Kodaikanal Trip Report

Our plan called for a three-night stay in Kodaikanal that included a day-trip to Berijam Lake. As it turned out, we had to skip the trip to Berijam Lake, as they were not giving permits to enter the area due to reconstruction of the road - normally, for a visit to Berijam Lake, one has to get a permit the previous day from the Forest Department Office (location - on the left as you approach Kodaikanal on Laws Ghat Road around 3KM before 7-roads junction) - some travel agents and hotel front desks can arrange this for you as well.

We had reservations at the Kodai Resort Hotel next to Coaker’s Walk. It is a good choice for families with children - there are play areas for kids (both indoors and outdoors) and the cottages have plenty of space and a huge balcony. They have around fifty cottages designed in such a way that all of them have good views on to their private garden area. Access to the balcony is from the living room by climbing a few stairs at the farthest corner. The cottages have a refrigerator, TV, and coffee maker along with hot water service from 6-11 AM and 6-11 PM. They do not have other amenities such as room-heater, AC, and lockers. They smoke the cottage at night-fall to deter mosquitoes and also offer a huge campfire in the private garden area (between 7:15 PM and 8:30 PM), weather permitting. The reception area in front is a heritage building dating back to 1888 with the rest of the cottages constructed in 1984. The included BF has a very good spread and variety every day. The restaurant is also good for lunch/dinner although there are better options within walkable distance, both in terms of quality and price. The location is good although it is not a lake-facing property: it is on the other side of a hill that faces the lake. For good lake view, one option is to go with the Carlton property which is a five-star facility - they have more amenities as well including a swimming pool. 



The Lake, Coaker’s Walk, and Bryant Park are all located very close to the hotel. Coaker’s Walk is a 1KM paved scenic walkway with sweeping views of the valley below. The one catch is that the area may get covered with fog obstructing the view - the best time to avoid the fog is between 5 and 6PM. There are street vendors and monkeys on the walkway. A word of caution - the monkeys are known to snatch food from visitors.  Bryant Park is adjacent to the Lake and you can enter the park from either the lake side or from just outside the entrance to Coaker’s Walk. It is a flower park with a large open area running through the middle - they have a large variety of roses and lilies - entrance is Rs 30.

The Lake is the main center of activity in Kodaikanal. There are three boat-houses (Kodaikanal Boat Club, Tamil Nadu Tourism Boat Club, and the Carlton Boat Club) spread around the 5.5KM Lake Road. The road is shared by city traffic, horses, and bicycles and so can get quite messy when crowded. The activities available at the lake include boating, horse riding, bicycling, jogging, and pea-shooting. A four-person pedal boat can be rented from the main boat house for around Rs 100/- for half-an-hour. Single-bike rentals go for as low as Rs 20 per hour to around Rs 40 per half-hour based on the condition of the bicycle. Also, duo-cycles are available starting at around Rs 50 - they are good fun, if you are going as a couple. Walking around the lake and jogging are also good options and there is a paved pathway covering the lake - although using the pathway is ideal for walking/jogging, it is sometimes more practical to just use Lake Road instead, as there are too many “obstacles” along the pathway. There are several street vendors around the lake and some of them offer games. The most popular option among them is “shooting” - the idea is to shoot balloons using an air-gun that use peas in-lieu-of pellets - pricing varies between Rs 10 for five rounds and Rs 30 for ten rounds - it is great fun, especially for kids.

Kodai is famous for home-made chocolates and that is a good shopping option to consider. The best, if pricey option is to go with Chocolate Factory (Anna Salai just off 7-roads junction a little up from Domino’s Pizza). They have a number of premium chocolates and also the ever-popular hot-chocolate (Rs 75) - they are melted chocolate served in a small cup - excellent dessert option. For authentic Indian handicrafts, Danish Display (Bazar Road off 7-Roads Junction) is a very good option - they have a good selection of jewellery and specialize in handmade craft made from Jute, Brass, Bronze, and Terracotta.

As far as moderately priced restaurants, the best options are Tava at 7-Roads Junction (below ground level) and Royal Tibet (Tibetan Bread and Honey Ginger Tea are not be missed) on the other side of the same road (PT Road). More uppity options include Cloud Street and Pot Luck, both on PT Road - they are both European style café’s that serve pastas, pizzas, and such. Astoria Vegetarian Restaurant (PT Road) and Rasoi (Annasalai) are other good options in the main city-center.




Related Posts:

  1. Kodaikanal Trip Report. 
  2. Short Trips From Kodaikanal. 

Last Updated: 01/2014. 

Tracking David Tepper's Appaloosa Management Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to David Tepper's Appaloosa Management's US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. For a look at how his portfolio has progressed, see our previous update:




 David Tepper established large stakes in the Nasdaq-100 index tracking ETF (QQQ) and SPDR S&P 500 Index ETF (SPY) last quarter. The former was kept steady while the latter was reduced by almost 50% this quarter. Other large positions include Citigroup (C) and Goodyear Tire (GT).

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .
 

Tracking Stanley Druckenmiller's Duquesne Family Office Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Stanley Druckenmiller's Duquesne Family Office US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. For a look at how his portfolio has progressed, see our previous update:




Druckenmiller is a protege of George Soros and follows his trend-following trading style. Check-out “The Alchemy of Finance” and other works to know more about Soros' trading style and philosophy. The most significant change this quarter is a huge 10.38% new stake in Schlumberger (SLB). The fund also established a 3.61% position in Halliburton (HAL). The stakes indicate positioning to play the anticipated uptrentd in oil-field service businesses.
To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .

Tracking Michael Dell's MSD Capital Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Michael Dell's MSD Capital US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. For a look at how his portfolio has progressed, see our previous update:










The fund had only very minor adjustments this quarter. Dine Equity (DIN), Asbury Automotive Group (ABG), and PVH Corp. (PVH) remains the largest positions and they account for well over 15% of the portfolio each.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .



Tracking Boone Pickens' BP Capital Management Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Boone Pickens' BP Capital Managment US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. For a look at how his portfolio has progressed, see our previous update:






This quarter, Boone Pickens, the O&G specialist started fairly large positions in Exxon Mobil (XOM), Athlon Energy (ATHL), and EQT Corporation (EQT) this quarter while eliminating large positions in Whiting Petroleum (WLL), Suncor Energy (SU), SM Energy (SM), and Bonanza Creek Energy (BCEI) that were only established last quarter.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .


Tracking Francis Chou's Chou Associates Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Francis Chou's Chou Associates US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. For a look at how his portfolio has progressed, see our previous update:



 The significant purchases this quarter were a ~10% stake increase in Resolute Forest Products (RFP) and a ~18% stake increase in Sears (SHLD). Francis Chou has been bullish on RFP since 2010 when the company was named Abitibibowater and his average cost-basis is much higher. Sears is a very long term holding that has been in the portfolio for over 8 years. Chou also reduced significantly his holdings in Actavis (ACT), Overstock (OSTK), and Sprint Nextel (S) this quarter.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .





Tracking Richard C. Blum's Blum Capital Partners Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Richard C. Blum's Blum Capital Partners US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. Please check out our previous update to have an idea on how the portfolio is progressing:








Blum Capital Partners runs a heavily concentrated portfolio with over 60% allocated to a single long position in CBRE Group (CBG). Also, that was the only position where new money was invested this quarter indicating a continuing bullish bias. Blum Capital has ownership of just under 5% of CBRE Group's and just under 5% of Career Education's outstanding shares.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .





Tracking Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. Please check out our previous update to have an idea on how the portfolio is progressing:



The portfolio was largely untouched this quarter: the huge 46.90% position in Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) was further increased to a whopping 50.75% of the portfolio. The only other changes were a very small 0.53% of the portfolio position in Air Products & Chemicals (APD) and a marginal increase to the 1.56% of the portfolio position in BP PLC (BP).

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .
 

Tracking Jeffrey Ubben's ValueAct Holdings - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Jeffrey Ubben's ValueAct Capital US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. Please check out our previous update to have an idea on how the portfolio is progressing:






Jeff follows an activist style value investing philosophy termed "Strategic Block Investing". Microsoft, his largest position by far at over 20% was increased by ~15% this quarter. Rockwell Collins (COL) was another position that was significantly increased (~17%) - it is now at over 8% of the US long portfolio. 


To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy





Tracking Robert Karr's Joho Capital Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Robert Karr's Joho Capital US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. Please check out our previous update to have an idea on how the portfolio is progressing:



Karr's portfolio increased by around 14% this quarter from around $1.16B to $1.33B. Baidu (BIDU) and Google (GOOG) are his largest positions at 21.32% and 16.24% respectively. Position sizes in both were reduced this quarter. Baidu has returned over 55% so far this year compared to over 45% for Google. Two small new positions were added this quarter: Varian Medical (VAR) at 1.71% and Vipshop Holdings (VIPS) at 1.64%. Yelp saw a marginal increase while Youku position was doubled. Yelp have had a stunning performance this year returning over 200%. It accounts for just under 10% of Karr's US long portfolio.

To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of following the best hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .


Tracking David Swensen's Yale Endowment Holdings - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that shows the changes to Yale Endowment's US long portfolio holdings as of Q3 2013. To have an idea of how the endowment's holdings have progressed click on our previous update:



 To learn more about their investing style and philosophy and how to profit from such strategies, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .

Tracking Leucadia National Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

The spreadsheet below show Cumming's US stock holdings as of Q3 2013. Please visit our previous updates to get an idea on how the portfolio has progressed:






To learn more about their investing style and philosophy and how to profit from such strategies, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .



Tracking WIlbur Ross's Holdings - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that shows changes to Wilbur Ross's US long portfolio as of Q3 2013. To see how his portfolio has progressed, click on our previous update:



To learn more about their investing style and philosophy and how to profit from such strategies, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .




Tracking Charles Akre's Akre Capital Management Portfolio - Q3 2013 Update

Below is a spreadsheet that highlights the changes to Charles Akre's Akre Capital Management US long stock portfolio as of Q3 2013. Please check out our previous update to have an idea on how the portfolio is progressing:



Significant activity in the quarter include: increasing American Tower (AMT) by ~50% to a large 9.49% allocation,  decreasing Directv (DTV) by ~50% to a 4.60% allocation, and increasing Markel (MKL) position by ~42% to an 8.17% allocation.


To learn more about how to profit from a strategy of cloning hedge fund picks, check out our book Profiting from Hedge Funds: Winning Strategies for the Little Guy .

 

Mathur Aqueduct & Thirparappu Falls - Trip Report

These two attractions are within 60KM of Kanyakumari and are both worth a visit. Getting to these places can be a problem and as first timers, we got lost a few times before locating the spots - the roads are narrow and not well maintained and direction markers are rare - so, you end up having to check with the locals and most of them don’t speak anything other than Tamil.

Mathur Aqueduct is one of the longest and highest aqueducts in South Asia. It was constructed in 1966 over the Pahrali River to carry water for irrigation from one hill to the other over a distance of about one kilometer. It is held up by 28 huge concrete pillars that reach a maximum height of 115 feet. The trough has a height of 7ft and width of 7.5ft. The concrete slabs on top of the trough allow visitors to walk on the bridge. A huge flight of stairs allow access to the trough from the level of the Pahrali river. The scenery from the top is fantastic - beautiful greenery flanked by the Western Ghats and the river flowing through the middle - and the mountain air is amazingly fresh.  Extra precaution must be taken when taking small kids up - there is a  gap between the concrete rails through which kids can easily slip through.

Thirparappu falls is located near Kulasekaram. The falls is in the Kodayar River, about 13KM from Pechiparai Dam. Thirparappu weir is a short distance up the river and that irrigates the adjacent farms. Between these two spots is a Siva Temple and a swimming pool is available there as well. The temple is famous for its many inscriptions dating back to the Pandiya King of the 9th century. The falls are around 300ft wide and drops about 50ft. There is a very nominal entry fee of Rs 5 for adults and there are changing rooms, separate for men and women. The rooms and the facilities in general are in poor condition (toilets are repulsive) but one can still enjoy what is on offer from mother nature, with the right mindset. 






Related Posts: 

  1. Kanyakumari (Cape Comerin) Trip Report
  2. Mathur Aqueduct & Thirparappu Falls - Trip Report
Last Updated: 11/2013. 


Kanyakumari (Cape Comerin) Trip Report

Childhood memories of visiting this place is a given for most adults from South India - it ranks high in the list of excursion spots and family outings. While the popularity is well-earned because of a number of world-class attractions, the infrastructure supporting it has always been in the doldrums. The result has  been that for most people visiting the area, exhaustion and dreariness often ended up being the adjectives primarily used when talking about the visit. The infrastructure part has only improved slightly since that time although the good news is that some of the issues can now be sidetracked, especially if you are willing to loosen the purse a little. 

Although the distance from Trivandrum is less than 100KM, it can take up to three hours to get there because of the condition of the roads. Accommodation options abound but none can be termed even three-star. The most comfortable option is Sparsa Resort while the best value-for-money is the government run Hotel Tamilnadu. Both are located along Beach Road and have sprawling views of the ocean. Hotel Tamilnadu is closer to most attractions -  nicely placed between Sunset Point Tower and the Lighthouse. Coming from Trivandrum, spotting both these places is easy as access is from the main road - for Hotel Tamilnadu, turn Right next to Lighthouse entry to get into the property. Hotel Tamilnadu has a stunning location but Sparsa still steals the show as they promote more of a resort setting. Hotel Tamilnadu suffers from bureaucratic problems that most government establishments face. If you overlook those, the experience can be quite good - The Double AC rooms on the main building and the cottages offer good views as the buildings are located on a hillock within the 10-acre property - there is an onsite restaurant but room-service is the only real option as service at the restaurant is non-existent. Room Tariff is an outstanding value, as the pricing goes down from Rs 3000 (including all taxes) for the deluxe cottage to the Rs 1000 range for a non-AC room. Kanyakumari lacks good restaurants as well: decent options include the restaurant at the Sparsa Resort further up (walkable) on the same road (Seashore Road) from TTDC hotel,  the restaurant on the 7th floor of Seashore Hotel (has a good ocean view facing Vivekananda Rock and has a bar license), and the Seaview Hotel Restaurant.

Seashore road is almost always chaotic and crowded with street vendors and hawkers. But, walking along that road is still the best way to get to all the major attractions. Very close to the hotel on this road on the same side is the wax museum and aquarium - they are OK to visit, if you need to kill some time. Sunset Point is right across from the hotel and there is a viewing tower right on the beach (nominal fee applies). Walking a few furlongs on Seashore Road gets you to Sunrise Point, in-front of the beautiful Tsunami Monument. Kumari Amman Temple and the Gandhi Memorial are also en-route. Both these places can be given a miss unless you are religiously or patriotically inclined - the Gandhi Memorial is really a disgrace to Indians as the place is very rundown - the facade however still looks nice.

Although Kanyakumari has a lot of ocean frontage and warm water, swimming is not really an option. The beaches are rocky and the whole beach frontage in the tourist areas are walled off - part of the work done following the 2004 Tsunami. Beach access is present further up the coast-line. One thing to be aware if you wander away from the main tourist area is that you may get stopped by locals asking for an “entrance fee” of Rs 20 or so - you can either stop and pay the money or just ignore them and drive through.

The other prime attraction in Kanyakumari is the twin monuments of Vivekananda Rock and Thiruvalluvar Statue. The monuments are located on two adjacent islands (giant rocks really) just off the coast of Kanyakumari. The attractions are accessible only by boat and the service is run by the government. Getting to the place involves buying tickets (Open 9AM to 4PM) and waiting in a very long line for the next boat to arrive. On a typical day, the wait can easily run upwards of three hours. The ticket pricing is at Rs 30. An alternative is to buy the privilege of cutting in front of the line for Rs 150 (special ticket). If you go by this option, the average wait is only around 15 minutes, as you are taken by the next boat - you still have to get in the regular line for the return journey and so the privilege applies only one-way. The ride is a very short ten-minute journey but the sea is very rough. Once you get to the rock, there is another Rs 10 ticket to enter the memorial premises and one has to walk on bare foot (there is a locker facility) - the hot sun can really burn your feet, if you wander outside the painted pathway. The views from the rock are stunning and the place is very serene and well kept - there are no eateries and food is not allowed either. There are two buildings on the rock and photography is restricted inside them - meditation is the main idea here. There is a sunrise direction map on the side of the rock adjacent to one of the buildings and that depicts the spot of sunrise for the entire year. The return trip drops you off first at the adjacent rock that hosts the Thiruvalluvar Statue. There is nothing to do there other than to admire the architecture and the setting.

The lighthouse is supposedly open from 3-5PM but when we went there around 4:15PM, it was closed. So, we had to give it a miss. Another option to consider is the “Our Lady of Ransom Church” - the structure is beautiful, the inside is stunning because of its vast emptiness, sand-floor, and the beautiful statue of Mother Mary clad in a sari.

The street vendors throughout Kanyakumari has interesting curios on offer - most of the items are inexpensive and the most popular are the Seashell curios, especially the Shanku - they can inscript your name on it for a small fee as well. Overall, two days with an overnight stay is amble to cover the attractions in Kanyakumari.

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