A Travellerspoint blog

Trip to Vibrant Singapore

sunny 32 °C

19/07/2007
We boarded the train from Kuala Lumpur( Malaysia), had a sound sleep on board and after finishing the immigration formalities at Johar Bahru(Malaysia) and Woodlands(Singapore), we reached Singapore at around 8:30AM. We were quite disappointed as the railway station had just the basic amenities and was ill maintained. We took a cab to our hotel (Supreme Hotel), which was located on Orchard road. It was decently priced at 100 singapore dollars, considering the posh location. The important MRT station of Dhoby Ghaut was just 200m away. Dhoby Ghaut is an important interchange junction where East-west and North-south MRT lines meet, so practically u can go anywhere in Singapore.
We checked in and rested for a while before proceeding for Night Safari, which was a tremendous experience as we could see the wild animals in their natural habitat. Then there was a fire show and animal show, which was enjoyable too. Later we returned back to our hotel.

20/07/2007
Today Sentosa Island was on our agenda. We had taken a group tour to Sentosa which cost 58 SD for each of us. First we went to the Mount Faber cable car station from where we took the cable car to Sentosa Island. The cable car ride was a thrilling one and we soared over the jungles and sea to reach Sentosa, which was buzzing with activity.

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First we went to visit the “Images of Singapore” which showcased the evolution of a small fishing village into a multicultural vibrant and modern city, Singapore. Then we watched the Dolphin show and then we proceeded for the Underwater world, where we walked in a transparent tunnel through which we could see various varieties of fish rubbing past the walls of the tunnel. The last major event of the evening was the Songs of the Sea, which was held on the beach. We reached there in grand style via the chair lift that took us down to the beach. Songs of the sea was a spectacular display of lights, laser, water and fireworks that ended the evening in style. While returning from Sentosa we stopped at Vivo City, one of the biggest malls of Singapore. Since we had nothing to shop for we just took some chocolates and returned back to our hotel

21/07/2007
We got up late today, had breakfast and then decided to explore Singapore taking the convenient MRT route. First we visited the Esplanade, city hall and the Fullerton hotel area.
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We visited the Merlion next and got ourselves photographed in front of the Merlion, the symbol of Singapore.
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Next we visited Suntec city, which has numerous malls and offices in its vicinity. It also has a “Fountain of wealth” and a huge fountain, which erupts everyday at 20:00, we watched that too and later after having dinner we returned back to our hotel

22/07/2007
Finally our tour came to an end and we had to board our Air India flight back to New Delhi. Since our flight was at 16:25 we went to Orchard road for some shopping but couldn’t find anything worthwhile. We left our hotel early and took the MRT rail to the Changi Airport that cost us a mere 1.70SD per person. The flight was on time and we reached Delhi at around 19:00 hrs and went straight to New Delhi railway station to board Lucknow Mail and from Lucknow we boarded Awadh express to reach Gorakhpur in the afternoon on 23rd July. We left Gorakhpur on 28th July and reached Mumbai on 29th night, so that we could rejoin office on 30th July 2007. It was so nice spending some quality time with parents and family but it really pained me to see the condition of Abbu(Father), as he was not keeping well.

Posted by arif_kool 04:04 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Trip to Amazing Malaysia

Visiting Kuala Lumpur and Genting highlands

sunny 32 °C

16/07/2007
We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel in Bangkok, packed our bags and waited for our coach to be taken to the airport for our onward flight to Kuala Lumpur. We had booked an Air Asia flight that departed on time at 15:30. We reached KL in the evening and our coach was waiting for us at the airport. Surprised we were, but it was for real, we boarded the Mercedes Benz for the drop to the hotel. We checked in Hotel Grand Continental, which was just a stone throw’s distance away from the twin towers. When we reached our room on 16th floor, we were in for a grand visual treat. The magnificent and beautifully lit Petronas Tower was just outside our room window. It was a wonderful view and we kept on watching the twin towers for quite some time. We had dinner at a South Indian restaurant nearby and hit the bed immediately.
17/07/2007
We had a buffet breakfast where Runa was surprised and happy to find Dosa and Idli also on the menu. We waited in the hotel lobby for our travel guide for the half day city sightseeing tour. The tour started on time in a comfortable bus. Our first stop was the mighty structure of steel, the Petronas tower.

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This was a photo stop and we continued to a Batik factory where we got first hand information on how the traditional Batik garments are hand made. Our next stop was the Chocolate Factory, where we didn’t buy anything but got to taste a wide variety of chocolates. Next we went to the National Museum, which had a wonderful collection of cultural and historical items. Next we proceeded to the Kings Palace that was closed and we could only see the royal guards positioned outside. We next went to the National war Memorial of Malaysia after which we went to the Independence Square (Merdeka Sqaure what the locals call it), a beautiful place where the Independence Day celebrations are held every year. Our tour ended here and we decided to spend rest of the day on our own. We roamed around for a while then had lunch in the Little India area and moved towards the KL tower, which we reached after walking for a while. KL Tower was also offering a free nature walk with a guide, so we decided to go for it. We were joined by a group of girls from Ireland. The guided tour took us through the jungle sighting animals on our way and finally returning to the KL tower. We took the tickets (20RM) and boarded the lift that took us to the top of the KL tower, which provided an amazing view of KL cityIMG_1534.jpg.
Returning from the KL tower we decided to explore the town more and went to the nearest Sky rail station. There we had a glance at the maps and got an idea of how things operate and which route they follow. To begin with we took a Sky train ticket to Bukit Bintang, centre of all shopping activities in KL. The joyous ride took us to the centre of all malls, we strolled past many of them and had dinner at the mall. We decided to return back to the hotel on the Sky rail and after searching the map we found that the nearest station was Medan Tuanku, from where we could see our hotel rising high amongst other buildings. We hit the bed immediately after a hectic day.
18/07/2007
After the usual heavy breakfast we decided to go to Genting Highlands and took the Go Genting package from KL Sentral station priced at 29RM apiece, which included return transfer to Genting and lunch at the Resort World Hotel. We reached Genting at around noon and after roaming for a while we went straight for food at the Resort Café. We were truly amazed at seeing the variety of options available there, a range of veg n non veg food, collection of ice-creams and cakes. We enjoyed a bit of all and on top of it we had a nice refreshing tea, after a long time. We proceeded to the indoor theme park where we did some rides and Runa also took the Gondola ride and I was behind the camcorder capturing her moments of joy.
There was a new attraction at Genting, the Snow world priced at 30RM, we decided to go for it, with jackets and gloves provided by them, we went inside and encountered freezing temperature and snowfall. The ticket also included a free ice-cream coupon to be redeemed at the parlour, which was made entirely of snow. We had our ice cream in sub-zero conditions, something that we had never done before. Then there was a thrill ride to be undertaken form the top of the snow world while being seated on a tube, we both did it, the initial feeling of fear was transformed to fun and adventure as we came smashing down. We also got our pictures clicked inside the snow world, which we collected later at the reception at a price of 20RM. Now it was time to bid farewell to Genting and we boarded the bus back to KL as tonight we were boarding the train for our next destination, Singapore.

Posted by arif_kool 03:49 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Travel experiences in Mystic Thailand

Visiting Bangkok and Pattaya

sunny 29 °C

12/07/2007
We returned from office a bit early today and did the last minute checking to ensure that we kept all the required documents, cash, passports and other belongings. We reached the Mumbai International Airport well in time. We rushed through the baggage screening, immigration formalities and security check and boarded the Thai Airways flight, which departed on time at 23:30. The Thai crew was warm, kept on smiling and spoke broken Hindi and they seemed to be proficient in pronouncing “Namaskar” very well. The service was good and we got vegetarian food too, but the tea served was horrible which we gulped down sans the flavour and brew.
13/07/2007
We could barely sleep for a few hours before it was announced that we will be landing shortly at the Suvaranbhumi International Airport at Bangkok. The landing was on time at 05:30. The airport was newly built and it was quite an experience walking from the aerobridge to the immigration counters, beautiful paintings and statues of Lord Buddha decorated the passage. We collected our baggage and came out looking for our travel agent, who was waiting for us. We had taken transfers on SIC basis, sounds sickening but it simply means Seat in Coach Basis, which made us to wait for a while before other guests of our travel agent could turn up. Finally our coach, an AC mini bus started at 08:00 and we headed straight to Pattaya, which was around 3 hours away. We reached Cosy Beach Hotel in Pattaya at around 11:00. It was an elegant 4* hotel which had, apart from the normal facilities, a small private beach of its ownIMG_1473.jpg.
We checked in and had shower and then had the “Thepla’s” which we had brought from Mumbai. The room was spacious, neat and clean with comfortable bed. We rested for a while and in the evening we went for the famous “Tiffany Show”, a cabaret show with spectacular sets. It was priced at 550Baht for one hour show. We were dropped back at the hotel after the show but then we had to roam around for dinner. My wife (Runa) doesn’t have non-veg food so we searched around, finally we got an Indian restaurant, which was a bit expensive but we had no other option. The restaurant owner allowed us to call Abbu and Papa from his mobile, though he charged a steep 20 Baht/minute for the call.
14/07/2007
We woke up refreshed and had a buffet breakfast, which was included in the package. Today Coral island excursion was on our agenda and our local guide was Katie. We boarded the speedboat, which whizzed past the turbulent waters at an amazing speedIMG_1478.jpg.
We reached the Coral Island 45 minutes later, an island of white glistening sand. We could see the corals that thrived in abundance in the shallow bay waters. The island had lots of small shops owned by the indigenous people, selling all kinds of goods. Runa, while getting down from the speed boat tore the straps of her slippers. We went around and got a slipper for her at 80 Baht, though we had to bargain hard. The island was buzzing with a host of water sports activities, how could we have been left behind? We decided to take the plunge and try our luck at the water scooter. After the usual haggling and bargaining he settled for 250 Bahts for both of us. First it was Runa’s turn, with the life jacket on she went on the scooter, of course the guide was standing behind her and he had the controls. I switched on the camcorder and recorded her entire route from start to finish. She was thrilled and enjoyed every bit of riding a scooter on water. Then it was my turn and after an initial sense of fear I enjoyed to twists and turns of the rideIMG_1488.jpg.
By afternoon we had to return back to Pattaya and had lunch that was included in the package. We then decided to spend the evening roaming on the Beach Road and the parallel First road, which had bars all over the place. Then again dinner was a problem and after much futile searching we had decided to skip dinner and had fruits instead which was a much healthier option too. We returned back to hotel and had a good sleep after a hectic day.
15/07/2007
We had breakfast and left for Bangkok at around 08:00 again on SIC basis. We checked in Hotel D’Ma Pavilion, Bangkok and rested for a while as we had a half-day city tour coming up in the afternoon. The city tour started at 14:30 and it included the Temple of Emerald Buddha, Golden Buddha, reclining Buddha, enroute we saw the important sights of Bangkok city, which was well explained by our local guide named AmyIMG_1491.jpg.
Finally we went to the famous Gem factory, which we had also visited in Pattaya. The tour ended and we were dropped at the Platinum Mall for shopping and other activities. We took this opportunity to roam around the streets to get a real feel of local population. The street shops were much the same as we have in India. Runa, expressed a desire to have a foot massage and we decided to go for it, at 120Baht/per person for 45 minutes. Dinner was again a problem and after searching for a while we found a Punjabi Dhaba and without wasting time we decided to eat there at whatever the price he quoted. We returned back to our hotel had a good nights sleep and woke up relaxed, had breakfast and were all set to leave Bangkok for our next destination--Malaysia.
We both loved Thailand, the people are so warm and hospitable here, we would surely love to come back again!!!

Posted by arif_kool 00:44 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

An Epic Trans Himalayan overland journey from Manali to Leh

semi-overcast 10 °C

The cold desert region of Laddakh had fascinated me since my early days. I had always dreamt of visiting the regions that lay beyond the mighty Himalayas, which were considered insurmountable at one point of time. Now the time had come to realize my long cherished dream and I along with my wife (Runa) set out on this adventurous journey in the month of July 2006 . We started from Delhi and after exploring some of the beautiful hill towns of the state of Himachal Pradesh, we finally reached Manali which is the base for all travels to Leh-Laddakh region. There are two land routes to Leh (capital of Laddakh region), one from Manali passing through Keylong and other from Srinagar passing through Kargil. Both these routes are open for vehicular traffic normally between July and October, though it may open a bit earlier and close later depending on the prevailing climatic conditions. The distance covered is almost the same in both the routes (around 470Kms).

We had booked our Manali-Leh trip with HPTDC (Government agency) as it is considered safe and reliable. It was priced at around 50 USD per person that was reasonable as they also provided accommodation and food at the place where the bus halted at night. We boarded the bus at 11:00 AM at Manali and set out for the long, tough and adventurous journey, which was spread over 2 days with an overnight halt and we were expected to reach Leh next day at around 7 in the evening. We were instructed to munch on to chocolates and have plenty of water, as we would be passing through numerous high mountain passes (many of them more than 5000 metres). Runa was getting a bit scared but excited too, she smiled at me but I could see an element of fear wrapped beneath her beautiful smile. I was amused to find that we were the only Indians, quite surprising since we were traveling in Indian Territory. The foreigners were of diverse nationalities but I could see a lot of them were from Asian countries, like Korea, Japan and China.

The bus started with everybody praying and wishing for a happy and safe journey. The weather was good and traveling alongside the Beas River we crossed the picturesque village of Kothi and the beautiful Solang Valley. The scenery changed from tall coniferous forests to lush green pastures as we started our ascent to the first of the numerous mountain passes, the Rohtang Pass (3900 metres). Rohtang means “Pile of Dead bodies” and is the gateway to the rugged region of Lahaul and Spiti. Rohtang is considered as one of the most dangerous pass in the region because often tourists get stranded here due to sudden deterioration in climatic conditions. The bus halted at Rohtang and we went to a small Dhaba (road side restaurant) for lunch and also had nice hot tea to refresh ourselves.

With everyone back in the bus, we now started the descent from Rohtang to the Chandra Valley to reach Koksar (first village of Lahaul & Spiti). The bus halted here for a while as it was a police check post and the passports of foreign nationals were collected and verified IMG_0971.jpg. Moving along the valley slopes, surrounded on both sides by towering peaks and glaciers, we passed the villages of Sissu, Gondla before reaching the confluence of Chandra-Bhaga River at Tandi. Crossing the bridge and after traveling for a while, we reached the beautiful town of Keylong(3350 metres) which is the headquarters of Lahaul & Spiti district of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Night halt was planned at Keylong and the bus went straight to Hotel ChandraBhaga where dinner was served while accommodation was arranged in a Tent outside the hotel premisesIMG_0973.jpg. It was wonderful to spend the cold night in a tent with thundering waterfall close by and towering snow clad mountain peaks on all sides. We slept for a while and woke up at 3:30 in the morning, freshened up and got back to the bus, which started at 4:00 AM sharp. Packed breakfast comprising of boiled egg and butter toast was served in the bus.

Moving along on a desolate road, we started our ascent to another mountain pass, Barcha La. It is often referred to as the “Twelve Horned” pass forming the head of three spectacular river valleys, the Bhaga, the Chandra and the Yunan. Overcoming the Barcha La we started our descent and reach the town of Sarchu, where the bus halted briefly for refreshments at one of the numerous small Dhaba’s lined along the roadsideIMG_0981.jpg. We again start our ascent from Sarchu and reached Lachlang La (5059 metres) and pass through barren landscape and rugged terrain to reach the village Pang. Beyond Pang, there is an incredible plateau (Moray Plain 4800 metres), which extends for 45 Kms and is encircled by rolling hills and snowy mountain peaks. We again started our ascent to Tanglang La, which is at a staggering height of 5328 metres and is also the second highest pass in the world (Highest being the Khardung La (around 6000 metres) on Leh-Nubra valley route). It was an overwhelming feeling when we reached Tanglang La, it was snowing there, the bus stopped for a while to allow us to click some pictures of the majestic pass. All of us were shivering and many of us experienced dizziness and breathlessness, which is a symptom of high altitude sickness. With everyone back in the bus, we descended for a while before we reached the small town of Upshi, which is the gateway to Leh. There was a brief halt here for some refreshment and beyond Upshi it was a relatively smoother 50 Km ride to Leh along the Indus river valley. We could see a large number of Buddhist monasteries, gompas, stupas and prayer wheels as we approached Leh. Finally at around 7:00 PM we reached the town of Leh and the bus halted at the main bus stand. We were quite worn out, yet thrilled and excited and happy to see the hotel staff waiting for us. We drove straight to the hotel, had a warm bath and refreshing tea to soothe and relax our body and soul.

Thus, an epic journey spread over two days passing through spectacular landscape, High Mountain passes, awesome valleys and deep gorges came to an end. Even though it was a long and tough journey, yet we enjoyed every bit of it and were on the edge of the seat, admiring and appreciating the natural beauty all along the route.

Posted by arif_kool 21:32 Archived in India Tagged bus Comments (0)

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