A Travellerspoint blog

Smile of Angkor Show @ Siem Reap

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Back to travel blogging..let me add the missing pages, before I add the recent ones. Starting from Siem Reap, which we visited back in 2012.
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We had arrived in Siem Reap around noon after a 10 hr journey from Bangalore, with a connecting flight in Kuala Lumpur. We were picked up by our hotel van and reached the hotel within half an hour.

Being a heavily touristed town, Siem Reap has good roads, but very less traffic. On the way from the airport, we saw plenty of hotels, I never expected there would be so many for a town of this size, hotels of all ranges and tastes and they are quite inexpensive, even comparing to those back in India. But yes, the town is mostly meant for tourists, after all this is the most touristed location in Cambodia, many arrive in this country just to visit the famous Angkor temples near the town. It is nice to see a small town of this size to have an active international airport, plenty of hotels and restaurants, supermarkets and the usual touristy stuff we encounter in Asia - fish spa, night markets, souvenir shops, currency exchanges and cyber centers around every corner. And it isn't difficult for a tourist in this town, unlike the rest of Cambodia. USD is the de-facto currency in touristed towns in Cambodia, only for small changes, you get paid back in Riels (1 USD makes about 4000 Riels), a currency which is virtually useless outside Cambodia.

On reaching our hotel Somadevi Angkor, we rested until the evening and then went for the Smile of Angkor show. The show isn't a must for a Siem Reap itinerary, but it fitted well for the time we had on this Sunday evening. We had booked the tickets online, it cost us 33 USD/person incl. dinner and hotel pickup/drop. The show is organized at Angkor COEX, which located in the outskirts of the town... it took us around 15 min to reach by car.

The buffet dinner started early at 6 pm, mostly with S.E Asian dishes, though I wouldn't rate it high for quality, quite OK, it certainly was the largest buffet dinner I had ever seen considering the number of dishes. The show started at 7:15 pm, a commercial cultural show with Acrobatic performers, lasers, water fountains and modern light and sound effects, I would say it is the Siem Reap equivalent of the show at Gurgaon's Kingdom of Dreams back in India. The show is 75 min long and tells the story of ancient Angkor through costumed dancers, with scenes such as the churning of the sea of milk for Amritha. It is not meant to be compared with traditional Cambodian dance shows, it is purely an entertainment show with dance, colorful costumes, sound and light effects, plus with a dinner thrown in. Though I had read mixed reviews of this show while booking it, we did enjoy our visit and felt worth the money and time.

The hotel where we stayed while in Siem Reap...
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A snap from the Smile of Angkor show...
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Posted by arunbaliga 19.01.2014 01:00 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia siem_reap smile_of_angkor_show somadevi Comments (0)

Mahabalipuram - Sun & Sand

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Mahabalipuram was once only a short 3-4 hr stopover for tourists touring temples and historical monuments across Tamil Nadu. However, things have changed quite a lot. Today, tourists are increasingly spending at least a couple of days at Mahabalipuram, due to the place emerging as a unique combination of history and sand. Due to its nice beaches, it is emerging as a sunbathing and surfing spot, especially for western tourists. The waves are not huge, but surfing is on the roll. Few luxury beach resorts such as Chariot and Radisson Blu and numerous hotels/guest houses and restaurants close to its beaches have opened up to cater to the tourists.

Just attached an assortment of snaps of our stay at Mahabalipuram.

Idli Vadai (South Indian breakfast@Mamalla Bhavan)
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Waiting for lunch@Golden Palate(Mamalla Heritage)
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The beach
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The Four Horses
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Our room@Hotel Ramakrishna
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Dinner@Waves Restaurant(Mamalla Heritage)
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Fish&Chips for lunch @ a beach restaurant
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Streets of Mahabalipuram
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Posted by arunbaliga 24.08.2013 09:30 Archived in India Tagged india mahabalipuram mamallapuram tamil_nadu Comments (0)

Mahabalipuram - Group of Monuments

Exploring the World Heritage Site - Group of Monuments Mahabalipuram

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The Group of Monuments Mahabalipuram is a World Heritage Site comprising of rock and rock cut cave temples/monuments scattered around Mahabalipuram, most of them built during the time of Pallava dynasty ruler Narasimhavarman-I (7th Century AD). Being a small place, all the monuments are walk-able from one another, so I do recommend walk!

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) managed site is relatively well maintained and is organized into 3 scattered groups -

  • Sea Shore Temple, located right on the beach.
  • The group comprising of an open rock sculpture (Arjuna's Penance), numerous rock cut cave temples (Ganesha Ratham, Varaha cave, Krishna Mandapam, Trimurti Cave and Mahishasura Mardhini cave) and a large dangerously balanced rock (locally known as God Krishna's ball of butter).
  • The group of 5 monolithic rock cut temples (each temple was cut from a single rock!), known as the Pandava Rathas (referring to the 5 Pandava brothers of Hindu epic Mahabharata).

There is a single entrance fee for all these 3 groups (onetime entry for each group and ticket validity only on the day of purchase) and could be purchased either at the ASI counter at the Shore temple or the one at Pandava Rathas group.

Entrance fees and timings:

  • INR 10 for Indian, SAARC and BIMSTEC citizens whereas it is INR 250 (5 USD) for others. No fee for camera use.
  • 6 am - 6 pm.

Sea Shore Temple and Pandava Rathas should be easily covered in 30 min-1 hr each whereas it should take about 1 - 1.5 hrs to cover the group that starts at Arjuna's Penance. So, overall, assuming relaxed travel, all the 3 groups can be covered in about 3 - 4 hrs. With the Town bus stand on E Raja Street as reference - the Shore temple is 200 m down the beach road, the Arjuna's Penance group is 200 m away in the opposite direction whereas the Pandava Rathas group is 1 km away on the Mada Koil Street.

There is also a handicrafts shopping zone just before the Pandava Rathas group, with shops mostly selling rock/marble sculptures, embroideries and other handicrafts. Though we didn't buy anything there, we did roam around the zone and the handicraft quality was good. But if you plan to buy, do inspect the item clearly and bargain on the prices. There is no such thing as fixed price!!

Best time to visit the Shore Temple is either in the morning before the sun is overhead or in the evening. The other monuments can be covered based on your choice but avoid the time around noon, as it would be quite hot. Do keep a bottle of water handy.

Now for the snaps..:)

The Sea Shore Temple

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Arjuna's Penance and other monuments

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Pandava Rathas

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Posted by arunbaliga 24.08.2013 05:45 Archived in India Tagged india mahabalipuram mamallapuram tamil_nadu shore_temple pandava_rathas Comments (0)

Mahabalipuram trip plan

Shore temple, Sun and Sand

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For the Independence day weekend, we zeroed in on Mahabalipuram for a short 2 day break from Bangalore. Mahabalipuram (or Mamallapuram as is known locally) is a coastal town in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, around 60 km south of Chennai. Reaching Chennai's main bus station (CMBT or Koyambedu) after a 7 hr overnight journey from Bangalore, we hopped on a Puducherry (Pondicherry) destined bus and alighted at the Mahabalipuram bypass bus stop.

Getting to Mahabalipuram

Being located on the East Coast Road (ECR) between Chennai and Puducherry, Mahabalipuram is best reached by taxi or bus.
The town bus stand is located on the edge of E Raja street, close to the Shore Temple Road and has direct buses to Puducherry, Chennai and Kanchipuram. There is also an hourly AC Volvo bus service 568C from CMBT costing INR 85/person. Non-AC buses cost around INR 40-50/person.
However, the fastest bus connectivity is via the bypass bus stop on the ECR highway, located about 1.5 km from the town, where you could hop on any of the express buses shuttling between Chennai and Puducherry. Bus journey from Chennai takes about 1.5 hrs.

Things to do

  • Archaeological monuments dating back to the 7th century - Shore Temple and Rock cut temples/monuments (Arjuna's Penance, the 5 Rathas, Mahishamardhini cave, Varaha cave).
  • Beach - surfing and sun bathing, resorts.
  • Geological formations - Krishna's butter ball.

Stay and getting around

Stay close to the beach. There are plenty options for stay and food to suit every budget as the place is getting increasing popular with tourists, including westerners. Radisson Blu, Chariot are among the splurge accommodations. Another splurge option, Vivanta by Taj, though not exactly in Mahabalipuram, is quite close (about 20km north on the ECR at Muttukadu). Mamalla Heritage, on the E Raja Street, is a good mid-range option. It's veg restaurant Golden Palate is quite popular with tourists. On the budget side, there are plenty of hotels and guest houses , especially on E Raja Street and Othavadai Street. We stayed at the budget Hotel Ramakrishna on Othavadai street, it cost us INR 1350/night for non-AC and the beach was just a 2 min walk down the same street.

Among restaurants, there are far more options.

  • Golden Palate , Mamalla Bhavan near the town bus stand and Anand Bhavan count among the pure veg options. We tried all these 3 and we found Golden Palate to be the best.
  • Moon Rakers on Othavadai Street seems quite popular with tourists for their western menu items, alcoholic drinks and seafood options, though I couldn't visit it.
  • Then we have on-beach restaurants, similar to those you find in Goa - mostly seafood options, but with a limited menu and quite OK kind of food and service. However, being exactly on the beach, they provide the best sea view.

Mahabalipuram being a small place, all local attractions could be reached easily by walk and I recommend that!! Rickshaws and local taxis are available too, but unless you are good at price haggling, don't approach them. They are quite expensive and most of them tend to misguide by exaggerating the distance to any attraction. Another option is to get taxi from your hotel, would be little more expensive, but you wouldn't need to bother about anything else.

I ll follow shortly with detailed blog entries of all that we saw and enjoyed in Mahabalipuram.

Posted by arunbaliga 24.08.2013 03:18 Archived in India Tagged india mahabalipuram mamallapuram tamil_nadu Comments (0)

The Cave Temples of Dambulla

all seasons in one day
View Off to Sri Lanka: Sigiriya -> Dambulla -> Kandy-> Pinnawala -> Negombo on arunbaliga's travel map.

After Sigiriya, our next stop was Dambulla, a fairly big town in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, about 30min south of Sigiriya by car and about 70km north of Kandy. Dambulla is famous for the Cave Temple, a world heritage site. The major attractions are the 5 caves under an overhanging rock dating back to the 1st-2nd century AD. The caves contain mostly statues and paintings related to Buddha's life. To reach the caves, we climbed up the rock for about 15min. The rock has a gentle slope with both steps as well as a road. However, I would suggest to use the steps for your climb. The entrance is located at the base of the rock just adjacent to a modern day huge golden statue of the seated Buddha.

Entrance tickets for foreigners: 1500 LKR/person ....no discount for SAARC citizens here :-(

The ticket counter is located towards the right of the seated Buddha whereas the path to the caves is on the left. Tickets are checked only at the entrance of the cave after the climb, so don't forget about it before the climb up. The ticket also includes entrance to the cultural museum.

Time spent: About 2 hrs.

Now for the snaps..

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Posted by arunbaliga 03.01.2013 08:09 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged temple cave dambulla golden_temple Comments (0)

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