Saturday, September 26, 2015

Moving from Bangalore to Singapore - Stage -I: Go- No Go Decision

Stage I- Decision- Go - No GO: Moving from Bangalore to Singapore

Parameters of decision:

  1. Kid's Education at Singapore
  2. Overall expenditure and savings
  3. Work Culture

Kid's Education at Singapore: We have a 5 year old school goer. With a plan to move around for 5-6 years and return to ‘settle down’, it was important to have the continuity of the syllabus. We zeroed in on two syllabi: Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or ICSE.

Three schools made the shortlist: DPS (CBSE), Global Indian International School (GIIS) (CBSE) and NPS (CBSE).

Upon inquiry, DPS asked our daughter to repeat the standard –I again. As per the date of birth criteria, she needed to be born before 31 Mar, 2007. She was born in July. DPS was a straight strike-off because of this arcane criterion.

With GIIS and NPS to choose from, a different factor came into play. The metro line on which the schools were and whether it connected the office location in Singapore. As it were, my office was in Shenton Way. The Green Line connected the office, GIIS and the airport. This was important because we had decided not to purchase a car for a smaller duration stay at Singapore and hence dependency on the public transport was high. In addition, while comparing the school charges, we discovered the school bus charges differed if we stayed within or outside the 3 KM radius of school. Green Line cut across the 3 KM radius of GIIS. Curriculum and associated charges were also reasonable while comparing the International schools in Singapore.

Overall expenditure and savings:  We listed down the factors which will affect this decision:

Rented fully-furnished 1-BHK apartment: Each of these four words had a reason. Rental, of course. We had no intention to take citizenship or permanent residency in an island called the Red Dot on the map. Nor did we intend to invest in real estate in Singapore. Fully-furnished made sense because we wanted to move in and out easily. 1-BHK would suit our family size. Family security while I traveled outside Singapore, necessity of easy availability of friends of a 5 year old in a new country and culture, and amenities along with the flat were reasons we decided to opt for an apartment rather than a landed house.

Salary and savings: I had a simple benchmark in India. (My HR friends vehemently oppose the benchmark in public but secretly agree with it.) In India, salary offers have three parameters: years of relevant experience (the word ‘relevant’ is abused as used as per convenience), pedigree (means where one had his/her education and which degrees), and what technology or field of work is major in the experience portfolio. Putting it straight with an example: if one is an Engineer + MBA- both from “tier-1 (which varies widely as per internal definition)” institutes with a “relevant” work experience of 10 years in regular technologies, then ₹ 2.875 Lakhs (average of ₹ 2.25 to ₹ 3.5 Lakhs) per annum multiplied by the 10 years of experience equalling ₹ 28.75 Lakhs per annum would be a likely salary (cost to company) around the middle of the bell curve. Of course, the fixed and variable components vary between 70:30:: Fixed:variable or sometimes 80:20 depending on how one negotiates.

In Singapore, there is a similar benchmark. Same person above is likely to draw SGD 16000 (average of a range between SGD 14000 to SGD 18000) multiplied by 10 years of experience equalling SGD 1, 60, 000 per annum. Now, let’s stay on this number. It implies the person would draw around SGD 13, 333 per month. This is the income.

Let’s breakdown the expenditure (in approximate numbers per month):
1. House Rent= SGD 3000
2. School fees= SGD 1500
3. Groceries and household expenses= SGD 800
4. Utilities = SGS 200
5. Transportation= SGD 500
6. Miscellaneous= SGD 500
7. Taxes: Extra (hovers around 5-10% of the income)

A total of around SGD 6500 per month. This gives a saving of SGD 6833 approximately. Depending on the exchange rates, one can calculate the amount of ₹ saved in a year. So, yes. It makes brilliant business sense.

This is where we decided to move and adapt to the work culture in the new place.  I will cover the experience in the next blog.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

First Cruise of life - Costa Atlantica- Singapore- Phuket- Langkawi and back- a travelogue

First Cruise of Life:

After burning a lot of kilometers between roads, trains and flights to multitude of places, I have realized one thing. I am a Beach/ Ocean/ Sea person. May be because the vast expanse of the water bodies opens me up from within and fills me with a warm glow that I have come to love and retain the feeling for some more time to savour the moments.Forests,  Mountains, Lakes, deserts, hills have not given me the same level of happiness as a beach has. Mountains, Underwater and space are places where I have not been thus far and may be someday soon depending on God's grace.

For some time, I had been trying to burn up some nautical miles as well and a cruise had been on my mind for pretty long but the price points from India were prohibitive. The Andaman Sea and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands were calling me internally  and I had been postponing it for long.

The spark of ignition came when we saw an ad in the local free newspaper announcing the arrival of a New Cruiseliner called Costa Atlantica starting from Singapore for a limited period and that it was going to beautiful Phuket and Langkawi was a like a vacation between a vacation, at a brilliant price point. This was it.

Tickets were booked and we were all set to cruise.

Tip:  While booking the tickets, be careful whether the On Board Credit is part of the ticket price. Nothing to worry about but check if it is refundable or not. On Costa, it was non-refundable. Anyway, when one goes on board, credit card needs to be registered for the cruise for a cashless reconciliation. For us it didn't  matter because the Thailand Visa and one of the location trips that we opted for on-board was enough for retiring the On Board Credit.

The Days were planned as follows:

Day 1 PM:  Embark
Day 2 AM & PM: On the ship
Day 3 AM: Phuket and return by 1800
Day 3 PM: On the Ship
Day 4 AM: Langkawi and return by 1300 hours
Day 5 AM: On the ship and disembarkation starts by 1300 hours

The Embarkation was pretty well organised but the queue was huge. We had planned that we will embark quickly and enjoy the ship as much as possible and strangely almost all the people who has booked the cruise were thinking of the same thing ;-). So even though there were three hours to embark, the entire crowd reached the counters all at once. But there were also some smart people who came in pretty late and entered the ship without much of a queue. The Costa guys could have given time-slots for the decks and should have planned a better embarkation.

Tip: Phuket, Thailand is visa on arrival but Malaysia has started asking for Visa to be approved earlier. And since it was mentioned that Visa needs to be managed by the passenger, we were worried whether we will be allowed entry into Langkawi. However, during the embarkation, it was mentioned that for Phuket, Visa charges will be SGD 50 per head and Langkawi doesn't need the Visa.This was awesome news for us.

After the immigration, boarding the ship was a different feel altogether.I mean I had seen ships in movies but seeing them from own point of view from the ship itself was a different mixed feeling.

As seen from the Ship deck:

Ship at pier

Any cruise is all about lots of food and a disconnected-from-world holiday. Too many amenities and too
much food that one would be lost for choice. On a lighter note, there is so much walking and so many activities planned in which you can participate that the food becomes a sort of a necessity. They also publish a schedule for everyday called "Today" which gives the plan for the day and this is one of the best things that we liked about the cruise.

Once on board, the entire ship looks like a floating 5 start hotel. One of the hallways on our floor:

Aisle inside ROMA-our floor

Someone had mentioned earlier that once one lands on the ship and head to the rooms, one starts to unpack and misses the float-away from the Marina. So I was planning in my mind to see the float-away even though I didn't have anyone to wave at. The the plan was so made that the first evening was packed. First the General Emergency Drill, then the Magic Show and then the exploring of the ship. They have a three storey lovely theatre called the Caruso theatre.

But before that we went on deck and enjoyed the sunset and the evening. I had seen Singapore from the sky but seeing Singapore from the sea was different.

Singapore at night from the ship

The main lobby:


That evening's Magic and Contortionist show is to become my kid Sonakshi's one of the most savoured moments on the cruise. Some shots from the show:

Contortionist and magic show-1

Wonder how she did this !!!

Contortionist and magic show-2

Contortionist and magic show-3

And she was doing this so fast that it was difficult for me to catch up on my lens...

Day 2: We planned lots of swimming and jacuzzi and loads of food.

Tip: There is a place called Squok Club which is like a kid's club and acts as a brilliant free creche if parents have to enjoy the cruise just by themselves. The creative activities like cake decoration, puzzle games, sketching etc form the second most memorable element in Sonakshi's mind. But the spoiler here is that too many parents want to drop their kids there and hence there is always a big queue there. go 15 mins early to beat the queue.

One of the amazing sights was a bit of rain. A small fishing boat may be was just about to enter a screen of torrential rain

Fishing boat just before rain sweeps over it

The evening after a lazy day had in store for us Captain's cocktail and a show which I am glad I didn't miss. The show was called "Solid Gold". This was amazing. Some shots from the show:

Day 2- Show-1

Day 2- Show-4

Day 2- Show-3

Day 2- Show-5

Day 2- Show-6

Since we were spoilt for choice, we did what we did best. Choice by elimination. On an MBAish kind of a note, a choice is always by elimination- Even a choice by selection is a veiled choice by elimination.

Choice by elimination it was for the food, for the programs, for the was as if we had enough to last us a good deal of time if we made the best of now.

Day 3: Beautiful Phuket Calling

We had the full day at Phuket and we had a choice to make between Phi Phi Islands and Phang Nga Bay. We went with the latter.

Tip: There are many other beautiful places in and around Phuket. We had chosen the Costa organised Phang Nga Bay trip because it seemed hassle-free while booking and we are glad that we did so. It was thoroughly enjoyable
Tip: If you are going to Phang Nga bay, carry some polythene bags with you if you are carrying a bigger lens. They give waterproof bags when one goes into the bay but these may not be sufficient if you plan to carry your video cams along with your cameras along.
Tip: Also carry some small change in bank notes because you may have to tip the canoe guides after the canoe trip into the bay.

Sunglasses, sunscreen SPF>50, loose clothes, skimpier the better...because they will get wet...No need to carry water

A brief about the bay:
Phang Nga Bay (Thaiอ่าวพังงาRTGSAo Phang-ngaThai pronunciation: [ʔàːw pʰaŋ.ŋaː]) is a 400 km² bay in the Andaman Sea between the island of Phuket and the mainland of the Malay peninsula of southern Thailand. Since 1981, an extensive section of the bay has been protected as the Ao Phang Nga National Park. The Park is situated in Phang Nga Province, at 08°17'N 098°36'E.
Limestone cliffs with caves, collapsed cave systems and archaeological sites are found about Phang Nga Bay. Some 10,000 years ago, when sea levels were lower, one could walk from Phuket and Krabi.
I had read in school about the stalactites and the stalagmites and had never seen them myself. I was told we go into those caves...

The trip organised by Costa was very well arranged and provisoned.

Some shots from our boat taking us to the Bay:

Beautiful Phuket-2

The Andaman sea was playing pranks ...some places one gets to see deep blue and some places algae green...the colours of the sea and the bay were breathtakingly beautiful even in the harsh sun

Beautiful Phuket-3

A small beach...feed on the green colour :-) and don't be fooled that the whites there are sand...those are very small sharp shell pieces with limestone rocks on the beach with very little sand... on one of these islands, I cut myself from a sharp careful and take care of your loved ones...

Near Phang Nga Bay-Phuket

Now the boat which you will be using to explore the caves will have boarding on the first floor and the floor below will have canoes loaded which will be used to explore the caves. One doesn't have to row but just feel the eerie atmosphere near the bay and savour the beauty around.

Canoes- Phanga Nga Bay

Beautiful Phanga Nga Bay-1

The lunch will be served on the boat while returning to the ship. No worries on Visa because Costa will have taken care of that already. All you need is the costa card.

Once you are back on the ship, a brilliant show awaits you again called "Visions in Motion"...Oh what a show...

Aerial Show

Day 3- Evening Show-1

Day 3- Evening Show-2

Day 3- Evening Show-3

Day 3- Evening Show-4

Day 4: Langkawi

A brief about the place:  The Malay word for eagle is helang - which is shortened to "lang". Kawi means the marbles and mountains... It was given the title of "Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah" in 2008 by Kedah's Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah as part of his golden jubilee to impress on tourists that it was part of Kedah.

Another reference states that the name is a combination of two Sanskrit words, “Langka” (beauty) and “Wi” (innumerable), which means ‘The Place of Immense Beauty’. True enough, this island was also once known as the ‘Land of Bliss’ dating back 2,000 years ago.

For Langkawi, we didn't take the Costa trip but managed on our own. The Cable car is the place where Don had been shot and is supposed to be one of the star attractions of Langkawi for its sheer height.

The breathtakingly beautiful Langkawi from the second viwing tower is awesome.

Tip: The journey from the pier to the hills takes around 45 mins and the queue is long. Go for the express queue at the cable cars.

Some shots from there and more can be found on my facebook page...

Overall it was an awesome experience much so that we have already started planning the next one...this one needs to have snorkeling and diving...Bali may be...Lets see...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Art on the divine canvas

They say that any sunrise or the sunset is like theatre, each one is a different hue and different design…it simply dazzles me each time I see a sunrise or the sunset. When God sprays paint on his canvas, its magic…I may be handicapped to capture all the glory…but presenting some of them from my point of view…(latest first)

13 11 10

On a saturday, I woke up early but when saw the sky -it was dull with a cloud patch on the cloudy sky- I lost hope on a brilliant sunrise and went about my morning drills. When I looked out, I saw that the clouds have cleared and a red carpet was being laid out-literally- for Sun to come up
One from that morning:
Sunrise 13 11 10

The sunset was not so dramatic...but the fading colours were very clean. One from the sunset that day...
Sunset 13 11 10

Sunrise 23 10 10
Sunrise 23 10 10

I love the purple hues that were there. For sometime, I just stared at the sky. And after sometime, the following hues came on...
Sunrise 23 10 10-2

Sunset 19 10 10
Sunset 19 10 10

Sunset 03 10 10-1
Sunset 03 10 10-1

The best part of the shot is that, this is not a black and white shot. The sky was black and white because of the clouds. Simple as that. And after sometime, the following:
Sunset 03 10 10-2

Sunset 29 09 10
Sunset 29 09 10

Sunrise 22 09 10
Sunrise 22 09 10

Sunset 09 09 10
Sunset 09 09 10

Rainbow during Sunset 03 07 10
I had never seen a complete rainbow. I was shocked when I saw the following. I was not equipped to capture it very quickly. The shot may have been technically handicapped but I love the fact that when the complete rainbow was visible, I was there. It was awesome. I also love the way the rainbow divides the frame into light and shade.
Rainbow during Sunset 03 07 10

I will keep updating this blog with more to share the happiness as and when I get to enjoy them...hope u liked it...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coorg was awesome-A travelogue

Coorg or Kodagu (originally called Kodaimalenadu) means 'dense forest on steep hill'. Scotland of India- This is what almost everyone calls it. We have never been to Scotland and had never been to Coorg. So we decided to find out-why?

After some research, we finalized on the following itinerary:
   • Day-1: Drive to TalaCauvery. Upon return, touch Bhagamandala, Abbey Falls, Raja Seat. Rest for the night.
   • Day-2: Drive to Dubare Elephant Camp and chill out
   • Day-3: Finish the Elephant Interaction, Coracle Ride, visit Bylakuppe, and hit Bangalore by evening.

We started the day quite early. 0545 hours, we rolled from Outer Ring Road, near Intel (Marathahalli), Bangalore. We had planned to have our breakfast at Kamat’s. By 0620, we had reached the Mysore Toll plaza (Toll charges 20 rupees) at Kanakpura Road for the NICE Road leading to Mysore Road. The NICE road was a breeze. There was minimal traffic as well on the Mysore road. My kid, Sonakshi (all of 3 years of age) was mega kicked about the whole trip because she is being taught about animals and jungles and that we were going to a jungle to meet the elephants was keeping her happy. She kept us entertaining all through the trip with her rhymes…

Kamat came quicker than expected. 66.5 KM and 0705 hours. A new welcome addition there is the Buffet Breakfast costing INR 80.00 per plate. We realized that our good breakfast also came to the same price per head. We could have taken the Buffet instead. Post breakfast, once on the way by 0745 hours, we wanted to make the short-cut through the Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary road rather than the road via Mysore. Good folks in Team-BHP had discovered this and had recommended. We followed the directions and after the board which says “Thank you for visiting Srirangapatna” at 0900 hours / 142 KM, we took the right turn towards Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary. The road was narrow and because of the rains the road has gone bad in some stretches now, but definitely drivable.

At the end of this road, one encounters the V-junction to enter the SH-88. SH-88 is a smooth ride. From then on, Hunsur (1000 hours/ 190 KMs), Piriyapatna (1015 hours/ 210 KMS), Bylakuppe (1040 hours/ 228 KMS), Kushal Nagar (1050 hours/ 232 KMS), Madikeri (1130 hours/ 263 KMS). The road from Bylakuppe/ Kushal Nagar to Madikeri is rough now and there was traffic. In fact, as we entered the Madikeri town, just before the Madikeri Bus station, there was a big jam. From this junction, one needs to take a left to Bhagamandala and Talacauvery.

The weather was lovely. The sun and the clouds were playing hide and seek. One side of the road was populated and on the other side of the road were very very tall trees. I had not seen these types of trees earlier. Mostly, I felt that these trees were the natural support for the black pepper creepers. We thought the drive would be really smooth. And it was mostly. The steep S-bends were taking the toll though-on speed and energy. At some stretches, it was boring also to see the same endless view. You can imagine the drive to Talacauvery because we took 1.5 hours to cover a distance of around 40 KMS. 1300 hours/ 306 KMS.
Finally after those endless curves, Talacauvery was a welcome beautiful sight. The cleanliness of the place was what struck us at the first glance. I was expecting fog around the place because they say that this place is so cool that most of the times this is foggy around 1200 hours as well. Plus, since I had seen the prettiness of the fog-covered temple in one of my photographer colleagues work (, I was slightly disappointed to see that there was no fog there even though it was pretty chilly from the rain. But the rain had cleaned up the dust and the view was very clear. It was a Friday and hence the crowd was also very less. The temple has been maintained very well.

From Wiki: Talacauvery, is the place that is generally considered to be the source of the Cauvery River. It is located in the Brahmagiri hill (not to be confused with the Brahmagiri range further South) near Bhagamandala in Kodagu district, Karnataka, 1,276 m. above sea level. However, there is not a permanent visible flow from this place to the main rivercourse except during the rainy season. A tank or kundike has been erected on a hillside, at the place that is said to be the origin. It is also marked by a small temple, and the area is frequented by pilgrims. The Kaveri River originates as a spring feeding this tank, which is considered to be a holy place to bathe on special days. The waters are then said to flow underground to emerge as the river some distance away. The temple has been renovated extensively by the state government recently [2007].

On Tulasankramana day (the first day of Tula Masa month, according to the Hindu calendar, which normally falls in mid October) thousands of pilgrims flock to the river's birthplace to witness the rise of the fountainhead, when water gushes up from the spring at a predetermined moment. The tula snanam (Sacred bath in the Tula month) is observed across pilgrim towns in Kaveri's banks.

The temple here is dedicated to Goddess Caveriamma. Other deities worshipped here are Lord Agastheeswara, which denotes the link between Cauvery and Sage Agasthya and Maha Ganapathi.
The legend goes that, the Cauvery river was held in a Kamandalu (a container of sacred water) by Sage Agasthya. Vinaayaka (Lord Ganesha) took the form of a crow and perched on the kamandalu of Agasthya when Agasthya was meditating. When Agasthya realised this, he shooed away the crow. But the Divine Crow tipped the kamandalu and toppled it. Out poured Cauvery, which started flowing. The crow disappeared and in its place stood a small boy. Agasthya thought that the boy was playing some prank and clenching both his fists went to pound the head of the small boy. But the boy escaped and Agasthya gave chase. Finally the boy vanished and Lord Ganesha showed Himself to Agasthya. Agasthya was aghast at the realisation that he had just tried to knock the head of Ganesha Himself. As atonement, he knocked his own head with both of his clenched fists. (More details can be found @ )

TalaCauvery Temples:
TalaCauvery temples

Points to note about the temple visit:
1. Photography and videography is prohibited for the temple premises but it is not strongly imposed. One can sneak in some photos.
2. There are two water bodies in the lower part of the temple where Cauvery has originated. One is a small 2 feet by 2 feet tank just in front of a small temple dedicated to Caveriamma. This water is supposed to be holy water and is not to be touched other than the priests.
3. However, there is an approx. 10 Feet by 10 feet water body next to it and people actually go inside without dresses to take a dip in this water. Water is cold (about 80 degrees F).
Origin Point of Cauvery
4. From here the water is siphoned off to a lower level and the water vanishes beneath the temple and is said that the next view is at Bhagamandala where Cauvery meets two other rivers called Kannike and a mythical underground stream called Sujyoti.
5. There is a changing room close to that separately for ladies and gents.
6. Prasadam is available in small packets which costs about 10 rupees.
7. A flight of stairs beside the temple will take one onto the top of the hill from where the view is breathtaking. But the stairs are steep and the wind speed on the top of the hill is high. Not recommended for children and elderly.

Cauvery is a raging torrent downstream and when one compares that force to the one near the origin, it is an amazing contrast. We couldn’t believe that such force can be bestowed by nature on something some humble at the origin. There is a small temple just outside Talacauvery. It is in dilapidated state now but looks interesting. Seemed like a recent addition.

Temple close to TalaCauvery

I was mega-kicked about this visit because for the first time in my life I was seeing the origin of any river.

Gloomy weather at TalaCauvery

I was already raining while we started from TalaCauvery. Our next destination was Abbey Falls and we were apprehensive about it because it was not recommended to visit Abbey Falls when it rains heavily. We started around 1345 hours. On the way back, there was this beautiful view of the AIR, Madikeri. The fog was giving an impression that the tower is just hanging on there in mid-air.

All India Radio Tower view from Talacauvery

us around Talacauvery

It was raining heavily already on the way and so we decided to have lunch in the Madikeri Busstop at a decent place. There is this vegetarian restaurant called Athithi Restaurant jus close to the Bus-stand and serves ok stuff. We wanted to wait till the rains stop but since it did not, we decided to make Abbey falls in the rain. Finally, @ 357 KMS/ 1700 hours, we reached Abbey falls.

Abbey Falls is located is a private coffee plantation. The falls appear suddenly combining forces of small stream during the monsoons and it is said this falls joins Cauvery downstream. There is a hanging bridge constructed just In front of the falls and very shaky. There is a Kali Mata temple on the other side of the bridge and Coffee and Black Pepper trees around.

This is small waterfall but looks lovely just post the monsoon. The best time to visit is early winter when the monsoons have brought plenty of water. It was raining heavily when we reached there but the view was good.

Points to note near Abbey Falls:
1. From Madikeri market, the falls are accessible by a narrow road to the coffee estate. This road is very narrow and slushy on the sides. Road is not maintained well. Drive needs to be calculated.
2. Cars are allowed until about 500 mtrs close to the falls. Entrance fees are 20 Rupees.
3. People travelling by bus will have to walk nearly 2-3 kms to reach the falls.
4. From near the entrance, there is a small walkway through coffee and cardamom plantations leads to the waterfalls. There are at least 50-60 stairs leading down to the falls. These stairs are covered with moss at places and is slippery. Care needs to be taken during the rains. The roar of the falls can be heard from the road parking.
5. The hanging bridge wobbles. So, care needs to be taken when children go onto the bridge.
6. There is a small cottage near the view point which gives instant photographs as well.
7. Photography and videography is allowed.
8. There is small tea/ coffee shop near the entrance gate to Abbey falls where we had tea. The tea was so-so.

By this time, we were completely drained and decided to call it a day. We had booked ourselves at Capitol Village. This place is deep inside the coffee and cardamom plantation and comes recommended. To reach, one has to reach Sudarshan circle in Madikeri, take the Siddapur road. After about 4-5 KMS on this road, Capitol village is on the right. After entering the mail gate, there is a fork some 10 mtrs ahead. For Capitol Village, one needs to take the one on the left.

Points to note about the place:
1. The road is slippery in the monsoons.
2. The rooms are good. We got a room in the second floor overlooking the valley. The view was good from the balcony.
3. It is not at all crowded. In fact, we were only the second family staying there for the night.
4. It was a bit scary in the evening and with all the gloomy weather around, the place resembled a set of Alfred Hitchcock movie set.
5. One can park close to the room. There are people to carry luggage upto the room.
6. The rooms are ok and we were not expecting much for 1500 rupees for a double room. The bathroom/ toilet could have been cleaner. We noticed that someone has plucked up the soap handles, towel handles from the walls. There were chip marks on the tiles.
7. Probably because of the low usage or the humidity, the beds and the blankets smelled a bit mildew-ish, but comfortable musty odor.
8. There were mosquito nets on the beds but strangely almost zero mosquitoes in the room.
We quickly checked for dinner and ordered food. The food was quickly prepared and served. We enjoyed the food on the balcony. It was a good feeling to enjoy hot chicken (roasted and tossed with fresh pepper) / rotis / rice/ dal / papad in a cold place on a balcony surrounded by long trees with open paddy fields where there were absolutely no one around and only sounds were that of crickets. The service was prompt. Even though there was no intercom, one could just call out to the manager and service was almost immediate.
The sleep was peaceful and long.


View from Balcony of Capitol Village Room:
Early morning view from Capitol Village Balcony

Next day morning, after solid cups of strong black coffee on our private balcony, we all started for a walk around the estate. It was filled with birds and the chirping coupled with the faint earthy smell was almost intoxicating. There is a small water body inside the plantation. I saw cardamom bushes for the first time in life there. Coffee was just coming up and we were told that they would ripen into red fruits by December time-frame. The chilled out morning was lovely and I spent unadulterated 3 hours with my family just lazily walking around soaking up all the nature around me.

Us-inside the plantation:

Varieties of flora around were also helping me teach my kid about loving nature. I am not sure how much she understood and absorbed but she loved the fact that the touch-me-nots were closing their leaves when she touches them. She took on a small project of actually identifying the small beauties and touching them for some time. The walkways were full of touch-me-nots. There were yellow grass flowers (almost miniature sunflowers) and other flowers around. I showed her how to fix flowers in the cutie small pony tail she had.


After a quick breakfast of Upma and chatni, we got ready for the day. The bill for the night with food came to 2000 rupees in Capitol Village. Since we had given Raja seat a miss the earlier day, we decided to make Raja’s seat before hitting Dubare Elephant Camp. So off we went around 1000 hours to Raja seat.
Raja’s Seat is a seasonal garden of flowers and artificial fountains around 2 kms from Madikeri Bus stand. A pleasant spectacle of refreshing layers of greenery, chain of high and low-rise-mountains attired with mist, the Raja Garden is one-time-favourites of Kings of Kodagu who use to watch the setting sun, and spend time with their queens here. The structure is small square in brick and mortar of four pillars bridged by arches, enhanced by beautiful surroundings. This lovely spot was a favourite place of recreation for the Rajas and hence was permanently associated with them. It is built on a high level ground with a commanding view of the cliffs and valleys to the west.

The entrance to the park is 10 rupees per head. There is also a toy train for the kids but it needs a minimum of 15 people to kick-start. My kid wanted to get into the toy train even before getting into the park around Raja Seat. Luckily, one big contingent of people suddenly landed near the toy train and we made it for the ride. It was kind of fun with the train going inside fake-tunnels, a shed, and a station named Cauvery Patna, I think. Just outside the station, there were bhelpuri shops and a guy selling the apparatus for making soap bubbles. My kid wanted the soap bubbles apparatus and freaked out with the bubbles. I had always seen the bubbles and had thought that the bubbles burst. But, Sonakhsi felt that the bubbles are going inside my palm when I was trying to hold them. This new perspective of looking at the bubbles from a child’s point of view was pleasantly refreshing.


Inside the park, there was a big sparrow population. These little cute birds are losing their habitat in Bangalore and fast. I had seen sparrows in Bangalore only in two places- Russel Market and Bangalore International Airport. Seeing the frolic of these sparrows added to mental peace. Raja seat also has variety of flowers and the place was beautiful. The view was also breathtaking.

At around 1115 hours, we started for Dubare Elephant Camp. For this, there are two routes- 14 KMS via Siddapur road or 28 KMS via Kushal Nagar. Since the Siddapur road was good, we took this one. We hit Sudarshan circle around 379 KMS and at around 390 KMS on the right side of the road there was this small waterfall from yesterday’s rain. We spent some time enjoying the small waterfall for some time.

Water falls on the way to Dubare Elephant Camp

We crossed Chetalli (393 KMS) and hit Jungle Lodges and Resorts Cauvery Bank by 1250 hours. Some points for the people who book in Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR), Dubare:
1. To reach the resort, one will have to cross Cauvery. There is no bridge. It is supposed to be a big island (though soon I was to learn that there is a small jungle path that leads to Kushal Nagar from where the JLR guys get flash vegetable and fruits supplies. Otherwise the supplies of JLR come from Metro, Bangalore).
2. During summer months, there is not much water but during the monsoons, Cauvery carries around 50-60 ft depth of water and the water is really muddy and fast.
3. There are crocodiles in the water. So swimming is not recommended.
4. There are two places on the Cauvery Bank-one for the day trippers and one for the JLR campers. There is almost always a big crowd for the day trippers. For the JLR campers, the boat point is slightly ahead (about 50 mtrs). Reach there and check for the boatman. The parking for JLR is inside Dubare inn but the parking is allowed only when the JLR boatman accompanies you.
5. The price for JLR is 2500 per head per night inclusive of Lunch, dinner, breakfast, boat-rides, elephant interaction items, nature walk, morning safari, etc. More details here: ( If one books online, then you get a small discount.
6. Please book slightly in advance because there are limited seats in the cottages that are there.
7. No need to carry umbrellas because JLR provides.

The cottages are beautiful and the staff is cordial. Imagine: Staying on the banks of a river like Cauvery and with so few people. Hammocks around. Elephants munching on grass and lantana type shrubs. Trees all around with birds chirping. Light sun and shadow climate. The river gently flowing by. Touch-me-nots around and playing with them with my kid. Idyllic. Almost brings out the baby and philosopher in you. And that’s what happened ;-)

After a solid lunch with the Cauvery gurgling in the backdrop, I had a long sleep. Nice coffee afterwards, propelled me for a walk on the so-called island. We played with a puppy, touched more touch-me-nots, saw the elephants, and lazed on the hammocks. One of the elephants had to attend to nature’s call and huge lumps started to fall from the height and my kid remarks, “For potty, the elephant did not sit on the commode, neither did it wash or wear a pant…” and conclusion after that after a thought, “His papa or mama are not there, who will do it for him!!!” Gosh!!! Some workflows are so innocent that u can’t peg them to reason.

Us at the elephant camp-1 @ Dubare

Tamed Elephant in Dubare Elephant Camp

In the evening, they showed us a video on how tigers can be saved given that the rate at which the tigers are vanishing is so alarming. I am sure this was a good platform to show this video. I, for one, am very passionate about the “Save our Tigers” project and my resolve has increased after I became more knowledgeable on the same. Dinner was light and good. The sweet preparations @ JLR are amazing.

Early in the morning, JLR took us for a Jungle Safari into the jungles but it was not so lucky for us. The majority of the jungle floor is covered with Lantana but for the spread of Lantana the bird populations is really low. Max types of birds that we saw are grey/ yellow wagtails, solitary Eagle Owl, some Malabar parakeets, pea-fowls, jungle fowls, crows and some sparrows. Among animals, we saw a family of jungle elephants only in the teak forests. They were very shy and wanted to avoid any disturbance. They had a 1-2 month old kid also with them. Well, after a not so eventful safari, breakfast was definitely a refresher. We were looking forward to the Elephant interaction program after that which included various activities like washing and scrubbing the elephant, watching it while feeding and finally a ride on the elephant. I had never done this in my lifetime thus far. It was amazing to see how the elephant enjoyed the scrub and the wash. We all had great fun in this. Sitting on the elephant is also an experience in itself.

Us at the elephant camp-2 @ Dubare

Once done, we wanted to do it again…:-)

A Coracle fun ride awaited us. Once more- a first time for all of us. Recently we had watched Raavan (movie) and there was a good coracle scene in the movie. But sitting in the coracle and balancing all sides must have taken a lot of practice from the coracle driver. All in all -nice fun.

Next on agenda after leaving the Dubare elephant camp was Bylakuppe Nandroling Monastery.

As per Wiki: Bylakuppe is the location of "Lugsum Samdupling" (established in 1961) and "Dickyi Larsoe" (established in 1969), two adjacent Tibetan refugee settlements, as well as a number of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. The Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery (or Thekchog Namdrol Shedrub Dargye Ling) is the largest teaching center of Nyingmapa – a lineage of Tibetan Buddhism – in the world. The monastery was established by throne-holder Kyabje Penor Rinpoche in 1963, following his 1959 exit from Tibet as the second seat of the Palyul Monastery, one of the six great Nyingmapa Mother monasteries of Tibet prior to annexation.

The monastery's full name is Thegchog Namdrol Shedrub Dargyeling, called "Namdroling" for short. Its initial structure was a temple constructed from bamboo, covering an area of approximately eighty square feet. Namdroling Monastery hosts several ceremonies yearly. Of particular interest are Tibetan New Year (Losar), the timing of which approximately matches Mardi Gras in the West. The monastery hosts traditional Lama Dances, oversize Thankga hanging from the sides of its buildings, as well as solemn processions throughout the monastery grounds spanning approximately two weeks.

From the approach road to the monastery, the Golden Temple looks beautiful. We were not prepared for the beauty that lay within. The people there are very polite hosts.

Sonakshi with monks

Nandroling Monastery-1

The Triad:

Guru Padmasambhava:
Guru Padmasambhava

Crown of Guru PadmaSambhava:
Guru Padmasambhava crown

Guru Amitayus:
Guru Amitayus

There is a small shopping cente there where we had some momos and then we headed for Bangalore around 1330 hours post lunch. While returning, we made good speed because it was sunny but we decide to give the shortcut through Ranganthittu a miss and go via Mysore just to get a feel of that road as well. The road via Mysore is a good 20 KMS, of good quality, around the Mysore city, almost same the distance through the Ranganthittu road but the minus point is there is more traffic than the shortcut.

Finally after a couple of stops on the road back to Bangalore, we reached home around 1900 hours. By that time the odo read 670 KMS. Car guzzled around 32 litres of petrol giving an average of 20 KMPL without AC. The service just before the trip helped.

Overall, this has been a memorable journey for us and extremely enjoyable. Hope you also loved the travelogue…and before I close for this blog, let me also quote from the net as to why is Coorg called the Scotland of India ( )
1. The British planter community was mostly Scots. It was they who affectionately called Coorg ‘The Scotland of India’ because of the many uncanny similarities.
2. Both Scotland and Coorg were cold, misty, mountainous regions. Both had potent local brews.
3. Both peoples thought of themselves as being very distinct from their neighbors. They loved their independence, their dances, rough sport, a good hunt and a fierce fight. The Scots and the Coorgs, stood their ground almost right through their history against vastly superior neighbouring kingdoms.
4. The Coorgs, like the Scots are divided into clans. There the Stuart and the MacLeary, here the Pattamada and the Kambiranda. The clans warred constantly in both lands, in the early days, fortunately clan memories are short and today there is complete peace.
5. Both the Scots and the Coorgs had, actually still have, a distinctive dress. Though worn on ceremonial occasions today - the knee length kilt and the knee length kupya, were designed for quick movement in wet, grassy hills.
6. A love of arms…while the Scots had their dirks (short daggers), the Coorgs had their peechekathis, carved, sheathed daggers which they kept tucked into the cotton cummerbunds, which held together the wraparound cloaks they wore.
7. If Scotland has the Highland Games, Coorg has its own flavour of the same. Rough and tumble contests, including the ritual sharp-shooting of coconuts placed on trees during the Festival of Arms. And what is probably the largest hockey tournament in the world. Over 300 clans compete for the Coorg Family Cup ever year.
8. Fittingly, many of the estates in Coorg have Scottish names. Names that roll off the tongue like the rain off the red tiled roofs. Names that remind you of childhood, of days gone by, when things were slow, gentle and perfect. Dalquarren, Craigmore, Dunkeld, Glenmore…sometimes the semi-Indian name like Coover Colly (‘colly’ means a ‘little pond’ here). Or the local but curious names like Nari Kad, meaning Tiger’s Forest. And Karadi Gud which means Bear Cave.

PS: Some more photograohs will be updated shortly...