Having been in Hyderabad for about two months now, our group was starting to realize that although we have traveled a lot in India and have experienced much of what our host city has to offer, we haven’t really gone to many of the touristy places that most people tend to think of when they think of Hyderabad. When we finally found a morning when we were all free, our AIFS Resident Director leaped at the opportunity to take us on a city tour of Hyderabad and at least check a few items off our list.
Stop 1: Birla Mandir
We first headed to the Birla Mandir, a Hindu temple built of 2000 tons of pure white marble. We took our shoes off and left them with our belongings in the car, because we were not allowed to take them inside, then headed up the white steps of the temple.
It was an overcast day with a refreshing breeze, and when we got to the top, we took a few minutes to just take in the view. Ishmeet told us that from the point at which we were standing, we could see all of Hyderabad, and it was truly a sight to behold. We played a little game of “I Spy” and found the Charminar in the distance, spotted the high-rise buildings near our university campus, and got a bird’s eye view of the Buddha Statue at the center of Hussain Sagar Lake.
Stop 2: Hussain Sagar Lake & Buddha Statue
We headed back down, hopped back in the car, and drove a little ways to the entrance of the grounds of Hussain Sagar Lake, which is the largest man-made lake in all of Asia. It’s heart-shaped and has the largest monolith of Gautama Buddha in the world at the center of it.
We boarded a boat, captained by a weathered and experienced seafarer, and grabbed our bright orange life jackets out of a giant wire basket in the center of the boat. We put them on (safety first!) then strategically sat near the front of the boat and watched the statue get bigger and bigger as we approached.
When we got to Gibraltar Rock, on which the Buddha statue stood, we stepped out and joined the dozens of other visitors already there, including a boatload (wow, what a quality joke) of toddlers running around just having a grand time. I’d like to think that we had the most fun of everyone there though, because we thought it would be hilarious to tell people that Gavin is a huge celebrity back in the United States, so lots of people whipped out their phones to take selfies with him.
Our group leader said to be back at the boat in ten minutes, but everyone wound up reconvening about 20 minutes later because it was just such a relaxed and peaceful environment. It was like a park, but in the middle of a lake with a giant 55-foot statue looking down on us.
Stop 3: De Thali Restaurant
We got back to the shore and headed to “De Thali,” an authentic Gujarati thali restaurant, and ate so much food. Some of us even had to take a lap or two around the restaurant to try to make more room for everything they were serving us.
This all-encompassing meal still induced a pretty intense food coma, but fortunately, lunch was the end of our tour, so we took naps in the car during the ride home. Overall, the day was a success, because now I get to check another box off my Hyderabad list.