Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bengaluru Midnight Marathon 2016

Run category: 10K
Timing: 01:04:57

It was time to up the ante so I decided to register for a 10K as I've been piling up lot of miles lately.
Initially, I planned to register for Goa River Run but later decided to avoid out-of-town runs to reduce travel. I've recently traveled around quite a bit so decided to checkout any 10Ks in the city itself. Bengaluru Midnight Marathon, consisting of full, half, 10K & 5K marathons, was also scheduled at exactly the same time of Goa run, so got registered immediately.
Last Sunday, I had a long run of 10K at easy pace and I could finish it in 70 mins. Based on that, I set a target of 65 mins or lesser. I would love to finish sub-60 mins but achieving this target would be very difficult with the given preparation.

Bengaluru Midnight Marathon was conducted in the Whitefield area of Bengaluru city. Mary Kom graced the occasion and it was conducted quite nicely. The 10K race started at 10PM and as planned I ran the whole 9K with consistent pace and left some energy to finish off strongly in the last kilometer. I finished in 64 mins 57 seconds and was quite satisfied with it. With that I've got the confidence I can improve that timing further in coming runs.

I saw good participation with good arrangements. Reaching the venue caused some issue due to traffic jams as it was Saturday late evening. One thing which the organizers can improve is to have full road for one way route instead of dividing it for two-way with a U-turn at the end. This caused little congestion at certain phases. I understand, this would make extra roads to be blocked for the event. Anyways, organizers would have got first hand info and would have already noted.

Looking forward for more running in coming days.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

My - Rs.500 & Rs.1000 notes - story

It was on November 8th 2016 a bold decision of demonetization of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes was taken by the government of India. And since then I've seen lot of changes around. Of course, everyone is affected and everyone is made to visit a bank. But what more I see is that everyone is an economist now giving all the statistics and data related to black money and it's effect on real estate business and other sectors. I see people are getting smarter and trying to know all the details of the IT department rules; the rules that apply on their earned income and in the process know how to reduce the tax to be paid.
Furthermore, I see in many the rise in loyalty and respect towards Narendra Modi and the BJP as the honest and prompt tax payers are burdened less going forward. I also see in few the hatred and anger as well which is quite expected due to the magnitude of income loss this decision is gonna cause directly or indirectly.
And I'm pretty sure there will be many more changes that will happen in the country and in the people's ways of thinking and work. Hoping for the better days.

Well, as part of this exercise of depositing old notes, I too had to visit the bank. I had plans to do it later after few weeks for the crowd and noise to settle down but one fine Saturday morning I went out for breakfast to a restaurant next to a nearby bank which made me to adjust the plans to visit the bank as well in the process.

I visited HDFC bank on Sarjapur road on 19th Nov. I was given a token at 9:50am with around 65 others already in queue. After 30-45 mins of wait, I thought of aborting my mission and head back home. But a part of me wanted to check how much time it could possibly take to deposit. After 3 hours of waiting, my patience was seriously tested but didn't wanted all that waiting time to go totally wasted as well. I stood my ground despite all the thoughts and signs asking me to return. Finally I had this beautiful sight of bank interiors and the counters at 2:10pm. It almost made me cry. Honestly.
Yes, I waited for more than 4 hours.

Nonetheless, I came out of the bank with a sense of accomplishment and with a relief that I don't have to do it again as I had made sure to take all the old notes that we had at home. I should also thank my wife and son, who had accompanied me, for their patience and support, who had to bear this ordeal and wait next to the bank all this while.
Please note before you start yelling at me for taking them along, I had absolutely no plans to take them along. It's just that we came out for breakfast together and I couldn't judge or plan when and how to send them back home. My bad.

Other points to note however:
- Bank officials were providing great support w.r.t process and people management.
- They even distributed biscuits to the people in queue at regular intervals. My son had handful of those :-p
- Senior citizens were given priority as per the instructions.
- People stood in queue patiently most of the time despite standing there for more than 4 hours.
- People who stood in queue all the while were getting irritated watching those who got direct entry with tokens. They apparently had collected token early & decided to go home and rest until then.
- Bank officials were verifying the attached ID proof and original document was mandatory.

Guess everybody will have some kind of story to tell post this demonetization :)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tour Down Under: Sydney

Following up with my previous post on Melbourne trip, here is the post covering all the details of my Sydney trip.

Sydney has some great attractions and is a bigger city when compared to Melbourne city. I just had a weekend to visit all the places in Sydney and well, thanks to my sister & brother-in-law who introduced me to a nice couple, Sachin & Varsha, who made our visit a great one with their warmth and time. They made sure that we made it to all the great places in Sydney. Many thanks to them as well.

Here is the list of places where we set our foot on:

Sydney Harbour Bridge: This undoubtedly takes the top spot on tourists' list of must-visit places in Australia. This steel arch bridge next to symbolic Sydney Opera house gives a magnificent view of the city. The long walk on the bridge was a satisfying activity indeed. One can even take a walk to the top of the arch on the bridge by pre-booking and I'm sure it wouldn't disappoint anyone.

Pylon lookout: This lookout from the Harbour bridge is a nice spot to witness the beautiful view of the whole area around the bridge. The Opera House looks great with all the boats and ferries running near by. This deck houses all the details of the bridge from it's very beginning to it's opening ceremony covering all the aspects on the arguments of whether to have a bridge, the tenders received with different design aspects, the construction details and even all the historical events which happened during and after the construction. A small movie/presentation on the history is also being played for the public.
Below Opera House snap is clicked from this Pylon lookout.

Sydney Opera House: This is the most famous building and also a World Heritage Site. This is actually an iconic arts center which has multiple venues. One of the busiest places and even entertains crowd with plays and dances in the open area during weekends.
Just next to the Opera House is the Botanical Gardens where I had a nice train ride which took around half an hour and it was my kiddo who enjoyed it more than me.

Darling Harbour: This is a harbour next to the city center of Sydney consists of many attractions in the area which includes Madame Tussauds, China town, Cockle bay, Wharfs etc. I spent most of the time on the bay area through the Pyrmont bridge. The fireworks show in the night sky with skyscrapers background was a delight to the eyes.

Ferry ride to Manly Beach: I took a ferry from Circular Quay to the Manly beach. This provides a great view of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and surrounding places. There wasn't much of an activity unfortunately during my visit at the beach as the weather was cold and windy. But nonetheless, the walk to the Manly beach through the busy market street was nice and a small play area there gave my kiddo time to enjoy with other kids.

Bondi Beach: The popular beach is one of the most visited sites in Sydney. Also represents sports and recreational center. The beach is beautiful with it's curved area and is always full of activities like surfing etc. I'm told the walk towards Coogee is impressive providing the best scenes of the water vastness.

Blues point & Milson's point: Give a visit to these points during late night and witness spectacular view of the Harbour bridge and the Opera House glowing in the dark background. The city lights adds to the beautiful sight.
The above Harbour bridge snap is taken from Blues point.

Watson Bay: This bay is worth a visit for it's serene environment. The Gap Buff viewing platform on the way is a nice place to take a snap or two.

Bald Hill Reserve: A great lookout spot to have a beautiful panoramic view of the sea and beyond. The elevated height is an added advantage. Also a great site for the paragliding enthusiasts. Again, the cold and windy weather did not encourage me to have a try at the paragliding unfortunately.
On the way back, passed through Coalcliff and Sea cliff bridges which were quite a serene places to spend sometime.

The central city area covering primary places of visit are easily accessible through well connected metro.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tour Down Under: Melbourne

In the month of August I was reminded of my son's 2 weeks Dasara festival holidays between Oct 1st to 13th. That's when my wife and I started planning for a visit to Australia which was long overdue. My sister and brother-in-law who stay in Melbourne have been always asking us to take a trip but that hadn't materialized so far. So after discussing with my sister we decided to spend 2 weeks in Australia covering Melbourne and Sydney.

And now when I'm back from this wonderful vacation, I would like to list down all the places I've visited, the restaurants I've been to, and other activities I enjoyed.

I will begin with the vibrant city, Melbourne in this post and follow up with another post for Sydney.

Melbourne Cricket Ground: One of the largest stadiums in the world is the home for the Melbourne Cricket Club. It features great history of the game of Cricket. Also there is a Sports Museum inside which covers and highlights the great sports culture of Australia. A guided tour of the stadium and Sports museum visit will make any sports enthusiast happy.

Federation Square: Just outside the beautiful Flinder's station, Federation square is a happening place always full of tourists and is surrounded by restaurants and bars. This hosts many cultural events and also a best venue for flashmobs.
Continue ahead from the square to have a nice walk next to Yarra river. You will find this route full of cafes and bars. Even the joggers and cyclists make use of this route.

State Library of Victoria: The central library sees huge number of tourists every year for its architectural aspect, historical importance and for the historical, art artifacts it holds. The dome area in the library is a great sight with its octagonal design for reading tables surrounded by thousands of books. Many themed exhibits are always on offer. Front yard even entertains people with big chess game on each sides.

Shrine of Remembrance: This was built as a memorial to all the Australia's men and women who served in World War 1. It captures all the details about the wars and the great contribution of Australians. 

Eureka Skydeck 88: This 297 meters building which has an observatory deck on the 88th floor gives an awesome view of the whole Melbourne city and beyond in all directions. It even holds the Australia's highest post box.

Queen Victoria Market: The market is a very big open market having shops selling wide variety of Australia's well known items including the souvenirs. And also has many restaurants and food stores serving great food. A nice place to grab some items from your shopping list.

12 Apostles & Great Ocean Drive: The 12 Apostles are the limestone stacks standing off the shore of Port Campbell by Great Ocean Road. The view is impressive along the vast coast. Nearby Gibson's point and Lock Ard area are equally scenic. I enjoyed driving as well while returning from this place.

City Circle Tram: This is a free tram which runs covering all the major tourist attractions in the city. Take a nice audio guided tour on this tram to get first hand information of the attractions and location which helps to roam better.

Degraves Street, Lygon Street and Hardware Lane: These narrow lanes have many cafes, bars and restaurants serving wonderful drinks and different cuisines. I had great Italian food at Triim restaurant and Chinese food in Degraves street.

Brunetti Shops: If you love sweet then this is a place you better not miss. The shop serves some great pastries, chocolates and coffee.

Melbourne Zoo and SeaLife Aquarium: Nice places to visit especially for kids as they would enjoy all the animals and sea creatures including those which are Australian specific. The SeaLife Aquarium also has a nice play area where kids paint some fishes on templates provided which can be scanned further and displayed on a big animation screen. Kids enjoyed this activity.

Melbourne Central Station and Flinders Station are worth mentioning as they are quite well known destinations for tourists. Central station is a great place for shopping as well and features colorful atmosphere with all shops and restaurant.
Docklands is worth a visit where one can have a peaceful stroll and can enjoy time sitting in any of the cafes or bars.
Bourke Street: Every great city has a street where many music bands, singers, guitarists and street showman show up and entertain the crowd. Fridays and Weekends are the right time to visit this street to enjoy what's in the offering.
This was even decorated with Diwali festival banners to indicate the acceptance of different ethnic groups.

Points to note:
- The metro in the city is well connected and covers most of the above mentioned places and to bring joy to the tourists, the bus ride is absolutely free in the central city area (Zone 1).
- Melbourne Metro app would be really handy while roaming around the city.
- Pickup a tourist booklet at the airport after landing which gives all the information about the attractions and also contains discount coupons.