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Showing posts from June, 2011

Chiang Mai-Bangkok-Bangalore - June 13 2011

The ‘imported’ cooks had had a busy evening at the Royal Flora last evening. The South Indian food counters were extremely popular. The breakfast this morning was the regular fare at the Hotel. The spread was impressive and encompassed many cuisines. Pancakes and waffles with liberal helpings of maple syrup received my initial attention followed by sausages, ham and poached eggs. Fresh fruits and a large cup of strong coffee gave me adequate fuel to explore the local market immediately after breakfast. With little local currency in hand (I was loathe to exchange more of either USD or INR as I knew I would pick up stuff I would not need if I had more local currency) I decided to walk around the territory in the vicinity of the Hotel to observe the commerce and businesses.
The local market was just a km away from the Hotel. The place was bustling with activity. Every shop was open and the pavements were also used to set up shops. There was barely enough space, if the pedestrians moved as…

In Chiang Mai - June 12 2011

The day of the wedding dawned bright with a few rain clouds hanging low. The idlis served at breakfast were so soft that I found it a task to spoon it on to the plate. I also tried out the rava dosa, which was super. A cup of strong coffee was the last item of consumption at the breakfast table. I reported at the travel desk a bit early for a vehicle to complete the rest of the sights I had on the schedule. I was provided an exclusive vehicle to visit the Chiang Mai Zoo, the Gondee Gallery and a couple of the more visited temples.
The Chiang Mai Zoo and Aquarium is located on a 210-acre woody land at the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain. The entry ticket to the Zoo does not include the Panda enclosure – the stars of the Zoo – the internal bus ride or the Aquarium. I decided to skip the Aquarium for want of time and took the 100 THB entry ticket to walk around the zoo. The Zoo is home to over 7,000 animals in a wooded, natural environment and is a popular attraction with the Pandas and the l…

In Chiang Mai - June 11 2011

Everything relating to the wedding was custom-made. So was the breakfast – the 44 culinary specialists flown in from India took care of the palate of those invited and present. Had I not been conscious of being in Thailand I would not have believed that the Dosa, chutneys and sambar served for breakfast was made there. They were delicious and naturally, I could not stop with one or two or even three! The poha, the Bhatura and chole and everything else was so Indian in taste that one felt firmly ‘seated’ in India.
The first half of the day was reserved for local sightseeing. The Hawaiian Party and the Citrus lunch at the Shangri-La Hotel were sacrificed to flavour the local culture and history. I took the free transportation that had been arranged for the guests. First on the agenda was the Bhubing Palace, the winter residence of the Royals in Chiang Mai (usually between January and March), built in 1961. The Palace is set in a salubrious environment where the weather is different from …

Bangalore-Bangkok-Chiang Mai - June 10 2011

The in-flight announcements about the impending landing and arrival requirements at Bangkok woke me up. There was no time for a bed coffee. With summer timing in force the time difference between India and Bangkok is 2 hours. The new Suvarnabhumi International Airport is not very exciting. It is a large facility no doubt with live orchids and quite a bit of greenery within the airport.However, one does not get the feeling of it being special. On disembarking from the flight I headed for the ‘On Arrival Visa’ section.A ‘morning walk’, albeit on travelators deposited me at a desk peopled by a couple of cheerful youngsters. Upon ascertaining that the visa would have to be paid for in local currency I submitted myself for a complete rip off at the airport currency changers. The premium is as high as 50% for exchanging Indian currency. After that was done what ensued was a horrendous wait of over two hours for issue of the visa. Wherever you are bound for in Thailand one has to obtain visa…

A Destination Wedding – 9 June 2011

If you had asked me ten days back when I would be contemplating my next trip abroad I would have laughed in your face with incredulity. Alas, mere mortals we that do not know what the new dawn holds for us! A telephone call on 31st May set such an unusual string of events in motion that I am right now waiting for the gate to open for the red eye Thai flight to Bangkok, en route to Chiang Mai.

The call was from SK Modi, the Proprietor/CMD of BIOP, a leading iron ore export firm based in Bellary. Modi is exceptionally gifted in making friends and keeping them. I had made his initial acquaintance in September 2003 when I was posted in Hubli, then recently established as the headquarters of South Western Railway. That was the beginning of the iron ore export boom with China picking up anything even vaguely resembling iron ore to meet its commitments to build state-of-the-art infrastructure for the 2008 Olympics. South Western Railway was the star on the horizon with more than 10,000 rake i…