Sunday, March 25, 2018

Cut the paani, save the Earth



How many of us recognize the legend Rajendra Singh? Also known as the 'Water Man of India', Rajendra Singh has helped revive water table in the dry region of Rajasthan and contributed towards water conservation through several methods of rain water harvesting. Decorated with Magsaysay Award, he was instrumental in bringing water back to over 1,000 villages and revived five rivers in Rajasthan, Arvari, Ruparel, Sarsa, Bhagani and Jahajwali.  If Rajendra Singh could do it, why cant we? His foresightedness has helped villagers survive drought. When are we going to do something about the receding water table and shortage of drinking water?

An initiative by Livpure #CuttingPaani has created a buzz everywhere which aims to create awareness on cutting down water wastage for the larger good. The video conveys it nicely.


Not only in restaurants or homes, one can practice this at their workplace as well. Take a look at the video showing the same. 

Current situation of water: Grim



-Water table is fast depleting and drinking water is NOT infinite.

-2015 saw Cape Town the worst effected with drought. Possibility of Day Zero was declared in January 2018 when the municipality would be forced to shut down the water supply and residents would rely on water collection points for drinking water with a cap of 25 litres for each household.   

-Mexico, Jakarta, Sao Paulo are struggling with scarce supply of water. 

Future situation of water: Grimmer

                                    
  
-Human's increasing demands for freshwater and protecting the eco system will be perhaps the biggest challenges to meet in coming few years.

-Melbourne, Australia may run out of water by the end of the decade.

-Water stress is increasing in India, China and Sub Saharan Africa. Bangalore is next on the list to be hit by severe water crisis. 


Best ways to save water and the grim situation:

1- Cut down wastage of water


-Use wet cloth or sponge to clean your car. Using water through hosepipe to wash cars wastes approximately 20-30 liters of precious water. Hubby bought a portable car washer that uses less than 1 liter of water. The water scarcity news badly effected him and he stopped using the car washer machine. He switched to microfiber cloth to clean wipe his car. pledging to zero water wastage. He feels proud about it and I appreciate his little effort towards saving water for the planet.

-Always carry a water bottle. This will avoid wastage of water in glass and will prevent you from buying plastic water bottles while travelling. 

-Turn the taps off when not in use. Every 5 minutes of running tap water drains out 4-5 liters of water. 

-Mop, don't wash. Husband was visibly disturbed after the water crisis of Cape Town did the rounds in news channels. He pulled up his socks and decided to contribute with the smallest things he could. For instance, he instructed the maid to mop the backyard and porch instead of throwing water and wiping. After all every drop counts.  

-Practice half flush- Using half the water for flush will help save 2-3 liters of water in one go. Small efforts only go a long way.

-Do not leave tap open while washing utensils. Infact washing utensils under running tap accounts for a huge wastage. If utensils are stacked together and rinsed with water from a tub,an individual will contribute saving 9-10 liters of water everyday. 

2. Reuse water 

-Birds die thirsty in the scorching summer. Reuse the left over disposable water in earthen water bowls for birds. You can use it for your pet's water bowl too. Even better, I collect water in a bottle to spray on leaves of trees in my garden/colony.  

-Use the unused drinking water from glass for plants/trees. They need it the most during summers.
Pic courtesy: http://remax-pueblo-co.com

-The above picture has been very popular on social media. This arrangement will direct used water to the flush tank. A two-in-one benefit straightaway!

- The water used for mopping the floor can be put to use by sweeping the terrace or staircase.  


3. Rainwater Harvesting 
Photo credit: Wikipedia
This is an age old practice that can stock millions of gallons of water. Careful and smart ways of water conservation can save us from drought like situation. Communities/ residential associations should come together to adopt rainwater harvesting.  

4. Protect trees

Depleting water table and other climatic changes run in a vicious cycle. Increasing population has led to deforestation and that further adds to global warming and shortage of water. How about doing your bit by planting trees around you? You can start with an occasion like birthday or anniversary and plant saplings. In next twenty years, you would be proud of your contribution with some fresh air to the environment and home to birds/rodents. Save the old trees. No body should encourage wood chopping or felling of trees. Remember, more trees means less CO2 emission and more oxygen.

5. Solar Power 

Solar power is used to produce electricity and reduces the pressure on hydro electricity. More the use of solar power, lesser the use of water and lesser the electricity bills. Even if a single solar panel can produce electricity for tubelights or fans of household, imagine the reduction in use of water for electricity production. Streetlights these days use solar power. Cochin has world's first fully solar powered airport. The project costed 620 million rupees. Kolkata's international airport, is planning to build a solar plant covering around 70 acres land that would reduce its electricity bill by one third. While cost is a detrimental factor, it can be countered with mass use of solar panels on larger scale.


Every drop of water counts and saving each drop will save the planet. What are we leaving behind for the coming generations to see? Drought, floods, melting glaciers, no forests, dying fauna? Saving water will help living beings survive. Its a necessity and lets not waste it.
Mere words will not help. Our actions will help save water.  I took the first step by pledging to save water. Have you signed the petition by Livpure yet? Sign the pledge now  if you haven't. Sign it here  

Saturday, March 17, 2018

5 reasons to visit Kuta, where everyday is a celebration





Paradise Island Bali is a superb amalgam of tradition and modern that encompasses happening beaches, beautiful nature, temples, great food and rich cultural heritage. You would find a variety of everything from one stretch of Bali to the other. While Northern Bali is a quiet and less touristy place, South Bali on the other hand is quite happening and lively. Among all the places of South Bali province, Kuta is the most popular and well known destination, which pops up in your Google search when you start to research about Bali. Those visiting Bali or have visited already, here are the top five reasons Kuta gives you to visit. 


1. For the most gorgeous sunset


Amid the crowd of sporty surfers, picnic lovers and lazy beach bums, you cannot miss the golden sun cooling off in the sea, painting the sky in vibrant hues. Watching sunset at Kuta beach is extremely relaxing and calming experience. The uncomplicated thing of nature might just make you feel spiritual, next to making you feel happy. For me this was one of the best places to watch the evening sky. Of course husband had a great time experimenting with his lenses. See his marvellous captures here.






2. Release baby turtles

In order to save marine life, Bali Sea Turtle Society has initiated a noble cause. They conserve turtle eggs, let them hatch and release the baby turtles everyday. This activity happens on Kuta beach at 4pm daily wherein visitors participate for free and help release baby turtles in  water. This was one of the best activities I participated in Bali. It not only feels good but also brings you close to nature. Read more about this activity in my blog post here.






3. Happening nightlife


With the hottest restaurants, trendy clubs and super cool eating joints, Kuta is the hub of happening night life. Scrumptious food and drinks, music, and relaxed people in partying mood are the best things about Kuta. The hotels or clubs facing sea make the best location to sway with the beats. It is so mood lifting and stress busting. Even if you are a quiet non-party person, you would love the energy in the air.You might even witness public events like I saw the independence day show. 


Balinese celebrating Indonesian independence at Kuta  



4. Vibrant Kuta market


From lip smacking food and relaxing massage parlous to colorful shops selling pieces of art, Kuta market has it all.  Buddha in different forms, carnival masks, gorgeous wall decors, cute fridge magnets, comfy summer clothes and lot of other things compel one to indulge in retail therapy. I was quite attracted to the accessories shop selling neck pieces and artificial jewelry. You can spend time gorging on local delicacies or ice creams in the lanes. The best part is the presence of Indian restaurants. There are MANY! Those who prefer Indian food or vegetarian options can go for Gateway of India, whose owner is Indian and has seen many Indian celebs visiting this place, including band of boys. Kuta Market is uptown, lively and reminds me of Delhi’s Janpath minus the screaming vendors. Kuta vibes are too good to be missed.






5. Do nothing and relax at the beach 


Had a tiring day and don’t feel like doing anything? Want to spend some me-time with a bottle of your favorite beer by the beach while you cool breeze kiss your face? Or simply want your feet to relax with a massage while sipping coconut water?  Kuta is the place for you. During our 6 days of vacation in Bali, we frequented to Kuta beach almost every day besides walking through the crowded lanes of Kuta market and enjoying the activities. We felt a strong connection with the place. 






Voted as the most visited and top destination to travel, Bali wins your heart instantly.Every part of Bali has something new to show. Do let me know what has been your experience in Bali, especially Kuta.

P.S- This trip of mine happened in August 2017. The post made it to Indiblogger home page in the list of popular blog posts.


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You can also read my post on Nusa Dua here, another beautiful South Bali province.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Prem Mandir: Magic in one minute

The iconic Prem Mandir made in Italian marble, is bathed in vibrant colors every evening. And trust me, it is a sight to behold! From soothing green and bubbly blue to glittering gold and soft pink, the colors enhance the beauty of the temple. Watch the magic unfold in 1 minute.

This is a daily practice in Prem Mandir after sunset.





Prem Mandir is in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh which was opened to public in 2012. See and know more about this stunning temple here in my blog

P.S- The post made to the list of popular posts on Indiblogger website.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Prem Mandir- The jewel of Vrindavan



My recent trip to Vrindavan in Jan 2018 was 13 years after my first visit in 2005. Of course a lot has changed since then. From better roads and hotels to newly constructed temples and parking lot, Vrindavan surprised me a lot. Had heard lot about Prem Mandir, from a couple of friends and it made it to my "must see in Vrindavan" list soon.


The main entrance 
Tried to capture in full frame from outside 


Established by Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat, an international, non profit, spiritual, charitable trust, the temple complex on 54 acre land, is made with white Italian marble. Prem Mandir is dedicated to Radha- Krishna and Ram-Sita. The foundation was laid in 2002 while it opened to public in 2012 and the cost of construction amounted to 150 Crore Rupees.
View on a foggy morning

While taking a round in main complex







As you walk across the premises, it seems no less than a dream. People often compare its beauty with the legendary Taj Mahal. Right from the entrance and surrounding gardens to the main complex, the beauty is enthralling. Every pillar, gate, stone or door has exquisite carvings, that leave you mesmerized. Pastimes and leela of Lord Krishna is displayed through paintings or sculptures in the surrounding garden premises.






The temple puts up a spectacular light and sound show in the evening. You can witness the temple bathed in various colors, that keep changing every few seconds.
                                                                         
Spectacular lights in evening 

Around 7 pm one can watch the beautiful musical fountain show in the garden which I could not capture since my phone ran out of battery.

A daily rath yatra takes places at the complex in the evening which is worth watching. Prem Mandir gives you happy positive vibes where life is celebrated everyday. Surrender yourself to the love of God and feel the sense of calm engulfing you.

Some vital info about Prem Mandir.
  • Temple Timing- 8:30 am to 12 Noon and 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm everyday
  • Photography inside the main complex is not allowed. You can take pictures outside. No camera fees is charged. 
  • Deposit your footwear at the footwear counter for free. You can keep your socks on. (Advisable in winters)
  • A huge canteen in the premises draws a lot of crowd daily. Serves only vegetarian and satvik food. 
  • Prem Mandir has no parking facility. You can park your car in the authorized ground or multi level parking around 700 meters from the temple. The best way to tour Vrindavan is hiring battery operated rickshaw or auto. 
To reach Vrindavan- 
Vrindavan has no direct rail or flight connectivity to any major city/state. The most convenient way to reach Vrindavan is your own car or hire a taxi from nearest cities. 

There is public transport facility available from Mathura which is merely 15 km away. The roads are fairly good with less than expected potholes and ongoing-construction.

From Agra- Reach Mathura and then hire a taxi or bus. 

From Delhi NCR- Drive via Taj Expressway for a smooth easy journey. 

By train- Board trains till Mathura Junction or Agra railway station and continue the journey to Vrindavan via taxi/public transport.

P.S: This post made it to the list of popular blog on Indiblogger home page.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

All you need to know before planning a trip to Bali



Bali, popularly known as the paradise island is one of the most voted travel destinations. Blessed with pristine beaches, lush greenery, rich architecture and towering mountains, Bali is a seamless blend of modern and tradition, that welcomes tourists round the year. Though it is pretty easy and cheap to travel in Bali, you certainly need to keep few things in mind and plan in advance. This post is for Indians planning a trip to Bali for the first time. (Not a bag-packing trip but a mid sized budget trip for seven days)



 Flights



At Kualalampur Airport

Most of the South East Asian flights connect Indonesia. Choose any airlines but AirAsia. (I was sleepless throughout the journey. There is no leg space and you cannot incline your seats either. Low cost carriers do have this disadvantage). 

Since the journey is long, you can go for full service carriers which include food and other in-flight amenities. Our toward journey was in Air Asia and return in Air Malindo. I could easily judge the difference in the service and quality. 
Contact your service carrier for good deals on flights. Ours was from Makemytrip.


Check for the number of stoppages. Direct flights would generally be costlier. Air Asia halt was at Kualampur Airport for three hours till the next connecting flight.              



The colorful Kualalampur Airport

Tip: Allow yourself ample sleep in flight or at connecting airport so that you reach your destination fresh and energetic. Air Asia flight had left me sleepless.  I could not sleep at Kualampur Airport either.  So a sleep deprived me took a walk inside KL airport to kill time.


Luggage 


We like to keep it light


Air Asia allowed 20 kg of cabin baggage and 7 kg of hang baggage. Air Malindo, for our return journey had 30 kg allowance for cabin baggage.  (Air Asia has number of other constraints and I hate them.)


It is advisable to read the same on the websites of your respective airlines so that you do not get last minute surprises.Also, travel light and leave some space in your luggage for souvenirs that you might want to shop in Bali. 


Keep your essentials, documents, camera etc in your hand baggage or carry on luggage. Things like batteries, body lotions, medicines need to go in your cabin luggage. Check the airlines website mentioning the list of items that you can carry in respective baggage.


Keep an extra luggage lock and secure your cabin bag before handing over to airlines for luggage boarding. The lock of our cabin bag was tampered with which we discovered later. Thankfully a backup lock saved us from any loss.   






Visa



For Indian citizens, no visa is required. Pretty easy for Indians you see!  For people from other countries please check http://www.visabali.com/tourist-visas.php. Rules keep changing so please keep an eye on the updates. 


Sim and Calling Card




You can buy a sim from anywhere in Bali which comes pre-loaded with data. You might have to further recharge the sim for calling value. Primarily you would require data to navigate maps, so make the best use of data. Buying a sim at the airport might be expensive. We bought 3 Care sim from a shop close to our hotel which costed us 30000 IDR.  


Currency Exchange




Indonesian Currency is called Indonesian Rupee often abbreviated IDR is valued much lesser than Indian Rupee. One Indian Rupee is equivalent to 210 IDR. Makes you feel rich? Now look at the dollar conversion. 1 USD is 13659 IDR.



Its a standard norm to convert Indian Rupees in Dollars. Do that in India instead of going to exchange counters at Bali airport. Remember, exchange rates in dollars are offered at higher prices at airports. At the airport, it is advisable to convert a smaller amount of dollars to Indonesian Rupee (IDR), so that your taxi fare is at-least sorted. For the rest of the amount, exchange $ to IDR from any authorized money exchange. Go for the ones which are big and authentic. Stay away from small shacks or shops. Chances are you might be duped. We exchanged from Central Kuta Money Exchange which was in the lane behind our hotel.  



Taxi 


Taxi at Bali airport


Download UBER app in your phone and use it freely to commute there, especially when you land in Bali and heading to your hotel. Taxis at airports charge exorbitantly. For instance Bali airport taxi charged us 150,000 IDR (More than Rs 700) to drop us to our hotel in Kuta. Whereas Uber charged 30000 IDR (Rs 142) for the same distance from hotel to airport.



Insurance

Never skip insurance while traveling international because you do not want to spend heftily on foreign land should you face ANY medical condition. Contact your insurance agent or buy online in a single click. Insurance also covers the loss of luggage, theft or certain emergencies. We bought ours from ICICI Lombard. Just provide your date of travel, flight tickets, purpose of visit and visa or hotel info, and the policy would reach you in your mail box. Its that simple. For Bali which is a humid place and you can be prone to diseases/insect bites in forests, travel insurance is a must.      

International driving licence


Tourists are often carried away by stories of fake valour. For instance an acquaintance told me that International Driving Licence is not required in Bali and Indian DL would suffice. Please do not fall for the trap. Cops in Bali are strict and in case you break any traffic rule or face any unforeseen contingency, the first thing they would ask for is an International Driver’s License and the failure to produce the same may lead to huge penalty or even criminal case. 

You can apply for one in your local/district court at a nominal cost. It would be valid for 1 year from the date of preparation. We prepared ours from Gurugram District Court at Rs 1200. Yes a little nagging and sweating in queue is required, but after all it’s for your own convenience.

Once you have all documents ready, carry photocopies with you and keep them handy. 




Transport in Bali 




 

Bali has narrow but good roads minus the potholes. Just like one would cruise through Goa on scooters/bikes, follow the same here. Hire a scooters for two reasons- One they rarely get stuck in traffic and two, are cheaper than taxi/Uber for long distance ride. 


Watch out for scooter renting shops near your hotel or ask your hotel reception for help. Check the bike's condition before you pay, especially tyre pressure, pickup, seats, headlight and most important, the documents. Take a trial ride before you close the deal. The scooter would be given to you with little petrol, enough to ride to the nearest petrol station. (Petrol is called Pertamina in Indonesian language). Petrol is quite cheap here. (One litre costed 7500 IDR or Rs 35 only). Make the most of your scooter ride. We rented a scooter at 50,000 IDR per day ( Barely 230 INR) from a tiny scooter rent shack at Kuta. 


Always keep your international DL, insurance and bike documents with you handy.



Traffic Rules 


Indians are used to jump traffic lights, over speed or honk unnecessarily. Try doing these in Bali and a cop would be waiting for you at the next traffic signal. Irrespective Bali is a smaller place and economically weaker than India, traffic rules are strictly adhered to. We had stopped at a traffic signal few inches after the crossing line and retracted the bike as we realized our mistake. Inspite of undoing the wrong, a traffic cop chased us and fined us with 300000 IDR. Phew! It was one hell of an experience on foreign soil. 

Needless to mention, helmets are a must for both the riders. Do not over speed and do not argue with the cops. Its better to be safe than sorry. Yeah?  


Food in Bali


Bali is dominated by non vegetarian cuisines, especially sea food and pork. Vegetarians do face problem in eating out. If you don't even eat eggs, then you would surely have a tough time.  However you can ask the restaurant to make vegetarian rice or noodles for you sans meat or fish sauce and they would happily do that for you.  Nasi Goreng (stir fried rice) is available almost everywhere which you can customize while placing order. Our favorite place to eat out was "Gateway of India" in Kuta.




The restaurant we frequented in Kuta
Fried rice and kadhai paneer in Gateway Of India

Anyway fruits and bread are always available everywhere which is a huge respite for vegetarians and vegans. Talking about Vegan food, yes there are a few vegan restaurants in Bali (which was surprising to us). You can look for them in Zomato. We ate in a vegan restaurant in Ubud. (Going towards Ubud Palace, the restaurant would be on your left).  



Everyday breakfast spread by my hotel
 In case the smell or sight of anything non veg is unbearable, then you can always carry ready to eat meals or noodles in your luggage. Though that may not suffice for more than two-three days, it would be something better than nothing.  


Clothes


Bali has a tropical climate all year and has moderate temperature. The beaches enjoy breezy weather and pleasant sunshine. Maximum temperature reaches up to 30-32 degree Celsius. Carry comfy cottons, light airy casuals, beach wear and comfortable footwear. You would need flat slippers or floaters most of the times.   

Hope these tips help you plan your trip to Bali. For more posts on Bali read the most popular places Monkey Forest and Tanah Lot  


These tips and experiences are from my trip to Bali in August 2017.

Live, love, laugh and be a travel addict!

By the way, this post made it to the Indiblogger home page in the popular blog list. 

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