Tranquil

 

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Tea wala on the way to Tranquil


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Tools of the trade

We stopped for tea at the edge of Bandipur Tiger Preserve, on our way to Tranquil.

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The Treehouse

Tranquil was such a beautiful spot. The food was fantastic and I felt a lot of the day was spent eating. Everyone at the resort was so gracious and made sure that we were comfortable and having a nice holiday.

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Tranquil’s open air dining room, surrounded by beautiful gardens.


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Lush gardens at Tranquil.


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Traditional cooking pot, and mortar and pestle in the garden.


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Veranda for the garden rooms.


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Terra cotta posts on the veranda.

Malleswaram

Just when I think I’m over jetlag and I have been sleeping through the night, I’m up at 1:30 in the morning and unable to go back to sleep. Time to write a blog. Today is Venkatesh’s birthday and will probably be busy, but yesterday the day began quietly with coffee. We didn’t have to go anywhere and I wandered through the house taking some pictures.

Some things for a pooja in the kitchen.

Red oxide floors in the front hall.

Vegetables waiting to be cooked by Shivama.


Venkatesh and I took a small walk to the stationery shop around the corner. He wanted to buy an inexpensive Hero fountain pen. They are made in China but were used by school children when they started fifth standard in India. We bought the last one with the old body design and were told they won’t be getting any more. No one asks for them.

We walked past shops and stopped for a coffee at a small breakfast place. Coffee is piping hot and served in a 2 ounce glass with milk and sugar. You stand and drink it on the sidewalk then put the dirty glass in a tub. The price is 10 rupees or approximately one and one half cents. That’s the first time I’ve calculated the cost in dollars and the price is crazy! Goodbye Starbucks! Strangely enough, Starbucks does exist in India and the coffee is just as expensive as it is in the U.S. How can these two options exist in the same market, on the same block?

One of my favorite shop signs on 8th Main, Malleswaram.

Local snack shop on 8th Main.

The Back Story

It looks like these posts are turning into more of a travel guide and less of a personal story. For that I am sorry and I hope it hasn’t been too dry. I have wanted to share the fantastic places I have seen, but neglected to include the experiences. So read on for the back story behind my journey to India’s ancient caves!

Juice stand next to bus stand, Pune

Juice stand next to bus stand, Pune

Traveling to Aurangabad by myself was a big challenge. Although that was part of the point, to go out and navigate India on my own, it was quite nerve wracking at times. I booked the entire trip on my own, arranging bus tickets and finding a nice hotel on Booking.com. I e-mailed the hotel for help with the travel arrangements and a guide for my trips to the caves. A woman named Yvette from The Meadows Resort was very helpful. So I was prepared for my trip, or was I?

Two boys posed for me at the bus stop while I was taking pictures of autos for Ashwin

Two boys posed for me at the bus stop while I was taking pictures of autos for Ashwin

I told Venkatesh I would keep in touch by phone during the bus travel, but when I arrived in Pune with my Indian cell phone it wouldn’t work. I had three days of wedding events coming up so I wasn’t worried. Luckily, my father in law, Gopal, was able to fix the service from Bangalore and by the time I boarded the bus it was fine. Thank god, I couldn’t have done the trip without my phone! I’m sure I would have been standing on some street corner after dark, in an unknown city, and hailing an auto to a hotel I didn’t really know how to get to. Phew! Mom and Dad, please don’t panic, I am now home safe, and I didn’t tell you before hand so you wouldn’t worry!

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A new kind of auto in Pune, carries many people like a small bus

I was dropped at the side of a busy road in Pune, by the Royal Orchid Hotel driver and Leah. I watched them drive off to the airport, leaving me to wait for a bus that was almost an hour away. I was pretty sure I was in the right place so I was okay, just thinking – I can relax once I’m on the bus. The bus was ten minutes early, so I gave them my reservation and found my sleeper berth. It was quite clean and I settled in for the five hour journey. At the last stop in Pune, a family came and told me I was in their berth. None of the bus personnel spoke English, but it turned out I was on the bus that comes before mine. I had to get out and wait for my bus at a stop on the edge of Pune (who knows where). Luckily there was a bus office and I could sit in a chair outside and wait for my bus. I felt uprooted and nervous, but there were some nice people helping me. A twelve year old boy wearing a green t shirt with ‘smart boy’ written on the front sat down and started talking to me. He was very curious and sweet. I think he wanted to practice his English and he had a lot of questions about my family and the U.S. He really helped me get through the half hour wait. He even showed me to a bathroom down a narrow alley and filled a bucket of water for me to use. Finally my bus came, not as clean as the last and it felt like I was travelling in a coffin, but it got me to Aurangabad feeling only slightly nauseated.

Busy street market on the way to Aurangabad

Busy street market on the way to Aurangabad

DSC01297 I had arranged for a hotel driver to pick me up at the bus stand, but when I texted the contact person that I was on the bus approaching Aurangabad, I got a one liner back, ‘sorry?’. This is when I began to get really nervous! Thanks to a working cell phone I was able to get the contact person to talk directly to the driver and I had someone waiting for me when I arrived. Another phew! I arrived at the hotel around 10:30 and it was a ghost town. I was worn out from the trip and had a little trouble communicating with the man at the front desk. The helpful Yvette, it turns out, works at the main office in Bombay – not the resort. Maybe things would look better in the morning, I thought, so I settled into my cottage, locked every door and window and went to sleep. In the morning, another man at the front desk pointed me to the restaurant (he spoke even less English than the one the night before). I didn’t see another guest in sight, just some men cleaning the garden. At the outdoor patio there were two men eating, they turned out to be the only other guests at the resort. Have you noticed there were quite a few men and no women? I was given a menu, and when I ordered, nothing was available. After all, how do you keep a restaurant running when there are only three guests? I was given a choice of four items, I picked one and ordered coffee…..

The coffee came out, they called it milk coffee, but it was really just milk. I said ‘where is the coffee?’. ‘This is coffee Maam.’ ‘But coffee is brown, not white’, I said. ‘Light coffee Maam’, said the waiter. They had little packets of NescafĂ© that had to be added if you wanted to get any kind of a buzz. Okay, a resort without good filter coffee? I would think this would be priority number one! My entire resort experience continued like this. It was advertised as a garden spa resort; with pool, massage, steam room, weight room and hot tub. They showed a wide range of eastern and western foods, and baked goods that they made on sight. I was looking for a little pampering, but this was definitely not the place for it. The room was comfortable, the staff were quite nice, but it was unsettling. Thankfully, my day trips and guide were fantastic. After all, that was the main reason I went. The worst part happened when I went to check out and none of my international cards could be processed through their machine. I didn’t have enough cash and it took two hours of negotiations. Finally, Venkatesh had to call the hotel manager to work something out. By then it was late and I was completely wound up and worried that they were going to kick me out on my last night. I had a 5 am taxi going to the airport the next morning and I was never so glad to go home, to family and Malleswaram. Adventure over!

Ashwin dressed as an auto driver for fancy dress day at school

Ashwin dressed as an auto driver for fancy dress day at school

Decoction

imageMaking coffee is even different here. First you make the ‘decoction’ in something like a French press (left), it takes at least half an hour to drip down for a concentrated brew like espresso. This can be used and saved for the next day, unlike brewed coffee at home which turns bitter. Then you boil the milk that comes in soft packets. The milk is very fresh and is usually used up in a day, although I keep mine for about two days. It has a cream on top that looks like small droplets of butter when warmed. Next you pour a small amount of decoction into a bowl and add hot milk – blowing on the surface to keep the skin from pouring into your coffee mixture. Pour into a cup with the desired amount of sugar, then back and forth between pan and cup to create a froth. Pure bliss! I could get a coffee maker here, but it means buying a coffee maker that no one will use when we leave. When in Rome……..

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We just started keeping water in a clay pot. We have water for washing, but we don’t have a water filter in the Cloud House, so we carry water up from the floors below. Clay also absorbs impurities and the evaporation process keeps the liquid cool. It’s a beautiful way to keep water. The ants on the other hand are not beautiful. We have to wash everything immediately or we get big red ants in the evening. That’s it for the kitchen blog, I must go pick Ashwin up from school!