Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Three days backpacking trip to Hyderabad || Hyderabad travelogue and 3 day itinerary for travellers

The pearl of the South, the capital city of Telangana – Hyderabad offers the best of both world’s to a traveller. From heritage monuments to historic parks to upmarket shopping malls to delectable food to glistening lakes, the tech hub is a city perfect for a little vacation, a mini getaway or just for a random visit.

I have never been fascinated with South India. Though I find some places in Kerala (like Varkala, Fort Kochi, Munnar and Allepey) and Tamil Nadu (like Pondicherry and Ooty) really interesting, nothing in Telangana or Andhra Pradesh interested me. But when a friend shared photos from a recent roadtrip, I thought I should give this city a try, without wasting a long vacation on it!

So there I was on my three-day Hyderabad visit. And if you aren’t someone who’d want to visit the Ramoji film city, bird sanctuaries and national parks, three days are enough to explore the heritage and culinary offerings of the city! Here’s an insight into my three day trip to Hyderabad with a detailed itinerary which you could use for the next time you plan to visit Hyderabad!

Heritage sites have always been of interest to me. So the Golkonda fort and Charminar topped my list of places to visit in Hyderabad – though they are kind of over rated. But you tend to find your own stories and your own calm in crowded places as well, that is, if you have the right approach towards it and go there with an open mind. And that’s exactly why I absolutely enjoyed my little weekend getaway to Hyderabad!

First things first, I had to treat myself to a South Indian breakfast. Though I am not a fan of South Indian food, I did opt for some onion uttapam – which is a dosa like dish, masala dosa (that’s the only dosa Goan’s get, you see!) and some filter coffee at Kamat in Lakdikapool. I guess Kamat is a chain of restaurants and someone recommended I go here for breakfast. 

After a little rest and trying to figure my way around the place, I headed out! I wasted a ton of time finding an Ola, but couldn’t find one. However, there were ample auto rickshaws around, so just hopped in one and headed to Birla Mandir, only to find it closed. You know, you are supposed to have your research in place and that includes checking opening and closing timings of places.

Though it was disappointing, I headed for lunch, because it was almost lunch time. Lunch happened at a place called Mughal Restaurant because the auto rickshaw driver outside Birla Mandir tricked me into going there. Though Café Bahar or Bawarchi was on my list, so I could try their biryani for lunch. 

Though I didn’t quite like Mughal Restaurant, I didn’t hate it either. The Hyderabadi chicken dum biryani (because it was Hyderabad!) and the mutton dum biryani were yumm and the Hyderabadi chicken kebabs (again, because it’s Hyderabad) was succulent. I can’t really name the components of the meal, but it was a hearty meal and a value for money one at that.

Since I couldn’t go to Birla Mandir earlier, I headed there next. Well, did I saw I only wanted to see the Golconda Fort and Charminar before I went to Hyderabad. But when I stepped into Birla Mandir, I was glad I came. It was a little too crowded for my taste. There aren’t any entry charges, but you aren’t allowed cameras and phones inside and I am glad they don’t!

The place has its own sense of calm, despite the crowd and a lot of positive vibes. I just climbed up the stairs and everything felt so much at peace. The view from the top is breath taking – a view of the city with white buildings and cottages at the horizon and something like an aerial view of the Hussain Sagar lake, which is considered the pride of Hyderabad.

After spending some time here, I headed to NTR gardens, where I spent some time strolling around and just relaxing at the park. It’s supposed to be a memorial of some prominent personality in Hyderabad and is located right in the heart of the city. NTR garden is located right across the Hussain Sagar lake and is refreshingly beautiful as compared to Lumbini Park where I went to next.

Somehow, I thought I’d like Lumbini Park, because I absolutely loved strolling in Cubbon Park in Bangalore. However, Lumbini Park was nothing like that. It’s walkable from NTR garden and has an entry fee of INR 20. However, it is extremely crowded with nagging kids and parents, probably because they have tons of rides and activities, including boating. Though I thought I’d go sailing, I was a little late and had to skip it.

I found a quiet corner (even that was quite noisy) across the lake and saw the world zoom past me! Everyone was up to something. But, in an unknown land, you appreciate the fact that you aren’t going to run into someone you know and you can totally be yourself. 

The overcrowded Lumbini Park in the evening

The crowded Lumbini Park with Hussain Sagar lake in the background

The only good thing about the park is the Laser show, which happens at 7.15 pm, for which you need to get your tickets and find yourself a seat at 6.30 pm. It’s quite a hit and there are like over a thousand people there, so be nice and early to find a good seat! It’s a 3D show which uses light, sound and water to create some amazing narrations! I have mixed feeling for this, but I’d recommend you give it a try! I went there because I didn’t have anything else to do for the evening. 

A blurry pic of the laser show

Post watching the laser show at Lumbini Park, I took a cab to Eat Street on necklace road on Hussain Sagar lake. The lake reflecting lights in the night is beautiful. The eat street in itself is over rated and the outlets there are kind of strange. They have a Dominoes there, like wtf? They have some random restaurant outlets including everything from North Indian to South Indian to desserts. Though the food was a disappointment, the view made up for it. The experience of eating by the glistening Hussain Sagar lake in the evening is amazing. I ended my day with some cheese popcorn from Babuji Popcorn, which is quite a thing, like the biscuits from Karachi bakery (which I got home).

The glistening Hussain Sagar lake

Look at the view

The next day was a long day! So I started out early, after a hasty breakfast at the hotel. However, I happened to find Ram ki Bandi open. This street food cart was on my list to to-do things in Hyderabad because I was told they serve some nice food. But I realised they only make dosas and idlis. But I also realised these are fancier dosas and got one for myself.

The cheese dosa totally made me change my perception about South Indian food. Personally, I hate dosas, but this yummy wrap that was made fresh, smeared with butter, and topped with cheese before it was rolled out and served on an eco-friendly plate made me fall in love with dosas. Specifically, the bandi ka dosas! Guys, trust me, this is a must-try!

The cheese dosa at Ram ki Bandi

My next stop for the day was Golconda fort. The over rated fort is as touristy as it can be. There’s an entry fee of INR 15 and an INR 25 for camera, and there are tons of tour guides annoying you. I definitely chose to skip the guide and decided to explore the fort on my own. It’s massive! Though it’s crowded at some points, it has its own quaint corners as well. And after a walk through this fort I knew why it is describe as ‘Golconda Fort Hyderabad is an outstanding example of brilliant engineering and magical architecture.’

My next stop for the day was the Chowmahalla Palace. I kind of love palaces for the regal vibes they emanate and I couldn’t help but fall in love with this one. This was the only palace I visited on my entire trip and how I loved it. It was quieter, had lesser crowd and every bit of it was extremely fascinating.

Built over 200 years ago, Chowmahalla Palace is renowned for its unique style and elegance, and is a synthesis of many architectural styles and influences. The highlight of the palace is the Grand Khilwat, the Durbar Hall. The sheer magnificence of the place is breath-taking. The Courtyard, is a vast expanse of lush green lawns and picturesque water tanks and fountains.

The palace is a story in itself with each wall, each door and each corner telling its own tale of the mighty rulers of Hyderabad! There’s a ticket of INR 50 per person and INR 50 as camera charges. This was by far the place that I loved the most and spent the most time at. I strolled around, went through a lot of things there and sat for a while before I headed for lunch. 

Lunch happened at Shadab, which was planned as per my itinerary. It’s a chain in Hyderabad (I am guessing) and I was told (when I asked for recommendations on Instagram) that it’s ‘the’ place to go for biryani in Hyderabad. And was it awesome? The place was insanely crowded and it took me half an hour to get a table. The food arrived sooner than expected. After relishing their well cooked dum biryani, I devoured a bowl of Qubani ka Meetha, a sweet made of apricots. Yumm!

Auto rides in Hyderabad

How pretty is this market?

Hyderabadi biryani

Qubani ka Meetha

Next I took a walk to Charminar through the Ghansi Bazaar. Honestly, I crossed so many markets in that one day that I lost count and couldn’t remember names. There was a fancy market I crossed on my way to Golkonda which was made of stone. This market had tons of shops and a lot of bangles! Now I know why people got me bangles as souvenirs when they returned from Hyderabad. I got none though!

Charminar was the most crowded place I went to in my three days in Hyderabad. But it didn’t feel strange. I kind of disappeared in the crowd and walked with them. With its minarets and domes, it showcases typical Islamic design. In one corner sits a beautiful mosque where mass prayers take place on Fridays. It’s a beautiful monument and has a great vibe!

I walked to Nimrah Café (which was again recommend by an Instagrammer). I was told to try the Irani chai and Osmania biscuits while there and I went ahead with the suggestion. I asked for Irani chai and relished some yummy Osmania, oats and coconut biscuits. Though I ain’t a big fan of coconut, the coconut cookie turned out to be my favourite. With the view of the majestic Charminar, it was a wonderful experience.

The view from Nimrah Cafe

Irani chai and biscuits at Nimrah Cafe

To get away from the hustle-bustle of the crowded old city, I headed to Secunderabad for the evening. The drive to the twin city of Hyderabad, through the road across the magnificent Hussain Sagar lake was wonderful. The city – with it’s old world charm, magnificent churches and quiet lanes was a perfect space to spend my evening.

The beautiful churches of Secunderabad

Walking through the streets of Secunderabad

Post that I decided to head to Sindhi Colony for a while, because I was told you can try out some nice street food there. But all I could find was chaat, which I decided to skip and headed to a little café and sipped on a nice blueberry lassi which was delicious.

I ended the day with an ice cream at Famous Ice Cream parlour. Well, I have no idea why it’s called famous, but it’s located along a stretch that has many ice cream parlours is Begum Bazaar. And the Famous Ice cream parlour seems to be the most famous among them all considering how many people actually go there. The ice cream there wasn’t anything extraordinary, but it seems like a value for money place. But at the end of my two days in Hyderabad, I realised that Hyderabad isn’t an expensive city. The autos costed me somewhere between INR 50 to INR 200 and the food wasn’t expensive either.

The Famous special ice cream

The Famous Ice Cream parlour

The third day was more of a chill day. After breakfast (at the hotel), I strolled through the nearby markets and then headed for lunch to Banjara Hills. I went to Banajara Hills for precisely two reason – firstly, because it has more choices in restaurants, secondly, because it was the posh suburb.

I went for lunch to a restaurant called Zaiqa e Hyderabad in Banjara Hills, because it popped on my search when I was searching for haleem in Hyderabad. Not many restaurants serve haleem (haleem is to be had during ramazan), so I was happy to find a place that does. And also, I wanted to go to a restaurant that was a little upmarket, since the little joints I was eating at had gotten on to me.

I ate some haleem (which is made by overcooking meat and some lentils) and lukmi (mince savoury) – both of which are Hyderabadi specialities. How can you leave Hyderabad without trying their biryani and haleem right? So there I was! The evening was spent at the nearby GVK mall – window shopping and munching on frankies, before I headed back home and gorged on a Goan fish thali after loooong (well, it was just three days, but I still missed my food)



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