Category Archives: Travel

Along The Road to Hana

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I have always wanted to drive on the Road to Hana since I saw it on some travel channel years ago.

In one of our earlier versions of the trip plan, we planned to stay overnight in Hana and explore the Seven Sacred Pools and hike in the vicinity.

Of course, this time we didn’t really want to change hotels etc. So we just decided to do a day trip. Drive as far as we could go and then turn back. the trip was more about the journey than the destination.

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We didn’t want to wake up early just to complete the drive. The drive one way is about 45 miles and there are several guides/maps that list what to do mile by mile. The roads hugs the coast and crosses many single lane bridges as it winds its way to Hana. On a busy day there is a pile of cars and that tends to slow folks down. Most folks tend to drive all the way to Hana, have lunch there and then stop at different attractions on the way back.

We took it easy and left Wailea after breakfast and decided that we will probably go up to mile marker 17 or such and then head back.

First stop – Paia Town

This is the last big town before you embark onto the road to Hana drive. We stopped here to pick up picnic lunch, water and use restrooms before continuing further. Didn’t really spend much time here though it has some excellent shopping opportunities – jewelry, clothes, restaurants etc

With our lunch packed we headed to our first real stop on the drive.

Mile Marker 2 –  Twin Falls

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Varun hates long drives. To get him excited about the trip we told him about waterfalls and how he could splash in them and get wet. In fact the only reason he agreed to sit in the car for this long was to see waterfalls. So, we were very happy to find a decent waterfall right off the bat. Parking was a bit tricky here as this is the first stop on the trip and almost everyone stops here but we managed to find one along the road. Varun hiked the almost one mile gravel trail to the falls.

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Flowers, fruits, singing and dragging a stick behind him helped him walk on the uneven trail.

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The falls were strictly ok but Varun loved getting wet in the big pool.

And holding a big green gecko on a stick.

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As a reward for walking, we treated him to coconut water and bananas at the fresh fruit stand right outside the trail head to the falls.

Exhausted he slept in the car. So now, we had a dilemma – should we stop along the way and carry him or drive a bit further and then stop on the way back. We decided to do the latter.

We stopped and ooh-ed-aah-ed at the views from the car but our real next stop was in Ke’anae Peninsula.

Mile Marker 16.5 – Ke’anae Peninsula 

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Tall waves spraying over rocky lava coastline, taro fields, a beautiful old Hawaiian church and not to mention the most amazing banana bread. Need I say more why we stopped here. Shaved ice was heaven. It was dramatic and hypnotizing. Inviting us to stay, lay a blanket and have a picnic lunch right there.

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The open green fields next to the church would be perfect for Varun to run around but he was still asleep.

We sat there taking in the dramatic scenery and munching on the warm banana bread and then drove down further south to see more waterfalls and coast.

Mile Marker 25 – Nahiku Landing 

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Nahiku landing promised a drive through forest and a hidden waterfall on the beach. We though this would be perfect for Varun. Wake up from his nap, have lunch on the beach and then spend time in the waterfall before heading back. The drive was beautiful. But unfortunately the waterfall had dried up. We met another couple who hiked around the beach to find the waterfall with no luck.

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This was the least touristy spot on the drive thus far and the solace was very comforting.

Varun was a bit disappointed about the waterfall but was happy to see the giant waves splash on the rocky shore below.

We decided to head back as it was past 3 by now and see if we could wrangle in one more waterfall stop on the way back.

Mile Marker 17 – Pua’a Ka’a Park & Falls

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We stopped at the Pua’a Ka’a park for late lunch and rest room break. Across the road there was a small waterfall and Varun was very impatient to cross a little stream to reach it. He wanted Vipul to help him jump from one rock to another while crossing the stream. The water was a bit cool to actually bathe in but it was fun splashing around in it.

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We spent some time here and then decided to drive back home. Clouds started gathering and it was bit dark. We drove back playing car games like I Spy games and  asking him to recognize animal sounds.

It was a lovely day out – away from the resort to see the real Maui.

I am sure areas around Hana are even more prettier but we got a glimpse of it on this lush green tropical drive. Wonderful seascapes, quaint one lane bridges, thick bamboo forests and taro patches. A must do while on Maui.

Magic Of Maui

December in Maui

We were in Maui for a week in December.

After Dubai and before starting our life in San Francisco.

Hawaii has always been our milestone destination. For our fifth anniversary we were in Oahu ( after Australia) and our first baby moon we were in Kauai. It made sense to continue with our Hawaii theme for our 10th anniversary as well as second baby moon (if a vacation with an active 3-year-old when you are at fag-end of second trimester can be called as any kind of “moon”).

Maui has always been an elusive destination for us. We have planned to visit many times before Varun. We almost had purchased tickets but something or the other was always in the way. This time we wanted to visit Maui as we started our second phase in US.

I wasn’t sure how I would fare the long flight from India to US. I wanted to see if I could manage another 5+ hours flight so we booked our tickets fairly late minute.

Where We Stayed 

December in Maui

Since we had “researched” the island earlier, we knew where we wanted to stay. It was either Lahaina in West Maui or Wailea in South Maui. Both have excellent sunset views, calm crescent beaches and luxury resorts catering to every whim you would have. We didn’t really plan to do much of sight-seeing anyways so we didn’t really care to be in center of things.

December in Maui

Based on the deals that we saw at that time, Four Seasons, Maui was booked. And boy was it a fantastic choice or what. Luxurious expansive rooms, water views, top-notch service and little details that make your stay memorable. Its expected at a resort like this. What really blew me away was their kid friendliness.

December in Maui

Little robe for Varun? Check

One Planet Lotion/Shampoo/ Bath wash for kids and babies? Check

Complimentary Pool/Beach toys ? Check

Complimentary kid friendly books, video rentals? Check

Kids for All Season – A complimentary play area with activities (gecko hunting, swimming, beach combing etc) and toys for kids including meals and snacks ? Check

The last one was so loved by Varun. Between that and the beach he couldn’t decide where he wanted to go.

But it was not overrun with kids. There was a separate adults only area with swim up bar and infinity pool , up and away from the chaos of kid and family pool.

December in Maui

December in Maui

We enjoyed that as well thanks to the babysitting service that we could avail from Four Seasons concierge. The baby sitters are carefully shortlisted and checked so you can actually enjoy your vacation without worrying about your kid not being in safe hands.

We met so many families by the pool who return here every year around the same time every year from various cities in US to enjoy the warmth and hospitality of Four Seasons. They have formed friendships over their vacation and are excited to see them. I think that speaks the most about the resort.

If you have a child and are looking for a chilled out resort in Maui, really look no further than Four Seasons. I would go again in a heartbeat.

What did we do?

There is literally a ton of activities to do in Maui. Shortlisting ones to do given the limited time you have on the island is a challenge. We didn’t plan to do much other than drive to Hana and Snorkel. Rest was pool and beach time.

A drive unto Haleakala summit was out of question as was some of the other activities we would typically have indulged in on such a vacation – hiking, learning to surf or even scuba diving.

Luckily, Varun didn’t mind the drive to Hana. He actually loves waterfalls and was excited to visit one after the another. He didn’t snorkel but we took turns snorkeling by the Molokini crater. The reef is alive and teeming with colorful fishes. Very vibrant and reminiscent of our scuba diving experience in Cairns.

By the day, Varun played in the pool with other kids or played in the sand digging our feet in on the beach.

December in Maui

December in Maui

Or chasing birds

December in Maui

December in Maui

Afternoons were either in the kids for All Season or napping.

December in Maui

December in Maui

Evenings were spent watching pink sunsets along the beach or the board walk.

December in Maui

Tiki torch lighting ceremony and Hula dancing at the resort was followed by dinner.

December in Maui

A movie or books reading time for Varun and then bedtime.

December in Maui

Sometimes its an adrenaline packed vacation that you remember for ever. Like our time in Costa Rica. Other times its relaxing vacation that makes wonderful memories. Varun talks about waterfalls and beach from Hawaii. He remembers how we had to get back from Hana before it got very dark.   And the beautiful pictures of Varun and Vipul are something I will cherish forever.

I got to chill out, enjoy a massage and sleep in before the fast pace of life took over again. I would so not trade our time in Maui for anything.

They say Hawaii spoils you forever. The greenery, the laid back pace of life, coffee, soft sand, waterfalls, seafood, naps in middle of day and the Aloha spirit. We have visited three island so far and I agree, we are spoilt. Can’t wait to go back again – this time with two kids in tow!

Chinese Lunar New Year Mini Parade

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

On Saturday, we took Varun to see the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Its the year of the horse per the Chinese Zodiac Calendar.

To celebrate, there was a mini parade in Chinatown, sponsored by Southwest Airlines. It was a free event starting at the St. Mark’s Square ( intersection of California and Grant) with the parade going down the Grant Avenue and then turned to go up Jackson.

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

The 30 minute long parade promised the noble dragon, lions dancers, costumed stilt walkers and children playing electrifying music etc followed by a street fair. Kettle corn, new year flowers and plants, candy, tea and other knick knacks that you find in Chinatown.

The atmposhere was energetic and colorful – thanks to the colorful costumes, fans, ribbons and flags. These kids must have practiced so much for the big Day!

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

It was crowded after the parade with people milling about buying flowers, candles, tea and generally having a good time. We were there for a couple of hours with a long tea break to have some really good ginger – honey tea.

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 in SF Chinatown

Chinese New Year Parade 2014 at San Francisco Chinatown

Varun loved the parade, the music and watching the lion dancers and the dragon. Even as I was uploading the pictures he kept telling me what we saw yesterday and when we can go see it again.

There was another parade in the evening and streets in downtown were cordoned off. It was a pain getting back home but so much fun while it lasted.

Will probably give it a go again next year. Or may be checkout the Vietnamese New Year festivities instead!

Would you visit SeaWorld? On Whales and Dolphins Captivity and Slaughter

It was Friday night. My phone beeped.

I wondered who would be messaging me at that time. Most of my friends with kids would be busy with families/dinner time/sleep time etc. The ones without kids would be in a bar somewhere enjoying life.

I picked up phone and was surprised to see a comment on the blog on the Dubai Dolphinarium post. I logged into wordpress to read the comment. I assumed all along it probably was someone to ask about entry price or something such about the Dolphinarium or the Children’s City.

I was surprised to read this comment from a reader:

It is heartbreaking to hear a blogger recommend the Dubai Dolphinarium for children. The dolphins displayed in Dubai were obtained from Taiji drive fisheries where the young are selected for dolphinariums and their parents are slaughtered for fertilizer. Dolphins are highly intelligent beings that live life spans much like mans the difference being their home is the ocean. By attending the Dubai Dolphinarium you rob a dolphin family, a dolphin child of it’s freedom, home, and family. I doubt you will publish my comment but please think about what I am saying. Is it right that the people of the sea give up their lives for your children’s entertainment. Please watch Blackfish and The Cove.

Are you going to post this comment?” Vipul asked.

“Of course”, I responded.

As a parent I owed it to myself and my kid and my family to learn about something that I know nothing about. I looked up the movies The Cove and Blackfish on Wikipedia.

What I read horrified me.

I wanted to watch the movies before forming any opinion.

Fast forward to Saturday night.

We were at home and I watched both Blackfish and The Cove.

What I saw was even more horrifying.

Incase you don’t anything about the movies, Blackfish documents the life journey of a killer whale named Tilikum. It shows how the whale was separated from his mother when he was a baby (as a mom this is so hard to swallow), and then spent all his life in captivity in cement pools with other whales. They are trained using food deprivation techniques – which any animal trainer would agree are the worst. Its no wonder that the life spent in captivity causes stress, fights, and distress that manifests in attacks on trainers, each other etc. 

Its tragic that how mega-corporations like Seaworld, hide some of this information from the trainers and then blame them when the mammal attacks for lack of precaution/safety etc.

Now after several years of media and activists pressure, Tilikum is kept in separate pool and does only one act; kept around for his sperm!

If Blackfish movie is about the larger cetaceans, then The Cove is about the smaller ones – Dolphins. Systematically every year, in Taiji, Japan, from September to April, Dolphins are caught. Young ones are separated from their parents and sold to Dolphinariums, Swim with Dolphin programs and other places where you get to see Dolphin acts. These dolphins are shipped all over the world.

Rest are all brutally slaughtered. For cultural tradition reasons. And citing that they eat other smaller fish. The entire cove turns bloody with the slaughtered animals. The meat although toxic (mercury poisoning) is sold all over the world.

Maybe the movies are biased. Maybe the comments have been taken out of context. Documentaries such as this are usually laced with an agenda/motive. Even if you think for a moment that the whales and dolphins are well treated, have most passionate care in the world and don’t have stress in captivity, why should we think that its ok for them to entertain us day in and day out?

Even if it is a golden prison, it is still a prison!

And do we learn anything from it? Not really! Nothing that I remember after the visit about the animals.

Probably such cruelty happens in Zoo’s and other wild life parks as well. So unless it is a true not for profit conservation center, its best to stay clear of these places.

I have seen Dolphins and Orcas in the wild. It truly is a pleasure to see them in the wild. You eagerly look for them to leap out of the water. Even if you see only one on the excursion you feel thrilled. They are in their natural habitat. They swim for miles.

I have seen Dolphins in captivity. In Singapore Sentosa Island and Dubai Dolphinarium.

What I didn’t know then was about how these beautiful animals are separated from their parents, the grief of the parents when the child goes missing, how they are trained and made to live in cramped quarters or worse killed for their meat.

These business’s exist because we create a demand. My son never asked me to take him to see fishes. I thought he may like it and hence I took him there.If we eliminate this demand, there is no reason for Dolphins and Whales to be hunted, to be separated from their parents, to be shipped all the way across the world – for entertainment or food.

We wouldn’t knowingly support terrorism or contribute to their funds. Then why this?

I had heard about Shamu the whale all the way across in India when I was younger. But I never heard about Blackfish, The Cove, Death at Seaworld and other such documentaries on this topic. Such is the power of marketing and PR of the uber corporations who have vested needs to let this animal captivity continue.

As we cannot really turn back time, and return the whales to the wild, SeaWorld should probably make sure that the animals have more natural pools and space while they are in captivity, focus on keeping “pods” together and not separate them for business or worse create artificial foster families.

Till then, I will not take my son to Sea World or Dolphinarium or any such places. Or for that matter even have Shark fin soup.

What Can I Do About This?

1. Don’t take my word – watch these documentaries online. Netflix, GooglePlay , FreeVideo.Me etc have it available. Read counter views and form your own opinion.

2. Spread the word: Please share this post with your Facebook, Google+, Twitter friends. Or Email the link to them.

3. Don’t buy a ticket! Its something that can be easily done without feeling deprived.

Corporations and business’es understand $$. When the inflow stops/reduces they make changes. Remember Walmart and MacDonald’s making changes to their HR and menu policies (respectively).

4. Don’t eat/buy Dolphin meat/Shark fin meat – even for your pets.

Not because it is culturally wrong or anything but simply because its toxic. Would you eat beef from a cow infected with Mad Cow Disease? Its the same thing here. And with it being in pet food or mislabeled, be extra careful!

Together we can stop this madness.

PS SeaWorld posted  record breaking attendance and quarter today and are looking forward to an ever bigger return in 2014. But SeaWorld had to spend a lot on PR, Groupon deals etc to make this happen. What you make of it, I will leave it up to you.

Other Resources to Learn About Cetaceans in Captivity and Taiji Dolphin Capture/Slaughter:

1. Champions for Cetaceans

2. World Cetacean Alliance

3. Save the Whales

4. Dolphin Meat Toxic to Humans

5. Minamata disease and Dolphin meat

6. Dolphin meat Toxic Waste

7. Taiji, The Captive Connection

8. Whale meat in pet food

7. Counter Arguments : My Problem with Blackfish, Message as Dubious as its Methods, On Dolphin Slaughter and Culture

Dubai Dolphinarium

Dolphin and Seal Show at Dubai Dolphinarium

Before I sign off on Dubai posts, I have to write about the place where Varun laughed and squealed the most – Dubai Dolphinarium.

We had spent the earlier part of the day at Ski Dubai so this was a befitting part 2 of the focussed day. The Dolphinarium is in Children’s City – a little bit further from Dubai Mall. Mostly we saw locals, kids celebrating birthdays and other little kids with their parents on vacation.Varun has a small blue toy dolphin that he loves. He used to play with it in India and I think it’s probably lost somewhere in the move. So when he saw pictures of the Dolphins in various brochures his eyes went wide as he literally yelled “Look, mama, Dolphins”!

The show is in an indoor air-conditioned auditorium. It is about 90 minutes long and has a musical and magic tricks ( they call it illusions) part which IMO was totally unnecessary and boring for kids. It was hard to keep kids engaged during that part despite the beautiful acrobatics.

Dolphin and Seal Show at Dubai Dolphinarium

Varun kept asking me when the dolphins and seals would arrive. Finally when they did, he was jumping up and down in his seat, clapping and cheering like I have never seen before.

Dolphin and Seal Show at Dubai Dolphinarium

Dolphin and Seal Show at Dubai Dolphinarium

Dolphin and Seal Show at Dubai Dolphinarium

Dolphin and Seal Show at Dubai Dolphinarium

Dolphin and Seal Show at Dubai Dolphinarium

Dolphin and Seal Show at Dubai Dolphinarium

Dolphin and Seal Show at Dubai Dolphinarium

If you do have little kids, do take them here. The Children’s City has other kid friendly things to do like slides, park, planetarium, nature and space center etc. Its worth heading out that way even if you have seen Dolphin shows else-where. Keep in mind transportation back after the dolphin show is a bit iffy and you have to wait for a cab to show up. 

We headed from here to see the musical fountains. I think we saw them thrice all in all. As we stayed fairly close to the Dubai mall it was one free indulgence which we loved.

A very kid friendly, safe and cosmopolitan city, we truly loved Dubai. We hope to visit again when the kids are older and we can do some crazy adventure the emirate has to offer: Zorbing, Indoor Sky diving, Hot Air Balloon Ride over the desert, just to name a few!

Top of World Burj Khalifa Experience

Worlds Tallest Building - Burj Khalifa in Dubai

An opportunity to visit the Tallest building in the world? Yea, to the 124th floor of the building pictured above and look out! Need I say more?

It was again one of the things we didn’t want to miss in Dubai. This was the only tour we had booked before we left India. We had read on Tripdvisor to book in advance as the tickets are cheaper online than at the window. Plus you can then plan your day/time in advance rather than be at the mercy of whats available. But even then the sunset times were all sold out for the entire duration that we were supposed to be there.

Our reservation was at 3:30pm so we were looking forward to day time views of the Gulf, Dessert, World Islands and The Palm from the top.

The line or the wait wasn’t long though Varun fell asleep en-route. A series of escalators whisked us to the elevator. And the elevator took us within a minute to the top.On the way to the elevator, there is even a special skylight to capture the soaring tower. And the information and timeline video of tower being built is fascinating.

Views from Top of Burj Khalifa, Tallest building in the world, Dubai, UAE

View of Burj Khalifa from Skylight, Dubai, UAE

At the top, Varun woke up and in his semi asleep state freaked out as he looked down. He was a bit upset at first but slowly warmed up to seeing various sights from the telescope.

Views from Top of Burj Khalifa, Tallest building in the world, Dubai, UAE

The view truly is amazing on a clear day. I can imagine sunsets and evenings when the city comes alive with lights must be even more spectacular.

Views from Top of Burj Khalifa, Tallest building in the world, Dubai, UAE

Views of Old city and beyond Burj Khalifa

Views from Top of Burj Khalifa, Tallest building in the world, Dubai, UAE

Views from Top of Burj Khalifa, Tallest building in the world, Dubai, UAE

Views from Top of Burj Khalifa, Tallest building in the world, Dubai, UAE

We saw folks sitting around waiting for sunset. But an hour or so later, Varun had enough of the cramped quarters and wanted to go back down. We had some tantrums and timeouts there especially around souvenir shop with its chocolates and toys. Parenting. Doesn’t stop at the top of the world!

Views from Top of Burj Khalifa, Tallest building in the world, Dubai, UAE

Once down, we lingered around the Dubai Fountains pool, saw the musical show one last time and then headed out for dinner. It was our last evening in Dubai and we had an early morning flight to catch. There was packing to be done, car pickups confirmed before we could sleep.

Burj Khalifa at night

After this trip, we were looking forward to starting our life in San Francisco!

A truly metropolitan city, we hope to visit Dubai again. Next time we will probably stay at some desert resort to take in its beauty in all its glory!

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