Monday, December 31, 2007

Srilankan tour photos

Do check out the following links for photos of my Sri Lanka tour. Ensoi.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year !!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Back to Work

26th December 07

We are back to serious work after a tour. I forgot to bring the USB for my camera. So, pls visit in first week of Jan 08 for link to srilankan tour photos. Would also have a post of credit for people who took us around. Pls bear with me until then and enjoy the fist test match between India & Australia.

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo Part 7

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo Part 7

25th December 2007

We started our day around 7am to a hill station called Nuwara Eliya. We drove out of Kandy and realised that the Kandy river encircles the town on one side and the town is covered by mountain on the other three side. We drove through a well maintained hill road and all the way and reached the hill town by 9:30am.

The town Nuwara Eliya means the city of lighting and the lighting is supposed to have caused by Hanuman when he burnt the parts of Lanka during the rescue operation of Sita. Lot of sri lankan tamilians work in plantations. I saw them with Viboodhi or Sandhu Pottu (Sindoor), sighted some small temples, VEL tamil movie poster etc.

I bought dust tea packet, had some Ulundu vada, tea in Niwara Eliya and transacted in tamil throughout. This small hill town also has one golf course, horse race ground.
We circled the lake once before leaving the town to a place called Hatton. Our interest was mainly to see the place called "Kitulgala" where the classic movie Bridge on the River Kwai was shot.

The road to Hatton was not great but motorable comfortably. When we came down to Hatton around noon, we also a construction site for Hydro Power plant near a huge waterfall. We realised that we climbed one site of mountain through Kandy and came down through another side !!!

We had lunch at a rest house at Hatton and drove down to Kitulgala. We sighted a board guiding the place where the movie was shot before the real town of Kitulgala. We stopped the car and entered the jungles. Only one person can walk and others have to follow through the path and sighted some houses. One boy came and showed us the place.

We were bit surprised by the site and tried to recollect the move and chatting sometime. Water level was quite low during our visit so we could co-relate briefly. We left from there after taking some photos around 2:45pm and saw some river shafting being promoted on our way to plains.

The drivers were quite patient on the hill roads and does not make many horns and give side regularly for vehicles which tries to speed up without battling an eyelid.

We reached Colombo through Avissawella and Highlevel road (A4) by around 5pm or so.

Our romance with rain lasted for some 500Kms of our travel out of total 900 Kms and our trip came to end peacefully.

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo Part 6

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo Part 6

24th December 2007

It was a cold night and we found difficult to sleep. Some how we managed to wake up to chirping of birds, wake up call of crow and found misty sky everywhere. It completely changed by 9am and sun light was out on full swing.

We started our day with Buddha Temple in Kandy where the relic of Buddha was kept. Good crowd and we took a walk around the temple. The structure was very good with indian pillars and kerala roof on the top of it and kind of tibetian finish to it. We liked the temple very much.

There is also a Museum attached with the temple which showcases the history. The entrance fee is LKR 250 + 150 for camera (around 4 USD).

We again went to the small hill above lake which we visited on 23rd night and had a good view of Kandy town. We came down and went on with official work by 9:30 or so and came out around noon.

The sun was shining bright and town was bustling with activity. It was like any other indian town. Platform shops, traffic jams, narrow road. It was funny to see one road cutting the railway track in the heart of city and the gate was manually operated !!! We walked fully to get some lunch and did some shopping at Laksala (government owned craftmaker like Poompuhar or Cauvery) for Souveneirs. Clothing shopping was not that impressive in kandy. We had buffet lunch at Diwan Hotel.

We finally drove down to see the University of Peradeniya which was like one huge IIT campus. The difference was landscapes, widely placed departments. The best part was kandy river runs through the campus and it has one rail way station too connective Colombo. Very spacious campus and it has green look and the terrain was hill. The campus also had one church, mosque and hindu kovil !!!

We sipped tender coconut on our way back and it was not having much of sweet taste. Bit disappointing when compared to our expectation :)

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo - Part 5

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo - Part 5

22 Dec & 23 Dec

We started our journey from Colombo on 22nd Dec around 7:15am. Our first target to go Anuradhapura through Kurunegala. The traffic was less and we drove at comfortable 60Km speed throughout. The highway is named such as A1, A2... A9. We took A1 highway.The roads were not broad and traffic was thick on our way compared to vehicle movement towards Colombo. We stopped our car on the way to take herbal porridge with Vellam. We shopped for cashew on our way alongside the road (Bataleeya) and found the taste was very good.

On our way, we visited Bandaranayake's memorial near Nittambuwa. Sirimovo Bandaranayake was the first women prime minister and she had a towering personality and important person in Non Aligned Movement (NAM). I do not know much about Mr Bandaranayake although.

We looked around for breakfast and Lankans have tendency to eat early. So some hotels were running out of stock and we found one place to eat Warakapola . Lankans have bread with Dhal in the morning whereas we take the same with jam. Some kind of Idiyappam is also widely available provided you reach for breakfast as early as 7:15am.

The rain started from this place and we stopped at Kurunegala for bit of official work. The office was like one resort or bangalow and was amazingly neat and organised. We proceeded from there and took a circle in Kurunegala lake. Kurunegala had a medium sized hill and it has one towering Buddha Statue to greet the public.

We took road back to Anuradhapura. We saw one huge textile manufacturing facility of MAS.
We kept travelling and stopped near Galewala for our Lunch. We found one restaurent called AUR and it was one 1970s look and feel party hall. The lunch was served immediately and the buffet was like Rice, Dhall, Aloo gravy, Chicken gravy, keerai. The food was okay but nothing was hot other than Rice.

We reached a place called Galewala and took our diversion thru pass road there by avoiding Dambulla. But it was raining fully and the water level hitting the ground. We went some 12KMs inside and we could not go further as the water was overflowing. We took U-turn and came back fully.

We saw one lake near Dambulla stadium on our way back in a place called Ibbankatuwa. It was so big and water was fully muddy. The shutter was open and excessive water was getting divered into river. It was raining heavily and we observed the same with holding umbrella. We further went and touched Dambulla town and bought some water and enquired about road blockade. We didn't get much of quality information and we proceeded to Kalawewa.

Kalawewa had one huge lake and we travelled above the Bund in a decent road. One can see the lake on the left side whereas full landscape was visible on right side. The road was heightened and one can realise the height is as high as to match 1 1/2 cocunut tree's height. It was so picture perfect and we went on and on over some 4-5Kms of length. We crossed the shutter of this lake and it was so low and the water was going below the road and people were standing and watching the fun.

We went further to see Buddha's statue in a place called Aukana. It was very old temple overlooking the gushing water of Kalawewa water and forest. The stone work was so natural and it had the waves or folding of traditional dhoti. I was told by my guide that the water falling on the nose of Buddha designed to fell on the feet of statue.

We went down and took the main highway to Anuradhapura through a link road. We saw lot of bird chirping, cow (first time in this Lankan trip), Banana plantains. The highway linking sign board showed Anuradhapura and Jaffna in one direction from here. We were probing our guide about Jaffna a lot (due to LTTE factor, how sri lankan government governs the place etc).

Finally, we reached Anuradhapura and there was no rain when we joined this road from Awukana. We were just miles away from Dambulla. The entire road to Anuradhapura is full of paddy fields. We sighted one military tank on our way and the soldiers were beaming and waving. The security check was happening on high-ways and but we were never stopped and always observed partially.

We finally reached Anuradhapura around evening. It is a quiet place and we entered the town and started finding a place to stay. Our guide had a tie-up with local hotel but it was fully booked. We went around to find a suitable place. Lot of old mansions were converted as guest houses and hence they were mosquito prone. We didnt take chance and we stayed in one hotel called "Miridiya Hotel".

Galway's Miridiya hotel / Lodge had huge lawn and scenic backdrop of Nuawavewa lake. It was raining so we stayed put here. Had a good buffet dinner for LKR 800 (7.5 USD) per head. Hotel was fully booked and had lot of pilgrims were piling up for Poya Day (Full moon day) and due to this we had to pay around 70 USD. The food taste was definitely different compared to Colombo food and the salt, spicy was moderated.

The room facility was very basic and had no TV, paper etc. The hotel officials dressed traditionally. We woke up next day morning and found the crowd was starting early to Queue up for breakfast and the Lankans were dressed up in traditional wear very early in the morning. We had our quota, vacated the room and left around 9am to work on 23rd Dec,07.

Our official work got over around 12noon and we were taken care nicely during our work. We left to sacred city and We walked through the ruins of very old structures. The town was had three divisions and it is spread over huge land back drop. We combed through many structures and realised the scope of town which was set up some 1800 years ago.

The tourists were supposed to be charged around LKR 4500 (42 USD) to take a look at the entire Anuradhapura. We saw only one place and we just drove through without buying the ticket.

We saw a Jetavana Stupa which was built during the reign of King Mahasena (273 - 303 A.D). We first stighted the tower and generally walking towards that. We could not get the full picture as the ruins had lot of trees and small structures.

We were simply overawed by the structure when we got a full view. It is a marvel of work and can be compared with any great Indian temple. They used bricks a of Stupa and had big circle and they build a "handle of bell" above the circle. Too good to believe that there is nothing inside the structure. The archaelogical team is maintaining the structure. We took a circle and it took almost 10-12m to complete the circle. Too impressive indeed.

We left there and went driving around the area and reached the town for lunch. We finished and took road to Dambulla on our way to Kandy. We left around 2pm and reached Dabmulla around 3:15pm. The rain was lashing all over Dambulla locality and we were joking that epic center of rain is Dambulla. It was water, water everywhere.

We crossed Dambulla and came near Kekirawa in different route than what we took earlier to reach Dambulla one day before. The water was flowing all through the road and the paddy lands were brimming with water at ground level. We felt something is wrong and rain is chasing where ever we go and proceeded.

Dambulla is a nice commercial center and remains as important linking of all towns. It had a huge commodity market or economic zone. Dambulla has also a huge Buddha temple with golden tower. It has also a rock climbing kind of temple to Buddha. We did not venture to both these places due to rain.

We saw towns like Nalanda, Matale on our way. It was raining all through until we reached Kandy. But the town Matale is very impressive and had lot of activity. Matale also had a nice Hindu Temple. The route had lot of herbal gardens and they attract lot of visitors.

The hill station route to Kandy started after Matale. Kandy is similar to Yercaud but had a different look and feel. The chillness was far better than what one gets in Yercaud (probably due to heavy rains near our visit) The great cricketers like Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakara hails from Katugastota before Kandy town. We saw mountain on both sides and could not see much of land. My boss was joking that is why Murali had become a spin bowler rather than a fast bowler.

We checked into a hotel called Riverdale and it was quite homely hotel. We checked out news in the TV and Dambulla flood was the headline attraction. The news also claimed that the rain is never before rain for around 20 years and the badly affected areas were Dambulla, Mathale, Kurunegala, Anuradhapura and Pollannaruwa & Jaffna. We saw the lashing of rain and travelled right through with it without realising it !!!

We had dinner at Sriram Indian Restaurent. The sambar was more of Dhal but the taste was decent and the price was moderate. We had a look at the night view of from a small hill and came back to rest.

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo - Part 4

Part 4 - 19th Dec 2007 to 21st Dec 2007

No rain here on 19th Dec. Feeling better bcoz there were rains in Chennai. CCH tried some new menu for us like spicy jack fruit curry, paratha, some kind of idiyappam.

Climate here is very funny and we felt really humid on 20th morning. Climate oscillates between rain and warm very fast and it gives some irritation of body adjustment. I have learnt to drink black coffee, black tea.

We had a good session with customer on 20th Dec and we went through work smoothly on 20th. Our travel plan to Anuradhapura, Kandy (semi-official trip) was finalised by customer. So we started planning out for that.

We had some indication that we will not be able to book the lodging in Anuradhapura and we need to go out to look for it. We made up our mind for some adventure.

On 21st, we went to House of Fashion and bought some clothing material. I didnt like Boy's dress whereas others were reasonably good. The sizes for shirting above 43 were bit of issue and white shirts were in shortage. We entered the shop by 10am and realised the crowd starts in full mode by 11am or so. We had some time to breathe and we picked our stuff. The prices were quite reasonable. Shirts were priced from LKR 500 (5 USD) to LKR 1450 (14 USD) approximately.

We came back to room after eating our lunch in Amaravati. We went out to buy a trolley bag (from China) and we bought in Pettah market area near our hotel. Initially he quoted LKR 2300 (22 USD) and we closed it out for LKR 1800 (17 USD). CCH tried their hand in Indian food so we got Chapathi, Dhall Fry for dinner on 21st Dec.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

That's not my job

This is a story about four people named
There was an important job to be done and EVERYBODY was sure that
SOMEBODY would do it.
ANYBODY could have done it, but NOBODY did it.
SOMEBODY got angry about that, because it was EVERYBODY’S job.
EVERYBODY thought ANYBODY could do it.
But NOBODY realized that EVERYBODY wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that EVERYBODY blamed
SOMEBODY when NOBODY did what ANYBODY could have.

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo - Part 3

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo Part 3

17th Dec 2007 to 18th Dec 2007

Meeting with customer is going on full swing. Mostly they were Sinhalese and bit of srilankan tamil mix. The officials were nice, forthcoming, smiling, time conscious. They were looking forward to share the information to experts (stupid - its me and my boss ofcourse).

Officials were quiet humble, un-assuming of what they have achieved so far and I should admit they had come a long way in their professional life.

The Fort area where we are staying is buzzling with activity, traffic and people. Men dress nicely and asst.Vice president above wear tie to office. Females dress sarees, skirts, trouser - shirt and most of the girls look good. The way the lankan women wear sarees can be said as very precise, elegant. It has a statement and increases their personality. There are two different types of wearing the saree one indian type and the other lankan type.

Office goers of Colombo start the day early by 8:30am or so and wind up their day by 4:45pm. People feel proud when they say that they from places like Kandy or Anuradhapura.

We ate lunch in office canteen for couple of days. Rice, Dhal, Curry are main items of lunch. But the taste is completely different due to some "black spice". Even though the food looks like Indian food, but the taste is totally different. Non-Vegetarian is fully prevalant over Island and offers full comfort. Rice available in two types - white color and brown color.

I forgot to tell you twist of security. Actually, we stay very close to WTC. So security frisk is very high. I am always checked by guards When i step out of hotel to main road. The best part was when we took a stroll to WTC on sunday evening. We realised that some 3-5 guards with machine guns are just above our hotel watching the roads. Actually, they were one floor above the roof top of our hotel.
It was fun to observe that we are taken care so well !!!

SX4 is sold in Lanka for around 13Lakh sri lanka rupees. Pls convert into your currency and check your affordability. 1USD is approximately can get 106 Sri Lankan Rupees.

Sri Lankan Newspapers cover events of India and Tamil Nadu in particular very well.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Travelogue - Chennai to - Part 2

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo - Part 2

15th Dec, 2007

We went to Amaravati restaurent for sunday lunch and we walked to House of fashions. That was mistake as it was really far. Some of the passerby misguided it as "1/2 KM" but it is not so. Now we realise that take a auto if lankans say near by and take a taxi if they say go in auto !!! But one comforting factor was the place looked more british style and quiet and had some nice buildings.

We went to House of fashions (ala New Saravana Stores) and the place is fully choking with people mostly locals. Hectic shopping was going on and every inch of sq.ft was occupied. We somehow glanced through the stocks, prices and returned without buying due to paucity of time.

From there we went to a place called Deliwala and I should admit the neighbourhood or suburb had lot of shops, people and traffic. People were moving around normally and one can see normal life. Police guarding was relatively very less. We took a round and took a bus to return and got down near WTC.

The realisation was we stay in fortified area so filled with police whereas others lead normal life. We thought of drinking tea in WTC food court and found all the shops were closed due to sunday factor. One can imagine the business activity then.

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo - Part 1

Travelogue - Chennai to Colombo - Part 1

13th & 14th Dec, 07

I came to Chennai airport and tried to find baggage screening of Jet. I saw huge cue of baggages waiting to be screened. Looked like clothes being exported. I am not exaggerating some hundreds of "bale"s. Finally spoke to some guys and realised that they are garments and going to Lanka for stitching.

We found our way and boarded the plane. Some 70% of the crowd were these small, un-organised sector business people and 30% of others looked little more polished.

We landed in Colombo in 1h:15m or so. Sri Lanka looked beautiful from aerial view and filled with green trees. The airport looked very big and super neat. We cleared immigration and collected our bags. It is bit of waiting due to the garments bags.

Airport is well lit, broad and natural lights coming inside cleanly so it was a good feeling and i should admit, i was deeply impressed.

By this time the rain started and it continued for another 1 1/2 days or so (and washed away the second test match between England and Sri Lanka). The roads were good and the median was more of road separator. No high grills i mean.

The driver was easily doing 60km per hour and i could see all kind of cars Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Honda, Hyundai and our own Maruti. Driver looked well built like a pub bouncer and spoke decent english. Buses were of Ashok Leyland and they looked more of Bangalore buses than Chennai buses.

We crossed a nice Galle (pronounced as GALL) River and entered Colombo city. We started seeing lot of people, police, check-posts. Lankans were kind of cross between Tamils and Malayalees !!! The accent of their tamil or sinhala is more of malayalee and their script was bit similar to Kannada (strictly by look and feel !).

We entered fort area and entered Galadari hotel and checked into our room. We had view of beach bit indirectly. Window had a sticker prohibiting the usage of Binoculars, camera. I stuck to the instruction due to heavy guarding around the hotel.

The hotel staff were always smiling and had a eye on customer service only when you directly interact with them. Service was bad when one interacts on phone. The food was decent and priced moderately. Lot of variety of food Italian, Lankan, Indian, Continent etc. I tried one Lankan dish called Kirabaath (rice and more kozhambu types) and found it nice.

I went to office for project kick-off next day and once again went through complete security checking before entering premises. The visitor pass was issued against handing over of passport. The people from customer side were friendly and most Sinhalese. The listened to our kick-off presentation keenly and reserved their questions to the last.

We went out to have our dinner on that day braving good rain. We commuted in Auto mostly for nearby distances and some times the security stops and enquires about where one is going and whether the drive has valid papers.

We ate in Amaravati restaurent and found the food tasty and spicy.

We shifted our hotel on Saturday to Colombo City Hotel. This hotel is for price sensitive people but the facilities were quite decent. Roof top restaurant served food and one can view WTC clearly from here. We took a walk on saturday evening around 5:30pm in neighbourhood but found the roads were deserted mostly. Shops and offices were closed (due to week end) and thin vehicle movement was there. We walked into Kraft supermarket and bought water bottle and came back.

On Saturday, the rain gods went away and we had bit of sunshine. It was really humid and we started sweating. The overall feeling the first 3-4 days is bit of confusion as it looks like people go into some packets of hotel or pubs for time pass rather than stroll in roads. The malls were missing in fort area.

We ate in CCH dinner twice. We realised the lankan food is bit spicy and no pickle concept over here. Side dish quantity is very less compared to what we see in India and the lankan rice served mostly not fully or completely cooked.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Next posting from Colombo

I am all set to travel to Colombo. Next update would be from the Buddha's land.

Gujarat Polls

Gujarat Assembly Poll - Phase I got over yesterday. Election commission banned publishing of polling details for the reasons best known to them.

Media all out to see Modi falling down. I personally feel, Modi would scrap through.

If at all Modi loses, congress would gain strength and coalition partners might go slow on pressure tactics on issues like Sethu, Nuclear deal. Otherwise, we will certainly see a most populist budget. That would be a worst ever show of P.Chidambaram as FM.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Indian Cricket Pitches

We have heard enough stories about re-laying of pitches, getting international help to improve pitches, BCCI allocated some funds etc...

But, one cant find any improvement when we watch cricket.

If one takes the argument of spin bowling, we could not get the opposition out consistently. Pak series didnt have any great exciting moment for bowlers.

Why ICC is not taking any action on BCCI can be understood. They want money from continent and does not care of quality of cricket being played.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Rally in US Stocks

US Stocks rallied strongly from 12800 levels to 13600 levels in the last 10 trading sessions. Citibank's stake sale, Expectation of holiday sales, government's consideration in ARM helped this strong rally.

But caution is the buzz world. Stock market normally reacts very fast to expectations but economy would take time its sweet time to react. For DJIA 14000 would act as strong resistance and 13000 would act as strong support. The trend would be very clearer by end January 08.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Raining Here

It is raining heavily in Chennai. I am enjoying the rain view from my cabin with potato chips :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Indian cricket's new coach

BCCI seems adopted contrarian approach when it selected Kirsten.

why contrarian?

Whatmore was selected for NCA. But he was well known for his coaching skills.

Kirsten is just a former player who had no previous experience of coach. But he was appointed as coach without any major competition.

Are you puzzled with approach. Never mind. Probably, BCCI is different.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Outlook for Stocks - Dec 07

Markets would be relatively less volatile and stable this December.

Select Mid-cap and small cap stocks would outperform normal market. DLF & Reliance would be stocks to watch out for in Dec 07 for uptrend. Amararaja, IVRCL Infra could surprise.

Tata Motor might do well due to acquisition talks.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Music Academy - Chennai

I was in Music Academy on Nov 30, 2007. I last went there on Dec 31, 2006.

I didnt like it one bit. The digital clock was not running properly and could not make out digits. A/c was low.

The seats are highly uncomfortable. No space to lean back or stretch the legs.

It might have got constructed long back. But the present administrators should do little to improve things. It clearly looks like they lost interest in providing good facilities for people who walk into their auditorium.

Sad to see the iconic status of that place losing sheen and scores of people who would visit in December would feel the pinch.