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A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Category: Travel (Page 1 of 7)

Day Trip 19 – Rangasthala, An ancient Vishnu temple at Chikkaballapur near Bangalore

An ancient Vishnu temple that was built by the Cholas and later developed by the Vijayanagara empire, Rangasthala in Tippanahalli village, Chikkaballapur around 70 Km from Bangalore is a well kept secret. (Locals claim that the temple is over a 1000 years old and the main shrine was installed by the Sapta Rishis in the Treta Yuga)

Surrounded by misty hills and green fields lies this beautiful temple of lord Vishnu. The idol of Ranganatha is 4.5 feet in length with Bhoo Devi and Neela Devi at His feet. Lord is in Yoga Nidra and his Shesha (Lord Vishnus Snake) is spreading his hood like an umbrella. The idol is beautifully sculpted out of Black Saligrama stone and it is believed that the sanctum sanctorum was installed by the Sapta Rishis. Locals state that if devotees visit this temple after  Adi Ranga in Srirangapatna, Madhya Ranga in Shimsha and Anta Ranga in Srirangam, they achieve liberation or moksha. Hence the Lord is known as Moksha Ranganatha.

We were lucky to witness the elaborate “Abhishekam” of the Lord in Milk, Curd, Sandal etc with the divine chanting of mantras. A rare sight and the priests had no objections to photography and video. And guess what – we were the only people in the temple seated right next to the sanctum sanctorum.

On the wall there are sculptures of Saptarishis, Brahma, Rambha, Urvashi etc. It feels like the Lord is in Vaikunta and he is surrounded by all the gods who are prostrating in front of him.

The temple is serene and peaceful and its a joy to sit quietly and soak in the energy and vibrations exuding from its premises. On a weekday its empty.

The architecture of the temple is very “Chola” with the intricately sculptured pillars that support the temple. It is very well maintained and clean.

Adjacent to the temple is a large step well. That is currently not operational. But one can visualise how beautiful it would have been when it was brimming with water.

We left temple at 11.15 AM and reached our lunch place at Race Course Road –  South Ruchis Square exactly at 1 PM.  This is a newly opened pure veg restaurant that serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. I would call this Bangalore’s nicest fine dining S Indian restaurant. Nice interiors, good service and most importantly the food was sumptuous. You have a choice of a regular S Indian Thali or Millet Thali. Lots and lots of varieties in the Thali. And guess what, its priced at a very affordable Rs 180/-. This was the second great find of the day.

Other useful points

  • Drive Time from Koramangla Via Devanahalli Airport ~ 2 Hrs. Breakfast stop – Udupi Swaada. Nice place with clean bathrooms. Lots of restaurants on this stretch. We left Koramangla at 7.30 AM and reached our breakfast halt (10 Km after the airport) at 8.45 AM and after a leisurely tasty breakfast were at the temple at 9.45 AM. The last 15 Km are thru the town of Chikkaballapur, roads are good – last 1 Km is mud road. Google maps gets you to the temple correctly.
  • Budget 60 – 90 Minutes at the temple.
  • On the way back if you have time you can stop at the Devanahalli fort where Tipu Sultan was born. You can see it as your drive on the highway. Inside the fort there is another Vishnu temple. We had a 3.30 PM return deadline so could not cover this.
  • A Shirdi Sai Baba temple on the main road between Chickballapur and Devanahalli is also worth visiting
  • Back home at Koramangla 2.15 PM.

A beautiful documentary on this temple by Hackberry that I found on YouTube


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For other fascinating day trips in and around Bangalore visit below

Explore Bangalore – 21 Curated Day Trips

 

 

Explore Bangalore – 21 Curated Day Trips

There is more to Bangalore than Lalbagh, Cubbon Park, Vidhan Soudha and MTR. We have visited over 50 interesting places across 21 day trips in and around Bangalore. Almost all these trips are 7.30 AM to 3.30 PM day trips. Ancient temples 1000’s of years old, beautiful serene ashrams, Treks – Easy and not so easy, traditional restaurants, unique resorts …. and a lot many more of Good Places.

So form your groups of a Few Good People and explore Bangalore like never before by following these 21 curated day trips.  Every trip is documented after personal travel – which is what makes it authentic.

  • Trips 1,2,& 3  : Pyramid Valley, Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple, Basavangudi temples 
    • Trip – 1 : Pyramid Valley – Kanakpura Road
    • Trip – 2 : Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple , School of Ancient Wisdom (Near the Devanahalli Airport)
    • Trip – 3 : Basavangudi the heart of Bangalore.  Brahmins Cafe – Ramkrishna Ashram – Gave Gangadeshwar Cave Temple –  hanuman Temple on a Hill – Jain temple

  • Trip 9 : Kolar & Avani 
    • Kolar & Avani – Ancient Kolaramama Temple – Shiva Temple from Chola era, Ancient Ramalingeshwara temples at Avani

  • Trip 10 : Devrayani Durga
    • Fascinating Green hill temple of Devrayani Durga – Siddha Garden – Nammade Chilumme ( Place where Rama supposedly shot an arrow in the ground for water to put his Nama)

  • Trip 11 : Baevu Village 
    • Baevu Village – A lovely nature resort with thousands of Neem trees surrounded by Hills – Off Kanakpura Road

  • Trip 13 : Antarganga trek 
    • Antargana Trek – A hillock near Kolar with fascinating dark caves that need you to be adventurous and flexible to explore

  • Trip 14 : Bangalore Palaces & Forts 
    • MTR – Bull temple – Bugle Rock park – Tipu Summer palace – Bangalore Fort – KR Market – Bangalore Palace – Esplanade

  • Trip 16 : Mandargiri 
    • Mandargiri – On Tumkur Road near Hoskote visit an ancient Jain temple complex on the top of a monolithic hill

  • Trip 18 : Trek to Madhugiri 
    • Near Tumkur – Head on the Tumkur Road till Dobaspet and then drive past Devrayani Durga to reach Madhugiri.
    • A steep Monolithic hill supposedly Asias 2nd tallest at 3930 feet. A tough and challenging trek – not for the weak hearted

  • Trip 19 : Rangasthala – An Ancient Vishnu temple at Chickballapur  
    • Visit an ancient Vishnu temple Rangasthala – over 1000 years old
    • Devanahalli fort of Haider Ali and the birth place of Tipu
    • Venugopalaswami temple
    • Lunch @ South Ruchi’s Square
  • Trip 20 : Channapatna (Planned)
    • Malur Krishna – An ancient Chola temple built by Rajendra Simha Chola on the banks of the river Kanva
    • Aprameya Temple – A unique ancient temple of crawling baby Krishna. The great Vaishnavite sage Ramanujacharya is said to have worshipped the lord at this temple.
    • Kokrebellur – a Town full of painted storks and many more migratory birds (25 Km from Channapatna)
  • Trip 21 : Vasanata Vallabharya Swami temple
    • Breakfast at CTR
    • A serene and beautiful 1000 + year old temple built by the Cholas at Vasanthapura layout
    • The Sanctum sanctorum is very old – idol was supposedly installed by Mandavya Rishi

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Trek to Madhugiri

A challenging and interesting trek – Madhugiri is a magnificent monolithic hill near Tumkur. Its not a long trek – but a steep one on rocky inclines with limited to no grips.

Located near Tumkur –  it is about 15 km ahead of Devrayani Durge. Look out for a signage for Devarayanadurga/Madhugiri and turn right  under Dobaspet overbridge and drive 100M on a one way or go a little further and take a U turn. The drive is scenic with lots of greenery, hillocks and lakes.  Enjoy the refreshingly fresh rural ambience. We left Koramangla at 7.30 and after breakfast at Shree Rathnam (You have many options on this route) we reached the parking lot at the foothills of this monolithic hill by 9.30 AM. And the first impression was  – Challenging and daunting.

Route – Google Map of the circuit

Madhugiri at  3930 feet is supposedly the 2nd tallest monolithic hill in Asia. The hill is home to a dilapidated fort supposedly built by Hyder Ali. A series of doorways leads to the hill. The ruined temple of Gopalakrishna is located at the top. It took us slightly over an hour to reach the summit. The steep slopes of the hill and exploration of the fort is slow due to steepness pf the hill. Descent is quicker.

There is one specific stretch that is very tricky and requires guts. You are on all fours as you inch forward with the wind blowing like a gale. Its almost a ten minute section but with every step you can feel your heart pounding. Even the bravest in our group had second thoughts about this section – but we all finally managed to cover it.

The Hill is steep and all rock – limited foothold. Yes the initial sections have regular stairs and and rock-cut steps. But after the halfway mark its just steep rocky ascent.  Be careful while climbing. Don’t be adventurous. This is a dangerous trek. Thats probably the reason why we hardly saw any crowds. Please dont risk with children.

There are no shops and stalls on the way so do carry water and some snacks to munch once you reach the top. Fortunately there were no monkeys either. Do get a shoe with a good grip. And have a hat – its pleasant but sunny.

The view from the summit is beautiful.

We spent 30 min at the summit and were back to the car park by 12 Noon. there are no good restaurants in the vicinity so we headed back to Bangalore taking a round route via Sira so that we could visit the Narasimhaswami  Temple at Seebi. This is a beautiful ancient temple but unfortunately it was closed. The Temple tank outside the temple is well maintained and clean.

Madhugiri

On the way back we stopped for lunch at Kamath and reached home by 3.30 PM.

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Bangalore’s Birla Temple – 1/2 Day trip on Hosur Road

Birla Temples are a must see tourist attraction in many cities of India. Bangalore doesn’t have a Birla temple – but we discovered a Jain temple on Hosur Road that was a lot nicer than many of the Birla temples we have visited.

Most of our trips had been in and around Devanahalli, Tumkur, Kolar  and of course Bangalore city. For the first time we decided to explore Hosur Road. I have frequented that road multiple times on road trips to Chennai, Salem, Coimbatore – but never stopped by to look at any of the sites. Hosur Road and Krishnagiri has a lot to discover.

Our 1st stop was an absolute stunner – a lovely Jain temple located 5 Km from Electronic City on Hosur Road, dedicated to the 23rd Jain Tirthankara – Parsavnath. The temple complex is so beautiful it felt better than a Birla temple. Intricate carvings in sparkling white marble – well manicured lawns, lots of greenery. The complex also has a nice museum. A very serene and calm ambience. Indeed an oasis in Bangalore.

The temple complex called Sushil Dham was built by the Surana Family who own Micro labs. The complex also has rooms for Monks & Yatris and a Bhojanalaya that serves authentic delicious Jain food for breakfast, lunch and dinner at very reasonable price (If I recollect breakfast was Rs 35 and lunch was Rs 75). the complex also has a small but nice museum.

A shot walk ahead from this temple on the same Road the Surana family has built another smaller temple dedicated to the Goddess. Don’t miss this – built in red sandstone – this one also has intricate carvings.

Our second stop was in Hosur town – the ancient hilltop Shiva Temple called the Chandra Choodeshwar temple. The current structure of the temple dates back to 1260 AD and the temple was maintained by the Cholas, Hoysala and the Vijayanagara kingdoms. The sanctum sanctorum is believed to be very ancient as this temple legend is talked about in the Brahmananda Purana. This is a large temple on the top of a hill ( car can drive up) – and has the feel and energy of the ancient temples of Tamil Nadu (Incidentally we were in TN as we were in Hosur). Large granite structure, low ceiling, bells chiming , inner Parikrama , outer Parikrama , a small alley leading to the Sanctum Sanctorum etc.

Photo of the temple from 1860 

It was a coincidence that we visited the temple on “Pradosham” considered a very auspicious day for Lord Shiva. Fortunately it being morning the temple was not crowded. The Goddess in this temple is Margathambal.  

We completed our visit by 11 AM and on the way back stopped by at A2B for a cup of Filter Coffee. The complex also houses a large retail outlet of the famous silk saree shop Chennai Silks.

We were back home by 12.30 in time for lunch.

This was our first foray to Hosur Road – but there is a lot to discover on that route right upto Krishnagiri and we will be back here soon to explore more.

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Palaces, Forts, KR Market and more – A unique Bangalore day Trip

Most people wonder what to do in Bangalore over a long weekend and the  roads to Coorg, Chickamagalur and Ooty are jammed. But Bangalore has a lot to see – we have done over 15 day trips and we keep discovering new interesting places.

This time we did a Fusion trip and accomplished a fun day between 7.30 AM – 3.30 PM covering a lot of ground

  • Breakfast at the iconic MTR
  • A visit to the Bull temple at Basavangudi
  • A walk in the Bugle Rock park watching colonies of Bats
  • A quick dash to the small but well maintained Tipu Summer Palace and the Bangalore Fort
  • The famous KR Market
  • The beautiful and vast Bangalore Palace
  • Lunch at Esplanade – a lovely Bengali restaurant at Indiranagar

Breakfast at MTR is always a treat and on weekdays it is not crowded. Yes the food is rich and since we were a group of 10 we got our own private dining space with excellent service. Hours of operation: 6:30 am – 11:00 am & 12:30 pm – 9:00 pm. Closed on Mondays

MTR to the Bull temple at Basvangudi is a short ride. The main temple is a few steps climb – but they have a large Ganesha temple and an assortment of other temples in the complex. Right next to the temple is the Bugle Rock park ( You can reach there from the temple main sanctum area) a lovely green space with nice clean pathways. There is a small tower like lookout place atop a rocky section and from there when you look up you see thousands of bats hanging from the trees.

We left from here by 10 AM and in a few minutes reached Tipu’s Summer Palace. Its a small but well maintained structure with a lovely green garden. Located adjacent to the Kote Venkatramana temple – it was at one time part of the Bangalore fort complex. The building dates back to 1791 and is made of Teak adorned with pillars, arches and balconies. One may feel that it is frugal to be called a palace – it hardly has any rooms, but for a king like Tipu who was always fighting wars it may have indeed been a palace.

A few minutes drive from here is the Bangalore Fort. Not much of it is left – but at one time the whole area including the Palace was part of the Fort complex. The Bangalore Fort was constructed in 1537 as a mud fort by Kempe Gowda (The founder of Bangalore) and later fortified as a  robust strong stone structure by Haider Ali in 1761. The fort was breached by the British in the 3rd Mysore war in 1790 – 92.

The Fort is located next to the Victoria hospital and a short drive from here brought us to our next stop – the famous KR Market. Having lived in Bangalore since 1996 – I had never visited the place. It was a pleasant surprise to see that it was well maintained and very clean – considering that it is the largest wholesale market for vegetables in Bangalore. The area outside the market you have villagers selling greens and some vegetables  – mountains of fresh “dhaniya” some of it crushed under the legs and wheels of trolleys gave a very appetising smell. And being sold for a fraction of the price that the supermarkets charge.

Once you enter the main complex, the big large iconic building there is a semblance of order in the courtyard and finally in the innermost section you see aisle after aisle stacked with vegetables, fruits and flowers. Fresh and very very cheap. They also have some shops selling traditional pots and pans, paper bags etc. You must do this trip with friends and family – it is indeed very enjoyable. Parking is a problem – but we had a driver. There is a Metro station close by – so thats an easy option.

Loaded with veggies we reached our cars and headed for the last destination – Bangalore Palace. This one was built by the Wodeyars in the later part of the 1800’s. Its built in Tudor style architecture with fortified towers and Turrets . Its a large building  of over 45,000  sft spread across 454 acres. Just to get an idea of Inflation – this imposing structure was bought by the British from the Wodeyars for Rs 40,000 in 1873.

We received a red carpet treatment as the palace was getting ready to host a wedding (yes you can rent it). The entry fees are expensive – it is owned and privately maintained by the Wodeyar family, and they take only cash. The palace is now a museum.

Having covered a lot – we were famished and were running late to meet our deadline of being home by 3.30. We landed at Esplanade – an authentic Bengali restaurant at Indranagar (Double Road – CMH Road junction). the food here is outstanding and the service is fast. Between the Mochar Chops and Baingan Bhajas, Dum Aloo, Luchi, Dal, Mishti and a lot more – we just ordered too much food. But we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We left at 3 PM and were back home by 3.20 – just in time to welcome the children coming back from school at 3.30

This is a fun Fusion trip – so easy to execute, try it with your friends and family

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Day trip to Baevu – The Village (Nature Retreat near Bangalore)

A few years back I had discovered Shreyas – a lovely nature / Yoga retreat at Neelmangala and called it Bangalore’s best kept secret. I now discovered another gem ” Baevu Village” on Kanakpura Road – 2 hrs drive from Bangalore.

“Baevu” in Kannada means Neem Tree and this 30 acre property has over 1000 Neem Trees. Its a green eco spot with over 800 Mango Trees and a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, paddy & ragi grown in an organic farm. Set in a scenic landscape surrounded by hills and forests its an oasis of greenery and tranquility.

I have stayed at Baevu for a weekend before – but this time we planned a Day Trip. This includes Breakfast , Lunch and tea , usage of pool and the freedom to explore the full resort and even indulge in a short trek if time permits.

We departed Koramangla as usual at 7.30 and took the Hosur Road – Nice Road to Kanakpura. After reaching Kanakpura Road – Baevu village is an hr away – after you cross Kanakpura town you need to take a right ( Google Maps will get you there) – th exact location is somewhere between Kanakpura & Ramnagara – Roads are good – last few Km’s is mud road.

We reached by 9.45 – and were treated to a delicious spread of authentic S India breakfast. Having feasted we explored the place between 10.30 and 12.30. We did not have time for the treks since we had to leave by 1.30 to reach home at 3.30. But if you don’t have a deadline you can relax at the rest till 4.30 – 5 PM – have tea and then leave.

Baevu is partly Resort – partly farm. They cross millets , vegetables , have their own cows and you can enjoy a bullock cart ride

Or just walk past the scenic vegetable gardens

Take a look at the authentic rooms built like a traditional village house with a nice sit out.

Or just chill by the crystal clean azure blue pool

The lunch was also a treat – again authentic S Indian ( Veg & Non Veg) – overall a great way to spend a day in a nature retreat – and I am sure all those who did this trip will soon come back with family to spend a weekend.

Other Information

  • Contact Details – Divya Kare – + 91 94482 86415
  • Website – http://www.avanileisure.com/baevu-home.php
  • Google Maps will locate the place – roads are excellent – budget 2 hr drive from Koramangla

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For other fascinating day trips in and around Bangalore visit below

Explore Bangalore – 21 Curated Day Trips

 

 

A week in fascinating Jordan

How is Jordan different from other countries in the Middle East ?

  • It has no OIL
  • A liberal modern country with no dress regulations. That is credit to the royal family.
  • Diverse landscape – from the depths of the Dead Sea to the highlands of Petra & Amman where it snows in winter. The country is blessed with lovely mediterranenan climate

We had a perfect one week holiday. My first experience with a travel company Byond Travel – and they scored 10/10. Jordan has lots to see. We covered 1500 Kms in 6 days with 4 hops across the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum & the capital Amman. A small group of 9, a dedicated bus to us and a wonderful guide all added up to make this a memorable trip. Jordan is waiting to be explored – we had nice weather (In May) , almost no Q’s (thanks to Ramadan) – and we covered a lot – thanks to the wonderful planning of Byond Travel. When you travel with a good agency it takes a lot of your head – my earlier self planned family holidays were a project , this one was relaxed. I just followed the guide. Since all payments were made in advance we hardly had any expenses right thru the week – barring our lunch bills and  stuff we bought to carry back home.

Detailed Notes 

Day – 1 

There are no direct flights to Jordan from India and we took Etihad from Bangalore to Amman Via Abu Dhabi. An early morning flight on Sat at 4.30 AM from Bangalore got us to Amman by 12 noon with a 3 hr stop over at Abu Dhabi. Etihad is good – better than Emirates and you get Jet Airways miles. Leg space is comfortable, food is decent. At Amman we were received at the gate and whisked past immigration (Jordan has Visa on arrival) and in less than 30 minutes after landing we were in the bus with our luggage headed to the Dead Sea – Holiday Inn Resort. A nice property located on the Dead Sea. A 1 hr drive – past barren land and olive trees ( Jordan is full of olive trees) we reached the lowest elevation on earth – 1400 feet blow MSL . It was warm but bearable. The Dead Sea is shrinking and the locals say it may not last beyond 2050. The salinity of water is almost 10X that of the normal sea so you float. And there is no life on the Dead Sea.

The Holiday Inn resort is one of the many resorts on the Dead Sea – and many come here for the curative power of the water and the Dead Sea salts. After a few hrs at the beach we had a lovely dinner and hit the bed. A long day that started at 2 AM on Sat morning finally ending. Note that Jordan has a 2 1/2 hr lag with India – so when we slept at 9 PM it was 11.30 PM India time.

Day – 2

A 1 night stop at Dead Sea the next day morning we headed out to Petra and on the way stopped by a few interesting sights

Close to the resort was the Bethany church where Jesus was baptised by John the baptist. Thats a famous biblical location and borders Israel. All thru the tour we were almost touching the Israel border and at the Bethany church we could see Israel across the Jordan river a few feet away.

From Bethany we visited Mount Nebo – a famous place from where Moses is said to have pointed towards the promised land before he passed away. We travelled Via Madaba visiting one more church famous for its mosaic paintings and reached the historic city of Petra by 4 PM.

Petra is an iconic city almost 2000 years old – its a city of sandstone mountains. We stayed at a lovely property The Old Village Resort at Wadi Musa for 2 nights. Nice rooms , good food. 

Day – 3

After a sumptuous breakfast we left at 8 AM to Petra. The visitors centre was a few km from our property and we started the trek thru the maze of mountains by 8.30 AM. There is a lot of walking. 2 Km to the Khazana , 2 Km to the base point of the Monastery and then a trek of over 1000 steps to the top of the Monastery – all in all about 6 Km each way. It was hot – but the history and the stories of the Nabateans the rulers of Petra kept us motivated.

We were back in the hotel by 3 PM and most of the team went back at 8 PM to see candle lit Petra by night. To my consolation they came back and said that I did not miss anything great.

A lot of walking had tired us out – and the next day was relaxed

Day – 4

We woke late, had a relaxed breakfast and left by 12 noon to Wadi Rum. A 800 sq km desert with craggy sandstone mountains – the landscape is martian and this is where many of the movies Lawrence of Arabia , Transformer , Martian etc were shot. Its barren sand dune desert and houses about 30 camps.

We stayed in one such camp in tents for a night. Its hot during the day but gets cold at night. Tents are basic – we had a family tent with 3 beds and an attached modern bathroom – no fans. Electricity and Wi Fi from 4 PM onwards.

The set up and kitchen here is like that of a North Indian Dhaba- I did venture to the kitchen to make some potato curry and dal – as by now we were tired of Pita Bread, Hummus and Olives. The evening would have been alive in a starlit sky with belly dancing – but being the month of Ramadan we had to entertain ourselves with the dance of one of our colleagues. – who did an outstanding job.

Day – 5 

We departed Wadi Rum at 8 AM and after a 4 hr drive reached Wadi Mujib. This is a 2 km river trek. Its not open all the time as the water currents can get risky. We were lucky that it opened a week after being shut. But the water levels were high. This is fun but risky. You are neck deep in water at many places and the current is strong. The river bed is full of poky rocks and even with aqua shoes it can hurt. But this was the high point of the trip and we thoroughly enjoyed it. (Note only Children above 17 are allowed) – the trek took us about 3 hrs and we were back in the bus at 3.30 PM.

The drive from Wadi Mujib to Amman was less than 2 hrs and we drove by the Dead Sea crossing the Holiday Inn resort where we had stayed the 1st night. So we had almost done a round trip of Jordan.

We stayed in central Amman at the Millennium Hotel a nice property. Amman is a modern city with an active night life – but again the Ramadan period limited activities. Our guide took us for dinner to a beautiful local restaurant – buzzing with people.

Day – 6 

On our last day at Amman we covered the Citadel – an ancient Roman site and the Roman Theatre – sights we covered between 8 AM and 11 AM . Amman has a history that dates back to 6500 BC – Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians – all this culture blends into this ancient arabic city which is now ruled by the Hashemite dynasty – direct descendants of the prophet.

We shopped for dates, baklava, olive oil in Downtown and were back in our hotel for lunch.

We had an early dinner at our guide Salah’s house – and his wife had cooked us a delicious spread. It was a wonderful gesture on his part to invite us home. 

Post dinner we walked around downtown and were back in our rooms by 9 PM. Again being Ramadan the streets were deserted and most shops closed.

Day – 7

The last day of the trip – we were free. Being a Fri and the Independence Day of Jordan – all the malls , parks etc were closed in the morning. We walked around Paris square and saw the famous Rumi restaurant before heading back to hotel to depart at 12.30 for our flight.

A week flew by and we enjoyed every minute of it. A big thanks to Byond Travel for planning and executing the trip to perfection. They are a good company – a little pricey but you get excellent service. When on a holiday you want the best. I don’t think we would have seen Jordan so well in 1 week on our own. So thank you Byond for a great trip – and looking forward to more. And a big thanks to the team of co travellers – thanks guys you were great travel mates.

Useful Tips

  • Jordan has pleasant weather all thru the year – winters are cold
  • 1 JD ( Jordan Dinar ) = 95 Rs
  • Veg food is available all thru the trip – though the focus is on Non Veg.
  • Free Wifi is everywhere including in our bus.

Some more Views

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Discovering Madanapalle & The Satsang Foundation – Sri M

A short 3 hr drive (120 Km from Bangalore) is the town of Madanapalle.Head to old Madras Road and after the 1st toll near Hoskote take a left and get off the highway.  Madanapalle is  famous for its mangoes, fruits  and vegetables and is  the biggest tomato market in Asia. Horsley Hills the highest point of Andhra – a hill station is just 25 km from here. Set in the midst of the E Ghats, rocky hills and lakes the landscape is rustic and captivating. If you leave Bangalore at 5 AM you can be blessed with a divine view of the rising sun as you drive into Madanapalle.

This is also the place where Rabindranath Tagore translated  “Jana Gana Mana ” from Bengali to English and set it to music in  1919 to the now familiar tune.Madanapalle is also the birthplace of Jiddu Krishnamurti the famous Philosopher, Writer and Speaker

My purpose of visiting was to stay at the Satsang Foundation – the HQ of Spiritual Guru Sri M. Sir is a living Yogi, a spiritual guide, social reformer and educationist. I had read his autobiography about 6 years back and met him at a discourse on Karma Yoga. His presence was electrifying. My first two visits to the Satsang Ashram were day trips. It was during my last visit (Thanks to a good friend for making that happen) that I had the joy of meeting him in person. He suggested that I  visit the Ashram frequently . This was my first trip where I spent 2 days at the beautiful ashram.

Its a small and divine ashram. The centre piece is the Shivalaya – which is a serene place housing a statue of Ganesha , Shiva Linga, and the Sri Yantra besides a beautiful peepal tree. This is where the group meetings and the functions are held.

There are two energised meditation rooms – the Babaji meditation room even in the summer heat felt cool and comfortable. These are powerful centres and a 30 min session here feels like meditating for  hours.

The rest of the Ashram has rooms , a dining hall, a meeting room and the administration office. The rooms are spacious, airy, clean and functional. Bathrooms have W Toilets and hot water. Many who revere Sir as their Guru have built their houses in the Ashram. Sir also has his house here. The Foundation  runs a school and a healthcare centre that are alongside. This is not an Ashram where you will be woken up with devotional songs nor are there evening Bhajans. The place was almost empty – its a place to go within and connect with your inner self.

The Satsang Vidyalaya – provides free, high-quality, multi-lingual education to rural children from the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh. I met the school principal as he was waiting at the gate welcoming the students. It was a joy to see the high energy students trooping in  – some walking , some cycling and some running in at the last minute, all of them stopping by and greeting us Good Morning . The school was spotlessly clean. Most of the teachers have a Masters degree , many are B Ed and one of the volunteers is a microbiologist from Harvard. The students are mainly from the local Lambada community.

The Satsang Swasthya Kendra is a very well stocked, well managed centre. Run by an efficient doctor and her competent  team – the place is spotlessly clean and feels like it was inaugurated yesterday. But its been there for over 5 years delivering excellent service to the local community.

The ashram also has a woman self help centre – but it was closed and I couldn’t visit them. The Admin office has an excellent stocks of DVD’s and Books – Sri M communication is simple and lucid and his explanations of the Upanishad and Bhagwad Gita is a joy to listen. I stocked myself with almost all that they had to offer.

The food at the Ashram is simple and Sattvik. You will love it.

I spent a lot of time at the Ashram – but I also had time to go with Dr Priyam and her team to the villages nearby. Our first visit was to a mobile health camp run by the Govt of Andhra with the Piramal foundation. I was impressed with the process and the efficiency with which this camp was run. Cheers to the committed team of doctors and their support staff.

Our second visit was to the Satsang rural school that imparts education to about 30 children. This is located 12 km from the Satsang Ashram. This is where you see the difference between city children and the rural kids. There was so much joy and happiness in the little things they had. Intelligent , sharp kids with great life skills – but sadly at a disadvantage from day 1. The Satsang foundation has clearly identified the two pillars for India to succeed – Education & Healthcare, without that India cannot progress.

I also found time to visit the local village market (Tue is the day to go) and eat the tastiest Idlis and Vadas at CAM’s idli. Needless to say a plate of idli , Vada and Dosa cost me less than Rs 50/-.

A 20 min drive from the Ashram is a beautiful Shirdi Sai temple on the Kadiri Byepass road. Its spotless clean and has a live “Dhuni”.

Places I could not visit

Mallaiah Konda – which I was told is a beautiful place with an ancient Shiva temple. This is a hillock located off the road from madanapalle to Bengaluru. This is a hillock with a large monolith at its peak. On top pf this peak is a temple of Mallikarjuna Swami (Shiva). One can reach this place by taking a left turn near Vempalli village, while travelling from Madanapalle to Bengaluru. Luckily, the place is still pristine even though it is located near the town. It offers beautiful views of Madanapalle town. One can also see the surrounding Mahamalleshwara hills. The flat area found on peak of the hillock is an ideal location for stargazing during clear nights – best in summers.

Obalesh Temple: A Vishnu temple located on the same road, but still farther towards Bengaluru. This place is located inside the state of Karnataka very near to the border it shares with Andhra Pradesh. It belongs to the rayalapadu panchayat. Unlike the malliah konda, this temple is not on a peak, but is nestled between two tall hills. A good place for silent contemplation. Every Saturday bhajans happen in the temple from morning 7 to 10 am. There was another Vishnu temple I saw atop a hill from the Ashram – this is a trek with about 600 steps.

Rishi Valley – Once a drought ridden valley, but now a throbbing forest. Thanks to the Krishnamurthi foundation which has taken upon itself the task of afforestation in this valley and has done it successfully. Rishi valley is famous for the School. but, deep inside the valley one can find pristine locations, which I feel, equally deserve the fame. One such location is the Enugu Mallamma cheruvu. A natural percolation pond. One can enjoy a swim in the pond and also enjoy the view of surrounding hills.

Peepal Grove School (PGS) – a residential school run by the Satsang Foundation – It is one of the few schools providing alternative education in India.

There is also an organic farm close by that merits a visit. Horsley Hill may be worth exploring – I am told that during weekdays its empty.

The weather in Madanapalli is excellent between Oct & Feb. Summers can get hot. The area gets only a few showers every year and water is a challenge. There were no power cuts when I was there and I was told that things have got a lot better in the last few years. The network is decent – Airtel 3G works but Jio doesn’t.

 

For more details : http://satsang-foundation.org

 

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Discovering Kolavara Heritage and the sights enroute

The Equation – 54 Hrs , 1054 Kms ( 400 Km Ghat Roads) , 5 Ancient temples 1000 – 3000 years old , the beauty of Malnad, Discovering Kolavara Heritage and the lovely W Ghats – All of this for Rs 8000/ person.

This was the second trip that Subhashish and me were making ( our first was to Chidambaram and Kumbakonam in 2017 Feb) – and we accomplished a lot between Fri 2.30 afternoon when we left E City and reached Bangalore at 11 PM on Sun night.

First the key discoveries 

  • A wonderful homestay nestled deep in the W Ghats at Malnad – the Kolavara Heritage was the find of this trip. Thanks to Bharti & Ravi for letting us know about this lovely place.
  • There is more to Hoysala temples than Belur & Halebidu – we discovered two amazing temples , well maintained , almost empty buzzing with energy
  • After “Roti – Kapda – Makan” the buzz word for elections over the last 10 years has been “Bijli – Sadak – Pani”, looks like we have accomplished our goals on that front. We zipped past 1000 Km across remote regions and the road condition was excellent. The bathrooms were clean and we never had electricity or water problem anywhere. For 2019 Modi needs to coin a new slogan. Finally our temples are sparkling  clean and very well maintained. The Sringeri temple is spotlessly clean and so were all the others that we visited.

Lets start with Kolavara Heritage – a beautiful heritage property that is managed by the family over the last 180 years. Nestled deep in Malnad its about 350 Km from Bangalore ( a 7 hr drive ) and 2 hrs from Chickamgalaur. A lovely homestay with 6 rooms in a 25 acre plantation of Rubber , Pepper and Arekanut.

The whole ambience of the place is pure and pristine and there is an eye for detail on every single thing. The rooms are simple and functional but tastefully designed . The food is local and very very tasty. Service is excellent. This is a great place for all types of people. Its a great place for Digital Detox – you have everything but Mobile Signal.

  1. The honeymooners and stressed out folks who want to just relax and enjoy the soulitude amidst nature
  2. The Nature lovers who want to go on treks and lovely drives ( Jog falls is only a 100 Km away)
  3. Religious and spiritually inclined ( Sringeri is a 1 hr drive and Hornadu a 2 hr drive)

All of this is very reasonably priced at Rs 2750 / person / night inclusive of Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner – now that is a steal at times when places like Orange County in Coorg charge you 30 K / night for a room. A great place to come as a group they have rooms in different configurations – 2 Beds , 3 Beds , two rooms joined together for a family of 4 and even a 6 bed combination for larger groups.

We loved the place – and I am sure I will keep coming back here again and again to discover all the enchanting things in and around Kolavara Heritage. A big thank you to Nishchal & Vathsalya for hosting us and managing this place so well. For more details visit www.kolavaraheritagehomestay.com, Phone – 94803 30033

The second big discovery was two ancient Hoysala temples enroute. Most people when travelling to Chickamagalaur will visit Shravanbelagola, Belur & Halebidu. While these are beautiful and crowded places people are not aware that the Hoysalas built nearly 100 temples and many of them are in and around Hassan. (http://www.belurhalebid.com/hoysala-temples.php)

We visited two such rare jewels.

The Lakshmi temple at Doddagaddavalli ( a small village located off the Belur Hassan highway) is one of the oldest Hoysala temples. A Chatuskuta – 4 shrines it houses the main Shrine of Kolhapur Lakshmi and the other 3 are of Kali , Shiva and Vishnu. This is the only shrine where you have a life like statue of “Baital” in front of the kali shrine.  We visited this temple at 545 PM ( left Bangalore E city at 2.15 and drove straight here) – it was wonderful to be here with the setting sun. We had the temple to ourselves with the priest and were able to go inside the Sanctum Sanctorum and do our own private Arti.

The second temple we visited on our way back to Bangalore was the Veeranarayana Temple at Belvadi. This temple has three beautiful deities – Veera Narayana, Venugopala Swami and Yoga Narasimha. Large sculptures in shining black Saligrama with exquisite levels of intricacy – the priest mentioned that as per ASI the Lord Krishna statue here is considered the most beautiful sculpture all across India. The temple also has a  unique architecture – on March 23rd during equinox the rising sun casts its rays on the main deity crossing 7 doorways – demonstrating the level of perfection in design that the ancient rulers. The temple is almost always empty and if you find it locked call the priest who lives next door ( Prashant – 90350 41518) – he was very knowledgeable and his family has been managing this temple across generations. Both temples can be accesses thru Google Maps.

During this trip we also visited two important shrines – the Sharadamba temple at Sringeri and the Annapoorneshwari temple at Hornadu. 

The Sharadamba temple at Sringeri was consecrated by Adi Shankara around 800 AD. Its a 1 hr drive from Kolavara Heritage ( 4 hrs from Hassan and 2 1/2 Hrs from Chickamagalur). Majestic and spotlessly clean the complex houses 3 Temples – the main temple of Sharadamba ( Goddess Saraswati) , a Shiva temple and a temple decidtated to Adi Shankara. We were lucky to find it almost empty and had a great darshan. The deity of Sharadamba is majestic and full decked up exudes divinity and energy that is all encompassing – its a sight to see. They also serve lunch from 1230 – but we left at 1030 ( we drove straight from Hassan – leaving at 5.30 AM , reaching Sringeri at 9.30 AM )

The Annapoorneshwari temple at Hornadu is said to have been installed by Sage Agastya. Its a long drive – winding roads and took us 2 1/2 hrs from Kolavara to reach. Managed by a family trust its nestled amidst verdant hills. We reached at 12 – worried that the temple may have closed but were lucky – this is one of the few temples that does not close in the afternoon. On the contrary they have a special Arti at 2.30 with maps lit – we could not stay back to see this , but our hosts at Kolavara Heritage said that was a must attend (Tickets for this come at Rs 500). We did not miss the Prasad here – lunch was a sit down meal of piping hot rice, sambar and payasam and it was very tasty.

For other temples in the vicinity : https://www.sringeri.net/pilgrim-info/other-temples-nearby

The drive from Hornadu to Bangalore is almost 9 Hrs – including a 1 hr stop at Belvadi and a few small breaks for coffee. The entire stretch of roads after Chickamagalur is winding thru the ghats going up and down – this can affect even the strongest of stomachs. So be careful when driving with kids.

Parting Notes

We covered a lot in 54 hrs – this was all the time we had , but this itinerary is a 3 – 4 day trip. Plan for at least 2 days at Kolavara Heritage.

Spend a night at Hassan – that breaks the long drive – we stayed at Mallige Residency a lovely spanking new property – nice rooms and they have a pure veg restaurant. Rates were very reasonable at Rs 2750 for two http://www.malligeresidency.com

Sep – Feb is the best season to travel to Malnad , the rains can be severe , it would be wonderful to be here in Sep after the rains when the hills would be lush green and Jog Falls would be brimming.

Here is a list of things you can do at Kolavara Heritage ( All drives distance are 1 way)

  • 1/2 day trip to Sringeri 34 Km 1 Hr drive, there is a temple dedicated to the rain god close by called Kigga
  • Kundadri Hills – ancient Jain temple 38 Km 1 Hr drive – sunset view point
  • Agumbe – the forest with the largest concentration of King Cobras – Sunset View – Very close to Kundadri Hills. Agumbe also has connections with Malgudi days
  • Trek to Jamalie hills – 1 Hr trek from Kolavara
  • Kavale Durge – 1 /2 day trek
  • Plantation walk 45 min – 1 hr
  • Visit Poet Kuvempu birth place – 30 – 45 min ( 10 min drive from Kolavara)
  • Kochadri Hills – Original Deity of Mookambika is located – 72 Km
  • They have a swimming pool – a small one and bikes to ride around
  • Plan a trip with a few families – it would be more fun as a group.

Distances and Drive times 

  • Bangalore – Hassan 165 Kms – 3 Hrs ( Excellent food joints on the route – recommend Swati Delicacy 100 Kms from Bangalore , while driving from Bangalore comes on the other side)
  • Hassan – Chickamagalur – 65 Km – 1 hr
  • Chickamagalaur –  Kolavara Heritage, 100 Km – 2 1/2 hrs
  • Kolavara Heritage – Udupi – 85 Km
  • Kolavara Heritage – Managlore – 140 Km

 

And one last thing on the history of Kolavara and mythology associated with it

View of a room at Kolavara

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Mandargiri – An ancient Jain Hill temple near Bangalore

Mandargiri, also known as Basadi Betta, is a beautiful, round hillock housing a number of Jain temples that are ~ 1000 years old. It is an important pilgrimage centre for Jains in Karnataka. Located at Tumkur District near Dobaspet it is ~ 75 Km from Bangalore. Trekking on this monolith is relatively easy as it has around 460 steps that will take you to the top of the hillock. A ten minute walk. Mandargiri is surrounded with boulders of many shapes and sizes, a haven for photographers.

We left Koramangla at 7.30AM and were fortunate to get clear roads and a blue sky – a perfect day , and reached our breakfast stop near Dobaspet at 9 AM. Shree Rathnam is a nice and efficient Veg restaurant – It has a big inviting poster and you can’t miss it. (The restaurant is located after a 10 – 15 min drive post the 2nd toll)

Mandargiri is a short 15 min drive from here – you an locate it on Google maps , lookout for a right turn that will take you thru an arch leading to the Mandargiri hillock.

We reached the place by 10 AM and spent a few hrs here. It was a bright sunny day but as you climb up the hill it gets windy. The steps are well laid out and takes less than 15 minutes – you also have the option to drive up by car across a mud path .

There are three things to see here

A Pinchi shaped 81 feet Guru Mandir – the first of its kind in Jain history. The Guru mandir is dedicated to the Digambara Jain ascetic Sri Shantinsagarji Maharaj.

The mukha mantapa next to the Pinchi has a tall statue of Chandranatha Tirthankara. Looks similar to that of Bahubali – but smaller , was installed recently in 2011.

And at the top of this hillock is a temple complex with 4 small but ancient temples that date back 800 – 1000 years. Two are dedicated to Chandranatha and the remaining two to Parsavnath.

The temples are spotlessly clean and very well maintained. there is no crowd – and remember to take the keys from the base when you go up ( Shivaraj – 8550036564 – is the caretaker). Its a nice calm serene place. 

Lock up the temple and go to the back side of the Temple complex – you will see a beautiful lake. You can be adventurous and try walking down – but the slope is steep.

The views from the top are gorgeous and so are the views from near the lake.

We did not enter the water but you can stop by the banks and admire the lily flowers

We wrapped up all we had to see and left Mandargiri by 12 noon ( we had plans to visit the Narasimha temple at Seebi – but it was late and we had to head back to Bangalore for lunch.

Lunch was at a wonderful new place called JustBe at Sadashivnagar. Its a wonderful place – pure veg , vegan , no oil cooking. The fare they served was delicious and very healthy. The enterprising smart owner of the place Nidhi dropped by and spent some time explaining to us the rationale of the place.

If you are looking for an offbeat healthy Veg restaurant – dont miss this one. Rates are very reasonable and servings are large. Ambience and aesthetics are 10/10.

We left JustBe at 2.45 and were back home at Koramangla by 3.25.


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For other fascinating day trips in and around Bangalore visit below

Explore Bangalore – 21 Curated Day Trips


Additional photos from the trip

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