Archive for December, 2008

With New Year around the corner, everyone is scrambling to find the
ultimate location to welcome the new year.

We at Great Escapes bring to you the top five hotspots from South
India to celebrate the New Year based on the number of requests
received by our travelers.

Top 5 Destinations to visit this New Year – 2009
1. Masinagudi, Tamil Nadu – This quiet little town is on the top spot
for its mind blowing location with a view of the Nilgiri hills from
its many resorts spread across the foot hills of Ooty. Travelers also
have the option of taking a short ride to this famous hill station
from Masinagudi or try the jungle hike to spot some wildlife.

Masinagudi - Nilgiri Hills

Masinagudi - Nilgiri Hills

2. Coorg, Karnataka – This popular district has been the hotspot for
many travelers who keep coming back for its natural beauty. From river
rafting to elephant bathing, this small district has more to offer
than many popular destination across the country thanks to the river
Cauvery which originates from here.

Tibetian Monastry

Coorg - Byalkuppe:Tibetian Monastry

3. Wayanad, Kerala – Located adjoining the Bandipur forest range and
about 250kms from Bangalore, this everygreen mountain range is an
ideal getaway from the hustle n bustle of daily life. Stay at one of
the many resorts amidst thick palm and coffee plantations and enjoy
the fresh cool breeze right thru the day.

Wayanad mountain range

Wayanad mountain range

4. Baga Beach, Goa – Undoubtedly the best place to party anytime of
the year, but with the clamp down by police on beach parties, this
location has slipped down to the 4th spot. Goa still manages to
attract crowd from across the globe with some of the best DJ’s playing
at the popular hotspots across North Goa. For a quiet celebrations,
head toward the south and stayover at one of the many homestays or
boutique resorts.

Goa - Baga Beach

Goa - Baga Beach

5. Chikmagalur, Karnataka – Chikmagalur is a fantastic weekend getaway
from Bangalore – far from the madding crowd and a perfect refuge from
the hustle bustle of the city. A couple of old friends and I wanted to
experience a ‘good drive’ and spend the night at a place with ‘no
mobile range’, a little bit of monsoon showers and nature.

Chikmagalur forest

Chikmagalur forest

Team GreatEscapes wishes you all a very Happy New Year 2009

Dance, Drink, Party hard but use a driver to get back home

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Alexandria, as I mentioned before, is a good place for you to start your sightseeing in Egypt. It does not have too many places that can be classified under ‘must-see’s’ and hence does not really warrant a trip back and forth from Cairo (where a lot of other flights land).


The winner in the Alexandria ‘must-visit’ list is the airport! Yep, you heard right. This quaint little single block building is probably only a little bit bigger than your neighbourhood McDonald’s and definitely old-world. (though the exterior has been spruced up). Manual checking of luggage seems all the rage while the single luggage X-ray track is largely ignored by the Egyptians and is only availed of by us ‘foreigners’. With a single flight landing and taking off in a day – the funniest part was watching all the airport officials pack up and leave for the day once we were done with our immigration formalities.


Again – be very careful about getting duped by the cabs standing near the airport. Our cab guy asked for about 250 LE (Egyptian Pound) for a trip from the airport – catacombs – city railway station with an hours wait at the catacombs. We brought it down to 180 or so and were off on our way feeling really proud of our bargaining skills. Little did we know that we had ended up paying about 100 LE extra!


The Catacombs lie in the district of Karmouz to the east of Alexandria and are a maze of underground burial chambers with the main chamber containing three sarcophagi. The cemetery dates back to the 1st century A.D and consists of levels cut into the rock containing a staircase, a banquet hall (where relatives of the dead supposedly met for feasts!), a vestibule, an antechamber and the burial chamber with three recesses in it. Though most of the chambers look like holes in the wall, the main chamber is an interesting visit with its carvings of the Sun God (Amon-Ra –you’l here a lot about this dude in my next post) as well as the Anubis – a famous Egyptian figure that is half man and half jackal (Remember them from The Mummy Returns?). You don’t really need a guide for this. If you are very keen on knowing the nitty-gritties then just hover within hearing distance of some of the other groups who have guides and shamelessly eavesdrop (the key being to look rather disinterested in what they are saying).


After a brief visit we stopped for our very first sip of authentic Arabian ‘chai’, hot and sweet, at this roadside café appropriately painted with Pharaoh images. You will get to see identical such cafes peppering all the roads of Egypt – with small wooden tables and chairs, lots and lots of sheesha and men who seem to have all the time in the world!

A typical cafe in Alexandria, Egypt

A typical cafe in Alexandria, Egypt

For those who want to linger…my friends have recommended a visit to the ancient library. Once the largest library in the ancient world – today only a modern emulation of it can be found near the original site. We however, took off for the station…on our way to Cairo (more about that in my fourth and final post)

Contributed by Payal

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An annual festival of Bangalore where mounds and mounds of groundnuts take centre stage at a two day fair celebrated at the historical Bull Temple in Basavanagudi. This year its held on 21st and 22nd of November 2011.

The Bull Temple houses the Nandi bull revered as the vehicle of Shiva. Legend has it that this temple was built to appease a bull called Basava that would raid the fields and destroy the crops just before the harvest in and around Basavanagudi, which was then known as Sankenahalli, a village predominantly surrounded by groundnut fields, thus causing a lot of apathy to the farmers.


Once this temple was built, it is said that the bull stopped damaging the crop and the grateful farmers gathered to offer prayers for the  protection of their crops and pledged to make a symbolic offering of groundnuts to the idol. The tradition continues even to this day and the Kadalekai Parishe is held on the last Monday of the Kartika Masa. Groundnut farmers across Karnataka and the neighboring states come here and offer their crop of groundnuts to the idol of the bull (Nandi). On the first day of the festival, the Maharudrabhisheka is held at 6.30 a.m. at the Basavanagudi temple followed by a Mahamangalarathi at 9.30 a.m. and a Deeparadhana at 6.30 p.m.


During the fair that is held for two days the entire temple complex and the surrounding areas are decorated and have a festive atmosphere . One can witness the hustle and bustle of people throughout the day enjoying and witnessing the fanfare with balloons, merry go rounds, sweet stalls and heaps and heaps of groundnuts spread across the street. The festival also provides the rural folk a platform to showcase their talent at makeshift stalls. The groundnut sellers mainly come here to make money. All kinds of groundnuts are sold here; usually the purchases are made in bulk. But every devotee who comes to the temple makes it a point to buy groundnuts on their way back home. This is truly a festival for the farmer where he can directly come and sell his produce to the people and make money.


Even if you do not want to buy groundnuts, one has to feel and see the place during the festival which is filled with people from all walks of life.

This blog entry is contributed by Bengaluru ParisheBangalore’s first online magazine you can check the online magazine at www.bengaluruparishe.com

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This blog has been due for a while. But you know how it is…you start on something and then you get lazy and just keep pushing it to tomorrow.

But I decided I’d better pen some lines on my dream trip while the memories of gorgeous Egypt is still fresh in my mind. My husband and I had gone there for our first wedding anniversary and I intend to go back again to really explore the place!

For the convenience of the readers I’m gonna divide this blog in to 4 parts. In this entry I will be talking about a general overview of the country – how to get there, how to get around, the moolah required, food you can try out and so on…

We took Air Arabia and landed in Alexandria via Sharjah. If you have the money to spare you can look at Emirates or Oman Air…those land in Cairo directly. But I wouldn’t recommend those because for one, I think the money is better spent on sightseeing (and believe me entry fees in Egypt are rather steep) and for another…you get to spend half a day seeing Alexandria instead of having to travel there from Cairo and back again.

Getting around in Egypt is not a problem. Alexandria is connected to Cairo by local trains that leave every 2 hours and you reach Cairo in 3 hours max – and once there getting around is a ball! The entire city is criss-crossed by a huge network of metros and if you’re willing to leg it a little to and fro the stations then you can get from anywhere to anywhere in the city in just 1 LE!

(*LE – Egyptian Pound – 1 LE = Rs 10)

If you have the time and the energy to haggle with the cabs and trudge thru city traffic – well then cabs are a plenty! But the country makes its living from tourists and someone is always trying to rip you off! So before you hire anything make sure you ask them the price and then quote like 1/4th of that. Better still – catch hold of some friendly local and ask him the costs before approaching cabbies/shops/guides or anything remotely connected to tourism!

Food’s not a problem if you’re not fussy. I’m a die hard non-vegetarian and believe it or not…I spent most of my time tripping on this yumm veggie dish called Koshery. Made out of noodles, rice, pasta, humus, peas, lentils and a spicy tomato puree – this is supposed to be the original Egyptian fast food! Other than that this is a nation obsessed with bread –they have bread for breakfast, bread for lunch and surprise surprise – bread for dinner! It’s not as bad as it sounds though. The bread comes in interesting variations, different stuffing’s and of course some unpronounceable names! But all worth trying out!

Their other obsession is with Amitabh Bachhan! Yup you got it right! When you’re in Egypt you will be called by one of these two names – ‘India’ or AB’. They even sell his old movie DVD’s on the streets! Very amusing that!

The weather when we went there (mid Nov) was great. Sunny mornings with a nice breeze and pleasantly cool evenings just added to the charm of the trip.

We didn’t take a package tour as most of us traveling to that part of the world would, instead we decided to explore on our own. Trust me, there are pages and pages of information on the net and all you need to do is put them together including train schedules, fares, site seeing spots and much more. Infact, we booked this hotel called King Tut’s Hostel thru the net and it was one of the best things to happen to us.

Well, I’m pretty much done with the first part. Do look out for my next post on Alexandria and Luxor.

Part II: Alexandria

Contributed by Payal

King Tut's Hostel in Downtown, Cairo

King Tut's Hostel in Downtown, Cairo

Khane El Khalili Market in Cairo & Sand Art

Khane El Khalili Market in Cairo & Sand Art

Egyptian fast food called Koshery.. yummy

Egyptian fast food called Koshery.. yummy

The great Pyramids n Sphinx at Giza

The great Pyramids n Sphinx at Giza

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Every one looks forward to Christmas, the colorful festival on the 25th of December which heralds the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger. This is one festival which is celebrated by almost everyone who takes pride in putting up a Christmas tree and decorating it with lots of lovely bells and stars. Gifts for the entire family and friends are packed and kept under this tree and given away on the 25th. This season also brings out many small and large choir groups who sing songs and carols at public gatherings across the city.


This year, Christmas season is special for Bangaloreans with St Mark’s Cathedral, the landmark building on MG Road celebrating its bicentennial year. This striking building built in Victorian style was founded in 1808 was modeled on the lines of London’s 17th century St. Paul’s Cathedral and was consecrated in 1816 by the Bishop of Calcutta. The church is named after St. Mark, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, who was believed to have been the first Gospel writer. It was initially meant for worship by high ranking British officers and later civilians were allowed. Even today, a joint service is held every November by chiefs of staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force on Remembrance Day and this is a very colorful and solemn service.


As you enter this beautiful colonial structure, you will find a graceful dome over a semicircular chancel that transports you almost immediately into tranquility. The stained glass windows, marble altar, imposing pillars within and the porch of grand columns, richly carved doors and gilded stars decorating it on the inside, make for a perfect place for worship. The compound also boasts of numerous plants and fruit bearing trees along with a small fountain which adds to the beauty of this place. If you haven’t visited this place yet, you are missing something.

Rev Vincent Rajkumar, the Presbyter of the cathedral, says that the cathedral, which started out as an Anglican church, had become part of the Church of South India (CSI) in 1947 and in 1961 it became the Mother Church of Karnataka Central Diocese.

St. Mark’s Cathedral with its stylish address of #1, MG Rd, has become quite a draw among the city’s musicians too, thanks to its fabled pipe organ which is the largest in South India. Installed in 1920, the magnificent instrument was in a state of disrepair for several decades. The cathedral started using it again after a team of Swedish experts repaired it at a cost of Rs. 50 lakhs. Churches like St. George’s Cathedral and St. Andrew’s Church in Chennai have taken inspiration and have started restoring their pipe organs too!


The church is processing a proposal with the Postal department for Commemorative stamps. The Reverend is planning big, hoping the President will grace the culmination of the celebration. For more information, please visit the Cathedral’s website at www.saintmarks.in

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Marvanthe Beach Drive Dec 2008

Well it had been couple of months since I had been to Mangalore, so I thought I’ll do a short post on how my last weekend drive was.

It was a bleak Sunday evening when we decided to rid ourselves of boredom and make a trip to Mangalore. Though only 360 kms from Bangalore, somehow, it was time we went on a drive as a group indulging and enjoying the scenery and firmly believing in the drive rather than the destination.

Before I get on to what the weekend drive to maravnthe was let me introduce my travel mates. Starting from the top left is Anjali, Ramya, Sridhar, Shalini, Silky, myself, Shenoy, Subbu, Jo, Sirish and Shyamoly (missing)

The Gang

It all started when a bunch of us sat to decide on what the weekend plans should be like. I was not too keen when “Mangalore drive” popped out as an option…being from Mangalore myself…thought Mangalore wouldn’t show the charm it once had, there wasn’t much to Mangalore except those dirty looking beeches with whole lot of construction work, pathetic roads, thought all this on a steaming day was a waste of time. But there stood shenoy… I remember the smile and the look on his face when he said “ill show u the Mangalore uve never seen before”… for one thing I was very sure…if it was shenoy planning it would undoubtedly be good…

So we left on Saturday morning at 3.30 AM…3 cars (a Zen Estilo, a Swift and a Honda city) 11 people were ready to hit NH-48 from Nelmangala circle which goes straight to Mangalore, this circle is 16km from Bangalore on Tumkur Road (NH-4). NH-48 goes straight to Mangalore via Hassan (190km from Bangalore) and Sakleshpur. We didn’t take the straight road. Instead we took the Bangalore-tumkur road with some pit stops in between until we reached Jog falls through shimoga and Sagar – a total distance from Bangalore of about 380kms.

The great jog had lost all its appeal since there was little water than we had expected. After Jog, we took the Honnavar road, and the drive was good with exceptional scenic beauty with ghats all around and kishore kumar playing. It was wonderful.

Rejuvenated, we continued along the highway and soon entered Honnavar and took NH-17 towards Murudeshwar. It was turning out to be a Mangalore via North Kanara trip. Once on NH-17, we drove on for 25kms till we reached Murdeshwar. With the skies clearing, the beauty of the surrounding seaside was a sight to behold.

Since we started early in the morning, by the time we reached Murdeshwar, it was almost 5PM – we had already been on the road for over 13-odd hours. And at this time with the approaching twilight, the beauty of the beach was beyond description


Many people are aware of the temple’s existence, so you are not alone to pray and spend some peaceful and serene moments all by yourself. Even before you see the temple, you are welcomed by a prominent restaurant by the beachside.

Largest Shiva statue in the country
Largest Shiva statue in the country

But by the time we were through marvelling over the place, the sky was darkening and we had to be content with a few glimpses in passing by these sites. Reluctantly, we made up our minds to stroll down the beach to capture the sunset.

Sunset at Maravanthe
Sunset at Murdeshwar

Next stop was Trasi beach at Maravanthe (in Udupi dist., 45 kms from Murdeshwar on NH-17), where all three – beach, road and river – run parallel!! Situated a short 5 minute-drive from this beach is the Turtle Bay resort we spent the night at. It’s easy to miss Turtle Bay if you don’t know where to look. Since we did have the expert, who had been there before, we were given the right directions.


An evening at the beach with friends and some chilled beer and some vodka was simply what I had dreamt off! At 9pm the resort attendants offered us some beach refreshment. We ordered Pomfret rava fry, Surmai masala fry, Prawns dry and Prawns Masala and Chicken. A little on the spicy side, but we loved it.….. After refreshments we again went to the beach and stayed there till 1am.

Beach at Turtle Bay

We woke up at 6.30 in the morning the next day. It was a fine sunny morning. Had some fun at the beach. On a Sunday morning life seemed to be at a standstill in the even otherwise quiet town. Got back to the resort and had our breakfast and set out for Bangalore at 11.

Driving down NH 17 is a truly blue trip… A view of the Arabian Sea on one side of the road glistening in the sun and the serene Souparnika River on the other side. A few resorts dot this virgin beach.

Turtle Bay Beach

On the way back stopped at Kapu and went to see the lighthouse. Its quiet a different experience! We were spellbound to see the beauty of this place from the foot of the lighthouse, on top of the rocks. Rocks + coconut trees + a nice beach made this place a visitor’s delight. It can’t be explained by words one has to be there to relish its beauty.

The day was sunny and bright and we were enjoying driving under the warm sun leisurely. But the drive back was a bit of a pain in the arse, Sridhar was driving and ive never heard the number of s***’s and F***’s ever on a single day… You will curse yourself for having decided to drive through that road…on a long drive, with pothole strewn roads, we settled at roadside stall for a cup of chai... The roads were a mess we agreed and subbu warned us, “Just wait till you see the roads until you reach sakleshpur”.

If I ever complained about the roads in Bangalore, I take back all my complaints. One must be happy with what one gets. What used to be a 45 minute drive has stretched into a neat 2 hr ordeal. Those manganese and iron ore laden over loaded bloody trucks ought to be taken off these roads! Never again will I crib about the state of bad roads in this city.

This is probably my nth trip to Mangalore. But this time, it had been a city in transit and never quite the destination. It is a city that I’ve seen in bits and pieces and this time it was no exception.

Next time you are in and around Mangalore do make it a point to visit Maravanthe and Kapu, and stay at Turtle Bay. If not for anything just to experience stillness, you can do that peacefully without being pushed around...Spend as much time as you want in peaceful surroundings listening to the some nice music, read a book and admiring nature. You will realize how miniscule we are compared to what else is there in the Universe. I am glad I made the trip. It was a wonderful experience will love to repeat the same trip once again. At the end of the trip our cars Odo reading was 1065km and now back to the grind of everyday life.

Posted by

Flavia Leedya Pereira


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Terrorism in India is spreading every passing day. There are terror attacks in all major cities of the nation. Every heart is crying. Everyone is worried about their security while going out somewhere.

Recent serial attacks in various locations of India have affected our daily lifestyle, and a negative affect on Indian economy and its future growth. Another industry that is partially affected after the recent Mumbai terrorist attacks is Tourism especially 3 star and 5 star properties located in metros. Today, you could get lucky with great bargains on room rentals or food n beverages with up to over 50% reduction on the rack rates.

Another reason for this drop is the global slowdown which began in the United States and slowly cascaded onto other countries who have strong trade relations with US. People have become cost conscious with the tightening of jobs and cutting down of perks and benefits.

Analysts predict that this drop in demand will last for atleast a month and should ease down sometime early Jan. Others feel that the extent of damage is much greater and will recover only after 6-8 months.

Tourism overall hasn’t see the kind of slowdown that other industries have witnessed. People still look out for that break to go someplace far from the maddening crowd and relax their nerves in the lap of nature. Guess, this is crucial nowadays with the added pressure at work to sustain revenues during the time of recession.

Another trend i’ve seen is that people have started looking out for Indian holidays and scrapping their international travel plans for the time being be it Thailand, Andamans, Singapore or Malaysia. Many who had planned to celebrate the New Year’s Eve abroad are now hunting for cheaper Indian destinations which has boosted the demand for popular New Year destinations like Goa, Kumarakom, Varkala, Munnar, Masinagudi and the likes.

So if you haven’t planned your Nyears outing, then better get onto to it rite now else your girlfriend / wife / husband will be pretty upset with you 😉

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