Friday, March 23, 2012

Trip to Kanyakumari

It’s a trip to Kanyakumari from Bangalore. Kanyakumari is the southernmost tip of mainland India and is surrounded by three water bodies. Bay of Bengal towards east, Indian Ocean in south and Arabian Sea in west. I think it is the only place to see sun rise and sun set in water bodies in India. Kanyakumari town is named after the goddess Kanyakumari amman, a popular deity of the area. Legend has it that the goddess Parvathi in one of her incarnation as devi Kanya did penance on one of the rock of this land’s end to obtain the hand of lord Siva. Tip of the day – Never ever wear any footwear which is difficult to open in Kanyakumari like sneakers or other shoes. Every place you visit, you have to open your shoe even in museum. 2nd tip of the day – Always wear socks to protect your feet from heat. 3rd tip – Protect yourself with best sunscreen lotion you have. 4th one – everybody speaks Hindi. 5th one – Hardly any non veg restaurant. Everyone is veg and I figured out only one non veg which became my favorite. Ok ok lots of free trip.

Its 22-March-2012 10:30 PM, we have boarded Nagercoil Express in Bangalore City Junction station. Since this train does not have any pantry, we had to get packed food. When I am traveling I am always double hungry than normal days. The train was full, but it was totally empty once it reached Madurai next day at 10:00 am. Runai and I were thinking whether the train will go till Nagercoil or not. Then I saw there was another family far end in the same coach.

We reached Nagercoil Junction station at 23-March-2012 2:30 pm. We came out of the station and saw lots of taxi waiting to take you to Kanyakumari. We know that they are going to take you on a ride if we hire them, so thought of taking a bus because it 20 KM from Nagercoil to Kanyakumari. There lots of local public bus very frequent to go to Kanyakumari. But then I came to know that it will take 2 hours to reach in this type of bus because it will go everywhere and will stop in every place. One person told us that if we walk a kilometer from there to reach highway, then we will get direct express bus for Kanyakumari and will take hardly 20 min to reach. Along with us there were another family who came to highway road bus stop. After waiting for 10 min, a bus came and we boarded that bus. Ticket was Rs. 18 per head and we reached Kanyakumari around 3:30 pm. We asked one fellow passenger to drop us in Kanyakumari Railway station. I had a printed google map of all the places from Kanyakumari Railway station. Anyway we got down and saw that it’s the entrance for Our Lady of Ransom Church.

We decided to go to the church and then search for hotel. We did that promptly. It’s a beautiful church. A bit of information about this church – Located on the shoreline of the Bay of Bengal, the 100 year old Church in dedicated to Mother Mary. It was built in the Gothic style of architecture with a strong Portuguese influence. It is 153 feet high and is crowned with a cross of pure gold. One lady near the entrance asked me if I know Tamil and I replied yes. May be she knows only Tamil and wanted to communicate something important. She told me that behind the church, there is a staircase and on top there is a new smaller church build and we also get to see beautiful view of Bay of Bengal from the terrace. We opened our shoe and went inside the church. Interior was very simple just opposite to the decoration on outside. Then we went backstage and went to that new church which was pretty small and from the terrace we can see the beautiful sea. We could not take any picture because we did not yet open our luggage.

Next was our hotel search. Tell you something, if there are 100 houses for local resident, then there are 1000 hotels for tourist. So we decided to go near the beach and get a hotel. In the midway we found a budget Hotel Sangam. We wanted to enguire the rate and they told Rs. 1300 and 1000 for A/C and Non A/C double bed. We told its too much and we were about to leave and the receptionist told us, that they have room for Rs 600. Basically it’s the same room and since it is off season, they lower the rate and I instantly booked it for 3 days. After refreshing we went to the restaurant downstairs. We did not wanted something fancy so ordered for 2 plates of lunch meal. Tell you something, I don’t know what they gave in food but I till late night I was not hungry. So we decided that we are not going to go in that restaurant anymore.

We headed toward Triveny Sangam (which is the meeting point of three water bodies). I am confused here. Till now I know that there are 3 different Triveny Sangam (one near Srirangapatnam, another near Coorg and next is this one). If a traveler ask for Triveny Sangam details, where will the person refer to? Anyway it’s a rocky place and no sea beach as such. There are plenty of shops for sea shells and they are pretty cheap AMO. Big shells were for Rs. 200 whereas in Chennai they are sold for min Rs. 500 for bad quality ones. We can have a so-so view for sun rise and sun set from here with lots of obstacles. After the sun set and few photographs, we left the place.
Triveni Sangam (Bay of Bengal + Indian Ocean + Arabian Sea)
Vivekananda Rock & Thiruvalluvar Statue
Vivekananda Rock & Thiruvalluvar Statue
Triveni Sangam
Near the junction there is a small Aqua World fish exhibition. Ticket was Rs. 20 and no photography allowed. There are plenty of fishes of various types, shapes and colors, They have a good collections here.

Just opposite to Aqua World, there is a nice beautiful well maintained park. People can seat there and feel the breeze of Indian Ocean because it faces south. We got an ice cream and peanut pack and sat there till 7:30 pm, when the security guard shouting that it’s time to close. We also got some night vision photograph for light house.
Night View of Light House
We came out and started walking toward the hotel when we saw a busy restaurant Hotel Vishwa which was making something to do with egg and instantly I figured out that it’s a only non veg restaurant nearby. I could not continue eating veg for 3 days and here this restaurant came to my rescue. I had parota with beef masala for Rs. 130. Runai did not take anything except water. It was well prepared and I made it my all time food counter.

We went in the hotel and this restaurant was 5 buildings away, so figured out it was easy for us. On the way we got 4 L of water. We slept early that day because we planned to watch sun rise next day.

24-March-2012 4:30 am, our room phone was ringing and I received it and found that it was from reception for wake up call to go and watch sun rise. I think it is a custom for them. Anyway I got up, got prepared and headed toward the pink color watch tower. Ticket was Rs. 5, timing is 5:30 am to 7:00 pm and we have to climb 5 floors to reach the top. I had wait till 6:20 am for the sun rise. It’s an awesome view.
Sun Rise
Around 7:00, I started going all the places that I will visit and noted down there entry timing. Next I came back to hotel and then went for breakfast. Another horrible experience it was. We ordered for puri, saabji and vada for Rs. 25.

Then we started walking toward Vivekanandapuram which is the headquarter of Vivekananda Kendar. Bit of info – The center spreads over an area of 100 acres. It was founded by Eknathji Ranade for Swami Vivekananda.
Vivekanandapuram -Entrance Gate
We headed straight to the sea shore of Bay of Bengal. One cannot go to the beach because it is guarded by wall but one can enjoy absolutely breathtaking views of sunrise. It’s very quiet and peace place. On the way it was written as Peacock Santuray. We could see one and we started running after it to take a picture. But after sometime, we saw that everywhere there are peacocks and could get very clear photograph.
Vivekanandapuram - Peacock Santuray
On the way back, we went to Eknathji Mandapam and Vivekananda Mandapam.
Vivekanandapuram - Eknathji Mandapam and Vivekananda Mandapam
Vivekanandapuram - Vivekananda Mandapam
Later we went to Gangotri but it was closed because we were too early. Timing is 10:00 – 12:00 and 6:30 – 8:30.
Vivekanandapuram - Gangotri
We went to Sree Ekakshara Maha Ganapati Temple.
Vivekanandapuram - Sree Ekakshara Maha Ganapati Temple
Then we went to Vivekananda Pictorial Exhibition. Timing is 9:00 – 1:00 and 4:00 – 8:00 and Tuesday evening closed. Ticket is Rs. 10 and book available for Rs. 100. It a huge hall with picture frames. It depiction starts with history of India and then transformation with western culture and then history of Swami Vivekananda and his vision. There is a full length 3D picture of Swami Vivekananda at the entrance. In any 180 degree, if you look at him, then it will look like he is looking at you. There we meet a nice retired old person who takes care of that hall.
Vivekanandapuram - Vivekananda Pictorial Exhibition Entrance Gate
Vivekanandapuram - Vivekananda Pictorial Exhibition
Vivekanandapuram -3D picture in Vivekananda Pictorial Exhibition
Then again we returned back to Gangotri and it was open. This is where Eknathji used to stay and his room. There were pictorial exhibition of his work and various letters which he used to communicate with rest of the people. It depicts his vision.

Then we went for lunch. There is a restaurant inside the premises and serve simple but good homely food. Lunch is Rs 38 and starts from 11:30. We were little early, so had to wait for 15 min. But waiting was worthy and got steaming rice with dal and other stuffs.

In Vivekanandapuram there are many things to see.
  • Sree Ekakshara Maha Ganapati Temple
  • Vivekananda Pictorial Exhibition
  • Gangotri (on the life of Eknathji Ranade – Founder of Vivekananda Kendra)
  • Bharat Gramodaya Darshan Park
  • Nalanda (Library and Reading Room)
  • Eknathji Samadhi
  • Vivekananda Samadhi
  • Sunrise Beach

If anybody wants to stay there, then you have an option of boarding and lodging along with restaurant. It’s nothing fancy but good place to stay and enjoy the calmness with reasonable price.

In Vivekananda Kendra I  think it is open even before 8:00 am but most of the tourist places inside the premises is open after 10:00 am.

After lunch we came out and went to the jetty at 1:00 pm for ferry service. Ticket is Rs. 20 and timing is 7:45 – 4:00. We had to wait inside for 15 min, till one mega boat came to pick us. It’s literally a big boat with shade on top and has a capacity of around 200 people. Everybody is supposed to take a safety jacket which they will provide and handover when you are getting down. The ride takes around 15 min to drop you in Vivekananda Rock. There are 2 such boats which do the service.
Ferry Service
In Vivekananda Rock the entrance ticket is Rs. 10. It is about 100 meters from the shore. The rock as two halls; one belong to Swami Vivekananda and other belonging to Holy Foot. The Holy Foot is a foot shaped carving found on the rock and is believed to be the footprint of Goddess Kumari who stood on this rock on one leg and performed the Tapasya. The Rock memorial has a tall statue of Swami Vivekananda and below the statue was mentioned the year of death of Swamiji and the “probable” dates when Swamiji attained Samadhi on the rock. Photograph is not allowed inside this hall. Swami Vivekananda came to Kanyakumari before his departure for Chicago religious conference. As far my knowledge he went to that rock by swimming. Back of the hall there is a sun dial and I wonder it is for whom because by the time one reaches that place at the earliest by 8:00 or 8:15 am, sun will be already high up over the sky. BTW let me tell you that if you want to visit the place by 7:45, there will be a huge queue of half km. The place is very well maintained and one can stand there and feel the breeze which is literally breathe taking.
Vivekananda Rock
Vivekananda Rock
Holy Foot Mandaps in Vivekananda Rock
We returned back in the ferry and it dropped us to the next rock nearby which is hardly few meters away. It is for Thiruvalluvar Statue. He is the greatest Tamil poet, philosopher and saint. The rock supports a huge statue of the saint Thiruvalluvar carved out of many rocks and then were joined together. It was inaugurated fairly recently. The statue is about 133 feet long which corresponds to 133 chapters in the greatest epic written by the saint – Thirukkural. We can climb upto the feet of the statue and it gives an awesome view.
Thiruvalluvar Statue
Thiruvalluvar Statue
Thiruvalluvar Statue
Vivekananda Rock from Thiruvalluvar Statue
We returned back and headed toward Kanyakumari Temple but it was closed. Timing 4:30 – 12:30 and 4:00 – 8:15.

So we went to Gandhi Mandapam. It shows history of Mahatma Gandhi in form of picture frames. The central dome of the memorial is 79 feet high representing Gandhi’s age. Gandhi’s ashes were kept for darshan before being immersed in sea. The Gandhi Mandapa is engineered in such a way that at the places where the ashes were kept stands a small stone which is said to receive the Sun rays only on the 2nd of October, Gandhi’s birthday, every year through a small hole on the roof.
Gandhi Mandapam
Inside Gandhi Mandapam where ashes has been kept
Next we went to Kamaraj Mantapa. It was raised and dedicated to the freedom fighter and Former Chief minister of Tamil Nadu for 13 years, President of Indian National Congress. He is known for simplicity and integrity and his achievement. The mandapa contains galleries having photographs depicting his achievements.
Kamarajar Mani Mantapa Monument
Then we went to Trivani Sangam which is the confluence of Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. There we did some shopping of Sea Shells. We got some shells which have “Kanyakumari” imprinted on them and few other decorated shells.

Then we headed toward Kanyakumari Temple. On the south-west corner of the temple, there is a Swami Vivekananda Temple.
Swami Vivekananda Temple
Then we went to Kanyakumari Temple. In the entrance of the temple, you have hand over cell phones, cameras and other similar stuffs. Basically photographs not allowed. You are supposed to pay them for their custodian service. Men have to open their shirt and enter the temple. On the corridor half way a priest was sitting and if you pay him Rs. 20 then you get the way for Special Dharshan.
Kanyakumari Temple entrance gate
Then we headed toward Government Museum and the timing is 9:30 – 5:00. It is closed on every Friday, 2nd Saturday and National Holidays. It has some of the rare collections like hen with four legs. Whale jaw bone which is taller than a human being and similar stuff.
Government Museum (Whale Jaw Bone)
Next we went to Wandering Monk Exhibition. Ticket is Rs. 10. It shows all the places Swami Vivekananda visited and whatever he did as he moved on.
Wandering Monk Exhibition entrance gate
Wandering Monk Exhibition
Then we went to Light House. Timing 3:00 – 5:00 and Rs. 10 per person and Rs. 20 for camera. If you want to have a aerial view, then you have to climb 16 stairs * 10 floors. But once you climb on top, its really an awesome view.
Light House
Light House
Inside Light House
Left Arial View from Light House
Straight Arial View from Light House
Right Arial View from Light House
Next we went to St. Roch’s Church which is in the shore of Bay of Bengal and in between fishermen colony.
St. Roch’s Church
On the way we came across Tsunami Rehabilitation center and Fish Action center.
Fisherman's Colony

We were tired and went back to hotel and later we parceled dinner from Hotel Vishwa.

Next day 25-Mar-2012, we did not do anything except sleeping and watching TV and chatting inside the hotel room.

Later in the evening we came out and went to Our Lady of Ransom Church for photographs and then went and then went to see Kanyakumari Railway Station which was deserted. We wanted to go to Bay Watch but did not work.

Our Lady of Ransom Church

Kanyakumari Railway Station
Next day 26-Mar-2012, we checked out from the hotel and headed toward Kanyakumari railway station. We found British Bakery and got our food for a day in train since the train has no pantry room. It was one of the best bakery I have ever found in terms of value for money. We got in the Bangalore Kanyakumari express which is local express train. In 18 hours journey it stops in 44 stations.

In Kanyakumari you can visit below places.
  • Vivekananda Rock Memorial
  • Wandering Monk Exhibition
  • Devi Kanyakumari Temple
  • Thiruvallur Statue
  • Gandhi Memorial
  • Kamraj Memorial
  • Guganatheeswara Temple
  • Triveny Sangam and Shree Sankaracharya Temple
  • Wax Museum/Bay Watch

Near Kanyakumari you can visit below places.
  • Suchindram Temple (4:30 – 11:45 and 5:00 – 7:45)
  • Vattakottai Circular Fort (8:00 – 5:00)
  • Padmanabhapuram Palace (9:00 – 4:00 and Monday closed)
  • Datta Mandir – near Vattakottai Circular Fort
  • Mathur Hanging Water Bridge
  • Thiraparappu Water Falls
  • Technology Resource Center – Anjaneyapuram, Kalvilai
  • Shree Ram Temple – Kottaram (6:00 – 10:00 and 5:30 – 8:00)
  • Nagaraja Temple (4:30 – 11:45 and 5:00 – 8:00)
We know what it is :-)

View Larger Map