This years vacation was primarily to Bharatpur and Ranthambore. I will cover them in separate posts. We started off from Bangalore, reaching Delhi by Air in 2.5 hrs(Kingfisher). This is the best way to travel up north, since the trains take for ever. The flights to Delhi are numerous and are far cheaper than traveling to lesser cities.
Delhi to Mathura can be reached conveniently in 3 hrs by passenger Train 4212 (Intercity Express) We opted to stay in Mathura instead of Delhi since Delhi is prohibitively expensive and some of the hotels we considered looked of dubious reputation.
Accommodation in Mathura
We stayed at Brijwasi Royal, just 1 Km from the railway station. The hotel is rated 3 star, and the accommodations are excellent, as is the food. Our room was comfortable, and had a wonderful view of a lake just adjacent to the hotel’s garden.
Around 30 minutes of rash driving in an auto will take one to Vrindavan. It is a small quiet town with extremely narrow walk ways (observe, I don’t call them roads)
Places to See
We made a deal with an auto driver to take us from our hotel to Vrindavan and back, it cost us Rs 450. Once you reach Vrindavan, there are several temples, situated close together, all within walking distance. A guide will walk you through them, telling you entertaining stories from the Krsna Leela and Mahabharat. We paid him Rs.200, and he was delighted.
Ranganath Swami Gate
We visited 4 temples in Vrindavan, starting with the Meera Bai Temple. It has wonderful architecture and lots of bats. Some of the statues were defaced around the time of Aurangazeb. The main idol is no longer in the temple, as it was whisked away to Rajasthan, before it could be damaged.
Pillars of the Ranganath Swami Temple
Our second temple was the massive Ranganatha Swamy temple, built in the south Indian style with a huge campus around it, housing its 108 south Indian priests. Spotlessly clean and maintained exactly as it is, it is extremely impressive. Sadly, large portions of it cannot be photographed. We were lucky to see the idol of Vishnu and Lakshmi taken out on a procession on a huge chariot.
From here we walked along extremely narrow lanes in what seemed to be a maze of pathways till we came to a tiny little ancient temple. This is the Vrindavan Bihari temple, one of the oldest temples in the town. Extremely small and very simple, the pathways and walls are covered in marble plaques, bearing the name of donors.
The idol is veiled thinly and shown to you in a flash by a jovial and friendly priest. He encourages the devotees to clap and laugh. This is a common feature in most temples here. I rather liked it. With charm and tact, the priest convinced us to add a marble plaque in our name to the temple, which we did.
We walked through the ghats where the clothes of the gopis were stolen and hung up on a tree by a playful Krsna. We went on to the madhuvan, which is now preserved rather like an orchard, with a few stunted trees; a path through them, leads to several tiny little temples.
Our last temple was the Banke Bihari, it had to be reached by auto. An extremely crowded road lay between us and the temple, for it was now nearing 11:30am. We made it to the temple, only to encounter more crowds inside. It rather looked like the floor of a busy stock exchange. Jostling for space to see the idol was a bit beyond us, so we headed out. The shops just outside the temple are a great place to buy souvenirs.
Sweet shops line the walkways and the adventurous can stop for a rabri or peda.
Finally we went to see Iskcon, Vrindavan. It is a beautiful white marble temple; sadly photography is prohibited, though you can carry your cameras inside (as long as you agree not to take any photos). The temple lacks the energy and enthusiasm that can be found in Iskcon Bangalore, so I was sorely disappointed. The shops just outside Iskcon are also a great place to shop for souvenirs. We had lunch at Iskcon’s Govinda restaurant, which serves excellent vegetarian food (with no onion and garlic).
The best time to see these temples is early morning (around 7), as the crowds build up as the day progresses.
What I liked
The TC at Mathura railway station was extremely helpful. The railway station had ramps and luggage could be easily pulled about.
There is no honking in vrindavan, people say “Radhe Radhe” to get others to move along.
The people are friendly and helpful, the temples are extremely clean. Our guide in Vrindavan, Vishnu Sharma; was wonderful, we would certainly recommend him.
Food was excellent, particularly the yogurt and the lassi.
The hotel accepts credit cards.
What I disliked
The service at the hotel was slow, several reminders needed to be given, particularly to Housekeeping. The front desk was unenthusiastic and unaware of the places to see around Mathura. Breakfast was later than scheduled, since most of the staff were clearly not awake at 7:00am.
The officials at the New Delhi railway station were rude and un-informed. The premises were filthy and I could not find a single book seller on the station. We were unable to locate any ramps.
Carry lots of loose change, this is needed to pay the shoe keepers outside the temples.
Wear floaters with thick dark colored socks, as the ground is extremely cold.
Do not wear spectacles / sunglasses, the monkeys in Vrindavan are notorious for snatching spectacles.
Mornings are extremely chilly, carry warm clothing. Carry a small bag/back pack to hold water/Prasad/souvenirs.
ATMs are available
Naughty Monkeys of Vrindavan
When taking the prepaid taxi from the airport, take the govt taxis, the queue is the longest for these. (My manager Vivek, gave me this invaluable piece of advice)
If traveling in a group, send a person ahead to stand in the taxi queue, while the rest collect the baggage.
Do make allowances (2hrs at least) for train / flight delays in cold weather, due to fog/incompetence etc.
Flight - Delhi from B’lore ( Kingfisher )
Train to Mathura from Delhi ( AC Chair Car )
Prepaid Taxi NewDelhi Airport to ND Railway station – Rs. 195, Time 40 min (dependent on traffic)
Stay at Brijwasi Royal ( Breakfast complimentary ) – Rs 5650 ( 2 nights, deluxe room)
Auto to Brijwasi Royal from Mathura railway station – 1 Km – 10 min – Rs 20 (locals pay 10)
Bird Sightings (at Hotel)
Pied Myna (Pair)
Rose Ringed Parakeets ( are like crows up north, can be seen everywhere )
Black Winged Stilts (several)
Magpie Robin (Male)
Rufus Tree Pie