Saturday, 30 April 2011

Trip to Calcutta

On the 29th I flew to Calcutta from Bangkok with Kingfisher airline. Service was excellent and they were not stingy with the beer, King of Good times...

In Calcutta the taxis are yellow

I landed in Calcutta late afternoon and took a cab to Shyambazar where Priyak Mitra lives. He is the brother of a colleague, Ms. Tushita Patel, that I work with. Shyambazar is one of the oldest townships in Calcutta and I could well see that judging by the narrow and winding lanes that would make you loose orientation in no time. When I arrived Priyak's house only the housestaff was present as the patrons had gone for a function. I left my bag there and went out for a walk after a cup of tea.

Downtown Calcutta


Took Metro to Park Street where I walked around gazing at the architecture and various shops and street stalls peddling their wares. After awhile I arrived the Esplanade station and took the Metro back to Shyambazar. Once back at the house I was given dinner and I exchanged some news with my friendly hosts.

After awhile the elctricity was cut due to blackout so it was a good time to retire for the night.

Shyambazaar 
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Friday, 22 April 2011

Singapore

Woke up again early morning and got myself packed up and had some breakfast at the hotel before checking out. Then I rushed  to the Thai embassy to pick up the letter for my ex and mailed it from nearest post office.

Thai embassy in Singapore

From there it was straight to Changi airport where I went to claim the GST for the camera I had bought. As it was in my hand luggage I had to go through immigration and claim it in the tax free area of the airport, not at the counter before immigration. I guess they are afraid the goods will come back onto the Island. Well, I went through immigration & went to the GST counter there and got my claim back in cash without any problems.

In the MRT on the way to Changi


After this I browsed the expensive tax free stuff for sale and waited for my flight and eventually the time came to board. I was lucky as I go the emergency seat and had plenty of leg room. Otherwise Silk air is not an airline to shout much about at home.

Inside Changi airport
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Thursday, 21 April 2011

Singapore

In the morning Lena dropped me off to Larkin bus station where I took the bus into Singapore. I arrived Queen Street at 0930hrs from where I took the MRT to the Thailand embassy as I had been asked urgently to provide a letter of consent to my deranged ex for applying new passport for our kids.

The neighborhood near the Cameron Hotel

MRT station, no rush hour yet

One of Singapore's Canals

After sorting out this issue I took the MRT to Simei station. I went to see my old agent and friend Angie Ng at her office. She gave me a hand in booking a hotel for me, Hotel Cameron 65SGD/ night, and then she invited me for lunch.

One of Singapore's shopping heavens (or hells)

We had a dim-sum lunch at the Kam Boat House, as usual the Cantonese cuisine is best when eating like this. After lunch we parted ways and I continued to my hotel for check-in. After this I ventured out on town and my first stop was at Golden Mile shopping center. Here I walked around and could see that the Thai hangout mall had changed into a Thai-Vietnam hangout mall. Could not see anything interesting here so I continued to Funan Center.

Orchard Towers

At Funan I splashed out on a SLR camera, Canon 550D EOS complete with flash and objective and filters. After burning my VISA with this I continued to Wheelock Place to look for some books at Borders, big store but mediocre selection in sci-fi, fantasy & horror. Maybe the genre doesn't sell with the squeaky clean Singaporeans.

Chinese God in front of Hilton


After Wheelock Place I went to Orchard Towers for a couple of drinks and could see that it was business as usual over there but quieter than it used to be when I went there first time some 10yrs ago. After the whole day of walking I decided to call it a night and took the MRT back to my hotel.
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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Johor Baru

Once again it was time to get on the move early morning. I packed my stuff and started towards the metro. It took awhile to find the station but thanks to some helpful denizens I managed to find it pretty easily. I arrived Bandar Tarik Selatan in good time and checked into my bus & got my boarding pass. When it was time to board the staff discovered that the card reader was broken so we got to walk onboard just like that.

Malaysian ladies getting into their car


On the way we stopped for lunch at a highway restaurant where i had some Nasi Ayam, quite delicious Chinese style dish. Then the journey continued and we arrived Johor Baru abt 5pm. I was met by my friend Lena and her son Syafeeq.

I spent the evening in their house in Pasir Gudang and played monopoly with Syafeeq and eventually lost, apparently I am not very business minded or maybe the dice did not favor me. Then I had dinner with Syafeeq and his father Zul. I had Nasi Goreng Kampong, very delicious dish compared to the ordinary "city" Nasi Goreng.

Then it was time to hit the sack as next morning I was going to Singapore.
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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Kuala Lumpur

Next morning I got up early and moseyed over to the bus station and bought a ticket to Kuala Lumpur. It was just opposite the Chinese temple. Thats the benefit of a small town, no need to take a taxi anywhere, everything is walking distance. After abt 45min waiting the bus arrived to the platform and we rolled towards KL.

Downtown KL

The trip was uneventful and we arrived to the Puduraya bus station. It is huge and organised like an airport. Upon walking out of the station I saw some guesthouses on the opposite side of the street so I just walked over and took a room for 50RM/ night (common shower & toilet). Decided to buy a ticket to Johor Baru for next morning so I got that sorted before doing anything else, discovered that the bus is departing from Bandar Tarik Selatan, quite a distance from Puduraya but the clerk explained it would be easy to reach by metro. Oh well, could have waited before buying the room for the night.

Chinatown


After that I went walkabout in Chinatown on Petaling Jalan and noticed most shops selling fake and copied goods, quite pathetic actually as it is supposed to be a tourist attraction. The area is made up quite nicely and it resembled a bit like Singapore.

The Junk Book Store


I also stumbled across a bookshop selling second hand books that was stacked to the rafters with books on 2 floors. The shop was managed by 2 elderly Chinese ladies that had a remarkable sense of where everything was. I only needed to tell the name of the author and 5 minutes later she had a pile of books in front of me to choose from. Later I found they even got a website where they are touted as Malaysia's biggest second hand book shop. I can believe that.

The KL landmark, Petronas towers


Later I met with Angel, a cyber friend and she took me to Amway mall for some more cheap book shopping. Great shop and cheap prices. After that we had seafood dinner in Petaling Jaya at a Chinese food court. I had sting ray. After that it was already time to go back and Angel dropped me off at the guest house and I retired for the night.
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Monday, 18 April 2011

Diving Sembilan

Woke up next morning at 6am to get to my pickup. Ah Kong picked me up and we went to get some breakfast and duck for lunch. Soon enough we headed for the Lumut yacht club where Steven was now storing his boat. Last time it was at another location but I was told the Owner had gone off his rockers and was charging crazy money nowadays so all his customers had opted for better solutions.

Local fisherman


We went on with filling the boat with water, food and beer. After that followed dive gear, tanks, BCD's and the works. Then fuel and engines were checked. Soon enough all people were gathered and the boat was pulled in the water and off we went. The weather was very pleasant.

Pulau Hitam


By 0830hrs we were in position at Black Rock (Pulau Hitam) and we geared up. Chan handed me a spear gun and wished me luck. We all jumped in and dived Black Rock. The viz was not the best around and I eventually got a small snapper while Chan and Kong brought in 8-10 fish with the biggest being abt 4kg.


The fishermens catch


When moving to the next venue we came across a local fishing boat that was hauling in his net so we stopped and bought some shrimp, mantis shrimp and crabs from them.

Pulau Putih


Next in the program was White Rock (Pulai Putih) and same procedure followed. Unfortnately at 10m I noticed that I had forgotten the loading handle for the spear gun on the diveboat so I had to get up and went down again. In all haste I descended to 30m but came up to 10-15m. This time I did not kill anything as I did not come across anything interesting or I just simply missed.

Elvis cleaning shrimp


After the 2 dives we had enough fish to feed a platoon so we headed over to Pulau Lalang camping area and started unloading utensils and provisions. Soon enough the kettles were boiling and appetizing aromas were wafting through the air. It was time to feed. Fresh seafood as good as it gets. We all let loose on the delicacies and soon enough we were all sitting around contemplating the sumptuous meal.

Ah Kong and Ah Chan doing the tom yam

Tasting session


As other sat down and rested and chatted in Cantonese I took off to walk around the Island. I strolled down the beach looking at all signs of civilzation in the shape of discarded plastic bottles, slippers, tins, plastic bags and whatnot. After awhile the beach ended in a rocky outcrop and I found a path leading inside the Island. I did not need to venture far before the terrain started ascending steeply and I was going on 4-wheel drive in places. The higher I came the denser the brush became and I was crawling under the bush and over where it was suitable.

Pulau Lalang beach and mangroves

More jungle

Another view from the top


After some time I came to the top of the Island but could not see much anything as my view was obscured by the trees around me. I decided I was too old and heavy to start being Tarzan so after catching my breath for awhile I started back down again. Needless to say it was much easier and faster and eventually I lost my cap in all excitement and while hanging onto tree branches as not to go into free fall down the slope.

One of the rainforest trees

It's a jungle


View from top


Once down I was bathing sweat so I just continued straight into the sea for a cooling dip. It was so refreshing. Same time I could see that the guys had started breaking up camp so I ventured back to the camp site and came just in time to leave. On the way back we stopped at a few buoys and tried some fishing but it turned out nothing. Soon enough we made it to the Lumut Yacht club and were towed up on land.

On the way back home

The loot



Towing the boat into the boat shed

Fish had to be cleaned, dive gear rinsed and the boat engines flushed. The boat was flushed with freshwater and cleaned out of garbage. Then the loot was divvied up and everyone headed home for a shower to later meet in a karaoke.

Sunset over Pulau Pangkor
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Sunday, 17 April 2011

Lumut

Next morning I got up and went hunting for cheaper lodging and soon enough I found a room down the road next to the Chinese temple at DJ Palace. I went down from 98RM to 75RM/ night. I have never been keen on spending on a bed as I only sleep in it (mostly).

Then next mission was to get my Malaysian SIM card working as the one I had bought in Ipoh had not activated for some reason. I waltzed over to the Maxi's offcie and got that issue sorted as well. Then it was time for some lunch and strolling around Lumut. It was a fast stroll as Lumut is still a one horse town and nothing much had changed from the last time.

Michelin Star Chinese Restaurant

In the evening I as picked up Steven and taken to Sitiawan Michelin Chinese Restaurant for dinner. As usual Chinese food is always spectacular and plentiful. I also met the rest of the hooligans, Chan, Kong and their better halves. There was no shouting of Cantonese expletives as on the dive boat. I had been a few times before in the same restaurant and the food is superb. After dinner it was time to retire as we had set the dive for the next morning at the Sembilans.

Those interested in the Michelin Star can click here. (Really delicious looking dish photos on the site).
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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Going to Malaysia

15th I was on the way to Hat Yai as my Thai visa was expiring and I needed to exit the Kingdom of smiles. I had a rendez-vouz with the hooligans in Lumut. I was dropped off in Hat Yai bus station where I bought a ticket to Ipoh as there were no buses to Lumut so I chose the biggest city close-by. I bid my friends goodbye and boarded the bus that soon enough filled up and we were on our way.

News clipping in bus station of how the city was flooded just a few weeks ago

After a couple of hours we arrived to the Thai-Malay border control and we had to get off the bus for immigration procedures. I guess something went wrong as I lost the bus crowd at some point and walked over to the Malaysian side. There is stood waiting for nearly an hour before the bus came. I was lucky I had not missed the bus as my bag was on it.

Border of Thailand - Malaysia

The journey continued and we stopped for a lunch break at a highway restaurant. I got some Nasi Goreng as it is pretty safe to eat and avoid Delhi belly, somehow people tend to get more sick in Malaysia than Thailand, maybe something to do with different bacteria or standards of hygiene. After lunch we continued, the highways in Malaysia are great, smooth, wide and straight and you can put your pedal to the metal and cruise although max speed is set to 120km/h.

Late afternoon we passed through Penang where we stopped and let off many passsengers as well as new ones embarked. It was late evening abt 7pm and we were getting closer to Ipoh and I told the driver to let me off somewhere it would be easy to get into town. He dropped me off at a highway rest station seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Luckily there was a toilet and prayer room complex being attended by municipal cleaners and I managed through them to order a taxi as I did not have a Malaysian SIM card yet. It was notable that the young chap who called the cab for me declined a tip I was offering.

The cab came and I told him to take me to down town Ipoh, while driving he was chatting away and weaseld out of me info that I was actually going to Lumut. Well, he made me an offer I could not refuse so we stopped in Ipoh to buy a SIM and continued to Lumut. It was not really that far, we arrived Lumut in abt 45min and I booked into the Waterhill hotel next to Jook's Joint Bistro. After settling in and washng off the dust I went out for a late dinner at Jook's Joint and I could not believe that I met people from 2 years back when I had drydocked Kalizma there. There were still plenty of Finnish expats working on the floating hotel project that by now I suspect was seriously behind schedule.

After a few relaxing beers and a pizza I headed back to my hotel room and retired for the night.
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Thursday, 14 April 2011

Songkran

13th was the last day of Songkran in southern Thailand and people were out in force enjoying water games. In this spirit we also put 4 barrels of water in the back of the pickup and went driving to Pakmeng. The beach was packed with people and cars with people in the back throwing water at each other.

Water terrorists on wheels

At some places we had to stop and were smeared with scented powder by the people, at other places we stopped and filled up our barrels for a small sum of money or sometimes for free. This carried on along the road, soon enough we turned around and headed for Huai Yod, same thing was going on there too.

"Watering" stop 

After been throwing water for 3-4hrs everyone was feeling the sun and strain so we headed back home, I discovered I had 2nd degree burns on my nose and forehead. Some New Year...

Festivals In Thailand, including: Songkran, Public Holidays In Thailand, Loi Krathong, Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival, Asalha Puja, Wan Awk Pansa, ... Pee Ta Khon, Khon Kaen Silk Festival, Vassa
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Friday, 8 April 2011

Sa Morakot revisited

On the 7th the rains let up a bit and we decide to do an outing to the emerald and blue waters of Sa Morakot. It was cooling to swim in the pool and eventually I lost my wrist watch that had been given as birthday present by the crew on Kalizma. Naturally it was interpreted that the spirits had been in action and were the real culprits of the disappearing.

Walking to the pools

Stranded dugong?

One of the huge rainforest trees

The Blue pool

More jungle

This one was enormous

Emerald pool in the distance

The nature trail

Afterwards we had a late lunch at a local restaurant and the Moo Pad Ped (Spicy fried pork) was so hot I had tears in my eyes after tasting one small spoon. Even my friends who are accustomed to spicy stuff had a big time dealing with it.

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Thursday, 7 April 2011

Vacation

After arrival Mumbai it was time for me to take some time off and on 17th I flew to Thailand and arrived just before midnight, it was half past three in the morning before I was home.

N. Zsa Zsa - cat in the pot

18th Went to Krabi for some shopping.

19th went to Trang city.

The 3 famous monkeys

20th went to Pakmeng beach for seaside seafood dinner.

Pakmeng beach

Pakmeng beach

Pakmeng beach

21st & 23rd went to Krabi again

24th went to Trang to pick up Jira's new car, Ford Fiesta. Nice drive. It was my second time in my life that I witnessed a brand new car, it is an exhilarating feeling driving the car off shop premises with a brand new smell. Later in the afternoon the car was blessed in the southern Thai style by a local "holy man".

Car being blessed

Ford Fiesta

25th drove to Phuket and went to see Marina Managers Nick and Zara at Yacht Haven. It was quiet but it was low season too. Latest news now was that the Island resort development just north of Ao Po Marina had gone belly up. It was a pity as the marina they were building there was really spectacular.

Later on I met with K. Chatchai, my stainless steel guy who had done numerous jobs on Kalizma. He was now working on refitting local diving boats and was a happy father as he had recently gotten more family addition.

K. Chatchai & me

26th I had dinner at a new Korean restaurant in Central Festival, Sukishi, it was very delicious and spiced up for the Thai taste buds.

27th had early Thai pork lunch in Sam Kong, best shop in the area is run by a couple and it can be spotted by the large vats of pork being boiled up in front, they serve it all ways you can imagine. Three floor pork, boiled pork soup, pork in red sauce etc. etc. Then stocked up on some reading in Patong and headed back home to Trang.

Flooding in southern Thailand

28th onwards southern Thailand is hit by heavy rains and floods at many locations. Our house is spared as it is on high ground. I vegetate at home until 6th April because it is mostly raining.

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