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Monday, 31 October 2011

Solo Singapore - Part 2

The three days of the rigorous ITB Asia Convention left me tired and exhausted. The massive exhibitions in the three large halls of the Suntec Convention Center concluded successfully and I came back to my hotel room with considerable feet pain. All thanks to the continuous meetings, visits to each and every booth,   multiple press conferences and the need for a lot of networking. But, at the end of the event I felt satisfied at a job good done. While I enjoyed the opportunity of interacting with  the top notch travel professionals around the world, the high point and undoubtedly the most enriching experience was my meeting  the Secretary General of UNWTO Mr Taleb Rifai. The Editor-in-Chief of the Travel and Leisure magazine Chris Kucway inspired me to aim higher in my profession. His poise, skills in anchoring an event, discussion and his thorough knowledge left me spellbound. I was thankful to my employers for giving me the opportunity to attend one of the major events of the world tourism industry.
Mr Taleb Rifai giving his speech in the press conference
At the end of the event, media delegates were given passes to visit Sentosa (Sentosa is an island nearby). With two days of the weekend to explore the city of Singapore, I booked my pass for Sunday. I wanted to see Singapore first and what better way than to take the Hippo Bus City Tour! The Hippo Bus City Tour is a tour of Singapore on a roofless double decker bus and it has four routes. You can pick the one you are most interested in. The main hub of bus tours was just by the side of the main lobby of Suntec Convention Center. I hopped into one of the many double decker roofless busses that waited there. The lady driver asked me if I needed a day pass or just that single tour. I opted for the single tour, as I had no intention of getting down and wasting time. I wanted to see it first and know the routes. 
The Hippo Bus I was in.
The moment the bus started the in-bus audio system started and a handsome voice welcomed all the boarders in the bus. One by one the audio system, now to be our virtual guide, began to explain the attractions appearing on our right and left, as we made our way. I was amazed by the seamless synchronisation it had with the stops, traffic signals and sites of tourist importance. Starting from Suntec, we went through the city roads, reached the Formula1 racing ground, the Singapore Flyer and the Skypark on Marina Bay Sands. The skypark has always fascinated me ever since I saw the programme on Discovery Channel. Oh what a feat! A man-made marvel!
Singapore Flyer
The bus, continuing its journey and the synchronised iTour, took us through the financial district of Singapore where I could see all the tall buildings and heritage houses restored and re-used as restaurants and market places. Many such tourist spots later, the bus reached the Singapore Botanical Garden. This is a bigger halt for the Hippo Bus and you are given 20 minutes to get down and have a look around and enjoy the freshness. The entire area was alive with the fragrance of flowers and I couldn’t help taking deep breaths. It was very refreshing and I suddenly discovered I didn’t want to leave anymore! But since the time was up, I had to. On our return from the garden, we passed through the ultimate posh area of Singapore and the houses there looked like dreams on earth! The bus then took us to the Orchard Road, one of the many tourist attractions I wanted to see in Singapore. Orchard road was in a simple word – alluring. After enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful sites, the bus returned to its original hub and I got down to go back to my hotel. However, many of my co-passengers hopped off in different locations of their choice. Now, my visit to Orchard Road remained.

The Marina Bay Sands Sky Park

Friday, 28 October 2011

Solo Singapore

On October 18, this year, I had to go to Singapore to attend the ITB Asia travel conference representing our travel magazine. ITB Asia is the biggest travel trade show in Asia and a must visit for everyone in the travel industry. This is an ideal platform to network, make contacts and do business. I was glad to get this opportunity as I had never been to Singapore and really wanted to attend ITB Asia myself.
The concerned colleagues started to speed up the process of ticketing, hotel booking and visa procedures, as I needed to travel in three days. By evening I gathered all the information on ITB and my tickets were sent to my inbox by our official travel agent. The next three days, media and press meet invitations and conference RSVPs from ITB Asia participants kept flooding my inbox. My list of “to dos” was getting longer. 
Indian Passport
My flight was at 11.05 pm on Monday. I cooked, wound up, packed, locked the house and started for Mumbai International Airport. Whisking through all the checks and formalities I sat in the plane. After making myself comfortable, I suddenly started to get a panic attack. I felt a little scared, thinking, in five hours, I will be in a totally unknown place with absolute unknown people and all by myself. God! Butterflies started to flutter inside my stomach. But, yes, I do like this feeling of uncertainty and the thrill of going to an unknown place. Bring it on, I said to myself.
I usually don’t get sleep anywhere other than my bed. An exception is a first class train compartment. Since there was no sign of my getting sleep, I read a bit, watched some TV in the kingfisher in-flight entertainment system and nibbled on the snacks given. When the lights were dimmed, I made another attempt to sleep. But I couldn't. The air hostess gave me an arrival slip which was to be filled in and submitted at the immigration counter on arrival. I filled it up immediately, thinking it would be a good time pass. Well, people around me started to snore. So I switched off my reading light and seriously tried to make myself sleep. 
The islands below while I fly the good times
I must have slept for an hour in total, on and off. It was around 5 am (Singapore time) and I could see clouds outside. I was told that you can expect rain anytime of the day in Singapore. I tried to see beyond the clouds and down below. The view of some islands and ships with lights on made me feel good. I am hydrophobic and really get scared if I see a lot of water around. But I was in a place now where there is water everywhere and I was feeling okay. I thanked God for being kind to me.
Lights in the flight were put on. The hostess announced the descend and everyone woke up. A commotion of getting ready, straightening the chair backs and putting the window shades up filled the craft. I was getting ready with my passport and arrival slip on hand. The airhostess announced that transporting drugs is a punishable offence in Singapore and the punishment is death. Dude! I thought what if the paracetamols I was carrying for migraine headaches are called drugs here! 
Yes, the lovelies
Everybody deplaned and went through the  immigration process. To collect baggage the passengers had to take a sky train to the next level of the airport and I did exactly that. After the baggage collection, I came out of the exit, bought a local SIM card, withdrew some Singapore dollars from an ATM and I was good to go to my hotel at Carpenter Street. There were plenty of candy coloured taxis waiting outside the exit gate. I hired one and I was ready for Singapore!
Now, on my way to the city of Singapore, the first thing I wanted to write home about was — “if you want to know how many colours bougainvillea can have, visit Singapore”. The sinfully neat and perfect to the tee roads; swanky foreign cars, the ships on my left and the possibilities in the horizon; the manicured sidewalks and lush greenery, all these made me feel good instantly. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Climb

Today, I suddenly realised how true it is when the wise one said, “Life is a journey”. Yes, I totally agree with that. More so when I realised how we have to move on in the journey, regardless of whether or not you have the same companion you started your journey with or met on the way. 
For me, life is an uphill climb. Uphill, not because it is difficult, but because, we are supposed to live up to our full potential. We have to complete the task of being born as human beings; we have to reach our ultimate possibilities. In this climb, we meet many people, some of them boost our morale, some discourage us from looking up ahead, some make us weak and some just waste our time. In my climb in life, I have met all sorts of people and most of them continued to stay on. Some I had to let go, because they were just not worth it. Some came back and stayed even more committed to the journey and we became co-hikers or co-travellers for life. I know most of them will stay on till I reach the peak. I am at that age, where I can see things rationally now. I know what is doable and what is not worth sticking to. 
In an “aha-moment” I found out a perfect example to cite here: Say, I am on a mountain hike. Everything around me is beautiful, lush greenery, heart-warming meadows, musical springs and I am hiking with two kinds of drinks on my back pack. One is plain water and the other one is my favourite lemon iced tea. The bottle with lemon iced tea suddenly falls in the gorge below. What do I do? Shall I go down and find it or should I continue my hike with the bottle of water in my hand? I would choose to continue with the bottle of water in my hand. I would definitely continue my hike. :) 

See, I told you before; writing makes me think straight and feel good. Thank you for reading!
This is a wallpaper pic from :) Nice noh?


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