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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Craving Coffee, Err No!

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While sipping on his Mocha, when he looked around, he saw the usual humdrum of the Bangkok traffic on one side.

On the other, he observed – a toddler apparently trying to read a magazine, with his parents proudly smiling in the background and a couple lost in their mobile phones.

He craved her touch. He quickly did a mental calculation and sighed.

Another coffee was ordered!

Written by Sangfroid

June 9, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Posted in iWrite, Travel

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Of Tequilas and Jumping Out Of Planes

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The evening before had been a Tequila Fest. A blood test might have revealed some traces of Scotch too. The beep of the phone woke me up. On the other side, was this guy. If it weren’t for him, I might not have experienced how jumping from 15000 feet felt.

Our destination was a town called Cuautla (Mexico) in the neighboring state of Morelos. Our driver was a friendly Mexican chap whom we had known from our daily commute to work. It took us nearly two hours before we came in sight of flying planes, a large rectangular green strip and all things typical of a Sky Diving venue. The journey had been spent in mostly fantasizing about how it would feel to do what we had embarked upon, apart from desperate measures to get rid of the Tequila that had flooded the insides.

Realization Dawns
The dame on the registration desk handed over a form. It was an official, sophisticated version of a suicide note. It stated that I was fully aware of what I was getting into and also that I might not get out of it. I wished I couldn’t find a pen to sign it but she handed me that too. I pledged myself.

Slow & Steady

Slow and Steady
I took my own sweet time in getting into the gear and because I was the last one to board the aircraft, I felt at ease just a tad bit. FIFO (First In First Out) was my algorithm of choice but LIFO (Last In First Out) was the unanimous choice. With sweat dripping down my forehead, I managed to smile for the camera. While the trainer tightened the harness, I felt curling and tightening in my insides. This wasn’t just any other airplane journey. It was like the rare one where one had to take the emergency exit. I must have said a silent prayer.

Air Borne

Air-borne
There were indicators for altitude and air-pressure inside the aircraft. The trainers’ eyes were glued to it while they chit-chatted. I tried to recollect the instructions that were given pre-boarding but my mind drew a blank. In vain, I tried to rack my brains. Then, there was an alarm and the door opened. I recollect people around me smiling. I couldn’t reciprocate, however. I’m not sure till date if it was a push from the trainer or it was a slip from my side or something else, but there I was – In The Air!

Like A Bird

Bird-like
For the first few seconds, I felt like a bird learning to fly. I had wings but didn’t know how to flap them.

Finally, it sinks in
Then, the parachute was pulled out. And with it came a jolt which pulled me up. It felt like the end of days for a split second but then the world seemed beautiful. The cool breeze soothed my senses and I loved what I saw – clouds above me, hills and water bodies below me! It felt like being suspended in heaven.

An Accomplished Bloke

An Accomplished Bloke
This jump dates back to November 2011 but even today when I see the video, it gives me goose-bumps. Yes, I had put myself out of my comfort-zone but it was worth it. Besides, being comfy all the time is just plain boring. Upon landing, I had imagined myself turning into a celebrity and people running towards me to click pictures and get autographs. None of that happened, alas! However, a feeling of accomplishment was quite conspicuous.

This post is an entry for a contest by CupONation, an online retailer of discount coupons, and The Shooting Star travel blog.

Written by Sangfroid

March 10, 2013 at 6:51 pm

The Artist, Her Muse

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With a few quick strokes, on paper, the peacock came alive!

Long back, I’d taken a quiz on Facebook. And, probably that was the last time I ever logged into FB. But that’s not important. What’s pertinent is the fact that the quiz result mentioned my ideal profession as Photography. Considering the fact that I picked up my first DSLR just a few weeks back, amateur would probably describe me best. However, that isn’t stopping me from experimenting. But I continue to be reluctant in approaching the subject (human) for fear of not being able to deliver a fine shot in-spite off the formers cooperation. So I mostly end up in shooting from odd angles. I’ve termed such captures as – Sly Shots!

This Saturday I realized that in the vicinity of the place I’m put up is, the World’s Largest Free-flight Walk-in Aviary – the KL Bird Park. From amongst loads of bird clicks, above is one my favorite capture from the four hour odd walk in the aviary.

Written by Sangfroid

August 21, 2012 at 10:20 am

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Tea, Coffee and Football

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He waited for her at the Mamak stall, sipping on copious mugs of Teh Tarik.
The misting fan helped him stay cool despite the heat.

His iPhone beeped. She wasn’t coming. He felt dejected.

Just then the projector came to life.

He ordered a Kopi Susu and sat back to enjoy the Euro Cup match.

Written by Sangfroid

June 12, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Posted in iWrite, Travel

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Travel Tales From Yore

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The sight of the setting sun in the distance, from atop the ruins, made for a mesmerizing spectacle. The grand Vitthala Temple at the end of the road was a domineering overseer, personified. By the time we were back to our steeds, parked in the local market, dusk had given way to a pitch-dark night. A spooky ride to the resort on the outskirts had a unanimous buy-in. And so, the ignition was turned on but the headlights weren’t. The nearly five kilometer stretch of winding roads was covered in a jiffy. And when we reached the resort, it was abuzz with all other bike-nomads pouring in from different parts of India.

The BikeNomads Annual Meet at Hampi was a three day affair that left an indelible mark in my life. My passion for touring on a bike was fueled here. Although it has been years since then, I vividly recall all the friendly banter over the flowing bottomless beer. Doctors, Engineers, retired Defense Officers, Entrepreneurs made for an eclectic group. From amongst the folks I met during this trip, some went on to become very close friends with whom I’ve been on many a bike-tour. However, like one’s first kiss, the Bangalore-Hampi ride remains etched in my mind.

Some trips begin with a common liking or interest amongst those that undertake it, and the bonding continues much beyond that.
The above being a case in point.

There are others, where mutual likeness is discovered in quick time but the bonding may not last as long as one would desire.
Below is a one such anecdote.

I tucked my luggage in the overhead rack. There was an undercurrent of excitement as in a couple of days, I was to be a part of, probably, the longest rat race in life. Having just completed my undergrad I was looking forward to joining the corporate bandwagon. After diligently bidding adieu to family and relatives who had shown up to shower their blessings, I took my seat in the AC Chair Car of the Delhi bound Gomti Express.

Then I saw her!

She was engrossed in a book, or at least that is how it seemed. I craned my neck to catch the title and that is when our eyes met. In an awkward attempt to absolve myself of any sort of privacy invasion, I blurted out a Hi! To my surprise and subdued delight, she reciprocated with an endearing smile. No exaggeration here, but the next seven hours just zoomed past. We talked as if we were bumchums united after years of separation, on topics as varied as one could imagine. I don’t know how but we had connected, divulging our dreams, ambitions and inner-most fears with zero inhibition.

At the Nizamuddin station, we got off the train. I waved her a reluctant good-bye. Standing at the platform, I watched her disappear into the crowd. The moment she was out of sight, I felt a sudden and massive loss. The thought of running up to her and spending more time with her crossed my mind. The fact that we hadn’t even exchanged email-ids or phone numbers, winced me from within. My train to Hyderabad was due in a couple of hours. If not more, I wished I had her company at least until then. But she was gone.

I walked up to the nearest book stall and got myself a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, wishfully hoping to find her somewhere between the pages.

Then there are those chance encounters which, if given a choice, one would have refrained from.
However, in hindsight, recalling them makes for a good laugh.

The sight chilled me to the bones. A SUV was stuck, in what we thought was an aberrational stream in the middle of the road and one which we could maneuver across, just like the many we had in the past week or so. It’s engine roared like an injured beast, about to collapse. Given the state of affair, I was contemplating on the next course of action. It was about to get dark. Retracing to the nearest village, for the night, seemed like the most obvious option.

Golu, as he is fondly called, however had other plans.
We will pitch our tents here! – he declared.

So, a tent was to be pitched in the middle of nothingness. I tried logic. It failed. After all, Golu is a self-proclaimed Jungle Boy. Now that, I consider, is an insult to Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli. However, let me not digress.

That very morning we had ridden across Khardung La – the highest motor-able road in the world and descended into the Nubra Valley. After having spent our day at the Diskit Monastery we were on our way to the Panamik Lake, when this catastrophe struck.

So where exactly were we?
Like I said – in the middle of nowhere!

The vast and barren mighty mountains extended till as long as the eye could see. They belittled my existence and reminded me of my mortality. The strong chilly breeze ensured that we were not able to pitch our tents. I heaved a sigh of relief. But my happiness was short-lived, as Golu had discovered a deserted semi-constructed hutment. Yet again, I tried logic. And yet again, it failed. This hutment was our night dwelling. Although we cooked a scrumptious dinner, the pebbles and stones kept poking me through the sleeping bag and ensured that I had a sleepless night, waking up all groggy next morning. I must, but, confess that the sight of the mammoth mountains and the fresh morning breeze soothed my senses in no time.

During this same road-trip, we had earlier camped on the bank of the Tawi in Ramban, Jammu – courtesy Golu. We had pitched our tents, inadvertently, on the exact spot where the soul leaves the body, embarking on it’s journey to the heavenly adobe – the cremation ground. For all I know, Yamdoot might have visited our tents too but spared us, maybe because Golu was on guard.

Golu, by the way, works for an adventure company and fantasizes about kicking the bucket by way of being devoured by a tiger. A lion would be fine too. I share his love for adventure but by a much diminished degree. Although I never got a chance to be his fellow traveler, hereafter. In the event of such an opportunity(?) taking shape, I would politely decline the proposal.

The bottom-line is that traveling adds new dimensions to one’s personality. Although the stories above aren’t related to broadening one’s horizons by way of experiencing different cultures, I’ve had the opportunity to do so on my various trips – both in India and overseas.

It’s a small world – I often hear and immediately counter it with – No! It’s not. It’s vast. A lifetime is, probably, not enough to see all of it. And, the debate on small or big ends right there! You too agree, right?

Oh, by the way, this post is my entry to Indiblogger‘s Around The World With Expedia! contest.
Pray for me. I so wish to make it!

Written by Sangfroid

March 3, 2012 at 12:46 pm

By The Vltava in Prague

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Dear readers,

This post is an attempt to

    Break the 55 jinx – I believe I’m addicted to the same and, have this nonsensical urge to finish any piece in 55 words

    Share with you my travel anecdotes – While my love for travel and things related is old wine, this is mostly inspired by Travel Tales From India. I love the way she weaves tons of stories around a single trip

Before I delve further, let me mention that I really appreciate your coming back here and spending precious time from your otherwise choc-a-bloc schedules. No, I’m not being modest. It’s true. I know.

Very recently, I was in Prague on a business trip. A chilly -7 Degrees Celsius greeted me the morning I landed. And in the coming days, it got chillier with temperatures dipping to as low as -17 Degrees Celsius. While Czech Republic boasts of a #13 rank amongst countries with the best work-life balance, my days were spent toiling at work. Okay, that is an exaggeration but the hostile weather did make it difficult to venture out as much as I would’ve liked.

I marveled at the architectural exuberance of the city from the inside of a car, during my commute to and from office. Often, I chatted with the driver about various facets of life in Czech Republic, their beers, the nightlife and such.

Then one fine day, braving the cold, I decided to walk and experience the place first-hand.

My quest was for a river. I was told that a 20 minute downhill walk would take me to the banks. I saw it from the top. And, I saw a bridge. Nope. Not just one. There were many bridges across the river. My eagerness to reach the bank was fueled.

Finally, I was here! On an isolated serene bank of the Vltava. Ducks swam in the freezing water while pigeons took in some sunshine on the bank.

The Vltava River, Prague

The Vltava meanders through Prague for over 31 kms until, I don’t know where it goes. There are dozens of eateries offering scrumptious fare with spectacular views of the river. Also, boat cruises are available at reasonable rates. I, however, chose none of that and lingered on for a while, clicking pictures mostly. And then in the spirit of Johnnie Walker, kept walking.

A few days later I read about people taking a dive in the Vltava. And it chilled me to the bones, yet again.

Coming soon, more on Prague and other travels too!

Written by Sangfroid

February 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Travel

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Of Zulus and Voortrekkers

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Yesterday #wherewereyou was trending on twitter, now and then. The context being, where where you? when the ghastly 9/11 happened. I recollected being in the hostel atrium when news of the attacks first poured in. My memory fails me but there was a temporary blackout in the hostel with word that it was an intentional security measure. What i recollect quite vividly, however, was a freshman performing a Zulu dance for the amusement of the sophomores, circa Sept 2001. Let us leave out the details as to who the skilled dancer was. Back then, my knowledge of Zulu was limited to one phrase Jhinga La La Hoo and that the South African bowler Lance Klusener was nicknamed Zulu. Besides, I had heard of Zulus being a tribe somewhere in Africa.

Eufees Road leading to the monument

Fast forward to Sept 11, 2010 – And I got to know more about the Zulus. In fact, not just them but the Boers, the Voortrekkers and other pioneers in South African history. The Voortrekker Monument is one of the distinct landmarks in the Pretoria Skyline. Being located on a hilltop, it is sighted from afar while cruising on N1 and from many other locations. In fact, from my 16th floor office, I had often wondered as to what this tomb like structure was about. I did find the answers. Read on.

The Ox takes a note of each visitor

Bas Relief, Voortrekker women urging their men

From top - The Atrium. The Cenotaph

Pretoria Skyline - UNISA / Telkom Tower

Close-up from the peripheral garden

The concrete Ox laager

Quick Bites – The monument was constructed to mark the victory of the Voortrekkers over the Zulus in the Battle of Blood River. Apparently, 500 odd Voortrekkers defeated more than 12000 Zulus.

Now, that is commendable!

The monument was built between 1938 and 1949. You see, World War II caused delay in completion. The overall architecture is quite grand and impressive. On the outside, on each of the four corners of the monument, stand tall the legendary Voortrekkers – Piet Retief, Andries Pretorius and two others. Inside the monument, on one level, is the bas-relief depicting the historical events. On another, is the cenotaph proclaiming “We for you South Africa”. Also, there is a two-level museum with adequate dosage of history to leave one confused.

Where/What Else? – The entry fee is R45/person. It’ll take only a short drive from anywhere in Pretoria to reach the Voortrekker Monument. It offers breathtaking views of the Pretoria Skyline. There is a small curio shop from where you can get your very own miniature model of the monument. Do not hesitate to bargain.
Besides, the surrounding velds offer ample opportunities to cycle, hike, camp, horse-ride and have a fun day out.

Written by Sangfroid

September 12, 2010 at 6:32 pm