On my last weekend in India, I went to Ooty with Mark and Jenny. Ooty is about 300km from Bangalore, it locates in the Nilgiri region, which is highest mountain in South India. The temperature is much cooler than Bangalore, I almost feel like I am in Vancouver. The Nilgiri is famous for tea plantation and its beautiful scenery.
We don’t want to take any days off from work, so itinerary of the trip is tightly packed. We left work on Friday and drove to Mysore to stay over a night. The next morning, we woke up at 4:30a.m. to see wild life in the Bandipur Nation Park, which is on the way to Ooty. There are only two time slot per to see wild animals, either in dawn or in dust. Animals will no roam around in the afternoon to avoid the baking sun. We were smart enough to make reservation, we couldn’t get on the jeep tour. We could only join the lame bus tour. I was looking forward to see some wild tiger in action. I end up only seeing herds of deers, bisons, a few elephants and a peacock opening its tail. Since there ain’t much to see, we left the national park at 8a.m. and continue our journey.
We arrived at Ooty after 2 hours of ride on a scenic route. After having a brunch, we check in to our hotel. Without doubt, the resort hotel in Ooty is the best hotel I have stayed in India. It is modified form an grand manor from the Colonial days. The resort is located up in the mountain, over looking the tea farms and villages in the valley down below. We probably got the previous master bedroom, it is a suite with a huge living room, bedroom, walk-in closet and toilet. The view from our room’s front door is pretty remarkable. It leads to a garden with the valley view. It almost feels like a scene in a movie that you can get up, open the door and take a breath of fresh mountain air and enjoy the view.
We took a cycling tour in the afternoon. The tour is fun and exciting. The cruising the country road among the tea farms is pretty relaxing. Pass through the Ooty town center is quite an unique adventure. Riding among the tuck-tucks and crazy Indian traffic is as exciting as roller coaster. The ride is one way down hill, we took a tuck-tuck back to the hotel when we reach the bottom of the valley. Jenny does not know how to ride a bicycle, so she ride on the back sat of the motorbike of the tour guide. I wonder which one is more scary in Indian traffic , cycling in down hill or riding on the back of a motorbike without helmet. We hop on the car and visited a few other tourist spots in Ooty after cycling tour, but none of them worths any mentioning.
We went to the major tourist attraction in Ooty is the Nilgiri toy train next morning. The toy train is the steepest rail in Asia running on narrow gauge. It links Ooty, which is at the top of the mountain, to the town at the foot of the mountain. The train ride is about 2 hours to the Coonor, which is half way in the mountain. Once again, we forgot to make any reservation, but this time it turns out to be a wonderful experience. We bought the unserved coach class ticket from the ticket counter and have to line up and ride the train with other Indians. Luckily we manage to get window seats but riding coach class it is totally different from riding first class.
The ticket is really cheap, only Rs 5 (about 10 cents CAD$), it is probably the cheapest transportation I ever had. We joke that the 2 hours train ride is even cheaper than walking for 2 hours if you take the wear and tear of your shoes into account. The beauty of view along the rail line beyond description of words or photos. I guess not even a high definition video camera can capture its aura, the only way to fully appreciate the experience is to take the toy train in person. The view looks so nice that I could even fool some one say the photos are taken in Europe.
Nilgiri region is famous for its tea plantation. No one would leave Ooty without visiting the tea factory and tea musuem, and buy some tea as gifts for friends back home. The tea factory tour is quite very educational. I learned how tea is made from newly picked tea leave to ready to brew tea bags. The souvenirs shop is a bit let down, although the tea are nicely packaged, I am sure those tea are not the top quality.
The ride form Ooty to Bangalore is long and boring, we arrived the guest house late at night. I slept through most of the way, so except the occasion urge for washroom break, the long ride does not bother me much. This week’s Ooty trip and last week’s Hampi trip really changes my impression of India. When I first arrive, the mess in Bangalore already gave me a very bad impression. The Goa trip didn’t count because it is a tourist town tailored for foreigners. My visit to New Delhi and Arga further confirm my impression. Taj Mahal is very neat, but it’s from the India three centuries ago, I only see annoying hawkers, garbage piled villages and Hindu temples with stupid rules in my trip. The final straw is the Mysore trip in which we got ripped off not once by twice. I decide I will never trust any Indian strangers and nothing in Indian is interesting even to worth a visit. However, after I met the simple villagers and see th ebeautiful scenery in Hampi and Ooty, my impression is changed. I think India is still some what worth traveling, just you have to stay away form those tourist traps.