September 30, 2007

Mousetrap - 120

Wikid World
Wikiscanner
As Wikipedia gets bigger, more and more people are looking up things on Wikipedia, unreliable as it can sometimes be. And more and more organisations and special interests find themselves being written about. Not always to their, er, delight. Companies like to be able to control what’s being said about them, put their own spin on things, with entire departments devoted to the task. Now, the thing is that Wikipedia doesn’t like people or organisations creating pages their own pages or editing them. The sheer size of it means that it isn’t exactly easy to monitor this. Well, this young geek’s site tracks and lists “interesting” wikipedia edits. I.e., edits that are made on pages about organisations by users with IP numbers that originate in that organisations network. In simpler words, edits possibly made by companies trying to massage their own listings. Ah, what a tangled web we weave... [Via Jugal Mody]

The Doctor is online
WebMD
Change of season affecting your health? Worried about the next potential global pandemic? Want a clearer explanation of jargon your doctor has laid on you? Go visit the WebMD. Loads of information here enough to keep even the most determined hypochondriac happily occupied for hours at a time. Treatments, info about drugs, sections for men, women, and children. Really everything you could want. Except, perhaps, something that will read a doctor’s prescription.

Pointed
Willard Wigan
This is an artist’s website. A rather unusual artist. He specialises in sculpture that could fit, quite literally, into the eye of a needle. You get to see extreme blowups of his creations, with objects like match-heads, and yes, that eye of a needle, for comparison. The site seems to be in a state of flux the last time I looked, with incomplete content, but there’s still enough there to feast your eyes on.

Girls just wanna have fun
Shiny Shiny & Techie Diva
So many people seem t think it’s the male of the human species that is gadget happy, getting all his jollies from technology. These two blogs turn that logic on its head. They’re all about the tech and gizmos that women love. Where else would you read about an Armani phone? Floral USB hubs? Designer laptop skins? I must warn you that one person of the female persuasion that I know didn’t think much of these sites; she says they perpetuate outdated gender images or some such. I may have misheard. I was too busy checking out the übercool stuff they cover.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 30th September, 2007.

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September 23, 2007

Mousetrap - 119

Judging a book
Bad Book Covers
I must hasten to add that these are not bad in a way that will get the Moral Police morons after you. They’re just awful design, or bad juxtapostions of titel and graphics, or— oh, just go see. 112 images for you to giggle at, with the site owner’s snarky little captions.

Homer and me
Simpsonize me
If you’re a Simpsons fan, you’ll like this site, which lets you convert a picture of yourself into an image in the cartoon’s drawing style. It’s a marketing gimmick, really, and also a bit of a con, or that’s the impression I got. Despite the specifications about full-face pictures and a bunch of other questions, what you get bears little resemblance to the photograph you upload; you then have to fiddle around with a bunch of controls to get something approaching the source, so perhaps they’re just harvesting pictures for some nefarious ploy.

Royal Flush
Uncle John’s Throne Room
(Warning: this column’s potty mind takes over again.) Do you like to read when you’re, you know, expelling what your digestive system had decided it doesn’t need? If you do, you know that it’s difficult to get just the right reading material, stuff that you finish by the time you, er, finish. Newspapers and magazines work for some, since content is in small sections, but they’re unwieldy. Poetry works, since most poems tend to be short (and now I will have poet friends looking at me strangely when I tell them I’ve read their newest works). Fiction? Problems. Do you abandon a chapter mid-way? Read through past immediate needs because the suspense would kill you? This website, amigos, promotes a series of books that are designed for bathroom reading. And as incentive, doles out a selection from the books for free. They’re available in short, medium or long variations, to suit every bowel movement. So visit, print out, and, um, go. (And if the water runs out, hey, you’re prepared.) No, sonny, don’t take that hand-held device in.

Bedtime music
Snorchestra
If you have ever travelled by long distance train or lived in a dormitory, you’ll kick yourself for not having thought of this one. All those liquid, sinusitis induced sounds gone to waste. But never fear, this site’s owners want your contributions to use in their symphonies. In the meanwhile, go listen to their samples (the audio is free, no paying to listen with these generous souls. And read up on their plans (which include a live mix of snores from hotel rooms played in the lobby). Righty-o. See ya next week kiddies. It’s late, and I have an album to record.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 23rd September, 2007.

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September 15, 2007

Bamboo

It’s been a wait for the Bamboo. I first noticed the space many months ago, on another visit to The Park, but it only opened its doors in late August. When we visited, it was empty. On a Saturday evening. A cricket match being telecast at that time probably had much to do with it; there’s no widescreen TV Bamboo, unlike the bar and Zest, their other restaurant, to the disappointment of your dedicated reviewer. But there’s a lot else missing here—no paper lanterns, no red walls, not a brush-stroke typeface in sight—hoorah! But the design overdoes, it I think. Stainless-steel chopsticks? Doesn’t work for me. But enough about the decor.
We start by asking whether there was any Chinese hooch to wash down the travel dust, and whether there was a tasting menu. ‘No,’ and ‘huh?’ respectively, we’re told. So we decide on a beer with our starters. The sea bass baked in the hollow of a split length of bamboo (Rs 695), our waiter’s recommendation, is impressively presented and tastes wonderful, but to my mind, not wonderful enough for the price. The barbequed pork ribs (Rs 225) are excellent—tender, meat easily persuaded off the bone, nice sauce. Our other big production number is the Peking Duck (Rs 350 for a quarter portion). Pancakes ceremonially placed on plates, sweet bean sauce proffered for us to smear, then some crunchy greens and the strips of duck. Lips smacked all around.
Main course. The Lo Han noodles (Rs 245) with extra shrimp topping (Rs 50) is light and tasty, though the topping is all at the bottom (I got four of them off the last spoonful served to us). The Bamboo Rice (Rs 195), sticky rice served in a bamboo vessel, has us wondering why such a fuss was being made of steamed rice. The Beef Tenderloin (Rs 395) got the twelve-year-old at out table up in arms: not another sweet sauce, she says in disgust, stabbing it with the wooden chopsticks the waiter provided us with when we made fun of the metal stuff. She is mollified somewhat by the Fuyang Prawns (Rs 525), prawn wrapped in thin slices of chicken, which has a distinct bite too the sauce, but, to my relief (I’m a wimp when it comes to spicy food), not enough to overwhelm the prawn. The Long Jing tea I sip between courses isn’t complementary (Rs 95 for a cup barely larger than a thimble). Its task could have been as well performed by a glass of water. Chef Li’s Sweethearts (Rs 245), dimsum with ice cream, for dessert is okay—it looks like modak, says the pre-teen—but underwhelming considering it bears the chef’s name.
We pay, we scuttle off quickly. We can still catch the last of the match at Zest for the price of a coffee. India wins!
Peter Griffin
Bamboo, The Park Navi Mumbai, No 1, Sector 10, CBD Belapur, Navi Mumbai 400614. Tel: +91 22 2758 9000. Open 7.00pm-11.45pm. No service tax , 12.5% VAT. Meal for two without alcohol, Rs 1200.


Published in Time Out Mumbai, September 2007.

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September 10, 2007

Vicious Circle

In the building where I once lived in the quieter, older, mainly residential part of Vashi, there was a bar that had, ahem, waitresses. It meant that there were always autorickshaws available near my house late in the night, and frequent entertaining vocabulary enhancement when the ladies had disagreements behind the joint. The place went through several changes of management and name—the basic service offering staying constant—until, just before we moved, the place got respectable. It still served booze, but the ladies were replaced with surly lads, families were welcome (the new owner invited the entire colony over for a meal when it opened) and it kept legal closing hours.
Some months ago, in synch with the property boom in Concreteville-by-the-creek, the place reinvented itself once more. Now called Vicious Circle, the place looks like a haven for the moderately well-heeled BPO exec: all glass, gleam and, well, decor. But. A large TV screen occupies one wall, making conversation a little difficult. The seating looks good, but is made uncomfortable by the way the table are jammed together; you’re constantly treading on the toes of your dinner partner.
Reading the long menu (the usual personality-challenged multi-cuisine mix) was thirsty work; we needed a beer to keep us going. Sneering at the papad and slices of cucumber and carrot that came with the drinks, we selected the Mutton Boti Kabab (Rs 170) for a starter. Pretty good, juicy boneless botis and a layer of kheema, mildy spiced; but it could do without the wilting bits of veggie garnish.
Next, slaves to duty, we sampled briefly from the cocktail menu. My friend’s Rain Killer (dark rum, white rum, OJ and honey, Rs 120) surprised me by being rather good; I hate rum, usually. But we both agreed that my Scotch Sour (scotch, fresh lime, sugar syrup and egg white) was even better, with more mule ancestry too, though I didn’t like the sticky after-taste of the egg-white froth. One must note here that while the service is attentive and prompt, our waiter kept rearranging things unasked. When he moved my glass for the second time, after I had moved it back where I wanted it with a very ostentatious thump, he lost two-thirds of his tip.
The Paya Soup (Rs 70) came in, and was pronounced genuine by my friend, a Sarvi connoisseur. I skipped that to save room for dessert. Our Mutton Vindaloo (Rs 160) was quite palatable, but didn’t taste at all like a vindaloo should; they seem to have forgotten the vinegar. My Rumali Roti (Rs 25) worked better with the mutton curry—that’s really what it was—than my companion’s rather injudicious Cheese Naan (Rs 40), which was a respectable snack on its own.
The desserts section on the menu was the slimmest, and rather uninviting. I plumped for the Doodhi Halwa (Rs 55), and regretted it: oily, rather tasteless.
Burping genteelly, we exited into the night, the last customers out. There were no rickshaws. The ladies must be giggling.
Peter Griffin
Vicious Circle, Shop 1 &2, F-Type, Sector 7, Vashi, Navi Mumbai. (2782-7272). Meal for two without alcohol, Rs 600. All credit cards accepted, except Diners. No debit cards.


Published in Time Out Mumbai, September 2007.

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September 09, 2007

Mousetrap - 118

For ever and ever
Immortality Institute
Aging’s a bitch, no? That steady loss of muscle tone, that degeneration of the senses, and then death. This site, like all of us, thinks that’s not a nice thing. And, unlike all of us, is working towards eliminating it. That is, the whole aging bit. Science, after all, has already extended life expectancy far beyond what it was even a few generations ago. And those boundaries are being moved further every day. Soon, they think, to should be possible to extend life indefinitely. (Of course nothing can stop death by disaster, accident or simple human idiocy.) The site seeks to advance awareness with an online forum, books, films and conferences.

Siteseeing
World Monuments Watch
If all the recent brouhaha about the new seven wonders of the world did anything aside from fill entrepreneurial pockets, it was this: it raised awareness of the host of wondrous structures that are our heritage. Many of these, alas, are in states of disrepair, with neglect, active destruction or the environment slowly destroying them. This site, an offshoot of the World Monuments Fund (which is definitely worth a visit as well), lists the 100 most endangered sites in the world, and takes you on a small virtual tour.. You get to see and experience just a little of the grandeur, and to educate yourself on what could soon mean that a virtual tour is all that we and our descendants can take.

Sights for sore eyes.
Grand Optical Illusions and Visual Phenomena & Grand Illusions
You know all those email forwards that insist that the attachments are amazing, will blow your mind, that you won’t believe your eyes? Well, compadre, here’s the motherlode. The first site claims it has 72 of the little suckers, everything from the seemingly diverging lines that are actually parallel, to the shapes that seem to shift as your eyes run over them, to, well, everything. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s many pages of them on the second site too, some duplicates, yes, but a slightly better layout. And it’s a site that also sells you stuff—toys and things—that you can display proudly in your home. Instead of sending me the damn things.

Windscreen
Scott Wade's Dirty Car Art Gallery
Have you ever seen a dirty car window and quickly wrote “Clean Me!” in the grime with your finger? No? You mean it’s just me? Well never mind. This artist takes those impulses much, much further. Helped along by the fact that he lives on a dusty road, which helps prep his “canvas” regularly, he does entire masterpieces on his and his wife’s car rear window. With brushes, I hasten to add. He has it down to a fine um, art, using the rain to help sometimes, or doing a piece in several stages (letting more dust build up between stints, filling up areas already cleaned by his brush). Then he photographs them and puts the pictures up here. And then the rain wipes the, er, slate clean. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go outside. The kids in my neighbourhood are budding artists, and I must go stifle their careers.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 9th September, 2007.

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September 02, 2007

Mousetrap - 117

Together
Blog Action Day
Bloggers love crusades, even if it’s just one blogger ranting about the system. This site seeks to harness some of that energy with a simple idea. On a given day—October 15th—every blogger enlisted will post about a single important issue. Nope, they won’t be following the media’s lead and talking about film stars going to jail. This one’s about the environment, and everyone’s free to approach it their way. If your blog is about films, post about movies that discuss the issue. If you write about your love life, then, on the day, write about, um, the population and the importance of birth control. “Posts do not need to have any specific agenda, they simply need to relate to the larger issue in whatever way suits the blogger and readership. Our aim is not to promote one particular viewpoint, only to push the issue to the table for discussion.” Blog on.

Cat food
I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?
It’s pretty hard to explain this site to you, or why it’s so popular, but your columnist will try anyway. Every now and then, the web is swept by a—there’s no better word for it—phenomenon. Something silly, but inexplicably attractive to the netizen, so much so that s/he feels compelled to send it on to fifty friends that very day. You remember the dancing baby in the nineties? Like that. This one is about pictures of cats, with large-type captions meant to indicate something the cat is saying. This statement is usually in a trademark kind of fractured, misspelled English, typified by the name of the site. And though the phenomenon—called “lolcats,” by the way—predates it, the site is credited with making it hugely popular. The site features vast archives of lolcats, with fresh stuff regularly added. Go see. And check out Lolcats as well, for another huge repository.

Hic
How to say cheers in different languages
Just what the world needs for lasting peace. A helpful little glossary of words and phrases used just before chugging down a glass of a booze. I’m not entirely sure how reliable it is; many of the words seem okay, but for India, one sees “A la sature.” And in the course of drinks drunk in various parts of the country, I’ve never heard that. Come to think of it, except for more westernised parts—which, in any case, use western toasts—I’ve never heard anyone say anything ritualised before a drink. Except, perhaps, “Repeat!”

Lifting is the new Research
The Snowclones Database
A snowclone is a type of formula-based cliché which uses an old idiom in a new context. It was originally defined as “a multi-use, customisable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different jokey variants by lazy journalists and writers.” And, faithful reader, your columnist is not only guilty of perpetrating snowclones on you at the drop of a deadline, but he is so darn lazy that he stole the first two sentences from Wikipedia. In fact he is going to totally goof off and tell you to go to the site to look up the origins of the neologism and see the examples on the site, all with detailed citations. Now, I must nap.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 2nd September, 2007.

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September 01, 2007

Deckchairs of the Kings

Two-and-a-half kilometres of beach all to myself. A waiter from the restaurant trudges across the sand, bearing provender. I’m in one of those long pool-chairs, under a thatch umbrella. The waves gambol in a few feet away. A fairly determined sort of breeze comes in from the west. A chap could get used to this.

I’m at the The Beach at Mandvi Palace. It sits in the middle of the 450 acres of mildly domesticated jungle that make up the backyard of Vijay Vilas, the summer retreat of the former rulers of Mandvi. Rajesh Singh, the manager, tells me that it in bygone years, when the family and guests came out for hunts and suchlike, tent camps would come up around the palace. Right now, it is the only privately owned beach in India, with the property extending right up to the waterline. I hear that the family has refused offers from various hospitality chains to take over and run the palace as a hotel.

The current head of the family, Pragmulji III, doesn’t live here—he divides his time between Bhuj and Bombay—but he has entrusted the running of this venture to his nephew, Paranjayaditya Parmar. And what the younger man has wrought is a pretty nifty get-away-from-it-all kind of place.

I didn’t get to meet him either, because he was off campaigning for the elections way over on the other side of Gujarat, but when we spoke, his enthusiasm for the place was evident. Seeing the tent resorts in touristy places, he decided that tents made better sense to start up with, rather built up structures, which require lots of paperwork. But he was determined to do it his way. Instead of using the available block-printed Rajasthani tents, he and his wife designed their own versions and got them made locally. The furniture and other modifications came from a similar ad hoc process.

There is accommodation for ten pairs of guests at the moment, so it works out to a comfortable 200 metres of beach per couple at peak occupancy, a ratio that I have only seen in one beach in Goa and one other nearer home. (And no, I’m not telling you where either of them are.) Well, I exaggerate; the place also takes in day trippers, charging them a fee for access to the beach, so it may not be as desert-islandish for you as it was for me. But since it’s an eight kilometre drive to Mandvi, which in turn is many miles away from the rest of the world, you’re not going to get Anjuna levels of madding crowd any time soon.

As of this writing, the camp consists of ten tents in a clearing, each sleeping two, a sand dune and a line of scrub and trees separating them from the beach and protecting them from the worst of the weather. Each one is set on its own concrete plinth, a little sit-out in the front, with a couple of dinky camel-leather deck chairs. The styling is reminiscent of royal expedition tents of yore; scalloped edges, carved finials atop the tent poles, awning over the entrance. One looks around automatically for men on horseback returning from the shikaar or from a battle.
A quibble: considering the vast acreage available, they’re set rather too close to each other, with the support ropes of neighbouring tents overlapping. Given canvas walls, it might get noisy when the place is fully booked.

The tents are triple-layered, a candy-striped inner tent, over that a thicker outer, and over it all, a waterproof roof. It keeps the rain out very well, and the lack of natural ventilation is more than compensated for with a high power air-conditioner.
Inside, a coir-carpeted floor, twin beds, bedside tables with a small storage space, carved wood chairs, and a writing table. The chairs are nice-looking, but, alas, not comfy for lazing around in. So I wound up spending most of my time indoors in bed. Lighting is a couple of lamps beside the beds. At the back, behind the flap, is a largish tiled, walled bathroom, its roof an extension of your tent. Electricity and water are on 24 hours.

Meals are delivered to your tent, or you can amble over to the thatched roof restaurant that looks out on to the beach. Speaking of the fodder, nothing to write home about. The restaurant claims to serve Indian, Continental and Chinese, and local specialities. I tried all of them, and was, well, unimpressed. Perhaps it was just me, all grouchy about the Gujarati preference for tea, which meant getting instant swill instead of real coffee. On the plus side, I must add: outside of a 5-star hotel, this is the only place where I’ve had decent scrambled eggs. The manager tells me they do a good barbeque. I decided not to test this—as the only guest, it seemed a bit selfish to get them to rig it all up just for me—but he also tells me that they happily customise the menu to suit guest preferences.

Overall, the place does itself a disservice with its branding: it calls itself a luxury beach camp, which raises expectations way too much. It is, no doubt, very comfortable (ACs and proper plumbing in the tent!, Woohoo!) and gives fair value for your rupee, but I have seen and paid for—or rather, this magazine paid for—luxury, and this falls short. Dismiss that claim and take the place for what it is, and you have a pretty unique getaway.

The service is excellent; polite, attentive, eager to cater to personal preferences, quick to acknowledge, and compensate for, shortcomings. And the location the location! Ah, my friend, the calm beauty of the place, the exclusivity, more than make up for any complaints a sour journalist can think up.

Item: A waiter making the long walk from the restaurant with a tray of tea and toast, waving out to you as you wallow in the blood-warm tide pool you have discovered, waiting patiently for you to get back and get dry to offer to pour a cuppa for you.

Item: A semi-tame nilgai (the staff fed it when it was injured, and it has stayed around ever since) attempting to snuffle the mosambi slice off your glass of fruit juice. And an almost-feral cat prowling around the restaurant periphery, not begging, just implying by her manner that she would perhaps, maybe, when she feels like it, find the time to help you get rid of some of that pesky food on your plate. You throw her a bone, she pounces on with alacrity, and carries it off to the undergrowth where she can eat undisturbed by commoners and dogs.

Item: A symphony putting you to sleep at night. The wind soughing through the trees and the murmur of waves layered over with a chorus of frogs singing bass serenades, crickets chirruping the high notes.

Item: A cloudless night. I sit alone on the beach. The faint glow of Mandvi off to the East, the moon sinking below the horizon to the West, and overhead, a dazzling array of stars, with the haze of the galactic disc cutting a broad swathe through it all.

Item: Dammit, I could go on and on. Let’s just say that the place is so relaxing that in the course of about 48 hours, despite around eight hours in the water, and sleeping in late, I unwound enough to write, sketch, finish two books and sip from a volume of poetry. I didn’t miss the internet—I’m a certifiable web junkie—and it never occurred to me to try the camel rides or horseback jungle walks on offer, or even to go visit the palace. And I’m an absolute sucker for old piles. I’m still kicking myself for that one; from the photographs I’ve seen, the palace is in excellent condition, and well worth a visit.

Parmar tells me, in one of our chats, that he is checking out the possibility of bringing in a few kayaks and other unpowered craft. And that there were changes afoot. he plans to build a spa resort in the property; 20 cottages, a pool, a bar.
Yes, you heard that right, a proper bar in dry Gujarat. Apparently the government has declared that of the state’s 1666-kilometre coastline, the 15km stretch around Mandvi is now a Special Entertainment Zone (which makes SEZ a far cheerier acronym, no?) and liquor licenses and the like are in the process of being applied for and allotted. Good news for the Gujarati tippler, who now can get sloshed in-state rather than having to choose between patronising a bootlegger, importuning visiting friends to sneak a bottle or two in, or strolling across the border for a piss up. Alas, it probably means that this stretch will shortly be overloaded drastically, as the holiday-makers converge.

But as long as the Mandvi Maharao and his family use their property as sensibly as they have thus far, I’m inclined to think that their little slice of paradise will stay pristine.


Information

Getting there.
Bhuj, a little over 60 km away, is the nearest airport and railhead. There is at least one flight in and out every day, mainly to Bombay. Two trains connect with Bombay and other parts of Gujarat. From Bhuj, you can take a local bus (roughly half-hour frequencies), to Mandvi, and then take a taxi or a rickshaw to the Beach Camp. Or you could haggle for a taxi; fares are extortionate, higher even than Goa, so you could wind up paying as high as Rs 1000 for the trip.
Other possible connecting points: Gandhidham, 90km, Rajkot, 250 km; Ahmedabad, 450 km.

Things to see and do
The Palace is open for guided tours during the day. You can also take walks, or camel or horse rides, on the beach or within the woodland around the camp, effectively a private sanctuary, with plenty of birds—flamingo in the right season, partridge, peacocks—and if you’re lucky, nilgai, chinkara and jackals.
The management will make arrangements for you if you want to make day trips from the camp. The Lala Bustard Sanctuary is 74 km north, where you can see the Indian Bustard, an endangered species, and the rare Lesser Florican. You may also see gazelles, foxes, jackals, wolves, and of course a wealth of bird life. For the devout, the 72-Jinalaya Jain complex at Badreshwar, the Jain temples at Naliya and Tera, the Hindu shore temples of Koteshwar and Narayan Sarovar, and the Lakpath gurudwara are within striking distance. The Bhuj-Mandvi area is good for shopping for Kutchi handicrafts. Mandvi is a big boat-building centre, and on your way in, you cross a creek where you can see massive wooden boats being built from the ground up. See the day trips section on the website (URL below) for more details on ll of these.
At the camp, your options are limited to what you bring with you and who you come with. No TV, but there’s satellite radio in the restaurant.
Cellphone connectivity is excellent on the beach, but can disappear in parts of the grounds. No internet access closer than Mandvi town. No alcohol served, since Gujarat is a dry state. Wait for the SEZ!

Best time to visit
Gujarat gets some pretty extreme doses of the monsoon, so, while the place is breathtakingly beautiful and pleasant in the rains, you could wind up stranded if transport succumbs to the weather. And, though the water deepens very gradually, the current is strong, and the water is choppy and brown. Summer gets extreme too: over 40°C in the day time. Peak “season” is December to March, when the westerners come in search of sunbathing. The water is calm and blue then—so management says, and the photographs I’ve seen agree—and it’s cool. In fact night temperatures in December can go as low as 7°C, so take thick pajamas!

Tariffs:
Rs 5500 per night (12 noon check-in/check-out) for two people, with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Packages available: 3 days / 2 nights, with meals, Rs 10,999 on weekends, public holidays and the Chritsmas / New Year week, Rs 8,999 on all other Mondays to Thursdays. These rates are for Indian citizens and foreign residents of India (who will have to produce proof of residence). Foreign tourists pay more: US$125 per day with breakfast, or US$150 per day with breakfast, lunch or dinner. (Taxes extra on all tariffs.)

Reservations
Tel: + 91 2834 295725 / 9879013118. Email: reservations@mandvibeach.com Web: http://www.mandvibeach.com/

Published in Outlook Traveller, September 2007.

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Siteseeing - 10

Airline Meals

Truly, my fellow travellers, the interweb is a wonderful place. One thought, when one covered websites dedicated to toilets, that nothing else could surprise one. But, I kid you not, there is a site dedicated to that other necessity, food, and the variety of it available in the air, as the name has already told the smart ones in the class.
The site started with a few of its creator’s photographs. He then found some others online, and added those. Later, he posted about it on some online forums, then got written about in the media, after which, the deluge: almost 19,00 images and 536 airlines covered as of this writing.
What you get is a picture of the food tray, with a description of the food, and a rating, sorted by airline. You will also find a special preferences section (Indian vegetarian figures, as do more niche categories such as lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and medical necessities like diabetic and gluten-free meals), airport meals, crew meals, behind-the-scenes pictures, menu cards, and even old airline ads. And if that’s not a bellyful, you can go to the forums to discuss all of the above. Now, put down your tray-table, little boy, and stop kicking the seat back of the nice columnist in front of you.

Published in Outlook Traveller, September 2007.

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