Monday, December 27, 2010

Danyavaad India!

 Namaste! Hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas! The photo's uploaded a bit back to front in terms of time so they're not in chronological order - apologies in advance to anyone who gets fussy feet due to this technical error. For all those who are now wondering what fussy feet are, perhaps someone who is more knowledgeable than me on the subject could write a small definition in the comments section.

We had Christmas day in Mumbai, but apart from the Merry Christmas we got from the check-in person at our flight to Delhi you would have never known it was Christmas, life carried on in its usual fast pace in Mumbai. Alex woke up early and jogged down to the European bakery near our hotel and picked me up some delicious pastries and xmas mince pies for breakfast, but alas, xmas eve and xmas day was not a good time for my stomach and I couldn't do the pastry's justice with my peckish eating. As everyone that knows me can imagine, not being able to eat and not feeling hungry is possibly one of the worst things that could happen to me but I have now discovered plain, but sweetened lassi's (yoghurt drink) and have yet another antibiotic so hopefully I'll be back to full eating potential in Thailand (tomorrow!) for lots of delicious Pad Thai!

Now, I'll stop complaining and get into the stuff you've all been waiting for, I can for foresee that you will have been reading the above paragraph thinking "For god-sakes Emily! Who is Alex standing next to in the first photo?". The answer is Terrence. We met Terrence on out first afternoon in Mumbai - on Chowpatty beach - Mumbai's answer to Mission Bay, but toxic - so no swimming allowed. Terrence approached us as we were lying in the sand waiting for sun set and after the usual meet and greet (Indian style: Where you from? What do you do? Married?) he told us he was a tour guide who gave tours around Mumbai whereby you saw the 'real' Mumbai. He seemed like a real character and had described some really intriguing places so we agreed to a trial 3 hour evening tour and if that was good we'd meet him the next morning for some more sightseeing. After the first stop - we headed to a bar where Terrence ordered a pretty big vodka on the rocks and the situation went pretty downhill from there. Terrence told us of the many heads he had bashed in over the years, and the weapons he owns.

I have also just found a note I scribbled down in my book - Terrence was sharpening/cleaning his nails with a swiss army knife ..... "I have a lot bigger, sharper knife too, you know I'm a fighter? If someone fucks with my head I fight them. I fucked up three boys in the market once because they offended me and my mother". We were both still laughing at this point cause Terrence seemed pretty harmless but I think he'd been at the bar prior to meeting us too.

Muslim area of Mumbai

 Onion seller in Crawford Market, Mumbai. Onion prices have been making front page news here. Apparently they've sky-rocketed due to a rotted crop that has only just been discovered. Apparently there's even been tears.

 Corn for sale at Chowpatty Beach - don't know about you but I always crave a corn cob when I'm at the beach. Lolz.

Alex and Terrence at the historical water hole - city oasis

Watcher of the Water

At CST train station - huge, beautiful brick building with gazillions of commuters inside.

 Some of the weapons Terrence drew for us on a serviette in the bar. We have kept the serviette.

 Mr Moustache and me drinking sugar cane juice. Shirin picked us up with her brother and his wife and took us out for some Mumbai night-seeing. Was so luxurious to relax in a nice car and we got a wee history briefing and tried some delicious, traditional Mumbai food. I didn't take a photo of the Kulfi, but it's similar to ice cream and very scrummy. You drive up to the place and double park - a waiter sprints out and takes your order then it's delivered on plates to your window. Apparently the owner pays a designated amount to the police each week to ensure they don't fine the cars waiting for Kulfi. Apparently you can also pay (most) policemen half of your potential speeding ticket when pulled over and not receive a ticket. A 50% discount ! Hopefully no one from the Indian government reads this blog.

 Preparing the fresh sugar cane juice

 Decorated camel in Udaipur

 Trying on a sari, due to the amount of stuff we've already purchased I couldn't really justify purchasing one. Alex was getting measured for a suit and I was bored so pretended to be interested so I could at least try one on.

 Left as a passenger and returned as the driver. This has just happened again as I just got up out of this seat to see Alex peddling a cycle rickshaw home whilst the driver sat comfortably in the back.

 Beautiful lakeside walk in Udaipur

 Being immature whilst searching for some Japanese gardens. Alex also got his bum out multiple times in the city palace in Udaipur, I was in hysterics most of the time and I'm 99% sure an entire family also saw it but were too embarrassed to say anything.

 Overlooking the Dhobi Ghat - laundry area of Mumbai - an amazing amount of washing goes on here, surrounded by high rises. There are 1026 open air troughs where washing is done but they wouldn't let us in to have a better look around.

 Eating a delicious dinner with Shirin and her family - I've forgotten the name of the dish sorry Shirin!

Contemplating our delivered order. The strawberry ice cream on the right was delicious, however the item on the left was just weird. It's name for a start is a 'Royal Falooda' - and usually this would have put us right off, however everyone in this place was drinking them so we thought we'd better join in. Just to give you an idea, the Royal Falooda includes vermicelli noodles as one of it's ingredients, seeds of some description, ice cream and rose syrup.

Now I have only just confirmed the time we are flying to Bangkok tomorrow and it is 11.55am - I had been telling Alex it was 7pm so as you can imagine this has put our last minute shopping plans into panic mode. Sorry family but you may be recieving some Thai themed gifts instead of Indian.

I am incredibly excited to reach the islands in Thailand and go for a long awaited swim - the next blog will feature our luxurious beach front bungalow and the pristine beach in front of it. This will be one of the first places where we have actually pre-booked a place to stay. Here's the link for anyone who's interested: Scroll down and have a look at the photographs, we're staying in a beachfront air con bungalow. I'm grinning with excitement here.

As per usual I have  no time to proof read nor time to add as much to this blog as I'd like but I have to be up at 7am or earlier... to head to the airport (it's 11.07pm here now) so I'd better head to bed. I promise to make a few posts when I get back to NZ with fantastic, gramatically correct and flowing writing and even better photos.

Lots of love,

Em xxxx

Drive by shot which captures Mumbai well I thought. There are taxi's like the one in this photo (and the one I was in when I took this photo). Their meters are really old so they have print-out charts in the front which convert the sum on the meter into more accurate rupees. One driver tried to charge us a horrendous amount after which I demanded to see the chart "no no, no no" he said. So Alex jumped out and started writing down his number plate whilst I proceeded to tell the driver we'd be informing the police of his behaviour and not paying. The chart was swiftly passed back to me. Thanks for the good advice Shirin.

 Alice! this is a Mumbai santa set, bet it's nothing on scene to believe's though huh?

Eating coconut in the street, Mumbai.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Namaste Everyone!

Alas I haven't come to thris internet cafe with the usb cord for my camera (which is a blessing as there's just so much to see and do here I can't justify spending too long in this internet cafe), however thought I'd just write a wee blog to update you all on what we've been up to in MUMBAI!

This city is great! It's warm, all the time, approx 30 degrees and only slightly colder at night which makes for a nice change. There are amazing old buildings everywhere, it's clean! (ish) there's great shops, and an amazing restaurant called Hotel Majestic. Well to call it a restaurant would be a bit of a stretch - more of a dining hall, but a great one at that! Packed with locals and a few tourists all mains are under 70 rupees (approx $2.10 nzd) and the food is fantastic! Alex has been so happy with his meal every time we've eaten there (three times now in two days) that he lets me get a Mc Donald's soft serve with chocolate hot fudge sauce afterward (apparently - and I definitely disagree with this, Ice Cream is not good for sick/vomiting people like myself).

Mums friend from work Shirin showed us round the city today which was fabulous and we discovered some export shops that sell slightly faulty or excess stock so bought a few things.

Will ensure I write and put up some more photos soon



Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bishnoi Village Safari, Jaisalmer and Camel Safari

We are now in Udaipur - such a beautiful place! Often dubbed the venice of the east and staying in a nice place that has a magical rooftop restaurant with amazing food, pizza's approx NZD $2 and such friendly staff.

We took an overnight bus from Jaisalmer to get here (only option) and even though we had a double sleeper it was a pretty cramped and freezing ride becuase our window wouldn't close properly and the roads are terrible! Constant head bashing against the walls and fearing the bus would roll - Alex had a small hissy fit at approx 11pm when a large number of my belongings were rolling round the cabin... "Why don't you ever put anything away!???!!" (head bashes against the ceiling as the driver carrers round yet another corner) "ARGHHH this driver is a LOSER!" whilst I laughed hysterically rolling about. Thankfully we had a toilet stop soon after where we refreshed ourselves with some delicious crackers and squat  toilets. Arriving at 5am was also fun as the temperature was 7 degrees, pitch black and no hotels/cafes open so we sat at the bus stop for 2.5hours eating biscuits and chai winding up rickshaw drivers who were trying to persuade us to come with them to their hotels.

 Alex with a man we visited on our village safari - through the Bishnoi villages near Jodhpur. He spinned up his turban for him after he prepared one of his daily opium fixes in front of us (first photo). Our guide tried to make out as if we'd just stumbled across this family going about their daily business but they chatted away as if they were old friends and most of the time seemed as if they were on a set plan of what to show us. The chai was delicious though!

 Boy doing dhurrie weaving (carpets) at his village - these rugs take up to a month, if they weren't so ugly we might have bought one! I'm sure they must appeal to lots of people though as they even had credit card facilites in their huts and solar panels!

The guy in the middle just started chatting to us at his shop about the world and we ended up at his house having chai and watching his new wife (right) making bags for his shop. She had only moved to Jodhpur a week ago, which was also the first time she had seen white people so you can imagine how freaked out/embarrassed/excited she was when we appeared at the door!

Sitting on the rooftop at our hotel in Jaisalmer

No sooner had a cow pooed on the street than this little girl sprinted out and started scooping up the hot, fresh poo with her hands into the plastic bag. I felt quite mean taking a photo so it's not a very good one but we had a jolly good LOL at this... RUUUUNNNN it's as if it was a race to see who would get the poo first. One time we were in the inside of a train station and there was cow poo and piss all over the floor - people just going about their business as usual.

Start of our camel safari in the great Thar Desert

Us on our camels and Sylvia and Peter - a cool Slovakian couple who we went on safari with

 On my camel with my guide (forgotten his name unfortunately) but he was such a happy wee thing singing along the way and kissing the camel

 (above) Collecting firewood for our campfire, and Alex's artistic shot at sunset - the most beautiful, perfect sunset I have ever seen.

 Making chapati's on the campfire. The food was pretty good considering they had hardly anything to work with and a tiny fire! Sylvia was also extremely prepared with a mountain of delicious chocolate biscuits, powdered drinks to help my stomach and antiseptic for Alex's feet - his shoes, which he spent an entrie afternoon searching for, bargaining and evaluating broke. They are also Bhuddist so our campfire discussion involved Alex asking a million incredibly hard-to-answer questions about Bhuddism but resulted in a good Bhuddist reading list for us.

 Baby at a gypsy camp whilst on safari - even in the middle of the desert we had gypsies asking us for money and chocolate. Our Bishnoi village safari guide described them well saying - "Gypsies used to charm snakes but now there are no more snakes".

Early morning in Udaipur chasing birds and waiting for the Cafe to open, if it says 8am it generally means 9am. Heaps of people come to feed the birds in the mornings as apparently it brings good Karma. One lady came down with her husband and a bag of rubbish and proceeded to dump it in the lake. Quite a contradictory country our India.

View from restaurant where we are going to treat ourselves tonight, the best view in all of Udaipur I think. And altogether it will probably cost only $25 NZD. I'm looking forward to a wine.

This is just a door I really liked the look of.

Chillies for sale. These men said it was OK for me to take their photo then asked for 10 rupees afterwards tisk tisk!

Mountains of poppadoms! They actually call them Papad's here, but poppadom's a cuter name I think.

These absolute cuties entertained us on our way home making us take millions of photo's of them. They didn't understand how the camera worked so were amazed everytime they saw things through it.

 We just missed the sunset! But this is the view from our hotel's rooftop restaurant in Udaipur - just fabulous!

Breakfast on the lower level this morning.

 Thankfully I'm almost cured from my endless illness! (touch wood) feeling a lot better so hopefully I can enjoy the last couple of weeks completely! We've now booked all transport for the rest of the trip - such a relief as it takes so long to organise anything here! And are heading to Mumbai on the 21st for 4 nights then back to Delhi for 2 nights and off to Thailand after that. 

I'm off to enjoy the sun! xxxx

Monday, December 13, 2010

Magical Pushkar and more!

Namaste everyone!

We're currently in Jodhpur, Rajasthan after an extended visit to Pushkar the best place in India thus far! We were only going to stay two nights but managed (after a very lengthy process!) to change our train tickets and stay for four nights.

Pushkar means Push - Flower, and Kar - Hand apparently the lake is the site where one of the Hindu gods Bramha dropped a lotus flower - and the lake appeared! Pushkar also has the only (or maybe one of two?) Bramha temples and 'true Hindu devotees' should visit at least once in their lifetime. So in Pushkar there is a mixture of touristsn and pilgrims visiting the temple - heaps of hippies, dreadlocks are everywhere and the tourists there are very chilled out - possibly as a result of the 'laughing lassi's' that are on offer at every second restaurant. Shopping here was also very fun and relaxing - there is hardly any traffic, just some crazy people on motorbikes every now and then and the store owners so nice! They don't chase you down the street when you don't end up purchasing something from their store and the clothes etc are a wee bit different to the rest of the stuff we've seen so far. Alex bought a cool purple hooded jumper thats hood is really long and pointy (trying to fit into the hippy scene...) and I bought an amazing embroided fabric entrance thingy - really not sure where I am going to use this as I have no double door entrances in my room but I couldn't resist. Among brightly coloured animals, hindu gods and flowers it has the words 'Good Luck' embroided and in hindu 'welcome'.

Below is a shot off our balcony in Pushkar at Paramount Palace Guest House, in the far left there's a lake (can't really see it in that photo sorry) and below our washing hanging in the sun. We managed to bargain down the room to 500 rupees per night (approx. $15) and utilised the balcony at every possible moment. Every minute of the day (and often at night!) there is music playing in Pushkar. Thankfully most of the time it's tasteful and makes walking around the streets and sitting on the balcony just perfect - except for the odd crazy wedding procession - I can't believe the music that comes out of those sound machines and it goes on for at least four hours, the fireworks they use also sound as loud as bombs!

Lake at sundown in Pushkar
For all those desperate to know what Maaza looks like! (rooftop restaurant in Pushkar)

This is the plastic bottle version for all those wondering whether Maaza was only distributed in glass bottles.

Yet another amazing roadside Chai store, 5 rupees a cup (3 or 4 for locals) 
Posing next to a cow next to Pushkar Lake
Wiping cow poo off my feet, stepped in a big juicy fresh one which Alex saw but didn't think to tell me as apparently 'I usually see them'...
Snake charmer in Pushkar 
Millions of pigeons in the bathing ghats, Pushkar
Getting a shave from a very happy (yet later, very demanding) wee chap in Pushkar
Alex now has a greasy Indian moustache
On the top a huge mountain we climbed, there is a temple at the top although I imagine no one makes the trip up there everyday... I could be wrong though but I definitely struggled up the millions of steps! Beautiful view at the top though
Audio guided tour of the fort in Jodhpur haha, we looked geeky but it was actually a really cool audio tour. We arrived in Jodhpur last night and are leaving to Jaisalmer tomorrow night on an overnight train.

The omelette man in Jodhpur - apparently this guy used to make a 'modest living' until one day the lonely planet accidently named his hotel the omelette shop and popped it in the lonely planet since then business has been booming! Apparently some days he goes through over a thousand eggs! We had the massala cheese omelette that was highly reccomended and came with 4 pieces of bread for only 30 rupees (90 cents) and Alex got some boiled then fried eggs which sound revolting but looked delicious, the omelettes were amazing and as I write Alex is trying to make me go there for dinner haha. The omelette man even has a guest book where everyone writes comments about his amazing omelettes and hands you over hard copies of articles people have written about him. A real cutie and such good value!

Tomorrow morning we're off on a village safari in a jeep to the nearby villages of Bishnoi apparently it's an amazing trip and Jodhpur doesn't have a lot going for it apart from the fort so it'll be a nice day out of the city.

Hopefully will get a chance to write another blog soon,