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A Travel Blog from India: February 2011

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Karavali Vistas - Part II - Udupi, Mangalore & Bekal

Udupi, the word brings the memories of good old "Udupi hotels". But Udupi is also famous for the Krishna temple and is the centre for Dvaita philosophy. It was 4 PM when we reached the city and after checking into the hotel and freshening ourselves, we were ready to explore the temple town.

I remember Udupi as a sleepy town i had seen when i was a kid. I had come with my parents on pilgrimage. Nothing much has changed around temple and it is the same old Udupi of yesteryear's. Mitra Samaja, the grand old lady of Udupi's hotels is still there and so are the numerous shops selling knickknacks.

The temple itself is an interesting setting. The architecture is typically coastal with sloped tiled roof. With a large pond - Madhwa Sarovara - in the middle, the temple is austere and gives you a feel of serenity. There wasn't much rush and we were able to have darshan of Lord Krishna quickly. Krishna here is small in size and you have to have darshan through "Kanakana Kindi" - the hole through which the lord gave darshan to Kanaka Dasa, a low caste saint who was not allowed inside the temple by the orthodoxy. The temple is surrounded numerous small temples dedicated to other gods. Udupi is also the place for "Ashta Mutts" or Eight mutts of Madhwa tradition.

Madhwa Sarovara provides the setting for Udupi temple

Mitra Samaja - Grand old lady of Udupi Hotels
Darshan and puja was followed by pet puja!. When in Udupi, there are two places you should not miss. Mitra Samaja for "Benne Masale Dose" (Butter Masala Dosa) and Diana for Fried Idlis - did you hear this before!!-  and Gadbad Ice cream!!!. Diana is an excellent place for food and being veggies, we did not venture into any sea food restaurants. The evening was spent in a leisurely walk around the temple savouring the sound and smell of the temple town!

The next day was meant for beach hopping. Kaup beach which is a at a distance of 15 KMs from Udupi, was the first. Unexplored and pristine, the beauty of the beach is enhanced by the British built light house on a Small mound of rocks. Excellent place to swim and enjoy the sun bath. There are no shacks on the beach and one has to take rest under the coconut trees for shade or take your own tent.

Kaup beach with Light house
Malpe beach, was next and onwards to St Mary's island. Malpe beach was smelling of fish  as this is also a small port with fishing boats. We had to walk a bit to find some nice spot to enjoy the waters. But after enjoying the pristine beach of Kaup it  was a bit of disappointment. Nevertheless, we were excitedly waiting to go another gem of Karavali - The St Mary's island.

Beautiful rock formations of St. Mary's island
Not many were aware of this small group of islands off Malpe till late seventies when the famous Kannada film Director Puttanna Kanagal shot them for his film "Shubhamangala". You need to hire a boat at Malpe to the island and it is a 15 minutes boat ride. You can make out that this island is different as you come closer to the shore. The beautiful rock formations, coves and clean sands makes this a good picnic spot. As we moved around in the island, we could see numerous sea shells of different shapes on the beach. There were so many - Small in size though - that we were surprised. You need to get your eats and water as nothing is available here.

Traditional Karavali House reconstructed at Hastashilpa
Another place you should not miss when in Udupi these days is "Hastashilpa Heritage Village"in Manipal By Vijayanath Shenoy who has painstakingly recreated the glory of Karavali architecture and preserved the traditions as a museum. It was under construction when we went to Udupi then. It is likely to be thrown open to public soon.

Our last stop on this journey was Mangalore. The bustling city still retain its old world charm. Mangalore is not flat. The small valleys and hillocks makes this city charming. Having visited the beaches, we were not keen to go near the sea this time. We went to the famous temple of Durga Parameshwari in Kateel which is at a short distance from the city. Mangalore is again a great place for gourmets. Specially so if you are sea food and non veg lover. Akki rotti and Kori Gasi (Rice rotis and Chicken curry), mangalore prawn curry are best savoured here. Being veggies, we had our fill of "Neer Dosa and Egg curry" and Buns - a sweet poori like snack prepared out of maida and banana! Of course, we did make a visit to buy the famous "Crums" from Taj Bakery in Hampanakatte.

Breathtaking vistas from Bekal fort
The main reason for us to stop in Mangalore was to make a trip to Bekal fort. Ever since we saw Mani Ratnam's "Bombay", .........remember the song "Tuhire..Tuhire".....soulfully sung by Hariharan and Chitra......we wanted to go there and here was our chance. It is an hour's drive from Mangalore towards Kasargod. You will not feel the beauty of this fort, till you enter and go on to one of the ramparts. The view is just breathtaking. Coming here in Monsoon or even during a full moon day should be memorable. The fort, built by Tipu Sultan, is located strategically and is well maintained by Archaeological Survey of India. The sun set from here was an experience in it self. Bekal also has an excellent beach as well.

Karavali is still unexplored and beautiful. The whole stretch is full of beaches, temples, heritage places and great culture ........and of course great food. I heard that Suratkal beach - very close to Mangalore on way to Udupi - has become a hot spot for surfers now. You can spend days exploring them. A little known fact is that the first freedom fighter of India - Rani Abbakka who fought Portuguese - is from Karavali.

Plan a trip to Karavali and you will enjoy it most!!!


There are many hotels in Mangalore and Udupi suiting all budgets.

Travel Tips

a) Best time to travel in this region is in winter. October to March is good time. Summers are harsh and Monsoon is heavy.
b) Make Mangalore as base and cover all the places mentioned in this post.
c) The road between Mangalore and Udupi is notorious for rash driving by private buses. Be careful and drive safe on this stretch.
d) Carry a good hat and sun screen lotion. After 11 AM, sun is sharp even during winter.
e) Check for last boat timing if going to St Mary's island. Else have to stay for night, which is not a bad idea actually!
f) Be prepared to walk in Bekal to get to some good view points. Carry a binoculars.
g) Mangalore is an excellent place for trying out Sea food cooked in mangalorean style. Check out locally which is the best.

Some useful Weblinks


On Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village, Manipal - http://www.indiaheritagevillage.org/index1.html

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