Chinese Fishing Nets Are Worth A Visit, But Some Fishermen Are Con Artists


Chinese Fishing Nets (Fort Kochi, Kerala, India): Well worth a visit. This fishing technique apparently goes back centuries and I assume originated in China, hence the name. You can stroll along the seashore from the ferry terminal headed south/southwest past the numerous street vendors until you see the nets on your right.


It is really quite impressive to watch the fishermen pulling the huge nets out of the water with their bounty, dropping them back in a few minutes later. They only leave them in the water 5-10 minutes before hoisting them using the ropes and the weight of the massive boulders used as a counterweight.


WARNING: Be careful if the fishermen call you over and want to show you how they work first hand. I was approached by a man named Joseph who is apparently a 4th generation fisherman. He seemed nice enough, but wary of the “nice” people that approach you throughout India to separate you from your money, I approached with caution, knowing that he likely had another motive. He showed me how they worked, asked me if I wanted him to take a photo (indication

#1 that he was after my money because I have found that people that offer to take your photo for you are expecting a tip), and then asked me if I wanted to pull the ropes (while telling me how poor the fishermen are at that some tourists offer to pay 500 to 1000 rupees for the “experience”). At that point I said “thank you very much” and offered him 100 rupees ($1.60), which I was planning on offering anyway for his time and attention. But when he started whining about how little 100 rupees is and how poor the fishermen are, I put the money back in my pocket and said “if you want to be greedy Joseph, you get nothing” and walked away. Another man blocked my path insisting on a contribution, but I simply went around him and proceeded down the boardwalk.


LESSON LEARNED: If anybody approaches you in India and offers a “free” service, unsolicited information, a tour, or a flower to make a religious offering … REFUSE … they see Westerners as walking cash registers and only want your money, as much as they can get.


CombatCritic Gives Chinese Fishing Nets (Fort Kochi) 5 Bombs Out Of 10 … Bombs Are Good!

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Key Words: Chinese Fishing Nets, Chinese, fishing, nets, fish, fishermen, con, artist, scam, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Cochin, Kerala, India, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value
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A Tavola Con Te … Authentic Italian in Rishikesh, India


A Tavola Con Te
Badrinath Road, Tapovan Sarai (Laxman Jhula) 
Rishikesh 249192, India

Phone: +91-812-685-9654

Website

Prices: $$$$$


A Tavola con Te was recommended to me by Maria, an acquaintance from Columbia whom I met in Dharamsala. She told me that an Italian couple had just opened a restaurant and guest house in Rishikesh and that they made wood fire oven pizza, so I had to go there on my first evening in town.

The owners are from Milano (Milan) and have recently moved to Rishikesh. The property is up an alley off of the main road, so use TripAdvisor’s directions or GoogleMaps and follow the signs up the alley about 1oo meters and look for the gate with a sign on your left. From there you meander another 50 meters or so past some houses and through a garden to the restaurant and Namaste Guest House.

They have a small terrazzo (terrace) that is nicely done with bamboo roof and decorative cement pillars, overlooking the garden, giving the dining area a rustic feel, and making me feel as if I were in an agriturismo in Italy. There are also a couple of tables on the grass under the stars (or sun), but no indoor option.

They serve pizza from 5:30 PM on, so do not expect it any earlier as the oven is lit around 3PM and takes a couple hours to reach the proper temperature. I ordered the “Buffalo”, a 14 inch pizza with imported Italian (Vesuvio) tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella – a specialty of Campania, Italy), and fresh basil leaves, a favorite of pizza napolitana (from Naples, Italy) lovers, which I am one.

My pizza was very good although a little dry because the tomato sauce was very thinly spread and the heat of the wood oven had dried it out. A little more sauce (or fresh tomatoes) or some olive oil (preferably olio picante) drizzled over the top prior to serving would have been wonderful, but I wolfed down my pie nonetheless as it was very tasty and the best pizza I have had since I was in Italy last. 


My wife, being from Napoli (Naples), would complain about the crust because Neopolitans (napolitani … my wife will kill me when she reads this because she is actually Sicilian and refuses to admit that her family has lived in Naples most of her life) are pizza snobs because pizza was invented there and Naples admittedly has the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD. Pizza crust in Naples is a science and nowhere else on Earth will you find such soft, yet crisp on the bottom crust and fresh, flavorful toppings as you will find in Napoli.

The crust at A Tavola con Te is definitely “Northern Italian”, indicative of pizze (pizzas) in Rome and north and considering the fact that Il Pizzaiuolo (pizza maker) is from Milan, appropriate to the situation. I prefer the crusts in Naples, but who am I to complain because it was very good, not burnt, and crispy but still a tad chewy. Bravissimo!

I returned a few days later for my birthday dinner and everyone wished me well, very thoughtful of them to remember! I started with the pumpkin (zucca) soup, which was creamy, rich, and excellent, but just lukewarm, not hot, and accompanied by four slices of warm bread.

For my entree, I had the vegetarian lasagna (250 rupees/$4.00), a decent size slab that was, again, not very hot and layered with pasta, melanzane (eggplant), bechamel and tomato sauce, and cheese. The eggplant was a bit chewy and the lasagna needed a little more mozzarella, but otherwise it was quite tasty.

Having had the panna cotta after my previous dinner, my birthday dessert had to be the tiramisú (170 rupees/$2.70), layers of savoiardi cookies soaked in espresso, and encased in sweet mascarpone cheese, then sprinkled with cocoa powder … delicioso!


On my next visit I tried the Pizza Vegetariana (260 rupees/$4.10), coming topped with mushrooms, eggplant, onion, bell peppers, spinach, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. Again, the pizza was very good, but a bit dry and with a negligible amount of mozzarella. Being 50 to 100 rupees (80 cents to $1.60) more than the “average” equivalent pizza in many restaurants in India, I would expect a bit more sauce and cheese, even if they are imported and more expensive than the varieties most Indian restaurants use.

FYI – I am much harder on Italian restaurants than I am on others because Italian food is my passion and expectations are exceedingly high, particularly when Italians are in the kitchen. So do not get me wrong by thinking I was unhappy with any of my meals here because I was not and they were the best I have had in my two months in India. A few minor tweaks and this place will be THE BOMB …

1.  They could use some antipasti on the menu (bruschetta, cheese platter, olives/grilled vegetables, insalata caprese, etc) and bread because the pizzas and pastas are not filling enough on their own. 

2. The lights are a bit bright on the terrace at night, so some lower voltage bulbs and candles or lanterns would provide a cozier, more intimate feel.

3. Portions could be just a tad bigger for the price and attention to detail, ensuring that food is appropriately warm and not too dry, will go a long way in satisfying hungry customers.

I really want this restaurant to succeed because the owners are extremely nice and have positive, professional attitudes, the location has great “bones”, the food is very well done, and the prices are reasonably fair. Please visit A Tavola con Te and tell them CombatCritic sent you because I want to come back next time I am in Rishikesh … a presto (see you soon)!


CombatCritic Gives A Tavola con Te 8 Bombs Out Of 10 … More BOMBS Are Better!





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Title: A Tavola Con Te … Authentic Italian in Rishikesh, India

Key Words: Rishikesh, A Tavola con Te, tavola, con, te, Italian, restaurant, ristorante, food, pizza, pasta, Himalaya, Himalayas, Dalai Lama, dalai, lama, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, TripAdvisor

If You Want to Spend Lots of Money, Take Your Car to Das Autohaus!


DAS AUTOHAUS

1045 New Jersey Street
Lawrence, KS 66044

Phone: 785-843-9494

As is usually the case, I should have listened to my gut instinct before trusting Dave, the owner of Das Autohaus and the Scuba Shack, co-located businesses literally around the corner from our home in Lawrence, Kansas.  When I stopped by to inquire about snorkeling gear for an upcoming trip to the Caribbean and discuss hiring him as our new mechanic (having recently moved to the area), the price for a mask, snorkel, and fins that go for less than $50 (with free shipping) on Amazon.com were quoted at $99 … HINT #1 that things to come from Dave would not be cheap!

Being unemployed, we do not have a lot of money and our previous mechanic in Kansas City was always honest, fair, and did excellent work. I knew I could trust him and he never took advantage of us, unlike many mechanics, including, in my opinion, Dave and Das Autohaus.

I took our 2000 Volkswagen Beetle to Dave for a simple check of the battery (which was losing its charge on very cold mornings) this morning, expecting a fair and reasonable estimate.  He told me that it would take about an hour to run some diagnostics. I asked him how much an oil change would be while I was there and he told me, “$60”.  I told him that my last mechanic only charged me $25 (including oil, filter, checking fluids, and inflating tires) and that I thought his price was too high (HINT #2 of a rip-off … I should have walked away right then, but I believe in supporting local small businesses), so I told him not to change the oil.

Three hours later, Dave finally called and told me that the problem was in-fact the battery, which I assumed was the case, and considering the fact that batteries for my vehicle run around $100 (including FREE testing and installation) at any reputable auto parts store, I figured it should run me $160 more or less ($100 for the battery and an plus or minus an hour, to be generous, for labor – diagnostics and installation). I asked him how much it was going to cost and he said, “that comes to a little over $280”.  

I thought maybe I had misheard the price, so I asked him, “did you say $280?”. He confirmed the ridiculous price and I said, “I can buy a battery for $100 with free installation at an auto parts store, so why do you want to charge me $280? How much is the battery?”.  He replied, “$140”, to which I responded, “so you want to charge me $140 in labor to replace a battery I can get installed for free anywhere else?” He told me, “that’s what it costs.  Do you know how long it takes to install a battery?”  I told him that I do in-fact know how long it takes because I installed the VW battery 4 years ago myself, taking only about 15 minutes. His “I could care less” and aggressive tone of voice ticked me off, so I told him I would be right over to collect my car. 

When I arrived, he insulted me further by saying that the car had not been well maintained and, in an attempt to up-sell someone who was not going to fall for his BS in any event, that I needed to replace the timing belt.  I told him that the timing belt had been replaced less than 70,000 miles ago and that the VW had been well maintained, changing the oil every 5,000 miles even though recommendations are to change diesel oil every 10,000 miles and making all RECOMMENDED and NECESSARY repairs (from our honest mechanic).

He then handed me a bill for $75:


As you can see from the invoice, he not only overcharged me for the labor involved with the estimate, HE CHARGED ME $9.99 FOR SUPPLIES?  What supplies could he have possibly used to test my charging system?

Having spent my Air Force career as a transportation officer and responsible for hundreds of auto mechanics (and the Best Transportation Squadron in the United States Air Force), I know how repair costs are calculated, so I asked Dave how much his hourly rate was. He said, “I work by the job, not by the hour”, so I knew he was not on the up-and-up. In comparison, here is a quote from AutoMD.com for the exact repair on my vehicle and as you can see, it is MUCH closer to my estimate than his:



Quote Number # 636221

2000 Volkswagen Beetle GLS 4 Cyl 1.9L

    Parts Selected
    CARQUEST

    Jobs* Warranty Qty/Hrs Cost Total
    Battery Replacement
    Parts CARQUEST Battery (New) 2 yr / 24k mi 1 $136.05 $136.05
    Labor 2 yr / 24k mi 0.60 hrs $80.00 $48.00
    $184.05
    Other Fees
    Shop Supplies $1.84 $1.84
    $1.84
    Quote Summary
    Parts 1 $136.05 $136.05
    Labor 0.6 hrs $48.00 $48.00
    Other Fees 1 $1.84 $1.84
    Total $185.89

    He was trying to charge me over $140 in labor for a job that takes 6/10 of an hour, ATTEMPTING to charge me over $250 an hour for labor when the average is $65 to $70 an hour elsewhere … CAN YOU SAY “RIP-OFF” … SURE YOU CAN!


    I took my car to Walmart (invoice below) a few days later. They tested my charging system FOR FREE, CHARGED ME ONLY $109.97 FOR THE BATTERY, and INSTALLED IT IN ABOUT 20 MINUTES FOR FREE … for a total of only $124 and change! Adding in the $75 Dave charged me for doing practically nothing and the grand total came to $200, SO I STILL PAID $80 LESS THAN DAVE WAS GOING TO CHARGE ME even though I should have paid over $150 less if I had been dealing with an honest person.


    Mechanics are notorious for taking advantage of uneducated customers as we have all seen on shows like 20/20 and 60 Minutes, but there are good, honest people out there as our last mechanic proved over the last five years. I assumed, and you know what happens when you “ASSUME” … YOU MAKE AN “ASS” OF “U” AND “ME”, that Dave would be fair and honest, knowing very well that this was the first time I had been there and possibly trying to “do the right thing” by a new customer. In my opinion, Dave obviously has no idea what the “right thing” is or what “integrity” entails, so if you have more money than you know what to do with and do not care how much a service costs, by all means go to Das Autohaus! I did not realize how good I had it with our last mechanic, but maybe it is worth the 40 minute drive not to find out how many crook mechanics there are in Lawrence, Kansas!

    CombatCritic Gives Das Autohaus 1 Out of 10 Bombs … Bombs Are Good!












    UPDATE: Since this debacle, several people (friends and strangers alike) have come forward with stories of their own about Dave and Das Autohaus. It seems as though he has an unsavory reputation in Lawrence, a reputation I wish I had been aware of prior to trusting him with my car. So I am sharing my story and opinion with you in the hope that I can spare some of my neighbors from a similar experience. Take heed and pass the word along so that others will not be victimized by this unscrupulous business owner.

    Key Words: das, autohaus, mechanic, car, auto, automobile, Volkswagen, VW, battery, repair, cost, con, pro, rude, Lawrence, Kansas, InstitutionalTerrorism, institutional, terrorism

    This review is based solely on my opinion and what I believe to be true based on my direct experience with the service(s) in question. Readers should take these facts into consideration when deciding to utilize a service (or not) and that my opinion may or may not reflect the true nature and/or character of the individuals and/or institutions being reviewed.