mark twain says:

"travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."

4.24.2010

back in texas. much too early.

sadly the volcano destroyed half of our trip. we got flights from delhi to chicago and now we are back in dallas. the airport was quite a good example of what hell might look like. it took well over two hours to get through all the different security steps and its honestly remarkable that we made it through on time. we learned that the delhi airport recommends their passengers arrive 4.5 hours early. its really amazing. even more amazing, we were seconds from taking off into the air when the plane slowed way down and we turned back. the pilot came on and announced that the ground crew failed to refuel the plane so we had to go back. seriously? so after putting on some more fuel, we finally took off (two and a half hours late). the flight was 15 hours and i slept for 11 of them (thanks to sleep aid). unfortunately the delay on the runway caused us to miss our flight to dallas. andrew and i instantly started really appreciating o'hare's organization in light of the mess in delhi. the nice man at the american airlines counter put us on the next flight without a hesitation and a couple hours late we were back in d-town. jet lag has been crazy exhausting. in between not being able to sleep and falling asleep standing up, i have been eating mexican food and doing very little. today andrew and i are going to go out to the lake and spend a night or two chilling before we head back to austin and jump back into real life. we are unbelievably disappointed that we will be missing our 4 weeks in europe, but we are so happy that the worst case scenario never got anywhere near us. thousands of people got stuck in airports and i can't imagine what it must have felt like to those people that were kept away from important moments in their own and their families lives. we got to see three amazing parts of the world that are far away and rare sights to many people. we loved more than anything knowing that all our friends and family could watch our pictures and read our stories while we were away, and we hope that more traveling in the future can keep the blog running. we can't thank everyone enough for reading it- its no fun to write if no one reads it. i guess for now i'll get back to the toby the dog blog, but as soon as we go somewhere else, i will get back to the travel blog! thanks again for caring about our trip- can't wait to see everyone back in austin- and to everyone in europe/new york that we didn't get to, i hope we make it back there soon!!
until our next series of travel stories- peace to all.

4.17.2010

sixty-two days minus some...

i'm sure you have all heard by now. there is a volcano that erupted in iceland. we have been watching it quite closely for the last week, and things are rapidly getting worse. airlines are completely shutting down, and a huge part of the world is trapped in by ash. we are currently waiting to see where planes are still even flying to and if there is a route that we can take home. so for now the options are this: go back the way we came or keep going west, but head south through africa and south america. and we don't get to pick. so everyone keep their fingers crossed that this gets worked out and we may be seeing you guys sooner than we thought! pretty big sad face that we aren't going to see the rest of our trip, but this is affecting so many thousands of people and the fact that we aren't sleeping in a starbucks in jfk airport is the best present india could possibly give us. i will keep everyone updated! we are in delhi until further notice- but are bags are ready in case of a last minute flight. love you all/best of luck to anyone trying to get out of europe.

4.16.2010

just a quick story

well hello again to all! we are wrapping things up in delhi. our stay in india is coming to a close soon, so we are spending our last few days getting ready to ship out. sarah will also be moving back to the states and when she leaves with us she will also be saying goodbye to india. ps- everyone congratulate her- she is officially going to yale once back in america! we are so proud of her!!
this trip to india couldn't have gone better. we have gotten to see and do so many things! unfortunately the last few days here are unbelievably hot. today was 112 (45 celsius). hello!! we have also been trying to do all the india shopping we needed to do, and we will be mailing an enormous duffle bag back tomorrow. heather- you are not allowed to open it, it contains your gifts.
i haven't been taking many pictures because we have just been running errands and trying to avoid the heat. this sadly means i have very little to blog about. however, i will give you a brief story of something we witnessed yesterday. there was a man on his motorcycle that was trying to cut through a part of the street that was blocked off. everyone does this constantly and tons of other guys were zooming around him, but for some reason the security man got mad at this one guy. he put his hand out in front of him and the motorcycle man kept rolling forward. the security man then promptly took the key out of the bike and threw it a few meters. we witnessed all of this while zooming past him in an auto. hilarious.
sarah also took us to a place that has vintage sarees (or sari- either way works i think). they are beautiful and like 50 years old. we pulled out tons and picked some to take home. once home with them, sarah showed me how to wear one. she claims that she isn't very good at it, but i think this photo proves otherwise.

so thats me looking very indian. all is great here and despite the heat we are still having
a wonderful time! miss you guys lots! xoxo

4.15.2010

jain temple in ranakpur

on the third day of our travel to rajasthan, sarah wanted to take us to a place a few hours away to see a jain temple made entirely of white marble. the driver from our hotel took us for the day. it was about a two hour ride there and a two hour ride back. and our driver? he was a talker. he wanted to ask all kinds of questions! andrew made the grave error of telling him i was his girlfriend rather than his wife, and that stirred up a whole load of questioning. "what year you marry madam? how long you have been knowing madam? where does madam live? is she a good cook?" all the while i am sitting in the back of the car listening to andrew field these humorous questions. eventually we got off the topic of madam and when she will be married to "boss" and he started telling us stories of animals in india that he had encountered. he lives on a farm with his family for part of the week and told us a story of a panther sneaking in once to eat a cow. then he told us about a monkey that snatched someones tiny baby and took it into a tree! (you can decide for yourself how much truth is in these stories) he also told us one about a tiger that slept on his car and made someone "go toilet."
our driver also kept telling us about a kind of whiskey that is made from flower/berry things that grow on a certain type of tree. it is very powerful and very illegal. he told us "one drink of it and you will be sleeping all day." then we drove past a woman with a large basket full of them on her head. he pulled up next to her and yelled in hindi that we wanted to see a handful of them. she handed some through the window and our driver promptly drove off, leaving the woman screaming behind us (wanting to be compensated for her handful of flowers). we each sampled one of them and they taste kind of like a less delicious version of honey. a bitter honey perhaps. we will not get to sample their beverage, but here is what they look like.
finally we arrived at the temple. keep in mind that it is super hot at this point and that is why i look red. we ditched our shoes at the door and started into the marble structure.
here is just a sample of what it looks like inside. incredible right? literally everything is made of carved marble. huge pieces stuck together- each with a design carved in. and this temple was huge! dozens of pillars and rooms.
we were in awe of how beautiful this place is. the ceilings were just as beautiful as the walls- maybe more!
my feets on the marble.
here is another beautiful piece. it is so intricate! it also had a brother piece on the other side of this doorway. i cannot imagine the amount of time that was poured into this place.
here's andrew with an elephant he liked. there were quite a few elephants which i believe are a symbol for good luck. unfortunately i have seen zero living elephants and this makes me sad.
here is the two of us- enjoying our stroll through this magical place.
like i said, it was hot, so we took a sit with an elephant.
this one was super creepy. it is still pretty of course, but each of these people had their eyes painted on and they looked like they might jump out and yell at you.
this was my favorite piece. it was on the ceiling just above the entrance. seriously, you need to click on it and look at the details. its beautiful.
and finally, some more columns. you can see some of the marble's age here on the left.
just as we were leaving, a large tour bus full of "whites" pulled up and unloaded on the temple. we were happy that we missed this event, but it was humorous to watch. they were all stressed about where to put their shoes, and one man was shaving his mustache for an unknown reason.
here is andrew taking in the view of the temple.
and here are some lovely ladies in front of us that were going to pray at the temple. they made fun of us until sarah complimented them. then they liked us.
we were really glad we came to see this, even though it took a bit of a drive to get there. after this day, we flew back to delhi and i don't have many photos of that day. since getting back we have just been shopping and relaxing. we are going to cook spaghetti tonight for dinner (per andrew's request). i also got to pick up my dresses i had made today and i am so in love with them! hurrah for india's fine tailors. this is all i have for now! hopefully i can show you more soon. thanks as always for reading! love x
ps- i have to confess to everyone (mostly haley) that i fell down sarah's concrete stairs yesterday. i was holding a glass of water that i attempted to save. didn't drop it till the very end of the fall (so it still broke) and i now have the most gigantic bruise ever on my leg and back. i am an oaf. and this fall down the stairs involved no alcohol whatsoever.

4.14.2010

seeing the palace, seeing the bats, seeing the temperature rise

friends. let me say now, if you love me at all, be happy you are reading this. we just got back from udaipur and i honestly wasn't sure if we would make it off the flight home alive. i will also say that i in no way could ever recommend anyone fly kingfisher airlines. our pilots this evening flew the plane in a fashion similar to how indian taxis are driven. at one point we made such a sharp turn in the air that we fell quite a ways through the clouds. i also had the joy of sitting in front of a two year old child that did not stop screaming once. when we came in to land, the pilots thought a quick nose dive toward the ground would be the most efficient method, followed by a very shaky landing, and then a 20 minute taxi to the "gate" (and by gate i mean random spot where the bus picks us up). everyone on the plane was glad to be back on the ground and away from the flight attendant that was unusually persistent about keeping the "no electronics, keep window shades up, turn off cell phones, etc." rules. of course all the good prepaid taxi services were full up so we took the crazy one. the kid that drove us home went a million miles an hour and i think someone likened it to mario cart (the racing video game- for all the old people reading this).
either way, we are back home in delhi now and the nausea is slowly subsiding. i have so much to tell you! we have just come from udaipur, in rajasthan, and it was really wonderful. though we are happy to be back in our familiar space, we couldn't have asked for a nicer four day trip. unfortunately, once again, internet was a bit shaky. after my birthday we had next to no internet access, so i wasn't able to blog for you. i'll show you some photos now and try and catch you up!
we began our second day here with a few rounds of gin (the game) in a cafe that has clearly been recommended by lonely planet's guide to india. i know this because it is full of white people.
andrew and sarah spent the day out and about and i spent the day feeling ill. blah. that evening, however, we went out for dinner at the hotel next door (also on roof) and it was quite lovely. we had a beautiful view of the sunset!
we also got to sample their cocktails. andrews is a warm bloody mary and mine is a screwdriver with the pepper from the bloody mary all over it. yum! (sarcastic yum)
heres me. my face is this red most of every day. it is really hot. back behind me you can see lots of the other hotels and stuff and in the way way back you can see the palace that i will show you next!
the next morning we woke up and walked to the palace. they offer a boat tour of the lake with a stop off at another palace for a water break and quick tour. while waiting for our boat, we noticed the trees were absolutely full of the most gigantic bats i have ever seen. remember this photo, because i will show you more bat things in a bit.
here is the result of the bats not doing a very good job. i am covered from head to toe with mosquito bites! good thing i'm completely immune to all diseases transmitted by mosquitos! knock. on. wood. i'm obviously kidding, but the only symptom i'm currently feeling is itchyness so i think i'm ok.
here we are setting off on the boat tour! sarah and andrew are looking good and we are all happy to be on the water! i need to also tell you that i did not thoroughly think through my dress choice on this day. i wore something with a low back and apparently indian men don't see a lot of women with tattoos. basically the guys behind me wouldn't stop photographing me.
this fellow was going crazy trying to get photos of us and my back so finally i turned around and told him he could have a photo of me, but i was taking one of him in return. you can see his friend in the way back thinking its funny and taking a photo for himself.
here is the friend again. he walked up to our seats and when i caught him taking our photo secretly, he pretended he was just trying to snap a shot of the palace. so i took a picture of him. blah blah, anyway. white people are a novelty i guess.
here we are at our little break place. we picked some pretty flowers that smelled nice.
i forced everyone into another group shot. the elephant behind us is one of very many and they are pretty.
after the boat ride, we bought tickets to get into the palace pool! it was so great to swim! it has gotten really hot here. i think its actually hotter than usual. today was about 41 degrees celsius, which i think is about 105 fahrenheit. delhi is even hotter and should be in the 112 range (f) by the weekend! exciting. here you can see the heat getting to andrew- when its 41 you just can't play cards. you actually can't do much of any movement in my opinion.
heres me in the pool! i quite love swimming and the water was super cold. i stayed in for a long time- basically until the french guy in a speedo started doing laps. then i got out.
sarah and i ordered some lovely drinks. mine is a blue lagoon which involves vodka, and sarahs is a pink gin, which involves rose water. both delish, and both pretty to photo.
while looking in the menu of drink options, we came across this little fact about whiskies! funny, i did not even know these things about american whiskies! i think that is possibly because there is nothing elegant or developed about jack daniels at all!
and finally, here is the pool with the beautiful pink flowers around it. the whole place was lovely.
that evening, we went to our own hotel's rooftop to watch the bats and the sunset. here i am trying to show you the other rooftops. it looks like aladdin.
here is the beautiful view of the sunset! and then came the bats....
there were thousands! and they are seriously enormous. i can't even really explain how cool it is. it makes austin's little bat parade seem very silly. but i still love you austin!

i want to post the rest of the photos but it is almost one in the morning here and i am getting really sleepy. i will post more as soon as i wake up so don't forget to check back! still missing all of you guys- still thinking of everyone every single time i take a photo! until next time- peace and love to all from india!

4.11.2010

birthday dinner at a palace

on the evening of my birthday, we got cleaned up and drove over to a palace on the other side of the lake. here is me out on our little balcony waiting for my hair to dry while watching the sun go down.
our driver pulled us up to the gate of the palace hotel and we had to do some negotiating with the guards out front. we had not made a reservation because we are far from their busy season and there are like 3 people staying at each hotel in udaipur. unfortunately we had forgotten about the terrorist attacks that happened in mumbai and for this reason hotel security is way high. they were on the edge about letting us in without a reservation, but our driver was really really sweet and told the guards that it was my birthday and we really wanted to have dinner here. they relented and let us in to the hotel. we pulled up to the most beautiful place imaginable! it is so ornate and beautiful down to every single detail. before we had dinner, we went to a little room in the bar area and had a bottle of champagne! hurrah! champagne is my favorite and it was especially good this night. and yes, i brought my birthday rock. don't make fun of me- its the only day of the year that i can carry it around.
here is champagne and rock together. happy birth day!
with our champagne we ordered some salmon appetizers that were too good to explain. and yes i ate two despite their wheat bottoms. and yes, my body disagreed with this decision, but you needn't know the repercussions.
once it was time for dinner we were led down into a beautiful garden area outside. there were candles all over the place and a pond ran around it. at the front, there was a stage-ish thing that indian musicians came and played on. they used lots of instruments that i have never seen or heard before and it was so nice to eat with this in the background. this musician was particularly happy about my birthday and he kept smiling and putting his hands up. it was really nice.
we ordered a bottle of australian wine that was perfectly wonderful. and dinner was also amazing.
on our way out i tried to snap some photos so you could see how pretty this place was, but it was really dark and hard to see very well in the photos. this is the entry way into the actual hotel, just past a huge garden. it seriously feels like aladdin in here. you can see on the left and right these beautiful designs that i believe are made of silver. they were everywhere. the fountain in the middle had pink flowers floating on top that smelled really lovely.
and this is the view of the front that i took while we were waiting for our driver. there are pools all around the entrance and at night they reflect so perfectly. it was magical!
basically i had the greatest indian birthday you could imagine! i was so happy to have andrew and sarah to share it with me. we will now spend a few more days in udaipur until we travel back to delhi. thanks again to everyone that sent me birthday wishes! its so nice to hear from everyone when we are so far away! i love you all! (and to whoever is reading this that may see toby soon- give him a hug from me please)

4.10.2010

the most beautiful place for a birthday

hello to all and sorry for the lack of blog the last few days. we had quite a time getting back to delhi! lets just say, everyone consumed something bad at one point or another and we had a long journey to get back home. we had a long car ride to the airport, got there earlier than expected, had to sit in a million degree airport restaurant for 3 hours, and then had to fly home on spice jet and battle masses of humans. not to mention the drive back to sarah's apartment. andrew had a really high fever for almost all of this and sarah started vomiting profusely as soon as we landed the airplane. and i was just kind of blah for a while. basically, we slept and attempted to eat on our day back in delhi. luckily it only lasted about 24 hours and we recovered just in time to leave. this morning we woke up at 3 am for a 5:30 flight to udaipur! and let me say, 3 am came very early.
but it is now officially my birthday!! and andrew put this on my pillow when i woke up! he bought it somewhere on our travels about india, and i really like it because it says birth day as if they are two separate words (a lot of signs do that here- example: well come). andrew always knows how to make me happy on my birthday and thats one of the reasons why i love him so much. he has also arranged for a special birthday dinner for the two of us once in paris, which i am very excited about! birthdays are great days. its like the one day out of the year that you feel totally ok about throwing a party and demanding everyone notice you! today is my day and i have done my demanding. i got lots of birthday love from my family and friends via phone and internet.
now i will show you the amazing place we get to spend the next four days! this is our hotel room! you can see behind us there is a bedroom and behind that is a huge beautiful bathroom. the room we are in is like the extra bed/movie watching zone. we have already tackled the hangover and laughed ourselves to tears all over again. we bought a stack of movies at the airport so we will have something to watch every night. this list includes octopussy (the james bond that was filmed in udaipur) a must see.
this big floor mat sleeping pillow place is great and comfy. and you can see andrew is relaxed.
i kind of loaded these photos in backward order. this is right when we arrived, but this is the main bedroom. out the blue room with the pillow covered mat there is a little alcove with a window and a small balcony. it looks out onto the lake which i will show you soon!
right after we arrived, our room was not quite ready (it was only 8am). the incredibly nice hotel manager/owner/man in charge sent us up to the rooftop dining area for tea and breakfast. and oh my goodness it is amazing up there!
this is from the roof looking down into the hotel. our room is over there on the right.
this is one end of our lake view. after the monsoon this will be all full but we are just before the rain starts so its pretty dried up. but dried up shmied up, it is beautiful.
this is the other end of the view from the roof! there are flowers all over the place and you feel like you are right on the water! that is a palace out there sitting on the water. it is a hotel for people that have many more rupees to spend than we do, but it is pretty to look at.
that is all for now! we are currently napping and resting for our dinner out tonight. thanks for everyone's birthday wishes- i know we will have a fun night tonight!

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