Channapatna the Toy Land

Channapatna, our very own Toy Land

Hurtling down the highway flanked by rows upon rows of shops sporting colorful wooden toys, briefly halting there to pick up a few of the objects that greatly tempt with their brightly colored presence and then speeding off again to the eventual destination … this used to be my story and also probably that of many others who have frequented the Bangalore Mysore highway.

Not once did I manage to make the time or create the opportunity to check out the actual Toy Story behind these delightful articles which are iconic to the town of Channapatna in the district of Ramanagara, Karnataka, India.

Well there is a right moment for every event and finally I got my chance to delve deep and explore this fascinating and age old craft of wooden toy making, when I was invited on a wonderfully educative tour organised by India Tourism Bengaluru in order to raise awareness and promote these crafts.

And like Alice in Wonderland, Caroline in Toyland traipsed through the little villages and factories of Channapatna, bobbing in and out of artisan’s homes watching their deft fingers shape bobble headed dolls and other such playthings.

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World Folklore Day at Janapada Loka – Ramanagara

Step back into the days of yore,

Enter the world of rural folklore

Throbbing drumbeats, high pitched melodies from quaint instruments and performers in vibrant costumes animatedly prancing around, creating a highly captivating festive atmosphere … this was the scene which greeted us as we arrived at the magnificent gates of the Janapada Loka.

We were here to witness the exhilarating performances and programs being showcased to celebrate World Folklore Day and what better venue than the Janapada Loka, a spectacular museum which houses thousands of artefacts representing the various lifestyles, customs, cuisines, crafts, arts and many other facets of Karnataka’s rich native and ancient folk culture.

This delightful opportunity was organised by India Tourism Bengaluru, with whose collaboration I was able to be a part of this wonderful occasion at Janapada Loka, Ramanagara district, Karnataka, India.

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Veerapuram Bird Sanctuary

Guttural squawks, groans and clattering sounds greet us as we drive into this tiny village. The perpetrators of these noises seem to be perched on the massive tamarind trees that tower over the clusters of little houses. As I look up towards the sky, I am delighted and awed to sight hundreds of large and magnificent birds studded across the branches, perched in various stances. Some of them periodically take off and land with a grace that is admirable for their size, while others merely squat around as if discussing important matters befitting their positions in high places.

Welcome to the Veerapuram Bird Sanctuary in the Sri Sathya Sai district of Andhra Pradesh, India and marvel at the strange connection between the villagers and the innumerable Painted Storks which have inexplicably and repeatedly chosen this place as their home from February to August every year.

My visit to the beautiful homestay called Laila’s Farm has yielded this serendipitous discovery and my camera and I are excited to explore this little sanctuary and capture these gorgeous beings on lens.

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Ayatana Coorg

The air is thick with the high pitched buzz of countless cicadas. The strident chorus dominates the atmosphere and reverberates through the forest. The crescendo is unwavering and it is as if every cicada is contributing its mite and might and striving vociferously to add to the delightful din.

As I stand there thinking that nothing can break into this oxymoronic organised cacophony, I hear a mellifluous whistle valiantly making its way through the clamor, as if flirtatiously beckoning me into the woods.

It is the Malabar Whistling Thrush welcoming me to the paradise where I am eagerly waiting to spend the next 2 days of my life in much needed relaxation. 

The vegetation is lush and sparkling clean, being washed repeatedly by the rains that are now ruling the season. The sprawling green landscape soothes the eyes and the soul and I feel my senses being likewise cleansed even as I enter into the wide gates of Ayatana Coorg, a luxury resort which lies deep within the hilly region of the Coorg district in Karnataka, India.

Come hop onto the buggy with me as we roll along the undulating path, on an exciting ride which is a precursor to the thrill that lies within!

This trip was organised by the Karnataka Tourism Forum, a non profit organization which is committed to promoting tourism in Karnataka.

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Laila’s Farm

The windchimes tinkle incessantly, powered by the equally untiring breeze which blows from across the lake. This is a melody which is going to bestow on me a constant and pleasurable sensation for the next 2 days.

The vast front yard is a riot of colors, right from the fresh green of the lawn to the innumerable multi-hued flowers, fruits and vegetables and to the vivid fish that glide placidly in their koi pond.

2 little doggies pause their gambolling on the lawn and bound towards me in a show of welcome that is as vigorous as the dominating wind.

I have reached the pretty blue and white gates of Laila’s Farm, named after Laila the bigger of the 2 dogs, whose demeanor and swag clearly indicate no ambiguity that she is the boss around here.

This brand new haven with its blue and white themed charming little homestay set amidst verdant environs, is the creation of ex army Major Tejinder Singh Wohra popularly known as Robin Wohra, whose hunt for a getaway from the city, culminated in this little retreat tucked away in a gated layout in the Sri Sathya Sai district of Andhra Pradesh, India.

This is by far the smallest property that I as a travel blogger have written about but the pleasure and delight that it rendered me was inversely proportional to its size. I also thought that this would be a short blog but you will soon realize the fallacy of my thinking 😎 (It is also noteworthy that this is my first foray into Andhra Pradesh as a travel blogger!)

So what was it about this place that endeared itself to me? Well the immediate way to find out is to read on and the other way is to actually make a trip there and see for yourself. For now, let us achieve the former as I tantalize you into planning for the latter!

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Orange Odyssey

Experienced in Feb 2020 and published in July 2023 😎

This blog post was delayed because it was one of the last of the exciting things that I did before covid hit and the pause in between, broke my momentum of travelling and writing.

I had just returned to the city of Nagpur from my maiden tiger safari in Pench National Park and I had a day free here before boarding my flight back to Bangalore.

Nagpur is a very important city located in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state in India. Known especially for its famed oranges and for being the gateway to some of Central India’s national parks, this strategically located city also holds many places of historical and cultural interest.

The seeker within me was curious to learn more about this place but I was not sure how exactly to go about finding someone who could guide me. A bit of random walking initially led me to a very helpful autorickshaw driver who took me around to whatever tourist spots he knew.

However, I was thirsting for more and in desperation I turned to the ‘Master of all information’ and hunted for ‘Nagpur heritage tour guides’. Sir Google instantly obliged and brought forth the existence of Amol and Mandira in the form of a mere phone number.

That was a smart call I made (pun intended) because they happened to be just the people I was looking for and in the limited time that I had, they willingly agreed to show me around and led me to a couple of places which perfectly matched my interests, namely the Cenotaphs (Chhatris) and the Fire pani puri snack, which was the rage in Nagpur at that time. We also had a quick glimpse of several heritage buildings.

Their passion and vast knowledge of the city, made those few hours totally worth my time.

I truly wish I can go back someday to experience the enhanced activities which they have now included in their bouquet of offerings. They have blossomed well and come a long way in these few years and I wish them greater success in future.

But for now, let us relive the interesting evening that I spent with them, with you my reader for virtual company this time.

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PK Ponnappa’s Court – Homestay

If you accuse me of advocating this homestay, I will say Guilty as charged!

It’s charm is all there in Black and White, ensconced in liberal swathes of luxuriant green and I can prove it in Court!

If you are wondering what I am legally defending, then you have to meet me at the courthouse … or in this case, a charming little homestay of sorts known as P K Ponnappa’s Court, which snuggles cosily within its surrounding coffee plantation in a quiet and unspoiled region of Coorg.

Coorg is a district in the highlands of the state of Karnataka in India and its location and terrain obviously make it a very popular hill station and holiday destination.

Homestays, resorts and hotels of every category, naturally abound here and discovering new options to stay, is a an activity that never fails to excite me.

P K Ponnappa’s Court is one such gem which is my latest finding. The very name of the place contains a clue to the inspiration behind it, namely the original profession of the owners. And yes, as you might have guessed by now, this place belongs to a family of lawyers. This also explains the mostly black and white color scheme throughout the property, clearly influenced by the clear cut colors of the legal business.

So follow me into this delightful space as I try to do Justice to its charms with my narration and before you scream Order Order, I promise to stop my excessive legalese word play … well at least for a while 😀

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Shettihalli Rosary Church, Hassan

There is something surreal about the skeletal and fragmented remains of the Shettihalli Rosary church. This 19th-century Gothic style church which is said to have been constructed in 1860 to be precise, was abandoned a 100 years later along with its surrounding villages, following the construction of the Hemavati/Dam and Reservoir (also known as Gorur dam) in 1960.

Since then, it has deteriorated into ruins with an overhanging aura of mysteriousness and intrigue. Hauntingly beautiful (in more ways than one, since rumor albeit unsubstantiated, has it that it is also inhabited by ghosts), this church draws tourists and photographers like a magnet, throughout the year.

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Strelitzia Villas – Luxury Homestay

To describe it a piece of Paradise would sound clichéd but I cannot think of a more fitting line for the aptly named luxury homestay, Strelitzia Villas at Paradise Plantation.

These are a set of luxury villas tucked away in a magical little clearing, deep within a paradisiacal coffee plantation.

With a name that is inspired by the Bird of Paradise flower, the Strelitzia, I get the urge to drag the phrase a step further and call this place a small bit of paradise within a larger paradise.

So near and yet so far … yet another common phrase slips out of my fingers as I attempt to depict the location of this most uncommon and gorgeous homestay, which despite lying a mere 500 meters from the main road, manages to render a serene sense of being a distant and secluded 50 kms away.

Located in Chikmagalur (or Chikkamagaluru) district in the state of Karnataka in the southern part of India, this homestay joins the list of burgeoning luxury options in this region albeit being of a more private and personalised category and that is what sets it apart from most of the other resorts and getaways.

So prepare to be amazed at the splendor that has been carved out in the midst of nature, as you step into the lavishly fitted yet extremely eco-sensitive environs of the villas and their surrounding lush landscapes, which despite being of man-made design and creation, yet manage to retain a natural and uncontrived feel.

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Jajpur, Odisha – Things to do

My recent discovery of a place called Jajpur in Odisha, caused a lot of excitement mainly due to the revelations of the vast potential of its past.

As mentioned in my previous post on Jajpur, Odisha, the district administration of Jajpur has initiated the HACT Jajpur project which is working towards safeguarding and promoting the Heritage, Art, Culture and Tourism of this district.

Jajpur district is a gold mine of interesting attractions for the tourist. It is home to a multitude of ancient temples, Buddhist archaeological sites, villages teeming with local arts and crafts like silk weaving, grass weaving, terracotta and stone sculpting, musicians who keep traditional music and instruments from going extinct and other such enticements, especially for those interested in tourism involving heritage, arts and crafts … or as I like to call it, HACT’ual tourism 😉

A 2 part series featuring my experiences at Jajpur, Odisha, covering the overview of the place and the specific list of things to do here.

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