Beyond borders - 2019. 💗💙💚💛💗

2018 turned out a little different than I had anticipated. First, I went from one cup of coffee to two and on some days even more.  So that explains the additional coffee picture postings. 

In 2018, we explored a couple new places, time-traveled extensively in our neighbouring country and went on virtual-walks with two friends to explore different seasons and colours.  Each post in ReachingDelphi is unique and packed with lessons gained from the regions. Here is a recap of them and some coffee.



There is a tag for everything in life. We are each different and so is this tag. But the people we are with and  meet along the way make a difference and help lighten the situations.   I came across a quote from Richard Glover this year that had stuck with me since. ‘I'd met bad in the world, and I'd met good, and the good had a louder voice’. Some of the people I met (from all channels of communication) or with me in this journey called 'life' are reminders of the good.  It is an honour for me to bring them closer to you, over a favourite cuppa. And you will see more of them in 2019. 💗

I wish and pray that 2019 continues to bring us more positive-hours that will allow our effort to reach more distance, be it in any discipline. Life is an endless journey of learning and exploring. Let us be always curious to learn something new every single day. 

Thank you all for your support in all ways and kind words over the year.  I wish you all a great and safe 2019. 💓

To kick off the new year,  here is my first 2019 resolution - to set my cuppa to back to one.
💗💙💚💛💗

Krabi: The Coffee Club Ladies’ weekend get-away!


A travel guide and some tips for first timers in Krabi.


Sawadee Ka! Today ReachingDelphi is taking you to another exotic destination in South-East Asia. Welcome to Krabi.

I recently visited Krabi with two amusing friends, Meth and Ms-S. (Ms-S, by the way, is a somewhat shy person and does not want to be shown in this post.)

Island life, Phi-Phi

So, how did we three ladies, each with such different personalities, decide to take this trip together? Was it through that Coffee Club we have become life-members of? I think so. And who is this mysterious MS-S? Perhaps Carmen Sandiego can provide some clues for you. Meanwhile, are your bags packed for your adventure with us?  Come enjoy these sights as we show you some highlights in Krabi, and follow Carmen’s lead to unmask the face behind Ms-S.

Krabi really needs no introduction. This charming town is set in the west coast of Thailand, just 783km south of the country’s capital, Bangkok. Krabi is also part of the tropics, which means the climate here is warm all year round. Rainy season in Krabi starts in November and lasts for 6 months.
 
Sun set in Krabi

Here are some ReachingDelphi-Uma-Essentials for your trip.

Getting to and around Krabi

 Getting to Krabi

  • Flights – The Krabi international airport was opened in 1999. This airport serves both domestic and international flights. There are frequent direct flights between Krabi and many South-East Asian cities. The flight duration between Kuala Lumpur and Krabi is just a little over an hour.
  • Krabi is accessible today by well-surfaced road networks. This is another exciting option for you to explore, especially if you desire a taste of the regional food and sights of the Thai-lifestyle along the way, and time is not an issue.
  • Ferry travel – Krabi borders the Andaman sea. The port in Krabi is called Klong Jilad Pier. There are numerous companies providing ferry services between Krabi and Phuket/Phi Island/Koh Lanta, Koh Ngai, Koh Lipe. I also noticed a few commercial cruise liners in this region.
Island hopping, Krabi

 Getting around Krabi

  • Taxi services
  • If you are taking a taxi from the airport, opt for the prepaid services. These taxi drivers are professional. The prepaid airport services are endorsed by the local authorities. 
  • Taxi services are also available at all hotels. In addition to short drop-offs, taxi drivers also provide city tour services, charged by the duration and distance. Make sure you negotiate your package upfront. We engaged a driver with the hope of going to Tiger Cave temple after some breakfast and coffee, but the plan remained only a hope. There was a misunderstanding between the driver and us, although the driver had agreed to take the three of us to the caves at the start, he claimed that the fee he charged was insufficient for the distance.
  • Local roaming – If you want a local SIM, get it at the airport. With a data (internet-ready) plan in hand, you have the option to book a ride anytime via the various mobile applications.
  • Tuk-Tuk services - Hail a local tuk-tuk or share a ride on the songthaew. A songthaew is a passenger vehicle that is used as a shared taxi or bus.
Songthaew

  • By foot – explore your local neighbourhood by foot. This is a great way to explore the local sights and to taste some of the local flavours. 

What to eat and drink in Krabi –

Now that you are in Krabi, it’s time to wake those sleepy taste buds up.

  • Street food - Thai cuisine just like the place, is an exotic mix of hot, sweet and tangy flavours. Head for local stalls to try some of these delicious delights. The Thais are accustomed to the unique preferences for the different traveller, so don’t be shy to place your request, especially if you want them to go easy on the chilli. The three of us had our own Pad Thai versions. 
Street food, Krabi

  • Thai dessert - If you have a sweet tooth, you will not be disappointed. The sticky mango rice, Thong yot and Kanom-Sod Sais are must-haves.
Dessert, Krabi

  • Thai coffee/tea – Thailand produces both Robusta and Arabica coffee.  Most of Thailand’s Robusta is grown in the Malay Peninsula, whereas the Arabica is produced mainly in the highlands in the northern regions. The increasing number of coffee cafes is an indication that the coffee consumption in Thailand is generally heading north in numbers. 
Coffee in Krabi

  • Edible Bird’s Nest – searching for radiant looking skin? Try some edible bird’s nest soup or drink. The production and harvest of edible bird’s nest is an expanding industry here. We saw a farm on this trip.
Birds nest farm and drink 

  • Water – It’s important to stay hydrated. With so many tropical fruits available here, try some local juices. Be adventurous, try this purple drink just as we did. I have no idea what is, but it tasted awesome. We went for thirds … fourths …  and then we finished the whole jug.

Interesting drink at the hotel

What to Do in Krabi

  • Island-hopping is a prevalent activity among travellers. Tour operators offer full-day and half-day packages to various nearby islands. Check out which ones you’d like to visit, and the activities you’d want to try during the trip. A full-day package would usually include a delicious local lunch. These tours are worth the baht’s and your time, so I would highly recommend you try them.
Island hopping shots

  • Whether you are on a beach in Krabi or heading out on an island-hopping tour – be prepared to get wet. Don’t just sit there and dangle your feet in the water.

Jump!

Go on, jump in!

Now, go!


  • Swim, snorkel or dive in the Andaman sea. Just look at that heavenly blue ocean.  If you are diving, you may even get the opportunity to come face-to-face with a whale shark. 
Swimming in Krabi

  • Put on your Carmen Sandiego hat and follow that monk. Take part in the lottery he points you to, it could be the ticket for your next holiday, or a clue to who Ms-S is, or to Reaching Delphi.
Follow that Monk

  • Visit a Wat. Wat? What? Thailand has numerous Wats or temples; be sure to see at least one. The famous temple in Krabi is the Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Suea). We didn’t get to climb to the top or say hello to the friendly monkeys there, but we found a couple of dragons at Wat Kaew Ko Wararam in Krabi town instead.
Dragons, no tigers or monkeys

  • Find that crab! It’s a big one, I hope you don’t miss it. You may see an eagle on the way but go for the crab. K(c)rab(i).
We found the Crab

  • Find a mystical sunset. Looks like Meth has found one and I am catching up with her from behind. Wait for us ….
Wait for us

  • Railay – try some rock climbing. Let’s save this for the next round too. 
  • Unwind with a local Thai Massage or some reflexology. 
That is niceeeee


What to buy in Krabi

  • Coffee - My rule is to never leave any place you visit without at least one packet of local coffee. I picked a few from a local 7-Eleven and from the hotel.
Something to take back

  • Tidbits – The Thais are incredibly creative in everything they do, including creating some excellent tidbit selection, which are not like the ones we get back at home.  My friends picked up quite a lot of these exciting items along the way.
  • Handicrafts – you can get just about any local Thai craft in Krabi. Some shops do offer good bargains, so remember to ask for a discount.
Handicrafts at the market

  • I-love-Krabi (or Phi Phi) T-shirts.
T-Shirts @ Krabi island hopping

  • Yacht – This would be useful to reach Delphi. I will add it to the bucket list for now.
Pick one, pick any.


Where to shop in Krabi

I am not much of a shopper during vacations, but I did observe there are quite a few places where one can buy things in Krabi. 

  • Ao Nang – Head to the night market for some local food, T-shirts, clothes and crafts. If you haven’t arranged any sightseeing tours yet, don’t fret. There are plenty of tour operators offering terrific deals for a steal. 
The local market

  • Krabi town – You can pick up almost anything in Krabi town including coffee, snacks, drinks, books, clothes, electronics, jewellery, furniture, birds nest drinks and lottery tickets.
Snaps from Krabi town

  • Islands – It’s a little hard to associate anything unique with any place these days. Nevertheless, if you find something unique, go on and get it.

Final checklist, those life-savers 

  • Complete your packing list - While it is true you can get almost anything in Krabi, it is worth your time to make sure you take along all the essentials with you. Use this checklist as your starting point.
  • Chill out with Chang -  It’s not in the same league as coffee, but while in Thailand, why not try another local one ...
Chang!

  • Essential Thai phrases – Trust me, knowing some common local phrases will take you a long way. Start with offering a “Sawadee Ka” to a local. In most cases the response will be a positive one, except when you pick a little kid like I did, in which case you might just receive a cold stare.
Sawadee Ka little girl

Well, Carmen did you find out who Ms-S is? Where is Carmen, did she decide to stay behind in one of those Islands? Carmen ….

It’s time for some Thai coffee and to count those stars over the Andaman. Have a great countdown to 2019. See you soon.

Time for an update, Carmen is with me


(Andrea M (coffee lovers group), thank you for introducing me to Carmen, she is wonderful)

Mahabalipuram: The Majestic Rock-Cut Temples of the Pallavas

Getting to know Mahabalipuram. Essentials for your first visit to the rock-cut temples.


Cricket, filter coffee, temples, Kanchipuram silk, Marina Beach, AR Rahman beats. Tamil Nadu needs no introduction. You either love or hate the unique masala-mix of heat, sounds, sights, and smells that comes with each step you take.  Today, ReachingDelphi brings you another unique place not too far from Chennai, the state’s capital. We are in Mahabalipuram, to see the archaeological influence of the Pallava dynasty.

Mahabalipuram is a historic town founded by the Pallava king, Narasimhavarman I. So, come and join me on a trip to explore this ancient town.

Mahabalipuram - Shore Temple


By the way, some people refer to Mahabalipuram as Mamallapuram. Both names are accepted. Mamallapuram, however, is its old name. King Narasimhavarman I changed it to Mahabalipuram in the 8th Century. 1

Where is Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram, is an ancient seaport, located in the Kancheepuram district. Does Kanchipuram silk sound familiar? We will visit the town and temples of Kanchipuram another day, so hold-off on your silk purchases for now. Though located in within the same district, the Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram townships are not exactly close by to each other. Silly me, I once thought they were and spent a lot of time commuting between the two places.


Mahabalipuram - An escape plan

UNESCO declared Mahabalipuram a world heritage site. It is one of the most visited tourist destinations in South India.

Getting to Mahabalipuram

Getting to Mahabalipuram is very easy, especially because there are plenty of options today. Mahabalipuram is located just about 60 km away from Chennai city. It will take you approximately ninety minutes to get here by road, depending on traffic and where you are.

You can get to Mahabalipuram by using:
  • State-run buses – This is a quick and affordable travel option. Buses are clean and airconditioned, and there are many pick up and drop off points in Chennai.
  • Pre-paid taxis or Ola/Uber services – This is my preferred way.
  • Train – The nearest station is Chengalpattu (Chingleput), 18km from Mahabalipuram. From here, take a taxi or local bus to the UNESCO site. 
  • Auto-rickshaws – I personally wouldn’t recommend long distance auto-rickshaw rides. The heat and the endless rhythmic-honks from vehicles on wheels are annoying. Having said that, once in Mahabalipuram, please do use one of these auto’s to get around. Your local auto-rickshaw driver can suggest an itinerary for you at a reasonable price.

Where to Stay

Most visitors to Mahabalipuram prefer to spend a night here. There are many types of accommodations to suit any budget. There are several options at Othavadai Street (where I stayed) and at the cross lanes nearby. Look, here is the view from my hotel room. And it looks like this GEC(K)O and I will remain inseparable. (In case you are wondering, GECO is the abbreviation of the project I once worked on.) But for now, I hope that boy doesn’t fall off the balcony while admiring the GEC(K)O too. ‘Hey Thambi’, I call out …….

A GEC(K)O at reach

Where to Eat

Don’t worry about getting freshly prepared meals - there are plenty of restaurants serving local hot meals all day long.  Local meals are inexpensive, and most food is vegetarian.

We start our day with some yummy hot thosai and local filter coffee to complete the breakfast.

Start with a thosai

Coffee in Mahabalipuram

There is always a spot for coffee in ReachingDelphi.

Coffee, or kaapi as the locals call it, is a must for almost everyone in Tamil Nadu. Coffee has grown here since 1600 and has been a cultural icon ever since. It was first brought to India from Yemen by a person named Baba Budan. The coffee plantations, however, are not located in the Kanchipuram district. In Tamil Nadu coffee plantations are in the Nilgiris District, Yercaud and Kodaikanal.

Mahabalipuram coffee

The coffee in the picture above is a medium roast, served hot in stainless steel tumblers.

Places to visit in Mahabalipuram

This historic seaport town was built in the 7th century by the Pallavas, a South Indian dynasty that ruled a portion of South India between 275 CE to 897 CE.3  The Pallavas played an essential role in the transition from rock-cut architecture to stone temples.

We can see many temples with rock-cut architecture in Mahabalipuram. Rock-cut temples are temples that are sculptured by excavating natural solid rock. In structures such as these, the temples were hollowed out of mountains or of hardstone, and the roof is built first. 2



Mahabalipuram - Carvings on stone

There are approximately forty temples in this area. The most common ones visited are located within a four-kilometre radius. The best way to explore these temples is by local auto-rickshaw.  It will take you approximately half a day to explore the significant temples I have listed below. 

1.       Shore Temple
This is a majestic temple built in the 8th century and overlooks the Bay of Bengal. The temple consists of two towers that appear like a two-stepped roof-storey from a distance. The walls of the temple are lined with sculptures of bull nandis. In his book, Hindu India, Henri Stierlin stated that 'although eroded by salt spray, the shore building structure is regarded as one of the great successes of art that have attained maturity’. 2

Mahabalipuram - Nandi bull

All around the temple, you will see beautiful stone carvings that tell a story. This is a historic site where having a guide would be useful to understand and interpret these stories from the past.

There is a fair bit of walking to do here, and there is no shade in between. It is best to get here early in the morning to avoid the crowds or in the late evenings to catch a glimpse of the sunset. The gardens in this area are well kept, and the landscape is very soothing.

Mahabalipuram - Around the Shore Temple

Our guide also noted that the 2004 tsunami that battered the Indian Ocean coast unearthed priceless relics of the Pallavas in places nearby. The Shore temple survived the tsunami because it was built on the bed-rock.


Whats next? I am looking through the plan


2.       Pancha (Five) Rathas 
This is an archaeological area where you will see five monolithic structures (called rathas) next to each other. These too date back to the 7th century and were crafted out of pink granite. 2



Snap shot of the Pancha Rathas


The compositions are called rathas because they resemble chariots. They are not called temples as they were not consecrated following the death of Narasimhavarman. 5

The Rathas
  • Draupadi Ratha – A monolithic temple dedicated to Draupadi and the smallest of the five rathas
  • Arjuna Ratha – A simple structure that resembles a small palace or pavilion
  • Bhima Ratha – Looks like a Buddhist Chaitya and still remains unfinished
Bhima Ratha

  • Dharmaaraja Ratha – The biggest and tallest of the five rathas
  • Nakula Sahadeva Ratha – Has a straightforward layout with an elephant sculpture standing next to it, which experts say is a rather unusual placement6
Nakula Sahadeva Ratha

I met a French architect who spends her vacation time sketching pictures of ancient structures such as these beautiful rathas. See for yourself, her drawing is as exquisite as the carvings on these ancient rocks. Just like she has, may the peace we are searching for show for itself in the passion we have and the work we do. 


A hobby


3.       Mamallapuram Lighthouse
This is the tallest structure in Mahabalipuram. This lighthouse became fully functional in 1904.

I climbed several steps to get here, but the path was well paved and smooth to walk on. The view from the top is beautiful, but I didn’t get to go up all the way, unfortunately.

Mamallapuram lighthouse

There is a small fee (RPS10) to go up the lighthouse. A word of caution: the person in charge didn’t have enough change for the note I had, which made me disappointed. As usual, I was early and the only one there, so there was no one to ask for some change.  Do remember to bring small change for this entrance fee.

4.       Mahishasuramardini Mandapa
This is a cave temple with magnificent carvings. It is located on the way up to the lighthouse and  was also built in the 7th century.

Mahishasuramardini Mandapa


5.       Iswara Temple
This is a temple structure built on top of the Mahishasuramardini Mandapa. You’d have to climb a few steps to get to the top for another breathtaking view.

Iswara Temple

6.       Unfinished Rock-Cut temple North of Krishna Mandapa
This temple is also known as the Pancha Pandava Mandapa. Had it been completed, this would have become the largest of the cave temples here. The carvings around the temple are very intricate, and the structure itself is rather imposing.

Uma @ Pancha Pandava Mandapa

Look, a family of stone-structure monkeys beside the Pancha Pandava Mandapa.

At Pancha Pandava Mandapa

Here are some ReachingDelphi-Uma-essentials I have put together for your trip to Mahabalipuram:


1.       Early start.
Mahabalipuram is in southern India. The daytime climate here is warm. My suggestion is that you arrive in Mahabalipuram early. If time is not an issue, why not spend the night before here? This will also give you an opportunity to shop leisurely for some local handicrafts.

Othavadai Street 
2.       Stay safe.
There are plenty of accommodation choices. I noticed some low budget hotels are just as safe, clean and comfortable as the high-end hotels. Still, do some research and choose wisely.

3.       Beach hotels.
The beaches, in general, are lovely. I’d never like to say no to an opportunity to see a gorgeous sunset over the Bay of Bengal. But, staying at the beach hotels in Mahabalipuram just for this reason can be a drain on the wallet. If budget is a concern, then stay at the town centre.

4.       Take in lots of fluid.
It gets hot as the day progresses. Drink lots of fluid. Did you know that coconut water is a favourite drink in India? You will find plenty of this tasty juice in Mahabalipuram. 


Coconut drink (my auto rickshaw driver (in brown) is also here)


If you get hungry, try some freshly cut young cucumber. Sprinkle some hot or sour masala mix over it. This vegetable also helps replenish lost fluids in the body.



Refreshing cucumber and masala mix


5.       Basic rules for fun in the sun.
Wear some shades, keep some sunblock handy and have a hat available - always.


6.       Try an auto rickshaw.
I am sure you are a perfect athlete and would like to explore the temples on foot. Trust me, after a few steps in the heat, you’ll want something that requires less effort. Why not hire an auto-rickshaw driver right from the start? Make sure to negotiate with your driver for a good rate for a couple of hours.

An auto rickshaw

7.       Try local food. Drink local filtered coffee.
Tell your auto rickshaw driver you want some tasty filtered coffee, and he will take you to the best coffee shop in town. Don’t forget to get your driver a cuppa too. While there, try some delicious freshly steamed idlies or hot thosais.

Local Indian filter coffee

8.       Participate in local festivals.
In India, no one is a stranger, so join in the crowd. Here is a picture from the Ganesha Chaturthi festival. After prayers to celebrate Ganesha’s birthday, everyone was invited to some mouth-watering prasatham (food offered after prayers).


Ganesha Chaturthi 

9.       Entrance fees.
Visitors must have a valid ticket to enter most of the historic sites. Carry sufficient rupees on you.

10.   Get a local guide
Getting a local guide to provide an in-depth explanation of the temples will be useful, especially if you want grander experience than just taking stills. English-speaking guides are available at the temple entrances.

11.   Water activity
Water activities in Bay of Bengal
Mahabalipuram is not just all about the rock-cut temples. It seems water activity is also popular here. Though I haven't tried this myself, I saw three local boys body surfing. I didn’t have the right lenses at the time, but I managed to capture pictures of them from a distance. Please be careful when engaging in any water sport.


12.   Shopping and local stone carving
Support the local industries. There are several trendy yet unique hand-made items you could pick souvenirs to remind you of your trip. A Mahabalipuram stone carving is always a good choice. I have one too.



References
(1) www.mahabalipuram.co.in
(2) Hindu Today  (Taschen) – Henri Stierlin