Adios 2015

I’m a little late to the party, I know. But ever since I put it out into the universe that I wanted to create and put out a novel, work got extremely work like and dumped me with more tasks than time in the day. Needless to say, I failed that particular task miserably. However, the whole of 2015 was not a failure. Instead of tempting fate and starting an another ambitious novel titled ‘What Happened To Me in 2015’ or the less ambitious version of ‘How Everything Can Change In a Year‘, I created a picture collage of my 12 highlights of the last year!

2015 Photo Snapshot Cupitonians
Click on the image for a full size view!

And here is a list – since I can’t help myself!

  1. I attended a music festival in Bangalore and the headline band was Alt-J, one of my most favourite bands of all time. This is big because growing up we never got to go to concerts (part of the reason being that not many artists came to India). I attended it with people I love and there just is something about hearing your favourite music live while swaying in the rain to the rhythms that move you.
  2. The boy moved countries for me, yes. But I love the fact that over the year he has gotten to know my family better to the extent of having inside jokes with them. I’ve always wanted to be with someone like that and watching them cuss out identically during family sports night just fills me with so much happiness. It really is the little things.
  3. We watched a lot of sports. I don’t get to do it too much now that I have moved countries but Bangalore gave us the opportunity to watch our cricket team and football team in action. So what if there was a little (okay, fine, it was a lot) monsoon!
  4. The third image is us watching the finals with Bangalore Football Club (BFC) and the fourth image is of us at a Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) match
  5. As a going away present, my colleagues and dear, dear friends gifted me a Kindle. It is such a blessing because I love reading so much but have had to leave all my books behind because of the move. Thanks to the Kindle, I can now read anywhere and it weighs next to nothing despite having a billion billion books.
  6. We moved to Bangkok for a lot of reasons. The Erawan Shrine became a big landmark for us because I work next to it and it was bombed shortly after we moved. It is a symbol of how resilient we are as humans when it comes to disaster and ultimately, what it is that makes us humans
  7. Bangkok is a BIG city in the true sense of the word. I share a love-hate relationship with it. But every time I get down about it, a breathtaking market pops up. I’m not much of a shopper, but the markets here have been such a delight!
  8. Part of why I love being in this part of the world is all the travel opportunities – I have so far been to two coastal areas and one beautiful island. Bangkok is another gem that we still haven’t explored fully. In the photo here is the lovely island of Koh Samet.
  9. Photo of the pier at Pattaya (Which reminds me that maybe I should write more travel journals!)
  10. The Bangkok river side and Asiatique
  11. I have always wanted to travel for work. I realise that the idea of travelling for work is much more romantic than it really is, now that I am leaving behind someone. However, while previous travel for work experiences were limited to one end of Bangalore to another, 2015 took me to Malaysia and one of the most beautiful office spaces I have ever seen.
  12. December saw Star Wars (Weeeee!), a new love for BB8. It also included an unplanned trip back to Bangalore for Christmas with family.

The most important event was the chance to meet and spend time with my niece. I am forbidden from posting her photos on online platforms (her parents have a thing about it I can’t really explain!). However, I never thought it possible to love someone so truly without actually knowing much about the person but I am truly in love with that little munchkin.

Can’t wait for what 2016 will unfold!

Packing Essentials – Things You Should Never Leave Home Without

I am a great advocate of packing light and making do with bare necessities because let’s face it, if you wanted to travel to another country to experience all the things you love at home (re: McDonalds), then you might as well stay home. To be fair, I make it a point to try the local KFC meal just because. This is what it looks like in Bangkok.

KFC Thailand
(Expert’s note: When they say spicy, they really, really, really MEAN IT!)

Jokes aside (but seriously, the word ‘Spicy’ in a meal is a warning, not a description!), there are somethings that you should carry with you no matter how large or small your luggage space is. It has helped turn travels into journeys into unforgettable adventures and the best part of it all is that they are ABSOLUTELY FREE!

In no particular order, I give you my packing essential list.

Packing Essential #1 – An Open Mind

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Right alongside your handy travel adapter (even though being phoneless can have great perks!), bring an open mind. There will be times when you are called on to drink cocktails from shady bars in buckets, there will be times you will have to drive on the other side of the road, times when out of sheer hunger you will say yes to the man selling roasted scorpions. These make great icebreakers when you’re on your next adventure but mostly you will remember having the time of your life!

Packing Essential #2 – Patience

Zanzibar

If you don’t have an annoying sibling, find an annoying friend or go stand in the queue at Nilgiris (a supermarket that just can’t bill your products without also making you wait for 500 hours) in India. It will help you develop this great thing called Patience which is also free but you won’t believe the things it will help teach you. That delayed sky-train ride, those long hours being lost in translation, those cancelled flights, those times a terminal becomes your second home – these are things that help you live a realistic day-to-day life in a foreign country. It could lead you to holidays you never planned for – like an island trip to Zanzibar or breath-taking views because walking through dangerous hills was your only chance out. When you aren’t trying to follow in Bill Murray’s footsteps, life happens to you.

Packing Essential #3 – Greetings 101

I have always been the kind who doesn’t read much about the place or its culture till I am actually smack in the middle of living it. It is not always a good idea. There’s always a chance that somebody speaks English and will help you out, but it could just as easily go the other way. If you are like me, just observe the words that are being said in greetings. Saying hello is a big deal in all cultures and even if you speak no more than the word for ‘whats up?’, you will find your journey that much more easy because of it. It gives off the impression that you are trying (which, of course you are) and it helps you make friends with the locals which can lead to even more moments you won’t soon forget. Find a way to bond and if you can get them to smile (or laugh) back at you, you are set!

Packing Essential #4 – Manners

Tanzanian Kids

While not all rituals seem logical to you, when in a foreign country, it is good to practice your manners. They do things different two streets down from where my parents stay and yet, when I’m in their neighbourhood, I respect their way. As a guest, it is your duty to be mindful of what goes and what doesn’t. Keep your eyes open and read body language where you can. Take your shoes off where you need to, cover up where it is expected, and stand up for the anthem even if it is in the cinema. At the end of the day, good manners will take you where your money won’t go.

Packing Essential #5 – Curiosity

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This great characteristic to develop is deadly to cats, or so I hear, but great for us humans. Wanting to know what that particular shrine is, or what is down that colourful street is a great way to discover things that aren’t on a Lonely Planet Guide or on Trip Advisor. Yes, you can see and do and all touristy things that your heart desire, but there is something appealing about finding a canal and pointing and ordering the greatest dish you have ever tasted. Forget the taxi and get on that rickety boat. You never know what treasure you will find on the other side!

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Universal Languages – Travel Tuesdays

Amidst the concrete jungle that is the heart of Kuala Lumpur, you often find lush green gardens and parks that you could stroll in for ages. Quite like magic, sometimes you happen upon cool lakes and fountains in which you can rest your sore feet. This is an amazing place to not just get away from the noise and restlessness of corporate Malaysia but to find yourself in the middle of vibrant stories.

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The garden just behind the Petronas Towers

Like of old men who walk slowly but with purpose with their canes and backs bent without a care in the world. They have little bags under their armpits – old, faded, leather. Sitting on one of the benches of the park near a water fountain, I observed how the whole park was dotted with similar looking old men.

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Eventually they made their way to these unique benches and took out their priced treasures from their leather satchels – well used chess pieces and begin some of the most entertaining matches I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Sometimes, there are languages that transcends words – the li’l grunts on frustration or victory, the fist bumps, folding your hand over your chest and the most impressive of all, the toothless grin. These are universal and wherever I go, I keep my eyes peeled for them. They tell the best stories.

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Read more of my adventures abroad here – a story about my first time in Europe and the things I had to teach myself! : )

The South China Sea Fish Delegation – Travel Tuesdays

Those of you that followed my journey in Tanzania will probably remember the time when our guide for the day threw us to the sharks for “ snorkeling” purposes.  The thrill of that moment soon changed to crippling phobia like it usually does when you’ve had a near-death-experience. So when I went to Tioman Islands in Malaysia, I felt an anxiety attack coming on.

There is a local legend that a Dragon Princess was once on her way to Singapore from China for her wedding. Exhausted by the long journey, she settled down over the South China Sea to rest a while. The sea was so calm and magical. The sun was warm on her back and filled her with so much peace that she decided to stay and turned herself into Tioman Islands.

(Click photos for larger image)

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The Islands are beyond stunning – with pristine beaches, the place is literally a paradise island with reefs bordering it on all sides and a rainforest to trek through whenever one was tired of the sea. It wasn’t long before I said meh and rented out Mr. Naruto Uzumaki Coconut’s life jacket. I was there for an adventure and even if I were to be drowned AND eaten by the great whites, I’d die knowing that I didn’t back out from a challenge. I mean, how bad could it be? (By some unfathomable miracle, Murphy’s Law didn’t go into effect even though I was filled with dread the minute the thought came into my head)

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The water was so clear that you could see the corals and the fish right from the boat and once you got into the water, the riot of colours that assaulted you was just mesmerizing. Of course I went to pieces the minute I touched the water – even with my life jacket on. My brother let me latch on to his life jacket and then told me stories to distract me from having a full blown panic attack and then slowly eased me into the actual snorkeling. I’m so glad I gave this a try. Snorkeling would make my top 5 list of the most awe-inspiring activities one should undertake as soon as possible and as many times as possible.

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Travel Tuesdays is my attempt to get myself to blog regularly. Every Tuesday I will write about an experience I had while on the road, stories I heard while chugging down local beer, local legends that were shared by bonfire and photos of things that took my breath away. If you have stories you want to share as well, feel free to leave me a message so I can feature you. 

Signs of Life

I know that my last few posts have started with me apologizing for not writing for a long time but fuck it, my life has been pretty sweet of late and I’ve been more outdoors than actually at home. It’s not likely that I’ll forget how lovely it is, most days, to live out of suitcases but it’s nice to do it every few weeks, just so you don’t become too stuck in your comfort zone.

So what have I been doing? Erm, everything – because and I quote “YOLO Bitches!” I mean, all this time we were living multiple lives and if it weren’t for Drake, we’d never have realized that we have just one life to go crazy over, okay?

“YOLO Bitches!”

Well, that brings us to lists and photos – because the awesomeness has accumulated more with every day I pushed off writing this. And because I’m so nice, I’m just going to post the highlights!

I saw the Petronas Towers – isn’t it featured on a lot of bucket lists? It’s quite impressive and is best viewed at night, all lit up and making the street life that much more magical looking.
I spent a couple of days lounging in Tioman (Dragon) Island. It really is untouched beauty, coral reefs just a short swim away and one of the most spectacular places for a snorkel and sunset.
I visited the Taj – the crowds kinda freaked me out but it was a lot calmer than Delhi, which was alright. Plus, it’s TAJ MAHAL. Enough said.
For obvious reasons, I’ll never stop loving the Mysore Palace. Specially when she’s like this.

 

Bylakuppe is one of my most favourite places to visit in South India. It’s really peaceful and has so much history. It’s people have so many character and the food is to die for. I take all my visiting friends there – for selfish reasons, obviously.
You’d love it just as much as I did if you love the performing arts. Just on the bay of the Singapore River, the Esplanade (Theatres on the Bay) is one of the best hangouts in Singapore. We even got to hear a Brass band play – it was a lovely evening.
The water levels on the river Cauvery were so low that they discovered a new Chamundi temple in the water. It was breathtaking and we went to visit just as it was being restored (before the crazy crowds could come, looking for miracles).
I love tribal customs and traditions. I visited a village near a rocky hill with holes in them at regular intervals (like seen in this photo). The children have made a game of it, where you are supposed to run on the surface of the hole without your feet touching the bottom. Sometimes, up to 5 children have run this at the same time and not touched the bottom. I, of course, failed miserably at this!
Look at all the crocodiles? They are such fascinating creatures to observe. Went to the crocodile park for the first time since I was a kid and I was just as ecstatic!
Old Delhi is something else, if you have the guts to explore it. The crisscrossing electric lines, the old movie posters, the cha-wallah, the ride in the cycle rickshaw, the MIND-BLOWING food at Karim’s (I would go back to Delhi every week just to eat here), the world heritage sites – Jama Masjid, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort, India Gate- these are all things that I had only ever read about in history books. The entire vibe was just magical.
I rode this elephant (she’s fine, I promise) – take that bucket list! 🙂
No trip to Malaysia is complete without eating this nasty fruit, Durian. When I say NASTY, I mean it. I don’t know how I survived but I felt really brave for having tried it. So this has to be on my list. Deal with it.
When you’re travelling non-stop for 7 weeks, it’s places like these that you need without even realising it. This is a small french run restaurant called La Maison Rose (in Pondicherry)
Because no monsoon trip is complete without a trip to the sea.
And the highlight was that when I got back from the trip, I got to manage and meet and greet with the Poets of the Fall who were really down to earth and friendly and nearly squished me to death! Also, their live concerts are CRAZY! Loved every second of it.

THAT IS ALL! 😀