December 30, 2013

Arnab's Year in Cities - 2013

In the year of our Arnab 2013, I visited 7 countries and stayed overnight in 30 different cities from Andong to Yangon. I was largely based in Asia this year, with the only exception being a trip to Greece in summer. Spectacularly diverse adventures were to be had across the contintent in Myanmar, Mongolia, and Indonesia. For a while I worked out of my company's Indian office in Gurgaon, which allowed me to visit my family and friends during off days. A company trip to Bangkok and a friend's wedding at a beachside resort in Krabi resulted in multiple visits to Thailand.  

The 2013 List 

  • Andong, South Korea
  • Athens, Greece
  • Bagan, Myanmar
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Boseong, South Korea
  • Busan, South Korea
  • Changwon, South Korea
  • Delhi NCR, India
  • Fira, Greece
  • Gangneung, South Korea
  • Inle, Myanmar
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Jeonju, South Korea
  • Jindo, South Korea
  • Jinju, South Korea
  • Kolkata, India
  • Krabi, Thailand
  • Kuta, Indonesia
  • Mandalay, Myanmar
  • Meteora, Greece
  • Mumbai, India
  • Padang Bai, Indonesia
  • Pohang, South Korea
  • Sacheon, South Korea
  • Samcheok, South Korea
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Tongyeong, South Korea
  • Ubud, Indonesia
  • Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
  • Yangon, Myanmar   

  • Past years


    All men dream; but not equally.
    Those who dream by night in the dusty
    recesses of their minds
    Awake to find that it was vanity; 
    But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. 
    That they may act their dreams with open 
    eyes to make it possible.
    ~ Lawrence of Arabia

    December 27, 2013

    Sejongjo Hoeryeyeon - The King's Banquet

    The Korean youth have a colour palette consisting of black, grey, and brown. They dress as if they are on the way to a funeral every day, mourning the passing of the last traces of their individuality. Colourful garb can only be found on the mountainside, where oldsters wear a rainbow of brand named hiking gear as they climb the various scenic ranges that span the nation, or during festivals celebrating Korea’s history and culture, where the traditional hanbok dress is worn by both men and women. 

    On January 1, 1433, in the 15th year of King Sejong’s reign, a lavish banquet to celebrate the new year was held for the first time. King Sejong was an accomplished leader who funded the development of hanguel, the Korean alphabet which replaced the complicated Chinese characters that were in use until then. Nowadays, the Sejongjo Hoeryeyeon royal banquet is reenacted annually at the Gyeongbokgung Palace to celebrate the king and his achievements and also to give modern man an insight into their colourful past.

    The enthralling spectacle consists of music, drama, dance, bows, wine, and food. About four hundred performers, including artists trained in the traditional styles of aak (the music played during Confucian rites), dangak (music adapted from China's Tang dynasty), and hyangak (indigenous Korean court music), entertain both the king and his audience on a grand scale. Food and wine is offered to the king in a ritual manner, with heavy bowing taking place whenever the opportunity presents itself.


    All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind. ~ Khalil Gibran 

    December 21, 2013

    Chronicles of Korea

    As my time in Korea comes to an end, I compiled a thorough list of the different places I visited around the country during my stay. The natural and historical sites had much more variety and charm than the inhabitants. Although it pales in comparison to my Chinese adventures, there was still a lot to see and explore in this small but densely populated nation. 


    Wherever you go, go with all your heart. ~ Confucius

    December 14, 2013


    Amidst years spent in the high-octane economies of Asia full of aspirational youth and rapidly growing businesses, I made a visit to the Old World where a completely different attitude prevails. Mired in a depression with no end in site, Greece struggles to regain even a portion of its former glory.

    The birthplace of democracy, the home of brilliant philosophers and mathematicians, and the training grounds for legions of brave warriors boasts the remnants of its past as its main drawing card in these austere times. Many stores in central Athens were shuttered, with unemployed members of society and walls sprayed with graffiti as prevalent as plastic surgery clinics and mismatched couples in South Korea.

    The food was good, but not substantially better than the dishes found in Greek restaurants elsewhere. In some ways it was worse, as all vegetable portions had somehow become replaced with french fries in almost every dish I ordered (perhaps as a cost cutting measure).

    The summer weather was hot and dry, with greenery nowhere to be found in the arid landscape. The English was decent although some people had the habit of using the words ‘stairs’ and ‘escalators” interchangeably, leading to some unexpected surprises for elderly travelers.

    I had about 8-9 days in hand for my Greek odyssey. My journey in Hellas began with a night in the port town of Piraeus, followed by three days on the mystical isle of Santorini, and then a return to the mainland to see the historical sites of Meteora, Delphi, Corinth, and Athens.  


    There are some people who live in a dream world, and some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other. ~ Douglas Everett

    December 06, 2013

    Poor Arnab

    A pretty Chinese girl expressed her sympathy for me after hearing about my sad state of affairs with K-girls: 

    Poor Arnab... Indian black hairy IT nerd
The description sounds tragedy enough...

    December 02, 2013

    The Bridge of Life

    On the surface, Seoul is the most perfect place I have lived in. The benefits of living in the Korean megapolis are aplenty:
    • All manner of commercial establishments stay open day and night
    • An extensive public transit system augmented with moderately priced cabs 
    • Safe and clean environs with an honest and hygienic populace
    • High speed trains and express buses which allow me to easily explore the rest of the country on weekends
    • Blazing fast broadband and wireless internet speeds 
    • Main courses at restaurants that come with a healthy assortment of side dishes, which are refilled for free
    • Public restrooms are easily available so I do not have to improvise during emergencies
    • New shipments of K-girls roll out of the beauty factories of Sinsa and Apgujeong at regularly scheduled intervals
    • Heated floors
    • Toilets can wash and dry nether regions at the push of a button (if pressed in the correct order)

    Once you peel away the layers of benefits afforded by the 24/7 conveniences of Korean life, the rotten core is revealed. A society catapulted from subsistence to modernity in a handful of decades always leaves some behind. Alcoholism, prostitution, domestic abuse, plastic surgery, video game addiction, chronic mistreatment of international heartthrobs, and long hours at the office are commonplace.

    Most struggle day to day to keep up appearances and conform to societal norms, to show their friends and neighbours that they are just as successful as them (or slightly more so), and to push themselves and their offspring into continuing the loop of never-ending education and work required to accumulate additional wealth and status.

    It comes as no surprise that South Korea is annually number one in the world suicide rankings. Samsung tried to convert the suicide hotspot of Mapo Bridge into a place where such deadly actions could be averted. Portions of the railings on the interactive Bridge of Life light up with message beacons as one walks by. 

    A string of hopeful phrases written in Korean bring about anticipation of a better future or elicit recollections of happy times - “A loved one waiting for you at home.”, “The best is yet to come.”, and so on. Unfortunately suicides actually went up after the conversion of the bridge, as the publicity it created drew more members of society to its edge. 


    "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.