Monday, February 14, 2011

Parakovil - Reliving the nostalgic memories

Parakovil, meaning temple (kovil) on top of Rock ("Para"), is the only one of its kind in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. The official name of this temple is Thrichakrapuram Sreekrishna Swamy Temple.

I grew up in a place very close to this temple and almost all my childhood chores were clearly known to this temple as I regularly went their with the usual submissions for clearing up the problems. Recently I got a chance to visit this temple again. This visit was after many years, since I relocated to the opposite side of the city.

Coming from the heart of the city, one has to come to Vellayambalam Junction close to the Napier Mueseum. We have to travel around 4kms from Vellayambalam to reach this temple. From Vellayambalam we have to take the Sasthamangalam route. The Vellayamabalam - Sasthamangalam route has changed a lot. The four laning work is now complete and this stretch now looks quite glorified with lot of high rise buildings adorning its sides.

Not long ago, there were many proud dwellings with typical Kerala style architecture, created during the regime of Maharajas, many of which still stay in my minds coz as I child when I used to go past these roads in my bicycle I dreamt of having a home here because of its proximity to my school in Vellayamabalam.

The Sasthamangalam junction was in the middle of a recent controversy, when a Minister and some social workers resisted the move by local people and the road development board to cut of a majestic tree stationed right near the junction. The slogans - "without road their will be no development" and "without trees there will not be human existence" were echoed around with the development slogan getting the upperhand and within a day the poor tree was no more.

After Sasthamangalam, there is a steep descent and Maruthankuzhi arrives just after the bridge across the Karamana Lake. From Maruthankuzhi we have to take the right side road and within no time we will feel as if we are climbing a hill.

I used to challenge myself everyday while returning from school to completely cover the steep ascent on this hill without getting down from the bicycle and was really thrilled whenever I managed to do it.

The two turns on this route is reminiscent of the hair pin bends in ghats.

The next junction is the Vettamukku junction, from where we have to go straight in the Thirumala route. Hardly after half a kilometer in this route, look out for the Sreekrishna temple board on the left and take U turn to left to this temple through a narrow road.

The road will come to a dead end beneath this huge rock.

There is a small ground, where we can park our vehicle too

The temple is right on top of this rock. The way to top is through a series of steps which has to be tread slowly and carefully without exhausting one too much.

After the first set of pretty high number of steps a flat landing arrives from where there is the next set of steps. It is at this landing another way to the temple joins. This way starts from the Elippode - Vettamukku route and contains many rocks enroute. As a child I used to climb up this rocky way to reach the temple. I walked down the rocky path just to reliven those memories.

Surprisingly after a little walk down, there were houses on both sides of this track and the track too was not too rocky and there were occasional steps too.

From the landing, another set of steps start.

Once on top, the first thing that we will notice is the altitude we have gained. One look towards the eastern side and we feel as if we are in the middle of a dense forest.

Once we turn slowly towards the northern side, the high rises start to appear amidst the plethora of coconut trees. Most of these high rises sprang up in the last decade or so. Time is not far away when we will be able to see only a few trees amidst the abundant of concrete structures. Praying to God to delay this inevitable as making Trivandrum look like those concrete filled metros will be last thing I want to see.

A construction with a pointed top was visible. Zoomed up close and got an image of the antique building. That was the Kowdiar fort, the dwelling place of erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore Kingdom.

The tomb of the Mar Ivanios College at Nalanchira, is also clearly visible. This place is a good 15 km away from where I am standing.

The race for the tallest among all the structures is won by the yester year's favourite - Doordarshan, thanks to it towering tower almost touching the skies.

As we walk around, we could find another hillock nearby with some houses also making its appearance. This hillock is one of the famous residential areas of Thiruvananthapuram city which was completely filled with dense vegetation until 1975, when housing board took over and constructed many new houses.

This residential area is called PTP Nagar. The place which is so close to my heart since I spent my childhood here.

There were grounds to play, hills to climb, boulders, water filled rocks, but the water tank right on the hill top was the most mesmerizing one. Climbing up the water tank and getting a panaromic view of the whole of Thiruvananthapuram was one of the most favourite activity. Those days I dreamt of being a cricket star, practised hard before local club games, came to this very temple to offer prayers for scoring maximum runs and getting many wickets for the impending match, and comes again to this temple to share my sorrow for not being able to score any runs(since I was the last to bat) or for not getting any wickets (as I was never given the bowling too). But growing up in this housing colony on top of the hillock was one of the best things that happened in my life, since I could have all the village like fun running around through the dense forests, eating raw fruits (oh those mangoes were yummy) eventhough we lived in the city.

Not only that I cherished my moments on top of this rock behind the temple, enjoying the cool breeze and recollecting all the events happening to me either good or bad. I consider myself lucky to have such a great place very close to my home in those days.

The outer area of the temple is now covered and some modernisation drive also seems to have done.

I got inside the temple, prayed for sometime, all the time thinking about my childhood days here. After prayer got ouside the temple and a walk around. Got to see another high rock which is having more height than this one.

There is big piece of rock delicately balanced on top of this big rock. We cannot see that in the above pic, since a tree is covering the view. We feel as if that rock can be easily pulled down. But once we pull it we can feel how strongly it is held to its base. There was a rocky path to climb on top of that rock too. I had climbed once, but it was very scary, hence did not try again. Got to give it a try again in the near future.

Me along with my little ones perched on top of one of those big rocks, clarifying the doubts of my kids who were enquiring about the names of each building which could be sighted from this location.

Needless to mention, kids were also happy to be here and never asked to quickly leave the place, which they often does if they don't find anything interesting. After some more time bid good bye to this temple and to the childhood memories, climbed down the steps of one of the calmest temple in Thiruvananthapuram city situated in one of the coolest sights.

As we reached the bottom, the kids who were playing there saw my camera and asked whether I could click and picture of them and show it to them. The enthusiasm of the kids made me click not one but many pictures. After each snap it was a pleasure watching them make up for the next shot. I enjoyed playing with them too. Watch the proud posing of these lovely kids.

A short but sweet visit, it made me travel down the memory lane. Most importantly I was happy to see this temple in the same shape and having the same ambience as it had some 15 years ago !!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Estuary Island Resorts - The Jack of the Pack

If there is a contest for the best Island resorts of Kerala (or may be India) then Estuary Island Resort is easily going to bag the crown. Situated in a Island at Poovar very near to the Internationally famous Kovalam, this is created in perfect blend with nature and allows tourists to enjoy the calm and serene Neyyar river flowing towards the Arabian sea, a long sprawling beach devoid of any dense tourist population, and all the modern amenities like, swimming pool, health club, games etc.

Our trip to estuary was made by availing a day use package which includes morning snacks, lunch, evening snacks, boating in river, usage of all the facilities from morning till evening all this at a cost of around Rs.800 per person. Infact it is such day use packages which makes us think about going to these resorts. Otherwise we will never think of being at this resort since it is close to our home.

From Thiruvananthapuram we took the bypass to Kovalam. Just before Kovalam junction we took a left turn to Vizhinjam - Poovar road. The Vizhinjam aquarium is in this route.

It is known to have a good collection of marine population. But we did not check it out as it will eat our time to spend in the Estuary Island Resort.

After Poovar we have to take a right turn for which we took driving directions from some native people. After some distance, we saw some cars parked by near a big gate.

On passing the gate, there was a steep decline, with buses and cars parked on its sides.

This was the boat jetty from where we have to catch the boat to the island resort.

The Neyyar river was filled to the brim thanks to the recent rains.

Soon our boat arrived and the boat trip through the calm waters started. A sense of calmness sets in our minds when in the midst of such a calm environment. The greenery on both sides of the river is captivating and where ever we look we find some beauty and we seem to be gliding along.

The river began to open up further and after a boat ride of about 30 minutes we could see a small building at a distance which was the entrance to the resort.

As we were approaching the entry of the resort saw a big makeshift boat carrying a full load of tourists coming out the resort. The satisfaction of having enjoyed a good vacation was writ large on the faces of the travellers.

The calmness of the surroundings was broken only by the sound of the motor and the wakes. The Estuary Island Resorts boat jetty was nearing and we could sense that this place is gonna be a fantastic one.

As we got out of the boat and marched up the steps the first thing that we notice is the neatly paved tiles and the river facing seats

Just lie down on these seats where one could stay for an eternity watching the beautiful Neyyar river and the sea further ahead with the cool sea breeze keeping you cool all the time.

The thought that we are in here for just one day made us all jump up from these laid back seats and go inside to explore further. Just after the pavement near the river side there is a vast area completely sandy and full of coconut trees.

As we walk further inside neatly laid out lawns welcomes us with the beautiful greenery forming a perfect ally for the traditionally architectured Estuary Island Resorts Building in the backdrop.

The lawn was beautifully landscaped with beautiful plants and some small but well thought out craftwork in between. But nothing in this lawn was more attractive than this well maintained bullock cart.

This place no doubt is beautiful and surely eyecatching. The leisurely stroll towards the resort itself has started creating a nice impression in all of us. Close to the main building is a beautiful swimming pool with separate pool for kids and adults.

We went straight to the reception and the formalities were completed in pretty fast times thanks to efficient staff at the front office. The first activity was to have some tea followed by the indoor games. We were also give one room for freshening up and for keeping our belongings. The rooms contains all the basic amenities and are pretty neat.

But the USP for these rooms are the balconies which faces the neyyar river and the sea. Even now I can feel that cool sea winds while stayed put in those easy chairs in the balcony.

This is the view which we get from here.

We had a quick game of Table Tennis. Even though carrom boards, pool table and foosball were available we all opted to go out and have some fun.

While walking through the corridors this beautiful creature attracted my kids attention.

We went to the sprawling sand filled area ahead of the lawn where we could play some outdoor games. We started with volley ball and it sure lifted the spirits of all among us. Interestingly the fun was doubled when even our mothers took part in the game.

The cricket fever in us suddenly sprang up when we could see cricket kit in the sports room and immediately our attention was turned to playing a game a cricket. A metal plate was laid down in the pitching area and we had some real fun for an hour or so.

Time just flew past and it was already time for lunch. The games surely had taken a toll of our energy but being quite close to the sea we never feel exhausted.

The buffet lunch was excellent, and no one had any complaint about any of the dishes available. Infact it seemed to be better than the best of the eateries available elsewhere in trivandrum and it would not be an exageration if I say that it is good enough to take this day package just to enjoy this great lunch.

Immediately after lunch we went straight to the pool.

Luckily the day being a cloudy one, sun was not out and we had a pretty good relaxation at the pool. After taking a quick rest in the pool, we began to play some pool games too.

The stay in the pool was a quite prolonged one as we were not able to get out of the beautiful pool in such a prestine surroundings. It was after about 2 hours when we finally came out of the pool and decided to play some badminton.

There was an antique shop on the way to the badminton court. Needless to say the items on display seemed to be priced a little higher, but the small building and the showpieces was worth gazing at.

Watch where the badminton court is.

Perched in between the plethora of coconut trees who would not want to spent some time here. The refreshed feeling of a bath at the pool ensured that we had good energy levels to flex our muscles here too.

The kids had a good time at the nearby kids park.

One more item in the day package was remaining which was a boat ride through the Neyyar river to the sea shore. As it was close to 5pm we decided to make this journey too. Wonder how it became evening so soon. One of those days which just flies past.

We were again near the boat jetty of the island resort.

The beach could be seen on the other side of the river. Sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds and it was looking quite magnanimous behind those dark clouds.

Soon the boat arrived and we were ready for the sail. I simply fell in love with this place and at times was quite confused on whether I should be shooting down pictures or enjoying the facilities. I was shooting pics of the boat which itself seemed so beautiful in this setting while others were ready for the sail.

It took just five minutes to reach the beach. Oh I have no words to describe this beach. A very long sprawling beach just for us. It seemed as if we are the only ones in this beach. A perfect setting for that romantic holiday.

Behind us we could see the beautiful Island resort.

There were some floating cottages too. I am not sure whether they are the property of the Estuary Island resorts or another resort in the vicinity.

We started running around the beach, creating new interesting games, jumping over the lashing waves and it was a splendid experience.

It was getting darker and the boat driver told us that he has to return before 6 pm. Reluctanly we decided to return back to the island resort. While walking back I could see some activity at a distance where some local boys were playing. Surprisingly they had hidden one among them underneath the sand.

We were back at the resort and it was time for the evening tea which was served in those splendid lawns. All of us were discussing on how great a place it was. This little creature was giving us company right through our tea session.

It was time for our return, the bills were settled quickly, the manager and staff were really courteous and we set out to where our vehicle was parked in a boat.

Eventhough we have availed the day package facilities of Aquaserene (near the backwaters in Kollam), Ashtamudi resorts (Kollam), Punnamada resort (alappuzha), this was the most enterprising and the most flawless. The location, the facilities, and over above the attitude of staff has made us addicted to this location and we soon will be back here not just to use the day package but to spend atleast a day or two here even though it is so close to our home.


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