Category Archives: Travel

A family trip to switzerland

Published June 14, 2017 3:54 am

I have been thinking about writing my day logs for the family trip to Switzerland. Today is 4th day. Days are long & filled with activities and night is occupied with next day plan and crash. Today I have caught up some sleep in the afternoon and hence thought to start this.

Notes about Switzerland

  1. Day & business starts early & closes early. I was surprised to see that stores close as early as 7 pm and remain closely on Sat/Sun. They may remain open longer on big cities like Zurich but general trend is business closes early. By 10 pm, cities are asleep. roads are empty. Smaller cities like Luzern, Interlaken, Thun – it is even earlier. Restaurants take last order at 9:30 pm. Some close by 10 pm. You get the point. Day closes early. Weekends – shops are closed including the chain stores like COOP. Some outlets especially in the main railway station of the city remain open on weekend & close little late.
  2. I was by myself  (not booking through travel agent) and moving around by self – travelerwifi.com has been the best thing that I had planned.
  3. google map is probably the best thing happened to mankind. I used it for walking / commuting to hotel from train station, indian restaurants close to hotel. It shows all commute options including bus, train, walk including train/bus schedule, platform details.
  4. Public Transport is very well organized – Trains/bus/trams are run on time & very structured. They start & leave from the specified platform on time. e.g. 8:01pm means 8:01pm
  5. People expect that you read & follow the instructions. Generally they are detailed and you can help yourself. They meant to be organized. I think they don’t like you asking when it is already called out clearly in the sign boards. e.g. train station subway will have clear marking how to exit towards tram station with a tram sign. similarly for the bus. Following this we could reach the bus station @ Thun, boat pier @ Interlaken West and tram station @ Bern.
  6. Please don’t take shortcuts e.g. Cross the road when human crossing sign is red. I made this mistake on the train track. Crossing the train track instead of taking the subway and someone showed me the sign board! It is prohibited & not break the structure of the country.
  7. People are helpful especially ladies. First day on airport when we struggled to open the door for the train (the green button mentioned below) and could not identify whether the train on platform is correct one – one lady standing there – came to us and clarified.
  8. Switzerland also is hot in summer. We found temperature reach 26-29 C in the day/evening. There is no provision for AC in most hotels. Some don’t  have fan. You will need to open windows. Global warming is likely causing the cities to warm up. When you enter a hotel like this – be patient. It found it to be trend in Luzern, Interlaken, Thun.
  9. Hotels are costly. They will typically start @ CHF 270 per night and go up to CHF 370. They will have basic amenities only. Don’t expect room service, some won’t have room phone also, reception closes by 9-11pm. Each room occupant will get a external door key as well so that he can help himself if he comes in late!
  10. Bathrooms will not have health-jets for toilets. Only paper to clean self!
  11. Typically tap water is good to drink. but check with your hotel.
  12. Carry a bottle with you so that you can fill the tap water to carry.
  13. I bought fruits from chain stores like COOPs. This is required since you can’t go on daily restaurant food without getting stomach trouble. Eating fruits & orange juice helped. No salad. Depended on fruits.

Public Transport

I bought the Swiss Travel pass on the Zurich airport for CHF 376 for 8 days. One child goes free with an adult. We need to buy two of them. Whether it has been cost effective – I don’t know yet. It has been certainly convenient. Once I finish the trip – I would know whether I have made enough rail trips to make for the pass amount. Since I did not have time to plan in detail and add up cost of train travel to decide whether to purchase the pass or purchase individual tickets – I took a blind call to buy the pass.

I found that Luzern, Interlaken hotels gave me hotel card and mentioned that the local travel will be complimentary. I did not use it since I already have the travel pass.

I booked the Glacier express (reservation required) on the Zurich airport itself. I knew exact date when I wanted to make that trip. This cost additional around 120 for the 4 members. Reservation of seats is not complimentary with Swiss travel pass. I booked from Zermatt to Chur in Glacier express.

There are simple things about public transport that I did not know & experienced first time here.

  1. Trains door has a green lighted button like we have in lifts – to open the door. On a platform, once the train reaches – you may need to press the button to board or leave the train.
  2. Buses / Trams door also have the same button system.
  3. Some old trains may have an handle to open the door.
  4. Most of the trains have automatic doors & have a live schedule. Watching this on screen you would know e.g. what is the next station or how many minutes it will take to reach there?
  5. The platform shoes the next train/bus that is due to come along with a count down in minutes. Sometimes there is a previous train that has not cleared the platform yet. In that case – you may need to read the display on the outside of the train.
  6. do your google first in the hotel. That will help directly go to the platform right away.
  7. Bear with first 2-3 journey. You will be comfortable there after. It is very simply & structured system.
  8. I would not suggest to use cash. It will be too much hassle. I have seen some people using a card, some using mobile wallet for the tickets. We used swiss travel pass. Ticket checker comes and enquires in most of the trains. You can show your pass.

Indian restaurants

We packed bunch of food from home. That helped survive the breakfast & lunch. During the day – we are roaming around as well. Evenings I would go to the Indian restaurant available in the vicinity and having good rating in google. We went to these restaunts

  1. Kanchi @ Luzern
  2. Gourm India @ Luzern
  3. India Village @ Interlaken
  4. Namaste India @ Bern (Reachable by 20 minute express train from Thun)

Suggest to go early after 7 pm. Like I said – day ends early specially in not big cities.

Traveler Wifi

I could buy it online for around CHF 10 per day for a 8 day visit. I could collect it at the Zurich airport. Website has step by step details about how to collect the device & reach the “Service Center” desk. Device comes charged and works out of the box right at the airport. There might be other competing devices like this. I did not get to research others.

The device works for around 4-5 hours I think. I used to put it for recharge over night. Use it during the day. By end of day or later half – it will drain. It will be great if the device can come with some more juice. There is option to buy another battery. It works out great. Carrying a powerful powerbank helps. I use it to charge my mobile. It can also recharge the device.

 

A visit to JNI – Day 3

Published May 15, 2017 10:15 pm

Day 3 has come to an end. It is nearly 10pm. It is not silent as yesterday. May be that was Sunday effect. I can hear lot of vehicular noise today in the room. I miss the pristine silence of yesterday at the same place.

I went through the similar day pattern today. I made it a point to not hurry today. Not be in a race to get a treatment early in the queue. The habit  – the urban life has taught & hard to let go. Everywhere we are in race. I walked slowly to the Gents treatment section. Incidentally there was no queue today & morning mud pack over the abdomen & neck got done in less than 1/2 hr. I had a back massage treatment. It was good for the lower back issues I have. I had met doctor @ around 10am for the treatment of next 2 days. docs here seem to write treatment & diet for next two days. I shared that I am not looking for weight loss since I am almost at the optimal weight. There is colon & shirodhara lined up for next two days.

I decided to skip Physio treatment today. The walk on the track near lake was different for day. I saw I think Mr. Jindal in his car & his home. Nice name for the home – Vishram. I did not take the whole walking track today since I was in Chappals & decided to walk the track unplanned. Yog Nidra session needs special mention. It was like Kayotsarg that we practice in Jain Meditation technique. It gave relief in the tired body today. If you are into Meditation – it uses the self-suggestion based relaxation & replenishes the energy – connects to deeper self.

Food was as usual – soup, steamed vegetables & fruits. Soups I find to be not blend & reasonable here. It started raining around 8pm here when there was a session going on after Dinner – on JNI kitchen recipes. I did not get a chance to roam around in rain – I need to carefully walk mom back to room. It would be nice to listen to sounds of rain on the campus like this.

Mom had mudpack, massage and physio treatment. Seem to be going well so far. That’s all for today. Time to sleep!

A trip to JNI (Jindal NatureCure Institute) Bangalore – Day 2

Published May 14, 2017 9:53 pm

I am sitting in my room while my mother is probably half or fast asleep on the laptop. I had decided to take her to the institute to give a boost to her abdominal issues. I was trying to pair her with someone in the family. once it did not work out – this year I had decided to take her with myself. Booking was done around 2-3 months back. We joined here on May 13th for 10 days stay. Today was the 2nd day.

There is pin drop silence in the room. I can hear my keyboard sound as well as any door that opens up on the floor. It is around 9:30pm and I will also sleep in no more than few more minutes. I need to wake for the next day at around 4:30-5pm. Yoga Kriya session starts at 5:30pm. I also need to account for some time for mom walk to the place (given her age). So far what I have liked about the place is the silence & nature. You get lot of time to listen deep within. You transcend naturally if you have inclination towards it. Nature provides you the environment. Probably there is a busy road right outside the JNI but here in my room probably 1km away from the road in the block – I hear nothing. Also the temperature also drops given the greenery around. I have not yet put up the AC yet.

Day 1 – we had landed in blore and joined JNI @ 9:30am. More later.

Day 2 – I got exposed to the following in the morning Yoga Kriya

  1. Jal neti – I did it first time in my life.
  2. Vaman – where you drink and vomit the water taken in. I have been exposed to this in past & do this at home with normal water. Here – water has something more. I could not take second glass before I flushed it out.
  3. Warm Ghee in nostrils – this I did first time.

There is juices all through the day almost every two hours. I also like the veg soups which has not disappointed with taste yet. I like tasty food. but so far I have not been disappointed with the healthy food taste here and it has been filling as well.

I got exposed to abdominal mud pack & eye pack first time yesterday. Did that today as well. cools the abdomen & eye. It is hard to not fall asleep. Full body oil massage I got exposed first time. Shock wave therapy for the tight neck muscles was relaxing yesterday & I had take today also. First experience was unique. I saw the muscle relaxing / tone change after the session. Acupuncture also I had taken a session today. It did not click for me or my issues. I also got exposed to Tratak to a lamp @ eye care session. It was unique & pushed me close to the cause of head noise.

I need to time out and sleep. Also more typing on laptop is harmful to neck & back!

A trip to Hong Kong & Macau – Part 1

Published October 28, 2015 7:21 pm

Recently I come back from a 3 + 1 night trip to Hong Kong & Macau. It has been a awesome experience & there are many observations to share.  It will likely take couple of posts to share everything. I wanted to start with few check lists & observations for the whole trip.

What type of traveler are you? I was a traveler traveling with family with 2 kids (6-8 year old). It was my first trip with family to these places & I had decided to plan it out myself & not take service of a travel agent.

Observations

  1. If you are traveling with children, It is hard to stick to timed schedule. I am not sure if a time-tabled scheduled trip from an agent would have worked better. At the very least, I don’t like to go by a fixed schedule when on vacation.
  2. We did miss couple of places to visit, If it takes 3-4 days for a scheduled trip – for a relaxed unscheduled trip – it will take 6-7 days or we miss couple of places to visit.
  3. Have patience to deal with children. With children, you can’t maneuver it at pace you typically would go when you are alone or as a couple.
  4. Ensure itinerary is interesting for them. Children liked Disneyland the most – it was a long day 11am to 12am by the time we reached back to hotel. but all of us survived the day – they watched TV back in hotel (their cartoons show) for few minutes before going to bed.
  5. I had to push through the day trip to Big Buddha. It is a scenic trip with not much action for children. While we hold good memories from a unique day trip there – it was difficult to get them moving through the day – with long queues & walking steps up the mountain to reach Buddha statue. Nevertheless – it is a good spot.
  6. We missed ocean park – for a relaxed traveler – it is a day long trip IMO.

Mobile & WiFi access

  1. I had purchased two sims – one prepaid PCCW HKT sim for INR 1000 & one matrix postpaid for INR 500 rental.
  2. PCCW HKT prepaid – It had 600 min of local talk time & HKD 2 per min local call charges.
  3. matrix post paid – had incoming free. Combination of two sims allowed connectivity among both of us.
  4. Best was the handset from the hotel enabled with a) unlimited outgoing & incoming – local & international to India b) unlimited data access across HK. I did not know about this & only came to know after reaching my hotel. Good to check with your hotel. Still I need to take good care of this hotel handset since the penalty for any damage or loss is very steep.
  5. PCCW HKT prepaid also have option to enable 3 days / 2GB for HKD 38. I am not sure how good it is. I did not enable it.
  6. While free wifi spots are claimed to be available at many places like HKIA, MTR stations, macau ferry onboard but they are hardly reliable. You struggle to even to be able to connect and waste lot of time. Having a good mobile data access plan would be excellent & basic necessity IMO – at the least — to have access to google maps. I did not have one & but luckily got the hotel complimentary handset.
  7. Disable mobile data access on the sims I mentioned above unless u have bought mobile data access plan. Default data charges will be very steep & eat up your talk time in no time.

Traveler Maps

  1. MTR Map – I carried a color print of the route map here. It helps to understand the color coding & the concept of “interchange” among lines .
  2. Hongkong tourist map – is available at the tourist information desk/counter – at the arrival hall – at HKIA (Hong kong international airport).
  3. Macau tourist map – is available at the Macau ferry terminal on arrival at information desk/counter.

Hotel

  1. I picked Hotel Holiday Inn Golden mile @ Tsim sha tsui (TST) considering its proximity to MTR station, walkable distance to Victoria Harbor, walkable to Indian vegetarian restaurants @ TST and getting room with two double beds.
  2. I paid price little bit on higher side I think. but it is good to watch agoda.com for sales & strike a better deal.
  3. Location of the hotel worked out very well for us. We sparingly used Taxi during our stay.
  4. City bus from Airport (A21) touches Nathan Road – artery road of TST & drops almost in front of Hotel.

Vegetarian Eating @ HK

  1. It is tough. Most of the vegetarian restaurants – afaik – are in TST . They are very few.
  2. For a Indian Vegetarian – food can’t be on list of entertainment during HK trip. Sight-seeing & shopping can be on your entertainment list. Food is only for survivable.
  3. AFAIK – you get basic dosa, Idly, pav bhaji, aloo paratha etc – for lunch & dinner – at selected few Indian restaurants most concentrated in TST And it will cost equal to a good mid-high range restaurant in a India Metro.
  4. If you plan to have meals @ TST and travel – your travel plans typically won’t fall in place. E.g. we returned at 12am from Disneyland Trip, During Big Buddha day trip – we returned by 5-6 pm. At Big Buddha venue – they claim to have a vegetarian meal for HKD 98; I was afraid to experiment by paying HKD 400 for four members lunch.
  5. We had gone with enough home made food / snacks – parathas, bhujia, chips, chavana, bread, tang, gulcon-d.
  6. I found a good super market – Wellcome – on Mody road for buying fruits like Apples & water. Along with snacks, fruits also helped – to keep us going.
  7. We carried snacks, fruits, bottle of tang & water – during our day trips.
  8. Given the cleanness of the city – we ensured – we ate at few places only & did not litter it e.g. instructed kids to ensure cleanness & picked up in case of any dirt.
  9. As a side effect – it kept the food bill low for the trip – though that was not planned.

Intracity Commute @ HK

  1. Public transport system – MTR & city bus – is good.
  2. It takes little bit time to understand it. For a short journey – you may lose precious time available for you. For a relaxed traveler – it makes absolute sense.
  3. Taxi  can be  order of 2-5 times expensive depending on your group size & demographic of the group. E.g. city bus & MTR gives child up to 11 – half ticket price.
  4. It was an experience to use MTR for us – what an efficient public transport system – can look like.
  5. Octopus card & public transport work hand in hand. If you plan to use public transport daily – get one per person before you leave airport. It is available in Exit Area A @ MTR ticketing counter.
  6. Octopus card is another awesome electronic ticketing / money system. Paying money at grocery stores like 7-ELEVEN, Wellcome is one swipe away & u are saved of carrying load of local currency change. I have < 10 HKD in coins when exiting HK. Taxi are not powered with octopus card systems typically & hence you end up having some coins.
  7. Don’t forget to return & get refund for the HKD 50 deposit – night before you exit HK.
  8. If you travel out of HK & return directly to skypier ferry terminal @ HKIA (HK international airport) – you will not be able to go to area where MTR counters are there on airport. That means return your octopus card before. This happened for us since we returned from Macau to HKIA via Skypier ferry terminal.

There is more. Let’s talk more in next post.

A Trip to Botanical garden hyderabad

Published October 27, 2013 9:41 pm

Today’s trip to botanical garden @ kondapur, Hyderabad was impromptu when we woke late to go to WP_001996-002Necklace road. Hence, we decided to visit there instead. I have gone there many times. It indeed needs a mention and things we like about it.

It’s place providing breathing space midst the busy area of Kondapur & Gachibowli. Since the time we moved to kondapur, this garden has gone through quite a few changes for good and bad. The Good first. The maintenance of the garden has improved. Activities has been started for children. The Bad: Garden lost significant portion; that has been controversial and in news; I have not followed the happenings closely. but I came to know that there is hold order on the development work that is considered threat to the garden.

There is a nominal ticket INR 10/- and 5/- per adult and child-above-5 respectively. Entry for children below 5 is free. Regular morning walkers can get a monthly pass also. Park opens early morning and closes by 6PM. You need to park in the parking area on the opposite side of the road – in front of the main gate. There is a parking fee of INR 10/- for four wheeler.

`Right after entry in the garden, there are little rabbits which my children love. They spent few minutes watching them, dropping leaves for the rabbits. There are 4-5 rabbits out there. For a first time visitor with children, this is typically the first stop. We typically move to the open area behind the cage which is wide open space with green grass. Children run around there. There are few up and downs. Keep moving from there, you hit area with a set of children activities.

The most used activity is a big Trampoline installed there. WP_002000At a time, 3-6 children can play inside this comfortably. For my son, this has been attraction for the last two visits. They spend order of 10-20 minutes there. After that, I need to get them out to move to other areas. Another activity is rope mesh climbing. This can be used by children > 4 years. Child is given a safety support. which also helps him climb up the mesh. This is also fun activity and children find thrill of accomplishment when they touch the red ribbon at the top; Certainly they need the parent and friends encouragement to keep going up during first climb. WP_002012After first successful climb, my daughter wanted to do it again. I have to deny it multiple times to move on. She wanted to repeat the climb. She wanted to give up in the middle while on the first climb.

Apart from this, there are two other climbing activities but there are sparingly used afaik. There is a shooting area also (I think). I have not used it.

 

 

From here, we walked over to children play area. WP_002656Children play area is not kept very clean. but still has some attraction for kids. There is a big mean really BIG swing. It is hung of two big trees. Even elders can swing. WP_002654It is advisable to be used by 2-3 people at a time to keep it in good condition. It is still working though it is overloaded by visitors often. I would say this is the main attraction for elders in this area. Children can find slides, see-saws, merry-go-round, and two other kind of climbers. This is another area where we spend nearly 20-30 minutes.

Next we came back to area near main gate. On the right side, there are a WP_002718tortoise kind of concrete structure which houses various kind of cactus plants. Children do funny things. Instead of cactus, they found the pebbles in the nearby garden interesting. They picked some, threw some in the little pond area besides; it is formed by the rain water. I have to set limit. otherwise, they would have been at work to get all pebbles in the pond until evening! Next, they picked into the cactus housed in another room. All of them are under water.

Apart from this, my son loves this wooden bridge. WP_002706He wants to go across it whenever he reaches garden. We sat on tree made benches. There are people who are leaving leftover after eating there including plastic bags. It will certainly help if we can take our junk out along with us after enjoying the minutes midst nature.

In summary, if you are nature lover – this is a good place to explore. but good to get there in the weekends or morning/evening hours. your children will likely love the place. Give it a try. There is certainly more from my past visits like the rose garden, a big pond etc. there. but I need more time and words. For now, I need to get out. more next time.