Monday, December 10, 2007

More Pics- Miscellaneous India

Pondering in Hampi

Aby- Him and I have become very close. I often hear him calling "Shelley" when I walk down the street.

In Hampi

Beautiful Bindhi colours

Proof of speedos in Goa. I saw way more than I would have liked!

Before a storm in Goa

Sunset in Palolem

The Estonian "Rock star" and her husband (he usually wore a leopard speedo but decided to cover up when I took this picture) she wore this pink sarong and bikini every day and ever night. I kid you not.

Playing in the water in Palolem

More Pictures- Miscellaneous India

I found computer with super fast connection and photoshop so I can decrease my picture size and upload them faster. Plus I have 6 more hours to kill before my bus leaves to Bangalore, and check-out was at noon!!!

Ramu and kavita's home in Hampi

Backwaters in Kerela (Fort Cochi)

Not too impressed kid at the sugar cane house in Hampi

Kavita showing me how to wrap a Saree using her husband Ramu as the mannequin

Indian women carrying water in Hampi

Kiran starting to climb a rock

Joseph, in the rickshaw right before we parted ways in Fort Cochi, he was going to the bus station to head to Munnar.

Pictures: Pondicherry

The Bay of Bengal- Pondicherry

A pink scooter - so my style

The Bay of Bengal sea

French colonial building

Corinna and Kerstin (friends I met from Austria and spent 2 days with)

Quiet Pondicherry streets

Christmas tree!!! The first I have seen in India (Pondicherry is primarily a Christian city)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

French on the streets

Hearing Indian men ask me "Comment ca va madame" is really bizarre and super cool all at once. I feel like I am in some weird other universe.

India is so diverse and so cultural that I am surprised by the amount I learn and take in every day. There is something new to learn and see all the time. My mind is swimming with all the views, the languages, the scents (good and bad), and the different languages.

India is an amazing place to experience. I love it here more and more everyday!

Maintenant, j'aimerais manger to pain au chocolat et boire du jus ananas.

A bientot.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Revised- Map of India

Mumbai is where I landed and where I fly out from. Then we went to South Goa. The black squiggly dot in the middle of Panaji and Chennai is Hampi. We then went to bangalore then to Kochi, where Jospeh and I separated. Now I am in Pondicherry which isn't on the map but is the square between Chennai and Vijayawada, on the Bay of Bengal. I am happy with what I've seen so far and can't wait to explore the north another time. I'll need a few months for that as well.

Driving on the wrong side of the road, enjoying Bollywood movies and then a long journey to Pondicherry!

It's been a few days since I've updated and I intended to, before I left Hampi, but it was just my luck that the Internet was down all over the town that day. I've been on the road the last few days going to Bangalore and then catching a bus to Pondicherry, which was 18 hours total travel time!!

But first some updates of my last few days in Hampi before leaving to Pondicherry. I had a busy few days in Hampi and met some of Kiran's good friends. His friend Ramu just married a month ago so Ramu invited Kiran and I to his home (which he shares with his brother and a guy from Holland named William) Ramu met William a few years back and William has been instrumental in helping Ramu build his home and start his graphic designing business. William is single with no family in Holland and will retire soon and has become like family to Ramu and his family.

Kiran and I took a rickshaw out to Ramu and his wife, Kavita's home. Kavita is 18 years old and sized me up and didn't say much to me for about an hour. She kept telling her husband, how beautiful I was and how much she loved my hair in her own language of Telegu. Ramu would translate and I would become increasingly uncomfortable at the attention of this young girl. She was so curious about everything I did, how I drank the coconut water they plucked from the tree in their yard, how I interacted with Kiran, how I sat, how I ate. It was so bizarre. But after she got to know me and became more comfortable with me, she relaxed a little and eased up on the incessant starring. And then I became her new best friend. She taught me how to tie a Saree (and I have pictures of this and me wearing the Saree) and she gave me her mother's Saree, which was a very kind gesture.

Kiran is worried about me making friends and having people to talk to, and he said that I could come out to Kavita's and Ramu's home whenever I wanted, and that Kavita could be someone I could talk to. I understand Kiran's wanting me to have girls to talk to, as it can be a challenge as Indian women are difficult to make connections with, but I told him, that it would be difficult for me to be friends with her, and what would I speak to her about? Our lives are totally different and the experiences I have had would probably make her head spin. Sure, she is someone I could learn from (how to cook, Indian traditions etc ) and I welcome this opportunity. But as a girl I can have legitimate girl talk with, I don't think so. Her English isn't advanced enough to have more than small conversations with anyway. But I am sure I can teach her with that a little bit.

Later in the day, Kiran wanted to take me for a ride in Ramu's beaten up jeep. It is a 4 gear manual jeep and has 2 seats and a back area where people can sit (like a truck). Kiran drove for a while and my curiosity and sense of adventure kicked in and I asked him if I could drive. I am not sure what reaction I expected, but he said sure and stopped the truck so I could get in. Now Indians drive on the wrong side of the road (ok, ok, the left side of the road). So I got in and started driving Indian style, in the middle of the road changing gears and dodging sheep, cows and people. I think I impressed Kiran and Ramu with my driving skills, although they did look a little white when I came to a stop. I told them that was Canadian style driving!!!

Kiran and I then took Kavita and Ramu out for dinner to celebrate their recent wedding and the restaurant we chose was a nice riverfront view restaurant. We ate lots of vegetable and cashew nut curry and garlic naan and finished our meals off with sweet lassies.
it was a really nice day, and I glad to meet Kiran's friends, who now consider me their "sister."

The following night we finally made it out for a movie in Hospet. I really wanted to see the Bollywood movie Om Shanti Om, and so Kiran and I went with Ramu and Kavita and Ramesh, and Ramu's younger brother Akil. The movie was quite cheap and cost about $1.75, and the seats were very comfortable. There were about 150 men in the theater and about 5 women. The movie was terrific and was completely in Hindi. But it wasn't difficult to understand what was going on. Kiran explained a few parts that were more difficult to understand. There was lots of dancing and singing and I just loved the colours and the music. When good love scenes (mind you love scenes with no kissing but just cuddling) or dance scenes came on, people in the audience cheered and whistled. It was quite an enjoyable experience actually, and so different. Also half way through the movie, there was an intermission to go to the toilet, buy Indian snacks and stretch (the movie was over 2 hours). I enjoyed the movie so much I bought the soundtrack.

It was good few days in Hampi but I needed to leave for a few days to see a few other things in India and run some errands in Bangalore. Some things are more difficult to find in Hampi, and I needed some English books, and a few other odds and ends.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I would be accompanying Kirans' cousin (who is very close to him they call each other sister and brother) to her aunt's place who just had a baby in Bangalore. Her parents were very worried for her to travel on her own, she was also a little nervous.
After the 10 hour overnight journey to Bangalore I took her by rickshaw to her aunt's place (kiran's mother's youngest sister). There I was greeted by very kind and welcoming people. I was given a south Indian breakfast, and they let me use their bathroom to shower and clean up. I played with their daughter who is 3 and half (super cute, and I will get a pic on my return journey) and I also played with the one month old new daughter named Megena. After finishing my errands I was told to come back for a lunch of Dal fry (lentil curry) which Kiran's aunt made for me herself as she was told it was my favourite. Kiran's aunt is 28 years old and had been married since 2001. Here being a non-married women is very strange to Indian people, although in bigger cities it is more acceptable. But I was welcomed and made to feel very comfortable. I had to rush though, as I had to catch the bus at 2pm for Pondicherry and had to look forward to another 8 hours on the road.

Luckily I met 2 Austrian girls on the bus and we all suffered through the bumpy ride together while listening to our Ipods. We decided to share a room together as it would be cheaper and it was well after 10pm when we arrived. The room was certainly not the best room I had seen, but we were exhausted and it would have to do for one night.

This morning we've been out exploring the town. We had breakfast at a French bakery, and dined on chocolate croissants, and cafe au lait. We've been wondering the city a little bit and it way more hot here than in Hampi and Bangalore (which was rainy and cool). Cool for me right now means anything under 25 degrees I think.
Pondicherry is on the sea, and the bay of Bengal so it definitely is hotter. I will attach a new map to let you all see where i have been and where I am.
I am in Pondicherry for a few days and leave Monday night on the night bus (God help me) back to Bangalore, where I will spend the day with Shruthi (Kiran's cousin) and her aunt, and do more errands and spend time with the baby, before heading back with Shruthi to Hampi.

There seems to be quite a few things to do here, so I am sure I will be busy for the next few days exploring, speaking French, downloading more pictures, and hanging out at the beach front eating French cuisine.

I am sure everyone is covered with snow in Ontario and getting into the Christmas spirit. To be honest, I doesn't feel like Christmas, there are no signs of it here and it's too hot to think about it. I guess that just makes being away from home for Christmas that much easier. Plus being here, in India, traveling, and spending time in Hampi and with Kiran is the biggest and best Christmas gift I could ask for.
I feel very lucky.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Going to do some exploring on the East coast

After being back in Hampi for about 10 days now I decided I should do some more sight seeing. Since I am not coming back until the end of December now, I have 4 more weeks to explore India. On Thursday I leave for Bangalore and will be heading to another state called Tamil Nadu, the town I will visit is called Pondicherry.

Pondicherry used to be colonized by the French and is supposed to be a small, quaint town with French bakeries, French expats mixed with Indian charm and culture.

Kiran's cousin, Shrutti, who is 20 years old wants to visit her aunt in Bangalore who just had a baby. The women in India rarely travel alone! They are usually accompanied by a man or with their family. It's not like this all the time or for all the women, as I have seen some Indian women by themselves (although very infrequently). Shrutti is nervous to go to Bangalore by herself which is a big city and a lot more hectic than Hampi is that's for sure. I told Shrutti, she could come with me, and I will take her by rickshaw to her aunts place and then when I come back from Pondicherry I will pick her up and take her back to Hampi with me.
She asked Kiran what he thought, or basically asked him for permission. It's just funny, because Kiran is so westernized that he laughed when she asked him. He said, "This isn't even Shelley's country and she is going to travel by herself, and you Shrutti are afraid to travel in your own country." He said you don't need my permission, but I trust Shelley and if you want to go with her, that might be better for you if you are nervous.

I just sat there with an amused look on my face. I am learning so much while I am here about Indian culture, and sometimes it frustrates me to no end, and other times I embrace it and the way they take care of each other in their families!

So Shrutti and I leave Thursday evening on the sleeper train to Bangalore. I have to admit, although I am fine going by myself, as I am quite used to the million of peering dark eyes curiously focused on me, it will be nice to have company. I will bring Shrutti to her aunt's place (like I even know where to go- I've been to Bangalore once). And I will have breakfast with Shrutti's aunt (Kiran's mother's sister), Kiran's mom is one of 6 daughters in her family. And take a shower, and leave my bag there. I plan to do some shopping in Bangalore, as I need some more books to read. Then I will take a night bus to Pondicherry and spend 3 or 4 days there, then head back to Bangalore to meet Shrutti and come back to Hampi with her. Kiran might come and meet us as he has some errands to run in Bangalore. It's much easier for me to travel with Indians as the prices are cheaper. There is usually a foreign price and an Indian price.

As for me, things are great and shanti shanti (relaxed). I rode a scooter by myself for the first time a few days ago, as I escorted a French couple to see Kiran's plantation, as they were interested in seeing the beautiful land. It was a rush to drive down the dirt roads on the scooter, and so much fun!!
Today I got an Ayruvedic facial, neck massage, head massage and threading of my eyebrows (a hair removal procedure) that cost me all of $10 and lasted over an hour. It was amazing and my head is still tingling from the mint gel she rubbed into my scalp.
Tonight, Kiran and I are going to a movie in the next town called Om Shanti Om, which the very famous movie playing all over India right now. It should be interesting being in a theater where most of the people will be men!! There should be English subtitles because the movie is in Hindi, and people speak Kannada here. But I love the Hindi music, and there should be lots in this movie!

Life is good and relaxed and I am learning a lot about myself and India. Kiran's cousin is teaching me the Kannada language (which is the language of this state). I'd prefer to learn Hindi, but if I ever want to really communicate with Kiran's mother and family I should learn some basics. It's a tough language and I know I'll probably only learn to speak it, not read and write it, as it just looks absolutely daunting to write or read Kannada. It seriously looks like scribble to me - a concoction of circles and squiggle lines. This is what it looks like this
ಕನಾ೯ಟಕ and this:


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Carmen my new Canadian friend

The moonlight on the water

Kiran conquering the (small) rock climb

Kiran and me

More Hampi lake pictures

The lake in Hampi

Shalom??? WTF!

As I may have mentioned before there are many Israelis who come to India. The flight is only about 6 or 7 hours and it's comparable to North Americans going to the Caribbean. Anyway they don't have the best reputation here, because they come and do drugs and sometimes can be unfriendly. It's not always the case, but it happens a lot.

Apparently I look like an Israeli girl. It's not a bad thing as most are pretty or even beautiful. But it has happened so many times in the last few days, it's almost become annoying.

Yesterday I was walking by a shop and the Indian shopkeeper said "Shalom, come and see my store." I turned to him and said "Shalom? I'm Canadian and not from Israel." He looked confused and said, that he was so sure I was an Israeli girl.

Not too much happening here in the way of blog worthy notes. There is a beautiful lake in Hampi that is clean and totally swimmable and Kiran and I went by motorcycle the other evening, for the sunset. It was gorgeous, and I took a few pictures, I'll add them in a separate post.
Tomorrow we cross the river for Kiran's Spanish friends birthday party. Once you cross the rive you can't come back until the next day as the last boat stops at 6pm (although Kiran has some connections as we crossed at 8:30pm last time). The other side of the river is quiet and almost all tourists/travelers, so I don't go over very often. Carlos the Spanish friend, is a rock climber and he has been teaching Kiran how to rock climb. So it will be interesting to see what this party will be like. Hampi is so tame, so we'll see.

I also met a great Canadian girl from Alberta, who has just finished teaching English in Japan for 2 years, and took 3 months to travel before heading back home to Canada. So I have spent some time with her the last few days. She unfortunately leaves tomorrow.

Other than that, just chilling out, enjoying the beautiful town of Hampi and playing with some very cute Indian children.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pictures of Fort Cochin (a few from Hampi)

A family of three on a small motorcycle in Cochin

An elephant being bathed

Our lunch on the backwater tour

The backwater houseboat

Kathakali performance Cochin

Joseph sipping freshly squeezed orange juice in Cochin

The Chinese fishing nets in Cochin

The juice bar by the water


Kathakali performance

Me in front of a temple in Hampi

Friday, November 23, 2007

Update: Where I am!

Just wanted to let everyone know what my plans are.....a few things have changed.
Joseph and I decided to split up as he wanted to go to a tea plantation in Kerela called Munnar. Although I was interested, an opportunity presneted itself that I didn't feel I could pass up.

There is a place in Hampi called the Hampi Children's Trust, it is an orphanage and they need volunteers to teach the children English, help them with homework, make their dinner, help them get ready for school etc....
Kiran, volunteers there, and teaches the kids sports and English, and when I mentioned my plans to do my masters and needing more volunteer work he said he could speak to the owner, and get me in to do some volunteering.
Ever since I have arrived in India I have wanted to give to the country in some way, I just have this need to do some good, and this seems like as good a time as any. Plus I love Hampi (and most people I meet love Hampi as much as I do and is their favourite place). I would love to travel some more throughout India ( and I definitely plan to), but I think this is too good an opportunity to pass up. I am hoping to volunteer a few hours a week and it could turn out to be a lot more than that.
A quote I read in a book once came to mind when I made this decision to come back to Hampi and it is "luck only happens when fate gets tired of waiting." So I took this as a sign that this opportunity presented itself to me for a reason.

So I'll be spending my days with monkeys and ruins, and children with no parents, who need me more than I need to travel through more of India. I've made great friends here in Hampi and so seeing friendly faces everyday makes it an easy decision to make.

So I arrived in Hampi this morning, after taking a short and cheap 45 minute flight ($40) from Cochin to Bangalore, and then a 10 hour night train to Hampi. It's definitely a different experience traveling on my own, but I love the freedom and most of the people I meet are very friendly and eager to help.
Last night I shared the sleeper car with 5 older Indian men who snored through the night and kept me awake. But they were nice and kept the staring to a minimum.
I made it safely, and Kiran's brother was waiting for me to take my bag and reward me with a hot cup of coffee. (Kiran was at the banana plantation working and met me later in the day).

So that is the story so far. Will try to upload pics from Cochin in the next few days......

Hope everyone is well and enjoying the recent snowfall. Muwahahaha!!! It's a gorgeous 28 degrees here (and cools down to a nice 16-17 degrees) at night.
Not missing the cold weather at all!!!

And lastly, wishing my sister and her husband an awesome honeymoon. They leave Sunday to the gorgeous heavenly island of St. Lucia. Have fun you two!!!! Make sure to leave the hotel room a few times too ;)

Oh and really lastly, I want to congratulate my good friend Wendy. Her and her husband Eric welcomed a 6 pound 7 ounce baby boy into the world on November 14th after practically no labour. His name is Kyle James Hodson! Congrats Wendy and Eric. And welcome to this wild and crazy world little Kyle.

By the way, if you have an y question you want me to answer or more things you want me to cover, please add a comment with the question. I'll try to answer as best I can.

warm hugs and kisses........

Indian men - just like chicks, and not metrosexual either!

I am going to try to explain my experiences here as best as I can, and try to remember some of the best conversations I have had with young Indian men.
If I lived in India, I am sure all my friends would be men. They rock!

First of all, Indian men are very direct and open about their feelings, it doesn't matter what they are, sex, love, marriage, friendship, western women, Indian women...I've had a conversation about all these topics many times with many Indian men.

First off, when I first meet Indian men, they ask the obvious and monotonous four questions, "What is your name, where are you from, how old are you, and are you married? I always laugh at them and ask them if these answers are even important. And they admit they really aren't other than my name. So I never give them an answer which usually drive me nuts (just to toot my own own horn many Indian men think I am about 24 or 25).

In India, most women get married very young, after they turn 18 they are considered marrying age. Many of the middle class women go to University first, but have an partner who is arranged for them to marry once University is over. If the family is poor, the women usually marries after she turns 18 and the family may arrange the marriage. However, unlike what most people think, the girl has the choice to say yes, or no to the possible suitor.
Most Indian women don't date, and can't stay out very late. So the Indian men, love meeting and hanging out with foreign girls as we are open, can go out and have a beer with them, or just hang out and have good conversation. And yes, it happens where foreign girls have sex with Indian men, and I am sure that's on the mind of most of the Indian men when they do befriend a westerner. But that is like most men anyway, I would think. Plus Hollywood movies haven't done a great job in portraying us white girls. So Indian men think we are easy (not just Indian men most Asian cultures actually). So we just have to set them straight.

Joseph and I have had many good conversations with Ramesh and Kiran about everything I mentioned above. And I have been told I am very direct, (and they love it although they usually blush madly). My first question is always, do you want your parents to find you a wife? And I think the majority of the time, the men say they want a love marriage. I ask them the obvious questions if they are allowed to marry a westerner (and all have said yes) that is not a problem. This might be more true for the men, as opposed to the women. As I haven't had one single conversation with an Indian woman about this.
While living in Korea you saw many white guys with gorgeous Korean women, and it is exactly the opposite here. I have seen western girls (French, Canadian, English, German, Dutch) with gorgeous Indian men, and they might get a few stares now and then, but it doesn't seem to be an off limits thing here.

While in Cochin, I went to a jewellery shop where the guy working was about 24 years old, and from Kashmir (up north). And while buying jewellery we got to talking about stuff. Actually it was 2 Indian guys, Joseph and me (as always I am usually the only girl and I am getting quite used to it). Adil (the shop keeper) asked if we wanted tea and to stay and chat with him, and we did. We chatted about homosexuality, transsexuals, love marriage, like 4 chicks, over tea. OK I am a chick but they aren't and I loved every minute of it. Adil even picked out the ankle bracelet and I ended up buying, while telling me that if he had a wife, this ankle bracelet would be the one he would like her to wear. Who can argue with that (I bought it after I bartered him down to a good price) Friend or not, I still want a fair price.

A funny story Adil shared with us went something like this (and remember I had just met the guy about a half an hour earlier) but apparently we were now best friends.

A few months back, this woman came into his shop and she was dark skinned (black he thinks), and he said " he had attraction with her." She wanted to buy a Saree, and as he was helping her with the Saree, something in the front of her moved. He stepped back and then looked at her hands, and he said "hands were very very big, like hands of a man." Then he said to me with the straightest face "how can that be, I make attraction with her but she has a man's part. I think maybe I am gay."
Trying not to laugh too hard, I told him that didn't make him gay and that his reaction was normal. Poor Adil. But what I loved about it, was his honesty and openness to the situation.

Another thing I have also noticed about Indian men, is that they actually appreciate and find a woman more attractive when wearing Indian clothes. But the looks you get wearing a Salwar or Saree is different than the looks you would get wearing revealing western clothes. The night I went to the Kathakali performance, I decided to wear the Salwar I bought in Mumbai. It's a pink top that goes about mid-thigh with gold and blue flowers. I bought gold baggy Salwar pants and a gold scarf to go with it (which you have to wear to finish the look). I got so many approving looks, and some guys on a bike actually said "Nice salwa" (short for Salwar Kameez). The guys at the guesthouse gave me a thumbs up when I left for the performance, and told me I looked stunning. I actually felt kind of frumpy at first, but after the evening was over, I definitely felt more exotic. I even rode on teh back of a motorcycle in it, scarf flying and all!!

Adil told me that he would show me how to tie a Saree, but he warned me that all the men would follow me if I wore one, as a beautiful western girl with a Saree would attract many Indian men. Adil is also probably one of the best looking Indian men I've seen. He has light northern skin and hazel eyes. So the compliment was definitely flattering. (Joseph took a picture of us two guys and me shooting the shit) when he sends it I will post.

And that brings me to attraction and looks and personality. Almost all the Indian men I have met seem to be more interested in personality than looks. Sure they check out a hot girl, but their idea of what is beautiful is definitely different than what western ideas are. A kind and caring person, may attract an Indian man, more than a hot blond babe. Also body types here vary, as Indian women seem to be of all different shapes and sizes. Yes many are smaller, but not all of them, and Indian men seem to appreciate all body shapes and sizes.

Also, sex is a question that comes up often and Indian men are not shy about asking very direct questions. I usually say "hey, isn't this the place that invented the Kama Sutra? You guys should be giving us a lesson or two."
Ramesh answered this one the best, as he said "Yes, we invented Kama Sutra, but we have no one to practice it on, as Indian women want to be virgins until marriage. Or so they say anyway."

Sorry Ramesh....but you can't practice on me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Random Pics

Joseph took these pictures of me in Hampi and I thought I'd post. The first one is us in the basket boats crossing to go to the Hanuman (monkey) temple, and the second two is with the monkey on my shoulder.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fort Cochin Kerala - and wow is it hot!

Joseph and i arrived after 2 really long days of traveling. But we both slept much better the second time on the night train. It was about 12 hours from Bangalore to Cochin and I slept about 8hours.
Total travel time from Hampi to Cochin was about 22 hours train time.

We arrive at about 5:20 am, and we both were able to see the sunrise crossing the ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Cochin. The ferry cost was $25 cents for about a 15-20 minute ride). Luckily, Kiran, called up a friend in Cochin who owns a guesthouse and reserved Joseph and I a room with them. Kiran also arranged for us to be picked up at the boat jetty once we crossed over. When I met Kambu, the owner of the gueshouse he told me that Kiran had asked him to take good care of me (and Joseph). So we were given the royal treatment.

Kambu took Joseph and I to the travel agent where we arranged our next legs of our journeys, and Kambu specifically asked the agent not to charge commission, since I was a friend of a friend. Then after Jospeh and walked around in the ridiculous heat, Kambu picked us up and took us for a seafood dinner. Here, you can buy your seafood ahead of time fresh, right out of the sea and they deliver it to the restaurant to be cooked. Joseph and I both had tiger prawns cooked in a spicy Keralan curry. I washed mine down with a $.40cent Kingfisher beer. Yum!

Last night Joseph and I went to a traditional Kerelan Kathikali performance, that has been around in the south for about 350 years. It is about facial expression, hand and body gestures and song. It was beautiful and when I have a chance I'll post some pictures and hopefully the video I took.
Afterwards we stayed for the Indian classical music performance. I am not going to lie, it was great, for about 10 minutes, and the last 50 minutes I pretty much bored out of my mind. I could appreciate the drums and flute, but it's just not my thing. Joseph really liked it and went to see another music performance this evening which I think is north Indian and they are playing the sitar.

Today Joseph and I went on a day long backwaters tour. We took a bamboo boat and went in the small water canals and visited the villages and a learned about spices, and saw elephants being bathed. We also had a delicious lunch of fish curry served with rice on a banana leaf. we also had this dessert that I remember eating in my first year university. My ex-boyfriend's parents were born in Kerala, and his mother used to make me this dessert with rice and sweet milk and cashews, and I loved it, but never knew the name or ate it again after we broke up. But I had it today and it was as sweet and tasty as I remembered it to be, way back when my taste buds weren't quite so adventurous. I also tried coconut beer today, it has 8.4% alcohol, and it was actually quite refreshing and tasty. I only had a sip though because I didn't want to be hammered on the boat trip.

It was an enjoyable day, relaxing and the scenery was gorgeous, but it was so hot! Not as hot as Mumbai (I can't even explain that heat), but it's so humid here. It is about 33 or 34 degrees but feels something like 38-40c. Your cltohes just stick to you. Luckily I bought some light Indian fabric and it has been a life saver.

Tonight, Joseph and I had dinner with Kambu, although I ate toast. I find it so difficult to eat or even have an appetite when it is this hot. All I want to do is lay down under a fan. Air conditioning is not available in th eplaces you pay $6 a night for, but a fan is usually fine. Jospeh and I actually avoid AC, as it is difficult to get used to the heat if you are always going back and forth. The trains we take have no AC but we can open the windows and there are fans. We find our selves a little chilly sometimes too. I
t's nice to just chill out for a bit as the last 3 nights have been spent either on a train or running around to a Kathakali performance.

I like Cochin, and you can tell how different it is from other parts of India. There is less poverty here, and people here seem to live in nicer homes and drive nice cars. It's not my favourite place and I doubt I'll want to spend too much more time here, but I am enjoying the people. the culture and water, and I am very glad to have experienced it.

Tomorrow we'll probably take it easy, go out to a waterfall, do some shopping and buy some fresh lobster and have it cooked up for us Keralan style.

I am now going to go stick my head under cold water and lay under a fan. I guess I don't want to complain too much since I am sure most of you are freezing your asses off at home.

Next up: Indian people (namely men). How they differ from Western men, and why I think they rock!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A nothing day- but it felt great

Joseph and I didn't do much today in Bangalore. We both slept pretty crappy on the night train. There is a lot of people sleeping on bunks at the same time, so there is snoring, crying kids, and a lot of moving around in general. But for about $4 to get from Hampi to Bangalore and another $4.50 to get to Cochin, there isn't much to complain about. I'm spending about $25 a day here and in Hampi is was sometimes less. That is including sleeping in a guest house.

After internet and lunch I found a salon and got a wash and conditioning, a trim and a blow dry. it felt great after the night of traveling, and my hair was looking pretty gross and dry. It cost me about $13 which is actually expensive in my opinion, but I didn't have time to look around for better prices. Plus being in a bigger city the prices are a little more expensive.

So now we are at the train station waiting for our train, and not exactly looking forward to the 12 hour journey ahead. We are both sure it will be more like 14 hours. But that's ok, I can do some reading and hopefully catch up on sleep. Tonight might be the night to bring out the earplugs. I've been sleeping amazing, and I doubt I'll have any issues falling asleep on the train tonight, now that I know what to expect. The rocking of the train or bus usually lulls me right to sleep.

Well, time to maneuver myself with my backpack to my platform, while a million eyes gawk at me, like I'm the first white chick they've ever seen. It's not so bad in Bangalore, and I'm getting used to keeping my head held high and not looking around too much.

Next up: Fort Cochin in Kerela!!


Just a short post to do some catching up, while we are waiting to take our train to Fort Cochin tonight. Joseph and i had our first experience on the train last night as we took a 10 hour train ride to Bangalore and now have to wait until 5pm to catch yet another 12 hour train ride to the southern tip of India.

So we have some time to spare here in Bangalore, with nothing much to do but catch up, look around, re-stock on a few items that we can only find in larger cities and eat some delicious food.

Bangalore has become the hub of the high tech industry in India and is quite developed. From the little time I have spent here, I can say I prefer it to Mumbai. Perhaps it is because it is cooler here, and not so freaking chaotic. Many foreigners live and work in the high tech industry here. I also hear English spoken more often than Hindu or Karnata language (as this is the Karnataka state).

Just a quick update on how our dinner went with Ramesh. He picked Joseph and I up in his rickshaw and took us to his modest home he built himself and finished only 4 more months ago. Kiran met us later as he had to take care of some things at the restaurant.
When we arrived, we entered a cement home that was brightly coloured on the inside, with red, blue, and orange. It sounds loud, but it works. There was a small kitchen, an attached bathroom, and alarge living area where we sat on the floor. Ramesh is now saving more money to furnish the place. But Joseph and i were immediately comfortable and humbled to be there.
Ramesh did have a great stereo, and he had the new Justin Timberlake CD that a girl from England had sent him that he had never listened to, so I told him, that I would bring some of my culture to him and show him how to dance Canadian style to some good ol' "Sexy Back" So that's just what I did. I was wearing an Indian Salwar Kameez, a bright pink top with 3/4 length sleeves, that went down to about mid-thigh, and white cotton pants. I finished off the outfit with large silver earrings and a chunky silver bracelet I bought in Goa. I got so many compliments about the way I was dressed, and I felt so exotic.
Anyway, Kiran had arrived and I proceeded to dance around Ramesh's house and making Ramesh's little neices laugh (who were there visiting).

For dinner, Ramesh's sister, Geeta cooked an amazing chicken curry (spicy) with chapati and rice. Chicken is expensive in India and it was a big deal for them to serve us meat. So we ate on the floor with metal plates, and it was the first time I ate rice with my hands. We mixed the hot curry with some spiced curd to cool it off and used our hands to bunch the rice together and push it into our mouths trying not to let the food touch your Palm and using you thumb to move the rice forward into your mouth. It's very difficult, but I managed. In India they believe that food should not only be tasted but felt as well, and it part of their culinary experience. I didn't leave a scrape of food on my plate, even though I was so full. Ramesh works so hard to provide for himself and his sisters that I would have felt rude to leave even a speck of food on my plate.

All in all it was an amazing experience, and I am so honoured to have been able to experience it. Many people I met were so jealous that we had been invited because it is truly a cultural experience.
I rode back on the back of Kiran's motorcycle while Ramesh drove Joseph back in the rickshaw. Don't worry Mom and Dad, the motorcycle does not go very fast and there is not much traffic!
The mornings and nights were cool in Hampi, and I usually had to wear a long sleeve top. It is so refreshing after the disgusting heat in Mumbai and the dry heat in Goa. The climate is perfect. Although the Indians find it very cold and you see many of them wearing tuque's. It's funny actually.

Anyway, now I am going to do some shopping in Bangalore. I am glad I get to see the city, but don't think it's a place I'd want to spend much more time in. The cities are places I don't care to miss.

Fort Cochin in Kerela will be nice experience, once we get off the train we have to take a ferry to our destination, and hope to do a backwaters tour (where we see the villages along the water) and to see some traditional Kerelan dance performances. I should be in Cochin until Thursday.

Now, I have to go and dodge traffic and do some bartering for jewellery!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pictures: Hampi

Joseph with all the kiddies on our way back from Kiran's banana plantation, my dear friend Ramesh at his place for dinner, a monkey and Hanuman temple.