Weekend at Kodaikanal

The summer was sweltering at 38 degrees in Bangalore, and i just wanted to go somewhere nice and cool. Ooty was too cliche, so we picked Kodai. With 2 days left for the weekend, our first priority was to get a room in a neat hotel. We learnt that any hotel whose low raters said only good things about it, must indeed be good. Every holiday destination is charecterized by taxi-drivers greeting you like relatives at the bus stop/railway station. Kodai was no exception. As we ignored them and searched on the map for our hotel, one kind taxidriver asked us to walk straight and take a right. There's always a good autodriver/taxidriver in the crowd! While we soaked in the view on the way to the hotel, and passed a church where Tamil hymns praising Jesus were blaring on the loudspeaker, we spotted the hotel. It was a mintue's walk away from both Coakers walk and Bryant park, two of Kodai's tourist hotspots. We gupled down breakfast at a humble roadside establishment which was aptly named 'Hotel Best'. One of the lessons we learnt is that the sophisticated hotels offer the very same or inferior quality food and charge you 5 times as much for the same. We rounded off Dosa and Pongal with coffee. I expected him to make Filter coffee, as this was Tamil Nadu, but was disappointed to see him pour Bru powder into the milk. Over the 2 days there, we discovered that this was what everyone offered in the name of coffee.

We were ready to roam around the city, and enquired with the hotel owner. He said tempo-travellers charged anywhere between 150 to 300 per head for a twirl around the city and cabs charge a rather exorbitant amount of 1400 to 1500. But if you want to explore the city on your own, then its best to walk around the city and probably hire a cab to go to places of your choice.

Some tips, based on my weekend there.

* Book a hotel which is near to the Lake/Coakers walk. Everything will be easily accessible by a 5-min walk
* I'd recommend cycling around the lake rather than boating. One is never able to enjoy the surroundings while huffing and puffing with the pedal boat. All the couples in Kodai for a romantic getaway, probably best to try out your co-ordination and communication by trying Tandem cycling.
* Try the idlis, dosas, coffee and chai from roadside vendors. Probably not the bajjis, as most of them are semi-fried. If you ask them about it, they will only say 'Half-fry' and shoo you away
* If you are indeed hungry, pick up the raw mangoes sprinkled with salt or boiled groundnuts. There's very little that can go wrong by eating these
* Weather changes very rapidly in Kodai. Be prepared for rains!
* Do visit the Kodaikanal Solar observatory. The walk to the solar museum is clean, green and pristine! The museum will take you back to the high-school textbooks, and make you nostalgic.
* Visit Coaker's walk atleast twice! And at different times of the day. Best time to visit would be early in the morning as it is not crowded, and devoid of commercialization. The entry fee is just Rs.5, and worth the view
* Ask for a sample of the chocolate before buying it. Don't buy them at the first shop selling chocolates. Learn to judge by looking at them closely.
* Give Bryant park a skip if you have visited the Botanical gardens at Ooty/Coonor. It has nothing new to offer, and at 30 bucks per head is a rip-off in my opinion. Same with Guna caves - you will end up paying money to trek for ten minutes to look at caves which are more like crevices, and are marked off for exploration by grills. The only pictures you will be taking here are of monkeys!
* Do not rely on phone maps. Once it gets cloudy, all phone networks stop functioning.
* Do remember to put your cameras away and enjoy the moment !


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