Sunday, August 18, 2019

The KIA Seltos - the drive, tech and pricing reveal

Introduction


As you would have already read in my previous post I had given you an overview of the Seltos, the latest and first creation of KIA for the Indian market. What is noteworthy of the car is its multitude of variants, the tech within the car and other cool features.


 As there were many people waiting for the drive yesterday, it was difficult for me to get the drive yesterday so I was asked to come in the morning at 930am today which I promptly did though it was a tad bit cold and rainy in Bengaluru. Took me 10 minutes to drive there 10 minutes to test drive and 10 minutes back there. Neat eh ?

So what are we waiting for? Let us look at how the drive felt like.....

Drive (1.5 Diesel Manual)


I got the GT line Diesel Manual (115bhp, 250Nm) version. It was a keyless startstopentry model so settling was comfortable. The powered driver seat was comfortable to change positions until an optimal driving position was available. It takes a while getting used to but along with this and a tilt and telescopic steering - in a few seconds I was comfortable enough.

Camera(s)



Switching the car on needs a clutch press and its better to ensure car is in neutral and hand brake on before trying something like that. The last thing you want is for the car to lunge forward by mistake. Once the engine was on, I could access the cameras which showed me all sides of the car (360 degree view) which is well implemented in my opinion. There is also a side lane camera which gets activated by putting on the turn indicator (which by the way is on the most intuitive side as opposed to american cars).

The camera tech is awesome and it would be a boon while taking the car out of cramped parking slots. However on normal driving only the lane camera is more of use on regular basis.

Engine


The engine itself is extremely silent both on the inside and outside and once you are in the car with windows closed, you would barely heat the engine. It is astonishing as to how silent this engine is if you compare it to say the 1.3 MJD in Ciaz. No gruff noise, no fuss, nothing. Just purrs.

Heads up display



KIA offers you a heads up display which indicates speed and navigation details just beyond the steering. The display kind of merges with the road when you drive and its least intrusive. I felt the colours and fonts used in the display were brilliant and is helpful to the driver. However it can perhaps show many more things like mirroring a google map in actuals, or gear information, etc. Just the speed and road names as you drive is not so useful for a seasoned driver.

Sun roof and ventilated seats



The showroom guy did open the sun roof and it is like any other car. The usual sun roof nothing much to say actually. What I felt more good was about the ventilated seats in the GT version. Imagine having parked your car in a scorching place and your seats are hot, the ventilation option blows cool air on your bottoms keeping them calm. This would prevent a lot of sweat on long runs and is generally a good to have feature.

Drive


I took a route that did not have patchy roads save for a few broken areas. It was mostly a well tarred section of the outer ring road. It is easy to slot the gear into any level you need to. Except for the second gear where a bit of acceleration was needed, in other gears the car just pulled fine. Engine is smooth at all speeds and you can barely hear it.

The car also feels confident to handle and is particularly also safe inside. You can quickly accelerate to get away from the mad rush or just amble along in any gear smoothly. The car has both the behaviours. Passiveness or aggressiveness.

Annoying bits - reverse gear button, and clutch



If anything decides the drivability of the manual versions, it’s always the combination of gear, clutch, engine power and torque. And here while the gear and power are fine, the torque is not so forthcoming and car needs to be accelerated a bit. This is surprising since the torque on offer is 250Nm and even with turbo lag any diesel car will show some intention to move forward from low speeds.

Coming to the clutch - only one word - annoying. It is rubbery and has pushback each time you press it. This is not great for relaxed driving as it makes you lift your left leg often from its intended position. Maybe over use it will become subdued but it is a huge deal breaker for me. It can mean life and death on choked roads of Bangalore. I felt that the clutch was jumpy even in the Tata Harrier and with a 2.0 engine you can imagine how much inconsistency it will generate on the roads.

KIA, I really feel you need to work on the clutch to make it more reasonable.

The reverse gear slot switch is another annoyance. Maybe I am biased. But let me tell you my story. I was driving a Ciaz until July and an automatic BRV from then on until now. In the automatic, there is a button below the gear knob to move from P to N to S to D to R modes. Now in the KIA they have given the same button to move to R mode. The disturbing part about this is it can be easily activated by a button press. Very easily. So if you are in forward gears and by mistake you press this and slot to R instead of 1, imagine the disaster on the roads.



KIA please please make a change and put a ring like in the FIAT Palio, or Linea. Lifting a ring to put the car in Reverse mode cannot be done by mistake and it will save drivers a lot of hassle. Please look at implementing this in a different way.

I am hoping the automatic version would be a lot better to drive with the diesel and since they did not have it yet for the test drive, I cannot say for sure yet. I am hoping to drive it sometime in the near future.

A word on possible pricing

According to rushlane the prices were leaked at a dealer event for training people on the car. And I am reproducing it here with the link to the original article as well in case you want to read it. If you look at the pricing it starts at 10 lacs for the base petrol and goes upto 17 lac for the top end GT variants in diesel, turbo and automatic. Extremely aggressive as it can kill everything in the way of this price bracket.


(source: rushlane.com)

So now that you know everything about the KIA more or less, what version would you book, let me know in the comments section of this post.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The KIA Seltos - change is in the air

The KIA Seltos - change is in the air

Introduction

By now every youtube channel has screamed hoarse on their experience with the KIA Seltos the first SUV introduced by KIA in India. This is the first car rolling out of the KIA factory in Andhra Pradesh and a many of firsts for KIA as a brand in India.

They are entering the country when the market is heated up and the automobile manufacturers are suffering to sell cars. At a time when customer sentiment for buying is very weak. At a time when each car model looks obsolete within months. They have had many things going against them during the time of entry itself. Like the fact they had to even conform to changing emission requirements of the Bharat Stage 6. 

The MG hector made quite a splash and according to some data available, they are having a waiting period of over 6 months and have temporarily stopped bookings owing to good request numbers. This is a good news for any auto manufacturer to have during this downturn. KIA has brought in the Seltos to compete against the many contenders in this segment including the good old XUVScorpio, MG Hector, Tata Harrier, Jeep Compass, Renault Duster/Captur and more. 

While the Tata Harrier is struggling to sell without an automatic version, the Jeep has sold enough and its novelty is wearing off. These two vehicles are big and capable but are seen as off-roaders. Creta remains the undisputed champion of sales owing to it being a worthy contender to Duster and the likes of SUVs and it being introduced much earlier to the KIA. However even the refresh of Creta is not being enough to generate buzz in the market  and Creta’s price and the fact its novelty is wearing off would pose a threat to its sales in the long run. The areas like service are those where companies like Tata, Hyundai, Mahindra and Maruti will do well owing to its many service centres and availability of quick response times and parts for the vehicles sold so far.

So the industry badly needed some fresh new vehicles, with pleasing looks, reasonably powerful engines, customisability, range of features as opposed to just segment first ones, needless to say leverage on the good service network if available, conformance to new emission norms to avoid bringing in a vehicle that was dead on arrival and an overall sense of belonging to the customer who would put down his or her money on the car. Enter KIA with the Seltos.

Though the advertisement campaign about being badass and having a meerkat was a lousy start by KIA, thankfully the vehicle itself has much going for it which you will read about down below.  This goes to show that when the product speaks for itself, there is no need to add a gimmicky marketing campaign for it.

Look and feel

Like we always think and talk about, the looks for any vehicle is subjective and whether or not its good lies in the eyes of the beholder. That said being overly boxy like the Lodgy, or the Evalia if you remember such a vehicle existed in the market would be an obvious target for bad mouthing. Customers expect a stance that is at least near to being an SUV (height, macho looks, bulging wheel arches, claddings to show pedigree, roof rails, and curved and straight line elements that form a fusion to make the vehicle look good overall). The good part is the Seltos achieves this with reasonable ease and it will not be wrong to say that the design really catches the eye.

Exteriors




It is impossible to fault this vehicle for what it offers and it is pleasing to see it from any angle. The closest anyone else gets in terms of looks to this which is drool worthy is Fiat with the designs. For example the Linea looks relevant even today. It is all about freshness of design. The KIA delivers very well in that department. The minute attention to details is what makes this vehicle exemplary and no matter which version you choose there is something great in each. 




The bonnet is high, the doors are heavy and there is an overall aura of the Seltos being a stable car. Yes, reassuring door thud included. The grill, the headlamps be it LED or halogen, the fog lamps each lend to its overall front looks which is extremely pleasing to the eye. You need to see it in flesh to understand what I mean and photos will do only that much justice!



Tyres/Wheels


As for the alloys, I would have personally preferred the BRV style design, or at least something rather than the boring 5 spoke ones. When the company is so good with designing almost everything perfectly even one miss matters. But having said that the alloys and tyres are robust and that is what eventually matters on the road.



The lower version gets 205/65 16 inchers while the higher version gets 17” wheels.

Rear & Boot




The rear is simple yet elegant and is almost EcoSportish with bigger tail lamps though. The chrome strip running in between adds extra flair to the car. To keep it simple about the boot space, it can swallow a lot of items and be rest assured it can cater to all your workload needs. If you know the Duster boot well, its similar here.

Interiors


The interiors for a vehicle really determine whether the sales continue or not these days and a bland interior just would not work with customers anymore. The Duster through its many years of existence was never going to have great interiors because elsewhere in the world it is an off-roader and not that cushy SUV for city travel. It requires ground up design to think and execute great interiors and this is exactly where KIA scores very high marks.

Steering



The steering is circular in lower versions and D-Shaped (like Toyota Etios) on higher versions. The 10.2 inch display and stereo system blows everything else out of the water. It is like working on a fixed iPad in the car. The 7” colour display cluster behind your steering itself is a leap in tech and it shows a lot of things like door status, fuel info, and many other as well.

Storage and gears/pedals



The storage bins in the car are large, especially the one below driver handrest, you can hide 4-5 mobiles or 5 wallets in there. The handrest itself is well laid out - everything looks and feels like a 20 lac car. That said, the steering on the higher version is leather wrapped and so is the gear knob. 

The clutch was hard to operate when engine was not on, but I am yet to figure the reality in a test drive effort later on

Infotainment system




They look so plush and the 10.2 inch system complements that very well and does not stick out like a sore thumb as in the EcoSport for example. 

There are also the 8 speaker Bose system which is a first in this segment. The side buttons for windows and doors are a bit clumsy and feel like low grade plastic. The whole dashboard layout, the system and its buttons and the buttons on the steering - everything exude luxury in the higher variants.



The navigation system is so huge and so well implemented it gives a multitude of information on the screen. It is so good to see as such and will be a delight to use as well.

Seats



I love vehicles that give me white seats with perforation. They just look grand and gives you a feel of buying a very luxurious car. KIA has done exactly that with their higher versions and no one will be complaining. This seating alone is enough for people to lap the car up.



The lower version gets dull finish fabric seats which are not too bad either frankly. While the front seats are bolstered and feel very safe, the rear seats are best for two people, the middle passenger if included will have to sit a bit uncomfortably and if he is like me at 5’10” it will not be easy for longer drives. At best someone short or a kid can fit in there well. This is the only gripe or nitpicking I can do about the Seltos so far.

Variants



KIA has provided so many engine options and variant options with different sets of features which will make it an exciting buy for anyone looking for something that fits their budget.

Engine options


There are basically three engine options 

  1. 1.5 petrol churning 115 bhp, 114Nm torque
  2. 1.4 turbo charged petrol churning 140 bhp and a whopping 242 Nm torque
  3. And a 1.5 Diesel engine churning 115 bhp and 250 Nm torque.

Transmission options


You must note that each of these engines further are mated either to a manual or automatic transmissions and under auto there is the dual clutch DCT and the torque converter models as well.

Colour options


The Seltos comes in Clear white and Glacier white, Silver, Grey and Black,  and Red, Blue and Orange. This with and without dual tone options as well. And metallic and non metallic as well. 

Variants with respect to features




There are 3 variants in tech line the E, K and X and two in the GT line, the K and X for now. There are also the normal and the plus versions with few features extra in each version. I will include a link to the feature list PDF here in this post later, but what you need to observe is the sheer level of combinations of features, engines that Kia is offering which allows them to play in a wide range of price brackets to cater to all audiences.

If you are on low budget the HTE is for you, if you are on high budget the HTX is for you. The plus is really if you want the additionals or not.

HT Base version

The base version still comes with 2 airbags, ABS and EBD, front and rear disc brakes,  projector head lamps and rear AC vents. It loses out on the auto climate control, and other higher end features such as infotainment system which is advanced. It comes with basic system with 4 speakers still and will satisfy average car buyer without having the need to invest more.

HT Mid Version

The HTK comes additionally with rheostat, 8 inch system, with rear cam, 6 speakers with the system among other things such as external mirror electric adjust etc.  The plus version to the mid version includes 16” alloys, LED DRLs, push button start, cruise control, sunshade, rear wiper, washer etc. Besides it also has folding side view mirrors

HT High end version

The high end version is where all the meat is. 17” alloys, LED all lamps (front, fog, drl, rear) , 10.2 inch system with navigation, air purifier integrated with arm rest, antiglare rear view mirror, leatherette seats and auto AC among other things. The plus version to this gives you sunroof, ventilated front seats, power driver seat, Bose 8 speaker system, and a wireless charger among other things. 

GT Line


Coming to the GT line, there are two versions currently with the space open for a lower GTE version maybe in future. 

For the GTK version - you get everything that is in the HTX
For the GTX version you get curtain airbags, ESP, hill hold, vehicle stability, brake assist, multi drive modes and multi traction modes, and a 8 inch heads up display right above your steering which all exude sportiness quotient even more. Clearly the GTX is targeted for high end buyers.

In addition the GTX plus version gives you blind view monitor in 7 inch cluster display and a 360 degree camera.

Conclusion

With so many variants and features offered, in addtion to a pleasing look, confidence inspiring and safety oriented design, an eye for detail on the interiors, a separate sport line with turbo engines and matching interior features and tech KIA has sought to play to everyone’s attention and needs.

Without compromising basic safety, but with variants all over the Range other manufacturers will now be forced to offer more, or cut costs either way prompting them to accept defeat.  What then matters now for KIA is only how good their service network can be and how much attention they pay to the customer woes.

Price


A final word on pricing. Official pricing will be out on August 22nd, but rumour has it that the ex showroom costs could vary between 10 and 17 lacs which when included with other costs would put it between 12.5 to 19.5 lacs in Bengaluru as the on road cost. This is sure to rattle every other manufacturer. But for KIA motors, Hyundai’s plan B will bring it the much needed boost in India. 

I am yet to take test drive of this vehicle if time permits tomorrow so I will update that in a separate post. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Logitech K480 keyboard review

Intro


I happened to get a good deal on the Logitech bluetooth keyboard K480 on Amazon. It was retailing about 35+ % lesser than MRP since it was existing since some time. At this price I felt it was a value for money possession.


The fact that I may need something to keep my iphone on and type made this more useful. In fact this post is typed using this keyboard with my iPhone on the dock and it is just so super useful as compared to the on screen virtual phone keypad.


https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1SrqlV7NnTz7zeNYIY5-n3mjw5MGIyWIl


Features offered


The keyboard offers functionality to connect to three devices which we can activate the keyboard for with a turn wheel. It supports iOS, Mac OS and Android/Windows and Chrome OS combinations.


There is a power switch to the bottom of the keyboard and once powered on, it will connect to the device to which the turn wheel is setup for use with. Since this is a keyboard that supports different types of OS, the buttons too reflect the same. 


https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1YiHKSI0Kub4eENIiYxoBgLat5CLwxud0


There are buttons for start menu, for command (Mac OS), Alt and Option keys. Other keys include function keys, media playback keys, volume keys. 


Keys and how they feel


There is a good amount of tactile feedback from the keys on this keyboard though this is not a mac keyboard as such so just dont expect such levels of ease of use with this one. I could type fairly fast with this keyboard but I did encounter some key misses which is not the expectation. 


The keyboard runs on a couple of AAA batteries and I have not done much research on how long it will last beyond standby times. Only time will tell. 


Conclusion


If you are in need for a good bluetooth keyboard on the lower side of Rs.2000/- look no further than the Logitech K480. Though it is a tad bit heavy and bulky, it suits the purpose well, and the bonus is it comes with a phone or iPad dock as well.


Hit up the link to buy it from Amazon now. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Batu Caves visit (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Introduction


After the KL tower visit, our next stop was to go to Batu Caves during the early part of the day. We decided to take a texsi to Batu Caves, and on the way back I was in the mood for experimenting the train part. I was sick since the last evening and was not quite in the mood to use railway on the way to the temple. The texsi (taxi) costed us about 50RM for four people so that was somewhat less expensive.

For the uninitiated Batu Caves is also known as the 10 caves or Hill for Lord Muruga as there are six important holy shrines in India and four more in Malaysia. The three others in Malaysia are Kallumalai Temple in Ipoh, Tanneermalai Temple in Penang and Sannasimalai Temple in Malacca. For more the information regarding the caves, read here.

The limestone rock forming the cave is some 400 million years old according to facts available and that in itself is a reason you must go there if you are living in this era. Although Chinese and Americans recorded the history of the existence of the caves, it was an Indian who installed the statue of Lord Muruga during 1890’s bringing about the meaning of a temple cave for this attraction.

Details


The cave itself is about 100m tall, and has about 272 steps. This is relatively less but what makes it a challenge is how steep the steps are to reach the top. They are rather precarious and it takes a considerable amount of effort to reach the top where the temple is located.



The monkeys along the way although do not disturb people too much unless provoked but they do snatch any eatables that you would have with you if you are not careful. What makes it a bit dangerous is since the steps are at a steep angle you need to be careful not to get disturbed and keep going up until you reach the top. 



There are three things to see at Batu Caves - the temple cave which houses the main temple, the Dark Cave which has other underground cave portions plus some species such as spiders and fruit bats and would require that you book the exploration trip in advance, and the Art Gallery where you can find Hinduism related artefacts.

There is a huge Murugan statue at the entrance of the cave which took 3 years to build at 2.5 million ringgit. It is made of steel bars, concrete and gold paint which give it the undeniable aura of splendour. For more you can read here.



Fees, and things to see


As for the temple cave entry it is free for all, though there are some dressing restrictions (you will need to cover your body, specifically waist downwards with proper attire). For the dark caves which I did not visit the entry is 8 USD for adults and 6 USD for kids. 

There are nice paintings within the temple cave which depict scenes from the Ramayana.  It will take a good half or more to climb based on your physical fitness, another half hour of checking out the temple and other higher cave areas around the top, getting a view of KL town from the top, and about 15-20 minutes to come down. It is advisable you carry a water bottle for yourself as for adults, no extra food maybe needed. 






There are shops selling souvenirs up the top but these mementoes are expensive. I did check out other shops within KL for the same things, but did not manage to find something good. If you want the mementoes my advise is to buy it at the temple although it costs a bit more. You will not regret it later. That is of course your personal preference.




There are a lot of pigeons around the place and you can feed them for 5RM worth of purchased bird feed from people selling it there. 



Travel


Finally we decided to walk a bit out of the temple towards the Batu Caves KTM Komuter rail station. This is not a high frequency train and one will need to wait for the train for a while, sometimes even up to half hour. The Touch and go card which is available all over Malaysia will work for this train and you need to travel from Batu upto KL Sentral to reach city centre again.  Since we were staying at the Vortex Suites, this suited us best. The train itself was comfortable but not as fast as MRT trains. It was very neat and many people regularly use the KTM Komuter service as it connects city centre to suburbs. 



There are also at least two or more Indian restaurants just near the temple, so be prepared to shell out about 100 RM for a family of four for some decent food. Cost may go up a bit if you order more. But for Indians the good news is these are vegetarian restaurants, and one of them serves Jain food as well. 


The Batu Caves temple is a must visit for people who to go KL as it is easily accessible from city centre and takes just half a day to complete. Moreover it is free to visit the main temple and a unique experience to watch the statue and the colourful steps to reach the top. For the brave hearted, the Dark Cave offers much more adventure if you are going on a guided tour of those. The weather would be generally hot, with occasional spells of rain as is the case in most Malaysian regions, specifically within KL. The air is dry so you may want to keep some nasal saline drops handy to unblock your nose if you feel uncomfortable.

Monday, June 17, 2019

A visit to the KL tower, Malaysia

An evening at the KL Tower, Malaysia




We were tired after a long journey from the airport to the city and after taking sufficient rest in our serviced apartment which I had written about earlier (you can read it here), we decided to quickly make a dash to the KL tower. This was pretty nearby to the Vortex suites and though it is walkable there is a bit of elevation as you approach the tower and it is not entirely possiblet to climb so much unless you are fit.



Taxi is a better way to reach the top and it should not cost you too much. There are two floors to the tower one being the observation deck only and the other having a restaurant and an open air observation deck from where you can see the city much more freely for photography purposes. The observation deck is fully housed in glass and hence provides for very less photography opportunity in a clarity sense.



The tickets are sold on either individual or combo basis. The observation deck for 2 adults and 2 kids must set you back about 150-170RM (1RM = 17Rs) whereas if you opt for other packages you will end up paying more but get to see other things such as aquarium, upside down house, and mini zoo. There is a normal queue and a priority queue for those who booked using booking sites such as booking.com. We thankfully had a priority queue entry though the number of people in normal queue were not many when we went it. However this number had swelled by the time we finished seeing the tower.




We spent a good hour going around and clicking photos of KL’s landmarks including the Petronas towers which is visible from one of the sides and I somehow found taking a photo of the twin towers from KL tower better than the other way round. It was just a choice between the two keeping costs in mind and I chose the KL tower this time.



Besides the KL tower observation deck, there is information and souveniers available everywhere around and you can buy them if you wish. The latest trick of having your photo taken and processed for you will earn those guys a few ringgits and make you poorer by that much as well. These are not photos that you yourself cannot take or process but remember everyone may not have access to good phones or cameras and for some, the moment captured in a pic is just what they need in return for some cash.
Written with StackEdit.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Review of the Idaris Vortex Suites and why it must be your goto place in KL

Introduction

With so many tourists flooding all the places, lots of accommodations have come up lately in all cities and people are spoilt for choices. You fire up any travel website and you will suddenly be flooded with thousands of options for staying in a place ranging from as low as 20$ upto all the way to 400 or 500$ even.

For me it was the same case when I decided to stay in KL. Initially considering my first stop was Batu Caves in KL, I decided to use my favourite app, to book the East Kiara Dex suites (apartments) since it was very near to Batu Caves. Something told me later that it would be difficult to shift when you have luggage from one place to another. So I decided to book The Vortex suites instead. You won’t believe what I got.

Apartments vs Hotels - what to choose?

It is always a confusion on whether to choose hotels or apartments ever since Airbnb type of apps came up on the markets and allowed people to book peoples homes for stays. What is more important to note are the pros and cons of booking apartments versus hotels. To make things simple I will list them here for you

Hotels: Pros

  • Breakfast is covered in some hotels
  • Scenic views of surroundings
  • better room service (both on housekeeping and food)

Hotels: Cons

  • Room sizes is limited
  • Only one toilet usually
  • Rentals maybe high

Apartments: Pros

  • multiple rooms, feels like home
  • kitchen for self cooking
  • Better furnished and larger spaces
  • Gaming consoles are there in some apartments

Apartments: Cons

  • You have to prepare your own food or carry food from outside
  • no feeling of being pampered
  • sometimes could be in residential localities with access issues, and far from attractions

So its actually more of what you prefer as each has its own pros and cons as listed above. For us since i had never booked an apartment in the past, I decided to book the Vortex to see how it was for our journey.

Vortex apartments, near KLCC

enter image description here

We booked the Vortex which is a 25+ floors of apartment complex right in the heart of KL city. The apartment is walkable from KL tower, Petronas twin towers, and also many attractions nearby not to forget to mention hotels, clubs, and other small places within town. The speciality of this complex is that it is circular in shape with a dizzying stance if you look at it from below. The whole building seems to be glass facaded and has some fantastic views of the city from whichever location you look at it.

Booking and check-in procedures

I booked this hotel on booking.com from India, and was not charged the full amount until about a week before the actual check-in. The instructions in the booking mail were clear and I had to go to floor 6 for finishing the formalities. True to what was quoted, I went to the floor mentioned and the people managing the apartment were pretty welcoming for me.

Usually when I go to other countries I have to do some initial communication with the reception to make them understand what I need, but here the whole stay was understood and planned for me since they do this day in and day out. I spent less than 10 minutes at the reception to finish my checkin. Please bear in mind that there is a tourist tax and they ask you to deposit 200 ringgit (about 50 usd) for security purposes. This is refundable and will be returned to you later on. However, it is to be paid in cash only and you need to have withdrawn it well in advance.

Other constraints to reach the room

Since this is a high rise with over 25 floors, there are 6 lifts to reach the floors and you need to take one of the three lifts on the side of the apartment you are reaching to. Each set of three lifts service half the area of the overall circular building. These are high speed lifts and what you need to know is that these operate when you swipe the room card on the panel. It will automatically know which floor to stop at and will stop only in those floors for which people are present inside the lift.

Going up is easy, but coming down can mean stopping at every floor where there are people. I did find people smoking in the corridors and throwing cigarette butts here and there though advised not to, so this is something you need to get used to. Having said that you also need to remember that most people staying here are tourists who have come to KL to visit its attractions and hence they will all leave in the morning hours for this purpose. The hours between 9-11 are very crowded and hence the lifts are so full that you will have trouble moving yourself with your luggage - hence its advisable to be early or go later than those hours.

The apartment

In our apartment the furnishing was top notch. It had a dining table, a nice big sofa with a view to the outside of the city buildings, and two bedrooms with cots and mattresses again of high quality. Wardrobes, desks, bathroom fittings and bathroom facilities are all top notch as well. The apartment also had a kitchen with cutlery as well as a washer and dryer. The washer and dryer is perhaps the single most useful appliance for long journeys if you know what I mean. Overall the apartment was really high quality but did not have any balconies.

The air conditioner can sometimes make you feel a bit stuffy inside and the window opening was rather too high. I am not sure about the fire safety worthiness of such apartments and have my own doubts about it. I am yet to see a hotel with large dustbins instead of those silly small ones which serve no purposes.

There were enough towels provided during our stay and these were also refreshed by the time we were back from tourist visits. The housekeeping was seamless.

Other facilities

enter image description here

The apartment has a swimming pool which you can use daily once for a stipulated amount of time. However since it was on a higher floor it was small and not really a professional one. The apartment also has a small shop which is stocked well with things you need to buy for cooking or eating for quick eats.

There is also a 7-11 shop which is rather congested at the ground level, and a paid car park which is NOT touch-and-go card compatible at the moment.

Since this is in a highly commercial area, there are also banks nearby so withdrawing cash should not be an issue. This apartment is very near to KL tower, Suria KLCC (Petronas towers) and many other attractions nearby including restaurants and pubs.

Check out

enter image description here

One word : Smooth!

Your deposit money is returned to you, you return the cards to the room, and you are done. Period. Fastest one I have seen!

Written with StackEdit.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Veg Biriyani Recipe

Ingredients

  • One Potato - dices into small cube sized pieces and soak in water
  • Beans - about 10 of them chopped into medium pieces, soak in water
  • Carrot - about 2 of them chopped into medium pieces, and soak in water
  • Onions - big ones, 2 of them sliced thin and long
  • Green peas - a handful
  • Mint and Coriander leaves - one medium sized bowl
  • Ghee - 2 to 3 teaspoons
  • Curd - 4 tea spoons
  • Groundnut oil - 4 to 6 teaspoons for the onions to caramelize (same can be later used for vegetables to be cooked), 4 teaspoons for the spices to be cooked along with rice
  • Basmati rice - One cup upto brim (standard cup measure)
  • Multi spices pack - 2 packs (contains cloves, elaichi, cinnamon, star anise)
  • Bay leaves - 3-4 for vegetables, 2-3 for rice
  • Shahi jeera - for vegetables (2-3 teaspoons)
  • Turmeric powder, chilli powder, garam masala, biriyani masala, salt, cumin powder
  • Ginger garlic paste - 2-3 teaspoons
  • Methi leaves - half a handful
  • Chillies to taste (I used one long chilli, you can desire to add 2) - diced into medium pieces

Preparation

You need 2-3 vessels. Of these one is a small one for caramelizing onions. The other two are fairly bigger and preferably made of cast iron as it to withstand cooking heat.

Caramelizing onions

Of the diced onions, take 1/3 of that and fry it in the oil, until they start turning golden brown. You need to keep stirring and turning them around and the moment you see them moving towards reddish brown colour, take them out and let them dry and cool off on a tissue so that all oil is removed. Keep these caramelized onions for later.

Rice Prep - Parallel step 1

You need to do these steps in parallel with the next one which is veggie saute, but you can start this one so rice keeps cooking when we do the veggies. For this we begin doing as below

  • one cup basmati rice filled to brim is to be washed in water and all the dust to be removed
  • Put 3-4 teaspoons of oil in a vessel and add spices to the oil once its warm
  • Add 1/2 handful shahi jeera, 3-4 cloves, 2-3 bay leaves, 2 cinnamon bark pieces, 3-4 elaichi and nicely fry in oil
  • Once you smell the aroma and its sufficiently fried, add the washed rice into the vessel and 2.5 cups of water (using the same cup as the rice was measured in) to the vessel
  • Add one spoon of salt and keep the flame low to cook the rice, vessel can be kept open as this will give time for you to do step 2 below

Veggie saute - Parallel step 2

  • Take 4-6 teaspoons of oil in a vessel and heat it. Add 4-6 elaichi, 3-4 cloves, 3 bay leaves, half a handful shahi jeera, and 2-3 cinnamon bark pieces to the hot oil. You can feel the aroma as you gently turn them around in the oil. Always keep the heat at medium or low. Never on the high side as it can burn the vessel and the food inside leaving it utterly distasteful.

  • Add the chillies and stir

  • Add the shahi jeera and stir

  • Add 2/3rds of the uncaramelized onions and continue stirring.

  • Add 1.5 spoons of salt, 1/2 spoon turmeric, 1/2 spoon red chilli powder, 1 spoon cumin powder, 1 spoon biriyani masala, 1/2 spoon garam masala

  • Potatoes naturally have water content in them which is needed while stirring when oil content goes low, so add these first along with the ingredients already added so far. Stir these potatoes nicely into the spicy mixture until the absorb all the spices well. At this stage the potatoes will begin to let out the water they have so we need to continue with others

  • Add the carrots next, and add 1/2 spoon salt more and stir

  • Next is Beans and green peas - add these and continue stirring

  • Add 1/2 spoon turmeric, 2 spoons garlic ginger paste, 1/2 spoon of garam masala, 1/2 spoon biryani masala, 1/2 spoon red chilli powder, 1/2 spoon cumin powder and saute the vegetables well.

Tip: If you find vessel is losing water and oil content and going dry, take some water into your palm and sprinkle it into vessel. Max only 2 times in one go, and continue stirring. You can do this sprinkling water two times, again a total of only two times. Only to ensure that vessel is never dry.

Bonus tip : never keep stove in high it will burn the vessel and burn your food. The last thing you need is this.
You need to keep the vessel oiled and moist at all times until the veggies consume all the spices.

Bringing everything together

  • Once the veggies are prepared, switch off the flame, it will remain warm (dont close the veggies)
  • At this stage the carrots and potatoes will feel undercooked. To check spice content, eat a cooked carrot piece and if you feel ok, then nothing more to add. It is ok for it to be little salty and if you need more spice add chilli powder and saute it with a spoon of oil and half a handful of water until the spices merge to the preparation

Getting the Biryani together

  • Take a fresh cast iron vessel, into this pour all the veggies prepared and form a bed of veggies
  • Next put the semi cooked rice and form a bed of rice on the veggies
  • Add 3 teaspoon of melted ghee to the top all around
  • On this rice, put coriander and mint leaves all over and add caramelized onions as well
  • Next put more rice on top of that and again form a bed of rice
  • Add more mint and coriander leaves and the rest of the onions on top
  • You can add ghevar water and saffron to this on top if you want it, I did not use both
  • Add 2-3 teaspoon ghee again on top
  • Now put this whole thing on low flame, close the top of the vessel and let the mixture cook for 5 minutes (not more than this because everything is already cooked and just needs to finish)
  • After 5 mins, sprinkle half a handful of water into the container at top, close the vessel again for 5 minutes
  • Turn off the stove and wait another 5-10 minutes as the remaining heat will let the veggies cook fully underneath as well as allow rice to be fully cooked state (you can break the rice with your fingers to see if its cooked)

Serving suggestion

Take a tablespoon and go from top all the way until the end of the vessel to pick rice, veggies everything in one go, and serve onto the plate for eating. Biryani can be served with curd raitha to make it tasty for your guests.

This set of measures are such that the Biryani made would be suitable for two to four people.
Enjoy your meal and let me know if you got the taste right in the comments !

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