HOP ON HOP OFF!

Hop On Hop Off..well it could mean anything and to different people, something different each time.  However, in the tourist travel industry, this service has become synonymous with big cities and tourism. Even after so much travel planning, we ended up relying on ‘Hop On Hop Off’ tourist travel bus service that is the franchise in many countries. The tourist bus service that is somehow associated with a Double Decker buses, is in many ways a good way to see the city.

The cost is not cheap-in Kuala Lumpur it costs 38 Ringit for an adult.  If you are in a party of say three or more persons, then it may be cheaper and easier just to rent a cab. We had negotiated with a tuk-tuk in Bangkok to take us around and he ended up taking us to commercial establishments along the way.  When we protested, he pleaded that they pay his petrol and to please accommodate him. In the end we were so fatigued that we wanted to go back to the hotel. So from that point of view, the ‘hop on hop off’ sounds much better.

In Singapore, we used the Singapore Airlines ‘hop on hop off’ service. It was an old style bus, the drivers very hospitable and professional and the bus very clean. These are all air-conditioned buses and arrive promptly on time.

Singapore Airlines Hop On Hop Off

Singapore Airlines Hop On Hop Off

In Singapore, there are many outfits that are providing this service. However, we found the Singapore Airlines provided service to be cheaper than others. This service, however, is for travel on the date of ticket issue only and not 24 hours duration. If you travel by Singapore Airlines, I think this service is free.

In KL, Malaysia, the bus service is irregular, poor quality, not that clean and the head phones on the seats do not work.  Minor annoying things on the bus include loud announcements.

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Bangkok Weekend Market-Chatuchak

Every Saturday and Sunday, there is a huge market that sells everything from undies to art. It is a vast shopping mecca, full of colorful stalls. If you are wanting to buy cheap imitations or just want something kitschy then this is the place. Be prepared to fight the crowds and rub shoulders with all (makes you one with the community). The BTS skytrain station Mo Chit stops at the Market. Don’t need to pack any food or water as there are plenty of stalls selling cold drinks and water for 10 -20 bhats.

Colorful Textiles

Some More Market...

Luce an Krishna at the Market

Weekend Market Bangkok

Weekend Market Bangkok

Costume Jewellery-Weekend market

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Siam-Land of the Buddha!

We really wanted to visit Thailand. Actually it was me who was quite keen to visit. But then we could not find good priced tickets and decided to visit Singapore and also Kuala Lumpur. It was a good decision! Relatively speaking, I really liked Singapore compared to both KL and Bangkok. The latter two are not as clean and organized as Singapore. Then always worrying about your luggage, valuables and haggling takes a lot of energy.

Anyway back to Thailand and Bangkok. I am sure people come to Bangkok for many reasons. To us it was a discovery of the land that was important. At the Suvarnabhumi Airport ( which is awesome) the lines at the customs were very long and took almost an hour to clear.

Krishna @Bangkok Airport

Bangkok Airport Smile Ladies

Before the flight

Eastern Iconic Influence @ the Airport

Shows how many people are arriving into Thailand. The pluses- great airport, very well organized. I suggest that you talk to the official tourism depart stall first. But they are located tediously far in the corner. You will get accosted by commercial agents disguised as official personnel. Also there is a train link from the airport that costs about 40 Bhat. This is an easy way to travel if your accommodation is close to the train line and if you are not traveling with big bags. For some reasons (maybe safety), the authorities decided not to put down escalators at the stations. In many locations the station is several flights of stairs.

I will write in detail about the Bangkok trip either now or a little later because of the time factor. Here is another tip- If you get tired of street food ( it is quite cheap but quite dirty as well), visit UCC coffee in the Siam Centre. they have four locations. The food is very very good, prices are modest and the service is excellent. We ordered Spinach Lasagna, Penne pasta, Lichi drink, Fish and Thai rice and some other drinks. All were really good quality. To top it, they have computers internet ready and you can use it free for 30 minutes.

UCC Coffee

UCC Coffee Bangkok

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Singapore!

We landed in Singapore on January 18th 2011, amidst the Chinese new Year celebrations.

Much has been written about Singapore cleanliness and that is true. I was actually amused to see some trash near the Krishna and Chinese temples. Anyway that was the rarity. It is a small city and it is a shoppers paradise. No wonder you can find all the name brands and upscale stores here.

The weather is January is usually humid and tolerable (about 22 to 24 degrees Celsius). It is quite safe to travel within Singapore and you don’t feel threatened. The locals are very helpful as well as polite. Singaporeans have a great, efficient, transport system but strange enough, there are many cars on the road. They also love to walk. So if you ask for directions, they will normally tell you that it is only 15 minutes and quite near.

Singapore is also an eating paradise. There is variety in food and it is cheap, cheap and cheap. The shops open late around 10 and for eating around 11am. Then they stay open late sometime around 12 midnite. This may not be the case everywhere as the shops have their own time. But coming from Sydney, it was a sort of a relief, where the shops close at 5pm most of the days.

Colorful Subway

Bugis area Food Court

Little India Shakuntala Restaurant

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Where the HELL do you want to go!

When we landed in Sydney in 2003, we knew that we would be returning back to Seattle sometime in the future. OK, before I go ahead, let me introduce few persons I will be mentioning quite often.

VIREN ( that is me!)

LUCE ( This is my partner Lucienne. She prefers being called Lucienne)

Rishi ( Our son )

Krishi ( aka Krishna )

As I was saying, we knew of the inevitable departure to Seattle.  We started planning the trip about 6 months prior to departure, so that will be sometime in June 2010. This is no ordinary move- we had to sell the house (and we sold it ourselves- see the blog: http://5cobb.wordpress.com/ ), organize Rishi’s admission to US Universities, decide on what places to visit en-route to Seattle. So this is what I men by ‘Where the hell do you want to go’.

Originally we had planned a visit to SE Asia (Thailand), India, Chile and Argentina (I really want to go to Argentina, maybe another day), Spain, Florida ( Disney World), LA and Seattle. So we started looking for best fares. The first option to explore was ‘Round the World’ fares. There are two group of airlines that offer round the world fares- Star Alliance (led by United) and OneWorld (led by American Airlines. Based on our requirements, the Star Alliance had better options- but the fares were quite expensive. So we had top look at alternatives.

We found cheap fares on Jet Star flying to Singapore. We also found some very reasonable fares flying on Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Chennai, India. I had read somewhere that if you book fares in local currency, then sometimes you get cheaper fares (depending on where you are flying from). We found cheap fares on Swiss Air booked from India to Spain and from Spain to LA, USA). I will tell you other details sometime later in the blog regarding finding cheaper fares or what I did to find these fares.

Within Spain, we had decided to travel via Renfe. The train site has options to book in advance ( to read more in detail regarding train travel, see Seat61. ). I followed the instructions on the Seat 61 site and decided that train travel will be quite adventurous. Later we abandoned that idea for variety of reasons. I will leave that for later. We found some good deals on Cheap Tickets. So we decided to fly within Europe (Spain and Portugal-Madrid, Bilbao, Lisbon, Granada and Barcelona). We also abandoned the idea of Florida and opted instead of LA (DisneyLand).

So, it took almost 6 months of negotiating with everyone, wandering through millions of internet pages and having a vigorous debate within the neurons of my mind.

In the next few weeks, I hope you will come along on the journey with  me, Luce, Rishi and Krishi. Hop on-board!

The itinerary

The itinerary

Bags are Packed

Bags are Packed

Sydney Airport

Sydney Airport

Krishi @ Sydney Airport

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