Friday, October 28, 2011

Kissing the clouds in Kundadri Hills

Kundadri is a nice sunset point some 20 kms from Agumbe in Shimoga district. On top of Kundadri lies a Jain temple and a pond. More importantly, if you reach on top of Kundadri, you can see the clouds from so close. Sometimes clouds will be allover the hilltop,engulfing people- that way you can experience what it feels to be inside a cloud.

Below are some photos of the Kundadri hills and the jain temple there

On a rainy day, the sky will be much more cloudy than I could capture here

 View from top

Road to Kundadri is very narrow, ideal only for small vehicles. Road is steep and has sharp turns. The view from top is all worth it. Aria took us all the way up and down and I enjoyed the drive. A 120 people strong jain community from Gujarath also had visited there that day. Since their bus couldn't go till top, they hired tempo travellers to take them to top and back. They had a truck accompanying them, carrying their food items.

You can reach Kundadri from two sides- from Sringeri road as well as Thirthahali road...take help from locals.

December 2012 Update: We visited Kundadri again- click here for pics

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tata Aria photoshoot- first set

What would you do if you're given an 18 lakh car for a few days? I decided to use it for my Deepavali travel and also do a photoshoot.

Below are some of my pics around Tata Aria. Might sound like a promotion for aira, but I was attempting to take photos similar to what a professional auto journalist would take, within the limitations I had.

Below: Aria with horses... While aria has 140 horses under its bonnet, it got company of grazing horses in Chickmangaloor. These horses appear to be owned by some nomadic families who had pitched tents nearby.
As we were driving back, a large herd of sheeps was being taken to some place... I was tempted to click Aria with it. I crossed the herd, pulled over to the mud road, got out of the vehicle and waited for the sheeps to go all around the vehicle. Didn't get a shot as exactly as I had expected- a click from an elevation would have been nice, but this one appears good enough.
Took couple of shots of Aria with its elder cousin, the 207. 207 also has same 2.2 litre engine, but tuned for load carrying capacity and efficiency. Aria is shorter and appears to have almost same height.

 Aria with Bulldozers- clicked at a place called Kolankal (more about it later)
 We went to world famous jog falls, but water levels were discouraging. Below is the photo of Aria posing in front of Jog Falls...
 Another shot, infront of a damanged house, somewhere on the way to Hasana
 Aria is a 4x4 vehicle, hence tried some soft off roading...Images aren't that clear though...
 Sunrise with Tata Aria
Doing photoshoot is not as easy as it sounds. It isn't certainly as simple as parking the car and taking pics. Lot of factors go into it.

When auto journalists do photoshoots, they would have lot of previeleges I can't have. Unlike planned and organized photoshoots, I had no support vehicle, no professional camera or photographer, not the luxury of time to wait for days for a particular shot.

While driving to my destinations, I stopped over for few minutes and clicked some pics. Sometimes sunlight is not favourable, sometimes there'll be people and vehicles in the frame preventing me from taking a clean shot, sometimes we're in a hurry, hence passengers inside won't have patience to wait while I take photos. Sometimes season matters a lot- for example, October is not the right time to go to Jogfalls. But then, I shouldn't be complaining. Still, I am satisfied I got some good photos. There're more photos and travelogues lined up, please standby. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Festive long drive with Tata Aria 4x4 pride

I am currently driving around in a Tata Aria Pride 4x4, which Tata motors has given to me for review. I get to drive it wherever I want and then return it safe and sound. I will be footing the bill for fuel and toll, which I don’t mind.

When India’s leading auto maker Tata Motors gave me their flagship vehicle, Tata Aria for about 10 days, I had a tough challenge. At first look it might appear as if I got a free vehicle to go for a joy ride, but at heart, I was virtually competing with all automobile journalists, for whom it is part of job description to go for long drives with new vehicles and then write about it. With limited time, skill and resources at my disposal, I had to not only do justice to the task at hand- travel around with Tata Aria, take good photos and write about it, but I also had to do a job at par with or better than what a seasoned automobile journalist would have done.

Thankfully for me, the time coincided with my Deepavali travel plans. Had originally planned to take train to native place and spend a week there. Now I’ll be driving all the way and with a vehicle I’m not known to sit Idle, so will be covering several destinations around western ghats and coastal Karnataka during next 8-9 days. Made extensive plans to cover as much ground as possible in 10 days that I will have it.

Tata Aria is a nice crossover, spacious, capable vehicle. I’d test driven it earlier. Already drove it to Blr-Chennai, Chennai Blr. Blr-Hasan-Chickmangalur-Shimoga. Drove it all the way up to the top of Mullayyana giri hills.. More about these later. Pls don't mind if there's an aria overdose in my next few blog posts

Nov 20 2011: Here're some photos and updates: Aria 4x4 review * Aria photoshoot Set 1Set 2 * Aria in Mullayanagiri * ottinene * Sigandur * Murudeshwara *

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cracker wholesale prices [updated]

This Deepavali, if you're planning to buy crackers and wish to know the cheapest rates, this chart might help you.

I do not burn crackers and don't recommend either. Not sure what is the fun burning money this way in exchange for loud noise and pollution. But there're many who enjoy firing crackers. Some say we shouldn't encourage child labour at Sivakasi (a south Indian city known for cracker industry) by buying crackers, while others say if no one buys crackers these kids will starve to death as cracker industry is the breadwinner for entire family.

While driving from Bangalore to Chennai, it is impossible to miss the roadside shops selling crackers. They've hired people to lure motorists into the shop, by displaying placards announcing 90% discount on MRP. I stopped by a shop to check the prices. If you're buying from a local shop, this chart can help you identify the price difference

Note that one sheet says Sudharsan Crackers, while the other reads Sudharchan. I don't recognize most of the items in the list, except Lakshmi and roll cap.

Below: Tata Aria which was being driven to Chennai

Sunday, October 16, 2011

10 Tips to resist Diwali shopping temptation

Deepavali (Diwali) is round the corner and newspapers and overloaded with full page ads announcing offers and discounts.

Brands pitch in as if this is the last opportunity on earth to buy and save. Even if you're sensible, probably you'll give in to pressure of family members and buy that LED TV or something else that you didn't really need.

In this post, I'm listing some points- reading these might make you resist your temptation to shop. Whatever you save by not buying something, feel free to share a part of it with me for these suggestions.

1. There is tomorrow: Please be assured that showrooms have no intention of shutting shop after Deepavali. After Diwali there's X'mas, new year, Sankranthi, Yugadi and so on. Don't buy something you don't need, just because of offer. There'll be offers next season too.

2. You save 100% when you don't buy. Buying during an offer might save you a bit compared to regular price. But when you don't buy at all, you get to save full 100%

3. Technology improves over time. If you can differ your purchase of electronic goods by few months, please do. Whatever is latest at this moment, will be obsolete couple of months down the line. If you can buy later, you get same technology at lesser price or better technology at same price.

4. Consider alternatives: Do you really need to replace your 29" LCD with a 36" LED at half a lakh rupees? Think of something else that can be done in this amount- may be travel to new destination with family?

5. Estimate the amount brands are spending on advertising- calculate what percentage of your bill could be towards this expense

6. Some clever traders have triggered superstitions like buying something during specific days/season will bring good for buyers. Question back why there's no occasion wherein traders should give something free to people and have all the good things flood their way?

7. Retrospect what happened with your last big ticket purchase: How long did the happiness last? Did it last as promised? Did it get you lot of praises from others? Are you fully satisfied with it?

8. Things can be fixed. General tendency at present is to throw the old one and buy new one. But older items can be repaid to extend their life by several months

9. Learn to stay insulated from peer pressure. Neighbor buying something needn't be take as prestige issue

10. When salesmen try to force sell something, ask how much resale value it has. When they quote an unrealistic number, claim that you have that product and wish to sell it off at the price he quoted. Check his reaction.

Not saying don't shop this Diwali... All I meant is avoid shopping for the sake of offers.

Happy diwali.

Chunchi Falls, Arkavati river,near Sangama

Chunchi falls is about 90 kms from Bengaluru, off Kanakapura road, near Bheemeshwari and Sangama.

We went there mid July. The sound was inviting and was audible from a distance, which raised expectations. However, the falls as such was a disappointment, as all we got to see was a small stream of water. (see below)

As we neared, there were many signs warning of danger and not to go further. The internet pictures were marginally better than what we saw. May be timing was key. Had we gone in September/October probably falls would have been richer.

Arkavati is the name of the river which forms this waterfall (if you can qualify above pic as a waterfall). A few kms downstream, River Arkavati merges with River Kaveri, at a place called Sangam
Location appeared ideal for trekking- found trails- couldn't explore much due to time constraint. We hardly spotted any tourists heading this way. Kannada sign boards were enough to guide us till here- there was no need to take help from others.
Chunchi falls can be added to your plan along with other destinations like Bheemeshwari, Sangama, Mekedaatu etc.

Warning signs close up- Image by Divya
From here we drove to Sangama through a village road, from there drove another 11 kms in a mud road to reach Jungle lodges resort in Galibore. Nothing eye catching anywhere, but I enjoyed the drive all the way.

Birds of Bheemeshwari Birds near Hoysala Village Resort, Hasan * Nearby: Shettyhalli Holy Rosary Church * Birds of karanji kere, Mysore * Dancing peacocks in Mysore * 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Skywatch Friday: Moon at Valparai

Just sharing a photo of moon, clicked in Valparai mid august... Thanks to clear sky, borrowed tripod and a tree that came in the way...

Gaurs at Valparai * Sholeyar Dam * Velu Muruga * Woodbriar Group Tea Bungalows

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tata Grande indiblogger meet Chennai

Tata Motors have rebranded Sumo Grande as Tata Grande and in association with Indibloggers, had organized a bloggers' meet in Chennai yesterday. I accidentally spotted the announcement in Indiblogger and quickly registered in time. The agenda looked exciting, because of one component- 10 bloggers will get to drive a Tata Grande from showroom till the venue (Hyatt Regency, Chennai)

Also this was my first Indiblogger meet experience. Had missed out on few previous meets. I walked in into Concorde Motors showroom in Velachery, (same place where we'd driven in during Nano Superdrive) met Indiblogger representative, Vishal. Vishal works as a musician in UK and is on a holiday in Chennai at present. We enjoyed our snacks while waiting for others.

Eventually we were given a demo of Grande and were offered a drive. I almost grabbed the keys from the salesman :) Ram was driving another grande ahead of me. He knocked down a parked bike while turning and eventually got a cool laptop skin for the same (poor me, if I knew about this, I could have knocked down bigger things). We drove all the way to Anna Salai, the big grande did command lot of respect on road, as smaller vehicles willingly allowed me to take priority while changing lanes or turning. Grande also has best in class turning radius (5.25 meters) and 3rd row space.

Below: Me talking about Grande experience. (Photo courtesy: Indiblogger)

We reached the hotel by 1PM, good number of bloggers were already present. Looked like most of the people who registered did turn up. Good to see bloggers in person hitherto seen only online. However event started 1 hour late due to reasons not known to me. Meanwhile someone tweeted that he didn't get the welcome juice and Indiblogger team ensured that he got one.

I liked the idea of these two banners- trying to convey that Grade is indeed big. Kudos to whoever conceptualized this.

Indiblogger generously gives away gift items. You have high chances of winning few of those, worth a few hundred bucks, if you're creative/funny/talented etc. After recognizing few participants who came in from far away cities, randomly selected people were given 45 seconds to introduce themselves. About 45% audience did get to do this I guess.

There were some talks about the sponsoring vehicle, Tata grande. Tata has decided to do away with sumo tag on this vehicle and position it as luxury family vehicle, one level below Safari. New grande has minor tweaks compared to outgoing MK II- besides chrome grille, chrome door handle and few other changes rest all remaining the same.

Back to the event, participants were encouraged to take creative pics with the vehicle and post it online. Good marketing initiative- brand gets publicity, some lucky people get some prizes and everyone talks about the brand while participating. As seen below, participants identified creative ways to click.

I also liked the idea of this T- shirt

Grande Engine- notice the pump like device-comes handy in case of air block. Grande has the same engine as in Safari but tuned down for better fuel economy.

After the break me and Ram got to speak about our experience of driving the car from showroom to venue. I talked for a few minutes and got a trendy speaker set for this adventure.

Audience were briefed about the concept of blogalogues- stage factory team which had converted blog posts into plays earlier. After that, people were grouped under couple of topics of their interest and were allowed to have a discussion. A photo session later and last but not the least, collect your Indiblogger t-shirt (cleverly kept at the end to discourage people from escaping earlier? )

Did miss my smartphone and ability to live tweet. Felt like 19th century to take down details on an ordinary phone.

Spoke to few fellow bloggers and Tata motors officials. Got to know what is lined up in their stable and other issues. It was Sunday afternoon well spent.

Also check: Tata Aria photoshoot Set 1 and set 2 * Aria Pride 4x4 Review

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Mysore landmark photos

Not much of a text in this post, just sharing some photos taken in Mysore

St Philomena's Church, Mysore is a historical building in Mysore, stands out due to its nice architecture. We didn't go inside, just clicked few snaps from outside.
On our ways to Chamundi Hills, Police/Army personnel riding horses
 Chamundeshwari temple
 Photos of Birds at Karanji Kere, Peacocks at Karanji Kere * Mysore Airport launch pics * Chennai-Mysore in Skoda

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Petronas Twin tower photos

Petronas twin towers is a significant landmark in Kuala Lumpur. Located in KLCC (Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre), Petronas houses shopping complex, eateries in basement/ground level and rest of the building is office space. It attracts lot of tourists and tourists are allowed to climb a bridge located at half the height of the tower, in level 41. The only hindrance is getting to go till top. Only limited number of tourists are allowed every day to climb up to the bridge. There’s no advance booking, and tickets are issued on first come first serve basis. The demand is so high, people queue up from 6AM onwards for a counter that opens only at 8.30. If you get lucky you get to go, else better luck next time.
Knowing this well, our objective was to leave hotel by 6.30 and reach KLCC by 7 and stand in line for tickets to go up to level 41. Unfortunately we landed at LCCT by about 1AM and it was 3AM when we hit the bed. We could get up only at 7.30-8 and it was 9.30 am when we eventually reached KLCC. As expected all tickets for that day were sold out and we only had to see twin towers from outside. There’s always a next time. Going up to observation deck of KL tower compensated to some extent, but twin tower gives very different experience.

Next few hours we spent around KLCC- walking around the malls, an exhibition hall, Aquaria KLCC and a park located behind the twin towers. Exhibition hall had a furniture expo going on and we saw a range of beds and tables and house hold items. We got a fancy looking toy chair as complementary.

Behind the twin towers is a nice park with a play area and pool for kids. Specific points from where one can take photo of twin towers are marked to help tourists.

Entire KLCC premises has very minimal security- no metal detectors, no baggage screening, not many guards posted around. Their threat perception is less and hence this should be fine.

Sharing some of the good photos taken around petronas twin towers.

 Below: KL Tower and twin tower in one click

Some photos of the park near Petronas Twin Towers

Below: File photo from an earlier post, as to how it looks from twin tower bridge, clicked by Partho
twin-t Twin-tower-walkway Twin-tower-top-view Malaysia-twintower-night