Friday, November 28, 2008

Movin on and lettin you know

We're getting on a bus to Jabalpur within the hour. Trying to see if it's possible for us to ride elephants and track tigers at the Bandhavgarh Reserve.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

We are OK

Hey guys,

After spending a sleepless night on a bus, we arrived in Nagpur to be presented with a newspaper describing the brutal terrorist damage done in Mumbai. Don't worry, we're outta there. And it's fortunate too because many of the areas hit were places our dusty sandals had treaded. I hope everyone who was injured recovers quickly.

We've been up to lots since our last post, mostly cave exploration. Our last day in Mumbai we took a boat out to Elephanta Island and explored the caves and temples there. Then after a long train ride to Aurangabad and a 24 hour rest period, we checked out the Ajanta and the Ellora caves over the next two days. (world heritage sights) They are maginficent. While at Ellora there are Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples, they are all Buddhist at Ajanta. The temples and shrines there date back to about 2nd century BC are carved right out of the rock that makes up the mountain. We had a special treat that day: we met a group of Buddhist monks and nuns who were accompanying Lama Zopa Rinpoche in visiting/praying/blessing the temples. We'd heard so much about him during our stay at Tushita in Dharmashala; we'd even seen a video about his pilgrimage to Tibet. If the Dalai Lama has a posse, I think it's safe to say that Rinpoche is in it. (*) He was very friendly and they welcomed us to tag along with them. They even shared their snacks with us!

Although we missed the attacks in Mumbai, we did get attacked by a fleet of bed bugs in Aurangabad. They are nasty little critters and we hope we haven't brough any with us.

What's next? Getting some fresh fruit, rest and trying to find a way to Varanassi.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Livin' Like Bollers

Hello, hello, good morning, good evening, good afternoon, how are you?

We've escaped the bustling city of Ahmedabad to take refuge in the Western sanctuary of Mumbai. This place is expensive. Apparently the average wage here is three times the typical amount earned in the rest of India, and the typical prices around here confirm it.

However, when we're not so concerned with our budget, we're likely to be found enjoying delicious pastries and fresh Italian Lavazza coffee in a swanky café around town. We spent the start of the day doing just that.

After arriving from a sleeper train at 8 am or so, we checked into an overpriced "budget" hotel then wandered the streets. They have quite the western feel to them. It's been a while since we've been surrounded by tall buildings, traffic (with no autorickshaws in sight), high-end fashion stores and stylish restaurants. It's kind of nice.

So we've gone to a couple of art galleries and watched the movie Quantum of Solace (with tasty popcorn!). Perhaps tomorrow we'll take a cruise to Elephanta Island and do whatever there is to do around there. We're not quite prepared to be in this big city, since we haven't thoroughly read the sights and activities that are available to us, but we'll get there. We're just coasting along looking for the next place to eat when our stomach demands it, which is great fun.

Speaking of which, that time has come again. Lunch! A late lunch, at 4pm, but a lunch nonetheless. We're being harassed much less here than in Ahmedabad and Diu, which is a real treat. In a couple of days we'll be heading out of here though, towards Aurangabad on a train, which should prove to be completely different than this blooming metropolis. Calmer, to say the least.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Off the Island

After spending the whole day on two buses and a train, we've arrived in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's capitol. We've got a cheap but adequately neat room at Hotel Gulmarg (where apparently call-girls are available). We just had a lovely meal at The Green House, a garden terrace restaurant. Everything seemed to have at least a little mint, coconut or coriander in it. We finished things off with fresh hand-churned ice cream. Yumm.


When we first arrived in Diu, something very strange seemed to be going on. We walked down the main drag ... in silence. All the shops were closed; the place was deserted. Diu used to be occupied by the Portugese, and although they aren't around anymore, the Indians adopted their habit of taking an afternoon siesta. So from 1 - 4 everyday everyone goes home for lunch and a nap.

Something else you should know about Diu is that it is the only place in the province where drinking (alcohol) is legal. This means that many Gujarati tourists come to enjoy the beaches and get drunk. We encountered many men with poor English, insistent on getting a photo of us. Although this is not unique to Diu, something about our bright white flesh glimmering in the Arabian Sea caused them to sit on the shore, watch and wait for us for great lengths of time. Speaking of glimmering in the sea, the sea food in Diu was super fresh and delicious. Tuna, shark fish, pomfret, prawns, king fish, calamari ... scrumptious. (We hear that a lot of Europe's seafood is imported from Veraval, a fishing town a couple hours from Diu.)

In contrast to the men of Diu, which are enough to give my dad the creeps, the women of Diu were some of the most wonderful yet. (I have had such amazing experiences with Indian women. Quite often they just involve a smile.) In Diu I feel I made friends with two women. One was this lady who sold fruit in the market. There was something special about her; she had a kind smile that knew everything and saw the humour in life. I speak no Gujarati, and the only English words she knows are "thank youuuuu", but we were always happy to see each other and somehow we managed to do business together. She always slipped something extra in my bag. My other friend worked at a restaurant called La Dolce Vita that Pete and I liked to eat at. She and her husband had a little white puppy called Jacky that loved to play. The woman was slim, young and pretty, and had little English, but her warmth and giggles told me that she liked me. On our last day in Diu, the day I finally got a sari, we went to dine there and to say goodbye. The young woman was very pleased to see me in traditional dress and she thoroughly fixed up my amateur attempt at the complicated folds and tucks that make a sari beautiful.

Pete dubbed Diu "a quirky paradise". I think that fits perfectly.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Goodbye Diu

Good afternoon!

I am feeling better!


Yes, the fantastic news is true. I feel better. Now I just need to continue eating like a regular human being again to help regain all that weight I lost over the past month! No problem with all the cookies and other snacks available at cheap prices :D. Don't worry, we also munch on fresh fruit and nuts as well. Steph particularly loves guavas.

Yesterday we had the wonderful experience of renting a Scooty! We buzzed around town on it tearing up the roads at 30km/h. It was really quite an enjoyable experience :-) We've got some photos of us riding and posing, but I don't have the camera with me to upload them.

Anyway, we're gearing up to get the heck out of this quirky paradise. We're heading to the big city Ahmedabad tomorrow, if we can get tickets, which shouldn't be a problem.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Welcome to Diu


I am writing you from the comfort of a lime green internet cafe in Diu. Yep-- that's right, we're still here. And TODAY I will finally update the itinerary.

I know what you're all wondering... how is Stephanie feeling?

Well, I'd love to let you know, but right now she is enjoying a peaceful bike ride along the shores of the Arabian sea, so we'll get back to you on that. Maybe.

After taking the medication, I managed to experience an hour or so of comfort, which was so incredibly enjoyable. The diarrhea stopped, but the internal pain didn't. I took four doses and waited two days after taking them before throwing in the towel-- again -- and going to buy some more meds from an Indian chemist (aka pharmacist).

Well, that was yesterday and I've been experiencing bouts of youthful exuberance between periods of mild discomfort. Boy oh boy, when that first bout came yesterday, it was as if I had been wearing sunglasses for 10 years and somebody took them off and let me see the vibrant world as it is. No longer was I chained by lethargy and pain. I had freedom!

Naturally, I ran outside and bought chocolate bars and cookies for Stephanie and I to celebrate over another grand evening of watching old movies (in English) on TV. The enjoyment was only temporary and I was soon arrested by low energy and uncomfortable feelings, but I did manage to eat a few slices of potato, carrots and cucumber for dinner.

Anyway, today has been better than yesterday. We managed a fairly enjoyable day at the beach after my breakfast of champions -- two plain slices of toast and one with honey. Life is just fabulous. ;>

I guess it would be better if it weren't for the kill-me-now smells that we are surrounded with in the city. Things like garbage, pollution (cars, burning plastic), rotting food (including fish). There's also this one mysterious smell that makes me want to die. It makes me feel like my lungs are filling up with plastic and it has an absolutely terrible aroma.


At least the beach is nice, as well as the air in this internet cafe on the main floor of our hotel.

Our next stops are supposed to be Ahmedabad, Mumbai, then the Ajanta caves and Ellora. I'm not too excited about seeing the first two places, as they're big cities, but we may be able to catch a viewing of Quantum of Solace in Mumbai, the home of Bollywood. The Ajanta caves and Ellora are both designated as World Heritage sites, so hopefully they're all right.

So long as the air has some oxygen left in it, we'll be okay. A big milestone is coming up soon-- we're 75% through our trip as of November 19. Cool, eh?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

DIARRHEA (part 1)

Greetings everyone!

It has become apparent that I am suffering from a lovely case of Traveller's Diarrhea (TD). At first, Stephanie and I both thought it only qualified as full frontal TD if there was blood in your stool, but this is not the case. Only in really bad cases is blood found in the diarrhea.

Anyway, I've been suffering from it on and off for the past month and it's gotten really bad in the past few days, so today-- after researching the symptoms again-- I've decided to stop being such a "tough guy" and start taking the meds to help fix myself. After writing this post, I will be taking my first dosage of Ciprofloxacin.

It's rather unfortunate, since we're currently staying on the ex-Portuguese island Diu, where we spent the day yesterday on the shores of the salty Arabian sea. Soaking up the sun can really take a lot out of you, especially when you're unhealthy! It'll be great when I'm feeling better and we can both truly enjoy our surroundings.

The food here hasn't been that great, although we have found one real gem of a restaurant called O'Coquiero Music Garden. They've served the best pasta and the best salads we've had in India so far, and the drinks aren't bad either. While we wouldn't recommend their breaded calamari, we're still open to trying the other fresh fish dishes.

I hope you guys are enjoying good health back home. Maybe you could send some positive energy to Steph to help her deal with the side-effects of my illness.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

FOOD (part 2)

We've arrived in Diu after a long long trip. I think we were in motion for 17 hours straight on various buses and rickshaws. The sleeper bus turned out to be quite nauseating and neither of us got much sleep. Now we've got a small room close to the water right near the fruit and vegetable market. This morning we went and bought some guavas, bananas, nuts, roses, cookies and this crazy fruit that resembles a puffy artichoke and can be pulled apart easily. It tastes kind of like lychee.

We've eaten some pretty delicious stuff here in India. We've visited some ritzy restaurants where meals are expensive - but still a fraction of what it would cost in Canada. But I think some of the best meals we've had have been quite simple: sharing a couple of dishes like mattar paneer (peas and cheese) and dum aloo (stuffed potatoes) and a plate of naan bread. Yum! Fresh lime sodas are always a safe bet for drink, but fresh juice and lassis are fun too when the place seems clean. Yesterday, after checking in, I drank the water from a young green coconut Pete got off the street. Subtle flavour, quite nice. Palm trees are all over the place here and actually the vegetation growing in this province(Gujarat) seems much more lush; more cactai, more flowering trees.

Here are some food photos from the last month or so:

vegetable dosa at the Indian Coffee House, Shimla

baked trout in Minali - so so good

fancy dessert at the Crystal Restaurant, Amritsar

after dessert we went to a well known hole in the wall for amritsari fish: white fish with garlic, lemon, ginger, chilli ... deep fried - amazing

Ronald chillin' in New Delhi (we haven't eaten here - yet)

super duper sweets shop at LMB, Jaipur

while I had a lager beer, Pete had a large bear

really nice and spicy fish meal in Udaipur

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I go bananas

After a rather lazy week in Udaipur, we're heading towards (the beaches of) Diu tonight. We'll take a sleeper bus to Rajkot, arrive tomorrow morning, grab breakfast, then take another ~7 hr bus to Diu.

It's tough to get a good breakfast in this place. We've waited away many mornings this week for cold toast and uncooked eggs. We did, however, find a great juice stand called Pap's that serves a fantastically fresh pomegranate/pineapple/ginger juice for Rs 40 (i.e. one dollar). I go bananas for it, plus it's good for the cold I caught. And Udaipur is speckled with rooftop restaurants with great views of the city and lake - which make long waits and mediocre food much more enjoyable.

The cows and bulls that fill the streets are feisty, and a few have hustled us a little. I did, however, meet a very nice young bull this morning and spent 5 minutes rubbing his neck, ears and nose.

There isn't a lot to do around here, so we've spent a lot of time hanging out in a cafe playing cards. We did, however, experience an evening of traditional Rajasthani dance the other night which totally blew me away. Women with exquisite balance dancing and spinning with pots of fire on their heads, a shimmering peacock dance, a puppet show, and the finale: a woman stacking metal pots on her head and doing tricks. She got up to 9. Six pots were stacked on her noggin when a man came out and poured broken glass on the ground. She then stomped and danced upon it. Hahahaa, how crazy is that?! The best Rs 60 I ever spent.

Here are a few pictures from Udaipur:

the world's largest turban!

new friend

floating palaces from fancy rooftop