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Flower Show @ Lalbagh Gardens Bangalore
This Republic day, I thought I will not go anywhere outside Bangalore as it is a challenge to find quiet places and good hotels on long weekends.
We decided to head to the Lalbagh gardens to spend our day and also to look at the Flower Show that they host every year at this time.

The Flower show dates back to many 1900s and this year was the 207th Flower Show - it is held every year on Independence day and Republic day. The dates were 19th Jan to 29th Jan'18 and we went there on 27th Jan.
Ticket price is Rs 60/- for Adults and Rs.20/- for Children.

Travel time from Whitefield : 1 Hour

Best time to go : Leave early morning and reach by 8 or 9AM to avoid crowd and also to avail parking. You can also try Namma Metro - the Lalbagh metro station is very near to the west gate.

Experience :, I would say that I enjoyed a lot as it was my first trip to Lalbagh. As soon as I entered, I noticed a huge lake inside the campus and vast expanses of greenery and land. The Rose garden is immensely beautiful with bright roses as far as you can see. But it is locked with a fence, I wish they allowed us to go inside the Rose garden for some cool pictures. There were monkeys who were playing around and my little one was too excited to watch them. Then we headed to the Flower Show.
As we moved closer, we saw hordes of people as if the entire Bangalore crowd has turned up at the Flower Show - it was difficult to find a photo spot without people in the background - but we somehow managed to find some frames.
There were a lot of plant stalls where you can buy pots, seeds, saplings etc. but we did not stop at any of these, just strolled around.
Then we went inside the glass house - the theme for the show was Bahubali - with portraits and status of the lord decorated with variety of flowers. The misty cool water was being sprayed from the top to ensure that the flowers remain fresh.

The crowd was so much, that the police was trying to hush everyone, and it was a bit claustrophobic. Honestly, I had more expectations from the flower show.

We took some pictures and selfies there and headed out. Kept walking inside the Lalbagh jungle till we found a quiet place under a big banyan tree. This was the best moment of the trip and not the Flower show.
I will definitely go to the Lalbagh garden again !!

P.S - All pictures are taken from my iPhone 6. Did not carry my DSLR this time.

Pinnawala Elephant orphanage : Sri Lanka trip Part 2

I am late in publishing this post, but better late than never. I am resuming to write after many months - but I really wanted to complete the SL series. So, this post is the next in series to cover my Sri Lanka trip.
Me@ Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Pinnavala is an elephant orphanage which comes on the way from Bentota to Kandy. There were mixed reviews on tripadvisor, so were really unsure whether we should go or not. But we went ahead and we really enjoyed it.
They say that it is an orphanage for elephants, baby elephants who get lost in the jungle, the take care of these elephants.
This was my second day in Sri Lanka Itinerary
Sitting by the river enjoying Elephant bating
How to Go: 
The first day we landed in Colombo and spent the time on Bentota Beaches.
Bentota -> Pinnawala = 150 Kms
It took around 3 hours to cover this - leave early from Bentota, the route is very smooth with Expressway. Pinnawala is en-route from Bentota to Kandy, so it is worth a stop-over and visit to this place.
There are many Elephant orphanages you will see on the way - these are private elephant parks which charge a lot of money - so ask you driver to take you to the one supported by govt.
When to go : I have attached here the timings for various activities, so please plan accordingly. We left at 9 AM and landed in Pinnawala by noon time.
Sri Lanka has a hot weather,and this place is an entirely open one, so better to put on some sunscreen and carry a hat. I didn't have one, so my head started to spin in a few minutes.

When we reached, it was milk time for baby elephants. Did not enjoy it that much - they brought some baby elephants walking in line, and fed them with milk bottles. This show ended in 15 mins, and then we roamed around the entire park.
Milk Feeding for Baby elephants
Soon, it was time for elephant bathing. This was one of the most fabulous sights. Bathing is done in the nearby river - Huge groups of these majestic beings are walked down the road and taken to the river. You will observe that they feel so free, as soon as they reach water, they start pooing. Some of the baby elephants just sleep in the water and enjoy it so much.
Little one lying down in the water
But we need to be careful- the elephants are free and in huge numbers. When i went to the river, I saw a young baby elephant splashing water, and I started to take his pictures. Suddenly a huge herd of big Elephants came from the back and I was helpless. I started screaming and had to hide under a big rock to save myself. So, keep yourself safe will be my advise.

Entry charges are 700 Sri lankan rupees per adult  for SAARC citizens.
Charges and Timings
I really enjoyed going to Pinnawala and will advise you to not miss the elephant bathing, rest of it is average.
P.S - All the pictures/photos in this blog are original and are clicked from my iPhone and DSLR Nikkon D5300
Related Posts :
Sri Lanka Trip Day 1 : Bentota
Sri Lanka Itinerary for 5 Days

Bentota - The Beach Town - Sri Lanka Trip part 1

Bentota is a Beach resort town in Sri lanka which you will find in most of the tourist itineraries. It is a long beach strip with resorts lined up with private beaches. The sands are velvety soft and white in color, most of the beaches are private beaches of these resorts and there is also a public beach.
Excited to hold turtles in Bentota
There is also another place nearby called Beruwala which is know for its Corals. The entire stretch from Bentota beach/Beruwala beach is facing the west - so sunsets from my angle/any beach are an amazing watch.
This was my first day in Sri Lanka Itinerary
Beaches @ Bentota
How to go : Overall details of the trip covered in the itinerary here.
Colombo Airport --> Bentota = 110 kms (2 hours)
I had taken an early morning flight from Bangalore to Sri Lanka and it landed at around 5AM in the morning.
I had booked a car for the entire 5 day journey. The driver came to pick up at the airport and we were really very sleepy. No traffic in the mornings, so I was at Taj Bentota Resort by 7AM.
I was too tired from the over-night journey, so I simply had breakfast and crashed in the room.
When to Go: Bentota is on the south-west coastline, so the best time to visit is October to April.
However, I prefer to go off-season as you get good rates and places are not too crowded. I went there in July - which is the monsoon period, but we were lucky, it did not rain at all during my stay.
View from the room @Cinnamon Bey
Where to Stay :
I stayed one night at Vivanta by Taj - Amazing property - 5 Star hospitality and a private beach

The second night I stayed in Cinnamon Bey Beruwala Beach --> This was even better and we got it at a very cheap rate. This is built on turkish theme and has almost 5-6 restaurants inside the property. The Beruwala beach seems just like an extension of this hotel, but the sad part is it is not private. It is a public beach, but it is just outside the boundary of the hotel, and provides ocean view in the rooms. I found their breakfast spread much better and they also have an entertainment program every evening with Sri Lankan Cultural dances
Cultural Program @Cinnamon Bey

What to do:

Bentota Beach : White sand serene beach. Beautiful sunsets.

Beruwala Beach : Corals -good for snorkelling. The sand here is brown sand (similar to the one we see in Indian beaches). Beautiful sunsets. This is just by the Hotel in which I had stayed (Cinnamon Bey)
Tutle Hatchery
Turtle Hatchery : This is a small Turtle zoo kind of a place - they claim that they are saving thousands of turtles from destruction by hatching them. So, the fishermen collect turtle eggs from the sea - this hatchery burrows these eggs into the sand and allows it to hatch. It takes around 1.5 months for an egg to hatch and post that they feed them for 2-3 days and release them in the sea at mid-night.
They claim that they are saving the ecosystem by protecting the Turtles.
The ticket price is very expensive - 1000 Sri lankan rupees per ticket
Infant Turtles - 2 Days old
It is a small place with variety of turtle tanks - they also allow you to touch and feel the turtles yourself.

It is indeed a beautiful place and must be included in the Sri Lankan itinerary !!!

P.S - All the pictures/photos in this blog are original and are clicked from my iPhone and DSLR Nikkon D5300

Me @Beruwala Beach during Sunset

Trip to Sri Lanka for 5 days : My Itinerary

Recently I went for a short trip to Sri Lanka  - the gem shaped island in the Indian Ocean. This is truly the land of many Buddhas
There is so much to see in this country from beaches to hills to culture, and we wanted to cover most of it - but time was less, so we planned a perfect itinerary offering a bit of everything.
Sunset at the Bentota Beach
I will write a series of blog-posts starting with the itinerary, detailing each destination, places to visit, hotels and my experiences.

Sri Lanka, also known as Ceylon in the earlier days is gaining visibility onto the tourist maps after the civil war ended and it is known for its beautiful beaches and wildlife. While doing our research, we jotted down all the famous destination that we can plan while in Sri Lanka :
Many Buddhas
Beaches : Mt Lavina (near Colombo); Bentota (resort town) , Arugambay (for surfing), Galle (famous for its Dutch fort), Mirrissa (known for whale watching)

Wildlife: Pinnavala (for Elephants); Yala National park (Leopards); Udawalawa wildlife

Culture : Kandy, Sigriya (Lion rock) ; Dambulla (Caves); Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa ancient kingdoms

There is so much to see there but since we only had limited time, we covered Bentota, Pinnavala, Kandy, Sigriya, Dambulla and Colombo.
View of Kandy from hotel room
How to go :
We were travelling from Bangalore - there is a direct flight by Sri lankan airways which is 1hour and 20 minutes. The Bandarnaike Airport is 30kms from Colombo.

Bangalore (0325 hrs) --> Colombo (0500 hrs) = 1hr20 mins flight - the cost of flight is really cheap - it is around 10K for a roundtrip journey.
Taxi and land commutation is kind of expensive in this country. We had booked a cab (Toyota SUV) along with driver for 5 days and it costed us almost 5K per day. The driver was awesome and he knew all the destinations and places in Sri lanka.

When to Go : We love to visit places in off-season as the rates are cheaper and the tourist places are not too crowded. We visited in July which is just post-monsoon season. Sri Lanka has 2 monsoon seasons - the Southwest monsoon runs through May-June affecting Colombo and Galle regions. The Northeast monsoon comes in Oct-Nov and is very heavy affecting the entire country. So the best time to travel is Dec-March.
Old City of Sangria - Lion Rock
Detailed Itinerary :

Day 1: Catch an early morning flight from Bangalore to Colombo.
0325 hrs --> Reach Colombo by 0500 hrs -> Finish immigration formalities by 0530 --> Travel to Bentota (2.5 hours) and reach by 0800 hrs

Had a nice breakfast and waited for hotel check in. Checked into the resort Cinnamon Bey beach resort and slept until noon.
Got ready .. visited Turtle Hatchery and had lunch at the nice restaurant in Bentota.
Afternoons are a bit hot, so I slept. Evening went to the beach to enjoy the waves and watch the beautiful sunset
Beruwala Beach
Day 2 : Checkout after breakfast and proceed to Pinnawala elephant orphanage. Pinnawala is on the way to Kandy - so you can also skip it, but it is highly recommended place
Bentota to Pinnawala (3.5 hours) --> Spend 2 hours watching elephants feeding and bathing

Pinnawala to Kandy (1.5 hours) --> Reach Kandy at around 4 pm - check into the hotel. Freshen up and go for the Cultural show and the famous Buddha Tooth Relic temple
Elephants bathing @Pinnavala
Day 3 : Leave early.
Kandy to Sigriya Rock (2.5 hrs) - Climb the Sigriya lion rock - it takes around 2 hours.

After lunch proceed to Dambulla.
Sigriya to Dambulla Cave temple (30 mins drive) - You will be dead tired after Sigriya, but please don't miss the Dambulla Caves, these were the highlight of my trip. Grab some juice and start climbing the Rock caves.
Dambulla Caves
Back to Kandy. Overnight stay in the hotel.

Day 4 : Check out from hotel. Go to Kandy bazaar for some shopping. You can also visit the Paradeniya botonical gardens on the way (we skipped it) to Colombo.
Kandy to Colombo City (3.5 hours)
Check into the hotel. Freshen up and go for the Buddhist temple or Galle beach area

Day 5 : This was only reserved for some shopping. So first we went to the Independence square and then to Odel mall, Paradise street, House of Fashion etc.
Lets march @Independent square
Proceed to Airport.
Flight from Colombo (1850hrs) to Bangalore (2030 hrs). Back home late in the night.

Will write detailed posts on each of these destinations and publish it subsequently.

P.S - All pictures are original and taken from my Iphone 6 and Nikkon 5300 DSLR camera

Le Charcoal in Brookfield : Nice kababs ! Indian Cuisine !! Food 3/5 ; Ambiance 2/5

So on this long Eid weekend when we were getting bored at home, we decided to venture out on the Brookfield street and hop onto a restaurant.
Le Charcoal looked enticing from outside - we thought the name sounds a french accent on the Indian Kabab cuisine, but later looking at the menu we realized it has a lot of Arabic barbeque items on the menu and is good for non vegetarians.

It was a Saturday, so it was 80% full and we managed to find a nice table outside. However, we saw a mouse lingering around our feet and so got very scared and moved to a table inside.
Food: We wanted to eat some chicken and since the name is Charcoal, we asked the chef which is a good Kabab. Ordered JoJo Chicken Kabab on his recommendation.
- Non Spicy, slightly sweet cream based kababs, very soft and grilled on charcoal, served with Hummus, Pita bread and Mayonnaise - Loved it.
I especially loved the soft pita bread along with hummus.

Chicken Tikka Masala with Naan : We being a desi, a meal needs to have a gravy with naan for it to be completed. So we ordered one.
It was spicy, cooked in red gravy and served super hot.
The menu has a lot of variety from items in Indian, Arabic, Chinese dishes.
Ambiance: Good no frills sort of a place. We first sat outside, but found a big mouse and got scared. Due to this I will rate this very low on Ambiance and cleanliness - don't take a table in the open area.

Price: Reasonable. Meal for 2 will cost ~Rs.700/-

Location : Very near to Cosmos mall in Brookfield. Take a turn from Kundalhalli signal towards the Brookfield mall. Getting a parking here is very difficult, so we parked at the mall and walked to this place for dinner.

All in all a good meal, but could be better!!

Trip to Belur from Bangalore: Slice of historical architecture from my lens

While on the trip to Chikmagalur from Bangalore, we came to know about a very famous historical architecture temple from Hoysala times (Chennakeshava) in Belur. This is on the way to Chikmagalur and so we decided to take this slight de-tour and spend a few hours here.
My Chikmagalur blog link.
Lion Emblem of the Hoysala times - Symbol of war at Belur Temple
This is around 220 Kms from Bangalore and 30Kms from Chikmagalur. Many people plan day-trips to this temple and believe me, it is totally worth it.

About this place: 
Chennakeshava (means Handsome Keshava) is a Vishnu temple which was build during Hoysala dynasty. It has a huge entrance but looks like a hidden gem in the middle of this small town. When we were driving, Google maps was showing 300 meters ahead, but there was no sign of a marvelous temple, so we were thinking if we are in the right direction, but suddenly you take a turn and its right there - its beautiful.
Beautiful facade of this place from outside
It was built in 1117AD by King Vishnuvardhana and it seems this place was build to celebrate their military victory. You could find a lot of art-work covering their National emblem, Horses, Lions and war symbols. There is a main temple of Lord Vishnu and other small side temples of other deities. The main temple has 48 pillars and each pillar is unique in design and art.
These 48 pillars once rotated on their axis
It is said that these pillars had bearings earlier and they could be rotated - later these were removed and now they are steady. It is surprising as these are really heavy stone pillars, how could they be rotated. As we revolved around the temple, we realized each wall said something in itself. There were many stories written in those stone art which gives a glimpse of our mythological stories and the age-old generations. Inside the roof and pillar are very ornate along with Lord Vishnu. They charge a ticket of Rs.30/- for Camera, and they will also switch on the halogen lamp inside for you to have a look at the intricately designed roof.
Roof of the Shrine
Outside the temple, each wall has a story to tell.. going around looking at those stone sculptures and figuring out the story which fascinated the artists of that era is indeed a magical experience.

We spent a good 2 hours at this place absorbing the ambiance and immersing ourselves into the fragrance of art and historical culture. We saw many families were actually doing a outing/picnic with food prepared from their homes and enjoying the open spaces. Lots of open space with bright sunshine and breeze makes this place a refreshing experience.
As soon as we entered, we were approached by the guides - these are registered guides from Karnataka state and their rates are fixed - I think it was around Rs.500/- He takes you for a entire tour to this place. We did not hire a guide, as we were travelling with a Toddler who would not let us listen to any gyan and also we wanted to rather experience the place at our own pace.
Main Deity : Inner entrance is protected by Jaya and Vijaya as Dwarpalikas
How to Go:
We drove our Honda Amaze from Bangalore to Belur and then to Chikmagalur trip. We left at 6AM in the morning from our apartment at Whitefield and reached Belur at around 11.00AM -> we also took a half hour breakfast break in between.
Other temples on the side of the Shrine
Route :
Bangalore Whitefield ->Yashwantpur -> Tumkur Road -> Neelamangala ->Hassan -> Belur 

The road is really smooth, with 4 Lane and 6 lane highways, so the vehicle really runs at good speed, only stopping for the various Toll Booths on the way which charge around 20-30 Rs per toll.

Total Distance between Bangalore to Belur temple is around 220 Kms.

Overall Experience : Magical. This inspires me to plan my next trip to Helibidu which has even more ornate architecture and sculptures and can be covered in a day trip.
Total of 650 elephant sculptures at the base of the Shrine
The Base is layered with 3 Layers - Elephants (symbolizing Strength and Stability), Lions (symbolizing Courage) and Horses (symbolizing speed).

Some Pictures:

Narasimha (Incarnation of Vishnu) in a scene where he takes the form of Half Lion, Half Man and kills Hirnakashyap and saves Prahalad
When Lord Narsimha kills Hiranyakashyap (Half Lion Half Man incarnation of Vishnu)
Varaha - The Boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu when he saved the Earth from the bottom of Patal lok - He carried the earth between his teeth
Lord Brahma with its 4 Heads
Shiva dancing on a demon elephant representing illusion