Embun Pagi (Morning Dew)

We are currently staying at a place called Embun Pagi, which is a Permaculture garden near Kuala Lumper. This is where our PDC (permaculture Design Course) is being taught. Embun Pagi is run by a young Malaysian named Sabina. She has been on this site for two months and a lot has been done in that short period of time.

The 4 acre land has a lot of potential, the main area (zone 1) has been managed to produce vegetables that will be used by the house. Greens to big vegetables have been planted here. There are also some coconut trees, banana and papaya trees. There are two other pieces of land that don’t have much on them, but they will soon enough. It is exciting to be here and to see the land before it is planted, this is the perfect climate to plant a food forest and this land could produce a lot of great tasting fruit.

Statue

The other day we had a day off so we headed off to see some sights. Sabina organized a great day for us, there was a ton of things to see. The first place we went was to this cool garden. There were many different plants growing many different fruits. It is so amazing what you can grow here. Everything grows so fast and there is stuff I never heard of growing here. It was very similar to Abraham’s spice farm in India, however there wasn’t as many spices, it was just as impressive. The house belonged to an architect, and we saw some of the house (just the outside). Very neat place.

Green and Purple Leaves

Nutmeg

Green shrubs

Moss trying to take back the land

On a palm tree

Flower of the Custard apple (I think)

Green Leaf

Palm trunk

After hanging out there for a while we headed to a bird sanctuary. This place was cool, I saw some mangroves (first time). Amazing ecosystem, tree growing in standing water, and salt water at that. There was a big group of us and it was great. The mosquitoes loved it to, they were brutal, flying fast, silently and you don’t feel them bite you until it is much to late. These little insects go into stealth mode and leave a bite that is itchy, and there numbers where that similar to a Canadian forest in the summer which meant you didn’t stop moving. The set up was cool, you walk on a boardwalk into the mangroves, and if you follow the boardwalk all the way you come out to the edge of the boardwalk, which is also the edge of the land, and in front of you, all you can see is ocean. Amazing.

Mangrove

On the edge of the mangrove

After the mangrove we went to eat some Chinese food (since being in SE Asia, I have eaten a lot of Indian and Chinese food). The last thing we did was check out some fireflies. I have never seen them before and they were great. Like at Christmas time, the trees were lit up, and all the flies were blinking together. Pretty neat to see. We are a week into our PDC, which means it is about half over and so far it has been a great course. After this we don’t really know where we are going to head. If you think there is something worthwhile checking out in the area please leave us a comment.

Posted from Rawang, Selangor, Malaysia
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Kuala Lumpur City Centre

The line up, the pedway was free (amazingly) so it was popular

Today we got up early and walked downtown.  We wanted to go get tickets to see the view from the Twin Towers (KLCC), and apparently you have to be there early.  We weren’t the only ones with this idea as there was a huge line up, but we got tickets for the 2 pm ride up, which left about 5 hours to kill.  Conviently, there is a massive shopping centre in the KLCC.  Kelly wanted to go see if he could go get some cool photos at an old train station, and I was perfectly happy wasting a few hours in the air-conditioned luxury mall, so we went our seperate ways.

Massive Mall

The KLCC mall was 5 floors of very expensive brand name stores.  All I can say is that people who like shopping would be in total heaven in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.  There was anything you could want, any brand, though not any price range because it was all very expensive.  While yesterday was full of cheap knock-offs, this was the real thing…Burberry, Fendi, Prada, and more (I had to look at my mall guide to remember some of the brand names).  Kelly saw a 109 inch plasma tv  for $80,000 Canadiann Dollars.  I saw a really really expensive purse I wanted but once again I went home empty handed, back to our neighborhood with cheap knock-offs and discount shops.

Looking down at the traffic

Not sure what it is, a garden?

Around 2 in the afternoon we went to the bridge (or pedway) of KLCC and it was worth the wait, a great view of the city from the 41st floor (about a third of the way up).  The building was amazing, (once that tallest building in the world) and had some Islamic features.

Another random building, you can see the Islamic influence in the buildings.

We were really tired by the end of the day, so we stopped for our new found favorite Malaysian treat, Kopi-Peng which is iced coffee made with sweetened condensed milk…cheap and energizing!

Posted from Petaling Jaya, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Kuala Lumpur – ChinaTown

Welcome to Malaysia

We arrived early in Kuala Lumpur to pouring rain.Chinatown is the area of town with the budget accommodations so we thought we’d head there.I didn’t have very high hopes for a decent place (just based on Chinatown in Edmonton).However the neighbourhood was much nicer than I though and we found a good place to stay quicky. We ate breakfast at McDonalds…yes, McDonalds as it was the first place we saw and I really just wanted to go to the hotel and sleep.The make their Sausage McMuffins out of chicken here for the Muslim population.

A full 7hours of sleep later, we set off exploring the older part of town. We first went to the Central Market (which is more souvineers than anything). After walking through the nice a/c bazaar (nothing at all like the markets in India) we went to see some older Islamic influenced architecture.

A small white mosque surounded by green trees and tall buildings

Arches

Red palm trees? Nice gardens here

Islamic Tiles

After the sun set we went to a street totally lined with you-name-it knock off goods…need Gucci sunglasses, a Coach or Louis Vutton bag, Rolex or Tag watch, some trendy shoes, well they’ve got it…and the quality was very good actually, a person into fashion could easily tell the difference I’m sure, but I really couldn’t.We left empty handed (though most tourists we saw didn’t) and instead went to a really nice Malaysian restaraunt where we had a meal and I had two…yes two glasses of wine!

Posted from Klang, Selangor, Malaysia
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Sleepless in Singapore

We left the new modern (and hard to get to) Bangalore airport at 11:30 in the evening. We decided to go on the budget airline Tiger Airways. Tiger Airways takes budget to a whole new level. When we went to sit down in our seats, there was not much room. My knees were touching and it was very uncomfortable. Fortuneately we were asked to sit in the emergency isle, which of course we did (there is a lot more room in the emergency isle). Needless to say, the 4 hour journey didn’t leave us much time to sleep.

Trying Samples.

We arrived at the budget terminal in Singapore. Then we took a train to downtown. What an amazing system, 4 or 5 different rail lines all hooked up together, will take you almost anywhere in the city. We went to the cheapest part of the city, Little India and met up with a Tanya’s friend. Her friend (Jill) showed us around the city, everything the downtown had to offer, on a budget. Singapore is very expensive, and very modern. We were blow away by how clean and nice it was. There was no garbage on the ground, the roads were very nice, the cars were all shiny and new. Singapore is so different from India, it was shocking, for example: when you cross the road in Singapore, cars stop for you (definitely not the case in India); waiting in line in Singapore is just like waiting in line back home, everyone waits their turn and it is orderly, in India, everyone try to push ahead to get in first; there is a lot less polution in Singapore (compared to a city of similar size, Singapore has crystal clear sky; there are no three wheeled vehicles in Singapore (unlike the auto rickshaw and three wheeled trucks in India).

Kind of like disneyland

After eating some breakfast (french toast) we headed to Santosa island. Santosa seemed a little weird, a little like Disneyland (without the rides). There were statues, escilators, water fountains, a beach, a well maintained gardern and music. The music gave the place the weird feeling (it is hard for me to explain, but it was wierd).

Tan lines

Green Leaf

The Tiger Beer tower (S$20 gets you to the top…)

Cooling down

Singapore has everything (including beaches)

Shopping, shopping, shopping

After that we headed downtown to check out the sights. It looks like the only thing there is to do in this city is to eat and shop. We were on a tight budget and couldn’t spend much money, which means we could only really just look at the shops and building. Since this was the nicest city I have every been in, it wasn’t such a big deal just to look (this place is really beautiful). Singapore is a great city to spend a few days…if you have some cash to burn. It looked like there was a lot of nice establishments that would love to take your money for some service, plus the shopping there is something else (if you are into shopping that is, which I’m not).

Tanya doing her part to keep Singapore clean

Downtown

We are in the big city now

More Buildings

and More buildings

After a long exausting day we went to the train station to head to Malaysia. It was a night train and I slept great, Tanya didn’t. After getting into Kuala Lumper (KL), we said our good byes to Jill and headed toward China Town in KL searching for cheap accmodation.

Posted from Singapore
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Best of India

During our mulit-hour wait to catch the bus to Mysore, we came up with a list of some of the “Best Of” our trip:

Best Scenery

Riding into Hampi (image above)

Best Riding Day

Cochi to Alleppy

Best Dal

Hotel Raya’s in Kumbakonam

Best Temple

A taste of the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Trichy

Best Pizza

New Creation Pizzaria in Auroville

Best TV show

No Reservations

Best Ice Cream

Richy Rich in Auroville

Best Indian Food discover

Parotta is amazing, white flour covered in oil and fried, great for eating right there or saving for the next day.

Best shot from inside a temple

Inside the Pattadakall temple

Best Photo taken

Us, taken somewhere along to the temple route.

Best Cycling equipment

Brooks saddles

Best Weather

The cooler weather at Kumily hill station

Best value accommodation

guesthouse in Mysore around Lakshmipuram

Best cycling energy food

peanut chikki

Best Entertainment

Open Stage nights at Sadhana Forest

Best fresh juice

Grape juice from Mahesh Prasad in Mysore

Best city not in the guidebook

Belgaum

Best Masala Dosa

Mahesh Prasad in Mysore

These were amazing, I probably had at least one a day for 30 days.

Best City

Pondicherry

Best Luck

No flat tires

Best Chocolate

Baker Street – Pondicherry

Best cycling road

The road Into Pudukkottai was quite, calm and enjoyable.

Best 10 Rs ever spent

A massive bag of basil at Nilgris market in Mysore

Best TV commercial

The Diet Sugar commercial

”Aba dabi di be” (we have not idea what this means or how to spell it but we say it all the time because it’s always stuck in our heads)

Best newly acquired skill

Discovering the very efficient way to get the seeds out of pomegranates

Best season

Mango season

Best State

Kerla with its backwaters, chilled out scene, rainforest, and diversity, it is easy to see why this is our favourite State (especially if you only have a short time)

Best Decision

To stay in India despite the terrorist attacks when we arrived

Last Day in India

Well, almost 5 fantastic months later, we’ve made it to our last day in India. We ended up going on a bit of a roadtrip with a friend from yoga, Viola from Vancouver, and her friend Prashanth from Mysore/Bangalore. All of us feeling like we needed a break from the city, we hopped in a car (with a driver of course – it is basically essential here) and took off.

We were going to go to an area called Coorg which is in the Ghats, but being India, things ran a bit slow and we didn’t have time. So we went to some waterfalls, about 2-3 hours drive from Mysore, off of serveral small and bumpy roads.

At first I didn’t think I’d go in the falls, but thanks to the heat it was too tempting to pass up! It was really fun because, unlike Canada where you would be freezing under a waterfall in 30 seconds, you could sit in the waterfall for like 30 minutes and be totally warm!

India has been great, and tonight we are off to South East Asia!

Royal Enfield

A couple of Months ago I had this idea. Stop cycling, send them home, buy a Royal Enfield and ride the Enfield up to Nepal, renew our visa and then tour northern India. Tanya didn’t like the idea much, and for good reason: I had never driven a motorcycle; and India is a hard place to drive. The idea never materialize and life went on.

Royal Enfield is a company that produces Motorcycles. The bikes are built on 1940’s technology (except for a few things, like disc brakes) and are really easy to fix (no fuel injection, no electronics). It is hard to describe what an Enfield sounds like, but I could always pick one out when cycling by sound. They have a distinctive “put put put” sound, which sounds very cool. While here in Mysore there was an Enfield parked here (someone staying here owns one). It is a 500, the most popular Enfield is a 350 and you can get a deisel modle. I took some pictures of the Enfield to remind me of my flimsy dream of riding a motorcycle in India.

One day after writing this post we came home from lunch and saw not one but two very nice Beautiful Enfields parked outside our guest house. Two visitors owned the bike, one of the visitors builds them (the part are  cheap here). One bike looked like a classic and it was a nice, lots of chrome, the other was painted flat black and looked more like a chopper (however the pictures don’t do it justice).

Posted from Mysore, Karnataka, India
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Kelly and Tanya vs. India Post

I thought I’d post about our experiences and time spent on the simple task of mailing home some from stuff from India:

Day 1 – Because of our new plans for the remainder of our trip, we decide it wouldn’t be feasable to continue to hall our bikes around with us and thought “hey – what don’t we just ship them home…no problem”
Estimated time: 15 minutes

Day 2 – Tanya does some online research to find out the process for shipping from India – and finds no information of any usefulness

Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 3 – Kelly and Tanya decide to go to the main post office to find out the info from the sources – and again receive some vague info about prices but no concrete answers

Estimated time: 1 hour

Packing, putting everything carefullly in the box

Day 4 – Kelly and Tanya thought “hmm…maybe using a courier like DHL would be a better way to go”. They take a rickshaw to DHL, explain a few times, to a few people, what we want to do and get an estimated cost that is much more money than our bikes are worth.
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 5 – Kelly goes to get packing boxes – despite our lack of information about mailing them. Kelly finds out that apparently boxes are worth something in India and nobody just gives them away…we pay 150rs ($4 – a lot for India) for 3 cardboard tv boxes.

Estimated time: 2 hours

We took our wheels apart to save weight.

Day 6 – Kelly decides to skip yoga, buy a beer, and take the spokes out of the wheels (to save space). He gets two wheels done instead of four (perhaps due to the beer…).
Estimated time: 2 hours

Day 7 – Tanya does a preliminary dig through all of our stuff to see what we want to send home. Kelly takes the rest of the spokes out.

Estimated time: 2 hours

Day 8 – Kelly takes apart the rest of the bikes while Tanya cleans each and every dusty, dirty bicycle part

Estimated time: 3 hours

Day 9 – Tanya and Kelly pack the bicycle parts into the boxes.

Estimated time: 1 hour

First attempt, but no room for the driver

Day 10 – Tanya does some research on customs requirements and ends up more confused that when she started
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 11 – Tanya realizes that they need a list of every item in each box, so Kelly helps Tanya take everything out of the boxes and bags to write these lists

Estimated time: 2 hours

Day 12 – Kelly and Tanya finally have packed and taped up boxes ready to go! They then realized that they have no idea how these very large and heavy boxes are going to get to the post office…it’s not like in Canada where you always know someone with a truck.

Estimated time(to figure out what the heck they are going to do): 30 minutes

Box on the roof, anything is possible in India

Day 12: Kelly thinks he’ll be able to flag down one of the water cooler delivery trucks and pay them to drive us to the post office, he goes and tries but comes home with just a regular rickshaw and a very confused looking driver
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 12: A small crowd of people gather to help do the impossible…get two huge boxes somehow into and on top of the rickshaw…I didn’t believe for a second it would work, but I realized that this is India…anything works!! What we did would never meet safety or legal standards in Canada.

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Day 12: Kelly, Tanya, the rickshaw driver and the two boxes make it to the parcel wrapper-upper place…whew!

Estimated time: 30 minutes

Repacking our 2 overweight boxes into 4 boxes with weight restrictions

Day 12: We unload the boxes from the rickshaw and Syed, the parcel wrapper-upper guy and his two helpers, get to work. They weigh our boxes and realize that we are way over the weight limit…so our carefully packed boxes were thoroughly and completely dismantled
Estimated time: 30 minutes

Day 12: The parcel guys totally re-arrange the boxes (which have now become 4 boxes instead of 2) and Tanya realizes that she needs to write new lists with all the stuff in each of them
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 12: The parcel guy gives us the customs forms to fill out, we realized there is only a tiny little place to describe every item that is in the box. Tanya and Kelly fill out a total of 8 customs forms (2 for each box). Once completed, the parcel guy basically tells us we filled in half the things wrong and scribbles all over them. We need to fill them out again.

Estimated time: 2 hours

Altering our boxes, now smaller and within the weight limit

Day 12: While the parcel guys are preparing our boxes (every parcel needs to be wrapped in light cloth that is custom sized to the box…I think it is a make-work project to keep more people employed)…Kelly goes to get snacks and stops in at the post office…we find out it is too late to send a parcel today and guess what…tomorrow is another holiday…so have to wait.
Estimated time: 30 minutes

Day 12: Kelly and Tanya deliberate about whether or not we should keep the parcels with the parcel guy for 2 days or if we should find a way to get the now 4 boxes back home, and then back again to the post office. We decide to trust the parcel guy and keep them there.

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Sewing the package up

Day 12: After three hours with the parcel guys, we pay and we go home.
Estimated time: 15 minutes

Day 13: Kelly and Tanya take a well deserved rest day from dealing with anything related to the postal system

Estimated Time: None

Day 14: Tanya and Kelly head back to pick up our packages from Syed. Each box is intact and accounted for. Syed then pastes on our now fully complete, but probabley still inaccurate, customs forms.

Estimated time: 30 minutes

The Custom Forms

Day 14: Now four of us each pick up a box and walk the half block to the main post office. We were informed of the price by the postal clerk (which hurt the wallet but is still cheaper than brining them back on the plane with us) and paid up. We were then informed that the two largest boxes, in addition to the required custom tailored cloth covering them, also need to be in a special bag that we need to purchase.
Estimated time: 1 hour

Day 14: We finally get a rickshaw home, Kelly buys a beer and we do nothing!

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Total time: 32 hours X 2 people = 64 hours

It’s a good thing we have more time than money!!!

Now all we can do is wait…and hope all of our boxes arrive into Canada and that we don’t get charged for import customs (which we shouldn’t because pretty much everything we’ve sent back was bought in Canada!)

All in all, this was a typical Indian experience we will never forget.

(oh yeah, and if anyone is in Mysore – we recommend Syed as a great parcel wrapper-upper (that is, if all our stuff makes it to Canada!)

Posted from Mysore, Karnataka, India
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Parotta

A couple of months back we had our first parotta. It was in Kerela, and from that point on we ordered them at any chance. A truly amazing taste, something that is hard to explain, if you know you Indian food, is kind of like butter naan, but smaller, thicker and more delicious. The yeast free dough is coated numerous time with oil during the cooking. While we were on the house boat I was able to watch the cooks make some, but it wasn’t until Madurai (in Tamil Nadu) that I was able to photography the procedure of street parotta. Like most street food, parotta is cheap and delicious and you get see them make it right in front of you.

Although the details are little blurry right now, but I kind of remember the cook making the dough like you would any other dough (water, flour, salt, oil and sugar). You mix it and kneed it and let it sit for a while. Then you make several small balls and let that sit for 15 min. Take a dough ball and smash it against the table until it is flat, round (like pizza dough) and really thin (like a crepe).

After that you fold the sides in (now you have a long three layered crepe). You take the other sides and roll it up into a roll. Then I think you let it sit for 15 minutes.

Take the roll and flaten with you hands and the table and take the flattened roll and put it on a grill or frying pan (don’t for get to add oil to the pan). Cook for a while and when it starts to brown, flip it.

After you watch this you really feel at ease, this is about to end. You take a bunch (like 6 or so) in between you fore finger and you thumb. Lay the parotta down (like a log) and smash the log with your free hand (make sure you remove you other hand). The first time you see this you think: What are you doing? Those were perfect pieces of bread you just ruined. You would be wrong however, the smashing of the dough is essential.

Hold the Parotta between you forefinger and your thumb

Then SMASH the parottas with your other hand (and I mean smash)

The smashing of the porotta causes all the layers to seperate a little, making it easy to pick apart and enjoy fully. The end result is beyond words. Most places porotta cost about Rs12, but on the streets of Madurai, they cost Rs4 (10 cents!). We used to get a parcel of these at night and eat them in the morning with peanut butter and bananas on them. Much better the toritillas, peanut butter and bananas.

Posted from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India
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The Dog Days of Mysore

Like everything we’ve done on this trip, we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into when signing up for a month of yoga in Mysore. But, also like every other unknown thing on this trip, it has turned out great!

Prana Vashya Yoga

Based on the recommendation of a previous yoga student, we decided to do our yoga with Vinay Kumar, a young teacher but has spend most of his life immersed in yoga. He is a fantastic teacher, encouraging, caring, and very dedicated. I would recommend him to anyone debating which yoga teacher to study with in Mysore!

As in a previous post, we do yoga twice a day (well most days), 5 or 6 days per week. The morning class is similar to Ashtanga yoga, in which you do the same series of yoga asanas (postures) everyday, it is challenging due to the fact we are both usually sore from the day before still! The evening class is more relaxed and is more focused on increasing flexibility, and everyone in the class does something somewhat different.

Tanya enjoying the shade

As for our accomodation during this time, we found a really great place ran by a guy from France (who we have not met because he went home to France just before we arrived and will be back after we leave). It is really well set up, there is a fully stocked kitchen with anything you could possibly need (this is very unique for India), such as things like a pannini press, a blender, coffee maker, a fridge (!), and more! There is wi-fi internet, hammocks in the garden out fount, and hot water. There are also two Indian ladies who are here everyday to wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, etc! There are 4 rooms here and we’ve met some great people also staying here. In any other place but India, I cannot even imaging how much it would cost to stay here. Everything we need is within about a 5 block radius, like…Nilgris – a great market with things like cheddar cheese and basil, and Mahesh Prasad – the tasty restaurant always packed with locals and some yoga students.

Where we get our grocieries

We’ve really enjoyed our time here, and could easily stay longer…but believe it or not, 4.5 months is not enough time for India.

They know you what we are going to order here before we tell them

Kelly making lunch

The Mysore Palace (for Tanya and Kelly)

Inside the Palace

Posted from Mysore, Karnataka, India
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