A Travellerspoint blog

Gotta go to Goa

Wait, am I still in India?

A few posts ago, I made a statement declaring that I have found the chaos in India to be quite relaxing. Well, if that is the case, then I have entered into a comatose state! Immediately as we were leaving the airport for our hotel, I was questioning whether we were still even in India. The landscape was completely different, everybody seemed to move at much slower pace, the roads were orderly, the architecture was screaming a Portuguese influence and the air was fresh (I could finally breathe!). What a contrast to the India that I had experienced for the past week!

Goa is so peaceful and serene. For the first time in two weeks, I could actually hear my inner voice as it wasn't being drowned out by the noise of the hustle and bustle on the streets. Clearly the use of a car horn is done sparingly here! And you don't get harassed by beggars or people trying to sell you random things off the street every 5 minutes (unless you are at the Anjuna Markets, which is discussed below). It also seemed to be much cleaner too.

The terrain looks like it is something out of the Jungle Book; a very tropical feel to it. Part of me was expecting to see Mowgli and Baloo swinging from the vines of the trees singing "The Bare Necesscities". There is much space, so much greenery and so many palm trees....heaven!

The people of Goa also look different to some of the other areas that I have visited. Their features look much more European and could almost be described as a really dark Portugese person. In other areas of India, espeically further North, I have noticed that generally people have more Asian characterisitics. In Mumbai, you can definitely notice more caucasian features among the locals (obviously due to the British influences there). Of course, this is very general as people in large areas do hail for all over the place these days!

As far as the other tourists that seem to visit Goa, there is an enormous contingency from the UK, Russia, Israel and various European countries. Apparently there are direct flights chartered from the UK and Russia to Goa. While I loved Goa, if that is the only place that you have seen in India, then in my opinion, you haven't seen India. She's a whole other beast; a magic country indeed.

So many stories to tell about our time in Goa that I could hardly get it all down in one post so I've decided to share the highlights through a few of my favourite pictures/events that happened while we were there.

The view from the entrance of the hotel. The reception area is completely open aired and gives off a very tropical vibe.
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The ladies looking very lovely at check in! This is by far the best check in experience that I have ever had! Upon arrival, you given a shell necklace and are immediately summoned to a lounge area where you can enjoy the view with a few Kingfishers (while they do all the leg work, I might add!).
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While Laz had a spa treatment, Sagey and I ventured into Panaji which is the biggest town in the state of Goa. Below are a few of the snaps from the walk.
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We stumbled across some markets in Panaji - marigold flowers!
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It seems to be quite customary to sit on your stalls in the markets. In Mumbai there were also quite a few of the street vendors that sat on top of their stalls too. Although I am not too sure how I would feel eating some street meat that has been in close proximity to someones feet??!!
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I'm not quite entirely sure what this woman is doing here (de-shelling something!) but it was one of my favourite pictures that I took at that market!
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Cheers! All that walking and photo snapping works up a thirst. Kingfisher o'clock was a regular occurrence (and at less than $1 AUD a pop it would be rude not to support the local exports!)
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The local lads enjoying a game of cricket. Indians love a game of cricket! I have seen it played in the most bizarre locations. In the middle of the street in Mumbai, under an overpass in the middle of a highway....unfortunately have just been too slow in getting the camera out for photographic evidence!
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On our second full day, we ventured out to a quaint little sea-side restaurant about an hours drive from Panaji called La Plage. It was a French restaurant that was run by a Frenchwoman. The food was exquisite and a much needed break from all the curry!
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Beach chic - inside La Plage
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Ladies who lunch. No lunch is complete without being paired with a bottle of Sula (or two). This time we tried the Blush, delicious!
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The beach shacks. This spot seemed to attract many hippy expats on a quest for self discovery. The beach was also packed full of men in thong-backed banana hammocks (be thankful I didn't subject you to any evidence!). I saw far more skin than I would have liked to on that beach! The next day in the markets, I discovered that they only sold for $200INR (about $4 AUD). Surely there should be some kind of deterrence tax imposed on these monstrosities?!
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More beach shacks
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Me completely hijacking someone else's "Goa"
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At the Anjuna Flea Markets. These markets take place every Wednesday and are a feast for the senses. So many colours, sounds and smells (some better than others!). The markets are great fun and are a hagglers paradise (PPFA you would own that market!). Laz was particularly savvy with the bargaining and got some fantastic purchases for well below initial asking price. I bought a silk dress for that evening at around $8 AUD! Pretty impressed with myself. Mind you my negotiation skills are pretty limited and are based upon the premise of them naming a price, me countering (at about 40% off), them saying no, me walking away and, if the price is right, I have a very eager Indian chasing after me. It worked 3 out of 5 times! Good enough odds for me!
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The smell and colours of the spices are amazing
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I had to include this photo as I ended up having to pay 10 Rupees for it! This guy dresses up his cow and tricks gullible tourists like myself into taking a photo of it and then having to later pay. I've been duped a few times since I have been here. Probably the funniest was my first day when this Hindi man came and blessed me, put some saffron on my forehead, gave me a bracelet (that I am still wearing - getting my moneys worth!) and made me eat some kind of sugar candy for good luck. He then followed up by telling me that it would only come true if I have him 100 rupees (about $2 AUD).....ummmmm...."you can have 10INR". Surely asking for money defeats the purpose of the blessing?! Live and learn! Even the holy men know how to hustle...
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I love seeing the Indians carry things on their head. Definitely a skill that I would have no hope in mastering!
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Ladies night! This was our designated "big night" in Goa. After a few members of the Grande Gringas being bitten by the "Dehli Belly" monster over the past few days, we opted for another curry free night. One of the chefs at the Marriott recommended us to go to Thelassa, which is a stunning Greek restaurant overlooking the sea and is rated as the best place to watch the sunset in Goa.
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Gorgeous little huts that you can stay the night in (perhaps after consuming a few too many flaming sambucas!!).
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I just loved the ambience of this restaurant.
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You could be anywhere with that sunset! Stunning. The sun sets quite quickly and appears as though it is completely swallowed by the sea. Once it completely disappears, everyone in the restaurant cheers and applauses. Not entirely sure why this happens (surely the sun sets with success every evening?) but Laz mentioned that the same thing happens in Greece.
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Another "where the hell am I?!!" moment as the son of the owner and his mate kick off with a traditional Greek dance and start throwing plates around. OPA!!!! Very excited for Greece now!
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Ladies night isn't complete without a flaming sambuca on the house (thank you son of the owner! Spoiling the Grande Gringas rotten!). Never thought I'd be getting stuck into sambucas in India but as I have previously mentioned, you have to just roll with the punches in India...never know what to expect!
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Chronicle bar. Hatim (more on him below) took us to this phenomenal bar. The picture doesn't do it justice. This is by far the best bar that I might have ever been to! It is absolutely amazing. If you are in Goa, it is a must do!
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Cheesey but had to be done! Love that movie!!!
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Enter Hatim (or "Juniorburger" as Julz coined him due to being younger than us). To say this guy is flushed is an understatement. Julz met Hatim through a very exclusive online community that she is a member of and while we were at Elephanta, had met him for lunch in Mumbai. He happened to be in Goa on business while we were there so offered to take us out for a night on the town in Goa. From what I could pull together from our conversations that evening, it seemed like his family owned the better part of Mumbai! Dressed to the nines in some very high end designer threads, he was a lovely guy with a thirst for jäger bombs and Moet Chandon. He and his driver took us around to the various hot spots that Goa has to offer (Chronicle being by far my favourite). Towards the end of the night we ended up in Baga, which is an extreme tourist trap that was full of bright red Russians on vacation (certainly no mail-order-esque brides in here...these were a hefty bunch!). Baga didn't have much character and was a sea of dingy bars lined up after each other. We did manage to find a somewhat decent bar (can't remember the name but pictured below) and shared a Shisha. It was a highly entertaining night and enjoyed by all (except poor Laz who was down and out again with DB!). At the end of the night, the Juniorburger had his driver take us back to our hotel (which was about 45mins away!). Chivalry is not dead!
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Sagey getting amongst some Shisha! Not sure what Julz is doing it the back ground but that pretty much sums up ladies night! A very random night indeed!
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Feeling a tad seedy on Thursday morning, probably could have done without that last jäger bomb, we made our way to the Spice Plantations. On the way we past several church ruins and saw many famous temples and churches. Below are a few snaps from our ride.

Church ruins
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St. Francis Xavier church
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Inside St. Francis Xavier church. St. Francis Xavier is actually inside the tomb in this picture (at the top). Apparently every couple of years they take him out and give his hair and nails a cut (nothing wrong with a bit of manscaping to look presentable!). For those of you who didn't realise, your hair and nails will continue to grow after you are dead!
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Our elephantastic welcome to the Spice Plantation.
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The lush scenery as we walked over the bridge to the Spice Plantation.
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Bridge to the Plantation.
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Channeling my inner Hindu. Upon arrival at the Spice Plantation you get some saffron on your forehead (it's a nightmare to get off by the way), an Indian lei and some lemongrass tea.
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For those of you who haven't seen a pineapple tree! Also, did you know that there are male and female pineapples?!
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A dwelling inside the Spice Plantation. All of the spices grown here are organic.
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The lush terrain.
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My favourite part of the Spice Plantation tour, the buffet! The food was incredible. So many bright colours and intense flavours.
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My plate
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Following the tour, later that afternoon, we took an Indian cooking class. Pictured below is three of the Grande Gringas looking very saucy in our hair nets and aprons at our cooking class (poor Julz was down and out with Dehli Belly again!). We made three dishes; a starter (chicken), and two mains (one prawn and one fish) that were traditional Goan dishes. Goan cooking uses a lot of coconut oil and vinegar and also cashews in their sauces. Our chef is emailing the recipe so will definitely be trying to recreate these for you all at some stage!
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I absolutely adored my time in Goa. Sadly, we never made it South, which is apparently supposed to be much slower (I can't even imagine?!). But all the more reason to come back! While the Marriott was a fantastic resort to stay at and had exceptional service, if I were to do it all again, I would probably have found a nice beach shack and stayed right by the water. Having said that, it is very lucky that I didn't do that in the end because I might have spent my entire year on that little beach in Goa! Thank goodness for my return ticket to Mumbai or it might have become a reality.

Well my friends, there is a hard spoonful of reality swiftly coming my way as my stint of living the high life is coming to a drastic halt. It's the punter express from here on out! The Grande Gringas have now disbanded (Sagey & Laz back to Oz and Julz staying in Goa) and I am on my way to an ashram north of Mumbai for a bit of soul cleansing. It has been an amazing few weeks with the girls and will definitely be a trip that we will look back on and laugh about for years to come! Time for chapter two...

Mel xx

Posted by melpage 02:00 Archived in India Tagged goa Comments (3)

Out and about in Mumbai

Picture highlights of Juhu Beach, Bandra, shopping and more food (we certainly aren't going hungry in India!)

Our room was described as an "ocean view" room. Yes, you can just see the ocean in the distance, but the name may have been slightly misleading. Perhaps algae infested swamp view may have been slightly more representative. Nevertheless, despite the interesting scenery, the hotel was great (in particular the breakfast buffet!). It was always between a two and three plate morning!
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Me on Juhu Beach
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Juhu Beach
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Indians love some corn on the cob! Not sure about you but I have often had a hankering for some corn while sun bathing?!
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The Indian soda man headed to the beach:
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Laz and I's first tuk tuk drive. It was quite an experience and I have some great video footage of our journey. A very cheap and fun way to travel around the suburbs. Although when the beggars come they can actually reach into the tuk tuk and touch you, which is a bit creepy! It's usually just children, but still, not the nicest feeling!
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Trying to keep it together:
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Around Bandra (next neighbourhood over), which is famous for boutiques and cafes. We never managed to get to the right area though!
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Fresh fruit and veggie markets are everywhere in the streets!
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Can I get some service please?! Indian shops are so overstaffed it is unreal. The workers in this photo is everyone that is in either a blue or white collared shirt (if I was to guess there were at least 25 in this relatively small electronics shop!) As soon as you walk in, you have a very eager worker hovering around you constantly which is nice but when you are trying to browse, a little too much. As soon as you show any interest in any item, they ask if you want it in a certain size, colour, print, etc. And as we are the Grande Gringas we are always assured "oh don't worry madame, we have very large size for you", errrmmmm thanks???!!!
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Around Bandra:
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So I found this little gem in one of the shops that Laz and I were shopping in. Interesting statement...clearly Indian women are quite generous! There were some other cracking lines but this one definitely stood out as being quite odd for a retail shop. The other ones seemed to be a bit lost in translation (not sure if a statement in Hindi was just put into google translator!)
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It's hard work as a Grande Gringa to maneuver in and out of these tuk tuks!
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Juhu Beach 'burbs:
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Thumbs up!!!! If you can imagine anything sweeter than a full fat coke, then this is that! Admittedly delicious, I knocked this bad boy back in about 2 minutes and was subsequently running around like a three year old who has just gotten back from a sugar ladened visit with the grandparents (and of course the inevitable crash and burn an hour later...sans tantrum though!). But had to be done...great photo opp!
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This particular photo is especially for AP. We did a drug run to the local Juhu pharmacy one afternoon and this goodie bag (which consisted of about 30 vicks throat drops and 30 x 400mg of ibuprofen) set us back $1.70AUD (aka 60 Rupees)! Drugs anyone?!
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The Sage girls looking as gorgeous as ever outside the Punjab Grill in Juhu. This restaurant is honestly incredible and I highly recommend a visit if you make it to India (I believe they area all over). All of our meals have been absolutely enormous but this meal was especially large! Unfortunately Sagey failed to mention an extremely crucial detail to Laz and I that the first few rounds of food were actually starters (there were about 8!). So as usual, I peaked early (again!). But in true Page form, I pushed through the pain and found room to sample four of the mains and also the two desserts. Indians love to feed the Grande Gringas (again, I think this is another reflection of their great hospitality because we certainly aren't fading away!). I don't think that I have ever been in that much pain after a meal, but it was worth it! This meal is tied with the meal at the wedding as the best I have had in India to date (I can't possibly choose between them as the types of food that was offered are so different).
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All of us at the trough. Sagey's doctor friends, Vijay and Roopa, joined us for the meal. They are so lovely and it was really nice to have locals to fire off all my India questions to (poor Sagey, as our resident Indian, has been dealing with all of my curiosities to date...she needed a well deserved break!). During the dinner, Roopa made one of the best statements/compliments about me that I have ever received, "Page, you really love your superlatives, don't you? You are a great person to be around because you see the world in such a positive and excited way". Hmmmm, I suppose she's right! I am prone to the use of an adjective in the highest order!!!
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The outside patio. We had dinner at 7.30pm which is very early by Indian standards. On the way out, it was full and looked like quite the party!
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That's it for Mumbai folks! Next up will be Goa. We never ended up having time for Bollywood or the Wine Tasting (shock horror!). But rest assured, I will do Bollywood on my own (we later found out it will involve being on the set for up to 12 hours!) once I'm done with my ashram stint.

Mel xx

Posted by melpage 22:35 Archived in India Tagged shopping mumbai Comments (1)

What do you mean there are no elephants on Elephanta Island?

And finally some success with our Mumbai bucket list...Indian High Tea, check!

Well folks, we find ourselves back in Mumbai again...take two! Time for us to redeem ourselves a bit (or at least try to) in getting our Mumbai bucket list addressed.

We will be in Mumbai for a total of three nights, and this time are staying in suburbia by the beach in a lovely area known as Juhu Beach. And what a difference it makes getting out of the city! Juhu is a pretty little community (although I wouldn't want to be swimming in that water...foul!) and it is clear that the people that live in this area are far wealthier than the majority within the city limits. You also do not get harassed for money every 5 minutes so that was an added bonus. Anyway, more on what Juhu is like (and the shopping) in the next post.

At about 12pm after a hefty dive into the breakfast buffet at the Novotel, we took a taxi into Colaba to where the main port is to catch the Elephanta island ferry. About two hours later, very thirsty and a little worse for wear, we finally arrived. How on earth had it taken us over two hours to travel 20km?! Have I mentioned that traffic is a nightmare here? Well, it is. And on this Thursday morning it was exceptionally terrible, clearly.

Elephanta Island is a small island (about 4.5miles in circumference) that consists of many cave temples that are connected to the worship of Shiva (a Hindu God). Due to our lengthy taxi ride over, we were unfortunately pressed for time in visiting Elephanta as we had a 4.30pm High Tea booking at the Taj. Our tour guide, Chanda, met us at the arrival port and off we went to visit the highlights of this culturally rich little island. We saw ten carvings in the main cave temple which Chanda paired with some fascinating anecdotes (which I can't really remember now, I have a shocking memory, my apologies!).

The rest of our tour of this island is best described using pictures, please refer below.

Our boat to the island. Elephanta Island is about 9km offshore from the Mumbai mainland and this vessel took over an hour to take us out there (I reckon Sagey & I could have probably swum out there faster...although that water was pretty revolting). On a positive note, being on this boat did allow me to witness the first occupation health and safety rule that I have seen since being in India! Only 125 people were allowed onboard...impressive!
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The walk along the jetty to the island. I chose this photo in particular to show because one thing I have noticed about Indian men is that they are really affectionate towards their mates. You see them walking around town arm in arm or holding hands quite a lot.
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The locals' boats that they use to get to and from the mainland.
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Cows are everywhere!!!
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There are also heaps of monkeys on the island. They are definitely not afraid to snatch food out of tourists' hands, which I got to witness which was quite entertaining!
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The front of the caves
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Photo-bombing is also prevalent in India too! Partially Chanda's fault as well as I don't think he quite mastered the use of the zoom on my camera.
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Another hysterical thing about Indians is that they like to dye their hair bright orange (presumably to try and bleach it blonde but as you know very hard to get black hair blonde). Anyway, I was particularly fond of his bloke because he went the extra mile and also dyed his mustache too! Quite often you see the hair done and the mo remains jet black...bizarre! Thank goodness I shelled out the big bucks and splurged on a great zoom...shameless!
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There are a few hundred steps up to the caves at Elephanta and you can pay these guys a few hundred Rupees to carry you up there in these chairs. It was brutally hot and sticky that day and I was very tempted but not sure how they would fare muling a Grande Gringa up those steps! They're so petite!
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Chanda and I on the way back to the boat. He is an absolute legend and like every Indian I have met, is obsessed with talking about the cricket (especially when they find out we are Australian). If you ever find yourself in Mumbai and on a tour of Elephanta, keep an eye out for him as he is good fun and a local to the island (born and raised). We ended up giving him an excellent tip and he said that next time he would tour us and any of our friends for free which would also include a stop off at his house for chai! He also was so taken aback with the size of our tip (about $10 AUD) that he purchased us a book all about Elephanta and ran it onto the boat for us before we departed. So sweet.
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Indian time strikes again! This time it was Laz, Sagey & I who were all the culprits with the late arrival at High Tea with Julz. Like any good Aussie, she had already sussed out the bar and was being entertained by a few relaxing Sulas (an Indian brand and region of wine. I am particularly fond of the Sula Sauvignon Blanc...delicious!!!) while she waited for us to arrive.

If you ever get the opportunity to experience an Indian High Tea, I highly recommend it. The difference between a regular High Tea and an Indian one is basically just that there is some local Indian fare thrown in amongst the traditional English delights. The food is outstanding and everything is bite sized so you get the opportunity to sample small pieces of what is on offer. Word of warning, just because everything is bite sized, it certainly doesn't prevent overloading on the food! There was very little self restraint being exercised at our table and we were certainly rolling ourselves out of the Taj at the end of it all (and in a pretty heavy food coma in the taxi on the way home).

Indian High Tea (the first plate of a "few"...it's too shameful to reveal how many I had, haha!)
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The ladies looking oh so civilized!
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Our waiter Kamal kept bringing us more and more food. I wish he had told us he was going to start serving us food when we started the initial buffet! I was pretty full before all the good courses came out (peaked far too early which is the theme for most of the meals I have had here! It all tastes far too good to restrain yourself whatsoever!)
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Dessert...yummmmm!
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Next up will be some highlights of being out and about in the suburbs of Mumbai (shopping! YAY!). Hope all is well with all of you wherever you are in the world.

Mel xx

Posted by melpage 21:17 Archived in India Tagged mumbai Comments (2)

4 chicks from Radelaide and 800 of our closest Indian mates

My first (and hopefully not my last!) Indian wedding...

The city of Agra may be a hole, but the people are some of the most generous, warm and welcoming people that I have ever met.

Attending an Indian wedding has been on my bucket list for a number of years. I think it stretches as far back as my high school days when I remember going to see my first Bollywood film with PPFA (my Mum). I just fell in love with the vibrant colours, the music and the rich culture. So when the opportunity arose for us to attend one in Agra, I was beyond ecstatic!

On the way to the wedding, Jaheer mentioned in passing that the wedding was taking place at the family's home. What!!! Great, it is already awkward enough that we were crashing a wedding of people we didn't know (an enormous faux pas in the West) and now we're finding out that the event will not be taking place at a public location where there would undoubtedly be hoards of people that we could hide behind as spectators. Now that we were faced with a slim chance of being lost in a sea of people, I just prayed that this wasn't going to turn into an "intimate" affair. The last thing I wanted to do was be stuck in someone's lounge room being forced to share a couch with a small gathering of family members. Fortunately, the God's were smiling upon us my friends as when we arrived, we could tell that there were already hundreds of people in attendance. A sigh of relief, phew!

As soon as we stepped out of the car, a group of young children came running over to welcome us in Hindi. It could very well have been the first time that they had ever seen white people and they were completely infatuated with us (and as soon to be discovered, so were the rest of the attendees at the wedding).

Jaheer quickly escorted us to the room where the ceremony was taking place. We entered and suddenly a group of men rose to their feet to rearrange the entire seating plan so that the Grande Gringas had chairs (with prime viewing of the ceremony, I might add). I was completely mortified. The ceremony had already started (looked like they were well into it) and we were making a complete ruckus. Not only were we crashing a wedding of someone that we didnt know but now we were completely ruining the ceremony. The professional photographers were now taking picutres of us and the videographer had also redicted his filming to our direction. Cringe. I felt like a complete social leper being so disrespectful. After a good thirty seconds of wallowing in my own humiliation, I soon realised that all of the Indians were partaking in their own sidebar conversations and that people were coming and going constantly (not to mention the few of them who had now turned to completely face us and were smiling and waving). Hmmm, so maybe our tardiness did not result in us being branded as being complete social outcasts? Jaheer later explained that the ceremony often goes from two to three hours and it is customary for people to come and go as they please (usually for a run to the loo or even to get food!). A wave of relief rushed over me. We hadn't completely tarnished their ceremony!

The interesting thing about an Indian wedding is that booze is not allowed. The comical thing about an Indian wedding is the people get drunk. They just have to be creative about it. Jaheer informed us that drinking in front of the bride or groom or around the food was strictly prohibited. So where can you drink you ask? In your car. So there we were, all dolled up up in our sarees in the back of Belissimo (the name of Jaheer's car) with two 500ml cans of Hayward 5000 (a very ordinary Indian beer...where's the Kingfisher when you need it?!) in our hands. We were effectively tailgating at a wedding (surely hitting an all time low?), classy birds!

After several slow swigs of the first can of Haywards 5000 and realising that this is going to be an incredibly slow and arduous process, Sagey turns to me and says "how do you reckon I'd go with sculling this entire can for my neck and nominate?". "Sagey, you'll kill it". And kill it she did! Thus setting the tone for the consumption of our respective litres of beer. We each skulled them back (with the exception of Julz who was doing a fine job of making her way through the better part of a bottle of gin and soda).

Slightly disappointed in my less than lady like behaviour, I turned to my left and looked into the car next to me. There were four Indian men getting after a bottle of whiskey like I had never seen. Indians are whiskey fiends (maybe more so than my Dad and all of his mates, which is a significant feat I might add!). Well, at least we weren't the only derelicts at this wedding!

With a nice little buzz going on, we finally made our way out of Belissimo and were ready to join the party and have some food (which then resulted in embarrassing moment number two occurring). Upon entering into the marquee area, a group of Indians quickly escorted us to a large table that was front and centre with prime viewing of the dance floor (and undoubtedly the most coveted real estate in the entire wedding). We were complete strangers and had the best seats in the house? I was flattered, but yet again, slightly mortified! Again proving to be some of the most hospitable people that I have ever met, we were waited on hand and foot (there was a buffet for the guests but God forbid the foreigners had to stand in line for food!) The men brought over our plates. Our table was exploding with food. I was in heaven and this was by far the best food that I have had in India to date. You cannot beat a home cooked meal! I still salivate when I think of all of the delicious dishes that we consumed (thank God that sarees are not form fitting!).

The dance show over dinner was highly entertaining. The young Indian men are such fantastic dancers. I felt like I could have been on the set of a Bollywood movie (and certainly acted that way as had taken a ridiculous amount of video footage of them in their element). They were certainly providing us quite the show (and constantly looking back for our seal of approval as if we were judges on So You Think You Can Dance). I had been constantly applauding and cheering them on during dinner, so much that my hands were starting to get sore.

After several rounds of watching the men dance, I was summoned by one of them to the dance floor. Normally never the first one of the group to be on the dance floor (perhaps as a result of being highly attuned to the fact that I may be only a notch or two better than Elaine from Seinfeld at dancing) but with a litre of liquid courage under my belt, I was ready to put my Bollywood dance moves to the test. I was able to hold my own for a short while and luckily a few minutes later, the rest of the Grande Gringas joined me. Safety in numbers!

The ridiculous thing about us being on the dance floor is that all of a sudden the Indians, who are already fantastic dancers and know their Bollywood songs far better than we do, started mimicking our moves as if we were some kind of amazing dance crew from western society. Luckily for us, Jaheer had versed us well during our four hour road trip on the majority of the top Bollywood songs (particularly Boss, whose tracks were constantly on a requested repeat!), so when a song we knew came on, it was a complete domination of the dance floor by the Grande Gringas. Well, maybe complete domination might be a bit too aggressive, more like a form of ownership of our superiorly ordinary dance moves. But they were loving it, and we were having the time of our lives, so we didn't care!

Somewhere after dinner but before our second romp on the dance floor, Laz was presented with an enormous bouquet of flowers. All the Indians were mesmorised by us, however, from the start it was clear that they were particularly besotted with Laz. We are still not sure why Laz received these flowers (was it because she was the "longest", a remark that many have made to her since she has been in India or were her dance moves far superior?). I like to think that every Indian wedding has a prom queen, and that Laz was this wedding's honouree.

Trying to leave the wedding was an ordeal. The picture requests were endless. If you ever are in need of a huge ego boost, book yourself on the next flight to India. You will be treated as though you are some kind of super celebrity. It was astonishing at how thankful they were for our attendance. We were essentially wedding crashers but they were acting like we had done them a huge favour. It was unreal. Even the bride, when we went over to say how beautiful she looked, thanked us profusely.

Finally, we were out the door and on our way home. Attending that wedding is going down as one of the best nights that I have ever had. I don't think that I have ever laughed that hard and had that much fun in my entire life. It certainly is an incredible experience that I will treasure forever.

Thanks again for all of the lovely texts, comments and emails. I absolutely love hearing from all of you so please keep it coming! Makes me not feel quite so far away!

Mel xx

PS I wonder what they thought of our wedding gift (a wad of cash stuffed inside a hotel branded envelope with "from the Aussies and Jaheer" scribbled on the front). Surely cash is king in India too?!

A slightly risqué photo of me in my sari undies:
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Sagey getting kitted up by Elizabeth (who was an Indian woman that worked at the hotel that came to dress us. She was so lovely!):
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Bottoms up!
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The view of the wedding from the entrance:
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Ceremony:
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Ceremony:
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GG's at the Ceremony (see the bride & groom in front):
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Sagey & I:
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Bride & groom being tied together with marigold flowers:
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Young girls on the roof throwing flower petals down over the bride & groom as they walk around during the ceremony:
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Dance party outside of Belissimo (shortly after sculling a litre of beer, clearly):
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I danced with this little girl and her sister for most of the night. They are absolutely gorgeous:
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The amazing food!!!! And the gross thing is that most of it went...haha:
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Two gorgeous little girls and I:
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Laz & Julz looking ever so glamorous:
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This guy asked for us to take his picture. He is all about striking a pose and channeling his inner Zoolander!
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Julz and I shortly after we were done shoveling food in our gobs:
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The bride and groom posing for photos. The unsettling thing about photos at a wedding is that nobody smiles so they look genuinely pissed off (or for those of you who are familiar with the term, the bitchy resting faces are in full effect!).
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The Prom Queen looking very radiant with her flowers:
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This photo had to go in as it is the only time that I saw the bride smile (please excuse the back of my head here!). During the entire ceremony she looked genuinely terrified, bless her.
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Posted by melpage 19:02 Archived in India Tagged agra sarees indian-wedding Comments (1)

The ultimate symbol of love

The Taj Mahal in all her glory

This entry is going to be relatively short and sweet. Most of what I will be "saying" will be in the form of pictures; my favourite type of "reading"!

There isn't too much to say about Agra (to be honest the city itself is a bit of a hole). The city is dirty and disorganised (and when I say dirty I mean this by Indian standards as Western standards would consider even the cleanliest cities in India to be absolutely filthy). There are three things that Agra is famous for; the Taj Mahal (obviously), the Red Fort and the Star of India. We were fortunate enough to see them all in a quick whirlwind trip that started around 8am. Unfortunately we did have to bypass a demonstration of marble carving (which is still done by the same family line as those who helped carve the designs in the Taj Mahal). While it would be been interesting to see, the preparations for the Indian wedding took precidence as we were slightly pressed for time and yet to purchase our sari underwear (which needed to be tailored) and I hardly fancied going "commando" to my first Indian wedding.

The Taj Mahal is absolutely breathe taking. I have never seen a building more grand and there are certainly no doubts as to why it is listed amongst the Seven Wonders of the World. Our tour guide, Deepak, did a fantastic job of giving us the history of this incredible site and was able to also provide us with other interesting tid bits of information (such as every point within the building being completely symmetrical with the exception of the husbands grave and that the marble is translucent so will glow in the moonlight).

The next stop was to see the Star of India, which occurs in three types of stones that are mined in India. If you ever find yourself in Agra, be sure to stop by Raj's stone shop (affectionately known among locals as Raj next to Taj) and have a look. He is a fantastic bloke with a great sense of humour and like every Indian I have met, a love of cricket. He has a great sales spiel with quite a few embedded (and admittedly recycled) corny jokes but is all round good value. Sagey and Laz each bought a ring and they are absolutely stunning.

Finally, and very quickly as the late afternoon was upon us (still needing our sari undies), we headed over to the Red Fort. Again, quite remarkable and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Deepak did a great job of giving us the highlights.

And off to the sari undie shop we went! You'll be pleased to know that we were appropriately "kitted out" for the wedding. Stay tuned for the next entry for the run down of the wedding. I will warn you, it may be a bit of a novel, but the entire experience was absolutely amazing and I want to give you the full story. Hopefully you enjoy!

Mel xx

Another example of having no expectations in India. Our tour guide Deepak just jumps in our car off the street and onto Jaheer's lap while Jaheer continues to drive us around the city! Anything goes in India!
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The Grande Gringas (as we have coined ourselves in order to account for how massive we are in comparison to the locals. And yes, I realise that is Spanish and I am currently in India. I wonder what the Hindi translation would be???) at the entrance to the Taj:
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Front building sans Grande Gringas:
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The magnificent Taj:
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GG's at the Taj:
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Me at the Taj:
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Jaheer at the Taj for the first time. When he had mentioned the previous day that he had taken his clients to the Taj hundreds of times but had never been in, we insisted that he came in with us. Seeing him be so moved by the entire experience was very humbling and is something that I will always remember. He told me that finally being able to go inside made his heart so happy. I am so happy to be a part of his experience.
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Taj up close:
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Tiles at the Taj:
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Up close again at the Taj:
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And up close again. Hicksie, to answer your question, yes you can go inside the Taj (it's amazing!!!) but they don't allow photography so sorry friends, you'll have to make your way over to Agra for a look inside! It's incredible:
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The rest of the pics are from the Red Fort:
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Posted by melpage 08:43 Archived in India Tagged agra taj-mahal star-of-india Comments (1)

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