Rustic Soulitude – by the River

30 Dec

A gurgling river, chirping birds, a himalayan cliff that rises majestically a few thousand feet – and no sign of humanity. Some places cannot be described by words they need poetry. Soulitude by the Riverside is one such place. A place that is black and white – a place you will love and give a perfect 10 and want to come again and again or just say this is not my kind of place. I give it a perfect 10.

A sister property of the Himalayan Soulitude this one is very different. 7 rooms , designed in a rustic and elegant style, it feels like a modern day Ashram for its peace and tranquility but comes with all the modern amenities that one could think of in a  5 star hotel. The best of both worlds.

Located at 4500 feet, you can reach the place only by trekking 2 Km along the river. A beautiful Trek – the hotel sends porters to the pick up point to carry your luggage.

IMG_4224

Its bright and sunny and 30 minutes later you reach the hotel to be welcomed by friendly staff and a bright well lit, well designed hexagonal lobby. Warm and friendly this is also the TV Lounge (TATA Sky) and the reading room. In this remote corner of nature Wi Fi works and the whole place is operated with Generators. Remember you are in the midst of a forest , with the river Kalsi less than 25 feet away.

IMG_4239

The rooms follow the same theme, large , spacious, well lit , facing the river – Rustic but super comfortable and functional with all the amenities you could think of. Bed warmers and heaters and a Kashmir style fireplace keeps the room warm. There is no carpet and central heating and at night the temperature drops, there is a nice cold breeze from the river. So good to be dressed in multiple layers as you head to bed. We stayed on Dec 30 and the temp varied from a high of 20 in the day to almost Zero at midnight.

IMG_4225

The other units that comprise this unique resort are the dining room and a Yoga Hut on the river bank. They also have large stretches of kitchen gardens where they grow a wide variety of herbs and vegetables to meet the needs of the kitchen. Food is royal and sumptuous – served in brass plates, Indian, very rich, very filling – ambience is Rajasthani. Every single thing used in the hotel needs to be carried from 2 km afar – so the more you become self dependent the better it is.

IMG_4243

But the jewel in the crown is a trek to PariTal (The lake of the fairies) – a short 20 min trek its along the river and you need to be nimble to cross boulders along the entire stretch. Its a nice trek best done after 10 AM when the first rays of the sun start to wriggle out. You can spot a lot of monkeys climbing the vertical ledges of the cliff and if you are lucky you can see barking deers and maybe a panther or leopard sun basking on a ledge. (We did not see them but yes at night we heard the barking deers)

As you reach Pari Tal you hear the sound of the gushing waterfall beckoning you and the first sight of the Tal is divine.

Emerald green crystal clean water swirling in a large pond, fed by white water rollicking down the slope with a sense of purpose. The chirping sounds of the bird die down in obeisance to the beauty of this spot and as you stand alone you can sense peace, tranquility and joy in every pore of your body. You experience nature at its best. This is the place where you want to come and sit to find answers to life’s problems, this is the place you want to sit hand in hand with your soulmate, not utter a word but yet have a deep connect. This is the place to meditate. To be with yourself. To Recharge. I wish I could have stayed for hours.

IMG_4253

This place is unique. Soulitude in Himalayas is marketed well and has become a perfect family getaway. But the DNA of Riverside is very different. This is not a place for noisy kids or large groups. Its a place to come alone or with people very near and dear to you. There is no commercial element here – No Yoga , No massage – just you and nature. I have travelled a lot and I am constantly searching for offbeat locations – but I don’t think there is anything like this anywhere in India. It targets a specific clientele – who will keep coming again and again. Kudos to Manish Chandra the owner for having created this beauty. Its a lot of of passion and investment of time and money to manage a property like this with these high standards.

We had no plans to spend a day here – our booking for 4 nights was at Soulitude in the Himalayas. It was a sudden impulse that I requested for the last night to be spent here and fortunately rooms were available. Planning a family  holiday in the last week of Dec to the foothills of the Himalayas can be stressing – flights / train need to be on time (Fog), kids should not fall sick, nobody should trip and bend an ankle or fall sick, lugging around 5 suitcases with lots of woollens – is all a project in itself. And I am so happy that on the last day of a wonderful holiday I could find my dream location.

IMG_4229

And as I was sitting on the rocks with the water lapping my feet I recollect the words of the guide at Mukteshwar and how he defined God (Bhagwan) – Bh for Bhumi (Earth) , Ga for Gagan (Sky) , Va for Vayu (Air) and N for Neer (Water) – our ancestors knew it – elements of Nature and Fire is all it takes for a happy peaceful lives. In the name of development – We just messed it up.

Points to note 

1. Website , http://www.soulitudebytheriverside.com

2. Distance from Kathgodam 60 – 90 min , 35 Km , Tavera costs Rs 1500

3. Summers can be hot – 30 degrees + , winter mornings and nights are very cold, rains heavily in Monsoon

4. Travel light – and wear good trekking footwear

5. With family – best to do 1 day , solo – you decide , at least 3 days I would recommend

6. Distance from Soulitude in Himalayas – 30 Km , 60 Minutes, Its a small detour from the way to Sattal. We left Himalayan Soulitude at 10 , finished our Visit to Sattal and were at the Riverside property by 1.30 in the afternoon

Himalayan Soulitude in December

29 Dec

Always on the lookout for offbeat locations it was by pure chance that I bookmarked “ Soulitude in the Himalayas” many month back. The minute I visited the website I knew I wanted to go there – and that’s what we did for the Christmas Holidays this year.

On a cold winter day the flight to Delhi landed on time at 20.40 and we were in the Lemon Tree hotel near Anand Vihar station by 10 PM. This is the best place to stay if you have a 615 AM Shatabdi from Anand Vihar Junction to Kathgodam. Delhi was a cold 2-degrees but we made it well in time to the warm comfort of the Shatabdi Executive class. The drive from Lemon Tree to the station is less than a Km – 5 Min . The train was on time and we reached Kathgodam at 11.30 AM. A 45 km drive up the hills and we were in the hotel by 1.15 in time for lunch.

 IMG_4099

Soulitude in the Himalayas is located at Village Gagar, in Ramgarh Town, Nainital District. Located at 7200 feet – it’s a small homely hotel with 10 rooms nestled along a hill slope with amazing views of the Himalayan peaks (Trishul, Nandai Devi, Panchachauli and Nanda Ghunti….) from every room.

IMG_4103

There are 6 rooms in the main building, a cottage with 3 rooms and one Suite. Rooms are designed very aesthetically and are warm, vibrant and welcoming – the type you see and say “ I wish I had a house with rooms like these”. With room names like Blessed, Nirvana, Awakening, Quietude, Peace, Bliss, Joy, Delight & Celebration. Many of the books were on Ramakrishna Paramhansa  – you can sense that the owner and designer have a strong spiritual connect and this hotel is run more out of passion and pride than for making money. Room rates vary from 6 – 12K/ night in peak season and include breakfast.

The kitchen serves delicious food through the day – Indian & Continental- very tasty, very homely. Decent spread that includes Soup, Salad, Multiple dishes, 1 Non veg & Dessert. The service is excellent. (Food is Buffet and room service is limited, meals are priced at Rs 750 / person) The main building has lovely warm places for people to sit down and read books, and chat over a warm fireplace. You can even enjoy your drink (But BYOB). The hotel has Free Wi Fi that Zips and excellent phone connection with 3G.

IMG_4128

Hot water is available 24X7 – there is no central heating but they provide heaters in every room. In Dec it can get real cold with night temp close to Zero – so do be prepared with thermals and multiple layers of clothing. Tata Sky connection is available in common places – not all rooms have TV. Nirvana Suite where we stayed had one. Lots of Books and DVD’s – to spend your time in the evenings.

It’s a 6 Acre property on the hill slope and they do have a small garden that the manager told us is  a riot of colors in spring and includes many fruit trees like Apple, Kiwi, Cherry, Almonds, Apricots, Walnuts and Plums. The garden is on a terrace – so limited walking space.

After you have enjoyed the rooms, hospitality and food – there is a lot to be done in this area. Gagar is a small village and not a commercial hotspot like most hill stations. Here is what you can do

 IMG_4144

Devi Temple Trek (3 1/2 Hrs) A nice trek to the top of a hill that is at 8000 feet. Takes about 75 min to reach , level 2 trek ( Since it had snowed recently there were stretches of ice and slippery black ice). At the top you get an amazing view of the Himalayan Mountains. You also get to meet a Babaji – Yogi Ranganath who stays alone and manages a beautiful Shiva temple. He belongs to the Nath Clan and his abode is very close to the cave where Garg Rishi meditated. The baba was a wonderful person and offered us Ginger Tea. His meditation room with the fire “ Dhuni” made the room warm and spiritual. If you leave at 10 AM you can be back in the hotel at 1.15 for lunch. We loved this trek.

Mukteshwar Trip (5 – 6 Hrs) Its 30 Km away but takes well over an hr along the hill roads. On the way we crossed an apple Orchard – the season is June – July so all we saw now was dried trees in a snow covered mountain.

IMG_4183

Mukteshwar has some nice views of the mountains and a Shiva temple (some say its 5000 years old) where supposedly the Pandavas came and prayed to deliver them from their sins. Mukteshwar rocks also provide an opportunity for Zip Lining and Rappelling for the courageous. We had lunch at a lovely place called Nirvana – great food, reasonable priced – free Wi Fi, now who would expect that in Mukteshwar when even in Bangalore you don’t get free Wi Fi. ( Nirvana is located about 30 min from Mukteshwar on the way back to Gagar)

 IMG_4195

Sattal – 7 Lakes ( 3 – 4 hrs , best done on the way back to Shatabdi / Kathgodam) – This located on the way from Gagar to Kathgodam – so it may be a good idea to include this on your way back as Shatabdi leaves only at 3.45 PM. Again a 30 Km drive that takes about 75 Min. A set of 7 lakes named after the characters in the Ramayana – 5 of them are connected. They are crystal clean and the long 1 hr boat ride across them is serene. Fortunately last week of Dec was off-season and we had the beautiful lakes to ourselves. Finish the boat ride and enjoy the Rajmal Chawal / Kadi Chawal Lunch in the small neat stalls – but beware of monkeys – one of them snatched away a pack of chips from my daughter.

IMG_4219

 

Other Treks in that locality  – Forest trek 2 Hrs, Mahadevi Verma Cottage Trek – 2 Hrs. Given the season and recent snowfall we stayed away from these as the paths were slippery.

Nainital (6 – 7 Hrs) – The famous hill station of Nainital is located just 30 km away – A 60 – 90 min drive. Like most famous hill stations it is commercial – we stayed away. But if you are interested in a Cable Car ride, Monastery , Shopping ( bakery, namkeen, candles, woollen clothes) , Boat Rides – do check it out. Nainital is also on the way to Corbett so if you are planning a stay at Corbett you will cross Nainital.

Day Trek to Riverside – The folks at Soulitude also recommended a day trek to their other property – Soulitude by the Riverside , an amazing property on the Kalsi river. We stayed there for a night so more of that in a separate blog. I strongly recommend that you spend a day here – but if you are not its a must that you do the day trip, the property is peace and tranquility embodified and the highlight is a lovely pool called the “Pari Tal”

Tea Gardens and “Bell Temple” (2 Hrs) – you can also do a short trip to a local govt Tea garden and visit a Bell temple nearby. Start at 4 PM and end by 6 PM. The tea garden is small – nothing in comparison to what you see in Darjeeling or Conoor. But the ” Bell Temple” is unique – you can hang a bell and pray for your wish to be fulfilled.

IMG_4170

Other lakes like Bhimtal, NaukuchiaTal are also short drives of 60 – 90 minutes. (For those from the South – Tal means lake – and all these places are named after the beautiful lakes located there)

We enjoyed our holiday thoroughly and I am sure the lure of the Himalayas will draw us here once again. Maybe in a different season when the flowers bloom or the Apple orchards are brimming with fruits. I am looking forward to that.

Other Important Tips 

  • For booking your car in advance you can contact Nafees ( 9412963653) or Madhusudhan ( 9756930090) – drop from Kathgodam to Soulitude is about Rs 1500 – 2000 depending on Tavera / Innova. Day trips vary from Rs 600 for a few hrs to Rs 1500 for the trip to Mukteshwar. Book cars in advance.
  • Shatabdi reaches Kathgodam at 11.30 AM and leaves at 3.40 PM
  • Roads get shut when it snows – for at least 24 hrs. the road from Soulitude to Mukteshwar sees a lot of Snow in Jan / Feb. From Kathgodam to Soulitude the road is open almost all the time.
  • Locals say that it Snows from Jan – Feb almost 8 – 9 times – Snow in Dec is rare. Although this year it snowed on Dec 15th.
  • A 3 night at Soulitude in Himalayas (Gagar)  and 1 night at Soulitude in Riverside is recommended. Do the Riverside on your way back – its at 4500 feet and a small detour on the way back to Kathgodam from Gagar.
  • 3G connection is available across all the places / roads.
  • Get good walking shoes – all the treks need shoes with grip. Hotel provides trekking sticks.
  • Arm yourself with creams and lotions for dry skin – and also some sun creme , at 7200 / 8000 feet the sun in the day can be harsh on your skin resulting in sun burns
  • In winter the treks and drives start only by 10 – 1030 AM. Days are sunny in dec with bright blue skies. At night you can see a sky studded with stars. Our room had a sky light and it gave an amazing view of the sky from your bed.
  • Even the walk from Nirvana to the main building is a small steep trek and can tire you out initially.
  • We had great family time – but being a group of 2 – 3 like minded families would have added to the fun.
  • http://www.soulitude.in, For all details and booking. Plan your travel well in advance – the place gets sold out months in advance. Payment is 100% advance

Contradictions, Oxymorons and some thoughts from a jet lagged mind

20 Nov

Thanks to the jet lag – I have been up since 1 AM. So don’t be surprised if this blog entry confuses you. Its going to be a desultory piece talking of Contradictions and Oxymorons and more.

I first got introduced to the word ” Oxymoron” in Class 8 while reading about the sinking of the Titanic. The author beautifully described the morning after the disaster when the first rays of the sun fell on the ice bergs amidst the flotsam and debris of The Titanic as ” Tragic Splendour

antarctic-sound08

An oxymoron is a compressed paradox: a figure of speech in which seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side. The oxymoron has also been called “the show-off” figure, one that gives voice to life’s inherent conflicts and incongruities. The true beauty of  an oxymoron is that, unless we sit back and really think, we happily accept them as normal English.

Paid Volunteers, Kind Cruelty, Open Secret, Pretty Ugly, Original Copy, Clearly Confused….. are some wonderful examples of Oxymorons. Here is a paragraph I found that is packed with Oxymorons and it does make an interesting  read.

______________________________________________________________________

It was an open secret that the company had used a paid volunteer to test the plastic glasses. Although they were made using liquid gas technology and were an original copy that looked almost exactly like a more expensive brand, the volunteer thought that they were pretty ugly and that it would be simply impossible for the general public to accept them. On hearing this feedback, the company board was clearly confused and there was a deafening silence. This was a minor crisis and the only choice was to drop the product line.

_______________________________________________________________________

From Oxymorons lets move to a few other interesting examples of contradictions using colours.

  • A bright clear blue sky symbolises endless possibilities and optimism, and getting the blues plunges you into a world of despair and gloom.
  • Blue also stands for peace and tranquility – wile the deep blue sea is ominous and its depth has hidden mysteries.
  • Its often a that a Green Horn shines in a green field project.
  • A red carpet welcomes you but red tape pushes you into a maze
  • The color Green can symbolise freshness and a verdant atmosphere , at the same time you can be Green with jealousy and negativity.
  • A newly wed glow in her dark red saree and Code Red stands for Violence and death while the Red Cross is the beacon of hope for many.

And as a parting shot a few more interesting contradictions I picked up from a  post on FB today from Ashutosh Kapoor.

  • In a  play / theatre you rush for front row seats , while in the same auditorium you want the rear seats to watch  movie
  • Soap removes oil , but no soap can be made without Oil.

Is life black and white or is it inevitable that you have to manage shades of grey.

There are no right answers , I guess contradictions is a part of life and its all a function of your own perspective.

 

 

 

Creative Writing – A Project for your Child

7 Nov

The ICSE board had an interesting section on Creative writing. While most exams gave you a topic to write in the class 10 ICSE exam we were given  picture and asked to write about it. It was a wonderful exercise as one could stretch  ones imagination. Right there in a class of 30 you could see the students who had the creative spark early in life – while most captured the essence of the picture directly a few would give flight to their fancy and come up with a very different perspective that was entertaining.

I tried the exercise below with my children and was fascinated with the answers I got. Try it with your child and get them started on a journey of creative thinking.

WHAT IS GOING ON IN HIS MIND 

Write a creative essay in 250 words

article-2766329-21985AE100000578-601_634x515

The End

___________________________________________________________________________________

 

99% of the children will immediately write about the fear in the Man’s mind – the 1% creative guys will talk about what is going on in the Tiger’s mind. If that happens with your child – rejoice you just discovered a very creative kid at home.

 

 

 

 

Flipkart Vs Amazon – Who will finally be KING

7 Oct

I have been a loyal Flipkart customer since it started shop selling books. I loved the experience – it worked all the time. they exceeded expectations in delivering , refunding , the call centre picked up the phone in 2 rings – I love them and have strongly endorsed them over the last 7 years. Not only have they helped themselves but the country. As the harbinger of the eTailing revolution in India they have helped the country and the consumer.

Today a person in a remote location has access to products that he could not shop for in the past. Look at how the country has saved with Zillions of products being sold online –  we have saved so much petrol, electricity , traffic congestion in our already crowded markets and malls.

But I worry if Flipkart will survive in the near future. Here are 5 Reasons on why they may struggle.

1. History has not been kind to Indian Companies. Nirulas the pioneer in fast food business collapsed when McDonalds came to India. Thumbs Up succumbed to Coke & Pepsi. Pizza Corner has almost wound up as Pizza Hut and Dominoes continue their mad growth. Mad over Donuts stands no chance against Krispy Creme or Dunkin Donuts. CCD that ruled the length and breath of the country is slowly but surely collapsing in front of Starbucks and Costa Coffee…. the list is long but the ending is similar in every case. The Global Multinational rules and the Indian upstart bites dust from a position of leadership.

Unknown-1

2. Indian companies rarely go Global. When Amazon started within a few years they were in numerous countries – US, Canada, almost all of Europe, Australia , Singapore …….. . Flipkart has been around for 7 years , they currently have a run rate in excess of 3B / year – yet they operate only in India. WHY ? Is this being content with growth in India , lack of global expertise , or the desire to sweat it out till you have a massive IPO and then cash out.

3. Most Indian companies have the IPO syndrome – post the IPO – the quality / service all starts dropping rapidly. The founders and investors make so much money and there is so much joy and glee that the desire for enterprise building starts dropping. We have seen this often – Club Mahindra, Meru, Sobha .. all dropped on the service front after their IPO. Is this a case of Indian new age entrepreneurs being Sprinters Vs Marathon runners!  With the Flipkart IPO around the corner ( Post the success of Alibaba) – I just hope this does not turn out to be true.

4. Obsessed with Competeition. A quote from Jeff Bezos on his recent visit to India said it all – “Usually companies are worrying and obsessing about competition when they should actually be worrying and obsessing about customers. Our first priority has always been customers, and we are not worried about competition,” Bezos said at an event organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in association with Amazon.

The last 6 months Flipkart management has been taking a lot of potshots at Amazon, when their Global CEO was in town they took hoardings all the way from the airport putting up spunky taunting comments. Was this necessary?

5. Oct 6th, Flopkart –  What I experienced, what my fiends told me and what I read on the Social Media all indicated that Oct 6th was indeed a Flopkart. Was this necessary? Did it help the Brand or hurt it.

Unknown

The founders claim success

“Our teams and sellers worked days and nights to make this sale a success — and our efforts paid off. We got a billion hits on our site and achieved our 24-hour sales target of $100 mn in gross merchandise value (GMV) in just 10 hours,” the Bansals said in a statement.

Lets do the math – there are about 20M Broad Band HH in India and an additional 25 M 3G users. Even if we assume a 50% overlap between the two – thats about 30 – 35 M people who can access the Internet ( I am excluding Edge customers because the 3G speed on Mobile in India is so slow there is no way you can do online purchase on 2G) . I am not assuming that all of them were waiting to visit Flipkart on Oct 6th – lets take an optimistic number and say 50% were – To get a Billion hits how many times would these 15M people have visited the site – about 60 times each, that doesn’t sound feasible at all.

India is a country with a population of 1.2B – if there are 200M kids below the age of 10 – are we saying that every adult in the country visited the site once OR 500 Mn people visited it twice on Oct 6th – Sounds highly improbable given that we have an installed base of less than 50Mn PC’s and only 28% of the phones in the country are SmartPhones.

Even the figure of $100 M sale in 1 day does sound hyperbolic. I wish there was some mechanism to audit this data.

In Conclusion….

I am proud of Flipkart and the dynamic young founders who have made history – I just hope they beat the odds and history and continue to maintain their fantastic growth trajectory and sustain the revolution they have started in India. Like many I am a strong believer that we are seeing Chapter 1 of the eTailing business in India. In telecom we missed the Land Line bus and jumped to Mobile, similarly on retailing we are all set to move from Mom & Po General Trade to eTailing by skipping the Organised Trade bandwagon.

Lets hope that this time Flipkart leads the pack and not Amazon

Wildwoods – Nature Retreat – Off Mangalore

4 Oct

Always on the lookout for offbeat locations I was lucky to find Wildwood’s Spa on the internet . Most folks in Bangalore wait for long weekends to plan a getaway – and after a few years having covered Coorg, Ooty, Kodai, Bandipur, Chickmagalur, Waynad, Hampi & Badami – I was happy to find another great location in Karnataka. We are lucky that Karnataka has so much to see

Getting There 

Located 130 Km from Mangalore (3 hr Drive) its north of Mangalore on the Mangalore – Goa highway. We took a flight to Mangalore and then drove to the resort – Roads are single track but decent for 90% of the route . There is however a more convenient option of taking a night Train from Bangalore 16523/24 Karwar / Kannur Express that leaves bangalore at 8 PM and reaches Byndoor at 11 AM. Byndoor is a 15 min drive from the Resort. I recommend you take this – don’t get confused by the name – the train that leaves Bangalore splits into two at Mangalore – one half goes to Kannur and the other to Karwar.

About the Resort 

Its a new resort – 18 months old with 9 Cottages and 16 Villas. Spread across two tracts of land 4 Acres & 16 acres separated by a village road. The Cottages are in the 4 Acre property and the Villas in the 16 Acre. The Resort is in the last stage of completion and the Villa section is 90% done. Its a botanical resort with over 7000 species of plants set at the border of the jungle with a nice small river encircling it. The greenery attracts a lot of birds and butterflies – a rarety for city dwellers today.

3 Things that make the Resort appealing

1. Lovely Location – Lots of greenery – Gurgling River less than 50 feet from your room

2. Nice Rooms , Great Service , Homely food

3. Lots to see – Beaches / Temples / Treks

The Rooms 

IMG_3651

The rooms are nice & spacious. We had booked the largest room (Room – 1) that came with 2 Bedrooms – 2 Baths. The Bathrooms are well designed , with all modern amenities. Rooms are designed with Thatched roofs and well covered – so even during day you need the lights on.

A TV in both rooms with Cable connection , AC , Fan and Coffee Machine makes it effective and functional with all the amenities you need. The rooms has a small sit out with a bench that overlooks the river.The Cottage section of the Resort spread across 4 acres is small – the Restaurant and Spa are a stones throw from the room.

We Paid 15 K / Night for the two Bed Room – that included all meals.

Food is homely and tasty , mainly Veg. Spread is decent but not as expansive as a 5 star hotel. The Chef is open to suggestions from guests. One day he even served us “Brahmi Spinach Curry” – thats the leaf that helps with your memory. The morning juice was also exotic – on day 2 we were served a drink that looked like it was full go fish eggs – on enquiry we were told that its a local drink called ” Tampina Beeja” which is supposedly good for keeping the body cool.

IMG_3625

Liquor is not served – but you are welcome to get some from home and have in your room. If you came here thinking of Mangalorean fish – then you may be disappointed (We were happy not to get the Fish smell)

The best activity 

While there are many things to do the best activity we liked was the trek up the Kosalli Falls. Its about 6 Km – and takes 2 hr one way. A tough trek ( by my standards) its thru thick jungles and some parts are on the edge of the hill. I just made it puffing and panting – but the kids had great fun and beat us hollow.

IMG_3647

The other attractions nearby are the beautiful beaches.

We visited 3 beaches of which 2 were outstanding.

The Someshwara beach is the closest – 15 Km , 30 min drive from the Resort. Its also the beach where a river meets the Arabian Sea. Empty , neat and clean its rare to find a beach like this in India. No hawkers, No shanties, Nobody ogling at women – its a great beach. The other beach I would recommend is the Marawanthe beach – a 1 hr drive from the resort its on the way back to Mangalore. The temple town of Murudeshwar also has a beach – but that is very commercial. Water in this part of the country is rough and swimming is not advised. 

IMG_3698

IMG_3614

For the religious minded there are some famous temples to visit. Udupi – 85 Km , Kolur Mookambika – 40 Kms, Gokarna – 120 Km , Murudeshwar – 37 Km. And for some more fun Jog Falls is 120 Km ( 3 hrs drive) and Goa is just 4 hrs away.

This is also Cashew land – you can see forests of Cashew trees on both sides of the road as you drive. We visited a cashew factory and saw the laborious process of how Cashew Kernels are boiled/burnt and then the nut is cracked open. Post that they are manually scraped and cleaned and then graded by size. At the end of it you get amazingly tasty cashews at a price thats almost 50% of what you get in Bangalore – Rs 500/- Kg.

IMG_3676

Other activities – Long Walks , TT & Badminton, Non Monsoon season they arrange for River activities, and even Snorkelling. Many of the activities are seasonal. We enjoyed our morning walks along lush green paddy fields every day. But Kids can get bored – so plan to come in a group.

IMG_3667

Weather

Its humid – even in end Sep the Temp was 30 +. The best season as always is Nov to Feb. Summers can be very hot and Monsoon is clearly avoidable.

In Conclusion – we loved the place. Yes getting there was a bit of a challenge and the 5 K for the Innova from Mangalore to the Resort was a bit too expensive. Food was good, service was great and we had enough to do for 3 days. It did help a lot that were two families – I strongly recommend that you go as a group. It takes a lot of passion and energy to run a resort like this – hats off to the owner and his team for doing a super job. I don’t think they make any profit out of this venture.

If I were to make 3 suggestions to the Hotel management – they would be 

1. Decide your positioning – Spa Centric or Nature Centric , The name Wildwoods Spa – gives it a feeling that its Spa Centric , but in reality its a Nature Resort

2. Package your activities – 1/2 day modules , and sell that package , as of now you decide where to go and the hotel helps you with local transport.

3. Create more activities for Kids – if in Monsoon river activities are not possible , create something like Cooking , gardening etc – Kids need activity – The Cashew burring activity we did one day was excellent and well appreciated by the kids.

Yes the place does not have Internet/Wifi – I think thats a blessing in disguise.

IMG_3659

As we wrap up one holiday we are already set for the next one in Dec – as we head to the Himalayas, our bookings are done and we are looking forward to some mountain fun and snow time at Soulitude in the Himalayas. Look out for that Blog in Dec

Axis Bank & Axis Direct Sites – Poor User Interface

24 Sep

We often see award ceremonies for best Banks from ET / Business Standard / Business India etc. Happy CEO’s gloating over their trophies ( which in most cases is linked to the ad spends you have made with that media group). I wish there would be an award for Online Bank Sites on ease of User Design / interface. I am confident that if there were one such award the bank that would win the LAST price for being the worst designed site would be Axis Bank & Axis Direct. 

Axis-Direct

Online Interface design for financial institutions have been happening for over 15 years. I remember how easy it was to use Datek Online in the US in 1999. Wellsfargo, Washinton Mutual in US and even Citibank and Stanchart in India have excellent intuitive UI design.

In addition to color, layout, font and clutter the two basic rules for website design are

1. How many clicks to get your job done

2. How prominent is my Call to Action

If I evaluate the Axis Bank and Axis Direct sites on these two parameters they fare very poorly.

Lets take the simple job of logging into http://www.axis.com – you want to see your balance. In most global banks that would be one click. the login page would be visible on the home page. In Axis bank its 5 Clicks.

1. http://www.axisbank.com – 2. Click on Login in a  cluttered home page where the CTA of Login is barely visible – 3. You land at a page that says imp information and has the login button again saying continue to login – 4. You land at help and support and how Axis bank.com is now available for Mac users & Continue to Login – 5. Finally you come to the secure login page where you can enter your login credentials

Painful? But thats Axis Bank and its incredibly poor UI design. I wonder who designed this website. But your problem doesn’t end there. In most sites including banks you can customise your login credentials. In Axis Bank its your Cust ID thats a 9 digit number which is difficult to remember. Most people would have their logins to all their favourite sites common – its easy to remember. Trying to remember the cust ID for Axis Bank is a pain – so every time you need to log in you need to check back on a file / folder where you may have written this number.

There are many transaction – which requires you to enter your Cust ID even if you have logged in with it. You have a Transaction password but in most cases you need to do the Transaction Password and the OTP that comes by phone. Overall very messy – the folks in the bank say its RBI regulation – but I am surprised that Citibank , Stanchart and most MNC banks operating in India under RBI guidelines don’t have this level of mess.

I am stopping here on Axis bank – but there is lots more to talk about. The site is begging for an average UI designer to take it up and clean it – I hope someone from Axis Bank management sees this blog and gets on the the job fast.

Lets move on top Axis Direct the trading site which even beats the Axis bank site. The home page is a clutter with no clear CTA, but if we can live with that lets see the effort to do some basic tasks.

View your Portfolio – thats the basic you want to do and see whats the gain / loss in your portfolio. Its 6 steps to get there after crossing many Ads

1. http://www.axisdirect.com – 2. login – 3. My Portfolio – 4. Equity – 5. Detailed View – 6. Instrument Equity . And once you finally land on the equity page there is no way for you to buy or sell the stocks that you see listed there. Normally there would be a simple button next to the equity in the Portfolio page saying Trade. But that common sense does not exist with Axis Direct.

Lets look at a few other examples and how difficulties to get to something as basic as seeing your Profit & Loss or your Trade book history. All of which is needed to determine your Tax Liability. The list below may look simple now – but the site is so poor on intuition that it took me hrs and multiple trials before I was able to figure this out

To check Derivatives Profit and loss: My portfolio>> Derivatives>> Portfolio analysis>> Tax Implications on my Derivative Portfolio.

To check Equity Profit and loss: My portfolio >> Equity>> Portfolio analysis>> Tax Implications on my Equity Portfolio.

To check Derivatives Profit and loss: My portfolio>> Derivatives>> Portfolio analysis>> Tax Implications on my Derivative Portfolio.

For Mutual fund Profit and loss: My portfolio >> MF >> Portfolio analysis>> Tax Implication for my Mutual fund portfolio.

Getting to Your Trade Book : Step 1: Login http://www.axisdirect.in 
> Step 2: Click on Trading >> History >> Trade book.

 Step 3: Select Equity trade book.

 Step 4: Select date ‘From and To’.
 Step 5: Click on ‘view report’.

India is known for its software design expertise. But examples like this clearly show why we are an outsourcing hub and not a design centre for products. User Interface, aesthetics, testing are all areas that are way down on our priority list. We just want to get the job done and say – we also have a website, so what if its the worst website in the country – who cares.

If Axis bank has a SEO / SEM web Marketing department – I am sure someone will pick this up and forward it to their MD. I hope very soon I can see a better site with better UI capability.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48 other followers