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Going to Goa

22 Nov

Taking full advantage of being in India (for work), Claire and I squeezed in a weekend trip to Goa (for fun). I never get sick of beautiful beaches or perfect sunsets or straight-up indulgent relaxation. We booked a hotel on Canacona Beach, which is a good distance south of the main city and the more touristy beaches. No drugged induced hippy trance rave parties for us. πŸ™‚ We had a minor hiccup with Kingfisher canceling our flights for the trip but got it all sorted out by taking a flight through Mumbai. On the upside, we found these gems at the Mumbai Airport.

No vegan doughnut from Babycakes, but it’ll tide me over.

We arrived around 4 pm on Saturday and in order to maximize our beach time, we quickly headed out to the beach which was conveniently steps from the hotel. We had just enough time to get our daily dose of vitamin D and catch the gorgeous sunset.

Even the stray dogs on the beach were super chilled out. Cuteness!

The restaurants at the hotel weren’t much to write home about, but the fruit stands on the beach were awesome. Claire got a whole pineapple sliced up and I got a GIANT coconut and mini bananas. Perfect snacks to have in our cabanas.

It’s hard to believe that the countdown of my India trip has begun. I only officially have four more days of work before I fly up to Delhi to meet Jamie and Shauna, for our tour of the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur). I’m so excited to be reunited with my lovely ladies. Oh my how time flies.

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Maldives

7 Nov

Boy, do I feel spoiled getting to visit Maldives over Dawali weekend. It is just over an hour flight from Bangalore. If I were to fly from Los Angeles, I’d be looking at 30+ hours each way including layovers. Yikes, right? From the MalΓ© airport, Claire and I took a quick speedboat ride out to Paradise Island. Look at that water.

Maldives is indescribably beautiful. The water is a crystal turquoise blue and unlike India, it is free of honking horns and polluted air. What a refreshing change. We’ve been working 12 hour-long days, so a mini-vacation was a much needed refresher. I can see why Maldives is a top honeymoon/vacation destination. Muy romantico! Our room opened up onto our own private beach.

All we had on the intinerary was working on our tans and a little floating around in the water. Apparently the reef sharks also had the same idea. I think I’ve watched a few too many Shark Weeks on Discovery Channel, because I was thoroughly freaked out by them. Some of them were just bitty babies that weren’t more than two feet long. Every time I saw a shark I would run away. I did happen upon this little colony of fish (aka shark bait) when I was playing around with my underwater camera.

It was all very peaceful and relaxing. The most work that I did all weekend was collect sea shells/coral and watch the sunset. Sheesh. What a spoiled brat I must sound like. πŸ™‚

I really liked this shell because it looked like it was painted with hearts.


We had rain and lots of it on Saturday, but eventually the weather cooperated and we were able to lay out. Thank goodness because vitamin D deficiency is a serious problem. I also got a lot of quality Kindle time. I’m now on Part 3 (of 5) of Shantaram. Here you see the dark sky and the sun fighting hard to burn away the storm clouds.

I wasn’t ready to leave this morning. I wanted to burn the image of the island in my head because no matter how manner pictures I took (and I took A LOT), none of them came close to capturing the true color of the Indian Ocean and its breathtaking beauty. You will have to take my word for it or come see for yourselves. You deserve a vacation too.

Mumbai and Elephanta Island

2 Nov

A trip to India wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Mumbai, the New York of India. Everybody told me that it would be more congested, louder and hotter than Bangalore. Well I’m not too sure about the more congested and louder part, but it was definitely hotter. I had a few on the brink of heat stroke moments. The locals told us that this was considered good weather and that it didn’t get much better. Oy! I can’t imagine what hot is to them if nice means you get swamp ass every time you get exposed to sunlight!

Claire and I stayed right in the heart of the Colaba at the Taj Palace and Tower Hotel. If you recall a few years back, this was the same hotel that was the site of terrorist attacks. Comforting, isn’t it? This is also the same hotel President Obama will be staying in later this week. We noticed the city preparing for his arrival by “cleaning” the streets. Well they were really just repainting curbs, but our taxi driver seemed to think this was a big deal.

The hotel was directly across the street from the Gateway of India, a monument built to welcome the British back in the colonization days. In the picture above, you can see the Gateway of India with our hotel peeking out from behind it. Talk about tourist central. Here’s a photo looking out into the Arabian Sea, in what looks like a parking lot for boats.

We went on a 40 minute trek on one of these ferries to get out to Elephanta Island, which is home to a set of five Hindu caves dating back to the 6th century A.D. Finally, something older than the Liberty Bell! Here are some pictures from the first and most impressive cave. There’s Shiva in all her his (thanks, Karthik) glory.



What trip to Mumbai would be complete without a visit to the stock exchange? Only kidding, of course. Claire and I went for work. Unfortunately, they don’t allow photos inside.

After looking through my photos of Mumbai, I realized that I did a horrible job of documenting our trip. Most of our time was consumed by shopping, which meant lots of haggling and negotiating with street vendors for pashminas, leather sandals and bangles. I didn’t get a single shot of the vendors at Linking Road or at the Colaba Street Market. Maybe I didn’t want to give myself away as a tourist… oh wait… did my face already do that? πŸ™‚

Safari in Bandipur

24 Oct


After a stressful week, I was thrilled to be getting out of Bangalore for a safari in Bandipur. Realistically Claire and I knew the chances were slim, but both of us really, really wanted to see a tiger. We had heard stories of people waiting over five hours in a watch tower to catch a glimpse of a tiger or the statistic of a 10% chance was mentioned. We still stayed optimistically hopeful. We arrived in Bandipur just before noon on Saturday and checked into the best room ever. The Leopard Room! Sure it was kitschy, but it seemed entirely appropriate and put us in an animal sighting mood. Grr! Just like Summer camp.

We met up with the tour guides and the rest of our group around 4:00 pm near the Jeeps that we would be riding in. These Jeeps were entirely necessary for the uneven terrain. There were a few times I thought I was going to get bounced right out of the back.

The trek started out slow and we saw a few birds, monkeys, bison and wild boar, which my Panasonic Lumix was entirely not right for capturing. The tour guide was pretty excited about spotting these wild dogs so I zoomed in as close as I could.

I personally loved the spotted deer. They were so pretty and didn’t get spooked by the rumbling Jeep.

After an hour, the rain started to kick in and the guides told us the animals would most likely go into hiding. Well, of course. We were the idiots riding around out in the rain. With my face and hoodie wet with rain, I wanted to go into hiding right about then too. Just at that moment, we saw a lone elephant eating.

Shortly after that we entered a scene in Jurassic Park. We spooked a mama elephant and she started trumpeting and charging our jeep. Then another elephant showed up to back her up. They were literally a few feet away from our Jeep. Ack! One in front and one in back. Did I mention there was a baby with us? I would say she was probably 8 months old and she started to get a little freaked out by all the commotion so we had to drive off. Luckily Claire captured this video on her Flip. Exhilarating!

[Vimeo 16137515]

That definitely got our adrenaline going. No tiger sightings in Bandipur, but at least we got a nice dose of elephants. All this safari business really makes me want to go to Africa. Who else wants in?

Critters in Kerala

19 Oct

Hi, I’m a Benson Snail (Indrella ampulla) and I can move quicker than you’d think.

Hi, I have amnesia and I’ve forgotten what I am, but don’t I look neat?

Hi, I’m a baby python and Julie almost stepped on me. Good thing I slithered back under the rocks where it’s safe.

Wayanad Weekend Getaway

18 Oct

A month has elapsed and I can’t believe it. I’m starting to panic. Starting to feel like I need more time to explore and discover. I’ve been here an entire month and three days and I’ve hardly seen anything, but the teeniest, tiniest, most minuscule tip of the Indian iceberg. If only work didn’t get in the way of traveling.

This weekend Claire and I drove (I should really say Mr. Rao drove and we slept) to the neighboring state of Kerala. Right near the border is Wayanad, the least populated district of Kerala, known for its dense jungles and tea/coffee plantations. We stayed in a tree house in the town of Vythiri. Yes, a tree house. Doesn’t that sound fun? Well it was, and it wasn’t. Besides the damp bed and moldy pillows, the view was unforgettable, the absence of noise was eerily calming and the monkeys came right up to our porch. They peed on our coffee table, stole my first aid kit and tried to eat my umbrella, but were quite entertaining all the while. Nature in full force.

After we moved into our “tree house”, which wasn’t much more than a wooden platform covered by wicker, we set off on a hike with a tour guide, of course. Claire and I have lost a lot of our independence being in India. We are both use to doing everything ourselves. In India, there is always somebody there to carry your bags, serve your food, open your door or escort you no matter the distance. There is a job for everybody and if you try to do something for yourself, it is almost taken as an insult. So in doing as the locals do, we had our tour guide take us around the plantations and the whole time I felt like I was in a Snapple commercial as he described the process of tea cultivation, harvesting and roasting. He was carrying around a water bottle filled with white liquid. When I asked him whether it was milk, he laughed and said, “It’s antiseptic for the leeches.” Ew. Unfortunately I have the type of blood that mosquitoes and leeches seem to love. Good thing that water bottle wasn’t just milk. I will spare you the bloody details. πŸ™‚

Next weekend, we’re going on a safari in Bandipur. Elephants, tigers and bears oh my! Well no bears actually, but they report seeing tigers six days out of the week so we hope to catch a glimpse.

I’m waiting for that spiritual awakening that’s associated with traveling to India. That moment of inner peace and clarity. That life affirming moment that changes your life forever. I’ve seen little glimpses of it in the beauty of the nature and the openness of the people. Yet, I’m still waiting. I’m learning that I need to stop trying so hard. To enjoy this one moment with patience, humility and grace.