Friday, November 28, 2014

Chokhi Dhani (Kanchipuram - Tamil Nadu)

A few months back, I went to this hotel called Choki Dhani close to Chennai for an evening & dinner. Originally I had no intention to write about it. However the place is too good for me to not write about it. 
As the name says, its a Rajasthani themed restaurant and space! Space??? Well, its not just a restaurant. Its located in the outskirts of Chennai and in a huuuge space. Its a small village ambiance created in that space. 
Right from the entrance, everything is Rajasthani styled. The walls are painted with wall art similar to Rajasthani tribal art. 2 life sized dolls of a man and woman styled in Rajasthani attire, and 2 men playing drums & trumpet welcome you. 
As soon as you enter, there's a paan wala. Soon after him is a beautiful water body, with a stage in the centre. Pedal boat is available at the waterbody, but I guess I'm a bit grown up for a little round on a pedal boat! Right at the centre stage are some musicians and there was also a fake wearable horse (the one worn for horse dance). Yup, I did try it on and did a few steps for their music!
Behind this was the actual set up with Jaljeera as welcome drink! There was bullock cart ride, camel ride, mehendi etc.
Next to it is a small village set up, complete with little huts, cots as seating arrangements, musicians etc. I got to try 'hukkah' too! Also a small fake well with life size bulls showing the traditional way of water pumping! 
Next to it was what was called 'Jungle Mangal', a little forest setup, with waterfalls and tree top house with drums too!!! Also there was a artificial cave temple of Sai Baba as well.
As time went by, performers started performing. A magician, pulled out a Rs.5 coin which I put in his bowl from my husband's jeans!!! Dancers performed beautiful dance in their swirling skirts and one of them managed to pull me up too, to join them! 
There was this amazing dancer, who took 6 earthen pots atop her head and stood over 2 glass tumblers!!! 
Katputli or Puppet Show was awesome as well! There were some typical games like shooting the balloon, ringing a toy etc... As night fell, the lighting as great. Totally I loved the ambience, it was too good.
And finally the dinner - food part! The restaurant was in the interiors under concrete roof. Food was a typical spread of all Rajasthani varieties incl, 3-4 types of roti etc. After that, came the sad part - lemon rice, tamarind rice and some other rice!!! Just because the place is in Chennai, doesn't mean they had to serve rice!!! People visit a place like this, for its uniqueness. I've been to Rajawadu in Ahmedabad, a similar styled restaurant, and I definitely liked their food better than this. Also Rajawadu served in open huts which just had ceiling, on mud floor, not in a concrete building like this, which also I loved better in Rajawadu.
Except for the wrap up - dinner & dining hall, rest, the ambiance, the maintenance, the sheer size I was definitely amazed... That's a great effort!!!

P.S: This is NOT a sponsored post 

Chokhi Dhani Chennai
NH-4, Near Queensland Theme Park, Kevlur Road, Tandalam,
Sriperambudur, Chennai - 602 105, INDIA
Ph: +919003223695

Dedicated to Venkat

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wallpaper Project - 1

I've been wanting to do this since long, but somehow never managed to get myself to browse through all my photographs and bring out the pics that look like wallpapers esp., textures! Finally today I thought, I have to start it, atleast with some 10-12 pics..... So here they are!!!

Did you like them??!!!! More coming up soon, but irregularly between travel posts!!!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mudhaliyar Kuppam & CCD Mahabalipuram (Kanchipuram - Tamil Nadu)

A recently married friend of mine came back to Chennai for a vacation and we decided to meet up, Suddenly we thought, why a gals gang meet up when we can pull in our hubbies too!!! And that's exactly what happened. 2 couples couldn't make it and we were 7 of us for that day. First we thought, any 2 of us should get our own cars, but then we decided it would be more fun if all are in the same car and we didn't have the pressure to ride our own vehicle. So we hired a Tavera and we were off. We had a whole day and a couple of options - either hit ECR and see some places or hit Pulicat!
Finally decided on ECR with Dakshinchitra, Mudhaliyar Kuppam, Nettukuppam & sunset at Alamparai Fort. Anyways, we started incredibly late by almost noon and had time only for Dakshinachitra & Mudhaliyar Kuppam. 
Mudhaliyar Kuppam is promoted by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Dept as Raindrop Boat House. Coz of that parking is absolutely not an issue, space is available. Varieties of boats are available. From 2 seater paddle boat to 16 seater house boats. We took a 8 seater. 
Just boating is available for 20 mins and for 40 mins, a trip to the island on the other side can be made with half an our stay at the island. 2 hr stay at the island is also available. The place does Kayaking & Speed Boats  too if you're not in for a lazy, relaxed day. 
After 20 mins ride we were dropped off at the island. Not exactly an island, very similar to Manori, Gorai or Madh, its a bit of land segregated from main land by backwaters. Without bridges, boating is the only way to reach here, apart from going all the way around to where the backwater begins!!!

Yet another extremely beautiful secluded, secret beach!!!!! First place is my heart would always be for Thiruchopuram Beach. I must say, Mudhaliyarkuppam won over the 2nd place!!! 
There were 2 fishermen when we dropped there. They went out of vicinity and there was no one else except us 7 in the whole of the beach... It was pristine with no trash or filth and infact no broken bottles too!!!!! 

It had been long since we, as a gang, ventured out to some place other than mall or movie and this was awesome!!! 
We did take a bit longer than half an hour to get completely drenched in waves and get witness a beautiful sunset!!! All I could think was, why should I even spend through my nose for high-end hotels with private beach when here at fraction of the price, I did enjoy the same!!! See the pic below, the tiny people there are my friends and do you see anyone else at all in this beach???!!!!!
It was a rainy season and it had rained cats & dogs the previous day. However it was pretty pleasant without rain on the day we ventured out. By the time we were back to main land, sun was down and whether had turned chill and we were literally shivering with the drenched clothes. 
There on the beach, spotted this corroded, fallen palm stem and loved its texture so much that I had to click it! Later on the way back to the boat, spotted Mr.Orange Crab safe into its shell, taking his evening walk!
We stopped at CCD, Mahabalipuram for a coffee and I was pleasantly surprised. 2 of their employees were partially blind!!! Hats off to them for the inclusive model with differently-abled people!!!!! 

From Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai: 80km on ECR via Mahabalipuram
From Pondicherry: 61km on ECR towards Mahabalipuram
From Mahabalipuram: 39km towards Pondicherry

Dedicated to Magi, Babes, Ani, Satish, Thomas & Venkat!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bheemeshwari White Water Rafting (Mandya - Karnataka)

So, the wait is over. The mystery that I left untold in the last post is, the specialty of Bheemeshwari is - White Water Rafting. There was rain a week before I ventured so I expected the water to be rough. And it was, but not too rough as I expected. Our guide informed that the water had just gone a bit down in last 2 days! Sad!!! At some places water was too soft and it felt like boating. 
Anyways, something better than nothing! There were some rough patches and that really made my day!!! For the first time, it was Ok. Now I know the technique and my next has to be in really rough waters. Anyone wanna take me to Rishikesh???!!!!!!!! 
Rafting at Bheemeshwari is organized only by Jungle Lodges. Even if you're going for camping to private organizers, they have tie up with Jungle Lodges for rafting. Safety is taken care of with helmet and life jacket. There are 3 sizes of rafts that accommodate different group sizes. 
Here of some tips - wear comfortable clothing that dry fast. Shorts are best. Skirts are worst. You could wear waterproof floaters footwear, but my suggestion - go barefoot. Btw, yeah we've put the claim of Samsung S5 that its water resistant into big time test while rafting. Yup, the claim is true!!!


Check the previous post

Dedicated to Venkat & Gang!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bheemeshwari Camping (Mandya - Karnataka)

The major reason for visiting Bangalore - Bheemeshwari... Bheemeshwari is located about 100 km south of Bangalore, just beside Cauvery in the midst of a forest! 
There are 2 locations here. One belonging to the forest dept and one with tourism dept. The tourism dept one is called the Jungle Lodges. The forest dept. one is being used by all private players. 
The day kick started with 2 rope activities. One was channel / river crossing. Well, there wasn't much water in this channel of Cauvery. Nevertheless, the effort was quite much. There was safety with tie up from waist. Even if the hand loses grip, I wasn't gonna fall down. Gloves were given to protect hands. Legs were in a loop to keep the body horizontal. And we were supposed to pull ourselves with the strength of the hands to the other end of the rope and come back. The complete effort was on the biceps. The length would have been about 25m. Errr..... I managed to go but couldn't come back!!!! And at that very moment I pretty much realized how poor my stamina has gotten and well, I hardly have any biceps. Ok, so now I've gotta workout!!! So do half of the gang who also failed half way through.....
The next was to climb a vertical rope. Here the entire effort was on one leg with which the rest of the body was to be pushed upwards. After failing half way in the first task, I was not very sure of myself. But I did a much better job and reached the top. 
After so much effort, any food would have been fine. But the food provided was pretty good with 2 poori, subzi, rice, dal, raita, veg fried rice, papad, pickle etc. For being in the middle of a forest, that food was totally unexpected.
After lazing a bit post lunch, the evening was what the major attraction of the trip was for. What was it? You've gotta wait & watch. That's coming up in the next post.
That night was fantastic. We visited the neighbouring Jungle Lodges and managed to sleep for some time on the net  bed tied at about 25ft from ground, gazing at the stars, feeling the chillness of the wind, with no pollution at all!!! Wild boars were a common sight here, but they seem nice!! I spotted quite a few grazing by. 
Later that night, we had opted for tents instead of concrete structures... The tents were meant for 2 to sleep, but then come on, when you're out with friends, who wants to sleep. The tents were great - water proof and provided with 2 sleeping bags. Chit chatting till post midnight, after we retired for the day, one of our friends, popped his head out of the tent at about 3am only to spot a wild boar next to the tent!!!!!
Next morning, was the time for another mini trek. Since this was in the middle of the forest, this wasn't like Savanadurga. The hill has soil and was rich in vegetation. A dirt track lead to the top of the hill. This was hardly a 1000 ft tall. 
Right atop was a view point that gives the perfect view of the bellowing Cauvery and the rich forest that surrounds....
Here are some tips for this place. Here again the last 20km the road is super pathetic. A jeep would be the best vehicle to drive on this road. Be super careful when eating. Monkeys can come in from nowhere, and take food right out of your plate! If you're staying in tents, better wake up by 6 before the monkeys start jumping on the tents from atop the trees!!! Take good shoes for trekking. Carry cash - there are no atm-s in the middle of the forest. Cell phones do not pick signal here. If you take alcohol at night and get high, there's every chance that you might fall into Cauvery & drown!!!
Come back next week to know what we did in the afternoon - the specialty of Bheemeshwari!!!!!! But before that don't forget to 'like' the newly created FB page dedicated to this blog!

To Get There:
From Mysore: 85km on NH 209 via Malavalli
From Bangalore: 102km on NH 209 via Kanakapura
From Muthathi: 5.5km
While going from Bangalore, the last village you cross would be Muthathi and that's the last point to get any cell phone signal or find a PCO. After that there's a forest dept. check post and then its just forest!

To Stay: 
As said earlier, there are 2 places - Jungle Lodges by Tourism dept and Forest dept's place where all private players use for accommodation. We were dealing with a private organizer and stayed at Forest dept space beside a river, in a tent! Jungle lodges is more sophisticated than this with more room types, shops, parks, children play area etc. Accommodation types incl. tents, loghuts, cottages, tree houses etc. This place also has more rope activities like the ones at Horsley Hills. If you've not been to Horsley, you could take this up. Oh yeah, bathrooms & toilets too are better at Jungle Lodges. The prices vary hugely too. I paid about Rs.2500 and the starting price there is at Rs.4500. 

Dedicated to Venkat & Gang!
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