Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I have been an ardent and a loyal Windows Mobile user. There were several reasons for this loyalty. I come from a development background that is heavily biased towards Microsoft (read .NET). With this back ground I found it quite easy to develop a few applications for the Windows Mobile platform using .NETCF. So whenever I had the option to upgrade my mobile, I went for a Windows Mobile device.

But since I was given a Blackberry Curve in my current job I have fallen in love with the Blackberry. One of the facts that I love about it is the fact that the OS is more biased towards the usual phone style. Windows Mobile OS is more biased towards the usual computer navigation style.

And the other thing is it is definitely a lot better for Email on the GO. With Windows Mobile, you need to initiate an operation to check for new Mail. I know there are solutions to provide Push Email on Windows MObile as well, but these usually require special software and additional configurations to get them to work. At least I never could get Push Email to work on my earlier Windows Mobile device.

And the BB is a lot lighter and sleeker than most of the Windows Mobile devices. It is definitely aesthetically more pleasing than the Windows Mobile device I had and a hell of a lot lighter.

My next step is to port my mobile application development knowledge to the BB platform so I can write a few apps for the device. Most of the applications that were a bit hard to find for the Windows Mobile devices were easy to find for the BB. But still there are a few that I could not still find. So hopefully I will be able to fill that gap, starting off with the applications that I would like to have on my BB!

My only hope was that there was some kind of an emulator which allows to run .NETCF applications on the BB. Now that would be superb. That way, I wont have to learn java to write apps for my BB. Do you know of anything like that?

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In another transit in Dubai. I been here for about two and a half hours now and I am feeling pretty tired. Specially since I had no proper sleep last night as my first flight was at an un-godly hour of 2.30 in the morning.

Air travel can be pretty tiring if you are flying economy class and have long transits of a few hours. You have to spend your transit time on air port corridors. Dubai air port is packed with people. Busiest I have seen (ok, I haven’t seen many) and you hardly get a seat to rest your weiry legs. My legs are paining now as I have been on my feet most of this time

I am on my way to Tanzania to conduct a training to one of our clientd there. It’s been almost an year since we has deployed the system there and the client has had staff turnover and the new staff needs a fresh training to use the system effectively. As I have not done many trainings before this is a bit of a learning experience for me as well. Specially since I am doing the training away from home and help, if I need any, is far away. But with the help of the Internet, help is just a IM away! The world is truly a global village! If there was no IM or Skype I wound’nt have dared taking this trip on my own!

I am happy for Affno. With projects like these we are transforming ourselves to a global software company. I am hoping to make a few new business contacts for Affno as well as to renew an existing relashionship as well. If this trip can also create a few new business opportunities I think my trip would be a resounding success.

Personally for me it would be a big personal development as I would be playing a marketing role in this trip. Marketing is an area that I percieve weak in me. I have always shied away from any marketing activity. But as you progress up in your career, it is one of the key skills that you need, specially if you want to head a company someday!

Well, I have been ranting away so much it will be difficult to give this posta topic! I should stop now and go check to which gate I need to go to for my next flight.

PS: I am typing this on my PDA phone.

PPS: I am posting this from the hotel in Tanzania as I heard the final call for boarding before I could post it from Dubai and had to make a dash!

I am leaving for Tanzania for a company assignment tonight. I didn’t plan on going away so soon, just 3 weeks after my return from Mauritius, but I was compelled to go. Had no choice. Guess it is one of the downsides of working for a corporate entity. You are not entirely free to choose your schedules.

Anyway, my mission is to conduct a training for a government agency in Tanzania that is running some of our software. We commissioned the system a little over an year ago and they have not used the system properly since. Also the key people whom we trained at the time of the training have left that organization and now they require a fresh training from the scratch for them to effectively start using the system.

My company also wants me to engage in some business development tasks to make our existing contacts in Tanzania stronger. So I am going for dual purposes. I am comfortable in doing the training, I am conducting a training after a long long time. And it is the first time I am going on a business development mission and all by myself at that! I have tagged along the Business Development managers when they were going to meet clients as a techie to answer any technical questions. But I have never done a business development meeting on my own. Having said that, deep inside I am kind of looking forward to that experience as it will be a totally new experience for me!

Well, I guess this trip also will also be confined to work. Since I have been to Tanzania once before and since I am on my own this time I am not planning on doing any wild life safaris. I’ve seen it once and that is enough. I am not so keen to do that trip another time. Maybe the only thing that I might do is, if possible I will make a visit to Zanzibar, as it was a place we missed on our last trip. Other than that, I am looking forward to coming home at the end of the week!

Good to be home

It’s good to be back home. Landed in Sri Lanka on the 16th. Spent a night in Dubai. But this time instead of spending time at the airport, went into the country and even went to Abu Dhabi. Met with my buddies Sumanga and Amila in UAE.

I will write more details later. I have been playing catch up with my little girl since I came back! This quick note is update people who still think I am in Mauritius!

My visit to Mauritius was uneventful to put it simply. I just went there and did what I supposed to do and came back. Didn’t get a chance to wander around, as I spent almost all my time working.

I was able to over the area that I had to cover on this project in a day and spent another 2 days writing up the spec for it, I spent more than a week understanding the whole project including the parts that our partner company was doing. Then I spent a few days preparing the final documents, formatting them and proof reading them voluntarily, as I had nothing much else to do.

I could have spent this time exploring Mauritius but I didn’t do so for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t think it would be nice of me to be exploring the place when the others were hard at work. Second, I didn’t feel like exploring all by myself. If Lushi was around I would have been more than happy to wander around with her. But not all by my self.

Then there is nothing much to explore in Mauritius. Coming from Sri Lanka you get plenty of beaches and sea sports over there. So I was not so thrilled about spending time on a beach. There is not much of wild life to speak about there. None I think, I didn’t see any literature promoting wild life tourism. There were not many historically significant places to visit. Nothing spectacular to see.

Work-wise I think the trip was very successful. I clearly defined the scope of the modules that we are to deliver. There were some fancy requirements, but I managed to define them clearly and to bring them within the scope of our existing product. This reduced the amount of work we have to do significantly. The time I spent understanding the whole business process of the customer and out partners product will help significantly when our two products have to be integrated.

Coming on this trip by myself and handling the client and two partner companies that we are working with, one in Mauritius and and the other in Sri Lanka was a good confidence booster for me. Also I think I built a good rapport with your partners, about whom I was skeptical at first will help me in the long run on this project. And to top it all off, I think I worked with some really awesome people, and forged a few friendships that will last a long time. So from a human angle it was a good trip.

I like doing this kind of work. And I would actually do this kind of a job readily of not for the fact that I miss home like crazy when I am away. I missed Lushi and Dinara to the point where I felt like dropping everything and going home. Dinara specially had made some significant progress while I was away. I am now impatient to go back home to them. I just have to hang on a bit more for that!

PS: I wrote this post while waiting for my flight out of Mauritius at teh waiting lounge of the SSR Airport. But since there was no Internet connectivity I could not post it. And I had totally forgotten about it. But in any case I am editing the timestamp to reflect the date it was written

My only sight seeing in Mauritius happened on the 9th September Sunday, when I traveled up to Ile Aux Cerfs to visit an island and to do para-sailing. I was staying in Port Louise and Ile Aux Cerfs is on the east of the island. But the journey didn’t take more than an hour and a half! Not all of it on highways either. Most of it was on normal single lane roads, but I guess it is the beauty of a small island with less traffic on the roads.

Ile Aux Cerfs is an island off the coast, which is about a 10 minute ride on a slow boat. On a speed boat it will be less than 5 minutes. We were supposed to go on a speed boat, but by the time we got to the jetty, all speed boats were gone and had to settle for a slow boat.

Ile Aux Cerfs is a beautiful small island which is nested between a few more islands. The other islands are either private islands belonging to hotels or inhabitant, Ile Aux Cerfs is maintained as a public location with excellent infrastructure for tourists both local and foreign on-site. It is also a hub of activity to go para-sailing as well as other water sports. Well I didn’t see anyone doing jet skiing or water skiing, para-sailing seems to be the popular activity. Then there are activities like banana boat rides and the like and excursions to the nearby islands. Then there’s a mini golf course on the island.

What thrilled me most was the para-sailing part. Basically, they take you to a platform on the sea, and there they hook a parachute on to you. The parachute is tied to a boat and the boat takes off and you take off to the sky. Just like a fighter jet takes off from a carrier craft! then they take you on a round, then the boat slows down, gently landing you to the water. As you touch the water and dip your feet into the water, the boat takes off taking you up with the parachute. Then the boat takes you around the platform and gently lands you on the platform itself! No need to swim, unless something goes wrong!

It was first experience I had with parachuting. And it was a thrilling experience. Well, at least with that, my Mauritius trip was not all work! Thank god!

PS:  Thanks Nirmal for finding out about Ile Aux Cerfs and organizing the trip. And thank you Shailendra and his friend, for taking us there and also for carrying out all the negotiations on behalf of us!

It’s been a week since I landed in Mauritius. I have been in Port Louis since the day that I landed here.

I have heard that this is one of the most beautiful places on earth. But since I have been stuck in Port Louis, I haven’t had a chance to go out to the beaches or to see the country. My typical day has been confined to my hotel room, restaurant (for breakfast), to the office (office of our partner company) which is down the street about a 150 meters and the clients office which is about a 5 minutes walk from my hotel and the office.

I had walked about the surrounding areas to the office and the clients’ office during lunch time, in search of lunch. But since people here take very quick lunch breaks, these wanderings have been confined to areas that you can cover in about 30 minutes.

Apart from these places I had been to the harbor front, last Sunday. It was a nice place, especially, in Sri Lanka the harbor front is out of bounds for civilians for security reasons. Sipping a coffee at the harbor front, made me realize the value of peace. If peace prevailed back home, we could have had the opportunity to have a coffee at the harbor front on a Sunday evening.

From what I have heard, Port Louis is not a safe place after dark. I was strictly advised to not to wander out on my own after the sun sets off. So for every day of the last week, since I was working till pretty late, I was dropped back to my hotel in a cab although it was just a two minute walk. This basically ruled out me ever going out of the hotel after I came in.

And the other thing is Port Louis shuts off after 5.30 PM, as a town. Shops and offices close and around 6.00 – 6.30, you hardly find any people on the roads. I think people just retire to their homes. Good for the citizens, the whole country has a pretty good setup for a work life balance. But for a visitor, this rules out any activity after 6.30 PM. There is no active and vibrant night life as such. Maybe on the beach resorts things may be happening late into the night. Since I am not a night clubbing kind of a person, I have no options. I hear the only place that is open till late is the harbor front.

There are only three TV channels. And I have not managed to find a good English program on either of them. They are either in French, Creole or Hindi/Tamil. The hotel room has no cable TV, so there’s nothing on TV to watch.

Even on a Sunday, its the same scene. I want to go out for lunch, but I think my only option is the harbor front. Not that I mind though, its a nice view. Food seems all right. You have the choice of quite a few cafes / restaurants. Food is slightly expensive though. But its better than the food at the hotel.

They say to really appreciate the value of the things you take for granted, you should be deprived of them. Well it is true to really appreciate the value of family. But in my case, I am going to be deprived of their company only for a short period of time. But I have come appreciate the value of their company, just after being away from them for two days.

Being here in Mauritius, after the end of the working day, all by your self, made me realize, how much I had taken my family for granted. I mean, I knew they were there and hence I was indifferent to their company. But now, at the end of the day, I have to come back to an empty hotel room. Lush is not here to welcome me home. Dinara is not here for me to play with and cuddle. I can’t drop into my mothers place after work to say hi to her. I mean, those were the things that I took for granted when I was back home. But being here now, without them around, it is making me feel all lonely. All I have for solace is just a phone call.

I realize that I may have not shown them how much they mean to me. How much they were a part of my life. How much that their presence filled up my life.

There is a lesson for me in all this. I need to start showing them, when I am around them, what they mean to me. It is a good thing that I can go back to them, and get a chance to make sure that I don’t let the moments just pass me by. I need to take the time appreciate them and make them feel the specialness that I feel for them in my heart.

On my way to Mauritius

I am on my way to Mauritius and writing this post from Dubai International Airport on my transit.

I have a pretty long transit of 12 hours. And since I am flying economy class I am left to use the basic facilities at the airport. I have spent about 6 hours of my transit time and am now bored to death. And I am tired too.

This is the third time I am on a long transit in Dubai. In fact everytime I have had to pass through Dubai I have been on pretty long transits. The worst being a 26 hour transit on my return from Tanzania last year.

I have been hearing that Mauritius is a beautiful country. But I am not sure how much I will enjoy the beauty of the place as I am going there on my own. I now find it pretty hard to be a tourist alone without Lushi. If I was with her, I am sure that I would have enjoyed the place pretty well. But since I am alone and missing her and Dinara, I guess I will just concentrate on my work.

I am going to Mauritius for a system study. Affno, the company I work for is involved in a project in Mauritius, along with another Sri Lankan company, Informatics International to deploy a system at Passport and Immigration Office of Mauritius. This is the second project that I am involved in the African region, the first being the Capitol Markets and Securities Authority project in Tanzania.

This time I am going to be away from home for around a month. This is the longest that I have been separated from Lushi, ever. Earlier I have been away from home in India for about a month, but that was before I was married or met Lushi. This time is it even more lonely for me as I have never been away from Dinara for more than a day since she was born.

I am already missing Dinara and Lushi. And it is not going to get better as this  is only the beginning of my journey. I know Lushi misses me as well. I hope Dinara won’t miss me that much as she would not realize that I am gone. But I miss her! she’ll be 10 monts when I get back and these days she is growing rapidly. And I am going to miss one month of her progress!

NOTE: This was finally posted from Mauritius as I could not connect to the Internet from Dubai.

Tyre expiry date

I got this on a il. I never knew that this information could be extracted from the tires itself. But recently having watched a few video clips of accidents caused by exploding tires, I think this is a good way to get an idea of the status of our tires.

Vehicle tires have a 4-year validity period from their Date of Manufacture (DOM). Thereafter, the tire expires and may burst whilst in use.  How to find out whether your tire has expired? Check for a stamp like this:  (*2603*) There is an asterisk at the beginning and at the end of this serial number.  The first two numbers 2 6 will tell which week of the year has it been manufactured.

NB: One year has 52 weeks. The last two numbers represent the year of make.  Therefore, *2603* shows that the said tire is manufactured in the 26th week of the year 2003.  *2699* this shows that the tire is made in the 26th week of 1999.

Check all your tires for safety purposes. Do not use expired tires.  They are likely to burst (especially when running in hot weather) because the rubber component may have hardened and cracked

 tire1.jpg

tire2.jpg

‘4002’ means DOM is Week 40 of year 2002.

Safe Driving!

I am back! Back here in Sri Lanka, back amongst the loved ones.

I was looking forward to coming back home. I wanted to come back to my wife, parents and family. I missed being around them, specially my wife. And I know she missed me like hell. So it is good to be back finally.

We had a rather long and tiring journey back home. There were two transits and plenty of drama. The best and the worst being at Dubai being told that we do not have a seat to come back to Colombo, after a 20 hour transit. We were told that our tickets were cancelled, despite us having the printout which said our tickets were re-confirmed. This delayed us by another 5 hours as we only managed to find a seat on the second plane.

That I think is the worst that you can face. That disrupted our plans and out our schedules off by hours. We were lucky to be able to find a flight within 5 hours. There were some people who had been waiting for two days without being able to find a seat.

I assume for the airline staff these occurrences might be normal and routine, but for the traveller, it is completely upsetting. It makes you feel completely lost and helpless. You are being put in the mercy of others. Basically you have to either make a big scene or beg! So much so for service standards!

I was not at all happy at the way the whole situation was handled by the SriLankan Airlines staff in Dubai. The only helpful people who helped us genuinely were the Emirates staff. They were more considerate and seemed genuinely willing to help. SriLankan was trying to get away!

In any case, I am happy to be back. I am not thrilled as I thought I would be about travelling. I guess I would  like travelling as long as I travel with my family. But travelling on business and being away from family doesn’t seem to be fun for me. But then again, there are things that are beyond your control.

Safari to Mikumi

We left Dar es Salaam on the 25th Sunday at around 6.15 am. We wanted to leave earlier than that around 5.00 am, but we were advised to not leave that early for some reason. We took a Toyota Land Cruiser arranged through Planet Safari, whom we found through the Yellow Pages. We were driven by Hamisi  and we were accompanied by another as Hamisi did not speak English.   

The highways were pretty good. We drove at speeds of around 120-140 Kmph. We arrived in the town of Morogoro 180 Km’s away from Dar by 9.00 a.m. This was a mountainous region. The weather was colder than in Dar.   

After Stopping for a light refreshment at a nice garden cafe we continued our journey to Mikumi. The road from Morogoro to Mikumi was surrounded by more greenery. The roads were Still good and we were Still doing about 120 kmph.  

It was a 30 minute journey to reach the boundary of Mikumi national park. The road runs across the park dividing the park to northern and southern Sections. You have to travel along this road further down to reach the park entrance.   

It was $15 for the entrance. When you enter the park it is as if you are entering a national park in Sri Lanka such as Yala or Udawalawe. But the difference is you can see miles and miles and. Mikumi is apparently some 3000 odd square kilometers, so I think it’s far bigger than any of those parks. 

From the point you enter you can see the common animals such as the Impala’s and various birds. As you go a bit further in you can see plenty of Giraffes and Zebra’s and Wild Beasts. And when you travel a bit further we saw a few Elephants as well. But the density of these animals seems to be less. When you see Elephant herds in Sri Lanka you see quite large numbers. But over here the largest we saw was around 5.   

If you want to see all of the animals a one day trip is a bad idea. Because, some animals you can only see very early in the morning or late in the evening. They did have a sort of a lodge inside the park for those who wanted to spend a night in the park. And for the more adventurous types there were a few camping sites. 

Well, we reached Dar Es Salaam around 11 in the night. Our guide and the driver took a great effort to show us as many animals as possible. But this they did after realizing that we were adamant on staying in the park for more than the mere 4 hours that they initially suggested. In the end we ended up spending about 6 hours in the park. By that time we were also tired and were willing to leave the park and head back to city. 

Well if you are wanting to go on a safari in Tanzania, planet Safari’s seems to be a pretty good place. They were the cheapest that we were able to find at $ 300. All the others were quoting in the range of $ 350 – $ 400. They’re vehicle was in a very good condition as the staff was also very helpful and very mindful of our comforts.

It was a good experience. maybe not the best you can get in Tanzania, but given the time and budgetary constraints that we had, it was pretty good. I think we got our money’s worth.

Tanzania update (2)

The last couple of days have been pretty productive. We manged to move forward and the meetings we had were pretty productive. It is pretty easy to work with the Project Manager from our clients' organization. He is very proactive and is well aware of the limitations of the technology, and also the limitations of his users. So we managed to nail down the requirements to a manageable and practical level.

Apart from a few streets in Dar Es Salaam, I have'nt seen Tanzania much. Hopefully that will change tomorrow after we do the day safari to Mikumi National Park tomorrow. Though I am not much of a wild life buff, it is said that a trip to Tanzania is not complete without a safari. So, I am hoping to make it complete as fast, easily and cheaply as possible.

The safari's are pretty expensive here. They were asking in the range of $ 350 – $ 450 for a day safari. That did not include food or the entrance ticket to the park. But we managed to negotiate a jeep for $ 300. So the cost per person will be $ 150 + Food + entrance. To be quite honest I was not planning on doing a safari spending that kind of money.

As for the weather, the rain seems to have eased off. So it's a bit hot right now. And yes, they show the FIFA world cup live over here.

I would have enjoyed this trip more if I was not missing my love like I do right now. I am more eager to run back home to you darling. But my work here demands that I stay here for another week. Please hangon for another week, and when I  am back, I will make it up to you! I love you!

Tanzania update (1)

Well it seems that we have brought the rain to Tanzania. From the day that we landed here, it has been raining every day. And when it starts to rain, it keeps on drizzling and it never seems to ease off.

But today is relatively sunnier. In a way, I don't want to complain about the rain, if it is going to be very hot.

Well, Tanzanians don't seem to mind the rain at all. I have seen plenty of people who are just going about their work as if rain is not a hindrance. But the problem is most of the roads seem to get flooded when it rains. And the vehicles have no care for the people on the road!

Tanzanians seem to be pretty calm and peaceful people. Well maybe I have'nt seen the darker side because I had not stepped out in the night. But they seem very calm and slow-paced. They go on about their work in their own pace and speed. For me I find it a bit too slow for my liking. Maybe because I am impatient to go back home!

Well, seems we won't have enough time to go for a long safari. Cos it takes a minimum of three days. We are trying to go on a day safari during the weekend. Apart from the safari, I am not sure if there is anything else to see or do around here. I guess I am just home sick and longing to go home, back to my loved ones.

I had to visit Tanzania for a project that our company has undertaken. This is a journey that I undertook with mixed feelings. I was partially exited, because of the challenge is presented, it is a fairly large scoped project with a very tight deadline which requires collaboration between three companies in a consortium. I was sad because I was going to spend two weeks here in Tanzania, away from my wife, which is the longest time I am going to be spending away from her. And to be quite frank I don't like the idea of having to spend time away from her.

We landed in Tanzania around 8.45 Tanzanian time (GMT + 3) after a long journey which lasted for almost 20 hours and had two transits. We had almost spent 12 hours in transits and around 10 hours on air. We flew via Dubai (UAE) and Nairobi (Kenya). We were dead tired by the time we arrived in Dar es Salaam and by the time we got our visa sorted out it was another hour gone.

And due some complexities it took us another 3 hours for us to finally settledown at the apartment that was reserved for us. It is a comfortable adobe. It is a serviced, two bedroomed apartment with all the modern amneties. But still I miss home terribly. I miss the usual things around me and more than anything I miss my wife.

I will post more as time progresses and as I discover more of Tanzania.

Staying on the same topic of travelling, these gadgets will help you fight your boredom or help you get out of a tricky situation.

Personally I think that some of the devices are merged and provide multiple functionality. In my case my PDA doubles up as my MP3 player and also the camera. But I prefer to use a PDA instead of a smartphone, because of the size considerations. Also, I use the PDA to detect WiFi hotspots, so I don't need a WiFi detector.

All in all a good story to run through. Check out The top 10 gadgets for business travellers.

EDIT: Oops, seems I have missed out on including the link. It's there now! 

This is a good article for anyone who will be travelling on business or pleasure for that matter. A few things to plan for before you leave and also while you are there.

I am sure most of us would think ahead and figure some of these things, but there are a few good suggestions that I would not think about. Specially ideas like getting your hotel address written down on the native language, etc are good.

Check out the full article How to Shield Yourself from Business Travel Nightmares.