A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: JayneHol

A few pics from Mumbai

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My photos from our day in Mumbai are few. Most were taken through the window of a bus, so the quality was largely compromised.

Nevertheless, here are some of them:

Carolyn and I, awestruck, before the Gateway of India and the two of us on our harbour cruise

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Chowpatty Beach

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Some murals done by Mumbai residents likely following the November terrorist attacks in 2008. These are taken from a bus, so aren't what I'd like them to be. I also missed a big section of murals while I was struggling to get my camera out it's pouch and aimed out the window.

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And finally, the journey home :-(

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Posted by JayneHol 23:07 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

And it ends in Bombay

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So, let's get things out upfront. I'm tired. I'm hot. I'm probably a bit dirty (not in mind) and I...wait for it...have a mild stomach condition. So if my entry is slightly sarcastic, cynical or crass, these may be contributing factors.

Let's start with the obvious. No, it's not the dreaded and unspoken. It's not DB. It's still a stomach unhappiness though, but I have not felt inconvenienced by it in any dramatic way today, except for some continuous stomach cramps and a very real sense of internal sensitivity. Thank the gods. In all honesty it likely has to do with a mild binge yesterday afternoon at the airport (Toblerone, Pringles, Nuts, More nuts, More toblerone) followed by an excessive dinner last night. Carolyn and I admittedly shared enough food for six people. It was Thali (a mixture of dishes), Pilau rice, a massive other curry and enough naan to have biblical signifance. The food was wonderful. My stomach was massive and the waiter laughed at us. Lurking in the back of my mind was the stomach monster saying things like, ├ľoh, big city water....ooh...water washes vegetables...ooh...more dishes= more chance." I guess it was right. And toady I apologise and ask all the gods that exist in this country and others, to spare me any embarrassment during the wait until 2:30am this morning when we finally get on our plane.

Yes, we get on the plane at 2:30am. Mumbai airport seems to have the most convenient arrival and departure times. You arrive homeless and dirty and leave homeless and dirty. Perhpas it's Karma sent by the souls of the street kids and that one cat I saw earlier. Anyway, we had to check out at 12pm, so have been roaming the more priveldged streets of Mumbai. At least we've been common enough to use the busses. First, they are pretty starightforward. Second, they're like 80c a ride and third, it's a great way to get a sense of the city.

I don't mind the city. It seems like it's in between a few things. Not identityless, but like it's been constantly tugged at by different influences and has settled into the inbetweenness.

We visted the Gateway to India. I cannot say that an egosistical colonial monument in any way evoked anything "WOW" in me. A declaration of arrival by royal colonists can be expected, but I'm not too sure that if I lived in India, I'd be as proud of it as many people here seem to be.

We should have gone to Elephanta Island instead of the 30 minute harbour cruise to bide time. On that ferry ride we were photographed by every single Indian aboard the boat. Most people didn't even ask, so we sat with a seat between us while everyone came, in turn, to sit between us and be photographed. How random to think i'll be on some stranger's facebook newsfeed or in their holiday or pilgramage album. Funny!

Anyway, I've been told to hurry up. I'll post a few pics when i get home in many hours time....after I have slept, cleaned, washed everything and gotten over the things i DIDN'T buy.

India, you have been amazing!

Posted by JayneHol 05:44 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Last few days in Goa

Palolem and Vagator

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Yesterday we got up early to get the local bus to Vagator, where we decided to stay for our second last night. It cost us about R12 each to get most of the way and seemed far more effcient than getting a driver. There was nothing intimidating about the experience except for the lack of leg room on one stretch and the 20 different hooter sounds the bus had. We figured out a few. There's definitely one to say, "I'm coming, watch where you're walking/cycling." It's simple and polite. There's the "I'm stopping right here" one, which is a little longer and varied. There's a friendly one to say "I'm overtaking" and a slightly more alert and lengthy one to signal that the bus is coming round the bend. There's one when entering a new town, which is elaborate and has many different tones and finally, there's a purely egotistical one that says something along the lines of, "I'm here. This is my bus. I'm big. I drive fast. I love my bus. You should love my bus too." This one goes on for a few minutes, is ridiculously loud and has a slightly discernible tune to it. I'll upload videos eventually.

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We got to Vagator and walked around on a hot, sticky day with my backpack close to the weight of my body, trying to find a place to stay for the night. The first place we walked into was hidden and simple and weird. On the walls of the rooms were hand-written signs saying:
No lying
No stealing
No killing.
No smoking.
No drinking.

The "No Killing" part, coupled with a severe absence of people, was enough to send us on our way. (We subsequently figured out it may have been an Ashram, but then we're not quite sure they'd allow non-meditating travellers to stay there. I'm also still keen to spend time at one at some stage, but perhaps not this particular one. It felt very abandoned, even by peace and contentment.)

We found a much friendlier and more peaceful place and then had a squiz around Chapora harbour and then headed to one of the local beaches.

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The beaches were weird. I think we'd pictured slightly deserted coves with lighter sand and grand cliffs behind us. What we experienced were Indian- and international tourist- packed coves with dark sand, lots of Eastern European accents and too many tattoos. The best part was when a bulky, loud and slightly aggressive Indian man, who insisted on a photo with us, had his camera confiscated for that very reason.

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The picture cuts out the people. The other is the beach near the harbour, where we should have remained.

These shots are of in and around town.

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A cow on Palolem beach (as common as a package tourist in Goa) and the view from where we had dinner last night overlooking Little Vagator

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A view inside a local bus, Agonda Beach (next to Palolem and much quieter and more chilled), and the famous Nativity scenes- seen outside most houses in this end of India. The best thing about them is that they are elaborate, large and always include a real, living garden. The second one even has a cave that has been made into the hills, in which a ferocious lion is about to eat the cow (I'd like to believe this is not indicative of subtle, underlying religious conflict in this part of the world).

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And with that, I must leave. We're heading to Mapusa (pronounced Mapsa) Market today and then off to Mumbai for our last night and day. Some sadness exists inside me, but I will be back. Until then, I look forward to zero mozzies, untainted tap water, experimenting with curry dishes after a curry break, clean and non-sticky clothes and a bit of meat.

Posted by JayneHol 20:06 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Absolutely Indian

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I keep forgetting to talk about those "absolutely Indian" things that I have experienced since being here. What got me thinking was the thought of Indian driving school. I think it's fabulous that despite driving school- which sounds as ordered and lawful as ours- traffic here is apparent chaos. By rigid and uninterpreted western standards, there are no rules here whatsover, except the courteous honking of a horn when overtaking someone else (which happens all the time- blind curbs, straight stretches or in almost-standstill congestion.) The beauty is that, like China and other eastern countries, it works! Flawlessly (well, except for the unlucky bicyclist who rode into Lucky's auto rikshaw in Jaipur). Nobody slips into the dark pits of road rage when hooted at, pushed in front of, flashed or overtaken.

I decided to develop a newborn respect for our taxi drivers at home.

Another thing I love, but something that some could rather irritated with, is the fact that everybody is connected. It's hard not to find a recommendation for every basic or elaborate travel need that doesn't benefit a chain or interconnected friends or family members.

Other than that, I have a confession:

I bought a blow-up tube (as yet only used once) for Rs 140. I couldn't convince the shop owner to sell it for Rs 50 and after a little investigative research (and with some mental help from Dave), I acknowledged to myself that my attitude in Palolem has been somewhat anti-social, dismissive and even a tad arrogant when it comes to business.

Nevertheless, I'd like to believe that at the ripe age of 27 and three quarters, I've become a pretty savvy and intent bargainer- my skills born and honed in India alone.

I've used the following techniques (at times simultaneously):

1) Starting offer of 40% the seller's original price
2) Barter a bit then walk away, acting resolved NOT to buy anything
3) Doing background research and comparative prices analyses
4) Rs 50-take-it-or-leave-it offer
5) Questioned and shown serious doubts about the quality
6) Walked off when I'm blatantly lied to (an example being when i looked at a cheap t-shirt that what about 4 times wider than it was long. I asked about this strangeness and the response was, "This fabric the best t-shirt fabric in India. Very expensive. Very good quality. When you wear t-shirt, the t-shirt fit your body long. But ONLY when you buy and wear it.")
7) And when I have felt too high-and-mighty, I've converted to Rands and quickly obliged at any midway price

To be honest though and to temporarily forget childish price wars, I think we are either exceptionally ripped-off as a nation at home or Indians are sorely exploited by themselves. My restaurant or guesthouse food has cost less than if I were to shop at Shoprite for no-name only, cook basic meals for myself AND take a packed lunch to work. A local bus fare costs two chappies. An elaborate hanging made by hand costs a bottle of wine, and a 1litre bottle of mineral water (that combats Delhi Belly) amounts to a car guard tip.

Needless to say, I have lived well, have not gotten thin and scrawny as predicted, and am still having an excellent time.

I will try and summarise Goa in a couple of days. We're heading up north for a night and travelling by local bus. The 2 and a half hour journey should cost little more than a 30g packets of chips at home (from a supermarket, not a vending machine).

Posted by JayneHol 03:33 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Here and there

Goa

28 °C
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I have no overriding theme for today's post, so I'll just wing it. (The humid and tropical beach air has a tendency to make living and associated thoughts quite simple.) I haven't changed much since I last wrote, although my hair needs a wash, I have a layer of Indian sun burn and I'm grateful to Shiva for sparing me after that restaurant's "fireworks" on New Year's Eve.

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We took a boat out on Old Year's day to a small beach around the "corner", called Butterfly Beach. Despite being picked up by a Mumbaian "businessman", who kept on asking if I'd "swim deep" with him, it was a very pleasant day. We were forced to find dolphins, which seemed to excite the boat guys more than us and then our boat cut out (personally I believe the engine was flooded). It took 20 panicked minutes to get it started again. Personally, I found it quite amusing and relaxing. I have decided that I am probably cursed with The Boat-start Blues. I did not convey this to the Captain and his skipper though- with quite elaborate religious expression, there comes an equal amount of superstition- in this part of the world referred to as Kharma.

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Palolem beach on New Year is like Hermanus was to some of us in the 90's. It's packed and everyone from everywhere makes their way to it for the night. Let's be honest, it was a slightly odd evening. We met up with Karen, Gisela and Doug for dinner and then had drinks at a few places until we believed we'd found "a vibe." Well, it was certainly a vibe, but a different one at that. The highlights were the masses of drunk middle-class Brits and the uncontrolled fireworks our restaurant was responsible for. Without warning, a series of chaotic and random explosions would begin in front of us on the beach. When something shot past my ear, I decided that fireworks are likely best left to the Chinese.

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The Old in us sent us off to our respective homes not too long after 12. However, Carolyn and I noticed a slightly interesting party happening at our guesthouse, Camp San Francisco. We decided to have one more chilled drink on the beach, but were instead aggressively hounded by wasted and extremely high and sweaty Indians to dance with them. I resisted and when I was about to be accused of racism, culturism or something similar, I simply (and honestly, let me tell you) said, "Why on earth would I travel to INDIA to spend the evening dancing to Western music?" This comment hit a heart string and the music was promptly and willingly changed to Indian pop. I had to dance. A kind Indian girl taught me the "Say-No/ Rejection Dance" when a sweaty man started pestering me. It's pretty much a series of Spanish/Bollywood hand movments that obviously tell the pursuer to go away. He went away immediately and another Indian guy burst out laughing, telling me I did the Go-Away dance. I proudly learnt something new and ridiculously cool!

My photos here are scarce, so instead I have the Roti-maker, who was far more interesting than the sweaty revellers.

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New Year's day was kind- the wine here gives zero hangover (or staisfaction for that matter). We headed off with the two American guys, Pete and Matt to the Spice Farm and Dudhsagar Falls. The actual sights were pleasant, but fleeting, and most of the day was spent crammed into Niki's taxi that tackled the bad and windy roads, while we bounced around in the back willing breakfast and then lunch to remain seated.

Because I was stuck in the middle, Niki was a fervent driver and the roads were so bumpy, I sadly did not have an opportunity to take pictures of the quaint and chilled towns, rivers and rice paddys. I'd have asked Niki to stop, but he is a cell phone addict also and he was having a fight on the phone with his wife. They always fight, he said, but only on the phone. An hour and a half later these words were uttered in between the dramatic Hindi phrases, "I still like you very much. I love you. Yes, I still like you very much."

Pete and Matt at the sight of Feni ( a locally distilled drink) and our lunch at the Spice Farm:

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1) Jesus is popular in the South. I'll try and get a picture of one of the elaborate Nativity displays that everyone seems to have outside their home. 2) Collem

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The 4 of us at Dudhsagar Falls and C and I

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The walk to the falls:

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Breakfast and a cow:

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And with that, I must leave. Carolyn will finish another book and I'll feel guilty again for not having finished the ONE she hasn't yet read.

Posted by JayneHol 21:43 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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