After a long and rusty break from travelling and blogging, I finally got my chance for a comeback in the form of a short vacation this summer! After all, what good is the month of May without a little time away! Right?
This summer, I visited the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad in Telangana, the youngest State in India. The cities themselves aren’t young; in fact, Hyderabad is often referred to as the “Old City” and holds, within her walls, historic remnants of a heritage dating back to the 1500s. Secunderabad is comparatively younger – but still holds a significant place in the stories of ancient dynasties and foreign colonization in India. Both cities were formerly part of the State of Andhra Pradesh, but became a part of Telangana when the new State was established in the year 2014.
I don’t know if anyone is really sure about where Hyderabad ends and where Secunderabad begins. During my trip, I observed that I could have easily travelled from one city to the other in a single cab ride, without even realising it! In that aspect, they didn’t seem like two cities at all, but like one big city with two hearts. Upon close scrutiny, it can be seen that Hyderabad is like an old regal queen mother who has seen and endured much – a poignant balance of frailty and strength. On the other hand, Secunderabad is best described as Hyderabad’s sidekick! Although originally named after Sikander Jah, the city’s name ‘Secunderabad’ often rings in as a description of the city itself – a secondary, wannabe Hyderabad. People come to visit Hyderabad, and incidentally see Secunderabad too. Together, these inseparable cities make for an interesting package deal!
When I was planning my trip, I was a little apprehensive because of my complete lack of knowledge in Telegu, the official language of the Telangana people. Most of my apprehension came from the fact that, although Telegu is a prominent language in South India, I had often found myself struggling to even recognise the language when I heard it! I couldn’t even make out the difference between Telegu and Kannada if I heard both at the same time. How would I find my way around an unknown city without speaking the local language?
As it turned out, I had been worried for nothing! The minute I stepped out of the railway station, it became obvious that anyone who spoke Hindi could comfortably find their way around there. I soon discovered, with increasing delight, that a Hindi-speaking person could even make a good bargain while shopping! Almost every local is well-versed in spoken Hindi, perhaps due to the Mughal past, the still-strong Muslim presence and the Urdu culture that has seeped into the very soul of the twin cities! In fact, I would go to the extent of saying that most cab-drivers and auto-wallas seemed to converse more comfortably in Hindi than they did in Telegu. Telangana didn’t feel like a strange land, after all!
A few days before my trip to the twin cities, a friend of mine at work – an original Hyderabadi – gave me a long list of places of I must see and food I must try while there. Even though I knew my trip was a short one and that I probably wouldn’t have the time to experience them all, I ambitiously scribbled down all of her suggestions on some sticky note papers and carried them with me on the trip! Lucky for you, I am going to share this list with you here (if you are patient enough to read till the end).
Quite understandably, the tourist in me gleefully embarked on the journey with a lot of expectations. I couldn’t wait to get started on the eclectic list of experiences! Little did I know that a harsh sun would be waiting for me to beat down every ounce of my strength and render me a hapless being surrendering to the will of Nature! Yes, I had been warned about the infamous heat of Hyderabad in the summer months – but no, I did not expect that it would affect a Chennaiitte like me! That was my first mistake, and my first lesson during the trip – never underestimate the sun. Fair warning given, do not attempt a trip to hot Hyderabad or sunny Secunderabad in the summer!
Another mistake I made during the trip was carrying my luggage around in the hope that I would find cloak rooms at every tourist destination! Lessons learnt: carry nothing but your purse, phone/camera, a sunscreen, sunglasses and a dupatta to cover your head with if you truly want to enjoy vast and crowded places.
As I was in the twin cities in the middle of a heatwave (people died, I came to know on getting back home from the trip), I was able to visit only three tourist destinations during my trip – Hussain Sagar, Golconda Fort, and Charminar.
Hussain Sagar is located within Lumbini Park, strategically placed to offer a relaxing break in the heart of a busy traffic junction. It is an artificial lake available for recreational boating, and you can take your pick from a varied number of different boats ranging from a large one which can accommodate upto 20 people to speed boats that seat only 4. I did read some signs by the lake that indicated the availability of parasailing as well on the same lake, but did not see any in action while I was there. I chose to ride the speedboat with some friends. It was a shorter ride than I had expected and not very speedy either, but it was definitely fun! The highlight of the Hussain Sagar is the giant Buddha standing in a tiny artificial island in the middle of the lake. However, tourists are not allowed to stop our boats or get off at the Buddha station; we are expected to enjoy him from a distance as we pass by.
The best time of the day for a boat ride would be in the wee hours of the morning, but unfortunately, Hussain Sagar does not open till about 8:00 am. So I would recommend you to visit this serene place somewhere in the early evenings, just as the sun is mellowing down his rays and getting ready to retire for the day. Again, do not choose to go there too late in the evening, because, after 6:00 pm, mosquitoes rule the place and you cannot have an enjoyable ride when you are busy swatting at the little bloodsuckers!
The Lumbini Park also has laser shows and fountain shows scheduled for each evening, so you could choose to buy tickets to enjoy the magic of light and water soon after your boat ride. I missed these, so if you do get a chance to visit, let me know how they were.
The Golconda Fort is an expansive piece of beautiful architecture, layered with history, and is nothing quite short of a wonder! With a circumference extending 5 kms and standing on a hill 400 feet high, a visit to the Golconda fort is also nothing short of a trek!
The earliest version of Golconda is believed to have been built in as early as 1143 by a king, after a shepherd boy claimed to have found an idol there. It was later fortified between 14th and 17th centuries by Bahmani Sultans, and then the Qutub Shahi Dynasty. Parts of the fort have been carved out of existing rocks, while some others are built from large heavy blocks, which I cannot even begin to imagine how they would have transported in the early days.
Here, you will marvel at holes from where arrows were aimed, tunnels to crawl into and move, in addition to cannons and drawbridges and other elements that make you wonder about the events that would have taken place there. You can also see a small temple under a tree on your way up, and the ruins of a mosque at the very top – again, symbols of various dynasties that . It is said that the acoustics of the place is such that messages spoken from certain points can be heard in intended parts of the fort which can be even as far as 1 kilometre away.
Note that there are no locker rooms for your luggage here – I made the mistake of hoping they would and ended up having to lug around my extremely heavy luggage all the way up and down. If not for some amazing friends who accompanied me on the trip and helped share the burden, I doubt if I could have managed it.
Also, I earnestly advice you to carry enough water for the long trek up, or you will just be too famished to enjoy the panaromic view of the city when you reach the top! If you are travelling in a group, you definitely need a bottle for each person.
Tour guides are available at the site, so you can opt for one of them to accompany you if you are a history buff. I got all the information here.
A visit to the Golconda Fort is much more than a visit to a fort! It is history, architecture and a good trek rolled into one!
We have all seen the picture of the Charminar at some point in our lives. It is THE picture that is used to depict Hyderabad, so I was really looking forward to visiting this place.
However, as it turns out, Charminar is not really a place like I had imagined, but an archway located in the old section of the city. Another architectural beauty, no doubt, but some of its spires were being renovated when we went there. And if you want to take a picture in front of the Charminar, you need to actually stand in the middle of a busy road and brave it out till you get a good shot.
Surrounding the Charminar is a big market place, the Laad Bazaar, where you can go crazy shopping for bangles and other beautiful accessories. Read more about it here!
That’s all I saw during my short trip to the twin cities, but as promised, I am sharing with you the list my Hyderabadi friend made for me before my trip. I agree that I barely covered 20% of this list during my trip, althout I am determined to cover the ones I missed during my next visit (which I will wisely schedule far from the month of May). Meanwhile, I hope this comes in handy for you:
- Hussain Sagar
- Golconda Fort
- Chowmahalla palace
- Salar Jung museum
- Shilpa Ramam
- Taj Falaknama Palace
- Laad Bazaar – shop here for bangles and other accessories!
- Hyderabadi biriyani: It’s world famous, but even in Hyderabad, there are some places better than the rest. So if you want the best of the best, go to one of these restaurants: Shahdab, Shah Ghouse, Niagra
- Fruit biscuits from Karachiwala
- Authentic Telengana Cuisine from Rrayalseema Ruchulu
- Irani Chai
- Usmaniya Biscuit