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0 In Destinations/ Travel with GG

Kanchipuram – The Timeless Town of Tamil Nadu

kanchi kamakshi temple

A journey into a 10,000 year old civilization can be nothing short of fascinating. You can only go so far before stumbling upon amazing architecture and ancient temples! What better way to satisfy your thirst for history than by visiting some of Tamil Nadu’s historic towns?

A Passage back to the 6th Century (maybe earlier)

Tamil Nadu as a state can be quite fascinating as you start understanding its history. Known as the Land of Temples, Tamil Nadu is home to nearly 33,000 ancient temples ranging from 800 to 3500 years of age. Our exploration of the Land of Temples takes us to Kanchipuram (also known as Kanchi). Prior to the British rule in India, Kanchi was abode to the rulers of the Chola Dynasty, The Pallava Dynasty, The Pandya Dynasty, the Vijaynagar Empire and the Carnatic Kingdom. The earliest references of Kanchi date back to as far as the 3rd and 2nd Century BC. Its amazing history and architectural wonders make Kanchipuram a historians dream and must visit for every self-proclaimed Indian Traveler!

Getting There

Kanchipuram is 72km from Chennai and the drive takes about 90 minutes.

Where to Stay

Regency by GRT Hotels in Kanchipuram is the perfect place to stay. Located in the heart of Kanchipuram, the must see spots as well as the shopping hub are easily accessible from the hotel. It offers about 35 guest rooms as well as an in-house multi cuisine restaurant where guests can dine. We arrived at the hotel by 10am and had an ideal breakfast spread waiting for us. The buffet breakfast offers both South Indian and North Indian options as well as the straight forward cereal and bread options for their international guests. As a business and tourist hub, I would recommend making your bookings for Regency by GRT Hotels in Kanchipuram well in advance!

Prices start at INR 3000 per night. For more information visit their Website or follow them on Facebook.

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

Regency by GRT Hotels, Kanchipuram

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

Reception

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

In-house multi cuisine restaurant

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

Poori bhaji game on point!

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

South Indian curries

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

Life is short, eat dessert first

Sights to Explore

Depending on your interests and how much time you have, Kanchipuram can go from being as simple as a day long trip to a 3 to 4 day immersement in Indian History and Culture. Since we had planned a day trip to Kanchipuram on our way from Mahabalipuram to Chennai, we spent our time visiting and understanding the history of Kanchipuram’s two most popular temples; The Kanchi Kamakshi Temple and the Ekaambareshwara Temple built in the 6th and 9th century respectively.

The Kamakshi Temple is dedicated to the goddess Kamakshi (Parvati) and was built by the Pallava Kings.

Significantly, this is the only Parvati temple in the city of Kanchipuram and is also one of the divine Shakti Peetha temples. The temple also has a marital significance and is considered an auspicious visit for those who are seeking marriage. Walking through the temple, you can’t help but notice its intricate sculptures. We spent a good amount of time just gazing at each of them, wondering about the stories they were trying to tell. The temple also houses a gallery which presents the life of Adisankaracharya.

kanchi kamakshi temple

Walking towards Kanchi Kamakshi Temple

 

kanchi kamakshi temple

Kalyani or Temple Bath inside the Temple

 

kanchi kamakshi temple

Sculptors at work

 

The Ekambareshwarar temple is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

An amazing fact I heard is that there are 108 Shiva Temples in Tamil Nadu; (Read about the significance of the number 108). The primary significance of this temple is that it is one of the temples associated with the Five Elements or the Pancha Bhutas (Water, Fire, Earth, Air and Space); specifically the Earth Element. Furthermore, this amazing temple complex covers 25 acres and is among the largest in India.

Almost every temple in India has an amazing story around why it was built and its role in human well being. On our visit to The Ekambareshwarar temple we were told that this was the location where Parvati worshiped Shiva in the form of a Prithvi Lingam (lingam made of mud). The Prithivi Lingam is one of its kind. Made of mud, it is probably the reason this temple is dedicated to the earth element of nature.

Ekambareshwarar temple

Painting at the temple depicting Parvati’s devotion towards Lord Shiva

 

Ekambareshwarar temple

Offerings

 

Other Temples in Kanchi:

  1. Kailasanathar Temple
  2. Devarajaswami Temple
  3. Chitragupta Temple
  4. Ulahalanda Perumal Temple

The Magnificent Talent of Kanchipuram

Apart from the temples in Kanchi, a journey into the ‘weaver’s village’ can leave you awestruck. A must visit on every travelers list! The weavers here have mastered the art of hand weaving the famous Kanchipuram Silk Sarees. Hugely time consuming, it takes a weaver about 25 days of 12 working hours each to complete one saree. Even today, the sarees are made largely by hand and a trip to the weaver’s village provide travelers with an insight into the art of weaving. Watching them in action, you can only assume the effort involved in learning this skill! Incidentally, the skills of these weavers have been recognized by both The Central and State Governments. The weavers are provided with financial aid that helps nurture their talent and keep the hand weaving industry alive.

weavers factory

Weaver at work

 

weavers factory

Working on a split tone silk saree

 

weavers factory

Stunning intricate work and craftmanship

 

weavers factory

Millions of threads used in this process

Best Time to Visit

Hate the heat as much as I do? Not surprisingly, the winter months between November and February would be the ideal time to visit Kanchipuram. Temperatures in this time range between 19°C and 29°C. The months of June to September can be considered, but the monsoons could play spoilsport to any outdoor excursions you have planned. Furthermore,  Summer temperatures can go as high as 40°C.

 

 Planning the Trip

For anyone visiting Chennai, a trip to Kanchipuram and the Heritage town of Mahabalipuram can easily be forged into your schedule. A road trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram, Kanchi and back to Chennai forms a perfect triangle with a total driving distance of about 200kms. And finally, do yourself a favour. The Next time you are in Chennai take about 3 days to give yourself the Kanchi and Mahabalipuram experience!

Road map

The ideal road map

 

Disclaimer: We were guests of the GRT Hotels & Resorts and Firebrand Labs. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

 

4 In Destinations/ Recommendations

Our Ritzy Getaway at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay by GRT Hotels, Mahabalipuram

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

The last couple of months have been insane for us in terms of travel. From personal to professional commitments, which lead us from Dubai to Maldives, Kerala to Goa. And then from Mumbai to Lucknow and Dudhwa (not forgetting the part where we crossed the border into Nepal for 2 hours to try some authentic Nepalese food). We’ve been smitten by the travel bug so bad that we realized we needed another vacation to cool off and JUST DO NOTHING!

They say ‘ask and you shall receive’ and to our surprise we did. We were offered a 2 Nights staycation at the luxurious Radisson Blu Resort, Mahabalipuram, courtesy of the good folks at GRT Hotels & Resorts. An offer so hard to resist that we decided to go despite knowing that the weather might not be on our side. But hey! To our luck we were welcomed with balmy palm trees and a cool sea breeze that we didn’t miss Bangalore much.

Traditional welcome with a modern touch

Nothing quenches thirst like some fresh coconut water on a hot summer day. When you are welcomed with cheerful faces, shell garlands and coconuts served in traditional copper vessels, you know your hosts have got it all right. We loved their modern take to this traditional welcome.

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Coco Welcome

Inviting Rooms

Rooms so warm and elegant, furnished with a resident’s bar and a private patio that overlooks the stunning Bay of Bengal.  Above all it had an immense bathtub that came with their signature DIY bubble bath hamper. Yeayiee! The sea view chalet room is the perfect space to stretch those limbs and wake up to the sounds of the sea. Without a doubt, ideal for couples and families who love their privacy.

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Sea View Chalet Room

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Gorgeous views from our room

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

DIY signature bubble bath hamper

 

A space that surpasses your expectations

All luxury hotels seem to be a cookie cutter version of themselves. But the space and offerings at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay took it a notch higher. Imagine an oasis that’s spread across 44 acres. Guests can laze in the world’s longest meandering pool, go stargazing at night or even play a game of golf or two at their nine-hole mini-golf course. That’s not all; adventurous souls can venture on an exclusive catamaran cruise or bike their way through the resort’s private ATV track. Sounds like the good life, eh!

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Home is where the anchor drops

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Beautiful little corners – Heritage Hall

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Let’s just hang here for a bit longer

 

The five rathas are named as ‘Dharmaraja Ratha’, ‘Bhima Ratha’, ‘Arjuna Ratha’, ‘Nakula Sahadeva Ratha’, and ‘Draupadi Ratha’ after the five Pandava brothers and their common spouse Draupadi from the great Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’.

One of the many pools at the Resort

Exploring Mahabalipuram

Located conveniently on the pristine Coromandel Coast at Mahabalipuram, the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay is just 3-5 kms away from all the prime attractions (now a part of Unesco World Heritage Sites).

Places you CANNOT MISS when in Mahabalipuram:

  1. Shore Temple – Built in the 7th century, the Shore Temple is one of the architectural achievements of the Pallava dynasty. Commonly known as the ‘Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram’, only one – the Shore Temple, remains visible today. The other six temples are said to have been submerged under the sea.
  2. Pancha Rathas – Five structures chiselled in the shape of rathas or chariots out of large block of stone or monolith of granite typifies monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture. The five rathas were built in honour of the Pandava brothers and their common spouse Draupadi from the great Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’.
  3. Varaha Cave Temple – The significane of the Varaha Cave story, lies in the panels inside, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi & Goddess Durga.
  4. Krishna’s Butterball – A boulder that defies gravity.
radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

The Shore temple

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Pancha Rathas

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Varaha Cave Temple

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Krishna’s Butterball

Personalized Wellness Experience

Why have one when you can afford two Spas under one roof. Ayush (Ayuvedic Therapy Center) & Bodhi Spa (Beauty & Wellness Center) are both serene sanctuaries offering some of the world’s best therapeutic treatments. Above all, the staff help you select your treatment based on 3 priorities that fulfill the purpose of de-stressing, beauty and general well being. Prashanth opted for Marma Abhyangam; a full body massage that focuses on releasing blocked energy. I opted for Marine Osmosis, an Oliegodermie body care therapy using marine sea salt for a scrub, followed by a body balm massage and an algae body wrap for a glowing and radiant skin. One of our most relaxing spa experiences. My masseuse in particular did a wonderful job of putting me to sleep with the magic of her hands.

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Staff at the Spa attentding to our needs

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Getting my zen mode on!

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Time spent getting a massage is never wasted – My spa room

The Foodie Affair

Food is not just an expression but a grand affair at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay. On our first day we were treated to a lavish gala dinner that offered over 50 South Indian dishes. Added to that was a super cool Arrack shop that catered to all our beverage needs. The varieties of starters, dosas, pickles, chutneys, curries and desserts were so mind-boggling, we realized we should have worn our fat pants to dinner. Which is exactly what we did the next day when we dined at Waters Edge Cafe for breakfast and lunch. A spread so diverse and global, it makes you feel like the world is on your plate.

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Arrack Shop

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Traditional Folk Dance

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Water’s Edge Cafe

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

You can never go wrong with a cheesy masala omelette

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Freshly baked goodness

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

You know the dosa is great when he makes this face!

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Gourmet salad spread at Lunch

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

The best things in life are sweet

 

If that wasn’t enough, the chefs at Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay had something more up their sleeves. Imagine a posh looking beach shack serving up some fresh seafood and amazing grills just off the bay. Our dining experience at The Wharf reeked of exclusivity and all things that make for a perfect romantic meal. If you are a food lover like us you must try their Jumbo Prawn Skewers with Yakitori dressing, Basiled Tomato & Mozzarella Bruschetta, Mushroom & Smoked Mozarella Empanadas, Catch of the day (Red Snapper with Cape spices) and lastly the Chocolate Marquise Mud Pie with ice cream. Their Bellini Twist (a white wine based cocktail) makes the meal all the more interesting. One of the best cocktails I have ever had. Tempted already, aren’t you 🙂

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Basiled Tomato & Mozzarella Bruschetta

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Catch of the day – Red Snapper with Cape spices

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Chocolate Marquise Mud Pie with ice cream

Service

The team at GRT Hotels & Resorts are known for their hospitality and graciousness. Making our stay at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay delightful and memorable. From the moment we checked in, the resort’s staff were utterly attentive to our every need. The Chefs, Resort Manager and Entertainment Manager were most impressive. They went the extra mile to keep us surprised and fulfilled.

Disclaimer: We were guests of the GRT Hotels & Resorts and Firebrand Labs. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

Prices start at INR 15000 per night. For more information visit their Website or follow them on Facebook.

 

0 In Destinations/ Recommendations

An Unforgettable Glamping Experience at The Little Bison, Kabini

the little bison

Around this time last year, Prashanth and I were newly wed. We were weighing out options in terms of our ideal Honeymoon destinations and determining what kind of experiences we would really enjoy. After much thought, fights and debates (like most couples) we decided to travel on our Honeymoon in September.

However, September seemed so far far way! And that’s when Prashanth said “Hey! Let’s go some place nearby where we could just drive down, getaway, relax and experience the luxury of doing nothing!” That got my attention and I instantly knew the perfect destination – Kabini!

the little bison

Kabini Backwaters

The Destination

Situated at the confluence of the Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks, on the shores of the Kabini River in Karnataka (West of Mysore), Kabini is the protected land of the wild and home to the largest concentration of Asiatic Wildlife.

The Drive

Just 250 kms away from Bangalore, you can reach this magical destination in under 5 hours. The Bangalore-Mysore highway is great, offering a good number of roadside dhabbas, restaurants and  pit stops. The only hiccup was the last 1 km leading up to the property. That was a bit precarious and tricky. Smaller cars like might face a challenge.

Tip: Drive via Mysore road with the help of Google Maps. Also take our word and stop over for lunch at Poojari’s Fish Land for some authentic Mangalorean-Coastal Cuisine. 

 

the little bison

The Little Bison Luxury Tent

The Luxury Camp

The Little Bison is a standalone, eco-friendly property with only TWO appointed luxury tents, that run solely on solar power. On arrival, we were graciously welcomed by our personal valets – Babloo, Chickoo & Viraj, who served us refreshing coconut water and provided us cold face towels which was perfect for a hot day. While entering the property we were given a tour of our tent that looked exactly like the luxury canvas tents in Africa.  It had a breathtaking indoor foyer equipped with telescopes and an outdoor porch, where we could enjoy the fabulous views. The bedroom was spacious and grand; offering a king sized four-poster bed, a writing table, comfortable seating and en-suite bathroom. Being Wi-Fi free was a blessing in disguise which helped us be one with nature.

the little bison - Kabini

Fabulous views from our tent

 

The highlight of our tent was the open air deck in our back yard that came equipped with an outdoor bed, fireplace and a bathtub. Definitely the most memorable lounging and stargazing experience we’ve had; the glamping way.

the little bison

Personal bonfire, outdoor bed and bath tub!

 

the little bison

Lounge & dinning tent

 

The Food

‘Ghar ka khana’ best describes the food served at The Little Bison. Simple, delicious and fresh. We were told by our valets that most of the ingredients used in preparing the food were organically grown and sourced from farmers in the surrounding villages. Since the property strictly runs on solar power, there is no fridge! Hence, the Chefs carefully prepare food that’s enough to feed all the guests and staff. If there are any left overs they donate it to the tribal communities living nearby. A great food movement that echoes sustainability.

Simple, delicious and fresh Indian food

 

the little bison

Food served by our personal valets in our tent

 

We were also introduced to a concept called ‘themed bush dining’ in the evening. We sat around a bonfire, sipped our favourite wine and listened to the locals sing their favourite songs. All this under the starry Kabini sky, on the banks of the backwaters. We were further dazzled when we were told to take up our torches and look behind. What do we see? Spotted deers right behind us drinking water from the banks of the river! Can it get any more magical than this?

the little bison

Bush dinner under the Kabini sky!

 

The Experiences & The People

Going for game drives here is a must. Nothing matches a rendezvous with the big cats or a herd of Elephants. Our Host & Naturalist, Shaaz Jung, also known as ‘The Leopard Man of India’ accompanied us on some of our game drives. His cat tracking skills, breathtaking photography and write ups on Leopards and other wildlife, has won him awards and many accolades. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spot any tigers or leopards. However, we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. We were lucky to witness herds of Elephants gliding through the forest and baby Gaur feeding on it’s mother’s milk.

the little bison

My game drive look

 

the little bison

Elephants gliding through the forest

 

the little bison - Kabini

Baby Gaur feeding on it’s mother’s milk

 

On the second day of our stay, I decided to sit back and do nothing. All I wanted to do was stare into the distant forest and backwaters while Prashanth headed for his game drive. Vinstant Kian (Former Resident Manager) came up to me and decided to keep me entertained. Walking through the backwaters, teaching me so many things about mother nature, the jungle, the big cats and the tribal communities that co-exists in this man-animal conflict area, was so enriching.

the little bison

Enjoying the simple things in life

 

These guys take ‘exclusivity’ and ‘personalisation’ to a new level. We were taken to a breathtaking spot on the banks of the river, and Vinstant surprised us with a Private Sundowner. If that wasn’t enough, on returning to our room, we were further pampered with a relaxing bubble bath under the stars! What better way to end the night 🙂

Kabini River - the little bison

All smiles for the Sundowner!

 

the little bison

Happiness is a long hot bubble bath

 

Just as we had the fortune of staying here and signing off next to Mr. Rahul Dravid’s notes in The Little Bison Diary (Yes! He stayed at the same tent exactly a week before us), we wish to share this fortune with our readers too. In order to make this happen, we have partnered with The Little Bison to help our readers avail special discounts and freebies on their stay.

the little bison

The Little Bison Diary

So what are you waiting for? Send us your enquiries to gallivantinggoals@gmail.com

 

0 In Destinations

Rajasthan – India’s Incredible Wonderland

Amer Fort

When we were asked, ‘what’s the first destination you would like to explore in India’, our instant response was Rajasthan! Nowhere inspires wanderlust quite like Rajasthan. A state that bursts with colour, royal architecture, mouth watering food, history & grandeur. Whether it was escaping reality in the jungles of Ranthambore, drinking in the views of ‘the blue city’ of Jodhpur as we zip-lined across Mehrangarh Fort, gazing at futuristic time machines at the Jantar Mantar (for that era, no doubt) or stuffing our faces with the legendary kachoris at Rawat Mishtan Bhandar, visiting Rajasthan surely sparked a lifelong love affair.

The Pink City – Jaipur

Rajputs associate the colour pink with hospitality. The city was daubed with pink by Maharaja Man Sigh II in preparation for a visit by the Prince of Wales in 1876. As we strolled through the vedic streets and vibrant bazaars of Jaipur, we realised how welcoming the city is to its regular stream of visitors. Perhaps amongst the most famous of Jaipur’s architectural wonders, the Sheesh Mahal, a pavilion in the Amber fort (known for its intricate mirror work) had us fascinated and awe-struck.

Sheesh Mahal at Amber Fort

 

Craving for cultural immersion? Look no further than Jaipur, as it offers enduring sights and experiences like roadside ‘tapris’ selling masala chai alongside ghee-dripping ghewar. Beautiful hand painted frescoes, on city walls old and new, narrating stories from the 8th to 18th century. Truly a city that’s devoted to celebrating its arts and aesthetics, from block printed textiles and miniature paintings to finely-crafted jewellery and blue pottery. Not forgetting the sounds of street performers playing traditional Marwari folk music. You can savour it all!!!

Choki Dhani

Palmist at Choki Dhani

 

The Blue City – Jodhpur

Honestly, we didn’t have any high expectations from Jodhpur. We thought it would be far less opulent than Jaipur with not much to show case. The picturesque Mehrangarh Fort and world famous indigo-dyed houses were all that we had heard about. But we were taken by surprise! The crooked and narrow lanes of the old city transport you into a world of kitschy charm. Local culinary temptations in the form of makhaniya lassi, mawa seets and doodh phirni certainly add to the experience. While interacting with locals, we were told that the colour blue marked the distinction of the city’s Shaivite Brahmins, which was then adopted by many.

Blue houses

Blue houses

 

Despite lying on the edge of the Thar desert, the city can be found with sprawling palatial gardens (like the ones seen at Umaid Bhavan Palace), stepwells and bustling bazaars that make you believe that, with faith, one can surely thrive in the desert.

Puppets Dolls

Puppet Dolls at Mehrangarh Fort

 

The Land of Tigers – Ranthambore

There are few places on earth that combine a profusion of wildlife with valuable historical heritage. The Ranthambhore National Park is one such place. Situated between two iconic hill ranges, the Aravallis and the Vindhyas, the park takes its name from the formidable fortress of Ranthambhore. Sitting at the pinnacle of a hill, surrounded by forest. A place where fierce battles were once fought with swords. A new breed of warriors (tigers), defends this majestic landscape now. It is one of the finest places in the world to encounter wild tigers that roam the dry deciduous forest.

Ranthambore

A ruin at Ranthambore

 

A variety of wildlife thrives across the national park’s spectacular landscapes and diverse ecosystem, including the leopard, bear and a large number of prey species. Tourists flock to the area for the abundant bird life that resides within, or migrates to Ranthambhore across the many seasons.

crocodile

Peek-a-boo!

Have exciting stories about your trip to Rajasthan? Share it with us in the comments section below 🙂