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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.
A few weeks ago I had a business trip planned for Manila and since Corey had yet to make it to this lovely country, he flew over from Phuket and met me for the weekend. We traveled together by taxi, then ferry to Puerto Galera, a renowned SCUBA destination, in the Philippines. The journey took us about 4 hours total and was well worth the efforts as the diving was just as reported- Superb!
We had limited time but did two full days of diving from Angelyn's Resort, located right in the heart of PG. If you are looking for a good shop, reasonable lodging, with good food as well, it's a great choice. It is not fancy, but clean and right on the beach. Corey and I were very spoiled as we dove every dive with Bernard, one of the shop's dive masters our own boat for every dive. That alone made the trip almost perfect. Bernard listened to what we wanted to do and made it happen! http://www.angelynsdiveresort.coa
We saw healthy corals, a huge variety of colorful nudi's, schools of beautiful fish, and more. I even saw an octopus in the afternoon that I followed for quite some time until it got tired and hid under a rock.
The last day, Bernard promised me a turtle. Corey was quite worried, as a dive master himself, he felt it was crazy for Bernard to do this. It took us some searching in a grassy area not far from the shore, but we found a HUGE beautiful turtle, just hanging out and having her lunch. I was stoked!!!
The best part about diving from PG is that the dive sites are all less than 10 mins by quick outrigger boat. I was surprised that the water was so clear and clean, and the coral so health, considering it's not all that far from Manila, but it really was amazing! The small town of PG is a bit rough, and the locals are trying anything they can to make a buck including quite a bit of touting. One of the better tricks is to pay a guy to carry our heavy bags from the resort (worth the pesos) but then to get them on the boat, you either pay another guy or do it yourself. Pretty much typical of a poorer country with key tourist destinations. Here are a few pics from our walk around town which from one end to the other takes about 15 minutes.
On a final note, we left PG and the Philippines as a small cyclone was hitting the region. We luckily were not delayed but this time of year is a bit sketchy, thus the low numbers of tourists and uncrowded diving.
We hope to get around to some of the other areas well outside Manila. The Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands and if they others are as good as this, I'm diving in!
I've been in Singapore for a almost a month and am very soon moving into an apartment right near Arab Street in Kampong Glam. Work has me put up in a wonderful serviced apartment that I will hate to leave! Mom is actually here as well and the very next blog will be of our adventures.
However, just prior to really getting to work in Singapore I was in Thailand with Corey and we had a grand adventure to Koh Yao Noi. It is a smallish island just east of Phuket. To arrive there you must take a boat (or swim?). There are 2 choices, a fast boat or a slow boat. We chose the fast boat, after all I was with Corey Parker... I now can't remember how much it cost but it wasn't very expensive, about $20 each in USD total to go and return. We rode our motorbike up to the ferry terminal at Bang Rong Pier in NE Phuket. The only negative to the whole wonderful day was that when we returned some monkeys (seriously) had vandalized our motorbike and my helmet. They had basically chewed the lining out of my helmet (my sweat must have been appealing??) and taken a bite out of the seat. Corey was not happy as this motorbike was in prime condition. Anyway, back to the adventure.
Corey had been contacted by an American living there that had heard about some skydiving happening on Phuket. He ended up on Koh Yao Noi as a friend of his had basically homesteaded there with his Thai wife and kids and he lives a good part of the year there, going back and forth to the US to work. He is very interested in pursuing more experience as a skydiver and was hoping for a nearby drop zone. Alas, we are still in the process of getting that going so we went over to meet and hang out. I absolutely loved the vibe of the island! So different from frantic Phuket.
Here are some pics from our day... enjoy! If you ever get a chance to visit us, be sure to take the jaunt over to Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai. Oh and by the way, if you are a rock climber- bonus for you! This island is known for it's rock climbing. Our pals on the island are avid climbers and I'm sure they'd happily show you the sites.
Happy Chinese New Year! This Lunar New Year we enter the year of the Wooden Horse. There were big celebrations going on all over Asia and since we were in Phuket we attended the Chinese New Year celebration down near the Parliament Building. We joined at least a thousand local revelers to watch a live show that was basically a Cirque du Soleil type performance with a Snow White theme (I know, a little strange?). There were acrobats, jugglers, singers and dancers! The entire show was done in Mandarin with Thai subtitles so we were happy we knew the story very well. We do not know the relevance to Snow White, if any... but all in all it was a great spectacle!
I was hoping to see some dancing dragons and such but alas, we didn't. I'm hoping to still do so in Singapore as Chinese New Year Celebrations go on for at least 15 days.
All week there were firecrackers going off around Phuket island. This is one traditional part of the celebration as well as decorations, with red as the dominant color. Both of these traditions are based on an old legend, as they are meant to frighten away the Nian who was a mythical beast- not a nice one either. Singapore was decked out in red before I left to return to Phuket. The night of the big show in Phuket I saw many adults and children dressed in their best red outfits. Pink was also very popular that night.
You will see pics below of Phuket and also of Singapore. Lots of red! Enjoy!
May the year of the horse bring you much health, wealth, and good fortune.
I've decided to try to write a blog every week. Even if they are fairly short and focused. Soooo, this is a little story about our adventure to Rawai. Corey drove us on our zippy little scooter down the island. We made a few stops along the way. When Corey works as a scuba instructor he leaves from Chalong. I hadn't really seen much of this area so we did a quick drive along the bay. It is really a pretty spot.
Rawai is a beach town on the Southern part of Phuket Island. It is known for it's seafood restaurants that are set up in a unique fashion. Basically there are fish vendors on one side of a dirt road and on the other side are restaurants. You buy the seafood you want to eat and then pick a restaurant to cook it for you. There are sorts of options available, from shellfish like clams, prawns of all sizes, and a huge variety of fish from to snapper to grouper- even imported lobsters that were HUGE!
I think we were told the lobsters come in from Myanmar (Burma). They looked like they came from outer space they were mutants- so big! We didn't eat lobster as they were ridiculously expensive. The other choices were reasonable and really went well with a cold Chang beer. We may have to return for a lobster at some point though!
You can see by the picture on the left that we ordered a lovely small grouper, some large prawns and of course I had some veggies plus steamed rice. Everything was amazing! The restaurants charge an average of 100 baht (3 dollars) a kg to cook for you- you pick the preparation from the menu. We chose to have our prawns done with a garlic chili sauce. They also came with sautéed onions. Yum! The grouper was steamed and was "swimming" in a lemon, garlic, chili and a few other spices. It was really amazing!
I have to recommend a trip to Rawai if you love seafood! I'm not sure how much we spent total but not more than $20 dollars equivalent including drinks. I love eating in Thailand!!