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Udhagamandalam (Ooty) — Yet another holiday there

My capri cousin planned a holiday to Ooty with his family and asked us to join him. If it was left to us, we would Spotted Deernot have taken a holiday at Ooty, that was for sure. We have been there dozens of times and had the Arien suggested Ooty one more time, a fight would have definitely ensued! We were not keen, considering it was Ooty and also because bookings are always messy when you plan at the last possible minute. But, we got ourselves a nice deal very close to the day of travel and so the plan was on. The Capri cousin was sure that I was calling to say that we were not coming when we shocked him with the good news (Yes, we were going!).

The drive as always was good though we took longer than usual to reach. The weather was great. Though we cribbed that any other place would have been better, we needed that break.

IMG_2441The drive as always is via the forest area and the Arien managed some nice shots of spotted deers and elephants. He got a particularly nice shot of the amazing horns that one of the deers had, which I am sharing here. The elephants looked kinda skinny – skinny for an elephant, i.e :)I am sharing a pic of the baby elephant whose ribs are sticking out.

This time we were staying at Lovedale (a small distance away from Ooty) and Capri cousin had planned a day at Conoor and was staying at Ooty for the rest of the holiday.

I recall that during our train ride, one of the stations that Resortwe passed was Lovedale. Well, here we were, going to actually stay at Lovedale. It is a nice place.

It was evening when we reached our resort, and after a number of wrong turns, we finally found the resort. We were not sure if we should visit my cousin at Coonor. My aunt said that she did not want to spend the evening worrying and wondering if we reached our resort safely after the visit. We agreed.

Our resort was picturesque and the Arien had some nice photo-ops. Our room was not all that great. The outside looked a lot better than the inside.The Arien took nice pictures and we had a nice lazy day at Lovedale.

RestaurantAfter a nice snack of Pakodas which we had not indulged in in a while, we felt even better. The restaurant at the resort was nice – bright and warm. Especially, considering the slight fog outside – it seemed absolutely cozy. It even had a fake fireplace :) Dinner at the resort was yummy, served hot, and we spent a relaxed evening at the restaurant.

There were not too many people when we went and so the service was efficient. The group which came after us gave the restaurant folks a tough time.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Weekend Getaway

 

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A Day of sightseeing at Yercaud

Peacock@zooWe planned to spend the day at Yercaud. Because we had visited Yercaud before, we had an idea of the sigh-seeing spots to visit that day. You can read about my earlier Yercaud visit, here and here.

We visited the Yercaud Zoo, which is nowhere similar to or even close to the Mysore zoo. You can almost see why they say “Proud as a peacock” – the peacock is preening away for the shutterbugs. The zoo was quite crowded and after a few pictures, we were ready to leave.

The next stop was the Yercaud boating place. None of YercaudBoatingus wanted to go boating in the sweltering heat and so we had Chai (again).The Arien want off to shoot more pics. None of the others look all that great and so I am posting only this pic.

The last time also we did not go boating. In fact, we hired cycles to visit the Ladies Seat, Gents seat etc. This time, we took the car and visited the same sight-seeing spots.

The plan was to have lunch at GRT Sky Rocca. This is a picture of the hotel from one of the seats. I am not sure if it is the Ladies Seat or the Kids seat.

ViewfromLadiesSeat

The climb was not steep but we were out of breath! It was windy and quite cold and we posed for some pics. Of course, we were giving our best smiles but the wind wreaked havoc on our hair. I am either turning away from the Camera or I am trying to hand comb my hair. Blah!!

Its a distant shot and I doubt you can even make out the hotel in that pic. But, I am sure you can appreciate the height that we were at.

All the climbing made us ravenous. We were ready to eat at Sky Rocca. The place was exactly as we remembered it. The food was somewhere in between good and ok. The Taurean enjoyed the respite from the crazy sight-seeing folks we tend to be when we travel.ViewfrmSkyRocca

The senior Arien was tired and would have ideally liked to sleep after lunch but we were not finished yet. We spent some time at Sky Rocca, enjoying the view and both the Arien and self shared stories of what we did last time we stayed here. The Arien went off to shoot pics — his favorite hobby during our holidays.

And then, we were off again. This time we were visiting a cave temple. I opted out of it because there were a gazillion folks already inside and very few were heading out.

Fair

Both myself and the senior Arien stayed outside while the Arien and the Taurean went inside. There was a “santhe” or “jaathre” happening outside with a lot of balloons, giant wheels, ice-cream vendors, etc. which was quite colorful to watch.

After the Arien and Taurean came out, I asked them to check if their wallets were with them. I sound paranoid, I know, but it happens so often. Crowded places and men losing their wallets go hand-in-hand. Luckily, their wallets and the money in it was safe.

The Arien caught sight of a lil boy blowing bubbles and wanted to shoot some pics. We were all ready to leaveBubbleboy but I knew that he would not leave until he got a few shots and so we gave him company. Of course, the model, our boy with the bubbles happily complied. He even refused to look our way though he knew we were shooting his pic.

The last stop for the day was the Montfort school. This time we did not go in but I wanted a snap of the school for my blog so the Arien took one snap of the symbol alone. I told him that I will not be able to figure out anything from this snap and then he took another one.

FruitStack

I finally did not even use it for my post at all :O I opted to use the fruit stack instead. Happens all the time with me. No wonder the Arien refuses to humor me. Maybe I will include it just for that.

It was tea-time and everyone was a lil crabby, including me. A holiday usually involves a siesta, and we had not had ours today and so it was but natural. We stopped at a local sight-seeing spot and had Chai. We were ready to head back to our rooms and retire for the night.

MontfortYercaud

All of us were unanimous in our decision that we would not eat dinner at the hotel and so we drove like crazy until the Taurean spied A2B (Adyar Ananada Bhavan) and then we had a yummy dinner of tasty snacks.

Considering we had had an amazing lunch, we were totally ok to finish dinner with a couple of snacks. We also decided to have our other meals at this place. The Arien looked poised to disagree and I jumped in with a “Can we decide on that later?” and so after a real touristy day, it was time to call it a day!

Oh.. let me not forget the Montfort pic. There you go!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Holidays, Vacation, Weekend Getaway

 

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Mettur Dam at Sunset — A nice evening

SunsetonwaytoMetturDamWe opted to visit Mettur Dam after our siesta. The Arien had a nice plan for the first evening but he forgot that he was with me and the Taurean, both of whom are not the most punctual, and so the evening did not go as per plan. The first shocker was that we had to pay the toll fees to visit Mettur Dam. We were sure that most of the locals travel to and fro from Mettur to Salem without paying the toll fees and so we were not sure why we were paying. Before the Arien blew his top, he was already angry because we did not get ready on time, I paid the Toll fees and we were on our way.

The second surprise was that the Dam was not at a hop, skip, and jump distance after the toll. In fact, as we drove on the long winding road, we were not sure if we were on the right track at all. There were no sign boards, nobody on the road to ask for directions and since we were yet to hit a fork on the road, we kept going.

And the last shocker, was that it was suddenly almost 6 pm and we could see that the sun wasSunsetMetturDam 1 setting. The Arien had set his mind on taking a picture of the sunset at Mettur Dam and we were nowhere near. Meanwhile, the Taurean wanted a cup of tea. The senior Arien did not want to keep going and wanted to head back to the hotel room and I was ready to scream. The Arien asked the Taurean to stop as he had seen what he wanted to shoot. The Arien shot quite a few pictures of a local on his mobile phone with the most amazing sunset as his background.

Sunset2I cannot believe he was facing us and not the sun. The sunset was so beautiful.

It was quite difficult for us to move away but it was getting quite dark and so we drove on. The senior Arien asked if we were there yet, twice, before we jumped him and he retired hurt. (Both myself and the Taurean can be quite mean, at times.)

When we finally reached Mettur Dam, it was quite dark. We walked across the Dam because vehicles were prohibited and spent some time there. None of the snaps came out well because it was quite dark. The Taurean found a small tea shop nearby and we all had tea there. And then, it was time to go back to the hotel. Tomorrow, we planned to visit Yercaud and have lunch at Sky Rocca.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Holidays, Vacation, Weekend Getaway

 

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Short Trip to Salem — with the Senior Arien and the Taurean

The Taurean, recent owner of a new car, was itching for a long drive and the senior Arien had run out of excuses for not going on the drive. We, on the other hand, are always ready for a long drive and/or short trip and thus this not-so-impulsive trip happened in the month of May 2012. It was after a long time that all four of us were out on a trip, together.

GRTSalemCinnamon

Salem is around 4 hours from Bangalore and so we planned to start at 8 am but we finally left after 9 am and this time it was not because of me :) The short drive did not tire or faze the Taurean and the senior Arien was really happy for that. The Arien, usually a bit restless when he is not behind the wheel, was shooting pictures and sitting up front keeping the Taurean company and so he was also ok. We reached Salem and our hotel, GRT, late in the afternoon and opted to have food at their restaurant, Cinnamon.

Not sure if it was because we were the last people to walk in but the service left a lot to be desired. When it was time to clear the plates, we finally received amazing service. Food was not all that great but the ambiance was nice. Also, we had the entire place almost to ourselves.

GRTSalemRoom

After we had our lunch, we proceeded to our rooms for a bit of shut eye. We had been to Sky Rocca and so we kinda knew what to expect from GRT rooms and we were not disappointed. The rooms were quite comfortable, clean, and the AC was great. Salem is quite warm and we were visiting  in May.

This is the view of the room from the entrance. Of course. the Arien took a number of pictures of our room. There is another one of the room from the window, just in case you are wondering how the rest of the room looks like :D

GRTRoom1

The plan was to drive to Mettur Dam in the evening and spend some time there before retiring for the day.

Surprisingly, we did not have a packed schedule and everyone was determined to relax and enjoy the small holiday. We had been to Yercaud a few years ago in August and so we knew the places to visit etc. The Taurean wanted to relax but also visit as many places as possible.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Weekend Getaway

 

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Making of Banana Chips — Thekkady

Bananachips

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2013 in Weekend Getaway

 

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Periyar National Park and WildLife Sanctuary — an interesting morning

The boat safari is one of the most popular activities at the Periyar Reserve. And 5 years ago, I recall we had gone on the safari on a beeg boat. At noon, if I am not wrong. This trip, we were outside the Reserve at 5:45 am because the guide had informed us tht the ticket counter opened at 6 am and we may not get any tickets if we were late. It was a cooold day and both of us stood, shivering, outside the counter till after 6:15 am because no one turned up to issue the tickets. I was cold and the Arien was bored and we headed back to our car so we could at least be warm. The Arien also decided to have Chai. It was after 6:45 am when we were armed with our tickets.

We then drove into the reserve to park the car. The Yeah :) look on our faces soon changed to the bewildered :O look when we saw the other tourists run from the entrance to the other counter that sold us our boat tickets (a distance of more than 2 km). Everyone ran as if their life depended on tht ticket or boat ride. We did not understand what the fuss was all ’bout considering we all had tickets and so we sauntered in. Well, one learnt why very quickly. Apparently, the first ticket hardly matters! Yes, I am right. The second ticket is the one that gets you a boat. So, how fast you run to the counter, fill in details, and get your ticket and are assigned the boat, determines when you will get to go on the safari. We waited a loong looong time and I vented, ranted, and cribbed. A lot. Made no difference.

Another point to note, they collect data such as your home address and contact number etc for every tourist who travels on the boat safari. This is something new. (We did not provide these details 5 years ago). I think it is because of the periyar tragedy where the boat capsized and most of the folks died. Identification must have been tough because most of the folks were tourists. Again, this was not something I knew – I was cribbing and it was the Arien who informed me. 

The mood improved slightly when we finally got onto the boat. The Arien got busy taking photographs, some of which came out ok while others were slightly blurry. In the last trip (5 years ago), we hardly saw any animals. This time, we saw elephants, a lot of birds, the popular cormorand, and a couple of otters.

A guide accompanied us on our safari and kept up a running commentary on the birds and animals that we saw. Not too many and some of were so far that we could hardly make out what it was. He spoke in malayalam. The Arien mentioned the names of the birds for me — he is very knowledgeable ’bout this. I am still a learner and frequently embarrass him with my gaffes :)

It was quite cold in the morning but now the sun was up and we really longed for a cup of chai or something – it has been hours since we left the resort. People were clicking pics left, right, and center. The Arien cribs ’bout the snaps that he has taken everytime and that happened this time as well. 

While it was not a fantabulous trip, it was ok. To be honest, I would not advise anyone to go on that safari until the process improves or changes. We had planned to go on that safari more than once during this trip but dropped the idea after this one experience. I think more effort should be put in to streamline the process and make it more customer-friendly. This experience left me feeling cheated.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Holidays, Vacation, Wild Life

 

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Evening Entertainment – Kathakali

After an impressive Kalari performance which made the Arien re-think his fitness goals (mine, of course, were non-existent), we had to drive a short way to see the Kathakali performance. We were worried that the program may have started but it had not. I think we were the last few people to enter a small hut-like enclosure which had a dias and very bright lighting focussed on the stage. There were only a few chairs at the back for us. The Arien opted to stay standing with his camera and the tripod so he could take some good snaps.

The comperer was a malayali who wore a veshti, a gold chain, and no shirt. He introduced the secondary character, a woman, who was actually a man made-up to look like a woman, using elaborate make-up. 

The artiste first performed a series of eye movements and then showed us various facial expressions also known as the Navarasams. The comperer explained the emotion that the performer or artiste would convey. Without opening his mouth the artiste was able to convey the emotion/expression.  Some of the expressions are exaggerated but as part of the dance-drama – it is kinda expected. There are some small hand movements known as Mudras. The artiste also enacted a small scene where he was able to invite a member of the audience to sit on a chair placed in the center of the dias. It was hilarious and very well done too. The picture came out blurry so I am not including it here.

The other characters of this dance-drama are equally important. They do not have a role to play in the drama except to provide the music and support the main characters. A drummer, a singer, and a tabla player. The comperer also provided some additional sound by beating on a pair of miniature cymbals. The sound provided can be quite loud – almost deafening :) The comperer spoke in English most of the time but had a malayali accent and so some of the statements were not very clear. His Hindi sounded very much like a south -indian speaking Hindi — usually terrible on the ears. I wished he would stick to English.

The comperer then introduced the primary character, a youth who was the epitome of goodness, nobility, and good looks. Usually, all good characters are depicted in the sattvic color, green, pacchhai. Green is supposed to denote nobility. The evil daemon, Narakathundi, sister of Narakasura, is attracted to this male and takes on a human form to woo him. This role is played by the secondary character who was introduced earlier.

The youth though drawn to her beautiful form as she dances around him, rejects her as he thinks there is something fishy. Narakathundi starts begging him to marry her. The more he rejects, the more Narakathundi begs him. This goes on for a while, she begs him, he rejects her and then she asks him to marry her for 1 day!  

This shocks the youth and he rejects her yet again. This goes on a for a while and the youth rejects her and shows his contempt for her. This hurts Narakathundi a lot. The picture shows the contempt and revulsion that the noble youth feels at her request and tries very hard to shake her off. You can see how Narakathundi is still begging him to marry her for 1 day.

When she realizes that he will not budge, she takes on her demonic avatar. She wants to make him pay for rejecting her and attacks him. The youth apart from being very good-looking and noble is also a soldier and brave man. The fact that a daemon pretended to woo him angers him and he injures her. This later results in a big war between the devas, asuras, and the humans. The dance-drama that we were watching stops at this point. They do not show the war but end the story with the injuring and hurting of Narakathundi.

These pictures came out very well. I was so involved in the dance-drama that I did not check the snaps until we got back to the resort. The story and the enactment was done well. We felt that these artistes have to be encouraged. During the performance, a small kid, frightened by the sounds, singing, and the artistes, screamed and cried till his mom carried him out. Sometime in between, the father was out while the mother tried to catch the second half of the performance. Ironically, children may be scared of the noble pachhai. They may have nightmares in the nights to come and so unless you can deal with a crying child, and the angry Ssshhs from the others, do not attend the performance with young kids.

These artistes also happily posed for snaps with the Audience though I am sure Pacchhai was dying underneath all the paint and the make-up under the bright light. The Arien went for one snap and mentioned that Pacchhai really wanted to change into his normal avatar. We left after that. It was an enjoyable evening.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in Weekend Getaway

 

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