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Archive for the ‘Singapore’ Category

The Places

High time I gather my thoughts before my memory gets diluted.

I can’t actually pin point a particular moment when I jumped at the idea of visiting the age old ruins of apparently the largest religious monument in the world.Was it the stray mention by Priya the other day in office about the largest temple complex or was it the reluctance of visiting yet another cosmopolitan city studded with malls and high rises or was it to go holidaying differently….ummm may be all. Bali, Krabi, Ho Chinh Minh City were all duly considered and ruled out due to various logistic and financial constraints which included over expensive hotel and flight rates. Though Wikipedia’s last line on safety almost made me rule out Siem Reap too.It stated “By local regulation, motorcycle and tuk-tuk drivers must at all times wear a numbered vest when on the job, which goes a long way towards preventing hassles and scams. However, a disturbing number of rapes continue to happen, especially after dark and in the more secluded temples, so it’s unadvisable for women to travel alone.”
For my first solo trip this was reason enough to give up on visiting Angkor Wat but then while browsing through LonelyPlanet’s discussion forum Thorn Tree, I realised it would be good idea to seek advice from recent visitors to Cambodia.And the response I got from them gave me back my confidence and egged me to plan out my itinerary with greater zeal! So Angkor Wat it was for me and ofcourse Singapore!

2nd Nov, 2007 – Chennai

I boarded the Shatabdi Express from Bangalore Central and reached Chennai at 11:15 a.m.. My Chennai itinerary was completely chalked out by Amit with a few sms-es in between to check out my preferences on movies.The auto ride from the station to Amit’s den turned out actually good ’cause we had to take the longer route along the Marina beach and beyond due to road diversion. After stacking my baggage at Amit’s place and gulping down a glass of litchi juice and some plum cake, we were ready to head to the beach but then gave up on the plan since given the traffic scenario we might be late for the movie.So a sumptuous lunch at Dhaba Express followed by an early evening show at Satyam is what happened.Jab We Met actually turned out to be pleasant surprise, more so since we had presumed that we would leave the movie half way if it becomes unbearable! Sipping cold coffee at Barista, Beasant Nagar was enough for us to unwind and go back to the good old college days. In short a day well spent!

I reached Chennai Airport in time and the wait after completing all the formalities was not much. On boarding we were informed the flight was delayed since the flight maps of the Tiger Airways and Air traffic control didn’t match! As if that was not reason enough to be jittery, I noticed soon after take off that our aircraft actually squeezed in between two other! Air traffic is surely increasing!

3rd Nov, 2007 – Singapore

I have become unusually skeptical of all the immigration officers and therefore during this trip I kept all kinds of documents handy but I breezed past all that and was ready to step out of the airport after a quick call to Sanj who welcomed me to Sing-land the moment she picked up the phone!

I decided to take the MRT instead of cab since I wanted to get a feel of the city. Therefore took a shuttle from the budget terminal to terminal 2 from where I boarded the MRT. A lady at the ticket kiosk very pleasantly explained me where all I have to change though I was well versed of those places since Sanj and Sreejith had already briefed me about it all. I have to admit though,that the map was really handy.So without any incident I reached Bukit Batok after changing trains twice, where Sanj was waiting for me.

In the middle of the girley chatter Sreejith called to confirm our meeting and had to drag myself out of the cozy sofa to get ready to meet him at Bouna Vista (I somehow like the name of this station the most). I spotted Sree the moment I stepped on the escalator. He took me to Holland street where I bought my latest gizmo – Panasonic DMC FZ18. So now I am a proud owner of an 18x optical zoom camera! An extended lunch at a Mexican Restaurant was followed by a visit to one of the pubs on the same street which has a section maintaining -14 degree centigrade temperature…brrrrrr.We finally headed home around 9 ish in the night after mall hopping in search of a circular polarizer for my new toy.

Sanj was quick to pack me off to bed and woke me at 3 :15 in the night since I had to take the 6:00 am flight to Siem Reap. Terminal 2 of the Changi airport is a complete contrast to Budget Terminal.My apprehension regarding Siem Reap had started building up by then more so since I had absolutely no idea what I should expect there which left me with an unsettling feeling.

4th Nov,2007-7th Nov,2007 – Siem Reap

I messed up a little at the airport by queuing up at the immigration section assuming that the officer will take care of the visa stamping since I did not see a single soul at the Visa counter of the airport! I was duly directed there by the immigration officer later.I realized, I was the last soul to exit the airport lounge after claiming my baggage which incidentally was the last unclaimed one on the belt!

Chay met me as promised outside the airport bearing a welcome card for me! He asked me about plans for the day and I politely evaded any direct answers since I had read many a times that the guest house owners try to impose their tuk-tuks to most of their guests and it becomes more of an obligation to hire from them and not many had a good experience. I reached Mom’s Guest House and was again given the offer of hiring a tuk tuk and upon delicately mentioning that I had already made arrangements, Mom was actually not too happy!

I crashed the moment I walked in my room which was pretty cozy.

Thai was prompt on time while I scampered around to meet him out the guest house.He stood there with placard bearing my name. I discussed my three day itinerary and on asking his opinion he entrusted the decision totally on me. He was so humble that it put me on guard, specially with all the warnings I read at various travel sites about being cheated. Thai, however defused all such preconceived notions in the next three days with his exemplary service.

My itinerary for the next three days was more or else as mentioned in the Angkor Wat Guide.

This guide was my companion throughout my visit to the temples taking me back to the times when they were built. Also, future visitors please note that if you have reached the temples a day before your planned starting date like me-you can actually visit the temple in the evening after 5.00 p.m. that very day on buying the pass for the next day.

I met Telari at the dining hall next day and we shared a wonderful conversation over breakfast and decided to meet for dinner that evening.She had come down to Siem Reap after spending five weeks in Vietnam. We went to a place called Khmer Kitchen to try out the local cuisine and we were not at all disappointed.

The three and half days spent at the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park was like taking a walk over the history pages.The renovation works at various temple sites were a sore but nevertheless required to preserve this heritage.However the planting of trees barring the frontal view of the Angkor Wat beats me completely. They simply take the rustic charm away;more when one knows its a recent development!

I have tried to capture the grandeur of Bayon, the mesmerizing Bantey Srei, the vastness of Angkor Wat temple, the creepers of Ta Prohm and many more here.

8th Nov,2007-11th Nov, 2007 – Singapore

Reached Singapore and settled in Sanj’s cozy dwelling yet again.Plans were made and then remade for rest of the day and she actually made me eat fish without my realization and to think of it I actually liked it!

Finally we decided on Clary Quay while boarding the train to Bugis! Girls aahh well…

More girl talk followed that evening and reliving of the Bangalore days.

The next couple of days was spent park hopping (Sentosa, Jurong Bird Park, Zoo), shopping (various malls & Bugis mainly) and of course dining!

Sanj suggested going to Pulao Ubin on Sunday. And we geared up for a visit to the rustic village of Pulao Ubin which was so different from the cosmetic Singapore mainland.This place was about 15-20 mins boat ride away and we decided to cycle to explore the island.

Another bout of shopping followed later in the day which finally drew to a close with a cool glass of Belgian Chocolate Shake! It was time to pack my bags and my nine day vacationing finally reached its final minutes.

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My first solo trip and the beginning of many firsts in my life…
I thought of dividing my travelogue in two parts; one dedicating to the people I met and second to the places I set my foot on during this 9 day trip.

THE PEOPLE

Amit

Amit

The decision to travel via Chennai was not a difficult one since I knew Amit lives there.The tricky part was my return trip wherein I was suppose to land in Chennai at 10:45pm and then take the train back to Bangalore next morning.I was sure of convincing Amit to take some time off on 2nd to “entertain” me and the other leg would be a night out Chennai airport is what I thought.I called up Amit with these preconceived notions and there he was all ready to take the day off on 2nd Nov and also assured me of some kind of arrangement for the 11th night.
The kind of relief it brought me is inexpressible.

Meet Amit-the most ragged and the subject of our post grad pranks… remember Nikhil’s act of duping you on Deepa’s birthday.After a gap of almost two years, 2007 bought with it two such meetings with this dude in a span of few months.I wouldn’t dream of calling him a dude 6 years back during the DU days which promptly reminds me of his corduroy pants and the black T shirt.And now, seeing him approach me at Chennai Central sporting a black three quarters and a white T-shirt was quite a stark contrast from his college image.
He was so much a part of our gang of six that it was easy take him for granted.The Grey shade of life somehow eluded him or rather he didn’t believe that such a color exists then.To see him grown into a mature, understanding and more practical human without giving up on his emotional quotient which was his trademark quality during our student life is quite heartening.

One of the few people with whom I can share my deepest fears and most cherished dreams-that is Amit.
And this recent Chennai visit left me overwhelmed.Not so much because of the place but because of the person with whom I spent an entire day, whose hospitality was so warm that it actually left me speechless and short of words to express my gratitude (rare feat when I am with him).
Thank you Amit-is how I shall sum up!

Sreejith

Sreejith

One of the very few people I know who exhibits the old school chauvinism and yet doesn’t fall one iota short of being the “ooh so cool dude” of todays generation and with what elan!
Meet Sreejith – who would pop from his cubicle which was diagonally opposite to mine and call me a “goobe” and off he will go without waiting for me to react, or rather I think he knew I wont be able to react ’cause it took me quite a long time to decipher what it meant.
He would somehow managed to turn up at 10pm at the office gate where I would be trying to flag down an auto in vain.Hop in he would say, you can always pay me the 50 bucks your would tend to the auto guy!
And then one day he flew over the sea to land at Singapore to follow his dream.The twinkle in his eyes and the ring in his voice was so infectious when he told me about his plans to move on over lunch that day.
His call-the day I was starting off to S’pore, to confirm our lunch meeting the next day with a fixed plan in place was so comforting.Not to forget the big role he played in owning my new toy – the DMC FZ18.A mere mention while chatting with him one day about my choices for buying a new camera and he said he will get back to me with the quote which he promptly did by sms-ing the prices. Sadly I didn’t receive the message-damn my phone! And then when I was sure what to buy and told him , there he was mailing me the quote from the place his friends bought their gizmos and was reliable.It was touching when he hopped malls with me that day, in spite of knowing that exerting his leg was not advisable, to find a circular polarizer for my camera since I would be needing it during my trip to Cambodia.
This is Sreejith- a mature, cool guy with his head firmly sitting on his shoulder, who I am sure will achieve those great heights he is seeking for just by being the person he is! Yes, he likes beer;Yes, he likes hard core rock;Yes, he is handsome;Yes, he is Single but No he is not meant for just anybody ’cause he deserves the best amongst the best!!! ( I can almost see Vishnu
sporting his quintessential grin nodding his head vigorously in agreement)
I wish I could spend more time with Sreejith during this visit but nevertheless my first day in “Sing land” was nothing short of fun with him around.
Thanks Sree…

Sanjukta

sanj n me

The only reason of going to Singapore becoming an obvious choice.Those who know me and are in touch with me till date know her and don’t need an introduction.One of the first people I got acquainted with in Bangalore and subsequently bloomed this beautiful bond called friendship we share today.I think neither of us had an inkling then that ride on Saraswati Pujo on her scooty, ok ok her Kinetic Honda scooter, would lead to so many joy rides we shared together!
Singapore beckoned her as well and she left the Indian shores during the start of this year.How much I miss our pajama parties, bare our soul talks at 13th floor, the impromptu movie watching and the pending trips we were to undertake and most of all the thought that you were just a 30mins away from my place.Oh! how come i missed our trademark “B-Sessions” which we faithfully continued this time around as well.
A beautiful persona with her heart exactly at the right place , she is so sweet that you would fear of having a diabetes with her around.Thats Sanjukta for me, always having an ear for my silliest of jokes,dumbest plans and the omni present shoulder to cry on in my dreariest of days.
However my this visit to her quarters this time somehow made her get into this new role of being a mother hen- always on the look out of my well being during my trip.Be it noting down the details of my whereabouts in Siem Reap or forcing me to call my folks the moment I stepped into her place or making sure I don’t miss my flights by reminding me like a personalized alarm clock to taking care of my timely meals or ranting “ami jani tor khabar pochondo hocchena na” after every morsel I took to my mouth when we had a pure veggie dinner.So much so that I think I had actually started enjoying the reincarnation of Sanjukta as my Mother Hen as well…
I don’t think I would have enjoyed my visit to Jurong Park as much if you weren’t around and probably would have appreciated Sentosa’s Underwater world more-at least we could have cracked up our humor if nothing else.Pulao Ubin was fun even if the “beach” was beyond our imagination of an ideal beach…
I am so glad our 13th floor conversations recreated at the Indian Restaurant in Clarke Quay held the same magic.
Thanks Sanj-thanks for being there always!


Telari

I bumped into Telari during breakfast at Mom’s Guest House dining hall and a good conversation followed over the cup of coffee after which we decided to meet for dinner that day.
Telari is product designer based out of London and was traveling in Vietnam for five weeks before she came down to Siem Reap to visit the temples.She is a pro traveler and has literally been around the world.She convinced me over the dinner that a weeks time is too short a period to explore both Vietnam and Laos and that Vietnam is one of the safest place to travel round for a lone female traveler and so is Cambodia and Cuba!

Thai

Thai with his tuk tuk

My tuk tuk driver during my four day trip to take me around the Angkor Archaeological Park.He belongs to Sroyuy Village in the Kompong Thom district of Cambodia and visits home only when he can manage to have sufficient savings.It was his brother Sotheara who actually introduced me to Thai since he was not free to take me around during that time.Cambodia is one country where it is very easy to lure people to make easy money by duping the tourists specially around the major hot spots like Siem Reap.To find a honest, reliable and humble person was a blessing for me.
I would highly recommend Thai to all the intending visitors to Angkor Wat. He can be reached at u_thai@yahoo.com or you can call him at +855 12 267 539

Apart from them there are a whole bunch of people I want to thank for making this trip happen.Most of them know who they are so a big thank you goes to all who encouraged me all the way to go ahead with this trip without having the slightest fear of being caught by the rural bandits of Cambodia!

OK, now do I sound like making those filmy speeches at the one of the award ceremonies, well to be honest I intended this last para to be more on the lines of me actually receiving an Oscar . This trip has not been anything short of any award winning feat for me so the “Thank Yous” better be that way as well…what say?!

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