Category Archives: street scenes

Visiting Jaipur–the pink city

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In Jaipur, we stayed at the beautiful Alsisar Havelli hotel. The hotel was originally a palace built in the 1890s. It didn’t feel old though. The place was charming and remarkably clean. The staff was attentive but not pushy and we felt very much at home.

 

Jaipur is known as the pink city for the terracotta buildings of its old town. The last time the old town was painted was for the state visit of Bill Clinton back during his presidency.

Below is the outside of the Palace of the Winds, a beautiful exterior, but apparently too dilapidated for touring inside.

           

Below, these colorful hats were a common souveiner sold in Jaipur

Jaipur has one of the floating palaces of Rajasthan. It also is not tourable, but beautiful to behold. Camel rides were offered right by the photo stopping point for this palace.

Below, these two women were wading through the water near the palace. Our tour guide suspected they were going to swim over to the palace to look for duck eggs laid by the ducks who live on the property. Below right, a streetside vendor of flowers that are usually used for religious purposes.

 

We toured the city palace as a part of our visit to Jaipur. Below is the gate toward the palace plus one of the historic buildings on the palace grounds.

  

The royal family of Jaipur still lives in this part of the palace grounds (below). The flag signified that they were were present in the palace on  the day we visited.  I finally got the answer from this tourguide of why the royals in India do not receive the attraction of royals in Europe and elsewhere. First of all there are many royal families in India, so royalty is a regional thing, not a national one. But even more so, in India, royals get involved in politics all the time, running for office and otherwise. Thus it is in the interest of the opposing parties to not play up the importance of the glamour of these individuals or it could cost them the election. Thus the continuing intersection of politics and royalty make them not a source of universal press interest or attraction. I also think it has something to do with the fact that most of the royal families also were lackeys of the Brits. But my tourguide disagrees.

  

The City Palace is especially known for it’s amazing doors and archways. I thought that these peacocks were incredible!

  

The palace hosted a few small museums, including costumes and weaponry. Carson and Ducky really enjoyed looking at the weapons!

 

  

After braving the heat in Jaipur, we returned back to the hotel for a long afternoon of swimming and a delivery of a Domino’s pizza!

  

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Shopping…old school and the modern way.

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One of the oldest and most ceremonial form of shopping in India is sari shopping. Having just read a great book on the subject, called The Sari Shop, it was particularly interested to head to a Sari shop with my mom. She was looking to buy sari fabric to turn into curtains. My yoga moms have encouraged me to buy a sari before I leave. But I just don’t think I would have an occasion to wear one in the States.

   

The colors and designs on saris are beautiful and can be overwhelming. The design of a sari shop is not for browsing independently. The saris are stacked in a way that you can only really see them if you have the attendants lay them out for you on the mattresses. Often women sit on the mattresses as well, but this shop also had chairs. Choosing the right sari can take hours, usually with a friend or family member helping to advise. And it involves continuous asking of help to bring down sample after sample.

In contrast, to old school shopping, Bangalore also has better modern shopping than we have back home. Right before our trip up North, I had to bring the kids on a journey to Mantri Mall the mega mall to buy Carson some shoes. The place was packed with people on Good Friday, because apparently most of India gets the holiday off–even though Bangalore has few Christians. We don’t even get the holiday off in the States so the crowds were unexpected!

   

Bangalore’s fancy malls have far more amenities and much better shopping than our mall back home. Above, the kids love playing virtual reality games in these colorful pods. While waiting for them I looked out the window six stories below to see a maze of autorickshaws zigzagging down the street.

Our main reason for coming to the mall is because Carson had broken his Crocs the night before playing soccer out in our courtyard with his buddies.  The Croc store at this mall is massive and nothing like we have near State College back home!

Carson picked out red crocs with flames along the sides, and a complementary metal jibbit!

Outside a bookstore we found a trampoline. A woman tried to put a two year old baby on the trampoline at the same time as Kaden was jumping. I had a fit! So unsafe for that little baby and to have more than two kids of any size jumping on such a small trampoline is so dangerous! Especially without any walls or a soft surface for landing. But once we got off, we turned around and six Indian kiddos were jumping at the same time. Sigh.

Every outing these days seems to end with ice cream, and especially Swensen’s ice crem

Somnathpur and water

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On the way back home from our safari, I made the call to stop in Somnathpur at a very famous temple called Keshava temple. My driver was very grumpy about the idea and so were the kids. They all wanted to go home. But this temple is one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture in all of India. The temple was built in the 1200s out of soapstone and has intricate carvings. It took 500 people 50 years to coplate it. Since the Moguls plundered it twice it is no longer an active place of worship, which was great for us because meant we could take all the photos we wished.

The Hoysalas were “a mighty martial race who ruled large parts of present day Karnataka between 1100 and 1320 AD.” This stone tablet inside the temple main gate contain inscriptions in ancient Kannada script (the local language of the region) containing details of about the construction of the temple as well as details of ongoing archeological work.

It stands on middle of a walled compound encircled by a verandah with 64 cells ( almost all the cells are empty now ).

    

The Temple is built up on a raised platform, star shaped .The outer walls are divided into different layers the lower layer contains the scenes of daily life like people riding elephants etc while the middle ones contains exquisitely curved gods and goddesses

Inside the temple are three incaranations of Krishna

We finally found a guide who could speak good English and he showed us all the details of the carvings—the names of the Hindu gods and goddesses. The outside walls of the main temple is covered with intricately curved out figures in stone, scenes from Ramayanas, Krishnas life (like Krishna killing the poisonous serpent of Kaliya) , Vishnu, scenes of daily life people riding on elephant .There are 194 images in all and around 40 of them have been curved by master sculptor Mallitamma.

Below are images of Ganesha the elephant and of a swan feeding its babies.

   

Kaden loves anything of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, light, wisdom, courage, and good fortune (above).

I love Sarashwathi, goddess of knowledge, music, arts and sciences.

The temple also had mythical creatures, such as this “rhinosaurous” It combines the best features of six animals. Lion feet, crocodile mouth, cow ears, monkey eyes, and so on. Carson loved that.

  The temple even had some, ahem, kama sutra carvings.

My driver was grumpy for the rest of the trip, but it was worth it. I came home very happy indeed. The place is considered a national treasure and I can see why. Such artistry preserved over generations. Todd came home happy too because on the way through Mysore we stopped so that he could visit the palace and market that the kids and I visited during our last trip there. The kids were asleep in the car, and I sat with them and worked on an article while Todd hopped out to do some touring. So in one day, Todd was on a safari, saw a maharaja’s temple, toured an old market, and saw one of the most historic temples in India. My job is done!

On our trip this weekend, here are some kiddos who waved to us on our way:

   

We also saw lots of rural villagers bringing water back to their houses. Some have to walk a mile or more to bring fresh  water to their homes.

  

These little girls below touched my heart. The didn’t look older than Kaden and they were carrying really heavy water jugs to their homes.

Here’s where their homes are–tarps in a field.

We also saw a cemetery during our travels. Rare since cremation is the preferred method in India. Can you imagine if all Indians wanted to be buried in a cemetery? With so many people it would be quite a space crunch.

The Saturday Night Market and other Goa street scenes

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 On Saturday night, Mom, Janet and I set out to do some serious shopping at Goa’s famous Night Market. It is only open once a week and is MASSIVE. It took us over an hour to get there because it seemed that the entire state was heading to the market. It turned out to be not the greatest shopping–poor quality stuff for the most part. I did buy a hammock and a shirt, but nothing of quality.

But what a scene!  Goan is known for its hippy culture and it was in full force at the market. Thousands of people were there. Live music and rave music were happening from each corner. Bars were serving stiff drinks. Ganga smell was in the air. The whole back side of the market was food, food, food (but I wasn’t going to trust any of it). It was a T

  

The rest of the photos are views from our shuttle as we were heading to and from the airport. Goa is a very small state in India. It was kept separate because it was previously a Portuguese colony and has a very distinctive culture and tradition compared to other regions of India. You can see the influence in the many mission style Catholic churches in the area. You can also see it in the food–lots more meat in the cooking here in Goa and also a different set of spices.

   

Carson is always happy to see a cricket game!

   

One of the churches, and there’s that guy with his crazy cow again!

Another big church in the country side.

Baga Beach

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On our first full day, we headed out in cars to Baga Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the world and a very popular beach with the locals. On the way, Todd and Carson stopped to buy boogey boards. They found this man with a very decorated cow as Todd was bargaining with the shopkeeper.

  

 Carson was very pleased to find the boards!

We started our time at Baga Beach with some lunch at one of the biggest beach shacks and Ran’s favorite–Britto’s.   They had fabulous looking lobsters, tiger prawns, and more.

You can see in the photo below how the shacks line the beach. They had shacks along the beach back by our hotel as well. They set up chairs in front of the shacks and then as long as you buy some food/drinks, you can sit all day.

The kids had a blast riding the waves. They were the only people on this crowded beach riding boogie boards, but they didn’t seem to mind!

   

  

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!

Follow the money

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We faced the daunting challenge last week of figuring out how to pay our first round of monthly bills, and especially the internet bill. The choices appeared to be online, by voucher or by courier.

We tried online first, of course. The website appeared to be broken at times. when it was working, we ran into the problem of having a foreign credit card. Some websites won’t accept a foreign credit credit card at all. Others do but the credit card company rejects the charge as fishy. We did not have any success paying the internet bill by credit card.

We opted for the courier option as we did not see any address on the bill or online where we could drop off the payment. For an extra 50 rupees ($1), the courier was to come and pick up the cash. Of course, the courier didn’t come on the appointed day, or the next day. And then we were heading off to Goa for the weekend. We left the bill with the head security guard. Luckily the courier called when we were near the phone in Goa and luckily also RAn was nearby to speak Hindi and give directions, because the man spoke no English.

The voucher option might be something to explore. It sounds like a money order. You go to certain stores and can purchase payment vouchers that can be used for specific purposes. Then there are apparently payment boxes for the vouchers that can be found about town. I’ll save that adventure for next month!

Notice that paying by mail was not one of the choices! The postal system in India is not trusted or reliable. Important business here occurs by courier or by a company such as DSL if going internationally. I have mentioned before that stamps are not trustworthy because it is assumed that someone will cut them off. But since then talking to colleagues it seems that the mail itself only has about a 50% chance of arrving unless you pay for registered mail or some sort of explicit tracking service. So running a business dependent on the mail services is foolhardy. And no one trusts that the mail will get money where it needs to go.

I’ve realized that how money changes hands is a big concern in India. People prefer to deal in cash, even when it is the equivalent of thousands of US dollars.  And there seems to be an expectation that money theft will occur and it affects how business is conducted. For example, in local grocery stores, first you check out your food items and receive a receipt. Then you go to the money guy. It is often a bit chaotic since you have people from several check out aisles converging on one money. He’s where you give the cash or the credit card. Then he stamps your receipt. You then go exit the store where a security guard checks to make sure that your bill is stamped. Now, often this process occurs within a few feet of one another and it is very frustrating to me when the security guard puzzles over my bill after he has watched me check out and then walk over to the money guy. Then, interestingly, fruit is sold separately outside of the store and they collect their own money.

This concern about theft and money helps to explain why building relationships is so key to conducting business in India–the assumption of trust is not there initially but needs to be established through gestures and time.

The lack of trust is also clear with our maid, or her fear that we don’t trust her. She won’t even touch dishes if they aren’t right by the sink because she doesn’t want to be accused to taking anything. She even scolds us if she sees something sitting out that she feels should be locked up. We never let her stay in the house if we are leaving and she doesn’t want to be there for fear of accusation. And yet we know she wouldn’t steal from us, or at least she would be a fool to do so because her entire family works for the apartment complex. Her husband is on the building crew. Her daugher cleans houses. Her grandson gardens. If someone in the family screws up, they could all be fired and be in big financial trouble.

Turns out the Holyman across the way got robbed last weekend. He had Basama, our maid, as his house cleaner, but replaced her with a live in servant. The servant stole from him this weekend. They found all the stuff under the guy’s pillow. By they, I mean Basama’s family and the workers who live in the garage area of our complex. Since the lack of trust also extends to the police, they beat the guy up and brought the stuff back. Justice served, the Indian way.

The photo above hows a policeman in this strangely elaborate tented area on the side side of the highway. The tented area is next to the new toll booths  set up near the airport. The drivers in town are furious about the new tolls and Todd and I got to see their rage when I picked him up at the airport. People getting out of their car and shouting. Cars honking loudly. Turns out they are really mad about the new tolls.