It saddens me that I cannot remember all the different variations of food I had or what many were called. Which means I will most likely keep adding to this list as I go through photo's and talk to my friends back in Hyderabad. Unfortunately this list will never be complete as there were so many and now that I look back, there were many even I cannot explain outside of my full happy belly. What I can recall though of some of the most amazing goodness, I've made a list below:
*** Repeated Favorites
For a good portion of two decades I've been a huge fan of Indian food. Now after visiting Hyderabad a second time, I can officially say its not Indian food that I fancy, its South Indian food that has hit a soft spot in my beating heart. The flavors, varieties, textures, and spice... it's like an explosion with each bite. Indian food from anywhere else will never be the same for me. Forever now tasting bland and mild, but South Indian food is what I will sought after. The spicier the better.
After a month of riding passenger on the back of a bike in Hyderabad, various drivers/bikes/styles of rider, I couldn't help but feel relaxed, calm, and somewhat excited. No helmet, improper riding gear, open toe shoes... and the list goes on. Opposite to everything I was ever taught about riding. This only added another item to the list of things I did in India that is completely not expected from a personality like mine. I over think, over plan, calculate all risks, and avoid things that absolutely scare me. Then this happened yesterday, just one week after returning from my trip!
2016 Honda Rebel 250cc. Isn't she a beauty? My endorsement class is next week. Perfect time for the weather to turn nice.
As much of a tough start that I had, arriving with a heavy weight of emotions that I left back at home, I couldn't be more happy I went on this trip. After my mini-breakdown when I had to put my beloved Mocha to sleep over the phone, I was broken this trip. I felt bad my Hyderabad team had to witness the torment going on in me, feeling like they were unable to help, and had to stand by and watch as I struggled to keep my head up. In reality, they healed me. Allowing me to laugh, lightening the mood, and just being available when I needed to cry (or close to). I couldn't be more thankful for all of them. They are an amazing group of people and I am again sad to be leaving them behind. This will not be my last visit to Hyderabad, let alone India. There is still so much of this beautiful country I have yet to explore. The food, colors, smells, and most of all the people I have come to call, not just a friend, but family. Driving away in the cab and heading to the airport. Looking back to them all standing on the side of the road, watching. I couldn't help but shed even more tears. This time of happiness and memories of laughter, not sorrow and pain.
I will be back, my friends, and we will continue where we left off. Until then, we always have video calls from the opposite side of the world and chat. This is not goodbye. This is until we meet again.
With all of that said, I would like to say thank you to each individually... or a side note:
LEAVE // 03.16.2018 | 21:20 PM PST | HYDERABAD, INDIA
ARRIVE // 03.17.2018 | 21:40 AM IST | PORTLAND, OR
TRANSPORTATION // ALASKA AIRLINES | EMIRATES
LAYOVER // DUBAI, EAU | 8 HOUR 50 MINUTE // LOS ANGELES, CA | 5 HOUR
(HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS IN DUBAI, 4 HOURS)
[Side note: pay attention to your visa expiration date. By doing so, it will save you a great amount of anguish and torment, rather than spending over 6 hours in the India immigration office, dreading the potential immediate deportation or 5-year jail sentence. Nothing else needs to be said than, thank you to some amazing friends who helped resolve the issue. I can never repay you for your kindness, care, and attention. I am so blessed to have met you both and can call you a friend]
There was a reoccurring theme over the course of the next few days. How often my two travel companions fell asleep. You would think with them being so "young" they wouldn't be so tired all the time. That was not the case. It was almost a race to see who was going to clonk out first. I, of course, did not hesitate to capture this in photos. It amused and fascinated me on how quick they were out, how they could sleep sitting up, and how fast they woke back up and were alert. It was like a marathon of power naps. I was jealous. They looked so peaceful and rested.
LEAVE // 03.10.2018 | 09:25 AM IST| HYDERABAD, INDIA
ARRIVE // 03.10.2018 | 10:45 AM IST | COIMBATORE, INDIA
TRANSPORTATION // INDIGO AIRLINES
ACCOMMODATIONS // HOTEL NAVEEN
Unlike the last couple weekends, two of my coworkers were coming with this weekend to explore Coimbatore and Ooty along with me. They met me at my hotel Saturday morning for a quick cab ride to the airport and we were on our way. The first stop in, what will be, one of the most memorable weekends in recent years.... Coimbatore! Arriving, no hotel booked, we booked an auto from the airport and headed into town. Having me to stay around the corner out of sight (so my appearance didn't triple the price of a room) as they went from hotel to hotel looking for the best price, they finally settled on two rooms at Hotel Naveen. It was centrally located, easy walking distance to the train station, and perfect for a one night stay. Quickly dropping off our backpacks, we headed out.
Unfortunately we could not bring our phones into Isha Yoga Center, where we spent a good portion of our day, just to capture its grandness and beauty. But then, maybe it was a good thing as I'm sure if we did we wouldn't have embraced all that the center had to offer. Isha is a large complex made up of various structures dedicated to inner transformation and wellbeing, which include the Teerthakunds and Dhyanalinga, among many others. I found these two particular structures of most interest. Teerthakunds was a large pool where men wearing nothing but a cloth wrapped around their waste walked down 30 some steps to the sacred water to take a holy dip, so they could be clean before entering the main energy space [Dhyanalinga]. It was mesmerizing to watch. On the same note and unable to resist the temptation, one of my friends took the dip while we sat on the ground, watched, and waited. After which, we made our way to Dhyanalinga. Now this one caught my attention more. A large dome, no lights, and silence is strictly maintained in and around the temple. A meditative space that does not ascribe to any particular faith or belief system. All are welcome. Entering you first gaze upon the 13-ft high granite lingam positioned in the center of the room, but then your eyes will quickly wander and you look up and around the large 76-ft diameter and 33-ft high dome. Along the interior wall are inlets every few feet with people in each in meditation pose. With even more people sitting along the floor all facing the center. We chose a spot off to the side, sat with our legs crossed, hands on our knees, eyes closed, in silence. It was peaceful, quiet, cool, and strangely very relaxing. I could have stayed in there for hours, but they dinged the bell only after 15 minutes.
Collecting our shoes, phones, and anything else we had to leave behind before entering, we made our way to the Adiyogi Shiva Statue. Was a short 10 minute walk from the Isha Yoga Center. Its amazing how many photos can be taken within this time. Only going a few feet before the guys would start taking a photo shoot of each other. I started to wonder what they would do with all of them, but I was at least thankful they weren't taking another power nap. Reaching the statue, spending a couple hours laughing, sitting, taking numerous photos with the statue, each other, the scenery, it was sadly time to head out.
Our last stop of the day was Subramaniyaswami Temple, Marudamalai. We quickly climbed the steps, barefoot, to stand in line before they closed in order to pay respect to the Hindu god Murugan. The guys explaining what Murugan offered (me thinking this might be the same god at the Batu Caves I visited last year in Malaysia). I watched as they went through the motions, I stood aside, and they marked their foreheads, ears, nose, throat, and chin with the white ash. Then like you do at any temple, we sat down after exiting. (read my first trip to India to understand why you sit after exiting a temple). This temple had a view overlooking the lights of the city. It was really pretty and reminded me of a scene in the Shahrukh Khan movie Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
Photo Credits: Kat, Girish, and Santhosh
Video Credit: Girish
TRANSPORTATION // TRAIN | NILAGIRI EXPRESS
LEAVE // 03.11.2018 | 05:15 AM IST| COIMBATORE, INDIA
ARRIVE // 03.11.2018 | 06:25 AM IST | METUPALAIYAM, INDIA
Next morning started early with waking up at 4am, making sure everything was crammed back into my backpack, then heading to the train station. With little time to spare, once purchasing the tickets we raced to platform 4 and quickly boarded a general class car. Each of us finding a spot to sit, the train departed. With it only being an hour ride, I decided to take advantage of the short journey, crossed my arms, slouched back, and fell to sleep.
TRANSPORTATION // TRAIN | TOY TRAIN
LEAVE // 03.11.2018 | 07:10 AM IST| METUPALAIYAM, INDIA
ARRIVE // 03.11.2018 | 12:00 PM IST | UDAGAMANDALAM (OOTY), INDIA
Tightly packed into two bench seats, each seating 5 persons, the Toy Train was inbound for Ooty. Stopping at multiple stations along the way, being reminded of Chaiyya Chaiyya (song from Dil Se, which was filmed on this train) the entire journey, and again watching as the guys randomly took turns falling asleep. Making for great photos and laughs, but still not quite sure how they can sleep like that. I tried and wasn't successful. Not to mention, the continuous photo shoot they took of each other at each station stop. So many photos...
The toy train was very entertaining. Besides the many stops and scenery, it was also fascinating to listen to people sing and interact. Out of the entire 4.5 hour journey, I think one of the most memorable moments was walking out on the railroad bridge with no safety below, broken boards, and no hesitation. Standing there in awe that I went out on it at all, I turned and asked the guys to join me. One immediately refused but the other blindly trusting me enough to go for it. As fearful as I was inside, I walked back and helped guide him out where we stood long enough for a photo. What was I thinking?!?! This did not pass my safety checklist! So glad nobody got hurt, and so worth it.
Photo Credits: Kat, Girish, and Santhosh
Video Credits: Girish
ACCOMMODATIONS // HOTEL VINAYAGA INN
Arriving in Ooty a little after noon, it was another adventure of finding a hotel that either allowed us to all share a room or needing to book two rooms, but at a low cost. Again taking an auto, who took us "around" to rooms for rent and hotels. Me staying out of sight, as much as possible, but when I was spotted the price suddenly doubled. Then finally an option of a queen bed and rollaway for all three to stay in a single room. I was okay with it, as long as they were. I wasn't the one who would be sharing a bed. Hahaha
We wasted no time settling in. Leaving the hotel I again slowed my roll and let the guys go to work at pricing out a cab. Keeping enough distance to not draw attention to who I was waiting for, but still staying within sight for quick wave over. First stop, Doddabetta Peak. Such an amazing view. After walking around the viewpoint, sitting on the rocks, and watching the guys take endless photos of each other, we were back in the auto visiting the wax museum and tea estate. Both interesting, but left a little to be desired. Our day ended with a stop at Ooty Lake. Arriving only an hour before the boat house closed, we quickly hurried to get tickets and into our fun filled pedal boat. I honestly didn't expect to laugh so much than I did then. Watching the guys fear we would tip over each time I stood up to trade one of them spots, the number of photos and videos that were taken, watching the sun go down, and quickly pedaling back in time to get our deposit back. All was well worth it. Walking along the pier, taking even more photos, and showing them how a jumping photo was done, many laughs and good conversation later.... Ooty Lake quickly became a favorite.
Waking up next morning. Feeling like I had just slept on the floor but turns out it was the rock hard rollaway bed I was on, we had an early start. Botanical Gardens was first on the list for the day. From the start, my sides already ached from laughter. It was like an endless marathon of photos, jokes, and jumping photos. There was definitely not a lack of entertainment. The botanical garden was very beautiful. Green, flowers, amazing root system at the base of the trees. We spent a good 2-hours walking around there. Even talked the guys into sliding down a railing after my failed attempt... or two... and hitting the ground. Some reason they still decided to try it out.
Pykara Falls was a little bit of distance, and even though the water levels were low it was worth a see. I'm a huge fan of nature. Listening to the guys call home and show their wives the view over video, without WiFi on my phone I decided to take this time to lay in the grass, close my eyes, and relax. It was nice. As soon as they both hung up I couldn't help but notice how perfectly sloped the hill was we were sitting and how great it would be for a slow motion video.
Next stop on the list was School Mund. A location where many dance sequences were filmed for Bollywood/Tollywood movies. Its a perfect location with just enough wind to catch the ends of a saree and create that dramatic affect without an elaborate wind machine. After arriving to the top we immediately attempted our own over dramatic gestures and letting the wind catch our [short] hair. Let the photo's begin! And finally, stopping at the forest on our way back to town and taking a hike down to the lake. Spending over an hour walking, sitting, jumping on a fallen tree. This was a great end to an amazing day.
Unfortunately the day ended a little earlier than I would have liked. I could see my young travel companions were tired and it was only 5pm and still daylight. After spending every evening during the work week in a hotel for the past few weeks, I wasn't going to spend our last night in Ooty doing the same. I went for a walk, which of course they would not let me go alone and one of them accompanied me against my wishes. Walking around, no particular destination in mind, we came up on Sacred Heart Cathedral. I could see it from a distance as we ventured around the town. Its architecture had a similarity to Notre Dame in Paris. It was pretty and extremely peaceful. A nice sit before heading back to the hotel.
Morning came early. Taking a cab back to Coimbatore and arriving with more than enough time to catch our flight to Chennai. I was bummed the weekend was over and soon, with only a few days left, my trip was coming to an end.
[Personal note: There is no harm in helping a neighbor hotel guest who repeatedly keeps slamming their door because they couldn't figure out how to lock it. Which I had no issue going into the hall and showing him how it worked. But a few hours later when you see the door knob wiggle then hear a knock on our door.... I tell my travel mates I was not going to answer as I knew what it meant. They still opened the door only to have the man that I helped and his friend enter our room uninvited. I don't think they realized I was not alone and they were coming for a "visit". Disgusted. Felt like I was in Goa all over again]
Photo Credits: Kat, Girish, and Santhosh
Video Credits: Girish
LEAVE // 03.13.2018 | 10:00 AM IST| COIMBATORE, INDIA
ARRIVE // 03.13.2018 | 11:00 AM IST | CHENNAI, INDIA
TRANSPORTATION // INDIGO AIRLINES
What do you do when you only have a 2-hour layover and you've never visited that city before? You leave the airport, find the nearest metro station, and go as far as you can before you need to come back in time for your next flight. With enough time to have lunch, of course.
LEAVE // 03.13.2018 | 13:55 PM IST| CHENNAI, INDIA
ARRIVE // 03.13.2018 | 15:05 AM IST | HYDERABAD, INDIA
TRANSPORTATION // INDIGO AIRLINES
LEAVE // 03.03.2018 | 16:10 PM IST| HYDERABAD, INDIA
ARRIVE // 03.03.2018 | 17:30 PM IST | GOA, INDIA
TRANSPORTATION // AIR ASIA
ACCOMMODATIONS // CASA SEVERINA HOTEL
Where does one start?
Arrived in Goa and my pre-booked cab driver was waiting as expected. After he ran over a dog on the 1-hour journey to the hotel, the trip was off to a great start.
Woke early Sunday, knowing I only had a day to fully see the city and wanting to make the most of the time I had available. Then after debatinig if I should rent a motor bike or not, I decided to catch a cab and start my way to Aguada Fort. Bartering at the street and settling on a price of 400 for a single fare up to the fort and back, we set off. Now keep in mind, I mentioned "single" fare. As this is where events turn slightly sour. The driver pulled over 2/3 of the way to the fort and demanded another 400 + 800 to take me the rest of the way to the fort plus return as thats where he felt a single fare should end (Everything in Goa is priced at 2 people or more. My hotel was for occupancy of two, my cab from airport was for two, and so on. Nothing in Goa was for single, party of one). After a lot of loud "discussion" with the driver I had a choice. Either I paid 1200 to go less than 1/2 mile the remaining way and hopefully guarantee a return ride, only 400 and no return ride, or I was being forced out. I got out. Not realizing that I would have no cell service, no homes or businesses nearby, and no other cabs in the area picking up since by this point everyone either had a cab or ride up to the fort. Leaving me one, regretting I didn't rent a bike, two, now deciding to walk 2 miles back to town or .5 mile up a hill to the fort in hopes to catch a cab back down. The one thing I did not regret though was getting out of the cab. Since I was so close, I decided to go up to the fort and tempt my luck.
The walk up was long, tough, and with full sun in a very humid area, I quickly ran out of water by the time I reached the top. Walking through the fort, sitting for an hour in the shade, then deciding to try for a ride back down, I went back to the parking lot and go cab by cab, asking if they could at least take me to the bottom of the hill. Each, of course, waiting for their booked fares to return declined my request. I was left with no other option, I started to walk.
Buying a water before departing, I started to talk to myself as I walked down the hill. No, not to any voices! Only telling myself how stupid this was and I'll be lucky to make it back to town. You know, only the best type of mental encouragement that one should have in a situation like this. Doubt. The sun was in full at that moment. I had no communication with anyone. I was screwed.
I didn't make it too far before a group of bikes went by and one stopped in middle of the road, blocking traffic, and asked if I needed a ride. Okay, normally this would be "stranger danger" and I should have declined, but I jumped on. I was in fight/flight mode. If anything, I could jump and roll from a bike. At least I was no longer going to be cooked by the sun any longer. Riding along, the guy introduced himself and mentioned he and his friends were visiting on a college break from Bangalore. He definitely sensed my hesitation on answering questions, but was quite curious how I ended up in the business of walking back from Aguada Fort.
Stopping along the way, his friends caught up and each introduced themselves. They were indeed a group of young college students finishing their masters in law and visiting Goa on break. I agreed to go to lunch where they continued to discuss how I found myself walking. I couldn't have been more lucky to have them pick me up vs someone else. I was truly thankful.
Dropping me back at my hotel and parting ways, I wasn't going to let the day be ruined and was planning to head to the beach. Waking up a couple hours later, not realizing I had even dozed off, the day was gone. The only beach within walking wasn't the nicest, but at least I saw sand. Heading out again, this time in the evening for food, walking along the road from hotel to main street, a passing bike came by and I felt a sudden jolt to my side as I found myself being forced into the brick wall next to me. I was just kicked. The guy on the bike looked back, smiling, as his friend, who was driving, sped on. Goa, at this moment, was definitely now in my top amazing places to visit.
I spoke with the hotel that night, asking about a cab to the airport the next day. Unless I wanted to try my luck back at the main street (which went really well earlier) the only other option was to book through an online service. They gave me the same website as I booked for my arrival. Everything was confirmed, pre-paid, I was set to leave Goa as quickly as I could the next day.
The cab was due to pickup at 14:00, which would get me to the airport nearly 2 hours prior to my flight deparature. Plenty of time, if the cab showed up. 2pm passed and no cab. Calling the company, it turns out they outsourced my cab pickup to another company. Telling me I would have to call this other company, Talixo, and figure out the details. The number provided was not even an India number, instead Belgium or something. I called back and again, they could not help me. Kept calling, hung up on. Finally reaching out to a friend in Hyderabad for help. Talking me through it, himself calling the company and getting the run around, I finally calmed down enough (from extreme frustration and anger) to think it all through. I now only had 45 minutes to spare to go 1 1/2 hours to the airport before they would not let me board. I went to the front desk and begged for a ride, agreeing (after they listened to my conversation with the cab company), paying another 1100, one of their service guys pulled a car around. This was going to be close.
With the request of "drive fast", he got me to the airport in 55 minutes, later than they would typically allow for check-in, but I think the ticket agent could see it was not an option to decline me. I was getting on this flight! Now only having 1/2 hour to get through security and to the gate, and knowing AirAsia boards way early, departing early, fortunetly it was now slightly delayed. Instead of leaving at 4:55, I was now looking at 5:30. Enough time to sit, relax, headphones, and forget about this weekend all together. I was going back to Hyderabad.
LEAVE // 03.05.2018 | 17:35 PM IST| GOA, INDIA
ARRIVE // 03.05.2018 | 19:10 PM IST | HYDERABAD, INDIA
TRANSPORTATION // AIR ASIA
ACCOMMODATIONS // AVASA HOTEL
[Now, there are a few things I did not list above. As a single female visiting Goa, there was also the constant whistling, cat calls, following, and the list continues. This is not a town to visit alone, at least in my case. I will not count Goa out from future visits. There is a lot to see there, but next time I will ensure I am accompanied and will not go alone]
Before heading to Goa for a short weekend trip, there were Holi festivals taking part all over Hyderabad. So I decided to change my flight to leave Saturday instead of Friday, in hopes to attend one. Asking my favorite Hyderabadi's if any would like to partake in this 1/2 day adventure prior to heading to the office, fortunately two agreed. Can't say I have ever experienced anything like this before. Colors, rain dance, water dance, more colors, Bollywood music, and tons of people just having a general good time! And if I may add, no alcohol was involved. This was one of the most amazing experiences, and I was able to spend it with good friends, sharing many laughs.
[The color took to my hair really well, days and many hair washings later its still multi colored and holding strong. If I would have known I would be sporting blue, yellow, magenta, and pink hair afterwards, I would have planned for them to strategically put the colors in a little more evenly throughout. hahaha]