The river of Thousand Lingas

Located 30 kms northeast of Siem Reap, is the Phnom Kulen National Park. This was not part of our original itinerary but we visited this place as per our guide Sarath’s suggestion. A long drive along a mud road through a jungle took us to this destination. A giant reclining Buddha, a waterfall and a thousand lingas carved on the river bed are the attractions here.

Brief history :

Phnom Kulen (Mountain of Lychees in Khmer) is the birthplace of Khmer civilisation. It was here that King Jayavarman II declared himself the King of the Khmer Empire . He started the Devaraja cult where the King is equated to God and that is reflected in many of the faces in the ancient temples we saw at Angkor

His successors expanded the empire and built several temples and monuments here. Today, this area is a partially forested site with temples, ancient reservoirs, ponds, plots ,ceramic kilns and rock paintings sites ; all part of an ancient urban complex. Mahendraparvata or Phnom Kulen represents a significant milestone in urban development.

Legend of Mahendra Parvata

During the Khmer period, this area was called Mahendraparvata…… Mahendra ( The Great Indra in Sanskrit) and parvata (mountain). It is very significant as it is one of the earliest capitals of the Angkor period ranging between the 9th and 15th centuries. . Legend has it that Mahendraparvata was the mountain lifted to Lanka by Hanuman to extract Sanjeevani ( a lifesaving herbal plant)

Mahendraparvata on Phnom Kulen has suffered damages from the ravages of time, looting during the Cambodian war, climate change and other factors. Following the collapse of the Khmer regime in the 15th century, Phnom Kulen was largely abandoned except for the reclining buddha which was a pilgrim centre. During the Khmer Rouge period, it became their strong hold and many statues were relocated to Phnom Penh while others were looted and fell into private hands.

It was only in 2008 that the Angkor authorities have started excavations, explorations here leading to many new findings. Restoration and conservation activities are now on.

The river of Thousand Lingas

This mountain range is also the place of origin of the Siem Reap river. It occupies the position of a local aquifer for the entire region draining most of the plateau before reaching Angkor. It is believed that water which flows over the images of Gods is purified. The King wanted his subjects to get pure water and that is probably the cause of The Thousand Lingas and other images carved on the river beds. The entire water from the rivers, channels and other aquifer network ultimately enters the Tonle Sap lake which we will visit in our future episodes.

The Kbal Spean river which is a small tributary of the Siem Reap river flows through this National Park. The Kbal Spean river is known as the Sahasralinga River( River of thousand lingas). [Sahasra in Sanskrit is thousand and Linga is the symbol of Shiva the Hindu God.]

It was indeed amazing to see the innumerable lingas carved on the stones of the river bed. They are carved in grid like fashion and often vary in size. Take a look…

A board displayed by the roadside tells us the location of the lingas.

The site of the Thousand Lingas

A short walk along a trail in a jungle leads us to the Kbal Spean river and the lingas.

The Lingas carved in grid like arrangement

In addition to the lingas, there are other carvings on the riverbed too. Take a look at one of Lord Vishnu…..

The face of Lord Vishnu carved on the river bed

A 250 metres walk along the trail by the river side takes us to a pool which has different coloured water. It looks like a spring from which the water is flowing out.

The spring pool with different coloured water

Our next destination was Kulen Waterfall.

Kulen Waterfall

A long walk on an uneven road with occasional slippery boulders lead us to the first stage of the Kulen waterfall. This waterfall falls from a height of around 5 metres .

Kulen Waterfall level one

Some more walking on uneven boulders and finally a steep metal stairway led us to the second level of the waterfall. Here the water falls from a height of around 20 metres. There is a beautiful swing chair close to the falls. Many locals were enjoying a bath in the falls.

Kulen Waterfall level two

A beautiful swing chair close to the waterfall

The other important location in the National park is the Pagoda or temple of the reclining Buddha.

Preah Ang Thom

Preah Ang Thom is the most venerated and worshipped Buddha statue in the Kulen mountain from the post-Angkorian period. (12th to 16th centuries) It is 8 meter long statue of the reclining Buddha reaching nirvana. The statue is carved on to the side of a huge natural sandstone boulder. A staircase and a shelter over Buddha has been added later.

A statue outside the temple entrance.

As one reaches the temple parking area, there are plenty of stalls selling eatables ,souvenirs and flowers.

A lady selling lotuses, hats and souvenirs and a stall selling local herbs outside the temple

A flight of stairs with a Naga balustrade on either side and an arch leads one into the temple.

The stairs with Naga balustrade and the arch at the temple entrance

This is a very sacred place of worship for the Khmer people and it can be sensed as we enter through the arch. The complex has plenty of shrines of various sizes with statues of Buddha , Shiva, Ganesha and other Hindu Gods. Some pictures…

A beautifully carved shrine at the complex

A Buddha shrine

A shrine with Hindu Gods Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha

The beautifully carved Naga statue ( well preserved unlike most others which were in ruins)

A music performance at the temple complex

Many Buddha statues at the base of a huge boulder

The temple itself is at various levels and after each level, there is a flight of stairs.

The Shrine and the steps leading to the top most level on the side of a boulder

At the top most level is the most important deity of the temple, the Reclining Buddha.

Face of Reclining Buddha

With the Reclining Buddha

Outside the shrine of the reclining Buddha is a huge gong which all the devotees strike as they leave the shrine.

After the climb up to the top of the temple and the climb down, a cool tender coconut was very welcome. The coconuts here are huge and more sweet than what we find in India.

The sweet and cool tender coconut water rejuvenated us

Boarding the bus once again with Sarath, we headed to the Floating Villages and the Tonle Sap Lake , the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia.

See you next week at the Floating Village near Tonle Sap Lake. Till then, do subscribe, like and comment on my blog. Your feedbacks are very welcome too!

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom ( Nogor Thom in Khmer meaning Great City) was the last capital of the Khmer Regime. Established in the late 12th century by King JayavarmanVII , this is one of the most visited tourist spots today. Covering an area of nine square kms, it has several temples and monuments built by King Jayavarman and his predecesors.

Angkor Thom was established as the capital of King Jayavarman’s Empire and the centre of his massive building programme.

The city lies on the banks of the Siem Reap river around seven kms north of Siem Reap city and around two kms north of Angkor Wat.

The walls of the city of Angkor Thom are flanked by a moat and made of laterite .There are gates at each of the cardinal points from which roads lead to the Bayon at the centre. The gates have towers with faces on them which are similar to the faces on the Bayon and probably represent the King himself, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, guardians of the cardinal points or a combination of these.

A causeway spans the moat in front of each tower. This causeway has a row of faces of Devas on the left and Asuras on the right holding a Naga. The gates were probably closed with wooden gates. The South gate is by far the most visited as it is now the main entrance to Angkor Thom.

The supporting wooden poles at the gate gives us the feeling that some major repair work is on. Yes, that is true; renovation and restoration of the temple is going on in full swing.

South gate of Angkor Thom , the road , moat, causeway, Naga and the Devas and Asuras.

The tower at the South gate with the face on the tower (note the supporting wooden poles for renovation)

The Deva statues on the left side of the causeway

The Asura statues on the right side of the causeway

The Bayon

This richly decorated temple at the centre of Angkor Thom was the state temple of King Jayavarman VII.

The original name of Bayon was Jaya Giri or Mountain of Brahma ( Jaya is another name of Brahma and Giri means mountain). The most distinctive feature of this temple is the smiling faces of Brahma on each of the four sides of the towers.

The Banyan tree is very sacred to the Buddhist ideology as Buddha got enlightenment under the banyan tree. This temple is called Bayon from the word Banyan.

As one reaches the temple, one is greeted by a flight of stairs with the guardian lions on either side. Climbing up the stairs, one reaches a platform from where one enters the main temple.

View of Bayon temple from the road.

The stairs with guardian lions on either side.

The main entrance.

As one enters the temple, one reaches a narrow corridor with pillars on either side. As one walks along the corridor, there are blocked doorways, stairs and small yards and the labyrinth of the temple becomes obvious.

The first enclosure opens up into two inner galleried enclosures. All these are crowded together and unlike Angkor Wat which gives one a feeling of space , Bayon gives the feeling of being cramped together.

The walls of the outer enclosure features bas reliefs depicting historical events and the daily life of the people. The outer enclosure encloses a courtyard with two libraries. Beyond this level, entry was restricted due to restoration work . But they are believed to contain bas reliefs of the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and Ravana.

The Upper Terrace appears to a later addition to the plan as there is hardly any space between the inner gallery and the terrace. This level features the famous Face Towers of Bayon. There are 49 towers and more than 200 faces on these towers. In various stages of ruin, it is not possible to give the exact numbers of these.

There is some disagreement on the identity of the faces. The similarity of the faces led historians to believe that they represent King Jayavarman VII himself. Some scholars believe that the faces represent Bodhisattva of campassion called Avalokiteshvara. Locals still believe that the faces represent Brahma and not Buddha as they have three eyes and Buddha does not have three eyes. The predecessors of Jayavarman VII were Hindus but Jayavarman VII was a Buddhist.

The Face Towers of Bayon

The central tower and sanctuary is believed to have contained a Buddha statue in a meditative pose shielded by a serpent hood. This was removed by the next King, Jayavarman VIII who followed Hinduism and was recovered in a damaged condition from a well.

A closeup showing the obvious reconstruction attempt

After the visit to Bayon temple, we started for another popular temple near Angkor Thom….The Ta Prohm.

Enroute, Sarath pointed out the famous Elephant terrace to us.

Elephant Terrace

The terrace is named after the sculptures seen on it. Several elephant heads protrude out from the wall and their long trunks almost extending to the ground. It was used as an audience hall and for public ceremonies. The King often listened to the complaints of the people from here. Many parts of the terrace are in a state of collapse.

Elephant Terrace

Ta Prohm (Ancient Brahma)

Our next halt was at Ta Prohm, a unique temple in Angkor Thom which many of you would have seen in English movies. This temple is a very popular film shooting destination and one of the most popular movies shot here is Tomb Raider.

History of Ta Prohm

Built by Jayavarman VII between the 12th and 13th centuries, this temple was originally called “Rajavihara” meaning Royal monastery. He built this temple in honour of his family. The main image here was modelled on the King’s mother. The site was home to more than twelve thousand people including high priests and dancers. In addition, the surrounding villages has lot of inhabitants.

After the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, this temple was abandoned and neglected. Restoration and reconstruction work started here in the 21st century. But the location and the way the temple had merged with the jungle and the trees had grown all over the structures, it was decided to not alter the overall picture as it was unique in many ways.


Ta Prohm is slightly different from Angkor Wat and Bayon in that it is built very flat and at one level. There are entrance gopuras at the four cardinal directions but many of them are in various stages of collapse. There are libraries , bas reliefs depicting Buddhist mythology and images of devatas. The temple was highly ornate and decorated in art styles of different periods in time.

But the most captivating feature of this temple are the trees. The trees growing out of the ruins is a distinctive feature of this temple. The silk cotton tree and fig tree are the main species of trees growing out of the ruins. When one visits the temple, one forgets about the gopuras and sanctum sanctorum and gets spell bound by the tall trunks of the trees growing from in between the stones of the temple wall and ending in a green canopy against the sky on one end and the huge roots encircling the monument walls and spreading on to the ground. The trees have so encircled the complex that one looses orientation of the place as one manoeuvres in between the giant roots.

The main gate used as the entrance by visitors today is the western gate. Outside the gate were plenty of shops selling curios, souvenirs and other articles. Lot of vendors, particularly women tried to woo us with their wares. Needless to say, they were successful to some extent!!

The western gate has a gopura with the faces as seen at Bayon. The gate itself was supported by scaffolding poles probably as a support to prevent collapse. We also entered through the western gate.

At the west gate of Ta Prohm ( note the supporting metal poles as part of reinforcement and restoration)

Soon we were inside the complex. Surprisingly, we entered a vast expanse of farmland and jungle with a trail in the centre . This area was probably the place where the inhabitants in service of the temple lived in dwellings which no longer exist. A long walk of around two kms took us to the main sanctuary. There are signages all along but most people find their own way, some even exploring the jungle on either side.

Walking along the trail, I was attracted by some melodious music and I approached a small shelter where I found around six men playing different musical instruments in harmony. A closer look , and I noticed that many of them were handicapped and then I noticed a board saying these people were the unfortunate victims of landmine blasts during the various conflicts that the country had seen.

What wars and conflicts do to humanity!!!

Melody from pain….

A moat with a bridge, a few terraces and a couple of gopuras and we finally reached the location of the most iconic pictures of Ta Prohm.

No amount of description by me is going to give you a perspective of the trees and their massiveness. So, I leave you with these pictures which speak a thousand words. Take a look…

Note the huge trees at the back, they are actually growing on the back wall

This is perhaps the most iconic picture of Ta Prohm, the entrance with the roots encircling it!!

Sarath obliged us with this picture at this iconic location….once in a lifetime!

The sheer massiveness of the roots and branches require support from scaffoldings to prevent it from falling

From the pictures above, it must be obvious to you that what we see at Ta Prohm is perhaps an ongoing battle between the trees and monument. It seems like the trees have taken a vice like grip on the monument and the monument is struggling to free itself. At places, the trees seem to have not been able to undo the artistic monument but at places, they have won the battle with the monument in ruins!!

A spot which nature has still left for us to admire the artistic work (partly reconstructed)

A spot where the trees have won the battle !!!

It left all of us in complete awe and disbelief….

Restoration of Ta Prohm

India is very much involved in the restoration work at this temple that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Archaeological Survey Of India has restored parts of the complex. Wooden walkways, platforms and roped railings have been put in place to protect the monument from further damage. The Hall of Dancers has been totally renovated.

A board at Ta Prohm that made us proud…

Leaving Ta Prohm with mixed feelings we headed back to the hotel for a relaxed evening after taking in a lot of history, architecture, art and nature.

Ta Prohm’s ruins left me with delight and awe at what one man did and despair and regret at what has befallen it over the years. The overpowering forces of nature are in full display here. NATURE HAS FULL CONTROL OVER ANYTHING MORTAL…..

Hope you enjoyed your visit to Bayon and Ta Prohm with me. Do give me your comments and feedback to keep me motivated!

See you next week at another destination in Siem Reap that speaks of the grandeur of the Kings…Phnom Kulen

Angkor Wat

How about a visit to the largest religious edifice in the world?

Well, the Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap in Cambodia , is just that. A UNESCO World Heritage site; it is today a very popular tourist destination.

We have it all here, just sit back on your armchair and visit this architectural masterpiece .The Guinness Book of World records calls it the largest temple in the world and the largest structure ever built by man.

Angkor Wat literally means City of Temples in Khmer, the local language of Cambodia. Angkor is so much an inherent part of the Cambodian culture that the image of Angkor Wat has found itself on their national flag, their currency, the fuselage of their airline, and even on bottles of their best selling beer!!!!

Angkor Wat is an integral part of the Cambodian ethos!!

A peep into history

In order to understand the soul of this historic monument, we need to know a little about its history. Angkor Wat was built by King Suryavarman II in the first half of 12th century as a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu. The original name of Angkor Wat was Vrah Vishnuloka meaning the sacred abode of Vishnu.

Suryavarman II was regarded as a great ruler and built homes and workshops , markets and roads all around the temple complex. The temple was never fully completed as he died before that.

Gradually the followers of Hinduism grew but a large proportion of Khmer also practiced Buddhism. Its function as a Hindu temple fell out of use in the late 13th century and it was taken over by Buddhist monks.

In the 14th century Angkor Wat was rededicated as a Buddhist temple. They however respected the beliefs of the Hindus and all of the original statues were left behind but statues of Buddha and related structures were added. The name Angkor Wat became prevalent around this time.

After 1432 when the capital was moved to Phnom Penh, the importance of this temple reduced further and ultimately it was cared for by Theravada Buddhist monks.

By the 16th century the temple fell into disuse and decay. The presence of the moat protected the temple from being totally taken over by the jungle around but it still crept up the walls and cracks.

The first Westerner to visit the temple was the Portuguese monk Madalena who in 1586 made a note of its location. Subsequently, French archaeologist Mouhot took active interest in Angkor Wat and publicized it.

The paradoxes of Angkor Wat…

Historians and archaeologists are yet to arrive at what exactly was Angkor Wat built as. Was it built as a temple, a shrine, an observatory, a mausoleum, or a combination of one or more of them.? There are many paradoxes seen in the structure that has led to this uncertainty.

It looks like a temple but traditionally, Hindu temples have their main entrance facing East but at Angkor Wat, the main entrance faces West, the direction associated with death. This has led to the postulation of it being a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II . But no evidence to this has been found as yet.

Architectural plan of Angkor Wat

The plan of Angkor Wat is difficult to understand when one is inside due to the sheer vastness of the structure.

At first glance it appears to be a colossal mass of stone but up close one sees that it has different levels, covered galleries, courtyards and chambers connected by staircases.

Basically a rectangular structure built at three levels with each higher level being progressively smaller and higher than the previous one. The temple covers a rectangular area of approximately 420 acres, defined by a laterite wall.

The most prominent part of the structure are the five towers at the third level The four corner towers are of equal height but the central tower is the tallest and is 213 feet high. These towers are shaped like lotus buds.

The unique design makes simultaneous viewing of all five towers possible only in certain positions.

The temple has a 650 feet wide moat surrounding it with a depth of 13 feet.

A diagrammatic representation of the temple and various levels.

All five towers are visible in this angle

The stone required for building this was brought from the Kulen mountains located about 22 kms away. Just consider all these statistics and put it in perspective that it was built at a time when no modern transportation or equipment was available. It is widely believed that the complex was built (1113-1150 CE)over 37 years, a remarkable feat considering the period in history when it happened.


Most scholars believe that the temple is a miniature replica of the universe in stone . The central tower represents the mythical mountain Meru of Hindu Cosmology situated at the centre of the universe and the other towers representing the peaks of Meru .The outer wall represents the mountains on the edge of the universe and the moat representing the oceans.

My Visit

I visited Angkor Wat in December 2022 along with a group of friends. Accompanied by Sharath , our guide at Siem Reap, we set out before dawn to watch the sun rise over this wonder of the world.

We groped in the dark following Sharath’s torch light and soon found ourselves walking on a very foamy ,wobbling surface. That was the floating bridge across the moat. After that we climbed a few stairs and almost trampled a little baby snake and reached one of the vantage points to view the sunrise as per Sharath’s advice. Later I learnt that this place was one of the libraries in the courtyard. Waiting patiently in anticipation, we slowly started seeing the first rays of the Sun and a pinkish hue in the sky and could see Angkor Wat against this. As the day dawned, the sheer vastness of the monument dawned on us. We had all heard about the temple and read about it but nothing had prepared us enough for what we saw…

A feeling of awe and amazement engulfed us as we stood admiring this creation.

Talking about sunrise at Angkor Wat, the temple is so designed that on one particular day ; the spring solstice, the sun rises just behind the main tower every year. Such is the precise astronomy that these ancient kings practiced.

Angkor Wat at dawn

The light increased and so did the crowds!

Now that the initial sunrise part is over, let me start from the time we entered the complex.

We initially encountered the moat on which is the floating bridge about which I had talked earlier on.

The moat and floating bridge

Once we crossed the moat, we walked along a stone causeway at the beginning of which was a guardian Naga.

The guardian Naga with the reflective pond on one side

On either side of the causeway are reflective ponds. The north pond is where visitors throng at dawn to get the reflected image on the water.

I did manage to get a picture of the reflection but the wind played spoilsport and created some ripples…

Angkor Wat and the elusive reflection!!

Two buildings called libraries stood in the courtyard on either side of the causeway. It was on the stairs of one of these libraries that we had perched in the dark to view the sunrise over Angkor Wat!

Our group on the stairs of one of the libraries

At the end of the causeway are a flight of stairs that lead to a terrace .Lions stand guard on either side of the staircase .

The staircase and the guarding lions

From the terrace, in front of the main entrance, we saw the three towers of varying heights. In this position, the other two towers are not visualised. A long covered corridor with columns and a curved roof extended on both sides of the central tower. This is the majestic appearance of Angkor Wat and a tribute to Khmer architecture.

On the terrace leading to the main entrance with three towers and covered corridor on either side

The overall layout of Angkor Wat :

There are three levels to the temple.

First level: The rectangular gallery with bas reliefs, north and south libraries and four basins

Second level : Terrace

Third level :The four corner towers with a central tower.

We explored the temple with our guide explaining the nuances

First level

Stories in stone

The Temple complex is literally like a mythological book with important religious and cultural tales etched out in stone.

After one enters the temple through the central entrance which is the Western entrance, one can see long corridors on either side. These corridors have square pillars with intricate carvings towards the outside but the walls of the corridor has multiple bas reliefs. These bas reliefs are mainly related to Hindu mythology .Stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata form a big part of the bas reliefs seen here. These bas reliefs are neatly divided into sections with each epic being depicted along one wall.

The corridors with square pillars on the outer side and the walls with bas reliefs

Many of the Bas reliefs have undergone varying levels of damage due to natural causes and the pictures may not be very clear due to this. Here are some pictures of the bas reliefs we saw . Take a look…

Bas relief of the battle of Kurukshetra

Krishna counselling Arjuna during the battle of Kurukshetra

Bas relief depicting heaven and hell

Bas relief of Ravana shaking Kailasa and Shiva sitting in penance

Bas relief of the Churning of the Ocean of milk

Bas relief of Avatars of Vishnu with Kurmavtar (tortoise) at bottom and Krishna on top.

And finally one of the king himself…

Bas relief of King Suryavarman II

As we walked around the complex, we got a side view of the galleries.

The side view of the galleries

The Middle Level Terrace

The middle level is less ornate than the lower level. Though there are bas reliefs from various epics here too, the images of Apsaras and devatas is the striking feature here. Apsaras are heavenly beauties of Hindu mythology who used to entertain the Gods with their dances.

The Apsaras:

Standing in graceful postures with intricately carved crowns, and ornaments adorning them, these Apsaras reflect the richness of the Khmer culture and how people lived in that period.

The Apsaras… notice the head gear and ornaments

Inspired by the beauty and elegance of these images, Apsaras make up a significant part of the cultural dances of Cambodia. The dress and ornaments of the dancers are similar to the images here and the movements are also very slow and graceful. We visited one such event and the performance was featured in the previous episode.

In addition to the apsara carvings on the wall, there were several Buddha statues at this level. Most of the statues are beheaded . In fact it is believed that there were many Buddha statues here and many were destroyed by the conquerors and also as part of the civil war. At least some of these statues were discovered during excavations and have been reinstated.

The disfigured Buddhas

One can look out of the galleries at this level to get an overview of the temple complex.

View from the second level

The Third Level or Bakan :

The ascent to the third level is via a steep stairway . Since the principal sanctuary of the temple was at the third level, the ascent along these stairs to reach God was symbolic of separating oneself from this world.

The steep stairway leading to the third level

This principal sanctuary of the temple at the third level had access restricted to the king and high priests. There are four equal sized towers at the four corners with a larger tower in the centre. This arrangement is called quincunx, The upper portions of some of these towers have collapsed and are in various stages of restoration.

All towers are shaped like the lotus bud which is very sacred in Southeast Asia.

Details of one of the lotus bud shaped towers (note restoration work in progress)

The corner towers are connected by galleries . Each of these towers are connected by axial galleries to the central tower .This arrangement is called a cruciform cloister. The cruciform cloister has chambers that look like tanks and it is believed that at one point in time, these tanks had water in them.

A cruciform cloister

Looking out from the galleries of this level, one can really see the vastness of this complex and get an overview of its plan.

An over view of the complex from the third level

The upper level , especially the towers are also believed to have had lot of wealth , gems, jewellery and other valuables stored by the King. They have all been systematically stolen by conquerors, during the civil wars and even by local vandals.

After a tour of the different levels of the temple we descended down to the first level.

Ashtabuja Vishnu ( 8 handed Vishnu)

A huge Vishnu statue with 8 arms is still being worshipped here. This is now in the south gopura of the outer gallery at the western entrance. It is believed that this was the deity in the central tower at the principal sanctuary of the temple.

It is also believed that the corner towers had statues of Shiva and his consort and other Hindu Gods. These are all now missing.

The Ashtabhuja Vishnu

We also find Buddha statues draped in yellow here. It is believed that many of these were Vishnu statues which were converted to Buddha statues at different periods in history.

The Buddha draped in yellow


You must have noticed in my pictures that many parts of this monument are in need of restoration. This is also happening here and many areas are being redone. The French have done lot of restoration work. India has also taken up lot of restoration work here and we can see many galleries where the damaged images and carvings have been restored.

One such example is an ornate ceiling which was originally made of wood and now redone.

The restored ornate ceiling

With continuous work towards this ; hopefully , the magnificence of this monument will be restored to a great level if not to its original glory.

We continued our visits to other parts of the Angkor Complex , which will be featured in forthcoming episodes.

It has been my endeavour to put the maximum information across to you with minimum overload. Hope you all enjoyed it. However much one describes this monument, it will never match the glory of a personal visit.

So do add it to your wish list. Till then, do give me your feedback and comments.

Siem Reap

I had the opportunity to visit Siem Reap in Cambodia as part of a group tour where we covered Vietnam and Cambodia. We did Vietnam first and then moved to Cambodia. The forthcoming blogs are part of this group tour that I undertook in late 2022.

Let me first introduce you to the wonderful group of people with whom I did this amazing trip. We were a group of fun loving seniors, some of them my medical college classmates. The others in the group were also very warm and friendly and you will get to see glimpses of all the fun we had as I take you along. My travel buddy was Dr Margaret, my classmate whom we all fondly call Maggie. Since the word Maggie is associated with a brand of noodles and we were buddies, I got the nickname Pasta. From this itself you will get an idea of the camaraderie in the group. This warmth and friendliness went a long way in making the tour more enjoyable!! Many of them had carried loads of snacks and other items which we all thoroughly enjoyed especially during our long bus rides.

Our Viet Cam tour group.

We arrived Siem Reap from Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, one beautiful day in December 2022. This was my first visit to Cambodia.

Siem Reap is a resort town in North western Cambodia best known for the Angkor ruins. It is home to the World famous Angkor Wat temple, and various other temples at Angkor Thom. It served as the seat of the Khmer kingdom between the 9th and 15th centuries. Today, it is the capital of Siem Reap province and the second largest city in Cambodia.

Siem Reap literally means Siam (Thailand) defeated. French colonial architecture still dominates the streets . It was a quaint village once upon a time. With the Angkor Wat and other temples gaining popularity as a tourist destination, Siem Reap today sees lot of construction and modern amenities to suit the requirements of the tourists.

As we landed at Siem Reap I could see large waterbodies and probably swamps. More on this in my future episodes. For now, let us look around Siem Reap city.

The airport itself is built in traditional design and looks quite different from any regular airport. It is located 7 kms away from the town centre.

Aesthetically designed Siem Reap airport ( in contrast to most airport buildings)

Our Guide was Sarath and he received us at the airport and escorted us to our Hotel.

Our Guide in Cambodia Sarath

The hotel room at the Lynnaya Resort was done up in typical Cambodian style with lotus flowers taking the centre stage of the decor. The lotus is omnipresent in Cambodia and is used extensively for various purposes. This is typical of Cambodia and even the towers of Angkor Wat temple are shaped like lotus buds!!

Various artistic expressions using a lotus….

Glimpses of Siem Reap….

Angkor Enterprises office

In preparation for our Angkor Wat tour, our guide took us to the Angkor ticket office and purchased our entry tickets which had to have our photos and so we all completed that formality and were given the tickets for our visit. This ticket is very essential to enter any of the temples here. The ticket was checked at multiple entry points.

The Angkor Enterprise office

Angkor Museum

Siem Reap also has an Angkor Museum.

This museum has exhibits covering the history, art, architecture and culture of the Khmer Empire.

The Angkor Museum

Pub Street

Pub Street ; traditionally known for its bars, is at the heart of tourist activity in Siem Reap. It has a wide selection of restaurants , bars, nightclubs, street food, shops, stalls and just about everything. Initially this area was primarily residential. Walking around Pub street and soaking in the ambience is in itself an experience. Traditional Cambodian street food stalls attract lot of tourists.

Many places here function round the clock but comes alive after 7 pm .As the evening gives way to night, the streets become active with loud music, and the party spills on to the streets.

Pub Street

A Tuk Tuk is the local equivalent of an autorickshaw and is seen everywhere on the streets of Siem Reap.

Tuk Tuk

Local Food

Cambodian street food or local food is similar to that in most South East Asian countries. Predominantly non vegetarian with frogs, insects, snakes and other reptiles forming a part of the menu. Rice of course; sticky rice as they call it, is the staple food. Apart from that, lot of coconut and coconut milk preparations are seen particularly as desserts.

Roast Frogs, fish and beef in that order

A sweet made of rice and bananas, rice dumplings and roast bananas in that order

Cambodian Rice

Cambodians eat rice at every meal. No surprise then, that they grow some of the finest rice varieties in the world. Just out of the city, and you can see plenty of rice fields. The heavy monsoons, the Mekong river and the Tonle Sap lake ensure that the crop gets its share of water.

They grow both fragrant rice and white rice. Jasmine Rice from Cambodia is considered the best quality rice in the world.

A rice field

Exotic Fruits Of Cambodia

I love fruits and this was something I really enjoyed here. Cambodia had a real good variety of exotic fruits.

The Durian (similar to jackfruit), passion fruit and the extra large tender coconut

The Longan ( similar to lychi ) and the pink coloured dragon fruit

Being a vegetarian, these fruits formed a large part of my daily breakfast in Cambodia. Ours was a vegetarian group and as such we visited a couple of vegetarian Indian restaurants during this tour for lunch and dinner. There are good vegetarian restaurants and Indian restaurants in Cambodia about which I shall mention as I go along.

An authentic Indian Restaurant in Siem Reap which we visited.

The Spirit houses

Have you seen a structure like the one in the picture below and wondered what it is?

The Spirit House outside our hotel

They are the spirit houses seen in front of most houses in many South East Asian countries. Cambodia is no exception and you find them all over. Some are very well maintained like the one in front of our hotel . Others are less ornate. It is a shrine dedicated to the protective spirit of a place. The belief is that the spirits have to be appeased to ward off evil and bring good luck. Bunches of burnt incense sticks can be seen in front of these spirit houses.

Apsara Dance show

We had the opportunity to see the Apsara Dance show which is a traditional Cambodian dance performance. The singers , instrumentalists and dancers together put up a wonderful show of traditional Khmer culture as we enjoyed dinner at the theatre.

A traditional Cambodian orchestra with as many as twenty musicians with strong emphasis on percussion instruments is called “Pinpeat”. The dance performance was accompanied by a traditional orchestra too.

Apsara dancers displayed remarkable poise , agility and grace with slow and rhythmic movements of the body and the limbs synchronous with the music. The dancers were extremely slim and petite and wore headgear and ornaments similar to those seen on the Apsara statues seen in the Angkor Wat temple walls. These dancers practice for years to stretch and flex their bodies as required in this dance form. These dances are inspired by the traditional apsara dancers who entertained the Gods as per the epics.

The Cambodian version of Ramayana is called Reamker and features in many of the traditional dances of Cambodia. In addition to the Apsara dances, other traditional Cambodian dances were also enacted.

Here are some pictures and videos from the show. Take a look…

A statue of King Suryavarman II at the entrance to the theatre.

The Apsaras…note the headgear and ornaments.

A visual demonstration of an epic with the audience in the foreground

The dancers pose with a member of the audience

A traditional Khmer Dance

A video of the Apsara dance with traditional music

A video of a traditional Khmer dance . Note the beat of the music.

These were just glimpses of our stay at Siem Reap. The main purpose of visiting Siem Reap was to visit the Angkor Archaeological Complex. We visited that and also some other archaeological places of interest like Mahendraparvata, the Thousand Shiva Lingas, Phnom Kulen etc. In addition we also visited Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in S E Asia and a remarkable floating village on its banks.

So you can look forward to some remarkable destinations in the forthcoming episodes starting with the main attraction; Angkor Wat which features in my next episode.

Meanwhile do continue your support with feedback and comments .


Puducherry or Pondicherry (as it was formerly called) was a French settlement colony on the east coast of India until 1954. Puducherry is the capital of the Union Territory of the same name ,comprising also of Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam. With a nice coastline along the Bay Of Bengal, it was known as “The French Riviera of the East” under the French. It’s new name Puducherry means “new town” in Tamil which is the official language.

Puducherry is bounded by the state of Tamil Nadu with which it shares most of its culture, heritage and language. It still harbours remnants of its French past which is easily noticeable in it’s old quarter and even in the names of streets and buildings. French architecture can be seen in many of the old buildings here.

Apart from remnants of its French past, the Aurobindo Ashram , Auroville, and the beautiful beach and promenade are its main tourist attractions.

Puducherry has a small airport which handles only small aircraft but there are flights from Bangalore and Hyderabad to Puducherry. Chennai which is 135 kms away is the nearest major airport.

The nearest railhead is Villupuram situated 35 kms away.

It is well connected by road from all the major cities of South India.

The Beach and Promenade

Puducherry has a 1.2 km long rocky beach along the Bay of Bengal. The beach is well maintained with a nice promenade and a couple of small parks beside the beach. No vehicles are allowed on the beach road and so it is very peaceful.

Some pictures..

The Rock Beach

The Beach with part of the promenade

The Promenade stretches from the War Memorial to Dupleix Park and is well paved and lined by trees. Many of statues and memorials are located on the Promenade. Many Government offices also dot the Promenade.

The road at the Promenade is called Goubert Avenue and is one of the popular tourist destinations here and there are many memorials dedicated to eminent personalities here. Some of the landmarks here are:

The Gandhi Statue

The Gandhi Statue at the Promenade is one of the iconic images of Puducherry.A four metre statue of Mahatma Gandhi, surrounded by eight granite pillars with intricate carvings is a landmark of Puducherry.

The Gandhi Statue and the intricately carved pillar

The Kargil War Memorial

The Kargil War Memorial was built at Puducherry beach by the Indian Army in memory of the soldiers of the Kargil War. It is lit up at night and on special occasions.

The Kargil War Memorial

The French War Memorial

Located along the Promenade overlooking the sea , opposite the Gandhi Statue is the French War Memorial. This is a memorial dedicated to the residents of the former French colony who died in the first World War.

Ambedkar Manimandiram

Dedicated to Dr. B R Ambedkar,(the architect of the Indian Constitution) this memorial stands next to the Tourist Information centre on Goubert avenue. Unlike the other memorials , there is a library and research centre here. A lit up water fountain adds to the attraction at night.

The French War Memorial and Dr Ambedkar Memorial

The French Quarter

That part of Puducherry which still retains remnants of it’s French past is called the French Quarter. Puducherry having been colonised by the Dutch, Portuguese, English and French during various periods of history has had a very colonial past. But it is the French stamp that still persists.

When Puducherry was handed over to India, the citizens had a choice to choose their citizenship. So there are French citizens here, many people speak French, there are restaurants serving French cuisine and French architecture is seen in many places. Some of the street names are in French too.

Although the best way to explore this French past is to take a walk in this French quarter ; one can see remnants of the French past all over Puducherry.

Some remnants of a French past in pictures….

French architecture

Statues of Dupleix and Schoelcher with french inscriptions

A street name in French with Tamil translation!!! and The name and address of a church in French

Another feature of Puducherry just like Goa, are the large number of liquor shops. Liquor is cheaper here.

Something to lift your Spirits!!!

From Spirits to Spiritual……

Sri Aurobindo Ashram

A place for inner peace and meditation, Aurobindo Ashram is another popular landmark of Puducherry. Unlike most ashrams, Aurobindo Ashram is set in a modern setting. Founded by the Indian philosopher and yoga guru Sri Aurobindo in 1926, it now has nursing homes, a dining room, library, a playground and even offers accommodation at reasonable rates. After the death of Sri Aurobindo in 1950, the responsibility of the ashram was taken over by Mira Alfassa ( “The Mother”) who was one of Sri Aurobindo’s ardent followers.

The Ashram Guest house on Goubert Avenue overlooking the beach has affordable accommodation which can be pre booked. The views of the sea from this guest house are really beautiful.

The Ashram and guest house


Auroville which is also called The City of Dawn is a township built to realise human unity in diversity. This concept of Auroville as an ideal township of human unity was the vision of “The Mother”. It later got the backing of the Govt of India and was taken to the UNESCO which gave it a status of project of importance for humanity. It is also an experiment in sustainable living.

Auroville was formally inaugurated in 1968 with around 5000 people from 124 countries assembling near the central banyan tree. They had brought soil from their own countries and the soils were mixed in a lotus shaped urn which is now the focal point of the Amphitheatre.

Located 10 kms north of Puducherry city, most parts of Auroville township lie in the state of Tamil Nadu with some parts in the union territory of Puducherry .

The residents of Auroville come from various social and cultural classes and backgrounds representing humanity as a whole. The population here is constantly growing and approximately one third of the population are Indians.

The township is well planned out with zones dedicated to cultural , industrial, international, residential activities with a central zone dedicated to Peace. The Peace area houses the Matrimandir and the Amphitheatre which contains the Urn of Human Unity which contains soil from different parts of the world. This area creates an ambience of peace and serenity.

The Green Belt which is another interesting part of this planned township has organic farms, dairies, orchards, forests and acts as a barrier to human encroachment.


Located in the centre of Auroville, this golden coloured metallic dome is considered the soul of Auroville. It is surrounded by a large open area called “peace” from where the future city will radiate. Absolute silence has to be maintained here. A spiral ramp leads to the “inner chamber” which is completely white and there is a pure crystal glass globe at the centre which suffuses a ray of electronically guided sunlight that falls on it through an opening at the apex of the sphere. The luminescent globe radites light to the chamber.

There are no guided meditations but one has to learn to be silent, concentrate, meditate and realise oneself.

Matrimandir Complex

The Banyan Tree

A magnificent Banyan tree more than 100 years old is part of the Matrimandir complex with peculiar aerial roots spread over a large area. Banyan trees are generally considered sacred in India and perhaps that prompted Mother to choose it at the centre of Auroville.

The Banyan Tree

The Amphitheatre

Guesthouse at Auroville

The Seagull Restaurant

There are many restaurants serving various cuisines with a definite French emphasis. But we go to the Seagulls restaurant whenever we visit Puducherry. The restaurant itself is pretty old and in need of maintenance. Nothing very spectacular about the food either. Then, what is it that attracts us? What we enjoy there is the ambience and the views from the restaurant.

This restaurant has an open air space partly jutting into the sea with palm trees around. Sitting there at night with the sea breeze wafting along and the moon playing hide and seek among the coconut tree fronds can be an enchanting experience.

The Seagulls Restaurant

Well, I hope this roundup of Puducherry has given you a fair idea of what to expect on your trip to Puducherry.

Do keep your comments and feedback pouring in till we meet next week at Cambodia. Yes, its going to be Vietnam and Cambodia for a few weeks ahead. No worries, no preparations needed; just sit back on your armchair and I will take you there…..


Elephant land….that’s our destination today! Am sure you all enjoy watching these graceful giants walking along majestically with a little baby trying to snuggle in between…..well that’s what we were looking for when we headed to Thekkady.

We were at Kochi for some work and decided to head to Thekkady for a break. So we drove down from Kochi and as we reached Thekkady, saw some awesome scenery including some waterfalls. Some pictures from the drive..

Scenery as we reached Thekkady


Thekkady , is a small town in Idukki district close to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary ; which is a famous jumbo habitat. “Thekku” in Malayalam is “teak” and Thekkady got its name from the teak trees you find in abundance here. Wonder why no one decided to associate the elephants to its name?….something like “Anathottam” or “Anakkadu”. ( Ana in malayalam is elephant).

It is 145 km from Kochi or Madurai which are the two nearest airports.

115 km from Kottayam, the nearest rail head.

Thekkady is also known for a variety of spices like pepper, cardamom, cloves ,cinnamon and nutmeg which are grown abundantly in the estates here.

Cardamom Estate

Cardamom flowers and pods at the base of the plant

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is famous for its dense evergreen forests, moist deciduous forests and grasslands. Spread over an area of over 700 sq kms, it is home to herds of elephants, sambar, tigers, gaur, lion tailed macaques, and langurs. It is a designated Tiger Reserve too. A beautiful lake called the Periyar lake lies here…a result of the Mullaperiyar dam built across the Periyar river. The lake acts like a watering hole to the herds of elephants and deer that live here and the lakeside is a great animal viewing point. Boat rides on the Periyar lake are the best way to catch a glimpse of the animals. The Sanctuary can be accessed by boat, trekking or by a jeep safari.

The Essence of Thekkady

Accommodation is available at Kumily town which is 4 kms away and is just a short drive. Outside the reserve area also private hotels and homestays are available . Apart from that, there are some good accommodation options available within the reserve area itself run by the Kerala government.

Periyar House

A budget jungle lodge located in the sanctuary ; about 500 metres from the lake. Since it is located in the sanctuary, it is not safe to venture out after dark .

There are lot of monkeys and one has to be careful with the room windows and any food items being carried.

The staff at the hotel said that elephants even visit the garden around the hotel. Initially we were not very convinced about this. We were just taking a walk just outside the reception area one evening and we did hear elephants trampling the bamboo bushes around. The sounds were both thrilling and scary. Since it was dark , we could not sight the jumbos.

Periyar House

Aranya Nivas

This is a luxury hotel situated close to the lake. The interiors look like the old English bungalows and since the lake is close by, animal viewing is also easy.

Aranya Niva

Lake Palace

The former summer palace of the Maharaja of Travancore, this is a luxury hotel on an island in the Periyar lake. This can only be accessed by a 20 minute boat ride from ashore. Offering amazing views of the lake, it offers opportunities to view the animals as they walk on the lake shores. No wonder the Viceroys and Governor Generals used this for their holidays.

The Lake Palace Thekkady

Some animal sightings from the resort…

We did not go looking for him…..he came looking for us!!!

And this Malabar giant squirrel was disturbed by our presence!

And this guy quickly scampered into the bushes as we drove by….

Periyar Lake

Also commonly known as the Thekkady lake, it was formed when the Mullaperiyar dam was built across the Periyar river in 1895. The lake is located inside the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and acts like a watering hole for the animals. Needless to say, most activities in Thekkady are centred around this lake.

What is striking here is the tree stumps sticking out of the water. These are the trees which got submerged when the lake was formed. These tree stumps provide resting places for the waterbirds that frequent this lake.

Don’t forget to take a pair of binoculars during the boat ride. Bird watching and animal spotting will be facilitated.

But I have a sad story to share. I have visited this lake many times and noticed that the water levels are sometimes abysmally low . We can only hope that it does not totally disappear one day!

The picturesque Periyar lake with the anchored boats

The steps leading to the lake and boating jetty

The tree stumps that are so peculiar to this lake

Boating on the Periyar Lake

Now, imagine you are boating on the Periyar Lake. Look carefully at the picture below. Do you see some animals in the picture ?

Well….these are rocks that can be very deceptive . I am putting up this picture particularly to show how deceptive these can look to the eyes eagerly searching for animals!!!!

Now for some actual sightings…

Some animal sightings during the boat ride on a bright and sunny day

One lucky day!…note the baby jumbo


Sightings on a less favourable day….

A herd of Bison ( the cloudy weather hampered visibility)

And some birds

After spending a couple of days among these amazing creatures , we returned back with beautiful memories to cherish. Wonder if the jumbos will remember us????

As I say goodbye today, I leave you with this message that I saw at the reserve…

A message to humanity….

Till I meet you next week at a new destination, do not forget to subscribe, comment and give me your feedback…


Yet another temple and beach destination in Karnataka is Murudeshwar. Situated around 100 kms north of Udupi, Murudeshwar is also easily accessible by various means of transport and has grown in popularity over the years.

Murudeshwar Temple and beach

Murudeshwar lies on a projection of land into the Arabian Sea on the Karnataka coast. Due to this unique geography, it has sea on three sides and hence offers great views to visitors.

The place is surrounded by hilly terrain and the hills in the distance add to the beauty.

The peculiar location of Murudeshwar

Mangalore is the nearest airport.

Murudeshwar has a train station on the Konkan railway.

By road it lies just off the Mangalore Mumbai highway.

Murudeshwar Temple

As one leaves the highway and takes the road to the temple, there is an arch across the road. Driving further on the road, it gets crowded as one nears the temple. Shops selling trinkets, curios, religious pictures, pooja articles and food dot the road.

The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is built on the Kanduka hill surrounded by water on three sides. The temple has a twenty storey Gopuram . A lift takes one to the top of the Gopuram .The main deity is Mridesa Linga or Murdeshwar.

A 123 ft high statue of Shiva is also part of the temple complex. This is the third tallest Shiva statue in the world and is visible from far away.

The temple complex is huge with smaller shrines dedicated to various Hindu Gods. Several shops selling puja articles and other necessities skirt the temple complex.

The Raja gopuram looks particularly attractive at night with lights at all the floors.

Some pictures…

The arch at the entrance

The Raja Gopuram

Two decorated elephant statues at the entrance

The Shiva Statue

Some of the other statues at the complex

The illuminated Gopuram and lights along the seafront

Murudeshwar Beach

The beach is located next to the temple and the activities spill over both ways making it difficult to separate the two.

The beach is serene during the early morning hours but gets crowded by noon and in the evening it becomes almost impossible to even walk on the beach without bumping on to others especially during the holiday season. The unrestricted entry of vehicles to the beach front creates lot of confusion and difficulty for the visitors. So if you are averse to crowds, it is better to enjoy this beach early in the morning or from the peace of the hotel balcony in the evenings.

We were put up at RNS residency, a multi-storeyed hotel right next to the temple and the room offered great views of the beach.

Murudeshwar beach in the early morning

See the beach crowds in the evening with vehicles parked next to the water.

Murudeshwar beach also offers some water sports activities. Some pictures..

Preparing for a boat ride…

A boat ride….

Netrani Island

The more adventurous can venture to Netrani Island nearby. Another name for this island is Bajrangi Island .There are snorkelling and scuba diving facilities here. There are coral reefs around this island and they provide a nice spot for these activities. The boatmen on the beach organise the visit to Netrani island. Netrani Adventures is a company that offers scuba diving and snorkelling .

Netrani Island

As we are not particularly fond of crowds, we spent the evening at the balcony of the hotel enjoying the sea breeze and the views. Soon we were rewarded with a beautiful sun set view…

Sun sets on another beautiful day…

Next morning we visited the beach and it was calm and peaceful. Enjoyed a leisurely walk soaking in the views.

After returning to the hotel, standing in the balcony, I got a glimpse of a typical fisherman’s life as he went along doing his daily business.

A fisherman’s daily life….

After breakfast, we left Murudeshwar for Goa . A nice drive about which I have mentioned in my blog on the road trip. We reached Goa by late noon. More on Goa in a separate episode.

For now, let me take leave hoping that you enjoyed the trip to Murudeshwar. Do keep your comments and feedback flowing in…

See you next week…


Vagamon is a pristine hill station lying 65 kilometers from Kottayam at its border with Idukki district in Kerala. Fresh cool air, green meadows, pine forests, small waterfalls and tea estates welcome you to this beautiful place. It is called “Queen of the mist” and lives up to its reputation in all ways.

At a height of 1200 metres above sea level, it comprises a chain of three hills…Thangal hill, Murugan hill and Kurisumala. A series of green hillocks called Mottakunnu ( bald hill) is the highlight . One can walk along the misty winding roads or along the estates, and enjoy peace and quiet. The more adventurous can indulge in trekking, hiking and even paragliding. Thus it provides ample recreational opportunities suited for various tastes.

Resorts and homestays suited to every pocket is available here making it an attractive destination for all.

The nearest airport is Kochi about 100 kms away.

Kottayam is the nearest railhead 65 kms away.

It is an easy drive from Kottayam.

We drove down the Salem Kochi highway and drove via Angamaly, Perumbavoor, muvattupuzha, thodupuzha.

The winding roads leading to Vagamon with pine forests was very beautiful.

The winding misty roads as we reached Vagamon

After checking into our resort and enjoying some hot tea and snacks, we walked around the resort enjoying the peace and calm.

Views from the resort with plenty of tea gardens

A small stream provided a gurgling sound in the peace and calm….

Lost in the beauty of the place, we never realised the time pass by till ……

We were witness to an amazing sunset

After a peaceful night’s sleep, we woke up to a misty morning.

A misty morning at Vagamon

Enjoying local tea and the cold weather, we had breakfast and set off to explore Vagamon.

Some pictures….

Vagamon Meadows or Mottakunnu( Bald hills)

A collection of small hillocks with grass or meadows spread over a vast area , in fact stretching as far as one can see is quite unique to this place. This type of bare hills are without trees and provides a peculiar ambience. The sheer vastness of this area leaves one spellbound.

It is a popular film shooting location. The hillocks are great hiking and trekking destinations.

In the dry season, the grass disappears and then they are brownish hillocks which look totally different.

Vagamon Meadows or Mottakunnu

The Meadows from a distance

Pine forest

A man made cluster of tall pine trees on a hill slope overlooking a valley provides a nice backdrop for many a picture!

Pine Forest Vagamon

Suicide Point

Also called Moonpara, it is a V shaped gorge and one can see the deep valley from here. Paragliding is an important activity here.

The abyss from suicide point

The valley below suicide point


All of us have at some point of time or the other wished that we could soar above the clouds like a free bird. Well Vagamon provides you that opportunity by way of paragliding.An emerging adventure sport activity , paragliding is thrilling and needless to say, requires special training to indulge in.

Vagamon is one of the paragliding destinations in India. Kolahalamedu hills , where this activity takes place at Vagamon; has a 10 km long ridge looking down at a valley 3000 ft deep. Paragliding depends on wind conditions and this location has ideal wind conditions for paragliding between the months of September and January. Most paragliding activities take place here during this period. International championships are held here usually in end September. Both professionals and amateurs indulge in paragliding here at that time.

The glider is a free flying foot launched aircraft and has a harness seat in which the pilot sits. The canopy is aerodynamic in design; made of nylon and attached to the harness seat by ropes. The pilot has full control of the glider and can manoeuvre it around. He can glide along like a bird enjoying the sights below. That sure must be a great experience!!

The pilot stands on the ridge and after ensuring all parameters are ready, runs down a slope. The wind soon starts filling the canopy and it opens out like a wing and the glider is airborne. For amateurs a professional pilot sits along with the person in a two seater glider and glides along.

Teams from the Indian Army and other Disaster management agencies regularly participate in the events held here apart from foreigners.

The colourful gliders soaring up and performing aerobatics is a sight to behold! When we visited Vagamon, the paragliding championships were due and we saw lot of people practicing for the event.

Some pictures….

A paraglider lands….

Soaring up in the sky….

Video of a paragliding session


Just 24 kms from Vagamon is another misty hill station called Kuttikanam. Tea estates, and beautiful hills provide great opportunities for mountain biking, hiking and trekking here. There are beautiful waterfalls at several places and the town is mist covered many a time making it a beautiful destination.

Some pictures…

Tea gardens

A waterfall

After spending a few days at this beautiful destination, we returned with wonderful memories .

Anyone wants to indulge in paragliding?….head to Vagamon and indulge in your dream.

Hope you enjoyed this trip…

Do comment and give your valuable feedback


This is a word I have to keep up….

I had promised to do a detail blog on Malpe when I touched upon this jewel of a beach during my road trip episode. Well; here it comes….

Beautiful Malpe beach

Beach Umbrella typical of Malpe

Some of you will think….What’s so different ? A beach is a beach whether it’s in Goa, Kerala, TN, Maharashtra or even Pondicherry. Well it’s not like that…each of these beaches has it’s own flavour and ambience. Each of these beaches has its own colour of sand, the coarseness of the sand grains, the rockiness of the coast, the width of the beach, the drop of the sand ridge into the ocean and various parameters that make each one unique. Each of these beaches has its own unique water sports, food and local ambience too! I will be touching on most of these beaches in my forthcoming episodes and that should clear the air.

Located just 6 kms from the temple town of Udupi in Karnataka, Malpe beach is an awesome destination. Very few know about the wonderful beach that this temple town is home to.

Mangalore at a distance of 60 kms is the nearest airport and Udupi the nearest railway station. It is located very conveniently at a short drive from the Mangalore Mumbai highway.

Not as well marketed as the beaches of Goa, helps in maintaining its serenity and peace. I have visited this beach many times and I can tell you, its gaining popularity but simultaneously losing its peace. So those of you who love peace on the beach, you are running out of time!.. Head there before it gets to that stage of “just another beach”. Those of you who like crowded beaches can take it easy….the more you wait, the more crowded it will get…the popularity of this beach is growing!!!!!

A little history and geography…

Malpe is one of the exquisite unexplored beaches of the Indian West Coast. Located at the mouth of the Udayavar River, the rocky coastline has 4 islands, the most famous being St. Mary’s Island.

For centuries, Malpe has been an important trading port with the West. It is also believed that Vasco da Gama had made a short halt during his voyages at St Mary’s Island and it was he who gave the island its name. Malpe is also an important fishing harbour due to the diverse marine life here due to the mixing of the fresh river water and the sea.

Safety is what adds to the tourist attraction of a place. Being a very uniform and gentle sloping sand beach with no sudden depth , makes it one of the safest beaches in the region. As mentioned earlier, the popularity of this beach has grown and lot of tourists and locals reach this beach in search of a great beach holiday. The authorities have risen to the occasion and a lifeguard station functions here. Apart from that coloured flags indicating the level of danger are put up on the beach front regularly. Beach patrolling by the guards who monitor the swimmers also occurs.

Life guard station Malpe

Red flags on a risky day


Accommodation of various categories ranging from luxury hotels to backpackers and homestays are available close to the beach itself which makes it very convenient.

Paradise Isle Resort where we usually stay

Some other hotels overlooking the beach

A variety of watersport activities take place here in the evenings. Indulging in them or even just standing by and watching them can be a very relaxing experience. Some pictures from my visit to Malpe…

Boards displaying various activities at Malpe

Some of the activities at Malpe beach

Sea Walk

A seawalk is one of the latest additions at Malpe that helps one enjoy the sunsets from an extended walkway into the sea.

Sea Walk Malpe

St Mary’s Island

Another activity that one can indulge in, is a visit to St Mary’s Island. This island can be spotted in the horizon from Malpe. A short boat ride takes one to this palm fringed island.

The boat ride to St Mary’s Island

Approaching St Mary’s Island

St Mary’s Island

Rare basalt volcanic rocks are found here and it has been added as a National geological monument.

The Basalt Rocks


The word Udupi is almost synonymous with typical South Indian breakfast fare of Idly,(a steamed rice cake) Dosa, ( savoury pancake made of rice),Sambar,( a gravy that accompanies the idly) and Vada (deep fried lentil fritters) . When we talk loosely of a Udupi Hotel, it refers to such vegetarian fare. But contrary to that, local food includes lot of nonvegetarian items too.

Malpe offers great non vegetarian cuisine especially fish. Tulunadu…that’s what this region is known locally , is known for its variety non veg fare. (“Tulu” is the local dialect of Kannada and “nadu” is country) Kori Rotti, ( chicken and wheat bread) Fish Curry, Prawn roast, Neer Dosai etc are part of typical tulunadu food.

A typical restaurant signboard

Just reaching the kitchen!!

A sombre ritual

I was witness to a religious ceremony one morning on the beach. A family was performing the obsequies of a relative.

It is customary for Hindu families to perform certain rituals after the death of their family members. It is performed close to waterbodies and Malpe is no exception….


As you have seen, Malpe beach is a hub of activities that can keep anyone entertained. However, if you prefer a quieter place with the ambience of a lagoon, head to the mouth of the Suvarna river a few kms from the main beach. Here there are resorts on the banks of the estuary which have a quiet ambience.

Some pictures from one such place.

The resort

The beautiful views from the resort

With Malpe offering so many avenues of entertainment, it sure is finding its way into everyone’s bucket list. Apart from Malpe, one can visit other lesser known beaches along the Karnataka coast from here.

Kaup is one such beach destination where there is a famous light house. It is also a famous surfing destination.

Kaup Lighthouse

Maravanthe is also another beautiful beach close to Udupi on the highway.

Beautiful Maravanthe

So as you can see , there are lot of beach holiday options along the Karnataka coast. Easy to approach and pocket friendly, all of you should definitely try out some of these.

Before I bid goodbye , let me leave you with a sunset view from Malpe..

A cloudy sunset at Malpe…

As you plan your beach holiday, don’t forget to subscribe, comment and send in your feedbacks.


Munnar is a cute town nestled in the Western Ghats in the Idukki district of Kerala.

“Moonu” in Malayalam is three and “aar” is stream. Munnar got its name as it is located at the confluence of three rivers Muthirapuzha, Nallathani and Kundala.

It is known for its pristine green valleys, misty mountains, tea estates, spice estates, waterfalls, and dams. The Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered species of mountain goat is found here and in the adjoining Eravikulam National park.

At an altitude of more than 5000 ft above sea level, it enjoys cool winters and pleasant summers. It provides a nice escape from the hot and humid summers of the plains in Kerala and has hence grown into a popular tourist destination over the years.

Resorts and home stays abound in Munnar and provide accommodation of various categories to tourists making it easily affordable for everyone. It has also developed into a popular hiking and trekking destination in south Kerala.

It is easily reachable from Kochi which is the nearest airport located around 140 km away.

Angamaly and Kochi provide railway connectivity at a distance around 120 to 140 km.

It is also a pleasant drive after taking a diversion to Munnar on the Kochi Salem highway.

Our Trip

One beautiful morning, we drove down from Coimbatore to Munnar.

We took the route via Pollachi, Udumalpet and Marayoor which works out to roughly 200 kms.

Marayoor is known for two things, the sandalwood forests and its jaggery.

The sandalwood forests of Marayoor

Molasses being processed into Jaggery

The finished product…jaggery balls

We also crossed Eravikulam National park on the way

Eravikulam National Park

Eravikulam is a reserve forest area where tourists are allowed only in designated areas . It is home to the endangered mountain goat known as the Nilgiri Tahr.

The entrance to Eravikulam National Park

The Nilgiri Tahr

Reaching Munnar late afternoon, we checked into our hotel and rested for the evening enjoying the climate and the scenery.

Tea gardens over acres and acres and over several hill ranges dominates the scene in Munnar.

View from the hotel

Mist covering the hills

Tea Gardens stretching as far as one can see….

Tea shrubs

Spice Estates abound in Munnar….particularly cardamom.

Cardamom plants

Over the next two days, we explored various points in and around Munnar.

Echo Point

Echo point lies about 15 km from Munnar town on the road to Top Station.

The Kundala lake provides a serene front to the hills on its backdrop covered with thick forests and lush green grass. These hills echo the sounds generated from across and hence the name.

Needless to say, one can hear a cacophony created by the tourists here!!

Echo Point

Kundala Lake

This pretty lake created by the Kundala Dam is another popular destination for tourists. Boating facilities in the lake in a backdrop of lush green mountains really make it a beautiful spot.

Early mornings are less crowded here and one can get beautiful pictures particularly if clouds have descended here , as they sometimes do.

The serene Kundala Lake

Mattupetty Dam

Located on the Top Station road, this dam and lake are part of the Indo Swiss livestock project . It is a popular picnic spot even for the locals and one can go boating on the lake or undertake hikes and treks from here.

Mattupetty Dam

Attukadu Waterfalls

A multitiered waterfall, Attukadu falls can be seen even from a distance as one approaches Munnar. It is located in the middle of a rocky terrain and reaching close to the falls may be difficult for the less agile. As expected, this waterfall is in its full glory during monsoons or immediately after. A small pool at the end provides a nice bathing spot!

Attukadu falls from a distance

The water cascading among the rocks

Enjoy the falls in this video

Top Station

True to its name, it is the highest point in Munnar and offers unparalleled views of the Theni plains below. With green hills surrounding you on all sides. it gives a heavenly feel .

One of the highlights here is the blooming of the Neelakurinji in the hills once in twelve years. When in bloom, the hills literally turn blue in colour and adding to the beauty of the place

Top Station

The Neelakurinji in bloom

The Blossom Park

Situated close to Munnar town, this park is home to a variety of flora and fauna and is a popular picnic spot. When we visited Munnar, there was an orchid exhibition on at this park. We were treated to a feast of orchids in full bloom making us long to carry some of them home!!

The orchids….

Lakkam Falls

Another beautiful waterfall in Munnar is the Lakkam falls.

Lakkam Falls

Adventure Sport Activities

Various adventure sport activities like zip lining, mountain biking, rope climbing etc are available here for the enthusiastic tourists. Some pictures…

Adventure Sport activities

After enjoying the cool climate and the lush green surroundings, we were treated to this wonderful sunset over the hills on our last day at Munnar

The sun sets on a wonderful holiday….

Driving back via Pollachi, we were put off by the traffic and the heat ; but we were pretty sure we would go back there soon….

So do visit this tea paradise and of course pick up some tea from the factory outlets there….to savour the cup of tea ; if not the estates

Do give me your comments and feedback…