Posted in Travel

Travel Diaries- July 2013 (Part 5)

Having ticked off the Old City Center from our “must-see-do-experience @KL” list, we decided the bright sunny day needs to be dedicated to the “Golden Triangle”.

“We will start at Bukit Bintang- that’s the shopping district of the city, from there we will find our way to Jalan Alor for the street food and we can then walk down to the Petronas Twin Towers – to see the lights on in the evening. You can get yourself a tripod in the shopping area, so that you get good pics of the towers at night” Bee hurriedly added, just as I made a face about going to the shopping arcade. I mean, why would anyone in their right minds go to see the shopping area- it’s all the same- everywhere in the world, you get more or less the same things, at more or less the same price! I wanted to see the other things- specialties of KL which you don’t get in any other city. The last thing I wanted was to go shopping, or worse, go see the shopping district without needing to buy anything on sale!!!

But Bee’s “Tripod” bait worked! I have always wanted a tripod – to be able to do justice to the night shots I take with my Nikon D5100. Not that they are bad without the accessory, but night shots- especially those requiring long exposure times do need a very stable hand. One of my favorite “traffic light trails “shot did not live up to my expectations back in Bangkok.   (https://www.facebook.com/loveleen.mishra/media_set?set=a.4049336365773.158854.1652899674&type=3)

I have, ever since, been vying to get a nice, stable tripod!

So that was it- with breakfast tucked in and a plan in place, we left the hotel and made our way to the works!

The Bukit Bintang (roughly translated, it means “Star Hill”) area is the premier shopping area of KL- flanked on all sides by teeming shopping malls, al fresco restaurants, swanky bars- the lot. It is among the most preferred Youth Haunts (if I may use the term) of the city.  Today, the Bintang Walk hosts some of the biggest events at KL, including the annual F1 GP “pit stop”, the New Year’s eve celebration and the Independence Day Eve celebrations.

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Some of the most famous Retail Outlets (all right, I am saying it- Shopping Malls) Some of the most famous Shopping malls in the Bukit Bintang area include the Berjaya Times Square, Imbi Plaza, Farenheit 88, Low Yat Plaza (For all your electronics junkies), the Lot 10, Starhill Gallery & The Pavillion (for all fashion-estas)

“We can’t possibly see all these at one go, Bee. Which one to see and what not to see? We don’t even have a lot of time” I worriedly asked.

“Lets start with Berjaya Times Square and then find our way to the next ones, OK?”

“OK”

So, first up- the Berjaya Times Square. When we were there, we were not aware of the records that this building holds. First, it is the world’s 8th largest building in the world (by floor area) and is also the world’s largest building to be made in a single phase! What we loved about it was its “Fish Foot Spa”, a Theme park right in the centre of the mall and of course the GSC MAXX 2D&3D theatre.

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Soon, we were hopping from one shopping mall to the other- till we found ourselves right infront of the Starhill Gallery

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It is the most ritzy and luxurious of the lot- boasting brands such as Louis Vuttion, Gucci, Fendi and Sephora. Brands apart, it is one stunning piece of architecture. In fact, we found out that iIt was shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival (WAF) Award in 2013 in the Shopping category.

And, standing right across the Starhill Gallery, is the most famous of them all- the Pavillion, Kuala Lumpur.

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A one-of-a-kind shopping mall, the Pavillion can be divided into six distinct categories, including “The Couture Pavilion” (Dedicated to some of the major fashion labels and flagship boutiques), the “Centre Court “(where some event related to Swiss made watches was going on as we went in), a “Gourmet Emporium” for the food buffs and “Seventh Heaven” with its beauty parlors and spas! The Pavilion is also home to former Prime Minister (Tun Mahathir Mohamad)’s own bakery- “The Loaf”

By this time, it was well past lunch-time and we needed to grab some food, before venturing further into the remainder of KL’s “Golden Triangle”. So we peered into the Nokia Maps and found our way to “Jalan Alor”.

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The few streets that we walked to get from BB walk to Jalan Alor seemed to be like traveling back in time.  As we came closer to the famed “Food Paradise of real Asia”, the ubiquitous Flashy billboards from the BB Walk, start to get replaced by Chinese boards – hawking the food available. The streets were now lined by Chinese “Dhaba” equivalents- ready to put chairs on the street and start feeding you! We had heard that this place comes alive after sunset- we could sense the prep for the evening was on; but alas! We had arrived a little too early to enjoy the gastronomical delights of Jalan Alor!

“Bee… lets go somewhere else. I am hungry and this place doesn’t open – not even a single hawker on the street- during the day”

“Ok… lets head back” and we found our way back to the hustling streets of Bukit Bintang!

It was during lunch that Bee told me “You know, Jalan Alor was very infamous in the past. It was the red light district of KL till some years back. The Tourism Dept and the City Municipality have actually put in efforts to get rid of the menace, and put some life & focus back on the food paradise part of Jalan Alor”

I listened intently as he continued “There are still many undercover pimps on these streets, trying to lure single male tourists into getting a good massage!” Bee winked as he related yet another story, while I finished lunch.

We continued walking in and out of the myriad of retail outlets for the rest of day- looking at the map to find the best route (read shortest route) to the KLCC and the Petronas Towers.

By the time the sun set that afternoon, we found ourselves at the Suriya KLCC- Our final Shopping mall for the day (and for a lot of days to come, I hoped)!

The Suriya KLCC mall is a must visit- not for the shopping, or the brands, or even the food. It sits on the base of the Petronas Twin Towers! For any architecture major, or building enthusiast, or memento collector, or engineering major…. For that matter, every visitor to KL should and does come to the hallowed grounds of the Petronas Twin Towers. Why? Well, it is currently the tallest twin towers in the world; it was, from the time it was built, till 1998 (when the Taipei 101 was built) the tallest building in the world… It is, in fact, a symbol of how far the city of KL has come. From shady beginnings as a tin mining shanty (link to blog), through a series of race riots, KL has transformed itself into an alpha world city. The Petronas Towers are symbolic of the city and her status as a Global Player. (Refer http://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/ for further details)

The sun was not down yet, so we still had a few daylight hours to kill- before we could witness the splendor of the Towers with the night lights. So we decided to take a stroll in the KLCC park, and snapped some pics of the towers in daylight.

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Beside the wading pool, a few photography enthusiasts were preparing for the light show- setting up tripods, ensuring they got the view of the entire towers, setting up and checking the light-meters.

“Bee..” I suddenly remembered “We did not get that tripod for me! You said in the morning we would buy a tripod for me. We forgot! What will I do? How will I get a steady shot of the towers at night?” I was panicking by now.

“Its ok… you will get good shots. I am sure. Besides, you said a few times in the last one hour that you don’t want to go to any more shopping malls- you are fed up, remember?” Bee Chuckled

“Cheatercock! You should have reminded me!”

And the argument continued…

Till the lights came on- and then we were too mesmerized to break its spell. As if on cue, the fountains in the pool rose up in a sequence of synchronized choreographed moves, and danced along.

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By the time we had clicked a hundred odd photographs of the site from all angles and all sites, we decided to call it a day and walked back to our room.

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But that’s not the end of the story, Bee had yet another ace up his sleeve! This time, the agenda was to bug me off completely (and he succeeded, like in all his other ventures)- Instead of walking to the closest metro station, he walked and made me walk two stations in the opposite direction, before finally taking a train back to our studio! I am so sure he did all of this just to annoy me … Why, you ask?

Well, all the married folks reading this would know why- the singles…. J J I am sure, you will know the answer at the right time!

 

Posted in Travel

Travel Diaries- July 2013 (Part 4)

“Bird Park?” I asked

“Look here” I peered into Bee’s Nokia Lumia as he explained “The KL Bird Park. Its in the Lake Gardens area. In the same complex, there is a Butterfly park and an Orchid park as well. I will suggest we go to the bird park first, then check out the others. What do you say?”

By that time, I had had my day’s fill of buildings and monuments. Anything that would take me away from looking at buildings sounded good enough for me. “YES!” I enthused. Within minutes, we had flagged down a taxi and were on our way to the KL Bird park.

Situated at the heart of the city, the lake gardens comprise The KL Bird Park, an Orchid Garden, A Deer Park, A Hibiscus Garden (Hibiscus being the National Flower of Malaysia) and the KL Butterfly Park.  The closest station to the Lake Gardens is the KL Sentral. It is also very close to the National Museum. So, you can get to see many attractions – if you have time on your side!

The KL Bird Park is one of the best attractions in the city for bird lovers- or if you are with kids ! Housing over 3000 birds of over 200 species,  over 20acres of land in the heart of the city are bound to make you feel at peace. Inspite of being right at the center of the city, it is very far removed from the hustle of city-life!

The 5min ride to the KL Bird Park from the Merdeka Square cost us RM15.

Once there, we got ourselves tickets, each costing RM48. It came with a map of the park and a brightly colored wrist bracelet (made of paper) – which makes you feel like you are entering a discotheque!

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The first section of the park housed parrots, parakeets and love birds- of every imaginable shape, size and color. As we were admiring the birds and clicking their pictures, bee noticed something move on the ground. “Look!” He cried excitedly. It gave me a scare, but I looked where he was now pointing and to my amazement found little mice scampering around, sharing the birds’ food!

Sharing Food !!!
Sharing Food !!!
Love Birds.... dozing off !
Tiny Exotic Parrots…. dozing off !

 

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The next section was dedicated to water birds. “Bee… “ I had spotted a big pelican sitting calmly on the edge of a pond. Bee looked at my amazed expression and laughed out loud. “Why don’t you go and sit next to it. I will capture it on camera” He suggested. “I am scared, Bee… It’s too big! What if it pecks me with its beak? Or, if slaps me with its wings? It’s bigger than me” I said, horrified by the idea of sitting so close to a creature that big! “Remember Animal Planet? If they can do it, so can you. And, if it wasn’t safe, the park authorities wouldn’t let it roam free” While we were talking, a kid, no more than 8-9yrs old, walked in with his dad, posed next to the pelican for a shot and left calmly.

That assuaged most of my fears, but when I did sit next to the bird, I still kept a fairly large gap between us!

I sat at a "Safe" distance from the huge Pelican !
I sat at a “Safe” distance from the huge Pelican !

 

Looks like she wanted a pic of herself too !!
Looks like she wanted a pic of herself too !!

We moved on- spotting one beautiful pair of wings after another!

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The park is more than 20Acres large . It was but natural that by the time we had covered one half circuit, we were pretty tired.

“Bee, lets rest for some time, please..”

“Ok, let’s just go around the next corner and find a place to sit”

By the tenth re-run of this conversation snippet till I realized that we had been “going round the next corner” for more than half an hour! I had had enough!!

“Bee! I am not going another step!” I put my foot down this time.

He laughed hard and said “OK… let’s get up on the waterfall and then we will take a break. Promise”

So we did go up to the waterfall, where I rested while he continued clicking pics through a sheet of water.

 

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That is Bee !
That is Bee !

 

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This is me- experimenting with shutter speeds 🙂

It was now lunchtime- for our feathered friends.  As the park rangers brought in food (in the form of fish for the fish-itarians, and seeds for the vegetarians) we looked on in complete wonder and amazement… “Bee, this is live animal planet + Nat Geo” I gushed. “They see and capture these shots in the wild… This is a child’s play for them. Rather, this in not at all their playfield” He said continuing his video-graphy of the feast.

Lunch time !
Lunch time !

 

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Does watching someone eat (especially close to lunch hour) make you feel hungry too? Well, it makes me hungry for sure! So you guessed what happened next!

Yes! I had to have something to eat  😀 😀

While at one of the park's restaurant, I spotted freely wandering birds, and clicked pics with my Lumia- to share it instantly on social media :)
While at one of the park’s restaurant, I spotted freely wandering birds, and clicked pics with my Lumia- to share it instantly on social media 🙂

As we started our way back, my eyes fell on something very far off. “Bee, do you see that red spot on that tree?” I pointed to where I imagined a red bird was hiding in the trees. “Doesn’t look like a bird from here- more like a plastic bag stuck to the branches. Want to get a closer look? ” I followed Bee to the distance. The landscape here was a little hilly- as compared to where we had come down from. We were still within the park premises and we crossed a small bridge, below which an entire peacock clan was considering siesta!

Bee posed next to the Bridge :)
Bee posed next to the Bridge 🙂

Right across the bridge was a tall fence on our right and a deep, albeit gentle gorge our left. We went to investigate what these fences were hiding.

We didn’t have to go far enough. An ostrich, at least twice my height was spying on us from a distance- well inside the fence limits! As we moved closer, it loomed large… “I feel like a Liliput!” The ostrich moved closer to the fence to get a good look at me. I flinched ever so slightly. It kept moving closer- menacingly now. I faltered and took a step back. It stopped on it tracks and started at me long enough to make its message clear- This was his territory and we were trespassing AND He didn’t like it!

I have never been more humbled before. All this while we were celebrating the superiority of the human race in communicating our feelings – over other beings; we are, after all, the only species who has language as a tool to communicate…The truth was, these languages seem to divide us instead of uniting us by communicating. I was no longer so sure about our species being the best. These animals, whether out in the wild, or tamed, or even in captivity- they don’t need a language to communicate and yet, they can get their message across not only to their own kind, but also to us!

I backed off, still deep in thought as I saw bee walking precariously down the gorge!

“Bee! What are you doing!”

“Shh…..” He pointed out towards a tree. I was furious with him risking going down there all by himself (more so, after my not so friendly encounter with the big guy right across the fence). He continued going down, crouching low and making no sound. Infuriated as I was with his foolhardiness, I followed his line of sight.

Shielding itself from the afternoon sun behind a thick canopy, a Bright Red Ibis was perched on the tall branches of a tree! Its hard to imagine a bird that bright!

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Meanwhile, Bee went berserk with the camera- and shot tens of hundreds of pictures of the elusive one! OK, his antics did make me smile again- but I was still worried about him having gone into the wilderness all by himself (You see, I couldn’t muster the courage to go down there myself- which made it more infuriating!)

“That’s enough, Bee- you have lots of pics of the red “Plastic Bag”” I teased “Now come back- lets go” And then, just as be was putting the cover back on the lens- he spotted something more….

“Ohh… Red Riding Hood’s got a suitor!”

Our Bright Red friend has a suitor !
Our Bright Red friend has a suitor !

A black Ibis- about the same size as the red one, walked down the same branch to cuddle up with the former !

“Bee, Chalo please! ” I called out nervously. He had been gone for a long time now. “OK, coming up” He said and started back. Just as he reached the top, a peahen led her little one down the same slopes – completely ignoring Bee & me! We clicked a few pics of the mom-kid duo and walked back, linking arms and reviewing the pics!

The kiddo's at least one-tenth its mom's size !
The kiddo’s at least one-tenth its mom’s size !

 

That evening, fatigue did take a toll, and we slept like logs!!

🙂 🙂

 

Posted in Experiences, Travel

Travel Diaries- July 2013 (Part-3)

Day 1 [of 3] at KL

The KL List:

1) The Golden Triangle (Bukit Bintang Walk, KLCC and central business district)

2) The Lake Gardens

3) Batu Caves

4) Old KL City Centre (Petaling Jaya (ChinaTown), Medreka Square, Brickfields)

5) The KLIA Express Ride

6)  Jalan Alor & Street Food

7) The Administrative District of Putrajaya

8) View of the city from Menera KL

We looked at our list and then at the Map of the metro lines- popularly known as the KL Rapid Transit Line. While the public transport system is very efficient, fast and comfortable, it can be a bit confounding at the beginning! There are a number of lines, with many interconnections to make- if you are to see the city…

KL Transit Map
KL Transit Map

“ We are at the Chan Sow Lin station- an interconnection point between the Yellow(Ampung –Sentul Timur)  and the Green (Sri Petaling- Sentul Timur) Lines. We can go to Masjid Jamek, change lines to the Pink Line (Kelana Jaya- Gombak) to see the Golden Triangle.”Said Bee.

“Why don’t we see the Masjd Jamek area first? It’s also on the list…”

“Let’s get there first and then decide”

So we took our tickets, and walked to the platform – just as a train was moving in. “Run- see if  you can make it” Teased Bee as he ran with me to get into the last coach right before the doors closed! “You did that on purpose! Why did you make me run?” I panted – feigning mock anger. “Why DID you run?” He continued the banter…

We looked out the big glass windows as lush green meadows fleeted past us. Then, it struck both of us simultaneously- “Shouldn’t there be more streets and less fields- we are going towards the city centre, right?”

The train had reached the next station- Cheras- we were on the wrong train!

“Bee, let’s get out, Quick!”

We stood outside laughing at our folly… but otherwise pretty happy with the little adventure! (See, it’s the small things in life that count) 🙂

As we finally got on the correct train, I couldn’t help admire Bee’s uncanny ability to get a hotel whose location would always be amazing- first in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, then at Bangkok and now in KL… every hotel he had booked would always be conveniently located next to a metro station, or a bus station, or a taxi stand; and it would always have a 24hrs convenience store right across the street! Though I have never admitted it to him before, but yes- he does amaze me with his choices pretty often! 😉

So, Old City Centre- we were finally there! Just as you get off the metro, you can see the Jamek Mosque sitting pristinely along the banks of the two rivers that give KL its name.

The Masjid Jamek is the oldest mosque in KL
The Masjid Jamek is the oldest mosque in KL. It is located at the confluence of the Klang River and the Gombak River (previously k.a. Lumpur River)- which give the city its name

The lovely sight took me back to the research I had done on the internet a week before our trip began…..

[FLASHBACK MODE: ON (Fictitious Account)]

The Time: 1930s

Place: At a river bank

“They have named it right- Sungai Lumpur- the Muddy River” Thought the China-man. He was one of the hundreds who had landed at the confluence of the Klang and the Lumpur River that day of 1862 . It was the Tin. They were miners and were sent here to mine the Tin. The mining posts were far flung from this area – located at Pudu, Ampang and Batu areas. There were not the first to arrive. Many more from his village had been here- to earn cash. Not many of them had returned. He found his way among the hundreds to the frontier town and enlisted his services at the counter.

He met his cousin in the shantytown, as they caught up on old times. “It’s a pretty hard life out here” Said cousin Li, “But the pay is good. We have set up a neighborhood here. So have the other guys – from Hakka” He slurped on the remaining noodle soup and continued ” There was a fire a couple of weeks back. We are still trying to set up the affected houses. Let’s go now, you will find out the rest soon enough.”

As the years plied on, there were more fires, and gang wars regularly broke out between the Hakkas and the Hoikkens .  “Last year’s flood did more damage than those bloody fires did” spat out Li angrily. As more and more of his country men came to the doomed place, many more were dying in the treacherous land. If something was not done soon enough, riots and fires would destroy whatever little remained.

Even the British, who owned and ran the mines, knew this. They had to do something soon.

“They appointed a Chinese Headman to administer Kuala Lumpur. Things did not change significantly during the administration of the first two Kaptains. Things looked gloomy as ever. Then, the third Kaptain came to power.

Yap Ah Loy was a leader of men. He took the development of Kuala Lumpur as his personal target, and worked very hard for its development.  And succeeded ! In 1880s the capital of the Selangor district was moved from Klang to Kuala Lumpur. We have never looked back since then” Smiled the China Man – as he re-counted his days to his grandchildren.

[FLASHBACK MODE: OFF (Back to where we left off)]

“Bee, I am hungry!”

“We have just reached… how can you get hungry now?”

“But I AM hungry ! Feed Me!!” 😀

We walked out to the streets, which were filled to the brim with a sea of humanity. And this sea was serviced by an even greater variety of food vendors! There were the local food trucks, small shacks offering local delicacies and even large eateries and restaurants ! The Mosque itself lay across the street, separated from it by a small channel of water.

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We grabbed some food at a street stall and started clicking away (like most tourists around were doing right the)! As we walked around, we found ourselves on the road to China Town, or Petaling Street!

We found the way to Petaling Street, a.k.a. Chinatown of KL
We found the way to Petaling Street, a.k.a. Chinatown of KL

The streets of Chinatown are as amazing and colourful as the the name suggests. It was filled with people (mostly Chinese and Malay, but also with a lot of tourists), Hotels, Eateries, Banks & other public buildings.. It even had its own bus depot. The place was bustling with life and energy ! There is no way that anyone visiting this place cannot be affected by the sheer pace of this part of town !

Colorful Buildings are easy to spot in Chinatown !
Colorful Buildings are easy to spot in Chinatown !

Invigorated with this burst of fresh energy, we walked our way to the Merdeka Square (Independence Square).  This is where the  National Flag of Malaysia has been unfurled on Independence Day (31 Aug) since 1957. The National Parade also takes place here every year.

The Square itself is situated right across the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. It currently houses the offices of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia.

A view of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building from the Merdeka Square
A view of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building from the Merdeka Square

Right opposite to the Sultan Abdul Samad building, across the Square is the Royal Selangor Club.Founded more than 100years ago, this club owned the Merdeka Square area, before the same was taken back by the City Hall!

The Royal Selangor Club as seen from the Merdeka Square
The Royal Selangor Club as seen from the Merdeka Square

Among the other notable (and famous) buildings that surround the club are The KL City Hall and the KL Library.

KL City Hall
KL City Hall
The KL Library
The KL Library

We clicked some more pictures. I experimented with Shutter Speed at the Fountain on Merdeka Square 🙂

My experiments with light and shutter speed !
My experiments with light and shutter speed !

“Bee, I want to see more than just buildings” My patience and energy was wearing out with the city sights already. Bee didn’t answer just yet. He seemed lost in thought.

“Bee.. you ‘re not listening to a word of what I just said!” I complained.

“I heard every bit of it. I am just trying to get my bearings right, so that…” “Where shall we go now” I must admit, I was very impatient now, or maybe just weary ! 😛

He looked up from his smartphone. “Do you want to see the Bird Park?”

Posted in Experiences, Travel

Travel Diaries- July 2013 (Part 2)

Passport – Check

Visa – Check (Multi Entry one for Malaysia & since Indonesia has visa on arrival for Indian citizens- so didn’t really have it when we started!)

Dollars- Check

Bee & Mee – Check!!!

“Why haven’t you taken maps, Bee?” was my first question- even before the flight took off. “We ‘ll get them once we get there” came Bee’s calm reply.

“I know you won’t !”

“You ‘ve got all the technology of the world and you still want to kill trees..” We continued arguing till they brought the food in- after which, I decided we had had enough arguments for the evening and took a nap!

Bee, meanwhile, did what he always does on flights- read the in-flight magazine, watch a movie & listen to some songs on his Tablet,  go over his best laid plans once again –and wait for me to wake up (so that we can resume the discussion, or begin a new one!)

By the time I woke up, it was 9:30PM –Indian Standard Time (00:00AM KL Time) and a carpet of lights on the ground below meant we were flying over the city centre.  The Kuala Lumpur International Airport- KLIA, is located in the Sepang district of Selangor, some 60Kms South of KL. This meant we were still a good 10-15 mins away from landing. As I sat up, Bee pointed out the iconic Petronas Twin Towers , standing out from the rest of the lights below us!

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We immediately got our camera out and tried to capture the moment- but alas ! we did not quite get the shot we wanted !! (You see, I might have inadvertently turned the VR settings to OFF- and might therefore be slightly responsible for the blurry image that we got… apart from the fact that I actually did click this one!) 😉

We landed at the airport at close to 00:30AM, and were pretty worried about how we would get to our hotel! While the KLIA offers many transportation options, getting from LCCT to the main KLIA terminal is a good 20Kms drive! Also, the trains (which are the fastest way into the city) run from 5AM to 1.03AM daily from the main terminal to KL Sentral- which meant, we could in no way get the last one on time. Our research had shown that the LCCT has bus services like Skybus and Aerobus to KL Sentral, but we were not quite sure of the timings of the last bus. Oh, and we did not really want to risk taking a taxi in the middle of the night, in a completely new place – just the two of us (Most Indians, especially those living in & around New Delhi, will understand our predicament) … So, we had to hurry- to see if we would get that last bus before it moved out of the Airport.

As we completed the immigration process, collected our bags and exchanged our currency, we ran into another couple- from India. We had met them at the Calcutta Airport earlier that day and had chatted about our travel plans. We met them again- hurrying to make it to that last bus out of LCCT- just like us! “What a coincidence, Bee” I gushed as I saw them heading the same way as us. “Not coincidence, dear- they were on the same flight as us. You fought, ate and slept on the flight, remember? We talked this part of the trip- getting from the Airport to the City, while you were sleeping” Smiled my ever vigilant husband at me.

I frowned at his remark outwardly – and blessed my stars for having him around !

Once on the bus, we relaxed a bit and enjoyed the hour-long ride into the heart of KL. I had assumed the frantic pace and madness around would be limited to the Airport- I was wrong! When we got off the bus at KL Sentral, we were immediately surrounded by a crowd of taxi and mini-bus drivers—each one trying to entice the late-night passengers by offering every “package” possible- from a drop at home or a hotel, to a 2-3 day KL tour (including the Titiwangsa Lake & Batu Caves visit)! We said our goodbyes to Tanu & Abhi (the couple we had befriended on our way to KL) and sought a taxi that would take us to our hotel at Fraiser Park on a meter! As in any city, the night charges for taxis – even with a meter is usually 50% more than the actual charges. Yet it was way less expensive than the non-metered cabs that had surrounded us at the Bus Depot!

Eventually we reached our hotel-one of the newest babies in the Accor Family- the Ibis Styles, Fraiser Park- at close to 2:30AM and checked in.

Bee at the Reception of Ibis Styles, Fraiser Park. We were checking into the hotel (pre-booked, of course) at 2:30AM in the morning!
Bee at the Reception of Ibis Styles, Fraiser Park. We were checking into the hotel (pre-booked, of course) at 2:30AM in the morning!

Our first day of travel had begun early when we started from our house in Jamshedpur at 5:30AM (IST) to catch the morning train to Kolkata. When we finally hit the sack at 3:00AM, we were too excited to sleep! it was only the beginning !!!! 😀 😀 😀

Posted in Celebrations, Experiences, Travel

Travel Diaries- July 2013 (Part 1)

“Why Malaysia?” Someone asked us. “What is there to see in Malaysia?” the bewildered questioning continued.

Well, Why not- We asked

Ranked the World’s 10th most visited country in 2012  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Tourism_rankings), Malaysia holds a lot of charms for the tourist and for the traveler alike ! (Yes, there is a big difference between those two terms). Located partly in Peninsular Asia, and partly in the North-Western part of the Island of Borneo, Malaysia offers a vast multitude of experiences to suit every taste and every pocket! The rush of big city life in Kuala Lumpur, a slightly slower pace in a historic city of Ipoh, the centre of Malaysian cuisine at Penang, the picture perfect beaches of Lankawi… All these were options to choose from Peninsular Malaysia. (Eastern Malaysia offers a variety of National Parks, Diving City Experiences and arguably the world’s most beautiful islands- The Perhentian Islands!)

Malaysia- Truly Asia
Malaysia- Truly Asia

Exploring all these beautiful sites will take at least a couple of months! But our regular jobs do not really allow for such luxury (Though it’s the same regular jobs that helps pay for these stunning escapades every once in a while- so no complaints here!!). Argo, we chose 2 places and dedicated 4 days (+2 days of travel) to our Malayan Sojourn. And the places we selected were…… Kuala Lumpur (3 days) and Melaka (a day trip from KL). 6 days, 2 cities …. Somehow, it wasn’t enough! It sounded like appetizer with no main course !!! We looked up at each other- the same look in our eyes, and went back to the drawing board… err… map (specifically, the map of SE Asia) and further research began in earnest!!

Map of SE Asia

The trip would have to be at least 15 days long, out of which 6 days had been accounted for. We had a big city, a historic town… we could do a beach or a hill station or a national park, maybe…. After brainstorming for what seemed like hours, our eyes fell on that big group of Islands…. With over 18000 islands (6000 of them inhabited), lying precariously on the infamous “Ring of Fire”, containing ethnicities and wonders that range from man-made monuments to natural beaches and volcanoes…. We knew our next destination would have to be Indonesia!

Wonderful Indonesia
Wonderful Indonesia

Since our trip already had a mega city, we decided to skip Jakarta for this time. Instead, we would focus on the Special Province of Yogyakarta- the gateway to the Famous Borobudur Temples and the Prambanan Temple complex (It is also very close to one of the world’s most active “Decade Volcano”- the Mount Merapi). Yogyakarta is also famous for being the cultural center of the Java Island. (More like, the soul of Java!) So, the next 3 days of the trip would be spent seeping in the culture of the Java at Yogyakarta.

This meant there was a spot for just one more place (either in Malaysia or Indonesia- for all practical reasons like Visa and Return flights)…. And we settled on the Island of Bali for the last leg of the journey (Looking back, it was truly the icing on the cake!) We had been to Goa a few months back, and assumed we knew all about beaches and beach holiday- so this would be a re-run of our older holiday—or so we thought ; and we were never more wrong ! There’s so much to Bali, that it would take not less than a month at a time to see it and experience it …. And still want more of it!

That’s it then—plan in place, visas in hand, hotels & flights booked…. 6th of July, 2013- we set off on another adventure !!!

Posted in Travel

What a start to a great trip !!!

It caught our attention – mine, because its metamorphosis from a tiny tin-mining shanty town to one of the world’s fastest growing cities was impressive ! – Bee’s because it is one the Alpha World Cities !!! And so our journey began…..

It was close to 2A.M. (Local Time) when we flew over the city- and were welcomed by a glitter of lights !!

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Our fist view of the massive city

In spite of it being late at night, we had no hassles reaching our hotel- much to the relief of our parents !! 🙂 🙂

Early next morning, we set out to explore the heart of the city- The Masjid Jamek area…

The Masjid Jamek is the oldest mosque in KL
The Masjid Jamek is the oldest mosque in KL

Not only is the Masjid Jamek the oldest mosque in KL,it is also located at the heart of  the old city. In local language, Kuala Lumpur means “Muddy River Confluence”. It began as a tin mining congregation at the confluence of the Klang River and the Gombak River. This is the exact location where the Masjid Jamek is built !

The confluence of the Klang River & The Gombak (Muddy) River
The confluence of the Klang River & The Gombak (Muddy) River

This part of KL is the Old City Center or the Old Town . Apart from the Masjid Jamek, in close vicinity are Merdeka Square, Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Petaling Street or, Chinatown.

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building- standing right across the Merdeka Street
The Sultan Abdul Samad Building- standing right across the Merdeka Street
Colorful sights of  Petaling Street or Chinatown
Colorful sights of Petaling Street or Chinatown

We ambled around on foot exploring this part of the city for most part of the morning. Soon, we had lost the crowd behind and made our way to the next major attraction on our list…. The KL Bird Park !

Arguably, it is the world's largest free-flight aviary !
Arguably, it is the world’s largest free-flight aviary !

Once there, we went berserk !!! For bird lovers, it was nothing short of paradise !

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…. By the time the sun set on our first day at KL, we were exhausted and enraptured !!!

Late in the evening, we had an early dinner and braced ourselves for yet another thrilling day ahead !

🙂 🙂

Posted in Celebrations, Travel

Making Up- The Birthday Special (Finally) !!!

Day 2 of our trip (Refer “Saving Grace- The Goa Trip Begins”) and guess what… It was my Birthday !!

Time for Bee to make up for missing out on my special day the previous year. So what did he do, you say….

First thing, the entire arrangements were made by Bee in close co-ordination with the staff of Vivanta, by Taj (Panjim). Soon after waking up to a hearty breakfast (I am a big time food addict, remember 😉 ) We spent some time in the hotel’s rooftop pool (“Swimming pools, as we have discovered since our Thai trip last year, are grossly  underrated” – Quoting Bee himself) . Thereafter, we went for a session at the in-house Jiva Spa.

Relaxing @ the poolside
Relaxing @ the poolside
Rejuvenate your senses
Rejuvenate your senses

Rejuvenated after the hour long spa session, not only by the luxury and quality of the treatments, but also by the engaging staff members, we prepped up for the phase 2 of the trip !

Phase 2: Our entire trip was planned in two halves- First, we celebrate my birthday in style (in the state capital), and then spend the next 6days exploring the beaches of North Goa.

Coming back to the celebrations… It  did not end with the spa (as I had imagined all along) – we went off to lunch at Latitude.

Did I mention a line about how one of our motives while traveling is to try out local cuisine? Well, it is ! So we ordered a Goa Special- Prawn Balchao. It was more than FreaKing AwesomE !! Our first taste of ethnic Goan cuisine- and it couldn’t have been any better !!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Yummiclious !!!
Yummiclious !!!

Wait up.. That’s not all… 🙂 🙂

The best part of it all was, when the Manager of Latitude brought in Sweets and A Birthday Cake (All on the House) !!!! 😉

(Oh, and he was kind enough to click a pic of the Bee n Mee with the Cake as well ~ !!)

A birthday cake !!! Yay !
A birthday cake !!! Yay !

Not bad, Bee… You had me smiling throughout the day ! Definitely made up for the folly of the year gone by  ❤ ❤ ❤

Posted in Travel

Saving Grace- The Goa Trip Begins….

My first birthday after our wedding was, to put it gently, not too special!  In fact, Bee (that’s what I call my Better Half – though we still argue on who’s the better half) slept through the midnight and later went to office on my Birthday. Trust me, things did not go very well with him on this account. So the following year, he had to do something special- go that extra mile, to make up for his folly of the previous year…. and I must say, he made it up quite wonderfully !

Our Goa trip was, thus, planned to coincide with my birthday ! Oh, and before we delve into the trip-tales, I must tell you this- Between the two of us, I am the Heart and Bee’s the Head. I do the Photography, mixing with the locals, Having a great time (making it count), while he crunches the numbers, makes immaculate plans, executes those plans to perfection and I must admit his researching skills would put google to shame!!

By this time, our plane was circling the Goa International Airport (Dabolim Airport) looking for a landing spot I believe. And for the umpteenth time, Bee reminds me “It’s a State, not a city- so don’t think you will get to see all of it in 7 days-OK”

The hour long ride from the airport (which is in the village of Dabolim) to our Hotel in Panjim – the State Capital, made me realize that Bee had indeed been trying to “mentally prepare” me for the trip ahead !

The 30Km route from Dabolim Airport to Vivanta, by Taj (Panjim)
The 30Km route from Dabolim Airport to Vivanta, by Taj (Panjim)

As we checked into one of the Taj Hotel properties at Panjim, I was immediately drawn by the interior design of the hotel. One of the walls is decorated to look like a sandy beach… Welcome to Goa indeed !!

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My birthday surprise awaited here !!
The walls said it all... Welcome to the land of "Sun, Sand and Surf" !!
The walls said it all… Welcome to the land of “Sun, Sand and Surf” !!

More on the hotel and an awesome birthday surprise by the staff later… For now, we checked in and freshened up, and as is our norm in any new place, we set out to explore the neighborhood on foot. Here comes another confession~~ most of these “On-foot” explorations are to discover sources of Food close by- Reason… I am a Big Time Foodie!! One of my major motivations to travel is to explore different cuisines- and I am making a list of what I love and what I don’t as the two of us explore more of the world together 🙂

The lonely ranger gave us company as we explored the vicinity on foot
The lonely ranger gave us company as we explored the vicinity on foot

It turned out to be a great first day, by birthday eve- of our week long trip to Goa~ !!