Gooooooood Morning, Vietnam!

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View on the Kon Tum – Dak To Loop

It’s been about two and a half weeks that I’ve been in Vietnam and while it hasn’t worked out quite like I’d planned, it’s still been one hell of a ride.

So the original plan was for me to meet Stefano, an Italian guy I met in Cambodia, and his Belgian friend Jasper, in Ho Chi Minh City, buy motorbikes (somehow learn how to ride them), and then road-trip all the way up to Hanoi. The first part of that worked out quite week – meeting the boys. The motorbikes, not so much. Firstly, it was hard to find bikes at all in HCMC – for some reason most people were selling in Hanoi, not HCMC. Secondly, I had a go on a motorbike in HCMC and it was quite a terrifying experience because I was terrified of running pedestrians over (the guy brought us to a tiny open space outside a mall on a busy Saturday afternoon and said Okay, practice here). Thirdly, we worked out our journey / itinerary from HCMC to Hanoi, and realized there was a shit ton of stuff to see and do on the way.

Long story short, the two boys bought their bikes, and I decided to take the bus from city to city and meet up with them at various places. Between biking for 5-8 hours a day, sightseeing and having to work 2-4 hours a day, it just didn’t seem like I would have enough time to do everything at once. So this was my happy compromise. TBH, I was pretty disappointed at not being able to bike the length of Vietnam, but well, we can’t always have what we want, eh?

Anyway, so we set off from HCMC – First stop: Mui Ni, a coastal fishing town, famous for its sand dunes, me on my bus and the boys on their bikes.

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First glimpse of Mui Ne

It was a nice little town, and we stayed at a super nice resort for backpacker prices – Mui Ne Hills Budget Hotel. For USD 2, we had a bed in a swanky dorm, and access to not one, but two resort-level swimming pools, and an amazing view. It was a really nice place, especially for the price we paid.

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One of two pools, and a gorgeous sunset to boot.

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Amazing sunset in Mui Ne

We went to check out Fairy Stream, a nice little stream you can walk along, with some pretty cool rock formations to look at along the way. You arrive at a little waterfall at the end, which is a little underwhelming, but it was a refreshing stroll anyway. After that, it was off to the Red Sand Dunes, which just looked like regular sand dunes IMHO. It was a nice walk, but we didn’t rent the 4×4 (which seemed ridiculously expensive) so it was pretty meh.

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Fairy Stream – a refreshing walk

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Slightly disappointing waterfall

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Very average red sand dunes

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My biker friends and me, the selfie-taking pillion rider

Next stop after Mui Ne was Dalat. This was our first foray into the highlands of Vietnam.  At an elevation of 1500m or so, the weather was meant to be much cooler, so we were looking forward to it as a respite from the blistering heat of Mui Ne and HCMC.

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Highlands mountains!

On the recommendation of a fellow traveller, we checked into SoLo DaLat Hostel – for 65k dong (less than 3USD), we got a bed in a dorm, free homemade dinner and breakfast! Definitely the best value we’ve had on our trip so far. Da Lat is actually a really nice city that I enjoyed tremendously. The weather was lovely, if a bit cold at night, but still fantastic for wandering around town and the surroundings at a very comfortable temperature. We decided to skip canyoning (at USD55, it seemed a bit much), but went to chase a couple of waterfalls on our own, with Toni, a Spanish guy, and a Canadian couple. The waterfalls were pretty beautiful, but off limits for swimming, so that was disappointing. Da Lat is also famous for its field of pink grass, but when we arrived, even though it was peak pink grass season, the grass was nowhere as pink as it was made out to be in pictures. The highlight of our time in Da Lat may have been an amazing fresh strawberry smoothie we had at a random strawberry farm along the way. If you’re in Da Lat, I’d also recommend checking out Maze Bar/ Cafe – it’s a labyrinth of rooms and doors and spaces and very trippy, but very fun.

The weather forecast predicted rain along the coast, so we changed our original plan from Da Lat – Nha Trang to Da Lat – Buon Ma Thuot, a city in the highlands that supposedly had some waterfalls to check out. Toni decided to tag along, so the four of us arrived in BMT, a random city where people don’t usually go. It turned out to be a fantastic time – we met a Vietnamese lady with a cafe by our hostel, who happened to teach English, and was thrilled about having foreigners for her students to practice English with.

We ended up hanging out with the students for most of our time in BMT, and they gave us a taste of Vietnamese hospitality, by accompanying us to the waterfall, and coffee museum, and generally being quite delightful.

Kon Tum was up next on the highlands road, a real Vietnamese city where hardly any tourists visited. I had my first taste of proper motorcycling (on an automatic bike, to be fair) on a 100km loop around Kon Tum, and Dak To, places where important battles were fought during the Vietnam War, and home to some ethnic minority villages. It was probably not the easiest route for my virgin motorbiking journey, but boy, the views were stunning. 10/10 would recommend!

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Traditional rong house in an ethnic minority village

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War memorial of the Vietnam war – Kon Tum / Dak To was one of the places where some fierce battles took place to gain control of the Central Highlands.

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Dirt roads and empty fields. More scenic than it looks here.

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Sifting the rice to remove bigger bits of debris.

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The Virgin Mary at the local monastery, depicted here in traditional garb of the ethnic minority, carrying a typical rattan basket.

Our next stop, Hoi An, deserves a post of its own, but I can’t be arsed, so more words and more pictures here. The road between Kon Tum and Hoi An (somewhere in between) is where Stefano crashed into a cow and bruised some ribs, so Hoi An was a lot of taking it easy, and chilling, which was easy to do in a town as lovely as Hoi An.

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When in Hoi An, get a suit made. And get a suit made here! Because this lady, Kim Lien, is super nice and helped us (Stefano of the bruised ribs) tonnes at the hospital, and her suits were spectacular, as you can see here.

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Banh Mi of Anthony Bourdain fame really lived up to the hype. *drool*

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Mi Quang, a traditional dish only found in this region.

Truly a city of lanterns, it was quite a magical place. Lanterns everywhere, and a lot of the architecture preserved from 200 years ago. Definitely deserving of its UNESCO Heritage Site status, its charms are best enjoyed on foot or by bicycle. We were also lucky enough to be there in time for the monthly Lantern Festival, which lent a different feel to the whole place. Probably my one of my favorite places in Vietnam. My pictures are quite meh, so if you want some really gorgeous pictures, check out my photographer friend Jeff’s album.

And that brings us up to speed to Hue, from where I am currently writing this. If Hoi An is the city of lanterns, Hue should be called the city of rain. It apparently has pretty shitty weather all year round, but this lends itself perfectly to the endless consumption of Bun Bo Hue, a hearty beef noodle soup that hits all the right spots on cold, rainy days. We didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits though (okay maybe just a little) – we wandered around the Imperial Citadel on our first afternoon here, which was blissfully empty(ish) thanks to the ceaseless rain. The second day was my second time on a scooter (woohoo!) dealing with the rain, slippery roads and city traffic to visit an abandoned water park, American bunkers from the war, and various temples, tombs and pagodas scattered around the city.

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Slides, amidst an overgrown jungle.

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Abandoned amphitheater

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Unnamed, unidentified American bunkers from the Vietnam war. Our guide was stationed here for 2 months during the war, but this place doesn’t exist on Google Maps.

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Art installation at the war cemetary

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Thien Mu Pagoda, a seven-storied pagoda that is the unofficial symbol of the city of Hue

It’s all been a pretty incredible adventure so far, and while it’s not really what I would have done if I’d been here on my own, I’m glad it’s worked out just the way it has so far. Special shout out to my bike buddies Stefano and Jasper – thanks for making this journey so far pretty damn awesome and for all the bowls of Bun and Pho and Banh Mi we’ve shared!

Stay tuned for the next blog post about… who knows what. Watch this space!

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A Month of Meet Ups

A month has gone by, some times quickly, some times fast, but here we are now. In about 12 or so hours, I’ll be on my flight out of here – first stop: Vietnam, and who knows where to after that.

The past month in Singapore has been a pretty wonderful time, meeting up with family and friends. It has been nice to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while (but not that long, by my standards) and get to know my favorite nieces again.

I guess that even if I never do end up living in Singapore, I will be back again and again. Because this is where my family is, and these are were (some) of my friends are. And you can travel all over the world, but there’s nothing quite like being amongst people who have seen you at your worst, and still love and care for you like you’re the best thing ever.

So thank you: To all of you who took time out of your very busy schedules (I know how insanely busy Singaporeans are) to hang out with me, and chat, and show that you cared. Much love to all of you featured below, and some of you I didn’t manage to get pictures with. Thank you for making Singapore worth coming back for.

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Also, if you’re wondering why almost every single picture features some sort of food – it’s because in my family (and probably in all of Singapore) food = love. ❤

So that’s that for Singapore. It’s off to Vietnam tomorrow, to celebrate my fourth year on the road! Crazy to think that exactly FOUR YEARS AGO to the date, I boarded a plane with a one way ticket, and no idea what I would do. To be honest, nothing much has changed, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Honestly though, I’ve visited 22 countries (I think), forged countless friendships, and made memories I will treasure for as long as I have my mental faculties. There were ups, and downs, and difficult times, but it has made all the great moments even sweeter. And I think the future can only get better.

Well, I think I still have to pack and shit, so I’ll just end off with…

Happy 4th Anniversary to me! And safe travels everyone!

Working Online Is Great. Until It’s Not.

Every time I have to deal with banks, or Paypal, or any financial institute, I am reminded of how frustrating it can be to work online, or be a “digital nomad”.

DBS Paypal

Current banes of my life.

Begin: Rant about current frustration.

Let’s start with the basic facts:

  1. I am a Singaporean. I basically don’t live in Singapore, but my registered address is my parents’ house in Singapore.
  2. My bank accounts are Singaporean – DBS and Citibank, because I can’t really open up a bank account anywhere else with proof of residency in that country, and besides, I move from country to country so often, what would be the point anyway.
  3. I work online, teaching English on a variety of platforms, and doing copywriting for a company that produces podcasts. I get paid for all of my work in USD, via Paypal.
  4. I’m constantly on the move, and am more often than not, in places where the currency used is USD, or I can withdraw USD from local ATMs to exchange into the local currency.

Here begins my problem.

Obviously, since I earn in USD, and spend in USD, it makes sense for me to keep my money in USD, right? Except… I can’t get money directly out of my Paypal account – I have to withdraw it to a bank account first.

The solution seems easy. Open a Multi-currency account with my Singaporean bank (which allows you to maintain balances in various currencies including USD), and withdraw directly from Paypal in USD to my bank account in USD. Simple, right? Wrong.

That’s exactly what I tried to do today. I opened a Multi Currency Account with DBS and set everything up. Then, I tried to withdraw from Paypal to this new account. Except on the Paypal withdrawal page, something seemed odd.

Withdrawal amount: 200 USD
Converted Amount: 265.78 SGD
Conversion Rate: 1 USD = 1.328925 SGD

Hang on a second. Why is there a currency conversion thing going on?? I’m withdrawing in USD to an account in USD. It can’t be that ridiculous that they’re converting my USD to SGD and then converting it back to USD again to deposit in my account, right? To be sure, I called Paypal.

After much back and forth, this is what I gathered.

Paypal only allows you to to withdraw from Paypal to your bank in the bank’s local currency. It doesn’t matter what currency your bank account is in. If you’re withdrawing to a bank that’s based in Singapore (whether it’s a local bank like DBS or a global bank like Citibank or HSBC), you have to withdraw in SGD.

So basically, to get access to any of the money I’ve earned, all of which is currently in USD, I always have to convert it first to SGD and then back to some other currency such as (usually, and most likely) USD.

Apparently quite a few people have complained about this, but Paypal can’t be arsed to do anything about it. Thanks a lot, Paypal.

Somebody is making money out of this, and it sure as hell isn’t me.

So frustrated. So now I have this stupid Multi-Currency Account which I have to maintain a 3000 SGD balance in, or pay a 7.50 SGD fee per month, which is waived as long as I am under 29. Except I apparently turn 29 on Jan 01, 2018 because they do the math according to birth year instead of birth date. So although I won’t be 29 for another 8 months in January, I’m still going to have to pay the 7.50 SGD fee per month to maintain this utterly useless account. Or pay SGD 30 as an early closure fee to close it.

ARGH.

Okay, rant over. For now. -_-

If any of you guys have any experience with this situation or have any advice on how I don’t have to go through the currency conversion process twice to get access to my money, please let me know.

A Little Bit of Everything.

Been feeling like I want to write something, but there are SO many things to write about, and I can’t pick just one, so this is going to be a little bit about everything.

I never did get around to writing a nice post about my time teaching in Thailand, but to be honest, it was pretty awesome. Sure, things went wrong and were frustrating at times and there was a lot of drama toward the end of the semester, but then again, what job isn’t? For the most part, it was pretty great. My students (most of them) were pretty awesome kids, and it’s a different sort of rewarding teaching kids as opposed to adults.

 

And of course, the wonderful colleagues (most of them) I had made everything so much more bearable. The Namphong Country Bumpkins, Crain & Co, Liudon! Everything was so much better because of these guys. You know how when you’re travelling forever and ever and meet hundreds of people but know there are some people you’ll definitely see again? These are those people.

 

 

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Montri Teachers Crew!

 

 

 

 

 

And our cats, and Tom Yum Mummy (the lady who made the best Tom Yum Noodle Soup in our village) and Fried Dough Lady (who provided me with fried dough for breakfast every morning) and all the other lovely people in our village. It was nice being part of a community again.

 

 

 

 

 

But, the road beckoned and it was off to Cambodia from there. First stop, Siem Reap – took 14 hours on several different buses to get to, that I promptly fell sick once I arrived. Still, it was nice being a tourist again, and meeting interesting people at the hostel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all the templing, it was off to Phnom Penh, which I quite enjoyed. The visit to the S21 Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields was absolutely tragic and heartbreaking, and I wondered why not more of this was taught in schools. To think we were right next door when it all happened, and did nothing to stop it. But then again, isn’t that what’s still happening in parts of the world where there’s senseless killing and violence?

 

 

Next stop was Sihanoukville and Koh Rong, where I’d intended to spend a few days relaxing by the beach. The beach on Koh Rong was gorgeous, and I met lots of incredible people, but it was far from relaxing. Great fun, always dancing (even without music, as some of the Koh Rong crew will tell you), plenty of laughs. 10/10 would definitely recommend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was Ho Chi Minh for a day, and back to Singapore where I successfully surprised my family by turning up unannounced, just in time for Deepavali! Woohoooo!

 

 

 

And that brings us the present where I’m just sitting around and slowly trying to get my younger niece to like me (she seems to hate everything and everyone), BUT my flight is booked and the next adventure is in the works!

 

 

 

So. Flight to Vietnam on the 17th of November, as an anniversary gift to myself : FOUR ENTIRE YEARS AGO, on the 17th of November 2013, I boarded a flight to India which marked the start of my travelling, nomadic life. And the next big adventure I’m taking myself on is a month long motorbike / scooter ride from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi! Here’s the kicker: I don’t know how to ride a motorcycle or a scooter!

 

 

The plan is to go to Ho Chi Minh and somehow learn in a few days, and then get going, along with a crazy Italian guy and his Belgian (I think?) friend and hopefully not get too badly scraped up along the way! If nothing else, it’ll make for a great story, and that’s what life is all about, innit?

So. That’s a little bit of everything – Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and the future! Stay tuned for more rubbish that I’ll write sometime in the upcoming days (or weeks or months or years)!

Almost the End of Thailand – A Rant

Slightly more than five months have gone by, and now it’s time to say goodbye to this place I’ve come to call home, and bid farewell to the random group of strangers I’ve now come to call my friends.

It’s been an interesting ride (as have most things in my life, eh?) and I don’t think I’ve come to love Thailand as much as other people do. Thailand was definitely a breath of fresh air after the madness of India, but it is not without it’s own idiosyncrasies. It’s easy to miss the messiness of daily life if you’re just a tourist, visiting for a few weeks, but living here and working with Thai people, adults and kids alike, has been a completely different experience.

The Thai system is flawed, just like any other, and it takes a good amount of chill-pill to get through the absolutely bewildering things we’re sometimes put through. Just yesterday, we were informed that we would have to grade all of the students Thai-English tests (English tests that was taught in Thai) in addition to invigilating the students while they sat for their exams. On our last three days at the school with the students. I’m not quite sure what’s meant to happen, because the students won’t even be completing their English tests till Friday morning, which essentially gives us 5 hours to grade a whole bunch of tests. And even as I’m writing this, my phone’s going off with more changes to what we’re supposed to do / where we’re supposed to be / etc.

My point is. The Thai system is inefficient, and things often happen / change at the last minute, with barely any notice, or consideration for the parties involved. Like the time the school told us that we’d get a 4 day weekend, and then, the week before, changed their mind and wanted to shorten it to a 3 day weekend. Or the time that they told us that we were expected to go on school visits on the TWO weekends before our last weekend here, and also scheduled an English Camp on our last weekend here.

These may all seem like very petty, insignificant things, but surely it’s not too much to ask for to be told about having to work weekends way in advance – I mean, we’re teachers, but we’re also foreigners who want to have time to explore the country we’re living in. Ugh. Sorry, this is all a bit rant-y, I’m just annoyed and frustrated because I’d meant to use these last three days to do other stuff and I can’t.

And it really quite boils down to not having any respect for other people’s time. And expecting them to be available, to change or abandon their plans, to accommodate last minute requests. To me, it seems like basic courtesy, but I guess to them, it is culturally acceptable. It’s probably not even something that crosses their mind.

I know, I know – as the foreigner, I should adapt myself to their culture and accept anything and everything that goes on here, but my gripe is that I’m not a mere tourist here. Obviously, I add some sort of value here, which is why I’m getting paid to do my job. So, inasmuch as it is reasonable to expect the foreigners to adapt themselves to local customs and culture, isn’t it also reasonable to expect the people who want us here, the school, to make some sort of accommodations to us? I just feel that they’ve got to meet us half way, and we can’t be expected to cater to every whimsical request they make.

Right. So I didn’t mean for this to turn into a long rant about Thailand, but it is what it is. I guess I’ll write another post about the great parts of my time here – it’s always easier to write about the bad stuff and complain than it is to say nice things. I’ll get there.

xx, crunch

Happy Mid-Year-ish!

Woohoo! We survived half of 2017. And two days (almost). Way to go us!

[I feel like we need to celebrate more things in life.]

Cool. Did I have resolutions for this year? Can’t remember, so obviously I haven’t been keeping up with that. Oh, there was the one about BLOGGING MORE HAHAHAHA sorry if you fell for that; it’s my version of the April Fool’s prank (what did I even do for April Fool’s day this year?) which is maybe not very funny but whatever.

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In Udaipur – Cutest little hostel with the greatest artwork!

So what’s happened so far? Two weeks in Singapore, three months in India, two-ish months in Thailand. Singapore was pretty cool – catching up with friends and family, some of whom I think were guilted into hanging out with me because they didn’t know when they’d see me again, and (mentally) preparing for India. I had no idea what to expect when it came to India, and the mental preparation was worth it.

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Family that probably doesn’t need to be coerced into spending time with me.

Honestly, of the 40-odd countries I’ve been to, India tops the list by a mile when it comes to MOST DIFFICULT. Just the lack of infrastructure for tourists, the language barrier, the bureaucracy, the inefficiency, the men – every. single. day. was an exhausting struggle.

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And can we please get non-child beer??

Sure, there were good times and I met some really cool people along the way, but on the whole, would not recommend. Or would, if you want to test yourself. Lots of people love India (and I was told I would too), but I am not one of those people, thank you very much.

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Exhibit 1298142: Madness in India

And now Thailand. It was such a sigh of relief when I arrived (in the middle of the night, mind you) and everything was so. fricking. easy.

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As easy as a beautiful, delicious, satisfying cup of coffee. Which I (almost) never got in India.

Getting out of the airport. Finding the hostel. Getting to places. Not having to deal with creepy men staring all the time. I hadn’t realized that I’d been holding my breath, but Thailand is when I heaved a sigh of relief.

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The Thai massage also helped in the heaving of the sigh of relief.

Of course, it has its downsides, but I’d much rather deal with Thailand than India. And for the most part, the company here has been outstanding – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and now my small village Nam Phong. I’d definitely feel much less kindly toward Thailand if I hadn’t met such great people along the way.

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We’re a pretty odd bunch, here in Nam Phong.

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We’re a pretty sexy bunch too, even if I say so myself.

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These housemates. And our cats. ❤

What do the next six months hold? Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I’ll be here in Thailand for the next three months, serving the rest of my time in prison. I mean, my contract. [hypothesis confirmed – do not like children]. After that, who knows. I have absolutely zero plans for the last three months of the year. I kinda want to wander around Asia for a bit more, but I’m also coming to the realization that Asia isn’t really my scene. I kinda want to get to Africa, but the possible lack of decent internet might screw my current earning potential over. I want to go back to Latin America, but what if I’ve built it up to something more than it is in my head? And Europe would be cool too, but I’m too broke for it.

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Take me with you!

Well, since I’m completely and entirely undecided, suggestions and recommendations are welcome! But for now:

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Tiempo para dormir!

  **On a side note, I was going through my pictures the other day, and realized that my pictures from between Kalpetta and Madurai have mostly disappeared – Allepey, Varkala, Kochi, Munnar and Kodaikanal will only ever exist in my memories. Sad.**

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This is my sad face. Do you not see the sadness?

Chennai and the Sru-Kalyanam!

#throwback
Three months late! I’m totally skipping like…weeks of my India trip and all of my time in Thailand so far to write this post about dearest Shrewpa’s wedding! Updates about the other bits in between may or may not follow in the months/ weeks to come, so stay tuned.

Robin (my friend from the UK who really wanted to attend an Indian wedding so I invited him to Shrew’s, with her permission) and I arrived in Chennai from Pondicherry. Pondi is only 150km away from Chennai, but it took almost 5 hours for that journey – don’t ask why; the only explanation is “It’s India”. After Robin dropped his stuff off at his hostel, we headed to meet my mum at her hotel.

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Mum in India!

Bit of backstory as to why my mum was there – when I told my family that I’d be travelling around India next and that I’d be in Chennai for Shrew’s wedding, they very excitedly decided to meet me there for a few days to check India out (after 20 years) and do some shopping. It worked out perfectly, because I needed to buy clothes for Shrew’s wedding anyway, so they could do the shopping, I could wear the clothes, and then they could take the clothes back to Singapore while I carried on enjoying life. My dad had gone to Thanjavur for a couple of days and my sister and niece weren’t arriving till the next day, so it was just mumsie, Robin and me for shopping day 1 of 1000000 (I kid, but it felt like we spent sooooooo many days shopping).

My aunt who lives in Chennai had invited us for lunch, so after stuffing our faces with superamazing biryani and mutton and chicken and all sorts of other things (it’s definitely a thing: Indian families = eat till you burst), we headed to an 11-storey Pothy’s to get ourselves wedding-ready. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was overwhelmed before we even began but off we went.

Robin’s outfits were first order of business, and since he’s a guy, he was done with his outfits in about 20 minutes. He hung around valiantly for another 30 minutes or so while mum and I tried to pick outfits out for me, but eventually gave up and went back to his hostel, leaving mum and me to it. Good thing he did too, because we only finished with the shopping about 4 hours after that. x_x

 

 

 

 

End of Day 1 in Chennai.

Day 2 was slightly better – we visited the Kapaleeswarar temple and Valluvar Kottam, before picking my sister and niece, up from the airport. Decently fun, and the heat of Chennai made bearable by the fact that we were ferried around for most of the day in an air-conditioned car (perks of travelling with family)!

 

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Huge chariot at Valluvar Kottam

 

 

The next day was Shrew’s wedding Part 1! The morning was some sort of ceremony for the couple to get blessings from their elders so that the wedding would go smoothly (I think). Robin and I turned up mostly to mingle, to eat and to get some henna done. It was probably the only time I managed to have a conversation with the kalyana ponnu, Shrewpa.

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Kalyana ponnu, Shrew, and me, with a very distracted Shnoo

 

After that, it was back to the hotel to chill and relax before getting dressed for the evening celebrations! The nichayathartham, or engagement ceremony, is basically where the two families officially and publicly promise to marry their kids to each other. We basically spend most of it taking pictures and trying to figure out what was going on (as people usually do at Indian weddings).

 

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Wedding glow.

 

 

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No escaping now.

 

Robin and I showed up just in time for the Kasi Yaatra the next morning, where the groom pretends he’s going off to Kasi to live an ascetic life and the bride’s father stops him by promising his daughter’s hand in marriage. Rather elaborate play-acting which I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

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“Here is an umbrella full of flowers! Marry my sister!” – Karthik

 

After that, the bride and groom were hoisted on their uncle’s shoulders and they tried to garland each other. It looked like fun for the couple, but I can’t imagine how the uncles must have been feeling. (Bursting with joy, of course!)

 

Next was the couple being sat on a swing (that represents the ups and downs of married life, apparently) and fed bananas and milk by the married ladies of the family.

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Shrew’s face – ups of marriage, Ram’s face – downs of marriage.

 

The proceedings after that point were not too clear – some sort of prayers, and then more prayers, and then eventually Sru-Ram were married! Woooohooooo!

 

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But we decided to take pictures anyway.

 

Throughout all of that, there was a ton of food, and one of Shrew’s uncles constantly kept checking in on us about whether we were enjoying the food and festivities. It was good fun and like at all Indian weddings, I ate too much.

After that, it was time for some much needed R&R before I got dressed to go for the evening reception. Robin wasn’t feeling very well, so I didn’t have a date but still, it’s hard not to have a good time when there’s good food. And just like that, it was the end of SruRam Kalyanam! Thank you both for having us at your wedding!

 

The wedding was over, but our stay in Chennai was not. The next day, Robin and I met up with my parents, sister and niece (cute little grub child I want to eat her) to head to Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We tried (and failed) to pass ourselves off as locals, and ended up getting a guided tour around, which was pretty informative.

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With the family at Mahabalipuram.

 

The rest of the time my sister and niece were there were spent shopping and eating for the most part, so I’ll skip over that to the other interesting thing to happen in Chennai.

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I was squashed in the back with all the shopping. -_-

My sister and niece had left, and my parents wanted to do more shopping (surprise) before they left, so Robin and I bailed to go to an amusement park instead. It was quite a hassle getting there – for some reason, some of the buses on that route said they wouldn’t stop at the amusement park, so we ended up having to wait ages to get the right bus and it was all very annoying but finally we managed to get there. The entrance fee wasn’t cheap but it was worth it. We were expecting to have a laugh at the lame rides, but it ended up being pretty fun. We went on a few of the major rides (not the scariest one though – who knows when the last time was that the rides had been serviced), and had a pretty good time! Not a must-go, but decent enough to kill a few hours.

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Check out the tacky dragons at the amusement park – Dizzeeworld!

Then it was time to say bye to the parents before their flight, and that was about it for Chennai! It was fun (minus the shopping bits) but I must say I’m not dying to go back again. Still, worth it for the time I spent there.

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Bye parents!