Again a business trip to the city most dear to me for being the place where I earned my first moolah - the land of my first job - Hyderabad. There was a client coming down for a couple of days and we had a few meetings scheduled with him. It needed us to be there in the city for three days. This time we decided to take a break to usual schedule and mix some pleasure with the business. Wifey agreed to come with me for this visit and we extended the visit to include a weekend and make time to explore the city. As planned we started on November 26th, 2016, Saturday early in morning with packed bags and leaving behind locked doors. There are very few days you are up so early in the morning and these are views one misses to appreciate. The cool breeze has an energizing effect and the moist freshness of the morning freshened us out of the early morning lethargy. By about 5:30 we were there sipping a hot cup of coffee at Plaza Premium Lounge in Domestic Departures of Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport.
A short video from our trip - immerse yourselves !!
We had a good half an hour to catch up on a light breakfast before we proceeded to board our 7 AM Vistara Flight to Hyderabad. I tried taking up Vistara to experience this new player in town. It's already been about a year of their existence I hadn't had a chance trying them out so this time I agreed to pay a higher fare just for sake of the experience. The check-in was smooth and staff is courteous and helpful. They were responsive to requests and since I had a corporate booking, they allowed my wife a seat along with mine (BTW Indigo asked us to shift seats if we wanted it together). Once onboard, the premium economy customers are served with a welcome drink while other passengers in the rear just do with a bottle of water. As the flight took off, the captain provided the relevant parameters including weather conditions, flight time and distance and expected time of arrival. The take off was fine and soon they began the food service. Everyone was offered a vegetarian and non-vegetarian option along with a drink choice. While we were already full from our break at the airport lounge, we still decided to take a bite. The food, while better than a sandwich offered on other airlines at a price, was better yet did not beat the airline food quality. The taste was pale and items customized to not suit common choices. I would say most plates sent back pretty much quite a bit of the serving. In about two hours, the captain announced preparations for landing and we were finally going to start a few days of holidays we can get. The one thing that stood out in the flight was our co-passenger, a lady in the window seat, who though visually challenged was capable of managing the entire journey herself. It was not until the flight attendant alerted us about her condition that we realized the situation.
Once we were on the ground, we claimed our baggage and headed straight to the hotel. For people arriving at the airport it is important to note that all cabs pick you at a place designated at "Point D" which is in the basement, a bit of walk away from the terminal - ask anyone and they would guide you. We had been booked at The Red Fox hotel, a part of The Lemon Tree group. The drive from the airport to the hotel was long but the excitement of coming back to the town and with special someone kept us going. We were in the hotel lobby checking in at the reception in about an hour. The check-in was okay and our request for an early check-in and room at the higher floor was met. The early check did cost us about Rs. 500 + service taxes. The room was well set up and function for most aspects, while still maintaining its aesthetic value. I have stayed at the Lemon Tree beside and the standard is more or less that same, of course, it has a few niceties added to it. One thing that we did like about the place was the importance given to the specially abled in recruiting. Most of the room service staff and quite a few in the serving staff were deaf and dumb. The efficiency and effectiveness they had at their job were amazing and I would give any number of bonus points to the management for this policy. We took about an hour to freshen up and were ready to head out. Within minutes our Uber was waiting to pick us up.
We had planned a visit to the Ramoji Film City that day and knew that it was going to consume most of our day. The last entry at the film city is at 2 PM and we accordingly left as soon as we could and reached the venue by 1 PM after about an hours drive on the majestic outer ring road. The entrance to the venue is palatial and a wide road takes you through mighty gates and cab drops you at the ticket counters and reception area post which Ramoji's facilities takes over. We took the tickets (1000 bucks each) and entered the Film City. The smart access cards are swept to allow entry and after frisking visitors find themselves at the bus stop - the place where the film city buses pick up tourists and drop them into the innermost zone, designed for touristic interest. The ride from the reception to the drop point is about 20 minutes long and takes you through jungles and drives generally used for shoots,
The drop point is at the landmark named "Eureka" which is a roundabout around with the primary interest points are located. Eureka is also the bus stop for all the vehicular access. We enjoyed three back to back shows depicting art, culture, and history of filmmaking. The first was the "Film Making Show" at "The Action Theatre" where spectators are given a chance to be part of various stages of movie making including direction, sound and acting introducing you to various props and techniques. Next, we enjoyed a virtual reality show at "Space Yatra". We also attended a show at "Lights Camera Action" where a live animation show was presented for the audience. After these shows and a quick lunch at "Jimmy's Drive-in", we proceeded back to Eureka to take the Red Vintage Bus Tour which takes through various studios (including Ramayana set) and outdoor locations showcasing various structures depicting scenes and cities from across the world. To end with, we enjoyed the cultural program - "Spirit of Ramoji" at the Alampana Theatre. We returned to the hotel for a quick break before proceeding for the dinner.
|Entrance - Ramoji Film City|
We went out for a dinner at Dialogue in the Dark at about 8 PM. This restaurant is located in the Inorbit Mall in Madhapur area, a 10-minute drive away from the Red Fox. This is a themed restaurant where the entire concept is pretty novel and interesting. The food is served in complete darkness as you may guess from the name of the restaurant. The idea is that the entire staff at the place is blind and they invite guests to experience what it is to live in pitch dark world. They provide two options, a full meal or starter platter. Guests are asked to put away their mobile phones and other glass items in a locker to avoid damage in dark. Once ready, guests with similar choices are lined together and a staff guides you through the darkness to your table and helps you sit. The food is served on the table and server guides you through the offerings and relative locations on the table. They are even happy to answer all your queries regarding the place and its significance. Our server Taobji did provide an entire overview and background about the German who introduced this idea to provide meaningful employment to specially abled. We returned at about 10 in the night and called it a night after a refreshing cup of tea over chat about the day.
We had a lazy morning, the next day, and after the complimentary breakfast buffet took the time to relax and plan. We left at about 10 in the morning and our first stop for the day was the Golkonda Fort and so we took a cab for about half an hour ride. Located in the western part of Hyderabad covering about three square kilometers of an area, Golconda fort is one of the most magnificent monuments in the region. We have seen forts to be the charm of the west but this one does get this part of the country on the fort map too. The fort epitomizes the Mughal architecture and culture and showcases the brilliance of the time in provisioning security for the building. Whether it is building a wall in front of the main gate to prevent elephants gaining momentum while attacking the gate or reflective design so that a noise at the main door reaches in the inner periphery of the command center, the architectural beauty simply leaves one marveled. The main complex of the fort is made up of a series of structures, ranging from those used for public audiences to the ones used as royal residences and halls. On the right-hand side of the porch are mortuary baths with provision to take the body out of the fort with no public knowledge. The reason was that death of a ruler was not announced until his successor took the reins and hence secrecy had to be maintained. For those interested, there is a light and sound show conducted in the evenings to showcase the entire history of the fort.
Next on our list was the identity of Hyderabad - Charminar. This four-story, square shaped monument is the landmark of the city and reminds of its rich cultural heritage. As the name suggests, this building is built on four pillars or 'minarets' and is built in granite and stone. One could climb 149 stairs to reach the top and have a wonderful view around. Today, the monument find itself in the hustle of the town and a busy market has come up all around it making the streets cluttered yet lively. After a short session of window shopping, the sun tempted us to get indoors. This seemed to be a perfect moment for our next stop - Salarjung Museum. Built in 1912 by seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, the museum was designated as Institution of National Importance". The museum is a collection of innumerable antiquities and showcases history and art of culture - probably more interesting to a student of those faculties compared to me. But still, it is a critical part of Hyderabad's tourist map.
It was already late afternoon and we headed to the Hussain Sagar Lake for a relaxed calm evening. We started with a visit to the Lumbini Park where we took a ride on the speed boat which took us around the periphery of the lake and provided close views of the mighty Buddha Statue in the middle of the lake. There is also a musical fountain show at the park for those interested. We chose to avoid the show to save ourselves from the rush. Instead, we strolled along the lake and spent some relaxed moments after the hectic day. Later, we had our dinner at the Eat Street - a food court built by the lakeside with seating arranged to provide clear glimpse across the water. We returned to the hotel post dinner and ended the day with room service tea to shed some tiredness.
Next day was the start of the business phase of the trip and we spent the days at the office. I am sure those discussions with the partner would not be of interest to you and hence to avoid the blabber, let me cut the whole story short from here. On Monday, we had our dinner at the Paradise Biryani outlet in Hitech City. This is the most popular destination in this city known for its biryani - a rice recipe spiced artfully. They have this aesthetically developed outdoor seating resembling a climb up on rocks. The service was decent and the food was definitely perfect. Next day there was an official team dinner at The Sheraton in the financial district. The buffet was a usual premium class offering - relatively bland but presented nicely. The options were limited but overall a good setting. Service was lacking if expectations are made based on the standard that this place would like to showcase.
|Sunset at Hussain Sagar|
Wednesday was our last day in the city and we wrapped up work by noon. It was time to collect some gifts for the family and we reached a local artisans market - Shilpagram. It is a collection of about 100 small shops from across the country where artisans try to sell their creations. We were able to pick a couple of pashmina shawls for ladies at home. We also picked some pearl jewelry as a memoir. For friends, we picked the famous biscuits from Karachi Bakery outlet. We had our lunch at an authentic Andhra food place called - "Rayalaseema Ruchulu" with some colleagues from office. If you plan to buy them, pick them from an outlet in the city and avoid the airport outlet - they sell at a pretty high premium. We headed straight to the airport from there and reached by about 7 PM for a 9 PM flight. Unfortunately, the flight schedule was haywire that day and our flight kept delaying and finally took off at midnight. We waited at the Plaza Premium Lounge and caught up on dinner during the wait.
It was indeed a fun visit which ended with a lot of memories and we came back to our lives - usual rigor and melancholy of everyday chores. Put in your comments and feedback.