There was only one other couple there when we entered the dining area of Maison Perumal. We stood at the entrance for a few seconds, scanning the overall arrangements of tables, trying to decide where best to sit.
The skylight area looked airy, green and tempting, but we were concerned of possible mosquito attacks as the day was getting dark. In the end, practicality trumped aesthetics, we avoided the skylight area and sat instead where there were roof and bright lights.
Things were pretty quiet in the dining area, except for the soft whispers of the patrons. Strangely, the kitchen behind us was quiet as well. After a couple of minutes, a man came out from the kitchen and walked over to us, smiling.
He was dressed in the Indian male traditional attire, the dhoti kurta. Specifically, he wore a light grey kurta over a white dhoti. He looked pretty young, maybe in his early twenties. He is thin and small built with short hair. He has sharp features, almond shaped eyes and a thin mustache. His name is Bijay, and he has the most pleasant smile.
Vee asked him something in Tamil. He spoke back in English, not really answering her question. Twice this happened. After that, we continued our communication solely in English.
For dinner, there is a special set meal that the Chef had prepared. The details of the meal were written on a chalk board held upright on a standee. Bijay moved the board towards us so we could see the menu clearly, and he explained the dishes one-by-one.
We heard fireworks out on the street. It was the same as the night before. We wondered if the fireworks were meant to celebrate the coming of Thaipusam.
When Bijay came to serve our drinks, Vee asked him about the fireworks. With a smile, he answered, "Sorry madam, I'm not sure if the firework is for which festival. I am actually from Nepal. " Okay, that answered why his name is spelled the way it is, and why he spoke English to Vee's Tamil.
It was amusing observing Bijay at work. Every time some new guests came in, he would turn the menu board towards their direction, and began the same ritual of explaining the set meal.
In his kurta and dhoti, he made me think of a school teacher explaining some science diagram to the students (not that teachers in Pondy are dressed that way, I think not...)
As we waited for our order, more guests walked into the dining area, mostly Europeans. Strangely enough, Bijay was the only server around. He walked swiftly in and out of the kitchen - explaining the menu, taking orders, serving dishes, pouring wine, moving chairs, getting the bill - basically tending to all our dinner needs.
What was striking about this Bijay of Maison Perumal was his ever smiling face. I think it is difficult to talk and smile at the same time, all the time. But for Bijay, the smile never left his face.
As he moved back and forth, from the kitchen to the dining area or to the front hall where bills are calculated and printed, back to the dining area and the kitchen, he was all smiles. He looked tired at times, but the smile was never gone from his face.
Bijay was busy with the other guests when we were about to leave. I couldn't do the typical touristy thing of getting a photo of him, to remember his pleasant smiling face by. But all in all, Bijay and Maison Perumal made our short trip memorable.
The next time I am in Pondy, I will try to stay in this heritage hotel and experience its beautiful architecture and hospitality and maybe talk more with Bijay.
Literary travels - my love of reading has brought me to so many faraway and unfamiliar places, even way before I learn to appreciate the joys of traveling. Just like visiting and experiencing a place for yourself, reading often brings up a myriad of emotions from the stories of others.
This year, I made a promise to read more books in Malay. And one of my choices was Andrea Hirata's Lasykar Pelangi. Through his compelling first book, Andrea Hirata wrote about his life and growing up in the small island of Belitung, located in the Java Sea.
This was the first time that I heard of the island. And the extraordinary feat of the children of Belitung, to rise above their destitute lives - made them unforgettable.
Today, the whole world heard the name Pulau Belitung. An Air Asia Indonesia flight QZ8501, with 155 on board, has been missing since the morning. It was enroute to Singapore from Surabaya. And its last known location was in the vicinity of the island.
I hope the next time I hear the name Pulau Belitung again, may this obscure island brings us good tidings.
Ricardo and I had less than two days to kill in Bangkok. So, we decided to spend the time in the Old City district.
Our destination, known to the locals as Rattanakosin, is an island flanked by the Chao Phraya and man-made waterways. In the 1780s, when Thai's capital was moved from Thonburi to Bangkok, Rattanakosin became the country's primary seat of administration.
Our day started on foot from The Royal Princess Larn Luang Hotel (a pretty good place to stay I must add). Our destination - the Grand Palace complex - which is the heart of the Old City district.
Following the direction provided by the concierge, we walked past markets, a memorial building, several places of worship and maybe, a monk quarters. It took us a good one hour or so to get to the Grand Palace because we were just taking our time, doing the typical touristy activity of taking photos - of everything!
Due to Rattanakosin's historical past, the Grand Palace complex, is filled with symbolic monuments, and grand architectural designs ranging from pavilions to temples. So if you're like me - one who is more interested in history and architecture than shopping (well, most of the time, anyway) - the Old City was an apt layover solution.
Note: If you're exploring the Old City on foot, you will have no problem identifying the Grand Palace complex - be it night or day. Located next to the Sanam Luang public square, it is all grandeur, with the shimmering Wat Phra Keaw (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and majestic Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha and is also Thai's leading massage university). On a bright sunny day, the whole complex area just sparkles and glitters under the sun.
5 things to do at the Old City:
I guess it is kind of ironic really - the craving for Chinese food when you're on a trip in India.
Once upon a time in Mumbai, my friends and I decided that we needed to eat something Chinese-sy.
After 3 days of continuous feast of authentic and delicious biryani, dosa, samosa, tandoori chicken, as well as vegetarian Maharani burgers and varieties of vegetarian omelette sandwiches - we craved to eat something less spicy and more soupy, for a change.
I guess such cravings were expected of Malaysians. The side-effect of growing in a plural society and brought up on assorted meals of Malay, Indian, Chinese and occasionally Western origins.
The taxi took us to a fancy Chinese restaurant. We ended up ordering noodles that tasted very much like the instant noodles that we have back home. To be more specific - Maggi's Instant Noodles (Ayam* flavor). I blamed it all on being "lost in translation".
But I do appreciate what my fortune cookie said - "Financial hardship in your life is coming to an end" - and the smileys were not bad too.
*Ayam is the Malay word for chicken
Coming from Malaysia, a paddy field is something I'm used to seeing all the time. But, before Tegalalang, I have never seen a paddy field on a hill terrace.
Paddy in Malaysia is planted on flatlands. So, a visit to a hill terrace paddy plantation as part of our Bali trip, sounded pretty interesting.
The drive to Tegalalang from Tanah Lot took over an hour. The road was narrow and winding. Occasionally, we would see farmers selling their produce by the roadside.
It was uphill most of the way, and the air grew cooler as we got nearer to our destination. To enter Tegalalang, we paid a small amount of entrance fee.
Tegalalang was worth the drive. Dhana stopped by the hill top - from where we stood, we could see a vast sea of green sliced into slivers of paddy plots by the terrace cuts. Hannah and I looked for a suitable spot to sit down and sample a panoramic view of the hill terrace.
Of course, one could get a package with hands-on lessons on paddy planting from the locals. But being the city slickers that we are - we didn't want to go down to the paddy fields and dirty our shoes!
With that, there was nothing else to do, except to get high on the many shades of green! *wink*
Last night, I got acquainted to Mr. Chris Martin and the band, Coldplay. Last night, my friends and I were at Nihon Budokan (an indoor arena in Tokyo), watching Coldplay in concert, part of their "Twisted Logic" tour - my first time ever watching them live, my first time ever watching a concert in a foreign land.
Today, I'm sitting down at my laptop, working, with Coldplay playing in the background. To be honest, I've never appreciated their songs better. In fact, I've been replaying "Yellow" over and over again, trying to understand the lyrics. But, I still have no inkling to what the lyrics is about. But one thing's for sure - last night was fantastic! The band delivered, as promised.
Chris Martin did a lot of jumping, running, and rolling within that 3 hours. After some time, I noticed that his t-shirt had holes under both arms! At first I thought that he had accidentally tore his sleeves, because of his acrobatics. But after a while, I concluded that it was a fashion statement, because the tear/holes were just too similar and consistent...hahaha!
Coming from a place where it is almost illegal to sit during a live band performance, it was a surprise to see the crowd at Nihon Budokan, all sitting in their seats! It was pretty amusing too to see Chris Martins running freely around the circle of the arena, without rowdy fans making attempts to hug or touch him - which would've happened where I come from, if he were in such close proximity to the fans! Not that the folks in the arena were unenthusiastic about Coldplay, it was just a cultural thing, I guess. That's how people are here.
After the last song, I was sort of waiting for someone to shout "One more!" or "We want more!", for the encore. But I was not surprised that no one did, and instead, everyone quietly left the hall. And finally, it was just us, three gaijins who were politely ushered out because they needed to clean the place up.
Thoughts in 2014
Well, maybe they did call for an encore. Maybe it just got lost in our survival Japanese ;P
Meet the gate keepers to the Hindu temples - the Dwarapala!
Dwarapalas are fearsome looking statues. They were one of the things that I found fascinating in my travel to Bali. To me, they are both menacing and beautiful, at the same time.
Dwarapalas are demonic-looking, with big, bulging eyes and snarling expression. They would always hold a weapon, in most cases, a club. True to their role as guardians to the temple deity, they are portrayed in a warrior-like stance, ready to strike the enemy.
I love the meticulous details on the statues. The head gears, armors (if you can call the ceremonial dressing, that), bracelets to the anklets - all a reflection of the artisans' mastery and patience.
Mumbai to Goa by train
Five friends and the landscape
In search of "Dil Chahta Hai"
"Holidaying in Mumbai and then, an 11-hour train ride to Goa. Most people insisted that I took a flight, but I'm glad I didn't. Every train station offered a totally different landscape."
Canang Sari in the mornings,
Gratitude offered in colors and fragrance,
For blessings from the skies.
"Typhoon number 10 had just called and left. Its aftermath is the clearest blue sky ever, and of course, the all scorching summer heat. I've lived in Japan for over two years now. In summer..."
Revisiting this entry in 2014:
I don't know why I didn't finish this entry or what exactly was it that I had intended to write. But I remember the typhoons and earth quakes in Tokyo, very vividly.
I remember rushing back home early to avoid getting stuck in school during the storm. I remember walking home from the train station, dragged out of course by my out-of-control umbrella! I remember how difficult it was to walk in the midst of the strong wind - my skirt unruly, and my free hand fluttering to save my modesty.
I remember how accurate the weather forecast is in Japan, and how we relied on it all the time.
Safiza is a Travel Blogger, Common Reader, Book Hoarder, Art and Nescafe Tarik Lover.