JIPP's WORLD

…….The World Without Boundaries

I Left my Heart in Kolkata

Written By: jipp - Apr• 23•20

Kolkata seems to have long moved on from the time when Mother Teresa was still alive. I didn’t really see the sheer starvation that was portrayed in the books about her and her works. In fact I was quite surprised to see how well-off the people of Kolkata were in general. There were still beggars here and there but then we’d see beggars in big cities in other countries too so it was not really much of a big deal.

As I explored more of Kolkata, it turned out to be such a wonderful city for me. It was the capital city of India before it was moved to New Delhi in 1911 so everything is basically there. I took my time taking a long walk, starting with the Museum of India, then to the towering St. Paul’s Cathedral and to the iconic Victoria Memorial and all over the sprawling parks around it.

Kolkata that I noticed is a very green city. A big portion of the whole city area is dominated by parks (or gardens as they’d call) and there is greenery everywhere. It really was a long walk for me, but then Kolkata really is a very pedestrian-friendly city.

The walkways are wide and continuous in most parts of the city so I really enjoyed my time covering a big part of the city on foot. I did lose my way a few times, which was expected because I did not have any internet coverage to google-map my way around on the phone, so I’d ask around. I’d have some friendly conversations with strangers in the process and it really was all part of the fun.

I noticed how Kolkata was quite clean too. Unlike how it was in Varanasi, the people in Kolkata do not really eat betel, nor do they smoke, so I wouldn’t see people spitting on the streets which was very commonly seen when I was in Varanasi. My skin didn’t really command much attention like it did when I was in many other parts of India, but still there were people coming to get a pic or two with me. Even the air in Kolkata was quite clean too and the weather was very much bearable compared to the shimmering heat that I had to experience through in Varanasi.

Now the food.

Kolkata is probably the only place in India where I did not encounter any problem looking for (good) food at all. In fact it was so aplenty I had some difficulty choosing which from which every time. But there is this restaurant chain called Wow Momo that really sparked my appetite when I was there.

The ever-joyous children of Kolkata

I had just come out of some gallery that I randomly entered to escape the sudden rain, and was trying to figure out whether to take a cab back to the hotel or continued walking, when the rain returned with intensified heaviness. Unable to push forward or I’d get drenched in the rain, I looked around and caught sight of this yellow-dominated restaurant.

I ended up ordering a set dish called Sizzler Momo and Thuderzz and quite true to its name it came in a sizzling form. It really had me at the very first bite – hot and spicy and the fact that it was cold and raining outside – it just got right into me that I wanted to scream in excitement, literally. I instantly became a fan of Wow Momo and would make an effort to look for an outlet every time I felt like eating something.

I noticed how the people of Kolkata had special fondness for lounging around – probably to chill out or just to pass time. They make good use of the vast areas of parks that the city of Kolkata is so blessed with. As I walked from the Indian Museum towards the Hooghly River, I could see so many locals lounging around, mostly in groups, and the relaxing vibes in this 7th biggest city in India was unmistakable. Some sections of the parks were even designated for ‘members only’ and there they were, talking and idling around among themselves, as if totally oblivious to the bustling traffics around them.

My evening walk along the riverbank of Hooghly River was one of my favourite parts of the days that I spent in Kolkata. It appeared to be a place where the locals would go to to relax and enjoy the beautiful riverside views. My curiosity about this river led me into doing a little bit of research through which I found out that Hooghly River flowed in from the river Ganges, which needs no introduction as it is considered the holiest river in Hinduism. I guess the Hooghly River must be sharing a good part of the blessing too.

I really enjoyed my moment there, the sight of ferries docking and leaving, and of boats paddling slowly around, and of course of the beautiful Howrah Bridge. Looking from a distance it looks so still, untouched and unwavered, almost manipulative to the fact that it is actually one of the busiest bridges in the world.


Hooghly River and the iconic Howrah Bridge in the distance

The Victoria Memorial was both a wow and a disappointment to me. I was there on a Public Holiday so it was a crowded to the brim. But the good thing was – I didn’t have to pay much for the entry because the indoor parts of the building were closed anyway and the management seemed to have kindly considered that. The building was stunning and grand, I had no doubt about it, and so were the parks around it, but I was expecting more.

The building seemed to be undergoing some kind of refurbishment so there were scaffolding laying around – which was quite a sore to the eyes and pictures. Then there were old and broken furniture stacking up against the marble building, adding more to the eyesore.

The iconic Victoria Memorial

Victoria Memorial also seems to be the place where youngsters come to show off their best dresses. I mean, I know how the ladies in India have the most beautiful casual dresses in the world, but the youngsters that come to Victoria Memorial seem to take it at least a few notches up. I felt so stupid and out of place in my short pants and T-shirt but still I had people coming to take pictures with me, probably because I looked stupid and different. But then I’d like to think that it was my ‘celebrity’ time again. Heh.

I still shiver when I think of all the walking that I did when I was in Kolkata. I wish I had a live-access to internet on my mobile phone while I did it so that I could put a track on the distance. Every time I wanted to flag down a taxi, this curious thought would come to me and I’d go ‘there must be something more to explore and find out down there’ so I’d continue walking. The walk took me to so many places, across parks and neighbourhoods, and along wide walkways and also in the back alleys – and yet I enjoyed every bit of it very much.

I remember how on my last day in Kolkata and I was heading towards the airport and the taxi took me across the city and I noticed that there was much more of Kolkata that I did not get to explore yet. Even so, it is safe to say that it is now my favourite city in India and I would love to return to it again in the future – fingers crossed.

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Atop Kerinci – Again

Written By: jipp - Feb• 09•20

So I climbed Mount Kerinci in Sumatra a couple of months ago. It would be my second time conquering this highest active volcano in South East Asia. I was quite worried, not only because of the severe lack of preparatory training, it would also be my first mountain climb since I hit 40 last year. Due to the busy nature of my job lately, I had to rely on the little training that I did after work, climbing the stairs of my office building – 28 floors of them altogether – and yet I felt so under-prepared.

But then I surprised myself when I conquered the mountain in flying colours. In fact, I ran the last 200 feet of the climb all the way to the peak (I’d never want to do it again, I almost passed out by the time I reached the peak). But I did it.

Looking down at Danau Gunung Tujuh – the highest lake in South East Asia

Despite the heavy rain and all the deafening thunderbolts that woke me up several times the night before, the mountain gods again surprised me, probably for the umpteenth time (Mount Rinjani was the worst!), and showed me how unpredictable the weather is up on mountains, either for the better or worse, and that it should always been seen as such.

This one was definitely for the better. We found ourselves standing on top of Mount Kerinci with all the beautiful views of Jambi province and probably beyond. We could even see the beautiful Danau Gunung Tujuh, a lake surrounded by 7 peaks hence the name, as if to tell us that we should come to her before we returned to Malaysia (and we did).

The most amazing thing about being on top of Mount Kerinci that day was the fact that we had the mountain peak all to ourselves. I mean, with so many hikers and adventure seekers and mountain enthusiasts in just about every corner of the world nowadays, it’s hard to imagine being on top of a mountain – let alone a mountain with quite a bit of reputation like Mount Kerinci – with no one else around you but you, your team, your guide and probably one of your porters.

It did rain very heavily when were on the way down, in fact the trail had turned into a muddy stream of water, but it no longer mattered. We had fun.

My Mary Poppins moment

I’ve got no mountain climbs planned out for this year yet – but I am looking at the long-overdue Semeru, and probably the highest mountain in the Philippines, whatever the name is, and some other mountains within the locality. EBC is still very much in the bucketlist but I don’t see I can do it this year, or even next year. Another mountain in the North of India seems more appealing to me now. We’ll see though.

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