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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!
We made it out alive! Klang Cave in Krabi Province, Thailand
I'm behind again on blogs, as usual, so here we go! Don't forget, if you receive these by email, click the link, as there are slide shows embedded that don't show up unless you are on the blog site! You can also visit www.sailgirldesign.com and take a trip down memory lane with us. I do this occasionally. It's one reason I'm sharing our fun, so I can remember it later. Thanks for following our shenanigans! If you are having fun, please share our website and comment.
A few weeks ago I had some time in Thailand. Corey and I rented a car for the weekend and ventured over to the seaside town of Krabi. We really had a ball in Khao Lak (see previous blog) and the motorbike ride was definitely part of that adventure, but Krabi is a bit too far for a motorbike, especially in rainy season. It took us around 3 hours to drive to the beach side of Krabi as we stopped along the way to check out what ever tickled our fancy. One amazing detour took us into Klang Cave.
Klang Cave is a significant cavern with a small river and huge stalactites and stalagmites. The mountains in the Phang Nga and Krabi areas are limestone so there are quite a few caves. We think we found the best one! Happening upon a sign, we turned off and drove down a small dirt road surrounded by jungle and coconut palms. There was a little welcome center, with no one there. Actually a bit spooky. It has to be manned sometimes as there was a flashlight sitting on a bench and the batteries were ready to go. Corey borrowed it and I used my phone flashlight app-- off we went. The pictures below are some from Klang Cave. Don't miss the ghost globes and the captions.
We also explored a very beautiful temple on the way to Krabi. It was actually between Phuket and Phang Nga. An older lady selling temple goods told us that the monk the temple was dedicated to had a "good mouth and was very wise." In other words he spoke good things! The temple had multiple buildings and everything was perfectly maintained. A beautiful place!
Another discovery on the trip was a temple near Krabi called the Tiger Cave Temple -Wat Tham Sua. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_Cave_Temple
It's actually a complex of temples plus a hike up 1237 stairs to the top of a cliff overlooking the region. The view was well worth the climb!
The story behind the name Tiger Cave Temple in summary is that many years ago a local priest was meditating in the area and would see a tigers living in, and around the cave. There are no longer tigers in this part of SE Asia but the cave was named for them. It is one of the most sacred areas in the Krabi province.
The hike up those stairs was brutal as they were very steep. Actually, it was worse coming down! My legs were jelly! I was lucky I've been exercising as we didn't stop there. We went up and down some more stairs and then around the back of the next hill. We followed a trail through a canyon with thick trees that took us by more caves, plus a Buddhist monk village. It was absolutely beautiful and felt like we'd gone back in time. Their rust colored robes were hanging out to dry on the clothes lines outside petite, well-kept shacks. This area was all arranged near the caves and a large outdoor worshipping area with a large Buddha statue. It seemed most people don't do this extra hike, so once again we were pretty much the only ones there taking in the wonderful sights. The air was thick with humidity but the rain stayed away.
Our final destination was the beaches of Krabi. We spent one night in the shopping, nightlife area on Ao Nang Beach, and the next night around the corner at Hat Noppharat Thara Beach. We both enjoyed Krabi. We imagined it is like Patong used to be. It is also slow season so it was particularly quiet.
We enjoyed the different scenery and some time at the beach. Including some great massages. If you visit on slow season expect cheaper prices but the water is rough and not a blue and clear.
Well, that's it for this week's update. Stay tuned for a write up about our jaunt over to Puerto Galera, Philippines for a weekend of diving! I seem to run about 3 weeks behind but I'll try to get to it shortly before I forget any cool details. Cheers!!!
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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!
Recently I did a work trip that had me visiting 6 Chinese cities in 5 days. I flew into Beijing and took trains and planes between cities. I finally flew out of Guangzhou back to Singapore. Basically I was tasked with lecturing to local clinicians about IV Therapy. It was a grueling trip but I found some fun along the way. My favorite part of the trip was the very warm reception I received from the nurses.
When traveling in China for work I am usually accompanied by one of our local team members. This trip, I needed an interpreter for all my lectures so Shu, our Marketing Director and basically "jack of all trades" for China and I spent a lot of time together. Shu was born and raised in China but spent many years in the US so her English is great. The pic at the left was taken at a wonderful temple in Wuhan called the Yellow Crane Pagoda. We ended up with a few hours of down time so Shu took me to explore. I was very lucky to have her to translate information at the temple and I made sure that she appreciated some of the Chinese to English translations that I noticed along our way. I think at both work and fun, we made a great team.
I love the signage and translations in China. Chinese is extremely hard to translate for more than one reason. To a native English speaker the meaning of the translated sign is usually very clear, although the actual wording is just not quite as we'd usually expect it. These signs make me smile.
This sign was directing us through the Yellow Crane Temple.
This Pagoda style temple in Wuhan is very well known. There have been many beautiful poems written about this temple over thousands of years.
I feel very lucky to be able to visit such a beautiful place. More pictures in the slideshow below.
The nurses in China were amazing! As I mentioned I was tasked with lecturing to groups of nurses in a variety of cities. Since I don't speak Mandarin, I had She with me (thank goodness) and as a team we tackled lecture after lecture- usually at least 2 per day. I would guess this was at least as exhausting for her as for me. The nurses quizzed me with thought provoking questions and shared their local experiences. Long days... however, the huge hugs and hearty hand shakes I got from the white capped nurses made it all worthwhile. I love meeting nurses in different countries. You can see from the pics Chinese nurses proudly continue to wear caps. It was like going back in time but the heart of nursing shines through the ages.
So, I mentioned that I rode the high speed trains. Here is the max speed I noticed on one of the legs of my journey-305 km/hr! These trains are clean, comfortable, timely, and relatively low cost. It was an amazing experience.
When the new train driver (engineer?) replaces the current driver he saluted the oncoming train in a neat little ceremony.
Although I'm not sure if I could figure out how to buy a ticket without some Chinese assistance, I would recommend riding the trains! Once you have the ticket, it's pretty easy to figure out from there.
Vesak Day is celebrated by Buddhists in a variety of forms and on slightly different dates across SE Asia and beyond. It is the celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and death of Guatama Buddha. The dates are based on the different Asian calendars and it is usually celebrated in related to the full moon. Wikipedia has a nice summary of Vesak Day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vesak
There are some basic aspects of Vesak Day that I really admire such as bringing happiness to others, especially children, the elderly, and handicapped. Worshippers plan a trip to the temple that day to buy incense, pray and offer flowers in worship. Traditionally animals have been let free on this holiday in a symbolic act of liberation. This is to signify the liberation of those in captivity against their will. Singapore had a government announcement to encourage people to let bugs go as a gesture instead of any other animals. Vesak is also a day where many Buddhists will eat a totally vegetarian diet.
I really like this description of how to celebrate Vesak Day and pay homage to Buddha from Wikipedia:
" Tradition ascribes to the Buddha himself instruction on how to pay him homage. Just before he died, he saw his faithful attendant Ananda, weeping. The Buddha advised him not to weep, but to understand the universal law that all compounded things (including even his own body) must disintegrate. He advised everyone not to cry over the disintegration of the physical body but to regard his teachings (The Dhamma) as their teacher from then on, because only the Dhamma truth is eternal and not subject to the law of change. He also stressed that the way to pay homage to him was not merely by offering flowers, incense, and lights, but by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings. This is how Buddhists are expected to celebrate Vesak: to use the opportunity to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to develop their minds, to practise loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to humanity."
Living in Singapore has truly been an adventure. This weekend Corey came over from Phuket to hang out with me. We rode the MRT to a local attraction we've been wanting to explore- Haw Par Villa.
This interesting (and slightly weird) place was originally known as the Tiger Balm Gardens as it was the brainchild of Aw Boon Haw, the creator of the medicinal salve Tiger Balm.
Aw Boon Haw originally built a villa on the property overlooking the sea for his brother and business partner. Over time the brothers developed the Gardens, a Chinese mythology theme park. It is a wonderful parcel of land landscaped very attractively, but also packed full of well over 1000 statues and dioramas that depict a variety of Chinese myths, primarily with a focus on the merits of Chinese values. This is by far one of the strangest things I've seen in my travels. The entire place was fascinating!
Although the actual villa that was built in 1937 is no longer standing, the old garage that housed the brother's cars remains. By the Chinese horoscope I am a tiger and this car is my idea of a sweet ride.
One of the most intense sections of this quirky park is the Ten Courts of Hell. It is a walk through, built like a cave filled with dioramas depicting the punishments awaiting sinners when they land in hell. Quite sobering!
The last scene reveals that hope should prevail as when you are completed with your torture and punishment you do get to come out the other side and be reborn. A spin of the wheel and your past life determines if you come back as an animal or human and in what circumstance. Here is a slide show of some of the dioramas and more.
On our way home from the Gardens we stopped by Chinatown and visited the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. The monks were doing prayers at one of the external doorways and we stayed to listen for a few minutes as the sounds are always enchanting.
We also ended up the day with some chow at the Maxwell Hawker Centre.
Corey had not yet been to this famous locale. For those of you unfamiliar with eating in Singapore, the best places to eat are often in a place called a Hawker Centre. These are huge covered buildings with open sides, filled with booths that are basically mini take-away restaurants. There are groups of tables in between rows and rows of booths. These places are ideal for trying new things as you can buy individual dishes from a variety of stalls. A dish usually runs between $3-6 dollars! One of my favorite things to drink in Singapore is the fresh lime juice that is sold at these stalls but often a beer just hits the spot.
Corey has just taken off back to Phuket, I will be seeing him again in a few days as I fly his direction again soon. Stay tuned for more adventures. I head back to the Philippines soon and then off to mainland China.