Monday, November 18, 2013

India week 3 (from tues 15th October) The 4 B 's; Brilliant, Busy, Bonkers, Biryani

Start of 3rd week in India but what we think of as India 'part 2 : the move south!!!

Tues 15th October


Early morning 7am flight with Jet airways from Udaipur to Mumbai felt luxurious in comparison to a 10 hour train journey. Really lovely friendly staff such a nice change from what you'd get on a UK cheap airline! Met a couple that we had met on train station back in gorakpur and again at Udaipur at the airport. They were straight off to goa!

Here we are!

Arrived at Mumbai airport which was huge and extremely modern and efficient which you'd expect for a city if it's size. There was even a Starbucks! Which we avoided in favour of a local cafe and had a muffin and 'proper coffee' for breakfast. (The coffee snob in Chris cannot tolerate instant coffee regardless of situation or budget, so must have gone days without a coffee by now!) It's funny how disappointed he gets when they bring 'weak ass' coffee and don't seem to care about his disappointment. My theory is, stick to chai! In the country of tea drink tea it's what they do best.

Anyway, the coffee gave us a renewed energy to deal with the tuk tuk agro and soon we were stuck in traffic heading towards hotel. Hotel was nice although a bit far from main attractions.

After checking in we went to a beach called Juhu for a walk. We'd read online that this was a filthy beach that gets packed with locals on weekends. It's a 10km stretch of flat beach but omgwhen we got there the stench of poo and filth filled our nostrils (not nice fresh air) and we saw a very random group of ramshackle huts selling food, sweets, drinks etc and literally piles of rubbish and rubbish lorries on the beach. There were hundreds of people there but as space was so big it wasn't cramped. Some were even in the water but mostly people were just sitting around in the filth. As the city haze of pollution blocks out direct sunlight, it was hot and trying to be sunny through the smog. So busy looking around, I nearly stepped on a dead rat!!! And if the rat couldn't survive, it's a pretty grim beach.

Juhu beach Mumbai - filth

Juhu beach goer 'Ratty' finds the filth too much

We walked along for about 10 minutes then head to a seafood restaurant (well reputed) nearby.

Having not had any fish for 5 weeks due to reasons obvious to anyone reading about filth and our inland location, this was a bit of a nice change. Clearly a place where the rich Mumbai people come, we had a couple of beers and I had a couple of fresh watermelon mojito to go with lunch. Nice lunch but bit overpriced and poor service. Full up and tired we decided to just go and chill in our hotel. A little drunk in the cool taxi after the expensive fish meal and cocktails

As we had a tv, we just ordered a beer and ice cream and watched mission impossible 2 (only English film) and relaxed. Nice. Chris was suffering a trapped nerve in his neck (we think from when Udaipur woman hit him) so also good for him to chill.

Wed 16th

Day 2 Mumbai.

Deciding to embrace the tourist thing we took a taxi down to India Gate. On the southernmost tip of the city, this monument was built in 1911 to commemorate a visit of king George and queen Mary when the British empire still ruled. Ironically in the 40s when India got freedom from us, it's the spot where the last British ships sailed from which is now a well celebrated fact. It's more packed with Indian tourists than the Taj Mahal and again we were the freak-show attraction for most, surrounded by people wanting to have their pictures taken with us. It was boiling hot day too. Monument very impressive and right on the edge of the port, so with a little creative imagination you could envisage the days if the Old India Shipping Co and their fleets of spice ships coming and going.

Delhi Gate

Very British architecure

Mumbai fort from our boat

We had heard from the couple we met on jodphur train that there was an island called 'elephanta' worth a visit so we decided to take a boat out to it from India Gate. An hour on a passenger boat we sailed along the Arabian sea (so much filth floating in it that even mid ocean we could play I-spy. Lol! Elephanta is a UNESCO world heritage site where there are caves containing huge Buddhist statues carved out of the rock in the caves dating back to 11th century. Amazing sight on a jungle island full of monkey's. Loads of Indian tourists and as usual we had to pay the over inflated tourist entry fee (this time only 25 times higher than Indian entry fee). Great find though.

Monkey enjoying a bottle of Mazza at Elephanta caves

Elephanta cave carving

Chris at the 'Gate'

After ferry back we headed to the 4 seasons hotel for rooftop panoramic city view. Although on arrival we weren't allowed in, as their dress code didn't allow shorts which Chris had on. Miles from the hotel going to change wasn't an option. So, annoyingly we left and took a taxi to a place called Haji Ali;a supposed beauty spot to watch sunset. What we found was something resembling a dirty run down version of the Brighton pier (the derelict one), teeming with people all taking a stroll along a pier above a black beach which was black due to being covered in sewerage and waste. So, we decided to skip that 'healthy' walk. Bought a couple of beers and headed back to hotel. Only we picked an ancient and possibly drugged or drunk taxi driver who clearly had no idea how to drive or where our hotel was. It took over an hour to get back by which time I had lost patience with it. Time to stop the city tours and get to the beach methinks. 5 weeks of city touring since leaving UK and we are tired and in need of some beach based r&r!!!

Traffic jam Mumbai

Like a genius Chris suggested ordering a dominoes pizza to our room!! Don't even do that in UK hotels so I didn't have much hope but sounded a lush idea as there is only so much curry, dhal, rice, chapati and deep fried stuff you can cope with. When we rang it was BOGOF Wednesday! Pizza arrived in 45mins so we had that and went to bed. Nice. It's hard to be in big cities on a mega tight budget also so you can't do all the stuff you'd like to which makes its hard and a little demoralizing I guess it makes me realise that at home (when I had a well paid proper job), we were lucky to have enough money to do what we wanted when we wanted within reason (until we were saving for this trip!) well that'll all change back in UK when I am jobless :0(

Thursday 17th October.

4.45am pick up for 6am train from Mumbai to Aurangabad, the home of the Ellora caves. Chris still suffering with his neck bless him. 6-7 hour train trip so hoping it's worth it. Writing this latest blog while on the train. As we in posh AC class we had free chai and potato samosa chilli thing with bread for breakfast. Nice. The main train station in Mumbai is a world heritage site also and from British colonial rule. Amazing building. Looks quite similar to Kings Cross st Pancras station in London. In fact many buildings and streets in Mumbai resembled areas in London which was interesting to see.

Hotel at aurangabad was basic but clean. Checked in, had some biryani for lunch then went to see the aurangabad caves. They were really interesting rock carved caves.

Aurangabad caves


More entertaining were the group's of local teenage boys who hang out in large groups, posing on rocks together resembling a scene from West Side Story.. they hang out in gangs wearing very 70s style clothes, jeans so tight that they even have male camel-toe! They are so busy staring, trying to look threatening that you can't help think they are about to burst into some gang-inspired song. Of course the usual photo please situation followed.


West Aurangabad story

Paparazzi buddha

Olden days sculptors had delusions over female figure methinks

View from Aurangabad caves

Chris taking culture very seriously..

Our driver abandoned us at the caves which was a little worrying. We tried to call him and when he eventually returned he explained he had been for 'chai chai'. We then went to the mini-Taj, which was bigger than the name suggests, although a sadder run-down version. Had a Madonna moment here where a family came running up, shoved their baby at me shouting for me to hold him while having picture taken. My inner evil side partly wanted to start sprinting off with baby in arms just to teach them a lesson, but for baby's sake I smiled sweetly (well as much as that's possible for me) and posed while Chris laughed.

at the mini taj

Mini Taj at sunset

After this we just returned to hotel bar. Hilariously the receptionist man suggested we should sit in the family restaurant for a beer as the bar has no women sitting in it. Step aside misterwe are in 2013! However in the bar it was like a 1970s working men's social club in the valleys, smoking, gritty tables, no windows and just a tv for entertainment (Indian news). But it served beers AND complimentary peanuts and cheesy poofs which they kept refilling! We stayed there had some beers, rum, vodka and whiskey between us (yes I was drinking much to the horror if fellow bar dwelling sexists) then fell asleep at 9.30 !!! No dinner necessary due to cheese poof overdose.

Poor-mans version of coke, rum and cheesy poofs!!!

Friday 18th Oct

Daulatibad fort and Ellora caves.

Stopped at the fort that was on top of the mountain that we had nicknamed 'muffin mountain' when we saw it from the train window. This fort was really old and clearly used for battles etc. I'd like to be more informative about the sights and more aware but I forget stuff and the finite detail bores me, sorry! We got to walk the 800 steps to the top but halfway we had to venture through a series of pitch black tunnels which they used to use as a defence against advancing enemies. Enemies used to die inside going crazy getting lost or falling down traps to the crocodile infested moat below.

For us we were ushered through by a sympathetic Indian couple with a torch and we all huddled together walking through while bats flew overhead. A bat then took a poo on my head and weed on my arm!!! Not nice!!! Eventually we made it to the top. Amazing views!!

Dailatabad fort

View from halfway up D. Fort

King of the castle

If its not a big lens, its a big cannonhmmm

Next stop was Ellora caves. A series of 36 caves carved into hillside dating from 7-11th century, there were Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves. We spent the afternoon exploring these amazing caves and its just spectacular how well preserved they are!! One was something like you'd expect to see in Indiana Jones 'raiders of the lost arc'. Amazing and enjoyable. Thirsty and hot work exploring these caves we refreshed with a 'spruce' (self named mix of sprite and juice combo) which is heaven when you're so thirsty you have no saliva left and no cold kingfisher beer. A lovely day well worth the 7 hour detour from Mumbai :0)

Ellora Caves - India Jones territory

Ellora - amazing

One carving still with staining


temples very big said the Americanin the hat ;o)

the nicest THali yet - just before Ellora

Sat 19th October

Mumbai (again)

We took the sleeper train overnight from aurangabad, which arrived at 6.45 am to dadar station, where we got off. As I was asleep, (I had picked top bunk to be away from mice), I turned from my side to my back and heard a squeal of a mouse sounding like it was bring crushed under my pillow!! I screamed, sat bolt upright and it climbed up my neck into my hair!!! I then had to try and get it out of my hair!! Flicked it away where it went hurtling through the air towards the curtain and probably landed on another poor victim. After that and a visit to the delightful squat toilet, I couldn't sleep (surprisingly). So spent 4 hours dozing watching the fat man on the bunk opposite snoring away. Chris slept through all the commotion. Ha!!

Back at the Mumbai hotel we checked in and this time our room had a massage chair!!Bliss!! Although quite painful after a while, we treated ourselves to a massage and a very chilled out day and walked around the area trying to find a pharmacy. Looked up somewhere to go for food and found a nice bar/restaurant called Bonobo near our hotel that did 2-4-1 cocktails and nice mezze and continental snacks. Also had the most amazing old school rhas a fan, mossi net and hot shower and for EUR10 per night, hearing the ocean as you wake up and go to bed is bliss. Must be 20m from the sea, max. Hundreds of Palm trees along the 1.5 km bay with small colourful little snacks along the front is definitely our kind of place and to be our home until 25th Oct. 5 nights r+r just sleeping, eating (food amazing and so cheap), drinking rum (old monk EUR1.50 for 750ml), sunbathing, swimming, walking, reading . enough said!!! :0)

playing some 'shit head' one of the only 2 games we know

hard life

sunset on balcony!

hammock chillaxing


the hut on the right is oursthe one on the left is the barquite far to bar and sand!!!

fellow sun worshipers

using our sewing kit to fix holes in mozzi net!

Sometimes it was too hot to lie in the sun for more than 20 minutes at a time and we even bought factor 30 sunscreen as the sun was so strong. Cows being the sacred animals in India would roam the beach just chilling out in the shade!! Once a day a lady carrying a wicker basket would walk along the beach sweeping up cowpats into her basket! What a thankless job. Perhaps I can apply if all else fails in future lol!!

The Nest is where we stated. The food was lovely although catering for tourists, so we asked owner where we could get authentic Goan food. We went to a place called Ferns just around the corner and feasted one night on a humongous fresh while Red Snapper fish which was cooked in goan spices in the tandoor oven, with rice salad chips and special sauce all for EUR10 for the two of us. Yum!!!

All in all a great place to start our 7th week of travels and adventure..such a laid-back vibe. So quiet, the season hasn't properly started yet so no flash packers either. Lush times. Xxx

On Friday 25th evening we caught an overnight sleeper train to kochin to start the Kerala leg if our India journey. Hilarious when waiting for train you know a train is about to come into the station when people start to get down onto the tracks !!! They walk across the tracks rather than over footbridge to cross to other platforms! Bonkers. 16 hour train down to Kerala. Woke up to the sight of the two men sharing our 4 berth sleeper section kneeling in prayer mode bowing forward facing window chanting to themselves.. not normally something I wake up to at 6.30am. But the good news is no mice attacks during night. However, lying dead still afraid to move for the mice, on the rock hard mattress has led to my hips and back in so much pain I feel 80 years old. Lol!!!
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