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Posted on: Wednesday , Jun 24, 2009 At 22:05 PM

Think Before Booking With Air India


India's National Carrier has been in trouble for many years, and seems to be hitting a dead end. With mounting losses year after year and no good news in sight, Air India has again sought a bailout package from the government. This time, they are looking for a very high sum of Rs.10,000 crores. The airline will not be able to pay salaries to their employees at the end of June.

Despite the continuous failure of the airline, government is still willing to help out the airline. Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has expressed the inclination to provide a bailout package. The only difference this time is that Air India may have to respond with a strong restructuring program.

In the meanwhile, Air India also has to manage the interest of their employees who go on a strike at the slightest excuse. The airline's decision to delay the salary for June has already provoked the union, which has threatened to go on strike if the salaries are not paid on time. It would be wise to stay away from Air India until the crisis is resolved.

Related News:
1. Praful Patel on Bailout Package for Air India: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News-By-Industry/Transportation/Airlines--Aviation/Bailout-package-for-Air-India-Patel/articleshow/4656212.cms
2. Air India Seeks Rs.10,000 crores http://ibnlive.in.com/news/air-india-in-crisis-seeks-rs-10000cr-bailout/95473-7.html
3. Air India Strike Looms: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Business/Air-India-set-to-cut-wages-stir-looms-/articleshow/4689910.cms

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jun 24, 2009 At 09:35 AM

Progress Of The Monsoons


A friend who is currently in Delhi complained to me of hot weather, with temperatures soaring over 43 degrees. Another friend in Bombay said they are eagerly waiting for the monsoons, which should have been there by now. Sitting in Bangalore, I am wondering where have the rains gone, after an initial outburst which brought some cheer. It is summer like weather here too.


By mid-June last year, it was common to see news that read "Monsoons his ABC city," as the clouds slowly progressed northwards. Met department had initially predicted normal monsoons, but later changed to a delay in monsoon which would be made in later stages. World Meteorological Organization expects a poor monsoon this year. Yesterday, a news report in Hindu wrote about IMD changing the outlook of the monsoons to 'below normal'. How is it really going to be, we will know for sure in a few weeks.


I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for good showers. Here is a picture of a foggy day from this monsoon.


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Posted on: Wednesday , Jun 24, 2009 At 08:27 AM

Ramayana Tourism!!


New themes continuously keep getting added to the portfolio of travel companies. There are many uncommon trails that include Bollywood Tourism and the now fashionable slum tours. A recent addition now comes from SriLanka, in the form of Ramayana Tourism.


It is a new concept created by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. It intends to attract tourists to 50 locations that have been identified to be associated with the Ramayana. Some places are even said to have archeological evidences, though most others are simply based on faith. It is an 8-day long guided tour, and already has many people going on the tour from India.


I could not help but wonder how vast such a tour could be, if conducted in India. Nearly every small town temple has a story to tell about its association with Ramayana or Mahabharata, boasting of some event or the other taking place at the location. 


See more details on the tour at http://www.etravelblackboardasia.com/article.asp?id=62653&nav=13

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Posted on: Wednesday , Jun 24, 2009 At 07:55 AM

Increasing Airfares


With the fuel prices starting to climb up in the international market, airlines have slowly started increasing the prices. It is the fuel surcharge that is now adding up to the ticket price, making flying more expensive.


The first airlines to begin the fare hike were Jet and Kingfisher. The airlines industry usually tends to wait for someone to make a start, and everyone will follow. So, soon after the announcement from Jet, SpiceJet and Air India have followed suit. The hike in fuel surcharge is at Rs.400. The total taxes and surcharges on a tickets now is usually above Rs.3,000.


Airlines are still far from having a good run and are suffering from low occupancy. Despite hiking the regular fare, Jet and SpiceJet are offering special fares with restriction in dates.


See complete news:

1. Jet, Kingfisher hike fuel surcharge: http://www.hindu.com/2009/06/18/stories/2009061855971600.htm

2. SpiceJet hikes fuel surcharge: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/News-By-Industry/Transportation/SpiceJet-hikes-fuel-surcharge-by-Rs-400/articleshow/4670358.cms

3. Jet, SpiceJet, JetLite offer special fares: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Business/India-Business/Jet-SpiceJet-Jetlite-come-up-with-special-fares/articleshow/4641325.cms

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Posted on: Monday , Jun 15, 2009 At 12:04 PM

Monsoon Images


I made a quick getaway with my camera in search of some greenery, rain and fog. Western Ghats, it had to be. Here are some pictures from the trip.


Green valleys, a lake and overcast sky.


Cattle graze in the wide valley.


Patches of Sun and Shadow.


Fog trapped in a depression in the mountains.

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Posted on: Monday , Jun 15, 2009 At 09:55 AM

How Kashmir Is Shooting Itself In The Foot


A year ago in July-08, I was heading to Ladakh to spend two months traveling in the region. Our initial plan was to go through Srinagar and over Zoji la. On the way, we probably would have spent a night or two on the Dal Lake, given a visit to Gulmarg and a few more places. But just before we were about to head that way, unrest broke out on the Amarnath issue.


But so much has been told about the beauty of Kashmir, we were still keen to visit the region. Having come so close, there was no point going back without even seeing Dal Lake. Though we skipped Srinagar and took the Manali route to Ladakh, we intended to return via Srinagar when things would be quieter. At the end of two months when we were ready to return, there was still no sign of peace in Srinagar: people were still fighting for those 40 hectares of land. As a result, houseboats that bring income to the locals would have gone unoccupied. Hotels that give jobs to local would have gone empty. Kashmir had lost a full summer of tourist season.


Kashmir has a winter tourist season too. Gulmarg is a highly favoured destination for skiing enthusiasts from all over the world. Most of the winter was uneventful in 2008, but there were hiccups then too. Violence erupted in Srinagar when a Swiss tourist was seen on the slopes, with some quran inscriptions on his skis.


This summer was much better and peaceful, and Kashmir is said to have received record tourist inflows. The local tourism industry finally had work to do. But last week, violence erupted again and tourist vehicles were stoned at. It subsequently resulted in many bookings being cancelled and tourists calling off their visit.


For neary 2 decades, external forces created havoc in the valley, brining tourism activities to a complete halt. The army has finally gained control over infiltration in the last few years and tourists were slowly trickling in, their numbers growing every year. It is now domestic violence that is hindering tourism. It is probably a small population that is the cause of all the trouble. But Kashmiris must realize that their livelihood relies on maintaining peace in the valley. They must come together against the forces that encourage violence. The valley is so rich and beautiful, they have no need to work on expensive marketing campaigns to bring in visitors. All that they need is to keep the house in order, and people start coming in large numbers. It is time for Kashmiris to work in that direction.

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Posted on: Monday , Jun 15, 2009 At 09:32 AM

Indian Railways Goes International


Just imagine not having to pay for an expensive flight ticket for your journey abroad, but simply buy a train ticket at the reservation counter of a local railway station! It would be so much less expensive to travel beyond borders.


We already have rail links with Pakistan, but going anywhere else on a train is unthinkable. But it may well become a reality in the days to come. Indian Railways can now connect with 27 countries, thanks to a agreement to interlink the Trans-Asian Railway network. The agreement is effective from June 11th, and allows Indian Railways to connect with countries in South and South East Asia, China, Russia, Central Asia and parts of Europe. It may not immediately mean that there will be passenger connectivity across these countries, and you can simply hop into a train and get down in Moscow. The treaty seems to be primarily aimed at freight traffic. But if an interconnect is established and the trains begin running across borders, there is no reason why it would not eventually result in introduction of passenger trains.


I would look forward to see that day to come. It would be a joy to trace the route taken by Paul Theroux which resulted in the legendary book - 'The Great Railway Bazaar'.


See the full story - http://ibnlive.in.com/news/indian-railways-set-to-connect-with-27-countries/94539-3.html

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Posted on: Tuesday , Jun 09, 2009 At 21:26 PM

Travel Plans For The Rainy Days


The news of the monsoon always brings me a desire to getaway and escape to verdant and open spaces. The western ghats, where streams come alive with the first rain and waterfalls gush down the valley, are always my first choice. I can sit on a rock and watch the gentle flow of the water forever without getting tired.


I still remember with half regret and half happiness that I completely missed the monsoons last year. Regret because I barely got to witness the monsoons, and happiness because I was travelling through the exotic landscapes of Ladakh region then.


It is time to make up for the loss this year. As the monsoon season has just begun, I am off to witness the beauty of the rains and the fog filled pleasant cold air. See you in Kodaikanal in the coming week! Here is a picture from my visit to the region earlier.


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Posted on: Monday , Jun 08, 2009 At 15:56 PM

The Less Known Hoysalas


I have been researching a bit on the thousand year old Hoysala Kings who ruled parts of South India. In the process, I dug into a bit of their history, and visited some of the places that very few people know about. These places are not on the tourist map and are rarely visited, and yet they are in the same region where two most well known and well visited temples - Belur and Halebeedu - are. Here are some pictures of the places.


Hulikere is a small pond, but is very charming, as you can see from the picture. 


hoysala


Bastihalli has a few Jain Temples with arrays of circular pillars, and tall statues of Jain Tirthankaras inside. Seen in the picture is a section of Parshwanatha Basti.


hoysala


Belavadi village in another temple with a series of pillars. There are 108 of them to see.


hoysala


And at Doddagaddavalli is one of the older temples of Hoysala, at a picturesque location in undulating landscape.


hoysala


All of these are as beautiful, though less ornate than the temples at Belur and Halebeedu, and known to very few despite being located in the same region. Dont forget to visit these places the next time you plan to go to Belur or Halebeedu.

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Posted on: Monday , Jun 08, 2009 At 15:22 PM

Restricted Access To Tourists In Tiger Habitats


National Tiger Conservation Authority, a government agency setup to protect tigers has banned tourists from accessing breeding areas in tiger habitats.

NCTA says that human intrusion in tiger habitat is changing their breeding pattern, and the ban intends to provide undisturbed areas and better environment for breeding.

Personally, I think it is good to see that someone in the government is trying to do something to protect the tigers. But how sensible is this is questionable, since the biggest problem in tiger conservation is probably poaching, not tourism.

The tourism industry is obviously unhappy. But the directive doesn't mean that tourists will be kept out of the national parks. It is only in a few sections of the forest that the access will be denied, and at worst the probability of sightings may come down.

See complete news at http://www.eturbonews.com/9652/india-restricts-tourists-save-its-last-tigers

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Posted on: Sunday , Jun 07, 2009 At 20:31 PM

Amarnath Yatra


The annual pilgrimage of Amarnath Yatra will begin from 15th of June this year. The yatra will be on till 5th August, during which thousands of pilgrims will walk along the mountainous path to the cave temple of Amarnath.

 

Going on the Yatra requires registration with the government of Jammu and Kashmir beforehand. Registrations can done online, facilitated by Jammu and Kashmir Bank on their website. Nearly 1.5 lakh people have already registered for the yatra.

 

The cave at Amarnath hosts a naturally formed ice lingam, which is said to be discovered by a shepherd. Yatra will be open only for two months every year, and involves strenous walk of two to three days. Helicopter facilities are also available to visit the cave.

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Posted on: Saturday , Jun 06, 2009 At 18:40 PM

Manali - Leh Road Updates


The status of Manali-Leh Road has been uncertain in May and early June this year. Low winter precipitation had allowed BRO to start clearing the snow quickly, and they were hoping to open the road in record time this year. However, late snow in Rohtang and other areas hampered the progress, and the road remained closed until the end of May.


Even though the road opened officially for all traffic in the last week of May, reports from the road said that there was still a lot of fresh snow coming down, and people could not get to Leh even a few days after the road was first cleared. 


However, there is no official word about disruptions, and having been two weeks since the road was first open, it should now be seeing fairly regular traffic. The Official Website of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council says the road has remained open.


Tracking the news brings me fond memories of Ladakh, where I spent good two months last year. I wish to go back, but there is much to do and see back at home, it is unlikely to happen. Are you planning Ladakh this year? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Posted on: Saturday , Jun 06, 2009 At 18:29 PM

One Crore Saplings Along The Train Route


Konkan Railways is known for its scenic beauty. It passes through picturesque hills along the western ghats, sometimes carvings its way through hills with tunnels dug into them. The line is also known for some of the tallest bridges built across the valleys and rivers. The already pretty route is set to become even more beautiful in the years to come.


Troubled by constant erosion along the tracks, thanks to heavy rains that hit these parts every year, Konkan Railway Corporation has been planting saplings all along the route from Mangalore to Mumbai. According to a press release, they have already planted one crore saplings, and more to be added every year. 


The release says "Konkan Railway has as on date planted an amazing One Crore of grass saplings all along its route covering an area of approx. 12 lakh sq.m that has not just helped the railway to  prevent soil erosion and make the cuttings on its route stable, but also indirectly added to the green cover along the route thus preserving the environment to a great extent. During the coming monsoon, Konkan Railway is planning to plant about 10-12 lakh such saplings on its route"


Read the full press release at Konkan Railway website - http://www.konkanrailway.com/website/press'2005/Monsoon%20precautions%20-%20110509.pdf

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Posted on: Saturday , Jun 06, 2009 At 18:16 PM

Arrival Of Monsoons


Finally there is some respite from the heat of the Indian summer. The monsoon has arrived on time and is slowly making its way north from coastal Kerala and Karnataka. It arrived in southern parts of Kerala a little earlier than usual, but the progress has been slow.

My sources in central Kerala tell me that rains are not in full force yet, but the weather is much better than summer days, and it is pleasant to be outside under the clouds. Here in Bangalore where I live, sun has more or less disappeared behing the clouds, and there have been some heavy showers in the past week. I was away last week, visiting some of the finest monuments and temples in central Karnataka built nearly a year ago. It poured for two beautiful hours on our way back to Bangalore, giving a clear message that the monsoons are on.

Weather is inviting me to be out, and that is just what I have decided to do. I am beginning my travels again, hopefully started with a journey to the hills and taking the monsoons head on. The rains never fail to soothe my mind. What about you?

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