Vizag

Call it The City of Destiny or The jewel of the East Coast, Visakhapatnam is a busy seaport, district headquarters and an industrial city. Nestled among the hills of the Eastern Ghats and facing the Bay of Bengal, Vizag as it is fondly called is also the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command of the Indian Navy. This clean and impressive city has a broad network of roads and is connected by frequent buses to other cities in Karnataka.
Among tourist attractions are the beautiful RK Beach and Rushikonda Beach. From RK Beach can be seen a prominent landmark of Vizag, the Dolphins Nose which is a huge rock shaped like a dolphins snout. The INS Kunsura, on Beach road is a Submarine museum-one of its kind in South East Asia. Kailashagiri hilltop park facing the Bay of Bengal offers a panoramic view of Vizag city. The Indira Gandhi Zoological Park has a unique moonlit section where simulated night time environment enables visitors to observe activities of nocturnal animals during the day.
A few hours travel from Vizag is Araku Valley, a hill station known for its gardens, valleys, waterfalls and streams. The one-million-year-old limestone caves at Borra with magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Though Vizag is connected with many Indian cities by air and very recently has been made an international airport. It is one of the major cities connected by the Golden Quadrilateral system of Indian highways. It is well connected by railways to major cities across the country.
Best time to visit: November to January
Languages Spoken: Vizag is predominantly Telugu-speaking, many residents also speak English and Hindi, which facilitates communication between tourists and local people.
Climate: Moderate climate throughout the year
Parks and Beaches: Rushikonda Beach, RK Beach, Tenneti Beach Park, Kailashagiri hilltop park, VUDA park, Indira Gandhi Zoological park
Knowledge Centres: Submarine Museum(one of its kind in East Asia), Visakha Museum, Matsyadarshini Aquarium
Natural Wonders: Araku Valley, Borra caves
Holy Places: Simhachalam Temple

Lammasingi, Andhra’s Kashmir

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Lammasingi (लम्मसिंगी) or Lambasingi (लम्बसिंगी) as the tribals call it, is a tiny hamlet nestling on a ridge at an altitude of 2600 above sea level in the Eastern Ghats, a little over a 100 kilometres to the west of Vizag. It was an unknown, remote tribal settlement till a discovery was made which stripped the place of its anonymity and earned it the sobriquet of “Andhra Kashmir”. A few years ago, weathermen found that it was the coldest place in Andhra, with night temperatures occasionally dipping to sub-zero levels. This news was broadcast by TV channels and overnight, it became a popular tourist.

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Sankaram and Kotturu

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Andhra was a bastion of Buddhism for at least a thousand years. It was a centre of learning and Buddhism spread out to Sri Lanka and South East Asia through its ports. The stupas and monasteries provided the architectural models for the more famous Buddhist shrines in the rest of the world like the famous Borobodur in Indonesia. The Buddhist phase lasted for nearly a thousand years till the rise of Shaivism in the 7th century CE obliterated Buddhism from this region. It is sad that while these places attract visitors from all over the Buddhist world, Indians are not aware of the existence of these places.In this series, I am retracing the footsteps of those distant ancestors of mine.

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Hilltop monasteries on the seaside

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What Jawaharlal Nehru had said about India is equally applicable to my hometown, Visakhapatnam, better known as Vizag. It is a young city with a history that goes back to the prehistoric period. In this series, I shall revisit the footprints left on the sands of time in and around Vizag by the early Buddhists.

I shall start at Thotlakonda, a 130 metre high hillock overlooking the famed beaches of Vizag. The Buddhist settlement was accidentally discovered in 1988 by Naval personnel were carrying out an aerial survey for setting up some facility.

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Araku valley

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Araku is a picturesque tribal settlement in the Eastern Ghats, about 120 km to the north of the port city of Visakhapatnam a.k.a. Vizag, which also happens to be my hometown. For me, the drive is an end in itself, a mind-blowing experience as one navigates through umpteen hair-pin bends on a steep mountain road which snakes its way up the Eastern Ghats to an altitude of some 1200 metres above sea level. This is one of those road trips on which one does not feel like driving fast but prefer to gently cruise along the serpentine path, inhaling the pristine air and feasting on the visual candy being proffered so generously by Mother Nature.

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