Budget Travel – Parks

I went from travelling to England at Rs. 80 to a Pound in 2013 and Rs. 105 to a pound in 2015 so you can imagine just how quickly my savings wiped out and just why currency rates are so important to me. I am not high maintenance and I went to Tanzania with $1000 and made it work for a year (I didn’t earn a single buck when I was there). Luckily for me, I earn quite the good wage now so I’m no longer worried about the Rupee vs the World. However, till the boy gets his first pay-check, we’re living off 1 wage and this causes similar budget constraints that feel way too familiar for me.

Instead of letting that ruin our weekend fun, I remembered a trick I picked up while in the land they call Great. The sheer delight of lying in parks and doing nothing, it’s under-rated. I never realised the value of parks, having so few of them in Bangalore within easy reach. It took me the shock of seeing  shirtless old men (they come out in hoardes when the sun is out) to realise the joy of having grass under your feet. The only difference between them and me, apart from the obvious reasons, was that I enjoyed sitting under the shade of the tree while they basked proudly under the sun.

Here, everyone was in the shade so I didn’t feel like a total weirdo. A couple of cold drinks and we were set for a nice, relaxing evening in the park. And rather than wax on about how peaceful it was and how the breeze just blew the right away, I will let these photos do the talking. After the park, we went to the water garden at Em Quartier (the poshest mall in the world!). We had spectacular views of the Bangkok Skyline as well. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Benchasiri Park of Bangkok (Directions: Get off at the Phrom Phong BTS station et voila!) and The Water Garden at Em Quartier (Directions: Right opposite the park) Budget – 35 Baht for two drinks.

P.S. There are turtles and moustachioed fish in the murky water. They, apparently, like bread and corn puffs.

Turtles in Benchasiri Park, Bangkok
See? Turtles
Benchasiri Park Bangkok
The aforementioned park
Em Quartier
A giant dog terrorizing puny humans! (Art Installation at Em Quartier)
Em Quartier Bangkok
Sheep Seats (Art Installation at Em Quartier)
Em Quartier Bangkok
Side profile of Giant Dog 🙂
Em Quartier Bangkol
Inside the World’s Poshest Mall, Em Quartier!
Benchasiri Park, Bangkok
Benchasiri Park and the view of Em Quartier from the park!
Water Garden, Em Quartier
View of the Park from Em Quartier
Bangkok BTS
Bangkok Skyline and BTS
Em Quartier
The Water Garden
Bangkok
Bangkok Skyline
Em Quartier
Art Installation at Em Quartier
Benchasiri Park
Selfie Time!

We spent the rest of the evening in the pool – which, if you’re renting a condo in Bangkok is part of the deal = FREE! YAY! Hope you’ve had a great weekend as well!

Five Years Time

I’ve had a serious sit down to take stock of the past 5 years. In the same breath, so much has changed and yet so much is the same.

2010 – 2011

Zanzibar

I was in Tanzania mid-2010. I had quit my 7 days a week, 16 hours a day job that I thought was helping me “save the world” and “make a difference”. Oh to be young and naïve. My mental and physical health had deteriorated and in desperation for a change or on a whim (I can’t remember which it was) I decided not to wait for the ‘someday’ and just book my tickets to Tanzania. I decided I’d go there for a few weeks and if nothing worked out, I could just as easily come back. I stayed there nearly a year. I went in blind and made up the next steps as I got there. It is an adventure close to my heart. Being as list-crazy as I am, I managed to list all the things I managed to do while there so I don’t have to rehash an old subject. Read more here.

2012 – 2013

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When I came back from East African adventure, I was so jaded I stayed at home and decided to enjoy just being. When you’re on the go for so long, you crave moments of being rooted. One day turned into two years. I stayed at home, I took care of grammie (which was gratifying and yet very mentally and physically exhausting). For work, I consulted with a few NGOs and conducted workshops, I also took a step towards moving to my dream career of writing. I blogged more, I sought out freelance projects and got lucky to be hired by the Day Zero Project (I still contend it is the best job I have ever had). I went through emotional rollercoasters of a very extreme kind – I lost a mentor (you can read the requiem here) and just the baggage of being someone’s caretaker, of staying at home and never going out pushed me to a whopping 105kgs of weight. When I hit rockbottom and there was nowhere else to go, I decided to get my fitness back on track and also decided to pay for an international trip for my brother.

I know, I know. It isn’t as glamourous as it seems. We went to Malaysia and Singapore and had the time of my life (I had to tag along you see. Make sure my money was being put to good use. Shortly after we came back, I got to see the Taj Mahal which is every bit as beautiful as they say it is.  I felt like I found a fresh lease on life – I suppose you are always optimistic when you are travelling.  I got back home to find myself in the same rut. Something had to be done. I decided to do a drastic – I’m leaving – step like I did with Tanzania. Only this time, we found out the li’l sister was engaged so I made a deal with the parents that I will stay till she got married and then leave the nest (about time too!)

The Baby Pea got married in 2013 and I used that as an excuse to get some more travelling in. After visiting large parts of England, Wales and Scotland (including hunting for Nessie and visiting the mother of all henges!), I saw my dad walk her down the aisle and it was as if the whole world came a full circle. Later that evening, I realized I was falling in love with a guy I had met at her birthday party – that silly guy that turned my life around. Thus started the long distance phase – the phase that was never meant to be.

2014 – 2015

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I started the year with a visit from said silly man. All those people who looked at me like I had cancer when I said we decided to give long distance a try – I wanted to show them that for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on, it was working and I was happy. I stayed on at the parents but got a job as a full time writer. We decided as a couple to try India for a while and so Adam moved all the way from England to a third world nation that somehow suits him more than it suits me. He must’ve been an Indian in a previous life. We moved in together which also meant I moved out of home. Despite all the stress of “OMG what will people say” and the many fights that come from it, it has gone very well. While there is still some pressure to get married because I’m “old” and living in – which is a big sin – I have had an amazing 6 months so far. My family has gotten to know him and he’s gotten to know them. We’ve had a couple of family trips and I finally got to spend so much time with my little niece who is (no bias) a complete sweetheart.

Some of the things we’ve done in this phase makes it feel like we’ve lived lifetimes. We met and saw Alt J and Daniel Waples (who was a revelation) in concert (Rudimental played, but meh!), we’ve been to Thailand, to Pondicherry, to Mysore, we watched RCB play live – which was always a big dream for Adam, we saw the little niece grow from a little baby to a restless ‘I need to see and touch and taste everything’ crawling creature. I’ve also been offered a job in Thailand that may see me there by the end of this year. Or maybe not.

Life is every changing but not one minute of it has been boring. I can only wish that the next five years be as full and adventurous as the last five have been. I’m looking forward to every second of it.

How Everything Can Change in a Year

When 2014 began, I was sitting quietly in my room cursing time differences. Despite universal dreams of fame, fortune and a sense of fulfilment, finding ‘someone’ is the the topmost desire of everyone I know or come across. I know this from having dark days in which I wanted nothing else but to find someone who would hold me while I fell apart. Because falling apart is life. Finding someone, that seems impossible. It’s for everybody else. The only thing that really got me back on my feet was laying in bed and googling flight tickets to obscure places around the world. We all have that one thing that numbs the dull, incomplete sort of feeling we feel do at some point.

Having found someone, however, isn’t the happy ending Disney keeps lying to you about. Just like taking a flight to Borneo isn’t going to end all future desires. Things don’t end, they find a way of throwing equal measures of magic, adventure and shit at you. But you know how angst goes, especially on special ‘milestone’ type occasions. You feel inadequate and that everyday is a mirror image of the previous day. You moan about how life is unfair and never gives breaks, that everyone else seems to be getting lucky and that elusive treasure called ‘happiness’ will forever be just out of your reach.

When you stop whining for long enough though and look back on all the things that have happened, you’ll start to notice that everything can change in a mere 365 days.

January to March –

Gokarna

The boy visited for the first time after we started our Long Distance Relationship and every moment of apprehension about being together, of the realness of it was thwarted in a battle of epic proportions. He got on well with family and the family seemed to adore him. We went on a holiday (my first ever romantic one) and it was splendid. What more could I ask for? Oh yes, wait. The Princess Pea announced her pregnancy!

April to June – 

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I learnt how to solve the Rubix Cube which is a neat party trick that would come in handy later (It also helps that people now think I’m a genius!). I got a huge bonus and raise at work which was a huge deal because I’ve been known to go beyond the call of duty and get zip for it. I started applying to Universities and started getting offers from all of them. Life was good.

July to September – 

Robin Hood's Bay

I visited England again and went on a holiday to Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay (all arranged for by the Boy). The road trip there and back was beautiful and is easily the best holiday I’ve ever been on. I met his family and friends and they were all so lovely, it was like I knew them forever. His mum’s partner was a little bit harder to reach but the minute I fixed his Rubix cube, we were best friends. I got to feel my soon to be niece/nephew kicking me through her mommy’s bell and I danced all night at the wedding of a ridiculously good looking couple. I got back home to find that University was going to be beyond my reach because of the ridiculous amount of cash money they were charging for it. Things between the boy and me got really hard and there were times we nearly gave up on the idea of being together.

October to December – 

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Everything that could happen, happened in this quarter. The boy and I decided he would move here and as many obstacles as there would be and as many ‘moral objections’ that would be raised, we wanted to give it a shot. My sister gave birth to a little mischievous munchkin and possibly the most cheerful 2 month old baby girl that I know. Adam and I also went to Bangkok on holiday (and looked at job opportunities that would help ease both our visa problems). When we came back, we moved into our first house together.We got asked (a million times) to get engaged and get married because live in relationships are still taboo.  But the place is close to work and it saves me 3 hours a day and the daily threat of being road-kill. I also get to exercise more and maintain a healthier diet. I have been writing more than usual and have been published in a few local newspapers – making me a very happy camper.

Outside of all of these tremendous milestones, I have also managed to have 800 of you following me, even though I’ve been awful at updating this blog. I’ve crossed off most of my 2014 resolutions and 2015 is showing tremendous promise.

I started off this year lonely and disillusioned, dying for change. I’m ending this year with a feeling of hope. Sometimes, when something is happening to you or around you, it’s so easy to feel like it is the end of the world. But from this end of the year, the counting of milestones have left a warm feeling in my heart. Sometimes all it takes is 365 days to turn things around.

Have a happy New Year my lovelies. See you next year!

Reality Vs Writing Goals

I promise my absence isn’t due to my procrastination. Here is a list of excuses reasons why my writing has been benched.

1. My baby sister is pregnant (due in October). She came to visit us for a month in India during her 6th-7th month which, of course, was the harbinger of a tsunami of nightmares and worries. I wouldn’t even let her climb up to our first floor room because NO. Just, no!

2. I visited my boyfriend in England and also attended the wedding of his little brother. Weddings make me nervous. Especially big weddings with fancy cars and a bride and groom that look like they could be on the cover of a top fashion magazine. Fortunately, I survived without making too big a fool of myself and the alcohol stocks weren’t overly diminished. There was a side effect though – words ran away from me.

Ben and Mwila
Proof of the Magazine Cover Claim. Source? Stolen off their Facebook!

3. I had the most perfect holiday in the world. My phone didn’t work and I visited some of the most gorgeous places in the coast. For our anniversary, he rented a little cabin that was just so romantic, I started crying and he thought he had broken me. Aah good times!

Glamping
I learnt I don’t deal very well with romance!

4. Despite the fact that he lives with this view – I will take a moment to show you this view so you can feel my pain –

Millington
Damn you perfection! Damn to hell!

– the world has a rule that if you live in the 3rd world, it’s going to be near impossible to be with your boyfriend. I just don’t have the right passport. I imagined I would do a 2nd Masters degree in England but their asking rate £20,000 (not a typo).  That’s  £13, 000 for the course and  £7000 you have to show in your bank account so the government knows you can manage on your own. I applied for about a billion scholarships which all went to more worthwhile students of theatre or well, engineering!  So what is the actual price of living in England, you may ask? One year in England = 20 grand + a student loan at 15% interest per annum + a debt you have to pay for the rest of your working life. Bravo!

5. Gutted but not yet close enough to giving up (These silly youth people and their nonsense resilience!), we decided that we would try somewhere neutral. Maybe teach English in Asia somewhere. Thailand, China, Vietnam. The possibilities were endless. So we started making plans only to find that my passport can’t find me a teaching job because “Asians don’t want other Asians teaching their kids!”. Even if I did have the right qualifications and years of English teaching experience in India and Tanzania, a high school drop out who says should of instead of should’ve gets the job. It isn’t fair but that’s how the world works right now.

Not to fret dear folk, I’m not one to give up that easily (Pssst, anyone hiring a writer in Bangkok? I’m good. I promise!).  I noticed a trend in my writing – apparently all my life’s troubles happen around the time of monsoon – July – September and then I suddenly find my words again! I feel it starting to come back again. I have this amazing story about a haunted bar and time travel and sword play. I’m hoping the words will sniff out the nectar in that story and stick.

Until next time, big hugs!

Supernatural Loch Ness Monster Expialidocious [Part One]

The Boleskine House - PIcture from Jimmy Page's Website
The Boleskine House – PIcture from Jimmy Page‘s Website

When I first moved to Inverness over 10 years ago the legend of the Loch Ness Monster was a story that was well known to me, in fact there can’t be many people worldwide that haven’t heard of the Loch Ness Monster. The far more interesting story of Boleskine House situated on the shores of Loch Ness and it’s somewhat eccentric one time owner Aleister Crowley was a story that I knew nothing about, however over time I kept on hearing the occasional tale of “The Most Evil Man In The World” and what he was alleged to have done at Boleskine House.

I must admit though that my first interest in the house was more to do with the fact that it was once owned by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and being a big Led Zep fan I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Eventually when I started to probe deeper and look for more information I started to view the fact that Jimmy Page owned it as a distraction; because no matter where I looked on the internet it seemed that Jimmy Page’s name would grab the attention of most peoples interest and therefore a lot of the stories centred around his “occupation” of the property. I use “occupation” in the loosest sense of the word because although Mr. Page owned the house for a number of years he only ever spent one night there and when you hear the stories of what happened there many years before; then it doesn’t really come as any surprise.

The reason for Jimmy Page buying the property was due to his long time interest in the religion “Thelema” and it’s leader Mr. Aleister Crowley; whose reason for buying the house is the possible cause of the countless tales of evil spirits, mysterious happenings and ultimately what many people believe to be the “Loch Ness Monster”. I’ll come back to this but first I think it would be helpful to divulge a little background information about Aleister Crowley and his carefully chosen residence in the Scottish Highlands.

Probably the most notorious magician of his period, if not of all time, Aleister Crowley has had far more influence after his death than at any time during his over-indulged life. Many stories about Crowley have been heard over the years and most of them focus on “Black Magic”, “Satanic Rituals” and a life of drug abuse and sexual experimentation. Needless to say it would be easy to fall into the trap of viewing Mr. Crowley as a most disreputable man and one to be avoided. But human nature being what it is we are prone to elaborate upon basic facts before we pass on any heard rumours and in the case of Aleister Crowley his stories have been circulated many times with many elaborations upon elaborations. In the Inverness local press; whenever there is a mention of him it is always accompanied with the four horses of the apocalypse and wild accusations that are never based on actual fact.

In a poll conducted by the BBC in 2002 and voted for by the British public Crowley appeared 73rd on a list of “The 100 Greatest Britons”. On the cover of The Beatles 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, Crowley joins esteemed company when he appears on the back row standing next to Mae West. On the reputable website “Poemhunter” Crowley appears at number 159 on a list of the 500 greatest poets. Three facts that begin to build a picture of a man who surely can’t be the same man that has been labelled ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’.

Born Edward Alexander Crowley, on the 12th of October 1875 in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Crowley was brought up in the strict ruling of the Plymouth Brethren. His rebellion against his upbringing, and the fact that his mother identified him with the Great Beast of the Revelation, was something that would steer his life on the course of overindulgence and theatrical evil.

Crowley’s father died in 1887, and Crowley was sent to live with his mother’s brother, an alleged vicious bully called Tom Bishop, during that time he attended a school run by the Plymouth Brethren. Crowley’s childhood was a very unhappy one; he later described his experiences saying that it was only his iron will that got him through the whole experience. Crowley soon came of age, and at 21 made a final split from his family. He became an undergraduate reading moral science at Cambridge University. Crowley seemed set for life; he had inherited his father’s fortune, and was mixing with people who were soon to become high movers in society.

As a keen mountaineer Crowley had earned a great deal of respect, he was driven and courageous, undertaking ambitious adventures in the Himalayas. His reputation in these exploits led some people to say that he was possibly one of the greatest European mountaineers of his time. In 1902 his mountaineering exploits led him to attempt Chogo Ri in the Himalayas with Oscar Eckenstein. They spent 63 days surviving on the Baltero Glacier, and Crowley claimed to have climbed alone to a height of 22,000 feet, until he was driven back by severe weather conditions. In 1905 Crowley’s mountaineering pursuits involved an attempt to conquer Kangchenjunga, which is the world’s third highest peak. There was great controversy during this abortive adventure; Crowley was accused of beating porters, and leaving men to die alone in an avalanche. There was also a slight mutiny within the camp and this trip became a large black mark on his reputation within the mountaineering community and it was noted that he had a huge problem with his inability to stand weakness in others.

A hugely important aspect of Crowley’s early life was his association with the Golden Dawn, the most influential occult group in Britain. He was initiated into the Golden Dawn on November 18th 1889 and took the name Frater Perdurabo, which means I will endure. He was not well liked by the majority of the members of the Golden Dawn. W. B. Yeats, the Irish poet called him “An unspeakable mad person”. During his time in the Golden Dawn he lived with a fellow member called Allan Bennet in a London flat. Here they experimented with magic rituals in two purpose built temples, and if Crowley is to be believed they had some startling results, including the manifestation of a host of supernatural beings and poltergeist activity.

A morning at Loch Ness
A morning at Loch Ness. Photo Courtesy – Mark

I first “met” Mark when I wrote about my England trip and realised that we were at the same place at the same time, just on different sides of the Loch. It’s overwhelming, sometimes, to see just how small the world can be, with all it’s masses and water bodies. Still, he discovered my love for local legends and decided to tell me a story that I want to share with all of you. This is my first (and hopefully not the last) Guest Post Series. If you do have a story for me, write me at my blog title (the one about labyrinths) minus the ‘this’ at the famous google mail dot com. (I do know how to dodge them spammers).