A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: emils

Meaning of blog title.....

This doesn't have much to do with my travels directly but then again it does in a way....

The subtitle to my blog, 'if you are to regret anything, regret the things you have done, not the things you haven't', I have just realised, does not quite sound right, and as I can't work out how to change it I thought i'd write a wee bit about it here.

A fellow traveller, who I met in on the beautiful island of Langkawiin Malaysia, once said it to a group of us when one of us was faced with a decision about whether to go somewhere in a risky fasion or to take the safe route (she did in the end take the safe route which ended up being just as well and just as exciting!). It struck me as a nice philosophy, especially as I must be the worst person in the world at making decisions. It should however go like this....

'better to regret the things you have done, than to not do soemthing and regret it later'

.....maybe it's just me, and the way in which I heard it, but I think that almost rounds up travelling to a tee....

Posted by emils 05:22 Comments (0)

On markets, scooters and beach bumming...

Baga - Palolem

Riding around India's villages and countryside on a scooter is one the best things in the world. We hired one one day and went off exploring with no helmet but a few hundred ruppees extra for baksheesh if we bumped into any grinning policemen. We headed for Anjuna market and spent a few glorious hours getting lost hurtling through fields and small farming villages, stopping for lunch in the middle of nowhere, and feeling as free as the wind. One of the things I like about Goa is that you can stay on a beautiful beach and get all your western foods and comforts but behind once you get on a scooter you can explore at your own pace and take day trips to Indian villages, temples and markets.

Eventually we found what we thought was the market, situated right near the rocks of a glorious cliff-falling-down-to-ocean scene, with palm trees and a tiny little beach full of Indian family tourists and local boys just sitting, watching. After spending our money we then realised that this small market was not infact the famous Anjuna market so off we were again to find it....and when we did we wondered how on earth we could have mistaken that tiny wee one for this. This was big. Stalls and people everywhere, tight spaces with objects hanging all over place and elephants wondering through oblivious to the mess they were leaving behind, and then big open areas where women would sit guarding their garden of bedspreads. Sarongs hangin as if up to dry on the line, men ready to pounce a bindi onto your forehead, old women covered in piercings and layers of sari and younger girls grapping you by the arm to pull you to their stall. All around was the sound of excited bartering and 'I give you good price' and in the distance you could hear drums spurring on a tiny girl lightrope walking whilst balancing 3 buckets on her head. We spent a fun day bartering along with everyone else and by the end of it we were happy but knackered...our bags over-filling and our budget seriously out the window.

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After Baga (and a crazy night at a hill-top night club complete with swimming pool, jacuzzi and free booze) we travelled down to Palolem which we'd heard was quieter and even more beautiful. Along the way, an elephant came wondering towards us down the road. The first ever elephant I had ever seen in the flesh and more fuel to the fire of my love of simply travelling around India by scooter car or train. You never know what your gonna see.

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Palolem is absolutely beautiful. Couldn't believe it. Go there if your going to Goa. The beach is lined with Palm trees all bowing over towards the sea and hiding under these palm trees are the restaurants and bungalows and cheap bamboo huts on stilts which only a mattress and mosquito net inside. Simple, all you need, great food, nice people, beautiful beach and stunning sunsets. We spent a glorious week sunning ourselves, having furious chess tournaments (which continue to this day), and reading and relaxing. By night we'd eat fresh seafood by candle light carved out of tomatoes, looking out to sea and fire twirl by camp fires to trance music and guitars. Paradise. But we knew we couldn't, and didn't want to, stay there forever. We had to get back on the road again and do some serious travel. No more beach bumming (save that for Thailand), got a long way to go...

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Posted by emils 21:42 Archived in India Comments (0)

Lesson 1 - make sure you pay someone who works a the hostel

Mumbai, Coloba

After Juhu out shaken bodies made it to Coloba, the 'backpacking area' of Mumbai I was glad to read in our Lonely Planet (how that book came to be bible! in Oz the best thing to do with it is throw it away but in India you depend on it!) We found our hostel, got persuaded that the one we booked with was full so we should go to this one instead, paid someone who we thought worked there but was actually a kid from the street, had to pay again after a slightly frightening encounter with the owner, had the guy we paid by accident follow us around giving us 'I'm gonna cut your throat if you don't give me more money' motions and finally, after Nick bravely shook him off, retreated to the famous Leopolds bar. Phew!

After all that we sat in the darkened upstairs 'couples only' bar, tried to make conversation with some American travellers next to us who were not impressed with our ' oh my god help' attitude, and finally settled down a bit. This was India and we just had to get used to it. Every minute there was something new and every step down the street was like a huge adventure into the completely unknown. And this was just Mumbai! I expect that it's actually a very nice place once you get used to it, colourful and exotic, but for me, I actually began wanting to go back to Juhu! or at least get outa there. We tried once more to go out and have a look around and spent the next god knows how long just walking up and down the street in front of Leopolds passing markets, hawkers, drum sellers, balloon sellers (what you would want with a giant pear shaped balloon I don't know!?), young girls with skinny babies in their arms, colourful men dressed all in orange and so many other things it's now a memory of hazzy bright colours and exotic faces. Eventually we retreated once more into, and i'm sorry to say the word 'nice' in the same sentence, a nearby nice and safe McDonalds....

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..On the boat to the more peaceful 'Elephanta Island', Nick makes friends with two guys who wanted us to take their photo.

Posted by emils 21:23 Archived in India Comments (0)

Smuggling diamonds? no thank you very much...

Mumbai to Goa...

From Mumbai we took the first bus we could get down to Goa and endured one horrible freezing cold bumpy bus journey before we finally got to paradise. (Why they always keep the air con on full blast all night I don't know?) And paradise it was.... beautiful Baga beach...along with our bus companions who had all been swooped up by taxi drivers and brought to the same place. Nice.

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A few days later we were walking along the Beach looking for a nice beach side restaurant and a good spot to sit and watch the sunset (as would become our daily routine) and we were stopped by an old Indian man with perfect educated english. He seemed to be the first local we had met who genuinely just wanted a chat so we accepted his invitation of dinner at his house and were soon sitting on the floor of his bare beach bungalow eating gorgeous curry with our hands (made by the resident chef from Nepal) and exchanging stories about philosophy and the world. Soon, Baba (the old man) said that he wanted to show us something special and we were shown into a seperate white room with a bare light bulb and single mattress on the floor. We sat and he left us alone with one of his younger nephews who took out a jewellary box and began showing us rubies and diamonds and explaining all about their powers to balance your body's shakra and energies. We listened....very suspiciously, the darkened room and clever sales pitch was getting a little strange. Eventually he got round to asking the million dollar question - or rather the 5 thousand pound question - would we smuggle diamonds back to the UK on our tourist visas, return them to the company in London and then fly back to India to resume travelling, 5,000 pounds richer??!! ehhhh nice idea, good money, but no thank you very much....really don't wana get caught and end up in an Indian jail!

Thankfully they didn't push it and didn't pull out any guns or anything to persuade us (my imagination was going a little wild) so we thanked them for dinner and went on our way with the knowledge that if we wanted anything, and they meant anything, we could call them. It was quite sad really. To be invited to someone's house for dinner is a great thing and a wonderful experience, especially when your in another culture (and the food was delicious!!) but we wondered if we would have been invited if they hadn't wanted anything from us? We found later that is indeed rare to find someone who gives hospitality, guidance and help for free in India - mostly everyone else thinks your a walking ATM/diamond smuggling machine....It does back a good story for back home...

... but if all tourists return home from India saying 'oh it's great but everyone wants your money and tries to rip you off all the time' then that'll surely put off other tourists won't it? And for all the thousands who live off the tourist industry ideally they need good word of mouth to benefit both them, and the larger number of tourists who would then come to visit. How do you break the cycle so this could happen?

Posted by emils 22:22 Archived in India Comments (0)

Your name, country and how long in India??

Juhu Beach, Mumbai

JUHU BEACH

We arrived eventually at our 4 star hotel - we had decided to treat ourselves after all our hard saving. Everything, everything about it was amazing - a huge amount of luxury for less than half the price you would pay back home - and after working at a 5 star hotel myself for the past 6 months, it was strange suddenly being on the recieving end. Up in our hotel room there was a sign warning 'all guests to stay inside hotel grounds'. The view from our window did look a little scary to our first-time-in-India eyes and it wasn't quite the glorious beach view we had expected, but we decided to be brave and venture out. Go with the flow. We were there and couldn't exactly hide in our room forever.

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For some reason, Nick, my boyfreind, and I can never escape booking hotels in strange places. At least 4 times on our travels we have ended up in the middle of a red light area - where, although dodgy, strangley we have found is often the place with the most brillaint wee roadside restaurants. This time it looked to us like we had done it again and although it didn't look like a prostitute area, the beach didn't look any better from the beach than it did from our window.

As soon as we stepped outside, an old begger woman latched onto us and would not leave us alone until she was out numbered by it seemed the whole beach. My toe had hardly even touched sand when I was surrounded by tiny skinny kids all wanting to give me henna. I could do nothing but sit and let them have their way and as they decorated not only my hand but half my arm, I watched their serious expressions and discussions, as though deciding which stamp to use next was one of the most important decisions in the world. Once finished, I gave them 150 ruppees (much more than it should be but how was I to know) and got up thinking we would now be left alone. But we were no more than a few more steps down the beach and I was being pulled off again to the sea to wash my hand and Nick was being surrounded by about 15 men all asking him those 3 questions you have to be prepared to answer at least a million times if you ever visit India - his name, country, and how long in India?

By this point we were both feeling shocked, intimidated and just wanting to be left alone - occasionally while in India I considered wildly wearing the black veil just to walk the streets inconspicously. I wanted to much to hold Nick's hand, to make me feel safe, but as public affection is not viewed kindly upon in India I dared not to.

A few of the kids who had done my henna followed us for the rest of our walk and although they pestered us for more money at first with 'no mama, no papa' (how can you resist?), after a while they relented and began collecting gifts for us instead. A tiny skinny boy with broken teeth would not let go of my hand as if he thought I could make him safe and well, whilst the other two girls ran around giving me shells until I could hold no more and they ran off returning with a makeshift newspaper bag for me to carry them all in. Another young boy, slightly taller as the wee one but just as skinny and with the cheekiest little grin, went and fished Nick a tiny fish from a pool in the sand and would not stop giving him 'high fives'. The initial shock of it all was wearing off and I found I was actually quite enjoying myslef. For a small moment we were having fun and they were having fun and they walked us all the way up to the hotel steps - they could go no further for fear of getting hit by sticks by the hotel's managers. Here, Nick made a coin appear behind the boy with the cheeky grin's ear, they stared unbelievably, made him do it again, and then finally left us, each with a 1 ruppee coin held tight in thier hands, wondering where it came from. We retreated thankfully to our hotel room.

I did not no way want to go out again that day, but later Nick persuaded me to come out and have dinner with him at one of the many ramshackle beachside cafes. We ventured out again and I was surprised by how much the attention had decreased from the last time. It seems that in India they always know whether it's your first time out somewhere or not. We sat and ate the most delicious Aloo Chat I have ever tasted.....in the whole of India.

Posted by emils 06:55 Archived in India Comments (0)

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