Friday, February 24, 2006

a new breed of tourist

Can't believe that it's been a month since we've arrived back from our little world trip. It's so hectic and overwhelming. Among my list of things to do is to UPDATE THIS SITE!!!!!! When we're finally settled into our new home, which should be next week, I'm devoting an entire afternoon to updating our photos and diary. Oh, and then I might try to get the old slideprojecter out and invite friends over for a preview.

Right, so it's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride trying to get back into the swing of things. Very strange feelings going on here, but generally I think I'm feeling........disoriented. We've chosen to start work in March so we've had a few weeks to sort ourselves out. In the meantime it's been great catching up with family and friends, and interesting racing around the east with a gregorys and a couple of soy lattes/hot chocs-to-go looking for our new abode.

Dave loaded his rucksack again not long after unpacking it and flew off to NZ for a couple of weeks to go walking with the boys. After 365 days, 24/7, together I suffered a bit of separation my friend's cross cavalier dog who goes crazy when she's not around......but I got over it and loved my own space. Perhaps should suggest temporary single-life arrangement? 3 weeks on, 1 week off? Just kidding babe.

Found this article about the "flashpacker", as opposed to backpacker, a new breed of "individuals who are perhaps a little older than the post-uni, pre-life 21-year-old backpacker who have a larger budget but less time." I struggled with the stereotype of a backpacker while we were travelling because whilst we did rough it, we also had the choice not to. Our budget was generous enough to allow us to do pretty much everything we wanted to and more........without having to stay in flea ridden dorms and eating toast!

Now, I'm off to the beach............but after I contact my agent. Gotta find a way to help fund our next trip.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Browngirl's Masala Remix

I just love this entry on Lopa's blog. It captures our experiences in India so well..........
"In the.....countries i've been to.....not one has been as open, unapologetic, and direct in displaying its way of life. In most of the countries i've visited you had to make an effort to get a glimpse of the 'real' world, the culture, the people and to partake in it. Not India - here you're immersed in it from day 1. Everything around you is a cultural attack on the senses - the smells of spices, incense, fumes, urine, all mix up into a masala, your eyes are blinded by the vibrant colors of saris, turbins, temples. Then there are the sounds - the sweet beckoning of a bamboo bansuri, the gyrating beats of the latest remixed bollywood track from a passing rickshaw, to the prayer calls from the nearby mosque. The tastes i can talk and have talked about numerous times - the hot fiery saabzis, sweet milky chais, refreshing sugarcane and lime juices... and some how Touch is not left out - there's the constant interaction with every human being around you, the soft brush of a sari's palu, the hot wind as inches away from you a taxi whizzes by, there's the grit and dust in the air that coats you as soon as you step out of the shower, the cold marble floors that cool your feet as you enter a mandir

...and finally there's the affect all of this has on you - the speed in which you can feel pure joy and freedom while hanging out the sides of the coromondel express along the gloriously green coast to the heartbreak every time you see an undernourished, underdeveloped child - begging for money, weeding through garbage hoping one of us has foolishly left some morsels in our plate of bhelpuri.

At times you can feel overwhelmed, unable to handle so much so quickly - but somehow you manage and soon enough find you're enjoying yourself despite it all because more than anything India makes you aware of how alive you are, how real things are and how lucky it is to be you."

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Happy New Year everyone!!

It took 20 staff at the Taj Residency to load this ice sculpture baby on time. Even then there was a risk that the whole thing would melt with temps being so hot! Have to laugh at the swan vegetable carving....the table was covered in them.

We lapped it up at this fancy place for a treat, checking into a suite and joining the festivities out on the lawn (a Jungle theme) stuffing ourselves with every possible indian delicacy on offer on the buffet. Delicious!

Met a really cool family of 4 (the only other foreigners).....with the most balanced, outgoing, intelligent kids and really down to earth parents ever. I was tempted to ask them what their secret was but I think it had something to do with his job as a drugs and alcohol counseller and her a psychotherapist for children and adolescents.

Missing the festivities on the harbour but this is just as cool.

Happy NY to my mates onboard the Love Boat c/off Nessie and Kenny. Wish we were revving it up on the Pacific Princess with youse having a boogie, drinking champers and watching the world's best fireworks on the harbour.

And....a big Happy New Year to my wonderful family...See you in 16 days!!

Friday, December 30, 2005

having one of those days

I'm feeling a little frustrated and a little stressed out at the moment!! I know, I know, it's kind of weird being stressed out when you've been on holiday for almost a year but the pressure is on.....we've got less than 3 weeks left and we want to make sure we make the most of it before heading back to reality! It also probably doesn't help that the Keralan coast is not that fantastic and we are SURROUNDED by tourists looking like they haven't seen the sun in a year who've come straight off their charter flights on their 2 week holiday over christmas and new years. I'm not being a travel snob but it's not the travelling experience that we're after on our final few weeks.

Although, we had an awesome time cruising around the keralan backwaters in our funky houseboat for a couple of days. We went straight from Munnar down to Allepy to organise a houseboat which was a bit of a hassle - peak time, prices all hiked up 3 fold, loads of tourists and about 250 boats (un)available. Found a boat by luck due to a cancellation - a 2 bedroom wooden and palm leaf woven cocoon all to ourselves and with 3 staff to cook, drive and clean for us it was all very luxurious! All we had to do was laze on the lounges and cushions and watch the coconut fields, rice paddies and village life unfold (ie: women washing/doing the laundry/bathing etc and men sitting around having chai/fishing). We also hired a small narrow boat and sat on cane chairs like we were out on an safari while a guy navigated us around little canals with a bamboo pole. He claimed that Paul McCartney and Heather Mills hired his boat last year which was an entertaining romantic thought but yeah, took it with a pinch of salt.

Then from Allepy to Cochin - tourist ville central. It's fairly interesting.....the chinese fishing nets where you can buy fresh fish and have it cooked as you like in the little stalls along the seaside, the portugese and dutch architecture, the jewish quarter, the spice's all good but just too hectic for us.

So we're going to head out of here tomorrow, escape the crowds and go north via Calicut where we will spend NY, then to Wayanard Wildlife Sanctuary.....headin' inland where hopefully there will be less ppl!! A few days hiking and wildlife spotting there before heading to Mysore, Bangalore, Hampi and up to Mumbai avoiding the Goan coastline. That's the best plan we've come up with for the moment so fingers crossed it'll be awesome!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

a Very Munnar Christmas!

I was so homesick the first time I ever had xmas away from my family! I missed mum getting stressed out about the food, chilling out with dad, sis and lil' bro on the sofas while watching dvds with the a/c on to keep us cool from the 40deg heat outside, then rushing off to our extended family xmas gathering with all my titos, titas, nanay, cousins, cousin-in-laws and all my little nephews and lil' niece. The titos would sit around drinking chivas, the titas and nanay havin a goss and experimenting with 'midori and lemonade' (hardcore), the little ones running around like crazy, and my cousins and I having a laugh, drinking and eating till our stomachs hurt. Then we'd all have kris kringle, something we've been doing for years now and which always reminds me of a funny little incident with our cheeky nanay (something to do with picking out names from the hat...wink, wink....we know!!!!).

After the excitement of opening our gifts we'd watch all the little ones rip open their presents. I always love watching this! Then, we'd continue throughout the night into early morning, with nanay and the mums keeping the enormous buffet topped up in between competitions on the karaoke machine. After the dads have sobered up, we'd head home in the early early morning, drift off to sleep and on xmas morning open presents with mum, dad, bro, sis and partners underneath our xmas tree before having breakkie and lounging around for the rest of the day.

This xmas instead of our usual party of 50 or so there's 3 of us - dave, myself and lops - up in the tea and spice plantations of Munnar. Our cottage sits on the highest peak and overlooks the plantations below. We've decorated our little hut and we've set a budget of 100 rupees (that's 3 bucks!!) to buy each other presents. I bought dave a skipping rope. Then we're going to head to a xmas do here with a huge indian curry buffet, bonfire, games and bollywood disco! Hopefully get to win a couple of games.

Happy holidays everyone and a very merry xmas to all!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

you haven't been to India until.....

They say that you haven't been to South America until you've been robbed or mugged. They also say that you haven't been to India until you've had a severe attack of the runs, dehydration and vomiting.

Well, feels like I've been to India and back at least a dozen times in the past 24 hours. Ironically, after 2 months of eating and drinking everything from the streets without any problems, I got food poisoning from THE fanciest and poshest restaurant in Pondicherry!! It would've been OK if I got sick from the food on the least it would have only cost me 5 rupees (15 cents)!!

In the height of my paranoia I thought I was coming down with meningococcal disease so we asked the hotel to call the doctor. He was the cutest man ever. He came bumbling in, all grey haired and rotund with a huge white streak of ash painted across his forehead. He'd just been to the temple to offer puja to his sri baba. "Do you know him? Here is Sri Baba", he says showing us a picture on his round silver key ring. Really surprising. I didn't expect a picture of a bloke who looked like a throwback from the 70s with an enormous round afro. Anyway, he was fab and confirmed that all I had was food poisoning and that I didn't have a serious, life-threatening disease.

So, now I really don't feel like eating anything or drinking any wine. A whole week in Pondi and I can't indulge. Bugger!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

wine, seafood and the south

Aaaaahh! Smell and feel that air! Sticky, hot and humid. Noice.

We're in the south now. Couldn't handle the cold of the north any longer so we jumped on the next flight out of Varanasi (scary, dodgy domestic airline via delhi) arriving late in Chennai for a night before driving down to Pondicherry (a french/indian seaside village) the following morning, a few hours south for some fresh air (well, not as polluted), wine and seafood.

It's rainy season though and luckily the cyclone heading this way decided to head further south. Still, it's back to wearing shorts....well, for Dave at least. Even though ppl say it's more relaxed in the south than the north (and easier for women), you still get stared/gawked at by the men (eeew!) so I'm sticking to my trousers and long sleeves. Have yet to find a salwar kemeez that I like. Luckily there is a FabIndia store down here as well as a boutique from Auroville with great western/indian fusion garments so will check it out.

Plans for the week in Pondicherry: A bit of western comfort including, but not limited to...

* Having a glass(es) of wine! Being a french colony there is plenty of wine and french cuisine available and at very low taxes.

* Eating lots of seafood

* Check out Auroville, a village 10kms out of here based on the concept of human unity