Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mission Statement

My fundamental premise in submitting all these following pieces is very similar to that of the widely trusted travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler’s founding principle of Truth in Travel, requiring writers to travel anonymously and pay their own way, to assure credibility and independence from the travel industry.

I experience travel the way you do, good and bad, and I report as you would: freely, fairly, honestly. Sounds noble enough, eh ?! Well that's exactly what I would strive to achieve. To make travel a more enjoyable and an evene more rewarding experience for all those who are pasionate about travelling ... exploring new places ... enjoying new experiences ... understanding new cultures ... imbibing new surroundings ... relisihing new cuisine, and much much more !!

Before I move on to my next travelogue, I would like to do a brief summary or a kind of a synopsis on Kodaikanal. My wish is that this piece should suffice as a ready-reckoner for any one who's planning on a visit to Kodai, in the near future.

Kodaikanal :

What you need to bear in mind :

(i) To carry ample warm clothing (if you're from a warm place and is not so used to chilly climates)
(ii) Not to take more than 1 medium-size suitcase or travel bag (for a stay of up to 1 week)
(iii) Carry cash - most places frown upon and DO NOT accept Credit Cards
(iv) A comfortable walking / hiking shoes / boots
(v) Do some background browsing on Kodai (search for 'Kodaikanal' in Google) prior to your trip
(vi) Avoild local produce(fruits) if you can. Its frightfully expensive and certainly overpriced. Especially the local variety of Hill bananas (each fruit going at Rs. 8.- !!). In taste its close to Kerala's famous Nenthrampalam.
(vii) There are not many nice restaurants in Kodai. So make good with what best you get. Also, the town has far more vegetairan joints than non-vege ones.
(vii) Do take time off to pluck some pears off the trees that grown in the wild, which is in fact, all over Kodai and bite into the luscious, juicy and very, very tasty pears - without having to haggle with any fruit seller in the market place !
(viii) Boating in the Kodai lake is actually no big deal. Don't do it if you don't like to. You won't miss anything !
(ix) Walk around as much as possible. Its really a nice experience. Cycling too is fun. (Remember there are no autorickshaws in Kodai. So its either your feet or a cab ! And the former is a better and more enjoyable alternative !)
(x) Don't stay out late - especially if you're travelling in pairs or in smaller groups.

Hope you find my tips of some use to you !

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Kodai - Conclusion

In all, our Kodai trip was 3-nights and 4-days of swell time ! Particularly enjoyed the long walk to the erstwhile Suicide Point (I prefer calling it that, than the new and more plesant-sounding 'Gree Valley View') and further on to the Pillar Rocks, past the Golf Course. That we could see absolutely nothing below in the Suicide Point and couldn't even remotely guess where the Pillar Rocks were on account of the heavy mist and fog, is besides the point ! In Suicide Point, we saw, much to my irritation, how the many monkeys were constantly harassed by the tourists. Some were pelting little stones and other objects that they could lay their hands on. I even saw one teenaged boy using his bag full of baby carrots as missiles that he was firing at the monkeys. I guess over the years, the monkeys must have got used to this nuisance and they were more intrested in grabbing whatever food was chucked at them, without getting too hassled about how they were served !

Our return back to Kodai Road was another excellent experience. The mist had enveloped the entire stretch and to add to the joy, it was raining too. The roadside brooks were in full flow and the water that was cascading over the rocks was a sight to behold. The entire stretch right from Kodai down till almost the end of the descent was covered with thick greenery. Lots and lots of flowering shrubs and trees and fruit-bearing trees. beautiful, indeed.

We alighted in Kodai Road (the bus stopped right at the door of the railway station). Got into the neat Kodai Road railway station's waiting room and stretched our legs a bit.

Pandian Superfast Express reached the station on the dot at 9.30 p.m. and stopped long (or short) enough for us to board comfortably. Our berths were in order. After a deep slumber, we reached Madras the next moring by sunrise.

I'd love to tell you more about our Kodai trip, but I shall force myself to stop here lest it gets boring (if it isn't already yet !!)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Kodaikanal ... Continued

My wife and I stayed at a very famous and not to mention the half-a-century old 'Holiday Home'. Though the place has seen better days, it still is a very good place to stay when you're in Kodai. Holiday Home is nestled amidst lush vegetation, filled with fruit-laden pear trees growing wild all around you ! It is located a good 8 kms off the main Kodai town, which in itself made my trip worth the while. However there is one aspect of Holiday Home that I must mention - to be fair to myself, and more importantly, to be fair to those of you who might want to stay there ... the water in Holiday Home is awful. Its muddy, dark and smells of rust. Thats how the water was during my entire stay there. Even the coffee that I had there smelled of rust. Perhaps that how the water is there always. I'm not sure. Or perhaps during my sojourn, on account of many external factors, the water had turned muddy and almost unusable (I hope this is true!!).

Though the roads that connect Holiday Home to Kodai town aren't always good, they were some good stretches. The hotel has daily morning and evening pick-up and drop facility (to Kodai town) which is indeed welcome ! Else, you'd have to shell out Rs. 80 one-way.

The food served at Holiday Home was nothing to write home about. But nothing to complain either. The fare is very simple. Very basic. And very, very south-Indian. You could ask for chicken, which would then be bought (from the market in Kodai town), prepared and served exclusively (at a partitioned portion of the very large dining hall !!).

Holiday Home is at walkable distance from Suicide Point (now re-christened as 'Green Valley View' and a little ahead, the 'Pillar Rocks' ! A comfortable and leisurely 1 hour's walk is all it takes to reach these spots, for even one who's not in ship-shape like me !!

Oh, the evenings truned out to be much worse that what I had expected. The temperature truly dipped to teeth-chattering and shivering levels ! Blankets and quilts could not hold the cold at bay ! The room too (without a heater) was like a freezer ! In a way, the chillness was a plesant experience, no doubt !

To be continued.

My recent Kodaikanal trip

I returned to Kodai after over a decade during the last, long weekend (Puja Holidays).
Should say that the place is more or less what I had in my mind. No dramatic changes. No new skylines. No better roads. Or even better facilities. Or any major improvements ... barring a few more restaurants (mostly the vege kinds). And quite a few more hotels. Mostly the down-market variety for the budget travellers.
Kodai should be complimented on the way it has maintained itself over these past many years. It hasn't lost its shape ... unlike let's say a Ooty !! The key attarctions still remain the same. That they have not got any better in terms of the facilities to the flocking visitors is a far better proposition than they becoming worse !!
I shall in due course get into the specifics and the details. But they have to wait awhile !
Adieu !