I kept this diary of things we have done in Singapore for 2 years. I have now moved some of it to other travel pages but you can still find links to many of our activities here. I have also created a reading list of books we have read about the region.

Western Japan

Birds in Singapore

Kuala Lumpur stopover

Thai Diving

Singapore Liveaboard

Local Residents

Beijing Summer

Diving with Sharks

Shanghai Heatwave

Taiwan Tourists

An Indian week

Where U bin?

Island hideaway

Steamy running

A Trip to the Zoo

Gardens by the Bay


Singapore walks

Mind the bus

Flower power


Early weeks


Vicky's Blog


Gateway to the South, a crossing point of cultures, that is how our guide, Mr Kumar, describes Hyderabad.  Sitting bang in the middle of India, high on the Deccan plateau, it has a fascinating history and culture.  With a population of around 7 million people it vies with Bangalore to be India’s 5th largest city.  It also competes with Bangalore as a centre for technology and while Bangalore probably wins in the number of Fortune 500 companies, Hyderabad has a strong presence in the IT and Life Science industries.  The people are 55% Telugu speaking Hindus, 41% Urdu speaking Moslems and a small minority of Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains.

Westin HotelFirst impressions are good.  A smart, modern airport and good roads around the city to our hotel.  We are staying in “Cyberabad” , the fast growing technology centre on the west side of the city.  Just next to Jubilee Hills, the posh area of town, more glass and steels are spring up and attractive landscaping is being completed in between.  When we drive past one big office there is a long line of people queuing up.  “Interview candidates” says our guide – my company grew by 800 people in the past year and if others are also growing at this speed then this is truly a high growth area. The Westin Hotel (left) in the 'Mind Space' business park is bang next to our office and a very comfortable place to stay when visiting the many hi tec offices in the area. Apparently the Oberoi and Taj groups are also building here so watch out Westin!

On Saturday morning we drive into the city in search of the real Hyderabad.  Traffic is not too heavy as we pass the Hussain Sagar lake with its giant standing Buddha statue, a number of parks and open areas and the famous Karachi Bakery.  CharminarMr Kumar proudly points out colleges and schools and we are struck by the impressive domes of the Law Courts and the Omania General Hospital.  We cross the Muri river, rather slow and sluggish as a result of dams built at the start of the 20thC to provide drinking water and prevent flooding, to reach the old city.  Actually Hyderabad is a young city by Indian standards.  The centerpieces of the old city such as the Chaminar, with its mosque and four minarets and the other imposing gates and mosques, were built by the 3rd Qutb Shah in 1591.  It is still early when we arrive and many of the shops are closed – “the wealthy Indians shop here and they don’t get up until 11” says My Kumar.  We dodge kids, tuktuk, and women in burkas and pay R100 to enter the Chaminar (R5 to locals).  Views from the top are great and the tower is packed with local families in their best clothes photographing each other.

Bangle shopAfter coming down the tower we walk through the Laad Bazaar – each shop selling glass beaded bangles in every conceivable size and colour.  Then on through the hot and dusty streets to the Chowmalalla Palace, a comparative haven of calm with two big courtyards surrounded by hundreds of rooms and the palace in between the two.  We admire the crystal chandeliers and marble floors in the great hall and then read the history of the Nizams before admiring collections of clothes, porcelain, cars and weapons. 

Purani HaveliNext onto the Badshahi Ashurkhana in a rather empty courtyard with crumbling buildings all around – it was a place of mourning and is now a mosque with very vivid 17C tiled mosaics. When we come out the streets are much more crowded– tuktuks and cars at a standstill – women in saris and burkas buying bangles – mopeds with whole families on board. A beggar woman tapping on the window.  Cold towels and water are very welcome when we get back to the taxi. Our final stop is the Purani Haveli (Nizam’s Museum) also hidden away above a girl’s school (left).This is full of silver gifts from the 7th Nizam’s jubilee together with his famous wardrobe. Afternoon by the pool then off to the Paradise Restaurant for an authentic Hyderabad biriani – endless streams of people and mist blown over us through dinner.

Day 2 and we start early with our friend Mr Kumar again to visit Golconda – the huge fortress built in 945 and expanded by the Qutb Shahi dynasty between 1581 and 1687. After a rather complicated history lesson from Mr K we come across the huge outer walls.  As we pass the great gates with spikes to ward off unfriendly elephants I expect to find the fortress inside but instead the city continues with a jumble of houses, shops, cars and people. Golconda A bit further on is the entrance to the site where we find a big crowd of locals queuing for tickets.  We wait in the shade – 9.30 and already very hot – and fend off the men selling postcards.  A short walk takes you to the inner gate to the fortress (Bala Hisar Gate) –  in the grand Portico beyond  people are demonstrating the guards’ clapping signals which we confirm later are audible on top of the fort hundreds of metres away.  Up the hill by the ‘soldiers’ way’ past stabling and barracks. A family is preparing to make offerings at a cobra shrine under tree.  Further up there is more religious activity in the (very hot) prison of a governor held for 12 years – now shrine after a miracle occurred to release him.  On up past a mosque and a brightly painted Mahakali Temple to summit – a large two story audience chamber with welcoming breeze and fine views.  Down by the ‘Kings’ way ‘ through the wives palace, barracks for female guards, shah’s palace and gardens and another mosque. 

Qutb tombsClose by are the Qutb Shahi tombs -  a remarkable necropolis of a whole dynasty on a single site.  There are seven major tombs including Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah (4th), founder of Hyderabad.  Lots of trees – blackberry, banyan, tamarind, mango, etc although the gardens are in disarray.  The fine domed, and sometimes ribbed roofs make a great spectacle.  They used to be tiled like the domes of Isfahan or Samarkand but these are long gone. The royal Mortuary baths are an interesting example of a 17thC hammam complete with hot and cold piped water.  After having our picture taken with more of the youth of Hyderabad we escape to the luxury of our hotel for brunch and an afternoon by the pool.