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Traveling India Part I : Agra, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, and the Great Saam Desert

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“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

This post and the ones following are a long time in coming, but finally I’ve been given a moment of respite to get started on them. Though my third adventure in India is weeks over, I’m left – as always – with great memories of my travels.

This year my traveling bug was definitely more than satisfied. In February for my 30th birthday, I did what I love to do – travel and see new sights! This time I did it in the company of some awesome friends. Our week long adventure started with a very long train ride and then private bus to Agra to see the majestic and beautiful Taj Mahal. Now, I’ve seen this great moment before in 2011, but seeing it again in the morning light was a breathtaking experience.

Our bunk beds were very cosy! :-)

Our bunk beds were very cosy! 🙂

Early Morning shot of the amazing Taj Mahal.

Early Morning shot of the amazing Taj Mahal.

After the Taj Mahal visit, the next visit was to the Agra Fort, which was very close by. The fort has a very interesting history; one thing that stood out to me was that the fort actually housed the king who had the Taj Mahal built for his third wife. As the story goes the king had built the Taj for her and then his son threw him in jail after he bankrupted India to build the building. The king’s only request was that his prison have a window that let him see the Taj to be close to his love.

Entrance to the fort.

Entrance to the fort.

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First Inner court yard in the fort we passed by.

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Another portion of the fort.

I wasn't in the king's jail cell, but I'm figuring this is what it was sort of like. The Taj in the distance.

I wasn’t in the king’s jail cell, but I’m figuring this is what it was sort of like. The Taj in the distance.

The next city on our journey was Jodphur. Jodphur is the second largest metropolitan city in the state of Rajasthan. It is also often referred to as “the blue city” because many of the houses have blue roofs. Jodphur was a gorgeous city with a royal family and palace and an amazing fort as well. Food is also a big component of every state in India, so of course we had to have a traditional Rajasthani mean – it was as delicious as it looks here.

Jodphur Palace

Jodphur Palace – the royal family still live in one of the wings. The other part of the palace was made into a Taj Hotel.

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Another view of the palace – this is the part that is the Taj Hotel.

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Outside shot of the Jodphur Fort.

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Blue City – aptly named. Shot taken from the fort.

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Look at all the yummy food! It was delicious…well except for the buttermilk – I’m not a fan of that.

The next leg of our journey was to the reputed “Golden City” which is called Jaisalmer. This city use to the hub of commerce for India, because it was were the Silk Road passed through. Once the silk trade was done, many of the merchants moved out of this city and set up shop in Mumbai. This city too has a fort, but the most fascinating thing about this fort is that it is still lived in! It was very cool to see a fort being used the way it should be – to house as many families and business as possible!

Outside view of the fort.

Outside view of the fort.

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Shots of the inside of the fort. Lots of narrow and winding paths. Very interesting place.

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Pics of some locals, looking at the tourist. 🙂

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There is a sandstorm coming up in the background of this picture, but still a great shot of the “Golden City” city of Jaisalmer.

Finally we wrapped up our whirlwind of a trip going into the Great Saam desert for some camel riding and to ‘glamp’ in the sands. The tents that we stayed in were permanent and were very nicely set up. The camel riding was fun and memorable.

Permanent tents we slept in.

Permanent tents we slept in.

My camel and my driver.

My camel and my driver.

Selfie time! Also you can see some of my pals in the background.

Selfie time! Also you can see some of my pals in the background.

The people who led us to and from the camping site into the desert.

The people who led us to and from the camping site into the desert.

This camel wanted a break.

This camel wanted a break.

All in all not bad for a 4 day trip.

Next post will be about Mumbai!

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The More You Know: Food and Quirks in China

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“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” ~ James Beard

Well it’s hard to believe, but I’ve been in China for a little over a month already. A whole month! I’ve experienced many different things – all of them good (sort of) – and I’m looking forward to what the next two months bring before this chapter of Global MBA closes.

For those of you who know me well, you know that I love my food. Food is pretty much how I know I will be visiting a country again and again, because if the food is good – I’m going to go back for more.

China has some amazing food. If I’m not studying or traveling, I’m eating and trying out the local cuisine. However, local is such a deceiving word for a place as diverse as Shanghai. There are so many different regional cuisines from all parts of China that reside in this city of 23 million people. I’ve managed to find a couple of dishes that I keep going back to again and again, and I thought it is only fair to share a few with you.

#1 – Egg Pancake: AMAZING! I love, love, love egg pancake. I literally eat this almost every day for breakfast. Basically it’s like a large crepe, filled with egg, sweet and spicy sauce, garlic, lettuce and chives, and finally fried flour. It’s wrapped up, cooked in less than a minute, and eaten in the next 20 min by me. You must try this if you ever come to Shanghai.

#2 – Personal Hot Pot: Super Deliciousness!  Hot pot is basically soup with super fresh ingredients that you can pick yourself. There is a place not far from where I am staying this semester that has fresh vegetables and meats daily and then the hot pot is prepared on the spot while you wait. I think I’ve gone to this place like three days in a row; I can’t help it!

Personal hot pot: had two locks of noodles, and a basket of vegetables, with quail eggs. I love this so much!

Personal hot pot: had two locks of noodles, and a basket of vegetables, with quail eggs. I love this so much!

#3 Oh My Kebab! Chicken Pita: Yes I know Greek Chinese style – but it’s good! My yoga buddies and I found this place literally right across the street from Metro line 1: Hengshan Lu station, where we get off for our yoga studio. The meat that this place is super fresh (I eat the chicken), and the vegetables are delightful. A little pricey for China, but it’s a very yummy snack after yoga!

Oh My Kebab! Chicken Pita - looks good doesn't it?

Oh My Kebab! Chicken Pita – looks good doesn’t it?

There are many more dishes that I’ve tried, but these are my favorites. I’ll have to do yet another post on food, maybe at the end of my trip. I can’t say enough about the food here, but I can honestly say, I’m not starving!

Besides getting to know (and eat at) all the local places are the area, I’ve almost picked on a couple of little quirks that I’ve seen so far in China. I’m not sure if this is how it is everywhere, but here are the top 3 things I’ve noticed so far:

#1  Sidewalks are not only for walkers-they are also for bikes and mopeds: Even though there is a very good lane that is separated from the main street to use, bikers and moped riders love to literally ride down the sidewalks where people walk. They will either honk at your with their tiny moped horn or ring the bell on their bike incessantly until you move. You must get use to this and reign in the urge to push these people off their transportation contraption.

#2 When crossing the street – follow the locals. Otherwise, you will die of old age waiting to cross: When crossing the street you need to watch out for bicycles, mopeds, motored rickshaws, bike buggies, buses, and cars. Though there are working cross-walking signals, nobody uses them for one simple reason; they don’t matter. Cars, busses, mopeds, bicycles, everything and anything will continue to go on their way while you are trying to cross the street. Best way to cross is when there is an opening, no matter what. If you see the locals move – move!

#3 No smoking signs in a restaurant – people smoke anyway: As I understand it, it was made illegal to smoke in stores, restaurants, and other establishments in the last couple of years. From what I’ve seen, people follow this rule when they want to and ignore it the rest of the time. I’ve seen many a person just light a cigarette when there is a very blatant no smoking sign right in front of them. It’s really weird coming from the US where you can only smoke in designated areas, but it’s something that you become use to quickly here. I’m sure as the rule gets enforced more, things will change, but for right now – China is a smoker’s paradise.

I’m sure there are many more interesting little quirks, but I think these are the ones I’m usually laughing about and dealing with on a daily basis.

Now the fun is over – back to the grind! Until next time!

Quote: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_food.html#FLC8jsXM5GVhs3wi.99