Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fun at Leela Palace, Bangalore

Bangalore trips are always hectic, be it the official trip or the non official ones, thanks to numerous hang out options in bangalore which offers another kind of entertainment, all of which are created by the intelligence of man rather than the natural ones. To a certain extent such amusements are also necessary for this IT capital of India coz other wise the coorporate culture is sure to drain out all the positive spirits in the employees.

During one fine evening at Bangalore, my bro suggested to have visit to Leela Palace - a five star hotel whose beautiful Palace like external ambience is sure to catch the glimpse of all the people who pass through the Old airport road where it is stationed. But never did I thought that this hotel, apart from its regular lodging and restaurant facilities also contains enough amenities for entertainment which can also be made use of by casual visitors too.

Reached the Leela Palace and its architecture surely resembles that of a palace. The building from an external perspective does not look very huge, and is almost stationed at the edge of the road. The team consisted of 4 adults and 2 kids. My wife's bro and his wife also agreed to join us after finishing their office work. After the regular security checks we were let in. There is no entry fee for visitors.

The entry door itself gave an impression of the architectural marvel.

Inside it was a huge hall, wonderfully lit, big pillars resembling that of old Maharaja's Palace, shining flooring whose color matches with the ambience, optimally furnished and everything seemed to have a royal touch.

Just watch the brilliant arches and the railings. Are we inside the great Taj Mahal.

Some of the pillars even had beautiful wood work with the great level of perfection.

We moved slowly and steadily through this marvellous building carefully observing the way each of its elements are built.

Wherever glass was present they were designer glasses with matching lighting element.

Rose petals was made good use of in this showpiece. This structure is created out of rock with three lion heads carved out of it.

All the doors seemed to have some kind of uniqueness. The next one in line was unique because it seemed to be part of a large artwork.

Water was flowing down through this black granite background.

All this time we were walking through the ground floor. Further ahead we found that the escalator was moving downwards and all the other levels are under the ground level. Moved down one level and found out that the artificial water fall ends at this place.

The rose petals again was giving good contrast to the ambience.

This neatly arranged flower was placed near this waterfall.

There were lot of premium shops too, mostly selling antique objects. A view of three levels.

The ground level is the upper floor. We were standing 1 level down and there seems to be a party hall under this level. The shops are visible towards the farther end. Looking up the ceiling also seemed to be unique.
There were white blinking lights similar to the stars. They seemed to be one end of an optical fibre cable. A good use of technology to create a visual treat.

The antique shops seemed to have a good collection.

Jewellery shop was quite attractive too.

Apart from these, there were lot of other shops too, including garments, footwear all of which had a premium touch and their prices were on the higher side too.

Time just flew by as we walked around enjoying all this and appreciating the effort taken by the designers in creating the ambience akin to a royal palace. Each of the lights have an antique touch too. Just watch this one.

By this time my wife's bro and sis in law joined us and we proceeded to the gaming mall. Yes there is a gaming mall too to keep the visitors entertained. My kids eyes lit up when they saw this.

Soon I was busy taking tickets for them to enjoy the games.

I too tried out the racing games having a leisurely trip through the race tracks. In between I managed to click a photo from the games screen akin to the way I take pictures during my drives, but no kind of visual simulation can achieve the real effects.

A game of foozball soon followed suite and we were in a real competitive mood.

After spending a good amount of time in the gaming mall, it was time to move on to the bowling floor. I was amazed to see that this hotel houses such a variety of entertainment options and that all of them could be used by casual visitors like us.

The entrance to the bowling mall contained a well lit dance floor.

The restaurant nearby also had a superb lighting scheme.

The bowling arena was neatly maintained.

All of us except the kids stepped into the bowling shoes.

The rate was Rs150 per person for a game which involves 10 chances with 2 throws in each chance. What followed suite was a game filled with all kinds of nuances of a realy competition. People were seen practicing to ball, selecting their lucky color, pumping their fists in joy when they striked, desparate when they missed the chance, egging the other participants and it was real fun while my kids enjoyed the way we were playing.

We took more than 1 hour to finish the game and it was already 12pm midnight when we decided to call of the day. It was a really enjoyable evening with the competition element taking out all the stress in our minds and making us enjoy to the core.

The architectural brilliance was equally enthralling and we had covered only a small part of the hotel. This hotel is surely very big complete opposite to the impression which we got from the outside view.

We soon walked our way to the parking lot where another thing which I could enjoy was some premium luxury cars like this.

Overall we had loads of fun at Leela Palace.

Quick Facts

Name of Place
Hotel Leela Palace, Bangalore

Old Airport Road (After Domlur Flyover)

Shopping, Gaming Mall, Restaurant

Time to visit
Any time of the day. (For bowling call hotel and check whether is crowded)

Entry Fees
No entry fee, for bowling Rs 150 per person, for games it varies from Rs 50 to Rs 100.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ponmudi - Truly A Golden Peak !!

"Ponmudi" meaning The Golden peak is a hill station just 60 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of God's own country - Kerala. 
Standing tall at a height of more than 1000 metres with lush green landscape beautiful coffee plantations, waterfalls and a cool climate, this hill station offers an easier alternative for the city folks because of its proximity. The one thing that deters people from going this place is the real bad roads. The roads were in such bad shape that I have heard stories of people coming back after going half way up. 

But come 2010 January, I read in a newspaper that the roads are being repaired on war footing and it will be finished by January end. Being a regular to this hill station I was keenly wating for the road work to finish and my wait was over in April 2010 and I was itching to have a dash over this newly built tarmac in my motorbike or car.
Finally a chance came when on a weekend we had some close relatives at home. I suggested the idea of having a trip to Ponmudi and soon we were off to this golden peak in search of a golden experience.

From Thiruvananthapuram city we took the following route
Vellayambalam - Peeroorkada - Nedumangad - Vithura - Kallar - Ponmudi.

Once we passed Kallar we were on the newly laid roads and the difference was felt immediately. What was normally is a bumpy ride has turned out to be a smooth one and the road grip also seems to have increased. Quickly we were inside the forest area passing the forest check post. 

The roads continued to be better and we were travelling at a relatively high pace, since I was enjoying the drive really well and the curvy roads gives better satisfaction for the driving enthusiast in me. I love to maintain the high rpms (for not losing the turbo being a diesel vehicle) in the correct gear, taking turns without applying brakes, keeping the vehicle in the intended trajectory and keeping the extreme left side of the road. 

The first major picnic spot as we move up is the Meenmutti waterfalls. One has to trek 1km through thick dense forest to reach this prestine waterfalls. Decided against this trek as we were really enjoying the climb up through these winding roads. (click here to see my earlier trip log on Meenmutti falls ).

But we were not able to ignore the Golden Valley. Another place enroute the Golden peak with a "Golden" prefixed name. Parked our vehicle on a small parking lot by the side of the road. 

This is a bathing point, where the Kallar river flows through some beautiful rocks amidst thick jungle.

Once we were out of the vehicle we could enjoy the sound of nature. The sound of water gushing through the rocks in Golden Valley was also audible even though it was not visible from here. We have to walk down through those steps to reach there.

There are some extended landing points in this way, where a crowd of 10 to 15 people can easily can have food.

Once near the river we could know why this place is called Golden Valley. Just watch this sight

The water is so pure that the golden colored sand and stones underneath is clearly visible, the reason why this place is called Golden Valley.

Step into the water and look around. You are sure to enjoy the ambience.

The sight of the pure water gushing through the rocks is awesome. The bubbles created by the falling water is like pure milk. Just sit on the rocks keeping your legs in the water and nature will give you the best of the massage.

A closer view of the small water fall

We climbed up the rocks and trekked a little ahead. Water level was lesser and the rocks were slightly slippery and one has to be careful while walking through, but no one can resist from trekking ahead.
Watch the huge rocks, you can compare the size with those two human beings in the middle.

We were moving ahead further and the experience was awesome, the greenery, the black rocks and the pure water, something which has to be experienced in real life.

My kids were also enjoying this place and we were having some good fun amidst the serene natural environment handcrafted by the nature.

We felt like we could spend the whole day here just relaxing without going up to the golden peak. Spend atleast 2 hours in the Golden valley, splashing our legs in water, climbing up the rocks, simplying lying down on the rocks enjoying the water massage on our feets, enjoying the background score which is so soothing to the ears and the greenish ambience soothing to our eyes. We could still walk more and more but atlast decided that it is time to move on. 

It was already past noon and we all had a taste of the golden experience which we came searching for, but our bodies need some energy too as we had drained some of our energy climbing those rocks. We had carried our food, since no hotels are available once we enter the forest area, the only one being present in the top station.

Our next stop is going to be at some beautiful spot where we can have our light lunch. Soon we reached a place which seemed to have levelled for some construction.

This was going to be our dining place and it seemed to be pretty picturesque location. Parked our vehicle on the road side and climbed down to the vast spaces. We had already gained some altitude as is seen from the scenary around.

One big tree which escaped from the axe gave us shelter from the sun which was playing hide and seek behind the clouds when we enjoyed our lunch.

After having a nice stroll around this area we were ready to move up. Our vehicle also had a breather, while we took a break.

The beautiful roads continued and we were covering distances quickly with the smooth roads providing excellent comfort. It was a pleasure driving through the beautiful hilly terrain in such roads.

After some time we could see some buildings at a distance, which was the Kerala tourism owned hotels at Ponmudi near the top station.

The hair pin bends in this route was a pleasure and there are 22 of them. I enjoyed taking these turns in a motorbike than in a four wheeler.

We soon reached the 19th bend and only 3 more to go.

Throughout this route there were some small temples on the road side with a single diety.

We reached the point where we have to take a turn to the newly reconstructed KTDC hotel - Golden Peak (, but decided to go to top station first. Some small amount has to be paid for visiting the top station.

By this time we were already near the top station and the roads became even more beautiful with superb scenary on both sides.

Soon we reached a point where many vehicles are parked. I was surprised to see so many vehicles and tourists here because whenever I visited here earlier there were hardly any tourists here. From here we had many options to trek. We decided to take this path which was the steepest. 

It was starting to drizzle but our spirits were still high and the climate was cool.

The cloud cover was a joy to watch, and it gives a different perspective or more depth to the photos, with the only precaution to take being the shake factor owing to the more exposure times one needs to set due to low light conditions.
As we trekked up higher and higher the scene just got better and better.

We reached a point from where the climb to top was really steep and we could see the top station where already many tourists were there.

My kids were not really interested to climb all the way up. So we decided to take a relatively flat route towards the end of the hill on one side. The grass was having a light green color, thanks to the recent summer showers. We have to walk till that edge of this hill from where we can have view of the moutains around.

Soon we reached the edge of the hill and needless to say we were in for a visual treat.

Sitting on the rocks at the edge of this cliff we could see these beautifuly trees directly underneath us in the beautiful valley. Lack of sunlight was not going to deter me from capturing the colorful ambience.

We were given good company by this chameleon who resting in a nearby rock. Even this guy seemed to be a beauty of its own amidst the beautiful surroundings.

Towards another side of the hill there were some beautiful rocks and it seemed like all of them have been precisely engineered and placed in specific locations for enhancing the ambience.

The cloud cover was increasing and there were some feeble sounds of thunder too. We could see the nerve like appearance of lighting at a distance and soon the sound of thunder became defeaning. Being at a high altitude place in this condition is dangerous, and soon we were seen running down. While we were running down, we could see a rocky terrain on the other side of the hill which can also be reached by trekking.

We need to stay in this place for one more day to enjoy it full trekking around leisurely. But being a place close to where we stay we always plan only one day trips.

By the time we reached near the vehicle, clouds began to come near us, a sight which we enjoyed thoroughly.

Heavy downpour soon followed suite and we enjoyed the shower from inside the comfort of the vehicle.

It was already past 4 in the evening and we decided to start our return journey. Even decided to skip our customary visit to the KTDC restaurant, since the place was already fully crowded by tourists all of which came here to escape the heavy downpour.

I enjoyed driving the vehicle slowly through these beautiful roads with heavy downpour adding spice to the experience.

But the heavy rain lasted only for a few minutes and we were again soon enjoying the winding roads. The return drive was pretty fast and reached back the city in about an hour and a half. Soon we felt like we are back to hell from paradise, what a change of terrain and environment within a span of 60 kilometers.

The Ponmudi hills have always been a beautiful location and a visit here is well worth it whenever you are in Trivandrum. At times I feel like it is even better than Ooty which is more crowded. But be prepared to stay at here for atleast one day, then only you can enjoy it to the maximum. The beautiful roads has enhanced the experience to greater heights tooo.

Quick facts

Name of the place:
Ponmud (The golden peak)

How to reach?
60 kms from Trivandrum,
Travel via nedumangad, Vithura, Kallar and reach Ponmudi. (buses operate from Thiruvananthapuram Central Bus stand)

Rooms available at KTDC hotel at hill top - Golden peak (Tariff in the range Rs.1800 to Rs.4000)

Places to visit:
Meenmutty water falls
Golden Valley
Trekking at top station.


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