Often described as the Crown of the Western Ghats, Mahabaleshwar is the source of the mighty River Krishna, and the hill station commands some breathtaking views of the valleys of the Krishna and one of its tributaries, the Koyna. The Siva temple in Mahabaleshwar dates from the year 1215, but Mahabaleshwar achieved prominence as a colonial hill station starting only from 1828, when it was `discovered' by Sir John Malcolm, the then Governor of Bombay (present Mumbai). Ever since, the summer residence of the Governor (now of the state of Maharashtra) has been in Mahabaleshwar. Today it is more popular as a weekend getaway from the mega-city of Mumbai. The countryside around Mahabaleshwar and its twin Panchgani is dotted with strawberry farms and January is the picking season. Mahabaleshwar is also famous for its honey. jams, marmalades and a condiment called `chikki', which is made up of groundnuts and jaggery.
A pictorial preview of Mahabaleshwar may be obtained by clicking on this link.
As far as possible, all participants will be accommodated FREE of cost in the Fountain Hotel. Rooms will be allotted mostly on sharing basis, with double or triple occupancy. The rooms are spacious so sharing should not create problems.
The Fountain Hotel also has some additional luxury rooms as well as some budget rooms, which can be booked by participants on a purely personal basis AFTER they have registered. WHEPP-XII will have no provision for accompanying persons. Therefore, those who wish to come with any accompanying person(s) may try to book the non-WHEPP rooms on a personal basis. Alternatively, they may try to book other hotels in Mahabaleswar, of which there are a great many. A partial list of such hotels may be found here and here.
Food served in the Fountain Hotel is, in general, vegetarian. Eggs may be included in the breakfast menu, but other non-vegetarian items are not allowed in the dining hall. Participants in previous ICTS conferences held at this venue have praised the vegetarian cuisine for its variety and taste. Some non-vegetarian items will be served on the lawns on a couple of occasions each week. All meals for participants, including tea and coffee during the breaks, will be FREE.
There is no bar at the Fountain Hotel, but one can buy alcoholic drinks in reputed shops in Mahabaleswar and consume it at the hotel. WHEPP-XII organisers will have no part to play in this exercise.
The weather in Mahabaleshwar in January is very pleasant. Temperatures vary from 12 - 22 degrees Celcius (54 - 72 degrees Fahrenheit) and it is generally clear and sunny. Light woollens may be needed in the evenings. Fountain Hotel rooms have adequate bedclothes and you can always get more by asking at the Reception.
In case of medical emergencies, the hotel management will arrange for a doctor on call. Mahabaleshwar has a couple of small hospitals, but the nearest good ones are at Pune, about a one hour drive from Mahabaleshwar. Pharamacies in Mahabaleshwar may not be very well stocked, so, if you have a chronic ailment, please bring your own medicines.
Please note that Mahabaleshwar, like all Indian towns, has a fair number of mosquitoes. The problem is not acute and rooms and conference venues will be provided with mosquito repellants, but if you choose to sit outside, you may want to bring your own brand.
If you wish to walk in the hills outside the hotel, please bring a stout pair of shoes. Much of Mahabaleshwar is wooded and it has its fair share of flora and fauna, including some that sting or bite. Snakes generally hibernate during the winter and are not a worry in January.
Mahabaleshwar has a continuous electric supply (220 Volts AC, 50 Hz) and every room will come with power sockets. Please come equipped with the proper adaptor for the typical Indian power socket, which is picturised here.
There may be occasional brief power failures, so participants would be well advised to come equipped with small torches or flashlights.
CURRENCY AND CREDIT CARDS
The only currency accepted inside India is the Indian Rupee (INR, abbreviated Rs.). At the current exchange rate, US$ 1 = Rs. 44.34 and 1 Euro = Rs. 63.68. It is a good idea to get your currency changed at the international airport, where there are several exchange counters.
MASTER and VISA credits cards will generally work, but small shops in the Mahabaleshwar bazaar may accept only cash.
Most cellphone services work in Mahabaleshwar. Most of these services are still 2G, but by January 2012, some 3G services may be available. Participants would be well-advised to check with their service provider before coming.
WHEPP-XII will have a small number of computers for general use, but the majority of participants will be expected to carry their own laptops. There will be ample provision to place and charge laptops.
WHEPP-XII will provide free Internet service for the duration of the Workshop. The main buildings will be set up for Wi-Fi, both in the working areas and in the individual rooms. Details of how to connect will be available at the Reception when you check in.
The local language in Mahabaleshwar is Marathi, but most people speak Hindi and some amount of English. English will work fine at the hotel. Most shopkeepers in the bazaar have a smattering of English -- enough to conduct a simple transaction.
Only WHEPP-XII participants (and their accompanying persons) will be staying in the Fountain Hotel during the Workshop. Nevertheless, it is a good practice to lock your room when you are not present. Similarly, if you are going for a trek in the woods, it is better not to carry too much cash or valuables. Foreign participants would be well-advised to make such forays with at least one Indian participant in the group. Mahabaleshwar has a low crime rate, but one should not bank on it.
Till date, there has never been a problem with terrorists in Mahabaleshwar.