9 tips for writing a good road trip review

I love long distance road trips and if I can have my way, I would rather drive all the way to wherever I go. When we started Ghumakkar in 2007, writing a review on a road was not the first thing which occurred to us but it happened almost on the first month. So way back in July 2007, I wrote a review on ‘Delhi Nainital‘ and what a grand surprise we had in store. The blog post kept attracting comments all through. As I write this post, it has got in excess of 25,000 visits and has more than 170 comments. Later, Aditya wrote one on ‘Delhi Kanpur Lucknow‘ and that was a real winner. It gets comments even today, standing at 214 and have more than 40,000 visits. I wont be surprised to know that this single post has made a lot of first time riders on this route. The other road reviews at Ghumakkar are equally popular viz.

1. Delhi – Patna ( 21000 views, 115 comments)
2. Bangalore – Chennai ( 28,000 views, 54 comments)
3. Delhi – Goa ( 39000 view, 70 comments, its in 3 parts)
4. Delhi – Jaisalmer (9000 views, 17 comments)
5. Bangalore – Mumbai (5000 view, 17 comments)

and so on. I just picked the ones which I could remember. I am sure there are many more and all of them are categorized under ‘Roads’. Later I wrote few more and I try to comment back when I travel on some sector again which has already been covered by a Ghumakkar. Looking at the feedback and the positive response, we have got, I think it makes a lot of sense to write more of these. This post would try to help fellow Ghumakkars who want to write a road review and all these tips are from my personal experience which I gained based on the tremendous feedback on my road review posts. And that ‘9 tips’ is just a cheeky trick to get this post more views. I heard that ‘top ten’ kind of title sells better over regular titles. So here you go

1. Put a structure / Divide the route
Divide the entire journey into various sections and for each section have a basic template at the top. A suggested template is
Example
Distance – 120 KM
Time Taken – 2 hours
Road Condition – Good to Average

While the rest of this section would have details around your actual travel.

2. Rate roads and define your ratings. Good for me may not be good for you. Define the ‘Good’.

Have a set of ratings and then define those rating. For example, you may have three ratings and their definitions as below

Excellant – Smooth tar, fit for high speeds of 120 KMPH, Double Carriageway, 3 lanes, expressway
Good – Smooth tar, fit for 80 – 100 KMPH. Single Lane. No traffic.
Average – Good tar, can drive around 60 KMPH.
Bad – Potholes, lot of traffic, single lane, countryside road

3. Always always put a route map. Google works best.

Giving a interactive road map is best. Go to maps.google.com, create a map and then get the ‘Embedd Code’ and send it to one of the editors at Ghumakkar and they would do the rest. If you are nice to them, they can even create the route map from Google. If getting a interactive map is not a possibility then at least have a ‘picture’ of route.

4. Mention actual distance / time howsoever unattractive it may be

This is tricky. Never ever mention the standard time which anyone would take. I have often met people who would tell me that Delhi-Jaipur can be done in 4 hours. Well, it can be but they never tell me that whether they have done it and how many times they have done it in under 4 hours. For long distance ( > 300 KMs) drives, an average of 50+ is very good. So stay away from the temptation and report actual time spent including break times. Always take point-to-point so if you are staying in heart of the city, mention that from the heart of the city to the down-town of my destination, it took me x hours.

5. Create a story so add non road details to keep the interest

Just data is very boring. Take folks alongside with you. Share your excitement when you got a better road or your patience during those long jams. Cherish each mile as you cover and remind them about the pending journey. Make them travel with you. Write things like…………. ‘ After Mubarkapur, we were not sure on whether we would be able to reach our destination before evening. It was almost 4 PM and we had a little over 1 hour before the winter Sun would leave us in custody of cooler Moon. The roads were good now and we could make good progress. After about 25 KMs, we had another surprise, a Railway Crossing. There were not many vehicles and we utilized the break to soak in some of the beautiful countryside we had all around us. There was a group of students returning after a game of cricket……”

6. Cover food stops, loo stops, fuel stops in detail

Pay extra attention to your break time and keep some notes on how those place were. Often, there is not enough reliable information on good fuel pumps and good places to take a break. Howsoever non-descript the place is, if you find it good, share the details.

8. Cover Toll charges

This point is for making the total points as 9. I do not see any great benefit in covering this except the fact that they can act as good milestones.

8. Pictures Pictures Pictures

Take pictures. There is always enough to shoot. If you are traveling in hills, stop for a moment and take few pics. If its the regular expressway, take photos of boards showing distances. If nothing else, take pictures of life around the road.

9. Respond to comments and build a community which keeps the post live even after many years
And once you are done and have published your story, do not forget to respond to comments. Request fellow visitors to update their experience as a comment and keep the records current.

I am sure the above is just a guiding document and each one of us would want to have their own bit to the concoction. So go out , take a road trip and write a road review at Ghumakkar. I am waiting for it.

Agony of a Groupon India deal-trapped customer

A few days back, I requested one of my colleague to plan a small informal get together of all the intl. quality heads. We are always very prudent in our expenses and we bought a deal from groupon for unlimited drinks + dinner at ‘Park Plaza Shahdara‘. In the past we had taken similar deals for ‘Park Plaza, Noida’ and we had reasons to believe that it would be a similar experience. To ensure that things work well, my colleague also called up ‘Park Plaza’ a couple of times before going ahead with the purchase. It was not a big purchase (about INR 7K odd) but that is the usual process-drill. 4 of them were Beer coupons and 2 were IMFL coupons. We love our hard earned drinks and as per protocol we hired a big cab and it was all set.

Finally last evening after a long day, our group of 6 reached Park Plaza. When we shared our deal receipt with them, we were offered following

For unlimited beer+food offer, they would serve King Fisher Strong (and that’s it, no other brands)
For the IMFL, they had ‘Rowson Whisky’.

The great Rowson Whiskey
The great Rowson Whiskey

None of us drink strong beer and I would not have let my colleagues take some Rowson Whisky, credentials of which are still investigated. We tried to be polite and requested them to check again. On requesting an access to a floor manager or GM, I was introduced to a colleague (a trick I knew very well). And so on. I took their business cards incase I ever run into a ‘Sarovar’ guy on how their junior staff is acting like GMs. In the end, they brought their Manager-IT as GM. Funny. Anyway, I am not their customer here so lets move on.

In the end, we were offered a couple of other brands (as a good gesture (Bud), and another whisky (BP), more good gesture) after we called foul. Interestingly, we were told that ‘Groupon’ knows very well and we should talk to Groupon since we have paid them.

Why would ‘Groupon’ promote these deals where Strong beer and Rowson Whiskey are the only two things on offer ?

We called up group-on and were told (it was at/around 8 PM, by #s4n4u) that we are calling too late. The sun has set, everyone has left office so sorry, please handle yourself. It was embarrassing for my colleague who arranged the whole program. We tried to make up for a lost opportunity but we came back more learned about ParkPlaza and Groupon. I stand cheated, Groupon.

Not too long back Andrew said that, “If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer.” I am sorry for this long story, early in the day but thought that you deserve a chance to know and possibly fix.

———————-

Above is what I wrote to Groupon the very next day (its been few days since) hoping for some real action. I must appreciate that Ankur (CEO of Groupon India) was super responsive to my first query. Unfortunately the first resolution was on expected lines. Take Groupon credits which we can utilise for another offer (and possibly get cheated again !!) which we summarily refused. I didn’t hear much after that.

So, if you buy an offer from Groupon, first check with the hotel and find out the fine-print because the best you can expect from Groupon Customer Support is their inability to do anything and from their CEO would want to get a buy-out resolution.

Hope we get better as a larger society and begin to treat our customers as our patrons, and not leave them in cold. Good luck Groupon.

“The Mickey Mouse Show” in Delhi, India – Quick Review

My little one went to this show with her mom the other day which was very well marketed and publicized over TV Channels.

I thought I would write a quick review, so here it is, based on my interaction with my little one’s mother.

The show had a very simple set, to the extent of being not too impressive at least in the beginning. It was in Siri Fort Auditorium which can house at least 600 people and it was a full house as per the ticket sales. The show started almost half an hour late and interestingly the house was not more than a third full of its capacity. But during the show, people started trickling in and it was a full house by the end.

The audience was mainly the young moms with the small kid, often with a maid. The show started with two anchors, who were very impressive. After the initial ice-breaking and warm-up they introduced Mickey Mouse. That was high point of the show when Mickey came on stage, super production value. They did a 30 minute performance with Mickey hosting a TV Show (Jay Leno sorts) calling Goofy, Minnie, Donald and Pluto. They had lot of fun with each other and Kids loved it. From the TV Show the crew moved to Bolywood and they danced to Bolywood numbers like Nagada-Nagada, Jhoom Barabar Jhomm etc. While this change was happening, they switched to Indian dresses, Lehnga n all. There was this dance troupe as well. As the part of Bolywood Premiere , they also introduced Romeo and his lady love Laila. As expected kids got more interested in Romeo than the Mickey. All in all Kids had fun especially during the end when the anchors dropped their hair among Kids.

All this lasted 30 minutes. The ticket prices were Rs 500, Rs 1000 and Rs 1500 and one can book tickets at http://www.bookmyshow.com/.

Now the big question, do we recommend. Well, its not a value-for-money for Rs 1000. Probably a NSD powered Children’s festival like Jashn-e-Bachpan at Rs 40 a show is much more killer but then this one is from Diseny. So dust your address book to see if you can find some Jugad. One of our friend’s found one and took us in for free, and for a free ride, its definitely more than worth it.

Better Channel Navigation in TVs

Out here in India we used to have just one TV channel, when we were growing. TV Remote was something which we have seen when we got old. I remember that when we bought our first Color TV in 1987 (A Bush model), we chose to buy the one without remote since we thought that it doesn’t make sense to pay Rs 1000 just for a remote.

Then came the satellite revolution, around 1991 odd, and suddenly 100s of channel were visible. When I read a report in Time magazine in 1991-1992, I didn’t believe it. My college library used to get 100s of magazine and I thought that this is not about India. After some weeks I was seen working with local cable guy to fix things, apparently a couple who has just moved in a close-by apartment has agreed to pay 200 or whatever for this satellite connection. When we first watched MTv we were as good as dead. We could not believe it.

The result of all this ensured that TV Remote became a standard fitment. Now you could flip channels. Then about 2 odd years back, we got DTH (Direct to Home) where in you get a set-top box and the beauty of this system was that there is no cable-wallah in between, the signal reception is good and you can access TV Guide.

So if you are on “Tata Sky” or “Dish TV’ or recently launched ‘Big TV’, you can find out much more about the running and future TV programs. Life is simpler, better and more richer now.

So in this life, while browsing or surfing channels, I thought of something. In Tata Sky, there is a way through which you can find out ‘whats playing’ on next channel and you can browse the list, without actually changing the channel. So if Star, Sony and Zee are configured one after the other then while watching Star, you just press some keys and you can see a text information of whats playing on Sony. At this point you can either chose to change to Sony or go to next Channel.

What occurred to me that whether it wont be killing, if I can also see a small video preview of next channel. This small preview would help me further since I can figure out whether they are playing any ads or not. Sometime these small previews could actually help me to find out the details of the ‘content’ rather then reading it. Especially if I am familiar with that particular program. A small preview is enough for you to register whether the program is “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009” or “Big Boss” or “The Great India Laughter Challenge”. Over time it may happen that you only video previews since those are much more easier to register.

PIP (Picture in picture) is already a solved problem. This is just another good use case of using PIP technology. TV makers ??? Can you do it.

Cachaca – is it a Rum ?

Cachaca is pronounced as Ka-Sha-Sa and is the most popular alcoholic beverage in Brazil. Even though it has similarities with Rum but its not really rum. Cachaça is the product of the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice, with its alcohol strength between 38% and 48% by volume. Cachaça differs from rum in that it is made from sugarcane juice while rum is made from either molasses or sugarcane juice then aged in oak barrels.


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