Jani Jermans – Travel Diaries

July 30, 2021

Hampi – The Forgotten History

Filed under: India — jani @ 2:32 pm

About Hampi:

Hampi is an ancient village in the south Indian state of Karnataka. It’s dotted with numerous ruined temple complexes from the Vijayanagara Empire.

After 3rd Covid lockdown ended, we needed another quick break and we booked Evolve Back, Hampi to explore the historic monuments and ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire.

We had to postpone the stay for a week as the resort was still in lock down and then finally when we got a go ahead, we prepared for our historical trip to Hampi.

Another USP of Evolve back was it’s Vaidyashala, which makes us to visit Evolve Back again and again. However the sales person who confirmed our booking forgot to inform us that Vaidyashala was yet to be opened. So we had a disappointment when we asked Ms. Gayana (our local contact at the property) to pre book the slots. Then she informed us, it was not functional during our stay there. However she informed us that  inspite of that set back, she would try her best to ensure that we will have a great memorable experience. Yes, she did her best to make our stay memorable and kudos to her.

Day 1: We started by 7 AM and headed straight to Hampi without a break due to Covid and reached by afternoon after our GPS decided to take us to the forest office close by instead of Evolve back. Then the officers asked us to go little further and then we saw the stone which had the Evolve back name and we entered. As you enter, you will also see a similar palace themed building, which seems to be staff quarters and then as we went further we saw the beautiful Evolve back looking majestically like a royal palace as per their theme. So finally we were at Evolve Back, Hampi.

Ms. Gayana and other staffs welcomed us with a warm smile, refreshing towel and a welcome drink Pancharasa, which is made with Basil leaf, Mint leaf, Curry leaf, Lemon juice, Jaggery syrup and garnished with Chiya seeds. Our check in was smooth and we were checked into our beautiful Zenana room. We could see from the day one, that Ms. Gayana went extra mile to ensure we had a memorable experience. We got the best room and with a best view. This room had jacuzzi in the middle of the room and when you go to the balcony it had an amazing view and a nice breeze which just makes you to stay there for ever and ever without tiring you. We ended up chilling out in the balcony enjoying that cool breeze and the view and we never got tired of it and enjoyed the architectural beauty of the property which is palace themed. We had to give a miss to Jacuzzi as we had our day packed with outdoor activities and didn’t have time to enjoy the jacuzzi as we know we might doze off in the water which we didn’t want to do that.

We were hungry, so we refreshed quickly and went for lunch to Tuluva – Multi Cuisine Restaurant. Sur ordered the Pottagodugu Kura (Fried mushrooms tossed with chilly, onion and curry leaves) and Farmer’s Pie (Layered seasonal vegetables with tomato compote and mashed potato) and I ordered Vijayanagara Non Veg Thali (based on the spirit of north Karnataka’s regional cuisine). We both didn’t enjoy so much the food as it was too bland for our palette. But the chef later ensured from the next meal that it was customized as per our taste and we did have the best of food experience. We had also ordered their signature cocktails (Jewel of South, Matanga Hills & Pushkarni), somehow the alcohol overpowered the drink so we didn’t enjoy that as well, so we stopped ordering the cocktails and settled it with good red wine and fresh lime juice later part of our stay.

Then we went to plan our outdoor activities for the next few days that we were staying, so met the guide Mr. Santhosh to take us to the history trails since we were left only with two more nights of stay, we booked all the four historical trails and did two trails in a day one in the morning at 8.30 AM and one in the late afternoon at 4 PM as every trail takes approximately four hours to complete.  Once we finalized we had our tea which was not great but the French fries were good and Sur enjoyed his watermelon juice. After a mini walk around, we went for a quick dinner to Tuluva restaurant. Sur ordered Greek Salad and I went for Paya Shorba (Infused with Indian spices lamb trotter soup) which was satisfactory. Then we crashed for the night.

Day 2: After a great sleep, went for a quick breakfast. I enjoyed their Idly and various chutneys which are too good and Sur went for a toast and an omelette.  Don’t forget to order a filter coffee which is good and then we rushed for our first historical trail with Mr. Santhosh. I had been to Hampi earlier and I did visit but if you love history, you need to do it with Mr. Santhosh and the Evolve team here. We started our trip with Vitthalapura Walk. Hampi had many suburbs or puras. They were self-sufficient settlements centered around a temple and an attached market denoting two of its core activities – worship and commerce. We explored the Vitthalapura Bazaar that lead to the famous Vijaya Vitthala temple considered by many to represent the pinnacle of temple architecture in India. This temple is renowned for its musical stone pillars and a chariot carved in stone. Here every stone and every painting has a story behind. Also this temple courtyard has a few hundred year old Firangipani tree (temple tree) which has a fragrant blossom which is used for the worship since this is considered pure as it doesn’t have any nectar so it’s not polluted by the bees. So it symbolises purity and offered for worship. The musical pillars and the architecture will make you awe of our forefathers and our rich heritage. There are multiple temples close by, the bazaars and also the sad plight of lack of awareness that we have of our own rich heritage and culture. My admiration and love grew multi fold after hearing about the history from the experts of Evolve Back. I fell in love with my country, for our rich culture, heritage and architecture marvel. Thanks to our guide and the Evolve Back Team.

Then we reached back to the resort for a quick lunch of Penne Pasta and ordered Walnut brownie. I loved so much the brownie that every time I had a meal, I ordered a brownie as well. The Walnut brownie was the best one that I ever tasted as it just melted in your mouth. I was planning to ask the chef to pack a few when we checked out but I completely forgot about it. Next time I am sure am packing a few extras as we are planning to visit again to continue the pending historical trails again.

We went for a quick shopping situated inside the property, we picked up few souvenirs and then started the second trail. Even though it was little packed schedule but the love for our rich history gave that enthusiasm to explore as much as possible during our short stay there.

The second trail was Raya Trail, this trail takes you back five hundred years and gives you a privileged peek at the life and times of the Rayas (Maharajas) of Vijayanagara. We learnt about their lifestyle, culture, the unique social and political dynamics of the period and the magnificent structures of the royal city. We visited Royal audience hall, Lotus hall, Elephant stable, queen’s bath, watch tower, queen’s palace, water tanks, museums, Hazarama temple and Ranga temple. If you want know more about it, please do visit this place. Few lines about the place will not do any justice to the grandeur and rich history of this place. I wish our children get to learn more about this as many of us have never heard of these places and it’s richness.

We came back with so much love and energy to know more about our history after just a day and we were looking forward to the next two trails to know more about. Then we enjoyed little time in our balcony and then headed for dinner to Bahmani Restaurant which is a specialty restaurant, and it was pre booked by the staffs. I ordered Murgh Akbari Shorba (Mint infused chicken soup) and Jhinga Gulnar (Prawns spiced with caraway seeds, chilly and garlic, cooked in a tandoor) and Sur ordered his vegetarian dishes Dastan-e-Paneer (Cottage cheese flavored with pudina, malai and achari) and Paneer Lababdar (Cottage cheese cubes slow cooked in a rich tomato onion masala finished with fresh cream and a hint of sun-dried fenugreek with butter naan). The food was great and yes, I finished it with Walnut brownie again even though this was not in the menu at this restaurant, staffs brought it from Tuluva restaurant. I am grateful to them.

After a great meal, we rushed back as it was raining and then crashed for the night.

Day 3:  After a great sleep, our usual quick breakfast of Idli and varieties of chutneys that I enjoyed and Sur back to his omelette and orange juice. Then we rushed for our third trail which was Virupaksha Trail, this trail begins with a leisurely walk up the Hemakuta hill, which opens up a treasure trove of pre-Vijayanagara temples, statues and the wondrous stories surrounding them. It will also serve delightful views of the rock strewn landscape of Hampi with its glorious sunsets. Then we strolled down to the centuries old Virupaksha Temple at the base of the hill, the holy temple of the early Kings of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century. Another architecture marvel and this trail was like a pilgrimage. The end of the trail is marked by the exquisite Krishna temple and the huge monolith of Narasimha. After such a spiritual journey, we then returned back for lunch.

Sur ordered his Butter naan and Shahi Dum Aloo (Stuffed potatoes cooked in a spiced tomato gravy laced with shahi garam masala) and I went for Charmaula rubbed sear fish (Sear fish marinated and grilled, served seasonal vegetables) We enjoyed the food and yes, had my walnut brownie for the dessert.  Then went and freshened up and then were planning for a final trail. As we were in the lobby, the GM (Mr. Joydeep) was telling us about the new place (Hire Benekal) that they did a recce and were planning to add that as part of the historical trail. Then we were curious and asked if we could do that. But then we had to extend a night stay, so we reached out to Ms. Gayana for help and in turn it went to the sales person. We were informed that the current category of rooms was completely sold out and only Nilaya rooms were available. After few hours of tough calls and negotiation as the sales team were involved and local team couldn’t do much on this, finally our stay got extended since the sales team was quoting a higher price of what we booked earlier, inspite of not getting the same room category. Somehow after few hours of uncertainty, the room was confirmed finally by the sales teams in Bangalore.

So we gave a go ahead for the next day recce of dolmens and then left for the final trail Tungabhadra Trek, where Mr. Sarath (Associate Director of Conservation & Experiences) accompanied and also wanted a feedback about the experiences. it’s an offbeat evening trek that took us through giant boulders, the ruins of the Achyutaraya Temple and the famed ‘Courtesan Bazaar’. There were splendid view of the setting sun behind the boulder hills as we walked along the banks of the scenic Tungabhadra River.

We also took a coracle ride and we were in for a special treat since there was some shoot happened with a coracle decorated with flower petals. As they finished the shoot, we entered so the coracle staffs offered that particular coracle for our ride in the river, and we enjoyed that unexpected treat of coracle filled with flower petals. During the coracle ride, there were some of the temples which were submerged in water and had lot of Shiv lingas, so went to see those and couple of old paintings and carvings and then enjoyed the coracle ride back. As we returned, we stopped at an empty ground (it was gymnasium during the royal period) and staffs surprised us with a little fruit champagne and snacks. I was never a champagne fan as it’s too dry for my taste but I just loved this fruit based one and we enjoyed the snacks while listening to the peacock’s mating calls. After such a lovely experience and surprise treat from the staff, we headed back as it was getting darker.

Staffs had booked us again in Bahmani restaurant for the dinner since we enjoyed the food here and Sur ordered  Nargisi Lahsooni Palak (Indian vegetable fried dumplings topped with garlic and served in a spinach curry with butter naan) and I went for Gosht Ka Marag (Spicy mutton broth infused with spices and enriched with cashew & cream) and Pomfret Nawabi (Tender whole white pomfret marinated with hand pounded fresh red chillies and a special chef’s signature garam masala). After enjoying my walnut brownie again, we crashed for the night.

Day 4: We had to start early by 6 AM, staffs packed sandwiches for our breakfast and packed our luggage as the staff had to move our luggage to another room, so gave the key to the reception, informed Ms. Gayana and we left for Hire benakal with our guide and Naturalist Mr. Vinay. This was approximately 1.5 hour to Koppal Taluk and other side of Gangavathi river. We enjoyed the views, greeneries, boulders and we reached for the spot to start our trek. This was an easy trek and on the way we did miss a sloth bear whose fresh potty we found. Sloth bears do not have a great eye sight, so if it feels threatened it will attack, so we were informed prior that we need to talk and stay in groups, so that if the animals senses there are humans coming their way, they might go the other way so we do not have animal-human contact as we are in their territory. That was a learning how to avoid an attack from Sloth bear. Then Mr. Vinay who was an enthusiastic historian explained the cave paintings that were on the way. Then we climbed to the site of dolmens which are at least 3000 years old. There were more than 490 but got destroyed and finally only 200 are left. Also we enjoyed watching Agamas, Skinks, various coloured butterflies, six spotted beetle and giant millipedes.

After finding another hidden treasure, we stopped near the base for a quick brunch, had our sandwiches and started back our journey. We asked our guide if we can stop for a nice tea since I was missing a good tea in the resort. He stopped on the way and all of us enjoyed a great cuppa of tea and then we reached back to the resort.

Ms. Gayana ensured we got a great room and then both of us were escorted to the new room. Sur then went for a quick siesta and I went with Mr. Vinay for a nature walk in the evening. We spotted Mangoose, wild pigs, pea cock, sandgrouse, laughing dove, red-vented bulbuls, Plover and just before we finish the walk we saw the wild hare. Then it started drizzling and we rushed back to the resort.

We freshened up and then went for the dinner at Tuluva restaurant. I ordered Cajun-spiced grill prawns (Garlic and homemade Cajun spice marinated grilled prawns served with mixed lettuce salad) and Chicken and leek broth (Slow-brewed chicken and leek broth served with garlic toast) and Sur went for his Garlic butter naan and Paneer butter masala. After tasting my final walnut brownie for the stay, we crashed for the night.

Day 5: We didn’t want to checkout the place as the GM had recommended lot of other unexplored places which we could do, unfortunately we couldn’t extend due to work commitments and had to reluctantly check out to come back for a week stay later to finish the unfinished places that we missed out.

The GM, Ms. Gayana, Mr. Santhosh, Mr. Vinay and lot of other staffs came to bid farewell and we returned back with a memorable experience and checking our calendar for our next visit soon.

This would be incomplete if I don’t talk about few staffs who went extra mile to ensure we get the best experience and I have already informed the GM that another week stay is due to complete the unfinished places of historical importance that we missed out

First and foremost a special thanks to Ms. Gayana, she was the first person to be connected from the resort. She ensured that we had our memorable experience and the credit goes to her for doing that from the first connect to the check out with a lovely smile. Our special thanks to you.

Next our guide Mr. Santhosh, the historical trails that he accompanied us, I would not have fallen in love doing more if not for his information that he shared and how he explained every story behind the marvels of our history. Thanks Santhosh for helping us appreciate our own rich heritage.

Mr. Sarath, it was so good to hear your travel adventures and for curating those experiences at the resort. Very well done and we want to hear your experiences more.

Mr. Vinay, accompanying for that Hire Benekal – Dolmen visit, even though it was not planned, you took a risk of taking us at the last minute and your enthusiasm and passion spread to us during that trek and thank you for that.

Mr. Joydeep (GM), he was the main reason we extended our stay since he tempted us with that recce they did in Hire Benekal. He was the man behind guiding the staffs, to provide the guests with a great memorable experience and excellence in hospitality. All the credit goes to him, he was the man in action, who ensured to meet us almost every day in the lobby and gave us all the activities that we could do, asked for daily feedback and made our stay all the more worth staying for.

We enjoyed the food and that credit goes to Mr. Vaibhav Verma, the Chef. He also paid us a visit very often at the restaurant, customized as per our taste since we love our food to be extra spicy and also recommended to try something new. Once he knew our taste, we didn’t inform the next time. Whatever we ordered, the food came as per our taste and we enjoyed every meal there at the property. This would be incomplete, if I don’t mention about the walnut brownie, that I was having at after every single meal. After a very long time, had the one of the best brownies ever which just melted in your mouth. Please be prepared that we might pre order few next time when I visit.

F&B Staffs at the restaurant, Almost all the staffs were friendly and once you order something, they knew next time when you are at the restaurant what we requested earlier. For example, a simple thing like Sur loves to have ice cold water and myself hot water to drink. We just said once and we never had to repeat that for the entire stay there. Little things that they remembered mattered the most. I just remember Mohit’s name and other staffs as well, everyone whom we met. My apologies for missing out your names. You all did an excellent job and we are so glad that we will visit again to enjoy your hospitality.

This place remained most memorable because every single staff that we met, provided a great service with a greatest smile. I don’t have enough words to thank you but a big thank you to every single staff at Evolve Back, Hampi. You deserve every appreciation.

The historical experiences that you curated was something I would specially make a note here, that made us fall in love with our country and love to know more about about our rich culture and history. Thanks to your team.

Another week of stay is overdue for the experiences that we missed, am sure will reach out to your team to relive those memorable experience and create new memories.

During the Covid times, when we were not sure of the place to stay keeping all our safety protocols in mind, only solace was Evolve back. First in Coorg, 2nd in Kabini and 3rd in Hampi. The two years of Covid nightmare was forgotten because of the break that we had at Evolve back, once the lock down was lifted. So thanks to all at Evolve for the memorable experiences that you provide.

We are looking for our 4th stay in Hampi again soon when our calendar is free for a week….Until then please stay safe and continue to do the good work of providing an excellent hospitality experience ever……….A big Thank You to each and every one at Evolve………………..

July 5, 2021


Filed under: India — jani @ 7:20 pm

Now that the 2nd wave of Covid in India was nearing it’s end, we wanted to take a short break which would allow us to travel outside our house where we had been under lockdown for over three months. The blessing of being in Bangalore is there are quite a lot of places for sightseeing and treks around Bangalore. Due to Covid we were unable to for any treks and were missing them quite badly so we wanted to do a short trek that we could finish within a day and reach home before 7 PM as we had a weekday night curfew in Karnataka and a full weekend curfew due to which we couldn’t travel over the weekend.

Sur had found few options for us to explore and as usual we had to decide the location as Akanksha, Ayush and Shashank were fine with whatever we chose. So Sur finalized Huliyurdurga, which is hardly a 2 hours drive from Bangalore and the trek itself would take less than 2 hours to complete, which meant that would return to Bangalore by afternoon, as we wanted to avoid trekking under the scorching sun in the afternoon.

We started from home around 7 AM and reached the Huliyurdurga police station within 2 hours since we didn’t stop anywhere on the way due to covid. When traveling by car you should enter the Huliyurdurga Police station as the destination. Once you reach the station, there is a narrow concrete road right before the station on the right side which you need to take. This will take you through a cemetery on the right and you need to keep going straight. A few minutes drive will bring you to a fork in the road and you need to take the road on the right. This will take you through a narrow road between houses and you should keep going straight till you hit a dead end and you will see stairs going up. Park near the stairs and then proceed.

We parked the car close to the stairs and we started climbing. It took hardly 15-20 minutes to reach a small temple midway and then we had to follow the trail on the left to go to the top for a good view. We tried to sneak in and went close to the rock, from where we had to climb a little before we got a  great view, however due to non human activity for few months, there were quite a lot of plants have grown on the trail and blocked the path and some of them had thorns which was hard to ignore as they were very strong. So we had to discontinue midway and reached back to the temple.

Sur didn’t want to give up and thought we will try the right side of the trail, there we could only walk for 5 minutes which had an amazing view and we couldn’t go further as there was only place to crawl in the trail which we didn’t want to take a risk. So we stopped on that little rock and spend few minutes enjoying watching a chameleon, different colors of butterflies and lots of different birds. Still we were disappointed since we couldn’t complete the trek, however we were a little satisfied that we had a break and some fresh air amidst the greens. We had complete silence there since we went on a weekday and there was no one there except the 5 of us.

Then we came down the stairs as we were trying to find a place to sit for few minutes to have some snacks, we found a old temple ruin, which were getting renovated. So we sat in front of the temple and spend about 30 minutes relaxing and had some snacks. Except me none of them wanted to explore more since it was too sunny. Everyone started complaining about the heat and I couldn’t convince them to go around even though we could see few more old buildings around.

So we had to start back and due to covid we didn’t want to stop on the way, we headed straight home and reached back home by lunch time.

Even though this was micro trek, we were glad, we were just happy that we got some fresh air and few hours of drive outside after being locked in the house due to covid. We all are just waiting for our 2nd doses so that we feel more confident to travel further and explore more.

Until then please get vaccinated, stay safe and look out for your loved ones….


May 2, 2021

Wildlife at Kabini

Filed under: India — jani @ 4:20 am

When we got a little relief from the Covid situation after being under lockdowns and restrictions for months, we saw a ray of hope when everything opened to the public and we could slowly get back to normal with masks and social distancing. Sur and myself had a crazy month due to our exams and we decided for a quick break post our exams to Kabini, since I heard that we get to spot more wildlife there.

Day 1: Since we cannot let our guards down as Covid situation still didn’t go out completely, we decided to travel on a weekday which would minimise the crowd and also decided not to stop in between for a breakfast break unless except for a bio break or fuel refill. I enjoy the South Indian breakfast on the way when we travel by road and I have to give up for our own safety due to Covid and I was ok for that little sacrifice.

We started the journey in the early morning and after a quick bio break at the petrol bunk, we reached straight to the Evolve Back, Kabini. This property was hut themed, so all the rooms were designed like a hut and it did look different from the usual. Once we reached the property, we had to wait for some time to get the rooms allocated as we reached a little early. As we were waiting, we found that, the guests who came after us were allocated the rooms and we had been waiting for almost an hour and there was no sign of our room allocation. When I asked about why we were waiting when other guests who came after us, were being allocated immediately, I was informed that the room allocated for us was still being cleaned. Then I got to know that the rooms were being allocated much earlier, so it was not the usual allocation of first come first serve basis, which was a surprise to me. Since I was already hungry as we didn’t stop anywhere on the way, and then we had to wait longer than usual, we decided to go for lunch at Honeycomb Restaurant. By then the rooms also were ready. Then we checked in to our rooms, the hut outside didn’t look very impressive but inside it was designed great. Another disappointment awaited when Sur was planning to chill in the swimming pool. There was a tree close to the swimming pool and hundreds of flowers were falling from the tree to the pool and it didn’t look clean to get into the water as the flowers occupied the entire pool, they were tiny so it really looked like the pool was dirty. So we had to skip the pool for the entire stay. I wish the swimming pool was built on the right side where there were no trees. After a short siesta, we had our dinner and crashed early since we were tired. We had a very high expectations after visiting Evolve Back, Coorg few months back as we had an amazing time there, that was another reason we had booked the same property, but our first impression was very disappointing and I don’t think we want to book ever again this place.

Day 2: We had our breakfast and then strolled around for a small walk around the property. It was great and we had birds in abundance and there were too many tiny birds which made us forget everything about the first day disappointment and started enjoying the place. It was so great just sitting outside the room listening to the birds and we had enough birds to spot while we were walking around the property. I just loved that experience of seeing so many tiny birds which I had not seen ever. Then we headed for a lunch, we had to rush since we had booked for a boat safari in the afternoon post lunch. This was worth the visit as we had the best wildlife that we could spot. We spotted, Osprey, Kingfisher, Black Cormorants, White Stork, Black necked Stork, Painted Stork, Eagle, Darter (Snake) Bird, Lapwings, Ducks, Wooly Necked Stork, Drongos, Woodpecker, Peacock, Egrets, Grey Heron, Monkeys, Crocodiles, herd of elephants, Bisons, Spotted Deers and Sambar Deers. It was so much fun watching the wild animals grazing near Kabini river and playing in the water. After a great boat safari, we returned back and it was time for dinner. We had our dinner and then crashed early since we had booked a land safari in the next day early morning.

Day 3: We woke up early and we went to the lobby to wait, we were half an hour early so we had to wake some of the staffs and then after a quick coffee and cookies, we got into the boat which dropped us to the Jungle Lodges and Resorts where we had to get into their vehicle. Unfortunately, we got allocated to B zone, which is the same zone which we went for the boat safari the previous day, so for us it was the repeat of same area except that we were coming through the land. We spotted Deers, Bisons and Elephants and one tusker even came charging towards us and we were all scared but guide assured us that it was a fake charge, so we were relieved and then elephant also stopped midway. Since we had few alarm calls from monkeys which is a sign of tiger or any predator around, we were waiting in case we get lucky to spot it. While waiting we spotted bevy of Otters. We didn’t get lucky and we left. We got dropped back to the Jungle Lodges and then had to take the boat back to Evolve Back. We reached the property, had our late breakfast and then rested a while. We skipped lunch since we were not hungry and evening we were booked in Kuruba Grill which is a specialty restaurant. It was crowded, the service was slow and of course we didn’t feel very comfortable to sit long there, since social distancing had gone for a toss. After multiple reminders for our food, we got our food, had a quick bite and then crashed for the night. The only solace was the bar tender who was extremely friendly and went out of his way to make different cocktails for us, so most of the time we enjoyed different cocktails everyday which compensated for all the disappointments we had at the property.

Day 4: Woke up early, had a quick breakfast and checked out, since we wanted to reach as early as possible in Bangalore. Except the fuel refill we didn’t stop anywhere so that saved our time and we were glad to be back home with much needed break

Even though property was a disappointment, thanks to their staffs who were extremely friendly and helpful.

We thought we are slowly getting out of Covid situation but after a week or two we were just shaken by the Covid 2nd wave which took lot of lives and people closer to us. Just looking all around the suffering and death, just praying to God to have mercy on us and help us to tide over this Covid which has brought greatest suffering, poverty and pain to lots of people. This too shall pass. Until then Please stay at home, follow the covid protocols and please get yourself vaccinated.

Please stay safe and God bless…………

February 11, 2021

Weekend in Kotagiri, Nilgiris

Filed under: India — jani @ 4:00 pm

About Kotagiri: Kotagiri or Kothagiri is a taluk and a Panchayat town in The Nilgiris District in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is the third largest hill station in the Nilgiri hills.

The trip was more of, spending time with our friends {Anil, Manisha, Vinit and his 2 kids (Vir & Sara), their Nanny Seema, Suprita, Sur and myself} rather than visiting the location as we had already visited Kotagiri. Suprita and Manisha zeroed in on La Maison, Kotagiri and we just tagged along.

E-Pass: Due to Covid situation, we need to register for the E-pass and this is still mandatory for Nilgiris. Please ensure to get the pass before you travel or else you would be sent back until you have the e-pass. Please find below the link for the same.


Day 1: Usually we start early but our friends suggested to start the trip by 7.30 AM. But due to delay from some of the friends who couldn’t reach on time, we started only by 9.30 AM. It was a good drive and it was fun to catch up with friends as Sur and myself was in Anil and Manisha’s car. Vinit, his kids, Nanny and Suprita came in Vinit’s car. We had a pit stop at Kamat Restaurant for the breakfast, which is a go to place for many when you are on the road trip and it was good. We enjoyed their Dosas and Utthapam along with a filter coffee and started our drive back. Then our friends wanted to stop over for lunch in Radisson, Mysore and we took a lunch break. That was one disappointing lunch ever from Radisson. Having dined at Radisson, Bangalore this came as very disappointing and am sure my friends from Bangalore Radisson would be very disappointed to hear about this as well. After such a bad experience, we started our drive back and hit the Bandipur forests. We spotted lots of Deers and Peacocks that made us all excited and happy. Not to forget the monkeys who have encroached most of the places and an elephant which was tied up near Mudhumalai forest area. When we entered Mudhumalai, there was a check for our e-pass and our friends had misplaced the hard copy, while they were searching, the forest officers also searched our car and then they found the carton of soda bottles, since plastic bottles were not allowed in the hills, we were fined. Still we couldn’t locate the hard copy of the e-pass and then Sur came to the rescue and showed the soft copy. I stepped out with the soft copy, filled up the registry details in the check post and then started the scenic drive again in Mudhumalai. The sight of so many peacocks were wonderful. Then we had to hit the not so interesting drive of hairpin bends of Ooty as couple of us had motion sickness so it made it worse. Once the harpin bend was done, we still had Kotagiri hairpin bends, thankfully they were not bad as Ooty one, so we felt better. Then we had to follow the instruction from the hosts of La Maison property on how to reach there. Since it was already sunset and was getting darker, it made us little difficult to locate the property. The reason, the property doesn’t want to put the sign board outside as they do not want to have walk in guests. If you put the google map, then it stops you at least 2-3 Kms away from the property and tells you that you have reached the location, even though you have not reached. Finally we reached the property and Vinit and team did miss the road and they reached almost an hour late which was not a good experience travelling with kids and driving in the hill station in the dark. But when we reached the property, we forgot all the trouble that we had in locating this as it was such a beautiful property and the building dates to 18th century which got renovated. Then Sur recommended later that there was tea factory next to this homestay and if we select that in the google, then it takes to the right place, so that helped us for the next 4 days while travelling in and out for our lunch and dinner which our friends had prebooked outside the homestay.  The hosts Mr. Benoit & Ms. Monu were excellent hosts and we were welcomed by a drink made from pineapple. We refreshed and then sat for the Indian dinner which was ready to be served. Then we just crashed for the night as we were too tired.

Day 2: Woke up to the beautiful morning, enjoyed the beautiful garden around and enjoyed the breakfast in the garden. We enjoyed Idly, Dosa, homemade bread and eggs. Then we stepped out for a mini hike behind the property. Walking around the tea garden, listening to the birds, enjoying the morning mist, we couldn’t ask for anything more. Then our first lunch drive started to The Culinarium, Coonoor. Travelling out of that property and going all the way to Coonoor was not fun with the small kids around, as every lunch drive was taking almost 4 to 5 hours, up and down. So except the driving part, which is not fun in the hilly terrain was time consuming and not worth as we were just wasting our time on the roads rather than enjoying the location/homestay. Finally we reached the restaurant and this is also my favourite one in Ooty as we had dined here earlier. We had a great lunch and I was looking forward to their collection of pastries for purchase. Unfortunately due to covid, they had very limited pastries for display. So I couldn’t pick up any. This place is a must visit if you are in Ooty, after such a heart-warming meal, we started our drive back after a quick stop at the grocery store. We reached the property after sunset. By now we realized we cannot drive again for dinners in this hilly terrain and am glad others agreed to cancel all the dinner plans that they had planned outside the property. We relaxed at the property, enjoyed their bonfire and had French dinner served which was good and then crashed for the night.

Day 3: After waking to another beautiful morning and delicious breakfast, we headed for a mini hike next to the homestay. There was a tea factory and we went to visit but it was closed. So we walked next to that as we saw a waterfall on the opposite side. So went down for a little walk. There were couple of homestays nearby and then we ended up a chatting to the owner of one of the homestays and then he showed us the shortest route to the waterfall where the water was coming to his property. It was hardly 20 minutes of mini hike. Since other friends were not keen, Anil, Sur and myself went to the waterfall, enjoyed sometime and then we returned back. Then our lunch drive started for Taj Savoy, Ooty. Taj Savoy was such a beautiful property, we enjoyed the greenery around and then headed for lunch. We ordered A la Carte and it was good and then Vinit and kids left for the homestay and we went to Earl Secret Restaurant to check the availability for next day lunch, however they were full as they had an event. So we then started our long drive back and reached the homestay. Sur came to know his best friend, Gaurang was in Wellington, Ooty. Since they have not met after he came for holidays, we asked him to join us for dinner. Gaurang joined us for some time and Unfortunately he had to leave without having his dinner as others were still not ready for the dinner. We had asked him to stay back, but he didn’t want to stay back as there are wild animals roam around his property, so he had to be back home. I was relieved to know, his backup dinner had been arranged at his place in Wellington. After we sent him off, we relaxed some more time, had another good spread of dinner, enjoyed the bonfire  and crashed for the night.

Day 4: Woke up to another beautiful day and had the delicious breakfast. Then we headed to Gaurang’s place in Wellington to spend a day at his place and others went for a trek closeby with our host as the guide. As we started to drive to his place, we realized the Kotagiri road was closed for maintenance. I had enquired with a mini truck driver who was also stuck there due to road closure for alternate route to wellington and he showed us another route which was in opposite direction of our homestay. He also mentioned that it was the forest road. We thanked him and started the alternate route. On the way we found lot of bisons which was enjoying the sun in the tea factory. The alternate route was very narrow and within half an hour we hit the forest, that’s where my nightmare started. There were hairpin bends, very very narrow roads, steep bends and you had to reverse for every turn at the hairpin bend. Sur was worried as the car was Vinit’s and he didn’t feel comfortable to drive that car in such risky roads. We were just praying that the car doesn’t get stuck or wild animals do not cross as these were thick forest with little light and there was no signal at all. Since we were not sure how far this forest was and we were scared whether we got lost in the jungle as there was no movement of people/vehicle. We were thankful that no other vehicle came from opposite direction, then both of us would have been stuck in this road for some time as manoeuvring in this stretch was quite tough. Also we were not sure, whether we were in the right route. Sur was trying to keep his calm which was remarkable during such storm.  Finally at the last bend, we saw a small temple and that scary forest road ended and we were in the open close to the residential area. Even those roads were narrow, we were ok as it was open and we were out of the forest. After such a scary drive, we finally reached Gaurang’s place. We spent some time with him and I went to enjoy the garden while both the best friends were catching up with each other. We were served delicious lunch. We decided to leave by 4 PM from his place to ensure we reach the homestay before sunset. I was just wishing that I shouldn’t go to that forest road again. We left his place and started back to the homestay. We took our usual route and our bad luck the road was closed when we were just 15 minutes drive from the homestay. Now the scary part starts as we had to take the forest route but it was already 5 PM. We had to rush as we didn’t want to be in that treacherous road after the sun set. So we had to go back all the way and then take the forest road, by then it was already 5.35 PM. As soon as we saw the temple, we knew the forest road began and then this time we know the forest road is hardly 15 to 20 minutes of drive but we were worried we should get out of it before sunset. Since wild animals are aplenty specially the bisons, this was not at all a fun drive. Now I was more scared of any wild animals on this road since it was close to sun set, so I asked Sur to honk, even though I know that’s a bad since we the noise disturbs the wild animals in their habitat. Even though Sur doesn’t like to honk normally, he just honked once. It was such a coincidence that there was a bison trying to climb the turn which we were entering, since it heard the sound, it just stopped for a second and we saw the head so close just few inches away from me. Of course, we were at the mercy of the bison here as neither you could not speed in this road as there was hairpin bend so close to each other. I was relieved that we were saved from the bison and after 10 minutes we were out of the forest to the open. We just reached the homestay just after the sun set and it took some time for me to remove the picture of the bison head out of my head. That was one hell of a scary experience with the wild. Sur got another chance to make fun of me and he also was relieved as car didn’t get stuck anywhere and we reached safe to the homestay. We were narrating to the hosts and for them this was normal and yes, they recommended not to honk, which I completely agree especially with bison as their temper is really bad. We just had our lucky day. We also spoek to our friends about their trek which we missed, they had a memorable trek as even the kids could go for it and after a little break, it was a barbeque dinner of beef, chicken and paneer. That was one of the best dinners, enjoyed the bon fire and crashed for the night.

Day 5: Woke up to the beautiful day, had our breakfast and by then Gaurang also joined us as he also was heading for Bangalore and we tagged along in his car for the return journey. Suprita joined in Anil and Manisha’s car. Vinit was alone with the kids and nanny.  Once we came to know Vinit was alone, I decided to join Vinit for company but he didn’t have a place as kids needed the complete back seat to sleep. So I had to join back to Gaurang’s car. Thanks to Gaurang, we took another route which avoided all the hairpin bends of Kotagiri and Ooty. We were going slow since Sara was not feeling well and we decided to take a break near café coffee day for the refuelling. Since Anil, Manisha and Suprita were ahead, we thought will catch up with them for lunch as they had planned in Radisson, Salem for a lunch stop over. Since Vinit and us didn’t feel of stopping for lunch as we had a heavy breakfast and also Gaurang had packed few rotis with egg burji which was good during the drive. So we skipped the lunch and we went ahead as Vinit also told us to go ahead . So all the 3 cars came by ourselves and we reached ahead in Bangalore after a very short coffee break near Krishnagiri. We stopped at Gaurang’s place, said hello to Kangan and his kid and then took an Uber back home. We were so relieved once we reached home.

Stay Safe………..

January 18, 2021

Beach Vacation in Kannur

Filed under: India — jani @ 12:02 pm

About Kannur: It is a coastal city in the south Indian state of Kerala and it was once an ancient trading port. This trip was with our friends (Sala and his family, Jagjit and his family, Anita, Judy, Sur and myself), which was long over due. So it was decided that we go for the trip during Pongal holidays. Some of them had been to Kannur, so they were ok to revisit this place and we were happy to tag along as long as we could spend time with each other which we couldn’t do due to our busy schedules.

Before you visit Kerala, do register with https://covid19jagratha.kerala.nic.in/. This was approved instantly and we didn’t find anyone doing the check either. But it’s highly recommended that you register with the correct details (as per your photo identity card like Aadhar) and follow the instructions which ever state that you are entering. This is to comply with the Covid protocols of each Indian State.

Day 1: We started our journey early morning and we ensured that we had minimal stops. We didn’t find any place to stop for breakfast so we stopped just before one of the tolls and had a quick bite of sandwiches and snacks that we carried. After almost 7.5 hours of drive, we reached by noon at Sea Shell Haris Beach Home. We were hungry but our lunch was not ready as we were little early. So we had our snacks till we were served our lunch after an hour. We were served with simple lunch with Rice, Sambar, Rasam and Cabbage with Fish Fry and prawns for the non-vegetarians. It was decent. Then we headed to the beach which was next to the home stay. We enjoyed in the water till the evening, came back for tea and then spent some time with each other and then headed for dinner. The showstopper for the dinner was Kerala Parotta, while vegetarians enjoyed their paneer, cauliflower and mixed vegetables, we enjoyed the Chicken curry. After a great meal, we crashed for the night early.

Day 2: We started early to reach Bekal Fort (Bekal Fort was built by Shivappa Nayaka of Keladi in 1650 AD, at Bekal. It is the largest fort in Kerala, spreading over 40 acres.) after having a quick sandwich we had brought with us since we couldn’t wait for breakfast at the homestay. After almost 2 hours of drive, we reached the beautiful fort. This was worth the visit, we walked around and enjoyed the historical monument and headed out. Since we were early, we avoided the crowd and also the scorching sun. The fort was well maintained and had a beautiful view. As we stepped out, we stopped at the small shop opposite to the fort and enjoyed the pineapple which was soaked in the salt water and green chillies. Then we drove back to the homestay. On our way we stopped for our favourite Kerala Chaaya (Tea), and enjoyed the roadside snacks like Pazham Pori, (Ripe banana fritters), Unnakkaya (banana roll with coconut) and Mutta mala (rice dish with egg and sugar). Then we headed back to the homestay for our lunch. They had made Mini Sadhya for us (variety of traditional vegetarian dishes usually served on a banana leaf, Sadhya means banquet in Malayalam). All of us were happy that we could get a taste of Sadhya and then we headed to Muzhappilangad Drive In Beach. This is was our first time experience of drive in beach and we just loved it. After enjoying the beach, we headed to Nouka Retaurant for dinner. We had our best meals in this restaurant during our trip in Kannur. We ordered the Kerala Parotta with a beef roast (the best dish that you should never forget to order while in Kerala) and vegetarians had their panner and cauliflower dishes which was also delicious. After an awesome and delicious dinner, we headed back to the home stay and crashed for the night.

Day 3: We had our breakfast of upma, appam with coconut milk and then headed to Arakkal Museum. Unfortunately that was closed, so we headed to St. Angelo’s Fort (it stands majestically on a hill overlooking the sea and it has a significant place in the historical map of Kerala. The fort also known as the Kannur fort), we enjoyed the place and then sat on the lawns and spent some time with each other and then we headed to Sky Palace Restaurant, which was next to Nouka Restaurant. They also had their Sadhya, including non-veg Sadhya. The food was decent but it didn’t impress as Nouka. The waiter who came to serve the extra curries had a sambar and fish curry, even though we (vegetarians and non vegetarians) sat at different table, he without asking ended up pouring the fish curry on everyone’s plate. No one could figure out as it was overpowered by coconut and it tasted like coconut curry rather than fish curry. When one of us, just asked out of curiosity what was that gravy which was served along with Sambar then he said it was fish curry. By then most of the vegetarians had already ate and then we had to stop and ask the person who was taking orders to change the plates. Thankfully, the vegetarians didn’t raise any concern, so we had to finish the meal and leave as neither of us were impressed with the food nor we liked their service. The disappointing thing was, none of them came and apologized for the mess, I know how sensitive this was to the vegetarians. We didn’t want to continue at this place for the dessert, so we headed to MRA bakery and restaurant to try the Faloodas. This place was very crowded and finally our order came and it was good, but everyone felt it was too sweet and most of them had too much of cereals added which made it more sweeter. Since this also had a bakery downstairs, we thought off doing a quick shopping for the local snacks. We found this place expensive, but since we couldn’t go anywhere at this time, we purchased some local snacks and dry fruits and headed to the home stay. While some of us went to enjoy the beach for the last time, others sat and caught up with friends in the homestay. Then we had our dinner where we were served Ney Pathri (Deep fried version of Rice Rotti with Cumin Seeds) which is famous in Kannur along with Kerala Parotta. Since we were planning to leave early the next day, we crashed for the night early.

Day 4: We started early so that we could reach Bangalore by afternoon. I was too tempted to taste the Kerala Chaaya and Pazham Pori before we hit the ghat section, however we couldn’t stop as we didn’t want to delay. So we headed off and were enjoying the morning drive in Brahmagiri Forest Ghat Section. Once we came out of the ghat section, we were planning to stop for breakfast in Coorg, before we hit the Nagarhole forest area, however we didn’t notice our colleagues, so we drove forward. By the time we communicated, Sur and myself were already 5.5 Kms ahead so, we both decided to stop closeby for breakfast and we found The Spice Rack restaurant, while others had their breakfast at Coorg family restaurant, immediately after the ghat section. We ordered the bread omelette, Poori and nice coorg coffee. The breakfast was great and most importantly the place was clean including the rest rooms. We enjoyed and waited for others to reach and then started back to Bangalore. We planned to Stop over at Sala’s place for lunch, however Sur had to complete his assignments for the week, so unfortunately we had to miss their hospitality (We always loved Geetha and Sala’s hospitality) and had to stop at Sahara Family Restaurant, near Nelamangala for a quick lunch. Even though the chicken biryani was decent. The vegetarian order for Sur was disappointing as the Kerala parotta was old, reheated and rubbery and vegetable hyderabadi was decent. Then we headed back and finally reached home after almost 8 hours of drive. This was a deserved break with the friends and it was finally great to catch up with them after 5-6 years.

Even though I thought 2 days in Kannur we may not have much to do, we ended up thinking, we could have stayed for few more days, but we had to leave for Sur, who had to complete his weekly tasks for his studies.

Kerala never disappoints and their food always tempts you to visit. I don’t think you can ever get tired of visiting Kerala as it always has something to offer and am sure am looking forward to the next visit to the state.

Until then Stay Safe………..

January 12, 2021

Ushering 2021 at Rajakkad Estate, a 18th Century Palace

Filed under: India — jani @ 6:11 am

I came across Rajakkad Estate from one of the Conde Nast Traveller articles on palaces converted to hotels. I found quite a few listed there, which we are familiar like Oberoi Rajvilas & Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad and Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. However Rajakkad Estate, came as a surprise as I have not read about it anywhere and also this was situated in South India. Even though it didn’t look as grandeur as palaces in Udaipur, Jaipur, Hyderabad or Mumbai, we wanted to give a visit once because of the historical significance that it had.

When I went through the website (http://www.rajakkadestate.com/) I looked at the pictures and it didn’t do justice to the place. Initially I felt it was a bit overpriced and still we were ok to explore as we read that it was a palace from 18th century. This wooden structure had been a 18th century palace in Kerala, which got dismantled and brought to Dindigul after the owner (Mr. Robesh) bought that place and it had been reassembled back in the 80 acres of land that he bought in a hilly terrain in Dindigul named Rajakkad Estate. Mr. Robesh is the brain behind for this such beautiful work and responsible for bringing such beauty and history from Kerala to Dindigul. He also ensured that he kept the old architecture marvel intact even when he had to do minor repair work to fit the modern facilities to convert it to a home stay.

When we shared this estate details to our friends circle, three of them were happy to accompany us as they needed a break after being locked up at home due to Covid. We five of us decided to drive and asked Shashank to join in the car since Tamil Nadu is usually warmer and will be difficult to ride a bike in that hot weather for almost 7 hours from Bangalore to reach the estate. But as expected his love for bike riding made him to stick with solo bike ride while we four of us enjoyed our car ride, with Sur behind the wheels.

Day 1: We started our journey early morning and it was drizzling. We thought weather will change and will be sunny as we hit Tamil Nadu. For our bad luck, it continued to rain and it started pouring heavily. Since rain decided to give us company throughout the trip, we had to drive slowly, keeping Shashank in mind as it’s difficult to ride in a bike in the heavy rain. We took extra breaks to ensure all of our safety and slowly we started enjoying the drive in the rain.

We stopped for breakfast when we found a local restaurant in Tamil Nadu. We were ok to get in as it was not crowded as we still have to be cautious due to Covid situation. Except myself, others were reluctant to have breakfast there initially. Since I could never miss a Tamil Nadu breakfast, I ordered a plate of Idly and it was served with sambar and three varieties of chutneys. For me that was one of the delicious and healthiest breakfasts. As I started eating, slowly others also started to order the idly as they couldn’t resist the delicious breakfast. We ended the breakfast with a filter coffee, which you should never miss in Tamil Nadu. After such hearty breakfast we hit the road. As Ayush and Akanksha went for a nap, I had to login to attend my online law classes.

After another stop for fuel, we entered Dindigul. The roads from Dindigul to the estate felt like we were in Kanyakumari/Kerala, because I could only see coconut trees all around. Then we started climbing to the hilly terrain which had almost 18 kms of hairpin bends. It was tough to drive in that road as they were narrower than other hilly roads like Ooty or Kodai. When we thought we were almost successfully manoeuvring these bends, without any hitch, we were in for a shock as a mini truck coming in the opposite direction hit our car bumper hard, even though our car had been stopped on the side much before as we saw the mini truck coming from the opposite direction and we had to give him a way to go. Looks like the truck driver was little distracted and he didn’t notice the car parked on the side even though Sur had been honking it to alert him. By the time he saw it, it was late. He did try to put a sudden break, but due to rain, the truck skidded a little and car bumper bore the brunt of it.  We were relieved as it was just the bumper. Truck driver did say sorry, since he realized it was his mistake. We had to just let go and requested the driver to drive carefully in future for his own safety.

After almost 9.5 hours of drive, we entered the estate and Mr. Robesh was waiting in the car near the gate so that he could guide us to take us straight to the homestay without we getting lost in the estate. We reached and we were in for a surprise as the house was beautiful with an open courtyard in the middle (similar to lot of Kerala houses) and we instantly fell in love with the place. We had our welcome drink and Mr. Robesh took us around the house to show the property. They had seven rooms and we had booked three of it. He told us that we can pick up anyone of the rooms out of seven as we were only the guests there. We were glad that as we had the house all to ourselves. We picked our rooms and each room was overlooking a beautiful garden and we were super impressed with it.

Then we freshened up for our lunch which staffs were waiting to serve as it was way past lunch hour as we got reached late due to rain. The food was pure South Indian, which consists of mostly rice, sambar, rasam, papad and varieties of vegetables grown from their own garden. I was little skeptical if others would enjoy as except me all of them were North Indians. This is the place for vegetarians since they get to explore lot of new vegetables which they would not tasted earlier. Since the non-vegetarians like myself never get satisfied with just vegetables for our meals we requested Mr. Robesh to have some non-veg option for the three of us and he ensured we had a chicken dish for all meals during our stay there. We enjoyed the vegetables like raw jackfruit, raw papaya and banana flower. Others have never tasted them before and to my surprise, they loved it as these were not new to me. My biggest surprise was from Sur, who loved the vegetables as Sur hardly eats any. I do make fun of him as even though I am a Non vegetarian, I have eaten more vegetables than him.

Mr. Robesh ensured that staffs were available throughout the day to help us with snacks etc. in case we needed at any time. After such a hearty meal, we went around exploring their library and other indoor games that they had. Then we sat for sequence game which found it during Covid and also catching up with each other since this was the first-time, we were meeting after the covid separation. We also found another favourite herbal tea made of ginger and tulasi from their garden. I lost count of the cups that we had as this was soothing as the weather was way too cold and others were not prepared for that weather. I have to thank Sur who insisted that I carry electric jacket which helped me in that cold.

Since it was last day of the year, we were waiting for the new year to usher. We couldn’t step out as the rain didn’t stop. We had our dinner so that we could retire the staff for the night, and we thought we will go back to rooms and will continue to play as we couldn’t handle the cold in the open lobby. This place also has a bad network due to strong winds, so it’s also a perfect place for digital detox. To our surprise staff had made the bonfire, just when the rain stopped. That came as a pleasant surprise and we were happy to enjoy the new year near the bonfire. We celebrated the new year and we had to step into our rooms as it was getting colder every minute. Since all of us were tired after a long drive, after welcoming the New Year, we crashed for the night.

Day 2: We woke up a little late and went for our breakfast. To our surprise Shashank didn’t wake up and we couldn’t wake him up either. So we had our breakfast of Idly, Dosa, homemade bread, omelette etc. As we finished, Shashank joined and once he finished, we headed for a walk in the garden as we had a pleasant day on New Year. First we noticed a big tamarind tree, that’s usually when the child in us awakens and we challenged to pluck at least one tamarind fruit even though it was above our reach. We had a grin our face when we succeeded and then walked towards the yoga platform which the staff had asked us to visit. It had nice rose plants around and we sat for sometime enjoying the sun and then walked towards the hill banana plantation (Hill bananas are grown at a height of 2000 to 5000 feet. This is unique to the state of Tamil Nadu, are known for their special flavour and long shelf life).

After enjoying our morning walk for an hour or two, we headed back to the homestay. We had a hearty lunch and Mr. Robesh suggested that we can visit a waterfall nearby, so we went to visit the waterfall which was just 15 minutes of drive from the homestay. We had to cross a hanging bridge before we got the view of the waterfall. We enjoyed few minutes there and then walked around close by to spot giant squirrels and birds. Then we headed back as we also wanted to enjoy the garden around the homestay which was beautiful and then played badminton for some time which we carried. We couldn’t continue longer as it was getting darker so we headed back for few more indoor games, had our dinner and crashed early as we were planning to start early the next day.

Day 3: After a good rest, we woke up, had our breakfast outdoors in the garden and we had to bid bye to the homestay. Mr. Robesh was kind enough to pack a carton full of hill bananas and the staff also got few saplings of Fragrant Glory Bower which I have been hunting for a long time for my garden. Then we hit the road and enjoyed our drive as we had a nice and sunny weather.  I was planning to get the biryani from the original place of Dindigul Thalapakatti as it’s famous there. However we were too early for that, so we gave a miss this time.

Then we were looking for a place to stop for lunch in the afternoon, however lot of places didn’t have dine in option due to Covid, so we did find it difficult to decide. Finally we spotted Radisson Hotel in Salem and we stopped for the lunch. Surprisingly it was crowded, so we decided not to go with buffet and ordered ala carte. We enjoyed the chicken biryani and the Non Veg platter and the vegetarians enjoyed their naan and paneer. For dessert, we ordered the Choco Sin and it was yummy. If you love chocolate, do give a try and next time I am close to this place, I wouldn’t mind to order again. Then we hit the road back and as we were entering Bangalore, it started raining. We reached after 11 hours of drive and we reached home with such rich experience.

A big thanks to Mr. Robesh for building such place and keeping the rich history intact and not to forget for such a beautiful garden. The staffs were friendly and they were ready to meet our needs at any time of the day. We enjoyed their amazing hospitality. This is the place difficult to find on our Indian booking sites as it’s not listed in any except to connect directly. This property is mostly visited by foreigners who enjoy such places and they are the frequent visitors and its mostly not known to the domestic tourists. If you find this place, do make a visit and you will come in awe and with rich and beautiful experience which would be carved in your memories for lifetime.


October 8, 2020

Being at the Nature’s Lap at Evolve Back, Coorg

Filed under: India — jani @ 9:43 am

About Coorg:

Coorg, officially called Kodagu, is the most sought after and popular hill station of Karnataka. This has lush green forests and a landscape dotted with coffee plantations all around. This place is the nature’s paradise to spot various birds and enjoy the nature away from the bustling life of the city. Kodagu is also happen to be the largest producer of Coffee in India.

During this pandemic of Covid and being locked up indoors for almost seven months, a break was the need of the hour, before both of us started our full-time studies. Keeping social distancing and our health in mind, we needed to ensure, that we chose a property where everything was taken care of without putting ourselves at risk and also others who come in contact with us.

As we were browsing for some options, we happened to come across Evolve Back. I was already familiar with this property as I had been booking their Kabini property for our offsites for other departments while working for my ex employer. I had a good feedback about them but didn’t get to hear much details from the team who had actually stayed there.

Evolve has three properties in Karnataka which is Coorg, Hampi and Kabini. Since I had already travelled to Coorg and Hampi, my first choice was Kabini, however after looking at the property pictures, Sur was impressed with Coorg. Each property has a different theme:- Coorg is built on local Kodava culture, Hampi is built on the palace theme and Kabini is on local tribes and it has a hut theme. So finally we decided to book in Coorg as this also had a private pool since public pools are closed due to Covid. So we had booked a lily cottage with private pool which would keep us at social distancing within the property as that’s what we wished for during this pandemic.


Day 1: We started from Bangalore early morning around 6 AM, to ensure that we miss the heavy traffic. Also we made sure we do not stop anywhere as we didn’t want to put ourselves at risk. So we had packed our sandwiches and started our journey. It was five and half hours drive, took just a 5 minute break at a Essar petrol bunk near Mysore for a bio break. There were quite a few signboards of Evolve Back on the way, to ensure we take the right turn where ever necessary so we didn’t find any difficulty in reaching the place. Finally we reached the property at noon and were welcomed by the staffs at the reception. First our footwear was sanitized, then temperature check was done and after that we were asked to sanitize our hands and all that during check in process was, we just had to sign the paper. The staffs had already filled up everything before hand as we had shared the identity proof with address a day earlier, so that we don’t stay much longer at the reception. Even the pen handed over to us for signature, was kept in a separate box to ensure, that goes for proper sanitization before it’s reused. We got a cold towel to freshen up and a hot immunity booster shot made with local herbs. We were escorted by one of the staffs to our room and all the instructions were given to us while walking to ensure we were well informed about the logistics inside the property. They also had a buggy but we decided to walk as it was hardly 5 to 10 minutes away from the reception to the room.

We finally reached our lily pool cottage and our first impression was it was awesome and beautiful. It had a huge living room, bedroom and a rest room with a bathtub inside. Outside we had a lily pool as the name suggests and a private pool. Everything was superb and well maintained. What impressed me most was, how the property made sure they were 100% Eco friendly. The fruit platter was made of bamboo, flower vase was made of bamboo and wood, table vase was made from the coconut husk and shell. The haystock shop had things like bags made of plantain. The nature shop had everything eco friendly and all these items which we found in the room like vase and plate, all were on sale which were made of bamboo, coconut shell and wood. There was not a single plastic that we saw in the property. They also made away plastic water bottle and replaced with reverse osmosis drinking water purification system with a tap, so we could get our drinking water from there. This is what sets them apart from any luxurious properties. Being at the top position in terms of hospitality and service and also being at the top for being eco-friendly, they get additional brownie points for that.

The property is around 300 acres with coffee plantations which grows Robusta coffee beans. It was being in Nature’s lap with trees and plants all around. Most of the trees are gigantic and huge and we felt like we were in a forest and it was soothing with the sounds of various birds all around.

As we were enjoying the nature at it’s best, it was time for us to have our lunch. So we headed to Granary multi cuisine restaurant which was 10-15 minutes’ walk from our room. Since the buffet system has been removed due to covid, the menu link was shared to us through whatsapp so we could access all the info through our phone like activities, contact numbers to reach out, menus at different restaurant and vaidyashala (treatment centres). First we were served with Rasam before every lunch and dinner. A little note on the rasam who is not familiar with it:

Rasam means juice and is a classic example of a traditional South Indian soup which is used as a side dish with rice in meals. Rasam is known for its medicinal effectiveness as an appetizer and a digestive beverage due to the use of tamarind/tomato as its base. The traditional preparation of rasam is made with tamarind pulp and black pepper- both abundantly and natively available in South India. A bowl of steaming hot rasam is consumed in almost every household in South India and it’s is a good antidote for common cough and cold, lack of appetite, headache and tasteless in mouth due to fever or digestive problems.

So now you know why was the rasam served for all the guests at the hotel. Since Sur doesn’t enjoy anything healthier, I had his share of rasam as well and I didn’t complaint either as I always loved a good rasam. We had selected the menu from the link provided and ordered our lunch. Sur ordered the Mushroom pepper fry and watermelon with feta cheese and I went for a south Indian Non Veg thali which came with rice, mutton curry, fish curry and vegetables. The staff suggested for a tawa fried fish and I was happy to try and we had an awesome delicious meal. For a dessert, we found something unique which was coffee rasagulla and pearl of Coorg (chocolate shell with tiny rasagullas dunked in milk). So we ordered and surprisingly it was good.

We headed then to the room. Since Sur was tired from the long drive as he was the one who was driving, we rested a little. By the time we woke up it was late and had to head straight for dinner. Since we were not that hungry, I just ordered the mutton soup which was delicious, and fish fries with chips had been a let down. Then Sur went for the same watermelon with feta cheese. We returned to the room, just chilled a bit near the pool, enjoyed listening to the bird’s sound and then crashed for the night.

Day 2: We woke up a little late and went for the breakfast at Granara. We had our temperature check and then sat to order from the menu from our phone. I ordered the idiyappam (string hoppers) but that was slightly different from what we usually get in Kerala which is more smoother and thinner and also veg stew was a let-down. I am not sure this was a local version as I preferred the Kerala version which I used to be fan of, as the stew used to lot more creamier and tastier. I also had Immunizing Relish drink (melange of apple, ginger, carrots, black pepper and lemon) which was great. Sur doesn’t enjoy much the south Indian dishes, so he ordered the masala omelette and watermelon juice and he enjoyed those. Then we walked around the property a little bit, spotted lot of birds, giant malabar squirrels and then went to Nature Shop to check on the products. It’s a small shop, we saw a couple already shopping so we stayed out till they had finished and then we went inside. They had bamboo vase, coconut shell vase, water can meade of eco friendly products and few local spices as well. There were also passion fruit wine which tasted good and then there was coffee wine which I didn’t like but Sur picked up to surprise his dad with a coffee wine. We also picked up the bamboo vase and some natural products and then went to the room.

We caught up on some reading near the pool and were enjoying watching the birds. We were doing the nature walk and bird watching by ourselves from the room and around the property since we missed both those activities as we were not early risers as the activities were at 6.30 AM. Then we booked the story telling session for 7.30 PM in the evening. This story telling session is about the local tribes, history etc. Since Sur was nagging that we still didn’t enjoy the pool yet, we decided to enjoy the pool after the lunch. We headed to Peppercorn for our lunch which is a speciality restaurant. It is usually available only for dinner, due to covid and having seating restrictions they opened for lunch and were serving the same dinner menu. I enjoyed the lunch with tawa fried fish, mutton dum biryani and Sur enjoyed tomato and mozzarella salad which was average, but the dahi kabab and naan with mushroom and peas curry was delicious. We had curry leaf based ice cream which was surprisingly great. Then we headed to the room and went straight to the pool. The pool was so cold but once we dipped ourselves, we were ok. It also had jacuzzi. We enjoyed for more than an hour and once we freshened up, we just dozed off and we woke up only at midnight. However, we felt bad that we missed the story telling session and since we were not hungry we skipped the dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 3: We woke up and went for a quick breakfast where I tried the pathal (rice poori) with green peas curry and Sur went for his usual omelette and juice. It was a local dish and was delicious. Then we headed to coffeeology session. The session is all about coffee history and various types of coffee and how it’s prepared and then there was a coffee tasting session as well. There was espresso (black coffee), french press (coffee), cappuccino (milk + coffee), Vietnam coffee (milk + coffee), south Indian filter coffee (milk + coffee), Moroccan coffee (milkmaid + coffee). I had the share of Sur as well since he cannot drink hot beverages as he is afraid to burn his tongue and also he is not a fan of coffee. However, he enjoyed the Moroccan coffee since it was extremely sweet due to milk maid and my share went to him as I couldn’t handle that sweetness. The lady who conducted the session really kept us glued to the session and she was very patient to answer all our questions. We had so much of coffee that we skipped the lunch and went for a walk around the property and then went to see the souvenirs at haystack shop. This shop had few antique items (less than 100 year old), coffee, and lot of natural products. We got the French press, coffee and some souvenir for friends. Then we went to the room, rested and waited for our treatment sessions in Vaidhyashala in the evening.

We headed to Vaidyashala  in the evening and Sur opted for Abhyanga (Full body massage with herbal medicated oil which removes toxins in the body) and Kati basti (massage targeted for lower back, to reduce the lower back pain). He felt so good and was happy as it helped with his back pain. I went in for a Shiroabhyanga (targeting head, shoulders and neck, the oil massage which cools eyes and brings sound sleep),  Chakra Basti (targeting umbilical region to help with digestive disorders and Padaabhyanga (targeting lower legs and feet to relieve hypertension and relieves the tiredness in the feet). After such a relaxing treatment and both soaked in oil, we just didn’t feel of stepping out neither for story telling nor for dinner. We ordered a club sandwich in the room and it was just ok and crashed for the night.

Day 4: It was a day to check out, which we were not happy,  as we were enjoying the hospitality of the property. We got up late and I enjoyed the American breakfast and Sur enjoyed the omelette. We checked out of the room, settled the bills at the departure lounge and left. On the way we stopped at Kerala spices store which was near Mysore to pick up for some spices for our friends and family and reached Bangalore by evening after six and half hours of drive.

I also heard from the coffeeology session that evolve back is opening a property in Botswana shortly and we are excited about that and looking forward to enjoy their hospitality there as well. This is a luxury property and it’s going to burn your wallet but it’s worth every penny for their premium hospitality service. At this time of pandemic when you cannot compromise on your health, this is the best option. Adding to that, their effort for being eco friendly is commendable. They are an inspiration, how each of us can be eco-friendly in our own small way. If I have to visit, I wouldn’t mind going back again as I loved their hospitality. Being at the lap of the nature and away from the city, this is the best choice to get a much needed break even at this hour of pandemic.

A big kudos to all their staffs at Evolve Back for being so friendly, being exceptional in their hospitality and they were very prompt in their service. We were totally impressed.

To the staffs at Evolve back, keep doing the good work. Would love to be back to enjoy your hospitality again. Looking forward to enjoy more of your hospitality at other properties as well……….Until then Stay Safe and continue to provide the exceptional hospitality service and a big,big salute to your efforts for being 100% eco-friendly….Hats off to the entire Evolve Back Team and the Management.

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