Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Surprises in Switzerland

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

We had a wonderful trip to Switzerland and had quite a few surprises, some pleasant and some not so pleasant.


Besides the beautiful double rainbow we got to see during our drive from Geneva to Montreux, here is a quick look at the rest of them:

  • Stroller Friendly: Every place that we went to in Switzerland, was stroller friendly. I have not seen any other country with such stroller friendly rules implemented anywhere.
  • Tap water is drinkable : This is good to know as they do not have bottled water – they only have tap water or sparkling water, besides the soda, juices, etc.
  • Tap water is charged : I was surprised to see some of the restaurants charge money for 1/2 litre of tap water. Wow..I am guessing it is a matter of time before which they start charging for the air we breathe!
  • 6.30pm is the time to remember : Almost all shops close by 6.30pm every single day. If you are on the streets trying to shop after 6.30pm, you choices are very limited.
  • Almost everything is expensive : All the items except bread, beer and cheese are very expensive. If you felt US or India was expensive, try shopping in Switzerland.
  • No Room Service : If you are used to the room service concept in India and other Asian countries, get ready to manage in your hotels with zero room service, starting from bringing your luggage to your rooms, to anything that you need help with.
  • Speeding Tickets : Speeding tickets are sent automatically in Switzerland to your credit card account on file with the rental car company. So please drive carefully.
  • No Tolls : We were warned that there would be tolls in many places. We drove to over 10 cities, but did not notice even one toll booth anywhere. Not sure how that happened!
  • Indian Driving License: Indian Driving License is sufficient to rent a car in Switzerland. You do not need an International Drivers License to rent a car there.

While this post only has information about the surprises we had in Switzerland, if you are interested in knowing more about how to plan your self guided tour in Switzerland, this post will be useful to you.

Tips on Self Guided Tours in Switzerland

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Based on our experience on our first visit to Switzerland, this post is aimed at helping people planning to go on a self guided tour in Switzerland.


Self Guided Tours in Switzerland can make your life wonderful because it gives you the flexibility to go where you want and when you want, as long as you are ready to do a little bit of planning. Can you believe we took this picture during the drive from Lucerne to Interlaken, which would have been missed for sure if we did not drive!


For any self guided tour of Switzerland to work right, you have to do some amount of planning ahead of time. Some of the things you have to do ahead of time are:


Comparing India and Switzerland

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Got a chance to spend some time reading up about Switzerland and am trying to compare India and see the difference.


1. Switzerland has not been in a state of war for almost 200 years. They did not participate directly in World War I or II. India already has three wars to its credit in the past 75 years.

2. India’s population density is 380 while Switzerland is 190. Every time I try to find out the root cause of day to day issues we face in I am told about the high population in India and how things are uncontrollable. Just a reminder to every one who use that excuse, the population density of Singapore and Hong Kong are close to 7000 – I guess it is time to realize that in India.

3. Switzerland is not a member of European Union – but have applied for it. They are a part of Schengen agreement. The biggest surprise was that they joined the United Nations only in 2002!

4. Switzerland has been ranked very high in many indices when compared to other countries in the world:


Tips on Self Guided Tours to Bali

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Based on our experience on our first visit to Bali, this post is aimed at helping people planning to go on a self guided tour to Bali.


Self Guided Tours in Bali can make your life wonderful because it gives you the flexibility to go where you want and when you want, as long as you are ready to do a little bit of planning. Did you know that 1 US Dollar will get you 11900 Indonesian Rupiah? Imagine the smile on my face when I held over a million in cash on hand when I converted the currency at the airport 🙂


Changi Airport in Singapore – Amazing Experience

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Happened to be at the Changi International Airport in Singapore for a few hours during my recent visit to Singapore/Malaysia and had a wonderful experience there.

Changi International Airport

Changi International Airport

As this was my first visit to the Changi airport after 12 years, and since a lot of friends suggested we spend some time at the airport, we wanted to see what is so good about the airport.

Changi Airport claims to become the model airport for the world. Based on my experience there, I can say for sure they do not have to claim it..they have earned it purely by providing a complete package in both their facilities and their service levels. Here are some reasons why I felt they have earned it.


Autos and Meters

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Every one in Chennai knows that people have given up on the Government to do anything about the issue with Auto-rickshaws (known as AUTO in India) and their refusal to ply with the meters to calculate the fares.

Every single person involved in this system (the passenger, the auto driver, the owner of the auto, the Government, the traffic police, the traffic regulating bodies as well as the auto associations) know that the menace created by some greedy auto drivers has become very common.

The most interesting aspect of this situation is that every one loves the idea of autos, especially in cities like Chennai, as they provide a very quick mode of transportation, with the cost ranging between taking a public transportation system such as a bus, and taking a taxi cab to go to your destination.

While the idea is great, the implementation lacks regulation due to which there are now a million autos in the city, while 99% or more of those autos do not use the meter.

There have been some attempts by some individuals to come up with online initiatives such as and, to address this issue, but they barely touch upon the actual problem.

The key problem at hand is the fact that auto drivers do not use the meters, charge whatever they feel like and refuse to ply to some destinations.

I have seen New York city solve this problem in an amazing way with their taxi cabs, where those drivers did exactly what auto drivers are doing today in Chennai. The government stepped in and rectified the problem once for all. Today, if you take a cab in New York, you do not even tell the driver where you want to go until you are seated inside the taxi. Once seated in the taxi, you tell the driver, he switches on the meter and once the destination is reached, the meter automatically prints a receipt for you. You can swipe your card from the seat and it automatically charges the amount. If at any point, the driver refuses to ply to the destination of your choice, or asks for anything above the meter, there is a toll free number and the cab’s number printed in big bold letters right in front you in the back seat.

Full transparency – this is possible only with the complete support of the Government, who have not been able to solve this problem in Chennai for over ten years now.

For the past three years, I am noticing even tv and interactive online access available in the cabs in New York. This is what is called as solving the problem and going beyond the basics to exceed customer expectations.

Here is an interesting short video clip made by Times Of India, as a part of their Missing Meter initiative.

Note: The above video is in tamil.

I believe there is a way to solve the problem, with or without the Government support. It is in thinking differently from the usual basic steps such as trying to work with the auto unions, governments, etc. It requires an initiative that cannot be overlooked by the auto drivers and they will have to adopt or lose business. While the idea I have is not fully mature, I am parking it in my idea godown for now, but will surely publish again in 2013 after documenting it (and if possible implementing it in 2013).

Educational Tourism Website

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I am spending more time with my son with his school work, especially helping him learn Hindi.

Kids in his grade are learning about quite a lot of places – for example, he has a chapter on Mummies in Egypt, another chapter about the Mettur dam on the River Kaveri in Tamil Nadu, and also a chapter in Hindi about Lord Jagannath (another name for Sri Krishna) and his Rath Yatra in Puri in Orissa.

During this process, I realized that it will be awesome if there was a service provider who could offer tour packages to these places (relevant to what the kids are learning). As I could not find any provider who does this, I have decided to work on Educational Tourism Website, which will help families plan their vacation to such places, which not only help them see new places, but also is relevant to their learning process.

One more idea to be added to my Idea Godown 🙂

Will let you know how the progress on this website goes. If you are aware of any such tour operator who already provides such packages focused on kid’s learning, please do let me know.

Sunita Williams gives a tour of International Space Station

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Sunita Williams, the departing commander at the International Space Station (ISS) has given a guided tour of the ISS in this 25 minute video.

I liked the clarity with which she has presented this, attempting her best to explain it limiting the use of the technical jargons as much as possible, in simple terms.


When Rakesh Sharma announced from the space that ‘Sare Jahan Se Acha Hindustan Hamara’, I was one of the kids who was inspired by it and wanted to become an astronaut.

Today when I watched this video, I feel it will be a good inspiration to everyone who wants to know how it is to be in the ISS.

I highly recommend showing this video to every kid you know.

City of the future – Four Commandments

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

I got a chance to watch the TED video presentation by the Mayor of Rio di Janeiro in Brazil, Eduardo Paes, about his recommendations on the City of the future. Rio di Janeiro also has won the bid to conduct the 2016 Summer Olympics, beating the top challenges from Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago.

Eduardo speaks on TED about his views on how to build city of the future. He listed four commandments as a must for the city of the future.

I have pasted the four commandments here below for easy reference (video is also provided below).

  1. City of the future has to be environment friendly
  2. City of the future has to deal with mobility and integration
  3. City of the future has to be socially integrated
  4. City of the future has to use technology to be present

A few points impressed me a lot.


Yellow Fever Vaccination for Kenya

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Yellow Fever Vaccination is an important topic that comes up for discussion whenever you plan to go to Africa.

Just landed in Nairobi, Kenya and to my surprise, they did not even ask a question about Yellow Fever Vaccination papers.

Yellow Fever Vaccination for Kenya – Notice board at Nairobi Airport

Before our travel, we were told four different stories by four different people.

The first person said, vaccination is a must. Second person said vaccination before 10 days is a must. Third person said vaccination is not required. Fourth person said vaccination is required for your own safety.

In tamil there is a good saying for this: Naalu Peru Naalu Vithama Pesuvaanga..which means four different people will have four different stories! These are those four people..I have finally identified them 🙂