February 28, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.21: Garjiya Devi Temple, Uttarakhand

“Temple atop a Rock”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 4 February 2014
This temple, dedicated to the Goddess Garjiya Devi, is built on the top of a tall rock in the middle of two branches of the Kosi river. It is situated on the eastern periphery of Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. It can only be approached on foot.

We decided to walk to the temple from the Club Mahindra Corbett Safari Resort, without knowing how far it was. It took us nearly an hour to reach the temple, so I reckon it must be about 4 to 4.5 km. We stopped at many places along the river and crossed it via an ancient suspension bridge. Then we had to walk along a jungle track on the side of a hill till we finally reached the Garjiya Devi temple.

It was a sight to behold!
Visited November 2013

My TripAdvisor Review No.20: Corbett National Park

“Call of the Wild”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 4 February 2014
We had to get out of our warm beds at 5.30 am to be ready in time for our pre-booked Gypsy to take us to the entry gate of the National Park. The drive from the Club Mahindra Corbett Safari Resort to the Amdanda gate of the Bijrani zone in the open top Gypsy was chilly but invigorating. Mr. Kailash offered us blankets to cover ourselves, but we had already protected ourselves well against the biting November morning breeze.

Jim Corbett National Park is a world renowned wildlife sanctuary and the first National Park of India. It is home to the endangered Bengal tiger and a host of other wild animals like the Asian elephant, leopard, sloth bear, spotted deer (chital), barking deer (muntjak), sambar, wild boar, langur and rhesus monkey. In addition you can see a variety of multi coloured birds, like kingfisher, parakeet, cuckoo, bulbul, eagles, peacock, heron, and egret among others.

We were the first to reach the Amdanda gate and had to wait some time till the gate opened at 6.30 am. All the other Gypsys started coming and lining up behind us. The identification of one visitor in each vehicle is checked before the group is let in. We had booked our safari online almost a month in advance, through Mr. Ramesh Suyal, who is amongst one of the best known guides in Corbett.

We saw quite a number of chital, sambar, muntjak and rhesus monkeys, after witnessing a beautiful sunrise at Bijrani Forest Rest House. After roaming the jungles for another hour we finally heard the alarm call of the chital. We saw pug marks and droppings of a tigress and her cubs. The tigress had crossed the track some minutes back, but wasn’t visible anymore. We waited for about 15 minutes in pin drop silence, but in vain. We moved on till we reached a riverbed with 4 more Gypsys parked around, also waiting for Tigress to reappear. But we knew from the sight of the monkeys playing in the trees, that Tigress had seen us and disappeared into the high grass, without letting any of us, who had come from afar; get even a fleeting glimpse of Her Majesty and her little ones.

We took a break from the drive at Zero Point, where we climbed up to the top of a watchtower and had a bird’s eye view of the Park. This is the only place in the Park where the visitors are allowed to get down from their vehicles and take a short walk.

The only other type of safari allowed in Corbett is on an elephant. The elephant takes you deeper into the jungle better than any 4WD can. It is advisable to wear long trousers, full sleeve shirts, and a cap or hat, so that you don’t get scratched by the brambles and branches. It is truly an amazing experience to see the animals so near, since they don’t run away from the elephant, from high up on the howdah.

To get the real feel of the jungle one must try to stay in one of Tourist Rest Houses inside the Park. Bookings can be done through the Field Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve at Ramnagar, or the offices of the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board. However, there are many privately run Lodges and Hotels in the periphery of Corbett Park and Ramnagar (the nearest town), where one can easily stay and enjoy the Jeep and Elephant safaris booked through them.
Visited December 2013

February 27, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.19: Club Mahindra Safari Resort at Corbett Park, Uttarakhand

“A Riverside Reverie”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 3 weeks ago
Our train from Delhi pulled into Ramnagar station about half an hour late, and we clambered into the pre-booked Gypsy which was waiting for us. We arrived at the Corbett Resort, about 10 km from Ramnagar station, late in the night around 10 pm, but were escorted to our room without any delay. Since it was too late to explore we ate our sandwiches and samosas, which we had picked up from Ramnagar, and crashed into bed.

Next morning we took an exhilarating walk to the Garjia Temple, which was about 4 km away. The jungles of Corbett National Park were along the left side, and some of the other resorts and hotels of the buffer zone on the right, as we walked towards Garjia.

After returning we had a cup of tea sitting on the lawn outside our room, overlooking the gently flowing Kosi. It was a beautiful sight on a cold November morning. The resort is well laid out with a swimming pool and garden in the centre, with the rooms nestling in bamboo groves all around it. There is an open air gazebo, situated next to the river, where one can enjoy barbeque dishes sitting by the fireside at night.

The air conditioned rooms are well furnished, and our studio room had a dry kitchenette with a microwave oven, fridge, electric kettle, and a toaster. However, not all the rooms have a sit-out facing the river, as ours did. Here, one could just sit out and soak in the sunshine, listening to the different birds chirping in the trees.

There are many options for dining at the resort, including buffet, a-la-carte or a packed lunch if you are going on a safari. You could also prepare your own microwave meal in your room, or go out for a meal to one of the resorts or dhabas outside.

You need to book your Jeep and elephant safaris well in advance, as entry permits have to be arranged from the Forest Office. The Travel Desk at the Resort can do this for you. Jeep safaris take you for a 4 hour ride inside the National Park. There are two trips a day in each zone, one commencing at sunrise and the other in the afternoon, and only a limited number of Jeeps are allowed in.

The park is closed for visitors at night, except if you are staying in one of the Forest Rest Houses located inside.

We enjoyed our stay at the Corbett Safari Resort. It was adventurous as well as relaxing. Though we did not get a glimpse of Tiger (I'm sure Tiger must have seen us), we enjoyed the beauty of nature inside the Park, and saw plenty of spotted deer, muntjak, monkeys, elephant and sambar. Not to mention a couple of peacocks which we saw across the river while relaxing outside our room.
Room Tip: Rooms facing the river have a better view of the forest.
See more room tips
  • Stayed November 2013, travelled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service

My TripAdvisor Review No.18: Jageshwar Dham, Uttarakhand

“Abode of Lord Shiva.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 23 January 2014
Jageshwar Dham is located about 36 km from Almora. It is a holy place for the Hindus, and is believed to be one of the sites of the 12 Jyotirlingas.
There are a number of temples of various sizes surrounded by a forest of giant doedhar trees. There is a natural stream, Jata Ganga, flowing through the temple complex and the ambience of the surroundings gives one a sense of peace and serenity.
There is also an archeological museum run by the ASI nearby. You will find many shops selling 'prasad' items and sweetmeats, and a number of small restaurants serving local Kumaoni food.
Visited November 2013

My TripAdvisor Review No.17: Zero Point, Binsar Wild Life Sanctary, Almora, Uttarakhand

“A Himalayan Spectacle!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 23 January 2014
Zero Point is located at the highest point in Binsar Wild Life Sanctuary, near Almora. There is a motorable road upto the KMVN Tourist Rest House from where you have to walk 1.5 km to reach the lookout platform.
On a clear day you get a mesmerizing view of the snow capped Himalayas. You can see the peaks of Chaukhamba, Trishul, Nanda Devi, Shivling and Panchachuli among others.
Visited November 2013

My TripAdvisor Review No.16: Golu Dev Chitai Temple, Almora

“Bells, bells and more bells!”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 23 January 2014
We stopped at this temple on the way to Jageshwar.
It is temple dedicated to the local deity, Golu Devta. The devotees ask a favor from the deity, and when their wish is fulfilled they return to tie a bell in gratitude.
We saw bells in all sizes, there must have been more than a thousand, with sounds ranging from a 'Tinnnnkle' to a "DONNGGG"!!
Visited November 2013

February 25, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.15: Club Mahindra Binsar Manipur Villas, Uttarakhand

5 of 5 stars Reviewed 4 weeks ago
We arrived at the Binsar Resorts as the sun was setting, and were immediately offered a refreshing drink of rhododendron juice. Then we were taken up to the log huts, also known as Manipur Villas, by their Jeep. The road leading up to the log huts was a narrow cemented path precariously hugging the mountain side, and we had our hearts in our mouths during the short ride.

By the time we settled into our studio log cabin it was quite dark, and the sight of the twinkling village lights from the balcony was indeed mesmerising. The log cabin was also very cosy, with a dry kitchenette, a small dining area, a sitting area with satellite TV, and a bedroom. It was as if we were in a fairy-tale world, living in a dream home hugging the mountain-side.

When we awoke the next morning, the view from the balcony was even more breathtaking! The sun was just rising above the mountains. We could see the fluffy clouds in the valley, floating above the matchbox like houses in the fields below, and small dinky cars winding their way along the road. Birds were twittering in the pine trees. I thought that I was still asleep, having a beautiful dream!

Walking down the Jeep track to the main Valley Resort was an adventure in itself. We got a good view of the snow capped Himalayan range and took a lot of snaps on the way down. Besides the Jeep track there was an even smaller track, meant only for walkers and climbers, which involved a more challenging climb.

A must-see at Binsar is the Wild Life Sanctuary. The entrance gate to Binsar WLS is about 10 km from the valley. At about 7 km from the gate is the ancient Bineshwar Temple, and a further 5 km up is the KMVN Tourist Rest House. From the TRH you have to walk along a jungle path to reach the Zero Point, from where you get a magnificent 180 degree view of majestic Himalayan peaks. Guides can be hired at the TRH to show you the way and identify all the peaks for you. We were also lucky to spot a pair of pine martens before they quickly disappeared into the bushes.

Binsar valley is about 30 km from Almora. Other places to see around Binsar include Jageshwar, Baijnath, Bageshwar, Kausani, and Patal Bhuvaneshwar. These places are at quite a distance from Binsar, and you would need to hire a taxi. Taxis can be booked at Travel Desk of the main resort, or can be hired from the gate if available.

We had a-la-carte dinners at the 'Silver Oak' restaurant, and the food and service was excellent. The restaurant has a very good ambience, with seating for families in individual log cabins. Buffet dining was available only at the Valley Resort. The nearest restaurant outside the Resorts, about a km towards village Bhainsori, was the 'Shree Hayat Hotel' which was good for alu paratha and bhajjias and other local dishes.

There is a souvenir shop in the main resort, where you get the local produce such as pickles, spices, jams and cosmetics.

All in all this was a very unique and refreshing holiday in which we were in our own dream world for 5 days.
Stayed November 2013, travelled with family

My TripAdvisor No.14: Barbeque Nation, Pune

“DIY Barbeque!”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 12 January 2014
Here's a unique experience in barbeque food. You get to barbeque much of the food yourself! You can do it rare, or brown it to a crisp....have it the way you like it best.
The only downside is that the starters are so good that one is not left with enough space in the tummy for the main course.
So be careful, or you may be end up with a belly full!
Visited October 2013

February 24, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.13: Golden Swan Beach Resort, Murud-Janjira.

“Seaside Getaway in North Konkan”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 9 April 2013
The resort is located on Darbar Road in Murud. They have the option of Mediterranean style ac cottages and a Portuguese style beach villa which have direct access to the beach. You can see the Nawab's Palace and Shivaji's famous Kasa Fort from the resort itself.

We had a two bedroom ac cottage at the Resort. One bedroom was smaller than other with a smaller TV, whereas the bigger bedroom also had a sofa and a fridge. The cottage can accommodate 4 adults quite comfortably. There is also a verandah where you can sit out and enjoy your morning cuppa, and gaze at the casuarina and coconut trees or quack with the waddling geese.

The buffet meals were well prepared and tasty. We got Konkani Kingfish curry and Malwani fish curry for lunch, on the two days that we were there, besides chicken and vegetable preparations, and we quite enjoyed our meals.

The Rajpuri Jetty is just 3 km away from the resort. From here you can take a sailboat to explore the famous Janjira Fort which is situated in the middle of the sea. In the evening one can take a walk on the beach or climb up to the Datta mandir or Idgah mosque on top of a hill about 2 km from the resort. The views of Murud town and the sunset from the hill are mesmerizing. Bicycles can be rented at the resort to explore the the town and its surroundings.

We enjoyed our stay here. The resort is very conveniently located and one can drive down in 4 or 5 hours to this beautiful seaside town from Mumbai or Pune.
Room Tip: Portuguese style beach villa is located about 2 minute walk from the main resort.
See more room tips
Stayed April 2013, travelled with friends

February 21, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.12: Venna Lake, Mahabaleshwar

“Good for a Boat ride.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 14 March 2013
As you enter the hill town of Mahabaleshwar you will pass the Venna Lake, which is the most popular attraction of Mahabaleshwar. One can hire row boats and paddle boats. Horses are also available for rides. Nearby there are food stalls, game stalls and fun rides for kids.
Visited March 2013

My TripAdvisor Review No.11: Mahabaleshwar Temple

“Refreshes your spirit.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 14 March 2013
We always visit this holy temple complex whenever we go to Mahabaleshwar. Five rivers originate from the Pancganga temple; Koyna, Venna, Krishna, Savitri and Gayatri.
There is also a Shiv temple, a Ram temple, a Hanuman temple, and a Radha-Krishna temple here.
Visited March 2013

My TripAdvisor Review No.10: Mahabaleshwar Hill Station

“Best Hill Station in Maharashtra.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 14 March 2013
Mahabaleshwar is the most visited hill station in Maharashtra. The hill top is covered by a canopy of trees and shady all year round. There are many look out points with excellent views stretching over the valleys and right up to the Arabian sea. One can munch on strawberries available in the market.
Visited March 2013

February 20, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.9: Connaught Peak, Mahabaleshwar

“Best view of Mahabaleshwar”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 14 March 2013
You get a bird's eye view of Mahabaleshwar from here. There is a motor-able road leading to the point but you have to climb about 50 steps to reach the top, but it's well worth the trouble.
Visited March 2013

February 15, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.8: Hotel Shreyas Orchid, Mahabaleshwar

“Hotel Shreyas Orchid - A Retreat in the Forests”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 14 March 2013
You will see the name board of 'Shreyas Orchid' about half a km after passing Metgutad village on the Panchgani Mahabaleshwar road, but you will not be able to see the resort because it is hidden behind a canopy of large trees. In fact, the resort is surrounded by a forest of trees on three sides and a wooded cliff behind. The resort is run by the same group that owns Hotel Shreyas in Mahabaleshwar town.

We were shown the rooms on the second floor and immediately decided to take one of the bigger rooms, which had an exquisite view of the Venna valley from behind the tree tops. The room was well furnished and there was even a digital safe in the cupboard.

There was a beautiful little swimming pool with two trees growing in the middle. The water was pretty clear, though the attendant had to remove the falling leaves quite often. There were about half a dozen deck chairs and a hammock to relax in. A water slide came down from the top of the cliff and kids would surely enjoy using this to plunge into the pool.

They have an open verandah type of restaurant. They have a limited menu of home cooked Indian recipes, and we had to order our food at least two hours in advance because it was the off-season. However there are quite a number of restaurants nearby in the village and within walking distance. They even had the menu of 'Hirkani Garden Restaurant' from where the meal could be outsourced. We did order our breakfast and dinner at the hotel and the food was quite tasty and much to our liking. For breakfast we ordered poha and omelet bread.

Shreyas Orchid is about 6 km from Mahabaleshwar so it is more suited for people who would prefer to stay away from the noise and bustle of the main town. One can go for early morning and evening walks nearby, and enjoy the swimming pool, which is shaded by a canopy of trees, during the day. Makharia Point, from where one can view the Lingmala waterfalls, is within walking distance.

Needless to say, this hotel is easily accessible only if you have your own vehicle.
Room Tip: Rooms on the second floor have better views of the Venna valley.
See more room tips
Stayed March 2013, travelled as a couple

February 14, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.7: Dwarka Homestay, Sawantwadi

“Paradise for Nature Lovers.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 28 February 2013
We were en route to South Goa, and checked into Dwarka home stay on the evening of 6th February 2013. We liked it so much that we decided to stay on for one more day.

We were welcomed with a glass of kokum juice, then checked into our room on the first floor. It was a very neat and clean room with a double bed, and a sofa which could be converted to a bed for two kids. There was a huge balcony overlooking a compound with a lot of alphonso mango trees. Mr. Dilip Aklekar made us feel as if we were part of his own family, come to visit from the big bad noisy city.

The food was delicious, and Mr. Dilip would also join us at breakfast and dinner and chat with us, telling us about the home grown ingredients that went into preparing the meal. Most of them were grown on his farm, or came from his ancestral home in Vengurla.

He was also our friend, philosopher and guide and helped us plan our sight-seeing trip to Malvan, where we were introduced to scuba-diving, and the next day to Vengurla, from where we drove down the coastal road to Goa.

We have made up our minds to revisit Dwarka home stay in the near future.
Stayed February 2013, travelled with family

February 13, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.6: Club Mahindra Tusker Trails, Thekkady, Kerala

“A Paradise in the forest.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 22 November 2010
This hotel is being run by Club Mahindra Holidays, and is now known as "Club Mahindra Tusker Trails". It is located in the town of Kumily on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. We stayed here in a rustic machan style cottage for 5 nights in May 2010 and had a very unique and refreshing experience.

The cottages are all situated in a spice plantation having coffee, cardamom, pepper, teak and fruit trees. We had a studio room which was quite spacious. The cottages are built on stilts and have thacthed roofs. However, the cottages are built a bit too close to each other, and the still of the night is often broken by human voices rather than the sounds of nature.

The climate in Thekkady is very pleasant all year round, being a hill station, hence there was no AC in the room, but an exhaust system had been provided. Each room had a balcony overlooking the lush greenery, and the bathrooms even had a tub for which they had provided us with bubble bath soap, to soak ourselves in luxury.

There was a small swimming pool, surrounded by huge jackfruit trees, but the water in the pool was a bit murky. They also have an Ayurveda centre and Activity centre with all the indoor games, and a badminton court.

The restaurant, called "The Periyar Room" served tasty local Kerala dishes. One can either have a-la-carte or buffet, and sometimes they have a live music performance. The prices are on the high side.

The hotel's Travel Desk provides assistance in booking for the ecotourism programmes in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, but it may be better to walk down to Ambadi junction nearby and book your trekking or rafting trip directly at the Eco-tourism office. The entrance to the Periyar Tiger Reserve is 2 km from the hotel.

We did some shopping in the Kumily spice market, which was 2 km in the other direction, and came back with our haul of cardamom, pepper and cloves.
Stayed May 2010, travelled with family

February 12, 2014

My TripAdvisor Review No.5: Jasminn Hotel, Betalbatim, Goa

“Secluded Goan Getaway”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 17 November 2010
Jasminn Resort is located near the village of Betalbatim in South Goa. We stayed here for 3 nights in the month of October 2010, and had a very pleasant and rejuvenating break from the routine.
It was quite easy to get a rickshaw from Madgaon station to the resort, a distance of about 9 km, and we were there after a short 20 minute ride. We had reserved in advance and were welcomed at the reception with a cool refreshing drink.
In the evening we were invited to the Club House for an informal get-tobether. The Activity Centre was equipped with all the indoor games like table tennis, chess, and carom. There was even a small library and an internet facility. Bicycles were available on hire, and we did use them the next evening, to make a trip to Betalbatim beach which is about 2 km away. We got to see a beautiful sunset.
There is a small but well maintained swimming pool on the premises, and we did not miss not having the beach nearby to go for a swim.
The in-house restaurant, Branco, which served a-la-carte as well as buffet, was however quite expensive, with very few Goan dishes on the menu. On enquiring we were told that a Goan buffet is served only on Tuesdays. The nearest Goan restaurant, Kingslee, was near the Betalbatim church, less than a km away. The other retaurant, Martin's Corner, was 2 km away. The latter has become quite famous for it's delicious Goan cuisine, and is visited by quite a few celebrities.
Colva beach is about 4 km from Jasminn, and there are more choices for dining here, as well as on the Colva-Majorda road. It is best to have your own transport if you are in Goa. Taxi fares can be quite prohibitive, and the cab drivers have their union and even prevent other taxis or auto rickshaws from approaching your hotel. This we found out to our dismay when we tried to arrange for a rickshaw to take us back to Madgaon station.
Overall we had a pleasant holiday, with morning and evening walks in the Goan countryside, a daily swim in the hotel pool, a bicycle ride to sunset beach, and sumptuous Goan food at Martin's Corner and Kingslee restaurants nearby.
Stayed October 2010, travelled as a couple