Oct 14

Visit to Amrutha Dairy Farm, a learning experience

I have gone to my friend Santhosh Singh’s farm before, but quite a lot has changed since our visit. First, Santhosh gave it name — Amrutha Dairy Farm. But later decided to not put up signs anywhere. Why? We’ll get to that later.

Amrutha Dairy Farm is located in Haalenahalli, Madhure Hobli, Doddaballapura.

I mean, here’s a map of its location.

Beyond that, all I can say is: good luck finding it on your first try!

Sunrays through clouds-bangalore

The weather seemed nice for this visit

It is a bit of a challenge to find the farm, but if you follow the direction path highlighted on Google Maps, you can get there with relative ease if you use your phone as a GPS device.

Farmhouse Bangalore Karnataka

We parked inside the farm. This is the farmhouse Santhosh and his brothers built.

The dairy farm was set up nearly 4 years ago. The initial plan was to setup a milk processing center, but when Santhosh realized the heavy investment that was required, he realized it would be better just starting off with just producing milk for the time being, and slowly ramp up.

Cows shed dairy farm Bangalore

Santhosh *only* has around 30 cows

Santosh is parallely working on a heifer rearing project (heifer is a young cow before she has had her first calf). This is to contain the operational costs on the business, such as drought in the area for consecutive years. So yeah, like many Indians, even these guys suffer from water and electricity problems. They also have a hydroponics system which can produce very nutritious green fodder (up to 1ton per day) and this was built completely from scratch by them after taking technical help from some guys in Europe and New Zealand.

Growing hydroponics greenhouse

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. They have such a facility in the farm.

Cow shed dairy farm Bangalore

They feed the cows a hybrid napier grass grown at the farm and maize procured from nearby farms along with prescribed nutrients

Cows feeding dairy farm Bangalore

This might look like a lot of cows but only 6 cows are ready to produce milk

Cow staring dairy farm Karnataka


Farm land Hallenahalli Karnataka

The farm has some extra land which Santhosh and his brothers are contemplating how to best make use of.

When word spread about Amrutha Dairy Farms, a Netherlands-based group came to India and approached Santhosh to join hands with the farm to set up a milk processing plant to produce products like khova, paneer and cheese.

Hay farm shed cow feed Bangalore

This is the shed where they store grains and hay to feed the cows

Peacock on roof

This wild peacock drops by the farm every now and then let’s everybody know of its majestic presence :-)

Farm land granite wall poles

The farm property extends further down…

Farm land agriculture Karnataka

… and they grow vegetables here

Peacock on roof rooster farm

They have all sorts of birds here

Guinea fowl farm bird

A Guinea fowl. They even used to have a turkey.

Santhosh and his family aren’t vegetarians but they don’t eat any bird they raise either. The animals are simple residents of the farm and give Santosh and his brothers company.

Labrador dogs farmhouse

This is an older photo. Santhosh still has three dogs to help him manage the farm’s many residents.

Nowadays though, Santhosh and his brothers are busy tending to visitors — some welcome, and some not. Due to the close proximity of farm from Bangalore city, many dairy enthusiasts or curious bypassers used to frequent the farm. Sometimes the number of visitors went up to around 15-20 groups a week. Santhosh and his brothers started losing productive time and this gave them the idea to introduce commercial dairy workshops. This way, they could help people in understanding the challenges of dairy farming and supplement their income by charging participants a nominal fee. This helped in filtering out people who would visit just to see the place like a weekend getaway. Santhosh and his brother are now firm, and turn away all strangers who just enter the farm and ask questions. That’s why they decided not to put up any signs with the name of the farm.

While his brothers manage the farm and handle the milk side of things, Santhosh leads the effort in helping people setup their dairy project by providing consulting. They have trained over 150 individuals from all over the country, about a 100 bank officers and over 1000 college and school Students at the farm. When we were there, it wasn’t uncommon to hear many seniors calling Santhosh and looking to get into farming — dairy or otherwise — as a post-retirement job.

Santosh explaining school children milk production

Here is Santhosh educating school students about dairy farming

Santosh Singh with school children

Santhosh and his brothers have become quite popular in the area and villagers often invite him felicitate special occasions. This was on Independence Day when Santhosh and his friends pooled in money to give books and stationary to children in the village.

Me and my friends are proud to know Santhosh. We don’t know of many of people who gave up their cushy, air-conditioned office jobs to get their hand dirty and face adversities India’s farmers constantly face. Water supply, erratic power supply, poor road connectivity… when you see it first hand, you realize just how hard things can be for farmers in India. Of course, Santhosh and his brothers being well educated, know how to get by and worked on solutions to counter these challenges. It brought a smile to our faces when a neighbouring villager came all the way to Santhosh to get a letter typed because: a) Santhosh knows English b) Santhosh is probably the only man in the village who owns a laptop!

As the sun was setting, my friend and I decided to unpack a tent I had brought. The purpose was to compare my tent to the 2-second tent from Quechua (available at Decathlon). Santhosh had one of the 2-second tents. First, we set up our tent… which was some ‘Made in China’ tent I picked up from Carrefour (supermarket) in Dubai. It was cheap, and thus came with limited instructions. We figured it out, but it took us nearly half-an-hour to set up my tent.

Then my friend opened up the Quechua 2-second tent.

Quechua 2 second tents comparison

My friend Ramesh is posing beside the Quechua 2 second tent. I think the smile on his face will tell you which tent we liked more! It was super convenient!

Anyway, we were planning to spend the evening at Santhosh’s farm. Santhosh and his brothers spend much of the week at the farm, so they try and be as self-sufficient as possible. To that extent, they even made a wood fire oven to bake stuff in :-)

Making pizza cheese

So we made some pizzas that night

Baking pizza wood fire oven

It was hot!

Home made mushroom pizza

But it came out great!

We didn’t stay too late as Santhosh had another group visiting the farm for a workshop the following day. If anybody is interested in the workshop, you may call Santhosh at +98451 90600. It costs Rs. 2500 per adult, and that includes food. The food will be prepared at the farm as per your requirement (veg or non-veg). No group discounts. For schools and colleges, just call Santhosh and he shall let you know about the price.

P.S: DO NOT show up uninvited or without prior information. And please, only genuinely interested parties need call Santhosh and drop by his farm. Just because a few of his friends drop by and make pizzas doesn’t mean you can show up at the farm and expect a party to be thrown in your favour. We ourselves only visit Santhosh once or twice a year.

Oct 14

Philippines 2014: Japanese tunnel; leaving Davao for Manila

Date: May 7, 2014

Today was my last day in Davao. I checked out early from Green Windows Dormitel because instead of heading straight to the airport, I instead decided to carry all my bags, take a taxi and visit the Japanese World War II tunnel in Davao.

The tunnel is now situated inside a resort that goes by the name of D’Japanese Tunnel Family Resort. Like every attraction in Davao, it’s a bit of a drive away from the city.

Davao island highway Philippines

As the taxi kept on riding for around half an hour, I wondered if I would be late for my flight as the Japanese Tunnel is not in the same direction as the airport.

Once I reached D’Japanese Tunnel Family Resort, the entrance to the tunnel was pretty much visible from the gate. It’s basically a resort built around the tunnel. I went to the resort’s eception desk and bought the entry ticket for the Japanese tunnel. It costs ₱50 for adults, ₱20 for children.

D' Japanese tunnel entrance Davao

This is the entrance, the reception was to the right.

Entering Japanese war tunnel Davao

There is a guide that comes along with you

Japanese tunnel Davao Philippines

This tunnel was built in 1942, during World War II, when the Japanese had captured Davao and used the island in its fight to capture the remaining Pacific islands.

Japanese world war tunnel Davao

It’s 300 metres long

Jail cell Japanese tunnel Davao

The tunnel was used by Japanese soldiers during the war as an underground base. This is a mini-shrine, a prayer area of sorts

Soldier statues Japanese tunnel Davao Philippines

And this is how a Japanese soldier used to look like in those days

Prison cell Japanese tunnel Davao

A mini-prison cell. This is where they would sometimes keep prisoners of war. Yeah, it wasn’t meant to be comfortable.

Japanese World War 2 tunnel Davao Philippines

We proceeded further, and it got cooler

Displays Japanese tunnel Davao Philippines

We reached the end

Bullet shells Japanese tunnel Davao

You can see used bullets and old casings from the WWII era in this cell… if that sort of stuff intrigues you

Soldier figurine Japanese tunnel map display

This figurine is of a commander looking at a map. Of course, this has now turned into ‘toss a coin for good luck’ tourist sham.

Japanese tunnel lights Davao

And that was it. We walked back.

Inside Japanese tunnel Davao Philippines

On the way back, I took some photos using flash

Japanese tunnel depicting WW2 Davao

D'japanese tunnel Davao Philippines

Japanese tunnel exit Davao

This is some groundwater collection point

Cat inside Japanese tunnel Davao

This cat seems to have have made the tunnel its shelter :)

I was in and out in less than half an hour. I took longer to get here! Oh well, I insisted on coming to the Japanese Tunnel so that I can say, ‘I saw this too’ at Davao.

Road to Davao airport Philippines

Anyway, off to Davao airport now!

The taxi fare came to ₱369 (Rs. 500/$7/€6), but I didn’t really mind. I had another attraction to write about for my readers ^_^. And I wasn’t late to the airport or anything. I checked my baggage on time and had some time to have my lunch before the flight too.

Fried fish rice meal Davao airport

Unfortunately this fried fish rice meal was a complete waste of ₱170. The fish was bleh, and clearly reheated in a microwave on multiple occasions.

I guess this meal would be the final disappointment from Davao. Sure I tried scuba-diving and sky-cycling, but the last three days spent here, to be honest, was just okay compared to the rest of Philippines I have explored. Not that Mindanao doesn’t have amazing sights to see. I’d love to have seen Asik-Asik Falls (Alamada, North Cotabato) and then Enchanted River in Surigao Del Sur, but both those places were really, really far and I would have had to stay at a nearby town as it would have been impossible to make it back to Davao City by same day evening.

Cebu Pacific take off from Davao

The flight back to Manila didn’t depart on time, which by now I’ve gotten used to.

Leaving Davao flight to Manila

By now, I was no longer blaming Cebu Pacific but instead the congestion at Manila airport — or both.

Upon landing in Manila, I headed to Pink Manila Hostel in Malate, which is where I would be staying for the rest of my days in Manila.

Cubao X restaurants Manila

I met my friend Gale for dinner who said she would take me to Cubao X, famous for its many chic eateries

Gale Bellini's Cubao Manila

We dined at an Italian restaurant called Bellini’s

Pizza Bellini's Italian restaurant Cubao

The seafood pizza was great, and great value at ₱300!

Orange cake slice Bellini's Manila

This orange cake slice we had for dessert was sinful!

May 9th, 2014

Didn’t do much yesterday day other than catch Amazing Spider Man 2 at Trinoma — which sucked! (The movie, not the mall).

By the way, here are some photos of Pink Manila Hostel I took during the day.

Pink Manila hostel lounge Philippines

The hostel takes up the top two floors of a building. This is the TV lounge area.

Pink Manila hostel pool Philippines

They have a small swimming pool too

Pink Manila hostel reception Philippines

This is the reception, and yes, those are the elevator doors at the back

Pink Manila hostel neighborhood Philippines

The rooms were on the floor above

Pink Manila hostel rooms

Unfortunately the elevator doesn’t come up all the way up here

Dorm bedrooms Pink Manila hostel

These are the rooms. Now you know why they call it Pink Manila Hostel -_-

A dorm bed cost me ₱570 per night, which was not bad considering the location. I chose Pink Manila Hostel because I wanted some place close to an MRT/LRT station and it had to be close to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex, which is from where I would have to take a ferry going to Corregidor Island.

Pink Manila hostel building

This is the building Pink Manila Hostel is housed in

Pink Manila Hostel building gymnasium

There’s a pay-and-use gym at ground floor

Manila neighbourhood Vito Cruz homes

I was in a nice little neighborhood in Malate

De La Salle University Manila

The nearest LRT station was Vito Cruz. The major landmark here is De La Salle University.

Stores behind De La Salle University Manila

Plenty of small stores, eateries and convenience outlets here

I had my lunch and bought some drinking water to keep in the room. I stayed indoors for much of the afternoon and worked. I decided to step out in the evening to check out Divisoria Night Market.

Makati skyline buildings Manila

This is the Makati skyline from my building

Pedestrian bridge Divisoria Manila

To get to Divisoria, I had to take the LRT and get down at Doroteo Jose. From there are jeepneys going towards Divisoria.

Divisoria 999 shopping mall manila

Unfortunately, it began to rain

Divisoria night market Manila

Many of the outdoor stalls were covering up their wares

Divisoria night market rain Manila

And many called it a day too

Closed stores 999 mall Manila

It didn’t get any better when I entered 999 Mall. Every store was shutting shop for the night.

Cityplace Square 168 mall Divisoria Manila

I walked to 168 Mall next door

Unfortunately, here too, most shops were closing for the day. But I checked out each floor to see what was where. I went all the way up to the food court and decided to have my dinner a little early.

Bon Chon fish taco fries Manila

I sat down at the Bon Chon outlet there and ordered a fish taco, fries, and some chicken.

Bon Chon fried chicken Manila

Gale later told me Bon Chon is a Korean chain. Honestly, I found their food greasy and very oily. For example, there wasn’t much flavour in the chicken beyond the sauces on the chicken skin. Plus, at ₱345, this is the priciest ‘fast food’ meal I had on this trip.

After dinner, I returned to Pink Manila Hostel. Although I wasn’t able to do much today, I learnt that if you wish to visit Divisoria, best do that well before 7pm. Anyway, I would return to Divisoria the next day and you can check out my next post which is all about bargain shopping in Manila and outlet stores at Paseo de Santa Rosa.

Beer cat Pink Manila hostel

This is a cat that stays at the hostel

Previous post(s) in this series:

Philippines 2014: Scuba diving for the first time, at Samal Island (Davao)

Philippines 2014: Philippine Eagle Center, Davao

Philippines 2014: Attractions at Eden Nature Park… and getting lost

Philippines 2014: Sky Cycle at Eden Nature Park, Davao

Philippines 2014: Leaving Cebu for Davao; Davao City sights

Philippines 2014: Tumalog Falls; Oslob church, Cuartel

Philippines 2014: Oslob – Swimming with whale sharks

Philippines 2014: Trek to Mount Pinatubo crater lake

Philippines 2014: The itinerary this time around; UP Diliman and Maginhawa

My Philippines journeys: 2011 series | 2013 series

Sep 14

Philippines 2014: Scuba diving for the first time, at Samal Island (Davao)

Date: May 6, 2014

The plan for today began with the idea that I would take a ferry to Samal island and hope to go an island tour from there. Trouble is, it wasn’t easy to book tours to the island as the few travel agencies I made contact with at Davao City told me they only do the tours on certain days and that too if they get enough tourists.

So figuring I could try my luck and find some tour agency near Davao port, I took a taxi to get there early enough. When I was dropped off near the port entrance, I saw many dive centers.

Carabao Dive Center Davao Philippines

Carabao Dive Center was a name I came across when researching Davao tours

I inquired about their ‘introductory dive’ scheme which cost ₱850 (₹1100/$19/€14). To my luck, they told me there was a group today and if I pay up, I could join them. I thought about whether to do a Samal island tour — or (finally) experience scuba diving for the first time.

Scuba diving it was!

I paid up, and was asked by the staff to choose a wetsuit and scuba foot fin that fit me.

Davao port sea side

I was a bit nervous, and at the same time excited. Although I have always wanted to try scuba diving, I never planned for it today!

Davao port Philippines

We walked towards our boat

Davao port tour boats Philippines

The boat ride to the dive spot wasn’t very far off

Scuba dive boat tourists Davao

This was my group

Loading up the boat scuba tour Davao

They loaded up the boat

Boys swimming Davao Philippines

And we were finally off!

Continue reading “Philippines 2014: Scuba diving for the first time, at Samal Island (Davao)” »

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