Rain, Rain come our way
Don’t play a game of sway
India needs the pouring shower
To keep up the minimum power
Rain, Rain come our way
Posted by: Rajiv in: Travel & Vacation
“Skied to Roland Garros to watch a play!”…. Does sound weird ah! Pick the 3 key words - Ski, Roland Garros & a play and it summaries the last trip to Paris.
The first weekend, we drove about 500kms from Paris towards the south of France to La Clusaz on the Alps ranges. Our good friend, born in the area and grew up skiing, created a life experience for us over the next 2 days. Lovely people, great food, variety cheese & wine, unmatched hospitality and of course, the ski. We began with getting on the appropriate jackets and visited the store to hire the equipment. The massive boots, weighing about 5kgs, was overwhelming on the feet to begin with. Next, these boots were placed in right spot on the ski and pushed down with the heels to clip them firmly. All set! While the expert friend could balance himself in snow just as how we do on land, for me it was like walking on a hanging rope! With some pushing and pulling, we took the ski lift to the top to begin the course. Doing my best to follow the instructions from the expert friend, I slowly but surely learnt to balance on flat and mild slopes. The key was to control the speed and that helped us to relax & enjoy the slide. After about 2 hours and many rounds, the brave hearts moved to a steeper slope and that kinda straightened the over-confidence that had built within us! The highlight of the second day was to learn turning and negotiating the track smoothly. For lunch, we skied to the restaurant and its felt very good. In all this, I fell, lost control, crash landed __ number of times in many angles and dimensions! Getting back to feet, rather getting back feet on ski was a mammoth & creative effort that was fun & boosted the confidence.
The next weekend, visited the Roland Garros, venue of the French Open. Who is Roland Garros? Your natural guess is probably that he was somebody in the French tennis history. The unnatural correct answer is that he was a French fighter pilot & hero in the World War 1! Clay courts, unlike grass do not create the wow factor. Further sand was irregularly put over the court to absorb the moisture. Preparation for the French Open was getting underway. The fascinating part was the visit to the backstage areas. The most pampered seem to be the press with TV rooms, covered sitting area in the courts, bar and even a massage room! Finally, finished with shopping for the usual suspects - key chain souvenirs.
Later that evening, it was time for an English play called “How to become a Parisian in one hour?” by Oliver Giraud. House full audience of about 250-odd Parisians and foreigners from 16 countries, laughed out loud to the tune of the chef turned standup comedian. If you are the kinds who like to experience a place by its people & way of life, this is a must-see. Else, you are better off waiting in the queue to go up Eiffel tower!
We made a short drive out trip to George Sunshine Village for the last couple of days.
About 100kms of good roads from Bangalore on NH209 and a last stretch of rugged terrain (about 5kms), Georgia Sunshine is close to Talakad & Shivanasamudram- Ganganachukki (bluff) and Barachukki falls. It is a small cozy resort, passionately run by the couple, Georgia and Leonard. Just about 10 rooms spread out yet within a close reach to the central area. The rooms are tidy and well kept. Aashira was delighted to find kids’ bunker beds in the room!
The central area is tastefully done with some lovely artifacts and collectibles. The couple cook themself and it shows up in every lip smacking meal. (The last day breakfast, we guess they got some of it from outside which was a bit of a downer). Though they don’t advertise it on their website, they are pet friendly (and child friendly). They have about 9 dogs, all so well behaved that Aashira was petting them without hesitation! There are also ducks, rabbits, and pigeons.
Ideal destination for those with young children or in the look out for a quiet spot with abundant open space & fresh air.
The trip to Srilanka last year was our first long & far vacation after Aashira joined us. Srilanka was an experiment- travelling with a tiny tot, accommodating her interests & needs. We realised soon, she had in fact taught us to relax & unwind. Otherwise, we would have kept it busy and tight to ensure we do not leave any stone unturned at the destination!
Based on this and other learning experiences, Malaysia was not really handpicked though it was on top of the wish list. The trigger came from a zero-priced (genuinely zero priced) ticket sale by AirAsia in November 2010. Some smart & quick moves sowed the seeds of this vacation to Malaysia. Another post will follow soon on the details and internals of the deal clincher. So it was a 9 month countdown to the vacation!
As the d-day in Aug 2011 approached, Aashira’s severe throat infection almost jeopardized the trip. To our delight, she recovered just a day before the travel date. At the airport, check in with AirAsia and other formalities are simple & smooth but for a little hiccup with baggage overweight. Aashira arrested in a small area for 4 hours in the flight was easier that we imagined (or probably we were over-prepared). At Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia almost exclusively uses the low-cost terminal. The setup is impressive and success of the low cost airline is visible. (In India, we attribute the air travel revolution to Capt Gopinath & his Air Deccan. However, Air Deccan had service quality issues & always lost money and continues to do so post its acquisition. On the contrary, AirAsia has not only revolutionised low cost air travel but also maintained high standards of service and is a profitable business.). The long walk of nearly 2 kms from the aircraft to the immigration counters without Aashira’s stroller was not the great experience. Passage thru India, the Indian restaurant helped us many times in the trip to secure Aashira’s specific food needs. For sleep, we booked the only hotel near the terminal - Tune Hotels (another venture by Air Asia’s Tony Ferdanes). So small was the room (100 sq ft!), Aashira had more space in the flight then in this room!
The next day, we hopped on to another AirAsia flight to the islands of Langkawi, 1 hour north east of KL. At Langkawi, we rented a self-drive car. I love to drive but never had the opportunity to drive outside India. This was one of the highlights of the trip. The drive to the Berjaya Resort gave the first picturesque views of this beautiful island. En route, a monitor lizard in the middle of the road welcomed us. At check in, the upgrade to sea view room brought in broad smiles among the 2 of us. Berjaya is made luxurious & comfortable but has to manage 450 individual accommodations spanning a massive area and steep terrain. This makes the resort operations run like a machine, losing out on the personal touch & lack of flexibility. Among only adults or even grownup children, we may not have felt but with Aashira it was sometimes a challenge to get the staff to met our off-the-book yet basic requests. Aashira had a good time in the pool but was not a great fan of the beaches. Guess she did not enjoy the feeling of the sand sticking to her!
The 500 sq km island is duty-free (you know what it means :) & consists of many man-made attractions (including water sports & yacht marinas) to keep visitors busy apart of its lovely beaches & fauna. The 2.2km Langkawi Cable Car with the steepest gradient of 42 degs, the Seven Hills waterfalls & Aquarium were good fun. The last night dinner at the Telaga harbour was memorable, more so since we discovered it by chance. Apart from Malay cuisine, we found pretty good Japanese food & well-made pizzas. We missed a drive to the supposedly lovely hidden beaches in the north west coast around the Tangung Rhu area. Never mind, we will make it again soon.
After 4 days in Langkawi, we flew back to KL for the next 3 days. We stayed in Novotel. Aashira missed the balcony but the enjoyed the view of sky scrapers especially the majestic Petronas twin towers. We were lucky to get the limited tickets (800 per day) to go up Petronas without much effort. The next time we would try to make it to the top most point of the tower for which tickets are very few (200 per day) and harder to find! The planning of the Petronas towers and area around it (referred to as KLCC i.e KL City Centre) is interesting and a good case study for India to learn how to take up an integrated and not piece-meal approach to town planning & infrastructure development. The KL Bird Park is colorful with huge birds within a massive area covered by one huge net spanning the whole park. I don’t know how animal rights consider it but we felt it was far better than cages. The photos & videos speak for the experience. Street food (satay, soup noodles, fried stuff, boiled chest nuts, barley water to name a few) & shopping areas in China Town & Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang are an experience. Aashira enjoyed the monorail journeys. She was relieved to have rice, sambar & rasam every day & night, courtesy Saravana Bhavan while we were delighted with Japanese food (Ramen, Okonomiyaki, Curry Rice)!
KL is not duty-free (you know what it means :). Experience with people was a mixed bag - some kind & helpful while others not. Traffic is disciplined & follows lanes. Metro and monorails are quick but coverage is not extensive. Taxi by meter is inexpensive but not easy to get them to use the meter! Found Incredible India ads in a few streets.
Return was smooth but the 2 hour commute to home from Bangalore airport was selamat datang (welcome) to India!
Photos @ Picasa
Get in touch with me to assist you to plan a vacation to Malaysia
Picture this- You receive the much awaited email from the HR recruiter. You click into it, download the attached offer letter and open it to find the offer match or even exceed your expectations- the designation sounds sexy, the salary increase ranks you on the top of the chart among friends, the salary structure is friendly, the employment terms (annual leaves, insurance, perks) are balanced. All sounds great.
(If you are the kind of person who likes to secure multiple offers, picture the above multiple times! :)
Next step is tough and important- to make the decision, to take the plunge or hang on.
Here is one idea to help your decision making toolkit- Make a request to speak to your future line manager/boss in the company. If not the manager, as close you can get to somebody senior in the business unit. Many times, it is the interviewer. Most companies do not have a standard procedure to facilitate such a discussion. So expect resistance, ignorance etc by the HR recruiter. Insist, if request doesn’t work.
Resort to simple, open-ended and honest questions about the role and future opportunities. Do not hesitate to ask about his/her experience in the company. Don’t probe or investigate.
Why and how does all this help? New job, new organization are career opportunities, at the same time are risky too. A right move can catapult you to a higher league and on a fast lane to meet your goals. A wrong move can set you behind by a few months, if not years.
Such a conversation helps mitigate the risk to some extent by providing-
-Insight into the job content
-Sense of the company values
-Subtle unwritten commitment from the company
Further, it creates a situation for the company to “market” itself and the position.
Why do elevators have mirrors? It was the solution to complaints by people about the slow speeds of operation! Mirror creates a distraction, gives people something to do.
So, what people do in a elevator during those few seconds or minutes-
If this sounds fun, take this survey based on these antics (you can suggest your own too) and contribute to the study on elevator antics!
Corporate team events (off-sites, team building, leadership meetups) usually begin with an introduction. People take turns answering basic questions about them. Most times, they are coupled with “share something others don’t know about you” kinda twists to make the activity interesting. Inevitably, few smart and hilarious responses generate some lols and rofls (God save, if you don’t know “laugh out loud” and “rolling on floor laughing”). This is a good start to the event and helps break the ice.
However, how much information did you grasp about the other participants? Can you recall enough, to strike a conversation the next time you meet one of them in the break room or the lift? Did you utilize the opportunity to expand your network?
If answer is “No”, think think think… Why? Is it because you spent the time preparing your own little (impressive) story, and then tweaking it as somebody took away your plan? And in the progress forgot to “listen”!
If true, here is a simple idea- be the first or early few to walk up and do your part. Walking up to the front, sooner than later helps in 2 ways -
1. Bangalore & Chennai are nearly equi-distant from Colombo (little over an hour) but you will find significant difference in air fares. About 4-5 airlines fly Chennai-Colombo while only Srilankan Airlines fly Bangalore-Colombo. SpiceJet has launched Chennai-Colomobo and return fares are available under-Rs 5000 all inclusive.
2. The Srilankan tourism organization’s website is rich in content and more important, well classified making it a good starting point.
3. Autos are called Trishaws. They have no meters hence need to pre-negotiate the price. (If you thought “chennai”, yes, you got it). However, if you plan in advance you can call & book an auto which would be metered.
4. Local cuisine can be described as “Tamil Nadu type-dishes made in Kerala style“. Folks from Andhra Pradesh will enjoy the level of spice and others, be warned!
5. Colombo seems to have some “connect” to Japanese food. We found elaborate Japanese fare in breakfast every day at Cinnamon Grand hotel.
6. Tamil is not widely spoken in Colombo and further south as I had presumed. If you know Tamil and believe you can understand Sinhala, forget it.
7. Streets of Colombo are dominant with “large” vehicles - SUV, MUVs, Pickups. Toyota, Nissan & Mitshubitshi seems to be the majority. Our taxis were indirectly booked from Jet Wings travels - Both drivers were very good. Infact, I intend to keep in touch with one of them.
8. It cheap to shop for good branded clothes and accessories at House of Fashion in Colombo.
We covered only a bare minimum of the country (Bentota & Colombo) in this trip. More remains to be seen in the coming years when Aashira grows and allows us more “active” time in the day. Photos @ Facebook & Picasa
My recent post on Facebook: Any travel agent or guide or book would indicate, srilanka weather is worse in oct(rains) & season begins nov! vested interest or sheer cliched thoughts, its never possible to label that way. if u don’t know anybody at the destination, simply ring a hotel, be nice and enquire the reception.
Get in touch with me to assist you to plan a vacation to SriLanka.
Aashira is not eligible for infant fares on airlines anymore! She is 2 years now and demands her own space be it the living room or the car. A parallel kitchen runs at home (Thankfully Aashira’s kitchen does not consume real groceries). She is expressive in her own sweet ways. She picks lines from our conversations (we learnt to mind our language!). She waits to repeat “What is that?” watching her favourite movie, Tinker Bell. A couple of amusing customary dialogues & actions have developed for good night wishes & other occasions. To Ashu’s dismay, she continues to believe sleeping is a waste of time. She is productive too; she once joined us in the search for my cap and actually found it!
Aashira will start play school mid-2011 if all goes well i.e me and Ashu pass the interview! OK, it’s not so bad :)
It was a much sought after vacation since Aashira’s birth. Besides short drive trips to Mysore & Coorg, it had been over 2 long years. Srilanka was the chosen beach destination after Andaman & Lakshadweep lost out due to lack of direct flights from Bangalore and not-so-easy access to suitable accommodation from the destination airport. Hassle-free visa on arrival saved us the usual burden that comes with international travel. With near comparable costs and new found peace, Srilanka presented an opportunity to experience an upcoming Asian country.
As always, enjoyed the planning stage and the run up- exploring history, destinations, weather, cuisine, transport moods and other local demographics. Travel and vacations with a tiny tot was new dimension this time. This meant the vacation was longer and slow paced. In retrospect, this proved great since it let us relax and unwind.
The little over 1 hour Srilankan Airlines flight was before time at the Bandaranaike International Airport (35kms from Colombo). Good service but don’t expect to be pampered. Visa was simple and quick. Indian Rupees is not fully convertible and Srilankan Rupees (LKR) is closed, hence one needs to carry $ or £ and convert to LKR at the airport. Visit the tourism office at the exit to pick maps and brochures. The terminal is comparable to the new airports here. The pickup/dropoff area outside was smaller but served the purpose. Our pre-booked taxi driver held the placard that read “Rajive”!
After a night stay in Ramada Katunayake hotel, the next day we left to Bentota (pronounced Benthota), 60kms south of Colombo along the coast on Galle Road (pronounced Gool). Good road sans speed breakers (not even 1!) was smooth but not fast due to intermittent signals and continuous habitation. Vivanta by Taj in Bentota checked us into a nice ocean view room. The next 4 days were a bliss lazing around the beach, pool, bar and restaurants. Contrary to typical forecast for October, weather was just right. Service was excellent but food was mediocre. Thanks to my cousin Anand’s photography suggestions, I was lost fiddling with the camera. So much so, I didn’t do the water ski course that I was looking forward to! Taj’s inroom dining concept, watching the river meet the ocean, holding on to baby croc and turtles, the rare albino turtle were other highlights in Bentota. Interactions with Nandana, owner of restaurant Diya Sisila (Rated No 1 in TripAdvisor for every reason. A must visit) were interesting and insightful.
Bentota to Colombo return was with a different driver, Rohan. Smart and impressively knowledgeable guy. At Colombo, we stayed 2 days in Cinnamon Grand. The hotel had an unbelievably huge lobby- easily about a lakh sq feet area! Always busy and vibrant. Though disappointing with child friendly facilities (they gave baby playpen as a baby cot!), food was good and fairly priced relative to Taj in Bentota. Not sure why but Colombo has more authentic Japanese restaurants than Bangalore. We did not spare them :). Shopping at House of Fashion was an experience- Branded garments at cheap prices. (Details on this in person).
Thus ended a relaxed & happy vacation. We gave a miss to the popular cultural and historical destinations, holding off until the next visit to the island when Aashira is a grownup.
Get in touch with me to assist you to plan a vacation to Srilanka.
bath time masti
(Mar 29, 2009, 4:28 PM)