2012-07-30

Yercaud - March'12

Yercaud is mentioned as poor man's Ooty in 52 weekends gateway but the article also mention it is a smart choice compared to Ooty. We were supposed to visit Yercaud in 2011 September but after wonderful vacation of Munnar and just before Gujarat we cancelled the booking as it was becoming too much travelling in short span.  I strongly believe in the words of Tagore that good things in life needs to scared or they will become mediocre :-)

Now after a short break around Anandhama we pushed for Yercaud as it gave us a perfect destination of little bit driving and get away from Bangalore heat. We did not booked any hotel as we kept everything for last minute.  So on the D’day we left basement parking around 5AM to avoid Bangalore traffic.And we did hate to navigate rush escaping traffics from Bangalore. We stopped for a quick stop after crossing Tamilnadu border to fill the tank and realized somehow fuel tank release was not working. After playing with screwdrivers it finally opened which was a great relief otherwise we would have to wait till 9/10 for a mechanic. As usual stopped at A2B before Krishnagiri for Breakfast.We crossed Salem town and took the road to Yercaud. Soon we were on the hill road which gain altitude quite quickly with many twist and 20 sharp hairpins bends. But driving these 32 KM was fun, The first hotel we enquired for accommodation was GRT but the price they were offering on spot was bit steep for our budget. Bit disappointed there as last night when we checked the same on internet it was showing quite low with discount. May be the GRT guys will save those offers for late comers as days come to end. Next we tried Shevaroys resort near lake and decided to stay there for the night. This is an old landmark resort in Yercaud. The place is a decent one but would recommend you check on internet before deciding on this.

We wanted to visited the famous Botanical Garden but it was closed due to weekend (what a weird place who keeps their top destination closed for tourist). May be they do not want any visitors ?. We drove towards Servarayan temple and Cauvery Point road. On the way Aarush fell asleep and we went to Pagoda point. Pagoda gives a nice view of the plain below. From there we went to Lady's Seat & Gent's Seat .Here, we could see the ghat road from Salem via which we reached Yercaud. We also got the ariel view of GRT hotel. Next to this was Horticulture Farm and it has Rose graden. There was not a single rose as they were freshly trimmed so we have to make ourselfves happy with other green beauties.

We came to hotel and it was around 15:00 and went straight for a very late lunch and by this time Aarush also woke up. After lunch we went for a small plantation walk within the resort which is pretty nice. Aarush had some fun time in the children's play area. Finally, we entered room; got freshen up & took a beauty sleep and had an early dinner same evening.

Next day, we went for a morning walk around lake before breakfast and after breakfast we visited famous Montfort School. This school was started for anglo-indians around WW-I. The architecture and natural beauty around it is really worth spending some time there. It is a one of the convent residential institution in South India. The school was having admissions test on that day and we could only spot expensive cars and anxious parents who were dressed in their best.

After that we returned to room and started for Bangalore. On the way we stopped at A2B just after crossing Dharmapuri for lunch. Aaursh was very sleepy but he played role of a cranky child all along. After Hosur, we forced him to sleep and reached home safely in next hour.



The NH7 was excellent with many toll plazas which was constantly emptying my wallet ;) so not sure is it the best hill station or not but definitely it did not felt crowded like Coorg.

2012-04-03

Anandhadam

Prologue, On 2nd of Feb received an open invitation from  our MD to be a part of her team to walk 100KM within 48hours. The walk was organized by OXFAM to raise funds and awareness of their work among poor section of society. I immediately hit reply as my earlier discussion with another friend on the same walk did not materialized.
In the late afternoon I received confirmation that I am in and need to walk on 10 & 11th Feb.  But around seven in the evening I received another mail telling me the team composition changed to make it gender balanced. I did not act on that immediately and left it for Monday. On Sunday morning received another mail asking if I am still willing to be part of the first team and I replied YES again.  In the afternoon meet-up in person in one part of Bangalore where most who-who of Bangalore stay.  Somehow luck was not with me and Aarush was sick from Friday(2nd) evening whom I had to take care for the next few days week at home.
It was a viral attack with high fever touching 104 F once or twice a day. On Wednesday fever got reduced and doctor gave him some antibiotics. So on Thursday 9th with lots of anxiety left him behind in day care and headed to office where we had a mini-bus waiting for us.
The starting point of the trail walk  was around 70 KM from Bangalore after  Kanakpura next to Sangam. There is one resort where OXFAM organized as starting point and night stay. Being little early and a big group we were able to push around the organizing committee and   lucky enough to get a isolated two storied building to ourselves.
Now after 34 hours of walking and many blisters we finished the trail walk and returned to Bangalore like a wounded soldier on Saturday night. My situation was really terrible and had to see a doctor on Monday ; he took a good class of me explaining such extreme should not be tried without proper training as body releases potassium and that can cause kidney failure.  Well after a week of rest in bed with elevated feet I resumed work on 20th.
This Trip :
But in mean while I was looking for a break with Pamela and Aarush as after Gujrat we never got a chance to get out Bangalore.  As Pamela works on Saturdays it is difficult to go anywhere over weekends but  then  the idea of Anandadham (the Oxfam place) stuck me. I kept it under wrap for few days but could not make a complete surprise for Pamela as few more surprises came our way like a sudden notice of  PTA for Aarush on the same Saturday morning.
So, on Saturday  after PTA, went to Pamela’s school and started for Kanakpura ; we reached Anandadam around 4.00pm. The place was very quite as we were the only guest supposed to spend night there. They served us some snack around 5 and then left for coracle ride on river cauvery. The ride was great as we spotted many birds ; but the best part was the complete silence which we enjoyed thoroughly.
Evening around 6ish electricity was resumed and we  returned to our tent room. We were tired but the breeze from river was very refreshing. We had a big dinner and headed for bed early.
Sunday Morning we woke up and had coffee and after that we went for a 5KM walk to the Vedic School . It was walk via near by forest where termites have eaten the entire forest turning it to hollow trees. After walk we had a big breakfast and then we headed out for some more activities. Found archery  a great sport to focus and forget about any thing around you. But I chickened out when tried to swing like Tarzan from the high platform. Pamela was brave enough to give a try.
After that me and Aarush went to the river for a quick dip. But the Sun was right on our head and we  were forced to return to our tent. Aarush was too happy to continue playing with his new friend (our guide). There was no electricity as it went away around 10. After bath and lunch we took a short nap before leaving for home. We started around 4 PM and reached home around  7.
It was a very short break but very refreshing as the whole resort was ours and we had a lovely experience with the staff of Anandhadam .
Maps

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2012-02-24

Rameshwaram

After complete rest and rainy night we woke up to find a perfect morning in Madurai. Breakfast at the hotel was quite elaborate and we did a good one before starting for Rameshwaram. The hotel guys were kind enough to give us elaborate maps which really helped us to exit Madurai without asking for any direction. One thing we noticed in Tamil-Nadu the direction boards are mostly in Tamil and less of English compared to Karnataka. The distance between Madurai and Rameshwaram is around 170 KM. The road is mostly undivided 2 lane Indian highway. There are few patch of the road which has pot holes otherwise the road is in good condition. The general scenery was very green and the key factor Vaigai river flows along the highway NH49.While going we did not stopped and directly reached Ramanathaswamy Temple. We crossed the unique Pamban Bridge and left photo shot for our return. We had to pay around 30 INR as entry fee for Rameshraam.
As soon as we entered the temple we were approached by a guide who was fluent with Hindi and agreed for a mutual price. He guided through many kunds ( holy water – hole) where we had to wash our head. There is a catch 22 situation you might get drenched in the water but when you enter the temple to pray you must be in dry cloth. We literally dashed through the huge complex and this guide used all kind of tricks like pushing, back door entry to ensure we get the a good glimpse of the dieties with minimal wait. It was good to have him otherwise it would have taken us long time to go around. The walkway is always moist while hallways are dark so be careful with your steps. I was bitten by some insect badly on one of my foot.
After temple visit we went to Dhanushkodi to see the beach;  drive was worth. From there you can see Sri-Lanka’s shore line. The beach was not very clean and more over it was hot noon so returned back quickly.One of the attraction of Rameshwaram is Abdul Kalam’s house. But it was very sad to say the approach road was full of knee-deep water and it felt like driving over sewage water to reach the great man’s birth place. Definitely Rameshraam city council needs to spend some money to make this ex-house of the great Indian a true attraction.At 3.30 pm after lunch when we started back towards Madurai.  We stopped at Pamban Bridge for some photo shoot. This is the first sea bridge in India connecting Rameshwaram and mainland India built by British in 1914.  Mid way we encountered a big torrential Northeast Monsoon. It was almost 6:30 in the evening when we reached the outskirts of Madurai. We had two options either to stay back in Madurai for the night or drive down to Kanayakumari.
After calling friends and gaining confidence on the road condition we opted for the second one. The NH-7 between Madurai and Kanayakumari was very new which meant even though it is a 4 lane divided highway the toll collection has not started yet. That had one major draw back as you need to be extra vigilant as road marks were also not proper.
We stopped for refueling (near Tiruneveli exit) and stretched our legs. At the end the main highway goes towards Kerala and we needed to take an turn which we missed and had to make an U-turn after missing it for the first time. It was 11 in the night when we reached Kanyakumari . We settled for hotel Samudra, the room was very basic but we were OK and did not had any energy left to find a better place. The best part of this hotel is it was just adjacent to sea where you can hear the sound of waves.
Indeed it was a long driving day with almost 600 KM from the morning.
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2011-09-23

A small nano but long wait

Beginning of this year sold our Indica and bought Swift-Dzire(ZDI) which we found very practical and perfect for our Indian need. And we did not thought of booking any new car in recent time. Suddenly things got changed when Pamela started a new job in May. We were quite happy with single car and personally opted for BIAS (Bangalore International Airport - Volvo) as I commute from Hebbal to Old Airport read every day around 20KM one way.
But with rains things started to change and at times had to spend hours for bus and rain is something which I enjoy with a cup of tea on a balcony not on road with umbrella. So we said why not a second car ...
Looked around in the classifieds but nothing clicked. There were just three cars in our list
  •  Nano - Pros Price Cons - no power steering and many more as listed by others.
  •  Alto - Pros A complete car compared to Nano Cons Price difference almost 1.5 L to 1.8L different between different trims.
  •  Reva - Pros Alternative fuel Cons - Long running cost with Battery replacement, niche car in itself, Price is quite high 4.25L with AC model.
After doing test drive on Nano & Alto Pamela said she is OK for Alto but for not for Nano (power steering).

We dropped Reva along the path and did not did a test drive.
But after 10 days of deliberation I had a test drove Nano. Definitely it is different compared all the cars I drove till date. Found I can manage it in city traffic for few days in a week. Plan to drive this when I know for sure I will be late; other sunny days can always take BIAS and have a worry free commute.
Now why CX ??? -having AC in car was a must so the basic model was dropped. Found LX for another 30K is too much. As we would not be driving this car in extreme condition do not need fog lights and other features. With current 20K discount on road price for CX is just 2 lakhs which sounds right for me. Dealer promised to put sun film, mud guard and floor mats as complimentary. Might need to change the seats from vinyl to fabric after some time.
The paper work was quite easy. Never bought a car like this before. The first car I bought in USA almost took 4 hours of marathon negotiation.But the delivery was a sad episode after 4weeks of wait finally got the Nano yesterday. The delivery dates from the dealer kept on slipping which was a shame and last Sunday we even given them cancellation request if they fail to deliver it early this week.  On Monday they said they will deliver it.
P.S. I drove the car for last two days, the ODO reads only 82KM for now. It is OK to drive but definitely does not feel like a complete car. The picture is from Nano website the car comes without alloy wheels.

2011-08-31

Munnar in Monsoon

It was the first long weekend of Independence day of 2011 after Pamela had joined her job. We were very keen to get away from Bangalore as last time it was March when we went to Chickbelapur. Initial plan was to visit Hampi; but after talking to few homestay around we decided against it as that part of Karnataka was expecting to get unusual amount of rain and flood could be any time. While we were thinking where to go and on browsing Mahindra Homestay found there is 50% discount offer (with complementary breakfast) in one homestay in Munnar. We just booked it without any second thought.
We started on Thursday evening around 5 PM from Bangalore and reached Salem at 21:30 PM with one stop at old faithful A2B in Krishnagiri. It was raining almost from 7.00pm and had to drive carefully. We had no clue on where to stay at Salem and on asking at Salem Toll Plaza we were directed for GRT Grand. It is on leftside on highway; we asked for little bit of discount on their printed price which they agreed. GRT is a premier hotel chain within Tamil Nadu with modern room and fully furnished.

On Friday after a good night sleep and grand breakfast we started around 10:30. Just before leaving hotel suddenly met with one of my college junior who was going to Thekkady(Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary). Well, after short talk we continued on NH-47, and reached Chinnar Forest via Tiruppur (famous for hosiery products) and Udumalaipettai. There were around 4 check points where you need to get out of the car and write your name with Forest officials. Did not carried any money with me on purpose and did not paid a single penny of bribe, this officials expect anyone with a KA number plate car as IT professional with spare cash for them. After many photo stops on the way we reached Munnar around 6 PM. Our Home Stay was next to Tall Tree resort. It was raining cats and dogs by then.
Saturday -> It rained whole night quite heavily and in the morning we were under impression that there is no room for going out. But somehow rain slowed around 10ish and our host suggested we move out as next day might be more worse. So we went for Mattupetty direction ( Mattupetty Dam, Echo point, Shooting point, Kundale Lake and Top station ). We reached back to Munnar town for snack but could not find any good one. Around 5PM we reached back homestay.
Sunday –> It was not raining and we headed for Eravikulam National Park. Our host suggested that we should be there by 8 but we were bit late and there was long queue. As the day was sunny many people were there, after an hour long wait we started in the Park bus and reached Rajamala. We hiked on the paved pathway; was very lucky to spot some Nilgiri Tahr. And slowly it became cloudy after which we went to Tea Factory Museum next to Munnar town. Post lunch we headed to Pallivasal for a Kathakali show. The Kathakali show was spectacular .
Monday 15th August -> Started around 7 from HomeStay, reached Salem (GRT Grand) around 1:30 PM for lunch. We spend more money on a grand fat lunch buffet compared to last three dinners. Reached Bangalore back at 5:30PM. The road was great no complain.
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2011-07-14

A quick post

Reading old newspaper clipping fascinate me; an article which earns a good amount space on that day and most likely people read and forgot. and here I am reading it after days with a fresh eye. And most times it turns out to be a great story to read with eagerness.

This one was bit special which caught my eyes today was "Chaturanan Mishra passed away"; now there are few things which made me to write this quick post. First the surname which is very similar of mine, but the name is really catcher. I am quite sure no parent of 21st century is going to keep this name for their boys due to many reasons.

The real meaning of this name is a person with four face and that is Brahma the creator of universe.

It should not be confused with "Chatur" a quick English translation will be a "Smart person" but somehow over years the base word "chatur" is used with dark side of smartness like mischievous act which may result in trap for not so "chatur" person. The last reason is off course if you seen the blockbuster movie from Amir khan - "3 Idiots" the memory it bring back is enough to skip this name as there zillions of name to choose from.

A humble tribute to Chaturanan Misra -- he was a freedom fighter from Bihar's Madhuvan ; was imprisoned by British. Post independence he served in both state and national legislatives and worked for agriculture reform and farmers. Madhuvan northern part of Bihar is famous for it natural color painting with unique style. Some considers Mathali ( the local dialect) as a very soft and poetic .

2011-06-28

Father Day - Thank you Aarush

During month of May there were some sudden turn of events happened that changed the course of my life as father. Well I am quite positive on this sudden turn of event that this happened for good. Pamela suddenly jackpot a teaching Job with one of the premier institute of Bangalore. And they asked her to join immediately. The first week was in training in Kormangala was OK OK  as Aarush had his summer camp in his old school. They also have a day care so he got the adjusted to the same quite easily for the first week.Well end of the above paragraph does not qualify for a thought or blog post  and does not  happen in real life ? The ground reality was very different one but fun filled. The first week Pamela had to reach to her training by 8:30 and she is not yet comfortable in driving in Bangalore traffic. So opted for one temporary driver from an agency while we searched for a permanent one. That resulted in losing the luxury of car for me. Honestly that was boon and I am with BMTC Bus. The fun and difficult part was becoming a morning DAD for Aarush. Now I have to prepare him for school with shower and breakfast and etc. But to my delight Aarush has been very positive as he realised this new person is bit different from his beloved mother.We booked a 2 week vacation in end of May to visit my parental home. My younger brother will be coming from California and we will celebrate ‘rice ceremony’ for their son (Sheryaan). Now as Pamela can not go we cancelled our ticket at first thinking to cancel the trip. Now this is really a big event which we did not want to miss but it means Aarush have to come with me as he can not be left alone in Bangalore. With that I need to make fresh booking of Air ticket with some serious dent on my credit card ? I had to buy the same ticket 3-4 times costlier for myself and Aarush.I had to make Aarush aware of this upcoming BIG trip every day morning while preparing his for school. But the D-Day he was thinking it was more of me going on a trip then himself as the bag was not that big. But when we got down at Airport he was OK and we quickly moved through checking and security and boarded the flight. The flight was a late one starting at 21:00 from Bangalore and reaching Calcutta close to midnight. In the flight Aarush said he wanted to have some food which was a very positive thing as after having it he fall asleep. On reaching Calcutta we took a TAXI and reached a our hotel. A lot of strange eyes in Calcutta even one asked where is his mother ?? Well as it was very late Aarush slept easily.
Next morning we had our flight to Siliguri at noon the postponement was informed to me in advance. So we left hotel late and had a leisurely brunch for Aarush and myself. At the airport Aarush opted for Idli (on of his favorite ) while I slipped a cup of coffee. He was very trilled with the ATR and it wings compared to yesterday’s jet. And more over it was a day flight where he could see lots of things. Reaching Siliguri and at home he was OK. He was a hero to many eyes.  On the day of return he was very excited to go back to Bangalore and joining Pamela whom he missed for 4 days.
The return flight was smooth – Aarush slept on the flight between Calcutta Bangalore and some paste on reaching Bangalore Airport.
On 8th June he started his school with DPS. The first three days I need to go with him and on 13th on-wards he started going by the School Bus. The new routine is very demanding as Aarush have to get ready in 50 min to reach Bus-Stop within Godrej Campus by 07:30 AM. Every morning he suggests it is a holiday at school but once in Bus he is OK. It is already 2 weeks he is going by Bus and coming back to Day-care where he will have his lunch and nap and then Pamela picks him up while returning from School. So far so good with the new role but it is really demanding one for sure.
We watched 'taare zameen par' one weekend though he loves the song 'Bum Bum Bole' the whole school system, punishment, separation from family made him sad he did not like the whole thing about Ishan.  Looks like  it was not a good idea to watch it with him.

2011-05-04

Madurai

Started very early morning around 5.45 from our parking lot and with one stop at A2B restaurant at Krishnagiri reached Madurai exactly by 11.30AM. Then took some time to find out decent hotel two friends recommended “Royal Court” near Madurai railway station. The hotel is clean and neat the management was great to upgrade our room to executive suite as the original room smelt cigarettes.
After settling we had a vegetarian south Indian lunch at market area. Then after taking a well deserved afternoon siesta we went to so called religious hotspot – Meenakshi Temple. It has four entrances we entered via South gate after leaving our shoes with the temple authorized shoe stand. The shops near the gates also offer to keep your shops but they expect you buy something from them in return. Best thing is the city municipality have golf carts to take you around to any of four gates your wish to enter. Like Tirupati they have fast track system where if you buy costly ticket and can bypass some queue. Santanu preferred to go by general path as crowd was not much. Within two hours we were done. Would like you to go through more details of Meenakshi Temple this website is quite useful. The writer has well explained about temple interiors.
By 7.30 PM we were done and were just about to return it rained heavily all of sudden almost stopping everything that whole street was full of water because of poor drainage. Being one way road it was bit difficult to walk of our own and we got into one cycle-rickshaw to go back to hotel. But the rickshaw driver had to stop as rain was too heavy; it brought a great relief from the humidity and heat. Had dinner around 9.00PM at hotel as Santanu got some food packed from a near by Anna Meenakshi Restaurant and then went to bed early.

2011-05-02

Chikmagalur

After finishing Belur-Halebid by 3.00PM we moved towards Chikmaglur as we wanted to reach our Apna-Sapna homestay before dusk. For God knows what reason here all homestay are highly priced based on per person per night. The Mountain section from Chikmaglur to Attigundi (village) was excellent and fun to drive on the twist and turn. The last part was a dirt road where we took diversion for our homestay a downhill road. Almost reaching there we saw three gates to enter three different coffee estates. Bit confused initially but then figured out by guessing. Best part here you don’t get any signal on your mobile other than BSNL (state owned provider).
On reaching there we were given welcome drink and then showed our room by friendly staffs. It was not yet dusk and we freshened and sat in their dinning deck area to watch sunset. Mean while Aarush became friend with their in-house puppy. Although we were bit scared but he was fine with him. Valley in front of dining deck gave great view of sunset and sunrise.
There was another couple other than us who came to celebrate their birthday. They were friendly we enjoyed their company that night. Aarush dozed off early evening unusual then other days as he had lots of activity for one afternoon. Next morning we woke up bit late and missed the sun rise but enjoyed morning serenity. Only thing we encountered here was butterflies and flock of birds chattering merrily. Around 10 we all got ready for their estate trip to go down in their 4X4 jeep.
The first part of the estate trip was an introduction to different type’s coffee and their processing. We saw how it is dried under sun and tested the sweet coffee berries. We went to a roaring water fall within the Estate, Aarush and Santanu had nice time under fall. There after we waited for a while for our lunch. In meanwhile we came to know that all estate managers who kept us in good company with small talks and jokes. With chitchat we all became so friendly that hardly we felt that few min. Before we were all strangers and how time went by…didn’t have any track of time. They even arranged a rifle shooting for other guest to celebrate his B’day.

Late evening we were dropped to our rooms back then after relaxing we went for evening walk. We walked through other estate where we could hear the music of the cascades that dot this scenic landscape. And then finally found small stream of water gushing through their estates.Next morning around 10 we started for our return journey to Bangalore leisurely. On way back we paid 200 INR extra to traffic police for taking one way route at Chikmaglur town.
This resort is more of a tone down motel rather than homestay as it is managed by people rather than owner directly. The food was average and cooked by a North Indian chef and nothing extra ordinary it taste just like any other common restaurant. That way a touch of local cuisine or a real host was missing. Standard of room were very basic. Only thing that was positive for us was since all estate owners were there (it was coffee picking season) we had nice time. And jeep trip and lunch at the bottom of their estate was free for us as we asked for it.

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2011-04-20

Sleeper Class

Indian railway ferries millions of passenger each day. The network is vast and somewhat efficient. But it is no way near to world class even though it was one of the best luxury trains in its flight. For most Indian travelling in train means a sleeper class more and more prefer AC one now days.  With ticket price of Airlines going up more and more people are going back to train as it is still easy on pocket. The only drawback is it is extremely slow in modern context. A 1000 KM journey takes 24 hours to complete, where as TGV cross whole France in couple of hours.

Coming back to the personal part I had to travel to Mumbai on a personal trip and opted for train over the last weekend. I started from Bangalore on Thursday at 20:30 and reached Mumbai around 20:00. The journey was quite peaceful not that crowded general sleeper class. And had catch-up of lots of sleep during that journey. Reaching CSTM (former VT) bought a 1st class ticket for the local and reached Kharghar.

Saturday woke up early, cleaned up the old belongings from my brother apartment and ensured our one is also in proper condition. Settled with old tenant and signed a new lease with the new one. By midday it was all done and I was quite relaxed that all these long pending to-do list ultimately got shortened.

In the evening hired  a cab to reach Dadar for the return train. Unfortunately I did not bought my ticket using TATKAL(immediate) and was on wait list which was in RAC(Reservation against Cancellation) state. Now with RAC you can bored the train but have to share a seat with someone else.

The train was packed and there was no way to move up the chart to get a berth of my own. At Pune a family boarded  who had 7 or 8 confirmed seats. They wanted all their seat nearby and agreed to give up 2 seat in return of one. This felt like a gift from God to me and my co-passenger. This kind of luck never happened to me before to be honest. So had a good sleep during the night. Afternoon I was feeling sleepy so went to sleep again but the rain started to pack-up with normal pessengers. This is quite common in Sleeper class where people without reservation( at day time) gets in as the general coaches are so much packed that flies can not squeeze in. Well it almost lasted till Bangalore and train somehow got delayed by an hour.

So as whole it was a OK journey comparing to my college days. Where it used to take me almost 3 to 4  days to reach home. But definitely cannot do this journey with Aarush at this age, he needs to wait for few more years.

Well this journey is not about any fancy experience but I am sure every common Indian has stories to share on their train journeys. Here is the expense I did …

Train ( Bangalore to Mumbai ) – INR 468

Train ( within Mumbai) INR 115

Cab (Mumbai) – 500 INR

Cab(Bnagalore) – 370 INR

Looks like I spent more on local travel within the city than the train ticket … a more thought on the same……..

2011-03-29

Halebid-Belur:living with past


It has been a long time that we ventured on NH-48; last time we visited Shravanabelagola in 2009. From then on it was always in discussion to visit Belur-Halebid known for its hoysala architecture. This time we covered both Belur-Halebid along with Chigmanglur on 3 day trip.  We started at 7.10AM from our parking lot and reached Halebid by 12 with two breaks - breakfast at Hotel Mayura and at Hassan for ATM.
Compared to 2009 road was far far better and journey was smooth. Still there are many parts where road work is going on and it is not yet divided 4 lane highway and around Kunigal there are some bad pot holes. On reaching Halebid we hired a guide for 200 INR which was in-fact must to know the details and history. The whole architecture is made of soap stone. He carried small mirror to reflect the sunlight in order to explain intricate details of temple.
Halebid’s patron God is Shiva and the temple was built by the minister in honour of the King and the Queen. This is an incomplete construction where 3 generations of workers have worked but in many places you will notice ‘works in progress. It has suffered most damages amongst the three Somnathpura, Halebid and Belur. Today Helebedu in Kanada literally means ‘an old town’ to reflect its neglected past.   It is unique with its two gigantic figures of Nandi (sacred bull) - One of them houses Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshwara (King) and the other Shanthaleshwara (Queen). The bulls are decorated in distinct male and female ornaments to reflect whom they belong. The temple walls are covered with figures of men in battles, dancing women, Hindu deities, birds and animals. A stone platform is there at the centre of the hall where queen used to dance for the Lord Chennakeshava. Temple stands in the middle of a peaceful park by the side of a lake.
Our guide enlightened us with an interesting tale that many sculptures were stolen and taken away by the British when they left India and those idols are now gracing homes in England and elsewhere. It takes at least two hours to take a round of the temple exteriors. There is so much to see in just one temple that we completely lost track of time here.
Jain basadi is very near to Hoysaleswara temple which are equally rich in sculptural detail they are famous for its pillars, which are highly polished almost resembling mirrors. First is Parshwanatha basadi- this complex consists of three temples. Famous is the Parswanathaswamy Temple, which has a 14 ft high figure made of black stone. A seven-headed serpent has been imprinted on the head of this figure. Adinathaswamy (central mandir) and Shanthinathaswamy are the other two temples here.
At road end there is Kedareshwara temple but there was no one except us visiting the temple.  Though it shares same architectural elements with its neighbour it is a miniature of the former.
From here we went to Belur at just 16 km apart it is a living town. Entrance to both the Hoysaleshwara temple and the Chennakeshava temple is free. The Chennakeshava Temple in Belur is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and active worship still goes on in this temple while Halebid temple, though open to the public, is no longer in use for devotional purposes. Like the Hoysaleshwara Temple, the Chennakeshavatemple is star-shaped and stands on a platform. Elephants, episodes from the epics, sensuous dancers nothing was left without being carved. Forty-six pillars support the extensive hall, each of a different design. The Narasimha pillar is worth watching.
The sculpted inner & outer walls of the temple tell a tale of dedication and sheer hard work by the craftsmen. Each figure is carved to perfection and straining to come to life any moment. The celestial beauties depict the lifestyles of that time showing dancers, shringar, feeding the pets etc. The walls of the star-shaped temple are literally covered with sculptures in stone that depict the various events in the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The star design starts from the platform and goes all the way up the walls and up to the top of the shikhara.
We skipped lunch in order to cover this area and can reach Chikmaglur before dusk. A day is enough to explore both sites if you think you are not too bored with sculptures. In Belur we didn’t hired guide which we regret later.
P.S.  As mentioned by Mr.Bhat the worship continues in Halebid temple.

2011-03-19

With elephants @ Dubare


This year we didn't celebrate Aarush B'day as we moved to our own apartment. Being new to complex we hardly knew anyone to invite.So decided to celebrate his B'day at school which he of-course didn't like much as he didn't receive any gifts and top of it he has to give return gifts to his school mates….which he did so with heavy heart.
We decided to  take him to Dubare elephant camp. We booked for jungle lodges...although bit pricey but worth every penny of it.  Everything is done on time and there are naturalist for every activities as mentioned on their web site. No doubt, Jungle Lodge rocks as they pamper with their services and hospitality.  It was unexpectedly cold in the night for which we were not that well equipped but rest all was too good. Aarush enjoyed and made frienship with Mehul ; he had good time there.  We did spotted some deers and small wild animals and the documentary on Indian Tiger on th evening was too good.
One thing I would like to add is that as said that visitor can give bath to elephants ; its definatley something to experience but elephants do potty as they get into water so it was bit unygenic feeling which didn’t allow me to give them bath with same enthu.
Links

Chokhi Dhani- Jaipur


Last day at Jaipur, today we have kept ourselves more or less free for shopping. Had breakfast at hotel lawn for the first time. The buffet breakfast at Hotel Madhuvan worth only when you have time to enjoy it. We met one Indian family who were travelling from Gujrat for the Diwali weekend to Jaipur and wanted to join us at Chokhi Dhani later in the evening. Around 10 we left for shopping with Mr. Singh. Many shops were closed on account of after Diwali mood but still we managed to hop from one shop to another - Rajasthali, blue pottery shop etc. Then we tried the famous Ram Chandra Kulfi (Indian Ice Cream) in Tripolia Bazaar on way back to hotel for a siesta and left for Sanganer & Chokhi- Dhani around 5ish.
We took Jaipur-Tonk Highway and did more shopping at Sanganer famous for its block printing, screen printers, blue pottery and hand made papers. According to Mr. Singh many store/small factories do not let Indian inside as these stuffs are bit expensive for common Indian and mostly for export.
Choki Dhani basically gives picture of rural life of Rajasthan a miniature theme park. Bit expensive but worth going for the dinner alone. This resort is divided into two sections, one for daily visitors while the other for overnight stays. The first section charges an entrance (350 INR) fee that includes authentic veg Rajasthani dinner with traditional floor seating arrangement and allows the visitors to enjoy traditional rural activities such as tightrope walkers, camel cart rides for minimal fees. There is also an A/C section for food which charges around 700 INR.
Ram Ram Sa!!! Was first thing to hear. First we had dinner there which was wise decision as crowd was getting thicker with time. According to the ticket schedule our dinner time was 10 PM; but as it was around 8 there not much crowd and we got a seat quite easily. The elaborate Rajasthani thali have many varieties of Chapaties (bread) and vegetables which is served until you ask them to stop.
Took few rides to give Aarush exposure of all those village life; different type of Rajasthani folk dance and songs were performed live. The whole place is lighted with modern days lantern but as they are not very bright you get a feeling of going back in time. Over all had nice time and then we were back to hotel around 11.00pm
Next morning had flight back to Banglore in the morning. A bientot!!!!

2011-03-18

Maro des “Rajasthan”


The first thing that struck me about Rajasthan was its roads when I last went in 2000 with my parents. Rajasthan roads are amazing; and they are very well connected interms of bus, train, private cars, even one can hire cars to drive around between different places with in state. This makes travelling in Rajasthan quite safe and less tiring. With good road conditions you can also explore the interiors of Rajasthan.
This fact remains same even today when I visited with my family on oct. 2010. The time from Oct to December is considered ideal to visit Rajasthan, though its high tourist season. One major drawback is they will make feel Indian tourists discriminated infront of westners as they get Tips in foreign currency.
Rajasthan is full of great eating out options from the regular highway dhabas to the most luxurious hotels in India. They have very rich culture interms of dress colour, turbans- they have more than 1000 types and styles of doing the turban, the variations depending on the region, casteand creed  in the society. An array of instruments such as sarangiektara, dhol, chang etc are used to create melodious tunes  as well as variations in folk dances. Camel safari is “must do”  depends if across Thar then its a great way to explore the vastness of the desert. Once you like the culture you feel like pluging deeper and getting mesmerised.
Being  one of the tourist hub it is highly commercialized in almost every aspect of its existence. There are many remote areas mostly nomadic villages, where entertaining the tourists is the only form of livelihood that can be thought of. Also, all tourist attractions charge for photography and videography which is worth but surprising thing is difference in prices for foreigner and indian tourist.
Another thing which I like about this place is they know business very well. If you go for shopping and think that certain thing may have to pay extra at airport then ofcourse you can opt for their courier service which they will do for free. But be aware, certain times complain are there that they send defective piece or change the fabric which you have opted for after it's INDIA where everything can happen.
Santanu is so impressed that he wants to travel again to Rajasthan but with different route probably - Bikaner, Mt.Abu ,Udaipur, Chittorgarh,Kota,Bundi, Ranthambore, Agra back to Jaipur. One thing I would like to add here is with no. of days we have spent there we could have easily covered Bikaner.

2011-03-14

Ajmer-Pushkar

Early morning reached Jaipur from Jaisalmer by train. This time our cab driver from hotel (Madhuban) was waiting and on reaching hotel relaxed  for while.   Before leaving for Jodhpur, we have fixed with Mr. Singh (our reliable cab driver) for this trip to Ajmer-Pushkar. As usual, he was there on time; left hotel room around 8.00am. Had our breakfast on way at small neat and clean dhaba. Road being 6 lane; had very comfort drive and was hardly crowded.
We went first to Kishangarh fort, with Phool Mahal Palace, a heritage hotel along side and Gundalao Lake on the front. This heritage hotel was previously the residence of the Maharajas of Kishangarh. Major part of lake bed is now converted into verdant fields. Area is quite famous for miniature paintings. But being holiday we could not visit any art gallery. Took few snaps and headed towards our next destination.
Soniji Ki Nasiyan at Ajmer is a Digambar Jain temple. The main chamber, known as the Swarna Nagari (City of Gold), has several gold-plated wooden figures, depicting characters in the Jain tradition. The main prayer hall is a separate complex.
From there went to Dargah Sharif of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. Being a Diwali day and Friday it was overly crowded. We had to leave camera and shoes outside with a  flower stall and head covering was mandatory. After paying our obeisance we asked for the way to Adhai Din Ka Jhopda, a Vaishnav Hindu temple constructed in 1153 and later converted into a mosque by Qutubudin Aybak in  1193. We went there by walk through a small lanes which are full of small eateries and sweet shops. If you are hygiene freak you might want to skip this part of Ajmer.
Mr. Singh took us to Anasagar Lake, man-made lake to relax and to take a break. It was really refreshing and helped us in gaining our breath break after all those pushing and Ochlophobia in-around Dargah.
Ajmer and Pushkar are two side of common mountain range and distance between them is only 15 KM. We first went to Brahma (the creator of the universe) temple at Pushkar. The best irony of Hindu mythology is Lord brahma is only worshiped in Pushkar in the whole universe as he was cursed by his 1st wife. Two temples of his two wives are at the top of two separate mountain tops and in between is his temple next to Pushkar lake.Unlike dargah, there was hardly any crowd here.
Finally, went  to Pushkar lake where all the house next to lake are painted in blue  to symbolize the Brahmin owner.  Just opposite to lake there is one resto where we had scrumptious Pasta (which was awesome) as lunch. On way back went to see Chota Pushkar nearby and by early evening we were at Jaipur city to celebrate Diwali.  Took a walk on residential area nearby our hotel  and had dinner thereafter.This was Aarush's first hand experience of Diwali in North India where sounds from crackers are louder compared to South.

2011-03-11

Jaisalmer


We reached Jaisalmer early morning around 4.00am.Going from station to hotel is another headache if you don’t have pick-up service particularly at wee hours. We didn't had that service from hotel as it was extra 100INR so on reaching station we found, 10 people surrounded us even they don’t allow couples to talk among themselves.  Finally hired one for 40 INR to go to Deoki Niwas hotel. When we reached, we literally had to wake them up. It’s newly started so spic n span with good service and breakfast.
After rest around 10.00am we went to Satyajit Ray's “sonar kella” - Jaisalmer fort where we hired a guide who took us around.  This palace is made of yellowish sandstone, crowned by several ornate Jain temples. Many of the houses and temples are finely sculptured.  It is only living fort and about a quarter of city's population still live inside the fort. The main attractions inside the fort are: Raj Mahal (Royal palace), Jain temples and the Laxminath temple and four massive gates. It is filled with many artistic structures and monuments of historical importance.
Other then this there are havelis like: Patwon-ki-Haveli is ornate five-storey complex took fifty years to complete. This is the largest, magnificent and the most elaborate of Jaisalmer havelis. Among others are Nathmalji-ki-Haveli, Salam Singh-ki-Haveli, Haveli Shreenath. We covered this havelis by walk as they are very close by. Some of the doors and ceilings are wonderful examples of old carved wood from many hundreds years ago. Some of the doors have brass or iron fittings. Certain facade is a riot of ornamentation: flowers, birds, elephants, soldiers, a bicycle and even a steam engine. These havelis have countless rooms, with decorated windows, archways, doors and balconies and some have still lived in by the families that built them.
We had our late lunch near entrance to fort at Little Italy(nothing great). Then in afternoon 4PM we booked for desert safari they took us to Lodhurva. Lodhurva is famous for its Jain temples which are build with same yellow stones. There is a Kalpavriksha or the celestial tree build with metals which replaced the original tree died.  Since we didn’t book for any camel safari beforehand (I mean it was on spot) so kind of they cheated us by stopping quite before the actual Sam sand dune and they wanted us to go by camel. 2-3 KMs before reaching actual point of san dune we saw sun set and on reaching spot it was already dusk I was very depressed being cheated in this way as we went to see sunset only but Santanu-Aarush had nice time with first experience on camel ride.
With heavy heart we returned to Jaisalmer fort and had dinner at 8th July run by an Indian who resides in Australia. The highly personalized service of Mrs. Rama Bhatia ensuring that you get absolutely home cooked food hygienically prepared. Jags has an in-depth knowledge of shayri and old Hindi film music. Although it is slightly expensive but I guess one needs to pay a little extra for clean and tasty food.
Next morning Santanu went alone to see Gadisar Lake as Aarush was sleeping. Then after breakfast leisurely we checked out around 10.30am and went again to fort after taking one round of fort;  went to 8th July restaurant where Mrs. Rama Bhatia was already in work we took the best location with wonderful views of the palace under shade (its Veg resto and offers fresh alphanzo mango juice- tall glass). The restaurant is near Dussera pol gate and opposite the Palace. We ended up having lunch and packed food for dinner and returned to hotel to pick our luggage as he had our tain back to Jaipur at 4.00pm.It was our 2 day one night trip.
TIP: Only one night  is enough for Jaisalmer or or at the most 2 night stay if one likes to stay in sand dunes. Sam sand-unes is highly commercialised. In last 10 years, it has changed a lot. Some suggested  Khuri a village 45 km south west of Jaisalmer as better location for Sand dunes. Train (#4060) does not have a pantry car so please pick your dinner before leaving Jaisalmer.

2011-03-09

Jodhpur-II


We started early morning after breakfast around 8 .00am. But luck is always not in favour we got one nasty cab driver unlike Jaipur. Although hired cab through hotel and asked to take us to Osyian but he insisted on going to majestic sandstone palace of Umaid Bhawan. Before going there he took us to shops for early morning shopping but we didn’t.(they get commission when they take clients to their choice of place). Anyways, on reaching there we found that it was not yet open so we had to wait till it get opened. One part of this palace is converted to 5-star hotel, in second part king stays and third part is museum which is open to public.
From here we asked him to take us to Osyian famous for cluster of ruined brahmanical and jain temples dating from the 8th to 11th centuries. He took us to Sachiya mata temple but insisted to take one guide of his choice which we didn’t like but we had to. They are beautifully designed in terms of architecture. For entering the Sachiya Mata temple complex, there are series of magnificently sculpted arches.Outside walls of temple are beautifully sculpted with different dieties. Along with these there are many small temples around like jain temple, surya temple, vishnu temple, shiv mandir, pippala devi temple and harihara temple. The temples are raised on huge plinths. Almost every space in the temples is sculpted to a great extent. The temple ceilings were conceived by quite an imaginative mind and are decorated with lace like motifs.
Osyian holds a great significance for the Jain community.From top to bottom of temple they highly and beautifully carved-worth visiting this place. It takes almost 2 hrs to cover these area.
It was almost noon when we left for mandore garden which is said to be maiden place of Queen Mandodri, wife of King RAVAN of Shri Lanka.It is highly neglected site but fine piece of architecture. It houses cenotaphs and memorials of many rulers which is worth seeing. The garden also has a baoli and a hall of heroes that consists of 15 carved figures. These figures carved out of single  red sandstone.As it was too hot we had icecream here.
Then went towards Meherangarh fort but again our cabdriver insisted us to do shopping of his choice and took us to 2-3 places then lastly seeing our irritated face he went straight to fort. It is one of the largest fort with massive ramparts built around the edges. We hired a guide here  who took us around showing intricate carvings of moti mahal, sheesh mahal, phool mahal, zenana deodi, chamunda mataji temple, museum having exquisite collection of palanquins, elephant howdahs, armoury, paintings,music instrument,turbans etc. Entry to fort is through many gates like: jai pol, fateh pol, dedh kamgra pol, loha pol. Top of fort gives a breath taking view of  blue city of brahmapur. Basically, those who are brahmins they paint outside wall of their house in blue color. One can see winding roads to and from city. We had late lunch within fort campus as we did not wanted to take our cab-driver to place of his choice. It was almost 5.00pm
Then we asked him to take to Jaswant thada to which he said it is closed as already 5.00  but we also now insisted on going there.Truly, about to close but seeing us coming running they allowed us to which we are highly obliged. It is again architectural landmark made of white marble. These marbles are extremely thin, polished and intricately carved so that they emit a warm glow when the sun's rays dance across their surface.
From here we straight came to hotel as we had already checked out in morning; we wanted to take shower to freshen ourself so on request they gave us one room for 1hr.We had dinner innearby mall at Mc.Donald.Today we had late night train to Jaisalmer.

2011-03-06

Shravanabelagola - 18th October 2009


Me and Aarush just returned a day before Santanu’s birthday from Durg and he wanted an excuse from strenuous week at IIM-B and we ended up planning to visit Shravanabelagola right after Diwali day. Unlike his earlier trip he just had a casual look at the route map to Shravanabelagola, it is a religious spot, a Jain pilgrimage centre. The place is famous for 58ft. high monolithic stone statue of the Lord Gommateshwara.
Yeshvantapur -> Neelamangala -> Kunigal -> Shravanabelagola
Morning 6.30AM we started; roads were full of potholes from Yeshvantapur with flyover construction still going on till Neelamangala where we lost route after taking 2 U- turns ended up asking locals then got into right road(NH-48) but that was again full of pot holes.We had breakfast at Hotel Mayura on the way, it was almost 11; Aaursh enjoyed their play area.
Then we headed straight towards our destination and reached Shravanabelagola without much problem as roads were marked properly. The two stony hills called Chandragiri and Indragiri on either side with lake in between makes famous Jain pilgrimage center. Just within gate you will find a paid toilet and shoe stand where you have to leave your shoes and climb up this hill by foot. Flight of about 660 steps to the top, cutout in the rock, people of all ages climb these steps. For elderly or handicapped people there is a palanquin transport service available to avoid the strenuous hike. These rough rock cut steps are steep at places; we had socks on our feet as the rock gets hotter as with days. We began the climb and stopped in-between to get our breath back and took some pictures. It took  around 30 - 40 minutes to reach the top. On the way up, we found breathtaking views of the Chandragiri temple and the lake in-between.The huge statue of Bahubali and the view around is stunning. It is carved beautifully from a single block of rock with accurate sense of proportion and expression. All the 42 Tirthankaras carved figures are there in the corridor around the quadrangle. The Downhill was more enjoyable, as you had to court gravity and slope.It is equally steep so better be careful !!!

Took about 30 mins to reach the base of Vindhyagiri.There are numerous homely Marwari / Jain food available in the nearby lane on left side while you enter from the gate I strongly suggest you plan your lunch either here in one of these since its a different experience OR best is to have free lunch at Official  bhojanalay. Small by-lane next to gate on inner side along the office goes straight to Dharamshala with a big gate where after giving donation you can have lunch which is served to you in rows umpteen times.

After having lunch here, we went to the place where Chandragupta breathed his last named Chandragiri (Chikkabetta) hill. It is a small hill is located just opposite to the Vindhyagiri hill. It has memorials to numerous monks and shravakas who have meditated there. Steps have been cut out in this hill and the ascent is not different from Vindhyagiri. After spending there till 4.00pm we started our journey back home via Mandya. Aarush went to sleep as soon as car started to roll. The road via Mandya was better as there was not much traffic and not those potholes even. Aarush woke up next day around 9AM a record which we still recollect.
TIP: Carry pair of socks to avoid buying there so that if needed one can use it as with sun's brightness rocks tend to become hot making it almost impossible to climb bare feet.

2011-02-22

Jodhpur 1st Nov 2010


31st midnight boarded train to Jodhpur from Jaipur after a long day we were very tired . The train was late as it arrived from Delhi. On the train meet Subhojit who was also in Rajasthan for one long week break just like us from Bangalore. Their itinerary was bit different compared to us and they were going to Jaiselmer. On the wee hours of 1st November reached the platform of Jodhpur and thankgod for ensuring that hotel provided a cab for pickup. Otherwise bargaining and negotiating with cab and auto drivers would be very difficult when you are half sleepy in a new town.
Reached our hotel Kuchamann haveli and slept as much we can.  Some how pulled ourselves out of the bed at 7.30am had breakfast. And at 8.20am started for bishnoi village day trip. Aarush was still sleeping when we reached the Jeep.
Our driver cum guide gave a brief description about Bishnoi community (29 bish: twenty, noi: nine) and was dressed in traditional attire and picked us in a old Willy Jeep. Although these people are Hindu, they bury their dead to give the body back to the nature and save woods for cremation. They are considered to be very eco friendly in order to protect trees even Khejarli Massacre (where 363 bishnoi people sacrificed to protect the trees) took place. Idea behind this tour is that it helps you escape from the modernity and rush of the city and takes you to “off beaten path” - small villages where the locals live.
On the way, from Jodhpur to Guda village we spotted some wild life (spotted deer, blue bulls and antelopes) which seems bishnoi people being close to nature they don't kill them.  Famous case of Salman Khan shooting a dear happened around here. Our guide was driving in bit speed and failed to  maneuver which caused our Jeep to topple side wise. Luckily nothing happened to any one and around 6-7 people came by to lift the jeep from the trench. Aarush was bit shocked and still remembers this incident clearly.
Our reception was warm and friendly starting with a visit to traditional opium ceremony. Although, Opium is illegal in India but the locals have special rights preserved for them to continue with their traditional practices. Very strange thing here is penniless women flaunt heavy silver jewelry. One more thing to notice was women being the symbol of creation they wear vibrant colors such as red and orange while men wear white as a symbol of cleanliness and austerity.
Then we saw many shepherds on the way to singhasni (Muslim religion Potter's village). We were instructed on how to spin the wheel, form clay and set the pots out to dry. The village looks like a battlefield with its drying pots resembling piles of cannonballs. Santanu did try his hand but it seems it’s not that easy as it looks to be. When they take you to such trip they expect you to buy their products.
To round out our trip we stopped at Salawas (Weavers village) where we had our lunch. Before lunch we were shown how durries (mat) are weaved; when he starts to speak he knows business, literally. Then traditional lunch was offered to us. After meal, although mat(durry) was costly but we bought one and bid them bye. Its place where life still goes on like the days of the past. The sun was quite hot and we came back around 3 PM back to hotel,

Aarush was sleepy but he did not sleep and as soon we boarded a auto he was sleeping. We went to C-Road, sardarpura which is a lively part of Jodhpur with many shops and eatery. The main purpose for going out was to dine at Gypsy. As we reached  quite early  Aarush was sleeping all along; we roamed around did little shopping before entering Gypsy a  superb clean place to be for pure veg. rajasthani thali with one condition food taken on plate can't be thrown. Food is served umpteen number of times. And they keep asking for more serving which we really enjoyed it. If you are a true connoisseur of food, then do not miss this place it only cost 150 INR per plate.

Day 3 - Rishikesh

The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we...