Monday, January 31, 2011

Shameless Plug

On Saturday, we made a trip to Connaught Place. The primary reason for that trip was a shopping date to start looking for the wife's birthday present. However, before the shopping commenced we made a quick stop for lunch at Knight, a world cuisine lounge by Castle 9 located next to the PVR Cinemas in B Block. In the spirit of full disclosure, it's a restaurant owned by a colleague's husband. You'll probably think I'm biased, but the food is excellent. I had been there before for a work function but decided to take advantage of its proximity to the weekend shopping and take Lindsay. The menu is varied with Indian, Chinese, Mediterranean, and Continental selections. However, we both felt more in a traditional lunch mood and got burgers. Lindsay's made of chicken, mine of lamb. Delicious.
Outside Knight and Castle 9 at Connaught Place
In my opinion what makes the place special though isn't the food, it's the view. It's located on the first level (the level above the ground floor) in a building that doesn't look like the traditional Connaught Place small-windowed building. The restaurant has huge windows that look down onto the street. As a result, if you're fortunate enough to get a window seat, you're primed for perfect people watching from the comfort of a great restaurant.

Unfortunately, there's temporary road construction going on in front of the building, so there were fewer than normal people upon which to gawk. We were, however, treated to two men building an inexplicable eight foot square structure that was two bricks high. I have no idea what it's going to be, but it's nowhere near square to the sidewalk and, based on the string they were measuring with, wasn't perfectly square. The look of bewilderment on the mason's face upon this realization was well worth any shortage of foot traffic for the meal.

I'm not sure what the deal is, and this probably needs its own post at some point in the future, but when you google the name of a restaurant in Delhi, you typically get pages and pages of reviews but rarely get an actual homepage to learn basic things about the establishment like its location. When you google Castle 9, the first link is:

Refreshingly simple.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blown Fuse

Space heaters, apparently, take a lot of electricity. So much that if you plug two space heaters in at once in my master bedroom, it blows a fuse. I know this. I also know that the fuse box is located in the servant's quarters which is the current residence of our cook, Yashoda. Yet, for some reason I decided to turn two on tonight before sitting down to read a book before going to bed. I'm not sure why I did this, it's not even that cold, maybe I just wanted the stereo effect of warm air being sent my way from two different directions. We've blown fuses in the past and I typically send Lindsay to knock on her door to politely wake her up to reset the fuse box (I mean, I didn't think she'd want me knocking on her door after 11pm at night). After about the third time, Yashoda told Lindsay, "Don't knock on my door, just SMS me." She's a smart lady.

We could punish ourselves and go without electricity until morning; unfortunately, without electricity, the geyser in the bathroom can't heat the water, so the punishment is more than just a few minutes without lights and a night without a space heater. It's also a cold shower.

Don't get me wrong, even me, a completely self-absorbed expat that does very little for himself in the departments of cooking, cleaning, laundry, food purchasing, and transporting, feels more than a slight twinge of guilt when "forced" to wake up someone that helps in so many of those departments.

I get it. I'm a jerk.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hollywood Not Bollywood

If you go through any kind of cultural awareness training, you'll hear the stereotype that Indians love two things: movies and cricket. I still haven't been to a cricket match but after spending over a year here, today I finally made a trip to a movie theater. The movie that got me there was "127 Hours". While not an Indian movie, it had the same director and composer as "Slumdog Milllionaire", so I figured that was close enough connection.

For those unfamiliar with "127 Hours", it's a true story based on a first-account book I had read by Aron Ralston called "Between a Rock and a Hard Place". The title is in reference to the amount of time he spent pinned to a slot canyon wall, stuck by a falling rock, before resorting to cutting off his arm with a dull multi-purpose tool (that's not a spoiler, you know he survives because he wrote a book and that book's cover shows him with a metal prosthetic right arm). A harrowing story to say the least. It's set in Utah's red rock canyon country, one of my favorite places in the world. Needless to say, I was looking forward to the movie (and to see how you turn a movie about being stuck for five days into a full length film).

Mrs. Luth not pinned to the wall of a slot canyon in Canyonlands, October 2009
Much like the rest of Gurgaon on Republic Day, we headed to Ambience Mall. I'm not sure what it is about malls on holidays in India, but it seems to be where everybody heads. There was a fifteen minute traffic jam just to get dropped off at the back door. Once we navigated the crowd inside the mall to get to the theater, I found it to be a place not unlike any nameless theater in suburban Chicago. We went to a PVR Cinema Premiere Class showing which isn't the top level theater (that would be the plush Gold Class which we still need to experience at some point) but was still quite nice. The price, Rs. 250 (around $6), was even nicer.

While in a nice theater there are some differences with the Indian movie going experience. When you buy your ticket, you buy a ticket for an actual seat, much like you're going to a football game. Some theaters have tiered pricing. As a result, people often buy their tickets well in advance. I must admit, I sent my trusty driver Kailash to purchase our tickets on Tuesday. Purchasing food doesn't require taking out a loan. While still expensive by Indian standards, Rs. 150 seems a reasonable sum to pay for popcorn and a Diet Coke. There isn't a warning to tell movie-goers to turn their mobile phones to vibrate, and not that anyone would listen. The surprising thing I found was that phones ringing in theaters become far less annoying when it happens every couple minutes. Though I must admit when you see someone pull a ringing phone from their pocket and stare at the screen to see who's calling, you'd wish they hit the "ignore" button a little sooner. That is, if they hit the ignore button. It's not uncommon for people to answer the call. Halfway through the movie it just stopped, the lights came up, commercials starting rolling, and people left to use the rest room. This actually wasn't terribly annoying and is kind of a good idea. I hate going to movies, putting down a large Diet Coke, and uncomfortably sitting through the second half of a movie anxiously waiting to race to bathroom when it's over.

My favorite part of the experience was one of the jokes seemed to be tailor made for the Indian audience (believe it or not, there were a couple jokes in a survival movie about a guy that cuts off his own arm). There's a scene where James Franco is videotaping himself while stuck. He makes a comment regarding the multi-purpose tool that he uses to cut off his arm that he received as a gift as a lesson to "not buy the cheapest Chinese made piece of crap" (I'm paraphrasing there). At any rate, the place exploded with laughter. Apparently, making light of cheap Chinese goods of poor quality goes over well with the Indian crowd.

For a first experience, I have no complaints. To be honest, I was surprised the ringing phones didn't bother me. I'd love to see a Bollywood film in a theater at some point but I'm not sure I could sit through 3+ hours of a movie in Hindi (so I may have to save those for subtitled DVD's). And no, there aren't subtitles at the theater nor should there be. Regardless, I can see going to the movies a more routine activity, especially since there are usually three or four American films at any given time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Growing up in western Illinois, we had floods and we were well drilled in what to do in the event of a tornado. One natural disaster we didn't worry much about was an earthquake. Even though minor quakes have hit the American midwest from time to time, I've never actually felt one.

Last night just before 2am IST, when I had the pleasure of still being in the office thanks to an all day videoconference with colleagues in the states (in their defense, they started at 6am CT so they were as tired on the front end of the meeting as we were on the back end), I felt my first earthquake. We had just broken for a short break when I felt the conference table gently begin to sway. Thinking someone was just tapping their leg and accidentally bumping the table, it wasn't an immediate concern. I sat back and suddenly had that "one too many cocktail" feelings as the room gently and mildly swayed from side to side. As an earthquake neophyte, it still didn't totally register (no pun intended). Finally, someone said "John, I thought you were just bumping the table but I think we're having an earthquake." At least I wasn't alone in my initial assessment. Sure enough, a few seconds later our boss entered the room and confirmed the more accurate and second assessment. At that point, to be on the safe side, we evacuated the building.

Knowing that CNN wouldn't have anything up about an earthquake seconds or minutes after it hit, I entered "earthquake" as a search string on Twitter and quickly learned that an earthquake registering 7.3 on the Richter scale had hit southwestern Pakistan. While the exact magnitude may have been slightly different, the information was surprisingly accurate and shows exactly how quickly information can spread in this age.

The entire episode lasted longer than I would have thought. Reports said twenty to thirty seconds though it seemed longer. I always imagined earthquakes being violent, jarring events that lasted only a few seconds. Last night's quake, at least far from the epicenter, while unsettling never really seemed dangerous. I'm sure there were others in Pakistan far greater impacted than myself; however, I consider myself lucky that my first earthquake experience was more of a novelty that I could compare to being intoxicated than a tragic natural disaster.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Paper Towel Theory

I'm just going to come out and say it. American paper products are superior to Indian paper products.

Prior to leaving for India we made a stop at Costco and purchased a cache of paper towels, toilet paper, and Kleenex. We had no idea if the supply would last the entire two years but bought an amount that was excessive yet didn't have people looking at us like we were stocking up to tee-pee our neighbors. While the Kleenex and toilet paper are going strong (the reality is that the toilet paper isn't all that bad so we still have quite the supply of Charmin for any guests headed this direction), we recently opened up the last roll of Bounty paper towels. This may become an issue.

I believe in this American superiority for all three varieties of products mentioned above; however, it's especially true when it comes to paper towels. The reason? Bounty paper towels actually, you know, absorb.

I know what you're probably thinking, "John, you have a cook. What could you possibly need a paper towel for? You haven't prepared a full meal in nearly a year and probably haven't cleaned a kitchen in over four" or "John, this is all part of the deal, not everything is available overseas, it's time to man up and recognize this." I guarantee you wouldn't be thinking the same thing if you ever tried to clean up a spill with an Indian paper towel. You'd feel some semblance of sympathy for me. You would.

Not surprisingly, I have a completely unfounded theory on why such a difference exists. My theory is that there's a direct correlation between the type of tree used to make the paper product and its softness and ability to absorb. Or it could just be that Americans are a bunch of wusses that require all kinds of additional crap in their paper products to make them more soft and luxurious. I'd argue that that degree of luxury also adds a degree or two of function. This likely makes me sound like an ignorant fool, but I'm used to that. As a disclaimer, I'm in no way a student of paper science (which believe it or not is an actual thing, it was offered at my university).

Regardless, I'm down to my last roll of American paper towels, which puts me a week or two away from having to slosh liquids around under the tough, non-absorbant fibers of an Indian paper towel any time I spill (which for some unknown reason happens a lot more here than at home).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mehndi and Cocktails

Indian weddings are known for their their sheer size. When the American co-workers of the groom's brother are invited, you start to get a sense of how quickly the invite list can get out of control, at least from the perspective of someone that invited around 180 people to his own wedding.

While we're likely not able to make the actual wedding (the groom on a white horse, the drums, the procession), we were able to attend the night-before-the-wedding Mehndi and Cocktail Party hosted by our co-worker. The invite stated a 7:30pm start time. Lindsay asked what time was appropriate to show up and was told 8:00pm. Having heard the wedding was "right next to Gurgaon", we decided we'd leave the comfortable confines of our apartment at 8:00pm just to make sure we weren't too early. Ten minutes prior to departure I googled the location. Surprisingly, the address pointed to a locale in Delhi northwest of the airport in a neighborhood called Kirti Nagar (Marble Market). While technically still "right next to Gurgaon" as any address in Delhi could accurately be described based on the two cities being adjacent, this place was at least an hour away.

As usual, our trusty driver Kailash knew the neighborhood and forty-five minutes later we entered Kirti Nagar (so he drives a little quick; he knows where he's going which counts for a LOT). After stopping once for directions, we arrived at the venue an hour and a half after the printed start time but still on the earlier side of the guests.

This was a wedding function like no other we had been to India. This was a smaller pre-wedding night cocktail party for the groom's side. The bride, Lindsay was disappointed to learn soon after arrival, would not be part of the festivities thus enhancing her point of view that the Indian wedding is all about the groom. I don't think she's wrong.

There was one mehndi artist decorating the arms and hands of the female party guests. As the lone white woman, Lindsay was quickly ushered over by our host. Her only prior mehndi or henna experience came in 2005 after an exhausting day of stall shopping at Dilli Haat when she finally succombed to the relentless henna hawkers located near the entrance. This time seemed just a tad more intimate and authentic. She only had her left hand done; however, even that effectively turns a person into a temporary amputee as they are unable to use the impacted appendage until the ink dries.
Lindsay's mehndi makes the party video footage
As a result, I became the drink fetcher and had to find someplace for her purse (thankfully, we're fairly certain one of our other co-workers had been assigned to keep us comfortable for the evening and his wife took care of the purse on my behalf).

With any Indian party, there is music. There is also dancing. I've found the key to the dancing part to look like you're enjoying yourself watching the dancing without looking like you're enjoying it so much that you actually want to join the dancing. This strategy typically works for the first twenty to thirty minutes. At that point, others (who, mind you, aren't even dancing themselves) start to lightly pester you about getting out on the dance floor. At that point, Lindsay has typically joined the dancing so I'm able to make up some quick quip about how she's representing my interests on the dance floor. This works for approximately three to five minutes. At that point, I get pulled to the dance floor (usually by a person of authority like the host, my boss, whatever) and become the source of entertainment for a song or two. Actually, I don't think people really care what I dance like (and it's not good), but it's probably more disrespectful to not dance at all than to dance like a complete fool.

While we still need to make our way back to a traditional wedding ceremony (we've been to two previously but none in the past year), the mehndi party was a fun, new, and memorable experience; even if I was forced to show my dance moves. In my defense, I was told last night that I nearly have the Punjabi finger point move mastered.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Assignment Anniversary

Depending on how you measure (the day we left Chicago on AA292, the day we left Boston on renumbered AA9222, the fraction of a day when we first set foot back in India, or our first full day in India), we crossed the one year mark here in India at some point over the weekend. Needless to say, it's been one of the more memorable and enjoyable years of my life. It was also one of the fastest.

In no particular order, here are five personal aspects from which I've grown, helped change who I am, or that I've simply really enjoyed to this point:

One of the "things" we wanted to get out of this experience was seeing new places. I'm happy to report we're ahead of schedule (or as Lindsay might say, "ahead of plan"). In fact, we will likely go the rest of our lives and not have a travel year that rivals our first year on this assignment. This is in no way depressing. Seriously. With long trips outside India to neighboring Nepal for our Annapurna Sanctuary trek, Turkey for what amounted to three mini-trips within that diverse country, and Bali for the holidays, it's tough to complain. Without a doubt, my favorite India travel moments were the fish market in Goa and the Pushkar Camel Festival. The fish market, in particular, was special as it was the first time on this assignment that we did something in a small town with the locals. With additional trips to Udaipur, Kerala, and Neemrana, it starts to become a little bit of an obnoxious travel year. OK, a very obnoxious travel year.

Technology and Social Media
When we were in India in 2004, Facebook didn't exist, Twitter didn't exist, Skype was only available with voice, and I didn't have a Slingbox. All that's changed. Some people, perhaps even one person I live with, might argue that I'm too well connected. That connection undoubtedly made the transition to life in India easier. The other revelation I had this year is that Twitter can actually be used for more than just waiting for Bill Simmons' next hilarious quip while he watches a Celtics game. During the year, I've changed the way I access news from home (and especially about India). Twitter has become my primary source of what I read on the internet. In fact, I even learned my company had been acquired this way (albeit, in the back seat of a car on the way to a meeting where it was being announced). Of course, it's still comforting to read Simmons' 140 character quips.

My biggest regret prior to moving here is that I didn't do more research or preparation by searching out and reading about others' first hand experiences and blogs. It wasn't until about March or April that I finally started getting into other people's experience. Believe it or not, there are people out there writing about similar things to me and having similar experiences. Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage. That was stupid. During the past few months, I've found this a great way to share, commiserate, and provide and get advice.

In case you're interested, the three India-related blogs (one each of "was", "is", and "will be" here) I always check for updates are:
  • Delhi Bound (a great source of information on anything Delhi and written by a mother with three kids, slightly different experience than mine but a fantastic read)
  • From India. With Love. (written by someone that's done a much better job of reaching out for advice; she's not even here yet but arrives in March to volunteer for a year - it's been fun to read about her preparation and see her ask many of the same questions Lindsay and I had last year)
  • Our Delhi Struggle (ex-expats now back in New York but they're getting the book published that nearly every expat blogger in India secretly dreams of writing).
Not too many consecutive weeks go by between visits where we don't see a familiar face which has dramatically helped the transition. It's been people from all parts of our life; most often it's a familiar face from the office here for a short trip, but there have been two separate family friends that I've known forever, a friend we met through Lindsay's parents that provides a great deal of informal professional guidance, a friend that simply had two business trips to Gurgaon (perhaps for the sole purpose of visiting the tailor), and a college friend of Lindsay's that simply wanted to get away and spend a few days in India. It's been fun being able to share our experience with all of these people and both pretend we know what we're doing and impress them with our command of the Hindi language (note, we do pretend we know what we're doing but have no command of Hindi; none).

Delhi Half Marathon
One of the cooler experiences in Delhi was taking part in the Delhi Half Marathon in November where I'm happy to report I was able to register as a resident of India which may me eligible to pay in rupees and pay a lot less than those other foreigners. While I was admittedly undertrained, I now get a strange satisfaction whenever we drive the streets that follow the course. I'm pretty sure Lindsay gets tired of me pointing out things like "and this is the flyover where the first energy drink stop was." On the way home from Khan Market on Saturday I was excited that a traffic jam diverted us to an off ramp that I had run down toward the end of the run. Lindsay didn't seem impressed. Having never really walked anywhere in Delhi, running provided an interesting and new perspective to a city where I still struggle to know where I'm located (which tends to happen when you're always the passenger and never the driver).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Missing a Milestone

Choosing to live the expat life has a number of advantages, many of which have been extensively chronicled over the past year. Choosing to live the expat life has disadvantages as well. I've missed birthdays. I've missed weddings. I've missed holidays and milestones. I've missed lesser events that made me say, "man, it would be nice to be home." Yesterday was different. Yesterday, I missed my Dad's 70th birthday.

Many people hope for a Dad that's a role model. I'm lucky enough where that's actually true (I'm actually lucky enough to have two role model parents; Mom is no slouch either).

To give you a little insight into my Dad, it's a 70th birthday that he found time to squeeze in between his winter ski trips. I can only hope I'm able to say the same when I reach that milestone. When it comes to skiing, I think his biggest complaint is that he's part of the "seniors" cohort that keeps getting the age raised on them for steeply discounted or free lift tickets at the resorts. Not the worst problem to have.
December 2009
Softening the blow of not being able to share his day is the fact that he and my mom are spending the better part of March here in India (at least that's what I used in my own mind to justify not finding a way to get back for it). For all the events I've missed by being here, having them experience the joys and frustrations of this country and getting a glimpse into the stories they've heard and the people we've met will hopefully make up for it. It's one of the greatest advantages of this two-year assignment. I can't wait for it.

Dad, I wish I could have been home but hope you had a great day and wish you a very happy birthday.

(And I hope Mom is letting you watch the Sugar Bowl....Go Bucks!).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mr. Luth's Vacation Reading List

I'm probably a little like most people in that I struggle to find the time to read, really enjoy it when I do it, weight my reading more heavily when on vacation, and quickly get away from it when back. I found myself, even on the last few nights of vacation when we had internet more readily available, quickly moving away from reading and getting myself caught up on Facebook, Twitter, and writing blog posts. While each of those has varying degrees of productiveness (I'm shocked that word didn't get hit by spell check), it was a little sad that I gravitated right back to the computer away and from the books as soon as the opportunity arose. Though if you think this paragraph is leading to a delayed New Year's resolution, you would be wrong.

I'm not sure exactly what that says about me, nor do I know what the odd combination of what I read says about the person I am; however, here's a quick rundown of the varied list I finished from the Kindle while on vacation.

In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks by Adam Carolla
Nothing signals the start of a vacation like a book that basically amounts to one long, funny rant that gets you laughing out loud. I breezed through this one very quickly and am quite possibly dumber for having read it, but it was the perfect way to switch from "work" to "not work". I did like his take on what defines a person's intelligence. Basically, if you know what you want out of life and go and get it, you're smart. I think I like that definition better than IQ. 

Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series by Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan
Being a fan of college football, I was riveted. The book itself reads a little like an extended set of articles you might find on the internet (not that that's a bad thing). The authors present a fairly solid case for a playoff and relentlessly pound their dubbed Cartel (i.e., the conference commissioners and bowl directors) into the dirt. Upon reading the book I questioned why I chose a path in life that likely won't put me in the position to be the director of a large bowl, which, based on the authors description, is easily one of the five or ten cushiest gigs imaginable.

War by Sebastian Junger
The first two books were at least slightly related (i.e., books that a thirty-something year old dude might select to read on vacation); this gets a little more serious.Slightly more serious than Corolla or college football, this book is awesome, moving, and powerful. The author (same guy that wrote The Perfect Storm) is embedded with front line combat soldiers in Afghanistan. Made me extremely proud of our soldiers, the sacrifices they make, and the struggles they face when they come home; also seemed inappropriately ironic to be reading this book from a place like Bali. I've read the Krakauer/Pat Tillman book, tend to like anything Krakauer puts out, and found this book more "real" (as you'd probably expect from an author that's living day in and day out with the troops).

Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story by Tony and Maureen Wheeler
We found this one in a bookstore in Ubud and seemed like an appropriate choice given our travels (I had another Afghanistan book, Rory Stewart's The Places In Between, on deck in the Kindle and just couldn't bring myself to read two in a row). The first half or so of the book outlines how the Wheeler's little creation came to be and the second half talks more about what it's like to write a guidebook, some of the company's struggles, how they've grown, how they determine what locations to write about and ways to slice their and package their creative content. The first half was a little long-winded and kind of turned into a "we went 'here' and then 'here' and then 'there' and then we went back to 'there'" but I really enjoyed learning more about the company. It's also worth noting that based on Adam Carolla's definition, there's no doubt that the Wheeler's qualify as "smart."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Stopover in Kuala Lumpur

Because we had no intention of waking up early enough in Bali to catch an 8:30am flight, which would have then required a six hour layover, the best possible option for us to get back to Delhi was to take an afternoon flight to Kuala Lumpur (KL), spend a night in the city, and then take the daily Air Asia flight back to Delhi the following afternoon. The fact it was New Year’s Eve and most of our Delhi friends weren’t in Delhi provided just the additional excuse necessary to visit the city.

From landing to take-off, we were there for less than 24 hours. Since the airport is a good hour from the middle of the city, there wasn’t much time to explore. As a result, other than finding a hotel, we spent exactly 37 seconds researching what there was to do in KL prior to arriving. This was the amount of time it took for me to remember that an old issue of the Lonely Planet India magazine had a one-page tear out city guide, walk to find the issue, and rip it from its former home. It’s safe to assume that it’s the least I’ve ever known about a country that I’ve spent the night in (admittedly I knew less about Myanmar but that was a simple 90 minute walk-in visit after giving our passports to some random dude at the Thai border).

I expected KL to be a modern city; however, I was surprised at how western and organized it felt. Even the housing that we drove past on the way into the city looked like suburban townhome developments in any nameless American suburban ghetto. The highways were well maintained and open and wide enough for the crazy ass Malaysian taxi driver to literally hit 160 km per hour (100 mph) on the way to the airport – no offense intended to Korean technology, but I hope that’s the last time I hit a hundred in a Kia taxi.

We had no idea what was going on in the city as far as celebrations go, but got checked into the hotel, got pointed in the right direction and headed to the nearby Pavilion, which is a modern shopping complex and gathering spot. There’s a semi-outdoor air-conditioned pedestrian mall located between the two primary mall buildings (there’s a high roof connecting the buildings but no doors to walk through) where we scored perfect people watching seats and a tapas restaurant. The tapas was below average, which probably isn’t that surprising in Malaysia. In our defense, it was actually the second one we had seen so thought maybe they knew something we didn’t. They didn’t.

After we tired of watching people, we decided to hunt for the most famous landmark in town, the Petronas Tower, which was really the only thing either of us knew about the city. After a fifteen minute walk we finally had an unobstructed view of the twin towers, famous for the walking bridge at the forty-first floor that adjoins the towers. As far as modern urban scenery goes, it’s fairly impressive. Not something worth an entire trip (unless you have circumstances like us), but definitely interesting.
Petronas Towers at night
On the walk back from the towers, we passed through Pavilion again. A large, festive crowd of a couple thousand people (rough estimate, could have been a few hundred, but it seemed full) had assembled for a DJ but we quickly assessed the scene, decided we were a bit out of the age demographic, and headed back to the hotel. The most surprising thing was that all the alcohol consumption was limited to the restaurants that lined the pedestrian mall; there was nothing on the street, and I didn’t see any obvious signs of enforcement. Had the same scene existed in Chicago, it would have turned into a huge, drunken street fest.

On New Year’s morning, after a brief stop at the Pavilion Starbuck’s (where the barista gave the wife the most dumbfounded look I’ve ever seen when she asked if they had her favorite, pumpkin spice lattes), we decided we’d do a daytime circumnavigation of the towers. By 10:00am the scene of the New Year’s celebration had been entirely erased; it could have just as easily been February 27th as it was January 1st. After walking through an exceeding clean and green park, we ended up at the base of the towers, which conveniently have a luxury mall attached. After a brief stop at Banana Republic (yep, both Starbuck’s and Banana Republic in one morning; it was an exciting day for Lindsay), we walked around the towers, confirmed what we had suspected (that the free tickets to walk the bridge had been handed out before our late arrival, snapped a few pictures, and headed back to the hotel.
Step one to an unexpectedly good start to the new year.
Step two to an unexpectedly good start to the new year
(I've never seen someone so happy to see a store)
The only other interesting experience on our walk was that we witnessed what appeared to be the military or police marching in formation. Not knowing a thing about the country and not knowing the etiquette of capturing this type of imagine, I conservatively left the camera around my neck.  After seeing it was a bunch of mall cops in closely coordinated yet still mismatched uniforms, I regretted not recording what I would consider a fairly ludicrous display (but what do I know?). I did think it was nice they take their job a little more seriously than Paul Blart.
About as vanilla of a daytime shot possible of the Petronas Towers
At least this is a slightly different view
That’s basically the extent of our KL adventure. It didn’t wow us; it just seemed like a nice big city. To be honest, I’m surprised one night turned into a post this long. Not exactly the type of place we’d choose to go as a destination, but given the circumstances around our flights, not the worst way to see how the Malaysians celebrate New Year’s, which is basically the same way Americans celebrate New Year’s (minus the drunken street fest).

Jimbaran's Seafood Warungs

The last three nights in Bali we holed ourselves up in a nice resort in Jimbaran within sight of the airport (believe me, it’s not nearly as tacky as that might sound). It rained more than we would have liked but with the place we stayed, Jimbaran Puri Bali, it was tough to complain. In fact, we only left the resort once per day so that we could experience a restaurant at the town’s southern string of beachfront warungs (a basic Indonesian eating establishment) which were a fifteen or twenty minute walk down the beach. The more authentic, local experience was cheap but not necessarily wasn’t necessarily dirt cheap (lobster still cost around $10 per pound) but was comically cheaper than the exact same product at the resort where it was nearly five times the price. The fact that Bintangs were also a fraction of the cost made it an even easier decision. We went each night.
The start of another wet beach walk to the warungs
The Jimbaran seafood warung experience is fairly basic endeavor. You select a restaurant from the beach, sit down at a table at the back (beach side), get escorted to the front to the street where you select your food, have it weighed, and go back and enjoy your (hopefully) ice cold Bintang (hopefully on the beach if the weather is good). A few minutes later, the freshly grilled food arrives at your table with a selection of sauces, a bowl of rice, and a small side plate of a sauteed spinach-like greens. You eat your food, enjoy the view, and they bring a small plate of fruit for dessert. Not a bad little meal.
It's really not that complicated; not sure why I look so perplexed
The southern string of warungs, it was one of three such strings along the beach, consisted of eight to ten adjoining narrow restaurants. Each night we selected a new one and each night was an entirely different experience.

On Tuesday night, the weather was bad. A rain was blowing in from the bay and with the exception of some stray dogs, walked a deserted beach. The restaurants appeared equally quiet as the he wicker blinds were drawn shut and there didn’t appear to be much movement from within. We approached one that had one blind only halfway shut. When we peered under we actually found a fairly crowded and lively restaurant. We took a table and enjoyed a feast of lobster and prawns. Halfway through the meal a mariachi-like band entered from the beach side and sang well known covers based on the ethnicity of the table, including Americans (your’s truly), Korean, and even a rowdy Russian drinking song to a table of well-lubricated young Russians.
The typical spread
The typical entertainment
The second night, the weather was slightly better so there was a bit more outdoor activity. We sat down at a large community table of a “nicer” looking warung. Even though it looked nicer, the food was pretty much the same, though we selected some sort of crab over lobster (in hindsight, should have just stuck with the lobster; thankfully we had a third night). After the meal, we stuck around for a couple beers. Since the weather had improved, we hopped out to a table on the beach. When the weather turned again, it was back into the restaurant. As you can tell, it still wasn’t very crowded. On the walk home, the rain returned in a rather large way and we found ourselves, even with rain coats and the umbrella we had hijacked from the resort, soaking wet.

On the final night, we finally had good weather (i.e., the first time we weren’t toting an umbrella), and Lindsay finally got what she wanted: a table sitting on the sand. The scene at the warungs had decidedly shifted. It was like walking into a carnival. The interior tables at all the restaurants had been shifted to the beach, kiosks of corn on the cob vendors appeared, and kids were playing with novelty lasers. Based on the level of activity, we were a little later to the party than the others. We selected the restaurant that night based on where we could find a perfect table on the edge of the beach where we could sit side by side and watch the people pass.
Slightly more lively beach scene than the first two nights
Without the warungs Jimbaran could have been just another nameless beach town; however, with the restaurants (and the supporting fishing industry that co-exists with the resorts on the beach) it ends up being a great experience. That 1000 Places… book lists the Four Seasons Jimbaran as one of the places to see. They certainly had the “Jimbaran” part correct, but if you find yourself there, do yourself a favor and venture off the property and experience what the town really has to offer.

Quick note; I'd be remiss about writing about the Jimbaran warungs without mentioning that it was, unfortunately, the site of one of the 2005 Bali bombings. I'm not sure exactly which restaurant (or which set of restaurants) was targeted. For more info, here's a quick link to the wikipedia page: