Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Best Cashew Nuts from Goa – Zantye’s Cashew Nuts, and Costa’s Bebinca

Goa is famous for its cashew in various forms, the roasted cashews are on the top of the list. Some might disagree, pointing to the Fenny though!

Although you can rarely go wrong with cashews, going for Zantye’s cashew nuts is a safe bet. I always try and bring back a few for friends and relatives. I asked around 4 locals from Goa – 2 taxi drivers, one shopkeeper and a restaurant owner and they all told me to go for Zantye’s when I asked about the best place to get cashew nuts. They have salted, masala, chat and pepper flavour among others.

I had to Google to find their outlets, you can find the one closest to you here - (• Calangute • Mapusa • Margao

• Panjim • Ponda • Vasco )

Another popular takeaway is Bebinca. The Bebinca and Dodol from Costas is available at most supermarkets and even at the airport!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Dutch are Crazy … in a good way

Outside the Dreamcatcher resort on the beautiful Palolem beach in Goa, I saw an almost endless line of auto-rickshaws decorated with pink stickers. Might be just another reality contest, I thought.


Inside I ran into some crazy Dutch. There were about 34 of them, driving 17 auto-rickshaws from Mumbai to Chennai via Goa. 2000 Kms on the Indian roads. Most of them were visiting India for the first time, and started it by driving a auto-rickshaw through the Mumbai traffic on their first day. One of the guys told me he called his folks up that evening to tell them he loved them, and wasn’t sure if he would ever see them again. He said that first night of driving through Mumbai was the greatest adventure any of them had every experienced.

The rickshaws weren’t brand new, some were quite old, I saw one which had a huge crack running through it. I was shaking my head in disbelief hearing their stories, till they told me they were doing this for charity. Each team was raising at least 2000 Euros each for street children in India, some even more.

They were used to Indians on the streets waving to a ‘white’ person in the backseat only to break into laughter, when they saw another white skinned person driving it.  The importance of horns on Indian roads took some getting used to as well. How we Indians used lanes was definitely nerve wracking for most of them.


There was a brother-sister team, a father-daughter team, a newly married couple, and some guys who had worked desk jobs all their life before coming here. With funny names - “The Dukes of India”, “Honeymoon Challenge”, “Ganesh Express”, “Shanti Shanti” , most of them had put in their own savings, and some had sponsors but they all agreed it was a trip they would never forget!

Check out their website . Its in dutch, so you would have to translate it, Google does that automatically if you using their toolbar or Chrome.

They have another Challenge in November 2010, again all in good cause, spread the word - who knows there’s a crazy Dutch out there who’d catch the drift. 







They often had to stop for hours fixing their tuk tuks.


All for Charity – the teams were raising at least 2000 Euro each for street children in India



With Jonn’o – Not sure I got his first name right. Well, pretty sure he didn’t get mine! :)


Most of the photographs courtesy the teams, please let me know if there’s a link I am missing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rent or Charter a Train to Shimla

On Feb 13 this year, I along with most of my family got late for the train. When one of my older relatives said - “If you get late for the train, it doesn’t wait for you”. We all smiled and said - “Well, this one does!”.

We had chartered the train from Kalka to Shimla. It was a party for family and friends after our marriage. It turned out extremely well, and a lot of people have asked me about this, so I’ll put in details here.

The coaches are fabulous !

18 Train Journey

Chartered the train – ermm … What exactly do you mean? 

Thanks to the Indian Railways, you can now OWN a UNESCO world heritage train for a ride through the hills. Its only for 5 hours, but for that time you are on top of the world. The train goes through the beautiful hills, and 102 tunnels where you can scream our heart out. You can stop the train when you want, and walk into the hills. It has luxurious palace kind of coaches.

How much does it cost ?

The pricing starts from just Rs. 25000! There were 50 of us, so we had 6 coaches of varying capacity and it came to about Rs 40,000 and there was a refundable deposit for around Rs. 40,000. The IRCTC people were extremely professional all through and for a fee even arranged a lunch in Barog.

You can get the details from the Indian Railways website -

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask in a comment, and I’ll update this post.

Why not just book tickets for 50 people ?

I thought about this initially, but the cost of getting the complete train was pretty reasonable, and the heritage coaches you get are worth checking out. You don’t get them in a normal train.

The ability to stop the train and walk up the mountain to the next station and have the train waiting for you was incredible.

19 trek 2



19 train trek

Nowadays we rarely get to sit down and spend a few hours talking to each other. A train journey is a special experience. I had one of the most meaningful conversations of my life with one of my relatives I had never before spent more than a few minutes talking.

As we got down from the train, my 70 year old well traveled aunt made a comment that I will remember for a long time. She came up to me, and told me this train was one of the most amazing things she had ever seen. She said she had seen a lot, but never thought she would travel in her own train with relatives through the hills. For a few hours we all lived that dream!


My cousins had a load of fun, they truly made the train their own! It was all in good humor! I am sure their pictures below will make you smile :)


19 sang and danced





I know its a Monday, but WTF Google

Rubal got this message today.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Speech to Text on the Android Phone

I’ve been talking into my phone all evening. I say “cricket” and it shows me the latest score via Google. I say “I love you” and it translates it and says it out loud in French and Spanish. I have been replying to messages by talking back to my phone. And unlike previous speech to text apps, this one just works effortlessly and accurately!

One of my favorite science fiction series is the Stargate Atlantis series and they often have communication devices which automatically translate languages when they are talking to an alien. It has often fascinated me. A recent fictional Pomegranate phone had a great demonstration of this feature.

With Google Translate, Google has made this a reality. This was one of the features I was really looking forward to using in my Motorola Milestone(aka Droid).

However, the phone I got did not come loaded with Google Voice Search or Google Translate. I guess Google is doing a limited test run for Voice Search in certain countries. Most Speech related apps use the same components, so a lot of cool applications like the ones below gave me error messages when I tried to give voice input. “speech recognizer is not available” or no “Speech to Text Engine” and “recognizer not present” and so on. I tried installing speech to text engines available in Android Market, but they were of no help.

Finally after a lot of research over the weekend, I found the search install file on Google code

I installed VoiceSearch_2.1.apk as my OS is 2.1 and boom all the apps started working! Hope this helps other people who don’t have Voice Search available on their phones.

Cool Speech to Text Apps for the Android -

1. Handcent SMS – Lets you reply to a message by speaking into the phone. Works very well!

2. Google Translate – It does the magic of translating what you are saying into another language (like the video above). This is really AWESOME!

3. Google Voice – Just say anything and Google for it. I use this for looking up scores in a flash, exchange rates, for all Google tricks.

4. Talk to Me – Speech to Speech Translator.

In the next year – I can easily imagine tourists carrying these translators all over Europe. Isn’t that fascinating?!