Travelling Abroad 101

This post was also published on HotFridayTalks.com

Who doesn’t like to travel? Our glossy magazines and social media feeds seem to be filled with pictures of people in exotic locales across the world. And let’s not forget the steady diet of Switzerland and Canada in our Bollywood films! But, if you haven’t yet left desi shores to travel outside India – I mean, ever – it can all get a bit intimidating.

No worries, this post might help you master the basics and make the transition a pleasant one…

Visas

First things first! If you are an Indian traveller going abroad, you will find that most places will require a visa, which typically means documentation and visa fees. Some countries also require explicit permission letters from the destination country as a part of the application process, while others involve in-person interviews that may or may not be scheduled in your city of residence. That said, there are also a few countries that are relatively easier to access via simple visa formalities or even visa-on-arrival. So, do some research online (or through your preferred travel agent) to learn what it takes before you zero-in on the destination. Of course, visas get stamped on passports. So make sure you have one that doesn’t expire in the next 6 months.

Getting By

Most popular cities have traffic congestion during peak hours on popular routes – way worse than you can imagine. Thankfully, most popular destinations also have cheap, fast alternatives to help tourists (and locals) get around. These include Rapid Transit systems like the MRT or SkyTrains popular across South East Asia, with many major international airports also connected to the city center through an Airport Express system. Bear in mind that in some cities, it may cost you nearly as much as hailing a cab (for a group of 4), but you’ll save a significant amount of time not being stuck in traffic.

Connectivity

Carry your India SIM for emergency, but ask for a local SIM (destination country) as a prepaid card for your second slot. You can even carry a spare handset if you don’t have a dual-SIM phone. You will find that most travel destinations have very attractive short-term offers for calling, data and messaging on prepaid plans, aimed at visiting tourists. You may need to show your passport to get a connection.


“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.”
Augustine of Hippo


Sights & Sounds

When it comes to taking in the sights, tourist-friendly destinations have a lot to offer. Unlike most places in India, you may not save much money by showing up at the venue and buying the ticket there. Online ticket websites and travel desks of popular hotels may charge you the same (original) price, and include free transport to and from your hotel. Ask around to figure out what works better.

Shopping

At most popular malls in tourist-friendly cities, there will often be a designated place/exit/gate where you can queue up for taxis that take you back to your hotel. The queues may be long during peak hours, but are the quickest way to get a cab, unless you have a vehicle on standby.

Lost?

Many hotels I have stayed in across the world have “contact cards” at the reception with the hotel’s contact details, a tiny map and the address printed in the local language and in English. Pick up some copies from the hotel desk, and carry them with you, especially if you are travelling to a city where the locals may not speak/understand English. It will help you re-trace your steps back to the hotel from an unfamiliar location. On that note, it is also a good idea to carry a print of some emergency numbers like the nearest local hospital, the Indian embassy, etc. for those times when unforeseen events happen.

Respect

Last but not the least, remember to conduct yourself in a manner that is appropriate and respectful of local customs. Some countries also prescribe what is appropriate (and not appropriate) to wear for ladies, or inside their temples of worship, or on the palace grounds of the reigning monarch. Other cities have very strict rules about what is permitted through customs or what is allowed (and not allowed) as a part of their traffic regulations. Read a little about what’s ok and what’s not, so you are on the right side of the law. And, don’t forget to set a good impression for your country, when you’re in a foreign land!

Enjoy your travels…

Mumbai-Pune Puncture Scam

If you live in any of the major cities of India, and own a vehicle, you’re more than likely to have heard of many popular cons that happen in and around the city to unsuspecting motorists. Typically, they involve someone flagging your running vehicle down, and pointing out a problem you need to get fixed. Then, another helpful someone shows up out of the blue, and attempts to “fix” the problem, eventually making it worse, and making you shell out thousands before you can be on your way again. One variant of this also includes throwing out sharp nails on your road stretch, causing some punctures, and then going about fixing them.

Since I was aware of many of these, I thought that I would be insulated from such scams. But, I was wrong.

On a recent trip with the family to Pune, just as we entered the Pune city limits on the Mumbai-Pune expressway (near Hinjewadi), a man on a bike signalled that I should get my front-left tyre checked… and rode away without stopping.

Since he didn’t stop to “help” me, I took his warning as genuine, and soon stopped the car by the kerb. The tyre pressure in my tubeless tyre did look a little lower than normal, so I thought I should get it checked as soon as possible. As it turns out, close to where I’d stopped was a roadside tyre repair shack, so I headed there and asked him to check it.

Again, note that there was no way for me to link the biker who rode away without glancing back, and the tyre shack who was supposedly minding his own business when I drove upto him.

Anyway, he jacked up the wheel and starting checking the tyre in question with some soapy liquid for air bubbles. I did ask why they use soap (which would froth and bubble on its own) instead of plain water, but he said they help him spot the puncture leaks better. I wasn’t too worried since I was keeping a sharp eye out for what was a real air bubble from inside the tyre, and what was on the surface.

During the conversation, repeating the process through the entire surface of the tyre, the good man found (and showed me proof of!) 8 different puncture leaks – big and small. The physics seemed sound: Unless the leaks are fixed, they would keep increasing in size. Plus, I was travelling with kids and the trip hadn’t even begin yet. Plus, I was 200 kms from my home city (and trusted garage). So, all things considered, I asked him to go ahead and fix all of them at 150 bucks a pop.

All the way home, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss. So, when I returned, I went to have a word with my local garage, who I have known for years and has yet to cheat me in any way. Here’s what he told me…

This is a very common scam on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. In all likelihood, while the chap at the tyre shack was “checking” for a puncture, as soon as I glanced away, he probably used his poker to make more tiny holes which later he could prove as punctures, so that he could charge me for each fix. Checking for punctures in tubeless tyres should be done by dismounting the wheel, putting it in a bath of liquid and filling it with high pressure.

Not only did I get conned for a thousand bucks, but I also ended up damaging a good tyre for the long run.

Shockingly, I came home to look this up on the Net and could hardly find any stories of similar experiences. Hence, this post to warn other unsuspecting motorists of what to watch for. If enough of us are armed with the correct information, it will be difficult for the scamsters to do their thing, don’t you think?

Hopefully, this should save you from ruining another good tyre and a few thousand bucks…

 

Bombay to Udaipur

In April 2011, we embarked on our first “long drive” from Bombay to Goa. In May 2012, we once again attempted the same trip, this time older and wiser. Then, came some months of back trouble, which reached such a low that I did not think I would drive again. However, having made a full recovery this year, high on the agenda was a drive to Udaipur…

I was told by friends who had done it before that the Bombay to Udaipur journey is longer than Goa (approx. 800 kms each way, instead of about 650 kms), but easier to do. In any case, we decided to make the most of the road trip, and not stress about reaching Udaipur before sun down. So we planned a halt at Vadodara, both ways.

That turned out to be a good decision since Vadodara is a nice, clean city that resides roughly halfway to Udaipur. You also have the option of breaking journey at Ahmedabad, which is roughly an hour’s drive further north from Vadodara.

Here is the log from our trip… Bear in mind that, depending on your starting point, milestones may vary by 3-4 kms. Also, our goal was to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Therefore, these logs will reflect that attitude in the stops we made.

  • Departure @ 6.10 am from Powai, Odo set to 0 kms
  • Stopped at Kamat’s @ 76kms, 7.45 am for breakfast (30 mins)
  • Other milestones: McDonald’s @ 162 kms, Hotel Tulsi @ 171 kms
  • Sugar and Spice food plaza @ 198 kms with clean loos
  • Other milestones: Sugar and Spice @ 243 kms, McDonald’s @ 262 kms
  • Stopped at Hotel Swagat for lunch @ 276 kms, 1.30 pm (45 mins)
  • Arrived at Vadodara around 3.30 pm, 410 kms
  • Started next morning at 8.15 am, towards Udaipur!
  • Breakfast stop (30 mins), 10.30 am  at the start of Ring Road (Many hotels and loos)
  • Stopped at the Vintage Car Museum (1 hour) @ 519 kms
  • Stopped at Hotel Landmark for lunch at 2pm (Bad loo) @ 175 km before Udaipur i.e. 587 kms from Mumbai
  • Multiple petrol pumps seen soon after crossing the Rajasthan border @ 648 kms
  • Reached Udaipur at 850 kms, 6 pm

On the whole, the roads were smooth and the drive was pleasurable. The journey on the way back was somewhat less eventful…

  • Departure from Udaipur at 6.20 am, Odo set to 0 kms
  • Stopped for breakfast at Hotel Aashirvad, 103 kms, 7.45 am
  • Other milestones: Hotel Ashish @ 122 kms (bigger and better), Hotel Asopalav @ 138 kms (biggest!)
  • At 10 am @ approx. 32 kms before Ahmedabad, we took a detour via Gandhinagar, to visit the Sabarmati Ashram
  • Stopped at the Ashram @ 257 kms
  • Joined the Ahmedabad expressway again @ 270 kms, at 12 pm
  • At 349 kms, 12.50 stopped at a sad food court about 15 kms from Vadodara to fill fuel and reached the city soon after
  • Departed next morning at 7.10 am, 385 kms
  • Breakfast stop (30 min) at 9.05 am at a big food court with nice loos, CCD, etc. @ 507 kms
  • Also, Sugar and Spice @ 560 kms, and a big Kamat’s @ 637 kms
  • Stopped at 12.20 pm at Hotel Ahura (45 mins) for awesome Parsi food @ 691 kms (on opp. side of the road)
  • Reached home (Powai) at 3.10 pm with 810 kms on the odo

The stretch from Udaipur to Vadodara was even better, since the detour via Gandhinagar meant that we bypass the only stretch that has two-way traffic. Driving through Gandhinagar was also an experience worth doing!

A common lament across all my road journeys remains the woefully inadequate facilities we have across the country, when it comes to washrooms and clean water.

A new phenomenon we encountered during our Ahmedabad to Udaipur to Ahmedabad stretch is spotting a number of vehicles that looked clearly ‘lived-in’, and carrying multiple passengers, but without any license plates! So watch out in case you get into an accident with one such dubious vehicle.

City of Joy

It’s been a while since I blogged. Moving to a new job has kept me busy, these past few months. It’s been a particularly demanding, challenging and exciting journey, but it hasn’t left me much time for anything else, including blogging. In August, I also moved my blogs to WordPress.com, and that migration took the good part of a precious weekend, but I digress. Before I joined my new employer, I took the opportunity to go on a trip to a city I’ve longed to see for more than a decade – Kolkata.

Kolkata is a city unlike any other in India, or so I’d heard until I actually saw it for myself. Now, I know it to indeed be so. I chose the last week of June – one of its hottest and most humid – not by choice, but because I was in between jobs and that was the only window I had. Yes, I’d done a fair bit of research online, and also spoken to my “bong” friends who were very generous with their long lists of things that should be ‘must-see’ on my agenda. But, I also wanted to keep it free flowing… experience Kolkata as it happens to me.

And, as it turned out, that was a wonderful idea!

I hailed a non-airconditioned yellow ambassador taxi from the airport, since that was the most classical way to traverse the city of joy. I’d chosen to stay on Sudder Street, since it was very popular with foreigners who backpacked across India, and also close to the famous Park Street. Sudder Street, and its adjoining New Market, were a full-blown sensory experience, giving me the chance to take in the sights and sounds of the city in all its glory. Most places I wanted to see were a short taxi ride away, which was convenient since it saved me a lot of time.

Over the course of the next four days, I did almost everything I wanted to do on my list – circumnavigate the famous Maidan, go to the Indian Museum, visit the Victoria Memorial monument, photograph St. Paul’s Cathedral, go up and down the legendary Park Street several times, ride the Kolkata Metro, spend some hours in the tranquil surroundings of the South Park Street Cemetery, drive over the Howrah and the Vidyasagar bridges, visit the old Howrah town, drive past Eden Gardens, experience the sprawling Science City on the outskirts, saw several street arguments, visit the glamorous and upmarket stretches of Salt Lake City, and of course use every opportunity to take in some Bengali food, including eating at Peter Cat (where my wife had enjoyed several meals as a youngster!).

In the end, the only things left unchecked on my list were a tram ride and a trip to see Mother Teresa’s home – these would have to wait until my next visit. Of course, there would be many more visits to come…

Kolkata touched me in a way that most cities haven’t, and I was glad that I was able to take this opportunity to experience it in a way that most tourists don’t. Kolkata has an uncanny ability to assimilate you into its culture. Once you’ve made it your own, so as to say, it’s almost impossible to see it like an “outsider” does. Most folks I know would have a love/hate relationship with the city – they would either think I’m nuts to think of Kolkata in these terms, or simply “get it”.

Vir Sanghvi described this sentiment beautifully when he wrote: “That’s why Calcutta is not for everyone. You want your cities clean and green; stick to Delhi. You want your cities, rich and impersonal, go to Bombay. You want them high-tech and full of draught beer, Bangalore’s your place. But if you want a city with a soul, come to Calcutta.

Bombay to Goa: Part Two

Please Note: This is an extension of my earlier post on a road trip from Bombay to Goa. Read that to get additional dope on this subject.

This April, we made a second road trip to Goa and back. This time around, however, we were far more experienced about what to expect. (For the record, the Mumbai-Pune-Kolhapur-Nipani-Ajara-Amboli-Sawantwadi-Mapusa route is still the best route to take.) I’m sharing my log file with you since many of you have written in about how helpful you found those pointers…

Bombay to Goa

We decided to get a two hour headstart by starting off from Pune early morning. So we ended up staying over in Pune one day prior to departure. In hindsight, that didn’t help much since the time on road (including breaks) from Pune to Goa also ended up taking 12 hours.

0545, 0 kms – Started from Pune (near Baner) via Katraj bypass
0625, 36 kms – Passed by McDonald’s @ Khedshivpur
0711, 80 kms – End of Khandala (Satara) ghats
0750, 96 kms – Clean loo, Petrol pump n Restaurant
0950, 208 kms – Passed by Sai Food Court
1000, 217 kms – Kini Toll Plaza
1025, 240 kms – Passed by 24-hr McD (Kolhapur) on the opp side
1123, 283 kms – Turn off NH4 towards Goa @ Hotel Kavery (very clean Indian-style loo for ladies)
1245, 325 kms – Hotel Minerva Paradise. Very clean loos + Lunch break 1 hr
1430, 362 kms – Passed by Kamat’s @ Amboli just before the ghats begin
1500, 378 kms – End of Amboli ghats

(Then we took a left for a shortcut to Mapusa, but you should avoid it as it’s an unpaved narrow that bypasses Sawantwadi; Go via Sawantwadi instead)

1545, 395 kms – Turn on to NH 17
1622, 426 kms – Turn right for Mapusa city
1645, 440 kms – Reached Hotel in Baga

Goa to Bombay

On the way back, we decided to split the journey at Kolhapur which is almost midway in terms of time taken.

0835, 0 kms reading – Started from Baga towards Mapusa, then onto NH17 for Sawantwadi
1020, 59 kms – Sawantwadi ends
1045, 72 kms – Amboli ghats begin
1140, 88 kms – Ghats end @ Kamat’s. (Loos not too functional)
1240, 120 kms – Hotel Minerva Paradise about 1 km before Ajara town
1345, 160 kms – Turn onto NH4
1430, 210 kms – Reached our Hotel in Kolhapur

Next day…

0915, 00 kms – Started from Kolhapur
1125, 137 kms – Anewadi Toll Plaza
1150, 166 kms – End of Satara (Khandala) ghats – bypassed through tunnel
1210, 187 kms – Big Kamat’s for lunch stop upto 1 pm
1325, 212 kms – New Katraj tunnel to enter Pune city
1415, 249 kms – Turn onto Pune-Mumbai Expressway
1520, 342 kms – Expressway ends @ Kharghar
1610, 371 kms – Airoli Toll Booth
1645, 382 kms – Home

Special thanks to the missus for logging in all this info on her cellphone throughout the drive. Have a safe one…

Bangkok: Travel Secrets

I love Thailand! I’ve been to Bangkok on work or leisure, more than a dozen times already, and can never get enough of it. Many of my friends keep asking me for “tips” on the destination. So I thought I’d pen it down in a post, once and for all. A word of caution: A vibrant city like Bangkok keeps evolving. This advice is valid as on Jan 2012, and may be more relevant to Indian travellers that are budget-conscious, than those that travel with no limits. So, here goes…

  • Visa rates keep changing – Check the latest consulate webpages to factor it into your plans
  • Thailand allows visa-on-arrival for many countries, but if you’re travelling with family, I’d suggest you get the paperwork done before leaving your country – The consulate is very efficient in processing visa requests
  • From the airport, a cab ride into the city center will cost you about 350-400 THB plus toll fees; If you’re travelling alone, you can also consider taking the Airport Express (skytrain) to a central location
  • Bangkok has terrible traffic congestion for much of the day; The fastest (and often, cheapest) way to get around is to take the BTS skytrain or underground MRT
  • Local SIM providers offer many options for prepaid cards with wild variations in call/internet rates; Find out the best plan for your needs by asking more questions on sms/call/data charges
  • If you’re travelling on work, and include some entertainment stops, research to find out if your ticket can be purchased at a discount by showing your work papers; Many places will also offer “international tourist” discounts!
  • Unlike most places in India, you may not save much money by showing up at the venue and buying the ticket – Online ticket sales will probably be at the same price but include free transport to and from your hotel
  • Most hotels will have “contact cards” at the reception with the hotel’s contact details and address printed in both Thai and English – Carry copies with you since many locals do not speak/understand English
  • At most popular malls in the city, there will be a designated place to queue up for cabs/taxis; The queues will be long during peak hours but are the quickest way to get a cab, unless you want to pay atrocious amounts for a “tuk-tuk” ride back to your hotel
  • Be wary of tuk-tuks that charge you very low fares or offer to take you for free, in exchange for a “quick stop” on the way. Google to know more on this.
  • If you’re travelling with kids, do consider including SafariWorld/MarineWorld, Siam Ocean World and DreamWorld in your itinerary; Bangkok’s Dusit Zoo is also a fun way to spend the day
  • If there’s one mall you must visit during your stay, make it MBK (National Stadium); 4th floor is full of gadgets & electronics, 6th floor has an inexpensive food court and the 5th floor has a newly-opened upmarket food court
  • Siam Paragon also has a very good food court on its lobby level, in addition to Siam Ocean World
  • If you’re a vegetarian, please check before you order; Many Asian countries include eggs, fish and chicken in their definition of “veg”!
  • Thailand offers some amazing architecture, and I’d recommend Wat Traimit, Wat Po and Wat Ben. If you’re visiting temples, research the dress code – many of them do not allow shorts, sleeveless shirts and other casual wear.
  • The Chaophraya River Cruise is a nice and expensive way to see all the major sights along the river while enjoying an international buffet, but you can catch a ferry at very low cost by hopping on to river taxis if you’re in the mood for some adventure
  • The Siam Niramit cultural show is a musical extravaganza of very high production values (similar to the Alangkarn shown in Pattaya), but plan to reach there a few hours ahead of the show time to experience the rest
  • Thai folks are warm, friendly and speak in a peculiar dialect of English – you may take a while to understand their version but when you do, it’s fun!

Remember, Bangkok can be a perfectly valid “family destination”, and is nothing like the reputation it used to enjoy some years ago (unless, of course, you go looking for it). Hope you get to experience all that it has to offer…

Mumbai Local

After some years, I found myself taking one of Mumbai’s local trains to go from one end of the city to another.  I also ended up tweeting about everything I experienced during that journey.  This short poem has evolved from those tweets…

LED displays
Improved ventilation
Faster fans
And cushioned seats
Mobile phones
Seem to be with all of you
Everything looks new in a Mumbai Local

Shoe-shine boys
AH Wheeler
The smell of popcorn
Eunuchs onboard
Pocket radios for some
And a Ray Ban too!
Life sure is interesting on a Mumbai Local

Abusive cop
Scared little kid
Girlfriend-Boyfriend
And an office exec
Vegetable vendors
And a Parsi bawa too
Every one takes the Mumbai Local

Fast train screams past
Marine Lines sea breeze
I arrive at Churchgate
By a window seat
Reached in no time
In 6 rupees too!
Is there anything better than a Mumbai Local?

Bombay to Goa!

I’ve been driving for more than 15 years.  There were years when the office commute itself was a 50 km/day affair (in Mumbai’s traffic that’s quite a distance to cover).  There were also the occassional trips to Pune via the Expressway, but even on a same-day-return journey, that added up to just about 380 kms in a day.  I have always harboured the desire to drive coast-to-coast across the US, and also explore India by road.  But, hadn’t attempted a really “long drive”… until last week.

We had planned to do a Bombay-to-Goa with both our kids, and I’m happy to report that we all made it back in one piece, and are raring to go again!

The distance is about 650 kms, each way.  And, to get the full experience of a long drive, we decided to do it in one stretch.  The planned drive time was about 14 hours, each way, but we ended up clocking nearly 17 hours!  It was a memorable trip, and I was really pleased that, in spite of a back operation a few years ago, I was able to do this.  We chose the superb NH4 route instead of the usual NH17 one, and it was a fantastic experience…

Here’s what I learned from my first long drive:

– Start by 5 am for a >12-hour road trip; A half-hour in the morning is worth two by evening
– If travelling with kids, carry enough food in the cabin (not in the boot), in case you’re stranded
– On a long road trip, the journey is as important as the destination; Don’t be in a hurry to “reach”
– Wear comfortable attire and shoes – whatever you’re most comfortable in, including floaters
– Plan your route in advance and key-in important via points into your GPS – it will do wonders!
– Don’t start with six options and assume that you’ll decide on the way; Re read above point
– Carry enough water and consume it as frequently as possible; Car ACs dehydrate you
– Don’t take a new car / new pair of shoes / new camera on a long road trip; I didn’t
– Don’t forget to pack your sense of humour with you – no one likes a cabin full of grump
– Know a little about the kind of food you’ll encounter en route e.g. Kolhapur = Spice
– There are at least 20 people in Goa who run at 5.30 am; Watch out for them when you drive!

For the record, the best way to go from Bombay to Goa is from Mumbai to Pune via the expressway and then onto NH4 (buttery-smooth six-lane ribbon of tar!) past Satara – Kolhapur – Nipani (right turn) – Ajara – Amboli (ghats) – Sawantwadi – joining NH17 and then onto Mapusa/Panjim/Madgaon.  Also for the record, the worst way to cross the ghats (mountainous region) is via Anmod.

For those of you who’re interested in our particular travel log, here’s what happened:

(All distances from Powai) Started at 5.15 am. McDonalds @ 6.12 am, 42km. Hit NH4 near Baner (Pune) @ 7.45 am, 145k.  Khed tollbooth @ 8.45 am, 180k. Passed thru Khandala ghats (before Satara) @ 9.30 am, 225k. Next tollbooth @ 249k. Break for lunch @ 1.15 in McDonald’s (opp. side) at 384k. Past Hattari SEZ @ 3.15 pm, 460k.  Entered Belgaum city @ 4.30 pm.  Went via Khanapur road (NH4A) upto Anmod ghats.  Took a few wrong turns trying to follow a “shortcut”, and got lost in the wilderness of a 133 sq. km nature reserve with no sign of civilisation until about 9 pm, when we hit NH4 again near Ponda.  (This last part is entirely optional, and I don’t suggest you try it.)  Then, hit the road to Madgaon and reached Colva @ 10 pm.

(All distances from Colva) Started @ 5.30am. Sawantwadi @ 92k, 7.45am. Amboli ghats end  (Kamat’s hotel) @ 8.55 am. Hotel Minerva @ 2km before Ajara @ 10:15 am, 152k – very clean loo.  Hit NH4 @ 12PM, 192k.  No decent place to eat except McD @ Kolhapur and Sai Food Court @ 265k and some more options @ 285k.  Taswade tollplaza @ 2.35p, 315k. Asal Satara has great food on the opp. side via service road @ 355 k. Last tollbooth on Mum-Pun expressway @ 8pm, 540k. Expressway ends @McDonald’s @ 8.20pm, 570k.  Then, pray that the city traffic does not take all the joy out of your long drive (as it did to our’s).

Happy journey…

P.S. Thanks for all the help, DM.

Read Also: Bombay to Goa – Part Two

Amazing Thailand

I love Thailand! 

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Thailand on four earlier occassions, some work and some vacation.  And, it was for a business partner meet that I visited the cities of Bangkok and Pattaya, this July.  Here’s what happened next…

Checked in at a lovely sea-side hotel in Pattaya
Headed for the Pattaya Tower observatory
Shopped till I dropped!
Fish Spa pedicure in the mall
Much-needed foot massage
More shopping!
An awesome traditional Thai massage experience
Business conference and Gala night dinner
Won an award for excellent business support provided!!!
Walked on Walking Street till 2.30 am
Headed to Bangkok, stopping at the giant Gems Gallery enroute
Visited the magnificent Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit)
Dinner cruise on the Chaophraya river
Shot all the glorious temples on both sides of the river, from the boat!
Quick trip to another Thai temple before breakfast
4 hours in the shopping maze of MBK
And finally, took the evening flight back to Bombay

What a ride!!!

P.S. Photos will be posted on the photoblog, through July-Aug 2010

Location Based Future

TechCrunch recently featured a guest post written by the famous Robert Scoble – one of the most popular (stalked) users of location-based services and someone who has more than 8,000 friends on Foursquare already!  The post was about what the location-based world could look like in 2012, and what might keep it from happening:

It’s January 2012 and you’ve just gotten your new Android 3.0-based phone. You’re going on a road trip so you start up the newly-released Foursquare. Gone are the checkins of 2010. Now you tell it where you’re going. This time we’re headed to Harrah’s at Stateline, Nevada. But this is no Foursquare you’ve ever seen before. They’ve finally integrated Waze, Tungle.me, and Yelp information into it. So, let’s discover more of what happens on our trip.

As we pull out of my driveway in Half Moon Bay we cross a geofence that sends alerts to the various systems that I’ve connected to Foursquare. Tungle.me knows I’m meeting Mike Arrington for dinner at Harrah’s. He gets an alert on his mobile phone that I’m on my way and Glympse sends him the ability to watch my progress so he’ll know if I’ll be on time. Plancast lets me know that four friends are attending the Black Eyed Peas concert at Harrah’s tonight. I see that Siri is offering to find me tickets, so I ask it to find me some tickets under $400 each…

… When we arrive at Harrah’s, we cross another geofence which lets Arrington know we’re here. It also checks us into Foursquare, and tells us: “there are 29 other people we know about, including three of your friends.” Then Siri (which received a message from our geofence) chimes in with: “are you still having dinner with Mike Arrington at 8 p.m. at Friday’s Station Steak & Seafood Grill?” I answer: “yes.” That goes away, but on screen is a Yelp review about that restaurant and I realize that the attire is dressy and I only have jeans and t-shirts. So, I ask Siri: “are there any other four-star restaurants like Friday’s Station nearby?” It answers with a list from Yelp and then it starts showing places that still have spots left for us this evening by querying OpenTable’s APIs. Siri then tells me it has found two seats for tonight’s show at Harrah’s outdoor arena, and asks if it should buy them from Stubhub?

Read the whole thing.  It’s fascinating.  And, the best part is that most of the technology Scoble talks about is already here!  It’s just not talking to each other, yet.