Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hope you don't mind me saying, but I'm totally India.

In-to-ya.. Geddit? Errr.. Anyways...

Howdy folks...
We made it to India! Upon landing around midnight, we set about sorting out a hotel through the tourist office which was no problems, then we got ourselves a taxi into town.

Before I continue, I'll try paint a picture of Mumbai International for you.
Imagine, I dunno, say, Tullamarine or Heathrow Airport.

Then replace the shiny new cabs at the taxi rank with 60's model boxes on wheels (Our box on wheels had a fancy carpeted roof. Hells yeah)

Then replace the orderly taxi rank area with a kind of shed thing constructed from wood, rope and occassional bits of corrugated iron.

Then replace automatic doors and air conditioning with gaping holes in the ground and blue canvas walkways leading through rubble to the car park.
Then replace the smooth freeways and train lines into the city with about 12 kilometres of slums and shanty towns.

Then replace any delays resulting from roadworks with delays resulting from being stuck behind a bull towing a trailer adorned with a shrine of Ganesha, surrounded by throngs of people dancing, banging drums, chanting and letting off fireworks.

That was our introduction to Mumbai International and to India. It was awesome. Way better than driving over Footscray on the CityLink or sliding through the darkness on the Piccadilly line.

Since then, it's been a complete assault on the senses.
The smell of incense, of faeces, of sweat, of animals, of spices, of monsoon rains.
The sight of a thousand colours of saris, of buses bursting with people, of millions of taxis and autorickshaws vying for poll position, of mothers and their babies sleeping on cardboard on the street, of every animal with every disease under the sun (Kind of like if Noah's Ark was a quarantine vessel).
The sound of 40,000 horns all blaring at one another, of touts yelling 'Hotel, hotel! Good price, Vally good price!', of coins clanking as another beggar appeals for rupees, of staccato drumming as another procession of people celebrating the Ganesha festival dance by.
The taste of fresh naan made before your eyes by a street vendor, of just-squeezed lime juice, of dosa, dahl and tikkas, of victory as we bargain the price of the world's bigest umbrella down to 200 rupees.

It's a pretty awesome place. Like nothing I've ever experienced.

We did all the Mumbai sightseeing stuff, plenty of awesome buildings, temples, mosques etc, especially a lot of stuff from the colonial days.
We went down to Chowpatty beach for an evening, took an intersting boat trip out to Elephanta island where there's temples carved into caves (and monkeys galore.) We were also asked to be an extra on the set of a Bollywood movie. We accepted and you can now catch me in the upcoming, big budget Bollywood film, Donostana.
I'm the waiter with the big red hair walking through some auction ceremony thing.

It was a long day, clocking in at around 14 hours although we got paid enough to pay for our room for the night. Was very funny to watch the precious stars complaining because 'the fans are blowing wrong' or because 'I said COLD coffee!!'
Wow. Sorry Mr Important nancy-boy Bollywood guy.

It's pretty cool to see how it all works behind the scenes. Although being dressed in black suit, black shirt and heavy waistcoat in 30 degree heat is not so great actually. Especially considering my costume was made of enough synthetic material to fund the running of a petrochecmical plant for a year. It was a pretty hot and sweaty deal but completely worthwhile.

After a day of wildlife watching at the beach (Crabs can jump! A whole foot!!! I did not know this!) we caught a cab to Mumbai Central Station. We had a bit of a wait there and a group of porters befriended us and set about asking if we were married, how many kids we had, why we didn'thave any kids, why we didn't go 1st class because then we'd have a cabin to ourselves, wink-wink.
Raju told me he has a wife and one kid, but that is all, now he only .... You know, for enjoyment. He then insisted I look at his mobile, upon which he'd kindly played some porn. Thanks Raju. Kind AND classy.

After an hour or two of waiting, we boarded the overnight train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, arriving here in Ahmedabad this morning at 6.30am.
After declining the persistent offers of an army of touts, we checked our bags in and caught an autorickshaw into Ahmedabad city.
It's cleaner than Bombay, with more animals and less exposure to Westerners/people walking around looking completely lost with a Lonely Planet guide in hand.
Definitely not a well known tourist destination. By this I mean, we've been accosted at every corner and waved at, grabbed by children, been asked our names, been said 'Goot Morni!' to a hundred times and pointed at, which is totally entertaining and surreal. I kind of feel like the guy in the Mickey suit at Disneyland. Although no one has punched me in the nuts yet.
Charlotte has proved popular with the locals as well, even after having adopted some modest attire(ie. Covered in a shawl/sari thingy from neck to toe) and has left a kid awestruck after she let him take some random photos with her camera.
We've strolled around the streets here and the attention can get pretty full on, so we've retired to a nice little internet cafe for an hour or two. Plus, it's a bajillion degrees outside, so the AC in here is welcome respite.
We catch a train at 11pm tonight on to Udaipur where we kick back for four nights, do a couple of daytrips to nearby towns and hang out by the lake. Awesome.

Also, despite my best efforts, I think I got bitten by a mosquito this morning. Probably not, but maybe. Should be fine, but if I call any of you within the next 7 days, I'll probably be getting you to organise an airlift and some malaria treatment for me. You're cool with that though, right? K, thanks.
Hehe. Seriously though, I'll be fine. No need to worry about malaria when there's packs of rabid dogs roaming the streets.

(Hi Mum, it's fine, don't worry.)

Only 12 more hours to kill till we leave here bound for Udaipur, a bed and a shower.

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