Trek to Tungnath, highest Shiva temple in the world

The beauty of this place is beyond words, you have to see it believe it! Snow-clad mountain ranges, blue sky, fresh air is a trekkers’ dream comes true. It is one of the most adventurous and audacious trails you can tread in Uttarakhand. Towering at 13000 feet, adorned with mists, coniferous, and snow, this is one heck of a trek you must take.

 

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midway view    P.c Saral Asthana

 

Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in the world, Located at an altitude of 3,680 m (12,073 ft). It is the highest of the five Panch Kedar temples located at Chandranath Parbat in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Tungnath temple is the highest Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is the third (Tritiya Kedar) in the pecking order of the Panch Kedars.in the order of Kedarnath, Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheswar and Kalpeshwar. ThisTrek is a moderate and sometimes steep climb (2,926–3,658 m), the trek path is stone paved with benches provided en route at intervals to rest and enjoy the alluring views of the Chowkhamba, Nanda Devi, Neelkanth and Kedarnath peaks.

The trek to Tungnath was a sudden plan. One of my friends Saral came to visit Chopta and Tungnath from Dehradun. I reside at Srinagar Garhwal which is in middle of these two places.  So he called me up, told me his plans and asked me to join. I asked my other friends if they were interested. Who shall miss such an opportunity? We planned to join him at chopta the next day.

Gunjan, Herdyesh, Raghu and I left early morning from Srinagar and reached chopta via Karan Prayag, Gopeshwar, and Mandal.  The Kedarnath sanctuary was filled with white and mauve Rhododendrons also known as a Buransh tree. This sanctuary is famous for its Musk Deer. As we reached in the evening, the first task was to search for a good camping site to stay. We got two tents at the Eco Pristine Camp in Chopta. It is a luxury campsite with a stunning view. The shades of sunset were mesmerizing. As we reached late so we decided to trek to Tungnath next day morning. We came back to the camp after the sunset and lit a bonfire. 3 people from Delhi, Rohit, Aparna, and Chaitanya, joined us. It was an evening well spent under the twinkling stars with lots of conversation on random topics from all over the world with hot pakoras and rum.

Late night, we went to our respective tents assuring each other that we will wake up early to start the trek. After a while, Gunjan and I heard some roaring sound. Terrified, we lit the lamps praying that we don’t become a midnight snack of a wild animal. Managing the night somehow, when in the morning we asked others about the noise they all claimed innocence pretexting the rum.

We had our breakfast at the camp and left for the beginning point of the Tungnath trek. We 8 started the trek from Chopta(2,926 m) at our own pace. It was an incredible experience to climb those mountains, overcoming our limits. Of all the Panch Kedar trek routes, the route to Tungnath is the shortest: only 4 km from Chopta. Enthralled by the view, it took us 4 hrs to reach the temple. It is an ancient temple built in the North Indian style of temple architecture. The architectural design of the temple is similar to the temples at Guptakashi, Madhyamaheshwar and Kedarnath. The temple enclosures are made of stones with beautiful paintings depicting tall towers.

At the entrance of the temple, there is a Nandi stone image facing towards the sanctum where Shiva’s idol is deified (Lord Shiva is a part of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh and is associated with Moksha which is relief from the cycle of life and death and Nandi is depicted as a bull, who serves as the mount (Vahana) and Gana of Lord Shiva and is a gate-guardian deity in Hinduism.)To the right of the temple entrance, there is the image of Ganesha(Son of  Shiva and also known as Elephant Face God). As the doors were closed at that time so we couldn’t see the sanctum of the temple. The temple opens during April or May every year.It is closed during the winter season, the deity and priests move to Ukhimath, which is 19 km from here.

Due to snow, we couldn’t climb to Chandarshilawhich was just 1.5 km from the temple.

According to the local beliefs, Tungnath temple was built by Pandavas to appease Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva resides at Mount Kailash with his wife Parvati. After the Mahabharata war sage Vyas advised the Pandavas that since they were the culprit of slaying their own relatives, Kauravas during the war, their act could be pardoned only by Lord Shiva. The Pandavas went in search of Shiva who eluded them for he was convinced of their guilt. In order to keep away from them, Shiva took the form of a bull and went into hiding in an underground safe haven at Guptakashi. The Pandavas try to pursue him. But later Shiva’s body in the form of bull’s body parts rematerialized at five different locations that represent the “Panch Kedar” where Pandavas built temples of Lord Shiva at each location, to worship and venerate, seeking his pardon and blessings. Each Kedar is identified with a part of his body; Tungnath is identified and worshipped as the place where the bahu (hands) were seen, the hump was seen at Kedarnath; head appeared at Rudranath; his navel and stomach surfaced at Madhyamaheshwar and his jata (hair or locks) at Kalpeshwar.

According to another legend, Lord Rama meditated at the Chandrashila peak, which is close to Tungnath.

 

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The Panoramic view of higher Himalayan range from the temple. P.c Saral Asthana

 

The trails of Garhwal Himalayas induce excitement and thrill. Lofty terrains leading to the summit make for an incredible experience and the surrounding beauty leaves you enchanted. Right in the heart of the Uttarakhand, Tungnath is a year-round adventure. Here, you walk the snow trails and live in delightful campsites with some of the most picturesque backgrounds. It is one of those places that take you closest to nature and your escape the details of a humdrum life in no time in the shape of a memorable excursion. Walk the trail and get yourself some of the most memorable moments ever!

 

P.S I would like to Thank Kritika Dhyani for being such a good critic and helping me out in improving my write-up every time.

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Bundi, A lesser known town of Rajasthan

With magnificent frescoes, glorious Mughal architecture, breathtaking paintings, splendid bazaars, Bundi has a unique essence of its own. Such charismatic is the silhouette of the city that one can see its mention in literary and cinematic works of many veteran authors and filmmakers, like Rudyard Kipling in ‘Kim’ novel, Rabindranath Tagore in ‘False Fort’ (Nakalgarh Poem), and Satyajit Ray in his movie ‘Sonar Kella.’

After finishing our fellow researcher Swati’s archaeological fieldwork around Bundi, we (Me, Swati and Herdyesh) had two days to tour the magnificent city. From taking pictures of renowned miniature paintings of Bundi, eating sweets from the corner shop in the bazaar, riding the scooter in the narrow lanes of the city, buying the famous Kota Doria saree, Bundi was a pleasurable experience.

The most exciting part of our stay in the city was the haveli of MeghwanJi, which was located just beside the Naval Sagar lake. They have turned their haweli into Lake View paying guest services; we got a room on the top floor with great view of Bundi Palace on one side and Naval Sagar lake on other. The essence of the room was quite Rajwada, with its fresco walls, coloured glass windows, and ample space with age-old furniture. What else a lover of history can ask for! The Haveli is 200 years old with frescoes all around which gives an ethereal vintage look. Meghwanji lives with his wife and a caretaker who are ever welcoming and most helpful. We stayed there for a week and enjoyed every bit of it. Our routine of the day after coming back from fieldwork was to sit beside the lake and enjoy our tea and conversations.

Bundi has situated around 35 km from Kota. It is also known as Chota Kashi due to the presence of many temples in the area. It was a princely state ruled by Meenas and later by Rao DevaHada and his descendants. Tremendous in size and exceptionally beautiful, Bundi is an enchanting town, which is surrounded by Aravalli ranges and lined with Brahmin-blue coloured houses, lakes, hills, bazaars and a temple at every turn. The most mesmerising and my personal favourite are the painted doorways, walls and corridors of houses and lanes of the city.

There are many places to see in Bundi and for judicious use of time, we decided to explore the city as much possible. The circumference of Bundi city may be a small one but it encompasses a wide range of history. The first day we visited the Garh palace which was constructed during the reign of Rao Raja Ratan Singh (A.D 1607-31) and a hub of miniature style Bundi paintings, a style of Rajasthani paintings that was started in the 17th century. With the usage of natural colours and gold and silver, the beauty of these Paintings is captivating.

Raniji ki Baori or queen’s stepwell was built in 1699 by Rani Nathavatiji who was the younger queen of the ruling Rao Raja Singh of Bundi. Make sure you visit it between 9 a.m to 5 p.m otherwise authorities won’t let you in. we were the victim of this bureaucratical nit-pick. We reached there at 5.05 pm and in spite of a lot of pleading they didn’t allow us to enter, so we had to come again next day to see this beautiful stepwell. Though it’s a very small stepwell, the alluring architecture and sculptures of Varun and other deities make the place worth a visit.

We walked towards Chaurasi khambo ki chhatri or 84 pillared cenotaphs. We reached here after 5pm, the same situation happened here as well, the entrance was closed but, as you can see the picture, the cenotaph is clearly visible from outside so clicked some pictures, enjoyed the sunset and returned. This 17th-century edifice is an exquisite example of carving and is an architectural marvel which was built by Rao Raja Anirudh Singh in 1663 A.D.

Next day, we visited raniji ki baori first and then went to Dhabhai ka Kund. It is the largest stepwell in Bundi, Constructed in the 19thcentury, this stepwell lies south of Ranijiki baori. One has to walk around half a km to reach here from Raniji ki baori. It is a magnificent stepwell but is in a very poor condition.

While roaming in the city, the condition of monuments and lakes was a source of sheer disappointment. It was heart-wrenching to see the sewage water from the houses draining into the lakes. It clearly shows the negligence of the authorities and lack of awareness among the citizen. While whole India is into Bharat Swacch Abhiyan, the scenario of Bundi’s squalid streets and lakes create a major setback in the mission.

 

 

I thank Kritika Dhyani for her constructive suggestions while reviewing this article.

The Trilogy of Shiva: A book Review

 

‘The Trilogy of Shiva’ by Amish left me astonished. Due to my research work I couldn’t complete it in a go, which I usually do and it took me nearly two years two cover all three parts. The first two parts were so exciting and engaging that I could not resist myself to read the third part though very late but finally completed and pursued me to write the review.  The narrations of the story were action packed and spell bounding. The characters, situations, their morals, there understandings and intelligence is extraordinary. Being the student of ancient history I am well aware of mythological stories which he was narrating along with historical and archaeological background, he has chosen to depict the story. I will say that he has done a commendable work on mingling History and mythology in a fictional way to make it a perfect fiction plot. One thing that I would like to mention and appreciate here, the way he has demonstrated the Snatan Dharma and its values. I am not choosing the term Hinduism over here because I consider it’s a broad umbrella.

Shiva, the protagonist of the story is the Flag bearer of the fact that with all the fears, gulit, compassion, humility like a normal human being he passed all the odds and attained his godly stature by conquering it. It is shown that he was Destined to do it and his Karma was in harmony with his destiny.  Like, there is only one Buddha, only one Mahavir which suggest that there are people who are destined to do some great things. One person amongst us can bring the change in the society.

The society was based on merits, no discrimination of gender can be seen for example characters like Sati was a great warrior, kankhala as the prime minister of Meluha, Kali as the queen of the Nagas, Ayurvati as the head of medicine department, Tara as student of science, Anandmayi etc all stand on the platform of feminism which gives an idea of an idealistic society.

This trilogy is good example of teaching today’s generation a lesson on Dharma. Dharma is not religion. It’s a way of righteous living. Following ones inner voice. It’s a blend of many terms like Faith, Righteousness, law, code of conduct, truthfulness etc. There is no one term in English which can define it.

He has justified all his logics that he had implemented in the story whether it’s giving life to Indus valley civilization, using the terms that are used in history like the name Meluha, Hariuppa. The writer has exploited the historical facts and amalgamated them into the grandeur of myths like Relationship of ancient Indian civilization with Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Human relationships are beautifully depicted in the books and by no means reduce the communication of the characters to frugal human exchange. The relationship of Sati and Shiva is an epitome of how consorts should be without generic clichés.

This story emancipates a universal principle and resonates with the times we are living in which is applicable to all yugas or time. We are witnessing several ethnical differences in our society just like the world created by Amish and he has given interesting arguments to subdue these problems. He actually asks the readers to celebrate differences and gives an insight into the worlds which has many truths. This book gave a perspective to me and allowed me to see the world sans the black and white spectacle.  It taught me to be non judgmental.

The series talks about the fact that if not checked the good will eventually turn into evil and the world will find solace in the constant change which is important to regulate the balance of the world. An idea of how we can perceive a problem and find a solution out of it.

I would like to recommend this series to bibliophiles and those who don’t like reading books then I think they should have a glance; one might get hooked to it.

P.s- I would like to thank yogita khatri for those enormous discussions we had on these books by Amish.

Glimpses of Upper Mustang, Nepal

Traveling to Upper Mustang made me realize how great Himalayas are, engulfed with so much of beauty and diversity. Every place has its own distinctiveness, in spite of sharing the same terrain.

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In mid july I left for Nepal to assist Mark Aldenderfer in his American- Nepal archaeological project in Upper Mustang. Assisting him on field was like a dream come true for me. Team consist of Tina Warnnier who taught me the basics of bones analysis, Jake Nortan and Liesl Clark gave me tips on photography and filming, Mr Everest Peter Athans gave many lessons on mountaineering,  the Nepali fellows like Jiban, Jyoti, Mohan and bhaskar who always made an effort to make me feel like home and Marion, a French scholar who became a good friend of mine, together we shared around two months working both at mustang and later at ladakh and last but not the least those two wonderful kids of peter and leisl, fynn and cleo my movie partners.

This one month that I spend at Nepal was full of excitement and adventurous experiences. from climbing a mountain in rain and getting all dirty when reached at the top, clicking archaeological pictures of the artifacts, getting lost in the streets of medieval town of Lomathang, seeing the old ruins of monasteries, a total diverse style of chortens in the area, to trekking for almost 16- 17 kms in a day, getting stuck at jomsom for 3 days and rescued by a helicopter eventually got my first helicopter ride with an amazing American pilot jimmy.  These bunch of experience had taught me a lot not just about archaeology but about life as well. That spirit of not giving up, no matter how many times you slip while climbing a mountain in rain, no matter where you get lost, no matter how tiugh it gets going, you have to keep moving.

Nepal was astonishing whether walking beside lake in pokhara or visiting the three durbar squares of kathamandu. The traditional architecture was profoundly affecting, though due to earthquake buildings were destitute but government of Nepal is trying hard to keep them safe.

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with Mark Aldenderfer

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Me with my Girlies- Marion, Liesl, Tina and Cleo

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Fynn tring to capture the view through his Drone

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The caves at such a height is a mystery in itself

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Dr. Steve treating patients, while Jake filming

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The Team

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Caravan

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The last village Samson, at Nepal china border

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The curious mind: Jake filming the local lady 

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Medieval capital Lomanthang

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Experience of first heli ride

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camping

 

Streets of Udaipur

No matter how much you roam around in this place, you’ll fall in love with this city again again.. 

This is an attempt to show a glimpse of streets of Udaipur through my view. The heritage walk took around hathi pol and city palace with my friends Nupur and Suramya. 

Shopping bags with full desi style

These beautiful paintings all around made the place more beautiful

Frames, whether it be a window or for the photos

Lighting all around and some conversation

A unique use of steel buckets, just loved the concept

Painter babu, with his creation of Shrinathji

Graffiti

Mithaiwala, can’t resist to try some local sweets

When in rajasthan you ought to buy some handicrafts stuffs

Symbol of love and dedication, meera bai

Mesmerizing Gangor ghat

My heritage walk guides, Suramya and Nupur

The clock tower

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The door with these amazing dwar pala paintings

Just can’t get enough of this place will be back soon to explore this marvelous place again. 

Carving your own space

​A girl has no home of her own, until she has her own home. By this, I mean a home that she owns, neither the one she is from nor the one she will be going to. Knowingly or unknowingly people will make you realise that you don’t belong here. So girls, it’s very necessary to be financially Independent so that you don’t need to go through all those dialogues like when are you going, why you are even here, this is my home and you have to work according to me, etc etc. I am sure some had heard even worse. 

That sense of belongingness, that sense of power and that independent feeling can never be achieved until you carve that space of your own. Why to hear such things and feel bad when you know you are capable enough to go out and stand tall among that crowd. 

Creative room of one of my friend Priyam @new delhi

And for that independence leave no stone unturned just work hard for your goals and grab them. Always remember sky is not the limit. It’s good if you have loving and caring people around for whom this stuff doesn’t matter but it will be more good if you have earned that space of urs where only you matters. No, I am not saying you to be selfish I am just saying you are worth it. 
#just a thought

Tashigang Retreat

Micheal was telling me to visit this retreat site since October, but due to shortage of time I couldn’t visit it last time. So, I made up my mind to visit it this time. On one fine day sitting in Hotel Deyszor (Kaza), I was thinking about how to go to that site as it was more then 1 hr journey from there. Then Jaywant appeared and I asked him whether he was interested to visit this site, and as expected he was ready to explore this hidden retreat site at 14440 ft ASL.

By the way i must introduce you with Jaywant, (i call him Jaywant sir though :p )he is a retired businessman from Goa who loves traveling. In 2014 he travelled solo from Kanyakumari to Lisbon in his meghdoot (his car) in 4 months. Amazing person ,isn’t he? Then a couple named Abhay and Nandini along with the owner of the hotel, Meme and Karan also joined us for this adventures trip to Tashigang retreat site.

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And we call it middle of no where picture (Nandini, Abhay, me and Jaywant. Karan and meme is missing in this picture. :p)

 

We started our journey post lunch around 3 pm and reached Tashigang around 4.45 pm. In between we had an exclusive view of kee monastery, chicham village, kibber village, and gete village with its little lake.

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That little lake at gete village (amazing color)

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Chow chow mountain (summitted just once by a Japanese)


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Horses running in front of meghdoot (yes that's what Jaywant named his car)

The way itself was so beautiful that it felt like it should never end.
horses crossing your way in between, with chow chow mountain looking at you. As if they are calling you.

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A view of Key monastery from the road

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Kibber village, from the other side of the road

We had a cup of tea at meme’s cousin’s place and after that his cousin took us to that retreat site. It was around 20 to 30 min hiking from Tashigang village. (Dnt expect it too be a very big village. Its a village of just five houses.)
While walking you will actually feel that you are in middle of no where. Its an amazing feeling to be there. On the opposite side of the ridge you will see Langza village. Both tashigang and Langza are famous for its fossils findings. And the view from there is spectacular.

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one of the encarving at the retreat site

 

After reaching the retreat site we saw two mud houses, which are used as retreat. Its an active site, monks still come for meditation. Inside the retreat one can see the well executed encarvings of Budda and Bodhisattvas.

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another encarving

 

Spending some quiet time over there we came back. Meanwhile, Karan did some running practice, its like a grassland and looks like a good camping site. It was pleasant and serene experience to visit a place like this.

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and one more image

Then we visited a lakhang (temple) in the village. It contains mesmerizing paintings of Bodhisattvas. A must visit place it is. One of a scholar at international conference on Spiti at Oxford, gave a presentation on this lakhang.

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A painting on the ceiling

Above the village one can see three lattos (the village deity). They are in red bule and white colour. Looks like as if they are guarding this village.

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Chortens (in the back lattos cab be seen)

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All 6 member 🙂

Around 7 pm we went back to kaza, in our way back we did some off road driving which was an adventures experience. Places like tashigang which are at such a height gives this kind of ample opportunities to you.

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This amazing camping ground

And a sunset like this this is a cherry on the cake. Isn’t it marvelous?

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Picture says it all

City cruise on river thames

I hop in city cruise from london pier which is beside london eye. As I had a pre booked online ticket so, i went through a fast track line & collected my ticket from the ticket collection centre at the pier. After waiting for a while I hop in and went upstairs to grab a seat of my choice. I was fortunate enough to get one in spite of rush hours.
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All set to sail, left big ben behind.

Whole cruise was full with people of different nationalities. Children seemed very excited for the upcoming journey, so did i. I have never been into the cruise before and this was my very first experience. We started our journey with a warm welcome from one of their crew member. He started his commentary, as it was on volunteer basis, he told us if we don’t like his commentary then we do have an option of picking up an audio cassette commentary from downstairs but everybody applauded and appreciated his work and said he can carry on.
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London bridge and shards

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Tower bridge

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Tower palace view from Thames

During our journey, with full enthusiasm he was telling us, about the history of the major buildings, bridges and areas that we were crossing, like for example shards, Shakespeare theater, london bridge, london eye, Millennium bridge, tower bridge, maritime museum, anchor pub etc. His commentary was very lively & full of humour. Everyone was pleased listening him.

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Anchor pub
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The wall @Greenwich
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Maritime museum @Greenwich

First, we stopped at tower pier. People who want to visit tower bridge, palace and other near by places hop of & while few hop in as well. I carried on my journey on the cruise itself. Next and last pier was Greenwich, yes at 0° 0′ 0″. Over here one can see the famous wall, maritime museum etc. Like any other famous place in london, Lot of people can be seen here. Again the process of hop in hop of can be seen.
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People clicking pictures

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Cafeteria in the cruise

And then the cruise turned back, we again reached tower pier but this time (at 5 pm) we were fortunate enough to watch the tower bridge going upright. (For Which it is famous for). It was a moment full of excitement for me as i always wanted to see it. Meanwhile, a big ship crossed it. The bridge came to its normal position after 10 mins. While crowd was filled with joy at that moment. Series of photography specially selfies can be seen. As you can see in picture below :-
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London eye view from Thames @Westminster pier

At last we came to Westminster pier and everyone hop of, while the other group who were waiting for there turn hop in.

With this my first experience of being on a cruise came to an end. I thoroughly enjoyed its each moment. But as I was very tied to walk so, I decided not to hop of at any pier and I chose to just sit back. It was gratifying to see the city from the Thames.