perseverance



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This trip was filled with so much contrast. We left one of the poorest countries in the world – Nepal – for the wealthiest country in the world. Qatar is known to have the highest GDP per capita in the world, with a GDP growth rate of over 16%. And guess what the unemployment rate is. About half of one percent.

Just like in Nepal, we were under a time crunch in Qatar with only about twenty-four hours there. The second I was in the hotel’s air conditioned car (only a mild 110 degrees outside) with my iced water and cold washcloth, driving along the palm-tree lined roads on the water, I knew I could stay there for much longer than one day!

The cityscape was beautiful, mostly because of the incredible architecture right on the water.

We made it to the hotel, which was more like a beach resort than anything (definitely not what I would’ve expected in Qatar of all places!), and were instantly in heaven. It was paradise. I would’ve been perfectly content to never leave the hotel.

Because we hadn’t eaten the entire day (and barely ate the day before in Nepal…or in India for that matter) we were starving and raced over to the hotel’s lunch buffet. When I saw the menu’s theme for the day, I truly thought I had died and gone to heaven.

MEXICAN FOOD.

Anyone that knows me is aware of my passion for guacamole. Mexican food is my staple. I eat it at least once a week. And living in Southern California, it’s pretty readily available.

But in Doha, Qatar – a mere 89 miles from Bahrain, 119 miles from Saudi Arabia, and 306 miles from Iran – it was a bit of a surprise.

As we saw the three-room Mexican food buffet, I had one of those freak-out moments. And boy, I didn’t know it was possible for a girl my size to consume that much food in just one sitting.

Serving 1: Platter of chips, guacamole, salsa, beans, rice, and homemade tortillas.
Serving 2: Three steak tacos piled high with every topping imaginable.
Serving 3: Taco salad.
Serving 4: Carne asada.
Serving 5: More beans, rice, and tortillas.
I think you get the idea.

It was the meal of a lifetime.

Then I went into a food coma for a few hours.

After our amazing meal, and some time to recover, we went to some of the main sites in Doha…one of which was the Villagio Mall. An indoor mall built to look like you are in Venice with indoor canals, gondolas, painted ceilings, and an old Italian style design. Sound familiar? It very conveniently rhymes with the Bellagio…but I’m sure it’s just a coincidence!

After a few hours poking around the mall…without buying anything…we made it back to the hotel to take a little nap before dinner. And all five of us ended up passing out for the night. That is what you call a serious food coma.

The next day, we spent our time relaxing at the hotel, swimming in the Arabian Gulf, and grieving about having to leave such a beautiful hotel.

But all good things must come to an end, and I can’t even begin to describe how excited my family was to be on our way to Europe. While we absolutely loved our time in India, Nepal, and Qatar, it was a tad bit relaxing to know that we were going back to more Western countries for the duration of the trip, where at least the language barriers weren’t so extreme!

Doha, Qatar

Where to Stay

Four Seasons Hotel Doha
While it might be a little bit pricey, if you have the opportunity to stay here, the hotel is worth it. The rooms themselves are gorgeous, luxurious, and make you never want to leave the hotel. The service is impeccable – everyone there is so eager to help. The hotel grounds are immaculate, and the location couldn’t be better. With its own private beach, the hotel allows for both the city life and a relaxing, resort feel. We couldn’t have been happier with our stay in Doha.

What to Do

I would recommend, first and foremost, taking some time to enjoy the hotel’s grounds. Take a dip in the Arabian Gulf, go swimming in their beautiful (and empty) pools, and enjoy some delicious food. When you start to feel a bit antsy, I’d recommend taking a taxi to either some of the major museums (The Museum of Islamic Art looked pretty incredible) or to one of the major malls. It was a fun experience to witness the shopping culture in Qatar!

Where to Eat

You can’t go wrong in Doha. We ate our meals at the hotel, and they were incredible, but the restaurants in the malls and throughout town are highly rated, safe, and won’t disappoint!

Next stop: Athens, Greece!



nepal

Our arrival in Kathmandu was met with a chaotic, tiny airport in the heart of a little mountain town in the Himalayas. Well, it’s not so little. It’s a big mountain town. But it has a small town feel throughout.

The landscape is absolutely incredible. There is no mountain range that can rival the Himalayas.

The drive through the town was a much greener, wetter version of India. The dirt roads were packed with cars, donkey-driven carts, bikes, families on foot, cows, and stray dogs, directed by police officers with machine guns.

The hotel was a majestic, Nepalese-style fortress built on the edge of the downtown and bordering a more peaceful, quaint area of Kathmandu that was home to Kathmandu’s Boudhanath Stupa, a Tibetan Buddhist temple. We loved that the area had such a large population of Buddhist monks, dressed in traditional maroon and orange Buddhist robes. It was an incredible vibe, and the people were so kind.

This is the Boudhanath Stupa, aka “The Happy Temple.”

I loved all the colors, the flags, and the face on the temple! It was amazing to see hundreds of people, most of them monks, circling the temple in a clockwise direction, which we later found out was a traditional Buddhist prayer ritual.

We took these pictures on top of the temple, which you are actually allowed to climb in order to pray (and have a better view of the city!).

We poked around in all the little stores surrounding the temple, where I bought a bright purple bag with eyes on it, just like the temple! My mom and I were in love with all the bright colors.

We spent the majority of our time in Nepal exploring the safest part of Kathmandu near the temple. After a long day of travel, we finally made it back to our hotel, where we were surprised to experience our first power outages. We had heard that parts of Nepal experience power outages for up to 16 hours a day, but we didn’t expect our hotel to have outages as well! The hotel was prepared with flashlights on every bed…and we quickly learned to place them in the bathroom, as it was not very fun to be in the shower when the lights went out!

It’s not much of a surprise that there are such power outages when you see this picture though!

On our way to the airport the following day, we learned that Nepal is currently experiencing gas shortages as well. Dozens of cars filled the streets, in line at the gas stations waiting for gas to be delivered from India. It was eye opening to see such commodities that I have always taken for granted in such scarcity in Nepal.

Despite the hardships of daily life in Kathmandu, I truly saw hope in the eyes of the people. It was inspiring, and so beautiful.

The funniest part about our stay in Nepal happened in the airport as we were leaving. We turned around while standing in the customs line and saw a family that not only lives in the teeny little area that my family lives, but used to live on our street, a mere two houses away! Here we were, in Kathmandu International Airport, talking with our old neighbors. It is such a small world.

Kathmandu, Nepal

Where to Stay

Hyatt Regency Kathmandu
The Hyatt Regency Kathmandu is an incredible Nepalese-style hotel located just five-minutes away from the Boudhanath Stupa. In a city that has had security issues in the past, including robberies from hotel rooms while the occupants were sleeping, the Hyatt is definitely the safest place to be in Kathmandu. The combination of security guards roaming the property and the hotel’s location 10 kilometers away from the city center made my family feel safe and secure both at the hotel and in the surrounding area. The rooms were clean, though not as luxurious as the Imperial Hotel in Delhi, and the service was excellent.

What to Do

As my family’s stay in Nepal was less than twenty-four hours, we had to prioritize what we wanted to see. Most of all, we wanted to get a feel for the city and see the culture. We were very happy with our walk from the hotel to the Boudhanath Stupa, where we were able to see what everyday life was like in Kathmandu. The Stupa was an incredible experience, especially after joining in with the crowd of Buddhist monks that were circling the temple.

We did not have time to take the Buddha Air flight around Mount Everest, but our old neighbors did and shared their experience with us while waiting in customs. It all comes down to luck when scheduling these flights, for some days the visibility may be great and you will be able to see Everest, while others you are not so lucky. On our neighbor’s flight, the sky was overcast and stormy, which made it difficult to see any mountains, including Everest.

Where to Eat

I recommend eating all of your meals at the hotel.  I stuck to carbs just to be safe!

Next Stop: Doha, Qatar!



beauty



india: part two

There are no words to describe our second day in India.

When my family came to India, we knew we wanted to see the Taj Mahal. The plan for the day was have a peaceful, relaxing drive for four hours to Agra, visit the Taj Mahal, and sleep on the four hour drive back to the hotel.

It was not very peaceful or relaxing to say the least. Everywhere I looked were petticabs that were built for three people, but filled with families of ten, children hanging out of the sides and back windows nearly falling out onto the dangerous highway. There were people riding camels. Elephants. Donkey-driven and bicycle-driven carts riding down the freeway with enormous agricultural trucks barreling down the road. Families of five riding on a single motorcycle.

These were a few of the safest guys on the freeway:

No hands!

The villages on the drive to Agra can’t be explained in words or photographs.

We finally made it to the Taj Mahal. As you’d expect, it was absolutely gorgeous, and such an incredible landmark reflecting an important part of India’s history. It reflects a beautiful love story of an emperor of India and one of his wives.

This group of tourists from rural India was so excited to see a blonde woman (my mom) at the Taj Mahal that they actually hired a professional photographer to take pictures with us!

Isn’t it beautiful?

Agra, India

How to Visit

I would highly recommend staying in Delhi and enduring the four-hour drive to Agra. While the drive is long, it gives you the opportunity to see so much more of India, and it was definitely the most meaningful portion of our time spent in India.

With that in mind, I would highly suggest making travel arrangements with the hotel for both a driver and a tour guide. The tour guide can spend the duration of the drive sharing his or her experiences in India – the culture, lifestyle, and day to day life. We loved learning about our guide’s struggles with arranged marriages, her goal to start a fashion line, and her experience at the university in India.

The tour guide will also be able to lead you through the Taj Mahal and help in purchasing tickets, the process of which can be very overwhelming!

Where to Eat

As a way to break up the long drive, I recommend stopping at the Oberoi Amarvilas, located 650 yards away from the Taj Mahal, for lunch before heading back to Delhi. The food was delicious, the air conditioning felt like heaven, and the view of the Taj Mahal didn’t hurt either!

Next Stop: Kathmandu, Nepal!



mba lesson of the week #12



india: part one

India is the second largest country in terms of population, with over 1.2 billion people.

We arrived in India at night after 24 hours of traveling. I found it funny that we flew from California over the entire United States, all the way over Europe, over the Middle East, and over a large part of Asia before finally touching down at the airport in Delhi. The airport was fit for a king – it was spotless, gorgeous, and extremely well-done – one of the nicest airports I’ve been to!

We made our way to the hotel, the Imperial India, a restored Victorian building built in the 1930s by the British. As you’d expect, it couldn’t have been more our style. We love anything British and Victorian – it was heaven! There were even portraits of Prince Charles hanging on the wall.

Once we arrived at the hotel, our first stop was the hotel’s Italian restaurant where we (predictably) ordered pizza. I don’t think they could tell we were Americans…

After our comfort food, and waking up at 3 a.m. wide awake and ready to start the day, 6 a.m. finally rolled around and the breakfast buffet opened up. Here is my all-American breakfast. I have no shame.

I think I gained about 20 pounds on this trip.

After breakfast, we danced around to some Bollywood music videos and then visited Humayun’s Tomb, which the Taj Mahal was modeled after.

We then visited the Lotus Temple and Qutub Minar. Lotus Temple is a Baha’i House of Worship, and Qutub Minar is the world’s tallest brick minaret.

The roads in Delhi were packed with little petticabs overflowing with families of ten, kids hanging out the back windows, motorbikes with families of five riding on them, donkey-pulled carts, human-pulled carts, people walking down the middle of the highway, the list goes on and on.

We crashed in our hotel room before dinnertime after a long day of sight-seeing…only to wake up again at 2 a.m. the next day. And then we were off to see the Taj Mahal!

It was an amazing day – and completely different than I had expected! I can’t even describe my gratitude for having the opportunity to visit such incredible, different countries. It is such a gift.

New Delhi, India

Where to Stay

The Imperial Hotel
The hotel is breathtaking. A big, white, Victorian-style building, the hotel is a refreshing oasis in the center of a very chaotic city. The rooms are beautifully furnished, the staff is extremely helpful and friendly, the food is delicious (and includes some of the best donuts in the world), and the hotel grounds are meticulously maintained. I have nothing but positive things to say about the Imperial!

What to Do

If traveling with a family, I would highly suggest arranging a private tour guide and car to show you around the city of Delhi. It is not a city that you could consider driving around yourself, but even more so, it is not a city that you can walk around with a family either. A private tour guide will allow you to spend the amount of time you want, at the sites you want to see, and at your own pace. My family likes to visit each site very quickly and get the general sense of the monument or attraction, but more importantly have the opportunity to talk to the tour guide about life in that culture.

Where to Eat

I recommend eating all of your meals at one of the hotel’s amazing restaurants. There is Italian food, international cuisine, and a world-renowned Indian food restaurant, the Spice Route.

Things You Should Know

Dress conservatively. As the majority of women are either covered up from head to toe or wearing traditional Indian saris, you will definitely feel more comfortable if dressed in baggy clothing with very little skin showing. I wore maxidresses during my entire stay in India, and I used a colorful shawl to cover my shoulders at times when I felt uncomfortable. Americans definitely garner a lot of attention – my mom and I were asked several times to take pictures with families (as they’d never seen a blonde girl or a girl as pale as me before!). Other times, they would very discretely (not really) pull out their cell phone cameras and take pictures of us. It was all very harmless, but it still made me feel much better that I was covered up!

Stay away from fruits, vegetables, and any potentially uncooked foods that may have been washed with dirty water or contaminated in some way. It may sound paranoid, but nearly everyone I know that has traveled to India has wound up with some kind of food poisoning. We sticked to carbs! It’s a good excuse to load up!

Be prepared for the weather. We visited India during monsoon season, which is probably not the ideal time to visit, and were met with 115 degree weather and scattered rain. An odd combination, huh? Be prepared for any type of weather the country can throw at you!



summertime adventure

My family isn’t really one to do things the normal way. We like to be different. And as my brother likes to say, we like to live on the edge.

Which is why, this summer, we decided to plan a whirlwind ten-day trip to India, Nepal, Qatar, Greece, and England.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting all about my family’s experiences in each of these places – it was a random, humorous, and a little bit bizarre vacation, but absolutely amazing! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit such incredible places, and I’d love to share them with you!

Now I am off to class for the night…summer school conveniently starts the night that we get home from our trip! Jetlagged? Very. Happy to sleep in my own bed? Words cannot describe it!

Image from Pinterest



passion



mba lesson of the week #11



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