Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Coorg Pictures

Photographs taken during my visit to Coorg - Read my travelogue here

Monday, February 16, 2009

Goa Sight Seeing - Beaches, Forts, Churches, Shopping

Some of the places we visited on our Goa trip

Palolem Beach - Rated among the World's top 10 beaches, Palolem beach is indeed a lovely beach. The beach is crescent shaped and you can see rocks jutting out of the sea. It is for the most part unspoilt and is inhabited by local fisher folks and foreign travelers who live in bamboo huts or shacks along the seashore. The shacks are aplenty. You will find them all along the coast in Palolem. We opted to stay in bamboo huts. The place where we stayed was called “Coco Huts”.

The easiest way to reach Palolem is to State Transport Bus from Margao Bus Stand to Canacona or Palolem. The journey is around 1.5 hours. You can also hire a cab or take an auto if you are game for adventure. From Canacona it is 4-5 kms drive to Palolem.

At night the whole coast is lit up. You have all kinds of cuisine on offer. You can have your meals on the shore in candle light. Some shacks also have hookahs. Liquor flows freely. Music is everywhere. Overall, it is a nice place to chill out.

Old Goa – is famous for its churches. The churches are associated to different congregations, including the Se Cathedral, the church of St Francis of Assisi, the Church of S. Caetano, and notably, the Basilica of Bom Jesus which contains the incorruptible body of Saint Francis Xavier.

We also visited the Hanuman temple is Old Goa.

The Church of Mary Immaculate Conception is one of the earliest churches built in Goa. Located at the heart of Panaji, this grand church is a well-known landmark of the city.

Cruise on Mandovi River - Cruise on the Mandovi River is an enjoyable and lovely experience. There are number of cruise operators - Goa Tourism Development Corporation and a multitude of local operators. There are also various cruise options to choose from - Daytime, Sunset and Moonlight.
We opted for the Sunset cruise. The cruise was fun. There was music on the cruise. Professional artists perform the traditional dances of Goa like Fugdi and Shigmo. Many visitors also joined in the dance. There was a dance floor in the lowermost deck. Food was served in the middle deck. The cruise lasted 1-1.5 hours and was worth the fare.

Aguada Fort - Built in 1612 to protect the northern shores of the Mandovi estuary from Dutch and Maratha raiders, Aguada Fort is home to several natural springs. It is the first source of drinking water available to ships arriving in Goa after the long sea voyage from Lisbon. When we went here some movie shooting was in progress. There are lot of water sports facilities around this place.

Anjuna Beach – Anjuna is known as the hippie capital of Goa – home to trance music, late night parties and drugs. It is also home to the weekly flea market. Traders and vedors arrive from all parts to sell their ware. You need to bargain, bargain and bargain to get a good deal. The beach here was rocky.

Chapora Fort – Around 10 kms from Mapusa, near the Anjuna beach is the Chapora Fort. This huge fort built out of red laterite stones was constructed by the ruler of Bijapur, Adil Shah. Hence it was named Shahpura, which then became Chapora.
Mostly in ruins today, the fort offers a spectacular view of the Vagator and the Anjuna beach. Parts of the movie “Dil Chahta Hai” were shot here.

Mandrem Beach - The Mandrem beach is situated in the north towards the Arambol beach. It is an isolated beach with vast stretches of empty sand that has very little shade There are a few hut camps though.

Calangute Beach – also called the “Queen of beaches” is nestled between the beaches of Baga and Candolim . It is by far the most visited beach in Goa and you will find everything here - Yummy food, shopping, entertainment, water sports and a wide variety of accommodation. We put up at a homestay in Calangute for 2 days and enjoyed the stay. Bikes are available on hire. You can visit the nearby beaches on bike.

Details of places where we stayed while in Goa can be found at the following links:

Colmar Beach Resort

Goa Beach Guest House

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mount Abu - The lone hill station in Rajasthan

Mt Abu, the only hill station in the state of Rajasthan is the highest peak in the Aravalli Ranges and is located at an altitude of 1200m.

The highest peak here is the Guru Shikar, which has a temple of Guru Dattatreya. At a little distance is another peak on which stands the temple of Ahilya, the mother of Dattatreya. The view from Guru Shikar is spectacular. To reach Guru Shikar you need to travel around 7kms on the Dilwara-Achalgad Road.

Mt Abu is also famous for the Jain temples, the most famous being the Dilwara Jain temple. The temple like other Jain temples has exquisite marble carvings. It looks simple form outside but the interiors are beautifully carved - the work of extremely skilled artisans.

There are five main sections inside the temple.
1. Sri Mahavir Swami Shrine- devoted to Lord Mahavir.
2. Sri Adinath Shrine - this is the oldest of all the sections and is dedicated to Sri Adinath, the first Jain teerthankar.
3. Sri Parsavanath Shrine - devoted to lord Parsavanath and has four mandapas.
4. Peetalhar Shrine - called so because most of the statues here were built with "peetal” - brass. This temple is dedicated to Sri Rishabhdaoji
5. The Luna Vasahi Shrine - dedicated to Lord Nemi Nath. An unique feature of this temple is the "Rag Mandapa" which houses 360 tiny idols of Jain tirthankaras.
The temple is open to public from 12-3pm. Jains can visit it in the morning session too. No entry fees. Cameras and mobiles are not allowed inside. Hence, I could only get a picture of the temple from the outside.

Achalagad Fort - Enroute to Guru Shikar, around 7 kms from Mt Abu town is the Achalgad fort which was built by Rana Kumbha of Mewar. It houses several Jain temples and the Kaninath temple.

Another temple - the Achleshwar temple near the foothills of Achalgad is famous for the Nandi which it houses. The Nandi is made up of 5 metals(Panchdhatu) and is said to weigh more than 4 tonnes.

Nakki Lake - situated within walking distance of the main market in Mt Abu, is a picturesque spot. Surrounded by rocky hills, it is the favorite spot for families and visitors to spend their evenings.
Legend has it that the Devatas dug this lake up with their nails (nakh) hence it got the name Nakki lake :)

There are many temples in Mt Abu in addition to the Jain temples. There is the Adhar Devi temple, the Raghuntah ji temple and the Durga temple. The world headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris is also located in Mt Abu.

Trevor’s Tank - Around 5 kms from Mt Abu market is the Trevor's tank built by a British engineer with the same name.

At Trevor’s Tank you can spend time relaxing at the tank. The tank was used once upon a time to breed crocodiles. You can trek up to the vantage viewpoints inside the park.

If you are lucky you might spot some birds. We saw lot of cages, which were no longer in use. Trevor’s Tank forms a part of the Wild life sanctuary in Mt Abu.

Evenings can be spent at the Sunset Point. There was a mad rush to reach the Sunset point and it looked like that the entire residents of Mt Abu had converged on the Sunset Point. Lot of hawkers selling corn-of-cob, chat items, roasted groundnuts, fruits, popcorn dot the stretch to the Sunset point. The Sunset point itself was not very spectacular. Can give it a miss.

Instead you can go to the Anadara Point which looked less freqented by visitors and offered a good view.

There are numerous eateries in Mt Abu - from the roadside vendors to the star hotels. Same goes for accommodation too.

Bikes are available on hire. While hiring bikes make sure you take just sufficient fuel. If needed carry extra fuel in a bottle so that you can return it if not used. Once you fill up the fuel tank and incase you haven’t been able to use up the fuel, they don’t refund the money.

There are lot of options for Shoppers too - from the bargain shopping to the luxury malls.

Overall a nice place to spend a couple of days.

Tourist Reception Center
Opp. Bus Stand,
Tel : 02974-3151
Tourist Information Counter
Railway Station, Abu Road

Tuesday, February 10, 2009