Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

November 8, 2019

Diwali Trip to Delhi and more

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 4:34 PM

Last to last week was quite eventful as me and Jani took a 9 day trip to Delhi + other places and celebrated Diwali. The trip started with us flying to Delhi on the 18th and for some reason the drive that usually takes an hour on an average took us a bit longer than 2 hours. Thankfully we had kept enough of a buffer when leaving that we had a whole 15 mins before the check-in counter closed. The flight was a bit delayed but otherwise uneventful. I have to say Vistara is fast becoming one of my favorite airlines for domestic travel due to the sheer professionalism of the staff and the standard of service they maintain. Once we got to Delhi it was quite late so we crashed and then on Saturday we spent the first half of the day running errands and finishing dental appointments. In the evening Jani and me drove over to the Sector 18 market to try out the local chaat’s and other foods. The whole area has changed quite a bit and I could barely recognize the place.

On Sunday we left early in the morning from home for my dad’s brother’s place in the Village. The drive was quite uneventful for the first half and as we neared the place there is a particular temple called ‘Gufa’ (cave) which has some religious significance. Since it was the Sunday before Diwali a million folks (at least it felt like a million folks) had descended on the place for pilgrimage/prayers and the traffic cop told us to take an alternate route if we didn’t want to be stuck in a jam for the next 3-4 hours. So we took a detour and the road took us through the real interiors of Villages and as it was the first time Jani was seeing the north-Indian villages it was a great experience. After a while just as we were supposed to merge back on the highway we found another traffic jam which was about 2-3 kms long. Once again one of the local folks directed us to use an alternate route and this one was scary. The path was barely wider than the car and both sides was overgrown with plants reducing the visibility even more. Mom was scared stiff and I actually have a video of us driving through the path. It is difficult to believe that this was a regularly used road but as per the guy who directed us it was used regularly.
This time we were able to merge back on the main road without issues and shortly after we reached our place in Baoli. It was great to be there and meet Chachaji (Dad’s younger Brother) and Chachiji (his wife) but the place felt empty. This was the first time I had visited after my grandmother passed away and usually when I visited my cousins or other relatives would also be there at the same time. This time it was just us so it felt weird and empty. It was great spending time with them and having homecooked pure healthy food. After spending a few hours relaxing and catching up we took our leave to drive over to mom’s place.
The drive was great and interestingly the roads are in amazing condition. The road connecting the villages (not the highway) was in better condition than the main roads in Bangalore. The road follows the Ganga Naher (Canal) and is a beautiful drive. There was no water in the canal as they had stopped the flow to do cleanup and maintainance of the canal bed but still the drive was impressive and fun.

Thanks to the great roads we made good time and reached Basera quite quickly. I was visiting the place after almost a decade and there were a lot of changes in the village and the house. But at the same time things were same enough that I got a weird sense that something was off but it was tricky to identify what was causing it. For example the road in front of the house was raised up by almost 6-8 inches. This meant instead of going up two steps to get to the front entrance of the house it was just 1 step and it caused cognitive dissonance for a while. Initially I thought that I was remembering the enterance being a lot higher since I was younger/shorter when I last visited but after a while, I figured out that it was actually because of the raised road that everything looked lower.

We had tea and homemade sweets post which I took Jani around the house and Gher (traditionally the men stayed separate from the ladies and stayed in the Gher. Plus the farm animals etc were kept there as well. Since I spent a lot of my childhood here there were a lot of stories to tell about my childhood and places I remembered. Ashok bhaiya joined us after a bit and took us to the orchard behind the Gher. He spent a lot of effort telling me about the various plants and trees that are there but most of it went over my head. Thankfully Jani was there and since she is really interested in plants/gardening they both had a good long conversation about trees and basically ignored me which was fine with me as I was happy listening without having to contribute.

While we were exploring it turned dark and we headed back home for some amazing food dripping in homemade butter and some homemade pickle. After dinner we hung out for a while catching up with family and then crashed as we had started quite early in the morning.
Next morning we got up quite early (based on our normal wakeup times) and after another filling meal Ashok bhaiya took us around the village and fields. We took the tractor and me & Jani relaxed in the back in the trailer while bhaiya drove. The first place we visited was a Bura refinery (Bura sugar is the least refined or processed form of sugar or sugarcane juice.) they were making the Bura for sale and apparently that has added chemicals in it and is different from the one made for home consumption. It was cool to see how it is made though it was a bit stinky as the burning wood combined with heated sugarcane juice gives off a very strong smell.
We didn’t hang around for long and soon we were on our way to our fields where we were growing Sugarcane and the attached orchard had a lot of different fruit trees. I remember Mango, Guava, peach but there were a lot more. As before Jani and Bhaiya discussed the various trees and how they were grown etc. For me I was enjoying the nature and fresh fruits. After a while we drove over to the other orchard where we primarily grow Mango’s and this one was infested with monkeys. Apparently the infestation is bad enough that farmers regularly loose a lot of their crops to them and since they are so many of them you can’t even chase them off without risking them attacking you. Thankfully we weren’t attacked while we were there and soon drove back home for lunch.

Lunch was quite relaxed and we chilled at home for a bit before heading out again in the evening to check out the Naher and buy some plants from the nursery near the place. This time I drove and we first visited a water powered Mill (or Atta Chakki in Hindi) which was shut down for a bit due to the ongoing repair in the canal. After that we drove over to the nursery where Jani was in heaven. We bought a lot of plants for a fraction of the cost compared to Delhi/Bangalore and thankfully they were all for the house in Delhi instead of Bangalore as my balcony is running out of space for more plants. 😊
After shopping we returned home and had dinner. Since folks in the villages sleep early everyone soon went to sleep while Jani and me went to the roof to try seeing the Orionid meteor shower. But we were not lucky enough to see much and if we had stayed up longer I am sure we would have seen something but we were also tired so we crashed soon.

Next day we woke up early and headed back to Delhi. On the way we passed a village named Jani and the police station for the same. I made sure we took a pic of Jani in front of the police station for Jani village and the folks watching us gave us funny looks while we were taking the pics. The drive back was uneventful and we made good time and reached home without much delay. Once we reached home, Jani had a dental appointment which took most of the evening and then we crashed.

Next day we explored Delhi and visited the usual suspects. Starting we Lotus temple, Humayun’s tomb, India Gate and last and not the least Kutub Minar. I was visiting Humayun’s tomb for the first time even though I have been staying in Delhi for years. It is quite nice and well maintained. After exploring Delhi we returned home and starting the next day I was working from home so we basically relaxed at home for the most part. Jani and mom did go shopping a few times and bought a bunch of stuff. I am happy I had the excuse of working so I could avoid joining them for their shopping expeditions.
Unfortunately I managed to catch a viral during one of the visits and just as my work ended on Friday I started feeling the effects and by the time I went to bed I was miserable and the next 2 days were painful and tiring. Basically I survived on Soup and meds. Thankfully by Sunday afternoon I was a bit better as we had Jeeto mausi, Mausaji, Axu and Montu visiting for lunch. Lunch was fun even though I couldn’t eat much but it was great to catchup with them after a long time. Post lunch we did the puja in the evening and lit the Diya’s which was nice. Surprisingly hardly any folks were bursting crackers this time, so it was quite peaceful and not too bad pollution wise.

Monday again I was working so I spent the day in my room while Jani and parents hung out and shopped. Our flight was in the evening so we all piled into the car around 6 and drove over to the airport. Since we got there early enough we went to the Airport Lounge and it was tiny. Hardly big enough for more than 30-40 people at a time and not much food/drinks options were there either. The flight back was mostly uneventful and we reached home around 2am. Thankfully most of the luggage survived the trip except one bowl that was sacrificed to the travel gods during the trip.

Overall the trip was a lot of fun and going forward I am going to visit Basera & Baoli much more frequently.

– Suramya

October 13, 2019

Our Trip to Varkala

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips,Uncategorized — Suramya @ 11:01 PM

This last weekend it was a long holiday so we went on a trip to Varkala, Kerala. Its about 700kms from Bangalore and as per Google maps would take about 13 hours to drive there. As I had no interest in driving for 13+ hours and reaching the site exhausted we decided to take an overnight sleeper bus to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and then hire a car to take us to Varkala which is about another 2 hours drive. Initially we did think about taking a TT (Tempo Traveller) as we normally do as that would have come out to be a bit cheaper but then the majority voted for taking a bus so that we get some rest and not reach the resort exhausted as travel in a TT is not the world most comfortable way to travel.

We started from my place around 7:30pm as our bus boarding was at 9:15pm but since it was raining we couldn’t get any cabs so we ended up taking my car where all 7 of us (including the driver) squeezed into the car and even with the traffic we reached the pickup point early enough that we had time to have a quick dinner before boarding the bus. Due to the delay in us booking the tickets we were right in the back of the bus and the road was initially quite bumpy and the driver really loved the brakes. I almost took a header down from the upper berth but thankfully managed to grab a railing before I pitched over fully. The seats were quite comfortable and clean so after playing a round of UNO we crashed (we would have continued playing but the lights were turned off and it made it hard to play. Plus we were all tired as well so we decided to sleep early.

Once we reached Thiruvananthapuram and got into the car the first order of business was food so we went to a local restaurant and attacked the food. It was quite good, or we were just that hungry that we finished the food in record time. Post brunch we drove to Poovar Backwaters and took a 3 hour boat ride through the backwaters. The boat ride was quite fun and I enjoyed the beautiful views. This place is a birdwatcher’s paradise and I can’t remember how many different varieties of birds I saw during the ride. About halfway through the ride we stopped for a snack break at a floating restaurant and it was ok, nothing too special though the juice I had was fresh and tasty. Apparently the tea was one of the worst people have had but since I don’t drink tea I can’t comment on that.


All ready to explore the Backwaters

After the snacks we rode over to the Golden Sands beach which was basically a regular beach between the backwaters and the ocean. They just gave it a fancy name to attract visitors. We had to cut the beach visit short as it started drizzling and in any case we couldn’t get into the water as it was dangerous. We did see a crab and were trying to catch it when a big wave came and the crab escaped in the water. You should have seen how quickly everyone ran when they realized that the crab was MIA in the water.


The place was a bird watchers paradise

After the beach we spent another 1 1/2 hours touring the mangroves and by the time the 3 hours were up we were all more than ready to head back. The last 45 mins or so were esp boring as we basically went round the place in circles and we all were a bit sleepy by this time but Jani and Akanksha were especially hit as they had both taken motion sickness tablets and one of the side effects of this particular table is excessive drowsiness.

Since we were all tired and had no interest in looking at more mangroves/backwater we headed out to the hotel. On the way we stopped at Vizhinjam Light House making it just before the closing time giving us about 15-20 mins to explore the lighthouse. For some weird reason they have a requirement that everyone climbing the lighthouse has to remove their shoes. As it had started drizzling this meant that we had wet feet/socks when we climbed the stairs. The view from the location is spectacular and worth the time to see at least once.


View from the lighthouse

After the light house we drove to the hotel and checked in. We got lucky and got one of the suites giving us a nice place to hang out and chill. The hotel is located at a great location and was a good experience for the most part. The major issue we faced during the stay was that the service is super slow. To give an idea of the slowness it took over an hour for them to serve us dinner after we ordered and I was ready to go to the kitchen to yell at them when they finally served the food. I was happy with what I ordered but the rest of the folks were not super impressed with the food. The other issue I had was that the linen / bed sheets etc were super old and quite rough/uncomfortable.

But the view from the room was amazing. We could see the swimming pool from the window and just beyond that was the beach. We got up early morning the next day to enjoy a swim before starting the touristy things. It was a bit of a surprise when we got down and walked over to the beach and saw the entire beach front area in front of the hotel taken over by Pandits and worshipers for puja (prayer). So we walked a bit toward the empty part of the beach beyond the fishermen selling fresh catch and entered the water.


View from our room

The water was phenomenal, and the waves were super powerful and a lot of fun. We got thrown around quite a bit and had a blast. We could only go in a few meters into the surf and that was more than enough to chill/fool around. Jani stayed out to keep an eye on us and spotted a dead puffer fish on the beach which is something I hadn’t see before.


Dead Puffer fish we found on the beach

We spent about an hour in the water before we had to head back as we had a tight schedule for the rest of the day. We had a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed out to visit the Jatayu Earth Center/Adventure Camp. The idea was that we would spend a few hours at the adventure camp, visit the statue and then head back.

Unfortunately, by the time we reached the center it was 11:30am and hot enough that you could fry an egg on the road, so we discussed and reached a consensus to skip the adventure sports and just take the cable car to the top to see the statue. We could have taken the steps and trekked to the top but due to the heat none of us dared. The statue was impressive and the 65 acre land around the statue was filled with a forest and looked amazing. After fooling around for a bit and taking a lot of pics we took refuge under some trees and then under the wings of Jatayu.


Us at the Jatayu Earth Center


Sharukh and Ayush trying to copy Jatayu’s pose

Once we got down from the statue it was late enough that we were starting to feel hungry again so we headed out to ‘5 Spoons’ restaurant which was ok. Most of the items on the menu were not available and the dishes we did get were average. However the Chilli Paneer we got was surprisingly good.

Post lunch we headed back to the hotel with a plan to get Kerala massages at the hotel followed by a long and relaxing swim in the pool. Scheduling the massage took some time as the staff was super slow. To make things interesting they could only schedule massages for 2 people at a time. While the rest of the folks went for a swim me and Jani volunteered for the first slot. After we agreed and were about to head in we found out that there was no guy available for the men’s massage so I had to wait for 30 mins while their massage guy came over.

The massage was interesting in a lot of ways. When I got to the room I was asked to strip and wear this strip of cloth the size/width of a thong. The windows of the room didn’t have curtains and I could see houses and folks chilling from where I was standing. I only hope that the women’s side had more protection from peeping toms. The guy giving the massage was quite decent and while it wasn’t the best massage I had it definitely wasn’t the worst either. I felt a lot more relaxed after the massage and went for a swim after the massage.

For dinner we walked over to another restaurant walking distance from the hotel and were joined by 2 other friends who were coincidentally in Varkala at the same time during their road trip. The dinner was fine but it took them ages to get the food. The Veg sizzler was quite nice and apparently the seafood platter was good as well. The rest of the dishes were quite average. Because of the slow service it took us a while to finish dinner and then we retired to our room to chill.

As it was Ayush’s birthday we had planned on a surprise birthday celebration. While Shahrukh kept Ayush busy me, Jani, Sharukh and Shashank blew up balloons and decorated the cake etc. Post cake cutting we proceeded with the traditional beating the crap out of the birthday boy ritual. Fortunately for Ayush both Jani and Akanksha were softhearted enough to stop the beating after only a few hits. We then opened the local wine we had picked up and I can say without any hesitation that it was the worst wine I have had the pleasure of tasting. We only managed to have a few sips each before we gave up and abandoned the rest of the bottle.


Celebrating Ayush’s birthday

Next day we didn’t have much planned so we got up early morning and spent the morning playing in the pool. We stayed in the water till the last possible min and it was great. Unfortunately we had to leave the pool as it was getting late and we had to freshen up before we checked out from the hotel thus we got out, freshened up and walked over to another restaurant for breakfast where the food was a lot better and we had the entire place to ourselves.

Once we were done with food we checked out and then drove over to Kovalam beach. We took the beach road which was quite scenic but in bad repair so the drive took a while. Just as we reached the beach it started raining so we had to run to the nearest restaurant which was right on the beach. Personally I am not a huge fan of Kovalam beach as I think its overrated, crowded and not worth the time. There are other beaches nearby which are a lot better and more friendly but this is a beach that is so famous that everyone wants to visit atleast once. This was the second time I visited and though it was a litter less chaotic than the last time I was there it was still too crowded. The food at kovalam was quite nice and we ended up spending almost 1 1/2 hours there.

Post lunch, we drove to our pickup point near the music college and we reached there almost an hour before our boarding was supposed to start and there was nothing around where we could sit. Finally we sat down in a Gandhi museum near the pickup point, but luck was with us that the bus reached early and we boarded. Once again we were at the end of the bus and had a great & bumpy ride. This bus was via ‘orange tours’ and I didn’t like the bus quality. There were cockroaches in the bus and the blanket they provided was stinking so badly that I had to open the window to get fresh air and avoid throwing up. The driver was quite good though, he got us to Bangalore an hour earlier than we expected so we reached home by 8am and got ready by 8:30 and was on the way to office on time.

Overall the trip was quite fun. The next time we will take Kerela Lines both ways as their quality & cleanliness was much better than Orange Tours. Well, this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

July 29, 2019

Our Trip to Dandeli

Filed under: My Life,My Thoughts,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 11:24 PM

Last weekend we booked an adventure tour to Dandeli and it was ‘interesting’ in the Chinese curse sense of the word. Normally when I blog about trips I tend to avoid posting about the bad parts of the trip in detail since we usually end up having a lot of fun and can ignore the bad parts. However in this case I will be posting all the ‘fun’ things that happened to us during the trip. This trip was booked through Thrillophilia for 7 people and was another bad experience with them. (I actually didn’t post about the last trip as I was annoyed enough by the trip to decide it was better to not write anything). The booking was done on-line and we got a confirmation email a day later with a map location for the resort. I did notice that the name of the venue wasn’t listed on the email (It only said ‘Dandeli tours’) but paid it no attention at the time.

We left from Bangalore around 11pm due to traffic and the drive was long… It took us ~14 hours to reach the location shared with us as it was raining and we couldn’t drive fast. When we finally reached the map location we found that the location shared was for Dewdrops adventure tours and they were quite helpful in trying to help us figure out where we were supposed to go. Since we didn’t know the name of the place we couldn’t get accurate directions. There was a number shared in the email and we finally managed to get through to it after multiple attempts as the connectivity was quite bad in the area. That’s when we figured out that our booking was for Panther and had to drive another 2 kms to get to the venue. After driving 14 hours to get to the place it was not a great start to the experience. Unfortunately things only got worse as we continued.

The last mile road to Panther was quite bad and our TT actually got stuck in the mud once while getting there. Thankfully our driver was quite good and we managed to get unstuck and arrived at the venue. At a first look the venue looked nice and we walked over to the reception to check in. When we tried to check in, Mr Veeresh, the person in charge tells us that we were booked for tents even though we had paid for 3 cottages at a twin sharing basis (with an extra bed in 1 cottage) and we had received the confirmation for the same. As per him they had gotten a request for tents and not rooms. After showing him the confirmation email he told us to hold on and disappeared for almost 30 mins. Finally he came back and gave 2 cottages on a 4 person sharing basis as that was the only option available. We didn’t want to take tents as it was raining quite heavily and wanted to avoid the joy of common showers/toilets. Since no other options were available we had to take the rooms offered and checked in. He did tell us that we should reach out to Thrillophilla for the refund (as the twin sharing rooms were more expensive).

Once we got the rooms, we dumped our luggage in there and since we had been travelling all night and had a very light breakfast we were all quite hungry and it was another 1 ½ hours before lunch would be served. So we walked over to the dining area and asked them for some snacks before lunch. We were told that they can’t serve us anything and we would have to wait till lunch was served. Even when we offered to pay they refused us point blank. With no other option we had to dig in to our snacks bag and try to survive on Chips/nuts etc.

We all freshened up and rested for a bit while we waited for lunch to be served. After lunch we decided to get in the water and Canoe in the Pool. So we all changed and walked over to the area. Thankfully the pool (?) was empty at the time and we got the entire place to ourselves. Jani refused to enter the water as she wasn’t comfortable with the other people staying at the place (more on this later) and the fact that the water was filthy.


Kayaking at the Venue


Kayaking at the Venue

The kayaking venue had algae floating it in and filled with frogs and other insects/creepy crawlers and it didn’t look like it had been cleaned this year. But since we weren’t planning on taking a dip in the water we got in the boats and fooled around in the water for a bit. But we couldn’t stay in there for long as the water was filthy and we didn’t want to risk an infection by staying in it longer than required. So we got out and decided to try out the rain shower. Unfortunately, the rain shower setup was taking the filthy water from the kayaking place and showering it on the people. The floor of the shower was caked in algae and I couldn’t stay in the water for long. So we immediately got out and decided to try out the pool which was a different setup and we hoped that it would be cleaner. We were disappointed when we reached the ‘Pool’. It wasn’t actually a pool, it was a big tub masquerading as a pool which had water which was so dirty with mud, dead insects, algae and filth in it. I don’t think it had been cleaned anytime in the near past. Since we had entered the water we needed to take a bath in Dettol (Thankfully we carried it with us) water to disinfect us after entering this unclean water.

By this time it was around 3:30-4pm and since the weather was amazing we decided to get some tea and just hang out. So we asked for tea and were told that nothing is available and tea will be only served at 5:30pm. Which is bizarre behavior, but with no other option we had to wait. When the tea was finally served it was served without any snacks as snacks are only served starting at 7:30pm. Is this a college canteen or PG accommodation we were staying at? I have travelled extensively and this is the first place where people are refusing to serve food even when you offer to pay for it when they have a working kitchen. In our last trip the place we stayed didn’t have an attached kitchen but they still served us tea and snacks when we asked.

So we had our tea without pakoda’s and then played a little carrom and badminton to kill time. We did manage to do the Zipline and Burma bridge and thankfully both were decent and nothing broke which was a pleasant surprise considering the state of the rest of the place..
By now we noticed that there appeared to be only three girls in the entire camp and the rest were a bunch of very rowdy guys who spent majority of the time drinking and creating a ruckus. As we didn’t want to interact with them and there weren’t any other options available to pass the time we retreated to the room and passed the time playing cards, and uno. Both were a lot of fun since we had a great group of people with us. If we had come here alone we wouldn’t have enjoyed it at all.


Group photo at the Room

Later in the evening a campfire was organized even though the wood was quite wet and it was a valiant effort. They also played some music so the bunch of us decided to turn the dining area into an impromptu dance floor. The dances were hilarious and no I am not going to share the videos that Jani took. After a while the other groups joined us in the dancing and that’s when we stopped for dinner as they were just weird. We had dinner and then headed back to the room and played some more cards and Jenga since we couldn’t step out to go somewhere else due to the constant rain.

It was Akanksha’s birthday so at midnight we cut a cupcake to celebrate the event. We couldn’t get a cake as it would have spoilt if we had carried it from home and there was no place near the venue to get it. After the cake cutting we walked around a bit inside the property but had to quickly comeback to the room as the guys I spoke about earlier started creepily staring at the girls.


Cupcake cutting at midnight

Next morning we (me and Jani) slept late while the rest of the group went for a Jungle safari. Apparently the drive was through some amazing scenery but they didn’t see any wild animals except the usual deer etc. Interestingly the only way to get to the jungle safari place was using your own vehicle. I was expecting the venue to provide transportation to the place but I guess that was too much hospitality to expect. After the safari we had breakfast and started the long drive back. We picked up a cake on the way and properly had the cake cutting. The cake was fine although the grated coconut on a black forest cake was a bit surprising. We reached home after about 12 hours of driving and by then all of us were exhausted and basically crashed.


Cake Cutting at Kamath

The over all trip was fun because we had a good group but the venue was not at all worth the money we spent on it and we were quite disappointed with our experience.

We have reached out to Thrillophilla and complained about the experience. They are looking into it and will get back to us once their investigation is complete. Depending on how that goes we will see if we want to ever book with them again as this was the 2nd or 3rd time with these guys with a bad experience everytime.
Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

July 11, 2019

Yelagari Hills road trip

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 11:17 PM

This weekend we had planned to go for a Trek but as Jani had hurt her back we had a last min change of plans and instead went to Yelagiri hills. When I say last min, I do mean last min. We booked the stay about 10 hours before we left home. Since there were seven of us making the trip I wanted to rent a 7-8 seater car so that all of us can travel together, but since it was last min we were unable to find a car. Thankfully Shashank wanted to do a long bike ride so he and Shahrukh decided to make the trip on his bike and the rest of us took my car.

As usual we planned on leaving early from home to avoid the lovely Bangalore traffic. We had an early breakfast at home (Shahrukh & Jani made French toast) and we started at ~6:30am from home. The drive was quite nice and the company was better. The place we were staying at (Yelagiri Farm House) was ~150Kms from home and it took us about 3 ½ hours to make the drive with a single break for Tea/Coffee. The last stretch of the drive was though the hills and the views were amazing but since everyone except me was sleeping in the car they missed most of it. In a way that is good as most of them suffer from motion sickness and anything that avoids people throwing up in my car is good in my books. I had a blast singing while everyone was sleeping (Though I am not sure how they managed to sleep through my singing).

The Farm house was on a large property with nice big rooms. To give you an idea of the size all 7 of us could have comfortably stayed in 1 room. But we had multiple rooms so it was good. Once we reached the venue we just chilled and had our 2nd breakfast for the day. The weather was nice and cool so it was great sitting outside in the open relaxing.


Having the second breakfast of the day

After talking to the owners we found out that there were a few adventure camps near the farmhouse so after relaxing for a while we decided to check out the options. Shashank and Shahrukh explored and we found a nice place that had multiple options of games we could play. Since it was lunch time we had our lunch which was ok. The non-veg food was a lot better than the veg options as per the comments I heard during lunch but it still wasn’t bad. Post lunch we went to the Adventure camp and decided to do the Obstacle course, Artificial wall climbing and Zorbing.


Outside the Adventure Camp after lunch

The obstacle course was interesting and a few of the obstacles were a bit challenging but overall it was a lot of fun. The six of us attempted the course while Jani relaxed on the side and took pics. None of us fell so that was good and there was a lot of good natured ribbing going on when someone got stuck. One of the participant went into ‘pure survival mode’ when they got stuck but everyone made it through in one piece (and no I am not naming them).


Obstacle course at the Adventure Camp

The second activity we attempted was the climbing wall which was fairly challenging and only Bagri and Shashank made it to the top while a few of us remaining were close but didn’t make it to the top.


Artificial Climbing wall

The last activity we did was Zorbing. Usually this is done on a hill where you are rolled down a hill but over here the Zorb was floating in the water and all 6 of us got in at the same time. It’s a great place to be when you are with friends and we rolled around in abandon in the Zorb. Akanksha was elbowed in the face (by me. Sorry) and I had Shahrukh and Ayush both land on my back at the same time. If I start listing out all the other times folks fell on each other I will need a couple of pages. In all the 15 mins we spent in there was amazing and we were exhausted after we were done. Finally we had to head back as none of the other sports looked interesting (I did want to try the paintball but not everyone was interested so we left it.). Right outside the arena there were a lot of fresh fruit sellers and we ended up buying almost every single option available (except Jackfruit because it stinks).


Playing Frisbee

After we got back to the farmhouse, we spent a good amount of time playing in the field starting with Frisbee followed by cricket. Akanksha was given the woman of the match award for making the most runs in the first match. Once it got dark and we could hardly see the ball we retired to the room and switched to indoor games.
The first game we played was twister and it was a blast. Watching some of the positions people ended up in was hilarious (when it happened to others, not when you were in the position). We played a couple of rounds with Jani and a rotating set of people acting as a referee. It is a great party game but needs to be played with people who know each other quite well else it can get a bit awkward. After we were tired from Twister we switched to Jenga and it was fun as always. Some of the moves were brilliant and some were so bad that they should be admitted to the bad move hall of fame. Finally it was time to call it a day since all had been awake since early morning and I just crashed. I think Jani was talking to me when I dozed off.

Next day we woke up around 8, had breakfast where we made sandwiches and tried all the fruits we bought the previous day. This was followed by a few rounds of cricket and general fooling around.


Group Photo in front of the Farmhouse

Finally we had to leave because we didn’t want to be too late getting into Bangalore so with a heavy heart we started back. This time everyone in the car was awake for the hairpin turns that took us back to the plains and thankfully the anti-motionsickness tablets worked so that was great. The drive back was fairly uneventful, with one long stop for a tea break. We started off with just tea (juice for some) and then ended up making and having sandwiches from our stockpile. Thankfully we bought enough from the vendor that we didn’t get kicked out for having our own food.

The drive back took a bit longer thanks to the increased traffic but was manageable, at least till we entered Bangalore post which it was the standard disaster we call traffic management in Bangalore.

After we reached home, we chilled for a while and then everyone headed home ending an eventful trip. We had so much fun that we have already started talking about the next trip.

Well, this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

January 8, 2019

Welcoming 2019 at Winterburn Festival, Sakleshpur

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 1:08 AM

Happy New Year! We (Jani & Me) don’t like doing the usual Party/get-drunk/passout for New Years so each year we try to come up with something more interesting and unique. This year we decided to go to WinterBurn which is a Music Festival/Camping event in Sakleshpur organized by Motorcycle Diaries. Initially only the two of us were going but then Ayush, Akanksha & Dipika decided to join us as well which made the trip more fun.

We started the trip early in the morning (5am) on the 29th with a light breakfast and lots of caffeine. The drive down was quite nice as we missed the lovely Bangalore traffic by leaving so early in the morning and we took about 4 hours to reach the venue even though we stopped a few times for tea/coffee and watermelons. When we reached the address we had to do a bit of off-road driving on a muddy track to get to the field where the event was being held. I would not recommend that you take any car with low clearance for this kind of trip as even with the new Honda Citi’s increased ground clearance we scraped the bottom of the car a few times during this last stretch and each time that happened it hurt me more than the car. 🙂

When we reached the place we had a pleasant surprise that we were allocated 2 cottages and a tent instead of 1 cottage, 1 shack and 1 tent. Plus the front of the cottages faced away from the rest of the dormitories so we had a bit of privacy with a nice sitting area in from of the cottages that faced the plantation. So we had pepper & coffee plants about 10 mts from our door and it was quite nice. Since we reached before the food trucks had finished setting up we joined the various artists for a late breakfast of local food which was surprisingly quite tasty (yes I have had bad experiences with local food a few times).


Early morning Breakfast

As nothing was planned for the day till late evening we spent the day doing a bit of relaxing Yoga to stretch our backs thanks to Dipika followed by a lovely walk around the estate. Saw a whole bunch of plants and even though Jani tried her best to tell us about each of the plants I kind of zoned out and just enjoyed the walk in nature. We did find some wild chilies that we picked for eating but still haven’t tried them. After the walk we just hung out and chilled for the most part. We spent a while talking and catching up with each other as some of us hadn’t met in a while or were meeting for the first time.


Stretching Akanksha’s back after the bumpy ride


Ayush, Me and Jani stretching our backs outside the cottage.


Dipika walking Akanksha, me and Jani through some stretching exercises for the back.


Just Chilling at the camp

Since we had an early start and nothing was happening at the event we decided to call it a night and crashed earlier than normal. The next day there was supposed to be a Yoga session organized at 6am but none of us woke up in time for it. The food-truck’s food wasn’t that great and since we had packed enough supplies for breakfast (the plan was to have it while driving to the venue but after eating watermelon we didn’t have space) Jani made sandwiches for all of us along with salad and Tea.


Breakfast courtesy Jani

After seeing the sad state of the festival the day before we decided to not spend the day at the venue and went on a drive to check out some of the local attractions near us. Using Google Maps we found a few locations that looked interested and started the day with a visit to Shettihalli Rosary Church which was about an hours drive away on some very picturesque and narrow roads. The drive took us a bit longer since we stopped a few times to enjoy the scenery and to pluck Imli (tamarind) directly from a roadside tree and eat it raw.


Jani trying to feed me raw Imli

The Shettihalli Rosary Church was built in the 1860s by the French missionaries and was abandoned in 1960 after the construction of the Hemavati Dam. The gothic architecture of the church gives it a haunted feel and even though its only been abandoned for ~60 years it looks a lot older and spookier. We spent about an hour at the church taking pics and admiring the view after which we decided to get some lunch as we were hungry. Lunch was at this little hole in the wall restaurant that kind of looked shady from the outside and you really had to know it was there to find it but it was one of the best lunches I have had in a while. The food was filling, tasty and only cost us Rs 230 total (for all 5 of us) including coffee.


Group Pic at the church

After lunch we drove over to Manjarabad Fort which was built in 1792 by Tipu Sultan. It is in ruins now but at its peak it would have been extremely difficult to attack due to its commanding position on top of a hill. Spent a bit of time exploring before we were kicked out when the place shut down for the night. Interestingly the way they make sure that everyone leaves the fort for the night is by herding everyone to the main gate of the castle that is locked, once the guy inside makes sure there are not stragglers he comes and opens the gate to let everyone out and prevents people coming back inside. It would have been a lot more efficient if there were two people doing this but it works so… can’t really complain. We had a round of coconut water and drove back to base where we hung out in our cabin for a while. The stage was finally setup so a few bands did play but nothing that really stuck out and made us want to sit outside. Went to sleep early again with a plan to *try* going for the 6am yoga classes but once again no one woke up on time for it.


Group pic at the Fort

We freshened up and decided to check out some of the workshops that were running. Ayush, Akanksha and Dipika tried their hands at pottery making while me and Jani watched and made fun of their skills. After lunch we joined the Dreamcatcher workshop run by Meghana. This was a great workshop and I realized that even though it looks easy to make it requires a lot of concentration and skill. Unfortunately Meghna refused to let me and Ayush use a rectangle as the base design so we spent the next 5 hours trying to keep threads tight enough and the design normal enough that it didn’t look like it was made by a drunk spider. After much sweat and tears we finally managed to create our dreamcatchers. By this time the bands were prepping so we freshened up and walked over to the stage.


Jani focusing on ensuring all the threads were tight


Ayush and Akanksha trying their hands on Dreamcatcher making

The first few bands were quite good but unfortunately the crowds we had expected/been promised didn’t materialize. In fact there were about 60-65 people total at the event out of which about 50 were the artists and workshop people. We sat next to the bonfire for a while but then the music wasn’t much to our taste so we went back to the room and all of us snuggled under the blanket waiting for midnight. As soon at it was midnight we wished each other and within 10 mins after that we were all fast asleep.


Happy New Year! Welcoming 2019 snuggled in bed.

We all woke up late the next day and properly wished each other since we were all barely awake at midnight. After another round of sandwitches/salad made by Jani we all packed up and headed back to Bangalore. It took us a lot longer to drive back due to the increased traffic and stops.

Reached back home around 8pm after dropping Dipika on the way. Had a late dinner with Jani, Ayush and Akanksha thanks to Swiggy and that’s how we ended 2019’s first trip. Overall the trip was fun though I was disappointed with the music festival. That being said Gagan (the organizer) did refund part of the money to us so I can’t really complain much. If it was just me and Jani doing the trip alone then it would have been a lot more boring but the excellent company made it fun.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

August 9, 2018

Road trip to Belum caves and Lepakshi Temple

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 1:58 AM

Last week while I was getting bored while commuting back from office I stumbled upon an article on LLB about Belum Caves which is the largest and longest cave system open to the public on the Indian subcontinent and it sounded fascinating so I reached out to friends and after a little back and forth 5 of us decided to drive down to the cave for a day trip on Saturday. Since we were planning to start from Bangalore at 5am Anirudh, Jani and Shahrukh came over to my place Friday night while Shakshi came over at 4:30am… Hats off to her for waking up so early and making it to my place on time. After a quick breakfast (and a Red bull for me) we left home at 5:15am. The drive was quite nice and since we left so early in the morning the traffic was minimal (which is a minor miracle in BLR).

To pass the time we talked about all sorts of random topics from astronomy to the percentage of water in various items like cucumbers, milk and human blood etc. By 7am we all started feeling a bit hungry so we stopped for breakfast and had a road-side picnic and I really mean roadside. We stopped next to some newly planted fields about 2 feet away from the road and had a lovely breakfast of sandwiches, paratha’s and boiled eggs. All we were missing to make this a proper picnic was a picnic basket.


Early morning Road-side picnic

After food we were back on the road and made good time to the caves and were there at about 10:40am. We were one of the first groups into the cave and so were able to explore the caves without having to deal with a lot of crowds. The caves were amazing and I am surprised that not a lot of people know about it.


Entrance to Belum Cave


Stalactites in the cave

We spent about two hours in the cave and visited all the important/noteworthy parts even though it was very hot and humid in there. Jani was the only one who was comfortable and enjoyed the temperature as her body’s thermostat is broken (She likes hot and humid weather). There were some pretty cool natural carvings/structures in the cave that looked man-made and some man made structures to host camera’s and ventilation ducts that were mostly hidden so we spend a good amount of time trying to identify which of the structures were man made and which were natural.


The Saint Bed where its rumored that Buddhist monks used to meditate/rest

At one point we were ~150 feet underground at Pathala Ganga which is the deepest part of the cave. Here there is an underground water source that looked quite deep and even though we considered pushing one of the group in the water to see how deep it was common-sense prevailed and we decided not to try. The caves are supposed to have a section that makes musical sounds when struck but we couldn’t find that section. In part it was because we didn’t want to walk around hitting random formations and because we were fascinated by the structures and forgot to search for it.


Group photo in the cave


Trying to ensure we don’t get crushed by the low ceiling

Looking at the structures I was reminded about the Thai cave rescue and it made me think how hard and scary it would have been for them to be stuck in a cave for so long without light. I do want to try cave exploring (spelunking) and have started looking for options in India.

After we came out we fooled around on the playground which was quite fun and then had a picnic lunch. This gave us the opportunity to relax, stretch and enjoy the fresh air. There is a restaurant at the site but has limited options in food. Basically they make about a kg of rice in the morning and if you are early enough you get your food quickly else you have to wait for them to cook the rice. If you are visiting as a big group and are planning to eat there it is advisable to place your order before you head down so that the food is ready by the time you come back from the cave.

After lunch we started back but didn’t head directly for Bangalore, instead we went to Lepakshi Temple which was about midway between the caves and Bangalore. The drive was again quite nice even though everyone in the car (except me obviously) had a post lunch nap during which I entertained myself by playing loud music and singing along. I have a feeling that Jani and Shahrukh woke up after a while just to stop me from singing 😉

The temple is beautiful and we spent a good amount of time walking around the premises and enjoying the carvings. Describing the wonders of the temple would require a whole another post so I am going to be a bit lazy and just link to this post over at the RevolvingCompass.com that describes the 7 wonders of the temple. About 1/2 Km from the temple there is a huge statue of Jatayu but we were unable to visit it because of time (it was getting dark and I wanted to minimize night driving on the highway).


Group photo in front of the Kalyan Mandapa


Us practicing the tree pose for prayer

It was a humbled group that headed back but that didn’t stop our stomachs from rumbling so we stopped for another road-side picnic. This time we found a ready made stone bench for us to use as a table and we made full use of it for a snack break. It was fun to make sandwiches and eat cucumber & tomato with salt and chili. Honestly speaking I could have sat there for another hour but we had to cut the break short because of the time constraints and start back for Bangalore. We made good time to Bangalore and then hit the Bangalore traffic spending a bit over 2 hours to reach home after we entered the city. We finally made it home at ~10:15pm at which point I was ready to crash since I had driven for over 12 hours in the day. But still it was worth the effort and drive.


Road-side Picnic for evening snacks

We ended the day with Ice-cream after which everyone went home and I crashed for the night. We will be doing similar day long road trips in the future as it was quite cheap and a lot of fun. The only limitation is the no of people we can take on the trip since I don’t want to have more than 2 cars. More than 10-12 people makes the group unwieldy and encourages the creation of sub-groups.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

April 7, 2018

Went trekking to Pyramid Hills, Shivanasamudra

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 10:36 PM

This last weekend I went for my first trek of 2018 to Pyramid Hills which is situated in the Kolegal village near Shivanasamudra. The Trek was organized by Plan the Unplanned and was my first experience with the group.

The trek started at 10:30am from Bangalore instead of Friday nights like most of the Treks I have been to in the past which was a bit surprising. Since there were 7 of us friends going for it together and the pickup point was walking distance from my place we decided to have everyone over to my place for breakfast at 9am so that we start the trip on a full stomach. Everyone made to my place on time (yeah I was surprised too…) and we had a filling breakfast of Apple Pie, Eggs, Mattar Paneer and bread before boarding the bus and started the journey into the unknown (or rather to Sivansamudra).

Interestingly this group was a lot less diverse than some of the other Treks I have been to… in the sense that most of us were in the software industry and the average age was in the mid to late 20’s. (If you exclude me and Jani). Usually the groups are a lot more diverse but that could be because our group accounted for 7 out of the 14 people. That being said it was a fun trip which I enjoyed quite a bit and I made some new friends 🙂

Since a lot of us already knew each other, I was expecting the introductions to be a bit boring and repetitive. However I am happy to say that was not the case. The group leaders (Tarun and Aditi) asked us to act out our names or the name of our parent (if we had already introduced ourselves) using dumb charades. It was hilarious to watch folks trying to act out their names and it served as a good ice breaker for the team. The intro followed by an actual game of dumb charades helping us pass the time during the 4 hour drive to reach the base camp. We reached the camp just in time for Lunch and Ratna, the owner of Calver camps had lunch ready for us under an open air setup. As all of us were quite hungry at this time we attacked the food and finished in record time. On a side note, the food on this trip was among the best I have had on treks, usually it is just lemon rice and some snacks but this time it was really good and filling.


The Open Air Dinning hall and welcome area (PC: Durga)

Post lunch we rested for a little while to allow everyone to recover from the post lunch coma and then started on the first trek of the trip. Jani immediately inaugurated the trek by walking into thorny bushes and getting scratched all over. The first part of the trek was through fields that had recently been plowed but there was a clear path through so it was easy walking. The second part of the trek involved some steep climbing, with parts of it at almost 60 degrees. It was steep enough that none of us had breath to sing like we normally do during the walk. Most of us took it easy except for JD who had a bet with Ratna to reach the top within 23 mins. To all our surprise he actually made it to the top in 23 minutes flat to win the bet. The rest of us took quite a lot longer with frequent breaks but were there in time to watch the sunset.


Group Pic a the beginning of the Trek


The Trail to the top of Pyramid Hill (This is how steep it was) [PC: Tarun]


Taking a breather on the way [PC: Tarun]


We Made it! Group Pic at the top of Pyramid Hill [PC: Ayush]

After reaching the top we all relaxed on the rocks for a while, took a whole lot of pics before starting back down. Personally I felt that coming down was easier but not everyone agreed with me as the way down was slippery. At least this time we didn’t have folks having a contest about who would fall most often while coming down. 🙂 By the time we reached the bottom it was dark and we really didn’t have an idea of which way the campsite was supposed to be. So we followed the dog who had accompanied us for the climb, and it took us through a roundabout way but we finally made it back in one piece without falling into a ditch.


Resting after conquering Pyramid Hill

Once back we all freshened up and then relaxed for a bit playing with the kids. The original plan was to do a bit of star gazing before dinner and a movie but as it was cloudy we couldn’t really see anything except for the moon and that was also mostly covered, so we just fooled around for a bit while Tarun and Aditi tried to get the projector and sound system working for an outdoor movie night. Tarun had brought a good collection of movies to choose from and the majority (or at least the loudest) wanted to watch a horror movie, because that would have been a lot of fun. Unfortunately Tarun’s hard-disk’s connector cable died so we only had a choice between two movies and we choose ‘Three Idiots’. This was the first time I have attempted to watch a movie during a trek and to be honest I wasn’t in big favor of it initially but it was quite enjoyable.


Our Movie Hall [PC: Tarun]

We watched half the movie and then stopped to do a bit of star Gazing as Nikhitha & Mahesh noticed the sky was finally clear enough. Unfortunately we were only able to see the moon clearly as Jupiter was not cooperating in getting focused. We spent quite a lot of time just chatting and watching the stars which they both worked on getting the telescope aligned.


Trying to find the moon at 1am [PC: Nimisha]

After the star gazing session we all decided to sleep outside in the open itself as the cabins felt a little hot as compared to outside and since there were no mosquitoes choosing between overheating or getting eaten alive wasn’t a concern either. Most of the night was quite comfortable but it got chilly in the morning to the point where 3 of us (Me, Shahrukh and Shashank) ended up sharing a blanket (all of us were too lazy to walk up to the cottage to get another blanket).


Sharing a blanket as it was cold!

After a heavy breakfast me and Jani spent the morning lazing around the campsite while the rest of the folks attempted the second trek (I had a twisted back). They all survived the trek and came back in one piece in time for lunch which was again quite scrumptious. Post lunch we went ‘fishing’ in a nearby river. Our expectations were that the water was deep enough to swim in so folks who wanted to fish would do so and the rest of us were planning to swim. Unfortunately due to the heat and the fact that the dam upstream hadn’t let out much water that day, the water was only knee deep at the deepest end. 🙁 We still spent some time soaking our feet in the water and tried to get a fish pedicure. In the end we decided to call it a bust and walked back to the bus.

While walking back we saw a mango orchard next to the path and decided to pick a few mangoes to snack on. Me, Aditi and Nimisha were picking the mangoes when all three got an electric shock from the fence as it was an electrified fence which we didn’t know when we started picking the mangoes. Thankfully it was a mild shock but still stung. We collected our bounty of 3-4 mangoes and gave up on collecting more and boarded the bus to go for a coracle ride. Since that was on the same river as the fishing spot the water was not inviting enough to tempt us so we had a whole lot of coconut water and then started back to camp to collect our stuff before leaving for Bangalore. Just as we started back to camp it started raining heavily and we enjoyed the cool rain during the drive. Thankfully it stopped raining by the time we got back to camp and we avoided getting drenched while loading our luggage into the bus.

The drive back was fairly uneventful and while a lot of the folks slept some of us talked the entire time and I am surprised that none of the folks sleeping threw things at us to shut us up. We reached Bangalore by 9:30pm and as we hadn’t had dinner yet and didn’t want the trip to end some of us decided to have dinner together at my place. We picked up food from a restaurant near my place and spent the next few hours chatting away. We would have stayed up longer but everyone had office the next day so we had to call it a night with a heavy heart.

I would recommend the trek to anyone who doesn’t mind staying in a place that doesn’t allow smoking and drinking but serves the most amazing and simple food.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

December 30, 2017

Checking out the Classic Coffee trail

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 11:24 PM

A few weekend’s ago I got the opportunity to go for ‘The Classic Coffee Trail’ organized by the wonderful folks over at ‘Food Lovers’. Now some of you might be wondering who someone who doesn’t really like drinking coffee would go for an event about coffee. I went for two main reasons:

* I love to learn and this looked like a great opportunity to learn about coffee and expand my horizons
* It was highly recommended by Sachin and Diana who were also going to the event.

We started the trip by waking up at 4:30am on Saturday so that we could leave by 5:30am. This was especially painful as I had an early morning on Friday as well (woke up at 3am) as I had a day long work trip to Chennai. But sleep is no match for Red bull followed by a shower. So by the time Sachin and Diana were at my place I was wide awake and ready to roll. The drive down to Sakleshpur was pretty scenic and uneventful for the most part. Sachin and Diana alternated driving while me and Jani relaxed in the back. At first I managed to stay awake but after a point the red bull effect wore off and apparently I had a full conversation with Sachin while being about 90% asleep. I am not sure what is more scary, the fact that I could have a full intelligent conversation while sleeping or that Sachin was sleepy enough that he didn’t realize that I was pretty much talking in my sleep.

We made good time and got to the Harley Estate by 11 or so where we were met by Kripal from Food Lovers who had organized the event. I must say that Kripal and his team made every effort to make our trip smooth and as enjoyable as possible starting with the phone calls before the trip to ensure we knew the route and continuing during the event with the attention to detail. While waiting for the rest of the attendees to arrive we got to meet Chandini D. Maneesh and Tapaswini Purnesh who were our hosts for the weekend. Both sisters are very friendly & knowledgeable about coffee. Even though I am not a coffee drinker I was tempted to start after listening to the both of them talking about Coffee with such energy and enthusiasm.

We were staying in ‘Whispering Tree’ that was a good 10 mins jeep ride from the entrance of the estate. The cottage is nestled in the forest and at night some of the folks heard animals in the forest and the local farmers had to constantly make noise to prevent wild boar from destroying their crops. Right outside the cottage there was a hammock which looked very inviting so I immediately laid claim to it before anyone else could beat me to it. After a few minutes of relaxation I suddenly found out why the hammock was so conveniently empty. Turns out that there was a nest of fire ants on one of the trees to which the hammock was tied and they loved the opportunity to take a bite out of me. Infact they took several bites before I managed to get them all off me. But I did get revenge on the ants finally as there is a local dish that is made out of ground ants and it was served to us the next day for breakfast. Even though I didn’t eat it it gave me great pleasure to watch others eating the ants. 🙂


Jeep Ride to the cottage


Relaxing on the non-ant infested hammock

After we relaxed for a bit it was time for Lunch which was served in a lush meadow with a stream running alongside it. A small waterfall a few hundred feet away was tempting me to go for a swim but since we had all neglected to bring swimsuits we had to make do with just putting our feet in the water which was nice and cold. In all I thought that this place would be amazing to camp in and I was pleased to find out that they do allow folks to pitch tents in the area and have a camp out. The food was very tasty and went very well with the lovely wine we had. All too soon the lunch was over and we started the coffee tour, which started with a coffee tasting where we tasted the same coffee prepared using 3 different methods and it was unbelievable how much difference the brewing method makes in the final taste of the drink. I learned more about coffee brewing in one hour than I had in the past 36 years of my life.



Enjoying cooling down in a cold stream of water


Lunch at the Gazebo


Group Photo at the beginning of the tour (after lunch) [PC: Food Lovers]

Once the tasting was done we walked over to the main bean processing unit where the day’s collection of beans was ready to be processed. Each bean picker weighed their day’s pickings and then dumped them in this pit that led to a gigantic pulping machine to separate the skin and pulp from the bean. After the skin and pulp were separated they are separated by weight by passing them through water channels where the lighter beans float and the heaver ones sink. They are then passed through a series of rotating drums to separate the beans by size after than they are dried by spreading them on drying tables for a few days and then finally sun dried on the floor. To prevent spoilage the beans are turned regularly by big rakes and at evening just as the sun goes down they are collected into a massive pile and covered with tarp to avoid dew. This is required because it gets pretty cold at night and there is dew everywhere which is quite bad for coffee beans.

After the tour, we sat around and chatted for a little while enjoying some great snacks and coffee (obviously). Once everyone was done we went back to our cottages to rest and prepare for dinner. Dinner started with a bonfire, barbecue and some great wine. (It wasn’t just me who said that, Sachin liked it as well and he’s the expert 🙂 ). The food was simple but quite tasty. We spent a couple of hours just talking about random stuff and enjoyed being outsite without worrying about work/pollution etc. Though some of the folks were worried about the night life coming to say hi to us. Fortunately nothing decided to come say hello and all too soon it was time for us to call it a night so we crashed.


Group Pic at Dinner [PC: Food Lovers]

The next day started really early as we were scheduled for a plantation walk. I seriously considered sleeping in and letting others go on without me but I am glad I didn’t since the walk was a lot of fun. We got to watch the plantation workers pluck the berries and tasted the raw berry which was surprisingly sweet. Since the Harley Estate follows the selective harvesting method they only pick the ripe cherries from the trees which as you can imagine is a pretty labor intensive process. The walk was not very taxing and since it wasn’t rainy season we even managed to avoid leeches which was a big plus (I am not a fan but Jani finds them to be ‘sexy’ for some reason).


Learning about Coffee picking

Post the walk we were all pretty hungry and fell upon the breakfast like starving people. Me and Jani strategically seated ourselves so that the servers had to pass us everytime they came up with food so we had the first pick of the food. 🙂 This ensured that we were done with breakfast while others were still waiting for food and we spent the time after we were done stuffing our faces just sitting in the sun relaxing.


Look at the pretty flowers (and us)


Enjoying early morning coffee in the sun

Finally everyone was done with breakfast and it was time for us to bid farewell to each other and with a heavy heart we packed up our bags and started the long drive back. The drive back was mostly uneventful and we reached Bangalore without any issues and promptly got stuck in traffic.

If you ever want to combine a relaxed trip with learning about coffee I highly recommend this place. Check it out if you have the time.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

December 4, 2017

Singapore: A trip to remember

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 10:32 PM

Just about a month ago I went to Singapore for a 4 day trip and I loved the city. The people were very friendly for the most part and I quite enjoyed my time there. I have been there once before on a disastrous trip back in 2011 where I ended up spending 2 days at the Airport because of issues with a transit visa. Thankfully this trip didn’t have any such problems.

We got there early in the morning on Sat and we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express where the rooms were quite tiny. Infact the entire room along with the bathroom would fit into my living room here in India but the stay was quite comfortable and I liked the hotel. The one issue I did have was due to the hotel being an express hotel so they didn’t have an all night restaurant or room service. They did have an all night bar where the only veg option was a Pasta where they literally boiled noodles, soaked the result in olive oil and then added huge chunks of garlic (boiled to tastelessness) and served. I ate that one night and that was more than enough.

The first day (Sat) we mainly roamed around near the hotel as we were still a bit jetlagged and feeling lazy. 🙂 While walking around we saw this restaurant called Central Perk that looked very familiar and decided to have a late lunch there. It took me a few mins to realize why it looked so familiar and then I realized that the place was a replica of the restaurant from ‘Friends’. It had great food with some of the best fries I have had in all my travels. The portions were huge and it was a struggle to avoid wasting food. In addition to the great ambience the staff was super friendly as well and we spent quite a lot of time eating/relaxing at the place. After lunch we walked over to the China town and shopped for a bit over there.


Friends themed restaurant

That night we met up with Sid, Rithika, Varsha, Manav and a few other friends for dinner. It was great fun to meet up with people I hadn’t met for years and wasn’t expecting to meet. (We had gone out expecting to meet only Sid & Rithika)

The next day we went to Santosa Island starting with the ‘Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom‘. It was an eye opening experience to see all the different species of butterflies in one place because we don’t normally think about there being so many types of butterflies in the world. It also had a section dedicated to the insect kingdom but I didn’t really find that part as interesting except for the 370 million year old fossil they had on display.


Butterflies are supposed to taste great


A 370 Million year of fossil

Next we tried out the Megazip and Megazip Adventure line where you zip over forests and beaches at a height of 75 meters traveling at speeds upto 60kph for almost half a kilometer. They have 3 lines running in parallel so you get to race your friends down to the beach. We also did the Mega jump which is a 15 mtr jump from the top of the tower but I didn’t find that as exciting as the zip line.

We walked around quite a bit as we had to wait till 7:40pm for the ‘Wings of time’ show. At first I was annoyed that we had to wait for so long but it did give us enough time to walk around the entire island and check out all the attractions. We ended up sitting at a beach side restaurant for a drink because we were tired of walking around and had time to kill and saw a really picturesque sunset. Finally it was time for the show and it was worth the wait. The way they projected the show on spray’s of water was very different and innovative. After the show we took the cable car back to the main island and then the subway back to the hotel.

We spent the whole of Monday at Universal Studio’s and as expected it was awesome. I loved the rides and could have spent another day over there. The Transformers and Cylon rides were the most fun for me but Jani wasn’t a big fan of the roller coasters so she didn’t enjoy them that much. By the time the park closed we had tried out pretty much all the rides and loved it.


Universal Studios

After the place closed we had dinner and went on for the night safari at the zoo. It was a different experience but I didn’t like it that much. Possibly because I am not a big fan of animals locked up in a zoo (even in one without evident bars). This took a while and by the time we were done it was quite late so we headed back to the hotel and crashed.

On my final day we moved out from the hotel and checked Jani in to the Marina Bay Sands as she was going to stay back for another 3 days for her conference. The hotel is quite lovely and I wish I had more time to explore all the stuff/places they had in the hotel but I had limited time. So we decided to check out the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest instead. I am not that interested in flowers and horticulture but even I was impressed by the sheer variety of the flowers they have managed to cultivate in this area. The Cloud Forest was a whole another experience all together as well, when you walk it the first thing you see is mist followed by a 3 story waterfall. It was nice and chilly inside the domes and I loved it. The dome has some lovely plant life and I got to see a Venus Fly-trap for the first time in their Lost world exhibit.


The Flower Dome

All too soon the trip was at an end and I had to take the cab to the Airport where I had some time to kill and ended up buying a nice klipsch speaker as I needed one quite badly and got a good deal on the speaker as well.

Going forward will try to document any trips immediately after the trip ends so that I can do justice to the narrative and experience. This is all for now, will write more later.

– Suramya

October 31, 2017

One night (or rather one week) in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster.

Filed under: My Life,Travel/Trips — Suramya @ 7:13 PM

The lyrics of the 1984 song “One Night in Bangkok” by Murray Head perfectly captures the spirit of visiting Bangkok (and Thailand). I was lucky enough to visit Thailand and experience it myself a few days ago. I was there for 9 days but was working for 3 days in the middle. We (Jani and Me) flew out from Bangalore on Saturday morning which in itself was quite exciting. I had to come home from Whitefield to pickup my luggage and then drive to the Airport. For some reason I couldn’t get any cabs from the office at the time so had to book a shared cab instead which went all over the place and I wasn’t sure if I would make it home on time but luckily I did make it back and was there at the Airport in plenty of time to catch the flight.

The flight was nothing special so not much to say about it. We got to Bangkok early in the morning and since Jani was there for a conference and was a panelist we got the VIP treatment. There was a lady from the conference waiting right outside the flight door and escorted us through the entire process of immigration, baggage pickup etc. Once we collected our luggage there was a car waiting for us to take us to the Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park hotel which was sponsoring a 3D/2N luxury experience for the Panelist (I got to tag along without having to do anything which was great 😉 ).

We reached there early in the morning and once we had breakfast we just crashed for a bit since it had been a long few days before the flight. The hotel was great and the facilities were very comfortable. We didn’t do much the first day except walk around the hotel for a bit but the next day we had some fun activities. I got to make a traditional Thai dish that I couldn’t sample because it had shrimp/Fish oil in it. However the chef did give me alternate ingredients to use when I got home. I can imagine all of you who know me well shaking their heads at the idea of me cooking something but it was an interesting experience.


What we cooked

At lunch since I was the only vegetarian in the group I got served a special meal. I have to say that the staff went out of their way to make sure I had a great experience. Although there were times when I felt a bit discriminated against as you can see in the photograph below where the white bowl at the bottom of the pic is the bowl in which I was served soup and the big silver dish in front of Jani is what the rest of the folks were served in.


What vegetarians got vs what the rest got

On Monday we moved to the Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Center at Central World which is where the conference was being held. We visited the ‘Uno Mas’ restaurant near the top of the hotel and the views were amazing. Not much happened for the next few days as Jani was busy with the conference and I was busy at work. Below is my ‘office’ during the stay there and as you can see it was an great place to work from. I did consider working from the pool side but that would have been too distracting and too hot to be a feasible option.


My Office in Thailand

The hotel has a great bar/restaurant on the roof called the Redsky and because we had heard such great reviews we decided to have dinner there one night and even though the cost was a bit on the higher side it was worth it because the views were spectacular and the drinks were quite nice as well. We were there for a few hours and the time flew. Plus they don’t have the idiotic shutdown at 11:30 that Bangalore has during weekdays so we could stay there as long as we wanted. I did get Jani to try out Blue cheese and she absolutely hated it. I have a lovely video of her trying to control her expression after eating it but in the end she made such amusing disgusted expressions that I was on the floor laughing. (Ping me if you want to see the video 😉 )


Dinner at Red Sky


Having drinks on the rooftop


Bangkok skyline


Bangkok skyline Part 2

On Friday we took a city tour of Bangkok starting early in the morning which in retrospect was a mistake as Bangkok is a city that is dead during the day for the most part as everyone is sleeping, nights are when the city actually comes alive. Inspite of that the Golden Buddha temple and the other sites were quite spectacular. Unfortunately since we were a bit strapped for time we didn’t stop at the flower market but rather just drove through it. We did but a few souvenirs but for the most part refrained from shopping.


The Golden Buddha


The Golden Buddha

Shortly afterwards we bid farewell to Bangkok to drive over to Pattaya for the remainder of the trip. We got in touch with Sunny from Sunny online Travel who helped us plan out our itinerary for the last few days of the trip. He went above and beyond to suggest things to do and places to see within our budget. Thanks to him we didn’t have to worry a bit about what to do and where to go in Pattaya. If you are in the neighborhood do visit him and he will ensure that you have a great experience at a reasonable cost. To give you an idea of his hospitality he personally picked us up from the hotel and drove us to see the Alcazar Show and then drove us back to the hotel once the show was done. In all my years of travel I can’t remember any other guide doing this without charging a ridiculous price for it.

The Alcazar Show was an amazing experience, and I have to be honest that initially I was a bit skeptical about going to a lady boy show but the show was so tastefully done that I was floored by the experience. I wish I could have taken pics with all the staff but that wasn’t possible. But we did manage to get a pic with one of the main stars and she was super nice about it.


Pic with the leading lady

After the show Sunny dropped us at the Walking Street which is one of the biggest and busiest party hotspots in Thailand so that we could explore the nightlife. There was a ton of great pubs/bars/exotic dancers in the street and it was a very different experience for other such party places in the world that I have seen in the past. We walked around for a while and then it looked like it was going to rain so we started walking back to the hotel and just as we were about a third of the way there it started pouring. As Jani always carries an umbrella in her humongous purse we didn’t get too wet but for a while it felt like someone was pouring water on us with a bucket.


Walking Street

Once we made it back to the hotel we crashed early as we had a hectic day planned. We started the day with a visit to the Floating market of Pattaya where we were one of the first people to get there and the iconic floating shops were still in the process of setting up. In a way it was good because as the place was still starting up there was not much stink and it wasn’t very crowded either. We started of with a canoe ride to the other side of the market where we checked out some cool shops and interesting items for sale. We walked around the whole market and attended a few shows like a monkey show that kept things interesting. They also had a zipline which looked interesting so we did a round on the lines. Due to the fact that we were there early in the day we didn’t have any queues anywhere which was great.


The Floating Market


All dressed up in traditional dresses

After we were done with the market we went over to Nong nooch tropical Botanical garden which was ok, nothing too special. There was an hour long cultural show which honestly felt boring especially after having been to the Alcazar show. The pots and the garden there was quite nice but in my opinion we could have spent that time at the floating market and enjoyed it more.

After the garden we drove over to the marine Underwater world and it was good. A bit of a let down after having seen the one in Europe in summer but still quite nice overall. If I hadn’t seen the one in Europe I would have def been wow’d by it. Fun fact was that Jani spent most of the time telling me about which of the exhibits she had eaten already, in the end I had to tell her to only tell me about the ones she hadn’t yet eaten and that list was a lot shorter 🙂

After the exhibit we drove over to Ripley’s Believe it or Not and we did all 7 exhibits. I liked most of them except for Tussaud Wax works which wasn’t too great. The horror rides were great fun though Jani did manage to confuse everyone in the cast by keeping her eyes closed throughout both the haunted ride & haunted house. Unfortunately I listened to her and didn’t get the photo they had taken of us and now regret that decision. Ah well.. The next time I am taking the pics no matter what. This visit concluded our day so we headed back to the hotel and it started raining again… But we weren’t in the mood to do much so we just crashed as the next day we had an even earlier start to go Diving :).

The next day we again woke up early to go diving with the nice folks from the Jomtien Dive Center. They picked us up from the hotel and then we sailed for about an hour and half to get to the first diving spot. The water was a bit muddy but we did manage to see some great sea life. Lots of sea urchins and fishes. After the first dive we had lunch and got to our second spot where we dived again, this spot was a lot better with more sea life and corals etc. I did see some sea horses as well which was quite cool. Both dives were approximately 45 mins each (which is the usual length for a recreational dive). The entire thing took us the most part of the day so once we got back to shore we walked about a bit and then called it a night.


Pic on the boat, on the way to the diving spot


Shot of me in water (I am the one in the center)

On our final day in Pattaya we again got up early (which is something I would like to avoid in future trips) and started the drive back to Bangkok. Since our flight back was at night we stopped at the Jungle safari where we spent the entire day walking around in the heat to see the various animals. It was quite fun but I really didn’t like the heat and would have prefered to be in an AC car or something. Still the birds & animals we saw were worth the effort so… There were quite a lot of shows highlighting the various species so it was fun.


Front row seats for the seals show


Entry to the park (Apparently it was quite stinky)

Once we were done with the safari we drove to the airport and bid adieu to Thailand for a flight back. I would want to go back again for a longer trip so that I can explore the rest of the country but probably will travel to other countries first. I took quite a lot of photos (~600) so I am not going to be posting them, although Jani has posted the highlights on Facebook so if you are interested you can check them out there.

I finally finished this post just about a month after I made the trip which is all thanks to Jani for bugging me everyday about the blog. This is all for now, will write more later.

– Suramya

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