Saturday, June 28, 2014

Goodbye America!

It was August 1999 when I first landed in the US as a 17-year old, nervous yet excited to begin a new chapter of my life. I was about to start college with big ambitions and so much to prove. Fifteen years later, I'm leaving behind the country that I've called home for most of my adult life. Somewhere in this passage of time, I evolved from being a shy, naive teenager into a confident and independent woman. I met and married the love of my life and had a baby, now the second love of my life. I made amazing, lifelong friends. I lived in three cities (Boston, Austin, and New York City) and enjoyed each one at different stages of my life. I got a degree and became a doctor. I learned to embrace fitness and ran marathons. I toobed down the Guadalupe River. I learned to appreciate country music. I performed a dance to a Bollywood song on a moving boat for a Holi celebration. I took part in a flash mob dance to Sheila Ki Jawani on Wall street. I explored national parks and attended live music festivals. I traveled to Iceland where I hiked up a glacier, boated inside a volcanic crater in El Salvador, and jumped off a cliff in Spain. I ran up 46 floors of the Empire State Building while I was pregnant. I attended New York Fashion Week. I blogged!

Life recently threw us a curveball and we're now moving to Singapore! I'm sad to leave behind my sister and my friends in the US who became like family to me. Yet I look forward to new adventures in a new country. 

If you follow us on Instagram, you would have seen pictures I posted of my trip back to NYC - city street scenes that inspire me, places I visited, friends and family I spent time with...until it all culminated in our packing up our life into little boxes to be shipped halfway across the world. American the beautiful, I shall certainly miss you. Singapore, here we come! 

Crossing the street with a view of Times Square
Baby K and me having a picnic in Central Park
Hanging out for a brief weekend in DC 
Horse-drawn carriages that charm you in the city
Quality time with the sister at a food festival in Brooklyn
Grungy city subways - I dared to take Baby K on the subway and he loved it!
Love these street vendors selling pictures of NYC cityscapes
All packed up in our NYC apartment and ready to leave

Friday, May 23, 2014

Central Park for Kids

Being just a 5 minute walking distance from the best known park in the world is definitely a privilege. Central Park is one of those places that is romanticized in films and just as magical in real life. Pre-baby, Central Park appealed to me because I loved being able to go running there. Recently, I've begun to discover a new facet of this park, one that appeals to my baby as well. Now I also love the park because it offers wide, open spaces for my little one to crawl (and soon walk) around freely outside the confines of a small New York apartment. For those of you wondering what to do with a baby/toddler in the city, here a few places to visit within Central Park itself.

1. Did you know that CP has zoo? Yup, a real zoo. And it's not your usual, run-of-the-mill zoo with horses, goats, and pigs. The Central Park Zoo has a polar and a tropical section where you'll find all sorts of exotic (and some endangered) animals - adorable penguins, flipping sea lions, swinging monkeys, colorful tree frogs, hissing snakes, biting piranhas, agile snow leopards...and the list goes on! You really can lose yourself in this world of animals. I brought baby K to the zoo and enjoyed myself as much as he did!

2. There are numerous playgrounds in CP but the oldest and biggest one is Heckscher Playground (located at 7th Ave and Central Park South). Swings, monkey bars, see-saws, and rocking climbing setups provide a place for children to run free. Baby K can't walk yet but he had a whale of a time crawling around on the astroturf and sitting on the swings!

3. Street artists that cater to children with balloons, bubble blowers, face painting, and musical performances are everywhere! You'll find these street performers at every twist and turn, providing entertainment for children and adults alike.

4. Picnicking in the park is totally a summer activity I do with my girlfriends. In the past, we would bring along blankets to lay on the grass and sneak in some bubbly. While that hasn't changed (hehe!), I have now added a baby to the equation. Throw in some toys to keep the baby occupied and you can have a lovely time catching up with friends while giving your baby some quality outdoor time. Plus, the feel of crawling/walking on the grass and seeing dogs that people have brought for a walk really gets babies excited (also great from the standpoint of the baby's sensory development).
Yay! Fun in the park! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Brooklyn Smorgasburg

It feels good to be back in the city! The first few days after coming back were tough with baby K having a horrible case of jet lag. Poor kid was still on Bangkok time, sleeping most of the day and then waking up at an ungodly hour at night. At 3 am, he'd be wide awake, wanting to play while all we wanted to do was sleep! Anyway, he has now adjusted to the time difference and we've been able to go out and enjoy the lovely summer that is emerging in NYC. This weekend, Shruti was visiting and we decided to trek over to Brooklyn for the famous Smorgasburg. Known as a food flea market, it literally comprises of a "smorgasboard" of different food stalls. You see all sorts of cuisines (Indian, Ethiopian, Burmese, Mexican, Filipino, Thai, American, etc) and fusion foods. My favorite stall was Masala Tacos. The paneer tikka masala tacos and channa masala tacos were just amazing! What a brilliant idea to blend Indian and Mexican foods together. Overall, we had a great time noshing on different types of foods against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline on an incredibly beautiful, sunny day.

Tip: Smorgasburg is held every weekend in the summers with two different locations on Saturday and Sunday. Highly recommend checking it out!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Goodbye Bangkok, Hello NYC!

 Well folks, I'm finally heading back to NYC. Yep, my almost 6-month stay in Bangkok has come to an end. Crazy, right?! I know many people didn't think I was gonna come back. Certainly, life works in funny ways. I had only planned on coming to stay in Bangkok with my family for a couple months as part of my maternity leave after baby K was born. But as I've mentioned in an earlier post, it became a much longer stay. The unexpected turn of events that brought us to Bangkok was such a blessing because I got to enjoy this new phase of my life of being a mother and watching baby K grow and get pampered by his grandparents. In this time, I also got the opportunity to focus on myself and get back in shape post-pregnancy. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of travel around Thailand and Singapore. If you were following me on Instagram (hashtag #richainbkk), you know how much I was living it up!

So it's with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to my family because I enjoyed a wonderful past few months with them. On the flip side,  I'm excited to head back and catch up with friends and family in the US. I've been away for far too long! And the other half of Urban Mantra, Shruti, is very mad that I kept her nephew baby K away from her for this long. :)

So adieu Bangkok and hello again New York! Postings may be a bit infrequent as I settle back in after a long absence (though I'm always active on Instgram! Hehe!). So please bear with us and as always, thank you for reading Urban Mantra and following our travels!

A few highlights from my time in Asia (clockwise from top left): Enjoyed Thai food, hanging out with a 3-month old baby K, chilling beachside at Krabi, a visit to Uma Devi temple in Bangkok on Jan 1, tuktuk rides in Bangkok, all dressed in desi clothes for a pooja at home, shopping at colorful Haji Lane in Singapore, a tiger on my lap in Kanchanaburi (no big deal!), baby K and I at the Singapore Gardens by the Bay
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