Monday, June 28, 2010

City Touring for Dummies !

Surprisingly, Kuala Lumpur is a city with very few things to see ! Its a nice city, clean in most parts. Its not as packed as Bangkok. Interestingly, one of my friends had pointed out that the city has got a "Park Street" feel to it. Very true, except the fact that Park Street doesn't have a colorful Monorail and so many skyscrapers, and Kuala Lumpur doesn't have the Gutkha stains and the "Brigade Chalo" posters !

A 3 hour long city tour can pretty much test your patience. In our case it definitely did. Your tour itinerary says "visit to a chocolate factory", you are excited and you have your camera ready, only to be guided into a big shop selling chocolates ! If that's a chocolate factory then Pakistan is surely the world's greatest democracy !
The penultimate stop on the tour was the National Memorial. This was one place which really made the day. It covers a huge area and the place is dedicated to the heroes who fought for the country and its independence. Here are a few photos from that place. Really worth spending an hour or so.

By the time the tour ended at Merdeka Square, half the group had left for the Shopping Malls. We played the good tourists, and decided to hang on till the end. Before returning to the hotel, we decided to check a couple of the famous Malls. That's another story. Very boring, and very taxing ! I'll tell you about our next stop tomorrow. Good night !

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Good (early) morning KL

Waking up in a new city, and finding nothing worth doing is a weird scenario. This I realized on my very first morning in Malaysia. I don't know whether my body clock turned the other way, or whatever, but I woke up before the city did, and felt stupid. There was hardly any indications of the sun coming out in the next one hour. My daughter and wife were asleep. I only had my music player and large window at my disposal. And then I remembered, I have a camera too.

I was too tired to look out of the window the previous night... had crashed in. So I thought this might be a good time to see whatever the window had to offer.
Unfortunately, not much at that moment. So I went back to my music player. Another couple of hours before my room was alive and kicking again. A quick breakfast followed, and as I worked on the sausages, I could see that the car had arrived, for a "city tour". Vroooooooooom.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Truly Asian Saga, Part 1 : Welcome to Budget Flying !

I'm still on Vacation as I start writing my tour chronicle. 24 hours of Internet, bought at $5 looks like bargain, so let me use it to the fullest. I'm not posting any photographs yet. Wait till I come back and get all the photos organized and processed.

Its tough to decide where exactly I should start from. The packing ? The drive to the airport ? Nah... all of that is very common place. Okay, I decide to start with the check in at the Terminal.
This is not the first time I'm flying on a cheap ticket. Have done it a few times on the domestic sector. But this was my first "Budget" international flight. To be honest, on the domestic sector, there's not much of a difference when you're flying one of these flights. Yes, you need to pay for the food, but at least you can choose how bad your food is going to be !

Welcome to Air Asia, here the word "Budget" is truly justified ! You're not the only one saving money, mind you. The airline is saving much more ! The check-in was a pain, not due to the airline, but due to a group of travelers, who had decided to check in with 6 different tickets, 12 passports, some 30 odd kgs. of excess baggage, and 4 trolleys full of "Cabin Baggage" of all shapes and sizes ! And they still claimed that they were traveling together, and hence deserve to check in together !

The Boarding Passes give you the first taste of "budget flying". Forget the Glossy, colorful pieces that people usually put in their shirt pockets and look absent-minded. These here were a tad bigger than Credit Card receipts ! The same thermal prints that you can fold and your daughter can hide them in her palms !

There was a minor delay, only 30 minutes. You shouldn't complain because you're told that this particular aircraft flew to Dubai in the morning, then to Doha, and then emptied its passengers in Delhi. before flying a few more to Kuala Lumpur, and then flew people to Singapore before arriving in Kolkata to pick you up ! Stop complaining, you're on a budget..remember ? That's exactly the reason why you are made to "walk" up to your aircraft while boarding !
The flight was very noisy, not the aircraft. I'm not sure how many passengers an Airbus A320 can fly, but I think I heard some 70 odd crying babies !

Once you reach KL, don't wait for a bus to take you to the terminal, there ain't any, and stop expecting a huge terminal to greet you ! Air Asia docks in LCCT (Low-cost Carrier Terminal), which is a part of Kuala Lumpur International Airport, but housed in a different building, which is clean, but very basic. Worse, you need to walk close to a mile from the aircraft to reach the building. With a 3 year old daughter, that's not much fun I'm afraid !

As I smoked outside the terminal building, the driver went to get the car. Ah, did I mention that it was well past midnight ? You can still get some stuff to grub. The McDonalds is big but hugely overpriced. There are a few other joints too. You need to be quick and your cab needs to be late in showing up. Worked exactly in our case. 

The drive to the city was surprisingly long. Over an hour. But it was smooth, silent and the AC worked just fine. Reached our Hotel, and the lady at the desk was pretty swift in checking us in. A room on the 25th floor, and finally, we were "not" on a budget !

Good night !

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Ah, what would I do without you ! You pile up work on my desk, you drain out my "already brooding" bank account, you make me admire the travel agent's plastic smile, you make me Google, you make me buy shoes when I shouldn't, and you make me carry some 10 odd kilograms of gear across borders.

But you've always been there, even when I looked out of my window and watched my neighbor leave for the airport. You were there when my little shoes made me run to the airport's viewer's gallery, to catch a glimpse of an aircraft for the first time in my life. And you were there when I was trying to smell the mountains through the car's window, on my way to Darjeeling.
Oh Wanderlust.... what would I do without you ?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

30 years of PacMan !

Ah, I remember PacMan, those ball-munching beings which came at a premium.... a one rupee coin to be precise ! Don't be amazed, this was some good 20 odd years back. There was a magical, dark and noisy joint on Park Street called "Wonderland".. pretty much the biggest video game arcade in town in those times. This was the pre-console era mind you, and pretty much pre-PC too.

Any venture to that area of the town for Lunch or Dinner by the seniors used to mean a big deal to us, the kids. 5 one rupee coins would be the norm, but 10 would be a real bonus. While my parents ordered food, I would rush to my kingdom of 15 minutes. Oh I miss PacMan ! Now, I can download it anytime, and play as many times as I want, and that too without paying a penny, but I doubt whether it will give me the same amount of pleasure, and butterflies in my tummy, just like those old days.

But why am I suddenly talking about PacMan ? A-ha, there's a reason. Those who take pictures and those who take those pictures seriously would surely agree. 

Tell me, what can a photographer (amateur - serious amateur - pro) do if he is given a camera, and 30 minutes to make sense out of it. Guess.... keep guessing.... because you're never going to get it right.

Well, if would have asked me that question 1 year back, I would have told you that the photographer would spend 15 minutes to capture a few frames, 5 minutes to sit down and choose the 95% of those that he would willingly throw away, and 10 minutes to do some post-processing before he would call those "photographs". 

And I would be so wrong ! I know the answer now. This is what he would actually do.

He would whisk away the camera, probably dumping it at one of the service centres. He would log in to a photography forum or community, choose a soft target, gather some like-minded people, and post some very "generous" comments. In most cases, he would hardly spend 2 seconds to look at the photograph that he and his friends would be talking about. And, the best part is - all of these can be done within 30 minutes. 

If you can do so much in 30 minutes, why would you get your a** baked in the sun and click the shutter ? Come on, God gave you Adrenaline, so use it !

But still the question... why PacMan ?

Because PacMan, if born in 2010, would be the world's greatest photographer, munching photographs of others and possibilities of their own at the speed of light ! So symbolic ! So go photographer... gulp them down before they can even look through their viewfinders ! 

Disclaimer : The above text is completely fictional, and any similarities may please be treated as co-incidental !