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I finally made it to India!
This picture was taken in Mumbai at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum. http://csmvs.in. This Sunday was the only day I had to relax and explore during the time I was there. I travelled from Singapore to Chennai on the Southeast coast of India, spent a few days, then flew to New Delhi in North central India for a stint, then on to Mumbai on the Western coast for a few days. All in all I spent 12 days in India including travel. If you look at a map, you will see how many kilometers I tracked.
We were busy!!! I visited hospitals, met doctors and nurses, taught classes and more.
In the photo above, the hand is in the Vitarka Mudra pose or position. Many buddhist statues and representations are noted with this mudra. This one is particularly significant as it represents the gesture of discussion or sharing of ideas and teaching. Although this wasn't in my mind at the time I snapped this image, it is truly the background behind my visit to India.
India can be described with words, but they don't do it justice. Some that come to mind easily are; chaotic, noisy, colorful, grimy, spicy, complex, gracious, poor, rich, hectic, beautiful, pungent, silky, ancient, modern and more! You must experience India with all your senses. If you aren't used to SE Asia, travel in less developed countries, and some 'in your face' poverty that stares you down, you may be shocked and India may not be for you. My co-worker from India told me that he was impressed with how I took India in stride. To me, it was amazing. I want to go back.
The majority of my time was spent meeting doctors and nurses in a variety of public and private hospitals. The public hospitals were very basic, and the buildings were old but the clinicians were very interested in new technology and excited to see our products. The public hospitals were packed with people everywhere. There were people waiting in chairs, on floors and in stairways. It was a bit overwhelming. Care is essentially free in public hospitals and it is done as best it can be, with limited funds for the throngs of people needing care. Those of you in the USA should count your blessings that even if you don't have insurance or money, you can still be treated in a fashion that is out of reach for most people in the world.
When inside the Indian private hospitals, it felt like I was back in the USA, Australia, Singapore or other countries with well developed medical care. The buildings are new and clean but the sheers numbers of patients remain evident. These patients pay for their care, there is health insurance. The growing middle class is evident in these hospitals. Visiting hospitals in other countries is always interesting to me and keeps me open to new ideas.
We spent a lot of time the car traveling between appointments. The traffic in Delhi is epic! All three cities I visited, the traffic is quite intense and chaotic. The lanes are just a "suggestion" and cars seem to come so close as to touch when navigating through the cities. In fact, I never saw a wreck. I told my co-worker that is seems Indian cars are "greased" and slide through traffic without a scrape. He thought that was quite funny. Truth told, most of the countries I visit, except Singapore have similar traffic. Must be why it didn't rattle me.
I ate a LOT of really good food. Not all Indian food is spicy and especially if you are not local (look foreign) it is harder to get spicy food. My co-worker asked often to provide us spicy food and although it was tasty, it was difficult to get them to up the spice to the level I'm used to. I stayed in business hotels that had amazing breakfasts! I started eating eggs with a sauce called sambar that reminded me of Mexican green chili. I was in heaven.
Each region has slightly different specialties and flavors and I loved it all. Since I was traveling for work I really wasn't too adventuresome and had no gut issues during my trip. I'm hoping to travel a bit in India with Corey and we will try a bit more of the edgy places. It was probably all for the best that I wasn't stuck in the bathroom when I was needing to be working.
During my one day off in Mumbai I rented a taxi/driver for about 5 hours. I had researched that there was a Ghandi Museum in Mumbai and had wanted to visit. It is called Mani Bhavan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mani_Bhavan
Mani Bhavan is a lovely old home in the historic district that Gandhi spent his time when in Mumbai. The building is now a memorial and a library with multiple floors. There were many pictures and quotes of the great man framed on the walls as well as his life portrayed in dioramas. I've always admired Gandhi and it was deeply moving to spend time in this space.
My driver, Khan, took me to both museums and drove around to see some of the historical sights in Mumbai. The monsoons made it very difficult to take pictures. I did get in some shopping however.
Here are pics of just some of the amazing textiles for purchase in India. These can be rugs or wall hangings. I am ready to go back with another suitcase! I'm hoping to open a shop someday and feature some of the goods I see, touch, and admire during my travels. Who's my first customer??? I could start now if you are interested. I have the contact info!!
My trip to India was just a small taste, leaving me wanting much more. I flew to Hong Kong from Mumbai and spent the weekend at a medical conference. I'm now in Malaysia and have just about a week to go before I head back to the USA for a visit that I am eagerly anticipating!
I will leave you with a quote from the great man, Mahatma Gandhi. This was framed and hung on the wall at Mani Bhavan. It brought tears to my eyes as there was reported in the local news, just that week, another rape. These words ring more true than ever to me, a very blessed American. Where I travel I see women in full burkas, eyes alone peering out from their veils. I also see beach goers that could possibly do with a bit more covering their body. In this century and decade it is amazing the distance between these images and what this distance means for women around the world. Women may not be as physically strong but they can withstand much more than should ever be asked of them. I don't usually use this blog for a soapbox but here's to all the strong women I know and have yet to meet.
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Peggy and Corey
As most of you know, Corey spends most of his time in Thailand and I spend much of my time traveling in SE Asia and living between Singapore and Thailand. On a recent weekend spent together we adventured out from our place in Phuket, north to Khao Lak. Two friends of ours, Paul and Mon, tagged along and together we had a grand time. Keep in mind that we are now into rainy season in this part of the world. In the tropics when it rains, it absolutely pours! At least for a few minutes or so at a time. That said, we took this jaunt on motor scooters. Not sure if we should be considered brave, or silly! Turns out either way- we were quite lucky!
This picture is of a beach we stopped at on the way to Khao Lak. It was part of a huge resort that seemed all but closed. It was absolutely gorgeous! Since we were on our motor scooter we took a lot of breaks. Any sign that we could read or any suggestion of something interesting took us on a side trip. This beach was a reward for following our whimsy that day. Khao Lak is about a 3 or 4 hour motorbike ride north of Phuket. It can be done much more quickly, and comfortably in a car, but hey, where's the adventure in that? Right?
Above are some pictures from our way up the coast towards Khao Lak. There were some beautiful beaches and we stopped at the Hot Springs Resort, looking for the hot springs. We didn't find the hot springs. As I mentioned the resort was all but closed. It is slow season, but really? I was so surprised as I would certainly recommend it if someone wants a gorgeous get away. The downside was that is was quite far from anything to do but relax... is that a problem?
Elephant rides are offered in many places in Thailand. I personally am not a fan of this attraction and don't plan to ever partake but the owner of the Full Moon Bar, whose beach we hung out on, said that the elephants used for this local attraction are free ranging at night. That made me feel a little better. They were a great photo opp.
We ultimately stayed at a resort called Brisas in Khao Lak. It was beautiful and since it is low season we got a killer deal. Corey, Paul, Mon and I went for a swim in some pretty significant surf, then relaxed in the pool with drinks before going out for a tasty Thai meal. Such a nice little get away!
Our visit to Khao Lak falls almost 10 years after the huge tsunami that wiped out much of this region and beyond. The SE Asian tsunami struck after a very large earthquake on December 26th, 2004. For Corey and I, it visiting the memorial was a sober reminder that you never know when your time on this earth may come to an end. Not only because of what happened where we now call home, but also because we were supposed to be in Phuket that day years ago. Some of our family and friends may remember hearing about the event from thousands of miles away and becoming very worried about us. Corey's work had taken us to China and we had plans which included a stop over during Christmas for a few days in Phuket. Phuket was hit very hard by the tsunami and no doubt we'd have been staying at the beach. Instead, Corey's project was delayed, and we made a detour to Hong Kong instead, but did not tell anyone about our last minute change. I don't know how many of you watched 'The Impossible'- a movie about a family staying at a beach resort in Khao Lak. While living in Australia I watched this movie alone. It was intense, and I knew it would be very hard to watch realizing we could easily have been there. I cried and thanked God for our timely detour and the chance to do more things on this earth to hopefully make it a better place.
On our way back from Khao Lak, we did hit some rain. We had little rain overcoats in the motor scooter that we put on, and took off... and put on. It was quite funny as it seemed that every time we put them on, the rain stopped. In Thailand, it is very humid even when it's not raining- and hot! The discomfort of sweating in a plastic cover was not appealing and the flapping sounds the jackets made was quite annoying. I'm happy to say our use of the jackets was quite minimal and overall we had a pretty dry trip! Following the "stop when we see something interesting" principle found us at a waterfall, a cute coffee shop, and a lovely temple. Such a great way to travel.
I'm back in Singapore now as this little jaunt was a few weeks ago. Stay tuned, I have one more little side trip to share!