Exploring New York City in Winter

Central Park, NYC
Central Park NYC

Cold winters are here and people often stay indoors as they feel there is not much to do outside. Contrary to popular belief winters are actually an ideal time for many activities, some indoors and many outdoors.
Here are fifteen things that you can consider to do in NYC city in the coldest winter days.
01. Walk around the city and the Central Park. What better time to explore the city on foot. Walk down the Madison avenue and you will get to see some stunning window displays of some of the high end fashion labels.
02. Explore Ditmas Park in Brooklyn for some of the most beautiful postcard like buildings and Victorian homes.
03. Explore the Greenwood Cemetery and then head towards the Brooklyn Bridge park from where you get to see the iconic Manhattan Skyline. An evening trip is great if you wish to take some stunning night photography.

Manhattan Skyline from Brooklyn
04. Walk down the Brooklyn Bridge towards the Chinatown. At the end of the bridge you will spot the ubiquitous Waffles and Dinges food truck, do not forget to pick some of the best Belgian waffles outside of Europe! Enter into Chinatown for a walk through an entirely different world. If you are tired this is the best place to get a foot massage or a full body massage for some unbelievable prices of $50 an hour and $75 for a 90 minute massage. You can even get some acupuncture therapy from licensed doctors.

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The delicious Waffles at the Wafels & Dinges Food truck

05. After a massage it is a perfect time to shop for trinkets and some knick-knacks, you will find things like scarves, hats, trinkets and lovely jewelry for dirt cheap prices and best thing you can bargain for prices.
06. Once done, head down to Little Italy for some authentic Italian food , lovely desserts and some homemade Grappa.
07. If you are into some winter sports head down to Rockefeller center for some Ice skating. Nearly all the people enjoy this activity immensely. If Rockefeller center skating rink is crowded, Bryant Park skating rink provides an excellent alternative.

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Skating at Bryant Park

08. Once done, head towards the famous Christmas tree and remember to get yourself photographed by a bystander or a professional and if everything fails, this is a perfect time to whip out your smartphone and take a selfie!
09. For people who are not so much into outdoor things, you can always spend many quality hours at The Metropolitan museum of Modern Art or the Guggenheim Museum . Tip :- Remember to travel light when visiting museums, they do not allow outside food and drinks. Only water is allowed and all backpacks & packages must be checked in (if you intend to go shopping do so after the museum trip).

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The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center

10. You could go check out the latest Broadway Shows. There is always something interesting going on.
11. Check out Radio City hall for the Christmas Spectacular.
12. Walk down the Lower East side neighborhood and you will get to see a mish-mash of Cafes, restaurants, pubs, small boutiques, family owned businesses, you can find some great bargains here. This was incidentally where the largest Jewish population in NYC lived a long time ago. 13. Do remember to explore the Grand Central station. The station is a marvelous display of architecture added to that is fine dining and the ability to buy fresh fish and fresh fruits at the same time!
14. Remember to sample out foods from the food trucks you will find authentic world cuisines at a price that won’t hurt your budget or your health. The healthy juice trucks are a wonderful add to the existing food trucks.

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The Brooklyn Bridge

15. Walk the Chelsea Highline and end your trip in Chelsea market for some excellent cheese and fresh seafood for both cooked served by restaurants and raw. In a group or all by yourself, you will always find plenty of things to do in NYC in the winter time. Happy exploring….

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The beautiful Windowscapes of the Madison Avenue, NYC

Day trips In Iowa – Lake Macbride

We moved recently to Iowa and have been exploring all the places. One Saturday we drove to Lake Macbride, a place that everyone was going ga, ga about. We bought a couple of sandwiches on the way to the lake. We parked near the beach and then had our sandwiches and went for a short hike. The lake is surrounded by beautiful panoramic views. I have to agree, the lake lived up to its reputation. Once we were back we went to book a kayak for half an hour, but is was sold out. We then decided to take the pontoon boat trip once we were at the counter we were told there would be an hour’s wait which we were okay with, so we booked for a pontoon boat and then went for another walk. After a while we came back to the ramp and then got into the boat and my hubby started the pontoon and off we went to explore the lake. We were able traverse the lake in ease, we went and saw some of the hotels, then went towards the dam. I got to take a lot of photos while my hubby was driving. After a while he asked me to drive it and I was very reluctant, but after a lot of encouraging words from my other half I decided to give it a try. It was not bad in fact I had a lot of fun driving the boat, a second only to paddling! Anyway after an hour we came back and docked the boat, got off , tipped and thanked the young lads who helped us dock.

We got to see the dam and hike a little bit if the trail, There is public beach open to all. There is a concession stand that is open during summer season. The season starts from Memorial day and lasts till Labor Day.

We got to go back again to this lake and this time we went for a long hike, we got to see the lake from a different angle.

We intend to go back during peak fall season to see the leaf colors turn.

The best time to visit is between May and October. The Concession stand and boat rentals are available only during the season which starts from memorial day and end at labor day.

Wear long pants if you decide to go hiking, deer ticks are common.

 

 

COLD START

MAJOR GAURAV ARYA (VETERAN)

It was an unusually warm afternoon in the autumn of 1935. Adolf Hitler sat under a tent, faithful Guderian seated next to him, reviewing maneuvers of tanks and armored vehicles, on the plains of Kummersdorf. Every now and then, he would glance at Heinz Wilhelm Guderian’s classic “Achtung Panzer”, the tank man’s Bible.

It was early evening when Hitler suddenly rose from his chair. Guderian got up, unsure of what was going on inside Hitler’s mind. Hitler could be extremely temperamental. He looked at Guderian and keeping his hand on his shoulder in an unusually familiar gesture, he said looking at the rolling tanks, “That is what I want – and that is what I will have.”

German strategic thinking had evolved from the writings of Carl Von Clausewitz, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder and Alfred von Schlieffen. But it was the defeat in the First World War and the…

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My coffee drinking adventures

My coffee adventures started at a very young age, at an age when kids drink milk! My tolerance for milk was too low even at a very young age, I hated it vehemently. Fortunately for me I went to live with my grandparents for a year when I was four and that was the time I discovered coffee. I am also very blessed that I come from a state which is famous for its kaapi as it is affectionately called. So my introduction to coffee the first time ever was to a type of mix of ground coffee + instant variety. I think this was my grandma’s own version, it was sweetened naturally by raw palm sugar. Somehow she made the best coffee that I can ever care to remember. I have over years gone from instant coffee to filter/ brewed/ drip coffee. I now appreciate nearly every form of coffee. In India as I was growing up my milk was flavored with coffee so that the smell would be done away with and ofcourse the most important role of flavoring the milk. In pre 70’s India, coffee was the cheapest way of flavoring milk and the silly bottled variety instant coffee had no caffeine factor of any sort at all. So I got to drink coffee before I went to sleep!
I then traveled north to Delhi and all of that coffee drinking days were over as North Indians do not drink coffee as a choice but only tea, even the bottled variety coffee was hard to find and would be available only in the speciality stores with an unaffordable price tag, hence drinking coffee became beyond the reach of a common man, it suddenly became a luxury. My parents found a way around this coffee shortage, they would just get some coffee beans from the Udipi bhavan then roast the beans on the stove and have it ground in a special shop. The aroma of roasting coffee was so heady that the smell stayed for days making our home a coffee heaven. The first time when the ground coffee came home in a steel box the enticing smell wafted all the way to our bedroom. Mom put some water to boil and set up the coffee filter set (see below ) and then poured hot water over the grounds and then we waited for it to drip, mom quickly made coffee with the dripped brew and it was awesome. I asked my mom the next day for coffee in the evening and she said no , I asked her why not as there was a whole box of coffee right there and that is when she went on to lecture me about the economics of drinking a cuppa daily, so I returned to our room disheartened, coffee now became a novelty only when my parents friends came over and that too if they insisted on south Indian coffee. I would still not get any as mom would make only the amount needed leaving me with a few drops to lick off of the filter set. Obviously my milk drinking also came to total standstill as milk tasted horrible without the coffee. Situation had come to such a head that now I waited for my summer holidays to visit my grandparents, the joy of meeting my grandparents was doubled by the fact that I could drink copious amounts of coffee all day with no one restricting me on how much I had. Which was fun and every time I went to meet my aunts, cousins etc more coffee came out in little tumbler-bowl combination of utensils. In Tamilnadu no home is complete without a set of kaapi tumbler-bowl set, the coffee is served super hot in the tumblers and the bowls underneath them are for people who would like to cool the coffee before you sipped it.
So I grew up traveling between states and state-lines drinking coffee in between. I learnt that there was a super cool way to make even the instant coffee yummy, the process though a little long and taxing is very gratifying if you have the luxury of time and patience . People in North India love serving up this coffee in their homes, as most of them do not have a filter set. The process is to add coffee granules to sugar granules, add just 2 drops of milk and then beat till the sugar has melted completely and cup is nearly half full with the beaten foam. Now you add a mix of hot milk-water to this foam and mix very gently so that the foam does not disappear and you get to have some of this frothy stuff in every sip.
After a few years I traveled to America where the drip coffee is very famous and nearly every home has atleast a small coffee machine. I found out that the coffee was not just as tasty as the one I was used to, when I was younger, I discovered by accident that American coffee had no Chicory added to it making it pure coffee and so a little less flavorful for me who appreciated the coffee bean- chicory mix. Over years I have found bold, neutral, mild, medium, flavored coffee and I have learnt to appreciate nearly all kinds except for the bold ones. The bold ones served in USA are too bitter and coffee in my opinion should not be bitter. The bitterness also masked any other subtle flavor that coffee has acquired naturally while growing. Coffee drinking in US now is at par with wine drinking. I also found to my delight the Vietnamese, Turkish coffee and the delightful French press. The Vietnamese coffee is dripped directly into your cup which has some sweetened condensed milk in it, this combination makes it a strong and sweet coffee.Turkish coffee is not filtered but the ground coffee and water are heated (not boiled), then gently stewed and then ladled into cups , you can add sugar and milk if you want but you drink the coffee after that grounds have settled to the bottom.
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Coffee making machine at Bali
I then had the opportunity to visit Bali the land of coffee haven where the ultimate Kopi Luwak the elixir of the coffee world is served. I was very apprehensive about having this coffee as the coffee is prepared from the beans that the Civet cat has excreted, as we were driving to the coffee farm I told my husband that I was not going to drink anything that came out of another living being much less a shitty coffee. I was enthralled by the amount of adulation that this coffee has gained all over the coffee world. So we went into the farm and then we were taken on a tour where we got to meet the civet cat that was fed nothing but the picked coffee berries for food. The poop is then collected, washed, dried, the outer husk is removed and then again let to dry more so that another layer can be removed. After this is done the beans are dried for more days in the sun and then the third layer of cover is removed by hand one by one, there is no machine to do this and is extremely labor intensive thing to do. After this is done small batches of coffee beans are roasted and then ground on a stone mortar little by little. Then the coffee is dripped slowly in a special contraption that looked like it came out of a chemistry lab. We were seated and our hostess gave us a sampler of 6 different types of coffee to drink. We sipped them one by one and then came to world’s best coffee, this was awesome coffee , it was sweet even without a sweetener and it did not need milk. I enjoyed it immensely and that is when the hostess put the Kopi luwak in front of us and then said “now try our Kopi Luwak”. One sip of that coffee and I kid you not there really is no comparison that exists, it truly is the elixir of the coffee world , there was nothing better to experience in terms of coffee if you try Kopi Luwak, it truly is a dream of a coffee lover like me. I have had coffee before (Indian, Javan, Sumatran, Hawaiian, Costa Rican, Belizean, Guatemalan) and after Kopi Luwak, but nothing compares to Kopi Luwak my coffee adventures have nearly come to an end. I do look forward to drinking the Ethiopian and Yemeni variety from where it all began but in my mind I have reached my destination. Coffee from the coffee houses of Damascus has made inroads into nearly kitchen in a few centuries, now that is a travel worth its weight in gold. Coffee in its travels has many, many stories to tell those stories in another blog.
Note:-
South Indian Coffee filter set – It is a set of steel tubular/ tumbler like thing that is stacked one on top of other the top one has perforated base through which the water can drip into the bottom tumbler. So what one does is puts a few tablespoons of coffee grounds on the top mug then puts a perforated stopper like thing on top of the grounds, then set the tumbler over the bottom one and then pour hot water over the grounds. The coffee brews and drips into the tumbler below. Once all of the water has brewed and dripped to the bottom tumbler, the coffee is ready to be made. People will add hot milk and sugar before they serve

social entrepreneurship – an innovative approach to social hassles

PESIT E-Cell

We come across various social problems associated with people. There is poverty, unemployment, health issues, discrimination on grounds of race, caste, religion and sex, sexual and physical abuse, women rights and the list seems to never end. In this world of social chaos and pandemonium we live in, it has turned extremely essential to create organizations and committees for the welfare of people. Government, the law and NGO’s exist to eradicate the anti-social elements but they are often rendered insufficient to thither to the needs of every citizen of the country. Entrepreneurship is growing drastically, paving the way for revolutionary changes in the economy of our country. Youngsters have opened up their minds, taken up challenges, voiced out their ideas, fulfilled their dreams and have come out of their closet with flying colours. The talent hidden in the youth of the country can be invested in entrepreneurship but is entrepreneurship…

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Kuldhara – An abandoned village, a ghost town

Kuldhara a village abandoned overnight

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A view of the deserted village from Kaba Fort

 

Settled in 1291 AD Kuldhara was the largest of the 84 villages established by the Paliwal Brahmins. It is believed that the Paliwal brahmins were actually from Garh Nanuna and were known as the Nanuana Brahmins. The Paliwal Brahmins were business savvy and were famed for their know how of agricultural practises, which led to good crop turnover year after year even in the desert. The whole clan living in the 84 villages disappeared overnight in 1825, leaving a ghost town. No one saw them leave and till date the historians have no idea how such a large number of people disappeared in a single night, together at one go. There are no data available as to where they vanished to, but it is believed they settled in Jodhpur

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The legend of this disappearance goes thus; one day the Diwan, Salim Singh (the same Salum Singh/ Salim Singh of the famous Salim Singh ki Haveli in Jaisalmer) to the King happened to see the beautiful young daughter of the village chief. He fell for her beauty and wanted to marry her. But the chief being a Brahmin refused to give her hand in marriage to a non – Brahmin. The Diwan gave the chief a deadline , by which time if they did not accept his hand in marriage, he would forcefully enter the village and take the  Chief’s daughter with or without their consent and marry her. The chiefs of the 84 villages met one night and decided that they will leave the villages in the dark of the night, which they did so as they did not want to compromise with their honor. They left their homes as is, taking just the bare minimum necessities.

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It is also believed that they cursed the village to be barren forever, devoid of human habitat. The village till date stands mute testimony to this curse, uninhabited. The homes have taken the toll of time quite gracefully , giving it an eerie look. There are still some homes intact till date, that time has not been able to touch. Going through these homes gives you an idea how the people must have lived here so long ago. Curse or not the unavailability of potable water in any form makes it uninhabitable even today.

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Kuldhara is well worth a visit even if you do not believe in the other world of ghosts etc. You can combine Kuldhara and Kaba Fort as a single day trip outside of Jaisalmer.

 

#travel #adventure #traveltoaplace #daytrips #India

A trip to the legendary Big Temple of Tanjore

A view of the big temple from a corner.
A view of the big temple from a corner.
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Entrance into the Big Temple
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The entryway from the inner courtyard

The Big temple or Brihadeeswara temple or Peruvudaiyar temple in Tanjore was built by Chola Emperor Arulmozhivarman also known as Raja Raja Chola I. The Big Temple was last place to visit on my day long itinerary. I had already had a wonderful day visiting and praying in temples. My first was Gangaikondacholapuram and the next was the Airavateeshwara Temple in Darasuram. Big temple was the furthest from our home. So I had decided to visit it last and this turned out to be the best decision of the day as, even 4 hours later I was not done. We parked the car in the parking lot and then I crossed the road and walked towards the entrance of the Temple. The Temple has an outer boundary wall, surrounded by a moat, with an opening and a gopuram on top, known as the Keralaanthangan Gopuram. This is succeeded by a second wall with an entrance aligned perfectly with the first, complete with a gopuram and huge carved Dvarpalas on either side known as the Rajaraja Gopuram. Once you cross this second entrance/gate, you walk into a courtyard replete with columns on the inner side of the wall. This wall runs around the temple fully covered and has paintings all over its walls and many lingams. Right in front of you is the huge monolithic Nandi statue housed inside Nandi mandapam.

The huge Nandi near the entrance
The huge Nandi near the entrance

After praying to the Nandi, I walked towards the side of the main temple, the stone carvings were stunning and it just drew my eyes to them.The main Temple is imposing, colossal structure rising nearly 216 ft high into the air, I had to move away from the structure to see the magnificent capstone at the top ( I missed carrying my binoculars , it would have been a great help here ) of the gopuram. This 80 ton marvel carved out of single stone and is said to have been carried by elephants on an inclined plane from nearly 1 mile away to the top of the gopuram. The outer walls of the Temple are adorned with many intricate carvings of the deities in various forms. Also carved into the walls are 80 of the 108 mudras (poses) of the classical dance Bharatanatyam.

The sculpture art on the walls of the temple
The sculpture art on the walls of the temple

After walking around the temple once, I decided on walking under the covered wall encircling the Temple complex. As i started walking, I came across some stunning frescoes painted across the walls accompanied by Shiv-Lingams of many sizes. These paintings looked nowhere near 1000 years old, how could they be so clear and vibrant? The answer was there in the museum where it says that the artisans used natural dyes made from plants, flowers, minerals and salts. This made me wonder dreamily about how grand these might have been a millenia ago.The king is said to have loved art, so he had the walls painted end to end, so that he could enjoy these paintings everytime he circumambulated the main deity. He also had these paintings specially painted away from the main Temple as he felt that not every one of his subjects might enjoy art. Frescoes are basically paintings painted over a wet lime plaster wall before it dries. So an artist basically has a maximum of three days to complete his project. As I walked along the corridor, I could feel how the emperor must have felt walking by these paintings in solitude, it must have been an ecstatic experience. I sure felt so even though I did not have the weight of the world over my shoulders. I was awed and angry at the same time. Awed at the kind of art these artisans had created and angry because a lot people had thought it was an intelligent way to get famous by writing their names on these walls. This art on wall had survived time, being painted over them, mother nature itself in the form of earthquakes, rain, sunshine etc but it has all chances of losing its lasting beauty because the modern generation has no respect for their past glory and decided to vandalize them by writing their name here. It took me nearly two hours to completely go through the art on walls.
I then decided to go into the main Temple. I first prayed to Lord Ganesha, then proceeded to pray to Sri Karuvur in the Karuvur Shrine and then prayed to Lord Muruga in Murugan Shrine. After this I proceeded into the main shrine, the Brihadeeshwara shrine. As I walked toward the main sanctum sanctorum I was again greeted by beautifully crafted sculptures on the pillars, paintings on the walls and ceilings of the dark corridor. As I stepped into the main chamber to pray, I suddenly felt an inexplicable energy surround me, I walked towards the 12 ft high Shiva-lingam in front of me in a trance listening to the soft chants in the background. I prayed to Lord Siva, got blessed by the Priest who gave me some prasadam, flowers, kumkum and holy ash. I walked out and paid obeisance at Chandigeshwarar’s shrine, Nataraja’s Shrine, Brahannayagi’s shrine, Hanuman’s Shrine and at Sri Dakshinamurti’s statue.

I then went on to see many other beautiful paintings leisurely of Dancing Siva “ Natraja” , Tripurantaka Siva accompanied by his sons Ganesh and Karthikeyan in a chariot driven by Lord Brahma, another of Lord Siva as Dakshinamurti, the celestial elephant Airavata, one of the dancing girls and one of Rajaraja Chola himself with his Guru Karuvur Devar, the only image/painting of the Emperor in existence. Besides these paintings, there are beautiful carvings on wall and sculptures of Gods and Goddesses in many forms and manifestations.

The temple also has beautiful inscriptions in beautiful calligraphy of the Emperor and his family’s contributions, gifts, donations to the Temple in the form of land grants, jewelery, coins, gold, cows, sheep,etc.
It took me over 4 hours to completely see the Temple and enjoy the art & architecture. Many a time I imagined myself in those times, it must have been interesting times to live in, in a prosperous kingdom under the aegis of the all powerful Emperor Rajaraja Chola.

I would suggest an early morning or late afternoon visit as the stone floors gets really hot. I would also suggest a working day in the early hours as the most ideal time to savour the architecture in silence and not having to hurry through any part of the experience. Avoid Mondays, Mondays are Lord Siva’s special day when devotees line up to pay obeisance.

Old traditions of Jaisalmer – Wall art wedding announcements

One of the traditions we found interesting while visiting Jaisalmer was wedding announcements. Wedding announcements are done publicly, by having the forthcoming nuptials painted mural style at the entrance of the home of the groom and the bride. It  is a centuries-old tradition of  telling the world that there was going to be a wedding in the family and everyone is invited. This tradition is still in practice and I heard someone say that “no wedding card can replace this tradition”. I am glad modernity has not been able to change or replace this tradition. Kudos to the people of Jaisalmer who practice tradition and live in a modern world of twitter, where they announce their upcoming nuptials in 140 characters. The mural stays put till a new good news needs to be shared with the world.

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Mexico

Mexico - Chichen Itza JU

Me-hi-co was our second trip out of US and one of great anticipation. Mexico has visa on arrival for Americans and is extended to travelers of various nations. People holding Indian Passport with any valid US Visa can also avail of the visa on arrival facility in Mexico. There are many flights that originate from various parts of US. It would be very useful to research prices with multiple sites like Kayak, flights.google.com,Priceline and Cheapcaribbean.com for best ticket prices. When entering Mexico, you will fill out a Forma Migratoria Múltiple FMM card. You need to keep other half part of the FMM with your passport at all the times and you will need to produce this when you leave Mexico.
We flew into one of the most touristy destinations, Cancun, from NYC, a 4 hour flight, and got a ride from airport to our hotel , Cancun Caribe, in the Hotel Zone(or hotelera) . Hotelera or Hotel zone is a 26 km stretch called Kukulcan blvd with the Cancun beach on one side and a Lagoon on the other side with two small rivers cutting across the stretch at both ends making it an island. Since it was not check in time yet, we deposited our luggage at the front office and decided to walk around the hotel zone. It was blazing hot yet the blue waters and white sands beckoned us to walk by the shore. After a while we checked in and went up to our room. After refreshing ourselves we decided to walk around the hotel zone, it was an interesting afternoon. We then went out for dinner in a restaurant just opposite to our hotel, this was something that we did not indulge in. We often find small roadside shops or little mom and pop eateries to have food but since it had been a long day we decided to go eat at the nearest restaurant, Lorenzillo’s on the lagoon side of the Cancun hotelera. This turned out to be an expensive affair . Once done, we called it a day.
The next day we walked at the beach and then decided to explore the city. We took a bus out of hotel zone and shopped a bit in the downtown Cancun. One can get a bus from Hotel Zone to the downtown Cancun for around 8 pesos. My better half got a wonderful massage for $30 while I got to look around the shops in Mercado 28. Mercado 28 is the best place to buy souvenirs as the prices are much lower than the Hotel zone. To give a comparison, a bandana in Mercado 28 will cost ⅓ compared to the shops in Hotel zone.  After this we went to small shop with al-fresco seating to have lunch which cost us less than 5 USD including couple of beers and nice authentic tacos. This was a fun experience. We then went to Wal-mart and bought water , magnets. postcards and then took the city bus back to the hotel. On our way we stopped by the Avis car rental and booked a car for Chichen Itza trip next day. We walked back to the hotel  and sat  by the pool for some relaxation. While we were relaxing. we got invited for a free dinner at a Asian restaurant, the only caveat was a formal dress and in the end leave honest opinion for the restaurant that was yet to open to public. Well who can refuse free dinner? So we did go and it was an interesting Asian fusion food. We relaxed for a while after our dinner and went to bed early so that we can be ready refreshed for our trip to Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza as many are aware is one of the 7 wonders of the world and an UNESCO heritage site.

Next day we walked to the nearby restaurant, about a mile away from the hotel near the Avis car rental  and proceeded to get our car after the breakfast.  It cost us around $30 per day for a Volkswagen  Jetta automatic but we made it a point to get a full insurance as it is always better to be safe while driving in a foreign country where the car rental practices are still in the nascent stages. There are 2 routes to Chichen Itza. Cuota, which is a toll road where the toll is around 10 USD but an expressway comparable or even better than the most highways in US. The other one is the local road where the maximum speed you can go is around 50-60 km/hr.  We took the expressway (Cuoto) and not the “libre” route, which turned out to be one of the best decision ever as the roads were clear and had no traffic at all and were able to drive at around 70 miles per hour. We reached Chichen Itza in about 2 hours. We bought the ticket and a small booklet to help us navigate through the Mayan ruins.
Chichen Itza  means “at the mouth of the well of Itza “. It is one of the seven wonders of the world.

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We first saw the Kukulcan Pyramid a step like pyramid structure, the highlight of Chichen-Itza, called the castle “El Castillo”
The Pyramid of Kukulcan or El Castillo - famous landmark of Chichen Itza. This was a temple-pyramid dedicated to the Feathered Serpent God, Kukulcan.
We then proceeded to see the great ball court, where some very bloody ball games were played, it has some amazing acoustics,  till date people have not been able to decipher the magic behind this kind of acoustics.

We then saw the Zompantli  ( The Wall of Skulls),the Temple of the Tables,  then the platform of the Eagles & the Jaguars, the steam bath, the market ( EL Mercado). We also got to see the Thousand columns a place for large meetings.
Cenote
Finally we reached the Cenote Sagrado or the Sacred Cenote is till date one of the holiest places for pilgrimage for the Mayans.
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The observatoryEl Caracol - circular temple on a rectangular platform, also sacred to Kukulcan, served as an astronomical observatory.Local road (no tolls)
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Tip – Cuoto or toll roads are easy to navigate and has little to no traffic. If you love an adventure and have time you can take the Libre route which will take you through villages and bylanes.
Tip – Always ask for full insurance for your rental. it is always better. Often times they will invent scratches that were never there or worse still if you really happen to scratch the car you will end up paying a lot more than what actual repairs cost. Full insurance is cheaper.
Tip – Carry a can of Deet (a anti mosquito-anti-tick spray)  from US (or wherever you are visiting from),  if not buy it from the local Wal-mart in Cancun beforehand. You will be able to buy Deet at Chichen – Itza but the prices are at least 4 times the original prices. Do note even a short shower will bring the mosquitoes out.
Tip – Carry a poncho with you at all times to protect yourself from unforeseen showers.
Tip – Always bargain for your souvenirs  and when you talk prices negotiate prices in Mexican dollars often they will seal the deal as 100 dollars and once it is packed they will say it was Mayan dollars they were talking about and that actually would cost more about 125 in Mexican dollars, which is a clever way of extracting money. So make sure when you seal the deal it is in Mexican dollars.
We returned  in the evening, so we went straight to the rental agency and returned the car and rebooked for another day immediately as wanted to drive to Tulum. Another city full of history!  We had a quick dinner and decided to call it a day.
The next morning we went to our regular breakfast joint to have food. We walked around a bit after our breakfast and went back to the hotel. We then decided to go beyond the hotel zone again. We took a bus ride out of hotel zone. My hubby got himself another massage and I got my hair braided for $3. We then proceeded to go to a seafood buffet place, La Parilla, in downtown Cancun. It had an awesome spread. I would highly recommend visiting this place if you are in Cancun. After lunch we got water etc from Wal-mart , had fresh coconut water and took the bus ride back to hotel zone. We got off at plaza Caracoal and went for some light weight shopping. We also could compare some prices with Wal-mart and Mercado 28 and this made our bargaining easier. Whenever we travel to a place, we like to buy articles from local artisans and they usually are quite willing and happy to bargain with customers. We got our magnet, post cards, handmade pottery for ourselves and our friends. We walked by the seaside to the hotel. We refreshed ourselves and went out for dinner once again to plaza Caracoal. After dinner we strolled to the car rental agency and got the rental car for Tulum expedition the next day. We got a Volkswagon Jetta again, drove to the hotel and got ready to go on another adventure.

Next – Part 2 – Tulum

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