Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Oh! Calcutta

As this is going to be my last year in India - yes Mumbai Moments is going to come to an end soon - I decided to take the Thanksgiving weekend to see Calcutta and the Sundarbans.  Because it was just a long weekend, I wanted to spend one day walking around Calcutta and one day floating around the tiger reserve.  I was hoping to see a tiger, but I wasn't that lucky!

I went with Bec, a PE teacher from school.  When we arrived at the hotel we had booked there wasn't a room for us (a group had gone down with an illness - likely Delhi Belly I think and had not been able to checkout of their rooms) so we got upgraded to the Oberoi.  That was really lucky!  We had a nice room, a great breakfast and even returned for a wonderful Bengali lunch.

I'd already looked up a list of places to go to and we decided we'd walk between then.  First on the list was the Victoria Memorial which was stunning.  It's a beautiful marble building, built between 1906 and 1921, and it's now a museum.  It was suggested by George Curzon, the Viceroy of India, as Calcutta was at that time the capital, however even before it was finished the capital was moved to New Delhi.  Apparently the entire cost of the building was funded by voluntary donations.

Our walk continued north, up to the Hooghly River and through the flower market.  Calcutta is a much poorer city than Mumbai and we notice a huge amount of poverty.

Kolkata was not my favourite city in India, but it was very colourful and I'm certainly glad we went.

The following day it was a very early start - 5.30 am - to set off in a minibus to the Sundarbans on the Ganges delta.  It's a national park and tiger reserve - with over 400 tigers it's home to one of the largest tiger populations in India.  It's an area of mangrove forest so we had to get around by boat through the innumerable waterways.

The boat ride was extremely relaxing, however we didn't get to see much wildlife, not even very many birds.  However we did get to see the red tailed green tree viper which is very venomous (death in 20 minutes we were told) - I quickly handed my camera to one of the guides to get in close for this photo!

The cruise back to the jetty and our minibus was very slow and relaxing as the sun was going down.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Autumn in the UK

This year I'm working part time, so I was able to spend time in October and November in the UK with my mother.  In the 6 years that she has been at her current place, I've never been there in the autumn before - and what a super autumn it was!  For some of the time there the temperatures were 18 degrees!

The time there started with a few days in London.  Rachel had celebrated her birthday and we all went out to an escape room.  Lex and I also walked on the North Downs at Box Hill.  We also went to Windsor Castle one day.

I stayed at Mum's for several weeks and generally it was lovely weather there - I took advantage of this by walking 5k almost eery day.  Most days I didn't even need to put a coat on!  Just look at the Autumn colours!

There were also good family times as well - meeting up with Joal and Rachel in London, going to Victoria Park with Lex and meeting Sylvia, Sally and Jacqui at LPQ for a very long lunch.  

On my final weekend in London Rachel and I walked to a Buddhist temple in Wimbledon - who knew such a place existed?  It was a long walk there but certainly worth it.  Now I'm looking forward to being back in England again for Christmas and New Year.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Thai cooking in India

What a lovely treat with some lovely friends!  Bec had bought a cooking course at last year's PTA Ball and she invited me to join in.  We went to a place called Flavour Diaries which is run by a lovely woman called Anjali who used to be a teacher at Jamie Oliver's Recipease in London.  Her idea is to have a good time while cooking.  Our class was a Thai cooking class and I made 2 dishes - tom yum soup and green curry - after which we ate it.  It was such a fun evening and I'd really love to do another one.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A day downtown

Back in Mumbai again, Cindy asked me if I wanted to go with her and a new teacher downtown for the day.  As we were driving over the Sealink she looked off to the left and asked about the Worli Fishing Village.  I think I was the only one who had been there - so we decided to make this our first stop.

Cindy did an amazing job of driving through the narrow streets and eventually finding us somewhere to park the car.  We wandered through the small lanes, coming across many interesting people.

Mumbai used to be made up of 7 separate islands, one of these being Worli.  The island was inhabited by the Kolis, a community of fisherfolk, who first came to the island around 1100 AD.  The name of Mumbai is derived from the Goddess Mumba, the Deity of the Kolis.

The Koli families are still involved in fishing - they go out to sea in the early morning and sometimes late at night using the Mahim Creek and the beach.  Their fishing boats moored up around the Sealink are quite picturesque.

A couple of years Chris Martin and Coldplay used the Worli Fishing Village as a location for their video.

After some time in the village we set off for Dhobi Ghat - the outdoor washing area of Mumbai.  Known as the world's largest open-air laundry, the washers (dhobis) work in the open to wash the clothes and linen from Mumbai's hotels and hospitals.  There are rows and rows of concrete wash pens, each with a "flogging stone" and rows and rows of washing lines where the clothes are hung to dry.

We carried on downtown for lunch to the Kala Ghoda area of town - here we ran into a child walking a tightrope.  We also visited the Gateway of India, the Prince of Wales museum and looked at the lovely architecture of Mumbai University.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Campuhan Ridge Walk

On my final full day in Bali I decided to do the Campuhan Ridge Walk.  I set off after the early morning yoga class as I wanted to do as much of the walk as I could before the heat started to build up.  It's a fairly easy trek through beautiful scenery - and the hike is paved so it's easy to find and follow.  All along the ridge there are lovely views - in total the walk is 9 km.

Along the walk there are several small restaurants and guest houses.  I stopped at one for a fresh coconut.  The views across the fields and rice paddies were lovely!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Dali of Bali

One morning I decided to go to the Blanco Renaissance Museum, which was a short walk away from where I was staying in Ubud.  Antonio Blanco was certainly quite a character.  He was born in the Philippines to Spanish parents, studied at the National Academy of Art in New York, and arrived in Bali in the 1950s where he married a local dancer.  He build his home on the land he was given by the King of Ubud, and this is now a museum which contains lovely gardens, his studio, a temple and a Hindu pagoda.  The huge "statue" outside represents his signature.

The rooms inside the museum are extravagant with lots of bright colours.  Lots of Blanco's paintings, and some paintings of his son, are on display.  The frames that hold the paintings are also masterpieces.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Two temples and an active volcano!

After the rice and coffee, I continued to drive north from Ubud to the Holy Spring Temple.  This temple contains a bathing structure with sort of shower parts and people can go in and cleanse themselves spiritually (as well as physically).  Needless to say I didn't go in!

After that we headed north and stopped for lunch by Mount Batur.  This is an active volcano, yet many tourists hike up it.  Considering it's a 2 hour hike up, and anther 2 hour hike down,  I decided to pass on this and enjoyed a lovely buffet lunch instead.

We then headed on to the Besakih temple which is on the slopes of another volcano, Mount Agung - the highest point in Bali.  The volcano last erupted in 1963 and was one of the largest and most devastating in Indonesia's history.  My driver told me that his grandparents remember it but that his parents were not alive at the time - this definitely made me feel old!

The Besakih temple (known as the Mother Temple) is the most important, the largest and the holiest temple of the Hindu religion in Bali.  It's about 1000 metres up on the slope of the volcano and on the day I visited people were being evacuated from the area because it was thought the volcano was going to erupt.  In fact on the evening of that same day there was an earthquake measuring 5.7 which led to 75,000 people being moved off the slopes.

During the 1963 eruption which killed around 1700 people, the lava flowed just metres away from the temple complex.  The saving of the temple is regarded as miraculous by the Balinese people and they see it as a signal from their gods that they wished to demonstrate their power but not to destroy the monument that the people had erected to them.

The temple complex is made up of 23 temples built on 6 levels terraced up the slope.  The entrance is a very typical split gateway.  You can walk up the stairs to a number of courtyards and brick gateways that lead up to the mountain which is considered sacred.