A 23-hour journey? No, even the slowest flights won’t take over 6 hours to make it that distance! If you wish to skip to the part where I take a 4-hour Air India flight from Bangalore (sorry… Bengaluru) to Singapore, then click here to jump right over.
Alright, let’s now begin where I began from- Dharwad. The most efficient route is Dharwad to Bengaluru, Bengaluru to Singapore, and finally Singapore to Batam Riau, Indonesia. A flight can be taken from Hubli (around 20 km from Dharwad) to Bengaluru which lasts a modest 1 hour. But this time, I had a sleeper-coach bus booked- VRL.
It would be an 8-hour journey through the night. It was booked for 10:15 pm. I had two bags packed- a 20-something kg bag with wheels that suffocated whenever I pulled on them… and a much smaller backpack. The big bag was in the luggage compartment of the bus while the backpack was with me. So I spent half my time listening to music and looking at the backpack and the other half… still looking at the bag.
Well, I could have enjoyed the window view but the bag oddly seemed more interesting…
Getting myself a room
Unlike my previous visit to Bengaluru (yep that was another story), I managed to alight at the stop- Anand Rao Circle. This time, I knew the streets better so I found the hotel I usually checked in. Lucky for me, this time I got a room for 6-7 vada pavs cheaper (For the newbies, vada pav is the currency that I refer to for my stories… 1 vada pav= 15 rupees). Well, this room had no TV which was alright for me.
It was 6:45 am now. I had to leave for the airport by 8:30 am. With almost two hours in my hand, I had a quick bath. Then I stepped out of the hotel to get some breakfast. Filling up my seemingly fit belly with Idli Vada- something which I typically order for breakfast- I walked back to the hotel where my bags were still waiting for me. It was still 7:30 now… so what did I do now?
I went back to my room and dozed off and had a beautiful dream… a dream with my backpack laying by my feet. When I woke up, it was 8:45 am. Here we go again. Perfect.
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Run for a bus and obnoxious misers
The bus stop was new to me. A guy at the hotel told me I just had to turn left and find the bus stop ‘Vayu Vajra’. I thought it would be easy but when I looked for the signboards… they seemed to be endless. After asking a wary old policeman who seemed to be bored with his life, a confused bus conductor, and Google Maps, I managed to find it. These government-run airport buses are much different from the usual local ones.
They have a large baggage area and usually a soft-spoken helping conductor. I tucked the big bag in the luggage spot and took a seat. The spot I chose to sit had opposite facing seats. Assuming I would be having a peaceful ride now, I lied back relaxed. That’s when two uncles in their 40s sat opposite of me. They could have sat silently and enjoyed the calmness. But no.
The conductor came by for the bus fair charge and I paid him 235 rupees… or about 15 vada pavs- for that was the cost. These couple of uncles got the idea that charges for the luggage area too were levied. So they took their huge loads. Kept one at their feet (and my feet) and kept another huge bag on their laps. I looked at their faces with disgust and they turned away in embarrassment. Anyway, what can you say to such misers?
I put my earphones back on and sat in the congested seat of mine for the rest of the 45 minutes.
Quite frankly, nothing very interesting at the airport. That featured image I took on the top of this article was in a washroom in the Kempegowda Airport. I really didn’t find any other better spot to take a selfie. Oh wait, something did happen in the washroom. After that selfie, I came out with my phone and my backpack and sat down on an oversized sofa by a ceiling to floor window. I played the Google Chrome’s Dino game for a while and then strangely, a cleaning staff member called me… into the washroom.
He had a dark burly but stout figure with a suspicious-looking mustache. The way he gestured me to come wasn’t suspicious- it was scary. “Aye!” he called out in a deep voice. I followed him back into the dimly lit washroom. There was no one else there. Once I was in, he turned around and glared at me. Before I could respond (I couldn’t respond actually), he lifted his right finger and pointed at a small black notebook-like object sitting by the sink.
“Ahh… um… thanks… bro.. uncle.” I stammered. That small object was my passport, boarding ticket, and visa- all the stuff that one need in order to fly… or go anywhere. I didn’t say anything more, picking up the passport and its contents, I fled from the washroom.
Behind me, I could hear the man laughing in his booming but innocent voice. Still cringy!
Air India after almost a decade
I’ve usually flown over from the past years with Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Tiger. Air India had been closed for the Bengaluru-Changi route for quite a while. I missed it… especially its ‘free’ food facilities. So after a long long time, Air India really felt great to be in. I got an aisle seat for the 4-hour 40-minutes journey but it was fine as long as there was a lot of leg space below. Leg space in flights such as Tiger is very less!
Last time with Tiger, I had to squeeze my legs in to sit and a plump guy beside me had his legs outside the plane window.
Grab- like Ola
My parents and my little bro were there to see me at the airport. We booked a cab with the app- Grab. Just the way Bengaluru had Ola and Uber, Singapore had Grab. A 7-seater Mazda picked us up. I looked around. It was big enough to be a tiny caravan itself. But still, it managed to maintain a steady speed between 80 to 110 Kph. All vehicles in Singapore were supposed to drive at this speed anyway.
We were going through a long tube tunnel when I spotted a sports bike running beside us – a Ducati. The person riding it had a helmet on with a chest almost touching the engine. My mom looked at the position and absently said, “Instead of getting that and riding with such difficulty, he could have bought himself a car.”
My dad was observing and slowly replied, “That’s a ‘she’…”
At that moment, the tunnel ended and the lady riding it shifted gears and boomed past us and all the vehicles in front of us in a matter of seconds. I looked at our Mazda cab’s speedometer. It was 110Kph. The bike was nowhere to be seen now. Some did live their dreams here.
From Singapore to Batam Riau, we can take a ferry from HarbourFront… or just swim across the water. But considering that it takes an hour to reach Batam even with the ferry, it is better not to swim.
It was late at night and we barely managed to make it to HarbourFront in time. We went for the last ferry available… and we were also the last passengers to get in. In fact, our names were called over the loudspeakers for the last call!
Batam at first didn’t seem to have changed much from the past two years. But as my dad sped on the roads, there were constructions going on everywhere. Roads were becoming larger. More restaurants, more high-rising apartments, and definitely more vehicles on the streets now. The standard of living had risen and still is rising and the mass majority could afford cars now. The traffic clearly indicated that.
I wrote a travel blog/guide on Batam Riau last year(not 1970) for the Travelista Club. But I guess I have to write another guide now! We’ll see about that later, shall we?
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