Saturday, February 28, 2009

Heatwave

It's been hot the past week in Tamil Nadu. Hot, sunny, and sticky. It's affected my photography as quantity and quality are both down. Just don't have the energy to always strive for the perfect shot(s). And the strong midday sun makes it harder to get a good exposure.

But you say it's supposed to be hot in South India. Well this heatwave has made the newspapers. Schools have been ordered to close early. We spent two days this week in Bhubaneswar and each day the temperature was 40 C or 102 F. The second day we went on an AC bus tour of Konark and Puri... Of course the AC stopped working at 10:00 AM. Sigh. We did get a partial refund. Woohoo!

Yesterday we arrived in Calcutta and it's much cooler. The high today was only 88 F. We spent the whole day around Sudder Street, the so-called backpacker's ghetto, looking for a better hotel (we decided to stay put), trying to contact a travel agent in Kathmandu (no luck), eating, and shopping (I bought a set of 5 pens for 10 rupees). Tomorrow we start seeing the sights.

Big Temple - Thanjavur - Tamil Nadu - India

Big Temple - Thanjavur - Tamil Nadu - India
The locals call it the Big Temple and it's an impressive UNESCO World Heritage site officially called The Great Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu.

We liked it a lot as the admission was free and non-Hindus were allowed in the Inner Sanctum (the tall structure at left center).

On the downside, I was under the weather with a sinus infection and felt like crap the whole day. That evening we measured my temperature at 102.4; time to break out the antibiotics and Vit-I.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Having fun in India

We first came to India in 1997 for four weeks in the Northwest. When I got back to work, I was asked about the trip by some coworkers.
"How was India?"
"It's unbelievable, just like you see on TV. Animals, domestic and wild, mingle in the streets; people of every religion are engaged in activities, trade, transportation, and technologies that cross centuries; all generating waste that is left to perfume the air. By night, shelterless people slumber on the sidewalks, street medians, any kind of surface..."
"But did you have fun?"
"Uh... no, India was not fun. India is an experience."
"Hmm... will you go again?"
"Absolutely!"
There was so much hardship, misery, and suffering, that no matter how specular the Taj Mahal, I could not enjoy myself. Besides, we had to fend off beggars, street urchins, touts, scam artists of every kind. Yet every single day, we would experience something that was simply out of this world.

Now that we have all the time in the world to travel, it seemed that we could no longer put off returning to India any longer. John and I thought two months would allow us to finish off the rest of the highlights and we would then be done with India, though we had serious doubts about our ability to last two whole months in India.

We arrived in Mumbai on Jan 16th, picking up exactly where we left off the last time and headed to the south. Two weeks into the trip I began to realize that I am actually having fun. Could it be
  • We are in a different part of the country?
  • India has made a lot of progress in the past 10 year?
  • We are different?
Whatever the reasons, I am beginning to catch the fragrance of jasmine garlands, beyond the constant assaults of human and animal waste that permeate the Indian air.
  • Even though life is hard, people do have fun. They go out to eat, have sightseeing outings and picnics with family and friends. They take their grandchildren to the beach park. They smile; they laugh. The temple festivals are simply amazing.
  • While the government may not believe in public toilets and trash collection, the public transportation, trains, buses, and ferries, are outstanding compared to the level of development (more on this later). It is easy and fun to travel around.
  • I love the food. Most vegetarians adore Indian food. In the past, John and I merely enjoyed the occasional Indian food. In 1997, we got tired of India food pretty soon into our trip. This time we cannot have enough of Indian food. I can hardly believe it myself.
If the weather was not getting hotter and we did not already have plans to meet a friend in Nepal, we would keep on traveling in India. We are having so much fun that we are already plotting our next trip.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Eating in India

Eating in South India has been awesome. There are many restaurants with friendly staff, tasty food, English menus, fair prices (less than 2 USD feeds two people), tons of vegetarian options, fresh veggies and juices, and a variety of cuisines: Chinese, Western, North and South Indian.

We have slowly been learning the local names for the different dishes, the restaurant protocol (tipping, toilet, table sharing, tap water, etc), and how to order coffee that is not too sweet.

Here's a photo of Sun-Ling about to dig in to a Paper Dhosa in the Santosh Hotel Restaurant in Mysore.

Now that's a Dhosa - Mysore, India

Monday, February 02, 2009

India Photos

I'll be uploading India photos here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/meckleychina/sets/72157612891134235/

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

From Aguascalientes, there is a very convenient direct flight to Cancun.  Since the wedding is at a private beach south of Playa del Carmen,...