Travelling in Business Class.

My doctor recommended to my travel insurance company that I travel back to Singapore on a seat which allowed me to stretch my legs out fully.

My travel insurance company bought a business class ticket back to Singapore for me the day I was discharged. I was to return to Singapore on the eve of Chinese New Year. I.E: Last minute air ticket bought during PEAK flying period in Asia.

I found myself booked in Lufthansa’s business class. I always thought I would fly in business class someday – maybe 20 or 30 years down the road when I have made it in life – but not now.

Flying business class is not going to be a regular thing in my life right now anyway.

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The Business Class lounge for passengers travelling on Lufthansa flights. Eat all you want here. There is a resting room and shower rooms.

I was booked on a A380-800, so I was ushered to the second floor of the plane. My first business class experience, and it was on a A380-800!

The plane was not full, so I got my own row.

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Wrapped up and watching a movie.

After the scare from that last flight, I made sure I walked around after every movie. I also told the air stewardess to wake me every three hours if I fell asleep. She was a little reluctant to do so, but really shook me awake after the third hour I fell asleep. I made myself walk around the business class portion of the plane – even if I had to stumble around like a zombie.

The service on Lufthansa is really good, and this is not just limited to the business class. The service in the economy class is also quite good.

I told one of the air stewardesses (she’s Thai) on the flight why I was so adamant about walking around every three hours. She was sympathetic, and came back with a pack of cards and a stuffed toy a few minutes after. I think it was to comfort me after spending my holiday in hospital.

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This is how the people in business class eat breakfast.

In business class, the air stewardesses came around with glasses of water every hour. This was not seen in economy class. The food cart only came around twice during the flight.

Air stewardess: “Ma’am, do you want your table set?”
Business Class Noob (blinking): “Table set?” (looks around)
Air stewardess: “Yes, do you want it set?”
Business Class Noob: “Erm, no. Thank you. I am not hungry.”

I was not hungry the first time food came around on board the flight – I had eaten dinner in the lounge. I even took a banana from the lounge in case I got hungry during the flight – that was not necessary after all.

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The controls

The seat is the main difference between business class and the economy class. Unlike in economy class where I had to manually push the chair backwards for an incline, I merely had to press the button to slide the chair into position I wanted.

I felt so pampered.

There was also a massage function on the chair. I didn’t use that much.

I am not sure how much that 12-hour flight cost my insurance company, but I probably would not be able to buy this out of my own pocket. However, it was a great experience.

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My Body Hijacked me in Frankfurt.

I have never been a sickly child. I get the rare cold or cough, but they never last very long. However, I do have a history of falling violently ill – an 8-day stay in the hospital, anyone? I am mostly healthy, really awesome and calm. However, when my body wants to rebel, it does in a major way. Like me. ^^

I did an 8-day stay in the hospital in 2009 after a major operation, but I bounced back within 3 months to go for my student exchange in Indonesia. My parents were worried sick, but I came back safely without any major mishaps. I even went to South Germany in the same year to spend Christmas there.

I will not let my body hold me back from travelling.

I spent an uneventful 9 hours on the Lufthansa plane flying from Chennai to Frankfurt. I was sitting next to the window, and there were 2 Indian men next to me. I remember I did not have any leg room after stuffing my bag under the seat in front of me. I was quite uncomfortable, but hey, flying economy is never pleasant. It is just a method to get to my destination.

I then had to transfer to my flight heading to Madrid in Frankfurt.

I got off the plane at Frankfurt and thanked all the air stewardesses on my way out. They were very friendly and awesome.

I stepped off the plane, and felt the cold immediately. I squatted down to shiver a little. It was probably the cold, I told myself. I hurried to find the nearest rest room to put on more clothes and to use the toilet…

… And found myself lying face-down in the middle of the empty gate. I did not know how I ended up on the floor. Some time might have passed before I regained consciousness. I felt a small bump forming above my right eyebrow. Around me were 4 or 5 very concerned airport staff.

I struggled to get up but someone told me not to move. My next move would be to wave my air ticket to Madrid at the airport staff. One of them took the ticket and examined it. She asked for my passport and summoned the airport clinic staff.

I was not fated to go to Madrid.

The next couple of hours was one of the most traumatic ones I ever had in my life.

I lay on one of the beds in the airport clinic, and I remember not being able to breathe. My chest hurt. I was panicking.

The doctor in the airport clinic said that I was not fit for flight. In fact, the pilot would chase me off his plane if I fought my way to the gate.

He decided that what I had was beyond his skills/equipment. He sent me to the nearest hospital in an ambulance.

He accompanied me in the ambulance to the hospital. He belonged to one of the types of German men that I adore – chubby and he had a reliable feel about him. He kept pressing an oxygen mask to my face and commanded me to breathe in deeply.

After getting my medical report (in GERMAN) 8 days later, I understood why he did it – my oxygen level was at 66% when I got to the hospital. A normal person has an oxygen level of 100%.

I reached the emergency department of the hospital and I was hooked up to several machines by the nurses there. Five doctors followed a senior doctor into my emergency room. The senior doctor proceeded to pull up my top to perform an ultrasound scan of my lungs. (Very efficiently, no nonsense-ly) He was speaking in German. I understood nothing, but I had the word “Madrid” in my head.

One of the five doctors detached himself from the group to put feeding tubes into both my arms. He was to be my main doctor for the next 8 days. He speaks English fluently and had thick skin. My cries of “MADRID!!” did nothing to move him. BUT, he was handsome as hell – he was probably of Persian origins.

The next day, he explained that I had pulmonary embolism. (This was after I asked him if I could travel to Madrid after spending two days in the hospital.) He also said that 30% to 40% of people who get pulmonary embolism die on the spot, and this was like the beginning of my second life.

The religious theme is running through this trip for some reason.

For 5 days, trainee doctors and nurses came in to take blood for tests. I am so used to people taking blood from me. I am actually indifferent to needles.

During my stay, I learned a lot from my room mates through their actions and broken English. There was a 89-year-old woman who had no family. She was so self-sufficient, and she reminded me of myself. Would I be like her when I am older?

I was sorry that I could not speak German because she was telling my other room mate and her daughter how Frankfurt was like before the World Wars.

One of my nurses spoke English fluently, and I was grateful for her presence. I would have no conversation without her. I would tease the nurses by holding my hands up in a fight stance (while on the bed) when they came in to give my blood thinner injections, or make faces at the way my medicine tastes. One of them (from Bosnia) said, “Don’t fight me. I have a needle.” XD

I also encouraged the younger nurses to practice their English on me. I learnt a bit of German – enough to ask for water and understand (a little) of what was happening around me.

My cousin A flew from London to visit me ♥, and got into trouble at work because of that.

I spent a lot of time reading the books I had in my bag, playing games / watching Weeds Season 7 and 8 on my tablet and sleeping.

I was discharged on the 8th day and I was allowed to walk around the city centre on my own. I was surprised how much my stamina decreased during the time I was in the hospital; I was tired after walking around slowly for only 4 or 5 hours (with rest in between).

The hospital was 10 minutes away from the city centre of Frankfurt.

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An interesting building en route to the city centre.

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The best part of this was…
I found Primark in Frankfurt. I am known to buy up to ₤100 worth of stuff when I am let loose in Primark. A the cousin looked at me with surprise when we were last together in the branch of Primark located in Camden Town.

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One of my highlights when I am in UK: Primark. ♥

This time, I only spent €16.80 on foot socks, underwear and hair conditioner. Most of the stuff in my sizes were gone when I got there. I guess the Primark in UK has more stock in my size.

Due to this incident, I am grounded from dance class and travelling for a month. 😦 I will probably rest more so I can travel to Los Angeles (and survive the trip) with A the cousin in June.

Another lesson I learned after this trip: never travel without travel insurance. My medical bills, travelling expenses and air tickets were paid for by my travel insurance company. My stay in the hospital would have cost me tens of thousands if I did not have insurance. You do not know when your body will act up.

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Meenakshi and Madurai.

Ivan and I hopped on another bus from Thanjavur towards Madurai. Thank goodness Madurai is a transportation hub with its own airport; it only took one bus and 4 hours to get to Madurai from Thanjavur.

This is the last stop of the India part of my month-long journey in two continents, and this temple is the best of all the temples I have seen in Tamilnadu. If you are in Tamilnadu and only have time for one temple, the Meenakshi Amman Temple would be it.

Ivan headed to Munnar in Kerala after spending a day in this city. So I was left with no male protection on my last day in Tamilnadu.

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This temple reminds me a lot of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. I am not sure why – the Meenakshi Temple did not have gold but many tall and colourful structures. Maybe it is because it has four gates like the Shwedagon, and the temple compound is constructed like the Shwedagon. Have you been to the two temples and felt this way?

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The temple has four gates – north, south, east and west. Visitors are to leave their shoes and large bags at a minding booth outside the temple. The booth is free to use, but minders will ask for tips. People are more forward in asking for tips in this city!

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With the resident elephant in the temple

Ivan is obsessed with elephants. He gets very excited when he reads or sees that a temple near us has a resident elephant. We missed two other elephants in the other cities/towns that we were in, and he was happy to get a picture with this one.

If you see this elephant and you wish to have a picture taken with it, give its handler 10 rupees. He will then position you accordingly.

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I was not in position the first time around.

I could still feel its trunk on my head hours after this incident.

An hour later, the elephant was seen heading towards its rest area.

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That’s enough of the head patting business. Time for bananas!

Even as the elephant was moving towards its rest area, people were still running up to touch it.

If you wish to see this elephant, please head to the temple early in the morning – about 7am. I am sure the elephant will return later in the day, but I did not stick around long enough to find out.

Temples are better in the morning as they are less crowded. Most of the foreign tourists come in the late morning.

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This temple is dedicated to Parvati, the consort of Shiva. She had three breasts before she married Shiva. Legend says that she was born with three breasts and the extra third breast will melt away when she meets her intended one.

Man, I wish I had a third breast that did the same so I won’t have to bother with men who don’t matter. Who has time to date anyway?

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Meenakshi, or Parvati. She’s super gorgeous with a perfect figure.

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The archway has small candle holders.

We spent around three hours wandering around the temple compound until my stomach growled due to the lack of breakfast. This is a very beautiful temple and should not be missed.

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A miniature of the Meenakshi Amman Temple in wood.

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Hanuman’s statue with tons of pictures in the glass display. I have no idea why.

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Same with Lakshmi’s glass display. Are these pictures of men wanting a good wife?

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Cow street

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Ivan left that afternoon. I stayed a day longer – I had a plane to catch to Chennai from the Madurai airport.

With the extra day, I holed up in an internet cafe to write, and went to the Gandhi Memorial Museum.

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The Gandhi Memorial Museum

The museum is free to enter, and narrates India’s journey towards independence. Since Gandhi was the most important figure in this narrative, he has his own gallery in this building. The British were really terrible people in India.

The things that Gandhi used can be found in glass displays.

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The vows Gandhi-ji followed.

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The most important item in the gallery – the piece of clothing Gandhi was wearing when he was shot.

The museum is a distance from the city centre. There is a public bus from the main bus station which stops about a kilometre away from the museum. After that, one has to walk the remaining distance to the museum.

This was when I missed Ivan the most. Between the both of us, he was better at reading maps and finding the best way to get to the place. He was also the one who spoke some Hindi – some people spoke better Hindi than English in South India.

Above all, his presence ensured that I would not get harassed by random men. Yes, he is shorter and younger than I am, but he’s MALE. I think that’s all that mattered.

When females are born in India, they have a first name, then the father’s first name is entered as their last name. Her last name changes to her husband’s first name after she gets married. From this, I inferred that women are always under a man’s protection.

On the day without Ivan, I took the bus towards the museum and got off several stops after the stop for the museum. The bus conductor just unceremoniously kicked me off the bus without much explanation.

I did not know where I was, so I decided to take an auto to the museum. I flagged an auto down and haggled the price. Halfway into the journey, the guy peers into the mirror and says “You’re beautiful.” I started feeling uncomfortable, and muttered “Thank you.”

He started making suggestions like, “Swimming pool. Want to see?”
I shook my head and tapped my watch, “I am in a hurry. Please go to the museum quickly.” (The museum had limited opening hours, and I had spent my whole morning at the internet cafe tapping out blog entries)

He drove a little while more, and asked me if I wanted to stop for some watermelon. He adds, “I love you.” He repeated that phrase earnestly a few more times throughout the journey, while looking in the rear mirror.

Cue major freaking out.
I waved to the front, and tapped my watch impatiently. “Please go.”

After ten long minutes (they went by forever), I paid him with the exact amount that we agreed upon and ran into the museum compound.

This was probably why D insisted on sending her driver to fetch me from the Chennai Central train station instead of letting me take an auto on my own. A solo female traveller should not take an auto on her own.

I took the public bus back to the city after spending about an hour at the museum. I walked out carefully of the museum, while keeping a lookout for that particular auto driver. Luckily, he was nowhere in sight.

I walked out to the nearest bus stop… Only that I could not identify bus stops in India. Most bus stops will not have bus signs – just people standing around waiting for the bus. I walked for quite a distance before asking a woman (always a woman for me!) for directions. She was very kind; her husband and her walked me back to the bus stop.

During the walk, she told me that she’s a famous singer in Madurai and even sang a line for me. She also has a friend in Singapore – gave me his number from memory.
I should be more thick-skinned when promoting my skills – like she is.

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I caught my plane to Chennai from the Madurai airport.
The Madurai airport is located quite a distance from the main bus terminal. One can take a public bus (9 rupees) to the outskirts of the city. After that, one has to catch an auto (50 rupees) to the airport. I managed to share an auto with a couple, with me clutching my backpack with my fingers. It hung out of the side of the auto.

On the day of my departure, I headed to the main bus station. Apparently, there is a straight bus to the airport from the main bus station. I never catch these buses. I wonder where they are.

I got on the wrong bus at the main bus station. When I asked a girl on the bus, she told me to get off and got me on the right bus. Not only did she do that, she asked the auto for a good price from the main bus station to the airport. (300 rupees) Finding the price too expensive, she got me on the right bus, and told the bus driver where I was going.

As a result, the whole bus knew where I was going. When the bus conductor got to me, he merely said “9 rupees.”

When you tell one person something in India, the whole bus knows. South Indians are helpful like that.

I took the budget airline Spicejet to the Chennai airport. The flight cost about SGD$100. It was really expensive, but it was only an hour’s journey from Madurai to Chennai. Taking the bus from Madurai would have taken me 9 hours. I am not going to sit in a bus for 9 hours!

I got to the Chennai airport with 5 hours to spare before my flight to Frankfurt. The problem with Indian airports is that passengers cannot enter the airport building until 3 hours before their flight. I hung out outside the airport building and chatted with a couple of girls from Australia.

I was really excited to go to Spain where the weather is slightly cooler and beer is cheap.

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Ivan and I took a bus inland towards Thanjavur. This should have been a 4-hour bus journey on a single bus.

However, as neither of us spoke/read Tamil (Ivan speaks a bit of Hindi – but hey, it’s not Tamil), we were directed by people at the bus station towards a bus which brought us to a bus station in another town. We then took a bus to yet another bus station in another town. And then another bus from another bus station in another town to Thanjavur.

Ivan kept getting mauled (roughly elbowed and pushed) by local students getting on the buses – he was condemned to the aisle seat by me as he has a longer temper fuse than I do. If I had been sitting in the aisle seat, I would have blown up an hour into the bus ride and probably would have started glaring at anyone who happened to knock their way past me. A bruise developed on his upper right arm. I have no idea how he put up with all that shoving and still remained calm.

There was apparently a direct bus which would have taken us from Chidambaram to Thanjavur for 100 rupees each, but we didn’t see it.

We took a total of 3 buses and 5 hours to get to Thanjavur. We saved 10 rupees each.
Money saving reached a new low, but I guess every cent (literally) counts.

I was glad to have mailed 5kg of my baggage back to Singapore at the post office in Chidambaram. My backpack was much lighter, but my arm muscles were still not happy hauling my backpack up and down three buses. It takes talent to lift my backpack up to the narrow baggage ledge.

The main attraction in Thanjavur was the Big Temple (seriously, this is how the temple was referred to in English on a road sign!), or the Brihadishwara Temple. The Lonely Planet guide book recommends that visitors to the temple should visit it once in the evening and another time in the morning to see the way the light hits the carvings on the temple.

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The Brihadishwara Temple against the dying evening light.

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Sorry Ivan, didn’t use flash.

This temple compound is huge, and one of the nicer ones I had seen in Tamilnadu. However, the compound was a little dirty within clearly marked areas of the compound.

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The Temple in the morning.

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Shiva’s steed, Nandi. This sculpture was carved from a single stone.

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The Palace and the Saraswathi Museum is another place to visit if you are in Thanjavur.
I was very fascinated in the stuff they had in the Palace library. They had books from the time when Asia was still an unknown variable to the Europeans. Sadly, no photos allowed in the library. I spent some time pressing my face against the glass display cases.

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Symmetry is everything.

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The detailed carvings at the foot of a statue of Vasco(?) in the museum.

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The rooftop.

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The goats took over the small garden in the palace.

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The Department of Archaeology in Thanjavur. Sadly, there is nothing to see in here; it’s just a pretty pink building. Move along, kids.

There was a small amusement park next to the Big Temple in Thanjavur. It was one of those pop-up amusement parks. The entry fee was 30 rupees, and it was sad.

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The entrance of the amusement park.

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PSA on drink driving.

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Not many people were in it, but we were in Thanjavur on a weekday. Maybe it will be crowded on the weekend?

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I didn’t go on any rides because… the safety precautions were kinda scanty; I am older and wary; and the structures looked rickety.

EDIT: D assures me that these rides are safe!

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Ivan and I took a bus from Pondicherry to our next stop in Chidambaram.

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The bus was thiscrowded. I am thankful I got a seat.

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We were in town to see the temple.

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It is beautiful, yes. But this is not the best I have seen in India.
The best is yet to be.

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Puducherry, Pondicherry, Pondy.

How many names do Indians have for their cities? I don’t really know.

Anyhow, Puducherry, Pondicherry and Pondy all refer to the same place in India – a former French colony.

This is a good town to walk around on foot. Some people speak French here. Many people speak English. Everything is all good here. There are tons of yoga ashrams in town. This is a chill-out kinda place. Stroll in and enjoy the views.

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A pedestrian-only street along the beach of Pondy. Vehicles are not allowed into this street between 8.30pm to 7.30am. (timings unconfirmed) We should have more of these in Singapore to encourage people to exercise!

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A beach at Pondy. No sunbathing, please.

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Gandhi-ji by the beach

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At a photo exhibition depicting the involvement of India in World War I.

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Chennai and Mamallapuram.

Before my arrival in India, I had the impression that there was nothing to do in Chennai.

A friend’s father, Mr Chandra, proved me wrong.

The beach in Chennai, Marina Beach, is one of the longest beaches in India. This beach runs for 13 kilometres. I believe the locals just refer to it as Chennai Beach.

We did not stop to see this beach – just drove past it slowly. Mr Chandra said this beach will be crowded in the evenings.

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Chennai is home to the tomb of St. Thomas. His remains are at Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas, or Santhome, for short.

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There is a museum next to the tomb which houses several important relics.

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Get out! An actual relic used by St. Thomas!

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A relic used by St. Francis Xavier (left)

It was then a 2-hour drive to Mamallapuram. This town is 60 kilometres from Chennai.

Yeah, I know. I have not heard of this place before I came to Chennai! I couldn’t even pronounce it properly without my tongue tying up in knots. Please see Wikitravel page for more explanation.

Tickets to the 5 Rathas and the Shore Temple cost 250 INR.

First, we went to the 5 Rathas, a monument going back to the 7th century. The word “ratha” refers to chariots.

Each of these were carved out of whole stones.

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We went to the lighthouse and the carvings surrounding it are so beautiful!

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The Shore Temple was something quite beautiful as well. The crows there were trying to fly into the sea wind, but they were not strong enough, so they were suspended in the sky. HAHA.

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