Thursday, 31 December 2015

Alleppey – The Venice of the East

DAY 1 – MUMBAI – KOCHI – ALLEPPEY

Flying down to Kerala
At last we were going on our vacation!! The planning had been on for the last 5 months. It was on 2nd October 2015, a Friday (and a national holiday), when we finally left Mumbai for our first transit destination – Kochi (also known as Cochin) which is a major port city on the south west coast of India .


Clouds from the Plane
Clouds from the Plane
It was a two hour flight and we were at Kochi’s airport by 1:30 pm. It was a sunny day and as soon we got out of the airport, we all were in the holiday mood…  Since we had not arranged any taxi, we booked a pre paid cab (a Toyota Etios – costing approx INR 2,100) from the airport itself. The first stop in our trip was Alleppey – The city of Backwaters.

While driving out from the airport we saw numerous solar panels… Later we came to know that the entire Kochi Airport is run on solar power (WOW!!!!). Since Alleppey was a 4 hour drive and we all were very hungry, we requested our driver to stop at a decent restaurant for lunch. The waiting charge of the cab was Rs. 90 per hour. After a decent meal of daal, raita, roti and papad we were again on our way to see the beautiful backwaters of Kerala.


Enroute Alleppey
Enroute Alleppey

The traffic was slow as Kochi Metro work is in progress. Once we were out of Kochi the drive was smooth and beautiful. The roads are smooth and the drive peaceful.

I had already booked our stay at Malayalam Resort in Alleppey which is located near the fishing point of the snake boat race. Our driver was not aware of our homestay and therefore we stopped over for directions.

Our homestay was situated such that no car could possibly reach at its door step. There was a pleasant twist!! Since the homestay was located by the backwaters, we had to go on a boat to reach Malayalam Resort. Once we reach the point by road closest to our homestay – Pramod & I walked down to the Lake Resort.

There we were greeted by the ever smiling Jeswin – manager of Malayalam Resort. We asked him how we can get our luggage and he pointed us to his very own sleek boat.


Alleppey Backwaters
Going to pick our luggage



We sat on the boat along with him and headed towards our car.  Once there, we put our luggage on the boat and sailed back to the homestay – Preeti and me on the boat along with Jeswin and Nikhil and Pramod walking along the narrow by-lanes.


Walk to the Resort
Walk to the Resort

It was a beautiful & a different experience. Something that I will always cherish. :) 

We were shown rooms on the ground floor as well as on the first floor. We choose rooms on the ground floor as they were cheaper and there was not much difference in the rooms and the view. The ground floor rooms naturally gave quicker access to the garden and back waters.


Wooden Cottages
Wooden Cottages

Our resort was simple yet beautiful. It was on the bank of the back waters. We could see the house boats floating on the back waters from our verandah. It felt very peaceful and close to nature. The rooms were entirely done in wood and spacious.

Once we had put our luggage in our rooms, we all sat in the verandah – just in front of our rooms overlooking the backwaters. We requested Jeswin for some coffee and were busy discussing with Jose places to see in Alleppey.

After having enjoyed the strong coffee we were all very eager to head for a body massage. Since it was dark by now and the walk from the main road to our resort very tricky we asked Jeswin for a torch.


View from Malayalam Lake Resort
View from the Resort

We walked down the road, enjoying the thin lanes of Alleppey, the road lined with coconut trees, road with hardly any traffic and soon we reached our massage center.

Three of us went for massage – Two of us opted for a relaxing full body massage lasting 60 mins costing Rs 1,200 per head, while one of us settled for a back and shoulder massage which took around 45 mins and made us Rs 500 lighter.

The thing with massage is Kerala is that they strip you out of clothes completely. To cover your dignity they give you a small piece of cloth (which serves no purpose). The second thing to keep in mind is that their oil massage is actually an OIL massage. Oil will be poured on you. Trust me you would not have applied so much of oil in your entire life by now.


Boating on the backwaters
Boating on the backwaters

Through with a relaxing massage and a relaxing warm water bath, we all walked down again to our resort. In between we picked up our dinner which we will eat at our resort. While going back we saw the sky – saw so many stars… felt as if they are smiling on us.

The homestay only provided us with breakfast. For lunch or dinner we had to inform them well in advance to cook for us. Since we hadn’t done that on our first day, we got some dinner parceled from one of the restaurants (which was nothing great) and borrowed a few plates from the resort. Post dinner we all chit chatted for a while and then decided to call it a day. 


Points to remember:

  •  If you want to visit Alleppey, then Kochi is the nearest airport.
  •  You can easily book a prepaid cab from the airport. The road between Kochi and Alleppey is nice.
  • Alleppey is a small place and does not require a car. One can easily hire an auto and move around.
  • Alleppey is known for its Backwaters. Don’t forget to enjoy this wonderful experience.
  • We stayed at Malayalam Resort in Alleppey and we strongly recommend it. You can contact Jeswin Thomas at 09633 48 0329 or mail them at malayalamresortsalpy@gmail.com 
  • Expense Details of the day:


Expense Head
For 4 People
Per Head
Flight Ticket from Mumbai to Kochi
            10,460
        2,615
Cab from Kochi Airport to Alleppey
              2,100
           525
Lunch at Kochi
                  450
           113
Waiting charge of cab during lunch
                    90
             23
Massage
              2,900
           725
Dinner
                  360
             90
Malayalam Resort (2 rooms)
              2,400
           600
TOTAL
            18,760
       4,690




Sunday, 13 December 2015

Kerala & Lakshadweep Island

Hi there, it’s been a while right?... Well, I am just back from a ten day vacation to two of the most beautiful places in India – Kerala and Lakshadweep. More precisely, I am right now in my room, sorting pictures and reliving the vacation.

Again, this year we were the same four and a half people - Pramod, Preeti, their three and a half year old daughter Taashi, Nikhil and me. Another friend of ours Parth, joined us for the stint in Lakshadweep.

Kerala has been very aptly called “God’s own Country”. Kerala which shares the southern tip of India with Tamil Nadu has been blessed with beautiful beaches, backwaters, gentle people, tropical climate, tea & coffee plantations, fresh spices, a unique culture…. Nestled between the green Western Ghat Mountains on the East the Arabian Sea on the west, dense forests, emerald backwaters, exotic wildlife, serene beaches makes it’s a travelers delight.

Lakshadweep is a cluster of islands which is full of sun kissed beaches, white sand, turquoise sea water, swaying palms, serene atmosphere, colourful corals, blue lagoons …

Main Islands in Lakshadweep are Kavaratti (Capital of Lakshadweep), Kalpeni, Minicoy (Closest Island to Maldives), Kadmat, Agatti (has Airport) and Bangaram (only island of Lakshadweep where liquor is permitted).  

Our itinerary for the trip was as follows:

Day 1
Mumbai - Kochi – Alleppey
Day 2
Alleppey
Day 3
Alleppey – Willington Island in Kochi - Cruise to Lakshadweep
Day 4
Minicoy Island
Day 5
Kalpeni Island
Day 6
Kavaratti Island
Day 7
Willington Island in Kochi - Munnar
Day 8
Munnar
Day 9
Periyar
Day 10
Periyar - Athirapally Waterfall - Kochi - Mumbai

In this vacation we used three modes of transportation – Air, Water and Road.

Air – Mumbai to Kochi and back.

Water – Entire Lakshadweep. From Willington Island in Kochi to Minicoy Island, Kalpeni Island, Kavaratti Island and back to Willington Island.

Road – Kochi to Alleppey. And then again from Willington Island in Kochi to Munnar to Periyar to Athirapally Waterfall to Kochi Airport.


Enough of munching of words… now let’s get some pictures talking…

Minicoy Lighthouse
View from Minicoy Lighthouse

Minicoy Beach
Enjoying the view at Minicoy Beach

Sunset from the Ship
Sunsets from the Ship

Kalpeni Beach
Kalpeni Beach

Kavaratti Island, Lakshadweep
Sea at Kavaratti Island, Lakshadweep

Spices at Munnar, Kerala
Berries in Munnar, Kerala

Sunrise at Munnar, Kerala
Sunrise at Munnar, Kerala

Enroute Munnar, Kerala
Enroute Munnar, Kerala

Bird Watching at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Bird Watching at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Kerala Martial Arts
Kerala Martial Arts

Boating at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Boating at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Alleppey Backwaters
Alleppey Backwaters


Athirapally Waterfall, Kerala
Athirapally Waterfall, Kerala

Iddukki Lake, Kerala
Iddukki Lake, Kerala



Sunday, 22 March 2015

Tarkali - Beaches, Scuba Diving, Forts, Snorkeling, Backwaters - It has All !!!

Are you looking for beaches with pristine white sand and not a soul around? No, I am not talking about Lakshadweep

Are you interested in backwaters? It is not Kerela that I am talking about

Interested in Scuba Diving??? Not talking about Andaman

Want to have finger licking sea food? It is not Goa that I have in mind.

I am talking about this small town on the Konkan belt of Maharashtra …. Tarkarli.

Tarkarli
Tarkali - Picture Perfect
Tarkarli is a small laid back town that can boast of beautiful long coastline with white smooth sand and clear water. Once in Taarkarli, you can see the Sindhudurg Fort, go for scuba diving, enjoy the Malvan Cuisine, go for water sports, relax at the beaches, go boating and fishing.

Interests:

Sindhudurg Fort:

Standing few miles from the Malvan Jetty in the middle of the sea this Fort looks huge. The fort was built by the Maratha warrior Maharaja Shivaji and has a temple devoted to Maharaja Shivaji. The Fort has three sweet water wells. It is beautiful to see the sea wavers splashing the walls of the Fort. Climb to the highest point of the Fort and enjoy the 360 degree view.

Sindhudurg Fort from Malvan Beach

There are currently 12 families staying inside the fort. During the monsoon season, the fort is shut and these 12 families cannot come out from the fort to the shore.

View from Sindhudurg Fort
View from Sindhudurg Fort

Inside Sindhudurg Fort
Inside Sindhudurg Fort
You can go to the Fort from the Malvan Jetty and is a ten to fifteen mins away.

Malvan Beach
Malvan Beach

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving:

Are you inquisitive about the world under the sea? Do you want to peep and have a look? Then head for Snorkeling and Scuba Diving.

For the adventure lovers, Tarkarli has been advertised as the only place in India (except the islands) where you can do snorkeling and scuba diving. The first question that we ask is “I can’t swim. Can I so scuba diving?” The answer to this is “Yes, You can do scuba diving”.

Please note that you will not be able to visit Sindhudurg Fort and go for snorkeling and scuba Diving in the monsoons.

Tsunami Island:

Local says, this island is the outcome of Tsunami. This is the place where you should head for water sports. You will reach here on a boat and it will depend whether you will get off on an island (in low tide) or in knee deep water (in high tide). You can go for water sports like bumper ride, Banana ride, Scooter, Jet Ski, Kayaking, Para Sailing, Speed Boat. 

Tsunami Island -Water Sports
Tsunami Island - Water Sports
If you are going for multiple rides it is recommended that you strike a package as it will be economical. There are few shacks where you can enjoy Kokam sharbat, Masala Sharbat, Kala Khatta etc. While enjoying the drink don’t forget to enjoy the view and the feeling of being in the middle of the sea.

Sea Gulls
Sea Gulls
Karli Backwaters:

Karli backwater refers to the River Karli that flows along the creek and merges with the Arabian Sea. A ride on the Backwaters of Karli is a must. Enjoy the serene boat ride with lush green trees on both the side. Enjoy the strong breeze of the sea, the lush green coconut palms and mangroves.



Sailing on Karli Backwaters
Sailing on Backwaters

Karli Backwaters
Karli Backwaters
Bhogwe Beach:

Bhogwe Beach is a never ending beach, when you enter the beach on the right you will see a huge stretch of beautiful sand and on your left few rocks. Once you cross these rocks you will find another never ending stretch of white sand welcoming you. As you walk on the beach you will find the ruins of Nivati Fort on top of the hill lock. Sit and relax watching the sunset, enjoying the beauty of nature.

Bhogwe Beach
Bhogwe Beach


Sunset At Bhogwe Beach
Sunset At Bhogwe Beach

Nivati Fort & Nivati Beach:

Nivati Fort is in ruins. The few walls of the fort that you will see will remind you that there was once a fort at this location. The Fort offers a breathtaking view of the sea and Bhogwe beach. Visit this fort in the evening and enjoy the sunset, appreciate the different shades in the sky as the sun sets, enjoy the reflection of the sun on the sea water… You will be mesmerized by it.

Bhogwe Beach from Nivati Fort
Bhogwe Beach from Nivati Fort

Nivati Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches you would have ever seen. You have to walk through the houses of the villagers to step on this white sand beach. Nivati Beach is totally secluded from the world by rocky cliffs on three sides. It was picture perfect. The sand of this beach feels like talcum powder to your feet and is spotless and the water clean.

Nivati Beach from Nivati Fort
Nivati Beach from Nivati Fort

The beach is deserted except for some fishing boat and sea gulls. There are no vendors selling food, water etc.  This beach brings in peace and serenity.

It is a small beach but the rocks and the clear sea water and white sand gives it a perfect picture  postcard look. Don’t forget to catch the sight of this beach from the entrance of Nivati Fort. The sight is breathtaking.

Entrance of Nivati Beach
Entrance of Nivati Beach

Tarkali is a great place for people looking for quiet holiday in pure nature. The beaches are serene and deserted. On a sunny day, it’s you with the sunny sand, emerald green water and the blue sky. There are long stretches of beaches for you to walk as much as you want. If you are an adventure lover, You can try your hands on scuba diving and snorkeling and various water sports. 

Thankfully, Tarkarli has not yet featured in the tourist circuit. Otherwise these beautiful beaches would not have been a treat to the eyes. I silently hope that this place does not catch the eyes of the tourist and remains the way it is now.. Simple, beautiful and peaceful.

BTW, check out some of the beautiful sunsets I saw in Tarkarli:

Deep Red
Deep Red !!!

Sunset at Karojai Jetty
Sunset at Karojai Jetty

Orange Sky amidst beautiful palms
Orange Sky amidst beautiful palms


Sunset - Soulful Orange
Soulful Orange 

The Orange Sky
The Orange Sky

Reflection
The Reflection

How to reach:

Tarkarli lies in Maharastra along the Kokan Belt.

Road: Catch the NH17 or NH4 to reach Malvan, which is the nearest main city to Tarkarli. From Malvan, Tarkarli is 7 kms approx.

Train: Kudal is the nearest railway station which is around 60 kms approx from Tarkarli. From Kudal you can take a autorikshaw to Tarkarli.

Air: The closest Domestic Airport is in Dabolim, Goa. From Dabolim, you can take a taxi or can take a bus for Tarkarli.

Cuisine:

If you are a sea food lover, then this is the place for you. You will enjoy authentic Malvani food here, mouth watering sea food. Being in the coastal area, coconut is used in most of the food preparation whether veg or non veg. Savor the soan kaddi and kokam sharbat.

Shopping:

Don’t forget to shop for Ambavadi, Mango Pulp, Aamla, Kokam, Kokam Syrup.




Thursday, 19 February 2015

Pelling - Pemayangtse Monastery, Khecheopalri Lake

DAY 8 –  SINGSHORE BRIDGE, RIMBI WATERFALL, KANCHENJUNGA WATERFALL, PEMAYANGTSE MONASTERY & KHECHEOPALRI LAKE

I got up early today to experience the Kanchenjunga in the morning. I peeped out of the room window to see fog everywhere. I was utterly disappointed. The reason I had booked a room at Upper Pelling was to enjoy the mesmerizing view of Kanchanjunga.

Chants embossed on a rock
Chants embossed on a rock 
Since I was the first one who got ready, I walked to the helipad which was a stone throw away distance from our hotel, to have a look at the view from there. I was let down by what I could see or rather I could not see.  

The hotel had arranged a Tata Sumo for us for today’s sightseeing, which was not a wise decision. The car was very uncomfortable especially because the roads are very bad.
We got ready, had breakfast in the hotel and hoped in our car at 9:30 am. We were late, we should have started early.

After seeing Nathula Pass, Rumtek Monastery in Gangtok, Gurudongmar Lake and Zero Point in North Sikkim, Buddha Park in Ravangla, it was time to explore Pelling.

Our first stop was Rimbi Waterfall. It was a quick one though. After seeing many waterfalls in North Sikkim this one didn’t impress us at all. One quick snap of this waterfall and we were back in the car.

Rimbi Waterfall
Rimbi Waterfall 
Our next stop was Kangehendzonga Waterfalls which is around 15 kms from Pelling on the road leading to Yuksom (which we gave a miss). Even before reaching the waterfall we could hear the thundering sound of water falling from a height with ferocious speed.  This was a waterfall which was nice and huge. The path to the waterfall is dotted with shops selling, channa, sweets, biscuits, chai and noodles.

Kanchanjunga Waterfall
Kanchanjunga Waterfall
The Holy Khecheopalri Lake was next in our itinerary.  The lake which is also known as the wishing Lake, is a short walk from the jeep parking lot. The walkway to the lake is lined by prayer flags on both sides. The lake is very serene and is considered holy by the locals. There were many tourists turning the series of prayer wheels walking on the walkway towards the edge of the lake. You will find plenty of huge fish in the lake. There are requests to maintain silence and not throw anything (especially food) in the lake. The view was beautiful – it was greenery everywhere.  There was perfect silence which is meditative and spiritual.

Way to Khecheopalri Lake
Way to the Holy Lake

Prayer Wheels at Khecheopalri Lake
Prayer Wheels at Khecheopalri Lake
We pulled ourselves from this serene lake and proceeded towards the Sinshore Bridge near Uttarey. This is the second highest suspension bridge in Asia and what an engineering it is. It leads to Nepal and connects two hills of the Himalayan Range. There is a huge valley that runs right under the bridge.  There was hardly any noise other than the fluttering of the flags and the whistle of the wind. We walked the stretch of the bridge across and could feel the vibrations on the bridge everytime a car gets on it.

Singshore Bridge
Singshore Bridge

Singshore Bridge
Singshore Bridge
Our last stop was Pemayangtse Monastery. By the time we reached the monastery the sun has set and it was getting cold. It is one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim.  A large group of monks were seated in the main hall of the monastery and were chanting in unison. Just listening to these chants, I had a feeling of mental peace. It was a very spiritual experience. After sitting amongst the monks and listening to their chants we decided to head back to our hotel. I tried to take pictures of this monastery but in vain as it was night time and foggy.

Pemayangtse Monastery
Pemayangtse Monastery
Once in hotel we headed to our room, refreshed and came downstairs for dinner. This was our last dinner in the smallest state of India – Sikkim… beautiful and serene.

Points to remember:
1. As the sun sets early here start your day early.
2. Book an Innova, bolero or a Xylo for a comfortable travel. As the roads are bad and travel in Sumo or Maxx can be cumbersome.
3. Although the distance between places is not far because of the rough terrain it takes a considerable time to go from one place to another. So plan accordingly.
4. Please carry warm clothes including sweater, jacket, cap, mufflers, socks and gloves. Wear shoes and not sandals or chappals.
6. Be easy on steps and while walking. Avoid brisk walk or running at high altitudes.
7. In Pelling, book your hotel at Upper Pelling which is close to the Helipad and thus offer magnificent view of the Kanchanjunga.
8. Sikkim is plastic free zone. Please don’t litter and maintain the beauty of nature.

9. Please remain quiet, maintain the discipline and follow the rules at Monasteries and other religious places.