Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Singapore Visa Requirements for Business and Tourist Visit

Visitors from a select few countries are required to obtain a visa before entering Singapore. These countries are clubbed into two categories: 1. Assessment Level I Countries/Regions and 2. Assessment Level II countries/Regions (list of these counties later in this page). That means if your country is not listed in either of these two categories, you do not need a prior visa to travel to Singapore. The visa requirements and procedure is practically the same for both categories except that it takes longer (8 to 10 days) for a visa to get approved for an applicant from an Assessment Level II country. Certain specific requirements need to be met for "Business" and "Social" (Tourist, etc.) visits. These requirements are given in detail in the website of Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority but there are a few additional details that become known to you when you start the process of applying for a Singapore visa. In this page, I will try to cover those additional details too. Keep reading...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What Is Wrong With Club Carlson Hotel Loyalty Program

The basic idea of being a member of Club Carlson Hotel Loyalty Program is to earn Gold Points whenever you stay in a Club Carlson partner hotel. These Gold Points can be accumulated and redeemed either for free nights in affiliated hotels or in a few other ways. Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inn, etc. chains are members of the Carlson Rezidor Group that operates Club Carlson. I have been a Club Carlson member since 2011 and have been quite satisfied with the program. However, my recent stay in a Club Carlson hotel - Country Inn, Indore (February 2015) has changed everything for me. I no longer have the faith in this hotel loyalty program that I used to have. The reason is this: According to Club Carlson, even though my booking for this hotel was a paid booking (INR 4200 per night), the rate at which my travel agent (MakeMyTrip.com) booked this hotel for me was not an "Eligible Rate". An ineligible rate does not earn Gold Points and thus, does not even qualify to be counted for one's Elite status in the program. And it goes without saying that such a stay will not qualify for any Club Carlson promotion one has registered for. The problem is crystal clear: when a customer books a Club Carlson hotel room through a travel agent, online or otherwise, the rate at which the travel agent books the room with the hotel is never known to the customer. Whether the rate is an "Eligible" or "Ineligible" rate will be known to the customer only when Gold Points are credited or denied a few days after the stay. If the agent decides to inflate their profit by doing the booking at a heavily discounted rate, the customer will lose the Gold Points. Keep reading...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Prepaid Taxi Service At Indore Airport

Taking a taxi from Indore Airport to get to Indore city or its nearby towns has never been a problem because even when there was no "prepaid" service, the rates quoted by taxi drivers were quite reasonable. Now, after the arrival of radio cab services to Indore city and its airport, a somewhat formal system of "prepaid" taxi rides from Indore airport has started taking shape. I say "somewhat formal" because even though there are three different prepaid taxi counters, one rarely sees all three operational at the same time. Secondly, the "prepaid" rates are still a little bit flexible and depend on the demand & supply situation at a given point of time. But there is no need to get alarmed because even when the last flight arrives in the evening after 8.30 pm, at least one prepaid counter is operational and an adequate number of cabs are available outside who are willing to offer you a drop at rates even lower than those quoted by the prepaid taxi counter inside. In this page you will read about the prepaid taxi services at Indore aiport, prepaid taxi service phone numbers, their availability, and the rates charged by them for drops to Indore city and other places such as Ujjain, Bhopal, Pithampur, Mhow, Ratlam, Mandu, Omkareshwar, Shajapur, Burhanpur, and Dhar, etc. Keep reading...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Apna Sweets Vegetarian Restaurant Vijay Nagar Square Indore

I am not a big fan of the eating joints in India that serve Indianized versions of Chinese & Italian food, and overly spicy & fatty Indian food. Typically, their food is prepared to destroy your health and is not even really tasty. Now why I got encouraged enough to right this article about Apna Sweets is because I saw something that differentiates them from their typical cousins. Apna Sweets is more that a sweet shop. It is also a restaurant, a pizza joint, an Indian Thali and buffet joint, an ice-cream & juice parlour, a chocolate shop, a bakery, and even prepares traditional Indian food like Dal-Bafla on Sunday afternoons. Everything here is vegetarian and egg-less. The popularity of Apna Sweets can be judged from the crowds that throng this place all day. With all that going for Apna Sweets, it is only natural that they will have outlets in more than one place. There are two adjoining restaurants in Vijay Nagar itself and apart from that there are four more in Indore (Malganj, Old Palasia, Sapna-Sangeeta, and Annapurna Main Road), and one each in Dewas (A. B. Road), Ujjain (Taran Taal Square), and Vadodara (Rajlaxmi Tower, O.P. Road). Phone numbers of all the outlets are given later in this page. Apna Sweets joints are open daily from 10.00am to 11.00pm. We still need know what is so special about Apna Sweets, so read on...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Country Inn Vijay Nagar Indore Hotel Review

I came to stay at Country Inn Indore because it was a part of Club Carlson, a hotel loyalty program that I used to like before I stayed in this hotel. Most of Club Carlson hotels are nice, so much so that I have rarely left a Carlson property not wanting to return. Unfortunately, Country Inn by Carlson at Vijay Nagar, A. B. Road, Indore became an exception. This hotel is not cheap because I paid over 4200 INR a night including breakfast for a Standard Room. Agreed that the location of the hotel is top notch. One can connect easily to any part of the city from Vijay Nagar circle within half an hour by taxi. Public buses are available here too including a BRTS stop right in front of the hotel. Still INR 4200 seems expensive when you consider a below par breakfast, problems with the room amenities, and an overall lack of attention to detail. After being here for two nights, I felt like the owner of this hotel has not been able to find the right kind of people to manage it. Keep reading...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Aruna Indian Curry at Sands Macau Cotai Central Food Court

Aruna's original Indian Curry Restaurant located near the Best Western Hotel in Taipa Macau is not open any more. But if you are a fan of Aruna's Indian food, there is another option for you. Aruna Indian Curry have a small outlet in the food court of Sands Cotai Central opposite The Venetian in Taipa Macau. This one too is called Aruna Indian Curry and serves snacks and meals both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The combo meals here offer particularly good value. All prices here are marked in MOP (Macau Pataka) which is a little cheaper as compared to HKD, so if you are there you may like to read about the best money exchange options in Macau that can save you some money. Back to Aruna, their menu has almost everything that a typical Indian restaurant will have. Snacks, curries, breakfast food, Indian breads, rice preparations, and side dishes, though the range is limited. Keep reading...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Buddha Relics Distribution Site Kushinagar

The Buddha Relics Distribution Site is referred to as one of "the newly discovered sites" in Kushinagar. Historically speaking, Kushinagar is the identified place where Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana. The archaeological remains of the Mahaparinirvana Temple and Mahaparinirvana Stupa have been found here which are restored and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. These remains were discovered in 1876 by a British archaeologist named A.C.L. carlleyle after proper excavation and historical studies. Lord Buddha's cremation was carried out about a kilometre away from the Mahaparinirvana Stupa at a spot on the Kushinagar-Deoria Road, where a Stupa was constructed, perhaps by Samrat Ashoka. This Stupa is called Ramabhar Stupa or Mukutbandhan-Chaitya. The Ramabhar Stupa has also been identified by the Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang in his accounts. An ancient site called the Matha-Kuar Shrine also happens to be in Kushinagar whose name signifies the words "Dead Prince" or Lord Buddha. Thus far, everything is historical and sounds genuine. Now, as you walk towards the Ramabhar Stupa on Kushinagar-Deoria Road, a sign board on the right side of the road points you towards a narrow lane where this "Buddha Relic Distribution Site" is located. Its a short walk so even if you decide to go and see it, it is not much trouble. The rewards of this short walk may also not be much though. Keep reading...

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Ramabhar (Mukutbandhan-Chaitya) Stupa Kushinagar

The Ramabhar Stupa in Kushinagar is built at the site of Lord Buddha's cremation. This is about a kilometer away from the Mahaparinirvana Temple on the Kushinagar-Deoria Road. Actually, every place to see or visit in Kushinagar is on this road with the Ramabhar Stupa being the last and the farthest one. The road is not busy at all and its a nice walk up to the Stupa. Now the name of this Stupa is not really supposed to be Ramabhar Stupa. Ramabhar is the name of a pond next to the Stupa. Someone perhaps tried to dissociate this place from Buddhism by starting an annual Hindu festival here in the name of Goddess Bhavani. The period when this Hindu festival started is not really known but the Stupa sure got named after the pond. This place perhaps should be called Mukutbandhan-Chaitya because according to the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Lord Buddha's cremation rites were carried out here, at Mukutbandhan-Chaitya, by his senior disciple Mahakashyap. Keep reading...

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Mahaparinirvana Stupa Kushinagar

The initial excavation work that led to the discovery of Buddhist monuments that we see today in Kushinagar (India) is credited to the 19th-century British archaeologist A.C.L. Carlleyle. In 1876, Callleyle spotted a mound here about 60 feet high that appeared to be the remains of some very old structure. Upon some cleaning and removing of the debris, a brick Stupa began to emerge that had a radius of about 15 meters. This was the Mahaparinirvana Stupa of Kushinagar. Later a temple - The Mahaparinirvana Temple also emerged to the west of the Stupa. Both the Stupa and the temple had been built on the same brick platform which was 2.25 meters above the ground. The Stupa at its peak was approximately 65 meters above the surface of the platform. Carlleyle saw that the Stupa had already been subjected to repeated repairs and re-construction. It was like the older Stupa was hidden inside the newer structure built around it. Keep reading...
Blog by: Narinder Singh