Friday, December 30, 2011

The Spectacular Coromandel Peninsula

I wanted a relaxed holiday in New Zealand and the time spent on the Coromandel Peninsula was exactly what I wanted..........

- Pristine golden sandy beaches
- Deserted coves
- The gorgeous Thames coastline framed by the beautiful Pohutukawa trees
- The dramatic scenery - mountains, rainforests, native bush with the sea and surf nearby
- The romantic (or maybe not) gold mining history
- The quaint colonial towns
- The scrumptious seafood

We stayed at a cute town named Thames which is the gateway to the Coromandel. It makes a great base to explore the many interesting sights. Thames is also one of the historic gold mining towns. You can actually check out a gold mine (defunct one though).

The town of Coromandel is a beauty and is the centre of arts and crafts. The main highlight is the Driving Creek Railway which was built by one man - Barry Brickell on a 60 acre plot of land along the mountain. He not only built the railway but is also an active and accomplished potter. He is also involved in conservation of the kauri trees which once dominated the landscape but were cut down for timber by the English.

To the north is the beautiful New Chums Beach at Whangapoua which is rated as one of the Top 20 beaches of the world. Reason - isolated, framed by pohutukawa trees and bordered by rainforests. It makes for a pretty picture for sure.

We stopped at many interesting beaches during the days we were there. Each more picturesque than the other. We also wanted to do the cruise to the Cathedral Cove from Whitianga but the sea was rough so instead we were directed to go to Hahei beach and walk to the cove taking in the Gemstone cove and Stingray cove on the way. I must say the walk was very interesting, spectacular and very rewarding.

And not to be missed is the Hot water beach at Hahei where one can dig a spa for oneself in the sand during the low tide. I can guarantee the water is piping hot and very soothing.

Don't miss the 309 Road which is the shortest route from Whitianga to Coromandel. The drive is quite pleasant and is an interesting trip on its own with numerous sights along the way. We did the Kauri Grove where we saw the Siamese Kauri and the Waiau Falls. We ended the drive at the Mussel Kitchen where we had an assortment of mussels prepared in different ways.

Most of the sights in the Coromandel are free as intended by the Maker. One just needs to have the patience to drive and a sense of adventure to discover.

The Driving Creek Railway and Potteries

The pottery and sculpture garden

Amazing that he laid this track on the mountainous terrain.
He has used bottles to shore up the side walls. Very creative.

The new Chums Beach

The beach at Matarangi

Spectacular - a stream running through the beach.

I love the Pohutukawa trees lining the beach

The cliffs at the Cathedral Cove.

Stingray cove

The beach at Cathedral Cove

The dramatic Cathedral Cove

Soaking up at the Hot Water Beach

The Siamese Kauri

The Waiau Falls

The mussels..........yummy

The Goldmine at the Thames

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fun @ work

I truly learned to have fun and enjoy life when I joined Kingfisher Airlines. This is a fun organisation and full of amazing, talented, young people. Therefore when the airline was going through a crisis I decided to do something that would keep people engaged, motivated, connected and involved.

It’s the synergy that comes from people working together and gathering creative ideas that leads to long-term organization wealth creation. That synergy and “above and beyond” behavior is evidence of employee engagement.
Employees are in a highly engaged state when they are doing the nonjob roles. In general, we find that most employees have a sense of fairness, and even if their employer treats them poorly, most will show up to work and do the job role. But having employees show up at work simply doing their jobs gets an employer nowhere in terms of long-term competitiveness. If all of your employees show up and only do their jobs, then you are not building organizational strength and long-term competitiveness through people because anyone can hire those same employees and duplicate what you are doing.
Some of the results I hope to see are:
- Breakdown of barriers - work related and personal related.
- Open communication at all levels.
- A positive environment at work.
- Continuous learning through sharing of ideas and experiences.
- A sense of team work so that there is less politics and more action.
- Happiness and Joy.
Some of the initiatives are:  
  • The Library @ Qube where employees can avail of both management and fiction books.
  • A staff recreation area where they can relax, take a break, chat with other colleagues and destress.
  • Movie Fridays as this is a great opportunity to interact and make friends in a relaxed environment.
  • The KF Book Club to exchange ideas and thoughts centred around a book theme.
  • The Joy of Giving week where we spread the joy, love, care, concern and some of our fortune to those who need it more than we do.
  • The KF trek club for the "fitness" and "not so fit" freaks. Great opportunity to promote team work.
  • The intranet message board to encourage communication and breaking down of invisible barriers.
  • The photography contest where we showcase our talent and encourage the artistic side in us.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Agra - a memorable day trip

Besides the Taj Mahal, Agra also has other monuments worth visiting. The Agra Fort, the Tomb of Akbar and the citadel of Fatehpur Sikri are top of the list to visit.

The Agra Fort is also known as the Red Fort. Not suprising given the colour of the stone it is built with. It can best be described as a walled city and is also on the UNESCO world heritage list.

After the battle of Panipat, the Mughals captured the fort and a vast treasure - which included a diamond that was later named as the Koh-i-Noor diamond - was seized. Realizing the importance of its central situation, Akbar made it his capital in 1558. It was only during the reign of Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan, that the site took on its current state.

Legend has it that Shah Jahan built the beautiful Taj Mahal for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Unlike his grandfather, Shah Jahan tended to have buildings made from white marble, often inlaid with gold or semi-precious gems. He destroyed some of the earlier buildings inside the fort in order to make his own. At the end of his life, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb, in the fort. It is rumored that Shah Jahan died in Musamman Burj, a tower with a marble balcony with a view of the Taj Mahal.

Can u believe this is a water fountain?!

Don't miss the Taj in the background.

This used to be the darbar room for the lower castes.

The tomb of Akbar the great is an important Mughal architectural masterpiece built in 1605-1613. Akbar is said to have planned his own tomb and selected a suitable site for it. The grounds are a precise 690 sq m, aligned with the points of the compass, surrounded by walls, and laid out as a classic charbagh garden style. A gatehouse stands at the center of each wall, and broad paved avenues, laid out in Mughal style with central running water channels representing the four rivers of Paradise, lead from these to the tomb at the center of the square.

We did not get to Fatehpur Sikri due to paucity of time. But it is worth a visit. I have been there before and totally loved it.

It was the first planned city of the Mughals and also the first one designed in Mughal architecture, an amalgamation of Indian architecture, Persian and Islamic architecture. It served as the Mughal Empire's capital from 1571 until 1585. Though the court took 15 years to build, it was abandoned after only 14 years because the water supply was unable to sustain the growing population. Today, the complex of buildings which include the Jama Masjid, the royal palaces and courts is a UNESCO World heritage site.

Courtesy: Wikipedia
The crowning glory of my visit to Agra was meeting Sebastian Vettel, the World Champion of Formula One racing.

The Taj Mahal - the epitome of love

One can never tire of seeing the Taj Mahal. This was my third trip and I was still in awe of this beautiful monument that is considered to be one of the wonders of the world. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is described as "the epitome of love", "a monument of immeasurable beauty" and is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage". 

The white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal but it is actually an integrated complex of structures. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen. The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia and over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials. The translucent white marble was brought from Makrana, Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble. 

A labour force of twenty thousand workers was recruited across northern India. Sculptors from Bukhara, calligraphers from Syria and Persia, inlayers from southern India, stonecutters from Baluchistan, a specialist in building turrets, another who carved only marble flowers were part of the thirty-seven men who formed the creative unit.

The Taj Mahal mosque

Beautiful embellishments

The Great Gate