Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jog Falls from Bangalore - a weekend trip

I have been to see Jog Falls twice now. To me it is not a fancy weekend getaway but a really nice fun one. You leave Bangalore on Friday night and are back by 5am Monday morning (in time for school and work). Taking a train means that you sleep well and reach back well rested to take on a Monday.

Below are the logistics I have used for both my trips:

Getting there:

Bangalore > A.Shimoga > B. Sagar > C. Mattuga (Homestay 6km from Jog Falls)

A. We went on a train Friday night. You leave at 11:15pm via Shimoga Express that gets you to Shimoga at 6:30am. We returned on Sunday night on the Bangalore Express that left at 10:15pm.

B. The first time there we got on a bus from Shimoga railway station (right outside the station) to Sagar. The second time we had a taxi waiting for us at the Shimoga station (arranged by the homestay)

 C. The homestay will arrange for a taxi to pick you up from Sagar and bring you to Mattuga - a 30min drive away.


Both times we stayed at Stay@Mattuga – a home stay.

There are not many places to stay in that area and this is the most ‘luxurious’ and a pretty decent homestay.
  •  Really nice huge property with lots of fruit trees.
  •  Nice people and nice home cooked food (only breakfast in included in tariff.)
  •  Owned by a person staying in Bangalore but run by locals.

I really like this place; it has potential but needs some overseeing and extra help during high traffic weekends. The first time we were there we were the only people and stayed in the main house. Rooms were basic but nice and we loved the attention we got. Since then the number of rooms has gone up but the number of staff seems to be the same.
Second time we ‘upgraded’ to newly build cottages and did not like it all that much (as of 11/9/2011) –
  • Construction on cottages is still going on so there is raw material around the place.
  • Cottages are complete but not ‘finished’ and tested. Teething pains are ongoing (only hot water in taps one morning), paint and dirt in the bath tubs.
  • Beds felt damp and musty and towels were hard and washed out.

I expect these to be sorted over time and this is a pretty nice place for a home stay (best in Jog Falls area)

Getting around:

Full Day Taxi with awesome local driver (speaks very little English or Hindi)

There are buses from Sagar ( and Shimoga) that take you to Jog Falls. We opted for a full day taxi (Rs 1700 per day). The taxi is a slightly beat up Maruthi Van  but I cannot praise the driver enough. He is who made the whole trip for us. A local man he knows the place inside out. He showed us the waterfalls from three vintage points. Walked to the bottom of the falls with us. Took us to sugarcane, pineapple and coconut farms. Showed us rock and log bridges. Arranged for a motor boat ride on the back waters. He was the driver cum guide.

Things To Do:

  • Waterfalls: See from multiple vantage points. Play in the water. Eat from the shops lining the path to the viewpoints. Walk down to the waterfalls (20min – 1hr), walk back up (25min – forever J) (Tip: Go early morning to avoid the touristy crowd)
  • Village and Plantation visits: Ask the driver to show you what is local and growing. He will take you to really nice farms with hospitable people.
  • Temples: Sagar is home to a lot of very old and architecturally beautiful temples. You can spend the whole day visiting them
  • Backwaters: Motor boat and water adventure sports on the Sarawathi backwaters.

Contact Details:
Driver:Mahabaleshwara – Phone: 9449454168

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First take and review of Monkey Maze at Marthahalli, Bangalore

I had seen Monkey Maze many times on my drive over to WhiteField. It falls almost eye level on the left as you come off the bridge after Marthahalli. Today I finally took my four year old to it.

Monkey Maze is located above Pizza Hut, next To Purva Foundation Square. It is a huge, airy and well lit space. It has a nice play gym with slides, tunnels, climbing net walls, a ball pit and trampolines. It is not a huge gym but big enough for ten to fifteen kids to play comfortably in. Next to the gyms are toys of all sorts – kitchen supplies and soft foam puzzles and a few toddler entertainers like swings and push cars. In front to the gym is a café selling coffee, chips and juice. Lots of little tables and chairs near the café make it look like an ideal place for a kid’s party. At the other end of the huge space are a few book shelves with toys for sale sorted by age. The collection is not intensive but is interesting and there are a few puzzles that I plan to pick up for an eight year old from there.

Price Structure:
Rs 100 for 45 min of play
Rs 150 for 1hour of play + a cup of coffee + a drink (slice) + a pack of chips
Rs 200 All above + a surprise gift.

I took the Rs 150 package. While I paid Ashvin attacked the jungle gym. I joined him in there for a bit but the presence of other kids and a really helpful supervisor let me escape for my cup of coffee. I spent the rest of the time looking at their ‘store section’, taking photos, making faces at Ashvin and looking through their party packages.

The one in Marthahalli seems to be work in progress. Half the area seems to be undergoing some remodeling but this is shielded well and not obvious unless you walk around  and peek. It looks like a promising space with a lot of potential. Once they have more traffic and staff hopefully they will get regular pottery and other classes going for kids.

If Ashvin were to write the review I am sure he would say it was awesome. He had fun, so much fun that when his one hour was done he want  more time. As he is the one that matters at the Monkey Maze I’d say they have a good thing going and will see us back soon.

2ND Floor, Above Pizza Hut, Next To Purva Foundation Square, Varthur Main Road, Marathahalli, Bangalore - 560037
Phone:                 +(91)-(80)-40957631      
Hours of operation: 11:00 am - 08:00 pm everyday

Birthday Package details (please email them for the most up-to-date) please take a look at -

Even KFC can do some things right

I walked into KFC at Forum Value Mall today (don’t judge me – this post is not about me J). I knew exactly what I wanted so I walked over to an open counter and while squinting at the crazy offerings on the display board ordered. A hand politely waved at me. The person taking my order smiled at me, and pointed to his badge, then motioned me to point at the big hard board menu in front of him. He moved his hand over his ears and mouth indicating he was deaf and mute.

I must admit I was slightly taken aback – this is very unusual in India - but in all politeness I kept my face straight and found what I wanted in the card in front of me. While I paid and waited I realized that all the people in five order stations wore the same badge. The order was taken and filled in no time at all.

As I sat down to eat I realized I had forgotten to ask for water. Back at the order station I could not find any water on the menu card in front of me. I was wondering whether I should point to the soda fountain or try a drink gesture. Reading the confusion on my face the guy flipped the menu over and pointed to the drink selections. He obviously was used to confused people like me.

KFC does a lot of things wrong but this is one thing I must say they are doing very right. Highly impressed and delighted by their initiative.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Memories of Childhood – Ashvin cuts his hair

When I was six years old I had given someone a hair cut. The "someone" happened to be my best friend’s four year old brother. I had him sit on the stairs and gave him a comprehensive hair cut. Not a snip here or there. I made sure I took the scissors all over and all around. The results I guess was a disaster especially as it required my mother to apologize and a barber was immediately called over. He looked like he had his head shaved after the ‘real’ hair cut and I was banned from EVER touching scissors.
Yesterday, my four year old was watching Lion King. I took a bath and on walking back into the room saw three clumps of hair on the floor. He was sitting at the edge of the bed and there was more hair near his feet. He was still watching Lion King but in his hand were a pair of small scissors. I know worse could have happened – lot worse happens with scissors – and I am luckier than my mom, I did not have to take him home to his mom.
Circle of Life I guess J

Friday, September 2, 2011

32 Hours – Bangalore to Hampi and back

It will be a hot there, it will rain there. I heard that a lot but what I heard the most was - one day is really not enough. I had a simple choice – one day or zero days. I chose one day. So this is a summary of 32 hours – from Bangalore to Hampi and back. For some funnier incidents read - Oye, you are not a foreigner?

Timeline, experience and cost:
Bangalore Cant for Hospet (AC 2 Tier) - Hampi Express
Auto from Hospet Station to Bus Stand
30 (actual 15 but it was early J and I am a meter + twenty ;))
Bus to Hampi (runs every 20min)
Walk from Bus Stand to River to find an elephant being bathed
Free (would have paid for it)
Good breakfast at New Shanthi Resturant with free guide book to Hampi, plus intro to some good autorikshaw guides
Haggled with guide and got one with an auto for the next four hours
Exhausted but WOWed by the many sights of Hampi. Only Queens grounds required a ticket ( Rs 250 for foreigners, Rs 10 for Indians)*
Horrible lunch at Hotel Moonlight
Awesome lunch at Mango Tree (really nice)**
Exploratory trip up Matunga hill
Free (Priceless?)
Bhel puri and cuppa sweet tea for me and two friends I made
Bus back to Hospet (last bus leaves at 7:30pm)
Walk to station from bus stand
Free but little longer than I expected
Freak out at station as the train was at 8:40pm not 10:40pm as I had misread.
Free Adrenaline and relief
Shared a masala dosa from railway canteen with a dog
Unknowingly entertained a few people with photos on my iphone
Free (could have charged and got a full dosa for the dog)
Train was slightly late but my RAC ticket had a confirmed berth so found my seat.
Bangalore Cant Station, in time to rush home and see kids off to school
TOTAL:  32 hours
Too Many
Rs. 2175 ($ 48)***

* Four hours in not enough to see these ruins. I took it slow and spent time in places that I really enjoyed. I did not have a check list, I just wanted to see and be there. Places I loved – tank at the recently excavated marketplace. A little stand with an amazing 360 view at the Royal properties and the view from Matunga hill.  Climb up the hill – it is worth the steep and rock steps.
** The best eatery in Hampi. It is by the side of the river with an nice view and really good food. FYI – Hampi is an all vegetarian town.

*** Splurge on the best tix you can afford if you are down this kind of a round trip. A good night’s sleep helps a lot going and you are tired on the way back. I could have paid less by taking a cheaper train ticket and more by taking an AC taxi for the day from Hospet. I deliberately chose and paid for the experiences I wanted.

The river was full from the recent opening of Tungabadra Dam so there was no boat service and thus no way to see the other side ( not that I had too much time). But that is another place to goto if you have time. Shanthi Hotel on that side is recommended as a good place to stay. Gopi on the Hampi side is recommended if you don't want to chance the river.

Contact info of my nice autowala who explained all the places in decent English - only the basement remains cause the rest of the building was fired ;) -  (just don't take his recommendation on Hotel MoonLight) - Raghu 9449135915.

Oye, you are not a foreigner?

1. I asked for a guide and autowalla in English. They talked among themselves in Hindi sure that I was a foreigner. The discussion was about how much to overcharge me. When asked about the fare I said - "Teen sau chalayga?" (Will 300 do?). Surprised and realizing I had understood the whole discussion I got away with Rs 350, unlike a Spanish guy who paid Rs750.

2. My autowalla knew I knew Hindi but was not sure how well I spoke it. Unexpectedly just before we reached the Queens palace he switched to Hindi "Lets talk a little in Hindi", he said. His Hindi was bad, worse than mine for sure but we went back and forth about the palace a little. "Good" he said in English. "Now madam when you go to buy a ticket, talk in Hindi. It will cost you Rs 10. If you talk in English you pay Rs 250"
Look foreign, talk foreign then you pay foreign :)

3. A crowd of young men were posing for photos. One walked over and asked me - "Ma'am, photo please." "Ok" I said, holding out my hand for the camera. I mean they wanted a group photo right? "No, ma'am. You take photo with us".
This happened five times during the day."Don't take offence," the autowalla explained, "they have not seen foreigners before. You are a tourist attraction for them."
 I must say on refusing most walked away politely. I really did not want to be shown as the foreign 'Humpi girlfriend' in some village.

4. Walking through the Queen's bath - a 15th Century swimming pool - I was surrounded by children. I had been shaking hand with them all day (see point 3). Some had come voluntarily and some had been pushed along by their parents - "Shake hands, say Hello". Just then a really white woman - blond hair and all walked in. I was amused to see a crowd bigger than mine following her. And then some of mine deserted me too !!! ;)

5. At the end of the day I was sitting at the platform looking through photos of the day on my iphone. Suddenly I realized there were some five people peering and "wowing" at the photos. "Ipod hai" "Very nice shot" I heard it all. I was tempted to shoo them away. Then I gave in to my exhibitionist side - I mean there was ready audience that did not care that half my friends and their SLRs shot things way better than this. I showed them photos from Seattle, of Rainer and paragliding, of fireworks. They were amazed and I was amused for the five minutes before the train showed up and I was not such a foreigner anymore.

For details on the trip read - 32 hours Bangalore to Hampi and back