Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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U: Unfiltered thoughts / Updates

April 25, 2017

It’s bedtime and I’m all ready type out a short post and go to sleep. My A-Z Illustration Challenge is all but done, tomorrow is the last one! I didn’t take Sundays off on that one so I’m done a good four days earlier. Quite relieved I’ll have one less thing on my plate until the end of April. I’m looking at you, A-Z blogging challenge.

And four more days of it to go. V, W, X, Y and Z. Argh, that’s five. True to my usual style, I haven’t a clue what to blog about for any of the rest. I do wish I hadn’t taken up both the Illustration challenge and this one at the same time, in retrospect. I would’ve done more justice, I think. 

Someone on my Instagram posted a picture of Florence and man, I so want to go back there. All those students walking about, sitting around sketching. Re-visit the museums, go back to that hilltop where we waited for the sunset, drinking cheap wine and drawing the Duomo and the view in my little sketchbook. Such good times and what a great city to study art in. Sigh! 

My Mom’s birthday is coming up and given the fact that she’s here, I’m wondering what to do on the day. Hmm.

I’m glad to be blogging though because it’s good to go back and read archives from two years ago and realise that I’ve forgotten so much stuff already. I do hope I can get back to the blog at least once a month. 

This thinking out loud style is what my old blog was mostly about I think. I should really go back and re-visit it soon. Yes I might cringe and cringe but I should do it anyway. 

Over and out. 

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S is for Solo

April 22, 2017

I don’t know if it is part of growing older but I think I enjoy doing things by myself a lot more than I used to.

In my twenties, or at least the early twenties I thought that the sight of anyone eating a meal at a restaurant by themselves was a sad one. Today, I’d probably be more than happy to do it, given a chance.

Maybe it’s my current stay-at-home-with-A status or just how I’m growing, but I’d jump at the idea of having a long, leisurely lunch by myself with perhaps a book (or my Kindle) or my sketchbook for company. The idea of some quiet and solitude seems so appealing. I think I’ve also grown more secure that I feel comfortable enough to do it.

Which is what I did earlier this week. Since my folks are here, I set off by myself, visited a couple of art galleries and then had a lovely lunch all by myself.

And then, there’s the other idea. Travel. Like I was discussing with a couple of friends sometime back, travelling solo is something I really wish I had done earlier. But all’s not lost. Now that A’s getting older and we’re all getting more confident that she doesn’t really seem to mind me being away for a day or two, I can actually think of doing it.

Of course, I wish it were that easy for a woman to travel alone India (that solo lunch I mentioned earlier – I had a creep almost ruin it for me while I waited for my taxi). But that’s perhaps all the more reason to do it.

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Trains and Ammu’s first train ride

May 15, 2016

A couple of weeks back, we attending a family wedding near Mysore, and we were going by train. I was excited at the idea for two reasons – I love train journeys and I was eager for A to get to experience her first real train ride.


There’s something about train journeys that gives me a sense of time slowing down in a very real way. If your agenda for the next few hours is to just gaze out of the window, and occasionally go back to the book on your lap, taking a break every now and then to have tea, coffee, vade, and whatever else the hawkers are bringing around – this is frankly for me, is the life 🙂 Every other frame when you look out the window is a picture postcard when you get out of the city. My fondest memories of train rides from my childhood (we’ve been from Bangalore to Bombay and Calcutta – 3-day journeys!) is that of curling up in the upper berth with a book, and finishing at least one book during the journey.

Yet, as I grew up, the idea of using the train toilets all but killed the romance of train journeys for me. I wonder if as a child I was having too much fun to let the toilets  bother me, or I just didn’t know better. Besides, when we could afford to drive or take a flight, we chose comfort and convenience, obviously. Trips became more about the destination, than the journey. Which was our loss, really.

So how did A enjoy her first train ride? Not too much at first, since we were a bunch of 28 travelling together. She has a high level of stranger anxiety and these were all relatively new people for her. She hated being fussed over in the first one hour and kept wanting to go home. But gradually, as everyone settled down and she settled down and made new friends, she was quite happy to sit on the window ledge and gaze out of the window.

On the return journey we were a smaller bunch and it was a second class sleeper coach, and she seemed to really enjoy the three hour journey that turned into five because of delays. She had her fill of Maddur vade, churmuri and badam milk.  There was a lovely breeze blowing and it seemed like it was going to rain. The window seat was perfect. She fell asleep on my lap, looking out of the window.

When she woke up, I wanted to rest my back for a bit. She quite happily went to my Dad’s lap and I went to the upper berth and curled up with my book (well, the Kindle app on the phone, but hey) and drifted off. Bliss.

When I looked down a couple of times, I saw A sitting with my Dad and Mom quite happily, and the sight melted my heart.

This trip has re-kindled my love for train journeys. I’m keen on taking A on lots of them. We’ll learn to deal with the loos, I’m sure. Window seats, wind in the hair and endless supply of train food, here we come 🙂

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V: Vizag

April 26, 2016

Vizag, or Vishakapatnam was our last vacation location (alliteration and rhyming attempt #fail). We were looking for a beach destination for A’s first beach outing, but Goa and Kerala seemed too expensive, so we thought hey, why not look closer, and zeroed in on Vizag. We went in with no major expectations. And what lovely surprise it turned out to be. 

We stayed at the AP tourism hotel, Haritha, atop a small hillock overlooking the Rushikonda beach. The view of the coastline from the hotel room was fantastic. The beach wasn’t exactly clean, but there were small fairly clean stretches. A’s reaction to the waves was mixed across the three days we spent there. Oh well, more reasons for more beach holidays 🙂

The more popular Rama Krishna beach, or RK beach was great as well, but very crowded on the weekend evenings that we visited. Driving along the Beach Road gave us some great views of the coastline and we wondered, over and over again why the Eastern coastline of India isn’t as developed as the Western one. What’s more, Vizag is green, dotted with parks, and very, very clean. Apparently the 5th cleanest in India. And boy, what a splendid job they’ve done of rebuilding after the 2014 cyclone Hudhud struck!

We also visited the Kailasagiri hillock and took in the 360 degree views from the toy train. The rope way, unfortunately wasn’t functioning so we took a taxi up the hill. On our last day, we had some time, so we visited the aquarium and A enjoyed looking at the fish and the turtles. The aquarium could do with a lot more work to make it a more pleasant hour to spend there. 

We had wanted to take the famous train ride to Araku valley, but we decided to save that for another trip. In all, it was a lovely little vacation and I think we returned pleasantly surprised by what a lovely city it seems like. 

The day we left was the day after Maha Shiva Ratri, and apparently it’s auspicious to take a dip in a large water body. I clicked this pic just as we were leaving. The crowds had been swelling up since 7.30 am. The first pic in this post was taken about four hours before this one below. Count the number of people if you can 🙂

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Travel tales

November 20, 2015

While certain places that you visit will always stay with you because of how picturesque they were, some other trips are made memorable by the people you encounter or things that happen to you. That’s a no brainer I guess. This morning I was trying to recollect some such encounters – 

Munnar, 2004, I think. First trip with colleagues on my first job. Dropped my wallet somewhere and didn’t know where. On my return to Bangalore (after I had blocked my card), I got a call saying someone found my wallet and they would courier it. And they did. Minus the money, but hey, at least I got my DL back!

Bangkok – 2007? With Sayesha, Viv and Pizzadude. I recall at one point we’d all but spent the currency we had among us (Chatuchak market, I bet!) At one point, I said, in desperation, oh well, if nothing, I have this Milo packet on me for an emergency. Then, there was also this case of lost train ticket and a fine for that!

A trip to Vietnam and Cambodia in 2008. We were on our way to see the Cu Chi tunnels without much money on us, or knowledge of how to get there. We couldn’t afford a private vehicle I think, so we relied on the local buses. Communication was a huge issue. Luckily for us, we found a friendly young girl who spoke some English and helped us get to our destination. She even decided to accompany us to the tunnels and be our guide of sorts! Also, thanks to all this local bus business, we were late for our bus to Cambodia, and so, we had to take someone else’s help on our way back to request the other driver to wait for us. 

Phuket. 2010. This lovely little restaurant where the owner had covered the walls with CD covers from his favourite bands. Turns out he was a Clapton fan too. Naturally, I asked him if he made it to his concert at Singapore in 2007,  but he said nope. I hope he’s managed to see him live since 🙂 I also remember we bought a ‘mixtape’ CD that he had made. 

Milan. 2012. This nice AirBnB apartment that we found close to our venue for the Mark Knopfler concert on the outskirts. The owner of the apartment was clearly house-proud, well-travelled and had some lovely curios from around the world. And he said he’d heard of the company I work with – what are the odds?! There was a huge world map covering one of the walls in our bedroom and pinned places he’s visited. S is hoping to borrow the idea and do the same in our home, some day!

Venice. The same trip. Crowded bus from Venice to Mestre. A man, beside me, clearly trying to pick someone’s pocket in front of me. I sort of blocked the guy, and then the owner of the said pocket got off. The pick-pocket-fellow got really mad at me, swore and got off the bus. Still mad, he came and banged the window next to the seat where I just settled down now. Ugh. I was quite taken aback and shaken. 

Amritsar, 2015 with friends and A. Again, an AirBnB apartment. Lovely family, great hospitality, and endless supply of chai and great food. 

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but maybe they’ll be part two! What are some moments that stand out from your travels?

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T: Trains

April 23, 2015

As a child of the 80s in a middle-class family, the primary mode of travel to any place outside Bangalore was by train. Madras was a destination we frequented the most. And there were trips to Nasik, Bombay and Calcutta as well. These were the more fun ones as I recall, since it meant spending over a couple of days on a train. More than the hours spent gazing out of the window, the distinct memory that stands out of train rides for me is retiring to the upper berth (second class, three tier – always) and curling up with a book. Since these books were borrowed from the library, inevitably, it meant the book had to chosen with great care, since we’d be paying for each day. 

Train journeys also meant food, but of course. Amma would pack chapathis with pickle that would last us a couple of days. And I recall being allowed eat the odd bread omelette at stations (eggs, at that point were a big non-no at home) That aroma of the green chillies in warm omelettes sandwiched between large slices of white bread – the heat often rendering the bread moist – is something I associate with trains. And the tea. Most often weak, watery, insipid. Yet, eagerly awaited. 

There is a certain undeniable charm and romance associated with train travel. I love the languorous state it puts you into. There is a sense of time slowing down and expanding. I love to read a book, or gaze out of a window and surrender to the thoughts in my head and prefer not to be disturbed. Unless, you’re a hawker selling something hot, preferably fried and hopefully tasty. 

Today, trains, unfortunately are no longer my preferred mode of travel within India. The reason being a combination of low-cost airfares, super comfy buses that zip across straight flat highways in no time and my hatred for the toilets on Indian railways which somehow seemed more tolerable in my pre-adult days. Besides, if I must take a train, I can now afford the relatively cleaner AC class. Which means no gazing out the windows and tasting the warm air and the rain.

After returning to India, I was excited to take a day train for a trip. I enjoyed it, but I was partly disappointed as well, since it no longer matched the image of train travel of my childhood. Things looked different, but thankfully, that sense of time slowing down was still there. I’ve been on a couple more since then, and hopefully another tomorrow, and I’m happy to say I still get a little excited at the prospect.

And then there are journeys that I will undertake someday, I hope. For the longest time, during my Singapore days, I toyed with the idea of at least taking the train from Singapore to Bangkok. But I only managed to take the train to Kuala Lumpur. And there is the Indian Pacific train that traverses the breadth of Australia, that Bill Bryson writes about in his book, In a sunburned country. Closer home, I still haven’t done the Ooty toy-train trip. And I’d love to revisit Darjeeling and take the train there as well. 

For now though, I’ll go to bed, and hopefully dream of a window seat, a good book and constantly changing scenes outside. And a sense of time standing still.