Friday, January 18, 2008

Notes on our Trip to Ooty

We had an 'instant' visit to Ooty (Udagamandalam in governmental Tamil and Ootacamund in the natives' language) this Wednesday and Thursday. I feared if it was going to be our worst trip to Ooty, because the TV news channels were telling that there is cold weather all across Tamil Nadu, and it is feeezing cold at hill stations!

But, this was the best trip we ever had! We started from Coimbatore at 7 AM and reached Ooty at around 9:45 AM. With no traffic on the road, it was like taking a flight to Ooty. This includes one stop at Mettuppalayam for breakfast and another stop at a view point on the way to Coonoor! Thanks to my cute little Zen and my expert driving skills, ha!

I am not going to show pictures of pristine air around Ooty, for there are plenty in the web. I am just logging a few experiences and ideas for anyone planning to visit Ooty like we did.
  1. Never think Ooty is to be visited only in Summer. Except for the rainy season that normally occurs between June and November, with a brief pause in September, any other time is OK. It is more fun during winter time, if you are a crowd-hater like we are.
  2. There is no need to reserve a room at this time of the year.Just go there, look around the air, pick any hotel at random and walk in. The room rates are half the 'season' rates. We paid just Rs. 650 (Tax included) for a 4-bedded clean room at Devi Tourist Inn right in between Charing Cross, the entry point, and Bus Stand/Railway Station (call Kumar @ 0423 2443439). Way too cheap compared to a similar room in Chennai/Bangalore.
  3. For those keen on a boat-ride, there is a better lake than the one in Ooty. It is Pykara lake. For this reason we just browsed through the boat house in the town.
  4. The Botanical Garden looks big, particularly with not much of flowers! This is the only little disappointment caused by the timing of the trip. Kids, including yours truly, had many enjoyable rolls down the slopes of the grass here. No shame!
  5. It is prohibitively expensive to go to the Botanical Garden by one's car! There is a parking lot that charges Rs. 40/- for a car, atrocious! We were wondering if it would have been a better idea to have gone there from the room by an auto rickshaw, instead.
  6. There is a Centenary Rose Garden, 2 km away from the BG, we visited for the first time. For rose lovers, it is a treat. My estimate is that at least some 25 000 roses must be there. You need to be an agile walker(and stair-climber too:)) to enjoy the complete expanse.
  7. At most of the tourist points in Ooty, they charge a parking fee, an entrance ticket, and still if you want to pee, you need to 'pay and use':( This looks awkward to me. An open-public-toilet may be pay-and-use. But having collected an entrance fee, is it not one's right to use the toilet free? Tamilnadu Tourism, think about this anomaly.
  8. While talking about TN Tourism, we appreciate that there is no fleecing or corrupt practices like over-charging, negotiable fares, un-ticketed services, etc. Most places have visible board with detailed list of rates and facilities.
  9. There is an excellent restaurant chain in the heart of Ooty. It is called Coffee House Group. They run a EnVee Hotel (N. V. = Non-Vegetarian:-) a vegetarian restaurant and a multi cuisine restaurant too. The stuff is fresh, tasty and rightly priced too. Particularly the briyani at the EnvVee is a real treat. You should never miss it. So is the parotta. Just ask any local, he tells how to go to the coffee-house. In fact, it is just a short walk away from the Devi Tourist Inn we stayed.
  10. If you want to carry home some snacks for friends or family, the best bet is Ooty varkey, the pastry variety famous in Ooty. There are many bakeries that sell this, but the best is Impala bakery. It is just a few shops away from the Coffee House. You get the warm oven-fresh varkey at around 5 pm at this shop. We could see people waiting for the arrival of the special square varkey to arrive through their delivery van.
  11. If the car runs on LPG like mine, expect some drop in pickup in the early morning, after overnight stay in Ooty. It took almost the whole day to regain the lost performance:(. I am not sure if the factory-fitted ones behave like this, but my RTO-certified retrofit does this.
  12. The snack bar at Doddabetta peak, run by Tamilnadu Tourism, offers tasty snacks. The Molakaa Bajji was great, particularly for the cold weather. They churn out yummy noodles for the kids too. Again they are rightly priced, no fleecing.
  13. The road leading to the 9th mile point, popularly called the Shooting Spot was too badly damaged. We saw signs of road repair, hopefully it will become better before rains batter it again in June.
  14. Boating at Pykara was good; the water is spotlessly clean, the air is fresh and pure. The walk down the slope to reach the Pykara falls was little tough for the weak. But the sight was worth the pain. We enjoyed some more hot bajjis at the Pykara bus stop.
  15. The climb down was even faster. We drove back home in less than 2 hours and a half. The visit was memorable.
One thing we missed through out the trip was, believe me, a stimulating cup of tea! Yes, most tea shops sell rubbish in the name of tea. Thats at the queen of hills, the tea capital of the south, ironic!


OAB said...

I fully vouch your views on visiting Ooty during Winter, since me and my family also happend to be at Ooty last January and enjoyed the mild layer of white snow all over the ground and on the meadows, which is rare experience for people like Coimbatore. I fully enjoyed your narration and wish you to continue further..

மஞ்சூர் ராசா said...

எப்பொழுது ஜனவரி அல்லது பிப்ரவரி மாதங்களில் உதகைக்கு செல்வது மிகவும் சுகமான அனுபவம்.

உதகமண்டலத்திற்கு செல்லும் சுற்றுலா பயணிகள் பல இடங்களை தவறவிட்டு விடுகிறார்கள். அதில் முக்கியமான இடம் அவலாஞ்சி அணைக்கட்டு பகுதி. மஞ்சூருக்கு எடக்காடு வழியாக போகும் வழியில் இருக்கிறது. மிகவும் ரம்மியமாக இருக்கும். கண்டிப்பாக அடுத்த முறை செல்லவும். (இந்த இடத்தில் ஒரு பதிவர்கள் சந்திப்பு வைக்கலாம் என ஓசை செல்லாவுடன் பேசியிருக்கிறேன் பார்ப்போம்).

உதகையில் அருமையான டீ நீங்கள் தங்கியிருந்த இடத்திற்கு மிகவும் அருகிலேயே கிடைக்கிறது. வெளியிலிருந்து பார்த்தால் பழைய கட்டிடம் போல தெரியும். சூப்பர் மார்க்கெட்டுக்கு எதிர் பக்கத்தில் உள்ள இரானியன் ரெஸ்டராண்ட். அடுத்த முறை அங்கு போய் டீ குடிக்கவும்.

கோவை சிபி said...

நல்ல தகவல்கள்.முக்குரித்தி சோலைக்காடுகள் கண்களுக்கு அற்புதமான விருந்து.,பார்சன் அணைக்கட்டும்.

ILA(a)இளா said...

Wow, Exclnt travelogue to Ooty. I suggest you can continue writing in English rather in Tamil..

Kasi Arumugam - காசி said...

Manjoor Rasa, thanks for the tips. Sure I will make use of them in the next trip.

Sibi, thanks for your ideas too.

Ila, thanks for the compliment; is it really a compliment? I don't think my Tamil is so bad, do you think so?:P