Sunday, November 30, 2014

Aksa Beach - a short getaway from Mumbai

We had a long weekend for Thanksgiving and so Lex and I decided we'd go away for a couple of days.  First we thought of going to Alibaug, where we went last year, but everything was already fully booked by the time we got round to trying to book, however we did manage to find a place north of Mumbi at Aksa Beach.

Aksa Beach is around an hour away from where we live in Mumbai.  We originally tried to get a taxi, but none of the drivers seemed to know where we wanted to go, so in the end we got a rickshaw.  It was a reasonable journey, though personally I think a bit dangerous to drive at speed on the Western Expressway in a rickshaw.

We got a room that looked towards the beach.  The resort has a nice garden and pool.  Around the pool are plenty of places to sit and laze.  There are loungers, hammocks and chairs.  The place wasn't busy at all, though maybe that was because we arrived on a Friday when most people were at work.

There were a couple of restaurants overlooking the pool.  We ate all our meals there because there wasn't much else in the neighbourhood.

We walked on the beach.  Right in front of the hotel there were some beach shacks, though they didn't seem to be very busy.

The sunsets on the two nights we were there were beautiful.  It was really good to sit by the pool and watch the sun dip down into the Arabian Sea.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kerala Sunsets

The sunsets in Varkala were really beautiful.  The sun started going down around 5.30 pm and it took until at least 6.30 pm before it was dark.  It was possible to sit in one of the many cliff top bars and just watch the sun and the waves.

On "our" beach tables and chairs were set out for a good view of the sun.  You could sit and eat right by the sea - a very "Shirley Valentine" moment!

This is the view from the Fisherman's Art Cafe.  

Varkala: India's Deep South

Over the Diwali long weekend Lex and I went down to Varkala.  The place where we stayed was just north of Varkala in a quiet little bay.  

By day the beach was taken over by the fishermen - in the morning they pushed out their huge wooden boats and set their nets.  Later they pulled the nets in to the beach and sorted out the fish.  In the evening tables were set up on the beach with candles.  The whole time there you could hear the roaring of the waves.

One morning we walked north from our bungalow along the cliffs.  There were several little bays.  This part of Kerala is the only part of the Arabian Sea with cliffs.

One evening we walked down to the Fisherman's Art Cafe and sat by the sea watching the sun set.  We had a delicious meal of prawns and calamari, straight from the sea.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Diwali Lights

This week I went to see the Diwali lights in Mahim with Heeru.  Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights, celebrated in Autumn every year to signify the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair.  The main festival night of Diwali is the new moon - the darkest night.  

Before Diwali people clean and decorate their homes and dress up in new clothes and light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their homes.  They pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and light fireworks.  Special food includes mithai (sweets) and an exchange of gifts.

Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace

On my last day in Bangalore, before heading off to the airport, I called at Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace (or what remains of it).

The palace was originally built by Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bangalore, but was extended by Tipu Sultan when he was the Emperor of Mysore.  The palace is made of teak and the arches are carved in the Islamic style.  There are balconies that look out each side onto gardens, and Tipu Sultan used to conduct the affairs to state from the upper balconies.  

Tipu was an enemy of the British East India Company and fought against them for many years.  He seems to have been a visionary leader, planing up the Lalbaug botanical gardens as well as building roads and public buildings and making numerous other improvements including a new money system.   Tipu eventually died defending his capital against the British (people in India regard him as a martyr).

Tipu is known as the Tiger of Mysore and when urged to flee and save himself in the 4th Mysore War against the British said "One day of life as a tiger is far better than thousand years of living as a jackal".   He refused to flee and therefore died.

In the palace was a photo of Tipu's Tiger - the original is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  This was a toy/musical instrument of a tiger savaging a British soldier.  The man makes a wailing sound and the tiger growls.  The flap in the side folds down to reveal the keyboard of a small organ.

Next to the palace is a temple dedicated to the god Vishnu.  I went to visit that temple too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Indus International School

I went to visit Indus for a PYP Evaluation visit and stayed right in the school.  It's an amazing haven of green with lovely school buildings and residences.  On my last night there I was able to join the Diwali fireworks.

Last day: Walking to the Nezer Gompa

On our last day in Ladakh we went on another walk.  Henri, a Frenchman who had been staying at Silver Cloud, gave us a map of walks he had done further up the valley.  His description of the walks inspired us to try to walk as far as the Nezer Gompa.  The day was sunny and bright and as far as possible we wanted to stay among greenery.  The first place we came to was a lovely Buddhist shrine.

Nezer Gompa itself was through a small village.  It was high up and on the way the pilgrims had piled up rocks.  There was a great view over the surrounding countryside.

On our last evening we sat on our balcony and watched the sun go down behind the mountains.  The Shanti Stupa can just be seen as a silhouette on the horizon.