a gathering place for the words, images and momentos of the world of adventures i've adventured, the stories i've wandered through. curriculum bella vita...a resume, of sorts, of the good life.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

haulin' to hampi

What better excuse to finally get to picturesque Hampi than a visiting Chinese delegation and a three-day weekend. it makes for a tough over-night trip, but it's a fascinating glimpse into a long-fallen dynasty, an important part of the regional history.

Hyderabad to Hampi by hired car:
6 hours via the really nice highway to Bangalore, then cutting across at Gooty
7 hours when you take the straighter but slower route through Raichur
About $100 per person (6-person innova)

Best Praise: Barrett looked out over the landscape and said with a smile “This compares with Angkor Wot.” He backtracked slightly the next day, but I figure it’s strong praise that the comparison even entered the conversation.

Hop on the 20 rupee ferry across the river for your choice of many great little resorts with 1000INR rooms and restaurants that will gladly sell you beer. Lots of wandering hippies spending long chunks of time there.

It’s HOOOOOOOT in Hampi. Avoid summer, be prepared.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

the romance of rajasthan

Jaipur's a great city to visit, i can see why it's one of the recommended stops on short stays in India.

The city center is a quick 330 rupee taxi ride from airport. The Umaid Mahal palace proved a pleasant place to stay, but a bit of a hike from the interesting places. Saturday, we headed early to the Amber Fort and Palace, a cool a place as India has to offer. An imposing massif straddling a strategic hillside, it's the india you see in books. Super cool history and amazing places to wander, even without a guide. By afternoon, our trusty tuktuk driver had us at the Dera Amer elephant safari, half-an-hour outside of the city limits. The ladies picked it as their giant splurge item in India, a $100 luxury that proved well worth it. From our sweet lime juice welcome at the gate to the final all-you-can-eat bonfire dinner, we savored live as prince and princesses. We bathed and scrubbed our new elephant BFF, the friendly Rangmala. Afterwards, we painted her snout before hoping aboard for an hour-long canter through the desert brush. Drinks and appetizers around a fire, even no-haggling shopping. It was a pretty awesome way to spend a day before crashing back at the hotel.

Sunday, we strolled through the old city, where the aging building facades are a pleasant sanstone with a tink of pink, giving the city its nickname. The city palace is uninspiring, but the Jantar Mantar astrological park is cool, but it doesn't make much sense without a guide. Hawa Mahal, though, is the perfect architectural gem to wander through and snap pictures from each and every angle. Dinner at Mediterrano, a rooftop Italian rooftop, offers great views and even, should you push, special tea.

But pound for pound, Udaipur might just be the most darn pleasant place i've been in India.

We took a night sleeper bus from Jaipur, just finding the right spot was a nerve-wracking exercise in clueless wandering that isn't recommended for the new-to-India. The ride, though, proved relatively cheap and relatively comfortable once we were shepherded into our compartments. By morning we were sipping drinks overlooking the beautiful Lake Palace and mountains beyond. The City of Lakes definitely has a unique feel to it amongst indian cities, and the streets are surprisingly walkable. Hotel Mandiram Palace was a great choice, but the best surprise was a tasty burrito dinner with a great view at 1556. The City Palace museum had me at wits end, but the boat ride out to Jagamandir is a perfectly relaxing way to go. The Udaipur airport's a bit of a drive from the city center, but it's quite nice and modern. A great landing point if you can catch one of the rare direct flights to/from Hyderabad.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

i get a good feeling

Rachel knows me better than any person on this planet. We share Camp Nan A Bo Sho and ALPs. Her friends are my friends and my friends are her friends. She followed me out to DC once, and even as far as Hungary. It’s a bit of an odd role for one of my best friend from college’s little sisters to fill, but we’re long past that.

And Sara’s an all-time fav. A facilitator of fun and merriment. I met her when Rachel was off studying in Spain. A com-dis replacement of sorts, but I swore they’d become fast friends when Rachel returned. Sure enough, the ladies both live in Milwaukee these days, the closest of friends.

And daring enough to make the journey to India.

Quite a few friends proposed at some point or another a New Years visit but only Rachel and Sara emailed proud pictures of their new visas in November. For two months we excitedly planned out a two-week super adventure.

I’m pretty good at the hosting schtick by this point. And in truth, it’s not that hard when you’ve got a four-bedroom apartment and a staff of two.

Hugs at the airport are always the best, followed by a question-and-answer-packed car ride. Usually the same questions, mostly the same answers. Does anyone own those cows? Who is watching those goats? Why are there four languages on each sign? Does someone really live there? What is that smell?

Early morning arrivals are the best. The ladies landed from Abu Dhabi at 3:05 am, the first of the Middle East flights to arrive, which allows you to slip through the crowds and make a relatively peaceful return to my place. And when you time it right you can get a quick nap in before waking for the day relatively refreshed.

By Friday afternoon, they were ready to peek into the consulate to watch the start of the annual consulate cricket match before lunch at Chiran Fort. After checking out Hussain Sagar and Lumbini Tower for the umpeenth time, I pulled out all the stops in honor of the girls’ arrival: the grand opening of Chef Inam’s new steakhouse on Road 2! Our favorite restaurant by far, Chef Inam’s graduated from a dingy concrete box at Masab Tank to a cute and clean restaurant behind Melting Moments across from KBR park, just up from Coco’s. If you like mean, you’ve gotta put it on your Hyderabad short-list.

Saturday, New Years’ Eve day, we trapse through the history of Golkonda Fort and the Qutb Shahi tombs. After a pizza dinner, we napped and pregamed before a pricey New Years’ Eve at Rain. Sadly I was removed from the dance floor for dancing “stag” at one point, but after we met some new Satyam friends, the evening turned around quickly. Until the party ran out at 1am, of course.

After a rest, recovered and planning day on Sunday, we hit the Old City on Monday. I hit two Hyderabadi highlights for the first time, the Birla Planetarium & Science Center and the Salar Jung museum. The planetarium was fun, a nice little time-pass in a nice little area of the city. The science museum’d be a great place to take a 10 year old. And the Salary Jung museum was a pretty good collection, even if a bit random and labeled only rather spartanly. The ladies liked the Charminar a bit more than trapsing aimlessly through the streets of Lal Bazaar, but I did see an antique wall clock unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I decided immediately that I wouldn’t leave Hyderabad until its mine.

And as die-hard Badgers, we awoke at 3 am this morning to watch the mighty boys from Wisconsin battle in their second consecutive Rose Bowl. Rachel and I toasted Miller Genuine Drafts while Sara broke out the cheese. Friends back home dug our late night/early morning photos, at least until the 4th quarter, when Big Red ran out of steam versus a pretty darn good Oregon team.

The ladies are off to Goa for a few days now before we headed to Rajasthan, my first adventure outside of Andhra Pradesh in far too long. Cameras will be put to good use!