Saturday, October 28, 2017

Perched atop Pollibetta 29 May to 1 June 2017

We drove through the forests of Nagarhole and thru the hills and foothills of Coorg or Kodagu region as it is know locally. The whole region is rich with coffee estates, coconut and betelnut swing tall in the air. It was my second trip to Coorg and my husband's first. At every turn through the snaking roads he decimated the conversation with LOVELY!

On the way we stopped to take a look at the Tibetan settlement in Bylakuppe. I had written about it before read here.

Our driver Narsimha was well versed with this region and Pollibetta so he drove confidently as our Airbnb was close to the Tata golf club. Our host Naveen had sent us a pic of the gate so we could spot exactly. As we drove in we saw the house and instantly fell in love with it. 

There was not a soul there the watchmen appeared out of nowhere as we took in the scenery. The house is perched atop a hill, terraced terracotta floored fields told us that coffee drying happened there even though they were empty in late May when we visited. Below the red terraced drying fields was an apple green pool and a verdant view.
As the watchman arrived he unlocked the house and let us in. It was a stunning property both the house and the plantation. Seeing the terraced drying fields with a manager's tower. I felt instantly at home, it reminded me of the fishing business my family once owned. Similar but different. We were told there were staff quarters down the hill where our Butler, cook and attendant for the stay, lived. They would take care of us for the 2 nights 3 days there. 

We noted while driving around, that Coorg has been populated by a lot of Keralites just like our hosts. The home as you see is a beautiful Kerala style architecture and interiors with comfortable beds but there is no a/c, we could do without it. The food cooked for a charge was fresh and delicious. It was cooked early and served late so we suggested they serve warmed up food or put it in hot pots. That was the only thing that needed to be worked on in an otherwise perfect stay. The entire home is spotless clean and done in good taste much after my own sensibilities, I pinched myself to say this was only a short stay and that I did not own it. 

My past experience told me that Madikeri was not meant for solitude so I had chosen Pollibetta but the regions peak is Madikeri and the capital too so we did a day trip. The views as awesome as the last time from Raja's seat. There is now a banister all along the top on the valley view side. For safety they have compromised on the rawness of the view. Last time we sat at the edge on granite benches in the morning. It had been our conversation with nature. They have also added viewing terrace below the garden level. 
We went to the KSTDC Mayura valley view for lunch not for the food which is just ok but for the awesome views. As we reached there as if at our call, it started raining. The clouds swept by and moistened our skin and the already pleasant weather gave a little chill. My husband was thrilled. We sat there inside the restaurant facing the valley and ate quietly our Chinese fried rice which was edible only because it was warm. I did miss the open terrace which is now covered with asbestos.

On the return journey we went through Dubare but had to rush to Pollibetta as someone had a nature's call to answer, ha ha. Nevertheless we did try to enjoy the quietly flowing river on an over crowded shore. The elephants were to come down for the bath show an hour later. We missed it.

On the way back we saw a monstrous vehicle approaching us, colored in green to blend with the coffee plantations. I observed it keenly it was a very large jeep with a level mounted on top like an observation deck and a foreigner couple sat in it. They were dressed in safari clothes hat and all. It just threw us back into a different era and lifestyles we imagined vividly. This among all was the most memorable moment for us.

The next day which was the last day of our vacation we decided to do the plantation tour and summoned the driver for it, as he lives in the village and not on the plantation unlike other staff.

He drove us down the hill in the Mahindra jeep which is a popular vehicle on the many estates of Coorg. Past the tall trees and dense coffee shrubs of Arabica Robusta we reached a open red mud patch and he stopped pointing in the direction of the open temple. It was serene and touched our soul. We noticed someone had just finished a pooja, There were flowers offered and oil lamps lit. It reminded me of the devarai in our village farm.

We met the staff's families, little children chasing hens and puppies going around each other, were an adorable sight.

Our flight was at 10pm so we started after 12noon and decided to stop at Kamat lokaruchi for a bite but since we were hungry we ate a bit at Mysore and had some fantastic hand churned icecream, yeah the now famous pink gauva with salt and chili powder. I packed some leaf wrapped idlis for dinner while the husband ate there itself. Reaching Blr airport was arduous, Narsimha decided to drive us to the end of NICE road and then to the airport a Dravidi pranayam indeed but we reached on time for our flight. 

Getting an Uber at Mumbai airport made my husband loose patience and just as we reached home with plans to hit the bed the air conditioner fused the entire home circuit. Reality Bites.

I slept in the balcony on a chatai while the husband in the inside bedroom which is a little more cooler. After all luxury does not last. Well but experiences are what make lives richer.

Now waiting to go for another vacation and more stories to tell you...

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Navaratri in Fort

I always associate this celebration of Shakti pooja in my mind with Gujarati traditions. In that sense a part of me is Gujarati. 

Until the late 80s and 90s in Maruti Lane, Fort, Mumbai a huge shamiyana was put in front of our building and right from Ghatasthapana to Kojagiri it stayed there. It was always Navratri celebration first and culminated with a Homa-Havan on Kojagiri day. 

I recount some memories on AnnaParabrahma
It was nights of sneaking down to play garba and dandiya. When we would invite troupes for fancy dress dandiya dancers. It was hilarious to see Alexander, Krishna, Mirabai and Africans playing dandiya together.  It meant nights of talent shows for all age groups. Of being the first to check out the flower decoration done by Neeru aunty for Mataji ni Wadi. Most evenings one of our Gujarati neighbors would invite Mom for garba and haldi kumkum in their homes, I would like many other girls tag along with Mom. We would come back with little glass bowls or katoris filled with prasad, a gift from the host.  
The announcement of the aarti "Amba Ma ni aarti maate baddha niche aavjo" made us dump the books and race down  while shouting back telling parents we will come back to finish the homework. Along the Aarti Jai Om Jai Om Maa Jagadambe  we sang. What was amazing is the whole crowd touched the person in front of her/ him like  in a game of dominoes till the person who held the aarti thali. It was a human contact chain or rather a rosette. Mohanthal was always the prasad for everyone at the end of it. Most times when we were not allowed to go  down when Amba Maa was moved back into the temple on the last day at 3 am in the morning with chanting of Jai Ambe Jai Bhavani! Jai Ambe Jai Bhavani!! Jai Ambe Jai Bhavani,!!! Jai Ambe Jai Bhavani!!!! Jai Ambe Jai Bhavani!!!!!  I would wake up to chant from my third floor window sitting up in bed. It was an amazing time, I still recollect very vividly.

Today the scene is different. Fort is now 90% a business district which gets cold and empty after office hours. Back until the 80s-90s it was a hub where the majority Gujaratis and Parsis still inhabited. Most have sold off their homes which have been taken up by small and big businesses. So there is funding for the Navaratri but its lost its life, people do still visit for darshan from their subarban homes during the 9 days though. Miss all the fun.  and then 

If you wish to go for darshan Mataji is still seated in the outside shamiyana until Kojagiri after which she goes back to her permanent abode in Ram dev pir temple. Here is the address. Once just once go see our Ambe mataji !

Ram Dev Peer Mandir, Maruthi cross Ln, Borabazar Precinct, Fort, Mumbai 400001. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

By The River Kaveri : 27 to 29 May 2017

This KSTDC resort on the banks of the Kaveri called Hotel Mayura River View is my favorite of many years. Something I wanted my husband to experience. The wetness of the rain the lush greenery and the Kaveri river flowing silently, is something that is so calming. The pitter patter of the rain on the water was the only sound we heard there and watched the river swell up.

This location has better food than the Nandi hill location. We were able to enjoy the beauty of the river and surrounding greenery both from the room as well as the open air restaurant. I could sit there for hours. See the video below that captures all of this but only a fraction of the real beauty.

This time I decided to go to Ranganathittu bird sanctuary as I had never been there before. It was a wonderful boat ride for 30 mins. We floated around in paddle boats as our boatman showed us birds nests and crocodiles. There were many egrets, Black headed Ibises and storks.It was a delight to watch these birds in various actions. Some fluttering and a fine halo of water surrounded them, feeding babies in the nest, some in various stages of flight. A sight to behold.

On a large rock in the middle of the river we spotted a crocodile. The boatman decided to go around it so that we got a closer look. We were terrified to say the least. Then suddenly the crocodile that looked dead came alive and opened its mouth to show us its fangs. The pale pink mouth did not look that fierce just the teeth spelt death for anything that came between them.

On my insistence my husband agreed to take a look at the monuments relating to Tipu Sultan, the summer palace, gumbaz etc. We went to the Sriranganath temple one evening and got a long que. He did not want to go to the temple and I am not so religious too but I love the old temples and the satisfaction of seeing the face of the residing diety.  

The next day we were off to Pollibetta in Coorg to our luxury stay on the plantation, a bespoke experience.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Meeting friends in Bangalore : 24 May 2017

After 2 days in Nandi hills we went to Bangalore city. The Mister was clear he was least interested in monument hopping so I planned to show him the gardens instead but that did not go as per plan. Well atleast we drove through Cubbon park. 

On the first day, friends decided to catch up for dinner as I was in BLR after 3 yrs. They treated me to a wonderful dinner at Farzi Cafe, UB city. I found my new love Karela calamari. The food was lipsmacking and the company warm and comforting. 

The second day I decided to go for darshan to Shree Brahmachaitanya Mandir, after which we met family friends and Gurubandhus. Parimala aunty and Chetan took us to lunch at a new place in their neighborhood of J P Nagar. A lovely Punjabi meal at Asha sweets followed. She blessed me with gifts as I was visiting her first time after marriage with the mister. I missed Ashwath Narayan uncle a lot. 

The evening too was spent with another dear friend, S dinning at Sodawaterbottleopenerwala, the Parsi-Irani outpost at Lavelle road. Husband had his fill of Dhansak and Saria, while I gorged on the snacks and made a meal out of it. Mushroom on khari, bun maska and chilli cheese toast with lagan nu achar and was surprised with the fruitified Raspberry! We complimented the chef for the food before we left. 

The next day we were to leave for Srirangapattana. While we were at the restaurant the cab guys called and I shared rest of my itinerary with them. He seemed very polite but I had doubts if he was listening. There was a second call amidst din and I knew nothing got across. In the morning the driver called "Madam I am Narsimha, waiting for you outside the airport!" 

So there went our plan of our early start of the drive to Srirangapattana. Then Narsimha arrived and right in front of our eyes started loading some other people's bags in the boot of the car. Such was our day. Finally we did leave Ibis city center by 11.30 am. Fortunately after that our simpleton driver turned out to be very good with navigation and driving too. 

To tell you about Ibis. We booked it on It gave us the options to pay at the hotel and showed some offer. I was happy with the price which looked like 25% less. On reaching the hotel we were pointed out that the price did not include taxes. I had a hunch, it came true. The reservation had embedded links that gave the actual break up. So we shelled out 28% more and stayed there for the location. I wanted the view of Cubbon Park and proximity to my friend's home so I could meet her. On being shown the room, I was totally disappointed. It was a very tight space with only a moulded semi-circular space for a bathroom. The window had a slice of the view of Cubbon park and Kanteerva Stadium. I decided to be happy with it so not to upset our holiday mood. My husband liked the space though for its modern design or was it their breakfast? To give it to them the breakfast which was included in the package was wonderful and we freaked out on the melt in the mouth idlis kept in a steamer so you got them hottest. 

On the way we munched on Shrewsbury biscuits we had packed from Sodawaterbottleopenerwala the previous night and watched the trees and houses fly by.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Nature at its Dramatic best : 23 May 2017

We hopped off the airplane and went straight to the pick up point 5 at Bangalore airport where our cab came and drove us straight in the opposite direction of the city to Nandi Hills. Through hairpin bends and lot of screaming as your car navigates to reach the top. After checking in we went to the KSTDC restaurant attached to the Hotel Mayura Pine Top only to be turned away as it had closed down for the day at 6 pm itself. We missed our evening tea so bought a large bottle of Mango slice and returned to our room. The winds were blowing swaying the tree outside our balcony. The rest of the evening we refused to move away from the view.

Yeah I hate to say this in the beginning of the post itself but the food was terrible we survived on the wonderfully fresh fruits we bought in Chikkaballapur plains before we ascended Nandi, freshly peeled Pomelo, jackfruit and purple grapes.

We slept early as there was no TV. The hotel room was only a month old and pristine. At around midnight I heard some commotion outside in the veranda. The power was fluctuating and there was thundering and lightening. I woke up and sat in the balcony. Nature was at its dramatic best. It is amazing to watch the lightening and thunder on such a large canvas unlike the restrained view from a city apartment. I was mesmerized and stayed awake watching it through the night, the thunder and the scintillating fireworks. Sometimes I was induced with fear of being struck by lightening. Finally in the early morning hours I drew the curtains apart and let the scenes into the room and lay in my bed to catch a few winks before dawn. However there was no sunrise that day after the storm. It was misty all the way until late afternoon.

The view from our room was so terrific combined with gushing winds causing the tree outside our balcony to sway wildly, we did not have the need to step out for a walk at all. We just vegetated. The second day evening finally I thought the Mister needed a little bit of showing around so we walked all along the circumference of the hill and reached the Tipu's drop, the dark history of Nandi from where traitors and prisoners were thrown into the valley below. I was however sad to see a fencing along the sharp rockyside. The fencing has tamed Tipu's drop even though it makes it safe for tourists, the fear inducing no more to experience. I had done it in the past so many years and I prefer the rawness. There that's my husband sitting near the fence and the patchwork of the fields below. You wouldn't have dared to go there without that fence. Lost is the adventure!

Here is another picture just to show you the gradient of Tipu's drop. It has been sculpted a bit now to make it easy for tramplers.

Visited the temple on the top near the Tipu's drop and its beautiful enclosed pushkarni. Leaving you with a video to enjoy the awesomeness of Nandi hills.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

New experiences in and around Bangalore with the Mister.

23 May to 31 May 2017

We have been married for a year and a half exactly, I said to my husband and "We have been postponing our long vacation due to health reasons. Lets just go when you are better now." Just that and he nodded in agreement, telling me to book places with panoramic views and no visiting monuments!

I took that as a direction and designed this trip to help us rejuvenate completely. So the itinerary went like this.

  1. Hop off the airplane > Take a cab to Nandi hills. Stay 2 days in the new Gandhi Nilaya. I was to be smitten totally you will see in the separate post on Nandi hills.
  2. From the hills hit the Bangalore city and explore. Well the explore part did not happen as planned but had a lovely time meeting all the wonderful friends in my life in the 2 days that we were there. 
  3. Mysore was not on the plan and Shrirangapattana I love enough to just chill there on the banks of the Kaveri but we visited the Shri Ranganath temple and Tipu's summer palace yet again. This time made sure I went to Ranganatitthu bird sanctuary. What an amazing experience paddling around in the boat watching not just birds but crocs too.

4. Finally spending 2 most beautiful and luxurious days on Crystal Estates in Pollibetta, Coorg. We lived our dream of staying on a plantation with a cook to churn out delicious meals, a butler and another helper to wait on us, a driver to take us around the estate. The entire plantation to ourselves almost!

Join me in the journey as I write down memories of this enchanting time...