Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Mahabalipuram ~ Heritage City of Tamil Nadu


As the year end made friendship with winter, we knew its time for another memorable trip.Not because the weather in Bangalore was cold but because weather in Mahabalipuram will be manageable. The otherwise extremely hot Mahabalipuram  has shed a few degrees making us finally able to take a beach break.

We started from Bangalore. It was a misty morning but nevertheless very beautiful. The early morning light along with the fog made a mysterious yet calm scenario. By the time we reached Mahabalipuram it was past noon. Thanks to the breakfast break and also to the numerous KDFC coffee breaks.The road is good, though there are some stretches not that well maintained.But beware of the heavy and frequent tolls. We had to pay tolls in more than 5 toll booths for just the 325 km stretch.

On the way

We had our hotel booked beforehand, since I expected a mad rush of year end visitors.Our hotel was located on Othavadai Cross Street. I loved the vibe of the street.It is lined with open air small cafes,numerous restaurants all named "MoonRakers"(the food is pathetic but that's a different story),jewellery and curio shops.This part of the city looks like a small chunk of Europe airlifted and placed. Othavadai Cross Street is more of a favorite with westerners.Almost all the non vegetarian restaurants serve liquor. Some have rooftop bar playing soothing 90's music.

The beach from our hotel was just one avenue and a right turn away, a very short walking distance.Shore temple was a little far compared to the beach but that also within walking distance.

I kept the first day just for some beach fun, it has been some time we have been to any sea beach.If I can recall correctly the last was Mangalore that too some years back. Though I had Digha and Mandarmoni in plan list for my last trip to Kolkata, but that did not materialize due to time constraint.

I expected a good rush of people on the beach but to my utter pleasure it was pretty desolated, so we had the beach almost to ourselves.After an hour slowly more people started tickling in.I have no words to explain what an amazing time we all had with the winter sun on our back, the fresh breeze on our face and the soothing waves and slithering sands under our feet.It was nature's spa.

beach

surfing

too happy

The next day's plan was to see the Mahabalipuram group of temples. This group of temples is currently classified as world heritage site by UNESCO for its heritage,beauty and sculpture.The building of the temples was started in 7th century by the Pallava kings and the temples are in the form of chariots,caves sanctuaries and open air rock reliefs.

Though the temples are scattered, only one ticket per person is required to see all the temples in one day.

The most beautiful and striking is the Shore temple.It has three shrines, two dedicated to Shiva and the third to Vishnu.According to myth, there were seven temples or pagodas.The temples were so beautiful that even gods became jealous.So lord Indra instructed the sea to engulf the temples. The sea engulfed six temples but could not engulf the seventh one guarded by lord Vishnu.However just like truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction, during the 2004 Tsunami, when the sea receded a few kilometers, many people reported to have seen and photographed the submerged temples.

Apart from the Shore Temple, we see the other temples such as Pancha Rathas,Descent of the Ganges,Varaha Cave Temple, Krishna Cave Temple, Panchapandava Cave Temple, and the Mahishasuramardini mandapa. Many of the temples are unfinished.

Shore Temple

Shore Temple

Shore Temple

Arjuna's penance

Arjuna's penance

two monkeys

Arjuna's Penance

Temple

Krishna's butterball

sculptures inside temples

Pancha Ratha

Pancha Ratha

Pancha Ratha


Bhima's Ratha

We had to  brave the sun and the crowd in the noon and pleasantly we had a surprise in the evening.Visitors to the Shore temple were treated to various Indian dance performances organised by government of India under the banner "Incredible India" and also Tamil Nadu Tourism.We truly had a wonderful day that culminated into an awesome evening.Next we will visit Pondicherry also known as Puducherry.

performers from NE India

performers from NE India

performers from NE India

Performers from Himachal

Performers from Tamil Nadu

Performers from Tamil Nadu

Performers from Tamil Nadu

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Sikkim Travel ~ Summing Up



As with all other log trip blogs, I dare not break the rule so here's the final summing up of our Sikkim trip.

Day1 -     Night train(Darjeeling Mail) from Sealdah.

Day2 -     Reach NJP in the morning. Head for Pelling.
                Reach Pelling in evening. Rest for the remaining day.
                Night Halt
Blog Post - http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2016/11/prologue-sikkim-diaries-1.html

Day3  -    Full day sightseeing

                Places covered:
                Kanchendzonga Falls
                Rimbi Waterfall
                Darap Village
                Khecheopalri Lake
                Pemayangtse Monastery
                Rabdanse Ruins
                Changey Waterfall
                Dentam Valley
                Singshore Bridge

                Night Halt
Blog Post - http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2016/11/pelling-sikkim-diaries-2.html
         
Day4 -     Head for Gangtok
                Night Halt

Day5 -     Embark on a 2 nights/3 days North Sikkim trip.
                Because of road blockade, could visit only Lachung
                Night Halt at Lachung
Blog Post - http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2016/11/lachung-sikkim-diaries-3.html

Day6 -     Visit Yumthang Valley and Zero Point
                 Night halt at Lachung

Day7 -      Visit Katao
                  Head back to Gangtok
                  Night Halt
Blog Post - http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2016/12/katao-sikkim-diaries-4.html

Day8 -       Rest day/Relaxing, eating,shopping in MG Marg, Gangtok
                  Night Halt

Day9 -        Visiting Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir
                    Night Halt at Gangtok
Blog Post - http://thetravellerweare.blogspot.in/2016/12/lake-tsomgo-and-baba-mandir-sikkim.html


Day10 -       Head for NJP. Board train to Sealdah
                   Night in train

Day11 -       Arrive at Sealdah, Kolkata


Some glimpses of Sikkim

Kanchenzdonga waterfalls

Pelling

Wishing lake

Zero point

Zero point

waterfalls

Lachung

Lachung

Lachung

Lachung

Katao

Lachung

Lachung

Lachung

Lachung

Katao

Changu Lake

Changu Lake

Changu Lake

Changu Lake

Gangtok

Kupup

Lake Tsomgo and Baba Mandir, Sikkim Diaries - 5



Last two and half days we kept aside for Gangtok. We kept an entire day just to take rest. The journey to North Sikkim was pretty hectic although we had a good car with us. Our plan was to utilize the first day exploring Gangtok, more precisely MG Marg on foot,savoring local cuisines, visiting the curio shops while making sure that we have adequate rest.We had no plans for the local sight seeing.

We stayed at Jain Group Hotel Royal Residency, situated very close to MG Road. The hotel is new, very nicely done and on top of that one can get very clear view of Mt Kanchendzonga.

In the evening we walked to MG Marg. In every aspect MG Marg and its adjoining localities look like any small European city. The city is very clean,vibrant and youthful. The footpaths are broader than the car lanes and are nicely paved with stone bricks. There are benches to take rest on the sideways. Colourful blooms can also be found on the road dividers. I spend some time relaxing on the benches watching people. Average people are so well dressed and groomed and have fashion quotient much higher than Indian city dwellers elsewhere.

MG Marg

MG Marg


We tasted momos, local cakes, chocolate coffee,thuppa, roles and on an average the food tastes food in any eatery on MG Road. There were some makeshift stalls on the pavement on MG Road and the food they had was not that impressive.

We witnessed some Sikkimese cultural program going on in MG Marg. There was thousands of other tourists cheering the performers. Its always a good idea to carry umbrella or raincoat if you are in Gangtok during September/October because the evening showers come all of a sudden.

The next day we booked a xylo for a day trip to Tsomgo Lake and  Baba Mandir. We skipped Nathula since we felt that the weather was not good for Nathula.

Our hotel arranged the necessary permits and by 8 AM we were on the roads. We crossed the check point to Tsomgo pretty soon. I think tourist vehicles are not allowed to take the route to Tsomgo Lake after 10 am.

Our driver drove slow but steady since it was dense fog in the morning with very poor visibility.First we reached Tsomgo Lake also called Changu Lake by Bengalis. Located at an elevation of 3,753 m, the lake is considered sacred by Buddhists.

Tsomgo Lake

Tsomgo Lake

Directions


There was one small shop by the side of the lake renting Sikkimse costume. We rented some and took a few pictures in them. Also there were gigantic yaks. They were adorned with colorful costumes and were available for ride.However I just had the courage to take a few photos with them but not more than that.

Us @ Changu Lake

Me in a Sikkimese dress with Ankur @ Changu Lake

 Changu Lake

Yak @ Changu Lake

At Changu Lake

At Changu Lake

Changu Lake


Next we went to Baba Mandir. The Baba Mandir is a temple where hundreds of tourists and army personnel come every day to pay their respect to one of their own.

Excerpts from wiki:

Major "Baba" Harbhajan Singh (August 30, 1946 – October 4, 1968) was an Indian army soldier who died in 1968 near the Nathu La in eastern Sikkim, India. He is revered by soldiers of the Indian army as the "Hero of Nathula" and the army men have also built a shrine in his honour. He has been accorded the status of saint by believers who refer to him as the Baba (saintly father). Many of the faithful people, chiefly Indian army personnel posted in and around the Nathula Pass and the Sino-Indian border between the state of Sikkim and Chinese occupied Tibet have come to believe his spirit protects every soldier in the inhospitable high altitude terrain of the Eastern Himalayas. As with most saints, the Baba is said to also grant favours presumably to those who revere and worship him.

At Baba Mandir

At Baba Mandir

At Baba Mandir

At Baba Mandir

Cafeteria at Baba Mandir

At Baba Mandir

At Baba Mandir


On the way back we stopped by the beautiful Kupup Lake. There is also a museum near to Kupup lake. The road from Tsomgo actually goes till Zuluk in east Sikkim. The road is extra ordinarily beautiful, but to go till Zuluk one should have the necessary permits. However this time Zuluk was not in our itinerary, so we went back to Gangtok.

Kupup Lake

Kupup Lake

wild flowers at Kupup

Us at Kupup Lake

@Kupup Lake

@Kupup Lake

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