Category Archives: hotels

Jeep safari

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Nagarhole/Kabini area–the location of our first safari trip!

We settled into Kabini Jungle Lodges and Resorts for our two day safari adventure.

  

We arrived at the resort early–plenty of time to play on the climbing nets and tire swings.

We also explored a termite next close up.The nests are huge  It feels like rock and we didn’t see any termites! To exit the nest the digging type of termites opens holes out of the nest and the the flying termites head out–usually at dusk or night time and only at certain times of the year.  The photo to the right I think is of a termite nest that has been opened up.

  

Finally, it was time for a safari. Our first day safari was a three hour jeep safari in the late afternoon in the Rajiv Ghandi National Forest.

Our \naturalist guide was sexy looking Indian guy named Charles with a monster telephoto lens. A British lady was sitting in the front seat and told us we were in luck because he was the best tracker around and she had come for the past three years. On our way to the forest we had to meander through some villages. And a herd of cows!

The naturalist said that the jeep was required to follow a precise route and every jeep followed a different route and they couldn’t deviate.

He felt that our route had a lot of underbrush making it hard to spot tigers and leopards. He sees a tiger or leopard once in every 9 to 10 safaris so not to get our hopes up.

As we entered the forest we saw lot so long tailed monkey. Very different from the kind that we see closer to home. And a caur/bison crossed the path of the jeeps.

     

We also very quickly saw lots and lots of spotted deer.

And quite a few peacocks. Turns out that hits peacock mating season so the peacock will only have those fancy fathers for a few months.

We then came upon a herd of caur, which look like bison but are even more massive. They are one of the few animals in the forest that can kill a tiger. This massive herd was actually blocking our way on the road. Here is the bull of the herd. There is usually one male and a pack of females.

  

Above is a photo of our naturalist in his usual position–half out of the jeep. And the caur blocking the road. They have little to fear because they are so massive. They are one of the few animals in the forest that can kill a tiger.

The herd included a little baby. It was very rare, “very special” said the naturalist, to see such a little baby up close. Plus nursing kiddos.

   

We learned a lot about how to track leopards and tigers. You listen for the calls of the potential victims—the spotted deer and the larger deer as well. Monkeys call too and the boars and the flying squirrels. The calls are based on smell. They haven’t seen the predator but can smell it and they call out to warn others of an imminent danger. We tried to track the calls to find the predators. We even found a leopard paw print once!

   

And the jeep that was just ahead of us scared a leopard away two minutes before we arrive don the scene. But no leopard or tigers for us. Just a spotted deer at the watering hole now.

Instead we saw something that as much more rare. The naturalist said he has seen 30 or 40 tigers but only 4 sloth bear during his safaris. We saw a sloth bear with two baby cubs at a watering hole. When they saw us, both cubs jumped on its mommy’s back and scurried away. It all happened very fast. I saw a big black blur and two little ones. But we all saw it, even the kids. Way too fast for a photo but the naturalist was beaming like he won first prize and bragged about our sighting to every jeep that we passed. Here’s what these bears look like (photo from internet). They are very shy and tend to only come out at night.

After three hours of literally bouncing around in the back of a jeep, we were hot and tired and hungry. We headed back to our lodge. It is a beautiful place that is actually run by the government. Porters were on hand to offer us coffee and tea and soft drinks and beer when we returned back from the safari. Todd and I enjoyed or coffee/tea and watched the sunset from our porch before we all headed off to see a nature film on the surrounding area and to have a nighttime outdoor dinner.

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J and K’s last day

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We all went to a buffet lunch at the Windsor hotel for J and K’s last day here (which was Feb 20). Everyone enjoyed the buffet except for Kinj who was still recovering from a bout of the Dehli Belly. Not fun! Ran discovered that the chef was Bengali and asked him to fix something gentle for Kinj’s stomach. He was served rice and dal. But the dal was very spicy, so he skipped that.

The Windsor is a very traditional British Raj hotel. In fact the dining room is called the Raj, and check out the bathroom doors.

   

The food was pretty good overall, but what was AMAZING was this dessert–Shahi Tukra. I went back for thirds. I felt pretty sick though after I realized what I had just inhaled–deep fried bread soaked in syrup, then covered in a cream sauce.  Totally delicious. Totally heavy!

After lunch, Todd and Ran went back with the driver to pick up the kids. The rest of us set out to do some last minute souvenir shopping.  We started out at the government emporium store–a place where you could buy anything beautiful and Indian–scarves, rugs, furniture, jewels, statues, paintings, clothing. But you pay quite a premium. We even saw the rug that Bill Clinton bought from that very store–$40K silk that literally changed colors as you walked around it. The softest thing I ever felt.

Then we wanted to get to Commericial Street to do some cheaper shopping. So all four of us (me, mom, Kinj and Janet) crammed into one little rickshaw and headed across town. The driver took one look at us and said “20 more rupees for four people!” He was still giving us such a fair price that I gave him a bit extra after we all piled out of the car like clowns in a circus. He looked at me funny, but I am so grateful when an auto driver doesn’t try to rip me off that I give extra.

We found a wonderful store where Janet and Kinj got some brass statues and I got a wonderful rug from Kasmir. I will be taking friends back there! But as we are gleefully shopping, we get a phone call from Ran. Neither he nor Todd has a key to the house. They have the kids and are stuck outside the villa. The security doesn’t have a key either. So the driver needs to make the 45 minute trip into town to get us and the keys and then back out again.

We get back with Baskin and Robbins ice cream in hand (to lessen the complaints!). By then, Todd has climbed two bamboo ladders tied together to get into the villa. Since the keys must be used even to get out of the house if the door is locked, he mainly managed to get swim suits, cold drinks, and snacks for the kiddos. On a hot day, that was a great call! Always an adventure!

Goa!!

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To make the most of the time during which Todd, Kinjal and Janet were here at the same time, we planned a family trip to Goa–one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

To get to Goa, we had to take an hour long flight. I snapped this photo as we were entering the airport. All of these  folks for the most part are drivers or someone picking up someone. The photo definitely highlights the common dress here for drivers and for most working men of any strip–a white button down shirt and dark pants!

 

Carson and Daddy LOVED studying the airplanes together. Todd made use of his aerospace engineering degree describing to Carson how the planes take off and land, why the wings are shaped the way they are. They studied the diagrams in the magazine. They took careful notes outside the window. I on the other hand took a nap. I was up until the wee hours getting everyone packed for this adventure!

here is a photo of our entourage all tanned in the front lobby. We stayed at the Taj Holiday Village–a gorgeous resort right on the Arabian Sea. My parents have been to this resort twice before, and Derek the guest manager  has become a good friend. We had some fun extra touches as a result like a delicious chocolate cake on arrival. Also when Kinjal got sick during the trip (the Dehli Belly strikes the first one of us!), Derek arranged a doctor to arrive quickly and the hotel staff even brought a get well basket to their room. The house call plus all medications came to just $20!

   

Here is a photo of our cottages. Janet and Kinj had one right behind our two.

This view is perhaps one of Ran’s favorite places on the world–a table at the edge of the deck at the main restaurant. Ran would spend most of the day here chatting with waiters and sipping coffee

  

  

The kids loved this room the best–the Jungle Jam, which catered to the younger crowd. As in, the served PB and J, french fries, smoothies and fried shrimp all day long! Plus the kiddos could play their favorite game of Carroum while waiting for their food! We even needed to get a “to-go” order for the shuttle ride back to the airport on the last day!

The kids had fun poolside, and especially with Daddy. Here, being the techie family that we are, the three of them were all playing a game together by connecting all of the devices using Bluetooh. I don’t really understand it, but they LOVE doing it.

  

While some fancy hotels give you towels that look like swans, here they give you a towel that looks like Ganesh! How can you tell it’s just not an ordinary elephant? The special placing of the little dots of flowers.

The kids loved scrambling among the tide pools on these rocks. Carson loved finding the crabs and Kaden liked to stick her fingers into the sea anenomes and feel them close.

  

The beach was just down the  stair case and it was a beauty. Very flat, which made for good running for me in the morning. Although I did get chased by a dog. That was scary! The dog came running right at me barking. I froze and panicked for a minute, then I channeled my inner Papa Joe, turned and faced the dog and growled in a loud deep voice, “Get out of here!” And to my surprise, the dog turned on its heels and ran away quickly. I then noticed that all of the Indians out in the early morning were carrying sticks. So I quickly found one and ran with a stick the rest of the time!

Ayurvedic cooking

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I took an Ayurvedic cooking seminar today through my Overseas Women’s Group. The day started with a lecture from an ayurvedic doctor. We all got a chuckle out of the set up of the conference room, in a fancy hotel no doubt. Mattresses on the floor, shoes off to the side. It was actually very comfortable but made me sleepy! (Thanks to the OWC Cooking club for the photos that include me in them!)

The Ayurvedic health process includes a great focus on body types and diet. Based on your body needs, you should adjust your diet accordingly. The doctor discussed three body types, and said that people are one of these, or more often a combination of two.

VATA–focus on large intestine and lower body, air and space, dry, cold, moving

vata people have joint pains. they are athletic, can’t sit still, the mind races.

They also describe these people as really tall or really short with thin, dry hair. (okay, well I thought I was vata until I got the really tall or really short).

Vata people should avoiad coffee, raw veggies, potatoes, nuts and beans and embrace sweet and salty food.

PITTA–focus on digestive system, fire and water, hot, oily

Pita people have heart shaped faces, pale skin, burn easily.

They tend to have digestive issues and be quick tempered and emotional

Pitta types should focus on cooling foods that are gentle to the stomach , so nothing too spicy or sour.

KAPHA–focus on mucous and lymphatic system–chest, shoulder, head eyes, cold, heavy, dense, smooth, slow

lots of sinus issues

These people are heaving, slower, calmer. They have good hair and a strong voice.

Kapha should avoid sweets, bread, red meat, and avocados

Then we headed to a cooking demo that demonstrated the preparation of food for each of the three types–a spicy coconut milk soup for vata, a beetroot salad for pitta, and a cabbage dish for kapha.

We followed the cooking demo with lunch at the Movenpick buffet–one of my favorites. Yummy naan, tandori chicken, and sushi too!

Nandi the bull, bats, and a Ganesh made out of butter

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The first afternoon that Todd arrived, I took us on an adventure to visit Nandi the Bull–a famous Hindu temple south of the city.  The entrance to the temple had these bull horns. Todd got stuck behind a group of women; Carson found another route!

    

Nandi is a bull who is the source of transportation/mount for Shiva in Hindu Mythology. (Shiva is the destroyer God in the trinity of Hindu Gods). Often temples honoring Shiva will have Nandi present as well. But Nandi has his own temples as well like this one. Holy men in the temple offered red smudges and holy smoke. Kaden got a smudge without asking! I got some jasmine flowers after giving an offering on the plate.  Kaden was not happy with her holy smudge and rubbed it off as soon as we were out of site of the temple.  

    

Next to the Bull Temple was a beautiful park (Bugle Rock) with gardens, climbing rocks, and GIANT bats hanging in all of the trees! The park even had a high lookout for a closer look at these giant bats!!

   Poet statue

     All those black dots? Yep! Bats!!!

   

the best surprise was discovering a rock slide! From the lookout tower, we observed squealing kids and college students sliding down the rocks on smashed plastic bottles.

   

Carson insisted on joining in. Carson’s best ride of the day:  http://youtu.be/yh212yBWIOA   Kaden was  a bit more bashful but these two college kids offered to take her down with them. They were very sweet and she made it!

     Kaden did it!

After the park, we  visited a Ganesh temple on the same grounds that contained a Ganesh statue made out of Ghee–clarified butter. We couldn’t take photos inside, and especially because holy men were conducting a ceremony with lots of people present. The Ganesh didn’t look like it was made out of butter, primarily because it was covered in so many flower garlands that you coulodn’t see what was beneath. I couldn’t take photos inside the temple, but here is a website showing what the Ganesh looked like. Butter ganesh.

After our temple and park adventures, we met my parents for a buffet lunch at Mynt in the Taj West End. We had lovely outdoor seating by the garden.

   

Taj West End Lobby!

A palace, a temple and a market in Bangalore

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On Monday Kinjal, Janet and I set out for some sightseeing in downtown Bangalore. Much like Mysore, we set out to see a palace, a temple. We saw some cool sites, but not so grand and picturesque as Mysore.

We started at Tipu’s “palace.” He was a sultan who ended up losing a battle to Cornwallis (the same British general to fight in the Revolutionary War in the United States). The structure we saw wasn’t really a palace but more of a place where the Sultan and his court would sit to hear from people and to make speeches.

As is common here, there was a man who offered to be our tour guide when we entered the palace grounds. He said we could pay him what he thought it was worth after. I said, okay. This time though, he didn’t add much to what we could read on the walls and he was very hard to understand. I gleaned a few nuggets though. When he was done he asked for payment. We gave him 100 rupees. He told us he wanted 50 more. So much for paying what we thought!

   The balcony is the king would sit to speak with the people. 

Tipu the Sultan apparently intentionally built the palace near a temple to the god Shiva. The temple itself wasn’t so grand and much of it seemed reconstructed but we saw some cool carvings anyhow.

  


We always take pictures of Hanuman the Monkey God when we see them–Carson’s favorite AND Kinj has him tattoed on his arm!

Then we set off to the City Market/Chick Pet area. I was hoping to find a bazaar like the one we found in Mysore, with the winding little paths and picturesque stalls. We found something much bigger and chaotic.

  This guy with the basket on his head was really, really annoying. He followed us about the market in hopes that we would buy something so that he could carry it around for us. No amount of “please go away” seemed to hlep. This little kid came chasing after me making “snap a picture” gestures. Kinj groaned when I did, because he was worried then a flock of kids would chase us and then ask for rupees in exchange for the photo taken. The basket head buy also kept asking Kinj to take a picture for him. Finally, Kinj gave up and did take a picture and blissfully the kiddo and the man then disappeared.

 

We were starting to give on the market and head out when we discovered the flower stalls!

   

 

After all of that craziness, we made our way to an incredibly beautiful and tranquil spot–the Blue Ginger restaurant at the Taj West End (one of the fanciest hotels in town).

    

Blue Ginger is a Vietnamese restaurant. The food was hit or miss, but we loved, loved the raw mango salad and the shrimp also was fantastic.

And we received complimentary “Blue Ginger drinks”

              

Visiting old friends and making new ones!

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The big plan of the weekend was to finally visit with some good friends. But first we all needed some lunch. With Kinjal and Janet visiting, we had to squeeze to fit all seven of us plus the driver in the minivan. Carson sat on the floor some of the time while practicing his spelling words for this week (including glistened and confusion). Kaden worked on math from back home as we drove into the city.

  

We had dinner at the Lalit hotel buffet. We had a gorgeous table outside and had some excellent tandoori, curried fish, and rice with pomegranate seeds

  

Because my brother has a great sense of humor, I can share one of the funniest moments of the trip thus far. Kinj filled up a huge plate of food from the food and headed out to our poolside table–right into a plate glass wall. Crash went the food everywhere. His shirt was covered in about five colors and flavors. Given the exceptional service at the Lalit, the waiter escorted Kinjal into the bathroom to help him to clean up, and then insisted on carrying his plate back to the table for him the second time around!  Also, when expressing concern that Rasgulla, a traditional Bengali sweet, was not on the buffet, they made up a batch especially for us! It was delicious!

The kids had fun playing in the Lalit Gardens after lunch.

  

 

Then it was time to head to visit our good friends Rahul, Sharmila and Ria. Rahul got his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh back in the early 1990s–during which time he was a regular fixture at our house for holiday gatherings and otherwise. One of my favorite memories was Todd and I going out celebrating and dancing with him and others in Pittsburgh after my college graduation. He was instrumental in my Fulbright plans as well since he provided the much needed introductions to NIAS faculty here in Bangalore which ultimately helped me to secure the Fulbright grant.  It is hard to believe that it took over a month to visit the whole family, but they had a nasty bout of stomach flu. Plus they live as far as our Bangalore family–a good hour and a half through the city traffic.

Kaden had a blast meeting Ria, who is the same age and very much the same mischievous temperament. The family lives in faculty housing on the India Institute of Science Campus. It seems like a wonderful way to enjoy Bangalore because the campus is a lush sanctuary unto itself with lots of kids, playgrounds, streets for biking (unheard of in most of the town!), soccer fields, tennis courts, performance venues and more. And no nasty commute like the rest of the city!

  

Visiting with Rahul in their living room.

The kids FINALLY got to make use of their scooters, sharing their wheels with Ria’s bike. Carson LOVED the speed bumps!

    

Stopping for a Nimbooz after much scootering at the local convenience store. I love these little shops in India that sell everything from drinks to tennis raquets!

Rahul, Ria, and Sharmila

Back at the house, the kids enjoyed playing the popular India game Carrom, which involves shooting little pucks into corner nets.