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Old 15th October 2015, 10:58   #1
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Default Sights of Mesmerizing Mysore and Captivating Coorg

A few months back I and my wife were sitting in a popular coffee shop and discussing over a cup of coffee about where we should plan our next vacation. Several destinations cropped up when I casually commented : "Man, this coffee is not too good. There is no aroma and it is too sweet." Wife mentioned : "You know, In India best coffee is grown only in Coorg" I say: "Bingo!! Then let's go there and have a good cup of coffee."

So, it was decided and finalized. Quickly, the Calendar came out and the dates were discussed and decided. First week of October seemed to be an ideal choice as by then the monsoons would have withdrawn and I would have one day holiday on 2nd Oct.

Next, it was my responsibility (as it is with every man of the house) to organize the tour. Soon, I was into research mode trying to figure out mode of transport, accommodation, places to visit etc. It was quite a brain racking exercise as there were so many options and so many permutations and combinations to be worked out.

Then, by chance, through some blog, I came across a company "GoMowgli" http://gomowgli.in/ that organizes tours in Karnataka. It is a start up company based out of Mysore. I should say that it is one of a kind 'tour' organizer in India.

With GoMowgli, you can arrange a bespoke tour in Karnataka. They will provide you a local guide and transport who will be with you during the entire tour duration. You will have to pay separately for food, accommodation and any local sight seeing fees.

Why did GoMowgli appeal to me?

-- They will give you a friendly guide who will take you not only to all the usual places but also to places which is off the beaten path.
-- Guide will recommend the best restaurants and eating joints which many tourists may not know.
-- The guide will give great insight into the history and culture of all the places that you go to.
-- The guide will ensure that your tour is comfortable and enjoyable and more importantly, you are not taken for a ride by local people. (More on this later)

A call to their office in Mysore and couple of mails was all it took to draw up the itinerary. It will be a 4 day tour of which 1 day Mysore City tour followed by 3 days in Coorg. They gave me choices of accommodation
according to my requirement and budget. In Mysore, we chose a small Hotel, as we planned to spend only one night there. In Coorg, the home stay, Dhyan's Den (http://dhyansden.com/) was chosen.

So, it was with a lot of expectations and excitement that I, my wife and our 8 Yr Old Daughter started out for this tour. I will spare the travel details as nothing great to mention there. Just FYI, we had taken a flight from Mumbai to Bangalore and had booked train from Bangalore to Mysore.

Day 1: Mysore City Tour
---------------------------


Early in the day we were picked up from our Hotel by the GoMowgli Guide who had got Swift DZire with a driver. Our guide, Mr. Raghu, was polite to the hilt. With a great smile he gave us his introduction and we introduced ourselves. He explained our itinerary for the day. We will be visiting Sri Chamundeshwari Temple, Mysore Zoo, Amba Vilas Palace and Museum, Devaraja Market and finally the Amba Vilas palace lighting at night.

First up, we went to Sri Chamundeswari Temple. On the way, our guide gave us a brief history of Mysore, the story behind Sri Chamundeswari Temple, the Kings and various palaces of Mysore. Our daughter was listening to all this with rapt attention and was asking a lot of questions.

We decided to drive till a point and then climb around 300 steps to the temple. From this point we were able to view the Mysore City.

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Another view from the top.

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Steps to reach the hill top. There were many people who come there regularly for a morning climb which seemed to be better exercise than jogging around a park.

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After enjoying the view, a little climb up and we come across the Nandi Bull carved out of "single" rock.

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Sri Chamundeswari Temple

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We didn't go inside the temple as it was very crowded. After spending some time near the temple, we came back to Mysore City. Our Guide took us to "Mahesh Prasad Hotel" for breakfast. It was very crowded and there was no queue system. And for a good reason too; as it is one of the best places in Mysore to have a sumptuous south Indian breakfast. But after that climb we did to Sri Chamundeswari Temple, we were famished. So, we decided to have breakfast at a nearby nondescript Hotel which seemed to be less crowded. However, the breakfast was pretty decent. We had some delicious Masala Dosa, Kesari Baath, Upma and Puri Bhaaji. We finished breakfast with an awesome round of authentic filter coffee. It was the best coffee I have had in a long long time.

Our next destination in the itinerary was the Mysore Zoo. Now, I don't like Zoos very much but this was just for our daughter who was pretty keen on visiting one. After having visited many Safaris, I find Zoos very depressing. I still took a few pics of some animals.

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The trip to the Zoo was very exhausting and being a Sunday, it was very crowded. Our guide then took us to Madhava Bhavan that served delicious Karnataka Style Saatvik Lunch. Now, we were prepared to have Vegetarian food when in Mysore as we knew that this place is known for traditional south indian vegetarian dishes. But Saatvik (no Onion, no Garlic, no Potato etc.) seemed a bit too much. We though of giving it a try. The restaurant serves lunch in a very traditional way. The food was awesome and very tasty. I can;t describe more as you will have to go there and try out yourself. This place is not known to many people outside of Mysore, so, thanks to our guide for taking us there.

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I am in the middle (with glasses) and the guy at the extreme right was our tour guide.

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After lunch it was time to go to the well known Amba Vilas Palace and Museum. Photography is not allowed inside the museum so we had to leave our cameras behind.

I don't know why all these Govt. owned museums have this "no camera" rule. It just does not make sense in this day and age. Security guards kept on whistling at people trying to take pics using camera phones. This is a big distraction and very annoying.

Our guide gave us a very good description of the various exhibits within the museum. The museum displays many paintings and artifacts belonging to the Kings Era. Our guide also explained the details around the great Dassera festival and how the King's parade takes place during the Dassera day.

Within the museum you can hire some Govt. approved guide or make use of a audio (they give you a set of pre-recorded headsets) guide at an extra charge.

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Our guide, explained to us that this Palace is lighted every Sunday for about 30 - 45 minutes from 7.00 PM and this is the only Palace in India (most probably the world) where thousands of incandescent bulbs are used to light up the building. These bulbs are specially made and the filaments inside each bulb is of the shape "M". See the below photo which shows how the bulbs are arranged along the walls of the palace.

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We were too tired roaming around the Palace and Museum, so we decided to skip the visit to Devaraja Market. We went back to the hotel for some well needed rest. Being a Sunday, there was the Palace Lighting at the Amba Vilas palace.

So, after a brief rest, we went back to the palace. The Palace Lighting was a very beautiful sight indeed. Unfortunately, there was a slight drizzle and I was unable to take many photographs using my DSLR. We also saw quite a few bulbs bursting due to the rain drops falling on the hot bulbs. The officials shut down the lighting within 30 mins or so to prevent further damage.

Our guide mentioned that the cost of electricity for a 45 mins run of this Palace Lights goes up to a whooping Rs. 3 Lakhs!!! I think they should think of changing all these bulbs to LED ones which can save so much energy.

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By now, the rain intensified, so we decided to skip the Devaraja Market stroll. Instead, my wife thought of getting some silk sarees. As suggested by our guide, we went to "Cauvery Arts & Crafts Emporium" store which is a Govt. owned outlet in Mysore. There are only two such outlets in the whole of Mysore, and the rates are Govt. fixed rates. Remember there are many shops named Kaveri,Kauvery, Kaaveri etc. and also claim to be Govt. authorized. "Beware of such shops as they are complete fakes and will rip you off royally."

Our Guide explained that the original Mysore Silk is waterproof and stain proof and is made only in the Govt. mills. Then, suddenly, we wanted to see this silk factory and believe it or not, we can actually visit the factory free of cost. So, we decided that, if possible, we will cut short our coorg visit and come back to see the factory.

My wife didn't get the choice of colours, so we went to another shop called "Yashaswi Silks" which has some wider choices and included lot of Kanjeevaram Silk Sarees too.

Anyway, after some purchases, we went off to a nearby Andhra Style restaurant for dinner.

Last edited by sukhoi30 : 17th October 2015 at 00:27.
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Old 15th October 2015, 21:06   #2
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Default Re: Sights of Mesmerizing Mysore and Captivating Coorg

Day 2 : Off to Coorg
-----------------------------


Early in the day, we were picked up by another Guide for the next leg of tour. His name is Mr. Bhargav. He was also very polite and friendly. A brand new Innova was going to be our ride for the next 3 days.

Our plan for the day was to visit Dubare Elephant Camp followed by Bylakuppe Golden Monastery Temple. Then we would be going to our homestay called Dhyan's Den whose owner Mr. Dhyan would be coming to pick us up from the highway. Mr. Dhyan will be our guide in Coorg for the next day.

On the way, we had breakfast at this restaurant. Pretty decent restaurant with south indian dishes like Masala Dosa, Set Dosa, Idli Wada etc.

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At Dubare Elephant camp, we have to take a boat to ride across the river to reach the place. We saw many Elephants being bathed and fed. We spent quite a lot of time there as my daughter liked watching these beautiful beasts. She was specially wowed by the baby elephants. There was an Elephant ride too for which we had to wait for quite some time.

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After the Elephant camp, we were going to Bylakuppe Tibetan Settlement when it started raining heavily. So, we thought it would be best to first have lunch and then go the Golden Temple Monastery. Our Guide, being knowledgeable of the area, took us to an authentic Tibetan Restaurant called Potala Kitchen. We enjoyed some delicious noodles, momos and fried rice here.

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After lunch, our guide suggested that we could take a look at the Tibetan paintings being done by the Tibetans at a store which was right below the restaurant. It was really interesting to see how these artisans spend so many hours to develop such paintings. There were many collections of such paintings, some even showing Hindu Gods/Goddesses and scenes from the Hindu mythology.

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Our next destination was the Golden Temple Monastery. I won't write much about this as there are several posts already on this. One good thing was that, our guide took us all around the campus and inside the campus there are many other monasteries. Many Tibetan monks live and study in the campus, so their lodgings are also seen inside the Monastery campus.
We also saw some Stupas and a room of giant prayer wheels.

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This painting looked like this

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We spent a lot of time in the campus. Inside the monastery, it was very peaceful and pleasant, so we sat there and meditated for some time. The surrounding garden had some beautiful flowers. The rain drops on the flowers looked amazing and I couldn't help but take some of pictures.

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After this, we met up with our Guide cum host Mr. Dhyan who took us to his homestay. The homestay is in the middle of his coffee estate. It is located quite close to the Madikeri town. The house is a small bungalow with many small rooms. Mr. Dhyan's mother will be cooking our dinner which will be an authentic coorgi pork curry.

The food was awesome and the taste was authentic. The curry taste was something different, so we said that we will purchase this masala from the market.

Dhyan says that this masala is found only in the pork shops from where he will get it for us.

Last edited by sukhoi30 : 16th October 2015 at 23:51.
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Old 15th October 2015, 22:03   #3
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Default Re: Sights of Mesmerizing Mysore and Captivating Coorg

Day 3 : Coorg Sight Seeing
------------------------------


We got up early and had some delicious Coorgi Style breakfast which included Akki Roti, Rice Chapathi and Vegetable Curry. The coffee we had here was simply out of this world. The coffee itself was grown and harvested in Dhyan's estate. After breakfast, Dhyan took us to show around his Coffee Estate. He explained that there are two type of Coffee found here viz the Robusta and Arabica. A mix of these in 80:20 ratio makes the perfect espresso coffee with good aroma and flavor. Robusta is the majority grown coffee in Coorg and Arabica is added only for flavoring. You will see many pine trees in these Coffee estates. The pine trees provide the necessary shade to these coffee plants. Many people grow pepper plant (which is a creeper) on these pine trees.

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Today's itineray is Mandalpatti, Abbi Falls, Raja's Seat, Raja's Fort and some shopping.

So, after breakfast and the estate tour we head off to Mandalpatti. Dhyan explained that this place was relatively unknown until some Kannada movie was shot here. After that it has become a popular tourist spot. And it has become a popular film shooting place too. To reach MandalPatti, you got to drive till a particular hillock and then hire a 4x4 Jeep from there.

Many Jeeps stand near the highway and start taking passengers and they charge more fees from that place. But since Dhyan was our local guide, we could drive all the way till the hill top from where we have to hire the jeep.

The terrain after this point is fit only for a 4x4 Jeep as it is very rough, rocky and slippery. Even if you have all these modern vehicles like Duster, XUV etc. you won't be able to drive on that terrain. Trust me, that short trip by jeep churned all our internals as in a grinder.

The jeep below is an example.

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Once at the top, the scenery is simply amazing. I won't be able to describe in words, so I will just post the pictures. You can sit back and enjoy the scenes. We spent a long long time here. We just couldn't stop gazing at the beautiful sight.

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Next up was Abbi Falls. Again, there are many posts in our Forum with many pictures, so I have added just a couple here.

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We then went for our lunch at raintree restaurant (http://www.raintree.in/) at Madikeri. Dhyan mentioned that we should buy Coffee here. There is an outlet here where you will get freshly ground and sealed coffee packs. In fact they will ground it right in front of you and pack it. We bought a few varieties of coffee here and also a small filter vessel.

Don't buy from any other local shop as the already ground coffee powder looses some aroma.

For lunch we had some delicious chicken/mutton biriyani for which this restaurant is famous.

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Our next destination after lunch was Raja's Seat. The King used to come here and sit and enjoy the beautiful view and hence this place is known as Raja's seat. View from this place was really beautiful.

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After this, we went to the Raja's Fort. Actually this fort now hosts the local Govt office and is ill-maintained. The church inside the fort hosts a small museum which was very interesting as it had some very very old artifacts. As usual, no photos in the museum. Within the fort, there is a well. Our guide explained that the Maharajah used to punish criminals by hanging them in the well. The idea was that if the rope breaks the criminal still dies by drowning in the well.

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Note the tortoise in the picture below. Our guide explained that there is a secret tunnel under this tortoise. This secret tunnel leads to the Raja's seat and was used by the Maharajah to escape the enemy.

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We went to have coffee at the KSTDC resort restaurant which is located just next to Raja's seat. This restaurant has an outdoor seating with the same view as we see from Raja's seat. We had an awesome cup of coffee sitting here and just watching the beautiful scenery.

So, finally Coffee@Coorg

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After this our friendly guide took us to Coorg Greens (http://www.coorggreens.com/) where you can purchase spices and chocolates at reasonable prices. This is one of the best places to buy different varieties of chocolates. The spice and the chocolates shops are adjacent to each other. You will get freshly packed spices in the spice shop. You can also choose and get it packed fresh if you want to. If you go to the chocolate shop, the sales guy will let you taste many many varieties. It was very exciting for my daughter as she went about tasting every type of chocolate.

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We did some shopping and went back to Dhyan's Den for a relaxing evening. As promised, Dhyan purchased for us pork curry powder from a nearby pork shop. At home, we tasted some home made wines. There were many different varieties like Ginger, Grape, Pineapple, Jackfruit, Apple, Gooseberries and many others. They were all well made and some were very sweet.

Last edited by sukhoi30 : 17th October 2015 at 00:13.
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Old 15th October 2015, 22:21   #4
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Default Re: Sights of Mesmerizing Mysore and Captivating Coorg

Day 4 : Back to Mysore
---------------------------------


We had kept today just for relaxation and possibly a trek to a nearby place. However, we badly wanted to see the Silk Factory, so we decided that we would leave this place after breakfast and drive back to Mysore.

So, after getting up in the morning, I walked a little away from Dhyan's Den to see if there is a good spot to capture sunrise. Couldn't capture the sunrise because of mountains all around but I could capture some beautiful scenes of the morning from a vantage point.

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After a traditional breakfast of Coorgi Puttu and Upma, we started our journey back to Mysore. But not before saying a big thanks to our hosts Mr. Dhyan and his Mom who cooked such excellent dishes for us.

Here is a snap of Dhyan's Den. If you need solitude and you are not looking for a luxury resort, then you may want to try out this place.

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After reaching Mysore, we were welcomed by our Mysore Guide Mr. Bhargav who took us straight to Mysore Silk Factory. Surprisingly, there is no fees or charges to visit this factory. You could simply sign the register and get in. There is no guide here, so you will have to go around yourselves. Since we had our guide, he explained each and every step of the silk weaving process.

No photography inside, not even mobile phones, so, sorry I have no photos to share.

Actually the silk cocoon farms are outside of Mysore. From there the cocoons arrive to this factory. It is interesting to see how these cocoons are washed, rolled, each thread is extracted, the threads are doubled to make it strong and then it is weaved. The threads are extracted in many small spools and then they are rolled into one large spool. From here it is taken to the weaving machine.

A separate section is there to dye the thread golden, which is then weaved along with the other white thread.

During weaving itself, the design of the golden border is decided and added.
The wider the golden border the more expensive the sari is. Each cloth weaved composes of around 12 - 15 saris.

Once the cloth is ready, it is dyed in appropriate colors and is waterproofed. It is then cut and sorted for selling.

Our guide explained that the machinery used in this factory was bought by the then Wodeyar king over 100 years ago. It was bought specially from Japan, who had actually the stolen the silk making technology from the Chinese. The factory still uses the 100 year old machinery to make the Mysore Silk Saris.

If you are going to Mysore, you should definitely take time to see this place.

The outlet outside the factory sells the freshly produced saris at a wholesale price.

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Our guide then took us to Mysore Sandalwood Oil extraction factory. Here too no photography allowed.

Depending on demand and supply Govt. orders the oil extraction. So, the factory is not operational all days. Only when the Govt. gives a go ahead the factory starts producing oil. When we went there was no oil production going on.

Here we got a Govt guide and again no charges for entry or for the guide. The guide took us around the factory and explained the oil extraction process. The equipment is over 100 years old and is still used for oil extraction. The wood comes from some Govt. authorized farms outside Mysore.

Did you know that sandalwood is a parasite tree (it requires a host tree to grow) and it takes 20 years for it grow completely and mature.

From the outlet of this factory, you can buy agarbattis, mysore sandal soap, dhoop, scents etc.

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After this we went for lunch at The Green Hotel, Mysore which is actually a palace converted to a 5 star Hotel.

After lunch, our guide took us to Geetha Fine Arts. This is where the in-laid wood arts are produced. There is a good collection of in-laid wood art here which you can buy at a wholesale price.

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Our next destination was to see the stone sculpture workshop. This art is almost dying. Most of the work here is not for sale and is made to order only. We saw the statue of the King being prepared in sandstone. This is supposed to be installed somewhere during the coming Dassera festival.

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Next our guide took us to a secret museum, the Folklore museum. Actually, no tourists come here and many people have not even heard of it. This is located inside the Mysore University premises.

As usual, no photography allowed and our mobiles were also deposited at the entrance.

The museum is actually a mansion built for the Mysore Maharajah's daughter. The inside architecture composes of Hindu, Muslim and Christian designs. The ground floor shows the influence of Hindu culture, the 1st floor design is influenced by Muslim culture and the top floor is influenced by Christian culture.

In the exhibits, there were many collections of art and folk dances from all across India. It was very interesting, but too bad that we could not take any pictures.

With that, we came to the end of our tour. It was a very exciting and impressive tour where we learnt quite lot about the culture, life and art of Mysore and Coorg. All thanks to the excellent guides provided by GoMowgli.

Driver Scam in Mysore and Coorg

One of the most prevalent scams here is the driver scam. When you hire a local vehicle here, they will recommend you certain places for shopping. For e.g. if you want to buy silk saris, they will take you to Kaavery Silks or Cuavery Mayore Silks etc.

They will insist that this a very authentic place, Govt approved, prices are reasonable and so on. Some will even accompany you for shopping and try to negotiate with the shopkeeper showing as if he got you a discount.

But these drivers have a setting with these shops. The drivers get almost 10% - 20% of the sale of any item you purchase. The shops markup the price and maybe give you some discount so that it looks convincing, but still sell you expensive as they will have the driver commission in it.

Even if you hire through reputed tour agents in your city, chances are that the local vehicle driver get a commission from all the places that he takes you.

Even at Mandalpatti, the jeep owner takes Rs. 200 extra if your local driver happens to charge a commission from him.

Our driver was also approached by a tout and was trying to give him some gifts, so that he can take us to these shops. Our guide had warned us on such malpractices, so were careful.

So, be very careful at these places. My intention to mention all the places that I bought things from is to let you know the authentic shops, so that you guys can look up these shops yourselves when you go there.

Last edited by sukhoi30 : 17th October 2015 at 00:25.
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Old 19th October 2015, 11:55   #5
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 19th October 2015, 18:55   #6
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Being a Mysorean, it makes me very happy to read this thread. Good vacation I must say. Even I have not visited some of the places you mentioned!
The Andhra hotel you mentioned must have been RRR I guess? Yum!
Hope you enjoyed your vacation.
p.s. Chikmagalur is also famous for coffee. And there are good tourist spots there as well.
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Old 19th October 2015, 19:18   #7
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The Andhra hotel you mentioned must have been RRR I guess? Yum!
Hope you enjoyed your vacation.
p.s. Chikmagalur is also famous for coffee. And there are good tourist spots there as well.
Hey, thanks!!! Yes, it was RRR restaurant ... I was just not remembering its name. And yes, we really enjoyed the vacation.
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Old 19th October 2015, 19:44   #8
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I can't believe my luck. Just when I wanted to start my 'research' on Mysore and Coorg, I bump on this thread! Team bhp never disappoints!
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Old 19th October 2015, 21:05   #9
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Awesome! Travelogues about Mysore always make me happy

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Our guide then took us to Madhava Bhavan that served delicious Karnataka Style Saatvik Lunch.
You had a well informed guide indeed! This place is still relatively unknown even to most Mysoreans! I visit Anima Madhva Bhavan once a week with my parents.

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From this point we were able to view the Mysore City.
Here is the same spot and same tree in the evening :

Sights of Mesmerizing Mysore and Captivating Coorg-img_4039.jpg
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Old 19th October 2015, 21:55   #10
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Thanks for penning the wonderful travelogue, even though I am thousands of miles away from Mysore, it gives me great pleasure to read about Mysore each time and every time.
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Old 19th October 2015, 22:10   #11
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Awesome! Travelogues about Mysore always make me happy



You had a well informed guide indeed! This place is still relatively unknown even to most Mysoreans! I visit Anima Madhva Bhavan once a week with my parents.
Yes, indeed it is a very nice restaurant. The dishes served had all different tastes which your tongue can sense.

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Here is the same spot and same tree in the evening :
Wow!! Thanks for sharing this. Looks pretty at night too.
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Old 19th October 2015, 22:55   #12
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Absolutely mesmerizing pics .. especially the palace in day & with lights and the vast greens of Coorg!!!

You seem to have covered both places from varied perspectives - temples, palace, animal life, landscapes, ...!
I suppose credit goes to GoMowgli tour plan for that.
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Old 20th October 2015, 13:44   #13
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You seem to have covered both places from varied perspectives - temples, palace, animal life, landscapes, ...!
I suppose credit goes to GoMowgli tour plan for that.
Yes, absolutely!! I don't think without their guidance we would have covered so many placed in such a short time.
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Old 20th October 2015, 17:01   #14
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Very informative travelogue with excellent snaps. Being settled in Bangalore for last 16 years, have visited Mysore numerous times, but I was never aware of the Mysore silk and Sandalwood factories, it will be great if you can share more details on how to reach both the places
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Old 20th October 2015, 18:50   #15
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Very informative travelogue with excellent snaps. Being settled in Bangalore for last 16 years, have visited Mysore numerous times, but I was never aware of the Mysore silk and Sandalwood factories, it will be great if you can share more details on how to reach both the places
Well, actually, I don't know the road or route to reach these places. Our guide, who is a local person, took us there. You should probably google it out. They do have some visiting times, so, make sure you get that information before going.
When we were visiting, we found couple of tourists from Germany at the Silk Factory. They didn't have any guide, so I was wondering how they found the place

Thanks for your appreciation.
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