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Friday, September 10, 2010

Morning at Lal Bagh

We took advantage of the jet-lagged 3am wake-ups, and headed out for Lal Bagh one morning at 5am. It's a long way across town, but at this early hour the traffic wasn't bad... so we crammed into a rickshaw, and zoomed off for a fine morning of birding, exploring, and tree climbing in this huge park and botanical garden. It covers about 250 acres, and contains many rare trees from all over the world, as well as a few massive specimens of banyan, ficus, and kapok. We spotted a bunch of wonderful birds such as parakeets, herons, jacana, cuckoos, kites, and cormorants. The kids were most thrilled by the humongous trees and dangling tarzan roots to climb.

Lalbagh Morning - from Karen's Journal...

Another morning up at 2am, kids ready to break their fast after falling asleep in their lunch yesterday late afternoon. We heated some leftover dhal from the Viking restaurant, did some school work in the dim light with the street dogs barking and howling in the otherwise silent neighborhood, intermittent trains and the very occasional auto rickshaw grumbling past our house. By the time the neighbor’s alarm rang 5:30, we were all ready to get out into the relatively fresh air. Remembering Rama’s warning that the Auto Rickshaws would be on strike today, we grabbed the first one we saw and “convinced the driver to take us to Lalbagh for Rs. 200! (though we know the real price should be around 125. Quiet streets made for an unusually pleasant ride in the cool morning air, but we were not as lulled into a stupor as the driver may have thought. When he stopped at Kempegowda Circle and told us that we were “here…Lalbagh”, we had a good laugh and just said “no, take us to Lalbagh”. Nice trick though. It feels good to have experienced a close scam already, and come out laughing. The driver silently took us and his defeat the rest of the long way to our desired destination.

Arriving before 6:30am, we had a lovely time walking around the beautiful botanical gardens. Searching for birds and plant treasures and even ducking under the Glass House when the rain came blowing through the huge, ancient trees was the perfect way to spend the morning. When we were hungry, we exited the west gate and found the busy street daunting as usual. We asked a guard at the gate if he know of a place to eat and he pointed out a place across a traffic choked diagonal, so we went for it. We had been ready to search for a decent (i.e. cleanish, seating, without visible bandicoots or turds). We found the Kamet Hotel not only open, clean, inviting but also tasty! The dosas and idlis and chow chow bath so great! The kids really appreciated the ambience – relaxing in a clean indoor space. Eliza asked if we could stay in a hotel like this someday! Cleanliness is worth so much here. The food was still pretty cheap – we all feasted for under $5 including coffee and chai. We are still enjoying the prices. Living well and eating out often!

After feasting on our South Indian breaky, we went back into the park in search of….the trees! All the kids wanted was to find those 1000 year-old buttressed ficus trees…and get into them. Now remember, this botanical garden is the pride of the city. It is also known as “the lungs of the city”. It was laid out as a gift from Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali in the 18th century. We’re talkin’ OLD treasures of the kingdom! Our kids and their monkey mojo just wanted to get up into them. Signs everywhere led me to think “prison” as a consequence for “playing” in the park and maybe even the death penalty for “bothering” the trees. So, up they went with all the joy of a newly released family of langurs! We let them. They were so cute. Sitting, posing for photos, helping each other up to higher branches…it all seemed worth the risk. We did guide them down subtly as we noticed uniformed guards and military police beginning to appear and approach our region. We got out with all our monkeys free and clear and happy.

Another good adventure in our other city!

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