Saturday, September 08, 2007

Malaysia Part 3 - Genting


Sunday 3rd September. I had spent 2 days of my 3-day weekend doing nothing worthwhile. So I decided to go to Genting on Sunday. Genting is a sort of hill station about 50 kms from Kuala Lumpur. In local parlance, hill stations are called “Highlands”. It was confusing in the beginning – I always used to think people are referring to Genting Islands, whereas is fact it is Highlands! So things are now clear – Genting, Cameron are Highlands; and Langkawi, Penang are Islands.

The Journey:

I had booked both my onward and return journeys the previous day. The fare for the bus ride is 3.50 RM and the skyway costs 5 RM one-way. I boarded the 1 pm bus from KL Sentral. The buses for even such short journeys are really comfortable. This particular bus even had seat belts for passengers! Needless to say, it was an A/C bus (the term aircon is used here for A/C).

The first half hour of the journey was along the “plains”. I recognized the route as the one we had taken to Batu caves. This suspicion was confirmed when we actually passed right in front of Batu caves :). After some time, the climb started. I realized just how hilly this area was. The roads were good – divided 4/6 lane throughout. Because of some real steep climbs, some proper hairpin curves, and the omnipresent rain; by the time we reached the base station (Gohtong Jaya), it was an hour.

The Skyway:

The bus dropped us at the bus station at Gohtong Jaya. You have to take the lift to the top of the same building to catch the skyway. The skyway was a one-of-a-kind experience.

Each cable car (called a Gondola), can seat a maximum of 8 persons. The skyway takes you from a height of 900 odd metres to 1700 odd metres. The total length is 3.5 kms and takes like 12 minutes. The skyway “flies” you over the lush tropical rainforests of Malaysia. I almost felt like I was in a helicopter shooting for NGC or Discovery :D. However, the rain and mist were taking a toll on the visibility. At first, I was disappointed that there was nothing that was “photographable” – thanks to the wall-like mist and the rain. But then I thought – to hell with photographs – I’l capture this particular experience in my memories :D. After all, I dint want to spoil the ethereal experience just because I couldnt capture it in pics.

The skyway system is computerized and there is no “driver” at all. During our ascent, the Gondolas all stopped when we were about 2 minutes from the destination. The voice announcement told us not to panic; and that this was perfectly normal. The computers apparently “pause” the Gondolas in order to make adjustments because of changes in weather and other external conditions.

Genting – the city of Entertainment:

From the moment you alight from the Gondola at Genting, you realize this place is entertainment unlimited. There’s all kinds of shopping, restaurants etc. But nothing had prepared me for the next once-in-a-lifetime experience – the Casino. This place has a special gaming license. Gambling is legal here. Genting is sometimes referred to as the Las Vegas of Malaysia!

Cameras are not allowed inside the casino; and I had to deposit mine in a locker outside – which is a good thing because had this not been the case, I fear I would have spent the rest of the day just clicking away at the casino

When I entered the huge casino, it was like entering another planet. I have never felt so hopelessly lost before. There were thousands of people gambling here. But I could hardly make sense of even one of the hundreds of games here. I did see the wheel of fortune; but again couldn’t quite figure out how people place bets or whatever for this game as well.

Anyways, since I had come here; I made up my mind to try my mind at gambling. I mentally set aside a budget of 35-50 RM for the same. After all, gambling is all about luck, I told myself. As long as I gamble responsibly (now that’s an oxymoron isn’t it?); and know when to quit, I would be OK, I convinced myself. This self-persuasion however lasted only so long. Reason?

Try as I might, I couldn’t make head-or-tail of even one of the hundreds of games here. Shame on me. Disappointment turned into desperation – but none of it was any help. After spending more than 2 hours at the casino, I still had absolutely no idea about any of the games.

Dejected, I left the casino by around 4:30. But not before I had made a curious observation – the number of ladies almost equalled that of gentlemen here at the casino (of course I am not talking about the pretty assistants – but the real gamblers ;). Lots of Chinese ladies were trying their luck at the slot machines.

Other observations included the ads showing the winners of the jackpots. And jackpots they were I tell you! People won everything from cars to millions of Ringgit. There was also a kind of stage show going on where a really cute Chinese woman was singing (seemingly) popular songs. And she was singing really well I must say (or was it just me??; ;)

Anyways, as I mentioned, I moved ahead in search of greener pastures (Ok that was a bad joke)

Theme parks:

There’s more to Genting than the casino. It provides a complete “family day out” experience too. There are 2 theme parks – an outdoor theme park and an indoor one. The outdoor park has some scary rides like the roller-coaster and “parachute ride” and as such caters to adults. The indoor theme park is for children primarily. There are all kinds of water and train rides here. This indoor park is also integrated into a mall; where you can do all kinds of shopping. I dint take any of the rides; but just soaked in all the sights and the crowds. That was entertaining in itself.


When I arrived at Genting at about 2:30 pm, I happened to step outside the comfy environs of the main hotel complex. And the mist hit me like anything. The wind and mist made the weather really chilly. This was in striking contrast to the sweltering heat in KL – just an hour away. Who would have thought you could face temperatures of sub 10 degrees Celcius at 2:30 pm at a place which is right next door to (if not right on) the equator!

Return journey:

I had booked my return bus journey from Gohtong jaya at 8:30 pm. This is because I wanted to experience the skyway at night. Unfortunately for me, it was raining when I got into the Gondola at around 7:30 pm. That dint dampen my spirits though. The sights at twilight are just too good to be true. The forest below are so dense, the huge powerful floodlights which illuminate the way for the skyway could hardly scratch the surface. I am told that even the sun cannot penetrate this forest canopy!

Anyways, I reached the base station and took the bus back to KL Sentral.

I ended this trip with almost no photos; but tons of memories. Who would have imagined that a one-day (no – a half-day) trip would provide two unforgettable experiences!!!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Malaysia Part 2 - Batu Caves

Photos Here

Batu caves is a Hindu shrine about 12-15 kms outside KL. I’ve been there twice – the reason being first time I had gone there, I had missed the most important feature of Batu, i.e., the Dark Caves.

The First Visit:

Saturday 25th August. I left from my hotel after lunch, alone, in the hot sun. The taxi drive to Batu caves, which should have taken 20 minutes, took more than half an hour because of a traffic jam. It turned out there had been a minor accident in the opposite lane, and hence the jam in our lane!

Anyways reached Batu around 2:30 pm. The most dominating feature of the spot is the mammoth statue of Lord Murugan. Right behind the statue one can see about 270 steps leading up to the caves. The sun was now relentlessly beating down on me, and climbing the 270 steps took some effort. The fact that the stairs are very steep did little to help. The steps are also narrow (not the stairway itself, but each step). This makes it difficult to get a firm foothold before proceeding to the next step. Adding to all the misery are the monkeys here. I have no idea how they recognize any packet containing eatables or drinks of any kind; but the monkeys just pounce upon anyone who has any eatables in their hands; and disappear with their loot. Curiously enough, they don’t inspect the bags, cameras etc.. the monkeys of the digital age seem to have evolved to learn that cameras are not eatables :D

The Batu caves are the location where the annual Hindu Thaipusam festival terminates. Thousands of devotees throng the place; and many of them undertake the climb with a whole lot of body piercings. The pictures of these piercings are really unsettling.

Upon reaching the top, you are greeted by an enormous cave; whose ceilings are over a 100 metres high. The light inside this cave is not all that bad because its mouth is very wide. All along the circumference of this cave, you see idols of Hindu gods. The diameter of this cave is like 40 meters approx. When you exit it, you ascend a short flight of steps to reach the main temple atop the hill.

However, there’s not much to do here. I just spent some time trying to get some snaps and videos; and then started my descent :)

When I was descending the stairs, I noticed one branch leading towards another cave. I went there and found a board at the entrance saying “No Admission”. So I just turned around and returned to the base. I had my food here, and then took a bus to KL.

The Second Visit:

When I reached back to the hotel and spoke to my friend who had already visited the caves, I was in for a shock – the “No Admission” cave was in fact the main attraction at Batu! This cluster of caves is known as the “Dark caves”.

There was one more guy in our group who had not been to Batu. So we decided to go there the next day.

This time too the timing was more or less the same as the previous day. We reached Batu around 2 pm. We first finished a quick tour of the temple complex, and then proceeded to the Dark Caves.

The Dark Caves:

Entry to the caves is only with an entry ticket of 35 RM per head. It is a guided tour; our guide was a Tamilian lady. This tour of the Dark caves was an experience in itsef!

The entire tour is about 2.2 km. The guide had warned us not to take photographs inside the caves, and not to touch any of the geological formations inside. We were given helmets fitted with flashlights to wear.

The first short stretch was nothing much. There was “Guano” all around – that’s bat shit. Our guide told us that the caves are full of three kinds of bats – insect-eating, nectar-eating and fruit-eating. When the cave was discovered late in the 19th Century, the Guano was dug out and sold as manure. Even today, one can see the level to which the cave had once been filled with Guano; as the marks are clearly visible on the walls. The Guano also acts as breeding ground for lots of insects, particularly cockroaches. You can see tens of thousands of them on the floor of the cave. It’s a good thing we stuck to the passage constructed for us!

Next came the various kinds of formations – stalactites (conical rock formations formed by water depositing minerals on the ground), stalagmites (upside-down conical formations formed by dripping water depositing minerals on the roof), pillars (when stalactites meet stalagmites); and a 4th type of formation whose name I forgot. I think its called a wall rock or something like that. Here, the structure emerges sideways from the wall – not from roof or floor. We were absolutely fascinated at these structures, and marveled at the way Mother Nature works for millions of years to form one such structure!

We saw various kinds of deposits around the cave – each being a different mineral. For example, the white material was calcite. I don’t remember the colours of the other minerals, but there was magnesium, sulphur, iron, copper. Some of the structures looked real powdery, while others appeared to be real smooth. It’s a pity we were not allowed to touch the formations; but I guess it is necessary to keep it that way for sake of preservation.

Our guide told us that the caves had been opened for the public a few decades back, but people drew drawings on the walls, touched and scrubbed the mineral deposits; and in general disfigured the surroundings. So, the caves were closed down until a few years back when they were again thrown open to the public.

We were shown around some more, and by then we had reached the end of the tour. We were told that trekking was permitted inside the cave but it required us to take special permissions. There is supposed to be a Communist’s kitchen somewhere deeper inside – The Communists had stayed inside the cave probably during some war period.

Pitch Black:

Well, we turned back; but on the way back was an unforgettable experience. When we reached a particular spot, our guide told us to close our eyes. The she told us to switch off our helmet lights. Then she switched off hers too and finally the big flashlight that she was carrying. And she told us “This is how the cave really looks. Open your eyes slowly”. We opened our eyes and saw …. Nothing. We were speechless. It was so damn dark, you could see nothing – as in absolutely nothing. Now I know what darkness really means. Every time I remember the experience, I get the goosebumps! Imagine being in a place where there’s not even one tiny miniscule ray of light. Normally when you close your eyes, there’s still some sort of light that you see. But here, there was nothing like that. It was almost as if having your eyes open was darker than having your eyes closed! I can rave on and on about this, so I guess I’l stop and move ahead with the rest of my life; so that you people can go ahead with the rest of yours’ :D

Well, what else? After this totally mind-boggling experience, we exited from the cave, took a taxi and headed back to our hotel!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Malaysia Truly Asia - Part 1


Petronas Towers
Bird Park
Batu Caves
KLCC - Aquaria

I have just spent little over a week here in Malaysia, and what a time it has been! It’l take me years to explain it all in detail :). So I guess it makes sense to split up all the experiences into multiple posts. So here I go..

The Welcome:

I landed in KL on Sunday 20th Aug. The touchdown was on time. I was floored by the absolutely stunning airport (Kuala Lumpur International Airport – KLIA). In spite of being so huge and busy, the facilities are so immaculate that one will hardly face any difficulty in finding one’s way through.

We disembarked from the plane at a “satellite terminal” and a short train ride (about two minutes) took me to the main terminal. I just couldn’t believe it when I was out of the airport in 25 minutes flat – customs, baggage claim and everything! I had been advised to take the KLIA express to the city rather than taxi. The non-stop KLIA express takes 28 minutes for the ~50 km ride to the centre of the city – KL Sentral. And it costs only 35 RM!! (1 RM = approx 12 INR). A dedicated airport expressway is also under construction. This is a model of how the link to an airport should be if it is far from the city. And to think the Bangalore International Airport would be operational next year with stone-age link from the city.

Anyways, even before it was 6 a.m, I found myself at KL Sentral with hardly a soul in sight. Fortunately, the place is well marked. Signages are okay kind of. And I discovered that I just exit from KL Sentral, cross a road which is as narrower than MG Road; and Voila! I am at my hotel. What more could I ask for as far as convenience is concerned? Anyways, I slept for the rest of the morning and only woke up around 1 for lunch.

The People and the Culture:

Whoever coined the caption “Malaysia – Truly Asia” was absolutely spot-on. Malaysia is a mutli-religious, multi-cultural, multi-language, multi-ethnic society. The majority are the Malays, but there is a sizeable chunk of Chinese and Indian (principally Tamilian) population too. Although most signboards are in English and Malay, you do see lot of Chinese and Tamil boards as well.

Islam is the religion followed by majority of Malaysians, although there are Christians, Hindus and others as well. Inspite of all the differences, the patriotism and pride for the country is apparent everywhere – in the way people conduct themselves, in the newspapers, on TV, in malls – everywhere. It really is a “Truly Asia” experience here.

People are also generally very courteous. For example, drivers always give way to pedestrians at Zebra crossings. Secondly, English is understood and spoken widely (maybe I am comparing this with Bangkok and that’s why I am more comfortable here : ). Part of the reason could be that Malaysia was ruled by the British prior to its Independence. Also, the Malay language (also known as Bahasa) uses the English script.

The people are quite “modern” here. The first sign of this is the presence of women everywhere. One can find a large number of women in the workforce. This is heartening to see. The other indication is the mall culture. There are a few enormous malls (as I found out the hard way – I almost dropped dead walking from one end of a mall to the other ;)

The City and Infrastructure:

KL itself is quite developed as far as infrastructure is concerned. The city is a maze of expressways, fly-overs, underpasses and what not – even tunnels. Average driving speed within the city is in the region of 60 kmph!

Coming to buildings – obviously the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks KL is – the Petronas Twin Towers. But if you thought that these are KL’s only claim to fame, think again. KL has over a dozen ultra-high skyscrapers and hundreds of really tall buildings.

Coming to public transport. KL has a comprehensive network of train (a-la our Metro) – there are several “lines” of these, mono-rail and bus transport; not to mention the taxis. Getting from point A to point B is always easy – and cheap too if you are within the city. Taxis are relatively expensive – but you’d use these only if you are going to – say a suburb; or from a place to the nearest train station. Congestion is less compared to any place I have seen; although I did face traffic jams a couple of times. Taxi drivers sometimes refuse to go where you ask them to; and sometimes demand excess fare.

One bad experience I had was with the Putra LRT (Light Rail Transit) – that’s one of the lines of their equivalent of Metro. Most of the ticketing here is automated – with machines. But once it so happened that the ticketing machines at KLCC were out of service. So there was a massive Queue at the manned counters. I was waiting at the queue for more than half an hour; and I was still only half-way through when the machines started working. I quit my queue to go to the ticket vending machine. But to my bad luck I found that the machines were still not completely fixed. They refused to accept notes – and I did not have 1.60 RM in coins with me . Also by this time the queue for the manual counter had swelled. Thankfully, I knew of a monorail station about 10 minutes walk away. So I went there and took the monorail to KL Sentral. (of course this also gave me the opportunity to photograph the Petronas twin towers at night :D)


One thing you won’t miss in KL is Indian food. There is an area called Brickfields near where I stay; and it’s the Indian equivalent of ChinaTown :). It has all kinds of Indian shops and restaurants. And even otherwise, wherever you go in KL, you are never too far from an Indian eatery. You can eat traditional South Indian food on banana leaf; or you can eat Chapati, roti, Dosa etc. Lassi is available almost everywhere.

Although vegetarianism is well understood, sometimes you gotta be careful. I had gone to one Indian restaurant at Batu which proclaimed to be “Pure Vegetarian”. We went in and my friend handed me the menu with a wry smile on his face. There were all kinds of vegetarian dishes in the menu alright. “Veg Chiken, Veg Mutton, Veg Fish”. How I wish I had taken a photo of the menu card :D

You also get Chinese food like fried rice and noodles; although I haven’t experimented much on that count.

Tea and coffee are normally made of condensed milk, or no milk. Its kinda strange – I’d rather prefer these beverages with pure milk instead.


The people are pretty modern in this aspect too. Myriad kinds of entertainments are available. Amusement and theme parks are present both inside the city and within couple of hours drive (example at Genting Highlands).

Many of the malls have multiplexes; and cinema, just like the population, is a colourful mix. I was told that Malaysia has its own film industry; but there is a huge craze for Chinese; and Bollywood movies too. At first I thought that its only the Indian-origin population which watch the Bollywood and Tamil movies; but I came to know that its not the case. Bollywood movies in particular are released with Malay sub-titles; and everyone watches them. A R Rahman is a rage here; and I have friends who carry atleast a dozen ARR CD’s in their cars!! People are very knowledgeable about Bollywood stars; and I was kind of embarrassed going into conversations about Big B; SRK et al.. because I got the feeling my Malaysian friends knew more than me.

Sight Seeing:

I have done a little bit of sight seeing so far in KL; principally the Bird Park, the Batu caves and the KLCC (Petronas twin towers and Aquaria). I will write up on each of these in separate posts. I guess I will be visiting the Petronas towers again; because last time I went there I did not climb to the observation bridge on the 41st level. So I will reserve the post on Petronas towers for later.

There’s tons of stuff to do in KL itself. Malaysia is celebrating its 50th year of Independence. 31st August is “Merdeka” (Independence Day). The celebration is going on in a big way. At each and every step one will find some aspect related to Merdeka celebration. There’s an international fireworks competition going on and we hope to be able to visit that.

Other things we have planned are Genting, and some coast/island trip. We actually wanted to go to Langkawi island; but it would require a 2 or 3 day trip; and not sure when we will have the luxury of 3 days at a stretch. Lets hope we get to visit this paradise!

Well, that’s it for now. I’l be posting bi-weekly blogs and photos whenever I get time. I will also write up on my other sight-seeing trips when I find the time. Doston, agle post ke saath hum phir haazir honge – same blog; same URL. Tab tak ke liye Namaste, tata, good-bye, please do take very good care of yourselves.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Thai Experience

This post is to describe my first ever trip abroad – the 1 week official visit to Bangkok. I should start off by saying that how “ignorance is bliss” turned true in this case. I had thought Thailand, and Bangkok in particular would be just like any other Indian city. Since I wasn’t expecting much, what met me was totally unexpected - a very pleasant surprise. The whole experience was really good, to say the least.

While you are reading this travelog, do check out the snaps here

The First Impressions:

We landed at the Suvarnabhoomi International Airport in Bangkok around 5:30 a.m on Sunday (24th March, 07). The airport is H-U-G-E. So is the terminal building. No wonder, for I learnt later that it is the largest airport in the world! As soon as we exited the terminal building, another surprise awaited me – the infrastructure. Bangkok is a city of Expressways, fly-overs and sky-trains. Our cab (an Isuzu MU-7 SUV) took hardly 20-25 minutes to cover the 30+ km distance from airport to hotel. By this time I had also observed that the cars in Bangkok are far better than our cars. Just imagine - they use Toyota Corollas as taxis (the movie "Zinda" wasnt exaggerating on that count)! The other observation was the skyline. Bangkok has a skyline which any photographer would kill for! Skyscrapers are everywhere.

Sight Seeing:

The very first thing we did in Bangkok after freshening up was to take a boat ride through the “old city”. The ride is almost 2 hours long, and at 1800 Baht (1 Baht = 1.3 Rs. Approx), it did seem very expensive when we later reflected on it. The ride takes you through the Chao Phraya river. This is the “main river”. After a while, you start navigating through the narrow canals. This is where one gets a real taste of the old city. Life along the rivers and canals proceeds at a totally different pace than the rest of the hustling-and-bustling Bangkok city.

During the course of the 2 hour ride, we must have passed hundreds of temples. Most of the temples are located along the river. The temples (Wat is the local name for temples) all look very similar – the Buddhist architecture being the dominant feature.

We also came across a “floating market” in the river. A very sweet girl of about 12 came rowing across to our boat, decked in a wide hat. She had quite a variety of goods to sell. I was impressed by her vending skills. However, we did not find anything interesting enough to buy, and just bought a small hand-made photo album; just for the memories :)

We also had a brief stop at a “crocodile and snake farm”. I did not like this place because of the cruelty to animals for one; and the “snake show” where the snake charmers were doing dangerous stunts with the snakes.

Anyway, we were glad when the boat ride came to an end, mainly because we were beginning to get a headache due to the boat’s very loud engine. The other reason was that the world-famous landmark of Thailand beckoned us – The Grand Palace. It was noon by now, and the sun was mercilessly beating down on us.

Entry fee to the Grand Palace complex is 250 Baht. And it is well justified I would say. The fee also includes entry to a couple of “coin and jeweler museums”. But what really takes your breath away is the Grand Palace itself. The architecture, and all that glitter! No words would do justice to the beauty of this “monument”. So I guess I’l let the pics do the talking ;)

Another major attraction inside the Grand Palace complex is the Emerald Buddha. This is another masterpiece. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the temple. Provision has been made to click snaps of the Emerald Buddha from outside, but the lighting is inadequate for this.

Well, we spent a couple of hours here; and that was it. That’s all the “sight-seeing” that we did. We were too tired to visit the Reclining Buddha and thought we would visit it some other day. The rest of the days were spent in work.

People and Culture:

What one simply cannot help but notice about Thai people is their politeness. The culture is such that even a traffic cop, after signaling for traffic to stop, will bow or salute to the drivers in respect! Almost everyone we came across – from taxi drivers to shop-owners, right up to executives – they were all extremely respectful and respectable.

I personally found Thai people (atleast the residents of Bangkok) to be “pretty modern”. I hardly found any women wearing traditional clothes to work – its either a skirt-and-top or pants-and-shirt combination. The only places where I saw traditional Thai attire were the hotel (where the escorts and the “welcoming ladies” all wear traditional dresses) and aboard the Thai Airways flights (where only the air-hostesses wear traditional dress - the males wear coat-and-tie). Another observation was the apparent "liberation" of women. A large percentage of the workforce seemed to consist of women; this percentage is far greater than any I have seen in India.

It seemed that people in Bangkok are pretty well-to-do. I saw hundreds of what would be ultra-premium cars in India – Mercedes S class, BMW 7 Series, Audi A6 and the like (I even sat in a colleague’s Audi A6 :D). The cost-of-living seems comparable to that in the big cities in India. Taxi and sky-train fares are more or less similar to ours. The other ‘rates’ that we came across were fruits, Pizza, cinema tickets etc, all of which seemed similar to those back here. I also noticed a huge advertisement hoarding, which stated that there are some apartments “ready to occupy”; at 50,000 Baht per Sq. Meter – that means that even real-estate rates are at identical to Indian rates.

Thai people are extremely loyal to His Majesty, the King of Thailand. His Majesty was crowned when he was 19. Last year was the 60th anniversary of coronation, and this year is His 80th birthday. Every Monday, everyone wears a yellow shirt with the royal emblem, to show their love for The King. Apparently, His Majesty has done a lot for development of Thailand. He enjoys the unconditional love and support of his countrymen. It is unbelievable – the unity that you see all around you. Almost 90% of the people were wearing yellow shirts/tops on Monday!

One problem that we faced was communication with the locals. People who speak, or even understand, English are very rare to find on the streets of Bangkok. We had a tough time getting our point through, especially in shops and taxis. One reason I could think of for this is that Thailand enjoys the distinction of being more or less the only country in this part of the world that was never colonized. That is a great achievement by any standards!

Getting Around:

Although the infrastructure is good at some places, Bangkok is plagued by traffic jams in other places. The quickest and most hassle-free way to get around is to use the sky-train if it is available in the route you want to visit. The taxi ride to from hotel to office would take us 30 to 45 minutes; the same would be covered in 15 minutes by sky train! Bangkok also has “tuk-tuk” which is a slightly larger version of our auto-rickshaw. But since its not metered, you are left to the mercy of the drivers, and they demand crazy fares (how very similar to the case back home).


Since both me and my colleague are Vegetarians, we were a bit worried that food might be a problem. That was not the case. We found an Indian restaurant at walking distance from our hotel. That took care of our daily dinner, although it was expensive. For breakfast we’d have noodles, or fruit. Tropical fruit in Thailand are simply delicious. Oranges, pineapple, bananas, golden longan – it was all just too good.

Near our office, we found a Thai Veg restaurant. Although this was not the authentic Thai cuisine, it took care of our lunch needs. This place was reasonable as far as price is concerned. We simply never tried the traditional Thai food – this can be attributed to the awesome food we got at the Indian restaurant.

Things to Do:

During the course of the week, I took a few massages in Bangkok – a foot massage, a traditional Thai massage. These are all very relaxing and soothing experiences. But, the situation in which I visited was kind of far from ideal. Ideally, one would spontaneously decide to take a massage, like when one is very exhausted etc. Instead, I would decide one evening that I should take a massage the next day! Anyways, the total money I spent on massaging was less than 2000 Baht, which is way less than what I would have to spend here in India.

We spent half of our last day (Saturday 31st March) in Bangkok looking for souvenirs. We first went to a mall – Siam Paragon mall. This mall is enormous. But it dint have any souvenir shops worth mention. We caught a 4-D movie (250 Baht for a 25-minute movie). Then we found a few showrooms of some of the most desirable car brands in the world. I was delighted when I found out that we could enter these showrooms and take photographs of the cars. The automobile enthusiast in me took over as for the next 20 minutes, I drooled over the cars. I took snaps of, and standing next to, Bentley Continental, Ferraris, Lamborghinis (Gallardo et al), Jaguar S-Type, Maseratis, Porsche – you name it.

Our last stop in Bangkok before we headed for the airport was MBK shopping mall. Here, we finally found some souvenir shops. But try as I might, I couldn’t find anything that would be decisively Thai. I settled for a wood-and-resin replica of Erawan (the four-faced Buddha), and another handcrafted candle stand. I also purchased the yellow T-shirt with the royal emblem.

The Farewell:

The absolutely amazing airport terminal ensured that our last few hours at Bangkok were also well spent. After checking in the baggage and entering, one finds a large statue of the “Samudra Manthana” scene from Hindu mythology. We clicked a few snaps here and then again started hunting for souvenir shops. We found a few, but again, these did not sell any authentic Thai stuff. We finally bought some chocolates at the duty-free shop. I have only one sore experience – I did not find a phone booth at the waiting area :( - this is a serious flaw in the facilities planning.

All in all, I would definitely like to visit Thailand again. Nice place, very hospitable people, familiar weather conditions. Swatdee-Kha!