Tamil Nadu : Of 16th century granaries and Marathas in Tanjavur

Ramaswamy temple : IMG_0487 The temple walls themselves have scenes from the epic Ramayana painted all over them from Rama’s birth till his coronation.

62 very large pillars right at the entrance that are a joy to behold(except for the ads)

The idols in this temple were found by the then King of Tanjore, Raghunayak  while digging the holy tank in Darasuram.IMG_4842

Sri Palaivana Nathar temple :  Interestingly we first headed here since the map showed an ASI recognised a 16th century granary which is now a protected monument. The temple itself is calm in the fading light of  the early evening and only had a few local women with their children visit it. The name of the town – Palathurai comes from the Palm tree which is the holy tree of this temple.

The 16th century granary is mostly ignored by the devotees

Legend : The taluk itself is called Papanasam since it is believed that Lord Rama came here to pray to Lord Shiva and wash away his sin of having killed Ravana. It is also believed this was the town where Lord Shiva killed the man-eater sent to attack and used its skin in what is now pretty much the only attire we see all images of Lord Shiva. There is another small shrine beside the main one and we walked around the place reveling in its silence and calm.

Sri Palaivana Nathar temple

After spending all day in the stories and structures of the past , a bit of rest later, we decided we had to also check out the Tanjore of today, and despite residing in an extremely busy area of the city, we decided to head out. We passed by the evening vegetable market  with fresh produce and even dropped by a mela where we enjoyed the sight of kids being thrilled on the amusement park rides and icecream! So well, that wasn’t too bad a note to end a day on.

Day 3 :

The next morning we were to visit the place that was probably the piece de resistance of the whole trip – the Tanjavur Brihadeeshwara temple. It’s quite a hard to digest the contrast of the first view one has of it- from across a road with very heavy traffic. Once you enter the place is when you realise that it’s massive- all that we thought our recent blockbuster movie – Bahubali, exaggerated in terms of architecture, is pretty much realistic once you get here. IMG_0535.jpgAs much as a good job Anand has done with the pictures, no picture can really capture the magnificence of seeing the place in person. One cannot help but gape in wonder at its colossal stature and see how well deserved its addition into the UNESCO world heritage site list is. Also the name that simply translates to the “Big Shiva temple” which seems apt once you see it.

It was embarrassing for us that despite having studied history in early schooling we didn’t realise that the Marathas ever ruled this part of India. Thanjavur itself was ruled by the Cholas, Pandyas, the Vijayanagara rulers, the Nayaks and then the Maratha kingdoms – many of who contributed to the Tanjavur temple.

Maratha Entrance

The entrance to the temple is via 3 arches with ornate gopuras, the outermost one is the Maratha entrance, a relatively recent and simpler addition by the Marathas going all around the temple. The next one to commemorate the king’s victory over the Cheras of Kerala- therefore called the Keralantankan Thiruvasal. The innermost gate Rajarajan Thiruvasal had 2 huge dwarapalakas (gate keepers) depicted on either side.

No picture does justice to it’s massive size

The whole city of Tanjavur was designed with this temple as the ceremonial and sacred center.The inscriptions all around the temples on pillars and walls are the equivalent of account books that listed all donations and financial dealings related to the temple. The Dvarapalakas (guardians of the gate), some of which were upto 18 ft tall were my personal favorite to admire. It is one of the rare temples of the time that had depictions and motifs of Shaivite, Vaishnava and Buddhist legends making it a secular space at the time despite the main temple being dedicated to the Lord Shiva.IMG_0577.jpg

Nandi Mantapam : The 25 tonne Nandi is housed in an exceptionally beautiful platform with patters on the ceiling in the most brilliant shades of blue,yellow, green and white – one can’t help but stop and stare. It is said that this Nandi also grows in size with time similar to the Nandi in the temple at Yaganti and that a nail was driven into it so that it doesn’t get too big for the platform that houses it.

That ceiling

The main temple is of Shiva housing a 3.7 mt tall Shiva linga. The temple itself is built out of granite. Even in the 11th century its amazing how the Chola architects managed to build the 63.4 meter high vimana (tower)  and managed to hoist the crowning shikara made of 8 pieces together weighing 81 tonnes atop the structure making it the world’s tallest. IMG_0638.jpgAs massive as it is , it is said the structure itself is built with no binding material but only with the means of interlocking stones. It is believed that the 2 Nandis atop the srtucture were put up there by means of an inclined plans upto 4 miles away

There are numerous shrines in the complex dedicated to Varahi, Kuruvar Devar (the saint who helped the king in the installation of the Shiva linga in the main temple), Subrahmanya,Chandikeshvara and an Amman shrine. The Amman shrine had interesting sculptures in a style that was not typical to what we had seen in other temples in Tamil nadu.

Zoom into the patches on the ceiling and you’ll realise they’re frescoes depicting stories

They were also colored with paints made with natural ingredients all over the ceilings. The corridors around the temple area are covered in frescoes painted in the Chola and the Nayaka eras.

The Maratha King Seforji installed 108 lingas as part of his contributions to the temple. There are paintings all over the walls beside them depicting the 64 sacred sports of Shiva.  He executed elaborate repairs and reconstructions of this temple too and built the Nataraja Mantapam which has depictions of the 108 poses in Bharatnatayam carved here. The shrines of Ganesha and Nataraja (the form of Shiva in his celestial dance) are also additions from the time of the King Serforji.IMG_0568.jpg

Up next : Tamil Nadu: Of a kingly love for books and a whale washed ashore


Ladakh: Of snow fights and sand dunes

Continued from here

The next morning we proceeded to Nubra valley via one of the world’s highest motorable road at 17,582 ft of elevation- the Khardungla Pass. It is used to carry supplies to the Siachen Glacier that is guarded by our armed forces.


The scene is quite breathtaking out here, and not just due to the lack of oxygen! The mountains still had significant snow cover in September much to the delight of the subset of the group for which it was their first experience of snow.IMG_1960

There is an absolute riot if prayer flags at this point perhaps in the hope that those prayers will protect the passers-by and those who stand guard. IMG_1971Further ahead and Skarma very kindly stopped to let us have a go at a snow fight. IMG_3536This was a terribly one-sided battle with all of us on one side with our snowballs getting powdered even before we threw them and him, the mountain dude on the other side aiming at us with lethal precision and robust snow missiles! With hands freezing and getting even more out of breath with laughter, we left the place swearing to get back at him on our way back.

A little ahead for all of us, we experienced our very first snow-fall- a trip with happy firsts makes it all seem worth it! We stopped for lunch at a place called New Punjab restaurant, and it was like many other places run by just a couple. However, they had something we hadn’t seen on any menu in Ladakh before – Chitranna (Lemon rice). IMG_3550Something that’s quintessentially Karnataka. Much amused we enquired with the owner and he said he had just learnt it online. We enjoyed all the other dishes too. When he came after we were done, he enquired about the dish and himself said that we may not have liked it because it missed one key ingredient- curry leaves. Finding yummy chitranna with peanuts when travelling the Himalayas was enough of a delicious miracle for us, expecting curry leaves was too much even for his level of dedication to try to cook it for us! Adding to the ambience was their cute daughter who spent the time playing peekaboo with us and the friendly dogs around who chilled out in the sun during the few hours of relative warmth.


Some of our views ahead were unreal- one could actually not tell if a photo had been inverted or not with the mountains getting replicated on the water better than a copier every could. IMG_1977Just a few meters before we reached the top to Deskit Gompa, a tire of our car decided to get punctured! Much to Skarma’s amusement, with everyone pitching in, we were done with the tyre change in just a few minutes. The 32-meter statue of the Maitreya Buddha in vivid colours is visible well before you reach the place in stark contrast to the surroundings in neutral hues. IMG_2028The monastery is one of the oldest and largest in the Nubra valley and while monasteries are almost always atop craggy hills, it still never fails to make you wonder how they were even constructed there.IMG_1984


We moved on from the statue and then climbed up the steps of the white-walled monastery. IMG_2052IMG_2064And despite its beauty, what was truly wondrous to me was a little kitten that came directly to me and like one’s supposed to, we proceeded to pet it for the rest of our time there. IMG_2090We spent some time in the prayer halls and temples within the monastery and slowly made our way back.IMG_2081


We soon reached the Hunder Sand dunes where we crossed a narrow stretch of the Shyok river and landed in probably the only place on our trip that had a significant number of people all in one location. What’s impossible to miss are the rows of Bactrian camels available to be ridden on. Incidentally, all of us in the group decided to skip that, and instead decided to do something that was even more fun, sliding down sand dunes and watching the evening change colours with the setting sun!IMG_3591IMG_2131IMG_2152


We stayed the night at a hotel Sten-Del which had excellent service and food- if you needed more incentive it even had Mani Ratnam stay there during the making of one of his movies. So well, that was our celebrity connection for this trip. But we didn’t really need it, after all, we had seen snowfall and sand dunes in the desert- all in one day- I wonder how many other places could boast of that!

We headed back to Leh the next day stopping for yet another round of snow-fights at Khardungla, however, I’m sorry to report that we were badly defeated yet again. IMG_3623Ah well , we’ll deal with Skarma when he comes to visit us in the warm plains on our own home ground – maybe in a dosa-eating contest, another battle for another time.IMG_3633


Pondicherry : Gingee fort- the heat and the rewards


Planning for parents’ often involves a lot of worrying- whether they’d like the food, the price of the food(they didn’t), the place, whether it’d involve a lot of walking, trekking or whether they’d be bored on the long drive. Hence with a lot of trepidation, we finally got my family (parents and sister) together with us to head off to my first visit to Pondicherry.

It was a long drive, but made easy with stops for tender coconut, Dad and Anand plucking tamarind from the trees on the roadside for Mom, a playlist with songs in all languages we knew, having yummy buttermilk and chopped fruit packed by Mom, translation of boards in Tamil thanks to her too,  and lots and lots of conversation and ribbing. After an early breakfast just after Hosur, our first place on the itinerary was at Gingee to visit the fort. It was hot and involved climbing, so we headed back to  Gingee town to get some lunch before we proceed.

Quite a dramatic view, even from below

Tip: it’s a small town without too many restaurants, but opposite to the bus stand there are a few. You can’t go wrong ordering a “meal”/thali in Tamil Nadu.

There are 2 visible boards in the general area your online maps will point you towards- one is the Krishnagiri fort and the other is the Rajagiri fort. Right at the start, you have steps ascending to great heights. Our confidence high after lunch, we decided to head up. The steps are not the most convenient- they are significantly narrow at many points and inclined at some others.

Endless stairs

Also since we drove from Bangalore just that morning, the only time we could reach here was early afternoon which is probably the worst time.  Anand, Dad and I managed the uphill climb. Dad was impressively fit due to his walking routine despite not being a regular trekker. IMG_1074We almost gave up after a point 3/4th of the way to the top due to the heat but Anand who had gone ahead insisted that it may be worth the effort of going all the way uphill.

A father-daughter moment

And it was indeed quite a treat, there were granaries, multiple temples, and even a small palace.


Tip : it is hot, no matter what time of the year it is. We’d highly recommend you wear full sleeved cotton fabrics, cover your head with a hat/cap and carry plenty of water when you visit either of the forts. It is going to be hot despite this, but at least it’ll reduce your chances of a heat stroke or dehydration. Do not be misled by the sight of local kids running up the stairs, sometimes barefoot, without a care in the world. You may not survive the same! However, the place only opens at 9 AM and closes at 4:30 PM so an earlier or later trek is not feasible either. There are no food stalls/water/drinks there so you’ll have to be prepared with refreshments yourself.


We headed back to the town for a quick stop just to ensure we were all re-hydrated with a glass or 2 each of lime juice that seemed heaven-sent.

Just opposite the Krishnagiri fort is a Shiva temple. It’s inside a cave and has a large linga very simply adorned with some oil lamps by a very old priest. It’s surrounded by monkeys, though.


We checked out the Rajagiri fort next and went straight into the very last point you can reach with a car – the Venkataramana temple. It has a huge gopura and a 1000 pillars. If you have a 1000 pillar ancient temple on your list and hate crowds, this is your go-to spot.

Notice the gentleman with the cricket bat? Young men were actually playing cricket here!

It’s a sprawling temple and significantly cooler once you enter the temple area due to the stones used. The place has beautiful carvings-especially at the entrance, a small temple pond and layers of structures one inside the other, typical to older temples.  IMG_1249.jpgIt has 3 mantapas inside: Kalyana Mandapa(for weddings), Urchava Mandapa (for temple festivities) and Yaga Sala Mandapa (for rituals)IMG_1209.jpg

We next headed to the spot at the Rajagiri fort entrance. However, they were just closing- 4:30 PM and so we decided to visit it on our way back.

We checked into the hotel and headed off to Appachi for a Chettinad dinner simply because we’re biased towards structures in ancient houses. We did enjoy our meal and then headed to the Rocky beach/Promenade beach. It’s less of a typical beach and more of a promenade by the beachfront. It is quite a delightful place for people to have walks in the more pleasant time of the day in a safe space with the waves providing a calming background score. The place is really just what you want to visit to get to see a slice of the people in Pondicherry from all walks of life, all ages, languages, and communities.

Space to sit and stare in the city

With no prior research, we happened to have landed in Pondicherry at the time of the Pondicherry Heritage Festival. Also, we were just in time for the finale of the day so were treated to an exciting performance by a troupe of young boys of all ages performing acrobatics with flaming rings and juggling fire torches. After that, with ice-creams in hand, we had a charming walk on the shore passing by the Mahatma Gandhi statue, the French War Memorial, the office of the Department of Revenue housed in a lighthouse, and the numerous other buildings with architecture from times gone by.


The silhouete of the statue of Gandhi later in the day

Up next : Pondicherry- the usual and the unusual

>10 day trip · Uncategorized

China : Chengdu : of poets, parks and paintings

<Side note: These posts are from a trip I made in 2012 and lived in a gorgeous city named Chengdu for 5 months. Nevertheless its memories are fresh and warm in my mind and I’d love to share them with you. >

Wuhou Memorial temple is a temple dedicated to a renowned minister and military strategist for Emperor Liu Bei. It spans a huge area of 37000 square meters, so there’s enough to wander around and explore. There are figures of royalty sprinkled around the place and old trees lining the lovely pathways around the place. There are many tablets with inscriptions in lovely calligraphy too.wouhou.jpg


When a fellow tourist says “please, excuse me” and gestures to a camera on the phone, do not assume they want you to take a picture of theirs and smile, nod and say a happy “Sure, ok!”. Sometimes they will just place themselves beside you and ask their friend to take a picture of the 2 of you together and leave you utterly bemused!209
An old Chinese guy with a walking cane was looking at the bonsai flowering plants that I was passing by too. He smelled the flowers, smiled and gestured to me to try them myself. I agreed, and they had a lovely mild fragrance, almost bringing back a pleasant memory. I looked back at him, nodded and smiled to indicate I liked it. He grinned like a child and continued spending time at each type of flower, giving it the attention it deserved. I wonder if time slows down as one gets older, and brings with it a true appreciation of what we missed noticing in the rush to stay ahead.227.jpg

I tried to do the right thing and take pictures in the Chinese traditional clothes. I’d never felt more like a queen while looking like a grinning fool. While my friends tried to click pictures of me I took off my glasses for it and realised my mistake only when I didn’t know which way to look! Every Chinese person around was clicking pictures of the weird Indian lady in their traditional clothes.

We next went to the Thatched Cottage of Du Fu. The parks we visited here seemed to compete with each other just in terms of area. This one was 90,000 sq meters vast. This one was made in honour of the poet Du Fu. He lived in a thatched hut in the area in 729 AD and wrote his most famous works. The hut itself has been re-created and its starkness amidst the deliciously green surroundings was quite an oasis of calm.129.JPG

I also loved the museum with paintings of scenes from Du Fu’s poetry. It’s quite humbling to realise how less we know and how limited our learning is to be able to appreciate and enjoy the magic in every language in the world poets are able to capture.

Destination : Kuanghaixiang Alley

I had the best guides ever. A police-officer who was a very enthusiastic budding photographer, a beautiful student of Chinese literature and my gracious colleague, Michelle who agreed to show me around the place.

I was introduced by Michelle to her cousin Rene and the 3 of us walked to the car where her boyfriend was waiting for us. As we got started on our way I asked Michelle for his name. As most Chinese people do not have an English name, she paused for a moment, turned to me and said. “You can call him Brave” 😀

While walking along the ancient alleys with beautiful homes made during the Qing dynasty we made splendid conversation. We spoke of war, of food, of language, of poetry, of music, of cinema, of art, of society and tradition, of faith and culture, of love and family, of how they all bind us together and how they tear us apart.26022012583.jpg

We walked along and I got to watch a food item made of rice dough that was partly rolled and thrown on a drum with a bang to bounce onto a sheet for an outer dusting which then bounced back on to a plate.The sound produced by its preparation itself was supposed to motivate the soldiers during a war! [That far away from home, I was reminded of the songs sung during the boat race in Kerala.]

Lacquer, porcelain, ebony and silver (Sigh!) seem to be the main raw materials of most of the artwork I saw in China. I kept seeing sceptres in museums I had visited finally asked them what they were for. Rene said they were supposed to make your wishes come true. The wistful smirk made me quickly make a hasty wish just in case 😉
There were quite a few performances in the alley

  • An old couple playing instruments while a guy with a strong voice sung a song with a Russian influence.
  • An old lady embroidering a cloth slipper.
  • The sugar painting
  • Intricate carving and painting on egg shells!
  • Lightly blowing into a sugar pipe to produce animals and birds of all shapes.26022012585.jpg

After an idyllic evening there, my only complaint was that my hosts didn’t even let me pay for the lovely seafood based dinner we had at the greek-themed restaurant that gave us a day that couldn’t have been more lovely with easy conversation, music, art and new friends in ancient towns.


Goa : of water views and pouncing kites

Continued from here


Day 3:

While I snuggled in a bit more, Anand went to pick up our friends from the bus station who were joining us. I stepped out to realise the room itself was in a nice area with ducks, ducklings, pretty plants and a small lawn. Once they got here and relaxed a bit, we all head out to breakfast at the beach. One of the best parts of having breakfast at the shacks is to scrunch one’s toes in the cool sand while waiting for your meal, entertained by a view of the water, a sprinkling of tourists and a couple of boats idling on the water.

We obliged a boat guy who promised us a view of birds and the mangroves next to the beach.

Mangroves unfailingly remind me of the lovely book “The Hungry tide”

We piled onto a boat and he rowed us by showing the usual suspects: Kingfishers, cormorants, kites and storks. There were a few catchment(?) areas in the water where they bred fish.IMG_20150529_105848015.jpg He also put up a show to make it worth our while where he threw out some meat into the water and the kites swooped down to pick them up displaying their accuracy and plumage.IMG_20150529_111655855.jpg After the relaxed ride, we headed back to our rooms, cleaned up for lunch and then decided to move on to the fort called Cabo-de-Rama. Just as we entered, however, Anand realised he wasn’t sure where he last left his camera and seeing his worried face we decided to head back to the room to check!

To his visible relief, we did find the camera safely in the room, but one of our friends decided she needed a nap and chose to stay back at the room. It was also quite hot for the climb in the fort, so the rest of us decided to give it a shot the next day and instead headed off in the same direction to the Agonda beach. Being the off-season it was completely bereft of tourists and only had a couple of locals and a group of guys playing volleyball.

Being the off-season it was completely bereft of tourists and only had a couple of locals and a group of guys playing volleyball. I walked on the edge of the water, Anand played for a while with the group and our friend sat by the water. After a nice evening spent there and we headed back to the hotel to get dinner. Restaurants were less in number compared to the in-season time, but we walked into a nice looking place called ‘Spicy Bella’ seated ourselves and got told that most of what we wanted to order was not available. Just out of sheer laziness we still hung around, made our order and waited. Only to have it delayed significantly and then an item just forgotten. We were too lazy or sleepy to argue and had our meal and that was that.

Day 4:

The next morning we walked into one of the smaller but warm looking places called Café Rumba. We instantly took a liking to it. IMG_20150530_095151699_HDR.jpgThe food was served at typical Goan relaxed manner but we thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast and our time there.IMG_0137.jpgWe decided to then head off to the half-explored Cabo-de-Rama fort we had missed the previous evening.

Golden rain tree/Konna poo blossoms just outside the fort’s entrance

It was a functional church just inside but what I especially liked was the small structure behind it that was in ruins and had the banyan creepers and roots all over the place inside and around it. We also managed to startle a poor snake that was resting on the ground covered with dried leaves.

Once our friends were done with the photo session by Anand, we walked on up to the fort’s ramparts to walk around it. There are a couple of locations besides cliff drops that provide a view of the ocean and a welcome breeze in the otherwise hot place. IMG_20150530_122952637_HDR.jpgWe went looking for a flea market at Margoa and only found a general vegetable market at the city centre that also had some area with clothes (pretty ones nevertheless). We had our lunch at a nice place called Pepper Café with huge portions and then headed off in search of our elusive flea market and instead landed up at the Anjuna beach where finally we saw 3-4 stalls while the others had closed down for the end of the season.

We spend a beautiful evening there watching the hypnotic crashing and merging of waves till the sunset after which we reluctantly made our way back.

We incidentally had one of the best meals of the trip in a roadside Dhaba where we stopped for a break. He served us roti, dal and egg burji all of which we managed to wipe out as soon as it arrived. We headed back to our hotel and after a good night’s sleep and drove back to Bangalore the next day with memories of yet another trip safely tucked in our minds.

Up next : China- Chengdu : Of poets, parks and paintings


>10 day trip · Uncategorized

China : EmeiShan and miracles

<Side note: These posts are from a trip I made in 2012 and lived in a gorgeous city named Chengdu for 5 months. Nevertheless, its memories are fresh and warm in my mind and I’d love to share them with you. >

The famed Emei Shan beckoned. Early in the morning, as we took our seats the conductor came up to us, looked at my friend Solo and asked her where I was from. Pretty standard, but he they said something in rapid Chinese, while I tried to fish out my passport due to his serious tone. It was however followed by giggles from our co-passengers because when translated to me, he had just said “Do you have a boyfriend? You should find a Chengdu boy, you know? “😀 Ahh..if wishes were horses.😛

We got to the bottom of Emei and then had a cab-driver add us to the bunch of people he was taking up to the mountain. The group, though strangers to each other, seemed a chatty bunch. As they rattled off in rapid Chinese, I settled in the back corner of the vehicle and gazed at the window. As distracted as I was, I was probably the last one to realise we had just met our smashing start to the trip. The screech of the brakes, and in that instant, my only thought was that I’d settle for anything other than the people dying, especially the 2 in the front (they had the highest probability of injury). A bus and car stranded on the road. My friend saved from hurt by the bending of her trekking bag’s metal rods that took on the impact. I brushed off my bruised knee and off we went back down, had our lunch only to return. This time pretty popular among the travel guides and the drivers on the mountain, even giving us a half price deal for the hotel stay since they’d heard of the accident!

Reached the hotel, dropped off some of the luggage and went exploring the temples in the lower half of the mountain.

Our very first temple visit at Emei was perfect. We were the only ones there, and it was like our own nook of calm in the wilderness with incense and candles topped with tiny obstinate flames.

The very first temple
Steps… the endless despair of steps!

Just another temple on our way up

The only thing better than stories themselves are probably stories etched in stone. Several points on the trek had characters and incidents had been carved out of the mountains with moss on them making them seem a natural part of the landscape.

Stunning carvings on the mountain

The Tibetan Macaques were a speciality of the region and they simply looked hugely unimpressed with the tourists who seemed to make a fool of themselves when they spotted them.


As a snack, I tried for the first time, juicy yacon and the fan-twan (rice with a little sauce with meat/fish wrapped in delicate seaweed. Actually tastes better than it sounds.).  It was also definitely the best 2 RMB I ever spent when I bought a bamboo walking stick for the trek. The trek was long and had mostly views of endless stairs when we looked ahead that merged into the mist, like a hazy portal to a different world.

Intrigue and mystery

The next temple we stumbled upon was the one with, what I’d like to call, the locks of love. Couples could place a lock on the railings of the stairs and the balcony of the temple and throw the key away, it apparently locked them in love😀. Thousands of locks,  and just one simple emotion.

Locks of love

The next morning, we were taken to the start of the trek in a car and head off on our walk, the bamboo stick still providing faithful company in the hauntingly beautiful landscape. You couldn’t be quite certain you weren’t walking into the clouds, the occasional burst of azaleas still providing a cheery break in the otherwise black and white scene.

The misty wonderland

The trek was probably the most enjoyable one I’ve ever had, with us taking frequent breaks as required, to appreciate the ambience, catch our breath, or just experience a cup of tea or some warm corn on the cob.


We reached the golden summit with the steps lined with 6-tusked elephants also in gold. And went up with bated breath, only to see it covered with mist with a dull gold cloud left to my imagination 😐  I wished I had checked the image online before I got there as I’d have then been able to at least know what I was supposed to imagine.:/ (I had decided this would be my no-research trip, though of course, I did check the weather. I’m flexible, but not yet interested in death by freezing/soaking.)

The disappointment…

It couldn’t be helped so we instead visited temples on the top even having to imagine their exterior as the mist disallowed sight beyond a few feet. We entered the last temple there, paused before the deity and Solo entered a door at the back that read to a dining room with a board stating ‘For Buddhist prefectures only’. I wasn’t sure what it meant, so tried to drag her out but we happened to find a travel guide there who said we could actually have a meal there if we wished. So we sat on ornate tables for a lovely meal with lotus stem, pumpkin, sweet potato noodles, a couple of types of greens, soup and rice.

Simple and satiating

We walked out of the dining area and then realised that we were just in time for the mist rising like a curtain to reveal a vision in gold that was breathtaking and majestic, especially since I hadn’t known what to expect. The lowest layer of 100s of lamps, the second of 4 of the 6-tusked elephants, on them a lotus and the last of the Buddha with 10 faces. The temples also were now visible and we had a good 15 minutes to actually view them clearly before the mist came over again. It had been incidental to come across the dining area behind the temple, incidental to find the tourist guide there and if we hadn’t made that resulting stop for lunch we’d have probably just missed the scene and gone back on our way down. Serendipity ?😉

…and the clarity
The temples at the top

Every so often Solo was asked by the locals if she was my translator, and where I was from. One such question round, on being told I was from India, the next query by the guy was if I had walked all the way from India 😐 I knew I was gasping for breath for just this trek, but I wondered if I looked so distraught to seem like I’d been through such arduous effort!

Prettiness at every turn

On the way back just near the cab-stand, we met this very interesting lady travelling alone and Solo asked her if she knew the way back. She instead replied she didn’t speak Chinese which had us a little confused as she sure looked Mongoloid. Turns out she had Chinese parents, was born and raised in Peru, worked in Barcelona and was on a 3-month break from work to explore her roots as she wanted to know the place her parents came from.After an exchange of stories, including that of Shangri- la (she suggested I skip it as my image of it would probably be crushed 😦 ) she went on her way and we took the cab down. Stories of our little accident the previous day continued to follow us as the travel agents and the cab drivers all gushed about how lucky we were. Not too bad a note to keep in mind even for life itself🙂


Will be tough to top this ..

20 Road trip tips

From our road trips in the last several years, this is a distilled list of tips that have helped make our journeys so much more pleasant. Do comment if you have more things you do that you’d like to share too!

Take from Home

  1. Water is your friend. Stay hydrated and carry at least 3 bottles of water from home for 2 people. To avoid increasing your carbon footprint and if you have decent immunity, do request restaurants to refill your bottles with drinking water. After you have paid for your meal there, they are usually very willing. Carry a 2 lt bottle(at least) of tap water to wash fruits you may purchase on your way from the farmers and to wash your hands after you eat them. Also, carry baby wipes/wet wipes for the latter use.
  2. Carry old newspapers. They are marvellous to use in lieu of tissues, wipes, and just to spread on the ground for an impromptu picnic if that’s what you feel like.
  3. Carry non-perishable snacks from home if feasible. In some tourist places, you may not find food till the neighbouring town and the only options may be deep fried stuff in packaging more filled with air than food. Anand finds chewing gum helps him from feeling drowsy while driving on endless highways. (Note: Get rest and sleep if you’re actually exhausted. Do not push yourself then. It’s a safe road-trip, not an endurance test risking your own lives and that of others on the road.)
  4. Use one cover/basket just for garbage inside the car. You can empty it when you see a garbage bin.
  5. Do buy from farmers by the highway, especially fruits, palm jaggery and even honey combs! We’ve rarely been disappointed. They make significantly healthier snacks too. Needless to say get some tender coconut water when you pass by it. It’s refreshing, delicious and naturally free from contamination 🙂
  6. Carry a small pouch with change. It helps at toll booths and paying vendors for small items without searching all over the place and multiple purses.
  7. Carry one set of cutlery- a small knife (to cut fruits), a spoon (to eat unhealthy snacks with without getting them all over your hands), and a fork.



  1. Before your trip, download offline maps on your phone if you have the option.
  2. Even if you don’t want to book your hotels in advance, be aware of the closest towns/cities so you know which direction to head to once it’s later in the day.
  3. Get a good playlist of upbeat songs.(some of which you can sing along with while being severely off-tune). Slower songs though lovely for a relaxed evening at home are sleep-accelerators after a delicious local meal you’ve indulged in on your trip.
  4. Carry a power bank and have a charger you can plug into your car. Clicking pictures, looking up details of places and using maps drains battery faster than you realise.
  5. If feasible, download content related to the history of the place or the monuments you are going to visit. It seems most interesting just before and just after getting there and a random interesting tit-bit makes it that much more fun.
  6. Try some random games in the car- we’ve found 20 questions to be both aggravating and entertaining (depending on which side you’re on). It’s also an excellent undisturbed time to trade childhood stories and often detailed stories of your favourite movie that your fellow travellers haven’t watched yet. Or maybe that’s just us. Try different ones and see what you enjoy.


Madagadakere : The lake that never dries up. Also, has a lot of skeletons at its bottom.


Car Love

  1. Fuel up as soon as your indicator goes off. Being stuck without fuel on a lonely highway in the dark is not safe at all.
  2. Do these checks before you leave
    • Headlamps, taillamps and indicators. You don’t want to be driving blind at night.
    • Water-level in the wiper – Helps to get rid of unwanted dust and bird droppings on your windshield (they happen more often than you’d like)
    • Tyre pressure on all tyres including the standby one.
    • That you have the car tools in the car at all times.

      Our trusty car enjoying a break 


On the way

  1. Take breaks to stretch your limbs or take a short stroll, especially for the driver. Neck, feet, arms, legs and back could all use a good stretch. The fellow passenger could enforce the break taking 🙂
  2. Ask locals (and sometimes petrol station staff) for food recommendations – they often know of the only modest but good restaurant in a small dusty town.
  3. Seems silly but check different seat alignments to see what treats your backbone the best. Something as simple as that removes the strain from a long trip on the road. Carrying small cushions also helps and a neck pillow if you plan to take a nap.
  4. Inform someone at home of where you’re going and where you’d be staying the night. It reduces their anxiety and helps in case of emergencies.
  5. Stop and stare– there’s often beauty all along the way – whether in an unnamed lake with migratory birds, a field of marigolds in bright orange or a sky filled with stars like you’ve never seen before.

    Our reward for an unplanned pitstop at an un-named lake on the way back from Bidar