~ Reflections of my inner self ~

Archive for June, 2008

Ensure your holidays are enjoyable experiences

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Now and then, every one of us has the basic urge to break away from routines so that our days are different. Going away to a new destination or a favorite location helps us to fulfill this need and we return mentally and physically recharged. We enjoy the experiences, the enlightening interactions and the learning and pleasure of being one with the nature. Being able to enjoy late mornings and late nights, to go out dressed in your fine holiday clothing, to shop with gay abandon, eat in road side cafés and taste choice local recipes adds additional thrill to the whole adventure!

In order to ensure it becomes an enjoyable experience we must take some small steps well in advance. Most experienced travellers do all this as routine and if we follow in their footsteps we can be reasonably assured that our holidays will also become an enjoyable experience.

It is vital that one decides the location, month and days of travel well ahead. The preferable month to do this is in January for the obvious reasons. For most working people a six day get-away from Sunday to Saturday twice a year seems ideal. Of course there are exceptions, and when you go for package tours the days of tours are already fixed and you can select the one most suitable for you. In addition to your holiday plans, there is always the option of weekend breaks.

The very next assignment will be to undertake some research and collect all the information about the place you intend to go. This should cover: weather information, road maps, distances, routes, modes of travel, languages spoken and the political climate (eg. disturbances such as possible strikes). Details of information centres and tourist spots should be clearly listed so a decision can be made as to what to see and what to bypass! Linked to this is what you will need to take with you. It advisable to take two trolley/wheel bags of different sizes in addition to shoulder bags. The shoulder bags help to keep your hands free during daily outings whilst giving adequate storage space for extra cash, camera, water bottle, emergency medicine, towels/tissue papers and even some snacks! Do not overload your bags and leave adequate space for your holiday shopping and new purchases that you may buy during the trip. Why not pack an extra shopping bag too?

Before you leave your house or flat it advisable to check the doors and windows to make sure they are safely locked. Ensure that appliances such as the TV, music systems, audio video equipment, computer, gas and microwave are off or disconnected. However it is a good idea to keep the fridge running with some essential food which can come in handy when you return home.  It is not advisable to talk about your going away for a trip in wide circles. Better just to inform a selected and trusted few and one or two close neighbours or flat mates. Prepare a list of things to be attended to on return as a priority so that things arent forgotten. Charge your cell phone and camera and pack your daily needs (medicines/prescription and reading materials). It is wise to prepare a new telephone index with important contact numbers. It is a good idea to carry different modes of cash like travelers cheques, debit cards, hotel vouchers and credit cards and an extra lock and key which can come in handy in new locations. If carrying cash it is best to split the cash with your co traveler, this will then spread the risk and ensure cash safety and security. It is better to have separate covers with allocated money for each activity, it will make things easier and ensures better finance control.

In case you are using a hired car, make sure you get a reliable and reputed operator and ask for an experienced and senior driver. Treat him cordially with all the dignity and respect due to another passenger. Get his cell phone number and clearly spell out your rules for the journey: safety norms, speed limits, test his knowledge of the route and locations. Do not assume or take anything for granted. Also invite him to join in on refreshments that you have en-route as this will help create a better rapport. Let him know you have come for a peaceful holiday and the lesser the hiccups, the better it will be for all!

It is a good idea to leave your valuables and excess cash in the hotel’s locker or deposit it with the hotel and get a receipt. Enter the information in your personal diary and remember to inform your co-passenger on such essential and important the details. Do remember to collect back the same when checking out! A good idea is to plan for each day during the previous evening after dinner, when you are noting down the highlights of the day. In case you are planning to stay with friends, inform then in advance and ensure they are expecting you before you arrive at their house. Buy some small gifts for them and offer to share a part of their daily work load as this will always a nice gesture on your part. Remember to take their family out for dinner before you leave them and also post a nice thank you card for their hospitality.

It is worthwhile to buy some small and useful gifts for your friends back home. If you have a video camera, ensure you use it to capture moments of your trip as you will enjoy watching it once in a while, particularly when you need a bit of cheering up! It is very good medicine. Time your return home to be at least a couple of days early to your actual day of going back to work. This will give time to get back to your routines in comfort. Once you settle down, enjoy the pleasant job of handing over the gifts to your friends, sorting your holiday photographs, forwarding these to friends and perhaps writing your experiences down (or on to your blog!). Wait awhile before thinking about your next holiday for it will come sooner than you expect!

Travel opens up everyone and is a great panacea for the many issues affecting us. So do keep travelling and enjoy the experience. You will become a much admired and sought out person for you will have so much to share. A treasure of wealth which all can joy.

Written by Raghuraman

June 22nd, 2008 at 6:24 pm

Posted in General, Words of wisdom

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Reflections of a holiday in Ooty, Coonor and Coimbatore

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“Every night as you go to sleep, your vision doesn’t sleep, your goals don’t sleep, your aspirations don’t sleep, your world doesn’t sleep. The power to make your dreams a reality is in your own hands. Make your move first and he will do the rest for you!”

Since January we had been thinking of going away for a long holiday for rest and quiet away from life’s routines. Considering the hot weather in Chennai from April to June, the preferred location was any nearby hill station with an elevation of over 4000 feet. Our inner mind also craved to complete the much aspired trips to family temples near Coimbatore. That settled it and Nilagiris was the choice.

With support and encouragement from Vivek, Vaishnavi, Arjuna and family friend Jaya, we planned an itinerary for two weeks. From then onwards the rest was only a question of preparation and execution which was fairly easy compared to earlier bridges we have had to cross!

We all have some favorite trains and mine happens to be the Nilagiri blue mountain train running between Chennai and Ooty. We instead drove from Mettupalayam as the hill train was cancelled (a small disappointment). However, the road trip was equally enjoyable with the comfort of breathing the wonderful smell of Eucalyptus as we started climbing through the hairpin bends, appreciating the special signals of our driver to other bus, car and lorry drivers- a very courteous lot!

We halted for an hour near a waterfall for breakfast and continued via Coonoor to reach Ooty. We stopped to buy some fresh vegetable and fruits from the city market enroute and then by lunchtime we checked in to the resort in the lovely Elk hills above the lake. A comfortable room with good furnishings facing the town, a small compact kitchen with all utilities: oven, fridge, utensils, shelves and wash basin. Geetha was quick to unpack and lost no time in busying herself in the kitchenette (as she had come well prepared from Chennai). A menu of Pongal, Sambar and Salad was ready in no time and was the first of very enjoyable meals.

In the early afternoon we went to the botanical gardens (formerly the Royal Botanical gardens) to see the galaxy of flowering plants and lovely decorations for the annual flower show which was scheduled in two days time. We saw vibrant salvia, asters, marygolds, dahlia, anthuriam, hoyhocks, roses, antirinum, sweetpeas, and button roses. We walked down to the Tibetan shops to buy sweaters and scarves (they sell good quality at reasonable prices) and on to commercial road to buy Amma’s favorite homemade chocolates and essential medicated oils. The air became cooler around 4 pm and so we enjoyed a hot cup of Nilagiri tea and biscuits.

During the following days we established a routine of morning walks, trips to Ramakrishna center for prayers and meditation and visits to selected tourist spots in the afternoon. We enjoyed the trips to the rose garden, wax museum, boat house near the lake, chellarams and flower shows. We also browsed and shopped in supermarkets, department stores, modern stores and the shops run by tribal-toddas. Lunch was had out in the Marwari hotel (good, simple food). We could watch the IPL 20 matches in our room and participated in games organised by resort people. We enjoyed a trip to a tea factory to see the process of tea manufacture, buy their special tea packets and joined in a group trip to viewpoints like the Pykkara hydro project. We regularly visited a nearby temple of Vinayaka, Durga, Amma, Navagraha and the hill God Muneeswarar to pray for the success of Arjuna’s Graduation, the winding up from Virginia, safe travel and settlement in Texas and the safe return of Vivek and Cathy to London. The regular feedback we received from Arjun kept us in a peaceful and happy frame of mind. God answered our prayers and we were proud of the role played by all members of the team. Good show!

We said good bye to Ooty on the morning of the seventh day and arrived in Coonor to check in to Hotel Vivek by midday. Here we had to evolve a different routine as there was no facility for cooking. The hotel was in upper Coonoor overlooking a tea estate, fairly close to Sims park and the market area, Bedford circle. The changes unfortunately gave a sore throat for myself and indigestion for Geetha. However with the help of a nice Lady doctor (Dr Chitra Devi originally from Coimbatore) we managed to get the correct diagnosis and medication.

Coonoor is a nice compact place, milder in climate compared to Ooty, a calm, quiet town surrounded by tea estates. It has many famous landmarks like the military academy, Madras regimental centre, needle factory, Ketty valley, Sims horticultural park, boarding schools and shopping malls selling hill products. We spent a lot of time walking around Bedford Circle and Sims park. We also managed a visit to Ketty valley to see a real-estate development covering over 30 acres, where a promoter from Bangalore was developing a layout and selling housing plots from 10 cents (one “cent” is 432 sq feet) to 20,30 and 50 cents. The site is 5 to 6 kilometres from Coonoor (midway between Coonoor and Ooty). The cost and registration of a 10 cent plot comes to 19 lacs and with the construction of a 1000 sq feet house it would come to 32 lacs! Unfortunately this costing does not fit with this writer’s dreams. The vision was to have nice big house in such a hill station in 4-5 acres of wooded land facing a valley. However, some day it will certainly happen!

After 5 lovely days in Coonoor we drove down to Coimbatore to check in at Hotel Sri Lakshmi at Gandhipuram. We had a 3 day plan here which included: a trip to Palakad Manapully Bagavathy temple, a trip to Marudamalai Muruga temple, Saibaba temple, Danavathri temple at Kottakal ayurvedic centre and a trip to Isayoga centre at Vellingiri hill. We managed all the trips very well with help from my friend at Coimbatore, Dr Raghunath, and concluded the visit by boarding the train to Chennai as per schedule. It was very satisfying to be able to thank God in our favorite temples for his support, help, directions and blessings to members of the family: TVR, Geetha, Penny and Bill.

Back at home we settled in immediately, but took a week to get adjusted to the weather! However, it’s a fact of life so no use complaining about it. We surprised our friends with gift packets and showed them the photos. They were happy for us and hoped and prayed that we get blessed with such holidays at least twice a year. For they say we deserve it, will it come true?

Written by Raghuraman

June 15th, 2008 at 2:16 pm