Golden Temple Amritsar – Revisit

(This post is linked to Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Golden)

I could have chosen another set of Golden photos from my Bangkok travels but have had featured them for some time now. Then I remembered about Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab – the last time I had featured them in my blog was in March and last year. No harm in featuring them again for this theme :-)

Golden Temple at sunrise

Golden Temple at sunrise

The Golden Temple is located in Amritsar in Punjab state of North India, and is the seat of Sikh religion. It was built by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan in the 15th century and is considered holy by Sikhs. Golden Temple was built with the intention of bringing men and women together from all walks of life and religions to come and worship God equally.

The photos here were taken in 2010…

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If you would like to see more photos of Golden Temple and read about my trip to Amritsar, please click A Weekend at the Border

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow

This holiday season, we’re throwing you a photo challenge color curveball…With this week’s challenge, show us what yellow means to you.

Once again, I’m giving you a preview of my next travel post (most likely will be out after Christmas) – the Indo-Portuguese style houses on Abade Faria Road in Margao, Goa. Although the houses are mainly old and dilapidated, I can imagine how bright and colourful they were back in the day. The house colours are maroon red, blue, green or…yellow.

And here are some yellow ones for this week’s photo challenge :-)

Margao Municipal Council

Margao Municipal Council

One of the old Indo-Portuguese style houses (side entrance) on Abade Faria Road

One of the old Indo-Portuguese style houses (side entrance) on Abade Faria Road

Happy that Heaven is Here

I always say “Heaven is Here” whenever I’m at the beach. I love the beach. Love the sounds of crashing waves or rustling palm leaves. Love the feel of sand in between my toes. I don’t mind the hot sun but at the same time I don’t bake myself in the heat either. Have never been a good swimmer but love to dip myself every now and then in the water. Ahhhh…the Beach. It’s relaxing. It’s HEAVEN.

Indeed, I came to the right HEAVEN in Goa :-) I stayed in Benaulim, South Goa and the name of my accommodation for the following 4 nights was, coincidentally, Heaven Goa Guesthouse.

I had arranged for airport pick-up and met John the driver. John gave me a warm welcome and a huge smile. Immediately I felt HAPPY. As we drove to the guesthouse, I had realised how slow John drove – 40km/hour – and then, I thought, this is chill mode. Cool.

Car window was down. Sun was setting. Wind was blowing. The scenery was just incredible – coconut and palm trees, rice fields and lush greenery. I almost wanted to do what dogs do in the car – stick their heads out of the window and feel the wind! Then I saw, in the midst of plantations, were quaint houses painted in bright red, yellow, blue, purple. I thought to myself, this place has HAPPY colours all over it :-)

We reached the guesthouse and I was greeted by Sunil. Sunil, a Keralan, and his Swiss wife, Karin run Heaven Goa Guesthouse since 2005. There were not too many accomodations listed for Benaulim (or at least good ones) when I researched prior coming to India but Heaven Goa Guesthouse was listed as No. 1 in Tripadvisor. The guesthouse has 12 rooms – half of which are located in the area facing the rice fields, and the remaining half are located facing the dining area and the swimming pool.

I booked the non-AC room and the room is incredibly huge! A double bed with mosquito net and a ceiling fan above it. Furniture is spartan but the bathroom is the largest I ever seen! If you would like to see pictures of the rooms, please click here.

Wi-Fi is only available in the dining area. I reckon this is a good idea as it encourages guests not to stay in their rooms but come to the dining area to mingle. And that’s what I did throughout my stay there, and got to know my hosts better and met other guests.

Refreshed!

Woke up the next morning after 11 hours of sleep, feeling refreshed, and this is the view from my balcony :-)

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When I ate my breakfast at the dining area, it was either this lazy cat which kept me company, or Sina, the lovely labrador :-)

Sernabatim Beach is only 5-8 minutes’ walk from the guesthouse. I walked past rice fields ready to be harvested. Following the curve of the road and continue down the path is Furtados Beach House and a few huts selling provisions (I call them the 7-Eleven beach huts and I met John again who owns one of these huts). And then the beach…

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And I saw this…Incredible India :-)

Car wash or cow wash? I reckon it was cart wash :-)

Car wash or cow wash? I reckon it was cart wash :-)

I was told that there was another beach up north called Colva Beach which is 8-10 minutes’ walk from Sernabatim. Reviews of Colva Beach are not that great – apparently it’s very crowded. I was curious and decided to check out Colva, and yes, true enough, there was just too many holidaymakers and that time particularly was the Dussehra Festival in India. It was a holiday season for them, so many from Mumbai, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu flocked to Goa, to Colva Beach. But it was quite odd that Sernabatim was completely opposite.

Anyway, I turned and walked back to Sernabatim, and parked myself for 2 days at Xavier’s Bar and Restaurant. Xavier’s was perfect for me – on the beach, the water is just right in front, therefore I had a great view. All I did the whole day was eat, drink, read, people-watching and swim :-)

Sernabatim Beach is very clean. The atmosphere is tranquil. The sea temperature was warm, and the waves were not too rough. The R&R that I wanted for so long!

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Useful Information:

I arrived in Goa in during the first week of October. The monsoon had ended in September and the high season would start from mid-October onwards. Accommodation is still cheap during the in-between season but some may not open yet. I was told that many accommodation used the in-between season to make repairs and maintenance, to spruce things up before the high season starts.

Although this was my first time in Goa, I’m glad I went during the in-between season. Not only accommodation was more affordable (according to my budget) but lesser crowds. South Goa is less commercialised that North Goa but even nowadays they take advantage of the high season – beach shacks are not opened till November. And when they are opened, they are overpriced.

The easiest way to get around is to rent a motorbike or a bicycle. Unfortunately, I do not know how to ride a motorbike and I could not rent a bicycle because it was “not the season” :-( However, there are motorcycle taxis available.

Another thing which the ïn-between season became an inconvenience, well, at least for me, was the street lights were not switched on at night. It was very dark to walk from the beach back to the guesthouse. John had mentioned that street lights were not switched on due to monsoon but would be turned on by mid-October. Although the locals stressed to me that it was indeed very safe and that I had nothing to worry about, I was not feeling comfortable at all. There were no auto rickshaws or motorcycle taxis that night to take me back to the guesthouse. That was when I wished I had learnt how to ride a motorbike!

I had to use the torchlight from my mobile phone to guide me back to the guesthouse. The fact that I was travelling alone made me scared of dark surroundings, as such, I walked as fast as I could. For the next couple of nights, I ordered take-away food and used that opportunity to eat with my hosts and other guests :-)

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Have you been to Goa, and was it Heavenly and Happy place for you? :-)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle

This week, share with us your photos of twinkling light.

It has been a while since I last saw these photos in my archives. I took these photos during Wesak Day in May in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. Wesak or Vesak Day is a holiday observed traditionally by Buddhists in many countries all over the world. It is sometimes called “Buddha’s Birthday” as it commemorates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and his departure from the human world.

Here are twinkling lights from candles and the light and float procession from the Buddhist Maha Vihara temple. I just love these lights!

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Saved by Tricky Sardar

Prior to arriving in Mumbai, I had resigned from my banking job for greener pastures in another company. I was busy with HR resignation documents and handed work over to the pathetic sod who was the reason for my leaving, and preparations for this India trip. I didn’t realise how tired I was from all that physical, mental and emotional stress after 5 days of the hustle and bustle of Mumbai city, and the heady experiences of ancient paintings and sculptures in Aurangabad, I wanted to retreat…and longed to rejuvenate my tired soul by the beach of Goa.

I woke up very early in the morning to catch the Jan Shatabdi Express train back to Mumbai. Departure at 6am. I sat in the air-conditioned (AC) chair car. My luggage was placed on the overhead racks. Tray tables stowed at the back of the seats. Plenty of leg room.

The train left Aurangabad station at 6:01am.

Mumbai train

The Jan Shatabdi Express was due to arrive at Dadar Railway Station (Mumbai) at 12.30pm but I should have known that trains especially in Asia are never punctual on arrival. I had booked the 3.45pm domestic flight from Mumbai to Goa, and had to be at the airport by 1.45pm. And based from my experiences in Indian airports, check-in and security process take a long time. However I seemed to have forgotten about train delays.

True enough, halfway through the journey, the train halted for quite some time. I can’t remember how long but it felt like an eternity. I tried not to think too much but just continued reading my book, hoping that the train would continue its journey soon enough.

By the time it was 11.30am, I had realised that we were nowhere close to the suburbs of Mumbai. I had spent the last one hour of the journey fretting if I ever was going to make it to the airport on time. Also, I had read on the internet the night before about taxi drivers at Dadar Railway Station fleecing customers, both locals and foreigners. They would often take the longest route and overcharge customers. Or in the case of foreigners, the driver would insist on sightseeing before arriving at destination. As a result of these scams, the railway station has set up a prepaid taxi booth at the entrance/exit of the station. With that in mind, I visualised my plan – prepaid taxi – but wondered how the taxi driver was going to rush through lunchtime traffic to get to the airport pronto!

Time on my mobile phone stated 12.15pm and we were only just reaching Mumbai suburbs. I asked the passenger next to me if he knew what time we would reach Dadar. He said another 45 minutes. That meant 1pm! But he reassured me that it would take 30-40 minutes’ drive from Dadar to the domestic airport. Somehow I didn’t relax. When it was 12.30pm, I told myself, Kat, stop worrying. If I miss my flight, so what? I can always book another flight to Goa and arrive at the guesthouse later at night. Sigh..I wished I had thought about positive affirmations much earlier but sometimes the brain refused to listen! There are times I get so hung up about time, punctuality, etc, that I miss the bigger picture. I have since learnt to let go but every once in a while, these bad habits come back, much to my annoyance.

True enough, the train halted at Dadar at 1pm. As soon as I alighted from the train, a turbaned Sikh taxi driver approached me and asked if I needed a taxi. In normal circumstances, I would not accept at the first offer but there was something about Sardar and his jovial face. Or maybe because I was desperate to depart for the airport.

Me: Prepaid taxi? To domestic airport?

Sardar: Yes, madam. Come follow me, my taxi is outside. (And he took my luggage).

Me: (As I’m walking with him) How much is taxi to domestic airport?

Sardar: Come follow me, I have card. (He has a chart with a list of fares to various destinations).

His car was the ubiquitous Mumbai (non-AC) black and yellow taxi and it was parked right in front of the railway station. I was relieved. As soon as I entered the car, he showed me the chart which stated INR900 to the airport. It was very expensive as comments on Tripadvisor stated that the fares should be INR500 or even less. Now converting that amount to my Malaysian currency, the fare was considered OK for a 30-40 minute drive but I was in a dilemma. It was either to let him overcharge me and I get moving to the airport quickly, or negotiate for a lower fare. The latter also meant that I could walk away and head to the prepaid taxi booth, that is, if I could locate it. Since time was of the essence, I opted for the easiest way out which was the expensive fare :-(

As Sardar was driving, he asked if I had breakfast. I replied yes. But…

Sardar: You want idly, you want to eat breakfast?

Me: No, nahi, thank you.

Sardar: I buy for you idly, I pay.

Me: No, it’s ok. I had breakfast on the train. Thank you. Sardarji, please airport-drop ya.

Then he asked the usual questions that travellers often get, which country was I from, how long was I going to be in Mumbai, do I like India, what time was my flight, etc. Then as he drove on to the main road and halted at the traffic lights, he mentioned about the Dharavi slum which was located on my right.

Sardar: This is famous slum, Dharavi. You want to go? Many tourists go to see this slum, very famous. You know, Slumdog Millionaire?

Me: No, no sightseeing.

Sardar: Do you want to see Gateway of India, Haji Ali Tomb?

I was thinking to myself, hmm, Sardar wants to take the sightseeing route huh? So I decided to speak a little bit of Hindi that I had learnt over the years, to emphasize the urgent need to head to the airport.

Me: Sardarji, sightseeing nahi, airport drop only yaar. Jaldi karo! (No sightseeing, airport drop only, go quickly!)

Sardar: You are my sister, no tension yaaaarrrrr!

When the traffic light turned green, Sardar sped like crazy to the highway while spitting paan out of the window and signaled to other drivers to make way for him! Once I observed that he was on the correct highway route to the domestic airport, I was able to relax a little.

I arrived at the airport at 1.45pm sharp. I had exactly 2 hours to check in as required.

I do not have INR900 but INR1000. And no, I didn’t want the INR100 change from Sardar because all I wanted to do was to get out of the taxi and to head straight to the departure hall.

Me: Sardarji, INR900 but I give you INR1000, theek hai? Thank you.

Sardar: INR1000? Only INR1000, madam? Madam, I poor man, please give me INR300 more.

Me: No, no, I give you INR1000, that’s more than enough, ok? (And I took my luggage and got down from the car)

Sardar: (He got down from the car too) Madam, please, give me INR300 more. I poor man, yaar? Thank you, please madam.

Me: (With a firm voice) No, INR1000 is enough, theek hai? Bas. Bahut shukria sardarji. Thank you.

And I walked away.

Sardarji indeed saved me from missing my flight with his F1 driving skills though he overcharged me and used “poverty” as an excuse to make an extra buck here and there. He might be less well-off than others but I was very firm in discouraging such practices even though I was already fleeced with that overpriced taxi fare. Oh well, whenever there is a demand, there’s always a supply :-) To give him credit, Sardar was actually quite jovial in the car, so I wasn’t 100% uptight. He made me laugh at his jokes – hmm, perhaps that was his tactic, LOL!

Airport check-in went really well. I boarded the IndiGo flight to Goa where interestingly, for the first time, I heard a recording of pre-flight safety instructions in 3 languages: Hindi, Marathi and English. And the instructions were said very, very fast! The poor flight attendants had to demonstrate the safety procedures three times!

IndiGo in-flight magazine.  Love their uniform :-)

IndiGo in-flight magazine. Love their flight attendant uniform :-)

The 55-minute flight was very comfortable , seats were great and plenty of leg-room (unlike Air Asia).
When I landed in Goa, the driver from Heaven Guesthouse in Benaulim, John, met me at the airport. Then everything slowed down. It’s Goa. Chill, relax, no hurry. Speed is only 40km/hour. And finally, after all that anxiety and mad rush during the day, I came to Heaven Guesthouse in the evening, and the view from my balcony was this :-)

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Slow on Sernabatim Beach

(This post is linked to Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Slow)

Just to give you a sneak preview on upcoming posts over the next few weeks about my travels to Goa. After 5 days of being in the vibrant city Mumbai, and a heady experience of ancient paintings and sculptures in Aurangabad, I was desperate to flee to the beach…to slow down.

Time stood still at Sernabatim Beach in Benaulim, South Goa, where I had spent 2 full days doing nothing but relaxing, reading, drinking at Xavier’s Bar & Restaurant which was the perfect place by the beach to watch the world go by. Together with swimming in the sea, it was perfect therapy for me :-)

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Lovable cat kept me company for breakfast at Heaven Guesthouse

Lovable cat kept me company for breakfast at Heaven Guesthouse

 

My Guinness: Gone But Not Forgotten

In today’s challenge, show us what “gone, but not forgotten” means to you…

My friends know that I LOVE my Guinness :-) I may not drink it every day or every week but every now and then, when I get together with a friend or two, Guinness is my drink.

Happy Hours gone by, the drink is gone (gulped!) but Guinness shall not be forgotten.. Slainte!

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