A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand part 2

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I think I left off in Koh Tao with my diving experience!

I left Koh Tao after spending far too many days doing nothing but drinking coconut shakes eating Pad Thai, lazing on the beach and then wondering why my clothes were all starting to feel a little tighter :-)

Time for action! I left Koh Tao with Rhian my Thailand travelling pal from Australia and we headed to Bangkok by catamaran and then coach. We arrived on the Kho San road at about 8.30pm and decided not to hang around in Bangkok but to head straight up to Chiang Mai that night. Gluttons for punishment when we arrived at the train station they only had seats left rather than sleeper beds so the next 15 hours were spent trying to sleep curled up in a ball accross a couple of seats and intermintantly playing games making up poems and drawings when we realised that our attempts to catch 40 winks were futile!

Chiang Mai...I loved it the last time I was there and I loved it all over again the second time around! is such a lovely place an old city that is easy to walk about in, lots of little coffee shops and books shops to mooch about in the day then a big night market, outside eating stalls and plenty of people to hang out with in the evening!

I decided not to trek from Chiang Mai as I had done the same last time and spent a few days wandering about the temples, meeting up for coffee with people we had met on the islands, and doing a lot of shopping at the night market! After 3 days we decided to get a bus to Pai which is a little town right in the north and heart of the mountains. The road was really windy and a bit treachorous but worth it to get to Pai which was a cute little traveller town with a hippy new age feel to it and loads of beautiful scenery surrounding.

We ambitiously hired mountain bikes on our first day for a three days and rode into the mountains to a waterfall that the map said was 7Km away! 4 hours later we arrived hot and sweaty having had to walk the most of the journey as the hills were too steep and the sterring, braking and gears on the bikes were not in the best condition! the waterfall was great, there were a bunch of Thai children all using the rocks as slides and having great fun and wanting millions of pictures taken of them!

Instead of going with a guided tour we decided to stop at two local tribe villages independentely to get a feel of what there day to day life was like when they didn't have zillions of minibuses arriving. The tribes were Lisu and Chinese ...much nicer to see them living day to days lives cooking and cleaning and working in the fields and selling there fruits and foods on the side of the road, however the biggest shock was to get flashed at by 3 young boys from the Lisu village though as we cycled past!

The bike ride home took us 20 mins...all down hill blissssssssssssss!

We decided to spend a day with the elephants and at the hot springs and arrived at a little elephant camp just outside Pai. I have been on elephants before but this time we got to ride on its bare back and I got to ride on its head which was pretty scary as our elephant Mai turned out to be the most wayward naughty elephant at the camp. The owner Noi came with us and even his shouting and clucking couldn't get Mai to go in the direction of the track we had to take so we did a bit of cross country with tree branches swinging at our heads left right and centre. As much as riding Mai was fun it was not the most comfortable journey and after an hour and a half I was glad to get off and go to the hot springs for some relaxing in the mid day sun in roasting water :-)

The day before we left Chiang Mai for Pai we had been for some dinner at a little cafe which was run by an old eccentric hippy Thai guy called Aun and his family and his crazy little dog. His cafe was really small but he grew all the ingredients for his food in his back garden and allowed you to cook yourself from his garden kitchen. He had never had anyone stay with him before but agreed that when we came back from Pai we could kip on the floor of his cafe on massage mats and use the garden and kitchen and chill out for a few days. Rhian left to go back to Bangkok and Aus so I decided to take up his offer and stayed in his cafe for 5 days. It was really nice...the massage matt turned out to be incredibly comfortable and whilst I was there his sister agreed to teach me Thai massage in a three day course. Thai massage is not like any other massage its actually quite painful... but in a good way and I really enjoyed learning how to do it although I had to use Aun to practice on and he insisted on burping as each part of his body was cracked into place!! Every day Aun liked to try to cook something different or add a new ingredient to a reciepe so I was used as the guinea pig for all his new cooking inventions which included spicy tomatos for breakfast and a scrummy yellow curry. I had such a nice chilled out time staying with him and could come back to the cafe whenever I wanted, although it opened at 7am every morning when Bob Marley or Jack Johnson was played at full blast and the crazy dog came to lick my face so long 'lie in's' weren't allowed!

I left Chiang Mai the day before my Thai visa ran out and made my way to Chiang Kong and the Laos border ready for the two day slow boat to Luang Prubang. I was in two minds whether just to cross the border and come back again with another 30 day visa as I really wanted to visit Chiang Rai and visit some tribes by the Burmese border but I met some fun people on my trip to Chiang Kong and decided the slow boat would be much more fun with them so continued into Laos.

Posted by BecciDrums 14:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand part 1

Phuket, Koh Phangnan, Koh Tao

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After having a physical experience in Nepal, a cultural experience in India, and a wildlife experience in Malaysia, Thailand has definately so far been the party all night and chill all day experience!.

I flew into Phuket and caught a taxi to my hostel with a French guy who was living in Thailand as a Thai boxer, my hostel in Phuket was in the town rather than at any of the beaches which was perfect as my first visit to Patong beach revealed how much I hated it! It was full of English bars and English people, English breakfasts and burgers and hardly any Thai people in sight apart from those who want to make a fast buck from the tourists! Anyway I stayed in Phuket only two nights before booking my journey to Koh Phangnan. On the last night of my stay I went out to a bar with all the people from my hostel and met some cool people who were also travelling to the island, unfortunately after many nights of absteining from alchohol I had a few too many Chang beers and ended up having to get up the next morning ready for a boat ride with a stinking hangover (Changover) and only 3 hours sleep.

It took all day to get to Koh Phangnan and I ended up meeting some guys on the boat who I had watched DVD's with in KL, they had a place to stay so I decided to see if I could stay at the same place. Because of the looming full moon everywhere was really expensive but I lucked out by renting a small apartment from the owner of an ice cream shop who happened to be in the boys hotel when i was checking it out. The apartment was cool, 30 seconds from the beach and very cheap! no free ice cream though I did try bargaining for it!

I wasn't sure how I would like Koh Pangnan but I loved it and only physically leaving the island stopped me from partying. Every night there was a party on the beach leading up to the full moon, they played all different kinds of music and had fire shows to keep you entertained. I have always been told by everyone who has ever been to the Thai island that I need to sample a bucket so on my first night I did just that. A bottle of Thai whisky, 3 red bulls and coke all pored into a big bucket with ice and lots of straws...needless to say they were the end of me. After 2 nights in a row drinking red bull and not being able to sleep at all I decided to move onto vodka / lemonade buckets...much more sensible! So my week spent on Koh Pangnan went pretty much like this every day....go to bed about 10am, sleep till about 1pm, have a shake and museli fruit and yoghurt for breakfast/lunch, hang out in the pool until 7ish, have Pad Thai for dinner, have a power nap until 11pm, have some pre party drinks at friends hotels then party on the beach dancing until the morning...I saw the sunrise everyday! It was great and sooo addictive, every day I would wake up and promise myself an early night watching DVD's and then every night I would be out partying on the beach again. I met some really fun people, two guys from Texas, a couple of peeps from Canada, I shared a room with an Austrailian girl and I met loads of lovely Israelis who I partied with on the beach. The only thing that I did that left Hat Rin beach was on the day after the full moon party we took bikes to a quiet beach in the north of the island and hired some snorkling gear for the afternoon......yes the night after full moon I was out partying aswell!

So eventually I left the island and headed to Koh Tao (turtle island) to do some diving. Koh Tao is where I am now and is much more chilled out, there are bars on the beach but they generally have big chill out cushions and are there for relaxing after a hard days diving. My diving course was great and I am now a qualified PADI Open water diver. It took four days and 5 dives in total to complete aswell as an exam. I was in a small group of 6 and on the first day we pratised the underwater techniques required for diving at a small bay on a nearby island, I was nervous at first as it felt weird to be breathing underwater and there was lots to remember but by my last couple of dives it was feeling a lot more natural and we had a lot of fun under the water, following our instructor, seeing little tropical fish amongst the coral, and getting video'd underwater. There was a chance that we would see some barracudas and whale sharks but unfortunately not on this occasion. I was tempted to follow it up by doing my advanced PADI but I think that I will save that for a different island or maybe Bali.

My next move is up to Chiang Mai and northwest Thailand and then I plan on doing a full circle into Loas, Vietnam, Cambodia and then finally back to the islands for before getting a flight to Bali early Sept. I still want to see Koh Chang and Koh Phi phi so they will be on my list when I come back round....aswell as another full moon...maybe!

Posted by BecciDrums 03:27 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur and Borneo.....18th May - 1st June...only a few weeks behind :-)

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I loved my stay in Kuala Lumpur!

It was so different to be in a place where the total population of the country is less than the population of one Indian city . Everywhere in KL was within nice walking distance and the hostel I stayed in was right in the centre of Bukit Bintang with all the shopping malls and cinemas and bars and clubs with lovely blissful air conditioning ahhhhh!

I was initially just going to stay in Kl for a couple of days but I met some cool people in the hostel that I was staying in and we spent lots of nights watching DVD's, or going out partying. The first thing I did when I got there was look for a place to salsa, luckily 2 of the best salsa places in KL were 2 minutes walk from where I was staying to I spent 3 nights salsaing with the Malaysians. As in most salsa venues everyone was really friendly, chatty and hospitable and I managed to dance my way through the night even though I only had flip flops.

I did do some touristy things in KL aswell as enjoying the city life, the petrona towers were amazing all light up at night, the Petaling street night market had the best street food and I spent a rainy day at the national museum too.

The weather in Malaysia was humid and warm but rained every other day for a couple of hours in the early evening which cleared the air and made the weather nice and bareable.

I was staying in a lovely hostel to begin with and booked it in advance through hostelworld for a few nights and then extended my stay....unfortunately I made a fatal error of completing a review of the hostel on the internet whilst still a bit drunk from the night before and put all 'very poors' instead of 'excellents' on the rating. As soon as I realised what I had done I sent an e-mail to hostelworld to ask them to change it or remove it but the hostel got hold of the review and threw me out the same day...it was sooooo embarrasing but the guy that ran the hostel was a bit of a drama queen anyway and wouldn't let me explain what had happened he just kept shouting at me to leave!!! Luckily there was another hostel round the corner that I ended up spending my last few nights in and I consoled myself with the best apple an sultana cheesecake I have ever tasted!

I was a bit torn as to whether to explore penisular Malaysia or go to Borneo, the flight to Borneo was a bit expensive but it is somewhere that I have always dreamed of going so I decided it was worth it. I am really glad I did, I flew into Sabah into Kota Kinabalu and stayed in a hostel on the beach just outside the town. I only had a week before my return flight so I pushed myself to do as much as possible everyday.

Day 1 - I went snorkling on Sapi a small island which is a group of national park islands just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. The sea was amazing, nothing like I have ever seen before really aqua blue and totally clear, I didn't even need a snorkel to see all the fish swimming in the water. The beach was lovely white sand and wasn't too busy. On the island we saw massive monitor lizards and wild boar in the their natural habitat, one of the boars stole a mans camera from his sun bathing spot, which was the funniest thing ever as he had been posing down the beach in tiny lepord print swim pants all day absolutely loving himself (the man that is not the wild boar!)

Next to the beachhouse that I was staying in was a canteen that all the locals came to in the evening and that sold the best fruit shakes! unfortunately I took a liking to the coconut one which only came in large size in a cup that would hold about 3 pints...every night that I stayed there I had a coconut shake on the beach....heaven!

Day 2 - I got on the bus to Kinabalu national park, the mountain is the highest point between the Himalayas and Papa New Guinea, as my time was limited and you needed three days to climb the mountain I spent a day trekking round the park to different view points. The weather was much colder up in the mountains and I hadn't really brought appropriate clothing from KK but it was still fun although I ended up getting into bed at 8.00pm cos it was sooooooo cold!

Day 3 - I met a couple of girls and went to the Poring Hot Springs with them, the hot springs are at the other side of the national park and they have lots of big bath tubs that you can fill up with naturally hot water from the springs, it is supposed to be very theraputic and cure all skin ailments...I soaked in there for a good couple of hours before my fingers and toes turned into prunes and I had to get out!. At the hot springs we also visited a butterfly farm, a beautiful waterfall where the fish nibbled at my toes and a canopy walk above the rainforest. As time was limited in Borneo I decided to get the bus to Sandakan that evening and stay there the night so as to be ready to visit the Orangutans the next day.

The largest flower in the world can be found in Borneo but it is really rare as it takes 21 months to bloom and when it does it only blooms for 4 days before dying :-( On our way back from the hot springs we saw a sign in the back garden of a local house saying that they had a Rafflesia in bloom...we stopped and payed the homeowner some money to see the flower which was massive and red and lovely but gave off a horrible whiff of rotton meat as it tried to attract insects to pollunate it!

The buses in Borneo are so irregular, there are no timetables and no locals know when the buses will turn up they just stand there and wait until either a minivan or the bus turns up to take them to their destination. We waited for an hour at the bus stop and eventually a minivan turned up and we agreed a price for them to take us to Sandakan. Half way through the journey just as it was starting to get dark the minivan drivers decided that they didn't want to go to Sandakan anymore and so stopped and negotiated a deal with a driver of a pick up truck to take us the rest of the way...i was sooooo annoyed as we had to cram in 3 people on the front seat and 4 in the back for the rest of the hour and halfs journey!

Day 4- Sandakan is a small town on the east coast of Borneo and its where one of the worlds only Orangutan sanctuaries is. We spent the whole afternoon there taking photos of the orangutans and watching them feed, I wish that we had been able to hold them but they try to keep their environment as natural as possible so that they are safe when released back into the wild.

Day 5 - The next morning to complete my whirlwind tour of Borneo I got back on the bus for the 6 hour ride back to Kota Kinabalu, the bus played horror films on DVD followed by Malaysian heavy rock music followed by Kareoke all the way at full volume to make sure that you were really relaxed as it drove at full speed round the windy roads without using any form of brake :-). I am not sure why but the Malaysian people seemed to get really travel sick, as soon as you sat down on any bus they gave you a sick bag and I spent most of the journey next to women who had her jacket over her head being sick into the bag...when i got off I realised that half the malaysians on the bus had been sick on the journey..gross!
It was harvest festival in Borneo the last weekend I was there and representatives of all the local tribes gather in a big park in Kota Kinabalu to show off their local dress and dancing and goods and food, it was a really great thing to see and everyone in the town was in a party atmosphere....of course the night was finished off with a mega sized coconut shake!

Day 6 - this was my last full day on the island. I went to a local market in the morning and the beach in the afternoon. In the market they had loads of dogs and cats and rabbits for sale which was sad to see as they were all bunched up together in tiny cages, I did resist the temptation to buy them all and set them free although it was hard as the bunnies were soooooo cute!

I really loved Malaysia , a really chilled out country with beautiful people and wildlife and best of all the first bit of salsa in ages!!!

Posted by BecciDrums 06:49 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

The rest of India...Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala

whoops... its been a long time!

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Whoops...its been such a long time since I updated my travel blog in which tim I have moved accross 4 states in India been to Malaysia main land and Borneo and now I am in Thailand! so I have quite a bit to update! I did spend 2 hours in Cochin updating my blog one day only to press save and send and loose everything...:-(

Anyway I left off in Mumbai and was so happy to be heading down to the beaches at Goa that not even the fact that I had paid for a sleeper bed on a night bus only to be told when the bus came that the sleeper bus had been cancelled and my 13 hour trip was going to be on an upright chair could get me down!

Goa was amazing, I didn't expect to like it so much as I thought it would be touristy and I have not been a big beach lover in the past but I loved every second of it and so far it has been the only place I truly felt sad to leave behind. I started off at a beach in the north called Mandrem, I lucked out with a beach hut tucked in between a winding river on one side and the beach on the other. It was part of a yoga and health retreat and included in the price was as much fruit museli and curd as I could eat in the morning and salad rice and vegetable curry in the evening. The beach was lovely a massive expanse of sand with hardly anyone on it and the sea was warm and clean to swim in. There is a famous market in a beach town called Anjuna so I moved there next and stayed with a family who had a dorm room attached to their house. Anjuna was a bit of a party town so I met lots of people and went to some clubs and bars in the evenings which were great as women all got in free and drank for free all night!

After spending a week or so on the beaches I craved a bit of town life so spent a couple of days in Panaji the capital of Goa, it was a small town with a latin quarter where I stayed and it was great to be there for Easter as it had a strong Christian community so there were lots of festivities and I managed to find a small chocolate egg to celebrate aswell.

After Panaji I headed to what I can definately describe as one of my favourite place that I have visited so far on my trip...Palolem beach! It is right in the south of Goa but it had everything I could have wanted...a cheap beach hut that walked onto a resturaunt/bar that sold the best salads with the nicest staff...that walked straight onto the beach lined with fishing boats ....that walked straight into the Arabian sea...lush! I spent about a week not really moving from those four places apart from to go partying in the evening. In Goa they have a noise restriction after 10.00pm so they invented silent discos to allow people to party until the early hours of the morning. It is the funniest thing to watch a party of people all listening to the DJ through headphones dancing and singing along to silence! I met some great people in Palolem too which made my whole experince a million times better. One night we decided to take a fishing boat out to catch some fish to cook and eat on the beach for our dinner.....3 hours and a whole bag of bait later 7 of us came back with absolutely nothing which was definately to do with our fishing skills as a 7 year old boy in a boat nearby caught about 5 fish in the same amount of time and everytime I pulled my line out of the water my bait had been eaten!

I was very sad to leave Palolem but wanted to moved down to the south of India so I took a train with two guys I met on Palolem and we spent a few days in Gokarna. Gokarna is a small village that many Hindu's make pilgrimages to. The streets around the temples are lined with broken pieces of concrete and rubble that they walk over with bare feet in order to reach the place to pray. Gokarna also has two beaches which can only be reached by walking down some rubbly cliff paths. We stayed on a beach called Kudle along with only 24 other people some days you could walk out onto the beach a be the only person on it. I did have a couple of bad insect experiences in Gokarna despite having a beach hut with concrete walls. On night one there were two massive cockroaches in my room and during the night although I thought I was safe undr my mosi net one of them crawled over my neck and I woke up with it running round my bed. On night two there was only one cockroach and one massive spider.....needless to say I spent most of my nights awake there and then just slept on the beach in the day.

Hampi was next on the list, a place where almost all travellers in India seem to end up due to its 7 km radius of ancient ruins and temples. We spent a day on a rickshaw with our driver and guide Viru and he took us to ruin after ruin from sunrise to sunset, it was a knackering day but I saw some amazing sights and took loads of pics. I had a really lovely auyervedic face and neck massage in Hampi aswell to treat myself, the lady was so nice that she invited me back the next day to have masala dosa's with her and her family. We spent our last day in Hampi in a small hut in a resort called Shanti which you had to cross the river in a boat to get too. It had a small hammock swing outside the hut overlooking fields, the river and some grazing watr buffulos.

We reached Hampi on a night sleeper bus and after that experience I vowed only to use trains as sleepers again....it was crazy...I had a sleeper right at the vry back of the bus on the bottom, the driver obvious didn't think that slowing down for speed bumps was something that he had to abide by so about every 15 minutes we zoomed oveer them and got thrown in the air and back down again...one guy chipped his tooth and we all had bruises and bumps for a good few days afterwards.

So we took the sleeper train to Mysore which is famous for its city palace, lively market and incense! Whilst I was in India the elections were happening and each state and town was taking it in turns to vote, when the elections were in town all places selling alcohol closed and this was the case in Mysore when we were there....we went everywhere in search of a Kingfisher but had to settle for masala chai and coffees instead!

Mysore was incredibly hot and I decided that rather than heading straight for Kerala I would spend some time at a hill station called Ooty in the Tamil Nadu mountains. I did a trek there in the mountains to see all the tea plantations and a tribal village and for the first time in ages I slept under 3 blankets and was still a bit chilly!

My last stop was Kerala and I got a bus to Cochin where I stayed for 5 nights, Cochin is a lovely quiet town that is famous for its fishing, you can buy your fresh fish from the port and then take it to a local resturant where they will cook it up for you. Whilst I was here I also went to a Kathikali dance performance where performance artists put on a show using mime and dance and singing, the performance was really good but not as good as the hour preparation which led up to it where they all put on there makeup and held pujas round the stage to bless the performance...it was longer than the performance itself! Kerala is famous for its backwaters and I decided to hire a paddle boat instead of a big houseboat for my tour round the backwaters. It was so lovely, it meant that I got really close to the village life on the banks of the river and the guy whose boat it was took me to a local resturant to have breakfast along the way and let me paddle home. This earnt me loads of respect with the locals especially when we rescued a fresh coconut that had fallen in the river and handed it to a family to eat for their tea. The little town of Allepey is where I stayed for my backwater trip with a local family who lived on the beach. It was the only place that I ever felt unsafe staying in India apart from my very first night in Dehli and that was because the beach was so deserted that when they all went to bed and I was in my little hut there was no one else about for miles.

I had now spent a good four months travelling in India and Nepal and towards the end I was starting to feel a bit down...I didn't really meet anyone to travel with after leaving Mysore and was feeling a bit lonely and a bit sick of always being stared at every where I went, and a little bit like everything was the same and I wasn't seeing anything new. On the day I left to go to the Amritapuri ashram there was a strike in Kerala and I couldn;t get a boat like I had planned, the bus decided to stop half way and throw everyone off then I had to get on another bus that had a million people pushing and shoving my big rucksack and getting cross with me, and then when I reached the destination no one seemed to know how to get to the ashram. I hadn;t had anything to eat or drink all day and I ended up finding one shop that was open buying a warm bottle of water and a pack of chocolate biscuits and sitting crying on a closed shop front whislt eating my way through the whole pack! Thinking back I would have loked very funny but I didn't appreciate the local rickshaw drivers stopping and laughing at me nor the local shop keepers. Anyway this was my lowest point and after finishing the biscuits and getting a chocolate boost and managed to make the rest of my journey on a rickshaw straight to the ashram.

The ashram was a real experience and one which i am still mulling over. The Amritapuri ashram is that of Amma a famous India guru who blesses people by hugging them. The day that I arrived was Amma last day in the ashram giving her darshan blessings and there were thousands of people Indians and westerners all milling round the ashram queuing for a darshan, and meditating. I queued until 7.30pm and finally received my hug from Amma. It was lovely just what I had needed after a horrible day and left me feeling trance like for hours afterwards. Although I have never been a particularly spiritual person this experience definately made me feel differently afterwards and I truly believe that she gave off a special energy. I stayed at the ashram for 4 days, part of your stay there which includes three meals a day and accomodation for 2 pounds is that you have to do some selfless sevrice round the ashram every day. On my first couple of days I washed dishes and my last day I cut up vegetables...strangely after not having washed any dishes for 4 months I quite enjoyed it!

After leaving the ashram and making my way back up to Mumbai I felt a renewed sense of calm and inspiration for my travelling and I was excited to see people back in Mumbai and also to be moving on to a new country and new sights.

My last few days in Mumbai were so much fun expecially thanks to Chris and Theresa and the guys from the Mumbai Nomura office. I got to stay in luxury, have my first hot shower in ages, watch TV, chill by a swimming pool, have unlimited air conditioning, and go for drinks and dinner with great company.

So I have now left India and still have to update on the amazing time I had in Kuala Lumpur and Borneo both of which I LOVED!!!!

My thoughts and summary on India, it is definately a country of contradictions and my thoughts are contradictory aswell, some days and places I loved and could have spent forever there some days and places I hated more than anywhere else I have ever been. There are so many people in India and they are either incredibly generous and kind hearted, most of my train journeys the people who I shared a cabin with where great friends for the entire journey sharing their food and talking all the way. The families who I met out at the beaches and the various sights who just took me under their wing when I was by myself and showed me all the local sights and sounds and wouldn't let me pay a penny. But then there are the people who take advantage that you are western or you are a women travelling alone, they constantly stare or make rude comments or want to take advantage of you by making up stories to get money or extravagantly overcharging. The sights in India are the same in the same; you have incredibly views and scenary miles and miles of palm trees and sea and waters or colourful temples and people and festivals and then you have places that are really dirty and water that you can't swim in because it is toxic and polluted and rubbish that is everywhere because people don't know what else to do with it but to throw it out onto the street. The one thing that is great throughout all of India is the food and drinks, I am having cravings for masala chai tea and dosa's and thali lunches and chutneys soooooooo good! A curry in England is never going to be the same! I have learnt so much about India and the Indian culture on my trip and it is completely fascinating I will definately be coming back to India!

Posted by BecciDrums 04:11 Archived in India Comments (0)

Pushkar to Mumbai

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Since leaving Pushkar I have spent a week in Udaipur and am now in Mumbai. Initially my plan was to only be in Udaipur for 2 days before getting the train to Mumbai but I arrived there at 5am in the morning and trusted the rickshaw driver to recommend a good hostel......and luckily this time I came up trumps! The hostel I stayed in was lovely, right in the centre of the old city in between the main temple and over looking the lake. It had a rooftop resturaunt that you could over look the ghats and lake from and really friendly staff.

Udaipur is a lovely city really nice and relaxing and pretty, I visited some of the sights, the city palace and the monsoon palace for sunset but mostly wandered round meeting up with different travellers, having coffees...and lots of cakes!! Udaipur is famous for its palace in the middle of the lake which is now a 5star hotel that yopu can only travel to if you have a dinner or lunch reservation. The palace was used in the film Octopussy so religiously at 7pm every night, every hostel and hotel shows the film...I think I now must know it off by heart!

On Saturday I got the sleeper train to Mumbai which took 16 hours but luckily I got a top bunk and a really nice Indian guy bought me fruit, salad and biscuits throughout the journey!

Mumbai is not like any of the places I have visited so far, it is the most cosmopolitan place which is nice as I have been able to walk down the street un noticed and un hassled for the first time since arriving in India, and its not so touristy. However everything is more than double the price of every where I else I have visited and my first couple of days I hated it here, although I am now warming to the place!

I am staying at the YWCA which is nice and clean and am sharing a room with a girl who I met in Udaipur which is great to have someone to go for drinks with in the evening.

My first day I went to Chowpatty beach for sunset and met a really lovely Indian family who took me under there wing when they saw me sitting alone. All of the Indian families I have met so far have been lovely and but they so not take no for an answer especially when it comes to giving you food and feeding you up and paying for everything. This family was lovely, they bought me ice cream, fed me a million biscuits and peanuts and sugar cane, and then took me on the most rickety ferris wheel ever. Luckily it wasn't that high but it worked by 4 guys standing on the top of the frame and then jumping down hanging onto one of the carts in order to make it go round! It went really fast and everyone thought it was great fun apart from me ...I just kept a close eye on all the nuts and bolts making sure that they were hanging in there and tried to smile and laugh like I was having fun whenever anyone looked my way!

On my second day here I was approached by a guy who asked me to be an extra in a Bollywood film. I had heard that quite often they need western people for the films so the next day I took the train with 6 other people to a film set in North Mumbai. The film is called Love Aajkal and they were shooting the end scene which was at a Rajasthan market with loads of dancing and singing. I had to be a tourist wandering round the market watching the dancers and having my photo taken...it was so funny! I was paid 500 rupees for the day and given breakfast , lunch and dinner which was a bargain for the experience that I got. I got to meet the two main Bollywood actors aswell Saif Ali Khan and Dipika Padukon who are quite famous here! The film is due to come out on the 26th June so I am going to look out for it and see if I am famous!

The local trains in Mumbai are crazy at rush hour, every day on average 8 people die from using the trains. As the trains pull into the station everyone who wants top get off start jumping off and people fling themselves onto the trains as they are still moving to try to get a seat and some space. Once the trains stop there is a massive surge and if you are in the wrong place whether you like it or not you are either on a train or off a train at a station! Luckily they have women only carriages which are a little more civilised but seeing the busy trains going passed is funny, there are people sitting on the tops of them, people clinging onto the sides of them and out the doors.

Yesterday I went to the Dharavi which is the largest slum in Asia, over 1 million people live there. I went with a guide who lives in the slum and works for a charity organisation that gives 80% of the money from the tour back into developing schools and education for people from the slum. It was really interesting and completely changed my perception of what it would be like. It was really organised, there are residential street areas where up to 9 people live in a tiny room, there are business areas where men have set up work recycling all the plastic from the streets, sorting it into colours then melting it down and selling it back to plastic industries. Most of the people who live there have come from villages outside Mumbai from all over India and want to experience the wealth and oppotunities in the city, although they all live below the poverty line with a family living on less than 2USD a day they all work in various industries within the slum. Whilst I was there no one begged, everyone was very friendly and I felt safer there then in some other parts of the city. I went to some of the local schools in the slums aswell that have been set up by NGO organisations or by the government. The government has recently recognised Dharavi as a slum and started to provide them with community toilets, and electricity and water at certain parts of the day.

My guide also took me to the red light district area in Mumbai and explained the problems that they are having with putting a stop to industry and where the women come from and how they are treated. Amazingly over 8000 sex workers work in one street which has a police station at the end of it. Although illegal in India the police and government officials make up a large proportion of the customers in the red light district and therefore often brothel owners get tipped off before any raids on there houses.

Whilst I was in Dehli I read an article about a charity organisation called Apne Ap working in Mumbai to try and empower the women and their children who work in the red light district and also re-educate some of the customer men who come from the villages to stop them using the prostitutes. I am currently in contact with them to see if there is any volunteer work I can do either whilst in Mumbai or from the road whilst in India so fingers crossed.

So anyway after my cheery couple of days getting a better understanding of the poverty in India I am now planning my trip down to Goa for some time chilling out on the beach. The weather here is now getting much hotter as I head down south and the last two days in Mumbai the humidity has been so high, I don't think I have ever sweat so much so I am really looking forward to being able to cool off and swim in the sea!

Posted by BecciDrums 13:13 Archived in India Comments (0)

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