Archive for the ‘Travel’ Tag

Hello Sweden..

I have been in Sweden for the past four days, and I have been really enjoying it. The weather has been amazing, and so have the people. It feel really easy in a country where almost everyone speaks decent English. Most of the signs are in English as well, or can be inferred from Swedish very easily (more on that later).

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I’ve also been meeting many interesting. The current suspects are dutch student, a french teacher, a dutch bagpacker. Hehe. We went out on a day trip to the Göteborg Archipelago. It was really great weather and interesting company. Although we didn’t manage to solve all the worlds problems over the lunch table, we tried.. :P

I’m also enjoying the food here.. My guilty pleasure is the supermarket trip. But, I am trying not to buy too many things for now, since I will be moving into a new place soon. But still I couldn’t resist a huge block of Gouda cheese (much to the disappointment of the dutch who don’t like their cheese made from pasteurized milk.. ah well)

I have also started a Posterous Travelog at http://chinpen.posterous.com. Do check it out and give comments and suggestion. I would love to interact with all of you during my travels and allow you to see Europe as I see it.

Europe beckons..

After my 6 months exchange stint in Copenhagen, Denmark, I was am completely in love with Europe. The charming cities, breathtking landscapes and lovely people are absolutely unique and just never enough.

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While I have travelled around Europe many times, I was too young and too “blur” too remember and understand anything, except the last two trips which were during my under-grad years as Exchange. And that was when I found out about the best way to travel and explore any new land. Bagpacking.. A roadtrip up to Norway and bagpacking adventure down in Italy sold me to this idea..

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There is something about getting lost in a new city. Wandering through the small little alleys, walking into the quaint corner cafes, enjoying a cup while watching an old man, a regular, come in, and stand silently by the bar and get his personalised cup, and leave without a word being said.

And now Europe beckons me again. Paris, Wien, Warsaw, Strasbourg, Zaragosa, Copenhagen, Florence, Belfast, Munich, Prague, Milan, Moscow, Edinburgh…

OH and not to forget Amsterdam for live Diggnation on the 3rd April..

Europe beckons.. and I will go.. :)

The Indian Adventure..

Going to India is always a bitter-sweet struggle for me.. While I love the place for some reasons, other things get on my nerves. But I always manage to get caught in an “Adventure” every time I am there.. With crazy car rides, weird cops, scary weather, riots, closures.. you name it, you can get it there.. And every time, there is a guarantee that your adrenaline will get pumping by the time it’s over.

And hence I prefer to go on short vacations, too much adrenaline has never been good for anyone. And then also, by the time it starts getting on my nerves I am out of there…

But I have managed to come up with a list of “Must Do” things for each of my trips to India, and specifically to Pune.

So here is the checklist for my recent trip.

1. Have an Adventure – Check (Crazy neighbor quarreling about the fence. :S )
2. Eat great Marathi Food – Check (2 great meals, at my Aunts and Sis-in-Laws)
3. Eat great roadside Food – Check (On the way from Mumbai to Pune)
4. Drink Neera
5. Eat Paan – Check (Twice :D )
6. Shop for Clothes – Kinda Check (“Stole” from Bro.. :p)
7. Restock Music from Planet M – Check (Got around 20+ CDs/DVDs )
8. Hang out with cousins – Kinda Check (Only 1cousin was around :( )
9. Get a haircut – Check (Just made it on the last day..)
10. Go on a road trip – Kinda Check (Traveled from Mumbai to Pune in Bro’s Car )
11. Ride motorbikes – Check (Rode just a bit.. but was fun… :) )
12. Attend a concert – Check (Though had to rush off halfway through it )
13. Climb the Tekdi (hill) –

So I managed to get almost of my points.. except Neera.. Damn I crave for it now.. oh and the Tekdi.. :)

Anyway.. here are some pictures I took on the way from Mumbai to Pune..

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The Road…

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The vehicles…

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The roadside food… Wada Pav :)

Europeans uncovered.. Part 3

The Italians.

Italians are noisy. Being noisy is their birth right, and they sure practice it.

The Italians also come in many flavours.
-The noisy
-The really really noisy
-The ‘reindeer’ Italians
-The monkeys
-The “I am so mad” Italians
-The shampoo models.

The Italians’ ability to make noise increases exponentially with the number of Itailians around, and the number of beers in each of them.

All Italians love Totti.. (Whoever that is.)

All Italians love Berlousconi.. (Whoever that is.)

All Italians can be classified as Facists or Communists. It’s Binary, you have to be either, there is no other option.

Italians love to Fart.

All Italians can differentiate between Parmeggiano and Grana Padano.

The body language of Italians conveys more information than the speech. They talk rubbish mostly anyway.

Italians make Pizza with 100g of live yeast per KG flour.

Its is forbidden for Italians to have short hair.

Italians do it better.. (So they say.)

The views written above are purely satrical, and are exagerations based on the authors personal experience in Europe with the various people. Please take it with a pinch of salt..

Europeans Uncovered.. Part 2

The Spaniards

Spanish do not have red blood. Their blood is purple. It’s not blood but kalimotxo

Milk and Cookies is the official breakfast/lunch/dinner menu of Zaragosa Zaragoza.

Side ponytails are the latest fashion trend Spain.

A typical spanish day takes place as follows:
12pm. Wake up
1pm. Breakfasy (Milk and Cookies)
2pm. Siesta
3pm. Lunch (Spinach and Cream OR Milk and Cookies)
4pm-5pm. Wasting some time with other Spanish
6pm-7pm. Deciding where to go for party tonight.
8pm-9pm. More wasting away.
10pm. A quick hurried dinner. (Possibly, Milk and Cookies)
11pm-3/4am. Party!!
4/5am. Another round of Milk and Cookies (if sober enough to find the milk).
5am-12pm. Sleep.

The Spanish have a special ability of ‘Finding’ things.

Intrestingly, many other people, develope an ability of loosing things when the Spanish are around.

In Spain one cannot be sure if there is a “ban on the van”, or “van on the ban”.

All Spanish are consevationist. They conserve (reuse) cooking oil.

Spanish also come in many flavours.
-The geeks.
-The cool guys.
-The pretty lasses
-The “I’m igh” dude.
-The Ferranimals
-The rest…

The views written above are purely satrical, and are exagerations based on the authors personal experience in Europe with the various people. Please take it with a pinch of salt..

Europeans uncovered.. Part 1

The French.

There are two species of French.
-The Parisians
-The Rest

There is a mutual feeling of dislike between the two species.

There exist a certain number of cool Parisians and Rest.

All Parisians hate Tourists.

The typical country-boy from France can come in the following different favours.
-The sleepy head
-The hungover dude
-The “I feel stupid” guy
-The nature lover
-The “I study 1 hr per week” genious

The French love of wine and food is above anything else (…most of the time.. well ok.. sometimes.)

All French guys love to show off their behinds.

Special French food.
-Tartiflette.
-Quiche
-Pizza
-Burnt Bread
-Cats!!

The views written above are purely satrical, and are exagerations based on the authors personal experience in Europe with the various people. Please take it with a pinch of salt..

I remember…

I generally hate weather like today’s. Dark, overcast skies only bring back images of the Danish winter, not the best part of my six months there. Such weather always makes me sad, depressed and lazy.

But today was different, something about the light, weather and the smell of those few drops of rain, brought back really old memories.

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I remember….. when I had gone for a week long camp. It was in Primary school. 4th Standard to be precise. That would be Primary 4 according to Singapore terminologies. We used to live in Dombivili (one of the suburbs of Mumbai), and my school had organised a camp for us in the wilderness near Pune.

As I started remembering things, a flood of memories came back to me. The prep for the camp. The equipment list. The HUGE Mug with a wierd smell. :D The hand-me-down shoes. The candies during the bus ride. The camp site. The wilderness. The lonely feeling. The treasure hunt. The gender segrigated sleeping arrangement. The loud snoring at night. The flooded river. The games, and the shorts w/o any pockets. The Gorge-Walk. The morning tea. The climb to Sinhagad. The khichadi sans salt. The nite-watch. The open milk-maid tin and the cut finger. The disgusting toilets and washing plates with salt/sand.

It was such a great time, not a care in the world! I remember feeling scared and missing my parents a lot. I also remember making a whole lot of great friends and even more mischief. And most of all, I remember the amazing nature that I saw. I have seen more beautiful natural beauty and some really amazing sights in my life, but that week in the foothills of Sinhagad, I will never forget.

I don’t remember the name of the village where we stayed or the name of the organisation that held this camp. All I remember is that the camp was named ROOTS!

ED: I do remember the name of the village.. it was khanapur, in the foothills of Sinhagad…

Wedding 101.

This is a intro course for all the readers on Indian Weddings. For most, inexperienced people (by that I mean those who have not attended an Indian Wedding) I am sure you find Indian weddings very interesting and colourful! So let me try to take you through an Indian Wedding (specifically a Marathi Wedding) from my perspective, taking my cousin’s wedding as an example.

Fact

Not all Indian weddings are ‘Arranged’. Arranged as in decided by the parents. And NO…not everyone is promised to someone else by the time they are 8…

Ceremonies
Indian weddings can last for many days. There are many ceremonies to be performed, though optional, are performed in most weddings. A typical wedding can last for 3-6 days. My cousin’s lasted for 5 days. There are many different pujas (prayers) and ceremonies to be performed, before and after the wedding and thus they take up so much time..

Weddings are generally held in wedding halls. Many such halls are scattered around the city.

People

It is also a custom that relatives invited for the wedding, especially from other towns, stay at the residence of the bride/groom. Thus typically in the evening before the wedding, there are around 30-40 people in the house. Which is really fun!

You get to meet all the relatives close and distant. I had so much fun just chatting with all my cousins, uncles and aunties. It was really great when 15-20 people sat in big circles talking, joking and just having fun.

That’s also the time when we get to play all the ‘wedding pranks’. My favourite is the rose+stalk prank! Hehe…:D Oh my poor cousins…

Clothes
It is also a custom to buy and wear new colourful clothes during the wedding. And the closer you are to the bride/groom in terms of relationship, you have to wear fancier clothes. I ended up wearing 3-4 different sets of Jhabba-Pyjama and formal Suit!! I have to thank my brother for allowing me to borrow so many of his clothes. :D

Colour are important during the wedding. Generally none of the close family members of the bride/groom are to wear black. And the ladies generally wear red/amber/orange saris. The wedding halls are also decorated with colourful flowers and raangoli. Raangoli are designs drawn the floor for decoration purposes using coloured flour.

Now to the most important part. Food!!

Food is the most important. At least for me. You get to.. no no.. you have to eat a crazy amounts of really great food. And for those who think vegetarians can’t have variety, you have to come to one such wedding. Its all vegetarian food during such weddings..

Though we don’t have 5 course meals, there are a lot of dishes served at the same time. And the most important is pakwan. The ‘dessert’. But it’s not served at the end but throughout the meal! And for all the sweet tooth people, its heaven. Here is a summary of what I had during the 5 days..

1. Shri-khand
2. Angur Malai (Rasgulla + Baasundi!) + Gulab Jam + Shri-khand + Modak (dumpling with coconut)+ Karanji (calzone with coconut filling!)
3. Jilbi
4. Aamras (Thick Mango Juice):)
5. Shira

Hmm. And there is also a custom of aagrah. It’s like a host forcefully serves the guests extra food to ensure the guest eats properly and thus be very hospitable. Many times it ends into crazy eating competitions. The one on the day of the wedding was really crazy. Though I can never outdo my brother, I must say it was close…:D

Ahh.. Weddings.. So much fun! Sigh.. 2/4 done. Only 2 cousins left to get married… And now I wonder if I will be able to attend their weddings…..:S

Rain rain go away…

I love rain.. I really do. Especially in India.. Maybe its an India thing, but people here love rain, love to get drenched and love to play in the rain. I remember when I was very young my parent would take me to play in the rain, every year, during the monsoon at Marine Drive!

It’s kinda expected in the place which becomes dry and almost scary in the summer which preceeds the monsoon.

But this is just too much rain. It has been raining for the last 3-4 days continuously. Not once have the roads dried up.. And my backyard garden is flooded, I mean really flooded… Hopefully the roads are free and all the events take place without any problems…

I hear Mumbai is worst, I hope my cousin does not get stuck! The good thing is that I don’t have to and won’t go to Mumbai this time… :)

Music Maddness!!

This is crazy.. It’s pretty cheap to buy stuff like CDs, Books and all here in India. I am sure many of you would agree.. So I went to this big music shop today and went absolutely crazy there..

I got like 15+ CDs.. and it cost me like 1/3rd what I’d pay in Singapore…

So many CDs I wanted to buy, but couldn’t find in Singapore, including Piya Bavari, MidiVal Times, Bend it Like Beckham OST, a bunch of classical stuff.. and a lot more.. The shop seemed to be quite well stocked.. esp with different types of music.

The best part is that at the end they gave a privilege card so that I get like 10% discount :). I am going back there next time I am here… :D

Now…I can’t wait to go back home and check out all the stuff I got!