December 31, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.277: Big Banyan Tree, Bangalore.

Botanical Wonder.

Big Banyan Tree is located about 28 km from Bangalore on the highway to Mysore. It is about 8 km off the highway after taking a right turn at Kumbalagod junction. One can reach this picnic spot by local bus, rickshaw or taxi also. Parking is available nearby around the tree canopy, and there are small eateries and tea shops outside the fenced garden enclosing the tree. There is no entry fee to the garden.

The 400 year old tree covers an area of about 3 acres, almost the area of a small village. It is the largest banyan tree in Karnataka, and the 4th largest in India, and the World.

We were wonderstruck by the enormity of this single tree with so many trunks. The main trunk was destroyed due to a natural disease, but now has many other trunks which have descended from its branches to support the tree. In fact when we entered the lovely gardens surrounding the tree, we felt as if we were in a small forest. There were many monkeys scampering around, and the tree also houses many species of birds. There is a small Shiva temple in the premises.

It is a good place for a picnic in rural Bangalore, with beautiful natural surroundings, but be careful of the marauding monkeys, and please do not leave your garbage behind.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 29, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.276: Pykara Lake, Ooty.

Big Lake With Boating Facilities.

This lake is about 20 km away from Ooty, on the road to Gudalur from Ooty. It is much bigger than the lake in Ooty town, and there are waterfalls a little away from the lake, known as the Pykara Falls. There is also a Forest Rest House and boat house with a restaurant from where one can hire row boats and speed boats as well. There is a parking lot near the boat house.

We stopped by at Pykara Lake on the way out from Ooty to Mysore via Gudalur. There were some nice shady meadows by the lake where we had our picnic breakfast and took some pictures. The lake was very calm and serene and surrounded by a forest of pine trees.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 28, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.275: Kamat Lokaruchi, Ramanagara, Karnataka.

Real Taste of Karnataka Home Food.

We were on the way from Srirangapatnam to Bangalore and my local friend recommended that we stop at Kamat Loka Ruchi, near Ramanagara on the Mysore-Bangalore highway, for lunch. It is a pure vegetarian restaurant, and part of the famous Kamat chain of hotels and restaurants.

The restaurant has the ambience of a heritage cottage in a Karnataka or Kodagu village. The food served here is also in the traditional style on a banana leaf. You can choose to have a buffet meal or ala-carte local dishes like idlis (cooked in a banana leaf), dosas or akki rotis. There is a variety of dishes from different regions of Karnataka.

I tried their traditional special lunch (Rs.220), which included ‘puran poli’ and fruit salad with ice-cream, in addition to the normally served four sabjis (vegetables), salad with methi leaves, curd, papad, millet rotis, rice, sambar and rasam. The food had the local flavour and was very healthy and wholesome.

The restaurant was a bit a crowded but kept neat and clean. The washrooms were also clean, as it should be, for restaurants on the highway. There is a large parking lot inside the gates, and an HP fuel station just next door, and is an ideal place to take a break in a long drive.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 27, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.274: Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatnam.

Impressive Temple, Landmark of Srirangapatnam.

The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is an important landmark of the town of Srirangapatnam, 15 km from Mysore, located on an island in the Kaveri River. The town derives its name from the temple.

It is a very ancient temple dating back to the 9th century AD. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Ranganatha who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The idol is in a reclining position on the bed of a serpent with seven heads.

The large gopuram, or entrance facade, of the temple has intricate carvings in the Vijayanagar style of architecture. The temple is surrounded by a solid wall, more like a fortified structure. Just behind the temple is the Railway Station of Srirangapatnam.

I visited the temple early in the morning and there was already a long queue of devotees. Many of the other devotees were readying themselves for the ‘darshan’ by having a holy dip in the bathing ghats in the River Kaveri, surrounding the temple.

The temple is open from 7.30 am to 1.30 pm and again from 4 pm to 8 pm. Photography is not allowed inside. One can have a quicker ‘darshan’ on payment of an extra fee. The temple gets very crowded on weekends.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 26, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.273: Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Karnataka.

Nature Lover's Paradise.

The Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary was the highlight of our three day stay at Srirangapatna. It is located 3 km from Srirangapatna and 16 km north of Mysore on the KRS dam (Brindavan Garden) road. Public buses are available from Mysore city to visit the sanctuary, if you do not have your own transport.

We had to pay an entry fee of Rs.70 per person, and Rs.50 for car parking. Foreigners have to pay Rs.400, and there are additional charges for your camera with zoom lenses. Guided boat tours are also chargeable at Rs.70 per head (foreigner Rs.400), and the last boat is at 5.45 pm. It is worth taking the boat as you can get closer to the islands where the birds reside, and get to see them from close quarters.

The boat guides know the names of the individual species of birds and even point out the crocodiles which look just like the rocks on which they are sleeping. We got the creepy feeling when we saw the crocs from so near, but they just ignored us. There are enough fish in the Kaveri for them, and the birds, to feed on. We saw many species of birds nesting on the trees. There were pelicans, storks, egrets, cormorants, ibis, swallows and heron. We even saw a pair of otters feeding on fish on one rock, which is quite a rare sight.

After the boat ride one can relax on the many benches in the nice gardens and viewing galleries on the shore. Refreshments are available in a restaurant near the parking lot.

The season for watching the water birds is from November to June, but the best time is in December-January when migratory birds from as far away as Siberia and Latin America visit Ranganathittu for nesting.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 25, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.272: Hotel Mayura Riverview Srirangapatna.

Riverside Reverie.

Mayura Riverview is situated by the Kaveri River in the town of Srirangapatna about 20 km before Mysore on the Bangalore – Mysore highway.

We stayed in one of the deluxe aircon rooms which had a balcony overlooking the River Kaveri. There was a jackfruit tree just outside and we would hear the twitter of different birds and squirrels early in the morning. The resort is surrounded by large trees and green vegetation and has got a very serene and peaceful atmosphere.

The room was well furnished. There was a flat-screen TV, dressing table, cupboard and 2 chairs, but no electric kettle to make tea/coffee and no fridge in the room.
The hotel campus is well spread out with a small rabbit enclosure and some geese wandering around.

There are 3 restaurants, a regular one, an open air one and a double deck floating restaurant by the river which also doubles up as a conference venue. We would have our breakfast in the floating restaurant watching the locals row by in their coracles. We enjoyed the breakfasts, but the other dishes served up at lunch/dinner were quite ordinary.

There is a good parking area for the hotel, and it is off the highway so that there is no traffic noise during the night, but the restaurants get crowded during lunch time as it is open to all travellers.

It is a good base to explore the nearby attractions of Ranganathithu Bird Sanctuary, Tipu Sultan’s Srirangapatnam, Ranganathaswamy temple, and the Brindavan Garden.
Room Tip: Independent cottages are available too, but at a higher tariff.
See more room tips
  • Stayed: November 2017, travelled as a couple
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 24, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.271: Bandipur National Park and Tiger Reserve, Karnataka.

A Scenic Drive Through Dense Forests.

We had to drive through the Bandipur National Park on our way from Bangalore to Ooty. The entrance to the park is about 85 km from Mysore and 15 km after passing the town of Gundlupet.

On entering the Park we were immediately greeted by a wild elephant with huge tusks, standing by the side of the road just about 20 metres away. We are not supposed to stop to even take snaps but I could not help but take a quick one with my cell phone.

Spotted deer crossing the road was a common sight, and once we came very close to a huge Hanuman langur posing right in the middle of the road. He was too close to stop and take a snap and we carefully edged past him and drove on.

Thirteen km after entering Bandipur we entered the Tamil Nadu part of the park, Mudumalai, where there is a forest check-post with armed guards. We passed some jungle resorts where accommodation is available if you want to stay and take a jeep safari ride in the park. We did not stop as we had already booked our stay in Ooty.

A short stay in Bandipur is a very good option for wildlife and nature lovers to enjoy the deep forests.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 23, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.270: Kodanad View Point, Kotagiri, TN.

Best Drive In The Nilgiri Hills.

If have driven to Ooty, Coonoor or Kotagiri in your own vehicle, then the drive to Kadanad View Point is definitely a ‘Must Do’. Unlike the 36 hair-pin bend road up to Ooty from Masinagudi, where you cannot take your eyes off the road, here the drive through the hills is less strenuous and taxing. You can stop at many places by the roadside and take snaps of the pretty hilly countryside. After Kotagiri you pass through large tea estates, some of which belonged to a well known former TN CM. You can even buy some tea directly from the estate at discounted rates.

Kotagiri is 29 km from Ooty and this part of the drive took us 1 hour through scenic countryside. We stopped at the Kotagiri market for a cup of coffee, then drove another hour (stopping on the way) to do the 19 km from Kotagiri to Kodanad View Point (KVP). We got parking near a big tree (paid Rs.20).

The views are simply breathtaking from KVP. There is one peak shaped like a rocket in the centre of the landscape. We could make out the Moyar River snaking its way across in the form of a dark green coil. KVP overlooks three states of South India; Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. There is a lookout tower with a telescope at KVP, run by the Toda tribal ladies. They also sell local forest produce like Nilgiri tea, oils, spices and souvenirs at very reasonable rates.

We roamed around the point for almost an hour, admiring the awesome scenery and clicking many snaps. Then we had some chilli pakoras (fritters) and a cup of tea at the small restaurant in the basement of the tower, before heading back to Ooty.

A visit to Doddabetta Peak (Ooty) pales in comparison with a visit to Kodanad View Point. So if you have the time and the drive give DP a miss and visit KVP instead.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 22, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.269: Heritage Train, Coonoor.

Better Than A Roller-Coaster Ride.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) is a metre gauge toy train which snakes its way up the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu, South India, from Mettupalayam at the base to Udagamandalam (Ooty) at the top of the hills. The NMR has now been added to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mountain Railways of India.

Coonoor Station is situated between Mettupalayam and Ooty. If you are staying in Coonoor you can travel in either direction, but there is a different type of engine for both. From Mettupalayam to Coonoor there is an oil fired steam locomotive, and for Coonoor to Ooty there is a diesel locomotive. The steam train is of course a better alternative for a joy ride, but if you want to enjoy a shorter ride then do the trip from Coonoor to Ooty.

We purchased the general class tickets which cost only Rs.10 to go from Coonoor to Ooty. There was an orderly queue to get in to the compartment. The early birds get the prime window seats. The train departed at 4 pm and reached Ooty at 5.15 pm. Tickets can also be booked on the IRCTC website in advance.

We enjoyed the mountain scenery along the way, passing through a number of tunnels and over some narrow bridges. In between we halted for a few minutes at some quaint stations like Wellington, Aravankadu, Ketti and Lovedale.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 21, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.268: Sim's Park, Coonoor.


Sim’s Park in Coonoor is definitely worth a visit. Even though it is smaller than the Botanical Garden of Ooty, it is better laid out at different levels on a sloping hillside. There is a small lake where one can do some boating.

There is an entry fee of Rs.30 per head and a camera fee of Rs.50. The park is very scenic and one can take many enchanting photographs. Parking is available on the street outside, as well as an auto-rickshaw stand where one can get ‘tuk-tuks’ on hire. The tuk-tuks charge about Rs.140 for a round trip from the Railway Station.

We saw some very exotic trees from faraway lands like Australia, Brazil and Europe. There are colourful flower beds, lawns, rockeries as well as a rose garden. We also saw some rare species of trees like Rudraksh, Ferns, Camellia, Auraucaria, Oak, Eucalyptus, Acacia, Pines and more. Most of the trees are marked with their name boards and which country they are commonly found in.

There are clean washrooms in the park, and some restaurants outside. Be prepared to do some walking though, first downhill and then uphill to get back to the gates.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 19, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.267: Adayar Ananda Bhavan, Ooty.

Quick and Tasty Vegetarian Meals.

This is a good clean restaurant for quick vegetarian meals in the Ooty market. Parking space was available behind the restaurant, and we didn’t have to park in the crowded street.

Adyar Ananda Bhavans have become a well known chain of restaurants in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. They serve not only South Indian meals and snacks, but North Indian too. It is quite popular in Ooty and always crowded at meal times. Service is quick and courteous. We were served by a pretty waitress.

We ordered a ‘Mini Meal’, and ‘Aloo Parathas’, followed by a cup of ‘Badam Milk’ between the two of us. The food was reasonably tasty and the flavoured milk was delicious.

There is also a sales counter where one can buy a variety of local snacks, savouries and sweets. We bought some ‘Mysore Pak’ sweets and had it as dessert. Yum.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 18, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.266: Mudumalai National Park, Tamil Nadu.

Beautiful Drive Through A Tiger Reserve.

The highway from Ooty to Mysore passes through the Mudumalai National Park and Tiger Reserve. After passing the town of Gudalur we entered this wildlife sanctuary. We had to drive at a moderate speed as there were regular speed bumps on the way. But it is a very beautiful drive through evergreen forests. We spotted many chital deer, monkeys and a lone wild elephant by the side of the road.

We did not stop or stay at any of the resorts In Mudumalai. Accommodation is available inside the sanctuary, near Theppakadu and Masinagudi. Jeep Safaris can also be arranged at the resorts through private operators.

We enjoyed our drive through the jungles, where the wild animals have the right of way. There are many signboards on the way not to stop, or to have a picnic, or litter the clean and green reserve, which we have to strictly observe. We had to slow down at times to let the deer cross the road.

At the border of Tamil Nadu with Karnataka there is a check-post. Mudumalai (in Tamil Nadu) then merges with the Bandipur National Park (in Karnataka). The highway continues through Bandipur to Mysore.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 15, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.265: Emerald Lake, Ooty.

Beautiful Lake with Emerald Waters.

This lake is about 18 km away from Ooty, on the same road which goes to Avalanche Lake. You have to have your own transport or hire a cab to visit this lake. You have to take a right turn towards the Emerald Dam but don’t enter the dam premises. A small road leads to a narrow bridge which crosses the channel connecting the two lakes, Emerald and Avalanche. Stop awhile to soak in the views from the bridge. On the right is the Emerald Lake and on the left is the Avalanche Lake, surrounded by pristine forests and hills. You can walk down to both the lakes from the side of the bridge and wet your feet in the waters. We used Google Maps to help us find the way.

Emerald Lake is very beautiful. The calm water of the lake reflects the green foliage of the surrounding forest and hence gets an emerald color. There is no pollution and no crowds, being a little distant from Ooty town. Bring your picnic basket and enjoy, but please don’t leave the garbage behind.

We carried on further beyond the bridge till we reached the Red Hills Resort. This resort is another 8 km uphill along a narrow country road, surrounded by tea gardens, and located on top of a hill, overlooking the Emerald Lake. It is a heritage bungalow and is being run as a home stay. You have to have prior bookings if you wish to stay. Unfortunately, we could not get lunch here, since there were no other guests at the resort, but the caretaker did serve us a mug of steaming hot coffee.

It was a very enjoyable drive from Ooty to Emerald and back.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

December 9, 2017

My TripAdvisor Review No.264: Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Ooty.

Ride in a Toy Train - Amazing Experience.

Though we had driven to Ooty by car, we decided to take this joy ride in the Nilgiri Mountain Railway just for the thrill and fun we used to experience as children.

We parked our car in the station parking lot, and paid Rs.50 as parking charges. The train tickets were much cheaper at Rs.10 per head from Udagamandalam (Ooty) to Coonoor. Since it was a week day in the off-season we got seats easily in the general compartment. We had to stand in a queue till the train pulled in to the station, and everyone got into the bogies in a very orderly manner.

The engine pulling the train between Ooty and Coonoor is powered by diesel. I believe there is a steam locomotive pulling the train between Coonoor and Mettupalayam, and it takes 4 hours for the train to complete the journey from Mettupalayam to Ooty. Reserved tickets can be booked in advance for the train on the IRCTC website. Our journey started from Ooty at 12.15 pm and took just over an hour to reach Coonoor. In between we stopped for a few minutes at some pretty little stations namely; Lovedale, Ketti, Aravankadu and Wellington before reaching Coonoor.

We enjoyed the mountain scenery along the way, with many villages tucked away between the eucalyptus trees, tea estates, fields and forests. We passed through a number of tunnels with the kids in the train screaming to hear their own echoes, and we passed over some narrow bridges.

It was indeed an enjoyable and memorable train ride, albeit only for an hour. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway was added by UNESCO to the World Heritage Site known as “Mountain Railways of India” in July 2005.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC