Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars - Travel Times

Oh mighty force, the dark side has risen again and guess what we all love it! If you know what I am referring to you belong in my side of the war, but others hey, don’t you worry people, we are a bit more considerate than the typical Sith army and would still give you the chance to join the force if you sustain the creation of my own crazy death star!
Too many jargons is it? Sorry, but get the drift because the dark force has awaken and being a crazy star wars fan (yes I am a girl and yes I am a fan, moving on) I decided to break the niche of this blog for a teeny weeny reason with which HP managed to lure me into the dark – yes I am the next Darth Vader. Spoiler much? I will really, really try to refrain from that but my excitement has reached a galactical level and hence forgive me if I let out any secrets.

Be on this side!!! (Source)
So agenda - HP Star Wars Fun Side Challenge, where HP is set to regain the allegiance of all who joined the rebels back in 2005.

My Reaction – Let me get my thinking caps, ops Princess Leia hairdo on…..
Getting my hairdo done!
So while the hairdo is getting done, my thoughts drifted away to what fun star wars shenanigan I would love to be a part of. Wedding like this one?

When Huffington post came up with this, I was super excited but by the end it fizzed out and I zipped away in my thought ship. But there was something in this post and it was…
Oh no not the wedding photo shoot! But the picture. Being and Instagram addict and a traveler, I would give anything to get a free ride to Tatooine, Dantooine or the beautiful planet of Naboo and do a photo shoot everywhere. But if not the planets, I can still resort to exotic locations and do a follow me to photoshoot there right?

(Source) #Followmeto....Recreate this maybe, or....

Antelope would be good for a Star War themed follow me photo shoot right?
And when I am done with my travel and photo dose, I can relax with the super light and amazing display HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook, which has a special star wars e-comic written by Stan Lee himself from Marvel Comics and four fiction and a non-fiction books around the making and conception of the Star Wars. Yay goes the reader in me and I know you guys want it too!

Creativity is just a thing for Star Wars! (Source)
And well to be a Star Wars Freak and not dream of Lightsaber wars is a heinous crime. So I call upon the rebels to fight me and stop my dream, my death star which moves towards completion with every fight I have at serene locations! Or like I had said earlier you can join the force and be a Sith, for with Jedi’s I fight and Darth, well, something I aim at being! *Imagine the grave voice*

How about a saber fight with Japanese backdrop, Exotic much? (Source)


Drifting away to the Galactical space,
To build an Empire of the forces today
I implore you to seek the dark crazy fun side
Cause darkness might not always be this right

You live the dream like a Jedi’s beam
But reach the light of a saber bright
To get the realms of the forces ignite
Dare you doubt the Darth’s might.

Saber war at classic locations!!! (Source)
P.S. If you haven’t seen the Star Wars, it is never really late. See it made me a fan girl with poetic flare. Ok, I am ending the post before any more glares and going back to challenge some people with sabered dares!

Star Wars Clone Wars Earthly Version
#AwakenYourForce and let me know your Star Wars fun ideas in the comments below.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Alila Diwa - Mix of Old Bali and Goa with Luxury

Old Goan Villa is it?
Laid back country side, open fields around, Portuguese-style houses with semi green canopied courtyards, dim lit hallways and whizzing sense of susegado – No idea which place am I talking about? Well this is a side of Goa that very few know and even few enjoy, and I am surely one of them. Yes sea and beach life is the limelight of Goa but this Portuguese colony has its soul hidden in its laid back country spirit and culture. During my recent visit, I found the essence of traditional Goa, with a tinge of luxury (okay maybe more than a tinge), away from the crowd near cracking waves and the famous shacks, in a place called Alila Diwa.

A part of the place
In my last post I did tell you I will show you glimpses of Alila Diwa, so here it is!

A glimpse of Alila Diwa
Alila Diwa chain of hotels started in Indonesia and they grew with their Balinese influence, but in times when luxury hotels are growing like mushrooms in Goa and robbing it of its colonial essence, Alila Diwa has managed to maintain a perfect amalgamation of Balinese and Goan heritage in this exquisite property. It was a delight to see traditional Portuguese-style courtyards around ageing banyan trees they surround where sun beams, that managed to penetrate the green canopy, danced on the ground. I still remember how we were transported back in time while playing Antakshari on the stairs around these courtyards. Old charm never really fades away with time if you know how to preserve it, and the resort surely does.

The old fashioned Portuguese Verandas
Strolling languidly through the dimly lit corridors that were adorned by traditional roofs and old red stone pillars and clicking random pictures was probably my favourite pastime there. The hallways and the tiny clear pools of water give the place a surreal appeal while the courtyards and the verdant covers give it an earthly feel.

Dim lit corridors with traditional roofs and red stone pillar surrounded by water
I stayed in one of the loft rooms of the hotel, and it was undoubtedly one of the prettiest rooms I have ever stayed in, in a hotel. But prettier still was the view from my room – a pool with no edge! 

It infinity of blue and green
My room was just above the famous infinity pool of Alila Diwa, but my view comprised not just of the Celeste blue swimming pool but also of the infinity of lush green paddy fields that surround the property.

View from my room
The room, which I shared with another blogger friend of mine, had a cool balcony mimicking the old style veranda, a king size bathtub and high ceiling roof like a traditional Portuguese house, with all the luxury amenities like any other five star hotel. Didn’t spend much time in the room, but still loved it for its view and aesthetics. That says a lot right?

The room

Yes pamper max!

My Euro-Indian breakfast at Vivo!
Alila Diwa has food centers for contemporary gastronomy fans to authentic Indian cuisine lovers, from breakfast for late risers to dine and wine for night owls – what else can you ask for? There are four in house restaurants in the property including the Edge Bar and Lounge, though I can speak about just two of them. ViVo, where I had my breakfast is an all-day dining space within the hotel’s indoors with shaded open-air spaces overlooking the infinity pool. The restaurant offers an elaborate breakfast selection of European and Indian cuisine had has a plethora of baker fresh delicacies.

Spice Studio!
Vivo also offers an a la carte menu during lunch and dinner but for those we indulged in some authentic Indian dishes at Spice Studio. I found out from the hotel authorities that the restaurant uses some very old-fashioned Indian cooking techniques for some of the dishes in their menu and has the only dark dining experience of Goa every Thursday night.

Relax under the tree in luxury at Spice Studio
Though I really can’t vouch for the authenticity of these information, I loved Spice Studio for its ambience. Seats on an elevated platform with tilted tiled roof around a huge banyan tree and surrounded by a stretching water body slabs, place lit up by dim lights, tea table lights and Turkish lamps – you get the picture, don’t you?

The decor and the Banyan tree of Spice Studio
While ViVo wins in taste and Spice studio in ambience, Edge has it with the location. Though I didn’t really spend time in Edge, some blogger friends and I spend hours chatting just outside the lounge right next to the pool on the pleasant fall night.

Just couldn't get enough of the pillars
Anyways, if your likings in Goa resonate with mine and you really are looking for a slice of old with some very luxurious new experience, you might want to consider Alila Diwa for your next trip.

Motivation enough to laze and gaze?

P.S. - The views are completely my own and so are the pics, most unedited.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Zippy Car, Zippy Weekend and Zippy Review

The Event

Flying over the Arabian coast
I remember some months back I confessed on my blog that I choose to not write about Goa or anything related to Goa, for I believed it is Goa after all – who has not been there? Guess what, the Kaynaat (universe) really wants to show me that even I have not explored it enough. So last week it was Goa calling me again for a #Fantastico experience, or well it was Tata Motors and’s call to Goa. And frankly a call for a drive in a new car in Goa in Indi style - damn too many reasons to get set go to Goa in one line! And that is exactly what I did, as did 59 other bloggers across India.
The Mumbai Airport Selfie
So on 5th of December, I managed to brave the crazy Mumbai traffic and reached Shiv Chhatrapati Shivaji International/Domestic Airport where I met about 20 of the 59 other bloggers. Within an hour, courtesy the travel arrangements done by Indi team, Wizcraft people and Hotel Alila Diwa, I met the rest of them too at Alila Diwa, which by the way was where we were staying for the weekend! (People who haven’t heard about this place, review coming up very soon) At Alila Diwa were received a warm welcome by Naveen and Vineet from the Indi Team, the Tata Motors team and yes by lunch! Post which we got our luxurious rooms and off we went.

Some glimpses of Alila Diwa, rest in my next post!
We, Zainab Attari (my roommate) and I got a large suite at the back of the resort with a gorgeous view of the infinity pool and the rolling fields beyond it. But we had hardly spent any time in the room when we had to leave for the beach activities that Tata people had planned for us. Hey, not complaining at all because we went to Majorda Beach to play football and stayed there till a beautiful sunset.

Such was the football drama
After we returned to the resort it was finally time for some blogging action. Indi Team had organized a ‘Blogging 101’ session for us in a courtyard of the resort which was hosted by Anoop as always. Wondering where do Tata people come in all this now, are we? Well behold for the locker room session is here!

Own space in a locker room! Yay (says the footbal freak in me)
We were all pleasantly surprised by the ‘purpose build locker room’ which had sixty No 10 Messi jerseys and Tata kits in it. Have you seen the Tata Messi #madeofgreat ads on TV? Then you know which car we drove else wait for some more time for right now, as in then, was the coach’s hour and our coach for the weekend was the very witty and very tall MTV VJ Cyrus Sahukar! (Girls, you can breathe!) 
Football or Laughter Coach - still thinking...
Post the gyaan (knowledge) session from Cyrus we got some ‘Zica-ful’ information about the whole #MadeforGreat campaign from Ms. Delna Awari and Pratap Bose, who by the way is a brilliant singer, of the Tata team. And finally there it was, Zica, the new hatchback in the town shinning in all its glory in the bright sunset orange look. We did get a quick overview of the technology and technical aspects of the vehicle but it was the drive on the next day that allowed us to get to know the vehicle more. After the unveiling, we went back to the courtyard for cocktail and karaoke session but were totally waiting for the morning.

Night and Day - food's way
Rommie and Me all geared up for the drive
Then came the morning – Drive of the ZIppy CAr aka ZICA (Get it now?) just after the moon hid itself and the sun was still deciding to shine. Yes, again I woke up at 6 in Goa! Anyways the drive. A little bit shy of 80 kilometers, we drove the brand new Zica Diesel through the highs and low of the curvy roads of Goa. Goa roads may not be known for monstrous traffic jam, but they are notorious for their narrowness and sharp curves. But believe me, we did not have any issues maneuvering the vehicle.

Imagine the drive now

Okay, not jumping the gun yet. For the drive we were split in groups of three and we drove the lanes of South Goa till the Verna Industrial patch. This was my first ever Tata product test drive where I refrained from driving much cause I was so comfortably enjoying the seats, other features of the car and the view of Goa. But I am going to review the car honestly so don’t you guys worry, cause yes the drive was pretty much the end of the weekend and post a scrumptious lunch and Antakshari infused afternoon I came back to Mumbai.

The Review

And here it is, finally - What I found out about the car during the drive:-
1.   Is the car the best looking one of Tata so far?
Yes! Tata revamped its design starting from Zest and it has been a constant up graph from there. The exteriors not only have a chick feel (yes I am a girl so I would say that) but it is more young appealing and fun in its look compared to all its contemporaries.

2.  Is it a comfortable car?

Very! The biggest issue with Tata bolt, Zica’s predecessor was its cramped up interiors. The issue was surely take into account while designing Zica. Zica has more leg space, more utility storage space (22 slots) and the seats – similar to Bolt and Zest (i.e. not the standard leather and plastic feel and hugging) but more hugging and had a luxurious feel to it. Also with 240 liters of boot space, makes a mark in along with some premium hatchbacks in the market. Not that it has anything to do with comfort, but guess what I fit into it – so felt like including the feature here.

That is my Team mates and me in the boot space of our car!
3.  Kitna Deti Hai? The mileage question!
I am not putting up a comparison here but just giving you stats. The petrol Variant averaged 14-16 kmpl whereas for the diesel variant, which has a 1.05 L diesel engine, it was 18-20 kmpl (as observed). I solemnly swear I am not lying so you can do the rest of the math. 

At its peak
4.  Engines?!?!
Tata has incorporated all-new engines in Zica – the Revotron & Revotorq which combined produce a peak power of 85PS and a torque of 114Nm. The Revotron is an 1199cc, three-cylinder petrol engine. While they are powerful and their performance is satisfactory, the engines produces relatively more sound than most other petrol engines which was a letdown given the fact that Bolt and Zest has considerable sound reduction with respect to the engines.

Engine View
5.  Need for speed?
While the car easily reached 80 kmph during our drive, reaching a 100 kmph seemed like a drag and the acceleration was not adequate. If you are a speed junky, this might frustrate you, but otherwise it is apt for Indian roads.

P.C. -Zainab Attari
6.  Music Mania?
Yes, with Harman Kardon Infotainment system with 8 speakers and steering mounted audio controls, they could not have gone wrong with the music mania setup. It is similar to that of Zest and bolt but with a slight upgrade. Now the ConnectNext system also comes with 'MapMyIndia' integration, conveying the turn-by-turn navigation data directly onto the screen. The system also have the first ever Juke-Car app which is integrated with infotainment system and allows people in the car to connect their mobiles to the audio system. Selected songs from any and all of the connected mobiles can be added to form a unified playlist which will then be played on the system in the order you choose from the app or in random – just like a juke box! The only let down here was the background running of the tracks and the sudden drop of volume, than the gradual drop, while instructions or calls are being played.

7.  Navigation –
Yes like all the horizonNext cars, Zica’s navigation system is a prompt one and pretty accurate when set. We did get lost a couple of times during our ride and I was tad bit annoyed with the system, but when I did figure out the glitch was by the preset navigation and not really the fault of the navigation system of the car all I could do was appreciate the constant assistance the navigation system tried to provide us with.

8.  Price – What about the pocket?
Frankly we don’t know. Despite of asking the Tata team again and again the price range of the variants, they refused to answer. But just from the features, looks and the genre, I would say Zica should fit comfortably in the 3.8-4.5 lakh slot and this is very reasonable considering Zica is an entry level hatchback that give you the feel of a compact sedan.

The commercial launch of the vehicle is somewhere around early January next year so till then you can consider these factors and finalize your choice. As for me, thank you Tata Motors team and Indi Team for this amazing weekend and experience. I loved connecting with some amazing people during the meet. And to my dear readers, wait for the car and wait for my review of Alila Diwa.

One of my favourite selfies of the weekend

Doc this shall continue!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Responsible Tourism

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Let us accept it, all of us love travelling. Be it touristy places, offbeat places, just weekend getaways in relaxing resorts or camps. We all might have a wide range of choices, likes and dislikes but some form of travel has a sure presence in our ‘Favourite things’ list. (Think of the Sound of Music song) But how many of us see beyond our comfort and enjoyment while travelling? Travel industry is one of the major contributors to any countries GDP, thus major contributor to World growth too. But is it a sensitive field? Exploring places and marking them off our bucket list sure is a source of bliss for us. For many people it is about the adrenaline rush, for many it is the tranquillity and for many the connect in the disconnect. But for all this do we as travellers or tourists (yes both are different) tend to be annoying for someone else or something else? Most often than not we do cause we do not realize the importance of responsible tourism and thus lose out on global sustainability of travel and connect.

Today I am just going to talk about some things we need to keep in mind as travellers and tourists.

1.   Connect with people – Did you know a lot of places, including India, are not very popular with travel communities on couchsurfing and Airbn? The reason is simple we are not very accommodating as guests or hosts. For the travel connect, we don’t just have to connect to a place but also build a relation with the people. Being a good guest is as important as being a good host. As travellers we need to respect the culture of the place we are visiting. For example a lot of countries are warm and welcoming but have a certain set of rules and beliefs that travellers should take care of. (Turkey, Italy and Japan are quite famous examples – just Google away) And one point we should always remember do not, I repeat DO NOT click pictures of people if the community is uncomfortable with photography or without their permission or ORDER them to click your picture. Request. It always works.

2.  Respect nature and mould yourself into it – Some years back, Leh Ladakh used to be an offbeat destination. Soon tourism caught up and it was a good thing because it gave Ladakhis a very good source of income and improved the area’s employment rate. But with this perk came some grave issues. People forgot the fact that Ladakh receives very low average rainfall and is almost a cold desert with water scarcity. The hotels under the pressure of tourism provide water at the expense of the daily supply of the natives. Imagine if people used the water available carefully and not spend it like luxury, the natives might suffer less right? It is always important to alter your habits to fit in the environment of the place. Eco-travel is a mandatory rule one should follow while travelling.

3.  No Littering! – Plastics have done a lot more harm than good ever since their invention. But if we are careful we can leave environmental footprints on the sand of time! Never ever litter. Carry your thrash, specially plastics and papers in a separate pocket of your backpack maybe and dispose it in a recycle bin. Sea, Land, water bodies everything would be a lot less polluted if we did so. Think of a beach with clear water and clean sparkling sand and a beach with well just brine water and bottles, polyethylenes, garbage and God knows what all. Which one would you prefer? Your answer is your clue to work towards it. Only if all of us try will be get the choice right? A lot of places have a no plastic policy (I know Matheran in Maharashtra has for sure). Respect such laws and do not try to be a rebel. Recently we saw images of ‘Everest the dumping ground’ circulating online. We sure don’t want such adverse scenarios now do we? Think and act because what you sow, so shall you reap.

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4.  Laws, Rules and Regulations – Since I mentioned the No Plastic rule, I had to mention other rules people try to break in the name of fun. Loud music, beyond permitted range and permitted time mark; Photography in no photography zones; bribing to get around law to visit sensitive areas without right permits; and alcohol consumption and smoking in areas where it is not permitted. Thinking how this would help in sustainable travel? Following/Not following these rules sets expectations and view of your community in the tourist area. Also at times it might not just be risky for you but for the place. And responsible tourism is all about not being bothersome, so well, if you do not follow the rules of the place you are being irresponsible right?

Do not buy products obtained from endangered animals - Eg. Rhino Horns
5.  Conscience Indulgence. Like I had mentioned earlier Tourism is one of the major GDP contributors for a lot of countries so for obvious reasons many people directly or indirectly depend on the tourism for survival. So when in a tourist destination, bargain and shop without exploiting the sellers. I agree that local prices of touristy places are usually very high and bargaining becomes a mandate but at the same time we, as travelers need to be sensitive too and not overdo it. Also never indulge in buying products which are obtained from endangered plants or animals. Doing so would hopefully help to lower the demand for illegal goods and save nature, preserving the ethnicity of the place. And what place can be of the travel grid when it is known for its rare flora and fauna?

Maybe all this seems insignificant on paper but believe me – A beautiful world is not just Nature’ creation for us to enjoy and exploit. A beautiful world is a responsibility, a treasure we have to guard and if possible, help grow. Responsible tourism for sure is the need of the hour if we want the next generations to enjoy our world beyond age old photographs.

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I know I got really serious in this post. Though, I am blogging for #ResponsibleTourism activity by Outlook Traveller in association with BlogAdda, I decided to write this post for what I believe in too. Hope we all enjoy the wonders of our wonderful world responsibly.