Monday, December 01, 2008

India Trip

Got back Saturday from a 3-week trip to India. Here are a few highlights...

Travel
- Made a 4 day Bangalore-Mysore trip a few days after we landed. Started off with a woefully short pitstop at Bangalore to meet a couple of friends. Spent the next day in Mysore where we visited the Tibetan Monastery and the Palace. The former, with its tall, shiny statues and the Tibetan monks, was a rather unique place. The highlight of the trip though was the visit to Kabini Resort, which is about 75 kms from Mysore. We did the 1-day package which included lunch, tea, an open jeep jungle safari and dinner on Day 1 and another safari, a parisal ride and brunch on Day 2. The resort itself was beautiful with nice views of the Kabini River, a few short hikes and some tree houses. It was really serene and peaceful and a good break from the hustle and bustle of city life. The accommodations were very comfortable and the food was sumptuous. The safaris were fantastic experiences as the jeep bounced and rattled along narrow, unpaved tracks - with greenery all around us - in the middle of the forest as we looked for wildlife. We saw monkeys, peacocks, elephants, deer, Gaur(supposedly the largest cattle in the world) and wild dogs but the most exciting was a brief look at a leopard as it walked off into the forest. The safari included an elephant ride, which thrilled the kids.

- The only other trip was a day trip to Vellore to see the new Golden Temple. It was more a tourist attraction than a temple, though. The gardens around the temple were well-maintained and the long walkway to the temple was bright and colorful. The temple itself, with its golden surface, looked rich and shiny.

Food
- Several restaurants have mushroomed in Chennai. Rather than just put food on the table, many new restaurants seem to be trying to make the food just one part of the whole experience. And it works. We tried out a few restaurants and my top pick was Mocha. Here we got to smoke Hookahs on some comfortable seats outdoors and then move indoors to a tastefully decorated room to have some very delicious snacks. Also enjoyed the ambience and the food at Rainforest, a tiny restaurant nestled into the basement of an apartment complex. The place was decorated to look like a forest with stuffed animals and forest sounds adding to the atmosphere.

Movies
- As the quick review indicated, saw Vaaranam Aayiram on the opening day itself at Abirami Mega Mall. Had cast my net far and wide to get tickets for the first day and finally managed to get them via my cousin's friend. The crowd was expectedly quite boisterous but they were there to actually watch the movie, as indicated by their silence during the serious scenes and their applause for Surya's performance at many places(in contrast, at any Tamil movie in the US, you will find quite a few who appear to have come just to make loud comments at inopportune moments).

- Also saw the Malayalam multi-starrer Twenty-20 at Sathyam. The theater was awesome with very comfortable seats though the sound was a bit too loud for my ears. The movie was pretty good with equal, well-tailored roles for all the major stars and an interesting story with a few good surprises. Got a little confusing and stretched towards the end though. The major attraction was ofcourse Mammootty and Mohanlal sharing the screen and the couple of scenes where they clashed was worth the price of admission. Suresh Gopi looked bloated but earned some claps with his trademark intense dialog delivery while Dileep stole the few scenes he was in with his comic timing. Nayan, along with Prithviraj, appeared for a single song sequence.

Rain
- Was trapped indoors by the non-stop rain the last few days of the trip. Streets turned into rivers and driveways turned into beaches as the rain came down in torrents without a break. Had to make a trip to the in-laws' house(in Mambalam, traditionally one of the worst-hit areas during rains) the day we were leaving. And even as we were bemoaning the lack of proper drainage and infrastructure, it was definitely an exciting and unforgettable experience to walk in the pouring rain, go on the bike on the flooded streets and wade through thigh-high water to reach their house.

The rain let up by the end of the week to allow us to get to the airport without any hassles. As always, boarded the flight muttering to ourselves that 3 weeks was just too short for an India trip...

A few photos from the trip can be seen here.

11 Comments:

At 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mocha is very pretty and gay-friendly, but the service is godawful! all the hip restaurants in madras are staffed by those manipuri/nepali/etc waiters who know neither thamizh or english.

loud comments/whistling/dancing etc are what makes thamizh movies worth watching on the big screen rather than the sanctum sanctorum of one's own home.

 
At 11:04 PM, Blogger Filbert said...

So that explains the sporadic posting :) We had been to that Tibetan monastery while we stayed at the Orange County resorts and I have the same comments to offer!!

 
At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

seems you had a lot of fun - isn't rainforest cafe a chain in the US?
http://www.rainforestcafe.com/

Sanjay

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...

BB,

Mumbai attacks pathi onnume sollale :(

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...

Balaji-

Welcome back and a nice sumamry, loved seeing the pics. esp of the Tibetan monastery and palace.

 
At 8:21 PM, Anonymous ram said...

thalaivarey, welcome back to bbthots! (ungalaye unga veetuku koopadra maadhiri!)

nice summary of your india trip...i liked the way u described chennai in all its monsoon "glory!" i always loved december in chennai...in spite of all the hassles thanks to our lovely drainage system, there was something totally charming abt the rains...

here's a short 'poem' in thamizh to describe the rains in the wake of the inhumane acts of terrorism in mumbai...

manadhil eeram ilaa mirugangall apaavi manidhanai rathathil nanaikka...

vidumuraikey piriya manam varaadha petrorgall vanmuraiku thaangall pillaigallaii izhakka...

andha ratha kaneerai paarka manam varaamal engaludan saerndhu neeyum azhudhaayo...

mazhaiye...unaku irukum manidha neyathai andha mirugangaluku karpika marandhaaye...

- ram

 
At 7:10 AM, Blogger -Rathi- said...

ram,kavithai super. made my heart as heavy as it felt when i heard the news.

-rathi-

 
At 10:21 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

anon, yep, the waiter who brought us the hookahs was nepali and barely understood us. but once we went indoors, the service got better :)

and i enjoy the comments/whistling too but needs to be done at the right time. comments @ the wrong place/time spoil the moviegoing experience for me :)

filbert, that and a really busy couple of weeks at work b4 the trip :)

sanjay, hadnt heard of it b4. but the theme seems to be the same. and they have 1 in SFO. maybe on the next visit :)

srivatsan, just wrote about things i had firsthand experience with. saw about the attacks on tv and read about it and so nothing more I thot I could write about.

mitr, thanx :)

ram, beautiful poem. the vidumurai/vanmurai line was wonderfully written.

 
At 12:44 PM, Blogger VThinkTank said...

Balaji Saar
Chennaiyil odiya river photos kooda nanna irundirukkum if you by chance snap a few and have post them.
Glad to know you went around mysore and enjoyed.
Have Fun!!!
Venkat

 
At 7:00 PM, Anonymous ram said...

rathi and bb, thanks for the kind words...

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow!!!! you seems to cover so many places in 3 weeks, I should ask your advice for my next trip.
Nice pictures.
- Swapna

 

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