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Old 2nd June 2009, 21:44   #1
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Smile The Southern Circuit: Lord, Queen of Hills and Royal City

Dear Thbpians,

This travelogue is about our recent family trip to Tirupati, Krishnagiri, Ooty and Mysore between 24-05-2009 to 30-05-2009.

Travel Background
Plans were laid one month in advance. The main aim of this trip was to visit Tirumala and Krishnagiri(to visit a temple at our native village). Since we had a some more days at our disposal we planned visit to Ooty and Mysore. My heart wanted to drive all the way but mind said take a flight upto Chennai since there was lots of places to see and time was less. Logged onto travelguru and found good deals on airfare. Got tickets at Rs.4500 Return per person for Mumbai - Chennai on Jetlite because I booked one month in advance. Now the next job was to get accomodations done at various places and gettting darshan ticket at Tirupati. For these things, I could look for none other than this great forum for guidance. I posted this thread in route/travel section and response was really nice and fast. http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/route-...ty-mysore.html (Travel guidance to Tirupati, Krishnagiri, Ooty and Mysore)
My sincere thanks to all people who have helped me in this travel.
After lot of internet searches and research on tbhp, I found Hotel Blue Hill International, Ooty which had a 3 bedded room which could accomodate family of 4 person comfortably. They charged around Rs1600 for room and I booked the same by 1st week on May. We had known contacts in a Mutt in Tirupati, hence accomodation was taken care at Tirupati and since I was visiting mysore on weekday, didnt bothered to make advance accomodation.
Next thing was to get darshan ticket for Tirupati. The last time when we had been to Tirupati, we booked tickets from TTDC counter at Siddivinayak temple in Mumbai, but now the same is been shifted at The Bombay Andhra Mahasabha, Opp King George School, Matunga. All members should be present while booking ticket since they take finger print and photographs of devotees. We booked Rs.50 Ticket (even these fill up fast, so book in advance) and proceeded home discussing how long we have to stand in queue for darshan on Sunday 24th May!! People were saying anything between 8-24hours on weekends and that made us crazy. The last time when we visited, it was a weekday in August and it took around 4 hours. Now being a holiday season, we could just speculate!

Our travel plan in Nutshell is as follows:

24th May: Fly to Chennai early morning and darshan at Tirupati

25th May: Darshan at Padmavathy Temple and proceed towards Krishnagiri. Perform pooja rituals at Temple in Village and reached Mettupalayam at night.

26th May: Leave to Ooty. Ooty and Coonnor sightseeing.

27th May:
Sightseeing at Pykara and leave to Mysore. Visited Chamundeshwari temple and KRS dam, Brindavan garden.

28th May:
Visit Mysore zoo and Palace and return Chennai.

29th and 30th May:
Spent time at relative's place in Chennai. Return to Mumbai on 30th night.

My grandfather had arranged a A/c Tavera for all road travel. The cost was Rs.7.5/Km and Rs250/day for driver allowance plus toll/permit charges. Driver was really kind and very good/safe driver and vehicle was new. If anybody wants his number, you can PM me.

Route guidance was provided by none other than the great traveller HVK and some valuable inputs from other tbhpians.

Rest of the travelogue follows and loads of pics to come.
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Old 2nd June 2009, 21:54   #2
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Interesting start!
Waiting for the pictures and the detailed report!
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Old 3rd June 2009, 10:26   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by viv1984 View Post

Route guidance was provided by none other than the great traveller HVK
He's our very own Marco Polo, isn't he!
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Old 3rd June 2009, 21:05   #4
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Thumbs up Part 1: Travel to Chennai - Tirupati

Day 1: 24-05-2009

Finally the D-day had arrived, checklist were made and we packed our luggage. I had office on 23rd Saturday between 11-8pm. When time was 7.30pm, I got excited and left for the day. We had flight at 5.30Am next morning and it was important for good sleep so that we have stamina for standing in queue for long hours. Suddenly my mom called up and told that we have to attend wedding of a society member on 23rd evening and told me to come directly to wedding hall and our plans of hitting the sack early went for a toss. Finally, we went home by 11pm and tried to catch up some sleep and kept alarm for 2.30 Am. We got up by 2.30Am and were ready by 3.30am to proceed for Mumbai Airport. We had arranged a relative's car which was to drop us till the airport.

Our lucky stars were by our side and there was no delay in flight schedule and flight took off from Mumbai at 5.30Am. Since it was a low fare flight we could get only 300ML water bottle complimentary! Rest of the food items were charged a bomb; Sandwich costing Rs100!!! We reached Chennai at 7.30Am. and my grandfather was ready to receive us and our Tavera was waiting for us. We had a sigh of relief after looking at the Tavera which was quite new and seats were comfy. Since we hired a tourist vehicle I was not expecting a very new vehicle. The vehicle even had a DVD player and LCD screen.

We started to proceed towards Tirupati by 8Am. We took the following route:

Chennai Airport -NH4- Poonamallee -RT- Tiruvallur -NH205- Tirutani -NH205- Puttur -NH205- Renigunta -NH205- Tirupati


Our driver told that he needs to take Permit to visit AP and KA, so he halted at RTO checkpost on Poonamalle road. The permit charges were Rs250 There we witnessed typical Government Babu's attitude. There were only about 2-3 drivers waiting for the permit, but it took almost 30mins for us to get the permit in our hand. I was also at the counter and become restless after seeing the babus working at snail's pace. They were also harassing a truck driver for bribe. Sensing my excitement, one of the babu started grumbling at our driver asking why he was getting the cutomers along with him. Our driver advised me to go and wait in the car! It was already 8.45Am by now and we started to proceed further. We stopped again for breakfast at hotel on poonamalle road. Sorry, I dont remember the name, but south indian breakfast was pretty good for the money paid. We took a right turn on NH4 to proceed towards Tiruvallur. From here the roads were not that good till Tirutani. There was lot of 2/3 wheeler traffic on this route and it was not a good road to drive.

We reached Renigunta by 11am and we have to stop at RTO checkpost for road tax. Here also the same story, customers were not allowed to come inside the cabin where the babus sit. Reason: Tax was only Rs.1900(Reciept) but amount charged was Rs.2400. Just imagine, how much black money is rolling in our country! There is no tax for small tourist cars like indica, etc. The tax was only for luxury cars like Innova, Tavera, etc and those which are more than 5 seater. We were only 4 persons but we had to pay the money for the luxury! We had three suitcases and journey was long, hence small cars were ruled out. We finally reached Tirumala at 12 noon.

Entrance at Tirumala
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The climate was very good at Tirumala since it rained heavily the last night, hence we were spared of the AP heat. While entering into Tirumala, our dirver was telling us that the traffic is thin today. We offloaded the luggage at the room we booked in Tirupati and had Tamarind rice for lunch which was prepared at the Mutt for visitor. We become tense anticipating high waiting time and enquired at the Mutt office how long will it take for darshan on typical sunday. We were said that it will take around 4-5 hours since we have booked darshan ticket. Our darshan ticket was for 3pm and it was around 1.30 pm and we thought of heading towards the temple. We were at the entrance of queue at 1.45Am and prayed to Lord Balaji and put all anxiety and tension about waiting time to rest. Our ticket was at 3pm and we were confused whether to enter the queue or not. There was very minimal rush at the entrance of the queue and we decided to take chance and enter the queue. Security guards checked the ticket and let us in without bothering about IN time on ticket !! We then came across the second security check where the bar codes on the ticket were checked. This could be the last place we could have been stopped for entering the queue early; but due to our lucky stars and Lord's blessing, there was no problem, they let us in!!! The queue complex has large halls where people can sit and move to the next hall. To our surprise all these halls were empty since rush was minimal. Peoples were just walking through the passage without much stoppings. We were feeling like we were doing brisk walking through the queue complex instead of the ususal snail pace moving line!! (The last time in Aug2007, when we had been to tirupati, all these halls were full of people) So we reached the entrance of the temple and had a darshan of our life! No ususal shouting and pushing devotees out of the temple by security guards. We could see the idol to our hearts satisfaction for about 30-45 secs instead of usual 5-10 secs. We came out of sanctum sanctorum and had checked our watch, it read 2.45Pm!!!! The IN time on ticket was 3.00pm! We said to ourselves, what a darshan! which most of us cannot imagine in one of the biggest shrine of India. We felt thoroughly blessed and thanked Lord Balaji immensely for such a comfortable and satisfied darshan.

We collected our laddoos (2 per person) and started walking towards the mutt where we had a room. The driver was sleeping inside the car. We woke him up to give him the prasad. He looked at us awestruck for returning so early! He was expecting us around 7-8ish. Even the mutt officials was quite surprised. Since we woke up very early in morning we took a nap for 2 hours and got up again at 5.30pm to visit papavinasam. This place is about 12km from city. It is believed that if people take a bath here it washes their sins. This place also has a dam and garden. It has a small market where you can buy souvenir.

Lake on the way to Papavinasam
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Garden at Papavinasam
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Papavinasam
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Papavinasam dam

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We returned to Mutt by 7pm and had upma for dinner. We then retired for the day at 9pm. We thanked our stars and the Lord for such a wonderful experience.

Next day follows....
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Old 3rd June 2009, 23:48   #5
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nice travelogue viv!

did you do the bandipur safari?

can't wait for the rest

cheers!
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Old 4th June 2009, 10:04   #6
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Very nice. Having a driver is really best option in such long tours. Otherwise the person who is driving will end up tired and he cant even enjoy the scenery around.

Waiting for the whole travelogue.
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Old 4th June 2009, 21:34   #7
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Thumbs up Part 2: Travel from Tirupati - Krishnagiri - Mettupalayam

Day 2: 25-05-2009

Since we had to cover Padmavathy temple, we got up early in the morning at 5Am and got ready by 6.30Am. We bid adieu to Lord Balaji and proceeded to pay obeisance to his wife, Padmavathy amma.

Bidding adieu to Tirupati
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We reached Padmavathy temple at 7.15Am and found that normal darshan is stopped till 8Am. They were performing some pooja for which we have to pay Rs.1000 for 4 persons to enter the temple for darshan. There were hardly any persons in temple for this pooja and most of general public were standing in queue for darshan to resume. They were planning to open the gates only at 8.00Am. In the meanwhile, we thought we will purchase Rs40 ticket so that we can get darshan fast. When we went to the counter, it was closed for Rs.40 and Rs.10 till 8Am. They were issuing only Rs.1000 ticket!! I said to myself, What a business!! We could do nothing but wait till 8Am. Finally we got our tickets at 8Am and the gates opened at 8.15Am. We finished darshan at 8.45Am and ready to start the next leg of our journey.

Our next place was to visit a temple at our native village near Krishnagiri. This temple was built by our forefathers. My grandfather was to join us at Vellore to visit this temple. We took the following route:

Tirupati -NH18- Chittor -SH9- Katpadi -SH9- Vellore -NH46- Ambur -NH46- Vanyambadi -SH16- Tirupattur -SH60- Village

Roads from Tirupati till Vellore was pretty good two lane road.There was some traffic when we entered Chittor. My grandfather was waiting near CMC hospital in vellore. When we entered Vellore city at 11Am, we got stuck up in city traffic and it become difficult to find CMC hospital because they had two campuses in Vellore. We wasted almost one hour traversing Vellore. We had lunch in Vellore and started towards our village. We reached our village temple at 3 pm. Our village is somewhere near Kaveripatnam. We finished our pooja at 5pm.

Snap of our Village
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Now we started wondering if we could cover the distance till Mettupalayam. Our driver was very enthusiastic and encouraged us that we go to Mettupalayam for night. We thought of night stopover in between, but that could have resulted in tremendous waste of time the next day. At 5.30Pm we left our village for next leg of journey. The route which we took was as follow:

Village - Dharmapuri -NH7- Thoppur -RT(SH20)- Mettur -SH20- Ammapettai -SH175- Anthiyur -SH82- Sathyamangalam -SH15- Sirumugai -SH15- Mettupalayam

Our driver was not aware of the above route. He was talking of going via Mettur-Bhavani-Avnashi-Mettupalayam since he was aware of this route and he had no idea about the route which I proposed. My family was forcing me to let the driver take the route which he is aware of. Before this trip, I made analysis of all route on google maps and I knew that the route he was taking is longer route. I convinced the driver to take the route which I proposed and he was surprised that a person from Maharashtra is proposing a route to local driver!! I was so confident of this route because this was advised by HVK!! After Dharmapuri, the roads were 4 lane all the way till Thoppur. Took a right turn at Thoppur towards Mettur on SH20. The roads here onwards till Mettupalayam was good 2 lane road. We took dinner at Mettur at 7.30Pm at Hotel Krishna Bhavan. They had only dosas and paratha for dinner but were average. Finally we reached Mettupalayam at 11Pm. We booked a lodge in Mettupalayam for spending a night. I dont remember the name of the lodge, but it was very mediocre and it was meant only for spending a night.

Our driver was quite surprised about the discovery of new route to Ooty which not only had good roads, but was shorter too without much of big towns in between. He was telling that he will definately tell about this new route to his fellow colleagues!!!

Next day follows.....
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Old 6th June 2009, 14:50   #8
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Default Part 3: Travel to Coonoor, Ooty

Day 2: 26-05-2009

We were ready to leave Mettupalayam by 8Am. We had breakfast by 8.30Am and ready to hit the Ooty road. After covering some distance on NH67, the surrounding and nature around us began to change into much greener and beautiful. We could observe the change in vegetation as we climbed the ghat roads. I found that traffic was quite thick on NH67 even on weekdays, then I realised how popular is Ooty. All places on the route was worth a snap.
On the way to Coonoor
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I was for the first time going to Ooty and was really impressed by the beauty of this place. We reached Coonoor by 10Am. When we reached Sims park, we met a guide who offered to show tea factory, dolphin nose and one other point for Rs.150. Since we were new to this place, we thought it we should have a guide so that we dont waste time searching places. The following were the places visited by us in Coonoor:

1) Tea Factory and Estate: Coonoor is known for its tea estate. The guide took us to one of the tea factory in Coonoor where we could understand in detail about the Tea making process. There we had a employee of that factory explaining everything about tea. First thing that we got to know is that Tea is a Tree, not a shrub or small plant. Its always trimmed to keep its height small else it will grow into full fledged tree. One can find a Tea tree in Sims garden. The life span of a tea tree is about 60-80 years. He took us on a tour of tea factory and explained the tea making process.
Tea factory and Surrounding areas
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Dead Tea trees
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Tea Factory
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Defence Golf Course
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2) Sleeping pregnant lady: This was a point on the way to Dolphin nose. From here we can get a view of a mountain which looks like a sleeping pregnant lady!!! I can say that these are just natural formation of mountain which are used by guides to make it a tourist point!! But the scenery was really awesome from this point. You can see the NH67 from this point winding all the way till coonoor.

Can you spot the sleeping lady??
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3) Dolphin Nose: You can get a good view of Catherine falls and Niligiri hills from this spot. Its a good place to visit because the journey to this place itself is awesome. You can see some good tea estates and countryside on the way to Dolphin nose. Its about 10km from main town and worth a visit due to the scenery on the roadside.

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4) Sims Park: Its indeed a nice place to visit. It houses some of the rare trees and exotic flowers. Actually I liked this park more than the botanical garden. When we were about to enter this garden, rains started! I knew that it may rain in Ooty region in last week of May, hence umbrellas were marked in our luggage checklist. We took umbrella to visit sims park. It was getting difficult to handle camera in rain, but we managed to get couple of snaps. It was nature at its best!!

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It was 12 noon and time to proceed towards Ooty. The guide advised to take a shortcut route which passes through Military establishments and finally joined NH67. We could save around 4 kms due this route and got a opportunity to see the militray area. We reached Ooty at around 1.00pm and decided to checkin to our room. When we entered Ooty town, I was suprised to see bumper to bumper traffic at one of the signal. I was feeling as if I entered some main road in Mumbai. But it was really sad to see the nature getting polluted in Ooty. Finally we reached Hotel Blue Hill International, checked into room, offloaded luggage. The room was average, but we were satisfied for the money paid and it could accomodate 4 persons reasonably well. The room cost us Rs1600 for one night. Now it was time a have our lunch. After reading many ooty related thread on tbhp, I thought we should try Hotel Nahar as suggested by everyone. It was decied by us at the start of journey that we will not have any punjabi/north indian food in southern hotels. Whenever we tried a north indian food in south india, we were always disappointed by the taste.
OT: As far as my experience goes, Mumbai is the best place for all types of cuisine.
So we decided to go for south indian thali at Hotel Nahar. We ordered the food around 2pm and it took them 30-35 mins to serve the food. I cant understand, how a Thali can take so much time, since it had a predefined menu!! And the food was very mediocre and not at all to the expectation and money paid. We complained this to the hotel manager, paid the bill and left the hotel with frustration.

We then walked towards the Botanical garden. There was a sea of crowd at the entrance and ticket counter. We finally managed to get our ticket and moved in. I was feeling like being to Ooty on a weekend seeing the crowd. There was flower show inside the garden. The garden was full of people and no strict laws disallowing litters. Actually I saw one man urinating behind a bush!!! Its time to bring in strict laws to contain such abuse of nature. After seeing these crowd and cleaniness, I found Sims park to be quite good and calm. But there was exotic flowers which helped to calm my mind. The garden was quite big and covering all parts was becoming difficult since my mom was complaining about cold and headache the time we entered Ooty. Sudden change of climate took a toll on her health. We decided to leave and visit Ooty lake for boating.

We reached the lake around 5pm and again here there was big crowds, but we managed to get a rowing boat in abount 45 mins. We were in no mood to cycle a boat due to our fatigue, hence decided on rowing boat, since it had a person to row. The lake was not very clean but the surrounding was very pleasing and beautiful. They also have a deer park adjoining the lake. It was a 30mins boating and the experience was quite enjoyable. We reached hotel by 7pm and were discussing the next days plan of action.

It was now 8pm and time for dinner. After the experience at Nahar, we vowed to never visit there again. I heard of Hotel Shinkows on tbhp and thought to give it a try. We kept our fingers crossed and entered the hotel. We ordered veg Monchow soup, fried rice and veg munchurian. The first shocker came: the soup was tasting sour and very different than the one we taste in mumbai. Somehow we consumed the soup. The next biggest shock of my life: The fried rice and Veg Manchurian arrived. Fried rice was ok. They brought Manchurian gravy and something like onion bhajji seperately. The gravy tasted like it was prepared from Tamarind, very sour and slightly sweet. I said to myself, Oh God! why are you punishing us today!! It was not tasting like chinese from any angle. (The manchurian gravy that we get in mumbai taste slightly spicy and are made from ginger/garlic paste) We could not eat that preparation, paid the bill and left the hotel. Anybody who has tasted chinese in mumbai will never ever like the food at Shinkows. We came back to our room and ordered chapati's and Dal. Now this tasted heavenly after tasting the food at Shinkows. We cursed ourself for wasting our time and money on one of the worst chinese joint when we were getting a decent food at our hotel itself. In our life time, we could not forget the experience at Hotel Nahar and Shinkows. We retired for the day at 9pm.
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Old 6th June 2009, 15:04   #9
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Thumbs up Pics of Botanical Garden and Ooty lake

Ooty Botanical Garden:
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Ooty Lake:
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Next Day follows....
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