Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hari-Ma homestay - Coorg

It all began when we decided to do a home stay in Coorg and looked up for some options. I looked up the information on the web and read reviews from different sources and called up the home stay hosts. We zeroed in on Hari-Ma home stay close to Suntikoppa in North Coorg. Mrs Yeshu Thammaiah, the host sounded very assuring over the phone.

The place looked very much like how it seemed from the pictures on the websites. It is a beautiful  bungalow of a sprawling coffee estate owned and operated by Mr and Mrs Thammaiah. Its is about 4-5 kms off the Kushalnagara - Suntikoppa road and far far from the madding crowd. A huge open courtyard hedged by gardens led us into a front porch which has a lotus pond. The Thammaiahs are a friendly and soft spoken Coorgi couple and their hospitality made us feel very warm and comfortable.

The bungalow is two storied and houses  four bedrooms. The hosts stay downstairs and let out the two bedrooms in the first floor to the guests. A tastefully done and decorated, calm, neat and clean bedroom (with attached baths) awaited us. Separating the two guest bedrooms is a common area that opens into a terrace balcony. This is a great place to catch up with the first rays of the morning sun as it pierces the mist that shrouds the night.

It was 5 PM when we reached and Yeshu aunty treated us to a fine homemade cake, some cookies and piping hot locally produced Arabica coffee. This done, we formed a group and followed Thammu uncle into his coffee estate where he grows Arabica and Robusta coffee. He also has pepper, cardamon in his estate. We did a short estate visit with darkness closing in on us and returned back to the bungalow.

Thammu uncle had arranged for a camp fire in the open area adjacent to the bungalow and he promptly lit it up. The next two hours passed very swiftly. It was not particularly cold, chill is what I should call it. All it needs is to pull our chairs a tinge closer to the fire and keep the conversation rolling.We talked and talked and talked. Coorg is a very interesting place and Coorgis have a very long history.

Dinner was a detailed affair. Aunty had prepared a lot of dishes in traditional Kodava style. I do not remember their traditional names but there was a stuffed capsicum starter and a pepper chicken dry. Main course was roti, rice and idiyappam with sides of chicken gravy, a colocachia gravy and a mixed vegetable gravy. I liked chicken curry the best and I found Kodava style to be in similar lines to Kerala style. Aunty also had fruit salad for desert and when we finished dinner we were tired.

When morning arrived and coffee was done, Uncle took us out to a nearby backwaters of Harangi dam and it was a photo shoot spot. We started late and by that time the sun was out and we could not spend much time there and we returned to have breakfast. Breakfast was puttu but not Kerala style! It was kind of different from whatever I had had prior to this. We had puttu with peas and cauliflower gravy. Aunty suggested that I try puttu with honey and home made butter and I for sure liked this better.

All good things end and so does this home stay and it was time, we got ready packed the bags and filled up Aunty's guest book. She was so gracious to give us cuttings of a few nice flowering plants from her garden. Thus done and and a day well spent we headed back to Bangalore after a refreshing and relaxing day at Hari-Ma home stay. Wondering why the name Hari-Ma? Take a guess. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Diwali and beyond

We have traveled to Erode for Diwali. Thursday evening we took the train out from Bangalore and by midnight we reached Erode. Spent a quiet Friday at Erode. Visited the Erode market streets in the midst of pre-Diwali shopping frenzy and it is a sight to remember.

Diwali day was spent with Pallavi's family and Saturday evening we left Erode for Coimbatore to start the wedding proceedings for Sathish. Sunday was a 'Getting-The Groom-Ready' function and my mom traveled from Pollachi to be with us for the function.

After we were done with this function, I joined my mom and Pallavi to visit Deepthy and her kid in Vadavalli. Yuvan as he is most likely to be named has already been nicknames as Chinna-Bonda. I think it is quite a fitting nickname. People who know Yuvan's dad will agree.

This Sunday has been special in more than one way. I visited the Sharadambal temple, the very location where I tied the knot more than 2 years ago. Memories came down running back as I took a walk around the temple and I should say 2 years have been eventful.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Car's first service with us

Recently we bought a used car. 2006 model white Hyundai Getz done 15k kms in good condition. Last week I took the car to the service center for the first time. It was for a general sevice - its official term is Periodic Maintainance Service (PMS). In addition I opted for wheel balancing and full interior upgradation along with under chassis protection from 3M. All together costed me 9k bucks. But going forth I think the PMS is going to cost me 3k bucks every 6 months for the periodic routine.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lad no more

The eagle has flown. My kid brother is a lad no more. A marine engineer by choice, he has started his deputation with M/s Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL).

With great difficulty did he manage to obtain his marine engineering based certifications called CDC and Part-A. This was because of the lackadaisical attitude displayed by his college management in applying and procuring these certifications for the cadets. The role played by the college diminished to the worst possible extent when the last dues from the final year students were cleared.

But its all done and finished now. My brother has started his journey into the high seas. He has boarded his training ship from Mumbai and his first destination is Manila, Phillipines. He will be in 3 months of on-job training and will be back in Jan. My best wishes will always be with him as he starts his illustrious career.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Decided on the car

We had decided to get a car as soon as I came back from the US. While this happened on June 15th, we had not yet progressed on our decision as of the last weekend. We had been visiting dealers almost every weekend. Across Bangalore we have seen so many dealers and tried out several cars. We had it narrowed down to two models - the Maruthi-Suzuki Swift Vxi and the Hyundai Getz GLS.We had decided to go for the 2005 and 2006 models with 2006 being the priority.

Each model has its pros and cons and I would rate them as being neck to neck in totality. While the Swift surges ahead with its higher power and smoother clutch controls, the Getz has better gear shifting and offers more interior space although the exterior dimensions are a tad lower than the Swift. The Getz cannot match the higher fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs of the Swift, but it does offer a lower initial cost at the resale market.

The trick was to find a Getz car in good condition with a substantially lower mileage so as to expect reduced initial maintenance for a running period of 10-15k kms. Over the last two weekends we had checked out about 10 cars of the two models. It was extremely difficult to find a good Swift for less than 3.75L, Swift has incredibly good resale and is quite fast moving.

We looked at a 2005, Red colored Getz (the best color variant IMO) about 39k kms and tried to negotiate the price, but the deal did not go through. (Now I think that was good for us) Although we liked the car, it was not in mint condition, the interior was quite used and had substantial wear and tear. Yesterday we again went to the user car dealer - c2c cars located at Bannerghatta road opp to Purva heights.

This time we got to try out a 2006 White Getz GLS done 15k kms. We tried the vehicle and it was the best car so far. With just 15k kms that was obvious. The seller was quoting a moderately high price but we knew what was the apt price in the resale market. We negotiated the price to about 10k lesser than the correct price and got it worked out. The stand out point was that the interior of the car was in mint condition, it was as good as the running condition.

After a inspection as Trident motors on Sarjapur road, which confirmed that the vehicle was in great shape, we decided to buy the vehicle. The only decision to make was whether Pallavi would be ok with the white color. We drove the vehicle to her office and picked Pallavi up and she was also game for this car. Her inclination has always been on the Getz more than the Swift and she was happy with the white color.

So that's how it stands, I have made an advance of 10k and agreed to make the balance payment in 3 days. The car is blocked and is now stands at the garage till I make the payment. So that's how my first car buy has gone so far and it has been a rocking experience. Now on to the part of finishing off with the deal and learning how to drive the car!

I am immensely thankful to Subbu for his time and effort and his patience in trying and testing out cars for us. And also for his tips on the nuances of buying a used car. I am so glad you liked the car we picked.

Manina, without you this would not have been possible. You are the best...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Getting back

Another couple days and my trip is done. I am heading back baby... Returing home - such a nice feeling. I am done with all my shopping, packing is partly done and I am getting impatient that the time does not shift as swiftly as it did when I arrived. I need to progress another three days and this trip will be over.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Singapore visa

If you have a valid US visa (I have a B1) and are returning from the US, you can stop over in Singapore without visa for upto 4 days (96 hours). But your entry is at the discretion of the immigration officer processing your stop over request.

I am planning a family trip in Singapore on my way back and I could not take that chance. Possession of a tourist visa gives me a sure shot chance and so I looked up applying for a Singapore visa through the embassy at San Francisco.

The process is a cakewalk. The required documents are
1. Visa application form filled in (For address put in your India address as well as your US local address with phone number and email address)
2. Your original passport with a copy of the first, last and the US visa pages.
3. Copy of invitation letter for your business trip in US. ( I am on B1 so this is mandatory, for L1, H1B could be waived)
4. Copy of flight e-ticket. (Obviously your itinerary should have a stop over in Singapore)
5. Copy of your hotel confirmation voucher in Singapore. (do the booking before hand, better to get some good deals)
6. 1 passport sized photo, maintain a white background, I think the size does not matter.
7. Self addressed US postal express return envelope - flat rate $17.50. (Write your US address in the recipient columns, ensure that the postage is pasted on the cover)
8. $20 in cash.

Drive in, or take the BART (to Montgomery station) to 595, Market street, SF. The embassy is on the 24th floor, suite 2450. Give the documents to the receptionist and get them verified. Pay the cash and collect the receipt and you are done. Note the submission hours are from 9 am to 12 pm only.

Drive or take the BART back home. I drove the rental car out to Milbrae, parked at the BART station and took the BART to get to SF and back. I did this (submitted the application) on a Monday morning and I received the stamped passport on Wednesday.

If you want to pick up your passport from the embassy office directly, skip the US postal express return envelope, will save you some money, but adds on to some extra effort. The collection hours are from 2 pm to 4 pm. The receptionist will actually let you know when to come for getting your stamped passport.

You can also send your application and supporting documents to the embassy via post, but then you need to make sure that you have a draft for the processing fee of $20. I skipped this part just because I did not want to go over the hassles of going to the bank. I don't know if we can do that if we do not have a SSN.

If you want some other detail on the process look it up on Embassy@SF site, or send put in a comment/send me a email.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My 50th post... Something special? Well no just the usual

Have not blogged in weeks. Well cannot say that I have been too much occupied with work. Just that I did not get the peace of mind to write something.

Spent a weekend at Austin with my college friends Sexme and Sixty. Travel was hectic with 5 hours of flight journey for one way. Visited a couple of places in and around Texas and experianced the night life in a college downtown.

Last weekend my cousin Kiran visited me. We spent time roaming around SF downtown and trying some Italian and French restaurants. Also made a visit to the Great Mall at Milpitas and spent about half a day shopping.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Past the 4 weeks point

Right now its 4 hours past the 4 weeks time since I landed in the US. Time has been passing swiftly with work in the weekdays and outings in the weekends. But still I have 8 more weeks to pass. This time separation is starting to take its effect.

Last time I visited US, when I was at this 4 week mark, it was less than 2 weeks that separated me from going home. I am starting to miss home. I love driving here, its driving for dummies. I can drive all I want, all cars big and fancy and drive them safely. But for that the feel is missing in this place. US is a great place to visit, but I would say it not a great place to call home.

The effect of this distance has started to show on Pallavi too. Mom visited her and played guest for a week, but she is also back to her duties and Pallavi is starting to miss me. She has grown up a lot, displayed excellent maturity. Last time it was just 6 weeks and not a day passed without her crying to me over the phone.

I miss everything. I miss Pallavi, that's very obvious, needless to say. We share a superb bond, emotional and surreal, one that words cannot express. One that only we can understand and just being so far away for so long is paining. I miss home, I miss the cozy place I have created where I can relax after a busy days work or laze around on a weekend.

I miss my friends. I am in touch with most of them, let me list the things I have missed or am forced to skip
1) Mathan-Gayathri's kiddo, pictures don't speak much
2) Vishwa-Seetha's wedding, man its today, I mean in a few hours from now...
3) Weekend cricket, sometime when I meet all my buddies together and we have a ball
4) I will be missing the utter nonsense talk during lunch/coffee hours with my buddies and hours of humor.

As much as I have a great times with friends, I have equally amusing times with family. April and May are the months that a lot of family visit us. We have accommodated at one point close to 12-13 guests in our small 900 sq.ft two bedroom house. Family will be visiting but I will be the one that odd and out.

There is a lot happening in the country that I will be missing totally. One thing is the election, before the US trip was planned, I had actually decided to take off and go to my native (ok, yeah I will mention Kottampatti) to cast my vote. My voter's ID card will be catching up with more dust.

There is IPL happening, of course we cannot be going live to SA, but watching cricket with company is always fun. You must come to the cafeteria when there is a heated match in progress. I bet you will not find a place to sit.

To be continued.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Livermore temple, Del Valle lake and Muir woods

So Friday evening ended with a ride to Madras cafe in Sunnyvale and couple of dosas. This place is typical Indian, you need to get your food coupons upfront before you are seated and the place was bulging full. Friday evening and the weekend means so much business for these folks.

Saturday morning we drove out on a 40mile drive to the Livermore temple. Good dharshan, lots of Indian crowd and best of all buffet brunch. Sambar sadam was a highlight. After finishing the temple we headed to a lesser known wilderness place called Del Valle lake off Livermore. It was rocking... People bring their own boats attached to the trailers and have a fun time boating, fishing, reading and having a leisurely existence. Apart from that there is cycling and hiking along the lake's shores and a lake side beach where people make fun.

We did not have a boat so we hired one. We wanted a rowboat for $10. But since oars were in short supply we got a upgrade to a motor boat. Couple hours in the lake, driving out in the vast water and into the shaded shores. It was fun, a new first for me. Vasanth and me were together on this trip and it was major fun.

Sunday was better, we took to the road again, this time to Muir woods north of San Fransisco city, we crossed the Golden Gate bridge and took to the Marlin county. This led us to a hill drive and it was challenging for me to keep to the lane and navigate through the curves. Bigger car here is a problem, but we reached Muir woods in good shape.

Muir woods is the a ecological preserve that hold the Coastal red wood trees, giants reaching 350 feet (30 storied building). There are some great trails for trekking (out here its called hiking) and we took a smaller one, but got lost and had to find a way back and finally we finished exhausted, but greatly satisfied that this day's gym time is done for.

View the pictures here

Saturday, April 04, 2009

What a hectic week this one was

I was constantly into and out of meetings and when I was not in one, I was hard into my document getting it into shape and putting all the deliberations into the document. Finally weekend has arrived, my document is also done and uploaded for review from the big guns. But come weekend I will have some time relax, have fun, try some different food and go some places.

Whats the vehicle for the weekend? Its a Toyata camry, man this one has got some power. I got to watch that pedal when I drive. I am done with the gym time for the day, now to head to the showers and then on to the road, One week without Indian food is enough and I am heading out to Madras Cafe in Sunnyvale for a Dosa dinner.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Days pass by

Finally I got the guts to rent a car. Driving is the only thing I like US better than in India. Its simple and easy since driving is predictable here, you can define how the other vehicles are going to act. Its transportation automation here. But Indian driving, its R&D...

Ok, Friday evening I visited Annapurna restaurant at San Mateo. Same place, nothing has changed really. Even the waiters are the same. I order for a "Sambar Vada" and a "Masala Dosa". The Dosa was so big that I could have slept on it, but I did not complain, a week without dosa is too much for Sudhu.

More importantly I found some company. A guy called Vasanth, an employee of Accenture working for a project in Oracle on a short term trip as me and staying in the same hotel. We went out Friday and finally seems like I got some company to hang around! He was expecting some guests and he would be out on Saturday, but I had a plan for Saturday too.

Saturday was lonely but not too boring. A vehicle makes all the difference here. The vehicle I rented for the weekend was a Pontiac G6, a full size car. For breakfast I drove out to Ralston and had a coffee breakfast at Starbucks. Then I collected some information on Sony service for Sriram anna's broken laptop. I found one at Stanford shopping center at Palo Alto about 15 miles from my place.

Drive to Stanford was eventful, lost my way a couple times and then clawed back into the right route to finally get to the shopping center. My God it was huge. Managed to find the place and give the laptop for service, its gonna take a week to a months time depending on whats gone wrong. The way back was easy and I came back with no issues.

Each drive was carefully planned. Go to maps.google.com for a route chart, get accustomed to the turns and curves and then write down the text map. Then start the drive. Late afternoon I drove back to Ralston and lunched Chinese at a Hongkong restaurant. Was nice, not too different from the Indian Chinese food. But 90% of the menu is pork and beef based and I avoided all those and took to a chicken order.

Done with the food and a chat with its Chinese owner, man that guy was very informative, he has been living here for 30 years... Drove back to the hotel and spent a quiet afternoon. Actually I was just waiting for the evening to arrive. At about 8 PM I started the drive to Saravana Bhavan at Sunnyvale. This was a simple route and one that I had taken numerous time during my last trip, but I got lost.

Instead of talking the Fremont avenue exit, I went past it, but it helped that I knew the route, basically I had to go left on taking the exit into Fremont avenue and at S Mary I needed a right. So I decided to take the next exit and follow the same path and try my luck. Yes it did last, the next exit into the lane parallel to Fremont also met S Mary and I reached the restaurant unscathed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Boring Saturday and a eventful Sunday

Yesterday was the most boring saturday of my life. I spent the whole day lazing around. I ordered a medium domnino pizza for lunch and had the same for dinner too. I did not move outside the room and at night it started raining. I downloaded a couple of movies, "Vennila kabadi kuzhu" being one among them. Today morning also I woke up early, early being 4 AM. The jet lag is still not off me completely and I get asleep in the evenings and manage to eat dinner early.

Today is a good one I hope, I am visiting Kiran today and will be taking the train to visit him. I also managed to withdraw some cash from an ATM here in safeway super market. The bank is Wells Fargo. We have had some business interaction from Oracle with the bank and I just remembered the work we did that time...

Now I am aboard the caltrain and typing this as I pass hayward park station. I must alight at Milbrae and take a connecting BART transport to Rockridge where Kiran will be picking me up...

Got a little confused in buying BART tickets at the Milbrae station, one machine I tried was not accepting $1 coins, help was nearby and I tried another machine and it worked. Anyways I had planned for a little time there since I know I need to get the tickets and now I am aboard the BART train heading towards Pittsburg/Bay point and will get down at Rockridge station. Kiran will be waiting at that station to pick me up.

I hope that we will be able to visit the ethiopian restaurant just like last time and have some good food.
To be continued...

No it did not happen that way, just as I was getting into the BART, I got a voice message, change of plans, I got to transfer at Mc Arthur station into the Richmond line and get down at Downtown Berkeley. Oh yeah, its the same kind of places as in "Adiye Kolludhe" from "Varanam Ayiram"... Lunched with Kiran at a Salvadorian cusine and then walks down the way in downtown. Kiran asked me to join him and company for a movie.

Well coming to the company, two girls, both tamil, but more American than Indian, both 30s, both single, both students. Kiran has great friends. One was pretty the other moderate. Well I kind of felt odd to join them for a movie, had coffee with these guys and parted ways. Retraced my train route back to hotel... Was full tired and man crashed hard...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Off to the US on a business trip

A quick trip got planned for a new project in office and I am off to US for 3 months. I will be based out of SFO. I expect the work to be tight so that I am kept occupied, for I do not have many friends in SFO and bay area now and weekends will surely be boring.

Currently in transit in Singapore airport, just thought I will make a quick update. Lovely Singapore airport again. I have got confirmed that when I return back I can stay in Singpore for upto 4 days with a on arrival visa since I have a valid US visa and travel tickets back to India within the limit 96 hours.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

3 years since

Three years back, this very day, I took a ride in the intercity express and life went on an absolute roller coaster. I met a girl on the train, this very day three years back. The journey was absorbing, we got acquainted and chatted and chatted and chatted. I liked her immediately, but her first take was too much. She liked me so much that, when we got off the train she concluded that she wanted to get a guy like me. Her long standing wait for a soul mate was finally going to get over.

Days turned to weeks and acquaintance turned into a relationship, a little more than friendship but not measuring enough to be termed as love. I finally appreciated the fact that Bangalore has some very beautiful and romantic parks. More and more I got convinced that if I missed this chance, that would be the most costly miss of my life. I was not sweet sixteen, but those were the best days of my life.

Weeks turned to months and eventually the family snooped by. My side was happy for my decision since the girl was much known to them. In fact everybody adored her. Roller coaster began its twists and turns when her family got into the loop and raised a strong veto against the relationship. Every thing cannot be smooth all the time and whats the thrill without some troubles. We have had our fair share of them and time is the best answer to most.

Months turned to a year and when finally all family issues were resolved, things started to get real rosy again. She is clearly the best thing that has happened to me. Sometime I so wonder how much she completes me. She kind of gels in well with the character that I am and same must be how she felt too. In unspoken words, in sly and seductive glances is a story of requited love that changed two lives and many more.

One and half years since the day we met each other we got married. It was a simple affair, a temple wedding and simple reception. It was a day that we can never forget in our lives, when the moment arrived, I looked into her eyes and she into mine. There was family all around us, but nothing else mattered but that moment. No words came out, yet everything that is so important in this world were then spoken. I tied the knot and thus we became man and wife.

Moving in together, our married existence was a world apart to to our vaguely joint lives so far and each day brought something new, sometimes something to remember. Mostly we do cohabit, we have very few stuff that each other dislike, and I now feel that is more important to a relationship than the things we are alike. We managed to retain our individuality and yet coexist and that I consider as the one thing in each other that we cherish the most.

Between work and home, weekdays and weekends, commercial street and visits to 'Blossoms', between her love for books and my passion for aquariums, cricket and shopping, we spent our lives, and we have so far spent it well. I donot yet know if I have been a perfect guy to her, but she has been the sweetest girl I have known. These three years have been the most eventful years that my life has so far known. But without a doubt these have been the best.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Belur Halebeed and Sravanabelagola

The trip was planned over night, the trippers just me and her.

We took a bus to Majestic at 6:45 AM and reached in half an hour. We took a state transport bus towards Hassan. Plan was to use Hassan as the base and travel out of there to these places. Hassan was about four and half hour of uneventful journey. We checked out a couple of places for accomodation, but they were not suitable for a family. We tried the posh hotel Southern star Hassan and it turned out to be 4000 bucks a night for a double room, my foot. Finally checked into a Hotel Sri Krishna which was a budget but decent hotel for 800 bucks a night.

The road to Belur from Hassan is an excellant one maintained by the ASI I guess and it took an hour to get there. We went directly to the Chennikeshava temple and it took us just 2 hours to roam the temple complex. The complex has numerous temples each in a style of its own. The commonality was the temple exterior and interior was full of carvings and reliefs and each design was very intricate.
From Belur we took a short (half hour) bus ride to Halebeed. I like this temple complex better than Belur because it was chic and more scenic with surrounded gardens a nearby lake and very picturesque. We finished with Halebeed in another one and half hours and returned to Hassan. The journey back to Hassan was the one I liked the most, it went past numerous villages with nice scenery of sunflower blooms and shades of green of different vegetation. Was very refreshing to the eyes and a very pleasant evening.
For dinner we headed back to Hotel Southern Star, assuming that a expensive star hotel must be having a good restaurant. The lunch we had at Sri Krishna was pathetic so we wanted good food. Our efforts did not go waste. Southern star offered a good menu and excellant taste and value for money. So I recommend staying at Sri Krishna and dining at Southern Star. Whats more they are 2 mins walk apart.

The next morning we checked out at 10 and proceeded to Sravanabelagola. Again taking public transport to Channarayapatna and onward to Sravanabelagola which took us one and half hours to get there. The sun was up and bright and sunny but not very hot. But it did take some more time and us some effort to get ourselves on top of the hill and winding stairways to reach the tallest monolith of Gomateshwara. The monolith is surrounded by shrines dedicated to the tirthakars of Jaina religion.

After the descent we had lunch at a joint in Sravanabelagola before proceeding to Hirisave, a half hour bus journey. At Hirisave we boarded the bus to Bangalore at about 3:30 and reached Majestic about 7:45. When we reached home at 8:30 we were dusty, tired and beaten down but satisfied of visiting three places most noted for sculptures and temple architecture.
Speak the magic word to view the pictures: