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Friday, August 25, 2006

Nepal Visit (Part 2): Starry Starry Night...

This trip marked another first, again for my mother, brother and I. It was the first instance that we actually stayed at a five star hotel. Earlier, we had been to such hotels for a meal, occasionally, but had never stayed at one.

This time, however, we were to stay for a couple of nights at the Hyatt Regency, Kathmandu, and obviously 'yours truly' was pleased-as-punch to be able to avail of this unique opportunity.

The fun started almost immediately after we landed at the airport on the afternoon of August 12, as the hotel had a van waiting to pick us up along with our luggage. And when we reached the hotel, my Ma just could not seem to trust the bell boys with the luggage. It took some effort on their and on my part to convince her that they would offload it safely from the van and bring it in and that we should go ahead and check-in without a worry in the world.

It was fun and games for the most part thereafter, except that it took some time for the hotel staff to confirm that free buffet meals at the hotel's cafe were included in the 'travel package' we had purchased. Well, it was fun for the likes of me and games for those who gambled with abandon at the hotel's casino. I would rather not throw away hard-earned money at a casino and I do not have any black money.

Anyway, the food at the cafe was quite exotic, I suppose, since there were so many items on the menu each time, the names of which had hitherto been unknown to me. I practised my skill at handling cutlery (particularly forks and knives), especially while eating non-vegetarian dishes and would like to think that I acquitted myself rather honourably, given the fact that the only piece of cutlery I need while eating at home is a spoon. But I might actually have overdone it a bit, since I used a fork and knife to eat doughnuts even, at breakfast!

Any hopes I might have harboured of getting an eyeful of pretty, young angreizens (white women) in bikinis by the pool-side, especially because my hotel room window provided an excellent view of the hotel's swimming pool (as can be seen in the picture posted above), were belied, though, and there was either no one by the pool side or it was teeming with fat old blunderbusses, whenever I took a peek. I, of course, did not venture any where near the pool, for I do not know how to swim and dreaded the possibility that the wind might start blowing too hard and carry me along into the water.

I did, however, get to ogle at some pretty young ladies, who apparently were models and were participating in a photo-shoot in the hotel's lawns as well as near the main entrance, for the ongoing 'Nepal Fashion Week'. None of them was in a bikini or other such revealing attire, and a tall one in a traditional ghaagra-choli, in particular, looked quite good.

Meanwhile, the rooms we stayed in were rather nice, with large, comfortable beds; comfortable chairs and stools for propping one's feet upon; a desk with a nice table-lamp; cabinets; a wardrobe; a small refridgerator that fit inside a cabinet; an electric kettle; a television set; a dressing table with a large mirror; colonial-era reading lamps placed on a bed-side chest of drawers; the works!

The bath room-cum-toilets were quite elegant too. There was a space enclosed by glass walls for taking a shower and a fair-sized bath tub, as well. I could not take a bubble bath like I have seen people taking in English movies, however, much as I would have liked to, because there was no soap solution (or whatever it takes to make a bubble-bath ready). Another thing that took a little bit or perhaps more than a little bit of getting used to, was the toilet paper. We Indians, like most people in the sub-continent, are used to washing our back-sides with water, after answering the call of nature.

In any case, another opportunity to stay at a five star hotel will be welcome, particularly if it is paid for by some one else, as was the case this time.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Nepal Visit (Part 1): Airborne

We were to leave for Nepal on the morning of August 12. This was to be the first visit to that country for my mother, brother and I, while my father had been there earlier. My father's employers had organised this trip for their employees and their families. This trip was also to be the first chance to experience air travel for the three of us, even as my father frequently travels by air on business. Somehow, the opportunity had never arisen before this.

The departure time of the flight was at 10 a.m., but we had to report at the airport much earlier. The lengthy security drill and completion of immigration formalities take a lot of time for all air travellers nowadays, I suppose. In fact, we were to report two and a half hours before departure time for a flight of a duration of an hour and a half. In any case, we reached the airport at around 7:00 a.m.

Some of my father's colleagues arrived soon thereafter and I was glad that they had brought along some food for breakfast. Some of them also took over the responsibility of getting the luggage, which had already been passed through an x-ray machine, checked in at the airline counter from where we were also issued boarding passes.

Later, we had to fill in a form that was to be submitted at the immigration counter and then proceeded through a metal detector, after which we were frisked physically by the security staff. My mobile phone and belt were also passed through an x-ray machine. Finally, we had completed all formalities and proceeded to the departure lounge to wait for the bus that was to take us to the aircraft.

The aeroplane that was to take us from New Delhi to Kathmandu was a Fokker 100. It is a twin-engined jet that seats about a 100 people and appeared rather small as compared to some of the Boeing and Airbus jumbos parked around the airport at that time.

We were greeted by an airline staffer, who tore off and kept one half of our boarding passes, at the bottom of the mobile staircase (to be attached to a truck and towed away later) leading to the aircraft's door, where an air hostess stood with folded hands to greet all passengers. It might be politically incorrect to draw an analogy here, but she appeared to be doing the same thing as a doorman at a popular restaurant that I often go to. Perhaps being an air hostess is not such a glamorous job after all!

Inside the aircraft, I felt claustrophobic for a while in my seat that was towards the rear, but was feeling much better within a few minutes as the crew demonstrated safety techniques and the aircraft finally started rolling. The take off was quite smooth and the passengers' seat belts came off soon thereafter. The moment the plane left the ground felt like magic and I started clapping spontaneously as soon as we were airborne, much to the amusement of the passengers in the seats around mine!

I felt like a little boy as I sat glued to the window, as the plane continued to climb before levelling off at 31,000 feet (according to the crew). The view outside soon changed from normal surroundings to miniature houses and roads and on to a mosaic of green and brown that was soon covered with little clouds, as the aircraft gained altitude. It was thrilling to be flying so much higher than the clouds! I could also see every meander in the rivers that we flew over. So engrossed was I that I hardly noticed the air hostesses serve refreshments to other passengers and neither was I bothered by the constant roar of one of the engines, which was right outside my window.

I clicked several photographs of the view outside, one of which I have posted here. In fact, I was still clicking away merrily when the pilot lowered the flaps on the wings and the plane began its descent towards the Tribhuvan International air port at Kathmandu.

The landing was just as smooth as the take off. I suppose we had a really experienced pilot at the controls that day.

The return flight on the evening of August 15 was also special in its own way. I could hardly see anything outside the window soon after the aircraft took off, on account of the cloud cover and the resultant darkness. However, the sight of the lights of the city of Delhi, when the aircraft was about to land, more than made up for it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Greatest Ever Sports Cars

The other day I was watching Discovery channel and they had a show on air about the best ever sports cars. The top ten, according to them are:

10. Lamborghini Countach
9. Nissan Skyline
8. Corvette Sting Ray
7. Aston Martin DB5
6. Mercedes Benz 300SL 'Gull-Wing'
5. Ferrari Enzo
4. Jaguar E-type
3. McLaren F1
2. Mazda Miata
1. Porsche 911

Except for the fact that a rating like this is rather difficult to arrive at and this might actually have missed some classics like the Ferrari GTO, I more or less agree with it.

However, I do not have a very high opinion of the Mazda Miata. It does not really have the kind of power and accelaration that some of the other cars on the list have.

I am not a huge fan of the Corvette Sting Ray either. Somehow, the design does not appeal too much to me.

If I had the money, I would love to buy the rest of the eight cars, although I might consider buying the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, instead of the DB5.

In particular, I would love to acquire a specimen each of all the versions of the Porsche 911, released so far, over more than 40 years of the car's history. It had an unbroken run as 'European Sports Car of the Year' for 30 long years (I am unable to provide the details at the moment, but will try to do so as soon as I can.), until the Audi TT came along and dislodged it from that position.

I know that I'll probably never have enough money to purchase any of these cars, at any point of time in my life, but then this is the kind of stuff that dreams are made of!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Singing one's own praises...

I suppose we are all prone to bragging about our exploits every once in a while (Well, some of us more frequently, perhaps!).

I would rather not be like Baron Munchausen, but see no harm in recounting true life incidents.

The following is the text of an email that I sent to a few close friends on February 13, 2004:

"Yours truly was bitten by a rabid dog, the day before. I guess this makes me a good candidate for the reality show 'survivor'......

...since this is the latest among many other exploits including having crashed my bike at 90 kilometres per hour (k.p.h.), having fallen out of a car executing a 90 degree turn at 70 k.p.h., etc. ......

Meanwhile, if you would like to settle scores with anyone......just lemme' know and I could bite a piece off them and, possibly, pack them off to the 'happy hunting grounds'...for there's always the chance of a vaccine being ineffective (India shining!)...

But make haste, since this offer might be for a limited period only !!

We shall communicate with you again...

Insha-Allah (If God so desires!!!!)."

Needless to add, the vaccine worked and that is how I am still around on planet Earth.

I still love dogs and play with those in the neighbourhood quite often.

Also, I enjoy riding my bike and often ride as fast or even faster, though I do try to be more careful while riding it at night.

I will blog about each of the above-mentioned incidents separately, perhaps, at a later stage.