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Old 24th March 2006, 18:41   #1
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Smile A weekend on the top of a tree

Finally found some time to post this report. We were planning to visit this unique resort in Kerala for a while, and our first attempt almost ended in disaster. This report has medium size photos for easy viewing, but might be little slow on dialup connections.

What is so unique about this resort? Well, the rooms are located on the top of a Banyan tree at around 100 ft from the ground. The only way to reach there is via cage lift on jute ropes counterweighed by a big water bag. Sounds interesting? we thought so.

The original booking was done over phone and payment was made via local branch of centurion bank. After the freak accident we had postponed it indefinitely. Later we decided not to stretch it any further and do it the very next week. Therefore we rescheduled the booking to the next week. I got the car serviced (3rd service) right after the freak accident and fortunately there was no other problem.

The route was quite simple, Bangalore-Mysore-Nanjangoodu-Gundlupet-Sultan Batherey-Kalpetta-Vythiri- Thalipuzha. We started from home at 6AM and took our usual breakfast break at Indradanush (chennapattana) on Mysore road. By now we had realized that it is much quicker to drive through Mysore city than trying to go around it on ring road. Mysore is a small city, if you keep driving, you will reach the other in no time. Take the street map of Mysore and chart your route, look for Ooty road signs towards nanjanagoodu road and you will be out of Mysore in no time. Also carry a Karnataka road map and Kerala road map, they will give you general sense of direction in case there are no signs or people to give direction.

Right after crossing Gundlupet there is a major road going 90 degree right, which we overshot first. We suspected that is the road to Calicut and upon confirmation we were right. We took that turn and soon we entered the protected forest ranges of Bandipur. This drive is just breath-taking, it reminded us of forest roads in New Jersey just after fall season or early winter. The quality of the road is very good, except for the unmarked speed bumps every 500 meters to rattle your bones. After few panic brakes for the speed bumps, I ran over one at 80Kmph. While we really felt these speed bumps at 35-40kpmh, they were unnoticeable at 80kmph, strange. I don't have to add that I took all the remaining speed bumps at 80kmph. In addition, this road is quite a twister, but wonderfully banked for fast driving and no blind turns. Still, I wouldn't recommend crossing into 3 digit speed here. You may run into some animal in a turn and also you'll miss all the beauty. See what I mean:

The road through Bandipur forest range.


The road after crossing into Kerala.




As we entered Kerala the road got a little uneven if not bad. However after Sultan Bathery, the road got better. I should mention here that this was my first visit into Kerala, turned out it was the same for my wife too. This route too was very nice, especially after crossing Kalpetta and closing towards Vythiri. I was amazed to find coffee and tea being cultivated along side.

Tea plantations around Vythiri




We reached the rendezvous point at about 11:45AM, that means we took nearly 6 hours for exactly 300Kms drive, although we did stop for few photo sessions and breakfast. Because of last week's accident I was little more careful on the road, didn't do any speeding this time. You know what, I have come to realise that I enjoy long leisurely drives on 2-lane country side roads much more than high speed driving on 4-lane highways. May be it is my driving taste catching up with my age.

The rendezvous point was Gandhi Gramam Handicrafts shop at Thalipuzha about 2-3 KMs after Vythiri town. We were expected only at 1PM. The resort owner had predicted 4 hour drive from Mysore, but I guess he hadn’t reckoned what a Baleno could do in these roads. The lady at the shop could barely speak English, we somehow told her that we were supposed to be picked up by Green Magic resort Jeep. Then she pointed us to another shop on the other side of the road. I went there and repeated my story to a guy who couldn’t speak English. But he got the gist of my talk and called up the resort to come and pick us up. In about 15-20 minutes, the resort jeep showed up to pick and deliver us to the resort. My car was parked in a landing behind the shop in somebody’s private yard. They promised it would be safe there and I didn’t doubt them.

Then began our 8 KMs journey through dense jungle in a Mahindra jeep (with Tata steering wheel) towards the tree house resort. At first I wondered whether I should have taken my car all the way, soon I was glad I didn’t. This road is total jeep territory, a street car would break down in this road.

We reached the resort at around 1.30PM and were checked in into a regular room on the ground. It turned out that every tree house dweller gets a regular room on the ground, just in case. We freshened up and had lunch in the open air dining room.

The Dining Room



After lunch it was time to go up. We walked into the launch platform (?) and were asked to get into a cage, I mean all 3 of us with luggage. Then two people started pulling a jute rope and we started moving up. My son who is usually afraid of heights, was not at all scared, instead was thrilled at the whole circus. Remember Phantom comics and the tree house with rope lifts, it was very real here.

A view from below


The lift platform


The lift cage


The tree house had 3 levels. The first level has one closed room with attached bathroom and big L shaped balcony. The second level where we stayed was different. It had a open air room and a open air bathroom. There were no locks or doors to our room, the bathroom was separated by curtains. Our private balcony was in the third level. The first level was occupied by a German couple. The bathrooms had wash basin, shower area and toilet with running water and drainage system.

The bedroom


The open air bathroom


The first level balcony


The tree house had some great views, although limited. If you want to explore, you have to get down. The only way to get down is to shout from the top and ask them to let you down. The evening tea/biscuit was sent up by the rope lift, we just had to shout for it.

The views from the top






The backside of the room


I spent most of my time taking photographs. After sunset we all went down and struck conversation with the German couple. I also took many night snaps of the resort including the tree house in the moonlight. However, I made one big mistake. I initially cranked up the ISO to 800 for one shot and forgot to reset it back. Therefore I took all the night snaps in ISO800, I realized this mistake only after coming back. All night photos turned out too grainy and most had to be deleted.

The dining room at night (very grainy)


Whole day we were wondering how it would feel to sleep in this partially open air room 100 ft above the ground in a jungle. But the night was not very cold and we all slept very soundly without any problem until my alarm went off at 6AM. I wanted to be ready for the sunrise scene. It was a weird experience using the open air toilet at 100 ft in freezing cold. The sunrise scene was not that great since the sun was rising from behind the mountain next to the room.

This one captures both tree house and ground rooms.


See the house on the tree...


My son waiting for breakfast.


We decided to checkout from the tree house before breakfast and moved down to the ground level room. The breakfast was very nice although not traditional. After that we decided to explore the forest around the place. The resort had one more tree house about a KM away and a sister resort called Jungle Park. We visited the other tree house which was accessible by a hanging bridge instead of rope lift, however I guess that would diminish the experience by quite a bit.

We checked out by 11AM and were delivered back to our car. As we started driving back, my wife had one regret. We hadn’t gotten to eat authentic Kerala food, especially the Kerala fish curry. The resort food was nice but authentic only in appearance, it was watered down for foreigners for make up about 95% of their customer base. Therefore my wife insisted we have lunch in some restaurant that serves authentic Kerala fish curry. We were too early at Kalpetta, therefore decided to start looking at Sultan Bathery. However, we soon realized that these people take their Sunday quite seriously, we found 90% shops closed. We knew we have to avoid star hotels since they too will water it down. Some restaurants looked too suspect, and some clearly closed.

Finally we found a restaurant called Solar just at the end of the town with some car parking. As we walked in, the beaming cashier motioned us towards the family room. Once we were seated, a lungi clad waiter came towards us, I said Menu, and he said No Menu. I knew we hit the mother lode, this place will have authentic food. He spoke no English, but knew enough to understand our instructions. We ordered 3 meals, 2 fish curry and 3 fish fry. We even ordered boiled rice instead of white rice. Although 3 meals were ordered, the dishes were served in a common bowl, I guess that is a Kerala practice. The curry was spicy enough to get our mouths smoking but not enough to start screaming. We just loved it. The fry was great too. The final bill barely crossed into 3 digits. We basically over ate and walked out in complete satisfaction. With this lunch our first Kerala trip was really complete.

Rest of the drive was quite uneventful and we made it home by 6:30 PM.

Click for more info on this resort.

Last edited by Samurai : 12th September 2011 at 12:13.
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Old 24th March 2006, 19:26   #2
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Thats a fantastic write up samurai... and very nice photographs.
when was this trip?? cos the forest looks soo green..
waiting for a long weekend to go to such a place..
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Old 24th March 2006, 19:37   #3
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Thumbs up pleasure..

another victory for the great warrior and his clan - Samurai San strikes again.

excellent write-up and pictoral description, as usual!
thanks for sharing....

[a thought - you should catalogue all these reports of yours. good memories!]
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Old 24th March 2006, 19:56   #4
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Oh! Thanks guys, glad you like it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by shazikon
when was this trip?? cos the forest looks soo green..
waiting for a long weekend to go to such a place..
This happened very recently, 11-12 of March.

Before anyone asks, the camera model is Sony Cybershot DSC-717. This camera will semi-retire now since I received my first dSLR Olympus Evolt-500 few days back.
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Old 24th March 2006, 19:59   #5
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Great travelogue, but coming from you, we don't expect anything less .

I tend to agree with you that leisurely drive on the country roads are much more pleasurable experience than high speed highway drives. And that stretch through Bandipur forest range looks inviting. Maybe you could have considered a shot with the Black Baleno in the foreground.

The place indeed looks very green and unconventional. Did you venture into the forest (shot 14) ? This place looks to be a great weekend getaway and I am surely adding Vythiri to my list.

Last edited by S Pathak : 24th March 2006 at 20:09.
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Old 24th March 2006, 20:11   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S Pathak
The place indeed looks very green and unconventional. Did you venture into the forest (shot 14) ? This place looks to be a great weekend getaway and I am surely adding Vythiri to my list.
We did venture into the forest, but stayed on the road. But, I haven't posted any snaps from that. The shot you mention is from the top of the tree house.
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Old 24th March 2006, 20:12   #7
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Fantastic writeup Samurai, makes me wanna go there ASAP. Thanks for sharing this with us. Didn't know such a resort existed. I have planned a trip to Munnar in May with my family. I'll try and fit this in to the plan. What's the best time of the year to be there?
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Old 24th March 2006, 20:19   #8
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lovely writeup on a lovely experience ...
i would check this resort out .. when i visit mysore in may ...
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Old 24th March 2006, 23:34   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S@~+#0$#
Fantastic writeup Samurai, makes me wanna go there ASAP. Thanks for sharing this with us. Didn't know such a resort existed. I have planned a trip to Munnar in May with my family. I'll try and fit this in to the plan. What's the best time of the year to be there?
I think anytime other than monsoon would be fine. As you noticed, it was quite green in mid march too. I hear leeches are a major problem there during monsoon or any time it rains.
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Old 25th March 2006, 11:20   #10
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Samurai

I gotta hand it to you. These are really my kind of holidays i.e. visiting places within India that are extremely unique and in touch with beauty. Who the hell needs an overseas holiday with destinations like these?

Fabulous report. You guys must have had a superb time.

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Old 25th March 2006, 13:23   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO

These are really my kind of holidays i.e. visiting places within India that are extremely unique and in touch with beauty. Who the hell needs an overseas holiday with destinations like these?


GTO
this is one thing i go by as well, but haven't done much of this stuff yet. But plan to start exploring the country soon.

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Old 25th March 2006, 13:28   #12
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Fantastic snaps . Nice writeup. how expensive was this trip. We four friends are thinking of going to kerala.
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Old 25th March 2006, 13:31   #13
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Now there's somewhere I'd love to go! Looks beautiful! I think Samurai san should become the official T-BHP Traveler. He's off on a trip every weekend!
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Old 25th March 2006, 13:35   #14
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A great report as always Samurai. Never knew novelties such as this tree house thingy existed out here. This really qualifies to be a Team BHP outing destination. Your outing reports are always a pleasure to read
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Old 25th March 2006, 15:34   #15
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Thats why Kerala is called "Gods own Country". It Really IS !!!!

Cheers.....Major
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