Singapore: Must Do Things

Some of the must do activities in Singapore, in my opinion:

1. Cable Car

If you are visiting Sentosa (I would be very surprised if you are not), then definitely take the cable car route. Get off at Harbor Front and pay for the cable car ride. The fare includes to and fro trip and entry to Sentosa, which is a great deal. Board the cable car at Harbor Front and get down at Sentosa. On your return trip, go all the way: Sentosa to Harbor Front to Mount Faber and back to Harbor Front. Take your train back home from Harbor Front. This is a wonderful experience. The view you get is much better than that from Singapore Flyer, not to mention much cheaper.

2. Feed the Bird at Jurong Bird Park

Not sure how many tourists are aware of this attraction. At Lory’s Loft attraction, one can get upclose with the birds by feeding them. You pay S$2 for a bowl of bird food and the minute you have the bowl in your hand, birds flock around you to eat. They sit on your arms, palms and even head. It is a Kodak moment, no doubt, but much more than that. To actually see a bird from up close and to touch it is magical.

 

 

3. Walk down Double Helix Bridge

The walk down this bridge connecting Singapore Flyer and Marina Bay Sands is breathtaking. You witness some of the best views on this bridge. Flyer, Merlion Park, Theatres on the Bay, Esplanade and Marina Bay Sands. This walk is for photographers and leisure walkers alike.

 

 

4. Travel by bus and train

I mean it. To experience the pulse of the city, you need to ditch the taxi and use the bus and train. You need to buy a card first and preload it with some cash. When you enter the bus (front is always the entrance), flash your card in front of the reader and when you get off, flash it again. The fare automatically gets deducted and the screen will show you the balance left. Same goes with train. Use the card to get on to any station and when you get off (changing lines, using LRT), swipe again to get the fare deducted. Out of the many things I did here, traveling by train was one of my favorites.

 

5. Visit Daiso

No need to say Singapore is a shopper’s heaven. I am not into shopping much, but I visited Daiso on my uncle’s insistence. This is a store where all items are S$2. You will find such ingenious, innovative items here which are a result of Japanese innovation. Egg cutter, toothpaste winder, pill remover, oil filter, rice strainer – the list goes on. They even have cheap yarn here (that is for the knitters reading the blog). Visit this place even if you don’t plan to buy anything, but I will bet my day’s salary, you will walk out with lots of things in your cart.

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Singapore: Must See Places

If you start planning your itinerary for your Singapore trip, you will realize you will run out of days before running out of places to visit. This country has so many options which is hard to choose from. We traveled with our three year old who loves anything aquatic, so our main focus was on that. Also, since we had a kid with us, activities like Night Safari, 4D show were not on the list. Based on our experience, these are the must see places in Singapore, in my humble opinion:

1. Sentosa Island and particularly Under Water World

Everybody who visits Singapore visits this place. This place has on display an amazing variety of aquatic animals. The Dolphin and Seal Show is a big hit with kids and adults alike. Other attractions at Sentosa include the 4D show, Universal Studios and beaches.

 

 

2. Jurong Bird Park

Another must see on all tourists’ list. You get to see and interact with all kinds of birds here. They have a Bird Show and Feed the Penguins show which attracts a lot of tourists. Do not miss the Feed the Birds at Lory’s Loft. Another great place for kids.

 

3. Double Helix Bridge and Marina Bay Sands

The newly opened Double Helix Bridge is an architectural wonder. This can be clubbed with Marina Bay Sands which houses the brand new laser show – Wonderful Life. Do not miss the Singapore Flyer during your walk on the bridge. This is a photographer’s delight.

 

 

4. Changi Airport

No, I am not joking. If you cannot put aside a day for this, then plan to reach the airport well in advance on your return trip. Spend a few hours roaming around and see how sophisticated and passenger friendly airports can be. Not to mention the playgrounds and art corners built to keep kids engaged.

 

Apart from these places, I do not categorize anything else as must see. Singapore Flyer is hyped-up and expensive. You get a better view from the cable cars to Sentosa. Singapore Zoo was not on our plan since we have a better zoo in the neighborhood. Little India, China Town, Mustafa Bazaar are all okay if you want to see a bit of heritage and get some shopping done.

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Stunning Singapore

I spent the last ten days in Singapore and I cannot express how wonderful the experience was. We all had a blast and are yet to come out of the holiday mood.

What I loved about Singapore:

1. The well planned city with its amazing infrastructure. One can easily rely on public transport alone and can roam the entire country without having to ask anybody for help. Clear signboards, helpful travel brochures available at the airport itself, maps and route information at every bus station and train station.

2. The city is clean: dust free, pollution free and the roads are so well maintained and clean. Not a single speed breaker, can you beat that India? Traffic signals at every junction, vehicles actually give right of way to pedestrians and everybody follows the rules (can you beat that Indians?).

3. The amazing people. They would hardly look at you or even acknowledge your presence, but if you ask them for help, they will go out of their way to help you. They are courteous and hospitable.

4. The various options for sight seeing and food is another plus point. No matter what kind of a tourist you are: adventure or leisure or shopping or entertainment, Singapore has everything.

5. Tourism is a big deal here. You can see so many instances of the country pushing tourism as mush as possible. And why not? Singapore is a country worth visiting.

The only thing I did not like about Singapore is the weather. It is hot and humid (much better than Bombay though) and it rains when you least expect it to. This is a minor complaint since all public transports and malls are air conditioned and you need to spend very little amount of time outside these, so it’s okay.

Since it is not fair to cram my 10 days trip in a single post, I will be doing a day-by-day tour update. Keep yourself signed in.

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Wayanad: We Are Family

Distance from Bangalore: Around 280 kms
Route: Bangalore – Mysore – Gundalupet – Sultan Bethary – Panamaram – Punchawayal – Enteveedu
Best Season to Travel: I suggest winter because it will be very hot during summer.
Ideal For: Families, especially with little ones.

If you ignore our last, horribly disappointing vacation to Yelagiri, our first true family vacation happened last week. Deciding the place did not take much time because we had our criteria all defined: Not more than 6-7  hours drive, place should be kids-friendly, not too cold and preferably a home-stay. Our previous experience with a home stay at Sakleshpur was pleasant and we wanted to do that again since we now had a 2-year old with us. A quick search on the internet brought up Enteveedu, which was recommended by many people on many travel sites. The website is impressive too (I always judge someone from the website, which I really should not!)  A quick call to Seeta Aunty, the owner cum manager cum facilitator of the home-stay, relieved me of my anxiety about how my kid will find this place. She told me in her sweet voice, ‘Treat this like your own house. Your kid will get all the comfort of his own house. Don’t worry!’

Day 1

We started on Jan 26, Wednesday morning at around 5:30. We wanted an early start for two reasons: avoid the traffic and cover as much of the journey as possible when the tyke is asleep (my son + confined places = big disaster and one cranky, whiny kid). This plan worked well because we were out of the city before the dawn broke and were in Mysore at the right time for breakfast. A quick bite at Kamat Madhuvan on the outskirts of Mysore and off we headed again. The little one enjoyed the journey (proving me wrong) and kept pointing out things on the street. The journey through the forest area – Bandipur, Muthanga was disappointing – we hoped to spot animals, deer at the least, but no such luck. We reached Sultan Bethary by 12ish and then we had to go slow because we didn’t know the road. From Sultan Bethary, we took a right on Benachi Road (there is a signboard which is easy to spot) towards Nadavayal and drove straight ahead until we reached Panamaram and Punchavayal. There are a few forks on the way and we had to stop and ask people to make sure we took the right side of the fork. People are very co-operative and give clear directions. Enteveedu is around 20 kms from Sultan Bethary. We reached Enteveedu, our home for next couple of days, by 1 and were totally smitten by what we saw. The house is in the middle of a huge estate – cofeee, paddy, coconut and palm trees. There is a huge front yard which is open for kids to run and jump around. A hammock, a traditional ‘mancha’, a small swing chair for kids – all things to indicate that you are here to relax.

We were shown to our room which had a huge bed and a huger bathroom. A small balcony overlooking the front yard and the estate beneath and with a lovely view of the road and the sunset. I am very picky about bathrooms and was totally impressed with Enteveedu when I saw the spotlessly clean white tiles and WCs. Also, this was the first home stay which supplied toothpaste too along with soaps and towels. I usually carry my own toothpaste, but just saying and pointing out how such minor things were thought about.

View from our room

We were really hungry and were looking forward to meet the hostess and experience true Kerala cuisine. We were disappointed to know that Seeta Aunty was not in town and will come back only after 3 days. It was a huge let down for us because the main reason why we chose Enteveedu because of Seeta Aunty and now if the lady herself was not here, we were not sure how comfortable our stay would be. I must say, we were taken well care of in the able hands of Mr. Raj and Preeda, even in the absence of Seeta Aunty. Preeda was our hostess, cook, caretaker, playmate for my son – all bundled into one. She would plop herself in front of us with her lovely smile and try to communicate with us using her little knowledge of English. She and her mother take care of cooking here and they are excellent cooks. We had such variety of food over the 4 days of our stay that we came back yearning for more. Over the course of our stay, we tasted Idiyappam, puttu, puruti and some whose names I don’t know. Kerala banana was a hit with my family – I wish I could buy some here.

Our first meal at Enteveedu was rice, dal, curry, papad and fish. Steaming, hot rice with the spicy fish was just what we needed. My son who loves fish, loved it even more here. After a sumptuous meal, we had a long nap and were woken up by the lovely aroma of coffee. The evening was well spent by doing nothing – relaxing on the hammock, playing football with the kiddo and generally goofing around. The trip had a great start!

Day 2

We went to Kuruva Island, which is like an hour’s drive away from Enteveedu. Our host, Mr. Raj had arranged for a guide for us and we set at around 11. It’s a nice, little island surrounded by Kabini river. You drive till one point and then get into a boat to be ferried across to the island.  You got to walk quite a bit to reach that point where you can actually wet your feet. This walk is long, but not strenuous and since there are trees all around, you can walk peacefully in the shade.

Kuruva Island

 

You get to play in the cool, fresh water to your heart’s fill and then you get back on the same boat. The walk back is not as enjoyable because you are tired and hungry! My kiddo just loved this place – he played in the water for as long as we were there and still couldn’t get enough.

Playing in the water!

The place is pristine and untouched, but thanks to tourists, is getting its share of dumped plastic bottles and paper. If you plan to visit this place, make sure you are here before noon because it gets really crowded after that. When we were leaving, we could see groups of people pouring in and were thankful that we were leaving when all these people were arriving. We headed back home for lunch and had a long nap (which is a recurring activity until the last day). A hot cup of coffee in the evening and some playing and goofing around and the day came to an end.

Day 3

We decided to hire a guide-cum-driver so that my husband can enjoy the journey instead of treading through hairpin bends. So, Mr. Vivek was our assigned guide for the day. I had read about Uravu, a handicrafts place, from another blog and was very adamant about visiting it. Vivek was only too glad to oblige and off we went to Uravu. It’s around 30 minutes drive and the store opens quite early, unlike other tourist places, so you can combine this with another tourist spot. Uravu is this little magical place where you see all beautiful hand-crafted things made of bamboo.

Bamboo lamp shades at Uravu

This place was so rich that it requires another post for itself, so go read that if you are interested in handicrafts. We bought a couple of things – a beautiful fruit bowl, a serving tray and a musical instrument which makes the sweet sound of falling rainwater. I wouldn’t call them reasonably priced, but as I handknit sweaters and know the time and effort that goes into it, I don’t mind paying a bit higher for hand made items. This is my way of supporting the local sellers.

Our next stop was Soochipara Waterfalls. This is a  major tourist attraction and is quite crowded. This too involves a 2 km walk, but unlike Kuruva Island, this is quite strenuous. You need to walk uphill and downhill, climb the stairs up and down and once you reach the venue, you need to tread through slippery rocks to reach the falls. We found a nice, little spot where the water level was low so that the kiddo could get his share of play. The walk back was horrible – we were all tired and famished and we could hardly walk, forget climbing up, but we had to do it.

Soochipara Waterfalls

On the way, there is a shop which sells food stuff and we had a glass of buttermilk there and it was the best I have ever had. It was spicy with lot of ginger and green chillies – so if you have a weak stomach, this is not for you. It was yummy buttermilk for us and lemon juice for the brat – and all were happy. I saw these jars with wild gooseberry (amla) and mango pieces. On enquiring, I came to know that even these are used to quench thirst. I bought a couple of amla and they were yum! They are marinated in a brine solution with green chillies – gives the amlas a different taste. I bought some to bring back home.

You will find many shops here selling bamboo stuff, so if you didn’t happen to go to Uruva, this is the place to shop. The rest of the day was pretty much the same – eat, sleep, drink, make merry.

Seeta Aunty was back from her trip and when I met her, I realized why everybody is all praises for her. She is the warmest hostess I have ever had. She is always smiling and thinking about the convenience of guests. When you meet her, you realize she doesn’t do this for money. She is passionate about what she does. Her children have grown up and moved away and she started this homestay to kill her boredom. She uses the money she makes from this to educate a group of orphans and she thanked the guests for making that happen. You have to meet this lady to know what I mean – she is very inspiring. There is this lady in a remote place in south India who is trying to make a difference in the society in her own little way and if we could make that happen by visiting her homestay and enjoying the experience, then why not?

Day 4

We were very sure of one thing – no walking today. We didn’t want to visit any place which involved too much of walking, so Banasurasagar Dam was the place we headed to. There is a lot of walking involved there, but you have an option of hiring a jeep for the ferry at an extra cost. We reached the dam quite late around 11, so it was quite hot already, so we took the easy way out and hired a jeep.

View from the boat

We took a ride in the motor boat, with life jackets and all, and it was fun! Cold water beneath you and the scorching sun above, beautiful greenery around – great time to get lost in your own thoughts – except, I had a restless brat on my lap.

There is a children’s park nearby where we obviously stopped for a while. Swings galore – but all were taken up by school children on a field trip. The place was so crowded, we decided to make an early exit.

I wanted to buy a swing chair (my little one’s demand) and could not find it at Uravu. Vivek volunteered to take me to another store in Sultan Bethary to buy a few more things, so off we went after our evening tea. It took us around an hour to reach the store – The Spices Store. It is right on the main road and easy to spot. It had everything in stock – innovative wooden baskets – which can be folded back like a spring, beautiful bamboo items, spoons made of coconut shells and wood and terracotta items.

Old style phone at The Spice Store

I burnt a hole in my husband’s wallet and picked up a few things again. The owner gave me a generous discount since I bought so many things. After a great shopping spree, we had tea at a roadside stall – and I will never forget that experience. The tea was the best I have ever had – and every time I have tasted something at the small, roadside stall, I have been impressed with the taste and quality of items. You can never find such taste in a 5-star hotel, but that’s my opinion.

Day 5

We started early and took the same route back to Bangalore. Breakfast was again at Kamat Madhuvan, Mysore and with a couple of stops enroute, we reached home safe and sound and with a lot of lovely memories of Wayanad.

Tips, suggestions, advice and what not:

1. If you are planning to stay at Enteveedu, call Seeta Aunty beforehand and make an advance payment. If you are not too fond of food cooked in coconut oil, do let her know so that she can make arrangements.
2. If you plan to visit Kuruva Island or Soochipara Waterfalls, plan to be there before 10 so that you can avoid the tourist crowd that pours in later in the day.
3. If you need a guide or a guide-cum-driver, inform Seeta Aunty in advance. I strongly suggest you hire a guide because routes can be quite confusing here. Hiring a driver is even better because you don’t get tired driving and you will reach your destination faster because the driver is well familiar with the twists and turns of the road.
4. This is a trekker’s paradise. There are places like Chembra Peak which is supposedly great for trekking, but owing to the presence of a 2-year old, we did not try that.
5. It gets hot during the day but utterly cold at night, so carry clothes for both the weather conditions.
5. Must see: Kuruva Island and Uravu (that’s my opinion)
6. Must try: Spicy buttermilk and the marinated amla at Soochipara Waterfalls. Tea at any roadside stall. The pink drinking water, boiled with herbs – available anywhere in Kerala.
7. Must buy: Bamboo handmade items at Uravu

Resources

Enteveedu
Uravu
Details of route from Bangalore to Wayanad

Posted in Bangalore weekend getaway, Home stay, Travel | 3 Comments

Yelagiri – A big disappointement

I don’t even remember when I traveled last. When an opportunity presented itself and we got everything prepared for the upcoming vacation trip to Yelagiri, I was all excited. I really got my hopes up and was dreaming of green scenic visuals and cool breeze blowing over my face. But Yelagiri was anything but that. I don’t even know where to start about why Yelagiri was such a big disappointement.

1. Let me state a fact. Yelagiri is not a hill station. In case you missed reading it, let me say it again – it is NOT a hill station. Agreed it is at an elevation, but it has got nothing to call itself a hill station. It is not cooler, in fact it is hotter than Bangalore.

2. It is not scenic. It is not even green. I mean Bangalore, with all its gardens, is much greener than Yelagiri. It is like going to some rural place south of Bangalore, staying in a furnace for a day and coming back.

3. Let me add to the previous point. Visiting Yelagiri is like going going to some rural place south of Bangalore, staying in a furnace for a day and coming back AND paying a huge price for it. Whoever labeled Yelagiri as Poor Man’s Ooty has never visited this place. Poor man? If a poor man can afford to pay 1500 per day for a shabby room and 150 for breakfast and 200 for lunch, I would really like to meet this man please.

4. Now the resort. I don’t know why they call their place as a resort! It’s like a school made over to suit the needs of a resort. The rooms ‘look’ clean at the first look, but there are spiders and cobwebs behind the curtains and the doors. Bathroom was clean, thank God, but the room had a stale air and feel. They have different tariffs and we were staying in a ‘cottage’ – two bedrooms with an attached bathroom each and a living room. A TV in each room. An air cooler in one room, a fan in the second bedroom and two fans in the living area. Gives a pretty good picture, right? Did I mention that there is no power from 9 to 12 during the day? And when the power went off in the middle of the night, I freaked out. Imagine pitch darkness, a baby sleeping next to you who can wake up screaming any minute and your pounding heart – not a good picture, after all, eh?

5. There were no towels, no soap. There was no drinking water in the room. How about that?

6. Lunch was exorbitantly expensive. Chapati, curry, rice, rasam, sambhar, chicken curry for 200 bucks a plate. No dessert, no salad, no soup! They had a ‘special’ meal for dinner which had noodles, Kerala paratha and their special dish – peanut masala!

7. I don’t even have any words for breakfast. Idly, dosa, omelette, pongal, puri – I agree that’s a lot for breakfast, but who can eat all these, right? At 150 bucks a plate, this was the most expensive breakfast I have ever had. And it was not even tasty! And there was no coffee or tea after breakfast. Why? Because it was over. Ha!

8. I happened to ask for some milk for my toddler. While a litre of milk costs 20 bucks, the owner of the resort, Mrs. Sally charged me 15 bucks for 120 ml of milk. Was that special goat’s milk, Ms. Sally?

9. There is a lake in the town which has boating facility. We didn’t get a chance to see this because you see, we cut short our trip and returned the very next day.

10. We did visit the Nature Park and witnessed the musical fountain. Loud music, conked out controls, horrible song selection – screaming baby in my arms – NOT happening.

11. It would be very wrong if I end this post with just the negative points. Sally did went out of her way to get the bottles sterilized. She did not charge me for this. How sweet.

12. When I pointed out that the noodles and parathas are not suitable for my kid, she got chapatis made for my kid. I really appreciate her gesture, but that does not justify her ridiculously expensive rooms and meals.

13. The drive from Bangalore to Yelagiri is heavenly. Nationaly highways, toll roads, smooth hairpin bends for the last 14 kms or so – the drive was the best part of the journey.

Even after reading my post, if you still want to visit Yelagiri, here are the details:

Bangalore to Yelagiri
Distance: Around 170 kms.
Route: Bangalore – Krishnagiri – Vaniyambadi – Yelagiri
There are enough signboards on the way. Just follow them.

Places to stay:
I stayed at Le Auroville Resort and don’t recommend it at all. Some other places you can check:
Peter’s Park – This seems to be the best choice. They were booked when I called them.
Zeenath Taj Garden – This seems like a good place too.
Sterling Resorts – They have one in Yercaud which is good. If that is anything to go by, this one should be good too.
I believe there is a TTDC hotel there. You might want to check.

Posted in Bangalore weekend getaway, Hill station, Travel | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Trip to Pondicherry

Distance from Bangalore: Around 400 kms
Route: Bangalore – Hosakote – Mulbagal – Chittoor – Ranipettai – Walajpet – Kancheepuram – Chengalpattu – Tindivanam – Pondicherry

I and my husband decided to visit Pondicherry over the long Bakrid-Christmas weekend. Now if I look back, we couldn’t have chosen a worse time than this.

It was Christmas eve and the looming New Year’s eve. Add to that a visit by our honorable President and you have all the ingredients to ruin your holiday plans. Tight security within the city and waiting time at every tourist place we decided to visit got us so fed up, we cut short our trip by two days. Next time, I am going to look at all our political leaders’ diaries before making a holiday plan.

Getting back to the trip, after a lot of discussions and arguments, we settled on the route given above. Even though this was the longest possible route, we decided to take it. Our route included NH4, NH45 and NH66 and this was reason enough for my husband to choose this route. And he was right – it was the best drive we have had so far. The roads were wide, smooth and very scenic. Apart from the few kilometres of potholes ridden road around Ranipettai, the drive was exceptionally smooth. We were surprised to see very less traffic on the road.

Day 1

We started from Bangalore at 5 and were out of Bangalore before daybreak. A hot cup of tea on the way and the next stop for breakfast was near Chittoor. With a comfortable four and a half hours drive behind us, we hogged the hot idli and sambhar that the lady

served. After a heavy breakfast, we set off again on NH4. Apart from a few pit stops to exchange driver’s seat and to answer nature calls, we didn’t stop anywhere. Around 50-60 kilometers before Kancheepuram, the road turned into a wide four lane one. We could reach even 100 in our Alto and envied all the more luxurious cars that were zipping ahead of us. We had to bid good-bye to this heavenly road and turn right to go to Kancheepuram. We had to do a

town darshan to get onto the road which connects to Chengalpattu, where we stopped over to have lunch. We found a good restaurant, Shri Ramakrishna Cafe in Chengalpattu. Food was awesome and service was excellent. We were so impressed with the waiter, we offered a tip and he promptly refused. Do visit this hotel if you want to have a good masala dosa or idli.

We finally reached Pondicherry around 2.45. Right from Tindivanam, which is around 35 kms from Pondicherry, we could spot a policeman every 100 metres. We actually thought there was major disturbance in the city, but later realized this is all for Ms. President. After reaching Pondicherry, our ordeal began. We entered a street only to be caught by the police saying we entered a one-way street. There was no no-entry sign in sight and moreover, we were being led by the hotel guy. After haggling for half an hour, we were let off with a stern warning. No money, can you imagine, the policeman didn’t take any money!

The first thing

that gets you is the traffic. People don’t use horns – they know nobody gives a hoot about it. Even if you honk, it doesn’t matter to them – they just go on as if nothing happened. No sense of lanes, no indicators, they only stop if they are sure they are going to hit someone if they don’t stop. I thought Bangalore traffic was bad – but nothing can be worse than Pondy’s traffic.

A quick nap and we were ready to explore the city. We stayed at Anandham Residency and since we were told it is quite close to Beach Road, we decided to walk. We walked along Nehru street and it reminded me of Lakshmi Bagh of Pune. Shops on either side of the street, small restaurants, chaat shops, kulfi stalls and the whole street was lit up. There were quite a few shops selling hanging lamps (see picture) for Christmas and New Year and this increased the glitter on the street. It was a sight to watch.

Beach Road

After a long, winding walk (restricted entry on certain roads since Raj Bhavan is near Beach Road), we finally got to see the beach. There is a wide promenade where you can spot localites taking their routine walks and tourists mesmerized by the beach.

They have laden rocks all along the beach to prevent water entering into the city. The white, gigantic waves, the black rocks, a strong wind and a full moon in the sky – perfect place to sit and while away. All our attempts of capturing this magical moment went in vain; our camera was not good enough. With these beautiful images in our eyes and the sound of the roaring sea in our ears, we ended our first day in Pondicherry.

Day 2

Owing to the bad experience of the previous day, and anticipating President saahiba to visit important places within the city, we decided to visit places on the outskirts of Pondicherry. Our first place of visit was Saneeswara temple.

Saneeswara temple

This temple is around 7 kms from Pondicherry. Proceed on Pondicherry-Tindivanam road (NH45a) and take a right on one of the mud roads (sorry, no landmarks available. We kept on asking people every 100 metres). The idol of God Sani is 23 feet tall and is intimidating. This temple also has navagrahas – all idols are around 10 feet high. This place is not well known and hence is not commercialized.

Panchavatee temple

Our next stop was at Panchavatee, temple of panchamukha Anjaneya. This temple is on Pondicherry-Tindivanam road (NH45a) and is around 9 kms from Pondicherry. It is easily spottable from the main road. The Anjaneya idol is 36 feet and is beautiful, to say the least. Even this temple is not commercialized. A bhajan was playing in the background and all the people were sitting and peacefully meditating – a rare sight.

Continuing our pilgrimage, we decided to visit Auroville. Much to our chagrin, President decided to visit the same place at the same time and we were asked to wait for 3 hours to visit the place. We refused to wait came back to the town. We went back to Beach Road and had a light lunch at Le Cafe.

Chunnambar Backwaters

We were desperate to get our feet wet in the sea water, so we decided to go to the much talked about Chunnambar Backwaters. It is on Cuddalore road, around 8 kms from Pondicherry. This offers boating and water sports on the backwaters.

Aurobindo Ashram

Back to the town and visited Aurobindo Ashram. The atmosphere was peaceful and quiet. The members (people staying at the Ashram) were meditating and the visitors had to be constantly reminded to maintain silence. Tourists do not value the serenity of this place and they are a nuisance. The Ashram should ban visitors. Serious visitors will prefer to stay at the Ashram anyway. The Ashram has a small bookshop, where you will find books in English, Hindi, Marathi, German, French and Spanish. People can buy photogrpahs of Sri Aurobindo and Mother.

Serenity Beach

Serenity beach was on our must-visit place. We almost gave up after nobody could tell us where exactly this was. Our source only said it is around 1.5 kms from Pondicherry, but didn’t say anything about in which direction it is situated. We finally found a person in the post office (in front of the Ashram) who knew where it was. This beach is on ECR road, further ahead of Pondicherry university and is closer to a small place called Mudaliyar Chavadi. As we left Pondicherry behind, we could spot the sea shore on our right hand side. We finally reached the beach and had a great time there. Not many people around and we had the whole beach to ourselves. We played in the water till we were completely drenched and started shivering. Back to the hotel and had a nice bath to get rid of the sand!

Thus ended our last day in Pondicherry.

Day 3

We bid adieu to Pondicherry at 7 and took the same route back. We were back at home by 5. On the way back, we had lunch in Hotel Green Park, near Palamner. We had Andhra meals and it was the best Andhra meal I have ever had. Do stop at this restaurant if you want to enjoy Andhra cuisine. The hotel guy was kind enough to inform us that we can call him and ask to prepare a meal for us at any odd time. The phone number is at the end of this post.

We were lucky we came back early. I heard the situation was even worse the next day. There was a traffic jam inside the city. Now if I look back, I am not very happy with the trip. We didn’t visit half the things we wanted to. All I can say is, we should have chosen a better time.

For more information:

Route and driving directions from MapMyIndia.
Pondicherry map

Panchavatee temple
Panchamuga SriJayamaruthi Seva Trust,
Panchavatee, Vanur T.K,
Villupuram Dt – 605 111.
0413 – 2678823 / 2671232

Sri Aurobindo Ashram
3 Ranga Pillai St., Puducherry 605001
0413-2339648

Tourism Information Centre
40 Goubert Avenue,
puducherry 605001, India.
0413 – 2339497
Fax: 0413 – 2330532

Chunnambar Backwater Resort
Cuddalore Road, Chunnambar, puducherry.
0413 – 2356816

Feel free to contact me if you need more information.

Posted in Bangalore weekend getaway, Beach, Coastal, Travel | 7 Comments

Chilling out at Cofee Valley

Distance from Bangalore: 275 kms
Route: Bangalore – Nelamangala – Kunigal – Bellur Cross – Channaray Patna – Sakleshpur – Hanubalu – Cofee Valley
Season to travel: Summer. Rainy season if you don’t mind the leeches.

It’s a shame that Outlook 52 breaks from Bangalore doesn’t list this destination. This is the ideal place for city dwellers who want a quick break from the city life and want to get lost in the woods.
Coffee Valley is an estate near Sakleshpur, whose owner decided to build cottages within the estate

and have visitors over. It has everything that one needs for a weekend break. It’s quite close to Bangalore, at 250 kms. it’s ideal for a quick drive and back. It’s quiet and calm – mobiles won’t work and no televisions in the rooms so you get to do all the introspection you want with just the cicadas giving you company. If you want to laze around and just want to relax, the greenery around and the serenity agrees with you. If you want get adventurous, then the mountains all around welcome you with open arms.

There are no ‘tourist spots’ as such. There is a sunset point which gives an incredible view.

This is the only spot I have seen from where the whole 360 degress is beautiful. Green all around, wind so strong you can barely stand, sky a mixture of blue, orange and red – you will carry those moments even after you are back. There is a small lake which has the same serenity. The water is not clean, so don’t expect to take a dip there. You can take a book and some biscuits along –

read the book and feed the fish. An ancient temple at the top of a hill is worth a look. The view from the temple is quite good. This place has lots of trek trails for the regular trekkers. With its varied vegetation like pepper, pineapple, jackfruit, coffee, guava, cardomom, cinnamon – this is a heaven for plant lovers.

The hosts are extremely hospitable. They treat you like guests rather than as customers. They take care of every small need.

The rooms are clean and well maintained. They keep a set of playing cards in case you feel like playing. They take you around for sight seeing. They don’t keep anything planned – this trip is highly customizable. The hosts ensure you get your dose of sleep – they encourage you to wake up late!

Food – yummmm….. this is probably the best part of the trip. The food is so delicious, you just can’t have enough. The dessert is most likely fruit salad custard – all fruits coming from the farm around! Cofee flows like water – it’s offered before you even ask for it.

The weather was not very pleasant. This is not a hill station – so it’s not cool. It does get hot in the

afternoon, but it gets pleasant as the sun sets. Since the cottage is right in the middle of the dense estate, it doesn’t get very hot. Serenity is definitely the biggest plus point. No vehicles, no mobiles, no television, no radio – all you hear is the cicadas, birds chiriping and the gushing wind. If you listen carefully, you will hear your own heart beat.

I am sure this place will be twice beautiful when it rains. I am definitely visiting this place in rainy season.

What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and rush to Coffee Valley. Peaceful life awaits you there.

Resources

Coffe Valley website

Posted in Bangalore weekend getaway, Travel, Trek | 4 Comments