Worn ‘n’ Torn

Day 1:

The other day, I was leaving office. Back at the parking lot I looked at my Motorbike; old, worn and tired…kind of like the person who drives it. Since it is from a previous era, there is no push start buttons to your aid. Just the old school kick start.

While making my way through the traffic, I couldn’t help but think:

‘I wonder what must be on it’s mind? Will it be happy with itself in comparison with other motorbikes around? sure couldn’t be’

‘The newer bikes could run a riot around this one. They will achieve in less than 4000 rpm, what my bike won’t be able to at redline. What still keeps this motorbike running other than the fuel I pour in?’

I must admit it looks decent,the body is still in good shape especially the paint. It looks classic with it’s old school naked bike styling. I haven’t done much to ruin its look.

‘But how long just with your looks? Not fast, not really efficient, just an average motorbike.’

Would the motorbike feel itself useless, if it had a soul… I wondered. Times have changed so have many things.

‘No one cares for how much of a head-turner you were once upon a time. That time is clearly over. It feels today though that you have no real value apart from a few people looking at you once in a while. You are being over-taken left right and center by bigger, better and more desirable motorbikes.’

‘Knowing all this how do you put yourself on the road every single day. Just literally to be mocked and over-taken by well-equipped , better sounding and better looking motorbikes. How do you manage son? Isn’t it an inch by inch death?’

Day 2:

It rained heavily in the past 3 hours and there is no signs of rains stopping for another couple of hours. I was moving alongside the slow traffic. The water was ankle deep and didn’t concern me at this point.

Moving further, water level rose and soon it reached knee level. This concerned me a little but I chose not to stop. The engine is still clear of water, so is the exhaust.

In just a matter of minutes, the water level rose from knee level to hip level. Cars stopped, other motorcycles stopped by the side. I could see those motorcycles almost submerged in the water. My logic was to open the throttle and not let water in the exhaust, since the exhaust was below water level. Stupid logic, but at that time it occurred to me as a bright idea. Did the motorbike stop? Yes at the last stretch of water logged street it did. Did it start again? Yes. It limped with me on our way back home.

Day 3:

The motorbike was still alive. It worked as if if nothing happened yesterday. It kept running and it still does.


 

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Avalabetta Peak – Half day trip from Bangalore

Avalabetta hills or Avalabetta peak is another weekend getaway around 100 kms from Bangalore. All said and done, probably it isn’t wise to go there on a weekend? Just like Nandi hills, maybe it’s crowded. I would always visit this place on a weekday.

What is different from Nandi hills which is around 30-40 kms closer going from Bangalore?

For one, the trek to the top is challenging while you don’t trek at all in Nandi hills. You just park your car, take pictures and leave in Nandi hills. No, that’s not true. Nandi hills have a few other things to offer as well. But let’s concentrate on Avalabetta for now. At Avalabetta, they have the entrance gates closed. So you park your car/motorbike and walk up. Say 3-4 kms? Feels quite long if you are unprepared (which I was). Compared to Nandi hills, it’s more dangerous. No safety rails and the rocks are easily accessible. You just need to be careful. I too climbed the rocks and I’m still alive, so just be careful. If your gut feeling says that you are stretching your luck, you stop right there. Also make sure there is someone to help you if you are going to climb these rocks. Friends, other tourists. It’s a tricky place to easily get stuck.

There are good views and you can easily manage to get a couple of good photographs early in the morning. Nandi hills security check-post opens only at 6 am which is kind of disappointing because the sun is already out by the time you reach the top. I’m not sure if Avalabetta hills have any such security measures. I hope it doesn’t.

So go there on a weekday. You can trek, you can take pictures and you can see lot of monkeys. There is a temple at the top and fantastic views on both right and left side of the temple leading to the rocks.

Last but not the least, the drive to the place is nice. Around 80 percent of the drive is on NH with good roads and the rest not so good village roads. Motorbikes can be fun, but I did it in a car. Starting early can help you beat the summer heat, also get you some good pictures. Some members of tripadvisor reports that the security guard asked for money. I didn’t see any security guard, though there were people selling water bottles, fruits and butter milk. Also there were reports of restrictions due to safety issues, again I’m unaware if that exists now.

A view from Avalabetta hills

 

Go-Karting in Bangalore

Whenever I visit a new place, I check for karting facilities nearby. A vice that I have been nurturing for long. Many great Formula 1 drivers have started their career on karts, also they are comparatively lesser expensive way of connecting poor people like me to Motorsports.

Like many say they can forget their worries listening to music, I say I forget my worries behind the steering wheel of a kart (wish I could afford more,lol). You take your focus away from the job in hand only to end up in a pile of tires or a cloud of dust. In the last karting place I’d been to, I saw a lady who was trying her hands on go-karting, crash into the dusty tires. Re-affirmation to the importance of focus.

Now to the actual subject…

Google handed me a huge list and it was up to me to select the places. Based on my search here are the 10 places (with useful links)I bookmarked.

Since karting tracks are away from the city and Bangalore being notoriously bad for it’s traffic, I couldn’t visit all of the above mentioned places. Most of them aren’t worth your time and money from the YouTube videos I watched.

Priorities vary depending on people and hence I will put down a quick review of places I have visited. My priorities are simple:

  • Driving experience
  • Condition of go-karts
  • Technicality and condition of the track
  • Customer service
  • Value for money

There are people who kart with their families/friends/cousins/relatives as a weekend getaway or a family outing. My opinion won’t be of much help to them, they probably want to have a good time which is not the primary intention of this post.

Gurukuls Go-Karting: (Rs. 250 for 6 laps)

The place had 4+ stars review in Google. To me this place was a big disappointment. The track was small, karts were below average and nothing great about the staff (two young lads). I went there on a weekday. Also I believe they cheated on the number of laps and I was only allowed 5 laps instead of 6. I couldn’t care less. I’m never going back there.

I would rate this place a 2/5. Make sure you count your laps or have someone counting it for you.

Meco kartopia: (Rs. 750 for 6 mins for Rotax karts and other options…)

My favorite of the lot. They have variety of options in terms of price (differ according to the power of the kart and time); the one I chose was the most powerful Rotax kart, the most expensive option as well. They claim to have 21 horsepower but I doubt that. The track was nice and long, though not very technical. The corners are low to medium to high speed after a long straight which makes it exciting. I visited the place on a weekday and they had one section of this track closed which makes this track very simple. The karts were powerful, would be an understatement. Give it to a person doing this for the first time and see him end up in dirt trail outside the track. I had difficulty fitting in those karts but I take full responsibility of that. My body weight has been on the higher side for the past 1 year due to laziness.

I would rate this place a 3.5/5. Check with the reception and they will give you the lap timings. This place also organizes various autocross events, karting events and I hope someday I can drive in such events.

Karting track, Meco Kartopia
Rotax Kart, Meco kartopia

Red riders sports: (Rs. 650 for 12 laps and other options…)

I have a love-hate relationship with this place. I love the fact that the track had number of corners, but at the same time hate the fact that karts were pathetic. The karts felt absolutely under-powered. Unlike Meco kartopia, there are lack of straight sections where you can go super fast and even if there were, you would been a year older by the time you cleared it.

I would rate this place 2.5/5 for their facility and good staff.

Red riders sports, go kart track

Play Arena: (Rs.240 for 6 laps)

Seriously?

The track is the smallest with lap times less than 20 secs. So you are paying Rs. 240 for 120 secs of fun and the real question… is it really fun? I stood outside the track and wondered, then promptly left the place.

I rate this place 1/5

Go kart track, play arena.
  1. Patels Inn, RT Nagar: (Rs. 140 for 6 laps)

Patels Inn is a resort, so nothing much to expect. The only thing that is positive about the place is price. The track is small and I think I finished 6 laps under 75 secs. Karts are in pathetic condition. Make sure you get the elbow protector (they gave me one without asking) because the rear is not insulated.

I rate this place 1.5/5. The fact that it is cheap made me give it a higher rating other wise it was 1/5 or less.

Patels Inn, Go kart trackThe above mentioned places, I visited personally and these are my thoughts regarding the place. In future, if I happen to visit any of the places that I have missed out or any new place, I shall update them here.

Go-karting in India is mainly a pass time; mostly a weekend fun getaway or a friends meeting spot. Karting deserves much more. Watching the European karting championship is as thrilling as watching a proper race. I hope karting gets bigger and better in India in the coming years.


 

 

When breath becomes air – my opinion about the book

‘When breath becomes air’ is one of the most moving books that I have read. Not that I have read many books but I’m sure anyone who has read this book won’t have a different opinion about the book.

Paul Kalanithi, the author of this book, was a phenomenal writer. His writing was engaging and the book is one good journey through his life. I sat wondering that if all he had mentioned in the book is true which I hope is, Paul could have done so much more with his life in the field of neuroscience. He could have also made his mark in the field of literature. The man was already a brilliant surgeon when he was diagnosed with cancer. I would refrain from going any further about his disease.

Though I have never met him in person, my heart has a lot of respect for the man. In the book he had mentioned spending 100 plus hours a week at work showing his love for the profession. Doctors who show such level of dedication are a rare find. As a reader I could find a connect with him.

It is a small book, one that can be finished in a day or less yet a powerful one. With a cup of coffee, this book won’t disappoint anyone who enjoys reading about people and life.

When breath becomes air

 

Koh Mook – Another island worth a visit

If Koh Kradan was oreo then Koh Mook would be something like 50-50; sweet and salty. My next stop was Koh Mook which was another wonderful island, larger an island than Koh Kradan, but still Koh Kradan is just wonderful. Koh Kradan is just like the lazy river of that amusement park you visit. The only thing you need to do is snorkel and laze around. Unlike Koh Kradan though, there are quite a few things you can do on this island.

Long pier at Koh Mook

The name of the resort I had to check in was ‘Koh Mook Nurse House’. This is around 20 mins walk from the pier where the long tail boat drops you. Located in the middle of fishermen’s cottage, this place looks less like a resort. For a second, I wondered if I made the right choice booking the resort. I had no reason to complain though, the stay was cheap. The room was small, bathroom was not that great and location was not in favor either for this place.

Koh Mook Nurse House

 

 

 

 

 

But in fact I really took a liking to the place. The people running the place (also run a restaurant next to the resort) were amazing. The food was above average but the hospitality was mind-blowing. I really felt at home.

Meeting Alphons and his family was another wonderful experience for me. They were a couple from Vienna, Austria who ran a family restaurant, now on their annual vacation. I spent a lot of time chatting with them.

Getting there:

If you are coming straight to Koh Mook, then you may use tigerline ferry services or any of such agencies to get you there. If you are island hopping, there are long tail boats from one island to another for as much as 300 THB/person.

Where to stay:

There is charlie’s beach resort which is nice. Most of the tourists on our boat were going to Charlie’s beach resort. It’s also expensive. From the pier, it’s 50 THB/person for taxi to take you to Charlie’s beach resort ie if you are going from Koh Kradan to Koh Mook. Tiger line ferries stop near Charlie’s. They have their bookings also from the long tail boat station which is next to Charlie’s beach resort. Enough of Charlie, moving on there are other good resorts like the Sivalai beach resort which is also nice. The sunset view from their private beach is just amazing. The other places to stay are Mookies Bungalow, Coco lodge, Koh Mook Nurse house and so on.

Things to do:

One cannot miss the Emerald cave. It is just one of those places you would love. If you are staying at Charlie’s beach resort, rent a Kayak and go on a treasure hunt. This cave has a narrow tunnel and one has to swim through it.

Emerald caves (gopro image)
Gopro image, Emerald cave from the outside

I tried the Emerald cave (Morakot cave) half day tour which includes snorkel around the corals, then swimming to Emerald caves, gazing star fish and a round of the entire island. In the process you also see Big cave and couple of other beaches.

During the night time, you can go to Ting Tong Bar which is close to Mookies Bungalow. I spent my evenings tasting variety of food.

Also you have the option of renting a scooter to roam around the entire island. English is not widely spoken here and communication can be a bit of hassle if you are staying in the local communities like I did.

Best time to visit:

Same as Koh Kradan, November to March would be the best time to visit.

Things to carry:

Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Mosquito repellent, GoPro (maybe), swim suits. If you are snorkeling, you may rent the masks and fins.

Sunset at Sivalai Beach, Koh Mook

 

Journey home…

The constant cruise, neither too slow to make anyone whine nor too fast to miss out the little details of outside through the door. A gentle breath of wind, neither too strong to put you in discomfort nor too soft to go unnoticed. The melodramatic nature, greeting me with sun not too harsh or droplets of rain depending on when I am traveling.  Irrespective of my travel dates, the view outside is always green and smells pleasant scent , reminding me this is how Kerala smells.

The last leg of train journey to my little town has been my personal favorite for more than past twenty years. A flash of remembrance I long to wander through alone, more than staying in Kerala. Somethings are better unchanged.

Koh Kradan: A little island in Thailand

Three years back I visited Thailand, but that was Phuket, Phi Phi and other crowded parts (link). Times have changed, life has changed and my choices as well. This time I preferred the opposite. Thailand has a bunch of islands, some bustling with tourists and some not so much.

Finally with some help, I came across Koh Kradan. An island 3 kms long and with nothing to do, perfect. With 7 resorts/hotels sharing the spoils, this place is tiny. Yet I absolutely loved this place. Everything that I wanted an island to be. Minimum tourists, only basic facilities, zero Indians (this was not a criteria, but a fact), good place to swim/snorkel.

tn_d5200thailand20170208_60

Getting there:

All I did was book a Nok Air flight from Bangkok to Koh Kradan, which means Bangkok-Trang Airport(flight)- Trang pier(mini-bus)-Koh Kradan (ferry)+ a long tail boat to the shore (50 THB extra per person). I used this only as a means of transport to get to the place. There are definitely better options. I will suggest going to Trang airport and checking with all the tour operators you may find. This might even be cheaper, definitely cheaper. In case of Thailand, online is expensive. Also I’m sure there are options from Krabi.

Tigerline ferry has transfer services from Trang province to Koh Kradan, Koh Mook and lots more. I have been hearing negative reviews about them but I can say it is alright. Tigerline partners with Nok Air, so I had to travel to and fro in their ferry, minibus.

Let me a post a useful link from tripadvisor which I went through. link

Also let me add, Nok Air was one of the sweetest airline I have traveled in.

Nok Air flight
Nok Air flight

Where to stay:

From what I have heard, the island has only seven resorts. I stayed in ‘Paradise Lost’ resort which is in the middle of a forest. One km to the inside from main beach, luckily from the hotel they send someone to pick the luggage on a trolley. They have a few bungalows aka huts, small ones and slightly bigger ones. Bathroom is shared and Wifi is available only in common area.

My little huttn_d5200koh-kradan00420170222

 

 

 

 

 

My little hut

 

Few names of resorts I heard were: The seven seas resort, Kalume resort, Paradise Lost resort and on the cheaper side, Ao Niang Beach resort.

Best time to visit:

Nov-Mar

There might be no electricity during the nights in off season (Apr-Oct). Make sure you read the terms and conditions before booking your resort.

Things to do:

Go snorkeling :

In the morning when the sea is low, corals are easily accessible. Pick up your snorkel masks and swim around.

DCIM100GOPRO

Ao Niang Beach has a lot of corals as well. Sunset beach as name suggests has a great sunset view. The white sand is great, the beaches are clean and overall it is great fun.

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Main beach

Things to carry:

Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Mosquito repellent, GoPro (maybe), swim suits. Snorkel masks are available at resorts for a rent.

Hope you all enjoyed the post. Happy travelling!

A view of Ao Niang Beach at sunrise
A view of Ao Niang Beach at sunrise