Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wildlife of South Africa - Art Publishers: Remarkable pictures of Wildlife

The Book and my take on it: a small, concise, illustrative 64 pages of jungle poured into pages and bound into a book. The pictures speak aloud; the words draw pictures in your mind. There is not much to read, it is just to feel, absorb, unfreeze your mind from the daily routines and have a small trip to South Africa jungles. No air tickets, no travels, no fear of facing animals in real but still in those 64 pages it appears you are lost in the jungles, as if you are unfrozen, melted and are taken very close to Nature.
Enjoy the pictures above in the video section, the pictures have been captured from the book, but few of them will appear as if taken in real environment.
Lighter note: Till now I was aware of PIP (when bought a TV few years back, heard of this new technology – Picture in Picture), this is POP – picture of picture J
The words are so beautiful, that I am forced to write some of the excerpts.Excerpts: “INTRODUCTION – On the sundrenched savannahs of Africa, a kingdom exists in perfect harmony with Nature. Where natural laws govern the survival of each species; where Nature takes care of her own in a circle of life as old as time itself, there is a balance, a serenity which man can only observe and wonder.Far from the desires which drive humanity, removed from any concept of greed or ambition, the animal kingdom remains united under a hierarchy which continues unchallenged, just as Nature decreed form the very beginning.” I was moved by these words! Are you?
Pictures and Words: Animal definitions are very well capsulated. Minimum words but depth of meaning is transformed inside when you read it. Pictures are lively, well selected and appealing. Call you to look at them again and again. Each picture “speaks” and lets you listen through eyes, “readable” and lets you read through the curves and colors.
Photographers: Some of the world known Wildlife photographers’ pictures are performing in the book. They are – Peter Chadwick, M. Craig-Cooper, Peter Craig-Cooper, Nigel Dennis, Pat de la Harpe, Roger de la Harpe, Martin Harvey, Lanz von Horsten, Greg du Toit, Richard du Toit, James Wakelin, Jason Keywood and James Warwick.
Produces by Art Publishers (pty) Ltd
Durbon, Johanesburg, Cape Town
Cost: hidden in the bar code.

Hill Stations of India - Gillian Wright

Odyssey Illustrated guide to
Hill Stations of India – Second Edition – Gillian Wright
US$21.95  GBP12.95

Note: The review has been written less in words and more in pictures intentionally so that the reader reads about the book more through the pictures compiled rather than words. Scientifically visuals are faster understood than words
About the Author, Photographer, Editors
: Written by Gillain Wright and photographs are by Sarah Lock. Editors are Madhumita Mohapatra and Sheela Jhaveri. Book is quite interestingly written with lot of superb photographs, illustrations and poetry suitably fitting at appropriate places.Gillian Wright did her first class degree in Indian Languages form London University and worked for more than a decade for BBC radio and TV in India. The book has been printed and bound in Hong Kong.

The book
: Enjoy the pictures, taken from the book with POP technology. The poetry is excellent and equally good is the prose. Pictures are marvelous. Information is quite handful equally for Nature Lovers, Historians, Geography lovers, poetry lovers, tourist. For each of the Hills covered, its background, its history has been explained. Even each location covers the name of hotels with ample details like address, quality of service and contact numbers. At times she has offered the maps too. All hills road routes are also explained making reading more useful. It covers every place of India and each place has been researched thoroughly before writing this book. The writing is from the “heart” more than from “brain” and that could happen only because the writer is fond of “Nature” and very sincerely she has shared her love for Nature in this book.

Excerpts: Chamba – “The road to Chamba runs along the valley of the fast-flowing Ravi, at first high above and then beside River. The town, 53 kilometres (33 miles) from Dalhousie and connected by regular bus services, was the capital of the former rajas of Chamba…” … Background – “The kingdom of Chamba was ruled, without a break, by the same Rajput family from AD 550 to independence in 1947. The first ruler, Maru Varma, established his capital at Brahamputra, today’s Bharmour. Around AD 930, his descendent, Sahi Varma, moved the capital to Chamba…”

Visit all the hills of India, and get the knowledge of their history as a bonus.

Amsterdam: Een mooie dag in de stad van Kanalen

Amsterdam, the official capital of Netherlands, is a mix of 13th Century architecture and modern era lifestyle. The old architecture is solely visible in buildings, markets, canals, houses etc. whereas the modern lifestyle is visible in pubs, bars, drugs, clothes etc. It was during the cold weather when I was there in Holland’s working Capital City Den Haag in December, and on a weekend we decided to visit Amsterdam for a day. In the morning we took a tram from our hotel in Den Haag to the central station from where we took fast train to Amsterdam (that cost us around 17 euros each for return ticket, valid upto 12 midnight), that meant that I had to catch the return train latest by 10pm from Amsterdam. We had to pay 1 euro extra for each ticket as we did not use the automatic machine to purchase ticket and rather bothered the lady at the manual ticket counter, we did not dare to take a chance at automatic machine since all was written in Dutch on the various buttons on the machine. It was a double storey train, two classes, first class and general class, and the general class better than our luxury class in an Indian train, spacious, table between seats, newspapers, electrical points for mobile charging and no dust or a minute piece of waste on the floor or seats. Seats were as comfortable as they can be. The scenic view throughout the way was full of huge fields, cattle, canals, large office complexes (many international companies could be seen like IBM, HP, Sony etc.). A little of the passage was through tunnel also. In next two hours we were at Amsterdam Station. The loo was very clean and could be utilized by paying 1 Euro per visit. Just outside the station is tram station for local travel. 
The center of Amsterdam is shaped like a horseshoe, surrounded by four famous canals called the Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Singel and Prinsengracht. These four canals meet at centre at central Dam Square on which Dam Palace is built. On the south of Central Station, there is the world famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Red Light District, the area has many adult shops and peep show bars but there is heavy police presence, and many security cameras to take care of the visitors. Although it is warned repeatedly that you have to take care of wallets and belongings as chances of pick-pocketing are quite high in this area. The official tour in this area is only in the night time. Amsterdam and Den Haag have several excellent museums and two of the best are next to each other in Amsterdam namely The Van Gogh Museum, that houses some of his most famous masterpieces comprising of his work right from his youth in Holland till his death in France. The museum is open every day between 10:00 and 18:00 hours and till 22:00 hours in Friday. Very near to this is a 250-room Rijksmuseum containing one of the best Rembrandt collections in the world. Although at that time the main building of the museum was under renovation, still major art work is at display in the Philips wing of this museum which is open every day between 09:00 and 18:00 hours.
Don’t forget to walk around in the main market adjacent to red light area and on a walking distance from the station. Also spare some time to walk around the canals and the roads to pass through age old architecture which is still intact and beautiful. Look at the houses style, the typical windows, staircases, shops and the churches. We visited Rembrandt’s house where he lived from 1639 to 1657, near to Waterlooplein. In the main city is the oldest church Oudekerk, made in 13th century where Rembrandt’s wife Saskia is buried. Roads being narrower, it is easy to walk rather than drive in a taxi or car and parking charges at various places are as high as 4-5 euros per hour. Being a high tourist attraction, stealing and pick pocketing is at high in Amsterdam. Lucky were we that the day was sunny and there was no rain throughout the day. A day visit of city along with the famous windmills and a diamond factory (some 10 kms away) cost us around 50 Euros each (5 hours tour) and another 20 Euros each for the Canal Cruise by a Boat (2 hours tour). The sun sets here quite early around 3.45 or 4pm and after that it was dark when we traveled in the canal. The lighting of the buildings, market, pubs and restaurant was looking very good at late evening time. Tried to take a snap of a group of people behind a glass wall on 17th floor of a building along the side of the canal doing Aerobics to keep them fit, but it shot blurred as either the boat was running quite fast or they were exercising faster. A famous line for Amsterdam is “it is difficult to distinguish street from canal from October to March due to heavy rains.
Please enjoy some of the photographs shot at Amsterdam uploaded in the video section! (the windmill, the diamond factory, the diamonds…)
The meaning of the title line “Een mooie dag in de stad van Kanalen is “A beautiful day in the city of Canals

Pati Patni Aur (Now

Note: All the characters below are real-life physically and mentally existing. All sequences are coincidental (happening by chance rather than intentionally) but not coincidental (happening or existing at the same time) and disparateShe-One: He (He-One) Got an e-mail from her congratulating him for winning a return ticket from on his review posted at and asked for his details. He reverted back with his correspondence address and contact details so that the sponsoring agency ( could contact him.
He-One: He was thankful to Deepak Chopra, review on whose book got him this. He renamed the book to Seven Spiritual Laws of Winning Return Ticket at He replied to the email immediately with his contact number and contact details.
She-Two: She gave a call to He-One about the return ticket that can be taken for any destination. He asked if the tickets for his family also can be booked by them, she confirmed affirmative that he will have to pay on-line for the additional tickets.
HeOne: He asked for his wife’s suggestions (She-Three) on this ticket and it was concluded that the whole family comprising of He-One, She-Three and She-Four will travel together by buying She-Three’s and She-Four’s tickets on their own. Destination decided was Bhubaneswar and Puri in Orissa for 4 days in February second weekend.
She-Three: She started exploring various magazines, travel information papers and internet to understand and chalk out the sight seeing plan for all 4 days planned. And touch wood it was very well structured planning (as usual)
He-One: Called She-Two to check about the prices of the tickets to pay for She-Three and she-Four and also about the Airlines. She-Two said they will pay for his return ticket for the lowest airfare/airlines available and in this case it was Air Dhakkan but confirmed that for family this Airline will not be the suitable one as it has a 100% successfool rate of delaying and canceling of flights. He checked on MS reviews and found all symptoms matching. So decided that the family will not go by Air Dhakkan. comes in a big way: Now the task for He-One was to find out the suitable Airlines (Timings should be early hours for going and late hours for returning) and decided Air Sahara for going and Indian for returning. This was quite quick and handy on that gave the information about all airlines for going and returning with the Price Tags. 10/10 goes to for providing enough information so fast to arrive at a decision.
The Funny Part: Within two days another review of He-One was there on Page One (not Page 3) of MS and He-One got double delighted to get another return ticket. He called She-Two immediately and told her that since he has won two tickets so one should be in his name and another should be in She-Three’s name. Firstly she refused since as a policy the ticket can be issued only in the winner’s name and not his family member’s name but after checking with her senior she said Ok. Funny Part was that on checking she found only one prize for He-One from MS (only the first one). She told him that she will call back after checking from MS and confirmed that there was only one entry in his name. How He-One was too assured about two entries was because the first time his review was on Page-1 and also the winner but second time it was not winner but on Page-1 (Phew!)
He-One: He requested She-Two of to give his return tickets for the same Airlines (Sahara and Indian) instead of what they were proposing (Air Dhakkan) which they refused as the cost difference was high, anyhow after a little bargain She-Two accepted for Air Sahara for going at no additional cost but He-One had to pay for Indian and Air Dhakkan difference which He agreed. He also checked about the prices on individual Airline Sites (Air Sahara and Indian) and found a little difference in prices (at Airline sites the prices were a little less). But this all materialized after She-Two told He-One to talk to He-Two (her superior) for his approval and which he gave easily.
But This was not the Reason: to book tickets for She-Three and She-Four form individual Airline sites and not taking it from as the difference in amount was less than 100 Rupees in total but since this was first interaction with, so decided to play safe and book e-tickets directly using credit card from these Airline sites which took not more than 15-20 minutes.
He-One: He confirmed She-Two to book tickets for him for these respective flights and was told that she can hold these tickets only for 24 hours and within this He-One has to pay the difference. The difference was e-paid overnight (courtesy
Tragedy Scene: She-Two sent two e-mails for two tickets (one for Air Sahara and one for Indian) which resembled too much and by mistake He-Two thought them to be duplicate mails and deleted the second one. So now he was left with only Air Sahara ticket. He called He-Two for the other ticket once again as She-Two had left the office. And after some chase it came next day.

The Producers & Directors: and
The Cast:He-One: Guess WhoHe-Two: Amit of (in the role of a nice, co-operative, fast action officer)She-One: Jasmine of (in the role of the host of the show, awarder and a prompt query resolver)She Two: Wanda of (in the role of a nice, co-operative front desk officer)She Three: The Cute wife of He-OneShe-Four: The intelligent, lovely princess of He-OneOverall is a very useful site with an accurate and complete compilation of flight details of all airlines for almost all destinations. The Prices quoted are also very reasonable and on cross checking with the individual sites you will find not much difference in the rates (only additional charges are the service charges of Staff shows virtual presence wherever you are through email and mobile and are professionally capable to resolve/solve any issues promptly and are bold enough to warn about the consequences/risk of the cheapest fares flights/airlines.One question to How the review of the day is different form the Best Review????One question to Why giving the cheapest priced prize which you know is risk-taking in terms of delays and cancellations (which you yourself vet for) But still I liked the professionalism, straight forwardness and quick solutions!

Netherlands: “Nieuwe review controleren” ~ “check new review"

When: I traveled to Netherlands in December 2005 for 15 days.
  General: Den Haag is the official capital of Netherlands. Netherlands and Holland are same. Den Haag is also known as The Hague. Amsterdam is the working capital of Netherlands. The Queen’s residence is in Den Haag. Den Haag and Amsterdam are very opposite to each other in culture. Den Haag is quite conservative carrying the old traditional values of Netherlands, while Amsterdam is a very famous tourist place for most of the advanced countries. Amsterdam is very crowded, not too safe in respect of pick pocketing etc. But at both places life is active day and night. Den Haag has the world’s largest casino in Rotterdam – “The Holland Casino”, Queen’s Palace, and a superb beach (all near to each other). You don’t require separate visa for any other European countries to travel as a visitor if you have the visa for any one of these countries. Medical insurance is a must to get the visa. Population wise Netherlands is not too overly populated except Amsterdam since there are lot of tourists at all times in Amsterdam. It was 0-5 degrees during the period I stayed there. The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court are situated in The Hague. Moroccans are a big threat to the peaceful life of Netherlands.
  Amsterdam Airport: This airport sleeps during 1am to 4am and nothing officially happens here except the early morning travelers get in and sit to wait for the counters to open up for check-in etc. check-in facility is available through automated machines where you login with your ticket and passport details and get your seat number. I delayed my departure by one day and hence I had to pay around 80 Euros as penalty for changing my departure date. I was over with my Euros and hence paid in Dollars without any hassles.
  Trams: Trams is the local source of transportation in Netherlands. The trams running in Den Haag will not be crossing Den Haag and trams running in Amsterdam will be specific to Amsterdam only. For 6 and half euros you get 15 tickets in one strip, (n+1)  tickets are required to be punched to cross n zones. Like if you are crossing 4 zones you have to punch the 5th ticket in the strip. Nobody is there to check if you are traveling free without punching your strips or buying the specific ticket from your tram driver. If you are not carrying a strip, you can buy your ticket for that specific journey from your tram driver. No extra person is there to sell tickets, the driver of the tram does it very efficiently, and this is because most of the people are already carrying monthly pass, weekly pass, weekend pass or the strips. Hardly 10-15% of the travelers will be requiring buying ticket from the driver. The strips and passes are easily available at most of the hotels, trams, specific ample number of outlets.
  Fast Trains: Fast trains connect different cities of Netherlands and Netherlands with Germany, London, France, Belgium some other European countries. A comfortable night journey will enable you to reach any of these locations. From Den Haag to Amsterdam it is half an hour journey. For most of these other countries destinations trains start from Amsterdam. So if you are in Den Haag, you will have to travel to Amsterdam first. Every half an hour you get train from Den Haag to Amsterdam and vice versa. The tickets are available at the station through automatic machines, you check the chart, drop in the money and specify the ticket amount you want for. For outsiders who feel insecure to drop in the money in the automatic machines or fear for lack of understanding of technology, there are manual counters where you get your ticket but then you have to spare 1 Euro extra for availing manual service. The trains are having 2 floors, you can choose wherever you feel comfortable. There are two classes in the train, 1st class and 2nd class. Rates for 1st class are almost double. Even the 2nd class is a luxurious one. All compartments are connected to each other through glass doors. There is a checking in the trains occasionally. Tickets are quite reasonably priced. Den Haag to Amsterdam it is around 7 Euros and for London you will have to spend around 18 Euros. People: People (especially in Den Haag) are friendly in nature (unlike Germans), they will love to help you in case you loose direction or want to know anything about Netherlands. They are helpful up to the extent that they will explain you again if you have not understood a route etc.
  Traffic sense: Being less populated, very less roads are having 3 lanes, most of them have 1 lane or 2 lanes and still there are no traffic jams, no lack of discipline, and highly fluent traffic flow. No body breaks traffic signals, pedestrians use only zebra crossings to cross the roads.
  Living Style: People are serious in earning money and enjoying life. They spend money very sensibly. Usually they would love to go to hotel for dinner on weekends, but locales having a good standard of living do not spend money in casinos or overbuying. They buy only those items and that quantity only that is essential. Most of the people of any age are health conscious, and that they take care while eating, drinking, smoking etc. Cycling in this country is famous in the whole world. This is one the countries where they have separate lane for cyclists, since many young and old people prefer cycling to keep them fit. Temperature being low in this country, you will find people jogging, running, exercising on the roadsides. The day starts quite early with people taking lunch at 1pm and dinner around 7pm. After 9pm most of the eating outlets will be closed. Usually people will take a glass of wine or beer along with the dinner. A Beer Can will cost 1.25 Euros, a wine 1.50 Euros and water bottle 0.66 Euros.
  Cleanliness: The country, airport, trams, trains, buses, people, houses and hotels are clean up to the extent that we can not think of in our country.
  Amsterdam night life: Amsterdam is very famous for its night life and most of the tourists come to this country for two reasons mainly – to enjoy night life and to play Casino. Prostitution is a profession and is legally allowed here and the prostitutes are tax payers here. The pole dance, the night shows, the read light areas are very famous here. There is an official night trip for tourists. The red light hanging on a window is a sign of house of a prostitute.
  Internet: For 17 Euros per day (specifically if I take it for one day, it will be for 26 hours 12 noon to next day 2 pm), I got high speed internet in my hotel room.
Coffee Shop: Don’t mistake it with a normal coffee shop, rather these are the places where you officially get drugs up to a limited quantity if you are 18 or above. You can sit here and consume the drugs.

Thailand: Bangkok: ~~Mi Mou in Thai means I am Drunk~~

When Traveled: I landed at Bangkok in April 2006 and stayed there for 4 and half months. It was raining when I reached there, it was raining while I stayed there and it was raining when I left Bangkok in August end. Rainy season is very long here, starting from April till November.
98% of the Thailand population is Buddha. Many Thai families are mixed, like Chinese and Thai couple, or Indian and Thai couple. Many localities in Bangkok are densely populated by Indians mostly Tamilians and Sikhs (especially white turban Sikhs – Namdharis). Although Muslims are in minority, but some areas in Thailand are overly populated with Muslims.
People in general are hard working and fun loving. They live western style having good weekends. On weekends they will have a good get-together, boozing and music, else the working boys and girls who stay alone in Bangkok will go to their native places (they call it upcountry) to meet their parents.
One unique thing is that every workplace, small or big, and every house will have a good number of Buddha’s statues and pictures (except non-Buddhists) but every house and workplace will be having the King’s and Queen’s pictures.
This year is being celebrated as 60th year of the present King in rule. He was studying in UK when at a very young age he had to return to take charge of the Kingdom. Recently the King had an operation for his backbone problem and everyone in the country was worried about his well being. To show their respect for the King, on every Monday all Thais will be wearing a yellow T-Shirt with king’s logo on it. Yellow is the color denoting gratitude towards the King and blue is the color for the Queen. The Queen is equally graceful and beautiful lady. She had her right eye operated recently for some problem in cornea. In last week of April there were general elections and none of the party having won the majority, the then Prime minister Thaksin was told to be the working Prime Minister till the elections are held again in October 2006 (on 23rd) but last week the Army Chief who is very close to the King took over the charge of the country by dissolving the whole cabinet from power including Thaksin. Although people respect Thaksin for being visionary and progressive as he is the key person behind the modernization of Thailand by providing highly structured Malls, Roads, Flyovers, and other infrastructure. But still people are more dedicated to the King and can do anything for their King and the Queen.

Gods places: You will find ample number of Buddha Temples, around quarter dozen of Gurudwaras, and quite a number of Mosques in and around Bangkok. The Buddha statue at home, office, workplace, temple is offered cold drinks (mostly fanta, coke), water, flowers. At many occasions people offer fish to Buddha which ultimately is consumed by the Monks. In first week of August they had a celebration for worshipping Chinese goddess where they offer meats, fish and liquor. Langars are a good point of attraction on weekends in Gurudwaras here.

Death: Death is taken as a normal and natural process of life in Thailand. I happened to attend one such occasion. No excessive mourning and crying happens on a death of any age. The dead body is kept in a temple for 3, 5 or 7 days depending on the status and capability of the family. For all these days prayers, music food and drinks will be happening.

Thinglish: Thai English is superb. There is no tense, verb, adverb, adjective. Most of the people don’t know English, and those who know, speak fantastic. Some examples:
No Have: it is not available, I don’t haveEvery Happy: all are happy, or everyone is happyMany cars: lot of cars on the roadMany traffic: lot of traffic on the roadListen: you speak, I want to listen to what you speakIndia many brains: in India, people are geniusMany money: big salaryAre you hot: are you feeling hot, do you want A/C or more airCome, I want you: come I want to meet you, talk to you, and want to discuss something with you
I learnt some words, listing below a few that I still remember.
Ontrong = go straightLeosai = go leftLeokwa = go rightSwasdikhrab = hello, good morning, namaste, hiMi Mou = I am drunk
ichai = noChai = yesTuk tuk = auto rickshawCounting 0 to 9: soon, nung, song, sam, cee, ha, hok, chet, peit, kaw
Cabs, Roads, Flyovers and Traffic: No small cars in Thailand – mostly Toyota cabs, Toyota and Honda cars and Isuzu pick ups. But you will find all other imported models of big cars in Bangkok. Roads are really butter coated and at no place I found a broken road. Very less accidents happen here (I remember only 3-4 accidents) as the traffic is much disciplined although there happen to be traffic jams. On a red light you will find the gap of 6-8 feet. A driver uses horn on an average once a month. The accidents happen mostly because of motorcycle-taxis who drive a little rash and zig-zag. The lane discipline is extremely admirable. In the night time most of the cab-drivers will start showing you the massage pamphlets and will ask if you want – massage, sexy girl, sex show, good lady, boom boom…

Beaches and Up-country: Thailand beaches are world famous, and equally famous are its golf courses. One of the reason for world class golf courses is that Tiger Woods has a relation with Thailand (one of his parents belong to Thailand, I heard). I visited a private beach which was adjacent to Police Headquarters of Thailand. It was marvelous, barren and beautiful. Mostly foreigners visit beaches to swim, massage, booze off, leisure and enjoyment. Bangkok is comparatively populated as compared to the outskirts since it offers lot of career and study opportunities.

Swarnabhoomi: It is the new international airport in Bangkok. Domestic flights have started, and international flights would be starting shortly, may be by next year.

Metros: There are two metros, one underground that is run by the government and the other is sky train that is run by a private agency.

The Ladyboy: 
An eunuch is known here as ladyboy. She will be so beautiful as long as you don’t listen to her voice. But they get equal respect and status.

The girl and the boy: 
The girls will have following status – single mother, single, married, divorced, live-in. and similar will be for boys. They prefer to live-in with each other for 2-3 years before going for marriage. Boys are outnumbered by girls in numbers as well as in smartness.

The Indian restaurants in Bangkok: 
The places like Sukhumvit has a number of Indian restaurants like Namuskar, Komala’s (South Indian), Ganesha (South Indian), Hot Curry, Red Chilly etc. At Silom also we found a couple of good Indian restaurants with live music in the evening.

Hot News
: Fried Snakes, roasted sea shells being sold on the roadsides and frogs, toads sold in the vegetable markets.
RCA is the place where you will find world class pubs and discotheques.
Silom night bazaar is a market that starts at midnight and is open till the morning.
We lost 2 laptops in Bangkok (one snatched on road, one stolen from hotel)

Thailand: Hua Hin Beach: A Beach for Thai Royal Family, Localz & Foreignrz

General: This is the most popular beach amongst the Thais and equally important holiday resort for foreigners. The length of the beach is approximately 5 miles and this place has the highest density of world class golf courses anywhere in Thailand (Golf and Football are the two main games preferred in Thailand). This is the oldest (70 years old) of the beaches in Thailand as Phuket and Samui being the new discoveries. The place was unaffected by Tsunami. This place has an 18-hole golf course and a huge fishing port. Most of the Bangkok’s Upper class have their own beachfront summer houses towards the south and north of Hua Hin along the curvy sandy bay and usually they will come here on weekends with their families. This place definitely gives a different holidaying experience.

   This place was discovered by the King Rama VII in early 1920s. He established his Royal Resorts here and subsequently became popular in a short time. The place is connected to Bangkok via Road as well as Train. In 1928 King Rama VII built his Klai Kangwon (Klai in thai means “far from” and Kangwon means “worries”) Palace which is used by the current Royal family even today and is open to visitors. In 1923 State Railways working under the then kingdom built the Railway Hotel in a traditional old Thai architecture, which today is known as Sofitel Central Hua Hin Hotel.

Bangkok to Hua Hin: 
Taxi (120 Bahts) from my hotel reached to Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal in 40 minutes to get a bus for Hua Hin. At 7 I was in the bus that was going to Hua Hin. You will find government and private Air conditioned and Non-A/C buses going to Hua Hin from this terminal starting every half an hour. Ticket costs 130 Bahts per person. And the journey started. I adjusted my seat in a semi laying position and dropped my mobile from my back pocket in the bus. It was given to me by a young boy who had got into the bus to sell off cold drinks and snacks. We were amazed at his sincerity. We were half asleep when we reached at this place and the moment we got down one of us noticed that he had slipped out his wallet from his pocket in the bus. The bus was taking a slow turn about 50 metres away and was almost at a standstill and hence my friend could run and get into the bus. And he found his wallet back at the back of his seat. Great!.

We reached Hua Hin: 
It was around 11 when we reached there. We enquired and got to know that we can take bikes or taxi to go to the beach. Just tried to cross check with a foreigner and got to know that it is at a walking distance (around one plus kilometers) and we decided to go by walk. Near the beach we found an Indian Restaurant and decided that we will have our lunch here while coming back.

At the Beach: 
The Beachside On the beach side there were so many beachside snacks/beer shops having their shady tables and leisure chairs to relax. We sat on this chairs and immediately the shop owner came to us and told that for one hour sitting he will charge 20 Bahts per person, if for whole day 60 Bahts and if we order something to eat no extra charges for sitting. We negotiated with her that we will have beer and will not pay for it and not extra Bahts for sitting. Into the Sea We decided to swim in the sea for couple of hours and have some photo session with our 7 megapixels camera before we have beer and later lunch before going back to Bangkok. Got into the sea and had a good time. Then to go deeper we decided to take tubes @ 40/- Bahts. Enjoyed the swimming but there is a catch, there are big rocks inside the water, so you need to be careful. I wounded my feet slightly. Locales were busy in capturing sea food items.

Finally the Bikinis, the topless and the Men at the Beach
 The beach is full of foreigners from almost all parts of the world. Many topless and bikini beauties were spotted easily lying on beach chairs, applying oil on their body after swimming and enjoying sun bath and swimming in the beach. We had a great photo session

Thai English
 Thai English is different – saw a logo behind a car – “EVERY HAPPY”. They don’t know tenses, verbs etc. but convey the message beautifully. Important lines to catch – “INDIA MANY BRAINS” “MANY SALARY” “MANY CARS” “NO GO” “NO HAVE”

Bangkok: Land of Buddha, Beaches and Massages

What I have learnt in last one month of stay here – Khun stands for Mr. Mrs or Ms. I was wondering over a list of names where each name started with K. Name, and later I learnt K stands for Khun. Swasdeekha is equivalent to our Namaskar. When a lady speaks – her words will end with Kha and for gents it is Khab. For instance if a male has to wish he will say SWASDEEKHAB and if a female has to wish she will say SWASDEEKHA. This is because KHA ends with a sweet tone and a lady has to speak very polite and sweet and hence KHA A male has to speak with a stress in his strong voice and hence KHAB. At times it seems they are singing when they speak to each other. Language is quite melodious, gentle, and non-monotonous.

The Currency
 – Baht and Satang (corresponding to our Rupees and Paisa). Baht is costlier than our Rupee, 115 Rupees equal to approximately 100 Bahts

The Airport
 – One of the best Airports in the world, having 2 terminals handles almost all international flights. Another new airport project is in progress (the new Airport coming up is called Swarnabhoomi) connecting sky train to Airport. At the entry point of Sky train station going to this new Airport, you can check-in, leave your baggage that will directly go into your flight and you land up at Airport hassle free. The Roads and the Flyovers – Great infrastructure I have seen in any foreign country (although yet to see lot of world places). This city has countless number of flyovers, at places 4 or more going parallel. There are super express roads to save you from traffic but you have to pay 40 Bahts to use it. Minimum speed on these expressways is 120 Kms. But still traffic jams is a problem, although it is not jam, at times traffic crawls. 

The People
 – The local people are young, energetic, 8.30 to 5.30 type but depending on work do not mind staying late in the office. Thus place (or I think the whole Thailand is having more ratios of females than males). You have three type of people here – boys, girls and lady boys. In offices girls boys ratio will be 5:2 or higher. The dress code in office is short skirt (most popular), skirt or jeans and tops for girls. And pant, shirt and tie for boys. Casuals include formals to Yankee wears.

The Transport
 – Underground railways (owned by government), Skyways (as our metro trains in delhi) owned by private company, buses (normal and air conditioned) are very cheap – 5 bahts for normal bus and 10 bahts for and A/C local bus, taxis starting at 35 Bahts for first km and then increase of 2 bahts per km. Bangkok is a small place and you can travel in a taxi starting from one corner to another by paying just 150 Bahts. All taxis will have the correct metres, decent drivers, their ID Card displayed inside the taxi in front of front passenger seat. Government is very strict about any problems to tourists (as tourism being one of the major earning for this country). The Beaches – Hua Hun is a major beach for locales which is 3.5 Hrs travel by road from Bangkok. You will find lot of foreigners at this beach stretched to around 2-3 kms., Pattaya and Phuket are the major spots for foreigners and anytime there will be huge crowds at these beaches.

The Pubs, Bars and Night Clubs
 – RCI is the place where you have series of Pubs, Bars and Night Clubs. Life is at its fullest on weekends and the weekend starts here on Friday night. So every Friday, Saturday and Sunday Night this road (which is a private road and on working days to cross this road every private car has to pay 5 Bahts) is captured by the roadside Bars, Pubs and Night Clubs. Entry is strict for foreigners for entry in any of these. You have to have your passport with you. Language is a big barrier here inside. And ofcourse the liquor is costly.

The Malls, the markets and the chain of stores
 – 7 Eleven is an omnipresent superstore chain here. Tesco and MBK are supermalls. Jatojat market is a weekend, cheap, huge market for any type of purchases, and at Silom you will find a night market .

The Eating outlets
 – Bawarchi at Silom (with live vocals at dinner), Namuskar at Nana Road, India Gate  at Petchburi Road, Mrs Balbit at Sukumvit – Soi 11, Komala’s (South Indian) at Sukhumvit – Soi 20 and Red Chilly – Sukhumvit Soi 20 are Indian Restaurants which I could find by now. Sukhumvit has lot more Indian Restaurants and shops owned by Indians. Soi in Thai means Street.

Vedanthangal: A Paradise Near Chennai

Vedanthangal is a locality out of chennai and is towards south of chennai. birds are lured by the waters and the plantation around. The temperature at that time suits the birds and hence they reach the place. 

Vedanthangal, a few kilometers (around 30 Kms) from Chennai is a spectacular water bird sanctuary that is being taken care of the local people for several years. This bird sanctuary has a special place in history of Ornithology, because birds not only visit this place or migrate for a while, but there are some very rare birds that live here. Most Ornithologists have shown interest in this place and visit the areas almost every year during the November- December season. 

With the Marghazhi Masam or one of the coolest of Tamil months in the Tamil calendar, the place is filled with different kinds of birds from all over the world. Water birds like herons, cormorants, darters, ergets, open billed storks etc. are a common sight until mid of March. These visitors to the country come right after the monsoon here and rest until their biological clock takes them back to their homes. Some birds like the grey pelicans are a rare sight and these are found quite in number at Vedanthangal. 

Despite its national importance, Vedanthangal is mostly neglected by the Government, localites prefer to invest their time and efforts to keep the place clean and host the guest birds every year. Environmental pollution is another deadly curse on places like these because some of the birds like grey pelican do not make it to vedanthangal every year. Pollution of the city adds to the misery of this beautiful place. It is also important to mention that Adyar Estuary towards Marina Beach was also once a bird sanctuary and now a dirty spot where you wouldn’t even find a few black ducks. 

The Government has taken notice of this after a long time and now seems to have taken steps to clean the Adyar river that flows down the Adyar Bridge. Vedanthangal – You must make it sometime between November December.

Madras - Chennai: Dakshinachitra - Whole South India At One Place

Recently, I had been to Chennai one of the most beautiful cities of India on a project and had stayed there for a month or so. During the weekends, I wanted go out and visit places of interest and see how this city was known to be the center of culture and tradition. I was aware of temples and all the other usual places that one would visit, but that was not just what I had been looking for. 

I wanted to see something really exquisite that would highlight the real Chennai and the real love for Chennai. Many of my friends’ always had a special place in their heart for Chennai. So I went along the ECR, a wonderful road and just after the Toll Gate I saw a place called Dakshinachitra. The name itself had something very special. And felt may be this place reflects the entire South of India and its culture. 

Yeh baat hui na. I asked my driver to stop by and we went in. Took the tickets and was really enamored by the simplicity but extremely exquisite display of Structural Engineering of south Indian homes. It seems this place had taken a long time to open and had put in several efforts to literally transport old houses from the various areas of Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala. 

I was amazed that the houses not only had beautiful old structures and pieces of excellent carvings and art, they also had the old vessels, their furniture displayed. The entire house really looked as if some people really lived there. It also showed through paintings how the people of these places would dress. It was so live and amazing. Added to this, Dakshinachitra also exhibited various art forms in its theater and just near the theater, a place under the shade of a tree had small artisans making exquisite things that were really good and in fact I bought some to take back to Delhi.

Basically, belonging to Delhi, I had the opportunity to see the Structural Architecture of the entire South India (Just as the Name of the place tells us) along the east coastal regions of Tamilnadu. You must see – the whole place has an ambience of art and culture and one will be sure to be drowned in it for the next couple of hours.

Mahabalipuram: The Picturesque ECR, Chennai

Once again on the ECR, when I was in Chennai few months back, on a weekend I visited the world famous Mahabalipuram.  This place is widely known as temple caves and is very famous in the South.  In fact, most tourists who come to Tamilnadu do make a visit to this place despite the crowd and heat of the summers.   

Foreigners throng this place to see the cave temples carved in one whole stone.  Despite, being a tourist spot, it has historical relevance and lot of sculptural relevance.  Historically, the Mahabalipuram or well known as Mamallapuam was the most famous seaport of the Pallava Kings.  The granite blocks date back to sometime in the 7th century BC. Out of the five cave temples, four of them have been carved out of one rock and it is said that the five Pandavas with their wife Draupadi lived there and the structures represent their rathas or the chariots.  

It is also said that these structures were carved similar to the five wooden chariots of the Pandavas and their wife Draupadi. The most beautiful of the lot is the Shore Temple built very close to the sea is an extremely beautiful piece of art, which was basically built with granite blocks.  It is said that this temple was once under waters and that it is considered as one of the earliest examples of South Indian Architecture.   

These are basically the most important part of Mahabalipuram one should not be missing along the ECR, Chennai Route.  Besides, these beautiful structures, one finds several shops that carve wonderful pieces of art being carved alongside the roads leading to the temples and the rathas.  Lots of these shops also sell handicraft materials made of shells and they are really tempting.  Especially, the colourful shell curtains and the decorative vases.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Netherlands: Hotel Review: Golden Tulip Bel Air Hotel - The Hague

This 4 star hotel belongs to a famous 3-4 start hotels chain group of europe with the name of Golden Tulip Hotels. I got this hotel booked from their London Hotel Branch with a per day cost of 110 Euros including Breakfast. I stayed in this hotel for a good period of 15 days in december 2005. I was given a very warm welcome when I reached there in the early morning hours. The staff of the hotel will look always fresh and warm. I was asked if I would like to change my room from a non-smoking zone to smoking zone, which I refused. 

The hotel has 10 floors with around 35 rooms on each floor. Only the first floor is smoking zone. So if you want to smoke in the hotel you will have to book your room on floor one. there is a big restaurant on the right of reception on the ground floor which can accomodate around 100-120 persons. 

The breakfast was included in my stay and it used to be a grand breakfast in all senses. You have a minibar in each room. Room was perfectly above my expectations in all respects be it cleanliness or anything. I got the room facing the main road so used to observe a lot of traffic during the day. I used to observe lot of people jogging and walking during the day as temperature would be low during this period (around 1 degrees to 6 degrees) anytime during the day would be good for exercise. 

Cycling is one of the very common obsession of people of any age here. The hotel is situated in the heart of Den Haag City adjacent to the famous National Science Museum (Museon) on one side and some international organization buildings like OPCW, World Trade Centre on the other side. The hotel is just 5 minutes away from the main Beach Scheveningen. You will have to go to beach from here by Tram (no. 1). The beach is just opposite to the world famous ''The Holland Casino'' and Queen's Old Palace (which is now converted to a hotel). 

The harbor of the Hague is on the walking distance from Hotel golden Tulip.  And you will find a number of good restaurants (Thai, Malyasian, Chinese etc.) and people are fond of eating out. Dinner and Lunch timings are early here. Dinners would be around 6-8pm. Wine or Beer with Dinner is very common here. Every Friday a live band show will be there in my hotel restaurant. The hotel has around 324 guestrooms, 8 suites and 8 apartments. A good indoor heated swimming pool, 24 hours bar, cosy rooms with heaters working round the clock, wireless and wired internet available in all the rooms 24 hours a day. I used to pay 17 euros per day for unlimited usage of internet and it was truly broadband connection. TV, taxi, morning alarm, 

I utilised all the facilities and found them up to the mark. The staff was active round the clock, services and assistance is very good. Due to Christmas month the hotel was decorated and the people from all around the world could be seen in the hotel for vacations. On weekends, you will find restaurants full upto large extent for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Visa for Netherlands: Royal Dutch Embassy

A very good experience with pure professional touch. I had to go for a business tour to The Hague for 15 days. Since this program emerged in emergency, I could apply only 3 days before my travel date for visa and got a date for next day for personal visit to the embassy. 

It was just 10-15 minutes of interaction with few questions from their side and I was told to collect it next day in the afternoon. If you have a return ticket with travel insurance, all papers in place, valid reason for travel, justification for the period of stay, you surely get it without any failure. But if you are short of any of these papers, you will not get the green signal.  

The queries were very relevant, specific and to the point. They wanted to know the reason of visit, justification of duration of stay, how you are going to take care of your stay and regular expenses, scope of work and return date.

Den Haag - Netherlands - The Hague

’’Den Haag’’ in Dutch or ’’The Hague’’ in English is the official capital of Netherlands in English or Nederland in Dutch, but the working capital is Amsterdam.

Den Haag is the traditional completely Dutch city that gets time to sleep in the nights. Amsterdam on the other hand never sleeps, more active in the nights.

i was in Den Haag for 15 days on a business tour. dec.1 2005 to dec.15 2005. Went by Air France from Delhi to France and then by KLM from France to ’’Schiphol’’ - Amsterdam International Airport.

Schiphol to Den Haag by train - took just about half an hour. beautiful scenic view on the way- farms, cattle, European colonies, big buildings carrying big industrial/business names of international fame.

The train stop is just below the airport, take your luggage in trolley by lift and drop trolley when you catch train. frequency is every 15-20 minutes you get a train to Den Haag. Good cozy fast trains. Don’t forget to get your money converted to euros as no other currency is accepted here. Only at airports you can pay in dollars as well as in euros. 100 dollars will fetch you around 79-81 euros depending on the current price of euro and the conversion rate charged by the bank. Different banks will have different rates. Train fare from schiphol airport to centraal station in den haag is about 8.5 euros (a return ticket will be around 17 euros). If you take from automatic machines you pay less but if you buy from the counter you pay 1 euro extra.

Reached centraal station (or central station) around noon, took a big taxi (cheverlet) to reach to my hotel (taxi fare around 22-25 euros). My hotel was in the centre of den haag near museon (on the right) and world trade centre (on the left). a beautiful 10 storey hotel - one day charges 120 euros including a fantastic breakfast. 

Transport facilities - trams and buses for within Den Haag, trains for other cities. I liked trams over buses as they were more economical and convenient. you can take a weekly ticket, weekend ticket, day ticket. I used to take 15 strips for 6.5 euros. Everything is in zones as far as trams are concerned. Whole of The Hague is divided in zones. So if you cross two zones, you will have to punch 3 tickets of that 15 tickets strip. Or you can buy the ticket in the tram itself from the driver but that will be slightly costlier.

People take early lunch here (1-1.30) and early dinner (6-7.30 or max 8). people are fond of going to Chinese, Thai, Malaysian restaurants. People are good, friendly, warm and decent. I was well greeted at my hotel - was asked if I prefer a smoking or non-smoking room. Room having wireless internet facility which I used everyday. Breakfast was excellent. Everybody uses city map here. You carry map with you all the time and ask for direction from anybody. They stop and try to tell the best possible direction. 

In December all trees (too tall) are naked. No flowers, no leaves, no tulips. (Tulips and momentos are famous here besides international fame ’’Holland Casino’’ in Rotterdam, and night life in Amsterdam). Amsterdam is just as free as conservative Den Haag is. 

I could find very good discipline on roads. population is less, so due to less traffic so many roads are single lane or max 3 lane and still no traffic jams. People respect government and their rules, and government respects people. Since all vehicles run in high speed and in their lanes, there were no accidents in 15 days except one minor accident where a car driver smashed another. People don’t mix driving with drinking here. Girls smoke and drink openly. Seperate lanes are there for cycles as cycling is an old tradition in ducth and you will find lot of kids, young and old riding on cycle. 

Amsterdam has pole dance, exotic shows, sex museum, live sex shows, legal red light area where no cameras are allowed and if by mistake you take one, its film will be exposed. netherland is below sea level. Tulips come during April till September in the year. rest of the time it is very cold.

You find lot of windmills below and huge farms when you are landing at Amsterdam airport - Schiphol. Moroccans is a big problem here in europe, this community is settled since last 3 -4 generations. Boys of current generation do not go to schools whrereas girls study. So there is a mismatch in the community. Boys develop into rioters, thieves and non-social elements. You will not find any dust in the country. last week of December and first two weeks of January welcomes snowfall here.

Two bad incidents - on the very first day while in the market I bought a distilled water bottle (cost was bar coded), seller was an Asian - the cost of the bottle was 72 cents and he charged one euro by saying that outside its cost is 2 euros. He gave no bill. rest everywhere whatever you buy you get bill.

A huge black (African/ Negro) beggar around 6’’ plus all of a sudden came by my side in Amsterdam and demanded 1 euro in a very scaring voice.

Don’t forget to take cap, gloves, and extra caring clothes if you happen to go during November - December -January - February in Den Haag. you will have problems of food if you are pure vegetarian but still you can do with various breads and cheeses, fruits, juices etc. But if you are non-vegetarian you will get very good and tasty food. (a dinner will cost you around 15-20 euros including a glass of wine or beer). If you greet strangers you receive greetings in return. People are helpful. Take care of your pockets if you want to go to red light area in Amsterdam as it is over-crowded at peak hours. In holland casino entry is not very easy. You must have some local person with you and your identity proof and ofcourse money!!

Average expenditure per day Euro 120 for hotel room with breakfast
Lunch - 15 euros
Dinner - 15 euros

If you have a heavy breakfast in the morning (or late morning) you can skip lunch and have an early dinner.