Sunday, June 17, 2012

Memories of India 2012.

 
Getting to go back to one of my favorite destinations, on company expense, was an unexpected gift. The moment I got the final word that I was going to India, the planning began but the trip activities turned out to be more "on the spur of the moment" than my usual trips.  I have to admit that it took me a bit to let go and just relax.  It also ended up being more a trip about nature than culture which was a nice change for me.  My only regret was that I missed out on one day in Mumbai which means I didn't get to go to Elephanta Island as I had hoped to.  Guess that means I have to go back :-)

The journey home.

Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.  Home!
I was awake well before 5:30a. I don't know why I bothered setting the alarm. Even if I hadn't awoken on my own, the church music blaring from loudspeakers starting at 5:30a, on the dot, would have jolted me awake.

I got out of bed, got ready for the day, shut the windows, made up the bed and headed downstairs with my luggage in hand. Regi was already awake and so was Smitha. It was too early for me to have breakfast, even a cup of tea so we chatted, not realizing that Vinod was already outside waiting for me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Backwater cruise down the Neyyar River.


I had told Vinod to be back at the Leela Hotel at 1p but by 11:30a, I was ready to go so I went ahead and checked out. I had the receptionist call Vinod for me and as it turned out, he was already waiting for me somewhere nearby. Less than 10 minutes later, I saw him pulling up to the front door.

Lazy start.


Ahhh....I woke up this morning feeling more rested than I had in days even though my sleep was interrupted last night by the sound of a heavy rainstorm pelting down on the terrace outside my room. I think it was the super comfy bed and comforter that did me in :-)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thiruvananthapuram and Kovalam Beach.


I was awake well before 5:30a but there was no need to get up any earlier so I lingered in bed. The church, behind the house, started blaring out music at 5:30a on the dot. With the bedroom windows wide open, the sound of the music was especially loud - I felt like I as in the front row in a performance hall :-(

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tea time. Munnar.


After we left the monastery, we drove towards Munnar. We wound our way up one hill and down the other. Soon, the hillsides were covered with tea plants. The way they had been planted created interesting patterns on the hillsides. Along the way, we passed women picking tea. Unlike the tea pickers in Darjeeling who have to pluck the tender leaves by hand, here they use a cutter - a box like contraption that has a blade at the bottom that essentially slices off the top layer of leaves. That explained why the tops of all the plants were so even.

The young monks of St. Alfonsa.


Last night I had set the alarm to go off at 7:30a but as it turned out, that was completely unnecessary because there was another sort of *alarm* that woke me up much earlier :-(

Yesterday, Smitha and Regi gave me a tour of their house. On the upper level is a large terrance that overlooks part of their back and side yards. Regi pointed out that just behind their yard was a Catholic church. Well, promptly at 5:30a this morning, there was some sort of a service taking place at the church and it was broadcast over loud speakers. Why do religious institutions feel the need to blast out over the neighborhood and wake everyone up and ungodly hours?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

To Smitha's house I go!


I finally had a good night's sleep last night, waking up energized and refreshed. I started my day with a refreshing shower and packing. Checkout time is 11am so I had plenty of time to head downstairs for breakfast, which comes free with the room.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kathakali.


The driver deposited me at the entrance to the Kerala Kathakali Centre - there was just a simple plastic banner to identify the place. Definitely not anything fancy here.

I followed the path which didn't seem like it would lead to a place of performing arts but this is India and I've learned to not to assume anything. The path ended in a very small courtyard. There, seated behind a wooden desk was a man selling tickets. I handed over 500 rupee and got 250 rupee in change back and a piece of paper explaining the play in English. Less than $5 for two hours of entertainment. A cheap deal. Just hope it's entertaining.

Oh no!


This morning I woke up at the crack of dawn. I was curious to see what the view, outside my window, looked like at this time of day so I threw open the curtains. The world was coming to life. The canal was filled with boats making their way towards Fort Kochi.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cooking with Mai and Meera.


Mai and I decided to head back to the car around 3:40p to give us plenty of time to get to our cooking class. I gave our driver the directions which I got from the instructor, Meera.

"My house is located behind Fort Kochi Head Post Office at Quirose Street. House indentification (sp) Blue roof shade and aluminum siding gate. A small board isplaced on the boundary wall and also on the GateName - Flavour cooking class."

Kochi.



Last night, Mai and I decided we would take it easy today. That began with a leisurely breakfast around 9-ish. We headed back to the restaurant so Mai could get her last meal of masala dosai. Like so many others, she had gotten addicted to this typical south Indian breakfast food. We planned our day over our meal.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Let the vacation begin! Alleppey.



We wrapped up work yesterday so today formally began the vacation part of this trip for me!

One of our colleagues, Pete, left for home last night and another, Shri, headed to the airport this morning. I'm spending the day with two of my colleagues, Chris and Mai. Yesterday, one of our Indian colleagues, Sandeep had arranged for us to do a backwaters cruise so that's the game plan for today. It is monsoon season here so the skies are always a bit overcast but there was hint of sun as well. It looked like it would be a nice day to be on the water.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mumbai masala.


Good morning from Mumbai! I'm not completely well rested but good enough to get going.   My plan was to be downstairs by about 8am. The receptionist had told me last night that breakfast, which comes free with the room, would be served starting at 7am. I always need a good meal to get me started - especially when I travel since I never know when my next meal will come.

I made it to Mumbai!


Finally landed safely into Mumbai! The flight was pretty uneventful which is a good thing - ate all my meals, watched 3 movies and catnapped.

I was greeted by the heat and humidity of Mumbai the moment I stepped onto the exit ramp. Wow!! It was midnight and felt like heat of day. I'm not looking forward to having to endure this tomorrow. Ugh.

I got in and out of immigration pretty quick. I have to say that the Laissez Passe helps move things through fast.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Layover.

Made it to Heathrow with plenty of time to transit. Rainy, dreary day here but nothing to stop the next flight, at least not weather wise, from taking off on time. The flight crew has already boarded. I'm just about 10 hours away from arriving in India!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Will I ever leave home?


I left the office at noon today and got home around 1pm.

At about 3pm, I got an email, on my office cellphone, with a message informing staff of impending tornadoes and to shelter in place if instructed.  Tornadoes??  What tornadoes?  I immediately turned on the TV and yep, all the local news channels were broadcasting that severe storms and tornadoes were going to be arriving into the DC area in short time.

The situation was described as a train of storms making their way from south to north.  A severe storm/tornado watch had been issued until 9pm at night.  Not good since my flight to Heathrow was scheduled to depart at 9:05pm!!