323-3305, mangatraipearls.com) has an established reputation for its high-quality pearls. Park yourself on a stool, sip coffee or tea prepared in the back room, and let one of the salespeople present you with necklaces, earrings, pendants, bracelets and hairpieces (prices range from 250 to 2.5 million rupees).
Noon
5. HIGH-TECH WORLD
Take a drive through Cyberabad with its towering buildings and paved streets and end up at InOrbit Mall (APIIC Software Layout, Cyberabad; inorbit.in). Megamalls aren’t a novel concept in India, but this 800,000-square-foot behemoth with a mix of Indian and Western retailers is one of the largest in the country and is worth strolling through to get a sense of the shopping culture that’s driven by the younger generation and their generous incomes.
1 p.m.
6. TWIST ON SOUTH INDIAN
End your trip in new Hyderabad with lunch at the Indian Art Café (F- 29, first Floor, Inorbit Mall; 91-40-4011-7445; indianartcafe.in), which, as the name hints, is decorated with modern Indian art and sculpture. The menu is a riff on classic South Indian cuisine like a pizza dosa (thin rice crepe) made with Cheddar cheese and served with ginger relish and a peanut dip (145 rupees).
2 p.m.
7. OLD CITY
Surrounding the four minarets of the 16th-century Charminar monument, one of South India’s most recognizable landmarks, is the 400-year-old Old City. You’ll find centuries-old buildings, an overwhelming amount of street noise and huge crowds, including burqa-clad women and men in kurtas. Hundreds of vendors hawk sequined turbans (from 200 rupees) and tunics for men (800 to 5,000 rupees) and scarves and clothing for women (100 to 10,000 rupees). The Laad Bazaar is filled with shops like Irfan Bangles (20-4-1205 Laad Bazaar; 91-40-6535-7411), which sell sparkly bangles (30 to 600 rupees), a Hyderabadi trademark.
3:30 p.m.
8. THE ROYAL LIFE
After shopping, walk over to the Chowmahalla Palace (Khilwat, 20-4-236; 91-40-2452-2032; chowmahalla.com; 150 rupees entrance fee for international visitors, plus 50 rupees for carrying a still camera), more than 200 years old, where the Nizam rulers — specifically the Asaf Jahi dynasty — held court. The structure, which is modeled after the Shah’s palace in Tehran, offers a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of these Muslim rulers, with such sights as a 1912 restored Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, elephant howdahs and 19 grand Belgian glass chandeliers.
5 p.m.
9. ENGLISH RITUAL

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Continue your journey into old Hyderabad with a trip to the Jade Room in Taj Falaknuma Palace (Engine Bowli, Falaknuma; 91-40-6629-8585; tajhotels.com; 1,500 rupees a person), a former Nizam palace turned luxury hotel that has hosted dignitaries and royalty like King George and Queen Mary. Today, the opulent space, with hand-painted ceilings and chandeliers, serves a decadent afternoon tea that includes salmon sandwiches, lamb samosas and masala scones. It can easily double as an early dinner. On your way out, take in the views of the city from the hotel grounds and listen to the sounds of the sarangi (stringed instrument) player sitting in a passageway.
Multimedia

Readers’ Comments

9 p.m.
10. NIGHT SCENE
Get a taste of the night life that’s become increasingly popular among Hyderabadis by heading to the hip Park Hotel (22 Rajbhavan Road; 91-40-2345-6789;theparkhotels.com/hyderabad/hyderabad.html), which reigns when it comes to after-hours spots. Start by picking from nearly 20 kinds of Scotch at Sicca (450 to 4,000 rupees), a bar that’s reminiscent of an old-fashioned gentleman’s club. Then make your way over to either of two nightclubs for some dancing: Carbon has a more retro feel, while the newer Kismet attracts the city’s glitterati; a glass tunnel leads to the 10,000-square-foot space with its gold and black color scheme and sparkling lights. The soundtrack is Bollywood, house, trance and Western pop. Besides the main dance floor, the club has several side lounges for quieter conversation.
Sunday
10 a.m.
11. ANTIQUES HUNT
Hyderabad doesn’t come to life until midday, and few visitors make it to the weekly antiques market along Pathergatti Road in the Charminar area to experience its morning energy. You’ll find several dozen vendors selling wares like 200-year-old wine bottles, antique cameras, coins and hurricane lamps. Pick up a trinket or two to take home, and don’t forget that bargaining is a prerequisite to buying (most items fall in the range of 100 to 5,000 rupees).
Noon
12. BIRYANI TIME
Haggling builds an appetite, and sampling Hyderabadi biryani — a mix of rice, spices, meat, egg or vegetables — will seal your visit with delicious memories. The city is overrun with biryani spots, but the no-frills restaurant Hotel Shadab (21 High Court Road; 91-40-2456-5949) surpasses the competition. (Lunch is around 250 rupees.)
IF YOU GO
The Park Hyderabad (22 Rajbhavan Road; 91-40-2345-6789; theparkhotels.com) is part of the Indian chain of upscale boutique-style properties. This 270-room spot overlooking Hussain Sagar Lake has four lounges and suites created by prominent fashion designers like Tarun Tahiliani and Manish Arora. Rates from 4,960 rupees ($95).
You can live like a king at Taj Falaknuma Palace (Engine Bowli, Falaknuma; 91-40-6629-8585; tajhotels.com), a former Nizam palace that has been transformed into a 60-room luxury property following a 10-year restoration. The hotel is perched above the city and has 32 acres of immaculate gardens. Prices from 20,500 rupees.
A guide and car and driver is recommended for seeing the city. Detours India(detoursindia.com) is a local company that offers private tours starting around 6,500 rupees.


Mike
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(214) 325-1916 | MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily. 

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