Friday, October 28, 2011
Our next destination was a ship making factory. Here models of ship were made out of wood. The efforts taken to make small parts of the ship was worth appreciating. I learnt that the white cloth to make the winds of the ship was dipped in tea solution to give them that dull finishing. Every detail of the ship was carefully crafted and they looked very real like. Ashish was specially fascinated with a model Harley Davidson and we bought that as a memento from this place. We also bought a small ship model for our showcase. Another fascinating thing in that factory was colorful globes. They were lit from within and the bright radium colors made it really exciting for me. But since they were too bulky and costly, we did not get one for our showcase.
Then there were a couple of branded stores from Boss, LV. We met Vritika and Aditya the love birds there. Though our private taxi was very comfortable but we still missed our group in the bus whom we met the first day. Anyways, next destination was an Indian temple and a Sacred lake, the Grand Bassin/Ganga Talao which we dropped due to lack of time. There was a nice view point from where we saw a beautiful view of Mauritius with a huge water line and mountains kissing the water. The sky and the water became one at the horizon.
Then we had lunch in an Indian restaurant where fortunately we got very simple home like rice/dal food. After a nice hearty simple meal, we went to see the "Trou aux Cerf". It was told to us that this was a dead volcano which is dead from last 10-20 years. When we went there, I expected at least something close to a volcano, but this was just a small crater in the middle of the valleys where rain water was collected. Though it was disappointing as a volcano, it was a good view point and the climate was amazing up there. We saw couple of small water falls and Black river gorges in the way to Chamarel. Chamarel is a 7 colored rock garden and that was another disappointment. The 7 colors which they mention were maroon, black, Red, brown, yellow and steel blue types, which was nothing distinct or great to see. Somehow it reminded me of the butterfly garden we visited in US in the Museum of Science which was a small balcony with 10-15 butterflies in it and we paid some 80 $ to see that. Anything and everything can be sold if the marketing team is strong. The only exciting thing in the rock garden was the giant tortoise which was a new species for Khushi. She has 3-4 tortoise toys which she was able to correlate with this giant turtle I suppose.
Our South tour was over and we went back to the hotel. After resting for couple of hours we realized we haven't booked for our dinner tonight. Yes, many of these big hotels have this booking system. You have to book in advance where you want to have your dinner. You have a choice of Italian, Indian, French, Chinese etc. So this time we tried to book in the Italian restaurant where we got the booking after someone else cancelled. The Italian restaurant, "La Faya" is located near the Nirvana area where kids below 16 years are not allowed for all valid reasons. Nirvana is an exclusive area for honeymooners and love birds with a big swimming pool and exclusive beach area for them. You can drink and chill out around the pool bar with complete privacy. So coming back to La Faya, it was a perfectly located romantic restaurant with sea waves touching the edge of the platform and tables laid down with candle light dinner arrangement on that platform. We preferred sitting inside because it was very cold as it rained few minutes back.
We had a three course meal with excellent cream of tomato soup, salad, pasta and pizza and for the first time in my life I had tamarind sweet. Yes, 'emli' as a sweet with coffee ice-cream, it sounds only, sour. But it was pretty decent. Then after our romantic meal, we ladies went in our rooms and these boys had a boy's night out. They were going to hit the disc and enjoy the night life there. We would have joined them, but I wasn't keen on going out with Khushi to any noisy and smoky place, so we chickened out. Meanwhile I and Priti were enjoying the photographs on the laptop. It was amazing to see them.
Next morning, as per our schedule, we had a North Tour to Botanical Garden, Port Louis, Caudan Waterfront and some "Marie Reine Da la Paix" (view point in short). Out of the above locations, we had already seen the Port Louis and Waterfront which were the main attractions. And none of us are Botanical garden types, so we dropped the plan and decided to enjoy the water sports in the hotel.
We tried booking for a glass bottom boat and other water sports, but they informed us that they were full and we have to book well in advance for the activities. So we hired a speed boat and went for a dolphin ride. In a speed boat they took us in the deep sea and showed us 6-7 dolphins coming on the surface to have food. As I had seen dolphins number of times, it was not a high point for me. Then we went for feeding the fish. Mauritius has no sea life near the shores. The shores are filled with dead corals and rocks, so you cannot see any fishes in the vicinity. Considering this, feeding the fish was an exciting experience. We fed the fishes with some pieces of bread. It was so exciting that I woke Khushi up from her sleep and made her feed the fish. Initially she was so disoriented that she wasn't able to figure out what is mommy trying to do. Then after sometime, she enjoyed the activity and fed the fish herself. Then we saw some clean and crystal clear beach on our way. We all were very tired by that time to go and play in the beach, so we returned to our hotel. Then we planned to make food in our rooms. We carried a rice cooker for Khushi, so I made some Khichadi (rice and dal) for everybody and Mahesh made some Haldiram Bhelpuri for all of us. It was quite nice to have homemade food in our rooms. It somehow contends us from within. And this is when you realize the value of home made food. The rest of the evening, we relaxed that day.
Next day, we were booked for glass bottom boat in the hotel. So after getting ready and having breakfast, we went for the glass bottom boat. I was astonished to see the clarity, with which the sea bottom was seen in the glass bottom boat, but unfortunately we were not able to see very nice corals or fishes as it was high tide and with kids for security reasons they were not ready to go in deep sea where you actually find good corals and fishes. After returning me and Priti decided to go for pedal boating. This activity was an amazing experience and I had fun for almost one hour in the middle of the sea doing nothing. Cold breeze, water splashing on the face and our boat floating on the water, it was more soothing than anything else on the earth. We also wanted to try canoeing, but Khushi was about to get up when we finished Pedal boat. It was very sweet of Mahesh and Ashish to baby sit while we went pedaling.
Then we went and had our lunch in "La Croque" (Indian restaurant Cumin converted into multicuisine restaurant in the day). We had some sandwiches/pastas and pizzas there. After that we decided to explore the hip malls and night life of Mauritius. So around 7 pm we went for Grand Baie which was supposed to be a hip market in Mauritius. It had some designer and branded shops with some fancy looking Chinese/Italian restaurants. And we had a horrible experience with the driver who knew no other language than French. He was a Rangeen(colorful) guy with love for music and almost forced us into his French hip hop music with volume which almost tore our ear drums. Also when we requested him to take to some bigger mall he took us to a hyper market like big bazaar in India where you get all cheap stuff for less. It was an experience in itself to surf a local hyper market in an exotic place like Mauritius. Then we realized its better to be safe than sorry, so we quickly asked him to take us back to the hotel. Though its a tourist place, it doesn't have great night life, all the shops are closed by 8 pm and 5.30 pm for the local market. The night life consists of a disco and some sleazy bars which becomes alive only at 10 pm.
Next day was the last day in Mauritius and we had to reach airport by 5 pm and our checkout time was 12 pm. So we had booked ourselves for a Blue safari, it is basically a Submarine ride in the deep sea. But in the morning, when we called Christine, we learnt that due to high tide, the submarine ride is cancelled. We were quite disappointed by it and on top of this; the hotel people were not ready to extend our timings. So we decided that we will hire a taxi and go for some sight seeing around Mauritius. So after 12.00 pm we left with our luggage to Jumbo Mall. This is supposed to be a low budget shopping mall with a lot of options for kids entertainment. So we drove there and we learnt that Mauritius has a concept of hyper mall along with branded/non branded stuff. We bought some souvenirs and indulged in a tub of Haagen-Dazs Belgium Chocolate icecream.There was a kids parlor where Khushi enjoyed the Micky Mouse ride and other cartoon character rides. Then we went to waterfront and had our lunch. We spent a quite time in Waterfront for sometime and then went to airport.
So this was an end to my fabulous trip to Mauritius. Though I would recommend Maldives far more than I would recommend Mauritius to anyone. I still feel every vacation is special in its own ways and when you look back after few years from now, we will remember only the wonderful moments we spent as a family :).
After alot of argument/discussion with my better half, we finally decided for our next vacation destination, Mauritius. Yes, I wasn't really keen on going on a similar place as Maldives which was our last vacation in October 2009, but then Ashish convinced me that it is not going to be a similar experience. And since with Khushi it's important that we have things approachable and easy to go, so I agreed for Mauritius.
Reading the feedback, reviews and travelogue of Mauritius didn't give any picture in advance, so I was totally with an open mind. After a two day shopping and packing schedule we finally went to Bangalore international airport at 2.30 am for our flight at 6 in the morning. We killed our time having a second course of dinner with pizzas and some hot paratha and biryani. Khushi was all awake and enjoying the sparrows flying around the airport. Yes there are sparrows all over the place, not only in India but also in Mauritius airport. :)
So by the time we boarded the plane thankfully Khushi (16 months) was sleepy and she slept immediately. Talking about the flight, Air Mauritius is the worst flight I have ever boarded. Horribly filthy aircraft and most uncomfortable seats. I would highly recommend that you avoid this flier if possible. When we requested for cleanup of the seats, they were rude and informed us that this flight is coming from Mauritius and it will be cleaned only in Chennai. I never expected this kind of attitude and treatment from anybody in the hospitability industry. But being a hardcore optimist, I gave them the benefit of doubt that may be they are tired with the long journey.
Due to the bad experience in flight and uncomfortable seats, we were counting seconds when we would land in Mauritius. And finally we landed on a beautiful airport in mid of the sea. The process of visa and immigration went of smooth and we met the first friendly person in Mauritius. Our cab/bus driver Geran was a fluent Hindi speaking half Indian by origin. He told us that Mauritius has 4 national languages English,French,Hindi and Creole. Looking at the huge sugar cane farms, it was obvious that the main crop Mauritius has is sugarcane. Mauritius is a self sufficient country in terms of fruits and vegetables. Geran told us, 52 % of the population is Hindu and everybody here likes to be called a Mauritians instead of Hindu, French, African etc. In the 60 km which we covered in his cab, he gave a complete gist of the whole place and we came across rain two times. Rains in Mauritius are like dreams, they come for a short time (5 min) and then u forget that it rained just a couple of minutes back. We were lucky to see two rainbows at a time while returning on the last day.
Reaching the hotel was a pleasant experience due to the location of the hotel. Beautiful palm trees, jetties, hay huts and the hotel is on a very beautiful beach. The hotel people welcomed us with a cold drink and the rooms were quite spacious. We were lucky to get a room on the first floor and each room facing the sea front. Though we didn't use the balcony much, but it would have been nice and breezy there in the evenings.
First day, we had all planned to relax and just relax. Khushi was very cranky and tired. She cried and cried. I had decided I am not going on any vacation after this one till she turned at least 5. And I also thought my holiday is gone and I was shivering how I am going to manage a difficult child on a new place :(I almost thought I am going to run back to India in couple of days. All credit to the Air Mauritius uncomfortable flight for making my little angel suffer. We were all so tired, that we ate whatever we had brought for the journey and slept peacefully.
Fortunately the new day started with a smile and Khushi was all set for the vacation :). We had our first guided tour of the city and supposedly the most exciting tour of the three day tour "My HOLIDAYS" organize for the tourist. After having a hearty breakfast, we all headed to our bus. The bus was a 15 seater Toyota bus and the driver had some weird conditions which we were forced to follow. But except for us, all the other couples were newly wed honeymoon couples. They were not more than 10 days married and on top of that, some were even 22-23 yrs of age :P. Khushi was having fun with her new buddies.
We reached a beach named Belmonte or Trou Deau Daouce and there we met Christine, our travel guide. She was a early 30s girl, well poised and good. But something was wrong with the people there. They don't have the same warmth as we have in Asia, guess its the Europe thing (full of attitude and arrogance) :)..She informed us that we will be doing the water sports here and then we will go by speed boat to Ile aux Cerfs, a French word meaning deer island (We learnt that Mauritius had a huge population of deer few years back which is no more existent now). We took a package of four activities a. Tube water ride b. Parasailing c. GRSE Waterfall d. Sea walk. They offer lunch free with this package, so it works out best.
First we went for a sea walk. Sea walk as the name suggests is walking inside the sea. They take u in a speed boat inside the ocean and then there is one platform where you can change into swimsuits and wear the shoes to walk in the water. Its a boon for non swimmers. The helmet you need to wear for this activity is 45 kgs and it is unbelievably comfortable to breathe inside water with it. They have a ladder attached to the platform and they take you down one at a time. I have experienced snorkeling earlier in Maldives, so the underwater world looked exactly same in this activity but the only difference was, you are very comfortable unlike in snorkeling where you are anxious about inhaling the oxygen by your mouth. As part of our package we were eligible for underwater photographs. Ashish and me had fun clicking those memorable pictures underwater. The walk was an experience and the Buddha statue underwater remind me of those exotic movies in which you hunt for treasure underwater. When we returned back, I was in a state of euphoria!! Our next destination was parasailing for which we went to another platform in the mid of the sea. As soon as we reached there, the wind currents were strong and after waiting for few minutes the organizer of the activity declared that we will not be able to do parasailing because the winds are strong. We were a little disappointed because we were keen to do the parasailing. The guy offered us two rounds of tube ride instead of parasailing, but we declined. Then we went to the shore for our next activity - tube ride. When we reached there, Khushi was quite excited about playing in the sand. I shed my initial inhibitions about her playing in the sand and reminded that playing in sand is not dirty, its fun!! Then I allowed her to play in sand with her sand toys and she was very excited about her new achievement. For sometime I played with her and helped her making mountains of sand which she demolished in excitement. We were with our friends Mahesh and Priti and another newly wed couple throughout the tour. Aditya and Vritika were two sweet love birds from a small city in MP. 7 days of their new life had a new freshness and made us almost nostalgic of our moon days. They agreed to take care of Khushi while we went for tube ride. We went for a tube ride and it was amazing. The speed thrills me and water excites me so it was a perfect combination of both. When we came back, the parasailing guy was ready to take us to the parasailing activity as the wind had calmed down a bit by then. Ashish was a little scared with the thought of flying in the air initially but then while we were in the air, we had a good time! Though our landing was not very smooth, we almost killed the lady sitting on the platform under our weight.
Then we returned to the shore and went for lunch. Lunch was pretty ok, plain rice, dal and two chappatis. After so much of activity, we ate whatever we got with a smile. Even Khushi was quite hungry by then, I quickly made a meal of cerelac for her and she was satisfied with her lunch and ready to rock again.
Our next destination was Ille Aux Cerf Island. For that we took a bus and went to another shore from where we had to take a speed boat to reach the island. The island was a very beautiful with aquamarine blue crystal clear water. Perfect place for Khushi to start her water expedition. So I changed her to her bright yellow swim suit and we all jumped into the water. It was extremely clean and nice water. There were no dead corals or any rocks, so it was good for Khushi to walk alone and the depth also was 1-2 feet's for 20-30 mts. Water was a little cold, but Khushi had a good time in the water. After that we were booked for a speed boat for exploring the Waterfalls so we had to hurry up from the island but Khushi was not ready to come out of the water at any cost. She even started running back to water without any of us. Then we went in the speed boat to the waterfall location. As I said, it was a disappointment because it was nothing close to a water fall. A 10-11 feet high waterfall with very less water compared to the waterfalls we have already seen. So we kind of made fun of the place and clicked some pictures and moved ahead. We were totally exhausted by the time we reached the hotel. We took a quick nap and finished our dinner and were lazing around the beach. It was fun to feel the cold breeze and chat with friends. Khushi was also enjoying the music played in the background at one of the restaurants in our hotel.
We couldn't do full justice to the place because we had to stick to Khushi's sleeping schedule. Hotel had an activity planned for every night, like Indian night, South African night, on Saturday a band played for the whole night; there was a dance night, cocktail party night. We have heard of a night safari and evening safari to the water but we kept it low profile due to Khushi. Guess she is one of the most adjusting kid I have seen, but still its better to go according to kids rather than they falling sick or getting cranky on a vacation.
Next day was my birthday. I am always very excited about my birthdays and I try to make it a very special day for me. I love surprises and I love making it a memorable day always. Ashish informed me that the hotel people declined to provide a cake at 12.00 am because as per their records (my passport) my birthday is 29th May which is officially correct. But in spite of Ashish request of providing the cake on a charge, they declined our request and we had to manage just with a birthday hug. Morning as usual went of in getting ready and breakfast. Then we went for having a bath in Jacuzzi at Taamara Spa in Le Meridian. Jacuzzi had some restrictions for kids, so we were not able to go with Khushi. So Ashish was baby sitting with Khushi near the swimming pool and I enjoyed 10-15 minutes of Jacuzzi. There was a huge room in which there were two Jacuzzi's and 4 beach beds. The ambience was divine with maroon upholstery and the essence stick lit all over. There was an amazing shower area where warm water flowed in from all sides in a circle. I had fun even though it was short as I wanted to spend time with my family rather than relaxing all alone in the Jacuzzi. Plus I wasn't sure how Ashish must be managing my little atom bomb all alone. Then we went for swimming in the swimming pool, as expected Khushi was extremely thrilled with the water. The water was so cold that Ashish refused to enter it, but my little angel was having fun inside the water as if she is in a hot water bath :).Ashish had planned for the whole day, so around 1 pm we hired a taxi (not cheap but comfortable) to go to Waterfront. Luckily we got a good driver which made things easy for us. We took around 1 hour to reach Port Louis where this water front is located. It is a nice and vibrant place with restaurants and branded/non-branded shops lined up across the water body.
By the time we reached there, it was 2 pm and we all were hungry. After hunting a little for sometime, we zeroed down to Pizza hut as we were all a bunch of vegetarians with very little options and we were not at all interested in having Indian food after 3 days of day n night of Indian food. So we went for some yummy garlic bread/pastas and Pizza's and some ice team/cold drinks. Then we started exploring the shops and the place. There was an old guy selling his masterpieces of wood carved artistically in various human figures. Someone selling his Buddha paintings. A lot of branded shops selling watches, clothes, perfumes and everything under the sun. Some craft shops selling souvenirs for the tourist to carry as a mementos from Mauritius. We were not much interested in shopping there, so didn't really dig into any of the shops much. A striking place there was a cane juice shopping selling cane juice for 100 Maurice rupees for a glass and what will instantly strike was that the "Ganne ka juice" written in Hindi. Then we moved to a small casino located in the middle of the busy street. As soon as they saw Khushi, we were dragged out of the casino and asked to stay away from there. Though sometimes I feel, a kid of that age should be allowed. We took a lot of pictures in that beautiful place. And hey I forgot to mention the dainty dress I had worn for the special day. I have been hunting for quite sometime for something special to wear on my birthday in Mauritius, so I picked a nice short black dress which will suit me. On my birthday I choose to wear that black dress with stunning pair of pearl and gold earrings and pearl necklace. I should say, I was looking stunning in it, at least I felt that way :).And I was able to turn some heads around, so I was definitely looking good.
Then after we finished our photography session, we were waiting for Mahesh and Priti to join us back in the cab. Meanwhile Khushi was having fun with a small girl from India playing with her toy butterfly. Khushi was more interested in talking to that little girl unlike any kid of her age than playing with her lovely toy. I felt good about knowing so many languages that day because I was able to figure out what the little girls parents were talking in Marathi to her. I also responded them in Marathi which instantly made them comfortable with me. Then after a while we returned back in our hotel. We took rest and then had dinner (Indian on the menu) in 180 Deg restaurant. This is the biggest dinning area where everyday breakfast spread and dinner spread is arranged. Everyday for dinner, they have special themes like Indian, Mauritian, French, Chinese etc, so that day it was Indian. Indian food was pretty decent. So this was a nice relaxed birthday of mine in Mauritius. Though I missed the continuous phone calls, the surprises and Mom-Dad and my extended family in Bangalore.
Next day, we had the South tour and we were ready with breakfast by 8.30 am when our bus was supposed to pick us up from the hotel. But we learnt that there are around 10 couples already in a bus of 12 people, so we were given a private taxi for our expedition that day. It was a very comfortable Toyota 6 seater which made our drive and day very comfortable. The town we went was named Curepipe where we went to the diamond factory first. Adamas is a well known jewelry brand in Mauritius and they have a gallery where they have displayed the process of cutting diamond and laid down the criterions with which the price of the diamond is decided, the clarity, cut, brightness, carat and weight of diamonds decides the pricing of this amazing stone. It was unbelievable to see how the crude diamond looks like. Just another black stone. The designs in the shop were also quite good and equally expensive. I was very fascinated with the black diamond sets and it was promoted with a tag line "Black is Back".