February 27, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.71: Gandharv Vegetarian Restaurant, Kalyani Nagar, Pune.

“Good vegetarian food.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 27 February 2015 NEW
This restaurant is located at the far end of Kalyani Nagar near the IT offices. At lunch time there is fair number of employees from the offices nearby who frequent this restaurant. A big plus point is that there is ample parking space reserved for this restaurant, compared to the other restaurants nearby which don't have a dedicated parking space.

The food is reasonably tasty and there is a lot of variety, although they serve only vegetarian. There are the usual South Indian and Punjabi dishes along with a few Chinese ones too. I ordered a 'Mini Thali' which consisted of a vegetable, one paneer dish and a dal along with roti and jeera rice, papad and pickle. There was a sweet dish of fruit salad or ice-cream at the end. My wife wanted 'sabu-dana khichdi' and although it was not on the menu they did make a special effort to serve it.

The ambiance is good and they have a separate ac section too.
  • Visited February 2015
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

February 22, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.70: Thanumalayan Temple, Suchindram, Tamil Nadu.

“A very pious temple.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 21 February 2015 NEW
This is a very interesting temple about 12 km from Kaniyakumari, dedicated to the three main deities of Hinduism; Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The three deities are in a single form called Sthanumalayam.

All men have to enter only after removing their shirts and vests, and the women have to be either in a sari or salwar kameez. You have to buy at least two flower garlands as offerings to the deities. We had to keep all our stuff in the lockers near the entrance, including cameras and cellphones, and pay a token amount for the locker hire.

A guide, who could speak to us in Hindi, offered his services as we entered (pay as you wish). He told us quite a few interesting facts about the temple and its rituals, which we would not have learned about otherwise. The musical pillars were particularly fascinating. Each pillar emitted a different musical note when we thumped it with our hands. There was an 18 feet tall Hanuman idol, and a huge hall with more than 1000 carved stone pillars.

Photography is prohibited inside the temple.

There is a pretty pond just outside the temple. We were quite impressed by the temple architecture, and its surroundings.
Visited November 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

February 21, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.69: Vivekananda Rock Memorial, Kaniyakumari.

“At the Southernmost tip of the Indian Subcontinent.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 20 February 2015 NEW
The Vivekananda Rock Memorial, along with the Tiruvallur statue are the two most imposing man- made structures built on rocky islands, just off the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. This land’s end was also known as Cape Comorin in earlier times.

One has to take a ferry from the mainland to reach these two islands. Since the last boat was departing at 4 pm we had to rush to the jetty and wait in a long queue of about 100 people. The queue moved fast and we were in the ferry within 20 minutes, for which we paid a to and fro fare of Rs.34 per person. At the rock memorial we had to pay an entry fee of Rs.20 per person. You are free to roam around the monument as long as you like, but be sure to catch the last ferry back, which also takes you to the island with the Tiruvallur statue.

The rock on which this memorial is built is the very place where Swami Vivekanada came to meditate in 1892, before leaving for Chicago to participate in the World Religious Conference in 1893. The memorial buildings were built much later in his memory and inaugurated in 1970. One of the buildings, the ‘Vivekananda Mandapam’, has a big bronze statue of Swami Vivekanada. The other one, the ‘Sri Pada Mandapam’, is a meditation and prayer hall. There is also a small rock in this hall with the projection of a human foot, which is believed to be the footprint of the Goddess Kanya.

From the rocky island you get a good view of the merging of the waters of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. The three waters are all a different shade of blue-green and make a fascinating sight. There is a strong wind which is always blowing as you stand and gaze out in wonderment at the infinite horizon.

This memorial in Kaniyakumari is a must visit for any tourist of Tamil Nadu in Southern India.
Visited November 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

February 14, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.68: Shreekrishna's Shikara Cruise - Day Tours, Alleppey.

“A boat ride in God's Own Country.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 13 February 2015 NEW
The shikara boat ride in the backwaters of Alleppey was one of the highlights of our Kerala trip. After having lunch at Aaryas restaurant we went to the Alleppey boat jetty where our rickshaw driver introduced us to this Shikara boat operator who took us around the backwaters of Alleppey for 2 hours in just Rs.1000.

It was a very pleasant two hours. There were two settees in the shikara where we could lie down and watch the scenery pass by as if in a dream. In addition there were half a dozen cushioned cane chairs, and the three of us had the whole boat to ourselves.

One does not necessarily have to hire a big house boat in Alleppey to do the backwaters. A shikara boat is much more environmentally friendly than a house boat, though it is also motorised. We passed by many large air-conditioned house boats with huge generators on board, and wondered at the pollution caused by them to the fragile ecosystem.

The boatman Mr. Anil Kumar was very courteous and showed us many attractions. We saw the rice fields of the Kuttanad which are said to lie below sea level. He took us to the entry point of the huge Lake Vembanad where we saw a lot of house boats taking tourists around. We saw how the local people live their daily lives next to the gentle waterways, instead of a noisy roadside.

We stopped mid-way at a small eatery and had some coconut water and coffee before returning back refreshed.

Now we know why Alleppey is also known as the ‘Venice of the East.’
Visited December 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

February 9, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No. 67: Chor Bizarre (restaurant), Lavassa.

“Good Mughlai and Kashmiri food.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 7 February 2015 NEW
This restaurant is located along the promenade of the 'Waterfront Shaw'. They had a promo of their 7 course buffet meal for Rs.450 (taxes extra), but we preferred to go for the ala carte. We ordered RaRa Gosht (chewy mutton pieces in a spicy mince gravy) along with tandoori roti and nan. The dish was quite tasty and we quite enjoyed it with the complimentary papad and pickles.

The ambiance of the restaurant was quite unique, with some antique artifacts from all over India. There was even a small vintage car in the banquet hall. There were some pictures from Kashmir on the walls, and they were playing old Hindi songs which we liked.

The service was courteous and efficient. Overall a good dining experience.
  • Visited February 2015
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

February 7, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.66: Lavasa, Maharashtra.

“A rejuvenating drive from Pune.”

4 of 5 stars Reviewed 6 February 2015 NEW
We left home (Pune) at 10.30am. We drove via Deccan Gymkhana, Karve Road, Paud flyover, Chandni Chowk, Bhugaon, Pirangut, Temghar dam and then up the ghats till we reached the Lavasa entrance at 1.30pm. On the way we stopped twice for some refreshments, once just after Chandni Chowk to have some sandwiches, and once on the ghats after passing Temghar dam under a shady tree to have tea from our thermos.

The entrance gate of Lavasa is at the top of the ghat and you get a good view of the township and the Warasgaon Lake at the bottom of the valley from here. To reach the township you have to go downhill along Dasve Road for another 8 km. The road is very picturesque with many hairpin bends. Finally you have to turn right when you reach Portofino Street and then you arrive at the ‘Waterfront Shaw’ and the Town Hall. We passed many beautiful villas and apartments along the way, but very few of them seemed to be occupied. Many are still under construction.

'The Waterfront Shaw' is a large complex of apartments, shops, and restaurants. One can take a leisurely walk along the beautiful promenade on the side facing the lake. The buildings are painted in bright hues of red, yellow, brown and peach. On the other side of the lake one can see the buildings housing the International Convention Centre, The Dasvino Town Country Club and the Lavasa Experience Centre. One can visit the Tourist Information Centre next to the Town Hall for more detailed information about the hotels and activities in Lavasa.
We had lunch at one of the restaurants along the promenade and then drove further into the town to explore.

Lavasa is a well laid out Hill Retreat which could give resorts like Lonavla and Khandala a run for their money. However we found that the shady green cover was not adequate along the roads, and it was not as cool and refreshing as Mahabaleshwar or Matheran.

It is still a good getaway option for residents of Mumbai and Pune, especially in the rainy season, when there is a plethora of waterfalls and floating clouds on the verdant hillsides.
The drive from Pune to Lavasa takes about 2 hours out of which 45 minutes goes in just wading out of the city traffic. Once you are past Chandi Chowk it should take about an hour or a little more to reach Lavasa.
Visited February 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

February 3, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.65: 'Wok and Grill', Oriental Restaurant, Kollam, Kerala.

“Excellent Oriental food.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 1 February 2015 NEW
We were sight-seeing in Kollam, and had read about 'Wok and Grill' on TripAdvisor. We had just disembarked at the main boat jetty and asked a few residents the whereabouts of this 'Chinese Restaurant'. Surprisingly nobody seemed to know. Finally we had to follow 'Google maps' on our cellphone GPS and there it was, just about 1.5 km from the boat jetty.

We ordered a 'fried veg starter', 'chicken Schezwan noodles', 'veg fried rice', and 'fish in black bean and chilly sauce'. The service was very good and the dishes were served within half an hour. The ambiance of the restaurant was good with an oriental setting and service was courteous.

We were delighted to find this excellent oriental restaurant in Kollam.
  • Visited November 2014
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

My TripAdvisor Review No. 64: Club Mahindra Ashtamudi, Kerala.

“Floating in Paradise.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed yesterday NEW
We arrived at Club Mahindra Ashtamudi by cab from the Club Mahindra Poovar resort at around 6.30 pm. Check-in was smooth and quick, and we were taken to our 1BR floating cottage in a golf cart. By the time we had settled in it was dinner time, so we went straight to the floating restaurant, ‘Ripples’. We sat outside in the verandah of the restaurant and enjoyed their ‘Kerala parottas’ and ‘Kerala style vegetables with mushroom and peas’, with the warm breeze and twinkling lights of the lake for company.

Next morning we were stunned by the beautiful scenery of the sunrise from behind the clouds, as we sat mesmerised in the small balcony of our floating cottage, sipping our tea. Kingfishers, cormorants, eagles, and other water birds were a common sight as we sat watching the fishermen row past in their dugout canoes, amongst the Chinese fishing nets. One could easily spend the entire day dreaming out here, were it not for the heat of the rising sun.

The floating cottages and the restaurant are all along the shore of the Ashtamudi Lake, and the other rooms are a little laid back but facing the lake. There are hammocks between the coconut trees where one can chill out. The small swimming pool is beautifully laid out amongst the trees and foliage. The fun zone and travel desk are near the entrance and reception, whereas the spa is at the other end of the campus. Bicycles are available for joy rides within the campus. The resort arranges houseboat rides for a fee. There is also a jetty just beyond the gates where one can catch the local ferry which departs at scheduled times during the day.

Travel Desk arranges the sight-seeing trips, and drops to the station or airport. Outside cabs are not available due to the presence of a strong union. Auto-rickshaws can be picked up by walking out a short distance from the gates, if one wants to visit Kollam city for some local flavour and sight-seeing.

We could not find any local restaurants, apart from a few biscuit and tea stalls, within a 2 km radius of the resort, so there was no choice but to dine at ‘Ripples’. The buffet spread was very good with local Kerala as well as other dishes, but priced on the higher side for small eaters like us. So we ordered from the a-la-carte menu, but found the service to be slow. The restaurant also had limited seating capacity and would become quite crowded by 8 pm.

On our last night’s stay we found that the ac was not functioning properly. After complaining a number of times, and the maintenance crew struggling in vain to repair it, we had to spend the night in the stifling heat of a closed cabin.

Despite these problems I must say that we did enjoy our stay at the resort, because of the sheer beauty and novelty of the lake side setting.
Room Tip: Go for the floating cottages for the most unique experience.
See more room tips
  • Stayed November 2014, travelled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC