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A few years ago, after an expo in Maastricht, I spend two days in Amsterdam…cold wind howling through the city and I – lonely and miserable – dragging myself through the crowded streets looking for a familiar face. Then, boom, I did a double take, did I really see a gang of girls in micro-minis…and almost nothing else…serving booze?

That was Teasers, an Amsterdam landmark, a pub modelled after the Hooters. Their house speciality is the Teasers Tequila – the drink is served in a shot glass, OK, and the salt…on the waitress, double OK (Don’t take my word for it, check out the YouTube video. Careful – NSFV).

Vaal kashnam – Once a friend of mine, who was with KLM then, visited Teasers with his wife and their eight-month old kid. Over to his wife…“My husband I could control, but the kid, he just went bonkers…” BHH.

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Midnight. A lone Jacobite in the CSI Airport. Around me are IT kids waiting for the New York flight, pawing their newly acquired brides – celebrating their first moments away from daddy, mummy, bhaiya, bhabhi, munnu and Kuttan Pillai (the driver, stupid), …and getting into that New York state of mind.

Was in Mumbai for two days – kampani pani. Went book hunting in Flora Fountain. Picked up Tom Robbin’s Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates (More about the Sultan of Simile later). Had beer at the Pizzeria on Marine Drive, took a leak at Jazz by the Sea (the club next door – the loos are labelled Lou and Louise).

Got swindled by a Mumbai cabbie…again. Flashback. More than 12 years ago. En route to Biju’s place, the cabbie asked me ‘Idhar ka admi ya bahar ka admi?’. ‘Bahar ka admi’, I proudly announced. Wokay, out comes the doosra card…History repeated itself.

Last month, another B’bay trip, I shared a room with Sriram. Guy snores. And mutters in his sleep, and trashes about…pandi melam pandemonium…kept me up till 4 am.

Next morning, I wake up late, open my sore bloodshot eyes, and Sriram the early bird, informs me, “Bum, you snore.”

Around me the snore symphony has started. Gotta join them. Bye…

We left Chennai at 3 pm, my family and Johny’s, four adults and three kids crammed into a car. From Chennai till we turned right for Pondy, the ride was uneventful – just another day on ECR. From then on the landscape was beautiful, Tamil Nadu like I never seen before, and if it had not been for my Mallu pride, I would have stopped the car and shot pics all along the way…

By about 5:30 we were in Pondy. We filled our car with cheap petrol; did not give in to the temptation of cheap booze – but still managed to swipe a big motta with my left mirror. It was Aadi Velli, some Amman festival was on, and just as we picked up speed, swarms of makkal in yellow mundu diverted us off the highway into Humpistan.

Every few metres, there was a hump, most of them L and XL. I guess they didn’t have enough bitumen to surface the roads, so they concentrated on the humps (At least they’ve got their priorities right). We crawled single-file through villages right out of The Hindu Archives, ran into two old friends…but escaped without injury. Finally, after about an hour, we got back to the highway and started serious clipping. The road was good, Johny was pushing the limits of the car and suddenly we flew.

Culverts. All along the stretch culverts were being rebuilt and the guys who build approach roads weren’t informed. Once we successfully traversed this stretch we thought we had seen everything…We stopped for coffee at Chidambaram, whizzed through Sirkazhi, got lost in Karaikal, reached Nagapatnam – and found that all Innovas we were tailing had disappeared.

The road to Velankanni was scary. It was not surfaced, unlit (it was a new moon night) and in between there were sections missing (Remember Speed? Imagine Sandra and Keanu doing it over and over again).

We left Velankanni after lunch the following day, by an alternate route, through a landscape that resembles South Parur (‘Mystery of the Missing Innovas’ – solved). Rode through Nagapatnam enjoying the fragrance of its world-famous onakka meen and reached Tranquebar.

The Tamil name is pure poetry – Tarangampadi – where the waves sing to you. (If you are planning to visit Tranquebar, keep your eyes peeled for a small Hotel Tamilnadu board – we almost didn’t see it). Tranquebar is basically one road – half a kilometre from the entrance arch to the Bay of Bengal. But that road perhaps has the highest history per square metre in South India – a Danish Fort constructed in 1620, the site where the first Lutheran missionaries landed in 1706, the old Governor’s bungalow (now a Neemrana Hotel) and three churches, of which the so called new church is 289 years old.

We reached Pondy by night. French cuisine at Le Club, pushti poth at New Guest House.

Coming soon – ‘Pondy-Chennai’

During our trip we stopped at some beautiful churches…

I will not hit you with Pondy-Tranquebar photos for some time.
Hope you enjoyed the trip…

Driving through Pondicherry, i inadvertently interrupted a movie-shoot. Though the crew shouted at me, i got a good pic of the leading lady.


Click for a larger pic

Annie, Ro and I along with Johny and family went to Velankanni last weekend, and on the way back visited churches in Tranquebar and Pondicherry, and Matrimandir in Auroville. 700 km in two days. Too tired to write. But then, a pic is worth…

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The view from our hotel. A Composit image.

From 1991 to ’93 i was with Ashok Leyland, in the Marketing Services Group, handling market Research. It was a dream job – opportunity to travel and meet people, lot of free time to catch up on reading (on the train) and good money.

Once, in Central Station, while walking to my coach, i saw this beautiful Mallu girl boarding the train. After the train started, i tracked her down and struck up a conversation – She was studying in Cuttack (hey! i am going to Cuttack), She was from Calicut (I studied in Calicut). I told her i will be in Orissa for a week and that i would like to meet her sometime. She wasn’t very enthusiastic…

Let us call her Devi, She was studying in NIRTAR (National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research).

I asked everybody i met in Cuttack, starting with the auto driver who took me to my hotel, about NIRTAR and nobody had heard about the place. Finally, on the day i was to leave town, i was told NIRTAR is located in Olatpur, some 30 km away from Cuttack.

I decided to make the trip (!). It was pouring like crazy, the bus was leaking, and by the time i reached the institute (the last 2 km in a cycle rickshaw with open sides) i was drenched to the skin. I located the Girl’s Hostel (which i remember as an old bunglow, nothing like the pic below), met the warden and asked for Devi.

Devi made her entrance after a good 30 minutes. She was cold, and bundled me out in a few minutes.

From Cuttack, I went to Calcutta. Jose was working in Cal then. I recounted my story to Osa and he deadpanned “Ninakku NIRTARayille?”

Vaalkashnam: When i got back to Chennai, there was this letter from Devi waiting for me. And that was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship” (From Casablanca, check out the movie)

In October 1987, eight of us planned a trip to Kodai via Munnar & Top Station. The operation was top secret – we didn’t tell our people we were biking to Kodai. We packed our stuff and met at BTH (My parents were told we were going to Kottayam to meet Chicku – REC 1988, more about him later).

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BTH, waiting for the gang to assemble

I don’t remember who, but one of the bikers didn’t turn up. So it was seven guys & three bikes – one of us had to drop out, and nobody wanted to. So we decided to ride triples on Biju’s RD 350!

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Beginning of the Ghat section
The Se7en – Biju, Top, Raman, Fanny, Ani and sitting, Rojo & I
(Fanny passed away last year, RIP)

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Vazhiyorakkazhchakal

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Hairpin near Munnar, After the First Crash.
Check out the tear in Biju’s jeans

(The backpack on Rojo is Paramu’s, u will be hearing more about him soon)

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Top Slip. My fav photo

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Roads were bad, but no so bad…

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Rain & Slush. After a few spills, nobody wants to ride…

I do not have any photographic record of the next few hours (If i had taken the camera out, i would have got hit)
On the forest roads between Top Station and Kodai, it was dark and raining, Raman & Ani crash, and one by one the head lights of all three bikes conk off.
We managed the last stretch on the nurungu vettam of 350’s turn indicator.

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Outskirts of Kodai. The worst is behind us.

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Warmth, Food, Kodai

It was a Gandhi Jayanti-Puja weekend, and Kodai was packed. We ended up spending the night in a bunglow’s annexe some 15 km away from Kodai, and all we could manage was one room, and one bed.

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Yes, this bed…

But we had a blast there, jamming late into the night till the guy from next room (a judge, we were told) made us shut up.

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The morning after

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Trying to top Top! Mookkan & a friend of Biju’s from Palghat join the fun.

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Go to Cochin!

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One the way back, a late lunch at Diana

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Finishing Point. Caravan.

We did 550 km in 36 hours, seven guys on three bikes. Vintage Sangham Stuff.

One year later, we did it again, 14 guys on seven bikes. But then, that’s another story…

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