Friday, June 29, 2007

Bombay-Ahmadabad-Udaipur: 9June07

i think you probably could only see thousands of men washing clothes together in India. We took a train to go to a dhoby ghat and witnesses the incredible scene. Then we went to the mosque in the middle of the sea (or rubbish? the causeway was surrounded by rubbish). You could only access to the mosque during low tide while the causeway link the land to the mosque was submerged during high tide.

We took a sitting day train to Ahmadabad to change to Udaipur. The episode of the day was Matt went down the train to buy newspaper. The train moved and i thought he would be some where in other cabin. After half an hour, when more people boarded the train, i was kind of panicked. He got everything with me and if he missed the train, it would be very very bad. The people sat around me obviously think i am his wife and they started to look at me with a kind of sympathy. Before i started to cry (after days of reliances with Matt and Vivien, i got very much meek now), Matt just appeared again in front of me. i was relieved and it was definitely not easy for me to carry 2 person's backpacks!

Cost: 202 Rs

Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat. According to Lonely Planet, 5000 men are working here. They use rows of open-air troughs to beat the dirt out of the housands of kilograms of soiled clothes brought from all over the city each day. It was indeed an amazing sight.

Haji Ali's Mosque. This whitewashed mosque is in the middle of Arabian Sea. It becomes an island during high tide but is accessible at the other times via the concrete causeway lined with beggars. The legend says the Muslim saint Haji Ali died while on a pilgrimage to Mecca and his casket miraculously floated back to Mumbai and landed at this spot. Then the devotees built this mosque which contains His tomb.

The palace on Jamandir Island of placid lake Pichola. Udairpur is called white city as most of the buildings are in white color. It is Rajasthan's most romantic city and a really good place for honeymoon. We got a room right facing to the lake and palace for off season price at Rs 200. A room like this would cost Rs 500-800 during peak period.

Bombay: 8 June 07

Vivien Leaving

We woke up at 4am so that we could go to the dock at 5am for the fishing trade at the dock. This was some kind of thing that i would only do with friends and not alone.
(Unfortunately, photography is not allowed at the colourful and lively dock.)

Vivien is leaving and Matt would go to the slum with a photographer from Denmark. i would walk around on my own, spend time at museum.

When i hugged said good bye to Vivien, i felt very sad. So people comes and goes. When i walked around the street on my own again, i felt lonely and miserable. i felt it like part of my life. A lot of time, i have to learn to 'enjoy' the loneliness and to enjoy the beauty of things myself. Probably nobody will stay in my life and this would be something that i needed to get used to. May be, i am looking for something in India. May be something spiritual or others. i won't know until the end of the trip.

Cost: 700 Rs

Victoria Terminus (renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus for patriotism reason) is said to be the most exuberant Gothic building in Mumbai. It looks more like a lavishly decorated palace or cathedral than a railway interchange. It has beautiful carving and stained-glass window.

Bombay University. According to Lonely Planet, it looks like a 15th century Italian masterpiece dropped into the middle of an Indian metropolis. i agree.

Prince of Wales Museum. Again, for patriotism, the name is changed to a very long Indian name later. Unfortunately, the long long name, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, just sounds like a tongue twister to me. The huge white dome building was built to commemorate King George V's first visit to India. He was still Prince of Wales then.

Bombay (Mumbai): 7June07

Welcome to Bollyhood!

This would be the last day for 3 of us to hang out together. It was the end of the trip for Vivien. He needed to go back to Coimbatore (near Chennai). He is doing his finally year University internship in an Institute over there. By this time, we had talked about so much of our life: our family, our job, our love story and our dreams. There was a kind of affection that making the separation sounded bad.

We had no particular plan. We walked from Colaba (where we stayed) to Victoria Terminus Railway and took a rishaw to Chowpatty Beach. There were beggars every where, but they kind of 'work' in a family. i have mixed feelings on whether to give or not. If one ruppee could help them to not to starve for a while, why not? But in the other way, i feel reluctant to be surrounded by other beggars who in the end will push and pull me trying to get the same. i don't want the one rupee to be an encouragement for the children to 'inheritage' the career as a beggar too.

Bombay has the biggest slum in the world. This is a place with absolute rich and poverty gap. i think India is really in need of population controls. Why people wanted to born a dozen of children if they couldn't even feed themselves? Matt said, Hindu believed that you will go to hell if you don't have son and like Muslim, child is a gift of God. So there is simply just no education to many regarding on this issue. This is probably a problem with no solution.

Something interesting for the day was, we were wanted by some 'star search' from Bollyhood. Basically, they need foreigners to walk at the background of the main characters to feature some foreign university scene. They would pay us 500 Rs for one to half day. It would be an interesting Bollyhood experience, but too bad, we did not have enough time for that and we rejected the offer.

Cost: 700 Rs

Around Victoria Terminus, many auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers were waiting for passengers. Golden rule: Always agree with a price before you go to any where.

Chowpatty beach and many birds...

Anjuna-Bombay: 6 June 07

Goa Beaches

The famous Anjuna flea market was small due to the off season. There was nothing much to shop around and for the rest of the day, we just hang around the beach area and chit chatting. The weather was very hot and humid that we got really sticky and dirty well before the bus ride to Bombay.

The private bus (which looks like the Malaysian "bus kilang" - factory bus) was definitely better than the previous bus that we took from Hospect to Goa. But it was also as hot (no air con) and whenever the bus stopped to pick up other passengers, i just felt that i am going to die from suffocation. Due to the smelly and sticky conditions of mine, i wasn't able to catch a sleep. But keeping awake in a bus like this was even more disasterious, so somehow i managed to put myself to slumber.

Cost: 466 Rs

The famous Baga beach of Goa. Loaded with many sun beds but due to off season, strong tide, there are not many tourist.

Palolem beach, hemmed in at either end by rocky crags. At least this is a quieter beach with nobody trying to sell us drug.

The sunset of Anjuna beach.

This was really funny but yet dangerous. The people was standing on the rock to take picture and they knew that, when the tide comes in, the water is going to splash on them. A big wave came indeed... :P

Anjuna,Goa: 5June07

They took care of me!

Probably because of the season was not right, the beaches have very very strong wave. We went to a few beaches by scooter (3 of us on a scooter!), but all beaches were just equally dissapointing. The water is murky, strong tide, some not even with any sand or coconut trees. This place is really nothing if compare with the nice beaches in Thailand or Malaysia.

The beach itself wasn't great to me at all. But with good companions, i kind of started to enjoy the trip now. The whole trip was now relaxing to me, with both Matt and Vivien taking care of almost all logistics. They took care of me in every way to make sure that i am comfortable. i think i started to have some luck now.

Cost: 340 Rs

The yellow structure is part of a restaurant by Anjuna beach. The wave was too strong that the water kept splashing into the restaurant. So they put on the yellow canvas.

The tribe women selling their handmade handicraft by Anjuna beach, near to the bus station.

Panaji, Goa, India: 4June07

Welcome to Little Lisbon!

We arrived with the disasterious bus trip from Hospect to Margao (not Panaji) that we wanted to go, at the ungodly hour of 4.30am. The bus ride was extremely unpleasant. Bumpy and very hot and again, i was molested by some Indian guy when Matt went to the seat behind to lie down.

When we got settled down at the guest house in Panaji, it was already 1pm. When we got the ticket to Bombay done, it was already late afternoon. We then took the 4.5km walking tour. It was just one hour and the walk was a pleasant one.

Goa has a very different feel from other India cities. At least, they serve beef here. People also tend to not bother you and there was hardly anyone asked us "which country?", "What is your name?" - For some reasons, these questions are 'important' to some very curious Indian. This place reminded me of Macau, the almost same Portuguese influence, with the Portuguese style of buildings and churches. Even the Hindu temples don't look like an Hindu temple at all.

Cost: 692 Rs

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, standing above the square in the town centre of Panaji, Goa. Built by the Portuguese.

The sunset by Mandovi River, Panaji.

This interesting looking building is not a house owned by some rich people and it is not a wonderland for kids too. :) (It looks like some kind of castle to me.) This is Maruti Temple dedicated to the monkey god, Hanuman. The temple's veranda provides fine views towards the Mandovi River.

One of the city view from Maruti Temple.

Hampi-Panaji, India: 3 June 07

I met Vivien and Mathieu

i am still in a kind of paranoid feelings today. A trip like this is really draining up my energy. i wish to leave here as soon as possible. This whole place is just giving me a feeling of unsafe and uncomfortable. Every Indian if they are not in a group of family would give me a feeling that, they might be some bad guy. Every children and old people if they are not wearing shoes, would look like a beggar to me. If all these are not true, then they must be up to something to talk to me or on the same path as me.

When i had my breakfast by the restaurant at the river side, the young man working there was trying to sell me some statues saying that he needs money to go to school. i don't trust a word about him at all. He also commented that the purple and pink crystal that i were wearing were very beautiful. By then, i realised that, things that looked 'normal' and 'unvaluable' to me could be very valuable to the people here. i took off both crystal later.

i met two Shanghainese girls at a restaurant by the padi field. Both of them are 'professional' travelers. Obviously coming from a rich family in China and don't have to work for a living. So they just travel all the time around the world. They said they felt tired to deal with the people here eventhough they have two. So it must be kind of more difficult for me to deal with all these alone. They invited me to join them in their journey, but i rejected after some considerations. i think the expectation of trip might not be very same for us and they are places that i wanted to go but they have already been.

One decision leeds to another. By pure luck, when i got to the bus station in Hospect, i met a Canadian, Matt and a French, Vivien. i asked to join them in Goa and it ended up that, they both were such a great travelmate that in the end, we traveled for almost 2 weeks together.

Cost: 333 Rs

i met this Indian family when i needed helping hands. i will always remember them. They are fromAndhra Pradesh.

Tungabhadra River.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Hampi, India:2June07

The bus ride from My Sore to Hospet was terrible. Extremely bad. The Indian young guy beside of me were basically molesting me eventhough i pushed him away from time to time. He just leaned against me at my shoulder for the whole journey until i started to raise my voice at him and asked him to sleep properly!

The bus was very squeezed with 3 persons have to sit in the bench only fitted for two. It stopped from time to time to pick up more passengers and there were ashes dropped from the ceiling whenever the bus bumped onto something. The twelve hours night bus was the test of determination with the bus driver drove with the suicidal speed.

i rented a bicycle to travel around the ruins in Hampi. i like the ruins, impressive kind of workmanship. i tried to stay safe by sticked to other travellers or Indian families. Unfortunately, i still got my worst experience then.

The story goes by, two young Indian guys were following me at the temple area and i basically awared of that so i made sure that i sticked to others all the time. i thought they would give up then and at the branch road, i walked strayed from the family. To my horro then, i found these two guys just 100 meter away from me and they started to wear some kind of mask to cover their faces! So i started to scream as loud as i could. They kind of scared and walked away. Two foreigners heard me and walked with me to the main road. Then i joined an Indian family to walk back to the town.

i was really scared at that time then. i told the Indian family of what had happened and i found it both ridiculous and funny that, this was actually meant nothing to them! They were very excited to have a foreigner in their group and basically asking me to pose in their family photos! In some way, this has eased a bit of my fright and i really grateful to their kindness of walking with me

Cost: 560 Rs

Vittala Temple, a world heritage site. These outer "musical" pillars reverberate when tapped. I was followed and almost robbed on my 2km trek to this temple.

The wheels of this ornated stone chariot in the courtyard of Vittala Temple were once capable of turning.

The elephant stables of Royal Centre, where the state elephants once resided.

My Sore-Hospet, India: 1June07

Shopping, Thali ...

i generally find it difficult to find coffee or tea without milk in India. A lot of time, even if i asked for without milk, what was served will still be something with milk.

i would just do shopping for the day. i went into a shop and the shop keeper insisted that i am the first customer and i MUST buy something from her, or else there would be bad luck for the day to her. In the end, i bought a blouse which i didn't really want.

There are not many female shopkeepers (almost none) selling clothes over here. i found it a bit uncomfortable to buy female cloth from the male and i doubt they know anything about female fashion. But somehow i managed to buy an Indian kalwar salmeez then. The shopkeepers kept wanted to sell me the sparking bright yellow or orange color garments and i had to repeat and repeat to him that, i am not used to this kind of thing! i was glad that, in the end, i settled at something less bright in color.

Cost: 655 Rs

Sayyaji Rao Road, the main shopping street.

The 'usual' India street sight. The vehicle and animal carriage both on running on the same road.

The Thali. India is a heaven for vegetarian.

Friday, June 1, 2007

My Sore, India - 31May07

The Beauty and the "Ungly"

i got my first frightening experience here. A child beggar basically pulled me here and there to beg for money and she just didn't give up. When i finally got to the bus, i gave another child beggar some biscuit from the bus window. i did not expect that some other child beggar then boarded the bus to ask for my 'contribution' then. She also refused to give up until a local Indian girl took sympathy on me and 'chased' her away.

The second shock was the bus. i had saw this in Chennai but did not expect me to be in one of them. Those people pushed and pulled just to board the bus. i was trapped in the middle of them! i forced my way out and waited for another bus. But the experience of been in the middle of a group of people 'lost control' to just want to have a place in the bus was really frightening.

The third experience was a lady selling flower outside of the temple demanded Rs 2 for 'guarding' my selipar. i was kind of scared (the first two frigtening experiences were still fresh in my mind) but reluctant to pay her. i knew this is seriously just a few cents but this is also a kind of daylight robbery to me! It was on Chamundi Hill, one of the 8 most holy hills in South India and don't people supposed to act like holy in the ground of God? i told her firmly and with my stern face that, i would not pay you even 50 paise (i doubt she understands though) and walked away.

The reason that i got to My Sore was for the Maharaja Palace. This Aladdin-liked majestic structure was beautiful and astonishing. Photographing was not allowed inside but the outside looked equally fascinating.

Asking direction is a disaster anywhere in India. If you asked four persons, you will basically got all North , East, South and West directions. If you got only 3 directions, that was because there was no road at one of the direction. The Indian is so reluctant to say "i don't know" that they would just simply give you a direction. The roads were not well marked too. So it is basically not as easy to walk around.

Cost: 565 Rp

Sri Chamundeswari Temple at Chanmundi Hill. The temple is seven-storey or 40m high. i took a bus up there and descending by the 1000-plus steps.

View of My Sore town from the 1062m summit of Chamundi Hill.

The fantastic Maharaja's Palace of Mysore grces the city's skilyline. The interior of the palace is a kaleidoscope of stained glass, mirrors and gaudy color. Photography inside of the palace is not allowed but undoubtly, this is the most beautiful palace i have ever visited in India.

Chennai-My Sore, India: 30May07

Oh, Chennai ...

i visited the museum, high court and St George Fort. Nothing really impressive but wandering around the building of high court was kind of 'interesting'. i don't think one is allowed to do so in Malaysia or Singapore. The architectual of the buildings are beautiful. Somehow almost all buildings and train stations (you have to say railway station as nobody i asked would know what is train station) look like a mosque. There are a fair share of Muslim community.

i went to T. Nagar to shop, trying to buy a Indian Salwar Kalmeez. Tried a few but never managed to get any. Other look too colorful and too much "indian" to me. i would prefer something more plain and could just fit me without any extra alteration. All shops said, alteration could be done in just 20 minutes, which i am not sure i trust them. All shops are run by male and just every few have female shopkeeper. In a way, this is making me feel uncomfortable too.

There seems to have a lof of digging, construction and renovation all around the town. The traffic is almost like in Vietnam but less in motorbikes and more in cow carriage or cart. i had grabbed the orientation in the city now and i just followed to local for the short cut from Egmore train station to my guest house.

The central train station in Georgetown was like a picnic scene. One Indian girl told me that it is the two months summer holiday (April and May, ended on 4 June), so there are many people traveling around. People just put mat on the floor (some without) and sleep there while waiting for the train. i got a sleeper train to My Sore and shared my compartment with two families. This made me felt more released on regards to the safety.

Cost: SGD 26

The beautiful yet crowded Egmore Railway Station.

The 'picnic' scene at Central Railway Station.

The British-built buildings are now the Government Musuem.

This beautiful red structure, High Court, is said to be the largest judicial building in the world after the Courts London.

Chennai, India - 29May07

First Time, First Day India

My first ripped off in India was i paid 400 Rs from the airport to the guest house at Egmore. Later, i further found out that to many merchants and autorishaw drivers, tourists are just walking wallets. They would not rob you or snag your wallet but cheating you in this way and other are just kind of 'nothing wrong' and 'not' God damn.

You are about to read tonnes of things that i could 'complaint' about Chennai. Skipped this if you don't want to read my grumbling.

After roaming around the city, i decided that, i couldn't like Chennai at all. The people is unfriendly and unhelpful. The city is a combination of noise, dirt, urine smell, beggars, handicapped and people who treated you as walking ATM. The autorishaw drivers are so determined to overcharge you that their left no room of negotiation. If there is anything that i like about this city, then may be it is the conveniency for me to find vegetarian food.

Chennai has no city centre. The area is so extensive that one just couldn't walk to everywhere. When i walked on the street, people from children to women to men, stare at me from head to toes for 3 minutes! It was really uncomfortable.

i shared a dorm with a German guy. He was leaving to go back home after 4 months in South India. We chatted a bit and he shared me some of his experience. There was a group of Indian young guys from the other province who have just found a job in Chennai. They were staying in the next dorm. ALL of them were so curious about EVERYTHING about two of us. For some of the things such as Education level, i really don't see how this could be related to them at all.

The first day in India or Chennai basically had do a fair share to drain up some of my energy. i remember some people commented that Vietnam is difficult to travel. But if compare with India, Vietnam is just one over ten of difficulties. i have never found Vietnam 'consuming' my energy at all.

Cost: SGD 262 including flight, AirIndia Express.

This 13km sandy stretch of Marina Beach is the most disgusting and gross beach that i have ever visited in my whole life! The sand is the mixture of all kind of rubbish and waste and yet people walking bare feet in it. It was summer holiday when i was there and it was very crowded with so many people and hawkers there. The sea water is murky with floating rubbish.

The sunset at Marina Beach. The beach was the scene of devastation after the 2004 tsunami, when fishing shanties lining the foreshore were inundated.