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Old 8th December 2013, 23:43   #1
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Default Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Hello Everyone, Me and wifey did a wonderful trip to Madurai, Rameswaram and Kanyakumari in Sept 2013. Very sorry for the delay in posting my log. Due to some unfortunate incidents in our family, I could not get much time to post my travelogue in Sept month.

Preface:

Southern destinations have always fascinated me, may it be due to its strong culture, architectural temples, food delicacies, etc. From childhood days to the present, heard from my relatives who visited these places about the greatness of Swami Vivekanand and about their memorial in Kanyakumari. The holyness of the Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameswaram about being a part of the Char Dham pilgrimage. Rameswaram is the closest point to reach Sri Lanka and geological evidence suggests that the Adam's Bridge was a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. Since I shifted to Bangalore about an year ago, visiting these places was always on my mind.

About a month ago, me and wifey were discussing about an outing in September. Our last trip was to Yercaud in June this year. Here are some points in our discussion:
Me: Lets go for a long trip on September.
Wifey: Should we go to Coorg?
Me: ohh, that’s just 3 days. Lets plan for a long vacation this time.
Wifey: How many days you mean?
Me: Atleast for 5 days.
Wifey: Do you have any places in mind?
Me: Can we go to Madurai-Kanyakumari-Rameshwaram circuit?
Wifey: That’s seems to be a nice plan. What about the drive? Don’t you think its too far?
Me: Though its far, we can take enough pitstops to make the journey comfortable.
Wifey: But how will you plan the schedule?
Me: Don’t worry, I will set it up perfectly for a 5-6 day trip. It will be fun to explore these places. Let’s plan it out and make the schedule. Accordingly I will apply for leave in office.

A week later, I got my leave approved from office, clubbing comp-offs and weekly offs. Managed to get a leave for 5 days excluding with my weekly offs. In the meanwhile, read a lot of travelogues from several T-Bhp members (NPV’s detailed log was the most useful). Googled and found various sight-seeing places in and around Madurai, Kanyakumari and Rameshwaram. Scheduling the trip with hotel bookings on specific dates was also an important task. The dates for the trip were from 7th Sept to 12th Sept.

The Schedule:

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We did a slight tweak in the plan. Since the Padmanabhapuram Palace near Kanyakumari is closed on Mondays, we decided to visit Madurai to Rameswaram first and then to Kanyakumari. So as per schedule, this palace can be visited on Wednesday.

The Route:

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Previous day preparations:

A day before, I was held up with lot of car pre-readiness checks:
  • Washed the car thoroughly including underbody.
  • Replaced normal air with Nitrogen in all tyres.
  • Cleaned Air filter (after 6000 kms from the last service interval)
  • Did a general car checkup, found coolant level was low. Did the top-up.
  • Ensured correct water level in the battery.
  • Filled Unleaded petrol from Shell.
  • Checked all car-related documents.
  • Ensured tool-kit and stepany are in place.

Our plans were to leave at 4 am on 7th Sept. After all the above, packing luggage for a 6 day trip was a big task. Apart from clothes and eatables, here are some things to carry, though smaller ones, but matter a lot:
  • Common medicines (Crocin, Anacin, Cold&Flu, Saridon, Avomin, Vicks Balm, any sprain gel)
  • A good Torch.
  • Mosquito repellent (Hit spray)
  • Vaseline healthy white (To avoid Sun tanning)
  • Camera and cell-phone chargers.
  • Umbrellas, sun caps and pair of goggles.
  • Google Maps enabled mobile phone.

After a complete packed up, we managed to hit the bed at 12 am.
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Old 9th December 2013, 00:02   #2
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Day 1: 7th Sept 2013 (Saturday)

Wifey had set alarm at 3 am. Managed to get up by 3.30 am and got ready. We loaded the luggage in the car and left at 4.30 am.

Leaving early morning was the best decision due to very less traffic and cool weather. We took the Varthur main Road through Whitefield and joined the Sarjapur-Attibele Road (SH35) later. This is the first time we have left so early for a road trip. Though truck traffic was less, many of them were driving using high beams on the single lane road. I was awaiting sunrise as early as possible so that it could be much easier to drive. Around 6:30 am, we crossed Hosur road. Thankfully didn’t face any truck traffic here.

Weather:
As we left Bangalore, weather started getting more warmer and humid. Clouds covered the sky most of the time. Since there was good monsoon season this year, we witnessed some spectacular landscapes of green pastures and mountain ranges on the way.

Stopped for breakfast at Krishangiri at 8 am. Wifey had taken home made breakfast and hot tea, hence we halted alongside the highway itself. After 30 minutes, continued our journey further. Long stretches of paddy fields and coconut plantations were seen as we cruised along the NH7.

With fuel prices aiming the sky, I had made up my mind to drive within the FE zone. I did drive at 70-80 kmpl for around few hours, however I felt we were much slower considering the distance we had to cover. Moreover, other cars were whizzing past us on the highway. Had to maintained a constant 100 kmph, post breakfast.

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No wonder, why truck accidents are caused due to over-loading!

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Goods Carrier or Cattle Carrier??

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Road conditions:
NH7 is an absolute boon to drive. Six lanes with smooth tarmac roads makes the drive truly enjoying. Though there are some diversions due to new flyover constructions, traffic was much lesser. Toll booths are present on regular intervals.

Lovely NH7

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Around 2 pm, we stopped for lunch at Hotel Shri Sakthi Aryaas which was only 35 kms from Madurai. Had typical South indian meal here. Food was good and service was prompt.

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Left for Madurai at 3 pm and reached by 3:45 pm. Checked in at Hotel Rajadhane located at Lake view Road.

About the Hotel:
Pros:
  • Room service was prompt.
  • Staff was courteous and helpful.
  • Room was very clean and spacious.
  • Basement parking is available (atleast for 10 cars).

Cons: No blankets in the room. When we called the room service, “We do not provide blankets” was the straight-forward answer.

Relaxed for 30 minutes and freshened up to go for local sight-seeing in Madurai. Left the Hotel at 4:30 pm. Headed first towards Gandhi Museum. It is 3 kms from the Hotel. Reach at 4.45 pm. No entry fee for museum visitors.

Gandhi Museum:
Rani Mangamma's palace has been renewed and converted to Gandhi museum. The museum showcases the original blood-stained garment of Gandhi when he was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. Gandhi Memorial Museum stands as a living legend exhibiting the value of life, work and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. One can divide the Gandhi Memorial Museum into various sections such as exhibition, pictorial gallery, Khadi and Village Industries Section, open air theatre and library. The exhibition on “India Fights for Freedom” includes 265 depicts, illustrating the history of freedom movement. This is followed by an exhibit on handicrafts. Then is the picture gallery presenting a visual biography of Mahatma Gandhi through photos, sculptures, paintings, quotations, manuscripts and some original articles. This is followed by the Khadi and Village Industries Section exhibiting some of the village industries. Gandhi museum includes a big open air theatre where weekly film shows, cultural programs and public meetings are held on special occasions. The library in the museum contains books on Gandhiji, cultural background of India and allied literatures. The library protects about 27,000 letters of Gandhiji and 62 reels of micro-films.

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We came out of the Museum by 5:30 pm. We clicked some snaps outside the museum premises and left Thirumalai Nayak Palace. The palace is 1 km from the Museum. Traffic during the evening time was quite dense, hence we reached by 5.45 pm at the palace. But bad luck, the palace had closed at 5:30 pm!!

We checked out the timings for the light and sound show, it was 6:45 pm for the Hindi language show. Instead of waiting for an hour, we left for Meenakshi temple visit. Roads near the temple are very narrow and overcrowded. Reminded us of the Crawford Market in Mumbai 

Parking was very difficult to find. We inquired with the local people here and found a dedicated parking area near the North Gate (Gopuram) entrance. Parking charges Rs.35/-.

Got a local Guide who charged Rs. 200/- however, he shared thorough information about the temple. We walked towards the East Gate of the Temple which is the main entrance. It was around 6 pm. Video cameras and Digicams are prohibited inside the temple premises.

Meenakshi Temple:
This beautiful temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Goddess Meenakshi (Parvati). Kulasekara Pandya was the king who constructed the temple and later it was developed in the reign of the Nayaks in the 16th to the 18th century. Some snaps from my cell phone. (sorry for the low resolution)

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There are 4 towers around the temple:
  1. East Tower – The east tower has height of 161'3". There are about 1011 sudhai figures in the Gopura.
  2. South Tower – The south tower has height of 170'6". There are about 1511 sudhai figures in the Gopura.
  3. West Tower – The west tower height is 163'3" with about 1124 sudhai figures in the Gopura.
  4. North Tower – The north tower height is 160'6" with less number of sudhai figures than the other towers.

The utmost architectural wonder of Meenakshi Amman temple is a testimony to the affluent Dravidian Culture. Some of the prominent features of this colossal temple are Temple Architecture, Ashta Shakthi Mandapam, Meenakshi Nayakkar Mandapam, Swami Sundareshwara Shrine, and Porthamarai Kulam Golden Lotus Tank.

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By the time we came out of the temple, it was 7 pm. We gave a second thought to go to the Light and sound Show at the palace, however we were already late by 15 minutes. Hence we had to skip it. Returned back to the hotel and rested for the night.

Distance covered: 462 kms
Highway information: SH35, NH7 and Madurai Dhindukkal Road to reach Madurai town.
Total Toll: Rs. 451
Site-seeing spots: Gandhi Museum and Meenakshi Temple.
Stay: Hotel Rajadhane, Madurai. 1 nightstay, Double Room/Non-AC: Rs. 1187.
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Old 9th December 2013, 00:29   #3
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Day 2: 8th Sept 2013 (Sunday)
Got up at 7 am. Got ready and had breakfast. Did checkout from the hotel at 9:15 am.

Hotel Rajadhane (pronounced at Rajdhani)

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We didn’t want to miss the Thirumalai Nayak Palace. The palace opened at 9 am. We reached the palace at 9:30 am. Again hired a Guide who provided very useful information about the palace.

Thirumalai Nayak Palace
This is a 17th century palace which was built by King Thirumalai Nayak, one of the Madurai Nayak rulers in 1636 AD in the city of Madurai. This Palace was built with the help of an Italian Architect and is a classic fusion of Dravidian, Islamic and European styles. The Swargavilasa and Rangavilasa are the two parts in the palace. The paintings, carvings and designing of the mahal shows the amazing talents of the nayak kings. This mahal has 248 pillars of each 58 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter. The stucco work on its domes and arches is remarkable. It is said that during the British rule in India , the place was used for administrative purposes. Now the Archaeological Department of the country has declared the palace as a national monument and now the palaces has been renovated and open for public.

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The time for the visit to the palace is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrance fee: Rs. 10/- per person and camera charges: Rs.30/-.
Car Parking charges: Rs. 30/-

Came out of the palace at 10:30 am. We were already running behind schedule. Joined the Kochi –Dhanushkodi road and headed towards Rameswaram. Passed through local villages and single-lane roads.

City Traffic of Madurai town.

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Road conditions:
Most road stretch from Madurai to Rameswaram is in a good condition. Few patches were bad, but acceptable. City traffic was causing hindrances and increasing travel time. Beware of local bikers/cattle on this road.

Single lane highway. (Kochi-Dhanushkodi)

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After a good 3 hour drive, we halted at Ramanathapuram for lunch. (Hotel Aishwarya Lakshmi, Veg AC restaurant).

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After a nice & typical South-indian meal, left for Rameshwaram at 2:30 pm.

While entering Rameswaram Municipality, we paid an entrance toll of Rs. 50/-. Further, paid toll before the Pamban Road bridge of Rs.60/-. Stopped on the bridge and watched the spectacular sight of the Pamban Railway bridge which is parallel to the Road bridge.

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View of the sea coast from either side of the bridge was mesmerizing. After a good 20 minutes halt, proceeded further. Reached Rameswaram at 4 pm.

Now, here was an odd surprise waiting for us. Our Hotel address mentioned East Car street. Since we could not find the exact Hotel location on Google maps, called up the Hotel reception and inquired about the same. They told us that all roads around the Ramanathaswamy temple area are restricted for private cars. Unfortunately, our Hotel location was just behind the Ramanathaswamy temple. Hence, we had to park our car at a common paid parking lot. (Rs.10 for 24 hours) Again, it was a good 15 minutes walk from the parking to our Hotel. 2 guys from the hotel staff came to carry the luggage for us. Checked in at the hotel at 4:30 pm. Requested the reception for a Sea-facing room and they provided the same.

About the Hotel:
Pros:
  1. Wonderful sea-facing view from the balcony of the room
  2. Room was clean and spacious.
  3. Staff was courteous and helpful.
  4. Room service was prompt.

Cons:
  1. Car parking not allowed due to restrictions.
  2. Phone in the room was not working.

Rested for 30 minutes. Got freshened up and left for nearby sight-seeing in Rameswaram at 5:15 pm. The main attraction here is the Ramanathaswamy temple. We wanted to visit it first since its just a minute walk from the hotel. We stepped out of the hotel and found a long queue of visitors at the Ramanathaswamy temple entrance. Inquired about the timings, it is from 5 am to 8 pm. We decided to visit the temple later.

An Auto rickshaw guy around the temple asked us if he can take us to nearby spots. We agreed for a fixed charge of Rs.250/- for six spots.
Here are the snaps with details:

Arulmigu Rama Padam: This is the point from where Sri Rama had a view of Srilanka before the Ramayana war and landed in pushpak viman after the war. The temple is located on a tiny hillock with Lord Rama’s feet imprinted on the chakra.

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Sakshi Hanuman: This small temple is located on the way to Gandhamathana Parvatham where Hanuman is said to have delivered the good news of Sita’s well-being to Rama with an evidence of Sita’s Jewel.

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Ramakund:

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Panchamukhi Hanuman: Lord Hanuman was blessed with five faces – Lion’s face of Narashima, Garuda (to fly), Hayagreeva, Varaha and the fifth one being Hanuman himself – through blessings of MahaVishnu.

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Floating Stone:

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Laxman Theertham: Lord Shiva temple is present on the bank of the temple.

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After our visit to the above spots, we came back to hotel. It was 7:00 pm by now. Checked the queue outside the Ramanathaswamy temple entrance. It was almost Nil. We decided to go to the temple now.

Ramanathaswamy temple: Ramanathaswamy Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to god Shiva located on the island of Rameswaram. The temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham (four divine sites) sites comprising Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka. The Temple is also one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples, where Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam meaning "pillar of light".

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The temple is famous for the 22 holy theerthas and the longest corridor of all Hindu Temples in India. The total length of the outer and inner corridors is about 3850 feet! The total number of pillars in the outer praharam is 1212. The temple is adorned with a towering 177 feet Gopurams in the East and West. The North and South Gopurams are unfinished and works are underway now to complete them. Poojas are conducted to the Jyothirlingam four times and Kodi theertha abhishekam is done one time every day.

Exited the temple at 7:45 pm with nice 5 minutes Darshan of the main Shiva lingam. When we came back to the hotel, I consulted the reception guy (who was fortunately speaking Hindi well) about our trip to Dhanushkodi. He informed us that the trip by a Jeep cost is Rs. 1300/-. We agreed to leave at 7 am in the morning so that we can return back by 10 am. We paid him Rs.300 as advance payment, rest of the amount was to be paid after the trip. Had dinner around 9:30 pm and our 2nd day ended.

Distance covered: 193 kms
Highway information: NH49 (Kochi Dhanushkodi Road).
Total Toll: Rs.110/-
Site-seeing spots: Arulmigu Rama Padam, Sakshi Hanuman, Ramakund, Panchamukhi Hanuman, Floating Stone, Laxman Theertham, Ramanathaswamy temple.
Stay: Hotel Sunrise View, Rameswaram. 2 night stay, Double Room/AC: Rs. 2716.
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Old 9th December 2013, 01:04   #4
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Day 3: 9th Sept 2013 (Monday)

Since our room was sea facing, we didn’t wanted to miss the early sunrise from our balcony. Set the Alarm at 5:30 am and woke up by that time. By 5:45, we were in the balcony to witness a landscape view of the sunrise above the waters of Bay of Bengal. To our bad luck, we had clouds covering the sky and by 6:30 am, hence no sunrise could be seen. Got ready by 7 am and left for Dhanushkodi.

The Jeep that we hired was atleast a 10 year old vehicle which had everything gone kaput except the basic functions.

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Dhanushkodi is about 23 kms from Rameswaram. There is a good tar road for about 14 kms till the Naval check post.

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Spotted a bus going to Dhanushkodi on the main road.

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From the check post, the remaining 9 kms is complete sea sand till to the tip of Dhanushkodi.

Before entering the thick sea sand, we observed that the driver does some change to the Front wheel of the Jeep. When asked he said he switched the Jeep to run on 4X4. No ordinary vehicles can get into these sand roads except Jeeps, Tempo’s and private SUV’s.(4X4 functionality)

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Once we entered the sand road, we could see the old remains of Dhanushkodi Railway track, Railway station and other buildings.

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After the cyclone disaster in 1964, only few fishermen folks stay here. Dhanushkodi was never rebuilt again. The ordinary buildings which once housed simple citizens and local establishments are now a relic. The sand road is filled with hugh potholes of sea water and the ride was quite bouncy. Several birds along the seashore can be spotted here.

Sighted a beautiful Peacock as well!

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It is surprising to view in the Satellite picture of Dhanushkodi. It is in the shape of a bow and arrow, Lord Rama’s main weapon. The head, jada (long hair), nose, pulling the arrow backwards in a ready to launch position is clearly visible.

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Finally, we reached the tip of Dhanushkodi and witnessed a marvellous sight. This place is called Arichalmunai which means ‘eroded tip’ lives up to its name. It is the confluence of Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. It was an astonishing sight that there are no waves at all on the shore of Bay of Bengal while the Indian Ocean looked ravishing with high tidal waves. Srilanka is just 18 kms from this point!

Crystal clear Bay of Bengal.

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Small boat along the bayside

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There were a couple of small huts selling sea Conch-shells of various sizes. Some people were also performing last rites since this is considered to be the most sacred place for worship at Dhanushkodi. We halted here for 45 minutes, clicked few snaps and videos.

Left for Rameswaram back by 9:00 am. Several species of kites are seen in plenty. Once we were back on the main road, there is Kothanda Ramar temple on the way. It is 2 kms from the main road.

Kothanda Ramar temple: This is the place where Vibhishanan (Ravana’s Brother) surrendered before Rama and in turn was crowned as the King of Srilanka after the war by Lakshman. The temple has many modern day paintings all along the inner walls which depict Ramayana incidents.

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Captured some snaps and returned back to Rameswaram by 11 am. Rested in the hotel for few hours and had lunch in Shanmuga Bhavan (Veg Restaurant). They serve delicious Chinese food.

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Took a good afternoon nap and left to visit Agnitheertham which is at a walking distance from the hotel.

Agnitheertham: It has a calm shallow water-spread of the Bay of Bengal just about 100 meters in front of the temple. In legend, Lord SriRam took a bath in Agni theertham after killing Ravana and worshipped the deity here. Hence these theerthams are considered as holy for pilgrims.

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Ferry Boat Ride: From here, we also have a boating point nearby. Ferries take around for a 45 minute ride in the waters of Bay of Bengal. The sun was setting down in the evening time and we could see a pictorial view of the Temple and Rameswaram town as we were in the middle of the sea.

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Also spotted few motor boats at a very long distance. We inquired with the local people here, they said that these are boats from Srilanka used for their tourism. We enjoyed the Ferry ride here and came back by 6:30 pm at the hotel.

Our Hotel in Rameswaram

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Had dinner and the 3rd day ended.
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Old 9th December 2013, 01:53   #5
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Day 4: 10th Sept 2013 (Tuesday)

Got up early next day again hoping we could witness the sunrise. Same situation as yesterday, all cloudy weather. As per plans, we had to leave for Kanyakumari. Did Hotel checkout at 7 am. We had to walk 15 minutes till Common parking lot. Ritzy got complete rest for one day since our local sightseeing was either done by Auto or Jeep. My hands were itching to get behind the wheel and continue our journey further.

We wanted to visit to the Vivekananda Mandapam and Gulf of Mannar Interpretation center before leaving Rameswaram. Both these spots are adjacent to each other.

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Vivekananda Mandapam: There is a small hamlet in Rameswaram called Kunthukal which is 3 kms from the main road. This is located very close to the sea.

The Mandapam was built in memory of Swami Vivekananda’s return from the Chicago Parliament of World Religions. After he returned, it is said that he first set foot on Indian soil near Kunthukal, which is where the Memorial is built.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc07907_1280x853.jpg

The Kunthukal Beach

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There is a standing statue of Swami Vivekanand inside the mandapam.

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There are lovely paintings depicting important incidents of Vivekanand’s life and their preachings. It also houses a meditation hall. I really would recommend this as a must-visit spot for anyone going to Rameswaram.

This is an eco-tourism facility on the shores of Kunthukal beach, adjacent to the Swami Vivekananda Memorial Building.

Gulf of Mannar Interpretation center: The Gulf of Mannar had drawn the attention of conservationists even before the initiation of “Man and Biosphere programme” by UNESCO in 1971.

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In 1986, an area of 560 sq km, covering 21 uninhabited islands surrounded by coral reefs was declared a national park. In 1989, the entire 10,500 sq km marine space between Rameswaram and Kanyakumari was declared as Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve.

The interpretation centre houses life-size models of coral reefs, sea turtles and marine life.

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It is the first of its kind in the country (mainland) to create an awareness of the rich marine wealth of the region.

A life size whale at the entrance greets the visitors at the entrance.

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There are eye-catching paintings of rich marine wealth in the Gulf of Mannar region, both, inside and outside the walls and on the ceiling. There is a nominal entrance fee of Rs 5 per visitor.

After visiting these spots, joined the main road by 9 am. We witnessed some typical village houses and local people.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc07868_1280x853.jpg

Before we could cross the Pamban Road bridge, an express train was about to cross the Pamban Railway bridge. We halted here for good 15 minutes and shot the amazing view of it.

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Finally, it was 9:30 am when we actually left Rameswaram and took the SH49 (East Coast Road) to Kanyakumari.

Weather:
It was bright and Sunny all throughout. Since the SH49 is closer to the sea coast, weather was hot and humid.

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Road conditions:
ECR is a 2 lane highway and offers scenic views of the Bay of Bengal. Road conditions were good except for few Kilometers which is in a bad state. Ritz handled all the abuse with ease and suspension did a great job. City traffic was causing hindrances and increasing travel time. Beware of local bikers/cattle on this road.

Our next sight-seeing spot was Veerapandiya Kattabomman fort at Panchalankurichi. This village is 173 kms from Rameshwaram. ECR and Palayamkottai- Aruppukottai Road (SH75) meet at a juncture at a village named Kulathoor. Panchalankurichi is 22 kms from Kulathoor. Took the SH75 and headed towards the fort. We reached around 1 pm at the fort.

Veerapandiya Kattabomman fort: Veerapandiya Kattabomman was born in an Nayakkar family on January 3, 1760 and became the 47th king of Panchalankurichi at an age of 30. Kattabomman refused to accept the sovereignty of British East India Company and opted to fight against them.[2] In 1799, he was captured by the British and hanged at Kayattar in Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu.[ His fort was destroyed and his wealth was looted by the British army. In 1974, the Government of Tamil Nadu constructed a new Memorial fort. The Memorial Hall has beautiful paintings on the walls depicting the heroic deeds of the saga which gives a good idea about the history of the period. Got a guide inside the fort who only knew Tamil language. Somehow, we were guessing through his gestures about the epic of the fort.

The Entrance of the fort

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Kattabomman fort

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King Kattabomman statue

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Left the fort at 1.30 pm. We were literally hungry by now and searching for a decent restaurant for lunch. Unfortunately, there are no decent hotels nearby as this fort. As we continued on SH75, it was hot sun and barren land all around making the drive cumbersome. Also, the roads had many bad patches. Finally after driving 42 more kms, we joined NH7. It was 3 pm by now. We were hoping for decent hotel along the highway and finally found one. Relished a nice lunch with some delicious chicken gravy.

After a sumptuous meal, continued on NH7.

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We could see hundreds of windmills as we nearing Kanyakumari.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08013_1280x960.jpg

NH7 has an exemplary Road Infrastructure where flyovers, proper road diversions and milestone information is available from time to time. Road traffic was scarce and we were cruising easily at 100 kmph.

Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc07984_1280x853.jpg

Coconut plantations & Mountain ranges created a scenic view.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08011_1280x853.jpg

As we entered Kanyakumari district, had to pay Entrance fee of Rs.25.

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Reached Hotel Trisea at 4:30 pm.

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About the Hotel:
Pros:
  1. 6 storeyed hotel with good amenities
  2. Sea-facing common balcony.
  3. Roof-top swimming pool.
  4. Staff was courteous and helpful.
  5. Room was clean and spacious.
  6. Ample car parking space.
  7. Hotel’s restaurant served lovely food.

Cons: Phone was not working.

Rested for an hour’s time and had evening tea. Inquired at the reception, found most of the sight-seeing spots close by 5:30 pm in Kanyakumari. They also informed us that the night view of Vivekananda Rock and Thiruvalluvar statue is awesome one. It was 6:15 pm by now, so we decided to stroll around in the local market and do some shopping.

While we were walking along the streets, we were surprised to see a board called ‘All Women Police Station’. Besides this, there is Kanyakumari main Police station as well. Very much distinctive, I must say!

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From the local market, we bought a shell-beaded Oval shaped mirror. Wifey liked a nice decorative door-hanging (Toran) made out of sea-shells, so bought one as well.

By 7:30 pm, we reached the sea-shore and witnessed a spectacular night view of the Vivekananda Rock and Thiruvalluvar statue.

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High sea-breeze blew during the evening time here. Clicked few snaps and came back to the hotel by 8.30 pm. The Hotel also has a elegant restaurant at the basement of the hotel. Food rates are affordable and they serve yummy sea-food dishes. Had dinner here and dozed off by 11 pm.

Distance covered: 300 kms
Highway information: ECR, SH75 and NH7.
Total Toll: Rs.25/-
Site-seeing spots: Vivekananda Mandapam, Gulf of Mannar Interpretation center and Museum, Veerapandiya Kattabomman fort, Night-view of Vivekananda Rock and Thiruvalluvar statue.
Stay: Hotel Trisea, Kanyakumari. 2 night stay, Double Room/AC: Rs. 4100.
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Old 9th December 2013, 02:26   #6
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Day 5: 11th Sept 2013 (Sunday)

We got up at 6 am. No luck again for witnessing Sunrise as early morning weather was cloudy.

Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08068_1280x960.jpg

Left hotel at 7:30 am. From the hotel to the shore is walkable distance. The first two attractions for the day were Vivekananda Rock and Thiruvalluvar statue.

There was moderate crowd for the ticket, hence got the tickets in 15-20 minutes time. Ticket charges: Rs.34/- per person.

Boarded the ferry to Vivekananda Rock that took around 20 minutes to reach.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08119_1280x960.jpg

Vivekananda Rock Memorial: This is a monument and it is a popular tourist attraction in Vavathurai, Kanyakumari, India. The memorial stands on one of two rocks located about 500 meters east off mainland of Vavathurai, India's southernmost tip.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08086_1280x960.jpg

It was built in 1970 by the Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee in honour of the visit of the Hindu spiritual teacher Swami Vivekananda.

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A meditation hall (Dhyana Mandapam) is also attached to the memorial for visitors to meditate.

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The memorial consists of two main structures, the Vivekananda Mandapam and the Shripada Mandapam.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08105_1280x960.jpg

There are a few shops where we can get biographies of Swami Vivekanand and Ramkrishna mission in several languages. We bought one as well in Marathi language.

Wonderful sea-view from the Memorial

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08100_1280x960.jpg

Thiruvalluvar statue: This is a 133 feet (40.6 m) tall stone sculpture of the Tamil poet and saint Tiruvalluvar. It was opened on January 1, 2000 and is located atop a rock besides the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. The statue has a height of 95 feet (29 m) and stands upon a 38 foot (11.5 m).

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When we returned back to the shore, sited few fishermen folks.

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It was around 10 am. We had breakfast in a local restaurant nearby. Other spots are also at a walkable distance from the shore.

Gandhi Mandapam: This place of historic significance as ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were kept here, before they were immersed into sea.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08124_1280x960.jpg

Gandhi mandapam is designed such a way that on October-2nd of every year which is the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the sun-rays fall on the exact spot where Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were kept before immersion into the sea. It is open every day for visitors from 7.30 AM to 6.30 PM. There is a museum inside where you can see the photographs of Indian leaders.

Triveni Sangam: This is the point where two seas and an ocean meet; the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean. A dip in the ‘Triveni Sangam’ (confluence of the three seas) is considered holy.

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Wax Museum: The wax museum is much on the lines of Madame Tussauds in London. The museum has life-size wax sculptures of all the important figures of the Indian History, Hollywood and world celebrities. Time: 6.30 am to 7 pm. Entrance fee: Rs.50 per person.

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By now, it was 12 pm. Our next spot was Padmanabapuram palace which is 36 kms from Kanyakumari. The weather was cloudy hence it was not much sultry.

Followed below Map to cover all further sight-seeing spots:

Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-map.jpg

We took the SH179 when we left the Hotel and further joined NH47 (Salem-Kanyakumari National highway). Many small villages passed by while reaching the palace. Road conditions were ok till we joined the NH47. Some patches are in very bad condition on the highway. Road traffic made our journey slower and time consuming. We reached by 2 pm at the palace.

There are no decent restaurants near the palace. We had to adjust somehow at a small hotel which served typical south-indian Thali. Food quality was ok. After lunch, we entered the palace premises. Entry fees are Rs.50 for adults and camera charges Rs. 100/-. We need to remove footwear outside the palace.

Padmanabapuram palace: This gorgeous palace is one of the finest examples of secular architecture in India. Though the palace is situated in Kanyakumari district of Tamilnadu State, it comes under the Government of Kerala's administration.

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It was for several centuries the traditional home of Kerala's Travancore royal family. King Marthanda Varma dedicated the kingdom to his family deity Sree Padmanabha, a form of Lord Vishnu and ruled the kingdom as Padmanabha dasa or servant of Lord Padmanabha. Hence the name Padmanabhapuram or City of Lord Padmanabha.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08162_1280x960.jpg
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Old 9th December 2013, 02:47   #7
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Day 5: Contd..

It's still well-maintained, built over a number of generations during the 17th and 18th centuries, the palace exemplifies the aesthetic and functional appeal of Kerala's distinctive architectural style: sloping tiled roofs; elaborate slatted balconies; cool, polished floors; and slanting walls and wooden shutters -- all effectively designed to counter the intense sunlight and heat.

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The private living quarters of the royal family are a maze of open corridors and pillared verandas; outside, small garden areas feature open courtyards where the sunlight can be enjoyed.

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Note that the king's chamber is furnished with a bed made from 64 different types of medicated wood and has its own beautifully decorated prayer room.

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It took around 2 hours for us to roam the whole palace and appreciate its architectural beauty.

By 4.30 pm, we proceeded towards our next sight-seeing spot. i.e. Mathur Aqueduct or hanging bridge. This location is 14 kms from the palace.

Passed by some scenic landscapes of water bodies.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08198_1280x960.jpg

Internal village road (Mathoor Poovancode Road) connects to this spot. Roads are pretty narrow and in lousy condition. Reached by 5 pm. Parking charges are Rs.20/-.

Mathur Aqueduct: It is one of the longest and highest aqueducts in South Asia.

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The aqueduct has a height of 35m and a length of one kilometer. Its is a concrete structure held up by 28 huge pillars, the maximum height of the pillars reaching 115 ft.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08211_1280x960.jpg

This was constructed in 1966 by the late Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, K. Kamaraj, as a drought relief measure. Its purpose is to carry water for irrigation from an elevated level of one hill to another.

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The Aqueduct is built across the Pahrali river, a small river that originates in the Mahendragiri Hills of the Western Ghats. From the centre of the Aqueduct, one can see a vast expanse of greenery, with rolling hills of the Western Ghats in the background, and the meandering Pahrali river flowing below.

View from the top

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Pathway on the bridge

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By 5.30 pm, we left for our last sight-seeing spot of the day. i.e. Thirpparappu Falls.

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It was evening time by now and slowly nearing sunset. This spot is 11 kms from the Mathur Aqueduct. We had to come back 2 kms from the Aqueduct and then join SH45 (Marthandam-Pechipaarai Road) to reach here. By 6 pm, we reached Thirparappu Falls. Parking charges Rs.30/-

Thirparappu Waterfalls: These falls are close to the village Kulasekaram which was ruled by kings. Thirparappu waterfall starts from the “Kodayar River” and this riverbed is about 300 meters length. The water pours down from the height of nearly 50 feet and water flows this fall about seven months in a year.

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Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz-dsc08217_1280x960.jpg

We got drenched in the falls and it was truly a refreshing experience. There was lesser crowd since it was a weekday. A small park is very well maintained adjacent to the falls and there is a small Children’s play area along with swimming pool.

By 6:45 pm, it was dusk and we came back to the parking area by now. Had evening tea at a small tea stall nearby. Started back to Kanyakumari which is 60 kms from here. Joined the Salem-Kanyakumari highway later and reached hotel by 9 pm. Had dinner and slept by 10.30 pm.

Distance covered: 120 kms.
Highway information: NH47, SH179 and SH45.
Total Toll: Nil
Site-seeing spots covered: Vivekananda Rock & Thiruvalluvar statue, Gandhi mandapam, Triveni Sangam, Wax Museum, Padmanabapuram palace, Mathur Aqueduct, Thirparappu Waterfalls.
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Old 9th December 2013, 03:08   #8
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Day 6: 12th Sept (Thursday)

Finally, it was time to leave back for Bangalore. Did checkout from Trisea hotel at 7:30 am. The last attraction which we wanted to visit was Vattakottai fort which is 6 kms from the hotel. Reached the fort at 7:45 am.

Vattakottai fort: This is a seaside fort built in 18th century as a coastal defence-fortification and barracks during the Travancore kingdom. It was set up as the southernmost sea coast defense point by the Dutch.

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It was constructed under the command of Captain Eustachius De Lannoy during the reign of Travancore King Marthandavarma (1729-58) in the 18th century. It is rectangular in shape and covers an area of about three and a half acres. The fort is enclosed by walls 25 to 26 feet high.

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The fort is made of granite blocks and, today, a part of the fort extends into the sea. It is a protected site under the Indian archaeological department. A major renovation of the fort was undertaken recently by the department, and the site is now a popular tourist spot.

Scenic view from the fort

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Left the fort at 9 am and joined NH7. A milestone to Bangalore showed 655 kms. After 30 kms drive, we stopped for fuelling at HP.

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There is a decent restaurant adjacent to petrol bunk. We enjoyed delicious Masala Dosa and vada for breakfast. Interesting thing was the waiter who served us observed my car’s number plate. He was curious to know if it’s a Mumbai registered car. I told him that it’s a Thane registered car. Later, he informed us that some of his relatives stay in Mumbai and he often tends to visit there.

Post breakfast, we continued our return journey. Drove at a constant 100 kmph and covered 225 kms further. Stopped for a lavatory break. Further, continued for 100 kms distance and wanted to stop for lunch. It was around 2:30 pm by now. There are not many good hotels on the highway though.

Finally, we managed to find Hotel Aarti which is also a pitstop for TN state transport buses. Food quality was average and typical south Indian meal was served here.

Post lunch, continued ahead. Crossed Salem by 5:30 pm and stopped for a tea break. Bangalore is 200 kms from Salem. When we reached Krishnagiri, it started raining very heavily. Visibility was quite poor, thanks to very good road conditions. Rain continued to pour till we reach Hosur. Got stuck in heavy traffic at hosur for 2 hours. Stopped for dinner after Hosur and reach home by 11 pm.

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Distance covered: 685 kms
Highway information: NH7.
Total Toll: Rs.636/-
Site-seeing spots: Vattakottai fort



Epilogue:

Overall, it was an extensive trip though we enjoyed every moment. I have never had a journey this far in my own car, hence was a bit nervous before the trip. I was doubtful, if we could cover all site-seeing places. However, we completed almost all. Asking for directions was not much required as Google Maps were very useful throughout the trip. Took a lot of snaps and videos. Rested for a day after the trip and joined office.

A BIG THANKS to T-BHP members especially NPV, Ampere, Rajesh1968 for their valuable inputs before the trip.

Ritz experience: The car driving experience was truly enjoyable. Ritz handled all types of roads with ease. Suspension is very well tuned in this car, so no discomfort whatsoever. Handling was immaculate and steering weighed very nicely on higher speeds. AC performance was good. Even at 12 noon, keeping the AC on 2nd level was enough. Overtaking was not much of a concern due to divided roads. The best part was, no niggles/issues in the whole trip.

Overall Statistics:
Total Distance covered: 1781 kms (6 days)
Total Toll: Rs. 1222/-
Total Fuel cost: Rs. 7500/-
Overall Mileage: 17-18 kmpl.
Car Niggles/Issues: Nil
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Old 9th December 2013, 07:42   #9
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

@satshan - Nice travelogue, great pictures, thanks for sharing
You have covered a lot of places, seems like some extensive research was done before undertaking the trip. Brought back good memories from our trip, would love to go back once more on this circuit to cover some of the places we missed, thanks for the fresh perspective!
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Old 9th December 2013, 08:02   #10
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Nicely done! Lots of places covered. These places no matter how many times you go, there is always one more!

Some notes on the drive

- You said you reached Krishnagiri by 8AM ? And you left BLR by 4:30? Thats a good 3.5 hours.
- Was it heavy traffic ? Because even with a sedate drive you should be there in about 2 max (absolute max, unless you are beaten up by the waiting game at toll booths!)
- So is the case with reaching Madurai by evening.
- As per what I have seen : With sedate drives (consistent 80-100), one can make it to Salem in 3/3.5
- Dindigul in 2.5 and from there to Madurai in about an hour.
- So with a break you should be be able to make it by 12/1 at max.

On Places
- In Rameshwaran, apart from Dhanushkodi, there are many places to go around; esp around Ramnad which are worth visiting. These are old temples and low on crowd too.

Last edited by ampere : 9th December 2013 at 08:03.
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Old 9th December 2013, 13:36   #11
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Lovely writeup and snaps.

Btw the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal in Madurai was where the song Kannalane (Hindi: Kehna Hi Kya) from the movie Bombay was shot.
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Old 9th December 2013, 14:58   #12
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Good one. A lot of details shared about each and every place and the monuments there. Felt like I travelled myself. Also brought back memories of my visits to all these place at various ocassions, since I am from Madurai (hometown).

All Women Police Stations are here in all big towns in TN.
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Old 9th December 2013, 16:12   #13
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Nice writeup! Good to see pics from Kanyakumari.

Still love going to the Padmanabapuram palace. Always exciting.
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Old 10th December 2013, 12:07   #14
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Wow that was an extensive coverage with lots of details for any of us to make it there, never knew of so many places of interest in that area. Had been to Padmanabhapura palace and really liked it. Couple of famous malayalam movies were shot in that palace. The water fall and Triveni sangam are all news to me. Shall make it soon to Kanyakumari and should stay for sunset and sunrise. Thanks for the wonderful travelogue, took me quite a while, enjoyed it.
So many milestones to go since you have already did 1700 kms, distance will not be a concern then, happy mile crunching.
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Old 10th December 2013, 15:01   #15
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Default Re: Touring Madurai, Rameswaram & Kanyakumari in a Ritz

Great write-up! Was looking for a detailed travelogue on this stretch, got it now. Thanks for sharing :-)
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