Saturday, July 26, 2014

Following the father-in-law's footsteps - a movie review



A comedy drama worth watching once if you are a hard-core Dhanush fan or are missing the yesteryear Rajinikanth.

Directed by: Velraj
Starring:
Dhanush
Amala Paul

I fell in love with Dhanush after I heard "Why this kolaveri di", though '3' failed to impress me.  However, as I started watching more of his movies and listening to more of his movie songs, including those which he has lent his voice to, even before kolaveri happened, I sensed repetition. And after seeing all the raving about Vellai Illa Patadhaari on the internet, I reluctantly agreed to watch it for our weekend movie. Listed below are what I liked and what I did not like about the movie. 

Likes:
  • Comedy
  • Awareness about organ donation
  • Awareness about the sad state of affairs in the country where engineers from all other fields are forced to take up an IT job.
  • Catchy music
Dislikes :
  • Repetition - have seen most of what Dhanush had to offer in most of his other movies.
  • Repetition - have seen most of this good guy always succeeds through hardwork in almost all of Rajinikanth's movies
  • Dhanush is trying to follow in his father-in-law's footsteps by introducing a lot of "style" 
    • When he speaks out the entire dialogue about how real people struggle to climb up the ladder and are crushed by the rich kids. 
    • When he gets his cigarette lighted up from the very guy that he beat up
  •  A scrawny Dhanush beating up a group of people, including when he takes off his shirt 
  • The same Dhanush who could remember that the next door girl lied about him lying drunk on the street can't remember that the same girl had said that she liked "Raghu" to "Karthik".. Aaargghhhh!!
  • Music seems repetitive too though it is catchy

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Road trip - ChristChurch to ChristChurch - a review of food, accomodation and activities with some trivia

Going on a holiday and making the most out of it, requires a lot of time spent on research. Our main intention was to explore the South Island by road and do as many side walking trails as possible.

A lot of sites have itineraries for road trips across the South Island but don't really mention the activities or the amount of time that one could have to do a little bit of exploring - may be on foot or activities (you are in the adventure capital of the world).

Here is the story of our first campervan trip in the South Island, New Zealand, with what we did and could do and what we could not or did not want to do. We did end up rushing the last few days - after day 9.

Trip details - Christchurch - Lake Tekapo - Oamaru - Dunedin - The Catlins - Invercargill - Bluff - Te Anau - Milford Sound - Queenstown - Glenorchy - Arrowtown - Wanaka - Glaciers - Hokitika - Christchurch
Day 1 : Auckland to Lake Tekapo
Day 2 : Lake Tekapo to Oamaru
Day 3 : Oamaru to Dunedin
Day 4: Dunedin to Invercargill.
Day 5: Invercargill to Milford Sound via Te Anau
Day 6: Milford Sound to Queenstown via Te Anau
Day 7 : Exploring Queenstown
Day 8 : Queenstown to Wanaka
Day 9 : Wanaka to Hokitika via the glaciers
Day 10 : Hokitika to Christchurch
Day 11 : Christchurch to Auckland

Trivia :
  • Scenic Route from Christchurch upto Queenstown
  • Total kms covered by road - 2,275kms
  • 18th  April, 2014 to 28th April, 2014
  • This was quite an ambitious trip and we ended up doing nothing else but mostly driving on a couple of days
  • We could not use deals on bookme as we were not really sure of the timing and where we would be but we did manage to grab a few deals from the AA and Jasons magazines.

South Island 10 day Road Trip
Day 1 : Auckland to Lake Tekapo (1.5+3.5 hours) 
Today includes a flight to Christchurch, hiring a campervan and driving to Lake Tekapo via Ashburton and Geraldine.

Lake Tekapo gets it turquoise colour from the 'rock flour' that is dispersed in the lake. The rocks are ground by the glaciers higher up.
Lake Tekapo houses many hydro power generating stations and is also know for fishing and boating.

Background : All radio stations screaming of bad weather and road blocks.
Also, a public holiday - Good Friday so stocking up on essentials was a bit tough. Public holidays in New Zealand can make life really difficult - more so when the big super market chains close down as well.

Transport :
  • Flights from Auckland to Christchurch for 2 - 500$ - 1.5 hours
  • Campervan hire - 99$ for the day
  • Fuel charges - 64$ 
  • Christchurch to Lake Tekapo - 3.5 hours 
Food : 
  • Breakfast - Moko Cafe, Regent Street 
    • Hearty sized portions
    • Cost for 2 portions plus coffee - 24$
  • Lunch - Robbie's Bar and Bistro, Ashburton
    • Lovely ambience 
    • Friendly staff
    • Cost of 1 main and 1 beer - 25$
  • Dinner - self made sandwiches
Activities : 
  • Antartic Centre
    • Cost : 56$ per person including the Hagglund ride
    • Simulated storm not to be missed
    • Ice water competition is fun if not already tried it at Kelly Tarlton's in Auckland
    • Hagglund ride is a different experience
    • Blue penguin feeding is very informative
    • Spend about 2 hours
  • Church of the good shepherd
    • Cost : Free
    • Must visit
    • Beautiful place to walk around
    • Can spend about an hour or so walking around the lake - around the evening
  • Walk near Lake Tekapo 
    • About 45 minutes post dinner

Stuff that we missed cause of the public holiday
* Ashburton flight museum - usually open between 1pm - 3 pm
* Geraldine Vintage Car Museum

Stay :
Lake Tekapo Holiday Park and Motel
  • Price - 15$ per person for a non powered site plus 2$ for a hot shower
  • Beautiful location - only thing they got going for them
  • Nil equipment in the kitchen
  • Showers are without any proper ventilation 
  • Free BBQs
Total Cost : 875$ including some bits and odds

Day 2 : Lake Tekapo to Oamaru (2.5 hrs)
Today includes a walk up Mt. John, breakfast at the breathtakingly beautiful Astro Cafe, stocking up on supplies and heading to Oamaru to see the Blue Penguin Colony.

Transport :
Campervan hire - 99$ per day
Fuel charges - 63$
Lake Tekapo to Oamaru - 2.5 hours

Food : 
  • Breakfast - Astro Cafe
    • A sandwich and hot chocolate - 12$
    • Breathtaking views
  • Lunch
    • Boiled eggs and bread
  • Dinner
    • Grilled salmon - salmon bought at Twizel for 13$, self grilled
Activities:
  • Mt. John Walkway
    • Cost - Free
    • 1.5 hours return
    • Moderate climb
    • 360 degree views of Lake Tekapo and beyond and the mountains
    • Visit Astro Cafe for a quick bite
  • Lake Pukaki Scenic Lookout and Twizel Salmon
    • Cost - Free
    • Can purchase farmed salmon
    • Lovely views
  • Walk around the Oamaru Victorian Precinct
    • Cost - free
    • About 30-45 minutes 
  • Blue Penguin Colony, Oamaru
    • Cost -  48$ for 2 - with some discount for holding a YHA membership card
    • Get educated on blue penguins
    • See the blue penguins get washed ashore while returning from feeding in the sea
    • The number of penguins that you see depends on the time of the year and your patience
    • We saw over 80 penguins
Stuff that we missed
* Night star gazing at the observatory due to bad weather
* Elephant rocks - just missed it as we were arguing and drove right past
* SteamPunk HQ

Stay : 
Waitaki Waters Holiday Park
  • 29$ for 2 people for 1 night for a non-powered site
  • Well equipped kitchen
  • Friendly staff

Total Cost :  270$ including bits and odds

Day 3 : Oamaru to Dunedin (1.5 hours)
Today includes visiting the Moeraki Boulders(a natural wonder), Larnach Castle and Alan's Beach which meant driving around the Otago Peninsula. There are other paid activities such as the Yellow Penguin Place, Albatross Centre which we decided to give a miss as we thought it would be best to see the animals in the wild rather than under human influence.

Transport :
Campervan hire - 99$
Fuel - 57$
Oamaru to Dunedin - 1.5 hrs

Food : 
  •  Breakfast 
    • Self made bread and eggs
  • Lunch
    • Self made sandwiches
  • Dinner - Scenic Hotel Southern Cross
    • Cost - 59.50$ for 2 mains and 2 beer
    • Good food
    • Nice ambience
Activities :
  • Sunrise at the beach in Oamaru
    • Cost - free
    • Our first cobbled beach experience
    • Secluded except for a couple of fishermen
    • 45 minutes
  • Moeraki Boulders
    • Cost - donation of personal choice
    • A natural wonder
    • South Island's most photographed natural wonder
    • Perfectly spherical boulders made due to chemical reactions in the limestone 
    • Can also visit the cafe about which I don't have too much to say 
    • 30 minutes
  • Shag Point - Fur Seals and Sea lions in their natural habitat
    • We may have missed this one if not for the free touring map by Jasons. 
    • We saw so many fur seals up close and personal.  
    • Not too many people - looks like a best kept secret
    • 30 minutes to an hour or more
  • Larnach Castle
    • Cost - 50.40$ for two (including 10% discount coupon)
    • Lovely garden and well maintained house
    • Can be missed as you get better views for free
  • Alan's Beach
    • Can see yellow eyed penguins and seals, if you are lucky
    • Gravel road makes for an uncomfortable drive with a 2WD vehicle
  • Explore the town center
    • Post dinner we walked around the town center
    • Stunning architecture
Stuff we missed
* Yellow Eyed Penguin Place
* Albatross Centre
* Dunedin Botanic Gardens
* Sandfly Bay - similar to Alan's Beach
* Gypsy Fair - Arrggh!! It made me sad that despite being gypsies for those few days, we missed it - sheer foolishness on  our part.

Stay : 
Dunedin Holiday Park and Motel
  • Cost - 36$ for 2 for a non powered site
  • Super market/Stores a stone's throw away
  • Very close to the beach
  • Quite a popular place
  • Ill-equipped kitchen
Total Cost : 305$ including odds and bits

Day 4: Dunedin to Invercargill. (3.5hrs)
Following the scenic route brochure that we had picked up, we decided to go to Invercargill via The Catlins. On the way we visited Kaka Point, Nugget point and also made it to the Bluff. It being Easter Monday we missed out on Bluff Oysters in their land.

Travel :  
Campervan hire : 99$
Fuel : 51$

Food :  
  • Breakfast
    • Self made sandwiches
  • Lunch 
    • Self made stuff
  • Dinner - Speight's Ale House
    • Cost - 43$
    • Nice ambience
    • Unfortunately had run out of the beer that was on promotion for a limited time
    • Was one of the few rare places open considering the public holiday
Stay : 
Beach Road Holiday Park
  • Cost - 28$ for two persons
  • Surcharge on credit cards
Activities :
  • Nugget Point 
    • Lovely views
    • Come face to face with how nature deals with the harshness of nature
    • Tiny baby seals playing - need a pair of binoculars
    •  A nice walk
  • Tautuku Bay
    • Florence Hill Lookout
    • See how nature changes what we see
  • Explore bluff
    • Learn a bit more history and enjoy great  views



Stuff we missed due to lack of time
* Jack's Blowhole
* A visit to Stewart Island

Total Cost : 250$ (Including bits and odds and stocking up on essentials)

Day 5: Invercargill to Milford Sound via Te Anau (4.5 hrs)
Today we drive to Te Anau. On the way we confirmed a Milford Sound Cruise and stay at Milford Sound. We also do a few walks on the way to Milford Sound as planned.

Travel :
Campervan hire : 99$
Fuel : 110$

Food : 
  • Breakfast
    • Self cooked
  • Lunch
    • Self cooked sandwiches
  • Dinner - Blue Duck Cafe and Bar
    • Cost - 48$
    • Happening place considering it is the only place open
    • Cool ambience
    • Loved their kitchen
Activities :
  • Lake Gunn Walkway
    • A 45 min walk through beech wood forest
    • Teeming with birdlife
    • Amazing views of Lake Gunn
    • Loads of trivia about beech trees 
    • Very easy walk
  • Mirror Lakes
    • Teeming with people
    • All bus tours stop here so this should be visited when there is no crowd
    • 15 minutes walk and viewing
  • Homer Tunnel Walk
    • A short walk to understand the flora and fauna of the harsh terrain
    • Lovely views
    • Appreciate the sharp contrast to the other side of the tunnel, once you drive through
  • The Chasm 
    • Work of art by nature
    • Sheer force of water
    • 15-20 minutes walk and viewing
  • Milford Sound Cruise
    • Cost : 70$ per person including free tea/coffee
    • Amazingly beautiful sounds
    • Fur seals
    • Get bathed in pristine waters from a waterfall
    • 2.5 hour cruise
Stay : Milford Sound Lodge 
  • Cost - 44$ for two - most expensive
  • Worst in all our travel
  • Was just a car park with zero views
  • Ill equipped kitchen 
  • Bad roads to get there
Total Cost : 375$ including bits and odds

Day 6: Milford Sound to Queenstown via Te Anau (5 hrs)
Travel :
  • Campervan hire - 99$ 
  • Fuel - 50$
Food :
  • Breakfast - self made sandwiches
  • Lunch - Self cooked noodles and baked beans
  • Dinner  - Bombay Palace, Frankton
    • Amazing ambience
    • We took our food for a candle light dinner by the lake front
    • Good biryani
    • Nice sides though we missed the pepper in the pepper chicken 
    • Cost - 36$ - we did use it the next day for lunch as well
Activities :
  • Lake Marian walk
    • A steep climb
    • 3 hrs return
    • We missed the views due to bad weather but it was rated 2nd in the list of must do walks at the Milford Sound Lodge
  • Explore Frankton LakeFront
  • Candlelight dinner at the lake front
    • Council provided Barbecue available for use
    • Council provided seating available too
Stuff we missed cause of lack of time, wet shoes and bad weather
* Kepler track
* Key Summit track

Stay  : Frankton Motor Camp
  • Cost - 36$ for two persons per night
  • Items for kitchen use available for loan from office - I quite like this idea
  • Lovely location - right at the waterfront under kowhai trees - a romantic can't ask for more
Total Cost : 230$

Day 7:  Exploring Queenstown
We were so satisfied with the relaxed and lovely atmosphere of the Frankton Motor Camp that we decided to stay a day more. We explore Glenorchy and try to find Paradise.

Transport :
  • Campervan hire - 99$
  • Fuel - 50$
Food : 
  • Breakfast - self made sandwiches
  • Lunch - leftover from Bombay Palace
  • Dinner - Frankton Arm Tavern
    • Cost -  56$ for 2 mains and 2 beers
    • Amazing ambience
    • Lovely fireplace which was taken by locals
    • Good food
    • Really friendly staff
Activities :
  • Queenstown walk from Belfast Terrace
    • 360 degree views
    • 2-3 hrs return
    • Steep climb but well worth the views
  • Explore Glenorchy and the search for paradise 
    • A 45 minute drive from Queenstown
    • Beautiful Lagoon Walkway
    • A semi gravel road drive to Paradise
    • Eat world famous carrot cake at "The Trading Post" in Glenorchy 
  • A short exploration of the 12 mile delta where we stopped for lunch
  • Lake Diamond walk
    • a lake in the shape of an eight
Stuff we missed  due to lack of interest and time
* Frankton Lakefront walkway
* Exploring the crowded town centre
* Skyline Gondola
* Paragliding
* Shotover Jet
* Million Dollar Cruise

Stay : Frankton Motor Camp
  • Cost - 36$ for two persons 
Total Cost : 260$ including short eats

Day 8: Queenstown to Wanaka (1 hr excluding time spent in Arrowtown)
When we explore the true colours of Autumn and exercise our brains at the Puzzling World!

Transport :
  • Campervan hire - 99$
  • Fuel - 50$
Food :
  • Breakfast - Arrowtown Bakery Cafe
    • Cost - 12$
    • Snug place
    • Yumm food 
  • Lunch - Uncle John's Pizzeria
    • Cost - 14$ for a burnt calzone and "1" fried bluff oyster
    • One word - Avoid!!
  •  Snacks - Puzzling world
    • Cost -  10$
  •  Dinner - Self cooked
Activities:
  • Explore Arrowtown
    • Quaint town
    • Known for Autumn Colours
    • Hosts Autumn Festival
    • Zero crime 
  • Explore the lakefront
  • Puzzling world and the Great Maze
    • Cost - 32$ including a 10% discount voucher
    • A must visit - great fun
    • Exercise your brain
    • Purchase some more puzzles to further exercise your brain
  • Outlet track
    • About 1.5 hours along the river side
    • Flat easy walk
Stuff that we missed due to my wet shoes
*Mt Roy walk
*Mt Iron walk

Stay : Lake Outlet Holiday Park
  • Cost - 28$ for two persons plus 1$ for a hot shower
  • Beautiful views
  • Easy walks start from here
  • Liked the fact that they sold stuff at the office - convenience matters
  • Hot shower did not work
Total Cost : 275$  including short eats
Day 9 : Wanaka to Hokitika via glaciers (5 hrs)
In spite of the long drive, we did fit in a lot of walks.

Transport
  • Campervan hire - 99$
  • Fuel - 110$
Food : 
  • Breakfast - self cooked
  • Lunch - Haast World Heritage Frontier cafe
    • Cost - 37$ - a main and a beer
    • Vintage ambience
    • Good local food 
  • Dinner - self cooked
Activities : 
  • Blue Pools Walkway
    • 30 minutes return
    •  Through beech/tahina forest, across a swinging bridge to the mouth of the blue river
    • If you are lucky, you can see rainbow trout
  • Thunder Creek falls
    • 5 minute return
    • Just as the name suggests - a sudden bolt of water falling from a height
  • Fantail falls
    • 5 minutes return
    • As the name suggests, a waterfall that looks like the outline of a fantail.
  • Fox Glacier Te Moeka o Tuawe Valley Walk
    • 1 hour return depends on your agility to cross streams
    • Takes you to a view that gives you a frontal view of the glacier
    • Cross a surging stream - which can be tricky
  • Lake Matheson walk
    • Lake Matheson is famous for the reflective view of Mt Cook
    • We did just the first point of interest but the bride, read Mt Cook, was too shy to come out from behind the veil, read the clouds.

Stay : Hokitika Holiday Park
  • Cost - 28$ for two for a night
  • Very good facilities
  • Hosts let their expectations well known
Total Cost : 285$ includings bits and odds

Day 10 : Hokitika to Christchurch (3.5 hrs)

There was just one worry on my mind for this day and that was the weather. I heard that Arthur's Pass could be closed due to bad weather and since the weather had not been particularly good, I wanted to make sure that we get to Christchurch on time. We did nothing but drive all the way to Christchurch today. The views were great and an enjoyable drive. 

We were in Christchurch by lunchtime and spent most of our day inside a motel room cause most businesses were closed as it was a Sunday.

Transport 
  • Campervan hire - 99$
  • Fuel -  60$
Food :
  • Breakfast - self cooked 
  • Lunch and Dinner - Pedro's House of Lamb
    • Cost - 36$
    • Huge Portions
Activities :
  • Relax
  • Explore Hagley's Park in the city of gardens
Stay :
Ashford Motor Lodge
  • Cost - 120$ for a one bedroom apartment
  • Comfortable and clean
  • Eco friendly
 Total Cost : 315$


Campervan review : 
Company : CamperCo
  • Sturdy, dependable vehicle.
  • Had all that we needed for our trip.
  • Cost per day 99$ with no excess
  • Hired for 11 days
  • The only grouse was the lack of charging points. You can either run the freezer box or charge *ONE* device at a time.
  • Also, we forgot to take our AUX input cable. I am sure that we could have asked Ross from CamperCo but decided not to as it was Easter time and did not want to disturb him. The radio works most of the time and it was good as we got the weather updates as we needed them.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ni Hao!

"Ni Hao" came the voice as I lifted my head to enter the lift.

I was just shooting off an apologetic message to the husband that I was ready to head home. Inside there was guilt, for not having kept dinner ready before heading out. Inside there was hunger, for I too had not eaten. Inside there was this rush to get home.

Outside could have been a wildest dream come true. But everything inside was replaced with one feeling "PANIC".

The "Ni Hao" had come from one of the 5 guys already in the lift. He had even made a bow. How cute I thought to myself.

Thoughts were cut short by "No, no, don't be shy" by the guy next to him. I was beginning to take in the scene. 5 guys in all, 3 to the right and 2 to the left of the lift. The entire middle space was taken by a trolley bag with its handle stretched out to its owner on the left.


All the 3 guys on the right pushed themselves to a corner and had made a tiny space for me to squeeze into. It was one of these guys who had voiced "Ni Hao". The guy to whom the bag belonged seemed to ignore me and it stood where it was.


I stood there tongue-tied.
"What does Ni Hao mean anyway? Does it mean hello?"
I thought of saying something quirky.
I thought of squeezing in.
I judged the space and felt it was too small for me to feel comfortable in.
I felt fear.
I thought of saying "Excuse me" but the words would not come out.
I said to myself "Be Brave".
I thought "Why can't that guy move the fucking bag?"
I inhaled the beer.

And thankfully the lift doors closed.

Another press of the lift calling button and up came an empty lift. Disappointment! Relief! Relief won over. Obviously I could do nothing else about it. I had maybe missed some fun.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My recipes have a new home!

I finally bit the bullet and decided to split the content on the blog. A weekend when we have been "cyclone"d in made me finally get down to it.

I started off this blog as a journal of my thoughts and then it went on to becoming my recipe book. Slowly posts on movie reviews and restaurant reviews began to creep in. It looked like a nice collage to me but friends mentioned that blogs should not be a collage.

Gathering a fan following was never really an agenda item, neither was there the awareness of laurels and blog awards. A bout of web trawling eats into moments of reflection and those started leaving me depressed. But the "chalta hain" side of me, never allowed the depression to turn into a drive to excel or to do better.

A few times, I did manage to incorporate templates and indulge in joining focus groups but I really could not keep up with that. It seems hollow to visit a blog and then leave a comment on a post hoping that the person would take notice and return the favour. Don't get me wrong. Not all the comments would fall into this category. But this is not the kind of satisfaction that I am looking for. I'd rather some one really tried out the recipe and gave me honest feedback. But what are the chances of someone really following a recipe to the tee? I think I myself have a 0.1% record. Either I don't have all the ingredients or I prefer to add an ingredient or two, to suit my taste. And that reminds me of the fact that people are so much more fussy about food nowadays than I can remember in the days when my mom and her friends entertained.

But I still went ahead and am giving it another chance. I think I have succeeded. All the recipes are now available here. You can also access them from the "Recipes" link in the top menu bar. Feedback is welcome.