Sunday, May 29, 2011

Of mango forests and lazy rivers...

I had mentioned earlier that we had been on a short vacation to India recently. So during our vacation, we thought of heading out somewhere nearby maybe for a short trip. I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting the done-to-death tourist spots of Ooty, Kodai, Yercaud etc and was looking for a different kind of place. We just wanted to spend some time relaxing, taking in nature and enjoying some solitude. Several options were discussed and subsequently rejected due to one reason or the other. Then my father-in-law produced a paper cutting which he had saved from months ago. It was about a charming resort called Double Dutch Resort in a remote place in Tamilnadu. No one we spoke to had ever heard of the place. After a lot of discussion we decided to give it a go anyway, albeit with a little apprehension. And so we started off on our journey towards Dindugal.

After stopping in Dindugal for lunch and savouring the popular and quite expensive if I may say so, Dindugal Thalapakatti biryani (which btw I didn’t particularly enjoy - though the others did) we set about enquiring the route to our destination. Being off-the-beaten-track made this place a little difficult to spot. Eventually after many a phone call to the resort, stopping and asking people “vellakaaranga nadathura hotelkku eppadi poganum?” (“How do we go to the hotel run by some foreigners") and several wrong turns later - we finally arrived at Double Dutch Resort.

The resort was everything it promised to be. The only problem we had was that there was no air conditioning :-( Since we had landed in April, although it was not as swelteringly hot as in Chennai it was still a little too warm for our comfort. The very helpful caretaker informed us that there was another resort further up the hills which was equipped with AC and so we thanked him and went on our way on a rater bumpy dirt road to find this other resort named Wild Rock. I must say it is truly a hidden gem.

Wild Rock is situated further up the hills and so is in an advantageous position to boast of a grand, sweeping view of a beautifully still lake reflecting lush green forests and a gushing waterfall in the distance - all set amidst jagged, rocky cliffs. This resort is relatively new on the scene and so we did have a few minor glitches-such as the AC dripping water into the room (although it was fixed soon) and pretty dim lighting – which made reading a pain. But on the whole it is a clean and comfy homestay with friendly and attentive staff. Food is also very homey and you can ask for whatever you want to have for the next meal-it will be promptly whipped up for you.

After a good night’s sleep, we set off for a short trek which led us through a mango farm with mango trees heavily laden with luscious fruit. We just had to reach up and pluck a few, fresh off the trees! We ended our trek at a small, winding river. We waded through it, found dome sun-dappled and smooth rocks and spent some time just lying in the cool, rushing waters looking up into the blue skies with wispy clouds, listening to the chirruping of birds and the buzzing of the bees and dreaming about heaven :-)

We stayed for a couple of days at Wild Rock and we were quite happy about our decision to check this place out. They have lovely gardens and we are told that a wide variety of birds come to visit, including peacocks-although unfortunately we didn't spot any. As I said, it was warm being summer but I imagine that everything would be just perfect if one visited sometime from Nov-Feb. Wild Rock is planning to expand and construction of a swimming pool was in progress while we were there. The resort is near the villages of Aathur and Sembatti close to the Kamaraj Valley. Next time if you are looking for a short, peaceful getaway away from the hustle and bustle of city life-do give wonderful Wild Rock Resort a shot! You will not be disappointed!

The area also has other resorts whose primary focus is on eco-tourism and providing a serene atmosphere to their guests. A few that we spotted are Cardomom House, Lakeside Guest House and Peacock House. Reviews from Tripadvisor if you are interested.

Image: Road to Wild Rock.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mind Your Manners Please!

I would say that good manners and etiquette often varies from place to place and culture to culture. For example, while I was working in the US, the Americans whom I worked with always used to pop this question “How are you?” almost every time they saw me-even if we happened to cross paths 4 or 5 times a day. It took me a while to realize that it is a rhetoric question and more like saying “Hi!” than anything else. No one really expects you to tell how them how exactly you are feeling. To be honest, I found it a little phony. I mean why can’t we just stick to a simple “Hello”? I’m sure people in India would give one a weird look if one kept posing this question every single time you met.

In India if anyone walks into someone’s home with their footwear on, its sure to create a hullabaloo - on the other hand, in most foreign countries I’m sure people would raise eyebrows if you padded barefoot into their homes.

Also we Indians are much more inquisitive about everybody’s lives. We want to know everything about him, her, their aunt and their distant cousins all included. Often I’ve been subjected to relentless grilling about my life on many a flight by many an aunty or granny! But then shouldn’t there be a line somewhere? There are some manners which are universal-such as saying “Thanks” and “Please”. Similarly there are some questions which you just can’t, or rather shouldn't ask. Of late, I’ve realized that many people are either simply unaware that it is not good manners to ask certain questions or are just not bothered about the inappropriateness of their questioning. So unless you are in a position where we BOTH think of each other as really (and I mean REALLY) good friends or a close family member, kindly refrain from asking these questions - and even if you do fall into the above category, please exercise some restraint!

1.“So when are you getting married?”: Thankfully I’m past this question. But until a couple of years back, it really used to irritate me. I pity the people who are still subjected to this one. Maybe everyone needs to follow the idea of this popular joke?

When I was young I didn't like going to weddings. My grandmother would tell me, "You're next" However, she stopped doing that after I started saying the same thing to her at funerals.

2.“So any good news?”: Now that I have successfully overcome the above obstacle, it’s time for the next question! Good news…. Hmm well lets c… I’m alive, I have a comfortable home and generous husband and loving family and a job I love doing. Isn’t that enough good news?! Any other “good news” is completely the personal business of mine and my husband-I don’t see why we need to keep you informed! So please just stop asking-before things start getting really ugly!!! You have been warned. (Yes YOU!)

3.“So how much do you earn?”: Yikes! I still remember once when I was a small kid, I was at my mother’s office simply running around and doing what kids generally do. One of my mom’s young colleague used to be friendly with me. One day for some reason, I asked him “So how much is your salary?” He gave me a look and asked me “Didn’t anyone teach you that it is bad manners to ask such a thing?” I was so ashamed. In case no one ever taught YOU that it is bad manners to ask people how much they earn, I am putting it down here. Now you know. So unless you are from the Income Tax dept or a potential employer willing to pay me atleast three times of what I earn now - please do not ask me this question ever again!!

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Restaurant With A Difference

We just got back from a lovely trip to India and I am still getting over the vacation hangover! We had a pretty good time with family and friends, inspite of the sweltering heat and power cuts! But still it is “namma Chennai” and it was indeed a lil bugging to come back. Nevertheless what needs to be done, needs to be done and so it was done ;-)

Coming to the topic of this post, one fine evening my husband and I were planning to head out for dinner and I wanted to try out some new place which we hadn’t checked out earlier. Since I am the one in the travel planning business, the onus of picking a good restaurant was on me. After some enquiries, we decided to go to a restaurant called ‘Kipling’s Café’.
And boy! Are we glad we did!

Kipling’s Café is located off ECR. If you are heading from Chennai then it should be on a small lane on your left, just after Hot Kitchen, Malgudi, Delhi Dhaba – before the Toll Gate. It is a large bungalow, renovated charmingly into a pleasant and welcoming restaurant. There is a terrace but we chose to be seated at one of the dreamy, Goan style cabanas/huts in the garden. Surrounded by lush greenery, listening to frog’s croaking in the distance and with a cool sea breeze gently ruffling my hair-the ambiance was just perfect! The food is a mix of Mediterranean and Asian and was scrumptious. The service was pretty polite and friendly too.

I’m not sure how many of you are aware of this place as it is tucked away in an unassuming corner literally in the outskirts of the city. But it is a wonderful place to have a cozy, romantic dinner or a fun lunch with family or a small group of close friends. I wouldn’t recommend it for larger groups – for one thing the place leans more towards 'Elegance' rather than 'Boisterous' and for the other, food is slightly on the expensive side. Also be aware that if you only like spicy Indianised versions of international cuisine, you might not particularly enjoy the food here-because the chefs at Kipling’s Café try to maintain the authenticity of the food, with regards to both taste and ingredients.

A word of caution: The restaurant is located in a posh area and is surrounded by huge bungalows with high walls. Apart from that, it is pretty deserted and lonely. We went there a little after dark and it was kind of isolated. So I would advise you to go a little early

But on the whole, we had a memorable time and will definitely go back. If you are looking for a peaceful experience away from the hustle and bustle of the vibrant city, then do check out Kipling's cafe!

Some reviews from Tripadvisor if you are interested.

Image Courtesy: Dreamstime


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