17 Cool options to beat the heat in South India!

The heat is on. Summer is scorching. There is no sign of Mango showers to bring the mercury down. Even in Bangalore which normally receives its first showers after Holi is yet to get good rain. 

Why not spend few days in the hills and beat the heat?

These are our list of places to beat the heat in summer. Some places where we stayed and came back with happy memories. Some places which comes highly recommended, in our bucket list to stay some day. These places are either Home Stays or small resorts. Not the fancy five star stuff. 

Let us start with those we have cherished our stay and came back with sweet memories.

Red Hills Nature Resort, Red Hills, Ooty

You can't call this a resort. This is more like a large home stay. The location is the king here. Perched on a elevated place with a hill as a backdrop, this place has fantastic view of the Emerald and Avalanche lakes below. If you can get up early, you will be treated to a lovely sunrise.


Rooms - Neat and comes with a fireplace.
Food - Good
Activities - Don't miss the lovely hike to the small hill behind the resort for jaw dropping views of lake district of Ooty.

Take a look this post on this blog - A Quick escape to Red Hills!

Official Website - Red Hills Nature Resort

Destiny Farmstay, Avalanche, Ooty

You will be bowled over by the setting of this place. Especially after the rains when the backwaters of Avalanche dam reaches the resort. A new structure built overlooking the plateau, it gives you a feel of an European ranch.


Room - Spacious and well furnished. Comes with a fireplace.
Food - Good
Activities - You have host of activities in the resort. You can do rappelling, fishing, riding, milking of a cow, small hikes in the forest. Kids would love this place.

Official Website - Destiny Farmstay

Sinnadorai's Bungalows @ Sakleshpur, Valparai and Mango Range

We clubbed all three into one.

Each one though is different and provides for a lovely experience. Kadamane estate in Sakleshpur is a huge British bungalow. Mango Range is a cute bungalow with only three rooms. The Bungalow in Valparai is on a small hillock overlooking the valley. All three bungalows have retained the charm of planter's life left behind by British. Go there. You will not be disappointed.


Rooms - Rooms in all the bungalows are very spacious and nicely done.
Food - It varies from excellent in Valparai to Good in Kadamane and Mango Range.
Activities - Go for small hikes in all the three places. Wildlife watching in Valparai. Tennis and Basketball in Kadamane. Trek to waterfalls in Kadamane. Jeep drive to five acres - an amazing view point - in Kadamane. Mango Range is ideally suited to explore both Ooty and Wayanad.

Please take a look at the following posts on this blog

a) Kaptivated in Kadamane!

b) Valparai - An unexplored wonder!

c) Monsoon experience @ Mango Range

Official Website - Sinnadorai's Bungalows

Villa Retreat, Kodaikanal

A cute little Victorian villa with an outstanding view of the valley. Again the location is the king. Excellent gardens and lovely rooms with magnificent views of the Kodai valley makes this place special.


Rooms - Rooms are generally spacious and neat. You have a wide choice based on tariff.
Food - Excellent
Activities - Nothing much inside the retreat. Many places to visit within the city.

Official Website - Villa Retreat

Thotadhahalli Home Stay, Chikmagalur

This is a real home stay. Small and nice. At the foothills of Mullayanagiri. Prakash and Pallavi are lovely hosts.


Rooms - Spacious and well done rooms. Kids will love the room with mezzanine floor.
Food - Excellent. Check out local Malnad recipes.
Activities - Nothing much in the homestay except for small walk in the estate and a basketball net. Go for a night drive in Jeep with Prakash. If it is a new moon day, you will be surprised by the silence in the estate.

Official Website - Thotadhahalli

Villa Urvinkhan, Chikmagalur

Lot of love has gone into making this place by Sunil and Shwetha. Beautifully located with a lovely pool overlooking the valley, the place is a hidden gem in crowded Chikmagalur.

Rooms - Excellent rooms. Spacious and done aesthetically by Sunil and Shwetha. Each room has a private sit out, a fire place.
Food - Good. 
Activities - You can go for a walk in the estate, fish in the pond, use paddle boat in the pond, swim in the pool. 

Official Website - Villa Urvinkhan

Let us now list out the places in the hills which are on our bucket list. We havent been to these places but have heard from friends and read about them.

Cloud Mountain Bungalow, Meghamalai, Tamil Nadu

This is still an unexplored country. Meghamalai retains its charm of secludedness. Woodbriar is a great example of how British used to live in their tea plantations. We would love to go there after rains, for sure. Woodbriar group also has some lovely bungalows in Munnar and Valparai as well.


Official Website - Woodbriar Bungalows

Camelot Resort, Munnar, Kerala

It is organic and sustainable living here folks. The lovely boutique resort with ten comfortable cottages amidst an organic garden. 


Official Website - Camelot

Camp Noel, Munnar, Kerala

This is straight out of Europe! Location is the king here. Away from the hustle bustle of Munnar town.


Official Website - Camp Noel

Cinnabar, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

This is what one call an ideal homestay. Only two lovely rooms inside a beautiful house of Bala & Vasu. You can learn about Organic farming, making cheese or if you are outdoor type, Bala will help you to go for a trek in the forests!


Official Website - Cinnabar Farm

Bougainvillea, Ooty, Tamil Nadu

It is good to see more of these heritage bungalows in Ooty available for visitors to the Queen of hill station. Bougainvillea is one of them to explore for sure.


Official Website - Bouganvillea

Fringeford, Wayanad, Kerala

We still wonder how we haven't been here. A secluded beauty in the forests of Wayanad, your only companions here are silence or cries of wild cat! 


Official Website - Fringeford

Old Kent Estate, Coorg, Karnataka

We did not know this till a friend was singing paeans to it. When we looked at their website, we were bowled over at this English bungalow so lovingly maintained. Will go there sometime!


Official Website - Old Kent Estate

Magnolia resorts, Coorg, Karnataka

A boutique resort if you can call it. It is a welcome addition to those who want to spend few days of tranquility in Coorg.


Official Website - Magnolia

Halli Berri Cottages, Chikmagalur, Karnataka

The hills of Coorg and Chikmagalur springs surprises every now and then with new properties coming up. These places are aesthetically beautiful whether they are new construction or restored ones. Halli Berri joins the select list in Chikmagalur. A place to go. You can see why when you look at their website.


Official Website - Halli Berri Cottages

Thippanahalli Homestay, Chikmagalur

Grand old lady of all Homestays in Chikmagalur. You need to book well in advance to get here. We have had that experience of not getting a chance to stay whenever we decided to go there late. We will make it some day!


Official Website - Thippanahalli Homestay

Vanilla County, Vagamon, Kerala

We always knew Vagamon is God's own country. Unexplored region and a biodiversity hotspot. In the midst of this is the heritage bungalow! Nothing else matters. Have to go some day!


Official Website - Vanilla County

These were some of the places we thought we would share with you. Places where you can chill out during this summer. Have you been to any other interesting place in the hills? Please share it here. We would love to hear from you.

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Monday Images - Sahara, Desert beautiful!

Monday Images. Every weekend, we share some brilliant Images from fellow travellers from different parts of the world. We have liked them. Hope you will too.

From the coldest place on Earth to the hottest.

Yes, we are talking of Sahara desert. The largest stretch of sand on earth is amazingly beautiful. It has its own mountains, oases and its own forests. The rock formations which are formed millions of years ago are natural wonders. You might have read about it and seen lovely pictures in magazines like National Geographic.

When we were browsing through some pictures on Flickr, we were stunned by the beauty of the desert captured by Claudio. An avid traveller, he has shot these mindblowing landscape of the Sahara desert in Algeria.





Have we influenced you enough to alter your winter travel plan and made you head to Sahara?

For more stunning pictures of Sahara by Claudio, please click here. Dont blame us if you are awestruck!

Algeria by Claudio Pettazi

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Skywatch Friday - Hong Kong from the Sky

Hong Kong does not have a London Eye or Singapore Flyer. But what it has is the cable car to Big Buddha or Tian Tan Buddha.

It was in 2008 that I (Poorna) visited Hong Kong second time as part of my work. A bustling metropolis, Hong Kong has its own charms. One of them is the thrilling ride on cable car to Big Buddha. A cable car riding over a distance of 6 KMs gives you fantastic vistas of Hong Kong landscape. 



Fortunately the weather was good.  It was around 11 AM when we travelled in these lovely cable cars enjoying the fantastic vistas of Hong Kong.

Don't miss taking a ride on this cable car and get divine blessings of Tian Tan Buddha while ein Hong Kong.

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Road Trip Vignettes - Banyan tree and Tulsi Vrindavan

We just stopped seeing this. 

The setting was lovely. This was during our trip to Dudhsagar and Goa in August last year. As we left the hotel in Siolim and started for Morjim beach, the driver asked us whether we would like to see a big banyan tree nearby. He said this was the largest tree in Goa. We were curious as we have seen one of the largest Banyan trees in the world in Bangalore. 

When we arrived at the spot, the tree was big but nowhere in comparison to the one in Bangalore. What caught our eye was a small Tulsi Vrindavan or the place where Tulsi, the holy basil is grown. There was no tulsi plant but the colourful Vrindavan was a lovely contrast to the grey backdrop of the aerial roots of Banyan. The small Vrindavan was a contrast to the huge tree.

Around the roots were the holy white threads. 

Brinda clicked the picture for the keeps. Here it is.


Have you noticed unusual vignettes during your travel?

If you want to explore unusual Goa, you may look at the following post in this blog

12 Things to do in Goa you haven't done before!

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Monday Images - Magnificent vistas of White Continent!

Monday Images. Every weekend, we share some brilliant Images from fellow travellers from different parts of the world. We have liked them. Hope you will too.

Antarctica aka White Continent.

Very few of us get a chance to visit the icy world.

We can at least savour the beauty of it through the eyes of some fellow travellers who were lucky enough to go there. Donna Hampshire is one of them.

We loved her beautiful pictures of the continent. It is your turn now. Here are few brilliant pictures shot by her.





Please spare a moment to take a look at her other pictures of white continent here. It will definitely make your Monday lovely!

Awesome Antarctica

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Back of the Blog - Sundays are meant to be in Sunday Bazaar!

Surprised with title of this post?

Instead of asking you to laze around on the bed and drink a good cup of coffee with newspaper in hand, why are we suggesting you to go to Sunday bazaar? Because, if you are curious and looking for an experience of street shopping, this is the place to be in Bangalore. We are not sure of other places - we understand that Hyderabad also has one and Delhi has Sunday Book bazaar - but you should make a point to visit Sunday bazaar in Bangalore. 

My first experience of Sunday Bazaar or "Gujari" - as it used to be called in good old days - was accompanying my dad on Sunday mornings to the old city of Bangalore. It was to buy second hand stuff. On Sundays, when the regular shops are closed, another market springs to life where you can buy anything. 

This is what we would suggest you to do this Sunday if you are in Bangalore. Get up lazily, have your cup of coffee with a diet of your favourite newspaper. Then take out your vehicle or better pick up an auto rickshaw and head to Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan in Balepet for a brunch around 10 AM. Finish brunch of excellent Masale Dose and Rave Bisi Bele Bath and then take a leisurely walk towards BVK Iyengar road. 

Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan (Photo Courtesy - http://indianbazaars.blogspot.in/)
Once you reach BVK Iyengar road, its lanes and bye lanes, you will be surprised with the number of temporary stalls on the footpath selling anything from old LP records to latest cell phones. You are now in Sunday Bazaar. Bangalore's own Chor Bazaar replica of Mumbai.

The uniqueness of Sunday Bazaar is it is never stagnant. You will always find something interesting if you have an eye for the curious.  Anything sells here. Bolts to blankets, from soles to software, from loo bowls to washing machines, name it and you will find it at the Sunday Bazaar.

Dumbbells for Sale (Photo Courtesy - Subbarayan Prasanna)
It all started as a market for secondhand goods. It continues to be one. But of late, you will see brand new items jostling for space with old on the streets.  As you walk along the lanes and bye lines, you will be surprised to see items you had never thought of.  Old coins, old books, binoculars, old cameras, radios, LP records and antique stuff......if you have patience to look around and check you will be surprised with list.  Home d├ęcor items, tools and equipments, mixer-grinders, washing machines, television sets, music systems, DVD players, refrigerators, garments, blankets, gym equipments, pen-drives, imported watches. List is endless.

Yes, you need to bargain for the prices. The traders are also aware of this. So it is the question of who has better bargaining skills. 

It is a good place to pick up stuff of yester years. Also good for human watching, to see the energy of people who throng every Sunday to buy items at cheaper cost. We go there once in a while to pick up some knick knacks or an antique lock or an old camera. We have never come back disappointed. 

Post Script - This is not like a leisurely shopping you experience in Malls in an air conditioned atmosphere. You will not get branded items here. Wear a cap and sunglasses. Carry bottles of water. The complete area of Old Bangalore will be like a huge market. It is up to you to explore. Based on your patience and time!

Please take a look at this nice Photo Essay on Sunday Bazaar by Subbarayan Prasanna 

Sunday Bazaar on BVK Iyengar Road

Have you had similar Bazaar experience? Do share it.

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Skywatch Friday - Sunset at Orchha

Orchha is a small village in the state of Madhya Pradesh in Central India. It still remain non descript but for the Betwa river, the charming palace, fort, chattris and temples

My first association with Orchha was when i was posted in Jhansi while serving in the army 25 year back. This used to be our place for weekend trips on our bicycles.

During our grand road trip of Central India in 2011, we stopped over for a night at Orchha. This wasn't planned and was a last minute change. I had told Brinda on the charms of Orchha, especially its mesmerising sunset. Thus, our endeavour was to reach Orchha well in time to catch the glorious moment.

Driving from Lucknow, we reached Orchha around 4 PM. Going straight to the Palace - it closes by 5 PM - we were able to appreciate lovely architectural sense of Bundelkhand kings. We kept a tab on our watch and as we neared the sun set time, we moved to the vantage point on the bridge over Betwa river.

As the sun went down in the horizon behind the silhouettes of the chattris, we clicked crazy and played around with exposures. It was a mindblowing experience which you can see below.



Don't miss visiting Orchha when you plan your trip to Khajuraho. We will follow up with a detailed post on the place in this blog. Stay tuned.

Glossary

Chattri - Cenotaph

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Food Safari - Bahadura Laddu and Ghevar of Gwalior

We visited Gwalior in August 2006. It was the month of Shravan. The Teej festival was round the corner and the sweet shops were selling a delicate sweet which looked like thick papad from a distance. 

Curious as ever, we asked as to what it was and we were told that it was "Ghevar", a sweet made for Teej and Raksha Bandhan. It was yummy and we relished it thoroughly. Bansal Petha Bhandar in Gwalior is a famous shop known for Petha, a sweet made out of ash gourd. But during the month of Shravan, the shop makes delicately tasteful ghevar which is made of ghee, maida and jaggery.


Our gourmet curiosity meant that we explore the other culinary treats of Gwalior. Normally, the first thing we always do when we arrive at a place is to ask locals about local delicacy, the best restaurant and sweet shop in the city. We did the same here too and our next stop  at "Bahadura Sweets" famous for its "Bahadura Laddus" named after the late Bahadur Prasad Sharma the founder of the sweet shop. 


An iconic shop founded 80 years ago, the laddus are made out of boondi which is cooked on coal. Tiny drops of chick pea batter drop into the hot ghee and are taken out with a large perforated spoon, called jhara,when fully fried. The boondi is then immersed in sugar syrup and later rolled into laddus. It should be eaten hot and in the shop.


After eating the laddus don't miss savouring crispy kachoris with tangy chutney in Bahadura Sweets. It is yummy!

Gwalior like other cities in Madhya Pradesh is a gourmet paradise. Whether it is Suleiman chai with Kebab buns in Bhopal or Dahi Vada and Ghamandi Lassi in Indore, Bhang laced Thandai in Ujjain, Kachoris in Rau near Indore, Jalebis in Jabalpur you love travelling in Madhya Pradesh if you love local cuisine.

Next time when you visit Gwalior and finish visiting the magnificent fort, dont forget to have a feast at these sweet shops. Forget dieting while in Gwalior!

If you are a gourmet like us, don't miss reading the following posts in this blog.

Back of the blog - A Checklist for Gourmets on travel in India

Food Streets of Indore

In search of Suleimani chai in Bhopal

Momos in Mirik!

Food Safari in India

Glossary 

Shravan - The month in Hindu calendar in which many festivals occur. Generally in the month of Augsust.

Teej Festival - A Hindu festival. It is observed by women for wellness of their husband.

Raksha Bandhan - A Hindu festival. It is observed by women for wellness of their brothers.

Laddu - A ball-shaped sweet made of flour and sugar with other ingredients that vary by recipe.

Kachori - A spicy and fried snack popular in North India and pakistan. Eaten with or without chutney

Chai - Indian tea

Dahi Vada - Lentil Fritters dipped in Yogurt & smeared with spices

Lassi - Sweet Yogurt, Indian style!

Bhang - A preparation from the leaves and flowers (buds) of the female cannabis plant, consumed as a beverage in the Indian Subcontinent.

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