eating sushi in india :: day 27 :: beach day

I’m trying to make the most of my last few beach days before heading home. Part of me feels like I should hop in a taxi and go see some sights, but when I’m on a tropical beach any time spent away from it feels like a waste. When I beach, I beach hard.

Today was a little yoga, breakfast (coffee and granola - I try to pick a new thing each morning), a few walks along the beach, my daily mini-bottle of Coke, and a little swimming (okay, less swimming or more like letting the waves knock me over) in the sea. I also took a bunch of photos today - this is one of my favorites.

People watching at sunset on Ashwem Beach :: January 27 2019

People watching at sunset on Ashwem Beach :: January 27 2019

I’m staying at the Yab Yum Resort. (Say that without giggling, right?) Here’s a quick look at what my beach jungle hut looks like.

eating sushi in india :: day 25 :: conversations with Goa's beach vendors

When I told people I was headed to Goa, they gave me one of two reactions - either a wrinkled nose, suggesting that it wasn’t a very adventurous choice or raised eyebrows, with the warning “It’s relentless the people trying to get you to buy something on the beach. Good luck.”

Today was my first full day here and I headed out for some beach time. (Look, it’s not everyday you can say, “Today I woke up and dipped my toe into the Arabian Sea for the first time in my life.” The beach was happening). And, as predicted, I was approached by at least a dozen different people (I lost count after awhile) trying to sell me all sorts of things - beads, scarves, coconuts, snacks, and towels. I made the rookie mistake of being polite to the first one - so much so that the resort staff had to come over and, presumably, tell her to fuck off. (I couldn’t understand what he was saying - I’m just guessing that was the gist of the conversation.)

After that first one, though, I got the hang of not looking up from my book, keeping my sunglasses on, and generally not engaging with them. However, some were persistent and it was really hard to keep a straight face and not giggle at the attempts to engage me in conversation. Here are some of the gems:

Most started out by noticing my stellar use of sunblock and hats:

“Hi, ma’am. How are you? Your first day here? Where are you from? UK? Russia? You’re very…very white.”

Some took a look at my bare, unpedicured feet and decided there was clearly a sales opportunity there:

“Hi, ma’am. Do you want a manicure? Pedicure? (I shook my head no.) No pedicure? You sure? How about. pedicure? I massage your feed and paint your toes a pretty color.” This particular woman repeated the offer not once, not twice, but THREE times, as if I’d been going through life not knowing what a pedicure was. To be fair, my feet are looking plain and maybe a bit rough, fine, but I didn’t think there were gruesome. I mean, they’re not so bad that my sisters would take one look at them, hand me $30 and politely tell me to just get a goddamn pedicure already.

The best sales pitch of the day, hands down, goes to the lady who tried to sell me on her threading services.

“Hi, ma’am. (Taking a look at my legs.) I do threading. Do you know threading? Hair doesn’t grow back for weeks. Very good. You need. She pointed to my legs. I didn’t look up. She kept going and tried to seal the deal by motioning to her chin, as if she was stroking a beard. I can thread here, too. Yes?

Shut the front door, I thought. Did she just call me out on having some chin ZINGERS? Great. Awesome.

You know what a ZINGER is. They are those random, wonky single hairs that pop up in unexpected places, like the shoulder or chin, or that one weird corkscrew curl in sea of otherwise normal eyebrow hairs.

And no matter what the person desperately wanted me to buy, the offer always ended the same way.

“Okay, ma’am. Later then. We talk later.”

I have a feeling they won’t be back, but if they return, I’ll be braiding the hair on my pasty white legs and stroking my beard when they see me.

eating sushi in india :: day 23 :: last day in Mysore

 
A photo from my first full day in Mysore :: shopping at the Devaraja Market on January 1, 2019

A photo from my first full day in Mysore :: shopping at the Devaraja Market on January 1, 2019

What does a yoga dropout like me do on the last day? Sleep in and skip practice, that’s what. It wasn’t intentional. My plan was to go, to finish on a high note, but after getting a phone call at 3am I was awake for a bit and by the time 4:30 am rolled around, I knew I was still quite tired and probably not in the best shape to get up and wait for over an hour in that queue one last time.

The rest of the day was a low key. Since tomorrow is will likely be a pretty long travel day - 12 hours, thereabouts - this was probably for the best. I started the day having coffee in the new outdoor lounge at Anokhi Garden, catching up on things like backing up my photos, posting videos to YouTube and updating my Instagram stories. I didn’t blog every day like I’d thought, but I did get into the habit of creating daily stories, which I’ve been enjoying doing. Later I bought a pair of harem pants (for the beach, I told myself), dropped off the books I’d finished at Depth ‘n Green and had one last double Americano (my favorite), and then packed up everything I brought and bought.

Some of the books I read while traveling and am leaving behind in Mysore. I haven’t enjoyed reading this much in literally  years . Feels good to get back in the habit.

Some of the books I read while traveling and am leaving behind in Mysore. I haven’t enjoyed reading this much in literally years. Feels good to get back in the habit.

Werner (the owner) and Hannah (one of the guests staying here, a really lovely woman from the UK) both enjoy practicing with Vinay at Prana Vashya Yoga. Hannah is doing the intensive, with practice sessions in the morning and evening. The evening focuses on backbending; the morning looks to be similar to the Ashtanga primary series, but seems to be modified for each student based on their needs. Werner practices there often and likes all of the instructors. Hannah also has nothing but good things to say about the intensive she’s doing - the classes aren’t at all overcrowded, she’s received plenty of individual guidance from the teachers, and she’s been quite happy with the program overall. If I were to come back for the yoga that’s one I might look into.

The day ended Zen Kitchen, with Werner and Lea from Switzerland. Tonight we swapped stories about concerts - our first concert, favorite concerts - and music we enjoy listening to today.

Tomorrow? Goa!

eating sushi in india :: day 20 :: sunday funday

On Sundays, the Anokhi Garden and Guesthouse is open for breakfast and lunch, and also hosts a bunch of pop-up shops. Today there was a woman reading tarot cards, a couple of people selling jewelry and statues, another woman selling yoga tops and handbags, and a guy silkscreening t-shirts. Here, he’s creating a dark blue to light blue gradient on a white tank top. Still pretty fun to watch.

The rest of my day was low-key. I finalized my plans for the rest of my stay in India (I’m going to check out Goa), bought an inexpensive suitcase to schlep home the things I’ve bought while here, then hung out at the pool and started a new book - Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. (I’m only a few pages in, and already hooked.)

Favorite photo of the day - I’m not sure, but is this a lotus?

Favorite photo of the day - I’m not sure, but is this a lotus?

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m going to Chamundi Hill with one of the other women staying here. It’s the last bit of touristing I’ll do in Mysore. Since it’s a moon day (meaning there’s no yoga tomorrow, in observance of it).

Sunset from the roof of Anokhi Garden Cafe & Guesthouse. It only took me 20 days to post a sunset picture.

Sunset from the roof of Anokhi Garden Cafe & Guesthouse. It only took me 20 days to post a sunset picture.

eating sushi in india :: day 15 :: happy pongol and makar sankranti!

I take same route back to the guesthouse after yoga. This morning walk is one of my favorite parts of the day - the air is still cool but the sun is shining, there’s little traffic and I get to say good morning a variety of cows, street dogs, monkeys and sheep.

January 3, 2019 - One of the neighborhood streets in Golukam, near the Jois shalas.

January 3, 2019 - One of the neighborhood streets in Golukam, near the Jois shalas.

Many of the houses have elaborate designs, drawn in chalk, on the pavement in front of their gates. Today was the first day I noticed a few women drawing fresh ones in front of the homes. Most of those mandalas drawn in white chalk, but this one clued me in on what made today different - it’s a holiday here in southern India. Happy Makar Sankranti. Or Happy Pongol, if you prefer. Either way, it’s the harvest festival and also a day to celebrate the fact that the days are now getting longer.

January 15, 2019 - Happy Pongol and Makara Sankranti

January 15, 2019 - Happy Pongol and Makara Sankranti

January 15, 2019 - The process looks like finger painting. She was mixing water in a bowl filled with something that looks like chalk dust, then using her thumb to draw on the pavement.

January 15, 2019 - The process looks like finger painting. She was mixing water in a bowl filled with something that looks like chalk dust, then using her thumb to draw on the pavement.

The other thing I noticed is that all the cows were neon…yellow. Even my buddy at Depth ‘n Green.

Favorite photo of the Day.  January 15, 2019 - Party Cow! The Depth ‘n Green cow, freshly bathed in turmeric and wearing a garland. Hey, girl. Moo.

Favorite photo of the Day. January 15, 2019 - Party Cow! The Depth ‘n Green cow, freshly bathed in turmeric and wearing a garland. Hey, girl. Moo.

This little guy making 1st Main Road his runway was my favorite.

Nothing to see here. Just taking my elaborately dressed cows out for a midday walk.

I’m no expert - what I learned about the festival comes from a fast Google search and a conversation with a rickshaw driver. But from what I can tell, today is the second day of the festival and this is the day to thank cattle for all their gifts to people: for milk and fertilizer (thanks for that poop, Bessie!), for plowing fields and moving heavy things, and ultimately (after dying of natural causes at the end of a long, happy life) leather.

Cows are bathed with turmeric water, and that’s what turns any while or light colored parts of the cow an intense shade of yellow. Sometimes their horns are painted bright colors (I didn’t see this), and some wear ribbons and garlands of flowers. Many people honored the cows either by stopping to briefly and reverently touch them, or by leaving bowls of cooked rice and jaggery (unrefined sugar) in front of their homes as an offering for cows passing by.

January 15, 2019 - Kids with their festival-ready cow near the Devaraja Market.

January 15, 2019 - Kids with their festival-ready cow near the Devaraja Market.

Sources:
Wikipedia covers the details and description here. There are some regional differences Scroll down to Karnataka to learn more about how the festival is celebrated here.

This Times of India article on Makar Sanskranti 2019 and this one with decorating inspiration for the holiday.

eating sushi in india :: day 14 :: skipping class, shopping and beer

The title pretty much sums up the day. I did go to yoga. I’m scheduled to start at 6am, which translates to 5:45am “shala time,” and actually means I start practicing sometime around 7am. During the wait, I listen to an audio book. Wearing headphones probably makes me seem unfriendly or unapproachable, but it makes the wait a lot more bearable. I might get a travel mug and start bringing hot tea or coffee, too.

My yoga practice is good. I’m still doing the primary series with dropbacks, with the occasional adjustment from one of the three or four assistants and usually one from Sharmila. Don’t let the word “primary” fool you. Just because it’s called the primary series, it is never easy. It is, after nearly 6 or so years of regular practice, pretty familiar to me, and that’s a big deal when practicing in an unfamiliar room, with new people in a new place. My favorite part is that I’m getting the chance to revisit dropbacks and work on them with a bit. Having a variety of new people help me do them keeps it different and interesting each day. It’s been fun. Most of the students getting direct instruction are beginners just learning the primary series; a few are getting lengthy lectures about doing the intermediate series far too soon, and about the importance of learning to practice safely.

The rest of the day was pretty low key. I skipped chanting (again), and headed to Depth ‘N Green for chai and the most glorious egg and cheese sandwich. From there, I decided I was comfortable enough with the area to explore on foot, so I checked out one of the many shops selling oils, malas, scarves and other gifts. Ended up having a cup of saffron tea (amazing) and having a long, long chat with the shopkeeper. I bought a couple of sandalwood bracelets. Then I checked out Sayoga, a shop designed to cater to customers like, well, me: visiting Mysore to practice yoga, and maybe needed some stuff - mat, clothes, and that kind of thing. The way it was laid out reminded me a bit Anthropologie - cute, seemingly random things in random places but somehow felt cohesive and organized.

After that, I checked out the Pelican Pub and Grub House Restaurant. (Get the chili pork and cheese naan.) It was an odd place, for two reasons. First, the walls were covered in posters with inspirational quotes. Jack Handey quotes would’ve blended right in. Second, there’s a section for “mixed groups,” meaning women and any group with both men and women. (I guess there’s a section for men only. Or gents only, as it’s noted.) I had a beer and a read for a bit. (I’m currently reading American Sniper, by Chris Kyle.)

That was my Monday. Pretty low key, but still nice. I still have a lot I want to see.- the sandalwood oil factory, the silk factory, Chamundi Hill and the Nandi Temple.

I think I’ll start sharing my one favorite photo from each day, as a way to end each post.

Favorite photo of the day - January 14, 2019.  Mall beads at Sayoga. I’m such a magpie when I shop, making a beeline for the shiny, pretty things.

Favorite photo of the day - January 14, 2019. Mall beads at Sayoga. I’m such a magpie when I shop, making a beeline for the shiny, pretty things.

eating sushi in India - day 12 - on saturdays, we shop

Yesterday was Saturday, my one day off yoga class during the week. I celebrated by sleeping in, and having French toast with honey, bananas and cinnamon for breakfast. And coffee, always coffee. I know chai is the drink here, but I just can’t get into what is basically a tea latte: hot milk, tea, and spices. Hot milk…I just can’t. Sorry.

I’d originally planned to go to Chamundi Hill this morning, but changed my mind when I remember that a couple of guidebooks recommended going during the week, as weekends could get pretty crowded. I ended up doing some souvenir shopping and went out for dinner and drinks with a few of the people staying here.

I went to the Silver Nest to check out the jewelry and mala beads. The shop itself is interesting. It has a very small footprint - in fact, it’s a couple of rooms in a house, just off the dining room. One room has displays of beads, brass statues, and a few other things. The other room has a table with four chairs, where you can sit to browse through boxes and boxes and still more boxes of jewelry. The shop owner, Meena, will bring you a box full of bracelets, or pendants, or rings, or - as in my case - pretty much everything. I picked through boxes full of anklets, rings, earrings, pendants (there was an entire box of Ganesha pendants), and bracelets. My visit coincided with the family’s late afternoon lunch happening in the next room. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do - it seems rude to get up and leave, walking through the family dining room to exit. I might’ve felt more awkward about it if a few other shoppers hadn’t come in to shop just then, so I stayed and kept browsing through all the boxes full of pretty, shiny things.

Just two of the dozen or boxes I picked through.

Just two of the dozen or boxes I picked through.

I stayed so long that Meena brought me some lunch, which was amazing.

I stayed so long that Meena brought me some lunch, which was amazing.

View outside the window at Depth ‘n Green…

View outside the window at Depth ‘n Green…

I hadn’t expected to spend quite so long shopping, so I ended up hanging out at Depth ‘n Green for coffee and what I’m pretty sure was a vegan chocolate chip cookie. They look more tempting than they taste, but I guess I kind suspected that before I ordered it. I finished reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - it was amazing. I’m regretting not having brought my Kindle; if I had, I’d have downloaded the other 3 books in the series.

After that, I headed back to the guesthouse planning to call it a day, but the guesthouse owner and a few of his friends and other guests were headed out to The Barge for dinner.

That’s it…another day in India, wrapped. I can’t believe I’m nearly halfway through my time here.

eating sushi in India :: days 4 and 5 :: monkeys & touristing

January 10, 2019 - Okay, I’ve gotten a little behind on the blog, but my Instagram stories are more or less up to date.

Most days, I get up early for yoga but I get to sleep in on Fridays since my assigned practice time is 8:15am.

It turns out that 8am is prime time for catching these guys.

Up until today, I hadn’t seen a monkey.

Up until today, I hadn’t seen a monkey.

Hi.

Hi.

Today, I decided to get down to the business of what I call touristing - going places, seeing things, and generally just getting out and about beyond Gokulam, the neighborhood where I’m staying. It turns out this is pretty easy to do. I downloaded Ola (it’s like Uber or Lyft), and ordered up an auto rickshaw. I visited the rail museum and a local supermarket, mostly because they were close by and if the whole Ola app thing didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be stranded too far from familiar territory.

Proof of adventurous touristing below.

I won’t lie - the rail museum was hella boring (sorry, train fans) but for the entrance fee of about US $1, I suppose all there is to say is that you get what you pay for.

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On Saturday I made a few changes to my routine. First, I decided to get around by car instead of auto rickshaw. I told myself that I don’t have to be a martyr to the Lonely Planet or Globe Trekker travel style. It’s hot and dusty here, and a 15-minute drive in an open air rickshaw isn’t exactly comfortable. Rickshaws are less expensive than cars, yes, but for perspective, the car rides I took on Saturday cost about US $1.50 each.

Today’s touristing was better. I started out with a no-brainer, and visited St. Philomena’s Cathedral. This was a lot of church.

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I got to the cathedral just as school was ending for the day. (I guess school is 6 days a week, and Saturdays are a half-day.) I was sitting on some stairs, and apparently that was enough to be approached by quite a few students. Young ones asked me my name; older kids wanted to know my name and to take a selfie. I’m not entirely sure why, but whatever. I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those people who would photograph local kids and all that. (20-something me probably would have. 40-something me isn’t into it.)

After the cathedral, I tried the veggie pizza at The Old House and got serious about souvenir shopping at Fabindia. (Yes, it was fab.) I like that I’m getting a little more confident finding my way around the city. Small victories and all…

This was my first sort of bigger excursion to an unfamiliar part of Mysore. Super cute spot, right?

This was my first sort of bigger excursion to an unfamiliar part of Mysore. Super cute spot, right?

eating sushi in india - day 8 - more notes from the line

I have about an hour to kill nearly every morning while I wait my turn to start my yoga practice. This was my was of entertaining myself one morning, rather than counting my space in line over and over.

The puppies were still sleeping when I arrived at 5:53 am.

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It feels a touch warmer than yesterday, so that's a nice change. The line is at the bottom of the two flights of stairs. Two students have already left since I arrived. I guess the whole waiting in line situation is not unlike getting breakfast at The Paramount in Beacon Hill. There's a crazy long line, and you order food while waiting in it. Miraculously, by the time your order is ready a spot opens up at a table. It's a system that defies logic and feels like it shouldn't work, but it does.

In terms of yoga fashion, it looks pretty much the same as it does at home. Hoodies. Birkenstocks with socks. Flip flops with socks. Small canvas totes printed with the name of people's home shala. The Chinese women have those socks with the articulated toes - socks that are more like gloves rather than mittens. There are a lot more harem pants here, but not a stitch of tie dyed anything, which surprises me. One woman is wearing this amazing full length windbreaker with a crazy bright, multi color geometric pattern along with a wide brimmed hat. Her sun protection game is fierce and the sun isn't up yet. I didn't expect to see so much Lululemon, but it’s here in force - the clothes and the shopping bags, too.

6:19 am - I just want to go back to bed.

6:21 am - The earliest batch of students is finishing up and a couple of them are chatting while have their post practice coconut waters in the dark.

6:33 am - Daybreak. I’m now seventh in line.

6:40am. Puppies are awake. Yes, I read the article about the woman who died from rabies after a street puppy in India bit her. And, yes, I do keep my distance. I think there are monkeys in the trees...and puppies are barking at them.

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6:50am. Dalmation guy, who walks by the same time every day.

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6:51am. Second in line.

6:52 am. Next one in...

8:45 am. Practice done, and back at the guesthouse. Now on to the rest of my day…

eating sushi in India :: day 3 :: the barge

I’m traveling alone, and while I do quite a bit by myself I’m not lonely. In fact, I’ve not been solitary for too long since I arrived. The small guesthouse where I’m staying has been quite friendly. Last night a small group of us headed out to a farewell dinner for a Belgian couple that was leaving the next morning. We went to The Barge, Mysuru’s first microbrewery.

The building is constructed from recycled (up cycled?) shipping containers.

The building is constructed from recycled (up cycled?) shipping containers.

 

I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that my third day in India would take me to a brew pub, but there you go. The space is a combination of shipping containers and outdoor courtyards and a hell of a lot of twinkle lights. It was a small miracle that I didn’t trip over the lip of the containers as I walked through the place. The beer wasn’t the worst I’ve ever had (Avalon Brewing Company, I’m looking at you), and the food was easy - nothing too adventurous or risky. (Some people like risky. I’m not one of them.)

According to the owner of the guesthouse, it’s a popular spot on the weekends for young professionals and even families with kids, which sounds like a lot of the breweries I know and have seen back in New England.

There was a bunch of outdoor seating, and cool booths inside the converted shipping containers.

There was a bunch of outdoor seating, and cool booths inside the converted shipping containers.

Super cute, right?

Super cute, right?

It was not at all something I expected to see while in India, and I’d definitely go back.

eating sushi in India :: day 2 :: getting settled and sorted

My assigned practice time is 6am, which means most days I’m here will start pretty early, before sunrise. The queue was pretty long when I arrived yesterday, and I waited over an hour before I could actually get in to practice. Today, the line was much shorter (it started on the bottom flight of stairs) and the wait, less. I won’t lie - the long wait is a drag. Also, it’s chilly. It was around 55 degrees Fahrenheit this morning.

It’s funny the things I’ll tolerate here that I wouldn’t at home.

The queue outside Saraswati’s shala. The wait to practice on New Year’s Day was more than an hour.

The queue outside Saraswati’s shala. The wait to practice on New Year’s Day was more than an hour.

Street puppies make the wait a lot more entertaining. Today, they were asleep in a heap when I got in line, and woke up a little before 6am.

Street puppies make the wait a lot more entertaining. Today, they were asleep in a heap when I got in line, and woke up a little before 6am.

After practice, breakfast and more importantly, coffee. (I feel like once I have my coffee and bottled water sources worked out and well known, I can get on with the business of exploring.)

I’m pretty sure the best part about being on vacation is eating out for breakfast everyday. Cafe Santosha, is where I landed today. It was full of foreign yoga students (I get the feeling I’ll end up enjoying those types of places most).

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I’m staying at the Anokhi Garden Cafe and Guesthouse, and the gardens are really lovely.

See, I told you my coffee situation was well sorted by this point.

See, I told you my coffee situation was well sorted by this point.

By the end of this trip, it’ll be interesting to see what I photograph most: cows, coffee, or flowers.

By the end of this trip, it’ll be interesting to see what I photograph most: cows, coffee, or flowers.

Speaking of cows…

Moooooo. This guy was outside the gate of the guesthouse where I’m staying.

Moooooo. This guy was outside the gate of the guesthouse where I’m staying.

The jet lag is real, yo. I’ve never traveled across so many time differences and wasn’t sure what to expect when I did. Yesterday and today I felt great until around 3pm. I thought a short nap would take the edge off, but both days I ended up sleeping hard until nearly 7pm. Nap champ!

eating sushi in India :: day 1 :: happy new year!

I’m spending the month of January in India. 2019 is starting with quite a few firsts: first time in Asia, first time doing some personal travel alone, and first day of the year in a completely unfamiliar place.

You might be thinking “You aren’t really eating sushi there, are you?” Nope. Over the holidays, we had a good laugh when Rich’s dad, who spent quite a bit of time working in India years ago, told him about about his colleague who did try the sushi… only to have a hearty helping of regret for dessert.

There are probably many wannabe Anthony Bourdains, adventurously eating my way around the world, but I’m not one of them. I’m not an aspiring travel writer, either, but I do want to record the everyday details - where I went, what I saw and what it feels like to do everyday things in a place completely foreign to me.

Today started early, around 5am. I’m practicing yoga while I’m here (at KPJAYI with Saraswati).

The yoga ID card that stays tucked under the upper right corner of my yoga mat while I practice.

The yoga ID card that stays tucked under the upper right corner of my yoga mat while I practice.

Quite a few people already in the queue to practice by 5:45am. Happy New Year!

Quite a few people already in the queue to practice by 5:45am. Happy New Year!

I was done by 8am or so, and walked back to the guesthouse where I’m staying. This looks a bit different than my walk to and from North End Yoga at home.

Later, the owner of the guesthouse invited me to join him on some errands at the main market. I experience traffic on the back of a scooter, see the fruit and flower market, and got a first hand look at what it takes to buy a toaster. Shopping here is a pretty social experience. You don’t browse alone. There’s always someone to help you find what you are looking for. A stop at a stationery store included chatting with the owner and his son over coffee.

flowers at the market

flowers at the market

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Later, I headed out alone for lunch at a place called Depth ‘n Green. Lonely Planet’s review nails it: “Wildly popular with local yogis, this buzzing healthy cafe offers a menu of satisfying Indian and Western dishes, including great salads, served up on tree trunk tables.” I’ll definitely be back, although if I’m being honest, I’ll probably avoid the groups of yoga students talked about which pose they struggled with or nailed that particular day.

the view from my corner tree trunk table

the view from my corner tree trunk table

this place is super cute

this place is super cute

I purchased some bug spray (first shopping experience of the trip) and then headed back to the guesthouse for a bit. I’m definitely not in sync with the time difference, and I gave into a pretty long nap this afternoon. (I’m a big fan of the 3:30 nap, I must say.)

So far, so good!