December 31, 2012

Conversations with K-girls: Black Haired Boy

Beautiful 7-11 cashier: Where are you from?

Me: Canada.

7-11: But... brown... why?

Me: Why brown skin?

7-11: No... black hair, why? Canada people have brown hair.

Me: No, many different colours are possible. Blond hair, black hair, brown hair.

7-11: Oh.

Me: Happy new year.

7-11: Happy new year! Byeeeee. Kekekekekeke....

December 27, 2012

Arnab's Year in Cities, 2012

The story arc of our lovable hero in 2012 saw me wrap up my humanitarian activities in Mumbai and relocate to Seoul to resume my career in the ad industry. I stopped over in Singapore on the way to Seoul, spent several days in Tokyo to pick up my South Korean work visa, and visited an old friend from high school in Taiwan.

The bulk of my travel this year was in the Old World. I scratched my European itch and emptied my bank account with four separate trips to the continent. This caused great consternation among Korean beauties, as it hampered my ability to buy them luxury handbags and gourmet coffee. While on my company trip, we spent a day exploring Munich in Germany before crossing over the border and the Alps into Austria. I also visited the Vatican from Rome.

I set foot in the Middle East for the first time, albeit unplanned, as a missed flight connection gave me the opportunity to spend a day in Bahrain. The Naminara Republic became the first micro-nation that I made my way to. The privately owned island declared its independence from South Korea in 2006, primarily to attract tourist attention. 

This year I stayed overnight in 31 cities, spread out over 10 nations. A couple of countries and many cities are unaccounted for on this list, as I did not spend a night in them. South Korea is a geographically small nation with an efficient transportation system, so most places in the peninsula can be visited on day trips from Seoul. 

The 2012 List 
Past years - 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008


"A man grows most tired while standing still." ~ Chinese proverb

December 14, 2012

Conversations with K-girls: Pretty Good

K-girl: My English is awful. I hate English! You should learn Korean.

Me: Your English is pretty good.

K-girl: Pretty girl? Thank you.

December 09, 2012

Dhobi Ghat

Multiply the number of people living in a city as populous as Mumbai by the number of their clothes that need to be washed every day. The amount is staggeringly high, like the percentage of women in South Korea who have had plastic surgery. An elaborate system has evolved over the years to handle the needs of masses to have their garments washed efficiently and economically. 

Delivery boys pick up clothes from homes and stores across town and bring them to dhobis to be washed. Dhobis wash clothes for a living, often manually. Once the clothes have been washed, dried, and ironed they make their way back into the hands of their respective owners. Rarely does a garment end up in the wrong hands.

In the apartment I shared with at least 13 other men, there was always a heap of clothing in the living room. Whenever anyone wanted something washed, they could add their clothes to the pile. A few days later the clothes would be washed and pressed. I would pay a few rupees to the landlord or one of his many acolytes, and would collect my clothes.

The largest concentration of clothes washers in Mumbai is found at Dhobi Ghat, located beside the Mahalaxmi railway station. The world's largest open air laundromat is quite popular with tourists and filmmakers alike, providing an unforgettable glimpse into what makes India a place like no other. The dhobis start their work early in the morning, following the daily rhythms of washing, drying, and ironing with orchestral precision. 

December 07, 2012

Candid Camera

As an international heartthrob, it is not out of the ordinary when I am stopped on the street for a quick photo by people I do not know in places such as China and Korea. One day, I looked out my office window in Seoul and caught sight of a beautiful girl across the street. She was holding a camera, with the lens pointed in my general direction.

Me: Look! That girl is taking my picture.  

German colleague: Arnab, Arnab, Arnab. Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with you?

Korean colleague: Or what is wrong with the girl?

December 01, 2012

Prince of Putrajaya

While spending a few days in Kuala Lumpur with some old friends from my Beijing days, we went on a drive to Putrajaya. Located 25km away from Kuala Lumpur, the planned city is meant to function as the administrative center of Malaysia's federal government. Putrajaya is like Canberra with flair, as the architecture blends Islamic motifs with modern design patterns.

The city is well laid out with wide roads and ample open spaces. The buildings primarily serve administrative, religious, or residential purposes, with the Putra Mosque and the Palace of Justice among my favourites. I did not see many areas set aside for commercial activity, but then that is not the primary motivation for the construction of this city. A neighbouring planned community called Cyberjaya will be geared towards enterprises.

First established in 1995, the idea behind the founding of Putrajaya was to relieve the congestion in overcrowded Kuala Lumpur by relocating the government servants to a nearby locale. It is named after Malaysia's first prime minister, but the literal translation of Putrajaya is prince's victory. As I saw my handsome visage reflecting on the shimmering waters of the lake in the middle of the city, there remained little doubt that a prince was indeed present.


"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself." – Alan Alda