UW Alumni Tours Blog

Archive for the ‘Trip Reports’ Category

Indian Farmers' Market

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

006The Ballard Sunday farmers’ market can’t compete with the one we saw today. Incredible mounds of baby eggplants, carrots, shallots, potatoes, and numerous unknown vegetables, including one that looked like a curly, spikey cucumber. When we hopped back on the bus, one of the traveler’s mentioned the “earthy” spell of the market – you could actually inhale the fragrant scent of real, fresh vegetables.  We also saw where one might buy the banana leaf “plates” we had used for yesterday’s  lunch.

Another serendipitous roadside stop gave us an opportunity to see cashews being roasted…of course they were sellling samples and we all did our share to support the local economy.010

An Internet Connection..Finally!

Saturday, February 14th, 2009


I erroneously assumed that I wouldn’t have a problem finding an internet connection during thisimg_2020trip. Although India may be techonologically advanced, the last few hotels had such slow internet connections that I haven’t been able to get through to update blog going. Today, the internet connection is wonderful…only problem is that my electrical converter blew up!

Our Indian meals have not disappointed! Our welcome dinner was a traditional Thali dinner where we enjoyed a variety of local aromatic dishes made with spices and herbs such as turmeric, cumin, ginger and chile peppers. So far, I think my favorite meals have been the lunches we order and pay for on our own.  For those of us who aren’t widely familiar with Indian cuisine, these meals are an adventure as we try to decipher the menu, never knowing for sure what we really ordered until it arrives. Each meal has been a flavorful, delightful surprise! Today, we experienced a traditional Chettinad lunch where a banana leaf is used as your plate and the leaf is filled with samplings of many dishes.

chet-lunch3The traditional way of eating is with your right hand which I tried, admittedly licking my fingers a few times throughout the meal. I was a bit embarrassed to later read in my guidebook that licking one’s fingers was considered improper.

The people we’ve met are incredibly friendly and just as curious about us as we are about them. Each day, children come up to us asking what our names are and wanting to shake our hands. As we’ve driven through local villages, I’ve noticed that adults and children seem to be ready with a smile and a wave making us feeling so very welcome in their country. They often ask us where we are from and responding United States elicits a big smile. boys

One of today’s highlights was an impromptu visit to a local boy’s school. It was a treat to see and hear a young group of boys practicing traditional wedding celebration music on a wind instrument called the nadeshwaram. The tune sounded a bit like a bunch of screeching monkeys, but based on the concentration we saw on all of their faces, we felt sure that by the time the boys graduated they would truly be playing music for one’s ears.

Our driving adventures continue with near misses every day and a heavy use of the bus brakes. After a few missed turns and a couple of U-turns, we discovered that even the men in India don’t like to stop and ask for directions! We were back on the right track only after our female tour guide Sandhya hopped into the cab of the bus and had the driver stop so she could ask directions. Our poor driver was so embarrassed but we all had a good laugh with him.

I wonder what awaits us tomorrow?

Which Temple Today?

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Pauline is blogging while hosting a UW alumni tour to South India.

After the longest flight itinerary imaginable, I finally arrived in Chennai. My memories ofimg_1995India were instantly invoked as I exited the airplane and smelled the smokey air that was so prevalent in North India. As I tried to exit the baggage area, my small suitcase carrying the group’s audio guide sets raised the suspicions of one of the security officials. I was asked to open the suitcase and tried to explain what the gadgets were. Finally, he understood the concept of a hearing aid, but then he wanted to know about the supply of chapsticks I had brought along for the group. Next, he was perplexed when he saw the small tins of dog bone-shaped mints. I pantomimed eating the mints, so the official had me open one of the tins, he popped a mint in his mouth, the rest of the tin went into his pocket and I was moved along on my way.

109We’re now a few days into the trip and have spent quite a few hours visiting some incredible, intricately carved granite temples. The temple names are long and unpronounceable but that hasn’t affected the awe we feel as we try to imagine how they were completed 1,000 years ago. As expected, the sun is hot and the air is humid so we all move along very slowly. We feel blessed to be traveling in a small group of 12 because even though we are slow, we still able to complete each day’s itinerary.

Our tour group consists of not only graduates of UW, but also of Georgetown, USC, CAL, and Oregon. I plan to turn them all into honorary Huskies by the end of the trip! Our tour director/guide Sandhya is fabulous and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the various ancient cultures that created the historical sites of South India.

This afternoon, we were treated to a demonstration of the art of traditional bronze casting bronze-artistand tonight, we’re looking forward to a poolside performance of a ‘Bharatnatyam’ dance. Tomorrow, we hit the road again for a drive to Karaikudi  and another exciting experience of the Indian roads. This is one trip where no one in the group arrives at the bus early to claim the front seats!

On My Way to South India

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

In about 20 minutes, I’ll be hopping in a taxi to head to SeaTac and the first leg of my journey to India. This past week, colleagues, family and friends have all been asking me if I was excited about my upcoming trip. Frankly, work has been so hectic with 2010 planning and budgets and finally packing, that I haven’t had much time to think about the adventure ahead. It should sink in once I’m on the plane – then the anticipation and excitement will kick in.

In 2006, I traveled with a group of UW alumni and friends to North India, mostly visiting the state of Rajasthan. I still consider it one of my most favorite trips. Brightly colored saris, crazy driving and traffic, cows in the road, friendly locals, a wonderful tour group and refreshing local beer – what a trip! I wonder how South India will be different and how it will be the same. I’m looking forward to these discoveries and hope to share the experience with you as we go along. 

Pauline Ranieri