Rama Warrier's Blog

On All Things - big & small...

On All Things - big & small...

Rama Warrier's Blog

Recent Posts

Thumboormuzhi Gardens

Thumboormuzhi Gardens

Thumboormuzhi is a check-dam built across Chalakkudy River for irrigation purpose. This is midway between Chalakkudy and the famous Athirappilly waterfalls. Thumboormuzhi areas provides an ideal habitat for butterflies. Thumboormuzhi Butterfly garden by the side of Chalakkudy river is worth a visit irrespective of whether you are a butterfly watcher or just someone who loves nature.

Garden is spread over multiple levels on a sloping landscape sandwiched between Athirappilly road and Chalakkudy river. Different host plants have been planted to attract various species of butterflies. The park also has some recreational facilities for children. read more

The Umbrellas of Trichur

The Umbrellas of Trichur

One of the major attractions of Trichur Pooram is ‘Kudamattam’ (change of umbrellas). This takes place in the afternoon when the elephants of Thiruvambadi and Paramekkavu face each other in an open ground in front of the famous Vadakkumnathan temple. Here, to the vibrating rhythm of melam, both groups display their umbrellas one after the other. Both groups take pride in display of umbrellas and keep the umbrella designs a secret, to be revealed only at the time of kudamattam. If you remember one of those typical pooram pictures with two rows of elephants facing each other with an ocean of people in between, that is the kudamattam event. In case hot sun and charged crowds do not excite you, kudamattam of a smaller scale can be witnessed at noon in front of Paramekkavu temple. When the Devi (Godess ) exits Paramekkavu to proceed to the main temple, there is a fairly long event which includes kudamattam as well. This is called “purappadu” (start the journey). Kudamattam is accompanied by ‘Chempada’ (type of music). read more

THE ECONOMICS & POLITICS BEHIND KILLING OF A TIGER

THE ECONOMICS & POLITICS BEHIND KILLING OF A TIGER

December dawned in Wayanad with the news of the tiger, which had kept the region on the boil, being eliminated by the task force. People were rejoicing and television channels reporting that Wayanad would sleep peacefully for the first time in two weeks. The twelve year old tiger had strayed into the plantations of Wayanad two weeks earlier and picked on domestic cattle. There was a huge outcry about the failure of Government to safeguard the life and property of citizens. Political parties were on the road blocking National Highway. People were venting their anger with dead cattle displayed on the roads. The administration sprang into action and declared that the animal will be shot, if needed. A combined team of Karnataka and Kerala forest officials tried to tranquilize the animal and eventually shot it dead. The administration gave an explanation that all efforts were made to take the animal alive, but circumstances warranted the extreme step. There is a raging debate whether ‘death penalty’ for a ‘cattle lifter’ is an excessive punishment. The slain tiger did not harm any human being nor showed any inclination to turn a man-eater. read more

Rajdhani First AC – Photos

Rajdhani First AC – Photos

This is related to my earlier post on Rajdhani AC First class.

Here are some photos of Rajdhani First AC (Nizamuddin – Bangalore) – trip undertaken in October 2012

Rajdhani First AC – Is it worth it ?

Rajdhani First AC – Is it worth it ?

If the super luxury trains like Palace on wheels are excluded, it is the highest class of travel offered by Indian Railways. The fares are comparable with airfare in most cases. So, should one opt for Rajdhani First AC (RIAC) ?

What is different ?

  • Berths are not allotted at the time of booking. You would see status as ‘CONFIRMED’ in the ticket. Berths are allocated at the time of preparation of chart – which happens a few hours before the start. This helps the authorities to see the composition of the travelling groups and allocate coupes accordingly. If you want a ‘two berth coupe’ an advance request could be placed a couple of days before the day of travel.
  • There are no side berths. The berths are larger than those in other classes. It will be quite comfortable for almost all. Berths are approximately 75cm wide and 185cm long.
  • There are two types of coupes – 4 berths & 2 berths. The ‘4 berth’ type is also called a ‘cabin’.
  • Space between berths is wider than that in other classes
  • Each coupe has a sliding door which can be closed and locked. Curtains are provided to ensure privacy
  • RIAC offers personalized service to passengers. For example, the attendant makes your bed. Attendants are ‘on call’ – calling bell is available in each coupe
  • Ticket fare is inclusive of food charges as in other classes or Rajdhani. The range is, however, a little bit more elaborate in RIAC
  • Indian and continental options are available. Food for AC first class is prepared in the pantry car of the train
  • There are foldable dining tables which can hold food trays – don’t have to use berth as a dining table !
  • There is a bathroom with ceiling shower & flexible shower
  • European and Indian versions of WC are available. Unlike other classes there are health faucets and tissue dispensers in the WC.
  • Multiple hooks are provided inside the cabins for conveniently hanging small bags, coats etc.
  • Very effective reading lamps for each berth
  • There are two power sockets in each cabin
  • Twice a day cleaning of cabins
  • WCs are cleaned a few times a day and floor is maintained dry
  • Dust-bin is provided in each coupe
  • Newspaper is provided along with morning tea
  • A more usable ladder to climb onto the upper berth

Possible annoyances:

  • Food on offer may be a little too much and service may appear too frequent
  • Foldable tables are not very stable
  • There is no washbasin at the end of the corridor as in other classes. Washbasins are provided only inside the bathroom/WC

Is it worth it ?

A difficult question indeed. Tickets cost as much as that of a low-cost airline – could be a little more than airfare in some cases. What makes many apprehensive is the fact that time of travel is the same, whichever class one chooses. read more

Singanallur nature walk

Singanallur nature walk

Urban bio-diversity is typically underestimated everywhere. We fail to notice it most of the time, mainly due to the fact that we are pre-occupied. Or we simply do not have the time to look around.

Singanallur is a typical polluted urban lake in the South Indian city of Coimbatore. It has a boathouse which looks abandoned – may be there were no takers for boating in a not so great environment. I checked with a Coimbatore birding enthusiast Gokul Ram about birding spots in the city and he directed me to Singanallur – a lake on Trichy road. I had to meet with a few puzzled glances when leaving early in the morning as Singanallur does not have the reputation of an interesting spot. read more

A short trip to Thattekkad

A short trip to Thattekkad

The excitement was palpable when the Nature India trip to Thattekkad/Munnar kick started with the team packing itself into three SUVs at Kochi airport. It was a bright and sunny January morning. The 45km drive from the airport to Thattekkad is a scenic one. There are winding roads and rich vegetation on either side. The route passes through Kaladi (the birthplace of Adi Shankara) and the small town of Kothamangalam. The day we were travelling, it was festival time in a local church and there were colourful processions on the way. It did not delay our progress in any way and we were in Jungle Bird Homestay well in time for lunch. This was our home for the next three days. Gireesh Chandran, Sudha and Sandhya were our hosts, guides and caretakers. read more

Should you take a group tour or plan one for yourself?

Should you take a group tour or plan one for yourself?

When we decided to tour Europe, the question of opting for one of the standard tours or planning one on our own came up. We opted to plan things ourselves.

What made us take this call?

  • The most critical factor was that we felt that if planned well, we could do it cheaper than a standard package
  • The next factor was the ability to decide exactly how many days / how much to time should be spent at a location
  • Most European location would have much more to see than what time you could afford to spend there. So making a choice of what to see is very important. In a package one hardly has a choice.
  • The most irritating aspect of a group tour is that you are as fast as the slowest team member. Also the departure and break times are decided based on the general requirements – may not be what you want
  • We were covering only Schengen countries, so visa was simple
  • Our past experience with package tours has not been great!

Is it very difficult to plan a tour?

Not really. It certainly requires some time and dedication from your side. A bit of familiarity with the geography that you are touring would be a great asset. The following are essential if you are proposing to plan a trip yourself.

  • Skill and inclination to pick-up and read tons & tons of material on the internet to figure out which places are worth a visit – you can certainly do a good job if you have specific interests, as standard tours are designed using a ‘typical tourist’ in mind
  • Comfort of using Internet for booking hotels, train tickets, bus tickets and making other reservations. Language is usually not a big issue as popular websites offer English as a choice. Else, you could use integrator/intermediaries who offer online booking on their website. These intermediaries, in some cases, may have a charge.
  • Using information on places of interest and size of museums and palaces to plan the number of days required for each place.
  • Sufficient time for planning and making reservations

What is on the flipside of the ‘do it yourself’ plan? read more

Birding on Jog – Sagar Road

Birding on Jog – Sagar Road

We spent a day and two nights at ‘stay@matthuga’, a homestay, to visit Jog falls and the old temples near Sagar. Birding was an added bonus. On two mornings we had the opportunity to bird near Talavata – a village about 20km away from Sagar on NH 206 where the homestay is located. It is about 10km before Jog falls. I had read in a few places that localities near Jog have a lot of bird activity. But, with no specific clue on where to go, I decided to find out if there were any water bodies around – there was one about a kilometre and a half towards Sagar, on the left side of the highway. read more

On the Sea Eagle’s trail

On the Sea Eagle’s trail

Devbagh which literally means ‘Celestial Garden’ was the destination we picked for a stop-over during our Coastal Karnataka trip. I had heard about the pristine beauty of the Devbagh Resort from earlier visitors.

Karwar, a small town near the Karnataka-Goa border looks very rustic. It is known to have been a part of the vibrant trade network during the colonial era. Karwar raised the waves of creativity in the mind of a young Tagore inspiring him to put pen on paper and author Prakritir Pratishodha – story of a Sanayasi and a young girl. read more


AUTHOR'S CHOICE

Rajdhani First AC – Is it worth it ?

Rajdhani First AC – Is it worth it ?

If the super luxury trains like Palace on wheels are excluded, it is the highest class of travel offered by Indian Railways. The fares are comparable with airfare in most cases. So, should one opt for Rajdhani First AC (RIAC) ?

What is different ?

  • Berths are not allotted at the time of booking. You would see status as ‘CONFIRMED’ in the ticket. Berths are allocated at the time of preparation of chart – which happens a few hours before the start. This helps the authorities to see the composition of the travelling groups and allocate coupes accordingly. If you want a ‘two berth coupe’ an advance request could be placed a couple of days before the day of travel.
  • There are no side berths. The berths are larger than those in other classes. It will be quite comfortable for almost all. Berths are approximately 75cm wide and 185cm long.
  • There are two types of coupes – 4 berths & 2 berths. The ‘4 berth’ type is also called a ‘cabin’.
  • Space between berths is wider than that in other classes
  • Each coupe has a sliding door which can be closed and locked. Curtains are provided to ensure privacy
  • RIAC offers personalized service to passengers. For example, the attendant makes your bed. Attendants are ‘on call’ – calling bell is available in each coupe
  • Ticket fare is inclusive of food charges as in other classes or Rajdhani. The range is, however, a little bit more elaborate in RIAC
  • Indian and continental options are available. Food for AC first class is prepared in the pantry car of the train
  • There are foldable dining tables which can hold food trays – don’t have to use berth as a dining table !
  • There is a bathroom with ceiling shower & flexible shower
  • European and Indian versions of WC are available. Unlike other classes there are health faucets and tissue dispensers in the WC.
  • Multiple hooks are provided inside the cabins for conveniently hanging small bags, coats etc.
  • Very effective reading lamps for each berth
  • There are two power sockets in each cabin
  • Twice a day cleaning of cabins
  • WCs are cleaned a few times a day and floor is maintained dry
  • Dust-bin is provided in each coupe
  • Newspaper is provided along with morning tea
  • A more usable ladder to climb onto the upper berth

Possible annoyances:

  • Food on offer may be a little too much and service may appear too frequent
  • Foldable tables are not very stable
  • There is no washbasin at the end of the corridor as in other classes. Washbasins are provided only inside the bathroom/WC

Is it worth it ?

A difficult question indeed. Tickets cost as much as that of a low-cost airline – could be a little more than airfare in some cases. What makes many apprehensive is the fact that time of travel is the same, whichever class one chooses. read more