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Showing posts from April, 2015

Day 61 - 29 April 2015 -- Chumphon to Bangkok

With rescheduling of the expedition programme it is just another three weeks to touchdown in Cochin. The expedition had been fine this far. Except for the major disappointment of not being able to drive in Vietnam and missing the huge opportunity for sightseeing in that country and the non-availability of a ferry to Batam, the rest went pretty much to plan. The biggest gain of the expedition has been the many new friends I have made on the way and the renewal of older relationships.
The accommodation in Euro Boutique Hotel had been more than adequate for the price. For about Rs. 1000 the location, the facilities in the room as well as the breakfast was fantastic value for money. One of the things I have come to accept is that the booking sites describe quite accurately what you can expect in the hotels. The photographs are not window dressing. Moreover, whatever the price in the hotels the facilities are invariably clean and neat. That has never been a concern right from Myanmar throu…

Day 60 - 28 April 2015 - Phuket to Chumphon

When I was contemplating the alternative routes to Chumphon Simon chipped in with his suggestion. One of the routes went directly eastwards, on the more used highway, via Phang Nga. Simon said that the route via Ranong is more scenic and less used. He warned that it could be a lot slower than the first alternative. I did not have much to do in Chumphon and therefore, I had time to spare. So, it was to be via Ranong.
I packed all the stuff I had offloaded from the car and stuffed it back. I had a light breakfast of bread and jam with a large mug of coffee. As I was finishing the breakfast I saw a woman moving rapidly through the rubber plantation with a tapping knife in her hand. I was curious to see how tapping was done in these parts of the world. In Kerala the tapping table and the coconut shell are cleaned first, the scrap collected and then the bark is tapped. Here, the woman just cleared the tapping table with her knife, nothing that resembled what is used in Kerala, and tapped th…

Day 59 - 27 April 2015 - In Phuket

Through the night the crickets and frog kept up an orchestra. When one paused the other would begin and thus, the two teams went on without any let up. I had woken up quite early, done the blog and updated the expense account over a few cups of coffee. Once that got done a few slices of bread and berry jam filled in for breakfast. Then I felt a touch lazy and lay down for a while. I do not know if it was the Phuket effect, as I am not used to the morning snooze. It is a bit cooler in the plantation, during the night and even as the day wears on.
Simon had suggested a visit to the Mai Khao Beach in case I wanted to be some place not crowded. Moreover, it was not very far from the B&B. I dressed for the beach in T-shirt, shorts and sandal. I also packed a towel in case the urge to have a bath overcame me. I have always been petrified of water, primarily because I did not know swimming. I reached the beach following directions of Google Maps, which was longer than the one Simon had to…

Day 58 - 26 April 2015 - Koh Lanta to Phuket

I was ready early, but that I had a short journey ahead of me this day to Phuket delayed me to be up to date with the blog. After many days I had caught up. There was a huge sense of relief because, to me, the blog is one way of communicating with family and friends. At the time of check out the elderly gentleman, who was a bit short with me yesterday, was all smiles and pleasantries. I guessed it was the pressure of work that made him behave the way he did yesterday. I found him doubling up to serve breakfast to guests who were departing early.
There were no delays at the ferries. Vessels were waiting as I approached both the ferry landing centres. In about an hour I reached the point from where the drive to Phuket began. The drive from Krabi to Phang Nga was glorious, to say the least. Thickly forested limestone cliffs and rock formations virtually lined the route. Some of them arose suddenly from the side of the road. It was easy to be distracted by such ‘pieces of art’. I had a hu…

Day 57 - 25 April 2015 - Kuala Perlis to Koh Lanta

However familiar I may be with the route and the place I have a habit of checking it out the evening once again before I travel on that route. As far as Krabi was concerned I had never travelled there and the route linking Kuala Perlis through the borders of Malaysia and Thailand was absolutely new. When I keyed in the name of the hotel in Koh Lanta, Krabi in the destination on Google Maps it repeatedly threw up the message “Route not found”. Initially I was a bit amused, but when I zoomed in on the hotel location I found that Koh Lanta was an island not connected by a bridge. To make matters worse it looked as if I had to cross waters twice. I doubted if I had made a terrible mistake going for budget accommodation. A few more tries later I messaged Shrey Bansal of Lifestyle Services, who had been helping out with booking in hotels. He spoke to the hotel and was told that it was connected by road. I wondered why Google Maps was not able to guide properly. I contemplated booking anothe…

Day 56 - 24 April 2015 - Penang to Kuala Perlis

Marking George Town started as a competition initiated by the Penang state government. The idea was to physically brand George Town as a World Heritage Site. From among the entries in the international completion held in 2009 aimed at exploring innovative ideas in art and design for public places, sculpture work triumphed with its design concept of ‘voices from the people’. 52 unique and humorous illustrations in iron rod sculptures were installed against the city building walls. The sculptures have an element of Mario in them, or so I thought. The iron rod sculptures looked like Mario caricatures in Illustrated Weekly. The 52 locations marked in George Town are worth marking down in a walk because it gives one a walk down centuries of the city’s growth and history. I marked a few of them on my walk to Fort Cornwallis and back from the hotel on the day I reached Penang. Some of the interesting ones are: 1.Mr. Five Foot Way – Five foot ways were meant to protect pedestrians from hot su…

Day 55 - 23 April 2015 - In Penang

Breakfast was served on the dot at 8 am. The sunny side up eggs on two buttered toasts and ham came after the fruits, mango juice and layered cake were polished off. Without any hesitation I was given a second helping of the coconut based cake, which is supposed to be a local delicacy. The hotel staffs are so pleasant that it rubs off on you. Thereafter, I walked to the bus stand of rapid Penang and took the 30 minute ride to Air Itam, which is about 6 km from George Town. When I was here in 2000 Beena and I could not take the funicular railway ride up to the summit because the place was swarming with tourists and we did not have the time to wait our turn. This day the number of tourists was low and I purchased the RM30 ticket for a 2 way ride. I took a place in the first cab so that I could get a frontal view of the ride up the hill through dense forests.
The funicular railway was built between 1906 and 1923. Presently Swiss made coaches form the train and nearly 100 passengers can be…

Day 54 - 22 April 2015 - Kuala Lumpur to Penang

Anand has been in Malaysia for over four years and has travelled quite a bit in the region on work and leisure. He recommended a short stopover in the Cameron Highlands en route to Penang. I was certainly interested to do so, particularly after listening to his description of the place and what one could do there, like picking strawberries and enjoying a stroll in the tea estates, for example. The climate in the Highlands is also different from what one experiences normally in Malaysia, he said. The minimum temperature is almost 10 degrees lower in the Highlands as compared to KL.
I took leave of Anand, Dhanya and Gauri a little later than I had intended to, wanting to finish the blog. Before leaving KL, Anand connected me to Tevin, a good friend of his who lived in Penang. I did lose my way a bit trying to get out to the highway from Anand’s apartment, even though he had given me elaborate instructions. Once on the North-South highway I motored along, mostly at the maximum speed of 11…

Day 53 - 21 Apri 2015 - In Kuala Lumpur

When I announced my itinerary for Kuala Lumpur Anand wanted to know if I had any plans already scheduled. I placed myself fully at his disposal and he said he would take care of that. The only thing I wanted factored into the schedule, I told Anand, is my age! This day he had organised a gathering of professionals in the shipping industry in Klang in a conference hall of the building where Trans Asia had its office. He also suggested that we take the car there so that those who gathered there would have the opportunity of ‘wishing the Champion’. Accordingly, it was confirmed that we would leave at 8.30 am so that we could also get the car washed before reaching the venue of the meeting.
Anand’s wife, Dhanya, had prepared wheat puttu and peas for breakfast. Puttu is a personal weakness; I can have that for all three meals of the day. The smell of steamed wheat puttu is ‘music to my nose’. As soon as I opened the door of the room, after getting dressed, my nose directed me to the table f…

Day 52 - 20 April 2015 - Singapore to Kuala Lumpur

Yesterday evening I had messaged Anand Kumar of Trans Asia Line, who would be my host in Kuala Lumpur, that I would want to meet a doctor to consult about the condition of the finger. This morning I wondered if that would be needed because the pain had reduced and the swelling seemed under control. However, when Sreekanth dressed the finger I could see that the puss had increased, which, if not controlled soon, would spread under the nail and then it would be most painful to even drive.
It was indeed most difficult and emotionally draining to take leave of new friends I had made in Singapore. Ammayi was still in bed when I touched her feet and sought her blessings. She kissed me on the forehead and wished me well for the rest of the journey. Sreekanth has been special, more of a son than a friend. I can never forget his help and the way he took care of my requirements in the country. Even though I was not able to meet Sreedevi, I know they are a ‘made for each other’ couple. Sreekanth …