Varkala, Kerala – A romantic, weekend getaway

Ideally:

Duration: 2 nights and 3 days

Category: Romantic, weekend getaway

Mathematically: Varkala = Goa – Party

Varkala is a much smaller version of Goa with no parties, and you get only Kingfisher, mostly! The beach-restaurants are styled the same way as in Goa. I would recommend Varkala(in Kerala) to anyone looking to take some time off from the busy/mundane(both equally taxing) schedule and enjoy a relaxing weekend.

Ideally, Varkala is a great honeymoon destination, and it is inexpensive. A day in Varkala – start off with a breakfast in your resort, followed by an ayurvedic massage to take away your travel fatigue and worries. Have a filling Kerala lunch of fish curry with a bowl of rice and pick from a plethora of seafood side-dishes. I’m terribly sorry if you are vegetarian  but there are other things to enjoy for you. Have a nap, make sure to get out of the resort by 5:30 PM to watch the sunset. Evenings can be spent on shopping pretty dresses, followed by a sumptuous dinner by the beach and a walk in the moonlit sands. Next day, rinse and repeat!

Varkala, Kerala - sunset

Varkala, Kerala – Sunset

Restaurant lights in Varkala, Kerala

Restaurant lights in Varkala, Kerala

Restaurant lights in Varkala, Kerala

Restaurant lights in Varkala, Kerala

Restaurant lights in Varkala, Kerala

Lots of couples visit this place, from what I saw. The resorts and the beaches are occupied by foreigners, predominantly. Lot of love in the air, with beautifully lit restaurants and a long stretch of road full of pretty dresses (can make any girl’s heart leap with joy). Make sure to carry cash and hone your negotiation skills before going shopping in these shops, else carry more cash.

Below: Light on the cliff: At least 1 km stretch of road on the cliff, overlooking the sea, which is lined with shops and restaurants, do take a walk there!

shopping in  Varkala, Kerala

[stitched photo, bad quality!] Shopping in Varkala, Kerala

That, my dear friend, is an experience you wouldn’t want to miss. Varkala great place to celebrate a special day with special people. In my list of destinations, this will be under the folder “Romantic, chilled out beach destinations”.

What should you take along for this trip?

  • Beachwear
  • Dinner dress
  • Cash
  • Negotiations skills (else, carry more cash)
  • Sunscreen
  • The special someone

 

Other Information:

Resorts: there are a lot of resorts around the papanasam beach. We stayed in Eden Gardens resort, Rs.800/night for a double-bed room. It is hygienic, has a water heater (geyser) and a bath tub.

Railway Station: There is a station in Varkala, many trains stop there, but only for few minutes

Airport: Nearest is Thiruvananthapuram(Trivandrum) airport, and a cab from there to Varkala will cost you Rs.1300 (overheard)

ATMs : Available, near the Temple Junction, 500 mts from the papanasam beach.

 

Gentle reminder to travellers: please do not litter!

Varkala beach and Kollam backwaters, Kerala [Tweets]

Tweets from my Varkala and Kollam, Kerala, 3 day trip from Chennai.

Varkala beach, kerala.

Varkala beach, kerala

 

You can follow me on twitter here. Full travel story will be published soon.

 

Tweet URLs in Tweet (click to view photos)
My travel companion for this trip will be http://t.co/7xLMQJw3 @natgeo 2 days to go for #rTrip10 #kerala http://yfrog.com/oc97fpcj
Yay. Packing 🙂 #rTrip10
Boarded the bus and the trip begins. To varkala #rTrip10 #travel #kerala
@der_phoenix follow #rTrip10 for instagramed pics and plain Tweets of this trip 🙂
KPN used to give a quilt to passengers before. Whatever happened to that now. Cost cutting? #travel #rTrip10
Crossing rajapalayam 🙂 #rTrip10
Travelling with @mapswithme and i’m impressed 🙂 #rTrip10 #travel
More greenery #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/zB5kkmBO http://instagr.am/p/UUxatvOMcf/
Greenery 🙂 how soothing to the eyes.  #rTrip10 http://t.co/hnJKxAye http://yfrog.com/obql8pzj
Beautiful greens and a good morning to all 🙂 #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/jEdMAGLJ http://instagr.am/p/UUyVTAOMdg/
Reached thenkasi. Have to find a bus to kollam #rTrip10 #travel
Taking an auto rickshaw ride across tenkasi town to New bus stand. Most bumpy ride ever. #rTrip10 #travel
My Travel stuff. #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/nPX7ffKl http://instagr.am/p/UU6mYZOMXx/
Bus to Kerala #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/hpvPD7yo http://instagr.am/p/UU7QVKuMYf/
Towards kerala #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/sAp4qmZc http://instagr.am/p/UU8vC6uMak/
What better music than listen to Eddie Vedder ‘into the wild ‘ OST 🙂 #rTrip10 #travel
Even in the most rural places. Kids going to school. THAT makes me happy 🙂 #india #rTrip10 #travel
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Bus to #kerala #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/vrIte8VD http://instagr.am/p/UVBSf7OMfz/
Crossing the western ghats into kerala #rTrip10 #travel
Got off to kottarakara and now on another bus. #rTrip10 #travel #kerala http://t.co/c3YabmGL http://yfrog.com/oc6izilj
This is fun 🙂 4 th bus now 🙂 from kollam to paripalli #rTrip10 #travel
http://t.co/5dEObe7H please translate. #malayalam #rTrip10 #travel #kerala @chuck_gopal @Pushkala http://yfrog.com/kkcl6pkaj
Are the right side seats in kerala buses reserved for women?? #rTrip10 #travel
Kerala autos no different from Chennai ones. Meters don’t work here too. #rTrip10 #travel #kerala
Guys, what dish is a must-try in #varkala. Suggestions please. And any particular restaurant? #kerala #rTrip10 #travel
Varkala reached ! #rTrip10 #travel #kerala http://t.co/LHTrpUYD http://instagr.am/p/UVoGGBOMYB/
Varkala sunset #rtrip10 #travel http://t.co/zCgUrQ9U http://instagr.am/p/UWA4R5OMTl/
Varkala beach #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/HigKAthk http://instagr.am/p/UWB4qWOMUS/
Tried bokeh with my mobile cam at the restaurant in varkala #rTrip10 #travel #kerala http://t.co/9BZsBcul http://instagr.am/p/UWLWdruMat/
Superb relaxing time at varkala 🙂 good night . Will post more pics tomorrow  #rTrip10 #travel #kerala
Eden garden resorts #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/TjyX4Org http://instagr.am/p/UXsh_huMcD/
What a relaxing beautiful morning. Good morning all, from Varkala 🙂 #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/m7r8vs6j http://instagr.am/p/UXuI9juMdd/
Trail less travelled 🙂 #varkala #rTrip10 #travel http://t.co/tyuxXGXu http://instagr.am/p/UX6jKeuMYR/
This. 🙂 #rTrip10 #travel #kerala http://t.co/N4iHnqsz http://instagr.am/p/UX7V8CuMY5/
My Travel must-haves. In varkala. #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/O539m6jq http://instagr.am/p/UX7zYSOMZK/
Lunch by the beach 🙂 varkala #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/3PPLeaBS http://instagr.am/p/UYEGVJOMd0/
I give you varkala beach. 🙂 #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/LBnxS4Kl http://instagr.am/p/UYFZg5OMeZ/
Arabian sea. As seen From varkala  #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/MtZ4cguU http://instagr.am/p/UYIBJ6uMfn/
Most of the beach restaurants are very unwelcoming to Indians. Varkala. #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot
Sunset at varkala #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/DEPYaTZI http://instagr.am/p/UYi8xGuMct/
Smile please. Noh?! 😛 #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/H6jbphLi http://instagr.am/p/UYrBr2OMSG/
Varkala beach #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/g0QbwOdO http://instagr.am/p/UYsGUkuMTJ/
Lights from blue moon cafe 🙂 having dinner here. Varkala #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/WdMxC2f4 http://instagr.am/p/UYuXvUOMVC/
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En route to kollam, from varkala. Wonderful  Experience. Will blog in http://t.co/ZewHhSFW #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://potofthots.com/travel
How can i be in kerala and NOT have bananas 🙂 #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/5LBkuzzc http://instagr.am/p/UaTQ9jOMdJ/
Sitting in the last seat in a kerala bus. Big mistake. Tossed around. No tweets for some time #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot
Waiting at DTPC KOLLAM, and they think i don’t understand malayalam. Lol. #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot
I HAD respect for kerala tourism. ’nuff said. Details when i cross the state border. Don’t want trouble!  😛 #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot
Feel sorry for this brit – aus couple. Charging heavy prices. Getting royally cheated. 🙁 #rTrip10 #travel #ttot
Y dont they use G maps and twitter. #rTrip10  #travel #ttot
Rs. 850/head for 2 hrs boat ride in kollam backwaters. I know im overpaying. But by how much? #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot
Check these shoes(or whatever) out. 🙂 #rTrip10 http://t.co/HnUKzE78 http://instagr.am/p/UanGLaOMfZ/
Cute little house boat prototype #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/yKbXSqwT http://instagr.am/p/Uav_69uMUQ/
Eww noone told me that the backwaters stink! Is it a pun?! eww http://t.co/qsf3uCeD #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://yfrog.com/ocmrcelj
Kollam backwater boat ride. #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/3voskwTz http://instagr.am/p/Ua0ejqOMWU/
Kollam backwaters #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/N39g5OKK http://instagr.am/p/Ua1j4GuMWy/
Kollam backwaters #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot #Slkt #lp http://t.co/nRG6MLOM http://instagr.am/p/Ua2wWAOMXJ/
Fishing net 🙂  Kollam backwaters #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot #SLKT #LP http://t.co/yxQvCd9G http://instagr.am/p/Ua353QuMXf/
Kollam backwaters #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot #lp http://t.co/wcv0ZxFW http://instagr.am/p/Ua48vruMX7/
This. 🙂 Kollam backwaters #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot #lp #slkt http://t.co/MgKlCY46 http://instagr.am/p/Ua6TMruMYq/
Fishing nets. Kollam backwaters #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/KxAZLIKP http://instagr.am/p/Ua6mktuMYy/
Should have packed my 55-200 nikon lens 🙁 #nikon  #rTrip10 #travel #photography
Boats. Kollam backwaters #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/e4dQrPTa http://instagr.am/p/Ua740VOMZf/
The big fish. 🙂 Kollam backwaters #rTrip10 #travel #kerala #ttot http://t.co/cWVUlywA http://instagr.am/p/Ua-UL5OMay/
Bus back to Chennai. Almost the end of #rtrip10. Where to, next? Orissa or west coast or rajasthan ? 🙂  #travel #India
#Chennai reached. after a wonderful trip 🙂 #rtrip10 #travel
#kerala Trip done. Blogs and photos will be updated here http://t.co/nzEqw41w 🙂 #rTrip10 #travel http://potofthots.com

 

You can follow me on twitter here.

cheers

Trip to Hampi [By car, from Chennai]

Long pending post!

Most of you might have already read the post on ‘Hampi: beauty in ruins’ and ‘the other side of Tungabhadra‘. Three of us did this trip about a month back. This post is mostly about how we went, where we stayed and how many days we spent. So here it is. Will try to keep it short and sweet!

For me a good road trip has two significant elements – journey and destination. Journey was great: three friends, Skoda Rapid, beautiful weather and the destination, was beyond beautiful: historical Hampi.

We had planned a 3 day trip, with 2 days spent in car and 1 day in Hampi. Looking back, I think one needs at least 3 days in Hampi to do justice to that place.

 

The route we took(700 kms from Chennai to Hampi):


View Larger Map

 

 Day 1:

We started from Chennai around 7AM. It was the cyclone week and low-hanging clouds made us rethink our trip in the morning. When in doubt, try it out! so we took the plunge and decided to go ahead with the trip.

low hanging rain clouds during our chennai to hampi trip

low hanging rain clouds during our chennai to hampi trip

The weather turned out to be perfect for a roadtrip. As drivers, we were a little anxious because of the wet roads, but Skoda Rapid grips the road well and soon we were touching good speeds. A little rain, now and then:

rain during our chennai to hampi trip

Rain – here and there!

 

We stopped at Hotel Aryaas in Vellore for breakfast. 

hotel aryaas, vellore during our chennai to hampi trip

hotel aryaas, vellore

 

Once the breakfast was done, we headed towards the B’lore, bit of a longer route but the roads were better. Took the NICE road to Tumkur. We had lunch in a dhaba somewhere between Sira and Chitradurga, at around 2:30PM

At Jai Matha daba for lunch:) NH4 #rtrip9 :-)#TRAVEL

The clouds were quietly staring at us:

chennai to Hampi NH4

NH4

 

We reached Chithradurga by 5:15PM and stopped for tea, of course! Then we started towards Hospet, where we planned to stay for the night.

The view was picturesque with sunflower farms on either sides. I would suggest you try to cover this strip when the sun is still up, especially if you are the kind to photograph and capture the beauty.

We reached Hospet by 8: 30 and checked in to hotel Malligai, Hospet. We took a 3-bed room for Rs.1200 per night. The room was clean and well-maintained. 24hrs running hot water and TV in room. The attached restaurant provides a variety of cuisines and the service is real good. Do not miss on eating ‘paan’ from the shop that is inside the hotel. 

Checked in the hotel, freshened up and went for dinner, we were really hungry. After dinner, we hit the sack as we were looking forward  to a long day.

Day 2:

Ideally, you would need three days to relax and absorb the entire beauty of this erstwhile vijayanagar empire capital. We crunched the  whole thing into one day.

We started from our hotel to Hampi, and reached Hampi by 9 AM. Thankfully, we hired a guide, it was definitely worth it. We paid him Rs.1000 for 7 hrs, which was basically the whole day. Without the guide you wouldnt know where to begin and where to end.

PLEASE HIRE A GUIDE. To read more about what we did and places we visited in Hampi – check the post on ‘Hampi: beauty in ruins’ and ‘the other side of Tungabhadra‘.

After a wonderful dinner at Mango Tree, Hampi, we came back to our hotel and slept off.

 

Day 3:

We started back from Hospet to Chennai at around 7:30 AM. Nothing eventful, the same route back and reached Chennai by 7:30 PM.

Short and Sweet post, just as I promised!

 

cheers

joe

 

Dinner at Mango Tree, Hampi

It was a good time listening to their Indian experience and having the delicious dinner, in the lantern-lit beautiful place filled with stories and laughter from other tables too!

If you are in Hampi and you want to have food that you want to fall in love with, you have try Mango Tree. Not just the food, the ambiance is also wonderful. Situated on the banks of the river Tungabhadra, it offers awesome food with equally wonderful ambiance.

dinner at mango tree, hampi

Dinner at Mango Tree, Hampi

After a beautiful day of looking at all the monuments, taking in all the stories behind those and a walk on the other side of river Tungabhadra, it was time for dinner and this restaurant(Mango Tree) came highly recommended from different sources. It is a popular restaurant and you can ask any guide in that region, they will give you directions to reach there. There are also lot of sign boards that point to this restaurant.

Like I said, we went there for dinner and got a table to sit. Dinner may not be the best time to go to this place if you want a view of the river as you eat. It was dark! Nevertheless the place was dimly-lit(in a nice way) with lanterns. Very simple seating, nothing posh, but comfortable. Service was prompt and staff, friendly. The fruit salads at Mango Tree is to die for! You can choose to sit on the wooden seats or sit on the cement floor, legs-folded.

dinner at mango tree, hampi

Lanterns light this place – Mango Tree, Hampi

We started with some fruits and believe me, that was the most delicious papaya and water melon I’ve ever had. It was perfectly ripe and so yum! One of us had ordered Samosa’s which were equally delicious but were not pyramidal but they were large, semi-circular.  Most of the people there were foreigners, and we were sharing the table with two travellers (from UK). They introduced themselves and we started talking, they were working in South Korea as teachers and were travelling across various Asian countries. They were in India for 6 weeks and had already visited most of the known places in India.  Note: Travel Inspiration!

They saw the Samosa and asked us what that was and we told them that it was Samosa. They commented that in England, the Samosa’s are pyramidal in shape! ha! We told them that this semi-circular shape was first-time for us too! It was a good time listening to their Indian experience and having the delicious dinner, in the lantern-lit beautiful place filled with stories and laughter from other tables too! The dinner went on for about an hour and a half, and it was a dinner to be remembered.

I’d have loved to meetup with the owners and ask them about the story behind that place, but it skipped my mind. There will always be a next time!

Bottomline: If in Hampi, Mango Tree is not to be missed!

Read all my posts on Hampi here.

The other side of Tungabhadra

There are two sides to a river, and Tungabhadra is no exception to the rule. If one side of the river is the holy city of Hampi, dotted with temples, the other side of the river can be called the “heathen” side, dotted with shacks, homestays and cafes.

Influenced more by the hippie culture, this side is filled with foreigners, safe to assume, mostly Israelite. Initially that place reminded me of Goa, but lack of beaches and the class (Goa has!) makes this an unfair comparison. In Goa, there is large Russian and Brit population  so much that some of the shop names and menus are Russian and in this “heathen side” there are shops/hotels with boards written in Hebrew.

hebrew-hampi-israelites

A banner in Hebrew

It is easy to cross over to the other side – just pay the boatman. 🙂 The cost is Rs.15 per head. Apparently the motor boats do not cross over after 6 pm. So if you are stuck in one side of the river after 6 PM, you are stuck in that side of the river. But our guide told us that coracles do run after 6 and it will get costly to cross after 6 PM.

crossing the river tungabhadra, hampi

Crossing the river Tungabhadra, Hampi

 

Like I said, there are a lot of foreigners on the other side, and one can even call that place “little Goa”. We got off the boat and walked. There is no better mode of transportation than walking. Which is what I prefer doing whenever I really want to explore destinations.

Remember my Walk in Goa post? And I did one other walk in Kolli hills, one of my best! 🙂 So here too we three walked. We had no clue where we were headed. It was already 5 PM and we had to get to the other side to go out hotel for the night. Without a clue, we just walked…

Hampi, Karanataka, India

The other side

 

Hampi, Karanataka, India

images from Hampi, Travel, India. UNESCO world heritage site

Black and all the other colors! – Hammocks for sale

Took a short break for tea!

Hampi, Karanataka, India

Sat for some chai in this cute little tea shop

Then walked some more

Hampi, Karanataka, India

A restaurant

 

Spotted this graffiti during this walk:

graffiti in Hampi, Karanataka, India

Graffiti in Hampi

And then…

THIS HUGE SURPRISE, “The Broken Bridge”, like I said we were just taking a walk with no expectation and saw this beauty:

Hampi, Karanataka, India

The broken bridge, Hampi

 

The broken bridge, Hampi, Karanataka, India

Just to show you how big this structure is! – The broken bridge, Hampi

Took a lot of pics around this place. and it was 5:55 PM!

We headed back, coolly. Worst case scenario, we would have to stay on this side of the river for a night and there were so many affordable (eg. Rs.300 per night)shacks and home-stays in this side, that we were not very worried.

We headed back and caught a last boat (I suppose) at 6:15 and went to the other side.

We had our dinner at the very recommended Mango Tree Hotel, which is another wonderful place that is not to be missed if you go to Hampi! Another post on that!

If you have missed reading the story on Hampi – here it is!

cheers

Hampi: beauty in ruins

Hampi, in my dictionary, would mean “Beauty in ruins”. You could read that as the beauty (that once was) now in ruins, or, even the ruins of this erstwhile Vijayanagara empire are so breathtakingly beautiful.

I love to visit historical places. Every stone I look at, makes me think of that one person, who would have placed it there, centuries ago. The person has gone but the stone/sculpture/carving, part of a beautiful structure, is still there, frozen in time! Another reason why I love visiting historical places is to stand in awe of the things humans are capable of – good and bad! And no place, I’ve been to till now, represents this better than Hampi.

Hampi, by far, one of the most beautiful place I’ve been to. So rich in culture, so many stories, so many sculptures, so much beauty to take in. Of course, this all depends on what you love!

Broken Bridge in Hampi, India

Broken Bridge in Hampi

Hampi

The basics, you will do well knowing these, before visiting the place:

  • Hampi/Vijayanagara was the capital of the Vijaynagara empire from AD 1343 to 1565
  • Hampi is located in the southern bank of river ‘Tungabhadra’ (also known as Pampa)
  • Has strong mythological associations. The birthplace of Ramayana, Kishkinda-kshetra, is believed to be situated close to it
  • Don’t hesitate to get a guide. Don’t worry, you don’t have to find them, they’ll find you!

Things humans are capable of – good and bad! – Hampi

The good thing – the beauty that this Vijayanagara empire must’ve been once. All built by human hands, with so less technology, so much time, dedication and passion it would’ve taken.

The bad thing – that would be the reason the empire lies in ruins now. It was attacked and conquered by the Bijapur sultan. When the war was won, the Sultan burnt down the palace, which was wholly built of Sandalwood, and the story is, it took 6 months for the whole palace to be burnt down. Yes, the palace is no more, one can only see the foundation stones of the palace.

As for the stone temples and structures, the sultans couldn’t burn it, so they broke whatever they could. Example, most of the tusks of the elephant sculptures are broken off, the tummy of  Ganesha is sliced off, broke off Lakshmi from this beautiful 6.7m monolith Lakshmi-Narasimha Statue (below) and below that is a carving (smaller sample) of this statue from one other temple pillar:

 6.7m Lakshmi-Narasimha Monolith statue, Hampi

6.7m Lakshmi-Narasimha Monolith statue, Hampi

Below: This is a carving I found in one of the pillars of another temple. The above statue was supposed to have Lakshmi sitting on the Narasimha’s lap, like shown below. Imagine how beautiful that would have been.

Lakshmi-Narasimha carving, Hampi

Lakshmi-Narasimha carving, Hampi

I don’t blame the Sultan for doing this, I’m sure any triumphant king would have done the same. All is fair in love and war.

There are still remains of bazars, so well organized:

diamond and ruby bazaar, hampi

Diamond and ruby bazaar, hampi

remains of a medieval bazaar, hampi

 

The beauty is in the details and stories:

That’s exactly why you need a guide. They charge Rs.1000 for a 7-hour guided tour. They know the order in which the vast empire has to be covered. Take help, pay them, tip them, it’s no harm. Buy a guide book as a souvenir.

There is always a story to any historical structure, about the reason and significance. There is a temple called ‘Hazararama Temple’ which depicts the whole story of Ramayana in three tiers. What a beauty!! Like a medieval cartoon strip! The guide explained the story to me and it was very helpful.


ramayana depiction in hazararama temple hampi

Below: our guide giving us a crash course in Ramayana

our guide giving us a crash course in Ramayana

Our guide giving us a crash course in Ramayana :)

Ravana:

 ravana, ramayana, hazararama  temple, Hampi

10-headed Ravana depicted, hazararama temple, Hampi

 

So like I said, if you want to know the stories around a structure, getting a guide is a wise decision. Also, without a guide you might miss out on lot of details, such as:

Below image depicts the trade with various other races, such as chinese, persians, mongols (thanks to the guide for pointing it out):

 

Other races depicted here, trading in Vijayanagara

Other races depicted here, trading in Vijayanagara

 

Obviously, I am not gonna write about each and every monument I saw here, rather, I want to leave with you a travel idea, an inspiration for you to pack your bags and go!

One more thing: Will blog about how we reached Hampi, where we stayed and budget, later. Also there are two sides to any river, same for River Tungabhadra. Another post will talk about that!

A message to travellers: Travel, don’t trash!

PS: you can view all my Travel Photos here.

cheers

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