Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Great Escape Water Park

I had a good time at The Great Escape Water Park, near Mumbai, recently. The place is located about 60 kms outside Mumbai, off the Mumbai - Ahmedabad National Highway, on the route to Vajreshwari.

The place has 3 large pools, one of which was not functional the day we visited. Of this, one of the pools is for adults, with about 6 water slides. The second is more for children, with kiddie slides. However, both the pools had a mix of adults and children, all having a good time. In addition, there is a DJ who continuously belts out the latest hits, with all time favourites.

In addition to the slides, the place offers breakfast, lunch, and evening snacks, along with snacks in between. The food was uniformly good. For Rs. 350 all inclusive for adults, and Rs. 250 for children, the place offers great Value for Money.

A few observations:
1. There were hardly any takers for most of the rides. Either the visitors were not very adventurous, or they were more keen to just laze around in the pool. If the latter were the case, then I am amazed that people were willing to travel for a couple of hours, and spend good money, just for time in the water!
2. The adult pool was too shallow. It had to be so, because a lot of children were in the pool. So one can't blame the park authorities, but it does take away from the experience.
3. It was heartening to see a lot of greenery within and around the park. Let's hope it stays that way.

This was my second experience of a water park. The first was at Mehsana, Gujarat, near Ahmedabad, about 10 years ago. It was quite surreal to see this water park, in the middle of nowhere, in a dry, dusty environment. The place was not very crowded, but I don't remember if I visited on a weekday or weekend. I wonder if the place is still functional...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Details and photos of our Ladakh trip

We flew in to Leh from Delhi with Air Deccan. In addition to Air Deccan, Jet Airways and Indian Airlines also fly on this route. All the flights are in the early morning, so we had to spend the night at Delhi airport.

We had booked ourselves at the Hotel Shambha La, in Leh. This is one of the more expensive hotels in Leh, situated about 2 kms from the centre of the town. Our room looked a bit worn, and definitely not worth the amount we were paying. The food and service was quite good. However, after resting for a couple of days to recover from altitude sickness, we moved out to a far cheaper Guest House, right in the middle of town.

I strongly recommend 'Khan Mansil Guest House', for travelers looking for a mid range place to stay in Leh. The rooms are clean, the family very helpful, and the location central. It is a no frills place, but well worth the money we paid.

There are quite a few good eating options in Leh town. However, being the end of the tourist season, many of the places were closing down. I would recommend Pizza de Hut and Leh View restaurants. There is also a Tibetan family run small restaurant at the corner opposite 'Aluya' restaurant, which I believe, stays open the entire year. We also spent a fair bit of time at the Desert Rain Cafe. A very relaxed place, which serves a good variety of teas and coffees.

Getting around is expensive. We did not try the local bus service, but hired a taxi to get around. Our first day trip was to Hemis and Thikse monasteries, and Stok and Shey palaces. These 4 places can be covered in about 8 hours, which gives you an hour at each place, and an hour for lunch. Our second day trip was to Alchi temples, Likir monastery, and Basgo fort ruins. On the way, we saw the confluence of rivers Indus and Zanskar, and magnetic hill. The latter is a very interesting phenomenon where our idle car gets pulled up an incline, due to the influence of a hill across the road! Again, this trip can be covered comfortably in 8 hours. However, there are hardly any decent eating options along the road, so it is recommended that one has a heavy breakfast, and carry some snacks for the trip.

Our third, and final, day trip was to Pangong Tso. Tso means lake in the local language, and this lake is a beauty. It is situated on the border with China, so ones needs a permit to visit this place. Any Guest House / Travel agent can
arrange this permit. It is a 4 hour drive one way to the lake, and the road crosses Chang La. At 17,800 feet (5,340 metres), this is the third highest motorable road in the world!

But the lake is well worth the time, effort (and money!) to reach. The waters of the lake shine green and blue in the sunlight, reflecting the mountains all around. The lake is long and narrow, with one third in India, and the rest in China (Tibet). Again, being the end of the tourist season, the staff at the small restaurant there were packing up to leave that same day, but they still managed to rustle us up some Maggi noodles.

I have uploaded some photos at Flickr. You can view them here.