Account of travels across the world. This blog provides descriptions of travels in different parts of the world. Pictures related to many of the blogs can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7330879@N05/ and for more information I can be e-mailed at ananda@wfu.edu

Monday, July 24, 2006

July 14, 2006

Got up without the alarm since the time difference was helping. Got packed and went down to the restaurant for the complimentary breakfast. Had a dosa, and puri and bhaji. It was a good breakfast and really enjoyed it. Got back to the room and got the bell man to get the bags down and loaded into the car. Checked out and headed out to the airport. The Virgin upper class check in was smooth but immigration took a while. Settled into the club and I went to the Internet kiosk (Reliance has one with the duty free shops, it is Rs. 100 for thirty minutes which is a really good deal and they accept Indian currency, many of the shops in duty free do not) and cancelled the hotel in London since we would be staying with Kaju Mama. He is my distant uncle from my mother’s side. A bachelor, he has lived in England for nearly 30 years. He was very close to a gentleman called Colin and when Colin passed away about 10 year ago, he left his entire estate to Kaju Mama. So my uncle now lives in London and had many friends among whom Lenny is a close friend. We had never stayed with Kaju Mama before and decided to take him up on his offer this time. The boarding of the flight was smooth and we were off right on time. Being upper class we were very comfortable and I was able to watch a movie on my computer as well as get caught up with work. It was a clear day and got excellent views of Afghanistan. Was hoping to show Bebo Tehran, but because of the ongoing conflict the flight went over Southern Russia and avoided most of the mid-East. We still got to London on time and were out through immigration and customs by about 6:30 in the evening, UK time. We had to wait a while before Kaju Mama arrived at the airport. I took a cab with our 4 bags and Bebo and Mikku rode with Kaju Mama. The cab driver made the mistake of taking M25 at 7:00 pm on a Friday evening and I was too tired to give directions. Eventually he got on M4/A4 and that was a disaster going into London on a Friday night. He missed the Hammersmith bridge exit and we ended up having to cut through the traffic in South Kensington and we were stuck all the way through. If I had known this is what he would do I would have rented a car driven myself. Kaju lives in Wandsworth which is close to Putney. His place is off Garrot Lane and obviously they had gotten there before I did in the taxi. At his place we met Lenny. About 65 years old, Lenny is a divorcee. An artist by profession he was a doting friend and they had really prepared for our stay. Kaju’s house (which he inherited from Colin) has four bedrooms up stairs and one bathroom there too. Downstairs is the kitchen and the living room, small wash room and a quaint little garden with a lily pond and eight cats that regularly visit. Lenny has decorated the house and does most the garden work. Although Lenny has his own place, he spends the weekends with Kaju. We were also informed that there was an Irish gentleman who would come late in the night and would be in one of the bedrooms. So, Mikku and I were in the other and Bebo in the third and Kaju and Lenny in the fourth master bedroom. Kaju is also an excellent cook and a perfect host. He had prepared a many-course meal for us and we really enjoyed the evening, eating, talking and generally getting to know each other better. Bebo enjoyed the attention he got from Lenny and Kaju and eventually we called it a day. I stayed up a little and repacked our bags since the plan was to leave all but one bag in Kaju’s house as we headed out to Ireland the next day.

July 15, 2007

We had a relaxed start of the day. Got up and went downstairs and fixed myself a cup of coffee in Kaju Mama’s well appointed kitchen. Hooked up the computer and got some work done for the conference. Soon Lenny was up and I fixed him some coffee and we sat and chatted a bit. As the others got up I made some tea for all and then Kaju Mama declared that he was going to cook a full English breakfast. As we started to get ready, he was there preparing a grand breakfast. By that time George, the Irish guest who now lives in Spain, had gotten up too and had come downstairs. George is about 70 and has lived in England and Australia for most of his life. Once he developed problems with breathing he was advised to move to a warmer and drier place so he sold all his stuff in London and moved down to Spain. Now he comes and visits London occasionally and stays with Kaju Mama. He was an interesting person and after the hearty breakfast we all sat in the garden and chatted. The conversation turned to memories of the War and both Lenny and George remembered the bombs and the shelters. George also told us stories about his life in Belfast the height of the IRA activities and how his restaurant was bombed and the way in which the different parties tried to extort money from business men like him. Srijoy was thrilled to hear these stories. We eventually left around 11:30 in the morning and Kaju Mama drove us to Terminal 1 at Heathrow, we had to circle around once but we were there in plenty of time. Got checked in and then hung around trying to resolve the problem with my Amex card. Eventually the Aer Lingus flight left about 40 minutes late for the 50 minute flight to Dublin. The immigration was simple and went to rent the car from Thrifty. Discovered the problem with Mikku’s Amex as well. Eventually got the car and headed out West towards Enfield for the hotel. Was lost once, but eventually got to the Marriot Johnstown Hotel and Spa at Enfield. It was an old mansion and it has been made into a hotel with additions. The room was very nice and we got settled in and eventually ate at the bar and called it a day.

July 16, 2007

Left early in the morning. Took M4/N4 into city center of Dublin. Being a Sunday morning everything was completely deserted. It was not difficult finding Trinity University and there was plenty of parking that early in the morning. Went off to the conference and spent most of the day there. Later in the afternoon picked up Mikku and Bebo and came back to town. By then it was getting crowded but was able to find parking by the river. Walked on to Temple Bar and then on to Dublin castle. The city is nice but not quite as picturesque as many other European cities. Kept walking along Dame Street by the theaters and eventually went on to Temple square. This was an interesting mix of old and new and we picked a small Italian bistro for lunch. Had a nice leisurely meal and then walked on to Trinity University. Took some pictures around there and bought a ticket for the bus and took it to the other end of Dame Street to the Christ Church. Could not enter the church but walked on to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and spent a little time at the Cathedral gardens. Took another bus back to the Parliament house area of Dame Street and stopped at a café for drinks. This is the great thing about Europe with all its little cafes and the pubs. We then started walking back towards the car and stopped at a convenience store for supplies. The clerk was from India and he suggested that we go to the larger market for stuff. We walked quite a bit and eventually reached the Jarvis shopping center. It was a pretty standard mall, and Mikku went around it some as Bebo and I rested. Eventually we walked back towards the car. I had the two of them wait by the river and I went and got the car and we headed back to the hotel. Traffic was not too bad and we were eventually back in time for a drink at the hotel.

July 17, 2006

Took off in the morning after some conferencing and traveled along M4/N4 going east towards Dublin. Took the Naas exit and veered off to the South East towards County Wicklow. Ireland is divided into specific counties and they are all distinct in their own ways. This particular county is to the South of Dublin and is well known for its valleys, hills and ultimately its beaches. We drove through Naas and stopped on the way at a small town and I got myself a couple of shirts given that I was running out of clean clothes! Had tea there too. The road gets tricky after Naas and one goes through hilly roads through rather barren hills and valleys and then through Wicklow pass to get into Glendalough. This is a tourist stop and we spent just a few minutes there, looked at the upper and lower lake and then moved on towards Wicklow. The town of Wicklow was medium sized. We headed towards the beach and had a pub lunch and then Srijoy spent some time at the beach. This is a different kind of a beach given it is mostly made up of pebbles with hardly any sand at all. It was quite nice and the water was really calm and serene. After some time there we moved back to the town center and Mikku looked at the shops and stuff and we eventually headed out going back North along the coast road. Although it is called the coast road, it really does not get too close to the coast. I tried a side street and ended up in some one’s barn. Had to get out fast before they caught us for trespassing! We then went through Newcastle and eventually stopped at Bray. Had a drink there and then headed down to the esplanade by the ocean at Bray with a view of Bray Head which is a hill that overlooks the sea. It was hot but sunny and clear and we strolled by the sea and back to the car. It was getting a little late and so we headed out of Bray. Was able to find N11 fairly easily and we went off on M50 and then on M4 to get back to Enfield. Dropped Mikku and Bebo at the hotel and went to the city and found a Centra grocery store. Got some sandwiches and snacks from there. Spent the evening relaxing in the room and finally called it a day.

July 18, 2006

Left the hotel around 10:00 after a good breakfast. Our first stop was Malahide castle. This was reached by M4/N4 towards Dublin and then taking M50 Northbound to Malahide Road and then to the town of Malahide. Parked the car and waked over to the castle. It was a long walk but it was pleasant. The castle proved to the ancestral home of a family and we took the brief tour of the castle. It was mildly interesting. We then took a taxi back to Malahide station. Both the round trip ticket to Dublin and took the train to Connoly station. It took about 30 mins to get to Connoly. There had lunch at a pub and walked back to Connoly and took the Luas tram all the way to Jone’s street – the home of the Guinness brewery. We bought the round trip/unlimited bus ticket and tool the Luas to visit the Guinness brewery. The ride was fine, and there was a little walk to get to the storehouse. Got the tickets, went to the gift shop and then walked around the brewery. Finally on the 7th floor got the free drinks and spent some time there. Left from Guinness and took the horse carriage (about 30 Euro). From Temple Bar walked by Trinity and took a bus to St. Stephen’s Green. Sat around there for a while and then walked down Grafton Street back to the bus stop. Here took a bus back to Connoly and then the train at 6:35 pm going to Malahide. Picked up the car there and drove back home. The drive back was OK and dropped Mikku and Bebo at the hotel and I went to Enfield to get sandwiches. Got two of them made up at the Deli and was back in the room by about 8:30. Did some packing and arranging and called it a day.

July 19, 2006

We left from the hotel after a good breakfast. It took about an hour to get to the airport. The car return process was simple. It was a good thing that I had filled up the car before leaving (Gas was Euro1.21 per liter making it about $6.00 per gallon). The check in went smoothly enough and we were at the gate in time. Got some duty free stuff as leaving. The flight was uneventful. Got to Heathrow Terminal 1 and the baggage collection was smooth and got out to the terminal. Left 3 bags in left luggage (it is now 6 sterling per bag per day) and went down to the underground. Bought the all day train and bus pass and took the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus. It was the hottest day of the season in London (33 C) and since nothing is air conditioned things were quite miserable in the train where if felt like a sauna. We got off at Piccadilly, it was a glorious day and we took a few pictures and walked over to Glasshouse Street and our Garfunkels. Lunch was a little late and I also went down to the subway and got some money out. We then walked over to Shaftsbury Avenue and took a taxi to Foyle’s bookstore on Tottenham Court Road. Walked around there and discovered some of the old bookstores that sell used books and stuff. That was quite nice. Bebo also enjoyed visiting the stores. Returned to Foyle’s and met up with Mikku and we then walked over to the Oxford Street corner and took a bus to John Lewis on Oxford Street. Browsed around. Bebo was getting tired and so went to the Café Nero in the House of Fraser, had a cup of tea and then walked over to the Bond Street underground and took the trains to Hammersmith. It was really hot and crowded in the subway given it was rush hour. We got on the number 220 from Hammersmith to Wandsworth. It was a long, hot and somewhat uncomfortable journey. Eventually got off in front of Southside shopping center, walked down Garret Lane but decided to take a taxi to Kaju Mamu’s house. Bebo was excited to ride the black cab. Kaju Mamu was home already. I had a quick beer and then headed out for Heathrow at about 7:00 pm to get the suitcases. It was a long journey, the bus took a while to come, the train I was in cancelled near South Ealing and so had to wait for another train. Eventually picked up the bags and was back on a train by 8:45 and was back in Hammersmith about 9:30. Was picked up by Kaju Mama from the Hammersmith. Home by 10:00, had a sumptuous dinner sitting outside in Kaju Mama’s lawn. Eventually called it a day after doing the necessary repacking. Chatted with Kaju Mama some and went to bed around midnight.

July 20

Got up early. Was ready with breakfast of coffee and crackers and as the others got up I moved the suitcases out. The car with the driver (Sam, from Sri Lanka) showed up at 7:15. We loaded our bags and headed out for Gatwick. Sam knew the area well and we took all the right roads and got to the correct terminal about 8:30. Checking in with US Air was smooth. Did a little shopping at duty free and were eventually on our way on time. US Air coach service was average to bad. The food was hot but tasteless, the electric outlet could not power up my inverter and so was unable to use the computer too much. The entertainment system was good but being a cheap shit American carrier they charge $5.00 for the headsets (BTW, alcoholic drinks are also $5.00 per piece). I decided to stick to my DVD player and watched a Hindi movie. To note, US Air does not offer the sky map so you are clueless as to where you are when you are flying. This is standard for most airlines, but not US Air. Bad airlines. Got to Charlotte on time though. Immigration and customs was good. Best thing is that the “re-checking” of bags is no longer the case in Charlotte. So we were out quickly. Got the rental van and headed back home. Picked up Snowy on the way and we were home by about 6:30 pm.

posted by Ananda  # 5:16 PM

Saturday, July 15, 2006

June 25, 2006


Took the morning flight (Jet 9w922) to Kolkata.  Everyone from D-50 was there to greet us.  I had the rental car there too with the driver (Surojit).  Got to AC 140 about 11:30.  Everyone hung out for a while and then Mikku and Srijoy went off to D-50 for the first part of the stay.  Spent some time with Shanker da and Didibhai and then went off to the City Center Mall.  Bought a new air conditioner for the house and had it delivered.  In the evening stayed at home.  Rana, my friend from school, came at 5:00 and then later in the evening others such as Sudip, my cousin, and his family came and later still Dada Bhai, my cousin, and family came over.  I was tired but it was good to see them all.


June 26, 2006


In the morning went off to Punjab National Bank with Ma and Avijit to make the necessary arrangements for the vault.  The matter went very smoothly thanks to the ground work that Abhijit had already done.  After completing the PNB work, went off to City Center for a bit.  Eventually got back home and the people came over to put in the new air conditioner.  It worked well and brought much needed relief.  Mikku and Bebo had come over too.  In the evening dropped them off at D-50 and went off to Lake Club.  Had a nice evening with my cousins.  Hung out there till about 10:30 and finally got back home.


June 27, 2006


Being my birthday and being this was happening in India after many years Ma was quite excited and so there was the elaborate arrangements in the afternoon.  Mikku and Bebo came over for lunch and we hung around home.  Later in the evening, everyone from D-50 came over as well and we ordered Pizza and spent the evening together with Shanker da and Didibhai as well.  There was a cake that Tinku had brought over and we cut that.


June 28, 2006


The morning was generally getting ready to leave.  Had lunch at home and did some chores in the morning.  Later took Mikku, Tinku and Bebo to new market.  Got some of the stuff and went to Grand for lunch.  Things got hurried and simply had to pack a lunch and leave.  Dropped them off and stopped by at home and then went off to the airport.  Flight was a little delayed and the Air Sahara flight reached Delhi around 6:00.  The car with driver Singh was there.  Went over the Marriott and spent the evening there.


June 29, 2006


Left from the hotel around 5:17 in the morning.  The journey was smooth but the car was not doing well with the air-conditioning.  We made it the outskirts of Jaipur in 4 hours and stopped at the Le Meridian resort for coffee.  I was coming down with a cold and needed a hot drink.  Got lost a little getting to the Institute but eventually got there.  Had a nice meeting with the staff and then the lecture went very well.  Had lunch with the Director and then headed out about 2:00 in the afternoon.  Stopped by the shops on the way out and then got on the way to Delhi.  It was fierce fully hot and the AC simply was not working.  It was quite bad until we got caught in the dust storm.  It was quite an interesting experience as the dust blew off the desert and the temperature fell from 114 F to about 95 F.  Eventually got into Delhi about 7:30 pm.  Was not feeling too well.  Kinshuk came to visit and we chatted for some time and I eventually called it a day about midnight.


June 30, 2006


Took the morning Jet flight from Delhi.  Getting to the airport was not a problem.  Flight worked on time.  From Dum Dum went straight to D-50.  Had lunch there and then went off shopping and such.  Later in the evening Mikku and Bebo shifted over to AC 140.


July 1, 2006


The morning was at home.  Went out to have lunch with Moushumi and Joy.  At Peshwari at ITC Sheraton Shonar Bangla.  After lunch went over to see Sudip, my cousin, and family in Tangra.  Got back in time to prepare the roof for the party.  The roof party went well and was attended by Phuchku da and family, everyone from D-50, Dada Bhai and family and of course Shanker da and Didibhai had done all the cooking.  It was a pleasant evening.


July 2, 2006


The morning we went out to see Pishima and all in Lake Town.  Had a little bit of a late start in the morning and so after Lake Town went straight to the restaurant for the school reunion.  It was the restaurant where the old Wadorf used to be on Park Street.  Nearly a dozen of the old boys showed up and many with families.  It was a rollicking time and we really had a great time.  Hung out there till about 3 and then went to Dum Dum Park, first to Dadabhai's house and spent a little time with them and then went over to my aunt’s house next door (Bhaima) and spent a little time with her.  The driver knew Dum Dum Park well and so he took us through the neighborhood where I grew up (lived there from 6 to 14) and we showed Bebo the site of where my first school used to be next to the temple.  We then headed back home.  Bunudi and family visited in the evening.  That evening Mikku, Ma, Boudi-ma and Tinku went off to see a movie (“Fanaa”) at the 89 Theaters and Bebo and I spent the evening upstairs with Shanker da and Didibhai.  I eventually went to get the ladies from the theater.  It was a rainy night. 


July 3, 2006


The morning was mostly at home.  For lunch met up with Sanjoy Sengupta and Sammy at the Hyatt bar.  It was an interesting meeting.  In the afternoon all of us went off to see the new movie “Krish” at the City Center.  Being shot in Singapore it was interesting to see the movie.  Later in the evening, went off to see Khuku mashi and then had a drink with Abhijit and Swati at Abcos. 


July 4, 2006


Nothing too much to do.  It was Ma’s birthday and we spent the day mostly shopping and going out the City Center and such.  In the evening everyone from D-50 came over and Shanker da and Didibhai joined us all for a dinner of dosa, dahi vada and other stuff I had got from Gangotri restaurant.  In the evening went and visited my uncle (baro mama) at AA block in Salt Lake.


July 5, 2006


We decided to spend most of the in packing and resting.  Had to go out in the morning for some last minute shopping and checking in with the vault at Punjab National Bank.  Then in the afternoon, Mikku and I went to City Center and finally got back home around 5:00 and started to get ready.  In the morning had to pay off the car as well and make arrangements for the return from the airport for the India group.  Also got a pair of eye-glasses done for a prince of Rs. 1,000 (about $20.00) and they were supposed to be delivered by 8 pm.  Dada bhai and Boudi came to see us off.  So went back to the City Center to pick them up, they were not ready and the person promised that it would be delivered to the hotel in Delhi when we return.  Eventually had dinner and left from home for the airport at about 8:30.  There were two cars, one Qualis and one Esteem.  The check in and security was smooth except for having to open a couple of suitcases for close inspection.  At the airport ran into Gorky and old friend from school and the Salt Lake neighborhood.  Flight left on time.  Singapore Airlines was nice and empty and Bebo and Ma could stretch out and sleep a little during the 3 and half hour flight.


July 6, 2006


We arrived in Singapore after the night flight at about 6:00 am.  It was 32 Celsius outside and for the rest of the stay the temperature changed little.  The humidity was about 99% and thus we were in a truly Equatorial climate.  It was rainy outside but that did not help!  We took a Maxi Cab (seats a max of 7 people and takes a lot of baggage for a flat fee of 35 Sing [about $21.00] for any point to any point in Singapore.  Shaped like an ellipse the furthest points in Singapore are 24 miles apart and one can drive from one end of Singapore to the other in about an hour.  We took the Maxicab to the Le Meridian hotel in Changi Village close to the airport.  We had arranged for early check in and so we got the three rooms and the people all went to bed to rest.  I got a cup of coffee in the restaurant and then called the car people to come and deliver the car.  In the meantime Buri called.  Buri, or Bedashruti or Munmun, is my niece.  She recently (February 2006) got married to a guy she met on the Net and moved to Singapore where her husband, Sandeep, works in the IT industry.  Mikku and I had missed the wedding and thus had decided to make this trip to Singapore mainly to see Buri and Sandeep.  So, Buri came over to the hotel about 9:30 and we waited for the van guy to show up.  A person called John came over with the van which eventually proved to be a converted cargo van that could seat people in very uncomfortable conditions.  We went with John and had to make the up front weeks rental payment of 410 Sings.  I had already wired 200 Sing as a security deposit.  John then left and Buri and I went to the 7-11 to top up the cash card.  All cars in Singapore have a toll collection equipment similar to the E-Z pass used on may toll roads in the USA.  The toll is deducted from a cash card (which can also be used to pay other things such as parking etc.) and I had to top up the card so there were funds in it.  Buri and I then had a cup of coffee and came up to our room.  Mikku was up by then and eventually all of us drove to the food court in Changi Village and had lunch.  The food at these food courts is really quite cheap and we enjoyed the lunch a lot.  We then drove to Buri’s place on Gelang East Avenue 2.  They live in a high-rise apartment building called Sims Ville (it is right off Sims Avenue).  It was typical apartment house and we went up to her place on the 9th floor and quite liked the place.  Ample for a newly wed and very nicely located with the MRT rapid transport right next door.  It was very reminiscent in a way of the place that Buri’s parent’s shared in Brajrajnagar right after their wedding. I had visited them there and spent some time with them and now had the opportunity to find the new generation in a similar situation!  The two interesting aspects about the place is that it is under the flight path of the Singapore Air Force crafts that fly into a base a little South West of their place and it is also about 4 blocks from the designated red light area of Singapore.  Given that Singapore is a very regulated society with a quasi-dictatorship in place (as some say it is a “gilded cage”) the city-state is very sterilized and completely controlled by unseen hands (and huge numbers of surveillance cameras), the location near red light area is no cause for concern at all!  More important than the place was Buri’s hospitality.  She was really nice and it was truly like coming home to visit her place.  Since everyone was tired we decided to spend just a little time at her place and head back to the hotel.  I had been reading the good map I had bought at the gas station and figured out that Singapore can be easily navigated by understanding the major highways that are identified by abbreviations such as PIE (Pan Island Expressway) and so coming back to the hotel was easier.  We got back and I walked back to the food court for a drink.  Eventually all of us went over to the food court and had dinner at the Indian stall.  Called it a day after that since everyone was really tired.


July 7, 2006


The jet lag had proved to be an issue and people took a while to get ready and going.  Additionally, I had to make sure that the room was emptied by noon.  I got everyone ready and packed by about 10:30 and left for the Bird Park around that time.  It was a long drive all the way from the Changi Village hotel on PIE and then ECP and then AYE to the Jurong Bird Park.  Realized that would not be able to come back to the hotel by noon and so called Buri and asked her to go over to the hotel and stall them for time.  Barely dropped them off and got back around 12:15.  Buri was there and she helped empty out the rooms and the valet took all the bags down.  Also, realized that the air conditioner in the van was not working (they call it aircon in Singapore) and so called the car company and they said they would get me a new van.  So Buri and I sat and chatted in the hotel lobby and eventually John showed up with a new van.  Very similar to the other one but the AC was working.  Got it loaded up and then went over to the food court for lunch.  It was miserable hot.  Buri and I ate together and as it was getting late had to finish up and I headed out towards Sentosa Island and Buri took a bus home.  I drove on ECP and took the Keppel Road exit eventually to get to the Sentosa Gateway Bridge.  Sentosa is a small island south of Singapore and this has been developed into a tourist area with resorts and other attractions.  I had to pay 2 Sings to get across the bridge and eventually found the Costa Sands Resort.  It was a nice resort but I had to move all the bags by myself in the afternoon heat and that was quite a feat.  I do not believe I have sweated this much ever before in my life.  I set up the rooms and barely had time to head back out to pick everyone up from the bird park.  Took the West Coast Highway and then Clementi road to get on to AYE towards Jurong and was able to get them from the same spot I had left them.  They had enjoyed the bird park.  Took the same way back and there was an unfortunate incident on the way back.  This is something that I can tell you about when we see each other and if you remember to ask.  I would rather not disclose this in a blog but it is safe to say that I have never been as unnerved.  Anyway had to pay to get back to the island and were informed that we should have our hands stamped at the Ranger’s Office every time we leave Sentosa and we would not have to pay.  We did this every time henceforth.  We got to the resort and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the place inspite of what had happened earlier.  We hung around by the pool and Srijoy took a swim and then we all went to the beach.  It was pleasant at the beach.  We walked over to the beach restaurant, had to bribe the greeter 10 Sing to get an early table but after a drink at the “Cool Deck” beach bar had a nice dinner and walked back to the resort and called it a day.


July 8, 2006


I got up early and got some work done.  The wireless internet was working again at the hotel.  Bebo and I went to the pool for some time.  Babul-baba also joined in.  I had gotten some work done earlier in the morning.  This morning Babul-baba chose to stay back and the rest of the group left to visit the nature reserve at Bukit Timah.  It was a little tricky getting there since I was still getting used to the roads.  After a few wrong turns we got there.  It was really hot and humid and Tinku decided to sit out the hike.  The rest of us started on the hike through the rain forest and after a while Ma and Boudi-ma turned around as well.  We pushed on and it was really nice.  This was a true equatorial rain forest and one could feel the steamy heat.  We went somewhat further and we too turned back and met back with the rest of the group.  We then headed towards downtown and I took the Havelock Road exit off CTE and ended up in Chinatown.  The parking lot was really interesting.  We had to drive the van into an elevator that took the car down into the underground lot.  We went to the People Park shopping center and had lunch at the food court.  Had some really strange food but it was generally OK.  Everybody seemed to enjoy their foods.  We then split in two groups – Srijoy and me, and the rest – and checked out the shopping mall.  It was interesting and got a sense that some things are really cheap in Singapore.  Mikku bought a few trinkets and we eventually headed back to the hotel.  Got back around 3:30 and Bebo hit the pool.  We hung around till about 6:00 and then ordered a Maxi Cab and went off to Buri’s place.  Took detailed notes about how to get there and that helped me later.  We were there about 6:30 and met Sandeep, Buri’s husband for the first time.  Really nice person and we had a very pleasant evening.  They had cooked up a storm and so we had a great dinner and generally a very nice night.  Again ordered the Maxi Cab and got back to the resort around 11:30.  There was a huge beach party in full swing and it proved to be a noisy night.


July 9, 2006


We had a late start because we wanted to take it easy in the morning.  The party from the night before had also been very rowdy and some could not sleep too well.  It was not possible to go to the pool since there was a wedding going on pool side.  People eventually got ready around 11:30 and we took the van over to Buri’s house.  They, however, decided not to go out with us.  We then drove over from Buri’s place to Snow City which is close to the Singapore Science Center.  We got there about 12:30 and had just missed the show.  So we bought the tickets for the 2:15 show and had lunch in the tiny cafeteria of Snow City.  It was a nice meal and then we were eventually allowed in.  All of us had to put on parkas and those in shorts (Bebo and me) also had to put on parka pants.  They then lead the group into a large area (size of a couple of football fields) where they have snow lying around, the temperature is about -8 Celsius and they have a snow slope for snow tubing.  Bebo had a ball doing that and the others just enjoyed the snow.  They could not stay there for more than 20 minutes and we left from there and headed out.  It was a rainy day and as we made our way to East Coast Park a really bad storm came in.  Took the AYE and ECP to get to Exit 13 and take the left on to East Coast Park.  It was raining hard.  We eventually made it to the McDonalds and I found parking there too.  We went to the McCafe and ordered tea and coffee.  It was raining persistently.  Buri and Sandeep showed up soon as planned.  Since it was raining, the ladies decided to hang out at the Café.  Sandeep, Bebo and I took a walk in the rain to the beach.  It was nice.  Then the guys just hung around outside chatting.  Eventually at around 5:30 we all made our way to the Indian restaurant (Kamala Vilas) and we had an early dinner.  Before that Bebo and I had gone to the beach for some time and Bebo had a nice time at the beach inspite of the slight drizzle.  I just stood under the umbrella!  After the supper at the restaurant, which was Sandeep and Buri’s treat we took the van and drove to the zoo for the night safari.  This was a very unique experience of traveling on a tram through a zoo at night and seeing the animals.  There was an interesting show that we attended as well and Sandeep, Buri, Mikku, Bebo and I also walked a trail and saw hyenas and tigers which at night looked quite menacing and uncomfortably close!  It was a great experience and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  Eventually after a brief stop at the gift shop our group took the van back to Sentosa and Sandeep and Buri took a taxi home.  I was a little lost on the way back and took the West Coast Highway viaduct and got off at Brani Gate 2 and had to make some illegal turns to get to the Sentosa Bridge.  Got back around mid night.


July 10, 2006


This was the day we had earmarked for shopping.  We all got up and ready earlier than other days and got in the van and drove over to Buri’s house.  We got there in good time and we then took two taxis and went to Mustafa’s.  This is a Singapore institution.  The store was originally started as a small Mom and Pop organization many years ago.  With time this grew into one of the largest shopping centers in Singapore that is open 24 hours and has pretty much anything you would want at a very affordable price.  Shopping in Singapore is tricky.  There are small shops that sell stuff that could be of suspicious origin and quality.  This is where Mustafa’s comes in because they guarantee good products at reasonable prices.  It is located bang in the middle of Little India and has become an icon of the Indian presence in Singapore.  We split up into three groups – Srijoy and me, Mikku and her parents, Buri and my mother – and shopped for stuff we wanted.  I got a camera, lots of computer peripherals and games and stuff.  The process is quite interesting.  For the high price items the clerk will give you a little pink slip and you pay for the product at the cashiers and after payment take the receipt and the pink slip to the place where you got the stuff and they would give you the merchandise, put it in a plastic bag, and then zip lock it so that you can not put anything else in it.  After the shopping Srijoy and I went to a food court for a beer and ginger ale.  We left all our shopping at the store’s left luggage area and had lunch together at the restaurant called Anandabhumi.  The place is full of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants with shop signs written in Indian languages.  After lunch we went back to Buri’s place and picked up the van.  Since Mustafa did not have some of the stuff we were looking for we decided to go to a store on Orchard Road – which is the main business district of Singapore.  Took the PIE to the CTE and then got off at the Orchard Road exit and parked in the Singapore Place Mall.  Had coffee at Starbucks and hung around there for some time.  Eventually everyone was tired and we decided to get back to the hotel.  Drove purely by instinct and by what I had learned of the Singapore roads and we got back with no problems.  Everyone was tired and I was bored.  Bebo went to the pool and as the evening dragged on, I had to cancel the dinner date with Buri and Sandeep and we eventually took the beach tram to Palawan beach where we had a nice Indian dinner.  Eventually got back to the hotel around 10:30 and called it a day.  I did go out to the pool side and snoozed there for a while before going back into the room.


July 11, 2006


Got up feeling a little down because of a cold/flu that seemed imminent.  It was a hot day as usual and I got up and went by the pool to access the Internet and get some work done.  Since the group was still in bed I decided to walk down to the beach area and take a tram to get some coffee.  The tram was quite unreliable and so I walked over to the Siloso beach area and got a cup of coffee.  Got back to the room and decided to work some until everyone was ready.  Eventually all were up and we left in the car and drove over to Fort Siloso.  Dropped the group there and I came back and parked the car at the hotel and walked back to the fort.  They were still waiting and we took the bus up to the fort.  It was a very educational tour and learned a lot about the history of Singapore particularly in terms of its role in the Second World War.  Bebo and I took a walk around the fort grounds taking pictures of the guns and such.  Then we visited the gift shop and picked up some souvenirs.  We then re-joined the group and took the bus to Underwater World.  This was basically a small aquarium, and it had the tunnel walk which everyone really enjoyed.  We spent some time there and visited the gift shop and ate at the restaurant attached to the aquarium.  It was not a bad meal but it was more expensive than other places.  After the meal we took the Red Line bus to the Artist’s Village bus stop.  This is the stop for the Merlion – the Singapore Icon – and we all walked to the base of the Merlion.  Mikku, Bebo and I went to the top of the Merlion while the others waited below.  After some time there we met up with the rest of the group and walked back to the bus stop.  Babul-baba and Tinku wanted to return to the hotel.  Mikku, Ma, Boudi-ma and Bebo proceeded to the Dolphin Lagoon and I reached the others back to the hotel.  We took the Blue Line bus to the main bus station and then the Siloso beach tram back to the resort.  After dropping them off I took the beach trams all the way back to the Dolphin lagoon (the ticket for Underwater World is good for the Dolphin Lagoon as well).  The show was about to start and it was terribly hot and I was quite miserable from the cold.  The show was a bit lack luster compared to what we have seen elsewhere but the Dolphins (pink dolphins) was quite unique.  After the show, we took the beach tram back to the bus station and then the Blue Line bus to the cable car plaza.  It was incredibly hot and the place was teeming with tourists.  There, all but me went to see the Butterfly Park and I hung out at the plaza and had a drink.  A storm came through dumping rain and reducing the heat and humidity marginally.  After they were done with the butterfly world, we all bought tickets for the Cable car and took it to Mount Fabor on the Singapore side.  It was a pleasant ride.  At the other end, we had drinks and snacks at a really nice restaurant and then everyone browsed the shops some.  We eventually took the cable car back to Sentosa and the bus/tram combination back to the resort.  I went off to the 7-11 to get sandwiches and got back around 7:15 pm.  Bebo was already in the pool.  Had a couple of drinks by the pool and then we all got in the van and drove over to the Ferry Terminal area for the magic fountain laser show.  Thankfully I easily found parking and the laser show was really good, much better than what we have seen before.  It lasted about 45 minutes and after that we trooped back to the car and were heading back home when we realized that there was the Chinese restaurant we had not tried.  They were getting ready to close (it was about 9:30) but were willing to serve us.  We ordered and then I needed to go to the restroom.  The lady said it was outside and as I stepped outside I saw it was pitch dark and there was no restroom in sight, but there were plenty of trees and shrubs.  So, had the opportunity of doing something that all had said is impossible to do in Singapore!  Anyway, got back to the dinner and after dinner drove back to the hotel.  Everyone was really tired and I was feeling bad from the cold and we called it a day.


July 12, 2006


I got up feeling quite miserable from the horrible cold I acquired.  Anyhow, spent most of the morning packing and arranging things.  Then woke up Ma at about 7:15.  It was raining outside so it was a little dreary.  Then woke Mikku up about 8:00 am and she said that Bebo had reacted to the food and had thrown up in the middle of the night.  Needed to take it easy.  I drove around Sentosa trying to find a place for coffee but everything was closed till 10:00 am, so got back to the resort.  At about 9:30 Mikku, Tinku and Ma were ready and I had also had two people load the van with the heavier stuff.  I took the three of them to the Artist’s Village bus stop and left them there so that they could walk down to the Sentosa orchid garden.  It was a short walk and one needs to walk in the lane between the magic fountain area and the bus stop.  I came back to the hotel, checked the three rooms and then picked up Bebo, Babul-baba and Boudi-ma and their bags and we headed out to Buri’s place.  It was relatively a quick drive and we were there by about 11:00.  The other group arrived by taxi from Sentosa and got there about 11:30.  Buri, babul-baba and I then went out to the local mall (the one with Shop and Save) and got Ma’s watch and walked back.  It was terribly hot and my cold was not helping.  Later, all of us except Buri took two taxis and drove over to Clarke’s Quay by the Singapore River.  Walked around there for a bit and had lunch at Hooter’s which was really odd!  Then took the Singapore river boat tour and it took us down the river all the way through the downtown area and then out to the harbor by the Esplanade and Merlion park and we got an amazing view of the Singapore skyline.  The commentary on the boat was good but could barely be heard over the din of the engine!  It was also terribly hot.  The cruises are available all over the river side and usually costs about 15 Sing per adult.  The cruise lasts about 45 minutes.  We were let off at Clarke’s Quay and we walked across the area to the taxi stand.  I had to get money out from the ATM at the Novotel and then we took two taxis back to Buri’s place.  I sat down then and arranged the pictures for printing.  Buri and I went over to the mall at Singapore Post and got the pictures done and got back home by about 5:30.  We then left for the airport around 6:15.  Took the PIE to Changi and got there in about 20 minutes.  Went to the wrong terminal first but then dropped the passengers off and parked in car park C (in Singapore the work for parking is “car park” and not “parking lot” and it is pronounced “capak”).  The check in line was really slow, and in the meantime I arranged to return the car.  That took about 20 minutes and because of the damage on the car it cost me the 200 Sing deposit.  Eventually the India group was checked in and they went through immigration and we took a cab back to Buri’s place.  Sandeep was home and we sat and chatted for some time.  My cold was really working up.  Eventually, we took a bus (number 67) to Little India and we ate an excellent dinner at the Raj restaurant.  Since Sandeep has lived in the area for a long time he is well familiar with the restaurants. It was a great meal and it was a treat from Sandeep and Buri.  We then walked back to Serangon Plaza taxi stand.  It was about 10:30 at night but the place was still abuzz with activity.  Finding a taxi was really difficult and Sandeep called a cab and all but Sandeep took the cab back home and then Sandeep came along in a few minutes in a second cab.  We sat around and watched TV till about midnight.  The couple was really nice and they let us use their bedroom as they moved into the guest room.  I was feeling really ill from the cold and flu and so had a troubled night with the sneezing, coughing, and the general Singapore heat.


July 13, 2006


We got up around 7:00 after another really hot night in Singapore.  Buri prepared a lovely breakfast of cucumber sandwiches and tea and coffee.  Sandeep left for work at 8:30 and we sat around and chatted for a while.  Srijoy was still in bed.  Then around 9:30 Mikku and I left for Mustafa.  We took a cab and then spent the morning shopping in Mustafa.  Got some essential items and eventually got done around noon.  Took another cab back to Buri’s place.  Srijoy was up and was having breakfast.  We did some more packing and also helped clear up the mess that we had made in her house.  We also went to the food court in the Singapore Post plaza.  Had an excellent lunch of tandoori chicken and nan.  The heat outside was intense.  Eventually got back home, packed and called for a MaxiCab.  None were available so we had to hire two regular cabs and took them to Changi.  Got there is plenty of time and Buri came along to see us off.  She left after reaching us to the airport and we checked in, finished immigration without hassles and did a little shopping and admired the orchids at Changi and eventually boarded on time.  The flight was miserable for me because of the bad cold but other than that it was eventless and we arrived in Delhi around 10:30 pm.  The Radisson had sent a nice vehicle (the Toyota Inova) and we were at the hotel and in the room in no time.  Extremely nice room and we called it a day.  I took some more medicines to help me sleep.

posted by Ananda  # 3:04 PM


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