India on the Road

Passage to the Scotland of the East

19 MARCH 2017,
Mysore Palace
Mysore Palace

Route: Bangalore to Ooty via Mysore and Bandipur on SH 17.
Distance: 292 Kms.
Driving Time: 6-7 Hours.
Notes: The state of Karnataka is one of the most easy-going and laidback of Indian states. Today the capital city of Bangalore has earned worldwide acclaim as the Silicon Valley of India due largely to its booming IT industry. Apart from IT and state of the art industries, Karnataka also boasts of some of the most interesting historic architecture in India. The journey from Bangalore to Ooty passes by Mysore, another interesting city, which until independence was a princely state covering much of Karnataka and the magnificent Indo-Saracenic palace in the center of the city draws visitors from all over the world. Mysore is popularly referred to as the Sandalwood City and everywhere you go, you will find yourselves enveloped in the lingering aromas. You will also come across the haunting wilderness of the Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary on the Mysore - Ooty road. This Wildlife Sanctuary is part of a larger National Park, which also includes the neighboring Mudumalai sanctuary and Wynad sanctuary of Kerala. Even though a major part of your journey from Bangalore to Ooty is on flat plain land, the stretch from Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary to Ooty is replete with numerous hairpin bends and to encounter the steep gradients, the best option is to depend on a 4 Wheel Drive. TATA Safari, Sumo and Scorpios are best suited to encounter the rather steep mountainous terrain. Also, it is mandatory to carry spare tyres, extra fuel and other miscellaneous mechanical gadgets since there are not too many motor mechanic shops on the route from Bandipur to Ooty.

Bangalore

The picturesque South Indian city of Bangalore is located at an altitude of 949m above sea level and is situated on the Deccan Plateau. Bangalore’s temperate climate has earned it the sobriquet of the “Air Conditioned City of India”. The city prides itself for its immaculately landscaped gardens, parks, wide tree-lined avenues, a plethora of flowering trees, shimmering lakes all of which has endeared the city to the discerning international traveler. It is among the best five Garden Cities of the world. The meteoric rise of the city from a sleepy pensioner’s heaven to the forefront of world’s technology (IT) is the stuff that dreams are made of. The city is home to all the big guns in the domain of IT and global corporations like IBM, Seimens, Cognizant, Dell, etc… rub shoulders with domestic corporations like Infosys, Wipro and Satyam for a piece of the global software pie. Today, Bangalore is one of the most cosmopolitan cities of India and also the most liberal which finds expressions in the city’s many pulsating discotheques, happening pubs, shopping plazas and top rate multi cuisine restaurants and bars. The harmonious blend of cutting edge technology living in peaceful existence with the city’s rich virile past is unmatched by any other cities in India, nay the whole of Asia. Here Idli, Dosa and Sambhar compete with McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Barista.

What to See:
Bangalore Palace, Cubban Park, State Assembly Hall, High Court Building, Lalbagh, Fort, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, Bull Temple.

Where to Stay:
Bangalore STD: 080
Luxury Hotels:
ITC Hotel Windsor Sheraton & Towers, (22269898), Taj West End (22255055), The Park (25594666), Le Meredien (22262233), Royal Orchid (25205566), Hotel Ista (25558888), The Chancery Pavilion (41414141), Leela Palace (25211234), Grand Ashok (30527777), Taj Residency (25584444), The Oberoi (25585858).

Mid – Budget Hotels:
The Capitol, Royal Orchid Center, Hotel Guestline, Ginger Hotel, Casa Piccola Hotel, Hotel Broadway, Savannah Sarovar, The Atria Hotel, Hotel Regaalis, Evoma, Harsha Park Inn, Ramee Guestline Hotel, The Richmond Hotel, Terrace Garden, Ballal Residency, BJN Hotels, Museum Inn, Neemrana Hotels, Shanti Residency, The Basil, maple leaf Bangalore, Safina Hotel, Hotel Comfort Inn, St. Mark’s Hotel, Hotel Nandhana Grand, Gateway Hotel, The Heritage Hotel, Hotel Kanishka, Vintage Residency, Hotel Maurya etc…

Where to Eat:
Being a world city, Bangalore offers the choicest of International cuisines along with the rich gastronomic delights of Karnataka and other South Indian states. The traditional cuisines are known for their discrete flavors and tastes. From the culinary delights of North Karnataka to the mouthwatering Kodava cuisine, the restaurants of Bangalore offer a veritable treat to ones taste buds.

Chinese Cuisine:
Bangalore Mandarin, Bar & Restaurant, Chinese Hut, Chung's Pavilion, Chung Wah, Golden Harvest, Hong Kong, Mandarin Room, Hotel Ashok, Memories Of China, Nelson’s Pavillion, Paradise Island, Shanghai Restaurant, Shogun, Silver Wok, Taipan, Richmond Road, The Red Pepper, The Rice Bowl.

Continental Cuisine:
La Casa, Lotus, Sunny's, Nilgiri's Cafe, Orange County, Fillers Food Services, Jockey Club, Orchids & Roses, Pool Side Barbeque, The Only Place, Windsor Grill.

Indian Cuisine:
1498 AD, Abirami, Caesars, Coorg, Darpan, Ebony, MG Road, Gulmohar, Ice & Rice, Jacaranda, Kabab Korner, Kabul, Lanai, Nizaams, Rasoee, Shezan, Tandoor, The Royal Afghan, Wazwan, Zodiac Fast Food.

What to Buy:
Bangalore offers a whole new world of shopping experience. With the presence of glitzy shopping malls to the emporiums that sell a variety of handicraft items, shopping in Bangalore is truly an international experience. The main shopping districts of Bangalore are located at Brigade Road, Commercial Street and MG Road. Shopping complexes like Shrungar, Barton Court, Spencer’s the Coir Board Showroom, Saree Kemp and Cauvery Arts are great shopping destinations.

Bangalore to Mysore

We started our journey from Bangalore at around 7.30 A.M. and it took us almost an hour to hit the Mysore road and from then onwards it was a smooth ride. The road condition is excellent and it is not surprising if you manage to reach speeds in access of 100 Kmphs. By 10.30 A.M. we reached the outer periphery of Mysore and decided to have a sumptuous breakfast consisting of the traditional Set Dosa and steaming Cappuccino Coffee at Hotel Balaji, which is located strategically to the right side of the Bangalore – Mysore Highway.

Since we had ample time at our disposal we made a whistle stop tour of some of Mysore’s most enduring tourist landmarks like the Maharaja’s Palace, Chamundi Hills, Devraja Fruit & Vegetable market, St.Philomena’s Cathedral, Brindavan Gardens, Folk Art Museum, etc…

Mysore is a renowned crafts center and there are numerous shops selling an incredible range of Ivory, Sandalwood, Rosewood and teak carvings. We bought a few packets of the famed Mysore Incense sticks and got to know that the Incense manufacturing is a cottage industry in Mysore and there are countless family-owned agarbatti factories in the town and their finished products are exported all over the world.

Mysore to Bandipur

With sight seeing and souvenir hunting in Mysore over, we commenced our onward journey to Ooty. We hit the Mysore Bypass and leaving the meandering alleyways of Mysore city behind we traversed through the deep forest of Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary. The journey through the haunting wilderness was thrilling and every now and then we spotted the occasional elephant herds ambling leisurely along the road and Spotted Deers scampering at the sight of our vehicle. Overall the condition of the road is good barring a few patches (5 Kms) where you have to abruptly slow down your vehicle due to craters and potholes.

The Mysore to Gundlupet stretch is excellent while the stretch from Gundlupet to Bandipur is very rough and uneven. But the pathetic road condition is more than made up by excellent scenic vistas of the lush green jungles.

Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary falls under Project Tiger and is ideally located on the impressive Nilgiri Hills at an elevation of 1022 meters and the forest consists of Sandal, Mahogany, Ablus, Teak, Bamboo and Deodar trees. In the days of yore, it used to be a much-preferred royal hunting reserve of the maharaja of Mysore.

Bandipur to Ooty on the Mountainous Terrain

As your vehicle proceeds through the dense jungles of Bandipur into the haunting wilderness of Mudumalai Forest Reserve, you will come across a crossroad where a signpost indicates Right Gudlur and Left Ooty. You take the road to the left and drive through the most difficult terrain of the whole trip. There are as many as 36 rather abrupt hairpin bends that you have to encounter and the road is narrow, thereby making the driver’s task that much more taxing.

Although the road from Bandipur to Ooty is narrow, the condition of the road is by and large good, with the only exception being the few kilometers after Masinagudi, which is downright pathetic. A Power Steering is an absolute must to successfully encounter the rugged mountain terrain.

While driving through the Bandipur Wildlife reserve, even though the condition of the road is good, it is always advisable to drive slow (40-45 Kmphs.) as wild animals are known to cross the road frequently. In case you comne across an elephant herd ambling across the road, you would do well to stop your vehicle at a safe distance. No honking of the horn or switching the headlights on! The consequences can be terrible.

Ooty

Ooty, known popularly as Udhagamandalam in Tamil, this scenic hill station located in the midst of the impressive Nilgiri mountains near the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka was founded by the British in the early 19th century to serve as the summer retreat of the British Raj. The indigenous people of the hills – Todas still live in and around Ooty and their animist shrines can still be found in various places. The best part about Ooty is the journey itself that passes via narrow winding and very steep mountainous terrain through luxuriant rain forest and then through undulating tea plantations.

When it comes to the manifestation of this hill station, it’s an unlikely combination of southern England and Australia with single storied stone cottages beautifully surrounded by flower gardens along leafy meandering lanes with stately Eucalyptus trees covering the otherwise barren hilltops. The quintessential stone churches too lend a touch of elegance to Ooty’s landscape. Ooty is well spread out over a large area amongst green rolling hills and valleys and very well connected by a complicated system of narrow, meandering lanes and flights of steps through the main area of the town.

Ooty is the ultimate place for exciting outdoor activities ranging from enchanting long walks to horseback rides. There is also the prospect of boating at the lake. Also, there are numerous vantage points from where one can bask in the uninterrupted sights of the majestic Nilgiri mountains at the distant horizon, which makes for a truly kaleidoscopic vignette. For the more adventurous, the Department of Tourism conducts courses on Hang Gliding during the period from March to May.

What to See:
Botanical Garden, The Rose garden, Ooty Lake, Union Church, Holy Trinity Church, St. Stephen’s Church, St. Thomas Church, Kandal Church, Lawrence School, Wenlock Downs, Ninth Mile, Sandy Nullah, Cairn Hill, Kalhatti Falls.

Where to Stay:
Ooty STD: 0423
Howard Johnson Monarch (2444408), The Willow Hill (2444037), Youth Hostel (2443665), Hotel Nahar Nilgiris (2442173), TTDC Hotel Tamil Nadu (2444371-78), YWCA (2444262), Hotel Khems (2441635-36), Nilgiri Woodlands (2442451), Hotel Blue Hill International (2444466), Reflections Guest House (2443834), Hotel Lakeview (2443580-82), Karnataka Tourism’s Lake Sudarshan (2443828), Sterling Days Inn (2441073-74), Holiday Inn Gem Park (2441761-62), Hotel Sinclairs (2441376), Hotel Alkapuri (2440648), Ooty Gate (2441622).

Where to Eat:
Ooty has a plethora of Chinese restaurants, but the fare is at best moderate. However, Shinkows (Tel: 2442811) is an exception. For lip smacking South Indian fare Kurinji on Commercial Road offers a wide variety of South Indian dishes. For authentic Nilgiri fare, drop in at West Coast Bakery (Tel: 2443059) also on Commercial Road.

Where to Shop:
When it comes to shopping at Ooty, the hot favorites are Tea, chocolates and aromatic oils. For authentic chocolates the best bet is the King Star Confectionery (Tel: 2445785) strategically located at Hospital Road. For handicraft items drop in at Tamil Nadu State Handicrafts Center - “Poompuhar” located at Commercial Road. Ooty and its peripheral areas are the bastion of the exotic Toda tribes and indigenously produced tribal crafts can be purchased from shops located at Charing Cross. For ethnic jewelry, Big Shop (Tel: 2444136) and Mahaveerchand (Tel: 2443359) at Main Bazar are very reliable.