Wednesday, December 07, 2011
So, its me, R of Sikkim and Eastern Europe fame and R's boyfriend. Yes, I agree, I too don't know how I find myself in such groups! (ha, ha, just kidding). Anyways, I usually don't post much before a trip, but given I'll probably never get around to it after.... so here comes a pre-trip update.
1) Scaling the Kili - 8 days - We are flying into Kilimanjaro, and for the first couple of days will be camping at Moshi which is the nearest town/city. We need a couple of days to pick out some of the hiking equipment and then we are off. There are about 6 routes to hike the Kili and we've chosen a slightly not so popular, but considered kinda easy route - the Rongai. The Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa and a part of the seven summits (i.e. tallest summits in each continent) and its highest point reaches about 5,895mts. Altitude sickness is going to be the challenge here and the last day of scaling to the summit and the Uhuru peak sounds scary! Keeping fingers crossed and hoping for the best.
2) 5 days in national parks for game viewing - we will be touching Serengeti, Ngorongoro, lake Manyara amongst others. We are taking the camping option which works much much cheaper that wildlife lodges.
3) Zanzibar - this is our last and final stop, and we get a couple of days here. Zanzibar famous for its spice markets of by gone days has a mysterious feel to it. Will probably unwind here before we return home.
Unlike the usual heavy duty research I do for my long trips, I haven't done much this time. As usual, R, has taken charge of making decisions (which I hate), so we have some plans in place and she continues to keep me updated on to-do's and to-not-do's.
We are planning to use Gladys who has so far been quite helpful with our queries and are also know for their equipment hire. More after we get there!
1) Bought hiking boots last week... supposed to have got it and broken into it 2 months back. Just starting to now! While trekking in Ladakh, we managed with regular sneakers, so I was convinced that this was more a marketing ploy. But in the interest of my ankles....
2) Winter wear - coming from India, dressing up for the cold weather is an ordeal and is usually wearing a sweater on top of another and emerging like Santa. Learning the tricks of layering. Finally! Also, found this fantastic website which has some pretty good deals on winter wear - www.sierratradingpost.com... I also recommend going to any adventure outfitter in your city and they can give you a pretty good idea of what you need to get depending on the destination.
3) Vaccinations - yellow fever is needed when you arrive in Tanzania and more importantly, when you return to Singapore. Typhoid and Hepatitis A are recommended... but India was also marked as high risk for HA, so figured i shd be immune :). Those in Singapore, head to Tan Teok Seng hospital in Novena where they have travelers vaccination clinic - very efficient and helpful!
4) Visa - Tanzania is visa on arrival for Indians if your country doesnt have an embassy (Singapore doesn't have one)
5) Other than which, stay in reasonable shape for the Kili. The hardest thing is usually managing altitude sickness and there is no real way to prepare for that it seems, but being in decent shape with regular work outs helps!
So thats it for the moment... restless, excited and CANNOT wait!!!
PS: edited the post to correct the height of Mt.Kilimanjaro!
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Some random thoughts from an uncharacteristic Bangkok trip.
Suvarnabhumi ... meaning golden land. There is a nice thrust to the syllables (we call it spashtam or pronouncing with emphasis) as the name rolls of my tongue. As I say it, images of civilization in the heights of glory, rich kings and queens, an abundant land flash by and leave behind the sense of hope and vision behind the simple name. The name has its origin from Sanskrit.
Can't remember when I last saw this many pink taxis.
A one day trip is too short. I remember scenes from the movie Hangover 2 and see nothing like it.
This skyline has nothing characteristically Bangkok... I am glad for the smaller number of glass walled tall skyscrapers. With these multiplying, pretty soon, I worry one Asian city may look like any other.
A lot of the signs, name boards are in Thai and it is hard to spot the English text amidst it all... makes me think how so used to the prevalence of the English language I've become.
Thrilled to find the traditional namaste (put your palms together and bow so ast to welcome) is still in use. Immediately, I feel a sense of regret; we (in India) have lost so many of our smaller, yet characteristic elements to blend with the West. This is not what makes or breaks us as a nation. Still.
The Marie Claire in the coffee shop is on Thai. So are the international titles – Gossip Girls and Peter Mayle’s books.
Don't get to have my favorite pineapple rice. Lunch is in a government company cafeteria. For a dollar.
Doesn't matter how cheap the food is, I still don't find as cheap books as in India.
The sky train is hardly crowded... My colleague says people have headed home early to avoid the floods... the Chao Phraya is harder to reign in.
And before I know it, I am back at the start. Warm and safe. Suvarnabhumi.
Saturday, October 01, 2011
The protagonist, a Filipino, living in the US, : "...we were there in Costa Rica, helping build wells"
L: "Why not the Philippines? Isn't Costa Rica relatively well off?"
The protagonist: "Um, we didn't know that till we got there!"
-The Ilustrado, Miguel Syjuco
... found this funny. Charity begins at home?
Hopefully, no more extracts from the Ilustrado. Yet to fully grasp the ending, but loved the book, the style of narration. The protagonist embodies one we sometimes find in ourself, the part that is always trying to straddle the new with the old, the idealist with the realist, and probably for some who have left their roots, the west with the east. Mixed reviews on whether he presented Philippines truly or a skewed overseas citizen's version, but loved it anyways!
Friday, September 30, 2011
Malate, a friend told me was the ‘party area’. The first sight of Malate was of narrow streets, ablaze with neon lights, buildings and shanties mixing into one another, and of course a general sense of chaos with both traffic and throngs of people. Each neon light advertises a place to eat or drink or both and every second place is a karaoke bar (the Filipinos love their karaoke)– although, some places leave you wondering what else is on offer. Boys with punk hairstyles and piercing, calling me in with a click of their tongue was not at all reassuring. Arriving at night threw me off balance I confess, and (in a very lame way) the Starbucks outside my pension was reassuring. The scene wasn’t very different from others I have see.. it, could have been Pali market of Mumbai famous for Hawaian shack or Toto’s, or even Goa close to Baga beach, and I wondered if this unsure was how outsiders felt with their first visit to India.. Next night I was more prepared and found myself having a nice evening in Café Havana. And also, the boys were simply ‘marketing’ the food places and didn’t really mean harm.
Malate used to be a red light area in the past and now is yes, one of the party hangouts in Manila. It also offers cheap accommodation for backpackers – all listed in lonely planet.
Streets of Malate
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
At the board walk
Kites in the air
Battling the breeze
Sunday, September 04, 2011
From above, the city is beautiful. We pass over brown water off the coast, fish pens laid out in geometrical patterns like a Mondrian viewed by someone colour blind. Over the bay, the sunset is starting, the famous sunset, like none anywhere else. Skeptics attribute its color to pollution. Over there’s the land, the great gray sprawl of eleven million people living on top of each other on barely more than 240 square miles – fourteen cities and three municipalities, sky scrapers and shanties, tumbling beyond kilometer zero, and the heart of every Filipino, the city that gave the metro its name: Manila.
Modern Manila. She who was once the Pear of the Orient is now a dowager…She, the trusting daughter of the East and the West, lay down and was destroyed, her beauty carper-bombed by her liberators, cautious of their own casualties, her ravishment making her kindred to Hiroshima, Stalingrad and Warsaw. And yet, from air, you think her peaceful and unflustered. On the ground is a place tangled with good intentions and a tyrannical will to live…. Five hundred years ago, Spanish conquistadors sailed their wooden ship into the world’s most perfect harbor to begin their mission…. Manila has changed much since. It’s changed so little. If you know where to look, this is the most exciting city in the world.
-An extract from the Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco
PS: Didn't know what the square grids on the water when seen from above was, now I do!
A rainy September day in Manila
The EDSA, one of the highways criss crossing the city
The famous jeepneys in the city
Makati - the business district at night
Sunday, June 12, 2011
So yes, its been 6 week since I have moved to Singapore, and its been frantic, hectic, and a little breathless. I feel like I may have already done a year’s worth of things (in my lazy alter ego’s scale of time). There has been work, but also different things going on at work, and meeting new people, and a lot of going out. And in all this, the drama of finding a house and settling in! I feel like I am running a bit short on sleep and more on adrenalin, but all in all a good problem to have, as long as it lasts.
From my office
So here is how my moving-to-Singapore-first-2-months checklist looks like -
1) Get obsessive and search for the so called ‘perfect’ house where I may not spend too much time, and over pay for the same ...check and done to perfection!
2) Move in, settle down... WIP still. Already had a washer emergency (aka, didn’t-know-how- to-use-washing-machine-and-flooded-the -place). Looking desperately for maid service before my perfect house becomes not so perfect, and need to find tons of things that I can’t remember. Like my agent says, by the time I am all settled, it will probably be time to move!
3) Get work started... check.
4) More importantly, remember work isn’t everything... trying really hard, work in progress.
5) Meet new and diverse people... Yes, you got it right, I actually put it down on my to-do list! I now know more people who are happy to check out some crazy heritage trail, but not who want to watch hangover-2. Working on this! And yes, if you are in Singapore, and a fellow blogger/travel enthusiast, holler. But please don't be a crazy stalker!
6) Find things to do other than work.... check, and doing it quite well.
Checked out the Mac Ritchie trail, Frisbee games in the garden, a musical, Macbeth in the park, the esplanade, wakeboarding (my bones still hurting me from this one)...
7) Travel.... WIP. A lot of plans, and a lot of opportunities and also some company (yeay)!!! So looking forward to plenty of trips. For now, have tickets to Borneo in July to see the rainforest music festival (http://rainforestmusic-borneo.com/). So yeay!
And what perfect time to talk about these 2 books on 2 women who move to more foreign lands and their experiences?
Me, Myself and Prague... Reading this book was like reliving my 1 week in Prague and Czech. Not only did I love some of her tips (to check out for a next trip), and her humor, but I could totally relate to the travails of moving to a new city (especially if you are single and may not have friends and family in that place) and trying to figure it out and just get a life really, (a good one at that). Loved it!!!
To Hellas and back... for all those of romantics who fantasize about a new life in a new land, this book is a reality check. The author has a tough time in Greece, and although, to a large extent it seems to be her fault as she doesn't making much of an effort to get out there and brave changes, but still another point of view – are you one of those who can really adapt to a new country, new ways?
The view of the River front and promenade, and the Marina Bay Sands hotel - Singapore's newest landmark!
Friday, April 29, 2011
This was something I've wanted for a long long long time. Something I wanted like yesterday. Yet, at that final moment, I was in knots...
It was time to move again.
Goodbye Bombay. Hello Singapore!
Sunday, April 10, 2011
* * *
Metelkova is a neighbourhood of abandoned warehouses and barracks, which was claimed by squatters (people who take over abandoned buildings) and converted into a kind of “modern” art center. We heard it was being used as art studios and also hosted a lot of parties and jamming session (we could hear someone playing, but they didn’t invite us in!). You are just as likely to find ugly goblin headed structures just as you can find the most colourful spray painted walls and graffiti. The whole place was a cross between Noddy’s world(remember Noddy? )with its vivid colours, an art studio bordering on grotesque and a well worn ramshackle biker hang out. Set in a ground with untended greenery, with a moon glowing overhead, this place turned even more eerily exciting at night.
Metalkova has quite a bit of a controversial history as the supporter's fought to retain its individuality and today it is nearly a regular stop for travellers. Its s a great place to meet other fellow traveller's, you'll find information at all hostels. More on Metelkova’s history here...
At the entrance to Metelkova
Ain't these goblin heads pretty?
Eerily interesting at night
* * *
Behind Metelkova, is the Celica hostel... a prison converted into a hostel, the rooms are actually modelled on prison rooms. Who wants to be jailed for a night or two? This hostel is known for its party atmosphere, a filled event calender and as a great place to meet other backpacking travellers.
Both Metelkova and Celica lie on the other side of the old town, across the main bridge. This part of the city was relatively quiet with lesser thoroughfare, maybe more residential, hiding a few character-full bars and restaurants.
* * *
Trn fest is one of the biggest yearly events in Ljubljana with dance/music/ theatre (? not sure) shows. It was nothing like I’ve seen before... the place was packed with people ‘just hanging’ as my friend likes to say. It was a total social event for people to meet friends and grab a couple of drinks and catch-up on the days events and not one seemed to be paying attention to the stage. Not blaming them, on stage was one of the weirdest, (oops!) extremely new-age dance performance I’ve seen till date... Couple of people clad in white seemed to be moving to noises, and sounds ...no really, it was just a series of sounds like fans whizzing, wind blowing, then some sirens... ! I didn’t get it for sure. And the crowd was equally alternative – mostly hip-hopper/rapper types, and a good proportion of Goths... but we did meet a few ‘regular’ people who were also discovering this side of Ljubljana. We left past midnight, but it was still early in the night for Trn Fest!
* * *
On the last night, in a park on the way to the train station was a Slovenian rap show... the last thing we experienced in Ljubjana.
People, just hanging
Into Trn Fest
Cycles piled up at the entrance
Saturday, April 02, 2011
And all it took was a single breathtaking view!
It was like falling in love all over again...
Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can't go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I'm painted black
Our own farmhouse apartment for a few days
The view from the window
I stepped into the bookshop and breathed in that perfume of paper and magic that strangely no one had ever thought of bottling.
- Carlos Ruiz Zafón)
Friday, April 01, 2011
It was a great morning... the sun not strong still and a nice cool breeze... An hour later, I had just reached the crossroad leading to Pienza... and guess what???? The signboard was showing another good 10kms away... (note to self, if it looks far, it probably is! And have the sense to double check!!).
On the way to Pienza
The weather was still good, I was enjoying fantastic views... but soon the sun would be blazing down on me... and I had to pick up my speed. Plus, all the photography was slowing down, (yes, I was trying to get some timer snaps of myself with the landscape... lame, right??). I was tiring myself out a bit, and also partly dreaming of the previous day when I too had lounged on a sun bed in the balcony, with a book and little else to do... But it wasn’t until I came really close to the town, I gave up hope!!! You see, all these towns are perched on hilltops, and the last leg is the hardest...
And up went my hand, sticking out a thumb for a ride...
An abandoned farm house?
A young couple in a car... they wave to me, but won’t stop
A family... this time no wave even!
A slightly beaten up car and a little hippy looking old couple... but there was a lady... so thumbs up again....Voila! they pull over and I am very, very, very grateful (cannot overstate it enough!!!)... we chat a bit , and they are quite cool!!! They speak very good English, couldn’t yet figure out if they are settled here or on vacation...The lady does warn me that she see’s many tourists doing “this” and says, it’s not safe... before I can figure out if she means the long hike in the midday sun or just the hitchhiking, we are in Pienza.
After a bit of a search for the food, I have one of the MOST DELICIOUS ravioli’s in my LIFE!!!! Only 3 piece of the pillow pasta, in a bed of olive oil rather than the usual cream sauce... my first thought was dismay at the paltry portions, but it was Yummmy and also filling!!!
Emboldened by my first hitchhiking experience, I decide to do that on my way back too...
My first ride is an old Italian man in a beat up car...I was a bit tired, and lowered by rules a bit (of ensuring at least one woman in the car. He was old, so I let it go...). He spoke only Italian, I spoke only English and well, he rattled on. He did pat me on my knees a couple of times as he discoursed on heartily... (having seen some Italian men, would definitely NOT believe it was grandfatherly)... Anyways, I was a little relieved to get off.
My last ride was a biker...I later realized he wasn’t even going the way I needed to go, but took the trouble. He owned a farm nearby too and we chatted a bit (as much as you can with the wind howling as you race through). It was wonderful racing down those roads on a bike, with the wind in your hair, refreshing me after a hot, sweaty day.
And I was home!
A note of caution: Hitchhiking was a fun experience, something I didn’t plan for, but happened. Sorry to sound like a grandmother and be melodramaitc, but I CANNOT OVEREMPHASIZE enough ON SAFETY OVER ADVENTURE any day. Hitchhiking can be fun, but please, please be careful!
The Tuscan slopes... you haven't heard the last of it!
Views along the way
Views along the way
Views along the way
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Still, the doors open yet again, and I wait!!!
Sorry for such cryptic writing, but the story will unravel soon!
Saturday, February 12, 2011
* * *
One evening in Naples, we set off in search of the best Neapolitan pizza in Naples. We were recommended to Il Presidente in the centro storico (city center). The road was narrow, and quite deserted, but the Pizzeria was buzzing with people spilling out into the roads. It seemed a bit like Bade miaan (for those who are familiar with Mumbai).
As we queued up, we got a terribly huge token number. We first tried to find out how long that may be – everyone around us spoke only Italian, and we spoke only English. The token-giver would answer emphatically in a string of Italian with so much gusto that it could have been an ebullient answer just as it could have easily been a string of curses. Next we tried to enquire what pizzas were available in a mix of mime, English all in between sheepish laughter. The token-giver would reply and we would spend the next 10 minutes deciphering it. This went on for a bit. At some point, I think he understood what we were asking and made some reference to the pizzeria not being McD’s. We could hear the group around us breaking into laughter. We were lost – for the first time, ordering a pizza seemed like the most complicated thing.
We then tried to ask him if we could do a take away and he kept waving his hands and saying dopo, dopo. So far it had sounded like he was just being a loud, expressive man, and suddenly we wondered if he was insulting us – what with his multiple referrences to McD and him shooing us away. We were embarrassed slowly moving to being on the brink of serious frustration. And just like that my friend was suddenly incensed! We decided we didn't want the best pizza that bad after all if they couldn't even help us decently! And just like that we walked off in a huff!!!
So much for the perfect pizza!
Don’t worry.... in the last one hour on our last day, we decided we needed to give one more shot at having a true Neapolitan. We tracked down the second recommendation given to us – Da Michelle - which was spartan, white and almost like a hospital cafeteria in looks. Here, they serve only 2 types of pizzas (the Neapolitan and Margherita). We ordered the double cheese margherita , lightly flavoured in basil and oozing olive oil.... truly divine!!!
We later found out, the Dopo, dopo may have just meant later later!
Naples is considered the home of Pizza. The Neapolitan is particularly known for also the tomato toppings that goes on pizza (I understand). Both Il Presidente and Da Michelle are recommended in the lonely planet. Da Michelle is also the pizzeria featured in the Eat Pray Love movie.
PS: I swear, there were supposed to be 3... but will rein in word count on the next 2!
PS 2: Yes, I did put on a few kilos after the trip!!!
The crowds outside Da Michelle
A divine margherita
And so, we did a takeaway and ate by the roadside
Sunday, January 30, 2011
So this year is all about reclaiming my life (oh well, yes Getting A Life!). To put myself out there, try new things and meet (new) people! It’s not going to be easy – even as I resolve to do all this, I have been doing 14 hour work days and have been on a race against time which leaves me aching for an overdose of sleep– and it is still January! But, I persist! (And made it to my early morning Sunday class). So wish me luck.
Some Spanish and un-spanish thoughts...
1. It seems my name will never be the same again in Europe - Nee-ra-ha (Spanish) or Nee-ra-ya (German) - is only slightly better than my classmate’s Poo-ha!
2. I feel cheated of one Spanish speaking country cos I found Portugese is what is common in Brazil! (No, I didn’t Know).
3. Siente mi fuego – is the phrase I love. It means ‘feel my fire’ (after translating R Kelly’s Burn it up, and not at all sure of the grammar). Also love, Quedate conmigo – ‘stay with me’ (Enrique’s Bailamos). Bailamos is dance, Baila la calle is dancing in the streets...
4. I was the only one to fantasize about my profession – I was a bailarina for a few moments when introducing myself.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Not all of my trips and all that I’ve wanted to write about have made it to this blog in the last couple of years- but at least, not for the lack of travel and I am happy for that. So here is hoping for more travel, at least some changes, and hopefully more blogging in 2011!!!
A bottle of Sula
2010 was a year of change... not so much for me, but many of my friends, what with people moving to other countries, people going off to study, people changing their jobs yes, I am still here, 4 years on, doing exactly the same thing, in the same city!!!). So when R (my closest friend from work ) was leaving Mumbai to study, we all decided an all-girls trip was in order and we chose Sula. We had a car, hired a driver (yes, we didn’t want the responsibility of driving) and the trip was on. Surprise, surprise, it was also the last trip with another one of us, P, quitting a few months later on.
My last trip to Sula was on a hot, dry day in February. This time it was a rainy, rainy July day and the landscape had slipped into its monsoon wear in lush greens. Sula has made several additions to its property since the last time was here – such as a couple of restaurant including my favourite Little Italy (the previous time we had to make do with pineapple-and-cheese starters although we were starving) – so now, you can have a nice heavy lunch, feel lazy and drowsy, hit the tasting room and just relax-and-be as you watch the evening slip into night. However, I wonder if it was the monsoon season (which spurs so many Bombayites to make a day of it in the Ghats) because the tasting room was quite crowded and bustling. I missed being the only group and having the balcony all to ourselves!
There are many other wine tasting options beyond Sula – our search revealed Tiger, and one Chateau d’Ori. So you can actually make a good weekend hitting 2 or 3 off these. One thing I was disappointed was with the lack of stay options – if you are on a wine trail, you WANT to stay in some LOVELY RUMBLING FARMHOUSE on the property (and No, I hadn’t been to Italy by then!). There is a Tiger resort (lukewarm reviews). Sula has a gorgeous looking villa, but you need a good group size. The other option is to stay in main-town Nashik, which is what we did at The Gateway at %K per night.
Some wine tasting options here. And Sula Wines here.