Pi Network: Scam? MLM? Pyramid Scheme? Next Bitcoin?

Hi There,

There is a tiny chance that by now, you have never heard of Bitcoin. If not, do a quick wikipedia search and come back here. I will carry on with the premise you know what the Bitcoin is and also assume that you did not manage to amass it while it was still possible for a normal salaried person. I miss not being able to grab that opportunity.

So, just like I did with rushing with the NFT opportunity, I was elated when a friend invited me to the Pi Network.

Now, the Pi network is currently in a nascent stage, beta stage, if you may call it, where the pioneers mine the coin (Pi Coin) on their mobile phones using their mobile app. Recently they launched a non custodian wallet too and gave us 100 test pi coins to test out, which works just fine. The core team does plan to launch the mainnet and the coin into the public exchange by the end of 2021, a time when the coins will have some real value in terms of fiat currency. Till then, honestly it is still make believe.

What strikes strange, is the way the network is being marketed, where one has to be invited to be able to join the network and then as he/she adds more people to the network, the speed of mining increases. It sounds absolutely like a multi level marketing scam, except there is no money involved. There is an app which you must download and run. The app has a tiny battery footprint, uses minimum data, does not ask for permissions of storage, location, phone or messages. It asks for contacts permission for inviting others, which can be denied without affecting the functioning of the app. For mining to happen, the user must register and put in an attendance, once every 24 hours, maybe watch 1 or 2 ads and that’s it.

This has every smell of a scam and my brain says that it is, but the heart says, what if the the core members are not scamming us after all? What if this explodes like the bitcoin? Didn’t you hear stories where the early adopters of Bitcoins were called loons and fools? What is the risk anyway? There is no money involved and we provide our life’s data to google and facebook anyway to be used as a product, so what’s the harm?

For me, as long as there is no actual money from my pocket is on the line, I am a 100% ready to try out a new product. If, down the line they ask us for money, hard real money, then shall I decide, whether I want to continue or not.

Till then, I shall keep mining this coin.

Since you cannot join the network without an invite, you can use my code after you sign up : novemberking91

You can go to this link too : https://minepi.com/novemberking91

I wish that you take this leap of faith and that our collective leaps are rewarded. Its not completely wishful thinking though, there are multiple websites and pages which are coming up discussing about this new coin, Pi. Do check them out and do decide, just do remember, in case this hits the market good, and the values go up high, on 28th of April 2021, you had been shown the possibility of it, yet again!

This post is in no way containing all the data that is to be known about the coin, but it tries to get you, dear reader to have an interest in the matter. I hope I was able to do it.

Good luck to all of us.

Cheers!!


The photo of the Pi coin is not mine. I took the photo from this link and have added the texts on it.

Minting your first NFT : A noob’s experiences!

Hi there,
I just minted my first NFT a couple of days back and what shall follow here is an account of my experience.

Before I begin in all earnest, know this, I am not a blockchain expert or a crypto wizard by any measure. I have a sketchy understanding of what they are and generally believe in escaping a situation, if it demands money online!

So, let’s begin!

We have heard of crypto currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Dogecoin etc. at a time when it was already past the early adoption phase. The first time when I came to know of Bitcoin, it was during the college days, around 2011/2012. The price of 1 BTC (bitcoin) was almost as much as 1 USD, which rapidly became 100 USD. The point being, that was a time when I did not have any disposable income to invest in a tech which I did not understand fully. Most of us Indians still don’t for that matter anyway. And by the time I had some money and knowledge to invest, it was 2017/18, 1 BTC was close to 10k USD, clearly out of reach. So, I ll say, we, as a generation missed out Crypto train big time.

So, when a new kid, NFT came on the block, I was keen on finding out what it was and how to make some money out of it. An NFT is a unit of data, which is stored on the blockchain, certifying its uniqueness and authenticity. The NFT can be anything digital, a photo, a video, a song, in fact it can be anything.

And YOU CAN MINT YOUR OWN NFT and sell it.

The market right now is in a nascent stage, so the opportunity for relatively unknown people to sell pieces of digital art and collectibles is still available. With that thought in mind, I decided to go ahead and mint my own NFT.

Everything costs money. Whether real dollars or rupees or the virtual ether, bitcoin etc. but it will cost money. So does minting your NFT. These charges are known as Gas fees. There are websites which proclaim “Gasless” NFTs where you can mint it, but pay no gas charge upfront. The trick employed here is, that the gas charge will be charged against the proceeds of the sale, if you manage to sell your NFT. Also, the gasless NFTs are not allowed to be transferred to your wallet, so, you dont own it, until it has been sold at least once.

I minted my first NFT using the gasless option on Mintable.
The process is easy enough. Sign up for the website, make a wallet in Metamask. Metamask is apparently quite a popular wallet which is used by some more online marketplaces too. Then, I uploaded the photo I wanted to mint. Put in some of the details and Voila! my first NFT was created.

Check it out here.

Once I created it, then did I realize that I did not make it downloadable, so now, even if someone pays 200 USD for my NFT, which is honestly a pretty picture, they will not be able to download it. They can resell it or use it for commercial purposes, but not download it. Kinda stupid, I know, but then, a mistake is a learning.

Also, since it was gasless, Mintable owns it as of now. So, I cannot use the same NFT to sell on a different marketplace, say Rarible, Foundation, Opensea, etc.

Gas fees, which you must pay for minting, keeps varying according to the time of the day, Ethereum vs USD values, network congestion, etc. These are just some of the causes. A website to track the gas prices graphically is this one. So, do check it out before minting. It may so happen that you wait for an hour, and pay a fraction of the gas fees as of now.

Bottom line, unless you invest money into this, chances that you will get money back is negligible. Read up a bit more, set aside a few of artwork or digital assets that you feel are worth being put out in the open market. Set aside a bit of money, about 200 USD to begin with and create a proper NFT, gas fees and all included. Then, list it on the different markets. Off course, loads and loads of marketing is needed. People must know that you exist and that you are interested in selling a digital asset. Consistency and perseverance are key to this too.

Make no mistake, this is a business and all principles of a business are applicable here. Prices fluctuate wildly and it is easy to get disheartened. But when you think of the rewards that are possible, the risk seems to be bearable.

Dear reader, please know this, NFT is still new. There is still scope to jump on this bandwagon before it becomes too huge to be unaffordable for most of us. Read up, research and take the plunge. At worst, you’ll lose 200 USD. At best, the returns are unlimited.

I have tried to put in my experiences and thoughts into this post as best I can right now. I ll continue to research and find ways to get the best bang for my ether.

Let me know of your thoughts and doubts and I shall try to come up with an answer, or we shall embark on a quest together to learn something new.

Cheers!!

A Noob’s guide to a free AMEX Card

I was born in 1991 and neither of my parents, during their years of career has had a credit card. So, at the first opportunity, 26 years later, I promptly obtained one. For a lot of people in the middle class, my generation is the first one which takes the plunge into the world of rewards, cashbacks, due dates and balance transfers. Almost every bank we know of, issues a credit card and each has its own pros and cons.

Amongst the cards available to be issued based on applications, AMEX cards are one of the most desirable ones. So, yet again, upon realizing that I was eligible for one and would be able to use it fruitfully, I applied and obtained one. The prime objective was to experience the enigma around AMEX cards, the rewards programmes and to be honest, the slight feeling of pride from the second glance the card receives as you hand it out to be used.

In the post ahead, I shall discuss some of the basic questions that I had asked around and hope that it’ll help you too. The discussion aims to cover

  • Types of cards – Debit/Credit/Charge
  • How AMEX is different?
  • Eligibility and why you should get one
  • The rewards programme
  • Pros and Cons as experienced by me
  • How to get an AMEX card with no annual fee

Let’s begin!

Types of Cards – Debit/Credit/Charge

These three are the major types of cards available easily to any customer.

The Debit card is linked directly to your bank account. There are daily transaction limits on the card and you can, technically, spend as much as your balance is in the linked account. In India, for most debit cards, a daily transaction limit of ₹50,000 exists. Debit cards are given out as a part of the standard kit while you open a new account in the banks. These are generally free of charge or a minimum yearly charge for account maintenance is charged.

The Credit Card (CC) is not linked directly to your bank account, in a manner that what you spend on the credit card will not dent your bank balance immediately. Every CC comes with a limit of sorts, which is the maximum expense that you can incur on that card. There is a fixed number of days in which you must repay the CC account, which varies from 30 to 51 days in general, which is known as a credit cycle. The limit of the card is dependent on your income, spending habits, CIBIL scores; simply put how reliable you are that you shall pay the money back, from the bank’s point of view. This causes the limit to vary wildly. For me, I have had cards where the limit varied from ₹18,000 to ₹2,50,000, and the limits keep on changing over time. Also, in case you are unable to pay your dues on the due date, there is an interest that is charged for every day that you delay settling the due. These cards can have loads of rewards attached to spending goals and may have annual charges for them.

What about the needs of high spend groups? Having a limit on their spending is not suitable for them, so there comes the third kind, Charge Cards. These cards are meant mostly for people who require virtually unlimited spending power while being able to repay on a fixed date. Charge cards mostly include an uncapped spending limit, loads of reward points and an annual fee. The prime point for a charge card is that you must pay the due on the day of the statement. There is no free credit period as such for these cards. So, these cards are best suited for business purposes, where transactions are settled on a fixed date basis. In case there is a fee default, it gets reported to the credit bureaus and has major negative effects on the cardholder’s credit ratings and in turn to his/her credibility in the eyes of the bank. So, if you are sorted with your finances, have the requisite control needed and do not mind paying the annual fees, the rewards of a charge card can be very alluring indeed.

Some of the debit cards I own!

How is AMEX different?

The biggest difference is that AMerican EXpress (AMEX) is not a bank. It is a credit card issuing agency that issues its own cards and has tie-ups with most major banks of the world. So, you can not have debit cards from AMEX, though you might have AMEX affiliated ones, similar to the VISA or MasterCard or RuPay ones that we see commonly. There are prepaid AMEX cards too. So, what difference does it make for you and me? The answer is, to obtain an AMEX card, you’ll have to either apply for it or be invited to its membership. Of course, most major banks of the country have credit cards that are AMEX affiliated, but they are still not technically AMEX cards.

A photo of my AMEX MRCC
My AMEX card

Eligibility and Should You get one

The eligibility criteria for AMEX cards vary according to the cards themselves but are quite stringent as compared to the cards from other banks. An annual salary over ₹5,00,000 with a CIBIL score of 750+is generally recommended for being eligible for at least one card. We must remember always that being eligible does not mean that you must apply for it. You must have a clear idea of why you want the card? Is it for the benefits and rewards or just use it as a status symbol? Are you ready to pay the annual fee for it (You can get it for free too you know! Check the last point 😉)? Would you be able to utilize the card fruitfully? If you can justify yourself on these questions, then you should go ahead with it for sure.

 My reasons to get the AMEX card were driven by the zest to try out the rewards being offered by AMEX. Since I had already been using my existing cards for most of my expenses and shifting to the new AMEX card was neither difficult nor have I had to go out of my way to spend differently.

The Rewards Programme

Let’s be honest, we choose credit cards based on the rewards they provide. Most have some sort of a cashback in place; be it as points, statement credits or miles. These rewards can be redeemed for physical things such as discount coupons, electronics, holidays, flight tickets and even cars. And this is what entices us ultimately, the value for return. 

 For AMEX cards, this value is high. They have multiple reward programmes running at a time which can be used quite interestingly often. As of now, besides the discounts being offered on the card in dining, shopping and such, they have spend based rewards at 18k and 24k points. Of course, you can redeem your points for statement credit monthly, but that is a sheer wastage of points.

Let’s take a quick example to see how using the AMEX card cleverly can be useful for us. 

Assumptions:

  1. The card is AMEX MRCC (Amex Membership Rewards Card)
  2. The monthly expense is at least ₹20,000. This is not difficult if you include rent payment via credit card. 
  3. You have signed up for the spend based rewards programmes.

Scenario:

For the MRCC, you get 1 point for every ₹50 spent (some exclusions exist, such as utilities, fuel, etc.).

 Spending ₹2,40,000 in a year provides you with 4800 points only. That is honestly very sad.

But, if you make at least 4 transactions of ₹1500+, you get another 1000 points. Assuming that is being done, the new total becomes 16800 points. 

Signing up for a spend based reward programme, where if you spend more than ₹20,000 in a calendar month, you get another 1000 additional points. Assuming that is being done too, now, the final total becomes, 28800 points.

Now, with 28.8k points, you become eligible for both 18k and 24k rewards.

 The 18k rewards has Taj vouchers, Amazon gift certificates, statement credits etc, while the 24k rewards has Tanishq vouchers too along with Taj vouchers and Amazon gift certificates. You can choose from these at your will. Apart from redeeming the points as rewards on AMEX, you can choose to convert some of them to air miles and redeem flight tickets too. 

So, you see, if used cleverly, AMEX credit cards can be quite useful. It is not that these offers are available only for AMEX, but rather every card comes with its own sets of rewards. Some research helps.

Pros and Cons As I see it

The Pros and Cons of an AMEX card are as varied as the person using it. For me, the rewards were more enticing than standard cashback, while the main disappointment has been the non-inclusion of the MRCC in the airport lounge programme. I do not fret much about it though, since I have other cards which provide airport lounge access, but if the MRCC provided the same, it would have been nicer. Not having to pay annual charges offsets the disappointments greatly.

How to get an AMEX card for free

One thing we must understand is that the reason AMEX and other better-than-the-rest cards can offer the rewards is that they all have annual fees. In the case of AMEX, the MRCC and the SmartEarn are the two cards that have the option of fees waiver based on the spend. 

SmartEarn is aimed towards the ones who want to have an AMEX card in their wallet mostly to feel premium about owning an AMEX card. It has the least entry requirements and does not have a lot of value in terms of rewards other than accelerated points accumulation. 

 This card has an annual fee of ₹495 + taxes which is waived off upon spending more than ₹40,000 in the previous billing year.

 The MRCC on the other hand is aimed at people who want to enjoy the fruits of their expenditures but are not willing to spend a lot though. It misses out on lounge access, golf club memberships etc, but offers you possibilities to stay at Taj or gift yourself/ your beloved Tanishq items.

 This card has a first-year fee of ₹1000 + taxes and an annual fee of ₹4500 + taxes. But, if you use a referral code, such as the one below, the first year fee becomes Nil and the annual fees come down to ₹1500 + taxes. In fact, if you use the card the way I have mentioned in the example and use my referral code, that’s how you can get your AMEX card for free. Do hurry though, this offer is valid till May 2021 as of now.

My referral link is here!

To end, I shall say that it is time that we begin using credit cards for our daily expenses. It promotes healthy financial discipline and improves your credit score. The credit score is an important tool to decide at what rate you shall get your loan from a bank. Mostly, higher credit score holders get better terms for their loans and the chances of rejection are minimized greatly.

Feel free to reach out to me with your doubts and questions, I shall be happy to help solve them 😊

Cheers!! 

Feast-o-Rama Recipe 1 : Chicken Green Thai Curry

Thai curry is one of our favourite dishes. We love the chicken version more than the veg one, but then, the replacing chicken with paneer will not have detrimental effects as such, since the recipe stays the same. Without much ado, let’s dive in to the recipe quickly.

The recipe has three main parts:

  1. The coconut milk
  2. The Thai curry paste
  3. The final mix and cooking.

Now, the coconut milk and the Thai curry paste are readily available in the market. But, we chose to make them from the scratch ourselves.

The Coconut Milk

The main ingredient for the coconut milk is

  1. Coconut
  2. Patience
  3. Water
  4. Strainer

Cut the coconut into small pieces and then grind it to a paste. Add water periodically to make the paste light as needed. Then strain the paste. The liquid is the coconut milk which we shall use, and the residue can be used to make coconut based sweets or used in cooking something else. Check out the video here.

The Thai Curry Paste

For the curry paste, the ingredients are as follows:

  1. Onions, diced : 2 large
  2. Chilli : 1, Ginger (instead of Galangal) : 2 inch roughly chopped, Garlic : 8 or 9 cloves
  3. Green onion stalks : 2 or 3 chopped
  4. Lemon grass stalks : 3 or 4 stalks; peeled and boiled
  5. Coriander leaves : Bowl full of it
  6. Lime leaves : 2 or 3 thoroughly washed and roughly torn
  7. Cumin powder : 1 teaspoon
  8. Coriander powder : 1 teaspoon
  9. Salt : 1 teaspoon
  10. Lime zest : 1/2 teaspoon
  11. Lemon juice : 1 lemon worth

Grind the contents into a thick paste. Add water as needed. The paste shall have a tangy and spicy flavour which is simply AMAZING!! The video for the same is below. Check it out.

The Chicken Green Thai Curry Recipe

To be honest, this is the easiest bit in the entire process.

The ingredients are as follows:

  1. Chicken : 500 gms, boneless; washed, cleaned and cut to small bite sized pieces
  2. Olive oil : 2 to 3 tablespoons
  3. The Thai Curry paste
  4. Babycorn and Capsicums, optional
  5. Coconut milk
  6. Salt
  7. Spring onions, to garnish.

In a pan, heat the oil and pour in the curry paste to cook. You have to keep on stirring the paste otherwise it will splatter around. As the paste begins to cook, add in the chicken, baby corn and capsicum pieces. The cooking of the paste is complete, when the raw ginger garlic smell is gone and the oil begins to separate. Add salt to taste and keep on stirring the pan.
Once the paste is cooked, add in the coconut milk to the mix and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are not cooked completely.

Voila! Your Chicken Green Thai Curry is ready to be served with rice! Bon Appetit!

This recipe is very close to our hearts and we love to make it quite often at home. Sometimes we go the whole way to make things from the scratch, or sometimes we get the Thai curry paste from the market and add chicken to it for the end result, honestly speaking. Either way, the end product is outright delicious.

Do try it out and let us know of your experiences.

Our Youtube channel is named Feast-o-Rama and can be found here! Please do check it out too for loads of more recipes and videos.

Cheers!!

Blogging to Vlogging : What changed ?

Hi there,
It has been almost a year since I was here, writing a blog. Why you may ask.
Did I not have new content? Did I not have the time? Was I lazy? Or did blogging become obsolete?

To answer the first three questions, I did have some new content. I got married, went for trips to Thailand, Dhuandhar falls, places in and around Vadodara, more recently Goa, so, yeah, I did have content. Time, to be honest, I did manage to extract some out of the daily schedule and had I really wanted to blog, I would have been able to. Lazy? Maybe a bit.

But then, when we come to the fourth question, Is blogging dying, that needs a bit more insight and discussion.

I began blogging in 2014. I had quit the first company and was preparing for further studies. I had picked up the hobby of photography back then and was trying to find ways in which I could reach out to the world and show my skill. I loved to write, spin stories around the photograph, so, blogging seemed to be the best option.
By 2016, I had managed to post more than 200 posts. Sometimes I would post multiple times a week, that was the heyday of blogging I would say. There were meetups, various forums for discussions, brand integrations and what not.
Vlogging was a new thing back then. A handful of stalwarts picking it up. Content creation was still mostly in the written media.
Looking back, that was the best year, till now. My rate of posts declined, so did the viewership. I will blame it largely on my own inaction of not being consistent, while not negating the influence of videos on the entire industry.

Videos and vlogs became the new thing since then. Youtube began being more user friendly and the content creators lapped up the opportunity with open arms. Videos are easier for the mass to consume and garner a following quickly, as compared to a blog. A prime reason is the language of the video. There is no restriction at all in a video. It can be in any language out there and that shall cater to a certain group of the population. While in a blog, in India, the language is mostly English with a handful more in the vernacular language. One can argue, that by writing, it develops your skills and makes you adept at the language, but from the point of view of the content consumer, it is simply easier to check out a video. It ll be shorter, have better visuals and it feels connected. This is true for the mass media and that is why best selling books get made into movies and often a well executed movie earns a lot more than the book. For example, one of the best sellers of our times, the Harry Potter collection by J. K. Rowling is estimated to have an earning of $7 billion, while the movies have earned more than $9 billion till now. One must take into account that the first HP book, The Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997 (UK) and its movie was released in 2001. The figures keep on increasing.

It is not that Vlogging is all the easier than blogging. While it has the advantages of being able to reach to the consumer in a much direct manner, it does have its caveats. As always, content is king. You can get away with making transition videos on mini video apps and platforms, add a few filters and some music to it, but that is honestly, rubbish.
A well made video, which shall add some value to your consumer, requires preparation and research. The execution has to be better than the competition, the information has to be enriching and the content, engaging. Add to this, editing. One must edit their clips to form the final video. Off course, you can hire a team of people to do the backend jobs, but then you must pay them too. So, either you have enough money for recruiting a team, or you do it yourself. I must reiterate here, putting in a few transitions and filters is not editing, period. It includes honest effort and quite a lot of knowledge. All this becomes a hurdle to a newbie into the foray.

But then, the rewards are huge. The Vloggers who have managed to garner a following earn a lot. They earn from the revenue from the views of the videos, ads and also via collaborations. So, the risk reward scenario favours the tenacious and dedicated. And this increased scope of rewards has pushed many bloggers to explore the vlogging scene. Some have become exclusive vloggers, some try to keep a balance between the two.
I have also tried to keep up with the times and have spruced up the look of the blog. Added a few sections of tech and the new found skill, cookery. The cookery section is to be fuelled by the Vlog, Feastorama, which is a Youtube cooking channel, founded and maintained by me and my wife.

If you have made it till here, means you are still interested in the quintessential question, Is Blogging Dead? And the answer shall be No, it isn’t! It is turning to a niche though. The number of bloggers shall steadily fall, so shall their readership, until, there shall be a wave of revival where Vlogging will have become so mainstream that people shall return to reading.

Until that day arrives, we as bloggers, shall keep our head up and carry on with making new content for you to read, bookmark, share and re-read again 🙂

It feels good to be back writing. New posts shall be coming up soon.

Cheers!!

Solar Eclipse From Vadodara

Solar eclipse is one of the natural phenomenons which draws awe every time it is visible.
In the recent past, we were lucky enough to be able to witness a partial solar eclipse from Vadodara, Gujarat, India.

We didn’t use any special devices or gears to capture the eclipse rather than use the basic settings used to shoot the sun, namely, smallest aperture and a reasonably fast shutter speed.

What are the camera settings for capturing solar eclipse?
F/36, 1/1600s and ISO 100 later, the outcome is as below!

As always, general precautions must be followed while looking at the sun. We used double polarized glasses to view the sun, though for little amount of time at a stretch.

An upcoming solar eclipse is scheduled in June 2020. Hopefully it shall be visible from Vadodara and more pictures of the same shall be shared.

Cheers!!

Ganesh Visarjan 2019: Vadodara

Since staying in Maharasthra, I have found Ganesh Chaturthi and the subsequent Visarjan quite a huge celebration. Off course, comparing the likes of Laalbaagcha Raja or Chinchpoklicha Chintamani is not justified, but here in Vadodara, the celebrations are vibrant and filled with enthusiasm.

This time, I had the opportunity to cover a part of the visarjan at the Gotri lake at Gotri.

I loved the way each idol would be loaded on the platform and taken to the middle of the lake and then ceremoniously dunked in the water. This ensures a better immersion and hence a more complete dissolution of the idol. Let’s have a look.

I hear that the Sur Sagar lake hosts much bigger idols and draws a bigger crowd, hope to cover it next year.

The Mumbai Visarjan post can be found here.

Until next time,
Cheers!!

TTL : Kelwa Beach

It has been months since the last post and a lot has happened in my life since then. It is time that the posts must continue, once more!

Let me take you all to Kelwa Beach at Palghar, Maharashtra.
About 100 km out of Mumbai is this beach on the western coast of the country. The route is quite scenic and both the driver and the rider would enjoy the route. Some twists and turns along the road, a wide road and some natural beauty to keep one company. Following the route using Google Maps is easy and hassle-free.
The place is quite amazing for a one-day trip with friends. Come, have a look!

As with all beaches, do not forget to carry loads of water and sunscreen. Have a beach ball along and you shall be having quite a nice time out there.
The beach is frequented by locals mostly and is generally peaceful.

Go on, have a good time! Until the next post..
Cheers!!

The PetFed Mumbai 2019: Part 1

PetFed is one of the most popular pet meet that is organized annually at various locations around the country. Pets of all shapes, sizes and breeds are welcome and there are multiple events organized for them.

This year’s, PetFed Mumbai was organized on 19th and 20th of January. Below are some of the photos from the first day of the event to help bring back memories of the wonderful time spent in company of the furballs. Enjoy!

What I found quite amazing is that there were quite a few number of pets around and there was remarkably less snapping and fighting amongst them, they all got along so well. Kudos to the owners s who have trained their pets to behave well.

More photos from day 2 shall be uploaded soon.
Cheers!!

Additions to the arsenal

Change is the only constant, they say…and one must always strive to be better. To change, to evolve and to try out new things. Keeping in track with time, there has been a couple of changes in my photography and travel arsenal.

Poco F1
This phone, from Xiaomi, is a wonderful piece of technology. Sleek, light and with 6GB of RAM, it packs quite a punch. It has a 12MP primary camera with a 5MP secondary camera to assist in depth perception. Doesn’t shoot RAW files, but does shoot slo mo videos at 120fps, 240fps and a restricted version of 960fps. The camera is quite fine to shoot in a jiffy. Of course, nothing as close to the Nikon D7200, but then, this is the camera that is on me 24/7.

Lensball
This tiny piece of crystal ball is one the most innovative photography aid I have come across in a long time. It is basically a glass sphere which is being used as a lens. It forms an inverted image on the lens surface, when viewed from the focus, typically around 100mm. If done properly, the images hence captured can be quite interesting.

Am still in the fiddling and getting to know the new toy phase of things with the lensball and honestly, am loving it. When paired with the Poco F1, it does quite an amazing job, I daresay. To me, this lensball is special, since it was a gift from my beloved.

Links to where one may find them is below.
Poco F1 from Xiaomi and Lensball.
Do note that the lensballs come in various shapes and sizes from a variety of dealers and of various quality too. Choose wisely.

Here’s to making amazing photographs. Do tell me about your thoughts on my recent acquisitions.
Cheers!

Hampi : Places to be!

If you have read the previous post, you ll know that I made it to Hampi. An ancient kingdom capital which finds references since the epic Ramayana in the Hindu mythology.
In the first day at Hampi, I walked about and went to the main temples around the place. Then, a little walk down to the Vitthala temple to visit the coveted stone chariots. With that, my day 1 was at an end.

The second day, I had a bicycle tour planned. The tour began at 0900h sharp at the Virupaksha temple. A temple tour and a history lesson later, we were on our way on cycles.

We stopped at the Kadalekalu Ganesha temple to observe the beauty of the carvings on the columns.

On the other side of the street is what used to be the market of Hampi also known as the Krishna Bazaar.

Past the bazaar and the temple across the road, we rode our cycles down the path to the Badavilinga temple and the Lakshmi Narsimha Temple.

Along the way, we stopped at a few places to have coconut water and a few ice golas, all very welcome due to the hot weather and the cycling across the terrain. One must always remember to stay hydrated!

Our subsequent stops were at the Queens Bath and the public bath. Honestly, neither were too impressive. Public bath was basically a stepped well, thats it.

Next up, our stop was the Lotus Mahal. The mahal was pretty, that’s for sure; what was more interesting is the ingenious way to keep the place cool. The walls are double layered and have a means to make water flow through them. So, as the air circulates, it looses heat to the water in circulation and keeps the inhabitants cool.

Our next stop was literally next door to the Elephants’ Stable. It used to be the royal stable for the procession and war elephants during their time of reign.

From here, we rode our bikes nearby to a quite place where we had lunch served to us. Homemade lunch comprising of rice, chapati, dal, tomato curry, cauliflower and potato curry and papads. Loved it. After riding the bicycle for hours, the food felt doubly tasty.
Once we were done with refilling ourselves, we were en route to the Hazararama temple. Filled with intricate architecture, this temple depicts various scenes from the Ramayana, and that is how it derives the name, Hazara Rama (thousand Ram).

Once past the Hazara Rama temple. we parted ways, and returned back to the village. I went to sleep.

On the way back we stopped briefly at the Saasivekalu Ganesha.

Woke up in the evening to sporadic firecrackers bursting about, owing to Diwali.

It was fun to see the kids dancing about the firecrackers, felt happy and good 🙂

I was scheduled for a bus ride back to Mumbai next evening, so I went to bed quickly, for I wanted to go to the other side as quickly as I could and venture about a bit.

On the third day at Hampi, I took the ferry across the river Tungabhadra and rented a Honda Navi from the other side.

The Honda Navi

My itinerary had the Anjaneya Hill, the Sanarpur lake and the Hampi waterfalls.

En route there was a stream, in which there were ducks. Hundreds of them, and all were trying to swim upstream. Seemed like a ducks’ school of swimming.

The ducks!

It is quite amazing that how small the world is. At Hampi, while riding to Sanarpur lake, two wonderful ladies found me, a little confused of a turn and looking hither dither. The offered to help with the way to the lake, turned out, they were friends with some of old friends from college. Of the two, Akshita, is a gifted sketch artist. Do check out her sketches on her instagram profile.

Sudha and Akshita at the Hampi waterfalls

Later I returned back to the hotel, for yet another bout of sleep.

The return journey was equally torturous worth of 15hours of bus journey. It was outright horrible and I hated every bit of it, but then, maybe it was just me.

My learning, Hampi is an amazing place to be and is a must visit. It is better if you visit with a friend, but then I met people who were solo camping on the banks of the river too. It takes at least 3 full days to travel around and explore the place. So, fix a time, and get there; you ll love it.

Cheers!!

Hampi : Getting to and getting around!

It had been long overdue, and a holiday was coming up too, so, without wasting much time contemplating, I made the necessary arrangements to get to Hampi.

Hampi, is a tiny village on the banks of the river Tungabhadra in Kartaka. It is famous for the ruins of the erstwhile Vijayanagar kingdom. There are ruins of temples, baths, forts, bridges, markets, etc, an entire township in ruins. A major appeal to the place, apart from the ruins and the endless opportunities to hike around, is the setting of the location. It appears to be a valley full of sand coloured boulders all around. There is a warm tone to the entire place, and it feels….cosy!

Getting to Hampi is not the easiest of jobs. It does not have a direct train, bus or flight connection. Hospet or Hosapet is the nearest well connected location, about 15 kms out. Auto rickshaws are available to ply between the towns. Trains are available from Mumbai, Goa and Bangalore. Bus connections exist, but they are long and tiring. 

I took a sleeper bus from Mumbai, and it was the second most horrible bus journey in recent times. For about 15 hours, I spent rolling left and right and feeling dizzy. Reached Hospet in one piece, a little dizzy and hating bus travel to the core. 

I will talk a bit about hotel bookings at Hampi. The place is divided into two major hubs, the Hampi village, and the Hippie Island. The village is on the mainland side, while the island, is across the river. You can find plenty of hotels and homestays on either side within your budget. The hotels in the village are simple and offer a more peaceful environment to stay in. Good for people who want some peace at night. The other side, is a different story all together. You can find a nightlife on the Hippie Island. Free flowing alcohol and puffs of smoke all around, a little party island! As I said earlier, depending on your budget, you can find accommodation almost any time of the year without much hassles.
Most of the hotels operate on the Booking. com website so, do check that out. I made my booking at Kiran Guest House for two nights, and then extended for another. Kiran, the host, and his family was very welcoming and the stay was hassle free. He also made sure that there was an auto rickshaw waiting for me at the bus stop and also to drop me back. His is a no frills hotel, I recommend it.
Within Hampi, getting around is easy. One can  roam around walking, or on bicycles, which are readily available. Most of the temples are nearby. 

Upon reaching Hampi, my day began with a nice long sleep. Woke up, strolled out famished. A place of choice is the Mango Tree Restaurant. I had omelette and bread and was off.

First stop, the Virupaksha Temple! It is the main temple of the place and dedicated to Shiva. Entry is free, camera chargeable. Inside, you can find Lakhsmi, the temple elephant, blessing people and posing for photos, having bananas, and doing other elephanty stuffs. There are a few Nandis around too to keep you company. One must also remember, that Hampi, is also known as Kishkinda. So, anyone who read Ramayana, would know, that Kishkinda used to be the capital of the monkey kingdom, so, you ll find a few of them there too.  

Having visited the temple, I strolled out towards the Kadalekalu Ganesha. He is called so for he appears to have a peanut shaped belly. Grand and carved out of a single stone, Ganesha here is massive. One can see ruins of erstwhile jain temples around too. The setting is beautiful and peaceful.

Next, I turned towards the Vitthala temple. This temple is famous for the Stone Chariots of Hampi, which is widely found printed on the Rs. 50 note of the indian currency. En route, the Kings’ Balance and some other temples were also crossed.

After I was done with the trip to the chariots, I went to the nearby Matanga hill. The hill top is the highest point in Hampi and offers amazing panaromic view of the village. It is a view worth climbing the 600 or so steps.

A view of Hampi village from Mathanga hill. Virupaksha temple can be seen at a distance.

Later, I returned back to my lodging and went to sleep. Next day, I had a bicycle tour of the place booked and I was going to need all the rest that I could get.