Train Travel – Sleeper Class

Of late, I have been traveling by train more often. We recently took the 24 hour train to Mumbai as a family, traveling in AC coaches. Recently, I took the overnight train to Kerala, traveling sleeper class after a very long time.

I have always enjoyed train travel, liking nothing more than sitting by the window watching the world go by. As a child, I used to look forward to the long (30+ hours) journey from Mumbai to Kerala as much, if not more than, actually visiting Kerala and meeting family. But as I grew older (and with a family), whatever occasional train travel we did was in AC coaches.

While these are very comfortable, they just do not provide the same fun as the Sleeper class where one can open the windows and feel the wind in your face. Which is why, when I had to go to Kerala by myself recently, I took the opportunity to travel by Sleeper class.

The journey to Kerala was in a new coach. It was clean and quite comfortable. The only aspect where I felt that the older coaches were better were in the design of the window bars. Regular train travelers would know that, in the older sleeper coaches, the window bars bend outwards slightly. This is just enough that, if one were to place your face flush against the bar and peer out, you could get a great view along the sides of the train and catch glimpses of the engine around bends. In the new coach, sadly, the bars are straight. Which means that one does not get the same pleasure of peering out the window. Nevertheless, it is still far more fun that the sealed windows of AC coaches.

The return journey was on an older coach. And it was less crowded than the outward journey. The other pleasure of train travel, though definitely not recommended, is to stand by the open door and get a widescreen view of the scenery. This is, as one can image, a popular pastime, so I was quite surprised to find that the doors of the train were vacant and I was able to enjoy the beautiful Kerala countryside.

Some photos from the journey below:

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Bird watching at Hebbal Lake

It’s been a while since I have indulged in my hobby for bird watching. So it was with some excitement that I made my way to Hebbal Lake on Sunday to join the bird watching session organised by Bngbirds every first Sunday of the month at Hebbal Lake, to the north of Bangalore.

Hebbal Lake is a fair distance away from where I live in Bangalore, but thanks to the reasonable efficient bus transport, I was able to reach it comfortably and inexpensively.

It was a cold, quiet morning with surprisingly few people around, even at 7:30 am. We were a diverse group of 10 and observed birds from the periphery of the lake for about a couple of hours.

The list of birds seen:

  1. Great Cormorant
  2. Little Cormorant
  3. Darter
  4. Purple Heron
  5. Indian Pond Heron
  6. Cattle Egret
  7. Median Egret
  8. Little Egret
  9. Oriental White Ibis or Black Headed Ibis
  10. Northern Pintail
  11. Spot-billed Duck
  12. Black Kite
  13. Brahminy Kite
  14. Shikra
  15. Booted Eagle
  16. White-breasted Waterhen
  17. Purple Moorhen
  18. Common Sandpiper
  19. Asian Koel
  20. White-breasted Kingfisher
  21. House Crow
  22. Jungle Crow
  23. Red-throated (Taiga?) Flycatcher
  24. Blyth’s Reed-Warbler
  25. Great Tit
  26. Tickell’s Flowerpecker
  27. Purple-rumped Sunbird
Hebbal Lake
Hebbal Lake
Hebbal Lake 2
Flowering tree – Hebbal Lake

Mumbai

Born and brought up in Mumbai, I must admit that I still have a fondness for the city, even though I have not lived there now for over 10 years. Having lived in many cities around the globe, I do genuinely believe that it’s a global / world city. Natural beauty, culture and heritage, food, mix of people from all walks of life, the city has it all.

I spent Diwali in Mumbai, the first time in a few years that I got the chance to spend about a week in the city. Yes, the city has changed and will continue to do so, but it felt like many things are for the better. There is massive construction work going on which is disrupting traffic, but at the end of it, Mumbai should have a world class metro system in place, even if many years late. Juhu Beach was the cleanest I have ever seen it, roads seemed in good condition (except for the construction work for the metro). Public transport was as good as ever. I am presently living in Bangalore, and one of the most fascinating things about Mumbai transport is the fact that you can hail an auto or taxi from the street and they will run on the meter and even give you back Rs. 1 in change!

The food as always, was fantastic, especially the street food. I am yet to find as delicious chaats such as Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, not to mention Vada Pav as the ones you will find at any roadside stall in Mumbai.

The only downside to Mumbai (other than the omnipresent crowds) is the weather. And yes, it was hot and humid even in early November. But for everything else that the city offers, I am willing to live with it!

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Have you spent time in Mumbai? What are your thoughts?

Nandi Hills

Nandi Hills is one of the more popular day trip destinations from Bangalore. Though I had visited this a couple of times during my first stint in Bangalore, we had never made it here in the two and a half year since we moved back to the garden city. So when we were discussing places for a day trip the other day, we decided to visit Nandi Hills.

We hired a car from Zoomcar and drove down the Devenahalli highway. After a stop for a late breakfast soon after the airport exit, we arrived at Nandi Hills around noon. It was an overcast day and quite cool atop the hill, which made for a pleasant afternoon.

We visited the standard tourist places – the lookouts, Yoga Nandishwara temple, Tipu’s Drop and the Amrith Sarovar. The last was a pleasant surprise – a stepped pond surrounded by thick greenery with a walkway around it. Tipu’s ‘Summer Palace’ is also located here.

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After a late lunch at the base of Nandi Hills, we went to pay respects to one of India’s greatest engineers – M Visvesaraya. Located at Muddenahalli village a few kilometres from Nandi Hills is the house where he was born and a neat, well maintained memorial. The house itself now contains a small museum dedicated to his life.

Finally, on the way back, we stopped at what I consider an absolute must-visit while in Bangalore – the Bhoga Nandishwara temple. I have written about it earlier and delighted to say that the second visit was as memorable as the first.

Kanchipuram – Temples in Stone

It’s always been on my bucket list to visit the temple town of Kanchipuram, in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. For some reason or other, I could never make it to this town when I was living in Chennai and later Bangalore for about 4 years previously. So I was delighted when we finally made plans to visit Kanchipuram on our way back from Mahabalipuram.

We stayed in a hotel close to the city centre and walking distance to the Kanchi Kamakshi temple. On our way to the temple in the evening, we visited the Ulagalanda Perumal temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in his Vamana avatara with a large idol of the Lord that it over 30 feet high.

Ulagalanda Perumal temple
Ulagalanda Perumal temple

We then visited the Kamakshi Amman temple dedicated to Goddess Kamakshi. This is one of the most famous temples in Kanchipura and reportedly the only temple dedicated to the Goddess. It is a big temple with large gopurams that were well lit up.

The next morning, I visited the Sri Pavala Vannar temple. This is a old temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There were hardly anyone else the morning I visited and the ambience was serene and peaceful.

Pavala Vannar temple
Pavala Vannar temple

It is said that one must combine a visit to this temple with a visit to the Pachai Vannar temple located a few hundred metres away. So I visited this temple too and again had a peaceful visit with hardly any other devotees.

We then visited the Ekambaranathar temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva and spread over an area of 25 acres, this is one of the largest temples in India. As with many of the old temples in South India, this one also had some incredible sculptures. We again had a very peaceful time at this temple.

On the way out of Kanchipuram, we visited the Kailasnathar temple. This is reportedly the oldest structure in Kanchipuram and was simply fascinating. One of the interesting aspects of this temple are the numerous small shrines built into the inner face of the high compound wall. The temple was closed when we visited in the afternoon, so we could only admire the intricate stone carvings all around the temple compound.

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