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Sunday, August 6, 2017

The charm (and heat) of Tamil Nadu

Terrace views!


In the Bay Area, the word 'heat' means 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius). Contrastingly, in the cultural capital of India, it means 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (32-37 degrees Celsius). The heat does not mean 'stay at home with the fan turned on'. It means 'get out of the house and escape to an ultimate paradiseblasting air conditioning at department stores.' You may ask...why can't you just stay at home and turn the fan on in India? Well, if you turn the fan on during stifling days like these, the fan will only blow hot air and make you feel more miserable than you already are. Then, why can't you stay at home and turn the air conditioning on? Because if you turn on the air conditioning and even sit right next to the machine, you will get absolutely zero air. Thanks to India's high population, the neighborhoods often experience a voltage drop. This happens when everyone is trying to turn the air conditioning on. And this is why in Chennai, you have to rush to big departmental stores when the heat increases.

     June and July are two of the hottest months of the year, both in California and Tamil Nadu. A couple days before I left to India, summer weather hit the Bay Area. During the last few days of school, some of my friends talked about how they were taking family trips to Minnesota and Oregon, France and Canada, to beat the summer heat. I knew that the summer heat they planned on beating was going to be nothing compared to the summer heat in India. And unfortunately, I was not going to escape any heat. In fact, I would be chasing the summer heat. ๐Ÿ˜ข

     I stayed in Tamil Nadu for one and a half months. Those months were filled with excitement, exaggeration, enjoyment, and exasperation.


I've been to India seven times, each trip lasting at least one month. You would think that I would be used to the lifestyle there. But, every time I go there, it's like the first time. Everything from the right-hand drive cars and the disorderly streets, to the roadside shacks and random cows surprise me. I sit in the taxi staring out the window in awe. A party going on inside my mind, celebrating that we landed in Chennai, celebrating the next six weeks with family, celebrating all the happiness that is yet to come. 

     When we booked our flight tickets in early 2017, we made a pact to keep our trip a secret. We would not tell anyone about our trip except for one set of my grandparents. Who knew this secret would last?

       The morning after we touched down in Chennai International Airport, we took an Uber to surprise my other set of grandparents. They lived in a flat, or an apartment, which had a balcony that overlooked the road. If the surprise got spoiled, we thought, it would be because of that balcony. We had doubts that my grandparents were out on their balcony. So, we slowly peeked above us. There seemed to be no one. Quickly, we got our luggage out of the Uber and sneaked upstairs. We climbed to the first floor and my conscience said to ring the doorbell! But I wasn't sure if this was my grandparents' house. I was about to press the doorbell when my mom intervened and told me it was the next floor. Ahh, mom to the rescue! #saved

       We were standing at the doorstep of my grandparents' house! It was crazy how they did not know about this trip, how they were inside the house going about their daily routine. This was the height of my excitement. My heart was beating fast with thrill, so fast I could hear it inside my ears. When we were ready, I rapidly pressed the doorbell about ten quick times and sprinted to the stairs, where my mom and sister were hiding. Within a minute, my unsuspecting grandmother opened the door. Before she looked around, we screamed to scare her. She saw us and squealed with joy. My grandfather came to see what was going on and he started laughing once he saw us. As we all went into the house, I felt so excited and glad to be here, in this all too familiar house.

       My excitement didn't end there. We had a lot more surprises to give.


Why does everyone in India like to exaggerate so much? Okay, I might be stereotyping when I say 'everyone'... but I definitely heard a lot of people exaggerating about their hair, the weather, prices of clothes, and usually about time. 'I've been waiting for one hour!' they say. But it actually only means 15 minutes. Even within my family, people are usually exaggerating about things. I can't blame them though because the majority of the India does it as well!

       About one week into our trip, my grandparents suggested the idea of going to Tirupati, a city in Andhra Pradesh, another state in India. They said Tirupati is near a hill station so it would be much cooler in temperature. It would take three hours to get there and we would travel by a high-class air conditioned bus, they said. The main attraction we would see would be the world-famous Tirumala Temple, where everything is made out of gold, they said. In fact, it is the second richest temple in the world. That last sentence was the only thing that turned out to be true. The rest...only extreme exaggeration.

       On the day of the supposed-to-be awesome trip to Tirupati, we all had to wake up at 3:45 a.m., shower, and wear uncomfortable Indian clothes. Apparently, this temple had a dress code. The start of the day was basically better than the rest of the day. My grandfather drove us all to the Chennai bus stop and we stepped into the tour bus. Although the bus was clean, it was definitely not high-class or fancy as my grandmother described it. It was just a regular bus. The tour package included a breakfast and lunch buffet for all the passengers. So, before stopping at the legendary temple, the bus stopped at the buffet. I expected it to have many varieties and cuisines of food. But, it was the opposite. Their buffet was nothing like I imagined; the food included dry idlis, floppy dosas, and some chunky chutneys. After I managed to stuff some food in my mouth, the bus drivers called us all back into our seats. Next stop: the renowned Tirumala Templesecond richest temple in the world.

       The bus dropped us off at the Temple and told us all to take off our shoes and leave our shoes, bags, and cell phones inside the bus. This was the first disappointment. Everything after this was just more disappointment and unpleasant surprises. The temple was extremely crowded. People were breathing on my neck and if I even stuck my hand out half way, I would touch some random sweaty person. To make it even worse, everyone was yelling the God's name and shoving others so that they could see the God statue first. It was horrible! This whole temple had no shade so the glaring sun melted me into glue. I would stick to someone if they even touched me. The ground where we had to walk with bare feet was hot concrete dirtied with sticky food and yucky sweat-soaked rugs. 
Crowded Tirumala Temple
     Finally, after five hours, it was time to go back home! This was the best part of the day. I couldn't wait to get out of this place. Sure it may be the second richest temple in the world, but it doesn't matter to just have this title. I expected this place to look like the fancy Palace of Versailles, but the gold was minimal and I couldn't even take a good look at it because of all the pushy people. If they had more control of the visitors or cleaned the temple's floors, I would have had a better experience. If you ever travel to India, this is one attraction you should undeniably skip.


Fruit market in Chennai
Despite the heat and the chaos, I enjoyed many things during my Tamil Nadu trip. Every neighborhood has at least one fruit market, fresh juice stall, and elani (tender coconut) cart. That was the thing I most looked forward to about India. I drank at least one juice most of the days I was in India. The best juices were elani, sweet lime, and lychee. I've never tasted sweet lime juice anywhere except India as the fruit is unique to this country. It tastes like orange juice but with an extra sweetness. The fruit markets have many exotic and delicious fresh fruits. My favorites were mangostans, green mangos, java plums, red bananas, nungu, and guavas. I wish these existed in American grocery stores like Safeway and Whole Foods.

Two farm goats (jk one is my sister๐Ÿ˜œ)
       The weekend after we landed, some of my extended family—about 14 people—went on a day trip to a friend's farm and pumpset. A pumpset is like a well that can fit three adults. It has a big pipe that pours clean water into the well. People can shower or swim inside the pumpset. The farm was home to fluffy chicks, a calf, many goats, and five small puppies. I'm not a huge fan of farms or pumpsets, but the day trip was fun because I got to eat unlimited guavas from their guava plantation!

Cooling off at a pumpset

           Chennai is the city with the second highest number of movie theaters in India. This gave me an excuse to watch many movies in different theaters within the one and a half months. First, my grandfather took my cousins and me to see Despicable Me 3 at a theater called Palazzo. The theater looked lavish and spotless. We also watched a Tamil movie called Maragadha Naanayam at a less fancy theater called Udhayam. Finally, we watched another Tamil movie called Vikram Vedha at the Devi Theater. The theater was big but had nothing luxurious. All the theaters had effective air conditioning and sound systems which were definitely plus points.

        Before leaving the Bay Area, I took an inventory check of all the items I had in my bathroom, desk, and closet. I wrote some things I needed to buy on my checklist and when I got to India, I was thrilled to go shopping. The major items I needed were soap, pens, pencils, and unique candies. Why would I want to buy soap from India? Indian soap companies have so many aromatic flavors. I bought two years worth of soap from an awesome store called Saravana Stores. The best soaps are Pears, which are transparent soap, Yardley Rose, and Mysore Sandal, which smells like a palace. I buy pens and pencils everywhere, so there isn't a specific reason why I wanted them from India. But I bought a couple of cool pens and mechanical pencils. Finally, there are so many yummy candies in India. Two of my favorites are hard coffee candy and chewy tamarind candy. So I bought a big pack of each to eat in California. I also love something that is illegal in the United States. Kinder Joy Surprise Eggs! They may be kiddish, but they taste delicious. If you split these plastic eggs in half, you find chocolate wafer balls on one side and a toy on the other side. The toys go to my cousins, and the wafer balls go to my mouth. 

          One evening, we went to a place called OMR Food Street in Perumbakkam. This place was different; I have never seen something like this in the Bay Area. There were two streets were filled with permanent restaurants and outdoor seating. It was similar to a downtown but it had different varieties of food. The street food ranged from pizza and cake to dosas and parottas. There was one unusual stall. It was called 'Fire Paan'. My grandfather's daredevil instincts kicked in and he decided to try this. The employee first took a paan leaf, threw some spices on top of it, used a matchstick to light the spices on fire, then shoved the fireball inside my grandfather's mouth. He just ate the fine paan and said it tasted good! I don't know about the 'Fire Paan', but OMR Food Street is definitely something to experience in Chennai.
OMR Food Street
Bombay Kulfi
           Throughout my trip, I ate a bunch of different food. I love ice cream (who doesn't?!) and the heat only provoked me to eat a lot of ice cream! I ate about one or two ice creams a day.๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ’• The best ice creams of my trip were the Cornetto butterscotch cone and Bombay Kulfi's guava slice. The Cornetto butterscotch cone was found in every grocery store and it tasted better than parlor ice cream. I tried Bombay Kulfi after my friend recommended it. The Bombay Kulfi store I went to was on the Basant Nagar beach boardwalk. After I picked the guava flavor, the employees cut the frozen kulfi into little cubes, lightly sprinkled chili powder on top of the kulfi, stuck a toothpick in it and gave it to me. It was so flavorful and delicious. I would eat this every day if I could. 
Weaver's House (Karnataka) in Dakshina Chitra 

           During the last week of my trip, we went to a place called Dakshina Chitra. It was an Indian heritage museum. I wasn't expecting much when we entered but it turned out to be interesting. Although the heat was unbearable that day, we walked around from exhibit to exhibit looking at the displays and shops. The outdoor museum was split up into four parts, each named after an Indian state: Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala. Each part had models of homes that was unique to the state. My favorite was the Weaver's House in Karnataka. This house had a bungalow style and was three stories tall. The house had an indoor well next to the kitchen which also helped the villagers cool off back then. We took a break from walking and drank spiced buttermilk and ate coconut jelly. The jelly was all-natural and refreshing. While cooling off, we watched a classical dance where the dancer balanced two eggs and spun them around his audience. Talk about talent!


Every India trip, I learn that to be happy, you just have to adjust to your surroundings. Although it's tough to get used to a completely different lifestyle, it makes the trip more enjoyable in the end. But, adjusting also means getting tired and annoyed

             In early July, we went on a weekend trip to Puducherry, an Indian union territory. The concept is similar to how Washington D.C. is not in a state. Since Puducherry is by the beach, the weather was supposed to a little breezier than Chennai. Sadly, the weather was the same. We stayed in the capital city of Puducherry, Pondicherry. Pondicherry was a French territory until 1954, so many people continue to speak French in the city. Our hotel resort was by the beach, so in the morning, my family and I woke up at 5:30 a.m. in hopes of seeing the sunrise. It took less than five minutes to walk to the beach. We waited until 6:00 a.m., but it was very cloudy so we couldn't see the sunrise. Even worse, the beach was filled with hundreds of creepy sand crabs. So, even if you sit down on a beach sheet, the crabs won't stay away. 
Auroville's treasure
             We went to visit a township called Auroville near Pondicherry. The weather was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit that day and the high humidity made everyone's skin sticky and hair frizzy. Auroville is famous for a big golden ball statue called the Matrimandir. However, to see the statue you have to walk half a mile. Half a mile isn't too bad, right? Wrong. Walking half a mile in the heat was punishing. After the torturous walk, we finally made it to the Matrimandir. It was so big and shiny. Inside the statue, they have exhibits and programs. However, it was closed for construction. So we couldn't go inside it. In the end, we just took the tiring trail back to the car.


My one and a half months in Tamil Nadu were unforgettable. Although it was a short trip, I made the most of it. I had plenty of fun with my cousins, grandparents, aunt, and uncle. Throughout the trip, I met most of my relatives and made lots of memories. I got to shop, eat out, and visit places that I will always remember...whether the experience was good or bad. 

I can't wait to go back! 
I appreciate you reading this super long post and it would be great if you subscribe to my blog. Thanks for your support! :)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Why do we complain? Looking back at 2016.

Lately, I've been hearing a lot of people- in school, on TV, around town - saying that they can't wait for this crazy year to end.

Every December, Google undergoes a certain 'trend'. Every year, there is a spike of searches for the "worst year ever". Why is every year a bad year? In fact, we call every year the 'worst year ever'. I agree, there were unexpected surprises, horrible terrorist attacks, deaths of many celebrities, etc., but I don't think these add up to 2016 being the 'worst year ever'. I'm sure every year has its shocking and saddening events, but it seems like we forget about these events once the clock ticks 12:00 AM on January 1st of the next year. All of a sudden, we begin to keep a new list of the bad things that happen. Why are we always complaining about the present? Often we forget the events of the past and are ignorant of the problems of the future.

In January of 2016, music fans around the world grieved for the death of music icon David Bowie. Soon after that, Alan Rickman, a distinguished actor who played Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films passed away. His death shocked many Harry Potter fans, including me. Early events such as these deaths started the unpredictable and long year. More terrible news followed, from the bombings in Brussels and the spread of the Zika virus, to a water crisis in Flint, Michigan. So, yes I think there have been many dreadful events happen in 2016, but it doesn't mean we should complain and whine about this year being the 'worst year'.

Donald Trump won the presidential election and about 57% of US citizens are unhappy with the results. They say he won't know what to do because of his lack of political experience. However, about 90 million eligible voters did not go to vote. A similar event, Brexit, experienced the same problem. People were not voting. They didn't want to contribute to the future of their country but, when the results came, they were angry. It's simple, if you want a certain type of government, you vote. If you don't vote, things might not go the way you want it to.

2016 was definitely an unforeseeable year. The US had its first female presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. The no-DAPL inspired many to fight for what you think is right. This summer, Pokemon Go got kids and adults moving, rather than staying in bed for the whole day. The 108-year curse was broken when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Scott Kelly returned from a year in space. And, let's not forget about the hilarious Joe Biden and President Obama memes that have popped up after the election!

Amazing things have happened this year, so we shouldn't be complaining about the problems of 2016. We should look to the future and plan on making 2017 a great one.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a happy new year :)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Yellowstone...the Nation's First and BEST National Park

Imagine sitting in a car for 14 hours, passing by states, and getting farther away from California.
The sky was pitch-black and daylight was nowhere to be found. The streets were deserted and our car was the only vehicle in about a 10-mile radius. It was 3:00 a.m and my family and I were on our way to Yellowstone National Park. As we sped across California, the sun rose, giving light and life to the cities we drove past. We were entering Nevada, the Silver State and it had been four hours since we left home. The only thing that kept me excited was looking at Snapchat Geofilters. We didn't stop for lunch since our car was packed from the bottom to the top with snacks and other random food. After another boring 6 hours, we reached Nampa, Idaho.
Good news: we were in Idaho! Bad news: another 8 hours to go.
Wind patterns
In the past hour, we had drove through two different time zones! It seemed unrealistic to be 1:00 p.m one minute, and in the next mile, 2:00 p.m!
Our first stop on the way to Yellowstone was Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park. At the state park, the temperature was nearly 100 degrees, but it felt so much warmer. The sharp sun rays hit the sand dunes directly. We began to hike up towards the top of the sand dunes. Although it wasn't a steep hike, it was still a little tough because we were walking on loose, hot, sand. As we walked towards the peak of the sand dunes, the wind speed increased. Soon, I felt like the wind would take me with it^.^ Because of the robust wind, the sand that made up the dunes naturally formed into a wavy design! After spending some quality time at the top of the sand dunes, we walked back down, pushing against the powerful wind. At the Bruneau Dunes State Park, there were camping sites available and if we would have lived in Idaho, I'm sure we would have camped by the great dunes.
View from the top of the dunes
The Bruneau Sand Dunes were quite an experience, but to make the trip more adventurous... midway to our hotel, in the middle of a desert, our car ran out of gas! We were driving to our hotel which was only about half an hour away from the dunes. The road we were driving on was surrounded by barren land on both sides. There was nothing but grass and farming land. And our car chose this time to run out of gas. There were no shopping malls or even houses around this "town"....and no other cars on the road either. Our car had 5 more miles to go until it ran out of gas! Between the irregular surges of signal on our phones, we tried our best to look at GoogleMaps to locate the nearest gas station. Unfortunately, the nearest gas station that showed up was too far away. Our car wouldn't be able to take us there! We decided to keep on driving, hoping for a miracle. The number of miles our car would run declined rapidly and soon the display of the gasoline went blank...we were out of gas randomly in the middle of Idaho! Our car was running on the leftover gas and would stop any moment. Not giving up, we kept driving and VIOLร€! There was a gas station!! It was so surprising to see that a gas station would be there, in the middle of nowhere, right when we needed it. 
After that close call, we headed to our hotel in Mountain Home, Idaho. 
The hit of the next day was driving to the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The Craters of the Moon National Monument was named when Robert Limbert, an explorer and journalist, thought that the monument looked like the surface of the moon and he decided to call it the Craters of the Moon. The Craters of the Moon is an ocean of volcanic land. Everything in the
Craters of the Moon
National Monument is dark black and rocky. The craters were created thousands of years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions. The same eruptions throughout the world caused the Earth to form. As we drove past the black hard rocks, we spotted a couple of cinder cone volcanoes. In some areas of the monument, we got down to walk through the craters. It was amazing to see these sleeping, not dead, volcanoes creating all those craters! The incredible thing about the Craters of the Moon National Monument was that the Apollo 14 astronauts(Gene Curnan, Alan Shepard, Joe Engle, and Ed Mitchell) visited the Craters of the Moon National Monument to study about the volcanic formations. This was to educate themselves of the Moon's geography before actually going to the Moon.  
Shoshone Falls
Day by day we got closer to our final destination...Yellowstone!
We visited countless attractions en route to Yellowstone, including the Idaho's Potato Museum and the Shoshone Falls. 
Since Idaho is the "Potato Capital of the World", we decided to visit the famous Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho. Although the Potato Museum wasn't as interesting as we had expected, the Shoshone Falls, our next stop took our breath away. While driving to the Shoshone Falls, it began to drizzle and soon dark clouds gathered above. We reached the entrance, which was on top of a hill, of the Shoshone Falls. From that point, we couldn't see any waterfall... all we could see was the pouring rain, the distant lightning strikes, and thunder. As we drove down the hill towards the parking lot, we heard the roar of a waterfall. Grabbing all the umbrellas and raincoats we can, we went towards the noise and there it was! We gasped in astonishment at the Shoshone falls, pounding against the rocks. We went to the observation deck and the rain had conveniently stopped! Now, it was just the strong mist and noise from the falls. The Shoshone Falls, taller than the Niagara Falls, was breathtaking. The sun's rays struck the falls, giving it a little shine. The Shoshone Falls, or the Niagara of the West, was definitely worth seeing. 
On the fourth day of our road trip, we drove through Teton Valley and entered Yellowstone National Park! 
Beryl Spring
Since our hotel was located in the West side of Yellowstone, we drove through the state of Montana to enter from Yellowstone's West Entrance. After entering the Park, we drove through the coniferous trees to reach the Beryl Spring. This was the first spring we saw there, and all the tourists were in awe. How could a natural feature under the Earth have so much pressure and heat to create a hot spring? The burbling springs were places where water welled up from under the EarthThe Beryl Spring was a blue-green color and about 188 degrees Fahrenheit(85 deg. Celsius)! All the attractions we saw in Yellowstone were spectacular, and we'd only been there for one day! My favorite was the Artists' Paint Pots. The Paint Pot Trail was an easy walk around many of Yellowstone's geothermal features. The boardwalk we walked on took us so close to the steaming mudpots, geysers, fumaroles, and springs. The colors of the paint pots were so contrasting, from dark reds to
Bubbling mudpots
 bright blues. And to think all of these were naturally made from volcanic magma under the ground, the same ground we were walking on! As we were walking, few of the small geysers were erupting and its warm water drizzled on the tourists like rain! It was an amazing experience!! The whole area looked like a different world, not Earth anymore. Next, we saw the sulfurous mudpots. A mudpot is an acidic hot spring, with not much water and more of bubbling mud. The mud is continuously created by acid and microorganisms which decompose the surrounding rocks into clay and mud. We were literally about five feet away from naturally boiling mud. The mud was pure white and looked like a witch's stew bubbling every two seconds! After that surprising geothermal feature, we headed towards the steaming fumaroles, which were openings in volcanoes from which hot gasses emerged. Because of the high amounts of
sulfur, the fumaroles were extremely red in color, and they stunk like rotten eggs! The funny thing was that everyone who walked past it would cover their nose, because its smell was so strong and unpleasant! We managed to take couple of pictures and moved on. We walked on the boardwalk, through the Yellowstone forests, and we could see clouds of steam(from geysers and springs) here and there. It was as though the treetops were producing the steam. As we made it to the exit of the Paint Pots, a geyser called Vixen Geyser, began to gurgle. We decided to stop to take more pictures, which turned out to be one of the best decisions of the trip. The Vixen Geyser started bubbling rapidly and all of a sudden it erupted!! Right in front of our eyes!!! The shimmering geyser sent out a tall column of warm water, fresh from Earth's core. It erupted for five minutes and throughout the whole time, none of the crowd talked, we were all in great awe and surprise. After it died down, we headed our way out of the Paint Pots. Over the next few days in Yellowstone National Park, we visited a couple of more geysers and mudpots. 

It was 1:00 p.m on August 13th and we had been standing in the middle of a crowded boardwalk on a extremely hot day for more than 20 minutes. 10 minutes passed... still no eruption from the glorious Old Faithful. The crowd was getting tired and ready to leave. But at 1:18 p.m the Old Faithful erupted, shooting out water up to 150 feet in the air! It was spectacular

Old Faithful!
and totally worth the wait. After two minutes it went down and the crowd left. We decided to wait another 90 minutes and watch Old Faithful's eruption again. And again... Despite the extreme heat, we stayed at Old Faithful to watch it three times, and the last time to take a family selfie with it while it was erupting . After that, it was time to go back to our hotel. On the way we decided to stop by the Mud Volcanoes. There was traffic throughout the road, and we were wondering why when we drove around the corner and there were hundreds of BISON everywhere! Left and right, on the hill and valley, even on the road! This was what was creating all the traffic and commotion. The bison were so massive and shaggy! Even one knock on a car from a bison would easily make a dent on the vehicle. Soon, a couple of Park Rangers arrived to help clear the traffic. We continued to make our way to the Mud Volcanoes. 

Bison walking down trail
In the Mud Volcanoes, there was a boardwalk for us to walk on, through the bubbling mudpots. Although the bad odor was still there, it was really cool to see this natural geothermal feature. We planned to walk up the hill on a trail to see the view of the mud volcanoes from a high point. BUT... the weirdest thing happened! As we were hiking up, a couple of BISON began to walk down the trail
The next day was our last and shortest day at Yellowstone. We decided to take the challenging trail, called Uncle Tom's Trail, down to the "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone" and the Lower Falls. Although the majority of the hike was nothing but stairs, it was more strenuous than you would think! There were more than 300 steep steps against the side of a mountain. To the left of us was a rough waterfall and river, and to the right was the walls of a canyon! The bottom of the hike gave us a great view of the canyon and waterfall... but the strenuous hike back up 300 stairs was tough because there were no benches to rest at and the elevation change was more than 500 feet! After conquering that little adventure, it was time to say goodbye to Yellowstone. 
Uncle Tom's Trail
The road trip was fantastic and I would definitely recommend going there for anyone who hasn't. 
For the 2,600 miles my parents drove... without a doubt, going to Yellowstone, the first and absolutely the best national park, was worth it!
Thanks for reading :) 

-LIVE CAM of the Old Faithful:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Three Continents in Two Months!

      My remarkable trip started on June 10th to the "Country of Festivals", India. And the flight was long...14 hours sitting in the same position with no space to stretch your legs was not enjoyable at all. But the excitement of meeting all my relatives, going to beautiful places, and spending seven weeks on foreign land kept me content. We landed and stepped outside the airport and ohh that nasty odor and the heat was awful! It felt as though we were all in this big oven that was warming us up until we melted :( On top of that, we had still landed around 12 in the night! That was when I thought about how the heat would be the next morning when the sun was high above our heads. As the time went by, I realized how different India was. There were many things that I didn't like at all. There was nonstop honking of the vehicles on the road
no matter what time it was. Whenever I walked outside all I would hear is honking noises from every single direction, every single moment! What bothered me was that the vehicles honk for no reason! The roads were a mess. Nobody followed the traffic signals... and it felt like they drove wherever they wanted to, anytime they wanted. Just to walk across the street was chaotic and quite scary. In addition to all that mess, the smell was horrible everywhere! But, the city had its own beauty too. There were so many roadside coconut water shops. I loved drinking the coconut water because it cooled you down and it tasted so good! Trying to cool was hard... but keeping yourself away from mosquitoes was even harder! We kept spraying ourselves with mosquito spray and that seemed to help. The terrace was another amazing thing in Chennai. It was where you could walk on the paved roof of the houses. People used it to dry their clothes there. 
     Next, we went to this place called Ooty high up in the mountains. To go there we had to take an overnight train. The trains had beds but no Air Conditioning, so it was best to sleep near the windows. In Ooty, we went with our entire family...about 30 people! And even though I didn't know many people, I got really close to everyone by the end of the trip. Ooty was entirely composed of thick, lush forests. We all went in Safari Jeeps because there were no roads. This place was really different from Chennai because there were no people, and the weather was cold and foggy. One day, this man came to us and told us that there were some wild elephants wandering around really close to the place we were staying in. A couple of us hurried up and rushed to see the wild elephants. Even though it was getting really dark, we still were interested in seeing the elephants. We carefully walked in the jungle and came to this lake. On the other side of the lake, were two elephants. We slowly sat down so the elephants wouldn't see us. There was a small elephant and another one, likely its
mother. Both were drinking water from the lake. Soon, we decided to head back since it was really dangerous to be in the forest while the sky was pitch black. The next day, I found this skull of a cow on the ground! It was so big and I wanted to know what had killed it and how long ago it would have happened. Since the place was a forest, there were monkeys...everywhere. After few days, we headed back to Chennai but this time on a sleeper bus! I liked the bus better than the train since the beds were clean like a hotel room! Time passed really quickly, having fun with everybody. Before I knew it, we were packing to leave India. It was sad but there was nothing I could do.
   Next, was Europe. Another flight of 11 hours took us to Italy. During the flight, the view from above the clouds were beautiful because the sun was setting and the clouds were like marshmallows. Our first stop is Rome. I thought the city was
gorgeous from the moment I stepped out of the airport. We walked to our hotel and on the way there were many roadside restaurants out on the sidewalks. Cake shops and bakeries were common and they smelled so good when we walked past them. All the buildings were in an old-fashioned style...even though I like it I would never like to live there. There were many churches and were all so pretty but soon I got bored of seeing them. The weather in Italy was no different than was still really hot but not too humid. Next, we went to another country. The smallest country in the whole world, Vatican City. It was really interesting to see the wall all around the country. We spent about 4 hours in Vatican City and we covered the entire country...mainly because it was so small! We went to St.Peter's Basilica, the place where the Pope speaks from, and the famous Sistine Chapel. In Rome, the water is so abundant that there were water fountains that poured cold drinkable water all day and night! It never stopped because there was no way to stop it!! All the tourists kept cool by catching water in their caps and then putting it on their heads. The entire city of Rome had a ground made out of medium sized your feet would start paining easily after walking for a couple of hours! We came across a couple of funny names like "Gastronomia" which meant bread store ;D And the citizens there didn't know any English but, they were very helpful for tourists. Store after store, there were so many of my favorite snacks: so many types of cheese, olives, pasta, and gelati!! <3<3<3<3 Gelati was my absolute
favorite there. There were so many flavors and it was different than normal ice cream. Gelati was more like icy and slushy. We spent our last day in Rome at the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. The Colosseum was wonderful from the outside but I felt disappointed when we went inside. It wasn't how I thought it would be, like a stadium. The Colosseum didn't have any rows of stone seats inside. It was just the outside that was spectacular. Then, the Roman Forum was incredible because of the large pillars and how much work the people long time ago went through to build them. 
     It was time to leave to Pisa by train. We traveled by Trenitalia, and those trains were clean and looked so much like airplanes! The only thing worth seeing in the entire city of Pisa was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Personally,this was my favorite of my entire trip because of its dramatic lean. After taking some funny pictures at the Leaning Tower, we left to Cinque Terre, a beach side village. The train that took us there went by the beach coastline and it was so fascinating to see the beachside houses and the rocks on the beaches. On the next day, we went to Florence and saw the climbed up a hill to Piazzale Michelangelo to see the view of the city and the sunset. Venice was another big hit of the trip. The entire city had "roads" which were all waterways. The main public transport was water buses and water taxis! It was really cool to see a bus station on the water. We went to an island in Venice called Burano. Burano is famous
for lace making and its brightly colored houses. Then, to get to Murano, famous for glass making, we took the water bus from Burano. All the names of the places confused me so much because there were so many small islands in Venice and many of the names were similar. Our last stop in Venice was the Lido Beach. This was another island which fully had beaches with black sand! The water was warm and there were no big waves so many tourists swam in the salty water. Finally, our last city of the trip, Naples. My first impression of Naples was disappointing. There were no tourists, the city was empty and wasn't lively at all. 9 out of 10 stores were closed. The entire city seemed deserted. The only thing I was looking forward to there was Pompeii. When we went to Pompeii, I thought it was not as great as I thought it would be. It definitely wasn't worth standing in a line for 2 hours in the hot sun. There were only three plaster casts of people...and I was expecting much more. But, even those two plaster people were impressive. Soon, we were on the way back to North America. After a flight of 15 hours we landed in SFO Airport after 2 months. I loved this vacation so much. Italy was sooo beautiful and unique. My favorite place in Italy was Pisa so if you ever plan a trip there, don't miss out on the Leaning Tower. Make a stop at Pisa..even though the only attraction there is the Leaning Tower! Thanks for reading and please comment your thoughts:) Waiting for next summer...only 10 months away<3<3<3<3