Thursday, 13 September 2018



                            To commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Western  Naval  Command,  the Veterans of the Indian Navy who had served in the Sword Arm Command,  decided to organize a maiden tri-nation tour comprising Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.  This tour was the brainchild of Cdr Vijay Vadhera, Secy NFMC.  After 3 months of detailed planning by  See World Destinations (Shirley and Nevez), 20 veteran Naval couples came together from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar by the various Singapore Flights to arrive Singapore on the early morning of 25th Aug 2018. The couples included the leading Pillars RAdm SVS Chary, Cmde SS Tarate, Capt SS Sethi,  and  Surg Capt SC Patra with their good ladies among others. The Airport arrival was abuzz when the Naval veterans hugged each other, some after decades. They say people come into our lives either for a season, a reason or a Lifetime. We had R/V’ed for the third one even as we all wished Mrs Padma Chary and Cdr Joseph Sukumar, whose Birthdays we celebrated on the very first day later in the evening in Singapore with cake cutting,  a sing-song session and compatibility quiz for the Birthday Boy and Girl along with their butter halves.

           At the outset, our charming host Sharyl gave an exhaustive briefing at the Airport that continued in our bus ride to the Copthorne Hotel, even as we were wonderstruck at the spick and span surroundings of the entire city as viewed from the luxury bus. After the morning shopping at Square City Mall and Mustafa, we went to Santosa Island for the Deep Sea Aquarium and the laser show, a once in a lifetime opportunity. The evening was reserved for the Birthday celebration time at the Hotel


        During the City tour, we stopped at the Lake view point at Esplanade famous for the IFFA awards. Veterans blessed with grandchildren had no choice, but to buy loads of chocolates at the next halt  ‘Chocolate Gallery’.
    We proceeded to Changi harbour Cruise Terminal to board the Dream Genting, the huge cruise liner with 19 Accom decks,  about one and half times the length of our Aircraft Carrier. All 40 of us had been accommodated on the 9th deck Balcony state rooms. The huge Quarter-Deck Restaurant-  LIDO was our R/V point for all meals for the next 3 days. The Genting’s programme was to sail out in the evening and touch Penang on 27th, Langkawi on the 28th afternoon and drop us off at Phuket on 29th. On Day one when Genting cast off at 5 pm, we ran to the Quarter Deck Top for a fantastic view of leaving the harbour. Some ladies tried their hands at Basket ball, Table tennis and Obstacle course before the evening show ‘China’s got Talent’ at the Zodiac. The Auditorium was huge with a seating capacity of over a thousand, where we also relished ‘Rhythm Divine’ the next day. Cdr Vadhera had arranged for a get-together with Genting’s Captain Magnus, a Swedish Marine master in the Offr’s Ante-Room. The Captain individually shook hands with all the members and was kind enough to pose for all the couples in turns. Capt SS Sethi then presented a Naval Vateran’s Cap to the Captain. There was a huge round of applause, as he immediately donned the Navy blue veterans cap to become one like us. He readily agreed for our Bridge visit at 2 pm on Cdr Vadhera’s request. Cmde Tarate and 8 more members opted for Penang excursion., even as the rest of us went for an elaborate educative Bridge visit where the captain personally briefed us. We were escorted to the Foxle for a Group photo on the Helo Deck in the afternoon Sun after which all couples got themselves snapped in the famous Titanic pose.


          In the evenings most of us enjoyed the Swimming Pool and the Jacuzzi on Top deck. After Dinner we used to gather at the Zouk to set the Dance floor on Fire, followed by another session at ‘360 degrees’ Dance floor for fun and Games.
   Day#4 turned out to be the most rewarding day for us with participation of Meena Dutta in the 60 sec challenge and Mrs Nina Sethi bagging the Bingo House during day time and Cdr Vadhera and Surg Capt SC Patra winning the skill honours on the dance floor in the evening, on the eve of departure from the Dream Genting cruise, after a thrilling outdoor excursion when the ship came along side at Langkawi.
    Day#5 (29 Aug) was the day when Dream cruise disembarked us at Phuket. We were greeted and welcomed by Neena and Mac our tour guides, who briefed us on the history of the Island and its rulers. We were accommodated in Hotel ‘Sleep with me’, which sounded even funnier as pronounced sensuously by Neena and Mac. The Bazaar adjoining our Hotel is famous for massage parlours and Neena gave a rundown of different types of massages and how we are to avoid the naughty indecent masseurs of the Bangla street. Some of us did stroll the streets abuzz with open nite clubs.
       Day#6 had been dedicated to snorkelling by the 15 enthusiasts of our group and a beach Picnic at Phi-Phi Island for all. The 45 mins Speed Boat ride was thrilling as the boat sped at over 30 kts with pronounced pitching. Snorkelling was a treat, particularly the four girls Binti, Preeti, Amitha and Shruti. Meena shot some excellent videos underwater with her GoPro camera. The view of the school of fish in crystal clear waters underneath shall remain in our memory for a very long time. The evening celebration for Mrs Kanaga Chermakani’s Birthday was a grand affair with entertainment galore.


         DAY#7 we flew down from Phuket to Bangkok. The flight was uneventful and we were received by a Lady Guide named Naughty. She explained to us the events of the Day. A visit to Nong Nooch Botanical Gardens, en route to Pattaya for the cultural and Elephants show. Dinner was organized at a Punjabi tadka Restaurant, followed by the Famous Alcazar Show. The performance was drama based, back to back and the transition of the theme based musical items was as smooth as a simile. The stage was set afire when the beautiful Artists performed on the famous song ‘Shakira’. The 45 mins show was exceptionally well choreographed with Soul stirring musical beats.
      Day#8, the day of transit from Pattaya to Bangkok, with an en-route visit to the SriRacha Tiger Zoo, turned out to be the most challenging one. Our bus experienced a tyre burst, which was expeditiously changed at the next garage. By the time we reached the Zoo, the Bus had a clutch problem. Since there was the uncertainty of the replacement bus, Cdr Vadhera after the Zoo visit decided to move on the same bus to Bangkok, albeit cautiously for the Royal River cruise. The bus came to a halt on the outskirts, but the timely transfer of men and material to 6 luxury vans saved the day for us and we not only made it to the ‘Royal Chao Phyras Princess’ but also had a chance meeting with a group of NDC Officers on short leave after their foreign visit. We set the dance floor on fire until the last song, before retiring to our suites in Hotel Montein.
        DAY#9  The penultimate day of the tour was reserved for a visit to the Grand Palace and the Reclining Buddha in the forenoon and Shopping trip in the afternoon, that the ladies were eagerly looking forward to. After Lunch, we had about 4 hrs of shopping time for which we were dropped at Watergate Mall. There were a number of Malls around including the Palladium Mall. Most ladies were never tired of shopping even after 4 hrs, while some men, spent time sitting on a bench while their ladies shopped unrestricted.

       DAY#10  After Breakfast and check out, we left for the Airport at 0900 hrs. Cdr Vadhera thanked and congratulated everyone for the exceptional success of this maiden foreign tour. He mentioned a plan for a European tour during the same time next year. At the Airport after the baggage check-ins, the Mumbai group, Delhi group and Bangalore/ Hyd groups shook hands and hugged each other before proceeding to their respective departure terminals. Cdr Vadhera mentioned that the NFMC Picnic Abroad shall continue as usual with members wishing each other on Birthdays and Anniv, referring to the Database that had been promulgated. It was quite emotional to bid each other Good Bye having been close together, luxuriated together and freaked out together yet maintaining the respect for one’s seniors. After the individual groups reached their destinations, they Whats-apped in the NFMC Picnic group of their safe arrival.
      This successful tri-nation tour, the Brain-child of Cdr V Vadhera, Secy NFMC, was a maiden herculean effort to get a group of Naval Veterans together on a foreign tour, on the Golden Jubilee of our WNC . The coming together of Senior Leading Pillars Capt SS Sethi (SOPA),  RAdm SVS Chary,  Cmde SS Tarate & Surg Capt SC Patra was so very encouraging for rest of us that success was assured during the planning stage itself. The accomplishment of this tour could well be attributed to the ethos and values ingrained in us by the Indian Navy.  Shano Varuno ! Jai Hind. !


About the Author

Commander Rajinder Dutta (Retd) has been a Naval Pilot and a Qualified Flying Instructor with about 3000 hrs of flying on various fixed wing Aircraft of Indian Navy, viz HT-2, HPT-32, Kirans, Islander, Super Connie, Fokker F-27 and IL-38. He is a Master of Ceremonies and a Blogger.

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