Category: Destination Tips

Things to do in the Trivandrum Zoo in Kerala

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1. Trivandrum Zoo (or Thiruvananthapuram Zoo) is one of the oldest zoos in the country. The Maharaja of Travancore, Sri Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma (1830 -1847), established the zoo in 1857 in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, as an annex to the Napier Museum, a famous art and natural history museum in the city.

2. However in 1995, major renovation works took place, and the zoo underwent a lot of innovative changes with its old enclosures replaced by open naturalistic enclosures.

3. This zoo in the ‘temple city of Kerala’ is the home to nearly 82 species of exotic animals including Indian rhinoceros, lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, Asiatic lion, royal Bengal tiger, Asian elephants, white tiger, leopard, hippos, giraffes, Cape buffalos and zebras and rare birds.

4. Animals in this zoo are usually released in an open enclosure from their century-old cages, and can be easily viewed at a close distance.

5. With rich natural vegetation, breath taking landscapes and green habitat, the zoo also encloses a reptile farm and snake farm – an exhibition of both venomous and non-venomous snakes, besides 7 anacondas.

6. It is also rated as one of the cleanest and beautiful in zoos in South East Asia, on a sprawling 55 acres of land offering a regal look of towering bamboos, tall trees and beautiful milieu.

7. It also serves as the perfecting getaway spot for the locals and a must-see destination for tourists from outside of Kerala and overseas.

8. A new hospital with state-of-the-art equipment has also been established here.

9. The zoo is located at a distance of 3km from Thampanoor Bus Station. You can take a bus from the K.S.R.T.C bus enroute to Museum, Peroorkada, Vellayambalam, Museum, Sasthamangalam, and Nedumangadu. In addition to public transportation, cabs, autos and busses are readily available at affordable charges.

10. The recommended time to visit the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is during the winter months, when the weather is relatively pleasant and balmy to come out in the sun.

Amazing facts about the Srirangam Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple in Trichy (Tiruchirappali)

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The Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple located at Srirangam in Trichy (or Tiruchirapali) in Tamilnadu is one of the most famous temples in South India. Built in the Dravidian architectural style, the temple is spread across a total area of 156 acres, and is dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Vishnu or Ranganatha. There are many other Sannnathis and 53 upa-sannathis alongside the main diety or Moolavar. This temple is one among the 108 Vishnu temples in the country, out of which 105 temples are found in India, one in the neighbouring country of Nepal and two are believed to exist outside the Earthly walls. The River Kaveri (also spelled Cauvery) flows on one side of the temple; there is a distributary of the river running on the other side called the Kollidam. Here are some intriguing facts on the temple:

1. Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is also called by other names like Periyakoil, Thiruvaranga Tirupati, Bhoologa Vaikundam and Bhogamandabam.

2. This temple is the largest Hindu temple and the largest working temple in India.

3. The temple’s Gopuram is made of gold that is well protected by an electric fence.

4. There are totally seven concentric prakaras or enclosures or walls. These walls, which measure 32,592 feet in length, enclose the entire sanctum’s sanctorum. It is the only temple in this part of the world to have seven enclosures. Seven is believed to be an auspicious number by most Vaishnava believers. According to the Vaishnava traditions, seven signifies the seven Yogic centres of consciousness (chakras) of the body located at the base of the spin.

5. There are 21 towers (gopurams) in the temple. In addition, it also houses 50 shrines and 39 pavilions.

6. The entry of non-hindus is restricted at the gold-topped sanctum sanctorum and second prakaram.

7. There is a shrine located above the sanctum sanctorum designed in the shape of the Hindu symbol ‘Om’ which is fully gold plated.

8. The second enclosure has the Ranganayaki shrine, actually the Goddess of Lakshmi. Therefore, during festival times the deity remains inside the shrine, but is called on by Ranganthar.

9. Inside the temple there is a hall having 953 pillars made of granite. The most intriguing, yet fascinating feature of the hall is the intricate sculptures. This hall was constructed by the Vijanagara rulers who ruled between 1336 and 1565.

10. The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple contains 21 tower gateways. The shrine has a main gateway which measures 236 feet in height. Not surprisingly, it is Asia’s second tallest temple tower.

Must-Know Facts about the Asiatic Society in Mumbai

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1. The Asiatic Library, situated in South Mumbai, is one of the most famous and oldest libraries of the city dubbed the ‘Maya Nagari’ or ‘City of Dreams’.

2. Invigorating the imagination of millions of readers of all ages, the library is stocked with over 100000 books, and has had a huge impact in the intellectual development of Mumbaikars over several decades.

3. You can also find a great collection of books, manuscripts, periodicals, books, coins, maps, prints and painted folios. There is also the German translation of Rigveda and the History of the world, a rare set of books, soon to be digitalized by a select committee. This will greatly benefit millions of readers online who usually read books using their laptop, mobile or iPad. You can also find another gem of a collection well preserved in this library – a unique Italian manuscript of the famous Italian poet Dante’s work ‘Divine Comedy’. There is a wide range of books written in several European languages such as German, Latin, Greek and French.

4. Another intriguing collection of old coins belonging to the era of the 5th century Mughal ruler Akbar and famous Maratha ruler Chatrapathi Shivaji. Several seminars and lectures are also organized by the committees which are helpful for the researchers and the scholars.

5. The Asiatic Society of Bombay Library, in addition to the Literary Society of Bombay, was started by Sir James Mackintosh in 1804. One of its unique aspects is the construction of a dust-free air conditioned laboratory in 1991 for the preservation of old and rare books in the library. The collection of rare old books and manuscripts here makes it one of its kinds in the country.

6. You can also find numerous manuscripts written in classical languages including Sanskrit, Urdu, Arabic and Persian. There are several manuscripts that reflect calligraphy and fine paintings, a truly visual treat for the history freaks. The collection also houses the famous Sopara relics unearthed at Nala Sopara near Mumbai. The stone coffer which was excavated has been exhibited in a vestibule and its relics have been neatly preserved under watchful eyes. This priceless antique collection attracts visitors in large numbers.

Must know Facts about the Haji Ali’s Mosque (Dargah) in Mumbai

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1. The majestic Masjid (mosque) stands in the middle of the Arabian Sea, and can be reached walking through a narrow path that leads all the way to the mosque.

2. The Mosque was constructed in reverence and memory of the Muslim Sufi Saint Haji Ali, who was instrumental in the propagation of Islamic Sufi principles of love, peace and tolerance cutting across people of various faiths, castes and languages.

3. The Mosque that is set at 500 yards into the Arabian Sea is accessible only in low tide. The Haji Ali Dhargah (mausoleum) is situated offshore, facing opposite the famous horse racing track, the Mahalaxmi racecourse. When the tide is high, the connecting causeway is submerged into the waters giving one the impression that the mosque and the tomb are afloat on water.

4. A causeway connects the structure, a minaret, to the mainland. The entrance of the mosque is designed in the typical Islamic style of architecture, in fact, a fusion of Indo-Islamic type. The holy saint’s mausoleum lays on a silver frame which is supported by pillars on all four sides, adorned with mirrors of green, yellow and blue colours inscribed in a unique kaleidoscopic pattern with Arabic patterns edged in which spells the 99 names of Allah. Once every year the tomb is cleaned with rose water, believed to posses healing properties.

5. The saint Haji Ali is believed by the locals here to have been an affluent businessman who relinquished everything that was his old life in his single-minded quest of becoming one with God. He started doing Zikr (meditation) on a headland close by, and set on a Haj pilgrimage to the holy land of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is believed that he died on his way to Mecca, but verily a man of miracles, he was, had his casket float back to Mumbai — the land he cherished the most.

6. A note was found on his dead body stating that he be buried at the place it lands. The body miraculously came to rest at the rock island. His devotees wasted no time in building a tomb to pay their respect to the great saint.

7. One can reach the mosque only during low tides, as crossing the causeway during high tides can spell risk.

Things to Know about the Mandalpatti Mountain in Coorg, Karnataka

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Situated at about 18km from the Madikeria Taluk in the district of Kodagu (Coorg) in the state of Karnataka, the Mandalpatti Mountains are part of the vast Pushpagiri reserve forest. A bumpy four-by-four Jeep ride along the circuitous road would take you atop the Mandalpatti hills. If you’re an avid bike rider, the road to Madikeri, especially from Bengaluru offers everything you can wish for. Mandalpatti, in the local language, is called ‘Mugilu-Pete’ or ‘Mugilu-Peth’ meaning Market of Cloud (Mist).


There are two ways to reach this mesmerizing hill station, one through the Makkanduru (around 35 kms) and Abbi Falls junction (about 20 kms).

Madikeri is the nearest town to Mandalpatti. You can easily drive 17kms to Mandalpatti from Madikeri all on your own, out of the total distance of 20kms, but the last 3kms is Pushpagiri reserve forest area, hence permission is restricted by the forest department. You’ll be asked to park your vehicle at the Mandalpatti forest checkpoint. From there on you have to either take a walk all the way up to the hill, of course if you love doing a bit of trekking, or take a Jeep to the Mandalpatti top. Another trekking option is the Nishani mote trek. While returning from Mandalpatti you can take the Makkanduru route, and drive through the lush green coffee plantations. Small and clear streams and freely flowing water falls speckle the route. You will be in for a slightly bumpier ride via Abbi falls, though the travel time is reduced a bit. If you like to cover these places, the best route is that of the Abbi falls junction, and ensure you return via the Makkanduru route. Why not also view the Kote Abbe falls taking this route?

You can make a jeep ride to Mandalpatti directly from Madikeri or from the Mandalpatti checkpoint. The jeep halts there for about 45 minutes. A jeep can also be hired from Abbi falls junction to Mandalpatti. The ride will cover a total of one hour to reach the viewpoint.

All You Want to Know About the Popular Nilavoor Lake in Yelagiri

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If you are done sight-seeing the Vellore Fort, the Golden Temple and the Jalakandeswarar Temple in Vellore, take a bus or cab through the beautiful winding hill roads of Yelagiri, and head straight to the scenic Nilavoor Lake without blinking an eye. Yelagiri, often dubbed ‘Poor man’s Ooty’ is a popular hill station next to the likes of Ooty, Kodaikanal and Yercaud in the South. Visit to the picturesque Nilavoor Lake will not cost you a dime. However, enjoying amusement rides and recreational activities here will incur additional charges. You can take a quiet and lazy walk around the lake and partake in what the nature has to offer.

The Devi Temple, whose main deities are Kaduvu-Nachiyar, is a stone’s throw from the lake. Explore the splendid pink beauty of the Thambiran Lotus pond, an ongoing project, in the nearby village of Nilavoor. The Yellagiri Summer Festival is thronged by thousands of locals and tourists from all over during the summer month of May every year. Though Nilavoor Lake is not a huge water body, it still forms an excellent boating site and popular getaway destination in this part of the world. The lake, which would take no less than two hours to explore fully, forms an exhilarating sight when the sun is in all its glory and as dusk quietly unfolds. The climate is clement and salubrious all throughout the year.

Major attractions in and around the Nilavoor Lake include Velavan Temple, Punganur Lake, Murugan Temple, Jalagamparai Falls, Telescope Observatory, Swamimalai Hills and Nature Park.

The recommended time to visit this quant and charming station is between the month of April and December. Yelagiri is a municipality town well inter-connected by rail and road to major cities like Salem, Chennai and Bengaluru. Public transport here is efficient too. There are also a lot of busses plying from nearby towns like Ambur, Tirupattur, Vaniyambadi, Harur, Uthangarai, Natrampalli, etc to Yelagiri. Do check out the bus timings and routes though before making the trip.

All about the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe in Switzerland!

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Whenever it comes to a holiday trip, the most striking continent that comes to our mind in Europe. Among the innumerable places in Europe Athens, Berlin, Paris, London, Zurich, etc the pick of the lot in Switzerland, also the land of skiing and trailing. Though it is known for its incredible watch manufacturing capabilities, its ice-capped landscape makes us dive deep into it and experience real bliss.

While touring Switzerland, you cannot afford to miss Jungfraujoch, one of the top touring destinations of Switzerland, if not Europe, also a popular UNESCO World Heritage Site. Factual data indicates that two million people a year make a lifetime trip to Jungfraujoch. The Jungfraujoch offers tourists an excellent panoramic view of the country.
The Jungfraujoch is a 3454m high alpine located between the popular mountains -Jungfrau and Monch. Cogwheel train from Interlaken is the only mode of transportation, and it is the highest train station in Europe. Once you reach Jungfraujoch, you can find a plethora of activities to explore and experience.
Hiking and snowboarding across the glacier Mönchsjoch hut and adjacent mountains (suitable during summer) account for an unforgettable experience. The Sphinx Observatory is a viewpoint that gives a 360-degree view of the Aletsch glacier and snow-capped mountains. Ice Palace takes one to the enchanting world of ice with ice sculptures. The Snow Fun Park is recommended for those wanting to try out skiing, whether at the beginner or an advanced level. In addition, there are several immersive multimedia shows and glittering exhibitions.
For kids visiting Jungfraujoch, there lies the exciting Chocolate heaven called Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven where they can easily learn the process of chocolate-making (buying of chocolates is permitted too).
Essential preparations:
1. To match the frequent changes in the temperature, wear dresses in multiple layers that might help you to remove or add layers as and when needed.
2. Precaution and medical advisory are needed for children less than 2 years, pregnant women and the aged, as it is situated on the highest attitude.
3. If you are suffering from Altitude sickness, please think twice before making the trip, and do carry or exercise necessary safeguard measures.
4. Do carry warm clothing, solid shoes, sunglasses, hand gloves, sports hat, wool socks and the required winter wearable.

Interesting facts about the Kek Lok Si Temple in Malaysia

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Buddhism is the second largest religion in Malaysia, Kek Lok Si temple stands as the symbol of Chinese Buddhism situated on top of the hill at Air Itam near Penang Island in Malaysia. It is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia and celebrated as the temple of supreme bliss for several reasons.

The temple was built in 1890 under the leadership of Below Lean, an immigrant Chinese Buddhist. Since its opening in 1905, the architecture is known for its magnificent monasteries, serene prayer halls, landscaped garden, beautiful carvings, and sculptures. Being the symbol of Chinese Buddhism, this temple harmonizes the Chinese culture and Buddhist teachings in every mural of the temple.
Various parts of the temple:
– The ground area comprises the hill entrance, food/drink offerings and a holy turtle pond. According to Chinese traditions, the turtle stands for strength, longevity and endurance. It is believed that freeing a turtle signifies the act of spiritual liberation, and hence the name “Liberation pond”.
– The mid area, the most important attraction of this temple, houses the pagoda and the pavilion. The 7-storey Pogada of Rama VI features 10,000 statues of Buddha that blend in its design the essence Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism with the Chinese octagonal base topped by a Burmese crown. The pavilion sites the statues of four kings: Kwang Mu, Tou Wen, Ch’i Kuo and Tseg Chang (Guardians from four directions).
– The apex area hosts the purpose of construction of this temple, the statue of Goddess of Mercy inspired from the temple at Pitt Street, Penang.
During the Chinese New year, the temple is decorated with numerous lantern hangings that offer a dazzling golden glow to the temple. These lights undoubtedly attract visitors to step into the temple and begin their celebrations.
Entry to the temple is free, except for a small fee collected for entering into the pagoda and the Sky Lift. The temple is open to the public between 7 am and 5:30 pm every day.

Interesting Facts on ‘Dev Diwali’, Varanasi’s Festival Of Lights

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First, let’s not mix Dev Deepawali up with Diwali, despite the fact that both have lights or Deepa as the central theme in their rituals. The holy city of Varanasi plays host to Dev Deepawali or Dev Diwali every year, celebrated after 15 days of Deepawali. It is observed as a mark of Lord Shiva’s triumph over the mystic demon Tripurasura. So, this festival also goes by the name of Tripurotsav and falls every year on Kartik Purnima (the auspicious full moon day according to the Hindu beliefs).

This auspicious day is swarmed by devotees turning up in large numbers to take a dip in the holy river of Ganga, also known as ‘kartik snan’. Prayers to Goddess Ganga are performed, flowers offered followed by the lightning of diyas or clay lamps known as ‘Deepdaan’ to the ‘Ganga Ma’ or ‘Mother Ganges’ in the shades of evening. As the sun descends at the Varanasi ghats glittering diyas galore in every single step on the stairs leading to the river’s edge. In fact, every time in the city of Varanasi is filled with brightly lit lamps, adding to the festive atmosphere of the city.

Glowing diyas and vivid colours in every corner of the ‘cultural capital of India’ manifest a sense of joy, divinity and awe. It is widely believed by the Hindus that Gods come down to Varanasi for bathing in the Ganga, something that makes this festival quite unique. Once you are in the Varanasi ghats in the evening, you shouldn’t miss out on the divine ‘Ganga aarti’ that takes place on the embankments of Ganga, amidst the sparkling waters and incessantly ringing bells – a truly breathtaking spectacle! Hindu pilgrims, tourists and travellers gather in large numbers to worship Ganga Ma, whilst also experience the spiritual bliss of the festival of lights.

Dev Diwali, religious festivities apart, is also an occasion when Varanasi goes into a patriotic mode and remembers all its martyrs by laying a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti on the Dashashwamedh Ghat, the main ghat in the city. The event concludes with a closing ceremony conducted by the Indian armed forces followed by the conferring of the Bhagirath Shourya Samman. Also, patriotic songs, bhajans and hymns are performed on this occasion.

Must-Know facts on the Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal in Madurai, TamilNadu

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Just when the Muslim rulers were trying to impose control over the sovereignty of Madurai, the Nayaks of South India thwarted the advance of Muslim power in TamilNadu. Standing the test of times is the 17th century Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal in Madurai, one of the most important touring destinations of Tamil Nadu, built by the Nayak rulers, who ruled from 1545 till 1740’s. This magnificent structure, erected in 1636 AD and continued till 1659, was the living palace of the Nayak Kings. The palace was constructed to mark the shift of capital from Trichy to Madurai for the administrative and strategic reason. The design of the palace was made by an Italian architect, and its construction was a confluence of several schools of architecture namely European, Dravidian as well as Islamic types, representing the Saracenic style of architecture.

It is unfortunate that most original possessions of the Thirumalai Nayak Palace have been either ruined or usurped by its own rulers and what remains today is mostly a mere quarter of its chattels. It was Lord Napier, the governor of Madras (now Chennai) between 1866 and 1872, who restored the entire structure. The Indian Government, post-independence, declared Thirumalai Nayak Palace as a national monument and, to date, continues to be an important historical landmark of Tamilnadu.

With richly ornate exterior as well as the interiors, the palace, which is just 2km away from the Madurai Meenakshi temple, is famous for its “Stuccowork” on its impressive domes and grand arches. There is a wide range of architectural wonders from the imposing pillars to the overall splendid structure. There are totally 248 pillars in this lofty palace each measuring 82 feet high and 19 feet wide. The two main divisions of the palace include Swargavilasa & Rangavilasa. You will be able to find a lot of attractions in these two parts viz. a shrine, royal residence, apartments, royal bandstand, armoury, dancing hall, garden and pond.

On stepping into the palace a large central courtyard, surrounded by a circular garden and circular pillars, welcomes you. The palace’s entire structure is made of foliated brickwork, whilst the glossy and smooth texture of the stucco used shell lime or chunnam. The finial topped and gold covered pavilions on both sides of the courtyard make a beautiful sight. The place has also caught the attention of several renowned filmmakers including Mani Ratnam, who shot several scenes of his film “Iruvar” (1997). You also get to enjoy the enthralling sound and light show, which lasts for about 50 minutes, here – a real treat for history and culture lovers.