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Staying in Bangalore, Karnataka has many advantages.. one being, access to interesting destinations across south India.

When the corporate world starts to get on your nerves, we bangaloreans take our vehicles and head out either to a hill station in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu or towards the popular jungle camps and resorts around Bandipur and Nagarhole.

This time it was Yercaud, a cute little hill station about 35 kms away from Salem, Tamil Nadu. Salem is 200 Kms from Bangalore and has well paved double road all through with a few toll booth enroute. Bikes however have free passage which actually worked in our favor since we decided to bike it to Yercaud this time (this time being our 4th trip).

Typically for a biking tour, we start around 6.30am from a prominent location on the outskirts of the city and stop for breakfast after about an hour’s riding. During this trip, we stopped at Adiyar Anand Bhavan on Hosur – Salem highway (about 65kms from Bangalore) for a quick snack and continued to ride non stop till we hit Salem. After a round of tender coconuts, we began our hill climb which was the most exciting part of this ride.

Soon, you begin to feel the weather change and also get to catch a glimpse of the world below you. In less than an hour, you are on top of the hill covered by tall age old trees and a huge lake in the centre of town. A few hotels and resorts dot the landscape around the lake but the first to stand out is Sky Rocca, built on the edge of the last hair pin bend. Another popular property is Hotel Shevaroys which is one of the oldest in Yercaud and has cottages spread out amidst lush greenery.

Yercaud Lake; Pic from Wikipedia.org

Yercaud Lake; Pic from Wikipedia.org

Frankly, there isn’t much to do in Yercaud and is more of a location to relax and calm your nerves. However, an Indian tourist does demand his fair share of site seeing for whom there is boating at the lake, visit to the view point (Pagoda Point), Killiyur Falls and best of them all Shevaroyan Temple. This temple is situated about 7kms from town center and is at the highest point in Yercaud. An ideal location to view the entire mountain range and soak in the fresh air.

View of Shevaroyan Hills from Yercaud

View of Shevaroyan Hills from Yercaud

Yercaud is one of the least expensive hill stations and accommodation is available from as low as Rs 800 for a double room (in a hotel) which goes up to Rs 8,000 for a luxury cottage. Travelers also have the option of renting out an old furnished cottage with a cook cum caretaker for a fair sum.

If you are the sorts to end the day on high spirits, do note that Tamil Nadu has restriction on sale of liquor and is sold only across Tasmac outlets. However, premium hotels and resorts have license to sell liquor within their premises but may not stock exotic brands.

Greatescapes score for hill stations: 8/10

Your escapist,

Brian

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Wanted to end the year with one last post about our recent drive to Mangalore, the coastal capital of Karnataka.

Mangalore is located about 360kms from Bangalore and is well connected by road and rail to Kerala and Goa and has an international airport as well. This destination makes for a wonderful drive from Bangalore with two distinct route options. The first and shortest is via Hasan, Shakleshur via Shiradi Ghat (360kms – 7.5 hrs) and the second is via Mysore and Madikeri, Coorg (400kms – 8.5 hrs).

Unfortunately, about 20 – 30kms on both these routes are in terrible condition due to heavy rains and low quality of tarring. The only positive on the second route via Madikeri is that, there is road widening underway and we should expect top quality drive by the mid of 2014. Both these route are equally scenic as we go over the western ghats to get to the coastline.

Majestic Western Ghats

Mangalore being a quieter city as compared to Bangalore is growing rapidly. This is partly due to the student population making this city their temporary home. The city boasts a large number of educational institutions including popular medical and dental colleges. The city has seen a spurt of malls and multiplexes and the breaking down of old traditional residences to make way for newer apartment complexes. Regardless, this city is worth a visit for it mouthwatering seafood and pristine beaches.

Here is a quick list of things to do while you are in Mangalore:

Beaches: Someshwar and Ullal are the two popular beaches towards the south of Mangalore. Someshwar beach which is further away has a lot of character with rocks all around while Ullal is best enjoyed from Summer Sands beach resort or at the confluence of the river and the sea. (Note: Ullal beach is dangerous to venture into due to strong waves and undercurrents)Mangalore beaches

Towards the north of the city lies Tannirbavi beach which is again slightly unsafe for deep sea swimming but the adjacent Panambur beach is ideal for water sports. Further ahead is the less crowded Surathkal beach right opposite the NIT campus on the main Mangalore – Udupi highway. Continue driving on this route and you will hit another popular beach called Kapu close to Udupi. This beach is very popular among the youngsters and for its light house which makes for a good photo opportunity. The best time to visit Kapu is during sunset. Close by is the popular uninhabited St Mary’s Island which can be visited on government manned boats for a nominal fee during the day.

Back in Mangalore, you can do a bit of shopping at the many new malls such as City Centre or Bharat Mall or the local Hampankatta Market. But the best part of this city is its local cuisines and its Ice Cream parlors.Ideal Ice Cream Parlor

One must visit Ideals Ice Cream parlor to try out popular varieties such as Gudbad, Parfait, Banana Split, Tiramisu, Royal Falooda and many more. They have quite a few branches across the city and are priced between Rs 20 – Rs 75. We highly recommended this joint. Popular restaurants such as Maharaja, Goldfinch and Amanthran serve the best mangalorean cuisines. Kane Masala Fry, Crab Sukka, Prawn Chilli, Chicken Ghee Roast, Kori Roti and sannas (soft idlis) are popular among the locals and are priced between Rs 80 to Rs 350 for Kane fish. So the next time you happen to visit this sultry city, don’t forget to visit one of the local restaurants.

Pomfret Masala Fry

Pomfret Masala Fry

Cashews are very common in this region and are used liberally in many preparations. Sweets such as Cashew Macrons, Banana Halwa, Sweet Potato Sticks (Sonte), Rice laddoos and Plum cakes are popular in the region.Kanthi Church lit up for Christmas

The city is connected by private bus service which is clean, fast and cheap followed by Autorikshaws. The best time to visit is between October – February and don’t forget to carry your sunscreen lotion or an umbrella. If you do not wish to drive down, you can opt for the reliable KSRTC Volvo bus service or take the train from Bangalore which offers splendid views of the western ghats early in the morning. Mangalore offers many accommodation options from service apartments to hotels and are very decently priced.

If we have missed anything interesting in Mangalore, do comment below.

Greatescapes score for beach towns: 8/10

Your escapist,

Brian

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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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Credit crunch, credit crunch, credit crunch, that is all that the media seem to be focusing on.  2009 starts with news of credit crunch and recession around the world. What effect this will have on the travel industry we are still unsure.  Are things going to get as bad in 2009 as they say they are? Perhaps it will be tough for the travel industry.

Well, we’ve all heard about the sad economic state – but for those with a little bit of money to spend, this could be the perfect time for travel. Sounds Crazy? Well may be not!

Recession means less money in our pockets and fewer people taking trips. And that has hotels and airlines offering major deals to try and keep the travelers coming. The good news for consumers is that they can take advantage of some amazing discounts that large companies–including travel agencies, airlines, and hotels are offering to help boost their sales. Combined with the weak economy, fuel prices have drastically reduced, which means that airlines can cut fares further and this could well be worth your while.

So if you are thinking of traveling, this is the time for you. If you are delaying your plans till the economy comes back to track you might be right but you aren’t gonna find cheap rates again. As the economy improves, rates will go up as well.

A couple tips to help score that recession deal:
* Avoid holiday travel or book well in advance for long weekends
* Be flexible with dates
* Book early
* Consider all-inclusive resorts

And don’t forget to check Time.com’s article ‘5 best places to travel in a recession’ http://www.time.com/time/travel/article/0,31542,1855690,00.html

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