This past April, Pam was invited on a guided tour through Southern India. Her route included Bangalore, Coorg, Mysore, Calicut, Kochi, and Alleppey. Here’s her feedback:
The first afternoon in Bangalore (Bengaluru) we toured the Lal Bagh Gardens there. This is a large botanical garden with trees and plants imported from around the world, then continued to the Bull Temple which had a huge, carved bull in black stone.
The next morning we left for about a 4 hour drive to Hassan, visiting a Jain temple called Shravanabelagola along the way. This temple was at the top of a huge granite outcrop, and you had to climb 712 hand-carved stairs to get to it. This is one I had to miss because I just couldn’t make it. You had to go barefoot or in socks, the rocks were slick, and there were all those stairs!
We also stopped at the Hoysalesvara Temple at Helebid, which is a star-shaped temple, covered with beautiful carvings of Hindu gods, animals and birds. There was a temple festival going on while we were there, and this was a highlight of things to see – families were out in their best clothes, bringing flower offerings and offerings of coconuts, which were handed to priests who then smashed them open – quite a mess with coconut water and shells everywhere.
Continuing on the road, the driver just stopped by the side of the road at a random village and told us that we could get out and wander through. Again everybody who lived there was surprised to see us and the one person who spoke English asked us why we were stopping, but then proceeded to give us an impromptu tour of the town, including a visit to his own house and showing off his newborn calf.
Coorg (Kodagu) is in the hills and much cooler than lower elevations, so many resorts have been built there and Indian families go there for vacations. We stayed at the Heritage Resort which one of a chain of hotels owned by Indo-Asia Tours. It was very comfortable with individual cabanas stretching up a hill – at the top of the hill was the restaurant and pool, with fantastic views over the mountains. That evening I went to visit a different hotel – the Orange County Hotel which was exquisite. They were built in a coffee plantation, with individual villas with plunge pools, gorgeous landscaping, 3 or 4 restaurants.
On our drive from Coorg to Mysore, we stopped at the Namdroling Monastery, the largest Tibetan settlement in India. The Indian government has given the Tibetan refugees some land to government autonomously – you pass over a border, go through some farmland, and come to a very large and active Tibetan monastery. It has been there since the 1950’s when the refugees left Tibet.
More photos can be viewed here. Stay Tuned Until Friday for her comments on Mysore to Alleppey!