Posts Tagged ‘Great Escapes’

The tourism and forest departments of BJP-governed Karnataka plans to launch terror tourism, based on the life and trails of forest brigand Veerappan, shot down by a special police team in 2004.

Veerappan with his band of men Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Tourism Director K Vishwanatha Reddy said construction of ecotourism facilities, including solar electrification, is at an advanced stage in Veer-appan’s village, Gopinatham, 200 km from Bangalore.
A trekking scheme, called Mystery Trails, will be part of the package for high-end and mid-rung tourists.

“Mystery Trails aims to explore the myths surrounding the brigand, his hideouts, escape routes and harsh living conditions,” said Deputy Conservator of Forests Narayan Swamy. “People would surely like to know what were the incidents that took place.

The “incidents” during Veerappan’s 20-year reign of terror across 6,000 sq km of forests in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, included the killing of 184 people, many of them police and forest officials, smuggling of sandalwood worth Rs 103 crore, and poaching of at least 200 elephants.

Western Ghats bordering Karnataka, Kerala & Tamil Nadu was dominated by Veerappan until his death

Source: Hindustantimes.com

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Those of you who have never set foot in India, this book will probably give you an idea of where the country is heading and what we have achieved so far.

Thanks to the media and movies like Slumdog Millionaire, all you get to see is poverty, suffering and the likes. Well, there is more to this country than you can imagine.

Like the books says, you will find the latest technology and gadgets at the most competitive prices. India has the lowest mobile phone tariffs in the world and is probably one of the largest consumer of computers and flat screen TV’s. You will probably find almost all global brands being sold here with half of them being produced out of our garment factories in Bangalore and chennai. We are also spending a lot on international travel (Europe and Asia Pacific region) which was evident during global recession last yr. All this and more should give you an idea of where we are and what’s in store for the future.

So, if you need a break and want to experience something completely different, then head to India with an empty bag and I promise that you will return with goodies and memories to last a lifetime.

Here is an intro to Tom’s book.

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Was eagerly lookin out for a chance to visit this beautiful and colorful state of Rajastan for a long time but wasn’t lucky until last week. Got an opportunity to do a quick 2 day trip to Jaipur which is about 4 hrs by road from Delhi and about an hour’s flight from Mumbai.

Before we set out on any trip, we do thorough research on the destination and prepare a handout which becomes our guide during the trip. I did work on something similar for this trip too and came back and added more facts to it. So here is a fact sheet on Jaipur straight from what I had put together.

Airport – The new terminal where SpiceJet and GoAir lands is simple but clean and is about 13 – 14kms from city centre. There are government approved cabs and pre-paid cabs which cost anywhere from Rs 300 to Rs 400 but the cheapest service is a radio cab called Meri Car – 0141 4188888. You need to call them at 1 – 2 hrs in advance and give you exact time of arrival and a Maruti 800 will come pick you up. They charge Rs 25 for first 2 kms and Rs 10 per km thereafter along with airport parking charge of Rs 60. This will still work out to about Rs 230 or less and is quite reliable. You return to the airport will come to about Rs 160 as there is no parking to be paid. These cabs are also useful if you want to travel distances within the city.

Railway Station and Bus Stand – they are rite in the heart of the city and close to popular localities.

Local Transport

The city is not very huge and you can cover one part to the other in less than 7 – 9 kms.

Auto rickshaw is quite common but you will need to fix a fare before you get on. They are a bit expensive compared to other cities and charge from Rs 20 for min distance to Rs 40 for 3kms and so on. You will need to do a bit of bargaining with them as well.

Pull charts are also available especially in the Pink city area and are suitable for smaller distances. They are quite cheap and hand drawn by humans which is the saddest part.

I do not recommend local buses as they are quite crowded and tough to understand the route they take.


Jaipur has various types of accommodation from 5 star properties to budget and homestays in ancient bungalows. If you can afford to blow some cash then try and book in one of the renovated palaces which are converted into a hotel. For the budget conscious traveler, try and book yourself at a nice home stay in an ancient colonial house. Popular areas are Bani Park, MI Rd, Sansarchandra Marg & Ajmeri Marg. You will find good clean accommodation starting from Rs 500 per head for bed and breakfast and can go upto Rs 10,000 per nite.

Site seeing: you can either take the Rajasthan Government run packages which is the cheapest and best option or rent an autorickshaw to cover the hot spots (Rs 400 to Rs 500) or hire a cab (Rs 700 – Rs 900). They usually start at 9 and finish by 5pm.

Indian entries are normally quite affordable but foreigners have to pay a hefty amount at all these locations.

¤ HAWA MAHAL – built in 1799, by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, is the most recognizable monument of Jaipur. The 5 storied stunning semi-octagonal monument having 152 windows with over hanging latticed balconies is a fine piece of Rajput architecture. Originally designed for the royal ladies to watch and enjoy the processions and other activities, on the street below. Now it houses a well laid out museum. The display “Jaipur past and present” is the special feature of this newly setup museum. Timing 10.00 to 16.30 hrs, Entry Fee Rs. 30.00: Phone: 2618862

Outside view of Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Corridors at Hawa Mahal

¤ CITY PALACE AND S.M.S. II MUSEUM – situated in the heart of the old City, it occupies about one seventh of the old city area. The palace is a blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture, it houses a Seven storeyed Chandra Mahal in the centre, which affords a fine view of the gardens and the city. Diwan-E-Am (Hall of public audience) has intricate decorations and collection of manuscripts, Diwan-E-Khas (Hall of private audience) has a marble pawed gallery Mubarak Mahal has a rich collection of costumes and textiles. There is a Clock Tower near Mubarak Mahal. Sileh Khana has a collection of armory and weapons. Timing 9.30 to 16.45 hrs. Entry Fee for Indians Rs. 40.00 and for foreigners Rs.150.00 inclusive of entry to Jaigarh fort, Phone: 2608055. Camera is charged at Rs 50.00

City Palace and Museum

Decorated door at the City Palace, Jaipur

¤ JANTAR MANTAR (Observatory) – built in 18th century by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the huge masonary instruments were used to study the movement of constellations and stars in the sky. Enormous sun-dial still provide accurate time, which are subject to daily corrections. Timing 9.00 to 16.30 hrs, Entry Fee Rs. 20.00, Phone: 2610494

Ancient scientific marvel - Jantar Mantar

¤ JAIGARH FORT – (15 kms.) standing on a hilltop, overlooking the palaces and city of Amer. The world’s biggest cannon on wheels- the Jai Ban is positioned here, built during reign of Maharaja Sawai Jaisingh. It has a twenty feet long barrel and pumped in the cannon for a single shot. Timing 10.00 to 16.45 hrs, Entry Fee for Indians Rs. 20.00 & for foreigners Rs. 20.00, Phone: 2630848

¤ AMER – The old capital of the Kachhwahas stands atop a range of craggy hills. The fort is remarkable as much for the majestic grandeur of its surroundings as for its sturdy battlements and beautiful palaces. It is a fine blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. The solemn dignity of it red sandstone and white marble pavilions, when reflected in the lake at the foot hill, is a sight to behold. The original palace was built by Raja Man Singh, the additional extensions were built by Maharaja Mirja Raja Jai Singh and Sawai Jai Singh lIthe last Maharaja of Amer, who built a new city called Jaipur, where he shfted his capital in 1727.

The majestic Amer Fort outside Jaipur

The palace complex is lavishly ornamented and displays the riches of Amer. Sheesh Mahal chamber of Mirrors. Diwan-e-Am or the Hall of Public Audience is a beautifully proportioned hall open on three sides and stands on two rows of ornamented pillars. Diwan e-Khas or the Hall of Private Audience has delicate mosaic work in glass. Sukh mandir is guarded by sandalwood doors inlaid with ivory. Throughout the massive fort finely carved lattice windows, exquisitely painted doorways, halls and finely sculptured pillars crave for attention.

Inside Amer Fort

The old city of Amer was the seat of power and bustling with life and prosperity. Other worth seeing sites are Jagat Shiromani Temple, Narsinghji temple, the stepwell of Panna Meena and fine carved royal cenotaphs on the road to Delhi. Timing: 9.00 to 16.30 hrs. Entry Fee For Indians Rs. 15.00, For Foreigners Rs. 50.00, Phone: 2530293, Elephant ride charge Rs. 400.00 (inclusive of all taxes) Timing : 8.00 to 16.00 hrs, Phone: 2530264 (Tourist Office).

¤ NAHARGARH FORT – (15 kms.) cresting a hill about 600 ft. above the city, the fort was built in 1734. The walls of the fort run along the ridge and within are architectural beauties like Hawa Mandir and Madhvendra Bhawan. Timing 10.00 to 16.00 hrs, Entry Fee Rs. 5.00, Phone: 5148044

Chokhi Dhani, Tonk Road – This is an ethnic rajasthani village set up by a star hotel which creates a rustic ambiance. Located about 20kms outside the city beyond the airport, this is definitely a must visit during the evenings. Local villagers showcase their skills and handicrafts along with horse and camel rides. We booked a cab for this visit as its tough to find transportation for your return journey.

Chowki Dhani - A must visit in Jaipur

Entry fee is mainly for the ethnic vegetarian rajasthani food that is served at The Village which costs Rs 350 and is definitely worth the experience.

A Village setup in Chowki Dhani

You also have an option of dining in one of the open air posh restaurants outside the village complex.

A posh restaurant in Chowki Dhani

Pink City – Another must visit location for roadside shopping is the pink city area of Jaipur. You can enter thru one of the 4 main gates for different types of shopping. Ajmeri Gate is famous for its leather accessories while Johuri Bazaar for jewelery.

One should also visit LMB, Jaipur’s most famous sweet and snack joint inside Pink city on Johuri Marg and try the famous Paneer Ghewal or other spicy snacks.

Pubs & other Hangouts

  1. Reds – MI Rd
  2. Clarkes
  3. EP – Entertainment Paradise

So the next time you have about 6 -8 days off, just pack your bags and head to Rajasthan n cover Jaipur, Jodpur, Jaisalmer and the likes. Oh and don’t forget to visit the Antique Car’s museum while your there.

ur escapist


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The Golden Chariot luxury train winds its way through the fascinating worlds of Karnataka. Worlds enriched with unique customs and cultures. Worlds frozen in time. Worlds that blend graciously the glory of the past with the magic of today! It’s Karnataka – after all. Here’s a brief run down on the escapes you’ll be visiting on your dream train sojourn.

Bangalore – A bustling metropolis
The silicon valley of India is unique. It’s modern; it’s traditional – at the same time. Historically, the city finds mention in an inscription as old as 900 CE. Technologically, there’s no city as advanced as Bangalore is. No wonder, the city boasts of third most populous city of India.

Explore Vidhan Soudha, the splendid structure used as legislative house for Karnataka assembly; Tipu’s Palace, the summer retreat of Tipu Sultan; Lal Bagh, the most romantic garden in India and MG Road, a bustling market street in the town.

Kabini – A wildlife park
Known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, this retreat is wildlife enthusiasts’ paradise. Little streams, waterfalls, glens and glades make this heaven an ideal retreat to unwind. The sight of wild animals is only a bonus. You’ll get to see elephants, gaurs, sambars, chitals, wild boars and, of course, tigers. Ornithologists, bring extra batteries for your camera as the Park plays host to 300 species of birds.

Mysore – A royal city
Mythical connection of Mysore with demons and goddesses will surely make you hanker for the city. The royal city remained capital of Vijaynagar Empire. Today resplendent palaces, verdant gardens, tree-fringed boulevards, magnificent buildings and sacred temples grace the skyline of the city. Sights of interest? There are many: Mysore Palace, Chamundi Hills, Jagmohan Palace and Art Gallery, Lalit Mahal Palace, St Philomenas Church, Brindavan Gardens and Mysore Zoo.

Belur, Halebid, Hampi and Badami: World heritage sites
Belur is a little town in Hassan district. It was the capital of magnificent Hoysala Empire during tenth and fourteenth centuries. Hoysala Temple Complex and Chennakesava Temple are major attractions here.

Halebidu is a town close by and houses finest examples of Hoysala architecture. Must visits include Hoysaleswara Temple which is resting on a star-shaped base amidst lush lawns. The tourists of Golden Chariot will also visit Shravanbelagola, home to Asia’s largest monolithic statue of Gomateswara.

Hampi ruins narrate the fascinating saga of Vijayanagar Empire’s splendor and fabulous architecture.

Badami, also a world heritage site, offers breathtaking vistas of its embellished monuments. The 18-armed Nataraja in striking 81 dance poses is a must visit.

Goa: A World of Golden Beaches
Goa, the pearl of the orient, is gifted with everything you fancied in your dream travel. Serene beaches, magnificent architecture, lip-smacking cuisine, pulsating nightlife, you name it and Goa offers it on a platter.

The Golden Chariot luxury train travel reaches to its climax on the shores of this Tourists’ Paradise.

source: http://www.articlesbase.com/exotic-locations-articles/golden-chariot-five-great-escapes-1444625.html

Some of the other luxury trains in India are listed below:

1. Places on Wheels

Palace on wheels which covers the beautiful state of Rajasthan is a journey worthy of kings with its cream saloons, with a border of flowers, forbidding fortress, fairytale palaces, fully vestibule and centrally air-condition, truly a Palace on Wheels.

2. Heritage On Wheels

No other region in India, or perhaps, even in the world, has such a large concentration of high quality frescoes as the region of Shekhawati. The Heritage on Wheels, a luxury tourist train on meter gauge enroute to the unexplored regions of Bikaner and Shekhawati, famous beholders of the Heritage of Rajasthan. Heritage on Wheels is a prefect royal treat for all those on board organized with restaurant and shopping facility.

3. Royal Orient

The Royal Orient train is one of the world’s most exotic trains where you get to explore two of the most fascinating and culturally rich states of India, Gujarat and Rajasthan. The journey by the Royal Orient takes you back to the times of Rajas and Maharajas which is fitted with all the modern conveniences you would expect in five star hotels like clean, comfortable and furnished cabin with spacious bath equipped with running hot and cold water and multi-cuisine restaurants, bar and library.

4. Fairy Queen

The Fairy Queen starts once in a month from October to February renowned for its oldest working engine in the world with the capacity of 50 passengers starts from Delhi to Alwar. The train stops at every major destination and the ambience inside the Fairy Queen makes you feel like a Maharaja as you take on the royal journey. The comprehensive two-day tourist package includes on-ground catering, lodging, boarding, transfer facility, visit to Sariska National Park, cultural programmes etc. In the package, the tourists would be taken to Alwar and would be lodged in Hotel ‘Tiger Den’ at Sariska.

5. Deccan Odyssey

The Deccan Odyssey criss-crosses the Indian Deccan Plateau over 2400 km in Eight days covering beautiful beaches in Goa and Maharashtra, the grand forts and palaces of the Marathas, the Osho Ashram in Pune, the historic sites of Ajanta, Ellora, Aurangabad and the modern city of Mumbai. The 21 coach Air-Conditioned Deccan Odyssey offers combination of richly furnished Deluxe Cabins and Presidential Suites. There are two Dining Cars, One Bar Saloon with smoking lounge area, Conference Area/recreation saloon with small Business Centre, Spa Saloon with mini-gym. Each passenger Saloon has four Deluxe Cabins and is serviced by a private attendant/butler, who looks after tea/coffee service and housekeeping.

6. Konkan Train

Konkan Railways, one of the lesser luxurious trains compared to the list above but this journey offers breathtakingly beautiful sights to the commuters, unexplored destinations with natural charm covers the length of 760 kms, with 1,798 bridges and 88 Tunnels on the route. Konkan Railways offers a mesmerizing picturesque from Mumbai to Thiruvananthapuram via Veer-Khed-Chiplun-Ratnagiri-Rajapur Road-Sindhudurg-Mapusa Road-Goa-Udupi-Mangalore-Kochi.

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For years we have seen them in all colors and shapes moving around the city ferrying people from point A to point B emitting loads of smoke. Today these autos or rikshaws are an essential part of most Indian cities and provide that much needed gap in our transportation network. The only advantage these autos provide is service to your doorstep and at a price which is half that of a cab / taxi.

Yellow Color Bangalore Autos

Yellow Color Bangalore Autos

Cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and even parts of Mumbai are primarily dependent on these autos who charge anywhere from Rs 7 to Rs 10 per kms. But they seldom stick to this pricing and try to fleese their customers at every given opportunity. If you look like an outsider and new to the city, then u’r definitely taken for a ride. So sometimes other options like Government Bus Service or shared cabs could work out as better alternatives.

We have tried to put down a few pointers that could help you get thru this ordeal while travelin on a budget in India.

Before you get to a particular city, collect enough information about the local transport facilities and approximate rates. For Ex: Bangalore city has a reliable Non A/c and Airconditioned Bus service which are quite effecient and connect all corners of the city. Quite a few techies in the city have abandoned their bikes and cars to ride on these aircon volvo buses to their workplace. You can also choose City Taxi service which need about 20mins of advanced notice. The best among them is Meru Cabs which is reliable and charge Rs 15 per km. But if you must take an auto, be well prepared with the destination and key landmarks. Bangalore autos are required to run by the meter but these guys sometimes avoid using them, tend to take a longer routes and act dumb. So make sure they turn on the meter when u get on.

Mumbai on the otherhand has more options – Their local trains are the most reliable mode of transport but could be quite taxing esp during peak hours due to the enormous crowds who choose to travel on them. So stay away during peak hours and beware of pick pocketers. Alternatively, you can choose their local taxis in most parts of the city and Autos in the suberbs. They are not fussy and will rarely try to cheat you.

Cities like Chennai and Hyderabad are the worst when it comes to Autorikshaw’s. Always make sure that you bargain on the fare before you get on. This way, they will not try to take a longer route and get you to your destination on time.

Learning certain key local words will also help you when u’r out on the streets. Stuff like ‘How Much’, ‘I want to go to __’, ‘Good Morning’, ‘Good Evening’, ‘Thank you’ are most commonly used words while on the road. Alernatively, you can always ask the locals for directions and help. India is still one of the most hospitable countries so don’t feel shy to ask.

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Bikes which made it to the top of Bilikal Betta

Bikes which made it to the top of Bilikal Betta

Been wanting to share this awesome experience with you all for a while and finally got around to writing this blog.

As part of our Sunday rides around Bangalore, we decided to check out Bilikal Rangaswamy Betta, this not so popular yet breathtaking destination which is located about 70 kms from the city beyond Kanakapura Town. Ask the locals for directions from Kanakapura Town circle.

The main reason this location isn’t spoilt is due to its lack of connectivity and motorable roads. Its however very popular among the trekking community. Bikers can get to the top only if they have a good machine and enough experience riding on harsh terrain, else do not even attempt. I’m not sure if a 4×4 jeep can make it to the top either since the road is completely eaten away with huge boulders sticking out.

So about 15 bikers headed towards Kanakapura town early sunday morning and breaked for quick snack at the only decent restaurant in town and were back on the road again. We took the road which goes left behind town and into the fields and soon we could see small hills and mountains. After about 10 – 12kms we reached the last village from where the dirt road begins to climb up and gradually gets steeper.

After another 2 kms, we noticed that the road had disintegrated into boulders and sharp stones. Many of the bikers decided to halt here and not try their luck while a few daring riders rode on. After cross a very bad stretch of .5kms the road again improves and finally only 2 bikes made it to the peak.

The 360 view from the top was just breadthtaking and peaceful. We spotted a small pond with dirty water and a temple with a small courtyard which was locked up. We also met a few trekkers who had just made it to the top after a grueling 1 hr climb. Soon we had to return back to the gang who were waiting for us half way down.

Trekkers at the view point

Trekkers at the view point

After another coffee break in Kanakapura town, we reached Bangalore by 11.30am and had covered a total distance of over 140kms.

Trekkers can take this route – Get to Harohalli on Kanakpura Road (about 30 kms from Banashankari) & take the road adjacent to the bus stand towards Maralawadi/ Doddamaralawadi (11 kms). Continue past Devarahalli to Onaaladoddi (another 5 kms) where you can dump your modes of transport and start trekking.

Posted a few links from my picasa album here


If you have been to any destination which is not popular but worth the visit, do share it with us.

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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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