A Travellerspoint blog

Topics discussed this weekend

Of old-ish friends and new points of view

1. Never settle: Is having a 5 out of 10, better than zero? Is 5 out of 10 actually just a zero? Does all or nothing really work?
2. Is there only one God? What does it mean to be religious vs. spiritual?
3. What is happiness? Is it an outcome of events?
4. Empathy and patience - keys to friendship/relationships.

I played host this past weekend - to friends from my Seattle days. Lazy me, here's a link to Hailey's blog. She's described the stuff we did and what we talked about and it's sort of interesting to get an outsider's view of "my" new city.

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Pert and Hailey

Other photos from this weekend

Posted by Goofy9 11:14 Comments (0)

All templed-out in Bangkok


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Bangkok is everything that I imagined a south east Asian city to be like - loud, chaotic, a lone SUV amongst tuk tuks and taxis. And temples, lots of them, beautiful, gilded, many.

The hotel was fabulous - 58 storeys high, with a balcony. The most beautiful view of a meandering river. I bet a US hotel couldn’t have a room that high with an open balcony - what if someone jumped off and the family sued! The river is truly arterial to Bangkok - there are speedy (also noisey) long boats, there is public transport (slower, larger, with seats reserved for monks), and barges too. Surprisingly, no fancy Chicago lakeside style speed boats. Modernity is yet to hit Chao Phraya river.

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Grand Palace and a complex of temples around it is a must see. They are all a fabulous Thai architecture (picture lots of colors, pointy roofs, lions and such). The funny thing is that girls can enter in knee length skirts but boys cannot wear shorts. Sort of reverse discrimination, ha! There's a mini business thriving on this - locals sell long slip on pants to tourists for a couple of dollars - and the prints are the craziest. Nothing subtle about these pants. It's sort of funny to see 6 foot tall white men walking around in ankle length flimmy-flammy pants in bright blue.

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The Thai are nice people - happy, wanting to practice their English, extremely polite and have the most delightful, sing song way of speaking. I said hello and good morning just to hear them respond! But all that delight gets thrown out of the window when trying to tell a taxi driver where to go - there is no concept of map reading, everyone is easily lost, but everyone is also willing to huddle together in groups and discuss the best way to get the foreigner from Point A to B. I also learned that "farang" is foreigner, but I am a "kag", i.e., an Indian foreigner. Who would have thunk That being Indian would merit having my own term for foreigner!

Check out some photos from the trip.

Now, here’s how shallow I am. The weekend after the trip to Bangkok, was spent at the Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore. It's the talk of town and hard to miss, as the architecture sorta takes up the skyline. It's hard to compare 400 year old temples to something that's brand spanking new, but I did compare, and honestly, the pool at the resort is to die for!

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Please, please, please, see a few more photos!

Posted by Goofy9 00:38 Comments (2)

Family, community, and celebration - A Coorg Wedding


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It's been a couple of weeks since I got back from my cousin's wedding. Lot has happened since and it's taken me a while to think about the wedding...and what it feels like to be part of a celebration, not just of two individuals embarking on a marriage but a celebration of community and family.

Like all weddings, there was much dancing, drinking, dancing induced by too much drinking, eating, and gossiping. I was told that I had lost color, which is an impolite Indian way of saying that I am darker than I used to be and that dark is uncool. Miscellaneous aunts commented on my weight- too heavy, too skinny, just right. Common question was 'why no kids?' This is what I love about family- blatantly in my face, discussing unsolicited opinions about my life!

Tradition is a wonderful thing…Coorgs have no written language of our own. We use the language of the state, Kannada, to write Coorgi. The wedding has no priest- parents/family marry you. There is no ritual- just a lot of games, and things that used to have significance in another less-modern time. For example,  the people of the boy's village used to travel many, many miles to the girl's village for the wedding. And since the girl's side of the family may not know how many to expect, the boy's side carried rice, meat, bread, etc. for a combined feast. That's what's all in the basket my brother is helping my cousin carry.
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My mom is the eldest in the family, and she gets to bless my cousin first - blessing him to be a good groom and a good husband. There is not any praying or chanting or walking around fire, just lots of blessing and feet touching. Okay, so the parents from both side announce that the couple can now be considered married. Now, the girl has to carry water from the well, and the boy's family stops her by dancing in front of her. This is serious business as the longer we keep her standing, the more she's proving that she is strong enough to be part of her new family. See video to get a sense of what the music is like…It's a wonderful rhythm that drums through my bones. 

The night I left,  my two most favorite boys, my cousins, Bopanna (the groom) and Somanna (younger brother of Bops), we hugged and held on to each other and cried a long time. I think the tears were for a childhood over, for new beginnings, for hope of the future, for the fact that we will always be blood. This is what it feels like to be loved unconditionally and with the whole heart. 
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More photos from the wedding.

Posted by Goofy9 05:31 Comments (5)

Of war, Saigon, and the French influence


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The blog started as a way to share my adventures and to avoid having to do emails. Instead, in some ways, it has turned into my soap box. I don't know when this process of gathering memories and writing about them turned into a space for urgent messages; I feel like I have to say certain things and I have to hear what you have to say. At Ho Chi Minh City this weekend, I visited the Vietnam War Remnants Museum, renamed from War Crimes Museum. Sensitivity for Americans probably prompted the renaming. The museum is horrifying - the visuals gut wrenching, the number of photographers who died shocking, the anti-Americanism high. It's really a hard pill to swallow that we are not loved everywhere. It's even harder walking through the museum with people from other nationalities, wondering what they think of us 50 years after the Vietnam War.

Well, after the museum, a stroll was in order - to clear the mind. I had pictured Saigon to be full of motorcyles and scooters, and it is. But it's not crazy. One really can simply walk into traffic (since there are not too many zebra crossing to get across the street) and riders will calm avoid hitting you. It seems like a large city getting used to being modern - there are high rises (maybe 6-10 storeys), lots of neon lights, a few SUVs ploughing through a sea of scooters, and many, many temple pagodas.

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The highlight of the trip for me was going to the historic Rex Hotel. The guide book said that the Rex was famous as American Generals briefed the press here daily at 5pm - it came to be called "5 O'Clock Follies." The rooftop bar was delightful as you could look down from the bar to the Hotel De Ville (City Hall) and to the street below. It used to be tallest building at 5 floors!

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City Hall, modeled after the one in Paris.

Prior to this trip, to me Vietnam was simply Pho, which I ate regularly during winter. But coming to Saigon (and having pho) opened my eyes to another colony…it's odd for me to be in an Asian country that did not have British presence. It's the French here instead. The Notre Dame cathedral was the largest outside of France, with the red tile brought from Marsielle. Check of the rest of the architecture that is French in style. Another French influence is bread - this is Asia, people eat rice. Not so in Saigon. There are French-style bakeries all over the city, for breakfast at the hostel, we were served a baguette with jam, butter, and coffee.

I did Saigon the only way I know currently, as vacation is in short supply - over a weekend, doing what I can, seeing what I can. I may never have a month off to see Asia…

Posted by Goofy9 11:15 Comments (5)

Did anyone become fat eating fruit?

Long overdue food report

Here's $6.30 worth of cherries, mango, strawberries, and pineapple. I eat about this much fresh fruit over 1-2 weeks. The locals eat fruits with guava powder sprinkled on it, I prefer mine with salt and pepper.

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I seem to think about food all the time and when I'm not thinking about food, I'm eating. Sometimes I forget if I've already written about a dish or not. The Japanese burger - regular burger, but instead of an egg bun, it's a steamed, bright white bun. Lettuce swapped out for a shiso leaf. Definitely less greasy, and small enough to treat as a snack or a light meal.

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More Japanese - the real Ramen. Served in a giant bathtub of a bowl to allow for splashing. The noodle itself tastes almost buttery, and it's pretty spicy. I rarely think of Japanese food as spicy but it is! This one was just a 2 on the heat index, and I've seen the locals seriously sweat it out on a 4, and the scale goes up to 7 (wonder why not up to a 10).

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And for my fellow Indians, I give you Maggi Goreng! Maggi is the Nestle brand of instant noodles in Indian flavors (Curry, Masala, etc.). I survived college eating maggi with hot sauce and scrambled egg. In Singapore, it's pretty much the same maggi, with the addition of veggies.

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Did you know that Filipino cuisine is heavily influenced by the Spanish? The effects of colonization. I found two recipes that I'm going to make when I get home (be warned, Brenners!) - Tokwa t baboy(appetizer) and maja blanca (dessert). Served with San Miguel beer produced in the Phillipines (and no, it's not the San Miguel we get in the States).

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To round of this food report, I had biryani (spiced pilaf) in Little India. I did die and go to heaven! Served by a chatty old man, who chopped open a coconut for me to have with my rice. All honesty, the best biryani this side of India. Served on a banana leaf - which for some reason seems to make it taste better.

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And finally, three gorgeous teas - single estate Java oolong, Boh Jasmine , and Japanese green.
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Posted by Goofy9 00:25 Comments (5)

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