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Old 3rd January 2012, 22:22   #16
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Default Re: Dizzy Drive :Bangalore-Madurai-Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram-Bangalore in 5 days

Day 2 (evening) - Dec 25 Kanyakumari - Padmanabhapuram - Suchindram - Kanyakumari

We left the hotel at 3:10pm and drove towards Nagercoil on NH47. At Nagercoil town, a sign for Trivandrum led us to a sharp left turn, to a road almost parallel to the one we were on. After about 5 Km I stopped for a reality check and as expected we were in the wrong direction so we headed back about 4 Km and turned left at a signal. Up ahead was another signal where we had to turn left and then we were at a huge 4/5 road junction where a cop was controlling traffic. I stopped beside the cop and asked him for directions to the Palace. He instantly asked "What's the use of knowing this ?". I was surprised and didn't quite understand what he meant.

What followed was our second 'tryst' with a cop !

We were conversing in Tamil and this is how it went:

Cop:"Today is a holiday so no use going there"
Me:"I heard it's closed on Mondays so thought I will try today if it's open"
Cop (Very angrily and confidently - he definitely gave the feeling of 'Who knows better ? A local like me or some outsider
like you ?': "Muyarchi Seiyungo. Turn right at Thuckalay about 20 Km from here"
* "Muyarchi Seiyungo" means "You can try".

We went straight ahead and stopped on the left to make a decision. Here the road seemed much wider than the other parts of
Nagercoil town (I think this is called KP Road). We were left in doubt after this conversation with the cop so I told my wife we'll still go there even if it means only seeing it from outside. She agreed and we proceeded on the same road feeling sad that we may be unable to see the Palace. On the way there was a signal to get onto a narrow bridge to the left from where the road continues to the right. Few more Km's later I see a small sign for Padmanabhapuram Palace indicating a right turn. This was on a curve so I slowed down and stopped ahead at a BP Bunk to confirm. The folks there said we could take the road opposite the BP Bunk. We took that road (there was also a perpendicular road marked Udayagiri Fort at that point). We took the one for the Palace, we also saw a Tavera coming out on that road with a family that seemed like toursists so I had a ray of hope that the Palace may be open. A little ahead on that narrow road there were huge craters and houses on both sides of the road. Again, doubts about the direction started creeping in till we hit a curve where I saw an opening in a fort wall with a sign saying left to Padmanabhapuram Palace. After this turn we were going along the fort wall that had small hutments and houses all along till another curve to the right where we saw a lot of people on the street and several cars parked. I stopped to ask a Taxi driver where the parking lot is. He said we can park on the road ahead or right where we were in front of his car as this would be closer to the Palace. Only then did I realise that we were right in front of the Palace wall ! After parking the car we walked to the entrance (it had a huge wooden door) that was partially open and went in. At the entrance itself people started telling us the Palace just closed but we kept walking towards the ticket counter.

The ticket counter was closed but the person inside was visible through the wooden window. He said the Palace closes at 5:30pm but no tickets are issued after 4:30pm. From 4:30pm they start closing one room at a time after the visitors move to the next room. We looked at our watches and found the time was 4:34pm ! At that moment I considered myself most unlucky to have missed this by 4 minutes, maybe that 4 Km detour earlier caused this and I was cursing myself. My wife started pleading
with the guy at the ticket counter. Unlike me, she's very fluent with her Malayalam so she started telling him that we came all the way from Bangalore only to see the Palace, but that guy did not budge. At this time, a cop walked up to us (there is a small in-house police station within the Palace campus) and he took pity on our situation and he asked the guy in the ticket counter if he could issue tickets for us and his answer was still a stern "No". The cop then asked us to at least go visit the Art Museum that was still open. With sadness evident on our faces we proceeded to leave our footwear at the counter. Seeing a lot of footwear it was obvious there were lots of people inside the Palace so my wife made another attempt to convince the cop to help us as we entered the Art Museum. We then went inside the museum. The exhibits here were amazing - lovely sculptures, coins, utensils, etc. Five minutes later while we were admiring the exhibits, the cop runs up to us asking us to follow him immediately. I really thought he wanted us to get out since we did not even have tickets. We just followed him quietly outside the museum and he took us to a door marked Exit (this is where visitors come out of the main Palace building after their visit).

So, here's our third 'tryst' with cops !

Our cop god now tells another cop at the exit door that we have the permission to visit the Palace and they should close after our visit. We go in to find there is just one group of visitors in the Palace - 4 foreigners with a guide. We tag along with them and it's a peaceful time to go around the Palace, take pictures and absorb the sights. It's a beautiful Palace with a lot of wood being used for Paneling the ceilings, internal perforated screens/walls, swings, cots, windows, intricately carved designs on balconies, staircases, the list is endless and definitely proves that this was done by master craftsmen rather than mere carpenters. A must-see place if you get a chance. After the visit, we are out of the Palace into the main courtyard around 6pm (30 minutes past the official closing time !) and we went looking for our cop god. He refused to take any money from us saying he did not do anything special. So, we had a peaceful visit to the Padmanabhapuram Palace, an unbelievable experience with fluctuating fortunes and emotions which would not have been possible without Mrs.NPV's tenacity and the cops there - 'All Izz Well' !

While all the drama of visiting the Palace was in progress, I felt that some parts of the Palace building bring back some vague memories of having seen it somewhere earlier, definitely not the pictures on the internet but somewhere else. Inside the Palace some of the rooms gave a similar feeling. After I returned to Bangalore, during a conversation with a friend he mentioned that this Palace was where the popular Mohan Lal movie 'His Highness Abdullah' was filmed almost 20 years ago) - and then I realized it now fell into place, that's where the vague memories of the place came from !

Padmanahapuram Palace from outside - entrance door
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View of main door from inside
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External Courtyard in front of Palace Building
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Palace is surrounded by hills
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One of the Palace Building entrance doors
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Balcony with intricate wood work
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Covered Balcony with intricate wood work
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Royal Cot
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Wood Paneled Ceiling
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Wood Paneled Ceiling - intricate designs
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Wood Paneled Ceiling - a slightly different colour and style
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Wall used as scratchpad by visitors
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View from one of the balconies
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Internal courtyard to access in-house temple
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Seating arrangement at a window
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Bay windows
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Balcony with Polished Floor
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Balcony Railing - 1
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Balcony Railing - 2
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Palace backyard
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View of Palace from backyard
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Palace Pond/Tank
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Wooden Designer Walls !
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Royal Kitchen Accessories
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Kitchen wash area
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In-house temple
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Entertainment Hall for cultural programmes
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Palace Clock - does not seem to be working !
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I tried to pick just a few pictures of the Palace for this travelogue but it does seem like I could not conceal my fascination for antique wood work.

You will notice from the pictures that there are ample opportunities to improve the maintenance of the Palace and the priceless artifacts inside and also our own fellow citizens who visit such place must desist from scriblling on the walls, inscribing on the wooden panels, etc - a long way to go in terms of preservation of our heritage.

Once we were outside the main entrance, I spoke to a taxi driver who told me that there is a better route from NH47 than the one we took to reach the Palace. We then took the road perpendicular to the Palace and followed it to merge onto NH47 again - this is the best route with a wide road. This is about 2-3 Km after the turn we took near the BP Bunk earlier.

(to be continued...)

Last edited by NPV : 3rd January 2012 at 22:44.
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Old 4th January 2012, 07:30   #17
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(continued...)

On our way back we found that the Suchindram temple is just before the narrow bridge that we saw earlier on our way to the Palace (when coming from the Palace towards Kanyakumari, Suchindram temple arch is on the right, on the left when coming from Kanyakumari). We turned right, paid the parking fee and headed to the temple a few hundred metres ahead. There is no designated parking space so we just need to park somewhere near the temple entrance or the street beside it. We entered the temple and again it was a beautiful old temple with narrow, short openings near the main sanctum. Inside the temple we saw there were a lot of Sabarimala pilgrims walking all around. A few people asked if we wanted the services of a guide but we declined and continued to walk. This is quite a large temple but most signages are in Tamil only so for first timers it's difficult to understand where to go first. We headed to the Navagrahas first, then a beautiful Ganesha and later to the main deity Shiva. On our way out we also visited the giant Hanuman which was all decked up and had a lot of devotees surrounding it. This is a wonderful temple and a must-see if you're in Kanyakumari.

Sorry for the rant again - I found that maintenance of the temple needs to improve a lot;for example heaps of flowers could be seen dumped in several places.

After an uneventful drive from the temple, we're back at the hotel few minutes past 8pm and find that the parking lot is full. I speak to the receptionist and he says the adjacent building (Hotel Sea Face) also belongs to the same management and I can park there. I go there and luckily there is enough space for my car but it's an open parking lot.

We ordered room service from the restaurant (service was really quick) and hoped to catch up on some sleep before we wake up at 5:45am to witness sunrise at Kanyakumari.

Trip+Expense log for the Day 2 evening drive.
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Day 2 Evening Drive Summary:
Total Distance = 81 Km
Tolls = Nil
Parking = Rs.20

Next day's plan was to witness sun rise, visit local places in Kanyakumari - the Vivekananda Rock, Tiruvalluvar Statue, Devi temple, Gandhi Mandapam, etc and then catch sunset. Will all this be possible ? With this thought we retired by 10pm after a long day out.

Last edited by NPV : 4th January 2012 at 07:33.
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Old 4th January 2012, 14:37   #18
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Woderful trip, Narayan. Thanks for sharing.

It is painful to see the tank - Pushkarani - in Madurai dry. Any plans to refill them?These temple tanks provide serenity to otherwise busy temples in south. Having darshan in madurai during this season is always a challenge and glad to know that you got help from your friend. Another problem with these temples are temple timings. One needs to plan visit after checking on this.

Padmanabhapuram palace is a gem. Unfortunately, it is being managed by state and it is high time they should hand over it to ASI.

Looking forward to sun rise pics of KK!!
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Old 4th January 2012, 18:22   #19
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NPV - Yes, I mean drive in left lane...
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Old 4th January 2012, 18:25   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
Woderful trip, Narayan. Thanks for sharing.

It is painful to see the tank - Pushkarani - in Madurai dry. Padmanabhapuram palace is a gem. Unfortunately, it is being managed by state and it is high time they should hand over it to ASI.

Looking forward to sun rise pics of KK!!
Well, that's why I uploaded the earlier pic of the tank with water! Anyway. Once they dig up the complete concrete and fill up the tank with sand from Vaigai, guess they'd fill it with water again.

And regarding the management of the palace, though the palace is in Tamil nadu state, thankfully, it is managed by the archeological department of the government of Kerala. Hence it is a lot better managed than what TN government would end up doing it.
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Old 4th January 2012, 23:05   #21
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Wonderfully written travelogue NPV. I like the way you have logged the information in a sheet .

Quote:
Originally Posted by NPV View Post
I added Padmanabhapuram, Suchindram and Dhanushkodi to the list of places to visit based on invaluable inputs from team-BHPians 'Lord of the roads' @hvkumar, @rameshnanda, 'Route king' @ampere, @dreamdiesel, @narayans80, my colleague @ajitkumarlb and my friend, philosopher and guide Captain @Fauji - Sir thanks so much for the encouragement at the last minute when I had doubts over the route due to the various conflicts/protests.
I am honored by naming me alongside hvk and ampere.
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Old 5th January 2012, 00:06   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fauji View Post
Woderful trip, Narayan. Thanks for sharing.

It is painful to see the tank - Pushkarani - in Madurai dry. Any plans to refill them?These temple tanks provide serenity to otherwise busy temples in south. Having darshan in madurai during this season is always a challenge and glad to know that you got help from your friend. Another problem with these temples are temple timings. One needs to plan visit after checking on this.

Padmanabhapuram palace is a gem. Unfortunately, it is being managed by state and it is high time they should hand over it to ASI.

Looking forward to sun rise pics of KK!!
Thank you Sir ! I take it as a compliment coming from you, an experienced traveler and travelogue writer, i'm still a novice !

Yes, I do hope they get the Pushkarini restored to its old glory, pity to see man-made blunders destroying century-old legacy that's proven beyond doubt.

I hope the pictures of sunrise will live up to your expectations - I enjoyed viewing them with my own eyes, hope the camera can do justice as well.

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Originally Posted by raka1o View Post
NPV - Yes, I mean drive in left lane...
Yes and no since there could be similar incidents with vehicles on the left of such junctions trying to cross over to the right. I think the key is slowing down at such junctions and being alert.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MX6 View Post
Well, that's why I uploaded the earlier pic of the tank with water! Anyway. Once they dig up the complete concrete and fill up the tank with sand from Vaigai, guess they'd fill it with water again.

And regarding the management of the palace, though the palace is in Tamil nadu state, thankfully, it is managed by the archeological department of the government of Kerala. Hence it is a lot better managed than what TN government would end up doing it.
Hope the old glory is restored soon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rameshnanda View Post
Wonderfully written travelogue NPV. I like the way you have logged the information in a sheet .
I am honored by naming me alongside hvk and ampere.
Thanks ramesh ! Your inputs were really helpful in planning my trip.
I think the power of the forum is in sharing individual views/perspectives so others can make informed decisions and have enough 'contradictory evidence' to make their own decisions rather than rely on possibly biased opinions.

Last edited by NPV : 5th January 2012 at 00:10.
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Old 5th January 2012, 00:30   #23
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excellent TL Narayan! Great to see detailed information and logs.
You reminded me of our memorable bike trip on this route exactly a couple of years ago!

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...some-trip.html (4 Friends - 3 States - 2 Bikes - 1 Awesome Trip)

I have been planning to do the same route in my car with family, but havent been able to fit in 5 days at a stretch. Hopefully will do it sometime soon and your thread will be so helpful.
Waiting for the rest of the TL.
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Old 5th January 2012, 13:04   #24
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Thank you for the wonderful travelogue NPV. Reminded me of the similar route i did about 2 months ago. Loved the pics taken at Padmanabhapuram Palace which I have not been to yet. Waiting for the Rameshwaram part, especially the Pamban Bridge and Dhanushkodi.
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Old 5th January 2012, 16:04   #25
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Superb travelogue, makes me miss Madurai ( I did my college there ).
Food is NEVER a problem in Madurai, whatever the time. Modern Restaurant (Anna Meenakshi), couple of messes near the temple, Supreme, Arthi and Arya Bhavan (Regular and By Night) are all great foodie haunts.
Waiting for the Rameswaram part !
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Old 5th January 2012, 22:43   #26
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Originally Posted by figo_united View Post
I have been planning to do the same route in my car with family, but havent been able to fit in 5 days at a stretch. Hopefully will do it sometime soon and your thread will be so helpful.
Waiting for the rest of the TL.
Thanks @figo_united. I hope my travelogue will help you plan a similar trip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamdiesel View Post
Thank you for the wonderful travelogue NPV. Reminded me of the similar route i did about 2 months ago. Loved the pics taken at Padmanabhapuram Palace which I have not been to yet. Waiting for the Rameshwaram part, especially the Pamban Bridge and Dhanushkodi.
Quote:
Originally Posted by polopm View Post
Superb travelogue, makes me miss Madurai ( I did my college there ).
Waiting for the Rameswaram part !
Thanks @dreamdiesel, @polopm.
Rameshwaram leg of the travelogue is still another day or two away, watch this space !
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Old 6th January 2012, 07:44   #27
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Day 3 - Dec 26 Kanyakumari

Off goes the mobile phone alarm again - this time at 5:30am !

Given that our trip was a short one I wanted to make sure we made the most of it. This time the target was sunrise and didn't want to miss this opportunity. The moment we entered our sea-facing room at Hotel Sea View the previous day, we knew that viewing sunrise would be a great experience from our room and the folks at the hotel had said sunrise would be around 6am so we were all set.

All of us were up in a few minutes and we set the small centre table and sofa up near the large window to witness sunrise at Kanyakumari. Around 6am, it was still dark and we could only see the Vivekananda Rock in the distance which was dotted by coloured lights. The Tiruvalluvar statue wasn't visible in darkness. About 5 minutes later, a little light started pouring out from the horizon and we we were able to see the bluish sky and the Vivekananda Rock, Tiruvalluvar statue and the rocky pier were visiable as grayish/blackish masses. There were several people on top of most buildings around our hotel all waiting with bated breath to watch the sunrise spectacle. There were also people walking on the rocky pier trying to get to vantage points for the sunrise experience. I made a note to myself not to miss a walk on this pier, if possible in the evening. During the next few minutes we witnessed one of the best sunrises ever and it was an amazing, most satisfying experience ! Here's a very small selection of the sunrise pictures. Hope these will give you an idea of what we witnessed - the transition from darkness to brightness in just a few minutes. These pictures are definitely nowhere close to the real experience we had of seeing this with our own eyes.

Darkness to brightness - an awesome experience of sunrise
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After breakfast we planned to visit Vivekananda Rock and Tiruvalluvar statue. We were at the hotel's restaurant by 8am and there was a very good breakfast spread and we managed to find a table. In about 5 minutes the restaurant was full so good timing here.

We were out of the hotel by 8:30am and were in for a rude shock on the road - the Ferry station was just a couple of roads away but the line was already at the end of street where our hotel was located. We walked towards the end of the line and joined to begin our long walk to buy Ferry tickets. Though it was a bright day, the weather was pleasant with the occasional sea breeze blowing.

Long line for the Ferry ride to Vivekananda Rock
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While standing in line, we noticed a small, seemingly old temple on the street where our hotel was located. The temple itself was at least one and a half feet below the road level as you can see here. There were couple of hotels surrounding the temple on the other sides. Sadly, this seemed like a case of human greed, neglect and disregard for history and heritage.

Kasivishwanathar Temple
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The line seemed to move ever so slowly and by the time we reached the ticket counter it was 10am. At the ticket counter we noticed a sign that said Tiruvalluvar statue could not be visited due to strong winds blowing that day. I'm not too sure if this was true since the sign seemed like one that was permanently fixed there and I also remembered seeing lots of visitors at the Tiruvalluvar statue the previous day. Not sure if the status visit is allowed only on certain days of the week. Anyways, there goes one of our plans for the day !

Ferry station
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We boarded the ferry and reached Vivekananda Rock at 10.20am and spent an hour there. The memorial, Kanyakumari Devi's foot prints on the rock, the lovely view of the coast, buildings, the Devi temple, Churches and of course the water all around was a wonderful experience. An hour later we boarded the ferry again.

View of Devi temple from the ferry
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The Devi Mandapam on Vivekananda rock
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Vivekananda memorial on Vivekananda rock
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My daughter wanted to do some shell memorabilia shopping for herself and her best friend at school so that was our next stop on the street near the Ferry station entrance. It took about an hour for the art work to be completed so we chatted up a conversation with our shopkeepers - they reminded us that it was exactly 7 years ago on 26 Dec 2004 when the Tsunami hit them and recounted their scary experiences of that incident.

Shell Art
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We then walked back to our hotel around 12.30pm and by this time it was much warmer than in the morning. Seeing the crowds on the streets I thought it will be a good idea to have lunch by 1pm to avoid the lunch time rush. I remembered @J.Ravi sir's recommendation of Vivekananda Kendra so we boarded an autorickshaw and reached there in 5 minutes. The Vivekananda Kendra is a sprawling campus and well maintained with several small buildings/blocks, lots of gardens, trees and it was a calm, pleasant experience inside. We walked to the Gowrishanker Restaurant there and had simple, tasty south indian vegetarian meals. It cost us just Rs.70 for lunch there - a regular Rice meal and a Chappathi meal included ! After lunch we walked around the Kendra campus and headed back to our hotel.

Back at the hotel, I found parking space was available so got the car from the Hotel Sea Face campus and parked it at Sea View's covered parking lot - Dizzy's is having her rest day today and didn't want her to suffer in the heat.

After a good siesta, we got ready for the visit to the Devi temple, stroll around the town and to witness sunset. Around 4pm, I enquired at the hotel reception about a suggestion for the best place to view sunset from. The answer was we would most likely be unable to witness sunset because of the weather - we came out of the hotel and found a rather overcast and cloudy sky. There goes another plan !

We walked slowly towards the Devi temple. At the temple, we found that there was only Special Darshan (ticket Rs.20) - a security guard here mentioned Free Darshan is only in the mornings ! Security was very strict with cameras, phones being disallowed inside. Seeing the way the security guys were handling mobile phones and bags of visitors, we were not comfortable leaving our stuff with them so we decided to take turns to go inside for the darshan. I went in first for darshan and once I returned, my wife and daughter went inside. This temple is another beautiful, old temple but not very well maintained. After good darshan of the goddess we walked towards the beach just behind the temple. The place was full of vendors, hawkers, beggars and toursists. Paper, plastic covers, cloth, etc was strewn all over and nobody seemed concerned. There was a steep stair leading down to the sea, we quickly went there to see the place and then headed out towards the other side of the temple to the street outside.

Tiruvalluvar Statue from the Devi Temple
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Stair to the ocean
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Our Little Devi
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People everywhere!
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There were several shops selling various things and many of them had a similar theme - buy anything at this shop for Rs.5, 10, 15, etc. Further down the street, I accidently came across this:

Government Museum
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There are shops all along this street and in between the shops a small gate leads to the government museum, not really sure if anyone visits this place or even knows about it. My curiosity took me closer to the gate and I could see several stone sculptures were placed on the ground inside but the place seemed to be suffering from neglect.

By this time it was obvious we can't view sunset because of the weather. We visited the Gandhi Mandapam, the Wandering Monk exhibition and then decided to get a quick bite at a restaurant that boasted Rajasthani, Gujrathi, etc cuisine but were ony serving dosas and chappathis which was what we wanted anyways. We had Dosas and Coffee and after a walk along the beach road we headed back to the hotel by 8pm.

Gandhi Mandapam
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We crashed to sleep by 9pm, it was a good day overall but for being unable to visit the Tiruvalluvar statue and missing sunset due to the weather.

Next day we had to drive to Rameshwaram that would easily take about 5-6 hour at least and I hoped to leave by 9am so we could reach Rameshwaram after lunch.

Last edited by NPV : 6th January 2012 at 07:53.
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Old 9th January 2012, 22:29   #28
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Default Re: Dizzy Drive :Bangalore-Madurai-Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram-Bangalore in 5 days

Day 4 - Dec 27 Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram

There was no alarm going off this time but I woke up feeling fresh after a very good night's sleep. I look at the mobile phone and the time is 5:45am. I knew I had a 5-6 hour drive later that morning but I could not sleep anymore. I also felt I missed something the previous evening - yes, a walk on the rocky pier, can we go now ?

My daughter was still in sound sleep so I did not want to wake her up. Quickly checked with my wife and she agreed to stay back while I go out for the pier walk. Around 6:15am, I went down to the reception and asked for directions to reach the pier. They direct me to a samll lane beside the hotel that leads to the fishermen colony and then to the beach and pier. As I walk down to the pier, I see lots of people heading in the same direction and only then I realise people are going there to witness sunrise not necessarily just a walk on the pier. Lucky me, I get to enjoy the walk on the pier and also get to watch sunrise as a bonus !

It was another lovely experience of watching the sun rise to glory with cool sea breeze all around and great views of the sea, fishermen on the boats, the Vivekananda Rock, Tiruvalluvar statue and a few minutes of solitude, though I did make one phone call to my wife from the pier. After sunrise I was back at the hotel by 7am.

The Rocky Pier
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Our hotel from the Pier
The hotel's terrace had a deck for viewing Sunrise.
We were told the church was where the Tsunami scene from Kamal Haasan's movie Dashavatharam was filmed.
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Moments before Sunrise
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Sunrise !
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We had breakfast, again a good buffet spread like the previous day. We checked out around 8.45am and by 9am we were heading out towards Rameshwaram. On our way from Madurai to Kanyakumari the previous day I did notice a few turn off's from NH7 to various places like Kovilpatti, etc but did not remember seeing one for Thoothukudi (NH7A). The only turn off I'd seen for Thoothukudi was before the last toll plaza and this was the Tiruchendur (SH40) route. While checking out, I asked the hotel staff about the Thoothukudi directions and they had their taxi drivers do the explanation. All of them consistently said the Tiruchendur road was good and asked me to take the same. None of them seemed to know the NH7A route which was surprising. I decided to ask again at the toll plaza and then decide. By about 9.10am we were on NH7 driving towards Tirunelveli. On the way from our hotel about 2-3Km before the NH7 junction, I saw a turn off to the right and a sign for Vattakottai Fort, but did not go there (maybe next time for sure).

Going past the windmill territory we were at the first toll plaza (Nanguneri) at 9.40am. I enquired for NH7A directions here and they were unable to help. They also asked me to take the Tiruchendur road after 35 Km. I took this road (SH40), it was a decent surface, narrow in some places, being patched in some places, widened in some others but traffic was sparse. Some stretches were beatiful going through agricultural fields, small towns (villages really), small temples, etc. There were some small stretches (AlwarThirunagari and Tiruchendur for example) where the surface was not so good but still manageable for the most part. Near Tiruchendur we saw several buildings on both sides of the road, including an indoor stadium - these were various educational institutions run by the Dr.Sivanthi Aditanar Trust. At Tiruchendur we followed a sign to Thoothukudi (SH176) and headed to the left past the bus stand. A few Km from here just after a railway crossing the road became really bad with large potholes all over. We passed through some towns like South Authoor, Sahupuram, etc (just remembering some names that stuck to mind). We also drove on a narrow old bridge across the Tamirabarani river (a new bridge is also being constructed beside it). After negotiating this bad stretch of road we were nearing Thoothukudi town where the road was much wider but still pothole ridden and we were approaching a typical police barricade (used all over Tamil Nadu to slow vehicles down near check posts, police stations, etc). I was already driving slow due to the bad roads and slowed down even more as I neared the barricade. On the right side I noticed a Police Station and also saw a cop walking across the road, towards our car. He indicated to me with his hand to stop. I immediately stopped the car and rolled the window down in shock since he was right in front looking intently at the registration number and also at a piece of paper in his hand !

Here was our fourth 'tryst' with a cop !

The cop after a minute again indicated with his hand that we can proceed. I asked what was the matter and he said the were asked to check a particular Karnataka registered vehicle. I thanked my stars and asked him for directions to the ECR for Rameshwaram. He asked me to proceed straight and enquire at the next 'roundtana' (circle) if in doubt.

At the large circle I saw a sign showing left to Madurai, right to Harbour so stopped at a tea shop there to confirm directions. A black Scorpio with KA-19 registration was also stopped in front of us and a good samaritan from the tea shop was talking to them. Just after the Scorpio left, we asked the same person for directions. He said he just explained it to the the folks in the Scorpio so we can follow them. The Scorpio turned left towards Madurai and so did we. This was a beautiful 4 laned road (NH45B) and there were huge trucks parked all around - definitely looked like trucks transporting goods from/to the harbour. Up ahead we found that the Scorpio had stopped by the side of the road and most of the people were outside, seemed like they were taking a break for the kids. We continued on the same road for a few Km and I only saw signs for Madurai, Chennai and Bangalore, nothing for Rameshwaram. I stopped and asked a 2 wheeler who directed me to proceed straight to the toll plaza and then take a right turn. Just after the toll plaza, there was a Bharat Petroleum pump and I stopped there to top up the car with Petrol. Confirmed with the BP attendant about the turn off for Rameshwaram - just a few hundered metres from the petrol pump. I took this turn and was surprised to see a lovely, well maintained 2 laned road with very new looking lane markings. This beautiful road just seemed to go on and on and I loved the drive, especially after the Tiruchendur-Thoothukudi experience. This is definitely one of the best roads I have ever driven on. Along the way we saw salt pans, small villages with a few shops/houses near the towns/villages but otherwise open land everywhere. As HVK sir and others had mentioned, facilities for food, etc were simply non-existent in most places. I only remember seeing one small restaurant called Arya Bhavan (I think it was at Sayalgudi). Around 1.45pm we were at Ramanathapuram on the NH49 junction and turned right towards Rameshwaram. Saw a decent looking restaurant on the left and stopped there for lunch - Hotel Garish Park. We had the regular south indian meals served on a plaintain leaf.

Beautiful ECR
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Trip milestone - 1000 Km reached
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Hotel Garish Park - lunch stop
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After lunch, we headed towards Rameshwaram on the same road (NH49). This road is very good and well maintatined but need to watch out especially for goats and cycles crossing the road at will !

After a few minutes we stopped to pay toll at the Pamban bridge (Annai Indira Gandhi Bridge). Driving on the Pamban bridge was something I always looked forward to since I'd read so much about it and had seen lot of pictures. We stopped very briefly near the bridge to take a couple of pictures of the railway track and the ocean. On the bridge there were many vehicles parked and lots of people generally walking around on the sidewalk and fruit vendors, etc all around. Next, we stopped at another toll - this time for Rameshwaram town. Soon on the left hand side we saw Hotel Queen Palace, our home for the evening. Check-in was quick and we were in our room by 3.15pm. The hotel was very good, neat rooms and very comfortable (we had a triple bed accomodation which was the only one I found when I booked the hotel, so a rather large room). Some internal construction activity is still in progress in one section of the building. A quick enquiry at the hotel revealed that Dhanushkodi will be closed to visitors by 5pm so better not to go there today. We then asked about the temples and other places to visit and were given a list of tourist attractions. After a few minutes of rest, we got ready for our temple visits. We had good coffee at the hotel's restaurant. Next on our list were the temples - we decided to use the services of an autorickshaw, a very comfortable, easy mode of transport here and since all the places are quite near you end up paying Rs.20 or Rs.30 for each journey. Our first stop was at the Panchmukhi Hanuman temple that also had the floating stones. We then visited Sita Theertham just opposite the Hanuman temple and next was Lakshmana Theertham on the other side of the road. These places did not give the usual feeling of entering temples/ temple pushkarinis - they even had 'entry fee' of Rs.2, Rs.3 ! Around the Sita Theertham there was a lot of construction activity with huge buildings coming up - sadly it seemed like another case of human greed and neglect.

Pamban Bridge
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Railway Track beside Pamban Bridge
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Hotel Queen Palace
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The KA brigade - cars parked at Hotel Queen Palace
Dizzy had KA siblings next to her - an XUV 500 and a Scorio Automatic
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Panchmukhi Hanuman Temple (and Floating Stones inside)
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Sita Theertham
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Lakshmana Theertham
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After visiting the Lakshmana Theertham we decided to visit the main temple of Rameshwaram, the Ramanathaswamy temple. An autorickshaw ride took us to the West entrance of the temple. After leaving our footwear at the building across the street (the way to the beach Keezh Vaasal) we headed into the temple. Right at the entrance there were many guides dressed in white clothes offering their services for the 22-well routine. We had decided to skip the 22-well routine on this visit so we just headed inside. This is a huge temple complex and has to be seen to be believed - the road (NH49) seems to end right in front of the temple entrance on the East and when you get there you find roads around the temple, easily about a Km in length on each side ! It's almost like a fortress with several temples and sub structures inside. The streets around the temple are busy with lots of vehicles, shops and people walking all around. We took the Rs.50 Speical Darshan ticket and went inside. We had a good darshan though we did not have any special archana/pooja performed. We saw one of the temple officials/guard demanding bribes right in front of the main sanctum from devotees in the free darshan line. On further enquiry found that this was for offerings from devotees (like oil, water, etc) to reach the sanctum for adornment - very sad state of affairs.We stuck to our routine of praying at each deity/smaller temple inside the complex and admiring the temple architecture, the high ceilings decorated with colourful paintings and beautifully carved sculptures and pillars. The temple complex, especially the floors are not very well maintained with lot of paper, leaves, etc thrown around. With lots of water on the floors, I guess it's a challenge to keep the place clean. After almost 3 hours inside, we headed out around 8pm.

Ramanathaswamy Temple Entrance (West)
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Inside the temple - 1
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Inside the temple - 2
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Just outside the temple, I received a call from my cousin who suggested a restaurant called Senthil Andavar for dinner. A quick auto ride took us there and our dinner was good Idly/Dosa. A few minutes later we were back at the hotel ready to get some good sleep. I noticed that most of the locals at Rameshwaram can speak Hindi, which by the way is uncommon in Tamil Nadu. I could only attribute it to the large number of devotees and visitors from the Hindi speaking regions of our country and tourism plays an important role in this town's economy.

Back at the hotel, I enquired about how much a jeep ride to Dhanuskodi from the hotel would cost. I was told it would cost us Rs.1000/-so decided to go with that. The Jeep would pick us up at 8.15am the next morning.

Trip+Expense log for the Day 4 drive.
Dizzy Drive :Bangalore-Madurai-Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram-Bangalore in 5 days-day-4-log.jpg
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Day 4 Drive Summary
Total Distance = 362 Km
Tolls = Rs.197

Next day's plan was to visit Dhanushkodi and then return to Bangalore either via Karaikudi or Madurai which we'd decide the next morning.

Last edited by NPV : 9th January 2012 at 22:34.
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Old 10th January 2012, 11:46   #29
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Default Re: Dizzy Drive :Bangalore-Madurai-Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram-Bangalore in 5 days

Quote:
Originally Posted by NPV View Post
After a few minutes we stopped to pay toll at the Pamban bridge (Annai Indira Gandhi Bridge).
Bunch of thugs I should say manning this toll booth. During my last drive about couple of months back, When I passed through the checkpost before Pamban Bridge towards Rameshwaram I was asked to pay Rs.50 as toll charges for car. I had briefly noticed the almost faded board just before stopping which had the toll charges for vehicles painted. Gave them a piece of my mind even though my ability to speak the local language is terrible. I think the right amount was Rs.10 or 20.

Sorry for the OT.

Was fortunate to see a train make its way slowly over the long bridge on sea during my drive over Pamban Bridge. Posting the pic here.

Dizzy Drive :Bangalore-Madurai-Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram-Bangalore in 5 days-p1090292.jpg

Loving your Travelogue NPV. Agree with the awesome drive on the ECR between Rameshwaram and Thoothukudi. Butter smooth road with some very good curves and almost deserted.
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Old 11th January 2012, 07:40   #30
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Default Re: Dizzy Drive :Bangalore-Madurai-Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram-Bangalore in 5 days

Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamdiesel View Post
I think the right amount was Rs.10 or 20.
Was fortunate to see a train make its way slowly over the long bridge on sea during my drive over Pamban Bridge.
Attachment 868997
Thanks dreamdiesel.
The picture of the train that you added is lovely, I wasn't so lucky to spot one.

The toll booth was really just a shack and I was suspicious but somewhat convinced when I received a fee receipt for Rs.50. Do you still think I was conned ? Now that you raised this question, I'm also thinking if there is some kind of scam here, maybe others can clarify hopefully.

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EDIT:I was expecting the return leg to be simple and short to write but seems like it's going to take some time, will try to complete it when I find time soon.

Last edited by NPV : 11th January 2012 at 07:42.
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