Bombay, meri jaan

Nov 1st – 10th, 2013

Meri jaan is a Hindi expression that translates to ‘my life’ and is often used to address a loved one. Bombay, meri jaan comes from an old Bollywood movie song that talks about how it is difficult to live in this city, this city that is my life.

I love coming home to Bombay! Our daily routine consisted of getting pampered by my wonderful parents, pleasant evening walks, great conversations all day especially over candle lit dinners in the balcony under a star-filled sky, and excellent food and drinks!

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Bombay was extra special this time since our stay coincided with Diwali. The last time I spent Diwali at home was in 2000! Mom went all out! We bought flowers to make homemade garlands that are used to decorate the front door of the house. In the picture below, Mom is too concerned for me falling off the stool to smile J We also made some rangoli right outside the front door but it wasn’t pretty enough to warrant pictures on the blog 😉 plus it was put to shame by our neighbor’s beautiful colored patterns the same evening. Well, at least Mom and I had a good laugh about it!

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We spent Diwali day at my maternal grandparents’ house. Ravi Uncle and Asha Maasi also came by which made for a really nice family reunion. Nani made sure there was enough food that no one felt the need to eat anything that evening!

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We came back home that evening for Laxmi Pooja and to light fireworks alongside the neighbors in the building! Raj had a gala time firing up the ‘rockets’ while I was more comfortable with the seemingly less dangerous ‘anars’ (flower pots).

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I got pretty sick right after Diwali presumably from something I ate in Goa, so much so that we had to change my flights for Delhi. Mom and Dad were happy that I got sick at home rather than in random hotel rooms and also that we got a little extra time together!

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Can’t wait to see you again soon, Mum and Dad! Love and Hugs!

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GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Oct 25th – 31st, 2013

I grew up in Bombay. I attended school and college in Bombay and yet I had never been to Goa – a mere 40 minutes away by plane. So, when the opportunity came along to visit Goa, I jumped on it. Even though it meant that we had to leave Seattle at 6am the morning after our last day of work and cut short some of our travel time in Europe. And wow, was it worth it!

We flew business class from Copenhagen to Mumbai (just 30,000 miles each thanks to Mr. Mago’s research #balleronabudget ) with a pit stop in London to see my cousins Pooja and Zen, and my beautiful little niece Maya! Sending the evening with my aunt and uncle who flew in the same aaaevening was a bonus! My awesome parents came to the Mumbai airport during our four hour stopover to pick up our pea coats and wool sweaters which we wouldn’t need for a few months (yay!). They also brought us fresh coconut water 🙂

We reached Panjim the next morning. Raj had spent two months in Panjim back in 2005 for an IT training. So, our 24 hours there were spent walking along some of the same streets and going to some of the same bars and restaurants that Raj and his friend Dominic would frequent. I heard stories about where Raj stayed, how hard he studied, the places he liked to eat at and the bars he went to to meet pretty girls. Dominic – your name came up every few minutes! Here are a couple of pictures of the famous Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church in Panjim. Funnily enough, Raj had never seen the inside of this church before. Isn’t it interesting how we barely ‘travel’ through the places we live in?

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We headed south from Panjim to the Park Hyatt for the primary reason of our trip to Goa – our dear friend Sharad’s brother’s wedding. The wedding was soooo grand and Sharad’s friends and family so very receptive. Our experience over the two days at the Park Hyatt was the most luxury Raj and I expect to see over the course of our time off. We were greeted with fresh coconut water and had an outdoor shower attached to our room –wowza!

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We spent this amazing luxurious time eating, hanging with Sharad’s friends and family, eating, drinking, eating, getting dressed for the wedding events, eating, hanging by the pool… Raj and I gained at least a couple of pounds each during the two days, making up for all that walking around in Europe. Thank you Tania, Rahul, Ridhima, Manuj, Devika, Niharika and Karan for new friendships and fun conversations! Thank you Sharad and family for including us on this beautiful occasion. We wish Tarun and Divya our very best and hope to see them back in the States soon!

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After all this luxury, we had to get back to serious, budget conscious, backpacking 😉 We took this quite literally by taking a local bus from a bus station close to the Hyatt to Palolem in south Goa. The bus ride was ‘fun-ish’ – the suspension of bus was surprisingly good even though we were sitting on the seat directly above one of the rear wheels, a couple got in with a 14 inch TV wrapped up in a bed sheet, a lady in front of us kept yelling hello to folks on the streets – she seemed to know a lot of them, and of course the driver put on some jhintak Bollywood music on the blaring speaker. Like I said, the ride was fun-ish 🙂

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Palolem was everything I imagined Goa to be and more. The expected – coconut trees, soft sandy beach, amazing weather, sunsets, Goan fish curry! The unexpected – huts lining the beach front, hammocks, ocean front restaurants, chill-as-can-be vibe, dogs, cows, dolphins! We rented a room right on the beach for just 700 rupees (approximately US$11.50) a night, complete with a patio and hammock, about 50 feet away from the Arabian Sea. The next three days were the definition of chill – it was exactly what we needed after the hustle of Europe, long flights and the non-stop partying at the wedding. Our days included porridge breakfasts, writing postcards, exploring the beach, reading fiction, listening to music on the patio, talking to the friendly locals, Kingfisher beer and multiple dips in the shallow water. It was pretty darn perfect!

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The stray dogs and cows on the beach were hilarious! The dogs would invariably sit under our tables at the ocean front restaurants looking up at us with their beautiful eyes while wagging their tails. If we didn’t feed them for a while, they wouldn’t leave but instead sleep under the table hoping for a bit of morsel to fall on the floor – too cute! I had a fear of stray dogs as a kid but the dogs here were extremely friendly and got a lot of love from the tourists and locals alike. While hanging on the beach one time, I saw a dog plop down by a woman lying on the beach placing his butt right by her head. She gently slapped his butt with her flip-flop but he only moved an inch! Another time, a cow decided to make a meal out of a woman’s sarong – the woman’s partner ran behind the cow trying to shoo him/her away with a bag. The cow turned away for a couple seconds and then tried to discreetly get back to his/her meal. The cows and the dogs got into fights with each other a couple of times with one group chasing the other, much to everyone’s entertainment as long as the fight was happening at a distance. Pretty cool sights that one doesn’t see everyday 🙂

The highlight of our time here was when we took a break from the laziness and rented a kayak to watch the sunset from the water. Instead of watching the sun go down, we saw a group of four dolphins playing in the goldish-pink water. They came close to our boat, as close as 50m away, which was both scary and exciting at the same time. When we got back to the beach, the dude we rented the boat from told us that we were very lucky to spot the dolphins – a dolphin watching excursion that went farther into the ocean at the same time as us didn’t spot a single dolphin. We are fortunate for this beautiful experience!

So long Goa! I’ll definitely be back!

Copenhagen: Another walking tour, an Amazing Chocoloate Danish and of course more Beer!

Hey guys, it’s been a while since we’ve posted. Apologies for the delay in posting but we’ve been so caught up in the travel and internet connectivity has been somewhat sparse. We’ve been in India for a few weeks but I wanted to finish out the last of our time in Europe.

Our last post was all about Berlin and how amazing it was. From there we headed on back to Copenhagen. The ride was quite easy and we took the same route back; bus ride from Berlin to Rostock, ferry to Gedser, Denmark and another bus ride to Copenhagen.

Day 1 – Kebabs and Beers with a side of live music

We arrived in the afternoon and made our way to our apartment rental which we found off airbnb.com. The email communication was easy, the apartment perfect and the location excellent. We got an involuntary lesson on frugality when Anjli ordered a glass of juice at a juice bar, which turned out to be $9.00.

We dropped our stuff, showered and headed on out to meet up with our friend Lindsey, who just happened to be in Copenhagen. Lindsey and I worked on a project together recently at Microsoft. Anjli and I met up with Lindsey and after a quick bite at one of the many Turkish Doner Kebab places, we ended up at a live music bar to grab a few pints at a bar called Strecker’s. The live music was excellent and we ended up tossing back more than a few pints of excellent Danish beer.

Here’s a picture of Anjli and Lindsey enjoying a pint.

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We turned in early that night and readied for the next day.

Day 2 – Beer Baron, Chocolate Danish and a country within a city.

We started off day 2 with another free walking tour of the city with Sandeman’s, the same company that we took a walking tour with in Berlin. The tour started in front of the Copenhagen City Hall and we made our way to the birth place of J.C. Jacobsen, of The Carlsberg beer (Named after J.C.’s son Carl). Here’s a picture of me in front of the building where he was born. J.C. and Carl made so much money off their famous beer that they started giving it away. Countless monuments, buildings, landmarks around the entire city were gifted by the beer barons. We couldn’t walk a few blocks without hearing of something that had been gifted to the city by them.

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From there we checked out multiple sites around the city. Here’s a picture of the historic Hotel D’Angleterre (Wikipedia). A night’s stay here will run you a measly $15,000 a night. Heinrich Himmler, who was supposed to stay here, escaped an assassination attempt (Spy Tommy Sneum’s The Hornet’s Sting) when he decided not to come to Copenhagen after getting sick in Norway and skipping it to head back to Berlin.

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Though Denmark was under Nazi occupation during the Second World War, it managed to save over 95% of its Jews. In one incident, many Jews were quietly smuggled to Sweden with the Nobel Laureate physicist Niels Bohr, a Dane himself, in tow. From Sweden, Neils Bohr later moved to America and worked with Robert Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project.

We visited other sites including Amelianborg palace (home to the Danish Royal family) and the Little Mermaid monument.

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Denmark was also home to Hans Christian Andersen, who authored many famous fairy tales including The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid. After the walking tour we indulged in what our tour guide called the best Danish pastry in Copenhagen. So Anjli, Lindsey and I indulged in a little afternoon treat. Here’s Anjli scarfing down her chocolate Danish.

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We later walked to a part of town called Christiania (Wikipedia), where canabis is legal and you can purchase it and smoke on premises. Anjli and I opted for a beer instead, while Lindsey had a water. Christiania had just three rules that were clearly posted on street signs.

  1. No Photographs
  2. No Running, it makes people nervous
  3. Have fun

As simple as that. We didn’t take any photos as they weren’t allowed but it was an incredibly amazing and safe place. If you’re ever in Copenhagen, be sure to check this place out. As we were leaving Christiania, a sign posted with the inscription “You are now entering the European Union” was posted in graffiti.

That about wrapped up our time in Copenhagen and in Europe. We were to head off to India the next day.

Finally, one more thing about Copenhagen I loved was public drinking. Here’s me enjoying a Carlsberg while posing for a picture with Anjli and Lindsey.

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We really enjoyed Copenhagen and wished we had more time here. A deeply socialist society that has a history of taking care of it’s own during good times and in bad. It was also great seeing our friend Lindsey. If you’re planning on being in Asia in the next few months…hit us up.

Cheers,

-Rajat

Berlin – A history lesson

Oct 17th – 20th, 2013

After an amazing week in Poland, we arrived in Berlin towards the late evening. I dropped Anjli off at our hotel and went off to return the rental car. We were both pretty exhausted from the drive, so we turned in and had a good night’s rest to ready ourselves for the following day.

DAY 1 – Berlin walking tour and the Memorial of The Murdered Jews of Europe

We started the day with a free Walking Tour (highly recommend this) of Berlin which started at Brandenburg Tor, a huge pantheon like city gate with a statue of what the tour guide described as the worst German Citizen ever. Her name used to be Irinie, the goddess of peace. Ever since her appointment, Germany has never had peace. Eventually they changed her name to Victoria and Germany has lost every war since her renaming. Hence, the worst German citizen ever!

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Here’s a picture of Anjli and I in front of Brandenburg Tor. Perhaps appropriately, the random bypasser that took the photo cut Victoria out of the photo. 😛 From there we moved on to see many other sites around Berlin. Incredible history at every corner and much of it focused on the Holocaust and atrocities committed during World War 2. We also passed by the Memorial of The Murdered Jews of Europe on our way to a parking lot. We arrived at this parking lot and our tour guide stopped. All of us looked puzzled at each other as to why we had stopped in a parking lot. The tour guide continued to explain that under that parking lot was what remains of the bunker where Adolf Hitler and his girlfriend Eva Braun spent their last days. It was in this bunker, with the Red Army and the Allied forces approaching, that they committed suicide. What was moving about this whole deal was that the tour guide never once mentioned Hitler’s name. He simply referred to him as “You know who” or “That terrible person”. Even uttering his name was considered unnecessary. A parking lot seemed suddenly appropriate for this individual.

After finishing the walking tour, we spent a few hours at the Memorial of The Murdered Jews of Europe, which was directly across the street from this parking lot.

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There are over 2000 of these concrete blocks here of varying heights. When people asked the designer, Peter Eisenman of Newark, New Jersey, what are the concrete blocks supposed to represent, he replied “you tell me”. This piece is meant to be interpretive. It is to the visitor what they see. Anjli immediately thought of coffins and the sheer number of blocks across the landscape is meant to give you a scale of the number of Jews (6 million) that lost their lives. To me, the blocks looked like bar graphs and the fact that their were so many signified the scale of the loss of life. Under this landscape is a visitor center that gives additional history of the Holocaust. Especially moving was a room where a piece was dedicated to individual families, where they lived, what they did and how their lives were forever changed through the events of World War II. It also showed names of individuals, how and where they died along with personal artifacts (letters, etc.) that had been found and preserved. Seeing personal stories put a very emotional and real face to a very large and incomprehensible number (6 million). Anjli and I spent three hours here, reading, reflecting and trying not to get teary . Though a few people did walk tearfully through the exhibit. We walked to the train and back to our hotel in relative silence that night just thinking and reflecting.

Day 2 – East Side Gallery and the Berlin Wall Memorial

On day 2, we decided to check out the East Side Gallery (Wikipedia) where sections of the wall have been dedicated to graffiti art work by famous artists. Afterwards, we checked out the Memorial of the Berlin Wall.

After a light breakfast, Anjli and I walked to the East Side Gallery (Wikipedia), which was a short 10 minute walk from out hostel just east of the Mitte area of Berlin. The East Side Gallery is a section of the Berlin Wall that was dedicated as an art gallery. A number of years ago, artists were invited from all over the world to paint a section of the wall. The wall which once symbolized oppression of the people of the GDR has now become a canvas for beautiful art. Here are a few pictures that Anjli and I took at the wall.

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We happened to chance upon a piece that was currently being worked on by artists. Anjli and I snapped a few photos. Check them out.

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Just from walking around Berlin, we saw so many incredible pieces of graffiti art. Here are a few more that we found in random streets around Berlin, including a beautiful piece depicting Anne Frank smiling.

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Anjli and I walked along the wall checking out other pieces before making our way to the train station to head on over to the Memorial of the Berilin Wall (Tripadvisor Page). We visited Bernauer Strasse, a subway station that was closed up at the time of the building of the wall. We read about how families, friends and even spouses were separated forever almost overnight with the closing of the border between West Berlin and East Berlin (GDR). We also read about attempts made by people to escape via tunnels, running across the so-called “Death Strip” (Space between the inner and outer walls). Here is a picture of a preserved cross-section of what the wall used to look like when it was operational

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There were markers in the ground at the memorial where tunnels were dug to escape the GDR and where the wall once stood. One family even built a home made hot air balloon to escape to the West. The memorial also listed the names of over a hundred people that lost there lives trying to escape during the almost 30 years that the wall stood.

On Day 3, we visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (Wikipedia), the first of the many concentration camps installed by the Nazis. I will not write about it here because it’s frankly too emotionally draining to recall the cold October day we spent there walking the grounds, reading, learning and reflecting about the lives lost there. I will say that no trip to Berlin is complete without visiting here.

That wrapped up our trip to Berlin. We spent time exploring Hackesher Market and the many alleys, bars, restaurants and street graffiti. We had an amazing time in Berlin. Definitely a highlight of our trip so far. Our time in Berlin was up and Copenhagen was calling our name.

Cheers,

-Rajat

Living in the shadow of an 800 year old church, dining at a 400 year old restaurant! Who do we think we are!?

October 11th – 16th, 2013

Those were the highlights of our trip to Poland! Many friends asked us why we traveled to Poland instead of other countries in Europe. Our dear friend Zbig, who is our neighbor in Seattle, has been inviting us to his home in Warsaw for a couple of years now. We had to begin the international chapter of our trip with him!

Zbig, Nika and family are some of the most intellectual, generous folks that Raj and I know and the most gracious hosts! We spent our time with them in Warsaw and a little town by the name Bukwald near Olsztyn in the Varmia region. In Bukwald, we spent most of our time hanging out by the lake, eating like we hadn’t seen food in a week and drinking yummy wines! We also went mushroom hunting and explored the woods around the lake. Zbig had been urging us to visit in the summer so we could swim in the lake – we’ll have to go back in the next couple of years! However, fall had its own appeal with beautiful colored leaves, mushrooms aplenty and an excuse to hang out and chat by the fireplace.

We spent just one day in Warsaw but only now, as I write this post, I realize how much Zbig made us do in that one day :). We started off with a nice walk in the Royal Lazienki museum (wikipedia) where Polish royalty lived over the centuries. We got to tour the bath house (note – not a bath ’room’ but a bath ‘house’!), a painting room where every wall was adorned with multiple paintings from floor to ceiling, and admire the skillfully carved marble structures across the many rooms in the mansion.

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We then took off to a fairly new museum dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising towards the end of World War II, in which the brave Polish people of Warsaw led an uprising against the Nazi occupation. The Polish failed miserably since they had no support from any of the Allies – most of the city was destroyed and 180,000 civilians including doctors, lawyers, intellectuals and philosophers lost their lives. Many were sent to concentration camps. There still exists a debate today on whether the Warsaw Uprsing was a good idea given the probability of success and the extensive tragedy. Fascinating, albeit sad, piece of history!

On hearing these stories, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with the India-Pakistan war. One of the major differences, of course, is that Poland and Germany have excellent relationships today. On pondering and brainstorming about why that is, I came to the conclusion that it’s because the Germans apologized profusely aghast at the damage caused by their own kin, and the Polish forgave and moved on to build a strong economy.

From the museum, we headed over to old town. It’s pretty amazing how the buildings and forts have been restored to their glory before the destruction in World War II. This is something I really appreciated about Poland – the people’s pride in their country and their effort to restore the city. Zbig took us to the oldest restaurant in Warsaw, just 400 years old! (Note my sarcasm? That’s older than the United States of America!) While the main floor of the building was restored to resemble what it looked like before the destruction, an original narrow circular stairwell took you down to the basement which had more tables, bathrooms and wine cellars. The authentic Polish meal at this exclusive restaurant was an experience we won’t forget for a long time! Thank you Zbig!

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We spent our last three days in Poland in the northern city of Gdansk, by the Baltic Sea. World War II started because of a dispute over the control of this port town – the place where the first shots were fired is now a memorial. The Solidarity movement, that brought democracy to communist Poland, also began here. Now, a beautiful, lazy old town with churches galore, cobblestone streets, window shopping for amber jewelry, and a bunch of people watching, Gdansk was just what we needed to get over jetlag and the hustle of traveling (refer to the previous blog post ;)).

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Watching people walk around in Poland was like sitting on the side of a runway – people seemed to be dressed in some of their best clothes, most women in skinny pants, ankle boots and fitted leather jackets. Raj and I were probably the most under dressed tourists, not to mention seemingly the only non-white ones. The lack of diversity really stood out to me! We saw just one other brown man and one Asian woman over the course of three days.

We were lucky to find an apartment on the famous St. Mary’s street named after the spectacular St. Mary’s church, supposedly the largest brick building church in the world that can accommodate 25000 people! Its construction began in the 12th century and was completed in the 15th century! The street allowed just pedestrians and was lined with shops that sold amber jewelry – what a tease! We stayed on the 3rd floor of the building in the picture.

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We climbed the 400+ steps of the St. Mary’s church to get to the roof of the 78m tower for some pretty awesome views of the city and surrounding area! Raj was huffing and puffing on his way up 😛

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We were also lucky to catch an organ performance at the beautiful Oliwa (pronounced Oli-fa) cathedral. The gigantic organ was built right over the tall entrance over the church so that you had to look behind you to view it if you were facing the altar. Interestingly enough, you couldn’t view the nuns who were playing the organ almost like they were no name artists and the only reason there was any music was to focus on your prayers. The acoustics in this church were fantastic.

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We really wanted to visit Krakow in the south and pay our respects at the Auschwitz concentration camp memorial, but it would have involved a lot of driving. We’ll definitely visit that area the next time we are in Poland!

Nazdrovia! (Cheers in Polish)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles…and Ferries and Buses (Honolulu to Warsaw)

October 8th – 10th, 2013

Have you ever realized after doing something that you’re a complete idiot? I mean just downright stupid and you hate yourself for doing it but feel that because you’ve displayed such lack of intelligence that you probably deserve the suffering that you’re experiencing? I felt like a monumental idiot after planning our commute from Honolulu to Warsaw. While Anjli won’t confirm my feelings, I know in her heart, she concurs 😉 Let me explain.

Our commute from Honolulu to Warsaw included 4 flights, averaging 6 hours each, an 8 hour bus ride, a 2 hour ferry ride and finally an 8 hour drive in a rental car. Not to mention a night’s stay in the Polish version of the hotel from Jack Nicholson’s The Shining.

We left Oahu on a flight headed for LAX on the night of Oct 8th, arriving in LAX on the morning of the 9th (my birthday). We spent much of my birthday on the flight from LAX to JFK and the Delta lounge at JFK Terminal 4. Took a luxurious shower at the lounge, followed by Vueve Cliquot and gelato! #balleronabudget

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Our next leg was from JFK – LHR, The plane was completely empty and Anjli and I grabbed a middle row each and slept most of the way to LHR. How in the world was the leg between the two busiest airports in the world so empty is something we didn’t understand but didn’t complain about either! The sweet flight attendant brought us some chocolate cake for my birthday! 🙂

While the stop over at LHR was fairly long, there was a lot going on! We had to make sure Anjli could check-in for the flight to CPH without much hassle. She’s still a FOB, you see 🙂 What I mean is she has the Indian passport and needed a UK visa to easily go to landside to check-in for our flight which was on a different itinerary. Long story short – we checked into the new terminal only to discover that the lounge we had access to was at the previous terminal. Worst airport ever!

In all the hustle bustle, I booked us on a bus to Berlin from Copenhagen for the wrong date! There was some weird rental car rules in the area about which city you could rent a car from which dictated which borders you could cross, so we planned to rent a car from Berlin to drive into Poland. So there we were, 7 hours later, walking through a dark alley in downtown Copenhagen at 6am trying to find the bus leaving on that morning, hoping we could convince the bus driver to let us on the bus. We were fortunate and 2 seats opened up. Here’s Anjli giving the thumbs up celebrating after the bus started moving.

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The bus drove for 3 hours from Copenhagen to a town on the south coast of Denmark called Gedser, from where we hopped a ferry to Rostock, Germany. Running on fumes of sleep, Anjli and I Indulged in the breakfast buffet on the ferry. The food was delicious and we even pocketed a couple of sandwiches for our drive to Warsaw.

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Anjli promptly proceeded to pass out after the meal.

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After two hours on the ferry, we arrived in Rostock, Germany, a small port town on the north coast of Germany.

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Just a beautiful European city.

Surprisingly, we did not have to go through immigration as Germany and Denmark are both a part of the Schengen area. We hopped back on the bus and went straight to Berlin.

After 3 hours of hassling with the different car companies at the Berlin airport, we finally had a car and were on our way to Warsaw. After we crossed the border in to Poland and had driven about 300 KM, I really started to feel the jetlag, Anjli forced me to pull in to a truck stop and we checked in to a shady looking hotel that had all the lights turned off and was just down right creepy. While walking to our room, I seriously thought Jack Nicholson would be waiting for us with an axe around every corner.

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But for 30 Euro, we got a clean bed and breakfast in the morning.  We drove the remaining 230 KM to Warsaw to meet our friend Zbig and were greeted by his cats Kobuz, Lenka and Dominic. Here’s a picture of Anjli and Kobuz

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Moral of the story, keep your travel schedule as simple as possible. sometimes it’s worth the extra few hundred dollars to reduce total travel time. Still, I feel like we had some interesting adventures along the way. Anjli may disagree though.

Til next time.

Cheers,

-Rajat

O beautiful Oahu!

October 3rd – 8th, 2013

We’re in Hawaii! Man, do we love this place! Raj and I often fantasize about what it would be like to live on one of the Hawaiian islands, what we would do for a living, whether we would have beach bodies 😉 and how we’d deal with the tourists!

I’ve been eating a bunch of tuna poke (so much that my tummy hurts) and Raj has been drinking local beer like a fish – he claims that he won’t get good beer while we’re in Asia!

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We are staying in a vacation rental condo with a view of the ocean in Waikiki. This luxury is not going to last long though since we’re going to have to keep a close watch on our spending when we head to Europe in a couple of days. One of our goals during this time off is to try and get as much luxury as possible without breaking the bank – I call this being a #balleronabudget 🙂

We haven’t explored the island a whole lot yet, but from first impressions I think I preferred the laid-back culture and the green lushness of Maui. Oahu (specifically Honolulu) has a lot of concrete and wayyyy too many tourists who seem to be here to shop at high-end retail stores. We are headed to North Shore tomorrow so let’s see if my impression changes. We’ve done a bunch of touristy things already:

– soaked in the sun on the beach at Hanauma Bay. Beautiful crater that got filled in by the ocean. Absolutely visit here if you’re going to be in Oahu. Here are some photos from bing: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=hanauma+bay. My photos don’t do this place any justice.

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– Pali lookout. Crazy how the side of a volcano caved in into the ocean! A bunch of scenes from The Lost were filmed here.

– Hiked a trail off of the Pali lookout. We were trying to find the Likeke falls but went up the wrong trail. Fail! The only win was plucking out guavas from the guava trees that seemed to be growing like weed in the forest! Raj was pretty happy with the guavas!

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– Hiked to the top of the Diamond Head Crater. Walked hella fast part of the way to beat a poor, fat kid who was unaware that he was on a race to the top with me 😉

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Our return tickets in March are also through Honolulu and we’re planning to spend some time in Hawaii before heading back to Seattle. Although I think we’ll head to Kauai instead of hanging out in Oahu. So, for family and friends, who can’t visit us in Asia, think about visiting us in Kauai in March (20th onwards)!

Aloha!