July 28, 2016

My First Impressions of Hong Kong

It was cold and windy when I landed in Hong Kong. Temperature had dropped to one of its lowest in the last many years. Endless blocks of structures welcomed me as the car sped from the airport to the city. Buildings seemed like matchboxes from a distance. Countless numbers of them.

The city has tall structures everywhere, many with glazing exteriors while a few without them. The roads meander themselves through these tall buildings with traffic signals present after every few hundred meters.

Hong Kong still holds an old world charm with its trams running through the traffic.

The red taxis are ubiquitous and easily available everywhere.

The best vantage point in Hong Kong is from Victoria peak where the city spreads itself in front of you. However, it was quite foggy and I missed out on the view. The place is quite a shopping paradise with numerous shops and outlets selling a wide range of things.

SOHO is the place to be in the evening with an exciting night life and innumerable pubs and restaurants. The narrow alleys here are wonderful for an evening walk.

There is no dearth of entertainment in other parts of the city too with clubs present everywhere.

Ladies night market is an ideal place to go on a shopping spree with a plethora of items on sale. I had to sharpen my bargaining skills quite a bit.

Hong Kong for some weird reason failed to entice me. Too fast paced, not so courteous people, tall structures everywhere. Am sure there is much more to see here and I have missed out a whole lot of it. But, would I go back to see them? Ain't sure about that.

July 26, 2016

Singapore- First Impressions

I had always imagined Singapore as that distant land with tall magnificent structures, glittering lights, luxury cars, Chinese influence, business headquarters of many organizations, financial capital, port city and fast city life. Yes, Singapore is all this and much more. I wasn't surprised as I saw all that during my visit, but there is more to Singapore than just these.

Green is the colour that welcomed me as I left the airport. Green carpets are laid out everywhere in the form of trees, shrubs and grass. Not even an inch of space is left underutilized and it is immaculately maintained. Undoubtedly the garden city of the world.

The green city looks all the more beautiful when it rains.

After blessings at a gurudwara early in the morning, I walked down the road lined with small double floored structures for some paratha and teh tarik (tea). The place has a colonial charm with nicely lined up buildings. Loved the teh tarik.

Despite rushing around due to the demand of work, I created time to visit a Buddhist temple. Hardly crowded, the well decorated temple had just a couple of visitors.

Orchard road is one of the most popular roads in Singapore. Lined with shops and malls, the place gets swarmed by shoppers and walkers through out the day. Again lined with trees, what pleasantly surprised me was the innumerable birds perched atop the trees and their highly audible chirping. Felt like I was at a bird park. Right in the middle of the city, and that was least expected.

As the sun sets, the city's glittering lights has a plethora of colours. Garden by the bay is definitely the highlight with its beautiful light show. A walk around the park is a surreal experience.

The lit up skyscrapers too look gorgeous in the night.

Clarke's quay is probably the most sought after night life destination. Love the concept of open restaurants.

The Indian quarter has its stark differences which is quite visible from the restaurants, shops and the crowd.

For every Indian, a visit to Singapore remains incomplete without the customary visit to Mustafa centre.

Being a world a city, global cuisines are available in every nook and corner of Singapore. The Korean cuisine I explored wasn't very enticing, probably its taste is an acquired one.

Changi airport offers a wide range of activities for travellers. It is not without a reason why it crowns the list of best airports in the world.

Purely on a business visit, all that I explored was the Jurong Bird park which you can read here. Whatever little I saw of Singapore has been very impressive, and would love to visit again to explore in detail.

July 12, 2016

Travel Blogging- The Paradox!

Long road ahead

While travel blogging seems to be the job many aspiring job- quitters are vouching for, most existing travel bloggers are still decoding this Pandora's box.  Today I complete seven years of travel blogging, and am pretty much nowhere near the border line where I can happily take it up as a full time profession. We live in an age where internet and google are flooded with articles labelled ‘How I quit my job to travel’, ‘Why I quit my job to follow my dream’ and many more on similar lines. Every second day some acquaintance’s post on my feed on Facebook pops up- ‘And I have quit to travel’. 

When the whole world is quitting to see the world or realise their dreams, I have done something more adventurous- I have cut down on my travels, to take up a full time job. Quitting your cubicle job has many motives, but going back to the cubicle has only one- to survive. People are tempted to quit jobs to the lure of travelling. Before you quit, what you require is a clear mindset and plan on how to survive. How much ever frugal backpacking you do, your bank balance can only dwindle if you don't have a regular inflow.

Let me jot out a few points travel blogging taught me, which might help people who intend to take up the travel blogging conundrum:

  • We live in a world where hundreds of travel blogs are born every day. Most of them die a premature death. Only the fittest survive. Make sure yours is one, keep it running.
  •  Sharpen your writing skills. Most people don’t like reading articles with grammatical errors even if the post is on the cheapest means to travel to Antarctica. There is demand only for good story tellers.
  • In travel writing, writing comes first, travel is secondary. Period.
  • It takes quite a considerable time to make a name in the travel blogging circle. Do not expect your blog and your name to be splashed all over the internet after you have posted 2- 3 articles.
  • Your blog needs to be fed frequently over a long period of time. Feed, feed and feed. Only when you have frequent posts, will you have more visitors. It is only through high traffic can you make your blog a known one.
  • Be a master at marketing through social media. Your blog needs to be present on every single social media out there. Be an attention seeker.
  • Money will trickle in only when you have a significant readership. Yes, ‘trickle’ is the word and not ‘flow’.
  • If you feel having Google Ads will help you earn money, keep waiting forever. Most of your readers are not going to click on Google Ads. Google doesn’t have answers to everything.
  • Dreaming of FAM trips? Quit dreaming before you quit your job. Long way to go before you get that FAM trip mail in your inbox.
  • If you don’t intend to take up small assignments and content writing opportunities that come your way, you are losing out on opportunities and money.
  • Photography is a part of travel blogging. Sharpen your skills and find ways to sell your gorgeous frames. 
  • Editors don’t approach bloggers for articles. If you want your article to be published, learn to chase them with repeated mails.
  • Negotiating with PRs, clients and editors for payments requires a special skill set. If you don’t have it, learn.
  • Getting the payment for your article is an equally tough job. Ask, request, plead. Keep chasing!
  • Find ways to sustain yourself over a long period. Try to get long term writing assignments. Take up volunteering.
  • If you feel teaching English in some remote village in Cambodia is the easiest way to sustain, please mail me the details when you do get your offer letter. Preference for such jobs are always for native English speakers. 
  • Travel blogging is a job, never see it as a means to travel for free, because it doesn't work like that. There are no free lunches anywhere.
  • Whenever you feel travel blogging is not worth the effort, read the above points again. There is definitely a huge struggle, but hard work pays. 
Now with all those points well taken up, are you going to be a top notch travel blogger which every other soul in the cubicle dreams of becoming? Maybe, maybe not. Only time will reveal that. Keep putting in your hard work, success is never far off.

Keep travelling and churn out stories after stories of that distant far flung land, that weird stranger who helped you, that most delicious coffee you ever had, that invigorating festival you took part in and that longest hitchhike you ever took. Bring them on. There are readers who want to listen to you.

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