Family at Vacation!

I have been reluctant in writing this blog due to some personal problem. But here I am writing this blog because travelling is oxygen for me and writing is weaving my feelings together in words. I was on a 10 days trip to South India. This trip is the most special one as it was planned for my Dad’s birthday and reaching the southern end of India had been his dream. So it was more like #dadysdreamtrip. 🙂

Taking advantage of super long weekend, I planned this trip intelligently taking only 3 leaves. So the trip started with spicejet’s flight to Chennai. And like always, it disappointed me for not flying on time. Anyways, we had Kiran (elder brother) and his family waiting for us at Chennai airport. We met Kiran and his wife Pavitra at our last family trip 5 years ago at Andamans. Since then, we have been like family friends. Ohh!  And did I mention about their two sweet little kids, Sai and Sri. It was fun listening to them in their native language which we didn’t understand at all :). We then directly headed to our first destination, Kanchipuram.

#Day1 – Kanchipuram

20160319_153221The drive from Chennai to Kanchipuram is a descent one of around 2 hours. Kanchipuram is a city of thousand temples and is also famous for hand woven silk sarees which are also known by the same name, Kanchipuram Sarees. There are plethoras of Saree shops in this area where one can buy Kanchipuram Sarees at lesser price. I almost mistook a shop as a temple after sighting a pool of chappals (shoes) outside that shop. Gosh! I had never sighted such a scene in Delhi ever. And absolutely didn’t mind buying a saree for myself too. 🙂

After shopping spree and satiating our hungry stomachs at Sangeetha restaurant (Sangeetha restaurants have a chain and for a healthy food as well as for a safe drive, you can always rely on their restaurants on highway in Tamilnadu), we visited three main temples there (it’s quite impossible to see 1000 temples in a day 😛 ):

20160319_173042Sri Varadharaja Temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There are two lizards installed on the roof of internal sanctum and belief is that one will be relieved of all diseases if one prays to Lord Varadarajan and touches the Lizard on the way out.

Being a Sikh disciple, I’ve different beliefs. But I never miss a chance to pay my respect towards other faiths. Therefore, I touched both the lizards on my way out. 🙂

Ekambareshwara Temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiv. It is one of the five major Shiva Temples that represents five different elements. This one represents element – earth. This temple opened my eyes to the beauty of Dravidian Architecture.

Ulagalan Perumal Temple: This is again dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Six daily rituals and a dozen yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the chariot festival, celebrated during the Tamil month of Chittirai (March–April), is the most prominent.

20160319_172848By the time we came out, the sun was already down, and we headed back to Chennai.

 

#Day2 – Pondicherry

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ECR – East Coast Road

The day started early for us and we were served scrumptious homemade Puliyodharai (tamarind rice). Rice was really tasty with proper blend of South Indian spices. We then started for Pondicherry. Kiran’s neice Avinash was suppose to drive for today and he drives very well. As soon as the engine of car ignited, I slumbered to complete my sleep. And when I opened my eyes, I was greeted with blue sky and deep blue beach water on both the sides of road. We were on ECR (East-Coast Road)! What a beautiful long drive it was. For a moment, I never wanted it to end. It slowly drifts you away from the hustle bustle of city and connects you with the French Town of India. If ever you want to visit Pondicherry, do not take direct flight to Pondicherry instead take flight to Chennai and drive from Chennai to Pondicherry. It is totally amazing experience. Anyways, after visiting the famous “Matri Mandir” in Auroville and eating finger-licking Italian food at Tanto’s (these guys are amazing), we headed to Paradise Beach. You need to take a small steamer to reach Paradise Beach. It’s clean blue water and vastness takes you to some other world. Enjoying for sometime in water, we then headed for town.  The sun was already down so couldn’t see sunset at yet another beautiful beach (Promenade Beach) of Puducherry. We then went to an old temple Manakala Vinayagara Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and its existence is marked way before when French came and settle in Pondi. I was amaze to see a huge elephant outside the temple, and blessing the visitors. We then took a stroll near the beach. The cool breeze, the stars, moonlight, sound of waves relieved me from day’s fatigue. We had South Indian food at Surguru, the food was just fine. I regret to spend only a day at Pondi and I’m definitely going back there at least for a week.

 

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Paradise Beach – Pondi!

#Day3 – Mahaballipuram and Vellore

20160321_115616.jpgThe third day again started early. Today we were heading to an ancient town which use to have bustling seaport and traders from India use to travel to South East Asia from here. Mahabalipuram, situated around 60km to the south of Chennai, located at the Coramandel Coast of Bay of Bengal.

With approximately 40 sanctuaries, including the largest open-air rock relief in the world, Mahabalipuram gained UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2004 the Indian Ocean Tsunami washed away tons of coastal sand exposing structures including a granite lion and an elephant relief. The monuments are mostly rock-cut and monolithic, and constitute the early stages of Dravidian architecture.

Of all the monuments, I personally loved the Shore Temple; it is built on the shore of the coast of Bay of Bengal and it looks spectacular.

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Arjuna’s Penance

We then headed to Vellore to see Golden Temple of South. I was first astonished to hear about Golden Temple of South. Photography is not allowed here. This temple dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, dazzles at night and is WOW! We would have missed this temple if Kiran Bhaiya had not driven us to this place.

#Day4 – Ranganathaswamy Temple and Tanjore Temple

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The Tanjore Temple

Ranganathaswamy Temple is dedicated to Reclining form of Lore Vishnu and is a marvellous piece of art of Dravidian Culture. Its main entrance –  Gopuram stands tall around 237ft high. The colourful architecture, colourful paintings on the walls of the temple look beautiful.

We then headed to Tanjore’s Brihadeeswarar Temple. It is another very beautifully designed temple. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Though, it was closed by the time we reached and scorching sun was on my head, still I managed to click few pictures.

 

#Day5 – Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

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Sunrise and Meenakshi Temple

This is another beautiful temple which I have always wanted to see. And the aura over here was very calm and serene as compared to the all temples we visited till now. It has a very huge complex and beautifully painted wall look perfect in natural light inside the temple. Again, photography wasn’t allowed here inside the temple but you can buy a ticket to click around the temple from your mobile for Rs30. We spent some peaceful time here and then headed towards our next destination.

 

 

#Day6 & Day7 – Kovalam, Kerela

We reached Kovalam on the evening of 5th day and witnessed orange lit sky with sun slowly drifting away into the vast of beach to rise again tomorrow. Our hotel was just on the shore of beach and the view of the beach from the room’s balcony was perfect to laze around and listen to the wildness of the crashing waves.

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Melting sun at Light House Beach, Kovalam

All day long one can see surfers surfing in the beach (mostly foreigners). We didn’t want to leave this place, so we decided to spend whole day at this place. Also, we wanted to relax after a kind of pilgrimage tour: P.

Next day, we went to visit famous Padmanabhan Temple of Kerala. It is the richest temple in the world. Sadly, my parents couldn’t visit this place as my father was asked to remove his turban. He as a Sikh isn’t allowed to remove his turban. Being a true Indian wife, my mom denied going inside without her husband. And I went alone! The beautiful part of this temple is the huge reclining form of Vishnu made up of pure gold.

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Ma Baba at Light House Beach, Kovalam

We then headed to Poovar Island. It is a remote getaway situated on the shore of Arabian Sea. The sand here is golden in colour and hence the name Golden Sand Beach. A steamer took us to this island and it only stays from 15min to half an hour because waves of Arabian Sea are really wild and huge and there’s a fence. No one is allowed to go inside. The waves are really high that the water covers entire beach and connects with the Poovar River on the other side of the beach. The steamer crosses the lush green alleys of Mangroves. It was a great experience and most of all mom & dad enjoyed it a lotJ.

 

#Day8 – Kanyakumari

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Sunset at Kovalam Beach – Kanyakumari

We headed to Kanyakumari around 11am and reached there in the afternoon at around 2:30pm. After checking in the hotel, we directly went out for sightseeing as we had time crunch. We first went to see the rock temple and the famous statue of Kanyakumari which until now I thought to be of Vivekanada 😛 Well! It is the statue of great Tamil poet Thiruvalluar. There are only two ferries to and fro for Rock Temple and thus a very huge line of tourists is formed outside Vivekananda Jetty.  Finally, after 2 hours of standing in line, we got a ferry. The ride is very small. Though, it feels patriotic to touch the southern end of India.

Kanyakumari is the point where you can see the rising sun as well as setting sun. After watching the spectacular scene of sun setting inside the water, we headed back to hotel. To my surprise, I met an old friend, Shahi, who now lives in Chennai and was travelling with her colleagues. She is as shahi (royal) as her name. It feels good to meet old friends that too when you are far away from your home. And we later realized we didn’t click a picture together. We had food at Ocean Restaurant inside sea shore hotel, which is at 7th floor of the hotel. The view was awesome with sea on the three sides of it. Don’t miss food here when in kanyakumari. After arranging cake for next day for my dad’s birthday, I retired into my deep slumber.

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Sunrise series at Kanyakumari

Next day started as early as 3am to watch the rising sun. It was a cloudy day! And all the time I prayed to see the rising sun as I had planned baba’s birthday with the rising sun. Well! We did get to see sun after some time. But that was okay! Baba cut his cake with the sun as candle’s flame. He was happy! I was happy. We all were happy :).

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Baba’s Birthday with Sunrise

We then headed to our last destination, Rameswaram. It is one of the holiest places of India and also the part of the Char Dham pilgrimage. It is located on the Pamban Island and is Sri Lanka is just 50km away from here. We were very tired when we reached Rameswaram. Hence, we just dozed off.

 

#Day9 – Rameswaram

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Beautiful Pamban Bridge

Rameswaram greeted us with blue water on both sides and beautiful sight of Pamban rail bridge. I had never seen anything like that in my life. On reaching Rameswara, we were very tired and so decided to rest for some time thus cancelling our trip to Dhanuskodi which is considered to be ghost town and was destroyed in 1964 in a cyclone.

Along with a famous temple of Lord Shiva, Rameswaram also houses a historical Gurdwara (Sikh temple) related to first Guru – Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It is said that while coming back from his pilgrimage from Sri Lanka, Guru Nanak Dev Ji rested here.

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Gurdwara Sahib, Rameswaram

The government have also started a ferry ride of half an hour at a nominal price which takes one around the sea.  Srilanka is nearest from Rameswaram being just 31km away.

 

#Day10 – Back to Delhi

Last day we started our journey from Rameswaram to Chennai to board flight for Delhi.

It was a good journey which ended with news that shattered our lives. We lost two beautiful people of our family in a car accident. They both had been my source of support in my travels and have always patiently lent their ears to my stories. My brother Raman always guided me for my trips and his wife Manveen always asked me about my whereabouts on my trips. It is an irreplaceable loss to parents and family but I hope wherever they are, they are good.

And here goes the photo blog:

 

 

 

 

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The Niligiri Town – Coonoor!!

The idea of a solo trip, 36 hours of train journey, crossing 5 Indian states and reaching the destination was enough to excite me. It caused a stir in the air. The journey was from Delhi to Bangalore. The train was supposed to cross 5 sates; UP, MP, Maharashtra, AP, Telengana and finally reach Karnataka. The train was scheduled at 20:45 and since morning I was experiencing butterflies in my stomach. It was due to nervousness of first time traveling alone. Anyways! I boarded train from Nizamuddin Station and it was on time. Dinner was served immediately after the train started. The train crew was good in service and took good care of passengers. But the food was not good and I almost avoided it till I got hunger pangs. Uff! It was painful but watching the changing terrain outside was fun and I didn’t mind railway catering service serving bad food :).

 

Matteo Coffee, Bangalore

Matteo Coffee, Bangalore

After spending 2 nights and 36 hours in train, I breathed in the AC (Air Condition) city of India, Bangalore. The morning air was fresh and weather was cool. In India, you have to be careful about Auto Wallahs. They can easily fool you if you are new in the city. I was fooled too and paid almost double the fare to reach my brother’s place. I was in Bangalore for about a week; strolling streets of AC city on my own, doing cafe and restaurant hopping and buying souvenirs for the lovely people in Delhi. Spending a week there seems less to me, as Cafe Culture is so strong in Bangalore that I feel so much is still left to explore. I will some other day write about Bangalore and would rather focus on the main subject of this post.

 

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Entrance to a Village

Weekend getaway was planned to Coonoor, a hill station in Tamilnadu. Surrounded by Nilgiri Hills, it is the second largest hill station of Tamilnadu after Ooty. With years, Ooty has become more crowded and commercialized. So for a peaceful weekend, Coonoor was selected. Distance from Bangalore to Coonoor is approximately 290km and it took around 9 hours to reach there. After crossing Bandipur Forest Reserve, Karnataka and entering into Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Tamilnadu, there is a check post and you will be charged hefty fine for carrying alcohol with you. Tamilnadu Government doesn’t allow carrying alcohol from other state and rather promote sale of alcohol in Tamilnadu. So if you are traveling to Coonoor via Mysore, it is advisable not to carry alcohol with you as the amount of fine will be greater than amount of bottles of alcohol. Tragic Story!!

 

A bridge on the way

A bridge on the way

Anyways, surpassing huge coconut trees in Karnataka, you will be welcomed with Eucalyptus trees and tea plantation in Tamilnadu. The 36 hair pin bends that lead to Ooty gives the picturesque view of the valley which is also a part of Western Ghats. It was a moment of wow!! Greenery of Nilgiri Hills, azure sky, blossoming flowers, and clouds all added to the excitement. Transcending further on the steeped roads of hills, we finally reached “The Nest” – home stay at Coonoor. The simple rice and daal was heaven for devil (hungry stomach) in us. After having food, we decided to walk in the tea estates around the guesthouse. Sun was playing hide and seek and the houses in sun rays were looking like colorful painting. The world is beautiful painting created by Thee. Since we were short on time, the attendant at guesthouse suggested us to go to see Ralliah Dam next morning and we were warned about encountering bison on the way.

 

Ralliah Dam

Ralliah Dam

Not caring about any bison, fearless!! We got ready to visit Ralliah Dam next morning. It is a 1km uphill trek which goes from tea plantation to a forest. The walk to the dam is scenic and silent. Going uphill you will see waterfalls, wild flora including various sizes of mushrooms and at least once you will talk about Man vs. Wild. We too did :). The dam remains filled with water after monsoon being the major source of water for the town. If lucky enough you can get to see Malabar Squirrels. They have got beautiful color and it is fun to watch them :). After spending some time in peaceful surroundings of dam, we headed back to the guest house and literally had finger licking south Indian breakfast. The best part of choosing home stays is you get to eat authentic home made food of that region.

I got a tan and I read somewhere that “tans will fade but the memories will remain forever”. True that!! Memories are forever.

The journey to Coonoor was breathtaking and stay was peaceful for mind and soul. I am thankful to my brother for organizing this wonderful trip. Here is a picture journey of Coonoor.

The Nest - home stay, Coonoor

The Nest – home stay, Coonoor

The tea garden

The tea garden

People of Coonoor 1

People of Coonoor 1

People of Coonoor 2

People of Coonoor 2

The tea garden and Nilgiri Hills

The tea garden and Nilgiri Hills

The Painting

The Painting

The Tea Estate

The Tea Leaves

The view

The view

Another Painting

Another Painting

Sun rays falling on houses

Sun rays falling on houses