Hotel Hemala – an overnight stay

After deciding to stop at Karur, we had to make sure we got a decent hotel to stay for the night. I had tentatively chosen Hotel Hemala and was told that they had a basic non-AC room available. This was reasonably cheap (Rs. 1300), but I was skeptical about how good a rest we would get in it. If it was not good, we would just have to drive to Dindigul or look at other hotels.

Google Maps found the place with ease even though it was at a very small corner of 2 streets. The first thing we realised was that parking was on the street. They did have a security guard though and we hoped our car would be safe. We walked to the reception and the polite receptionist also mentioned they had a fairly expensive Executive Room for Rs. 3500. Since this was the last room he offered a discount and feeling tired we took it. The bellboy helped us with our luggage after an easy check in and we soon entered a massive room. We were very happy as it looked extremely clean and comfy. After more than 4 hours of driving this was great!IMG_20150926_203038

The room had a big bed and two seating areas. There was a TV and enough storage spaces. There was a kettle with the usual supplies of coffee powder, tea bags and milk powder. The bathroom was spacious too and very clean. The airconditioner was effective and not too loud. After a quick wash, we went to the restaurant which was not big but had enough seating without being cramped. The service was very friendly and the food we ordered was served hot and quite good. TheIMG_20150926_203121y even gave JJ a balloon to keep him entertained. The menu was good and well priced.

We walked back to our room. some sections of the corridor are narrow but there is a central large area and some seating corners. We literally crashed out on the comfortable bed. Even though there was a heavy downpour of rain and some traffic outside, the room was quiet. I woke up once in the night as there was a power cut. When it didnt come back after 15 minutes, I called reception. They sent a maintenance guy and he fixed something and all was well within a few minutes. The rest of the night was undisturbed.

We woke up refreshed and after a hot shower went back to the restaurant for a sumptuous breakfast. The service was friendly again. We lugged our baggage back to the car (which was safe on the street side) and checked out with no dramas and soon were on the highway.IMG_20150927_072309

Overall we are glad we chose Hemala as it offered us a very good nights rest and comfortable stay even though we spent a little more than we expected. But the huge, clean room and very friendly service were definitely worth it. Our vacation is now off to a great start!

I’ve given my official TripAdvisor review here: https://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g1841213-d1458254-r313901157-Hotel_Hemala-Karur_Tamil_Nadu.html

 

 

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Hitting the highway

My route would be Vellore – Krishnagiri – Dharmapuri – Salem – Namakkal – Karur – Dindigul. I doubted I could push myself further before an overnight halt. If it went really well, we could go all the way to Theni. I picked 4 possible overnight hotels which were decent.

If we left too late we would only manage to get to Salem. Park Plaza was on the highway and although a bit pricey would be a good overnight halt. If not it was a good place for coffee or dinner depending on the time we passed by. Since it was on the highway it would mean not venturing into Salem and thus save us time (and fuel).

Karur was a potential overnight halt – I looked at Hotel Hemala. They had a basic room available as they were sold out and told me they would block it for me.

If we made it to Dindigul I had looked at PVK Grand which was only a short detour from the highway. They had plenty of rooms. Parsons Court was the other option although it meant going all the way into Dindigul

WesternGatz was the optioDSC_5121n at Theni if we managed to drive all the way there, but it was unlikely.

Being on call on thursday and friday night meant that I was too tired to leave at lunch on Friday. So I decided to have a nice nap after an early lunch and leave whenever I felt well rested. So instead of 1 PM we prayed and carried the baggage to the car after 4 PM. We tentatively planned a coffee break at Salem if needed and a stop at Karur or Dindigul .

We hit the highway within a couple of kilometres from home and were soon zooming away westwards. We pulled in to the closest gas station to checDSC_5120k tire pressures – I forgot to check the tire pressure in the spare tire! The highway was a comfortable six lane smooth road and the traffic was very much manageable. I loved the smooth ride which was a stark contrast to the rough and lousy roads in Vellore. We decided to depend on Google Maps for navigation.

The Hyundai Xcent Automatic is a 4-speed automatic with a somewhat light steering. There is no overdrive and hence highway rides are smooth, but not exciting. For most of todays drive there was no need to accelerate to overtake as I could just choose which lane I wanted to be in. The light steering felt a little nervous oDSC_5122nce I crossed 100 KMPH nd I largely kept the speed below this. This stretch of the highway which goes to Bangalore was lightyears better than the same highway which we used to drive to Chennai.

The scenery included some majestic mountain views and a fabulous sunset. We almost missed the turnoff to Salem but noticed it in the last second. We were closing in on Park Plaza, Salem but felt too energetic and happy to stop for a break. The drive through Salem outskirts was slow with traffic and traffic lights but not stressful. We enjoyed watching a biker group zoom and stop in full gear.

The next stretch of the highway was almost as good but we had to maDSC_5123ke some confusing turns. Thankfully we didn’t get lost. Soon it was dark and traffic was not light. We would reach Karur before 9 PM definitely. Dindigul was at least an hour away from Karur. We decided to play it safe and chose to enter Karur for a stay at Hotel Hemala. I called them up again and they said they had two options for rooms to stay. It turned out to be a good decision.

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Getting the wheels ready

JJ calls our car GoGo. We really can’t change that now. Our Hyundai Xcent SX(O) Automatic has done only about 6000 km in the one year we have owned it. There have been a few highway runs to Chennai and back (about 130 km each way). Just over a year old and last serviced in June, I was quite sure that we would be safe and not run into any car trouble. However we decided to have a few things ready in case we ran into trouble:

51H3jAeirGLI bought the following things which I felt would be required in case of emergencies.

  • Tyre Inflator: I bought the Reqtech inflator via Amazon which was well reviewed in Team-BHP. At Rs. 999, I felt it was a good balance between reliability and being cost effective.
  • Tyre Puncture kit: I bought one from motocop a few months ago via SnapDeal and it has been unused. I threw it into the car for emergencies.
  • Car vacuum cleaner: I’d bought one online via SnapDeBlack and Decker car vacuum cleaneral (Black and Decker ACV1205) a few months ago and never used it. Threw it into the boot too to clean up all the messy crumbs my sone would leave inside the car. I hate eating in the car, but a long trip meant some amount of snacking would be done.
  • Jump Start Cable
  • Tow RopeCar stuff
  • Emergency beacon

The last 3 were through a website called jazzmyride. Therewas some problem in shipping the items. I almost gave up on them but they reached half an hour before we left! The website support team had pushed the courier to deliver it on time.The jumpstart cable looked ok and the tow rope felt strong. The emergency beacon/torch was very flimsy.

I got a boot organiser to put all the stuff in, threw in some new micro fibre towels and some glass cleaner. My sons car seat was washed and reattached.

I’d purchased Philips Extremevision headlamps but didn’t have the time to fix them. I carried them with me in case a lamp fused on the way. I debated seat covers, but gave up as there were very few options available in Vellore.

We filled up petrol and got the car cleaned on the morning of our planned trip. Looks like we are definitely good to go!

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The replanning

I saw light at the end of the tunnel as JJs mid term holidays started end of September. It gave us the chance to plan a holiday. I looked at some international destinations like Thailand and Indonesia, but Kerala beckoned again. Although we had lost a lot of money to non-refundable reservations, one of the places allowed me to replan at a later date and another place offered a free upgrade in the accommodation.

So it was back to the drawing board for us. One tempting thought kept popping back – why do we need a cab when we could do the drive ourselves? Google maps and a forum called team-BHP became my friends and routes and times were dissected out to see if it was possible. Although we had done plenty of road trips in Australia and New Zealand, I was a bit skeptical about driving in Indian roads (especially Kerala). I hated the traffic and reckless drivers and many times felt unsafe in the highways. But the temptation proved too much. Although I left the option of train trips and a cab open, my mind worked out the routes and the dates.

Then I scoured the web for great deals. Choosing a good resort among the hundreds of resorts available was like picking a needle in a haystack. We had decided on the Tall Trees Resort in Munnar as this is where we had our honeymoon. Cleartrip had a fantastic offer one evening and I grabbed it to book the place. GoIbibo had some discounts and I also had some vouchers from them which sorted out our stay in Kumarakom (including one night in a houseboat!). Greenwoods at Thekkady gave us accommodation using our deposit from our cancelled trip and  gave us the same discounted rate even though the rates had increased in the interim. We had one night of accommodation to work out and I planned a surprise for JJ. That left only transit overnight stays unbooked.

Looks like we are good to go!!

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Disappointed in April

April was an exciting time – it was my sons school holiday and we had taken  10 days off work. I scoured the internet and contacted many resorts and carefully planned a 6 day trip to Kerala – three nights at Munnar and two nights at Thekkady. We’d planned to start the trip from Kodaikanal and had booked a reliable cab to take us on this road trip. It had been more than a year since we had taken a good vacation and we desperately needed time off from work. I grabbed some great deals and after some hard bargaining, everything was ready – train and bus tickets, reservations, an extra car seat.

On our way to my parents home I realised my dad was unwell. Sadly it meant I had to take him to hospital and it turned out to be a 5 week admission in hospital. He slowly got better after 2 surgeries, but that meant our vacation fell apart. I lost some money in the reservations, cancelled tickets for a partial refund and spent nights in a hospital bed instead of having a vacation. While this tired me out, I was glad my dad could get back to life and home.

Work was busy and JJ started school. Lots of exciting times, but no vacation in sight. I still looked up Munnar and Thekkady and dreamt of a time when we could visit these lovely places again. Munnar was where we had our honeymoon and we were very keen on staying at the same resort we did 8 years ago.

I guess sometimes life doesn’t go the way you want it to. But I still believe that the only reason something doesn’t work out well is if there is something better awaiting. And so the wait for that “something better” started. Was it time to start planning again…… ?

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