“We landed on a mountain top!” That was the only thing I could think when the wheels of the plane grazed the surface of Mangalore Airport. The airport is on a hilltop and used to be considered a dangerous landing for planes. Now, with increased security and safety measures, Mangalore Airport has become a unique airport in India. I was part of a team coming from Manipal Dubai to compete at the Manipal India Utsav, a festival of sorts with a lot of competitions. I had heard about the environment of the town named Manipal, but was never able to experience it firsthand. We were told that we would stay there a week before returning to Dubai. The town of Manipal looked pretty much like any other south Indian town from the outside—greenery-carpeted walls with a slight breeze. Summer in Mangalore offers less humidity; one can feel the heat without experiencing profound sweating. The monsoons, however, were a different story—from slight drizzles to heavy rains, the monsoon was a time for fun with friends. With the population of the town comprised of mainly youth, it was not a surprise to feel the air of friendship and pranks. The town had narrow roads connecting each other to various sides of the town. There was a main road that connected Manipal Town to Udupi, another district of Mangalore. Udupi is known for its temples, grand and numerous. The famous one is Sri Krishna Temple, which is situated 10 to 15 km from Manipal. Considered one of the oldest temples, Sri Krishna Temple consists of many idols in gold and intricate designs featuring Lord Krishna as a child and as a grown-up. The temple has a large bath in a traditional style with stairs lining the surround walls. The place is opened only for the ‘pujaris’, or priests of temples for performing rituals. The entrance of the temple is a narrow pathway which contains small, self-owned shops. These shops carry the essence of the local culture by displaying bangles in different colours, self-made wire earrings, and miniature idols.
Manipal Town is situated on a hilltop as well and has picturesque beauty. Travelling to the interiors of the town, we reached the peak and the view of the ground below from the top was breathtaking. There were green-carpeted hills, broken at times by a small river emerging from one of the hills and snaking its way down the hills. A few steps before the peak point was a lush area of green with flowers and swings taken care by the authorities.
The taste of the local cuisine is a major excuse to come back to the region. There are a number of international fast food chains there as well but please do not be the type of traveller who sticks to their diet. It might look completely different from what you consider as normal but just give it a try. You will not want anything else. One of the famous restaurants in Manipal Town is Attil, which serves the best butter chicken and chocolate fudge. You will be so taken by the taste that you won’t be able to help but ask for more. But be sure to keep an eye out for the bill because this restaurant is a little expensive and unfortunately they don’t take smiles or puppy dog eyes in exchange for their food. The local cuisines such as masala dosa (really thin rice crepes with stuffed potatoes and spice), idli (steamed rice cakes), and sambhar (curry made with boiled lentils and vegetables) from smaller restaurants also tastes amazing. The atmosphere in the town is always friendly and energised, except on the holidays when the students and most of the residents leave the area for the Udupi district. Definitely visit the town, especially if you are a graduate student seeking to re-experience college life, at least for a few days.