Friday, 28 December 2007


Pondicherry isn’t one of those places in India, which is hidden. It is one of the most popular weekend destinations from Bangalore and Chennai. In my trip to this union territory to Pondicherry, I discovered things and places hidden from the normal tourist eye. Places and things, which you would not find in normal travel books. The roads less travelled.


Best way to get around this small town is on hired bikes. There are plenty of shops in Mission Street hiring bikes and kinetics for as low as Rs 100 per day. Get hold of the tourist voucher with a map on it and explore the lanes. The French Colony is worth driving around for. The other reason why I insist on rented vehicles is that they work out cheaper than the auto rickshaws.

French Town

Take the bike and head out for East Coast Road, the one that connects Pondicherry to Chennai. It’s a beautiful road, with many virgin and isolated beaches. There can be a few local fishermen around but they do not bother you. It’s a safe place, I can say that because I went for the trip with another girl friend of mine and we never had any issues with gawking men or eve teasing.

East Coast Road

Ride around Auroville, it is definitely different from Pondicherry town. They have accommodation options and private beaches. They few hotels in Pondicherry, which are priced high, are not so much worth the money you pay for. I would recommend Annamalai, Anandha Inn or Ashoka Beach Resort. Promenade and Le Dupleix are also good options, but slightly on the expensive side.


Food is excellent in some of the places. For Continental try Le Club or Promenade. For India food, I recommend Ashoka and Anandha Inn. The liquor is amazingly cheap in Pondicherry; even five stars in Pondicherry work out cheaper when it comes to food and alcohol. The service is another thing that impressed me, in fact the hotel that we were staying in served us liquor at 2am, room service, and coming from Bangalore any place that serves alcohol after 12 am is heaven.

Hotel Promenade

Visit Pondicherry, do not expect it to be like Goa but explore the place with out expecting anything and you will be fascinated.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Nature Nirvana

The Place

Need a quick weekend break? A place that is close to Bangalore yet very different and remote? Then a plantation home stay aptly named Nature Nirvana is a great option. Situated at a distance of 250 kilometres from Bangalore in Chikmangalur this is a small resort set amidst acres of coffee plantation. The resort is situated purposely in a very remote corner. The last 6 kilometres stretch to the resort is a very narrow mud road so it is advisable to drive through that road only in a heavy 4WD or the resort can arrange for a pick up and drop from Chikmangalur town at an extra cost.

The Main Bungalow

The accommodation options range from dormitory cottages to rooms. The top floor of the main bungalow has a common room, complete with fireplace and two bedrooms. The rooms are clean and have all the basic necessities. The ambience is more like a home in Nature Nirvana, so don’t expect a five star room or service. The food is also mainly South Indian and is made like home food by the cook. Nature Nirvana has package deals, the charges include accommodation and all three meals, including morning and evening tea. The place does not have a bar, so it is advisable to carry your own liquor.

The Stream

There is actually quite a lot to do in Nature Nirvana. The holiday home is surrounded by plantation so one can hike around the greenery. A stream flows very close to the holiday home so take a small trek to the stream and take a dip in the stream or go fishing. Nature Nirvana also has a small artificial lake close to the stream, which offers coracle rides. There is a huge volleyball court in the front yard, so one can indulge in volleyball or even cricket. Or simply laze around in the hammock. There are also a number of board games available.

Nature Nirvana

The best activity however would be to sit around the bonfire in the evenings that is offered as a complimentary from the holiday home and enjoy your drink along with the delicious snacks prepared by the cook. Just lie down in the front yard and gaze at the stars, who knows the nature might inspire you to become a Wordsworth. Or if it gets too cold, the staff lights the fireplace in the common room and you can shift your part indoors.

The home like ambience, the hospitable staff, the peace and tranquillity make Nature Nirvana a pretty good destination for a short break.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Destiny Farm Stay

Destiny farmstay belongs to The Little Earth Group, the same group which owns the Kings Cliff and Sherlock’s End in Ooty. The unique concept, the picturesque landscape, the luxurious rooms, the great food and service makes Destiny an ideal weekend getaway.

Way to Destiny

Destiny is located in the outskirts of Ooty in a place called Avalanche or Avalanchi, as known by the locals. Ooty is a very popular tourist destination and thus has become way too commercialized, but Avalanche which is approximately 28 kilometres off Ooty is almost untouched. After arriving in Ooty you can take a cab from Kings Cliff to Avalanche. The last two kilometres stretch to Destiny is perhaps the most exciting part of the journey, because that is where you have to leave the cab and take a truck. There is no proper road, thus only trucks or heavy 4WD would make the last 2km drive. For those 20 minutes on the dirt road, there is only one thought that strikes your mind “how did they manage to build the farmstay here?” In fact it took the management four years to build the farmstay, and they are still not finished.

The Stay

Destiny FarmStay is situated right beside the Avalanche Lake and is spread over almost an entire hill. The landscaping has been done beautifully and they have for most parts let nature work its magic. The main two blocks in Destiny consists of 18 rooms and a dining cum living room. The rest of the area consists of acres of vegetable farm, stables, geese pond and some areas are left untouched for guests to explore. Owing to its spectacular location, the entire area is so serene that the management has kept telephones and televisions out of the rooms. There is a possibility that you might not even have cell phone reception here.

The Dinning area

The rooms here are named after the robbers in the West, such as Jesse James, Buffalo and Bill. The rooms are nothing like the rustic outdoors, they are very plush and luxurious. Destiny offers buffet breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner to its guests. The food is mostly Indian, if you want something specially cooked that is not in the buffet, then that can be arranged too, of course at an extra cost. As of August 2007, the bar in Destiny was being constructed, but one can always carry their own liquor.

View from the rooms

Go for a trek in the virgin woods, try your hands in fishing, take a horse ride or an agricultural tour. Just pack some food and drinks and hike to the untouched meadows near the lake and feast your eyes on the panoramic view. Take a stroll in the huge campus of Destiny, which is safeguarded with electrical fencing because the place is home to many wild animals, including leopards. The staff in Destiny arranges for a barbeque and bonfire in the evenings.

The Main block

Destiny farmstay charges approximately Rs 1500-2000 per day, per person, depending on the season. October to April is peak season. The price includes the stay and all meals.

If you want to catch the glimpse of any animal, then winters (Oct-Jan) is the best time to visit Destiny. However, I feel Destiny is an ideal weekend getaway anytime of the year. Although it is very close to Ooty, Destiny is a piece of paradise hidden in the Nilgiris.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Jungle Retreat

Against the back drop of the Nilgiris
Tired of the hectic city life? Want to escape to a serene place where you can just unwind? A resort tucked away in the wilderness of Mudumalai in the Nilgiris offers you that space. Jungle Retreat is set in the foothills of the Nilgiris, skirting the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary & National Park in Tamil Nadu. Jungle Retreat is built in such a way that you feel one with the nature. The rooms are set apart from each other, outdoor lighting is restricted to only that necessary for orientation, security & safety. At Jungle Retreat they let nature work its magic.

A standard room
The resort offers different kinds of accommodation. There are cottages, bamboo huts, dormitories and tree houses. Do not get fooled by the rustic surroundings, the rooms are very cosy and comfortable with all the modern facilities….well, almost all, because there are no televisions, no telephones and no music in the rooms to invade the peace and serenity of the surroundings. Each cottage has sprawling private verandas that offer spectacular views of receding mountains and tropical jungles.The rooms in Jungle Retreat will cost you anywhere between Rs 420-3375 per day, depending on the type of accommodation you choose.

Gypsy Safari
There is so much to do once you are in Jungle Retreat. Go for trekking in the unspoilt and beautiful surroundings, or go for a safari in a gypsy. You will find a lot of species of birds in the resort campus. If you are an early bird, you may also find spotted deer. On very rare occasion leopards have also been spotted. The resort arranges for trips to the nearby elephant camp, the plantations, or if you want to go up the hills to Ooty or Coonor that can be arranged too.

The picture perfect pool
Some guests of the resort do not go for trips or treks and are happy even if they do not spot any wild life because the resort itself offers so much. Try your hand in the snooker or any other board game that the resort has. The best part about Jungle Retreat is its picture perfect swimming pool. Its set against the backdrop of the Nilgiris and looks like a watering hole. Most guests in the evening just hang around in the main restaurant/bar area and mingle around. Jungle Retreat even arranges for bonfire and the guests just have a drink, exchange stories or simply laze around.

The restaurant/bar area

What makes Jungle Retreat so special is the hospitality. I am not talking about a star hotel service, it’s the way they make you feel at home. The Jungle Retreat team is extremely courteous and very friendly. So what if the resort is set in wilderness, they do not compromise with the food they serve you. They serve buffet breakfast, lunch, dinner with evening tea. They have a combination of continental and Indian cuisine. The bar in Jungle Retreat is also very well stocked.The food will cost you Rs 700 per day, which includes all the meals.

In lap of nature
Fly to Bangalore or Coimbatore and catch a cab. Jungle Retreat can arrange for these cabs. Bangalore is 247km from Jungle Retreat. Ooty is 35km and Mysore is 107 km from Jungle Retreat. Board a bus to Ooty with a ticket to Theppakadu and hop off at Mudumalai wildlife Reception Centre, Theppakadu. From Theppakadu you could either hire a Jeep or call Jungle Retreat from the Wildlife Department Office or the Youth Hostel.

The best time to travel is between October to April, although the Nilgiris is lush green and has its own charm during the monsoons. Its always better to book your rooms in advance.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


The crescent shaped paradise

Palolem is a beautiful crescent-shaped beach in South Goa. This two-kilometres long beach is surrounded by hills on both sides, resulting in a calm, idyllic sea in which you can walk into upto 100 metres. The beach is largely unspoiled and is inhabited by both local fishermen and by foreign tourists.

The beach

Palolem is a small beach town and the best way to explore the place is on foot. There is nothing much to see or do in Palolem, but soak up the sun, go for long walks or just laze around in one of the many shacks on the beach. You could also hire canoes, for approximately Rs100 an hour and paddle across to the nearby butterfly island and enjoy the mesmerizing sunset from there.

The beach shacks

Palolem is not as commercialized as the North Goa beaches. However, this paradise beach is slowly attracting more tourists every year, resulting in a number of shacks, restaurants and bars in the shoreline. There's also a market for tourists. There are many local hotels in the area on the main road. However, I would suggest beach shacks as an ideal accommodation. Palolem has shacks, both permanent and temporary, which can be rented. A local law prohibits permanent structures on the beach, so from May to October the shacks are supposed to come down. The shacks can be rented at anywhere between Rs 300-1000.

One of the many restaurants

You will never find the lack of alcohol and good food in Palolem. There are strings of bars and restaurants along the beach serving anything from authentic Goan cuisine, pizzas, Indian, Chinese, to continental cuisine. The shacks in Palolem close very early compared to Baga or Calangute, so do not forget to carry a torch if you are going for a stroll at night.

Dusk in Palolem

You can fly down to Dabolim airport and hire a taxi to Palolem. It is about a 1 and ½ hour drive from there. You could also take a bus or train to Margao and then hire a taxi from there.

View from the Canoe

The best time to go to Palolem is from October to April.