Posts Tagged With: journey

Singapore. Finally.

When I landed at Singapore Changi airport yesterday, I don’t know why I couldn’t stop smiling. I wasn’t just delighted. I felt gleeful. Victorious. Like I had achieved yet another feat. And totally at ease. At home. Totally in a familiar surrounding. Because for a wanderer, the world outside his home is his real home.

An uneventful but a good flight later we hired a taxi driven by a smart looking Chinese man. He surprised us by greeting us with a ‘Namaste. Aap kaise ho. Main accha hu. Maine khana kha liya. Aaj ka Mausam accha hai’. To our surprised faces and big smiles, he responded to our answer on his question about our state – Oh Gujarat??! MK Gandhi’s state. Famous for sweets and textiles! His knowledge about Singapore and India baffled me so much that I almost suspected him. What else was his mind capable of? He even went to the extent of asking Mum if she had an arranged marriage and wishes the same for her daughters! I couldn’t help but ask him if he was fond of reading about different countries ( a politer way of asking ‘how come so much interest in India?’) To which he replied – Oh, only the major ones. After all, China and India are the biggest upcoming markets.

He let out information overload on eatery and shopping suggestions on the way to the hotel. The 15 minutes journey costed us Sgd 19. We reached a Hindu temple, took the left turn and were at Ibis. The courteous staff unloaded our heavy suitcases and took them into the plush hotel which isn’t new to me. While waiting for the check in, I looked at the the deep red and orange sofas and purple lights going all the way to the restaurant and bar and wondered what the food would be like there. A staff with ‘I’m learning’ yellow badge helped me patiently with the check in and wifi (free wifi!!) details.

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The moment had arrived. I was in a new city. In another part of the world. I could see new views from the window. I couldn’t wait to get my new SLR out. Tall buildings almost touching the clouds can be seen from my hotel room window. A small portion of Esplanade stadium can also be seen. The taxi driver had told us that Arab street and Little India were just round the corner from our hotel (which was located at Bencoolen street).

The location of our hotel is brilliant. Bugis MRT and mall, which happens to be a reasonable sized mall, is just 7 minutes away. There is also the street shopping lanes and 2 other malls, OG and Illumini, in the area. So, there is no opportunity of getting bored here.

I am glad to have rested for the rest of yesterday. Because as expected and dreaded, we had to walk a lot today. Malls to and fro MRT, within the huge malls, Bugis Junction – you can’t avoid walking around in this tiny little country.

We began our day with roaming around the still closed Bugis Junction and I was glad to see names like Mphosis, Bossini, Espirit, Giordino, Nandos, Diva and Iora here. I can spend hours shopping there! On this early Saturday morning, the roads had been empty; so were the malls. This made the loitering around even more pleasurable.

I have really been excited about breakfast because I remembered the soft boiled eggs-coffee-toast-banana bread combo I had a couple of years back at Tea Loft (Ion Mall, Orchard). The toasted buttery banana bread was lovely, so was the coffee that had an orangish tinge and a delicious flavour. So this morning, we had breakfast at Toast Box. Apart from Toastbox, only McD and Mos Burgers were open and were already bustling with early risers.

Breakfast at Toastbox was like a dream breakfast for me. The small place with an open ‘kitchen’ area is full by 10 am even on weekends. 4 staff members multitask and manage to toast thin and thick bread slices, butter them, juggle between billing orders and making coffee, boiling eggs and preparing iced tea. We ordered for coffee, hot milo, thick toast – plain buttered and sugar, soft boiled eggs and banana cake. If you do not specify ‘hard boiled eggs’, you will be given soft eggs – that is eggs 40% boiled. Of course, I love them. You will be served eggs in 2 small shallow bowls, and one of them is meant for mixing egg with soya sauce (yes, soya sauce). I gobbled everything down while my sister and mother caught up on each other’s lives. The other favourite breakfast dishes seemed to be toast with minced crab floss, eggs noodles and chicken sausages.

Petite Singaporean girls can make bathroom slippers look hot and walk with rapid speed in high wedges. While the ‘poor’ portion of Singapore is visible, the majority other portion is hep and trendy. Think of any latest fashion trend and it is here. Perfect eye make up and innovative hair styles and hair cuts, if Singapore was to declare a national attire, it would be shorts. Girls of all ages wear shorts of all styles and lengths, team it with tank tops, shirts or frills and look smart.

Its probably is a mistake going to Orchard street on weekends, unless you love crowd, because more than half of Singapore would be here. Orchard street is the poshest area of Singapore with big names like Dior, D&G, Louise Vuitton occupying huge showrooms on the main street. The most popular mall here is Ion Mall. It has 4 floors – food court on the lowest floor and 3 other floors of restaurants, fashion stores & electronics stores. The mall is huge and it is not easy moving around here. Singapore is not very cheap for us Indians. And though I looked longingly at Mango, Charles & Keith, Forever 21, Zara, New Look and H&M store displays, there is hardly anything I can buy from there, unless I have spare money to splurge, and in the end I gave up even entering the stores. One store Mum and Sis enjoyed and spent a lot of time in was Daiso, the 2 SGD Japanese store. Everything from stationery to gardening tools to car cleaning tools to kitchen products were available here for 2 SGD each. We got some interesting things like milk frother, ice packs and pens. Tourists and localities flocked into its narrow passages filling up their shopping baskets. When we reached the food court, it was packed with hungry shoppers. If you look at the assortment of food available here, you can’t choose just one joint. Desserts – chocolate to milkshakes to cut fruits to flavoured ice to bubble tea to gelato, Cuisine – Thai to Malay to Japanese to Indian, fast food to posh restaurants, breakfast to cake shops – what is not here? I decided you have to come here multiple times to get a taste of all that your heart demands / desires. Though it was difficult to stand the odour of most Asian cuisines, the duck preparation smelt yummy (what many friends had said turned out to be true) and this remains an unfulfilled desire for which I need to come back to Singapore.

One interesting thing about Singapore is that though it is quite crowded, there is seldom a dense mass. A popular hangout like Clarke Quay was quite sparsely crowded (though I am told that morning work hours are so busy and crowded that you can expect a stampede anytime). Even though people had lined up the river bank to enjoy the cool pleasant weather, there was still space for more people to come and sit. Everyone, including us, sat facing the river watching tourist cruise boats go by (where tourists frantically clicked pictures and were entertained by music played by yet another doll-like Singaporean girl. Strange I don’t call myself a tourist) and the occasional bungee sport on the opposite bank. I looked up at the river-facing TCC joint on the second floor of The Central with longing. What a wonderful feeling it would be to have coffee sitting by the glass window there!

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We could hear music and beats coming from a thickly populated area on the other end and immediately knew that that was where all the action was. We walked past the several restaurants – Japanese, Indian, Australian, wine shops, ice cream shops and reached the main food area. Our destination there was Muchos, a Spanish restaurant. It was between Ras (an Indian restaurant) and Hooters (a Singaporean food joint that has assigned a tiny white and orange shorts and tee set to its waitresses to attract people. I’ve read that the girls often dance in front of the restaurant to attract visitors). The competition seemed tough here. Each joint employs some method – music, girls, boards, posters – to attract visitors. One huge middle Eastern food joint was playing loud Arabic music to make a girl in shiny blue Arabic costume do belly dancing. Further deep, were more discs and pubs and music, it was Saturday night, of course.

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Of course, we were one of those few boring ones who moved out towards our hotel while more people were flocking in. A crazy aged cab driver took us to our hotel. It had been a long day and I felt disheartened for spending a little more than optimal on clothes and accessories today (a pendant-chain from forever 21 for SGD 7, Glares from H&M for 15 SGD, 2 tops from H&M for SGD 18 each) and for not having used my new SLR.

Tomorrow we visit Esplanade area. Have to be geared for yet another beautiful day in Singapore.

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Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inching Forward

As I sit at Ahmedabad airport waiting for my flight boarding to begin, I only mildly remember of the chaos that happened yesterday; it seems so far away, when actually it’s just a 10hrs old story. What’s a trip without an adventure, anyway?

Well, calling it an adventure would be a cruel insult to the whole act. To speak the truth, I’m thankful we’re alive right now.

Even though I realized just on reaching Surat station that I didn’t have a photo ID proof, I stayed cool, snapped my fingers because I had had a brilliant idea. I’d tell my parents to bring my PAN card since my train was to pass their home. Alas. My father was extremely upset about it and mother, disturbed. As it is they aren’t happy about me going alone to Europe and only look for opportunities to highlight how irresponsible I am. Rains and traffic prevented them from reaching the station on time. I was sure we would manage something. I still had my passport copy in my mail.

The train journey ended really slow and late with the train stopping several times before the station. We stood at the door for approx 20 min (counting the diamonds in one guy’s ring – approx 60. Or more). It was raining when we got off. Little did we know that there were worse things were awaiting us.

We got an auto after lot of bargaining. The auto guy, who reminded me of actor Pran, disclosed, when his auto broke down in middle of a heavy traffic road, that the clutch wire of the auto had broken. There we were, stuffed into the auto with 2 heavy suitcases and 2 backpacks at 10 pm and he’s hunting for a garage. He obviously couldn’t find one. So there was only one way. He pushed the auto and when it caught speed, jumped into it and started the engine. That was the only way he could get the auto running – by not letting it stop. And was it possible on the road? No. But he still did it. We got squashed between buses. We went off the road. We almost killed people. He shouted at people on the way. He drove on the opposite side of the road and came bumper to bumper with oncoming traffic. It was as good as travelling in a vehicle without brakes. I don’t remember breathing throughout the way. Nor do I think my heart beat. I do have a fear of driving in the dark. I keep visualizing ditches and boulders and animals and humans coming out of nowhere onto the middle of the road. And this journey only strengthened the fear.

I was willing to do anything to get out of that vehicle. I was so furious with the Pran look alike. He has no right to fool around with people’s lives!! Can’t he be honest and not take passengers for that last bit of earning for the day just because his vehicle is defective?

Tired, exhausted and hungry, we reached our destination and stopped over at McD for food. And there we are faced with another hurdle – my photo ID. The absence of it, rather. E’s dad reacted worse than my Dad did. He got all worried and hyper and angry about my silly act. Since her parents are just other forms of my own, I know what’s in store for me when I meet them.

We call almost everyone we know to know what could be done about the photo ID thing. I saw my whole Calcutta trip plan crashing in front of me but an old but valid Central Railway ID card, which I have kept in my wallet since 2005 for memory, along with my last Bombay local train pass, showed a ray of hope.

And it did. It worked at the airport. I shared this with my parents but I’m sure that still didn’t make them happy. Of course, he had offered his help in terms of coming to Ahmedabad to pick me up in case I’m not allowed on the plane.

Hopeful and excited again, despite the rains and early hours, we got ready on time and leave for the airport. All through the way, E showed me landmarks and views outside. Ahmedabad looked lovely even in the rains at 6:30 in morning and I liked the city already.

The airport wait has been quite uneventful except the great chutney served with khandvi (we are gujjus at heart), the exorbitant rates at Subway and the Japanese (E’s colleagues) we met at the airport.

I am delighted to get a window seat in the airplane and that too not above the wing. Yippie! I love looking out of the plane window and my face is normally in the window as I am looking out. So I do exactly that.

E has slept (she wanted to avoiud talking to the man sitting next to her in the aisle seat. He looks like a terrorist, accordingly to her, and was asking her too many questions, which she lied to. I overheard him telling E that he wanted his daughter to become a plumber), I have skimmed through the book I am carrying. The outside sphere is very bright and the window cant be kept open. So, I stare at airhostesses and look around in general.

Finally, we are about to reach Calcutta. Calcutta! Finally! After waiting for, like, 3 months.

Categories: Calcutta, India, Travel | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Journeys

After all the planning that goes behind a trip, the moment the journey starts, it’s the most exhilarating feeling. For me, it’s the feeling I get when I get into the train. Train journeys have a charm of their own. Not too long but short duration journeys of 4-5 hours can give a lot to ponder on. My recent journey to Bombay was equally delightful.

F O O D

Food vendors bring tea, coffee, biscuits, chocolates, idli-chutney, sandwiches, cutlets, bhel and the ever green vada paav and make even a full stomach want more. The whiff of the delicious food enters the coach before the nasal, sing-along tone of the vendors does. On my latest journey, I intentionally did not get food from home, even though the cook offered to pack food, because my eyes were already gleaming with the though of the hawkers’ food! The moment my train started, I waited impatiently for any hawker to come by. Idli? Cutlet? Sandwich? Which hawker would come first? The bhel seller passed. I didn’t stop him. I didn’t like dry bhel much. At all, rather. But who could resist the rousing aromas of onion, lemon and chat masala! I ordered one finally (overpriced at Rs. 20) and didn’t regret it at all!

DSC00682The bhel I couldn’t resist

P E O P L E

Interesting, weird, irritating, funny and sometimes nice people you find during journeys. Rarely have I made a friend during any of my train journeys. Most people have just been interesting characters. People who occupy too much space (this happens with me frequently because I am thin and people think I don’t need space); people who talk loudly on phone; people who play songs loudly on their mobile phone assuming other passengers like their choice of songs; people who throw rubbish around. During my recent journey to Bombay, the girl sitting opposite me took up the entire leg space between both the berths and refused to realize. A chattering and nagging wife of a harassed looking husband didn’t stop talking. The whole family of 4 had a picnic and ate made homemade bhajiyas. 2 small girls sand Gujarati jingles for couple of girls. One of the girls fell down from the top berth and wailed. Their mother searched frantically for a lost gold earring. There were no interesting characters during my return journey and the journey felt quite bland!

B O O K S

A perfect time to devote yourself to a book. Our daily lives don’t give us time and energy to read books. it takes efforts and most of us don’t do that. A journey is the best time to read. I had been delaying completion of Jeffrey Archer’s Only Time Will Tell. I had been reading it slowly and that too during the short travel journey on my weekend home visits. I managed to finish off this book during the 3-4 hours I spent in the train to Bombay. Not only did the book become more interesting with each page, I am back to the good old habit of reading.

DSC00522My bag and my book.

M U S I C

Happy, cheerful and soulful songs enrich a journey. There are numerous songs that have made my journey better at different phases of life. Some of the favourites today are Suddenly I see by K Tunhall, Emotion in Motion by Ric Ocasek, Hey Ya from Kartik Calling Kartik and the latest, Bhaag D K Bose from the movie Delhi Belly.

S C E N E S

Villages. Fields. Bridges. Rivers. Lakes. Hills. Towns. Old houses. Ruins. Abandoned factories. I especially like the fields and villages. I look, as far as my eyes can see, at the roads vanishing into faraway villages. Little towns with little houses, built close to each other, people sitting at the doorsteps chatting and children playing outside, not with toys and balls, but with each other. I often find myself imagining how it would be like staying in those houses or being in those small towns. What do the people do in their free time? What do they do for entertainment? Do they have electricity all the time? Do they have water problems?

T H O U G H T S

I can spend hours thinking. That is some feeling of being isolated even when you are surrounded by people. New things, new people and new situations trigger the chain of thoughts and may even give ideas! Who knows what brings out the creative best in you – during travel and when it is most unexpected!

Preparing for a trip can be quite a task but once the journey starts it’s for you to enjoy. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, after all. So true. I am already excited about my August Calcutta trip, which is going to involve air, rail and bus journeys. I can’t wait!

Categories: India, Travel | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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