Sunday, September 10, 2017

Life in June 26 - Sept 10

2017 continues to be a year of short travel trips.  I do not think that there has been ever a year with this many short trips. And the year is not yet over. Between travel and people visiting, I have forgotten the concept of weekends for all practical matters.

Travel - 

- Trip to Chikamagalur with Office
It was a office party long awaited. After the Jan trip to Yercaud (if you do a short trip on the first week of the new year, it should be known that the year is going to be full of short trips). Entire bus ride both onward and backward was spent by playing Mafia. Our homestay - The hidden valley (the same one which I had recommended to everyone else except that I had never been there) was a good one. Quiet and serene with lots of greenery. Night was spent with barbeque and bonfire, with spirits and 'jahan chaar yaar' songs. Poor colleagues were sad to see my this side and I do not know if they have still come to terms with it yet.  Trip was good fun.

- Delhi and Varanasi trip
While Delhi was a trip that was required, I decided to club with the long pending Varanasi trip. While Delhi was part work, part other work and remaining family visits, it is fondly remembered as I got to meet Deepti didi and her family after a long time.
Varanasi was a town exactly I had imagined it to be. Like any temple town in India, it has more people (locals + tourists) that it can accommodate,  smaller  streets with numerous vehicles and a city that is looking for deep cleaning. Meeting Kanishka's parents and her home was definitely the best part along with the Ganga Aarti that we explored via a  kashti. Ganga Aarti is a an experience that is unique to Kashi only. The chaats were definitely delicious. The trip to Sarnath next day was ok. It was hot, humid and I was little tired.

- Independence Day Long weekend trip - Complete trip has been documented here -

Movies - 

I saw Arrival once again at home with Aarti. I think definitely, it is the best movie since Mad Max that I have seen. The second viewing was as much rewarding as the first one minus the IMAX experience. Definitely a 5/5

Hell or High water
3.5/5 - The opening scene builds the tension aptly and gives an idea on how rest of the movie is going to be . It is a good watch especially on a Sunday precariously saved to relax.

Freaky Ali
2.5/5 - A total masala movie to be watched with family. This is this era's David Dhawan film

4/5 - Loved it. Loved the storytelling, score, screenplay and everything

Raag desh -
2/5 - Good idea, badly executed. Had good hopes from Thigmanshu Dhulia, did not at all rise up to the expectations.

Wonder woman -
4/5 - Neat action movie with Gal Gadot as the lead. Good addition to the super hero genre.

Books - 

Started David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and it will be some time before it finishes :)

Events - 

Attended couple of comedy shows by Bangalore comedy club. A bunch of startup comedians try out their jokes. Decent evening well spent with spirits and high spirits.

Halli Mane - A rainy breakfast trip to Halli Mane in Malleshwaram. A very good Kannadiga breakfast place. Sambhar is way better than Adigas, Idli not so much.

Family visits -

- Nani, Mama, Mani and Divya visited for a week.  Made the ISCKON style Dal Torkari at home.

- Cheshta, Arun bhaiya and babhi visited.

Independence day weekend travel - 2017

When Nitin and Parul ask you to join them for a trip, even if you have lots of work, you have to make time.  I learnt this the hard way after missing one last year. This time, I was not going to make it happen.

Nitin and Parul did the hard work of finding the accommodation. The route was set to be
Bangalore - Jog Falls - Murudeshwar (night stay) - Udupi - Kundapur (night stay) - Agumbe - Bangalore

Items to be carried were decided a week in advance. Planning was spotless.We were to leave on Sunday (13) early morning and  be back on Tuesday night (15th). It was a long weekend, so we wanted to beat the rush. And we wanted to have a long Sunday, so it was decided to leave Bangalore at 4 am. The initial plan was at 5 am but I along with Nitin were able to convince everybody to leave at 4.

Before I describe the trip in detail (it was again a case of near perfect itinerary), a note on traveling with friends.  When it comes to traveling with friends,  my views are in agreement with this article by Sidin Vadukut  -
which basically says that avoid it. I have also been victim to such group travels in past and have arrived at a similar conclusion myself.  I think outside of family or office travel, a friends-only trip has happened after a long gap.  The biggest problem with friends travel is the time part. A day before everyone will agree that we should start the day early and I will be ready much before that time only to find people sleeping / with hangover / deciding to have a lazy morning as they are on travel. THe day goes downhill from there on when during lunch time, one person will insist to have Punjabi food as lunch  and we will ditch all the interesting local cuisines and find the only North Indian place in town. I have had numerous such incidents to have given up on this.

But with Parul and Nitin, who are probably more avid travelers than Kanishka and myself, it was not the case at all. 4 am meant 4 am. Our days started on a pre-arranged time and it was a trip where ROI of time spent was one of the highest.

Day 1 - 
We left Bangalore at 4 am and were already on the highway before sunrise.  Parul had carried her laptop with her amazing music collection. Along with her bluetooth speakers, the whole trip can also be called a musical journey as we were hardly without it.  Kanishka had prepared Paneer sandwich and cucumber-tomato sandwich - the kind which fills your heart and stomach at the same time. Nitin had already mapped out the route and the surprising bit was that he did not need Gmaps to navigate.

We took a breakfast break at Shivamogga at a small place which served good idli sambhar. From there on, we drove to Jog Falls.

The best part of of Jog falls was the climb down & up. You can reach the base of the waterfall by climbing down 1240 stairs. While the climd down itself makes your legs shake, the upward climb is something that stays with you. Kanishka & Parul decided to stay at about 400 stairs. Nitin and I went all the way down.
On the way up

The lunch post the climb was done at the local canteen at Jog Falls. We ate 'paad ke' after having earned the meal. It was a busy place but we managed to find a place and after a tad bit of wait, food arrived and it was gone in no time.

From Jog falls, we drove to Murudeshwar. The road was little curvy but quite green and well maintained. It was a good drive. Our stay at Murudeshwar was at RNS residency which is surrounded by sea on three sides. So, practically all rooms are sea facing :) . It seems that the entire town is owned by RNS along with a giant Shiv-statue temple.  Rooms were ok at RNS. The seaside salty breeze along with improper maintenance have taken a toll at the hotel.
Bunch of foreigners traveling from Mumbai to Chennai on Autos

Night view of the Shiv statue

We decided to head out for dinner to an open bar, owned by the owner's son. Half of the items on menu were not available as it was an off season per them. Beer was good along with the classic Dal Fry. We soon retired after the early dinner.

Day 2 

Day 2 morning started with visiting the temple next door. Temple was ok, not so clean when compared to other South Indian temples. Inside each temple, along side God's statue, there was a framed photo of the owner - he is practically the God of that town. After the mandir darshan, on Kanishka's insistence, we decided to check out the beach. The left beach had too many people (even at 6 am in the morning), so we decided to go to the right side where fisherman were preparing their boats to start they work-day.

After crossing over few crabs and fish-stench, we were on a cleaner beach. This beach by-far has been my best beach so far on this side of India. The waves very so soft, we could walk 100 steps and yet water was only till knees.  In no time I decided to take full dips here and at this time, there was heardly any humidity and water was at a perfect temperature. This was awesome.

Post breakfast at the hotel, we were ready and all packed to drive down to Udupi with a stop over at Marvanthe . The plan was to stop at Marvanthe and spend the day next to the ocean just lazying around which is what we did. We stopped at Justa resort (Again Nitin had prior knowledge of it) which had all facilities including changing rooms, and beach accessories. We played ball next to the ocean.

The ocean here was rough with beach covered by small stones. It did hurt a little bit but the ocean-calling was stronger. Kanishka as usual was at the forefront on being inside the ocean. She had to maximize her ocean-time here. 

Post this, we had a heftly lunch with beer and drove down to Udupi. It was the day before the Krishna Janmashtmi and Udupi is famous for its Krishna temple. While walking the streets to Udupi, we serendipitously went to the Coin museum despite its closing time. The museum and its caretaker is wonderful and a must-do activity there. We were given a short tour but we longed for more

At Udupi, we first went to a wrong temple thinking it to be the Krishna temple. Kanishka corrected us and then at the actual Krishna temple, the queue was quite longer, so we decided to skip it. Parul and Nitin were able to get a back door entry and I was completely ok resting outside and enjoying the laddoos which frankly were not as good as the ISKCON ones. We also went to a Gaushala there and fed the cows.

The main attraction was to have the Anna Prasadam (langar like dinner) . For some reason, I had high expectation and expected a full course meal along with sweets. But it was a normal food and the expectation mismatch led to a little disappointment, given that Udupi had some amazing eateries to try. However, as an experience, it was pretty good. The fact that 600 people are fed every 20-25 mins mins is something that needs to be learnt to see how things work at scale.

From Udupi, we drove up to Kundapur to Meredian Resorts. The resort is little interior but it is truly a 5-star property. The property is huge with swimming pool, amphitheatre, tennis courts, golf-kart rides. Rooms were very fancy and lavish.  It was pure luxury, we were getting pampered and the best part was that we got this rooms at INR 1400 per room per night. We were glad that we came later here, because had we come earlier, we would not have left it. There was a temptation to stay a day more here but I had to get back. So, I was the spoilsport.

Day 3
We left at around 7:30ish without breakfast. It was independence day, so we took a quick stop and hoisted a flag on our car. Patriotic people we are.

Our breakfast stop was at this little place before Agumbe called Sri Satyanarayan (Thanks to this blog - ) Run by a family, the breakfast was fresh, hot and delicious. Mangalore buns were the best. An amazing discovery and undoubtedly the best meal of the trip.

Our stay at Agumbe was short as we did not have much time for trekking. We took a pit stop a view point and then explored the  place where Malgudi days was shot. We were done pretty quickly from both the places.

On the way back to Bangalore, we stopped at Sringeri and visited the Shankaracharya temple there. We sat for the 3D-video show which is not that well made but the images of Shankaracharya and his life are pretty well done. Temple architecture is very good.  We had a big difficulty in finding a good lunch place as practically all of them were serving only Rice-Sambhar-Rasam, a combination that we had last night only. We finally stopped at a cafe which only had omlette left.

After a late lunch, we just drove back to Bangalore. It rained intensely on the drive back yet it was fun. Overall, a very packed and enjoyable trip. It had everything - short trek at Jog falls, ocean dipping with beach games, temple visits, lavish resorts and some awesome food stops.