Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Mumbai

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

About a month ago we went to Mumbai over the Diwali weekend. Formerly known as Bombay, it is the commercial and entertainment capital of India.

A few hours before our flight in Bangalore, we went to the Leela palace and saw this brand new Ferrari F430. The son of the owner of the Leela Palace was driving it. It was a little bizarre to see such a new Ferrari amongst the auto-rickshaws and bustling streets of Bangalore!

Side View of the Ferrari
Side view of the Ferrari

Rear view of the Ferrari
Rear view of the Ferrari

Our hotel in Mumbai was just by the Gateway of India. We visited the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay Stock Exchange, Marine drive and a few other sights of the city on the first day.

Fu-Wing and me at the Gateway of India
Fu-Wing and me at the Gateway of India.
Photo courtesy of Jeetandra.

Typical taxis we rode on
Typical taxis we rode on

Bombay Stock Exchange
Bombay Stock Exchange

A random flock of birds
A random flock of birds

The Victoria Terminus railway station
The Victoria Terminus railway station

Sunset at Marine Drive
Sunset at Marine Drive

We had dinner at “Tendulkar’s Restaurant”, a restaurant bowled up by India’s famous cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. As expected, the decor was heavily based around cricket and Mr Tendulkar. Even the menu had labels such as ‘Sachin’s favorite’. I had a delicious crab masala and Bombay duck, although it was not really a duck.

Tendulkar’s Restaruant
Tendulkar’s Restaruant

Next day we met up with my cousin Jamil and his work mates (all from the UK) who are currently working on an engineering project in Mumbai. Their client is Reliance Industries, India’s largest private sector company.

Infy group meeting up with Bechtel group
Infy group meeting up with
the Bechtel group

The Mumbai museum was interesting. I learnt a alot about India’s past. It was very hot though and water was prohibited.

Prince of Wales Museum
Prince of Wales Museum

Jamil and his workmates actually live in North Mumbai. It takes so long to get down to Colaba, South Mumbai, they actually stayed over at the Oberoi hotel. The promotional channel had this memorizing song by FC Kahuna – Hayling. Have a listen at exactly 2 minutes into the song.

View from the room with Jamil and Gary
View from the room with Jamil and Gary.
The curve of the street lamps is known
as the ‘Queen’s Necklace’

We later went to a beach bar/restaurant and then a jazz club called “Not just jazz by the bay”. The theme of the night was classic rock. The signer and guitarist were pretty good. I left early and missed out on a cover of ‘Black is Back’ by ACDC, nevermind!

Beach bar/restaurant
Beach bar/restaurant

The band at ‘Not Just Jazz by the Bay’
The band at ‘Not Just
Jazz by the Bay’

Next morning Marco dragged me out of bed (I promised to wake up!) to join in with the laughter yoga clubs around Mumbai that start around 7am, but we failed miserably. Instead we took photos with the golden morning sunlight.

Marco with the Gateway of India in the background
Marco with the Gateway of India
in the background

On the way to the airport to catch our flight back to Bangalore, I saw this taxi on the highway:

Maximising the load
Maximising the load

One more thing, being the Diwali weekend there were a lot of fireworks being set off that lit up the city at night. Some were set off right in the middle of roads! All in all Mumbai was a nice big city break.

Backwaters of Kerala

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Two weekends ago we went house boating in the Backwaters of Kerala. The views of the canal, exotic palm tress, watching people go about their daily life, the fresh air and eating big prawns was a good experience. The houseboat itself had a lot of entertainment (except cable TV obviously). The two rooms had AC too for a comfortable sleep.

On the way back we stopped off at Cochin. We went to the Jew Town area where there was a Synagogue and European looking cobble stoned roads. In the past the area has been occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. We had lunch at a French restaurant. I ate a something ‘de Normandy’ … all I remember was that the sauce had a thick mushroom flavour, very French and delicious!

Photographs courtesy of Peter.

The type of boat we were on
The type of boat we were on

The living room
The living room

Enjoying the breeze
Me enjoying the breeze

Palm trees galore
Palm trees galore

Pete & Jeetandra
Pete & Jeetandra

Big prawns
The prawns we ate for dinner

Our captain
Our captain

Arrr, matey! What’s that over there?
Arrr, matey! What’s that over there?

A view going down a canal
A view going down a canal

Jew Town
Jew Town

Temples and Villages

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Two weekends ago we went to several very old sites. At Belur and Halebid there were intricate decorative sculptures from some of the ‘most artistically exuberant periods of the Hindu cultural development’. At Sravanabelagola there where 614 steps which led up to a 17.5 metre statue of a Jain deity.

Sculptures at Belur
Sculptures at Belur

Inside a temple at Belur 
Inside a temple at Belur

Sculptures at Halebid
Sculptures at Halebid

Outside a Halebid temple
Outside a Halebid temple

Climbing up the hill at Sravanabelagola
Climbing up the hill at Sravanabelagola

Also, Jason and Andrew made friends with a welcoming and hospitable local farmer called Shwamee. It was an interesting experience to gain an insight into the life of a farmer. We met Shwamee’s family, had dinner with them and Jason bought some macaroni and cheese as well as lots of American candy and chocolate which the children really enjoyed. For living in a small hut it was spotlessly clean. They liked our music gadgets. The family only spoke Kannada and did not speak a word of English or Hindi (apart from a very few words like ‘rice’) so we had to play charades most of the time to communicate. Shwamee also showed us around his farm:

Shwamee’s rice field
Shwamee’s rice fields

Shwamee’s sugar canes
Shwamee’s sugar canes

More rice fields
Another rice field with Prakesh,
Andrew & Jason

We came back midday and I went to class again to finish off some work. After that I got to ride Andrew’s new sporty TVS Apache motorbike! It has a digital speedometer and the 160cc engine has a nice crunchy sound to it. I’m now riding Andrew’s scooter that he was renting.

Day trip to Coorg

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Last weekend we went to Coorg, about 2 hours drive from campus. We drove through bumpy roads most of the way there. Our first stop was at a Tibetan monastery to see the golden temples.

Golden Temple
Three of the largest statues
at the monastery

 Monks
There were many
monks around

 Temples
About fifty young boys were praying sincerely
to the beat of drums inside the right temple

We then went to see Abbey falls. It was moderately pretty.

Abbey Falls
Abbey Falls

There were some nice views from the high altitude of the location.

On the road from Abbeyfalls to Madikeri
A misty view on the route from
Abbey falls to Madikeri

Raja’s Seat
A view from the Raja’s Seat

Our last stop was at a bamboo forest. It was quite empty but there was a suspended bridge that swayed (if everyone together bounced on it hard enough), some tree houses, rabbits, dears and elephants. Antony managed to spot a small scorpion too!

Bridge
The suspended bridge
into the forrest

Scoprion
A scorpion

Brindavan gardens

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Last Tuesday is it was a national holiday as it was Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. We decided to explore more around Mysore.

As we drove to the Brindavan gardens (19km NW from Mysore), we saw the Krishna Raja Sagar dam:

Andrew with the Dam in the background
Andrew with the Dam in the background

Other side of the dam
Other side of the dam, the water
pouring down the Kaveri River

We then arrived at the Brindavan gardens. It was a nice garden with a mansion that was left by the British which is now a hotel.

 Brindavan Gardens
Brindavan Gardens

The mansion
Outside view of the mansion

The dining hall
The dining hall

Chandelier
The chandelier in the dining hall. It’s got that
beautiful 20th Century touch to it.

There was a lightshow in the evening, but we didn’t stay that long. On the way back it rained and there were hundreds of moths in the air which we drove into, mainly near the dam. There were about five on me once back at the campus. It was okay though, they were harmless.

Weekend in Ooty & Coonoor

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Two weekends ago we set off Saturday 5am and headed for Ooty. It was a bumpy ride there since there roads were scattered with pot holes, so we were grateful for the suspension the 4 x 4 taxi had. Our first stop was at the Bandipur National Park. The 300 Rs bus ride was disappointing. We only saw some peacocks, dears and a few elephants running away. Next stop was Ooty, but we detoured and went via Payakara where there was a lake and waterfalls which were both quite pretty.

Payakara Lake
Boating the Payakara Lake

Payakara Waterfalls 
The Payakara Waterfalls

The uphill roads to Ooty offered very scenic views. At certain times we were above the clouds. Our car was so close to the edge it was a bit scary for those sitting on the side.

Roadside break
Taking a break during the
long drive up to Ooty

We went to the ‘Botanical Gardens’ too, it was good but nothing really impressive.

The Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens

Ooty is 7,440 feet above sea level, so it was pretty cold in the evening and morning. I completely forgot to bring more than one layer. But it was fine. It got down to about 10 Degree C at the lowest. Our stay overnight was lush: three rooms with a dining room and living room. Each room had a TV and separate bathroom. All for £4.85 each.

Sunday morning we took a scenic train ride to Coonoor.

Train Platform
People waiting on the platform

Enjoying the ride!
Enjoying the ride!

Scenic view while on the train
A scenic view while on the train

After that, we went to a tea factory to see how tea is processed right from picking the leaves to packing the granules. There was a variety of tea on sale too including ‘Masala Tea’, believe it or not! That had a strong scent of ginger to it.

Singara Tea Garden
Singara Tea Garden

We later went to several viewpoints including one called ‘Dolphin’s Nose’. I can’t figure out why it is called that. It had a waterfall running through the middle of it though.

Dolphin’s Nose Viewpoint
Dolphin’s Nose Viewpoint

Finally we headed back to Mysore. We stopped at the Bandipur National Park again to see if we could ride some elephants. We were in luck, they were available. It was interesting to note the driver push his legs onto the elephant’s ears to direct it. He also used a cane a few times, though I hope it didn’t hurt the animal. Elephants have very tough skin so hopefully not.

Riding Elephants
Riding Elephants

Mysore Palace

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Mysore Palace During the Day

Last Sunday at the very last moment I decided to tour Mysore with a few friends. We went to Subway (yum, with free wireless Internet too!), Mysore Palace, Chamundi Hill (there where some temples and a big bull statue), Mysore Palace again in the evening and finally to the Parke Lane restaurant to enjoy some live Indian music.

Mysore Palace was truly spectacular. We hired a guide who gave us intricate historic details. He proved his facts along the way by showing us visual examples of everything both inside and outside the palace. It was built by a British architect named Henry back in 1897 after the former wooden palace burnt down for the second time. Henry loved religions and traveled to many far reaches of the earth … and this is all evident with this palace he designed. On the outside one can notice the Arab/Islamic style rounded roofs, at the top a Hindu style monument and inside … oh inside there where just wonders from Europe and beyond including: chandlers from Scotland and Belgium; human figured lamps from Paris, white marble human sculptures from Italy, beautiful pots from China and there used to even be Rolls Royce’ parked in the garage back in 1912.

As for infrastructure: the man hole covers had molded ‘London’ markings to prove the British plumbing installed; British fire prevention pipes have been put around the palace to prevent another fire and there was also a basic but functional electrical lift inside. There were 3D paintings of what Mysore used to look like; cement sculptures that looked different from certain angles and very detailed railings, ceilings, grand doors, stairs, floors, etc. as one would expect in a palace.

I liked the peacock room the most. Apparently, for entertainment there would be lots of live dances and music for the Maharaja and family. It was interesting to note that a 118Kg golden elephant carriage had a red and green light on top that would be controlled by the Maharaja via a remote control!

The Sunday evening illumination was grand: 96,200 bulbs lighted the palace between 7-8pm costing 89,000 Rs (or £1,110) of electricity an hour!

Top photo: The Mysore Palace during the day.
Bottom photo: The Mysore Palace during the night.

Mysore Palace during the night

Onboard a scooter in Bangalore

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Weekend in Bangalore Deux

Monday, September 17th, 2007

 Tea at the Leela

Last Saturday morning we planned to take the train to Bangalore. As we set off at 7.30am in the morning, Jason asked, “Shall we just go with the bike?”, so I replied, “Sure, let’s go!”. And so we did, it took us 3.5 hours!

Once arriving there we met up with his friends Samdu and Hemant (Jason has spent two summers in Bangalore previously). They were really funny and fun to hang out with. Together we went to some malls, coffee shops, the Leela Palace Hotel, a Chinese restaurant with ridiculously great starters (!), more excellent Indian restaurants and also a few places during the evening to chill out while watching some live 20-20 cricket world cup matches which are popular over here.

Since Samdu and Hemant both had scooters, I got to ride around Bangalore. It was pretty fun. Weaving in and out of traffic is comparable to driving in Bangladesh, except the roads are bigger in Bangalore. The driving is very organic. The traffic lights have countdown clocks on them too which is handy.

We got back on Sunday evening. It rained a bit but other than that it was fine riding back. Hats off to Jason for all the stamina driving there and back.

Top photo: At a coffee shop at the Leela Palace Hotel. The passion fruit ice tea was gorgeous. There was free wireless Internet like in the US. That’s Samdu (L) and Hemant (R).

Bottom photo: Jason having fun riding the scooter.

Jason_Bangalore

Weekend in Bangalore

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

 Vidhana Soudha

We went to Bangalore this weekend. Some of the Reebok, Adidas, Nike and even Marks and Spencer shops were just like back home except with air conditioning and a guard to open the door. It is like a stepping in and out of the western world. I bought a CK Euphoria cologne from the forum mall and saved £6 compared to back home for a 50ml bottle. Not much of a saving, but the service was much better, the sales assistant literally made me smell about 10 different bottles (with coffee beans in between) before finally choosing.

It has been fun hanging out with most of the UK batch and the US batch too. Everyone arrived and left at different times but we managed to see most of each other. A funny part was when Rizwan “felt” others when walking down a street (using his “spider-sense”?) and a moment later we saw some of the UK batch!

We also ate some excellent steak! The restaurant was called “The Only Place” since cows are sacred here. I also had McDonalds and the chicken “Maharaja” burger was quite good. KFC was an exact replica expect the till ladies who wore very presentable make-up.

Bangalore is a bustling city great for shopping and eating. There wasn’t time much sightseeing, will have to go back for that next time. Hats off to Rizwan for organising the trip for the group I was in!

Photo: Some of us with the colossal Vidhana Soudha in the background.