March 25, 2009

China (Hefei) December 2005

Few days before when I was talking to Amit about my experiences abroad; he suggested me to write & publish them on blog because it will remain for years unlike memory which will fade in few more years. Hence I wrote about Dubai & now about China.

When I came to know that I have to go to China, I was very excited. I just knew names of two cities Shanghai & Beijing and of course Great Wall of China. I thought I have to go to Shanghai but I received an email saying the place where I have to go for work is called “Hefei”. I never heard of such city. I didn’t even know how to travel there. I sent reply asking for travel advice. That problem was easily solved as they organized my air tickets from China. For the first time I was traveling to such a far off place. The route was Mumbai – Singapore – Guangzhou – Hefei. It took me about 17-18 hours to reach the destination.

For the first time I saw Changi Airport; it was indeed beautiful and well managed. All indications to all the gates on terminal are properly marked. They make sure that you don’t get lost & miss your flight.

After taking connecting flight I reached Guangzhou. Guangzhou airport is a huge building but unlike Changi it was very difficult to find your way to anywhere on the airport. I found many signs were indicating totally wrong places. Somehow managed to reach immigration. After finishing immigration I headed to get the luggage. After waiting at one belt for long time I found my luggage took several rounds of another belt. Rushed to another belt; collected luggage & went to check in again at domestic terminal. Took another flight to final destination Hefei.

I had been told that it will cold in December when I traveled. So I wore bit thick clothes and a jacket to protect myself from cold but I didn’t know the temperature was as low as 0ยบ Celsius. I was freezing when I came out of the airport building. A girl who came to pick me immediately took me to the car where heater was on. It took me about 5-6 minutes to come to normal. On that day I realized the difference between winter in Hefei & winter in Mumbai (I don’t even remember wearing sweater in Mumbai anytime in the year and I don’t have sweater). Very next day I had to buy a good sweater and pair of shoes to beat this cold.

I stayed in China for 2 weeks. Good thing about the stay that I got to eat Indian food everyday from only one Indian restaurant in Hefei. Everyday I received food parcel from that restaurant. Every night we used to go to Authentic Chinese restaurant to have dinner. In those restaurant there were many big round tables having rotating table tops. We had to order one course of meal for every one. They used to keep serving something or the else till you get tired of eating. In that restaurant I saw one cuisine (I think lamb) came in big bowl on burning stove on our table. That was really unique. Here in these restaurants we never used to get spoons or forks; initially we had hard time eating with only chopsticks but now I feel like saying thanks to those people as I learned eating with chopsticks very well even can eat peanut. That’s what I tried every time when I was in China.

One night we went to a Japanese restaurant for dinner I can never forget. The Japanese consultant with whom I was working ordered something from menu. When the dish arrived on his table I saw something under a leaf was moving. I asked him what it is. He answered; that the fish in his dish is still alive & that is the skill of the chef to keep the fish alive till it gets served on table. So inhuman. (My heart shouted). I couldn’t say anything. I still remember that dinner.

I had visited one revolving restaurant in China; that was the first time for me to go to such restaurant. I thought the speed would be as fast as we can see it rotating but nothing such things happened as the rotation was very slow after sitting for 1 hour I couldn’t even understand that something is moving. Compare to this; revolving restaurant in Mumbai is much better.

In China; I went for shopping many times in the evening; souvenirs are very cheap but you have to bargain a lot. Price quoted is almost double than actual. I had 400 Yuan (Chinese Currency) and after doing lots of shopping of small things; more than 200 Yuan were left. Did more shopping on Guangzhou airport and Changi Airport in Duty free shops. ;)

On my way back to Mumbai I stayed for one night in Guangzhou. The hotel was located in main city. Evening I went for stroll near my hotel. I saw one escalator going down from the road. I went to check where it is leading; it was so surprising to see a metro station beneath the road. On the road I couldn’t find any sign either in English or in Chinese says there is a station down. Well, I continued my walk for about 1 hour.

Next day afternoon I board the flight to Singapore & then to Mumbai. Experience on my way back was great as I had 5-6 bags in hand with Chinese Crockery which I carried all the way from Hefei to Guangzhou to Singapore to Mumbai without breaking a single piece. In flight Singapore airlines staff helped me a lot to keep this crockery at safest place possible. At the end; I am thankful to freezing cold, chopsticks, crockery, Chinese people with no English speaking skill and many more things for making my trip unforgettable.

March 20, 2009

Looking back.... (trip to Dubai June 2005)

Dubai – One of the most liberal emirates in Gulf. This was my first trip to abroad. I liked Dubai for its cleanliness, huge structures and discipline (in terms of road traffic). While landing on Dubai airport I could see desert, desert and only desert. No sign of water or greenery. Personally I don’t like deserted land. My first impression was very bad (because of desert seen from plane) but when I landed there I saw huge and beautiful airport building. My impression changed immediately as I have never seen such beautiful and huge airport in India anywhere.

After a drive for about 30 minutes from Airport I reached my hotel Crowne Plaza on Sheikh Zayed Road. This road is a tourist attraction because it is fully loaded with tall to tallest buildings. I had view of Emirates Office tower form my window. I think my room was on 15th or 16th floor. This road has almost 41 buildings having height not less than 180 meters. In the evening I went to stroll around on this road. Came back to hotel after a walk of about 1-2 hours with pain in my neck (well you can guess why it was paining).

Next day I went to place called Jebel Ali; this is a free trade zone and port. Almost all companies in Dubai are having office or factory in this area.

After finishing work on 3rd day we went for dinner in hotel. That hotel was a total maze as we couldn’t find our way to the restaurant for about 15 minutes in the same hotel. On way back to hotel I saw a black Limousine for the first time. Till date I have never seen another one in India.

On last day in Dubai I had time to go for shopping. I went to a mall called City Center. Did lots of shopping in just 120 Dirham.

After reaching airport to catch a flight back to Mumbai; I have been told that the flight is late by 3 hours. I became happy to hear that (well that’s sounds strange) because I got lots of time to do some more shopping in Duty free shops. :) After utilizing all the time given by delayed flight; I headed to security check & again same thing… My flight was further delayed. :( uhhh.... Totally it was 8 & half hours delayed.
That was only the bad experience I had in my first trip abroad. Otherwise I liked Dubai very much.

March 10, 2009

My travel to Kelve beach and Goa

March 10th, 2009

2009… I want this year to be travel year for me. Hence as usual I am In Search Of new destinations.

First Destination: Kelve Beach (about 100 Km from Mumbai)

To make 2009 as my travel year; I have started my travel from 1st Jan to a place called Kelve beach near to Mumbai. Well people go for one day picnic here but we were there for two days. J We choose to stay in Kelve Beach resorts where they have nicely placed eco-cottages. Each cottage has its separate swings. Out of two days I was on swing for most of the times as there is no activity other than going to beach. On both the days we stayed was low tide days hence couldn’t go in the sea but because of low tide could walk down to the ruins of a small fort which is otherwise inside the sea.

Second Destination: Goa (about 600km from Mumbai)

It was 2003 when I went to Goa for the first time for my first interpretation assignment. Since that time I always wanted to go there for Holidays. Unfortunately I couldn’t go for several years. Well that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t go to Goa at all. In last 6 years I had been there for 7-8 times but always for work. I had seen almost all places whenever I got time from my work. But still I wanted a holiday in Goa. I have seen everyone there enjoying their breaks from work when I was on work. Always felt Urayamashii… (That is Japanese term means envious).

Now its 2009; and finally I could go to Goa for holiday on my 1st anniversary. We had great time as we drove down to Goa; about 600 km from Mumbai.

Day 1 reached Goa; totally exhausted after drive for about 12hrs. Hence couldn’t go anywhere.

Day 2 like all tourist visited Dauna Paula bay, Fort Agauda and Panji town. On the same day we went to Anjuna beach where flea market is very popular on Wednesdays. There were about 600 stalls. This market was initially started by foreigners for selling their used stuff but now fully operated by Nepalis and Indians and foreigners come to buy things. It’s worth visiting this place. Then enjoyed beer sitting in a shack on the beach watching sunset.

Day 3 went to Benaulim beach in south of Goa where we had stayed. This beach is called silver sand beach. We were on beach for about 2-3 hrs. Later in the evening we left for Panji to spend our anniversary evening on cruise called Caravela which is Casino Cruise. We had great but very little time in casino as we lost all the money very soon. Well; I feel casino is the place where you have to lose all the money else you can not leave that place.
After losing money; had dinner (thanks to god as it was included in the entry charge) & came back to our hotel which was about 45 minutes drive.

Day 4 Relaxed in hotel till afternoon then went to Old Goa to see the St. Fransis Xavier Church and other churches near it. Evening we spent on our beach watching sunset with beer.
Day 5 we left Goa with promise to come back again for another holiday.

Well, Goa trip was excellent.

I have finished my search for 3rd & 4th Holiday destination. Now I am In Search Of 5th ;)