It was time for another Indiblogger meet in Bangalore! This time it was hosted by Flipkart, who was using the opportunity to introduce to bloggers their new Image Search functionality in their mobile app.
The venue was Hard Rock Cafe, on St. Marks road
As usual, it was a packed house with many familiar faces/bloggers
The ‘show’ began with the Indiblogger guys coming together and jamming to covers of Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”
We then began with the usual blogger introductions and some laughs courtesy of Anoop Johnson from Indiblogger. I stood up to introduce myself and then answered when we were asked if we had posts that were more popular than what else we write about. It made people laugh when I told them how my post on how to roast chicken in a convection microwave is now my most popular post when everything I else I write about is my travels. And guess what, I won a Flipkart voucher worth Rs.1500 for my answer!
It was now time for the Flipkart guys to take over the show
They began by presenting a video and then demoed the image search functionality by taking photo of a guy who was wearing a black t-shirt and then using the Flipkart mobile app to find similar t-shirts. It’s a nifty idea based on the concept of “Point -> Shoot -> Buy” and an obvious one based on our real world shopping experience (in today’s times). As of now, the tech is still early and Flipkart is currently focusing on fashion, some accessories and shoes.
We were then asked to try it ourselves.
I tried it with a nearby blogger who was wearing a yellow polo neck t-shirt. As you can see, the search results aren’t perfect.
I tried again and this is what I got. It’s not perfect and I guess the search results will vary based on what Flipkart has in stock to match the photo. Also, we were told lighting conditions matter — a lot!
After the demos, we were then given a chance to ask questions to the team at Flipkart behind the image search functionality. Very few stuck to image search-related questions and instead used this opportunity to ask about Flipkart’s recent announcement that they are going app-only! Judging by the tone of the bloggers, they didn’t seem to be be too happy about that move. Neither am I, but this was not the venue to discuss that. That said, there were some silly suggestions amidst some good ones. The Flipkart team assured us they are constantly working on adding improvements to the image search functionality.
After the Q&A session, we hit the bar to get some drinks and munch on the starters they were serving
During the break, the Indiblogger guys introduced two authors who contributed to ’10 Love Stories,’ the first book published under Indiblogger’s Get Published initiative
We then all re-grouped for a team activity. As usual, we were all divided into large teams and then asked to play game.
After we formed into large teams, two members from each team had to use the Flipkart mobile app’s image search to take photos of clothes, shoes and accessories of bloggers all around and get as many matching products in Flipkart. It was a challenge, but my team managed around 22-24 matches (it was validated by Flipkart staff). But we lost to other teams that managed over 30.
After the team activity, we all got to eating lunch
The buffet menu wasn’t vast, but at this point, I was okay with a light lunch. Garlic bread with mash potato, roast chicken and pasta. For dessert, it was brownie and ice cream.
The staff at Hard Rock Cafe then came together to perform their signature “YMCA” dance
And that was it. By 3pm, the bloggers slowly started to disperse. We said our goodbyes, and after I wished the team behind the image search functionality “all the best,” I left too. This was another successful, fun and engaging Indiblogger meet, so thanks to Flipkart and Hard Rock Cafe Bangalore for hosting it!
Passed through a few local neighbourhoods before hitting the highway
We were now on the Muscat–Sur coastal road, also known as the Quriyat-Sur highway
It was awesome cruising along the coast line, but it was hard to capture the feeling when you are travelling at 100+ kms/hr.
We stopped on the side for a bit, just to take in the sea breeze
Some seaside town along the way
It rained a bit along the way
We got off the main highway to get to Fins beach
But we didn’t have any time to visit the actual beach
Erm… so here are photos of waves crashing into rocks
Don’t know how far these rocks went
But it seemed like this for miles
Sadly, there was a lot of trash out here
We left Fins beach and drove through a few smaller roads to get to our next — and final — destination
We had a 30-minute stop at Hawiyat Najm park. What’s the big attraction here?
Hawiyat Najm is a natural sinkhole, now turned into a tourist attraction
It’s pretty big
We walked over and decided to go down
The water looked so tempting but alas…no time
They were having a ball
I wanted to see if the water was flowing out anywhere or into a cave
But it doesn’t
Here’s a brief video I took on my phone:
We went back up as it was time to leave.
One final shot
And that was it, the official end of our Oman tour!
It’s funny, on the day we arrived, I wasn’t very excited seeing Muscat city. It all felt similar, but compared to Manama and Dubai, Muscat felt a bit dull in comparison. It got better on the second day, when we went dolphin watching, and a visit to Sultan Qaboos mosque just before leaving Muscat. But where Oman’s beauty really shines is once you get out of Muscat. The wadis, the desert sands, the remote villages, Jebel Shams — they really do make you go “Wow!”. Oman is far from boring, but you need to get out of Muscat to realize that.
What really stood out for me from this tour was realizing just how nice and laid back Omanis were. Growing up in Bahrain, I’ve seen my share of Arabs who will do their best to leave a poor impression about them (especially the Saudis that frequented Bahrain). But Omanis are not like the rest. Much calmer, less shout-y, they seem to smile a lot more and far less materialistic compared to their Emirati and Saudi neighbours. Omanis are probably the friendliest Arabs I have ever encountered!
I guess some appreciation must be given to the rulers too. After all, they decided against turning Muscat into Dubai or Doha of the past decade. The rat race is far less visible here. No skyscrapers allowed in Muscat apparently, because the sultan didn’t want to cover the mountains, which he felt was Oman’s true beauty. And he is right! Unlike the other Gulf states, Oman’s natural beauty is what makes it so special!
Anyway, once back in Muscat, we still had a few hours left until we had to all leave for the airport. Majjid dropped us off at the Haffa House Hotel before ending his day. Poor guy hadn’t slept the previous night.
We took one final group selfie before bidding Majjid goodbye
It was disappointing I couldn’t spend the night in this bed… because it was really comfortable!
This is Haffa House hotel
Myself, Aseem and Manjulika stepped out to do some last minute shopping
Although I did manage to pick some sweets and nuts from the small shops we went to, I wanted to go to Lulu mall to buy many other items I had in my list. So I took a taxi and to the nearby Lulu supermarket.
With a carton fulls of Chips Oman and other stuff, I returned to the hotel and re-packed my bags. After bath, I went downstairs to have dinner.
I made the most of my last meal in Oman and took in as much of the local flavours as I could
Finished off with some not-so-local desserts :)
Once we were all ready to check out, we headed for Muscat airport
The present airport is nothing fancy. It’s quite old actually, but they are building a newer and much bigger one.
Even the duty free shops seemed limited compared to other airports. But I’m sure the new airport will solve all that.
What’s a Gulf airport duty free without a luxury car raffle, right? :)
I’d love to return to Oman when the new airport opens. Aside from that, there was much more I didn’t get to see. Salalah was on my wish-list but given how far it is, there was no way we were driving there. The waters of Musandam still remain untouched for me. Then there’s turtle watching, but that’s a seasonal event. I’m sure there’s much more to see and do in Oman. You can find all the details on the Oman Tourism website.
For now, I was just happy that I got to be one of the lucky few to be selected for this tour. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and as always, I hope my readers enjoyed it too!
When I was in Japan, I knew there were certain things I had to buy from Tokyo before leaving. Gundam model kits — or ‘Gunpla‘ (Gundam+plastic) as they are also called — were definitely on my list. Considering Gunpla kits are mostly ‘imported’ elsewhere and thus have a high mark-up, buying the kits from Japan makes it fairly ‘cheap’. This was going to be the first time I was attempting to make a Gundam model figure, so I stuck to the basics for now and bought HG (High Grade) sets. (More on HG, RG, MG, and PG below). And so I came back to India with three Gunpla sets in tow. One for myself and two others for my brothers.
This was my Gunpla set: the RX 78-2 Gundam HG model kit. It cost 751 yen (Rs. 385/$6/€5)
Inside the box are an instructional manual, the runners and stickers (if supplied). Next to that is a hobby knife I picked up from a 100 yen shop.
The runners are the sets which contain the various pieces that need to be cut out and pieced together to make various parts of the Gundam robot. The runners are also coded by alphabets.
So from left o right, that’s A (yellow-red-blue), B (white), C (grey) and the small runner named PE.
There’s no use showing you a close-up of the instruction manual…because it’s all in Japanese. But not to worry.
The instructions for assembling the individual pieces are easy enough to understand and use the ABCs and numbers.
I watched this video that explained what these symbols meant and I just wrote them down.
The hobby knife I was going to use was nothing fancy. Although I did see ones from Tamiya, they were kind of expensive, so I thought I’ve give these from Daiso a shot. After all, they were just 100 yen (Rs. 50). It looked sharp enough to me anyway.
Although I had laid everything out on my dining table, I was going to do all the cutting out of pieces on top of this hard cover brochure (and notebook underneath).
So let’s begin, shall we? The first piece I had to assemble was the thigh part of the Gundam’s leg. The first piece I cut was B29.
So take runner B, find the piece numbered 29.
There are two ways to cut. Some suggest cutting right in the middle of the connector and then slicing off the stubs. I on the hand decided to just cut close to the edge itself, but do it very carefully. By the way, I just placed the runner against the dark surface of my wooden table only for taking the above photo. I didn’t actually cut it on my table.
The PE runner comprises of parts that act as flexible joints. The material used is slightly more softer and when cutting them, it feels like you are cutting rubber. You don’t get the snap sound you usually get from the other plastic pieces.
Once you cut the respective pieces, it’s just a matter of piecing them together asp er the instruction diagrams. No glue required.
And voila! The first piece
And so you keep cutting and snapping the pieces together to form different parts of the robot’s body. If it appears to be a bit hard to cut to from one side, flip it over and cut it from behind.
Ta-da! I was really getting into it now :-)
An hour or so later (took a break in between too), it was all coming together
The final product!
Strike a pose! This Gunpla model comes with a bunch of weapons
Don’t be surprised if you are left with a few pieces on the runners. Mine came with an extra pair of hands and some joints.
It may not be clear but the book cover was stabbed quite a bit by the hobby knife
It took nearly 2 hours but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It’s been a long time since I assembled something like this. I used to play around with a lot of crafts when I was a school kid but such hobbies gave way to electronic entertainment (video games) and music as I grew older. So it felt good to create something with my own hands — even though the HG series of Gunpla kits are the “entry level” models.
Here is a photo I took the following morning. Placed it next to the PlayStation Dualshock 4 controller to give you a perspective on its size. The HG series are mostly 1/144 scale.
Buying Gunpla model kits are now a certainty for me, if and when I return to Japan. There are some deals to be found online but shipping costs to India make it a deal breaker for me.
I might move up the kit ladder and pick up an MG (Master Grade, 1/100 scale) or RG (Real Grade, 1/144 scale but better detail) next (size difference between 1/100 and 1/144 scale). Just for a little bit more challenge. For example, the RX-78-2 Gundam model that I bought has an RG variant that looks more detailed and is of better quality — but more than double the price. Then you have HG 1/60 which is High Grade but bigger in size and then ultimate — PG (Perfect Grade) — which looks amazing! There are some other special sizes too, baby size models from the SD (Seed Destiny) range, mega size specials and the really basic First Grade. There’s so much to choose from, but if you are just starting out, begin with the HG range.
Mind you, you can do a lot more to your Gunpla models after you have assembled it. You can paint them, buy accessories, and attach new parts to make your models look better and different. It’s amazing!
In fact, I realized why I saw so many paints and other art accessories sold right beside the model kits. It’s because if you get really good, you can customize or polish up your Gundam models to give it a finish or look like nothing else! Check out the works of some experienced Gunpla modellers at this sub-Reddit.
I’ll be beginning to write my Japan travel posts soon, and the first post will be about my visit to the amazing Yodobashi Camera store in Akihabara! :)
One thing I wouldn’t recommend is using a nail filer to smoothen the stubs once you have cut them. I found that it leaves scratch marks and the finish came off rough. Some suggest sanding paper or sticks.
It may seem intimidating at first but assembling the Gunpla pieces gets easy later. Anyway, I know I’ll get better at assembling Gunpla sets. I just hope this blog posts helps other first time assemblers. If it did, want to leave me tips or if I got something wrong, leave me a comment below!