Monday, August 27, 2018

#617 : Cĥxp pîng! Bangkok Trails

Do read the first two parts in the series here - Part 1 Part 2 

After that relaxing stay in Krabi we boarded a flight to Bangkok. We picked the Thai Lion flight which landed by afternoon in the Don Muang airport. This is point in the trip when we experienced our first major difficulty. Bangkok is rather infamous for it's horrendous traffic jams. We were scheduled for a cruise dinner which was to start by 8PM. Our pick up was scheduled at 5PM and we hadn't reached our hotel only. We learnt about the pickup time from our local contact just as we landed. There was some kind of a mismatch between the final vouchers PickYourTrail sent and the timings on the website that we booked. After frantic calls using the pathetic internet connection we had, we managed to check in and start out by 6PM and make it on time too. 

The Chao Phraya cruise was the first activity in Bangkok that we choose. The prospect of cruising peacefully enjoying an international meal and admiring the landscape of Bangkok was enticing. However, it turned out to be quite the opposite. The ship was filled with just Indians, with blaring Hindi/Punjabi music being played and Indian food being served. By the time we got back to the hotel, I had a severe headache. I was pretty convinced that the our agency had probably booked us specifically onto to some kind of an Indian special cruise. I have nothing against Hindi Music or Indian food, but at that place and that setting, I wanted to experience something global. The view was the only thing which put me out of my misery that day. 

Day two in Bangkok dawned, after a sumptuous breakfast in our hotel, we headed for the Buddha tour. We managed to visit the famous Buddhist temples in the city. Yet again, not the kind of the experience I was looking forward to. The whole tour seemed slightly commercialized. I was looking to experience Buddhism, but we ended up roaming around the temples like tourists. The temples however were truly beautiful. Simply wished we could understand the culture better. It was a half day trip and we went back to the hotel.
We stayed in the famous Sukhumvit area. It was quite a busy place with crowd pulling massage parlors and restaurants. One restaurant worth the mention was a Lebanese one - Nadimos. Unfortunately, the Thai cuisine doesn't have much to offer for vegetarians. Lebanese food came to our rescue!

We decided to visit the famous Rod Fai night market. That trip was one hell of an adventure. It wasn't a part of the package, which meant we had to find our own way to reach the place. Without Google maps and a proper internet connection, we knew that was big risk. The valet in the hotel where we stayed managed to flag down a cab and convince him to use the meter. We reached the place safely and managed to find our way into the market which was safely tucked out view thanks to a mall. Filled with cheap cosmetics, dresses, accessories and street food, that market was the pure Thailand experience for us. The place was a local hang out spot and didn't really pull in the tourist crowd. A couple of guys from my home town who were there in Bangkok for their jobs were the only 'tourist' sort we met. It was such fun to try to communicate and shop for things in that market. Language was a big barrier but it didn't hamper the overall experience. Food was the only thing we really struggled with. With literal non existent vegetarian options, we had to settle for desserts like Pancakes to fill our stomach. 

Our trip back to the hotel was the highlight of the trip. Getting a cab back to the hotel was fast turning into a nightmare until one guy stopped and agreed to take us back while with meter rates. There was girl who was seated in the front seat. Having heard stories about flesh trade and prostitution, my imagination went wild very quickly. We didn't know the language nor did we know our way around, we simply were easy targets to be cheated on. However, that driver and the girl put in so much efforts to make us feel warm and secure as they sensed our fears. In spite of not knowing English, she communicated so well with us using google voice and translate. Technology really came to our help that day. Faith in humanity = restored. 

We woke feeling all warm and fuzzy from our previous night's experience and looked forward for a relaxing day at the zoo. Little did we know that we were in for a rude surprise.  Bangkok Zoo turned out to be a bad idea. Filled with unruly horde of tourists, all from India, it was such a bad experience to move around and get seats in the various shows. I realized that we Indians, lack that discipline to stand in a line and move around as a large group. I vowed never to visit a place which would be possibly flocked by fellow Indians. 

After that hectic time in the zoo, we decided to go shopping to relax. Nothing more relaxing than indulging in some retail therapy! The people in PickYourTrail recommended that we hit the Prutnam Market and the Platinum mall. We shopped for clothes, accessories and cosmetics - all of which were available in dirt cheap rates. Here is a small list of things which are worth indulging in. 

1. Earrings - You can't possibly chance upon better quality and designs anywhere else in the world! 
2. Handmade soap - That smell and that shape! It got me as excited as a 5 year old. 
3. Cosmetics - There is this 99% Aloe-Vera lip balm and strawberry lip scrub which is working wonders to my lips. If you have oily skin like mine, the Srichand
4. Clothes - Dirt chip and are of good quality. 

After that fab shopping session we decided to unwind and experience the world famous Thai Massage. The hotel that we stayed in had an attached massage parlor. We picked Aromatherapy massage. The masseurs were well trained and professional. 

Next day dawned, it was time to leave. We took the Thai airways flight back home. Though the trip wasn't really what one would call perfect, the time off worked magic for us. 

PS. I've not uploaded pictures for personal reasons. If you want to peek into my album, give me a shout out, will share it privately! 

PPS. I know this is such a delayed post. My day job had me clamped to the desk. 


Thursday, August 16, 2018

#616 : Bombay Heights by Adite Banerjie: Review


The title makes it obvious that at least one of the protagonists are not from Bombay and are in the city to seek a livelihood. Moreover, the cover also indicates a romantic liaison.  You don't really need to be Sherlock Holmes to guess this. That was exactly the story line. Protagonists Sanjana and Ashwin have an accidental meeting thanks to Aswin's cute little dog. They end up working together. Then there is the ex-lover and a large family to tackle as they can't help but fall for each other. 

Having read this writer's works earlier, I knew what to expect in terms of language and story flow. The characterisation, just like that in her previous books, is done progressively. The characters start out to be almost immature just adults and move out to become mature proper adults. However, I wished there was a bit more grey to the ex-lover - Chetan's character. In fact, I wished other characters were also a bit more flawed. Most of the characters were way too perfect for my taste. 

The pacing was great thanks to that cute pet, the funky roommate and a large family. In fact, this might as well be a real life story of two people. The story by itself was that realistic. In spite of being fast paced, I felt the lack of a punch that I expected from this story. I'm a fan of happy endings, but not all loose ends need to be tied up. That's my second peeve point with the story as such. 

The cover could have been designed better. I felt it gave too much away about the story. 

In short, the book was an entertaining read. 

Do buy the book here. 


Friday, August 10, 2018

#615 : Killer Moves by Varsha Dixit : Review


Having read almost all of this writer's previous works which were hardcore romance, I was quite curious and eager to read a thriller from her. Aisha's mundane screen-writing life turns topsy turvy when her niece Kiara goes to goa with a rumored killer-photographer for a photoshoot. Kiara's life is threatened and Aisha is forced to empty her closet of secrets to save her life and her life too in the end. 

Most writers often take for granted the importance of solid characterisation while writing a thriller. It is important to build that layer by layer image to derive motive and means which is very vital to keep the readers hooked to a thriller. Given that the writer is experienced in writing romance which highly relies on characterisation, doing the characterisation for this book would have been a piece of cake. All the characters were just perfect and had enough shades to them. All of the characters - be it the primary ones like Aisha, Kiara, Kabir or the secondary ones like Parth had enough value and time on the story. The other highlight was the no fluff approach in the characterisation. Each character had just the shade enough for this book with minor loose ends which hints at a sequel. 

The plot was good, with one slight loophole - I don't wish to elaborate on this as I can't do so without giving away spoilers. It plotting was fast paced and had enough twist points till the end. However, somewhere towards the end when Aisha comes back to Mumbai, I felt the writer literally rushed the story a bit. That part could have been slower. The supernatural twist completely caught me off guard. I really didn't see that coming! Given the story involved grotesque murders, the writer has done a good job of describing the emotions, but again, I felt the romance part of the story was a little bit forced. The chemistry wasn't just somehow right. 

Overall, the book was one hell of a thriller! Killer moves in deed! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

#614 : 40ft Off the Ground by Shobana Mahadevan : Review

40ft off the ground is the story of a bunch of engineering students and their lives in college. The main protagonists, Sreya and Vishal meet in a bus as they both head to the first day in the same college. Eventually they get to know each other well, fall in love and the rest is their journey through lows and highs.. Of course, there are a bunch of other people - Aadhi, Anand, Priya, Kavya who become friends, fall in and out of love and move on in life. 

Story wise, this is a mildly elaborate account of a college going kid's life. If you have crossed that phase of life, it will take you on a sombre trip down the memory lane. That's just about it though. The story lacks the hook to keep the readers attached to it. The story track between Sreya and Vishal was very predictable. Sreya's reasoning for not accepting Vishal seemed very superficial and lacked the emotional punch that was required for such a background story that Sreya had. Kavya's story was the only part that was actually surprising. The story also seemed very similar to the story line of a bunch of movies - Cheran's Autograph and Highway are a couple of them that I can remember right now. 

The writing, overall was good. The writer seems to know her way around the language well. However, the lack of in depth emotions and superficial characterisation combined with a punchless story made it a rather poor read. A story needs to be shown and not told. This is exactly where the writer slipped. With the kind of the language skill that the writer has, I felt she could have done better. It was like reading a Chetan Bagat's  book albeit a better written one. The similarity stops just with the kind of the story line he writes. The language made the biggest difference! This book is best suited for Young Adult and teenagers. Also well suited for people who have just taken to the habit of reading. 

Note : The writer provided me a digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your copy here.