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EXPLORING INDIA : From Kaziranga to the Himalayas to the desert of Jaisalmer to the backwaters of Allepey to the sun baked coral beaches of Lakshadweep....A first hand account of exploring this beautiful country.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Unveiled : Photography exhibition

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Unveiled
Originally uploaded by KaushikMunish
The second photography exhibition by my fraternity at Munish Khanna Academy is being put up from 4th to 8th March 2010 - (10am-8pm) at the Convention Centre Foyer, India Habitat centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi. This photo feast is aimed at treating you with the works of some budding and talented photographers nurtured by ace photographer Munish Khanna. Don't miss this occasion.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gaffar Market : the mobile bazaar of Delhi

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My Nokia N72 had gone bust in about a year and half. I continued with it till it died about a couple of months ago. Around this time I had landed in the Gaffar Market in Karol Bagh, Delhi. There is a big mobile bazaar there. I was at a loss as to how to buy a mobile there on my first visit. The place was choc-a-bloc with vendors and buyers. However most vendors were selling cheap Chinese duplicate. Once I realized how to proceed, my eyes found an Omnia and an iPhone. Both were Chinese copies, but unless you try to use it, you will not be able to discern it as a lookalike from their look. The market had everything to offer – from Chinese copy of any mobile you name to unlocking and software update services.



Impressed by the variety on display, I bought one. The price I paid was just 4100 for a sleek looking phone. I expected it to last for at least 6 months till I get my second official handset. I paid another 50 bucks for a iPhone case. Other accessories like iPhone dock were also available.



I came back and decided to do some research on iPhones. I gathered information not only from Indian mobile sites, but also from international sites giving good information on iPhone, mainly to know what are the features available and what are missing. The iPhone is actually not sold in India. One of my colleagues had it from USA and then got it unlocked here. Both looked identical, the original one being heavier. But everything just stops there. There is no internal memory in the copy, neither its touch screen is very responsive. But the phone did have some very good feature. However, the problems outweighed the good features. In fact this 4K iPhone impressed everyone.



The phone also passed the IMEI no. test imposed by government few months back. The batteries use to last about 2 days of normal use. Then one fine day it stopped detecting SIM. This is the end of it. It probably last about 4 months. It has now become my daughter’s iPod to play music as except for the SIM detection, everything else still works.



This is my brief encounter with a Chinese mobile. I tried it to know why so many people keep buying them. But it is certain that I will not buy another again. My opinion is that Gaffar Market is good for iPhone accessories, not for mobiles.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Corbett : a second time

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Getting geared up for my second trip to Corbett next weekend. My first trip was in 2008 when I had availed a KMVN package from Delhi. This time it will be a drive in trip. Last time we had stayed at the Dhikala FRH complex. This time we be staying at the Gairal Forest Rest House.  Gairal FRH is also supposed to be a self sufficient complex. On my return, my blog will have review of both Dhikala and Gairal complexs.

Wiser from the experiences of last visit, we knew that our second visit will be a drive in one. A drive in trip requires acomodation in any of the FRH which has to be booked directly with Corbett authorities. The net result is that we will be getting full 2 days inside the park and no missing safari trip because of shortages of safari vehicle. You can actually drive around in the park if you have your own vehicle. Of course you have to be familiar with the park. The entry permits are issued for 2 nights which means you have to report back on 3rd day. When we took the KMVN package, we effectively got only 1 full day inside the park as travelling by road from Delhi we could arrive at Ramnagar only by noon and Dhikala by afternoon. Thus day 1 was wasted in reaching Dhikala, day 2 was spent inside and day 3 we had to leave by 10 am. This time we will be leaving Delhi a day prior to our reservation date. After collecting the gate passes for next day, we plan to retire in a private resort that dots the highway from Ramnagar to Dhanagiri gate. As there are 77 resorts in the area and we are a group of 4 families, we can expect a good bargain for a night stay. We can enter the park early next morning. By driving own cars we will not be wasting time in hiring a jeep.

Booking accommodation directly is a painful and laborious process, but worth it. However, if you want to experience the real Corbett, then you have to manage your stay in one of the FRHs deep inside forest. Dhikala is 31 KM and Gairal 18 KM inside from the Dhanagiri gate. These are solar powered complexes with electric fencing for your protection. All packages offered by private tour operators are for resorts outside the park. You are allowed to enter the core zone through the Dhanagiri gate only if have confirmed accommodation in a FRH. If you stay in private resort then your chances of visiting this core zone is almost nil and have to satisfy yourself by visiting smaller tourism zones like Birjani and Zirna. We faxed our accommodation request for Feb 2010 in the last week of December 2009. You need to plan at least a month ahead, better if you can send the request 2 months ahead. We had given many dates like all combination of Fri + Sat, Sat + Sun and Sun + Mon to ensure that we can use the weekend and manage the 4 day trip with 2 days leave. This followed several phone calls to ascertain that the fax has been received. We were informed that the our request no was 120 in queue for February. The accommodation was confirmed in the last week January. On confirmation we had to make a DD in SBI (only bank they accept) for payment which was Rs.1250/- per room per night and then send the DD by Speed Post. We followed up to ascertain that DD has been received which confirms the booking. Room rates have gone up considerably. The rates given in their website are quite outdated. It probably has been revised twice. I will be able to put up complete information on return. But as of now, tentative room rent is Rs.1250 + Rs.250 (Housekeeping charges) = Rs.1500/= per night. Even then it is cheaper than private run packages which quotes a per person rate of about 3000.

If you want to book FRH accommodation, then send a fax addressed to the Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Ramnagar – 244715. Fax no. is 05947 – 251012. Booking office telefax is 05947 – 251376 for following up activities. The fax should have your address, contact no and tentative dates. It has to be a range of dates rather than being just two dates.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hockey World Cup 2010 Delhi Tickets

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The first international sports events for 2010 in Delhi is knocking at the door. The Hockey World Cup 2010 Tickets are now up for sale. Event strats on 28th Feb and ends on 13th March, 2010. India has no chances, but I will be there as a sports fan to cheer the team. Tickets can be purchased online. More info is available on the official website The Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010.

Ticket price is Rs.100/- for genral stand and Rs.500/- for premium stand. You can watch all 3 matches played for a day with one ticket. Match 1 starts at 16:35, match 2 at 18:35 and match 3 at 20:35. For the Final on 13th March, the ticket prices are Rs.150/- and Rs.750/-. This is the complete match schedule.

For Delhi residents, tickets can also be purchased from following outlets:
Select Cafe Coffee Day, 24x7 Convenience Stores and United Bank of India branches (only from February 12, 2010)

CAFÉ COFFEE DAY outlet list, DELHI - NCR
1 CP - Janpath : SHOP NO-42 JANPATH PEARY LAL & SONS PVT LTD ,
2 Kamla nagar : M/S OPEN HOUSE, 9, UB, BUNGALOW ROAD, JAWAHAR NAGAR,
3 Lajpat nagar : A-10, GROUND FLOOR, LAJPAT NAGAR-2,
4 Panjabi bagh : CCD-FIRST FLOOR, SHOP NO-6,CLUB ROAD, PUNJABI BAGH
5 Saket : NO-13,COMMUNITY CENTRE PVR COMPLEX SAKET
6 NFC : 14-COMMUNITY CENTRE NEW FRIEND COLONEY
7 CP : INNER CIRCLE C.P. B-49,
8 Dwarka sec-12 : DWARKA SEC- 12, SHOP NO. 101,102,109 FIRST FLOOR.,
9 CP : N-11 OUTER CIRCLE CONNAUGHT PLACE
10 M Block-GK1 : SHOP NO-37 G.K-M BLOCK GREATER KAILASH-1
11 Shantiniketan : SHOP NO-1 DDA MARKET SHANTINIKETAN NEW
12 Karol bagh : (422D) SHOP NO-422D-GN, METRO STATION KAROL BAGH
13 Geetanjali Cafe : GEETANJALI HOSPITAL , NEAR ARABINDO COLLEGE,
14 Mayur Vihar : LSC, FIRST FLOOR ,F1,F2,F3,F4,F5, MAYUR VIHAR-2 , NEW DELHI
15 AWWA : OPP- TO TAJ PALACE PALLAVI SHOPPING COMPLEX CHANKYAPURI,

Union Bank of India Branches
1 OKHLA SME ( NODAL BRANCH)
2 CONNAUGHT PLACE
3 ANAND VIHAR
4 SUNDER NAGAR
5 LODI COLONY
6 MOTI BAGH
7 ASAF ALI ROAD
8 KAMALA NAGAR (SUBZI MANDI)
9 SHALIMAR BAGH
10 PASCHIM VIHAR

Other Ticket Retail Outlets
A : 24 X 7 Convenience Stores:
1 Greater Kailash 2 Market
2 Lajpat Nagar 2 Market
3 PVR Anupam Complex, Saket

B : Ticket Counter at Gate 5 of National Stadium
C : Online Booking redemptions at Pragati Maidan Gate 2 / Ambedkar Stadium

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Kashmir Part-IV : Pahalgam

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Pahalgam was an optional choice in our original itinerary. However as we could not go to Sonamarg due to excessive snowfall, we decided to head for Pahalgam. Our plan was to spend some time there and then head for Patni top for the night stay.

Travelling from Srinagar, we had passed the town of Anantnag. A picturesque road travelling along the Lidder river took us into an interior area with very little human habitation noticeable along the road. Pahalgam falls on the pilgrim route to the Hindu holy cave of Amarnath. It remains a sleepy hamlet which springs into life during the highly publicized Amarnath Yatra season. It is understood that the road remains heavily congested during the yatra season which normally falls in June. Though we did not find anything disturbing on our travel, the Anantnag town is a known disturbed area. There have been incidences of terror attacks in recent past on this route during Amarnath yatra.

Traffic on this route beyond Anantnag was low. Leaving aside the discomfort of bad roads for few kilometers, the journey was pleasant mainly for the beautiful surroundings. The landscape was dotted with extensive mustard cultivation and cashew nut (akhroot) fields. The carpets of yellow mustards under a blue sky with snow clad mountains on the backdrop made a sight to behold. However on arriving at Pahalgam and then getting out the car to explore the scenes around the town resulted in some disappointment in me. May be the scenes of Gulamrg were still too fresh in our minds. Or may be because I had conjured up a different kind of image of Pahalgam based on the photographs I had seen on the net. When I finally saw Pahalgam, it turned out to be completely different. It had actually made us feel such an ordinary place that we wondered as to why people speak so much about Pahalgam. We later found that the beauty of Pahalgam actually lies up in the hills of Vaisoron.

It was past noon when we had arrived. Satiating our hunger was the first priority. Thus we headed straight for lunch at the Dana Paani restaurant located on the main road. My colleague told me especially about this restaurant and so we decided to give it a try. However I would like to record here that it was no extraordinary eatery that will leave lingering tastes on your buds.

Pony owners started following us right from the moment we got out of the car. They were trying to get hold of the handful of tourist that had arrived there for the day. We had no plan to try a pony ride as we had planned our night halt for the day at Patnitop. So we told them to get off our back and look for customers somewhere else. But they did not give up and waited outside the restaurant for us to finish our lunch. My experiences with pony rides had always been bad, the worst being the one at Kufri in Shimla. The guys made us to believe that the most beautiful place in Pahalgam can be seen only if we take the pony ride. By this time we also had a second thought and felt that we had not come all the way to see this dull town. Therefore we had decided to try it out which were suppose to take about a couple of hours. If time permits we would still proceed for Patnitop which would be some 4 hours drive from here. We deiced to go to Vaisoron which the pony owners touted as mini Switzerland.

The official rates were 500 or so. As we were not very interested, we stick to a rate of 200. Finally they had agreed for 200 for each pony. The ponies made there way up the hill through slushy mule tracks. Though the sun was shining that day, it had rained for past 2 / 3 days. The rain water coming down the hill had made the mule tracks very slushy and dangerous at places. In fact one of our horses slipped while coming down and almost caused a mishap.

When we had reached Vaisoron, there lay before us an extending meadow bordered by pine forests and snow clad hills. Here lies the beauty of Pahalgam. I had never seen such large meadows. Fresh from the rains of past few days, we felt like spending the rest of day in those blissful surrounding. We actually ended up spending more time then what we had planned which later made us to change our plan for night. We also made some purchase of Kesar which appears to be a real stuff. The vendor was bale to convince us by his tests that the Kesar he is selling is not fake or colored. Despite repeated washing in water, the Kesar retained its colour. The price quoted was also much lower than what is quoted at the shops.

While coming down, we had decided that it was too late to go to Patnitop and so decided to stay at Pahalgam for the night. The town had a rustic charm. It was kind of a village on the verge of transforming to a small town. Pahalgam turned out to be the most convenient place for shopping as a tourist. All shops and most hotels are located in about half kilometer stretch on the main road that passes through the town. On one side of the road is the Lidder and on the other side is the town. We went a little further down that road towards Chandanwari. About a kilometer down the road, village area starts. There were some hotels in that area located right on the river bank providing beautiful view. However, being surrounded by village, we had a kind of uneasy feeling and decided against taking a hotel there.

Safety was the utmost concern. So we came back to the town center for the night stay. We did not have any prior booking. Now that we had decided to spend the night, we wanted to explore hotels which will offer a comfortable stay for the night. Though the area had many hotels, most of them were closed. They open only during yatra season. As we could see that there were very little tourist, we were sure to get a good bargain. We stayed at the first hotel we went in. I think we paid 500 rupees per room.

The evening was spent in shopping. As I had mentioned earlier, the place turned out to be safe place for making purchases. The low number of tourists staying back also ensured that prices are reasonable. We were enjoying the last evening in Kashmir. But the biting cold of the evening made us finish the day early.

On our way back next day, we had a brief stop at Patnitop, the famous hill station near Katra. Needless to say, it is only for those who dare not to go to Kashmir. While catching the train back to Delhi, we probably were still visualizing those two days in Gulmarg. The unthinkable had happened. We have actually seen Kashmir. We had dared to do it. Only God knows if we will ever make a comeback.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 2:39 PM | 4 comments

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pending posts

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I feel bad that I had not find much time to attend my blog. I am not dead my blog almost died last year. During 2009, I had travelled more than I posted. I was too preoccupied with job last year which culminated in our team winning our company's prestigious CMD's awrad presented to us on this Republic Day. I assert myself that it will not be same this year. I plan to finish off my travel stories of last year as soon as possible. So following posts are coming:
1) Pahalgam (the last and concluding part of Kashmir trip)
2) Mysore - Infosys campus
3) Surathkal and Udupi Krishna Temple
4) Vaishno Devi Yatra and Jammu
Further, following are my forthcoming trips:
1) Corbett - a second visit from 20th to 22nd Feb, 2010
2) Kualalampur, Genting, Langkawi and Singapore - 15th Oct to 24th Oct, 2010
By the way, I had booked tickets for Delhi - Kualalampur by the newly introduced Air Asia flight from Delhi. The promotional rate as of now is Rs.3500/- one way. This is cheaper than any of the budget airline rate from Delhi to my hometown Guwahati. The offer is still on in case you want to try. The Delhi - Kualalampur flight will start sometime in Aug. We will be using the rich experience of one of our colleagues who had undertaken a trip without any travel package. So we will go there without any travel package. Booked the tickets, will book the hotels after 3/4 months prior to departure. This is going to be similar to my India travel experiences where I had travelled only once using a package.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 9:54 PM | 0 comments

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