Showing posts with label recap. Show all posts
Showing posts with label recap. Show all posts

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 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.

November 21, 2013


Three old friends from my Beijing days and I reunited after a few years for a weeklong trip to Myanmar (previously known as Burma). The people of Myanmar were friendly, helpful, and full of warmth. Even though they did not possess abundant quantities of material wealth, most people we encountered were clever enough. While the masses of smartphone wielding drones in Korean sport a vacant look around the clock, the Myanmarians had that distinct sharpness in their eyes that belies a certain awareness of their surroundings. They also did not appear to be made from plastic

On the topic of plastic, access to cash using internationally issued credit or debit cards is now a viable alternative to carrying large wads of US dollars as ATM’s made their way to Myanmar a year or two before I did. The nation was generally closed off to the West for the greater part of the past few decades, only opening up recently as it slowly transitions from military rule to democracy. American brands are not readily visible, although signs of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean investment into the gold rush of economic development that awaits Myanmar were apparent.  

The Myanmarians still use their traditional forms of dress and makeup in day to day life. This meant full length body hugging outfits for the women, their faces coated with a paste that functions as both sunscreen and beauty product, and loose sarongs for the men. The English level was decent everywhere we went, so there was little problem in communication. Of course after being in Korea, my standards for judging English competency have slipped as low as K-girls’ standards in selecting their mates.

The infrastructure was much better than nearby Laos and Cambodia, but Myanmar dwarfs these nations with a population exceeding 60 million inhabitants. Even with an established transportation system, moving about was still a hair-raising experience. We took all forms of transit available to us - trains, taxis, buses, bicycles, backs of trucks with the open tailgate functioning as the platform for more passengers to stand upon, and horse carts to name a few - to make our way from Yangon to Mandalay, with stops in Bagan and Inle in between.

November 17, 2013


Harsh, empty, and beautiful are words that could describe either K-girls or the Mongolian landscape. Add natural to that list of adjectives, and the land of Genghis Khan remains the only viable option among the two. I had previously visited Inner Mongolia, the part of the once great empire now absorbed by China, to explore the ghost city of Ordos and perform a Bollywood-style dance in the singing sands of the Gobi desert. This gave me a vague idea of the type of environment I was to expect in Mongolia, but did not prepare me for the vast open spaces, hearty lifestyle, hospitable people, and charming desolation that I would experience during my trip. 

Last Chuseok mostly fell on a weekend, so I spent my limited days on the island paradise of Jeju as I could not venture very far from the peninsula. The Korean thanksgiving holiday fortuitously fell on three consecutive weekdays this year, so I took a couple of extra days off work to convert it into a nine day sojourn of Mongolia.

The least densely populated country on Earth, Mongolia is about 15 times the size of South Korea but has less than 3 million inhabitants compared to the 50 million denizens of Daehanminguk. The capital city of Ulaanbaatar was utilized primarily as a base for entry and exit into Mongolia, as most of the days were spent on the road exploring sand dunes and national parks. A sturdy but aged Russian vehicle was used for transportation and circular tents (called gers) were the primary type of accommodation.


The open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself. ~ William Least Heat-Moon

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

January 06, 2010

Arnab's Year in Cities, 2009

My travels in 2008 were focused on parts of the world that I had not yet visited - Africa and Central America. This year I returned to some places I had called home in my past, before venturing out to a land where I would be a complete alien. 2009 was my most prolific and superlative year of globetrotting as I traveled from the world's best country to the greatest, most influential, most interesting, and most populous nations on Earth.

Not counting day trips, I stayed in 36 cities, towns, and villages in 4 countries and 2 special administrative regions spanning 3 continents:


"Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering."
- Saint Augustine -

August 18, 2009


As the global downturn continues many people can no longer afford their expensive hobbies. Instead they have sought out more cost effective means of entertainment. ARNABonics is one such beneficiary of this worldwide trend, as it is a fun, free, and educational alternative to pricey pursuits. ARNABonics is a nonstandard form of English where words in standard usage are concatenated to the tail end of the phrase ARNAB. Anyone can participate in adding new words to the vocabulary. Having rapidly gained in popularity in the past few years, ARNABonics is forecast to rank alongside solitaire, crossword puzzles, and sudoku as one of the primary pastimes of housewives by 2020.

The grammatical rules are easy to learn. The words must seamlessly combine with ARNAB following a concrete syntax. They usually start with B (ARNAB + Bombshell = ARNABombshell or ARNAB + Babe = ARNABabe), but words starting with AB, NAB, and RNAB are also acceptable, though considerably more difficult to construct. As it is a growing field, new words are being continuously created and semantically defined. There is also room for innovation. The ARNACutie provides an interesting case study. Even though Cutie starts with the letter C, and distorts the natural harmony of the five letters A-R-N-A-B, it rhymes with the already established ARNABeauty and is thus a valuable addition to the vernacular.


"Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!"
- Nathaniel Hawthorne -

January 03, 2009

Refresher Course

The earliest recorded post on ARNABlog was on June 7th, 2006. This was the day I graduated from Simon Fraser University (SFU) as a proud holder of a Bachelors of Science degree from the schools of Computing Science and Business Administration. As I specialized in Information Systems, it was actually a joint major in both these disciplines. I had the option of taking more difficult courses to obtain the BSc, or I could take easier ones and settle for a BBA.

I crisscrossed the globe in the next two and a half years, collecting a profusion of experiences and leaving behind a legacy of goodwill. I flew off to India, worked tirelessly for a year with Satyam, traveled to Europe, returned to Vancouver, found a job with ResponseTek, and took a few courses at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I finally returned to the SFU Burnaby campus when the annual open house was held.

Eager students demonstrated their projects and explained why they were drawn to one field or another. The students had not changed much from my years, although the physical infrastructure had improved vastly. New buildings had popped up on the fringes of the university that I remembered. The bus stops were now covered, protecting today's students from the harsh elements of Burnaby Mountain. I also discovered that SFU had an impressive Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, something I had never stumbled upon during my years as a scholar there.


Refresher course definition: A course that reviews and updates a topic for those who have not kept abreast of developments.

November 22, 2008


After spending many hours copiously poring over thick textbooks during my university years I had lost my habit of recreational reading. A surplus of free time in India led to the resurrection of this hobby. As public libraries are uncommon in India, I borrowed books from roommates or coworkers or purchased them from sidewalk vendors. In the present, my arduous transit journey from home to work to home provides a daily 150 minute long time slot suitable for reading. Once (or if) I procure a seat I pull out my book to read or peruse one of the free newspapers that are distributed to the ridership.

A voracious reader, over the past two years I have enjoyed at least 32 books spanning from classics such as 1984 and Slaughterhouse Five to recent bestsellers such as The Kite Runner and The Da Vinci Code. Repeat authors appearing in my reading list are Rohinton Mistry, Michael Crichton, Paulo Coelho, Chetan Bhagat, Dan Brown, and W. Somerset Maugham. Non fiction such as Guns, Germs and Steel and Freakonomics or comedic relief in the form of 3 Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) provide a welcome change to the emotionally heavy efforts by writers of Indian origin. For instance, The Namesake and Fine Balance have their happy moments but are primarily depressing. A varied diet of books makes for an interesting read each and every time.

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog

October 29, 2008

ARNABirth Celebrations

Three years ago, ARNABirth was celebrated amidst the hubbub of Durga Puja in Kolkata. I feasted on a sumptuous dinner of hilsa fish and rice at Oh, Calcutta. The upscale restaurant is located in the Forum shopping complex and serves authentic Bengali cuisine. Coincidentally, my travel companion was also born on the same day, so we paid for each other's portion of the feast.

Two years ago, I had returned to the fair city of Vancouver. The Shaolin Warriors were in town as well. I was awed by the superbly choreographed blend of kung fu and dance moves demonstrated by the troupe of traveling monks from China. Around 500 AD, a Buddhist monk had journeyed from India to China and established the Shaolin monastery. Discipline, spirituality, and martial arts expertise were united to form the Shaolin Warriors - the legendary masters of kung fu. Particularly popular was the artistry displayed by the miniature monks. The child performers impressed with their dexterity and high level of skill.

This year, the celebrations spanned several days. The global television audience trailed the World Cup and the Olympics, but family, friends, and coworkers all joined in on the fun. A BC Lions game, my first hot pot experience, and dinner at the Cloud 9 revolving restaurant were some of the mentionable highlights.

September 10, 2008

Cats Hold Grudges

On a day when it was raining cats and dogs outside, one of my colleagues was attempting to convince another that there is a famous phrase - "Cats hold grudges". The other colleague started making cat calls, refusing to believe that this was an authentic figure of speech. The cat and mouse game continued for a while, as they argued back and forth. As is often the case, they came to me to settle the matter. They were as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs as they awaited my reply. I grinned like a Cheshire cat, although I was unsure of the answer. The cat had got my tongue, and I could not provide a solid conclusion either way. The phrase did seem familiar but I did not remember a specific situation where I had heard it being used.

Even though curiosity killed the cat, we decided to further investigate the validity of this statement. Like a cat on a hot tin roof, we quickly researched the usage and popularity of this saying on the Internet. Using my catlike reflexes I opened up a web browser and typed in my search query. Taking a look at what the cat had dragged in, we discovered that the results were quite limited. Only a handful of articles discussing whether cats hold grudges were available online, and all were quite literal in their interpretations. As no consensus existed on whether cats hold grudges, it was not being used as a figure of speech by the common man. Now that the cat was out of the bag, the case was closed.

"Cat's motto: No matter what you've done wrong, always try to make it look like the dog did it." - Unknown

July 09, 2008

SENchanted: A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time in the kingdom of Arnabia lived a prince in his castle. He went about his duties with honour and determination. Known for his caring heart and sharp mind, he was loved by his subjects and respected by his fellow noblemen.

One day as he entered his courtyard a beautiful and mysterious maiden stood in front of him. She did not say a word, nor did he. The maiden had come from a land far away in search of a better life, but she did not think it wise to share the company of the prince.

She shared a few tender moments with the prince but never let him get too close. She spent her days doing simple tasks for whomever asked her to, save for the prince. As the days passed she seemed to become sadder and more detached, even withdrawing from the company of other peasants.

Detecting her loneliness, the prince arranged for a lavish banquet in the royal hall for the maiden. She was reluctant to attend but was required to do so by order of the court. The maiden, a fiercely independent creature, was upset greatly, and from that day onwards her defiance towards the prince grew.

As a gesture of goodwill, the prince had on several occasions sent a messenger to her to request items for the royal pantry, but the emissary was always sent back empty handed. Unbeknownst to her, he had even arranged for her stipend to be increased. Each act of kindness by the prince was ignored or rebuffed by the fair maiden.

When famine struck the nation, the prince spurred his people to band together and help those in need. The maiden assisted with great enthusiasm in this endeavour, but before the prince could demonstrate his gratitude she revealed she was going away, but where she would not say. The next day she left without saying farewell, and that was all there was of the story to tell.


"Pehli naazar mein kaisa jaadu kar diya" ("What magic did that first gaze do to me?") - Sung by Atif Aslam in the movie Race


"Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people". - The Painted Veil

January 01, 2008

A Year of Change

The year that was will be remembered as a seminal one in the Chronicles of Arnabia. As with any year it was a year of gain and a year of loss, but above all it was a year of change. The hero of our tale concluded his work term in his ancestral homeland of India, then circled the globe spreading goodwill among EU nations, before making a triumphant return to the place of his ARNABirth - Canada.

Not only did the physical location of my residency on Earth change, but also my career path and community involvement. I bade farewell to Satyam Computer Services, my faithful employer during my internship period, and engaged in a new working relationship with ResponseTek Networks where the prospects for developing my technological skill set seem encouraging. I took on greater responsibilities within the local Bengali community, infusing it with youth and receiving from it many learning opportunities about my cultural background. I redefined the ARNABody in a shape so formidable that the many women enrolled in the ARNABstinence program had second thoughts about whether to renew their membership for the new year.

With all these changes in 2007, the stage appears to be set for a more stable year of continued personal growth in 2008, with one significant storyline to look out for being the continued search for the ARNABride.


"It is said that the present is pregnant with the future." - Voltaire

November 20, 2007

A New Chapter

My career to date is composed of 8 months at of Canada Revenue Agency and one year at Satyam Computers Ltd. One is a Canadian government institution and the other an Indian software giant. One is answerable to the people of a great nation and the other to the hundreds of large companies across the globe that form its client base. One is a slow moving non-profit organization that handles the largest amount of money among any outfit in the country while the other is a fast growing publicly traded multinational firm that handles sensitive data belonging to others. The workplace culture of these two organizations is not as great as appearances might at first indicate. Both have an approximate employee strength of 40,000, multiple office locations spread out over vast distances, relaxed working environments for the legions of cubicle dwellers, and a need to manage large amounts of information securely and efficiently on behalf of third parties. As an employee, I was a small part of a much larger picture.

Just imagine that the picture was much smaller, with me comprising a greater portion of it. Would the picture then not be prettier? So my quest began for obtaining a job with a small company with big ambitions and a need for superior, albeit raw, talent. It also made sense for my third job to be something completely different, with a company that was focused on offering a particular service or on creating a product of their own, rather than according to the mandate of someone else. As I gave it a little more thought, a list of features that I was looking for in a prospective employer emerged.

Basic Requirements:

*Increased amount of responsibility
*Small company with an involved and capable leadership team
*Fast paced work environment with enhanced learning opportunities
*Reasonable working hours so that I can still have time to pursue my varied interests
*Sufficient salary and vacation time to allow me to maintain my princely lifestyle

Additional Features:

*Location with plenty of dining and entertainment options
*Amiable colleagues with distinct personalities
*Miscellaneous environmental stimuli

As I embark on my quest to find enriching employment upon my return to the golden shores of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, it will be interesting to note whether prospective employees will look upon my international experience with favour, indifference, or contempt. With the specifications formalized, a new chapter in the iconic tale that shaped a generation can begin.


“I know not what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
-Isaac Newton

November 19, 2007

A Brief History of Arnab

In June 2006 I graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Science in Computing Science and Business Administration. The sizable female student population of School of Computing Science (12 at its peak) never recovered from the shock, but the SFU Business department embraced my departure by encouraging me to write an article in the student publication called “The Buzz”. The editor at the time was Peter, and a year after our paths diverged he has convinced me to become a contributor to the Work Blog.

The past year was spent in the land of India, where I devoted myself to my work as a software engineer for a large IT company - Satyam Computer Services. These adventures are chronicled in the much admired ARNABlog. After my one year contract had expired, several weeks of travel throughout North Indian and Western Europe followed before I returned to Canada armed with tangible work experience, an inquiring mind, and a sculpted body. Many tales are yet to be told, as old stories are recollected and new adventures unfold.

January 01, 2007

From One Year to the Next

For the hero of our story, the year 2006 was a momentous one. In 2007, the legend will continue to grow. As one year comes to a close and another begins, it is time for some "to do" and "have done" lists taking a look back at the year that was and offering a sneak preview into the year that will be.



Top 3 Achievements of 2006 (in no particular order):

Graduated from Simon Fraser University with a BSc in Computing Science and Business Administration after four years of continuous effort and dedication to my studies

Cemented my status as a bonafide heartthrob with mass global appeal and a diversified fan base

Obtained an internship with Satyam, allowing me to gain international work experience in my chosen field and at the same time explore my heritage, travel India, and visit my relatives



Places Visited So Far (Days Spent):

Mumbai (5)
Hampi (2)
Delhi/Lucknow/Neemrana (10)
Chennai/Kanchipuram/Mahabalipuram (4)
Aurangabad/Ajanta/Ellora/Pune (3)
Kolkata (12)
Cochin/Alleypey/Varkala/Trivandrum/Kanyakumari/Kovalam (6)
Nandi Hills (1)
Coorg (2)

Total Places: 27

Places on the World Heritage List (Visited):

Agra Fort
Ajanta Caves

Ellora Caves
Taj Mahal
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

Sun Temple, Konârak
Kaziranga National Park
Keoladeo National Park
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
Churches and Convents of Goa
Fatehpur Sikri
Group of Monuments at Hampi

Khajuraho Group of Monuments
Elephanta Caves
Great Living Chola Temples
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal
Sundarbans National Park
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
Humayun's Tomb, Delhi
Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi
Mountain Railways of India

Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)

So far I have visited 11 of the 26 sites. The complete list can be found on the UNESCO World Heritage Center website.



Bangalore restaurants I have been to or plan to go to
Hyderabad restaurants I have been to or plan to go to