Thursday, February 28, 2008

Restaurants in India

Indian restaurants run the gamut from roadside shacks (dhabas) to classy five-star places where the experience is comparable to places anywhere in the world. Away from the big cities and tourist haunts, mid-level restaurants are scarce, and food choice will be limited to the local cuisine, Punjabi/Mughlai, "Chinese" and occasionally South Indian.

The credit for popularizing Punjabi cuisine all over the country goes to the dhabas that line India's highways. Their patrons are usually the truckers, who happen to be overwhelmingly Punjabi. The authentic dhaba is rather plain, but serves up a tasty dish of roti and dhal with onions, and diners sit on cots instead of chairs. Hygiene can be an issue in many dhabas, so if one's not up to your standards try another.

In Southern India, "Hotel" means a local restaurant serving south Indian food, usually a thali -- a full plate of food that usually includes a kind of bread and an assortment of meat or vegetarian dishes -- and prepared meals.

Although you may be handed an extensive menu, most dishes are served only during specific hours, if at all.

Tipping is unusual outside of fancier restaurants where 10% is appropriate.

Menus in English

Menus in Indian restaurants are usually written in English — but using Hindi names! Here's a quick decoder key that goes a long way for understanding common dishes like aloo gobi and muttar paneer.

* aloo — potato
* chana — chickpeas
* gobi — cauliflower (or cabbage)
* machli — fish
* makhan — butter
* mattar — green peas
* mirch — chilli pepper
* murgh — chicken
* palak — spinach
* paneer — Indian cottage cheese
* subzi — vegetable

Taj Mahal - India

The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. Taj Mahal means "Crown Palace"; one of the wife's names was Mumtaz Mahal, "Ornament of the Palace". The Taj is one of the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tombs in the world, one of the masterpieces of Indian Muslim architecture, and one of the great sites of the world's heritage.

The Taj has a life of its own that leaps out of marble, provided you understand that it is a monument of love. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore called it "a teardrop on the cheek of eternity", while the English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, said it was "Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones." It is a celebration of woman built in marble and that’s the way to appreciate it.

Despite being one of the most photographed edifices in the world and being instantly recognisable, its physical presence is awe-inspiring. Not everything is in the photos. The grounds of the complex include several other beautiful buildings, reflecting pools, and extensive ornamental gardens with flowering trees and bushes, and a small gift shop. The Taj framed by trees and reflected in a pool is amazing. Close up, large parts of the building are covered with inlaid stonework.

There is an apocryphal tale that Shah Jahan planned to build an exact copy out of black marble on the opposite side of the river. His plans were foiled by his son, who murdered three elder brothers and overthrew his father to acquire the throne. Shah Jahan is now buried alongside his wife in the Taj Mahal.

If you're taking a camera, beware that because the Taj is white your camera may underexpose your photos. If it's a film camera you won't find out until it's too late. Overexposure by 1 or 2 stops is recommended.

The Taj is open from 6 AM to 7:30 PM every day except Friday. Entry costs Rs. 250 (plus levy) for foreigners and Rs. 20 for Indians. Get there as early as possible to beat the crowds, and plan to visit the Taj at least two different times during the day (dusk and dawn are best) in order to experience the full effect of changing sunlight on the amazing building. It is also utterly stunning under a full moon.

The Taj is located pretty much in the middle of town. Expect a line to get into the grounds. There are three gates. The western gate is the main gate where most tourists enter. A large number of people turn up on weekends and public holidays and entry through the western gate may take hours. The southern and eastern gates are much less busy and should be tried on such days.

Security is tight, so leave behind any pocketknives, as well as chewing gum, cigarettes, or anything that could mark the building. Cell phones are allowed inside the complex, providing they are on silent. Guidebooks are to be left at the booths on either side of the entrances. Do this before you get into the line to get in.

There are night viewing sessions on the nights of a full moon and the two days before and after (so five days in total). Exceptions are Fridays (the Muslim sabbath) and the month of Ramadan.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel

Get the most out of your Disneyland® Resort accommodations when you take advantage of recreational offerings which include an exciting rooftop pool area, state-of-the-art health club and more.

* Signature Disney service and a wealth of amenities that offer a Disney lodging experience unlike any other.
* 489 rooms, many with stunning views
* Business center and conference facilities
* Casual elegance and signature Disney service
* A wealth of amenities for an exceptional Disney lodging experience
Delve into the nostalgic flavor, casual atmosphere and retro decor of the boardwalk-inspired Rooms and Suites of this Three Diamond Deluxe Hotel. Spectacular views of Paradise Pier at Disney's California Adventure® Park add an air of childhood excitement to your stay. Contemporary amenities and superior Disney service ensure the comforts and conveniences that make our Guests feel at home.
Amenities | Standard Room Type | Suite Room Type | Concierge
The following amenities are available to all guests at Paradise Pier® Hotel:

* Three Diamond Deluxe Hotel
* King-size bed or two queen-size beds
* Room service
* Phones with voicemail
* High speed internet access
* Irons, ironing boards, refrigerators and coffee makers in each room
* Cribs available upon request
* Safety deposit boxes available
* Disney Channel and ESPN
* Non-smoking Hotel
* Disabled-accessible rooms available

Standard Room Type
A little slice of Paradise is available in your fresh, breezy contemporary room, where you experience warm, personal service and magic in every detail.

Enjoy the benefits of roomier accommodations when you choose a suite.

Guests who stay on the concierge level are entitled to these additional amenities:

* Priority check-in
* A variety of room choices: cabana, poolside or penthouse
* Staff available prior to and during your visit for reservations and vacation planning
* Enjoy an exclusive lounge featuring Continental breakfast and evening wine and cheese reception
* Nightly turndown service
* DVD players and complimentary movies

Take advantage of an incredible rooftop pool and waterslide area, fitness facility and a movie viewing area just for kids.

Paradise Theater
Kids can enjoy Disney film and TV favorites in this beach-themed room.

Rooftop Pool and Spa
It will be fun for everyone when relaxing at the scenic rooftop pool and waterslide area.

MIckey's Beach Workout Room
Work out at this state-of-the-art fitness center.