Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Yercaud Trip

It was the year end. Christmas weekend was long so we planned to go to Yercaud hills which is two hundrthed and twenty five kilometers only from Bangalore. Early morning we started in Ertiga car which was good enough for six people and four small kids though there was a space crunch for luggage. In one hour we reached to tollgate of Chennai highway. It was a long queue there, probably due to weekend. Journey from there was comfortable as road is very well. Drive was smooth and speed more than hundred and ten is standard here. After one more hour we stopped in between to have our breakfast. Restaurant was crowded and after a wait of fifteen minutes we could get a seat. After breakfast, we started again and soon we reached to Salem city. Passing through the city took half an hour. Once we crossed the city, the road to the hill was not very far. We paid toll at entrance check post. Signboard there shows that there are twenty hairpin bends. Drive from that point was adventurous. The sharp bends, deep valleys, monkeys sitting on roadside walls made the drive eventful. After another half an hour we reached to the small sleepy town Yercaud. We passed besides the lake. Golden Nest resort where we had booking, was not very far. From the lake road it was at five hundred meters only but we had to drive very upward. The first view of resort was great. We did check-in and moved to our rooms. Rooms were great. A hall having kitchen connected to the bedroom and having a balcony from where there was a view of lake. Soon we got ready and went to restaurant. Restaurant was at the top of the hill and road was very steep. It was tiresome effort but view of valley from restaurant was worth rewarding. Food was good and ambiance of restaurant was soothing. After the late lunch there, we went to the lake. 

Yercaud lake is very scenic. One can spend hours there. There we took tickets for boating. We spent one hour in boats in the calm lake. Lake is surrounded by roads from almost all side with a botanical garden on one end. There was a decent crowd at the lake which is the main center of attraction for this hill town. From lake we went to Rose garden which was not very well maintained. Then we went to Lady's seat, which is the famous view point. We could see the deep valleys and hairpin bend roads. There was a Telescope House but was closed as it was late evening. This place is a gem but poorly maintained. There was no proper sitting places and it was mostly occupied by street vendors. It was very cold and having tea was the best thing one can have. After spending some good time, we went back to the resort. In night we came to the lake again. It was eight pm only but town was almost sleeping with few tourists enjoying their dinner in lakeside restaurants. After a short walk around the lake we went back to our resort and had dinner in the restaurant. Food was again awesome.

Next day we woke up early. There was no plan to go anywhere as my son was not well in the night. After the breakfast we spent an hour in the resort and then started back for Bangalore. The return journey started with the sharp bends and few people were feeling uncomfortable. Near one of the bend, a small waterfalls was there. We stopped there to have some good photos. After the hill road we passed Salem town. We took few small breaks before Kriahnagiri. I was driving after that. In next one hour we reached to home.

I found this small hill station very calm and unexplored. Local administration should improve the lake and Lady's seat so tourists should spend more time there. In any case it's one of the cool gateways from Bangalore.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Date with Tajmahal

This November, I planned for Agra trip as part of my chhath vacation. It started with a visit to Delhi by flight. From Delhi, I had booking in Bhopal Shatabadi express for Agra. We boarded the train at New Delhi station in early morning. This train is the fastest train of India. A good number of passengers were foreigners, inbound to Agra. Services in train were superb. In two and half hours only, we reached to Agra Cantonment station. One of my friend who is native of Agra came to station to receive me. As per his suggestions, we planned to visit Tajmahal as first thing for the day. 

Mostly tourists enter into Tajmahal from east or west gate but my friend took us at south gate. There was no queue at ticket counter and a short queue only at the entrance. Security at entrance was strict. After a walk of few hundred meters, we entered through another gate. There the majestic Tajmahal was in front of us. It is as beautiful as it is mentioned in numerous literature. We got ourselves photographed there. Then we walked through the lawn to reach the Tajmahal. The beautiful white architectural monument is exceptionally marvelous. We had a walk around before we went inside. Shoe covers were put on to protect whiteness of the marbles. I saw local people who care less about these heritage and sit where they are not supposed to be. They need to be educated. Once we came out, we had a walk around veranda where we could see calm Yamuna river flowing along the boundary of it. One can see Mehtabbagh on opposite side. Once we came out through west gate, we went to Hotel Taj for breakfast but their service was pathetic. So we came out. There was a huge rush at ticket counter and entrance at the west gate. Not sure why south gate is not widely popularized where crowd is generally thin. From Tajmahal, we hired a Tonga or horse-cart to go to Agra fort, also called as Red fort. Traffic was badly mismanaged. Never thought that traffic around the country's most sought tourist place will be so bad.

At red fort, there was less crowd though it was also one of the main tourist places. Fort is constructed of red sandstone. This fort was very giant which can be realized from a view from outside only. We went inside but spent less time as we were feeling the peak of heat. From there we went to friend's house. We purchased famous panchi petha from old town. There was a plan to go to Fatehpur sikri but skipped it due to the traffic. In evening we went to Tundla station to catch the train for hometown.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Madurai Rameshwaram Trip

After so many plans, trip to Rameshwaram and Madurai was finalized. If end of September was not a very good time to visit Madurai for a family trip, it was not very bad too. Late evening train from Whitefield station reaches Madurai very early in morning. We had booking in TTDC Hotel Tamilnadu, which was near to the station. In fifteen minutes of early morning walk we could reach to the hotel. Hotel is decent one and well maintained. After quick check-in, we had a short sleep before the dawn. In morning, I got up ready and came out to have a walk before we go for Meenakshi temple. Best thing about this hotel, is its location. It's very near to the station as well as to the temple. We took autoricksaws and in next ten minutes we reached to temple entrance. Even with the early morning breeze we were feeling the heat. It was good that we planned the temple visit in morning. Madurai Meenakshi temple is known for one of the biggest temples of Hinduism but it's one of the most beautiful temples too. Big gopurams, sacred temple tanks and surrounding portico are gigantic. The thousand pillars hall is magnificent with numeric beautiful sculptures. After spending a good time in the temple premises, we came out and had south Indian breakfast. We went to the Thirumalai Nayakar palace which was nearby too. The palace is not well maintained and there was not much to see. In fact this palace is now being used for cultural programs. It was peak of the heat when we reached back to the hotel.

In the mid of the day, we went back to station to board our train to Rameshwaram. Temperature was at its peak and we could feel recuperated only when train started. It was a passenger train which takes more than four hours to reach Rameshwaram. Train stopped at each and every station. Then came the historic Pamban Bridge. Passing through hundred years old and one of the longest sea bridge was one of the delight from this trip. Seeing unending sea on both sides was amazing. After crossing the bridge, train reached to Rameshwaram station. We hired autoricksaws to reach our hotel. Again we had booking in Hotel Tamilnadu which is run by TTDC. Location of the hotel is superb. Rooms were small but well maintained. Our room was on first floor and we had a perfect view of sea from there. We quickly got ready to go for a ship ride in sea. Ferry point was connected to the hotel only. It was the last trip for the ship for the day. When we were in the mid of sea and far from coast, sunset happened. We enjoyed that atmosphere at most. After we came back, we had a short walk outside the hotel. We went up to Agniteertham which was not very far. It was almost dark there. We sat there for an hour and enjoyed the cool sound coming from the sea breeze. Then we went back to hotel restaurant and had a great dinner there. Food was like homemade and very tasteful.  

After a good sleep, I woke up early in morning and came outside of room to enjoy the calmness of sea. It was a soothing experience. We got ready by eight and had tasteful breakfast before we started for Dhanushkodi. As we could not get a car so we hired two autoricksaws. After an hour drive we reached to Dhanushkodi beach. This is the point where bay of Bengal meets Indian ocean. Road ends here and private vehicles are allowed up to this point only. Here one had to go in old jeep which moves in path covered in sand. There is sea on both side and nothing else. After an adventurous half an hour drive we reached to the Dhanushkodi old village. We enjoyed being in the no-man's land. While returning we came through old Dhanushkodi station which was completely flooded in the cyclone of sixty. It's a ghost town now. Except for remaining of Dhanushkodi railway station and some old buildings, nothing is there. Few tender coconut vendors are the only people, who might be living there. We reached back to the beach and enjoyed playing in sea tide. Nearby Shop had a well for fresh water for taking bath at very minimal charge. After a pleasing engrossment at Dhanushkodi, we started back for Rameshwaram. Autoricksaw driver who was our guide now, took us to Bivishna temple, where Bivishna met Bhagwan Ram as per Ramayana. Then we went to APJ Kalam house, which is basically a shop run by his brother than a museum. From there we reached to Hanuman temple, where they display the floating rocks which they claim was used by Nal and Neel to build the setu or bridge to Lanka. In end, we went to the Rameshwaram temple which is the pinnacle of architecture in itself. The long corridors in temple are magnificent. We could have the darshan before it got closed for the day. From temple we walked to the hotel. We had a great lunch again in the hotel restaurant. Our train was in evening and we still had some time which we spent in their well-maintained park. Kids enjoyed the swings. In evening we moved to the station to take train for Madurai. Late night we reached to Madurai station, where we boarded another train for Bangalore. Fortunately train stopped at Carmelaram station in Bangalore which is near to our home. We reached to our home with lots of memories from this great excursion.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tirumala Tirupati Darshan

After staying in Bangalore for more than eight years, it was my first visit to Tirupati temple, one of the most visited Hindu temples. I always would like to avoid very crowded places especially when it is of religious significance. I don't get a feel of spirituality in the temples where there is a long queue for darshan and am sure there is no God there when there are different categories of darshan tickets based on how much you can pay for it. That's the reason I always skipped visiting Tirupati. This time I visited here to join one of the family function planned there.

Journey to Tirupati city was planned by train which reaches there very early in morning. We had a booking in Kalyan Residency for stay, which is very near to the station. We reached there by walk in five minutes. Hotel was decent with good appearance and well maintained. Rooms were comfortable. We got ready in next hour to proceed for darshan. We booked a Tempo Traveller to go to Tirumala. Journey from city to the hill was great. Roads were nice with great view of hills. In next one hour we reached to Tirumala. We had very tasteful south Indian lunch before going for darshan. We were informed that people can go in dhoti or in traditional attire only, so we purchased dhoti there from street side vendor. Then the long walk started. Though it was weekday and long queue was not there but still one had to walk a long distance to reach the gate where darshan tickets were checked which were booked online. Then we reached to the waiting hall. After half an hour time, we were directed towards the temple for darshan. Darshan time people got was not more than one minute. Within minutes we were out of main temple, where devotees were doing parikarma. They were donating money generously which is one of the specialty of this temple. Visit to the temple doesn't get completed without a view of the Big cash counting room. Then prasadam was taken from another counter. One of the best things about temple is it's well disciplined crowd management.

After the darshan, we went to the hall where people donate their hair. The mundan of two family kids was planned there. After completion of this ritual, we went for lunch. From there we were back to hotel in next one hour. After a short rest, we went outside to roam in the city. City is clean and vibrant. There are lots of hotels and restaurants near to the station. We had dinner in a nearby restaurant before we went to station to board our train to Bangalore.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Drive to Panchapalli Dam

It was the last Sunday of June. Thoughtlessly in early morning we decided to go for a drive. After thinking on couple of choices we decided to go to Panchapalli dam. I have read about this place in few blogs but then again it is not a common destination for Bangalore travellers.

We were four people and we started from Whitefield in my Grandi 10 car using Google maps. We passed through Sarjapur and crossed Chennai highway near Attibele. After that we passed a number of villages and then a small town Denkenikottai. There was a big temple in the town with an age-old pond in its premises. After total eighty kilometers of drive we reached to Panchapalli dam. A small group of bikers were just leaving the place. The dam was much better than my expectations. We parked our car there and went for a walk on dam barrage. Water in dam was not much. Few native folks were inside the water. We also went down near to the water body and laid our bare legs in the calm little sea. It was a very pleasant touch. View of the little sea from that point was overwhelming. After disbursing a good one hour we started back. There was no eatery near to the dam or in the way upto Hosur. In Denkenikottai bus stand we bought some food as we were badly hungry. After lunch we started again and this time we came through Hosur city. In Hosur, we parked our car in the shop 'The Chennai Silk'. This Shop is a big shopping mall in itself with more than five hundred employees. My wife bought few sarees there. In next one hour of drive we were back to home.

This place is a hidden gem, very near to Bangalore‬ and can be covered in half day. Going to Panchapalli is worth given its quietness, scenic and less popular places among travellers.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Weekend in Chikkamagalur

After a long time I planned for a long trip. It was the end of month of May, the peak of summer. Though Chikkamagalur has a number of hill stations, but it is advised to skip this place at this time. This part of the beautiful western ghat is hotter than Bangalore in this month. Even after aware of this, I decided to visit here as I just wanted to go for a long drive.

Early Saturday morning, I with few of my family members started this trip in Hyundai Ascent car which was well comfortable for four adults and three kids. Early morning drive is always great. We hit the Tumakuru road in next half an hour. Drive from Yeswantpur to Tumakuru on this well maintained highway was very smooth. There we took a diversion for Tiptur-Birur road. This road was also good except a few kilometers. In between we stopped at Cafe Coffee Day shop for getting refreshed. On this road there are no good eateries and travelers has to use CCD for getting refreshed. They pay good amount for coffee which they might not be looking for but there are no other options available as well.

After six hours of travel, five hours drive and covering 260 kilometers, we reached to our resort 'The last resort' at nine o'clock. Check-in was easy. We got our cottage which had a decent cot. Outside we had a Sofa and a carom board. Resort has a good ambiance. There is beholding view of hills from its courtyard and it has very well maintained garden. Our kids started playing. In next two hours we got ready and had well prepared breakfast. After the appetizing breakfast, we left resort to visit Kemmanagundi. First stop was at Kalanithi falls which was a big disappointment for us. This place was very dirty. A temple was there at the footsteps of falls where devotees were taking bath but filth were spread all around. This is the perfect case to show, how we destroy the nature in name of religion and how tourists liter the unwanted stuffs at places they came to enjoy beauty. After this disappointment, we moved to Kemmanagundi hills. Landscape view of Kemmanugudi hills which has green lush grassland is scenic and striking. Road to Hebbe falls was closed for private vehicles so we went to Shanthi falls. After the end of the tar road, we saw cars going on mud road and so we followed them too. After a short drive on the very narrow, one way and water filled mud road we realized that the road was not meant for cars. There was no place to turn back too. It was near Z-point. We drove to the end of hill and came back. Thankfully no vehicle came in between, otherwise we could have faced a real nightmare. After all these adventures, we reached back to resort just at lunch time. In night, resort has arranged bonfire for individual cottages and we enjoyed it a lot. Kids had a great time sitting out and playing in night.

Next morning we did an early checkout and drove towards Belur though it was not in our original plan. We passed through ghat road in early morning. After two hours we crossed Chikkamagalur town and in next half an hour we were in Belur. We had our breakfast there before going to the famous Chennakeshava  temple built by Hoysala empire. The temple is standing on a platform which has very detailed exquisite art work on its wall. Stories from Ramayana and Mahabharta have been carved beautifully in the boundary walls. From Belur, we went to Halebidu temple which was at twenty kilometers only. Here temple complex comprises of Hoysaleswara and Kedareswara temples. Both of the Belur and halebidu temples are the best example of fine work done by Hoysala sculptors.

After Halebidu, we were back on road for Bangalore. After a drive for more than hundred kilometers we reached to Tumakuru. We had lunch in between. After crossing Neelamangla we faced very heavy rain but did not stop. We reached to our home in late evening with a great fill of a complete and memorable Chikmagalurur trip.