Udagamandalam or Ooty is beautiful; it is as simple as that! Its slow and crowded at the same time. Yet it has something for everyone. You are amidst nature and commercialization in the same breath. Yet the place charms you.
Every season has its pros and cons; and I found November to be a good bet. The monsoon has receded and the tourist season is just beginning.
We reached Coimbatore around 10 am; had some grub and booked an Ola to Ooty. Outstation Ola is available only from Coimbatore to Ooty and not vice versa. Needless to say the local taxi services are more dominant. Its a ~2.5 hours drive but in our case it took a bit more. Reason, we stopped a couple of times where the network was available and my husband could join an official con call and access mails.
We reached RTOHH and checked into our room. We freshened up and decided to shop & explore the market place.Before stepping out we aligned a cab with help of the staff at the Holiday Home and based on his inputs aligned our itinerary. Broadly, Ooty tripping was slated for the next day and Coonoor with Nilgiri Toy train ride for day after.
Charring Cross is an intersection where one would find the popular shopping places and the beautiful landmark of Ooty, the Adam’s Fountain. The first thing we did was eat 🙂 So it was A2B (Adyar Ananda Bhawan) for Kara Paneeyaram, Podi Uthappam & Filter Coffee. Its a good place if you are looking for good food but no fancy ambience and menu.
I knew what I wanted to pick for myself and as gift/souvenir — the Pukhoor or Toda embroidery work. I took some time to resist temptation and finally settled for only a few pieces; a shawl, a stole, a muffler & a runner. I was really happy; many people are when they shop! I was very relaxed once I was through this purchase as it was on my priority list. Avoid buying them from shops instead opt for the cooperative society or Toda model hut at Botanical Garden.
A little trivia about the Toda handicraft: Todas are Dravidian ethnic group who live in the Nilgiri Mountains in Tamil Nadu. The embroidery is done by the Toda women with red & black woolen thread over white, off white or ivory cotton cloth. The weave looks striking and beautiful. Their work is GI registered.
From there we strolled down the market lanes checking what was being sold and tried some locally produced tea & street food. We also went looking around for books in the oldest bookstore of Ooty, the Higginbotham’s.
Trivia on Higginbotham’s: The first bookstore is in Chennai and it is India’s oldest bookshop (1844). The book store was established by an English librarian named Abel Joshua Higginbotham. Apparently, it was the largest bookstore in India until the 1990s.
We had our dinner at the RTOHH and retired to bed. The next day I woke up early and went for a stroll around the property and its green patch. After breakfast we were all set to enjoy the Queen of Southern Hill Stations, Ooty.
Our first destination was Doddabetta, the highest mountain in the Nilgiri range. ‘Dodda’ means ‘big’ and ‘betta’ means ‘hill’ in Kannada. The peak is surrounded by Shola forests. The drive to the peak is beautiful.
The mist surrounded us, thus we could not see the beautiful landscape around it. There was some drizzle too so we could not explore the area around. This in no way dampened our spirit as the charm of hill stations is in its cool mist and freshness. In between we managed to get view of some places. The Chamundi Hills, the beautiful blue mountains & valleys of Niligiri, forests of Bandipur National Park, plains of Coimbatore and the flat highlands of Mysore are visible from this point. You can imagine the spectacular landscape view on a clear day!
There is a Telescope House there which had no telescope 🙂 I found that place slightly suffocating with a makeshift pantry in the bottom emitting oil fumes mixed with food smell…….. heady for me.
We drove down to the Dodabetta Tea Factory, and since we had seen the tea processing at Kanan Devan tea museum in Munnar we took our wrist tag for only shopping. We picked up white & green tea leaves, the eucalyptus, camphor & wintergreen essential oil the place produces in plenty and assorted chocolates for self, friends & family. We loitered outside the factory as the sky was much clearer and what lay in front of us was a brilliant panoramic view of the town. There are some adventure activities too which one can indulge in.
We took a lunch break and moved on to the enchanting Government Botanical Garden thereafter. In my view one visit does not do justice to it. Established & designed in the mid 19th century by the Scottish garden architect William Graham McIvor, it is spread over ~22 hectares and brilliantly landscaped. The lush greenery with splashes of bright colors held my attention for long. I can feel the spring in my step and joy in heart when I am surrounded by nature. This is how I felt then too.
The garden is seamlessly divided into sections like the Japanese garden, lower garden, new garden, Italian garden, glass houses, fountain terrace, nurseries, arboretum and Toda Mund. The lawns are a green carpet of springy grass and you immediately get transported to the Bollywood songs that were shot in Ooty.
The annual Garden competition & Flower Show (first one happened way back in 1869) are held here in the month of May; and to me the garden looked ever ready for one. There is not a view without a floral and/or green delight. In the center of the garden is a tree trunk fossil which is ~20 million years old. It is a haven for people who love nature, indulge in gardening and have a keen interest in plant kingdom. Yes for bird watchers too! The further in you go, more peace there is and you can spot some interesting birds in this nature abundant serenity. One needs to keep in mind the bird watching timings though to make the most of it.
I wish I could stay there longer. but alas! We moved on to the unique Thread Garden* from there; an artificial hand made garden that never wilts. Its an interesting and one of its kind exhibit, but the infrastructure needs to be better. This can happen with support of relevant bodies as it is a tourist attraction. A unique technique known as ‘four dimensional hand wound embroidery’ is used to make the plants in this garden.
The brain behind this life-like garden is Antony Joseph and what we see is the painstaking efforts of his team of 50 women & himself. It took them 12 years to offer to the world this exclusive handmade garden. Antony and his artificial garden have a place in many books of records like the India Book of Records, Tamil Nadu Book of Records and Unique World Records (The First Thread Garden in the World).
The Ooty Boat House is bang opposite the Thread Garden. It is an artificial lake constructed by John Sullivan, in 1824. We spent some time there enjoying the chilly breeze and munched some snacks at the eatery there. We did not indulge in boating as we both did not feel like. Instead we just sat there soaking in the surrounding. The rush to the place is maddening and I guess one can give it a miss if they have done these water rides elsewhere.
We visited the Charring Cross once again the next evening (on returning from Coonoor) to pick up the famous Chamraj tea for a family member and have our last dinner in Ooty at the Nahar Sidewalk Cafe.
That’s Ooty we explored in 24 hours or less than one and a half day.
You may like to read about our experience of Coonoor, Isha Yoga Centre & Adiyogi:
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Monika Ohson | TravelerInMe