Friday, March 30, 2012

Welcome to Thailand!

It was the Shortest Bangkok Trip – ever!

Yes - I was sad to leave India. However I was much more excited to finally get to see Thailand. I arrived here 4 days ago on a Monday morning. Having almost no sleep on the flight from Calcutta, I went to bed for a good day time sleep right after arriving to our luxurious Saphai Pae hostel. 

 On the way to Bangkok & The view from my "luxurious" hostel room 

The plan was to meet up Utku (who would be in BKK only for 2-3 days) and my next travel buddy Secil, coming from the UK. Confused with the time difference I woke up around 2pm thinking it was 11.30pm and 1 hr later I had my call with the Electrolux office in Belgium about the changes in the company and possible jobs for me. It wasn’t really fitting into the schedule of my ordinary days in the trip, however I was happy to get it done and see a clear picture ahead of me once I come from SEA.
 Having our first Thai food with Utku & Pad Thai Utku

I met with Utku, we walked around Bangkok streets, had my first Thai Thai dinner, passed by a night market and met with Secil who arrived around 8 pm. At night the plan was to have some drinks in the city and with the suggestion of a tuktuk driver we ended up in a place called Insomnia – which seemed to be quite central location – with a lot of locals & international. Wasn’t a bad place already. We finished our first night around 3-4 in the morning, but I could have stayed longer as the music was really cool at the place however I was way too tired.

We are meeting just for dinner in Bangkok! 

Second day was super short and inefficient apart from buying our tickets to Sukhothai for the night bus and meeting up with Perasa for a super short but really nice talk. She was an AIESEC intern in Belgium a couple of years ago and I am pretty sure I haven’t seen her for more than 2 years.

On the way to the Bus station discovering the parks & Meeting up with Perasa years later

This trip was short as I slept most of the time, and eventually I haven’t seen much in Bangkok. – In fact not at all- However I was happy to meet up with Utku and Perasa instead, as I know that I would be back to Bangkok. I still don’t know when / how though but the intention is to come back to this crazy city.


I didn’t spend more than 20 hrs on the streets of Bangkok I guess but one could easily grasp the craziness of the city. It is alive 24/7, full of people all the time, side street shops or booze booths contribute to this craziness.
 Bangkok Streets by night

OK it was nice to meet with Bangkok but I want to get to know her much better as soon as possible! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thank you all..

It is now the end of an era.. End of the 1-month India part of my 4 month trip.

Months before, i got in contact with AIESEC members in India when i was planning to do a DT internship. Later, things had changed as i was accepted by masters in Belgium, and still they helped me a lot about almost everything during my one-month stay.

12 years ago, when I joined AIESEC in Istanbul, I was told that wherever I'd go in the world, there'd always be a door open for me.. Years later, today in India, I was a living example of that..

So I want to thank you AIESEC India, especially AIESEC Hyderabad, AIESEC Chennai, AIESEC Kolkata and my dear friends Antonio, Onur, Kavya, Akhil, Koutilya, Vikram, Aakash, Babitha, Abhi,  Shaskaank, Malvika, Vishant, Felipe, Silvia, Ingrid, Luisa, Bryant, Jimmit, Ronami, Pedro, Edu, William, Allison, Vivian, Anh, Nguyen & Bruno for your great hospitality, for our interesting discussions and making my incredible India trip even a more incredible one..  :)

I hope to see each of you somewhere someday again. Take care until then..


A 'must do' in India : Public Transportation

One shouldn't say "I had been to India" without trying the public transportation at least once..

Buses in Mysore & Trains in Chennai 

It is seriously, absolutely, vallahi billahi super crazy, it makes you feel like you are either in Gran Turismo or in Need for Speed.. Rickshaws, Motorbikes, Bikes, Buses and Taxis, all the same. The only difference is the level of the comfort of the vehicles; but the speed, the shaking, the wind, the stomachache are all the same. 

Bus Stops in Chennai & Express Buses in Mahabalipuram

In the 8 places i had been in India, i had various experiences but the average was like this :  crowded, sweaty (unless with an airconditioner), shaky, noisy, cheap and at the same time super adventurous. It could be the express bus from Mahabalipuram to Chennai, or a motorbike in Hyderabad or the metro in Kalkuta, they were all the same type of adventures.

Me on the motorbike - OK, it is not really a type of public transportation but still some sort local thing to do

Unless i am very tired & want to spoil myself, i wanted to live like a typical local person and tried to use the public transport (and of course i didnt have the money). And in the 2 trips in India i had no bad experience; i was quite pleasant with the conditions and most of all, i was happy to get to know the people and be a part of the daily life.. I know now it wouldn't be the same if i hadn't tried it..

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My dear Kolkata, I hope to see you again..

Almost everyone I met in the city told me there is not much to see in Calcutta. However compared to the other cities I had been in this trip, it was one of the most interesting cities for me. This interesting part didn’t come solely because of the landmarks but also the people I had met.

Vaibhav, Chirag and Jimmit reminded me of the good old AIESEC discussions together  with a yummy Indian dinner and street mouth freshener, ice paan afterwards.

Jimmit, my dear host didn’t only host me on the first night but also he accompanied me on the way from the airport; took me to one of the best places in the city - the breath-taking rooftop, walked with me on Calcutta streets (almost every bit) and introduced me to a great bunch of people whom I would be staying with for the rest of my trip.

And those guys seemed like a Legen…wait for it..dary team to me.. Each one completing a different role, they formed a strong team altogether. There was Pedro, who I thought was an AIESEC member in the beginning, as he was taking care of every new guest coming to the house with a warm welcome and a special attention. Plus there was Vivian, a lovely Brazilian with a beautiful smile, shining eyes and a positive vibe. And Edu, a smart-ass Portuguese who had his good (and now not so good) days in India, counting the days to go back but still being the source of the cool music and most interesting topics. 

Pedro & Edu 

There was also William & Allison, a lovely couple moved from Chandigarh to Calcutta  doing their second internships –hopefully- with a better experience. Ronami, another Brazilian beauty who became my best friend in the house only in 2 days. I am sure she would be my roommate if I lived in that house and we would have so much fun together.

Our last day trip with Ronami, Anh, Nguyen

Of course, with her, we would show a completely different world to Nguyen, a new Vietnamese intern & a sweet innocent girl (for now!), together with the help of Anh, another Vietnamese who arrived on the same day with me and already became my “buddy” in Calcutta. And there was Bruno; smart, fun guy who is loving his experience in India, doing the best to blend in the culture by playing soccer with the locals or taking yoga classes from a local.
Bruno & Ronami

First night I got to know these guys at a round table with a couple of Haywards & Kingfishers and I already felt like I was one of them. It was again one of the times that you’d say I wish I had done that earlier : “I wish I were a trainee in this city and lived in that very house...

Second night at home, was full of beer, cool music, nice chat, a lot of laughter just like the first one. I think, I had my most interesting discussions in India, in that house so far. It was one of the places you’d say "I could live here. Stay in that very spot. Stay on that bed by the window and never move.." But anyways had to move again..

Trainee House Gang

I had to move again.. to conclude an “era” of my trip. The India part. And to start a completely new one. The Thailand part. It was difficult to say goodbye and still is. 

And soo, that is why I would like to come back to Calcutta, to be with the very same people, to have the very same interesting discussions, to listen to the very same cool music. That is why I prefer to say : "See you later, Calcutta and take care until then.."

Kolkata.. 3 Days not Enough..

Even if one of my best friends in Brussels is from Kolkata, I didn’t know much about the city until I saw it myself. I had enough of research for other cities before, and for Calcutta, being the last destination of my India trip, I was tired i guess and I didn’t check or ask anything to anyone before going. So absolutely, no knowledge, no expectations.

First of all, I knew nothing about the city’s history or how important it was during the British rule. The city had once been the capital of British occupation and was full of British landmarks, Victoria Memorial, St. Paul's Cathedral, Park Street, tiny shops and random small streets with Victorian architecture - also Mother Teresa of Calcutta streets.. It was also the center of the Indian independence movement. After checking the guidebook, I wasn’t sure whether my 3.5 day trip would be enough for Kolkata. And surely wasn’t..

On the plane to Kolkata, not sure what to expect 

Victoria Memorial & St. Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata (rooftop view from Jimmit's place)

I had a chilled out Thursday afternoon after my arrival from Chennai. Even though I was a bit restless due to the sad news of a dear friend in Brussels, I was ready to meet with new faces and go out for a yummy Indian  dinner. Jimmit, my dear host in Kolkata, together with Chirag (his new LCP) and Vaibhav (former LCP/new MC member) brought me to an insanely good North Indian restaurant. I guess it was the best restaurant food I had eaten in this trip so far. Garlic nan was just indescribably delicious. After the dinner there was  the mouth freshener Ice paan from a street shop; and later I went to bed with a full and happy stomach. Even though I wasn’t as lucky in sleeping, I had a good first night and ready to dive into the streets of Calcutta next day to explore it.

Yummies food ever with Jimmit, Chirag, Vaibhav & Ice paan, street mouth freshener typical for Kolkata

With the suggestion of Babitha from Bangalore, I wanted to see a couple of restaurants including Kewpie’s and Flurys. Thanks to Jimmit, I had my lunch in Kewpies (a quite luxurious one) and my afternoon tea in Flurys. In between we smoked nargile, walked around Park Street and had a small bit of the New Market. But the best time of the day for me was the rooftop session with Jimmit.
My luxurious Bengali dinner at Kewpie's & Jimmit 
 I was just so lucky to have a host with such a great rooftop. Yes, Rooftops are essential in India given the fact of the weather; however in a city like Calcutta, it is even more essential as there were a couple of beautiful buildings to see (despite the pollution). I was quite happy there, I didn’t want to move from that spot however I had to move. But at the end, I was happy because I went to stay with an amazing group of people.  

Me on the rooftop of Jimmit, very happy

I had later the chance to really discover New Market with the interns whom I was staying with. Thanks to Pedro & Vivian + accompanied by William & Allison, Anh & Nguyen (both Vietnamese new interns) and I had a good instruction of the new market. I bought a couple of kurtas and some jewelry for the friends and myself. I wasn’t fond of shopping at all and I had the backpack only, but this time, as in Kolkata being the last stop, I let myself to spend some money and bring some Indian “assets’’ with me.

Victoria Memorial & Japanese AIESECer we met at McDonald's

Victoria Memorial, more Park Street, more nargile, more rooftop was on the activities of to-do list of the 3rd day. Haha, I will never forget our chat with Ranomi, Anh & Nguyen in the nargile place or our “burning” around VM, or the random Japanese AIESECer we met at McDonalds, or “the last supper” of pizzas in the trainees house.
Ronami & Nguyen & Anh squezeed  & Ronami smoking shisha for the first time

I had never been to Kolkata before, and before going there, I wouldn’t think that I would say this, but yes, I would like to come back to this special city and hopefully will do it in June on my way back home..

Friday, March 23, 2012

Remembering Good Old Days.. in Chennai

I felt at least 5 years younger and remembered my good old AIESEC days thanks to these crazy guys.

Full Gang of Shenoy Nagar House + Luisa & Felipe dancing 

Felipe, Ingrid, Luisa, Bryant, Silvia..  4 Brazilians + 1 Taiwanese sharing the same legendary Shenoy Nagar trainee house in Chennai. 
 Us on the Rooftop & Luisa & Felipe showing "Brazilian movesss"

They welcomed me at first as I was already one of them, taught me the new AIESEC dances (which I had no clue about) , brought me to the top of Chennai (the rooftop), shared their Bala de Banana, Doce de Leite, Jurupinga & Caipirinha with me and even put my picture on the wall as I was a resident.
 Jurupinga one of the yummiest drinks of all times :) & Doce de Leite

One of the greatest parts of AIESEC is no doubt the international network you have wherever you go in the world. I was always aware of that but it was nice to see that good old things are still the same and many young people around the world are still enjoying this bit of AIESEC.
I already miss you guys!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mahabalipuram is good, and better with Dana..

This place was amazing. Only 55 km away from Chennai, Mahabalipuram was already a different world. It was truly one of the best places I had seen in India and by far the best beach (never been to Goa though) I was quite surprised to see the town being so empty and it was better that way. Mahabalipuram was a very nice quiet shore town with a long history that goes back to 7th century. 

Shore Temple by the Seaside & Five Rathas (chariots carved on a single rock)

This small town was once the port city of South Indian Dynasty - Pallavas and many monuments still remain in the town since 7th-9th centuries. There is the Shore Temple, Five Rathas, various Rock carvings all around, enough to see for a day but a day wouldn’t be enough to chill out in this beautiful “fisherman village”.

Mahabalipuram Village & View from my room 

I found a place by the beach with a nice sea view only for 500 rupees. Then I started walking on the beach and in my first ½ hr in Mahabalipuram, there, I met my travel buddy, Dana from Israel.

 Resting at the Five Rathas & Rock Carvings all around the town

Having started her India trip with her boyfriend in Goa, she was now taking some time off and traveling alone while her bf had to stay to work “from home” by the beach. She had been on the way alone for a couple of weeks by then and even if it was her first trip alone, she was already like a local. She had learnt many important customs and spoke some basic local words.
Drinking Coconut water & Dana & I by the Lighthouse

She was truly a free soul, going to body painting festivals in Israel, loves travelling, had been in most of the Europe already, froze her school for travelling with her bf and no strict plans where/how to land next. We met on Tuesday afternoon, walked on the beach, had dinner together, had long rooftop discussions on the top of my hotel, shared the same room, travelled all around Mahabalipuram next day and talked, talked, talked without almost breathing until my departure back to Chennai on Wednesday afternoon. 

Dana & I - Our breakfast toast with butter jam on the 2nd day

As I say, the best thing about travelling alone is to get to meet with cool people and I am pretty sure I will meet with her again either in Turkey or in Israel or in another corner of the world..