Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto, Japan…..temple offerings
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China….Pots and pans…containing gastronomic delights

 

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Sausalito, California…..taffy temptations

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Hung Hum, Kowloon, Hong Kong….the daily catch

Slow and steady, the Rickshaw continues on its journey through lanes and streets. ‘Pulled rickshaws created a popular form of transportation, and a source of employment for male laborers, within Asian cities in the 19th century. Their popularity declined as cars, trains and other forms of transportation became widely available’…..en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rickshaw
The word rickshaw originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha (人力車, 人 jin = human, 力 riki = power or force, 車 sha = vehicle), which literally means “human-powered vehicle.
Macao… colorful and trendy
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Allahabad…clinging to the past
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Hong Kong….
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Beijing…..power variants
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Allahabad Rickshaw

A RICKSHAW JOURNEY. …An Introduction to an ongoing ‘Fantasy’.

‘These hauntings make up the invisible story of our lives, the shadow side of the resume, if you like.’ Pico Iyer in SUN AFTER DARK…..Flights into the Foreign.

A scene replays in memory, the year 1958 and father, holding on to marigold and rose garlands, waving from the door of the railway compartment, on way to Bombay (now Mumbai) to board the P&O liner* for England. Air travel was in nascent stage and any trip to the western world was by sea.

The railway platform had turned into personal fiefdom with friends, family, business associates wanting to be part of the epical send off. Father had been a popular and active member of Rotary Club, the Masonic Lodge, business associations and neighborhood committees, explaining the massive turnout at the open platform of Allahabad railway station. Another reason could be that apart from prominent and political families including the Nehru family, only a handful of Allahabad citizens had ventured to foreign shores. Decades later, in 1975 and in comparison to 1958, it was me and my eldest brother when I boarded Air India flight at New Delhi airport for my first journey to the USA. Going abroad had become a regular travel feature.

Father kept in touch with snail mail and picture postcards from ports of call sailing through the newly commissioned Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea with stopovers in Egypt, Gibraltar, Spain, Italy and France and breaking journey in England. The picture postcards addressed to me carried instructions to show them to the German Principal of my convent school, St. Mary’s Convent. I was a shy 6 year old and the very idea of waiting outside her office to share a personal letter was unthinkable.

He had returned after six months to a tumultuous welcome and for days our house turned into a community hall with an enthralled audience listening to his travel tales of ‘hand shake with Queen Elizabeth 11; witnessing a fox hunt and the musical bowl he had been presented with; about the spectacular Eiffel Tower (Paris)and the Coliseum (Rome); the mysterious Bavarian Forest, Vienna, Amsterdam, Geneva, Venice, Scotland, Edinburgh and other cities and monuments. The coveted items were the tape recorder, Swiss chocolates and watches, my German blonde doll rolling her blue eyes and saying ‘Ma’ whenever her stomach was pressed, a sky blue can-can dress that was one size large for me and I had refused to give it to my cousin, and other western apparel and gifts for me and my brothers. There were envious innuendos on my mother’s French chiffon saris, how they were a compensation for the six month absence and looking after a household of five children and equal number of hanger ons and helpers.

We all basked in the glory of father’s trip oblivious that this bug was being transferred to five siblings who would be mapping out their journeys, India centric trips and business ventures, to Australia, Cyprus, USA and Canada. We lost our father to cardiac failure (1960) before he could take our mother to America. Their bags packed, tickets and passports ready but he was destined for another journey.

The siblings did not let go of his dreams. The eldest and youngest brothers set off for Australia on completion of studies, to expand the family jewelry business, the second brother to the USA, Stanford University and World Bank to pursue higher studies and employment and third to George Washington University, USA and later on human rights missions to East Timor and other nations. I was not one to lag behind and kept afoot of my four brothers with Summer school in Stanford University, stays in Oman and Hong Kong, travels to USA, Canada and Asian countries including my own, India. The third generation continues to unravel the journey thread.

‘The Rickshaw Journey is about small steps to realization, confrontation and re discovery, journeys linked to the soil and mind. ‘. this is an introduction to a travel memoir in the writing…..

I have been slightly busy to take up challenges but I could not resist this one, the Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon. Since childhood I have always been fascinated with ‘horizons’ and would wonder what was beyond the meeting points. The Atlas and geography took away some of the magic but I am still intrigued by the imaginary lines no matter wherever I am.

On way to Jasper, Alberta, Canada (2013)…a never-ending highway.

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2. This is an early morning shot from the balcony of an apartment in Burnaby, British Columbia.(2013).

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3. Flatiron building, Manhattan, New York, resembling a cast- iron cloths iron probably reaching out to iron the sky. (2013)

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The last two pictures were taken in Allahabad, my hometown and where as a child would worry that River Ganges would disappear into space and the other in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh…. the unfolding of the Himalayas. (2012)

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Travel theme: Multicolored
New York in summer (2013) is a different experience altogether as the city appears to shed its winter inhibitions.

Astoria, New York, a former Greek sanctuary…now a multi cultural, multi racial fun packed space with old world charm.

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Rock ways Beach, New York….a summer fun with loads of sun, surf and sand.
A walk along the boardwalk and plastic paddles sums up the mood of renewal after the blathering by Sandy in 2012.

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Cold spring village along the Hudson….another summer getaway of sun, blue skies and cool aqua of the Hudson River. The antique village with its paved streets, antique shops and galleries reflect the colors of nature

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Galveston in Texas is a beach town with regular trappings of water, tourists, food stalls, hotels, spas and clubs. But on this cool, windy April day (2011) the abiotic Confederate façade of a privileged historical past appears slightly misplaced. Galveston has a  scarred relationship with the sea and as we drive along the 32 mile drive-in nondescript beach the scars are visible.

Hurricane Ike keepsake – the Balinese Room

One hour drive from neighboring Houston through bland countryside of sparse vegetation and chemical works, no visible signs of Longhorns, and we are in Galveston showcasing remnants of Hurricane Ike, renovated residences and the shell of the Balinese Room pier, the once vibrant nightclub extending 600 feet into the Gulf, The Seawall Boulevard still displays signs of devastation wrought by the September 13, 2008 Hurricane Ike, the Category 2 hurricane with wind speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) and waves about 14 feet that had crossed over the Galveston Seawall flooding the city via storm drains and unprotected bay side.

Galveston Art Center

‘Ike’ trophies preceded us to Downtown, particularly the Strand once referred to as the “Wall street of the South West’, with water markings preserved on building exteriors. During mid-nineteenth century Galveston was the crème of Texas and its main ‘cotton’ port attracting traders and tourists from different corners of the country and world till flattened by a hurricane in 1900. The town had taken its own  time to regain the lost stature, albeit with moniker ‘Sin City of the Gulf’, flaunting casinos and big name entertainment and clinging on to its diverse and quirky flavor of a laid back island city. In the meantime Houston with its modern infrastructure had leaped ahead and though Galveston floundered back into contention it was again subjected to natural foul play in 2008.

The stately buggy driver-cum-guide identified the important landmarks of the city such as the 1887 Bishop’s Palace (mentioned in top 100 architectural significant homes in the U.S.A.), the

1879 Edwardian Tremont House, the Ghost House and the Trumpet House, Moody Mansion Museum, the Cotton Exchange and Galveston Art Center building with Hurricane Ike’s water markings, the annual Mardi Gras (February 25) buntings, pubs, galleries and gift shops.

Mardi Gras Arch with Tremont House in background

Walking the Strand National Historic District turned out a better way to appreciate the Victorian hangover of the city. The Galveston Island Railroad Museum on 25th Strand is a  must see and from here we headed towards the shopping area with more historic buildings converted into stores.

Purchased chocolates from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory and gifts from the Old Strand Emporium and  stopped at the Saengerfest Park, a place for touristy activities, to enjoy a father and son chess game on permanent giant chess set. The restaurants along the Seawall Boulevard and the Strand offer diverse cuisine from Greek, Mexican, Italian and fresh Gulf Coast seafood.

Permanent Chess board

The past and present mingles as tourists, locals and bikers search for evening entertainment in Downtown or the waterfront. Towards evening the parking spaces at the beach were fast filing up and cars downloading their barbeques and picnic paraphernalia on the raised seawall.

We strolled on the seawall, no wish to jump in the chilly murky waters of the Gulf, watching sea gulls swoop down on unsuspecting picnickers.

Other attractions:

1. Moody Gardens with its 10-storey rainforest, a 1.5-million-gallon pyramid aquarium, a 19th century-styled Colonel Paddle wheeler complete with hour-long narrative cruises, a Palm Beach and a memorial for Vietnam veterans.

2.The Great Storm multimedia presentation of the devastating 1900 Storm at the Pier 21 Theater.

3.The Cruise Ship Terminal for an opportunity to embark on a brief adventure.

4. Texas Seaport Museum and Tall Ship Elissa

The San Antonio River Walk or ‘Paseo del Rio’ along the banks of San Antonio River is a peek into the soul of a city peppered with a rich past. One can savor different time spans from the arrival of Spanish explorers and missionaries in 1691 to the present tourist town. The chief attraction is the RiverWalk meandering along with the San Antonio River through the Downtown and other historic areas.  The waters were harnessed as flood control measure and regulated to a natural stream before it empties in the Guadalupe River, near San Antonio Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.

The Cruise queue

We did not follow the River but drove down from Houston, took us nearly three hours, straight to the Rivercenter Mall on intersection of Commerce and Bowie streets. The Mall is one of the ticketing and boarding centers for the River Walk cruise ride* and possibly the shortest way to appreciate the tourist attractions. The entry points to the River Walk is either from Downtown, the North Channel and Bend River Walk or the River Walk Museum Reach connecting existing walk with the San Antonio Museum, Pearl Brewery and art installations along the bank. River taxis and cruise boats are other alternatives for a grand tour.

It was a Saturday and a long ticket queue for place in the cruise boat. Finally, we set off but not before our Guide executed a well-rehearsed cameo pushing the boat and telling us that he would wait for our return only to hop in the minute it left the bank. Seeing some worried faces, his take was that the river, in some places, is just 5 ft deep and one could could just jump in and walk out.

The boat took an about turn from the Rivercenter Mall gliding along boutiques, antiquated houses, dated stone and steel bridges, restaurants and hotels, the art and craft exhibition stalls, past city landmarks such as the towering 33 storey Tower Life Building constructed in 1928 and visible from different points across the city (the upper floors are said to be illuminated during Christmas), the King William district with its Victorian mansions, the Arneson River Theatre with its romantic, mission-bell backdrop and amphitheater featured in Sandra Bullock’s Miss Congeniality.

The theater serves as a river entrance to historic La Villita and the city’s first neighborhood of Spanish settlements followed by German and French pioneers. All this time the boat navigator cum Guide regaled us with anecdotes about the buildings and the city as we passed attractions such as the Hemisfair Park with the Tower of Americas in the foreground, the Hilton Hotel, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and the Lila Cockrell Theater of the Performing Arts.

The horseshoe bend of the River is a storehouse of antiquity with historical buildings that have been  converted into hotels and music clubs. The Hyatt Regency Hotel is a newer construction and starting point of the second River Walk extension, the Paseo del Alamo. One can walk through the hotel atrium and continue up a landscaped water way to the Alamo.The verdant setting of the River Way shaded by Cypresses, Oaks, Weeping Willows and mélange of multi-hued flora highlighted by waterfalls, patios and arty benches giving the entire boat journey a surreal touch.

In between there are areas of quietness and tranquility with only ducks for company weaving their way through water traffic, we missed one, as we cruised along the bank admiring old tree stumps resembling squatting mongoose.

From here it was an about turn towards the entertainment and funky segment of the River Walk.–the boisterous market sounds of music, Latin, German, American, Mexican and Asian flavors intermingling with equally varied languages. There is choice of food and eating places from The Iron Cactus, Hard Rock Café, Rainforest Café, Schilo’s as old as 1917, Casa Rio, a 60-year-old restaurant for Tex-Mex favorites, to name a few.

If spoiled for choice and unable to decide then easy way out is to walk into Rivercenter Mall’s food court or La Villita’s cafes or like us to Le Ole for the biggest/tallest Margaritas served with ample Mexican joie de vivre.

The 2 mile long and 45 minute ride culminates at the Rivercenter Mall and from here we retraced our steps along the River stopping at all the colorful booths displaying intricate stone jewelry, book holders, Friendship and name bands, paintings and candles. Lunched at Le Ole and later strolled to Starbucks in the Rivercenter Mall for refreshing Tea Latte. The area was getting crowded as the two-mile water system is a commercial project highlighted with lush greenery and page-book architecture.

The River Walk is incomplete without a visit to The Alamo also known as Mission San Antonio de Valero and dates back to 1724. It has a checkered war history and was home to missionaries and their converts. At present the Alamo is maintained by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, an association dedicated to perpetuating the memories of Texas pioneer families and the soldiers of the Republic of Texas. The maintenance money is raised through donations and proceeds from the gift shop, which is really a treasure trove of old cookbooks, interest generated by success of Julie and Julia (blog book) and gift items. The entire atmosphere at the Alamo is reminiscently charged as one walks through the Shrine, the Long Barrack Museum, Chapel, the Cavalry Courtyard, Convento Courtyard with a ‘well’ dating to Mission period, strategically placed canons and enthusiastic children wanting to know more about the ancient rifles and women dressed in period costume showcasing various period crafts.

The crumbling structure of Alamo with nearly 300 year old history was witness to battles between Mexican and American solders with the historic Battle of Alamo taking place in 1836. A crowd had collected at the mock Courthouse witnessing a trail enacted by actors in period dresses. There were other weekend activities taking place in different corners of the complex.

Walked to Alamo Plaza, a shopper’s paradise. Picked up Mexican souvenirs from La Tienda and ambled towards Ripley’s Believe It Or Not store and Louis Tussaud Wax Works but being interested in neither returned to the River Walk for one last time. Evening time is fiesta time and already the atmosphere was ‘hotting up’ with live music and surging crowds but we had to return to Houston.

It would be another three-hour drive and left the city before the setting sun did.