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Friday, December 19, 2014

WickedRide Harley Davidson bike rental in Bangalore!

Bangalore should be crowned “Self-drive rental capital of India” given the fierce battle between Zoomcar and Carzonrent in recent times. Between these two companies and not to mention many other smaller firms, there’re 1000s of cars of different types available for Self drive rental in India’s IT Capital. There’re more options at cheaper rate to rent cars from in Bengaluru than any other city, including Delhi and Goa. 
The new attraction to the vehicle enthusiasts is the self- drive bike rentals. High end motorbikes such as Harley Davidsons, Triumph and Royal Enfield can be rented now in Bengaluru for daily rates. Bikes on rental is very common in Goa, it is available in Delhi/Himalayan regions for those who ride through the Himalayas in tourist seasons, but bike rentals weren’t that known in other cities of India.

A company called “WickedRide” is offering several Harley Davidsons and Royal Enfields. I heard about Wicked Ride through a friend (Vinod Kini, thanks for the heads up) and enthusiastically checked their website. Though rentals were on a higher side (compared to cars of similar purchase price), since there’s no competition or alternative one can’t really complain about the rental rates.

Bike
Daily Rental
(INR)
Purchase Price of the Bike (approx.)
Car model with similar purchase price
Self-drive daily rental for that car (Carzonrent)
Harley Davidson Street 750
4000
5.5 lakhs
Ford Figo
INR 1500
Harley Davidson Super low
5000
7 lakhs
Swift Dzire
INR 1800
Harley Davidson Iron 883
7000
8.5 lakhs
VW Vento
INR 2100
Triump Bonneville
6000
8 lakhs
I20
INR 1700
RE Dessert Storm
1900
1.5 lakhs
-

RE Continental GT
2200
2 lakhs
-

RE Thunderbird 500
1900
1.5 lakhs
-






There is a 250 kms per day usage limit beyond which one has to pay 10% of rental amount for every 50 kms (Not applicable to RE. Bike will be given full tank and to be returned full tank)

Of course, cars have higher demand and better utilization, so car rental companies will be able to charge less and still make money. Bike rental business hasn’t really taken off in India like in say Thailand, so the rentals are still high and options are few.
I would never buy a Harley, as I don’t find it practical and economical for everyday usage and I don’t have the cult following mindset to spend so much on the bike. But why not rent it and ride around for some time to find out what it is worth?

Nevertheless, I booked a Harley Davidson Street 750 for 2 days, with following objectives:
·         I am not well built macho person. Can ordinary folks also ride a Harley with equal comfort?
·         What is unique about this bike that it is popular worldwide with cult following?
·         Is it practical for everyday city usage or it is good only as a touring bike?
·         And finally, kitna deti hein? Is mileage is better than cars or worse?

When I booked the bike (which I could do over phone), I was told that this is a white board registered bike and rental is not covered by insurance. Any damage I should fund from my pocket. (That is, in the worst case scenario of bike getting  wrecked, I might loose my life time savings to buy them a new bike, even simple damages/repairs can cost as much as a new hero splendor- 'whatever is quoted by the dealer' is the amount to be paid)

In other words, this particular bike rental is not legal to circumvent which I had to sign some documents which effectively 'Transfer' the bike to me temporarily.... It doesn’t have yellow on black number plates as the bikes in Goa have or other self-drive rental cars have. Govt of India has a stupid rule that one should have 50 vehicles to start self drive business- don’t know what is the rationale for it. Not practical rule.

I was asked to make payment through payumoneyPayumoney has a safeguard in place such that it collects money from us but will release it to vendor only after service is delivered. This way customers have some protection in case service is not delivered or not delivered up to the mark. But I was asked to release the money immediately to confirm booking, which meant I had to forgo any opportunity to raise a grievance. (From service provider’s perspective, they don’t want  a situation where someone books but doesn’t turn up to collect the bike and then doesn’t release payment also, causing them loss of business). A solution to this catch 22 situation could be to release say 50% before and pay the  balance later.

On the specified date & time I went to WickedRide’s office in Jayanagar 9th block, Bengaluru. I had to give my original passport and a signed blank cheque leaf as security. (They don’t block amount on credit card like carzonrent). Paperwork was smooth.

They give a helmet free with the bike, but jacket & gloves, goPro camera etc can be rented for an additional expense (Rs 1000 and Rs 500 respectively per day)

I caught up with my friends and set out to ride. More about the bike & Harley Davidson experience will be narrated in next post.

In summary, it is good to know that high end bikes are now available for rent, so that everyone can experience them without having to buy the same. This can also help promote biking culture.
However, on the downside, you should be prepared for a worst case scenario wherein if the bike is completely damaged, you will have to buy them a new bike in your own money. No insurance will come to your rescue, as these bikes are not legally rented to you.

Also I wanted to rent Continental GT for a day- I was told it is out on long rental.. Today morning I saw it at their office. I was told it is available and I asked them to let me have it tomorrow, instead of me renting steet 750 for 2 days. I was told that should be fine, but later I get a call that bike is has a booking from tomorrow till Sunday night. I get a feeling that I am being denied Continental GT as its rental are cheaper than Street 750. But I don't have proof, so will give them benefit of doubt.

http://wickedride.in/ is their website.

Similar: Zoomcar vs Carzonrent * Ride Thailand Bike tours

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Manvar resort on Jaisalmer Jodhpur highway

This post is about a place we stopped for tea on our way to Jaisalmer from Jodhpur. At first I thought it is a small restaurant for refreshment, but soon we realized that this is a mini resort on its own.
Manvar resort has several rooms with rents ranging from Rs 6000 Rs 15000 a day. The top spec Rs 10000 room comes with a living room, a private balcony that opens right into the woods, all meals and many more. (Package inclusions and rates may vary)

There’s a large pool, for residents only.

  

Private balcony, opening into the woods. Occasionally snakes might crawl up- I am told
The other interesting thing is the traditional storage system used.

While the campus looks fairly down to earth, room rates are pretty much at par with star hotels. The property is situated in the middle of nowhere, so I am not very sure what would be the motive to come and stay here. But some possibilities are:
  • You’re driving through the highway between Jaisalmer-Jodhpur and you feel like resting for the night midway instead of driving another few hours to reach your destination
  • You’re in Pokharan for some nuclear bomb testing and want a place to relax
  • You’re visiting the deserts for some offroad or other events and need a base.
  • As per their website they also organizse Desert camps, camel ride, crane spotting, desert safari and other such activities
Mr Devilal was another attraction at the Manvar resort campus, because of his large mustache and traditional dress. Tourists love to get clicked next to him.
Disclaimer: Rates and other services are subject to change. What I have written is based on what was told to me during our visit. Please check with the property management for latest information.
http://manvar.com/ is their website..

Manvar on Map

Lodhruva Jain Temple near Jaisalmer

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers
After spending few hours on the desert exploring some temples, our coordinator asked us if we’d like to visit few more temples or return back to Suryagarh. Most of us enthusiastically said we can visit more temples and thanks to that, we were taken to the below temple, located in Lodhruwa village near Jaisalmer. 

Lodruva's Jain temple is a small but beautiful ancient temple. The intricate detailing on the wall is worth taking a closer look. This Lodhruva temple has a 900 years + history, built in memory of 23rd Jain Tirthankara. The temple was destroyed couple of times when the forces of Ganji and Ghori attacked India in 11th/12th century. It was later restored.
 The torana or decorated entrance of Lodhruva Jain Temple
 Main entrance.. Audio guides are available...
In the centre of the temple is a tree part with carved copper leaves, called Kalpavriksha, believed to be capable of fulfilling devotee’s wishes. While the ancient trade lane (silk route) has gone,  the temple stays back to tell the story.
 The Kalpavriksha.. closeup
This temple campus also the place where we met Sumer Singh Rathore, a native of Jaisalmer who runs a nice blog and follows many travel bloggers of India.
Selfie with Sumer... Don't mind I was looking elsewhere- Was posing for Nisha's camera I guess...
And a few goPro shots! It was a bright and sunny day, so GoPro could give serious competition to Nikon

The Lodhruva jain temple is located on the banks of River Kak (somehow the river name reminded me of Topgear Burma challenge, where the trio built a bridge across River Kok instead of River Kwai). River Kak was once flowing pretty well but dried up seeing the love birds: Prince Mahendru of Amarkot and Princess Moomal (or Mumal). They were separated by a series of misunderstandings and in the end got reunited but died in each other’s arms. Nisha Jha has written a full post on this love story, so I suggest you read the details on her blog. 
 Memorials dedicated to Mumal and Mahendru
Temple on Google Maps

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Weekend offroading near Palar river

Spent half a day last Saturday joining Terratiger's convoy of SUVs indulging in offroading. Though I was hoping for a different set of obstacles/location, we ended up visiting the same obstacles as last time, which was a bit disappointing. (I could spend only till lunch break). However this time two fortuners were entrants.

Below are some photos taken during the event.

Fortuner 4x4, stock tyres, no modifications...

 
This jeep gets stuck on the rocks due to incorrect line and not so strong breaks 
 
Above: Mahindra Thar with hard top, just back from Great Adventure
Below: Nishcal's jeep doing a demo
Vishu's Endeavor in action... notice front left wheel in the air and the suspension in action on right side front and rear wheels
 Watch a video I made of the Endeavor...


Some more GoPro photos..





Watch previous posts here: Challenge 1 * Challenge 2- Mud * Challenge 3 * Challenege 4

Monday, December 15, 2014

Exploring Kolkata using Public transportation

When we visit a new city, general tendency is to book a taxi to take us around. Many of us simply ignore the public transportation, simply because we don’t want to put an effort to understand the public transportation systems and options, or we simply assume they are not going to be convenient/practical. We go ahead and book taxies, that cost several thousand rupees a day + parking + toll+ entry fee etc.

Your travel agent is also not likely to advise public transportation, because he/she gets to earn some commission if you book a cab through them. They get nothing if you use bus or metro. 
Ferry that can be used to cross Hoogley river for Just Rs 5
But it majority of the cities, with some planning and research, it is possible to use public transportation to visit various tourist destinations and save lots of money which is otherwise spent on taxi. Using public transportation also helps us gain better knowledge of city’s layout, people and culture. Sitting in a cab we won’t have a clue about direction/orientation etc.

During our recent 4D/3N Kolkata trip, we explored most of Kolkata using trams, buses, metro, trains and a fair bit of walking. We hired taxi only on 3 occasions. In this post, I am explaining how we covered Kolkata using public transport, so that it can be of use when you plan to visit Kolkata.

Pre-requisites/Planning part of it
  • Step 1: Book a hotel within walkable distance from a metro station, somewhere around Esplanade or Chandni chowk or surrounding area.  Esplanade is kind of central area and is very close to several places of tourist interest. Staying around this place will ensure easy connectivity to all places.
  • Step 2: Be sure to carry a smart phone with Google maps and enough charge (carry a power bank)
  • Step 3: Where possible ensure that your arrival and departure is during day time (between 6AM to 10PM)- late in the night you may not get public transport to/from airport, you may have to hire taxi only.
Note: This post assumes you’re group has healthy people who are fine with fair amount of walking/traveling in public transportation. If you have elderly people, kids or folks who are allergic to crowded bus/train or those who can’t walk even half a kilo meter at a stretch, then these ideas may not work for you. Go give some business to taxi fellow.

Once you have your base set in heart of the city, below is how you can plan your days

From airport, you can take AC bus to Esplanade area (Rs 45 per person) Or take a taxi/bus till Dum Dum station and take metro from there. Once at hotel drop your luggage, refresh and step out with camera bag/minimum stuff to explore the city. Below is an indicative itinerary, feel free to tweak it as per your convenience, preference, arrival/departure timing etc. Ask me if you need help. 
Day 1: Either take a metro to Maidan station or simply walk down. From here, you can explore Victoria memorial, Indian Museum, Birla Planetarium (these are pretty close and will take about half an hour. Keep in mind show timings of Birla Planetarium. These 3 places will easily take half a day, assuming you start at around 9 AM.

During second half, return to Esplanade, take a bus (Route No 55) to Botanical Garden. Spend rest of the evening at Botanical garden, visiting Big Banyan tree and other attractions in the park. [Read my post on Botanical Garden here(Alternatively you can hire a taxi for Rs 150 or so, taxi takes Vidyasagar sethu and is lot quicker than bus route- we took this option to visit Botanical Garden)

Once out of the park, Take Bus No 55 to Howrah, explore Howrah station, take subway to cross the road and board a ferry (closes by 7PM) to go to Babu Ghat area (Rs 5 per person)

Once at babu ghat, Esplanade is just a few kms by walk. If it is after 7PM, you can continue in bus no 55 till esplanade. 

Day 2: Early morning, take Metro to Jatin Das park station. From this station, Kali Ghat temple is about 1.5kms, which can be covered by foot. Walk to the temple, explore it a bit (Be aware of touts. more details about Kali ghat temple here) Then walk back to Hazra road. From here you can take a bus to Birla Mandir (about 6 to 8 rupees per person, about 2.5kms). Explore Birla Mandir (closes by 11.30AM and opens again at 4.30 PM, more details here)

Once done with Birla mandir, either take a bus or share auto back to Jatin Das Metro area. (Share auto was Rs 7 per person). Take Metro to Esplanade.

From here, either walk or take a tram/bus to BBD park. Writer’s building and other interesting buildings are nearby. View these buildings from outside

Take a bus to Salt Lake city.
Once in Salt lake city, you can explore Salt lake city stadium and central park. (take share auto). Salt lake city is a better planned township and is more clean and well designed than rest of Kolkata.

It will be evening by the time you finish exploring central park. Take a bus back to Esplanade. (Route 235)

Day 3: One day you can spend visiting places outside Kolkata city. You can either take a one day tour to Sundarbans (Rs 3000 per person in case of 3 or more people, Rs 4500 otherwise) for a package tour [More details in this post]. Alternatively you can take a train to Bishnupur [More details on Bishnupur visit here], where you can explore ancient terracotta structures for half a day and return to Kolkata by night. This way you get to experience west Bengal country side also and not just Kolkata city.

Day 4: Depending on your interest, you can either spend time shopping in various shopping areas in the city, or explore few other interesting places- Shahid Minar (behind Esplanade private bus stand), Marble Palace (walkable from MG Road Metro station), try some more tram journey etc. Few other possible places are Belur Math shrine, Dakshineshwar Temple (We couldn’t visit them, so can’t advise on route and time) Depending on your flight time, you can explore some more places or take a bus/metro to airport. 
Return to airport by bus from Esplanade or take metro till Dum Dum and from there take a bus/taxi. Note that some non-ac buses do not go right up to airport- they stop at a place 2kms from airport. So you have to walk the last few kms or take another bus (A/C bus) or taxi etc to reach the airport.

As I said earlier, we took taxi only 3 times during our 4D/3N Kolkata visit- once from Birla Planetarium to Botanical Garden (Rs 150) because bus would take too much time), second from hotel to Santragachi railway station at 5.30 AM for Rs 220 (as no other option was available to catch our 6.25 AM rupasi bangla express to Bishnupur..) and one last time from Chandni chowk to Writers block for Rs 50, as we were running out of time and wanted to check few more places before leaving for airport. That is a total of Rs 420 for 4 days spent on taxi. Rest of the places were visited by foot, by tram, bus or metro, including journey to and from airport. We probably spent about another Rs 300-400 on public transportation during our 4 day stay. If you were to take a taxi for everything, easily the total expense could have reached Rs 3000-4000 for 4 days (Assuming that you’d hail a taxi for about 10 rides a day with an average spend of Rs 100 per ride- An 8 hour/80 km package also usually costs about Rs 1000). We did spend some extra time walking, figuring out where to get a bus, which bus to board, waiting for the bus/metro etc. But the additional time spent because of public transport wasn’t significantly huge and was certainly worth the savings. Fair amount of walking is also good for health. Metro is more faster than taxi during peak hours. 

However, be mindful of the risk- buses and trams could be crowded. If you have expensive stuff like cameras and mobiles, you should be extra careful.
Similar to Kolkata, it is possible to explore many other cities without renting a taxi. I will try to write about few of them in future posts.

Read my post on Kolkata trams

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