Thursday, September 10, 2009

Vacation at Mumbai

The vacation destination for 2009 was decided to be Mumbai. With dates rescheduled twice, I wasn't sure, if we will make the trip. So I did not plan much on what to be done after reaching Mumbai . Tickets were booked. To confirm my fears, the media was blaring non-stop about the spread of Swine flue. We had almost decided to drop the travel plans to Mumbai. Finally with some pushing from R mama, decided to go ahead. So reached the city of Amchi Mumbai on 21st of August.
The city was fully geared up to welcome their favorite God Ganesha. We saw both huge and small Ganeshas taken to the pandals/homes accompanied to the beats of drums and Ganapathi Bappa Morias.

At home too, we were busy with the preparations and on the day of Pooja, modak-both sweet and savory were made.

As practise at our uncle's home, Ganesha was taken for Visarjan, the next day, to Juhu beach.

On Monday, the 24th, we left to Shirdi by bus. Stayed two days at Shirdi. We had a lovely Darsan. It was less crowded, may be due to the ongoing Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations. Attended both noon and night Aarthis. The first time when I stood in the queue inside the mandir, I was choked with emotions. A longtime wish of mine was fulfilled. As Baba says, its only when HE wills that we can reach there. I have been reading Sai Satcharita , close to two decades. So all the chapters and incidents are almost kind of memorized. I was overwhelmed when I got to see the places and objects like Dwarakamayi, Chavadi, ever burning Dhuni, Neem tree etc. which I have only read about. I am sure when I read Satcharita again, it will be a different experience. Spent most of the day inside the mandir premises.

We went to Sani Shinganapur, a famous shrine for Lord Shani,which is 70kms away from Shirdi. It takes about 1 1/2 hrs by car. The road is good. The route is picturesque on both sides of the road with fields of sugarcane, bajra etc. You will get a picture of rural Maharashtra. The statue of Lord shani is a huge single piece of granite stone with no temple walls to around. Only male devotees are allowed to mount on the platform with wet clothes on and can do abhishekam on the statue with water or til/sesame oil. Women devotees can have darshan standing below the platform. One of the unique aspects of the village Shiganapur is that houses/shops have no door for safety. The people here believe that it is the benediction of the god that no crime ever occurs in this village. I found no doors in the shops I saw and also there is no gate to enter the temple premises.

On Wednesday night we returned to Mumbai with a peaceful mind. We visited few relatives. And for that, we had to travel the length and breadth of Mumbai. I had decided earlier, we will be visiting only the closest relatives. So we could cover the visits in 2 days. I managed to meet one of my blogger friend Harini. It was a wonderful meeting.
On Sunday, we decided to take advantage of the less traffic on roads and headed to have a darshan of Goddess Mahalaxmi and took the new Bandra-Worli sea route. It was a nice feeling to travel through the sea link -the new pride of India. We started at sharp 8:00 A.M from Malad and returned in flat 2 hours.

Did good amount of shopping artificial jewellery, clothes and some kitchen accessories. Sampled all kinds of Mumbai chaats, pasta, frankies, ice halwa, different flavors of kulfi (Liked chikko more) and various savories. Never missed a chance to drink Kesar Lassi to the extent that on the day of leaving, me and my husband had two glasses each. Infact R mama used to lure us with the mention of lassi, to visit Mumbai . L mami and our cousin M saw to that we sampled food from the various outlets which they frequent. M treated us to a wonderful Gujarathi thaali (unlimited) at a nearby restaurant. We indeed had an overdose of jamoons, malai sandwich and dahi wada. L mami also cooked variety of food at home.

All in all, it was a well spent, memorable vacation at Mumbai. On 1st we flew to Coimbatore to celebrate the annual visit of King Maveli/Mahabali.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thechi/Chethi Poo ~ From My Garden

In my childhood days, we used to suck the nectar from the thechi poo. This was one of the favorite past time during summer holidays.

Chuvappu/Red Thechi

Manja/Yellow Thechi

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Different colors of Hibiscus from my garden

Hibiscus/ Chembarathi(in Malayalam) - Few pics of the varieites of hibiscus from my garden.

The word Chembarathi even now brings the image of this variety to my mind, though numerous hybrid varities are around.

There are few more colors in my garden, which I could not click before the plants were trimmed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yercaud -Part II

Yercaud trip contd...

Day 2
We had an elaborate breakfast of idli, vada, masala dosa, puri and masala, pongal , tea and a glass of lassi.That was Shevaroy's special breakast. we had fixed the auto driver who took us to Pagoda the day before, for taking us around the other view points. We started at 10:AM sharp.
First stop was Lady's seat and few metres away is the Gent's seat. Spectacular view from both the points. Then we drove to the Children's seat.

View from different seats

We can walk to the rose garden from that entrance. The garden was full of trees of various kinds. Good pathways are laid and absolutely lovely place to spend some time. All rose plants are at the entrance of the garden. The roses were in the budding stage. Only few roses in full bloom.

Few shots inside the rose garden

Then we proceeded to the Shevaoryan temple which is inside a cave. The temple is situated at the highest peak of the hill. The cave is very small. You will have to bent a little to walk inside. No light other than from the lamps lit before the idol. on the way down, we stopped at the Raja Rajeswari temple.

View of the shevaroyan temple from outside.

We were back to the hotel by 1 P.M. Had lunch and relaxed in the room. Evening went to the plantation inside the hotel compound. A very nice place to walk around. Then spend sometime at the lake and was ready to leave Yercaud the next morning.
Plantation at the back of the hotel
Day 3.
Took the bus to Salem at 8 :15. After reaching the bus stand, immediately took an auto to reach the railway station in the hope of catching a train scheduled at9:30. We had plans to buy the famous Salem mangoes. But if we miss that train, we have to wait for nearly two hours and will be reaching home in the scorching afternoon. We rushed to the platform to see our train arriving. Immediately got into the train. Got two packets of idli and finished our breakfast. Reached home by 1:30 PM.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Destination Yercaud ~Poor Man's Ooty Part I

View from Pagoda Point

1st May,2009

The summer was becoming unbearable. Still a month for the rains to pour, if at all monsoon arrives as expected. Its time for a much needed break from the routine. This time, wanted to go somewhere just to unwind. Was not very keen on sightseeing. Yercaud suited us. we had an idea of a family get together and asked my both Brothers-in-law to join with their families. But finally that did not materialize. Only we both could make it. As I have mentioned earlier, we are early risers and can get up as early as 3 AM. On Friday left home at 4:30 to catch the West Coast Express towards Chennai. Train came at 5:10 AM. Becoz of the recent train hijack at Vyasaradi, some trains were running late. As a result, our train also reached late by 45 minutes at Salem. Took an auto the main bus stand which must be around 5 kms away from the station. As we entered, a bus to Yercaud left. We must be around 20 people waiting for the Yercaud bus. After 10 minutes, another bus came fully packed. The smarties have got into the bus en route to the Salem bustand. Our attempt to get into another two buses did not yield a seat. Finally, decided to take a taxi, who charge 650/-. The uphill drive with 20 hair pin bends in a stretch of 30 Kms takes an hour.

The cab driver dropped us at Hotel Shevaroy's. We had booked the Dhalia suite for two days. Checked in. Its one of the oldest hotels of Yercaud. Very serene environment. It looks like the hotel had a recent renovation done. The rooms smelled of fresh paint and bathroom accessories were spanky new.
On the way to the room inside the hotel
Our room
After refreshing ourselves, we headed to the restaurant. Ordered South Indian Thali meals. Food was good.

South Indian Thali meals

They served Thali meals with soup,roti,dal, rice,sambhar,vethakuzhambu, rasam,2 poriyals, onekootu, payasam, vadai, applam, curd chilli , pickle and curd. The best part I liked is they keep two bowls of paruppu podi and ghee. That was awesome. The second day also we went for thali meals. Due to the heavy rush there, the waiter forgot to give us the podi. But we were in no mood to miss the podi treat. Asked for it and he obliged immediately. Post lunch we hit the bed and had a sound sleep for 2 hours. Its long time since I slept so long in the afternoon.

Took a stroll down the road to the lake. Its just 5 minutes walk from the hotel. Took tickets and went inside the garden around the lake. The first thing you notice is the amount of garbage littered around, inspite of being cleaned every day after it closes for the visitors. And I doubt if there was a dustbin anywhere. I could not spot one.

We took an auto to Pagoda point which is around 5 kms from the lake. There is no other sight seeing spot on the way. There is a water fall but did not go there since its all dried up . You get a view of the valley from there. You can see the houses down.

Not much of a scenic view. You will not need more than 15 minutes to spend there. Had some roasted corn.

Returned to the boat house on the other side of the lake garden. Spent some time in the small garden there and walked back to the hotel. Had a shower and headed to the Malar Veg restaurant inside the hotel complex. This is the only veg restaurant in that area . There is a supermarket and bakery below the hotel. The hotel has accessibility from inside the hotel complex and from the road outside too.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Alappuzha Part-II

Day 2 - 16th Jan,2009
Started at 6:30. Went straight to Ambalapuzha, 11 kms from Alappuzha. The kalabha utsavam was going on there. There was crowd but we had a good darshan. Took the token forthe famous offering of the temple - Palpayasam. The prasadom will be distributed at 12:30 only. We then proceeded to Mannarsala, the temple for Snake god. Around 10 tourist buses and numerous taxis were already parked outside the temple premises. Though there is heavy rush, you cannot feel the cr since people keep moving. It was pooja time. the offerings are done near the kodimaram ie. outside sanctum sanatorium. The speciality of the temple is that the poojas are done under the guidance of the female head of the family, which runs the temple. She is called Amma. Amma sits inside the temple and does chantings and poojas. One can have a darshan of Amma through a small window. Heard that only brahmins are allowed inside the temple. Since the morning itinery was only temple visits, we both were in the traditional attire (Dhoti and saree). And Satish had removed his shirt as is customary inside the temple. So after the pooja we were let in, with out any questions. We could speak to Amma and she blessed us and gave vibhooti as prasadom. We went to the Mana/Illam, to visit the main temple.
The Haripad Sumbhramanyan is 5 kms near of mannarsala. Went to Subramanyan temple. Thats a huge temple. Most parts of the Ootupura were in ruins.

Had breakfast and our next stop was Chakkulathu kavu. I was overwhelmed to see the crowd on the premises. It was as though there was some festival. Had to wait in the queue for half an hour. The good thing, there is no one to push you when you reach before the deity. They give ample time to have the darshan. Went around the temple. This is famous as Sabarimala for ladies. Another speciality is, temple allows entry for all people irrespective of their religious belief.

On our way back to Ambalapuzha, we stopped at Karumadikuttan to have a view of the Buddha statue. It is a half broken, black statue of Lord Buddha. We drove back to Ambalapuzha to collect the payasam. Had to wait there for an hour or so. Reached Alappuzha by 1:30. Had lunch and took some rest in the room. We had whole of evening at our disposal. We both have a fascination for greenery and wanted to have a look around the famous Kuttanad paddy fields.
Our drive was ready to show us and we started at 4:00p.m in the evening. It was indeed a visual treat to us. We went almost till Changanchery/ The sight from Nedumudi bridge was spectacular.
On the way back stopped at a drive in restaurant to have our evening tea. It was almost 6. We ordered tea and there was no snacks left there. Alappuzha is famous for non-veg and for pure veggies its tough. Thanks to Aryas chain of hotels, we survived our two days stay. In fact there were two of them close by in the area where we stayed.

The waiter said he will serve Kappayum,meenum (Cooked tapioca with fish curry as side). When asked for veg. side, he said, kadala (Brown chickpeas) will make a great combo. Served us a plate of steamed and sauteed tapioca with a bowl of hot and spice black channa curry. It was indeed a winning combo. Raju dropped us at the beach and we bid good-bye to him. Promising that we call him during our next visit to Alappuzha. He was indeed very sweet to enquire if we had a safe journey back home, the next day.

We spent an hour at the beach and returned to the hotel. Next morning, returned by the weekly Trivandrum-Mumbai train at 8:30, reaching Palakkad at 12 p.m.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Alappuzha/Allepey Part -I

Alappuzha trip was planned with the purpose of visiting Mannarsala, Ambalapuzha and other near by temples and a boat ride through the back waters. Satish said the priority is for temple visit. So if time permits, can consider boat ride. I had done enough googling and knew all these could fit in our schedule and just nodded to what he said.

As decided, we got into the Chennai-Alleppey express from Palakkad junction at 5:45. It arrived 20 minutes late. Till Ernakulam, the train was packed. After that, it was almost empty. We had arranged for rooms through a friend in a hotel. Took an auto to the hotel. It takes less than 10 minutes from the station. The first thing you notice is that the roads are straight and cuts at perpendiculars. I am seeing that for the frist time in Kerala.

Checked in and refreshed. It was 12:30. Had a chat with hotel manager regarding the sightseeing places etc. He immediately arranged for a cab and it was to arrive at around 1:30PM. Meanwhile we finished our lunch. The cab driver was Raju, an ex-serviceman and gulf returnee, in his early sixties. We told him our priorities. He suggested we go for a boat ride the same day and arranged a motor boat for about 4 hours at Rs.1000/-. Considering the usual rates they charge, this was cheap. He agreed to drop us near boat jetty and also to pick us and take to the Mullackal temple after the boat ride.

We paid the money to the motor boat owner,Jayan, prior to the ride. Abhilash, 20 something guy, was to drive us through the backwaters. He is an expert driver. Took us along the interiors and made us watch the sunset. Surprisingly, there was one house in the interiors of the backwaters which has the vast stretches of paddy land behind and the endless backwaters as the fence on the front side. the poor man ekes out a living by selling mineral water,biscuits and tender coconut. We stopped there. Had tender coconuts. Went around the paddy fields through his backyard. The floor of his house is at the same level of water in the lake. On the arrival of monsoon, his house is surely to be flooded with the first rain. He smilingly replies that they shift to the relief camps opened by government during those periods. He has emotional attachment to the house which is more that 75 years old. The ride through the quiet backwaters was very enjoyable and relaxing. It soothes your mind and body at the same time.
By 7:30 we returned back to the shore. Raju was ready to pick us up. We went to Mullackal temple, the famous temple of Alappuzha. Had nice darshan. Raju, then just took us along the beach front and dropped us back at the hotel.

Date of visit - 15,16,17th Jan,2009