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A Travel Blog from India: November 2012

Friday, 30 November 2012

Skywatch Friday - Sunrise in North East India

Nameri National Park in Arunachal Pradesh in North Eastern part of India is serene and unspoiled. It is a heaven for birders and treks in the forests give you a glimpse of the glorious flora and fauna. It is not crowded like the national parks in Central India and you can explore at your own pace.

We saw this lovely sunrise over the calm Jia Bhoroli river when we started for our morning trek. The colours of the sky was just lovely. On a clear day one can see snow clad peaks of Himalayas in the background. 

Please visit the Sky Watch page for more skies from around the world. Better still, share your own picture there!


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Back of the blog - Liquor from Mahua Flowers in Chattisgarh!

Back of the blog. Here we will share tit-bits and snippets on India Travel which may be useful for a traveller in India. It may be some new information about the place, a new cuisine one can explore, a bit of history, a funny anecdote or a good travel book. Anything connected to Travel in India. 

Chattisgarh in Central India is an amazing state. It is rich in flora and fauna. It is known for its indigenous tribal culture which is intact to a large extent though civilization is slowly creeping in. 

One of the interesting thing we found while traveling in Chattisgarh was the liquor which is brewed out of the flowers of Mahua tree which grows abundant in the forests. The tribals collect the mahua flowers which fall, dry them and then make liquor by fermenting it. 

Called locally as "Mahua" is is tangy and has high alcohol content to give you a good "kick"!

Dried Mahua flowers being sold in weekly market in Chattisgarh
Next time when you are touring Chattisgarh or Jharkhand or Orissa, make sure you taste this unadulterated country liquor which is sold in tribal "Haats" or weekly markets to feel high!!

Useful Links

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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Road trips from Bangalore 3 - A tryst with Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu!

These are comfortable road trips from Bangalore. Being road-trippers, we love the freedom road trips provide to stop, look and explore.

These drives, cover not more than 300 KMs in a day. The plan is to cover for a week extendable for another two days.

We will be sharing details about 6 lovely drives from Bangalore in this blog exploring heritage, western ghats, wild life, beaches etc....... 

This is the third in the series. Take a look, plan and go!

Read on.....

The good thing about this circuit is that all the places are close by giving one an opportunity to explore the French architecture and Auroville in Pondicherry, the UNESCO Heritage sites of great Chola temples in Thanjavur, the magnificent mansions of Chettinad and the lovely beach and 18th century Danish town of Tranquebar.

Here is what we recommend you can do in nine days.....

The Circuit

Bangalore - Pondicherry - Tranquebar - Thanjavur - Karaikkudi - Madurai - Bangalore

Day 1 Saturday - Bangalore - Pondicherry - Distance - 330 KMs

Road condition - Great till Krishnagiri. The road from Krishnagiri to Thiruvannamalai be avoided due to road widening and bad road condition. Alternate route is Krishnagiri - Arcot - Vandivasai - Tindivanam - Pondicherry.

Leave early. Have breakfast in Adyar Ananda Bhavan/Krishna Inn/Kamat Upachar after crossing Hosur. 

Reach Pondy by Lunch. After lunch and relaxing for a while, go to beach by evening. 
Spend the evening by the sea. 

Night stay in Pondy.

Day 2 - Sunday - Explore Pondicherry

After breakfast drive to Auroville information centre. Attend short video presentation on Matri Mandir. Obtain passes and visit Matri Mandir. More details can be found in this link here

Visiting Matri Mandir

Spend an hour in the information centre to buy artifacts made in Auroville. Look for lovely pottery and paper lampshades. Of course, the wide array of fragrance and aroma therapy products. 

Leave for Aurobindo Ashram. On the way, visit Auroville bakery for oven fresh bakery products. Visit Aurobindo's samadhi. Have excellent Chettinad lunch in "Appachi" restaurant. 
Matri Mandir, Auroville
Drive back to Hotel. Relax. 

Drive to Pondy and park the car in one of the bye lanes of French quarters. Walk around the marina and enjoy the sea front. Have dinner in the roof top restaurant of Promenade hotel facing the sea. It is lovely. If you don't get a table then go for next option - Rendezvous. 

Night stay in Pondy.

Day 3 - Monday - Pondicherry - Tranquebar via Chidambaram and Pichavaram - Distance - 151 KMs
Road condition - Very good

Leave Pondy after early breakfast. On the way visit famous Nataraj temple at Chidambaram and visit the Pichavaram Mangrove forests for a lovely boat ride. 

Mangrove forests, Pichavaram
Nataraja temple, Chidambaram
Reach Tranquebar for late Lunch. Relax.

In the evening, explore the Danish fort - it closes by 6 PM - and the town of Tranquebar. Play in the beach. Have dinner in the hotel.

Night stay in Tranquebar

Day 4 - Tuesday - Explore Tranquebar

Get up early to watch beautiful sunrise. Play on the beach. Have break fast. 

If desired, you can plan a trip to the famous shrine of Annai Velankanni in Nagapattinam and come back for lunch. 
Danish fort, Tranquebar
Relax for the day.

Night stay in Tranquebar.

Day 5 - Wednesday - Tranquebar - Thanjavur via Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Dharasuram - 143 KMs

After early breakfast drive to Gangaikonda Cholapuram to see beautiful Chola temple. Continue to Darasuram for another gem of Chola architecture. 

Have lunch in Indeco Hotels in Swamimalai and head to Thanjavur. Relax in the evening or explore local market.
Tower of Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple
Night stay at Thanjavur.

Day 6 - Thursday - Explore Thanjavur and Trichy - 140 KMs

Get up early morning to witness the fabulous sight of sun-rays bathing the mighty temple of Brihadeshwara. Visit the temple. Come back and have breakfast. After breakfast drive to Srirangam to see the great vaishnava temple - one of the largest in the country. 
Sculptures in Brihadeshwara temple
Tower of Sri Rangam temple as seen from Rock fort
Have lunch in Trichy. After lunch, visit Rock cut temple and Theppakolam. 

Return to Thanjavur. Relax for the day.

Night stay in Thanjavur.

Day 7 - Friday -Thanjavur - Karaikkudi - 116 KMs
Road condition - Very good

After early breakfast, leave for Karaikkudi. Reach Karaikkudi for lunch. 

After lunch and relaxation  drive to Kanadukathan to see Chettinad mansions. Come back and walk around the streets of Karaikkudi to pick up some antiques. Return to hotel for dinner. 
Chettinad Palace - Kanadukathan
Night stay in Karaikkudi.

Day 8 - Saturday - Karaikkudi - Madurai - 100 KMs
Road condition - Very good

After breakfast, visit the Chettinad mansions in the city. 

The glory of a Chettinad mansion
Come back to hotel, pack your bags and drive to Madurai for lunch. 

Relax and visit the temple in the evening. Have dinner at hotel and relax.

Night stay in Madurai.

Day 9 - Sunday - Explore Madurai before Lunch. Leave for Bangalore after lunch 40 0 KMs
Road Condition - Excellent

After breakfast, explore temple city of Madurai. Madurai is a crowded and dusty town. 

Visit the hill temple of Tiruppurakundram, palace of Thirumala Nayak and other temples in city. Feast on famed Madurai menus - see details below in Travel Tips - and buy cotton hand loom sarees from Rajmahal Silks in city. If you have missed out on degree coffee in Kumbakonam, try that out in one of the coffee shops in downtown.
Colourful tower of Madurai Meenakshi temple
After Lunch, drive back to Bangalore. You can have snacks/early dinner in any of the restaurants on the highway near Hosur - Adyar Anand Bhavan, Kamat or Krishna

Stay options

Pondicherry - There are host of hotels to chose from. You can either opt for heritage French bungalows converted into lovely hotels or stay in any of the resorts on the outskirts of Pondy. The advantage of resorts is they are next beach where as the french villas are in city. Another excellent option are guest houses in Auroville.

Tranquebar - Choose any of the three properties from Neemrana hotels. "Bungalow on the beach" is the best choice.

Thanjavur - The newly renovated heritage hotel - Tanjore Hi - is a good choice. 

Karaikkudi - Our choice is "The Bangala". Top class. Best Chettinad food in the world!! For more details on the hotel and Chettinad click this post in this blog.

Magnificent mansions of Chettinad

Madurai - Taj Gateway is excellent choice. Perched on a small hill and dpread across more than 100 acres of forest, this is a heritage British bungalow run as a lovely hotel by Taj group. 

Travel Tips

a) Carry hat with rim and sun screen lotion. Afternoon sun in east coat will be harsh even in winter.

b) If you have another day, you can plan a day trip from either Madurai or Karaikkudi to Rameshwaram. If you have two more days, you can add Kodaikanal to this circuit.

c) If you are able to leave early and prepared for late lunch at Pondy or to have lunch in Tindivanam - no great restaurants here - you can visit beautiful temple at Tiruvannamalai and ruins of fort complex at Ginji on the way.

d) Don't miss heritage walk conducted by INTACH, Pondicherry. For more details take a look at this post on French architecture of Pondy here.

Pondicherry French Architecture

e) Spending evening time walking around Marina, eating freshly cut pineapples is a relaxing experience in Pondy. If you are a gourmet, don't miss continental food at Rendezvous.

f) The temples of Tamil Nadu are notorious for closing in the afternoon unless they are managed by Archaeological Survey of India. Make sure you are in Chidambaram temple before noon. Being holiday season expect rush in many temples.

g) Tranquebar is a lazy, small little town. Explore it by walking around. You can also talk to locals to find out the way they live. Tranquebar was devastated in the tsunami of 2004.

h) Chola temples at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Dharasuram are outstsanding in design, architecture and sculptures. Take time to explore them. Swamimalai which is close to Dharasuram is famous for Chola bronze manufacturing. If you have time do visit any shop to witness how Chola bronzes are manufactured.

i) Indian classical music lovers can take a small detour to visit the birthplace of Saint Thyagaraja, the doyen of Carnatic classical music at Thiruvayyaru.

g) The temple town of Kumbakonam requires a day to explore. Try and taste the  famous Kumbakonam Degree coffee. Read about it here in this link.

Kumbakonam Degree Coffee

h) Madurai is known for its delicacies. Enjoy the vegetarian and non vegetarian delicaies of Madurai. Read this interesting article on feasting on Madurai Menus.

Madurai Menus

For other Driving Holidays from Bangalore, Please click on these posts

Driving Holidays from Bangalore 2 - Magical Malnad

Driving Holidays from Bangalore 1 - Karnataka Heritage Trails

Did you like this post? Please share it with friends if it can be of help to them. If you need more information on this roadtrip, please write at poorna62@gmail.com


Friday, 23 November 2012

Skywatch Friday - Morning Sky @ Pangong lake, Ladakh

This was taken when we visited Pangong Lake in Ladakh in July 2010. We reached the lake somewhere around 10 AM. It was partly cloudy and the water was still and clear. We could capture the lovely reflection of the sky. everything looked so beautiful.

Ladakh is ethereal!!

Related Posts

If you want to know more about Ladakh, please click on the following post

Ladakh Diaries 7 - Himalayas from the Sky!

Please visit the Sky Watch page for more skies from around the world. Better still, share your own picture there!


Thursday, 22 November 2012

Road trips from Bangalore 2 - Magical Malnad!

These are comfortable drives from Bangalore. Being road-trippers, we love the freedom road trips provide to stop, look and explore.

These drives, cover not more than 300 KMs in a day. The plan is to cover for a week extendable for another two days.

We will be sharing details about 6 lovely drives from Bangalore in this blog exploring heritage, western ghats, wild life, beaches etc....... 

This is the second in the series. Take a look, plan and go!

Read on.....

Bangaloreans are blessed. We are within five hours of reaching hills for a serene and quiet holiday amidst nature. Malnad - as western ghats region in Karnataka is called - is an ideal place to explore. Driving in the hills is soothing to the body and soul! Western ghats, a bio diversity hot spot is now a UNESCO World heritage site. 

So, why not spend few days exploring the vibrant and beautiful valleys, the rivers and peaks of this region during this Christmas break. Here is a recommended itinerary for a lovely holiday in the hills.

The Circuit

Bangalore - Chikmagalur - Sringeri - Agumbe - Tirthahalli - Jogfalls - Bangalore

Click on the route map here -  Route Map 

Day 1 - Bangalore - Chikmagalur - 280 KMs
Road Condition - Excellent

Leave Bangalore around 7 AM. Have breakfast of tasty dosas in Shark Dhabha after Nelamangala. On the way, visit UNESCO World Heritage sites of Belur and Halebeedu known for exquisite Hoysala temples.

Reach Chikmagalur for lunch. Rest for a while and drive to Mullayana Giri to witness lovely Sunset. 

Hoysaleshwara Temple at Halebidu 
Day 2 - Explore Chikmagalur - 160 KMs
Road condition - Good

After breakfast drive to Bababudan Giri and then onwards to Kemmanagundi. Carry packed lunch. Visit Hebbe falls - few KMs of trek - and Kalhatti falls. Stop, look and enjoy vistas of beautiful valley. Have a picnic lunch in one of the nice meadows in Kemmanagundi. 

Return to Chikmagalur via Tarikere after visiting beautiful Hoysala style Amrutheshwara temple at Amrutapura. 

Meadows @ Kemmanagundi
Day 3 - Explore Chikmagalur - 130 KMs
Road condition - Good

If possible get up early to watch sunrise from Mullayanagiri. It is an amazing experience. After watching sunrise and breakfast, go for safari in Muthodi Wild Life sanctuary. (check out timings from your home stay/hotel) Return for lunch. Rest. 

In the evening drive down to Ayyanakere - a beautiful lake - and on the way back have excellent masala dosa in Town canteen in Chikmagalur. Visit M G Park for Musical fountain display - kids will love it - and return to home stay/hotel.

Valley views from Mullayanagiri
Day 4 - Chikmagalur - Tirthahalli via Sringeri - Agumbe - 175 KMs
Road Condition - Good with broken patches

Leave Chikmagalur after early Breakfast. Reach Sirimane falls and enjoy the lovely falls. Drive to Sringeri. Visit temple of Sharadamba and ashram. Have lunch in Mutt. 

Sirimane Falls
After lunch drive to Agumbe. Visit Barkana falls - few KMs of trek - and reach sunset point for witnessing magnificent sunset over the arabian sea. If you are early for sunset, drive to Kundadri hills on the way to Tirthahalli for beautiful views of Malnad valley and also sunset. 

Drive to Tirthahalli and rest in home stay.

Day 5 - Explore Tirthahalli and surroundings - 90 Kms
Road Condition - Good

After breakfast drive to Kavale Durga. Climb the hill fort for a beautiful view of Sharavathi valley. Get down from the fort and drive to Nagara to visit 15th century fort and royal ruins. Return to Home stay for Lunch. 

After lunch drive to the beautiful memorial to one of the greatest poets of India - KUVEMPU. Explore 150 year old heritage house and climb up  a small hill to view lovely vistas.
Nagara fort in a beautiful setting
Day 6 - Tirthahalli - Jog falls - 110 KMs
Road Condition - Good

If possible get up early to watch nice sunrise at Navilukallu Gudda close to home stay. After watching Sunrise, enjoy the waters at Tunga river in Chippalagudde. Return to home stay for breakfast. 

After breakfast drive to Jog falls. On the way visit 15th century jain monuments at Humcha. Reach home stay in Jog falls for lunch. Rest a while after lunch. Around 4 PM, drive to Jog falls. Enjoy the beauty of falls. Night stay at home stay.

Jog Falls in Monsoon as seen from Bombay Guest house 
Day 7 - Explore Jog falls and surroundings - 110 KMs

After early breakfast visit Bhuvanagiri, Burude Jog falls and return for lunch. 

After lunch, drive to Hasirumakki for a cruise on the backwaters. 
Return to Home stay.

Backwaters of Linganamakki
 Day  8 - Saturday - Jog falls to Bangalore - 400 KMs
Road condition - Excellent

After breakfast drive back to Bangalore. On the way visit 15th century temple of Aghoreshwara at Ikkeri on the outskirts of Sagara. 

Visit lion and tiger safari at Tyavarekoppa before Shimoga. Return home by evening.

Recommendations for stay

The best options for stay while touring Malnad are home stays. Here are our recommendations

Chikmagalur - Thotadahalli Homestay and Thippanahalli Homestay. If you are willing to splurge then look at options of Flameback lodges, Taj Gateway and Serai.

Tirthahalli - Bananki Homestay and Kolavara Heritage

Jog fallsMutthuga Homestay

For more stay options in Malnad look at 

Travel Tips

a) This holiday is to drive around and enjoy the vistas of Malnad. Hence take your own time. If find it is taxing, then cut down some of the items in itinerary.

b) Road conditions in the hills of western ghats are generally good with odd pot holes and broken patches.

c) Many places have been left out from the itinerary like Horanadu, Charmadi. If you can stretch another day or two you can cover those places.

d) Hill driving requires patience. Drive safe and enjoy the vistas.

e) Driving up Mullayana Giri requires some expertise.....especially the last three KMs. If you find yourself not upto it, park the car at foot hills and walk up. It is a nice trek.

f) Winters in this region will be chilly. Carry light woolens.

Related Posts

Did you like this post? Please share it with friends if it can be of help to them. If you need more information, please write at poorna62@gmail.com