BMW GS 310 purchase and initial ownership experience

  




After 20 years of driving a car, I decided to get back to biking again. My criteria was clear, easy to sit, easy to use, good height for seating to reduce back pain and reasonable power and torque. I really wanted it to be as lightweight as possible. I am a bit leaner than most heavy weight people so wanted a bike I could push and shove if it came to that on the road.

 

 

 

 

Shortlist & showroom visit

 

A few bikes impressed me. Friend got a Harley and from a long time I was eyeing a Ninja as well. Couple of friends had RE Himalayan and Yamaha FZ so those were under purview as well. In addition BMW caught my fancy for its brand name, looks etc and also the fact it ticked few of the boxes that I had for myself. KTM was a contender too though I felt it was too sporty and too dangerous as it picks up speed way too fast.

 

I preferred the pedals being right below my leg rather than the fact I have to angle forward and keep my legs a bit backward (sporty seating stance). So bikes such as Avenger, or bikes such as Honda CBRs were out of scope because of their extreme cruising or extreme sporty stance. I wanted a relaxed seating and relaxed driving posture. KTM was out because of it being too aggressive for a started like me (although I may have wanted to consider the duke).. That left the RE, Yamaha, and BMW though for some reason I never decided to check out Honda.

 

At the time of making a decision, the Meteor was not out, so wasn’t the Highness. So it was probably an opportunity lost to test out both. When I visited the showroom in early October, there was no test ride as bike was not launched. So tentatively booked it with 20k bucks. Meanwhile a friend had a BS4 GS 310 and I managed to take a test ride and get convinced. The BS6 version then would be only better if not worse. 

 

Booking experience and test ride at showroom

 

Towards the latter half of October, I got to test ride the motorbike and I felt it was a bit top heavy and bottom light. But all ergonomics were spot on and there was no issue anywhere as such. Post the already done booking I worked out some loan formalities for the bike and that process was rather smooth talking to the bankers and coordination with the showroom.

 

Delivery and first ride home

 

Day of delivery was just one month after prebooking but still one of the earliest bikes delivered in Rallye Kayene blue colour. It was a smooth take over of the bike with pending payments done and bank loans disbursed and there was not much fuss around the delivery itself. 

 

However the staff did make some errors with insurance papers (wrong model specified) which led to cancellation of insurance and need to reinsure the vehicle. One another major issue was the registration not done due to RTO gateway payment error. I had to literally take home the bike on a temporary registration (belonging to showroom).

 

 

 

The ride itself was smooth though the bike is revving a bit at idle more than usual. The design caught a lot of eyeballs on the road, with people asking me how much it costed and what was the engine displacement, complimenting the colour, etc. I was pleasantly surprised at the build quality of this bike. I would have preferred a much better engine grunt, but this sounds a bit lame to my liking. Basically there is no announcement or arrival at signals or places where you get the vehicle to stop. So no notice until the big huge frame gives it away.

 

This bike sits tall. I mean really tall. Among a row of bikes, this bike is like easily visible no matter where this is. Filled some fuel on the way and managed to get it home. I literally had to renovate my gates to fit the bike in. This bike weighs close to 170+ kg and needs 3 feet of clear space to enter a ramp and exit. 

 

 

 

Post sales headaches

 

Post sales support has been a bit on the downside with the showroom. As of writing the article my bike is still not registered. It is 15 days now after taking delivery. Other than being apologetic nothing is being done to logically close the case. I am feeling that I will already reach the first service date of November end and still the vehicle won’t be registered. 

 

Showroom argument is “we have created temp regn for you sir, so what is the issue”, my argument is “bike has been delivered, logically close the case”. I think they need some lessons on managing customer expectations, specially when someone is paying so much for a bike.

 

I will write about the driving experience in further threads, but for now I will leave you with one heck of a looker bike!

 

 

 

A month on

One month of topsy turvy life


 
It has been about one month since my previous post. Where my world had turned topsy turvy. Literally. And in this one month, there are more changes. I am not sure whether for the good or bad. But change is the only constant. We have been working from home all this month. Staying in touch with our colleagues over meetings. Still getting office work done. But it has not been that easy.
 

Keto-diet

Around the same time as the lockdown, a week earlier when things were normal I had gotten into a keto-diet regime to bring down my weight. My sugar levels were also high, so I had to do something about that as well to avoid it getting into a diabetic state. It is around this time that a consultant from a company called ReShape Fitness added me on linkedIn, and instead of the usual question of “how can I help you”, I asked him “how can you help me?”. Since there was a need for me. Thus began the diet session for nearly four weeks. My weight was 81.5, not bad for a height of 5’11” but still bordering towards high side.
 
I had to eat mostly proteins like Panner, and veggies (peppers, cauliflower, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbages) and himalayan pink salt, keya pepper for taste. I was allowed to eat fats such as almonds, pistachios, but not carbs (such as carrots, even onions so to say). I was put on supplements (from Amway – the nutrilite variety) and protein drinks along with dietary fibre. So it was protein in the morning, veggies for the other two meals with nuts to supplement the hunger. Four weeks of this. The body started revolting on day 3. I spoke to the consultant and wanted to come back to normal food. But he convinced me to stay put. After about 8-10 days the fat burn started. All the way from 81.5 kilos to 72.5 kilos. A good 9kgs down. Irritable bowel syndrome fixed, low back ache fixed and the body was shown its place on what it should tolerate as the new normal.
 
It was around this time, I also started facing challenges in getting grocery delivered due to nationwide lockdown. And a severe bronchitis attack I had to sustain and get cured of. So I had to quit this program by 4th week to get back to carbs. But I learnt what I had to and would gladly continue it going forward.
 

Mental health & work

 
See there is nothing serious that can go wrong if you are at home for a month or so. But that depends on context. For me my wife and kids were with me, so also parents so it turned out positive. However I would say office productivity increased being at home due to more efficient targets and meetings. Work started by 9am as opposed to the daily 1.5h grind of commute. Every day was quite productive, but also made me tired. Due to the summers, I slept only by midnight and started getting up a bit late than normal warranting the need to hurry to get into the meetings scheduled. 
 
Lack of proper sleep, issues with diet and health are enough to make you moody and go berserk at home. And if the health issue persists like weeks like mine did, you really begin to feel low.
 
We keep joking around that we want to retire soon. But this is more like the same case but a trial version of how you would feel if you did retire. And if you never had to go out anywhere or meet anyone. This is when you truly realise the value of society, friendships, relationships, being together, checking on each other often, and everything else in between. There were instances where I did feel frustrated just staying put at home. Without socialising, or shopping, or even driving my car. This is when I understood that driving in the traffic was actually ok for me, it was an activity that kept me busy. Unlike sitting on a couch all the time.
 
I know some other people known to me were going through serious trouble at home with having too much to do and no me time for themselves. 
 

Real vs Unreal needs

This pandemic has surely brought about the ability for all of us to think and separate our needs into real vs unreal ones. What we need is food, family time, a feeling of being in good health, sufficient work and good rest. Nothing is gonna happen to us if we don’t socialise, or go out very often. Nothing is going to happen if we don’t keep binge ordering stuff from e-commerce websites to our whims and fancies.
 
We are now able to cook more at home, enjoy safe food with family. There are so many of us that took to cooking literally. Heck I am even starting a recipe blog for you all shortly. Binge spending stopped for good. With the stock market crash and the uncertain outlook on the economy we now understand why it is important to save money. We now realise the value of our current jobs after the job market froze literally. We are able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
 

The future

At least for the short term, the pandemic is not going to go away anywhere. A lot of what we do and how we do it will change. I was reading an article where TCS is going to make 75% of their workforce work from home. Things are changing slowly. Many companies would not mind providing more work from home options to balance out for their employees with respect to pandemic type situations. There would be more take away options at restaurants making them move to the model for good as compared to in house dining which will get more expensive. In fact the social distancing need is significantly going to increase everything – airfares, train fares, bus fares, hotel fares and what not.
 
Many people will likely stop ordering food from outside due to the risk of catching Covid. All payments would become contactless without cash exchanges anywhere. Shops like hair salons will see increased rates due to decreased footfall. People would be skeptic to go to clothing stores or such shops in the malls due to multiple people touching the clothes. Movie halls will see increased rates and lower footfall. 
 
Blueprints for the vaccine will get generated, and there would be a genuine investment into healthcare facilities for the future. Gyms will see lesser footfall and likely get out of business or have to move to online coaching mode with at home equipment for patrons. This also means more investment for us. All public gatherings would be scrutinised and sanitised or even avoided. Marriages would likely see lesser people attend. Food would be circumspect. Cleanliness would be questionable going forward. 
 
Schools & colleges would turn to electronic mode of working for at least one year – at least most schools. In fact they actually must if they have not yet done so. Public transport would be messy and lesser preferred. There is news that the used and new car market will actually pick up very well soon because people would prefer buying and driving their own vehicles to avoid risk of infection. This automatically defeats purpose of public transportation and would lead to heavy traffic jams and increase commute time in the city.
 
Industries will begin to function but will not have a concrete executable plan in place to handle infection risk. Their plans would make sense on paper but in reality will take long time to be actually giving results. Tourism industry will take a huge hit with airlines hiking their fares and not many people wanting to go to resorts for avoiding risk of infection. In fact this industry may not see heydays for another 1-2 years as they cannot change their business model like other industries.
 
Salary cuts or job losses means Loan defaults and not many people will go for newer loans for the whole of 2020 for the short term which means spending will reduce. This will affect all industries such as real estate. Many migrant workers will likely be out of jobs for an extended period not so much because people cannot pay them (like maids, cooks, etc) – but more due to the perceived infection risk. The country needs lots of impetus to reboot the economy. Without that, things will take a long while to come back to shape. What we also need is a plan that will actually work without causing much hardship to people going about their duties. Unfortunately there is no such silver bullet to every need. At best we will end up with few things that works best in this situation and other things that just dont and infact may be complicating the situation more. It will be a mix of stuff which we will have to deal with.
 
But this too shall pass. Except this time it would be a long reset. Wear your seat belts and sit tight. The road ahead is rough.
 

Logitech K480 keyboard review

Intro

I happened to get a good deal on the Logitech bluetooth keyboard K480 on Amazon. It was retailing about 35+ % lesser than MRP since it was existing since some time. At this price I felt it was a value for money possession.

The fact that I may need something to keep my iphone on and type made this more useful. In fact this post is typed using this keyboard with my iPhone on the dock and it is just so super useful as compared to the on screen virtual phone keypad.

Features offered

The keyboard offers functionality to connect to three devices which we can activate the keyboard for with a turn wheel. It supports iOS, Mac OS and Android/Windows and Chrome OS combinations.

There is a power switch to the bottom of the keyboard and once powered on, it will connect to the device to which the turn wheel is setup for use with. Since this is a keyboard that supports different types of OS, the buttons too reflect the same. 

There are buttons for start menu, for command (Mac OS), Alt and Option keys. Other keys include function keys, media playback keys, volume keys. 

Keys and how they feel

There is a good amount of tactile feedback from the keys on this keyboard though this is not a mac keyboard as such so just dont expect such levels of ease of use with this one. I could type fairly fast with this keyboard but I did encounter some key misses which is not the expectation. 

The keyboard runs on a couple of AAA batteries and I have not done much research on how long it will last beyond standby times. Only time will tell. 

Conclusion

If you are in need for a good bluetooth keyboard on the lower side of Rs.2000/- look no further than the Logitech K480. Though it is a tad bit heavy and bulky, it suits the purpose well, and the bonus is it comes with a phone or iPad dock as well.

Hit up the link to buy it from Amazon now. 

Review of the sharp air purifier and humidifier KC-F30E-W.

Introduction

After years of struggling with Bangalore’s weather, I tried to understand why my kid was getting sick with asthmatic symptoms over and over again. It struck me there’s something about the air quality that creates this problem other than the pollen in the air.
Looking at Bangalore go from bad to worse it was only an eventuality that I had to really think of investing into an air purifier for my bedroom. Over the years the technology for air purifiers has only become better and better and with standard HEPA filters and air filters being used in air conditioners and the like, the same also started being used for air purifiers. With cities like Delhi almost have an air purifier for every home the concept is still catching up for Bangalore which is taking some time to reach the level of dust pollution that is seen in Delhi.
There are a lot of companies working on air purifiers such as Sharp, Philips etc. A quick search on Amazon shows a host of companies offering air purifiers. I also understood that when the air becomes dry within the room or the atmosphere we are in, it starts to cause an irritation in people’s throats which further cause a lot of cough and runny nose symptoms. couple this with the usual asthmatic symptoms and the whole situation turns nasty with an allergic cough that lasts for over a week or two in small kids.
So now I not only needed a solution to purifying the air at home, I also needed a solution which helps me to humidify the air within the room.

Two in one

Given my need, I wanted a unit which had both the air purifying function and humidification function in a single unit. After having seen a lot of reviews on YouTube and checking out some products on Amazon, I came across an advertisement regarding the sharp KC-F30E model.
For once I did not want to make an online purchase and I wanted to just pay up the cost and have the air purifier on the hand immediately. For this reason, I picked up the contact number for the customer care for Sharp, and make a call to them to understand the models they have and the payment options to secure one of these models.

Purchase experience

Sharp could not answer my call when I called them but they promptly return the call and assigned an executive from Bangalore city to deal with my case. The executive was in constant touch with me in spite of my busy schedules and I asked him if there was a no-cost EMI option to purchase this product.
Due to my busy schedules the executive was kind enough to meet me at a time of my choice and place of my choice and he brought in the purifier unit to my office along with the payment machine. The device cost me 23500 rupees and I paid the whole thing by a credit card with no cost EMI option for 1 year which cost me around close to 2000 rupees every month.

Device statistics

The device itself is around 5kgs in weight and is as big a personal computer desktop tower or slightly more. The whole unit fits into the boot of my car and I could get it home easily. ,The device itself is constructed in a simple manner with easy access to the filters, the water bay and the controls on the front panel of the device. The device runs on a 5A socket and it’s very easy to use.

Unboxing video

Below is the video I made for the unboxing of the device which you can see to understand what the device looks like in reality.

Controls

The device has a few easy to use buttons on the front console. There is a button to switch between the display of humidification level and temperature in the room. There is a timer button which can help you set the humidification / air purification function to last between 1 hour & 8 hours after which the unit will switch off automatically.
The mode button helps you to switch between the modes auto/ night-time /slow and fast. The Haze button helps to operate the unit at Max high fan speed for 10 minutes followed by 50 minutes operation at high fan speed, and then alternates between low and high level for 20 minutes each.
Then there is the power button for switching the unit off or on, and it also remembers what state the unit was in in the event of a power cut. Further to this using this buttons by the means of a long keypress we could switch the modes between humidifier and purifier, and using either or both, and so on.

Filters

The unit has a back panel which can be easily removed which gives access to two filters one being the HEPA filter and the other being the deodorizing filter. These can be separately removed and vacuumed or soap cleaned whenever needed.

Besides this, there is a humidifying filter which resides within a filter frame, which sits further in humidifying tray that holds the water needed for humidification. This tray is easily accessible and we can fill it with water up to the specified level and plug it back into the unit very easily.

General notes on operation

As a consumer, I understood how to use this device. I went about trying to use it with the water filled into the humidifying tray. The unit is pretty noisy at higher fan speeds but upon setting it to automatic it settled down to a very quiet operation which is barely audible.
If you are expecting the unit to cool the room just like an air conditioner you are mistaken and you will not be able to achieve that with this unit. However, the dampness in the room is clearly felt after a while because of this unit doing its humidifying function.
The lighting on the unit is good and it shows different colours based on what it possesses the dust quality within the room (Green / Orange). The device claims to remove dust particles upto 0.3 microns which would mean coverage on most categories of dust commonly found in homes.

Tangible benefits

I am yet to understand what the exact tangible benefits of using this unit are and my metric of measurement would be how healthy my son would be if this unit is in operation every night in the room that he sleeps in.
If his levels of asthma are under control and he does not get into an allergic cough situation because of using this unit then I would believe that this unit is functional to the extent that I expected it to be.

Conclusion

For the given price the humidifier and air purifier unit combined in one is a worthwhile investment for now as it doesn’t break your bank. it is a bit bulky but it is also quite during operation and the only need is to find the space for it within your room.
The tangible benefits of this unit would be understood only over long term use but for heavily polluted cities it is almost becoming necessary to have an air purifier as of today.
With constant industrialisation and construction activities going on around the city and the temperatures within the city heating up it is only important that dry cities need the function of humidification as well within the homes that we live in. The sharp purifier and humidifier unit exactly aims to achieve this need.






If you liked the review, please spare few moments to let me know your thoughts down below in the comments.

Written with StackEdit.

Earning the best Benne Masala Dosa in Bengaluru – Central Tiffin Rooms (Shri Sagar)

Good food is always a foodie’s dream come true. And if it is also tasty to the core, all the more merrier. What better way than to talk about Bengaluru’s myriad restaurants that serve the one most admired dish that every Bengalurean has no qualms eating at any time of the day or night – Crispy Masala Dosa !!
When it comes to serving the most tastiest Dosa, there are three restaurants that come to the mind for any true blue Bengalurean – CTR (Central Tiffin Rooms or Shri Sagar), Janata Hotel and Vidyarthi Bhavan. One can most comfortably say that Amma’s dosas are only next best to these restaurants!

Of these three restaurants CTR surely has everyone drooling for its most famous butter dosas or Benne Dosas. And eating one there is never an easy exercise. Maybe easier for the real Namma Bengluru guys living in West Bengaluru – but for the so called “IT Posh Crowd” on the eastern boundaries of this city – these great dosas need to be earned.
It means getting up very early in the morning, commuting a great deal, reaching a place, jostling to stand in the queue and go through an excrutiating wait to get the dosas that melt in your mouth with that heavenly taste. For people living on Outer Ring Road towards the IT side of the city in places like Koramangala or HSR Layout – the easiest way to reach Malleswaram is to either hire a cab or auto and get straight there.
However the nearest metro station is either Indiranagar or Jayanagar/Banashankari. For the former there is a change over from Purple Line to Green Line at Majestic station and for the latter it is just one train straight to Malleswaram station. The best part about this station is that it also has a direct entry into Mantri mall from the station itself. Now beat that !
If you are in the mood to test out the metro be warned that on weekend mornings the trains are crowded with people going to Majestic to catch outbound trains to other cities. So jostling around the crowds within the trains are the norm. It takes about an hour or more to reach Malleswaram after which it is a walk from the Metro to Margosa Road – CTR.
If you want to read more about the Green Line Metro, be sure to click here.

The restaturant itself is very small. The benches are really small which have of late been a bit remodelled to accomodate people to sit properly. That however does not spare your meal from being overlooked and discussed about by the standing queue of wishing to be dosa eaters right behind you. The madness starts as soon as you enter the restaurant in trying to find a place to secure to stand (not sit yet) in order to secure the place to sit next. Once you slot yourself into position the next obvious thing to do is keep staring at the guy eating on the table in anticipation that the fifth dosa he ordered would be the last for that day so you could get that prized place on the table.

If you are the one seated on the table be prepared for loads of comments from people standing besides you which may seem intimidating for you. They would keep repeating your order to the waiters even if you dont because – hang on – they just want you to eat your grub fast and get out of the table. You can find people strategizing across two tables and taking bets which one will get empty first so the losers can dart to the winning side to grab that table. Sometimes people can even step on your feet to make you feel the pain of wanting to earn your dosa there.

It is absolute chaos and for people who prefer a silent leave-me-alone-to-eat restaurant – please look elsewhere. In fact the moment you sit on your table that you managed to usurp from the outgoing king – the time bomb begins to tick – for you to be eliminated next. The trick is to keep ordering something so that your table always looks full. That is the only way to make sure you have your seat even if you are not really eating. There is also the first floor where you can sit and eat in peace but I have never even bothered to look at that as there is a bigger queue for you to even get a table there.

Having talked about the restaurant itself the only other thing left to talk about is its menu – the perfect benne dosas in particular. The fact that they do make poori’s or idlis and vadas does not matter for anyone. The dosas here are so good and the main reason people flock to this restaurant for – so much so that if you do not say what you want it is assumed that you want dosas and if you do not quote how much it is automatically assumed to be one plate. The buttery dosas are made small and crisp that it literally crunches and melts in your mouth. The accompanying Chutneys are sometimes off the mark and sometimes good so it depends on your luck.

The dosas here are worth all that travel and wait and are really sumptuous to say the least. You would definitely leave the restaurant smiling no matter what the cacophony was around you. Of course there is a parcel facility or you could stand out and eat as well if you’d like to. Much more simpler if you would ask me.
One more thing : This is perhaps one of the hotels in Bangalore where you would get this quality of dosa for a meagre Rs.25/- even in 2017. That is because the hotel is there for a tradition not for profits.

On a bit of history about this restaurant, someone by my name started it way before I was born or my father was born even – nevertheless its good to know a bit on this.

This hotel was started by Y.V. Subramanyam and brothers (Y.V. Srikanteshwaran, Y.V. Krishna Iyer and Y.V. Ramachandran) in the 1920s. They hailed from a village called Yelagondana Halli, Mulbagal taluk, Kolar district, whose residents are Ashtagrama Iyers of Tamil origin. It is recorded that during the visit by the Maharaja of Mysore, Y.V. Subramanyam supplied and served breakfast in traditional attire. They opened another hotel in Krishna Buildings, Avenue Road. This was a famous meeting place for writers and artists in the 1940s and 1950s, and its name is mentioned in many books and articles.[citation needed] Y.V. Ramachandran, the youngest of the brothers, was a Freedom Fighter. Subramanyam was the founder president of the Bangalore Hoteliers Association in BVK. Iyengar Road, which later became the Karnataka Hotel Owners Association. Changed circumstances in the huge joint family caused Subramanyam to sell his hotel in as is condition in the mid-1950s. It still has a vintage wall clock and rosewood furniture with Italian marble table tops. It is said the brothers passed on tips about preparations to the new owners along with advice to take care of workers by not overburdening them. It was established as Shree Sagar in 1950 by Raghavendra and the management was passed on to Ramakrishna Holla in 1952. It was bought by Sanjeeva Poojari in 1992 and was renamed Central Tiffin Room.

source: Wikipedia

I am assuming your taste buds are already active and ticking. So what are you waiting for? Head over to the CTR (also known as Shri sagar) in Malleswaram and enjoy crispy dosas and some great filter coffee to go with it. And if you do get time check out Janata Hotel nearby or Vidyarthi Bhavan in Basavanagudi.

(click to open in Google Maps)

Bengaluru’s metro corridors – trying to understand them – green line

There was much fanfare over the launch of the green line for Namma Metro, which was considered an important milestone for Bengaluru. There were lots of things which were positive about this development.

  • Much of the underground work was completed and functional
  • The critical link between Jayanagar and Malleswaram sides were fixed
  • The distance covered by the metro was now longer and much more viable
  • More importantly South Bangalore was connected to the West and to East

The map from WikiPedia is worth looking at. It shows the exact extent of coverage of the Metro within the city with the Green and Purple lines

(image source: By Doc.aneesh – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18874026

While the east to west Bangalore covers about 18km of distance, that of South to North covers about 24km of distance. In absolute numbers this is relatively decent but the real extent is seen in the benefits for the passengers.

Important areas are now more accessible such as the city central railway station, KR Market, Vidhana Soudha and Malleswaram shopping areas. Puttenahalli and JP Nagar are residential and semi industrial areas, Banashankari has a Bus terminal which is a major interchange connecting different parts of Bangalore. RV road, Jayanagar and south end circle are areas of commercial activity and green spaces including Lalbagh as well as educational institutions such as National College, BMS College, KIMS, etc.

KR Market and Chickpet are some of the oldest areas in Bangalore and hosts the famous shops of SP Road, vegetable and fruit markets as well as shops selling lots of other stuff from photo frames to books and everything in between.

People who travel from Banashankari are now able to reach Byappanahalli much more easily and this reduces the time it takes for them to come to work which was otherwise a good 2 hours each way during the day.

Similary connections to North Bangalore and shopping areas such as Malleswaram is definitely making a lot of people happy as they can now access the many shops in and around the area including the famed Mantri Mall, CTR, Janata, Asha Sweets, Veena Stores and many more.

In fact Mantri already boasted of Greens in the vicinity but now also has the Centrium with an asking price tag upwards of 4 to 5 crores. Given that for the effluent the metro runs right near their apartment (almost into it) this project is a good buy. The Kempegowda interchange is something to write about in another post.

I parked my car at CMH road station and reached Malleswaram in about 30 minutes max which was an otherwise impossible task on a regular weekday. Even on Sunday morning 730am the rush inside the train was unimaginable. Given the frequency is nearly 15 minutes once, this is the most immediate issue that BMRCL will have to solve. With countries like Singapore having an every 2 minute train service, Bangalore seems like a tortoise, but I guess the government will understand this sooner than later.

I had to take tokens from CMH to Malleswaram and the cost for 4 people one way was 112 rupees. Its not exactly steep but its not exactly cheap either. For me by cab the entire journey for the same place would be about 200 bucks for 4 people. Its almost on par with nations like Singapore who charge about 2-3$ for an up and down journey.

Links:
(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b8/Inside_the_MRT_train%2C_Singapore.jpg)

(https://previews.123rf.com/images/jennzhen/jennzhen1512/jennzhen151200034/54240440-Singapore-Dec-13-2015-Singapore-MRT-train-station-Bukit-Panjang-The-Mass-Rapid-Transit-or-MRT-formin-Stock-Photo.jpg

This said the reason I keep comparing to Singapore is simple. They have one of the best MRT and LRT services in the world (of course the London Tube is much more complex no doubt).

(https://static.standard.co.uk/s3fs-public/thumbnails/image/2016/05/06/15/tube.jpg

In another post let me tell you about my visit to CTR using the train 🙂

Review of the Astoria Business Hotel Stay, Madurai

This was a long pending post from my side and I finally found some time to write on this topic. I had a chance to plan a trip to Dhanushkodi and got the opportunity to stay at Astoria Hotel in Madurai for a day. This is a business hotel and I needed a stay only for a day so I chose the hotel.

A few notable things about this hotel are the following

  • Its walkable from the railway station as long as you don’t have too much luggage
  • Its preferred to take an auto from the station if you have kids
  • It is situated somewhat nearby to the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai which is easily reachable by auto within 10 minutes

The front facade of the hotel is one vertical block which mostly present the corridor end windows and the conference room windows on the top floor. There is no access to the terrace as such for visitors.

The entry lounge is good with ample light and seating. This hotel offers 24 hours checkin and checkout with prebooking via multiple travel portals or directly via calling the hotel. I paid nearly about Rs.5000/- per day which is on the steeper side and includes breakfast along with the room. The rooms themselves were well appointed, but were kind of small. Since its a business hotel, the type of travellers mostly expected are the ones who stay in the hotel for about a day and move on to other places near madurai for their business needs.

To this extent the rooms offer the comfort necessary from the relentless heat of Madurai. Thankfully I landed there at a time when Madurai received some rainfall the previous day so the city had cooled down a bit from temperatures of over 38 deg C.

The rooms have thick and large curtains shielding all the harsh light coming in, have a study table with a suitable chair, and a small coffee table with a lounge chair. The beds themselves are a bit soft and springy, the types which you can sink into, though my personal preferences would tend towards slightly harder beds which are not known to aggevate back problems.

The television set is mounted on the wall and the wall also has shelves that hold the glasses and coffee maker. The bathroom is well appointed though the shower is not movable enough making it spray all the water all over the room. It could have been designed better though it does the job for a business traveller. The bath has dispensable soap machines which is the trend nowadays and in my opinion, I prefer this over hundreds of small soap cakes being produced that go a waste on daily basis.

These days hotels have reached a situation wherein you can also say whether or not you want the towels washed or not in order to save water and effort and I highly value this mode of working as it conserves resources.

The cafeteria was good and well appointed in terms of furniture. The breakfast was expensive on the second day, but on the first day it was complementary. I did use the room service once or twice and found it to be good. The people attending to you at the hotel are quick and respond pretty soon to your requests which is what a traveller looks for.

The food itself was good with lots of variety ranging from indian, western, veg and non veg options and was tasty too.

The Astoria Hotel has a view to die for and you can see the Madurai Meenakshi temple very well during the clear nights in the city. The central location, accessibility to Railway station and reasonably close from the airport (~ 10-12km) and a decent variety of rooms, food make this place a business friendly hotel.

If I go again to Madurai, I will stay in Astoria and would recommend this hotel to others too.

FastTag now operational across 275 highways in India, pay online and zip through

The NHAI has issued a notification that around 275 toll plazas are now considered for FastTag clearance. Which means if you have a FastTag pass, waiting in lengthy toll queues on holiday drives would be a thing of the past for you.

ICICI and Axis Bank support payments for FastTag passes and their respective web links can be found here:
ICICI: http://www.icicibank.com/Personal-Banking/cards/prepaid/fastag/index.page?#toptitle
AxisBank: https://etc.axisbank.co.in/ETC/Login/#
The list of exact toll booths covered as part of this venture as listed here: http://www.icicibank.com/Personal-Banking/cards/prepaid/fastag/list-of-active-toll-plazas.page?#toptitle
Fast Tag is used in many countries and is basically an RFID card or sticker that you put on your windshield. This is automatically scanned by scanners mounted on the toll booth that would deduct a certain amount for every trip you make across a toll booth. You would get SMS notifications for amounts spent as well.
The website however does not specify what happens if you try to use a fasttag lane with no amount left on the tag. Only real users who have tried this may wish to comment on ths blog about the same.
The company running this operation is called IHMCL (you can read more about them in these articles : http://www.indiantollways.com/category/ihmcl/ ) and it is one of the government concerns managing the show.
Their website can be accessed here: http://www.ihmcl.com/?p=9313
These FastTag cards are available at ICICI or Axis branches which are designated to sell them or in Bangalore at the electronic city toll plaza.
Some of the frequently asked questions about FastTag are answered here: http://www.nhai.org/Frequently%20Asked%20Questions.pdf
So what has your experience been with respect to FastTag, hit the comment section to speak about it.

Why the Park Chennai does not cut it when it comes to 5 Star hotels in Chennai

I had an opportunity to stay in the Park hotel, Chennai for business reasons. Most people needing to travel to Chennai to the US embassy prefer this hotel due to location. Also its a 5 star hotel. I did the booking on on Booking.com a fairly well known travel website. It was painless to book and the hotel clarified whatever information was needed when they were called.

First the traffic around the place is horrendous. Gemini Flyover sure has seen generations in chennai and the traffic around this place makes it impossible to cross the road unless one uses the subway. If you think people will behave the same way as other cities when it comes to driving skills, be warned – this city wont wait for you to cross. If you value your life, be safe.

Now to the hotel itself. Given my very brief stay, I did not get to experience the restaurants, pool and other areas towards the terrace. The building is rather old and it is beginning to show at many places. The rooms were comfortable, and had mostly everything you would need. Two bottles of mineral water, a well stocked mini bar, tea/coffee making machines with creamer, sugar and coffee/tea supplies. The mini bar was as expected chargeable if you were to take anything from there.

For a change the bed was NOT spongy and springy like other hotels. I had a stiff but comfortable bed something that I usually long for in hotels, and soft pillows to provide even more comfort. Each room gets an individually controllable central airconditioning with the temperature setting panel on the wall. Now this is where I would like 5 star hotels to think a bit. When smaller hotels offer a remote control how come such a hotel decided not to provide this?

There was a sofa, stool and a high stool to place luggage which is wishful thinking. There was no fan in the room. Now you might argue that in a 5-star hotel a fan worsens the ambience. But thats not the point. A fan provides some instant air circulation while the aircon takes it own time. With all the windows closed, and curtains around, any hotel room begins to become stuffy. And this is exactly where you need a fan. If you cannot provide a ceiling fan, give a table fan or a tower fan. In a country like india, there are thousands of options available, you need to just think.

The lights were dim and not sufficient to work, I personally prefer some white light in the room, but this one had only yellows. To each his own opinion so I will leave this there!

One of the most important parts of the room which is lesser spoken about is the toilet. While the toilet itself was good and it was well appointed with whatever you would expect I found one glaring issue. A missing health faucet. Even the train I came by to chennai had one and I simply cannot understand why a 5-star hotel like the Park decided to do away with it. For me cleanliness is very important and people like me who are very personal hygiene conscious will surely be pissed off with this omission.

The bathtub was great, and so was the showers (plural). I did find another thing quite annoying. the flush in the toilet would go off only after 30 seconds each time. Now do we really need to waste water like this because we are a 5-star? In India everyone is expected to be conservative even if we flaunt money. Someone somewhere in the hotel chain needs to make this distinction and take the baton. A few hotels have begun not washing the bedding if we say so, and water conservation is just another similar matter.

Also the hot water was not really hot, at best warm. Which turned cold every few minutes once. What is the point? In spite of keeping my AC completely turned off in the room and without a fan, the whole room was so cold simply because the aircon in the corridors was too cold. After all this, if you find that you do not have hot water, hot enough to your wish it becomes very difficult to stay put in the room. I complained, someone did something, and nothing changed much.

The room service menu was a horror to see. You know its not the money part really that pinches me. Before you begin to assume things about me, I have the money that it takes to order whatever is there on that list. But when the rates of items are in dollars you seriously begin to wonder what is the value they bring compared to any really decent hotel nearby. We have heard of indians being charged less and foreigners more in tourist places. Why can the hotels not adopt similar policy? For indians charge in rupees and for others charge in their currency at a certain reasonable amount.

A cup of authentic Madras filter coffee is priced at Rs.250/- Even cafe coffee day will have to hang their head in shame at this rate. The best one can give for a cup of filter coffee in chennai no matter where it is served is 50 bucks. Not five times that. Well you may now begin to say I don’t deserve to stay there if I cannot consume something at that price. Not exactly. Any item you see in the list is either 550, 750 or 1000 bucks. So for example a dosa maybe 1000 bucks. Can I see you frown now? I’m glad you get the point.

This is perhaps the only hotel where alcoholic drinks are cheaper than tiffin.

Thankfully there was free WiFi – the basic needs of engineers according to the revised Maslow’s laws of hierarchal needs. And it was quite fast. I hate any hotel not offering complementary wifi these days. And the Park did not disappoint. I never even bothered to ask anyone for travel arrangements within the hotel. I had Ola, Uber and the million autos just outside the gate. So that’s one brownie point less to the Park.

The next morning was the complimentary breakfast. Now I must say the restaurant 601 in the hotel, did an exemplary job with the kind of breakfast spread they offered. Simply amazing. Tasty. And full of variety. English breakfast, South indian everything you needed was there. Good job Park.

Check in was quite late but check out was not. They can have more than three reception staff as the flow of visitors is high. Further, I was offered during checkout that I could come and refresh and go even later in the day, which is a nice touch. I did read the book kept in the room on the hotel rules and I must say I did not feel so welcoming with the way the language was presented. Perhaps someone needs to be more youthful in whats shown to visitors. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, we dont appreciate this, we dont appreciate that. You know the whole book sounds negative. Dont be rude to our staff, we dont like pets – blah blah blah.

I dont mind you saying we must not be rude to your staff, but it also applies the other way round. Please understand that visitors to the hotel are generally tired, and not always in the best moods due to whatever other problems they are in. I do get the point that some visitors act like they are the Kings and Queens of some faraway kingdom, but not all are like that. That is why hospitality is a difficult business. Its all about how to put up a nice face even when the customer has issues with the hotel. Anyway this is something for you to handle, and not me. But putting up the rulebook like what you have – I would have changed certain things in it the way it was said.

In Summary, I did have a nice time at your hotel with some awesome breakfast, and a comfortable room, but with some important things being omitted in the room and toilet, and the horrendous pricing of your food items, I guess this is only a place to stay not to eat. For eating there is always a Saravana Bhavan at a stones throw away (<1km, Gopalapuram) which you can walk to. With room rates around 6000 to 7000 a night, I think a lot more can be done to better the experience for visitors.

The Hyundai Creta first look

Today I got a chance to visit the Hyundai Showroom to take a look at the Creta, their newly launched mini SUV. As you would already be knowing by now this big fella is making headlines all over India as the latest on the block to demolish all other SUVs on the market (which includes Ford Ecosport, Duster, Scorpio, XUV and also the not yet launched S-Cross from Maruti).

Will the Creta have enough under its belt to take away the throne from the others? Looks? Performance? Comfort? Space? Read on.

There was no big fanfare about the Creta and as I entered the showroom, there it was in full glory in Cherry Red colour. I have been reading all about Creta in the last one month and I must tell you that I share the same opinion as the others when it comes to looks. No amount of photographs will be enough to explain the real perspective of a human mind unless you look at the car in person.

The design is brilliant. Initially I thought that the grill in the front would jut out just too much to make it bulky as seen in many of the reviewers photos. But you know what? Not at all. I mean really. As is the case with hyundai they have created an SUV with a massive appearance. It will really have some presence on the road. You need to see it to beleive it.

The macho front grill, the beautiful fog lamps, the triangle shaped bright orange indicators, and the imposing headlamps all of these add value to the overall body. The side profile is similar so XUV but a bit more sober and lends very well to the overall character of the car. Though Korean in nature the unmistakable thud while closing the doors is a bit reassuring. No wonder then that this car apparently has very high C-NCAP ratings.

The whole design begins to rise towards the rear ending a Santa Fe like tail lamp cluster which bodes very well to complete the muscular look. In terms of looks and styling Hyundai have a winner compared to the Duster. It even beats the Ford Ecosport by a small margin in my opinion. Somehow the XUV rear end looks very heavy and not connected to the frontal portions and side profiles. The cheetah inspiration has gone a bit too far. Hyundai have kept it simple and copying the Santa Fe has worked wonders for Creta.

Enough said about the front. I got into all the seats one by one. First and foremost, I did find that there was ample thigh support in all seats. Maybe some reports might be biased on this count, but I found the seats to be pretty well made and very cozy and comfortable. Hyundai has the bad habit of placing seats so deep that even the driver cannot see any part of the car and has to drive by assumptions. But somehow in Creta the seat height is better than in a say i-20 which means you can now see the road better if not the bonnet. Having said that, the rear bench has very generous leg room even for a person my height (5’10”). And that when my own comfortable position is adjusted on the drivers seat. To give you a perspective I can make a young kid of 1-2 years stand in front of me on rear seat. Thats the amount of space available. Rest assured each and every journey will be more than satisfying on this car.

The front row seats have good cushioning, good grip and engulf you well enough to keep you cocooned. I am somehow not a big fan of vertical aircon vents, and this disappoints me with Creta. But as such the looks dont appear spoilt with this dashboard design. There are enough cubby holes for all your knick knacks. And its obviously a hyundai. So this is expected. The steering is well architected, with nicely placed controls. The driver door has rest of all the controls which make it easy to use. I specifically like the mirror adjust angled towards the driver on the door, which is really a thought out placement.

The stereo system with all functions perhaps will be available only in the top end model as defined in the brochure here. The prices on road in Bangalore vary between 11.5 lakhs and 17+ lakhs which is very steep for whats on offer. Take a look at it below

Overall the car also has ample boot space, and passenger space which is its defining point. I have not yet got a chance to drive this far enough to make a conclusion, but I do not see why it can give other SUVs some nightmares.

Until I drive the SUV more and find out its bits and pieces which are of interest, I will leave you with some stunning pictures of what Hyundai has created for the Indian market. I am more than sure this will set their sales charts on fire.