Friday, February 22, 2013

sg diary: p4, day one part one

woke-up to the pilot's announcement that we were going to be early by 35 mins. the sunrise was beautiful... the sun was nowhere to be seen but the sky was every hue of pink, orange, red and blue.. the aircraft turned beautifully over the colourful sky and turned a few times more.

unlike the take-off, the landing was quite close to the terminal... the pilot then announced that he had overshot the landing gear and that the aircraft will now have to be pushed a few metres backwards to align with the landing gear... so much for reaching early! the whole exercise took about 20-25 mins. it wasn't discomfitting at all... the hosts had meanwhile gotten a message that the arrival was early and had rushed to the airport. the changi airport was huge.. the distance between the terminal to the immigration was close to half a km. the airport even has it's own candy, the 'changi airport candy' ... the immigration check was super-quick and then the exit gates and into the happy faces of the hosts.

we went to see terminal 3 where they had a lego display and an aircraft museum and a place where you could sit for hours and watch the flights take-off and land... the number of paper-planes hanging in this museum is equal to the number of planes that land at changi airport each day. and the paperplanes are of different forms denoting different air-crafts. the airport itself is worth a few hours of dekko.

the three terminals of the airport are interlinked by a metro... that runs overhead and follows a rather curvy track... spread across the terminals is a butterfly park, a fern garden, a swimming pool, a fish pond, an orchid garden, a sunflower garden, tv lounges, eating places, shopping outlets(including a bata outlet) and entertainment centres. it's like a tiny town in itself.

breakfast was at '' outlet in the airport. tea(called teh) and kaya... tea was made the way it's made in india.. and kaya was a sandwich - white bread with kaya-spread inside.. the sweet kaya-spread is made of coconut, sugar and eggs, and is super-delicious. the token was a circular brown thing... whose LEDs flashed when it was our turn and the token vibrated too. now that was serious fun. i told my hosts that i was tired and sleepy.. so we took a taxi to their sprawling 2 b/r apartment.

after an hour's worth of catching up with each other's lives, lunch was rice and drumstick sambar and ghee and sabzi... and some heavy-duty catching up on the much-needed sleep.

sg diary: p3 -- one more problem

after what seemed like long-ish wait at the right gate, happened the boarding, the seat-locating, stuffing my backpack in the overhead luggage-space and settling down in my window-seat... a malaysian girl sat beside me and an indian girl on the aisle end of the seat. finally an unasked-for eventful day was coming to an end .. it was almost like some invisible force was going all out to get into my way... glad to have made it so far despite the god-forsaken invisible-force's ill-intentions, i was now going to lean my seat back and be lost to the chaotic world. and rest myself till kingdom come.. only our seats were the row right in front of the emergency-exit-over-the-wings, and such seats do not lean back! the flight attendant told us that... when you try to sleep sitting upright, you tend to fall on all sides and that constituted the airborne part of the onward journey.

but before that, there was some wide-eyed excitement as the aircraft kinda drove around, like turned left turned right and turned every which way, on the tarmac to reach what seemed like a runway in the neighbouring town. ( the airport looked small and distant ) at the right runway, the aircraft waited at one end like an obedient child... the taxiing down the runway, when it finally happened, and the take-off was a pleasure to the senses, esp because of the accompanying motor-sounds coming from the wings. the twinkling city lights looked like a miniature toyland. everything looked so so peaceful and calm and beautiful... and warm and cozy.. and peaceful and calm.. no running around for a new boarding pass.. no being in the middle of a security glitch.. now, i either fly towards the vacation-spot... or something happens and the aircraft turns around... or something happens and the aircraft stops flying.. either of these was preferrable to rushing to the airport in a madman's taxi.. or have people blame each other over me..

for now all was well... and it was time to catch a few winks. for when i'd wake up.. good times would begin.. amen!

sg diary: p2 -- starting problems

on the day of travel( the flight was at midnight), i went to work at usual where a colleague strongly discouraged me from taking the bus and lectured me on taking a taxi instead. hell-bent on travelling like a lesser mortal, i arrived at the kuvempunagar(BTM) bus-stop for the 7:40pm shuttle to the airport.. at 8:15 pm, the bus had still not arrived. the next bus scheduled to leave at 8:10pm was nowhere to be seen either. the traffic from silkboard towards btm had come to a standstill, and was visible for almost 2kms backwards. there was no sign of any BIAL buses and the colleague's words were ringing in my ear. a hurried crossing-the-road and catching a rick to reach the staples stop. the bus that leaves electronic city at 7:50pm did not turn up. panic-stricken, called up the helpline at 8:45pm and got cab numbers, called up meru cabs to transport me at 9:15pm for an additional charge. i had begun to relax as i waited when the cab-driver called me up at 9:15pm to inform there was a problem and that he wouldn't be making it and that i should call back the helpline for another cab. the helpline promised to send one urgently and then two cabs arrived at 9:30pm! randomly chose one and it turned out to be the one whose driver earlier cancelled... apologising profusely for the delay, he drove like a maniac -  jumping the traffic signals, honking needlessly, and keeping me engaged in small talk the entire way. he said it was his day's mission to drop me at the airport at 10:30pm, for which he later received a huge tip. oh! we reached the airport at 10:25pm! and intact... one amazing driver! the flipside - it cost me 1k instead of rs.250 i would have spent on the bus.

with the biggest worry out of my way, i only had to get my boarding pass, wait for my flight and board it when it arrived. easy-peasy, right? wrong! at the tiger airways counter, the over-dressed guy waved his right hand and said something like "please go right"... atleast that's what i thought he told me. turns out he meant, 'go to your right'. i went in the direction of his wave and landed into the domestic terminal, security check and all. there was a connecting door that was getting closed just as i reached it. so i told the airport personnel at the door that my gate was on the other side of the door and that i needed to go through. the all-knowing-smartypants told me that the flights-and-their-gates were being re-arranged and re-flashed on the screens, and that i needed to stay-put and keep watching the display. smartypants didn't bother to check my ticket, or ask which flight i was boarding.

so i waited at the domestic terminal for an international flight right upto 1am!

and knew deep in my heart that something was very wrong. talked to another important looking airport guy and got the same 'please keep watching the display'...something was still very wrong irrespective of how keenly i kept watching the display. i took a good walk around, found a may-i-help-you counter and this time instead of asking my question flashed my tickets and boarding pass to the guy who sat there. turns out the security-check had been erroneous. they were supposed to spot that i was not welcome at their gates and i was to go to the other gates.

there was a mad rush with the security folks to fix me... one of 'em accompanied me to the right gates and to the immigration counter.. where i was sent packing again to get a fresh boarding pass since the existing one had been stamped for domestic travel. it was 1:15am by then. another person accompanied me to the airways' counter and everybody was in a frenzy fixing things... with the new boarding pass, i was asked to skip the queue at the immigration counter, my forms cleared in record time, breeze through the security check and at the designated gate in under 5 mins. impressive!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

sg diary: p1 -- no cambodia go s'pore

after the plans to visit cambodia got scrapped due to high travel costs, the transit port(singapore) looked like an attractive option.. most folks rubbished spending 1 week in singapore, you'd get bored they said... such a myth! 8 days after i still had plenty of places not crossed off in my list... partly due to my erratic, unplanned sleep-pattern and mostly due to the heavy rains that lashed the island the entire week... add to it the heat and humidity.. and you're tired of all the required walking by mid-day.. the trip - eventful at start, tiring the first two days, amazing and fun-filled the rest of the time...inarguably one of the best!

first, the booking the flight... the debit card i had wasn't an accepted mode of payment. hence i had to use my credit card that first required an activation for a huge annual fee. once the tickets were booked, got my passport-sized photographs according to the prescribed specification...( the pics came out unbelievably ugly.. i am never going to that studio again! ) next the search for a travel agent.. that ended rather well - deccan travels at forum malls's 4th floor. locating their tiny office was half the job done. handed over my passport and 2 photographs and nothing else. and bothered them endlessly about getting my visa in time... the visa arrived on the day of the travel, though the previous day the agent called me up to say i had been granted 2 years' visa and that it would arrive the following day at 11am. the electronic-visa was also forwarded to my email, a document you need to carry a printout of each time you travel to singapore. if you require me to submit my passport to you for a visa, why don't you just stamp it in there.. why give me an additional document to carry around!

there was no buying/exchanging of currency since i was going to stay with a host family and expected to be taken care of :)