Plantations de thé Coonoor
Train à Vapeur Ooty
Elephant depuis la route
Palais de Mysore éclairé

Nilgiris mountains, where Ooty stands as the most famous touristic spot were one of the last attractions of South India where we hadn’t put a foot. We knew the opportunity would show up eventually. So when our friends living in Malaysia visited us recently we thought they might be interested to get a chiller weather by climbing up to one of the famous “hill stations” of the Nilgiris, Coonoor.

Those “hill stations”, located around 2000m above sea level, were initially created by the British who couldn’t stand the heat of Madras (today Chennai) during the summer months. And altitude is indeeed having a great effect, temperatures are lower there and we even had the (smocky) pleasure to get a fire in our room’s fireplace for the night! By the way, we’re recommending the 180 McIver Villa for its English authentic architecture, its garden with a nice view and its restaurant serving delicious meals ranging from French to Indian.

More than the chillness and the Brit’s architecture, the two main local attractions are the tea plantations and… the famous “toy train“, one of the last running steam train in the world! The best part of the track is supposed to be between Mettupalayam and Coonoor but it’s difficult to book and the timing is quite unconvenient. So we finally boarded this train for the Coonoor to Ooty part which is still enjoyable as you’ll get to see the steam loco entering the station and getting out of it as it gives way to a Diesel one for the other part of the journey. Views from the train aren’t always amazing but the experience is quite unique in the small coaches where interactions with other passengers are always funny.

Once arrived in Ooty, we went down directly to Mysore, going through several wildlife reserves on the way, including Bandipur where we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of some wild animals from the road (including a couple of elephants with their baby!).

And for once, Mysore, didn’t bring us bad luck! We reached at the end of the day being able to enjoy the sunset from Chammundi Hills and even the fully lighted Mysore palace without planning it (we discovered later that it happens only once a week for one hour).

Sometimes it’s like that, everything goes smoothly!

Belle route du Karnataka
Plafond du temple de Lepakshi
En haut de Penukonda
Vue depuis le haut du fort de Chitradurga

It has been a while we wanted to be back on the road with our Bullet. We took advantage of a day off end of January to escape the city for the countryside, North of Bangalore. We have had identified two stop-over: Lepakshi temple 130 kms far from Bangalore and Chiradurga Fort 180 kms further.

We started our trip at 7h15 with 2 Bullets, yes, we were motivated! But something or someone didn’t want us to leave that early…. 10 minutes after our departure the gearbox of our friend’s Bullet broke down. At this time, it’s impossible to find a mechanic guy so we decided to continue without them and they’ll catch us later (we had to meet an other friend on the way). But 10 kms later our engine get suddendly stucked. A dosa later, our engine started again and after a quick service with our favourite mechanic, Noor in Indiranagar, we could star our trip again with our 2 bullets (meanwhile, our friends were also able to get their Bullet to be fixed).
This kind of situation doesn’t even surprise us anymore: we know how the Bullet can be unpredictable, it’s part of its charm…. And after these incidents, the 2 motorbikes went perfectly for 3 days.

Despite this late departure, we were able to visit Lepakshi the first day, where there is a wonderful temple with a well painted ceiling (the first time wa can see that in India) and a beautiful Nandhi Status (which is said to be the biggest in India). The day after, we went out of our planned route to see Penukonda where the remains of a fort and temple were supposed to be. We finally discovered a wonderful road with multiple hairpins over the valley. After crossing numerous villages, cotton fields, lakes, overloaded rickshaws on paved or unpaved roads we finished our trip visiting the nice Chitradurga fort.

Travelling on a motorbike always brings some surprises we just love: a magnificient road, a surpringly very good thali in a dusted city, smiles from the backs of the rickshaws, villages which seemed still stucked in the last century…. it’s like travelling in time and discovering an other India, infinite.

Sweet sweet Japan

03 Feb
by in Out of India

Portrait at the Izikaya
Tsujiki market
Forza scooter
Fire Matsuri
Bamboo forrest
Osaka view by night

Japaaan! it’s been a while we have been dreaming about it. Its culture, distinct way of life, food, minimal architecture, unlimited cities, unrest modernity, strange habits, strong and unique traditions, everything was dragging us to Japan. So, finding the last excuses possible (living in India is bringing us closer, it was our honey-moon, flight tickets were becoming cheaper, october is a good season), we left for two weeks to get a reality check for this country apart.

Contrary to other countries where the cultural shock can be a little bit unpleasant at first (yes India is one), Japan is so kind, organized, that it’s pretty smooth. What strickes right away when arriving in Tokyo was quite unexpected… quietness (we were also having a hotel-ryokan in residencial and a bit traditonnal neighborhood, Asakusa). Far away from the typical images of the electric atmosphere of Shibuya that we all have in mind, Tokyo, as all the Japanese cities, are a cluster of small neighborhood with tiny streets where people go about their daily life walking or cycling. We felt instantly at ease and quite at home there. We quickly developed some habits, going to the nearest konbini (small supermaket), found our best shortcuts to reach the subway station and exploring the hood’s restaurants. Oh, dear japanese restaurants by the way! other unlimited source of amazement. Food is always important to us when we’re travelling but in Japan, it’s taking a new dimension. It’s, at the same time, a living museum, a source of taste discoveries and a place to socialize with Japanese. If Japanese are very calm in the public space, they become alived in restaurants and the famous izakayas (sort of bars where you can also eat small plates).

So as you may have understood it, more than tourist attractions (which are not all very impressive and very crowded), what we really loved in Japan was this unique way of life, subtle, caring, perfectionist that all the Japanese are following like a single man.

Concerning the attractions and the route we followed: we used our “JR Pass” (unlimited train pass) to the maximum by going to the quiet (but emotionally charged) Hiroshima and the historic island of Miyajima, some 800 kms to the west of Tokyo. Then back towards Tokyo with some stops on the way to the artistic island of Naoshima (and its breathless Chichu Art Museum), Himeji castle (just a quick glance at its under renovation), the lively Osaka, the historic and green Nara and the iconic (but a bit rainy for us) Kyoto.

And for our second stay in Tokyo, we continued to explore the other part of the city, more modern around Shibuya, Shinjuku and Omotesando where we could realized our tokyoite fantasies: unrest shopping, gourmet restaurant, tiny bar, gamecenter and… karaoke cabin!

Just one small drawback, we’re still have this cold feeling when some restaurants didn’t allow us to enter their place because we were… foreigners (they were saying it was “sold out” but we know that wasn’t the real reason). Even if it’s done with a smile and the usual japanese courtesy, it’s strange and it hurts your feelings (we never had this anywhere else in the world).

Anyway, it won’t stop us to go back to the country of the rising sun!

Bonus: one small timelapse done in the automated metro reaching Odaiba’s island the middle of Tokyo’s bay:

And here is a wider photo selection on our Flickr:
- Tokyo
- Hiroshima – Miyajima – Naoshima
- Osaka – Nara – Kyoto

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Grandma and grandsonBanana plantation and hills near DoballapurTemple peoplePenukonda MahalCrowded rick!Penukonda MahalUbiquituous sight near Chitradurga, windmillsTravelers at the backThe great ceiling paintings of the templePause on topDam and big lake near ChitradurgaOvertakingChitradurga fort view from the topGoing down the serpentine unpaved roadWidening road the harsh wayTrippin'Goods at the backLepashi 7 snakes statue