Christmas Decor @ Orion Mall, Bengaluru

Christmas Decor at Orion Mall, Bengaluru (Slideshow) from Rajesh K on Vimeo.

Recently we went to Bengaluru for a function and a meet. Since we had some time in hand, we decided to go to the ISKCON Temple. But as we reached the venue one-hour before opening (after lunch) we went across the road to the check out the neighboring Orion Mall, the third largest mall in Bengaluru with an artificial lake and fountain. Orion Mall is near Sandal Soap factory Metro station at Mahalakshmi layout near ISKCON.

Since we went there during the festival time (Christmas), the mall was decorated with Christmas Trees, Snowman, and other Christmas props. A slideshow with a few photos taken by us with the Christmas decor is embedded above. Have a look 🙂

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If you wanted to see the artificial lake, here it is >>  (Sorry Fountain was not operational when we went)

artificial lake at orion mall, bengaluru

Our Visit to Chennai Rail Museum’s Joy Train :)

I have been to Regional Rail Museum, Chennai a few years back. But now this museum seems to have changed its name to Chennai Rail Museum and there is a lot of art to be seen everywhere, in addition to the antique rail models, coaches and engines! Have a look at an arty rail coach here –

Chennai Rail Museum - Art all over a rail coach!

They have also installed various artworks at many places across the museum. Here is a painting created by a few kids of the ICF family –

Chennai rail museum - art by kids

Last time, I did not go for a ride in the little joy train there. Actually, it’s a real train that runs on real tracks. Just that it’s relatively small 🙂

Frankly, traveling on that little train seemed like a childish thing to do (back then – during my previous visit). But with age, it seems like I have rediscovered the child in me, as this time we not only went in that joy train but we have also created an elaborate video from that ride (embedded above). In fact, the joy train ride was the focus of our visit. Hmm… 🙂

If you are also interested in rediscovering the child in you, here are the timings for the joy train ride 🙂

The ticket cost of Rs. 40 now includes permission to take photos in cell phone and one joy train ride. Rejoice, all you Chennaiiets 🙂

If you are planning a visit here, just don’t go on a Monday – it’s the weekly holiday. For more details and pics, refer to my earlier blog post.

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Mangal Eri Park @ Mogappair – Park around a Lake!

Mangal Eri Park – Mogappair West, Chennai. 

I like the Mangal Eri park at Mogappair, Chennai mainly for one reason – the park is built around a lake. It seems the lake covers around 5 acres and the walkway built around it covers about 500 meters.

They are constructing amenities in the park and it is not as impressive as larger parks like the neighboring Tower park (yet) but this one, like the Chitlambakkam eri park, sets an important precedent – the importance of having neighborhood lakes at every area. If it comes with a park with walkway around it, even better.

The corporation is already building a number of parks and I think every area has at least one – many actually. But I don’t see a lake or a water body anywhere. Most of the existing lakes have been/are converted into real estate, and we’ve already seen the disastrous effect that can have during the 2015 floods.

It’s important to have neighborhood lakes because it acts as a reservoir for rainwater, it recharges the groundwater table, excess rainwater can be diverted into these lakes hence avoiding flooding, it enables aqua-ecosystems like fishes, birds, plants, etc. to flourish, it is possible to have leisure activities like boating, it reduces pollution and encourages walking, exercising, playing for kids, etc.

And best of all, a park + lake looks so fresh and green to the eyes! I wish corporation would make it mandatory to have at least one lake in each area, like how they have done with parks.

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Our Visit to Nanganallur Anjaneyar Temple, Chennai

After a long time of wanting to go to the Nanganallur Anjaneyar Temple, we finally made it today 🙂 We went to the Temple by taking the road that goes to the Airport from Guindy, and then turning right at the Inner Ring Road just after the Officers Training Academy Metro Station/Mount Manor Hotel. Then you need to go around 500m forward and take a right below the MRTS flyover.

The exact Google Maps location for this Tempe is here.

Temple Timings: 5 A.M. to 12 P.M. & 4.30 P.M. to 9 P.M.

Pooja Details: Official Website.

Here is the board just outside the Temple giving more details:

Nanganallur Anjaneyar Temple - Timings
I should complement the Temple authorities for being very organized. Unlike other Temples, the Archana materials are not taken by the main priest. Instead, we need to deposit them to another priest on our way and then take our plate back once the Darshan is over, from a nearby counter. They have a token system for this to ensure we get back our materials.

Unlike other Temples, money is not charged for keeping our footwear (although there is a token system) and there are no prasadams available for sale. We really wanted to eat the Famous Puliyodharai here, but we got to eat only Sundal and Milagu-Pongal. What to do, we couldn’t resist going back and collecting the prasadam twice as the item was changed while we were eating the first round 😀

We enquired as to when Puliyodharai will be available, and one visitor said that it should be available on weekday evenings. We are planning to go back on a weekday, needless to say 😛

The approach and helping nature of the Iyers present at this Temple also impressed us. A pleasant experience, combined with Darshan of 32-feet Anjaneya. If we had got the Puliyodharai, this would have been the perfect Temple experience 🙂

Since photos are not allowed inside the Temple, here is our selfie from outside –

Nanganallur Anjaneya Temple, Chennai

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PS: BTW, coming to the weird things we do regularly, we made a Cinemagraph recently – have a look 🙂

Pics of Flowers @ Rose Gardens, Munnar

Here is a slideshow with the photos of a few flowers that we took during our visit to Rose Gardens, Munnar, Kerala last year. I should have made this post a long time back, but glad I made it at least now!

The Rose Gardens, Munnar, Kerala is also called Munnar Floriculture Center and is maintained by Kerala Forest Development Center. It is located in the Munnar-Mettupatty Road, on the way to Mettupatty Dam, boating, and other tourist places, from Munnar.

There are many flowers and we saw some rare varieties too, but the place itself is not very big. It can be easily covered in half-an-hour. Strangely, given the name of this place, we were surprised not to find any roses! But we went more than a year back so they might have planted a few now 🙂

The entrance ticket is nominal and there is a separate ticket for the camera. I think I remember seeing some shops selling tea, snacks, gift items, etc. around this area.

The tea-estate hill view is awesome from inside this park. All our photos were of flowers or with flowers. I suggest you don’t forget to take a selfie with the mountain background too.

It seems there is a homestay/farm resort near the Rose Gardens. Since we stayed in a tree house, we didn’t explore this option. More information about the farm resort can be found here.

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Our Visit to Kaveri Maha Pushkarani, Mayiladuthurai

So last Sunday (24.9.2017) we went to Kaveri Pushkarani/Pushkar at Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. Generally, Kaveri Pushkarani is celebrated once in 12-years. But this year is special as it is the year of Kaveri Maha Pushkarani/Pushkaram where a special alignment of stars occurs once in 144 years! For more details refer to this Wikipedia article.

This festival is observed for a period of 12-days and this year it was held from Sept. 12 to Sept. 24, 2017. We were lucky to have found time to visit and take a dip in the water on the very last day.

We poured water on ourselves from some tanks/wells set-up (initially by Medival Cholas) at this location. Maybe due to the heavy crowd, the water was quite muddy. You can see it in the above slideshow. Besides, it seems there is not much water in Kaveri.

We went to a couple of Temples next to this Pushkar location and returned to Chennai on the next day. Many notables including Kanchi Acharyas and even EPS visited this holy place this year.

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Live Art Museum – VGP Snow Kingdom, Chennai

The Live Art Museum contains life-like 3D replicas/models of a few famous personalities in Silicone (instead of wax, which is generally used to make replicas). You can not only see the replicas of famous people, but you can also take a selfie with all of them 🙂

Some of the replicas/models we found when we visited include Amitabh Bachchan, Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwazzanegar, MS Dhoni, Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Chan, Mona Lisa, Sai Baba, Mother Teresa, etc.

This museum has been put up by Mr. AP Sreethar who also put up the neighboring Click Art Museum and Vintage Camera Gallery. The organizers say that this is the world’s first exhibition of silicone replica models, and they claim that silicone is a better material than wax to make models looks more lifelike.

We went to the VGP Snow Kingdom, located one floor below, before visiting the Live Art Museum. Since we bought the Snow Kingdom tickets, we were able to buy tickets for Live Art Museum at Rs. 100/- each (combo). Otherwise, I think each ticket costs Rs. 150/-. Ticket pricing keeps changing, please refer to their website for the firm pricing when you visit.

So who wants to visit the Madame Tussauds of Chennai?? 😉

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Timing is same as the VGP Snow Kingdom, 10 A.M. to 8 P.M. Here is the exact Google Maps location.

Play with Snow in Chennai: VGP Snow Kingdom

The VGP Snow Kingdom, near VGP Golden Beach, is an excellent snow-based theme park in Chennai where you can walk, touch, and play with snow. Maybe ice. I guess since they maintain the 14,000 sq. feet of space at Minux Six Deg. C the snow doesn’t melt.

The Snow Kingdom is right next to VGP Golden Beach & Resorts campus and in the same building as the Click Art Museum. We went there on a Monday afternoon and hence there was not much crowd. The ticket cost was Rs. 450 per adult when we went. Sometimes they run deals that offer a lower ticket price on their website – you can also book tickets online there.

They give a thick jacket, rubber boots, and gloves for everyone to better manage the cold-temp inside. Initially, we halted in an acclimatization area which is slightly cooler. After being there for a few minutes, we were let in.

We were able to FEEL the COLD almost immediately!

For the first few minutes, I was just standing or walking slowly and trying to adjust to the temperature. If you want to take photos inside, there is another issue – you need to remove the gloves! It’s difficult to remove the gloves for longer durations. I did touch the snow a couple of times with bare hands. It was like touching the ice in our fridge 🙂

There is a small resting room (maintained at a higher temperature) near the exit gate where people can go to temporarily get some respite from the cold. I think I went there twice during the 45-minutes session. Whenever I entered that area, my glasses were filled with mist and I had to wipe them off.

There were a few rides. One could skate down the slope sitting on a round tube or lying down on a sledge. For kids, there is a smaller slope. One can know how it feels like to trek over the Himalayas by climbing a small similar setup here. Of course, I didn’t try any of these 🙂

There is a small igloo, there are a few polar bear & sea elephants, there are snow world dolls, there are houses, there are mountains, etc. These locations are great for taking nice photos and selfies. You can see most of them in the above-embedded video. BTW, our new friend narrates our travel story to the Snow Kingdom in the video – so don’t miss 🙂

I think the Snow Kingdom is best enjoyed during a hot afternoon in Chennai. Once you step out make sure to walk briskly to the shops at the neighboring VGP Golden Beach and drink a hot coffee/tea. You’ll need it 🙂

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Timing: 10 A.M. to 8 P.M.; Open all 365 days.

Thrill Valley Adventure Theme Park – Yelagiri Hills, Tamil Nadu

Thrill Valley Adventure Theme Park @ Yelagiri Hills, Tamil Nadu, South India is a nice place to visit if you like adventure games/sports. However, my favorite activity at this park is the Petting Zoo 🙂

Yelagiri is a relatively small hill station (30 sq. KM) located at a low altitude of 1000m. So the place is not as cold as Ooty or Kodai. Luckily for people like me who are comfortable in warmer temperatures, this is the perfect hill station 🙂 It is also relatively close to Vellore and Chennai.

We went to the usual park and boating at Yelagiri, but those were not that interesting. Then we spotted the “Thrill Valley” adventure theme park board and decided to venture in. The gate was around 1 KM inside from the main road – we went in a car, but autos are available from the Nature Park/Punganoor lake entrance.

You can see the above-embedded slideshow to get a better idea about the activities available at Thrill Valley. As an adventure non-enthusiast, I liked the petting zoo and archery. But there are many adventure games in this park including the human slingshot, zurfing, zip line, ATV, zorbing & fwolang boats for kids, rope course, etc.

Although these activities (some of them not available anywhere else – at least not nearby) would attract younger adventure & games enthusiasts like students/friends coming in groups, we wished there were more activities for families and older individuals. Of course, this is an ‘adventure’ theme park and the management has done full justice to that theme.

This place is well staffed and the staff guided us well. Unlike in cities, there is not much crowd – hence no wasting time waiting in queues. Hope they would add a small canteen to buy food/drinks in the future.

Thrill Valley is a much-needed entertainment park in the quickly-becoming-popular hill station of Yelagiri, which even has a major railway junction (Jolarpet) near the foothills.

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An Epic Trip to our Ancestral Hometown (Ramayapatnam)

Recently, around 43 people from four branches of our ‘Kollu’ family tree decided to visit our Ancestral village – Ramayapatnam, near Kavali/Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, India. This is the village where our grandfather’s father lived.

I have not been to Ramayapatnam before but I have heard many stories about this village from my grandmother. So I wanted to visit our ancestral place at least once and came up with the idea we could all visit our Ancestral place together. Elder family members were impressed with the idea and brought it to fruition : )

It’s one thing to visit a place, but it’s another thing to meet many distant relatives at one place — some of whom I have seen many years ago and some I am seeing for the first time.

We went to our Ancestral home at Ramayapatnam, but people who live there were out of station so we could just see it from outside. We performed some poojas in our Ancestral Temple and also visited our Ancestral beach 😉

We were surprised to know that this village has beach resorts. To add to our surprise, these beach resorts were all booked during the weekend we visited and we had to stay in the nearby town – Kavili for the night!

Almost everyone knew our great-grandfather’s family who stayed there before 3-4 decades. They even knew the names of our grandfathers – a couple whom even made it to this reunion 🙂 I think it’s important to keep in touch with our roots – it’s because of them we are here.

I feel this was an epic trip because four generations of people from three different states and four towns agreed to travel and meet at one place. If you live in the city, you know how difficult this can be – especially during these times as families are distributed all around the world.

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PS: Don’t forget to watch the photo slideshow video embedded above with the highlights of this trip.

PS-2: Since we are settled in Chennai for three generations, we don’t even mention the name of our ancestral village – when asked. But now we can 🙂