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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Drawbacks of not using Opera Mini while on travel

While on travel, my smartphone is my first friend- helping me identify cheapest mode of transport, fastest route to a destination, help me download right app for right purpose, help me translate, research and make the right move. This often means buying a local sim card or activating international roaming, both cost me precious money. Last year I ended up buying a regular SingTel sim card in Singapore instead of Tourist card and ended up spending SGD 2.7/MB by mistake [Details here]. This year, my India Airtel Prepaid card drained its balance in minutes when I accidentally turned it on when in Macau. While I learnt my lessons from my mistakes, fortunately you don’t have to, as you are reading this post. Later I figured out that there are some simple decisions in life can make huge difference. Installing Opera Mini browser in your smartphone before your trip is one such smart decision every traveller should make. But then instead of explaining why Opera Mini is a cool browser, let us examine what all are the drawbacks if you decide not to try Opera and rely on whatever default browser your mobile has
Drawback without Opera Mini 1: Waste more time on browsing:
You need to quickly find out opening and closing hours of a tourist attraction, or to check which train to take to a destination, or google best veg restaurants around - these are some of the typical needs why we use our phones during travel- to get the correct information in order to make a right decision. Now, if you are not using Opera, in all probability you will spend more time on your browser struggling to find the correct information, instead of getting busy acting based on that information.

Recent tests show that Opera Mini on extreme-savings mode is 64% faster than UC browser and 72% faster than Chrome. Thus Opera Mini can save you lots of time while on the move. You spend huge amount reaching a foreign destination and once there, you should be spending every minute exploring the destination, not stuck on your phone trying to figure out what to do next. Opera Mini can be your best buddy on the move.

Drawback without Opera Mini 2: Huge Data bills
Internet packs abroad are usually expensive. If you are on roaming with your home country connection, then you will have to shell out a lot for data connection. In such situations, every MB saved can result in several hundred rupees in savings.

By compressing data in advance, Opera Mini has the potential to save up to 90% of the data otherwise consumed while using the web. This implies you can do more for less money or save precious dollars that otherwise have to be spent on a top-up or save on your mobile bill back home. In the extreme savings mode, it saves 2 times more data than UC browser and 3.5 times more data than Chrome.
This may be hard to believe, but if in doubt do try it out yourself. For a month try Opera and monitor data consumption for same kind of usage you did previous month. You will spot a difference.
Drawback without Opera Mini 3: Wait for video/page to load
With availability of high speed data connections, video enabled smartphones, facilities like Facebook Live, everyone is moving from text and photos to videos. With more video content and even more demand to create and share your own videos, it is extremely painful to keep waiting while the video buffers. With conventional browsers you will end up unnecessarily waiting while the video loads or uploads, while Opera Mini’s video boost feature can ensure a much faster streaming of videos, making life easier for you and saving precious time.

Drawback without Opera Mini 4: Language Barrier
There is nothing like getting the information you need in the language you are most comfortable with. Otherwise you will have to spend time and effort trying to translate and most of the time there is a risk that translation is not 100% perfect and using a poorly translated information can have serious consequences.
If you have Opera Mini, it supports close to 90 languages which includes 13 Indian languages as well, eliminating any need for translation. This means more time saved and convenience for you while traveling.

So what’s stopping you? If you haven’t tried Opera Mini yet, now is the time. Click on below banner to download

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Stone Lodges Wayanad- Luxury villas from Orange County

I came across Stone Lodges while I was working with Orange County staff, to coordinate my visit to Orange County Hampi. Stone Lodges is a set of 15 ultra luxury homes  is a concept visualized and being implemented by Mr George Ramapuram, from the Orange county group.

When the Orange County staff sought some help promoting the Stone Lodges so that it can possibly reach right people, I was little uncomfortable in the beginning writing about a real estate project purely based on a brochure. However, I was given an opportunity to interact with the boss himself- Mr George Ramapuram and I had a telephonic conversation with him to understand the background of Stone Lodges, the uniqueness and more. After this interaction my concerns were eliminated.

This post shares the details of this luxurious project with you.

About the luxury villas: Each villas in Stone Lodges are of the size 5500 to 6500 sq feet. This is easily 5 times larger than 2/3BHK homes sold in cities, which are typically in the range of 800 to 1200 sq ft in size. Stone Lodge villas are 3 BHK units, with each room having great view of the Wayanad forest.
Above: Front view of a stone lodge villa
Below: The elegant master bedroom
Please note: Images used here are artistic images from the brochure and not real photos clicked at the property. But knowing what Orange County people are capable of, I am sure real one will be at par or even better than these.

Mr George emphasized that how they planned the layout without having to lose trees- in below example, where a tree comes in the way of construction, construction is done around the tree, without harming it. There are many trees in the site which are hundreds of years old- we have taken utmost care to retain them- he added.
Below is the detailed layout of how one 5 crore villa would look like. Lots of rocks and trees are retained in its originality- the bridge between the two units is constructed such that no natural obstacle like tree or rock needed to be removed. If your idea of luxury house was a pent house with two decks, you should take a closer look at Stone Lodges.

 Above: Overall layout of 15 ultra luxury houses on sale under Stone Lodges

I asked Mr George the need for such villas- he said it is triggered by the demand by existing customers of Orange County- for most of whom location was never a constraint and as long as there is internet connectivity, they could work from anywhere. A peaceful location in Wayanad in the middle of nature was highly sought after by these prospects. 

I asked if there is any plan for resorts/holiday homes or if these villas are for one time sale only. I was confirmed on the later. These are only for purchase and not for rental/lease.

The campus carefully selected to ensure it is not too far from nearest town, as residents will need access to shops, hospitals and other services. With just 1 km away from Kalpetta down, all key needs are close-by without compromising proximity to nature and lots of privacy and luxury.

When I saw below image, I first thought these are two different units- but Mr George confirmed that this entire picture is one home. I am sure many of us would kill for a home like that.
Key details about Stone Lodge
USP: Ultra luxury villas in the middle of nature in Wayanad
Estimated to be ready by: End of 2018
Approx cost: 5 crores, includes 3 years maintenance fee
Location: About 1 km from Kalpetta town in Wayanad, Kerala
No of units on offer: 15 (few are already sold)
Key facilities: Private pools, 3 BHK Units, view of nature from every room
Target customers: Those looking for luxurious retirement home in harmony with nature, CXOs of top companies who can work from anywhere as long as internet is available, those looking for a holiday home away from city.
Contact: Earthitects Natural Living Spaces, A division of Orange County, 2nd Floot, St Patrick's Business Complex, 21, Museum Road, Bengaluru 25
info@earthitects.com

The Raya Trail of Hampi by OrangeCounty

This post explains our exploration of parts of Hampi Ruins, under the guided tour organized by OrangeCounty Hampi. Orange County Hampi facilitates exploration of Unesco World Heritage site under four designated trails, Tungabadhra (TB) Trek, Raya Trail, Virupaksha Trail and Vitthalapura walk. Orange county has interviewed more than 50 guides/experts/historians and has selected best 5 as in house historians, who will escort the guests on these guided trails, giving all minute details about the ruin you would otherwise miss/not know about.

Each of these trails are of duration 2 to 3 hours, often flexible based on guest's preferences and convenience. In this post, I will share photos and details on part of Hampi's ruins- places that are covered under Raya Trail.
Queen’s Bath
Our first stop on Raya trail was the Queen’s Bath. This structure is the first major one you will spot as you enter Hampi core zone and as name suggests was used by queens to take bath. From the outside it looks like a simple building but has lots of features on the inside. Though it looks like a standalone structure which can hold stagnant water, it had running water inlet and an outlet to expel used water- thus providing fresh water for bath every day. Queen’s bath has provisions where queen’s assistants (dasis) can stand and throw petals or other aromatic/luxury stuff while the queen is bathing. Inside the stone flooring we can see four positions which used to house a wooden (said to be sandalwood) pillars and a roof, which were burnt by the invaders during subsequent centuries.



Above: inside view of Queen's bath. Notice the position of four pillars in each corner- reportedly it had a sandalwood roof that was burnt by the invading army
Above: Provisions for the servants to stand and throw petals on the queen
Below: intricate carvings in the roof
Mahanavami Dibba
Mahanavami Dibba is a tall structure on with King and his family would sit and observe the cultural festivals that would take place below.

Stone door: Entrance to Mahanavami dibba reportedly had these huge stone doors which were fully operational with hinges, locking mechanism etc

The stone walls- Engineers of those days were able to cut huge stones with precision and stack them up super neat to build walls- there is near zero gap between two stone blocks, as you can see below
Cutting of huge rock was achieved by simple technique- drill small holes, insert wooden rods into it and continuously feed water. Wood would expand over time and crack the stone.
Mahanavai Dibba (dibba sort of means 'stage' or 'small hill' in kannada). The now popular Mysuru Dasara had its origin in the Vijayanagara times. The kind would organize week long celebrations, which saw participation from all his subordinate states and also from countries across the ocean- such as Mangolia, Arabia, China and so on. Vijyanagara empire had good trade relationship with several foreign countries- the carvings on the walls of mahanavami dibba indicate the pan asia reach the 15th century rulers had back then.
Carvings on the stone indicate that women were actively participating in hunting, war and other activities. There is only so much you can see in photos or videos. For real experience you should visit Hampi, visit these places along with an expert historian to be able to gauge the scale of grandeur, engineering advances and luxury that was in use back then.
 Left side view from top of Mahanavami dibba- the horizontal line is a stone made water duct
Straight View from top of Mahanavami dibba- all structures were destroyed by the Bahamani rulers
The hidden step well/Pushkarini
This well, situated next to Mahanavami dibba was filled with soil and archaeologists discovered it by digging in and carefully removing the soil. The guess is it was filled with sand just before the invasion, to protect it from being discovered and destroyed by the enemy forces.
The step well is fully intact, looks magnificent and photo worthy from every angle and is probably one of the most photographed spots in Hampi


Above: Stone water ducts that used to supply fresh water for miles and miles around the kingdom.

We also explored an underground chamber which apparently was leading to nowhere.

Hazara Rama Temple
Hazara Rama temple was a temple exclusive to royal family. It was all covered with vegetation before being restored to current state. The walls of this temple have carvings depicting entire Ramayana story.

Above: Main entrance
Below: notice the heads of gods chopped off by invading Muslim rulers

 The Ramayana story

 Backside view
 Inside
 A marriage hall stage

Lotus Mahal
After Hazara Rama temple we moved to Lotus Mahal. Lotus Mahal is another most popular spot in Hampi- it is a virtual air conditioned residence built for one of the two wives of Krishnadevaraya. It had a water tank on the top, water pipes through the beams and columns, facilitating flow of water through the structure and keeping in pretty cool even in hot summer (Summer in Bellary can get extremely hot)

Lotus tower complex was open only to women and the sole male allowed enside ever was the king himself. The Queen's campus is guarded by transgenders on four watch towers located in the corners.
There were more buildings in the campus, now with only foundations remaining. ASI folks are trying to visualize what kind of structures might have been there, based on various evidence at their disposal.

Elephant stable
Elephant stable was the last stop on Raya Trail. Behind Lotus Mahal was a series of barracks for royal elephants and quarters for the mahuts. The chamber seemed little tight for elephants to move around, but I guess it is more like a sleeping place and not a place where elephants would stay 24x7.

Lots of birds could be seen in the area-mainly the parakeets holding on to the rock walls in precarious positions...
Besides telling us about the historical significance, Orange County's historians are very knowledgeable in photography- to suggest what all could be right angle for the perfect shot. They command lots of respect in local community and add lots of value to your site seeing compared to doing it on your own. I had great time exploring Hampi after a gap of 10 years, thanks to Orange County Resorts.