A Travellerspoint blog

Camel Riding in the Desert

A Night Under the Stars....

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In South India, I had met some girls who mentioned that their camel safari adventure in Jaisalmer was their most favorite thing they did in India. Once I heard this, I knew Jardin and I had to do it. So we left Jodhpur behind and headed to Jaisalmer, in the really western part of Rajasthan only 40 miles away from the Pakistani border. Interestingly, the best roadways I encountered in the entire country are on the way to Jaisalmer, as its the only roadway paved by the military since the government invests a lot of money to secure the border with Pakistan. Jaisalmer is known as the Golden City, famous for its fort and sandstone yellow buildings. Jaisalmer is in the heart of the Thar Desert.

Before we headed out on camels, we stopped at an old abandoned city, and explored the sandstone buildings.
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Then we drove another 30 minutes outside of Jaisalmer into the desert and boarded our camels.
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I loved my turban
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We all rode in a camel line led by local boys who were 10 and 14 years of age respectively
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Sunshine and clear skies.....
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Dunes
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Nice turban, Jardin!
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A camel with two heads....lol
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The camels had terrible insect issues. The poor animals were covered with bugs, so I lent our helper the bug spray to spray on them. It actually seemed to have helped, which was nice. It's the least I could do for the animals carrying us an hour into the desert. Jardin's camel was so itchy from sand flies that it kept rubbing against bushes when we passed them. Although I felt bad for the camel, it was funny to watch Jardin squirm while he was about 10 feet from the ground on a live animal..:)
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Jardin and I witnessed one of the most ridiculous things we've ever seen. A mother-daughter pair that was overly high-maintenance actually brought their laptop to the desert. What's more is that the daughter actually tried to log onto the internet. It was utterly absurd. After all, you're there to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience riding a camel out into the desert and sleeping under the stars, not emailing your boyfriend! Kids these days :) I'll say they were bizarre and leave it at that.

After all, we found way more interesting things in the desert to look at....like this:
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Jardin, the two Indian guys who were on our tour, and I went on a walk to explore the dunes...I'm loving the Ali Babas, Jardin :)
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We ran across some other guides and I just loved the way they were sitting, so I asked if I could pose with them for a desert life pic
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Then we proceeded to watch the sun set
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As the night air cooled the dunes, we headed back to enjoy our traditional Rajasthani meal cooked over a fire for us. With food in our bellies, we headed to bed. Mattresses were set up on the dunes under the stars. It was the earliest bedtime I had had since I was a kid, as we headed to bed by 8pm. We chatted for a bit and then Jardin fell asleep. I stayed up for another hour just staring up at the sky stargazing. I watched 2 planets rise, and I saw so many shooting stars. Seeing a shooting star was particularly moving since I had never seen one before, not to mention they are absolutely magical to witness. I drifted off to sleep, but not before I made a wish of course. At 2am, Jardin and I set an alarm to wake up and go for a walk to watch the stars some more. We got about 20 feet until the night air and the cool sand made us turn back.
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We did, however, wake up at about 5:30am to watch the sun rise. We took our blankets to keep us warm and perched atop a dune to watch the sun come up.
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After the sun had fully risen, we gathered around the campfire to have our delicious chai and breakfast.
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We said goodbye to our camp (this is what our camp looked like by the way) and got back on our camels to continue the journey back to civilization
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If you are interested in doing a camel safari in Jaisalmer, I would recommend the company, Sahara Camel Safari, to anyone wishing to do this trip. They were excellent and this extraordinary experience only cost about US$25 per person!
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A bit sore and dirty, we finally arrived at the car and ventured back to Jaisalmer, where a warm shower awaited us. We showered and enjoyed one last rooftop lunch before going to the Jaisalmer Fort, famous in Rajasthan and one of the absolute must-not-misses. Pictured is the palace inside the fort.
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We wandered around the vast fort. I bought a leather bag that looks like a rustic old bag from a 1960s movie or something. It's a classic. We continued exploring and I was surprised to find cows very deep into the fort, so far back that you wouldn't have thought a cow would wander those winding streets. In fact, it was pretty funny...when Jardin and I were walking down one such winding alleyway, he suddenly grabbed me and was being very protective. (It wasn't the first time he was being overprotective--cover your shoulders in Northern India, ladies!! Trust me...otherwise you get much more unwanted attention than what being a different skin color brings. Jardin saw to protect me from that by always making me cover my shoulders). In any case, in this circumstance, I soon realized what he saw: 2 cows coming directly at us down the alleyway. Between the cows and us there really wasn't any room to spare width-wise between the buildings. Thankfully, he guided us through the cows...such hazards on the streets, those cows!! Only in India!!
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Then Jardin and I enjoyed one last sunset together on top of the Jaisalmer Fort before we had to part ways the following morning..
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As a side note, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at a roadside luxury resort in between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. If you ever find yourself traveling between those two destinations and decide that you are hungry or want to stop for an evening of luxury, definitely check out the Samsara resort.

Posted by kendallwallace 19:42 Archived in India Tagged safari camel Comments (0)

Zip-lining at the Jodhpur Fort

Jodhpur, Rajhastan

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The afternoon that Jardin and I explored Jodhpur Fort, we did something extraordinary, a must-do in Jodhpur: zip-lining at Jodhpur Fort. Now I did the Gibbon Experience, which was 23 zip lines, so I wasn't expecting much from just a simple 6 zip-line tour, but boy, was I mistaken! Each of the 6 zips were so long, at least as long as the longest zip-line at the Gibbon Experience if not longer. It was extraordinary. And it was lovely to see a grown man cry...I mean get scared :) Actually, I have to give a ton of credit to Jardin, who was so excited about trying something he had never done before. He explained that Indian people are not known for their adventurous activities. The whole sky-diving, bungee-jumping, way of life is more of a Western craze. But boy, did he break those barriers! In fact, here he comes down the first zip-line now:
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What joy on his face :)
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The next one was over water
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Here I go!
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The next one had the Jodhpur Fort in the background. Recognize it from the film The Dark Knight Rises? Because this backdrop was in it!
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One of the zip lines was so long (probably 3 football fields) that if you weren't heavy enough, you stopped about 20 yards from the end. Here I am climbing like a monkey to get to the end :)
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The best part of the zip line was the backdrops
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Jardin floating over the fort
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My turn!
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Me floating over the fort :)
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The best part of the zip-line is that it provided me with the unique viewpoint of seeing the wonderful fort with the blue city in the background. It was absolutely stunning and pretty much the only way to get a visual where you had both the fort and the blue city included
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Posted by kendallwallace 18:59 Archived in India Tagged jodhpur Comments (0)

Umaid Bhawan Palace

A Night I Will Never Forget...

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Diwali night, Jardin suggested that we go to a palace for a drink. We had been to so many palaces earlier that week, so I didn't think anything of it. Low and behold was I about to experience one of the best, most luxurious nights of my life. We rolled up to the gates of Umaid Bhawan in our auto rickshaw :) I'll admit, we looked slightly out of place. Fortunately we had called ahead to the bar there to ask what time it closed, so when we got to the gate and were greeted with a lady with a clipboard who said, "Reservation name?" we at least had something to reply with. After some back and forth where we explained we called ahead, finally she agreed to let us through the gate, carefully explaining that all of the dinner reservations were obviously booked up for the evening, but that they supposed there would be room in the bar for us to have a drink.

So we walked through the gate and were greeted by a perfectly manicured garden leading up to an astonishing decadent building with a red carpet leading up the stairs. I want to explain something. I've been to 5 star hotels. I've been to amazing country clubs in the United States. I've been to Versailles, but I had never experienced opulence like the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur.

We walked up the red carpet to enter and were immediately greeted by luxury everywhere we looked. It was marble from floor to ceiling..
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Stuffed leopards and tigers lined the walls from the days when the maharajas hunted them
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Jardin and I immediately looked at each other and smiled, like that moment in the movies when you know you've arrived. We walked down the hallway and saw this grand ballroom open before us. If you've seen the movie The Beauty and The Beast, then you'll understand what it was like, because the ballroom before us reminded me so much of the one where Belle and the Beast dance at the end. It was a circular dome ballroom multiple floors high that was truly out of a fairytale. At the center of the ballroom was a flower arrangement with candles in some Hindu symbol for Diwali.
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We left the ballroom and proceeded down the right corridor to the bar. As we walked, we passed many of the other opulent rooms.
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A gentleman who was dressed up in local Rajastani garb waited for us outside of the entryway to the bar, making sure we didn't go exploring further than we were permitted. We entered the bar to find that we had the entire room to ourselves. There were stuffed leopards and tigers hanging from the walls. As we ate some hors d'oeuvres and sipped delicious bourbon, I decided to ask the gentlemen if there were any dinner cancellations for that evening so that we could dine there. At first he said no, but he came back 30 minutes later with a table for us.
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So we proceeded to a lovely table outside and set in for the evening...
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From where we sat on the veranda, spread out before us were hundreds of candles on the steps leading out to a beautiful white structure (where I presume people get married). Fireworks exploded off at the horizon.
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Then all of a sudden, over to our right much closer to where we were sitting on the palace grounds, we saw little girls and the staff shooting off fireworks. We were quickly informed that these little girls were in fact princesses, as the sitting maharaja was lighting off fireworks with his family. So essentially, we were entertained by princesses and a sitting king. Not bad for a typical evening, eh? :) (The maharaja, who lives with his family in part of the palace, leases out the rest to the Taj Hotel Group, the owner of the nicest hotels in India)
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After dinner, Jardin and I took a walk to explore as much of the grounds as we could. That's one beautiful pool. Apparently, 2 weeks before we got there, Naomi Campbell had rented out the entire Umaid Bhawan Palace for one week to celebrate her boyfriend's birthday. One of the evening's cocktail parties took place around this pool. By the way, in case you were wondering, we asked what the minimum night's stay would be and were told that the cheapest room was US$850 a night.
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Beautiful Greco-Roman Architecture where I presume people get married, etc.
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The look back on the palace from the greco-roman structure. We had dinner at the top of the steps on the veranda. It really reminded me of the veranda of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, looking out at the vast Lawn.
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One last look at that gorgeous centerpiece in the middle of the ballroom
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Our waiter and us pose for a photo in the ballroom
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The dome of the ballroom
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We left our magical dinner and headed back out to the entryway. As we waited for our driver to pick us up (this time we decided not to go with the auto-rickshaw--not really appropriate once we've had a night of luxury :), we took one last look to admire the tiger and looked at each other after our amazing night and realized: we are both so screwed when it comes to our honeymoons. The bar is set, gentlemen. So batter up!
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Posted by kendallwallace 14:01 Archived in India Tagged jodhpur diwali Comments (0)

Diwali

"The Festival Of Lights"

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Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights. It is the second largest festival in India, behind Holi, where people throw natural colors on each other. Diwali is celebrated more prominently in North India than in South India, so it was good we were in Rajasthan for the celebration.
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Lights hung above the streets everywhere
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Here, people are waiting to get into the temple to pay tribute to a Hindu god. The women and men are separated in order to enter the temple. If you'll notice, like typical sports events in the United States, the female is much longer than the male line :)
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Ladies selling flowers to offer the gods in the temple
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Nearly every home, shop, and hotel had a red and white Hindu symbol outside the entrance to signify Diwali
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Diwali is a great marketing tool for jewelry shops as well :)
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Lots of decorations on sale for Diwali
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Shimmery decorations everywhere..
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Jodhpur Fort lit up in the distance on Diwali night
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The city is alight...and the crackers are deafening!!
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Posted by kendallwallace 20:19 Archived in India Tagged jodhpur Comments (0)

Jodhpur

The Blue City

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Classic Rajasthan

We took a taxi from Udaipur (The White City) to Jodhpur (The Blue City). You can see how gorgeous the blue city is with the Jodhpur Fort in the backdrop.
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Because it was right around Diwali, some boys in the street were playing with fire"crackers"
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The entrance way to the market.....it was starting to get crowded....much more crowded than wonderful Udaipur
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The Clocktower in the center of town
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We walked through the market, which was fantastic with its diverse colors
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Classic Rajastani dress: bright colors of reds, oranges, and yellows
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Market Life
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Crowded much...
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Getting a shave right next to the street.. (I love this picture....it totally embodies the busy hustle and bustle of Rajasthan even in the simplicity of a man getting a shave)
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So many of the cows have pounds of plastic in their stomachs, unfortunately, because they eat trash off of the streets
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"Let's Go, Daddy!" (Notice the back of the cow in the background)
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The Blue City life
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Beautiful Blue
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That's one little maharaja :)
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The Fort at Jodhpur
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Persian Arches
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Most of the people who I saw traveling around Rajasthan were in their 50s and 60s. Here is one such cute tour group:
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That's a nice living room
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Ladies in beautiful salwar chemises
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Beautiful courtyard
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Love these flags :)
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Batter Up! Anyone up for a game of cricket? Cause these boys are :)
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Posted by kendallwallace 19:36 Archived in India Tagged jodhpur Comments (0)

Living Like a Maharaja

"Man, It Feels Good to Be A Gangsta"

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In Udaipur, Jardin and I began a week-long tradition of living like a maharaja. I spent more in that week with Jardin than I had spent during my first 3 weeks in India. Everything was still "discounted" by American standards, but we were experiencing such luxury, that it was alright to spend a little extra. After all, when was the next time I would be sipping champagne on the terrace of a palace overlooking a floating palace on a lake with the sun setting in the distance behind mountains? :)
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Good times
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The floating Taj Lake Palace at sunset, one of the best hotels in the world. Check it out here: http://www.tajhotels.com/Luxury/Grand-Palaces-And-Iconic-Hotels/Taj-Lake-Palace-Udaipur/Overview.html
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A different floating palace in the distance
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The Taj Lake Palace Hotel by night. We went to the Sunset Terrace both nights. The second night--two bottles of champagne and 5 hours later, we headed to the other side of the lake to a wonderful restaurant called Ambrai for butter chicken and garlic naan....mmmm...
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Diwali candles at the Udaipur City Palace
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The Udaipur City Palace by night
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The next day, we went to a part of the Udaipur City Palace that is not the touristy area, but a luxurious hotel.
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The entryway to our afternoon of luxury

This part of the palace, called Chivnawas, was featured in the James Bond film, Octopussy
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We had lunch and drinks by the pool
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Jardin is such a hard worker :)
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Just gorgeous
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Heck of a way to spend a Monday :)
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Yep, the pool was just the right temperature as well. I love my life :)
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Posted by kendallwallace 14:36 Archived in India Tagged udaipur Comments (0)

Udaipur

The White, Lake Town That Overlooks a Floating Palace

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A security guard at the Palace in Udaipur

We got in to Udaipur and went for lunch at Jagat Niwas, a lovely haveli overlooking the Lake Pichhola.
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Here is a picture of the lovely floating palace, the Taj Lake Palace, in the middle of Lake Pichhola. It is also one of the most expensive hotels in the world, including a room for US$30,000 a night
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From there we had a lovely meal as we overlooked the lake
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Gorgeous architecture abounds
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Even the birds love it
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The inside of the haveli
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What a sunset!
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Later on that night, we headed to a Bazar that was put on for Diwali. Lights were everywhere. large_DSC09967.jpg
It was basically a giant carnival, where kids rode rides
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And adults played games
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Some people even got tattoos, as you do at typical county fairs :) Not the most sanitary environment, however.
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On the way back to our hotel, we passed by the largest HIndu temple in town, which was already having its festivities for Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and the 2nd largest festival in India.
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Women sold flowers that Hindu people would offer in the temple
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And Jardin tried on the cool hats they had on display. It suits him, no?
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The next day, we headed to the Udaipur Palace, to explore how maharajas lived
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In Rajasthan, nearly all of the men have mustaches, but this one was the most impressive I saw
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At the palace
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Gorgeous fountain within the palace
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Stained glass in the palace
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I can only guess it's some sort of sex swing....oh, what it's like to be a maharaja :)
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The view of Udaipur from the rooftop where we stayed
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An old timey ice cream parlor in Udaipur. Udaipur really reminded me of Europe believe it or not. All of the quaint little winding streets with old timey shops completely threw me back to the French towns of which I am so fond
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Another beautiful haveli. I absolutely adore the architecture of Rajasthan. The Persian influence is so prominent and gorgeous!
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Posted by kendallwallace 14:33 Archived in India Tagged udaipur Comments (2)

Mumbai with a Native (aka One of My Best Friends, Jardin:)

Dharavi, Dhobi Ghat, the Taj Hotel, and Rooftop Parties with Locals

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So I took the 12-hour overnight to Mumbai to meet up with one of my very closest friends from Darden School of Business, Jardin. Jardin greeted me at the train station and we planned to go to Rajasthan together, but first, we spent a few days in Mumbai so I could check out his hometown :)

One of the first days, we took the train downtown to Churchgate and walked around town. We passed a cricket ground, where hundreds were playing cricket, with the CST train station in the background.
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Jardin and me inside CST, which sees millions pass through its doors every day. It was crowded....to say the least. I've been to large cities before, but the thing that struck me about Mumbai was the population density. You saw a lot of people all of the time. It's really astonishing on first impression. Unfortunately, this was another location that was hit during the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai (During which the Taj Hotel was infamously attacked for 3 days). However, the man on the loud speaker must have saved countless lives when he announced what was going on so that people could escape the gunmen.
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The CST train station is also where they filmed parts of Slumdog Millionarie. Remember the dance sequence at the end with the clocks above?
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Jardin and I went to the Taj Hotel for a drink afterwards. As we were leaving, we passed by the newly opened Starbucks, the first one in India. I thought it was funny that they had a metal detector as well as armed security guards, but given the attacks that occurred in that same building some years prior, it was for the best.
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The next day, we took a tour of Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. On 535 acres live over 1 million people. That's over 2,000 people per acre. Jardin found it particularly interesting, considering he grew up and basically lived his whole life in Mumbai, but had never been to or learned about Dharavi. We toured Dharavi with other Westerners (Jardin was the only local ;) It was surprising to find the slum was divided into 2 parts: the industrial part and the place where people live. The living area was divided into the Muslim quarter and the Hindu quarter, and it was so easy to tell the difference between the two, which was surprising. The Hindu area was much more clean, as Hindu people make their homes more pristine than any other culture I've encountered.

The industrial area was equally as fascinating and surprisingly impressive. The recycling industry is huge there. Apparently, a lot of garbage from the Western world (the U.S. included) sends the trash it can't recycle (or won't for the sake of cost) to Dharavi to have it recycled there. The recycling industry is so expansive from plastics to metals and everything in between. In fact, we passed through an iron recycling plant where we basically had to hold our breath and shield our eyes for 20 seconds as we passed through because of all of the iron particles in the air. None of the plant workers use protective gear, and they end up sleeping in the iron mill to save money on a place to live. These circumstances combined with the particles in the air make for a very low life expectancy for the workers. Those who restore the carrying tins for paint unfortunately encounter the same problem of low life expectancy due to their working conditions. Ironically, Dharavi also hosts one of the best leather factories in the world, where Louis Vitton and other brands make some of their finest purses.

We ended our tour of Dharavi and moved over to the Dhobi Ghat, the largest outdoor laundromat in the world.
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In each of these basins, as many as 5 people will crowd around the stone in the mornings to get their washing done. And there are hundreds of basins...
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Laundry hanging to dry
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One gentleman decided to give himself a bath after washing all of the clothes
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They had to burn wood underneath a vat in order to boil the water to get the tough stains out
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Jardin and me at the Dhobi Ghat
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An iron heated the old fashioned way, with coals inside.
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I thought this street sign was funny...maybe that's just me...
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Then Jardin and I went to Haji Ali, one of the most famous mosques in India and quite a beautiful building. It's right on the edge of the water on the coast in Mumbai.
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Because Muslims have to give a portion of their income to the poor, some of the country's most desperate beggars made the walkway to Haji Ali their domain.
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It was my first experience at a mosque. After we explored the mosque, which was the first time I had been mandated to cover my head (ever, I think), we relaxed by the water with the Mumbai skyline in the background.
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Then we ate one of the most delicious things in India: custard apple and cream. If you ever go to Mumbai, definitely have custard apple (citaphyl) and cream. It is absolutely one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. We had another fruit medley as well that was delicious :)
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Then we headed to the Gateway to India
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All of a sudden, some guys came up to Jardin asking to take a picture with me. Since Jardin explained to me that they were from "the village" i.e. very rural parts of India, and had probably never seen a white person before in real life, let alone one with blonde hair, I decided to be a trooper and take some photos with them. Low and behold, I didn't realize I was going to become Santa Clause at a shopping mall. Before I knew it, I had a line of people wanting to take pictures with me. After a few minutes, though, I had my taste of what it's like to be a celebrity and I was over it. Julia Roberts, I feel for ya, girl!
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Then we headed back to the Taj Mahal hotel for drinks Part II
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We had drinks and then headed to Leopold's, a famous restaurant frequented by Westerners (and unfortunately, another of the targets of the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008; the proprietors keep the bullet holes in the ceiling as a reminder so that we never forget the atrocities that occurred there)
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Afterwards, we drove home in ridiculous traffic. It took 2 1/2 hours to get back to Jardin's house at 9:30pm on a Saturday night (It had only taken 30 minutes the night before). It was ridiculous! Jardin even mentioned that he saw so many security along one of the roads that we were traveling, which he attributed to a VIP in the area. He told me that when VIPs come to town (i.e. really rich people or politicians; i.e. people who think their God's gift to the world), they will hire police to escort the road that they travel on. The only problem is that the police force does not hire more staff to continue what they were doing, so essentially staff are being pulled away from whatever they were doing (protecting the city, serving the people, catching the bad guys, etc.)

Eventually, we reached our destination: Dylan's birthday party. One of Jardin's best friends was having a birthday party on a rooftop.
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One of Dylan friends was a Bollywood actor; it was great to meet a real live actor who starred as "the negative lead" on the Indian version of Days of Our Lives. The night was filled with dancing and laughter. I'm so glad I got the authentic Indian experience thanks to Jardin. Here's a picture of everyone at the party. See if you can spot the foreigner :)
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Posted by kendallwallace 08:52 Archived in India Tagged mumbai dharavi Comments (0)

Going Going Goan!!

Goa, the beach and party capital of India!

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A puppy cozies up on the sand at Palolem Beach (a very typical sight)

Anna and I ventured up the coast from Kerala to the state of Goa, right on the Arabian Sea, and famous for its beaches.
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Something that is not uncommon on the beaches is to see cows casually strolling on the beach. Only in India!!
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One day we went to Panjim, the capital of Goa. There were so many churches there, including this courtyard in one of the cathedrals. It was really odd to see the European architecture in the middle of India!
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Not quite Bloomies, but the Indian version :)
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The name D'Souza was everywhere--it's a Portuguese name and I always found it peculiar that one of my very close Indian friends, Astrid, had the last name D'Souza, but she explained that it's because her family is from Goa and they have Portuguese heritage.
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Goa is very Christian, as it was settled by the Portuguese that brought Christianity to the region. In fact, Catholism is a faith practiced by over 17.3 million people in India which represents less than 2% of the total population. Most Catholics reside in South India, particularly in Goa. I found the bus travel in Goa to embody this Christian belief in its slogans. I mean: where else on Earth would you find that label on a bus? Not the U.S. I'll tell you that much.
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Whilst on the beach in Anjuna and then Calangute, we saw a bar with this sign, which brought back so many memories since Cocktail is one of my favorite movies, and my friend, Robert Cort, produced the film.large_DSC00448.jpg
Lastly, we journeyed to Palolem Beach, where we stayed for the remainder of our time in Goa. Of all of the places in Goa that we saw, Palolem is by far the best. What an incredible beach!!
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We watched the sun set every night over the Arabian Sea with a cocktail in hand :)
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We stayed at the most incredible resort. For US$10 a night, we stayed in these incredible huts right on the beach :)
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This beach was amazing. The water was so calm, yet very salty, so it was great to float in. A funny tidbit: the opening sequence of The Bourne Supremacy was filmed at this beach, and it truly is every bit as beautiful as it appears in the film. And the restaurant featured in the film had the absolute best garlic naan that I had in the whole country! :)
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More cows: this time in the entryways to restaurants...
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More cows on the beach, of course, along with all of the stray dogs. They really need to spay and neuter their pets in India. I swear--some veterinarians would have serious business throughout the country, as strays are absolutely EVERYWHERE! It's kind of hilarious, except that the poor things have to dig through the trash to find scraps to eat..
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Luke and Adrian met back up with Anna and me for a fun reunion for a few days. We had a great time watching the sun set before I set off to head up to Mumbai :)
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Posted by kendallwallace 19:08 Archived in India Tagged goa Comments (0)

Reunion with Mates at Fort Cochin

Reunited with Friends From Vietnam

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Once we got to Cochin, Anna, Adrian, and I met up with Luke, Danielle, and Beth, friends of mine who I had met on the Halong Bay excursion. Beth and Danielle and I travelled together through Laos as well. They had reunited with Luke, who flew from Bali where he works, for a trip around India. It was so great to be back with old friends. We just hung out in Fort Cochin and had a pool day. It was a fantastic and relaxing reunion.

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That evening, Adrian, Beth, Anna and I ventured out in a auto-rickshaw.

We went to go buy alcohol to enjoy for the evening, since we were in a dry town, and the one bar that was open only served beer. Interestingly, in India, it is highly rare for women to buy alcohol, so we got more than the usual stares from the men in the line. We found the following sign to be pretty ironic, since we were already in line ready to buy booze. large_DSC00408.jpg
Yeah, we know. But it's fun. Thanks!

Posted by kendallwallace 13:37 Archived in India Tagged cochin Comments (0)

Tea Plantations & Spice Plantations

Kumily, Kerala, South India

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We journeyed up to the Cardamom Hills in Eastern Kerala near the border with the adjacent state, Tamil Nadu, to go to the tea plantations that are so famous there.
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Here are some plantation workers taking leaves off of the tea bushes.
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The plantation was absolutely beautiful.
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We went for a tour of the plantation
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And then for a tour of the tea processing plant. That plant smelled SO delicious!

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Afterwards, we went to a Spice Plantation
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We learned about all of the exotic fruits that are grown in the area: cocoa, cinnamon, coconuts, etc. as well as sustainable products such as bee honey, etc.
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A rooftop accommodation over the spice plantation. It looked amazing!!
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A view overtop the spice plantation...gotta keep those shoulders covered while in India

Posted by kendallwallace 13:06 Archived in India Tagged tea plantations Comments (0)

Kerala Backwaters

An Ecosystem of Rivers and Houseboats

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Then we journeyed to the Kerala Backwaters, the second must-see destination in India behind the Taj Mahal.

The Kerala Backwaters are famous for the houseboats and river-life. See all of the boats lined up.
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We saw how people lived among the backwaters.
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The river was the center of their livelihood, so here are a few men repairing one of the levies. People would bathe in the river, wash their pots and pans in the river, etc.
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Here are some boys playing volleyball along the riverfront.

We went and stayed at Green Palms Homes, a home stay in the heart of the backwaters. We were immersed in a village for 3 nights, and it was a truly unique experience. There were 3 houses in the compound, all of them owned by a different sibling. Their mother taught us a cooking class. Here we are pictured with her.
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Then a bunch of us took a boating and walking tour of the village with the Eldest brother. Here we are crossing the river before beginning our walk to learn about how the economy of the village operates and all of the different agricultural products that are grown in the area.
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Jacob, the eldest brother in the family
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The next day, we went on a walking tour of the whole area.
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I loved this picture of this guy rowing a canoe down one of the narrow waterways.
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Backwater life
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All of these women were dressed up for a funeral. I love this picture :)
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The men wore lungyi, which they would roll up because of the heat. Lungyi always made me laugh, cause to my foreign eyes, it looks like adult diapers. But I assure you, it was not used as such :)
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Backwater life
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Beautifully colored boats
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Luxurious houseboats (that cost US$100 a night). We didn't spend a night on one (I would highly recommend the home stay experience instead, where you can still take boats/canoes around for fun), but they sure were gorgeous!
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The travel pack on top of a boat on the beautiful backwaters (Cecile, Me, Anna, and Adrian)
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Posted by kendallwallace 12:20 Archived in India Tagged kerala backwaters Comments (0)

Varkala

First Days in India...

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From Sri Lanka, I flew into Trivandum, in Kerala. A bunch of friends from the United States told me what a fun town Varkala is. Varkala is a cliff-side town that borders the Indian Ocean. It is located in Kerala, the very Southern part of India on the West Coast, which meant, that the town made for incredible sunsets as the sun sank down over the ocean.
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At the airport, I met a really cool French girl named Cecile. She and I traveled together to Varkala together by public bus, which was a cheap and really interesting experience. While in Varkala, we met an English girl named Anna, who decided to travel with us.
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We spent a few fun days on the beach (one was black sand), going on walks, and having awesome seafood meals on the cliff overlooking the ocean.
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It was absolutely picturesque...and the tiger prawns were delicious! They even had a fresh marlin that had just been caught that was the size of a table...it was incredible!!
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Even a dog we found on the beach enjoyed the seafood :)
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Then we got henna done by an artisan.
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On the last day or so, we all met Adrian, a fellow Englishman who joined our traveling group, and our 3 became a foursome. Adrian's stories made the next couple of weeks an absolute treasure. That kid is such a riot!
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Posted by kendallwallace 11:53 Archived in India Tagged varkala Comments (0)

Sri Lanka

Surfing Safari

I flew from Myanmar to Sri Lanka passing back through Bangkok airport. I saw this sign and thought it was so hilarious. Notice the reception area for Buddhist monks. Only in Southeast Asia!!
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Then I boarded my final Air Asia flight to Colombo.
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By the time I got to Sri Lanka, I was cultured out. After all, I had been to about a thousand temples in SE Asia :) Although there are great things to see in Sri Lanka such as the tea plantations in Kandy, etc, it's most well known for it's amazing beaches and surf. So surfing I did. For one week, I relaxed in my one-room hut by the shore and went out for a paddle every morning and afternoon to go surfing.

I went to world famous Arugam Bay on the southeast coast.
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Arugam Bay was really badly destroyed by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 that destroyed parts of Thailand as well. My surf instructor told me that the day of the tsunami, he woke up in his hut surrounded by water. He said it was like he was in a washing machine. He somehow survived being carried with the water for about 2 kilometers. He then helped collect and move the dead bodies (about a third of the town perished) in the days that followed. The town is getting back on its feet though, and it's a lovely area for relaxing and surfing all day.
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After Arugam Bay, I went to Hikkaduwa, another surfing town on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka to try the surf there.
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My favorite lunch place right on the beach :) Life is good :)
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Posted by kendallwallace 17:20 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Mandalay

There's No Mandalay Bay, But There Are Really Cool Monks

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My trip in Myranmar ended in Mandalay, where I explored the pagodas of Mandalay and met "baby monks," aka young monks whose parents put them in the monastery to get food, etc.
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I bought them all ice cream bars, which they seemed to appreciate.
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My baby monks
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I ventured up Mandalay Hill for sunset. On the way up, I met a monk who accompanied me to the top.
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He was fantastic! He came to accompany people to the top in order to practice his English.
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The same monk walked me home. “Home” was not close either. It was a good 7 km from Mandalay Hill. I swear, I am constantly astounded at the generosity of people I meet. I wanted to take him out to dinner to thank him but since monks can’t eat past noon, I bought him a Red Bull instead. (Monks do drink lots of Red Bull…go figure!) Going into the restaurant to get something to eat, I was the only woman there. We looked like a really bad joke: “A monk and a white foreigner walk into a bar…” That is until I got to Sri Lanka and during my first bus ride, an Imam (Muslim priest) sat next to a monk. I almost burst out laughing!! What a sight!

Another day, I took a daytrip to the nearby villages with large stupas and monasteries abounding the landscape.
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I also stopped by the largest monastery in the area to see them gather for their morning meal.
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It was quite interesting to see all of the monks line up for their food
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More baby monks
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A Dutch guy from my hostel and I rented a horsecart at the village of Innwa and went all around examining ancient temples.large_DSC00124.jpglarge_DSC00139.jpglarge_DSC00151.jpg
Hello Buddha

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A leaning clocktower
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Just a typical ride across the river...yes, there are chickens in that basket on the back of the bike

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Sunset at the lake near Mandalay. Again, not a bay...not sure where Mandalay Bay comes from..
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We stood on a beautiful old teak bridge that you can walk to cross the lake
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What a sunset
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A photographer's dream
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All of the tourists going back to shore after the sunset

Posted by kendallwallace 14:49 Archived in Myanmar Tagged mandalay Comments (0)

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