August Break

The last one year has seen a series of things happening in our lives and the question of a vacation or break seemed sometimes impossible and sometimes untimely. We set our new home and yes it did take up a lot of our energies and efforts and the saga continues. Ask any home owner and they would concur. But all said and done, we did plan out a week’s break away from home. My husband and I love travelling and with areas around Hyderabad being so deprived of proper weekend getaways, we were dying to be out of Hyd.

We decided to plan our own trip itinerary with the primary push of finding of (mind you) cheap air-tickets; took a flight from Hyd to Bangalore and then immediately a train to Mysore. Our first stop was in Mysore, for two days and we were staying in the Infosys – Mysore campus.

Mysore Infosys Campus
Mysore Infosys Campus

Infy employees can avail a weekend’s accommodation in the campus, subject to prior booking and availability. I have visited a number of Infosys’ campuses around the country but this facility takes the cake. I am pretty sure that it must be one of the best training facilities in the world. The accommodation is 4 star with stylish, modern and comfortable designing. Our guest house was styled as per Spanish villas and the facility has – four screen multiplex, bowling alley, umpteen number of tennis courts, pool tables, shuttle courts, basket-ball courts, volley ball court  and squash courts. Added to all this a spa-like swimming pool, football ground with running track and a complete cricket ground with a pavilion. May be the only thing missing was the night playing facility for the cricket ground ;). We spent the better part of our first day touring the campus.

Our acco on the Mysore campus
Our acco on the Mysore campus

Each of the training and development building is in itself a lovely piece of architecture and added to all this, some of Infy’s trademark landscaping. I suppose for the trainees, once they are done with the initial phase the saying of “picture abhi baaki hai yaar” would start when they are moved to others development centers ;).

In spite of all this, we had to get out of the campus to see the city and Mysore was a delight in itself. The public transport facility is pretty good, but we went by a cab, as we had a single day to cover all the places. We visited the Chamundi temple, atop a hill and then the Mysore Maharaja Palace, via the Maha Nandi statue. It could

Maha Nandi
Maha Nandi

be one of the younger Indian palaces, re-built in early 1900s after a fire that burnt down the original palace. It has influences from Hindu, Muslim and English architecture. The marriage hall/ceremonies hall is a spectacular stained glass arena, with beautiful Indian motives. I especially liked the main hall where the King entertained his chosen guests or the Diwan-e-khas and didn’t quite feel like coming out of it (unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside the palace).

Mysore Palace
Mysore Palace

We then proceeded to Srirangapatnam and saw Tipu Sultan’s summer palace. His fort in Srirangapatnamhas been in ruins for long and it was a little depressing and heart wrenching to see the place where Tipu’s body was found after the final battle.

It was now time to move on from history to nature and we went to the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary. This lovely sanctuary is located on the banks of the Cauvery River and tourists are taken on a boat ride in the river. Due to the higher water levels that day, boating was not permitted, but I must still say, the place was

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

divine. Beautiful tall trees, sounds of various birds chirping away and the quiet and peace of it all rejuvenated us completely. After a well spent time, we proceeded to the famous Brindavan gardens. To its credit the gardens are pretty well maintained, but I felt they could do much better. Probably having seen so many other places around the world which are of much larger size and magnitude has spoiled me ;). This is surely no place for any kind of peace and tranquility as the gardens were swarming with people. We chose to see the lighting at the Mysore Maharaja palace and without much ado, bid a goodbye to Brindavan gardens. I must admit, the palace lighting is worth the sight. Do not ever miss it. The moment one sees the whole palace lit up in one go, the sense of energy and happiness that one enjoys is beyond words. Even after a long day’s sight-seeing, this last sight made me feel suddenly very alive.

Mysore Palace - All Lit Up
Mysore Palace - All Lit Up

The next day we proceeded to Ooty via Bandipur Wildlife Reserve. This forest is called Mudumalai Forest Reserve by the Tamil Nadu Government. One can take up cottages here and stay in wilderness for a few days or just stop by on your way to Ooty to take a 45 minute jungle safari.

We managed to spot some animals – deer, langoor, elephants, mongoose, etc, but were not so fortunate to see a tiger. The Safari timings are from early morning 6 to 9 and then start from 4 in the evening to 6 P.M. It is said that one should take the safari either at dawn or dusk to see maximum number of animals. We had to take the 4 ‘o’ clock safari as we had to reach Ooty by nightfall. We had our own adventure here, because we opted for public transport instead of a cab and finally managed to reach Ooty,

A view from Hotel Sherlock, Ooty
A view from Hotel Sherlock, Ooty

negotiating the 36 hairpins on our way by night fall. We had booked Hotel Sherlock in Ooty. A nice, quaint, small cottage like hotel with just nine rooms and each room being named either after Sherlock Holmes’ characters or places. It is a very nice hotel, with a brilliant view and a very well maintained garden. The breakfast buffet served with the room reservation was pretty good, as per the hotel standards.

We checked out of Sherlock before 11:00 AM and took a cab out to check out Ooty. The Botanical gardens and the Rose gardens were very well maintained. They stand a testimony to imperial Ooty and it was nice to see the tall trees and lovely gardens all around. The rainy season and the cloud cover made the whole experience worthwhile. We also went to Doddabetta peak which is supposed to be the second highest peak in south India and then did the typical filmy – Dil Diwana kind of thing – went boating in the Ooty lake. It was fun and yes, please don’t miss it.

Our final destination was Coonoor where we spent the better part of our vacation – 4 days, doing nothing much, but taking in the beautiful weather and the amazing hospitality of Taj hotels. We were staying at the Gateway Hotel – Coonoor or the erstwhile Taj Garden Retreat.It being an off-season, we got an upgrade in our room too.  I have been to

The Gateway Hotel - Coonor
The Gateway Hotel - Coonor

numerous buffets at various Taj hotels, but I must a say, we came to know why the Taj hotels reign supreme and are raved for their service. One can never ask for more as you are always so well taken care of. The a-la-carte meals prepared were excellent and the hotel premises and the setting was simply divine. You can’t help but unwind completely. It was one of our very first Taj holidays and we are pretty sure it won’t be the last :).

Coonor in itself is a lovely place and one can see Tea Gardens all around. We visited the customary tourist places and liked them pretty well. The highlight was the Sims Park and then the toy train ride from Coonoor to Ooty and then back to Coonoor. Took a first class on our way up and then came by the general. This toy train is

Toy train
Toy train

another lovely experience and once more a must do in the Nilgiris.

We flew back from Coimbatore and I must thank the weather for it being so absolutely perfect – cloudy, pleasant and hardly any rain all through. At the end of the week, I was completely recharged, dying to get back to home 😉 and ready to start my work.

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