As the Dalai Lama said “Once a year, go somewhere you have never been before.” This year I did him 6 better. Add in another 2 places that I have already visited for good measure and that is my 2013 for you. It has been a year of extremes and no in-betweens with travel featuring as one of the consistent high-points of my year. I experimented with ways of traveling very different from what I am normally used to and I have to admit that my travel style needs a makeover. Did a lot, saw a lot, ate a lot, moved around a lot, chilled out a bit, learnt a lot… basically a lot a lot. Here’s presenting my 2013 travelogue.
Nummero Uno- Singapura: If it weren’t for Tiger airways, my 12 hour layover between Singapore and Bangalore would have been just that: a layover. Tiger airways decided to make my first solo trip abroad even more exciting by changing my flight dates to 2 days before the scheduled departure and giving me a 4 hour heads up to take off! I barely had 20 minutes to pack and head to the airport! The staff there could not solve the mystery of my changed dates and neither could the staff in Singapore. So to put me out of my misery, I was given an emergency seat. Extra leg room is definitely a good way to pacify me (and no, I did not purposely make a show of stretching my legs and yawning loudly to show off the extra leg-room I had!) So thank you Tiger airways for giving me 2 extra days in Singapore! Thanks to you I got to visit the Gardens by the Bay, watched people fly kites at the Marina Barrage, attended a viewing of the film “Half the Sky” at the Singapore Youth Center, partied at Clarke Quay, drank tea while slurping down a bowl of Mee-gorang at Haji Lane and finished that all off with a lot of shopping! B was my tour guide for this visit and it was because of her that I got to sample Japanese, Thai, Malay and a whole lot of other cuisines! She patiently assisted me when I got a little neurotic about my shopping for the folks back home but it is thanks to her that I had a very interesting second trip to Singapore!
Vietnam: Hanoi-Danang-Hoi An- Ho Chi Minh City. This was my first solo trip abroad and I am so glad I picked Vietnam. I met many many people from all over. I walked, I flew, I sailed, I rode. I learnt about the history of the country. I marveled at its scenic beauty. I learnt a lot about my likes and dislikes while travelling and fending for myself. The calm of Hanoi, the quaintness of Hoi-an and the chaos of Ho Chi Minh City are what made each place distinctly unique. There was so much that I saw and did there but Halong-bay, Hai Van Pass, Cu Chi tunnels and the Ben-Thanh night market at Ho Chi Minh City were the high lights of this trip. I found that I kept drawing parallels to India and while traffic is very prevalent in both countries, so is this stigma about women travelling solo. I will never forget the receptionist at the hotel in Hoi-an asking me “You no hafe boyfren? Why you no come with boyfren? Next time, you come heere and stay heere… with boyfren!” So much for escaping these questions in another country. The experiences that I had there inspired me to do another thing that I have always wanted to do and that is write for someone else. I gave it a shot and you can find my article here: Flying Solo. I had an amazing time while traversing this country and months after this little adventure I find myself planning my next solo sojourn. Thanks to this trip I am officially hooked to solo travel!
Hyderabad: 2012 saw two very close friends move to Hyderabad. Many invites were issued, which I kept brushing aside until I got a earful from both of them. So as a peace offering I convinced another friend, T, to come along and on a gloomy Thursday morning we flew to Hyderabad. The first thing I saw as soon as I stepped down from the flight was a series of billboards for “Aparna” Constructions. My namesake! I knew at that instant that my trip was off to a good start. I spent 2 days with Am and Zubs and another 2 with Pratster and San. T and I got to see different sides of the city with both these couples. Old city, Charminar, Chowmahala palace, Golkonda Fort, Hi-tech City, etc. were some of the places that we visited. The view of Hyderabad from Golkonda Fort was breathtaking! Paradise Biryani, Eno, Labonel Cupcakes, Eno, Over the Moon, eno… you get the picture. There was basically a lot of eating. This vacation ended with high tea at the Falaknuma Palace followed by a palace tour and though pricey, it is a must see while in Hyderabad. I loved how the old city and the new city combined so seamlessly and after 4 days there I could see myself living in this city. Maybe in a few years.. once I have completed my masters. Till then I know I have 2 houses I can go to where I can expect to be fed and carted around for free.
Mengaluru: Mangalore is a place that I have visited many times and each time I have enjoyed the city differently. This time around I was there for a friend’s wedding and while my visit there was very brief, I had an amazing time catching up with friends and colleagues that I had met while in Coimbatore. I was a little nervous about going there and getting back on my own but my fears were put to rest when I met a friendly auto driver who offered to drive me around Mangalore for a fee. It was nice identifying landmarks that I had seen during my previous visits while I was whisked away from the station to the hotel to the wedding hall. Mangalore re-affirmed the fact that I had met some amazing people back in Coimbatore and I came back from that trip with a huge smile on my face.
Thirunelvelli: Thirunelvelli was again for a wedding. I got to 1) see a friend marry the love of his and 2) spend time with another. This trip however, for various reasons, confirmed for me that my decision to move out of Coimbatore two years back was the right one. Something else that struck me while there was how safe I felt moving around this small town on my own. (This was a feeling that I noticed in Mangalore as well.) I am a regular reader of Shivya’s blog: The Shooting Star where she talks about her solo travels across India and she emphasizes how safe she feels while travelling across India and I was reminded of this blog while in Thirunelvelli. Another thing that I will take away from this trip was the time I got to spend talking to Josay while waiting for my train to depart. Over the years I have collected some wonderful memories at various railway stations and this is definitely getting filed away into that folder. This trip was a nice way for me to end 2013.
2014 has been off to an interesting start but my travel plans for this year are a little hazy as I have the option of moving to two cities and I still haven’t made up my mind as to where I want to go. Either which way I choose to go there is definitely at least one thing that will be checked off my travel wishlist. I have already done a road-trip to Coorg where I reached in record-time and there are at least another two trips I have to make down there. So even if my plans for my future career don’t work out, thanks to this trip, I might have an option as a rally car driver. Though my plans are a little uncertain, the year ahead looks quiet exciting and I cant wait to see what the next 350 odd days have in store for me.
So have a wonderful and amazing 2014 and don’t forget to travel safe, travel far, travel wide and travel well.