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Gandikota gorge Pennar river end of hill

Bangalore weekend drive: Gandikota and Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh – Part 1

I interrupt my current Singapore series to bring attention to a place I never knew even existed in India!

Me and my friends haven’t gone on a road trip in quite some time. So when we spoke about driving somewhere we all had never gone before, it was hard. We were sick of Mysore Road and have seen pretty much every attraction that stretch of Karnataka has to offer. This was going to be a proper weekend drive – leave early Saturday morning and be back by Sunday night, so given the time frame, the choice of destinations were quite limited to begin with.

As luck would have it, a friend of mine uploaded a few photos he had taken from his visit to a place called Gandikota in Andhra Pradesh. I had never heard of the place before but when I saw his photos, I just couldn’t believe I had never even known about its existence! Upon asking him for more information about Gandikota and doing some research on my own, I suggested a drive to Gandikota to my friends.

Some of them were apprehensive, saying it looked like “just a canal,” some couldn’t make it, but I was still hell-bent on going there. Charting a route map using Google Maps, the drive from Devanahalli to Gandikota was going to take approximately 5 hours (250kms). I also found that we can drive to another attraction, Belum Caves, from Gandikota itself and that would take over an hour to cover the 60km distance. From Belum Caves, we could then drive to the town of Anantapur and connect back to NH7 to drive back all the way to Bangalore city (280 kms).

After much convincing and last minute tussles, we (myself and friends Anand and Ramesh) were ready to venture into a territory hardly many from Bangalore have gone before.

Date: December 17th, 2011

The plan was for Anand to first pick me up and then Ramesh by 6am, but as is usually the case on our drives, we were slightly delayed and only picked up Ramesh as it neared 7am.

Foggy Sarjapur road morning drive Bangalore
We started from Sarjapur-Outer Ring Road… which was rather foggy at 7am
Airport road towards Devanahalli Bangalore
We drove on Airport Road and past Devanahalli

We stopped at a Kamat restaurant adjoining a Bharat Petroleum bunk to our left for breakfast. After puris and tea, we set off again towards Chikballapur.

Route map to Kadiri
We got off the main highway at a major intersection from where you need to take a right (Image: Google Maps)
Untarred road to billur
We did get a bit of rough road…
Road to Billur Karnataka
… but got back on to smooth tarmac soon after
Goats blocking Indian road
But we had to slow down when we saw this
Goats on road Karnataka India
Bangalore’s mutton supply discovered!
Goats crossing road India
There was a LOT of them!
Goat herder crossing road India
We waited until the herd passed by
Goats ram Karanata road India
Papa goat?
YSR golden statue junction Andhra Pradesh
We came straight down that road and passed this statue of the late YSR. When we stopped to confirm if we were going the right way, a passer by told us we need to take a right instead to head towards Kadiri
Road to Kadiri Andhra Pradesh India
We were now in the state of Andhra Pradesh

Lake Andhra Pradesh India

Road to Kadapa Andhra Pradesh
The road got narrow for a bit
Temple lake Kadiri Andhra Pradesh India
By 11am, we were in the town of Kadiri
Raja Reddy wedding photo
Raja looks pleased

Kadiri temple Andhra PradeshMixture namkeen shop kadiri AP India

Kadiri town AP India
Kadapa is the nearest major town to Gandikota, but we decided to drive through an alternate route that would take us straight to Gandikota
Jalamadugu turn at Kadiri Andhra Pradesh India
We came down that road and took a right towards Jammalamadugu
Ramesh Anand Phadake Ford Fiesta AP India
We stopped for a tea break at a dhaba along the way
Gopi Punjabi Dhaba Andhra Pradesh India
Gopi was the name of one of our ex-bosses… but that’s not why we stopped here, I swear 😉
Kadiri rocks Andhra Pradesh India
The landscape in these parts is completely different. Lots of rocks…
Inner Andhra Pradesh rocks geography
… and the rocks just stay (Taken by Ramesh)
Ramesh Iyer tea Andhra Pradesh India
We had our Rs. 5 chai

Mithun Divakaran taking photo outside Kadiri

Anand Phadake tea stop dhaba
It was 11:45am, and we still had a long way to go
Inner Andhra Pradesh old man
We hit the road again
Road to Jamalagundu bridge
This was pretty cool
Hindu temple under huge rock India
This temple under that huge rock

Temple beneath rock Andhra Pradesh IndiaDriving to Gandikota bridge

Andhra Pradesh interior electricity lines India
For most our journey, we traversed through sparsely populated villages and barren landscapes — and hardly any vehicles with a ‘KA’ registration
Road to Jammalamadugu trees
(Photograph by Ramesh)
Sunflower fields Andhra Pradesh India
There were SO many sunflower fields on either side
Sunflower fields Jammalamadugu Andhra India
(Mind you, just about all the shots above were taken from behind the car window)
Ramesh phone GPS Ford Fiesta drive
Even though Ramesh had copies of the map routes on his Nook tablet, we relied heavily on the Google Latitude mobile app to check if we were on the right path
Goat crossing Andhra Pradesh
More ‘mutton’ crossings

We eventually reached a small village where we had to stop at a railway crossing. Something that took an ungodly long time!

Anand Mithun Ramesh in car
We had plenty of time to take photos of ourselves in the car

Nearly half-an-hour later, the train finally shows up — and how…

We had lost quite a bit of time and it was already lunch time. Fortunately as we arrived in the town of Jammalamadugu (yeah, try saying that fast) we saw a sign of hope.

AP toursim Gandikota hotel road sign
Finally, we were getting nearer!
Road to Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
The roads for the most part were good… and there were *hardly* anybody else driving through these roads
Windmill blades Suzlon Andhra Pradesh India
There’s quite a lot of windmill activity by Suzlon in these neck of the woods
Road to Gandikota fort Andhra Pradesh India
The road got narrower — which meant we were getting close
AP tourism Gandikota hotel entrance
And by 2:15pm, we had finally reached our destination! Haritha Hotel Gandikota, by APTDC

When we called up this hotel (Ph: (0)90105 54899) to book a room, the guy who answered simply told Ramesh “just come”. Now we know why. There were hardly any other guests besides us!

The waiter/receptionist/attendant showed us the cottages, we didn’t want an A/C room, so we just took a fan room that had a large bed which could easily accommodate the three of us. The room cost Rs. 630 ($11/€9), and we didn’t have to pay anything extra for the third person. Unfortunately, the water heaters weren’t working. (Why is it just about every hotel in India that costs about the same has such a problem with providing hot water?!)

Gandikota hotel restaurant granite pillars
We were hungry, and sat down at the restaurant for lunch

There wasn’t a menu, so we just asked what was available for lunch. The receptionist/attendant/waiter told us: “chapathi, phulkas, dal curry“. That’s it. We didn’t have any choice but to order all three.

Since they hardly see any guests, they don’t stock any meat either. But receptionist/attendant/waiter assured us we would have more options available for dinner, like egg. Sigh…

Mithun sunglasses reflectionWhen our food came, the chapathis and phulkas were essentially the same – both were made using maida, the phulkas only being a little smaller. And I doubt the phulkas were made the way they are traditionally done so. They cost the same too, Rs. 24 per plate (a plate has two), so you might as well just order chapathis. The dal (Rs. 40) was passable. We were hungry, so had to eat what was given.

By the way, they have the full stable of Coca Cola’s offerings like Kinley water and soda, besides the other carbonated drinks like Sprite, so you really don’t need to carry the same when coming here. Unless you’re a Pepsi fan.

Gandikota hotel garden playground Andhra Pradesh India
We decided to take a few photos of the hotel
Gandikota fort from APTDC hotel
You can see the Gandikota fort wall from here
Aptdc gandikota hotel granite buildings
Everything is made of granite stone
Gandikota hotel rooms Andhra Pradesh India
Our room was in the back
Gandikota aptdc hotel resort panorama
The cottages are on the extreme left (Panorama comprised of 9 shots)
Mithu Divakaran AP tourism hotel Gandikota India
(Photograph by Anand)

We decided not to leave our bags in our room just yet. Instead, we wasted no time in heading straight to the fort.

Once you reach the fort walls, you can take your vehicle inside and down a narrow ‘S’ path, through a small village to park right near Gandikota masjid (mosque).

Gandikota fort masjid Andhra Pradesh India
We parked by the side
Gandikota masjid entrance Andhra Pradesh India
There was no entrance fee to enter the masjid, but the guides there said we’d have to pay Rs. 25 since we have professional cameras

Gandikota fort masjid architecture Andhra Pradesh India

Gandikota fort masjid Andhra Pradesh tomb
The Jamia Masjid

Gandikota masjid minarets Andhra PradeshGandikota fort masjid halls IndiaGandikota fort passage hall sun rayGandikota corridor wall writings Andhra Pradesh IndiaGandikota fort dome IndiaGandikota fort tree lawn IndiaGandikota fort masjid behind Andhra Pradesh IndiaGandikota fort masjid architecture IndiaGandikota fort cowGandikota fort minaret Andhra Pradesh India

Gandikota fort masjid minaret dome parrots
Anand’s Canon SX30IS super-zoom is truly impressive
Gandikota fort rocky building Andhra Pradesh
After the masjid, we went in here to pay the ‘camera fee’
Ramesh Mithun paying fee Gandikota fort
There was no sign anywhere saying Rs. 25 was the ‘camera fee,’ but the guide sounded kind enough and eager to tell us about this place without asking for any money, so we didn’t mind paying up

Gandikota fort hall windows panorama

Gandikota fort hall pillars panorama
Panorama comprised of 4 shots
Anand Mithun taking photos Gandikota fort
Photograph by Ramesh
Rangaswamy temple Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
I walked to this temple while Ramesh and Anand walked towards the gorge
Red granite temple rocks Gandikota
The stones are mostly red granite

Rangaswamy temple entrance Gandikota Andhra Pradesh IndiaRangaswami temple hall Gandikota India Ranganatha Swami temple elephant stone carving Gandikota

Gandikota Ranganathaswami temple pillars ancient art India
The temple is called Ranganatha Swamy temple

Ranganathaswami temple art stone carving Gandikota Ranganatha Swamy temple back red rocks GandikotaRanganathaswami temple pillar stone carving Gandikota IndiaRangaswami temple pillars GandikotaRanganatha swami temple pillar stone carving Gandikota IndiaRanganatha swami temple pillar stone art Gandikota

Ranganatha swami temple door Gandikota
I was too chicken to enter this dark room

Ranganatha Swamy temple stone carving art Gandikota IndiaRanganatha swamy temple pillar stone carving GandikotaRanganatha swami temple pillars art carvings Gandikota

Ranganathaswami temple gates Gandikota India
I left the temple and walked towards the gorge
Gandikota panorama from Ranganathaswamy temple Andhra Pradesh India
A panoramic view from Ranganatha Swamy temple
Granite rocks Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
Tread carefully, its all rocky grounds here
Rocky hills Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
I was walking towards the main reason I wanted to come to Gandikota
Gandikota Erramala hills towards Pennar river
Wait for it….
Gandikota gorge Erramala Pennar river panorama Andhra Pradesh India
… voila! Ever thought India had geography that looked similar to America’s Grand Canyon?

Oh, if you thought the above photo would make for an awesome wallpaper, here’s a 1920×1200 version! 🙂

Mithun Divakaran Gandikota hills
It’s quite windy at the edge
Red granite stones formation Gandikota
Wonder how these rock formations even came to being
Gandikota gorge rocks river
The rocks just seem planted there

Erramala hills Gandikota fort rocks India

Anand Mithun taking photos Gandikota gorge
(Photograph by Ramesh)

Erramala hills Gandikota grass

Gandikota Pennar river Andhra Pradesh India
A very calm Pennar river
Mithun Divakaran taking photo Gandikota gorge
(Photograph by Anand)

We looked for other ways to reach centre of the hills, from where I hoped to take panorama of the entire plateau in front of us.

Mithun way under rocks Gandikota
Just then, we spotted this opening, and I went in to see if it led anywhere

Going under rocks Gandikota hill

Gap under rocks Gandikota gorge
It led us out here
Gandikota gorge from cave panorama India
The view from down here… about the same as from up there
Mithun Divakaran Gandikota rocks Andhra Pradesh river
Photograph by Ramesh

Ramesh taking photograph under rocks GandikotaMithun Anand through gap Gandikota

Going back out rocks Gandikota
We made our way back out one-by-one
Anand Ramesh walking up rocks Gandikota
We moved on further
Rocks boulders Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
We had to move slowly and chart our own path
Stones boulders Gandikota hill Andhra Pradesh India
I can’t stress enough on safety. It’s just rocks and boulders you will be stepping on, so take your own time. Some of these rocks are loose too.
Gandikota fort walls river hills
But it was worth it, the view was fantastic…
Gandikota gorge pennar river panorama
… and I got my panorama!

Anand Phadake Gandikota hills eveningKite bird flying Gandikota sky India

Gandikota gorge Pennar river end of hill
Took some last few shots with the 70-200mm lens

Gandikota fort wall stone steps

Gandikota fort walls river side panorama
Imagine what life must have been in those days
Gandikota fort walls Pennar river Andhra India
We would have liked to have gone all the way down to the river… but we didn’t see a way or anybody else down there (Photo from Anand’s super-zoom camera)

Gandikota red hill Errmala gorge

Cave Gandikota hill Pennar river Andhra Pradesh India
How cool is that? There’s a cave down there… and I would had *so* loved to have gone in there
Red granite stone hill Gandikota India
Red granite

Gandikota hill red stone Andhra Pradesh India

Ramesh Anand Mithun photo Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
We attempted a group shot with Ramesh’s camera atop my bag. After a few attempts, we got this.

Gandikota rocks Pennar river India

Gandikota reservoir Pennar river
The river flows into the Mylavaram reservoir
Standing stone Gandikota rocks India
The rocks here are quite something
Gandikota tourists evening Andhra Pradesh
It was past 5pm, and most visitors were on their way back
Sunset Gandikota rocks Andhra Pradesh India
It was getting darker, but I still had some more to see
Gandikota fort wall ruins India
I wanted to go that Mayan-like structure right of the centre
Gandikota hill Erramala Andhra Pradesh India
Walking away from Erramala hills
Gandikota fort ruins boundary wall India
It smelt of shit here — both goat and cow (and hopefully not human)
Gandikota fort ruins steps to platform
Unfortunately as I got near the structure, the entry path to the steps was blocked by plants and weed
Lamb shelter Gandikota village
Hello you shitters!
Gandikota village old houses
Walked through the village
Gandikota village stones houses India
Everything is made of stone here

Telugu girl child village Gandikota Andhra Pradesh Gandikota village cow calf Andhra Pradesh IndiaGranite stone village homes Gandikota Andhra Pradesh

Gandikota village well Andhra Pradesh India
One of the village’s source of water
Gandikota fort masjid reflection well
I walked back to the car and re-grouped with Ramesh and Anand

We still had one more temple to see inside the fort, but we just couldn’t figure out the way to get to it. So we drove out of the fort and wondered if there was another way.

Once out, the guides told us the way to Madhavaraya temple was from inside the fort itself, but they suggested we go tomorrow morning as the fort was going to be closed (more like, the guides were done for the day).

Turkeys Gandikota Andhra Pradesh India
Well hello turkeys! We don’t see much of you here in India.
Gandikota turkey birds India
They may taste good, but boy are they ugly headed!

Gandikota turkey black featherWe decided to head back to the hotel. We were all pretty tired and we just wanted to rest.

Anand Ramesh rooftop AP tourism hotel Gandikota
We went up to the roof of our cottage

Standing on the roof I thought of how I could have brought my grill and some marinated meat in the cooler. I’m sure the staff wouldn’t have minded. It’s a perfect setting for a barbecue.

Mind you, Gandikota isn’t for everyone. It’s not what I’d call a ‘family destination,’ unless your family is the adventurous kind. The rocks you will have to walk over just to take the kind of photos of the gorge you see above aren’t easy for everyone to do. Also, there is hardly anything around for fun or excitement. Not even a hospital in case of emergencies.

If you want a weekend of peace and quiet, some privacy or even a new spot to usher in the New Year with close friends, then consider Gandikota as a perfect Bangalore getaway.

Gandikota evening pink sky Andhra Pradesh India
The evening sky at 6:15pm was a picture perfect end to an amazing day of discovery
View from AP tourism hotel Gandikota
There is quite literally, nothing surrounding this resort
Gandikota hotel dog on steps
Only stray dogs for company

I took bath without hot water because I desperately felt the need to be clean after walking amid goat droppings and all the climbing. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold outside.

The same receptionist/attendant/waiter came to our room to ask us what we wanted for dinner. It would help the kitchen if we ordered in advance. The options weren’t many, but we asked for some rice, chapathis, dal, tomato curry, egg masala and egg burji. Everything cost Rs. 40-Rs. 45, so our expectations weren’t very high.

There is the option to have cable (Dish TV) in our room but we told the guy we definitely weren’t going to be watching television. We had ‘Mr. Jack‘ for company and the three of us spent the night reviewing our photos and chatting away.

Tomorrow morning, we had to go to the temple, drive 60kms to Belur caves and then drive back to Bangalore before nightfall. Day 1 was fantastic, we couldn’t wait to see what day 2 had in store for us!

Bonus: Here’s video of the Gandikota gorge I put together using clips from Ramesh’s and Anand’s camera

Next post in the series:
Bangalore weekend drive: Gandikota and Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh – Part 2

Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple

Date: April 25th 2011

I woke up really early today as I had to catch my AirPhil Express flight to Cebu at 7am. I checked out of my hotel and took a taxi from Pasay to the airport. It cost ₱70 ($1.6/€1.2) but I reached the airport in under 20 minutes and there were long queues because of the security checks. I checked in, got my window seat and whipped out my phone to take a few snaps.

NAIA Terminal 2 Manila airport
I paid the airport user fee of PHP200 ($4.5/€3.4), which Aimee told me is something every airport in Philippines makes travellers pay
Ninoy Aquino bust airport Manila Philippines
Philippines' main airport is named after this revolutionary
Ninoy Aquino history Manila airport
And this is his story

My flight was unfortunately delayed by nearly 45 minutes due to poor weather conditions (apparently), but it was better than hearing some flights being cancelled, leaving passengers frustrated.

Aerial photography cloud mountain Philippines
I asked for a window seat because I read online that one could see Mount Pinatubo on this route. Though I feel I ended up on the wrong side.
Aerial photography valley road Philippines
Not that the views were disappointing or anything

Aerial photography Cebu green plateau PhilippinesPhilippines islands Cebu flights

Cebu city aerial photography Philippines
An hour later, we were above Cebu
Cebu shallow waters coral marsh Philippines
Shallow waters along the coast of Cebu

Aerial photography Cebu shallow waters

Cebu airport Airphil Express flight landing Philippines
A little late, but the weather seemed perfectly fine

I called Aimee and informed her about my arrival and she told me where to get a taxi from.

Cebu airport ramp Philippines
Though there were taxis available where I was standing, Aimee told me to get a regular cab from outside this other building
Bridge to Cebu city Philippines
It cost ₱160 ($3.6/€2.7) from airport to where I needed to go

I had reservations at Sugbutel Bed & Bath for two nights. I chose this place because, as per the map, it was close to the pier. I needed it to close to the pier because tomorrow morning, I was to go to the island of Bohol by ferry. But when I arrived at Sugbutel, I must say, I had the look of disappointment on my face. It was bang opposite the pier, sure, but there was little else around it. No restaurants and it didn’t look like it was within city limits. Anyway, I checked in, paid ₱700 ($16/€12) for my dorm bed for two nights and went upstairs.

Sugbutel dorm bed Cebu Philippines
I got an upper bed. It was clean and had all the essentials - universal plug point, night lamp and an air-conditioned room. If you like shipping containers, then the view is fantastic!
Sugbutel dormitory floor Cebu Philippines
This is the dorm floor. Toilets are clean and large enough.

Since today was the only day I had to check out Cebu city, I wasted no time and took a jeepney straight to the first attraction on my list, Fort San Pedro.

Road to fort San Pedro in Cebu Philippines
The ride from Sugbutel took just 5 minutes (cost around ₱7)
Cebu pier ferry Philippines
I walked all the way to the pier to find out when the first ferry to Bohol was
Cebu pier ships Philippines
There are several ferry companies plying daily to the neighbouring islands

Cebu Mariners court Philippines

Fort San Pedro Cebu Philippines
I walked to Fort San Pedro, which is very close to the pier

Cebu tree in front of Fort San Pedro

Fort San Pedro Cebu Philippines entrance
There is an entrance fee of ₱30 to Fort San Pedro
Fort San Pedro Cebu Philippines flag
Fort San Pedro, built by the colonial Spanish in 1783, is one of the oldest in the country

The Founding of Cebu Fort San Pedro Philippines

Fort San Pedro lawn Cebu Philippines
Didn't look very promising from here

Fort San Pedro steps railing Cebu Fort San Pedro wall red flowers Cebu Fort San Pedro domes Cebu Fort San Pedro wall Cebu Philippines Fort San Pedro lawn Cebu Fort San Pedro cannon Cebu Philippines Fort San Pedro wall facing Cebu port office Fort San Pedro shed Cebu Philippines Fort San Pedro gardening Cebu Fort San Pedro corridor pillars Philippines Fort San Pedro lawn Cebu Philippines Fort San Pedro boy fish statue garden Cebu

Fort San Pedro exit Cebu
And that was it! I was done with the fort in 10 minutes.

I felt it was a bit of a waste of money. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen countless forts, both in India and in other places like Malaysia. After a while, they all start to look the same.

Cebu sea near pier
I walked on
Magellan's cross Bank of Philippines islands Cebu
Next up, Magellan's cross

Ferdinand Magellan was a famous Portugese explorer who became the first European to land in the Philippines. He ordered this cross be placed here signifying the arrival of the invaders explorers.

Magellan's cross chapel Cebu Philippines
The cross is housed inside this chapel
Magellan's cross Cebu Philippines
Magellan's cross, it marks the spot where the first Christian Filipinos were baptized
College St .Nino Cebu Philippines
It's right in front of this college
Cebu bakery sweets pastry
I got distracted by the sweet smell coming out of a bakery/eatery/other junk college kids eat/stationary shop attached to the college
Cassava cake Cebu Philippines
Ordered a Cassava cake as it sounded interesting to me. It was quite yummy, though I felt they used a little too much condensed milk for the sweetness
Basilica del Santo Nino church Cebu Philippines
I walked towards Cebu's most famous attraction, the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, the oldest church in the Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino red candles Cebu Philippines
Saw a lot of worshipers near these red candles

Basilica del Santo Nino church red candles praying PhilippinesBasilica St. Nino candle holders Cebu Philippines

Basilica St. Nino candles Cebu Philippines
That's a lot of wax...
Basilica del St. Nino candle wax Cebu Philippines
...which is recycled to make new candles I presume

Basilica del Santo Nino saints statues Cebu Philippines

Basilica St. Nino candles fountain Cebu Philippines

St. Nino Basilica church Cebu Philippines
I walked towards the church

Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu PhilippinesEntering Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu Philippines Basilica del Santo Nino church arch Cebu Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino baby angels Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino man praying Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino chairs Cebu Philippines
Basilica del Santo Nino chandeliers Cebu Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino golden Cebu Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino Jesus cross Cebu Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino church figure Cebu PhilippinesBasilica del Santo Nino conversion of locals Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino ceiling paintings Philippines
Ceiling paintings
Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu Cathedral ceiling
The main ceiling

Basilica del Santo Nino gated hall Cebu Philippines

Basilica del Santo Nino prayers Cebu
It was time to leave
Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu cathedral open hall
Some courtyard right opposite the church

Basilica del Santo Nino christian statues Cebu Basilica del Santo Nino Cebu stone artBasilica del Santo Nino visitors Cebu

Osmena Blvd Santo Nino Jollibee Chowking Cebu
Across the road was a Jollibee (of course) from where I had lunch from

As I sat there, eating my burger, I wondered what to see next. It was only the afternoon and I… felt bored already. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Anyway, I hopped on a jeepney and decided to go towards Robinsons Mall.

Osmena blvd traffic afternoon Cebu Philippines
I just hopped into any one going straight up the road
Osmena Blvd jeepney name Cebu Philippines
The names of some of these jeepneys 🙂
Cebu city North district pedestrian overbridge
I got down here
Robinsons Place mall Cebu Philippines
And this is Robinsons Place mall. Closed. Like, for good/for renovation/for demolition kind of closed.

I walked around some more, since I didn’t know what else to do.

Cebu Mango Avenue nightlife road Philippines

Robinsons Cybergate Osmena Fuente Cebu Philippines
Robinsons Cybergate is an office building

After converting some dollars at a nearby plaza, I got into another jeepney and decided to head towards the Philippine Taoist Temple.

Cebu provincial capitol building Philippines
Cebu provincial capitol building; take a right from here

The Maxwell hotel Escario street Cebu

Escario street Cebu Philippines
I got down a bit further ahead

From the main road, I was instructed to cross over to a road on the other side.

Entrance to Beverly Hills road Cebu
There were bike taxis (licensed or not, who knows) who offered to take me up for 10 pesos. Since I didn't feel like walking uphill and not knowing how much I would have to walk, I got on.
Road to Philippine Taoist Temple Cebu
Took this sitting behind the driver

It was only a short drive and the driver dropped me at a guarded entrance from where on, he told me, I would have to continue on by foot.

Beverly Hills road Cebu Philippines
Apparently it's private property from here on and so, bike taxis aren't allowed
Beverly hills road Cebu Philippines
Guess what this locality is called -- Beverly Hills 🙂
Philippines Taoist temple from afar Cebu
And that's where I needed to get to
Beverly Hills junction to Taoist temple Cebu
Took the left

Beverly Hills road to Taoist temple Cebu

Beverly Hills uphill road to Taoist temple Cebu
It's a good 10 minute walk

View from Beverly Hills Cebu

Philippine taoist temple entrance Cebu city
The entrance
Philippine Taoist temple garden Cebu
There is no entry ticket or anything

Philippine Taoist temple steps CebuPhilippine Taoist temple lion statue CebuPhilippine Taoist temple drum CebuPhilippine Taoist temple hall Cebu

Philippine Taoist temple prayer hall Cebu
The prayer hall is to the left, but photography of the hall and the idols aren't allowed
Philippine Taoist temple red staircase Cebu
I went up

Philippine Taoist temple inside CebuPhilippine Taoist temple door design Cebu

Beverly hills neighbourhood Cebu
Pretty posh neighbourhood
View from Philippine Taoist temple Cebu
The view from up here

Philippine Taoist temple dragon statues roof Cebu Philippine Taoist temple fisherman statue Cebu

Philippine Taoist temple steps down Cebu
Went back down

Philippine Taoist temple bell Cebu Philippine Taoist temple design CebuPhilippine Taoist temple dragon CebuPhilippines Taoist temple office Cebu

Philippines Taoist temple Cebu panorama
Panorama comprised of 6 shots
Philippine Taoist temple exit Cebu
I was done
Philippine Taoist Temple Inc. second entrance Cebu
I know this temple was built by Chinese businessmen but '... Temple Inc.'?
Cebu Beverly hills stone wall
A lot of rich people live in Beverly Hills, though I wonder which came first -- the name of the hill or the residents?

Road behind Taoist temple Beverly Hills CebuBeverly Hills afternoon sun shadow Cebu PhilippinesWoolbright drive Beverly Hills Cebu Philippines

Villa Beverly Hills Cebu
Nice looking pads
Beverly Hills road downhill Cebu
Walked all the way back down
Cebu Beverly Hills horse riding Philippines
Rich people = own horses
Cebu Beverly hills slum shanty homes Philippines
But just like India, regardless of any fancy name, it doesn't take too long to come back down to the reality of the majority in Cebu
Locals near Beverly hills Cebu
I bought some credit ('load' is the term in Philippines) for my phone and had a drink from here

The bike taxis approached me again and asked me if I would like to go to a higher viewing spot, which was a bit further up from here. They said I could watch the sun set from there. I was honestly bored, so I said “No thanks” and just walked on.

I stepped into a nearby mall, mostly to get some air-con. I dropped by a travel agency and asked them how much a tour to Bohol island tomorrow would cost. They quoted just over ₱3500 which I knew was exorbitant, since I did look it up online and had a fair idea as to how much the tours approximately cost.

I messaged Aimee telling her I was bored in Cebu and she told me to go check out Ayala Mall. So I got into a jeepney and headed to Ayala.

Cebu business park Ayala Philippines
Got down at an area that looked like a business park
Cebu business park IT office building
A lot of IT offices here
Wipro Cebu office Philippines
Well look who's here! (Wipro is an India IT/BPO major)
Ayala mall interiors shops Cebu Philippines
Anyway, this is air-condi... I mean, Ayala Mall
Ayala Mall Convergys call center hiring banners
Call center hiring is all over the mall

30 minutes of store-hopping, got bored (again) and left. I was pretty sleepy by now and decided to just take a taxi back to the pier instead of a jeepney.

Cebu pier at night
This was at 7pm
Supercat office Cebu pier Philippines
Came to the pier for Supercat's office & to know when the first ferry to Tagbilaran (Bohol's capital) was

The tour of Bohol when purchased from Supercat themselves cost around ₱2800. I opted not to buy the tour package and instead, decided to do it myself.

I left the pier and walked back to the main road. As soon as I got to the main road in a minute, I realized why I booked at Sugbutel. You can literally walk to Supercat’s terminal from here.

Pier road Sugbutel Radisson hotel at night
If you don't like Sugbutel's budget offerings, you can move up to the Radisson up ahead

I dropped my camera bag back at the dorm and stepped out again wondering where I could have dinner. There are hardly any eateries outside Sugbutel.

Pier area at night Cebu
The surroundings aren't exactly what you'd call 'great'

But walk all the way up to the Radisson Hotel and right next to it is one big-ass mall!

SM City cebu mall restaurants
Felt stupid just wondering a few minutes back, where I could get some decent food! No dearth of options here.
SM City Cebu mall Philippines
SM City is the biggest mall in Cebu!
SM city Cebu mall foodcourt
I ate from here
SM City Cebu mall shops
Walked around the mall a bit. It was past 8pm and many stores were done for the day.

I walked back to Sugbutel, freshened up and hit the bed early. Tomorrow was going to be another early wake-up call.

I know Cebu residents will be going “Oh, there’s more to Cebu than just these sights you saw!” and you’re probably right. Aimee told me if I headed up north in a vehicle, I could have explored the beaches and other sights Cebu has to offer. But I’m keeping all my “beach and sea” experiences for Palawan, which is why I only used Cebu as a stopover point to get to Bohol and then fly to Palawan.

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town

Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia

Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites

Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley

Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc

Philippines 2011: Day 2 – Banaue rice terraces; trekking to Batad village

Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio

Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time

Other posts in this series:

Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches

Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus

Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan

Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country  (Last post)

Hyderabad 2010: Day 2 — Golconda Fort

Date: 27th December 2010

Day two in Hyderabad started a bit late, on purpose. We were lazy to get out of bed and only decided to do so around lunch time. We took an aurorickshaw and headed towards Lakdi ka pul, as we were advised by our Hyderabadi friend that there are frequent buses from here to Golconda Fort.

We had lunch from one of the restaurants behind the main Lakdi ka pul bus stop, (edit: Ramesh tells me the name was New Paradise Hotel) and yes, we tried the biriyani from here as well. It was alright.

Post lunch, we took the bus that dropped us to Golconda Fort. The entry fee was Rs. 5 for Indians; foreigners have to pay Rs. 100 ($2.2/€1.6) I believe. No extra charge for cameras, but there is a Rs. 25 levy for video cameras/camcorders.

At the entrance we were approached by tour guides to whom we initially said no. But one young chap told us he’ll give us a brief introduction and overview of what all there is to see inside. Only after that need we take a decision whether to hire him as our guide or not.

Golconda Fort guide map Hyderabad India

Golconda fort entrance guards fort Hyderabad
A small 'guard's fort' outside the main enclosed fort

Golconda fort entrance Ramesh Loiyumba Hyderabad India

Golconda fort entrance tower Hyderabad
This is the main entrance
Golconda Fort map Hyderabad India
To the left and right as you walk in are artifacts like knives, armaments, and other relics

Golconda Fort entrance hall Hyderabad India

Golconda Fort entrance clap sound echo Hyderabad
From the spot where the girl is standing, if you clap, not only does it echo loudly in here, but it can be heard all the way up at the highest point of the fort. It was designed to work for the guards as a warning mechanism in the olden days. Amazing.
Golconda Fort guide Ramesh Loiyumba Hyderabad
This was our guide, at the end we decided to hire him. He told us the rate was Rs. 600, to be paid at the end of the tour.
Golconda Fort directions Hyderabad
All that we were going to be seeing inside

Golconda Fort ground view Hyderabad IndiaGolconda Fort path Hyderabad IndiaGolconda Fort cavern tunnel windows Hyderabad

Golconda Fort guide Hyderabad India
The guide would stop at designated places and begin explaining the various design aspects and history behind this impressive fort
Golconda Fort school kids weight Hyderabad
Unfortunately, I don't remember anything what the guide told me about this tunnel
Golconda Fort iron weight Hyderabad
Apparently this heavy metal weight was used to test the strength of soldiers during recruitment
Golconda Fort iron weight Ramesh Hyderabad
Whatever it was for, none of us could barely even manage to lift it even a milimetre off the ground. It was that heavy!

Golconda Fort tunnel Loiyumba Ramesh HyderabadGolconda Fort cavern Hyderabad IndiaGolconda Fort palace complex Hyderabad India

Golconda Fort Nagina Bagh garden Hyderabad India
Nagina Bagh

Golconda Fort lens flare Hyderabad IndiaGolconda Fort well Hyderabad India

Golconda Fort steps up Hyderabad India
We headed up

Golconda Fort steps up to prayer hall Hyderabad India Golconda fort edge broken wall Hyderabad

Golconda Fort way to Ramdas jail Hyderabad India
We were going inside here next
Golkonda fort priest Ramdas jail Hyderabad India
Ramdas worked as a revenue collector for the ruler at the time. He was jailed here for defiance and in the years he spent inside, he carved Hindu deities on the wall so he could pray.
Golkonda Fort temple Ramdas Jail Hyderabad India
Hindus today visit to pay obeisance to Ramdas
Golconda fort sunlight shining through Ramdas jail Hyderabad India
Ramdas got a pretty spacious jail... but not much ventilation

Golconda fort open window Ramdas jail Hyderabad India

Golconda Fort above Ramdas jail Hyderabad India
This is from on top of Ramdas jail

Golkonda fort old Hyderabad IndiaAs we stared into the panoramic view from atop Ramdas Jail, we asked our guide if there was a better vantage point from where we could see Hyderabad city. He asked us to follow him off the beaten path through some shrubs and thorn bushes outside of the walls of the fort.

Golconda fort guide explaining tour Hyderabad India
Amidst a few cannons, we got a 'high level' tour of Hyderabad
Golkonda Fort high view Hyderabad India
(Panorama comprised of 10 shots)
Golkonda Fort bottom half panorama Hyderabad India
The bottom half of Golconda fort (Panorama comprised of 9 shots)
Golkonda fort view ruins Hyderabad
The palace ruins
Golkonda fort Ramesh Mithun Loiyumba Hyderabad
Asked our guide to take a photo of us

Golkonda fort Ibrahim mosque HyderabadWe continued up towards the citadel.

Golkonda fort way to citadel Hyderabad

Golkonda fort Jagadamba Mahankali temple Hyderabad
Sri Jagadamba Mahankali temple

Golkonda fort citadel view down Hyderabad

Golkonda fort citadel clap Hyderabad
Our guide demonstrated the amazing acoustic engineering of this fort. Not only could you hear the claps from all the way down there but he also demonstrated how the guards communicated from as high up as the citadel with the help of another guide down below.
Golkonda fort citadel Hyderabad
The citadel
Golkonda fort citadel no writing on walls sign Hyderabad
With this sign I knew what to expect...
Golkonda fort citadel wall writing damage Hyderabad
...so imagine how awkward it was seeing (some idiot(!) with) my name etched on the walls here. Argh!

Golkonda fort darbar hall citadel visitors Hyderabad

Golkonda fort view Hi-tec city panorama Hyderabad
Hi-Tec city in the distance (Panorama comprised of 6 shots)

Golkonda fort citadel view Hyderabad

Golkonda fort baradari hall writing Hyderabad
The 'writings on the wall' are here inside as well. How sad. A fort that survived for centuries couldn't survive the 'modern' Indian populace.

Golkonda fort citadel darbar hall tourists HyderabadGolkonda fort citadel darbar hall window HyderabadGolkonda fort citadel Ramesh Loiyumba HyderabadGolkonda fort citadel darbar hall Hyderabad

Golconda Sri Jagadamba Mahankali temple bullock rocks
The rocks resemble a bullock

Golkonda fort citadel steps down HyderabadGolkonda fort durbar hall citadel Hyderabad

Golkonda fort steps to palace ruins Hyderabad
We made our way down to the palace ruins

Golconda fort pillar steps Hyderabad Golkonda fort stone cave HyderabadGolconda fort palace ruins arches Hyderabad

Golkonda fort stone wall Hyderabad
Pretty massive stone walls
Golconda Fort stone wall Hyderabad
Took this looking up against the wall

Golkonda fort stone walls HyderabadGolkonda fort from down Hyderabad IndiaGolkonda fort stone palace HyderabadGolconda fort palace ruins HyderabadGolkonda fort palace ruins gated HyderabadGolkonda fort palace ruins islamic design HyderabadGolkonda fort royal palace ruins Hyderabad IndiaGolkonda fort palace ruins Hyderabad India

Golkonda fort palace ruins heritage Hyderabad
It's amazing to wonder what life would have been like back in those days

Golkonda fort palace ruins history Hyderabad

Golkonda fort palace ruins amphitheatre Hyderabad India
The fountain looks like a new addition to the courtyard
Golkonda fort palace ruins hall Hyderabad
But something far more impressive was inside here
Golkonda fort royal palace acoustic hall Hyderabad
Our guide told us of these "whispering walls" inside this corridor. You could speak in one corner of the hall and one could hear it faintly from the adjacent corner. I didn't believe but we tried it and it actually worked!
Golconda fort whispering walls Hyderabad India
The kids surely loved it
Golkonda fort palace ruins speaking walls Hyderabad
Definitely one of the best highlights in Golconda Fort

Golkonda fort Royal palace ruins inside Hyderabad

Golkonda fort palace ruins light tunnel Hyderabad

Golconda fort acoustic hall Hyderabad
The guide explaining the unique acoustics of this hall as well

Golconda fort Royal palace hall Hyderabad Golkonda fort royal palace sign Hyderabad

Golconda fort royal palace lawns Hyderabad
We were nearing the end of our hour-plus long tour

Golconda fort royal palace garden hyderabad Golconda fort royal palace ruins light smoke HyderabadGolconda fort royal palace ruins sunlight flare HyderabadGolconda fort museum garden HyderabadGolconda fort old rifle cannon balls HyderabadWe were finished with the tour, and our guide led us out of the fort.

Golconda fort clapping entrance tourists Hyderabad
Score of visitors were still trying out the 'clapping' effect
Golkonda fort guards fort entrance Hyderabad
There is a light & sound show once the sun sets, but we didn't feel like staying for it -- so we watched it on YouTube instead 😛

We had to pay Rs. 600 (Rs. 200 per person) at the entrance gate where the guides stood. But as we walked out, I could overhear other guides quoting Rs. 300 to some and Rs. 500 to other groups, and the groups spoke in Hindi or Telugu (the native language). It’s only when we exited I noticed there wasn’t even sign proclaiming how much guide charges were.

So we came to the conclusion the charges for a guide are decided based on how one appears! If you dress like an city slicker/outsider and speak English, you pay more. If you look middle-class (which all three of us are honestly) and converse in front of the guides in a local language, you’ll probably be quoted lesser. If you’re white… I’m sorry.

Golkonda fort old unique bus tour Hyderabad
A unique tour bus we saw while waiting for a ride back to Lakdi ka pul

I still recommend Golconda Fort as a ‘must see’. Easily one of the most impressive forts in India’s heritage. Unfortunately, one that badly needs some renovation and cleaning up. But I doubt preserving the city’s heritage ranks high as a priority for Andhra Pradesh’s politicians.

——

There is actually a day 3 and 4, but unfortunately, it just occurred to me as I began to write this series that I didn’t copy over the next days photos from the camera 🙁

Sucks, I know. But here’s what I did the next day, erm, in words. I went back to Charminar, alone, to do some pearl shopping for my mother. After visiting a few stores, my last experience made me reconsider buying pearls from here. The salesman quoted around Rs. 1800 for a cultured pearl necklace, but as I resisted, he came down to Rs. 1200, then Rs. 600! Then Rs. 500! Then Rs. 300! I walked away wondering what the true value of these pearls really were.

Oh, the best biriyani I had on this trip was at Hotel Shadab on High Court Road just as you are about to enter Madina Market near Charminar. I entered having not heard about the place before but took the plunge just looking at the sheer number of people inside. They have a very old seating area downstairs and a much fancier, air-conditioned ‘family room’ upstairs where tourists were sitting their respective guides. I ordered the chicken biriyani and though it did take around 10 minutes to arrive, it was worth the wait! God, was it so good!

I’m not a fan of Hyderabadi biriyani because most of the them I have had were usually dry and rather tasteless. Shadab’s biriyani was essentially a meal for two. You really get your money’s worth of quantity. I don’t know how they do it (considering it was already late in the afternoon), but the chicken was piping hot and so tender (extremely well cooked, you could tell from pure white colour of the meat).  On top of the chicken, they layered the rice in two halves. One half being masala-coated and the other being the regular basmati rice. The rice was very soft and once mixed with the spicy-masala (and curd) it was delicious! Highly recommended!

At my table sat a local IT engineer who struck up a conversation with me and I asked him if the famous Paradise Restaurant was better. He told me he preferred Shadab’s to Paradise these days, as Paradise “used to be good,” but he also told me there are other small eateries spread throughout the city that serve very good biriyani that live up to Hyderabad’s reputation as India’s ‘biriyani cpaital’.

After lunch, my tablemate was kind enough to even drop me at Karachi Bakery, another Hyderabad institution I had plans of visiting. This bakery chain is quite famous for their fruit biscuits. So famous that they sell out hundreds of boxes by the hour and you often have to queue up for it!

Karachi bakery line for fruit biscuits Hyderabad
By the time I got to the counter, they had run out of the smaller boxes, so I got away with two big boxes instead

Day 4 was our friend’s wedding in the morning and post lunch, just to kill time, we took an auto to Banjara Hills, Hyderabad’s posh locality.

GVK one Shopper's Stop Hyderabad mall
Just about every mall was netted up because of the Telangana unrest
GVK One Hard Rock Cafe Hyderabad mall
We went mall-hopping but got bored rather quickly as the offerings were nothing impressive
Taj Krishna hotel Banjara hills Hyderabad
Taj Krishna Hotel
Kacheguda railway station at night Hyderabad India
In the evening, we walked to Kacheguda station and boarded our train back to Bangalore

After my second visit to Hyderabad, my opinion hasn’t changed — I still wouldn’t live here. In fact, all three of us were itching to get back to Bangalore city because we were quite bored here. Maybe it’s the Telangana issue that has tarnished the city’s status, but we just didn’t find the place ‘exciting’ to say the least.

Sure, there were two other sights we missed, like the historical Chowmahalla Palace and Ramoji Film City… but we just shrugged our shoulders and rode the happy train back to Bangalore.

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