4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the category “South Asia”

Rickshaw Roller Coaster In Bangalore (by Nathan)

Betel leaves in spiral at the city market

Visiting India for the first time is a thrilling experience. It is also a little nerve racking. For the first time this year, Carmen and I were both anxious and maybe a little scared at what we might find in this part of the trip. We were out of our comfort zone, but it felt good. There are all the horror stories of poverty, filth and food poisoning, but also the positive moments of spiritual discovery, extravagant palaces and fantastic food. Experiencing the spices alone are enough to draw us to India. We arrived at 4am from a red-eye flight. We both felt a little comatose and we agreed to pick up a few hours sleep in the airport before heading out into the craziness.

Carmen and the sidewalk cow obstacle

We learned very quickly in Bangalore that we needed to slow down and ease into the environment. A typical day in our travels is pretty exhausting; we tackle museums, parks and monuments while also attempting to eat at the best budget restaurants in a city. This usually involves many hours (8-10mi) of walking and public bus rides all around town. In Bangalore our standard mode of transport, our feet, became out-of-service. Even the most cosmopolitan of streets, MG Road or Church Street, do not have a consistent paved surface for more than 15 feet. Walking involves constant focus and diligence to ensure that a foot does not fall into an enormous hole or sludge puddle. The occasional cow, heard of cattle or pie mine is a constant reminder that we share the road with more than just people and motors. Crossing the street, we resemble two little squirrels inching our way into the road then running across with arms flailing about in panic “I’m about to die” mode.

Rajesh and the Rickshaw Roller coaster

Thus, we have decided to join the masses and we frequently hop on the Rickshaw Roller Coaster. The three-wheeled carts are a cross between a motorcycle and a golf cart, painted green, yellow and black. During our first ride, I learned that the is no need to visit a theme park again, 80 cents delivers a 20 minute ride including all the death-defying events without a need to wait in line. If on-coming traffic is your thrill, this ride has it. Bangalore’s many speed bumps provide an opportunity for jumps, poor drainage and rain make splash mountain look puny. Any Rickshaw delivers several G-forces as the driver maneuvers the vehicle around busses, tractors and scooters. Then we screech to a stop. Hold on because there are no seat belts. Dizzying heights? Try all of the above on an overpass! To our benefit we did find a nice driver, Rajesh, that did not mind our screams and did not hit anyone while we were riding. He skillfully squeaked his tuktuk into the 4ft crevices between busses at 30mph.

Bull Temple

Glass building at the botanical garden

Mini meal at MTR

One of our most accomplished days was visiting the Hindu Bull Temple. This enormous carved bull is decorated with flowers and candles and symbolizes Shiva’s mount Nandi. A “mini meal” at Marvalli Tiffin Room (MTR) excited our taste buds and was no small affair – it was actually quite a bit of food. We walked west to explore the Lal Bagh Botanical Garden. There were bonsai gardens ponds and an enormous glass house built to honor Britain in the 1800’s.

Chole Bhatura dinner

Breakfast of idli, poori and various rice pooridges

We could not resist ordering chole bhatura at a standing-only dive down the street from our hotel. The enormous puff ball was everything I remember from Vik’s in Berkeley, slightly doughy and crispy with a huge scoop of spicy chickpeas in a rich sauce. Eating in India is undoubtedly my favorite part so far. The flavors are intense and the chutneys, dal, and sauces seem to pair randomly with the foods, but I know there is some consistency. For breakfast we eat fluffy white idlies or dosas (Indian pancakes/crepes) that are paper thin and filled with potatoes, or thick and moist with diced onions or tomatoes and a delicious coconut chutney.

Colors and craziness of Bangalore’s city market

Temple carvings

Exploring the foods of India is first explored with our appetites. Then we seek to see the source of the food, the markets that fuel the city. In Bangalore, we found ourselves in The City Market, an enormous collection of streetside vendors selling everything from tiny eggplants, pomegranates, betel leaves and nuts. There was even a building dedicated to the flower sellers that string together elaborate leis and signs for weddings and holidays. We traverse through the mud and work through the obstacles of the crowded market. Occasionally we’ll pass a simple temple and often we are entertained with an ornate and elaborate designed temple roof with thousands of carefully carved figurines.

Bengal tiger, croc, cobra and monkey at wild animal park

Young elephant

We bussed an hour outside of town to visit the wild animal park. Most of the animals are rescues, but the huge forests provide a way to protect and rehabilitate animals that were abused or without a natural habitat. Most impressive were the Bengal tigers, white tigers and Indian bears. Our safari ride bounced along the rocky road, and everyone screamed and jumped out of their seats when the 8ft long tiger noticed us and came at us for a closer look. There were cobras that effortlessly hung and slithered along the trees, crocodiles eyeing us from the ponds below and wild monkeys mischievously bouncing through the park. There were even adult and baby elephants that blessed tourists for a coin by tapping their trunk on the person’s head. The zoo was surprisingly a positive experience as the animals, for the most part, all seemed taken care of and happy. On our trip back, there was one thing on our mind…food.

Deliciousness at Kornak

Funny shaped gulab jumun

There are undoubtedly some good food places in Bangalore. We ate North Indian fare at Kornak and Queens. South Indian at street-side stands and cafes. Gulab Jamun is typically a donut ball that is soaked in a honey syrup, at Bhagatram & Sons. Their wiener shaped gulab jumun somehow made it better. We even had wonderful ice cream at Naturals. The mango and coconut ice cream is so good that our good friend and fellow blogger, Anu, might marry one of the servers. Which one? We could not decide.

Carmen waiting in the rain for the bus

Anu and I in Cubbon Park

The slower pace has worked well for us in Bangalore. We see less sights, but experience more of our surroundings. We pack our bags again, we say goodbye to Bangalore and board an overnight train to Hubli. Few tourists travel to Hubli, but our reasons were not sights, but more to visit a typical town in India, see more of our friend Anu and learn more about the incredible headway of her social water project NextDrop. With the click clack of steel wheel to rail and the rocking back and forth we crawled onto our three-tiered bunks and sunk into a light slumber. Only exciting adventures and spicy delights await us in India.

The Joys of Packing (by Carmen)

We often get asked how we handle packing up our stuff so frequently and carting it around the world.  The answer has two parts – 1) Packing cubes!  These are essential to for quick organization and way easier than any rolling method. 2) Take as little as possible.  Easier said than done.  But the benefits of being able to pack in under 15 minutes and have less weight on your back are very rewarding.

In order to make do with less I like to plan ahead.  For the typical travel stuff I have a list I always turn to when I start packing.  As for clothing, I have given a lot of thought to what I will bring for the next 6 months.  I have to be ready for everything: hot and cold, tough hikes and long urban walks, casual bars and nice dinners out.  To cope I’ve created what I call The Ultimate Packing List. I’ve even illustrated parts of it (yes, Nathan teases me about this).  I enjoy making the list because it makes me feel more prepared and ready to take on the world.

So I’ve decided to share The List with you.  I consider the list to be pretty minimal despite the fact that it looks long. But after reading blogs on no baggage travelers, maybe not!  At first it seems like a lot but the quantities of each thing are small so it does pack down to less than 15 pounds each (excluding the trekking gear).  And the packing cubes are essential for keeping all the small things together.  During our Camino de Santiago trek, we will be carrying the bare minimum while leaving much of the list in storage.  Afterwards, we will send back the trekking gear relieving a fair bit of weight.   Without further ado, I present…

8 Months of gear (camping stuff to be mailed back)

THE ULTIMATE PACKING LIST

  • Clothing
    • Carmen
      • Top
        • 2 tanks
        • 2 short sleeve
        • 3 long sleeve
        • 1 cardigan
      • Bottom
        • 2 pants (including one zip off pair)
        • 2 shorts (one of them for running/sleeping)
        • 1 skirt (turns into halter top)
      • Dresses
        • 1 simple black dress
      • Outer
        • 1 fleece
        • 1 rain jacket
      • Accessories/Other
        • 1 scarf
        • 1 thin belt
        • 2 bras
        • 7 pairs underwear
        • 5 pairs of socks
      • Shoes
        • flip flops
        • sandals
        • sneakers
        • hiking boots
    • Nathan
      • Top
        • 3 short sleeve shirts
        • 2 long sleeve
        • 1 tank
      • Bottom
        • 2 pants (both zip off into shorts)
        • 1 runningshorts
      • Outer
        • 1 rain jacket
      • Accessories/Other
        • 3 pairs underwear
        • 5 pairs socks
      • Shoes
        • flip flops
        • sandals
        • sneakers
        • hiking boots
  • Toiletries
    • Shower/Bathroom
      • Shampoo, conditioner, body wash & sponge
      • Face wash
      • Razor & shaving foam
      • Toothbrushes, floss & toothpaste
      • Toilet paper
    • In Room
      • Microfiber towels
      • Brush, comb, flat clips, headband & hair ties
      • Chap stick
      • Deodorant
      • Lotion
      • Sunscreen
      • Bug repellent
      • Contacts, liquid, extra contacts & case
      • Glasses
      • Band-aids & blister block
      • Hand sanitizer
      • Make-up & remover
      • Medicines & prescriptions
  • Electronics
    • Camera, charger, case, guerilla pod & extra battery
    • iPod, splitter, charger & ear buds
    • iPad & cover
    • Nook loaded with guidebooks
    • Flip video camera
    • Outlet expander
    • Adaptors
  • Travel gear
    • Passports
    • Eye patches & ear plugs
    • Inflatable neck pillow
    • Money belt
    • Waterbottles & steripen
    • Headlamps
    • Small notebook & pen
    • Cards
    • Locks (small, large)
    • First aid kit
    • Sewing kit
    • Ziplocks in a variety of sizes
    • Laundry soap, travel clothesline & sink stopper
  • Trekking gear (just for Camino de Santiago)
    • Tent (mailed home early after 10 days)
    • Sleeping bags (mailed home early after 10 days)
    • Sleeping pads (mailed home early after 10 days)
    • Trekking poles
    • Ponchos
    • Platypus 2L water bag
    • Knife
    • Dirt shovel
    • Matches
    • Hats

What Now? (by Nathan & Carmen)

Returning to San Francicso

Nathan’s favorite restaurant: Sol Food in San Rafael

When we initially thought of traveling for six months to a year the idea was more of a dream than a reality.  Traveling internationally becomes an addiction, some call it the travel bug, but our need to travel became a living necessity after our first trips to Europe.  The symptoms are rather subtle at first: excitement to review photos, enthusiasm when returning to our jobs and enjoyment to fall back into the routine of ordinary life.  Fast forward a couple months and the restlessness initiates the ideas of another big trip start forming.  We typically settle the anxiety through a scattering of weekend trips and hiking adventures.  Eventually the urge to travel becomes so intense that we busy ourselves planning the destinations of our next multi-week exploration.

Carmen on Barcelona steps (2006)

Returning to California meant some big choices.  While there were seemingly endless possibilities of what to do next, for us, it really came down to two.  Option 1 is to settle down somewhere and start job hunting.  “Somewhere” is still to be determined which is both scary and exciting.  Option 2 is to keep going and take the full year off to travel, explore, meet new people, hike, and eat delicious foods.  After much thought, financial analysis and discussion, we decided there was really only one responsible choice.  We simply had to find out what was behind door number 2.

Carmen enjoying a rosé and a perfect lunch at Prune in NYC (2011)

New York street art and bicycle (2011)

So we finally committed to a full year off.  Woo hoo!  Then the challenge was to figure out what the rest of the year includes.  First we made a fantasy list of all the places we would ever like to go if money and time were no object (i.e. the fun part). Next we cut down that list to what we could realistically do (i.e. the less fun part). Now we are in the midst of doing all the planning required to make the dream come true.  The rough itinerary for the rest of the year is as follows:

  • Summer 2012 :: USA
  • September – October 2012 :: Europe
  • November 2012 :: India
  • December 2012 :: Southeast Asia
  • January 2013 :: China

The blog continues! And we will be sharing and documenting the details right here for everyone to enjoy.  Here is a teaser of the things to come:

Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park (2010)

In 2010 we hiked embarked on a week-long expedition into the canyons of Southern Utah.  We discovered majestic scenery and seemingly painted landscapes.  Our enjoyment of the canyons of Cafayate and the beautiful rocks of our Salar de Uyuni adventure enticed us to go and see one thing – The Grand Canyon.  There will be more hikes, more food and more red canyons.

New York density (2011)

Chicago highrises (2011)

Our United States tour will continue from vertical cliffs to vertigo skyscrapers as we explore New York City and Chicago with friends and family.  From there we trade in the tallest buildings for the tallest rows of corn, Nebraska here we come!

Hiking with Manish in Muir Woods (2010)

Having a laugh outside Bouchon Bakery

We return for the best of California summer where we will be posting about the best spots in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  You can expect hiking and all of our favorite restaurants.

Gaudí’s Casa Batlló (2006)

The real excursion happens in September.  With our passports in hand, clothes freshly laundered we will be climbing aboard another jet plane for another five months of adventure.  First stop Spain.  There are just some activities that would never happen unless we took a year off to travel.  Thus, let’s put a our four feet to the test as we will be walking 500 miles across northern Spain on the Santiago de Compostela trail.

Nathan on the Thames (2010)

London’s historic architecture (2006)

Spain is not the only European place we want to see.  We’ll tie in our favorite city, London, France, Germany and some great wine excursions along the way.

Indian lunch while in Singapore (2009)

But nothing will be as bustling and exciting as what we expect to find in our next country.  We are both excited and almost giddy to begin our exploration of India.  We can’t wait to experience the intense flavors, markets and crowds that are unlike anything we have ever seen.

Thai cooking by 4FEET2MOUTHS (2011)

Our love of Thai food and our love of our Thai friend brings us to this beautiful country.  From boat-side street food to dancing octopus we will be trying to stay cool while eating chilies in Thailand.  Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam will conclude our exploration of the Indochinese peninsula.

Shanghai nightscape (2009)

Pan-fried Soup Dumplings at Yang’s in Shanghai (2009)

Asia would not be complete without seeing more of the wonders of China.  Carmen and I fell in love with the authentic and varied cuisines during a vacation in 2009.  From then on we have been obsessed with Sichuan cuisine.  We are looking forward to hardcore negotiating at the markets, mouth numbing delights from street side vendors and, of course, much hand waving and pointing.

Hong Kong density (2009)

Dim sum craziness in Hong Kong (2009)

We could not forget Hong Kong!  This city packs a punch with more fifty story buildings than anywhere else, delicious food and a perfect blend of East and West.

The Great wall of China (2009)

How about that for a year of travel?  We will explore four continents, over sixteen countries, all the while creating profound memories.  As much as possible we are going to try to meet up with friends along the way.  We will walk, we will eat and 4FEET2MOUTHS travels on – see you on the road!

Forbidden city cauldron handle (2009)

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