Monday, 27 February 2017

Pondicherry,The once french capital of India



A yearning for French architecture bought us to Pondicherry. Interestingly this little piece of old France is some 7000 km away from where you expect to find France in map. Its a place in India called Pondicherry establised by the French East India Company in 1764.

We came to Pondicherry from Mahabalipuram driving along the absolutely scenic East Coast Road. From Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry is 100 kms and takes around 2 hours to reach along the East Coast Road. As the name signifies, the road runs along the east coast.In every 500 metres on the road, there will be small signboards pointing to a nearby beach. We stopped at one of the eateries on the road and were treated to awesome filter coffee with appam.

There are a few lakes that will fall on the road. They are so huge that we could not see the other end. These lakes were mostly formed because of the sea water getting inside the land. We stopped at one. A few fishermen were there, wrapping up their catch.Lots of seagulls and storks.Far we saw a very long white line of birds and we were sure they must be flamingoes. I did a 50X zoom with my camera and voila it was a huge group of flamingoes!! We also saw the sign boards of several shrimp hatcheries. I was just wishing if I had a farm, I surely would have taken some to cultivate.

Welcome to Pondicherry

A 'Welcome to Pondicherry' slab greeted us as we entered Pondicherry. We crossed the bustling city and went towards Promenade beach. Something not so funny in Pondicherry city is that no body cares about traffic rules. Cars meeting at any intersection moves in a random zigzag fasion. Its too noisy However as one leaves the city and approaches Promenade beach the scene changes completely. The places are so very clean, the buildings are so very different that one can mistake it for some western place.

The iconic statue of Gandhi

The iconic statue of Gandhi rules the Promede beach. The status is so very beautiful,pure and big, build right at the shoreline of the beach on an elevated pedestal. We also stood on the beach for sometime. Its a rocky beach and one can sit on the gigantic size rocks and feel the wind and the water splashes, but can't get down. After that we went to the adjacent cafe 'Le Cafe' for some coffee and sandwiches. The place is heavenly. You sip coffee in a beautiful quaint cafe looking at the sea.What more to ask for!

Promede Beach

Pondicherry Roads

Pillar

Opposite to the Gandhi statue is the French War Memorial. Its a small beautiful memorial and will not take more than 10 minutes.We started moved in the lanes and bylanes, took photo of as many beautiful houses as we could. The houses are so very beautiful that we could not help but admire each and every that we saw. The road names are written in French and Tamil, but no English. Maybe the french in Pondicherry still do not approve of English :)

War Memorial

Enjoying the sea breeze

Posing for the camera


There are quite a few good number of statues to see in Pondicherry. Apart from the Gandhi statue which is so very hard to miss, there are statues of Joan of Arc and Dupliex. There is the French War Memoral, old light house,Place de la Republique, Museum and Governor's Residence.One can take the French Heritage Walk (organized by INTAC and Puducherry Tourism Department). It is a 2 km walk that will cover all the above places of interest.

A show piece outside a shop

What beautiful houses!

All lane names are written in tamil and french

wow...what a beautiful house

Pondicherry lanes and avenues

vibrant!

Pondicherry has something for every wanderer. There are french cafes serving freshly baked pastries, croissants, creme caramel, cheese platter, amazing french crepes and many more which I do not remember.For the spiritual seeker there is Sri Aurobindo Ashram. We skipped the ashram this time since we already have been there before.And for the 'all you can see' type there are monuments, beaches, cafes.


Pondi Police

Foot Note: The police in Pondicherry still wears the red high hat :)

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

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