Jaydeep and I did a half-day ride to Chembarambakkam Lake whcih about 20 miles from where we live. It was a quick ride with a stop at Sangeetha Restaurant in Nandambakkam. The turn off for the lake is easy to miss and we did manage to miss it; over shot by about 5 miles and had to turn back and find our way to the lake. The varying shades of blue in different parts of the sky are what will stay in my memories for some time to come.
So, I’m in Chennai now. Landed here on Wednesday, Sep 22nd. The decision to make the trip was rather quick. As with most things in my life, there was much background rumination over the last 18 months or so and boom! I pulled the trigger and made the trip. While this is primarily a work related scouting trip, I hope to find time to make trips to Tirupathi, Sholingar, Pune, Bombay, Hyderabad and Bangalore. I’ve already managed to be sick pretty soon after my arrival and my application to get a PAN card (US equivalent would be tax identification number i.e. TIN and a basic requirement for doing anything at all in India) has been rejected on some rather flimsy grounds – they wouldn’t accept my Washington state driver license, phone bill or any other documents as they weren’t attested by the high commissioner at the Indian Consulate in the US. This wasn’t clearly listed on their website. The folks at the agency were horrendous and didn’t even know the basic requirements and were guessing at reason for the rejection. My dad had to take the docs they had, read them for himself and point out that an NRI account statement attested by the branch manager would be acceptable as proof. We left that day.
Dad and I headed to the HDFC R.A.Puram branch yesterday. Our relationship manager, Yash, was simply fantastic. Not only did he give us the attested statement, he took a couple of my photos and provided two copies of a letter from the bank attesting to my US address as per bank records. Additionally, I found out that my bank account had been locked for debits due to potential for money laundering. Huh? Well, the account had been opened remotely in my absence and the only deposit was by cash. Since withdrawals are in Indian rupees only, this would be the ideal way for someone to convert illegally gained foreign currency. Simple way to unlock the account is to wire transfer funds from a foreign account of the same holder.
I went back to the agency today and handed in the new docs. Fingers crossed. Hopefully, this time it’ll go smoothly.
Having been in the Bay Area for over a year now, I’d been wanting to make a trip to Monterey to visit the much fabled aquarium [official site]. I’d already missed seeing it during my return to Seattle from a surprise (and totally last minute) road trip to Irvine in November, 2007.
Appa and Amma were game to get out of the house for a bit, and Appa particularly was interested in the aquarium. So, we figured we’d get out of the house say 10ish. But, as it turned out, it was closer to 1:30 by the time we were actually able to get out – actually pulling the trigger on the trip, coupled with brunch (oatmeal, yum!) were the main reasons for the delay.
Monterey is a 100 miles from Fremont. Midway to our destination, I realized we should’ve taken the scenic route. So, I took a detour via SR-152W to get us there and soon we were on the famous Highway 1. Driving through the hills, looking down on the valley, we finally ended up right along the coast overlooking a multi-colored sea. Colors ranged from deep blue, green, ramar blue/green, nearly black to almost white in some places.
It was 4 pm by the time we got to Monterey and the weather didn’t quite hold up when we got there. It was overcast and threatening to rain. Later, when I talked to Rajat, he mentioned that that seemed to be the default climate for Monterey. So, we stopped for to grab some chow at a Mexican restaurant on the way down to the beach and aquarium (which is right on the waterfront). The hostess was nice enough to warn us to stay away from the rice, since they use a chicken base to cook it. Turns out she too was vegetarian – a cute Caucasian vegetarian, not that common 😉 . After wolfing down some flutas and fajitas, it was off to the beach. Beach first, since it was already cold and we didn’t want to wait till later when it would get even colder.
Another 30 minutes later, we were at the aquarium which certainly didn’t disappoint. Lots of exhibits and most with great presentations and very good lighting. And there was the typical nuisance of folks using camera flashes when there were clear signs that flash photography was prohibited in particular sections. Oh well, some never learn. For me, the highlight of the trip was the jellyfish exhibit – mostly coz I was able to get some decent photos of them. Most of the exhibits couldn’t be photographed well, due to low light conditions prevalent in the aquarium. Unfortunately, I wound up dropping my off-camera flash shoe-cable. Ouch! That was a costly loss. Oh well! Live and learn. Next time, don’t stuff the camera bag. While we spent a couple of hours at the aquarium, it’s easily possible to spend about 1/2 a day there. One thing we did miss out on was the shark IMAX 3D movie (not part of the aquarium, but on Cannery Row itself). Overall, the aquarium was certainly worth seeing. On the way back, we were comparing to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago – that one is certainly waaaaaaay bigger and has more exhibits and you could spend an entire day there, but the one in Monterey is nothing to turn your nose up at – it’s very, very solid. Even nicer is that it’s just a couple of hours away. 🙂
Post visit, we stopped by a Ghirardelli store for a Banana Split (Appa), a Butterscotch Hot Fudge Sundae (Amma) and some hot chocolate (me). Good stuff. Yum! Got home just before 10:30pm. Good fun.