Wednesday, April 9, 2014

India: Going Back Home


I then started the long journey back home by making the 9 hour drive back to Bangalore. Thankfully, we followed our drivers advice and stopped at Hotel Saravanna's restaurant for brunch.

For the complete back story on my trip to India, read these posts:
Bangalore, India / Tiruvannamalai, India / Pondicherry, India - Day One
Pondicherry, India - Day Two / Pondicherry, India - Day Three


Again, the food was amazing. The Masala Dosa at this restaurant was particularly large and delicious. Within that large pancake is a masala spiced potatoe mash, it is amazing and one of my favorite dishes!

We gobbled it right up and washed it down with Chai tea. 


Mom and I taking pictures of eachother outside the restaurant. 


We then checked out the nearby temple. 


A row of Tuk-Tuk's - also known as motor taxi's and always a good time. 


We then traveled a few more hours and took a quick break at the above temple, which looks very similar to the one we visited at lunch. 

 

By this time, we were a bit frazzled by the long drive and nearly forgot to follow the custom of taking our shoes off before entering the temple. Thankfully we were warned by the yelling locals. Oops!

In retrospect, it would have been better to wear lightweight flip flops and carry a larger bag with socks to navigate this process more effectively.


We then took our drivers recommendation and visited the Golden Temple (Sripuram Temple), which was started by Guru Amma. This temple is relatively new and not in any of the guide books - it was an amazing sight! Pictures were not allowed so these pictures are pulled from the internet.



You will be denied entrance if your shoulders, upper arms, collar bone or ankles are showing so plan accordingly.

We were shocked to see this temple as the estate is so large you can not see the temple from the roadside - you only glimpse the Golden Temple after you enter and follow a long winding cage-like hallway into the main temple area. 

There were many local people waiting to visit - the wait was about two hours long or you could pay 250 rupees to skip the line. We paid the rupees. It was an amazing sight and the people were curious about our presence but also very kind. Upon exiting the Golden Temple, we followed the crowd thinking the exit was near but instead was directed to an outbuilding where we were served a simple and quick meal of white rice and vegetable mash on a palm leaf. It was quite the experience!


 

We then drove a few more hours to Bangalore, had a quick dinner and again stayed with our Indian friend in her Rajarajeshwari Nagar neighborhood home. I packed for my departure the next day and said my goodbyes. My mom was fortunate to stay on two more weeks and spent a good portion of that time at an Aryveda Spa.

I woke the next morning at 5am to catch my early flight. My driver was a bit late (as he was stopped by the local police questioning why he was out so early), which provided for an exciting morning. But after crossing through the airport checkpoint and then checking in with the airline, passport and security checks I made my flight with 15 minutes to spare. Phew!
 

 As Bangalore is the "Silicone Valley of India" the airplane was filled with business professional men traveling for work... and then me in my polkadot slippers. I sat next to two nice young Indian men traveling to Atlanta and London on work contracts - I passed along my last few rupees to one of these men as it was not worth exchanging.

Ten hours later I was at Heathrow Airport in London where I had a five hour layover - I wandered around the airport and blindly bought chocolates and other souiveniers in my jet lagged haze. Due to some confusion with the International time and changing of gates, I nearly missed my airplane but thankfully made it just in time. I buckled into my aisle seat (which I was thankful to have), sat next to a nanny from New Jersey who was returning from a vacation in Dubai and endured an eight hour ride with plenty of turbalance.

After traveling through three countries in 24 hours and living that day twice, I finally returned to Philadelphia... to drive an hour and half home, which my hubby thankfully did. 
 
Here are a few more fun pictures:
 



To those who are wondering, I had no issues with safety or food quality. The food was amazing and I never felt unsafe however I took the obvious precautions of only using bottled water (even for brushing my teeth), getting vaccinated, taking malaria pills, and only traveling in a group usually under the guidance of a local driver. I did find it helpful to dress conservatively (keeping my ankles, shoulders and collar bone covered) as is the custom there. There were not many international tourists at the locations I traveled to so the local people were very curious by our presence - this often lead to obvious and constant staring, which was harmless in nature but occasionally felt intimdating to me.

It was a whirlwind and brief trip (only 9 days) to India but unforgettable and amazing. Words do not do it justice, only the pictures and memories can. I made some new and wonderful memories with my Mom and we were able to bond over the experience. I was also able to conquer many of my fears going into this trip, which is always a good feeling. This trip was about living intentionally and taking full advantage of the opportunities that come your way.

Thank you in sharing this journey with me! I wrapped up this review just in time for another trip I am taking soon, I am forever grateful for the travel opportunities that have come my way.
 
 
Xo, Kaylin
 

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Philadelphia Saturday


Some musings from a March Saturday spent in Philadelphia.




It was a snow-melting-coat-shedding type of warm March day. I sipped on kale lemonade and spent a few solo hours walking, looking, and reflecting in my home away from home - Philadelphia. The city where so much began and ended for me.

The solitude was much needed and earned - treasured when I know the day ends with the one I love. I always find myself again within the silence.

I visited a friend living out the dream that we long ago whispered about. I visited my old neighborhoods and thought on how many times I've been reborn since first touching those streets over ten years ago. I thought on my own dreams, the good times and the lessons learned. I'm not entirely sure I would even recognize that version of myself now - I think I would hold her real tight and tell her to relax just a little bit.

I was grateful for the little kindnesses - the taxi cab driver who turned the meter off while he searched for my destination. There were reunions with good friends gone unseen for too long and fun times had way into the night. 

That place, that pace was so right for me once but I've found my way back to a version of myself that I never knew existed. It was a good day spent in the little-big City of my dreams but I was glad to end the day in my little abode by the sea. 

Be well, Kaylin


Monday, March 31, 2014

Pondicherry (Puducherry), India: Day Three


On our third day in Pondi, we explored the neighborhood more and visited the Sri Aurobindo ashram (a spiritual community) that was a few blocks from our guest house.

For the complete back story on my trip to India, read these posts:
Bangalore, IndiaTiruvannamalai, IndiaPondicherry, India - Day One
Pondicherry, India - Day Two


This is the outside of the ashram that prohibited picture-taking as most of the temples did in India. The atmosphere within the ashram was peaceful and beautiful with walls filled with flowers. 

Before entering the ashram, you leave your shoes outside and are asked to only whisper inside. The Mother is buried within a shrine in the courtyard - people come to offer flowers and meditate by her remains.

When we left the ashram and went to pick up our shoes, the woman who originally took our shoes (think bowling alley) returned our exact shoes from memory. I was quite impressed by this! 

We then walked a few more blocks into town towards this temple.


There are vendors outside the Temple selling flowers, shrines and other goods to offer to the Hindu Gods of this temple.


There was one night when I walked by this temple and saw an elephant outside who was eagerly gathering, with his trunk, offerings from temple goer's. The elephant is only brought out at certain times and I unfortunately missed the opportunity to snap a picture.


We then walked further and visited the Pondicherry Museum for a small fee.


And walked some more... 


This the beginning of the boardwalk on the Bay of Bengal shoreline. We walked its length many times in an effort to see as much as possible. 


Our Austrian tour guide and friend.


The people of India belong to many different religions - some including Hinduism, Islam and Catholicism. We toured this beautiful Catholic Church within Pondi.


We also toured the Pondi Botanical Garden, which was more a gathering place for the local teens than anything Botanical.

We briefly toured "the Boat House", which was essentially a run-down amusement park. It was not recommended by the Australians leaving the place so we quickly found another adventure.



Pondi was a great place to visit and very different from Bangalore. Some of the restaurants we really enjoyed were:

Villa Shanti (free wifi we used often and fabulous tea)
Satsanga (the best-looking crepes we saw, which were often referred to as "pancakes)
La Maison Rose
La Terrasse


Despite our very best efforts, Pondi is nearly impossible to navigate. The street maps provided by the tourism bureau are not inclusive of every street so that further complicates navigation. Trying to find anywhere in particular is a great lesson in patience and enjoying the journey rather than seeking the destination.

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Click here to follow along on my travels to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and then here for my time in Peru.

Until next time, Kaylin

Edit: For the final chapter on my trip to India, read this future post: India - Going Back Home