Sunday, 5 July 2015

Houseboat cruise, backwaters of Kerala, God's own country

It was our long cherished dream to enjoy the scenic beauty of the backwaters of Kerala on a Houseboat. I wonder why all these years we could not go for such a thrilling journey that has become so popular among the tourists, both foreign as well as domestic ! Moreover, so many people here now-a-days spend their weekends in houseboats experiencing the cool breeze, savoring delicious dishes prepared onboard listening to their favorite music while the modified traditional houseboats of Kerala originally called 'Kettuvallam' smoothly glide along the backwaters powered by powerful engines.

We went for the cruise at Alleppey ( Alappuzha ), in Kerala, South India. Alleppey is said to be the 'Venice of the east' ! I was told that there are about a thousand houseboats here alone and sometimes during the peak season there will be difficulty in getting one if you do not have an advance booking ! There are many categories of houseboats like Luxury, premiumdeluxe etc. and some of the luxurious ones are furnished with almost all amenities like a five-star suite. Aircon, well...we might not need it because of the soothing breeze all throughout, still they have it. Some prefer to stay overnight and that would be wonderful ! Imagine spending the night on a traditional boat in the middle of still waters far and wide enjoying the moonlight getting reflected, the blue sky and cool breeze!

A honeymooner's delight :)

Safety standards are excellent; staff extremely polite, courteous, professional and well behaved. The industry is well regulated by the authorities and all necessary certifications like periodic maintenance and environmental impact control etc. are taken care of. In the olden days, such huge traditional wooden hull boats ( kettuvallams ) were used mainly as rice barges. I remember watching huge rice barges with thatched roofs sailing along the rivers and canals during my childhood. There was a time when these barges became a big liability to the owners with the advent of modern ways of transportation of goods. Then someone thought of converting kettuvallams like this for tourism and it clicked in a very big way. Thus began the huge demand for old houseboats and now-a-days people are 'building' such vessels. Some corporate companies conduct their meetings and conferences on houseboats these days !

This is a 'snake boat' we spotted while cruising. Snake boat race ( vallamkali ) is another tourist attraction in Kerala. Such very long boats will compete during Onam, the festive season, in many places in Kerala. The most famous is the Nehru trophy boat race at Alleppey, the very same place where we go for houseboat cruise.

Some high-end hotel properties also have come up here. Many are having their own private pier for houseboats. Enjoy in style :)

The backwaters of Kerala are a chain of lakes, canals, and rivers that connect with the Arabian sea. There are small villages, towns and lagoons all along these strips of water. Vembanad lake, the largest, borders Alleppey, Kochi and Kottayam districts. Our cruise was at the Punnamada lake at Alleppey.

It is easy to book a cruise. There are plenty of online portals offering attractive deals. Or if you prefer to book one on the site then use this pre-paid counter. There is a comfortable waiting room also.

A must enjoy cruise ! Very popular among honeymooners :)

Look at those huge boats waiting for passengers ! This is the 'finishing point' area of Nehru trophy boat race. From here we boarded our vessel.

On the right-hand side,    what you see is a dangerous fruit called 'Odallum'. Never ever eat  these , it is fatalThey are  poisonous.  Sometimes boats stop at areas of lagoons for lunch where you will find these plants. They look like mangoes; be careful !                                                                                             

Yummy ! Lobsters, fresh catch....the chef onboard will cook this in any style you like! There are plenty of vendors en-route who will be happy to sell you such exotic fishes :)

These are Karimeen (green chromide) fried in coconut oil, a very popular fish here ! One thing I am  sure no one will disagree. The yummy dishes that you get onboard these boats prepared by expert chefs ! The rice, curries etc. etc .wow...!

An unforgettable experience !

Google tells me there are wonderful boat cruises similar to this in other parts of the world too. Please share your experience :)

Enjoy !

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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Global village, Dubai

I have blogged a lot before Dubai Global village and Dubai Shopping Festival. While going through my old collections I noticed these videos recorded while I visited a while ago. So I thought of uploading these amazing videos.

Dubai shopping festival takes place in the months of January - February every year. The Dubai Global village is a popular attraction in Dubai, UAE. During the time of the festival, the place will be vibrant with cultural shows, fireworks, etc. filled with shopping pavilions of many countries in the world.

This year it will remain open until April 11. Three more days left :)

Awesome Dubai; amazing festival !

Watch these videos too.


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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Anchovies / Kozhuva / Netholi fried fish masala and curry

Today we prepared a fish curry using Anchovies fish. This fish is called Kozhuva / Netholi here. I think this fish seen in Kerala is a variety of the common Anchovies. I bought a packet of descaled, ready to cook fish from the local mall. For a twist, we added some green peas and garnished this curry dish with pomegranate. Other ingredients include fish masala powder, big onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, salt and a little oil. 

This is fried fish with fish masala powder. This powder contains coriander, cumin, turmeric, red chilly, cloves, asafoetida etc. It is available in stores here. Ingredients differ from brand to brand and home-made. 

We cook fish rarely. Being rich in Omega - 3 fatty acids we usually go for Sardines, mackerel or Tuna especially white tuna. For a change, today we thought of preparing this fish. Liked it, tasty !

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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Gionee L 800, long lasting battery power, awesome !

Why I purchased this basic mobile phone when I already have two cool, decent android smartphones and a 3G, wi-fi enabled tablet besides access to landlines at work ?

It is just because of the huge battery power of this compact phone. I bought Gionee L800 about 8 days ago, charged it to full capacity ( it had almost half charge when unboxed ) and it still retains almost half the power in spite of moderate to heavy usage ! 8 days and never had to charge it again ! Awesome !

Look at the power, it is just a bar lost after 8 days ! Mobile is never switched off, many calls and texts, browsed internet, some photos were taken and videos recorded...it is still going strong :)

About all the sophisticated smartphones introduced recently we all know our apps and the device as such will suck away battery juice within a day or two even with limited usage. Even the latest iPhone 6 plus will have to be plugged in after 2 days of reasonable use. For me, power is important. I usually carry a 10,000 plus mAh Power Bank ( portable charger for handhelds ) while traveling but with this basic mobile I bought I am sure I need not worry about being offline anytime almost anywhere here. 

What I feel is we all need to have a base model as stand-by, similar ones we used to have about 10-15 years ago that retained power for days together. I had an awesome old model Nokia mobile which I used to keep as a standby phone until recently. It stopped working, but the repair shop said they can't do anything. I added it to my antique collection !

Gionee L800 was brought to my attention by the salesman at the repair shop who vouched for its efficient battery. I researched online only to get surprised by the specifications in addition to the huge 3000 mAh battery. As you can see from the above picture it has almost everything that a smartphone offer. So this phone gives me much more than my old standby Nokia mobile. 

The battery is removable. The phone costs only Rs 2100 / - here in India. Gionee has become popular here in India. Introducing affordable, cool phones they are creating waves in Asia giving tough competition to big players. 

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Thursday, 2 April 2015

Beetroot bitter gourd curry

Today's post is about a cool mixed vegetable curry. This curry is not hot; prepared using organic vegetables bought from a store. I am planning to grow beets, right now nothing. About bitter gourd, I am not sure because it is a climber that requires a lot of  space.

The ingredients:
  • Beetroot
  • Bittergourd
  • African malli / coriander leaves for garnish
  • Salt
  • Water
  • A little turmeric powder
  • Wheat bran ( This supplied fiber, already blogged about it too )
Nicely cut vegetables mixed with turmeric powder, two teaspoon full of wheat bran and a little salt is cooked to perfection on a low flame until it assumes the looks that you see here. Add water too. Easy to prepare, no oil added. Finally add some chopped leaves of African coriander about which also I blogged recently.

Beets are said to possess:
  • anti-oxidant activity
  • anti-inflammatory
  • detox activity
  • anti-cancerous activity
Beetroot, as you know is considered as a super food. It is rich in anti-oxidants that neutralize the free radicals which are responsible in triggering the cellular reactions causing many diseases. Betalain pigments present in beets are said to be having unique anti-oxidant properties. Half cooked or even raw are cool to eat. Limit the time of cooking to retain the healthy nutrients. Some discoloration of urine is expected.
  • Beets are said to reverse fatty liver. 
  • Good source of lutein; improves eye health.
  • They are an excellent source of copper.
  • Good source of folate and potassium.

Bitter gourd ( Bitter melon, Karela )

This is very popular in Asian countries especially India. This is said to possess anti-diabetic effects. Researchers have identified Insulin-like substances in this vegetable. Combining this with beetroot is an excellent way to increase its palatability. Beets are a little sweet and this will neutralize the bitterness of bitter gourd. Besides the popular use in Diabetes, it has uses in HIV-AIDS and cancer prevention. It may even cause hypoglycemia if consumed in excess. Avoid this if pregnant.

I have already outlined the medicinal value of African coriander in my post here...

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