Tsunami

The Tsunami calamity that has struck the South Eastern part of Asia and taken away more than 80000 lives (and still counting) is probably the biggest tragedy that I can remember in recent times. There is so much of sadness and despair all around. Added to it is an eerie feeling in my heart that many of the places that have been affected are known to me.

The Marina beach, the heart of Chennai, is my favorite spot of the city. Whenever my family used to go for vacations to Chennai, I would spend most of my free time at this beach (sometimes in Besant Nagar’s Elliot Beach too). Of course, of late, this has become more commercialized (and also quite dirty), but there is nothing like a good evening spent sitting on the beach and enjoying the ocean. It comes as quite a shock to me to know that this very beach showed its turbulent self and caused so much of havoc.

Andaman and Nicobar islands is the place where we had our honeymoon and I have some wonderful memories of the place, of the friendly people there, of our travel agent who went beyond their means to make our trip so memorable, our car driver who tried his best to entertain us with his mix of Bengali, Hindi and Oriya songs ! – I don’t know how they are all doing. I have sent an email to our travel agent – but I am yet to hear from them. The island is small but people out there are happy and wonderful. It is sad that they have to go through this tragedy.

I visited Trivandrum 2 years ago on a business trip. I had been to Kovalam beach a few times, during my stay there. I once went with Amit Guha, when he had come to visit me in Trivandrum and the other time, I had taken my parents to the beach. It is a lovely beach, though a little crowded and some of the sand is black. But I shall not forget the wonderful time that I had there. It is sad that this place was badly affected, though not as much as Chennai and the Andamans.

It is a moment of despair – let us take a minute of our lives and say a silent prayer for the affected people.

Love and God Bless !

Aloha from Maui ! – Our Hawaii Vacation

How do I describe Hawaii ? – take Andaman and Nicobar islands (or any other wonderful sea resort in India), remove the humidity, add wonderful infrastructure, wonderful roads, wonderful facilities to see places, romantic cruises, new culture and you will come close to what Hawaii is. Since we had been to Andaman for our honeymoon, we couldn’t stop ourselves from comparing it to Andaman and boy! – we were indeed thrilled to be in Hawaii. Here are the snaps of our trip – if you are interested in reading more of our trip, go on 🙂 !

Hawaii consists of the following 6 islands – Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Big Island. We went to the island of Maui, which is one of the best islands to visit. Although many people make trips that allow them to visit multiple islands, these trips are normally at least a week or longer. With time being at a premium, we decided to spend time just in Maui for 5 days and well, it was indeed an intelligent decision. At the end, we felt that we needed 1 more day just to sit at the beach and enjoy the ocean ! – there were so many things to do that it was not possible to do just laze in the beach for a long time.

Our hotel was at Lahaina Harbor, which was around 25 miles from the Airport. Lahaina is the place where most of the water activities start off. The first room that we checked into was actually a little small – also, it did not have any kitchenettes. Susmita had taken lots of frozen Indian food (because we didn’t want to eat outside always) and so, it was important for us to have a microwave at least. So, we immediately moved in into a bigger room with a proper kitchen accessories and life was quite rosy after that :).

The first activity that we did on the 1st day was the Submarine ride (Atlantis) – this takes you down to 150 feet, closer to the fantastic array of marine life and corals. It was amazing to hit the ‘rock bottom’ virtually. A short ride from the harbor takes you to the submarine and the ride itself was quite beautiful – warm weather, lush blue ocean and great breeze. It indeed seemed like paradise.

Hawaii has a very unique way to welcome its guests and tourists – the Luau dance. This is a traditional function, where the guests are welcomed by shell garlands, served dinner and drinks and then treated to a fantastic program of Hula Dance, a traditional Hawaii dance. What is so intriguing about this dance is that this requires a tremendous amount of hip movement and seeing some of the dancers (both men and women) make you feel they are from a different planet 🙂 !

We will probably never forget the 2nd day. On this day, we had to see the Sun-rise from Haleakala, which is a dormant volcano in Maui. It is said that when the sun breaks through the clouds, it is just magical. But the drive to the top of the crater (10000 ft) was 2 hours long and so, we had to get up at 2:30 am in the morning to start off. It was freezing cold there (a total contrast to the weather in the plains) and we reached there around 4:45 am. We had to wait till 6:45 before the sun rose and when it did, it was so heavenly that for a moment, you would forget all the pains and problems in the world – it was just great. On the way back, we stopped at a wonderful breakfast joint, where I had one of the best mixed berry jelly that I have ever had. In fact, we both liked it so much, that we bought a bottle for our home too.

In the evening, we went to see a audio and musical program, Ulalena. Now, this is quite an interesting program where the best Hawaii dancers and artists and musicians bring to life quite vividly the brief history of the origins and culture of Hawaii.

The whole of 3rd day was spent on the ‘Road to Hana‘. Hana is a small town which is located to the eastern coast of Maui. Hana, as a town by itself, is nothing great. The drive to Hana is famous because it goes through tropical forests and wonderful scenic locations. We stopped at various spots, did some hiking in the forests, watched some waterfalls, posed in front of the scenic overdrop, and also played in the beaches along the way. After Hana, the road becomes rougher and so, rental cars are normally not advised to go there. Also, the landscape is totally different – it consists of black lava rocks and of course, scenic overlooks. But we still took our car along that route and well, it was just fantastic. The roads were definitely rough (and unpaved) but it was a great adventure :).

Since we had hardly spent much time on the beach on the first 3 days, we decided to spend most of the 4th day on the beach. A few miles north of Lahaina is the wonderful Kaanapali Beach. Fantastic resorts along the beach, lovely palm trees, pool chairs long the beach to lie down quietly in front of the beach etc are some of the highlights of this place. Of course, the beach is also good, water is warm and nice and so, it was perfect for us to take bath in the beach.

In the evening, we went to a really romantic dinner cruise. Food and drinks were served on the top deck, where we could see the sun set over the horizon. Below, there was some wonderful music and a dance floor too. All this really made it quite romantic !

One of the very popular things to do at Maui is snorkeling. For the uninitiated, this is basically a way to see the wonderful marine life and the corals without submerging into the water. You basically have to float in the water (with the help of floatation devices) , put on a mask through which you breath and put your head into the water to see them. We had done snorkeling in Andamans and that was lot of fun. However, the one at Maui actually was quite different. Firstly, they put you straight into the water (30 feet deep). Even though you have the floatation devices, you still don’t have ground below your feet. Secondly, the water was quite rough too – in the Andamans, the place where we did snorkeling was so quiet and calm that one didn’t feel we were entering into an ocean. In any case, we did for some time and afterwards realised that it is better to be safe than sorry :). So, we got into the boat, enjoyed the food and the drinks and then simply enjoyed the ride back :).

Since this was the last day of our tour, we decided to spend the remaining hours of the day shopping and checking out another interesting town called Kihei, which is also quite an important place. The malls are quite good – most of the shoppers were tourists and seeing the place, one could say that Maui economy was indeed thriving.

Some things to remember, if you are planning a vacation at Maui :

(1). Things in Hawaii are generally more expensive than in the continental USA. So, don’t plan to buy anything there, such as film rolls, batteries, food, gum etc. Go well prepared !

(2). People in Hawaii are very very friendly. So in case you are lost or need some help, feel absolutely free to ask.

(3). You might want to visit multiple islands in the same trip – but believe me, we felt we could have done with 1 more day at Maui alone. In short, don’t rush through things – you will go there only once in a while – so enjoy things and cherish each moment.

(4). Prepare for the weather, especially if you are coming from cold places. Jeans and full pants are even considered too much clothing :). Just shorts and tees are enough at most places. For evening cruises and walks along the beaches in the evening, you might consider wearing something a bit more warmer.

(5). Be ready to spend – but if you are careful in your preparations, you can keep that to a minimum. You are going on a vacation and so, don’t feel guilty while spending.

(6). All Hawaii conversations begin with Aloha (=”hello”,”hi”,”welcome” etc) and end with Mahalo (“Thank You”). Learn this !

(7). Remember that Hawaii is also part of USA – so, your Cell phone will still be on “domestic” mode when you travel from USA.

Aloha and Mahalo !
Thyaga

Hawaii – here we come !

We leave for Hawaii in a few hours and well, I am excited. It is probably the longest vacation that we are going for (sans India) and so, it is something to look forward to. Honestly, I have hardly done anything for this trip – excepting taking the printouts, maps etc. Susmita has planned and designed the whole thing out and so, I feel more confident ;-).

So till then – take care and have a great weekend.

“Aloha” – my “ohana” is travelling towards “makai” ! – figure it out from below :).

Cheers !

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Some common words of/tips about the Hawaii language
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1. aloha – hello, goodbye, welcome, farewell, love

2. haole – a foreigner, often referring to a Caucasian

3. heiau – Hawaiian temple, place of worship

4. hula – native dance of Hawaii

5. kamaaina – native born citizen or local resident of Hawaii

6. lanai – a porch, balcony or veranda

7. luau – a Hawaiian feast

8. mahalo – thank you

9. makai – a direction “towards the sea”

10. mauka – a direction “towards the mountains”

11. mele – a song or chant

12. ohana – family

13. ono – delicious

14. pau – finished

15. poi – crushed taro root, made into a sticky paste

Tips:
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The Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters – the five regular vowels (a, e, i, o, and u) and seven consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w).

The vowels are pronounced ah, ey, ee, oh and oo, not ay, ee, eye, oh and you like in English.

Most of the time each vowel in a word is pronounced separately.

Skype – Internet Telephony at its best

Internet Telephony is here to stay – you might be hearing this quite regularly now. I got a first taste of it when I used Skype for the Voice chat with my team in India. I was just blown away with the quality of voice that I could hear.

It was simple to set up. Download the software from the Skype site, install it, Login and then call the other person. It is similar to Yahoo! Voice Chat in that sense, but its quality if far too superior. Interestingly, Skype uses the Peer-to-Peer technology for enhancing the voice quality. It comes as no surprise that the folks behind this technology are those behind KaZaa, the online music download site.

Internet Telephony, is indeed here to stay.

Cheerios !

Joy of Exam Completions !

Yesterday was our Final Exams for the 1st quarter at SCU B-School – boy! – it is such a relief that they are over. I feel that I am few pounds lighter, I feel that the world is now more beautiful and I feel that I missed out a lot of things during the past few months :). Even though I am going to work, it feels that I am in a holiday. I am going to make the best of the 3 weeks of break.

Thinking back about the quarter, it is difficult to assess how much we learnt in the past 3 months and it is almost impossible to predict how much of this stuff we are going to retain going into the future. If I rely on my Engineering experience, then I don’t have too much confidence on that :). Hopefully, Business school will be different.

But I am not going to worry about that now. It is a nice solid break for 3 weeks – time to plan for the vacation, for Christmas and for the New Year.

Visibly tired by definitely VERY RELIEVED 🙂 !

— Thyaga

Google, Microsoft et al

There have interesting news regarding Google and Microsoft over the past few weeks.

(1). Google Bombing – This is an interesting phenomenon, which arises because people build websites so that they can trick the Google Search engine. The latest one came out last week when a group of Iranian guys set up a web site so that any search on ‘Arabian Gulf’ could first take the user to their site (I’m lucky!). In short, what you need to do is this : go to http://www.google.com, enter Arabian Gulf and then click on “I’m lucky” and then see what happens. A similar problem still exists when you type “miserable failure” and then you click on “I’m lucky” – guess, whose home page gets loaded – the President of the United States ! I am not sure whether this is intentional or is this a Bug in the Search engine :). If you want to do something on your own, here is a good tutorial !

(2). Microsoft and Blog – Now, Microsoft has decided to take the plunge into the world of Blogs by opening up a FREE Blog site, which of course, is a direct competition to the FREE Blogger site of Google.

(3). New Browser War – A new Browser war is brewing between Google and Microsoft. Google apparently has hired some of the key guys involved in developing IE. Now, I am not sure whether that is a good idea or a bad one :). Read on …

(4). Microsoft’s new Beta Search Site – Microsoft also threw open their new Search site (in its beta form). Of course, the first results of the site are not bad, but it has a long way to go before it can challenge Google.

So, it is going to be interesting how Microsoft is going to deal with the challenges. On one hand, it finds increasing pressure from corporations, who are slowly looking at cheaper alternatives such as Linux. The Search/Blog/Browser war with Google is also slowly heating up. Lastly, their development of the new Windows OS LongHorn has been hit by major delays (it is now nicknamed LongWait!). Of course, the one big advantage that Microsoft has is the enormous cash flow and its terrific marketing power, that can destroy any competition. Remember Netscape ?

Interesting times ahead indeed !

Cheers !