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Archive for August, 2010

Sanjay’s Story: Loo and Behold

Traveling around Asia I got quite used to holding my breath when I’d use the restrooms at bus stops, museums and even some of the seedy guesthouses I stayed in.

With the big exception of Singapore of course. From the first loo I used at the airport to every other I walked into while I was there, I was amazed at the thoughtful design elements and impeccably clean interiors. Really, I probably sound like a deprived third world citizen, but after Vietnam, Cambodia and even Indonesia… it was quite literally a breath of fresh air!
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My Hillside Story (Hindustan Times Article)

Keith MuirDrive just 50 km west of Sydney and you’re in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Rising to more than 1,100 m above sea level at its highest point, it is the fourth area in New South Whales to be declared a World Heritage Area by UNESCO in 2000. What a delight to have pristine wilderness literally at the doorstep of a bustling city like Sydney.

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Run To Paradise

I woke up to a beautiful sunny day. No time for a shower. Brush my teeth, slap on some deodorant and I’m ready to go baby!

Ocean View Villa was a good ten-minute walk from the beach. And ten minutes at the speed I walk at- I’ve been told it’s more like a trot. Emerging from the narrow alleys the first sight of White Beach took my breath away. Kicking off my slippers to finally feel that powder soft sand under my feet. The water was so blue it hurt my eyes. I was standing there with the biggest grin on my face.
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Ro-Ro Row Your Boat to Boracay!

Philippines is an archipelago comprising of 7,107 islands. I’ve known this fact since I was twenty. While I was in university I read a travelers account of visiting one particular island there called Boracay. I read that article over and over again. Immersing myself in the author’s description of this island paradise. The pictures looked unreal. I’d never seen sand so white or water so blue in my twenty years.

Boracay looked too perfect to be true. I dreamt about it, googled and read everything I could find and could never forget it. If not for Boracay, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the Philippines!

So you can imagine my disappointment when I found out that the flight from Manila to Boracay was just too expensive.
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Manila Ice!

Seriously, 5 am is a terrible time to arrive in a new city! The airport staff are struggling to finish the graveyard shift and are quite cranky. Everything, including the conveyor belt moves with lethargy. And then there’s the endless que outside the toilet.

I arrived in Manila at quarter past five in the morning. I’d flown Bali to Jakarta, spent 6 hours in the airport and then hopped on an over night flight to the capital of the Philippines.

Yes, I know that’s a silly title for a post, but I saw an ice cream shop in Manila by that name with a caricature of a white rapper. Totally cracked me up!
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A fight for flipper (Hindustan Times Article)

A year ago, I saw a documentary called The Cove. It made me weep. The documentary was an initiative by former dolphin trainer Rick O’Barry, who helped capture and train the ones that were used for the hit American TV series called Flipper. The people loved the show and the Dolphins even more, eventually leading to a massive rise in the number of dolphins captured and trained in water parks around the world. O’Barry lived with the guilt of fueling the pop-culture fascination with these most-intelligent of mammals. He eventually turned into an ardent activist and defender of ‘dolphin rights’ the world over.

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Balinese Farewell

I slept like the dead on my second to last night in Bali. I had to push myself out of my room and start my day. I spent the whole day bumming around the beach, flying kites with some local kids and drinking way too much Bali-coffee.

That day on the beach I noticed a significant number of middle aged-white ladies hanging out with some extremely fit and young Balinese boys. I’d seen a documentary a while back about the ‘Balinese Comfort Boys’.
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Bali With The Ladies

On my second day in Bali, I received a message on Facebook from my friend- I’m going to call her Aye for now. She and I go way back. To the time when we had bad haircuts and an even worse sense of style but we didn’t know it!

Ten years I’ve known her. And after ten years, I feel like I really do ‘know’ her. She’s a strong woman- doesn’t mince her words and is a long time solo female traveler. Aye and I have shared clothes, heartaches, travel stories and most of our adult lives with each other.
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Bali-wood Baby!

Sharp at 8 the mini bus came to pick me up from Da Rifi hostel in Surabaya. There were already about a dozen people in it and the only seat was in the last row. Fortunately I had plenty of leg space and a lively young Dutch couple sitting next to me.

The two of them had been the first to be picked up and already been in the van for two hours and not even left the city. But, like me, their excitement to go to Bali was keeping them in a good mood.
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Making It To Bromo

At 1 am I heard the jeep honking outside Dayana’s home in Malang. Though I was awake I let the driver honk at least two more times to make sure it was my pick-up and not just some irate driver.

Half hoping that it was and I’d get to laze a little longer.

It had been raining in Malang all night and was pretty chilly. The driver got out to open the door to the back seats in the jeep. All the good spots were taken! There were four people- two couples in the jeep already and quite begrudgingly I settled in on the narrow seats at the back.

And so began the incredibly bumpy 3 hour ride to ‘sunrise point’; a predictable name for an equally predictable tourist trap. But- this time I was ready to make an exception. How often do you see an active volcano anyway?

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