Aug 15

Indiblogger meet in Bengaluru hosted by Flipkart’s Image Search

Date: 1 August, 2015

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.

Hard Rock cafe Bangalore

The venue was Hard Rock Cafe, on St. Marks road

Inside Hard Rock Cafe Bangalore

As usual, it was a packed house with many familiar faces/bloggers

Indiblogger band Flipkart meet

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! :-)

Flipkart Indiblogger meet Bangalore

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.

Yellow polo tshirt Flipkart image search

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.

Striped tshirt Flipkart image search

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.

Hard Rock Cafe bar Bangalore

After the Q&A session, we hit the bar to get some drinks and munch on the starters they were  serving

Indiblogger meet Bangalore

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

Group activity Indiblogger meet

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.

Lunch Hard Rock Cafe Indiblogger event

After the team activity, we all got to eating lunch

Pasta mashed potato chicken Hard Rock Cafe

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.

YMCA dance Hard Rock Cafe Bangalore

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!

Now about Flipkart going app-only….

Just kidding! 😉

Jul 15

Oman 2014: Day 5 (Part 2) – Fins beach, Sinkhole Park — and saying goodbye

Date: 29th October, 2014

After having lunch from Sur, we were now driving back to Muscat.

Beach road Sur

The skies were still grey

Flooded road traffic Oman

The earlier rains had flooded the roads

Omani house

Passed through a few local neighbourhoods before hitting the highway

Quriyat-Sur highway Oman

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.

Oman Arabian sea highway

We stopped on the side for a bit, just to take in the sea breeze

Quriyat highway town Oman

Some seaside town along the way

Quriyat Sur highway drive Oman

It rained a bit along the way

Muscat Sur coastal highway Oman

We got off the main highway to get to Fins beach

Fins beach tourists Oman

But we didn’t have any time to visit the actual beach

Fins beach rock Oman

Erm… so here are photos of waves crashing into rocks

Fins beach rock waves panorama

Don’t know how far these rocks went

Fins beach rocks Oman sea

But it seemed like this for miles

Plastic garbage Fins beach Oman

Sadly, there was a lot of trash out here

Flooded village Oman

We left Fins beach and drove through a few smaller roads to get to our next — and final — destination

Hawiyat Najm park Oman

We had a 30-minute stop at Hawiyat Najm park. What’s the big attraction here?

Sink hole park stairs Oman


Hawiyat Najm crater park information Oman

Hawiyat Najm is a natural sinkhole, now turned into a tourist attraction

Hawiyat Najm crater panorama Oman

It’s pretty big

Sinkhole lagoon panorama Oman

We walked over and decided to go down

Hawiyat Najm sink hole Oman

The water looked so tempting but alas…no time

Hawiyat Najm crater height Oman

Tourists jumping sinkhole lagoon Oman

They were having a ball

Hawiyat Najm down lagoon Oman

I wanted to see if the water was flowing out anywhere or into a cave

Hawiyat Najm edge panorama Oman

But it doesn’t

Here’s a brief video I took on my phone:

We went back up as it was time to leave.

Sinkhole park crater lagoon Oman

One final shot

Muscat highway Oman

And that was it, the official end of our Oman tour!

Muscat highway mountains Oman

Goodbye mountains!

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.

Mithun Aseem Manjulika with Majjid in Muscat

We took one final group selfie before bidding Majjid goodbye

Haffa hotel bed room Muscat Oman

It was disappointing I couldn’t spend the night in this bed… because it was really comfortable!

Haffa house hotel Muscat Oman

This is Haffa House hotel

Muscat at night Oman

Myself, Aseem and Manjulika stepped out to do some last minute shopping

Muscat City streets at night

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.

Omani food Haffa hotel Muscat

I made the most of my last meal in Oman and took in as much of the local flavours as I could

Desserts Haffa hotel restaurant Muscat

Finished off with some not-so-local desserts :)

Muscat airport at night

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.

Amouage Muscat duty free shops

Even the duty free shops seemed limited compared to other airports. But I’m sure the new airport will solve all that.

Mercedes SL350 Muscat Duty Free

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!

Previous posts in this series:

Oman 2014: Day 5 (Part 1) – Wadi bin Khalid; Dhow factory in Sur

Oman 2014: Day 4 – Jebel al Akhdar; dune bashing and overnight camp in Wahiba Sands

Oman 2014: Day 3 (Part 3) – Misfah and Jebel Shams

Oman 2014: Day 3 (Part 2) – Nizwa Fort and Jabreen Castle

Oman 2014: Day 3 (Part 1) – Sultan Qaboos mosque (Muscat’s Grand Mosque)

Oman 2014: Day 2 (Part 2) – Muscat bay viewpoints, Qurum beach, The Cave restaurant

Oman 2014: Day 2 (Part 1) – Dolphin watching tour in Muscat

Oman 2014: Day 1 – Landing in Muscat; Al Alam Palace, Mutrah souq and more

Jul 15

Building my first Gunpla: RX-78-2 Gundam HG model kit

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.

RX 78-2 Gundam Gunpla kit box

This was my Gunpla set: the RX 78-2 Gundam HG model kit. It cost 751 yen (Rs. 385/$6/€5)

RX78-2 Gundam Gunpla unboxed parts

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.

RX 78-2 Gundam Gunpla runners

So from left o right, that’s A (yellow-red-blue), B (white), C (grey) and the small runner named PE.

RX 78-2 Gundam Gunpla instruction manual

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.

Gunpla instruction manual symbols

I watched this video that explained what these symbols meant and I just wrote them down.

Daiso precision knife closeup

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.

Hard surface books

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.

Cutting Gunpla piece runner

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.

PE runner joint parts Gunpla

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.

Joining parts making Gunpla kit

Once you cut the respective pieces, it’s just a matter of piecing them together asp er the instruction diagrams. No glue required.

Assembled part Gundam model kit

And voila! The first piece

Cutting parts off runner Gunpla

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.

Gundam legs Gunpla model kit

Ta-da! I was really getting into it now :-)

Gunpla assembled parts Gundam model

An hour or so later (took a break in between too), it was all coming together

Mobile suit Gundam Jet model figure

The final product!

Gundam model kit from back

Strike a pose! This Gunpla model comes with a bunch of weapons

Used runners Gunpla assembly

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.

Cuts in the book

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.

Gundam gunpla model Dualshock 4

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.

RX 78-2 Gundam model sizes

The many sizes (Source)

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.

Gundam model kits Yodobashi Akiba

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! :)

Nail filer Gunpla smoothening

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! :)

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