All posts by thelostlander

Experiences from the Indian roads

A Day on the Old Silk Route

It was long travelling distances leading to high altitude destinations, where cold winds were abundant and oxygen levels lower. For those of us travelling across North and East Sikkim, it had been a long and a tiring trip thus far. Each day of our weeklong travel through this little but important Indian state had been a different experience.

This post is part of our weeklong stay in Sikkim covering Gangtok – Mangan – Lachen – Gurudongmar- Lachung- Zero point – Rumtek – Gangtok – Nathula – Zuluk – Siliguri

Long ago, I had seen a jaw dropping photograph of the old silk-route winding and passing through Sikkim. It had since been my wish to see that view in real. The old silk-route had once served as a major trade route connecting China with the rest of Asia and Middle east. During this trip in Sikkim, we decided to drive along that scenic route during our exit from this tiny state. Hence, the route chosen by us was: Gangtok > Tsongmo/Changu lake > Nathula Pass > Nathang valley > Lungthung village > Thambi viewpoint > Zuluk >Rangpo > Siliguri

The Details:

Only Indian nationals are permitted on this stretch of East Sikkim and an inner line permit was obtained from Gangtok on the morning of our departure.

It had been a cloudy day since dawn break and the drive for the initial stretch felt pleasant as we passed through the wavering peace flags all along the highway. We learnt about the significance of these peace posts in Buddhist culture while conversing with our taxi driver. The white flags are installed in memory of a deceased person by their kith. Similarly, the multicolored flags are believed to bring good luck. Ideally, these flags are supposed to be installed high up in the mountains where the winds are stronger. The wind is believed to free-up the soul of the deceased or bring good energy, depending on the flag’s colour. With reducing space for hoisting more flags and the ease of finding a hoisting place by the roadside, it is now common to find them all along the highways of this Buddhist majority state.

Sooner, the clouds cleared up making way for a gleaming sun in the blue sky. We arrived at the Tsomgo lake in a while. It is a serene lake that is popular among the tourists. We clicked a few photos with the yaks grazing around its periphery before proceeding towards the Indo-China border at Nathula pass.

Nathula was crowded. People were amok and erratic. They had no idea what to expect at an international border. Some were standing in attention with a salute to the Indian tricolor, some were touching and praying the fence that marked the border. Some were putting their feet across the barbed wire to get a feel of going to China and a few more were busy chasing the men in uniform of the Indian army for selfies. And for us, it was a urge to run back to the warmth of the heater of our vehicle 😛 It was biting cold even during the peak of the day. We walked up to the point, saw the border gates of both India and China, the respective embassy buildings, the Chinese and the Indian army camps posted high up and also got a distant view of the mountains that marked Bhutan. We did a quick walk through, taking in all the good views and returned to our vehicle as quickly as we could.

The view enroute Nathula pass
The view enroute Nathula pass Photo credit: Varsha J.

After squeezing out of the maddening crowd at Nathula, we continued our journey towards Nathang valley, only to be stuck in one of the worst traffic jams we had experienced in Sikkim. The last and the major destination on a typical touristy circuit is the temple of Baba Harbhajan Singh. Baba Harbhajan Singh is a folklore hero and an ex-army soldier whose spirit is believed to be roaming around the place, protecting the soldiers posted at this extreme terrain. There are old and the new temples dedicated to him, both maintained by the Indian army. We managed to find our way out of the choco block and continued towards Nathang valley.

Beyond the army temple, I can conveniently say that it was just us all the way. The roads were deserted, except for some BRO trucks and excavators clearing up the landslide prone path and laying new roads. We passed through what the army claims to be world’s highest altitude golf course, several army camps and tiny discrete civilian settlements along our way. Our drive through Nathang valley, thereafter, was something beyond comprehension for our senses, it was so beautiful!

All that we had envisaged of this journey at the time of commencing this drive was passing through a viewpoint and reaching Siliguri for the night’s stay. But as the journey unfolded, we were in for surprises. That day, the clouds had embraced the valley like never before. The road that we were driving on, seemed as if it was curving around the edge of the land. It was clear blue sky with the sun beaming bright and the thick clouds engulfing the horizon. The rhododendron plants had blanketed the entire valley, which I’m sure must be a visual delight during their blooming season. We stopped, like at every half a mile to capture the landscape in our cameras, alas justice be done to what the human eyes saw.

The drive through Nathang valley
Driving through the edge, above the clouds at Nathang valley

But by late afternoon, the sun had started to descend to the horizon and the fog had taken over again. Our visibility of the road ahead and the possibility to see the view that we wanted, had both now become zero. Our driver soon pulled off our vehicle at a tiny settlement enroute to enquire for availability of a place for us to stay for the night. Lungthung is a tiny village on the valley, with barely 3-4 houses, that too made with metal sheets. By staying in a homestay there, we were going to be the only outsiders for that night at Lungthung!

The mercury level was already below zero. But as the night rolled in, the winds too got stronger. The clouds cleared up and the stars and the planets shone brighter than ever. It was our last night at Sikkim and the coldest too! Even as we sat inside the host’s dining room, relishing the handmade thenthuk, we felt like our roof was going to be taken away by the winds. No amount of firewood could keep us warm. Even if we simply stood up for a moment to adjust our seats, they would freeze again. But as I said earlier, it was our last evening at Sikkim before we got back to the grind. There was no way we would hit the bed early. We sat outside, counting stars quite literally… The sky was clear, the moon lit up the road below and a lone filament bulb illuminated a roof at a little distance. Apart from an occasional goods carrying army truck that toughed it out on the slope, there was no civilization around us for miles together… It was an experience so wonderful that we hadn’t imagined about remotely, even a few hours ago… Not in my wildest dreams, had I imagined that I would live a day of my life ON the silk-route!!

The moonlit view of the silk route as seen from Lungthung homestay
The moonlit view of the silk route and the clouds as seen from Lungthung homestay

Anyway, not really being able to sleep due to cold temperature and the noisy sheets fluttering outside our room, we still rolled into our blankets and set an alarm to wake up early. Our host at the homestay had recommended to walk down the road for sunrise…

The following morning, it was almost impossible for me to even think of coming out of the blanket. I snoozed the alarm a couple of times. But then something happened. My eyes had one glance at the window glass, and it was enough motivation for me to get my butt off the bed. It was a breaking dawn…. The sky had a streak of deep red, visible right at my window, seen from my bed…. It was for sure, unusual from any normal day. The view made me forget the cold and barge outside to not miss the complete visuals of an unfolding day… I woke my brother up and my friends and we all raced towards the viewpoint that we were told about. We didn’t mind slipping down a couple of times on the frozen roads.

The sun rising over Kanchenjunga at Thambi view point
The sun rising over Kanchenjunga at Thambi view point

At such high altitude and low temperature, the running didn’t help to warm us up. As we reached the viewpoint, we were panting for breath and had our jaws dropping. We were gasping, awestruck in amazement at the sight around us, chattering due to the freezing temperature and everything else happened to us at the same time. The moment is inexplainable!

The old silk route at Zuluk valley
The old silk route at Zuluk valley, as seen from Thambi view point during sunrise

We were standing at Thambi viewpoint and had lost the sense of place for that moment. The Kanchenjunga had lit up in crimson in just a few minutes and the winding roads through Zuluk valley appeared deep down in a while. It was a day and an experience like never before! It was our last day at Sikkim and I could only say that the best was indeed saved for the end!

Throwback to Another Year with Covid – 2021

Well, 2021 has been quite a year for everyone! As things started to seem better with the pandemic, the 2nd wave had rattled the World and India! From lives of successful rich celebrities to the poorest, it spared none! But amid all the grievances, life is about seeing through the nicer things and marching forward!

Talking about myself, it has been a package of a year that can be split into exactly two on the calendar. If not exciting, the first half of the year was a fair one.

  • I led a group of hikers after a long hiatus due to Covid. Made new friends from travel.
  • I was told that I inspired people to explore the world (I don’t know how :P) and received surprise gifts from my readers.
  • My blog performed well (in fact, the best in 10 years!)
  • My first e-book was published (Click here to buy it).
  • I completed a course on ‘Ancient history and Architecture of India’
  • I joined classes to learn ‘Yakshagana’, something that was long wished for.

As the calendar pages turned to July, it brought with it a flip in the normalcy of life. A change in job role, a change in office location and a lot of changes in the home atmosphere! It has been a feeling of just drifting along with the wind, for this LostLander. Six months went by without being able to write a single page of content. The only good part was that I resumed regular office and with it, came a lot of Business travel. Although I was paranoid about resuming air-travel after nearly a year, the change was so important to keep me sane!

There is less to write about this year and so, let me share some of the memorable images that social media brought to me.


Tokyo 2020 happened in 2021! and this was a golden year for India at the Olympics where it outperformed itself with its first athletic gold and the overall highest number of medals so far!

The medal winning throw of Neeraj Sharma at Tokyo 2020
The medal winning throw of Neeraj Chopra at Tokyo 2020


• While the women’s hockey team became an inspiration to crores of Indians, their individual stories reflected the dreams of several girls who wished to break the societal stereotypes.

A tweet by the goalie of Indian Football team in appreciation of Women’s national hockey team


• The men’s hockey on the other hand, were a jubilant bunch with a medal that India was devoid of for 4 decades. Here’s an image of a tribute by the goalkeeper of Indian football (Gurpreet Singh Sandhu) to the goalkeeper of Indian hockey (P.R. Sreejesh) for his game saving stop of the last goal in the medal winning match.

Left: Indian hockey goalie- P.R.Sreejesh; Right: Indian football goalie- Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Both celebrating India's hockey medal at Tokyo 2020
Left: Indian hockey goalie- P.R.Sreejesh; Right: Indian football goalie- Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Both celebrating India’s hockey medal at Tokyo 2020


• Oh, the beautiful women raised in the cradle of my motherland, you are all wonderful. The first athlete to open the tally book for India at Tokyo 2020 was a woman. A woman who became an inspiration right on the opening day of the Olympics, still has me in awe. In spite of carrying so much success in her belt that could weigh her down, how could a person be so grounded and humble? And it was a sense of personal honour for me as I shared the aisle and some warm conversations with Ms. Mirabai Chanu on one of the flights.


• While we discuss accomplished people being grounded, it brings memories of Late. Puneet Rajkumar. Having shared the same neighborhood for a few years, it was common for me to bump into him every other day. Without carrying any air of superiority around his head, this man did not fail to smile at every person he came across, known and unknown. Only when he was gone, did we Kannadigas know that our movies too were watched by millions in faraway countries. I was taken by surprise when a person I met in a Nepali village told me how big a loss it was with this star’s passing away.

A tribute to Puneet Rajkumar
A tribute to Puneet Rajkumar


• And, this was definitely NOT the way 2021 had to end. The passing away of India’s Chief of Defense Staff along with other decorated soldiers was the most unfortunate. So much for keeping the safety of the world’s 2nd largest population as his only duty, let the top man of India’s defense rest in peace. Although, I have never met this man in person, the loss felt very personal. News has it that he shared a special bond with Kodagu, my hometown.

The Reflection of General Bipin Rawat, caught in his office
The Reflection of General Bipin Rawat, in his office

If you have made it this far on my blog, let me tell you that, having good ‘Mental health’ is a thing. Feeling low or depressed is absolutely normal and can happen to anyone. It is important to recognize this earlier and to reach out to people at the right time. Reach out to help someone or reach out to seek help. If at any point, any of you feel the need to reach out to just someone- do hit me up! I don’t know how I can help your situation, but I shall certainly do my best to hear you out and guide you to the right source of help!

Chettinad Part 2: Exploring Kaanadukathan- A Dreamland in the heart of Tamil Nadu

Continued from Part 1: Exploring Karaikudi

After an exhausting day exploring the streets crammed with Chettinad houses in Karaikudi, we were dropped at the bus stand to board the local bus to our next destination. The bus snaked through the narrow lanes and we craned our necks out of the window to stare at a few bungalows along the road at Pallathur before we finally alighted at ‘THE’ destination of our tour- Kaanadukathan.

Part 2: Exploring Kaanadukathan

Although we had listed down the must-see things, we felt lost upon our arrival at this village. The place looked like any other village in India and we wondered where had all the stately houses gone, the only reason that had brought us there. It was evening already, and we still didn’t have a definite place to stay. Without having a clue on how to go about further on our trip, we decided to follow our instincts.

Firstly, we decided to walk till that road’s end hoping to find some hotel for our night’s stay. After a short distance, we heaved a sigh of relief when we came across ‘Visalam heritage hotel’. It was a heritage property and expensive on our budget, but it was assurance that there was some place we could fall back to in the worst case of not finding a stay for the night. Having some relief, we decided to walk further down the street in our quest for both a hotel that would fit our budget or for the palatial mansions that had brought us all the way from Bangalore.

After walking further down the street, my friend and I stopped at the sight in front of us. We were psyched out for a minute when our eyes caught a never-ending stretch of road flanked by the Palatial- country homes on both sides… We were in for an unexpected shock!! We knew there were many large mansions but had never imagined a real street to look just out of a movie setting. The facades of these large villas had fine sculptures of their family deities and the heavy wooden doors at the main entrances were decorated with artistic friezes.

The streets of Kaanaadukathan village

This village in particular did not seem to be very tourist friendly with most of these bungalows being locked up and their owners living elsewhere for various reasons. A few residents, however, have been kind to the keen travelers by permitting entry to their princely manors. Here is a summary of our pursuits of landmarks at Kaanadukathan.

CVRM house: This is one of the very few Chettinad mansions that are open for public viewing that can be visited with a small entry fee. Although, nobody lives in this house now where once lived a large and an affluent family, it is well maintained with some of its antique cupboards, piano, swings etc. kept intact to retain the grandeur of this house. While we were admiring the grand interiors, the caretaker at the mansion recognized that we were lost and offered to accommodate us at her house for the night. Well, meeting such Samaritans needs a separate post.

The CVRM house at Kaanadukathan
The CVRM house at Kaanadukathan

We started early on the following morning to make best use of the time before the sun became fully active. There were (ancient) temple visits in the day’s itinerary and a lot of walking to be done. With our host’s support, we managed to book an auto-rickshaw for the entire day and to take us around places as listed below.

The nine clan temples of Chettinad: Temples of Soorakudi, Kundrakudi Murugan temple, Pillayarpatti Vinayaka temple and Vairavanpatti temples are beautiful structures dating back to the Pandya era. These architectural treasures are a win for history buffs in quest of places least touched by the maddening tourists. If one is a pious traveler, one may also consider visiting the temples at Iraniyur, Tirupattur, Velankudi, Kottaiyur, Kandanur and Mathur. Collectively, these temples represent the family deity of each of the nine major clans inhabiting around the region. After having our lunch served by donors at the Vairavanpatti temple, we headed towards our next destination

Aathangudi Palace: Fondly called as the ‘Periyaveedu’ for being the biggest house in the village, this mansion is aptly named as the Aathangudi palace. The roofs, the floors, the walls- they made our jaws drop in awe at their splendor and grandeur as we stood in the portico at its entrance. Although, we were charged an entry fee, we weren’t allowed to stay inside the mansion beyond 15 minutes by the caretakers. Their behavior towards visitors was somewhat a turn-off as they chased us out with verbal abuses. Forget observing the intricacies of the architecture of such a place, 15 minutes weren’t sufficient to even take a casual walk around the entire house.

Inside the Periyaveedu- The Athangudi Palace
Inside the Periyaveedu- The Athangudi Palace

There was no heed given to requests by our driver even as he tried to convince them in the local language. Pissed off with their attitude, our driver drove us off from there, towards our next destination. Before I continue ranting about our exploration of the region, I pause a bit to talk about my autorickshaw ride: The cranking lever of the vehicle had come off and was kept under our feet (in the rear seat) and the brake pads had worn out till their last dust. That meant, that the vehicle needed to be push started every time we stopped, and the driver had to jump out of the slow-moving rickshaw to stop it every time we wanted to halt. Especially under the blazing sun and some annoying caretakers like the one mentioned above, it is natural to gain a few additional horsepower in our muscles. So, the raging ride from Aathangudi palace until our next stop was quite a thing!

Aathangudi tiles factory & wood art restoration center: This is a place where we met the men who create beauty out of lifeless soil and wood. We observed demonstration of how these GI tagged colorful tiles are created. An art in themselves, apart from adorning all Chettinad mansions, I remember the grandeur of the Mysore and Bangalore palaces whose flooring is made with tiles sourced from Aathangudi.

Making of the Athangudi tiles

Chettinad railway station: This small and least haunted railway station on a typical traveler’s itinerary was included in our list after we had heard that the local Raja had a special waiting room for himself in the railway station. This quick and an exhausting ride ended in disappointment when we reached there. We learnt that the special room is not open to public viewing and will be opened only on special occasions for the members of the Raja’s family.

The entrance to one of the houses at Kaanadukathan

By this time, our tummies were grumbling of hunger. In spite of having been in the land of spices for two days, our taste buds hadn’t savored authentic Chettinad cuisine yet. It was a hard hunt for us to find a good hotel that served us authentic Chettinad food. Our craving gustatory cells were finally satiated with a lip-smacking array of culinary delight at a small hotel that we found on a random lookout. Post lunch, we decided to spend the rest of the day exploring the somnolent streets of Kaanadukathan by foot.

Local weaving centers: We shopped for the Kandangi handloom saris from one of the many local weaving centers.

Chettinad Raja’s palace: The largest mansion in the whole of Chettinad is a sprawling edifice extending over an entire lane on all four sides. And that’s why it is called as the Chettinad palace. We made futile attempts to get a small peek into the interiors of this massive dwelling space that I had seen in some of the movies.

Our walk tour of Kaanadukathan continued until dusk. We clicked some nice photos of this ‘heritage’ village with the perfect lighting by the setting sun. Along with the setting sun, we set ourselves for the return journey. We had to reach Trichy on time to catch our bus back to Bangalore. Thus, concluded a weekend in Chettinad- the land of palatial mansions and piquant cuisine.

Must-dos in Chettinad:

  • Take a walk in the Muneeshwaran Koil street or the antique market in Karaikudi
  • Shop for a colorful palm basket- The local handicraft that has gained a GI tag
  • Treat your palette with Chettinad cuisine (I definitely mean Non-Veg)
  • Take a bicycle / walk tour around the streets of Kaanadukathan

The Story of my Solo trip is an e-book now

My visit to the arid land of Spiti was my first solo trip in all sense. I have previously spoken about its beautiful landscape and the wonderful people through my blog posts. But, on a personal note this travel has been one of the most impactful trips of my lifetime. So, here is the entire story in the form of an e-book.

Through this book, I seek your company while I backpack alone on a trip to the mountains. I want you to join me when I gate crash a mountain wedding and dance to the first snow. I want company when I confront a mummy and when I visit a vault full of millennium old paintings. Stay with me as I return home with an unsettling chaos running in my tummy. As you read through the pages of this book, you can bite into the juicy apples of Kinnaur all along, walk with me meeting people and go on a virtual trip to the Spiti valley and back.

You can get your copy of the e-book on Amazon by clicking on the image or the link below:

Click on image to buy the copy of ‘My Spiti Sojourn’

Yes, I know the language could have been tuned a little more and the English, could sound a little more polished. But, due to reading the same story over and over again, a few mistakes have outflown, my humble apologies! This book had been compiled in the first covid lockdown (Apr 20) and I have been procrastinating to publish it for over a year now, even post 2nd lockdown I (Apr 21). So, finally it had to be done….. But, I promise that my intention of sharing my story and experiences from the road has been compiled to the best of my abilities. I wish you all read, enjoy your virtual trip to Spiti and share your honest thoughts about it…

My Decade Long Journey as a Car Doctor Comes to an End

This July: the July of 2021, I complete ten years as a professional. From graduating as an engineer to becoming a professional automobile engineer, this journey as a car doctor has been an enriching one.

Working with machines is every mechanical engineer’s dream, and I have been fortunate to have lived it through. To give a peek into what I did during the last 10 years: I handled after-market quality issues in all Toyota & Lexus cars that are manufactured in India. So, this largely involved travelling to dealers to diagnose problems in customers’ cars (clinic), testing them and taking suitable countermeasures (hospital) through investigation (Read here to know more about my work).

This has been one of those rare jobs that helped me to couple my passion for travelling along with opportunities to learn new technology and science. From the paddy fields of Fatehgarh Sahib to the casting foundries of Aranmula, my work has taken me to the remotest places that I had not even imagined. With dealers and suppliers located across India, it was a unique opportunity to experience different cultures from across my country. Culture not just in terms of traditions, customs or cuisine, but also the culture that influences the habits of people using automobiles. Every state in India offers diversity in terms of their purpose and intent of using a car, I believe is unique to India.

After 10 years, it is now time for me to hang my boots…. Or the stethoscope, should I say! Although I will still continue to serve the same hospital, I will be taking over newer responsibilities: in car forensics! With a decade long experience spanning across functions in the organization and technical areas like plastics, paint, glass, fabric, electricals, rubber and metals, I will now be wearing the hat of a specialist in metallurgy. More on this, some other time!

For now, it’s time for this car doctor to hang down her stethoscope and take a chill pill. Let me find the hat of an investigator and try to get my hands on that magnifying glass!

Ciao!

An Offbeat Day Trip from Bengaluru to Channapatna

The original plan for this short family outing was to make an early morning visit to Sanjeevaraya Swamy temple in Channapatna Taluk of Ramanagara district and return. But, since my workplace is located along the same route, I expressed my disinterest in traveling that way. I pitched in the idea to have a change of route at least for one-way. Hence, I added a couple of other landmarks, picked up an offbeat village road and created a circuit with aid from google maps.

For those of you who are not familiar with the geography of Karnataka, Ramanagara is popularly known for its Sholay hills that was featured as the village- ‘Ramgarh’ in the Bollywood movie Sholay. Channapatna is popular for its cottage industries of wooden toys. I am not going to write about any of these places, the search engines are already flooded enough! I am going to take you around some lesser known places in Channapatna, for a half a day’s trip from Bengaluru.

Our circuit route was:
Bengaluru – Bidadi – Kengal – Devarahosahalli – Neelasandra – Vittalenahalli – Bhoohalli – Kanakapura – Bengaluru

The Details:

We set out on a Saturday morning and decided to have our breakfast on the way. Sri.Renukamba tatte idly (translates to ‘Plate idli’ in Kannada) needs no introduction for the Bengalureans. So, after a filling plate of tatte idly at Bidadi, we proceeded towards our intended destination for the day. To reach there, we had to pass through Kengal, a village popular for yet another Hanuman temple. Moving ahead from there along a small deviation, we arrived at our first major destination: Sanjeevaraya Swamy temple at Devarahosahalli village. This is a small stone structure dedicated to Lord Hanuman and dates back to the Vijayanagar era. The deity is believed to be powerful and hence, we were there to offer or prayers following the recommendations of some well-wishers.

After spending some time there, we continued onward to our next destination, a little cave temple located atop of a hill. The drive, the scenery, the canopy of the majestic trees along the highway was a pleasant one. We stopped by to do some bird watching at the Neelasandra lake as well. We could see Pelicans flocking in large numbers.

Our next major stop came as a rather surprise to us. Gavi Ranganatha Swamy temple was a random destination included in our day based on an internet search result. The drive, the location of the temple, the valley, the village view from the temple porch and the overall scenery was just so stunning and unexpected. There was just no one else in the temple apart from our family and a few local kids playing in the hill, atop which this temple is located. You can watch the video of our visit to Gavi Ranganatha Swamy temple below:

Drive to Gavirangana betta

By this time, the sun was already up and beaming bright. So, we decided to drive back, of course through a different route. We descended the Gavi Ranganatha Swamy hill and took the route that connected to Kanakapura. On the way, we stopped at this beautiful location where the highway passes through green farms on one side, a large lake on the other side and the entire scenery was being overlooked by the temple hill.

Vittalenahalli highway and lake

Our drive from there continued through large stretches of rocky hillocks, mango orchards, paddy fields, coconut groves and mulberry farms. Ramanagara is also known for sericulture. Several households in the villages here are involved in silkworm rearing. As we passed through, we noticed that families were sitting out in the verandahs of their traditional houses and collecting the fully grown cocoons from the bamboo trays. We stopped by and walked over to one of the houses on our way and learnt a thing or two about sericulture from them.

Silk Cocoon trays

In a short while, we reached the Kanakapura main road where we had our lunch. Well, it was a late evening lunch before continuing towards home and thus ending a quick trip to the Bengaluru outskirts.

A weekend Backpacking trip to Satara

This was a post monsoon, weekend trip I had planned with two other friends who had joined me from Bangalore to Mahabaleshwar. The main agenda of this trip was to visit the ‘Khas plateau’ in its bloom season, but it was just for a day (Click here to read more about my visit). Since we were travelling all the way, we decided to extend the weekend for a little longer by adding a few other places and make it a backpacking trip around Satara district.

Our Itinerary:

Day 0: Leave from Bengaluru to Satara (overnight private bus)
Day 1: Satara to Wai (MSRTC bus), Visit to Menavali village & Dhom Dam; Wai to Panchgani (Local bus), Local sightseeing and night’s stay at Panchgani (Walk and shared taxi for local transportation)
Day 2: Panchgani to Mahabaleshwar & local sightseeing at Mahabaleshwar (hired taxi for full day); Mahabaleshwar to Satara (MSRTC bus) and night’s stay at Satara.
Day 3: Visit to Khas plateau & local sightseeing at Satara town (hired taxi); Return from Satara to Bengaluru (overnight KSRTC bus)

The details:

Day 1: Wai and Panchgani.

Since we required to start our Khas plateau visit from Satara, we decided to visit the places around the town later (on day 3). So, we moved ahead on the day of our arrival at Satara.

After alighting at Satara bypass on NH4 that morning, we hired an autorickshaw to reach the bus stand located in the town. From there, we boarded a MSRTC bus to our first major destination of the day: Wai.

Part 1: Places to see in Wai

I had come across the name of this place in a newspaper supplement. I had read that a large part of Shahrukh Khan’s “Swades’ movie was shot in and around Wai. Since we had to anyway pass through this place to reach our intended destination of the trip, I thought it was a good idea to add Wai it our itinerary. However, we had no idea of what to see and things to expect in Wai. We decided to just go there and explore the place by ourselves. Upon our arrival at Wai, we enquired with a few locals who guided us to the banks of the Krishna river.

A. Menavali village: A walk of good couple of miles from the Wai bus stand, we arrived at this village located on the banks of river Krishna. The locals call this as the Wai ghat as well. Apart from being a prominent setting for several Bollywood movies, the Wai ghat is also an important destination for history and archeological buffs. It holds great treasures from the times of the Marathas and the Peshwas. It is especially known for the contributions by the 18th century Maratha stateman- Nana Phadnavis.

Phadnavis Wada: Wada is a local name for a residential mansion with an inner courtyard. Residential complexes leading to river banks on one end and housing temples is a signature architectural style of the Peshwa era. The Phadnavis Wada located on the Wai ghat is one of the handful of such structures that still remains intact.

We did a quick visit to the Dholya Ganapathi mandir & Sri Kashi Vishweshwar Mandir (This temple is called as the Kashi of Maharashtra), both situated on the river bank.

Wai ghat on the banks of river Krishna at Menavali village
Wai ghat on the banks of river Krishna at Menavali village

As we took a stroll along the ghat, I realized that reality was far from the destination on reel. The real Wai looked very laid back and rustic. However, we decided to sit by the riverside and spend some time by photographing the local kids enjoying their time by diving and swimming in the polluted waters of the ghat.

B. Dhom dam: This waterbody is a good place for water sports with a nice view of the surrounding mountains. Located at about 10kms from Wai and connected by frequenting local shared jeeps, it is a nice place for catching a sunset. But, we gave this is a miss since we hadn’t booked our accommodation and has to reach our next destination ASAP. The bus left Wai and travelled around the curvy road of the mountain. The entire journey was beautiful with great views of the Dhom dam whose waters reflected the clear blue sky.

Part 2: Places to see in Panchgani

We had alighted at our next major destination: Panchgani. Although Panchgani is a small hill town that doesn’t extend beyond a stretch of 2 kilometers, surprisingly, it is an educational hub of Maharashtra. Around 42 international schools are located here. Given its small area, all the popular tourist places in Panchgani are located close by. So, we decided to get off with our backpacks at the entrance of the hill station, explore the landmarks and then find a place for our stay. The details of our time in Panchgani is as given below:

a. Harrison’s Foley view point: This is the first major landmark you come across, even before you actually enter the town. However, we thought of giving it a miss because our next stop was going to give us a view of this Foley as well.

b. Sydney point: We got breathtaking view of the Dhom dam from here. After a long day travelling and walking with our backpacks, we thought this was just a perfect place for us sit down and soak in some relaxing views. We sat down right there on the footpath, facing the dam and spent some peaceful time amid nature. After spending some good time and having all our limbs relaxed, we walked back towards the main road.

c. Table land: Our actual plan was to check-in to a hotel and sleep early that evening. However, we changed our minds and decided to visit the table land to use up our time in the remaining daylight. Sometimes, even with no plans, god really wants you to be at the right place at the right time. That’s how this evening turned out to be. As we went up the road leading to this place, it looked like quite a mela up there. There were so many makeshift shops set up and the place had been littered all around with plastic bottles and wrappers. But, as we walked past the maddening crowds, we saw that the table land was a vast stretch than expected. We decided to walk the entire land before dark. The grassland was naturally gifted with vast stretches of native flowers: all white, purple and yellow. It was a magical place that got us busy photographing the silhouettes of the grazing cattle, the horse riders etc. against a beautiful backdrop of the setting sun. An artificial lake amid the grassland added romance to this place. The sky was painted in all hues with a beaming full moon reflecting in the lake’s water, adding to the spectacle. It felt like as if the sun had gone down sooner that day. With that, we had to scoot out of the place as area suddenly started to feel deserted and had no guiding lamps to the main road.

d. Rajapuri caves: This place falls on the way up to the table land. We were told that the cave has a temple dedicated to lord Ayyappan and hence, women of menstruating age are not allowed inside. With that, we headed back to the town and checked-in to a hotel.

We wanted to have some food that are a must try in Panchgani. So, we dumped all our luggage in the hotel room and set-out to walk around the town, yet again.

  • Panchgani is famous for channa, chikki and fudge: the shops say this all over the place. So. we picked up some of these to carry back home.
  • What caught our attention was a bottle of strawberry wine at a wine store.
  • The day’s events concluded with a sumptuous spicy hot ‘veg Kolhapuri with roti‘ for dinner.

On the following morning, the idea was to be at the table-top for sunrise. However, we snoozed the alarm for a little longer and we woke up only when the hotel staff rang the doorbell. We then started our day with a yummy plate of Poha for breakfast and hired a taxi to our next destination: Mahabaleshwar.

Day 2: One day at Mahabaleshwar

The hill station is a favorite haunt of tourists from the nearby metropolis and afar. Mahabaleshwar can be broadly classified into two parts, the New and the Old. Both have been explained in detail in a separate post as the list of things to see and do in Mahabaleshwar is going to be long.

Kate's point and the elephant head view point at Mahabaleshwar
Kate’s point and the elephant head view point at Mahabaleshwar

Day 3: Satara and Khas Plateau

This day was the sole reason that had got us to plan this entire trip. We woke up early to reach Khas plateau for sunrise and get some wonderful photographs. Being early gave us the benefit of avoiding the scorching sun and also to escape the crowds that would normally pour in at a later time.

Apart from my visit to Khas plateau that requires a separate post, I am listing the places of interest around Satara town for those wishing to explore this region:

a. Around Khas plateau: If you have sometime in hand, you can drive further from the Khas lake to reach the boating village of Bamnoli and take a boat tour to Vasota fort or Tapola.
b. Vajrai and Thoseghar waterfalls: These picturesque places were a disappointment when we arrived there as these are mainly rainfed cascades.
c. Chalkewadi windmill station: Considering that we had visited a windmill station earlier, back in our home state and to save time, we gave this place a miss.
d. Forts for the history buffs: Sajjangad, Ajinkyatara, Pratapgad, Kalyangad are places that can all be covered, but only with the convenience of having own transport. We skipped our visits since we were largely dependent on public transportation and taxi service that was expensive.
e. Natraj temple: This ancient structure located in the center of Satara town, is worth visiting

The Pink balsam carpet at Khas valley
The Pink balsam carpet at Khas valley

Food to try in Satara:

  • Kandi peda: This is a specialty sweet of this region
  • Zunka baakri: This is roti made of a locally available variety of maize, we had it for a late lunch that kept us filled throughout our return journey.
  • Fresh strawberry with cream in Mahabaleshwar.

We boarded a bus back to Bengaluru and thus, ending a long weekend in Satara.

Backpacking in the Coromandel Coast

The Coromandel coast on the south-eastern shoreline of India extends from Nellore till Kanyakumari. I have tried to traverse the entire length of this coast and explore it to the best of my abilities. Although not all at once, I have managed to do it in parts as explained below.

Part 1:

The topmost point of this region starts with lake Pulicat. The fondest memory I have of this place is witnessing a rocket-launch at Sriharikota. Apart from that, lake Pulicat is the second largest brackish water lake that is home to several avian species. I couldn’t help but take a boat ride with the help of a fisherman to see the greater flamingoes that come here annually during their breeding season. My family and I just went into the middle of this large waterbody and decided to lose ourselves in the moment. It was a moment of sitting in front of a million flamingoes and enjoying the vastness of the planet.

The Rocket Garden at Sriharikota

Part 2:

I have explored Chennai during multiple visits for business and leisure. One of the most memorable of them all was my visit to this city with my friends, volunteering for ‘Turtle walk- A sea turtle conservation event’. That was sometime back when I had just graduated from college. We had seen the beaches of Chennai coupled with a visit to Mahabalipuram. Thus, touching the northernmost tip of ECR (East Coast Road) in Tamil Nadu during this trip.

Turtle walk- a sea turtle conservation walk in the beaches of Chennai
The Baby turtle- Our prized catch for the day

Part 3:

This was a family backpacking trip, mainly conceptualized by my dad and one that had been long due on his bucket list. He wanted to see how the end of River Kaveri; our family deity looks like. Our family of four planned to cover a portion of the Coromandel coast during this trip. Our itinerary for this trip was Bangalore – Mayiladuthurai – Poompuhar – Tarangambadi – Karaikal – Nagapattinam – Velankanni – Tanjavur – Trichy – Bangalore.

This remains to be one of the BEST family trips, even to date. We travelled by train, local transport and public buses during the entire trip and hotels/ lodges were booked after reaching the planned destination. Since this itinerary was mostly planned by my father, we were able to more-or-less stick to it without any surprises.

Part 4:

This was an offbeat backpacking embarked on by my friend and me to mark the 100th anniversary of an engineering marvel. We took a train ride over the iconic ‘Pamban bridge’ that connects mainland India to the island of Rameswaram. Our itinerary was: Bangalore – Madurai – Ramanathapuram – Rameswaram – Dhanushkodi – Kurusudai island – Rameswaram – Madurai – Bangalore

View of Pamban Bridge in Rameswaram from the lighthouse
The sunset and Pamban bridge view from a fishing hamlet

The holy town of Rameswaram needs no introduction (Click here if you want to know more about our trip). From there, we explored the ghost town of Dhanushkodi and caught a glimpse of Ramasetu and managed to gain access to a protected island and get mind blown with the natural treasure of the gulf of Mannar. (Click here to read more in detail).

Part 5:

This time, I decided to use my week-long plant shutdown for Diwali at my workplace, to cover the remaining of the Coromandel coast in this south Indian state. For this to happen, my brother and I had embarked on a backpacking trip with the itinerary in which we originally planned to cover Bangalore- Kumbakonam – Gangaikondacholapuram – Chidambaram – Pichavaram – Pondicherry – Tiruvannamalai – Bangalore

Although the main intention was to cover ECR, we couldn’t make it as the weather ruined our vacation and we had to return home mid-way, only to visit those places at a later date. The best part of this trip: Seeing the grandeur of two of the greatest living Chola temples in an off-tourist season. (Click here to read the detailed itinerary) But, what’s the highlight? Finding a place on the globe that I wouldn’t want to visit again (Click here to read my nightmarish travel experience).

Airavateshwara temple at Darasuram, partially submerged during the rain
Airavateshwara temple at Darasuram

Part 6:

Kanyakumari- the last stretch of the coromandel coast and the last bit remaining on my shoreline itinerary. This too was part of a family trip to the edge of Indian mainland. However, unlike all my previous family vacations along the ECR, this was a well-planned itinerary with all bookings sorted (Click here for the complete story). The whole intention of this trip was to see the famous sunset and sunrise at the edge of Indian sub-continent but that, however, continues to remain undone!

A post sunrise view of Thiruvalluvar statue at Kanyakumari
View of Thiruvalluvar statue, post Sunrise at Kanyakumari

Have you done a road trip in East-Coast road of India? Which is your favorite destination? Let me know in the comments below.

5 Pet-Friendly Resorts near Mumbai

Planning your vacation in Mumbai but worried about leaving your little pet behind? Do not worry I’ve got your back. Mumbai is a home to some luxurious and pet-friendly resorts which allows you to not only experience a comfortable stay but also allow you to bring along your little munchkin and play along.

Enjoy your long-drive from Mumbai to reach these locations with the lush green landscape views. The sound of waterfalls flowing during monsoon, panoramic view of valleys, mountains and greenery of these resorts will leave you mesmerized. The resort here is known to offer best-in-class services and amenities and offer a pet-friendly environment so that you can chill and relax while your pet also has something to do. These pet-friendly properties have various facilities to enjoy your holiday that allows you to experience the feel of Home, away from Home.

Manas Resort Nashik

Located in the expanse of the Western Ghats of Igatpuri, Manas Resort Nashik is the first Indian resort with Petting Zoo, hosting human-friendly animals and walk-in aviaries. If you are a true nature lover and love animals, this resort might be the best place for you. Located at just a distance of 2 hours from Mumbai, Manas Resort Nashik allows you to enjoy fun-filled activities in the lap of nature.

This resort has exclusively offered Petting Zoo and Organic farming which is a very different experience to the travellers while they enjoy and take a weekend break from daily life. The resort gives you the privilege to interact with wildlife, The lavish villas with personal pools and modern facilities are ready to give you a warm welcome and with the soothing massages and relaxing sessions, you can enjoy a rejuvenating spa during the stay. The resort has luxurious rooms of various designs and categories, keeping the view of multiple family needs. The Facilities in this resort include an All Day Dining Restaurant, Highway Café, Lawns, Swimming Pool, Spa, Kids Zone, Games Room and Car Park as well. You will also have options to choose from outdoor activities like tours, treks, nature walks etc and make you truly stay fun-filled.

Also Read:Treading the Living Root Bridges- Nongriat

Rippling Edge Gadhok Cottage

Nestled in a river bank and surrounded by the verdant forest, this thrilling resort offers you a memorable & luxurious stay with modern amenities and gives you a chance to live with nature as you step in this beautiful and relaxing oasis. This beautiful resort is a perfect getaway to spend a weekend with your furry friends. Huge lawns surrounding greenery give you freshness, chill and natural vibes. This is a beautiful property that is highly recommended for those who love a mix of adventure and nature. Head to this exotic bungalow by the river in Karjat and enjoy unwinding in the midst of nature with your furry friends. Huge lawns, gazebos, mind-blowing views of greenery all around with fresh air make it a beautiful place to stay, You will also be offered the cycles to explore the surroundings.

Also Read:Marvel at Caves and Crannies Kurnool

The Whey Side

A 60 kilometer drive from Mumbai with your pour paws friend, this is a wonderful eco-friendly resort offering some really comfortable accommodation, surrounded by a forest in Karjat. This beautiful place offers you the fully furnished tree-houses with a splendid mountain view. You can choose the room with a balcony. Barbecue facilities, board games and books for children are the other facilities which you can avail. There is also a swimming pool within the premises for its guests.

You can definitely indulge in trekking, cycling, fishing, etc while kids can play in a spacious play area. This is one of the most ideal pet friendly resorts in Mumbai to bring your four paws friends along for a wonderful holiday. A quick getaway from the hustle bustle of the city, this place offers a relaxing stay, good homely food and an amazing view from the room. No matter which cottage you select it offers view from sides

Eko Stay Sea Breeze Villa

A beach front villa which is situated near Saswane Beach, Eko Stay Sea Breeze Villa is quie n amazing place to come with your pet. This property makes travelling with your pets even more enjoyable as it offers both you & your furry best pal the freedom to enjoy your holiday in a mind blowing surrounding without any unwanted and unusual restrictions which are a norm in various pet friendly resorts near Mumbai.

Eko Stay Sea Breeze Villa allows you to enjoy a crazy evening with your friend. A private pool, and an open-air barbecue are the perfect ingredients for an ideal staycation offered by any resort, and this Villa has it all. Bon fire and candle light dinner with beach view would not be a bad choice though. You can be here solo or as a couple for Honeymoon or with friends, bachelors and family.

Bali Style Villa

Not everyone can fly all the way to Indonesia. A 10 minute walking distance from Mandwa Jetty, this beautiful Bali-isque holiday home is a getaway for Mumbaikars. Whenever you are stressed from work, head out to this delightful farmhouse for a relaxing staycation. This place comprises an expanse of beautiful greenish lawn and comfortable accommodation .This home stay with its serene atmosphere will diminish the stress and strains of daily life. Managed by Eko Stays, the villa consists of 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and 2 bathrooms along with a garden. Moreover, As a pet-friendly place, there are ample open spaces available for your pet to wander about so you can play fetch with your pet or go for a run together, to make your pet happy and relieve your own work pressure. Encircled by greenery all-around, this villa offers indoor and outdoor dining areas to party with your loved ones. Bonfire nights with your colleagues, friends or family will enhance your vocational experience.

Best Luxury Resorts in Karnataka

Karnataka is one of the most beautiful Indian states that weave both heritage and contemporary culture together in a beautiful blend. Karnataka is a hub for travellers looking for some adventurous things to do or for globetrotters planning to travel amidst nature. From the strikingly beautiful hill station of Coorg to the ancient ruins of Hampi and from historic Mysore to the tech city Bangalore, Karnataka has never failed to amaze people with its hospitality.

And since this state attracts thousands of travellers each year, one can easily find some amazing resorts right from the budget category to the most luxurious ones. Luxury resorts in Karnataka help you tailor your vacation or work trip just the way you want! The cities have quaint boutique resorts that will make you forget the bustle of the town, and then there are resorts where you can go and have the perfect business meeting. These resorts are some of the best in the State, offering world-class amenities with all the warmth of traditional Indian hospitality.

1. Purple palms resort & spa, Kushalnagar

Purple Palms Resort and Spa is one of the best luxurious resorts in Karnataka. Relax in a magical paradise that makes your greatest wishes come true. Experience the lush green surrounding and serene beauty bounding the resort and witness the beautifully crafted rooms with the bliss of luxury and soothing comfort. Dive down in the swimming pool and fill your day with fun and give yourself a treat by relishing a delicious breakfast with a local touch at Purple palms resort & spa.

Indulge in the luxurious ambience of his amazing resort that makes you feel royal. If you can’t resist the allure of the hills, step out for a regal sojourn. This resort has all that you and your family are looking for a perfect holiday with all the tourist attractions in the vicinity. You may relax and rejuvenate at the Resort’s Spa with Ayurvedic and Western massage that will cleanse your mind and body to make your stay at our resort more meaningful.

2. Evolve Back, Hampi

One of Karnataka’s most treasured gems, Hampi is full of history and serenity. With various rulers reigning over the Vijayanagar Empire, the map of Hampi was designed in such a way that today, it stands as one of God’s blessings to humankind. Offering a spa centre and hot tub, Evolve Back Hampi is located just 4 km from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi.

Here at Evolve back resort, you will experience the Vijayanagara Royal Style at Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, Hampi – an opulent palace whose stone-paved boulevards, arched hallways and regal chambers reflect the royal lifestyle of a past but glorious era.

3. The Tamara, Coorg

The Tamara Coorg, a luxury experience nestled in the heart of the hills, is a perfect place where you can rediscover the joy of being in nature, where your quest for serenity will end. Lush greenery, aromatic coffee plantations, spices, beautiful streams, and flowing waterfalls, all experienced in a stunning eco-resort. Your stay at The Tamara Coorg will be filled with uniquely curated experiences and nature-based activities as the resort spans 180 acres and is located over 3,500 feet above sea level where you will experience nature and luxury at its best as you wake up to the breathtaking view and the calming silence of the hills, disturbed only by the chirping birds and the crackle of leaves.

Wake up to the smell of tranquilizer coffee, and enjoy the scenic beauty and try so many activities in the house, and the expert yoga instructor will tailor a perfect session for you. You can even enjoy a private gourmet meal under an open sky at a variety of stunning spots.

Take a cozy walk through the rain soaked plantations in Coorg
Coorg- Coffee trails

4. Coorg Wilderness Resort

Coorg Wilderness Resort is nestled amid the deep valleys, majestic hills of Coorg and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Move into the wild and find a distinctive ethos of extravagance implanted in the thoughtful lap of nature. The luxury from this resort with rich European-style masterful rooms and palatial suites that are spread across a large area and allows you to stay in Karnataka luxuriously.

The ambience is so warm, and the air is so cool and cozy, air-conditioning is not required throughout the resort. During romantic rainy days of the famed monsoons and lazy, gentle winters, you will find each room is cozily warmed with traditionally designed electric fireplaces; the facilities and unparalleled quality of services provided by the staff are worth spending your vacation. For adventure and thrill lovers, the Coorg wilderness resort will fill your heart with contentment and excitement through various outdoor activities like trekking, coffee plantation tours, and other adventurous activities.

5. Machaan Plantation Resort, Sakleshpur

The resort is tucked within a coffee plantation in Sakleshpur. Machaan Plantation Resort is ideal for a quick getaway to relax, rejuvenate, and refresh your inner self. Workspace at the resort will help you break free from routine, and your family would also rejoice in a change in environment. Your pre and post-work routine could be a host of activities ranging from estate walks, yoga in the outdoors, visit a waterfall, trekking, evening barbeque, to name a few. The resort has an outdoor pool where you can just lounge all day and enjoy splashing pool water. The sit-outs are ideal for lazing in & enjoying marvellous views of the hills and valley. On a rainy day, one can curl up with a book and a blanket here if you want to be in the room. Then each room caters for the views of hills and mountains, which will refresh you in seconds. A day here would not be complete without a campfire, a bonfire area that gives access to a 360° view of the night sky.