August 2020 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Manchinbele Dam: Perfect Sunday Morning Getaway close to Bangalore

Lush green Manchinbele Dam Panorama

At only 40 kms from Bangalore, you will get to enjoy a lip smacking rustic breakfast, gorgeous countryside, stunning monolith views and a panoramic dam landscape. Add to it a 400 year old Banyan tree and tons of nurseries enroute and you have a great Sunday plan ready. Perfect for bicyclists and motorcyclists, Manchinbele dam is that laidback Sunday morning ride destination.

The lush green Manchinbele Dam landscape

The joy begins once you cross the Mysore road intersection and you ride through farm lands and nurseries. Pretty soon, you will come across Dodda Alada Mara or Big Banyan Tree, Bangalore’s 400 year old Banyan wonder and a few kilometers later, you get to enjoy heavenly village breakfast at a village shack. With a full belly and happy heart, lush scenery greets you along with views of Savandurga hill and other rocky outcrops as you turn left towards Manchinbele. Many pretty little villages show some signs of activity in the early hours of the morning.

Manchinbele Reservoir in the monsoons

As you cross these villages lazily, a spectacular panorama awaits you. All you have to do is park your vehicle at the parking spot (bicycles can go with you all the way till the view point) before you descend towards Manchinbele dam (exact details mentioned in the route map below), cross over to the other side of the road and climb for about 10 minutes. The view that opens up in front of you is the dam on the Arkavathy river that is called Manchinbele reservoir or dam. If you happen to go during the monsoons or right after, a green carpet view will greet you along with a brown rocky outcrop landscape. The large hill that you see on the far extreme is the Savandurga monolith, another popular trekking destination from Bangalore.

Manchinbele Dam - a great Sunday getaway from Bangalore

The early morning sun and the cool breeze at this view point will make you crave for a book and a hot cup of coffee. I would recommending carrying your coffee with you along with a bedsheet that you can spread here for a relaxed Sunday morning. A picnic basket, a book, a camera or a pair of sleepy eyes are enough company here. This Manchinbele dam viewpoint is the perfect excuse to de stress, soak in some Vitamin D, get some exercise and to enjoy the beauty of this rustic landscape just an hour away from the urban chaos of Bangalore city. You don’t need a plan to go to this destination. You can just wake up and go. That is how close it is to the city.

Manchinbele Dam view point with Savandurga in the background

How to get there:

If you can, try to avoid the Mysore road stretch as there is a ton of construction and road repair work going on here.

It is best to take the NICE road, opt for the Mysore road exit, turn left and turn right just before Raja Rajeshwari college of engineering (once you cross the Decathlon store). You will cross a railway track, many nurseries on the way, Dodda Alada Mara and then about 10 kms after the railway crossing, there is a intersection where you turn left towards Manchinbele reservoir.

If you wish to see the Manchinbele viewpoint: Once you cross Chikkanahalli village and before you begin the descent to the dam, you will notice a small shop and a fairly large parking area to your left. This is where you can park your cars and motorcycles. After parking, you can cross the road and start walking up hill to the view point. Bicycles will go all the way to the view point. Motorcycles can also go provided you are comfortable taking it all the way up.

There is a camp site at the bottom of the dam if you wish to indulge in adventure sports. You would need to make prior bookings and only confirmed bookings will be allowed to cross the check post.

Manchinbele Reservoir - a fantastic Sunday trip near Bangalore

Where to eat:

If lip smacking food in a simple setting is your thing, then you can try this village shack that is located right at the corner of the left turn that takes you to Manchinbele reservoir from Dodda alada mara road. They dish could great thatte idli, chitra anna and vadai along with some piping hot sambar and thick spicy coconut chutney.

If you prefer a larger place with loos and parking, opt for the ones on Mysore road. You could also carry your picnic basket from home.

Manchinbele reservoir - all vibrant and green in the monsoon season

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Dodda Alada Mara: Bangalore’s 400 year old Banyan Wonder

2) Savandurga: Monolith hill, temple and rustic day trip

3) Shri Shantmurthy Shanishwara Temple: Offbeat temple with stunning Savandurga and other rock views and scope for adventure here

4) Dabbaguli: A peaceful village by the banks of the Manchinbele reservoir

5) The various nurseries of Dodda Alada Mara area

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Monday, August 24, 2020

Brahmeshvara Temple: 850 year old hidden Hoysala gem near Bangalore

Maha Vishnu, his consort and other sculptures on the walls of Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

It is a fine specimen of 12th century Hoysala temple architecture. It’s Chenna Keshava statue can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. And it even features some elements of Chola temple architecture. But, in spite of such high stature, this temple has fallen into disrepair. Except for daily puja and mangala aarti, there is hardly any maintenance here. It seems like the government has turned a blind eye towards this gorgeous temple. Weeds have overgrown the temple campus and even some statues from the temple have been stolen. I am talking about the offbeat Brahmeshvara temple, a 850 year old hidden Hoysala gem only a few hours away from Bangalore.

The gorgeous entrance to the ancient Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

As soon as one enters the temple campus, one can notice the Hoysala style of temple architecture with intricate carvings and its beautiful location next to a large lake. But, as you get closer to the temple, you realize that unlike the other Hoysala temples that are built on an elevated pedestal, this temple is located on the ground level. And when you do the pradakshinam and enter the garbhagriha via the vestibule and the sukhanasi, you cannot stop but wonder with amazement at the Chola style of architecture inside.

Appreciating the carvings on the exterior walls of Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

A mini version of the Brihadeeswara temple can be seen in the left side of the Sukhanasi, which basically shows us some influence from the Chola style of temple architecture. Another example of Chola style temple architecture is the sculpture below. This sculpture shows 3 images or 3 gods in one sculpture. If you close the left and right side of the sculpture and look at it, it looks like Suryanarayan. If you close the center and right, it looks like Maha Vishnu and if you close the left and center, it looks like Lord Shiva. This style of carving is usually seen in Chola temples and hence that is a special sculpture to see in the Brahmeshvara temple at Kikkeri.

Suryanarayan, Vishnu and Shiva in one sculpture, but in different views

Other noteworthy sculptures to see in this temple are Ugra Narasimha, Kirtimukha or gargoyle faces, Dvarapalas, intricately carved pillars with jewellery designs, nandi facing the garbha griha, lady applying shringar, Lakshmi Narasimha, Ugra Ganesha, Mahisasura Mardini, Kala Bhairava and Chenna Keshava. One can also see all Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva together with their consorts on the outside temple walls as Uma Maheshwar, Lakshmi Narayana and Brahma Saraswati.

Varaha avaatar and other sculptures at Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

The inside of the temple is much better than the outside as it hasn’t been weather beaten. The doorway carvings from the sukhanasi to the garbhagriha are mind blowing. Also worth studying are the navaranga ceiling work and the exquisite madanika statues on top of the four pillars of the Navarangas. One of these madanikas is believed to be a lady of foreign origin.

Enjoying the beautiful sculptures at Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

The best way to enjoy this ekakuta temple is do pradakshinam on top of pradakshinam. See the sculptures up close and then see them from a bit far away. Each location seems to offer you with a different perspective as that is how many carvings and sculptures there are on the temple wall. See if you can spot the animal sculpture that looks like an elephant from one direction and as a lion from the other.

Intricately carved Nandi at Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

See if you can spot the gargoyle faces or the man of foreign origin. See if you can spot the differences in Brahmesvara temple when compared to the other Hoysala temples. And see if you spot anything rare or interesting. I spent a good 3 hours here, but I am pretty sure I missed out on so many sculptures. After all, there are so many of them.

The nandi view of the Dwara palikas and the entrance to the garbha griha, Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

The large Kikkeri lake right in front of the temple, the swaying coconut palms, the farm lands and the overall rustic atmosphere with the tiled roof houses add to the overall glamour of Kikker’s Brahmeshvara temple.

Intricate jewellery designs on the pillars of Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

If you like to discover offbeat or hidden temples or if you are looking for a unique day trip from Bangalore, do mark Kikkeri’s 850 year old Brahmeshvara temple in your bucket-list. It is definitely a hidden gem. All I wish is that the government cares for it and restores it to its original beauty. A much recommended Hoysala temple destination. And let me know what you think once you have seen it for yourself.

Stunning Hoysala temple - Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

How to reach here:

There are two option to reach the Brahmeshvara temple at Kikkeri.

Option 1 via Mysore highway: Bangalore –> Maddur-> Mandya –> Srirangapatna –> Krishnarajapet –> Kikkeri. You can also opt to leave the highway at either Maddur or Mandya and take the inner roads.

Option 2 via Hassan highway: Bangalore –> Nelamanagala –> Kunigal –: Channarayapatna –> Kikkeri

Mahisasura Mardini at Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

What to do if the temple is closed:

If you happen to reach the temple when it is closed, you can ask for the temple priest’s (Narasimha Murthy) house and ask them to open it. They will not just open the temple, but they will also tell you about the temple’s history and stories.

Shikhara of Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

Where to eat:

The nearest place to eat would be Krishnarajapet town. There are quite a few restaurants here. A good vegetarian restaurant option would be Hotel Rama Doss.

If you are heading back to the Hassan-Bangalore highway, you can find hotels at either Channapatna or on the highway to Bangalore.

Ugra Ganesha at the entrance of Brahmeshvara Temple, Kikkeri

Other beautiful Hoysala temples nearby:

1) Panchalingeshwara temple at Govindanahalli

2) Sri Lakshmi Narayanaswamy temple at Hosaholalu

3) Mallikaarjuna temple at Basaralu

4) Sri Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Nuggehalli

5) Sadashiva temple at Nuggehalli

6) Chenna Keshava temple at Somnathpur

12th century Brahmeshvara Temple at Kikkeri built by the Hoysalas

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) The temple town of Melukote

2) The panoramic Hemagiri Falls

3) The magnificent Mysore palace

4) The riverine island and temple town of Srirangapatna

5) The Jain pilgrimage town of Shravanabelagola

6) Ranganathittu bird sanctuary on the Cauvery

7) The Incredible world of toys at Channapatna

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Akbar’s Tomb at Sikandra: A Mughal Architectural Masterpiece

Entrance to Akbar's Tomb at Sikandra, Agra, India

There is so much more to Agra than the ‘Taj Mahal’. There are its colorful and vibrant bazaars, its other UNESCO World heritage sites (Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri), its Mughal era gardens, its river side, its mosques and its iconic tombs.

You are never too far away from a work of art in Agra. One such work of art is the Tomb of Emperor Akbar, located about 10 kms away from the Taj Mahal. This Mughal architectural masterpiece is one of Agra’s top tourist attractions and a must visit on your Agra holiday.

Indo-Islamic architecture of Akbar's Tomb at Sikandra, Agra

Built in the early 17th century by Akbar’s son Jehangir, this mausoleum is famous for its gigantic size, its massive gateways (similar to that of the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri), its inlay panels, its jaali work, the front façade, the arches and the decorated tomb itself. Add to it the stunning red monument that stands in the middle of lush green surrounding with blackbucks roaming its lawns and you have an architectural masterpiece.

Window inside Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra, Agra

Akbar’s tomb would have been grander had the Jats not ransacked and plundered the tomb and looted all its jewels and carpets. Thankfully, a lot of it was restored during the reign of the British and later by the Archaeological survey of India. Today, it stands tall in the Sikandra landscape.

Loving Pigeon couple inside Akbar's Tomb, Agra, India

The main entrance is via a massive south facing gate that stands tall with its four white marble chhatri-topped minarets. These minarets are similar to that of the Taj Mahal, but they predate it by a few decades. The red sandstone with which this mausoleum was built offers shades of deep red to the visitor along with gleaming white marble elements and geometric, floral and calligraphic panel designs.

When you look from far, it is its size that is awe-inspiring. But, when you go closer, its inlay panels, geometric patterns and calligraphy captivate your attention.

Male Blackbuck strolls in the premises of Sikandra, Agra

From up close or far away, Akbar’s tomb is befitting his grand status of one of the largest emperors to have ruled the Indian subcontinent. Don’t miss to visit this place on your next trip to Agra. And yes, there is much more to Agra than just the Taj Mahal.

Akbar's Tomb as seen from the main durwaza entrance

Best season to visit:

Akbar’s tomb is open all year round, but there are some good times in case you have a particular agenda.

If photography is on your agenda, avoid the foggy months of Dec and January.

If you wish to visit during the summer months, make sure you get there first thing in the morning.

The rains bring in lower crowds, but offer stunning perspectives. This time makes for vibrant photographs.

Beautiful work on the ceiling of Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra, Agra

How to reach there:

The nearest domestic airport would be Agra, though connectivity options would be limited. The other nearest domestic and international airport with great connectivity would be New Delhi international airport (about 2 to 3 hour drive from Delhi to Agra).

The nearest railway station would be Agra. Agra has two main railway stations – Agra Fort and Agra Cantt. Both stations are well connected with the rest of the country.

Agra enjoys great road connectivity with other cities as it is on the golden quadrilateral route of India.

Sikandra is about 10 kms from Agra city. One can take the bus or hire an autorickshaw or cab to reach Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra.

Blackbucks grazing on the fields surrounding Akbar's Tomb at Sikandra, Agra

Where to stay:

Agra would be the best place to stay as it offers accommodation that caters to a wide range of needs and budgets.

Antique lamp inside Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra, Agra

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Taj Mahal – One of the seven wonders of the world

2) Mehtab Bagh – A Mughal era park on the banks of the Yamuna that is known for its fabulous Taj Mahal views

3) Agra Fort – A UNESCO World Heritage site that resembles the red fort in Delhi and that is another magnificent piece of Mughal architecture

4) Baby Taj – One of the prettiest tombs from the Mughal era

5) Fatehpur Sikri – A 16th century city of victory that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Goa: The ideal destination to do what you want to do

Kayaking on river near Cola Beach, South Goa

Goa is a rather singular place in India, very different from the rest of the country. Before I went there, I thought it was a city, or at least a place of rather limited dimensions. It's not, because Goa is in fact a state in its own right, even if it's the smallest state in India. With more than 100km of coastline from North to South, there are many different cities, so it's best to study a bit before planning a trip to Goa.

The old hippie hangout of the 1960s now welcomes the new alternative backpackers who eat vegan and do yoga, but also many wealthy tourists who travel to luxury resorts. Above all, it is a popular holiday destination for Indians who come to see the beach and party in this state, where legislation is much more flexible than in the rest of the country, especially on alcohol.

It's quite common to hear travellers denigrating the "too touristy" side of Goa, but in fact, it should be noted that the majority of tourists there are Indian tourists. The strong difference between Goa and the rest of India lies in its history: the state was under Portuguese rule from the 16th century until 1961, when it gained independence, and the Goans are predominantly Catholic.

Doing yoga and meditation: Arambol

A fishing scene from Goa

I might as well say it right now, Arambol is an incredible place in Goa. It has become a kind of rallying point for all the new vegan or vegetarian hippies, adepts of yoga, meditation and all kinds of oriental philosophies and therapies such as tai-chi, reiki, qi-gong... A lot of "soft-minded" people who are a bit crazy but nice and peaceful. Even if we don't really belong to this movement, we appreciate the joyful harmony and brotherly love that emanates from it. Moreover, it is also a good place to enjoy the beach.

Partying: Anjuna, Vagator and Baga

Baga Beach, North Goa, India

The Goa festivities are not what they used to be a few years ago. This is mainly due to the tightening of the state legislation which has banned noise pollution after 10pm. So there are no more big parties on the beach, but rather in clubs or bars. The three cities with the most dynamic night life are Anjuna, Baga and Vagator. It's especially paradise for lovers of psychedelic trance music, especially in Anjuna with Curlie's, a big beach bar and NYEX, a much more chic establishment much sought after by the Russians, and in Vagator with the Nine Bar and the Hilltop. If you don't like trance, on the other hand, it's hard to enjoy it...

For more general music lovers, you should rather go to Baga, the bars and clubs along Tito's Lane. The two most popular clubs are Mambo café and Tito's courtyard. Between Baga and Anjuna is one of the biggest clubs in Goa, at the top of a hill: the Cubana club.

To be pampered in a luxury resort: Candolim


This is the big advantage of countries where there is a big difference in the cost of living compared to the West: it is easier to afford a luxury hotel without going broke. Candolim is a city well located in the state of Goa, in the south of the northern part, which means that it is a good base if you want to enjoy the northern beaches, party in Baga or Arpora, or visit the cultural sites of Panjim and Old Goa.

Many hotels with spa, swimming pool, spacious rooms and even a casino have been established in the city of Candolim. This is the case of the hotel Grand 7 Casino for example. Here, you can laze by the pool all afternoon and enjoy a game of roulette or blackjack at the casino in the evening. At a time of social distancing, you may find it easier to opt for a game of online poker, but not just any way. Indeed, you can now find poker games with live dealer casinos, which will make you feel like you're at the casino with the ability to communicate with your opponents and the live dealer while being safe.

Shopping: Anjuna and Arpora


To go shopping in Goa and bring back beautiful Indian souvenirs, there are two weekly events not to be missed: the flea market on Wednesday in Anjuna and the saturday night market in Arpora. Even if you don't want to go shopping too much, both places are very good opportunities for a walk. To buy, however, you have to negotiate well and not hesitate to halve the prices compared to what is asked at the beginning. Always go around the stands and ask for prices in several different places to get an idea.

See cultural sites: Panaji, Old Goa, Quepem and Chandor

Statue of Jesus opposite Se Cathedral, Old Goa, India

With its colonial history, Goa has a very beautiful Portuguese architectural heritage, with beautiful immaculate white churches and beautiful colonial style houses to visit. Most of the major sites are clustered in Panaji and Old Goa, in the northern part of the state, but there are also houses worth a visit further south, in Quepem and Chandor.

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Thursday, August 06, 2020

Why you should tour Washington D.C

Cherry Blossom Bloom and Washington Memorial - Washington DC

In Washington DC, the capital of the United States, you can expect to find a quantifiable amount of historical sights and exciting new cultural activities. Depending on the season and time of day you visit, you will be able to find different tours and stays. It is a beautiful city and it is different from any other in the world.

History

If you are a history buff or just want to appreciate how the nation was formed, Washington DC is the perfect place. You can visit the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Martin Luther King Jr. memorials and appreciate the detail and structure of the buildings. Book a free tour of the United States Capitol Building and check out the original Declaration of Independence.

White House, Washington DC

Walk around and take a stroll past the White House.  Take in all of the forty four presidents who have lived there. Remember the times and the sacrificed lives of young men and women who served their country. The Vietnam and Korean War Veterans Memorials are very touching and heart breaking. Both are must-see places to visit if you are going to DC.

Springtime

The spring is undeniably the best time to visit the nation's capital. It is filled with beautiful cherry blossoms up and down the streets. Blue skies and the pink trees make a perfect weather opportunity to walk around and explore the city on your own. Plus, they celebrate a month-long  National Cherry Blossom Festival filled with culture, music, and food. What more could you ask for?

International Hotspot

If you are looking to emerge yourself in all different types of cultures with different types of people, DC is profound for this. There are lots of people traveling inside and outside this area. There are three major airports in the metropolitan area, always bustling with people.

Reading room inside Library of Congress, Washington DC

Plus, with many colleges around the city, you can find young and happening neighborhoods. If you have kids that are getting ready to start that next chapter in their life, tour some of these top-notch schools. After graduating, there are thousands of network opportunities in the city. Plus, if you end up loving the beautiful city as much as everyone else, look at Washington, DC houses for sale!

Food, Food, and More Food

Saying DC is a hotspot for foodies is an understatement. It is filled with whatever type of food you deem fitting, and it will not disappoint your belly. If you are interested in late-night dining, brunch for the family, or a happy hour that will keep you more than happy--DC is your place. After a long day of sightseeing and exploration, food is always the answer.

Conclusion

Meridian Hill Park, Washington DC

Regardless of where you are from or how long your travel is, Washington DC is a must-see place. It is filled with so much history and culture that you will undeniably have a great time. Enjoy the beautiful architecture, and make sure to have some tasty food!

Photo Courtesy: All pictures in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.org.

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