Monday, February 15, 2016

Koh Samui never aged !

Koh Samui…is like that cool uncle who never aged… I first fell in love with Koh Samui when I was all but 18. At almost 30 now I can say, Koh Samui rather than becoming OLD and passee, it has embraced a new generation of resort goers, many of them upscale. Fine stretches of sand clogged with beach loungers, almost rubbish free roads, world class international cusiine, luxurious spas that are dirt cheap and beach bar parties for the scantily clad 20-something that start at noon. They say Koh Samui has a quieter side with long, tourist free stretches of wild and shaggy coconut palms. But if I really needed the quite  would I go that far now?

We travel not to escape life ... But for life not to escape us ! 

I have always mainted, I am the quintessential city girl who loves her hustle and bustle. I find that almost meditative ! I love the steaming streets-side food stalls, I love backpackers shanties as much as I love those ultra modern beach bars serving fancy over priced cocktails. I love my street side shopping and bargaining as much as I love walking into that open air mall only a tourist place can offer ! Koh Samui is everything that I love and more.

Koh Samui is glossy in the night and a sleepy town by day. It really wakes and breathes life only after 5. Something I absolutely love ! I went with my sister Dhwani and friends, Ami, Pankti, Jinal and Varun and we were living at The Novotel Kandaburi, which is 5 mins by a tuktuk from Chaweng beach. The beach here is relaxing, Crowded enough to find an eye candy in his beach shorts lazying and reading a book but not that crowded that you want to walk further and further down the strip to find some peace and quite. During the day we enjoyed relaxing by the pool and enjoying cocktails. The hotel is literally on the beach and we enjoyed our time dipping in the ocean and enjoying vendors coming to us with fresh cut food and corn on the cob. 

There are a few things I highly recommend. A Day trip snorkelling/ scuba diving to Ang Thong National Marine Park which is made up of an archipelago of about 40 small islands combining sheer limestone cliffs, hidden lagoons, white-sand beaches and dense vegetation providing a postcard-perfect vista almost anywhere you look.

The numerous caves and crevices are home to nesting swallows and there's a narrow coral reef in the southwest of the park. From Ko Samui, a couple of tour operators run day trips to the Ang Thong archipelago. We booked a Kayaking tour. For as awesome as the picture looks, we were very happy discovering all the caves surrounded by the endless waters... but there comes a time when you look back and find you are miles away from the beach that you first started at. I just want to say this... it was quite an upper body workout ! 

But once we hit the shore, the cool wind under the winter sun, on a hammock made everything worth it ! A word of caution, and it might just be my stupidity to carry it with me, but I lost my first and only hat while kayaking :(

The evenings are very easy to fill up. Once we hit Chaweng, there are plenty of things to do. We watched a Muay-Thai Boxing Match at the Chaweng Boxing Stadium. Grotesque to say the least but an experience which makes all rocky balboa movies look real to me for the very first time ! 


At Samui’s northern end, on a small rocky island linked by a causeway, is Wat Phra Yai. Erected in 1972, the modern Buddha (sitting in the Mara posture) stands 15m high and makes an alluring silhouette against the tropical sky and sea. 

Ark Bar with its fireworks display every Wednesday and Saturday makes the 9pm slot easy to fill. Head over to see the stunts and smoke some sheesha. The staff is a little flustered, ofcourse with reason, years of dealing with drunken men and women of all ages and sizes have given them frown lines !

 Another good place of sheesha, drinks and good music is Solo Bar. Head over there for some pre-dinner cocktails and you will find a whole mix of people. If you over hear them, they are talking in all different languages with insertions of Ang Thong, Koh Tao and Koh Phan Gang ... so you know they really are making sight seeing or next day plans or simply discussing what to do ! It's when you go to a place of mix-cultures that I really go down nostalgia and remember my trip to belgium as a student of the Rotary's Youth exchange program.. .. Click here to hear all about my experience. 

When in Thailand, have some soul food comprising of a good Thai Curry with Steamed / Bamboo Rice. Terminal D is a Wine and Resto Bar has Some amazing food options for the hungry traveler ! 

If you get tired of Thai Food, I would recommend Gringos cantina on Chaweng street for some Tex-Mex !  Blue Berry Margaritas anyone ?? 

For Deli style fresh food, excellent coffee and sandwiches, hummus and falafels head over to Magnolias. Ask for Dahliya the Israeli owner and she will give you the warmest hug ! This is on my MUST-GO-AGAIN list ! 

LA-TAVERNA is an un-missable ITALIAN restaurant on Chaweng Street ! I can fly to Koh Samui, quickly eat the ricotta ravioli in sage butter sauce and fly back and still think its a dream.. ! Pair it with a wine or two and you are all set for an evening of happiness ! 

But happiness comes in many proportions on the island of Koh Samui. It can also come from a street side food cart selling crepes. They all do amazing crepes to be honest. Nutella or cream cheese and onion, anything is going to make you smile cheek to cheek.

Give me street food and I will be happy... give me a cocktail in a fanastic bar with a picturesque sceneary and you will see my happiness !! We went to On The Rocks Bar at the Six Senses Koh Samui. It's Simple and understated decor actually compliments the breath taking views this bar has to offer. We actually went there for dinner, but we didnt make the reservation mark. So if you plan on heading there, do make reservations before hand. 

The tuktuk will literally take you everywhere you need to go. NEGOTIATE NEGOTIATE NEGOTIATE .... ! Everything will come at half the price including a massage at an upscale place or simply a wrist watch which the shop owner claims is a first copy ! 

The street markets sell everything you will need to survive a beach location. From Flip flops to sunscreen. So you dont have to worry about what you forgot back home. It will also sell you things you really dont need. Like the carved hand made soap which I am now struggling to finish or those amazing hanging paper mache lights which got slightly squished on the way back home or my black hat from the first picture which i lost to the sea.... but Koh Samui makes everyone happy ! I cannot wait to go back  there. This time with my darling husband Kunal, who I missed so much throughout my trip. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Republic Day Pride

Like any other urban Indian student, Republic Day for me was like any other National Holiday. No school, Sleeping in till late and then hearing my father’s story about his time as a Sea-Cadet. The March past in New Delhi that he almost made to and how his friend lost the concessions form of the Railways and how he missed his chance to attend this prestigious moment of his life. My husband Kunal on the other hand, like any other geeky teenager sat glued to the television. Watched the Parade live on Doordarshan and marveled on India’s military prowess.

 I often say this, We are destiny’s Children. The astrological powers in our kundli had our fates written. A Friend’s father Is the current Minister of Law and Justice of India, the honorable Shri D. V. Sadanand Gowda. He has handled various portfolios, including the Chief Minister of Karnataka and the Ministry of Railways. He was so kind enough to extend us an invitation to witness the 67th Republic Day Parade In New Delhi ! Oh what an absolute Honour it was. Kunal and I were elated. We sent our ID’s 2 weeks prior to the parade for our security clearance. Tickets were booked and our best suits were pressed for THE-DAY !

We reached a day PRIOR and for the first time I understood what a mission it is to live in Delhi ! The high security alerts at the airport, The multiple check-nakas to be passed before you get out into the city. The roads all marked off.  The 5 km Radius near India Gate was curfewed out by mid-night. The national capital, particularly the Central and New Delhi areas, were brought under unprecedented security blanket as thousands of personnel kept a hawk-eye vigil to thwart any untoward incident. There were intelligence inputs that terror groups may target some important installations in the city. 
 We were to meet at the ministers residence at sharp 7am. The following morning it took us a little under an hour of circling at the Tyag-Raj Marg to understand that we will not be able to enter the area – let alone the minister’s residence  without the required pass. A massive ground-to-air security apparatus was put in place in the national capital. Commandos with light machine guns were deployed at 10 strategic locations and anti-aircraft guns remained positioned at vantage points in the capital. The entire region of Central and New Delhi had nearly 50,000 security personnel drawn from Delhi Police and central security forces guarding every nook and corner.  Under this situation we stood in 7 degree temperature on a big round about and made a few calls. Mr. Shetty, our Minister’s P.A.  was kind enough to come on a long morning walk in his best suit to come give us our pass and allow us to enter the road leading to his residence.

We were greeted so warmly by this humble man. Mr Gowda reminisced about his days with the BJP party and his trials and tribulations to get to where he is today over tea and snacks. The day took on its course then..IT started with a flag hoisting ceremony at his residence after which I took my first ride in a LAL-BATTI walli car. I was absolutely elated ! It was the first time I understood that POWER is different from MONEY. We were a part of the 4 car convoy on our way to the saluting gallery. 

We went through the necessary security protocol and were shown to our seats. We were a party of a thousand people who were there to watch the nation’s pride. Slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai … Vande Mantram made the crowds swell with pride.

 French President Francois Hollande was among the guests of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited to view the spectacle of the parade held in New Delhi, filled with marching bands, floats, camels, military hardware, and stunt performers. French soldiers also took part in the parade. It is thought to be the first time a foreign army contingent has participated in India's celebrations.

 Colourful floats from various Indian states, traditional dances, and gymnastics by children were also part of the event.A Dog squad of India’s paramilitary units also participated for the very first time !

A total of 23 tableaux were on display at the ceremonial parade with 17 of them belonging to various states and Union Territories.  The tableau of Gujarat depicted rare and exotic varieties along with the Sidi community settled in the Gir forest, performing their traditional dance.  

The heart throb of the event was the Indian Aviation’s gallant display. A breath-taking ‘Trishul’ formation comprising three Su-30 MKI of No. 24 Squadron flew over the Rajpath. Trailing them was the ‘Globe formation’ comprising one C-17 Globemaster flanked by two Su-30s, followed by the fighters, where five Jaguars flew in Arrowhead formation, another five MiG-29 Air Superiority Fighters called the ‘Tridents’ flew in Fulcrum style.  

The end of the parade was marked by a single Su-30MKI fighter pulling up vertically in front of the reviewing stand while carrying out so-called vertical Charlie rolls. I can still close my eyes and experience its vibrations in my heart.

Like all good things, the Republic Day Parade was all but 90 minutes. The sun came out a few times but the clouds kept us chilled but enough for us to enjoy the spectacle. The Afternoon ended with a hearty Indian Meal and a promise to play catch up of the parade every year even if we do not get these life changing experiences. The Invite to the event now is kept in a straight format with all the other important household papers and is something I am going to cherish for a long time !!


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