Saturday, February 27, 2010

Crazyman Travels: Part 2

I LOVE sodahpotti kannadis*

Usually in the evenings we’d go out for a walk around the hotel to check the shops and look for an internet centre or a phone booth to call back home.

I spotted an internet centre and was making my way there when I noticed a TASMAC outlet next to it. TASMAC outlet’s are government approved liquor stores. As we got closer to see if the net centre was opened, to my horror I found our driver standing at the counter buying liquor. Shocked we headed back and waited for morning to call the travel agent.

The next morning I called the father and told him about our situation. He told us we should give the guy more money daily and that the advance was normal. When I told him about the liquor incident he told me I must have imagined it! That’s the point I realise the dude was gonna support the driver no matter what and my complaining wasn’t gonna do anything. Anyway I told him to advice the guy to be polite and if he wanted to tell us something stop creating a scene. As we checked out, the driver seemed more polite than he was the night before. So we assumed perhaps the owner had scolded him eventhough he had supported the guy when I had called him. I also increased his daily food quota.

As I had figured early, the petrol tank needed less than RS 1500 for a full tank. After circling Kumbakonam we headed to Thanjavur for the night. This time he threw no tantrums and since the hotel wasn’t near the temple, I told him to be ready by 7 am the next morning.

When we got back in the afternoon to check out, he asked me where we were headed to next, something which he hadn’t done before. Little did I know he had plans to execute later.

We began heading towards Madurai and the landscape started looking familiar and it was taking a bit too long. As far as I knew Madurai wasn’t that far from Thanjavur. An hour into travel I realised he was heading back to Trichy and I asked him immediately why and I was told it’s a shorter route and faster to head to the expressway.

As we neared the outer villages in Trichy he suddenly stopped the car and got down. He quietly took something out of the car and handed it to a guy who appeared from one of the houses. OMFG that’s when I realised why we were heading towards Trichy and what he had handed over. He was handing over bottles of liquor! He had just smuggled bottles of liquor across the border and that was not the only stop! He made another 3 more stops without asking us. I finally told him off after he met his sister to pass another bottle.

I was so tempted to change drivers then but I figured all the harm and tantrums were over now that he had done his liquor supply route. But again I should have listened to my instincts. It took him another 2 hours to reach Madurai from there and he was polite throughout the whole journey.

We reach Madurai and I tell him to head towards the temple to find a place to stay. I remember staying pretty close to the temple the last time I was there, though we still needed to take a car to the temple.

Madurai was packed jammed with crowds coming into the city to do their Diwali shopping. It was massive and I had wanted to do some shopping there. So we’re circling the town and looking for a place and checking out the sights when he began throwing a tantrum again.

He was telling me off for making him circle the city. I finally lost my temper and screamed back.

“I hired a car to take me around not to drop me from point a to b. if you can’t do it don’t be a driver – learn how to do ur job and stop being rude.”   

We finally find a hotel pretty far away from the hotel and I give him instructions for the next day.

He refused to take us to the temple the next morning saying there won’t be parking. I told him you can drop us and come back, be ready at 6am.

He tried screaming back at me, and again I told him off and went to sort out my hotel details. A few minutes later he suddenly walks into the lobby with his sheepish grin. Now I had told him before I don’t want him lingering around the lobby when I’m making arrangements. Usually he’ll only come in to get his staying details once I’m done with the booking. The hotels we stayed in usually had rooms for the drivers to change and stay and he was enjoying the benefits. These hotels are usually pricier than the other ones but in India I tend to pick moderate hotels for safety and hygiene reasons. I don’t think I can backpack there.

Then mom tells me why he came in and had calmed down. Apparently he nearly ran over an auto dude while reversing and that guy would have plundered him if he hadn’t seen my mom sitting in the car.

This idiot driver of ours tended to pick fights with people on the streets, bell boys and security guards. He was also super rude with them. I should have figured he would soon be rude to us when I noticed them. The only guard he became chummy with is the Madurai guy.

The next morning we woke up to find him not ready despite what I had told him. 10 minutes later he still hadn’t turned up. I quickly figured he and the security guard had teamed up to delay us. I finally gave up and took an auto. I’ve got a story on him for later.


Every other driver was dropping of their passengers at the same spot the auto dropped us but ours. There were also drivers waiting by the side of the road for their passengers and we got stuck with an idiot. The area around the temple is off limits for any vehicle.

When we got back for breakfast, I told the security to make sure the driver is ready by 10 am we were going out. We headed to Alagar temple and to pazhamudhir cholai before driving towards Karaikudi. According to my calculations it wasn’t too far from there. 

Unfortunately he was on vendetta mode and started taking village roads to get to Karaikudi. We were travelling through dirt roads and the slowest speed possible. He was driving at 20km/h even on the main roads. I at first assumed that was the only road to the place. At one point he stopped to ask someone for directions and that guy sarcastically told him off for travelling through the dirt roads when there was a main road. Sigh I guess he wanted to irritate us.

I took us 4 hours to reach Karaikudi and we hadn’t even had lunch. We reached there to find no shops were open for food and finally had a ginger sugarcane drink to appease our hunger at 3.30 in the afternoon. Surprisingly that drink reenergised us as we walked around looking at the buildings. He had already had lunch in one of the road side shops earlier.

But we cut short our travel around Karaikudi since we were hungry and since we had another 4 hours travelling to do, we should leave early. However it took him just an hour to get back! NOW he could drive fast and take the expressway! At that point I really wished I had gone back to change drivers when I could. I didn’t even bother calling the agent and decided to just grit out teeth for the next few days.

We stayed 2 nights in Madurai just to give us a bit of travel break. I had wanted to do so many things but the crowd and his behaviour left me reconsidering a few plans. Everytime I asked him to stop anywhere he would mumble and stop as far as possible from where we I wanted him to.

After we got back to Madurai and had dinner, I told him to look out for a photo lab since I needed to download my photos. Instead he stops right in front of the hotel and says no I’m not driving – go and take an auto.

You imagine hiring a driver and then being told I can only do what he wants??

So I told him no he is driving. I didn’t hire him to show me the hotel. That’s when he tells me he only works for 8 hours. While that doesn’t apply, don’t forget you only started after 10 am today! That shut him up and we went looking for a place.

He mumbled about driving through the shopping crowd. Yes you had to drive slower but that doesn’t give you a right to say you won’t drive. Finally I stopped at a cop for directions and he pointed us towards a place.

Its best to get your photos downloaded at a photo lab and not an internet centre while travelling. The net centres are usually ancient places with the slowest computers. Even at the lab – he told me after half an hour of waiting that I better come back tomorrow to get my cards and dvds.

He actually came in looking for us. Only the next day we realise what all the fuss was about. He was late for the drivers drink party! I found out when the guard thanked him for the nights party when we were going out in the morning.

In Thirunelveli we decided to try shopping again and headed to the local pothys outlet. Now thirunelveli is a town of tall people and a thriving local consumer market. So Pothys had a parking system where drivers would drop you off at the outlet and we would be given a tag where the guards will call them for us once we finished. Nice system eh?

Anyway we tell him we’ll be gone for 2 hours. After shopping in a super packed place – I am so not going to India during Diwali again! – we head out to look for him. The security tells us all the drivers had been asked to repark at the parking just behind the building. There was only a few cars there, I spot ours but guess what he was missing! Apparently he had gone to eat at 10.20pm in the night! Eventhough we had told him we’d be back in 2 hours!


---- To be continued -----


Crazyman Travels: Part 1
Crazyman Travels: Part 2 
Crazyman Travels: Final

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Crazyman Travels : Part 1

lost and found

As I was travelling in South India this time it dawned upon me that the events we had gone through could have made front page in my local newspaper.

“Malaysian mother and daughter team caught smuggling liquor in India

What horror eh! Though it didn’t happen it could have happened to us as we had been stuck with the most ridiculous driver I’ve ever encountered in my travels.
                                         
Let me tell you how I came to hire him. Back in Malaysia I was finalising my travel plans and highlighted a few hotels to stay in Trichy. When we got here I picked Hotel Gajapriya and it turned out to be more than lovely.

Basic business class rooms but lovely service and management. The people at the desk were not only helpful but also very respectful. They made our stay really memorable and towards the end of our travel leg when the drama got worse they stood to our defence.

Now adjourning to the hotel is the Basha Travels. Initially we were supposed to get my uncle to make the necessary arrangements for our car but when I realised he lived pretty far from town and we were leaving for Chennai the very same day we arrived in Trichy, I thought I might as well check with the hotel. They introduced me to the tour agents next door and the owners son who discussed the arrangements with me seemed pretty okay.

That evening when I met up with the father, I did have my doubts, he seemed like one of those men who don’t give importance to women and actually looked down on them. Nevertheless I confirmed the arrangements and paid for our border pass to Pondicherry. Pondicherry is a state of its own that was once French owned hence the need for a border pass.

I asked him to show me the driver but he insisted the guy was not in and he would give me the details if I called in from Chennai.

The driver was set to pick us up from Trichy Railway station once we return from Chennai. So off we headed to Chennai by train and had a wonderful time there and as you know we had an excellent driver on that leg and that’s definitely gonna be our choice the next time we head to Chennai.

The train to Trichy was delayed by 10 minutes and we got out to find this guy holding a board with my name on it. I’m writing this down for future reference, if I have even a single doubt when I meet someone, I’m avoiding them. It’s time I listened to my conscience. I didn’t like him at first glance, he looked to me as someone dishonest who would sugar coat everything he said.


We headed to a temple in Trichy before heading to my uncles place. Now the dude yakked our ears out on how he is gonna be the best driver we’ve ever known and that was the point I thought yo dude you talk too much. But I gave him the credit of being nothing but a loud mouth.

Anyway after having lunch at my uncle’s place we headed for Chidambaram to stay the night. Usually we’d find a place next to the temple so that we wouldn’t have to wake up our drivers in the wee hours of the morning. Plus we’d only come out of the temple after 9 am so he might as well get his rest.

Eventhough my uncle served him lunch that day we gave him the full daily quota for food for the day and the next at one go.

Now the next morning, after finishing prayers and while we were sitting next to the temple tank, we notice him hovering behind us which is pretty unusual since he didn’t follow us to any of the other 2 temples. We’ve had drivers follow us before but they’d usually either follow at all temples or none since they usually preferred to sleep or talk to other drivers.

Again I heard warning bells ring in my head but I dismissed it. Right after checking out we headed to look for breakfast since it was already 10 am. Surprisingly our driver followed us to eat and that’s when I figured he was trying to get us to pay for the bill eventhough we had already given him money.

When I first visited India years ago, one of my uncles always insisted we never let the drivers eat with us. At that time I had thought it was a matter of class but only much later I realised he had a point. They do tend to take advantage of you and if you’re women travelling without male, they may use it against you so I usually make it very clear from the beginning.

I finally got back to the car and told him make sure you eat early because we eat at odd times and will probably miss lunch.

From Chidambaram we headed to Pondicherry and got there in time for lunch. We head towards the Amritha Ashram and just as we were getting down, he gets down the car and complains in front of a bunch of people that he’s starving and we didn’t give him enough money. Now the driver we had taken in Chennai had actually declined the money we gave him though we did force him to take it and we had given him this guy the same amount. Taken aback and sensing that he wanted to cause a scene I told him I will talk to him later.

Later I told him this is the same amount I gave the driver in Chennai, and if a city driver thought it was okay then it is.

Anyways he proceeds to sulk at us for the rest of the day and everytime we asked him to go anywhere or stop he would complain. I wanted to see sights in Pondicherry and he was upset I was circling the area looking at things he thought wasn’t relevant. I finally gave up and got out of the car to walk 3 4 blocks admiring the architecture.

After we got back, I asked him to head to Karaikal which is the other town under the Pondicherry border. We get there after 6 and started looking for a hotel. Anyway we find this place and after I had checked out the rooms I confirmed the place and headed out to get our bags sorted.

Just as the bell boys were getting the bags, he throws a tantrum in front of everyone again.

“Give me RS 3000 for petrol NOW, I’ll go fill up the car and come.”

Again I noticed the pattern, he liked creating a scene so I told him to get back in the car to solve it. Now a full tank for an ambassador only comes to RS 1500 so wondering why he needed more and why he couldn’t fill it up the next day, I told him no we’ll do it tomorrow.

“No I want RS3000, give me now, I’ll use my own money to eat since you won’t give me any.”

Now drivers do usually ask for an advance but never to this amount. Sensing the hostility I gave him the money and decided I’ll call the car company first thing in the morning.

After refreshing we headed to the Hotel restaurant for dinner and contemplated our problem. That’s when we met a very interesting waiter. He was an older bachelor guy who had worked all over the world and at the moment he was working as a waiter before his next stint got confirmed. Can’t remember what he worked as there but it wasn’t waiting tables yet he was very dignified and polite.

So I was asking him what was there to see in Karaikal besides Travancore – which I decided not to go since we were heading towards the Saniswarar temple in the morning.

Apparently the only thing great about coming to Pondicherry was the liquor price. People would pass over the border just to buy liquor and smuggle it back into Tamilnadu. It’s a criminal offence to take liquor out of Pondicherry.

At that moment I had a suspicion that’s why the driver had thrown a tantrum and was hoping it wasn’t.....


-To be continued-



Crazyman Travels: Part 1
Crazyman Travels: Part 2 
Crazyman Travels: Final


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Monday, February 22, 2010

Chetti Nadu

Vel

Karaikudi is famous for its ornate buildings and I’ve always wanted to go and check out the chettiar houses with teak work doors and pillars.

Watching Sugar cane man karaikudi


karaikudi karaikudi Evening
I think when we were there and with all the nonsense we were going through, we didn’t spend enough time exploring the place. But I liked the people there and I realised there’s no beggars there.

Shield




Interestingly you’ll find a lot of businesses with Malaysia in their name. we didn’t get to go into any of the houses coz everytime we tried, the owners were usually not in, anyway enjoy the photos.




























































Passage Old 

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Musical Valentine

The most common affectionate gesture – hugging, does not come easy for most people. I had to learn how to hug and now I hug most of my friends. But there are the ones that I don’t as they’re uncomfortable with it. I always wish I could slap a free hug sign on them so they’d go learn the joys of hugging. AR Rahman has a song for it - Jiya se Jiya


Though I don’t believe in Valentines day and think its a commercial gimmick, I do believe love is very important and worth celebrating in affection not money.

So happy Valentines day and enjoy these two new videos from Rahman – a song on hugs and a remake of one of my favourite songs Vellai Pookal. Thanks for the link paran ;)


Since we’re on a youtube spree, have you listened to the new version of We are the World for Haiti?  
Erm sorry but I prefer the older version way more. There are so many things I dislike in the new one but I do love Jennifer Hudson in it – shes one of the few saving grace in the song. The passion was missing in the song, the chorus was the weakest link and those solo rapping by lil wayne, akon and kanye shouldn’t have been there. 


The lady that sings right after Jennifer Hudson really killed it for me. It was like there’s this huge tingling moment and suddenly she comes in so drab. Josh Groban was awesome. And the rhythm is so different especially when they merge MJ with the new version. I do love the rap insertion as a group led by Will.I.am that was awesome and the ending was by Wycleaf Jean using the word haiti. That was awesome.

Truly the biggest highlight for me was seeking out AR Rahman in the video. But its for a good cause, I'm all for the intent but listen to the older version there’s more passion in that.




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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Monkey do

Monkey do

I think i've been going to Batu caves since I was a baby when I got my head shaved. in all those years i've been attacked by monkeys only twice once with a friend and today, when a terrified little boy watching me shoot a bunch of monkeys asked if I would follow him down the stairs. Both times they were afraid of the monkeys and I believe animals can sense fear and tend to take advantage of it.

When the monkey sprang at us with his teeth ready to bite, I gnarled back stopping him for a second. The young boy's scream ended up creating a crowd of onlookers gasping in shock. The monkey sprang again and I swung my back at him making him stop again and we quickly made our way down.

The crowd was surprised that the monkey backed down. I knew there was a risk it wouldn't but it was either run up back or challenge the dude ;p

Lovely morning eh ;) lol that was fun ;p

Oh yes check out my Flickr photos on a black background - photos always look amazing on black ;p

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Murugan's journey

Om


I’ve been super busy since Thaipusam began. Now that its over I’ve got tonnes of editing to do. If you don’t follow my facebook page or my photography blog you wouldn’t have heard – I got to shoot Thaipusam with world famous photographer Joe Mcnally. Check my post on it at V-Eyez.


Pal Kudam Flame of devotion 

Now lets recap the weekend that was. Since I’m still editing the Thaipusam day photos I’ll write on the chariot procession. Every year I end up chuckling to myself explaining the actual time the chariot leaves. So much so there was a forum that exclaimed in horror “bro I heard a rumour the chariot left early” lol.


Blessing

So many people I know tend to turn up for the procession. As mom tends to follow the thevaram bus provided by the temple I dropped her off there not before bumping into 4 5 people we knew. Then I headed off to the chariot, the crowd seemed more than usual. So was the irritating motorbikers who seem to get rowdier by the year. Are you all nuts? It’s a religious procession not a racing arena. If someone let me I would have slapped every single donkey there and told them to behave.


Faith

They’ve added new lights to the centre of the chariot. Every year they make changes to the lights, small changes actually, I thought I’ll post photos since 2006 to show you the difference coz I love the lights from 2006 ;) I really hated the one in 2008. From left 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010


Humour Thaipusam 2007 The Chariot  The Chariot


Home ;)

I never get sick of looking at the chariot though I’ve been doing it since I was a kid and way before it became so popular. Good thing is the welcoming party for the chariots journey back to KL is usually only attended by the true devotees, nearly no photographers and definetly less rowdy boys.

We used to head to Lebuh Ampang and wait while being entertained by different shops bhajanai or dance troupe but the chariots been taking longer to reach there in the last 2 years. Even last Sunday by the time we got back it was already 1.30 am and the chariot had yet to leave Chow Kit. The reason for the delay is simply because more people are breaking thousands of coconuts on the streets.


Chariot 2010 Chariot 2010 

For us its the time we can peacefully offer our prayers (archanai) to lord Muruga without crazy number of crowds. We usually park the car near a family who had already set up a table and were waiting for the chariot. This time the table we picked had about 500 coconuts stacked ready to be smashed. Now we would stand after the table so the family can do their prayers first.

We were sitting on the ground when a family of 4 arrive with a chair look at the both of us and promptly placed their chair right in front of the families table and us blocking our view. Not only that she was practically backing into us every 2 minutes eventhough there was so much space around us. My mom got a bit upset but I told her, why bother we know everyone who’s gonna be on the chariot, just because she’s blocking us nothing’s gonna change.


Chariot 2010

When the chariot arrived, it stopped slightly to the front as another family was standing there. The moment one of the anna’s saw us they took our archanai thattu and did the necessary immediately and gave it back with garlands and all. To us it isn’t surprising since we have been part of the religious section for years, The people you see on the chariot have been working tirelessly for the temple since I was a kid. They spend night and day making sure the procession and thaipusam itself from the temple’s side runs properly. As far as I know they practically live around the temple for the whole week before and after. One of them is also a cousin of mine.

Back to KL


They’re usually super tensed when the chariot heads to Thaipusam, only when it heads back do they look out for family and friends ;)

Remember the 500 coconuts? Well we got caught in a wave of smashing nuts as they tried to smash all the coconuts in a matter of minutes so the chariot can continue on its way. Both Chinese and Indian businesses tend to break these thousands of coconuts.

So ends Thaipusam 2010 – till next year then ;)

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Saved by a pirate

Malaysian’s who have watched Ayirathil Oruvan at the theatres, I suggest you go get a pirated VCD and rewatch the movie. Our brilliant cencor board cut nearly 90 minutes of the movie! So many  critical scenes have been cut or shortened, war scenes, religious scenes or anything that shows the military in a bad light. Grrr super irritated.

Anyway now you know.

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