Tuesday, 27 June 2017

More Tuk Tuk Barganing Stories - Jodhpur

Jodhpur. I arrived late in the afternoon around 3pm, dropped off by the bus again to a hoard of autorickshaw vulture. Seams the bus has a trend of leaving people at last stop nowhere near the city but somewhere in between and these rickshaw drivers knew that they would have business everytime a bus arrive. Even worst when they spot a foreigner like me their eyes lights up like fireworks.

This time I was prepared although hungry I knew where the hostel was around 3km from where I was dropped off. Google map was marked and I had leverage of daytime with me. 

Blur City of Jodhpur - India
How much to Zostel …. (Zostel is a chain Hostel in Rajasthan State in India) 

I have better hotel he said … good room, restaurant, view bla bla bla … 

I have booking … how much to Zostel …. 

150 rupee sir … very good price 

NO !

It is very far sir … 150 rupee is a good price 

NO …. shaking my head Indian style now ....

How much ? 

NO .... shaking my head and laughing like a crazy person

Ok 120 rupee come lets go 

NO … I know where the hostel is … its only 3km that way ….

OK best price 80 rupee ….

Nope …. No way …. I would pay at most 30 to 40 rupee only

Impossible sir …. 80 is the minimum … its IMPOSSIBLE to be lower than that ….

Ok since its impossible I will walk …. ( I buckle up my backpack and started walking )

Wait wait …. Ok sir … Indian price … 50 rupee … this is Indian price … 

NO …. Dun waste my time … I’ll walk …. ( All the while thinking how could the impossible 80 rupee became 50 rupee ) 

10 steps later

OK come … 

40 rupee ??

Yes yes .. come 

Somehow I feel I have won … but also wondering if I could have gotten it cheaper …. 

Traveled on : Aug 2015

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Fine Arts in Udaipur

Udaipur was a pleasant surprises. The bus stopped us way way far away from the centre and I had to get a rickshaw to Zostel Udaipur …. Game face time to get it done and after hard bargaining I got it for 60 rupee. It was pretty far and judging by the ride it would have took me 2 hours walking.

Zostel was closed … apparently the place had some water maintenance issue as well as electric current running in the water line. No shit. They recommended Shiva Guesthouse which was just round the corner. Walking into the guesthouse it was empty … no one home …. I decided to wait and a minute later a guy appear from the toilet.

Raj was the owner of the guesthouse and his opening price was 300 rupees for a night. I was genuinely surprised. It is quite rare that in India one encounters an honest businessman. I did not bother to bargain the price and just had a look at the room before agreeing to it. The place was slightly run down but the room was clean and there was hot water and wifi. That was all I need really plus it had a beautiful view of Udaipur lake and palace from its rooftop restaurant (which was close). I was the only guest there the entire 4 days.

Palace in the Center of the Lay of Udaipur
Udaipur was a charming city one of those few places in India where one could just laze back and chill out for a few days. Places after palaces all around with good amenities. Laundry services everywhere, food was abundant and good in taste and price.

Lovely View of Udaipur

Rajasthan Food in Udaipur - India

Markets were for the tourist but not at an exorbitant rate, instead it was better for tourist to shop at the tourist market. Usual market in India is spice market, jewellery market or sari market, things that you see a lot but would not really buy them.

Tourist market means there were lots of handicraft items and in Udaipur it was pretty good quality. It was the best place to get fine miniature paintings and even stone carvings or wood carvings. The variety was abundant and the craftsmanship was refine. I spend a lot of time in many shops in Udaipur looking at handicraft but only bought one Ganesha carving made of jade marble for only 200 rupee. It was a steal.

Paintings Everywhere in Udaipur Building

Painting Everywhere in Udaipur
The second thing I was looking for was fine miniature painting of RadhaKrishna …. There was many but the artist side of me became a critique and rejected most of them. At one of the shop, I lingered longer and when he realized I was looking at the art piece and rejecting them because of the lack of quality (it was already damn good but I was very insistent on finding that perfect one) he offered to show me the special collection.

Special collection was taken from a safe box and boy it was a work of art. I probably can’t afford this I said … I have never asked for a price so far … and he agreed I could not afford it, never even bother telling me the price. It’s not for sale anyway he said.

The place was ART Centre 39 Lal Ghat Udaipur – 9587229030

Piece after piece he took out and I marvel at the quality of the fine art. It was also rare for a shop owner to not mention any of the price. How much is this one I finally asked …..

That one is done by a professor …. not for sale ….

I know but how much is it worth I said ….. 70000 rupees

Some other piece he showed me was of good quality, much better than any that was on display in the shop but never as good as the professors work …..

This is good but not as good I said …

With a smile …. He said it was the work of a teacher level …. So apparently there is three levels in art. An artist then a teacher and finally a professor. He even showed me one that was drawn by his grandfather, a family heirloom and a few miniature that was drawn by him himself.

Why don’t you show this I asked …. All your paintings in the shop is nowhere close to the quality and refine in term of storytelling as these that you are showing me now from the safe ….

He said if these pieces were shown people would take photos and then try to copy them. Plus it’s too expensive anyway that no one would buy them …. Only those who value the work would pay for it so there is no point putting it out for display.

I left after nearly an hour of looking at his collection and chatting with him. Never once did he try to sell me something knowing that the inferior artwork did not interest me and the good ones were beyond my wallet ability. Only regret is that I could not take a photo to post in the blog and show the world.

Apart from the lake palace in Udaipur and a few museum that everyone visits and take a walk around the old city there was one other charm that was rare in India. They had a cultural performance show every night at Bhangali Ki Haveli where for a donation of 100 rupees one could see the vast cultural heritage life show for an hour.

The Building Outside to the Heritage Show - Udaipur
The performance was authentic Rajasthan dying art and culture from singing, dancing, puppet show and the grand finally of a women balancing pots on her head while dancing. When I say pots I means loads of pots …. In fact the pots at final stack of 11 pieces were taller than the woman that was dancing.

Truly a dying art for it was develop by women in the west of Rajasthan whom needed to walk very far to collect water and by stacking them and balancing them delicately on the head they would not have to made so many a trip. The woman whom performed the dance was an elderly women …. It takes years before one can even stack the pots let alone dance with it.

Udaipur Grand Temple



Traveled  on : Aug 2015

Monday, 19 June 2017

Ahmedabad …

Ahmedabad was a quick stop walk and run away for me. Worst thing was that it was moms birthday the day I arrived and after the usual tuk tuk bashing, hotel hunting and talking down to and making sure it was affordable within budget and still has free wifi if only in the lobby, I still could not send a happy birthday message to mom because social media is blocked in Ahmedabad. 

Apparently the state of Gujarat was in turmoil when I visited back in Aug 2015 due to some political issue of quota that the people wants the government to give them. The turmoil was so bad there was some riots and then curfew and lastly control of media hence the social media lockdown. Walking around and looking at the place during the day was alright and seems like a peaceful place but asking recommendation of what to do at night and the only answer is bed … 

You are not allowed to walk around at night ... There is a CURFEW … a pause and a momentary thought later the hotel receptionist adds … oh the curfew was lifted YESTERDAY … still I advise you to stay inside at night … I was there just a day after the curfew was lifted apparently…. Things was still not so good but outside in the web reports were such like a peaceful protest. 

Peaceful or not peaceful, it was time to quickly get Ahmedabad done and move on as I did not want to get stuck for no good reason. 

The city of Ahmedabad is huge but not much tourist attraction beyond a few sights. A few mosque here and there which was lovely for I was there alone visiting and for once no touts nor tourist within the foray. I saw one person in the mosque which was there for a prayer and I took my kneeling position to blend in while admiring the serenity of the place.

Inside of The Old Mosque of Ahmedabad
There was a lot of walking for me and lots of shops was closed …. Was it because of the Riot or because I was walking on a Sunday, I had no idea but it was a weird void of the people bustle that one get so used to in India. 

Ahmedabad Town
Since I figure out the taxi meter scam I was now within budget to travel further and see more using the tuk tuk.

Ghandi Holy Grail is here as well in Ahmedabad … I knew this from good ol KTan hence the stop in Ahmedabad for a visit. Ghandi house or ashram where he live with the community folks is in Ahmedabad. Irony that the holy grail of Ghandi where a great movement of non-violence took the world with such force was now reduce to the same as everyone else. 

Entrance to Gandhi Ashram

Gandhi Ashram - House in Ahmedabad
In the house was plain and simple, lots of historical timeline and newspaper clipping were put up in boards describing the greatness or the plainness of Ghandi everyday life. In a way reading the interesting extract of Ghandi without all the grandeur of revolution, seams to me that Ghandi was a very very eccentric man …

The thing he does makes no sense and yet he does them if to just prove a point that only he created the argument in the beginning. Safe to say … I would not be picking up any Ghandi book anytime soon …. 

The ashram was peaceful, no beggers no touts and even the taxi drivers outside was politely waiting for you to approach them instead of in your face … come come …. I can say Ahmedabad will be forgotten for it did not leave any impact on me.

I left the next day early morning catching a bus to Udaipur.

Friday, 26 May 2017

One eventually get cheated in India …. Its only a matter of time.

I was on the journey to Ahmedabad from Mumbai … late in the evening I was headed to the bus stand for an overnight bus ride. Taking a walk in the rain to the bus waiting point I finally used the poncho I bought in Peru. The so called bus stop was a small little shack of a travel agency. I was semi shocked I guess for I was not used to the bus system in India but then again what the hell …. 

The agency was a man just minding his own business … everyone just wait at the road looking at the massive traffic jam and hoping a bus would pull up. None of the bus pulled up and sometimes you see one person stops a bus for a second before hopping on. 

Luckily the bus I was going on was late …. I manage to decipher the bus code system in time … else I would have missed the bus and no one to help me with it. The bus all had a name written on the top of the bus like a dark screen and it is plastered big in bright colours so one can spot it a mile away even at night. The ticket gives the name of the bus … so all those people waiting by the road was looking out for busses with the right name …. 

Fortunately I was looking too and not waiting inside the crappy travel agent shack and when the bus did come I had to flag it and ran after it … I was the only boarding that bus from that junction. The travel agent did nothing …. If I did not see the bus I would have missed it and left holding a useless ticket and with no place to stay the night. 

Ok so I was in the bus now … got my sleeper bunk and it was air-con …. A quick look and no toilet on the bus … this was not South America ….. I am regretting the bus ride already. No sheets too … I so miss AC class on the train …. And no blanket nor pillow …. Air-con was freaking cold too … it now remind me of the greyhound bus in USA …. Luckily I pinched the sheets from the train … it was now my thin sheet of blanket which was all it needed to keep my body heat with me.

The bumbs, the horn, the sudden swaying … the bus was trying his best to get out of the Mumbai traffic and it was almost driving me sick …. Motion sick …. I hate the bus already

Once we were out and on the road it was not that bad thou ….. stolen sheet for a blanket, a toilet break every 4 hours and but then early morning and I got jerk woken up by a splash of dripping cold wet air con water leaking from the overhead vents. I hate the bus. 

Reached Ahmedabad and guess what .. the bus chucks me out outside the city … I so miss the train now …. A bit slower is still better than a bus. Then again the bus was not even faster than the train … it took 12 hours, 2 hours longer than the train allocated time … f*ckers …. Rs 1700 too.

This is where the cheating started …

When the bus spits me out, vultures of Auto-rickshaw drivers with big grins was fighting to see who can eat the delicious yellow man. I was in the outskirts of the city …. Nothing nearby to help me get to the city …. Rickshaw is all there is …. And they know it ….

I settle for the first guy who spoke …. What was I to do anyway …. Plus when I asked how much he said meter …. Fishy but then again I really did not have a choice …. And after a long journey decision making aren’t that good anymore. Inspecting the meter it was those mechanical distance counter like one normally see on a car or motorbike. Rigged to show the distance in numbers …. I was guessing it was tuned differently to show the price of the journey, …. Not electronic anyway so how bad could it be ….

He took me to where I wanted to go approximately since I had no idea where I was going, anywhere other than the area near the train station and the sights … Bandra colony …. Another light up glint in his eyes as he realized I dun have a hotel booking and he brought me to the first recommendation … good hotel he said ….. 

How Much I asked the hotel manager …

Rs 2000 …..

No …. 

As the hotel manager tries to desperately cling to his only customer, the price actually drop till Rs1200 …. F*ckers …

The second hotel was much better …. They had a board and it was clearly stated Rs 700 for a night in non – ac …. I could do with that and settle on it. 

Time to pay the rickshaw driver …. The meter had jumped till 467 …I thought it was a long ride but it was still high …. I gave him 500 and left it at there and he left ….. Later chit chatting with the hotel desk guy, the hotel guy told me it was a little high … or rather very high …. 

How does one charge with the meters anyway in Ahmedabad I asked …. 

The meter was this round thing at the side of the cab …. But then that was not the meter but the point counter based on the kilometres travelled …. Then one has to ask the rickshaw driver for the price chart … you then convert the points to the price in Rs ….

The Auto-Rickshaw Meter in Ahmedabad
Going on other rickshaws with this knowledge visiting sights in Ahmedabad I studied one … and it was about 250 which was the fee I was soppose to pay the first ride … that guy got me I guess …. Sooner or later you get caught in their scheme … 

Everyone gets cheated in India sooner or later …

Travelled on : Aug 2015

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Exploring the Slums in Bombay – Mumbai

I decided to spend a day on a paid walking tour …. Priced at Rs 500 but with tips it came to Rs 600. It was not the usual kind of walking tour for it was a walking tour into the slums of Dharavi at the heart of Mumbai city India. It was also one of the scenes from the famous movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ which I have not seen. 

The tour was unique for, slum tours was done by many tour operators made of independent people trying to earn a buck but I went with this organization recommended by the hostel called Reality Tour. It was a NGO …. I dunnu how much I trust NGO nowadays for it just means so many things and nothing sometimes. 

They claimed that 80% of their nett profit after tax is given back to the slums in the form of community education and help program. Nett profit as I heard it means they still make a profit. Big companies as far as I know takes a lot of salary and only produce a small nett profit in the end of the year. Still no point judging I guess. 

We were told to get to Mahim Train station and locate this Café where the guide would meet us. We were also warned that some random strangers might pose as the company and we were to look out for the actual guide which should be wearing a company t-shirt. True enough a guy in plain white shirt tried to pass off as the company but Zack (from England but is a mix race of British and Thai) decided to spend international call to get the hostel guy to find us the right guide. The guide came in good uniform and we were set on our way.

There is so many lechers in India 

The tour took us into the slum which was a misconception of the name explained the guide. Slums means people who occupy government land without permission. That’s all. So a slum is technically a free place to stay. Reality tour mission was to bust the misconception of slums and to show people the actual reality to the world. Slum has a very negative word and is not really what it describe when we see it. 

The slum was quite organized. There was heavy industrial area which was basically hazardous to anyone who works there. Mainly on recycling they showed us a few of them. The production of plastic crushers in factories, homemade with steel and welding’s and simple motorized mechanism to actually crushing all kinds of plastic they could find, melting and dyeing them to form plastic pallets before it was sold to big factories to be made into new plastic products. 

Recycling of paint cans … stripping of paint, marks, logo and labels and make new for reuse and after a few times of recycling paint cans the cans themselves is being cut and bend and used as sheets for building more slum houses.

They say there is no waste in Dharavi. 

The most highly paid work was the aluminium recycling … here they collect all the aluminium cans and melt them in a small room which is filled with toxic fumes and chimneys that pump out who knows what like a train hopper. Melted and formed into pure aluminium bricks they are then sold to big factories who use them to make new product. 

These industries only survive because of cheap labour …. Labours was intensive in sorting and making all these rubbish pure enough for the factory to use. If it were sorted before recycling factories would have ran the job more efficiently and cheaper and much safer but then most people heap their rubbish together in 3rd world country. 

Then the next industry was located further away from the heavy one … the non-hazardous to health sits between the hazard and the residential area of the slums. There was large industrial no food inspection bakery which supplies puff to all of India … 

*Gasps*… I probably ate some of those somewhere in India

Then there was the leather factory, wood work and even hand rolled manufactured papadam by household wife as part time job.

The residential sits at the far end far away as possible from the toxic hazard and these are a clusterfuck of house shacks, string and woven so close together that you have to kiss someone if he was coming from the opposite direction. They are not poor thou …. A keen eye will notice the hi tech plasma TV in the small house of 5 by 5, computers, and a hoard of satellite dishes which supply endless TV channels to the slums. 

It was free land ….. if you stay there long enough it will be yours …. 

Interestingly no one pester us for money … they have pride here in the slums …. Hard work drive them but they have the pride of one who knows he is better than a beggar. 

Note : No photos in the slums ... coz some stuff seriously is against health codes ...
Travelled on : Aug 2015

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A short stop in Mumbai

Mumbai is the new name …. While the old one rings with Bombay during the British colony. Hence Mumbai was one of the more civilized city in India that have seen with more historical buildings and monuments that is not related to temples and palaces.

Colonial Buildings in Mumbai
Truth be told, Mumbai was not attractive enough to hold me more than two night there. I had to move on quick for in a way I felt that Mumbai was a standard metropolitan city …. I got the vibe that it was a type of city where if you know friends to go crazy with, it could be a beautiful adventure behind closed doors but alas I was not patient enough to do it alone.
Beach by Mumbai
Still this city has its own charm in India … for one, it’s a city next to a beach facing west … how many cities could you catch a beautiful sunset everyday … I just love those kind of cities … nothing like a stroll along the beach after a long day seeing the sunset. Sentimental wise I was not alone and many locals go on walks by the city beach romantically

Romantic is also something you dun see often in India as well. Mumbai was one place where you could see girls of India come out from home leisurely. I have to say, I kinda like the view here in Mumbai.

Port Gate where the British Set Sail Leaving India
The other main attraction was the slums all around Mumbai …. The slums on its own is worthy of a single post which I will have to do next after this lazy post

Not many hostels in Mumbai and the one I stayed was actually a house. Thing is about India and addresses … the numbers does not line up in any order … number 1 house and number 2 house can be on two far end side of the street and still has the same street name … there is no logic … best was to ask for direction and hopefully don’t get a random pointy finger which could also mean go away.

The old town Mumbai or better known as Bombay looked very much like London if you can ignore certain parts and imagine certain parts. It’s a beautiful city, very business-like and a city where you will hear locals speak English like it was their native tongue to each other.

Most Expensive Hotel in Mumbai .... I think
Traveled on  : Aug 2015

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Hyderabad – The old Mughlai Empire City

If not for the change of plans and the recommendations by Ktan and his family I would have never go there and would have probably took a long distance train to get to Mumbai. The stop was surprising

Build by the old Mughlai Empire the city of Hyderabad can be easily mistaken as a city in the Middle East. Not that I have ever been there before other than Istanbul, but one can see a striking difference whereby mosque and Islamic architecture covers the city more than any other religion. Seeing the city thou is not as easy like taking a walk and just discovering it. The city is big and the sights are located far apart. 

Charminar - Hyderabad, India

First day after checking into the first hotel the auto rickshaw brought me to for Rs800 a night, I was surprised I accepted so easily for normally I reject the first place regardless of offer and condition just to check out the second one …. In a way I guess it was the first honest auto rickshaw I encountered in India … he only charged me Rs 120 for a long ride from Secundebad to Hyderabad …

I later found out that was a very fair price for most auto rickshaw was trying to rip me off to about Rs 300 for the same distance ride in Hyderabad. I trusted the first auto rickshaw guy for some reason I could not comprehend and the hotel he recommended was a good place, quiet clean with wifi …. Non-ac for 800 and ac for 1000 …. I caught a running nose from the AC 3 train so I decided to forgo the AC and take the cheaper 800 a night

Check in and out I went exploring, or more like exploring while looking for food. The first place I wanted to visit was the Falaknuma Palace …. Somehow I also started writing down the places I wanted to go on a piece of paper and just used them to show to the taxi drivers and yet I had no clue where it was in Hyderabad …. 

350 ….. f*ck it …. Walk away …. Offer the new devious auto rickshaw driver said …. And I said meter …. 

Meter plus 20 ….. ok fair enough … 

The ride was nearly 20 km away …. And the meter jumped like it was rigged and bounce up to 270 …. I gave up 300 at the entrance of Falaknuma Palace only to find out that it is not accessible to public as it has been privatized to be a luxury hotel ….…. 300 for nothing. 

Roasted Chicken Factory
I decided to walk back … a long walk to find food along the way and to have a look wandering around lost in Hyderabad looking and seeing whatever that comes by. Most of it was dusty shops and boring daily lives that would not register in my head but I finally found a restaurant after 1 hour of walking and they sold the famous Hyderabad Dum biryani …. I have to say the Biryani is Hyderabad is something special. So special that it ruin all the other Briyani I had in India … 

The best Briyani in India - Hyderabad Dum Briyani

I could say that Dum Briyani is the best Briyani I have ever eaten 

More walking to burn off the over eating of Biryani, I found the first monument …. Mecca Mosque … a large pilgrim site where a few bricks from Mecca was brought to build the mosque … no short pants allowed inside and I walk by to see the next door monument Charminar ….

Mecca Mosque - Hyderabad, India
This was the old city of Hyderabad I later understood … most people do not venture beyond these streets which was packed with shopping goodies of all shinny kind. Jewellery, sari, of the sorts and pearls …. Hyderabad was apparently famous for making pearls.

Hyderabad - India
End of the day after walking another long two hours back to the hotel and I rested binge on the free TV they had which showed a lot of rubbish channels in English …. 

Day 2 was spent exploring only one place … Golconda Fort … built by the sultan of Mughlai it was a huge fort beautifully preserved and took me 2 hours just to explore part of it. The view from the top gave Hyderabad a different perspective.

The second item of the day Qutb Shahi Tombs could be seen from the top of the fort and it was a beautiful sight in the city of Hyderabad …. I decided seeing it from afar was enough and skipped going there … only one item that day and it was enough for the soul. 

Golconda Fort - Hyderabad

Golconda Fort - Hyderabad

Hyderabad View from top of Golconda Fort

Hyderabad View from top of Golconda Fort - India

Last day was spend wasting away as I had to burn time till I catch the train at 8pm. Morning temple visit to the Birla Mandir temple which was build with pure white marble was lovely. View of the lake was good but alas no cameras nor phones were allowed while going into and around the temple. The local said this was a new thing …. Not an old temple but given time it would be a prominent landmark for a tourist attraction. 

I also manage to find the all elusive Shiva Puran book at the temple souvenir store … so it was worth going to the temple even if the book was overly price at RS 200.

Then a slow walk to the public gardens I visited the State Archaeology museum. Have to say I was amazed how much time I manage to burn in that museum. 

Last stop was Salar Jung Museum … but when I arrived and saw the price tag to enter which was Rs 500 I decided it was not worth going in and headed for KFC for a drink and then after McD for another drink ….. it was time to head to the train station for Mumbai …. AC 2 this time … getting higher and higher up in class …. So excited but it was not much different from AC 3 only with a drawn curtain to give some added privacy.

AC2 Train in India

Friday, 12 May 2017

A.P Tourism – Visakhapatnam, India

Today was a whole day tour which I booked a day before from A.P Tourism which I thought at first was a travel company, but now I think its semi government linked. A.P stands for Andhra Pradesh Tourism which is the state I was in right now in India.

Train Ride from Visang to Araku - India
The tour was a package very local at a price of Rs 875. It was named Rail Cum Road day trip to see multiple sights but ultimately to see the famous Borra Caves. Morning I had to be at the railway station meeting point where they had an office at Gate 2. 6 am reporting time was no joke and I was there on time to only see them gather the rest of the local Indian tourist for the train. Luckily the guide could speak Hindi, Telagu and also English. 

I was the only abroad tourist on that trip of nearly 60 people. 

The train experience was not that great but that was also one of the major highlights of the trip. To take the train from Visang to Araku a 3 hours journey. At Visakhapatnam train station while waiting for the train to depart, packed breakfast was served with a bottle of water. Some sort of rice cake and a fry donut. Scenery was not bad for being in India …. Since good beautiful scenery is really hard to come by in India with all the people and trash and shit lying around. 

Train Ride from Visang to Araku - India

Train Ride from Visang to Araku

Passing By Karakavalasa - India
It look like one of the many many places I have been too …. Cameron highlands for one … but not as pretty …. Then again everything is relative …. I have been in India for nearly a month now …. It’s wonderfully pretty.

They were proud of the many tunnels that the train has to go through to get to Araku. Apparently it is not common for a train to enter tunnels in India …. That was the excitement …. As we enter the tunnels, I could hear screams of excitement, joy and a cheer while we sit in the train looking at pitch black walls. Out of tunnels …. Scenery … then back into tunnels and repeat till Araku.

Araku Train Station - India
Araku is one of the protected places in India. Some sort of Tribal act to protect it from being develop hence it still retains its culture and nature beauty. Off the train after three hours and onto the bus. Bus was pretty good surprisingly and since Araku was about 1000m above sea level the air was much cooler despite the Indian summer …. 
Modern Bus for A.P Tourism - Rail Cum Road Day Trip
First stop was the Botanic Gardens ….. Entrance fee of Rs10 was already covered in the package and a short stroll of 30 minutes and we were off again to the next stop. At the botanic gardens the guide told us about the famous food in Araku ….

Entrance to the Bontanic Gardens - Araku , India

Bontanic Gardens in Araku - India

Bamboo Chicken … it takes 30 minutes to cook thou so no chance to sit down and order one …. But …… you can place your order and they will deliver it at the next attraction. 
How to Cook a Bamboo Chicken .... India
Down the bus and I placed my order of one Bamboo Chicken putting a deposit of Rs100 

The next stop was the one item that was not included in the tour package …. The Tribal Museum. Only Rs 40 for the entrance fee and I paid it going in and getting a very good look at the Tribes information around Andhra Pradesh. Although small it was a good museum all in life size clay model and replica of all their houses, lifestyle, tools and costumes. 

Tribal Musuem
Bamboo Chicken - Araku, India
Walking out the museum I remembered my Bamboo Chicken. 

The stall was just outside the museum and the guys forgot about me …. Or rather they never really took any notes or names …. They just took the deposit money to count how much bamboo chicken they needed to make. The guide was there fortunately and vouch for me that I had given the Rs 100 deposit and I got my Bamboo Chicken. Price was Rs 130 so I paid the balance 30

Price of Bamboo Chicken
Bamboo Chicken was cooked without oil or water by stuffing the marinated chicken into the bamboo then roasting it. Reminded me of scout days when we use to cooked food similar ways as well and somehow it tasted similar but with Indian flavour .. 

Next stop …. Lunch …

Lunch was Indian Veg Thali …. Nothing special there but while I could only attempt half a portion of their serving I saw the crowd gorge themselves round after round. … 

After lunch at the same place we were treated to the second highlight of the day … Tribal Dance … Outside at the open field the local community started playing their music and the grandma’s dance their traditional dance for us tourist to watch. Watching them and the Indian tourist I realized how different they are ….

The tribal community was so much different in physical size, facial, skin tone from the tourist Indians that were there to watch them. I realized India was much much more than I thought it would be ….. 

One distinct marker that I notice on the tribal women was the nose rings …. They had three instead of the usual one … three thumb size rings loop their nose making it look like a bulls horn. 

As the dance progresses the tourist joined in. Hands were locked in a peculiar manner with one hand over a shoulder and the third person will grab the wrist of the first that is over the shoulder and this repeats down the line making them looked like a conjoined centipede from the back.

The dance was more like a coordinated movement of legs while walking. It looked like an evolved form of marching but with no fix pattern. The lead walker would change rhythm, direction and even form circles at time and somehow all the rest behind fall into sync with her all the time. 

Tribal Dance in Araku - India
The tourist that joined the dance never got the footwork down …. Or rather they never even tried …. They more or less thought it was a Bollywood type of dance and started doing their own thing while being drag along the centipede line.

One guy gave the lead a 500 tip while they were still dancing and a cheer was broke out … from my point of view … these tribal ladies knew how to milk the tourist crowd well … begging is much harder …. They were getting tip after tip and nothing less than 500 as the Indian tourist forget them self and the whole field become a mess of tribal dance, Russian leg kicking and Bollywood hand gesture. 

The bus horn blast and we parted to move on to the next destination.

Borra Caves … 

Along the way the driver stopped at the highest peak of Araku area for us to get a vantage viewpoint of its greenery …. 

Viewpoint somewhere in Araku - India
The entrance fee was Rs 60 but it was already included. Borra Caves reminded me of Batu Caves just on a larger grandscale …. It was after all, form out of limestone and has a Shiva Linga naturally formed out of the stalactite and stalagmite formation. The huge cave was a natural beauty in terms of its formations and history …. 

Borra Caves - Visakhapathnam India

Borra Caves - Visakhapathnam India

Borra Caves - Visakhapathnam India
Then it was the boring 3 hours bus journey back to Visakhapatnam …. We break for a chai along the way once and after it was Bollywood on board till the end ….. If only they had subtitles I would not have fallen asleep …

Travelled on : Aug 2015

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Indian Train System – Once you tasted Air-conditioning …..

Train system in India goes from AC-1 Air-con first class to AC-3 Air-con Third Class before going to the sleeper class (Non A.C ) and general admission (Free for all). So far I have been only on the sleeper class …. But yesterday was the first journey in an air-conditioned train.

I have to say the price was double the sleeper class but then the service was way beyond what I was used to. India was turning me into a dirty ragged scuffled backpacker which is barely surviving the heat.

Arrived at Visakhapatnam

Sleeper class was a blue bed, so thin that of you sit on the wrong spot you get poke by nails from the underside that is used to secure the fake leather, holding the bed together. AC-3 class was double the thickness and none of the danger of being poke in the ass while you turn in your sleep.

Sleeper class had no air-con …. AC3 had wonderfully perfectly working Air-con

Sleeper class had no sheets …. AC-3 they gave freshly packed and washed sheets, blankets and even pillows …. I have to admit having clean sheets in India is something worth paying for … even hotels don’t give you sheets as clean as this … I got two ….. secretly I packed one into my bag for future emergencies …. I never understand why people say bring a set of sheets for beds when backpacking …. All the hostels provides them anyway ….. *India* ….

There was also none of the beggar’s hassle that you see in sleeper class …. Every few minutes someone will walk past with a chant or palm open, with a kid or with a stick … they practised their puppy eyes to perfection and if you are asleep they poke you to wake you …. AC-3 had none of these …

Sleeper had Ladyboys that will come round asking for money …. So bad luck the ladyboys are considered that they normally get much more money than a severely disabled person. If you don’t give them money then the clap curse will decent upon you (Ladyboys will clap their hand in a curse like manner while mumbling something and staring a burning hole into your eyes), plus if you are lucky or unlucky depending on how you view it, these ladyboys usually roams in group so a group clapping curse dance will be free for viewing ….

  … thankfully my Indian trained ‘I could care less look’ works so far and they spare me the clap curse and move on when I stare with knitted eyebrows.

Sleeper had all the micro business entrepreneurs hopping on and off every train stop yelling whatever they were selling. *Chai ….. Chai ……. Briyani …… Briyani …… Chicken ….. Banana …… Bangles …. Bangles …… Nuts ….. and much more but usually in the native language. 

AC 3 class had only the official Meals on Wheels personnel that mouth the item he is selling as softly as possible …

Comfort …. You don’t know how much you miss it till you tasted it.

I now think even at double the price it is worth taking a night train in AC-3 class since one really get a good sleep …. Plus it was only Rs 1000 ….. same price I seem to be paying for hotels now ….
Note : Travel Date : Aug 2015

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Immersing in Kolkata

Day 5 Aug 17 was the day we really worked Kolkata. The morning started slow as always but eventually it was time to get exploring. For Ktan it  was a bitter sweet type of journey, since he was excited to show me Kolkata yet terrified of where he has to go to show me the real Kolkata.

The heart of Kolkata uptown …. Near the old bridge Howrah and where all the shops clutters together with mass amount of people that for once, the people rule the roads and not the busses. We stopped by the stock exchange … once upon a time Kolkata had a stock exchange and it was this building but due to its numerous and uncontrollable corruption and swindling it was closed down. I learned that Kolkata is where India’s Old money is …. Old money as in old power and old wealth …. They may not be the riches anymore but they are still very influencial.
The Stock exchange was an interesting place for lunch. You see, the upper or middle class of India that has good stable office jobs in their nice suits and pants coming down to this one dingy street standing and eating street food for lunch. I mean nothing wrong with it but it was still a sight to be seen.

My stomach was put to the test again as Ktan hops from one food stall to another.
 The first was Chilla …. A sort of pancake but made out of dhal …. It was delicious and good but I decided not to waste precious space stuffing it on Chilla and went on to the next dish which was a Dahikachori
End Product OF Chilla
Dahikachori….. a curd base dish but looks like one of their round biscuits being crush then layered with chilli souce, onion, curd, more chilli sauce and who knows what, till it was all slimy and sticky ….not a big fan but not too bad for the small portion I had …
Street Stalls at the Stock Exchange - Kolkata

Chole Tikya
Next was Chole Tikya …. Chole which means chick peas was normal to me now although this one was spicy as hell … tikya …. Some sort of bread
Precious space used up and I was full … lunch was done … but Ktan and his friend urged that I must at lease try the toast.
Authentic Indian Toast - TAKE MY MONEY
Makkan Toast …. Which was the true India style toast … a toasted bread over charcoal spread with homemade butter … sprinkled with a generous amount of sugar …. Bites of Unhealthy goodness …
Makkan Toast

This was followed by another toast with cheese and I surrendered, bloated by the little street food for lunch.
Makkan Toast with Cheese

Ktan and I left after lunch for the beginning of the hell sightseeing … his friend bid us good luck and farewell. First stop was the General Post Office. A large building and with a locals that knows the language we found the stamp room and I had my heart’s content picking out stamps … India stamp collection mission completed.
General Post Office - Kolkata

Then starts the long 5 hours walk immersing in Kolkata
We walk into this street which was the heart of Kolkata. A specialized street that sells all the hardware tools you could possibly imagine …. Stalls after stalls and parts after parts …. If you can’t find what you want here you won’t find it anywhere … then again if you don’t know what you are looking for this is the best place to go looking as long as you can bear the heat ….
Rows and Rows of Shops in Tiny Streets of Kolkata

Onwards a right turn and the streets turn into another specialized street …. Electrics, party items, balloons, jewellery, household and even medicine street there were all there …. At the medicine street Ktan paused and showed me a shop selling Condoms …. A specialized shop selling only condoms …. they had good business too ….
The shops of Kolkata sells Anything and Everything

Porters Hard at Work - Kolkata
We then walk along the Ganga river … upstream visited the temple near there but this time smart enough not to go in but appreciate it from the outside by ignoring all the beggars on our feet. More walks and I was dizzy …. Seeing porters of people doing hard honest work carrying anything and everything on their heads … some work alone strong muscle showing and moved faster than any of the buyers who was zombie walking in the heat. Some in groups pushing small carts filled with sacks of spices or food …
Porters was the fastest way to move goods in this congested parts of Kolkata … I admired them with their ruthless movement and willpower to get the job done ... it was brute labour … Good Honest Work I told Ktan and he agreed …. Looking at them strengthen my will of not sympathizing with the beggars of India ..
Temple Along the Ganga River - Kolkata

Among all the maze we were finally out and Ktan was finding this one special place that was called Kumartuli.

Kumartuli was a place where sculptures of Gods and Goddess were made year round for all the festivals in India … Large and small sculptures made out of straw and mud clay. The skill are passed from one generation to another and together they make all the sculptures for the immersion ritual during certain events throughout the year …. They would display, parade and finally immerse the clay sculpture into the river …. Or better yet the Ganga River. These guys makes these sculpture.
Ktan - The Joy of finding Kumartuli
As we got closer to the place Ktan became more and more paranoid in asking for direction …. Finally he told me that just nearby is the red light district of Kolkata …. Don’t want to wander into it accidentally he said ….

Kumartuli was amazing …. My most enjoyable trip in Kolkata and it was not a tourist place …. Tiny shops but filled with rows of sculpture being made in their raw form and some with paint being put on for the final touches …. All these works for a festival and it is destroyed in a matter of weeks … the generation of sculpture has endless work ahead of them.
Kumartuli - Sculptures of Gods and Goddess

Kumartuli - Final Painting Touches on the God

Kumartuli - Ganesha in the Making

Kumartuli - Carvings from Soft Plastic ... I think
Wikitravel does not mention this place and it was not even on the Tripadvisor list … Lonely planet for once won the contest with a small paragraph of it …. Yet it was not easily found …. Even Ktan a local Kolkata boy was looked upon like a tourist let alone me ….
Exhausted we took a cab back to the pub near home and head back once we manage to cool down and wash away our exhaustion.