Back in time

Sunset at Bandra Bandstand, Mumbai

Sunset at Bandra Bandstand, Mumbai

Happy 2015 everyone! Wishing you all the most awesome time of your lives as the year unfolds …

My first post of the year … here goes …

India will remain India! There maybe positive changes taking place backstage but daily existence is still frustrating no matter which part you live in. I desperately want things to change, people to change, certain systems to change as many of us do. I see people coming forward and trying to make a difference and I do hope certain movements are sustained till we see a remarkable difference. On the brighter side, there are quite a few positives here – travel, food, weddings, an open and accommodating culture to a large extent. These are all great but normality is still a struggle!  Such were my feelings when I visited India recently.

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Exit terminal at the new Mumbai airport

I first landed in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and was elated by the new airport but that was only short lived. I think the authorities gave too much importance to the aesthetics at the cost of planning and efficiency. While immigration was smooth, the rest of the process was just plain tedious! We easily spent 1 hour+ just to get out of the airport. Or maybe it was the holiday season or the fact that an A380 had landed, adding to the chaos. It remains to be seen when we travel next time if things have gone worse or better. Mumbai was good fun otherwise besides the nasty traffic snarls!

We visited bandra bandstand, a rocky shore where you can catch a good sunset and grab a coffee. We meant to go to the fort but it was unfortunately closed that day.

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A typical bombay sandwich

We gorged on all the food we could in the 4 days we had. It was an enormous joy to have all this Indian food we were craving! God bless all the people who fed us … really, it was all worth it even at the cost of an upset belly.

My next pit stop was Vadodara, a small but progressing city in Gujrat. I have developed an affinity to the place since I lived and worked here. Some of my best times have been in this city with some great buddies, some of whom still live there. I try to stop by and catch up with them whenever possible. As soon as I got off the train , I remember telling them, “I want to have Indian Chinese cuz all you get in SG is Chinese Chinese.” And so we did and it was the closest I think I have ever gotten to a foodgasm. More than that though, it was wonderful catching up with them and also going to the roadside tea vendor and having the ginger chai (adrak wali chai) ❤

I honestly felt like going back in time and reliving my days there … sigh! Where did the time fly … really?Where? It’s like ‘poof’! It was a hard to describe feeling. It was feeling nostalgic even though you were right at the place and with the people you were nostalgic about. You know what I mean? From Singapore to India, I had travelled back in time. And I don’t mean the 2.5 hours time difference.

The journey continues … more on it in the next post. Just some stuff about Indian train journeys, Indian weddings, clothes and more food …

Into The Wild: Visit to Gir Forest

Looking at pictures of the Gir Forest by a colleague reminded me of my own trip to Gir with my office colleagues/friends in Nov 2010, while I was working in Gujarat.

We wanted to go for a good trip after months of monotony.  One of my friend suggested visiting Gir Forest and also covering Diu on our way back. It was a good idea and different from visiting the usual places like Ahmedabad, Mumbai etc. We welcomed a short stint away from city life!
There were four of us and we had hired a Taxi, Indicia. We set out after work on Friday night from Baroda so that we could reach Gir early morning and catch the morning safari. All arrangements of taking a safari (the permit) and our stay were made in advance by our colleague. 
We set out in high spirits, listening to music and all excited about the trip. The travel was longer than anticipated and we entered Gir early morning on Saturday.  Even though we had travelled the whole night I was fresh with excitement … the weather was slightly chilly and the air was fresh due to the forest cover. It felt great!
 


We were allotted one of those Safari Jeeps and we set-off into the jungle. The road tapered till there was just a narrow muddy track. On n On it went taking us more into the depths of the protected reserve. The first animal we spotted was the deer. Abundant in numbers and easy to spot.  The jungle was full of them. Ample of food for the lions I guess :-p

 

We rode on further, spotting owls and some varieties of birds, sambhar, jackals and wild boars. The main attraction of Gir is ofcourse … The Asiatic Lion! The only place it’s found today! We hadn’t seen any yet! We had to see the lion, otherwise this trip would be incomplete! The guides in the other jeeps exchanged info. if there was some lion spotting so they could take their tourists to the spot as well. There seemed to be some alertness among them, the way they signaled to each other.


We moved on and a few meters ahead we saw about 4-5 jeeps parked, everyone very quiet and peering at something behind the trees. Our guide declared … “lions”. Whaat I thought … Where … I couldn’t see any … I looked into the direction where everyone was looking … still I couldn’t see anything … then slowly my vision became clearer and I spotted a full grown-up lion … it was so very well camouflaged in the trees and bushes. Along with him was a lioness sitting opposite to him. Our guide informed us that it was a mating pair. Wow I thought as I looked at these majestic creatures, in their natural habitat, so much at ease. What if they come charging at us like right now? There was pin-drop silence at that spot but my heart was beating with joy.  We hung in there for sometime along with the other jeeps. Clicked pics and willed for the lions to roar. They never did! Lazy creatures! We completed our safari and went back to our resort for a shut eye. YaY for spotting the elusive lion!

Shortly post lunch it was time for the evening safari. This time it was a different route. Unfortunately, we did not spot any lions this time. Actually winter is not the best time to visit Gir. Summer is better because the lions come out to the man-made tanks for water and spotting is easier. Also, the shrubs and trees dry out and you can see much farther inside the jungle from the tracks. However, the most amazing aspect of this route was that the forest opened up into this magnificent lake. It was so beautiful … although there were crocs criss-crossing in it … in hundreds … which reminded me of khoon bhari maang … lol! And we could GET DOWN (that’s something!) from the jeep and go to this observation tower. 

 

We came back out to for a splendid late night in front of a bonfire in our resort!