A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

India Buses

Sunrise til sun set was pretty much spent staring at the back of the broken seat on the usual 30 year old rickety bus. We arrived in Udaipur at 8:00pm and enjoyed a crazy tuk-tuk drive through the streets of the crowded city.

We’d had a tip on a great place to stay and our source didn’t let us down. The guesthouse was on the banks of the lake, looking out over the historical sights of the city. “Oh my god! This place is amazing!” Our room was even better; we sat on the pretty window seat taking in the view of the lake and the palace. Not even a small friendly rat in our room could dampen our spirits.

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We sat on the patio overlooking the beautiful city and ate the best chicken korma in India. As we sipped beer we thought the night couldn’t get any better after our boring and mundane day… until fireworks lit up the sky over the palace on the other side of the lake. “Wow! It was worth getting up today after all!”

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Posted by asprey 13:19 Archived in India Comments (0)

Octopussy

We treated ourselves to a chill out morning after yesterdays marathon bus ride. The lakeside patio was a great place to eat and drink whist trying to avoid everything else.

By lunchtime a guy who’d spent the whole day sitting in the corning playing a board game lifted his head and said, “Do you want a rickshaw tour of the city?”
I thought to myself, this must be a chilled out town if even the tuk-tuk drivers wait 3 hours before hassling you. We took him up on his offer.

Our first stop was Sunset Point, an amazing park over looking the city, the lake and James Bond Island where Octopussy was filmed.

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Then it was round the locals markets and onto the Maharaja’s graveyard. Sarah honoured their memories by peeing up the back of one guy’s grave. For the record he ruled until 1620 something.

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Hunger caught up on us so we grabbed some food from a street side stall and headed to the towns gardens for a little relaxing amongst the fountains and trees.

In the evening we treated ourselves to another lakeside curry and watched Octopussy to do some Udaipur spotting on the silver screen.

Posted by asprey 13:20 Archived in India Comments (0)

Beautiful Udaipur

As we ate breakfast our entertainment wasn’t on TV. Instead we watched the local women washing clothes in the lake on the ghats across the lake.

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We headed across the lake to the palace. Unfortunately we decided to go the same day as 12,000 Indian tourists. The palace was beautiful but it took the shine off it having to queue and move at three shuffles a minute round the whole labyrinth of the place. Despite travelling to Udaipur to see the regal building, it was actually nice to get out of there.

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We went shopping, a shop owner asked us, “Do you know these ladies?” and showed us pictures taken in his shop.
“Yeh! That’s Judy Dench and Maggy Smith!” Said Nat.
“This was taken yesterday, they said they were famous but I wasn’t sure!” said the shopkeeper.
“This town is famous for James Bond, this lady is ‘M’ in the new films!” I said excited for him.
“Oh!.. Please look at my paintings. I give very good price!” he said losing interest.
We know the celebrities were in town so we made it our goal to find them. After about twenty minutes hunger took over from our need to meet film stars so we headed to a riverside restaurant for a great veggie currie.

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Posted by asprey 13:23 Archived in India Comments (0)

Indian Sleeper Buses

We spent the whole day on the Internet trying to get train tickets to Mumbai. We bought ‘wait list tickets’, which is like a cancellation system. We waited eagerly to see if enough people would cancel their tickets so we could travel. It turns out they didn’t. There was only one option left to us. The one thing that should be avoided at all costs and only attempted as a very last resort; sleeper bus!

We boarded the bus at 6:00pm and found that we had own private mini cabin. We didn’t think it would be too bad. We forget about the state of the Indian roads and the lack of suspension on all Indian vehicles.

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Posted by asprey 13:25 Archived in India Comments (0)

Mumbai

We woke up still in our little bus cubical. We reached Mumbai by 11:00am. We know accommodation was going to be a problem. Dorm beds were coming up at 700 Rupees each on the Internet. The first place we checked had dorm beds for 400 but you wouldn’t let your worst enemy’s dog’s flea’s parasites stay there for half an hour in a rainstorm. It was bad. It was bad by Indian standards.

We continued our search, being repulsed by one room after another. We continued trudging. Walking down a busy street, I looked round and Sarah had stopped. She was talking to a guy. I went back. “Do you want to be in a Bollywood movie?” Sarah asked with a huge grin on her face.
“Hell yeh!” I replied. Finally my talents had been noticed; well actually I walked straight by the guy unnoticed, and it was Sarah that he stopped. But I like to think he sensed my talent as I walked passed.

After a quick chat the deal was done, 500 rupees each for a day staring in a Bollywood movie. I use the term ‘staring’ loosely but we had the whole day to progress. Either way, we were going to make £8 each!
“Meet me at McDonald’s at 8am, we’ll go straight to the set and report to make-up!” said the guy.

We were about to become stars before we’d even found a room. After another hour of searching we finally decided on a room. Three beds in one small room for a 1000 rupees, twice as much as we’d paid anywhere in Indian, but this was the infamously expensive Mumbai, this place had clean sheets and was above McDonalds.

Posted by asprey 13:29 Archived in India Comments (0)

It's only showbiz darling!!!!

We woke up early with stars in our eyes! Today we were going to make our movie debut!! Today, we were going to Bollywood!!
We sat on the pavement outside McDonald’s waiting for our movie career to begin. We’re going to be movie stars!

As the bus pulled up I was a little disappointed, I was expecting a limo, or at very least one of those huge motor homes with the expanding sides. In reality it was a dirty old knackered bus with only one headlight and a broken window that had been boarded up. I wasn’t going to let it dampen my spirits. As I climbed aboard I felt like Joss Stone, literally plucked from the gutter and catapulted into the public eye.

Although I know it could be three, or even six months before it happened, I practiced in my head the dinner conversation I would have with Tom Hanks when I went round for tea.
Me: “So Tom, there’s an important question I’d like to ask you. When you do voice over parts like Toy Story, do you bother having a shower and doing your hair, cuz after all, no one’s going to see you?”
Hanks: “ha ha, I can see why you rose to stardom so quickly Dave, that’s a very clever question! And no, I don’t bother showering”
(Wow, what a relief, I didn’t have time to shower today!)
Me: “What are you working on at the moment Tom?”
Hanks: “I’m glad you asked Dave. It’s the reason I invited you to my island here in the South Pacific today. Spielberg and me are directing a film together. It’s going to be the biggest blockbuster of all time; we have a one billion dollar budget. It’s your life story and we want you to play you! Wadaya say?”
Me: “Well, I don’t know Tom, you know I only ever work with one leading lady! I’ll have to see if Sarah’s free to play herself. She’s filming in LA with DeVito and that English chick out of Titanic at the moment!”
Hanks: “That’s fine Dave, we’ll work around you. So, how did you two get discovered anyway?”
Me: “Well Tom, it all happened back in November. Sarah and me were working on a film in Mumbai called Desi Boyz……”

Through some miracle the ancient bus made it to the studios. We, along with 28 others, were herded into the main building past all the huge motor homes with the expanding side.

“Go to wardrobe then report to hair and make-up!” shouted the guy who was obviously in charge of the extras. My costume was a pair of electric blue elasticated jeans (like dads wear to look cool at social events) a satin black shirt and a white jacket. I looked… a dick. Sarah came out in a brown and pink dress with an African savannah scene printed in it, she had giraffes on her ass.

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“Ok, hair and make up, go, go, go!” ordered the extras manager. He was now wearing a mini-mic and earpiece. He then mumbled something else, I wasn’t sure if it was to me or into the mic.
“What?” I asked.
“I wasn’t talking to you!” he snapped. Then he held his earpiece and looked away. “No, I mean yes, I am talking to you.”
“You are talking to me?” I asked again confused.
“No, not you!” he said looking at me. He grabbed the mic clipped to his shirt and said, “I’m talking to you!”
A Dutch guy who’d been on our bus was walking by and stopped, “You’re talking to me?”
“NO! I’m not talking to you! Rajiv, I AM talking to you!!”
“He’s not talking to me either, do you think that thing’s switched on?” I said to the Dutch guy, who just shrugged. “This is going to be a long day!”

I asked the make up guy to make me look like a star; instead he simple put a thick layer of foundation over the bags under my eyes. Looking in the mirror, I realised it was the first time in six months that I didn’t have bags under my eyes.

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I sat waiting for my free haircut, the secondary reason I’d come today. [Checklist; 1) Become a star. 2) Scrounge a free haircut]
The make up guy squirted me with a water spray, scrapped my hair across into a side parting and patted me on the back, “OK, you’re done! Next!”

The mini-mic guy appeared again, “are you done? Ok, get breakfast! Go, go, go!!”
“Where’s the catering marquee?” I asked.
He pointed at a sagging paste table outside the gent’s toilet. Paper plates held processed cheese sandwiches on economy bread cut into quarters; two per plate. Despite being covered in half a sheet of news paper the bread had dried into the shape of a shallow bowl. I looked at the date on the newspaper; it was three weeks old. I suspected in was more recent then the bread.

“Ok! Eat, eat, go, go! You’re needed on set in five minutes!!”
Mini-mic was starting to do my head in.

I decided to check out the competition. I chatted with the other extras. The guy next to me looked like a blonde Bill Bayley. He had slits for eyes and just giggled at everything I said. “Are you stoned?” I asked. He just giggled some more then dribbled down his chin. I didn’t have to worry about him! The next guy I chatted with had carrot-top ginger hair and was a good six inches taller than me, making him well over 6’ 9”. There’s no doubting he would stand out. I identified him as a possible threat. The third guy that worried me was again as tall as me, he had a massive bone structure to his face making him look like Jaws out of James Bond. I thought it odd that he was wearing a pink dress. I was later advised that ‘he’ was actually a ‘she’ and she was a regular, sometimes doubling as the dance choreographer. Scary!

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We were herded onto set. I couldn’t see Sarah but Nat told me she was back in wardrobe arguing about her Africa Savannah dress.
Then the real actors started to arrive. A pretty Indian girl walked on set. I heard three or four people gasp in amazement, including the girl at the side of me. “Who’s that?” I asked.
“Are you joking?” replied the girl, “That’s J###ep ########, she’s the biggest star in India at the moment. She does all the make up ads, all the shampoo ads, the Nescafe ad and all the Coka-cola ads in India!”
“Oh, that’s nice,” I replied, “I’ll keep an eye out for her.”
[Sorry about the ######## but I still didn’t get her name. This showbiz thing was turning out to be harder than it looked]

Next a big muscular guy walked on set. I looked at the girl next to me; she was already wide eyed with both hands over her mouth. I raised a confused eyebrow to her. “That’s R###### #######, he’s taken all the Bollywood awards. He does the Nike ad and the Nivia For Men ad! Oh my God!”
[Sorry, didn’t get his name either. Not all that confident it began with R]

Two more stars arrived; an old dude with a bold head and a ‘tash, and an Indian Tom Jones look alike. The girl’s eyes next to me got wider with each stars arrival. “This is amazing! This film has an all star cast!” she sort of squeaked in a quiet but high-pitched voice. I just wondered what time lunch was; I was starting to get hungry.

Another person entered the set; this person I recognised instantly. I smiled and felt a little start-struck myself. The room lit up; it was Sarah, still wearing the Africa dress. She still makes me feel like that.

Mini-mic instructed us what to do. It was a party scene, when the Tom Jones dude raised his bottle of Champagne we had to raise our glasses and shout ‘cheers’. I was so exited; my first lines. I practiced in my head. “Cheers… cheers… cheers!” The director shouted out some film making mumbo jumbo and the cameras started rolling. I positioned myself just over Tom Jones’ left shoulder and the clapperboard dude shouted, “Desi Boyz; party scene; take one!”
It all happened so quickly but I delivered my lines perfectly! “Cheers!”

The rest of the morning was taken up doing very similar things. Cheers’ing, fake chatting and/or laughing; we even got to walk around. All the things you’d do in the background of a party.

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I don’t think the catering marquee was built yet because lunch was still served on the same saggy paste table near the loos. We had rice and grey slop. All the important people like the main actors, directors, lighting crew, labourers, cleaning staff, gardeners, van drivers, taxi drivers and the guy that emptied the bins ate in the ‘other’ catering section that had a choice of six curries, three rices and an array of salads and breads. But I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was eating from their stainless steel serving bowls with a real plate and a proper knife and fork.

Sarah complained that they were treating us like nobodies and herding us round like cattle but I couldn’t see her point.

The afternoon bought more party playing and a lot of waiting around. When the shooting was over we were herded back into wardrobe, had our civilian clothes thrown at us and were herded out the door and back onto the bus. After keeping us waiting on the bus for an hour Mini-mic’s assistant walked down and handed a crisp 500 Rupees note to everyone; our wages for the day.

I enquired if the director had spotted my talent and asked for his number, they told me I didn’t need to ring them, as they would ring me. I was even more confident they made enquiries about me because they’d not even taken my number. They must already know who I am, I thought.

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We’d had a laugh throughout the day with a Finish guy called Knut (pronounced Can-oot). So we all went for a beer after with our new showbiz friends. Within two hours all of our wages had been spent on beer in a Mumbai bar. We reminisced on the highlights and lowlights of our day. Knut got a little upset a few times because, in my drunken state, I transposed the letters of his name and kept calling him something else. But it was all in good humour.

That 500 Rupees (each) was the only money Sarah and me have earned in the last six months. So, we’d spent six months earnings on beer in one night and still managed to walk home. I bet the big muscular R##### ##### couldn’t do that!

Posted by asprey 13:30 Archived in India Comments (0)

Filthy Mumbai

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We wanted to see more of Mumbai so we strapped on our walking shoes and headed out through the city. The buildings were mainly Victorian style English architecture and I was surprised how much it reminded me of central London. We walked around Victoria train station, which looked like… well, The Victoria train station.
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Then headed up to the markets.
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In the afternoon we ended up on Mumbai beach. It was a cesspit of filth.
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I felt myself getting angry as we walked on the litter-covered beach. It was full of families playing and doing the stuff families do at the beach. But instead of playing wing-ball the families played dump-crap.
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Trying to dump as much crap on the beach as possible. We had to leave.

Posted by asprey 10:04 Archived in India Comments (0)

Elephanta Island

After another obligatory McDonald’s breakfast we jumped on the boat to Elephanta Island, one hour off the coast of Mumbai. The island was a huge tourist trap but is famous for its temple caves calved out of the mountain itself. They were cool to see and fighting off the monkeys kept us busy all afternoon.
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The last evening with Nat was supposed to be a big one, but Delhi belly made an appearance again, this time briefly visiting Sarah and well and truly making itself at home with Nat. we found a movie in English on the TV and settled in for the night.

Posted by asprey 10:09 Archived in India Comments (0)

Indian Railway Food........aka cat food

I opened my eyes and looked at Sarah, she was already awake, my first words of the day were, “we can’t miss this train!”
After six weeks travelling with Nat we said our goodbyes. She was travelling the same route as us so there was a very good possibility we’d see her again in the south.

A taxi ride to the local station, then the joys of an Indian local suburban train delivered us to Lokmanya station. It was a bit like a battle scene out of Brave Heart as we fought our way down the platform. Thousands of people pushed, shoved and hauled their bags along. We tripped over lost kids, pushed beggars and hawkers out of the way and finally found our carriage at 11:00am. We climbed on board with 30 minutes to spare. “No more train disasters for us!” I said triumphantly.

“Would you like some delicious Indian Railways food?” asked the catering guy.
“Hmm, yes please,” what could possibly go wrong? “We’ll both have the luke warm chicken. It looks pink and delicious! But why are the food containers made from old cat food boxes?”
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The train was going so fast I couldn’t actually focus on the railway sleepers as I was knelt on the toilet floor with my head down the toilet; the track beneath me just looked like a blur… with the occasional splash.

If you have a spare half an hour in your life and you want somewhere to hang out, I can firmly recommend you don’t spend your time in an Indian Railways toilet; its sensory bombardment.

I collapsed in my carriage bunk for the rest of the day. In the bed below me Sarah complained of not feeling well.

Posted by asprey 10:11 Archived in India Comments (0)

Travel Day

We both had a pretty good night’s sleep. After the chicken made a sharp exit onto the tracks I felt much better. Sarah was feeling better too.

“Would you like some delicious Indian Railways food?” asked the catering guy.
“No!” we answered in unison.
We spent the rest of the day on the train trying not to think about food.

At 3:00pm the train stopped at Appelley station, we’d run out of water and the train stopped for a good ten minutes at each major station. I jumped off the train to buy water, as the shopkeeper was handing over the bottles he said, “Should you be on that train?” pointing to the accelerating train. “Jesus!” I threw the bottles back at him and sprinted for my life down the platform in my flip-flops. I couldn’t believe how fast the 30+-carriage train accelerated. I finally reached my top speed as I came level with a door; I just leaped sideways and landed, full length, in the doorway of the carriage. Sweating bruised and out of breath I stood up and dusted myself off. I was still panting when I got back to our birth. “Didn’t you get any water?” asked Sarah.

By 6:00pm we were arriving at Varkala station. A tuk-tuk delivered us to the cliff top where we found a great little guesthouse for 400 Rupees. By 7:00pm we were in a sea view restaurant, Sarah eating Blue Marlin steaks and me, still in my delicate state, eating Cheese toasties.

Posted by asprey 10:18 Archived in India Comments (0)

Serious Indian Delhi Bellie

Indian Railways certainly had a lot to answer for. Sarah’s first words of the day were, “I’m pooing water!”
My reply, “how much toilet paper do we have left?”
Having spent the last eight weeks travelling in a group, this wasn’t the romantic time we’d planned, being alone at last.
We both spent the morning fighting over the toilet. At lunchtime we both went out for a nice walk along the cliff top to buy more toilet paper and we spent the afternoon in the restaurant across the road, within sprinting distance of our room’s toilet.
“Can we at least try and make it to the beach tomorrow?” said Sarah at bedtime. (7:00pm)

Thanks to some other kind of Indian festering infection, all of Sarah’s toenails have started to fall off. The price you pay for paddling through the filth of Indian streets in flip-flops. Then good news was Sarah was after a pedicure, having only 7 toe nails meant she could get 30% off the price.

Posted by asprey 10:20 Archived in India Comments (0)

The Perv Police in Varkala

Not yet farting with confidence, we chilled close to the hotel. In the afternoon we ventured to the beach, a good 3-minute run from the room. We sat on the sand chilling out and watching the Perv-Police chasing the perving squads.

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Groups of young Indian guys would come down to the beach and sit like packs of dogs staring at the white bikinied flesh. They’d become so much of a problem that the town had recruited police (themselves young Indian guys with wondering eyes) to parade the beach blowing whistles at any group pointing or taking pictures on their 1990’s camera phones. It had obviously become a game of cat and mouse and was quite entertaining to watch.

Posted by asprey 10:21 Archived in India Comments (0)

Chillin in Varkala

We’d had a few rough days, so we vowed our infected guts weren’t going to spoil any more of our fun. We bought some new sun cream and headed out walking along the cliffs. We walked for a couple of hours just chatting and enjoying each other’s company. It was a lovely day.

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Posted by asprey 10:23 Archived in India Comments (0)

Everything is fake in India!!!!

“Who the hell sells fake sun cream?!” I was stood in front of the mirror with third degree burns on my shoulder and chest.

We spent the rest of the day chilling out, trying to stay out of the sun and trying to find the shop we bought the cream from.

The afternoon we jumped on the train to Kollam just half an hour up the road. We checked into an average hotel and paid an above average price then headed down to the riverside for a look around.
“Would you like to see my house boat?” asked a local guy at the jetty.
He led us to a brand new looking rice barge style houseboat. It was beautiful. One huge en-suite bedroom and a deck living and dining area made up the main parts of the boat. There was also a roof terrace for late night drinks. There was a crew of three; a cook, an engineer and the captain.
“So, would you like to hire my boat for the night?”
We sat down and did a deal to include all meals, a tour of the local villages and a cruise north up the lake. The lot £70. It was a lot compared with what we’d been spending per day in India, but lets face it, it’s the same price as a night in a Travel Lodge at the side of the M6.

Our tea was nan bread and crisp sandwiches, which we ate whilst watching Ratatouille on TV.

Posted by asprey 10:25 Archived in India Comments (0)

Our Perfect day on a houseboat in Kerala

We woke excited about what the day held in store for us. We checked out and raced to the jetty to meet our boat and crew. As we climbed on board we both felt the same bought of excitement and happiness. We’d had a rough few days and a bit of cruising luxury was just what we needed to get our heads back in the right place.
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As we cruised out of the docks and into the lake, we sat silent trying to take it all in. the banks were linned with a sea of palm trees and dotted with small catholic churches. Local fisherman rowed tiny boats hauling in their catch and waving. In the skys above us dozens of brown eagles and kites sawed effortlessly on the thermals; rising up in columns, then swooping to pluck fish out of the water beside our boat.
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All of the chores that were quickly approaching us, like rental contracts, job interviews and car hunting didn’t seem to exist at all. It was just Sarah and me in the beautiful setting sitting in silence. I wish I knew the words to discribe how perfect it was.

We dropped anchor near the untouched jungle. The crew served us lunch of Korelan thali on a banana leaf plate. The only thing that could have improved the whole experience was chips and red sauce. “This is definitely a ‘what have I done to deserve this’ moment!” said Sarah with a huge smile on her face.
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After lunch we transferred to a small wooden canoe for a trip round the local villages, all of which are connected by small 10ft wide cannels. Climbing off the boat a guy appeared with a huge professional video camera, and stared filming us, we were told it was the local news doing a story on tourism. Once again we were famous! I wondered if it was the Bollywood producer was behind it all, getting a few test shots of us on location. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t rang yet.
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In the villages we met the locals, drank chai and even helped them make coconut fibre rope. Back on our houseboat we enjoyed curry, rice and veg washed down with a cold beer. We watched the sun set over the jungle as we cruised to our overnight mooring; totally secluded.
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More beers made an appearance as we sat alone on the deck chatting about lots of things that didn’t matter. Our sound track was the jungle wildlife, our entertainment was watching a huge electric storm in the night sky. Amazing!

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Posted by asprey 10:26 Archived in India Comments (0)

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