November 30, 2022

Suvarnavathy Dam- Surreal and Secluded

Engulfed by lush greenery and silhouettes of hills, Suvarnavathy Dam lies secluded away from the touristy maps. An ideal place to spend some moments of solitude, this sprawling reservoir in Chamarajanagar district is also home to a few species of birds. Take a stroll along the pathway and capture some wonderful landscape frames.

October 7, 2022

Beaches of Vadanappally

A cycle passed by as we stopped the car and gazed at the beautifully aligned coconut trees, while the sound of waves crashing echoed in the background. The well laid out road meandered its way between the beaches and lush greenery on either sides. No crowds, no instagrammers, no hawkers, and we had the secluded beaches and greenery to ourselves.

We were in Vadanappally in Kerala, and there's a line of beaches next to each other which you can visit as you drive along the parallel road, which is lined with coconut trees and houses. While Kerala is home to some of the popular beaches in Varkala and Kovalam, there are many others, like the ones near Vadanappally in Thrissur district, which remains fairly unexplored. They also reminded me of the pretty and secluded beaches of  Kannur.

A deviation at Thalikulam ahead of Thriprayar on NH-66, took me through narrow roads and past typical Kerala houses painted in bright colours to Snehatheeram Beach. This is one of the beautified beaches here with a small park and a couple of shops. There were a few local boys who were enjoying their camaraderie as we walked in. It was a cloudy day, the sun was missing, and I strolled around the sandy beach soaking in the salty air wafting around, while strong waves thrashed onto the shore. We walked further to the right and was greeted by numerous black stones piled up as a bund. Hardly a soul in place, we had the whole beach to ourselves. What a way to start the day, I thought to myself.

The stretch from Snehatheeram to Vadanappally is lined with four beaches, and we drove down through the narrow, but pretty road with swaying coconut trees for constant company. We crossed a small bridge, and stopped by to watch the backwaters joining the sea, which was a pretty sight. While that was a beautiful frame, what left us in awe was the view on the other side of the bridge where the canal with water was adorned with numerous slanting coconut trees forming a spectacular frame. The picturesque place seemed like a perfect picture-postcard, and we gazed at it in oblivion until a few visitors stopped by. The mouth of the canal is along the beach called Thampankadavu, where it disembarks its waters. Munching on some salt water dipped gooseberries we walked up to the beach, which again was devoid of people, but lined with more coconut trees. A peaceful place to watch the waves and spend some time in solitude.

Further ahead we drove to Chilanka Beach, which had a few fishermen unknotting their fishnets and a few dogs loitering around. Without spending much time here, we drove further on the snaking road past a couple of small settlements to Vadanappally Beach. This is one of the longest beaches here, stretching more than half a kilometre. After parking the car, we strolled down the beach, which looked quite hazy in the strong winds that blew. The beach was empty, as far as my eyes could see. Not a soul in the vicinity, we chased the waves, listened to its thrashing sound and relaxed here for a while soaking in the serenity of this place.

The last beach that we wanted to visit was a little away. We had to get back on to the highway, and then take a deviation while maneuvering through narrow muddy roads past paddy fields and backwaters to get to it. Google maps showed a broken bridge with a view near to it, and that is what caught my eye. Anugraha Beach and Ganeshamangalam Beach overlap each other, and the locals call this beach by both the names. We had to stop the car after a while and then walk to the beach. Passed by a large backwater, where we chatted with the locals and saw a couple of them fishing. The road further ended at the beach, which had a few abandoned houses, which were semi-submerged in the sand. Seemed like the sea over the years had swallowed a part of the land and encroached the houses. The headless coconut trees there may have quite a few stories to tell of the encroachment. The waves here were the fiercest and lashed against the stone-bund built by the locals. As the sun set, we walked away from the beach, which again was devoid of any visitors, but this was probably because it was abandoned by its people.


How to reach Vadanappally:

The closest airport is at Kochi, 62 km away, and the nearest major railway station is at Thrissur, 20 km away. There are frequent buses from Kochi and Thrissur to get you to Vadanappally. There are no public services between the beaches, and it would be ideal to come in your own vehicle.

Food and Accommodation:

There are a few stalls and a restaurant near Snehatheeram Beach. The other beaches are devoid of any shops except a couple of push carts. There are a few homestays near Snehatheeram and Thampankadavu beaches if you would like to spend a couple of days here.

September 15, 2022

Why Dubai should be on your list to visit during Diwali

There is no better location to spend Diwali than Dubai with a Dubai tour package, where there are exciting events, family-friendly entertainment, and unforgettable gastronomic delights. With spectacular fireworks displays and alluring promos, the city ushers in the Festival of Lights, making it one of the largest and brightest ever!

The beaches are not the only places to visit in Dubai during Diwali. At the Bollywood Parks, you may also take part in the celebrations with your family and friends. It is among the greatest locations for a Bollywood-style Diwali celebration. By the Waterfront Promenade at the Dubai Mall is another fantastic location where people love to spend Diwali in Dubai. People find it fascinating to see the beautiful artistic cruise on the sea.

Therefore, you should not miss a chance to be a part of these unmissable treats if you are in Dubai during Diwali with an international tour package!

1. Dubai Creek for Fireworks

Every Diwali celebration in Dubai is illuminated with fireworks, which are also the only ones that are legal in the city during this holiday. Thousands of people enjoy a spectacular fireworks show with their loved ones.

2. Bollywood Parks

Numerous Bollywood celebs appear in performances and numerous concerts are held here by well-known singers. Some of the most popular Bollywood films are shown in the theater, and an Indian street food festival is also held there.

3. Al Seef festivities

The Diwali Mela at Al Seef is the place to go if you want to experience Diwali in Dubai in the same manner as it is celebrated in India. You may create vibrant rangolis and get henna patterns applied on your hands. Al Seef also takes in a number of Bollywood acts and concerts with lots of music and dancing that you can enjoy.

4. Waterfront Promenade at the Dubai Mall

Witness an exhibition of floating art on boats that use the water as a canvas to show off a lovely image to its viewers.

5. Witness The Burj Khalifa Diwali Light Show

There will never be a more spectacular Diwali light show than the one on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Burj Khalifa, the highest structure in the world, puts on a light show for this event, which you can witness in Downtown Dubai.

6. Enjoy Your Diwali Dinner In Patiala

Patiala restaurant is named after the Indian city with the same name. A unique menu of mouthwatering Diwali treats is available at this souk Al Bahar restaurant during their ten-day Diwali celebration. Enjoy the authentic Indian flavor at the most popular Indian event in a luxurious setting.

7. Global Village

One of the greatest sites to see fireworks in Dubai during Diwali is Global Village. Along with fireworks, you may enjoy exotic and traditional cuisines, spectacular light shows, live entertainment, and a few shopping opportunities.

8. Masala Bazaa

Enjoy a delectable Diwali feast including a variety of India's best culinary creations. The menu will include sweet sweets, chaats, and pani puri stations in addition to savory starters, appetizers, soups, and main courses.

P.S.: This is a collaborative post.

September 9, 2022

A Visit to the World's Largest Bird Sculpture

It was a Sunday, and I wasn't surprised to see the large crowd and the long queue to get on to the cable car to view the largest bird sculpture in the world at Jatayu Earth’s Centre. I was on my way back from Ponmudi, and stopped by at Chadayamangalam, where the hillock housing the sculpture stood tall rising above the small town. Silhouette of the head, claws and beak of the bird’s sculpture could be seen from the road.

Opened in 2018, this sculpture spanning over 15,000 sq.ft., was curated by Rajeev Anchal, and comes under the Build-Operate-Transfer model (BOT model) of tourism of Kerala state. Sprawling over 65 acres, and over four hills, it stands tall at a height of more than 350 metres.

Jatayu, which is a mythological bird from the epic, Ramayana, is believed to have fallen on this hillock, after its valiant fight with Ravana. The hillock has been referred to as Jatayu Paara (Paara meaning 'rock' in Malayalam) by the locals for the same reason. However, I have heard this story of Jatayu at a few other places a s well, with Lepakshi being the most popular one. The story may or may not be convincing enough, but the art work on display is absolutely spellbinding.    

We waited for a good one hour in the queue for the cable car. The waiting area is well equipped with shops selling short eats and beverages. Boarded the cable car and we were on our way up, with the panoramic views of surrounding greenery and towns on offer. As we neared the hilltop, the sculpture showed up. With a length of 200 feet, height of 70 feet and width of 150 feet, this is a massive sculpture with the wings, head, claws and every other part beautifully sculpted. Apart from the claws, which are made of steel, the remaining sculpture is made out of concrete. We walked around soaking in the joy of seeing such an enormous and stunning creation of art work. The aerial views of the surroundings were a delight to watch and my eyes were constantly jostling between nature's display and the man made wonder.

The hilltop also houses a museum, cafeteria and a temple. On the way back to the waiting lounge, you can experience a 6D theatre and a gaming zone for kids. The premise also has a host of adventure activities such as zipline, paintball, Burma bridges, bouldering among others. Jatayu Earth’s Centre is open from 10 A.M. to 5.30 P.M. For those not keen on taking the cable car, you can go up a natural trail with a flight of steps leading you to the top. Helicopter services too are on offer if you would like to save time. There are separate charges for cable car ride, sculpture visit, adventure games etc.

How to reach Jatayu Earth’s Centre:

Thiruvananthapuram is the major city close by, 47 km away, and has the nearest airport and railway station. Though not frequent, there are buses from Kollam (38 km) and Thiruvananthapuram to Chadayamangalam, where the Jatayu Earth’s Centre is located.

August 24, 2022

Ponmudi and Meenmutty Waterfalls: A Tryst with Nature

Whooshing wind greeted my face as I rolled down the window pane to enjoy the spellbinding view of the lush greenery and distant hills. The views were so captivating, that I stopped the car at multiple places to either capture the frame, or to just enjoy what nature presented before me. The sound of crickets, the winding narrow road, towering trees and the thin film of mist that hovered, made the drive up to Ponmudi from Kallar a delightful experience. 

Ponmudi, nestled at a height of more than 3600 feet is known for its salubrious climate and small tea estates, and is a quick getaway for people residing in and around Thiruvananthapuram. While there aren’t too many places to explore here, the views from atop Ponmudi are an absolute delight.

After meandering our way up, we had our first stop at Down Hill Viewpoint. Two trees outgrown from a rock creates a beautiful frame here, with undulating hills and deep valleys in the backdrop. While it looked like a large bonsai tree with a thick trunk and bushy leaves from a distance, it was only when we went near, that the rock made itself clearly visible. The road goes further down winding its way past small settlements and a school, before disappearing into the forests. Taking in the breath-taking views, we strolled around for a while before heading up further.

A forest check post welcomed us, as we neared Ponmudi hilltop, which was quite crowded, being a weekend. Walked up the many trails that lead up to numerous mounds, which offered spectacular panoramic views of distant hills, valleys and lush greenery all around. Jutting rocks scattered amidst the tall grasses and fluffy white clouds floating above made the frames prettier. A path led up to an abandoned sanatorium, which probably was built during the rule of the British. Walking down, I headed up another trail that led me to the watch tower, which stood tall atop the highest mound here. A short climb, and I was greeted to more panoramic vistas of the magnificent verdant surroundings.

A wide swathe of rock jutting amidst the greenery and mounds was my last climb. The mist had disappeared by then, but the breeze blew stronger, filling my ears with its rumbling sound. However, I enjoyed my tryst with nature, as the scenic setting and fresh air of Ponmudi ensured it was a memorable one. As the sun set, the crowds thinned, darkness slowly engulfed the hilltop, and it turned cold as we drove through the beautiful road back to Kallar. Entry to Ponmudi is only from 8 AM to 4 PM

Waking up the next morning to the calls of a peacock was undoubtedly the best alarm clock that got me out of bed. The wonderful River County Resort by the banks of the Kallar river was where we stayed. I made my way through the lush green environs of the property to the banks of the river. The river bed was laced with innumerable pebbles and the water levels were so low that I could wade through them. As I perched myself on the pebbles, the only sound I could hear was the gurgling of waters, which were intermittently interrupted by the peacock calls.

After breakfast we drove to Meenmutty Waterfalls, formed by the Kallar river as it cascades over rocks inside a forest. The locals say that the waterfalls got its name as fishes could not swim beyond this point due to the presence of rocks. The 2 km long trail through the forest with the river for constant company was a delightful experience. While there are forest guards assigned at intermittent junctions, most part of the trail was devoid of human presence.

The initial stretch was a mostly plain, snaking its way past tall trees, shrubs, fallen branches and tree trunks with mushrooms and ferns. A couple of places where we could get into the waters too showed up. Tumbling over small boulders, the Kallar river made its way gurgling through this forest. The path made captivating frames in some stretches with trees leaning into each other and forming a head cover. The tall trees, dense canopy, and foliage, with the gurgling sound of the waters and sunlight percolating through, gave us reminders that we were deep inside a forest. Roots of the trees in some places had naturally made steps, and dangling branches had formed into swings, which made me wonder if that was a welcoming sign from nature to explore her.

We trudged forward and the gradient gradually turned steeper taking us deeper into the belly of the forest. Beyond midway, an enormously large boulder balancing itself on another one formed a beautiful cave like structure, where we rested up, and chatted with the forest guard, who spoke stories of animal attacks here long back. Shortly later, the river showed up before us, and we had to cross it to get to the other bank to continue our trek. Placing our steps precariously over small rocks that acted as a stone bridge, we made our way across. 

A short climb up, and we were gazing at Meenmutty Waterfalls cascading over huge boulders and thrashing into the large pool at the base, before making its way down through the forest. The multi-tiered waterfalls with lush greenery and boulders in the backdrop made a picturesque frame. We relaxed there for while, and chatted up with the forest guard, who was friendly enough to take our pictures.

As we headed back from the waterfalls, I was happy that we went all the way, despite being a slightly tough one for my parents, who seemed more than enthusiastic to have completed the trek. Ponmudi is a delightful small hill station, ideal for a weekend getaway, with charming viewpoints, captivating panoramic landscapes, and the spectacular trek to Meenmutty Waterfalls.

How to reach Ponmudi:

Thiruvananthapuram, which has an airport and railway station is the closest major city, 56 km away. There are buses plying between Thiruvananthapuram and Ponmudi, but is not frequent. It is recommended to visit Ponmudi in your own vehicle so that you can enjoy the forest drive.

Food and Accommodation:

There are quite a few resorts and homestays at Kallar, at the base of Ponmudi Hill. Atop Ponmudi, there is a government owned resort. River County Resort in Kallar is well recommended. There are numerous eateries at Kallar, and a couple of them atop Ponmudi.

July 20, 2022

Thally: The Little England in Tamil Nadu

I lifted my visor, craned my neck and asked with a smile, “Lake?”. The two old men who seemed to be happily chatting away looked up with a confused expression on their face. When I said ‘Eri’ (Lake in Tamil), one of them walked up with a smile. “Not Lake, it’s Little England”, he said, and pointed his hand down the road to Thally Lake. I had read in many websites that Thally is referred to as Little England, which I felt was coined by the so called ‘travel influencers’. But, surprisingly that wasn’t the case, as most locals too refer to Thally as Little England, probably because of its serene setting with lakes and open farmlands.

The ride beyond Hosur was a picturesque one with blue skies, thick canopy formed by the lined-up trees, intermittent villages, sporadic farms sprawling on either side of the meandering road, and the occasional livestock that made me slow down.

Had the first glimpse of the expansive lake as I entered Thally village, but it hardly looked like a village, with numerous shops, pushcarts and vehicles. A narrow mud road from where the old man guided, led me to the lake. With lush greenery lounging along the fringes, the tranquil lake was absolutely captivating. The quite surroundings were infiltrated by a couple of men having a dip in the waters and laughter of a few boys enjoying their camaraderie. The lone tree here with a stone platform is an ideal place to gaze in oblivion at the placid lake. A while later, I took a stroll along the shore of the lake, which led me into bushes.  

Shortly after that, I headed back to explore the opposite shore, which was laced with open farmlands. Narrow muddy tracks led to the farmlands, where I parked my bike and walked across. The spectacular sunset with a silver lining caught my attention as I trudged forward, oblivious to the fact that I was walking on a ploughed and uneven surface. Standing by the shore and gazing at the setting sun that played peek-a-boo behind the clouds, I could hear people chattering and walking towards me. Two local men who had come to check their farmland had walked up to see a new visitor grazing their land. Warm and friendly, we spoke about the dead fishes that had washed up the shore and about the next farming season. They also advised against visiting Devarabetta Hill, which offers an aerial view of Thally Lake and surroundings. It was quite late, and apparently the place is not safe after sunset.

Taking in the final glimpses of the setting sun and the placid lake, I walked back on the narrow path to my bike, and bade goodbye to the two men and ‘Little England’. 

There isn't much to explore in Thally beyond the lake and the farmlands, but it definitely makes a wonderful day trip from Bangalore.

How to reach Thally:

Thally lake is 55 km from Bangalore, and the closest main town in Hosur, 32 km away. Though are buses from Hosur to Thally, it is recommended to take your private vehicle to visit the lake, as the buses are not frequent.

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