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Another year, another adventure

January 30, 2011

We’re a month into 2011 and I’m still catching my breath from November and December’s 2010’s whirlwind travels around the world. My best intentions to keep this blog updated weekly if not monthly were thwarted by the designs of the mighty travel gods. My birthday wish for this year is to ask the travel gods to not change a thing! We look forward to more travel, more adventures, more exciting and fun new experiences in 2011 … and I’ll just have to make time to gather my breath and my thoughts and do what I love doing at the end of each adventure – write it all down!

A work trip to Japan materialized in November 2010, and I was practically hopping with excitement at the prospect of heading to one of the top countries in my “must-visit-in-this-lifetime” list. I did not sleep even a wink on the entire flight. Nor for that matter, much of the preceding week which went by in a blur with getting ready for the trip. I just sat there on the plane, gazing out of the window, into the inky darkness, letting my thoughts wander through images conjured up by the stories and movies of Japan I’d seen as a kid and the guidebooks I had recently digested … shrines and emperors and geishas and kimonos, robots and cars and high-tech gadgets, sushi and ramen and gyoza and tea, Mt Fuji and the Shinkansen (bullet train) and so much more … anticipation always makes for a very pleasurable feeling.

In under a week, I had plowed through 3 guidebooks, cover to cover and was excitedly looking forward to all the new things I would get to see and learn about on this trip – the culture, the people, the language, the food, the lifestyle, the shopping! I was quite looking forward to the realization of a long dreamed dream of being lost in translation. With English being the mainstay of most urban cities in almost all countries, Japan stands out as an exception. Although Tokyo has everything needed to make life easier for tourists, with plenty of English signs and translations posted everywhere, including the subway … I was looking forward to standing in the middle of a busy street or a plaza and hearing nothing but Japanese spoken all around me, letting each wave of undecipherable syllables wash over me giving an indescribable feeling of being as far away as possible from everything familiar and known. And I can say first-hand that it is an amazing feeling.

Sensoji shrine, all lit up in Asakusa

Even though we were in Japan only for a week, we managed to pack in so much sight-seeing and travel on the weekends and weekday evenings that it felt like we were there for several weeks! It’s true that not sleeping at all at night can make it feel like we have twice the number of days (and nights) available to us. Japan is such a interesting and amazing country, it deserves several posts.

Black sesame seed ramen – Absolutely delicious!

One on the fabulous food, one of the rich history and culture and the beautiful shrines preserved in the middle of a bustling city, one on living the modern Tokyo-ite life, one on our visit to see the Fall Colors and amazing Toshogu Shrine in Nikko city … all of which I will post soon. Very soon!

The second big trip was to India to visit family and friends in December 2010! Trips to India are always very satisfying and refreshing. Being back in our hometown, being pampered by parents and siblings and relatives, being in familiar surroundings where a lot has changed and yet so many things seem the same, is always a rejuvenating experience. This time, we did several short mini-vacations within India, mainly to get our families out of the house so they could travel with us and get out of their daily routine … we got to spend time with them, while strengthening bonds over new experiences.

Standing in front of the famous chariot of stone, Hampi

Hampi was the main highlight of our mini-vacations. King Krishnadevaraya and his sons ruled much of South India in the 10th to 15th century and Hampi was their capital. It was a city carved out of stone. Literally carved out of the face of the mountains and boulders that seemed to have magically transformed from piles of rock to elegant temples and mandapas, countless statues and rock carvings, all around as far as the eye can see.

Temples and mandapams on Hemakuta hill, behind Virupaksha temple

The era of Krishnadevaraya was one of riches and immense growth and power. Artisans and craftsmen were encouraged to put in their best work to showcase the skills and superiority of the people and the kingdom. This gave rise to a place of unimaginable splendor, beauty and riches. The ruins at Hampi showcase what’s left of that era. Sculptures and statues and rock structures which take your breath away, in a lush green setting of coconut, banana and sugarcane fields, swaying gently in the warm breeze as the sun glows and sinks slowly into the mountain vista in the distance, as you walk amongst stone mandapas and Ganesha statues carved out of a single stone – over 7 feet in height. Brushing your hands lightly on the statues is truly like reaching back in time. More on Hampi and itineraries for a mini-South India tour covering Ooty, Bandipur, Munnar, Alleppey, Guruvayur (the last three in Kerala) coming up next!

Lovely lush green tea estates of Munnar, Kerala

 

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From → India, Japan

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