Fresh off the amazing scenery at Cape Town, we boarded the flight to Nairobi, with a stop at Livingstone. As soon as we got on board, we started pestering the air hostesses with requests to fly over the Victoria Falls either before landing or taking off at Livingstone. Finally, the air hostess graciously agreed to relay our pleas to the Captain and when we took off from Livingstone, the plane headed straight for the Falls.
From thousands of feet up in the air, the falls looked massive. So one can only imagine the sight on the ground. The pilot was sweet enough to take u-turns a couple of times so that passengers on either side of the plan got a fantastic view of the Falls, also called Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Smoke That Thunders. As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls is twice the height of the Niagara falls and twice as wide as the Canadian falls. So in terms of sheer length and width, it is the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Phew!
We landed at Nairobi close to 11 PM and headed straight to the hotel. Early next day, we were leaving for Masai Mara.
Cape Town, South Africa! My husband and I signed up for the TiE Global Charter Member Retreat the moment we heard that they were organizing it in South Africa this year. We have never been to the dark continent, and knowing that we were going to visit the very same place Vasco Da Gama set his foot in 1497 was enough reason by itself to sign up. After all, he next set foot (allegorically speaking!) in our own Kozhikode nearly six months later.
So here is a day by day recount of our trip:
Fact: My first ever visit to the Kochi Biennale was on March 23, 2016 – just a week before it winds down. I am ashamed that I have not visited one of Kochi’s most potent attractions (not just in India, but around the world). Not once, but missed it twice, and the third time around when I visited it? I barely made it a week before it closes. But now that I have, here goes why you should too.
Yoga vacation. The phrase conjures up visions of serene settings, enlightened devotees, and peaceful yoga practitioners. You get all these and more during a yoga vacation at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram at Neyyar Dam, near Thiruvananthapuram (aka Trivandrum – the state capital of Kerala).
I have been to the Sivananda ashram at Neyyar Dam three times over the last 2 years for a yoga vacation. I have usually stayed at an average of 4-5 nights during each of my visits. While I have joked about my experience there in a previous blog, these vacations have been an immense grounding experience in our life. During our first visit, Mukund and I had no clue what to expect. But by the third visit, we quickly and easily slipped into the ashram schedule, even though it was a year since our previous visit.
Here are a list of things you need to know about visiting the Sivananda Ashram at Neyyar Dam for a yoga vacation.
In my previous blog, I listed the basic information, including some tips and suggestions that will come in handy when you visit the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Now that I have got that formality out of the way, here goes why I fell in love with the Gardens as I spent close to eight hours across a weekend exploring it.
Day 1 at the Gardens: Spectacular. Immense. Incredibly well-thought, well-planned and well-laid out. I have only superlatives to describe my over 3 hours walk that first evening. And by that time, I had barely covered one-hundredth of this entire park. I ended that evening with the lights show (at 7:45 PM) at the Supertrees Grove that was simply spectacular. Yes, this word will occur a few times in this blog!
The sound and lights show at the Supertree Grove
Day 2 at the Gardens: After wrapping up the remaining business formalities the next day, I had close to 6 hours before I had to head to the airport to catch my flight back to India. I headed back again – the call of the Gardens was too strong! This time, I did both the Flower dome and the Cloud Forest (at least 2 hours each in both these exotic domes), explored the Indian, Chinese, and Australian heritage parks, and sat down to just stare and take it all in. After that, I had to simply say goodbye to this park, and head to the airport.
What was so special about the Gardens?
I traveled to Singapore on business during the third week of August to kick-start Suyati’s operations in that island country. The first step – to incorporate the company and open the bank accounts. Since it was a business trip, I did not expect to spend any time sight-seeing. I had already traveled to Singapore on vacation a couple of times before and had done the typical touristy stuff – the Merlion, Night Jungle Safari, Jurong bird sanctuary, the Singapore Flyer, Sentosa islands, the river cruise, Clarke Quay shopping …yup, the works.
As I was talking to my CPA, he asked casually if I was planning to get some sight-seeing done. When I replied in the negative, he asked me to check out the Gardens by the Bay (GBTB or the Gardens) – a park constructed by the Singapore National Parks Board and dedicated to the public in October, 2011. I half-heartedly said yes, sure, if I find the time.
After the business formalities for the day were over, I did have time from 5 PM onwards. I hailed a cab and asked him to take me to the Gardens. 10 minutes later, my love story with the Gardens started.
From January 14th through the 19th, our family went on a pilgrimage to three divine places – Dwaraka, Somnath and Porbhander. The following image is that of Sree Krishna in Balka Mandir. Behind Him is the tree (still preserved, they say) under which He was sitting when Jara the hunter mistook His toe for the beak of a bird and shot Him. This incident was supposed to have happened on 18th February, 3012 BCE.
Mukund and I spent 5 blissful days at the Sivananda Ashram at Neyyar Dam during our Christmas vacation. The days passed in a blur of back-bending (literally!) yoga classes and mind-blowing (again, literally!) meditation and Bhagavad Gita classes. Every day, we spent 4 hours in yoga classes, 3 hours in meditation and singing bhajans, 1 hour at the Gita class, and 1 hour doing karma yoga – helping to clean the ashram. We even attended a workshop on Bharatnatyam and tried out a few steps!
As the word “rape” becomes de facto in our daily news and life, I would like to draw your attention to a real problem that lakhs of devotees face everyday when visiting temples – the rape and abuse of our Gods.
Bear with me for a few minutes as I explain what I mean. This is based totally on my personal experience, and that of a few close friends who shared their experiences once I related mine. My intention is not to hurt any religious sentiments, but as true devotees we need to be fearless in voicing our anger when the system is wrong.