Category Archives: Travel Journal

#Travel : An Auto Ride to Kundadri Hills

Kundadri Hills, Yet another beautiful place in the Western Ghats. It was during my Agumbe trip, I got a chance to visit this breathtakingly beautiful place.

Kundadri is around 17km from Agumbe. As there was some sort of time constraints in this trip, I decided to take an auto rickshaw aka tuk-tuk to this place. I have met an auto driver the previous day and he agreed to take me there.

Getting Ready for the Auto Ride
Getting Ready for the Auto Ride

I wanted to go there early in the  morning, but the auto guy suggested that, it wouldn’t be a great idea as it was raining during that time. So we decided to start around 9.30 in the morning.

Cruising through the highway
Cruising through the highway

The highway was super nice. And rain stayed away from my plans. It was a great day for exploring a place. Soon we reached the diversion from the highway to the narrower way to Kundadri.

Road to Kundadri
Road to Kundadri

The road itself said, “You are nearing the destination”. The texture of the road changed, The altitude started changing,  the sound of engine started to change. This road had some really tricky curves like in the ghat roads. The tuk tuk struggled a lot at certain places.

Negotiator of the Curves
Negotiator of the Curves

The elevation of Kundadri is 826 meters. And at the top of the hill, there is an ancient Jain temple which is believed to be constructed in 17th century. Continue reading #Travel : An Auto Ride to Kundadri Hills

Velankanni : Standing tall, Surviving the Harsh blows

Leaning tower of Velankanni
Leaning tower of Velankanni
Wonderful Architecture of Velankanni
Wonderful Architecture of Velankanni

Are you wondering about the leaning towers and curved pillars of Velankanni??! Gotta be some architectural marvel. eh?

Well I am really sorry for the misunderstanding that I caused you. They are not leaning towers or curved pillars. They are just an optical illusion or rather a faulty image. No, they are not edited.

I did this trip to Velankanni a few years ago when I had only my camera phone which happen to be my favourite camera till date. I already stated that fact in my old posts in which I showed you, my 3.2 mega pixel travels. From Tanjavur, I travelled to Velankanni with the same camera phone. That phone camera created this funny illusions when I clicked in a hurry.  The actual structure looks like this.

Not so lean towers
Not so lean towers

So lets go and see some decent pictures from the trip.

Welcome to Velankanni Church
Welcome to Velankanni Church
Welcome to Velankanni Church
Welcome to Velankanni Church

The first thing that anyone would notice is the beautiful architecture and the predominant white colour of the buildings which gives the place a more divine feel.

Grand Architecture of Velankanni
Grand Architecture of Velankanni

The town is home to a significant Roman Catholic shrine dedicated to God in the name of Our Lady of Good Health, Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health.

Grand Architecture of Velankanni
Grand Architecture of Velankanni

The architecture gives it a kind of European look.  But behind this white divine look, this church has a story of survival to tell. And many sad stories of the people who lost their life during the Christmas Tsunami.

It was the year 2004.  Tsunami struck along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean. In India, the most affected place was Tamilnadu.

Location of Velankanni
Location of Velankanni

You can see the location of Velankanni, in the map. Velankanni was badly hit during that tsunami. It was a Sunday and it was Christmas time. There were a lot of people in that church, that morning. Though water did not enter the shrine as it was built on high ground,  the receding waters swept away hundreds of pilgrims who were on the beach.

But now things are different.  They rebuilt everything. Everything looks beautiful now. A new life has started.

Beautiful Church at Velankanni
Beautiful Church at Velankanni
Beautiful Church at Velankanni
Beautiful Church at Velankanni

Pilgrims are coming in large numbers. Various prayers are offered. And the place is well landscaped and looks beautiful.

Beautiful Church at Velankanni
Beautiful Church at Velankanni

The Catholic Basilica devoted to Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as the “Lourdes of the East”. And Velankanni is home to one of the India’s biggest Catholic pilgrimage centres. Pilgrims offer various kinds of prayers.

Very dedicated offering
Very dedicated offering

I saw some very dedicated prayers being offered. People walk on their knees over the walkway spread with sand all the way around 500-600 meteres, maybe more than that.

The way
The path
The starting point
The starting point
And the destination
And the destination

It was a very interesting trip to Velankanni.

There are some more pictorial memories from the trip.

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A compilation of failed and funny shots. Hope you have enjoyed the journey to Velankanni.


This is in response to Show your World, a monthly event hosted by a fellow travel blogger/expat Yulika of TinyExpats.com

Show Your World
Show Your World

 

Exploring The Heart Of Sharjah

I was lucky enough to work in collaboration with ‘Heart Of Sharjah’, during my recent trip to Sharjah, UAE. In this post I am going to tell you about the experience at Heart of Sharjah.

Heart of Sharjah is an ambitious heritage project, undertaken by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq)

Project undertaken by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq)
Project undertaken by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq)

This heritage project is about restoring the traditional heritage areas of Sharjah and linking them together, to give the look and feel of Sharjah over half a century ago. This ambitious  15 years project, which is scheduled for completion in 2025 will restore and revamp the city’s traditional areas to create a tourist and trade destination.

My journey to this heritage place started from the Heart of Sharjah Discovery Centre. The architecture, the building materials, the colour, all these elements gave me the feel of olden day Sharjah, even before arriving here.

Welcome to Heart of Sharjah
Welcome to Heart of Sharjah

The information board gave me an idea about what I was going to explore in the next few hours.

Heart of Sharjah Directory list
Heart of Sharjah Directory list

This arched entrance next to this board,  led me to the Heart of Sharjah Discovery Centre. This is the place from where you get all the information regarding the Heart of Sharjah projects and all other necessary help to explore this heritage site. I was explained about the different phases of this 15 years long ambitious project, how it will look in 2025 and various other things by a very friendly staff. Later I was assigned another very friendly tour guide, to show me around the place and to explain me things.  In the mean time, I enjoyed the traditional Sharjah environment.

Traditional Sharjah architecture
Traditional Sharjah architecture

These hanging lamps can be seen almost everywhere.

Hanging lamps of Sharjah
Hanging lamps of Sharjah

By that time Ahmed, my friendly tour guide was all charged up to take me for the guided tour. He led me to this cute  yet powerful 4 wheeled vehicle for the tour. First we went to the events area where most of the events are hosted during special occasions. And then we went to see various environment, the people of Sharjah once lived. They have recreated those environment at the Heart of Sharjah. Mountain Environment

The Houses in the Mountains
The Houses in the Mountains

The Farm Environment

Farm Environment
Farm Environment

The Desert Environment

Oasis in Desert
Oasis in Desert
Houses made out of Palm leaves
Houses made out of Palm leaves

I clicked this picture of Ahmed, when I went inside one of the  houses in the mountain environment.

My friendly tour guide
My friendly tour guide

He was super friendly and super helpful. He stopped at each and every place where I wanted to take pictures and gave me ample time for taking pictures. And drove this small 4 wheeler to some places which I thought was impossible to reach. From here we headed to the Souqs.

Souqs ( Traditional Markets )

If you check the information board, you can find a few souks in this area.

Souq Al-Arsa

First we went to Souq Al-Arsa, a traditional market.

Souq Al-Arsa
Souq Al-Arsa

This is a wonderful place, if you are planning to buy some souvenirs to take home.

Inside Souq Al-Arsa
Inside Souq Al-Arsa

And most of the shops are very colourful and interesting.

A shop Inside Souq Al-Arsa
A shop Inside Souq Al-Arsa

On our way to next souq, some others too joined us for a quick conversation.

Colleagues having a conversation
Colleagues having a conversation

On the way to the next souq, I was introduced to a coffee shop, where the traditional people of Sharjah come to sit and relax.

Coffee shop at the Heart of Sharjah
Coffee shop at the Heart of Sharjah

At last we reached the other souq, which is soon to be operational, maybe by end of March 2015.

Inside the new souq
Inside the new souq
Doors of the Souqs
Doors of the Souqs

And then we returned from the Souq to see some museums.

On our way to Museums
On our way to Museums

Museums :

Al Eslah School Museum :

Established in 1935, the Al Eslah School was the first formal educational institute in Sharjah that welcomed students from all over the region

Al Eslah School Museum : A back bencher's view
Al Eslah School Museum : A back bencher’s view

Sharjah Calligraphy Museum :

If you are  particularly interested in the heritage of Arabic calligraphy, this is the place.

Sharjah Calligraphy Museum
Sharjah Calligraphy Museum

There can be some restrictions on photography at certain museums, though the brochure says photography is allowed everywhere. Certain people-in-charge doesn’t agree with the brochure though.

Sharjah Heritage Museum :

This is the place to learn everything about the distinctive heritage of Sharjah.

Sharjah Heritage Museum
Sharjah Heritage Museum

The whole museum is divided in to six distinctive galleries. ‘Landscape’, ‘Lifestyle’, ‘Celebrations’, ‘Livelihood’, ‘Traditional Knowledge’ and ‘Oral Traditions’ of Sharjah’s rich heritage.

Traditional Attire
Traditional Attire
Traditional Attire
Traditional Attire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The  guided tour in that area was almost over. But I wanted to take more pictures. So I thanked my tour guide, clicked some of his pictures and headed out for my own explorations.

Ahmed
Ahmed

And I walked around the place clicking pictures.

Souq Al Masqoof
Souq Al Masqoof

It was pretty interesting to capture the buildings, alley ways and streets of half a century old Sharjah.

Buildings of Olden day Sharjah

Buildings of sharjah
Buildings of Sharjah
Buildings of sharjah
Buildings of Sharjah

Streets of Olden day Sharjah

Streets of sharjah
Streets of Sharjah
Streets of sharjah
Streets of Sharjah
Streets of sharjah
Streets of Sharjah

Doors of Olden day Sharjah

Doors of sharjah
Doors of Sharjah
Doors of sharjah
Doors of Sharjah
Doors of sharjah
Doors of Sharjah
Doors of sharjah
Doors of Sharjah

And after a bit of walking I found another souq.

Souq Saqr :

Souq Saqr
Souq Saqr

Inside of Souq Saqr looked like this

Inside Souq Saqr
Inside Souq Saqr

After taking a few turns I found it. The best part of the whole exploration as far as I am concerned. Sharjah Art Museum.

Sharjah Art Museum :

Sharjah Art Museum
Sharjah Art Museum

Entry to this amazing place was absolutely free. And this place is so inspiring. If you are an artist, you must definitely go visit this place, while in Sharjah.

As I couldn’t understand the greater meaning of many of the minimalistic art works, I was given a guide book, that too for free at the reception.

Art works  were stunning, inspiring, creative and meaningful.

Admiring the art at Sharjah Art Museum
Admiring the art at Sharjah Art Museum

Some art installations were simple but amazing.

Steel Rings Installation at Sharjah Art Museum
Steel Rings Installation at Sharjah Art Museum

I was very satisfied and inspired after taking a tour of the Sharjah art museum.  On my way back to my place of stay, I found the Sharjah Fort as well.

Sharjah Al Hisn Museum :

Sharjah Al Hisn Museum
Sharjah Al Hisn Museum

As it was closed for renovation, I couldn’t explore from inside.  But it was a great day and great tour for sure.

Also there was some events related to Sharjah Biennial was happening. And if you are in Sharjah  From 25 March to 4 April, 2015 Don’t Miss out the delicious Sharjah Food Festival.

If you are visiting Sharjah, don’t miss to visit The Heart of Sharjah. It is very near to the Sharjah Al Jubail Bus station, even nearer to another bus station Rolla terminal. Sharjah international Airport is also near. Beautiful Sharjah corniche is at a walkable distance.

Hope you enjoyed this virtual tour. Again I would like to thank ‘Heart of Sharjah’ for all the help and support. Also for this opportunity to write about this wonderful heritage site.

More details can be found from here.

Heart of Sharjah

Thiruvannamalai : Summary

Tiruvannamalai is a temple town Located at the foothills of Annamalai hills  at the Southern part of India,  in the state of Tamil Nadu. Nearest big city is Chennai which is around 200km away by road. Auroville and Pondicherry is around 100km away

How to Reach Thiruvannamalai

Nearest Airport : Chennai International Airport, ~200km away

Another one is Bangalore airport, Around 300km away

Railway station : Tiruvannamalai railway station, but only passenger trains stop here. There are no direct trains from Chennai, that stops here. One might need to reach Villupuram junction or Katpadi junction from Chennai to get a passenger train to Thiruvannamalai. Or reach Pondicherry and take a bus. Plan your train trips from here. If you need more tips check this.

Road transport : Thiruvannamalai is well connected by road. Taking a bus from Chennai to Thiruvannamalai is the cheapest option. Taxi services are available, but 200km taxi ride can be an expensive affair

And i moved forwards, closer to it
Bus Ride to Thiruvannamalai.

 

Things to Do in Thiruvannamalai

Thiruvannamalai is a pilgrim town. If you are on a spiritual journey, this is one great place to visit.

  •  Stay atSriRamanasramam and learn about his philosophies, spirituality, Vedanta or just enjoy the serenity of the place.

    Sri Ramanashram
    Sri Ramanashram
  • Visit theAnnamalaiyar Temple, one of the largest temples in India, temple complex of which covers an area 25 acres.

    Annamalaiyar temple towers
    Annamalaiyar temple towers
  • Do Giri Pradakshina( Walking Around the Hill) around the Holy mountain. A 14 km barefoot walk.

    The Midnight Pilgrims
    The Midnight Pilgrims
  • Do a barefoot trek to the holy mountain which is approx. 814m high. ( One can wear footwear if they wish to, barefoot walk and trek are just personal choice )

    Someone going down
    Someone going down
  • Go find the very Special, footprints of Lord Shiva at the top of the mountain.

    Footprints of Lord Shiva
    Footprints of Lord Shiva
  • Take part in Giri valam ( walk around the Hill) on a Full moon day. Dates are given on this site . There will be thousands of people walking around the holy hill that night.
  • Visit during Kartikai Deepam: (Nov-Dec) This spectacular ten-day festival, during which the gigantic temple chariots are led in procession through the town streets. At sunset on the final day, the beacon atop Arunachala is lit and is visible for miles around, burning for 7 days or more. [ More details can be found from the website given at the end of the post ]

Some more things to do

  • Meet some interesting people, talk about spirituality, God, culture and what not!

    The juggler
    The juggler
  • Rent a bicycle and explore the temple town

    Going green
    Going green
  • Buy some stone carved souvenir

    Marble Art
    Marble Art

Things to do : for the Photographer in you

  • Go for a morning walk to capture vibrant portraits

    Early start
    Early birds might get worms, as there are plenty of flocks
  • Getthatbird’s eye view shot of the Town.

    The view from the peak
    The view from the peak
  • Get a panoramic view of the town from top of the hill
  • Capture some vibrant life on the streets

    Some more colours were added to the already colourful day
    Some more colours were added to the already colourful day
  • Capture the architectural marvel of the temple from outside
    The massive Annamalaiyar temple towers
    The massive Annamalaiyar temple towers

    And just have fun, enjoy the serenity of the place, experience the energy of Arunachala and come back with great memories.

Your one stop solution website for your future Thiruvannamalai Trip : Click here to read everything in Detail. Have a great journey.


 

God’s Footprint At the top of Arunachala

30.10.2014 ( Day 24 )

After yesterday’s energy packed music night, we slept well.

So far so good. Everything went according to plan, but not exactly according to the plan.  Our plan of waking up very early and getting ready for the trek before 7 am didn’t work out because of our usual obsession with that extra 5 minutes morning sleep. We ended up starting as late as 9’o clock. We were warned that the total trek alone, going up and coming down would take at least 4 hours minimum.

We traced our previous day’s path. Reached our favourite  view point. Spent some time there. Again took the same pictures.

Morning Bird's eye view from the view point
Morning Bird’s eye view from the view point

But morning offered a little bit different view.

Morning Town
Morning Town

Morning light had made everything a bit different.

I was really excited and I was rushing and running. Continue reading God’s Footprint At the top of Arunachala