Meeting the Paanwala and Friends in Pune and Mumbai

After a week of yoga and beach in Goa, we headed further north to meet up with some folks in Pune and Mumbai. We were looking forward to simply spending some time with friends, experiencing everyday living and continuing the wonderful food fest that India presents.

First stop was a visit with the Murtis (Gita and Raghu) of Pune.  Their son and daughter-in-law and granddaughters have been friends for 15+ years, and we have had the pleasure of meeting Gita and Raghu a number of times when they visited Seattle. We were looking forward to meeting them in their neighborhood.

Pune, “The Oxford of the East”, is a smaller town (~2M+) and an easy 3.5 hour train ride to or from Mumbai. Pune is filled with university students and IT workers from all around India. We were told by many younger guys during our travels that it is one of the hot spots for hipsters nowadays.  With its higher elevation and cool evenings, the climate is wonderful.

Gita and Raghu are special people and wonderful hosts. We very much enjoyed our morning walk through the agricultural college gardens, the Maharashtrian  thali lunch, meeting their friends, discussing the Donald, politics, books and the special order of red guava ice cream with paprika. My goodness, I have found myself daydreaming about this ice cream since we left.

IMG_1895 (2)

IMG_1900
Early AM at the Agriculture College of Pune

IMG_1906
Yogis from around the world flock to Pune for this Yoga Institute
12743985_10153792888775240_4723405140626990637_n

IMG_4523
Meeting the Murtis. Fantastic hosts!
After a reset in Pune, it was off on the Deccan Queen, an early morning train to Mumbai, for a quick day visit to wrap up our 29 days in India.

IMG_1908
Train from Pune to Mumbai. Basic but clean and cool and not jammed like a lot of the trains in the morning.
IMG_1910 (1)

In Mumbai, we had a chance to catch up with some other friends, Snehal and Falguni Shah. They are old colleagues from back in our Singapore days- 20 years ago. We had a great tour around Mumbai with them, followed by lunch, a stroll on Juhu beach and dinner with Snehal’s folks.

IMG_4526
The Taj

IMG_4528
Another shot of the Taj. One of the sites of the 26/11 terrorist attack and hostage incident.

IMG_4530
Gateway of India.Built for visiting British Royalty.
IMG_4531

IMG_4536
Cricket in South Mumbai.  Some of the most expensive real-estate in the world.
IMG_4544

IMG_4534
University of Mumbai

IMG_4547
More building and growth in Mumbai (and everywhere in India).
We also did a quick drive past Mukesh Ambani’s multi-billion dollar home in South Mumbai. We did not get any photos, but here is one from the interweb.

Mukesh home

While in Pune and Mumbai, we were introduced to even more new and great dishes including kadhi, undhiyu, khandvi, and the chikoo fruit. A highlight of our culinary explorations  was our visit to the Mucchad Paanwala for some post lunch paan which is a fantastic mix of sweet spices wrapped up in a betel leaf. (Some put tobacco and other items in there for a different type of experience.)

IMG_4537 (2)IMG_4539IMG_4538

IMG_2817

29 days in India are up.  A special thanks again to Gita, Raghu, Snehal and Falguni for their warmth and hospitality.  We will cherish the memories!

We saw only a slice of the country, but what a fascinating slice it was. Travelling in India presents some challenges and not recommended for all. There are a lot of people no matter where you go – even out in the countryside, a lot of noise ( a lot of horns and dogs barking constantly), and it is not always easy to get around.  With ~ 1.2 billion people in India, the infrastructure is challenged. Power outages are not uncommon (although most hotels and larger businesses have generators at this point).  And with all the industrialization and vehicles on the road, there is also a lot of pollution.  We only had one or two “blue sky days”. The haze was thick nearly everyday, and by the 2nd or 3rd week, one could definitely feel it.  A tiered system exists for travelers which demonstrated itself in a number of  ways- e.g. foreigners usually pay more for tourist attractions and museums- not always, but it is usually the case. An art museum in Bengalaru was charging 20x the local rate.  On the flip side, foreigners (unfortunately, mostly Caucasians) often get faster service or are encouraged to go to the head of the lines (something we were never comfortable with).  For women traveling in India, one needs to be prepared for gawking whether in the cities of Bengaluru or in smaller towns like Munnar.  The gawking was harmless and likely just because we looked different but something one needs to get used to when traveling in India.  Women can also be overlooked at the dinner table at restaurants. The waiters often served Chris the remainder of the dishes on the table, and then Chris shared.  India is a fascinating country, but it is not for the feint of heart.  We enjoyed our visit because we had a chance to catch up with friends as well as gain somevknowledge and a perspective on such an important and interesting part of the world.  We are not done here by any means. We will need to make another visit to focus on northern India -e.g. Delhi, Rajastan, The Taj, Kashimir, the Himalayas and the Ganges etc. etc.

We are heading out of Asia and moving on the South America. Stay tuned.

Under the Goan Sun

With 15 days of cycling the tea plantations and rice paddies of Southern India, we headed north to the former Portuguese beach colony of Goa where we immediately noticed a completely different vibe. There is less traffic and not as much honking. People move a bit slower and there are a lot more visitors and European snowbirds living in the area.  Goa has been attracting backpackers and “hippies” for decades since the state gained independence from Portugal in 1961. Today it is a very popular spot for both locals and foreigners looking for a few days of beach or a few days of festivities.  There are two common ways to visit Goa – head south for some beautiful beaches and a slower pace or head up north for the night life and the strips of beach bars and restaurants.

IMG_4487

We opted for the former and settled down at a yoga retreat in Varca for a week. The beach in Varca is 26km long and one of the cleanest spots that we have seen in India so far.

IMG_4458IMG_4459IMG_4460IMG_4462IMG_4466IMG_4468

The twice-daily yoga sessions (one at the pool and one at the beach) was just the thing to work out the knots and aches from the days of cycling. Unfortunately, the rest of the experience was a bit bizarre and not exactly what we were expecting. The retreat ended up being more of a “home-stay”\hostel that we shared with a nice young British woman, 6 India guys from all over India who were working at the abode, and a crazy, anti-social dog that constantly growled at everyone and attacked chairs and table legs at every meal.  It was not a great experience but travel doesn’t always go as planned. It cannot always be rosy and magical like the articles of the in-flight magazines (where many of our blog posts could live nicely;>). But we have been pretty lucky so far with hiccup free travel and great stays for 4.5 months.  Actually, it has been less luck and more the incredible, detailed planning and scrutiny of Susan. Her tireless travels through the inter-webs and up-and-down TripAdvisor reviews is  a big reason for our smooth travels so far.

IMG_1870IMG_1865

IMG_1873
The guys making dinner.

At the end of the day, it wasn’t so bad  –  we managed to practice  a lot of yoga over the week, learned to cook a few new Indian dishes, and met some good people.  When the power went out, or we lost the water in the middle of a shower,  or got too creeped out at the local massage parlor, we simply chanted our newly learned mantra “Breath in with the smile, breath out with the happy” and all was good.  At the end of the day, these were mostly “1st world problems” and not worth getting too worked up about…although that dog was really crazy.

While in the south , we had the chance to visit  Cabo de Rama where we explored some castle ruins that pre-dates the Portuguese and spent some time on a gorgeous and deserted beach.

IMG_4471IMG_4472IMG_4475IMG_4476IMG_4481IMG_4484IMG_4491IMG_4507IMG_4509IMG_4515

After yoga, we headed north to the larger city of Panjim and used up some of our hotel miles to book into a spot on the Mandovi river for some dog-free, hot showers and a little room for ourselves.

IMG_1893

IMG_1888
Laid back Goa with relatively little traffic
IMG_1879
The Other G&T

At the end of the day, we enjoyed Goa and it’s laid back pace and beautiful weather. It was a nice place to take a break and spend some time in one spot after the busy travel schedule of the last few weeks. We are closing in on 30 days in India and have a few days left to spend in Pune and Mumbai before we move on to other parts of the world.

 

 

 

Love on the Backwaters of Kerala

We wrapped up our time in Kerala hill country with an overnight stop in Kuttikkanam where we stayed on a 600 acre tea and coffee plantation perched on a spectacular ridge line. We did a little exploring of the property before heading out of the mountains on to the rice paddies and backwaters of Kerala.

IMG_4246
Giant Bamboo

IMG_4250IMG_4252IMG_4253

IMG_4262
Mahindra

IMG_4257IMG_4270

IMG_4251
Susan being stalked again

IMG_4265.JPG

While exploring the tea and coffee plantation, we came across the local plantation workers weighing the Arabic coffee beans.  After the coffee was weighed, it was sent down the hillside and then rolled onto drying platforms for 3-4 days of drying before being sold to local roasting companies.

IMG_4248

When leaving the plantation the following day, we faced another monster downhill  as we descended to sea level and the backwaters of Kerala. The temperature quickly rose and the landscape changed dramatically as rice paddies replaced the cardamon and sandalwood forests where we started. After a morning of cycling, we hopped on a houseboat for a 24 hour cruise around the backwaters of Alleppey where in the not too distant past, the primary mode of transportation were boats and canals.

IMG_4275IMG_4288IMG_4334

 

The waterways were teaming with people fishing, cleaning, shopping and generally moving about.

IMG_4325IMG_4361IMG_4320IMG_4291IMG_4376IMG_4297IMG_4375

IMG_4296
Not everyone appeared happy to see us.

Hundreds of pleasure boats cruised with tourists up and down the river. It was quite a scene during the day and yet another traffic jam, but at about 6 pm, all the large boat movement stopped to allow the local fisherman to cast their nets for the evening and that is when the river became magical.

IMG_4336IMG_4342IMG_4364IMG_4369

IMG_4372
Kingfisher

IMG_4352IMG_4340

It was a beautiful evening and morning on the water exploring the local villages , but we both sensed the approaching end of our cycling and looked forward to the last couple days of pedaling through rice paddies and along the beach to our final destination of Fort Kochi.

IMG_4397IMG_4385IMG_4382

IMG_4400
More Christians live in Kerala than other parts of India. Churches are everywhere.

IMG_4405IMG_4431IMG_4432

IMG_4425
Stopped by a local house on route to witness magic. This women was making rope out of coconut husks. We still don’t know how she did it.
IMG_4435
Chinese Fishing Nets

IMG_4441

IMG_4440
Traditional Kerals Thali lunch served on a banana leaf with a bunch of wonderful dishes to sample.

Fort Kochi Beach is quite the happening spot on a Sunday morning when we visited.  The fishermen are busy with their Chinese fishing nets.  Tourists and touts are about and there are many pick-up football and cricket matches.

IMG_4447

 

IMG_4446

IMG_4452
Fort Kochi on a typical Sunday morning is a happening spot with many pickup football and cricket games.

On the way to town, we had lunch at a local home with some folks with connections to the cycling team at Xava. They were spending a month at their home during their annual leave from their work in Kuwait These lovely people cooked a “Thanksgiving” size lunch for us with many, wonderful Kerala dishes such as  olan, seer fish molee, sambar, kerala rice (a wided rice than basmati), chapatis, cabbage, carrot thoran, and even some homemade wine. Many folks from Kerala are working in the Gulf States sending money earned back to India .  In fact, we were told 100’s of millions of dollars flow back each year to the state from the Middle East, UK,  Canada and the States.  The local area is quite prosperous in relative terms. We saw a lot of kids on bikes, beautifully maintained churches, new roads, and many, many large homes.

IMG_4402

And that is a wrap. 14 days, Bengalaru to Kochi on the cycles.  Now we are off to a yoga retreat in Goa for some twisting and stretching to loosen up the hip flexors! Namaste.

IMG_4097

 

Reading the Tea Leaves of Ooty and Munnar

Our last few days have been incredibly scenic as we cycled through the hill country and tea estates of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. We were both quite surprised at the elevation and challenges that the many hills provided. On the plains, the temperatures where hot but as we climbed up to 7500 feet, things cooled off nicely.  Our first destination was the previous British hill post of Ooty.  To get there, we negotiated another tiger reserve on our bikes and wondered again if we were being watched from the bush. We saw a lot of evidence of elephants – fresh dung, game trails, and freshly broken trees but alas, no actual sightings of the pachyderms.  With most of the wild animals behind us, we were faced with a 4000 ft+, 10 km+ climb, 36 hairpin turns and some serious grade to the road. With the heat and heavier bikes, it took us over 3 hours of steep climbing, but the views of the colorful Tamil homes and vegetable gardens made it worth it  – plus we both enjoy a good challenge.  As we approached 6000 feet, we climbed above the clouds (and smog) that was with us most of the previous few days.

IMG_3782

IMG_3789
Trying to figure out if these are dangerous wild buffalo or just future McD’s burgers

IMG_3962

IMG_3792
A Climb Begins

IMG_3804IMG_3802

IMG_3807
Counting down as we ascended. Suffering began at 29 and continued to 1!

IMG_4144

IMG_3812
Tamil Homes

IMG_3922IMG_3923IMG_3942IMG_3938

 

After some recovery time (read: NAP!), we ventured out in Ooty for a stroll around the Government Botanical Gardens (with an impressive collection of American and Mexican cactus) and a visit to the local, open-air, food market (which strengthened our resolve to stay with mostly veg dishes during the trip).

After a much appreciated crisp evening at elevation, we hopped on a historical train for a spectacular hour-long track precariously perched on cliffs overlooking more Tamil settlements and farms.  (Unfortunately, all photos for the day evaporated into the ether).

Post train, a 30 km+ downhill (woop!) out of the Ooty area had us dodging monkeys along the side of the road and twisting around more hairpin turns. As the designated sweeper, riding in the back required a bit of braking, and I managed to snap a brake cable, but our team car and wonderful guides, Emil and Majesh, had an extra bike so I did not lose too much time to the peloton.

From Ooty, it was a lot of up and down riding. We climbed to Top Station (in Tamil Nadu) at 6300 feet,  Munnar at 5600 feet and up to Lockhart Gap (in Kerala).

 

IMG_3927
Tea-Bagged.  Driver OK.
IMG_3937
These guys are everywhere. We saw one launched 100 feet in the air from a collision with a car but he was seemingly OK although a bit stunned.
IMG_3960
The kids are always so happy to see us!

IMG_4159IMG_4146IMG_4148

IMG_3967IMG_3979IMG_3993IMG_3995IMG_3999

IMG_4001
How many people around the world and in so many countries has this jeep design transported?

IMG_4003

IMG_4013
Giant bee hives

IMG_4016IMG_4024

IMG_4027
Up, up and away

IMG_4034IMG_4085IMG_4090IMG_4094IMG_4099IMG_4105IMG_4110IMG_4120

IMG_4125
Susan making an inside move on the way down from Lockhart Gap

IMG_4127IMG_4140IMG_4142IMG_4174

IMG_4177
The plains of Tamil Nadu

Tea plantations were everywhere. The seemingly beautiful tea shrubs grow in every nook and cranny as well as elevation of the hills. Women exclusively worked the fields from early morning to 4 PM each day. The strong scent of tea emanated from the many tea factories that were scattered along the road every few kilometers.

IMG_4047IMG_4053IMG_4058IMG_4061IMG_4067IMG_4069IMG_4134IMG_4139IMG_4152IMG_4156

IMG_4224IMG_4225IMG_4228

IMG_4233
60+ year old tea “squishing” machine. The ingenuity in this country is impressive.

IMG_4240IMG_4241

Have you had your glass today!?!

IMG_4221

The road continues.  Through forests, past lumber mills and cattle auctions….on to the famous backwaters of Kerala next.  Stay tuned!

IMG_4271IMG_4272IMG_4273

IMG_4182
The 11 am scrum at the Government Liquor Store in the “dry” state of Kerala.  We saw this everyday at every hour at every store that we passed. 

 

The Anxiety of Periyar National Park, Kerala

Imagine the scene if you will. It is 7:30 am in the Periyar National Park. The temperature is cool and the hot Indian sun has not yet had a chance to fully warm the air. A light mist rises above the Periyar river as Kingfishers dart about looking for their first meal of the day. Black monkeys hoot above in Banyan trees alerting the troop of your presence. A pack of otters play at the river’s edge, long-tailed squirrels jump from tree to tree as toucans sing out and woodpeckers do what they do.  The landscape is surreal.

IMG_4192IMG_4190

 

 

As you venture further into the wilderness, the anticipation of larger animal sightings increase. With the first encounter of fresh sloth bear dung, no more than minutes old, you notice your guide becomes a bit more vigilant and less supportive of the frequent photo stops. You begin to wonder what is out there and close.

IMG_4201

IMG_4186
Long-tailed squirrel
IMG_4218
Giant Fruit Bats (3foot wingspan) waiting for the eeeveninggg

Gradually more and more animal tracks begin to show themselves. Fresh elephant tracks, days old tiger tracks, wild buffalo tracks lead to the river that you are following and that happens to be the only source of water in the area.

IMG_4199
Elephant track
IMG_4205
Tiger track. Rather large.

And then the trail heads out to a small plain. It is a kilometer wide and you are completely  in the open. You continue to wonder what is watching you and why you aren’t in a jeep. You are fully committed, out in the middle of the field when an animated, but quiet, guide hops out of the bush hundreds of meters away and frantically sends a barrage of hand signals to your guide. Now your guide appears to be a little less confident and gives you some curt directions to get off the trail and move very quickly for cover.  Gulp.

IMG_4204IMG_4203

After a few tense (or tenser moments), you learn that you are likely not on the menu today. It is “only” a female elephant and its baby.No problem, you think. We’ll just turn around and head the other way. That’s when you guide moves in the opposite direction of everyone else and starts stalking the elephant while giving you directions to fall in line, stay close, and stay quiet. Gulp, pucker, gulp.  Meanwhile, your wife is informing the guide, Devi ( a lovely and knowledgeable guy if a bit new to the job) that there really is no need to see a wild elephant.

20 minutes later, there are no sightings. You call “uncle” and suggest that we go find some more Kingfishers and Hornbills. There is always the National Geographic channel back at the hotel.

IMG_4211IMG_4214IMG_4191IMG_4215

 

 

 

 

Kicking off our Cycling from Bangalore to Cochin

“Alright, alright, alright.”  Apart from a few days of cycling in late December, we haven’t been on bikes since November so we were both excited to start our two week cycle from Bangalore to Cochin with plenty of stops in National Parks and Reserves on the way.

India Route

We headed out with Emil and Majesh from Xara Active Vacations (Thomas, the owner, was fantastic with pre-trip planning and working with us to customize the trip. If you are considering cycling India or Sri Lanka, be sure to reach out to these guys). They were equipped with Scott hybrid bikes which worked well on both the road and dirt surfaces.  We were both pleasantly surprised at the great conditions of most of the roads we traveled – there was a lot of new tarmac and plenty of room most of the time.  Of course, they were also well traveled by buses, trucks, cars and scooters. But while we found the drivers very aggressive and fast (To get anywhere in India, one needs to be aggressive and driving is taken to a whole new level here.), for the most part, drivers give cyclists plenty of space. There is a lot of honking but once you understand the right-of-way rules and how passing works in the country, you can cycle comfortably within the traffic patterns.  You need to stay focused and be vigilant of the buses that are everywhere and are often traveling the fastest.

The team also had a brand new Toyota Innova which was a great support vehicle and very comfortable for the transfers around the congested areas and through some of the non-cycling tiger reserves. Equipped with a roof rack with four cycles, it was quite the exotic item which continuously turned heads and generated smiles and laughter throughout both the cities and the country regions. (It can also draw attention at police checkpoints where some strategically placed rupees are the best way to get on your way quickly).

IMG_3703.JPG

It just took a few hours to shed the Bangalore traffic and get out in the country side.  The guys were kind enough to make a quick stop to do some custom fitting of Susan’s bike to accommodate her shorter legs.

IMG_3644

IMG_3643IMG_3679IMG_3663

IMG_3662IMG_3689

 

Along the way, we cycled through some silk worm farms and had a chance to stop and check out the production.

IMG_3675IMG_3673IMG_3678IMG_3657

Our initial destination was Mysore and the famous Mysore Palace (second only to the Taj in terms of tourist visits).

IMG_3698IMG_3692IMG_3702

Along the way, we also climbed up to the Chamundi temple where we were fortunate enough to arrive during a festive time with plenty of crowds and festive cows.

IMG_3779IMG_3753IMG_3710IMG_3729IMG_3719IMG_3744

IMG_3742IMG_3740IMG_3745

IMG_3749.JPG

 

We also cycled through our first tiger reserves (Bandipur and Mudumalai Nataional Parks), which we found a little bit unnerving. Although tigers are rarely seen and the elephants usually do not come out until the evenings or early mornings, we ran into a couple wild ones close to a check point .  The same check point where the local police informed us that cycling through the reserve has been recently banned for safety reasons.

IMG_3759IMG_3760IMG_3768IMG_3770

We really enjoyed the first couple of days in the India countryside and all its beauty. Cycling provides such a unique way to see a country.  Next up is a big climb from Masinagudi to Ooty.  While Emil and Majesh informed us of ” the big climb that keeps climbing”, we did not expect the severity of the grade that we would experience for many hairpin turns.  Stay tuned for more details on the climb and beautiful, colorful Ooty!

Barmy Bangalore

We are a bit behind on our posts after touching down in India 17 days ago.  We were quickly swallowed up with the chaos of the cities, the beauty of the country and limited by the spotty and constrained Wi-Fi networks here in India.

Our entry point was Bangalore where we scheduled a few days to adjust to the new time zone, deal with jet lag and regroup for a bike ride from Bangalore to Cochin. We were flying from Cape Town which is only a 4 hour time difference but flew Emirates (nice airline) through Dubai on a red-eye.

IMG_3623IMG_3636

We quickly learned that there is very little relaxing in India’s large cities. Bangalore is India’s 3rd largest city and continues to grow rapidly fueled by its IT hub and international customers.  There is a beautiful new airport, road construction everywhere, residential and commercial construction projects and traffic that rivals the traffic jams of Manila, Bangkok, and Jakarta decades ago. The honking and road noise is constant and makes Manhattan seem quiet and tame.  The horn is as important as the gas and break pedals for Indian drivers. It takes some getting used to, but after a couple weeks, you can become somewhat comfortable with it.

Navigating the city was a little tricky during our initial forays.  We got stuck in mad traffic from the airport.  The hotel recommended, auto-rickshaw driver for our first outing to an art museum tried to take us to three other locations and could not find our destination. We missed out on a booked tabla performance because it took us an hour to find a taxi willing to take us the 9 kms to the performance  – which ended up taking us another 90 minutes to drive to the location of the performance. Although, in the course of the taxi hunt, we met a lovely and feisty, elderly Afghani woman, Mrs. Khan, who reprimanded the young taxi drivers for 20 minutes for refusing to help us. (In hindsight, we cannot blame the taxi drivers given the traffic that night).

IMG_3625IMG_3624IMG_3641

IMG_3723

So after spending 4+ hours in taxis and a few more in auto rickshaws in the first couple of days, we decided it would be best to stay local and walk for the remainder of our visit. We were staying only a few blocks from the MG Road area where there are plenty of good options for restaurants that are kind on visitors’ stomachs and a plethora of microbreweries – a relatively new addition over the last few years that has been driven by local entrepreneurs and the local government.  We were impressed and enjoyed visits to Arbor Brewing Company, The Biere ClubBrewsky and Toit. We also had an excellent meal at Karavalli – pricey by local standards but well worth it.

Walking is better than sitting in the traffic of Bangalore, but it is not without its challenges.  Walking is slow going- dodging the people, the cars, the scooters, the bikes, the cows and hundreds of other obstacles. Streets and sidewalks are often pockmarked with holes.  Stairs and steps do not always comply to standard sizes making them awkward.  Garbage is piled up on sidewalks, and often it is burning.  It is a bit chaotic and sounds a bit crazy but this is part of the charm of India; it is a full assault on all five of your senses!

IMG_3722

IMG_3632IMG_1818

The biggest downside to walking is all the ogling. Given our limited wardrobe, Susan mostly has sport skirts and skirts are not very common here. A Westerner in a skirt is very uncommon and apparently quite the site.  The staring is constant, aggressive, and from males of all ages. (It has continued in the countrysides where a cycling western female in a skirt is extremely exotic but more on that later).

We have enjoyed the food a lot and are eating Indian 3 meals a day. There are Western options – the burger and pasta is often there – but the Southern India dishes are too good. We are mostly sticking with veg options so there is a lot of dahl, aloo gobi, paneer dishes of all types.  Dosas and idlis with sambar as well as tomato and coconut chutneys are our preferred breakfast. Bread options are fantastic with far more options than the standard naan in the States- e.g. parathas, parottas, chapaties, rotis, and more.  The range of pickles are amazing as well and tasty- mangos, limes, lemons, dates, papaya, garlic, bamboo!

Our visit to Bangalore was more about prepping for our cycling rather than sightseeing, but we did a little and visited the Modern Art Museum (where we were followed by security guards in every one of the 20+ rooms – I think it was Susan’s shifty looks), the Parliament building (beautiful),  and the oasis of calm that is Cubbon Park.

IMG_3607IMG_3613IMG_3616IMG_3630

IMG_1821

During our last couple days and night, we found the neighborhood of Indiranagar that was a bit easier to tour on foot and filled with a bunch of interesting restaurants and shops.  We would definitely recommend this spot if you find yourself visiting this city.

IMG_1817 1

Bangalore was the perfect entry point. There was a bit of an adjustment period, but it has been fun jumping into the chaos, taking in some of the sights and enjoying the local dishes. Stay tuned for details on our cycle trip to Cochin.

IMG_4379 (2).JPG

The Glass Palace

A friend recommended The Glass Palace when we were out to dinner this past glass palacesummer, and we were talking about what books should be on the reading list for our travels.  And when I put out the plea for book recommendations, she reminded me of this book, and I am glad she did.  It is a great read.

The historical fiction novel covers a large geography including Thailand, Burma, India, Malaysia and Singapore. The novel weaves in some interesting historical pieces of information:

  1. Burma’s royal family and how they were exiled to India by the British
  2. The impact British rule had on Burma versus India
  3. How WW II shifted power in Asia and the fall of the British Empire

What I enjoyed more about the book were the characters and relationships that developed and evolved, at times in depressing and surprising ways.  Yet, despite hardships and different priorities, some friendships lasted a lifetime.

The one downside is that the novel tries to cover so much ground- about 150 years worth of history starting around 1885-and it felt like some subplots were skimmed over.  Nonetheless, a great read for those interested in historical fiction about these countries or just a great story about a individuals and their families struggling to live and survive at a difficult time in history, especially for Burma and India.