Sunday, December 06, 2009

Escape to the Jungles

This weekend, our friends and family trip was of a different kind. An escape from Kochi to the jungles of Sethumadai and Parambikulam and participation in harvesting tomatoes at Kozhinjampara was indeed an unforgettable experience.

View Sethumadai Parambikulam Trip in a larger map

We started in a Tempo Traveller from Kochi at early morning. The first stop was at Mannuthy for breakfast and a short visit to Kerala Agricultural University. Then we headed to Pattikkad to visit another friend on our way.

It was already late in the afternoon when we arrived at a friend's farm in Kozhinjampara. We spent some good time walking through the bitter guard and tomato farms and finally participating in the tomato harvesting along with the farm labourers. The lunch was served there. Next was the visit to a vegetable distribution center at Kozhinjampara where the tomatoes we harvested and other vegetables were sorted and packed in crates to be sent to the super markets across Kerala.

Sethumadai Nature Trip

We also visited a sugarcane plantation nearby Kozhinjampara where jaggery was manufactured. The sap was extracted first from the sugarcanes and then boiled in a very big pan for making the jaggery cubes. The waste after extracting the sap was dried in the sun and used as a fuel for boiling.

When we reached Sethumadai, it was almost dark. The climate was very comfortable... cold but not too cold. We had booked three cottages in the Cots Villa Resorts ( They had arranged camp fire with BBQ; and a team of locals were there to entertain us with country music (typical dappaan kuthu). The cottages we stayed for the night were of unique construction having stone walls, palm thatched roof and bathrooms with a sky view option :).

The beauty of the locality was revealed more clearly in the next day morning. The resort was set in a spread of few acres under the scenic foothills of Western Ghats. We could see lots of peacocks roaming around within the resort compound. The Anamalai Tiger Reserve was just across the fence and we enjoyed a nature walk through the forest in the early morning.

After the breakfast, we headed to Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary after a brief stop at Topslip. The safari arranged by the forest department took us through the various scenic view-points like the reservoir, dam, Kannimara teak, etc. We could spot a lot of wild animals like bisons, deers, hogs, variety of monkeys, malabar giant squirrel etc. After the safari, we returned to Kochi and reached back home before midnight.

Poster by: Hari P, Trip Organization by: Subunu K, Photos by: Sameer C Thiruthikad

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Outing: Lake Vembanad, Vaikom

This weekend, our friends and family trip was to Vaikom for a house boat cruise in Vembanad Lake. The one hour drive from Kochi with seven families in a Tempo Traveler early in the morning took us to the shores of Kerala's largest lake. After few hours waiting, we boarded the mighty 90 feet long 'Shoreline Princess' equipped with all modern facilities. The cruise was nice but more interesting was the fun we had within the boat playing various group games. Here are some snaps:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Weekend Outing: Andhakaranazhi Beach

This weekend our friends and family trip was to Andhakaranazhi, a serene beach around 30 kilometers from Kochi towards Alappey. We reached there by evening and enjoyed a great time playing volleyball and football on the beach and wrestingling with the big waves.



Sunday, March 08, 2009

Weekend Outing: Munambam Beach

This weekend I and my wife went to nearby Munambam Beach  with our friends and their family members.

View Larger Map

It was a fun filled evening and we thoroughly enjoyed building those sand castles and dipping ourselves in the salt water.

You can read a nice travelogue on this beach by a Sulekha member here at

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Goodbye again, it's time to go home

The hectic but exciting week in US is over now and it is time to go home. An early morning Alaskan Airlines flight on Feb 15, Sunday from Seattle took me to Los Angeles.





I waited there at the LAX airport for few hours to catch my Emirates flight to Dubai. I slept most of the time and the 16 hour flight seemed not that boring.

After two hours waiting at Dubai, I boarded another Emirates flight to Kochi and was home by early morning on Feb 17, Tuesday.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Microsoft, Boeing, Whidbey, and Deception Pass

The only full day I got here in US without work assignments was today and was meant for sight seeing in the Seattle area. I and Ranjeesh with his family set off in their car early in the morning. First was a courtesy visit to Microsoft corporate campus in Redmond. After all that is the company which is helping me to earn my bread and butter. :)


Next we headed to Everett, 20 miles away from Seattle, to see the Boeing Company's factory where Boeing 747s, 767s, 777s, and the new 787 Dreamliner are built. First, we saw the air museum named as 'The Future of Flight Aviation Center' where everything about Boeing aircrafts were presented.

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Next was the famous tour inside the factory, which is is the largest building in the world by volume covering almost 100 acres! Cameras were not allowed inside, so I am sorry, I don't have any photos. It was a great experience to watch those bigger jets getting assembled in different stages.IMG_0335

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A ride on the ferry service to Whidbey Island was the next activity and we spent some good time at the beaches of Cultus Bay. Next destination was the beautiful Deception Pass bridges.


By that time, it was getting dark, and we ended our day with a final trip around Seattle down town and some shopping.

Friday, February 13, 2009

One day at IdentityMine, Tacoma

My friend Ranjeesh's home was in Bellevue and his work place was just across the road. My last working day here in US was meant for meeting my colleagues in our head office at Tacoma, around 40 miles away from Bellevue. I drove Ranjeesh's Toyota RAV4 to office and it took me around one hour to reach there through the highways I-5 and I-405.


After work hours, I and Ranjeesh went to Seattle downtown. The city's famous landmark 'Space Needle' stood out from the rest of the buildings there. We roamed around that place for some time and returned home as it was freezing cold.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Visit to Universal City and to Seattle

Today was my last day in LA and I decided to visit the Universal City in the morning, before going to work. It was near my hotel and I spent almost an hour walking around the Universal Studio premises and the 'City Walk' area. I wanted to enter the theme park but that would require more than half a day to experience completely. So I returned after taking few snaps from the area.


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After noon, there was some confusion on my travel plans as the management considered an option to send me to our San Francisco office instead of Seattle. Later on that plan was dumped and I headed to the LAX airport, returned my rental car and boarded the flight to Seattle.  My good old friend and college classmate Ranjeesh is living in Seattle working for Microsoft there, and I will be staying with him for the rest of the week. I landed at Seattle airport before 10 PM, and Ranjeesh came with his family to pick me up from the airport. Seattle was too cold (2 degree Celsius) and I was too tired. So no outing was in plan... just sleep tight.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Visit to Hollywood

It rained yesterday and was windy too. But today it was all sunny, though very cold. After work, in the evening I went to Hollywood Boulevard, the most famous place in LA. Our office and my hotel was in North Hollywood and I walked to the Metro underground rail station near my hotel to catch a train to Hollywood area. It was very near by and I reached there before it was too dark.

The Hollywood Blvd is the street where the famous theaters like Chinese Theater (which hosted Oscar awards earlier) and Kodak Theater (which is now the permanent venue for Oscars)
are located. It also had numerous shops and entertainment spots. I didn't have a camera and hence I bought a small one from here. A Canon PowerShot A470 for $108. It was not that interesting for me to roam around alone in that cold night and so I limited my tour to just walking around all the famous places including the walk of fame where golden star shapes are embedded on the roads with famous movie/music star's names.

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I was back in my room before 10 PM and was so tired with a lot of walking.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Gestures and Surface at IdentityMine, LA

My first day at work in US was very much interesting. I had detailed demos and walkthroughs of an interesting project our LA team was working on. It enabled multi touch gestures on applications for multi-touch devices like Microsoft Surface and Windows 7.


I tried out some samples using it and tried them on the Microsoft Surface and Windows 7 HP touch systems we had at the office here. It was fun and exciting.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A short visit to US

This travel was very much unexpected and was with a short notice. This time, it is for an internal project discussion and I will be visiting IdentityMine offices in Los Angeles and Seattle. And I have got just one week here.

During my last visit to US, I was in Dallas, Texas and was never been to LA or Seattle. So of course, as a travel freak, I was excited with this trip and was also a little worried about the issues in my passport. I had a B1 visa from my previous employer which was valid for another 7 years. I knew that's not an issue as B1 visas are not tied to the employer unlike H1 or L1 visas. But the passport with that visa had expired and now I am having a new passport. My previous passport and hence the visa had my name written in wrong order of first name and last name. The Indian passport has fields like 'Sur Name' and 'Given Name' and in my passport the name was written continuously without caring this order. But in the new passport, I had it corrected so my first name 'Sameer' is at the 'Given Name' field and my middle name and last name 'Cholayil Thiruthikad' is at the Sur name field. The 'h' in my middle name was missing in my old passport and I got it corrected in my new one. All this was enough reasons for a confusion at the immigration counter.

The flight was 'Emirates' from Kochi and took off on 2009 Feb 8, Sunday early morning. After few hours it landed in Dubai and there was a change in aircraft. There was only enough time to change the gates to catch the onward flight to Los Angeles from Dubai. It was a new Boeing 777-200 LR with good facilities. I liked their updated innovative in-flight entertainment system named as ICE (Information, Communication, Entertainment) that had lots of movies and TV shows that we could watch as we like it. But still the long 16 plus hours flight was so boring. To beat the jet lag later on, I tried sleeping in my day time and being awake all my night time.

I landed at Los Angeles on Sunday after noon. The officer at the immigration counter was just checking the validity of my visa in the old passport and not the passport expiry date or confusions in my name. The only question he asked was about how long I would be staying here. After that, it was business as usual. Scanning the whole left arm, then left index finger, then the  same for right, and then taking a photo. That's it, and I got the I-94 form piece stapled on my passport allowing me to stay here for 3 months.

It was very cold outside and I caught the shuttle bus to the 'Budget' car rental center. There are many good things you can enjoy on a visit to US after having been here on an H1 visa before. I had my US identity card and driving license still valid and that made it easy to rent a car. It was a compact Volkswagen car. I was bit nervous on driving here after more than an year but everything went fine. I had the printouts of maps and directions from airport to the hotel where I had a reservation. Without making any mistakes, I got onto the freeway and took the correct exit and reached the hotel Holiday Inn after half an hour drive. It was a nice room and I was very tired and went onto sleeping the whole remaining day and night comfortably.