Thursday, October 28, 2004

Back to Bangalore...

Day 3

Route - Chennai - Sriperumbedur - Kanchipuram - Ranpet - Chittoor - Palamner - Mulbagal - Kolar - Hokote Bangalore

We started early afternoon from Chennai and after a heavy Tamil nadu breakfast at another great joint, we carried towards home. On the way we stopped for a few breaks since the road was good and we did not need to stop very often. At Palamner, Rocks stopped to change our light bulb which was fused and while he was doing that, I spied a little hut by the road, where an old lady was hovering and another old lady was picking peanuts from the tree. I asked in tamil whether Kapi was available. A chatty old man who was sitting by the road came up and said they could make tea but a hotel was nearby if i wanted to go. Along with him was a truck driver who was also resting for the day. We had a conversation with my broken Tamil, Hindi and some good tea. The old man extended his hand of hospitality and offered me peanuts which were freshly picked and some biscuits... the truck driver told me stories of how he would go through small roads and how he would avoid check posts. I asked him a couple of questions.. he seemed to be well travelled guy with the gab and I am was always a sucker for travel stories...

After a hot cuppa and saying warm goodbyes, we carried on.. and reached home just after sunset. I enjoyed the whole ride at this time since I got to see many different phases of the sunset. And how it played with the clouds... it would have been an awesome capture on the camera... unfortunately I have to wait till some other time...

Now its time to plan another ride... or a drive.... who knows.. but we are always ready for the highway


Highly reccomended: A visit to the RE factory. Its worth it... All Bulleteers must go there...
Royal Enfield has opened a new showroom in Chennai and its a cool place to pass by... you must check it out...

Mahabalipuram is good for a short visit.
Chennai is cool during rains..
ECR is something you have to ride on... its an experience to be experienced...
Croc farm is worth a visit...
Many thanks to Dodo and the Madras Bulls who have made our stay in Chennai a memorable and enjoyable one.

Chennai in the rains ..

Day 2

We woke up to mild rains and it was a beautiful weather. The sun was playing hide and seek with the rain and it was fun to watch who would last the longest.. and the effect of the sun and the rain coming and going over the sea through the clouds was amazing. I was wishing I had a better camera to capture that moment. But maybe some other time..

We saw that the beach was busy with the fisherman hauling in their catch for the day. Velu one of the fisherman with whom we got talking to.. told us that they leave for their fishing at 3:00 in the morning... and how they had to go further and further away into the sea to catch big fish. They were all a friendly group.. some folding nets, some running to get the fishes in place, some sorting out the fishes, some running to save themselves from the drizzle when it rained. Fishermen here believed in not only co- existing with the fishes but also with other domesticated animals and a good house would have dogs, cows, chicken and pigs with them.

Velu promised us to take us to the sea for 200/- and show us the five temple which have are under sea. We did not take the risk since it was a wild time for the sea but we told him that we would come back and take him up on his offer. You can also go fishing with them for a small amount if you are interested.

It was all good since we spend a lazy morning... walking by the beach. We had a hearty breakfast at a nearby restaurant... shared with a black puppy and watched the rain fall the sea.. As soon as it was dry, we left for the shore temple which would be opening in at 9:00. The shore temple displays 6th century architecture. The temples seem to have been built on single stones sometimes... the sculpturers starting their work from top so that they dont do much damage to the structure...

After the Shore temple we moved out of Mahabalipuram and towards the Croc park. We were riding through the ECR. It was a great ride. We met some good sports bike too who were freaking out with their bikes totally opened up. We missed out on the Tiger's cave while coming. The crocodile park has been an experience. I have never seen so many crocodiles at one time .. sheesh !!! it was like that place was infested with them reptiles and well though I dont hate reptiles.. I dont love them either... I have a healthy respect for them...

We could see snakes and turtles besides crocs... I personally think that this place should seriously try and find a wider space.. or let the crocs go to the wild.. its too much now... BRRRR !!!

Then we entered the town of Kovalam which was nothing great so we moved on. On the way we saw another rider in a bullet most probably from the Madras bulls... did not know him but it was good to see another bull on the road.

In Chennai we were met by Daniel aka Dodo who took us to his house and from then on we went on to the Royal Enfield factory. Dodo also did not know the way to Thiruvattyur... where the factory was. So we went on riding through one of the worst parts of Chennai, a la Majestic in Bangalore.. just add to that less space more trucks and filthy because of the rain....

On reaching the factory we were made to wait dfor sometime before Ajay Pai came and took us around the place. he explained to us how the place worked and how the machines worked and it was very enlightening for us. We then got to meet Mr Vaiydi, Director, Marketing, if I am not mistaken along with Naveen Malhotra. We had a very nice converstaion where feedback was exchanged and we learnt a lot too. I was more interested in the bullet coming up with an electric start. I would then be able to get myself one.... I am secretly hoping that I dont have to kick start the machine when I buy one.

After the visit we went to Ponnuswamy's and had a very late lunch... If you are in Chennai, you have to visit this place. For food lovers this is the best Chettinadu Cuisine house that you can get at a very good price. Its is Eggmore. We went on to meet some of the Madras Bulls gang. It was nice of them to catch up with us. We met at Cake Walk by the beach. Bala and Kavita, Dosai(Manoj), Anthony, Jai, Brijesh, Shwetha and her sister were all there... it was great to hog on good desserts and have a nice get together... that continued in Dodo's house where Bala regaled us with body shopping stories from US and his wild life adventures in Kenya. I think I shall plan a trip to this place... his stories have totally fascinated me..he is another avid traveller and its always nice to exchange stories... with such minds...

I crashed off while the men hung around late.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Monsoons in Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram and Chennai and a visit to RE factory

Route Taken

Bangalore - Hoskote - Kolar- Mulbagal-Palmaner- Chittoor - Ranipettai- Kanchipuram - Chengalpattu - Mahabalipuram

This has been a year of continous rains in Bangalore and mostly all over India... so traveling in bikes was not the first option. Just when we thought that it was getting dry and planned the trip to Mahabalipuram, we got news that the East coast was having good rains.. This was going to be our first solo ride and we were looking forward to it.

But we decided we would brave it out anyways. Unless it was one of those heavy coastal showers which we encountered in our trip to Calicut, it would be fine. We were warned by Daniel aka Dodo to be prepared for rains...

Anyway we started off early Friday morning heading towards the east... and going past Bangalore and Hoskote, we quickly passed Kolar and reached Mulbagal. We bypassed two three good hotels.. and I thought that we would get to pass by more and continued.. And to our dismay, we could not find any good hotels beyong Woody's.

We stopped by a nice little inn which said Hotel and thought we would get some coffee in our stomachs at least. As soon as I went inside I was welcomed with a big mug and directions to go to the ladies toilet. I did not know whether to laugh or just stare. Before I could finish my question about coffee, he insisted that I go to the toilet. Again I asked patiently.. and he ultimately said no coffee was not avialable but yes toilets were... hahah !! and we were charged
some 5 rupees to use the dilapidated toilets...

Since it was festival time, we had minimum traffic... on the way and reached Kanchipiuram without any difficulty. While riding on the State highway, we received some sporadic showers. It so happened that whenever we stopped and wore the raincoat, the rain cloud would pass by leaving us high and dry. We got so tired of wearing and taking off our raincoat, that we finally decided that we would brave the showers as and when they came. Well it was a good decision since the shower was light and would dry up after a few seconds.

Kanchipuram is a beatiful old city and it was here that we had lunch. Kanchipuram is known for its temples and we reached just in time for lunch. We had sumptous lunch in Kanchi at Saravana Hotel which serves amazing vegeterian thallis. They have good parking space for the bikes too.

As we moved around in Kanchi we could see that this city had a lot of temple heritage and it was scattered with temples at almost every corner of the street. Old Architecture.. and tanks which must definitely be a historian's delight. After lunch we continued on the highyway to Chengalpettu.. and then Mahabalipuram. After a short while we reached Mahabalipuram or Mammalapuram. Entering this small town it felt good to reach the destination.

As we entered this town it reminded me of Hampi and Goa. Hampi for the ruins and Goa for the tourists coming in inspite of the off season time. We looked out for a hotel sine we wanted to rest our backs and start exploring. It was 2:45 and we were ready to check out the town. Our search for an economic hotel near the beach took us through the concrete paved "gallis" to the fisherman's village near the shore temple. Rock s was more persistent in finding a hotel
near the beach..

We got a good deal for 300/- and the room was basic and was good enough with water running and good double bed.

The name of the hotel is Sea Shore hotel I think. Its a house with room facilities with an attached restaurant.My first thought was FISH FRY and BEER but I was patient. I had read that fish was really cheap here and I was keen on having my fill of fish...

After refreshing we started off on the ECR to check the town and went and visited Krishna's Butterball, Arjuna's Penance and some other cave temples. We wanted to go visit the Lighthouse but visitors were not allowed so we gave up and made our way towards the Shore temple. We walked through the rows of shops sporting only scultures
and the sound of hammer hitting the stone was constant and it seemed like it was part of nature.. Friends if you are interested in sculpting this is the place to come to. The displays of the sculptures were awesome. ( click on the pics to view the larger versions)

I wanted to click some good snaps but since it was already past sunset it did not make much sense to go to the temple. We walked around the beach area and as we were taking a walk, we came across a snake charmer speaking excellent American English ( reminded me of the hawkers in goa). Now this was an interesting sight. I
stopped and watched what that guy was doing. He took out one snake and then the other and showed us some tricks.. I was fascinated by the snakes... one cobra and one young snake... the poor cobra was awakened by a pinch on its tail.. poor thing... but it was showtime for them folks.. the charmer...made them turn a 360 degrees for a better close up and he said that he would charge 50/- for the snaps...When I told him that I was not a foreigner, he sobered down and asked me to give him whatever money I could... well who was I spoil his show and he had put up a good one so I gave him 50/-. A good performance has to be appreciated.

What I could see that they were making lot of money from the non Indians. The streets were scattered with shops specially catering to the people coming from outside India. In some of the places we wanted to eat, the guys blankly said that the restaurant did not have variety... and the moment a foreigner landed up they bend their backs to fulfil the orders... discrimination in our own land... SIGH !!

We went back to the hotel and s at down to have something to eat. Here I was expecting good meals... but I was mildly shocked to see the prices in the menu. Fresh Catch was displayed but a small fish would cost you 150/- and above. And a small piece would cost you 80/- to 90/-. Though it was not like Goan Beach shacks where Fish curry and rice cost us some 220/- and the same thing away from beach cost us 22/-, it was still not very reasonable price for fish which was freely available ... from the sea. I was thinking to myself that fish was cheaper in Bangalore.

Now in these restaurants, you cannot expect immediate service since the food is freshly prepared and is served hot at your table. Nothing is kept ready. This is not a fancy hotel but a hotel made from home so service is also slow. This is a place to just chill out. So patience is required, unlike a couple who came here to eat and made a big scene of telling the waiter to get what was ready immediately and thus resulting in confusion and as if this was not enough, the wanted veg dishes to be made... in a hard core non veg fish serving restaurant. Well to serve them right, they had their dished served very late... and by this time the husband was almost entering the kitchen and doing an audit. This provided good entertainment for the rest of the people who were enjoying the food.

I could also see a lot of Kashmiris who have made this town a good centre of business and they were minting money with their stuff... Went to a handsome fella's shop and browsed through this silver jewellery and other stuff. His
jewellery was awesome and I could not resist buying some. If you pass by this place, be sure to have a looksy at these stores...

We turned in early since we were kind of tired and the last thing I remember was the sound of the sea lulling me to sleep....

Day 2 In Chennai

Day 3 .. Back To Bangalore !!