I recently traveled to Hong Kong with my wife and intended to write something ASAP. Thanks to the piled-up work, I finally get an opportunity to post something. Hong Kong is just amazing! It is one of those places where you can experience everything. A great modern city, mountains, beaches, the up markets and the street shopping for the bargain hunters. Great food (well only if you are a non-vegetarian unlike me!). Theme parks, fishing villages, exciting hiking trails, high-speed ferry rides, the open top bus rides…..the list goes on!
We just had 6 days with us, so we could only cover the major attractions – The Peak, the Victoria Harbor, the unique light and sound show- ‘The Symphony of lights’, the Lantau Islands, the Ocean Park, TST, Avenue of Stars. 3 long nights of street shopping. And a day trip to Macau, of course.
The strangest thing I noticed there was the fact that a random average person you speak to, will most likely not understand English! I know it is China. But it is strange because the British have been there for over hundred years and Hong Kong has been handed over to China just a decade ago. And the fact that it is still a Special Administrative Region (SAR) which enjoys being one of Asia’s prominent business centers. And that it is a tourist place. Why is this then? And then you travel to Macau. The situation is even worse.
The other strange thing was that a few tourists requested to click photographs with us!!!!! I suspect they were from mainland China and were tourists like us. But come-on. I thought Indians were everywhere……..they why were we so special? Whatever the reason was, I wouldn’t complain on this one 🙂 . It made us feel special.
It was a great experience overall. While we were leaving, Hong Kong felt so familiar. Travels through the MTR, the TST area. We thought we could guide anyone, anywhere! There’s a lot much to do than we could cover. But there’s definitely, the next time!
I wouldn’t call it a childhood dream, but it has been quite a while since I have been looking to see a mummy. I am sure a lot of us want to. The Egyptian history is probably one of the most fascinating ones. Mummies and Pyramids would be on the hit list of anyone who even has a little interest in history (or may be with no interest in history, these could still be something which one would like to witness!)
I just had a few hours to spare on an otherwise busy trip to London and had to pick on one thing to see. It was not at all difficult. I had read that the British Museum has a rich section dedicated to Egypt and that made it easy! I rushed to the museum and straightway headed for the Egyptian section. And I was not disappointed at all! Just at the entrance of the section, I witnessed a mummy (the one in the photograph above)! It was really a great feeling, I must say. I always though about a planned trip to Egypt to witness the Pyramids as well as the Mummies. I never knew that I wound witness a mummy here, in London (well the English couldn’t get the Pyramids here 🙂 ) . But then, life does throw surprises.
I also attended a 30 minute guided tour on Egyptian history by one of the curators (and bugged him with a few questions towards the end!). I saw a lot of other things as well, but I don’t really remember what else I saw. Such was the thrill!
If you are in London, don’t miss it out…
Last couple of days, I have been at AlBaha, the hill station in the desert! It literally is. The temperature during the day is about 30 degrees and during the night, it becomes really cool. Before coming down, I had read about the place and got an impression of it being a tourist place. I expected it to be a lively city with lots of tourists, especially that it boasts a pleasant climate in a region which is otherwise full of desert. But that was not to be. The airport itself looked deserted. Ours was the only plane seen around. The airport looked as if it is a make-shift arrangement.
The good thing is that the airport is on the top of a hill (scary as well). AlBaha is unlike most of the hill station I’ve seen so far. Lots of hills. Very, mind you, *very* steep roads. Our Maruti 800s from India won’t do. And people drive at 140+ even on such hilly terrains. The place has a potential to be developed as a great tourist destination, but it is far from being so at the moment. Very few people to be seen around. No place to see around. Very few shops. All you can see around is mountains being blasted off to create roads and buildings.
The place is green though. The scenetic beauty is good.
Not too many options for vegetarians. Unlike Riyadh, it is not a commercial place where you have people from India and neighboring counties. There is no ‘little India’ here.
I hope that this place will grow to be a great tourist place in the coming years!
Continuing from where I had left the last post, the taxi had to be tracked somehow. But how? How could we track down the taxi without having any clue about it? Suddenly my friends got reminded of something magical. On our way to the hotel from the airport, the entire journey was captured as a motion video in the camera. Could there be some clues in the video? At least it was worth investigating.
The video was long, so we had to quickly glance through it and find clues. Most of the video had captured the mountains and greeneries (yes Madinah is surprisingly much greener than Riyadh!). We went through the entire video, and there was nothing which could help us track it down. We saw it all over again. And suddenly we realized that we had captured the driver’s face for a couple of seconds!!!! There was a ray of hope now. If we went to the airport and showed this photograph to the taxi drivers out there, someone must be able to recognize him and help us get in touch. This was really promising. To help us out came one of the hotel staff who was from India. He called up a taxi fellow he knew so that we could go to the airport. The taxi arrived in a few minutes and we rushed to the driver to show him the image and ask if he recognized him.
Bingo! We showed him the image and he didn’t even take a second to recognize the guy! Wow! This was just awesome. It seemed as if I already had the passport. The taxi in which I had left the passport belonged to an Arab guy, while the driver who recognized him was from Pakistan. He didn’t have his number. However, he was confident that we can track him at the airport. We lost no time to rush to the airport. The way the Pakistani guy (Ghulam Ali) assured me about getting the passport was really promising. I thought for a moment, it is only when I am in India, there’s a negative mentality about Pakistan . Over here, it feels like they just belong to some state in India! I’ve met quite a few people from Pakistan here, and all of them have been exceedingly helpful in making my stay comfortable over here, in some or the other way. That deserves a post.
Getting back to the passport hunt, we reached the airport and Ghulam Ali went on to hunt the driver. He was back in about 5 minutes, not with the Arab driver, but his phone number! He called him up and asked for the passport. The Arab guy said he has passengers and will check immediately upon dropping them. We headed back to the hotel. We called up the guy again midway and he confirmed that he has the passport with him. I felt so relaxed! All jailed abroad stuff vanished. Ghulam Ali dropped us to the hotel as the Arab guy was in the Madinah city where I wasn’t permitted to go. One of my colleagues went on with him. In about 15 minutes they got back with my passport!!!!!!!!!
I thought Ghulam Ali would demand a good sum of money to have helped. To my surprise, he just asked for the taxi fares to the airport and back (which was half of what the Arab driver had charged us!). This was really something which moved me. I gave him the fare with some extra money for the calls and all he made and a million thanks from my heart!
Ghulam Ali, this post is dedicated to you. I will never forget your kind gesture to have helped me track down my passport. A zillion thanks from the core of my heart!
We reached Madinah airport in the evening. Small airport. Walked out and took a taxi to the hotel. The ride was long, but pleasant. Madinah does not feel like a desert surprisingly. I will possibly describe Madinah in another post. When the receptionist at the hotel asked me for my passport while checking-in at the hotel in Madinah, I realized that I had left my passport in the taxi. Not having the passport literally meant all movements blocked. It would have been tough for me to even get out of this country! A couple of episodes of ‘Jailed Abroad’ flashed across my mind. I definitely didn’t intend my story to feature in one of the episodes!
Usually I remain calm and composed while in such situations and there was something from within which assured me that things would get alright. But how?
The taxi had left. We obviously didn’t note the taxi number. No identifier whatsoever. Out of thousands of taxis in the city, how would one track it down? Someone suddenly came up with a ray of hope! We had taken the receipt. I quickly checked the receipt and realized I should have learnt some Arabic. It was all in Arabic! Anyways, not a big deal. We asked our friend at the hotel reception to demystify it for us. And to our surprise, there was absolutely no identifier. No taxi number. No phone number. No address. Nothing at all. Apparently all taxis here carry some kind of a generic receipt. The taxi drivers just write the origin and drop points, the time and the fare and pass it on.
All this time, I was just thinking that the passport would be of no use to the taxi driver. So if he finds it, he would definitely return it to the hotel. But the question was, will he find it soon enough? My stay in Madinah was just for a couple of days.
So I had to track down the taxi somehow. There didn’t seem to be another option. I guess I would stop here. The rest of the story deserves another post!