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Archive for the ‘Great Escapes’ Category

Here is a quick attempt to share our experiences with the various resorts, homestays that we encounter during our many travels. If you have recently visited a resort and would like to share your experience, feel free to write to us at brian@greatescapes.co.in

Traditional map of Coorg district also known as Kodagu

Traditional map of Coorg district also known as Kodagu which is 250kms from Bangalore

A few weeks back, we managed to get the old gang together and booked a few rooms at the newly opened Club Mahindra Resort at Virajpet in Coorg. Coorg is one of the most visited tourist destinations in South India for its thick vegetation, natural beauty and rich coffee estates. Club Mahindra members get preference but non-members can book this resort too.

This swank new property is located about 15 kms outside the town of Virajpet surrounded by coffee estates and perched on hill at an incline. The lobby is located right at the top to give you a 180 degree view of the valley.

Lobby at Club Mahindra, Virajpet

With constant rains and two infants traveling with us, we managed to reach the property at around 5pm which is about 275kms from Bangalore. That was a good 9 hour drive from Bangalore which would ideally take 6 hours. Patches of the road are in bad shape once you take the detour from the Mysore – Madikeri highway but manageable. The property however was a sight for sore eyes and is very well laid out with cottages and studio apartments tucked away on one side.

Cottages at Club Mahindra, Virajpet

Cottages at Club Mahindra, Virajpet

We got lucky to be housed in the first cottage complex which meant minimum walking distance to the restaurant and entertainment centre. Yes, they have a fully furnished entertainment centre to engage both the young and the old with games like carom, table tennis, chess, air hockey along with special shows for kids during weekends.

The most important part of our holiday is food and clean accommodation and this place lives up to its reputation. All meals are buffet styled with the entire food package (breakfast, lunch and dinner) working out to about Rs 1200 – 1300 which is decent considering the huge spread they offer. We also loved their dedicated kids section where special food is offered to children in colorful cutlery. A la carte options are also available if you do not believe in buffets.

Outside seating at the restaurant

Outside seating at the restaurant in Club Mahindra, Virajpet

The cottages are spacious with a living cum kitchenette stocked with utensils, refrigerator, coffeemaker and a flat screen TV. The living room comes with a dining table and a sofa cum bed and the bedroom is also well appointed with a common balcony. This is where we spent most of our time socializing with friends or just lazing around admiring the greenery outside. (Do note that their club house is under construction and hence there is a barricade put up which kinda obstructs the view. But this should be sorted in a few months.)

Sofa cum bed in the living room

Sofa cum bed in the living room

Overall we had a relaxing time at the Club Mahindra resort with courteous staff who are always smiling. This is one property worth visiting if you are looking for some peaceful time surrounded by green cover. Non-members are charged between Rs 6800 – Rs 9000 per night depending on the time of the year and the type of accommodation. Use this link to know more about the property – http://www.clubmahindra.com/our-resorts/club-mahindra-virajpet-coorg/

You can book online via Makemytrip or booking.com but do plan in advance as there is heavy demand during weekends.

Main lobby with restaurant and entertainment area

Main lobby with restaurant and entertainment area

Greatescapes score for Club Mahindra Resort, Virajpet: 8.5/10

your escapist,

Brian

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Malabar Pit Viper_Copyright_GreatEscapes_Gowrishankar

 

GreatEscapes presents a unique Herpetology Camp, in the heart of the Western Ghats with ace Herpetologist Gowrishankar.

We invite you to participate in this one-of-a-kind camp, where you’d spend 2 days in the thick rainforests of Agumbe which receive the second highest rainfall in India, and is home to the elusive and mysterious King Cobra, the longest venomous snake in the world! Agumbe is also the location where the famous TV series Malgudi Days was shot.

As a participant, you will experience research and conservation efforts first-hand with Gowrishankar and learn about & see a variety of amphibians and endemic species found nowhere else on the planet. You will also get a chance to experience Radio Telemetry Tracking of King Cobras, which aid behavioral studies and ongoing conservation efforts.

The base camp for this camp is the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS). The camp involves trekking through pristine forests, visiting awe-inspiring waterfalls and landscapes, education sessions and viewing documentaries filmed at Agumbe.

The camp dates are 16-17 October & 30-31 October 2010 with a maximum group size of 12 – 14 participants.

The total cost of the camp is Rs. 6750 (ex-Bangalore), which includes travel charges to Agumbe and back by bus, food, accommodation and local transport within Agumbe. For further details, visit www.greatescapes.co.in

To register, call Ananth at 9945090414 or mail us at info@greatescapes.co.in

 

Agumbe Rainforest Research Station

 

Trip Itinerary:

Day 1 – Saturday (16th or 30th Oct)

Depart from Bangalore previous night to reach Agumbe in the morning and have breakfast at the Rainforest Research Station. A brief introduction to ARRS by Gowrishankar followed by a tour of the base camp. Accompany researchers on field for radio tracking King Cobras in the wild. After lunch, trek to a cave close by to look for bats and porcupines. Towards evening, head to the famous sunset point and thereafter to Doddamane – ‘Malgudi days’ house. Return to base camp for film screening followed by an interactive session with Gowri Shankar. After dinner, head out on a night walk to the stream to find interesting nocturnal animals (optional).

Day 2 – Sunday (17th or 31st Oct)

Wake up early in the morning and embark on a trek to Doddahalla through dense forest under thick canopy and rich biodiversity. Return to base camp for lunch and head out to Jogigundi waterfalls. Early dinner and depart from Agumbe on the same night to reach Bangalore on Monday morning.

*This schedule is tentative and might change depending on weather and other conditions. Higher enthusiasm levels would help in adding more activities!

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Come long weekends and our phones start buzzing continuously and inbox get flooded with mails from anxious travelers looking for a decent package for the long weekend and in this case its from May 1st to 3rd.

Many of us just wake up at the last min and decide to do a trip to some popular scenic location as they have 3 whole days to spare. But recession or no recession, almost every popular hotel, resort and homestay run full especially on weekends.

With options only from lesser known properties, travelers have to make a choice whether to take risk and try out this hotel / resort along with pressure from their family members to travel. What can one do to avoid such problems and still manage a good weekend. We have a few tips below.

Tip 1 – Plan you holiday in advance. Saves all the trouble

2 – Try booking thru reliable travel agents who sometimes hold rooms for last min bookings

3 – Do a thorough review of the hotel before you confirm on it. It could be running vacant due to its bad location / service

4 – Call popular hotels n resorts a day before for last min cancellations. If you are lucky, u could end up with a bargain

5 – Best Tip: If all else doesn’t work, then lookout for you friends n relatives who own farm houses. You could self invite yourself like we are doing this time 🙂 It works out cheaper and is much more enjoyable

http://thejoshifamily.com/blog/2004/12/realization-of-one-of-dreams-farm.html

A beautiful farm house on the outskirts of Blr which belongs to Mr Joshi & fly

happy holidayin

Team GreatEscapes

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graphGlobal slowdown or recession has affected us all either directly or indirectly. This has brought in a lot of tension and uncertainty about our future, jobs and investments that we have made so far. People are lookin at ways to cool their nerves and have taken up regular massages, going on drives or taking short holiday. But everyone has become price conscious and look for maximum value which i feel is a good practice anyday.

To help you all, we have put down a few tips & locations which can be explored without making a dent in you pocket.

Tip 1: Try and avoid travel during peak season as hotels & resorts will be charging maximum rates and will be full most of the time. Instead go there just before the season begins or just after it ends.

Tip 2: But its holiday season and you still want to travel.. then remember to book your stay well in advance so that you get a good deal. Scout for various options on the net or thru travel advisors and check their reviews on the net before booking your stay

Tip3: Look out for new resorts / hotels as they will be offering special discounts to publicize & promote their property

Tip 4: Identify locations which can be directly accessed using your own or public  transport. Else you will end up spending more on hiring local cabs etc.

Tip 5: Ask around you friend circle if they have visited the location shortlisted by you and check for local tips and approx costs. You will also get this info thru u’r relable travel agent or on the net

Tip 6: Carry a map of the location & route map if you are driving. This will help you get there quickly without deviations. Maps also carry tips of places to visit along with timings for entry into parks & lakes. You can also ask the locals for information & directions.

Tip 7: If you are a foreigner or indian, always carry cash (in local currency) as you might not find an ATM in smaller locations and end up running around looking for cash.

Tip 8: If you are driving down, fill up your car outside large cities since the fuel is cheaper there. For Ex: if your driving towards Tamil Nadu, get you fuel once u enter the border since its cheaper by Rs 2.50 when compared to Karnataka.

Tip 9: It is a myth that certain destinations are expensive. If you look hard, you will find cheaper but good options at every location. All you need is persistence and a bit of research.

Tip 10: Always carry a small notepad & camera to document unusual places & practices that you come across. You can blog about it when you get back and share it with you friends so that they can use your tips to supplement their travel.

If you have anymore tips to add pls feel free to do so.

I’ve listed a few destination which are suitable for summer travelers n budget friendly too:

  1. Yercaud, Tamil Nadu – Known as poor man’s hill station
  2. Coorg, Karnataka – Many options for homestay which are quite affordable
  3. Chikmagalur, Karnataka – Lovely mountain range with option for homestay
  4. Ooty, TN – Crowded but has many good budget hotels
  5. Wayanad, Kerala – Lot of site seeing spots & options of resorts and homestays for the budget traveler
  6. Yelagiri, TN – Mini hill station with couple of good budget options & close to Blr
  7. Nandi Hills, Karnataka – Very close to Bangalore but only govt guest house available on advance booking which is affordable.
sunst view from Yercaud

sunst view from Yercaud

ur escapist

http://www.greatescapes.co.in

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Some of you must have read stories recently and those living in this city might have felt it too.. Temperature in the city has been rising every year and we are seeing the effects of summer already in Feb. We are also reading about scanty rains this season which would otherwise give us the much needed relief.

madhugiri-02

Fortunately, there are a few options to help us cool down our nerves. Yes, head to the Hills.

Bangalore is ideally located about 150 – 250 kms from various popular hill stations in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Some of the popular names are Wayanad, Ooty / Conoor, Chikmagalur and Yercaud. These are ideally located about 4 – 5 hrs from Bangalore and has good motorable roads. There are a few more less popular locations like Yelagiri & Nandi hills which are just about 2 -3 hrs from the city.

Almost all of these locations have multiple options for accommodation from regular hotels to scenic resorts and to suit every pocket size.

So, the next time you are looking for a short break from your hectic schedule and want to chill down, just head to one of these locations and of course with a prior booking.

If you have newer locations to suggest, pls feel free to contribute. You can find the relevant article here <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Bangalore/The-heat-is-on-and-it-is-just-February/articleshow/4146529.cms&gt;

The majestic Western Ghats

The majestic Western Ghats

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Come October and you’ll see people scrambling to board any kind of transport just to get to their hometown for their festival. This time we got an opportunity to witness Durga Puja, one of the biggest festivals for bongs in India and across the globe. We went out of our territory this time to witness this much talked about festival in Kolkata.
Kaafila new afghani restaurant at Salt Lake

Kaafila new afghani restaurant at Salt Lake

Was lucky to get flight tickets during this season and as we entered the city, the whole place was abuzz with activites. Every area was busy preparing for the main event which would start from the 6th of Oct and traffic was chaotic with people running around for last min shopping. In the bargain we managed quite a bit of shopping ourselves and eating out at interesting restaurants. One restaurant i must mention is this afghani place called Kaafila in City Centre Mall at Salt Lake where we gorged on some awesome mutton dishes accompanied by traditional afghani roties.
Pandal at Salt Lake

Pandal at Salt Lake

But the highlight of the entire trip was the pandal hopping at nite. I was lucky to visit most of them one day before the actual puja and was amazed with the sights that i got to see. Months of planning and lakhs of rupees were spent to put up these beautiful structures across town. The only sad part being that these structures would be pulled down within a week.
Streets at nite during Durga Puja

Streets at nite during Durga Puja

North Kolkata Pandal

North Kolkata Pandal

Well our journey started at 10pm on the Kolkata State Tourism Bus which took us from North Kolkata to parts of south covering some very famous pandals and negotiating chaotic traffic jams.. really pity the bus driver and appreciate his patience. We had to walk many distances in small by lanes to reach most of them but the sheer sight of these structures was worth all the inconvenience. I’ve posted a few pictures below which will give you an idea of the intensity and scale of these structures. However, sometime i wish they would spend this money on developing the infrastructure of the city or the poor who are living in pathetic conditions.
Another pandal in North Kolkata

Another pandal in North Kolkata

Pandal with wood work

Pandal with wood work

Pandal with claywork

Pandal with claywork

Decorations for a pandal

Decorations for a pandal

I’m glad i was a part of this years pujo celebrations but don’t think I’ll have the patience to do it again. Would rather have a quiet celebration at home with friends n relatives with a visit to one of the pandals.
Kolkata's age old tram service

Kolkata's Tram service

Kindly comment on your experiences and thoughts

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Last week we got an opportunity to use one of them hotel vouchers in North Goa.. who can resist any opportunity to visit this lovely state. So with our backpacks we boarded a private Volvo bus which eventually left town around 10pm after a small pooja since it was a brand new bus. This driver was so careful that we reached Panjim two hours late at around 12noon, but can’t blame him completely cos parts of this road is practically non existent due to the heavy monsoon.

Not wasting any more time, we quickly grabbed a cab to Baga-Arpora (Rs 300 one way) and checked into our posh cute resort (Sun Village) which is about 2 kms from Baga. After having a very sad lunch (at the resort) we hired a Honda Activa scooter  (Rs200 per day) for the next three days and headed straight to Baga Beach – north end (where the backwaters begin) to catch the sunset. September being off season, most of the shacks are shut so our first exotic dinner was at Suza Lobo’s at Calangute which is known for its live music and tasty seafood.

Day 2 began early with a quick breakfast at the hotel (complimentary) after which we started to shop along the Baga and Calangute rd for people back home. From here we decided to travel all the way to south goa just to eat at the very famous Martins Corner. It was a good 1.5hr bike ride to this restaurant which is neatly tucked away from the main road very close to Majorda Beach (Pls get proper directions before you venture out looking for this restaurant). After having satisfied our appetite for goan food, we decided to chill at the Majorda beach which is free from people or hawkers. The weather was just perfect with mild rains every now and then, but the rain gods took mercy on us especially when we were out riding.

Another hour and half later we were back at our resort to freshen up and out before you know it. Time is of the essence and no point stayin indoors when u have this beautiful landscape all around you. Dinner was a bit different at one of the only 2 beach shacks that were open. We had a wonderful time interacting with the owner and cook of this shack until late at nite.
Our third and final day started with a positive note as we indulged in a full fledged breakfast at the resort followed by a quick dip in the pool (Be advised, its not safe to enter the pool right after consuming food). Must say that the pool was very well maintained even during off season. After exploring our resort from end to end (very few visitors do that) we headed out for some more last min shopping (wine, cashews) and for our last goan meal at Brittos. Sitting right at the beach sipping on breezers & munching on roasted prawns & fish fingers was the most relaxing moment and totally worth the trip.
Soon it was time for us to head back to the grind and our KSRTC volvo ride back was not exactly comfortable. The entire front end was rattling every time our bus went over a ditch and with the present road condition, our entire journey was sleepless. However, true to its track record we reached Bangalore bang on time regardless of the passenger comfort. This was the only sore point in our entire journey. Overall, a wonderful break especially during the monsoon.
Our 2N/3D trip cost us about 9000 Rs excluding hotel accommodation which would be worth another Rs 8000 or more for this duration.
ur escapist
ATTENTION!
This post is almost one and half yrs old and a lot has changed in GOA since. We are hearing stories of women being attacked, raped and teased on the once popular beaches of goa. Its sad to state that, this attractive holiday destination is not save for tourists anymore especially for women and young girls.
Pls read this news about a 9 yr old girl being raped by an Indian tourist here and the subsequent travel advisory by the Russian government here.
During one of our recent visit to Calangute & Baga beaches in North Goa, we observed a large influx of young males from certain central and northern states whose behavior was out of line. We saw them staring at women (foreign and indian) and hooting at them. Some even approached these women asking if they’d like to join them and tried to hold their hands.  Though we did intervene, the sheer number in their groups gave them the courage to rebel us.
The worst part was that not a single cop was in sight especially after 8pm while the beach is open all nite.
These incidences are happening more often but the government is still not waking up to this menace. Hope they get their act in place before its too late. Till then, let us all be careful when we travel to this state and always stay in groups.
Pls share your experiences here if any.

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