Monday, April 09, 2018

H : Holidays that were memorable #AtoZchallenge

The word "Holiday" conjures up memories, smells, sights and sounds of different places we have been to. Mostly, all these memories are happy and exciting. Relaxation and rejuvenation are key reasons, why we all take holidays. But I feel they also add to our experiences, thus making us better in many other ways. We learn so much about other places, become more accepting of diverse cultures and develop a well rounded personality. And yes, when we travel outside the country, that stamp on our passport is a dopamine hit.

There are many memorable holidays to talk about. But I will limit this post to five such holidays outside India, each of which was unique on its own.

1. My first foreign trip - Mauritius 2007 :

It was the first time I was outside India. I was 26 years old then. But, I must be like that wide eyed child who is seeing things for the first time. And then Mauritius turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Everything was so green and blue. True HD colors.

The trip is memorable (apart from the fact that I was in an international destination for the first time) because :
  • We Indians tend to pack our itineraries. We have to see everything there on the map and try everything on menu in limited time. The holiday itself can become rushed and a tiring affair if one does that. But thankfully, this trip was designed very thoughtfully. There was a free day after each day of the paid tours. We used the free days to do things at our own pace - have scrumptious breakfast, stroll on the beach, take a swim (I don't know swimming, but shallow pools being the norm, I am always inside), go cycling by the country-side, read a book, play card games - and did whatever we felt like.
  • I have realized over the years that I am a beach person. And my idea of a holiday is not always sight seeing. I just like to be on the beach and drink beer and try local cuisine. In Mauritius, I had lot of opportunities to do that. Plus we did water sports on one of the days. It was wild, wild fun. Especially the under water sea walk was the most unique experience.
  • On this trip, I was accompanied by a batch-mate from my MBA, who is a close friend. Also there along with us was a recently wedded couple, who were friends with my friend. I met them at the airport for the first time. They made me feel very welcome and comfortable. I think one of the key reasons I enjoyed this trip was that they were a great company.  Every night we used to drink and talk till late and enjoy the dance performances arranged in the foyer of the resort. Unlike me, these three were well traveled and that helped the trip to be hiccup free.
  • This was the time, when social media wasn't a big deal. I don't have many good pictures from this trip. But do have really good memories.
Mauritius is so beautiful, I wish I had my own beach side villa there.

2. Freezing Cold - London 2011: 

It was not actually a holiday. I had gone for some office work and then extended my stay by a few days. Of course I had to take a leave. So I only had 3 days to spare. And there was a glitch too. I had gone to London in December. For a first time tourist, it is not a great time to go there. Here's what made the trip memorable:

  • The biting cold. I was ill prepared for that. And then one night - I think the last one, my eccentric host, made me stand outside his house in freezing temperatures with rain pouring, for few extra minutes, as he was upset I didn't come back at promised time. The length of days were smaller. Sun used to vanish around 3 to 4 pm. So I couldn't visit a lot of places. And when my plane was taking-off for India, it started snowing outside. I missed my first snowfall by a whisker. I am yet to get my share of snowfall in life.
  • Efficiency, cleanliness and central heating at most places amazed me. Underground and that classic Red Bus were excellent and convenient experiences. People there have a great civic sense. London was beautifully decked as Christmas was around the corner. 
  • The day at Windsor Castle, is the best memory of the trip. It is a beautiful and sunny place. I was with someone with whom I shared a great rapport then. We ate at the Nandos near the lake and spent great time talking and feeding the birds at the lake. That picturesque moment at the lake is frozen in my mind.
  • People in London, are winners of the genetic lottery. Everyone is tall and good looking and it seems no one has a bad hair day there. Whether they were shoppers on Oxford Street or sales people at Harrods I was just dumbstruck by their drop dead gorgeous looks.
One day I was having my breakfast alone. One of my classmates from MBA (not the Mauritius one) was there too. Serendipity. It was a pleasant coincidence to meet someone like that.

3. Hedonistic trip - Shenzen, Hong Kong and Macau 2012: 

On this trip, my wife accompanied me. It was not our first one together. But I believe this one was our best one together, and that is why it is memorable. Hong Kong is like any expansive metropolis in India, but a lot more cleaner and less chaotic. And Macau is a destination designed on lines of Las Vegas, catering to hedonistic desires. The things I enjoyed here the most were:
  • Disneyland, Hong Kong - Do I need to say anymore? The theme park is inclusive and everyone will come back with beautiful memories. It was one of the most amazing days of our trip. There is so much to do there that even one day is not enough.
  • Venetian Macau - It is a beautiful property and a place which can just suck you in with its attractions and grandeur. But greed plays a big role as well. This was the first time in our lives when we went to a casino. On day 1 we won big and lost big on Day 2. Lesson learnt. The suite we lived in was luxurious and I haven't stayed in a better hotel room ever.
  • Macau Tower - The observation deck high in the sky is thrilling and scary at the same time. We also did Sky Walking. For my daredevil wife it was a smooth experience. I got the real thrills because I am scared of heights. I discovered this that day. She wanted to do a bungee jump too. Thankfully she didn't go through that mission.
Shenzen part of the trip could have been avoided. There is nothing much to do there.

4. The best office trip - Singapore 2014:

I had been to Singapore a few times before. But this trip was awesome because of two reasons:

  • The Transformers ride at Universal Studios took my breath away.
  • One of the office gala parties was arranged in a restaurant by the side of the F1 track in Singapore. We dined, danced and drank like crazy people and then best of the cars in the world lined up on the track. It was a wow moment.

Of all the places in Singapore the bridge on the river at Clarke Quay is my most favorite spot. Each time I have gone to Singapore, I have gone there. But in this 2014 trip, I went there almost every night, bought beers from 7/11 store nearby and stood with my colleagues just soaking in the local sights and sounds. I found a strange kind of peace there despite the buzz around.

5. My first solo trip - Koh Samui 2016:

This trip had many firsts. Koh Samui is a really really beautiful island, especially when seen from the airplane. The airport itself, though quaint, stands out for its scenic beauty. I stayed at Nora Beach Resort. A property that has a mesmerizing and really long beach. The sunsets were amazing there. This was my first and only solo trip and here are some great memories from there.

  • Partly inspired by Mauritius trip, I didn't plan any activity or sight seeing for this trip and just didn't have any agenda. I used to wake up every day, get my breakfast and then decided what to do. I wanted to be a local for the days I was there. 
  • Like one day, I went for a city tour along with some people. One guy from Germany was past his prime and had been travelling across South East Asia for months. Another old chap from UK was there too. There was a grandmother from Germany doing here solo vacation. I was surprised with their joie-de-vivre. These guys were surprised that I was there for less than a week. For them mine was not even a holiday. 
  • Another day, I got acquainted with a group of younger people and went on a jungle trek. It was fun day. Meeting new people from different nationalities was a great experience. On the trek there was this girl from Philippines who worked with UN and had been to Bihar in India on a project in past. I think she knew more about India than many of us. 
  • One of the days, it started raining, when I was reading a book by the pool. I decided to go for a jog on the beach on a whim. There was no one there on the beach. I didn't see any human being in sight. How rare are such moments! Then I came back and sat at the bar in the pool. Two women from New Zealand were there too. We all were having several rounds of Mai Tai, with great music playing and the bartender regaling us with his stories. It was the last time, when I spent a day, without thinking of what I am going to do next. I was completely in the present, living that moment.
I lived everyday there like a local, walking the local markets and streets, sampling the native cuisine. I even went to watch a Tom Cruise movie one night. There was no rush to do anything. And I could do anything. What a holiday!

Do you have any memorable holiday moments? Do share.

My last year's challenge post from letter H was about a film I never watched, but still is memorable. The film was Haan... Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya. Read it here.

My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here.


kaykuala said...

Much travelled! That's wonderful Charan. Most memorable for you!


Charan Deep Singh said...

Thanks Hank...