Friday, November 28, 2014

Botanical Garden, Big Banyan Tree, Kolkata

Botanical Garden in Kolkata is a huge campus on the other side of Hoogley river. Full name is Acharya Jagadeesh Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden, but it is simply known as Botanical garden. It was under maintenance when we visited and takes a few hours to walk one round in the park.

Little far from Esplanade- there is a bus, route no 55 which can take you to Botanical garden for about Rs 12 per person. But this route will take lots of time as it goes through Howrah, which is busy area. Because of this we took a taxi to go to Botanical Garden from where we were- Maidan area for about Rs 150 for 9 kms. (one of the few times we had to hire a taxi). Taxi took Vidyasagar Sethu, avoiding Howrah area, hence we reached there faster.

We bought the tickets and went in (Rs 40 for 2 people and one camera). Disposable water bottles are not allowed inside.

Once inside, there're 3 paths you can take. Left, straight and right. We took left,with an idea of walking around the park in a circle. If Big Banyan tree is your sole objective, go straight.

Park seemed to be under maintenance. Lots of road work and other works were in progress. As per the display board above, Botanical Garden has flora from several Indian states-Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarath etc but I found these specialties are difficult to locate as there're not much information on display and you can easily get lost in the vastness of the campus. There are some basic direction signs and maps though. We spent about 3 hours and could only cover half the garden. You should keep one full day if you wish to explore this campus in details or if botany interests you. We had to leave as closing time was near and our legs started complaining due to continuous walking.
 An abandoned house inside the botanical garden
Big Banyan Tree
Big Banyan tree is the main attraction of Botanical Garden in Kolkata. Display says this tree draws more visitors than rest of the attractions in the park. I think that is because Big Banyan tree is one of the few sensible things tourists can see and feel. Many other things like Cactus house etc were closed when we went and for rest of the flora, due to lack of information and directions, people often fail to notice anything exciting about them.

Big Banyan tree in Kolkata's botanical garden is several times bigger than one in Bengaluru outskirts.

Boating is allowed in one of the lakes in the garden
Cactus house and many other attractions were closed 
 A peek into a wooden log that had a hole
 Lotus flower

 Moths on leafs

 Another flower, closeup
 View of Hoogley river as seen from Botanical garden
 A walkway in the garden
One can find most of the benches occupied by young couples. We saw guards frequently patrolling the garden on cycles to keep a watchful eye.

I couldn't locate any interesting bird in the Botanical Garden. A temple, few government offices related to horticulture etc are located inside the garden. It was certainly worth the visit.

We took bus no 55 for the return journey which took us through the towns on the other western side of Hoogley river.

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Similar: Central Park, Salt Lake City * Kolkata Tram Experience

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sir Lakshmiswar Bahadur Singh, Maharajah of Darbhanga: Statue at BBD Bagh corner

Accidentally spotted this statue in a corner opposite HSBC building in BBD Bagh.

This is the statue of Sir Lakshmiswar Bahadur Singh, Maharajaj of Darbhang (now in Bihar).

Intricate details of on the statue is simply amazing.

More details about the Maharaja can be read from his wikipedia page

Check this post for photos of Writer's building and other interesting structures in BBG Bagh area of Kolkata

Writer's Building, GPO BBD Bagh Kolkata

Writer's building is West Bengal's secretariat, similar to Bengluru's Vidhana Soudha. Currently it is under renovation, with half the offices shifted to a new building in Howrah.

The clerks who worked for British East India company used to work from this building, hence the name.

Few photos clicked during a short walk around the BBD Bagh area:

 RBI building nearby
There's a small lake (Lal Dhigi) and a park in front of the writer's building. But it was closed. Not sure if it is exclusive property of elected representatives
 GPO or General Post Office building is the next building worth taking a look

Damaged pillars need maintenance.

 St Andrew's church and postal life insurance building

Denmark Embassy is also nearby.

Below photos I believe are of LIC building

A red and white building, which seem to have a clock missing!
 Nearby: Marble Palace * 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Skywatch: Chennai to Bengaluru weekend bike ride in TVS Apache

Last weekend, I rode from Chennai to Bengaluru and back in my recently bought bike, Apache RTR160. This wasn't my longest drive. We had rode 2000 kms last year in Thailand [related posts here] and I'd ridden Chennai to blr and back 8 years ago in my earlier bike, a less powerful Bajaj Discover. Back then I didn't have an active blog or proper camera to capture and share the details.

After first service, the impulse to ride long distance gave in and I set off for a quick ride. This post shares some photos and experiences from the ride.

To reduce weight, I didn’t carry DSLR. Only mobile and GoPro. I had the suction mount with me and was thinking of recording some videos. But then, I asked myself a few questions- what will be unique about the video I am going to make? Is the bike unique? Is the road/destination unique? Am I shooting in any unique angle? The answers were No. I felt I might just end up shooting GBs worth of videos without any real value, hence didn’t take too many photos during the trip. Only made a sample video using GoPro and suction mount, which can be seen below. Some of the suction mounts are certified for speeds upto 160 kmph, but I wasn’t sure about this one. Drove till 80kmph with it and the suction mount held on perfectly. Was little skeptical to go faster, since the risk of losing the expensive camera was high. I need to find a way to attach the mount/camera to bike using some elastic rope, such that camera hangs on to the bike in case suction mount fails. This way I can try little faster ride without fearing loss of camera.

Also I think it is time automobile designers start provisioning some flat surfaces on the bikes and cars, so as to fit suction mount easily. On Apache I could mount on the side of petrol tank, but it wasn't very convenient as I had to keep my foot away from the camera.

Took Vellore- Krishnagiri- Hosur route while going and took Kolar-Chittoor-Ranigunta road while returning. Va Kolar is about 30 kms shorter, but has narrow 2-lane road for close to 150kms. First 100kms from Chennai roads are very bad.

Petrol prices were cheapest in Sriperambadur area and got expensive as we went away from city.
Quantity added
Approx Avg Speed
Distance covered before reaching reserve
Fuel economy
Near Krishnagiri
Near Sriperambadur

Essentially I spent fuel worth about Rs 1500 for 835km trip, that is about 22 litres or about Rs 1.8 per km. Comparatively, for 2 people, a round trip in sleeper class train would have costed Rs 1100, in KSRTC AC Volvo bus or Shatabdi about Rs 2800. If I had maintained an average speed of 50-60, cost would have been around Rs 1100, but that would have taken few more hours to reach the destination. Took about 7.5 hours for the return journey, via Chittoor.

We started at 4.45 AM from home in Chennai, some 45 min later than actual target. Missed a turn near Tambaram and alternate route I selected was at least 10-15kms longer. It was fun to zip past the toll booths, where I would have spent at least 1000 Rs for round trip if I was in a car. We reached our destination in Bangalore by 1PM, about 8 hours overall, including multiple breaks for food, fotos and fuel…

A cute pup infront of a restaurant in Palmaner, AP
Lots of tender coconut all along the way, for about Rs 20, half of what it costs in Chennai.
Onward journey, held during morning half was smooth as there was no cross wind. But during the return trip, heavy cross winds threatened to blow off the bike. Had to slow down and be extra cautious. Also the heavily tolled road is not really smooth. Lots of patches and pot holes all along can easily destabilize a bike in high speed. 

Relatives scolded for coming in bike instead of taking bus or train. Because of bike I had to ride in the day, so I got less time in Bengaluru, but that is fine once in a while.

Similar: Yelagiri bike trip