Thursday, November 22, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I’ve had an outstanding trip, but it is nice to return home to my family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shopping Phase 2

The Dubai Mall is even bigger than the Mall of the Emirates.  It has nearly every store and eatery imaginable even an aquarium and ice rink.  I really could have used an app which tracked my progress thru the mall so that I did not miss a section.  Outside one entrance are the dancing fountains in front of the burj khalifa.  The show can only be seen after nightfall.  It is similar to the Bellagio fountains, but nevertheless beautiful.

Dubai – Amazing Architecture

 I took a half day tour thru the city to see many exceptional buildings.  The size & shapes of the buildings are like nowhere else.  Nearly every building is unique.  If it can be dreamt, it can be built here.  The ‘burj khalifa’ is over 2700ft tall.  The ‘burj al arab’ is a stunning hotel with room rates starting at $1500 a night.

Shopping Phase 1

There are so many shopping possibilities in Dubai, it can be overwhelming.  The Mall of the Emirates is many times larger than the Galleria.  I spent a few hours shopping; by the time I was done, my feet felt like I walked a day at a theme park.  The mall is beautiful & has a ski lift in one wing of the mall, exceeding expectations.


Dubai offers separate airport taxis for women traveling alone, “Ladies Taxi”.  The drivers are all women & the taxis are tan & PINK!  J 

Airports & Security

Security varies from one airport to the next as well as country to country.  In the Bangalore airport women go thru a separate security screening behind a curtain, but our belongings are in one general x-ray screening area.  What exactly happens behind the curtain?  The area is about the size of a small department store dressing room.  There is a platform where the traveler stands & a small table for the security personnel.  As I stand on the platform in the usual position with feet & hands apart, she checks a sheet of names & verifies that I’m not on the list.  I am wanded over & have to pull up my pants leg as well to be sure nothing is hiding at my ankles.  Finally I’m released to gather my belongings.

As I am waiting for my flight I notice the airport is very open.  Some birds have flown in & are making themselves comfortably at home in the drinking fountain as if it is their person bird bath.  Although one does not usually leave their bags unattended, I saw quite a bit of it happening in this airport.  People would leave their luggage alone in a given spot & return after grabbing food, drink, etc.  It was a bit puzzling as I would not leave my bags when traveling alone as they may not be there when I return.

Finally it was time to board the plane.  As I am boarding the guard asks to see what is in my duty free bag.  He looks in the bag & scolds me for not having the receipt visible in the bag; I had the receipt in my pocket so that I wouldn’t lose it.  I put the receipt back in my pocket & proceed forward in the line.  Again I get stopped by the second guard less than 20ft away & we repeat the scenario of looking in my bag & getting scolded for the receipt.  Huh?!?  Guess he did not hear the other guard tell me the exact same thing.

Once I arrived in Dubai, I observed the passport control operations.  Interesting, this country takes safety & security very seriously.  Each person’s photo is taken and depending on the country of origin an eye scan may be done as well.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Farewell Bangalore

The last few days have been busy wrapping everything up.  The highlight to lunch has been Mainland China and BBQ Nation.  Both were excellent!

I've had an amazing time here, but it's time to start heading home. 
BLR -> DBX -> SEA -> SMF

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happy Diwali

The city was lit so beautifully for the holiday.  Monday night I was excited to see a fireworks display from my balcony.  I saw many larger fireworks that are not allowed in CA.

I spent Tuesday evening with Sushant, Deepti and Karthik.  It was really enjoyable to be a part of the festivities, thank you.  After a very good dinner that Sushant made, we went outside to light a few sparklers.  The neighborhood had been setting off [fire]crackers for 2 days and the pavement looked like a fun mess.  The cleaning crew will be quite busy when the celebrations are over.  Once we were back in the house Deepti presented her chocolate cake.  It was the first cake made in her new oven.  It was so moist & delicious, inspiring me to bake again when I return home.

Even on Wednesday the [fire]crackers could still be heard throughout the day & night.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Commercial Street

Sunday was another fabulous day of shopping!  Karthik once again used his bargaining skills to get me some good deals.  Afterwards we found a shop to get mehandi done for me.  Before & After ...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday in Bangalore

I had a really amazing day seeing Bangalore.  I took a cab & met Karthik in the city.  We started with the open market.  I was immediately blasted by a variety of colors and scents; the fragrance of the assorted fresh flowers, the brightly colored spices, the sweet smell of fruit, and the aroma of herbs.

Next up, shopping.  We jumped into a rickshaw and headed to the Mantri mall.  The ride was quite thrilling, dodging thru the traffic and coming within centimeters of other drivers.  Along the route I saw goats, chickens & a donkey.  For a brief moment along one road we got a whiff of some flavorful street food wafting thru the air.  Finally we arrived at the Mantri mall and began shopping.  Karthik used his bargaining skill to get me several good deals.  I came out happy with many shopping bags.

We followed up with a visit to the Iskcon Temple.  From the mall we hopped into a rickshaw for another exhilarating ride; along this route we got a whiff of some freshly made bread drifting thru the air.  Upon our arrival at the temple I was in awe at its size and beauty.  At the base entrance we were required to stow our belongings including shoes and camera.  I did not want to relinquish my camera so I forced to smuggle it in.  We climbed dozens of steps to reach the main temple entrance.  Upon entry, the fragrance of incense and the chanting of prayer were immediately noticeable. We obtained a viewing spot close to the platform where the services were performed.  Once the services were thru we headed out.  I left with a sense of serenity & peace.

Now it was time to grab another rickshaw and proceed to Karthik’s family house for dinner.  The grandparents, aunt, uncle & cousins gave me a warm welcome as we waited for Sushant and Deepti to arrive.  Karthik’s grandparents are simply adorable, their charming spirit made me smile.  To pass the time, old family photos were brought out to share many proud moments and embarrass Karthik just a bit.  Dinner was amazing!  Move over Mylapore, Karthik’s aunt is a fabulous cook.  From poori to dosa to biryani and an array of many other dishes, I was bursting at the seams. 

All things considered, I had a spectacular day in Bangalore!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Snakes and Cows and Oxen, Oh My!

Another very entertaining lunchtime escapade....

We tried to go to BBQ Nation, but the wait was too long so we settled for another place a block away.  The food was pretty good and the mosquitoes were plentiful. 

On the way back, there was a lady with her baby begging for money, she was accompanied by her snake in a basket on her shoulder.  I asked Simha to chase her off as I’m not a big fan of snakes, but she persisted.  She showed off her snake & we were left with no choice but to give her a small donation, thank you Karthik.  Continuing back to the building we encountered a cow along the sidewalk peacefully chewing away at its meal and shortly after an ox drawn cart.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chukum Tacos & Coconut Water

Lunchtime Risk Taking...

For Tuesday lunch, Sushant took us to a little bitty shop called "chukum chukum".  Not a typical place I would have found myself.  They serve wraps, almost like an Indian taco/burrito.  There is no formal dining room, just 1 small outside table, and several chairs on the sidewalk.  We ordered our chicken & veggie wraps and settled in to the one outside table.  The food was quite tasty.  The outside atmosphere was noisy, the guy in the building next door was running a saw to cut wood to repair his stairs.  Ritesh, I tried Thumbs Up.  It was not as I was expecting, its a much stronger cola taste.

After lunch we walked across the road to the guy with the coconut cart.  Fresh coconut water, I can't believe Karthik talked me into drinking it.  I was amazed with this guy's cutting skills!  He did all the cutting with a very sharp sickle with the coconut in his bare hands.  After drinking the water he took the coconut back & chopped it further to allow it to dry out.

Monday, November 5, 2012


I am so bummed that I missed daylight savings, no extra hour of sleep for me.

Another fabulous breakfast today at the Leela.  I ordered pancakes instead of french toast, it was very good, but the french toast is better.  I had a new waiter this morning, the chef sent him back to the table to verify that I really wanted pancakes & why I was not ordering the french toast again.  The coffee is good, I like that each cup is made fresh & served in a french press.

I took the walkway over to work this morning, I was not ready to play frogger with the traffic.  Sushant walked me back over at the end of the day; he made it seem so effortless to cross thru the mad traffic. We ventured down the street for lunch, I know I stick out in the crowd, lots of people staring, but I just embraced it and smiled. :)

Although I had an exciting taxi ride in from the airport on Saturday, Karthik shared his much more eventful experience with me.  Thankfully it was him & not me because I would have freaked out!!!  His taxi driver fell asleep at the wheel! craziness!  The driver had been up for days & should not have been driving.  Karthik had him pull over; he took over the wheel and drove himself while the driver rested.  WOW!!! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

No need for alarm

To start off my week, the fire alarm went off at 5:30am across from my room.  Apparently there was no need to take action, it was a false alarm.  Things could have gotten really interesting, but glad that they did not.

Bread & Butter

Another very tasty dinner tonight, but what I really want to know is what happens to the leftover butter & bread in the bread basket.  While waiting for dinner, a bread basket with at least 6 pieces of bread are brought over to my table along with a pat of butter on a very cute dish with a dome cover.  I can only eat 1 or 2 pieces of bread and a small portion of the butter.  I wonder... is the bread & butter disposed, perhaps used by the staff or potentially passed onto the next customer?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Stroll

Took a walk around the grounds of the Leela, saw a few interesting animals.  I think the first 2 are dragonfly & damselfly.  The third is a very tiny frog, about the size of a nickel.

The Leela Palace

The Leela is a beautiful hotel.  The staff has been amazing, the room is luxurious & the food is fabulous.  I love the cozy bathrobe & the slippers are a nice touch too.  The breakfast is excellent!  I had the same breakfast yesterday & today because it was so good, tomorrow I’ll have to try something else.  The French toast is amazing!  They even cut the crust off and the creamy orange sauce, yum!  Manu is my morning waiter, his shift started after I went in for breakfast today, but he made a point to stop at my table to check in and see how I was doing.  He informed me of the lounge activities, mid-morning snacks @ 11:30, high tea @ 3:00, cocktails @ 6:00.  If I gain any weight, I’m blaming it on Linus.

The Taxi Ride

After locating my luggage it was time to tackle the taxi ride.  As I walked out in search of the taxi counter I had my celebrity paparazzi moment.  I was bombarded by several men all in hopes of wooing me into their cab, “Madam, air conditioned taxi”.  I picked one at random, paid the fees & headed to the lot.  I would be riding in the most decorated car in the lot, the hood was adorned with a flower necklace, almost like a lei.  I was so tired, forgot that the cars were designed on the opposite side that I almost sat in the driver seat.  Finally we were on our way to Leela.  My experienced driver of 17 years chose not to wear his seat belt; I was taking no chances & buckled up.  The traffic is not as congested at 4am, but still busy.  There were many drivers on the roads and buses were full of passengers.  Driving seemed very chaotic, there are lanes, not always used as intended, but somehow it works.  My driver loved honking his horn; I lost count after about 100 honks.  The drive to Leela was like being in a video game & having to dodge the nearby obstacles, entertaining & frightening at the same time.

The Journey (SMF -> SEA -> DXB -> BLR)

My 1st trip to India.  The team has shared their various experiences of Bangalore with me, but until seeing some things with my own eyes it’s difficult to imagine.  I figure if I don’t have outrageous expectations & build in some flexibility for the unexpected it will be a successful trip.

I made it to SMF with plenty of time for check-in & security procedures.  Had a little complication at the Alaska counter.  The attendant was planning to have my bag sent to Dubai as the final destination, not good.  She cancelled the transaction & started searching for the 3 digit Bangalore airport code.  Not really providing me the comfort that my bag was going to make it to India I argued to just have my bag sent to Seattle & I would re-check in with Emirates.

The flight to Seattle was quick & pleasant.  I grabbed my bags & eagerly headed to the Emirates counter.  My seat had not yet been assigned as online edits were closed.  The counter was scheduled to open at 1:30, it was 1:20 & I was 3rd in line.  40 minutes later, the counter finally opened at 2:00.  I found that I was auto assigned a dreaded middle seat.  I asked for a reassignment but it was a full flight.  I was ready to take the exit row at this point, luckily another attendant was able to assist & get me an aisle seat. Yeah!

I settled into my teeny tiny seat preparing for the long 14+ hour journey.  The lady in front of me wasted no time in reclining her chair all the way back.  Hello?!?  I browsed the movie listing & was pleasantly surprised at the wide selection.  I watched 4 movies: Batman the Dark Knight Rises (excellent), Rock of Ages (funny), Little Bit of Heaven (sniff - tissue please) & 1000 Words (meh, ok).  The airplane food was decent, better than expected, at least I did not have to starve or eat granola bars & peanuts the whole way.  I noticed that the lady Emirates attendants were matching all the way down to the smallest details.  The each wore the same shade of red lipstick, and either clear or red nail polish.  The most interesting incident was when I asked for some headache medicine.  She brought me a couple of white pills & asked what these were.  She tells me “Panadol”.  Never heard of it, so I asked her to repeat.  This time I get “Paracetamol”.  I have a major headache & no internet connection to figure out what kind of drug I’m about to take.  So, I resort to talking to my flight mate, apparently Panadol is just like Tylenol.  Good to know for future reference.

Finally it was time to get off the plane in Dubai.  The airport was super clean & surprisingly quiet for 6pm.  I had a few hours so I walked thru the Duty Free shops looking for treasures.  I found some much loved Kinder candy even the Kinder Egg which is banned in the US because of choking hazards.  The kinder egg is chocolate on the outside with a creamy milk center and a mini toy surprise buried within the center.  I wonder what would happen at customs if I tried to bring the Kinder Eggs home, probably not a good idea.

The last flight to Bangalore seemed infinitely long.  I was so tired of sitting; an ice pack for my back would have been a nice treat.  Finally I arrived in Bangalore!!