Autumn Colours of Kyoto and Nara in Japan



We (Me, Sanjiv and my wife Neelam) travelled to Kyoto by Bullet train (Shinkansen in Japanese) from Tokyo Central Station on 15th November, 2017. The best time to visit Kyoto is third and fourth week of November each year and normally 23rd November is a day of Kyoto festival. If you want to be in Kyoto during that week then you must book hotels 6 months in advance.

We visited many places in Kyoto and Nara and it was a galore of colours and plethora of happiness and very pleasant climate, sometimes the temperature goes in single digit centigrade and strong wind may make your nose run and ears numb. We moved in a public transport. The places are terribly crowded and in Kyoto language is a big barrier. In Tokyo many knew English not so in Kyoto and Nara. In hotels the staff can manage to speak in English but in the street, the common Japanese find it very difficult to speak but they smile a lot and always prompt in helping you.

In Nara, the hotel staff could speak very good English. So there was no problem in the hotel at least.

Nara is a place near to Kyoto just an hour or so by train (two lines Japan Railway and also Kintetsu railway). Most of the tourist just cover Nara in a day as a day trip by staying at Kyoto. We did not do so. We stayed in Nara for 2 nights so we could see many things at leisurely pace.

On the way back we travelled to Osaka airport which we reached by airport bus which is very convenient, from Nara. Since our flight was early morning flight, we preferred to stay in a hotel near Osaka airport and most the hotels in airport vicinity provide free shuttle to airport which is very convenient when one is with luggage at very early hours.

Please note that Japan is a cash economy and not a credit card economy so carry good amount of cash. Card is accepted in hotels to pay hotel room rent and for breakfast (it is very expensive and always offered separately.).

We went to see a shrine outside Nara (over an hour by bus) and we were shocked to find out that the entrance fee is Yen 5,000 per head (about USD 95 for two which was the most expensive by any standard as an entrance fee to a shrine) that too only cash is accepted  It was a rude shock for us especially because we did not have Yen 10,000 in cash and we also needed some cash to eat our lunch etc. So we could not enter inside but the surrounding was so beautiful we solaced ourselves with that.

Unfortunately, my prepaid debit card was not allowing me to withdraw cash from ATM as it was showing “incorrect PIN”.  Nobody will help you in that scenario. We were aghast as we found ourselves penniless in a foreign country. Railways, buses, small eateries, shrine entrances all demand cash only. Moreover language is a barrier in many cases. They understand you well but cannot reply you in English, so easy reply is “No”. Luckily we found one ATM where my wife’s credit card was accepted and we could withdraw enough cash. But till then for over a day we were in a panic situation.  In Nara, we found an American backpacker requesting the bus driver to accept fare in US Dollars as there was no money exchange counter near anywhere an hour by road outside Nara. He also must not have imagined such a situation.

Fujiyama Mountain as seen from the window of our plane.

Author : Sanjiv Mulye, Thane, India


My Kutch Trip Report

We took a train from Bandra Mumbai in the noon on 27 January, 2013ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage which reached Bhuj at 8.00 a.m. next day morning. ( almost 30 minutes late). A driver was waiting for us with new Xylo from Devsach Travels Bhuj, which I had prebooked. He tried a few restaurants for our breakfast but all were closed. So he took us to a street food stall which was clean. We had Idli, Medu Vada etc. and tea. We received a call from Shaam-e-Sarhad resort asking us whether we would reach there for lunch. We said yes.


We reached by 10.00 a.m. to Bhirandiyari to get our passes to visit Kalo Dungar, Dhordo, India Gate etc. There was no queque and the police there were quite quick and cooperative. We paid Rs. 100/- per head plus for car also and went first to India Gate. Photography of the Bridge is prohibited so we could not take photos of the bridge. The road was of very good condition and it was flanked by vast stretch of land, some barren, some with thorny bush and babool trees. Lots of cattle were seen grazing in the bush. We could hardly see any human being.


Then we went to Kalo Dungar. It is one of the few hills in Kutch region. There is a temple of Lord Dattatraya recently rebuilt. The area is being developed by the Tourism Department. From the top you can see good view of white raan and surrounding area.

On the way back we passed Khavda village.  We wanted to visit, but we wanted to be in Hodka village in our resort for lunch. We reached our resort by 1.15 p.m.. We finished lunch, which was really good and sumptuous.


Shaam e Sarhad resort at Hodka is simply fabulous and very impressive. It is exactly, as it looks in photos on the internet. No tricks on photographs. It is simply picturesque and very much clean. We had booked a Bhunga (mud hut) which was really very good and it was a different kind of experience to stay there.


After our tea, at around 5 in the evening we went to Dhordo village about 20 kms. ahead to see the white raan. Before that we went to Raan Mahotsav stalls. There were hundreds of tents raised by Tourism Department and security was tight so we could not see the tents and the area from inside. But we were very happy with our resort and it was not comparable to the tents at Dhordo. We proceeded to see the actual white raann  about 2 kms. ahead. It was a vast flat land, fully white, till the horizon. Sun was setting. The ground was full of white salt like granules. If you dig a little, water would come up and it becomes a small puddle. The colours in the sky were changing from yellow to scarlet to red. The setting sun was looking like hot iron ball of red colour. We had taken a camel cart so we could go inside for over a kilometer. We took several photographs.


At night we returned to the resort for dinner. Dinner was nice as expected. The Dining area was decorated with beautiful cloth pieces hung on the high ceiling making it colourful. After dinner there was a music programme of local orchestra. We saw that for a while and sat around fire as it was quite cold by then.


Next day morning after good breakfast we started around 9.30 a.m. and headed for Mandvi. We first visited Shamji Krishna Varma Memorial. This has been recently developed by the Government. Mr. Varma was a barrister and a freedom fighter. When he went to London to learn he realised that getting an proper accommodation for an Indian student was very difficult. So he built a building in London called India House and made accommodation available for Indian students studying in London. India house was visited by Mahatma Gandhi, Veer Savarkar and many other freedom fighters. The replica of the India House has been built in Mandvi and Mr. Varma’s ashes have been kept. The tourism dept is developing a huge garden around it. It is worth a visit to such a beautiful place near the sea beach.  There is a small canteen for snacks and tea only. We had to go out for lunch.


On the way to the Memorial, there was a small puddle with some water in it and there were so many types of bird we could see and photograph. It is a special thing which I have observed in Kutch that whenever there is water, there are flocks of pelicans, storks, ducks and various other types of birds. It was a pleasure to take photographs.


After lunch we visited Vijay Vilas Palace which is good. It is surrounded by dense trees like jungle and very picturesque. Then we headed towards the beach for a camel ride and taking photographs of sea gulls which were present there in large numbers. Watching the Sun setting in the water was another pleasant experience.


We had booked Devpur Homestay for our night halt. Devpur is about one and half hour travel distance by car. It was a small princely state of Jadeja family and present descendent is Mr. Krutarthsingh Jadeja, a very polite person, well-qualified and well read man. His house is a small fortress and historical. When we reached there he and his old mother welcomed us with a garland and kumkum tilak on our forehead.


Our room was very spacious and decorated with old rifles hanging on the walls. My friends room was decorated with the articles used in stables by the horse riders. It was a very innovative type of decoration and totally different, I may say, a class apart.  Our room was equipped with tea and coffee maker also. There were few selected books in English and periodicals like National Geographic placed in each room for us to read. The bathroom was as big as my bedroom in Mumbai. The rooms and the house was very clean and well maintained.


We had dinner which was served with genuine smile and affection. The food had a homely taste, which is the essence of a homestay and that is why it is at times preferable to any hotel. After morning breakfast, we went to Lakhpat Fort, Gurudwara and Narayan Sarovar. Lakhpat fort is an old fort presently guarded by the BSF jawans. Beyond that there is a vast flat grey coloured land till the horizon. Beyond that Pakistan border starts. The Indian soldiers we met were smiling and welcomed us there. After about half an hour we left and went to a nearby Gurudwara. It was under renovation but we could take the darshan. They were very nice people and wanted us to stay for lunch. It was just 12.30 in the noon so it was quite early for us. We politely declined their cordial invitation.


We went to Narayan Sarovar. The temples used to close at 1.00 p.m. we could barely make it. But they did not appear to be prompt re closing hours. So they closed about twenty minutes late. The temples are beautifully constructed in the cream coloured stone. The lake or the sarovar was behind the temples. The water did not look clean. We could see few birds in the water. There was nothing much to do or see there.  There are no restaurants or eateries except one run by a charitable organization who do not charge but offer only very basic food like rice, daal and sooji ka halwa (sheera) as prasaad. 

After that we went to Koteshwar Mahadev temple, just 2 kms. from there. It is on the sea shore. When we went, some renovation work was going on. You can see wonderful view of sea and jetty built for fishermen. The tourism department is developing a small garden there. It would be great to view the sunset there. There also you do not get lunch or dinner. 


My suggestion will be to visit Narayan Sarovar and Koteshwar Mahadev temple first, then move to Lakhapat and then Gurudwara where you can get lunch.


On the way back, we went to Mata nu Madh, a temple of Goddess. Recently renovated beautifully but photography was not allowed. We were back in Devpur by six in the evening. We had dinner there.


The next day was our last day. It was a pleasant stay with Devepur Homestay. The Jadeja family was very affectionate and smilingImageImage. We said good bye to them with heavy heart.


Our driver, Noor Mohammed, was very polite, smiling, prompt and skillful person. He took us to Nirona near Bhuj by some different route which was different from regular highway. We could spot peacocks, deer on the way and we took so many snaps. The road was in good condition and it was an area with availability of water so it was green and agriculture was the main occupation there. Passing by the green prosperous farms made our journey delightful.


At Nirona, we visited a weaving centre called Kala Raksha. It was in a village and had a sales counter also.


After that we went to Bhujodi. Just before a kilometer, we spotted a good restaurant for our lunch. We were watching weaving centres etc. in Bhujodi till evening. We made lot of shopping also.


Unfortunately, we could see only one museum in Sharad Baug, that too because our driver knew the back door road. That day was a concluding day of Raan Mahotsav organized by the tourism dept. There was a programme arranged in Bhuj and was attended by the Chief Minister. So all the roads were closed and museums too were closed. So we missed that.


We thereafter had a dinner and reached Bhuj railway station to take our train back to Mumbai. We wished we had one more day.

Our driver, Mr. Noor Mohd. came out all the way on the platform and helped us with our luggage. Top of it he took the platform ticket with his own money and refused to accept money for the platform ticket. ImageImageImageImageImage


The driver, Mr. Noor Mohd., Devsach Travels, wonderful Shaam e Sarhaad resort, Jadeja Family of Devpur Homestay made our trip to Kutch pleasant and memorable.