Thursday 22 November 2012


I visited Vanakkam in DLF Phase 1 in Gurgaon. It claims to have an authentic South Indian cuisine. Vanakkam means 'Namaste' or Good Day or a Hello in Tamil as a form of welcome greeting.

CAP Dosa

It is a small restaurant which can cater to about 25 PAX and has good air conditioning.  We ordered the Vanakkam special CAP Dosa (a Dosa shaped like a cap as in the photo above), Butter Masala Dosa and Mini Idlis followed by South Indian Filter Coffee.

Mini Idlis

All the three items of Dosa and Idlis were good and the accompaniments of sambhar daal (lentil) and three kinds of chutneys were also good. All food items were served in steel plates covered with banana leafs.

Butter Masala Dosa

The prices of all items are very reasonable. The filter coffee also was served piping hot though a bit over-sweet.

Vanakkam can do a very good business as it has good authentic South Indian food at very reasonable price but they need to dramatically improve their service as it left a lot to be desired.

Friday 16 November 2012

Chilling in Chennai: Amazing Hotel Race

I have to admit it has been a while since I went to Chennai. But I am sure the experience of booking hotels in Chennai would still remain the same! I still consider the best recommendation to be the one that comes from a friend. If a friend is not available to recommend I would go with my online connections but I would like that to be a direct recommendation either on Facebook or Twitter.

Hotels could be home away from home!

If that is also not available I do check online. But for one there are so many websites that it has become confusing. I still read user reviews but I concentrate on the number of reviews for a particular property. For example if a particular Chennai hotel had just two reviews and both of them were excellent, I would not really be sure of it. However if there were 50 reviews of a property and it had a 3.5/5.0 rating I would trust it more! There have been just too many stories about hotel review sites where reviews were planted or an attempt was made to pull down the ratings of a competitor. Hence these days I trust online reviews only if I see a large number of reviews!

However there have been times (long ago) when I could just turn up at a place and decide which hotel to stay with! This looks the most inelegant but there are things that work out well if you go down this route! I agree not pre-booking can lead to anxiety but if it is not the peak season I can always find a hotel after actually looking at the rooms and the facilities! And as far as budget hotels in India are concerned sometimes you just can’t be sure till you actually saw it! What do you think?

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Diwali - Changes that I Observed This Year

Diwali is normally the time that I try and escape from the City as it becomes very polluting and on the Diwali day itself it feels more like a war zone!

A house lighted up for Diwali

However, this year due to certain reasons I was not able to travel and surprisingly I observed that this year the the emphasis was more on lighting and decorating the houses than on the firecrackers. Several houses had 'rangoli' - a kind of decoration on the floor with color powder - and the gates and entrances were bedecked with flowers.

Diwali Bride

The overall decibel levels as well as the smoke generated from the firecrackers was definitely less than what I have observed in the previous years. People now are decorating the houses like they do during marriages in the family.

Diwali this year has truly become a festival of lights  - even if it is a festival of Chinese lights  - as the market is now flooded with Chinese lights which are available in the market at a much cheaper rate and are more attractive than what is produced by Indian manufacturer.

Diwali Fireworks

Friday 9 November 2012

Low Cost Air Carriers of India

I remember the days when there was only one airline in India- Air India! Prices were sky high and air travel market was a really small one.

Around 2002-2003 we saw more airlines being allowed to operate schedule flights and as they say, the rest is history.

I am a big fan of low cost airlines. For a two hour flight within India, I want to get there by the cheapest fare possible and I really do not care about a meal. After all if you have taken a flight a few times, all the airline meals start tasting the same after a while. If there is one thing that I do care about, it is on time arrival of a flight and that is where I think IndiGo scores.  There flights are usually on time and they have a professional outlook. At least that is how they come across to me. I only remember one IndiGo flight I took that was terribly late!

Want to fly low cost?

My next most preferred airline is SpiceJet, I think they have decent food on board and mostly get there on time. I feel their branding is quite ambiguous but they do an adequate job of getting me there. I have not compared the on time performance of IndiGo and SpiceJet but my opinion is that IndiGo is better. But I should go and check it out for a fact; this could be in the end just an impression!

I have very little personal experience of flying with GoAir hence I can’t say much about them. I have taken a few Air India flights and some of them have been surprisingly good.

In the end if I am getting similar fares, I will go with IndiGo but at all the times the lowest fare wins!

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Sufi Dervish Dance

I saw an amazing Sufi Dervish dance performance yesterday by Ziya Azazi. A Dervish dance is a whirling dance where a performer or a set of performers whirl round and round and can do so for hours!

Ziya Azazi is an Austrian though he has Syrian and Turkish origins where the dervish dances have been a tradition. Ziya Azazi made this performance contemporary experimental in nature and what a feast it was to the eyes and ears.

See this small video of his fantastic performance -

Sufi Dervish Whirling Dance bu Ziya Azazi

The performance was part of the Delhi International Arts Festival 2012 and we should be thankful to the Austrian Embassy to present such a talented artiste.

A Dervish follows Sufi Muslim path known for their extreme poverty and austerity. A Dervish Dance by the whirling dervishes originated in Turkey but is now practiced in other countries as well. The most famous dervish is Rumi the famous Persian Poet.

Friday 2 November 2012

How to Grab Cheap Air Tickets?

I wish there was a secret formula for grabbing cheap air tickets and only I knew about it! But unfortunately there is no such thing and I too have to rely on common sense to get cheap flight tickets.

One obvious way to get cheap tickets is to fly with low cost carries like SpiceJet, Indigo, GoAir, etc. But sometimes if you look on a comparison site you will be surprised to see that that even full service airlines like Indian Airlines (or should it be Air India only now?) also offer lower prices for their early morning and late night flights. So if you are flexible about timings and if service is important to you, you can try this out as well.

Arrivals Lounge at an International Airport

Another tested route is to book early, if we book closer to the date we are obviously going to pay more! Sometimes airlines offer promotional fares to certain destinations and they are really a good bargain! But the trouble is in keeping up with such offers!

Internationally sometimes it can be beneficial if we buy late as airlines offer discounts if they have been unable to sell their tickets but I am not sure how true this is of India!

If you could be flexible about your flight dates this can also result in cheaper price as weekend flights are more expensive than weekday flights! I remember flying back to T3 once on a Wednesday and not only had I paid less, the airport was also much less crowded.

And we all do compare the fares using search engines like This one is so obvious that I left it for the last. But it is a bit conflicting because sometimes I see airlines claiming that the cheapest fares are available only from their websites! What do you think?

Thursday 1 November 2012

Best Travel Deals in India

If I am given a choice I like road trips, I like driving to the hills. But many a times I am not given a choice and then I have to search for flights like everyone else! These days there are so many options to compare and see where we can get the lowest air fare.

For those who are based out of Delhi I have seen some people have a preference in terms of flights taking off from Terminal 1D (the domestic terminal) and T3 (the international airport). Jet Lite and Air India both fly out of T3 and some find the T3 location and the airport to be much better. I personally have no such preferences.

Soaring above the clouds!

Coming back to best travel deals in India, I think the concept is very subjective. What could be the best deal for me could be a very average deal for someone else. For example I have noticed that flights that start at an inconvenient time are usually cheaper than flights that leave at a reasonable hour. For me it is perfectly fine to catch up an early morning or late night flight on a holiday as I can plan around it. However for someone else a convenient time would matter a lot and that is why the airlines are able to charge a premium for those flights! 

I have also seen these combo offers that let you book air tickets, transport and a hotel together. I have yet to try any of those but sometimes they do look tempting. I also firmly believe in checking customer reviews about any hotel. They can be very confusing sometimes but still it gives me a basic idea.

These are some of the ways in which I try to find the best travel deals. If you have a tip or two, do share.