Sunday, September 27, 2009

FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX


(Ferrari F1 mock up during road show in down town)

Formula 1 GP Singapore just ended and I am feeling tired, my body and mind is winding down from all that adrenaline that was coursing through my veins all evening. The action was fantastic, those who have only seen the race on TV like I have for a long time, really need to get to a race and watch it live. The sound, the speed, the atmosphere, the fun, nothing comes close to being there. This time I found myself at the Pit Grand Stand, opposite the pit lane and garages, meters away from the starting grid!

video
(Brazilian Samba dancers at F1)

The race was won by Lewis Hamilton followed by Timo Glock and Alonso and that’s common knowledge by now. I won’t dwell into the results part of it but will only say that there was plenty of drama. 14 out of 20 cars finished and there were some racing incidents including one where Force India driver hit Nick Heidfeld and both went out of the race, also a bit of excitement when Mark Webber’s brakes locked up and he went out of the track backwards and back crashed into a crash barrier, ending his race.


(F1 cars at the starting grid above and below)


Other than the thrills and spills, it was beautiful to watch Lewis Hamilton drive with clinical precision. He finished first, went past us punching his fists in the air, jumped out of the car at the end of his victory lap to take a kiss on his helmet, given lovingly by his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger (lead singer of the Pussy Cat Dolls)! What drama and what a finish.

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(Travis rocking the audience, one more Travis video at end of this article)

Formula 1 GP Singapore is the only night race venue in the World. The event is not just the race itself but many other side attractions that are a week long, culminating in the race itself. The entire week is packed with F1 themed events and it is called "F1 Rocks" and involves live performances from World famous artists at various venues in Singapore. Some of the familiar performers were Beyonce, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt, Black Eyed Peas, Backstreet Boys, Travis, ZZ Top and Chaka Khan (oldies would know these last two for sure) and even Brazilian Samba dancers who lent a Brazilian Carnival festive mood to the event as the video above shows! Race day saw Travis, the band from Scotland, perform an hour before the race and I have a video of this in this blog below. They had all of us singing and dancing, belting out well known numbers.


(me on practice day at F1)

I have to blog a few things about the organization of this whole thing. Singapore is famous for efficiency and that was in full show during this entire event. There were free shuttle buses that connected some MRT stations and the entire exercise was seamless. No stress, no worries about getting to the race venue or out of it at the end of the race. There were huge crowds but very well managed, no one was pushed or shoved or crammed into buses like they do in cattle class. It was all so seamless. For that, and that reason alone, one should make a trip out here. There was easy wheel chair/disabled access areas, food and drink concessionaires, first aid stations, first class security and so on.


(Singapore Flyer-World's biggest Observation Wheel-bigger than London Eye, seen from Race seating)

When you enter the venue, on a donation of S$2 (Two Singapore Dollars) to a charitable organization, one was given a "survival kit" consisting of ear plugs and a plastic rain coat in case it rained. Without ear plugs, you'd be deaf by the end of the race. Singapore Grand Prix night race is run on a regular street circuit. Even with traffic diversions and restrictions there was no chaos and no stress. I just cannot compare this to most places in Asia or elsewhere. So, for this, I must say “Singapore Rocks!”

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(Start of the Singapore Grand Prix Race notice the speed and sound-people without ear plus trying their best to plug with their fingers!)

The race itself is the crème de la crème of course. That’s what we all really look forward to in the end. There are three days of exposure to the Formula 1 cars, one practice day, one day for race qualifying. For those who are not clued into the race, qualifying is the day when drivers put their cars through the best timing possible and the car/driver with the fastest lap times during qualifying, heads up as “Pole position” on the starting line up (Starting grid). And the third day is the Race day. I went for the practice sessions, skipped qualifying to party with friends from India who had flown in to watch the race and made it to the actual race today, 27th September 2009. For those who missed this year in Singapore, I’d suggest a trip out next year if possible. It's simply worth a trip, to see Singapore, enjoy the events and the race, a hard to beat combination.

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(Lewis Hamilton on the Podium excuse my poor video)

Bonus Travis Video at the pre race event:

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SOUTH GOA – MOBOR - BETUL BEACH

I’m fond of South Goa beaches. These include Colva (my new home to be) and heading south from there to Benaulim, Varca, Mobor (Cavelossim) and ending up at Betul beach where the River Sal meets the Arabian Sea. I wrote a bit about River Sal in my previous Goa blog here.

I am not against North Goa beaches that are well known to all like Baga, Calangute, Anjuna and so on but that’s not my game, its too white (population of Brits, European and Russian I mean), too commercialized, too crowded, too many things going on and very happening. For me, I’d like the quieter parts that South Goa offers. I won’t include other famous South Goa beaches like Palolem for now but let me give some glimpses Mobor and Betul here.

Mobor-Cavelossim (as it is known) has some fine hotels in the vicinity of its famous beach. The hotels are mostly for the well heeled and in a way keeps out riff raff. Some of these hotels have beachfront like property that looks like the Hotels own stretches of this beach but that is not true, the beaches are indeed public. Elite Hotels like the Leela Palace are on top of the list in this stretch and moving on down the list to The Holiday Inn and further to budget hotels nearby that are quite good frankly, although without immediate beach access. There’s something good to suit all budgets.


(Fishing boat at the mouth of the Sal and Arabian Sea)

My favorite time at Mobor is in the evenings. I like this a lot, warm waters gently lapping at your feet while you walk on the edge of the water and the soft sand of the beach. The sunset in the horizon, changing hues of orange to somewhat deep red before plunging below. The soft sounds of the waves and the gentle breeze. I like stopping by and watching little birds run behind small crustaceans on the exposed wet sand when the tide goes out and then they come running back when the waves return towards the beach. For me that’s what a piece of heaven would feel like.


(Sunset at Betul)

One can relax by the seaside into the evening and night, there are a few good “shacks” where one can order up cocktails, mocktails and whatever else one fancies. I like the starts showing up as the sky darkens, the breeze still soft and less humid. It is seafood paradise, Goa is, and I’d encourage everyone to try some of the local dishes. Vegetarians don’t despair, there are options available, although it may not be extensive. South Goa beaches are a series of villages by the sea, all very clean and some villages still offering some very fine examples of old Portuguese architectures in their Casas.


(Islets formed by the Sal and the Sea)

I like that short stretch of walk between Mobor and Betul beach, reaching a point where the River Sal meets with the Arabian Sea. The Leela is located at this spot. Its really picturesque. There’s Betul Beach, soft sand bordering the river Sal’s mouth and on the other side is a line of Hills. The beach itself has various small channels that bring in water from the river to the sea and vice versa. One can stand on sand banks in low tide and watch water all around the little “island” that you are on. Some of the pictures accompanying this post would help imagine this.


(Sunset over the sand bar)

I normally just take the village road that runs parallel to the sea, from The Madgao-Colva road past villages and rice fields, going South. In high season this narrow road can have lots of traffic going at high speed, so if you are renting a two-wheeler, wear a helmet and be careful! If you are coming from Madgao side, on the road going to Colva, you’ll see a lot of signboards showing either Leela Palace. Take a left and drive till you see Mobor beach or till you drive into the River Sal eventually because the road ends there! The turn off to the left, facing Colva beach side is at a cross road just before the famous Colva Church of Our Lady of Mercy. If you go past the Church (Church on your right side), you have missed the turn. Never mind, take the next left and that road joins up with the road that you missed!

Betul is famous for this "river meets sea" location. I have also seen tour operators who take people out in boats to watch for Dolphins in the area and also motor up the river to a fishing village and take a look at the fresh catch of the day. I’d just go there to un-clutter my otherwise cluttered brain and let the feeling of peace and tranquility wash over me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DUDHSAGAR FALLS

Dudh Sagar (Konkani words, also spelt doodh sagar in Hindi) literally means sea of milk. This is the name given to a waterfalls in the tiny state of Goa, in India. Since the water rushes down the hills and sort of looks white and foamy during the monsoon, it has earned the name as such. Of course there is a legend/myth around this name as well, like many places in India. In short, the story goes as follows. There was a princess who used to bathe in the falls a long time ago. She used to drink a jug of milk right after her bath everyday it seems (don't ask me why!). one day she was startled to see a handsome prince (what did you expect) who had stumbled on to the falls and since she was in the buff, she grew red in the face and poured the jug of milk in front of her into the waterfall. This milky white water shielded her for a brief moment that it took the attendants to drape a cloth over her and protect her modesty. Anyway, I am sure it was better told in a long and romantic version than my twitter style abridged version.


(Top of falls from a distance - click on all the pictures for an expanded view)

The falls has a total fall height of 1017 feet, the ecosystem around the hills and the falls is almost pristine, the mining activity has been at a fair distance away and thank heavens for that. The falls is located in the hills of Goa off a bumpy highway NH-4A, about 45 Kms from Madgao. The destruction of the road and red mud colors of the tarmac is a result of Iron Ore mining in the area and spill over from mining trucks that speed along this highway. I went on an earlier trip during the dry season and drove all around Goa. I can safely say that these mining trucks are best avoided, they drive at breakneck speed, are rash with their turns and sometimes you can get stuck behind a convoy of them belching thick black smoke.


(Not spectacular in dry season as one can see above)

Once you get off the Highway, it’s OK though. At Collem, one needs to get into an SUV and there are several of them operated by local companies there. “Normal” cars are best left parked. The terrain is muddy, rocky and no road exists in many sections. The only way is by these SUV’s that one can hire with driver either exclusively or by sharing with other visitors. This is all easily done. The SUV will take you to the falls and after an hour and a half, bring you back to where you had parked our car (or bus if you came by bus or any other transportation from Madgao. I believe there is a train service between Madgao and Collem. I am not sure of the frequency or costs as I have not experienced it.

Bhagwan Mahavir Forest surrounds the falls and the Forest Department collects money as Entrance Fee. I think it wasn’t more than Rs. 20 (less than 50 cents US). There are additional charges for cameras like they do in many places in India and these charges are based on the type of camera one has, an ordinary still camera is cheaper than video ones. Of course I find it funny. These days a lot of people just carry their cell phones that have great cameras and video capability too. That’s not charged. So, go figure.


(View from front seat of an SUV crossing the stream)

Riding in the SUV is great fun. The vehicle goes in and out of large depressions in the ground, over rocks and also crossing shallow streams. The drivers are good and what looks like a hairy piece of road is easy for them. I guess this is the exciting part of visiting the falls because once you get there, if the crowds are low, it is mostly quiet. You’d run into lots of monkeys in the wild but not much else (because of all the human activity) unless you got great vision or staring up at trees on the hill side. Maybe you’d spot something more exotic. All I saw were monkeys and spiders, both easily seen in my home town of Mysore. We grew up with monkeys as neighbors. I mean real monkeys, I’m not calling any of my human neighbors as monkeys, they were nice people.


(British built bridge)

The falls had enough water in it, although it wasn’t the season. However, crowds were absent (lucky me) and this tranquil place is best enjoyed with a cool dip in the pool at the foot of the falls. Looking up at the top of the falls, one can see an old Railway Bridge. That was built during the British occupation of India and the trains chugs down the hills, past the falls mid way, on it’s way to Goa or Karnataka on the other end of the line. The bridge and train are still in use as regular service, some people stop coming from Karnataka get off at the Castle Rock station and trek down to the falls.


(At the foot of the falls, a large pool is formed and ideal place to chill)

In the monsoon, when the falls is at its full glory, everything is wet and slippery so be careful and wear the right type of clothing. Watch out for leaches when you trek. Enjoy the bountiful nature around, there’s nothing there that will jump out of the scrubs and eat you so go ahead and be adventurous. Leaving the falls, I came across a resort on the side of the Highway, surrounded by greenery and thickly wooded and well maintained. There was a good restaurant on site with some nice food options. I believe that there were rooms for staying also but I did not stay back and continued on my journey. For those who have been there, I'm sure you had a good time. Others, I'd say you should make a part of your trip to Goa to do things away from the Beaches. There's lots more to Goa and hopefully I'll blog more about my adopted State.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cross posting

I have been blogging on my other blog: anupmurthy@blogspot.com. Here are the link addresses. Blogger in Singapore acts crazy and does not let me insert links and once again does not allow me and many other bloggers to insert pictures and videos. Something to do with my ISP Singtel (sounds of me banging my head on the wall).

Latest one about Mysore Airport:

http://anupmurthy.blogspot.com/2009/09/saga-continues.html

This one is about the YSR Chopper crash:

http://anupmurthy.blogspot.com/2009/09/sad-questions.html

This one is about the swine flu masks and the humor side of it:

http://anupmurthy.blogspot.com/2009/08/masks-everywhere.html

This one is about the Mysore Airport July update:

http://anupmurthy.blogspot.com/2009/07/mysore-airport-latest-as-on-jul-2009.html

News since then about Mysore Airport is that no operator has agreed to start any flights yet. The Airport is still on course for an opening ceremony on 15th September. State Government does not have any refueling facility at this Airport for now but in future when they actually get the storage tanks built and fuel available, they will supply at a reduced sales tax of 4% in order to encourage operators to fly into Mysore. I hope to do more updates on this soon.

For those following my blog, I apologize, you have already read all my blogs and did not need these links. I had resisted the idea of tweeting for a while, don't know why, finally I am on twitter with the handle: airplanetalk
Happy tweeting all.