Friday, October 18, 2019

Chennai (South India) - South India: Chennai - Discover What Awaits

Chennai: Welcome to the bustling chaos of noise, pollution, and endless traffic jams (KOCHI KALEISCOPE & THIRUVANATHAPURAM UNCOVERING) where smiles can sometimes feel scarce. This is life in Chennai, South India (MADURAI & TRICHY & MYSURU)

Let me tell you about my two days exploring this vibrant city. We started our journey at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, a revered shrine dedicated to Lord Ranganatha, a reclining form of Lord Vishnu. Known for its intricate Dravidian architecture, the temple boasts majestic towers, beautiful carvings, and peaceful courtyards, amidst the city's hustle.


I watched locals immersed in prayer, a testament to South India's deep spirituality. Though not deeply religious myself, I followed our tour group with curiosity, absorbing the temple's atmosphere before moving on.

Next, we visited the Shree Sai Baba Temple. Not a devotee, but I paid my respects and enjoyed the temple's serenity.

At Marina Beach, few shared my excitement. Stretching 13 kilometers along the Bay of Bengal, it's one of India's longest urban beaches, yet sadly littered and polluted. Undeterred, I walked along the shore, passing the evolving 'Puratchi Thalaivi Amma Dr. J. Jaya' Memorial and roadside stalls - life in Chennai.

Next up was shopping at Forum Vijaya Mall - a slice of another country's shopping experience. What caught my eye were India's renowned natural ingredients skincare products, worth every penny. It was my only shopping spree during my time in South India.

For lunch, we opted for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which turned out to be a disappointment. Unlike the hearty meals we enjoy back in Malaysia - no coleslaw, no whipped potato, smaller chicken pieces, and worst of all, no chili sauce! It was an eye-opening experience to try KFC in India, but I doubt I'll repeat it; Malaysian KFC is definitely superior.

Back at S-Hotels, I spent the afternoon idling in my room, flipping through countless TV channels thanks to the WIFI. Dinner was a room service affair - a peppery fish curry with rice that left me sprinting to the restroom once, thankfully just once.

The next morning, with free time on hand, I ventured out into Chennai's rainy streets, dodging puddles. After a stroll and catching up with tour buddies, we had lunch at Sivagangai Karuppiah Mess. The cramped dining area added to the authenticity as we called for a simple meal of chicken, Rasamalai, and Gulam Jamun  - an unremarkable end to my T. Nagar and South India journey before heading back home.

South India Travel Learnings

Instant Recognition: Malaysians in South India

South Indians have a knack for spotting Malaysians right away, often asking or exclaiming "Malaysia?" upon meeting. Despite initial appearances, interactions with locals often reveal their warmth and friendliness. Conversations at temples uncovered that many visitors travelled long distances for their visits, some experiencing these temples for the first time. One humorous encounter involved a local lady questioning the necessity of visiting a Murugan temple in Chennai when Malaysia’s Batu Caves' Murugan is equally renowned in India.

Temples in South India: A Cultural Shock

Visiting temples in South India feels like navigating a battlefield due to the immense crowds. Compared to Malaysia's more orderly atmosphere, the temple experience here can be chaotic, with pushing, shoving, and queue-cutting the norm. Shockingly, even elderly and seemingly frail individuals navigate these crowds with surprising vigor, highlighting how their integral role in temple activities.


Temple Practices: Commercialization and Devotion

Despite India's large Hindu population and emphasis on Hinduism's teachings, temple practices often involve transactions. Devotees can pay for queue-jumping privileges or expedited services, highlighting a stark reality within Hinduism's spiritual spaces. Additionally, individuals adorned in orange or yellow attire with sacred markings may offer prayers for a fee, raising questions about the commercial aspects of religious practices. However, the Malaysian Indians I was with placed their trust in these practices.


Photographing in Temples

There are restrictions in some temples where you are not even allowed to bring your camera or phone inside. In others, there are designated areas with or without restrictions. Even in temples where photography and videos are permitted, it's nearly impossible due to the sheer number of people and the constant pushing and shoving. I wouldn't dare take out my phone, as anything could happen in such situations.

Dress Code Expectations

Modern dressing is generally not welcomed in South India. Wearing contemporary outfits can attract stares from everyone, except in malls where staff are more accustomed to it. Traditional clothing is expected everywhere else, especially in temples.


Shopping Craze: Malaysian Indians in South India

Shopping becomes a passion for Malaysian Indians visiting South India, with every shop, mall, and roadside stall capturing their attention. The focus on shopping, especially for sarees and budget street clothes, overshadows other factors like bulk-imported goods being cheaper. Some prioritize shopping over sightseeing, staying out until late hours even after hotel check-ins, which left me puzzled.

Culinary Adventures: South Indian Cuisine

South Indian cuisine dominates the food experience, predominantly vegetarian throughout the day, including hotel buffet breakfasts devoid of eggs. Surprisingly, the Malaysian Indian group I traveled with adopted a vegetarian diet during the tour, citing temple visits as the reason - a cultural adjustment that raised eyebrows.

Washroom Woes: Hygiene Challenges in South India

Throughout our travels in South India, aside from hotels and malls, the state of washrooms left much to be desired. Often lacking water, pails, adequate lighting, and sometimes even functioning locks, these facilities were frequently unpleasant and smelly. In moments of urgency, one had to manage with these conditions by closing their eyes and holding their breath.


Cultural Norms: Public Peeing in South India

A common sight in South India was men freely peeing in public spaces. This casual approach to relieving themselves often included visible displays, which, while accepted locally, could overwhelm with strong odors in some areas.


Did I miss out on anything? Perhaps you would like to add?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

South India - Madurai/Trichy: Spiritual Insights

By 10 am (KODAIKANAL & MYSURU), we arrived at the entrance of the Meenakshi Amman Temple. Dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi and her consort Sundareswarar (Shiva), this ancient marvel in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is renowned for its intricate carvings, towering gopurams (gateway towers), and vibrant sculptures dating back to the 6th century, showcasing the splendor of Dravidian architecture. Spanning 14 acres, the temple complex includes grand halls like the Thousand Pillar Hall. 

Upon arrival, we had to deposit our phones and cameras at the booth where we left our slippers, paying a fee. Standing in the long queue, we learned about an option to pay to shorten our wait time - not uncommon in Indian temples. After enduring 45 minutes under the scorching sun, with feet blistered from the burning heat of the cement, I had been in favor from the start; finally, the rest of our group reluctantly agreed, which moved us closer to the center of the line, although many others remained ahead of us.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

South India - Kodaikanal: Nature's Wonderland

Kodaikanal! The excitement was palpable as we headed towards this iconic destination, famed for its presence in Tamil movies that I've admired countless times on screen. Known as the "Princess of Hill Stations," Kodaikanal is a serene and picturesque town nestled in Tamil Nadu's Western Ghats. I

Its lush greenery, mist-covered hills, and pleasant climate offer a perfect escape from the heat of the plains, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Situated 2,000 meters above sea level in the Dindigul district, Kodaikanal boasts a unique ecosystem and a blend of natural beauty, tranquility, and mystique, making it a popular honeymoon destination

Our journey from Coimbatore (MYSURU & COIMBATORE) to Kodaikanal spanned 4 1/2 hours, including along narrow, winding in-roads shared with lorries, buses, cars, and motorbikes navigating steep inclines and descents. There were some aggressive gestures and heated exchanges, with words exchanged that felt like a sharp prick in my ears.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

South India - Mysuru & Coimbatore Vibes

Our journey of at least four hours from Bengaluru (BENGALURU SERENDIPITY & SPIRITUALITY)  landed us in Mysuru, where we ventured up the narrow, winding road to Chamundi Hill for a religious homage at Chamundeshwari Temple (New Kantharaj Urs Rd). This ancient temple, situated on Chamundi Hill, is dedicated to Goddess Chamundeshwari, a form of Durga, and dates back to the 12th century. It stands as a magnificent example of Dravidian architecture, featuring a towering gopuram adorned with intricate carvings. Besides being a significant religious site, the temple offers breathtaking panoramic views of Mysuru city from its hilltop perch (COLOMBO DISCOVERY & KANDY SRI LANKA)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Bengaluru, India: Serendipity and Spirituality

Despite being a married solo traveler and having roamed the world alone for years (COLOMBO DREAMS & KANDY SRI LANKA), whenever I mentioned traveling to India, my husband would hold me back, saying, "We should travel to India together." This tagline persisted throughout our marriage. His business commitments were initially the obstacle, and even after retiring, he never responded when I brought up traveling to India. Realizing it was futile to wait any longer, I decided I didn't need his approval.

When a friend organizing a trip to South India (KOCHI KALEISCOPE & THIRUVANANTHAPURAM UNEXPECTED) invited me to join his tour, I eagerly agreed without even checking with my husband. This was a budget tour, covering flight tickets, accommodation (with no twin sharing in my case), and sightseeing. Meals, except for the hotel buffet breakfast, and entry fees for sightseeing spots were on us. It was a 9-night, 8-day South India tour.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sekinchan (Selangor) 1 Day Trip - Part 2

What else (Sekinchan Part 1)? What else must or should be considered as part and parcel of our sightseeing in Sekinchan? Okay. Lemme start. Ah Ma House, which by the way, wasn't like a major thing for us, thereafter, we heading to Paddy Processing Factory & Gallery. Just a short drive by the way. Within a distance of 3 or most to most 4 minutes. Anyway, Sekinchan, for your information, is a small town and most, in fact, all the sightseeing spots are located within a short distance. Plus, let me tell you ahead that sightseeing in Sekinchan can be completed within, a day or even lesser. Unless, of course, you want to remain in Sekinchan for another day or two? For reasons best known to you? Go ahead. Your time, you decide.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sekinchan (Selangor) 1 Day Trip - Part 1

Sekinchan. I was told that Sekinchan located in Sabak Bernam, Selangor is a must do. Yes. Must do (Cameron Highlands Pahang). Do or die kinda, I shouldn't miss out on exploring Sekinchan (Alor Setar Revisited). Told by who by the way? Well. Those who have already, obviously explored Sekinchan and Sekinchan, obviously too, for your information, already profoundly known in the virtual world (Frasers Hill Pahang). What else was I told about Sekinchan? I was told that the primarily or central attraction in Sekinchan must be none other than the paddy fields. Paddy fields, especially when they are at their green-green or full blown yellow lush. Also, just before or right before harvesting. Honestly, to tell you the truth, I have been planning for a trip to Sekinchan for almost a year, but been put on hold due to the weather. Weather either unbearably burn-baby-burn hot or rainy season lashing merciless. Finally, somehow, taking into considering that weather can be tolerated, though still the hot season, me tripping to Sekinchan and prior to arriving in Sekinchan, we stopping by in Restoran Suang Le River (Tanjung Karang, Kuala Selangor) for lunch. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Cameron Highlands - Pahang (Nava K Travelling Gram) Day 2

Cameron Highlands and sightseeing? Of course. Without a doubt. Pretty much, and me enthusiastically looking forward to Cameron Highlands and yes, coming with it, parcelled and packaged together sightseeing. Sightseeing. Honest to goodness everyone, I so, so love sightseeing. No matter where I travel to (Bentong Pahang, Melaka & Langkawi) and the places I have in fact travelled to so far (Osaka Japan, Surakarta & Betong Thailand). Whether in country Malaysia bound or across the sea traveling. For me personally, travelling is a not a complete platform without sightseeing. Said it all supposedly. By 11.00am next morning, we hopping into the cab. Prior arrangement made the day earlier (Cameron Highlands Part 1), also, we agreeing to pay RM40.00 per hour.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Cameron Highlands - Pahang (Nava K Travelling Gram)

Cameron Highlands. Let me recall. My last trip to Cameron Highlands? Oh my goodness me mamma-mia! Back then in my teens. Like, 30 over years ago. Years and years back then. Ages ago for a fact precisely (Perak Travel). To tell you the truth, I can't even remember what I did  or where I went in Cameron Highlands. Duh! Anyway, that was then and after all these years, I returned to Cameron Highlands again. Cameron Highlands, by the way, for your information, is now a travelling show stealer (Pulau Ketam Selangor). Obviously, the travelling momentum in Cameron Highlands has picked up tremendously. I was told by my friends who have already explored Cameron Highlands that, traffic jam during public holidays, school holidays and weekends is crazily massive. Until it can halt your driving throughout this hilly, mountainous, cool and fresh weather district located in Pahang. Aside to traffic, Cameron Highlands clearly had already obtained its badge, furthermore, stamped as the escape route out of our stressful city life. Stress and city life! Tell me about it (Kuantan Pahang).

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Myanmar - Across the Border From Mae Sai

A business trip to Chiang Rai turned into the adventure of a lifetime  (COLOMBO & KANDY SRI LANKA) when I decided to squeeze in a visit to Myanmar. With no plans, I found a tour company through my hotel and jumped at the chance to join two others on a trip to Tachileik, starting from Mae Sai in Chiang Rai.

The van arrived with my new travel buddies and our Thai lady guide, a humble and amazing soul. Thrilled to explore (HOKKAIDO WANDERLUST & SAPPORO AWAITS), we headed to Mae Sai. After our guide handled the permits at the border, the real adventure began. The sun was blazing, but I didn’t care - I was too pumped. Crossing the border, I was hit by the raw energy of everyday life. People hustled about, street vendors manned their stalls, and no one gave us a second glance. Our guide filled us in on Tachileik and our stops (ALLEPPEY HOUSEBOAT & KOCHI KALEISCOPE). 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Perak Travel - Nava K Discovery (Day 2)

One of the, hard dreaded facts. I have difficulty in swallowing? When I have to digest the fact that holiday is coming to an end (Perak Travel Day 1). What else? Returning to reality. The reality to daily routine. Work, home affairs, traffic jam and the competitive, rushing city lifestyle. Honestly everyone, given a choice, 365 days travelling is my first choice. Then again? The point of thought. I am not single, I am commitment bound and money does not definitely grow on trees. Henceforth, I guess, whether we like it or not, reality has to be the acceptance. Reality by the way, for your information, mind you, sometimes, can badly bite us. Oh- Well?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Perak Travel - Nava K Discovery

Pretty hectic, but really, really fulfilling. Me returning to my mother land (Ipoh Perak Day 1) and like on roller blades, literally, exploring as many sightseeing spots (Ipoh Perak Day 2). To tell you the truth, I actually loved every moment of it. Despite, being roasted under our Malaysian, most of the time, non-user friendly scorching hot weather. Well, in Malaysia? Either its raining and even so, must I tell you how I can still sweat and when its burn baby sun, I am soaking wet. Where to after visiting Perak Cave Temple? Gunung Lang Recreational Park. For a fact I must crown Gunung Lang Recreational Park as one of the nature pride of Ipoh. At least for someone like who love nature wonder. Mountain surrounding and lake in centrality. Lake is the first thing you will see once you park and walk. What did we do in Gunung Lang Recreational Park. Basically, 10 minutes of our time standing in front of the lakes, simultaneously, glimpsing at the surrounding. That's about it. Of course you can walk further inside through the pathway, but I really can't tell you what and what not. Most probably, nature more or most promisingly?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Ipoh, Perak - Nava K Discovery (Day 2)

More than looked forward to, most promising, Ipoh Discovery on the first day (Day 1 Ipoh). One of those, one of the best things I suppose when you are on the go, unlike a structured itinerary in a tour, this kinda easy and free to go road trip within your country (Fraser's Hill, Pahang)? No limits or bounds? At your leisure pleasure, and we basically driving and going with the flow. Furthermore, for a fact, we actually discovering places as and when we went along. Of course, Nava K. Honestly everyone, as a hardcore avid traveller, yes I am, lemme profess, me embracing every moment of it. After all, wouldn't you agree, travelling is about capturing, seeing and appreciating places you have never been to before? Whether for the best or not so best (Betong,Thailand)? Instead of selectively picking places base on hearsay or allowing social media sharing in influencing us? Not me. Nope. Not at all. Because not necessarily other people's experiences will be the meaningful opening doors for our own travelling. Don't we all, pretty much travel for our own valid reasoning and our differential reasons most probably not applicable to others? Ditto.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Ipoh, Perak - Nava K Discovery (Day 1)


Back on the road again after lunching and “Gaharu Tea Valley, Gopeng being our first sightseeing spot. Honestly, to tell you the truth, I had no clue whatsoever what to expect. In fact, I was under the impression that its gonna be another kinda standard tea plantation. Of course, a tea valley alright, but tea made from tea leaves of Gaharu/Agarwood trees. Trees at their infant stage and those already matured. In a huge slopping up and down area and where we embarked on a guided van tour which included two stops at different heights for a higher up view from up there and for seeing what's housed within this valley. Thereafter, once we returned to the entrance, we sampled the freshly brewed tea and we couldn't also resist picking up a packet or two of Hoga Gaharu tea. Said as tea for health and I must stress that, tea tasting pretty smooth and lovely as well.     

Subsequently, from Gaharu Tea Valley to Kellie's Castle, Batu Gajah. The unfinished ruined mansion, built by Scottish planter William Kelly-Smith and if you don't know, lemme tell you that, Kellie's Castle is listed as one of the hauntings in Malaysia. Ohhhhhhh! By any chance, did  I bump into Kellie or anyone else who have joined him in heaven or hell? No. Seriously, no. But heading from one section to the other, and till the roof top alone during this quiet weekday, while every now and then, passing by one or two people? Trust me, goose bumps. That eerie feeling? Quite a ruckus scary thing actually. Otherwise, all is fairly great wondrous in this historical site, and where you can put your hand-phone or camera to good use by posing over and over, again and again for impressing your Instagram followers.  

Next stop? Taman Herba, Batu Gajah. Well, me the plant lover who insisted on seeing and digesting the facts to the various types of our Malaysian herbs. Pretty much, for me personally, an appreciated knowledge and learning thirsting visit for which you have to pay and whether you are apt for exercising your legs by walking further inside or you prefer driving through this huge nature area before existing out.   

Half an hour,  more or less in Taman Herba, before we arriving in Casuarina Meru. Booked via Agoda there and then instead of prior booking due to wanting to grab the best deal for the day. Excluding buffet breakfast though. Our room? Like any other in other reputable hotels. Clean, well maintained, ample space for two and equipped with the necessary toiletries and beverages we Malaysians always expect. Wifi on the other hand? Duh! A sad case. Crawling at its own slow speed. Thank god for my mobile data.

20 minutes for freshening up, off we left prior to stepping foot in Ipoh town by 6.00pm. Some leisure walking within as far as we could, followed by dinner in Restoran Tauge Ayam Lou Wong. Food definitely didn’t disappoint us. Ipoh Tauge and Ipoh Chicken Rice in Ipoh? A must try right? Sure. Indeed, a satisfying meal, but paying almost RM150.00 for the three of us? Honestly, we really thought it was a rip off for ½ chicken, fish ball soup, tauge soy sauce, liver soy sauce, rice and a bowl of dessert. Anyway, what could have possibly been the outcome since we have already tucked in instead of prior checking how much, roughly we will be paying? Damn! One of those con job billing I suppose. Especially if you are a tourist or because you are different skin color?

After dinner, we started walking again. This time, in and out of the shops selling cakes and food stuffs. Grabbing a few pieces of the baked goodies, we returned to the hotel before showering and calling it a night.  

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