COMMUTING TO THE GATEWAY OF INDIA

On our first afternoon in Mumbai, we commuted to the Gateway of India monument via foot, train and tuk tuk.

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 Scott on the train. We didn’t really know where to get off the train but, being white, we stood out like sore thumbs so since everyone was already looking at us, I would say “Gateway to India?” to the people waiting on the platform and they would smile back and gesture to “keep going” or to “get out here”.

Scott on the train. We didn’t really know where to get off the train but, being white, we stood out like sore thumbs so since everyone was already looking at us, I would say “Gateway to India?” to the people waiting on the platform and they would smile back and gesture to “keep going” or to “get out here”.

 Talented jay walker.

Talented jay walker.

I find that I get some of my favorite photos when I’m in a motorized vehicle (like a tuktuk or scooter, see examples here and here) because you only have a brief second to shoot a fleeting scene as you whiz on by. And you get to capture your subject naturally and unknowingly.

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Colorful clotheslines, which again reminded me of Naples, Italy.

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 Gateway of India: a monument that was erected to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder (a pier) on their visit to India in 1911. For the British arriving to India, the gateway was a symbol of the "power and majesty" of the British Empire but today it serves as a "monumental memento" of British colonial rule over India.

Gateway of India: a monument that was erected to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder (a pier) on their visit to India in 1911. For the British arriving to India, the gateway was a symbol of the "power and majesty" of the British Empire but today it serves as a "monumental memento" of British colonial rule over India.

 The design is a combo of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles.

The design is a combo of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles.

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 Ferry boats behind the monument.

Ferry boats behind the monument.

 Adorable fellow tourist.

Adorable fellow tourist.

 Scott with the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the background. Apparently the building is the flagship property of the Taj hotel group. When it first opened in 1903, the hotel was the first in India to have: electricity, American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers. Later, it also the site of India’s first discotech.

Scott with the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the background. Apparently the building is the flagship property of the Taj hotel group. When it first opened in 1903, the hotel was the first in India to have: electricity, American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers. Later, it also the site of India’s first discotech.

The Gateway to India is quite a tourist attraction and it seems to attract Indians from lots of other places around India, including rural areas where I don’t think they see many white people walking around. So Scott and I were a bit of a tourist attraction here, too.

I kept getting groups of little girls coming up to me asking for photos. They would say “Hello Miss, you are so beautiful, may I take a selfie with you?”.

It was probably the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like Beyoncé. And I loved every second of it.

BANDRA WEST, MUMBAI

Arriving a day before wedding festivities began, I booked a hostel in Mumbai’s Bandra West neighborhood.

Online, Bandra West is described as “cosmopolitan” and like the “Brooklyn of Mumbai” — which might be kind of true in some ways, but I’m pretty sure Brooklyn does not have goats roaming the streets. (Actually who knows, maybe it does. Sounds like a new hipster thing that could be trending.)

 Just like Bedford Ave.

Just like Bedford Ave.

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 Among the tuk-tuks/rickshaws.

Among the tuk-tuks/rickshaws.

 Solid rules to live by, I’d say.

Solid rules to live by, I’d say.

We arrived before the sun came up and walked down the quiet alleyways while the fruit vendors were still setting up their stalls.

After checking in, we started exploring as the day got brighter and the streets came alive.

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There were people and dogs and stores and food and motorcycles and cars buzzing in every crevice of the neighborhood. After many hours on a sterile plane, ALL of your senses are stimulated walking in Bandra West.

My favorite moment was when I saw a bunch of goats chilling, eating trash on the sidewalk (just kidding, there’s no sidewalk) and I said to Scott: “Who do you think owns these goats? What do they do with them?”

And then I took 5 more steps… and there were freshly chopped GOAT HEADS on a table, next to their bodies being BBQ’d.

It was a very direct “farm to table” food stand.

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 “I ask for Kale and you try to sell me Romaine? What do you think this is?”

“I ask for Kale and you try to sell me Romaine? What do you think this is?”

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 How great is this guys desk set-up? Who needs a standing desk when you’re right out front, in the sun, amongst the action?

How great is this guys desk set-up? Who needs a standing desk when you’re right out front, in the sun, amongst the action?

 Decor at the Horn Ok Please hostel.

Decor at the Horn Ok Please hostel.

We stayed at Horn Ok Please hostel that’s camouflaged in a hectic alley way, with the only sign being giant letters spelling out “HOP” in yarn. But as soon as you enter the doors (and take off your shoes, you gotta take off your shoes) it’s like stepping into a serene, shabby-chic oasis.

As a hostel veteran, I didn’t know what to expect of a cheap hostel in India (I got bed bugs in Marseille, France) but this one was FAB. I felt like I could’ve been in Brooklyn or Berlin, but with DIY Indian Hipster decor.

It was so clean and well designed, there was delicious Indian-Western style breakfast and they even have a great blog with useful tips that made it easy to explore the neighborhood as soon as we checked in.

I thought the name “Horn Ok Please” might’ve been a clever translation gone wrong — but I later found out (while on the back of a motorcycle) that the phrase is painted on the back of buses and trucks all over India to “alert a driver of a vehicle approaching from behind to sound their horn in case they wish to overtake.”

This rule (and signage) was actually banned in 2015 to help prevent noise pollution, but I assure you, the practice is still alive and well. Drivers are still very vocal with their horns, especially the tuk-tuks. Makes for a fun ride.

MUMBAI, INDIA

As a big fan of bright colors, curry and yoga — I’ve always wanted to go to India.

However, it’s a place that’s as intimidating as it is intriguing. With 1.3 billion people and a diverse landscape that covers everything from deserts to snow capped mountains, it’s hard to know where to even start when planning a trip.

So, I was thrilled when I got invited to my friends Steve and TJ’s wedding in Mumbai. Not only would I get to attend see my friends get married in epic Bollywood style wedding, but it was also the perfect excuse to escape a Boston winter and spend 3 weeks backpacking in India.

 Students walking to school along the Band Stand.

Students walking to school along the Band Stand.

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 Bandra-Worli Sea Link — or as I called it: the Indian Zakim Bridge.

Bandra-Worli Sea Link — or as I called it: the Indian Zakim Bridge.

Even after booking a roundtrip flight to Mumbai, I still didn’t know where to start in actually PLANNING a trip around India. It’s just so huge. I tried watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts — but I would just get overwhelmed and end up watching movie trailers instead.

I wanted to travel the way I always do: by just winging it.

In 2018, with smartphones and wifi it’s never been easier to plan as you go and just go with the flow.

But was that really possible (or wise) in INDIA?

 Some early morning extracurriculars.

Some early morning extracurriculars.

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 Indian Barnes and Noble.

Indian Barnes and Noble.

 Way cuter than the MBTA.

Way cuter than the MBTA.

 I think my favorite feature of Mumbai were all of the colorful little details in the buildings, even when they were falling apart — they were still beautiful in a way. Reminded me a bit of  Naples .

I think my favorite feature of Mumbai were all of the colorful little details in the buildings, even when they were falling apart — they were still beautiful in a way. Reminded me a bit of Naples.

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 Fresh street veggies.

Fresh street veggies.

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9 months later (the trip was in February and March — I’m a bit behind on the blog) I’m happy to report that it is indeed possible. (And I’d actually recommend it, for reasons I’ll get into later posts.)

We landed in Mumbai with no set plans after the wedding but with the guidance from friendly locals, helpful backpackers and GoogleMaps we found our way around (a small portion of) colorful and chaotic India.

And it was even better than I imagined.

More soon.

TURTLES AT LANIAKEA BEACH

Swimming with turtles was high on my things-to-do-in-Hawaii list.

I had looked into a few specifically turtle spotting boat trips but then one day while walking along Laniakea Beach in Haleiwa, we found 'em in the wild. 

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We were so enthralled by our first spotting that we sat next to it for a solid hour gently poking at it, whispering "Look at it's eye!", "Touch it's tail and see what it does!" and being generally annoying human tourists. 

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 Not dead. I swear. Only looks dead. Very much alive.

Not dead. I swear. Only looks dead. Very much alive.

Technically, you aren't supposed to touch the turtles (we didn't see the sign until after our first turtle... and then we ignored it) BUT HOW COULD YOU NOT TOUCH THESE MASSIVE INCREDIBLE PRE-HISTORIC LOOKING BEINGS.

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Walking along the beach, we spotted more and more washed upon the shore. And then we came back day after day, to swim with them in the ocean. 

 We named this one Tezza. 

We named this one Tezza. 

 Haleiwa Beach Park

Haleiwa Beach Park

So, if you ever find yourself on the island of the Oahu... skip the $80 "swim with the turtles" boat tour and just hang with them at Laniakea Beach. 

HALEIWA, HAWAII

Haleiwa (a little town on Hawaii's North Shore) is the surfing capital of the world. Known for the giant, insane pipeline waves (yes, like Blue Crush) it's a surfing mecca. We were there in the off-season so unfortunately, it was relatively flat but still beautiful. 

The small community dates back to the 1900's and the architecture in the main town looks slightly old-westy with brightly colored, saloon-style buildings.

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 Food trucks galore.

Food trucks galore.

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In Haleiwa, the one long road that hugs the coast is the only way in and out so no matter where you drive, you have the bright blue ocean on one side and tropical flowers lining the sandy road on the other.  

AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN KAILUA

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Kailua is a mostly residential area with only one commercial district on the main road. The neighborhood seemed to be quite a tight community, every person I passed on morning hikes said a genuine hello which as a cold Bostonian, I found startling -- but also nice. 

Strolling back and forth to the beach each day, palm trees lined every road and I trailed behind snapping photos of the bright flowers, neon sunsets and tropical houses. I eased right into the calm, tropical vibe of Kailua and now want to go back ASAP. 

KAILUA, HAWAII

Kailua was a sleepy beach town until Obama blew up it's spot with his annual vacations while he was in office. He was born in Honolulu, but Kailua became his (like San Clemente became Nixon's) during his Presidency.

After visiting, I can certainly understand why he chose it, as the beaches in Kailua are -- hands down -- the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen in my entire life. And I've seen some beaches. 

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Usually after arriving on a beach, I take a minute to enjoy the scenery before:

a) jumping in the water

b) diving into a book or

c) falling asleep for a nap

....but after setting up on Kailua Beach I just sat there and looked around, in awe, for a solid 60-90 minutes. It's just astonishingly beautiful. These photos don't even do it justice, they're legit garbage compared to what it really looks like in real life. 

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 We took runs and hikes up the  Lanikai Pillboxes  for full views of the coast.

We took runs and hikes up the Lanikai Pillboxes for full views of the coast.

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 Pitaya smoothie from Kalipawai Market. 

Pitaya smoothie from Kalipawai Market. 

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Kailua Beach sits right next to Lanikai Beach. Both have the softest white sand and water so blue it brings the Leader of The Free World back every year.

SANDY BEACH

On the South Shore of Oahu, Sandy Beach is a lovely sunrise spot with a powerful shore break that made for good body surfing. Getting clobbered by waves is always an effective way to wake up. 

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 Cold brew coffee, pineapple and wifi... what more could you want.

Cold brew coffee, pineapple and wifi... what more could you want.

 Hawaiian chicks.

Hawaiian chicks.

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Post-swim, I'd drink a cold brew provided by the rustic road-side coffee cart and watch photographers with massive lenses (in the water!) trying to get the perfect shot of a barrel.

Sandy Beach is a great way to start the day.  

OAHU, HAWAII

In September, I traveled to Hawaii for a wedding and spent 2 weeks exploring the island of Oahu. I found Hawaii to be so excellent that it made me prouder to be an American (which can be tough at times, these days), knowing this beautiful tropical gem is part of my country. 

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 Immediately after landing, we picked up our rental car and drove to a beach in Honolulu for an inaugural dip.  

Immediately after landing, we picked up our rental car and drove to a beach in Honolulu for an inaugural dip.  

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 Diamond Head Crater.

Diamond Head Crater.

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 Waikiki by night. 

Waikiki by night. 

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 I found a lost dog wandering around in the dark in Waikiki, promptly fell in love, gave her a bath, got her a new outfit and began planning how I could take her home to Boston (You can pack a small dog on Delta, FYI). Long story short, I eventually (and begrudgingly) reunited her with her owner but I was THISCLOSE to finally owning a dog and already had a shortlist of Hawaiian names picked out for her. Her real name is "Penny" but I think she looks more like a "Aliikai" (Hawaiian for "Queen of the Sea"). 

I found a lost dog wandering around in the dark in Waikiki, promptly fell in love, gave her a bath, got her a new outfit and began planning how I could take her home to Boston (You can pack a small dog on Delta, FYI). Long story short, I eventually (and begrudgingly) reunited her with her owner but I was THISCLOSE to finally owning a dog and already had a shortlist of Hawaiian names picked out for her. Her real name is "Penny" but I think she looks more like a "Aliikai" (Hawaiian for "Queen of the Sea"). 

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For the first 2 nights, we stayed in an Honolulu AirBnB surrounded by misty mountains in the Aina Haina Valley. Jetlagged, we would wake up at sunrise and get an early hike in before hitting the beach.

I liked Hawaii so much it actually made me a morning person. 

LAST BITS OF NEW ZEALAND 2017

(From my phone.)

 Pre-surf at Maori Bay. 

Pre-surf at Maori Bay. 

 New llama friend. 

New llama friend. 

 Dowtown from Te Atatu Peninsula.

Dowtown from Te Atatu Peninsula.

 Vintage shopping on K Road. 

Vintage shopping on K Road. 

 Street art in Ponsonby. 

Street art in Ponsonby. 

 Our friends who fed us satay sticks at the Henderson Night Markets every Thursday. 

Our friends who fed us satay sticks at the Henderson Night Markets every Thursday. 

 Auckland Sky Tower at night, from below. 

Auckland Sky Tower at night, from below. 

 Man and dog. True love. 

Man and dog. True love. 

 Art on Waiheke Island. 

Art on Waiheke Island. 

 Glorious  Waiheke . 

Glorious Waiheke

 Mid-run on Waiheke Island. 

Mid-run on Waiheke Island. 

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 Cleaned up for a Waiheke Wedding. 

Cleaned up for a Waiheke Wedding. 

 3/4 of the Stratford Siblings. 

3/4 of the Stratford Siblings. 

 Bexee, Scott and I. Practically an ad for Karen Walker. 

Bexee, Scott and I. Practically an ad for Karen Walker. 

  Smokey , watching foolish humans. 

Smokey, watching foolish humans. 

 Smokey, one with nature. 

Smokey, one with nature. 

 Downtown Auckland. 

Downtown Auckland. 

 Crater on  Mount Eden .

Crater on Mount Eden.

 Sunset on the Te Atatu Peninsula. 

Sunset on the Te Atatu Peninsula.