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Category Archives: Travel

Well, as I packed another bag for the most awaited vacation of the year; I was feeling quite heady and anxious at the same time. I was quite in a hurry to grab all the necessities and fit them in a suitcase that was already bursting at its seams. Amidst all the din of the traffic, my roommate hollered high above the increasing sounds, “You always seem to be packing off somewhere! Why do you travel so much? Does the thought of being in one place terrify you?”

To this, I smiled. And, then I decided that I certainly need to spell this out for her. The reasons why we travel are as diverse as per each individual. We might travel to discover ourselves. “Ourselves? You’re kidding! I thought it was about the destination,” my roommate would have said.

We travel to lose ourselves…

And we travel to find our life back again. We travel because of our experiences that teach us so much about our own attitude and the way we react to things. The beauty of finding different things about your temperament whilst on a journey is something that needs to be experienced at least once. We travel to fill in the void amongst us, a void if left untouched, may affect our day-to-day proceedings. Our thinking broadens when we travel and our dreams extend beyond horizons. We not only overcome our fears, we are also open to go off the beaten track.

We travel to educate ourselves…

Any vacation is incomplete if we only soak in the sun and turn a blind eye towards learning. If you have a keen sense of observation, it will bring you closer to learning the history, geography, or even the economy of your new destination. Treat this like an exciting educational class that comes with fascinating scenes, and interesting groups of people who will teach you much more than the traditional walls of an institute. All you need is an open mind.

We travel to escape…

At times, we travel only to escape. While many would raise their eyebrows and shun this as an escapist attitude, genuine travelers would know the solace it brings. Travel brings about a change in our routine; it gives us the much-needed break from the daily humdrum of life. We shed our masks to live free-spirited in a different location where no one knows us. We try new cuisines, meet people, discover breathtaking locations, and enjoy the essence of living in the moment. Vacations rejuvenate us leaving a new sense of purpose and the joy of doing this all over again. We all need the rest, the excitement and indulgence to fill our lives with ideas and inspirations.

We travel to develop new viewpoints…

Ever felt you’ve been in one place for too long? Sometimes, we stick around to the same routines, and harbor the same thoughts, opinions, and ideas about life. And, then we wonder why we are stuck at the same place, doing the same thing, for a good number of years. Taking a vacation and seeing the world brings you in close contact with different ideas, and diverse viewpoints. There are so many cultures, languages, and cuisines. Once you travel, you’ll suddenly find your perspective towards life broadening, opportunities opening up, and even find solace in what you do. It brings you up close to reality, far away from your cushioned and perfect world.

We travel to fill in the gaps…

While it’s great to be immersed in work, and following your passion, we all know there are some gaps to be filled. Sometimes, we need to escape for solitude. Sometimes, for an adventure! A vacation could mean different things to different people. Challenging yourself to new things helps you to fill in the gaps and go around aimlessly, enjoying being in the moment rather than the constant worry of tomorrow. No matter how much life tries us, traveling will make us fall in love with life all over again.

Be it a vacation, group holiday, or just a solo trip to rediscover ourselves, we can’t deny that we all have an inherent desire for experiences, beyond our imagination. All it needs is a nudge in the right direction.

What are your travel plans for this December? Do leave your comments below.

 

 

My visit to Bengaluru’s Nrityagram took me to  a different world altogether. Here, the noise of the traffic ceased, and everything seemed so far away. What was most admirable was the dedication of the Indian classical dancers. They continued to rehearse in a dance hall that was designed to bring out the creative juices. While I was unable to watch a professional performance as the troupe was on a tour, some of the disciples continued to practice in the absence of a Guru.

The entire property is very well-maintained and on similar lines to Taj Kuteeram next door. The silence soothes the senses and the moment you step in here, you will understand why dancers prefer to come to this little village to connect better with their art.

Nrityagram includes an amphitheater that is sadly covered with overgrown weeds. The rooms of the Guru’s are labelled neatly in a rustic way. The pathways are pretty and make you want to explore even more.  Life here seems simple yet offering a better quality in the way one lives.

A visit to this place will cost a mere Rs. 50 per person. 

Instead of going on and on about the beauty of Nrityagram, I leave you to look at the photos instead! Please do leave your comments below.

Kindly do not use photos without prior consent.

 

Mention the name ‘Taj Hotels’, and luxury it means! However, Taj Kuteeram is a welcome break from the perfect world of luxury hotels. It’s imperfection and nature’s abundance transports you to your roots, away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.

Taj Kuteeram rooftop
Taj Kuteeram rooftop

Located near Hesaraghatta, Bengaluru, Taj Kuteeram is a breath of fresh air for those longing to get away from the urban jungle. After traveling miles, you finally reach a road that takes you through green fields (which only means you are coming closer to Kuteeram). A word of warning – you won’t find well-dressed staff to welcome you with a garland of flowers (in case that’s what you are expecting). There’s a humble security staff to greet and assist upon your arrival. The road ends in a circular parking area flanked with Kuteeram on one side and Nrityagram on the other. The beautiful stone walls and the architecture transport you back into the past.

After a short walk on the pretty pathways dotted with greens on both sides, you reach a small pond that is beautiful in its own way. Here lies the restaurant which looks splendid set in the rustic architecture by  Da Cunha from Goa. The property houses independent cottages and the size varies for each. A walk through Taj Kuteeram is a must in the evening hours as this provides an ideal backdrop to click photographs in the setting sun. Nighttime is beautiful with only the silence that continues till the morning hours.

The gardens are designed to soothe the senses.  You may be startled by the harsh honking of the Geese once in a while as they walk around. These pretty birds roam around the lawns freely – either to take a walk or for a dip in the pond. I simply loved the way they defined their day including lots of fresh air, soaking up the sun, bathtime and of course, green grass to satiate their taste buds. Simple, and uncomplicated, isn’t it?

The cottages of Taj Kuteeram are set in stone and have rustic interiors. Indian Warli-style painting dots the window frames and the walls. The backside of the AC cottage opens up to a personal space with an attached swing.  The food on offer is quite basic. Kuteeram has a fixed buffet menu but they are willing to whip up dishes upon request. Their cook was definitely not the standard you would expect from Taj hotels, but hey! I can forgive them for the lack of expertise as the environment was marvellous. (What I cannot forgive was a leaky faucet in the bathroom.) Mr. Ramesh was quick to attend to the minor problems though. The staff is helpful and friendly.

Plan your trip to Taj Kuteeram with nature in your mind but do leave your worries behind!

 

 

What have I been upto? Well, just exploring some of the nature’s wonders in our urban jungle wearing ankle-high boots from BLAK. I must say, these boots are super comfy and come with a soft inner lining inside. More updates coming soon!

 
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Chamundeshwari Temple

Mysore in Karnataka, India, famous for its palaces of rich history also boasts of temples that have great historic significance. The Chamundeshwari Temple at Mysore sits atop the Chamundi hill overlooking Mysore city in all its splendour. The temple is located 13 kms away from the city of Mysore in Karnataka. It is accessible by local buses.

The temple is rumoured to have been built in the 12th century and is named after Chamundeshwari, a divine form of Goddess Durga. The Maharajas of Mysore worshipped the deity which is a fierce form of Ma Durga. This Goddess is revered for having killed the demon Mahishasura. A tall standing figure of Mahishasura can be seen on the approach road to the temple. (It is also a popular figure for photographs by tourists.) Pilgrims and devotees have faith that the Goddess helps them fulfil their wishes and gives them power and strength.

The Chamundeshwari temple is most frequented during Dassara, an auspicious Hindu festival. During this period, the temple is adorned with lights and can be seen from far and beyond around the city. The entire hillside appears as if sparkling jewels of lights have been placed by the Gods.

Best Time to Visit and Puja Timings:

On a busy day, devotees can pay a sum of Rs. 30 that gives direct access to the temple inside. Devotees can also use a normal queue to enter the main area for prayers. The time taken would depend upon the number of people. There are many shops that offer flowers quite near the temple base.

Special puja’s are conducted on Tuesdays and Fridays. A grand aarti begins at 7:30 am every day. Special aartis can also be conducted. There is also a facility for the Archana puja from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. During the Dassara festival, devotees can attend special pujas.

The Rathotsava is another important feature held during this period. For this reason, a large number of devotees throng to the holy site at this time of the year. During the Dassara festival, special prayers are chanted with Vedas. Devotees can also witness traditional Indian music festivals. The Dassara festival also signifies the victory of the Goddess over the demon, thus, the victory of good over evil. After the Ratha festival, a Theppotsava is conducted throughout the night.

About the Temple:

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The temple is an important place of worship for the Goddess of Shakti. This temple is considered to be one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas. Our legends mention that the Shakti Peethas are the holy seat of Shakti. When Lord Shiva carried the corpse of Sati Devi, the hair had fallen here. This is referred to as Chamundeshwari Goddess.

Legend has it that the demon, Mahishasura harassed the people in this region. Goddess Parvati, took the form of Chamundeshwari in order to slay the demon. After his destruction on the hill, it is said she continued to live there.

Architecture:

The temple has a high gopuram. The intricate carvings are very attractive and are most photographed. The temple has beautiful silver doors. Built in the Dravidian style architecture by the Hoysalas from Mysore, the shape is quadrangular. After going through the main doorway, one would notice a Ganesh statue.  The main area of the sanctum sanctorum is well looked after by the priests. You will also notice a tall statue of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in traditional attire. A Simha Vahana, which is a wooden chariot, is displayed during the rathotsava. The deity of the Goddess is made of gold.

How to reach Chamundeshwari Temple:

You can hire a cab or take a comfortable AC bus from the Mysore bus stand. It takes barely 30 minutes (Rs. 25 one way) and there are plenty of buses to take you back to the city. Alternatively, you can also climb a flight of 1000 stairs. These will take you to the summit of the hill. A beautiful granite Nandi statue is a major attraction which you will encounter on the 800th step. This statue rests before a Shiva temple. This route is picturesque and is more fulfilling for devotees. Besides, it offers a breath-taking view of Mysore city!

Prasad in the form of laddoos are available at the entrance. (Rs. 40 onwards.)

Temple Timing:

7:30 am to 2:00 pm. 3:30 pm to 6:00 pm. 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.

Entrance free.

If you wish for a historic experience combined with a feeling of great devotion, a visit to the Chamundeshwari temple should definitely be on your list!

 

Being a localite in Goa, India for over 20 years has it’s plus points. You are always on a holiday! However, one does need bread and butter (and jam in my case), so leaving Goa was necessary.

Tourists are often bombarded with different package deals for a luxurious stay in Goa. However, getting a good resort that promises what it advertises is also a little luck. When I brought my partner to the beautiful land of Goa, I did a lot of research to ensure we pick a good place that is truly value for money.

We picked Alcove Resort nestled on the rocky cliffs of little Vagator. The resort has pretty cottages (not the beach shacks) that overlook a gorgeous view of the sea. If you are on a tight budget, you can opt for the standard rooms. Tiny steps lead you down to the beach. As you descend each step, don’t forget to absorb the beautiful visuals of the sea from that height. (The downside though are the hawkers right at the base of the steps.)

Little Vagator is a nice area for those who wish for a little peace and quiet without being away from the happening night life. Well, that is exactly how I like it! A little journey on the bike and you can access all the party going areas too.

If you want to opt for cuisine apart from the one served at Alcove, there’s a tiny shack right near the entrance. Mr. Philip was in charge of the place. You can try the fish curries and rice. Good food and masala fish fries. The parathas available for breakfast are a great option if you want a full meal before a biking trip. These are totally value for money. A nice little shop with groceries will ensure you have your bottles of mineral water. So, although you are in a remote area of Vagator, you are not totally isolated.

Ask for the Goan bread at Alcove resort. If you like it a lot, watch out for the poder (bread sellers) who deliver fresh bread in the morning and evening hours. If you hear a typical horn going ‘parp parp’, you’ll know it’s them!

The staff at Alcove is very helpful. The receptionist, Manager and seniors all went out of their way to ensure our stay was comfortable. They even handled rude travelers in our next cottage when they guests blasted music post-midnight. I do understand that the group wanted to ‘enjoy’ with ‘loud music’ but the staff was quick to make them aware that the volume was on a higher side.

The cottage where I stayed in overlooked the sea and the bar counter (!!!!). The room is large, spacious and includes its own verandah for a couple to eat in privacy. If you are looking out for an even more dynamic view, you can choose the dining area which also overlooks the sea. The sunset looks amazing from here!

There are a great number of eatouts around the place. Nothing too fancy but good food for sure. However, we did not like the fish thali at a place called ‘Fatimas’. Please do avoid it as it is pricey combined with bad service. Even the roadside hotels know to prepare a plate of delicious fish!

If you want to explore more, you can rent a bike for Rs. 250/- + during season time. There are many beaches to explore in the North side. So, apart from doing nothing, there’s plenty to do!

If you still want to do something different, the resort gives you the facility of the pool, table tennis, snooker, etc. Do check it out!

As usual, the shopoholic in me cannot be hidden for too long. I got some great bargains at the Anjuna beach entrance. A trip to the Anjuna flea market proved futile as it is way too pricey. Besides, the same stuff will be available at the entrance of the beach. However, if you want to get a feel of the market, then there’s no harm in casual browsing!

**Girls – on Arpora road, there’s a tiny shop (Soniya Special Dresses) adjacent to a house where a simple Goan lady named as Vidhya Dongrekar sells some amazing outfits. She has a tailor on board and the pretty stuff in her shop cannot miss the eye of a true shopaholic. I got an amazing doubled layered and dual shaded asymmetrical skirt that is stylish and unique. There were many color combinations available. I chose a quirky one – purple and green. Ruffled hats and bags also caught my eye. Truly better than the skirts I have seen being displayed at the malls. Any day! That’s what I call smart shopping! ** (This portion of the blog is dedicated to all my friends who wonder where do I shop and why!!!!)

I will continue my blog about Goa and give you some handy hints for shopping and food in the main city of Goa and my favourite – Panaji, which I fondly call, Panjim.

Till then, stay connected

 
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A View of the Hills in Chikmagluru

This modest hill station that is not known to many and has still retained its beauty should definitely be on your travel itinerary. Chikmagluru has a good number of hotels and home stays that have been built to blend into the natural environs. The main city offers decent hotels for a daily rent of Rs. 1000/-+ per day. However, you should be heading towards the hills if you are visiting Chikmaglur for pleasure!

I stumbled upon one such homestay named – The Spectrum while discovering Chikmagluru. It roughly takes half an hour drive by cab or auto from the main city area. This place in nestled in the hills and is surrounded by coffee plantations. The lane that leads you to the main gate is flanked by little houses owned by locals.

About Spectrum: Interiors

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Enjoying the Green Backdrop at Spectrum, Chikmagluru

Neat, tidy and well-maintained…this is how I would describe it for the traveler who likes to be amidst the greens without compromising on the interiors and hygiene factor. The rooms are large with flat screen TVs (yes, there is cable TV here) and the walls are adorned with photographs and funny quotes to lighten up the mood. There are a total of 5 rooms available. You will find a mineral water bottle, chips and biscuits on arrival as complementary goodies. The bathrooms are large and spacious, the water cold and clean. The backdoor of some of the rooms have the advantage of facing the forest behind.

The Food:

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A Traditional South Indian Lunch Spread

Delicious! You may put on a few pounds if you are not careful. The food is simple, tasty and made by a great in-house cook. The variety is large and you can feast like a king! I love South Indian food and the rasam blew my mind away. Two types of rice are served- plain and a specialty of the day for lunch and dinner. There is also salad, roti, two types of vegetables and dal. The sweet dish can range from halwa to puran poli, depending upon the occasion! The breakfast includes South Indian delicacies such as Idli Sambar/Chutney, Set Dosa, Dosa, Puri with Bhaji, etc. Evening snacks include mirchi bhajis, pakodas, etc.

The Coffee:
How can I visit Chikmaglur without going ga-ga over the coffee! The delicious, fresh fragrance of the coffee stimulates your appetite making you want to eat more. The coffee here is way too good and I was always greedy for more! Yum!

Service/Hospitality:

The service is prompt. They have fixed breakfast, lunch and dinner timings but that is not an issue. With such delicious food being served, I always ended up being there at the dining area way ahead of the schedule. The rooms are cleaned properly; however, you may want to carry your own towels. I must make a mention of Mr. Shashi who clearly manages the place well.

Overall Ambiance:

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A View of the Pathways at Spectrum

The night time is beautiful! When you step out of your room, you are enveloped with darkness of the thick green cover. You can listen to the forest insects communicating with each other. There is pin drop silence and this makes it ideal to rejuvenate your senses. Imaging dining at a large table surrounded by greenery with no sight of civilization! It only whets up your appetite even further.

The Downside:
There is no network unless you have a BSNL connection. The staff provides access to their mobile phones in case of any issue. I really think it is good for people who need to be disconnected for being connected all the time. Besides, there aren’t too many activities out here as the area is small.

There are frequent power cuts but that is fine as you can’t really expect a city life out here. Then the whole idea of enjoying with nature is lost. But don’t worry; there are generators and hot water facility also.

What You Need to Carry:

Your own towels for sure. Drinks – if you want a taste of alcohol with your food. A flash light just for safety. Books to read. Drawing books for illustrators as artists will surely enjoy this place. Also pack a basic medicine kit.

There is more to explore in Chikmaglur if you are planning to stay here. You can book a cab and travel to the attractions that draw many tourists from Karnataka and beyond. More about the tourist destinations in my next blog. Do share your comments and feedback for sure!

 

Beautiful, serene, and more…. it is difficult to describe this tiny place tucked away at the foothills of the Mullayangiri mountain range (tallest peak in Karnataka according to a basic map given to me). Chilly weather with huge drops of rain made it even more exciting. Naah!! I am not the kind for my spirits to be dampened by the weather (unless it rains at a beach!). The fresh smell of the earth after the first spell of rain combined with the fragrance of coffee grown in this hill station makes it a must-visit place on your travel map.

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The Rolling Hills in Chikmaglur – Karnataka – India

I explored Chickamagluru in two ways. I tried to absorb the city life. I also surrendered to the natural greenery of this beautiful place. I attempt to divide this blog therefore into 2-3 parts so that you – readers, will not find each blog too cumbersome to read as it is text heavy (fingers crossed).

The city life: Do not expect a typical tourist hotspot here. In fact, I was relieved that there were only some regular shops and coffee centers. It is nice to walk down the lazy lanes observing the vegetable sellers and locals doing their daily tasks.

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Rava Idli with Vegetable and Chutney

Eateries: Lovers of the idli wada sambar, dosas, bhajjis, rava idlis, etc. have reasons to rejoice. I am not too sure about the non-vegetarian fare. A reasonably ‘decent’ non-veg place exists near the bus stand but somehow, it did not pique my interest.

I found a simple hotel named as ‘Mayura’ at M.G. road. Hmmmm, I can still trace the fragrance of the modest, aromatic Chickamagluru coffee. I tried the dosas and idli’s and they were too delectable for words. This combined with a hot cup of coffee to wash it down is like the icing on the cake. Yummmm.

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A Sign at a Hotel

If you are on the look-out for North Indian food, then there is a hotel right above Mayura, maintained by the same owners of the South Indian hotel. I happened to eat here when I was late for my dinner. Mind you, don’t go too late if you do not want to be disappointed. I ended up at 9: 30 p.m. and thankfully, the North Indian restaurant was open. This also had a limited food menu as I was a ‘late Kate’. A sign on the walls amused me a lot so sharing the same with you!!

Place to Stay in the Main City:

Hotel Emgee at M.G. road. Decent, clean and affordable. (Was it spelt wrongly as Emgee instead of M.G.? Something to ponder upon!)

You can take an autorickshaw and head ahead of the Shani mandir to explore the hilly side. This serves as quick trip to those short on time and can cost between Rs. 200 – 300. (No, the meter system does not work here. Anyway, since when did auto drivers go by the meter in the cities as well?? Sigh!)

Taxis are available upon request. Children can visit the M.G. park which has a toy train. Coffee lovers must visit the coffee museum ahead of AIT circle.

In my next blog, I will take you on the road that leaves the city behind. Find yourself enveloped in the gorgeous greens of Chikmagluru. Stay tuned to more such fun places around Bangalore or should I say, Bengaluru!

Coffee!!
Simple and Fragrant South Indian Coffee

P.S.: Get fresh coffee powder from Panduranga Coffee. Awesome sealed packet which comes with special ‘Aroma Fresh Valve’. All you have to do is press the coffee packet and sniff the fragrance.

Shopaholics: A bit of a disappointment to shoppers like me as you won’t find anything too interesting in fabrics. So save that money for the nature trails. J