A Travellerspoint blog

June 2015

Citi Bank Magic

Ho chi minh City Vietnam

overcast 22 °C
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Life is unpredictable. So it is said.

On a cruise at Hanoi bay I was having a whale of a time on the topdeck, sipping the best of cocktails, playing with the little umbrella, the deck swaying to the waves slapping the sides of the tourist yacht. Then came the tailspin. I felt my pocket to take out my wallet and realised I had lost it while I had been frolicking around and chatting with fellow travellers.

I felt like Robinson Crusoe, shipwrecked on an island a few thousand miles away from home. I had no clue where I had left the wallet. Panic-stricken, I asked everyone on board, the crew members, the stewardess, the deck incharge. But there was no wallet to be found. I had to catch a connecting flight to Ho Chi Minh city and luckily for me I had paid my hotel bills and a taxi had been booked and pre-paid for the drive to Hanoi airport.

I called up my Relationship Manager Tarun Dhinga and Branch Manager Amit Aggarwal in Delhi. This was a “May Day” message. I was advised to visit the Citi Bank Branch in Sun Wah Tower at Ho Chi Minh City and they would be able to give me emergency cash after I showed them my passport and gave them my account number. My nerves settled down, my heartbeats lowered, I took a deep breath. Wow, was it that simple?

Next I searched around to locate my passport and found it in the travel bag. I slept peacefully that night. Reached Ho Chi Minh city the next morning and took a scooter directly to the Citi Bank branch. I was welcomed by Luu Nguyen Anh Khoa, the Relationship Manager. After I explained my predicament to her she quickly took charge of the situation.

Then it was a matter of 10 minutes. I only had to fill a simple form, give copies of my passport. After a few quick telephonic checks and one e-mail sent from my Delhi branch, I had cash in my hand, the entire amount in the local currency.

All in no time as I leisurely sipped a hot and delicious coffee and chatted with Luu in the Citigold lounge. I loved the coffee, I loved Luu, I loved Ho Chi Minh city and most of all, I loved the ease with which Citi Bank’s Delhi branch had liaised with their Ho Chi Minh counterparts that I, a total newcomer in a strange city was coming to seek crucial assistance from them.

Travelling the world at that time looked so easy. I became an even firm believer in the concept that the “world is a village.” I did some recording and took some photographs in celebration of this major event during my travelthon. This was something that I definitely had to share on my blog. So watch the video and see the Citi Bank Magic unfold.

It proves that some things in life are predictable, like a replacement of your lost Citi Bank card.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 12:25 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bank Comments (0)

om namo shiva

Shiva India


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Shiva is the most interesting god in the trimurti of Bramha Vishnu Mahesh , the three pillars of Hindu religion and mythology . Shiva is the destroyer also known as Shanbhu , Natraj , Yogi raj and many more names . He is the essential asthatic always dressed in the shin of a tiger , bare chested covered with holy ash of the shamshaan which he smears on his body . A serpent dangling from his neck with rudraksh beads and mala’s as his garlands .Shiva dances with a damru in his hand also called the tandava. He is escort is Mata Parvati , Ganesha sits on his lap as his son and nandi the bull is his chariot .

On my spiritual journey across india , i can across shiv many times . I meet him in Kedarnath as a rock in the middel of the temple . I passed the statue of Nandi and whispered a wish in his year . I enjoyed talking to the aghodi’s and the naga baba’s who surround his temple. To see his splendour in the temples of yamnotri . The ganges flowing through the mountain passes as the glaciers melt , as if the ganga was coming down the heavens through the jata of shiva . The great cedar he is called . I ventured around the temple the whole place is full of rocks and boulders with snow peaked mountains all around . I was happy that i finally found the great Bheem Shila the rock that fell from the mountains in front of the temple and saved it from devastation when floods came to the region and destroyed everything in sight . The Bheem shill has now become the symbol of divine intervention , many devotees have started praying to if . Kedarnath is a sight to behold with the Sumeru mountains on one side the air is chilled and crisp , oxygenate levels are a bit low . We reached their by a helicopter which took us in between the valley to the temple . People from all walks of life where to be seen . Even the poor the sick the weak and the handicapped had arrived to make this pilgrimage . All intoxicated by the beauty of shiva and his abode .

I was to meet bhole nath again this time in Kathmandu nepal at the Pashupati Nath Temple . Here the temple is full of animals like monkeys , goats , sheep , birds and hen. Their a huge Nandi mad of brass just inside the temple and sadhus per for puja’s and hawan . I walked around the temple right in the middle is a huge pond mad out of brick walls , inside is green muddy water and between the pond is a huge statue of shiva covered with serpents , a majestic sight. I bought some rudraksh needs her , each rudrash being different then the other one called do mukhi rudraksh , the other panch mukhi , the rudraksh with five heads . I sat down with the pujari of the temple and did my fathers shard , i prayed for his soul to rest in peace and asked for his forgiveness . Doing this in one of the holiest places pleased me and i was happy to ahead a huge burden from my shoulders

I danced with shiva again in the ghats of the holy City of Banaras which is an abode of shiva himself , the legend has it that the city rests on shiva’s trident . Banaras is the town where the journey of every hindu comes to rest . The Hindus bring their dead to Banars and burn them on the ghats of the ganga . Funeral pyres are light continuously one after the other . Asse ghat is one such ghat where pyres have been light for thousands of years without a break . This is the land of death , the shamshaans of shiva . On the ghats wander the flesh eating Aghodi’s and the naga’s , they are the children of shiva . Shiva the lord of shamshaan the ultimate destroyer watches upon this holy city of Varanasi . Banaras is also known for Hindutvta and it’s great university like the Banaras hindu university . It is the home land of poets like Nirala and kaka hathrasi . But shiv is omnipresent here tourists from euorpe and America come to varanasi in search of nirvana of ultimate salvation.Seekers come here to gain enlightenment and the banks of the ganges pilgrims bathe to purify their sins and get ready to sin again .

I was surprised to see Siva in Cambodia during my vist to the Ankor Watt temples . Huge statues of shiva reside in the galleries of the Ankor Watt temple . A soothsayer sat me down and read my future from old pali scriptures written on barks and leaves and ancient culture resides in the city of Siam reap in cambodia and shiva was a part of it . Ever smiling and pleasing he stands tall and benevolent .

Posted by Anuj Tikku 12:13 Tagged shiva Comments (0)

In Search Of With In

OSHO ASHRAM PUNE

30 °C

The Search of With In

My meandering ways and my travels through india took me to a most fascinating place . Situated in the bustling town of Pune to a mystical ashram called the OSHO international Centre . The Ashram was created by Bhagwaan Rajneesh and his disciples in the early 1970’s .It was re christened as the osho ashram in the late 1980’s when the spiritual guru Rajneesh took up the name of OSHO which means the one on whom the heavens shower their blessings . The resort is now extensively used for meditation and many other therapies . In the middle of the resort stands a towering pyramid like auditorium which is used for Dynamic meditation in the morning and meditations like Kundalini Jagran and Nathbraham . Each of these uses sound and breathing techniques to put the subject slowly into a trance . As one goes deeper into oneself the mind begins to go quite all the cutter stops and slowly one drops the mind completely . This is called the state of the samadhi or what we call no mind . All that is left is the the breath and all that will remain is no mind . As one goes inwards into oneself a realisation dawns that you are not the mind nor the body all you are is the self or what the mystics called Sath Chit Anand . This way total bliss is attained .

The Nathbraham is another fascinating meditation you have to listen to the music and humm in a low breath once you drop the mind and reach the inner most core of your being a realisation of the ‘I’ is achieved . As one comes back from the meditation one begins to laugh very loudly . I came out of the meditation hall and stated laughing aloud . When i asked the instructor why was a laughing he told me “ You see through this meditation your inner being has been classed all sadness , hate , sorrow , defeat all negativity has been removed . So the only thing that is left is a hollow space which is taken over by laughter that is why you were laughing” .

But my most fascinating experience was when i was doing the dynamic meditation in the morning . We were asked to jump and dance with the music . I had my keys in my pocket which began to jingle and make noise .The instructor got annoyed and asked me to leave the meditation hall , she came out and ranted “ you are disturbing everyones meditation get out and go back to your hotel room .Look at you you even look like a monkey .” I was startled to get such a harsh treatment in such a loving place . I went out and started weeping then i fought dawned to me that i am in the house of a man who was thrown out of everywhere in the world where does a man go who gets thrown out of his house . Indeed OSHO had been thorn out of his commune in the US and subsequently 25 countries did not allow him to form an ashram . I took my question to the breakfast table where other osho followers had gathered . I narrated the incident to them in the morning and asked them the same question . Suddenly a old lady from Finland heard my question which was “ I am in the house of a man who got thrown out of everywhere in the world where does a man go who gets thrown out of his house ?” The lady smiled and said “ son their is still one place you can go and that place is with in.”

I got my answer that no matter how bad things are their is always one door that is open and that door is the door with in . One can always go their and one does not need the approval of society or of any one to got into that door .

Posted by Anuj Tikku 12:09 Archived in India Tagged religion god Comments (0)

Kings Of The Sea

Maldives Hulumale Island

You see sir we are the Kandurassefanu, the kings of the sea. We are the greatest divers in Maldives and now you are now going to be part of this elite club," said Dost my diving instructor. It was my first attempt at scuba diving. I loved every bit of it.

Having reached Maldives the previous day, I fell in instant love with the coconut palms thriving on more than a thousand islands that comprise the nation. Grouped into 26 low atolls in the Indian Ocean, less than 300 of the islands are inhabited. The Maldives is flat with white sandy beaches and excellent reefs with an abundance of marine life. Scuba diving is one of the major activities and is done at a leisurely pace.

The scuba guys had come to pick me up in the morning from my hotel. We took an old trawler deep into the sea in the reef areas. I wore my scuba gear as Dost, meaning ‘friend,’ in Hindi, barked instructions at me.

I jumped into the sea with my fins on and started breathing through the regulator. I began to sink into the cool blue waters and the bubbles from my mask rose upwards.

The feeling was like it must be for astronauts walking on the moon with zero gravity. My limbs became light as I sank deeper and deeper, almost to 25 metres below. The dance of nature started to take shape. Multicolored fish, the ray fish, the black frog fish, a giant sea turtle, all whizzed past me in a play of light and shadows. The dark green seaweeds danced amidst the swirl of the currents.

I stared chasing the turtle and was successful in touching it. I wanted to sit on it and go for a ride. But the reefs were thick and I lost the turtle. To be so close to nature, however, was a rare treat. How effortlessly nature moves and how infinite its scale! One infinite exists up in the universe the other exists below the sea in the abyss. This saltwater slammed up along the walls, stirring the sponges and soft corals clinging to the rock sides. Inside the lagoons the rock pinnacles vaulted up from the bottom to scratch the water’s surface. Nature at its best

Time slowed down as I sat on a rock absorbing the surreal life all around me. All this while Dost was taking pictures and recording the video for my blog. At 50 dollars a dive it was worth it, the vision of beauty and peace. Slowly Dost shook me out of my tranquility, held my hand and took me upwards to the surface. "You see many people go to the spa for meditation trying to lose themselves. I dive to lose myself this is my meditation," reflected Dost.

I agreed. I had forgotten all my worries during the dive. I had enjoyed the richness of nature. How strange it is that the more we take from it the more it gives us. If it can go on endlessly so could I. It is amazing, wondrous and boundless.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 12:02 Tagged sea diving scuba Comments (0)

Sin Free Haridwar

Haridwar where Tikku's Travelthon Started

sunny 31 °C
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Religious hubs such as Hardwar should be on the must-see list of foreign tourists who want to experience the “real” India. Crowds of devotees streaming to the ghats are hypnotic. The single-minded quest to wash away one’s sins by taking a dip in the holy waters of the Ganga and the worship of the pantheon of gods and goddesses brings a semblance of peace.
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I wanted to try and wash away the guilt hanging heavy on my soul and self, participate in this spiritual activity, lose myself in the madness of meaningfulness, and depersonalize my body by merging with the crowds of devotees. I headed for the nearest destination which could provide me with solace and succour. Hardwar was in my sights.
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A taxi ride from New Delhi to Hardwar involved covering over 200 km in close to six hours. The highway seemed to have been paved in a hurry but the sight of green fields on either side made up for the potholes. The colorful hoardings along the way made interested reading. Finally I reached my destination.
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It is not easy to describe Hardwar. What does one start with? The colorful temples, the purificatory Ganga, the salvation-seeking devotees, the commercial-minded pundits or priests, the black-faced grey langurs, the ochre-clad sadhus? So many factors omnipresent make a choice difficult. So I will start with the one and only Mother Ganges or “Ganga Maiyya.”
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The waters at the ghat, popularly known as Har-ki-Pauri, are welcoming, look refreshing and promise a better world beyond the one I inhabit at present. Originating from the icy slopes of the Himalayas, the fast-flowing waters are bone-chilling. I submerge myself in the icy flow thrice. My skin tingles, my senses freeze, my thoughts are focused on “Oh God.”

Hardwar is a different side of India. I was thrilled to be in this city. The panditji seated on the steps of the ghat anointed my forehead with a red tilak and chanted some shlokas in exchange for some money. My spiritual upliftment, the atonement of my sins, the blessings of my ancestors were showered on me. It was now time to fill my growling stomach.

The bazaar was within walking distance of Har-ki-Pauri. My countrymen were dominant, fumbling through the knick-knacks on sale. Bottles containIng Ganga water were a popular item on offer. There was a scattering of foreigners in the crowded market and they were invariably being trailed by sadhus, their hair matted, foreheads covered with grey ash, clutching a bowl in one hand and a trishul in the other.

I located a halwai shop where pooris were being served with steaming hot aloo ki subzi. The shop was packed with families, all talking, laughing and devouring the contents of their plates with a passion. I managed to find a corner of a bench empty and slid into it. I started guessing the regions from where the different families had come from. Dress and language were my two major clues. All the North Indian states and a few from other regions were represented and I was the solitary Kashmiri delegate, or so I presumed.

Millions of pilgrims and tourists visit the Har-ki-Pauri to seek the gift of salvation from “Ganga Maiyya.” From dawn to dusk men, women and children take the holy dip religiously. In the evening as darkness covers the sky, the ghats resound to the echoing sounds of the “aarti” and the waters are lit up by the twinkling of lighted “diyas” flowing along with the current of the Ganga. While Hardwar sleeps peacefully at night, the Ganga continues to flow, not tiring of washing away the sins of its over 1 billion children.

Posted by Anuj Tikku 11:46 Archived in India Tagged river ganges Comments (0)

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