Category: Travel (page 2 of 2)

The Price of Travel

Puno was the last part of my trip to Peru and was the perhaps the place where I had my longest conversations with people. It’s was an hour or so long boat ride to the island and I overheard someone saying that the group of people on that boat ride were from 11 different nationalities which was pretty cool.

On the walk up to the island I got talking to 2 British girls who I noticed had brought their own packed lunch even when food was offered as part of the tour. I got to know that one of them was lactose and gluten intolerant and her friend was just keeping her company. It also turned out that were actually students who had taken a year off so that they could go on a super long vacation of 3 -4 months to several places over the world. They were planning to go to to New Zealand and other places quite a distance away after they were done here. I asked them how they were managing things planning wise and financially.

Turned out they worked jobs full time for a few months before this vacation to be able to pay for everything with no financial help from their parents. One, I was instantly jealous that they were going to be on such a long vacation and secondly it was both fascinating and and a revelation that at their age, just working for a few months could earn them enough money to go on such a long a vacation. I was on vacation for just 8 days in a single country and it took a sizable chunk of my savings. I probably would not have been able to extend my stay any longer due to financial reasons. It really gave me perspective of how the economics of life are so different in countries.

San Francisco August 2015 Trip

I visited San Francisco again this year for a conference called Casual Connect. It was a 10 day trip that began with a flight from Pune to Delhi and from there to Hong Kong. The thing that struck me as the flight was landing into Hong Kong airport was, how beautiful it was because the landing strip is right beside water. The airport itself seems surrounded by mountains from one side.

Honk Kong Airport

Once the novelty had worn off I quickly remembered that I had an 18 hour layover here and would have to find every possible way to kill so much time. I am not the kind of person who can sleep anywhere, anytime and falling asleep at any place that doesn’t have a bed is tough.

Cathay Pacific Lounge

Luckily my boss had access to the Cathay Pacific Lounge and I was able to get some rest, shower and eat. The shower temple in the lounge was without doubt, the most luxurious one I have ever used in my life.

Casual Connect

The conference was held at The Hilton, Union Square. This was the view from the room window.

This was our table at the conference

One of the event sponsors had organized a party at City Hall. I had not been to this place on my last trip and I was quite impressed with this structure. It was a magnificent and imposing and entering the building made me feel like I was entering the kind of place that would host art shows or opera performances or something like that. In short anything but a party, that too a casino themed party.

A short visit to Google

Nasscom a governing body in India had organized a short visit to the Google Campus for all the Indian delegates. While I wasn’t sure which part of Google we would be visiting I was hoping to get a glimpse of the crazy awesome Google office that you have seen on the internet. Well it wasn’t quite that part but we did have lunch at one of their famous cafeterias.

This looked like one of their cars which does the Google Street Views

Inside the visitors building where we were issued our guest badges

A dino in the campus

One of the cafeterias where we had a nice lunch

Walking around the streets

On one of the days my boss was off for a meeting and I had some time to kill. So I spent my time walking around the streets of San Francisco with no general target in mind. While I was initially interested in visiting MOMA, it turned out that the museum is undergoing some major renovation and was months away from opening up to the public again.

I came across this church and didn’t plan on going in initially. When I went up to the entrance I thought it was closed because I didn’t see a single person go in or out for almost 5 mins. I finally decided to try the door and seeing it open I went in. There were only 2 -3 people inside and the moment I stepped inside the calm that enveloped me was instant. All the hustle and bustle of the street outside was gone. It was so quiet inside that when I switched on my camera to take a pic the sound made as the camera starts up also seemed way too loud.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to visit MOMA so I made up my to go visit something else after having come so far. The Contemporary Jewish Museum was right next to the church and looked inviting enough from the outside.

While I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the main museum sections there was an art installation on the ground floor, where photography was allowed.

California’s Great America

One of the things that I miss back home in India is good amusement parks. I had a Sunday free so I looked out for the nearest and least expensive amusement park that I could go to. Though I would have preferred to go to Six Flags I eventually decided against it as it was too far from where I was staying.

This was a performance they had put up celebrating I think 40 years of the park’s existence

The good thing about going there alone was sometimes there was a much shorter wait for single riders

The water section of the park that I mostly avoided because I didn’t have any extra clothes

I hadn’t heard of this stadium before but I assume it’s famous and could be seen just outside the park

Overall it was a good day spent at the park. It had some great rides and it wasn’t so big and crowded that I spent too much time waiting in lines. I also got to ride the ones I really liked multiple times.

Mountainview

After I left Great America I went to Mountainview where I was supposed to meetup with my boss to have dinner before we headed back home. I took the VTA light train to get there.

The station itself was rather neat and after all the chaos and excitement of the park it felt quite relaxing there.

The train felt rather nice as compared to the bigger more crowded Caltrain ones. They even had free Wifi on board the train.

I spent a little time lounging around in a garden that was just behind the City Hall.

You can understand how creative I had to get to kill time from this beauty shot of my phone

Our Airbnb in Redwood City

While we stayed at Hilton Hotel itself during the conference we stayed at this lovely home booked via Airbnb for the remainder of our stay. It was quite beautiful and compared to our hotel felt completely relaxing and almost like home.

The dining area with a nice view of the backyard

The backyard complete with a barbeque

The Driveway

I could easily settle down in a house like this

Other random sightings

Seabiscuit

AT&T Park

Towards Machu Picchu

The road upto Machu Picchu from the town below happens on a fairly dangerous looking bus ride that always made me feel like a driver error would send me plummeting downwards. I got talking to an old lady in the seat next to me and it turned out it was her 8th time to Machu Picchu. While she initially visited as a tourist she now brought groups of people there. I was lucky enough to make it just once.

I went up to Machu Picchu a couple of times and on the first day I was part of a guided tour. While I took the train to the town below Machu Pichu some people prefer to take the 4 day Inca trail. I got talking to a guy in the group who was supposed to do the trail but ended up missing the trek group when they set off.

I talked to him quite a bit about it during the tour. When the guided tour ended we all went our separate ways. As part of my tour package I had a coupon to have lunch at a restaurant at the top itself. So I went and sat myself down to lunch there. A little while later the same guy came up to my table and shook hands with me and said goodbye. Turned out he was about to leave Machu Picchu and he happened to spot me in the restaurant while passing by and thought he should just shake to our travel friendship before he left.

On my 2nd day in Machu Picchu I just didn’t wish to get away from it. I spent almost 3 hrs at a vantage point from where I could look down below upon that magnificent city. While sitting there, I noticed a Japanese girl who was also sitting nearby for a very long time. At that moment I could only imagine that as a traveler she must have been experiencing the very same thing that I felt there at that moment. Machu Picchu overwhelms you in that way. She didn’t speak English but she was very eager to get a picture of herself and it was only after me clicking 3 -4 times and being satisfied with it that she finally let it go. Since we were the only 2 people sitting there I got her to click a few pics for me too and in my opinion it I got one of the best pictures from my trip.

Sharukh Khan at Aguas Calientes

When I had gone to visit Machu Pichu I stayed at the base town of Aguas Calientes for a day. One night I was walking around trying to settle on which restaurant I wanted to go have dinner at. Most restaurants usually seemed to have a guy standing at the entrance trying to convince tourists to come eat at their place. One of them recognizing that I was Indian tried to lure me into eating at his place by telling me that Sharukh Khan ate there. For any non-indians who may happen to read this he is one of India’s most famous film actors. I found it rather amusing that he would try this approach given that in today’s times his popularity with the younger generation is quite debatable. Or I’m probably not representative of this generation at all.

Interestingly there was another restaurant bearing the name of another Bollywood actor called Govinda. Unfortunately it was shut.

Fields

On my way to Kolhapur I stopped at the Kamat restaurant to grab a quick bite before heading on. It’s was an open structured place and I was awed by the sight of this beautiful field behind it

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Inca Cola

On my first day in Cusco we had a small museum tour of the city. I got to talking to a British lady for a bit who was in same tour group. After the tour we were dropped off to spend the rest of the day ourselves. They had informed us that there was a traditional prayer ceremony that took place in the evening and we could go and watch if we were so inclined. While I started walking away by myself towards the city center I dropped into local shop to exchange dollars for some local currency. When I came out I saw the same lady outside waiting for me with her daughter. She said I saw that you were alone and we thought we’d give you company if you were on your way to see the prayer ceremony. It was a very sweet and totally unexpected gesture.

I asked her about her family back home. Turned out she had 2 other kids but they couldn’t come together because it would have been too expensive for everyone to make it. Another question that I frequently encountered not just from her but several people I would come to meet was just how come I could speak English so well. It was quite surprising because I always imagined that Indians were pretty much everywhere in the world by now. Come dinner time, they invited me to join them but I politely declined and said my goodbye. I can’t remember her name but I think it was Penny.

While I had stopped at a local marketplace an old gentleman and his wife told me to try a local dish Papas a la huanciana that I tried and enjoyed on my last day in Peru.

On the way to a visit our tour group had stopped at this very lovely restaurant. I happened to share my table with a British guy who ordered a locally branded drink called Inca Cola. When I asked him about it he described it as something unique with a bubble gum kind of flavour to it. He kindly offered me a taste and I was addicted to it instantly. It was my go to drink on every single day thereafter I spent in Peru. It was perfectly fitting that the last drink I ended up having as I was leaving Peru at the airport was Inca Cola

Weekend in Bangalore

Last month took me to Bangalore after almost 8 years. Last time I stayed there for a couple of days and I don’t remember much about the city besides visiting a mall called Garuda. This was a time when malls were something mighty impressive and Pune wasn’t quite inundated with malls as it is today. This time I was here for 4 days for a gaming conference. While the initial 2 days were mostly spent at the conference we managed to spend some leisure time in the evenings.

Weather, Food and People

Though it’s currently the peak of the summer season Bangalore seems to have a different way of dealing with the heat. Though it was quite hot in the day time. It rained quite heavily in the nights 2 days in a row. This really cooled things down and morning were actually quite pleasant. I had often heard of how bad traffic in Bangalore could be like and mostly it was. Compared to Pune, I actually thought it was actually more disciplined even though the volume of traffic there was so much more. The roads in general also seem to be much better maintained than ours. On the whole I quite liked the city. It seemed vibrant and alive with a lot of young people from different parts of the country.

I visited some nice restaurants while I was there. We had our anniversary dinner at a lovely place called Smoke House Deli. The décor was very unique and interesting and the food was incredible. Maybe the fact that it was my anniversary made it more special but in my mind it was the best pasta I ever had trumping even my favourite in Pune Dario’s. As an added bonus there happened to be a Lamborghini showroom very close to the place.

Smoke House Deli on Lavelle Road

The only thing that can distract a guy from his wife on a romantic night out

Rickshaws and Ola

In Pune I have very rarely used auto rickshaws and usually travel by the meter. In Bangalore the majority of the regular rickshaws refuse to ply by meter and quote exorbitant fares at any time. Some friends suggested that we use Ola cabs. I never used them in Pune before but they were the best and safest travel options for someone who might not know the city. On a particularly rainy night we needed to get back to the hotel and the rickshaws were asking us for Rs 200 per rickshaw to get us there. There were 9 of us and it would have taken 3 ricks and Rs 600 to get there. We called for 2 Ola cabs and all of us got there for half the price.

Cubbon Park

When I asked some of my colleagues when we got back to Pune about what they thought of Bangalore they felt that it was much greener on the whole as compared to Pune. When I think about it now this actually seems to ring true. I also visited the massive Cubbon park. I have no idea if I walked across even half of it that day.

Bangalore Bandh and Banergatta

After the conference we had a flight back to Pune only on Sunday evening so we had sat and most of Sunday free to ourselves. Unfortunately Saturday was declared as a bandh in the state and we were out of options to do pretty much anything. Transport was off the roads and almost everything else was shuttered anyway. Some people had mentioned the Banerghatta zoo to us and I thought to call and find out if they were open. Turned out they were open but the next part would be to find transport. After calling pretty much every cab service in the city and almost giving up we found an Ola cab after a lot of waiting. Since the streets were empty we got there in record time and also got to appreciate how well maintained the roads were.

While the zoo itself was ok, the 45 min safari was a lot of fun. Other than the driver trying to coax us into parting with some extra cash for the privilege of sitting in the front and getting some extra photos for us, it was great to see these incredible creatures up close.

Vidhan Souda

On my last trip to Bangalore I had seen the Vidhan Souda building but the only thing I really remembered about it was that it was really grand and I had been impressed by it. So I thought I would go have look before leaving the city. It’s still grand and impressive and made me wish we had more such buildings in my own city.

Bangalore Palace

After spending some time with friends one whom I met after almost 10 years we had some time to kill. We decided to visit Bangalore Palace which wasn’t very far from our hotel. I was expecting a small entry fee as is the norm in most such places. The only option they had was an audio tour where they give you a device which plays short audio clips corresponding the sections that you visit in the palace. I initially wondered if it was worth it, but my wife convinced me that we never knew when we would visit the city again so we went ahead with it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the audio production was of a very high quality with great narration and music accompanying it. It really evoked a sense of another time and place while walking around the palace.

Overall it was a nice little trip and I would be glad to visit the city again.

The People We Meet

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Why do we travel? Of course it’s about the places we wish to see, the experiences we always dreamed of having, the food we taste and the cultures we try to understand. In this connected age we already learn a great deal about a place before we make our plans to travel. In some regards, you can almost predict some of the experiences you might have on your journey. Sometimes we are underwhelmed. Sometimes the real thing can exceed our wildest expectations. As immense as our world is, even with the earth constantly spinning, the places we all flock to remain where they are on the map. They are shaped by forces of nature and the people that pass through them. When we set out on a journey we can chose from a million places, but we can never predict whom we encounter from among a billion faces.

There are no strangers in this world, just friends we’ve never met

I will never forget the moment when I visited Machu Pichu, stood above it and looked down below upon of civilisations most spectacular structures. Just thinking about it gives me a rush. What always brings a smile to my face though, is also the people I met and spoke to on my trip, from all walks of life, from all over the world. I don’t have the best memory and I never took pictures with most of the people I conversed with. All I recollect is bits and pieces of our conversations and going through the photos of the places where I came across them usually sparks a memory.

More location specific posts related to this coming soon.

Explaining Indian Marriage in Peru

My uncle’s wife happens to be from Peru so on my trip there I stayed at the home of her parents in the city of Cusco for a couple of days.

Their quaint little home in Cusco

Their youngest son also stayed with them and on my last day in Peru he and his girlfriend took me out on a food tour of the city. Unfortunately he didn’t speak much English so my communication with him was very limited. But he was very fun and enthusiastic and going around the small city from place to place was a very enjoyable experience.

A supposedly famous wall in Cusco though I can’t remember it’s significance now

Standing in front of the Fountain at the Plaza de Armas

Enjoying the lovely local dish Papas a la huanciana

When we finally settled down to dinner we tried to converse in the little english we did understand.

Dinner Time

He asked me if I was married and the conversation somewhere meandered towards understanding how people usually got married in India. I tried my best to explain to him the very complicated concept of arranged marriage. I told him about how once a guy had decided that he was ready to get married would go and meet several girls before he decided on the one that he was going to marry. Ofcourse I didn’t delve into stuff like horoscopes and such that would defenitely have gone over his head. As the expression on his face grew incredulous with every passing minute there came a point where he finally said to me “You mean to say you can have many girlfriends at one time”. I burst out laughing all the while thinking how very far from the truth that was or was he right 😛