Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The South has not been kind

The night before we departed Mumbai we were sitting in a tuk tuk (see photo)

We were approached by a young beggar girl selling balloons. All of the books suggest that before coming to India you should decide on how you want to handle the begging (ie to give or not to give).  We did give the odd time and when we did it often not enough and they were not timid in telling you so or following you still and asking for more.  And to be honest it gets to you after a period of time.  At this point in time I was a wee bit irritated.  As we were driving away I looked at the girl who was now joined by her young brother and they were clearly not happy we did not buy the balloons.  The look her brother gave was chilling. And a few times over the course of the next few days I wondered if we had somehow been cursed.  Things were not going as planned. The energy had clearly shifted.

Houseboating on the backwaters of India has become the thing to do and others who have tried have highly recommended this. 

Because of the lack of sleep we thought best to head down to the docks and view the boats rather than book sight unseen to ensure the beds were decent.  Here's a rough idea of what the docks look like with the boats lined up - sometimes three to four boats deep.

So we spent a good couple of hours hopping from boat to boat in 30 degree weather and had it narrowed to one that was only about a month old and had a nice upper deck where views of the impending river would be quite beautiful. Problem was - so said the tour operator -  that the boat was awaiting inspection that afternoon that not surprisingly in India - may or may not happen. This did not sit well with me. My intuition was telling me that this was not right.  However left it at that....for now....and went off in search of other boats.  Settled on this one........

after meeting the owner and getting him to agree to accompany us on the two night backwater tour.  Then we get a call - the other boat has become available and so we make our way over to have a second look only to see that my concern mentioned above was for good reason.  The boat had been rented by a couple already and the tour operator had somehow managed to convince them to move to another boat.  There was no inspection - we had been played.  This did not sit well with us and so we passed on the boat and went back to the other.  At 12 noon the boats depart.  Ours would not start.  Something wrong with the starter. So we waited and I took pictures of all the other boats leaving on their journey's.  Everyone looked so happy and excited as they were leaving and truthfully it was cool to see them embarking. 

Finally at about 4pm we were set to go - three staff on board.  Cook, driver and owner in tow.  Spent a beautiful afternoon sitting in the sun on the sun deck snapping photos and happily waiving to other boaters and natives on the shore.

Most beautiful sunset. 

The boat docked for the night at 6:30pm and after an authentic Keralan dinner with red snapper we watched old music videos and drank some KINGFISHER beer.  At about 9:30 pm it was time to turn in.  When I turned the light on in the bedroom I noticed a large looking bug sitting in the wall above the head of the bed.  After some discussion it came out that it was a cockroach.   It was about the size of a baby cucumber. The owner - Abbey - 'got rid' of it over the side of the boat and said that the bedroom door had been left open and it 'flew' in there from a nearby boat.  I knew sleep would be very difficult that night and planned to stay in the room with the lights on.  Bent over to take my pj's out of my bag and spotted yet another cockroach of the same size.  This time I pretty near lost it.  Abby was unable to catch it.  So moved to the next bedroom and sat up all night watching with the lights on.  Had pretty much made up my mind to turn the boat around the next am but before having to tell the owner it turned out the boat would not start in the am and so after some rearranging of plans we made our exit and headed to Kovalam to begin the Ayurvedic and yoga retreat early. 

One more blog to post tomorrow.

Love Tammy

Fort Kochin

We arrived by plane to Fort Kochin....a cute little seaside town in the Southern part of India in the State of Kerala and were greeted by a driver that was arranged to take the homestay/cooking school that I was soo looking forward to attending.  Unfortunately the Universe had other plans....................................

First a flat tire in a very sketchy part of town that required us to stand roadside as we waited. Thankfully the driver moved quickly and we were back on the road in no time at all.

Then we pull up to the homestay to find the owner waiting outside.  No room at the Inn he said.  Interesting since I had been in touch quite a few times in the days leading up to our arrival.  The owner said he had told us by email that for this night we would have to stay in his apartment and then back to the homestay the following night. Never got the email he said that they sent but how bad could it be?  Well let's just say in the most loving of ways possible that there should be at least one mandatory requirement when staying over at someones house.  That is...... that there be at least sheets on the bed.  Is that asking for too much?  So there were no sheets on the bed, no water in bottles to brush the teeth with, no soap or face cloths and the straw that broke the camels back.......showering with the hose meant for bidet was not a desirable option.  So off it was in search of a hotel at 10pm at night (with the homestay owner who I swear managed to up the chosen hotel price so that he was still getting his share of wallet for our backing out of his apartment stay).  And BTW the cooking classes...........didn't get those either.  Trip Advisor will be my new friend shortly.

So to make the best of a sticky situation we wandered about this little seaside town and took in some shopping opportunities......did some research on our next stop - Allapuzha....had lunch with some great people from San Fran that were doing some touring and soul searching as they had received job offers to move to India and most of all - more photo opps.

Not sure how the sheep's tooshie managed to make it's way in there.  But it is kind of funny.

This display of antique teapots was in a restaurant that we popped in to look at the menu of but chose not to stay. 

I know, I know not very Indian-ish per say but I think worth sharing.

And a couple of authentic Indian extracurricular activities...........................

and they sure do take their Sunday night Cricket Games seriously! This game had hundreds of spectators (all men but for one woman that I could see).

Off to houseboat!



Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Madness of Mumbai (formerly Bombay)

First domestic flight in India.  Got the the airport in Udaipur to find out flight was delayed a couple of hours and it was really early in the morning and boy it was cold.  When the flight did finally get airborne I was sitting in front of a French dude who was using his throat to pull up some not so friendly stuff in there (sorry ladies) - all the way to Mumbai and to top it off he was kneeing me in the back with his giant legs at the same time.  Pretty near lost my temper.  Turns out his hotel room was right across the hall from mine in Juhu Beach Mumbai.  Thankfully the walls were thick ......but not that thick.  More on that later............................

Mumbai -  29,000 people per square kilometer.  That pretty much sums it up.  The beach - the Arabian Sea- rather dirty and stinky and because of that avoided walking on it and instead turned the overnight stay in Mumbai into a shopping extravaganza. Hired a driver to take us around.  We had one shop we wanted to see that sells nice cotton tunics for women and men and kids (some of my readers may own one when I arrive home lol).  While in the change room of said shop I befriended this lovely Indian woman (in her mid sixties would be my guess). She was doing some shopping and I politely offered her some unsolicited advice.  As she was paying she asked us if we would like other shops like this one and we said yes.  She said everyone has to do 4 nice things for others a day (great advice) and she would direct our driver to another shop.  So we hopped in our car - she in hers and off we followed til our driver lost hers in the 29,000 people per square km city ( hard not to get lost).  When all of a sudden we see her on the street sternly directing traffic in her beautiful green Saree - pointing her finger giving serious shit to a bus driver.  The out of no where she hops in the passenger side of our car and begins to order around our driver.  She took us to another awesome store (more gifts for the readers) and gave us her card inviting us for dinner next time we are in town.  That day she was buying her new outfit to celebrate her 44th wedding anniversary.  She was sparky and had amazing energy and we told her that.  The people that you meet.....when you are walking down the street......

Mumbai is a city that is rather confusing.  It is a dusty overpopulated metropolis desperately attempting to break into the 20th century and with that there are huge shopping like malls popping up every 10 blocks or so.  Most of the natives are wearing western clothing and this is the city where I have felt the least amount of attention directed our way.  It has been refreshing.

So getting back to the thick walls.  I was awoken at 3 am on the overnight in Mumbai to some ruckus outside my door.  Someone warned me in coming to India that I may see a woman being mistreated physically by her husband and warned me not to get involved.  So what do you do when you see a woman seriously physically assaulting her husband outside the bedroom door?  She said he hit her first and there may be a ring of truth in that but that was about one of the oddest things I have ever seen.  And yes they had clearly got their drink on.......

I didn't even take the camera out of the bag here in Mumbai.  Too little time and honestly not a lot of photo opps.  So rather than leave you with nothing, here is cute photo of one of the country's holiest animals standing so noble on a hill top in Udaipur.

Off to the sunny South!

More in the next day or so!


The Gem of India

Here in Udaipur has been most enjoyable. The weather delightful, this palace incredible.  Unfortunately my fear of heights overtook me on a trek up the highest mountain in the city to a temple at the top and I had to sit with the guide on the side of the mountain regaining my composure and awaiting photos from the top.  This fear of heights of mine allowed me the most intriguing conversation with this guide about the village the palace overlooks and the 100 or so people it employs.  After several probing questions on the guides part about my interest in pot (and as most will know my not so interest in pot lol) it suddenly dawned on me that this guide was looking to perhaps sell me some pot - maybe smoke some with me? I never let the conversation get that far, steering it in a much different - perhaps opposite direction - discussing kids etc. He promptly attempted to discuss sex with me and learned I was not interested in that either.   Most men are far less bold in this country in my experience.

At the end of the trek (getting down was easier) the guide offered give us a ride the following day around Udaipur and we took his name and number but after some discussion decided the hotel car would likely be safer.

The following night I learned more from the camel guide who pointed out that this village tends to have more children per family than the sketchy 2 per as allowed by the government because of the serious amount of pot smoking. Ahhhhh - now I understand. Drugs and sex.  Hmmmmmm (Dean you might have to edit this for the kids).

So after three of the most relaxing days in India.........................

We will bid goodbye to this most precious palace overlooking what has to be the most free spirited village below....................

and am doing so with a heavy heart and a promise to someday return .............................

I know their gates will always be open for me and anyone who wisely chooses to visit....hurrah to Devi Garh.

This last picture is indicative of this village - ladies in beautiful coloured Saree's farming the fields while the husbands work in restaurants and store fronts.  

Miss you,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Udaipur - a fresh view of India

After 3 very challenged sleeps in Jaipur I slept most of the 7.5  hour drive to Udaipur - another Rajasthan city.  The city on first view is spectacular. So lush and green.  Our friend Alex booked us in at a hotel called Devi Garh. Sight unseen which in India can go really either way.  Thankfully this one was a treat.

Our first night here having dinner in the dining room we recognized the people sitting beside us at the table.....Deva Premal and Miten - two spiritual singers/chanters. Went to their concert in Toronto back in July and they are amazing. A married couple - she was twenty when they met - he was 40ish (now roughly 40 and 60 years old) - met at an Ashram in India.  Meeting them was an incredible experience.   See link...... http://www.devapremalmiten.com

The pictures tell the story of this magnificent palace sitting high in the mountain over a small village - a village that no doubt the hotel has helped in so many ways......

The staff - so well trained - so polite and thoughtful.....

Spent some time trekking in the hills and riding a camel........

soo many photo opportunities here.  I don't want to leave............

Spent 3 days here.  Will post more pics later.


Saturday, January 29, 2011


Sleep in Jaipur has been challenged.

The nights are very cold ( 5 degrees) and the Haveli has no heat.

One of the most beautiful things - at 5:30 in the evening you can hear the sound of children laughing and playing from the rooftop terraces - all of them flying beautiful coloured kites.  It is a scene out of the movie - The Kite Runner.  If you haven't seen the movie - I would suggest it - it is beautiful.

The little specks you see are the kites.  Very difficult to get a good picture.

Four times throughout the day in this city - 5:30am, 2 times through the day and again at 7:30pm you can hear the call to prayer for Muslims.  A chanting that is exactly that - a call to prayer that rises from the depths of the city to high above the mountains.  It is beautiful - even at 5:30 am lol.

Here is a pic of a lovely lady I met working in the washroom of a roadside restaurant on the way to Jaipur.   She was too pretty and authentic to not have a pic.

and another of one of the modes of transportation in this vast archaic country......

Be in touch soon.

Tam :)

New City....New Adventure

Well bye to Delhi....last evening at dinner met a group from Colorado.  A lady and her young son and an Aunt travelling with them.  Here in India for 90 days while the young boy receives stem cell transplants.  Blew me away. In a country that seem so archaic to such a progressive treatment not yet available in Canada.

Now in Jaipur - in the province on Rajasthan.  A 6 hour drive from Delhi.  Staying with the Singh family at their Haveli.  Once their family palace now converted into a 14 room facility. Absolutely beautiful from the outside........

I have learned a lot about Indian culture and the cast system.  This is a method of categorizing the people.  From the colours that they can wear......




To what food they can eat (veg or non-veg) and who they can marry..................

And if you are wondering if I........

did get to attend an actual marriage ceremony...........................

You would be correct!  Ask and the universe shall provide (and yes all the pictures on the blog are indeed mine!)


(PS. Keep forgetting to tell you that the second night in Delhi I was awoken at 2am by an earthquake - epicentre in Pakistan 7.2 on the Richter scale)