ET, when did you become a neighbourhood aunty?

Dear Economic Times,

Last I checked you were a business paper. That’s right, BUSINESS. I understand that conception and fertility are businesses now (and probably bigger than most other businesses), but that still doesn’t give you the right to judge those of us who are a “tad late” by your standards. Brilliant piece of reporting by the way, what with the use of that phrase, in addition to quoting “a research” that states whatever point you’re looking to make, with zero data or methodology or even a source. I’d love to know if this research was carried out by an intern in your office as a full-fledged summer project, or whether she came up with it over a tea break just in time for you to send the article to press.

I’m also curious by that photograph you used to illustrate your point – are the treatments and doctors you quote (good job with the subtle paid advertising gimmick Aveya Fertility and Cloud Nine group!), also guaranteed to give you the Caucasian skin the model in your stock photography sports? I’ve seen enough of these models in fertility clinic ads around town, so maybe the idea is to wait till one is a ‘tad late’, and then get a double whammy of fair skin AND a baby (or two, or maybe more because anyway one must be freezing ones geriatric eggs at 30)?

My favorite portion is your section on prenatal precautions, which tells me I HAVE to quit smoking, but I only need to ‘limit’ my drinking. Is this a concession for today’s generation? I mean, what is this limited drinking – how much do you think an average woman drinks, and therefore what’s the limit? I got my drinking chops in Gurgaon so I’m a “tad” worried that I may be over your limit. I’d also like to understand what are the so-call ‘acceptable levels’ for weight. Your esteemed professionals don’t really tell me this, just like they don’t tell me how I’m supposed to “keep my pre-existing conditions under check”. I assume they mean continue to take the relevant medication, but it sounds like you want me to will it away. I will try that and let you know what my medical practitioner thinks of my attempt.

Basically, you claim you’re telling me the pros and cons of my choices, but all you have are sweeping statements, generalizations, and enough quotes to convince me that the 3/4 of the page this article took up was paid for by these so-called concerned healthcare providers. By the way, did you consider the fact that the planet is already groaning under the weight of the people we have, and maybe, just maybe, not everyone needs to necessarily procreate?

ET, I think you should go back to what you’re supposed to do, and what you’re actually reasonably decent at, and report on business news. Dr. Shenoi and her ilk can work with other papers in your group, and maybe Aveya can be a part of the Ads for Equity program, given that they’re only a few months old.

After all, there are enough well meaning neighbourhood aunties as-is, without your having to take on the mantle of one.

Best,

Me

PS: For those concerned, this is the article in question. The top search result leads you right to…surprise surprise – the Cloud Nine website. I guess there really isn’t a doubt on who’s judging those of us who are “late”, and how much they benefit from fear mongering to aid their business?

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What I Learnt in Tanzania

There I was, in Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, trying to find the gate to our flight to Tanzania while simultaneously scoping out bathrooms. I spotted one, and told my fellow companions (my husband V, my cousin NK, his wife RT, and their friends J & K) that I’d be out in a second. “No, let’s find one closer to the gate”, RT said, a woman on a mission to get to the gate in the minimal time left on our layover. So we trudged on, and finally found our gate. As luck would have it, there was a bathroom right there. It said ‘Gents’ so I confidently walked to the one right next to it, expecting that it would be the Women’s bathroom. Except, this one said ‘Gents’ too. I thought that maybe my sleep deprived eyesight was tricking me. Only to hear K say, “We have to go back – these are both men’s bathrooms!”

And that’s how on Day Zero of our Africa Trip, I learnt my very first lesson – When you see a bathroom, just GO! 

***

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Dazzle – you heard it here first!

On Day 1 of our trip, we drove from Arusha (where we spent our first night post landing in Tanzania) to Tarangire Safari Lodge. Along the way, we went on our very first game drive through the Tarangire National Park. While the drive until the Park entrance was largely uneventful (highways all around the world look largely the same), we saw a dazzle of zebras as soon as we entered the park, thereby raising the bar for the overall trip right there (incase you’re wondering, I also did NOT know the collective noun for Zebras up until I Googled it). Before we could process what we’d seen, the Zebras began crossing the road, thereby bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Zebra Crossing’. V provided entertainment by responding to NK’s question, “How do Zebras recognize their mate?”. In case you’re wondering (and knowing his PJ skills you may wonder why you did), the answer is – “They can’t get confused. It’s all black or white for them!”

We also spotted wildebeest grazing, and got very excited thinking that they were all still in Tanzania and we would get to see the migration, which in our heads looked EXACTLY like what we’d seen on NatGeo specials. Our guide gently explained that most of them had already migrated, and these were just the lazy ones that continued to hang about on this end, and were likely not migrating this year.

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So NOT planning to migrate this year.

In true Type A city-dweller fashion, I decided to re-visit the objective of the trip and work toward spotting the Big 5 instead. My quest began with spotting a memory of Elephants (language nerd alert – loving these collective nouns as much as I loved seeing the animals!). Check one for Day One!

We got to the Tarangire Safari Lodge in the evening and discovered that we were glamping in some fantastic tents. There’s no real fencing of the property so animals come right up to the tents! Their outdoor eating area also had a great view of the forest, and we got to see the Milky Way at night. I must admit, that the uncluttered view of the stars beat any city skyline hands down.

 

Tip: While at Tarangire Safari Lodge, try out the local Mango Wine and Honey Wine. They’re both quite awesome.

***

Our second day was another game drive at Tarangire. In addition to everything we’d seen the day before, we also saw elephants at lunch time. This was the closest that we’d seen them, and watching them eat was quite a relaxing activity.

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Lunch and exercise, in one fluid move!

We also spotted some Wild Buffaloes, even though they were way off in the distance. We decided to count this as No. 2 on the Big 5 list, as well as consider this a ‘migration’ because they were crossing the river. After all, who knew if we would see the lazy Wildebeest migrate given how green everything was in Tarangire? As we discussed the technicalities of what we saw, we were also lucky enough to spot a Leopard (OMG! No 3!). Like the ones in India, this one was shy, and on a distant tree, so we had to be satisfied with blurry pics (and the hope that V’s photoshop skills could somehow make the yellow blob look more Leopard-like).

The highlight of the day (other than the Leopard), was spotting everyone’s favorite Disney character, Pumba, and his friends, leading to a ‘Hakuna Matata’ moment. Only to realize later that night, that we didn’t even know the REAL Hakuna Matata song. This was one of my favorite discoveries on this trip, and lesson 2: Disney does not always have the best version of the song. . For what it’s worth, this is a birthday song. On my next birthday, I’m requesting this instead of ‘Happy Birthday’.

Overall, the Tarangire game drives were fantastic, and we were quite convinced we’d seen a LOT. We even wondered if there was going to be anything new to see on the next couple of days.

Tip: Do NOT wear dark blue or black, if you do not want to be hounded by the dreaded Tsetse fly (bonus PJ – “Tsetse, tsetse, tsetse mujhe log bole!”). I made sure not to pack anything in these colors, only to forget that V’s sneakers are black with blue laces. Basically, he was wearing a Tsetse attraction flag on his feet!

***

On Day 3, we awoke to discover waterbucks peering at us through the thicket near our tent. I thought this was the pinnacle of what we were going to see, and wondered what we’d do over the next few days. That day, we drove from Tarangire to Ngorongoro, with a game drive through the caldera, home to the highest density of wildlife in Africa. I’d been hoping to spot the Black Rhino over here. Yes, that’s Type A crazy city girl for you – I took the “Rhino” requirement off the Big 5 list, and raised it to “almost extinct Black Rhino of which there are only 21 left in Ngorongoro.”

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Ngorongoro is beautiful, with plains framed by mountains. As we drove down into the crater I realized that even if we saw no animals, the natural beauty of the landscape alone was worth the trip here. But, Tanzania doesn’t disppoint when it comes to animals – we saw our very first glimpse of lions amidst great excitement! V was also thrilled to see hyenas, jackals and wolves up close.

We got a better look at the buffaloes up close, looking all judgy at us and leading to our philosophical question of the trip – “What do the animals think of while they stand around all day?”.

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Whatchu’ lookin’ at? HUH??

There were also vultures, kites and eagles perched on the trees here, in addition the the ostriches and other birds ranging from the Starling to Grey Crested Crane, and our favorite the Secretary Bird.

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By this point in the trip, V was wondering where the African food he was promised went. RTs friends who’d visited Kenya a year ago mentioned that they got local food (and meat), and we’d thought this would be the same. However, all our lunch boxes offered us were sandwiches, chips, juice, mini pizzas, and enough fruit and peanuts to start a business selling them! V tried convincing our guide to take us to a local African restaurant enroute to Ngorongoro, but he was told that he should ask the chef at the hotel. That night, at Sopa Lodges, V asks to see the chef. The chef shows up, and he’s very clearly of Indian-origin. As V begins to ask his question, I can’t help but point out that V Singh was speaking to B Singh. A little more questioning revealed that B Singh came from Rishikesh, and moved to Tanzania about 5 years ago. He could name African dishes, but claimed they’d all take time to make, and instead tried to subtly convince us to request dal khichdi for our lunchboxes the next day. Thus ended V’s quest to eat local African food.

Lesson 4 – There may not be a Malayali on the moon, but there’s definitely a Singh in Ngorongoro!

***

Since this was our last day at Ngorongoro, I was all set to see the Black Rhino, and it seemed like our guide was, too. We stalked a black blob in the horizon for hours before it got into a reasonable zoom range and we could spot a horn and confirm that it was indeed a rhino, and not a hippo that had accidentally wandered away from the ‘Hippo Pool’. Unfortunately, these rhinos have been poached so brutally that they don’t come anywhere near the paths (except during mating season) because their survival instinct drives them to stay away from humans. So, while we managed to see the Big 5, I have no real proof of the fifth. For those of you who say pictures or it didn’t happen, that distant blurry, grey-ish blob, is indeed a Black Rhino.

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Check your eyesight – can you spot the Rhino?

Also, we saw two of them, because we spotted the second later in the day. OK, maybe it was the same one twice. Nevertheless, we spotted the Big 5, with 3 days to go!

We also saw many more hyenas – they’ve apparently evolved enough to scare away all the leopards in the area, as well as a cheetah in the distance. V insisted that our best view of a cheetah will come when we are closer to the river, because “Cheetah bhi peeta hai” (if I have to listen to this on a daily basis, you may as well hear some of these once in a while!).

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Do you know how to say “giraffe” correctly?

So far, our best views have been of the buffaloes, giraffe, elephants, zebras and wildebeest. We’ve also spent some time trying to learn how to say ‘zebra’ (more like see-bra) and wildebeest (‘wild beast’ NOT ‘wilderbeast’) correctly.

 

 

Lesson 5 – When in doubt, pronounce it like the locals do. It doesn’t matter what the British vs. American pronunciation is, if the animal is African. 

 

***

Just in case we felt we’d seen everything, we spotted a dead buffalo as we drove off from the crater toward Serengeti. “Oh my God! That poor buffalo’s head has been cleanly chopped off!”, I said. Only to be informed that I’d seen the wrong end, so I’d basically been looking for a head up the buffalo’s ass. Clearly, 4 days in the jungle haven’t really gotten rid of my city slicker ignorance.

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Yes. He IS the Lion from those Shampoo commercials…

As we drove toward Central Serengeti, the grass got yellower and shorter. Everyone was concerned that no animal would show up in plain sight in these plains when suddenly we spotted a pair of lions by a signboard in plain view! We were thrilled to get such a good view of the lions, without realizing that we were going to see way more by the end of the day. Our grand total when we headed to the Wild Frontiers Central Serengeti camp was 34, including a 19 strong pride of lions that were taking an afternoon nap on the side of the road. In addition to the predators, we also saw all the usual suspects, none of whom seemed particularly concerned by the predators in the vicinity. There were more lazy wildebeest still lazing around, even though the yellow grass offered them slim pickings.

That night, V finally managed to get some African food. Our dinner included Ugali, a rice like preparation made with maize. No signs of any weird meats – looks like we will have to go back to South East Asia later this year, to update his chart. Meanwhile, for all the vegetarians reading this, I can assure you that you will get enough and more food to eat on a safari trip.

Lesson 6: While looking for a head, make sure you’re looking in the right direction.

***

As we began driving from Central Serengeti toward the North, the grass got taller and greener. This didn’t stop us from seeing lions – we saw the same pride of 19 having breakfast that morning, as well as some others. We also managed to see a pair of cheetahs (likely a parent-child pair) that crossed the road in front of our jeep so they could go catch some gazelle. Unfortunately, the cheetah gave up chase early on so we didn’t get to see the complete hunt.

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Striking a pose before it’s time to chase the gazelle.

Our disappointment was soon forgotten, however, as we were able to spot a Leopard on a tree, and this time we were able to drive up to it. The Serengeti truly lived up to its reputation of allowing you to see all predators during the dry season!

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Nap time!

As we drove by the Mara river, we  saw crocodiles, and spotted wildebeest that appeared to be interested in crossing over from Kenya to Tanzania. However, on that particular day they didn’t summon the courage to cross because one wildebeest had died in its attempt. Not to mention, that there were quite a few crocs who appeared to be awaiting the crossing as eagerly as  we were! This is when the guide decided to finally tell me that wildebeest cross over back and forth multiple times in this area, so we could still see the migration, so to speak. Given that the plains looked similar on both sides, this was clearly a case of wildebeest believing that the grass was greener on the other side!

***

On that last day, we truly believed that we’d seen all there was to see, especially since our personal bar had been raised every day. We were no longer impressed by the zebras, warthogs, giraffes, or even the birds. They seemed like everyday creatures, as common as pigeons on my balcony in Bangalore.

The Serengeti had saved it’s best for our last day though! We started out by stalking the wildebeest by the river in the hopes that we’d see a crossing. Until lunchtime, all we saw was one very brave wildebeest that tried really hard to escape the jaws of death as a giant crocodile attempted to drag it under. The animal put up a really good fight, and I was rooting for it. Until the guide informed us that even if it escaped it would likely bleed to death on land, at which point I decided that Nature was willing the crocodile to have a good meal that day.

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The video is better than the photo.

Post lunch though, we spotted about 3000 wildebeest all set to cross the river. Once the first animal jumped in, the hordes followed and we watched them cross the river in full force. However, there were quite a few wildebeest who went back and forth in confusion, owing to which some friends were left on the opposite side. The friends and family looked for each other on the opposite bank and even went as far as the edge of the banks to cross over and bring their friends with them. However, they seemed to wary of being the first to jump. All it takes is one brave wildebeest to set off the move, otherwise they wave a sad goodbye at the bank and abandon their friends – until the next crossing. It’s interesting to watch how these disoriented and confused group of animals suddenly rally and go forth in a single direction.

Lesson 7: There’s a very real reason why the collective noun for wildebeest is ‘confusion’ (I did not make this up!)

***

On our last day, we took a bush flight back from the Serengeti to Arusha. The bush flight was an interesting experience, and offered us some nice aerial views over the Serengeti. I quite liked it, until NK told us how many risks the pilot took, and how many errors he made. Thankfully, he chose to tell us these after we were in Bombay, and not while we were on our way back.

Lesson 8: (For all pilots) The guy sitting behind you on that bush flight may just be another pilot who trains pilots.

***

I went to Tanzania expecting to see wildlife. What I didn’t expect was just how beautiful and varied the Tanzanian landscapes would be. I went to Serengeti to see the animals, but instead I felt the silences of the forest at night, I saw the blues of the daytime sky, and the silvers of the stars in the night sky. I’ve always been a total city girl, but something about these forests brought this city girl a few steps closer to being one of those “nature types”. And that’s probably the biggest lesson I learnt on this trip.

Until next time, Africa!

Tip: If you’re planning a Safari, I highly recommend BaseCamp Tanzania. And ask for Josef – he plans to retire soon, so go while he’s still around!

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality”

I don’t ever post my artwork here (except for some super old ones that I put up when I first switched over to WordPress), but today seems like one of those days when I should.

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When I think of why I love reading so much, these are a few names that pop into my head – Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Daphne duMaurier, Harper Lee (I dislike the damned lawyer that published that prequel). Right at the top of the list, is Lewis Carroll, the man who told you you could believe six impossible things before breakfast (it’s no coincidence that I also love the number 6). The man who told you that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. And most importantly, the man who told you that it doesn’t matter if you’re bonkers, because the best people usually are.

If you thought he writes “children’s books”, well, you just grew up too soon (and you don’t realize that writing a good children’s book is infinitely harder than writing any adult book ever. Children will tell you if your work is crap, adults lie and often don’t have the imagination to know any better). If you thought he was high, you’re reality is just very different from mine. If you think that nonsense words do not “teach” right, then may the Jabberwock get you by those slithy toves.

I’ve always believed that one must never do something unless one is good at it, and this is someone who reminds me over and over that the bar for what I want to do is pretty darned high. Thank you Mr. Carroll, for setting such a high bar (and maybe someday I’ll make it somewhere close to it). Until then, thank you for also always, always reminding me to keep my muchness alive.

Of Despair, and Hope…

It’s weird how you can see a weird karmic cycle in a single day.

You wake up in the morning, and find out that something ended before it ever began. And then minutes later, you see a smiling face that gives you hope.

You go through half the day in a daze and realize you were upset, but you didn’t even realize it. You start to go into a blue funk. And then minutes later, you watch hope try to crawl.

You spend the entire day texting, trying to help in your own way,  while wondering how you could make this better. And then minutes later, you see pictures of hope from exactly a year ago, before this ever happened.

I am holding onto these little bits of hope.

****

Dear A & N,

I can’t say anything to make this nightmare fade. I wish I could’ve made this right for you, the way you always did for me. I thought dancing was the hardest thing I’d ever do for you, but what a fool I was! I wish things were different, I wish you never had to go through anything like this ever, I wish, I wish, I wish…

I wish so many things, but mostly I wish you the strength you’ll need to get through this. Here’s sending you all the strength I’ve ever built up (I only ever learnt it from you, N), may it add to the immense strength you already have. 

Love always, me.

Dear You…

This one is to my person – I write best when I’m not at my happiest, & I just felt the need to write to you in this way…

Dear You,

We’ve ranted, we’ve judged, and we’ve just talked so damn much.

And yet, I feel like you still feel like all this is your fault, like you did something, or you wished something that should’ve been, away.

Dear You,

I know you may feel like I just say things because I’m your biggest cheerleader, but please know that I say them because I mean them, and I truly believe you’re awesomer than most.

Dear You,

I know everything and everybody around you, is dragging you down and making you feel like you did something wrong. You, most of all.

Dear You,

Believe me when I say, you are awesomer than most, in fact you are the awesomest I know, except one.

Dear You,

Things are hard now, but I believe they will be OK eventually. I believe in Karma, and that good things happen to good people, and you are one of them. And if Karma won’t comply, I will MAKE it comply.

Because, dear you,

You are MY person. And nobody messes with what’s mine. Not Karma, and not anyone else.

Dear You,

You’ll get what you want, even if you’re only 50% sure you’ll be good at it. It takes a village, they say, and we have that village (that “agraharam” like our ancestors said). It has B12, and FB friends, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know you wouldn’t either.

Dear You,

Continue to make fun of the trials. You’re at your best when you’re sarcastic, and some day we will add this to that little bit of awesomeness that is part-you.

I promise.

Dear You,

Just be the best you, that you are. That’s all you need to be.

<hugs>

Dear You,

We don’t say this much, but, hey, you’re my person, my village, my #1 on speed dial. You’re my village and I’m yours.

I ❤ you.

PS – Can we PUHLEASE work on that book already?

 

 

 

Food Trippin’ through Bangkok

As some people would know, the husband (V), is busy eating his way through the world. He even has a chart a la a second grade Science textbook of the Animal Kingdom that organizes all the species he’s managed to consume thus far. It’s therefore not terribly surprising he wanted to go to Bangkok for his birthday, with the sole objective of adding to this chart. I’ve been to Bangkok before, and done the touristy stuff like the Buddha temples, Ayuthaya, cruising down the Chao Phraya and more. If you’re looking to read about those, this blogpost isn’t it. If you’re interested in knowing about eating your way through the streets of Bangkok (and eating weird food), you should keep reading. For those with sensitive stomachs, consider yourself warned before you read this!

Day 1 – Khao-ing at Khao San 

We landed super early in the morning (cheap ticket alert), and spent 2 hours waiting for the visa on arrival. For anyone who decides to go to Bangkok because of the visa on arrival, I strongly recommend getting it in advance because the disorganized queue is no fun. We had about an hour to kill before checking in to our AirBNB, and so we chose to go to a mall that the owners recommended. This was a local mall in Sukhumvit, clearly not a tourist hangout – in order to get some bubble tea, we had to wait till the iPad on the table played the ad for bubble tea and point.

Once we’d checked in, and cleaned up, we headed out to our first stop – Khao San Road. We started our food explorations at the street vendors near Soi Rambuttri and sampled our way through Pad Thai and rice with two kinds of curry. We walked down the length of the Soi and picked from carts that looked most interesting.

 

 

V considered buying a scorpion on a stick, but skipped it because the 200Baht price was too expensive (yes, he knows how much insects on a stick should cost). Given how muggy it was, we decided to sample some local beer at Khao San road and then began the hunt for the insect cart (top of V’s agenda).

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I recommend Chang for those who like lighter beers.

We found a cart almost as soon as we started looking, and she created a mixed box of insects (grasshoppers, silk worms, bamboo worms, beetles, crickets, waterbugs, frogs) for 200Baht. She also sold him a centipede for 100 baht, a spider for 200 baht and a snake for 500 baht; and threw in a discount for such a top-end customer (AND we weren’t charged 10baht for a photo of the cart).

V’s Verdict: Unfortunately, all insects tasted the same, and of the overused oil they’d been fried in. Of course each had its own texture, so V might be able to blind taste and identify them next time (or so he claims). V’s tip – buy insects from a wholesale market and fry them yourself. Overall, we recommend eating at the street stalls at Soi Rambuttri. We also ate at one of the restaurants at Khao San, but the food was nowhere near as good.

Day 2 – Khlong Tooey Wet Market

We planned to wake up super early and head to Khlong Tooey wet market, the largest wholesale market in the region. We overslept, but still chose to visit the market. We took a direct train from the Phra Rang 9 MRT station to Khlong Tooey. It took us some wandering around on the roads before we found the market, though. At Khlong Tooey, we found every possible species of fruit, vegetable and meat in an infinite maze of shops and alleys. Basically in the absence of a zoo or botanical garden, this market can be visited.

The market explorations started with what sounded like squid in banana leaf (per the vendor’s sign language), but was likely some other kind of fish in banana leaf (per V’s expert opinion).

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Can you identify the fish?

The highlight, however, was finding a lady selling ant-eggs, which was one of the reasons why V wanted to visit this market. He believes he has amazing luck with finding food, because the market was ginormous and we only spent a couple of hours, yet he was able to find what he wanted. He bought about 100g of ant eggs as well as a 100g combo of ants and wasps for 100 baht. The transaction was conducted almost entirely in sign language, and pointing at calculators and weighing scales. When we started, we thought she was selling a kilo of ant eggs for 5 Baht. This turned out to have been a kilo for 50o Baht, so clearly some sort of translation app would have been beneficial! And these aren’t the tiny ants you find scurrying about aimlessly in our homes or yards, these are big-ass ants, of the size of wasps, and I’m sure they would be roaming around with serious business out there in the wild.

While we were heading out from this section (that also had chicken and other meats that I was trying to avoid looking at), V happened to find yet another delicacy that comes from the villages of the area – rats. I’d like to think he didn’t buy any because I couldn’t stand the thought of walking around with one and then cooking it. But actually, I guess he didn’t buy it because he couldn’t have possibly cut, cooked and cleaned it in the AirBnb. So that’s one weird food that remains off the list, thanks to me.

 

From Khlong Tooey, we headed to do some regular site-seeing because I couldn’t possibly let V leave Bangkok without seeing ANY Buddhas. I highly recommend the directions in this post to make your way to Wat Pho and then Wat Arun, like we did. Between the two temples, we had more bubble tea, and a very special dish of Thailand – the Boat Noodles – as always, presented in an especially deep bowl as it was traditionally a dish sold and had on the wobbling boats by the boatmen. In addition to seeing the Golden Buddha, and climbing up Wat Arun, V was able to sample some street side squid. I really liked how the street vendors presented the food – it was MasterChef level plating, complete with the flower.

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Once we were done with the site-seeing portion of the day, we moved on to Chinatown, in search of Birds’ Nest Soup. If you Google Chinatown, there are many restaurants recommended to try out this dish, and we chose to head to Hua Seng Hong. For those who haven’t been part of a quizzing circuit, let me remind you that birds’ nest soup is a delicacy which gets its semi-sweet taste from the birds’ saliva used to make the nest.

While we were hunting through restaurant recommendations, I read about a street vendor who made awesome toast, but it was really hard to locate the guy. Until, I spotted a group of teenagers eating it. I couldn’t help but ask where they’d bought it, and I was given directions (and also a look of ‘doesn’t the crazy lady have a map?’) to the toast guy. This toast is so popular, there’s a huge line of people on the sidewalk just waiting to be served. They have a set of chits with numbers on them, so one needs to enter their name + order and drop it into a bucket. The servers pick these up and call out the number when the order is ready. We tried some toast with a local jaggery like paste. If, like me, you’re a mere spectator to the weird food eating, I highly recommend the toast to accompany your explorations. I also managed to pick up some Green Tea KitKat Icecream (verdict: weird, but yummy) at the 7-11 before we headed back.

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At home, V finally got to cook the ant-eggs he’d bought. I also did him the favor of squishing (“pre-cracking”) the eggs as a result of carrying them in my bag all day (I had a book in the bag that I was speed reading, because I’d found it at the AirBnb and wanted to finish it before we left). He stir fried the eggs in butter, and added some soy sauce for flavor.

V’s Verdict: “The most tasty egg bhurji ever!” As a bonus, there were some wasps sized ants that got cooked in with the eggs, for added protein, flavor and crunchiness. The ant eggs had an inherent lemony taste, which he says comes from mango leaves that are a part of the ant’s diet.

Day 3 – Feeling Fishy at the Floating Market

Bangkok has many floating markets, which are large tourist attractions. Our research pointed us toward Taling Chan Floating Market which isn’t touristy, but is frequented by locals. So that’s where we headed. V thought he was being super prepared and had a Google maps shot of the destination, with Thai directions that he shared with the cab driver. However, it turned out that the words “market” on a Saturday meant only one thing to the cab driver who clearly did not know a word of English (and definitely didn’t read Thai) – Chatuchak Market, the giant flea market that tourists flock to in droves. We planned to go there, but only after we’d eaten at Taling Chan. So we were forced to get off at Chatuchak and find another cab that actually knew where to take us.

When we first got to Taling Chan, we were surprised to see that there were no boats. Just a bunch of stalls on a dock. We thought that we were so delayed that we’d missed the floating stalls. We were standing on the dock, when we noticed boats with vendors further ahead. We walked on to discover the actual floating market – clearly Taling Chan floating market has led to this dock that calls itself ‘Wat Taling Chan market’ for unsuspecting tourists who aren’t quite sure where they want to go.

The actual market had a bunch of street stalls before you head onto a giant boat with different stalls. Each stall buys produce and fish from a boat by the side – there’s everything from variations of the papaya salad, to different varieties of fish, mussels and other sea food. They also had variations of Thai Iced Tea to go with the food. And for dessert, there’s the famous Mango + Sticky Rice combination, to make the most of being in Bangkok during mango season.

 

We opted for a grilled fish and a plate of shellfish, both extremely tasty. Once we’d stuffed ourselves at Taling Chan, we headed back to follow the tourist path and explore Chatuchak Market.

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While I busied myself buying random things that I will never end up using, V managed to find squid eggs at the food stalls near the homeware section of the market. We also had still more bubble tea, and a strawberry cooler while we roamed around in the heat. The highlight of Chatuchak for me, though, was the amazing foot massage at a stall near the apparel section of the market.

V’s Verdict: “Foods taste best in their natural place of occurrence. What’s better than buying fish from someone sitting on a boat? Chatuchak is a flea market with food options too, so neither were the expectations, nor was the experience high on the food dimension”. He is happy that he had a new species’ eggs and is now planning to make a separate egg chart. He claims he has had eggs of enough different kinds to start one.

So that’s 3 days of weird eating (and a LOT of bubble tea drinking) at Bangkok. If you’re interested in seeing V’s chart, let me know in the comments and I’ll share where he’s at in his quest to eat his way around the world. And if you’d like to know more about planning a trip to Bangkok, I can help with that, too!

 

Of moving, and falling in like with a place…

For the first time ever, I’ve grown to like a place. I like it so much, it’s almost ‘home’, a term that I’ve never wanted to use for any place before, ever. Ironically, I’ve only spent one year here – the least amount of time in any place I’ve lived.

Maybe it’s because it’s such a perfect mix of the best things of every other place. The weather is like Coimbatore, but better (almost Ooty-like). I like in a super quirky part of town that feels just like Berkeley. There are so many lakes, they are a great beach-substitute, so I don’t miss Madras. There’s always something or the other happening, especially in the summer, and that reminds me of Bombay. There is also nothing that reminds me of Gurgaon, which is more a positive than anything else.

Maybe it’s all of the above, or maybe it’s some of it. I don’t know why, but I really like Seattle. I didn’t even realize it, and I fell for it. It’s super ironic that I realize this today, when I’ve just finished selling most of my stuff and I’m getting ready to relocate in 9 days.

I’ve lived in many places before, but nothing ever got under my skin like this. Seattle, I will miss you.