Thursday, April 16, 2009

Waynad, Kerala Trip

On the long weekend of Good Friday we had a trip to Waynad. The trip was rather impromptu to the extent that we only booked tickets to/from Bangalore and talked to a cab driver to pick us up from Yashwantpur station. On the Wednesday evening we kinda finalized that Waynad is going to be a good option in this season compared to Humpi or Mysore and around. We rented a tempo traveller from Bangalore as we were 7 in number and a car would be uncomfortable.

Waynad's wikipedia/wikitravel article gave enough information to help us decide. The place is pretty cool throughout the year with peak temperature of 35 and min of 20 degrees celcius. On arriving we did find it true.

From Waynad, Kerala trip


The distance from Bangalore to Waynad is around 240 KM and should have taken 5 hours or so but the calculations didn't work good enough :). Starting at around 8:30 AM from the station we finally arrived in Waynad at around 6:30 or later. Yeah couple of things went wrong. Based on experience of my last trip to Ooty, Mysore etc. I suggested stopping over at Kamat restaurant on Bangalore-Mysore road. This time the restaurant was too busy. It took us around 1.5 hours to get basic breakfast down and it sucked because of poor service.

From Waynad, Kerala trip


From Waynad, Kerala trip


Then we stopped at McD which was just 10-15 KMs away from Kamat for some good food. Like all McD's there isn't much that can go wrong, they were fast and efficient in providing us food even though we had to wait for getting seated. Another 1.5 hours gone. Post this the stops weren't too big until we came at the Kerala border. The driver was trying to be extra smart making us pay 1000 Rs to him when the fees was just 380 Rs for 7 days visit. Lots of time was wasted here because of improper papers our driver had or something else, the police official did want to clarify that everything done was as per rules and "Of course I will give you a reciept this is not Karnataka boss, this is Kerala".



Before/After(?) the checkpost came we were able to see some wildlife as the road goes through the forest, We saw Elephants quite a few of them around 3 groups probably all of them were about to cross the road when we saw them. Later during our actual safari in the Waynad wildlife sanctuary we saw one additional animal species the deers and nothing else. As they said if you are luck you can see leopard, bison, tiger etc. but my experience with most safaris say you hardly get lucky ever :D

From Waynad, Kerala trip


Our stay was in Sultan Bathery the first city that comes on our route, around 12 KMs before the more famous Kalpetta city. Later in the evening when we went out for dinner most shops were closed by 9 PM, someone suggested that it was because of Good Friday. As I said in my other post about Kerala festivals aren't the best time to be in Kerala as tourists. We at the Sagar restaurant where we could get Kerala specialities, the Parantha and the Fish curry and other non-veg stuff. The later part of the evening was spent playing "Bang".

From Waynad, Kerala trip


From Waynad, Kerala trip


The next day we went to the Eddakal caves, much more than the cave part we enjoyed treking towards the cave and then hiking on the hill across the cave. As we kept climbing we could see clear panormic view of the surroundings and as is well know Kerala's mesmerizing beauty made up keep going despite the improper and uneasy route upwards and downwards.

From Waynad, Kerala trip


From Waynad, Kerala trip


From Waynad, Kerala trip

Post this we went to the Soochipura Waterfalls where we spent lot of time treking and then sitting right under the water falls posing for photos and fighting for the right spot to sit or stand. Not to mention before we started the trek for the fall we at a the proper lunch in form of Maggi noddles and omelets for some. Like at all other places the concept was to eat enough to make sure you "vasule" you contributions to the pool :P

That was it it was around dark and we headed back to Hotel after having our dinner at another restaurant in Sultan Bathery very close to our hotel. Again we couldn't get the veg specialities like Apam and Iddiapam and had to eat the regular north Indian kind of food except for the Laccha parantha.

From Waynad, Kerala trip


From Waynad, Kerala trip


Next day we took safari at the Waynad wildlife sanctuary. There isn't much we saw there as I already mentioned. Post this we headed on to Mysore where we spent time at Srirangpathnam visiting the Tipu Sultan's summer fort which is now made a museum, It liked it quite a bit though it was small the painting were quite well documented and informative. We also went to see the placed where Tipu's body was found in his last war. Soon we were on our way to Bangalore and then back to Hyderabad.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Hong Kong and Macau Visit (When, What and How)

Many may not be aware of the Hong Kong's tourist friendly Visa on Arrival policy. In short you can arrive in Hong Kong with your return ticket within next 14 days and you will get a visa. This makes hong kong a top choice for transit from traveling from India to US.

From Hong Kong and Macau


My visit to Hong Kong was piggybacked on my US trip which I decided to do with Cathy Pacific airlines for visiting HKG. The HKG visit was a 3 day long trip and I found it pretty much enough to travel around. I also found enough time to visit Macau which also has similar immigration policy.

From Hong Kong and Macau


What is there to see in HKG ?
HKG has the image of being one of the financial centers of the world. The city is characterized by the sky scrappers which are lit in fashion. The buildings are indeed beautiful and their lighting does impress as much. Another thing to notice is how the buildings are so well connected to each other via overbridges wherever possible so as to make it easy for people to walk conviniently across long distance without ever needing to hit the road.
Coming to points of interest, Victoria peak is arguably the best point to overlook the city. It makes for a scenic treat in the bright light of the day or the darkness of the evening.
Mind you its pretty windy and its one of the places in HKG where you would miss you jacket or sweater :)

From Hong Kong and Macau


The other famous things to do include the skytrain from Airport to Lantau Island (didn't try), the ferry to go to various Islands across, visiting the 10000 Buddhas Monastry and enjoying the free cultural shows organized by Hong Kong Tourishm daily (for e.g we saw the Kung Fu Performance by Kung Fu Corner in Kowloon park).

Macau which is just 1 hour oneway on a ferry is considered a place to visit when you are in HKG. Macau is considered Vegas of the east for its numerous Casinos. The more interesting fact however is that it was a Portuguese colony. Though I didn't spent enough time to notice the difference from HKG which was occupied by the English but people say they are worth noticing. The casinos themselves are grand and their interior pretty well decorated comparing them to those in Las Vegas wasn't easy for me.
From Hong Kong and Macau



From Hong Kong and Macau


Tips for traveling in HKG
1) You can buy the Octopus card available from the Airport for 220 or 300 HKD, they are pretty useful if you are considering taking the Airport express shuttle to the city (100 HKG oneway). The first gives one ride the second a round trip. + Unlimited Metro train travel for 3 days, 50 HKD is refunded on return. Amazingly this card works for paying almost anywhere including most public modes of transport, the shops etc.
2) Traveling within the city could be done with Metro trains or the local buses both of which are pretty cost effective the trains being cheaper. Bus are good to get a good view of the city while traveling. Taking E11 from airport to city center turned out to be wise advice I got from someone on the internet. The bus stop are pretty well documented in english, grab a map from the tourist desk for convenience. (Airport express takes 20 min, A21 takes around 1 hr, E11 takes more than that but goes through about a full trip of the city).
3) City cabs are pretty good too, note that their isn't much concept of tipping in HKG the money is just rounded to the next dollar mostly.
4) Nearby Islands are connective by quite fast and cheap ferry services.

Traveling within Macau:
1) The casinos arrange free pickups/drops from/to Ferry terminals.
2) Cabs and busses are other way of going around in the city.
Note that the Ferry from HKG Island to Macau are pretty regular during the day time almost 1 per hour but between 2 AM - 6 AM they don't operate that frequently.
From Hong Kong and Macau