Tensing Carlos Rodrigues

Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Flying to the Millionnaires’ Row

In Travels on March 24, 2013 at 6:47 am

Heeren Street or Millionnaires’ Row (now Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock) runs parallel to its better known counterpart Jalan Hang Jebat or Jonker Street, as you cross the small bridge across the River Melaka from the Dutch Square. Both have their own claim to fame. The Jonker Street is a gastronomical delight; but let’s keep that for some other time.

Heeren StHeeren Street is where the wealthy Peranakan Chinese built their ornate houses in Malacca in 15th and 16th centuries. Peranakan are the descendants of Chinese males (baba) who married the local Malay females (nyonia). They prospered mainly in trade and tin mining. Hotel Puri Melaka is a beautiful example of how this unique cultural heritage has been preserved and is presented to the present day visitor to Melaka.

Though you cannot fly to Millionnaires’ Row, as Melaka does not have an international airport, you need not despair; you can as good as fly. Just take a flight to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport – KLIA.

1280px-KLIA_Aerotrain2Unlike many other airports, Kuala Lumpur International Airport is not named after any person; just call it KLIA; but keep that abbreviation in mind, for it is very handy. Spanning around 1002 km, it is one of the largest airports in the world, and one of the friendliest. You land at what is called the Satellite Terminal A. A dedicated passenger train called the Aerotrain takes you to the Main Terminal or Terminal 1, where you complete your immigration and other tasks like buying local currency or SIM card. These three-car driverless trains run every five minutes on elevated rail and under the taxiways. Each 250-person capacity train can transport 3,000 passengers per hour in each direction at up to 56 km/h; the journey takes under two minutes.

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KLIAekspres_SalakSelatanOnce you are done and are ready to quit the airport, do not worry as to how you are going to travel the next 57 km to Kuala Lumpur city – that is where you need to go for your onward journey to Melaka; do not even hail a cab. From within the Main Terminal a high speed non-stop train named KLIA Express takes you into another marvelous transport hub, KL Sentral in the heart of Kuala Lumpur – in just 28 minutes, with trains departing at 15 minute intervals during peak hours and 20 minute intervals during off-peak hours.

KL Sentral is the largest railway station in Southeast Asia. Besides KLIA Ekspres, the station provides access to other rail lines  : KTM Komuter, KTM Intercity, RapidKL and KL Monorail. Spread over more than 9 acres, KL Sentral offers under one roof shopping, food, entertainment, train and bus services and even check in for your flights. You can relax here, refuel yourself and begin the next leg of your ‘flight’ – to Tampin. Take a KTM Intercity train going to Singapore, and get down at Tampin. If you arrive on an early morning flight, you can comfortably take a train leaving around noon from KL Sentral; you have two or three of these trains in a day, going towards Singapore.

IMG_2076By the time the bus pulls into Melaka Sentral – Melaka’s equivalent of KL Sentral – it is dark. Do not get panicky. You may relax and try out some refreshments; or head straight to the Bus Bay no. 17 and take the Panorama Bus.  Depending on the traffic congestion in the city, it may take you between 15 minutes to 1 hour – avoid Saturdays – to reach the Dutch Square, stop #5 from Melaka Sentral. But you cannot miss it; the bright pink of the Stadthuys, the Christ Church and the Clock Tower overwhelms you. Get down and take a fresh breath; the Millionnaires’ Row is just across the river. Do not cross the bridge in a hurry. Take in the scene; you will most likely love it at first sight.

IMG_2242Once across the bridge, and below the dragon spouting water, do not proceed straight; that is the Jonker’s Street. At that time of evening, it will be too crowded for you to pull your suitcase along. Take the left road – that is the Heeren Street; that is narrower, and you will have to constantly watch out for the cars buzzing by. Do not get distracted by the dazzling beauty of the mansions on either side; keep it for the next day. Well, you can spend days together admiring the Millionnaires’ Row. For the moment, just walk straight till you see the sign board of Hotel Puri Melaka on your right. Good night.

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The Timber Depot At The End Of The Rail Line

In Travels on February 23, 2013 at 12:08 am

IMG_0942Kathgodam was a small village in 1901 with a population of 375. Its importance grew rapidly after the railway line was extended to it around 1884.  It is still a small town. It is the last railway station if you are travelling to Kumaon region of the Himalayan Mountains. From Kathgodam, mountain roads lead to tourist destinations like Nainital, Bhimtal, Sattal, Mukteshwar, Ranikhet,Naukuchiyatal and Almora.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01But do not take the train upto Kathgodam. Get down at Haldwani, about 6 km earlier. It’s from here that you will get the buses going into the mountain ranges. On your return journey, however, do not go all the way to Haldwani; get down at Kathgodam. Most of the trains halt for a very short time in Haldwani, if at all they do; and there are hardly any facilities at the station.  

Kathgodam-HaldwaniKathgodam literally means the timber depot.

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The Call of Lanka

In Travels on February 9, 2013 at 4:12 am

VazPictureSancoale is a quiet village nestled between the hills and the river Zuari, inhabited by Saraswat Brahmins. Call it coincidence, or call it divine providence, two young men of the village heard the call of Lanka two centuries apart : Joseph Vaz, a Catholic priest landed in Jaffna in 1687 to minister to the Christians of Sri Lanka; Dharmananda Kosambi was ordained a Buddhist monk in 1902 in Maligakanda, near Colombo.Dharmananda

The fate linked the two men by more than just the village of their origin. Fr. Vaz preached Christianity across Sri Lanka wandering as a mendicant, bare foot and surviving on alms, in true Buddhist tradition; and celebrated his first public mass in the courtyard of the royal palace of Vimaladharma Surya II, the then Buddhist king of Kandy, which also housed the sacred relic of the tooth of Buddha.

Negombo 1Negombo is located on the west coast of the island and at the mouth of the Negombo Lagoon, in Western Province, Sri Lanka. It is the fourth largest city in the country after the capital Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna. Negombo is known for its huge and old fishing industry with busy fish markets, and nice sandy beaches. It is one of the most liberal cities in Sri Lanka with modern life style and it’s nightlife in luxury hotels, guest houses, fine restaurants and pubs. The wild cinnamon that grew in the region around Negombo attracted a succession of foreign traders and colonial powers for centuries. The shallow waters of the Negombo lagoon provided safe shelter for sea fairing vessels.

The first Muslim Arabs arrived in Ceylon in the seventh and eighth centuries and eventually came to dominate the east-western trade routes. Landing in the early 1500s, the Portuguese ousted the Moors, constructed a fort in Negombo and took over the trade of cinnamon to the West. It was during the Portuguese occupation that the Karawa, or traditional fishing clan of Negombo embraced Catholicism almost without exception. So successfully were they converted that today Negombo is sometimes known as ‘Little Rome’ and nearly two thirds of its population professes a Catholic faith; there are over twenty churches in the city. In Negombo, we found it difficult to believe we were not in Goa.

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Among the Kristangs of Malacca

In Travels on January 25, 2013 at 10:14 am

IMG_2043Strategically positioned mid way on the maritime corridor between China and Indian Peninsula, that led onwards to the Middle East  and further to Europe, Malacca had trade inscribed into its destiny perhaps from the time Parmeswara built the city in the fourteenth century.  The city grew rapidly and soon became a wealthy and a powerful hub of international commerce. In 1409 Admiral Cheng Ho, Commander of the Chinese Imperial fleet, arrived in Malacca on the first of his seven voyages to the Indian Ocean, beginning a long era of strong Chinese influence on Malacca. Little later Gujarati traders brought Islam to it.

Afonso de AlbuquerqueBy the first decade of the sixteenth century Malacca was a bustling, cosmopolitan port, attracting hundreds of ships each year. The city gained acclaim worldwide as a centre for the trade of silk and porcelain from China, textiles from Gujarat and Coromandel (India), nutmeg, mace, and cloves from the Moluccas (Indonesia), gold and pepper from Sumatra (Indonesia), camphor from Borneo, sandalwood from Timor and tin from western Malaya.

IMG_2277It is not surprising therefore that when Europe began to extend its power into the East, Malacca was one of the first cities to attract its covetous eye. The Portuguese under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque took the city in 1511, after a fierce fight. But it was to remain with the Portuguese for just one hundred and thirty years; in 1641 the Dutch conquered it. Soon it went into the hands of the British. And was occupied by Japanese for a little while during the Second World War. 

IMG_2038Besides the ruins of a colossal fortification – A Famosa – and of a magnificent church – St. Paul’s, the Portuguese left behind in Malacca a community of descendants of Portuguese men who married the local Malay women. They are called the Kristangs;  they are all Roman Catholic Christians. They speak a Portuguese creole known by the same name. In the mid-1920s, at the fag end of their rule, the British set off a large area of land along the sea, not far from the Malacca port, as a sort of a reservation for the Kristangs; what has since then been called the Portuguese Settlement or Portuguese Village or Kampung Portugis.

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Bylakuppe (Karnataka) – A Nation in Exile

In Travels on January 12, 2013 at 4:01 am

Bylakuppe, situated 90 kilometers from Mysore on SH 88, comprises of two Tibetan refugee settlements that were setup in 1961 and 1969 respectively and has now grown into a full-fledged town housing the largest Tibetan population outside of Dharamsala in India. In 1960, the Government of Mysore allotted about 3,000 acres of land at Bylakuppe in Mysore district in Karnataka and the first ever Tibetan exile settlement came into existence in 1961. A few years later another settlement, Tibetan Dickey Larsoe was established. More than 150,000 Tibetan refugees have found asylum in India during the past 50 years, subsequent to Jawaharlal Nehru’s offer to shelter Tibetan refugees until their eventual return. But they have not returned; perhaps never will. It was a smart gamble on the part of India that unfortunately failed. Had it succeeded, India’s game with China might have had a different ending.

IMG_1578 IMG_1588 IMG_1587 IMG_1586 IMG_1585 IMG_1584 IMG_1581IMG_1589 IMG_1592 IMG_1591 IMG_1590The gradual change in scenery and the feeling of being transported to another country with every step one takes towards where the monasteries are located, adds to its mystique and charm of Bylakuppe. The Golden Temple is fast becoming a major attraction local tourists; the environs are crowded and dirty, as in any popular tourist destination. In the monastery guest houses and far off camps, however, one gets really authentic momos and thukpas.IMG_1593

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IMG_1610IMG_1609IMG_1612The land grows mainly maize. But the Tibetans themselves do not work in the fields. They lease the land to the local Kannadigas for a rent that is small compared to the value of the crop, or employ the locals as daily wage workers. It is a win-win situation for the Tibetans as well as the locals.  The monasteries are showcases of affluence; so are the seminaries and halls of residence.  The monks do not drink or smoke. But other than that they have all the comforts of life. The fridges in the guest house were full of Coke and Red Bull cans; and the food that went waste was really hurting. Golden Temple is nothing but gold.