Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The best of Tel-Aviv

The past summer has been ridiculously busy. Work has been very intense and I had quite a few visitors from all over.

Having visitors made my time very joyful. Since they came separately I found myself showing them the direction to the same places which all made their experience even nicer. It was a winning combination of great weather, food, music laughs and many good looking people (how superficial..)

So here I am writing a bunch of posts listing the nice places tourists might not get to without having local contacts. Whereas in many cities Lonely Planet is up-to-date; with constantly-changing Tel-Aviv it is just too difficult for them to keep up the pace.

So that what's coming soon...
It's all about food
Places I love
Night life

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Google Developer Day - Israel

Hey folks,

In case some of you might have missed the news that The Google developer day is hitting Israel early November.

It is a great opportunity to discover some of the neat features Google products can offer and cool mash-ups you can all create for your projects/businesses.

Open Social, Gears and AppEngine to mention a few will be presented there as well as mobile and Android. The sessions are going to be held by experts some of which you probably already heard of.

It is going to be an exciting day with superb networking opportunities in an Google style environment.

If you are a developer - don't miss it. It is of course free of charge.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Proud of Google and its founder

I've been active with the Gayglers shortly after joining Google. With an overwhelming company support I took the initiative and started our local Gayglers group which later on became very visible in Dublin Pride events. Many people were surprised for the support we received. For me it looked natural.

Today I found myself shocked with pride for Google's stand on Proposition 8 that was introduced to eliminate rights of same-sex couples to Marry.

Although this one deals with Californian legislation only it is just incredible the company's support for Human Rights and above all for Equality.

"It is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Amendment 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality...
we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love." by Sergey Brin on Google's official blog

From Dublin Parade 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Good-bye Iris

Saying good-bye is part of our life. When I was young saying good-bye used to be really difficult but growing older makes you strong and immune. With the globe shrinking and traveling is so much easier (let aside my carbon foot-print) meeting your friends is many times just few clicks away.

Last weekend my ex-flatmate and good friend Iris had her party - actually her very last party on the island. Few weeks back she has quit her job and already planned her next stop to another exotic part of the world - China. Spending many evenings with Iris was pleasant and I will miss it bunch.

From ByeBye Iris a...

The very same weekend I packed my luggage and actually most of my belongings to start my own mini-adventure in Tel-Aviv (for 3 months). Although visiting home for so many times since I moved on October 2006, this time it felt a lot different.

The day before I left, I had to say Shalom to many of my friends which is literally my Family. It was not so sad but defo emotional. Missing them was part of it, but realizing how many people I really love, care of and beloved by was overwhelming.

So I'm now on a work assignment back to my home-country which I miss so much. It's been MAD and SUPER busy around here. I hope I will slow down the pace and get into summery relaxish mood. I doubt it will happen anytime soon - but let me stay optimistic.

Iris - all the best dear. I've never seen anyone as happy as yourself and I hope your constantly cheerful being will surround your new friends.

From ByeBye Iris a...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Gayglers and Dublin Pride

Although it has been a while since Pride was in town, only now I could find some time to sit down and reflect. The bottom line is that we (Gayglers/Googlers) won the Community Award for 2008 and that all the hard work was really worth-while. Not just because of the award, but also for all the positive feedbacks and the impact we had on the festivities and in the long term - Dublin LGBTQ community.

So what did we do??
Dublin online gay map - www.google.ie/gaydublin
Dublin Pride YouTube Channel
YouTube Pod
Gold Sponsorship
And probably had the nicest float at the Parade with a fab DJ

From Dublin Parade...

So all in all it was a great experience, good fun but also lots of hard work.
Next year?! I might just do again but it in a different city...

Thanks for Jason, Annamarie and many others that helped.

p.s. - if you missed us and want to get our snappy wristband - drop me a line :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tel-Aviv Pride 2008

As I mentioned earlier this month, this year the Gayglers are taking part in many Pride events around the Globe. (full list at the photo below)

From TLV-Pride08

I happened to be in Israel for Tel-Aviv Pride. It was by far the best Pride the city have known. It started with a cool happening in Gan Meir where the amazing LGBT center is located. Many organizations and groups had small booths with their work / recruit volunteers etc. The LGBT center was open for the public and presented an art exhibition.

The Googlers gave-away Gayglers themed caps and Google stickers. Later on we joined the march with our banner and colorful balloons.

The Parade ended up with a great beach party with concerts by the best Israeli singers (Ivry Lider, Maya Buskila, Henry&Nikka...)

From TLV-Pride08

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

some facts about the history, Israel and discrimination

This post is a bit "heavier" than the usual suspects such as BBQ or a trip report I was busy with recently . So watch out and only keep on reading if you’re interested in knowing something about Israel.

I’m on my way from Dublin to Tel-Aviv and browsing the Haaretz special edition section called “Photo’s from our private Albums” that Milli gave me the same morning. I have tears in my eyes.

Going through the papers reminds me how grateful I should be for everything I have in life. Every bit of myself is shaped from every bit of my being an Israeli Jewish Gay person.

I put no dates on most of the stories as I feel these are all relevant to the present and the future of many human-beings in many places.

Although there are many things I would really want to change in our history and in present times I admire the people of Israel for constantly criticizing, self-criticizing, objecting, speaking up and are part of the history. Their inputs shed light on the reality and shape people's minds. I wish I can be as brave...

Past – Holocaust :: “Without a word”
Hannah Senesh’s family looking at her burial that was brought from Budapest to Israel. Hannah is a great example for the bravery during world war 2. She wrote a private diary while hiding in an attic which entrance was concealed by book-case in Amsterdam.

Israel – early days
One of the leaders that shaped Israel’s future -- David Ben-Gurion. I guess I need to say no more. People were afraid of him but respected him at the same time.

Israel - depression :: “And then they all left”
A story by an Arab who lived in what is now one of the most sought after neighborhoods in Tel-Aviv. Tells the story of a wealthy family and their run-away from the village they lived in.

Israel - discrimination :: “The black panthers”
Pretty much the first demonstration by Sefaradim against the discriminatory government which was ruled by Ashkenazim. Black (Schwartze in Yidish) - for their darker skin. Sefaradim are the Jews from Africa, Asia and the Arab world while Ashkenazim are Jews origin from America and greater-Europe.

Israel - homophobia :: “The Israeli mini-Stonewall -- Wigstock”
Not long after Dana International won the Eurovision song contest an organized gay gathering in the independence garden in Tel-Aviv was suddenly stopped by the police and banned for no good reason. It got only a bit physical but nonetheless shocking.

Israel – its fallen sons and daughters
"20 years old Benny Avraham with his sisters one to each of his sides."
Benny was one of the 3 Israeli soldiers murdered and kidnapped by Hezbollah to Lebanon and more than 3 years later was brought for burial in Israel. Unfortunately like him there are many more.

Anya Kazkatchov was 16 when murdered in a Tel-Avivian night club by a suicide bomber. 21 teenagers (mostly Russian newcomers) were murdered that night when a suicide bomber exploded in the queue-in; when crowded to help the survivors another suicide bomber got closer to them to double the effect. Bloody night...

real photos to come up later.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dublin Pride Youtube Channel

In addition to the Gay Map, this year the Gayglers helped Dublin Pride setting up a YT channel. http://ie.youtube.com/dublinpride

We created so much buzz around it and the channel is a hip.
Have a look at the Question Dublin Pride Members featured on the channel:

Go, Visit and Reply your Response Video!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eurovision 2008 Boaz Mauda - Ke'ilo Kan - English Translation

I'm in Copenhagen at the moment for IGLYO's Communication Team Meeting. During our visual identity session while, listening to the song, my friend Colette asked me:
"What does the FAB Israeli song for the Eurovision means?"

So here's a REALLY basic/literal translation

As if it was real / lyrics: Dana International

My soul is hoping, prayers of heart

With me with me as if it is Real
Like it used to be

It is difficult, it is difficult
When a moon-light yearning is here for a second and disappears
it's followed by a cry
and after all comes a song
It's a good moment now, you are closer

not a star light
you are now
With me with me as if it is Real
Just like it used to be

"come alone, come alone
see the fire in your eyes
and you come with me, with me"
sometimes good smell is brought by the wind
petting, now you hear

not a star light
you are now
With me with me as if it is Real
Just like it used to be

My soul is hoping for the prayer of heart....

not a star light
you are now
With me with me as if it is Real
Just like it used to be

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dublin Gay Map

This year the Gayglers around the world and in Dublin are doing cool initiatives during Pride.

For the coming Pride in Dublin we used one of our coolest products - Maps - to create an online map with all the gay (+friendly) venues/activities in Dublin. At the moment the map features Pride-specific events.

It amazes me how fast you can create cool and usable content...


View Larger Map

Pride 2008 is cominggggg

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Iris Goodbye BBQ

My dear housemate/friend Ruth blogged after the nice BBQ evening we hosted in our house.

From Iris Goodbye BBQ

Here it is for your convenience

Bringing the sunshine to Ireland by Ruth

Yesterday we had a bbq in our garden. It was the first one I've had in my house, in Ireland!

Somehow it is difficult to associate barbecues with this country. The sun has been pleasant to us during the last few days and we grabbed the opportunity to feast It. We got our little bbq set a couple of days ago, I still cannot deal with the idea of having disposable ones. They were a novelty to me when I came here..but then again it's Ireland..a country blessed by its showers.

We invited a few friends. Mediterranean blood kicking in, we were worried we won't be having enough food for all. Alon made his beef kebabs, I mad my tofu kebabs..then we had mushrooms in a balsamico/honey marinade, Quorn sausages, garlic & wine sausages, pork sausages, beef burgers; bread - wholemeal, mixed seed, white, mediterrenean loaf (M&S); Greek salad; tahini, tzatziki, marinated olives, cheeses..all washed down with white wine and champagne. Then we had lemon cheesecake, irish mocha cheesecake, and fresh strawberries..and Tea to finish all off!

Being 3 Israelis, a Greek and a Maltese amongst the Irish, German and Dutch I felt 'we' brought some Med element to it all.. could have been louder! Oh yes all this was accompanied by background music. No..there was no latin music..it was Madonna's latest album..and that's the queer touch for you ;)

That's sunshine to me..it's the pleasant, late and relaxed nights outside with friends.

Other Photos:
Iris Home Good byeBQ by Milli

BBQ photo album by Ruth

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

are you GAY?

While on the Andamans I've spent most of my time with my fellow diving course students. One was special in particular. A beautiful girl (an actress/model), well educated, with spectacular poetic English and noble manners.

Earlier this week we had another catch-up correspondence on Facebook where I mentioned a guy I was dating. This was her respond:

"ok alon, u said, u r dating a guy? u mean u r my gay friend?? :) if yes, europe is the right place to be in because ppl dnt consider u out-caste like in america or most other countries. i'm so excited to know this, for some reason!! does ur family know??"

So why am I writing about it anyway? Because I was shocked!
Beside the fact that I was sure she knew I was gay (how can it be more obvious?) every now and then I come across amazing people that never had any interaction with the "scene" or with "gay/queer people" and I get a reality shake.

Since I'm spending most of my time in a very particular environment and even more particular circle of friends around in Europe (or Israel) I tend to forget that in many places LGBT is yet to become visible or even far beyond that - do they exist?

"what do you mean by gay-friendly? do you mean I need to live with 2 gay men?", 2 weeks ago, a random phone call from a girl trying to arrange viewing. Dublin, Ireland

"I've only seen gays on TV. OMG, this is sooo coool" Elleni, a good friend of mine from Ethiopia

Here's a funny example for the extreme opposite:

It also reminds me that Doron purchased the domain cure-homosexuality.org and we're still discussing what should be there. It will probably be how silly is when people want to change the nature and try to help people who search for "How to cure homosexuality"

Friday, May 09, 2008

Jason's 30th in London

Last weekend we headed to London to celebrate Jason's 30th birthday.
Mostly passing by for a conference or youth exchange I've been to London many times. Since I never had the i-love-this-place effect I just didn't bother planning any holiday there. Now 5 years later I discovered its magic and I LOVE IT. It was such a great weekend. Having lovely sunny weekend with hanging out with my friends - it was just perfect.

The highlights were eating at The Troubadour cafe/restaurant couple of times, Sunday night in Soho shaking our bums around Illusion @ THE Village, a walk with Panos in Hyde park where we luckily found handsome British lads playing stupid games and showing off their white flesh and a night out with the locals to Popstarz.

From London

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ski trip to Solden and couple of hours in Munich

Couple of weeks ago we went with work on a ski trip to Solden (Austria). It was so much fun and the best break I could ask for... tasty food, beautiful accommodation, awesome snow conditions accompanied by my personal power supplier - SUN.

From Solden

Although we arrived in Innsburk airport we had to go back from Munich. Since our flight was at 8pm I thought it will be great to be in Germany and enjoy a day around Munich. We managed to hop on a cab to the airport at 9.30am and arrived by noon. Shortly after leaving our luggage in the lockers we took the train to city center (45min).

With the sun shining above, it was so nice to walk around the calm, clean and beautiful streets of Munich.

From Munich

Thinking about India, Gay scene in Hyderabad and Kingfischer

Are you looking for?

Gay Scene in Hyderabad

There isn't such. I spent 6 weeks around the city and talked with *few* queers which sadly informed me there is not even a gay friendly place to hang out at (they used to have something but then police bullied the visitors). The gayest vibes I had were in Le Cafe De Art in Banjara Hills but locals couldn't confirm it was. So seems like there is no Gay scene in Hyderabad. I guess the city didn't have the time to realize the potential with the massive amount of expats around... Taking into account the city is packed with expats, at least 10% are Queer and they have dollars in their pockets it is just a matter of time until it will happen.... Do let me know if anything changes...

Kingfischer Dublin - What the heck can it be?

a. misspelling for kingfisher (India's best!! airlines) which as far as I'm aware does not fly to Dublin.
b. the kingfisher bird and its connection to Dublin, Ireland
c. The Kingfisher which is apparently a restaurant in Dublin

Lonley Planet India Mumbai

For some reason I'm ranking for this one as well...
Lonley planet was indeed helpful for while traveling around Mumbai. Just take into account the raise in prices from the latest edition.

Phoenix Park

Probably because of the blog post I had a while ago about Phoneix park and the lads where Jason told us it is a known gay cruising area...

What is this post?
I got visitors that looked for this information (kingfisher or kingfische, mumbai, lonley planet, India, gay, hyderabad, scene, dublin, expats) and I though this post might be helpful...


Friday, March 07, 2008

Diving in Havelock - Dive India, Island Vinnie

This blog post is about Dive India / Island Vinnie's resort. Hopefully it will be used as a reference and be helpful for people who are interested in diving course / accommodation in the Andamans (Havelock).

Soon while researching I realized my only option to go on holidays around the Andamans is in Havelock. It seemed to be the only place I could figure out the transportation easily and after very positive reviews about Dive India and Island Vinnie, I looked no further.

Naturally I started browsing their website which had plenty of useful information. Actually the only place I could find such. The plan your trip part was essential and recommended even if you don’t plan to stay with them but only to visit Havelock.

For me, the easiest option was to take their all inclusive package. Later I found it to be the right decision. It included the diving course, PADI certificate, accommodation, fun dives, food and great company. The resort and the diving center is owned and run by Pritha and Vinnie for 5 seasons now. One can easily notice all the hard work and their awareness for details.

The diving course on its own costs 17000 rupees and package 23,500 (440 euros). Three and half days were devoted entirely to the course.

The first day was an introduction and an overview for the basics one needs to have. The following 3 days started fairly early. Sunrise is at about 5 and sunset at 6ish due to the Indian standard time the island follows. At 6:55 we were all at the restaurant, placed our breakfast orders, walked to the diving center (at the same ground) then we assembled the equipment and went back to have our breakfast. At about 7.30-8 we were on the boats and ready for the day. It took us about an hour each direction to the diving location in quite rocky but pastorally boat.

During this time our awesome instructor Vikas used to brief us with the plan for the day. We went down for the dive / skills practicing for about 40 minutes and then went back up to the boat where we found fresh tasty Samosas, coconut cookies, bananas and hot Chai. After a short rest while the boat was already on the way to the next diving spot we were back in the water for another session. The time in the boat was the best way to see Havelock and the other islands from the sea. On most islands non-indigenous are not even allowed to be on so from the boat we were safe. Needless to mention the beautiful turquoise blue water surrounding us all the time and the dense greenery on the islands.

We were back in the center at about 2pm every day. Ordered lunch, went to take a shower and sat down for lunch. Afternoons were devoted for theory classes and videos. At 9pm I was so exhausted and fell asleep in my bungalow:

The center and the village (it is really the same place) are very laid back and made me feel very comfortable. I stayed in the non-deluxe bungalow which was more than enough. We had shared showers with hot water these were kept very clean all the time and shared with about 8 bungalows. The resort is right on the beach and 15 minutes walk to the small market in village #3.

I do recommend staying in the village and using the diving center it is the friendliest I’ve seen.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Havelock, the Andaman islands

Not having lay-back holiday for a long while, I decided to take a week off after work to relax in an exotic place. A week before I was still undecided as where to go; Goa or the Andaman Islands. The Andamans were with no doubt the preferred option but with the down-side of expensive flights and lack of information online or in Lonely Planet. I spent hours on the web trying to figure out ferries to the smaller islands from Port-Blair. It was not easy. Having in mind that I wanted to do open water diving course did not make it any easier. Luckily I came across a detailed blog post which helped me to set up my mind and pick up diving center.

Although searching quite a bit I didn’t manage to find information. Focusing on Havelock and the blog directing me to Dive India helped a lot. So I browsed their website for a while and emailed them to verify some of the details (although everything was on the website and up to date). Pritha the owner (with her husband Vinnie) replied to my queries fairly quick and even put light on my concerns about the ferries to and from Port-Blair which later on I found can be a pain without the right connections and bribe.

I spent a week in the resort where I also completed the course and made friends I hanged out with most of the time. I will write another post about my diving experience, the resort and the diving center later on.

To get any of the connecting ferries to the islands from Port Blair forces anyone to spend some time in Port Blair. 4-5 hours on the day of arrival and over night a day before departure. Port Blair was a lil disappointing and not much of an interest, just like most advices indicated. Having said that, I’m sure it is only because I didn’t have the time to explore outside of the city. The island seemed very green and relaxed.

My original plan was to get to an isolated island, do nothing and relax after an extremely busy time at work and traveling over the weekends. Of course it never happened. I ended up barely having time to sleep or even to look around the island. One evening I managed to go to beach no #7 which is apparently the best beach in the world and one can notice why quite easily. It is so beautiful I only wished I could spend an entire day there. I also tried tender coconut which was yumm.

... and in sunset

The book I brought with me remained almost untouched till I spent some time on the roads on my own while on my way back to Hyderabad and then home. Since I left Hyderabad I avoided “spending” my iPod worried I will have to use it while resting – it was of course full.

I do have plans to come back to this island. Hopefully it will not get spoiled with the hundreds of tourists by then. I had in mind going to night fishing and birds watching which I unfortunately had to skip.

Nevertheless I am satisfied, PADI qualified and tanned :)

Kerala's backwaters

For the last weekend with my fellow expats we decided to go for a sail in the backwaters of Kerala. I’ve been told by most of my team-mates that Kerala is a must stop and I soon realized why. Already from the plain I could tell how beautiful it is going to be.

Surprisingly arriving on time, we took a prepaid taxi to Alleby the place where all boats are docking at and leaving from. It took us about 2 hours where I had to sit on the gear stick which was not pleasant at all.
Arriving to our very basic but lovely guest house horribly hungry we went for dinner in Park hotel for A/C and booze.

The next morning Aly, Priz and myself volunteered to wake up early and go for some bargaining. The “quick” breakfast we were thinking of took more than an hour with terribly slow going kitchen staff.

We walked out to the main road to bargain for an auto-rickshaw which really upset us (extreme greediness) and after 10 minutes we arrived to the port where we could see tens of tens of boats getting ready for their noon departure.

After checking out a dozen of them we found the one we wanted and was available. Bargaining for the price was not easy and made me VERY annoyed and I even yelled at the “agent” which was a pain. Next time (if ever) I’ll do it completely differently. If you are going to go there do the research and talk directly to the boat operator. You will end up getting a better price and no misunderstandings and false promises.

We hopped on at about noon, and with our request (and money) the boat was packed with booze. We spent overnight with the extremely nice staff which cooked beautiful food (including giant shrimps we bought from a passing fisherman.

So we were 11 people on 3 double-bed boat and we had to fit in somehow. Excited (and stupidly) Aly, Priz and myself volunteered to sleep on the roof deck. You can imagine how many bugs were around us. I could not sleep all night but the girls were fine.

The next day we went for a walk at the beach in Allepy where we saw from distance dolphins. Hungry again we walked (more than an hour) in the unbearable heat to a nice restaurant. And later on to the A/C pub to regain powers for another 2 hours ride back to the AP.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weekend in Hampi

This weekend I went to Hampi with Catherine who visited from Dublin. It was full of adventures but yet very relaxing. I will definitely go back if I ever have the chance.

We started the trip on a 12 hours train ride in a sleeper class. ouch. It was way too busy and way too noisy and WAYYYY too dirty. 5pm till 5am. I had no sleep all night and I will avoid traveling on a Sleeper class again.

Arriving to Hospet (nearest village) at 5am was exciting but still very dark. Having lived in cities all my life, I sometimes forget it can be dark out there when the moon is not in its full glory. With the usual ritual we bargained a bit and got an auto-rickshaw to Hampi for 100 Rupees. Hell the ride was scary. If you can - try arriving in day light.

Following the advice of Lonley Planet we looked for Gopi's Hostel to have a quick breakfast (they claim to be open at 6.30am) but it was still deserted when we climbed up to the restaurant. So we walked back to the main street around the bazaars and watched how the villagers are waking up. It was really relaxing and interesting to see. Remarkably were the ladies cleaning the store/home-fronts. They do it few times a day. But we couldn't figure out why don't they pick the trash and throw it away? With every slightest wind the dirt is back to where it was 5 minutes before...

We walked up to the temple and overlooked the street while planning our next steps.

With a sever hunger we headed back to Gopi where we had basic, yet nice, breakfast. (no Shak-Shuka for breakfast).

Happy with the food we then took a nice rickshaw guy to drive us around the ruins. We spent 4 hours with him and paid 300 Rupees (we knew we could get it for less but couldn't care less). He was super nice and tried his best to be a guide. There are many temples around that area but all the small ones looks alike and we got bored and tired after seeing dozen of 'em. There were few exceptions: the Zenana Enclosure where we could see the Elephants stables and Vitthala Temple which is quite impressive.

So cutting it short we asked our driver to skip few and headed to the Mango Tree Restaurant. This place is a must if you pass by, they served the best food I had so far in India, including a selection of Israeli dishes like Hummus and Falafel.

The ambiance in this place is so relaxing and it is super clean and cheap. The view from the stone seats is astonishing with the river and the Hampi rocks at the back. We loved the pancake with Nutella chocolate and bananas. yummy.

Stuffed with the food and tired after a long day we decided to cross the river and go to our guest house. For 10 Rupees each we hopped on a tiny boat with 15 more ppl and 2 bicycles. During a short walk from the river we came across dozens of Israelis and many restaurants advertising their Israeli food (in Hebrew). 7 minutes and we arrived to the Shanti Guest House. It was exactly what we needed. For 650 Rupees we got en suite double bed (w/o hot water) bungalow in a relaxing atmosphere.

After a short nap we dinned in the guest house restaurant which overlooked the rice fields. The food, once again, was super cheap and superb. The Menus 2 pages Israeli section included Zaknoon, Malawah, Shakshuka and many more Israeli dishes. Shalom-la-malka was unfamiliar to me but apparently is Israeli (where from??) dessert made of crushed biscuits, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cram toping it all. Without noticing we realized we spent there 4 hours! I guess the loudly laughing stoned young Israelis near by kept us entertained.

The next day we woke up to the quite and beautiful setting from our bungalow and asked the boy to bring us coffee. We got ready slowly and headed for another walk around the bazaars but this time for Shopping. It was a very successful day for both of us. In just few hours we got trousers, bangles, necklaces and even flip-flops.

With the awesome experience of dinning in the Mango Tree Restaurant, we decided to revisit and it was as good as in the previous day. Sad but satisfied we had to go and catch our train back to reality. We hopped on the A/C 2 class boogie and were the happiest people on earth realizing we will actually be able to have a peaceful ride back to Hyderabad.

Golden Triangle - Jaipur :: Day 2

The next morning our driver fixed a very busy schedule for us. Once again he picked another guide. This time it was a lady guide and she was the BEST. She took my email but never wrote, I'll try to get it and post it later.
She showed us around the Jantar Mantar where we could see old marble sun cloak and sophisticated star signs.

Then we were supposed to enter City Palace museum but preferred to skip and walk around the Pink City.

After a short walk around the main street and viewing some miserable cobras being charmed by their owners (no photos!) we headed to the Amber Fort.
On the way there we had to take out some money. We tried 2 ATMs without much success. the third one seemed fine (we tried taking out 100 rupees) and it was fine, but when I tried to take 8000 rupees we had power breakdown since it was electricity blackout (daily from 9-11 to supply power to the villages) for a while and the backup battery died. It was just shortly after the machine counted the money and was about to open up and deliver it to the happy owners :( we waited for 40 minutes till power was back just to make sure the money will no get into the wrong owners. After power was back the money didn't came out but later on I saw credit in my account for the money. I was shocked and HAPPY :)

It was time to move on and drive to the Amber Fort but couldn't resist and stopped to see the Palace on Water

Which we later heard was a Hilton :)

The Amber Fort was amazing. So beautiful. The only down side was the hundreds of visitors; both locals and tourists which made it less peaceful.

Although our guide was AWESOME, explained how ventilation worked that day, what the rooms were used for and highlighted really interesting facts, after half an hour we were tired, had enough and took the Jeep back down to where our driver was waiting for and headed back to Delhi where we had to catch our flight.

950 Km in great Toyota Innova - 10,000 rupees
Vanjara India Tours (kuggi6498@yahoo.co.in) 0091-9810233739

Golden Triangle = Triangle with Golden Corners :: Day 1

2 weeks ago I went on a magical tour together with Vik. The tour is also known as the Golden Triangle and I think a more proper name will be "Triangle with Golden Corners". The spots we visited were golden but the way there looked pretty much like a huge garage with thousand of slums along the "highway". Seemed like people lived everywhere (on pavements, together with their cows, buffaloes and chickens). It was also very surprising to see the men wondering around while every single women and kids were busy working, carrying stuff and cleaning.

We arrived to Delhi on Friday night and got picked up by our company's driver taking us to the company's guest house where the cook and house boy were there to show us around and fix a late dinner for us :)

Then, 5am we were picked by our driver Davinder which was a great driver but honked non-stop!. He suggested we go as early as possible to Agra straight to the Taj Mahal before Sarkozi got there for a visit. On the way we picked up a Guide which was horrible. It's been a while since I met someone with such a horrible presence he was only useful with getting us tickets while we queued.
The Taj is definitely worth a visit. Not for nothing it is one of worlds wonders. It is a huge white carved marble structure in a beautiful setting with fountains and 2 forts one on each side, overlooking to a valley with dried river.

From there we traveled to Agra Fort which was not less impressive. Actually walking around so early was adding to the magical ambiance around this huge red-ish fort. Without too many people around we found few awesome spots for photos and Vik played around with few naughty squirrels.

We then hopped on our Innova and traveled few hours to Jaipur. We arrived quite early but were fatigue and stayed in our not-so-good hotel which smelled horrible.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mental weekend in Mumbai - Sunday

Sunday morning was a lazy one, we only woke up at 10ish and headed to the known Taj for brunch. The hotel is really special, marble all over the place, fountains, calm ambiance, very modern but yet feels comfy. Food was great, a bit pricy but worth it. Especially the super service in the toilets where the guy turns on the tap for you, spreads soap on your hands and handing over 10 softer than ever tissues to dry your hands out.

Stuffed and happy we went out to catch a cab to the renowned bazaars just to found out it was not open at the day. So we decided to take it easy, wonder around the city, visited Mumbai University building and random Art exhibition and headed back to the hotel, not before having lunch in Barista which is highly recommended as a modern cheap alternative for food, coffee and cold drinks.

After picking up our bags from the hotel, we had to do our last sightseeing which was very eye-opening. We went to DHOBI GHAT which is a place where clothes from all over the city arrive for a wash by 500 almost naked men. The area is known as the world’s biggest slum and we were courageous enough to walk around and get kinda bullied by bunch of kids.

The worst thing was when we went up to the road to get a cab to the Airport. The first cab to catch was quick but the second was mental. With a Muslim demonstration marching our way we were surrounded and jumped into the first cab without agreeing on the fare. The drive in mental traffic which took us way too long and with confusion as for which airport we should drive to was not fun. We took Kingfischer flight back to Hyderabad which was the best flight I had. In 43 minutes flight they managed to server drinks, hot meal with dessert , head phones, fresh towels and the cleanest on-craft toilets ever. We departed and arrived on a short delay and our lovely Google Drivers took us home. It was soooo nice to see some familiar faces and no need to bargain.


Mental weekend in Mumbai - Saturday

This post might sound like a week in Mumbai but it is only a normal Saturday. The next morning we had quick breakfast in the hotel and headed to have a look at Gateway of India and took the ferry to the Elephant Island where we visited the caves and took dozen photos of monkeys. Aly’s attempt to kneel and take a picture of a cute baby monkey ended up with an angry monkey-mom that groaned loud and grabbed Aly’s dress (luckily nothing more).

We then took the ferry back to Gateway to India where we had no seats, had to pay 10 Rupees more to climb to the seats-less roof terrace where we actually found a nice surface to sit on and get some sun.

With serious hunger we walked for 40 minutes following Lonley Planet’s stupid recommendation to dine at the National Hindu Hotel which was an extraordinary experience. We walked into the dodgiest place ever. It was filthy and was actually a working men 25 rupees (50 cents) eat as much as you can place. We were looked at BIG time. I don’t think anyone was expecting a bunch of white tourists walking in. I think that there are not enough words to describe it, so I took a video. As you might assumed, I wasn’t very busy with the food ;) Don’t miss it.

I will say one more thing, which is crucial for the rest of my (our) trip in India in the coming weeks. I AM STRONGER THAN EVER. Places I would never ever eat now seem to be an award winning restaurants and I hold a better understanding of how dirty a place can be.

From one experience to another, we managed to convince a cab driver to take all of us 6 to our next sightseeing. Which make it 7 in one tiny car (video), without air conditioning but with very adventurous mood.

Our next stop was Haji Ali’s mosque which was really beautiful. You can see below:

From there, as if we haven’t done enough for the day, we continued to Banganga Hill where we bumped into a funeral, found Banganga water tank, dozen of temples and some locals to interact with. From there we took a short cab ride to Chowpatty beach where we had a coffee and watched the sun set.

All satisfied but exhausted we took a cab back to the hotel to get some rest and get ready for dinner in Leopard’s which is very known, not very posh but yet food was OKish. If you happen to be there ask your Burger well-done. At this point our dear Agent felt sick so headed back to the hotel. And the rest of us just move on to the next adventure – Poly Esther club with 1500 rupees cover for a couple (got vouchers for drinks). I was surprised to find many Indians and not too many expats. But we still had good fun. Time to get to bed. Finally.