June 20, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.103: Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bengaluru.

“A Beautiful Garden of the Garden City.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 19 June 2015 NEW

Lalbagh Botanical Garden is one of the main tourist attractions of Bangalore. It is located in the heart of the city in the beautiful residential area of Jayanagar. The garden is accessible through four gates, but vehicles are allowed in only through the East gate. There is ample parking space if you enter through this gate. Vehicular movement inside the garden is restricted.

The garden is of royal origin, and designed in the Mughal style. It was started initially by Hyder Ali in 1760, and further developed by his son Tipu Sultan, and later by the British. It now covers an area of 240 acres.

The garden has a very scenic layout. It has over 1000 species of flora, and has some giant trees which are over a 100 years old. The garden is aesthetically designed with lawns, flower beds, lotus pools and fountains. In one of the lawns is a lawn clock, the first such clock in India, surrounded by fairy-tale characters.

In the center of the garden is a glass house, designed on the lines of the Crystal Palace of England. The famous flower shows of Bangalore are held in this glass house.

At the end of the garden is the Lalbagh Lake. One has to climb a few steps to get a panoramic view of this beautiful lake. There are well laid out pathways and tracks inside the park, and one can visit Lalbagh gardens for a morning or evening walk. The timings of the garden is from 6 am to 7 pm and it is open on all days.
Visited March 2015
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June 18, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.102: Sankey Tank, Bengaluru.

“Good Place for a Brisk Walk.”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 18 June 2015 NEW

Sankey Tank is an excellent place for a morning or evening walk and workout. It is located in the suburb of Malleshwaram in Bangalore. The circumference of the track around the tank is about 2 km.

The walking track has been developed around a man made lake which was built by Col. Richard Sankey of the Madras Sappers Regiment in 1882, to meet the water supply demands of Bangalore. The tank was later converted into a park by the Bangalore Water Supply authorities. There is also a municipal swimming pool nearby which is open to the public at specified timings.

A lot of local people visit this park regularly for their morning and evening walks. There is ample parking space around the park. The tracks are clearly demarcated so that the walkers keep to the left side and observe the 'traffic rules' for walking! In addition there is a board giving you the inspirational message of the day. There is also a separate area with basic gym equipment where one can have a workout.

There is a 'duck house' in the middle of the lake and an area where you can feed the pigeons and other birds.

When you are finished with your walk there are health food, juice, fruit and vegetable stalls outside the gates.

Visited March 2015
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My TripAdvisor Review No.101: Hotel Mandhar Regency, Hubli-Dharwad, Karnataka.

“One of the Better Hotels in Hubli Dharwad.”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed yesterday NEW

We were weary from our long drive from Pune to Bangalore and decided to break journey and take rest for the night. I learnt later that this is also the meaning of the word ‘Dharwad’, a place where travellers can break a long journey and take rest. And Dharwad lies exactly midway between Pune and Bangalore on the NH4 highway. As we were approaching Dharwad, we called the Hotel to find that they had a room available. We had to leave the highway and enter Dharwad town and drive in about 4 km to reach College Road, where the hotel is located.

They have a small parking area for about 6 or 7 cars. There is a nice looking party lawn as you enter the gates. We took the room without AC, and with complimentary breakfast and a bottle of mineral water thrown in the tariff seemed quite reasonable.

The room was a bit crowded with two beds, a coffee table and cane chairs. The bathroom did not have sufficient fittings to hang clothes on. There was a cupboard and TV in the room, which we did not use. However, it was decent enough for an overnight stay.

We went down to their AC restaurant ‘Darbar’ for dinner, and quite enjoyed their Butter Chicken with nan. The restaurant seems to be popular with the locals too, as we saw quite a few families from Dharwad coming in for dining.

Their complimentary breakfast was a limited plate of idli or wadas with a cup of tea or coffee, which was served in their outdoor bamboo hut restaurant ‘Cosy Cottage’.

As we checked out we were offered a refreshing cup of coffee from their vending machine.

Stayed March 2015, travelled as a couple
4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
3 of 5 stars Rooms
4 of 5 stars Service

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June 16, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.100: Kollam Beach, Kollam, Kerala.

“OK for an evening walk.”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed 15 June 2015 NEW

Kollam beach is about a km from the Kollam Railway Station. It is a 2 km long stretch of brown sand, but not very clean. There is a children's park adjacent to the beach which has a giant white statue of a mermaid.

Swimming is prohibited on the beach because of the dangerous undercurrents, and a few people are said to have drowned in the sea here.

There are a number of snack food stalls lining the beach and the local people and tourists generally come to this beach in the evenings for a snack, a stroll or to enjoy a beautiful view of the sunset. Children can enjoy an outing in the nearby park. There is ample parking space for vehicles adjacent to the beach and rickshaws are also easily available.

The Thangassery Lighthouse is just barely visible about 2 km north of Kollam Beach.
Visited November 2014
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June 14, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.99: Theeram (restaurant), Varkala Beach, Kerala.

“Good Sea Food with a Good Sea View,”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed 12 June 2015 NEW

We stopped at Theeram on Varkala Beach for lunch en route to Kollam from Trivandrum. It was a nicely decorated but quaint looking double decker shack serving Indian tandoori, Kerala sea food, Italian pizzas and Tibetan momos.

We went up to the upper deck and ordered a Malabari fish with steamed rice, and a mushroom tomato pizza. Service was slow but we enjoyed the exquisite sea view of Varkala Beach while waiting for the food. The food was delicious and the rates were reasonable and we quite enjoyed our meal. The one thing that irritated us was the naughty crows on the coconut trees nearby. They kept threatening to snatch the food from our plates if we were not vigilant.

Nevertheless we enjoyed our seafood meal experience in a double decker beach shack.

Visited November 2014
4 of 5 stars Value
3 of 5 stars Service
5 of 5 stars Food

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June 11, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.98: Varkala Beach, Kerala

“Beach with a Cliff View!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 8 June 2015 NEW

We stopped at Varkala Beach for lunch en route Trivandrum to Kollam. It is about 50 km north of Trivandrum.

There are a lot of restaurants on the main Papanasam (wash away sins) Beach. We chose a double decker restaurant and had our lunch on the top deck. We enjoyed the sea view as much as the sea food at the restaurant. Just behind the restaurant there were steps leading up to the cliffs which gives Varkala Beach it's special scenic beauty. There are a lot of hotels on the cliff top where one can spend a longer vacation. There is even a helipad on top.

The Sree Janardhana Swami Temple and the Sivagiri Mutt are two well known religious places located near Varkala, but we did not have time to visit.

Varkala beach is comparable to some of the better beaches of Goa for it's raw natural beauty. We would certainly like to spend a few more days here on our next Kerala holiday.

Visited November 2014
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June 7, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.97: Thiruvanathapuram Zoo.

“One of the Best Zoos in India.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 6 June 2015 NEW

We had wanted to visit this zoo ever since we saw the movie, ‘The Life of Pi’. The movie is based on the Booker Prize winning novel with the same title authored by Yann Martel. The Canadian author’s story is based on his research he had done on the animal behaviours during his visits to this zoo in 1996-97.

Founded by the Maharaja of Travancore in 1857, it is the oldest zoo in India. It is set in a rambling 55 acre botanical garden in the centre of Thiruvanathapuram, and is located in the same compound as the Napier Museum and Sri Chitra Art Gallery. There is a nominal entry fee per person, but camera charges were Rs.50. The timings are 10 am to 5 pm on all days, but closed on Mondays.

If one wants to explore the entire zoo on foot, then be prepared to spend at least two hours of walking around the natural surroundings of jungles, lakes and gardens around which the cages and enclosures are set. The zoo authorities have tried to keep all the animals in a natural environment, though it was not possible to eliminate cages altogether. Golf carts are also available for those who are not able to spend so much time and effort to walk around.

All in all it is a good experience for children and adults who are fond of wildlife and nature. You can click snaps of the animals as if they are in their natural habitats, if you have camera with a good zoom.

Visited November 2014
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June 6, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.96: Kovalam Beach, Trivandrum, Kerala.

“Beautiful but commercialised.”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed 5 June 2015 NEW

Kovalam is a well known beach town located about 16 km from Kerala's capital city, Trivandrum. We hired a cab to drive down to the beach as part of the sight seeing trip around Trivandrum.

The 17 km long crescent shaped beach is actually broken up into 3 parts by rocky outcroppings. These 3 parts are called 1) Lighthouse Beach, 2) Hawah Beach and 3) Samudra Beach. All along the shoreline is fringed with beautiful cocont trees.

Our cab driver took us to the central Hawah Beach which is somewhat more crowded, and full of restaurants, hotels and water sports activities. We could see the Vizhinjam Lighthouse from here, but the Samudra Beach in the north was not visible. There is a different route to the Samudra Beach and all the 5 star resorts of Kovalam are located on this side. So Samudra Beach is more like a private beach.

Compared to the beaches of Goa and Maharashtra I would say Kovalam Beach is average, since it has been so commercialised. Maybe if we had come here in the evening and witnessed a sunset I might have rated it higher on the beauty scale.

Visited November 2014
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June 5, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.95: Poovar Island, Trivandrum, Kerala.

“Remote Tropical Paradise.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 4 June 2015 NEW

Poovar island is located in the extreme southern tip of the state of Kerala. It is about 35 km south west from Trivandrum towards the Arabian Sea. Here the Neyyar River flowing down from the Agastyamala Hills comes and meets the Arabian Sea, forming a beautiful estuary, surrounded by mangrove forests.

The best way to explore Poovar Island is by boat. The boatman will take you through the mangrove forests to the Neyyar River and then downriver towards the sea. The river then runs almost parallel to the sea, separated only by a sand bank which forms part of the island. You can take a walk on the beach formed by the sand bank, but it is quite dangerous to swim here, as the sea is very rough.

There are a number of high end resorts located at or near Poovar Island. Some of these are, 'Isola Di Coco', 'Estuary Island', and 'Poovar Island Resort'. You will also find some floating restaurants along the Neyyar River where you can enjoy a meal in a tropical setting next to the flowing river.

Visited November 2014
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My TripAdvisor Review No.94: Padmanabhapuram Palace, near Trivandrum.

“Fascinating Ancient Palace.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 4 June 2015 NEW

Although this palace is located in Kanyakumari district of the state of Tamil Nadu, it was built in the 16th century by the Rajas of the erstwhile Travancore when Padmanabhapuram was the capital city of the kingdom of Travancore. The Palace is a fine specimen of Kerala’s indigenous style of traditional architecture. Even now it is maintained by the Govt. of Kerala’s Archaeology Department.

We visited this palace on the way from Poovar (Kerala) to Kanyakumari. After passing the town of Marthandam and crossing the Neyyar River on the Kerala border, we arrived at the Tamil Nadu town of Thuckalay where the palace is located. There is an entry fee of Rs.35 per person and Rs.50 for a camera. It is closed to the public on Mondays.

As you enter you will see a clock tower with a 300 year old clock which still keeps time. Once you are inside it is as if you have been transported into a completely different world by a time machine. There are at least 50 to 60 rooms in different sections of the palace, and there is an attendant in each of the rooms to guide you around that room.

The antique interiors are replete with intricate rosewood carvings and sculptured decor. The shining floor of the Durbar Hall is made from a weird combination of natural ingredients which include egg whites, jaggery, lime, burnt coconut shells, charcoal and river sand. In the Raja’s bedroom there is a 64 piece wooden bed made from a variety of medicinal trees. There is an entire room filled with Chinese jars all gifted by Chinese merchants. There are 17th and 18th century murals, windows with coloured mica, hanging brass lanterns which have been lit continuously since the 18th century, carved figures holding oil lamps, on columns made from jackfruit wood, and fish carvings on the ceilings. A part of the palace is now a heritage museum exhibiting antique household articles and curios.

This palace is a must visit in your tour of Southern Kerala, especially if you are interested in history

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Visited November 2014
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June 3, 2015

My TripAdvisor Review No.93: Poovar Backwater Cruise, Poovar, Trivandrum, Kerala.

“Fascinating Backwater Boat Ride.”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed 2 June 2015 NEW

Early one morning we were walking along to Virali village, near Poovar, for breakfast when we noticed these colourful fibre glass boats parked on the banks of the river. The boatman offered us a ride through the backwater canals and even agreed to wait while we had breakfast at a riverside restaurant.

We were not expecting much, but it turned out to be a very fascinating boat ride indeed. As we entered the mangrove forests the foliage from the overhanging branches closed in on us. The boatman slowed down the speed of the boat so that the motor made less noise and we were silently gliding through the mangroves. We saw many water birds at close quarters. There were egrets, kingfishers, cormorants, cranes, eagles and some other bird species which we couldn’t identify.

We passed some resorts like ‘Isoly di Coco’, ‘Estuary Resort’, and ‘Poovar Island Resort’ in the backwaters. Some of them even have floating cottages on the river bank.

After some time we reached the much wider Neyyar River and now he increased the boat speed till we reached the riverside restaurant named ‘Anna Boorna’, where we had a breakfast of dosas and uthappas. It was an open air shack overlooking the river and had a beautiful setting. There are some other floating restaurants too, along the riverside.

We then got back into the boat and went to the estuary where the river enters the sea. There was a sand bank beyond which is the Arabian Sea. We stopped and climbed on to the sand bank and got our feet wet in the sea water. The slope of the beach is steep and it is not safe to swim here, as the waves are quite rough.

It was indeed a fascinating and unique boat ride experience, not to be missed if you are visiting this southernmost tip of Kerala, near Trivandrum.

Visited November 2014
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