Mangalore Udupi

Itinerary :- Bangalore to Mangalore by overnight Bus (Sugama Travels - booked via Redbus)
Hotel :- Stayed at the Hotel Mangalore International (booked via Tipadvisor)
Going Around: The hotel arranged a car with reasonable rates ( Rs 1000 for 8 hours or charge per kilometre whichever is higher)
Mangalore to Bangalore by overnight Train ( booked via IRCTC)

Details:- We reached Mangalore early morning around 8 AM. Our hotel had a 24 hour checkin/checkout facility hence had no problems in getting into the hotel.
The hotel provided us a guide book which showed which are the places to see along with the approximate distances.

Saturday :
Mangalore to Bekal Fort ( 65 kms) by car-> Bekal Fort is a huge fort in Kerala. The road condition was bad, it took almost 2 hours to cover this stretch. The ideal time to visit would be early in the morning or late afternoon. It is right on the shores of Arabian Sea and is a treat to watch if its not too hot. It is maintained by ASI(Archaeological Survey of India) and there is an entry fee of Rs 5 per person(Rs 100 for foreigners) plus camera fees of Rs 25.
One can get a good view of Arabian sea from here. It is one the perfect places to be in on a moonlit night(pity it closes after 6pm).
There is a small temple at the entrance of the Fort. Together it will take at least a couple of hours minimum to enjoy the fort and the beach just opposite to it.
There is a resort outside the fort. One can have lunch and dinner at this place. The resort serves special fish fry. The prices are slightly steep but the resort is a nice place to relax after a trip of the fort.

On our way back we went to Someshwara Beach. There is a temple at this place also. It is not one of the popular beaches for swimming. But its a nice place to sit down and watch the sea and the sunset.

Kadri park -> This is a small park. Probably a toy train used to run in the past , but there were no signs of that any more. This is an afternoon/evening joggers or lovers park.

Lighthouse and Tagore Park-> This is again a small park and has a dilapidated lighthouse building associated with it. Probably in the past one could watch the sea or sunset from here. But when we went we found it had residential apartments and a hypermarket(Spar) right next to it and it was hardly noteworthy.

City Centre -> This is right next to Spar on K.S. Rao road. It is almost in front of our hotel. We thought about going to KFC for dinner. But finally gave up the idea. We were too bored of malls.

We had dinner at a small bar cum restaurant called 'Cellar' right on K.S. Rao road. We crossed a wonderful procession which seemed like an inauguration of a shopping centre.




Sunday:
We started early on Sunday. It was our day to have the complementary breakfast. The hotel (Mangalore International) has a small kitchen on the first floor where they prepare the stuff.
We had Masala Dosa and coffee. There were other items available like Upma and idli.

After checking out of the hotel we started for UDUPI. Its about 70 kms from Mangalore, and it took around 1.5 hours to reach there.
Krishna Temple at Udupi -> This is a wonderful temple right in the heart of the city. There is a lot of innovation work going on around the temple. We went around the temple to see the different altars. Photography was not allowed in most of the inner parts so there are very few pictures.
Inside the temple building there is a small market selling all different kinds of stuff. I bought some idols made of wood.
There is a handsome elephant just like many other temples. Although the mahaut was not letting anyone take a picture of the beast I managed to take one (couldn't resist) . The elephant seemed healthy and happy.

Malpe Beach near Udupi -> This is a nice beach in Udupi. It has got a perfect slope and lots of people enjoyed the Sunday with a swim here. Although it was pretty hot even in december , there were motor boat rides, speed boat rides available. The motor boat ride was to a small island called St. Mary's Island which can be seen from the mainland.

The Malpe beach has a small hotel and some coco-huts right next to the beach. The Hotel serves all types of food , but no special seafood. One can only get fish fry at reasonable rates. The beach is quite clean and one can go and sit around in the late afternoon or evening.

Penambur Beach + Mangalore Port -> This is another beach , near to Mangalore. It has hardly got any shelters nearby. There were a few bathers but the sea was rough and the coast guard was whistling continuously to get people nearer to the shore.
We watched a huge ship cruise its way into the port from this beach.

Sultan Battery ->
This is a small dome shaped structure of the size of a badminton court right across the river banks. It offers a nice view of the river.

Pabbas Ice Cream-> After a long day of sightseeing this is a good place to hangout. A decent place with decent prices this offers some very good ice cream and snacks. A good place for kids too.

Omkar Temple -> This is another temple founded by several MPs and other important persons in the last few decades. It is mainly a Shiva temple and is a nice place to go in the evening.

Our trip ended and the car dropped us at Mangalore Central Railway station. ( We had to go back to the hotel. One of our friends forgot shampoos and stuff which were kept in the reception. The Hotel was a bit old and non-AC rooms had mosquitoes, but overall its a decent hotel).

RAMESHWARAM , MADURAI

This weekend I've been to Madurai and Rameshwaram, both are wonderful places. This was the itinerary.

Bangalore -> Salem -> Madurai
Madurai -> Rameswaram (600 kms)

Return from Rameswaram -> Pudukottai -> Tiruchirapally (Trichi) -> Salem -> Bangalore
The roads are excellent. But keep your purse ready as there are 5 tolls on this road.

Places to see in Madurai:- Meenakshi Temple
Places to see in Rameswaram :- Ramanathaswamy Temple, Pamban Bridge , Dhanuskodi

Places to stay in Rameswaram:- There are few good hotels, so it is advised to book before going.
We stayed at a hotel called "Hotel Sunrise View" for 1600 Rs for a double bed room. The hotel is located right at the front of the main temple.
There is another hotel , TTDC ( owned by Govt of Tamil Nadu) at the far end of the Rameswaram beach drive. This hotel location is serene and away from the busy market. Room rents range from Rs 675 onwards.
One needs AC during day time because its pretty hot in Rameswaram , but after evening its very cool and pleasant.
Very few people actually stay in Rameswaram, it is evident by the number of public toilets available.

Where to eat in Rameswaram :- There are few quality restaurants in Rameswaram. Also non-veg restaurants are practically non existent in this pilgrimage centre. There is a nice Gujarati Bhojanalaya with very good food.

How to go around in Rameswaram:- There are a few places to see around Rameswaram. The best way to travel is by Auto. Auto drivers take around Rs 250 for a auto ride around 8 different places to see. They also double up as guides. There are big autos which can easily accommodate 6 to 8 persons.
Dhanuskodi , known as the death City is 18 km from Rameswaram. One has to take a different vehicle like a jeep or mini truck ( with 4 wheel drive) to go to see the Dhanuskodi beach.
These vehicles charge Rs 80 per head if they can fill up the vehicle or Rs 900 (for jeep) or Rs 1600(for truck ) flat rate if you book the vehicle completely. These extremely primitive vehicles keep their engines running when they are in Dhanuskodi , maybe a superstition , maybe the engines are so rotten that they wouldn't start without a push.



Beware: Both Madurai and Rameswaram have changed a lot over the years. There is a lot of renovation done in these temples , but some of this is done very badly. Like they have painted the ceilings and some pillars in childish ways which take away the charm of the temple so sacred for hundreds of years.
Foreigners always had to pay 10 times extra for the entry fee and camera fees. Instead of trying to get rid of this hypocritical policy it seemed to have increased several times. There are new stuffs like "Special Darshans " at special prices.

ORISSA

I went to Orissa with my friends several years back. While going through some damaged photos I relived the Orissa trip once more. It brought back great memories of the wonderful places that we visited.
The photos are digitally scanned and uploaded hence the quality is not so good. Some restoration work has to be done.
Trip Details in Short
- Kolkata to Puri by overnight Puri Express. Puri has hundreds of Budget Hotels and premium hotels near the sea beach.

DAY 1
- Wonderful Puri beach. Its crowded but its good.
- Afternoon and Evening -> Visited the Puri Jagannath Temple. We fixed a 'Panda' , a local brahmin boy who arranged for everything. He showed us the different parts of the temple , we did a puja and darshan. Entry to Puri temple is slightly crowded at normal times and hugely crowded during the "Rathyatra" or Car Festival. There were some restrictions to the entry of non-hindus.
- After the temple darshan , our Panda collected the prashad for us and we returned to Hotel. The Prashad or the offering to God has a specialty here. Its said that whatever is the amount of prashad it will satisfy all the persons who offered the Puja.

DAY 2 & DAY 3 -> Combining two days there are a lot of things to see around Puri. All of these are unique and must see places for a traveler to get the essence of the great history of Orissa.

Puri -> Konark
The nearest is the Sun Temple at Konark. En route one can also view a lighthouse.
This is one of the greatest architectural marvels. Much part of it was destroyed by the sea , but whatever is present is being restored.

The other great places are near to Bhubaneswar
Nandan Kanan ( a wonderful Zoo) - This takes a long time, its a big zoo
Khandagiri
Udaygiri
Lingaraja Temple

We decided to skip the Day 3 which was originally planned for Chilka Lake, one of world's largest saltwater lake.

Hogenakkal

Hogenakkal is a few hours drive from Bangalore.
There are two different routes that can take you to Hogenakkal.

Route 1 : Bangalore ->Hosur -> (NH 7) Krishnagiri -> Dharmapuri -> Pennagram -> Hogenakkal ( 150 kms) but takes less time. Road is excellent.

Route 2 : Bangalore -> Hosur -> (SH 17)-> Dharmapuri -> Pennagram -> Hogenakkal (125 kms but takes more time). Road is not bad.

There is a huge parking lot for buses and cars. There are lots of small shops selling all types of grocery , bakery items,chips ,cool drinks etc,coconut water etc. A short walk towards a garden took us into a small market. There are lots of restaurants at this place, selling fried fish and rice and parathas etc. But it looks very unhygenic and fishy.
After crossing the market there is a short stretch where the waters of the Cauvery breaks into small streams and there are hundreds of creeks and diversions. Oil massage is very popular here. A lot of guys with oil bottles hover around this area and we could see people taking the massage.
There are two main parts of the Hogenakkal waterfalls. The first part we could see from the Hanging bridge. We had to buy tickets to get to this part. From the hanging bridge we took a short walk towards the main waterfalls. Another set of tickets and we entered a small area from where one can see a series of waterfalls. There is a watch tower which charges a small fee to get a bird's eye view. From here we could see all the falls. Its a nice place to be on a cloudy day. I would say rainy season or autumn is the best. We could feel the mist rising out of the falls and the sound of a series of falls drowned our voices.
Just beside the tower there are a series of steps that leads to the coracle quay. The coracle ride was Rs 100/person and that was the best part of the Hogenakkal trip. The coracle took us near to the waterfalls. After a cool ride the boatman took us to a small island where there were a few shacks selling rice and fish meals. The fish was very fresh but the shacks were very dirty. The best of this part were the mobile coracles selling everything from Lays chips to colas. To top that, there were divers diving into the cauvery waters and enjoying the dip. Kids to elderly men , everyone seemed to enjoy the dives. There was a man posing like a statue and making movements like Michael Jackson. We enjoyed his antics.
That was all. We were pretty tired and hungry by this time. We took another small coracle ride back to the main gate from where we entered. That saved us the trouble of returning the whole way via Hanging Bridge.
Fortunately we found a TTDC hotel right outside . They served very decent meals. Although their fish fry was not very tasty ,the rest of the meal was. Being a bong, I was a bit disappointed that there was so much fish around , but I couldn't enjoy the fish fry. the TTDC hotel area was nice. They also have lodging arrangements. There were a few other lodges around that area but this seemed to be the best. A small children's play area was excelent. Our small day trip ended here ,after a very late lunch. We had a pleasant ride back to Bangalore.
video

Western Ghats



After a long time I went out on a weekend trip from Bangalore.
The itinerary was like this.
DAY 1: Bangalore to Nagarhole Forest
Nagarhole to Iruppu Falls
Iruppu Falls to Virajpet to Madikeri
DAY 2: Madikeri to Sulya
Sulya to Kukke Subhramanya
Kukke Subhramanya to Bisle Ghat to Hassan
Hassan to Bangalore
DAY 1.
There were a lot of things to see on the way. We started off on a saturday morning and had breakfast at Kamat Lokaruchi on Mysore road. This is near Ramanagara and one of the best places to have traditional south indian breakfast.
We set off after breakfast towards Mysore. After Srirangapatna we took a right turn to take the Mysore bypass. Then we reached Hunsur. After that we took another diversion towards Nagarhole Forest. This is one of the best forest areas of India and one can do a safari in the forest. the Nagarhole forest road is open from 6 am to 6 pm only and the safari is open throughout the day except 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm.
Our driver drove slowly through the forest and we saw monkeys and deer and got a few snaps. It is a 30 km stretch of no stopping for vehicles.
After Nagarhole we had lunch in a small restaurant. Non-veg is available in ample variety in Coorg but it was a bit too spicy even for me.
After that we reached Iruppu Falls which falls under a forest area again and one has to buy tickets Rs 20/head to go and see the falls. Its a small trek to the falls and is safe and sound. Even at the falls the authorities have put a platform for people who want to take a bath.
Fro Iruppu we took a different route to Madikeri through Virajpet and reached Madikeri just around sunset time. I was a bit surprised to see that Raja's Seat has become a big tourist sport now with a toy train. Several years back when we had first come here there was hardly anything. We understood how fast Coorg has become a commercial spot.
We started looking for a decent lodge to stay for the night when we got some rude shock. Shabby places quoted 700/800 Rs per room. Finally we were very lucky to get a new place called Bhuvan Palace on Race Course Road(9448448597) at Rs 400 per room , decent and clean.
We went out for dinner to a nearby hotel called Kings Place which was again quite a decent one. Nights are generally cold in Madikeri but this time of the year (May) its hot.

DAY 2. We started off day 2 with a hefty breakfast. The road to Sulya and Sulya to Kukke was awesome. Right through dense forest, villages it was the pristine beauty of nature that captivated us. We stopped quite a few times to take a snap on the road or just to enjoy mother nature.

When we reached Subhramanya it was already past noon. We stood in the queue for a darshan , but suddenly the queue stopped moving. We realized darshan time was over and will start again at 3:30. We roamed around the temple a bit , took a few photos from outside and finally left the temple. It was cramped in Kukke and it seemed that the street started with the temple and ended there. There were very few visitors like us who came just to see the temple.
We searched a bit for a decent place to lunch but everything was too crowded and finally we had a few bananas and chips and decided to hit the Bisle ghat road.

The road as one can see from the pictures was one of the most beautiful ones that I have traveled on. It seemed to me that repairing the road will probably take the charm away from this place.

We stopped out vehicle a few times and lazily walked on the route just to soak in the beauty of the forest, hear the mysterious sounds and enjoy the cool breeze. We hardly saw 4 to 5 vehicles on this road in the 2 hours that we traveled. There were a couple of viewpoints from where one can see the mighty mountains of the Western Ghats. But on a sunny day like this it was the eerie forest that held most of the charm.

Road condition was bad but it was not risky. There was a few trees and branches on the road but a strong car like Qualis had no problems. Above all there were nothing like landslides or stones falling from the top.

There was a bridge on the way over a small mountain spring. There were stairs to go down and also to the top. We went down to the mountain stream and played in the cool water a bit. ( Myself and another guy were bitten by something , which made its way below the trouser and made a puncture in the skin causing some bloody effect. Fortunately it wasn't something poisonous )

Te viewpoints were pretty nice. If one wishes to do a night stay they can easily carry and tent and stay there at night and enjoy the beauty. But one must carry their own water and supplies(There was a tube-well from which we got muddy water).

Finally the ghats ended and we reached Manjarabad Fort. This is another nice place and a short hike will take you to the fort. The best time to visit the fort will be early morning or late afternoon. We stayed there for sometime enjoying the dusk and then walked down. ( We found there was a guy who actually locks the fort in the evening, although it seemed that there were several other escape routes)

It was almost evening by this time and we had a Dosa to compensate the missed lunch and started off for Bangalore. We had dinner enroute and reached Bangalore at midnight.
That was a sweet weekend trip with a lot of driving.

Here is a small video of the driving. You can watch it without speakers.

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