Saturday, 22 October 2016

Udupi On Foot - Laid Back & Organized

Introduction

Udupi is a small city on the Karnataka coast famous for three things: the cuisine, the Krishna Mutt and the Manipal Institutes. We explored this neat and beautiful place during the Diwali season; it was pretty much non-festive though. The plans were to be based in Udupi and explore some places close by, but the intermittent rains meant that we had to ditch other plans and focus on Udupi for a good two days. What that lead to was a steady liking for the place and now a latent wish to 'settle down' there in the future.

The expanse of the Krishna Mutt ...
... the Chariots on the left and Madhav Pond in the foreground


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The Untouted Bus Stop

It was 5:30pm on the day of the Diwali Padva (new year) by the time we got down from the bus at the Udupi Bus Station - the upper one where the intercity buses halt - merely two and a half hours from the bustling tourist centre of Murudeshwara. It was already a long day. We had left early in the morning from Haldipur (near Honnavar), traveled up north to Gokarna and then back south again to Murudeshwara via Idgunji; with me chatting with the driver and making mental note of places to cover the next time I'm in the vicinity. We left our cab at Bhatkal, near Murudeshwara and boarded a bus for the temple town of Udupi.

 
Kasarkod beach near Honnavar
 
 
 The highway near Gokarna

The Murudeshwara Temple
 
 The coastline at Murudeshwara
 
The first thought that crossed my mind as I alighted the bus with a trolley bag was 'beware of the touts'. To my utter surprise there were none. Nor were there any rickshaw drivers or cabbies jostling to get a fare to the temple or a hotel nearby. It was a well organised bus stop - buses in line, conductors beckoning by shouting the route names - and clean too. We asked for directions to the Krishna Mutt and were happily directed. We then asked if we could get a hotel there and were happily told that you will get dozens near the Mutt - no jostling, no touting and no 'helping'.

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Overcoming The Language Barrier

The language was a bit of a problem. Not everyone was conversant in Hindi or English and the only Kannada I speak are the words 'innage Kannada gothilla' (I can't speak Kannada). The simplest way to overcome the hurdle was to focus on key-words and avoid long sentences. The conversation with a shopkeeper to ask for directions to the Mutt went as follows:

Me: Excuse me, Krishna Mutt? (note the lack of a proper question, marginally raised eyebrows suggest well)
Shopkeeper: A#@#!^$ straight, @*#&^* tree, #@%%# left, @#%$^#, Corporation Bank, right, #@%@$ School, #@%#@% left, @#%@%# straight Tempalla!

It worked - Straight > tree > left > Corporation Bank > right > School > left > straight to the Mutt. In less than five minutes, without the need to ask anyone again, we were on a street where straight ahead we could see the tower of the Mutt.

Here we decided to look for a place to stay. We entered the first place we saw, liked the room, liked the rate (written on a chart at the reception) and booked it straight away. The place is called Vyavhar Lodge (Vyavhar translates to business in Marathi and Konkani) and is a very straight-forward place - simple and hospitable without pretense.

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The Krishna Mutt

The Krishna Mutt was established by Shri Madhawacharya in the 13th century. Since then, it has been a major centre of learning for the Vaishnavite sect. The main Mutt is surrounded by eight sub-Mutts which take turns in managing the main Mutt. We arrived at the Mutt darshan amid a slight drizzle. The inside of the Mutt was really beautiful, especially with the Diwali diyas lighted up on all available spaces.

The Krishna Mutt at Night
 
Ratha (Chariot) outside the Mutt

We again visited the Mutt on the next morning - this time the guys were supposed to enter without any clothes on the upper body. Apparently, before the daily Mahapooja, male devotees have to bare their upper body inside the Mutt. After the Mutt, we visited the other two old stone temples - Chandramouleshwar and Ananteshwar - next to it. It is worth mentioning that there was hardly any commotion in the premises of the Mutt and the temples as is typical of other temple towns. The atmosphere all around was of religious tranquility with the drizzle further adding to the beauty. The number of people here was a bit higher than the previous day.

 Early morning drizzle outside the Mutt

One of the eight sub-Mutts surrounding the main Mutt

A Chariot against the clouds

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The Genesis Of The Masala Dosa

The rain had apparently picked up in the night. It was drizzling by the time I got up the next day. It was now time for the big one - breakfast at Mitra Samaj. Mitra Samaj is a small hotel on the Ratha Beedi (Car Street - a circular street outside the Mutt, called so because of the chariots procession follows this route) and is supposed to be the genesis of all the Udupi hotels that dot the various streets of India. The masala dosa (notably prepared without using without onion or garlic) and the filter coffee were a delight! Mitra Samaj remains closed on Wednesdays.

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Rain, Street Strolls and Food

The plan was to cover some of the nearby places was dropped immediately due to the rains. This included the Kapu beach too - something which I wanted to cover. The immediate plan however was to find a place to have lunch - non veg, Udupi style. We left the hotel, walked up to the bus stand, then took a random street, then another in a bid to explore the other corner of the city and then two more streets later we were back at the Mutt. Overall 45 mins walking in circles. Bored, looked up on the internet for suggestions, and found a place on the other corner - the way that passed next to our hotel - and then walked up to it, again asking for directions. Another 15 mins and we were there. The place was called Thamboolam (Kannada word for 'pan'). The food was good, and just marginally different when compared to the typical Malvani cuisine.

Something existed here
 
T. R. E. E.

Then it was back to the hotel. Another walk. A bit of rest and then back for an evening stroll - window shopping this time. By 7pm it was time to try another of Udupi's specialties - Gadbad ice-cream, originally conceived at Diana's Cafe. Gadbad is essentially a mash-up of 3 types of ice-creams, jelly, fruits and dry-fruits stacked in a tall glass. Good fun!

 The Jamia Masjid against the twilight

 'Gadbad'

 Random shrine on the road

Lanterns outside the Krishna Mutt

A walk to and from Diana's took about 45 mins. A light and early dinner at Woodland's restaurant followed after which it was time to unwind. A stroll along the Ratha Beedi, then back to the hotel and tucked in bed. The next day again followed a similar itinerary - breakfast at Mitra Samaj, darshan at the Mutt, stroll around the city and light lunch at Woodlands.

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The Impressions

We had covered most of the city on foot in the forty odd hours we were there. The ambiance of the place is just lovely - laid back, relaxed and most importantly civilized! People followed the traffic lights and lane discipline, the buses halted in the correct demarcated areas, no road rage, no undue noise. Walking here was a pleasure indeed.


After all this it was time to bid this lovely place goodbye and head back to Mumbai.

The train station of Udupi
 
 View from the train ... goodbye!

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© One Of The Road

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