Vishnu Sharma

Randomness Redefined


Leave a comment

Weekend Getaway at Hyderabad

Hyderabad is the capital of the southern Indian state named Telangana. It’s an old city famous for its rich culture, heritage and the Nizams. Given it’s rich history, it definitely is a tourist destination for solo travelers and family vacations.

While Hyderabad is most famous for the Charminar, there are many more things to do, like shipping and fine dining!

Off-late, Hyderabad has also become famous for being on the technology landscape with numerous software companies setting shop in Hyderabad.

How to get there

Hyderabad is well connected with rail, road and flight network. This is a no brainer. We took a flight to Shamshabad airport a.k.a “Rajiv Gandhi International Airport”.

Where to stay

Well, this is a question that largely depends on your budget. There are too many options from budget hotels to five star ones. We stayed at “The Park” but unfortunately, we were hugely disappointed with the hotel. So take your pick.

What to see – family

There are way too many things to do for families. However, given below is a compilation of few things we enjoyed:

Charminar

CharminarThis is a must visit for every traveler. Over 400 years old and still standing. This is the most recognizable piece of architecture from Hyderabad. Just like when you think of Paris and immediately Eiffel Tower comes to your mind, when you think of Hyderabad, Charminar will come to your mind. You cannot miss this at all.

Taken from Wikipadia:

Historian Masud Hussain Khan says that the construction of Charminar was completed in the year 1592, and that it is the city of Hyderabad which was actually founded in the year 1591. According to the book “Days of the Beloved”, Qutb shah constructed the Charminar in the year 1589, on the very spot where he first glimpsed his future queen Bhagmati, and after her conversion to Islam, Qutb Shah renamed the city as “Hyderabad”. Though the story was denied by the historians and scholars, it became popular folklore among the locals.

The Makkah Masjid

Situated just next to the Charminar, this Masjid (mosque) is one of the oldest in Hyderabad. It was completed in 1694 and it still stands majestically. If you are a woman, please remember, you must enter this mosque completely covered. No part of your legs, hands should be showing. The mosque has a special charm to it, something that takes you to an entirely different world. The calmness is what gives you a different feeling.

From Wikipedia:Makkah Masjid

Makkah Masjid was built during the reign of Muhamm
ad Quli Qutb Shah, the 5th Qutb Shahi Sultan of 
Golconda
(now Hyderabad). The three arched facades have been carved from a single piece of granite, which took five years to quarry.More than 8,000 workers were employed to build the mosque. Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah personally laid the foundation stone. The construction was later completed by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb after conquering Hyderabad.

 

Salar Jung Museum

This is a very famous museum in India, alas, it has not been maintained well. Still, the artifacts are worth seeing once, especially, the clothes and the arms of the Nizams. Please note, there is heavy traffic jam in front of the museum. You might as well drop your car a few hundred meters before the museum and walk to the gate. The major portion of this collection was acquired by Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan popularly known as Salar Jung III. The zeal for acquiring art objects continued as a family tradition for three generations of Salar Jungs. In 1914, Salar Jung III, after having relinquished the post of Prime Minister to H.E.H., the Nizam VII, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan, devoted rest of his entire life in collecting and enriching the treasures of art and literature till he lived.

Photo courtsey : Wikipedia, author Bernad Gagnon

 

Shopping

I’m not too fond of shopping, however, my wife and daughter had already done their research.They were looking to shop for something that you generally do not get anywhere else; the Laad Bazaar, famous for its bangles and the famous Hyderabadi plad-bazar-charminar-in-hyderabadearls.

Laad Bazaar is next to Charminar and is famous for cheap, gaudy, brilliant and bright bangles. Laad meaning lacquer is used to make bangles, on which artificial diamonds are studded.
The other important shopping item is “Hyderabadi Pearls”. The problem is, that there are far too many fake ones. Unless you know a local, who can take you to an authentic pearl shop, do not try this out. While Hyderabadi pearls are famous all over India, I guess (I’m still not sure), my wife was duped. She purchased two pearl sets. I guess, both are not authentic. Anyone’s best guess.

 

What to eat

Well, if you are in Hyderabad, how can you not eat the famous Hyderabadi Biryani. We had biryani at a restaurant named Bawarchi at Nallakunta.Pure taste and no nonsense.

Overall experience

Hyderabad is a great place for weekend getaway. Once in a while, you may come across some no-so-good experiences, but that is all a part and parcel of travel and vacation. Generally, its a trip worth remembering. Enjoy your vacation at Hyderabad !

Advertisements


Leave a comment

A Lazy Vacation at Coorg

Sometimes you need a vacation that is all about simply doing nothing…Sitting at a place where even the phone signal is not that great…good, no more pestering calls from office on your vacation that ‘something urgent has come up’.

Homestays at Madikeri in Coorg are a perfect weekend getaways for such vacations. Away from the world for 2 days.

Talakaveri

Talakaveri

How to Get There

You need to reach Bangalore (Capital city of state Karnataka in India), first. Bangalore, now a days, called Bengaluru, is accessible from all parts of the country via road, train and airports.

From Bangalore, if you really need to enjoy, you should go to Madikeri via road. Either hire a taxi for the weekend, or, if you are like me and want to drive, you can rent ZoomCar. I was very happy with the ZoomCar service (and I’m not getting paid to write this, your experience might be different). The drive from Bangalore is about 250 Kms.

Where to Stay

If you want to really enjoy your stay at Coorg, you must stay at “homestays”. You can book from Coorg HomeStays Website. I stayed at “Mystical Homestay“. The place is great and more than that, the owner, Harish, is a great host. My next trip to Coorg, I’m once again going to stay at the same place.

What to do at the Homestay

We wanted a lazy weekend, so our plan to just sit and do nothing ! You should ideally have a few friends, or if you are travelling with family, go with one more family. There aren’t too many rooms at Mystical Homestay. So, just two families with about 6-7 heads should be fine. At the homestay, we went around looking at Harish’s coffee plantations and since we had kids, we showed them various different plans (e.g. pepper, vanilla, cardamom). At night, I found only two great activities – eat around bonfire and or have a nice drink in the middle of heavy plantation. Remember, you must get the drinks from outside, or you can sometimes ask someone else to get it for you. Homestays cannot serve you liquor by law. Still, you must get them from the market, ideally, before sunset.

The Food

While I could not find anything special as far as Coorg food is concerned, the food in general, was home-cooked and was sumptuous. The only new surprise was Kadmbuttu –  Steamed rice dumplings. New, not that great, but I had it for the first time.

Kadmbuttu

Coorg, Madikeri Rice Dumplings – Kadmbuttu

Nearby Places I Visited

Since we were not much into seeing places and more interested in a relaxed vacation, we just went to only four places. Two for kids and two for the religious ones in the group.

1. Vintage Car Museum

Well, visit this place only if you are a car buff or if you have kids. The place is more like a junkyard with cars parked inside a shed. The only good part is that there are indeed some good old cars in the shed.

2. Talakaveri

It is said, that Talakaveri is the source of the river Kaveri. From Madikeri, it is about 80 Kms and a temple is built around that. I’m not that religious person and would have skipped that, but then, in our group, rest everyone was, so we decided to drive. What I enjoyed was the scenic drive. It can take about 2.5 hrs.

TalaKaveri

Talakaveri

3. The Dubare Elephant Camp

This trip is worth your time. Dubare is a nice place where Elephants are kept and trained for the Mysore Dussera. I suppose you will like this place irrespective of your age. You can see the elephants up and close, being bathed by mahouts. You need to cross the rive using a boat (no life jackets). The river does not seem too deep. The view is gorgeous.

Dubare Elephant Resort, Coorg

Dubare Elephant Resort, Coorg

Dubare, Elephant Bathing

Dubare, Elephant Bathing

4. The Buddhist Golden Temple

Until I visited Coorg, I used to think that the buddhist from tibet were only settled in Dharmshala, India. My friends told me, that another settlement happened in the Madikeri district. The Golden Temple is a must visit, even for non-religious folks like me. A grand view and a treat to the eyes.

WP_20151027_010

Golden Temple, Coorg

Golden Temple, Coorg

Enjoy your stay at the great weekend getaway at Coorg, Madikeri.

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Throw Brand Loyalty Out of the Window

If my needs are met, then I generally stick to products and services from the same company, even if sometimes, it costs a bit more. I’m sure there are many like me out there. Just the hassle of changing things like phone number and bank accounts is way too much.

That’s exactly the kind of behavior some companies take advantage of, and then, lower the quality of service to you to cut costs ! Here are a few examples on how…

logo-airtel

The Aggressive Airtel

Airtel (www.airtel.in) is an Indian telecom services provider company, will full name being “Bharti Airtel Limited”. It is a public limited company, listed in “Bombay Stock Exchange” (India) as well as in “National Stock Exchange” (India). At the time of this writing, it is operating is about 20 countries with annual revenue of about 9.5 Billion USD (FY 14-15).

It launched its 4G service, and I, being a heavy internet user, and an active customer of Airtel for over 7 years, quickly ordered for a new 4G hotspot. While filling up the form, I made a small mistake in my current phone number (one digit). Alas, that turned out to be same as “treason”. Here is a sequence of activities post this mistake:

  1. After taking the payment, the sales guy stopped calling. I had to call multiple times to close the process
  2. Because my alternative phone number was incorrectly entered in the system, I could not activate my new phone number. Different customer support people kept giving different instructions (to the extent they blamed other departments for the mistake)
  3. Somehow, after I managed to activate, I could not make a payment because, I kept getting different errors. (I always paid my bills in time)
  4. Every two days I had to call the customer support for status and I would get a call from their IT team. The IT team would ask the same questions everytime
  5. Even after multiple escalations, no one responded. Had to make multiple calls and one fine day, got hold of a decent guy to whom I explained which “web services” were giving error. The problem got fixed after couple of days !

It took almost a month to fix such a simple issue. Took numerous e-mails, phone calls and too many people to fix such a small issue. For someone who has never made late payments for over 7 years and has multiple connections !

reliance-communications-1728x800

The Renegade Reliance Communications

Reliance Communications Ltd. is an Indian Internet access and telecommunications company headquartered in Navi Mumbai, India. It provides CDMA, GSM mobile services, fixed line broadband and voice services, DTH depending upon the areas of operation. Wikipedia

This one even went to the extent of accusing me of fraud ! Again, I’m a customer of this company for over 8 years now. I purchased a pre-paid 3G SIM from them and was using in my tablet. I would purchase a plan every month over online and keep it charged. One fine day, I selected a plan, made the payment, but got a message that the recharge was not successful. The plan supported both phone and dongles. When I raised the issue with customer support, I was told that I am using the SIM in a “dongle” which is fraud and thus the recharge was denied ! Phone, email, chat, even Twitter channels kept telling me either that they will look into the matter, or they kept saying I was using it in a dongle.

The surprising thing was that I was using the same SIM and same plan earlier with no problems ! Even someone from their social media team contacted me and said they will look into it….but as suspected, nothing happened.

I found out a few days later, that the plan was no longer being offered. It clearly looked like a software error, for which the entire staff of Reliance tried to blame me, and that too also for about Rs. 500 (about USD 9). Time to move on…

2000px-ICICI_Bank_Logo.svg

The ICICI Bank’s Ghost Wealth Managers

This one is even more interesting. I’m a customer of ICICI bank for over 15 years now. I even have “so called” dedicated wealth managers. Recently, I needed to know details of two transactions that took place in 2008 and 2009. The day I raised a request, I was told it will be closed in 2 days. Then a few hours later, I got a call that it will be closed in 7 working days, which is OK. I was at-least given a timeframe that was reasonable.  The problem started after the wait period was over. After 7 days, the service request stauts was showing “closed”, and everytime I would call the customer support, the guy at the other end would apologize, ask for two more days, and promise to “personally inform” me after two days. Then they would not call. This went on for 3 or 4 times. Everytime I would call, a new guy would answer the phone and say the same thing, but would never call. I then wrote a mail to the ICICI bank team. I’m yet to receive a response !

ICICI-Prudential-Life-Insurance-Logo

The ICICI Insurance Broken Record

Finally, a classic case of “broken-record-customer-support”. I purchased a new term policy from ICICI online. I had undergone a small surgery on my hand to remove a tissue mass for which, neither I had any medical records, nor the hospital where the operation was performed could find any records (it’s common in India). The surgery was done 6-7 years ago. The insurer kept asking for the medical records, and I kept saying I don’t have it, neither the hospital has it, tell me an alternative.

In response, I got multiple phone calls and emails, all stating –

  1. Please get medical records
  2. Please get doctor’s prescription

This, despite asking what is an alternative. Naturally, I had to dump this insurer and went with another one.

Do tell me your fun story with these so called great organizations :-0

The logos used in this blog post are only to identify which companies i’m talking about. The trademarks (if any) and all corresponding rights, belong to the companies in their respective jurisdiction. They have been used only for illustration and easy identification.

Bhitarkanika National Park


Leave a comment

Bhitarkanika, Mangroves and Crocodile Sanctuary

The Bhitarkanika Mangroves are a mangrove wetland in India’s Odisha state. The Bhitarkanika Mangroves cover an area of 650 km² in the river delta of the Brahmani and Baitarani rivers. The Bhitarkanika Mangroves are home to 55 of India’s 58 known mangrove species. The mangroves harbor one of India’s largest populations of saltwater crocodiles.

How to get there

Your best bet is to first reach the capital city of Bhubaneswar (Capital of the Indian state Odisha , earlier called Orissa). From there, it is best that you get a professional tourist company to arrange the visit. In order to see the mangroves and the crocodiles, you need to start early in the morning and it will take about 4-5 hours. So, you need to reach one day early, sleep at night and then start early morning next day.

I hired the services of Sand and Pebbles Tours folks. This included to and fro transportation. They gave me a cab which took me to the location, the cab stayed overnight and then returned with me. Not very costly and my personal opinion, get a travel agency. You get to say in the mangroves (or near it) and it is a great experience.

What to take care of

First, because you will stay closer to the mangroves, ensure you have enough protection from mosquitoes. I applied the “Odomos” cream (easily available at any pharmacy store) and slept in the tent.

Next, ensure you start early in the morning. Do not delay, else the heat sometimes becomes un-bearable as the day progresses.

Best time to visit is between October and March.

Get a good, big boat. The govt charges are nominal so don’t be a miser. If possible, get a full boat for yourself (if you can afford it, I did and I’m glad I took that decision). We sat on top of the boat for first few hours and had a great trip inside the small canals of the mangroves. Spotted a few crocodiles and other species.

You should book a stay with a tourist company. This is a remote area and getting food could be difficult. So find a travel agency which provides you stay and food.

See my flikr photostream to see a few pictures of Bhitarkanika.

Bhitarkanika National Park

Bhitarkanika National Park

Grindelwald, Switzerland Photos

Leave a comment

Creative Commons License
Grindelwald, Switzerland by Vishnu Sharma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Click on a photo to view larger image.

 

This gallery contains 6 photos

Kuch Nahi Recipe


Leave a comment

Kuch Nahi Or Nothing

Once, my brother-in-law visited us with his family for a week’s vacation. While we were going around a lot, every time I would ask the kids “what do you want to eat”, they would respond by saying “kuch nahi”. “Kuch Nahi” is a Hindi language  term, that means “nothing”. They were only having soda and junk food and would refuse to eat at home.

To outsmart these kids, I invented a new recipe and named it “Kuch Nahi”. Next time when they said “kuch nahi” I gave them this dish and they had to eat – “you guys asked for kuch nahi to eat”…

Ingredients

  1. Get all green vegetables that you can get in your fridge. Ensure, all of them can be eaten without cooking.
  2. I got hold of green bell pepper, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper. Diced
  3. Added some diced onions
  4. Boiled potatoes, dices
  5. Diced tomatoes
  6. Olives (seedless), fined chopped
  7. A bit of jalapeno (pickled). Just a bit to give spicy taste, but not too much that kids will refuse to eat
  8. A bit of kidney beans (optional)
  9. Green peas
  10. Mayonnaise (or any other white sauce)

Preparation Method

Just dice all the vegetables, and mix with Mayonnaise sauce. Give the kids other possible options for sauce.

My kids liked it and they asked for more 🙂

 

 

Lotus Resort, Puri, Konark


Leave a comment

Lotus Resort Puri, Konark

The Lotus Eco Village is located near virgin Ramchandi Beach on the way to Konark (from Puri). It is one of the most picturesque beaches of Orissa. Located just 7 Km from Konark, Orissa, it is named after the presiding deity of Konark, Goddess Ramchandi.

The resort location is fantastic and with it’s huts, the stay is fabulous. Though the resort is not that well maintained, it is still worth a visit and stay. You will have more fun if you are with friends (or group).

The restaurant is average, so no points for food. The small, private beach is great fun with kids. Additionally, the beach is clean and there is ample space for a nice walk in the evening. Just outside the resort (walk for 2 mins) there is a nice bank with rocks, on which, you can sit, relax and enjoy during evening.

For those, who just want to relax during vacation, this is a great stay option.

For booking you can visit http://www.lotusresortkonark.com/

View photos of Lotus Resort

Lotus Resort, Puri, Konark - Fisherman

Lotus Resort, Puri, Konark – Fisherman