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Weekend 2-day roadtrip to Srirangapatna, Kushalnagar and Madikeri – Day 1

Jo always wanted to pay a visit to Kushalnagar, Bylakuppe  and surroundings and I always wanted to drive down that side, but thanks to our sheer laziness or something always coming up, Madikeri – Kushalnagar trip always remained a pipe dream.

Last Thursday, we decided to bite the bullet and decided to go ahead with the trip. Although originally planned as a day trip, I felt that doing a trip till Madikeri, exploring nearby places and heading back wouldn’t be possible in a  day(or if indeed possible, it would be incredibly tiring) and decided to split it across 2 days.

We planned it like so:

Day 1: Bangalore – Srirangapatnam – Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace(aka Daria Daulat Bagh) – Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary – Check in to hotel – Kushalnagar/Bylakuppe Monastaries – Raja’s Seat

Day 2: – Nisargadhama – Mysore – Chamundi Temple – Bangalore

Day 1

Day 1 started with us leaving from home at about 6am. For most trips which involve us leaving the city, I prefer to leave as soon as possible, that way we can exit Bangalore city with least traffic and with the time saved, we can use the time elsewhere. This time again was no exception, we took the the Mysore road instead of NICE ring road and within an hour we were at Bidadi and stopped by Adyar Anand Bhavan(A2B) for our first pitstop.

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Bellies filled and caffeine kicking into the system, we started on from A2B. The last time I took the Bangalore – Mysore highway, the umpteen number of speed breakers, especially after Mandya was really annoying. Thankfully, now majority of the speed breakers have been removed. On the flip side, they have been replaced by Nakabandis – and I almost hit them couple of times thanks to trucks blocking the path and my sight till the last minute. With lack of reflectors on them, these will be a huge liability during night.

The drive was event-free and we reached Srirangapatna at around 9:30am and went straight for Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace(aka Daria Daulat Bagh). There wasn’t anyone around, spare for a bus full of school kids. Parked the car, paid the entrance fee (Rs. 5 per person, no extra camera charges) and started exploring.

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There were some repair works going on, so we had to enter the palace via a weird side entrance route. Once past this, the grand gardens welcome you

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The gardens had some other guests as well..

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The chirping of birds with the silence because of lack of people around perked our moods up. Once you cross the gardens and walk into the palace, the sheer brilliance of the architecture and paintings on the walls astound you. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures of these, but they will leave you spell bound. In addition there are quite a lot of framed sketches, paintings, portraits of Tipu’s fight against the British, his sons’, his trusted advisers and other things such as coins and inscriptions hanging by the walls mean you can easily spend couple of hours in the palace without knowing how time flew by. We spent about an hour here and just as we were about to leave, tourists had started to pour in.

From here, we started towards Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary. With the distance being just over 6km, it didn’t take us long to head here. You’ll see a big welcome board when you’re close by

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 Once past this, there’s separate entrance fee for vehicle(Rs 30 for car) and for people (Rs 60 each). Remember to keep this ticket with you, even after exit- the forest official insists on you returning back the ticket while the ticket explicitly says this should be avoided.
Once in, there are quite a few benches on the shores of the river and it’s pretty common to see photographers with their huge equipment sit down there. We headed off for the boating, which cost Rs 60 per person. If you want you can take an entire boat for your self or go on a shared boat. We opted for the latter and thankfully, we were the last to board and didn’t have to wait before starting off. The officials will ensure that they don’t start unless all the folks have worn lifejackets.
The boat ride is incredibly relaxing. The pilot is well aware of the different types of birds and will point and explain the names of the birds and their habitats. There were quite a few crocodiles basking in the sun.
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The boat ride took about 20 minutes, though we’d have preferred it to be bit longer. We took a small walk across the sanctuary and then started to head towards our hotel. The road again from Srirangapatna to Kushalnagar was really good, barring the first few kms from Ranganathittu were it was pothole central.

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It took us about 2 hours to reach our stay, Palm Era Resorts.

Palm Era was a nice place to stay – it was just off the main road and surrounded by lush greenery and was quite serene.

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We had originally planned to check-in, grab some lunch and head towards Bylakuppe but were a bit tired from the morning drive + walk around the above places and decided to take a nap and push Bylakuppe trip for the next day. Instead, we decided to head towards Madikeri later on in the evening and watch the sunset from Raja’s Seat.

The evening drive from Kushalnagar to Madikeri was more fun thanks to lot of twists and turns of climbing the mountains – as a driver I always prefer taking ghat roads as it keeps me more engaged than straight 6-lane highways. We reached Raja’s seat in about 30 minutes and the sheer number of cars parked made my jaw drop – didn’t expect that many cars. Raja’s seat had an entrance of Rs 5 person & a parking fee of Rs 10. While it sounds grand, Raja’s Seat is pretty much a small garden. Don’t let that fool you, however – the view was pretty awesome

 

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Due to the clouds and fog, we couldn’t grab the best sunset view but what we saw was good enough.. There was also a Toy train track(for kids and adults) but it was not operational when we visited

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With darkness falling, we grabbed some Charumburi and head towards the town centre in search of places where we can get home made chocolates and fruit wine. After walking around for a bit and asking multiple shops, we finally got a shop.. and stocked up.

 

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With us still full from Charumburi, we decided to head back to our resort and have dinner there. The drive back, however was a bit scary since it was pitch dark with absolutely no streetlights whatsoever. Thankfully the board leading to our resort was lit and we didn’t have any problems reaching.

Day 2 will continue in another post.

The Srinagar to Manali Travelogue: Part 1: Srinagar

Few weeks ago, Jo & me went on a 11-day vacation from starting from Srinagar  heading south-west bound towards Manali via Kargil, Leh, Nubra Valley and Jispa. During this 11-day visit, we had a blast, met bunch of great folks, visited some breathtaking places and ran into wee bit of trouble. And since it’s been awhile since I posted here, decided to do a travelogue.

The Plan

So, we booked a tour via A Lifetime Trip. To be honest, I didn’t do much of the research on the tour operators – my college friend Prasad & his wife Shyamala did bulk of the research and finalized on A Lifetime Trip. We pretty much looked at the places to visit, Jo wanted to visit a lot of the places, I was happy with the places. I did a basic check for A Lifetime Trip, saw that they had good reviews and confirmed to go with them.

The tour was supposed to start from Sringar on July 31st and return to Delhi on August 10th, with overnight halts at Kargil, Leh, Nubra, Pangong Lake, Jispa and Manali.

The 4 of us (Prasad, Shyamala, Jo and me) decided to reach Srinagar a day early so that we could have some time to explore Srinagar.

Onwards to Srinagar

I booked the flight to Srinagar pretty early – actually a good 4 months before our journey so I don’t have to worry about not flights not being available later or flights being out of my price band. The flight was to take off at 06:15 and land in Delhi at 09:00 with a follow up flight at 13:20 and land in Srinagar at 15:00.

Not wanting to take a chance against Bangalore’s famed traffic, I booked an Ola for 03:00. Trust Ola to screw it up, the cab guy was nowhere to be seen even at 02:50. I called up Ola Customer Care, they reassigned another driver… who also didn’t come. I had to call him up, wake him and plead him to come over. On the bright side, we ended up with a new Ciaz to take us to the Airport. The roads were empty, and the driver seemed to make full use of this by treating the road to the Airport like a racetrack and driving like one. We reached the Airport in a record breaking 40 minutes. If you think that’s too long – well, you’ll know when you’re here.

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The Airport routine went without a hitch, Air India was on time and we took off and landed in Delhi on time. Once at Delhi airport, we went over to Starbucks, grabbed couple of coffees and chilled there for couple of hours.

In the which Jo wonders what the fuss is all about

A photo posted by Sathya Bhat (@sathyabhat) on

When it was close to boarding time, went over to the gate. That’s when we realized that the flight was running late. To make matters worse, it started raining outside and visibility was almost nil. Once the cloud cleared and the plane had arrived, we were about an hour off time and by the time we landed in Srinagar and collected our baggage, it was close to 16:00.

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Srinagar airport was under construction and the main hallway was blocked with either construction materials and barricades indicating construction zone. Result:  Fair bit of chaos near the baggage collection belts since only one was operational. I’m very paranoid about airlines losing my bags, so to see my bags among the first to arrive was a relief. We took a pre-paid taxi from the airport to our accommodation for the night, Welcome Residency. There was a fair bit of confusion about the hotel since Inbox pointed me to the Welcome Residency near Boulevard Road, while the one where we booked was at Shivpora. An email to the hotel and a quick reply from them ensured we landed at the right place. Srinagar was quite a bit hotter than what we expected, with the temperature at around 30 degrees. As our taxi driver drove through the crazy traffic(be it Srinagar or Bangalore, the road madness follows), we talked to him for a bit about what places to visit. He recommended us to visit the Gardens(Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh) followed by a visit to Lal Chowk. As we drove through the traffic, couldn’t help but notice the rather broad presence of machine gun toting J&K Police and CRPF. About 45 minutes later, we reached our hotel, checked in and took a short nap.

Guilt Trip

Fresh from the nap, we decided to head out to explore some places around Srinagar. And despite it being around 6pm, it was incredibly bright – something that we didn’t expect. We walked for about a kilometer to find an auto(since the Hotel was a bit interior), found an auto guy who was asking Rs 350 to head to Shalimar Bagh. We had a deal with him to drop us off at Shalimar Bagh and he reassured us that there will be other autos for us to make the return trip. With not many choices around, we took the auto anyway. While on the auto, we did some small talk with the rick driver, asking him about his family, what places to visit around Srinagar, what places to visit to check the local cuisine and I’m not sure if it was the small talk or that we agreed to his fare without a question or something else, but once we reached Shalimar Bagh, he had a change of heart, he said that he felt it wasn’t right that he asked for Rs 50 more(claiming most would take Rs 300 to here) and told us that he’d be waiting for us outside Shalimar, but will take us only to Nishat and not back to the hotel. DSC03470

Shalimar Bagh was smaller than what we expected, with two parallel short walkway on either side of the fountains and lawn on both sides with few people sitting, looking into the horizon DSC03469

Done with a tour of Shalimar and some pictures taken, we headed out and called our auto rickshaw guy was waiting for us. He repeated his stance of feeling guilty and reinforced that he will drop us only till Nishat. With this expectation on, we headed back towards city via Nishat. Once at Nishat, we realized that Nishat is closed(later we realize that most gardens close post sunset, and it was about 7pm now). Our auto guy was flummoxed as to how this was possible, since he’d told us it’d be open till at least 8. We figured he’d let stop the trip here, but once again he changed his mind saying he’ll take us to Nehru Park, which is actually an island in middle of the Dal lake. Considering the traffic ahead, we requested him to drop us straight to Lal Chowk instead of Nehru Park as it’d been a long day and we decided to have dinner and head back to the hotel – half expecting him to decline. Much to our surprise again, he agreed, without saying a word of protest, repeating his earlier talk of feeling guilty and agreed to drop us to Lal Chowk for free. About 45 minutes later, we arrived at Lal Chowk, headed off into Ahdoos Hotel for some Mutton Seekh Kebabs, Roghan Josh, Rice and Rotis. The Mutton Seekh Kebabs were so yum, we ended up ordering another round of it. Post the awesome dinner, we decided to try Kashmiri Kahwa and absolutely loved it, capping off a fine dinner.

Finishing off dinner with a fine Kashmiri Kehwa A photo posted by Sathya Bhat (@sathyabhat) on

While heading back to the hotel, we had a minor scare as a bunch of guys on a bike came close to Shyamala and catcalled her. They were gone before we could gather our senses, but anyway we grabbed an auto and went back to our hotel for some much needed rest.

Travelogue continues in future posts.

Redbus.in’s long weekend reminder mail

I’ve been a huge fan of redbus.in ever since I first used their site back in 2007. For someone as lazy as me, the idea that I could sit on my ass, check for all available tickets & book them at the comfort of my air-conditioned room was pretty awesome.

Didn’t hurt that they had a very nice, clutter free UI. Off late, they have been sending these long-weekend emails.

 

We usually write to you about happy things in life – upcoming holidays – and here we are once again, informing you about some festivals and long vacations in March.

Holidays in March

Holi March 8 (Thursday) Book now
Ugadi / Gudi Padwa March 23 (Friday) Book now

Tip for hard-working employees (employers, please ignore): Take an off on March 9 (Friday) and get a 4-days long week-end. After all, playing Holi can get stressful.

Perfect to remind you well-in-advance and get those tickets booked ahead of the rush! Another thing to notice: the cheeky sense of humour contained in the emails.

Well done, redbus! Thank you very much for the lovely service that you guys are providing!

Of Thanksgiving Trip, Gadget Overloads, Cancelled Christmas Trip & Back To India

I’ve been absent in posting here – more because there’s hardly anything interesting going on. Well, there’s laziness as well. So here’s a recap.

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For the past couple of months, my colleague had returned back to India, which meant me having no company. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I decided to pay a trip to my cousin sis’ place in Allen, TX. With no car with me & bus service from Austin to Allen non-existent – I decided to rent a car from Enterprise.

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Heading back to Austin

Well, I’m heading back to Austin for a second stint. Had an amazing time the last time I was there – was there for almost a year. Learnt a lot – technically & otherwise. Unlike last time when I had a flight from Chennai to Mumbai and then a direct Mumbai to New Jersey flight ( with a Mumbai International Airport to boot) – this time, the flight will be from Chennai.

The route would be Chennai – Doha – Washington – Austin. Worst part about this journey is that flight takes off at 04:45, and I would have to reach there by atleast 2AM – which means – Goodbye sleep. Will be reaching Doha by 06:45 for a 2 hour stopover. The connecting flight leaves Doha at 09:00 and would reach Washington at 16:00. The final flight to Austin is set to depart at 18:50. I’m a little worried about this difference – I’m not sure if this difference is enough for me to finish off the formalities – especially the immigration part. Lets see how it goes. Hope it will not be anything like the last trip!

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