Monthly Archives: June 2012

High Tea @ Falaknuma Palace

Finally, we got reservation for high tea at Falaknuma Palace.

What’s so special about Falaknuma, you may ask. Well, its a royal palace belonging to Nizam of Hyderabad and has been recently restored by Taj to its 18th century glory. Falaknuma literally means ‘Like Sky’ and the ceilings painted in the palace reflect the blue sky. You can only visit the palace by staying there overnight or if you have a meal there. It’s a popular place and once we had to turn back from the main gate ( a mile away ) as we didn’t have reservations.

Anyways, this Saturday afternoon 4:30 pm found us at Falaknuma enjoying a Nizam style high tea served in the Celeste restaurant. Words cannot describe the opulence of this place which in my opinion rivals Versailles Palace, not in size but in its grandeur. The intimate size was perfect for a palace where you can see the palace, the grounds and take in the views in an afternoon as part of an organized tour offered along with high tea.

We took the last tour at 6:30 pm and could see the palace and its views by dusk before we went home starry-eyed.

They say pictures are worth a thousand words, and today at loss of words, I defer to pictures. The rest of the post is picture heavy, so please be patient as the pictures load – I didn’t want to reduce the size and not do justice to the palace.

First view of the palace

Celeste restaurant

Table setting

Pillars of restaurant reflecting in the grand mirrors

Table by the window overlooking the trees and old Hyderabad

Stained glass dome of the covered terrace where high tea is also served

View of Hyderabad below

Blue hooka – a true royal experience

White veranda

Backside of palace with courtyard

Varun and Aaji in front of the restaurant wing

Steps and paths to hidden courtyards

Star shaped pools and fountains in inner courtyards

The library

The Queen’s bedroom

Palace lit up

Lobby at night

City reflected in mirror at night

Additional palace buildings

Main door lit up

Then we got in our car and dove back home reflecting on the beauty of the palace, the rose and jasmine scented air, unlimited tea service and friendly staff that we got to experience. Truly magical. Highly recommended experience in Hyderabad!

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Hot Wheels @ Le Duplex

June has been an awesome month. We got our car and we moved into our own apartment!
In US, we were trying to find buyers for our cars and our house. In India, 3 months later, our roles were reversed – we were looking for a car and an apartment.
TEST DRIVING

As soon as we were settled in our temp accommodation, Vipul started his car driving lessons. And after the first lesson he announced we should get a car with automatic transmission. Traffic and driving in India is crazy but anyone who has been to Hyderabad will agree that the craziness is up several notches here.

People don’t drive in their lanes, they don’t let you drive in your lane, they honk if you don’t start driving before the light turns green, they jump out of nowhere into the road  at any convenient location to cross it and to top it, in Hyderabad, they at times drive in the other direction. You blink, and suddenly you will find an auto rickshaw heading on to you and assuming that you will move in order to accommodate it! Luckily, we have not encountered any cows or dogs, but bikers and auto rickshaws make sure you are ever so vigilant on the road.

This is in sharp contrast to Seattle where drivers are famous for letting others go first at the Stop light, even if they were first to arrive at it or where Cameras are installed to deter even the 0.5% accident rate. With so many distractions on the road, we decided to get an automatic car.

I wanted a sedan , in a Rs. 10 – 12 Lakh range which was large enough for my 6 feet plus Dad and Bro can sit comfortably in.

With that in mind, Vipul shortlisted 5 sedans:

  • Ford Fiesta
  • Honda City
  • SKODA Rapid
  • Hyundai i20 (not really a sedan, but still)
  • Hyundai Verna

Now, cars in India are not available all the time. So my US trained vision of seeing rows upon rows of cars of every color and options gleaming in the dealership lot waiting to be taken out for a spin and hopefully home , were a distant dream. Here, when you want to buy a car, you ask about delivery date in the color and option of your choice besides pricing , upgrades, freebies etc. So, we called all the dealers and asked them about availability and scheduled a test drive for those that we could actually get by June end.

This ruled out the Verna and the i20 as we wouldn’t be able to get it before July. So we decided to test drive the rest.

This being India, you don’t have to go to the dealership to test drive your car. They bring the car home and you take it out for a spin. En-route the salesman explains the pros/cons, compares it to the other cars you may be thinking ( to the best of his knowledge) and essentially tries to sell you the car while asking you to take a U-turn on freeway as the next exit is too far.

Any who, we test drove the Fiesta, City and Rapid. Didnt like the first two as much so we settled on the Rapid.

Actually, Rapid was the first car we test drove and loved. Considering that we were using a 2009 Innova, where the doors sometimes jammed up, the windows wouldnt roll down, AC was not cool enough or was nothing more than a rectangular white box with seats, Rapid was a beautiful car. We loved the lines, the options included and the sound system. It’s not like any of our prior cars but at this price point, we will make do with the Rapid.

A day before the scheduled delivery, we drove all the way to Secunderabad to inspect the car. Then we got the car delivered home as we didn’t want to drive through the traffic.

CAR FINANCING

Based on car lease allowance, we decided to lease the car rather than buy it outright. This enables us to get tax break on car lease amount as well as any maintenance we pay for the car. Microsoft has tie up with Sundaram finance for car leasing per the company policy. The leased car financing rate is higher than what banks offer, but with the tax break it makes sense to go with it. So we went ahead with Sundaram finance.

We paid Rs 50,000 for car deposit and the rest was paid once we inspected the car and gave it a go ahead.

SO ARE YOU GETTING A DRIVER?

I didn’t test drive the car ( or for that matter drive it since its been home) as I am still not comfortable with the chaos on the road. The traffic moves like a bee swarm and is very fluid and non predictable. But I am determined to drive from work and back ( albeit initially at non peak hours).

Besides with Varun eager to drive, I may already have a driver handy 😉

…ANY TROUBLES YET?

Oh yea, the car is supposed to be delivered with 10 Ltrs of Petrol. But the guy who delivered the car only filled minimal amount to drive to our place. We drove the car to the nearest gas station but the car stopped outside the station and wouldn’t start. A line of cars formed behind us with few folks offering to help us start the car but giving up after seeing that its an automatic. Apparently 10 Ltrs  of petrol is needed to start the car. This we came to know after spending 45 mins with the car dealer and their service man. The dealer sent some guy with a 10 Ltrs can and only when that was filled could we start the car.Go figure!

A few days later, it rained heavily here in Hyderabad. It was so bad that a regular 15 min commute took me 45 mins as water was accumulating everywhere. Hyderabadis in rain are like Seattleites in snow – they just don’t know how to handle these elements. That was the day Vipul decided to drive to work, and was stuck for almost an hour and half in traffic. Some biker dude decided to change lanes at the last-minute as he was squeezing through the traffic and scratched the car. Bummer 😦

Another day as the parking spot was narrow Vipul decided to back up the car into the lot and didn’t see the pillar and danged the car’s trunk.

As I see it, minor dents and scratches prove that it’s no longer a brand new vehicle 😉

APARTMENT SEARCH

After we sold our house, while I was feeling liberated and debt free, every time, I visited my favorite Home and gardening related blogs and found new things to DIY for the home/garden, I got that itch to make them. Not that I did much when we had the house, but now I bookmark every little thing in hope that someday we will have our house again.

Also, when we were apartment hunting, the blank canvas was especially appealing and my mind would immediately jump to endless possibilities of making it our own, when Vipul used to gently remind me that we are renting and not buying.

We must have looked at least 20 odd properties in about a month’s time. Some were villas, others duplex, yet others were condos. We knew we wanted something more than 2500 sq ft  to fit all our belongings. We wanted 100% power backup, with no water problems and piped gas in a gated community. Also, we wanted something in Madhapur area as it is close enough to work as well as to Jubilee Hills/Banjara Hills where we go for dining, fun and even medical visits. And I really didn’t want to spend more than Rs 40000 in monthly rent.

The relocation agents with Santa Fe showed us all types of houses in and around Madhapur, Kondapur, Gachibowli and even a couple in Jubilee Hills/ Film Nagar area. We found some in Sunday newspaper classifieds and visited them. In the end, either the apartment was too small or too pricey (Rs. 50,ooo + ) or too large (5000 sq ft + )  or too remote ( nothing around us for 5-6 kms) or had construction going around or had poor location overlooking slums, graveyards or plain trash or simply didn’t have 100% power backup (including AC’s) or piped gas.

Based on that we shortlisted 2 complexes:

  • Jayabheri Silicon County
  • Trendset Winz

In the complexes we had shortlisted, we visited almost every flat that was available ( imagine 10 – 12 apartments ) in different towers/wings. We were looking for an apartment that had minimal wood work in all rooms except kitchen , had enough room in the bedroom for our king sized bed and atleast one sdie table and was more to our taste. Alas either the apartments were too traditionally decorated or had wardrobes or doors such that we wouldnt have been able to arrange our furniture (especially the bed). The duplexes is Jayabheri were our best bet but were out of our price point or were only rented out furnished.

Luckily, a duplex apartment owner  in Jayabheri Silicon County, same complex as were temporary put up, agreed to rent it out unfurnished as well as lowered the rent as it was not renting for a couple of months. The location is great, had all the amenities we were looking for and has 100 % power back up. After a 45C summer, we were not going to stay in a complex that didn’t have power backup.

Although the rent is higher than my original budget, it had everything else. And the owner let us keep whatever furnishings we needed (fridge, microwave, washing machine, dryer etc) and removed the rest.

We got the possession on June 1st but we slowly moved into the apartment over last 3 weekends. We scheduled a thorough cleaning of the apartment, got additional shelves put up in the kitchen, got all the bed sheets and towels laundered, hung up our curtains, put up the art work and arranged and rearranged everything till it started to resemble a bit like our old house in Seattle.

We still have to get a new fridge and microwave ( the ones from the apartment are old, quiet small and almost on last leg of their life ) and a convection oven. We still have a gazillion things to do ( get some plants, wall mount the TV’s, hook up the home theater, rearrange the store-room , make the current staircase railing bit safe etc) but this is it for now. Deep breath and baby steps- thats the mantra for now.

Uncelebrated Fathers Day

Ummm…I dont know how to start this post. Vipul is travelling. Dad is in Mumbai. Mom, Varun and I (or is it me?) are at home.

I woke up late (thanks to mom taking care of Varun) to Hyderabad Times Supplement on how celebrities are celebrating the day with their kids. Happy smiling faces of once macho but now fatherly actors and models with their kids. Other articles touched upon how cool fathers are even if their kids (or probably wives) didn’t plan an elaborate fathers day for them. Yet others were on unique gift ideas.

Gifts. Crap! I was supposed to print and frame a picture of Varun and Vipul with a poem last weekend.Life happenend and we ended up spending the day with friends, food and drinks.

If I did have the time and if Vipul was in town, this is what he would have woken up:

He would have given me a ‘you-did-not’ hug but would have been secretly pleased with it.

As for my Dad, he knows I love him and doesn’t need a special day to remind him of that! He is too cool for that 🙂

P.S We will celebrate when both Dad’s are in town in July. Till then this remains a uncelebrated Fathers Day.

In Love – Visiting Bali – Part II

This is a trip report of our recent Bali vacation. To read Part I or (Day 1,2 and 3) of the trip report, click here.

Day 4

After 3 fabulous days in Bali, on day 4, we decided to take things slow. We started the day with a couple’s massage in a private cabana overlooking the pool and the forest. Bali is famous for its spa treatments and all tour books are filled with suggestions of various itineraries that combine tourism and spa journeys. A 2 hour luxurious massage and facial later, arranged by the resort, we were thoroughly relaxed.

The staff baby sat Varun while we enjoyed the massage. Many a Bali resorts have option of providing baby sitting services by the hour or day. For $25/day, you can hire your private nanny – usually a young girl, who will take care of the baby per your directions. 24-hour notice is usually required but as the staff was free, they volunteered to take care of Varun :). Through out the massage, I could hear Varun’s squeals of laughter as he was enjoying all the attention he was getting.

After the massage, we decided to go into Ubud town for lunch. Before leaving, I had read about an organic Warung style restaurant overlooking the rice fields, Sari Organic, which we were very keen on trying. We asked the resort staff to drop us at the restaurant.

When we reached there, we found out that the car cannot go up to the restaurant and instead its a 800 mt walk from the drop off location to the restaurant. Luckily, we had Varun’s stroller with us and we strapped him in and started off.

The walk started on a paved road, but soon turned into a little road winding through paddy fields and coconut trees along side a bubbling stream. Clumps of arum leaves were bobbing in the light mid day breeze while ducks wadded along sight navigating us to the restaurant. The quiet walk in the cool breeze helped Varun doze off. 20 mins later, we reached Sari Organic and sat in a corner seat overlooking the rice fields.

With Varun napping, we made most of the lunch – cocktails, appetizers and a lovely modern Balinese meal of chicken sate, fried rice, stir fried beans and fresh salad from their own gardens. The place was crowded despite the late hour and we had a long leisurely lunch as everything is prepped from scratch.

Varun woke up by the time, we were ready for dessert and enjoyed the dessert as much as the restaurants dog, who he chased around. The walk back was a bit of a challenge after this lovely meal, but we somehow managed it with Varun staying put in the stroller all along.

Next stop, was Ubud market to buy some coffee, black rice and a few souvenirs. On the way,we saw the beautifully decorated Ubud Museum, people bathing in Ubud river, the Lotus pond place and another quintessential Balinese sight – daily offerings.

En-route we stopped to have ice-cream. After all, what good are vacations, if we don’t indulge. Varun loves ice cream and it was awesome to just plop ourselves down in a street side  with Varun and feed each other scoops of ice-cream. Some think of letting toddlers eat by themselves as messy, I think of it is as memories. Memories of those stained hands, clothes and face in afternoon sun as he shoves ice cream in his mouth and then in Vipul’s mouth , saying ‘Dadda turn’ will never fade.

After ice cream, we continued to Monkey forest road ,the main shopping lane in Ubud, which ends in a Monkey forest with pretty aggressive monkeys.  the road is lined with beautiful silver and batik boutiques, cafes, restaurants and have many by lanes with houses offering home stays. We shopped a bit and then ventured inside Ubud’s main market with its little Elco-arcade or Chandi Chowk like shops full of spices, souvenirs, wood carvings, paintings, sarongs etc . Varun hates shopping as much as Vipul and both got restless in the narrow lanes and we quickly left the market to continue walking along Monkey Forest Road –

We contemplated going to the Monkey forest, but having heard stories of their aggressiveness, we didn’t want to risk Varun getting bitten by one. Also, it started to rain, so we ducked inside another store to buy some wood carved frames and then headed to a Starbucks for coffee.

Fortified with coffee and cheese Quiche, Vipul and I tried the fish spa pedicure. Little tanks of fishes which nibble on dead skin on your feet promising glowing feet at the end of it. 25 mins of fish pedicure cost us about $15 . As usual, the staff entertained Varun while we sat with our feet stuck in the fish tanks. Passer by’s and fellow tourists made quick conversation with us asking us about the pedicure and whether it was painful. Some were amused, other intrigued enough to try it out themselves. This was more of a been there, done that, similar to our Submarine tour in Barbados, and is something we wont try again.

Anyways, after the fish spa we caught a taxi back home. We had dinner at the resort – Soto Ayam, Fried chicken and Tomato Sambal followed by banana sundae. I requested the chef to let me watch him cook, which he obliged and it was awesome to pick up a couple of new techniques and recipes. The other staff played with Varun, while Vipul relaxed in the room.

Dinner was served in the main dinning room – which had a fabulous Ikat table runner. the meal was simple and nourishing and I was glad to own the recipe and try that at home once we move into our apartment.

Post dinner, Varun and Vipul read books while I went to bed.

Day 5

There were few options that we were contemplating for day 5. Start early and go on a  all day snorkel trip to a nearby island, drive north to Ulun Danu- a Shiva temple of shores of Lake Beratan and visit Bali’s main fruit and vegetables market, drive west to the Cliff temple of Uluwatu or visit Semiyank.

We decided to start the day with Ulun Danu and then continue to Uluwantu and finish the day with dinner at Semiyank.

The drive from Ubud to Ulun Danu, goes through some small villages, before hitting the Bali country side. It passes through the prime agricultural areas and we could see farms of fruits and vegetables all along the road. This is also the agro- tourism highway and many a farms are open for tours and buying fresh fruits, coffee and spices.  The air grew cooler as we drove north and we saw many strawberry farms along the way. We reached the temple complex just before lunch time.

The mountains and the lake Beratan has low clouds and the black rock temple looked magnificent against the misty backdrop. Varun had a ball running around the temple grounds and chasing the driver’s son. He was looking for fish in the lake water as he had grown accustomed to seeing koi fish in all ponds that we had seen so far, but didnt find any.

Soon after, we stopped at a local buffet place for lunch. While the place itself was nothing to write home about, its location on banks of Lake Beratan was perfect. After lunch, we drove to Bali’s wholesale fruits and vegetables market. It was similar to a ‘saabji mandi’ in India or Pike Place Market in Seattle. After stocking on fruits like rambutan and strawberries which Varun took a fancy to, we drove to Uluwantu.

The drive was through farms and terraced plantations. We stopped en-route at Jatiluwih terraced rice fields. This is a very famous ‘patel point’ in West Bali and most photographed rice fields in Bali. There are restaurants around here to linger over lunch or coffee and savor the views.

We didn’t wait here but instead drove further west to Uluwatu. On the way, we stopped at a ‘friendly’ monkey forest. Varun loved seeing the monkeys but didnt get down from my arms or try and touch them as I expected.

We reached the Uluwatu temple way before sunset and the temple complex was full of people waiting to find a spot to view the sunset. There was a separate line for people waiting to wade across to the rock that housed the temple.

Vipul and I were in no mood for crowds and left the complex without visiting the temple or watching the sunset. Varun was also happy to leave the crowds behind. But before we left, we had a refreshing glass of sugarcane juice- very similar to Indian sugarcane juice with lemon 🙂

We decided to abort our Semiyank plans and drove back to Ubud. In Ubud, we had dinner at Indus Cafe – great location, good food and supposedly great views during daytime 🙂

After dinner, we drove back to the resort.

Now, Bali is famous for aromatic flower baths. They usually are complimentary with spa journeys but have to be requested. We didn’t know that and didn’t get one after our massage. But not wanting to miss out on luxurious once in – a-lifetime experience, I had asked the resort to arrange one for us for our last night stay in Bali.

They misunderstood my ask, and we came back to this:

Needless to add, we made the most of it while the staff entertained Varun.

Day 6

Day 6 started late as we slept really late the previous night. and we had packing to do. After breakfast, Vipul played with Varun while I packed. That morning flew by and next thing I remember is loading our bags in the taxi. An hour or so later, we were at the airport.

Bali is one of those countries that have the annoying practise of departure tax. Vipul struggled to find an ATM to withdraw cash to pay it. Post immigration and security, we found ourselves sitting at a cafe for lunch.

As Varun played with the stroller, we realised this was first vacation which Varun enjoyed and didn’t need a doctors visit. We were very careful with water, food, restaurants we selected, avoiding crowded places and using a mosquito repellant. As we adjust to India, hopefully we will be able to handle other SE Asian countries better.

In Love – Visiting Bali – Part I

A couple of weeks ago, Vipul’s team announced that they were going to get two days off for hitting an internal milestone. As soon as Vipul announced that we decided to take a couple of days off and go somewhere.

It’s been a hectic year so far to say the least – from deciding to move, interviewing, actual logistics of the move, selling both our cars and the house, to landing here and starting all over almost immediately. We needed a break. As soon as our managers confirmed that we could take 4 days off in total, Vipul and I began wondering where to go. Northern India, Bhutan,Sikkim, Malaysia and Bali were our shortlisted candidates – limiting to places that won’t be impacted by early onset of monsoon or have very high temperatures.

Northern India, Bhutan and Sikkim were eliminated due to really expensive last-minute flights as well as long drives to visit the destination. Malaysia requires a visa and Bali had via on arrival. So Bali it was even though our heart was really set on Bhutan.

Hyderbad, similar to Seattle, does not have direct flights to anywhere fun. So we flew Malaysian Airlines to Kaula Lumpur and connected to Bali. Most Indians visiting Bali, stopover en-route in KL for a couple of days. We wanted it to be a relaxing vacation so we flew to Bali and stayed in Ubud, central mountainous area of Bali, for 6 days.

This was an impromptu trip so other than making flight reservations and deciding a place to stay (on Expedia), we didn’t plan on anything. We had a rough idea of things to do and places to visit – but with free Wifi access at the resort, we didn’t fret too much over the lack of planning.

Day 1

An overnight flight from Hyderabad, found us in Bali by 11:00 am local time. $25 later, we had our visa and were quickly out of the airport.  We had pre-arranged for the resort to pick us up. An hour and half later , weaving in and out of Denpasar lunch time traffic and passing through the artistic villages of Celuk and Mas, we were at the Pandawas Villas in Ubud, the artistic capital of Bali.

The Pandawas villas is an 4-villa property, about 10 mins from Ubud town center, overlooking the forest and the rice paddy fields and truly representing the Balinese indoor-outdoor living lifestyle. We simply loved the oversized villa rooms, the large patio outside the villa overlooking the fabulous pool and the outdoor shower and copper bath tub. A quick-lunch on the patio,Varun was running  around the patio and splash water in the pool while we lounged around.

Late evening, Varun was tired and fell asleep. Trying to take advantage of his long nap, Vipul and I decided to catch a traditional Balinese dance performance. As this was Friday night, the Ubud Royal Palace had the traditional Barong and Legong dance. We had no idea what to expect and the performance blew our mind. The open paved courtyard of the Ubud Royal Palace, the cool mountainous breeze, smallish earthen lights flickering in the night and a magnificent dance performance of the Balinese women to the live gamelan music. Varun slept through most of the Legong performance – the Balinese nymphs trained to entertain royalty. And woke up in time for the light-hearted Barong routine– masked dragon and monkey dance. It was magical to sit under the starry night and swaying trees.

After the performance, we walked to Lotus café for dinner. We sat in the Balinese style huts with low tables and had typical Balinese 3-course meal while Varun played around. A quick cab back ride back to the villa later, we climbed into the king bed and snuggled under the white net canopy. I don’t recall when Varun slept, by I am sure, I slept almost instantaneously.

Day 2

Sometime before buying tickets for the performance and actual performance, Vipul and I wandered around to find an ATM and find a cab for day trip. We actually asked rates to a couple of cab drivers. They seemed close, so we randomly picked one – Mr  Yogi, who asked for about $45 for the day. We had told him that we would call him in the morning to based on when we woke up and then we would go out for the day.

The day started with breakfast overlooking the rice fields. A quintessential Balinese experience – it was so cool we could experience it right away without having to leave the resort.

Mr. Yogi planned the day for us, starting with the 11th century meditation caves – Goa Gajah. Outside the caves are the traditional Balinese temple baths to cleanse before heading for the meditation.Inside the caves are the statues of Ganesh and Shiva – who are both worshiped amongst other Hindu deities.

We borrowed the temple sarong as Balinese are modest traditional lot and don’t like exposed knees (signifies disrespect to the Gods).

Next, we drove north to Tirtha Empul. This is another temple complex where worshippers come to take bath in its holy waters to purify and get rid of bad dreams, past etc – similar to taking a bath in Ganga in Haridwar.Here, again, we borrowed some sarongs before went in.

It so happened to be an auspicious day and all the temples we visited were thronged by worshippers dressed in white performing puja’s, reciting hymns and carrying offerings to the Gods.

Next we drove further north to Kintamani and Lake Batur – a beautiful volcanic mountain overlooking a serene lake. The route passes through Bali’s agro district – with several coffee and spice plantations. We stopped for a coffee break, where we sampled a variety of coffee’s , including the famous Luwak coffee – coffee beans digested by Luwak ( a small raccoon type animal), and then collected, cleaned, roasted for an incredibly smooth coffee. Re-energised with coffee and hot chocolate, we continued on our drive north admiring the rolling hills and the spice plantations.

Varun, still a bit jet lagged and tired, slept through the drive. We had lunch at one of the many restaurants lining the Kintamani viewpoint. It was a buffet lunch – its virtually impossible to find a non buffet/ ala carte place during lunch time at any tourist location. For $15/pp , it wasn’t a bad lunch although it was a bit pricey by Balinese standards. The best part of the lunch – chicken sate and black rice pudding which we loved so much that we got black rice to make at home.

As Varun was still asleep, we decided to drive east and visit Besakih, the biggest temple complex in Bali. Varun woke up just as we reached the complex. Instead of borrowing a sarong again, I decided to buy one. Vipul exercised his bargaining skills and a few minutes later, I was a proud owner of a beautiful red batik sarong J . We spend some time wandering the temple complex. Varun simply wanted to run around and we had a hard time chasing him and controlling him on the unevenly paved courtyard, steep staircases etc We left as rain clouds loomed overhead.

We headed back to Ubud and stopped enroute at Tellagang for another coffee break. We had Tellagang to ourselves as all day trippers from the south had left for the day.The café overlooked rice paddy fields. As we sat in the café, we marveled quietly at the lush greenery, coconut trees and the terraced fields. Varun was playing with our driver, letting us put our feet up and relax.

Luckily, Tellagang was only 20 mins from our hotel and we reached hotel before dusk. Once back, Varun and Vipul took a quick dip in the pool, while I filled the bath tub. The oversized bath tub took a while to fill, but once it did, Vipul, Varun and I had a ball relaxing in it. The open air, the light frangipani fragrance and chirping insects outside added to the magic of the evening.

Refreshed, We headed out for dinner to Bridges. After two not so good Balinese food experience, we carved for something familiar – so Italian it was. The good part of travelling in off-season is that you don’t need reservations and we walked in and were promptly seated. A little girl from an adjoining table entertained Varun while we enjoyed an awesome meal in peace.

To top it off, Varun slept on the ride home, letting us turn in early as well.

 Day 3

We had always decided to take one day at a time in Bali, based on how Varun handled the travel. As Varun has fun on previous day, we decided to take him to Bali Zoo and Marine Park. Anyways, it was raining in Ubud and we headed South. Varun is in love with animals and fishu (as he calls fish) and so it was a perfect after a day of temples. We took our stroller with us and spent most of the day at the park.

For about $50 / pp, we got to take a bus ride through the zoo, visit the aquarium , water park and see a well –orchestrated Balinese show about Balinese history depicted through all popular Balinese performances  (Legong, Barong, Puppets, Gamelan music etc). Varun especially loved the animals – calling out them to ‘stand’ and not ‘sleep’ in the mid-day heat and the fishes!

After the park, we planned to go to Uluwantu – a beautiful temple at the southern tip of Bali. The sunset from here is supposed to be truly spectacular. But given the clouds over the horizon, the peak traffic crossing through to Denpasar, we decided to go instead to Jimbaran, a beautiful beach on western coast of Bali. It is famous for its BBQ seafood dinner on the beach. A quick stop at Dunkin Donuts  for coffee and donuts later, we were at the beach. Varun was quickly covered in sand and even chased a dog around while we sat with Bintangs , watching the boats and planes bob into the sunset.

The dinner on the beach was a tad overcooked, but the ambience more than made up for it. Very likely, the restaurant we chose was not the best but we just walked into a place that was not overrun by big bus tours.

Also, as the beach does not have outdoor showers, as we are used to in US, I had to clean Varun in the bathroom using a hand shower. The cold water had Varun screaming, but it was better than have sand on him everywhere. A bottle of ‘su su’ or cold sterile baby milk later, Varun was asleep in the car while we drove back to Ubud.

To be continued…

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