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Inter Continental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort

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Mu son and me were returning from my farm-house near Thenpattinam on a Saturday afternoon, during last week. It took us an hour to reach this place from our farm which is near Kalpakkam. While driving we kept counting the new restaurants and resorts coming up at Mahabalipuram. We knew its going to be really crowded here in a year’s time. So lots of tourists, lots of cars, lots of traffic. Oooh!

We chose to drive at one in the afternoon to escape the scorching Chennai heat which is on “agni natchathiram” mode right now. For guys who are wondering what “agni natchathiram” is, please read further. This phenomenon is when the heat is likely to be much worse than what it is right now. Starting on May 4, it will go on until May 28th, when the mercury will soar to dizzying levels and make you feel that it’s wiser to sit inside a tub of water, be indoors and play chess.

I’m just kidding. We can’t afford to be indoors and earn our bread, so this is Chennai. Hot, Hotter and Hottest are the three words to describe it. Inter Continental Resort Mahabalipuram is bang on the ECR highway of Chennai to Pondicherry. But it has a locational advantage which is refreshingly different from all the resorts bundled up in Mahabalipuram. It is a good fifteen km’s before it. So there are lesser crowds around and you have lot’s of privacy inside this property. I liked it this way. Of course it is a no-no Bar situation here because of the highway ban by the Supreme Court in India. This is just temporary and in a few months the ban will be lifted I guess. So before I let you know more about our lunch, let me take you through this lovely property.

IMG_5559It has long corridors with a geometrical twist combining with lovely shapes of triangles and squares,with bright coloured floors.

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The rooms are neatly built with coconut trees shooting out from large areas of water surrounded . It gives it the calm and oceanic effect always as you walk around.

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As you turn left you have a nice extension of the market cafe called “Melting Pot”. So on houseful days, we can drag our plates here to have a seat and enjoy the Chennai Sun right under its nose.

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Below is a long shot of the rooms, which have lotuses nice and evenly placed and spaced out beautifully.

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As you are walking this straight corridor takes you to the beach. It’s coconut trees all the way, intermingled with some very green plants, the name of which I couldn’t get.

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These are the ones which I just said. Nice green plants with uncommon leaves.

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As you walk further straight you hit the scenic beach.

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I have a never seen a beach bed of this shape and design. It was straight out of Egypt. Looked real stylish.

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IMG_5555Now some pictures of the “Melting Pot” cafe. We were surprised to see a huge crowd for the buffet. To be honest, it was quite an impressive and extensive spread. Starting from the hot appams from the nice counter to the deserts.

 

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I felt sorry for this guy with a guitar who sang some beautiful songs with a real american accent, because, there was no one to applaud or cheer him, since he was in a corner. May be they should re-think to place him at the centre so that he gets the attention he deserves.

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If you want to eat your heart out, you better reserve a room here and take rest. There was so much and so colourful.

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I don’t even have to write anything about the food. It was really tasty with quick service. The desert was so good that this picture says it all.

So keep the good work going . To all the guys who work there, I will be coming to visit the “Tao of Peng” a Chinese restaurant there. Just waiting for my next road trip.

Address of the Property : No. 212 East Coast Rd , Nemelli Village, Perur Post Office, , Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu : Chennai ,603104, India : +91-44-71720101

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Acres of Sugar Cane

Mauritius is a sugar cane paradise. Why did we go there of all places? Thats because we wanted to enjoy water sports. My elder son had recently polished his swimming skills which he had almost forgotten a long time ago. My second son was also very enthusiastic about snorkeling.  Even my wife took her swimming classes seriously, and joined a short ten-day course at Chennai, and she was very regular in continuing it. Ha! She always is. We had Bali on our list but somehow we changed our mind.

This video shows you a glimpse of the sugar cane fields. Please be patient with these video files. Let them buffer fully so that you can see the video without a break.It’s sugar cane all the way, right from the airport till every inch of land you step, its sugar cane. There are no sky-high apartment’s, but neat houses cleanly built, in small townships which are quite distant from one another.

If your taxi stops in between, you will have only sugar cane for company, and to get to the next town you will have to hitch hike.

This small video clip shows the gentle waves splashing with such warmth, you almost feel you are in a lake and not in a beach. Mauritius has wonderful beaches, very fewer people, very less noise, no traffic snarls. It’s almost a  meditative feeling one gets, when one is in Mauritius.
Clean Blue Beaches

We flew by Air Mauritius from Chennai and boy oh boy, they have a code-share with Air India and it does show. The same old air of arrogance of the national carrier is visibly seen by the behaviour of the ground staff at the Chennai Airport and also by the in-flight crew. The world’s oldest air hostesses can be seen in this airline. Personally I have nothing about age, so please don’t comment on me for being age biased. They were so slow.

Most of the travel agents will have a north island tour, south island tour in their itinerary. If you are clever enough to skip one , then you will save a day to spend time on the beach rather than be a witness to a tough two hour car travel to complete this. Because any travel  in Mauritius requires a minimum of an hour by car or coach to reach the tourist spots. By the way in the north island tour there is nothing much to see except the exotic Le Caudan waterfront which boasts of luxury shopping with food joints.

 

 

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Chamarel Coloured Earth

On the south island tour you will visit Trou aux Cerfs – the crater of an extinct volcano, as well as Grand Bassin – a natural lake at the base of a volcanic crater and a pilgrimage  place for the Hindus.  The Chamarel colored earth looks brilliant in photos than in real.

Not to be missed is the Blue Safari submarine ride. This is the first time I hopped into a submarine and it looked scary initially. Then the captain gave us a few instructions and off we went deep inside with a spectacular view of the life under the sea. Have a look at this video.

A full day tour to Ile aux Cerfs, an emerald lagoon on the east coast, should  be on the itinerary of anyone visiting Mauritius. We hopped on to a jetty which was lined up in a que, since there are a lot of tourists heading towards this lagoon. The ride was for about an hour, bombarded with some loud but cheerful music all way.

We took the front seats which helped us get a great view.

A point to be mentioned here is you will have a bouncy feeling even after you get off the jetty.

Jetty

This is natural, because of the rhythmic waves. This feeling was with us even the next day.

lagoon

Anyone, even with the most basic camera will click a picture worth enlarging, because it’s too scenic to describe. The island was postcard’ish  from all angles.

parachuting

If you are a hardcore water sports enthusiast, then Mauritius is the place for you. Snorkeling, Parachuting, Kayak boating, pedal boating, yachting…ooh, the list goes on. Anything on top of water or  under water they have it here. The biggest thrill here in parachuting is, you take of from a motor boat right from the middle of the sea, and you land on a rectangle wooden raft. If you miss the landing, then you will end up in the sea. Not to panic, since you will be wearing the life jackets, you can always climb on to the raft

jyotirlingam temple

jotilingam

The Jyotir Lingam temple is   located in a picturesque area opposite a beautiful ganga lake. The temple has many beautiful gods and goddesses.

Ganga Maa

A  picture of ganga maa which really attracted me.

The right mix

I started this post with sugar cane, and it will be nice for me to end it with some fresh sugar cane juice. Even though you see so many sugar cane fields, you won’t find a single vendor selling sugar cane juice. To adhere to strict quality and hygiene, the government has fixed kiosks selling sugar cane juice. We all had sugar cane juice mixed with ginger…and not mixed with beer or rum as this board says. So cheers to everyone.

Standing tall at malaya kovil

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Short steps leading towards the temple

A Kovil in tamil means temple and this one stands real tall as my heading suggests. Tall not in the literal sense but by its great picturesque location, and a litter free zone where mankind has not stepped in to scratch on the walls and on the rocks of the temple. This is a rarity to find because, most of the temples have lovers etch their couplets on the walls and rocks just to make sure that they get noticed. Luckily this one escaped.  Pudukkottai is a water starved district in Tamil Nadu.

I bet even if you google this name, it will not come out in the searches because not many know of this temple. Though my native place is somewhat near this location, I have not been here at all. A friend of mine recently suggested this place, knowing my interest in temple architecture and my liking for places away from the maddening crowd .

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View from the top

My wife and me drove down from my home town Ponnamaravathi to this place. It was in December when Chennai was witnessing the biggest floods of the century and the rest of my family was safely tucked away there, rather locked indoors at Annanagar. We had all the time in the world since Chennai was isolated from the rest of India for a week, with heavy downpours and we could not travel back.

Malayakovil was burning hot , when we reached there at ten in the morning. I have posted this picture above just to show the beautiful contrasting view.

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Cliched it may be, but a real crystal clear lake

It was beauty at its best. A postcard perfect lake with crystal clean water drifting slowly in the wind, birds flying high above us, monkeys jumping on the trees. We sat there for an hour admiring the photo jet colours , enjoying the peace and sinking into its tranquility.

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Temple view

The beauty of this temple is because it remains unspoilt. The lake is not polluted even though they have their annual festivals during thaipusamI hope they maintain it the same way. Why I’m suggesting you to visit it is because, you wont find these sort of architectural wonders in the the regular tourist map and in the ” to visit ” list of rushing pilgrims. Tamil Nadu is a huge state where we have a collection of the world’s best temples mostly in Tanjore and Kanchipuram area. The unknown and lesser visited ones like this one may not find it’s place simply because they are away from the cities and small villages.

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Couldn’t resist the temptation of posing

So anyone visiting, Trichy or Pudukkottai in Tamil Nadu, India, please take a drive here and enjoy what I have written. Happy motoring.

Driving Route – from Trichy – Pudukkottaimalayakovil

Malaya Kovil, is 5 km away from Virachilai,

Tourist places nearby – Tirumayam Fort, 8 km away from Virachilai is one of the historical places where famous freedom fighters Veerapandiya Kattabomman and his brother Umathaiturai hid after their fight against the British during 17th Century.

Thirumayam Perumal temple is one of the 108 Thirupathi’s defined by Alwars/vaishnavites.

Devamalai, 6 km away from Virachilai is associated with one of the 63 Nayanmars called Perumizhalai Kurumbanayanar.

 

Goa in four days

What happens when, three couples plan a four-day trip from Chennai to Goa. Great excitement follows. This post is about a short four day trip to Goa. The weather in March at Goa was pleasant, not very warm except for the afternoon Sun. The taxi desk at the Goa International Airport was too small to  handle so many passengers arriving. So we had to stand for quite some time in a long queue until we got our turn.

We were booked at Sterling Resorts – Club Estadia, which was located in a very quiet neighbourhood, unlike other resorts which are closer to the beaches. It was a family resort buzzing with kids and teenagers. The food was quite good, a notch above our expectations. I must mention the chef Jishnu at Sterling, who took good care of us, and literally obeyed to all the commands of our friend Kadir, who is an ex chef himself. Yes, he knew all the tricks of the trade and what to expect at this place, what to order, what to avoid….the list goes on.

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The Gang – Ravi, Kadir,Nimmi, Pallavi, Ram and Valli ( from left )

Our group was Kadir-Nimmy, Ravi-Pallavi and me Ram-Valli.  Kadir and Nimmy have travelled quite a lot, covered more than seventy countries and that always helps in switching plans, in case Plan A fails. It did. I will tell you about it a little later. Ravi is an auditor, a management guru, and was our GPS tracker. I am not an expert at that.

The Mall De Goa is a ten minute walk from Sterling and the place is known as Porvorim. We too were surprised to see a Mall in the beach paradise. Ravi managed to see a movie at the Mall, since he landed the previous day from Mumbai. We didn’t go there obviously, since we weren’t interested to see Malls.
Since we landed in the afternoon, we took a short nap and were fresh for the night. The famous “Saturday Night Market” at Arpora-Goa.

This place was filled with foreign tourists mostly Russians, a live band in place, switching singers by the hour, a whole row of eateries , from the humble samosa guy to the exotic german pretzels joint. The range of food offered in different restaurants here was almost inexhaustible.

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shops at the saturday night market

It’s an amazing sight to watch, because of the colour, the smell of barbecue, noise of constant chatter, clinking of beer bottles and an array of shops selling Indian handicrafts mostly to foreign tourists.

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A sitarist playing at the venue with tented stalls all around

I know these shops won’t interest Indian tourists, but it is a sight to watch. The splash of colour all around is so amazing that you could sit and watch each shop for a couple of minutes.

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The splash of colour in every pinch of masala powder

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We tried barbecued king fish and some vegetarian paneer fry. Since it was so crowded we had to pounce on the table as soon as a guest left. When the ladies felt comfortable, Kadir and me had gone to get the food from the stalls.

The next day we headed off to Candolim beach. It was clean but the sun was burning hot and so we didn’t try to get in.

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Candolim beach – Goa

Ravi’s friend had recommended a shack restaurant called “Calamari Bathe & Binge“. It was right on this beach. An intro to this shack restaurant.

Calamari opened in October 2003 as a joint venture between two high-school buddies – Verner Da Costa Frias and Reginaldo D’Souza. Each one brought their own skill set into the business and over the years it has grown to be one of the most frequented restaurants in Goa by domestic and international visitors and Bollywood celebrities.

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Calamari Bathe & Binge Shack Restaurant

Incidentally it was Kadir’s anniversary and we decided to freak out . Valli and Pallavi were vegetarians and they really missed out some fresh seafood. It was awesome.

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Pork ribs in barbecue sauce

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Kadir and Nimmy celebrating their anniversary

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Uttam setting up the table for a bottle of chilled Sula

Thank you Uttam for giving us some great and quick food.It’s mostly crowded especially on weekends and it is advisable to make a reservation and go to this place.The owners of this shack  kept us happy by not shouting at their staff. They were so cool and polite but made sure everything was in order and their silent managerial skills were so evident that it’s worth taking a leaf out of their book. I certainly did.

By the way, Sula wines are our favourite.

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The next day Nimmy’s student Chef who runs a restaurant called “Black Pepper“at the Mall De Goa, was kind enough to give us his Tata Safari for our drive to Palolem Beach. It was a two-hour drive through scenic and curvy roads. Kadir was on the wheel and we had some chilled Beer on our way. We landed at two pm, and headed straight to the restaurant called “Dropadi”.

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Dropadi Beach Shack Restaurant

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Live Crabs

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de-shelled crab

We had de-shelled crab and king fish again. You would be wondering whether we did any other activity other than eating. Of course we swam on the Palolem beach, photos of which I could not load here, since all of us were swimming.

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Palolem Beach – Kadir, Ram and Ravi

Our swim in this beach was such a refreshing experience. The sand was silky smooth with no pebbles, and the waves were so gentle that it appeared they were singing lullabies. We spent a full hour on the water. We had to thank God that Plan A failed. We were supposed to visit another place and skip swimming here. Unfortunately our Tata Safari wouldn’t start and luckily it was parked in front of a cafe called “Mika Mocha Cafe“. By sheer coincidence the owner was known to our student chef who gave us the car. So he telephoned and organised another cab for us to take us back to Arpora, a solid two-hour drive from Palolem. So we had the time to swim. We thanked God for giving us Plan B.

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posing with “Mika Mocha “staff

The guy on the extreme right was our saviour. He organised our cab, and helped us with a small room for us to change and to wash.

The next day was meant for a short cruise. Our cabbie from Sterling Resorts organised the tickets. If not, we all would have been standing in a mile long queue. On seeing the crowds waiting to board the ship, we nearly fainted.

There were two hundred people standing. Luckily the wait was not for long, and the staff let us in quickly. A one hour cruise. Nothing great to talk about, but enjoyed the beautiful sunset.

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That was Ravi and Pallavi posing for a perfect shot taken on a Canon S 95  camera.

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Cruise – Sunset

The deck was clean for a crowd of this magnitude with a restaurant, and live dance performances by goans. It was a bit crowded but not noisy.

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The Cruise – say cheese

The final day was spent in a relaxed way at the resort since we had to board a flight at three thirty late afternoon, so we had a take away breakfast of vada pav. It was quite filling. Then we tried a fish spa at the resort. They call it Dr Fish. Tickling to your bony edge, it was.

Finally it was time to bid goodbye, and we thanked Angela at the reception for her service. We arrived very early at the Goa International Airport. I was just thinking, that so much could be done on a four day trip to Goa. All you need is enthusiasm and some planning. When you have such good friends , it becomes a lot easier. We arrived at Chennai, at about seven and before we carried our luggage from the belt, we already started planning for our next trip.

I will let you know.

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