This and That

December 27, 2007

Kite Runner

Filed under: books — Tags: , — yaadayaada @ 4:49 am

No book has affected me this much in a long time. Amazing book. Couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. Feels like I lived through it. Though I am not from Afghanistan, still could identify with the storyline at so many levels!

What else can I say? An amazing book!

 Can’t wait for Boo to come back from her vacation so that I can discuss it with her!

December 25, 2007

Saththam Podadhey

Filed under: movie — Tags: , , — yaadayaada @ 10:26 pm

Movie: Saththam Podadhey

Cast: Prithviraj, PadmaPriya,Nithin Sathya and others

Director: Vasanth

Venue: At utbt‘s place

Notes: Was a pretty good movie. The songs were totally unnecessary. PadmaPriya and Nithin Sathya have acted very well. A refreshing story line in the middle of same old movies.

Update: Watched the movie again with husband and noticed that Chinmayi  has dubbed for PadmaPriya. Chinmayi has done a wonderful job.

December 19, 2007

Cancun – The Final Day

Filed under: travelogue — Tags: , , , , — yaadayaada @ 12:26 am

On the last day, we got up, packed our stuff, went down to the beach to absorb as much beauty as we can. Then went to 100% Natural restaurant for breakfast. Had the sandwich and wheat pancakes and some veggie juice. It was pretty good. But the service that day wasn’t very good. They brought the sandwich with the meat while we had ordered the vegetarian sandwich. They forgot to bring the syrup for pancake. When I asked, they did not understand, and finally when they brought it, I was almost done. But I am willing to let it slide assuming it was just a bad day. Then walked over to the flea market to pick up a magnet. The shopkeepers were trying to lure people in. They asked 10USD for a simple tiny magnet. Had to haggle a lot and finally a storekeeper gave it to me for 2USD after warning me that I don’t tell this to anyone. Came back to the hotel, relaxed a bit in the beach and the set out for our trip back home. The valet picked our baggages, and our car was waiting and we left for the aiport at around 1pm. Our flight was at around 4pm. Once we arrived at the airport, the porters where trying to carry our baggages. Shooed them away since the check in is right inside the place where the taxi dropped us. After checking in, browsed some souvenier shop and picked up another magnet. The prize was very reasonable there.

Thought we would pick up some food in the airport. But there weren’t any vegetarian option. They had some chinese, mexican, american food. They were atrociously expensive. We bought a bottle of water for 3$ and a 3 onion rings and 25 pieces of Potato fries for 5$ and shared it since the ice cream was 8$ for a couple of scoops. The flight back was ok. We stopped over in Phoenix, so grabbed dinner there and came back home at around midnight. Thus ended our wonderful vacation!

You can see the first 5 parts here: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Day 5

December 18, 2007

Airport Security and Liquid restrictions

Filed under: airport, security — Tags: , , — yaadayaada @ 11:53 pm

The airports have funny security. You cannot carry liquids more than 100ml. Ok. That is simple right! But they do allow you to carry upto 2 litres of alcohol or big bottles of perfume if you are in an international flight and if you had purchased it in a duty free shop inside the airport. So someone buys couple of litres of alcohol or perfume on his/her way from Cancun, Mexico to New York and has a stop over in Phoenix. So from Cancun that person is allowed to carry the alcohol/perfume on board. Once he/she arrives in Phoenix, the security there will not allow him/her to carry the alcohol/perfume on board. What can one do in that situation. Throw the expensive liquor/perfume. Drink or spray it all. Either they allow or not allow. Or at least, they should tell while buying, that they won’t be allowed to carry it on board if they have a connecting flight. It is is just so crazy how this whole airport security operates. No wonder things like these happen.

December 9, 2007

Cancun Trip Day 5 – Tulum, Playa Del Carmen

Filed under: travelogue — Tags: , , , , — yaadayaada @ 8:06 pm

On Day 5, we got up and decided to go explore the Tulum ruins. We took the city bus to the central bus stand and from there took the Ado Bus to Tulum. The cost was 7.50USD per person. There are clean restrooms in the bus stand, but they charge you 3 pesos to use them. The bus’s AC is high, so it was quite a chilly ride. So it is better to take some shawl or sweater. Tulum is about 160kms from Cancun. We left around 9:15am and arrived at Tulum by 11:30am. Roamed aimlessly for a few minutes since the directions weren’t clear. On the parking lot there, there were some natives performing some dance/tricks. It was cool. Then finally went to the entrance of Tulum ruins. They have nice restrooms there. The enterance ticket is about 4USD and if you are carrying a video camera, it is an additional 4.50USD.

There is a huge wall surrounding the ruins. The walk to the enterance is beautiful. Once inside the campus, the views are just breathtaking. Every photograph taken here is a picture post card.

We did not hire a guide, so lonely planet was our guide. Thank God for lonely planet, what will I ever do without it. It really helped us in finding lot of info on public transportation. Thank you Lonely Planet!

Ok, back to Tulum. We roamed around the ruins. Saw the main castle, and also the little temples in cliffs overlooking the ocean. The ocean was just beautiful. People were relaxing the beaches. The following pictures will say it all.
Temples on the cliffs
Tulum Ruins 2
Palm tree pair
Tulum Ruins
Temples on the cliffs

Then we relaxed a bit having our packet rotis with Tomato pickel. Walked around some more marveling the beauty and then decided to take off. On the way out, saw a lot of huge iguanas.

Came out and had tender coconuts again. Then decided to leave Tulum by bus. Saw that there were many collectivo vans offering trips to Playa Del Carmen for 2 USD. Decided to take it up and went in the van. It was a nice experience. They are quite nice and comfortable. And he took about 60 minutes to get us to Playa Del Carmen. The van had about 10 people.

Playa Del Carmen was not bad. Has nice beaches. Very crowded. Lot of shopping area. Nothing special. Saw guys on street with spider monkeys and colorful iguanas asking for money to take pictures with them. We walked around the beach for sometime and came to the shopping area to return to Cancun. On the way, a girl persuaded me to braid my hair for 20 USD. On an impulse and I agreed, she was damn good and fast and in 3o minutes, I was transformed into this braided caribean girl much to the amusement of my husband.
Here it is at the request of utbt and ddmom:
Braided me

Left for Cancun by bus. The bus stand is close to the beaches. Again thanks go to Lonely Planet for the maps/directions/tips. Came back to hotel, changed and left for dinner.  Went to this restaurant 100% Natural in Kukulcan Blvd. It is opposite to the Market and Senor Frog. Pretty good food. They have lot of very nice fresh fruit/vegetable juices. They also have a good vegetarian selection of food. We had their tacos and echilladas. They were pretty good. The owner is a nice young lady, she was also eating there. So the food must be clean and good. Then came back and packed, since we were leaving the next day.

You can see the first 4 parts here: Day 1  Day 2 Day 3 Day 4

December 6, 2007

Cancun Trip Day 4 – Isla Mujeres

Filed under: travelogue — Tags: , , , , — yaadayaada @ 3:02 pm

On Day 4, we got up late, had breakfast. Sat in the beach reading books for sometime. Then decided to go to the island Isla Mujeres. Isla Mujeres is an island town very close to Cancun. Lot of tour companies offer trips to this island. But going by yourself is the most economical way. The tour company quoted 50USD for taking us there and dropping us and picking us back. On our own it took 8USD per person for the roundtrip.

 We took the city bus to the Puerto Juarez. From there took the ferry to Isla Mujeres. The island was very beautiful from the distance with the turquoise blue sea surrounding it. We arrived there around noon.

Once we arrived, the golf cart rental agents surrounded us. It was 45USD for the whole day.  Scooters for 25USD a day. We were contemplating and had tender coconut for 3.5USD. Then decided to take the taxi. Taxis typically charge you about 1.50 to 2$ to go from one end of the island to another. The driver Roalfo of Taxi cab number 18 seemed like a nice guy. We decided to visit the turtle farm first. On the way, we asked the driver if we could hire him for the rest of the day. He quoted around 20USD. We bargained for 15USD. He first took us to Turtle farm. It is a pretty decent place. They have turtles at different stages of their life: week old, month old, 6 months old etc. Since turtles are becoming endangered, they are having this sanctuary. The 2USD that we pay for enterance is used for their breeding. So it is well worth it.
Turtle Farm

Then our driver took us to the dolphinarium. Here they charge you about 100USD for close encounters with dolphin. Since we weren’t too keen, we did not go. Then the driver took us to a hotel where they had kept a couple of sand sharks by the ocean. Our driver paid the guy who was tending the sharks and that guy lifted the 3-4
feet shark for us to touch. It did feel like sand, maybe hence the name. 
Sand Shark

Then he took us to Playa Lancheros. They had ziplining there. But it was closed. It is closed on Mondays. The view is breathtaking.
Playa Lancheros

Then went to the Ruin of Mayan temple and the light house. We did not go to the temple since there is not much left of it since the hurricane. So climbed on top of the light house and got our pictures taken and also soaked in the beauty of the island.
View From LigthtHouse

Came down and had tender coconut. This was the sweetest that I ever had. Then off we left for the north beach(Punta Norte). On the way, our driver took us inside the town and showed the lake, his house, schools, etc. The north beach is nice but commercialized. There are a couple of bars and restaurants on the beach. People were relaxing on hammocks, cabanas, lounge chair with and without their swim wear. The sea there is very shallow and very clam. You can walk in the ocean for about 100 meters without any trouble. We changed into our swimwear and enjoyed the sea while our nice driver kept an eye on our valuables like camcorder, DSLR camera, wallets, purses, etc. Then he took us to the shopping area and we paid the driver 20USD since we were very happy with him and parted.

 Went to a juice bar and decided to have a fruit milk shake. I ordered a pineapple milkshake and husband ordered a banana milkshake. We saw the milkshake size and almost fainted. For total of 6USD, he had given us more than half a gallon of milkshake each. We managed to drink it and called it lunch.
Milkshake and me

Walked around the bazaar, exploring the shops. Bought some very nice top(spinning top, the top) for nieces/nephews. Then went back to the ferry dock and returned to Cancun. On the way back, the ferry played a familiar music to my surprise, guess what? They played AR Rahman’s Bombay theme music. I was all excited and refused to get down from the boat without finding out where they got the music from. Then mustered courage and knocked the captains room and asked him where he got the music. To my disappointment he tells me that someone wrote the songs for him in the CD and he doesn’t know about the origin but he sure loves the music. I was on cloud nine. It is always wonderful to see/hear desi stuff when you are in unknown land. Similar thing happenned to me in Cairns, Australia.

Came back all tired and relaxed in the hotel with my books gazing the moon and the ocean from my balcony. Then left for Las Isla Mall to grab dinner. Went to the La Casa de Las Margaritas Restaurant. The food was decent. The decor was very vibrant and colorful. It is worth the trip to just see the decor.
La Casa de Las Margaritas Restaurant

Came back to the hotel and called it a day!

You can see the first 3 parts here: Day 1  Day 2 Day 3

Cancun Trip Day 3

Filed under: travelogue — Tags: , , , , , — yaadayaada @ 2:42 pm

On Day 3, after the tiring day of Chitzen Itza, got up late and decided to do something on our own. Roamed around the beaches for sometime. Then spoke to the aquaworld representative at the Ritz and booked paradise snorkeling and submarie for the afternoon. Went for groceries and picked up some juices, Mango and Tamarind(Strange but not bad). Walked to Aqua world office about 20 minutes walk from the Ritz. The snorkeling/submarine combo trip was 50 USD per person. They provided drinks and lunch. Had cheese sandwich, fruits and soda. Then off we went in the boat with our snorkel gear and flippers. It was very nice to see that they give brand new snorkeling gear unlike other places like Hawai and Australia. We went through the mangrove forest in the boat. It was beautiful. We reached the submarine area. They took us in a subsee explorer. It was very nice to see the corals, fish, turtle, shark(It was apparently there, we missed it). Had a lot of fun for about 40 minutes. 
Subsee exploring Blue Fish

Then we left for snorkeling in a small boat. Once there we fitted ourselves with the swim gear and off we jumped into the ocean. The corals and fishes weren’t as abundant as we saw in Hawaii or Puerto Rico. No point comparing to Great Barrier Reef. But it was beautiful neverthless. First I saw a huge sting ray. Husband was upset he couldn’t see. Then saw whole bunch of fishes and corals. The fishes were so close to our face. Saw a lot of colorful parrot fish and some electric blue fish, whose name I don’t know about. It was beautiful. Came back to the boat for a drink and got back to the ocean again since hubby was upset since he didn’t get to see the sting ray. Went back again, saw some more fishes and on return saw a huge sting ray. The sting must have been about 4-5 feet. I was reminded about Crocodile man Steve Irwin. I swam back to the boat as if there is no tomorrow and hubby was laughing at me. It was a wonderful trip.
Near Snorkeling area

Then walked back to the hotel. Saw so many vadangai(Tropical Almond) trees on the way. I was reminded of my childhood when my sister boo, our friend V and I used to break these tropical almonds by 100s and eat. So sat by the side walk picking almonds and breaking them much to the amusement/embarassment of husband. He begged, pleaded and threatened me into going back to the hotel.

On the way picked up some snacks and vienetta ice cream(Thought will store in the fridge and eat it for dinner). Came back to the hotel to find that our fridge doesn’t have a freezer. Still stocked the big block of ice cream and went to the pool and jaccuzzi. Had fun seeing the almost full moon again. Had chappathis for dinner since we did not feel like going out.  Then decided to eat the ice cream, saw that it was 30% melted since it was not in the freezer. So decided to split the huge block into 2 and eat it. Sat in the bed eating. Was watching TV as well and by mistake sat on the beautiful ice cream soiling my night dress, bed sheets, carpets. Laughed a lot at my stupidity and called housekeeping to clean it up. Then we went out for a night walk by the beach. It was amazing walking in the beach with the full moon. It started drizzling slowly. Came back to the room and started raining. We called it a day and went to sleep in the cleaned room.

You can see the first 2 parts here: Day 1  Day 2

December 3, 2007

Cancun Trip Day 2 – Chitzen Itza

Filed under: travelogue — Tags: , , — yaadayaada @ 6:21 am

After Day 1, we got up early on Day 2 and got ready for Chitzen Itza. Packed some bread and jam for breakfast and rotis and tomato pickle for lunch. (Just as a safety in case we did not find anything vegetarian in the lunch buffet). A rickety old van came and picked us up from the hotel around 7:30am. The took us to the meeting place(Fat Tuesday near Embarcadero) from where the bus leaves. Left for Chitzen Itza in a comfortable luxury tour bus. Chitzen Itza is about 200 kms from Cancun. The guide was explaining about Mayan heritage and Chitzen Itza. The Greyline Volvo tour bus with panaromic windows went through the villages, forests for the next 3 hours to reach Mayaland hotel in Chitzen Itza. We saw a few Indians in the tour. A desi girl and her caucasian girl friend, a newly wed couple and big Gujarathi family. We had a nice lunch in the Mayaland hotel. They had some rice, potato, bread, lot of veg salad and fruit salads and desserts for the vegetarian. Some Mayan folks danced a traditional dance around us. It was entertaining.

Maya dance in Mayaland Hotel

 After that walked to the Chitzen Itza ruin from the Mayaland Hotel entrance. It was an amazing structure. The guide gave good account of the Mayan culture and some of their gory traditions. Saw the amazing pyramid, ballcourt, temple, Hall of pillars etc.
Chitzen Itza pyramid
Chitzen Itza Hall of Pillars

It was amazing to see the architecture. According to Hindu Mythology, Mayan is the architect of the heavens. Is he related to this Mayas???

 Mayans are one of the first to draft an accurate calendar. Their calendar ends on Dec 21st 2012. So some people believe that the world will come to end on that day.

Then did some shopping. There were many Mayans selling the Mayan calendar replicas, magnets, wooden masks, wooded animals, etc. You have to haggle for everything. For instance, they quoted 80 pesos for a bookmark and I haggled & bought 5 for 100 pesos.

 Came back and saw a beautiful peacock roaming in the Mayaland hotel and off we left. There was a Texan couple sitting in front of us in the bus getting drunk and dancing to the songs while sitting. It was funny watching them. Then there was this other middle-aged couple who were always making out across us. I firmly believe that they are having an affair since I have never seen married couple mbaking out in public.. 🙂 So it was an interesting ride back. Came home late, had some chappathis and went to bed. It was amazing to see the full moon again. We were dead tired with all the walking in the ruins. They have banned people from climbing the pyramid. I guess we would have been dead if we had to climb it.

Cancun Trip Day 1

Filed under: travelogue — Tags: , , , , — yaadayaada @ 2:33 am

Went to Cancun, Mexico for a vacation last week. Had great fun. The weather was wonderful. No need for sweaters/jackets. Warm and nice. Out came the swimwear, shorts and capris. After a 6 hour flight plus 2 hour layover in Mexico city, reached Cancun around noon. Our car driver was waiting. He took the baggages from us and drove us to our hotel, The Ritz Carlton, Cancun. We could see the turquoise caribean sea during the drive. It was just breathtaking. The hotel was very nice. The bellboy brought our baggages. The receptionist welcomed us with a pina colada. It was just heaven. Our room had a beautiful view of the Sea and the swimming pool.

View from our balcony.

Our butler asked if we needed help with unpacking, since I was not keen on butler touching my undergarments, denied that service and unpacked it ourselves. Then we took off for a walk on the Kukulcan(The Plummet Serpent, Mayan God) Blvd in the Zona Hotelera.  Walked down to the Kukulcan plaza. It was a mall. Went to the subway and had a sandwich and had ice cream in Haagen-Daz. Then did some groceries. Bought some water and breakfast items since they were just ridiculously expensive in the hotel. 8$ for a bottle of water at the hotel while it is 2$ in the grocery shop. Then found a travel agent outside Royal Sands hotel and booked the Chitzen Itza trip with him for the next day.  It was 45$ per person.(Ritz quoted 100$ per person for the same).  Then came back to the hotel.

Went for a stroll in beach and sat in the lounge chairs enjoying the blue sea. Then had a swim in the beautiful pool. Got dressed and decided to go for dinner to some place. Opened the balcony door and what do we see, beautiful full moon rising from the ocean.

Full moon from the Balcony

It was just breathtaking. Then off we went for dinner to a Mexican restaurant, Casa Maguey in Kukulcan Plaza. The food was really good. The chef made vegetarian quessadilla and enchillada with poblana peppers, onions and squash blossom specially for us. The guacomole and chips were awesome. Even my lovely husband who doesn’t like avocado, went ga ga over the guacomole in that restaurant. A small mariachi band played song for us. It was fun. After a hearty meal walked back to our hotel(20 minutes walk). To our great surprise, the housekeeping service had performed the turndown service. Had kept a bottle of water on the bedside table, house slippers by the bed, bed was arranged ready to sleep, tranquil music playing in TV along with an aquarium screensaver in TV. We were super thrilled. Went to bed gazing the full moon and the ocean from the window since we had to start early for Chitzen Itza the next day.

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