Aug 10 - Finally Got My India Visa

FINALLY! After making NINE visits to Indian embassies and consulates in FOUR different countries (Argentina, Canada, Philippines, and Malaysia) on THREE different continents, I GOT my India visa. YAY!

This will be my first time to India so I'm a bit nervous and a bit excited at the same time. I think my worst fear is to get sick while I'm traveling on my own. And I always hear about people getting sick from the food in India. And I'm nervous to see the absolute poverty surrounding me in the streets.

It's going to be an eye-opening experience.


India tourist visa: 200R

Sep 11 - Looking for Bollywood

The Kingfisher flight from Hong Kong was good--it's one of the "5* airlines" in the air. They served alcohol the entire flight and the meal, curry chicken, was probably the spiciest I have ever had on a plane. Everyone on the plane was Indian--it was strange that there was no Chinese. And every once in a while I got a whiff of B.O. which would make me sniff my pits to make sure it wasn't me. It wasn't!

I got to watch some Bollywood movies on the plane. Picked out the actors I plan to stalk while I'm in Mumbai.

Landing in Mumbai, it was dark so I didn't really get to see anything much on landing. I got a pre-paid cab at the booth. The cab ride from the airport was super bumpy. And it almost felt like I was driving through alleywalls for half the ride. People were milling all over, auto-rickshaws trying to avoid being run over by my cab, and we just went through every single red light like it was just a street decoration.

During my trip here, I also checked out the Gold's Gym in Bandra. Apparently some of the Bollywood boys pump iron here. There were lots of hot guys in the gym--I have no clue if any of them work in Bollywood. One thing that struck me as being funny was they had nice upper bodies, but almost all had legs like sticks. I guess Bollywood doesn't pay for the legs.


Taj Land's End, 1 night: C$222 (incl bf)
- internet: 600R / 24 hours

I upgraded my hotels a bit on this leg of the trip because I'm a bit paranoid about getting sick while working. The Taj Land's End seems like a little oasis in a world of chaos. But I'm excited to explore the city a bit. The rooms were pretty big and the curtains would open and close automatically as you come or leave the room! The sweeping views from all the rooms are pretty impressive too--it really is at Land's End! The Taj hotel had the most amazing service. It was almost like there was always one or two people helping me all the time. The buffet breakfast was awesome. The selection was pretty good, and the taste of it all was fantastic. There's also a good gym and pool onsite.

Sep 13 - Bobbleheads

My clients remind me of bobbleheads. I'm not sure what they mean exactly when their heads wobble. But I think it's generally a good thing.

Before I came to India, I thought the head bobbing thing would get annoying because I would just want to grab their head and force them to stop wobbling about. But it's actually kind of comforting. It seems like a sign of friendliness, kind of like bowing in Japan.

I'm starting to do it myself. <bobble> <bobble>



Sep 15 - Mumbai Taxis are Hell on Earth

Hands down the worst part about my time in Mumbai.

One day It took me 2 hours to drive back from the office--the traffic here sucks. Just to get from point A to point B can be pretty draining. And the times I'm riding in a non-AC cab, it's not long before I'm doing a Daisy Dukes with my undershirt.

But I have nothing to complain about--there were families with young kids living and sleeping on the medians between the stretches of chaotic noisy roads. I can't even imagine living a life between two lanes of traffic.

But my head is constantly swinging around in the cab as I look at the fascinating stuff going on on both sides. The city is so alive and it pulls you in and forces you to take part and stop being a voyeur. Time slows down and my senses are on overdrive. Arms from beggars stick into the cab, the constant honking of horns sound like a song orchastrated by a 10 year old, and the smell switches between a sea breeze and exhaust and piss.

I also discovered by chance when my cabbie turned on the radio that the whole Mumbai scene taking place around me suddenly makes complete sense when set to Bollywood music. As the music riffs and warbles, everything from the homeless children playing naked by the road, to auto-rickshaws driving alongside a hair's length away, to the masses on the street bumping amongst each other. Everything suddenly makes sense!


before 12: (FARE +1) x 15R
after 12: (FARE + 1) x 20R
The cabs here are funny. I could get charged anything from the regular local's price to 8 times the price depending on which cab I take and how much balls the cab driver has. It doesn't take very long to realize that you will get charged extra on the cabs. The range of prices I got for the same ride was baffling. If you're lucky enough to get the driver to use the meter, they use a fare card to convert the fare shown on the meter using a formula close to what I put above. And apparently, neither the cabs nor the auto-rickshaws can refuse a fare, but they do all the time.

- BOM airport to Bandra: 290R
--> Taj's pickup service: 1626R
- Bandra to Lower Parel: 150R
--> if negotiated: 250R - 400R
- Lower Parel to Andheri: 250R
--> cab arranged by client: 1500R
- Andheri to Bandra: 200R
- Lower Parel to Colaba: 150R

Sep 17 - Touring Around Mumbai

I'm trying my hardest to do some sightseeing while I'm working here, but it's twice as difficult as any other country I've been in. It's so much work to just leave the hotel after a long week at work and brave the crowds and traffic.

Before I came to Mumbai, the idea in my head was a dirty chaotic city. And that's pretty much what it is. If you see someone squatting in the street, they're probably taking a shit. If you see someone facing a wall, they're probably taking a piss. It doesn't happen a lot, but I saw it. And the drivers constantly spit out red betel nut paste as they destroy their teeth. And the smell of the streets adds another dimension to the tourist experience!

Now with that being said, if you have money you can live very well here. And not a lot of money either. I met some expats who are making decent money by Canadian standards, but once you convert that to rupees they're living like kings! The drawback is that it really is impossible to avoid the masses of people and traffic outside your door.

I also did a walkaround of Colaba and the grand Gateway of India in south Mumbai. There's lot of historical buildings in this area including the targets of the terrorist attacks in 2008. It was a bit creepy walking into these places and imagining gunmen running around shooting everyone. But the Gateway was pretty neat with Indian visitors snapping photos of themselves--great place for people watching.

Other than that, I've mostly spent time walking around the local streets. I think that in Mumbai the really interesting stuff happens on the streets. Watching people do their daily routines is infinitely more fascinating here than visiting some museum or heritage building.

I also had an ayurvedic massage done at the hotel. It's was totally different than any massage I've had. I had to sit up for a part of the massage which gave the masseur different angles to work from. And then when I lied down he did a "long-stroke" massage where he would continue all the way from the tips of my fingers to the ends of my toes in one long stroke. Very cool! He also worked a lot of the chakras which means that he would linger at certain points on the body. Unfortunately he didn't work on the Muladhara chakra, but I guess it wasn't that type of massage!



ITC Grand Central, 1 night: C$210
- internet: 250R / 24 hours
- buffet breakfast: 500R
- ayurvedic massage: 4000R

I changed hotels partway through--it's kinda fun to change hotels and see another part of the city. But I realized as I drove through Lower Parel towards ITC Grand Central, that Bandra and the Taj are an oasis compared to the busy streets of the core. It is madness down here. I kind of wish I would have stayed in Bandra. But this is a nice hotel, the rooms are nicely furnished and the pillows on the bed are incredibly soft. One cool thing they had here was that after you take a shower, somehow they keep the centre part of the mirror from fogging up. And the washroom light also turns on when it senses you walk in. The buffet breakfast isn't as good as Taj's but it still has a lot of variety. There's a nice gym and pool here too.

Sep 18 - The Human Washing Machine

I had a huge day planned today. I was going to go here, then here, then here. I got to my first stop after being buffeted around by thick sticky crowds--Malahaxmi Dhobi Ghat.

The Dhobi Ghat is a giant human-powered washing machine. A sprawling colony with hundreds of water-filled vats. Men and women splash dirty clothes in the murky water, beating out the Mumbai dirt from bags and bags of clothes. I was just standing there awed by it all. At home I just throw it all in a machine and push a button and it's done. This was a glimpse of a world that I could never comprehend with my gilded life.

And then I just felt like going back to the hotel. Wow, I've become such a suck in my old age. A few hours down with the masses and I'm all ready to return to my ivory tower. But I really appreciate how lucky I am to be writing a blog instead of beating dirty clothes on a rock all day long.



Sep 21- I Left My in Buenos Aires Hong Kong Mumbai

Can I say how hard it is when I meet someone new that I instantly click with and have an amazing time and then, as always, I have to leave and continue on? It's one of the hardest parts of traveling. Moving around constantly, I miss having that connection with people and when I find it I relish it, savour it, and remember how good it feels. But then I'm super sad when I have to leave. And this has been happening over and over again.

I sometimes want to avoid meeting new people for fear that we may be a brilliant match and then I have to go through my painful "breakup" routine all over again.

I told my friend about this heartache, and he gave me good advice: To focus on the good and enjoy the wonderful people that I meet. To anticipate leaving sucks out the joy of the moment and it's really the moment that matters.

So my beautiful sun has set in Mumbai. Hopefully it'll rise again somewhere else in the world another day. Until then...



Sep 22 - Incredible India!

Today I found the India that I was looking forward to. In Canada, we're fortunate because we get to see the best part of every culture--their food, their celebrations, their people. So "my India" is full of delicious curries, Bollywood, bangra, and a rich culture. And I wanted to see that same thing right in India.

Well, today was the last day of Ganesh Chaturthi, an eleven day celebration of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. And it was fantastic! Dancing in the streets. Lots of people but subdued traffic. People pulling me into their celebrations like I was their relative. Suddenly the energy of all the bazillion people became uplifting instead of draining.

I think the elephant-head god has got to be one of the coolest looking idols. Ever. If I worshipped an idol it would definitely be Ganesha. He is immediately symbolic of India for me.

During the day, people gather in huge crowds around the idols and dance and celebrate, throwing red powder in the air, lighting strings of firecrackers on the ground, passing out sweet "modak" dumplings to strangers. After the dancing they all pile into trucks with their Ganesha idols. Like a clown car, they somehow fit way too many people inside the flatbed. But everyone is happy and shouting. They take their idols down to the sea.

I was with Andy, an old friend from Toronto who's now teaching here. We headed down to Juhu Beach early in the day to miss the stifling crowds and processions that would undoubtedly come later in the day. It was really cool to watch everything--people everywhere on the beach and their excitement and joy filling the air. Truckloads with their idols would arrive at the beach and a grand ceremony was done around their fancy idol. Then they carried the idols to the water and forever dunked them into the sea. It's kinda crazy seeing all these Ganesha idols being ceremoniously thrown into the sea!

Some idols had washed back onto the shore, paint chipped off, missing hands or a trunk, making the beach look like an archeological dig site. It was such a fantastic day! This is the Incredible India I was looking for!



Sep 24 - From 5 Star to Fallen Star

Ok, I admit that when I'm traveling on the company dime, I splurge a bit. But really the reason I stayed in the 5 star hotels in Mumbai was because I had never been to India before so I didn't know what to expect. Now I'm doing a weekend trip to Delhi and I'm staying in a dirty smudge of a neighbourhood called Paharganj. Wow, what a difference. Last night I was woken up at various times during the night by a dog, a cat, a pigeon, and a cow.

But I'm actually starting to like India. Mostly because it wakes you up from autopilot. You can't just leisurely enjoy the country--India forces you to be 100% present and in the moment, which you can't say about a lot of places. Not to mention, there's TONS of eye candy here. I think Indians are totally up my alley.


White Klove, 1 night: C$56

A bit of a drop from the luxury I had in Mumbai, but it's a decent boutique hotel. The room I had was pretty damp maybe because of the recent monsoons. The breakfast was tasty and they have free WIFI in the coffee shop. The hotel is smack dab in the middle of Paharganj, so unless you have a bit of the backpacker spirit in you, you should probably stay away.

Sep 25 - Touring Around Delhi

Delhi is pretty different from Mumbai. Right away, I noticed that the city doesn't seem as congested and chaotic as Mumbai--there actually seems to have been some thought put into planning the city. There's a cheap and easy metro system that was a lot easier to try out than the overflowing trains of Mumbai. But distances are longer and it's harder to hail cabs on the street. I can't believe I'm saying this now but I think I preferred the craziness of Mumbai!

Delhi does look a bit disheveled in places. There's lots of construction going on because of the Commonwealth Games that are supposed to start next week. It sounds like it will be a fiasco because the city has planned poorly and is majorly behind schedule because of weather problems. I saw one site where they're building something for the games, and it looks like a big patch of empty dusty space--not sure what they're going to be able to build there in a week!

But the city has some fantastic places to visit. And they were all pretty much devoid of people on this Saturday afternoon--I have no clue why. Are there no tourists in Delhi? Here's some of the pics from the day:

old delhi by red fort
me at red fort
jama masjid
ghandi's ashes
tourist in delhi
fantastic humayun's tomb
lotus temple of baha'i
lotus temple

I never made it out to the Taj Mahal. It's a 3.5 hour ride by car (someone told me I could get there in 2 by train) and it seemed like a long sidetrip. And plus I'm sure I'll be back in India again someday to do it properly. But I did get to see Humayun's tomb which is the same style of building as the Taj, except it's not built from white marble. And also the Akashardham Mandir was one of the most amazing sights ever. I walked around in complete awe of the carved walls and copulas. Unfortunately, the heavy security didn't allow any cameras inside. I can't even find any photos online of the beautiful interior and the unbelieveable copulas!

In the evening, I met up with some friendly gals from Argentina and Spain. We went to a place that had guitars lined up against the wall for decoration, so I got one of them and started playing some songs for the girls. It was a fun night of eating, chatting, and singing.

hanging out with bony and fer
wold peace cafe


pre-paid cab, airport to Paharganj: 290R
entry fee for foreigners, Humayun: 250R
entry fee for foreigners, Red Fort: 250R
- for locals: 10R

Sep 26 - So Long India

Well that was a pretty fun time in India. Working here sucks because of the whole choas thing, but when I got into tourist mode I had such a great time. I even ended up preferring the crazy Mumbai over the more sedate Delhi. Foodwise, ate tons of curry. Loved it! Although, I should have avoided the street food at the beach during the Ganesh immersions--my stomach did get a bit wonky.

Anyways, I'm sure I'll be back again some day. I only just touched the surface! And I saw this cool India-type pic on the web today. Fantastic!:

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