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A few loose days in South India - suggestions?

A few loose days in South India - suggestions?

Old Aug 5th, 2009, 05:47 PM
  #1  
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A few loose days in South India - suggestions?

My husband and I will be visiting India in October with some friends. We will be with them for the first few days in Chennai with Mahabalipuram and Dakshin Chitra planned for that time. Then we will have ~5 days on our own before we must be in the Coimbatore area for an event with our friends' family. After that we will re-join together for northern India - Dehli, Jaipur, Agra - before we come home.

Generally, we are adventurous and plan our own trips. We enjoy a broad range of things like museums, religious sites, and nature things. Not so interested in hanging around on a beach. Usually we travel by public transport, although it appears things like a private car/driver are reasonably priced in India. We've never been to India, but have traveled extensively elsewhere. My husband is particularly interested in Buddist sites, but I think they are fairly thin in this area of the country.

So, with that preamble, I'll sketch out what I've been considering and turn to you, Fodor community, to assist/comment/recommend.

Tues - depart from others in Chennai, head to Bangalore by air, tour things in Bangalore
Weds - head to Mysore by rail, tour things in Mysore
Thurs - head to Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary.
Fri - same area
Sat - travel to Ooty or Coonoor and then on to Mettupalayam via the narrow guage Blue Mountain railway. Further train or car travel to Coimbatore to join our friends.

Regarding Mudumalai, we'd love to see some wildlife and the other people in our group don't have interest/time for this. I understand the really famous parks are in the north, but we'd like to know if others feel Mudumalai is worthwhile. I realize that seeing a big cat is unrealistic, but I think seeing some elephants/small mammals/birds would be great, particularly in the cooler mountains. If we could see a few tea bushes up close, well, that would be great, too.

If it seems too little time in Bangalore and Mysore, we could just land in Bangalore and depart same day for Mysore as we would rather see temples/palaces instead of big city. However, we will have some of this in northern India, I believe.

So, input? Thanks so much in advance for the great assistance I always find here.
Skedaddle is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2009, 08:08 PM
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Mysore deserves more than one day!!! Bangalore used to be beautiful but now is too chaotic. Get out of there as fast as you can and spend some time getting to know Mysore.

I am biased, since both my parents were born and raised in Mysore.
puttakka is offline  
Old Aug 5th, 2009, 09:28 PM
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We did a smilar trip last December.
With only 5 days...skip Bangalore.
You might want to consider the TRAIN directly from Chennai to Mysore--i think there's an overnight one, or even a daytime Shahtabti Express.
We were nr Mudumalai at KabinI Lake. Stayed at Cicada Kabini. Loved it--at lake's edge, in lovely cottages. Saw elephants, other animals. even...tiger! Def'lly worth it!
Stayed nr Coonoor at Kurumba Village. Wonderful, beautiful place!! Cottages in a valley, surrouned by high hills. Loved nearby Coonoor town and its surroundings (hills, tea plantations, etc) . Took the Blue Train to Ooty. Great ride, tremendous fun.
You would want to take the train in the opposite direction, down to Mettupalayam, to end up nr Coimbatore.
Mysore was lovely. Stayed at Royal Orchid Metropole, loved it, great courtyard restaurant. Went up to Temple at Chamundi Hill, and the little shrine at the Nandi Bull, and of course Mysore Palace. Great town for walking in, but definitely very different from the previous mentioned places--there is the Indian city constant horn beeping, and traffic, which didnt bother me--jsut added to the adventure and fun.
if you've not already done so, do check Indiamike, a great source of info on all of India.
CaliNurse is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 08:41 AM
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I agree with the above post, take a train straight to Mysore, there are Shatabdhi's running every day except tuesdays. From Mysore you can head to Coorg and stop at Kushalnagar that boasts of a famous Tibetian Monastry since you said your husband has an interest in the same. You can stay at the Orange County Resort in Coorg, thats our fav.If you want a true stay in the forests of South try the junglelodges.com and chose to stay at Dubare/Kabini all in and around the same area. In Mysore you could also stay at Windflower Spa & Resorts, we had a good time there what with a talking cockattoo Rosy and a gaggle of geese to keep us company!
Hope this helps.
rgds
Abi
abi_maha is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 06:26 PM
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Thanks, folks!
It seems that these lodges in the forests are structured for a one-night stay. Do you think this is adequate or is 2 nights more reasonable?
I'm checking trains from Chennai to Mysore on yatra.com. I'm using the Indian site to get the trains. Does anyone know if I can really use it to book from the US or would I need to get my friends' families to do this? Also, I'm a little confused by the classes of travel. An overnight 10.5 hour trip seems the only option. Do I want AC 2 tier, AC 3 tier, or sleeper class? These seem to be the only options (I'm assuming I have no interest in anything labeled chair class for overnight).
Skedaddle is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 10:06 PM
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Try www.irctc.co.in for rail tickets booking, it's the best way of dong the same. Opt for e-tickets so you can just print your booking and carry it with you. AC 2 tier is best, you will have good clean rest rooms- lesser people and the difference over AC 3-tier is marginal. If you take the morning Shatabhdi Express you will reach Mysore in 7 hours, the Chair class is a good option for the same. Even the evening train is fine as reaching Mysore late is not a prob as the station has many cabs and the city is very safe for travel.
One night at the lodges is just fine, the itinerary is not too rushed and you can keep the luggage out and stay on till late evening the next day before driving off.
abi_maha is offline  
Old Aug 6th, 2009, 10:27 PM
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See seat61.com/India.htm for pix and descriptions of classes on Indian trains. You have to be really adventurous to opt for sleeper class! AC2 is fine but AC3 is a bit cramped, especially if you're on the top tier.
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Old Aug 10th, 2009, 07:07 PM
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Well, of course, there is a daytime train every day EXCEPT the one we need - Tuesday! I don't think the night train from Chennai to Mysore will work for us because we may be out late with an obligation on Monday night and can't be sure of making the train and so we'd be waiting all day on Tuesday for the Tuesday night train. So, I think we will do a flight on Tuesday morning for Bangalore and then either train or car/driver on to Mysore. If we do the car/driver, we would be able to see a thing or two in Bangalore before going on. Do you guys have any input on that?
Also, abi_maha, are you talking about the Namdroling Monastery? It looks great, but it's website (http://www.namdroling.org/) makes a huge deal of getting a
Protected Area Permit. This really seems geared toward the person staying for a month (fingerprints, police station, etc.). Does anyone have any knowledge of just going for a day visit?
Skedaddle is offline  
Old Aug 11th, 2009, 07:24 AM
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Yes, I did mean that.. this permit is new! When we visited a year ago there was no need for the same. Also all the taxi/cab rates quoted in this site are exorbitant! Will ask around regarding the same and revert in a day or two if that is fine...?
regarding Bangalore (my hometown), you can see the Bangalore Palace, lalbagh botanical gardens and maybe a temple or two if that would interest you. This can be done in half a day, do let me know about any specific interests otherwise, then I will be able to help you better.
rgds
Abi
abi_maha is offline  
Old Aug 13th, 2009, 06:04 AM
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Thanks a bunch, abi_maha! I think a 1/2 day in Bagalore would be great! We'll arrive at 10 am. Should we try to make arrangements through a hotel in Mysore for a car/driver to pick us up at the airport or is it done some other way?

Regarding the hotels in Mysore, it appears that many of them are removed from the town. Usually we try to stay somewhere where we can walk to most attractions/resturants, especially when we only have a short time (2 nights, in this case). Is there a good reason to stay further out? I was looking at the Ginger Hotel that seems to be a bit closer in - does anyone have any comment on that?

Thanks so much - you guys are really helpful to me!
Skedaddle is offline  
Old Aug 13th, 2009, 08:09 AM
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I just checked w.r.t the Namdingrol monastry, you do need permits, so am afraid that you will have to skip that. As regards taking a cab to Mysore, asking a hotel to arrange for a cab will prove expensive. I use this service +918023459270 Hertz to book, a small car costs around Rs3800 to Mysore. They are trustworthy and convenient.
Mysore is a small city, so staying out should not be a problem, you can use the local conveyance to travel around and outside the city would be less than 7 miles from city center. Ginger is a no frills hotel by the Tata group(one of the largest business groups of India), it is comfortable and clean.
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Old Aug 13th, 2009, 11:19 AM
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I stayed in the Green Hotel in Mysore (www.greenhotelindia.com/ - Writer's Room) - not in the center, but plenty of rickshaws available. Only downside was that I could never get them to use the meter (of course, not that many places in India HAD rickshaws with meters...)
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Aug 13th, 2009, 06:51 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions! I'll check them out.

We thought we might be staying with some family of our friends in Chennai, but it looks like we will need a hotel. I'm not having much luck finding any website to tell me in what area of town hotels are located. Our friends suggested the Hotel Trident or Le Meridian, but these seem rather expensive (>US$150/night). The other areas suggested were Meenambakum, St. Thomas Mount, Guindy, and KK Nagar.

Do you helpful folks have any good recommendations?
Skedaddle is offline  
Old Aug 13th, 2009, 11:41 PM
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Try the GRT hotel in pondy bazaar, it is heart of the city and a good property. www.grthotels.com; also expensive but they are better than most popular 5* properties. Do check the site, if you want something that costs less than that do check on Lemon Tree, I have heard many recommend that for a good and convenient stay.
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Old Aug 13th, 2009, 11:56 PM
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Metropole is a good heritage hotel in Mysore.Loved it.That was 1 1/2 yrs ago.
inquest is offline  
Old Aug 14th, 2009, 02:09 AM
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hey Skedaddle:

I'm with abi_maha on the lemon tree chain. Very cool.

here are two sites that might help you:

http://www.savaari.com/user/step1.php
to help you work out what cars and drivers might cost

http://www.ezeego1.co.in/
which seems to be a good one-stop, on the road, book a few days ahead kinda site PLUS you can book trains thru it.
dogster is offline  
Old Aug 14th, 2009, 05:01 AM
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Thanks, guys! I'm afraid I wasn't clear in my request on Chennai. We need to stay somewhere close to my friends' family home (hence the areas above). They feel this will minimize the travel time to collect everyone for sightseeing, etc. Are any of these places (which all look pretty good!) in those areas? I got the impression that the areas might not be very central and I can't seem to locate them on my tourist-oriented maps (of course, I seem to be having some difficulty with place names in India [British vs. Indian and so on], so maybe it's me!!
Skedaddle is offline  
Old Aug 14th, 2009, 05:52 AM
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Lemon Tree is in Guindy, so that's good for you I guess
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Old Aug 14th, 2009, 07:00 PM
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Great - the Lemon Tree Hotel looks very cool!
Everyone has been a great deal of help!!
Skedaddle is offline  
Old Aug 16th, 2009, 07:42 AM
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Hope you have a good trip!
abi_maha is offline  

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