This is the fourth in series of my trip to Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram. I challenged a North Indian friend, who said there’s nothing to do near Chennai in the summers. I told him I could transform his life through experiences on a Saturday and Sunday. Lets dive in to the series! If you have landed directly here, Read Part 3, Part 2, Part-1 and Part-0 for context!
Here’s the video story
If you want to read up stuff, here goes the blog post below
In Search of the Surfs in Mahabalipuram!
Tej walked out to the beach, eager to get himself acquainted with Surfing. He upped his swag with his dark glasses and shorts, intently feeling the wind as he made his way. Balaji, our guide from the resort, explained to Tej about certain precautions to take care. Tej could communicate well with Balaji, since they bonded well when we started with cycling.
Tej was asked to lie on the surf board with the head focussed towards the sea and in line with the surf board. After the wave has been caught, the surfer has to use his hands, keeping it close to his chest, to pop up the body and suddenly stand on the surf board and maintain that position until the wave knocks him over (Beginners will keep getting knocked off)
Surfboard tied/strapped to the leg, Tej made his way into the sea. Watch the video to know more on how it went!
Lunch by the Beach with Chef Mike
Post all of the water activities, we were invited for lunch by Chef Mike, who asked us if we were okay to learn a bit of cooking. We thought this may be fun, so we went ahead and agreed. I donned the Apron and the hat, and saw how Chef Mike went about his business grilling vegetables, and marinating sea food (which was appetising to Tej). It was fun trying to observe a part of the food being cooked on the beach, by the view of the sea in their new revamped Wharf 2.0 restaurant.
In the initial few minutes most of my attention went to the disturbing effect the wind had on the apron, which made it fly, and I as using my hands to quell it down, just like Marilyn Monroe did to her skirt. Comical
My conversation with Chef Mike was on how different are the reactions from the customers when it comes to ordering, since a Menu card can only bring out so much, as opposed to the rich wealth of magic that a chef can customise for guests. He said that a lot of foreigners coming to India usually go by the ‘Catch of the day’ while Indians usually go for predictable food options like breads/roti. ‘Catch of the day’ usually is a Prawn plus mashed potatoes and Indian flavours like lemon garlic. The chef was very welcoming and showed us his kitchen and sat down with us as we faced the sea, talking about cooking and travelling.
Tej and I sat and gorged on some Paneer Tikkas and a couple of mocktails. One of the mocktails had more ice than drink in it, but the other one was compensating enough. After enough paneer and liquids had filled the stomach, it was time to head out a bit in the evening to go out into the city.
Sculpting in Mahabalipuram
We went to Mahabalipuram town to and explore Mahabalipuram’s sculpting scene by meeting Murugan, who was a sculptor who studied in the little town. Murugan was originally from Bhavani (near Erode in Tamil Nadu). He told us that business demand for sculpting work was down in the last 2 years. He manages to eke time out for commercial work as well as creative work. As we sit and talk, I notice various heads of famous yesteryear people. There’s a head of MGR (Kollywood actor and former chief minister of Tamil Nadu) and a head of M.G. Gandhi (India’s iconic freedom leader). I also figure out that Murugan’s body of work includes an impressive stint as one of the sculptors for the Adiyogi statue in Coimbatore, which was inaugurated by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev in his Isha Yoga complex.
If you have read this far, there’s more in the video to know and sensorily feel the described experience.
To experience the same like we did, do sign up for the Summer Chillers program, and experience life’s finer moments packed into a weekend that could otherwise be spent waking up late ordering on Zomato, and getting stuck on a traffic jam. Is the choice not clear?
This is the third in series of my trip to Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram. I challenged a North Indian friend, who said there’s nothing to do near Chennai in the summers. I told him I could transform his life through experiences on a Saturday and Sunday. Lets dive in to the series! If you have landed directly here, Read Part 2, Part-1 and Part-0 for context!
Here’s the video story
Did you know that SCUBA was an acronym for Self-Contained-Underwater-Breathing-Apparatus? I had learnt this while taking my first diving lesson way back in Bangaram Island in Lakshadweep in 2009. I retained absolutely nothing from that dive as I would find out
Breathing Routine Change
To get into the water, I first had to wear the SCUBA Pro skin jacket. It needs someone to zip you from behind, and it feels quite tight. Black dress on a summer day in Chennai is not the recipe for relaxation at all, but I was to step in to the pool in just a few minutes. Rishabh from Temple Adventures was there to teach me the basics of SCUBA Diving. I had to put on an oxygen cylinder on my back, and a mask that had some space for my nose, and a little attachment that went in my mouth, having to tightly bite it. I now had to breathe in through the mouth and exhale out through my nose. It took a while to even set this in motion. It was even tougher trying to balance my legs as there are fins that are on your legs. That made me look extremely clumsy as i tried to balance myself, with an oxygen cylinder on my back. But with a little bit of patience, all is indeed well!
My first lessons were around communicating the signs properly in water, now made famous as part of common folklore since Bollywood addressed this in 2011 with the feature film ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’
The next lessons were around clearing water that gets fogged up in the mask surrounding the nose, when water finds its way inside. The other basic lesson was around moving your hands in a way that you reach out for an extension that connects to your mouth, through which you breathe. This extension is connected to the Oxygen cylinder. You need to keep it an angle, else the air/oxygen gets released and wasted.
Though it was bewitching inside, I could not quite breathe easily or swim easily. That’s when I asked the instructor if someone could dive without the cylinder. He spoke about free diving, and said that he could hold his breath for about 4 minutes inside the water.
I also learnt in my conversation with the instructor that Koh Tao is probably not the best place to go for SCUBA Open water dive courses, as there has been such a huge influx of tourists, that you are more likely to see humans than fishes there! i briefly thought about doing an Open water dive course, during my trip to Thailand last year around the Full Moon Party, but chose to rest after exploring town and Songkaran in Ko Tao
If you want to experience the same, as i did, do pick this package called the Summer Chillers, and learn a new way of life under water at Radisson Blur Resort Temple Bay, near Chennai.
This is the second in series of my trip to Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram. I challenged a North Indian friend, who said there’s nothing to do near Chennai in the summers. I told him I could transform his life through experiences on a Saturday and Sunday. Lets dive in to the series! If you have landed directly here, Read Part-1 and Part-0 for context!
Getting to Breakfast
Soon after we finished cycling, we went over and had our breakfast at the Water’s edge cafe. It was a good spread, but we were late and needed to finish it before they close. One thing we observed was that due to the searing heat, seats near the glass area were less air-conditioned than the ones inoculated from the heat. The summer is usually un-relenting for a body that is not used to such heat, and we had to find a cozy corner where the effect of the sun, does not eat into the air-conditioning. I had a couple of fruit juices along with Idli/Dosa and bread for my breakfast.
All Terrain Vehicle Ride
I had told Tej about the ATV ride at the beach, and we wanted to go and try it out. Both of us were excited about speeding in the sand, and turning at angle, throwing mud in the air. Some primal things as a kid, stay in our memory and pop up while outdoors like our wish lists.
Things to be Aware
These ATV machines need a strong grip to get used to. That may take about 5 minutes as the hands bonds with the controls. My ATV seemed to be inclined to curve right as opposed to go straight.
Tej was a little stronger than me, and he loved the ride on the sand. He went quite fast on the sand, and won the competition to ride better! But hey, never forget to have fun!
Secondly, the real fear is when you drive fast, what if you lose control and get into the sea. If the ATV gets into the sea, it will be a problem, as such devices/cars are not supposed to be in salt water, while they can otherwise be driven on wet sand.
A few weeks before, a friend of mine from Delhi, had reached out to me, and was asking about some place he could travel from Delhi over a weekend. His whole point was to travel out on a Friday and return to work on a Monday and be amazed in those 2 days.
Delhi’tes have the mountains above them, but don’t really have a beach. I knew if I could customise a nice beach experience with some activities, he’d probably go back feeling excited.
I told him to not worry so much, and told him I will keep him in air-conditioned comfort by the beach, and in a largely sylvan environment of greenery. My aim was to give him a bunch of experiences that only a sea town could provide and over just a weekend. So I met him on a Friday night at the Chennai airport and drove him down in my car to go show him that “Summers can be fun around Chennai’s coastline”
Presenting our next travel series titled ” You Know What We did This Summer? | Temple Bay Tales”, where I take my Delhi friend Tej to a series of activities where we rough up on the sand in an ATV, defy gravity in a Zorb, attain zen state over Shirodhara, Do some diving under water, Try sea side surfing in the morning, cycle our way to the shore temple and enjoy some sea side mocktails, learning how to fry veggies and fishes! All of this in a 48 hour weekend at Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay (as part of their Summer Chillers program)! I am sure when Tej landed in Delhi, he must have landed a little heavier thanks to the memories he gathered from the weekend!
Here’s the trailer! The main series premieres from May 16th in a 5 episode all month long on Katchutravels! Let me know how you found it!
This is a series on exploring South Goa keeping Agonda as the base. Part-1 talks about arriving at the village of Agonda, Part-2 talks about ‘The Space’ and RajBaga Beach. Part-3 talks about the little village of Sadolxem (where a scene from the Bollywood Movie ‘Dear Zindagi’ was filmed) and Galjibaga. In Part 4, we explored the nearby Cabo-De Rama Fort. In Part-5 we explore the secret private beach of Cola hidden in by the hills in South Goa.
Eavesdropping on Trails
I was mixing the butter and jam on either sides of my bread toast, when I heard a conversation, that Cola Beach was nearby. I proceeded to ask them if it was walkable from here. The staff of Manveer’s kitchen got into a conversation on some trails from here. The first trail they spoke about was a forest trail to Butterfly Island (which could have leapoards for company) and it seemed like a day long trip. I anyway did not have so much time. I had a train to catch back to Mangalore at 4 pm, and my window was a 2 hour window when Nandu would go to sleep post the heavy brunch. The other option was to trek to Cola Beach, but the challenge was to get past a swelling lagoon at high tide to the other side, and trek from there. Option 2 sounded better, but the challenge was in mapping my legs properly across the swelling sea-meeting-lagoon place as high tide was fast approaching.
Crossing the Sea-Lagoon at while the high tide swells
I took one of the staff for company to the point near the sea meeting the lagoon, after Nandu fell asleep with my mother. I needed the staff to make sure, I was able to pick the right angle to walk in the water, and I had some help just incase the water level went too high. The locals know this place and the right path across 2 landmasses based on the time of the day [and the tide]. I had to diagonally walk with my camera bag on the top of my head, which also had my phone. I only wore my swimming trunks and had a towel on my head to give the camera bag some more height above the water. Its scary to try this alone, and its advisable to do it in the lowest of tides and not during the high tide OR get the help of a local to know how to cross the path.
The little beach at the end after the Agonda Lagoon has a series of steps, that are tough to spot. Its a very dry part of the forest that needs you to patiently trek up for about 10 minutes. You will see Chattai Beach huts on your left as the jungle path merges with a dry plateau on the top of the hill.
Leaving behind Agonda
Agonda Beach’s huts and Manveer’s kitchen were small midgets as seen from the top. I proceeded to dry myself and find the path to Cola.
As I keep walking along, I am not quite sure on the route to be taken. These are not roads, but just mud paths on a mountain. I follow my instructions to the tee, by keeping an eye out on the directional west, where the sea has to be there. I wander for about 15 minutes, which feels like 45 because I dont carrry a water bottle, and its very warm at this time of the day, burning my skin. It feels like a binary chart where I encounter 2 paths and I take the one I think feels right, with the hope that I can trace my path back like in the fable ‘Hansel and Gretel’
The Trek to Nowhere
The arid landscape can make you doubt your path taken, and it feels uncomfortable since there are no humans on this path. Atleast if there was a dog, I can trust it and follow it. I was wondering if this was the problem of city dwellers that we need re-affirmation and clear directions when we are in an exploration mode. The locals who stay here, somehow find their path without too much of fuss. Their estimate of ‘half-hour’ can be very different for people not from this place.
After a lot of binary decisions on which path to take, I felt the need for drinking water. I had none, and there was no shop around for the limited horizon that I could see. I was trying to see, if some music or sounds of humans talking could help lead me, but I found no one for company. I gave myself another 15 minutes, before I will wind up this exploration, and go back to the hotel for lunch.
In about 10 minutes, I found the plateau giving way to views of the sea. I was happy that the sea was around. In the distance, I saw what seemed like a Maruti 800. I went closer and found out that vehicles including autos manage to come uptil this place for dropping guests who stay on Cola Beach. The guests have to trek their way down to finding paradise. I found a car with a bottle of water, and I literally felt the water going down my parched throat right inside my body. I was viewing that in slow motion, as the water rejuvenated every strand of my food pipe right into my burgeoning belly.
I figured out from the taxi driver, that I need not have laboured so much with the high tide, as there was another walking path into the forest from Agonda Beach. Google Maps also points to that path, but Agonda having very little Airtel signals meant that I was not really using my phone in this place.
Paradise Found- Cola Beach
As soon as I saw the beach from above, there was excitement brewing up in my body. The wind from the sea on the hill top, the colour of the sea that was stretching the hazy horizon, and the anticipation of being part of paradise, made me take in the sights and feel happy for having made the little trek. The sea and I have our conversations, and I was ready for yet another patch of sand seen differently.
Cola felt like Paradise. The Paradise that stalks you on Facebook and Travel magazines, seductively drawing you by its palms and waterbodies. As a photographer-traveller, this sight of a patch of sand that would qualify as a badly moulded quadrilateral having water on its either long sides, surrounded by the green palms slanting in the distance. The trees were leaning and wanting to stretch out to you, welcoming you to the place. You wonder many things at that very moment. You see yourself in the fresh water lagoon, as a respite from the searing sun, you see yourself frolicking by the Arabian sea, as each wave brings with it an energy that you willingly surrender to as it pushes you to the coast. You are not there yet, but mentally you are already in the water. The body craves for being in sync with the mind, and I rush, pacing my steps down the hill faster.
I spot a beautiful shack, as I make my way down, and I pause a bit to feel what kind of a view that would be to wake up to. In off-season this patch of paradise could be lesser than the money I pay in surge-pricing on my Uber commute for a week. I mentally make the math and make a note to come back here in that precise cottage. Desire has a strange way to come back later in your life!
I leave you with some images of the beach, the lagoon that runs deep into the woods. I was not able to click any more inside the resort as its a private resort, and most day-trippers are rudely turned away by the staff of the resort. The scenes inside the resort as the lagoon meanders its way is even more beautiful, but sadly its a view that only people who opt to stay here can have. But till then, have a look at a slice of paradise.
Staying in Cola Beach
Cola Beach has a few beach huts facing the sea, on the hill. The two most noted ones are Cola Beach Resort and Blue Lagoon Resort. Most prices are above 6000 INR a night. It’s seen as a place for couples who come here to mate in the anonymity that a few places like this in Goa can offer. If you are looking for private stretches of sand to sunbathe or to just lie down without being troubled by hawkers or gawkers, this is the place to be.
Don’t go and tell everyone about this place. There are way too many Indians who spoil beaches in Goa, coming with an alcohol bottle in hand, in search of the mythical nude beach that exists on google searches. They come, gawk and stare at people in beach beds in frustration of not finding what they come for.
Do keep in mind that unless you are staying here, you cannot have access by the sides of the palms inside the resort area. The folks here who run these huts are haughty and rude, and it can leave behind a trace of anger in paradise. I hear that this area has a lot of insects at night, but this is paradise so there are some compromises to be made.
Getting to Cola Beach
If you are coming from north Goa or Panjim or Majorda, all roads converge at Assolna and then to Betul, where you pass the Mayfair resort and you stop at Khola/Cola Village. Its a bumpy kilometre of walking from there after leaving your Car/Bike at the village in some of the open spaces there. Its necessary to have fit people in your group, otherwise it might be tough to get here. The trek by itself is not very steep, but its more exertion than a normal city walk in the plains.
If you are coming from Agonda, Palolem or even more south Goa, you need to come to the lagoon near Agonda to Cola’s hill top where you keep your vehicles and come down in a mountain trek to the beach, like I did
Other Media on Cola Beach
Sankara Subramaniam talks about how one jump from the little sandbar could take you either in the lagoon or the Arabian Sea.
Rachel Jones, from the popular blog ‘Hippie in Heels’ talks about her experience as a digital nomad, who heard about snakes in the vicinity, and also the fact that Wifi and Air conditioning are non-working entities, which can kind of put a huge road block for digital nomads looking to work from a location.
A blogger mentions that day-trippers can see the place, by opting for the INR 300 per hour paddling in the canoe. I wish I had known that.
Things to do in Agonda (Near Cola)
If you are looking to know more about Agonda itself and what one can do around, do refer my earlier travelogue on Agonda
Part-1(Where I wake up to couples kissing and settle down in Jar-dim-a-Mar)
Part-2 (Where I take a walk around Agonda beach’s structures and characters)
Part-3 (Where I take a morning boat in the Arabian see and spot dolphins and check out Honeymoon Island)
Part-4 (Where I relax in the ‘Castaway’ comforts of Butterfly Island)
Our little documentary on the Covelong Surf Festival is all set to release in November. The festival was conducted in August, and was getting sewn up in the edit room all this long. Here’s a little trailer and a couple of images. Let us know how you found it!
This little series explores Sri Lanka through its beaches. A day out at the beach along the Dehivala-Galle line shows up some beautiful sights. Join in me in my experiences in Sri Lanka
I observed the boys playing cricket and it was beautiful observing the kids playing by the sea. Every now and them, their shots had an audience in a moving train full of passengers. This was the rail from Galle to Colombo, steaming in to the city, at the outskirts of Colombo (Dehiwala)
I found some grass to rest myself and spare myself from the searing sun. Beyond the grasslands, I found a structure that was closed and had no one, so I went ahead and rested by the pillars watching the Lankan shirtless kids sweat it out by the sea.
Behind me, there were a few boats on which the couples started to converge. Some on the boat, some behind it and they seemed to enjoy the anonymity of the Poya day. The whole city had shut down, and they were left to themselves to spend some intimate moments under the umbrella, while the cricket continued with little audience interest. Pretty much like how ‘Test Cricket’ at grounds, run in most parts of the world on week days!
Post mid-day, I had grown bored of watching the kids play and miss at the cricket, watching couples explore each other and watching the sea that was threatening to come inland and disturb the 2 games going on at the beach. The cricket and the love continued unabated.
I said good bye to the boys, the grasslands and from a distance, saw the another set of couples spending time with each other, before I retired to the main road of Mount Laviniya. I had travelled about 3 kilometres on beach since morning and had documented almost every thing that happened on the beach the whole day, after I had started out from my hostel(Adikaram Sea View Hostel)
But the stray coconuts probably watch things unfolding on the beach better than me. The coconut probably knows all of the gossips happening between people and objects by the sea. There’s infact an interesting blog in French Polynesia by that name, called Coconut Radio which says that “In French Polynesia when gossip is passed along from person to person we call it the coconut radio”. I had just played the Coconut Radio for Sri Lanka on Poya Day. I enjoyed it in silence, when I reminisced the day that just happened.
How often do you dream of seeing an azure blue sea, as you travel beside it? I loved the thrills of being on the Galle-Colombo railway line in Sri Lanka, right beside the Indian Ocean. It was surreal and scary at the same time. It looked like the train was travelling on the ocean, since the height of the train window above the sea, was not so high. In India, I have been to Rameswaram, where the drive into Mandapam over the Pamban rail bridge is equally surreal but the height gives it away. The feeling is not quite the same as the train in Sri Lanka.
The closest, I have been to seeing something at a similar level, though with very little water was on the rail line from Madgaon to Vasco in India, as the train nestles through Majorda, there emerges a little patch of beach, by which the lower tides of the Arabian Sea surface up near the railway line.
Is there any railway line that you have seen lately, that you would like to share? Do let me know.
This little series explores Sri Lanka through its beaches. A day out at the beach along the Dehivala-Galle line shows up some beautiful sights. Join in me in my experiences in Sri Lanka
Seize The Day
I woke up very pleasantly, with the chill morning breeze which waded through my windows. It was a happy kind of a feeling, considering the fact that I was forced to remove my shirt a few hours back, on account of sweating in the night in my hostel room. The fact that sweating of the night had given way to a breezy day, felt nice. There were subliminal signals given to the brain to go and wake up and seize the day. ‘SEIZE THE DAY’- or so I thought, until my host at the Adikaram Sea View hostel told me that it was Poya day and I should not expect to find any shops open in Colombo. I quicky had the last pieces of milk bread in the fridge, by firing them up in the toaster. Some Bread, Butter and Jam later, I found myself running across the little lane from the hostel to the beach. It felt like a bolt of freedom crashing against the waves of the Indian Ocean, a welcome respite from the fan cooled 300 INR a night hostel room.
The morning walk by the sea, showed me the beautiful Colombo skyline , which was near empty, as whole of the city was observing Poya day. One day of the month (Full Moon day). The locals visit temples, avoid meat and alcohol and businesses and banks are closed. So I decided to walk to the other side of the beach.
I saw a bottle kept upside down right into the beach. I marked my spot and kept my spectacles near it, to go into the sea and feel the waves. After lounging for a while in the waters in my near myopic blinded state, I came out and saw a bunch of kids, using the bottle as a stump at the bowlers end. My spectacles lay buried in the footmarks that the bowlers had created.
They had quite a bit of southpaws trying to clobber balls into the ocean. Deep Midwicket usually between 2 waves and more often than not could not quite go after balls that came his way. The stumps on both the ends were just objects put into the mud. The Lankans were playing Cricket the Carribean way. Shirtless and full tosses by the sea.
Then I saw order restored. I finally saw a right hander coming into bat. Kalu and Sanath maybe! Or maybe I was old, trying to come with Kalu and Sanath, in the times of Mahela, Sanga and Dilshan. After a while, staying at the beach, between the oscillating rain and bright sun, made me search for a place I could sit and watch the beach cricket from.
Given its a beach, the most natural protection from the weather was behind the bushes. I found one amidst the greens and settled there. The bushes were at the far end of the beach and were closer to the village that was separated by the railway track that led to Dehiwala station and Mount Lavinia. This is the same railway line that connects Colombo to Galle, with amazing vistas of the sea right by the railway track.
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