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Winding down in HK.. And cat-sweatshirt photos!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15, 2014 by poojaland

Well, it’s my last full day in Hong Kong — can’t belive my big trip is nearly to an end!

Recaps.. Yesterday, we were planning an outing with Cousin R, but she ended up feeling under the weather (which we unfortunately didn’t find out until we tried to rouse her around noon…). So, Sis and I hopped the Metro to Central and spent a few hours there. We checked out the crazy “mid-level escalators” — an easy way to go up/down hill, and under cover for when the weather’s bad — and also checked out the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical gardens.

The escalators are to the right here:


The gardens, which house plants and animals:


Before we came home, Sis and I stopped through the mall (which is where the Metro station is) and visited H&M, where we found some wacky cat-print sweatshirts. Showed them to Cousin R later, who also fell in love with them, so we went back to the mall later in the evening so she could get one as well. And then we all wore them out! We went to Lan Kwai Fong, which is THE place to be in HK on weekend evenings. This 7-11, believe it or not, is one of the hot meeting spots! Apparently the only beverages they sell are liquor.. In the below pic, you see a guy pointing to us from behind. After we took the pic, he came up to us for a little chat to talk about our matching sweatshirts.


We also played some Cards Against Humanity at a bar with Cousin R’s friend G. Always a fun time!


Finally, we ended the night at a schmancy dance club/bar called Billion, as Cousin R’s friend was able to get us in (and get us free drinks!). The music was an eclectic mix of old and new, but we had a lot of fun dancing. Sis and I even met a couple guys from Federal Way, Wash.!

Here we are just before hopping a taxi home at 2:30 a.m…


Now it’s Sunday, 2 p.m. We’re all still lounging around, as after we got home, we stayed up until about 4 chatting and also squeezing in a Skype session home with Mom and Dad. The plan (as of yesterday) is to go to Hong Kong University, where Cousin R is a student, and then possibly go check out Victoria Peak. The weather is the typical HK smoggy/foggy brightness, so we may bail on the latter, as I believe you have to pay to take the tram up to the Peak, and the main draw is the view, which will be pretty unexciting in this weather. Hopefully we at least get outside at some point today! :o)

Tomorrow will be strictly a travel day for me — my flight is at 2 p.m., so I’ll need to start making my way to the airport around 11 a.m. Sad about saying goodbye to yet more family, but definitely starting to look forward to getting home to my own shower, bed and, of course, kitty. I’ve already begun thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner — my favorite take-out meal!!

Ocean Park and bubble tea!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13, 2014 by poojaland

Yesterday’s big outing was to Ocean Park, kind of Sea World meets Disneyland. I was most excited for two things — the Giant Pandas and roller coasters. Unfortunately, ALL the coasters were closed for “scheduled maintenance,” but we at least did get to see pandas!




The park also has themed exhibits, i.e., an aquarium, a rainforest-animals area, etc. We took a gondola around the park, and took in some amazing views (the park is on the southern coast of Hong Kong Island; we’re staying on the northern part of the island):


We even randomly saw an Indian guy in a Shaun Alexander Seahawks jersey! (I was eating lunch at this time, but did try unsuccessfully to get Anuja to go chat him up.)


Finally, we took in a dolphin/sea-lion show and made our way back home, as we were pretty beat and Sis wasn’t feeling well. Soon as we got back, Sis crashed while Cousin P and I ate dinner. After wards, we headed out for a little walk. Cousin P took me to some hole-in-the-wall nail place, where I had a pedicure (my feet needed it after all those days in India in flip-flops!) and she got a manicure:


We also got some groceries, and I had my first bubble tea in a month! So good!


Today has been pretty mellow so far; Cousin P has a friend in town from China, so we all had a bit of breakfast together and then Sis took a shower. I’m going to log off shortly, and then the plan is to head to Lantau Island to hit the Big Buddha. The weather is looking a bit so-so — 60 degrees and a bit overcast — but hopefully the views will still be good.

HK, Day 2

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2014 by poojaland

Sorry in advance that this will be kind of short — too tired to fire up my cousin’s laptop, so I’m typing up this post from my iPhone.

Today’s recap — had a leisurely morning; ate a huge breakfast and chatted with the cousins, who nicely took some time off to spend with us. Cousin H wrote up a detailed itinerary for us, and then Sis and I finally headed out around noon. Our first stop was the nearby mall, City Plaza, for some lunch. Unfortunately, nearly all HK cuisine has some amount of meat or seafood in it, neither of which Sis or I eat much of (we eat chicken, but they mostly serve it boiled here — ew!), so we ended up grabbing food at Bread Talk. They even had panda-shaped treats!


Then we took the Metro to Wan Chai, walked around a bit and hopped the Star Ferry for a quick ride over to TST Island. The fog hung around all day, but you can kind of get an idea of the HK-Island skyline here:


Walked around some more, did a little jade-jewelry shopping (Sis got to work on her bargaining skills), and then stopped at a McD’s for a little snack (boring, I know, but they had food we could eat!). This red-bean pie was really tasty!


Finally made it back to Cousin H’s around 6:45. Cousin P’s college friend is in town, so she and her family came over for dinner. The weather’s looking decent tomorrow (fingers crossed!), so the current plan is to head to Ocean Park for the day.

That’s all for now!

Hello, Hong Kong!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2014 by poojaland

Said good-bye to India around 6 p.m. yesterday and then made the 4-hour road trip to Mumbai. The flight to Hong Kong was 4.5 hours (shorter than the advertised 6 hours), and I even managed to get in about an hour of sleep after breakfast, awakening only as we touched down in HK.

Cousin H and his wife P met Cousin D and me outside baggage claim. We got some fresh fruit juice (so tasty after nearly two weeks with hardly any fresh fruit!) and had a good chat. Then we made our way to a lunch spot before Cousin D had to head off to her 2-p.m. flight home to San Fran.

Then we were off to Cousin H’s. They live about a 22-min and 10-min train/taxi ride away from the airport, on Hong Kong island. They’re on the 18th floor of their building and this is the amazing view from their daughter’s/guest bedroom (it’ll be more spectacular sans all the fog!):


I took a two-hour nap, we ate some dinner and then Cousin H and I took the train into town to meet Sis, who arrived at 7 p.m. Brought her back home, and then spent the rest of the evening chatting and being plied with drinks made by Cousin H (caipirinhas, Frangelico with lemon and then an aperitif of some berry liqueur from Austria).

Tomorrow’s plans are a bit up in the air, but weather-permitting, I think we’ll at least try to get in a hike during the day. Hopefully the weather will be more welcoming tomorrow!

Last full day in India!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9, 2014 by poojaland

It’s been a great last full day here in Pune. We all hit the road around 8:15 a.m. and made the two-hour journey to Mahabaleshwar (I should mention that we hadn’t driven for more than maaaaybe 40 minutes before my aunt asked when we’d be stopping for tea and breakfast! And we’d had a little of both before leaving the house!). It was a pretty drive, but the last 1/3 was super twisty and winding — as much of a true one-lane road as you’ll find in India. And here, they don’t do the dotted-line/solid-line lane markings to let you know when it’s safe to pass (and really, on such a winding road, you probably can’t ever pass), so whenever we got behind a bus or truck, it was a stressful 10-15 minutes of our driver starting to veer out to pass, then suddenly seeing a car coming around the curve in the opposing lane and having to dart back in. Luckily, everyone does this dance, so those opposing drivers are seasoned at honking their annoyance and moving on with their lives.

Once we got to Mahabaleshwar, we got out and walked around the little shopping area. I decided I needed one of these pretty quilts they were selling there for around $10 U.S. It’s really lightweight (and should pack down into my suitcase, please Universe!) and has pretty shades of pink and purple. It’s twin-sized (so will live on my couch) and hand-sewn. It’s currently packed up nicely in a bag, but here’s a shot as a little preview:


Here’s one of India’s famous trucks; the fronts and backs are quite colorful. All of them say “HORN PLEASE” or “HORN OK PLEASE” to ask that you give them a little toot when you pass or need some space or whatever (as if Indians need to be asked to press the horn!). At night, a lot of them have colorful lights flashing and changing colors on the front. I had a hard time getting a pic of the front of a truck on the way in from Mumbai, but here’s the back of a gas tank:


A lot of the trucks also say something like “India is Great” or mention Ganesh/Ganpati, the elephant-head god, who is super popular in this area (if not most/a lot of India). Note that the guy above — as do many trucks — also helpfully has a sign pointing out his “Stop Signal,” aka brake light!

Couple examples of the fronts of some trucks:



Me and my cousin’s son:


View going up the pass:


After our little shopping stop, we headed out of Mahabaleshwar and stopped in nearby Panchgani. The area is known for its strawberries, so I broke my “no fresh fruits or vegetables” mantra and had some strawberry ice cream with strawberry whipped cream and fresh strawberries. It was so delicious I forgot to take any pictures of it!! The happy news so far is that my stomach seems to be back in proper working order, and it’s been a few hours since the berries.. Fingers crossed!

As I begin to close this novel out, some random shots of random animals amongst random people in a random area (those of you I’m friends with on Facebook may have seen the previous installments)..




Also! Went to McD’s and tried their Chicken Maharaja Mac (most everything else was McSpicy this or Super Spicy that, and in India — they ain’t kidding when they call something “spicy!”). The fries were great, but I only made it through about half of the burger.. there was a spice in the sauce for which I didn’t care (it was also in the side of “Chipotle” sauce you see below). Oh well, I went mostly to say I did! And upon the insistence of a friend at work (hi JY!).


Finally, a quick look to tomorrow — Cousin D and I have most of tomorrow here in Pune to do any last-minute shopping (I. Must. STOP. SHOPPING!), do some laundry and then pack up our things. I’m not super worried about my stuff fitting in my bags — it’s more the weight that concerns me, as my suitcase was right at the limit on the way here. I did have some stuff Mom sent with me that I’ve since distributed to various people, and I plan to (at least) leave my towel here, but we’ll see how things pan out. I’m also checking in a large backpack, into which I’ll do my best to cram in the heaviest items. I better stick to only buying small trinkets in Hong Kong, or I may need to buy another suitcase! 

Cousin D and I will get picked up around 6 p.m. for the 3-4-hour road trip to Mumbai. I think our flight to Hong Kong is at 1:30 a.m.? Cousin H will meet us at the HK airport at 9 a.m. Tues. after our 6-hour flight, and we’ll all hang there until Cousin D has to check in for her flight to San Fran (her layover in HK is 5 hours total). Then Cousin H and I will head to his apartment, and Sis (my sister) will arrive in HK around 7 p.m. Tues. and make her way to his place solo. Hope to have more consistent Internet access there!

This post was brought to you by some late-night Diet Coke! Oh, and this is a little late, but sorry for all the huuuge pics. I’ve been posting as I’m able, and don’t have the luxury of time to crop down the pics!


Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2014 by poojaland

Just as I was thinking I’d make it through my India stay without getting sick — I finally got hit with a bug on Thursday. During the day, I had that brief queasy spell I mentioned in my previous post, but then during the night, I was suddenly freezing cold and unable to sleep. I felt better in the morning, but by the time my mom’s friend and her daughter came ’round to pick me up for a lunch outing, I’d had to run to the bathroom for (warning: TMI!) my first case of the runs. Lunch was thus a pretty sad affair — I only had half a slice of plain toasted bread and a glass of Sprite. It was good to catch up with those ladies, but I just felt so uncomfortable! Came back home and immediately laid down. We took my temp in the late afternoon, and it was at 102 degrees. So, my aunt and cousin took turns playing nursemaid while I slept off and on. They called the doctor in the evening and he came by to check me out. He gave me a mix of regular and homoeopathic medicines, which I’ll continue taking into tomorrow. Thankfully the fever had come down to normal by late morning today, though I still have lovely Symptom No. 2, so I’m eating lightly (my stomach feels much better than yesterday; it just twinges every few hours and then I have to run to the bathroom). I also am combining the doc’s pills with some traveller’s diarrhea meds I brought from Seattle. We think I got sick due to the combo of too much sun and a ton of running around (plus I’m sure I haven’t been drinking enough water — as usual). Fun times!

So, today has been a pretty mild day. Slept in a bit, then had my morning tea and a little bit of rice with homemade yogurt. My cousin U, who lives here in Pune but is working out of London for a few years, came into town, so she, Cousin D and I stepped out for a bit to visit a nearby mall. I felt a bit uncomfortable on the long ride there (traffic here, as I’ve mentioned, is insane!) and had to make a bathroom run soon after we arrived, but I then made it through the rest of the outing OK, and even had a decent dinner. Hopefully I’ll be fully back to normal by tomorrow, as we’re all taking a road trip a couple hours away to some park.

Here’s me and Cousin U having some Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the Phoenix Mall (really, Coffee Bean, you have stores in India but not in the U.S. outside California?!):


Also, today is apparently Women’s Day, so at the Coffee Bean they gave each of us a rose, postcard and gift card to a spa. How nice!


Oh, and later on Thursday (after my queasy spell, but before I got a fever), we went to Uncle A’s for a large family dinner. Here are the kids (note the artwork on the wall!):


Quick Check-In

Posted in Uncategorized on March 6, 2014 by poojaland

It’s been a whirlwind few days! Survived two overnight bus rides to Goa — on the first, I was in a top bunk and the bus was swaying like a row boat on a choppy ocean. I didn’t get sick or anything, but I hardly slept. Plus, I started violently having to pee at 3 a.m., and we didn’t get to the station until 6:30. Not fun! The ride back was much better; I was on a bottom bunk and the ride was smoother. Our first pit stop was later (1.5 hours in rather than 0.5 hours as on the way to Goa), and so I wasn’t as wiped by the time I got back to Pune.

Goa was really beautiful. After some tea and breakfast at Cousin V’s, he gave us a tour of the area in his car, and then we wound our way to Candolim Beach. It was mostly European tourists there — Russians and Germans — and mostly folks in rather questionable attire. To each their own!

Here’s a shot of my feet as I lounge on the beach; my uncle and cousins are frolicking in the water:


Goa was a great getaway, but it was so hot! I think in the low ’90s? I’ll have to come back some time and explore the area more properly.

Here’re my cousins (left and center) and uncle:


Arrived back to Pune around 7 a.m… Had a quick tea and then a few of us went off to Pune University for a walk — the one place in Pune so far where you can walk relatively freely (without dodging people/cars/rickshaws/animals). We had a snack there, then came home to shower. Cousin A took me shopping (during which I had my first “I’m not feeling so good” moment, which thankfully passed after I sat down for a few minutes and drank some water) and then we had some lunch. Hung out a bit one of my mom’s childhood friends who owns a store near my aunt’s, and then I had a little time at home before we headed out for our evening activities — a trip to a nearby park and then a big dinner at Uncle A’s.

I’m wiped after all the running around, so that’s it for today!

No mas “das”!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 3, 2014 by poojaland

Forgot to mention in yesterday’s post that one of my biggest annoyances here has been dealing with the mosquitoes– aka “das” in Marathi. I got my first bite within an hour of arriving at my aunt’s on Thursday morning, and it’s been more of the same. My current bite count is 13; I get at least two new ones a day. I’m wearing my Naturapel as often as possible, but I just realized it’s only to be applied up to twice a day (and is only active for eight hours). The bugs here are at work 24/7, so it’s impossible to be protected all day and night. I’m making night time the priority, as that’s when I can’t see the bugs and swat them away, but then it’s hard to pick what other eight-hour stretch will be most mosquito-filled. I really thought the bug problem would be less this time of year (I’ve always come in the summer on previous visits), but that’s unfortunately not the case. Good thing I also brought along some Benadryl itch-relief cream — for all the good it doesn’t do!

Tomorrow night, I’m hopping an overnight (10-11-hour?) bus with Cousin P and Uncle A to Goa. I’ve never been, but have heard amazing things. We’ll be there all day Wed. and will meet up with Cousin V. Then Wed. night, we’ll hop the bus back to Pune. Kinda anxious about the fact that there won’t be a toilet on board — I generally wake up with an urgent need to pee! — but hopefully I’ll make it through OK. I’ll be sure to take toilet paper and hand sanitizer, as I’m sure the toilets at any of our stops will be a bit undesirable!

Some random pics..

View from one of the balconies of Aunt N’s (note the little shrine in the middle of the intersection, with a beautiful rice-powder drawing in front).


Having tea, of course!



Cousin M, his wife and son (see previous post about lack of helmets and using scooters as family transportation!):


A building in Dharavi, Mumbai, one of the largest slums in the world (made famous by “Slumdog Millionaire”).


Yum! Spicy-sweet goodness.


…a little bit more….

Posted in Uncategorized on March 1, 2014 by poojaland

So I spent a good 30 minutes earlier today typing out a post, and then when I hit Publish….it deleted out everything. UGH. Now it’s 11:15 p.m. and I’m exhausted, but I have M’s computer in front of me (which he’ll be taking back to the office with him in the morning), so I’ll see what I can quickly re-create.

Things have been great in India! I’ve managed to see all of my relatives in this general area in the first three days of my 11 days here – and I have a lot of relatives! Spent yesterday and today in Mumbai, which is a beautiful city, but also amazingly crowded. Some quick observations and notes:

1. Road rules are for sissies! Drivers regularly ignore lane lines and traffic lights, unless they’re on a major highway or police are in sight. Traffic moves in one direction or the other in a morphing mass of personal cars, taxis, rickshaws, buses, animals, pedestrians and people on scooters and/or bicycles. Crosswalks are very hard to find (or ignored), so as you can imagine, crossing the road is quite an adventure. Heading the wrong direction on a highway? No problem, make a U-Turn! Feel free to pull over to the side of the road which already has two cars pulled over — sideways — and chat with your passengers. Don’t worry about your scooter technically only having room for two people. Your daughter can stand in front of you and your wife behind you can hold your little baby. No need for any helmets, either. Have an open-air truck? Grab some friends and give them a ride into town! And honk if you need to:

  • Get a dog or cow out of your way
  • Get a pedestrian out of your way
  • Get a truck out of your way
  • Let a truck or car know you’re about to be in their way
  • Basically, let the world know you exist. Really, no more than two seconds go by without someone honking on city streets here.

2. All my relatives have Western-style toilets and showers now, but they generally come with caveats – “Turn on the water down below the pot, then flush, then turn it back off” (it always takes me a couple tries to get the water completely off). “Tap this flush button verrry quickly; don’t hold it down very long” (and then you have to press it again one or two more times before everything goes down). Another relative has the toilet in a little outhouse in their front yard; the door doesn’t close completely, so it’s a bit stressful using the toilet. Plus here at Aunt N’s, the shower is a tiny stream of water — it’s like showering in a camp shower.

3. People take it VERY personally if you go to their house and don’t a) eat copious amounts of food, b) stay for at least a few hours or c) plan a date to spend the night (this last item is strictly family related). I unfortunately am not a huge fan of Indian food, so it’s hard for me to keep saying no, but I feel it’s worse to take the food and then waste it!

4. I really like wearing seat belts! It’s only required for seatbelts to be provided and worn in in the front seats of cars here. I can’t tell you how wrong that feels! And unsafe, with the crazy drivers here. So whenever I’m in the back seat of a car with working seatbelts back there, I buckle up.

5. I really like saying “Please” and “Thank you”! It’s not very common here in regards to service people, but it’s a habit I don’t mind keeping, even if it gets me a lot of blank stares. I even make eye contact — double weird, apparently.

6. I’m kind of a confusing person for people here – they see my cousins speakng Marathi to me, but then I answer back in unaccented English (my Marathi sounds so bad it’s almost offensive). Several salespeople will be helping us with something and then say to my cousin in Marathi, “Does she understand?” I’ll then reply in Marathi: “Yes, I understand, but I can’t speak very well.”

7. Great deals are to be had from street vendors by bargaining, but I have a hard time playing that game – I know everyone does it, but it feels like I’m trying to take advantage of people. Especially since most of the stuff I’m looking at is already so cheap in U.S. dollars! Thankfully Cousin A and his daughter G did the heavy lifting for me at a couple shops in Mumbai.

8. They’re crazy about security here since the (somewhat) recent terrorist attacks in the country. We have to go through security when entering malls (one mall even does a quick pat-down for ladies) and then to see the Gateway of India, which is across the street from the Taj Hotel, which was bombed a few years back.

9. People have people for everything! Labor is apparently very cheap here. Between 5 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. here at Aunt N’s:

  • A lady comes to make chappatis
  • A guy delivers fresh buffalo milk
  • A lady comes to do the dishes
  • A guy delivers fresh cow’s milk (for Cousin M’s son)
  • Someone delivers the paper
  • A lady comes to do house cleaning
  • Cousin M’s son’s nanny comes

10. “What’sApp” is all the rage here, though I think I’d heard of it once in the U.S.

OK, running out of steam now, and this ran on pretty long. Hopefully type more soon (with pictures!).

Hello from India!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 27, 2014 by poojaland

No better excuse to revive this blog than another international adventure!!

So, I’m writing from Pune, India, where I arrived with my cousin D yesterday morning. It’s been a loooong couple of days — got up around 1:45 a.m. Seattle time on Tues. the 25th. Arrived at Sea-Tac at 4:20 a.m., were I soon after ran into a former co-worker from Microsoft — random! Hopped the plane at 6:20 a.m. and touched down in San Fran at 8:20. Met up with D and got our seats together for the next leg of our trip. Boarded the plane to Hong Kong at noon; we thankfully had the only three seats of a  (D took the aisle, me the window) so we could spread our stuff comfortably. The flight was supposed to be 15 hours, but as we took off, our captain informed us it’d be closer to 13 — bonus! Throughout the flight, we: watched movies/TV (for me: “Gravity,” “About Time” and a random ep of “The Mindy Project”), ate (I’m on the “Vegetarian – Lacto/Ovo” meal plan, which has too many bland veggies!) and tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

Whoops.. cousin M needs this computer back as he’s heading to work in 5 minutes. Hopefully post more later!