Up, Up and Away

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All good things must come to an end. We arrive at the Delhi airport extremely early for our 10:35 PM flight. This airport is huge and also the most secure I’ve ever been in. They had guards at each door. To get in, you had to provide your ticket and passport and it could only be a certain number of hours before your flight. We got in before the ticket counter even opened. My friend had been able to check-in and par for the course; I had an “error” and couldn’t check in. Wonderful.

Checking in was interesting. It ended up taking four or five agents to figure out the issue so I could get my boarding passes. Luckily my luggage was checked all the way home. Winning.

Security was super secure. Ironic I know. We got through, only to learn we were supposed to have these tags on our hand luggage so they could stamp them. There are no signs telling you that, and there also aren’t bins of these tags just around. To make the experience even more special, my backpack was completely unpacked and everything was run through the scanner alone. It was pretty cool. Or whatever the opposite of cool is, yeah it was that.

My main goals were food, shopping and shower. Mind you at this point we had been up since 7AM, slathered in Deet and sunscreen, plus a layer of sweat and dirt. The last thing I wanted was to sit in my own filth for another 25+ hours going home.

Side note: the shopping in the Delhi airport is fantastic! We could have spent hours in those shops!

After our dinner and shopping it was shower time. We didn’t have any kind of lounge pass, but we ended up buying a pass to the Air India lounge. We got three or four hours of access, internet, food, drinks, and nice chairs. For some additional ruperts we got access to showers. All in all it cost about $20 –ish dollars each, Yeah cheap.

I’m not sure what I expected from an airport lounge shower, but I have to say it was one of the nicest showers I have ever been in. We each got our own room with a sink, toilet and shower. They provided anything you could need, which I also didn’t expect. The shower was so great that I washed everything twice. Seriously amazing.

Showered, fed, and happy-ish we had one final Kingfisher in the lounge and said our final farewell to India. It was sad, that is, until this happened.

Last Kingfisher


Be warned, Delhi airport rant about to start…

On our way to the gate, I got two bottles of water from the bookstore. I am all about staying hydrated when I fly and this was going to be 14+ hours in a steal tube up in the air. I needed water to survive. So I was a happy camper. Upon arrival to our gate, we realized there was another security checkpoint. Wait, I already went through all this. In my naive brain, I thought okay no problem, security again but since I got my water IN THE AIRPORT it will be fine. Wrong, I was so wrong. I had to throw BOTH of my brand new, un-opened half liter bottles of water away. To say I was livid would not be saying enough. I’m still pissed about that now almost a year later. I appreciate security yes, but at least warn us. Say that we can’t buy them. Or make us put them in a sealed bag or something. It was ridiculous not to be able to board a 14+hour flight with water. Absolutely ridiculous. Okay, rant end.

This was going to be the longest flight I had been on. My previous record was flying from Fiji to LA in 2007. Luckily I was exhausted and ready for sleep. As the amount of people getting on the plane slowed, I realized I had been given the greatest gift one could ever hope for sitting in coach on a 14+ hour flight. An entire row to myself. Me, just me! Ahhhhhh (angels singing). As a taller person, this was one hell of a win. It would also mean the flight wasn’t full, so there were not as many people up and down and it was just a quieter flight because of that. All good things.

Our plane coming home was an infamous 777. I hadn’t flown on one in years. And this quite possibly could have been one of the oldest planes I’ve been on in a long time. It was totally fine until my headrest actually broke. Eh, I guess I did have three seats so it was alright. But still, it broke! What the what?! The other odd thing was that our flight map didn’t work the entire journey. So we had no idea where we were as we were flying in pitch-black skies all night. Creepy. Overall I expected it to feel like I was flying FOREVER and be so ready to get out of a plane. It turns out I did not feel that way at all. The flight was super easy. So easy that it makes you think about how “close” other destinations are.

We landed in lovely Newark around 4:35 AM and got through customs with no issues to drop our bags and make it through security for our final flights home. Sadly we said goodbye as I headed toward my gate. Luckily I had pre-check because even at 5:45AM on a Monday, Newark was bumping.  Picture this, I’m in the pre-check line in my yoga pants (huge shutout to my first pair of Lululemons. I would totally make that decision again and again. They felt like wearing nothing even after 14 hours), hair in a bun, zero makeup on, henna everywhere and all of the other travelers were completely suited up. I fit right in. Not!

On my last flight I was asleep before they finished the safety demonstration. When I woke up, I wasn’t even sure we were in the air. We were. That flight was easy and getting through the airport to an Uber home was no big deal. The return journey was so easy that it restored my faith in flying. And confirmed my addiction.

I was home again. Though my soul felt like it was still a world away. I wondered when it would return? Until then, food, shower and laundry.

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Pretty in Pink

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Jaipur was the city I was most looking forward to on our trip to India. Well we were all really looking forward to it, so much so, that we added a day to our itinerary when we were planning. And the legend of the infamous textiles sucked us right in like a drug.

We arrived in Jaipur after a long day in our medium sized van, where we had a sing-along for a few hours that I am sure our driver LOVED (“I feel my heart BEATING, I feel my heart beneath my skin”). After checking in, we got to our rooms to drop our belongings before dinner. It was late-ish, and rather than try and figure out where to go, the hotel buffet had our names on it. Katie and I were led to the first room.

Instantly, when we opened the door I noticed two things. Man it’s hot in here, and hmm those are big…black…ants. You thought I was going to say spiders or snakes didn’t you? No, ants. But really giant ones. And not like 2 or 3. Like 20 or 30. So I called the front desk to ask them to come spray. Our hotel was a Haveli, which is a large house that has courtyards and is split into “hotel” rooms. Because of this and the fact that we were in India, of course there were going to be bugs. What I was not expecting, was to see ants literally crawling in through the phone jack in the wall. Not good. So the front desk sent someone up to address the issue. A nice gentleman came with a broom. No spray, a broom. And not a broom like we have at home, it was like wheat tied together. You hold it in one hand and “sweep” back and fourth. It was all I could do not to bust out laughing. He got all the ants out, but when I tried to show him/tell him about the phone jack situation, that’s where things got lost in translation. At this point I was hangry and just needed to eat. Ants after dinner.

Once dinner was finished and we quickly assessed that the ants had returned (shocking I know). I very politely went to the front desk and asked to be moved. After a couple of tense minutes they got us a new room. Yay ant free! It actually worked out well because we got moved closer to our friends. Woo, friends! Now (more) Beer.

This is when I discovered Kingfisher. At home you probably wouldn’t give it a second glance, but in India it tasted like all of our hopes and dreams. Plus a round of drinks was about $17 USD for large 650 ml beers. Thank you India. We had ours while sitting around the pool even though it was probably close to 10:30 pm. There were no pool hours. Odd, but okay.

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While we sat outside and talked about our trip, the coolest thing started to happen. Obviously there are a fair amount of bugs in India and they have lots of mosquitoes. Hello malaria. Well all of a sudden we started to see these black objects flying straight at the pool and sort of skimming the top as they went by. Almost at the same time we all realized it was bats skimming the mosquitoes off the top of the pool. There was a constant stream of them for a really long time and we all thought it was pretty neat.

Our first morning in Jaipur was when we met our guarding angel, Nidhi. She was our guide for the next two full days and by the end of our time together we didn’t want to say goodbye.

We started the day by visiting the Wind Palace. A really cool building from the front, but come to find out there’s not much inside to see. No need, the front is stunning. You’ve probably seen it before.

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After that we made our way to City Palace. This palace really surprised the hell out of all of us. It was awesome. On the way, we stopped at this huge astrological park that has these gigantic working sundials and there’s all this science involved with the angles of everything, it was so cool. And Nidhi having been a history teacher explained everything so well I was captivated.

Exploring the City Palace was a highlight for so many reasons. The architecture was really interesting, they had a dancing court with four unbelievably decorated doorways that symbolized the four seasons, there was a weapons room, and even a room with some painting demonstrations.

One demonstration we watched was a gentleman who paints elephants and such on really cool old paper. Or so he says. We saw him paint them but the validity of the “old paper” is definitely open for debate. Whatever he said worked, because we all purchased something from him. As we were finishing up our demonstration and making our purchases, my friend quietly comes over to me and says in a whisper “hey, I think that guy is Jason Isaacs.” I’m looking at her sideways “um, who is that?” Through gritted teeth she says, “he plays Luscious Malfoy in Harry Potter.” I’m instantly skeptical because yeah right. Why on earth would he be in India, much less at the City Palace in Jaipur? No way. Some quick Googling, and awkward staring later, I’m completely eating my words. It absolutely is him with his family at the City Palace in Jaipur watching the same demonstration we just sat through. HOLY SHIT ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? THAT DUDE PLAYED LUSCIOUS MALFOY IN HARRY POTTER!?!?!?! LITERLALLY MY FAVORITE THING EVER!!! I am sorry Jason that I didn’t know your name or recognize you. My bad, it will not happen again. After squealing like school children, we promptly exited the area before making complete buffoons out of ourselves. In hindsight we should have stayed to try and ask for a photo. But we absolutely were not going to interrupt him during the demonstration with his family. We learned after the fact that he was filming in India and was on a break, spending time with his family.

Leaving the City Palace on somewhat of a high from our encounter we left to find henna. Nidhi had asked us when we first met if there was anything we really wanted to do while we were in town and henna was what we all said. Because you have to be careful with henna ink, we didn’t want to go somewhere random. But naturally she had the hook up. Everyone got their hand done, and then we arranged for the artists to come to our hotel later that evening to do our feet. Wet henna walking around was not going to work.

Lunch time! We ate at an awesome restaurant, before going to the textile store to spend some Ruperts. Unfortunately, I have a somewhat horrifying story to share before I start talking about our textile experience.

One of our group members had seen these candy bars advertised all over called 5 Star. She had looked for them everywhere but oddly couldn’t find any. Nidhi, our angel, stopped on our way to lunch and bought us a bag of them. So after our lovely meal we decided to dig in.IMG_4421

We sat down in the car and noticed that my friend had gotten pooped on by a bird (most likely a pigeon). Eww. But I had wet ones so she wiped it off. Then I noticed I had some on my foot/toes. Eww. Again, wet one to the rescue. Now it was time for those 5 Stars. It was chocolate and caramel and kind of like a brownie, what’s not to like?! They had been in the car so they were a little melted as we ate them. I was enjoying mine and noticed I had some melted chocolate on my hand and licked it off. No sooner had I swallowed that I realized I had bird poop all down the front of my shirt, on my purse and on my…hand. Yeah, the hand I had just licked the “chocolate” off of. Yes, I ate bird shit. I absolutely ate bird shit. I thought it was odd-looking chocolate. Nope, it was pigeon shit. The good news was that I didn’t immediately throw up, or ever get sick for that matter, but the fact remains, I ate actual shit.

Right so, textiles. I have to say I’m sad I don’t sew. Sorry mom, I know you tried to teach me and I never cared. Well now I do. Maybe it’s not too late? This place was great. (Heritage Textiles). They were so helpful and not overly pushy at all. Everything was fixed price, which helped on that front. I decided to have a salwar (long shirt with two slits, one on each side. Can be short, long or ¾ sleeve) custom made with elephant fabric, and then bought some scarves, pillowcases and a new comforter. It was all super reasonably priced and we got to come back the next day to try everything on to make sure it fit. What’s cool is that Jaipur is known for its stamped fabric (block printing) and after having seen where it was made, I fell in love with all of the patterns.

The last thing on our agenda before dinner was more henna! Our henna artists were waiting for us at the hotel when we got back. It was cool and we definitely felt VIP. I’m pretty sure we got them some more business while we were there since everyone stopped to ask us about it. We had a blast!

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Dinner this night was at Bar Palladio, an Italian restaurant in one of the other nice hotels in Jaipur. I must admit I was disappointed in the food, but we had a super awesome night. The restaurant was decorated in really vibrant colors, awesome fixtures and the perfect blend of traditionally hand stamped local fabric.

Our last day in Jaipur started out at the Amer Fort. I’m going to be real with you. All of us were super disappointed with this Fort. Our recommendation would be to start there if you are going to Jaipur because the City Palace is so awesome that seeing the Amer Fort first would help you like it more. By no means was it bad, just definitely not a fan favorite. We enjoyed our jeep ride to the top, our stop at the textile museum and temple though!

Unfortunately we did not have time for the actual monkey temple, but we saw plenty of monkeys at the temple we stopped at near Amer Fort, so I’m calling that a win. Plus, there are mean monkeys in India and nice monkeys in India. And quite frankly monkeys that close to me actually is not my thing. The ones we did see were luckily the nice ones. Despite that, as we got out of our car, one of them looked right at us and shook his head “no.” I’m not kidding and I have witnesses.

On our way back into the city we stopped quickly at the Jal Mahal. They are actually making it into a hotel, which is really cool and just another excuse for us to go back. Darn.

Jal Mahal

Jal Mahal

Before heading out for our safari that evening, we wanted to go to a few “street” shops. Nidhi lead the way and everyone got what they were looking for. She did a great job navigating us to shops that wouldn’t try and take advantage of us, but then she never got involved in the haggling. It was perfect. We adore her and cannot recommend her enough. Tear, we had to say goodbye.

So sad to say goodbye!

Now to get ready for the elephants!

Living the Luxury Life

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Picking up where I left off. Here is the seventh part of my time in Dubai. Enjoy!

After four days staying downtown, we packed our bags for the beach and headed to the Sofitel Palm Jumeirah. Walking through the front doors it was clear we were not fancy enough for this place. Not even a little. The property was BEAUTIFUL!

This is where the wedding was that we traveled for. Well, I wasn’t invited, but I couldn’t pass up a reason to go to Dubai!

Friday early afternoon we went to the nearby “souks” for lunch and some shopping. I say “souks” because these were inside and the people weren’t super pushy at all. More like a mall. Which is kind of Dubai’s thing.

We returned to the hotel and enjoyed some time at the beach. The water was uber salty, which made floating a breeze! Sadly because of a stingray and jellyfish warning, we didn’t float for long.

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It was really cool to be at the beach with a city skyline in the background. Once the girls had to go do wedding stuff, I just hung out in the room because it was so nice.

Saturday we enjoyed time at the pool before the girls had to get ready for the wedding. Once they started that, I continued to hang out at the pool. I was able to actually watch the wedding from the beach, like a super creepy hotel guest, which was nice.

Later that evening I took myself on a nice date. I got some henna, and then hit up the beach bar for happy hour, since that was the only way I could afford alcohol at the Sofitel.

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I walked the property some, found dessert and then right when I was going to go up to bed, I decided to stop at the sports bar to see how much a beer was. Deeming that it would only cost me one platelet donation session, I ordered a Hoegaarden. Expecting a normal pint, I figured I’d have one and call it a night. What was put down before me was literally the largest Hoegaarden glass I’ve ever seen. I had to use two hands to make sure I didn’t drop it. Clearly it was worth the cost, so naturally I had two.

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Our time at the Sofitel was wonderful for the most part, but super awkward if you are there solo. The hotel is set-up for couples or families, so when you tell them you want a beach chair, they assume you want two. Or when you go to eat, they assume you are meeting someone. Nope, just me.

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A weekend at the beach was so relaxing, we definitely did not want to leave.

I could get used to this!