Posts Tagged With: travelrage

You’re Beautiful

It is the second day when I stand in front of stern-looking Selina at Toastbox reciting my order of coffee, Milo, eggs, bread and banana cake. Ho’ Milo, But’ar Toast, she repeats after me. And after confirming, says, Can Already La, meaning ‘ok’. It has become our staple breakfast and I look forward to it every day. I do not feel very brave venturing into their Asian dishes or the crab toast; I am quite content with eggs and bread. I just cannot decide, Milo is better or coffee. Yesterday I had Milo which is a popular morning hot drink for office goers and students. Today, I try the coffee with milk. I wonder how much milk is in it because the coffee looks so dark. After the first 2 sips, when you may find it to be bitter, the coffee is yummy and you will not wish for the mug to empty. I am having 2 eggs for breakfast every time. I don’t know why I am perennially hungry here. Good for me that we have listed down many many things to try. So we had 5 small meals yesterday. We started with breakfast, then Ice Kachang at Ion Mall, followed by donuts, Indian lunch at Go India Express, juice at Marche and dinner at Muchos. We get tired walking around, window shopping (since you cannot really shop) and moving around these huge malls. So we need to sit down to talk and rest (Mum and Sis enjoy this the most) and where else can we do this but cafes and food joints?

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Most Singaporeans carry an umbrella around at all times because it can start raining anytime. If it doesn’t, you may need it for the strong heat. One moment there is prickly heat in the morning and just another it is raining. While we were shopping like crazy in the OG sale (right beside out hotel), it was pouring outside. Rains died away soon but clouds threatened to pour at any time the whole day.

Today’s lunch is at Fish & Co. they have a huge menu that has seafood and Veg items in it. The interiors are done up like a fisherman’s cabin. But what an expensive place it turns out to be! Each mocktail is for SGD 8.9 ! It is an unfortunate visit. Sis has tried the Veg pizza here before which she liked but they couldn’t serve it this time. They couldn’t serve many other drinks and dishes we want to order. We finally order Veg nachos which isn’t great; the sauces have been used very stingily. I, of course, manage to have a grand meal of Grilled white fish with peri-peri sauce (also available with coriander sauce), rice and mashed potatoes (you can select 2 out of several options of chips, stir-fry veggies, etc). It is quite good but the bill of SGD 57 shocks us.

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It is late afternoon by the time we reach Esplanade Theatres. The area is spacious, quiet and sparsely crowded. This theatre is located near water (that is why it is also called Esplanade Theatres By The Bay). It is a Sunday evening, the weather is pleasant and cool and so lots of locals and tourists have come down here to relax. We also join the crowd (if you can call it crowd) and take in the humid winds and occasional rain drops. From here we can see the famous Merlion structure, new Singapore Museum and Marina Bay Sands (MBS). This area is also lined up with restaurants. Right near the water, is a small stadium with a stage. Anyone can walk into the enclosure and sit on the stairs where budding, unknown artists and bands are allowed to perform. This time it was a band performing what they call traditional jazz. A walk over a bridge, after crossing Indonesian street singers sitting under the bridge, takes us to the Merlion which is heavily surrounded by tourists.

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When we come out of Starbucks, where we had sat for almost an hour, the crowds have almost vanished. Which is surprising again because it is Sunday evening. But then, maybe they’ve gone to more happening noisy places.

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We retrace our steps and go to an Indian restaurant, Mirchi, at the Esplanade Mall. The food turns out to be brilliant there! Huge quantities and delicious preparation. I have kind of accepted that I need to have Indian meal atleast once a day.

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We have got used to Singapore’s wide, clean roads, luxurious malls and the huge plethora of lovely food. Going back is going to be damn difficult.

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Categories: Singapore | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rural India Revisited

True to my word, I and my friend E set off for Damka village on Sunday morning. That’s right, we were excited enough to sacrifice Sunday morning sleep for this excursion.

We left from home at 6:15 am and stopped at ONGC Bridge, which is built over Tapi River, to photograph the sunrise. The air was humid and cool when we got off at the bridge. Few vehicles and joggers passed us and gave us curious looks. Boats, anchored on different spots on the river, floated lazily. These boats always fascinated me. Maybe because I love water. Or, maybe because it was just odd to see them floating so silently, all by themselves.

DSC00367Sun rise view from ONGC bridge

DSC00375The boats

The small number of dwellings on the bank of the river was quiet except for a few fishermen preparing their boats to leave for work. They pushed the boat into the water (looked like it look a lot of efforts to do that) and the boat set off noisily, up the river.

We moved on the near-empty Hazira road towards Damka Village. I had attended a marriage function in this place a few days ago and was keen to see how it looked during day time. The narrow road was now clear except for few cyclists and cowherds. The sun looked beautiful rising beyond the long barren strip of land.

We reached the quiet village and parked the car beside a tiny shop. There were hardly any people outside. Looked like the village wakes up late on Sundays too! I had not been able to see clearly in dark which I could see now – a well, cow sheds and heaps of dry manure & dry twigs outside tiny houses. I spotted a huge banyan tree in front with a round shaped cement platform below it. ‘Damka Gram Panchayat’ read an engraved tile on the side. I couldn’t hold my excitement. This is exactly what we see in movies and read in books! They must be holding Panchayat meetings here to make important announcements and discuss major issues. Panchayat meetings are ALWAYS held below a banyan tree.

DSCN4345The Panchayat place

I did feel weird going out like this – clicking strangers and their houses. But I wanted to do this badly and wanted to give it a try. This was required so that I let go of my inhibitions and break the barrier of my mind.

The only sounds that interrupted the quiet were the chirping of birds, mooing of cows, cawing of crows and cock a’doodle doos of roosters. We had to talk to each other in whispers.

DSCN4352A typical house

As we stood in front of a house, admiring and shooting it, a lady carrying 2 steel pots on her head, walked out and saw us. Her interrogation started.

She: Where have you come from? (In Gujarati)

E: From Surat city.

She: Where are you going? The marriage house?

E: No. Just like that. Seeing around.

She: What are you doing here? (She doesn’t believe us. And she suspects us.)

E: Just taking snaps.

A questioning pause. She stares at both of us.

She: What will you do with them?

I almost burst out laughing.

E: Err. Just like that. Actually we are new in the city.

A long pause and some more staring. She finally walked away. I thought she would never go away. Now, I thought, she and the other ladies of the village have something to talk about for the next 2 days!

As we walked along, few girls sitting at their doorsteps saw us and giggled. That definitely broke the barrier!

DSCN4341A lone woman, carrying pitchers, walks on a path

The locality was very neat; the boundary-less houses diligently maintained. Some houses were broken down, some new, some antique, some colourful and some modern. Each house was unique in itself. There were houses as old as 30 years old.

DSCN4351An antique door of a house

DSCN4358Another of those colourful doors

The villagers were starting their daily chores slowly. Cowherds took their cows and buffaloes for feeding. Women carried pots of water to fill water. Women swept the front of their houses. We crossed the marriage house where people had woken up and were beginning to prepare for another day of celebration.

DSCN4350A woman picks up cow dung, dropped by a group of buffaloes which just passed on that path. Dry dung is used as a fuel to light fire in kitchen stoves

DSCN4367We work together: A man shaves the beard of another man.

DSCN4375A boy sleeps on a cot outside his house. This was a common sight.

DSCN43742 women draw water out of a well

DSCN4373Signs of a freshly swept ground

After wandering around in various lanes and clicking to our satisfaction and avoiding old men who called us to talk to them, we walked back towards the car. The village was up now and was bustling with the usual morning activities. Like their houses, their relations also didn’t seem to have any boundaries. They performed their chores while talking to and laughing with each other, sometimes looking at us and commenting.

We left from there satisfied and I concluded that it was a good trip – totally worth the sacrifice of sleep made by us!

DSCN4363Mud pitchers lying huddled on a ground

Categories: India, Surat, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

A rendezvous with rural India

I was in no mood to go when my work friends forced me to come for a wedding function of a colleague. In no way was I going to deal with my headache and the dusty winds. I reluctantly agreed. And when I heard where the function was – in a nearby village – I regretted saying yes.

Little did I know that I was going to have a fantastic time.

We turned right from the main road and entered an endless dark, narrow path towards the village named Damka. It was beyond 8:30 pm and the village was dark with lights in very few houses. Groups of people sat in front of some of the quaint little houses, holding meetings or pujaceremonies. The sights of a typical rural village were visible – wells, cows chomping on grass and swings in the compound. Before we could categorize this village as a typical, rural village, we saw cars like SX4 and Swift parked in front of some houses. There was quiet all around and very few people were seen.

We made our way through the labyrinth of narrow roads, stopping once in a while to take directions from the ever ready-to-help passers-by. Everyone seemed to know the ‘marriage house’. I looked fascinated at my surroundings while my friends traced way to the venue.

On reaching our destination, we parked the car outside the lane and walked along the dusty, dark path towards the lighted house. We found out that this was a pre-wedding function called Griha Shaanti (Griha means home; Shaanti means peace) where they invite all the known people of the neighborhood. The village being small, 2500 guests were invited (we were told later).

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3 guests eat in the compound area

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A lone tractor stands in the compound (below the mango trees)

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The long flat house known as Gala, with the decorated pandal in the front

Bollywood remix songs played loudly through half a dozen speakers, inviting guests to come and dance on the little ground converted into a dance floor. We were greeting by Ashok (whose function it was) and were led to a pandal area in front of the house. The pandal was decorated with bright pink and green silky drapes. Being his important guests (HR staff is always considered as important); we were shown around the house and served food there.

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The puja place

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The living room

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The delicious food

The house had small cluttered but homely rooms. The walls were lined with photographs of several Indian Gods. We sat down to eat on mats put on the floor and waited eagerly for the food. Not only were we hungry, I suspected we were going to be served with delicious food. And indeed, family members came to put yummy home-made baigan sabzi, dal, rice, khaman and mohanthal. Definitely not what I had anticipated! I licked my fingers, after finishing the second helping, feeling shy to ask for more.

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The groom’s sister in a lovely violet and green ghaghra

The glittery bangles and sariborder glisten in the neon lights

All the women were dressed in colourful and glittery saris and ghaghras. I and my friend looked plain and barren in front of them! We took a round of the house and saw mango trees and a well in the compound. The ‘dance floor’ was now full of kids dancing to the tunes of Shakira. Whoa. This village sure was modern!

On speaking to the groom’s sister, we found out that she has several degrees (MA, B. Ed, M. Phil), had a 3 year old kid, was into a teaching profession and was also pursuing P. Hd. I was so impressed by her achievements.

We took ample snaps and walked towards our car, on the same dusty road, making a mental note to come back here again during day time to enjoy the lovely sights of this cute little village.

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

Planning for a trip. And the fun of it.

When I found out that none of my family members were planning for their July Bali/Singapore trip, I jumped at the opportunity and began my research on preparing their itinerary. Am I crazy, planning so enthusiastically for a trip I am not going on? I like the planning portion of any trip the most. More like daydreaming actually.

After going on 3 foreign vacations and already planning for the next one, I have realized that more than the excitement experienced when you take off for the vacation, the excitement lies in planning for the trip. The research on the places you are visiting, the preparations, informing your friend (updating on Facebook and the subsequent Likes and Oohs & Aaahs of friends), the shopping (‘I need 6 pairs of shorts since I can’t be photographed in the same pair on all the days) and dreaming about your photographs in amazing locales in your new clothes. Yeah, I admit. I’ve done it all.

But that’s the fun of it! I’ve been dreaming about my yet-to-be-finalized trip to Greece and Turkey trip since more than 6 months now (before I even went on my Australia tour in November end). It is so exciting to read about the weather, the food, and the photographs and mentally start planning what you are going to wear where!

My first trip was to south-east Asia in the summer of 2007 with my family. My. The heights of my excitement! My bag was packed up a month in advance. The same thing happened before my Switzerland tour in 2008.

Planning for my recent Australia trip was most thrilling because I was travelling there alone! It was totally my trip. I decided what it shaped into. And so I made n number of to-do and packing lists (I dumped the ‘Things I want to see in Australia’ list because it contained almost everything that is in Australia; not what I could see in a 14-day trip). My packing lists are generally very specific (eg, the red shorts, the yellow spaghetti, the Olay body wash) and so, I packed up all my clothes 1 month in advance. Ha. I marveled at my planning skills.

I also made elaborate to-do lists. I have a day job (which went in sub-consciously daydreaming about my trip) and hence, I had little time left to do all the purchases. I had to buy gifts for the cousins and friend I was visiting; I had to get some more clothes for myself; I had to upload e-books on my Blackberry; I had to buy a charger or new batteries for my camera or a new camera itself! Phew.

And then there were the discussions with friends – on Facebook, at work and otherwise. Everyone seemed to be as excited as me. Everybody planning for me, with me. I also mailed my Aussie cousins and friend almost every day (5 mails per day), interrupting their peaceful, routine lives, stalked them on Gtalk and asked them several questions on what I should bring, what I should wear and how the bookings were shaping up.

Amid all the excitement and discussions and planning came panic. I suddenly realize I had hardly any time left and my to-do and packing lists have become items of admiration of my own work to me. My mind goes blank. Like the excitement, the panic also spreads to my friends (I make sure that happened, knowingly or unknowingly). Now there is alarm everywhere.

To top it all, my parents express their panic all the time. Where are you going to keep your passport & money? Are you sure you won’t lose your passport? Don’t sleep or you’ll miss the flight. Don’t accept tiny packets of white powder from strangers. All leading to a self-doubt – Will I even reach Australia? Blah.

My best buddies come to rescue. I share with them my pending to-do lists and we put dates against each item. They assure me that everything is in line and there is no need to panic but I am still spending sleepless nights. They leave aside their work and help me with my shopping. And yeah, soon everything’s done, without having to actually buy everything on my to-do list.

I look back at all my trip planning phases and my hands are itching to go through such a phase again

PS: I reached Australia safely, with no hassles, and had a super fun time!

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Suvali–The purest beach in Western India

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Sometimes you come across a place that you can uncannily relate to. You keep going back there only to realize that you are going through a journey of self-discovery. Suvali beach at Surat is one such place that I fell in love with during my first visit to the beach. The tree-less and rock-free beach prides itself of a clean, serene and divine scene. Perfect to spend a few hours of solitude.

I have always visited the beach with a friend or a group of friends but like others, I have felt totally at peace, forgetting the person (s) with me and connecting solely with nature.

Suvali beach is a black sand beach. The sand is slippery and slips fast beneath your feet. The beach isn’t safe for swimming. The beach is perfect to spend quite moments alone or with your close one. Come here to witness a blissful sunrise and sunset. I have seen both and have been left spellbound.

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Suvali beach is located at Hazira. You need to go all the way to Reliance take a right after GSEB on the right hand side. A narrow, but a pakkaroad will lead you to the beach. As you progress further, the path becomes quieter. You may not come across a single soul on the way. A small vehicle or a two-wheeler is advisable as 2 medium sized cars have difficulty in crossing each other. Also make sure you have a spare tyre ready and your vehicle is in good condition!

The beach is almost a virgin beach. Because it is far from the main city, not many people come here. One or two vendors selling crisps, coconut water and cold drinks can be seen on Sundays. People with families now come here on Sundays and it’s quite sad that they have started dirtying a certain section of the beach. But the beach is long and if keep walking on either side, you will soon drift away from the small crowd and will be on your own.

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This picturesque location is an artist’s delight. It is capable of stirring up soulful poetries out of poets, heartfelt stories out of writers, fantastic lyrics out of songwriters, sweet melodies out of musicians and masterpieces out of painters.

Very few residents of Surat have visited here and it’s good in a way because the beach is left untouched by mankind, leaving it in its purest, most beautiful form.

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Categories: Gujarat Diaries, Photography, Surat | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Are you a frequent traveller?

I travel weekly, mostly, to my hometown. In my previous organization, I had to travel frequently for campus recruitments and review meetings. Sometimes I forgot my comb, sometimes my spectacles, sometimes my lens solution or the lens case. How difficult it is when I reach the destination hotel at 11:00 pm, after all shops have closed, and I realize I do not have my lens care items!

And so, I formed a kit and put it in the bag, I used the most for my short trips.

My Essentials List:

  • Comb
  • Slippers
  • Body Lotion, Moisturizer, sunscreen lotion
  • A small bottle of shampoo & conditioner
  • Talcum powder
  • Deo spray
  • Kohl pencil
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Few sheets of old newspapers
  • A couple of paper bags
  • A pair of socks (you never know when it gets cold)
  • A jacket (same reason!)
  • Cotton buds (Cold, again)
  • Small scissors (I once reached Hyatt, Bombay, after having travelled by plane, and wanted to cut the plastic strap locking my suitcase. I had no sharp instrument and had to ask room service for a knife! Wonder what they must have thought of me.)
  • Medicines for cold, nausea, loose motions, fever and headache.
  • A spare mobile charger

I also maintain the following in my handbag:

  • Lip glosses in different shades
  • A lip balm
  • Comb
  • Christian Dior travel perfume
  • Hair pins
  • Face wash and moisturizer
  • Rubber bands

There may be more that can be added to the above 2 lists, which I’m sure I will learn on experience!

Some other tips:

  • Keep important phone numbers, of your close friends and family, handy. Also, maintain a phone diary with all phone numbers (only saving the numbers on your cellphone doesn’t work. We all know what happens when we lose our phone)
  • Find out if you know any friends, family, colleagues or ex-classmates in the city you are going to. It means a lot to have someone even faintly known in a strange place. You never know when you may need help.
  • Also, you can meet up with your friends or family, using this opportunity. You never know when you meet them next!
  • Travel regularly on business trips? Your tiring business trips can become mini vacations! Do a little research on the city. Find out what their traditions are – their cuisine, their famous spots, or any famous monuments. Use your spare time to try out the most popular restaurant serving the best local food. Or buy local souvenirs for your friends or family. Go into the interiors meeting locals. Go on a clicking spree with your camera.
  • Carry a book along (or e-book on your PDA/Blackberry). We don’t get to read during our daily busy lives. Travel can be fruitfully used for reading.

If you enjoy travel, official trips are probably the best excuse. Use these trips to the best of your advantage and go crazy!

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