Suitcase

Road Trip Diaries: Bangalore to Ooty & Coonoor

Ciao Sweets,

Somewhere over a death-by power-point-session today, I began wondering about the my most calm vacation. Immediately my brain connected dots to our monsoon Coonoor visit as I realised I was smiling ear to ear. I am penning down this throwback post encapsulating some amazing memories from our road trip diaries: Bangalore to Ooty & Coonoor.

Time: Month of July (Birthday Trip)

Time Taken: 9 hours with break

Route: Bangalore -> Hosur->Gundlupet -> Bandipur Forest -> Ooty->Coonoor

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The Road Trip:

Early morning drive of Bangalore is one of the best views the city will offer. It was approximately around 5 AM which we started from BTM. Only after we came through the narrow national highways, we realised Google maps has chosen a shortcut which had picturesque views in the platter which ran in parallel to farms and huge old trees. The month of July had caressed sunflowers blooming in nature’s womb. These fields look like out of a magical tale for sure.

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Out of a Magical Story, Sunflower Fields
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Can you spot me, Sunflower Fields

The drive through Bandipur forest is a cherry on top for all our road trips in South India. July is the only month where we have noticed deer and elephant herds basking in sun and showing off a little.

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Elephant Herd, Bandipur
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Deer Herd, Bandipur

The view of Niligiris through the forest transcended me to a magical land. Candy cotton clouds in the clear blue sky with mystical hills were a treat to watch as we drove by.

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The Drive

Stay: Tea Nest Resort

After the jungle ride and crossing 36 hair pin turns, we reached Conoor. I had picked Tea Nest Resort for our stay. If you are driving there, it is wiser to call the property as you might miss the narrow turn. Soon after getting lost twice in a row and going on in circles, we found this hidden gem amidst lust green tea gardens.

Spotting a Bison, sipping free aromatic tea plus watching shooting stars over my birthday dinner which served 7 course meal was one of a kind experience of my life. Being a “never settle alpha female” probably this is the farthest satisfaction I have ever experienced. Tea Nest staff deserves a big thumbs up for their immaculate services and pleasant attitude.

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Spotting A Bison, Tea Nest
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Dessert – 7 Course Meal, Tea Nest

What not to miss in Coonoor?

Tea Gardens:

Even if Tea Nest provided fabulous tea garden views, it was fun to be in the Highlands tea estate. A must visit spot for sure for tea lovers. Their fresh tea packs are fabulous and worth a try.

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Tea Garden View, Highland
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She belonged to no man and City,
She was born to be free..
– Tea Garden

Dolphin’s Nose:

Clouds floated by as we bid adieu to the delicious tea and views of the gorgeous tea estate and moved to Dolphin’s nose view point.

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St.Catherine falls View

Over viewing St.Catherine falls and lush green forests Dolphin’s Nose is a must see scenic point.

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Dolphin’s Nose

Lamb’s Rock:

Nestled in the slopes of Nilgiris ‘Lamb rock’ boasts views of Coimbatore plains. The gorgeous views of hills, made me wonder if I am attracted to people like them. Tall mysterious and unattainable; may be I am.

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Romancing the hills, Lambs Rock

Ooty Half Day Tour:

We visited a handful of scenic spots in Ooty keeping it lightly packed agenda. Covering Ooty lake and Sims park was not an out of the world experience for me. Ooty was crowded in July and making it through the crowd and selfie poppers was not very cool to me. Doddabetta Peak was an easy climb as it is adjacent to a park. The view of lush green forests is spectacular.

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Ooty Lake

 

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Sim’sPark, Ooty
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Flower Show Sim’sPark, Ooty

 

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Doddabetta Peak, Ooty
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Doddabetta Peak, Ooty

Overall Trip:

Falling in love is a phenomenal feeling and I think falling in love with the hills over and over again is a magical experience. Nilgiris range managed to entice me, every time I got a glimpse of them. This road trip opens a new perspective for me to visualize endless romance possibilities with the hills as if they speak to me (Cliche isn’t it?).

The road trip got me thinking that : (1. Work 2. Save 3. Travel 4. Repeat step 1) is a good algorithm to follow. So if you are reading this my dolce readers, my advise is to grab that suitcase and go on that beautiful journey which enables you to pen down no particular thoughts in that ‘overall trip‘ section; just a smile which runs from ear to ear while you write or think about the experience.

Are you driving to Conoor or Ooty soon? Let me know.

XO,

Amrita

Solo Girl Travelogue: Layover Experience in Colombo, Srilanka

Happy April Readers!

Summers are here. Bangalore sun is already keen on melting my face off. This summer is way hotter than I was expecting it to be. I used to wait for summer vacation as a kid, but now I might just live in a freezer and call it home.Today, I am doing a throwback post for my only solo travel experience during a layover in Colombo, Srilanka. I did not expect that a layover of a day would turn out to be one of my most memorable experiences in my life. So read on and enjoy Colombo through my captures.

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Galle Face Beach
Flight: SriLankan Airlines
Climate: Extremely Warm and Windy
Month: September
The Story Behind:

I think September is my magical month as new experiences and relationships usually come to my life during this month. After I finished my MBA from Bradford-Perguia business school, I was heading home when this layover came my way. I was flying with Srilankan Airlines from Rome to Bangalore via Colombo.I took a city tour in a private cab from the hotel considering my safety. It costed me 30 EU(approx Rs 2100 +) which is a total rip-off. The Colombo city tour will cost you much lesser if you choose to travel on your own or take a tuk-tuk.

Confession I was planning to laze around in the hotel, but once landed in Colombo I pushed myself to not to miss this sun spirited city.

Goldi Sands Hotel, Negombo

Goldi Sands Hotel, Negombo is a beautiful sea facing property. I was happy to bag a complimentary stay in this beautiful property due to Srilankan Airlines. The food spread and quality of room was exceptional during my stay (which was a couple of hours).

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Room and  your blogger (old me)

Goldi Sands Hotel stands out with serene and neat hotel grounds. It has a gorgeous pool adding to its glory. The property is about 15-20 minutes away from the Colombo Airport (Bandaranaike International Airport) and around 32km from the city of Colombo.

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Hotel  Grounds – Shacks and Private Beach

Currency Conversion: 1 INR = 2.35 LKR

Top 5 Tourist Attractions of Colombo:

1. Beira Lake: This sparkling lake is like an emerald nestled amidst a ring of major business complexes. It is connected to many intricate canals providing easy way of transporting goods within the city.
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Beira Lake
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Canals
2. Christian Reformed Church: Christian Reformed Church was established in 1642.It is a must-visit spot during Colombo visit being an archaeological beauty.
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Christian Reformed Church
3. Gangaramaya Temple:  It is the most visited Buddhist temple in Colombo. I loved the modern architecture embedded with cultural essence.
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Gangaramaya Temple
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Gangaramaya Temple
4. Canals and Roads: As impressive as it can be, the Colombo city is clean and has wide and beautiful roads. Even the canals are beautifully constructed and its a vision to see various nuances of fresh water and slat water meet.

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Colombo City- Roads
5. Galle face beach: Even though there is no particular order to visit places in Colombo, Galle face beach was my last stop.It is a gorgeous shore and the windy day just added to the glory of this place.
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Galle Face Beach

 

Downers: I also came across someone who posed as a hotel manager and talked me into buying gems from a local exhibition. Let me tell you that it was stupid of me to get entangled in his conversation and buy a gem. After I came back to my cab, the driver of my cab told me that impostors do that because they get commission out of it. I missed the local memento shops as I wasted time in the gem exhibition.
Adieu Colombo: The sun was at its peak and the view was breath taking when I came back from Galle face beach to my hotel room. I had to leave in a hurry as the hotel shuttle was leaving. Even with all that tan on my skin, I was happy about taking over this gorgeous city as a solo traveler. As this was my first experience it will always be listed in my special day diaries. Colombo serves as a budget travel city for a solo girl. I would love to go back once more and explore more of Srilanka.

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Have you visited Colombo yet? Let me know in comments.

XO,

Amrita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bangalore to Yercaud Road Trip & Must Visit Spots

Hello Chic People,

Whoa, it has been 22 days already into 2017. I can’t believe that I have not written for so long. Looks like this year is determined to pass by faster than anticipated. We celebrated 3 years of our marriage on 20th January and the day went like a dream with a quiet celebration. Speaking of celebration, how was your 31st night? We wanted to celebrate New years eve with a quick getaway so we got up really early on the last day of the year and drove to Yercaud. It is a gorgeous small town located near Salem. We stayed in TGI Star Holiday Resort and this was our second new years in the same resort. Without further delays let me share our experience for Bangalore to Yercaud road trip. Hope readers visit this hidden gem after reading this post.

Road Trip Begins:

Morning looked like a miracle with white mist all over the city. This made our early morning drive extremely pleasant and memorable. Video below shows our starting of our journey, subscribe beautyandthesuitcase Youtube channel to see short and sweet videos by us.

We started our journey from Bangalore at around 5:30 AM. Google map shows 4 hours and 18 minutes timeline from our home to destination.

Route: Bangalore(Whitefield)-> Hosur ->Krishnagiri -> Salem -> Yercaud(Star TGI Resort)

En-route Bangalore to Yercaud:

There are a plenty of eateries and A2B restaurants on the way. Washrooms are also available for usage in cafe coffee days. The drive is pleasant once you leave the maddening traffic of Hosur road.

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Food-Road-trip-bangalore-to-yercaud

The Drive:

Though it is an amazing drive with hills and turns on the way to Yercaud, it gets even better after crossing Salem. We witnessed 22 hair pin turns while  driving up hill from Salem to Yercaud.  As we got higher, the panoramic view from the hill amazed us after each second. I am sharing a video below depicting our uphill drive.

We reached the resort around around 11 AM after taking 1 break during our journey.

Places to Visit in Yercaud:

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Yercaud is mostly a weekend trip destination. There are a few good resorts in Yercaud which provides cozy haven for couples and families; I am saying this because we rarely spotted singles there. New-years are particularly crowded considering it is very near from Bangalore and an hour’s drive from Salem.

  • GRT Nature Trails – Salem Rocks Restaurant : 

GRT nature trails is the most popular resort in Yercaud. Though we did not stay there, we had our lunch at the resort restaurant called Salem Rocks. Sky Rocca is an elevated glass walk pathway adjacent to the restaurant. Visitors are welcome to relish views while waiting for food in the restaurant. It is one of a kind experience and we totally recommend it. Food is average and on the expensive side; but what food lacks in, gorgeous hills view compensated for.

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Sky-Rocca-Salem-Rocks-GRT-Nature-Trail-Yercaud-Beautyandthesuitcase

  • Kiliyur falls:

As we were there for a short trip we covered Kiliyur falls first on 1st Jan Morning. Kiliyur falls is one of the best attractions in Yercaud. Nestled amidst Shervaroyan hill range in the eastern ghats of Tamil Nadu, this waterfalls is a must visit destination in Yercaud. It takes around 20 -25 minutes to get to the waterfalls by walk as the final 500 meters are unpaved rough pathway. Total height of the waterfall is 91 meters and the walk up hill is tough. The waterfalls does not have much water and some might think, the falls is not worth the hike. However, the valley is beautiful with lot of greenery around. Kiliyur-falls-yercaud-beautyandthesuitcase

A restaurant sits overlooking the falls and it is actually very relaxing to enjoy a lemonade while staring out of the window. Pardon me for not remembering the name of the restaurant, but I am sure visitors will find it easily as the location of this place is super cool.

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Though we wanted to see Lady’s seat and the Big Lake, could not do that as crowd on 1st January was maddening. In fact we were heavily disappointed as our car got scratched by careless riders. If you are driving your own car, we would suggest to park your car way out in the lane and walk a few meters to visit the falls.

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It took us half a day to get out of the thin lanes brimmed with traffic and make way for lunch. I changed my mind and asked shiv if we should stop by the lake. We took a turn to stop by but could not find a parking spot.The lake looked nothing special from outside with a small garden encircling the same with loads of people waiting for their turn to go for boating.

Over-All Trip:

New year’s eve was loads of fun at TGI Star Holiday resort. It is a beautiful property and the crowd is family inclined. I cannot wait to share our full review.

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Glimpse of TGI Star Holiday Resort, Yercaud

Yercaud is everything we needed, a quick getaway, loads of fun on the last night of 2016, a sense of adventure, a good hike and really cool panoramic views; all this and more with a perfect resort with a lot pluses and minor hiccups.

Have you visited Yercaud yet? Lets us know your views.

XO,

Amrita

Rohtang Snow-Point, Solang Valley & Him-Valley Amusement Park

Hello Chic people,

Woah, it’s almost year end and I cannot believe I have not written about the best trip of the year of 2016. Looks like 2016 was on a skate board which just rolled down quickly. So without further ado, let me jump in and write about Rohtang Snow-Point, Solang Valley and Him-Valley Amusement Park. Hope you guys are all warm and cozy; enjoy the read.

Rohtang Snow-line:

Those who have read about my article Top Tourist Attractions in Manali will know, how I wished for a snowfall when we reached this gorgeous town hidden in the snowy womb of Himachal. Snow makes everything look magical and fairy-tale like. Isn’t it? However, we started our day early with plenty of sunshine and no signs of snow-fall. The luxury of roaming around in deserted gorgeous places was long gone. Newly-weds flocked all over the Rohtang pass snow-line and pictures were being clicked in every nook and corner.

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While a picture is worth a thousand words, I am sharing some beyond gorgeous view Rohtang snow-line offered our eyes.

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After seeing a million people walking towards the snowy peaks and slipping for 100 times, we called it quits somewhere climbing up by 70% as were exhausted. I am amazed the chai-walas and chat-walas made way to the top easily and got their business running on the top (like literally).

Disappointments:
  • Talking of disappointments, I hated it how the snow had solidified and turned slippery. I had a terrible slip which ruined my snow trek clothes and shoes.
  • Too many people, it was like a sea of honeymooners there.
  • Winter caused a lose-lose scenario for us. There was no snow-fall, plus the more up we went, we got tanned with sun. Also, driver did not bother to get us further and called it quits with the snow-line.
  • There was no sport as such. Although we did spot a local turning a tube into a slider.
Facts and Costs:
  • Chat : 50 Rs
  • Tea: 30 Rs
  • Trekking stick : 20 Rs
  • Ambiance : Seated on Snow – Absolutely Divine 🙂
  • Renting snow suit : Starts with 250 Rs (Varies with vendor)
  • Renting snow boots: 100 Rs (Varies with vendor)

In-spite of all that, once you make it to at-least one peak; It makes everything worth it. It took us half a day to cover the Rohtang Snow-line and we were a little tired of all the trekking.

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Solang Valley:

Post lunch, we made way to Solang valley. I could not wait to get out of the over-sized snow dress which made us look like a tubby. But, oh well everything was like an experience. On top of it, the melting snow water made it’s way to my dress. Sigh! The biggest mistake was to change my shoes. Now, my suede boots were not very good with the mud which was resulted due to snow melting. But of-course I could not have predicted that. In case you avoided the bunny holding saga earlier in the Manali city, you would get a second chance to hold the fuzzies in Solang valley.

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The elevator which takes people up is a private one. And the guy who sold us the rip-off ticket claimed Switzerland will look like a joke in front of the beauty of Solang. His exact words were, “Upar Jake to dekhie, Switzerland khel lagega“. I whispered Shiv, I am unsure if this guy has not seen Switzerland on You-tube yet. Below is a small video glimpse of our elevator adventure in Solang.

 

A day which started with a lack of snowfall was made up by the gorgeous panoramic views. I saw a guy proposing his beloved getting down on a knee in Rohtang valley and it made the freezing evening glow in warmth.

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Your Blogger Couple, Amrita & Shivaji

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Facts and Costs:
  • Elevator P.P: Rs 500 P.P {Joke about Switzerland – Free 🙂 }
  • Maggie : 100 Rs (Above 3200 mts)
  • Pizza Slice : Rs 200 (Avoid – Turns ice cold till you bring it to your table)

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Him-Valley Amusement Park:

Cold winds made way while we descended from the glass elevator. Bidding adieu to the breath-taking views was tough, but so was facing the cold storm. We hopped on to cab and kept rubbing our palms together till we reached HimValley Amusement Park. They claim to be India’s first cultural and amusement park developed at an altitude of 7000 ft in Manali. I was smitten by the description and location. It is surrounded with snowy peaks and there could not be a better place for pictures. The park was deserted considering cold winds gushing in all directions.

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The show, I would say was a flop. There were only 3 artists and dance looked out of sync. We were so bored that we did not bother clicking pictures and were much happy being seated at a back seat. We made our way out in less than 30 minutes to the deserted park and posed for some pictures. Honestly, if you are visiting in winters, this place can be skipped.

Facts and Costs:
  • Entry Fees : Rs 200 P.P, Food and amusement rides packages are different
  • Rides : Cost extra (We did not try them)

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It started drizzling soon. We made way to the hotel and desperately needed to sip something hot. That was our cue to proceed for hotel and end an eventful day of Himachal adventure.

Next day, it took us 9+ hours to reach Chandigarh. With some threatening curves and slanting hills, it was time to travel in the plain lands. Cold winds were changed to hot air. Just for fun, I checked my phone ‘ Current temperature of Manali’ , it said ‘Currently Snowing’. Grr.. I growled and showed it to Shiv. He said may be it’s a way in which Manali wants us to visit again. Always helps to have a positive hubby. 🙂

XO,

Amrita 

 

 

Wayanad Ranches Resort Review

Hola Chic people,

As evening dusk settles into foggy and cold breeze, I realize how much I have missed being in my hometown Rourkela. What else do I miss? Well, I definitely miss our vacation from last month. I loved our trip to God’s own country Kerela. Read all about it in our post Trip to God’s own Country : Bangalore to Wayanad Road Trip. Today I am writing about our sweet little resort in Wayanad. I am pretty excited as this is my first resort review. Read on and relish the views on Wayanad through Shiv’s captures with Wayanad Ranches Resort Review. 

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Wayanad Ranches Resort, Wayanad

In-spite of having a hard time cancelling 1 room which was booked for my parents and not getting minimum refund till a month from Goibibo we were happy to reach at the property. We had booked the’Lilac’ premium cottage which was spacious and neat as per our liking. They provided an extra mattress on request.

 

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Wayanad Ranches Cottage

Check In: 5/5 Smooth

Welcome Drink: Fresh Fruit Juice

Bed: 3/5 Wooden King Size Bed with not too soft mattress.

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Bed
Room Ambiance: 3/5. We were given a cottage called Lilac. Initially, experienced a spooky smell inside the cottage which faded away with room-freshener. Size of the cottage was decent. No complaints for TV and geyser. There are no tea maker and no locker facilities to keep personal belongings safe. Furniture looked much older than expected.
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Cottage
Staff behavior of Wayanad Ranches Resort : 5/5 ! Behavior of the Wayanad Ranches staff was exceptionally good. The manager speaks Hindi/ English/Malayalam fluently and was very helpful in finding us a driver for our full day trip. Waiter/Attender was nice and soft-spoken.He did not hesitate to attend to all our needs but he was not fully aware and prepared for questions/queries. We needed a driver for a day’s sight seeing and the manager was able to provide us a part-time driver. He was extremely good at driving and well behaved.
Cleanliness of Wayanad Ranches Resort: 3.5/5. We spotted insects in the rooms. Shiv even spotted a centipede in the bedroom and snail in the washroom. The cleaning staff cleaned the washroom immediately when they were informed about it. The washroom curtain had mold which was rather iky.
Food: 4.5 /5. Clean and tasty food was served on all our orders. .5 deducted for limited breakfast spread. As it is a small property, the dining area is very small with limited tables.
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Dining Area, Wayanad Ranches
Location: 4.5 / 5. Magic of this property is in the gorgeous location which showed its true hues of the morning we were leaving. It was like the clouds were gushing in from the door. 0.5 deducted for the construction view from the window of our cottage.
Wayanad-Ranches- review-Wayanad-Banagalore-Beautyandthesuitcase
View from Cottage, Wayanad Ranches
Booking/Cancellation experience, Goibibo: 1/5. Horrible . 14 Days and no refund for cancellation. Refund was reverted in Go-cash mostly and not the amount we paid for the room. Refunds policy of Goibibo is extremely fishy. I had mentioned our mother was travelling with us and we needed a room at a convenient location, but this information was not asserted by Goibibo.
Overall Experience for Wayanad Ranches Resort: 4/5. Our review was clouded with the best of behavior from the staff. Their simplicity and readiness to help touched us. The not so soft bed and insects here and there were overlooked by us and we smiled and bid adieu to this sweet little property. Also, they did not charge for extra mattress.
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Morning View from Resort

I did not understand why there were no manicured lawns or a pool in this lovely little property. But the very morning we were about leave clouds floated inside our cottage and I thought to myself, that makes it up for missing factors. I understand now that may be that’s why this place is called ‘God’s own country’ where they like to keep this place natural and close to the way creator had destined it to be.

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Wayanad Ranches Resort

PS: Approach road it very bad for the resort due to construction. They have a carom board in the common area which can be used by guests.

Do let me know if you liked our review. Feel free to drop an email if you have any queries. 

XO,

Amrita

Trip to God’s own Country : Bangalore to Wayanad Road Trip

Ciao Readers,

Hope you all are enjoying the fall breeze. Those of you know our obsession with roads and road tripping are in for a treat. Today I am writing about our Bangalore to Wayanad Road Trip. Before beginning the trip I was wondering why would a place be termed as ‘God’s own country’? I mean, I have visited a handful of beautiful/famous/scenic spots and none of them claim to be ‘God’s own country’. I wondered if l will get my answers when our Bangalore Wayanad trip ends.

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Wayanad, Kerela

I was super excited in October as my parents were visiting us. We planned a road trip from Bangalore to Wayand (Kerela). Due to a unfortunate theft which took place at my Rourkela home, my Dad had to travel back. I wanted my Mom to cheer up, so we went ahead with the trip. When the weekend of Diwali arrived I reached home a little early from office to pack my suitcase for the short trip.

Trip Preparation

  • I learnt that the temperature of Wayanad was soaring UpTo 27 degrees c and decided to drop the extra jackets, sweaters and gloves from my suitcase. Clothes of breezy fabric and comfy shoes took their place.
  •  Wet tissues, dry tissues and hygiene wipes; packing all of them is a good practice while road tripping in India.
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Sun Block( no exception for cold places), hair serum and Makeup.
  • Medicines
  • I always carry a small towel (Just in case)

Distance from Bangalore to Wayanad : 282 Kms as per google map. But, the exact distance from my place to the resort is about 317 Kms(6hr 42 mins drive)

Stay :  We picked a cozy little resort called Wayanad Ranches Resort. I will write more about it soon.

Route : Bangalore –> Mysore –>  Bandipur –> Sultan Bathery –> Wayanad

Road Trip Begins :

As this trip was only for a day, we decided to wake up early on Saturday and headed towards Wayanad at 5:30 AM. Morning broke and sunrise looked like a miracle while we entered the NICE road.

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Early morning Sunrise, NICE Road

The day turned out to be warm and sunny. It was surprisingly hot for the month of November which got me a little disappointed.

We entered Bandipur forest area hoping to see elephants, but we spotted none. May be they have taken shelter to avoid heat. Global warming affects all, doesn’t it? We did spot some monkeys monkeying around though.

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Through Bandipur National Reserve

The Sulthan Bathery route presents gorgeous greenery with lovely home-stays and farms.

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Kerela

We arrived at the Wayanad Ranches resort by 1:30 PM. The road leading towards the resort was awful and bumpy. I was worried our car tyres will get hurt, but then we reached the resort in one piece. After inquiring in the resort reception, we came to know that construction is going on which has resulted in bad roads. Plus there was another thin road leading to the resort which was missed by notorious Google Aunty.

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Wayanad Ranches Resort

Day one ended while we roamed near the resort and rested after the hectic travel which started early that morning. It was a peaceful haven for us to rest and get refreshed.

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View from Cottage, Wayanad Ranches

Top Locations in Wayand

I was dying to cover Chembra peak, but considering the sunny day and Mom would not be able to trek to the peak, we missed it. Next we came to know that Kuruva island was closed. With heavy heart we had to move on to check other locations in the list.

Tea Gardens: We started our day with the gorgeous green views of tea gardens.
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Tea Gardens, Waynad
Tea-garden-wayanad-Beautyandthesuitcase
Tea Garden, Wayanad
Banasura Dam : Our first scenic spot was Banasura Sagar Dam. This Dam is built on the Karamanathodu tributary of the Kabini river. Also, it is one of the larget earth dams in India. Located in the foothills of Banasura hills, this location could compete with some gorgeous international destinations. A ticket counter is set at the entrance of the Dam and locals sell caps, sunglasses, fruit juices etc. near the entrance path.
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En-route Banasura Dam, Wayanad
As we visited this place on a Sunday it was more than crowded. Jeeps and Tempo travelers ply visitors to the top of the Dam. We were told to wait to board the jeep as people were in queue. So we made way to the top by walking. The walk was not tough with a few tall plight of stairs but looked like a lot of work considering the sun. I was concerned that my Mom would not be able to make it. But, lo! She made her way quickly to the top. While we reached the top I was delighted of my decision to not to skip this gorgeous location.
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Banasura Dam
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Banasura Dam

The spectacular views made us speechless. Occasional breeze eased off the heat and blaze from sun. There were boating and horse riding facilities available near the Dam which we skipped and made way to our next location.

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Horse Ride, Banasura Dam

Entry Fee : 30 Rs P.P

Jeep Ride : 30 Rs P.P (to and fro)

TT ride : 10 Rs P.P (one way)

Karlad Lake: Descending through gorgeous tea gardens we stopped near Karlad lake. It’s a gorgeous lake with flora and fauna along the lake shore. Following activities are available near the lake:

  • Zip line(Adventure sports) was available in this beautiful lake. The Zip-line goes all the across the Karlad lake. They provide a boat for returning to the starting point for a distance of approximately 350 metres.
  • Kayaking
  • Boating
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View of Karlad Lake

Entry Fees : 30 Rs, P.P

Sun and clouds played peekaboo while we left this gorgeous lake and made way to lunch.

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Boating Karlad Lake
Lakkidi View Point : Post lunch, I noticed that clouds made way to the hills. While we reached Lakkidi view point I could sense the romance which hills had conspired to bring out. I could spot a long line of selfie lovers on the spot. Clouds floated by and I could see Shiv cheering up from his ‘it’s too sunny for a hill station’ mood. I think he clicked some stunning pictures in his happy mood there.
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Lakkidy View Point, Wayanad
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Lakkidy ViewPoint, Wayanad

The day ended and we came back to our resort by 6PM. I think we got some sun-tan(thanks to the perfectly sunny day). Misty clouds gathered near the resort and it was the perfect end to the perfect day out.

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Wayanad Ranches, Evening View

 

On our Way Back :

What began as a quest to understand Why Kerela was called ‘Gods own country’ was coming to an end. No amount of manicured gardens and artifice would suffice a place endowed with such natural beauty. I still don’t know the exact reason, but I have concluded my answers based on the views my eyes have relished. Also I am willing to visit Kerela many more times to find out.

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via Bandipur
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views of Bandipur Reserve

We drove back to Bangalore post breakfast from the resort by 9:30 AM and reached home only by 6:30 PM. Courtesy Google Aunty who notoriously (yet again) gave us a bad shortcut from Dommasandra (Bangalore) plus usual Bangalore traffic. It was Diwali and we quickly lit up Diyas. It was a quiet and no-cracker Diwali for us. Tired yet spirited we realized home is the best place for celebrations. Do let us know how you celebrated Diwali this year.

XO

Amrita & Shivaji

Happy Diwali-beautyandthesuitcase
Happy Diwali 2016

 

 

Road Trip Diaries: Shimla to Manali via Kullu

As morning broke, at around 7 AM we dragged ourselves out of our cosy bed and packed to get going. Post breakfast which was complimentary at Honeymoon Inn Shimla, we started our journey. Driver picked us up from the hotel and we started somewhat around 9 AM.shimla roads-001

There was a lot of traffic and we were easily stuck in Shimla for around 30 Mins. Google shows 6 hr 53 mins as the shortest route from Shimla to Manali but the roads are favourable to only those who really are seasoned in driving there. Once we started our journey in the hills, I began to wonder that true beauty of a journey indeed only the destination? Those believe that haven’t really had that many road trips.

river beas

There is so much to learn and so much to see in road trips. Numerous troughs and crests later I could see the turquoise water of Beas river. A moment so calm swept past me when we stopped for refreshment and pictures. Lush green Pine and Deodar forests presented a view to relish for our eyes.

beas scenic

While we stopped and Shiv got busy with his DSLR, I clicked few selfies there. A couple of pictures were clicked by our driver who insisted to capture us using his master photography skills (he bragged a little) and we let him.

beasriver

Truly it was a moment of standing in a wallpaper kind of view. If I could stop time I would stop it right then when we held hands for a minute and watched the river.

Some handy points for road trips :

  • Toilets – Be mentally prepared that you will come across dirty/semi clean washroom in India while on a road trip. Will be good idea to carry hand-sanitizer and hygiene wipes.
  • Ladies hygiene – If on a long road trip it will super good idea to carry pantyliner for the ladies.
  • Food woes – The only downside travelling with a driver is you have to stop for food where he does. People with sensitive stomachs can opt for sandwiches which can be packed from hotels, fruits and packaged food.
  • Give the camera some rest – I understand with all the Facebook, twitter and selfie things going on and we rarely leave the camera alone; no I am not a hypocrite I do love my selfies and feel happy when Shiv asks me to pose. But, I believe there is a greater joy of holding each other’s hand and relishing a view together.
  • Adapt – Every place has its own charm. So love and adapt the uniqueness of each place and enjoy the moment.

Our next stop was somewhere near Pirdi located 4/5 km away from Kullu which caters to white water rafting in India  from beginner’s level to Grade 1 and Grade 3.I regret not indulging in rafting as I was down with cold and slight fever.

pirdi boating point

kullu selfie

 

While driving side by side to some really gorgeous sights of Beas river we reached Kullu.

kullu

Kullu shawls are famous and I picked 2 shawls for my Mom and mom-in-law. The typically start from Rs 200 and go as much as in thousands. Really depends on what you are willing to spend and negotiate. Do try the rabbit wool shawls, they are amazingly soft and starting range is around Rs 800. Factory outlet prices are really reasonable and worth trying.

Moving on, we reached Manali during evening 6PM. It was Shiv’s first snow experience and I loved how he marvelled at the snow peaked mountains. We chose Apple Nest for Manali which was located centrally and had good if not glorious views to offer from our room. Apple nest falls in budget category and in a posh hill station like Manali, it is priced fairly. TripAdvisor was trending Apple nest as one of the top Manali hotels and I can say that the only reason will be the impeccable cleanliness of this place. Rooms are spacious and nice where heater is available in extra payment of Rs 400 per night. Downside was food which is average but limited and not to forget the curt staff/owner who cannot take feedback positively and replies very arrogantly to honest reviews.

manali views

However, after a long road trip when we pushed aside the curtains from our room we could see the snow peaks glistening with sunset. Just that moment we looked at each other and smiled. The view made the journey just worth it. More was to explore next day so we had dinner at the hotel and retired early for that night.

Top Tourist Attractions in Manali

What started with the denial of using the word ‘incredible’ in my first article, has to come to a stage where every sentence I spoke or even a thought in my head had the same word. Such was the magic and marvel of Manali. We planned ahead to take it slow for the day as we were tired of the long road trip earlier from Shimla to Manali. Read our road experience here : Road Trip Diaries: Shimla to Manali via Kullu. Today I am writing about Top Tourist Attractions in Manali. 

manali forest

 Van Vihar :  which is a Municipal garden located centrally. The tall deodar trees shadowed the perfectly sunny morning. Air was cold and fresh and while we spoke we could see our breath. A little photo-session and tree hugging later we proceeded for Tibetian Monstery which was right in the opposite of Van Vihar.
van vihar manaliTibetian Monastery :  Being the oldest and famous place we were expecting Tibetian Monastery to be more crowded. But that morning it was rather deserted. Monastery has an aura of old world charm and Buddha statue resides inside the beautiful structure. After taking a full round of the temple and rotating all Buddhist prayer wheels, we clicked some pretty pictures with perfect blue skies in that lovely sunny morning.
manali tibetian monasteryManali clubhouse : attracts tourists to offer local handicrafts and dresses. There is dead river boating facility around the clubhouse with a small juice junction and snacks section. More likely near to clubhouse you can experience rope bounce activity over Beas river. While we tried this activity, it became a memorable experience for us. Water was chilly and for the first time when my leg dipped inside the river, it froze for an instance.

manali clubhouse

Hadimba Devi temple : is a major tourist attraction which is located amidst of a forest called Dhungiri Van Vihar . Before entering the temple local ladies flocked to pursue us to hold rabbits and click pictures with them. It costs you Rs 10 to do so and these little round and furry creatures are worth the time. Moving on temple has a pagoda shaped roof. Wooden door was carved beautifully and after standing in the line for 10 minutes we got to go inside. The goddess resides under a stone cave which might be difficult to get inside and it made me feel claustrophobic. While coming out we were approached by other ladies who will not take no for an answer for trying out local clothes. A photographer also entangled us and made us click pictures and Shiv being the nice guy could not say no. Dressing up in traditional Manali clothes cost 50 Rs and photographer would charge as per negotiation. We also found the Yak guy offering a ride and as exiting it might sound, it petrified me initially. Later the yak was too calm to take interest in me, so I got down and moved away quietly.

manali hadimba devi temple

 

hadimba devi manali

manali tradition wear

yak ride

Vashishti temple and Baths : We had to walk uphill to get to this place as our driver informed us that cars up there. On the way up we found people selling Sparu which is basically a blanket. The shopkeeper almost convinced us with his stories where he said this will be returned and we will get 6 gifts after buying it for Rs 10,000/15,000/25,000. I googled it and found such things to be a fraud trick. Hope my readers are careful and do not indulge in buying Sparu. Vashishti temple is built with intricate wood carvings and is believed to be 4000 years old. It is popular for hot springs which is believed to have medicinal value and is available for villagers to use.

vashishti baths manali

Manali Mall Road : An Afternoon nap at the hotel, we decided to see Manali mall road. It was almost similar to Shimla, but I found it to be a little less reasonable and fashionable. Junk Jewelry(ear rings) starts at Rs 150 and locally made paintings might make a good gift for someone. We saw around 4 furry dogs day dreaming and chilling which melted our heart.
Locals sell Apple cider vinegar(starts at Rs 250) here with various fruity sweets which are worth a try. We had ‘Jalebi’ and hot milk in a small eatery there which was fresh and tasty. Local bakeries offered bake puffs which were good but nothing extra ordinary.
As the day ended, we came back to our hotel and just could not stop giggling thinking of the fuzzy-furry cute dogs we spotted day-dreaming in the Mall road. Shiv confided that he was tempted to lure the cuties and bring them back to Bangalore with us. But he had spotted a collar on their necks and left them alone. Next day was for us to explore Rohtang snow line and Solang valley. I silently prayed for a snowfall to add some more magic to our experience!

 

Trip to Shimla via Chandigarh

 One of the most overused words which travel bloggers use or say in their travel scribbles/diaries is : ‘incredible’. I have told Shivaji so many times that if I ever write my travel tales, I am never going to use this term. This was my thought before starting our Shimla via Chandigarh Trip. Read on to know what happens next. 

shimla morning

Plan for Trip:

Hello ! If you are reading this it means you are one of my first readers on ‘beauty and the suitcase.com’. So first of all, thank you for taking your time to read my words. In the times when the entire world is going online and everyone is talking about their trips and uploading pictures of international destinations (well most), I feel like a sand grain on a sea shore. Before I jump with my over enthusiasm and take you straight to Manali experience, let me start from the beginning and slowly unveil my trip.

I have picked the hotels based on trip advisor reviews and googled many travel agents who could give us a driver and car for our entire trip. Most travel agents from Himachal/Delhi/Chandigarh region offer you package deals for stay and transportation. But I chose them separately, just to get the flexibility of choice and options. Do check the inclusion list very attentively if you are planning for a package deals.

My choices were as follows :

  • Indigo Flight
  • Ashtavinayak Travels (Chandigarh-Shimla-Manali- Chandigarh tour by Toyota Etios)
  • Honeymoon Inn Shimla
  • Hotel Apple Nest Manali
  • Hotel Rajshree Chandigarh

What to Pack:

“If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness, and fears.” — Glenn Clark

  • Clothing : All jackets which holds good for freezing cold (like seriously cold), Boots/Sports shoes plus some warm socks, Hand gloves, scarfs / winter-caps and Inner thermals
  • Sun screen lotion (You will be in an altitude and if the sun in scorching at your face, it is going to make you tan; like seriously tan)
  • Medicines (If you are prone to catch cold in a change of temperature and environment, medicines are must)
  • Sunglasses
  • Red/Plum/Wine lipsticks – looks beautiful with contrasting cold weather
  • Neck Rest – Always comes handy in trips
  • Regular make up- That’s the thing about hills they don’t demand fade proof or waterproof make up because you sweat less.
  • Hair straighter/dryer with serum or spay in conditioner – Though most hotels provide it, carrying your own hair products is always a great idea as cold places tend to give static and frizzy hair
  • Loads of moisturisers and body butter – This is for both girls and guys.

And finally grab a hand (might be a group or a lover or a family member) who is as crazy as you to leave the comfort of the safe haven called ‘home’ and jump into the unknown.

Trip Begins : 

We drove to Bangalore airport and I just could not help but notice that the bright day was conspiring to give us a warm hug to go ahead and dive in our adventure for 5 days. We chose the Chandigarh route rather than the Delhi route, considering it will be shorter. Indigo flight, Bangalore to Chandigarh airfare might cost you typically between Ashtvinayak Travels depending on the advance no. of days you have booked your flight.  As sun shone bright and warm we boarded the Indigo 6E-477 at 10 AM 26th Feb 2016. Yeah and we also posed for some cute selfies.

flight view

selfie

Chandigarh to Shimla

We landed in Chandigarh at around afternoon 1PM and met our driver from Ashtavinayak Travels. Though I always talk about my love for road trips after buying Blush(our red I-20 Elite), I would like to point out that I knew I am not going to opt for a self driven vehicle as I did not want to risk it too much in Himachal roads. Plus, I really wanted both of us to enjoy the views rather than following the GPS.

Ashtavinayak travels charged us around 11,500 Rs and provided a well-maintained Toyota Etios. The only thing I disliked about our driver is he stopped at roadside Dhabas where we knew surely that he was a regular and was getting a commission to bring tourists and being the nice people that we are, we could not just object to it through the entire trip.

Google map shows 3hour 27 minutes from Chandigarh to Shimla ; however considering traffic and a landslide we reached in 5 hours. Landslide however gave us an opportunity to click some fabulous pictures.

shimla roadtrip

roadtrip

While looking at the mighty mountains and lush hills I was wondering if all great destinations lie beyond difficult roads.Numerous 90s songs later (played by our driver) with some of my on and off power naps I could feel like the temperature dropping  really low. As cold breeze swept my face and my eyes lit up like a child like twinkle, our driver announced that we have entered ‘Shimla’. As it is near to Chandigarh, this remains the most sorted after honeymoon havens in India. I could see smiley newly wed couples all over the place.

While we were slowing down due to traffic, driver bhaia pointer us towards a hill saying –The tallest castle like thing on the hill ahead is your hotel – Honeymoon Inn. I looked up and found that tallest building in the town really was something with clouds floating against it; I exclaimed and opened my mouth to only say “Incredible” !

view honeymoon inn shimla

Honey Moon Inn, Shimla

After saying the word ‘incredible’ right in the beginning of our trip and getting a wink eye from Shiv, we arrived at Honeymoon Inn Shimla. Here is the thing about this fabulous hotel, you have climb a steep hill to really get there. They provide a porter to pick up your luggage and paying him a generous tip will be a good idea, I thought so because, while we were dragging our own body weight this guy managed to take our luggage twice as fast till our room. Check-in was really swift and it was such a relief to step into the cosy haven.

Our suite had tastefully done woodwork interiors, a cute swing and view overlooking the entire city. Room was spacious with heater and electric blanket facility (which is a real bonus in cold. There was a minibar with tea and coffee maker with thermos-flasks to store warm water(I particularly loved it as I was suffering from cold and sore throat right before we started for Chandigarh). Hotel discourages plastic bottles as ‘go-green’ initiative and boasts of providing clean RO filtered water.

The sunset from our room was an out of the world experience for me. While I marveled at it, Shiv took some really good pictures capturing them.

Shimla Mall Road

After a short break and lazying in our suite, we pushed ourselves to get ready and see Mall road as we were starting for Manali the very next day. Here is a thing I would regret – I did not get to see Kufri and I could not enjoy much of the luxurious suite in Honeymoon Inn Shimla. Coming back to the evening, it was freezing at 7 PM when we stepped outside. For someone like me who digs street fashion shopping, it was a treat to walk around in mall road.

Here is what I think is worth checking out :

  • Warm and soft pumps (Starts from Rs 200 onward)
  • Junk jewellery and floral tiaras (starts from Rs 100 onward)
  • Wood work mementos ( starts Rs 500 – though I did not buy it, I thought it was really pretty)
  • Ear Plugs (Rs 150 onward)
  • Himachali Jhooti( Rs 250 onward)
  • Fashionable boots and jackets – Really pretty collection which I could see of non-branded products.I could have said shawls but Kullu shawls are much more worth buying.

Finally, I think a good bargainer will really enjoy Shimla Mall road experience.

We spotted many good eateries like ‘Indian coffee house and Mehru’s sweet shop and stopped to have sweets.Even though cold air numbed my face but I could not stop smiling during our walk. We reached back to the hotel by 9 PM and had dinner. The only average part about Honeymoon Inn was food. Day was up and we headed to our suite. We were tired but we really looked forward for the next day which beckoned a long road trip to Manali.

honeymoon_inn_suite

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