SIMULTANEOUSLY SEEKING SAFETY AND SANITY

I’m going (more) nuts. I want to get on a plane and go soak in a Kyushu hot spring, hike Taiwan’s Dongyanshan National Forest, wander Hanoi, float along the Mekong, sit still in Siem Reap, sleep in a 4.5 star Hilton in Kuala Lumpur ($57 a night!) and take in Singapore’s Chihuly exhibit. I want to circle Sri Lanka, dive The Maldives, safari in southern Africa. But instead I remain here in front of my computer, scrolling through old trip photos, now too scared even to venture to Kona, what with the mutants and maskless.

I’m revisiting old trips for their use in distracting me. I’ve come to realize that my normal method for staying mentally steady (and un-grumpy) is travel-related activity: checking out guidebooks from the library, subscribing to travel newsletters, imagining trips, planning trips, taking trips – the possibility of flight. But lately it’s been about canceling trips (fact: I’m supposed to be in Paris today, at a hotel near the Gare de Lyon, in the 12th arrondissement, steps from the Seine).

The photos I’ve been scrolling through the last few days are from a trip to Antarctica. You may think of it as a white place, but there are so many shades of blue and green.

With travel out of the question, I’m seeking equilibrium through laughter. Have you something that makes you laugh out loud? If yes, please do share. Awkward Family Photos, BBC’s Ghosts, and Los Espookys are providing that service for me at the present, but I welcome suggestions. Cuz without distractions, I’m consumed by this depressing time of stay-homedness, taking photos like this instead of the Seine:

MY FIRST CLOUDBOW

Spectacular sunsets are pretty much a daily given from my lanai, since I live near the ocean on the west side of an island. Once I even saw a lightning storm over distant O`ahu. Whales, dolphins, Coast Guard ships, fishing boats, canoes, SUPs, scuba divers, blue skies and fluffy clouds are the norm. But lately we’ve had some weather, and I captured some serious clouds and offshore rain. Then, lo and behold, my first cloudbow! It was as stunning as the sliver moonbow I once saw on the North Shore of O`ahu.

Lucky I live Hawai`i.

I’ve included a photo of a vociferous family that visits daily, more photos of my neighborhood, and a couple more West Hawai`i roadside attractions.

I also get treated to dreamy moonsets.
There was just one narrow downpour near the center of the horizon
Mauna Kea in the distance.
This plant has hollow flowers about three inches long.
If the weather’s just right, I can see Maui from here, but my camera can’t capture it.
Near the entrance to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, looking east.
POOP.

Stay safe. Read the real news. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Look at pretty photos.

My Kona Commute

Once a week I venture out to the Big City – Kailua Kona. Yesterday I stopped along the way for photo opportunities.

These images represent the opposite of the Hawai`i depicted in HBO’s “White Lotus”, which I finished watching last night.

The Benz with the for-sale sign was the first image that caught my eye. It wasn’t there last week, and it’s what triggered me to document my day out in this quirky place I call home. I didn’t have my Canon and the time of day wasn’t ideal for photography, but what can you do? The last one below is my favorite, both for its quality and because it sums up how I feel in these times.

This dog does not look sweet and approachable to me.

Back to The Claridges, Delhi

India tour over.

Early this morning, my India co-travelers left to go their own ways, home or to further adventure, their holiday shopping conveniently completed and bulging their suitcases. Our intrepid guide has headed home, to see family, run his restaurant, start a new glamping venture (if any reader wants to hire a guide or have someone arrange things in India, I can’t recommend him enough). Our merry group has disintegrated, and I’m back at the hotel I first stayed in over a month ago. All by myself.

I gave myself an extra two days before flying home, imaging I’d do a little exploring on my own, imaging myself experienced now in things and ways Indian. But within half an hour of marching out of the hotel this morning, I was defeated. Without the protective padding of a guide, and as a lone western woman assumed to be on a shopping trip, I was approached every few feet with offers from tuktuk drivers, promising to take me to the best shopping, the most beautiful sites, all for only one dollar. No matter how many times I expressed my desire to just walk, “Only one dollar, I don’t have a job” was the refrain. Some drove around the block and repeated their offers. My “No thanks, no thanks, I really just want to walk,” was not believed.

When I came to a police barricade on the sidewalk that would have forced me to walk on the road and contend with the traffic, I simply turned around, discovering an effective tuktuk-free remedy at last: walk contra to traffic! However, with the honking and crazy traffic, not to mention the gigantic monkeys also strolling the sidewalks, I decided it was best just to return to the hotel. “Maybe tomorrow,” called out one of my repeat-offer tuktuks.

We’ll see.

The first meal I had in India was here at the hotel, and it was fantastic. I have savored nearly every bite of delicious food in the various Indian states, with their unique signature specialties, and will truly, truly miss the cuisine. I had planned to have my final meal in the hotel’s excellent Indian restaurant, but when I walked up to it, it was full of boisterous Indian guests, the noise at high pitch, so I continued down the corridor to the Chinese/Japanese restaurant, which was nearly empty and oh-so-quiet, complete with gentle piped-in flutes and a bamboo/rock garden. It was a soft and gentle atmosphere, very un-India. I enjoyed it.

So, my last meal in the land of “spice, eat, repeat” was Chinese noodles – with tofu! – not baingan bharata.

So there you have it: my India in 30-something days. It’s time to head home now, time for my 40-something-hour trip back to Hawaii. Ugh. The flight, I mean, not Hawaii.

I’ve been on the lookout for a new ending phrase, and I’m going to try this new-to-me quote: “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection” – Anaïs Nin. Works for me.

Next stop: Seoul! And I’m leaving the airport for a free city tour, so I can add to my tally of visited counties.

P.S. The lead photo may be hard to make out: it’s part of a very long wall of mudras at Delhi airport.

Sarnath, Where The Buddha First Taught The Dharma

Before catching a flight back to Delhi (sad, sad), we stopped at two Buddhist sites. One featured a very tall Buddha, done up in the style of the statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. How reassuring. And then I got to visit one of the four major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists; only three to go now.

Here are some photos. Hope you enjoy them.

Varanasi, or Benares, or Kashi

Beloved city of our guide – who had been recounting its perfection and spiritual nature for weeks – I had something very different in mind than what I initially encountered: just another very noisy, commerce-obsessed, unbelievably crowded Indian city. It is only on the banks of the Ganges where things get interesting.

Those banks are studded with countless ghats where extravagant Hindu ceremonies take place; its streets full of sadhu – religious mendicants, who didn’t want their photos snapped. I was also requested not to photograph the burning pyres of corpses, and I didn’t; it turns out I don’t need to photograph things I’ll never forget.

Here are some photos I did take. Hope you enjoy them.

P.S. Last night’s overnight train was not grim like the first one; it certainly wasn’t pleasant, but it was tolerable, until the engine broke and we sat still for three extra hours.

All kinds of critters here, including monkeys, but they were too quick for my shutter in the dim light.

Into The Heart of Kolkata

So, I’d read ahead that a visit to a Calcutta flower market was part of today’s itinerary, but I was not prepared for a flower market such as this. I think “astonished” is a good word choice for how I felt while meandering its narrow and crowded throughways, but words nor photos can aptly describe this place.

We also visited a district famous for creating the three-dimensional figures for religious festivals; see the before and after shots below. We rode the oldest operating electric tram in Asia, which will not win any comfort awards; we had lunch at a famous coffee house known for its intellectual clientele; we rode a ferry on the River Hooghly, gliding under the Howrah Bridge, crossed by millions everyday, before catching another overnight train (yikes) for Varanasi.

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Lotus
Enter8 g the potters’ street, with the figures are made.
Ta da!
Coffee house waiter, as in we sure waited.
Calcutta train station. It’s ginormous.

Welcome to Kolkata/Calcutta

Another big, noisy, and famous Indian city, but unique from the others, of course. For one thing, it’s close to Bangladesh and the Himalayas, which I think is pretty darn cool.

We visited the Victoria Memorial, with its entertaining history of Calcutta museum; also yet another church; had lunch at the Hope Cafe, part of a successful foundation that trains kids for careers in hospitality, beauty, and tech; and then entered Mother Teresa’s home/clinic/tomb site.

Calcutta seems much cleaner than Delhi to me, but when I mentioned this to my travel compatriots, they laughed at me and decided I was greatly mistaken. I’m not so sure, but whatever.

Here are some photos. Hope you enjoy them.

A chair someone sat in.

Coromandel Coast

Leaving Pondicherry, we headed north to Chennai along the Coromandel Coast and the shores of the Bay of Bengal, stopping at yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mahabalipuram and then the one remaining on-shore Shore Temple (the rest are under water). Quite a visual treat, and the work undertaken to manifest the art out of rock is difficult to comprehend. These photos do not do this place justice.

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Yes, come visit the amazing UNESCO site and take selfies.
Bay of Bengal

Live all you can. It's a mistake not to.

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