We got around to making a video of our time in India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. We hope you enjoy it!
DISCLAIMER: In the spirit of everything in India needing at least two names, Bangalore is officially known as Bengaluru. I'm going to call it Bangalore because I'm a rebel like that.
Bangalore was... fairly uneventful for us! I guess that’s actually nice for a change. We took a fairly short train ride to get ourselves there, and almost avoided a torrential downpour. As luck would have it, we arrived to the Google Maps location of Social Rehab Hostel in Bangalore to discover... nothing! A restaurant? A nearby Baskin Robbins? None of these is a hostel. And then the rain began. One of those rains that starts as a light sprinkle and accelerates within half a minute to apocalyptic status. The good news is we got to make use of our rain covers for the backpacks!
As it turns out, Social Rehab is located up on the third floor, just past an unmarked entrance beside the restaurant. You have to step over cooks and wait staff eating their meals, go up a flight of stairs with a 10ft drop on one side and no railing, and then you arrive at a door with a small printed sign informing you that you’ve made it to the right spot. When we arrived, we were let in by guests because the host was asleep at 4pm in the afternoon. Bizarre.
We enjoyed Bangalore, though. So far, if there was one city we’d pick if we had to choose to live somewhere in India, it would be Bangalore. It’s quite a modern city, and comparatively clean. On our first night, we went to dinner at a MICROBREWERY. No joke! It’s the first one we’ve seen in India. And there was more than one in the area. And Sandra could get a salad with chicken on it. We were both pretty wide-eyed while we perused the menu. Prices were a bit more expensive than in other cities, but... MICROBREWERIES! I can’t stress this enough.
Our time in Bangalore was otherwise fairly uneventful. I had high-minded plans to get to the Museum of Modern Art, but then realized it was Modern art and not Contemporary art. There’s a difference, and I fall squarely on the side of enjoying Contemporary art! Much more entertaining to me. So we ended up skipping it. Instead, we wandered around the city a lot. It’s very spread out, so you can walk for hours and only see a fraction of the metropolitan area.
Yesterday we took a six hour train back to Chennai -- our starting point in India. We had one night back at the Savera Hotel, breakfast to the sax cover stylings of “Wind Beneath My Wings”, and one last swim in the pool. At 1am tonight (or the “morning" of the 25th if you want to be technical like that) we depart for Bangkok. Cue change of scenery and a tectonic shift from curry to... Thai curry! Only three days in Bangkok, and then we fly to Vietnam to travel for a couple of weeks with our new friends Joe and Caroline. How exciting!
See you in Siam!
We didn’t go to the zoo. We said we were planning on it, but we didn’t go and so we lied and we feel terrible about it. The weather was stinkier than expected today (not in a garbage way, just in a rainy way), so we limited our cultural experiences to just one for the day. In fact, we don’t even know how we feel about zoos anymore, so there’s that too. Here’s the new itinerary: Mysore Palace.
But first let’s talk about breakfast at our hotel. We’re staying at the Sepoy Grande in Mysore. It bills itself as both a “Boutique Hotel” and a “Luxury Hotel” depending upon which source you’re looking at. Let me say that our experience this morning was anything but luxurious.
Upon check in yesterday, we were told that breakfast would be served at the rooftop restaurant. Boy, that sounds fantastic! Rooftop! With big smiles on our faces this morning, we rode the elevator to the top floor and strode out. There were a couple of groups eating up there, and yet within seconds of our exit we were being told to leave the rooftop: breakfast is down one floor in the Banquet Hall. Uhh... OK? So we turn around and wander down a flight of stairs to the Banquet Hall.
The Banquet Hall is an empty room. There is a section of the ceiling they’ve stencilled off to paint in gold, but left all of the masking newspaper firmly in place and dangling above our heads. There is a long table to one side with a meagre selection of food. The fruit is almost entirely gone. You can have some toast. Or dosas with a few different toppings. Well... let’s stay positive. It’s not the worst breakfast we’ve had. We start filling up our plates. But where do we take the food to? I wasn’t kidding about it being an empty room -- there are no tables. Three of the walls are lined with chairs facing toward the centre of the room. It’s like some kind of AA meeting filled with Indian families and their children. Nobody seems to have a problem with holding their plate in their hands and facing the centre of the room. We’re not huge fans of this approach.
Sandra spots a “table” in the corner of the room. It is covered in a table-runner, but no actual tablecloth. So it’s filthy, because you don’t really clean table-runners. You’re not supposed to! That’s what the tablecloths are for! Anyway, we plop our plates down on this table and pull a pair of chairs away from the wall. I go to grab a drink -- the choice is water, coffee, or tea. I’ll take a water. But the cups are in complete disarray. Which ones are clean? I have no idea. There’s just a big mound of cups, some of which appear to be used, sitting haphazardly beside the water dispenser. And behind the drink table, sitting on the floor, one's eye is drawn to the only decoration in the room: stacks of plates, boxes, cushions, paint... it’s all just... there. On the floor.
This hotel is obviously not finished yet. And they have no idea what they’re doing. This really gets me going: why doesn’t somebody just clean this mess up? Who thinks it’s appropriate to be serving your guests at your "luxury hotel" in a room with NO TABLES?! With a pile of refuse just spilling out from the corner of the room? India is obviously wearing on us at this point. Two thumbs pointed emphatically downward to the Sepoy Grande in Mysore. When I mentioned our concerns with breakfast to the staff on the way out of the hotel this morning, they offered to send us breakfast to the room instead. Aren’t we missing the point here, guys?! Get some tables in your food room! Get the trash off the floor! This isn’t difficult stuff!
Ugh. So we walk to Mysore Palace. It’s nice and close by, so that’s a positive thing. The weather is a bit iffy, but it seems to be holding up. Upon entering Mysore Palace, we’re informed that we’re not allowed to take photos inside the palace itself. Which is where all the good stuff is. We ran into this situation in Madurai, and I understand it even less now than I did then. At the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai you were allowed to take pictures, but only with a mobile phone. Not a “nice camera”. So your plan for tourism is to allow only poor photos of your attraction to be taken? No nice photos allowed! That will bring too much interest! Just... I’m clueless here.
At Mysore Palace, you’re not allowed any photos whatsoever from inside the palace itself. Not even on a mobile phone. In fact, we actually witnessed a guard supervising the deletion of photos from the phone of a local family who had disregarded the rules. Shame! They’re serious about this. Which sucks, because I promise you there was a lot of neat stuff inside that we can’t show you. Beautiful halls, stained glass windows, iron columns. All sorts of great things. Just imagine it and feel the wonder, OK?
We took a picture of a camel in a field outside the palace. It started to rain, so we walked home. We encountered cows eating garbage in the street, and had some fun hanging out with them. Sandra and I both love cows. They’re so friendly! And we even chanced upon a a family of monkeys, many of which had crazy goitre-like growths drooping from their faces and necks. Not sure what was going on there. The one I took a picture of looked somehow progeric. Like an eighty year old monkey in a teenage monkey’s body. And I know my teenage monkey bodies!
This afternoon we ate at Depth N Green -- a vegetarian restaurant that Sandra really enjoyed. Amazing chocolate cake! Then we headed to the train station to try to reserve a ticket for the train to Bangalore tomorrow. Upon arriving in the reservations area, we were greeted by a room full to the brim of people waiting to make reservations. Take a number. At least it’s organized, right? We have a seat. And then the child in the row in front of us turns around. And stares. And stares. And will not stop staring. I gesture for him to turn around. He does. Waits thirty seconds. Then turns around again. It’s incredibly frustrating. Finally after about forty minutes our number is called. We approach our numbered counter, but there are two customers still standing there who don’t seem to have completed their business.
No big deal. We wait about thirty seconds. Meanwhile, a local guy walks up in front of us and jams his numbered waiting ticket through the window. I grab his arm and pull it back: “Hold on buddy, we’re next!” He tries to pass in his ticket again, talking to the agent. I say again, “Look at your ticket number. You’re 255. We’re 253. We’re next.” But then we glance at the status sign, and the agent at this counter has somehow mashed her button to let through 253, 254, and 255 all to the same counter. I look at the agent. She says, “Sorry, but your number has passed.” WHAT?! We were just waiting for the people you weren’t finished helping to leave. I mean... it’s just getting hard to deal with this stuff. Sandra and I are losing it. We’re becoming angry people. I refuse to leave the counter, explaining that we came forward immediately after our number was called. The agent rolls her eyes. Fine, fine. She’ll help us.
Tomorrow we’re off to Bangalore! With a confirmed, reserved ticket that hopefully won’t have us sitting on sets of benches containing fourteen people. Fingers crossed.
There’s a very specific amount of complexity that India seems to relish injecting into everyday life. That amount is inconceivably high to most people, including myself.
We were working on a plan to get ourselves from Kochi to Ooty. The complexity starts already. Kochi is also known as Cochin. Ooty is also known as Udhagamandalam, and it’s also known as Udhagai. So we’re headed from a city with two names to a town with three names. Great start.
In order to get ourselves to Ooty, we needed to take a train, then a train, and then a train. Our first train was from Kochi to Coimbatore. We had a chat with an Indian couple on board who have been working in New Zealand for the past five years and were returning to India to vacation -- in Ooty, no less! Great news: we can follow them. They disembark at Coimbatore, and we hop off as well. We’ll need to either get another train to Mettupalayam or grab a bus. We try to exit train platform. The whole train crowd starts wandering one way. We climb the stairs and start walking... but no, this is some other exit for the train station. The Indian couple is leading us around, and they start asking the locals where to go. Nobody seems to have any idea how to properly exit the train station. There are fences blocking certain paths. We’re lugging our bags around and just shaking our heads at how ridiculous this situation is. Eventually we find the main Coimbatore entrance and find that there’s a train in two hour’s time that’ll get us to Mettupalayam. Hooray!
We arrive in Mettupalayam and head to our hotel. Upon check in, I verify with the woman behind the counter that I’ve already paid for this hotel online. She shakes her head: no, they haven’t received any payment. Ugh. We head up to our room so I can find my confirmation. I bring it back down and show it to her. Yes, I’ve definitely paid. Here’s the confirmation from TravelGuru.com! She asks if there’s a phone number for the site on the printout. I find it and show it to her, and she proceeds to call up and start asking the person on the other end why she hasn’t received any money from me. The call drags on. And on. I ask her, “Can I just write the confirmation number down and you can deal with this while I’m not standing here?”. She ignores me and continues talking. After a couple of minutes, she hangs up and tells me that I shouldn’t have trusted this site -- they’re asking for her bank information to pass the payment along. Of COURSE THEY ARE! That’s how you get paid! I said, “You received my booking, so you’re obviously tied in properly to this company. Whether or not you’ve been paid by them is none of my concern!”. Anyway, the matter seems to be dealt with.
Our next order of business is obtaining a ticket for the “toy train” the next morning to get us to Ooty: our destination. This was supposed to be arranged before we arrived, but the front desk informs us that they actually needed passport information and didn’t receive it, so now we have to go back to the train station we just arrived from. She will happily arrange a paid-for tuk tuk to take us there and back, and he’ll arrange the ticket. Fine.
We hop in his tuk tuk and he carts us back the few hundred metres to the train station. He pulls up to the reservations area and starts the booking process. We ask him to verify that we’re going to be travelling in a first class car. Sandra’s had enough of the packed trains. After a few minutes, he hands us a ticket.
“Is this first class?”
“You are on the waiting list.”
“The waiting list? So we don’t have a ticket?”
“Yes. You have a ticket. It’s first class.”
“But you said we’re on the waiting list.”
“Yes, tomorrow we come early and you have a ticket.”
We have no idea what’s going on. Perhaps the staff back at the hotel can clarify. We head back to the hotel with hope in our hearts. The woman at the front desk reiterates our driver’s message.
“You have a waiting list ticket. You get up early tomorrow and go to the train station and then you have a confirmed ticket.”
“OK, so are we definitely getting on the train?”
“Yes, no problem.”
This conversation continues in a seemingly endless back and forth of us trying to comprehend how we’re guaranteed to get on the train but are simultaneously on a waiting list. We part ways with the plan to meet at 4:40am to get to the train station. We will be on this train.
Sandra and I wander around town in hopes of finding a vegetarian place that was highly rated on TripAdvisor in Mettupalayam: Comfort Hotels. We walk to its exact spot on the map. It’s in the middle of a residential area. This is obviously not the place. I ask a guy if he knows where the "Comfort Hotels” is. “That’s not even in this city. That’s in Coimbatore.” Damnit, TripAdvisor. The last three places I’ve tried to visit have all been marked in the completely wrong spot. This is a raging pain in the butt. We wander back into town and happen upon a hairy gentleman in a pink tank-top forcefully slapping bread products on a hot plate. We’re talking open-handed smacks with everything he’s got. Just wailing on it! It turns out it’s paratha. He does this over and over again, beating the bread in groups of four. We pick up a couple of pieces as a snack, and it’s the best abused food item I’ve ever tasted.
We return to the hotel. Later that night, as Sandra and I prepare to sleep, I get a phone call. It’s a new guy at the main desk.
“We need your payment information for the room.”
“I spoke with the lady earlier about this, it should be fine.”
“No, not fine. We require payment for the room.”
“I’ve paid! I already got it figured out.”
“Please come downstairs, sir.”
“I don’t need to come downstairs, the payment is already worked out.”
“Come downstairs, sir.”
“I’m not comi--“
He hangs up on me. I’m in my boxers and nothing else, ready to go to bed and this guy’s now demanding that I come downstairs to work out the payment information... again. Sandra suggests: “Just go down in your underwear!”. Yes. This is a good idea.
I strut down the stairs, laptop in hand wearing nothing but my skivvies. I burst into the lobby to be greeted by several Indian families, some local tuk-tuk drivers, and a few members of staff. I can tell which member of staff called me down by the way his eyes open wide as I approach the counter. I plop my laptop on the desk, open it to the same page I’d had before, and say, “Look. This is the payment information. This was dealt with earlier today. I’m trying to go to sleep and you’re calling me demanding that I come down to deal with it again.” The man quickly writes down the confirmation number and thanks me. He wants me out of the lobby. I think I put on a good show. That’ll teach him to hang up on ME!
Off to bed, and back up at 4:15am. We pack our bags and meet the driver downstairs. But it’s a new guy! Whatever: he seems to know what the plan is. He drops us at the train station and walks us to a lineup where about six locals are already waiting. He doesn’t say a word. He just directs us to the line, then walks away and sits down and watches us. One young guy in line speaks English pretty well. We ask him if we’re in the right spot.
“Yes. The station master will come at 5:15am and give out twenty six tokens.”
“Yes, then you take that token and buy a ticket.”
“But we already bought the ticket. It’s right here.”
Much discussion ensues amongst the locals. Several minutes pass, then: “You will receive a token, then you will take that token inside, cancel your ticket, and purchase a new ticket with a confirmed seat.”
See what I mean about complexity? Who thought this system made any sense?
Around 5:40am, a staff member of the train station comes along to hand out “tokens”. They are handing out stamped pieces of paper. But when they see our ticket, they just guide us directly into the “general seating” area. It’s just one car, and now we’re realizing that everybody that lines up is getting into this car. Even though we’d purchased a first class ticket, somehow we’re now being shoved into the car with the rest of the people showing up the morning of. Whatever -- at least we’re on the train.
The train doesn’t depart for another hour and a half. Sandra and I stuff our bags under the seats. We each have a bench to ourselves. Nice. We chat with a Danish couple also trying to get on the train. We hold spots for them on our bench while they run back to the hotel to grab their luggage. Things are going reasonably well. The train is actually powered by a steam engine for the first leg of the journey. It pushes the passengers uphill. I take a picture of the steam locomotive joining up with our train car.
Several minutes pass, and the young guy who spoke English fairly well hops into our section of the car. I should mention, this isn’t like a normal train car with a walkway down the centre. Each pair of two facing benches has a door to the outside, and that’s it. Moving between sections requires you to exit the train. Now this guy’s cousin joins in. I examine the seat benches. There are painted-over metal signs indicating five people to a bench, so ten people per section. At a tighter spacing are the new seat numbers, indicating six people to a bench, or twelve people per section. These benches could comfortably sit about three to a side. I ask the Indian guys in the car if they’re actually going to fill it. “Oh yes, they will fill the car.” Great.
We hear a commotion arise a few sections up from us. A woman is yelling and pushing. It looks like a fight is about to start. This crazy woman finally relents and abandons the section she was trying to enter. She promptly wanders back in our direction, husband in tow, and sits right down in our car.
Now a family arrives. With three children. They begin to get into the car. The older Danish gentleman is having none of it. They try to sit down next to him, and he flatly refuses. “No. No.” He spreads his legs widely to take up more space on the bench. The family are not leaving. We look into the other sections, many of which have four to a bench. We now have thirteen people in ours. “Why don’t you move to another car with more space?” It’s not working. Everybody is hell-bent on staying in our car. Voices are raised. This one guy just refuses to go anywhere but our section. Finally, I get up and say: “Fine, here, sit here.” I point to my seat. He sits down, and I promptly sit back down on his lap. My strategy here is that he’ll realize how uncomfortable this arrangement is, and promptly move elsewhere. My plan fails miserably. He seems content. I sit for a few minutes. I’m realizing this has backfired immensely. I stand again. This is going to be a long, long five hour train ride. The older Danish fellow eventually grabs my arm and pushes me back to my seat. He doesn’t want this local guy winning. Now I’m back in front of this dude, and he slaps his thighs, “Sit! Sit!”. Oh God.
We start the ride with our section of thirteen people. The locals insist that the children don’t count because they don’t need a ticket. The Danish guy is being a bit of a jerk and not closing his legs. Everybody is angry and hot. This sucks.
Luckily, there are several stops along the way. The family splits itself up in various ways amongst other cars, such that by the end of the train ride we’re down to ten in our section. Much more tolerable.
About one stop from our destination, we pull into a station with a bunch of guys carrying camera equipment. One guy with a massive 80’s style video camera notices white people in the car and starts filming us. I think he looks ridiculous and I’m tired of having my photo taken, so I grab my camera and start taking pictures of him filming me. We’re in a standoff. He just keeps filming. I just keep smiling and taking pictures. Soon enough, two more guys with video cameras approach and also start filming me taking pictures. It’s absolutely bizarre. I think they’re filming some kind of promotional short for the tourist train? Perhaps?
Eventually they turn off their cameras and walk away. But then minutes later, they return. And this time, they’ve got a big microphone.
“Can you do an interview please?”
“How was your journey today?”
“There are too many people on this train.”
“... but, how was your journey?”
“Cramped. Crowded. There are way too many people on this train. It’s not good.”
“... well, but... your journey?”
The interviewer looks crestfallen. He pulls the mic away from me. Another guy standing nearby states, “Well, this is India!”. I hate hearing this. People just tolerate these crappy situations and nobody seems to think it needs improvement. There's this pervasive feeling of powerlessness -- that everybody should just take whatever they can get and never hope or try for better. It’s incredibly frustrating for me. After the interview, the Danish guy is cracking up and giving me a thumbs up. On one hand, I feel good about telling the truth. On the other hand, I feel terrible for disappointing this interviewer. But really, you call this a tourist train? And you cram so many people into it that you can’t move your legs for five hours? No toilet? This is supposed to be a great experience?
We arrive in Ooty and head to our hotel -- The Woodberry Residency. Wood? Berry? Doesn’t sound too tasty, but we’ll take it.
Yesterday we checked out the botanical garden. It’s the big thing to do in Ooty. Within twenty minutes, five separate groups of people had approached us asking to take a picture with us. We’re really perplexed and annoyed by this. You don’t even KNOW us! It’s really uncomfortable as a visitor to a country to continually be treated like a novelty to be captured in a selfie. Who knows, maybe our opinion on this one will change and we’ll start having fun with the photos. But for the moment, we just say “No thanks.” and continue walking.
The botanical gardens were... interesting. For a “major attraction”, the gardens were a bit of a let-down. Although quite sprawling, the grounds weren’t kept as immaculately as one would expect from a garden that charges an entry fee. But this is India, right? We caught a photo of a little girl in unintentionally Canadian garb, a Grizzled giant squirrel (who completed massive acrobatic leaps between two trees whilst fifty feet off the ground!), a guy sleeping on a bench, and a mangled garbage receptacle shaped like a bunny with a poopy diaper sitting on the ground behind it. All class.
Back in town, we’ve had momos for the past three nights. Those are the steamed dumplings with tasty bits inside. We found a cool guy running a little food stand by the name of “Darjeeling Spicy Momo”. They’re absolutely incredible. We got a picture of Sandra’s veggie steamed momos. The hot sauce. The filling. It’s just magic. Some of the best food I’ve eaten in India, and the two of us could eat for just under 3 CAD. I love it!
Today we hiked up Doddabetta -- the highest point in South India at 2637m. Instead of taking a vehicle up, we just wandered up a trail for a couple of kilometres. It was a really pleasant hike, and we enjoyed walking through some small villages on the way up. We passed a creepy gate straight out a horror film, a beautifully maintained temple, a trio of turkeys that followed us menacingly, a dilapidated tuk tuk, and a lovely pair of dogs. The dogs broke our hearts, though. You get the feeling they’ve never been allowed out of their respective huts. They were a bit aggressive as we approached them and barked at us, but seemingly out of fear. It’s really tough seeing animals in these conditions.
We reached the peak of Doddabetta and turned around almost immediately. It was starting to rain a bit harder and the winds were fairly heavy. It’s more about the journey than the destination, right?
Tomorrow the plan is to take a bus to Mysore where we’ll stay for two nights. We hope to see the zoo and a beautiful palace. Wish us luck!
A couple of days ago we headed out of town to check out the Kerala Backwaters. It’s considered one of the tourist highlights of South India. The general idea is that you hop on a boat and cruise around on the river, either as a day trip or in houseboat mode for an overnight. We chose the day trip mode because... we’re cheap.
The excursion began with an hour-long drive out of the city of Kochi. We were dropped near a bridge where we met up with about twenty other people heading out on the trip with us. The weather looked a bit threatening, but it really only rained as the trip was just beginning. We piled into our boat and the trip was underway! At a slower pace than perhaps we expected. The craft was powered by two gentlemen: one on the bow thrusting a long bamboo pole down into the riverbed in order to push the boat along, and another at the stern performing the identical task. They pushed the boat like this the entire day! Not an easy job.
We navigated through some very narrow waterways as the day progressed. Only the occasional leafy frond would whack us in the head through the open sides of the boat -- we were mostly safe. We encountered some people fishing in tag teams along the way. They were just wandering along neck-deep in the water with nets. I was impressed that many appeared to be husband and wife partners. Pretty cool that the labour is shared so equally like that.
There were a few breaks throughout the day for educational components. We were shown a factory where clam shells were converted to calcium hydroxide. The calcium hydroxide is used for the purpose of whitewashing buildings, bleaching newspapers, and so on. The process involves burning the clam shells at extremely high temperatures in a furnace before adding a water mixture to the resulting ash. Apparently the chemical process takes it from calcium carbonate to calcium oxide to calcium hydroxide? That sound about right?
We also stopped into an area where a woman was demonstrating the creation of rope from coconut husk. She carried a basket of coconut husk in front of her with two strands attached to spinning armatures. She would slowly walk backwards while the husk spun through her fingers. The process looked absolutely magical, because the husk just kind of... turns itself into rope! It’s completely mind-blowing, really. She walks backwards and rope just seems to come forth from the ether. If the strand ever broke, she’d just dip her hand back into the husk and magically it would become rope again. I was obviously incredibly impressed. After creating the two strands, she’d use another spinning armature to braid the two together to form a stronger composite rope. And that was it! Much of our boat was made out of this stuff, so let’s hope it’s as strong as advertised.
Our last stop was a place where we could try out “toddy”. It’s the local alcoholic brew. It’s made from coconut stems before they flower. A syrup is extracted from the stems that naturally ferments. And it ferments quickly. It starts off at less than 4% alcohol by volume and will reach around 15% alcohol by volume toward late afternoon. It’s a funny conundrum, no? If you want to get drunk, you’d think you should drink it all at once. But if you drink it all right away, you haven’t given it a chance to ferment. So the best course of action to get drunk is to not drink at all. It’s like the plot of WarGames.
We really enjoyed the day trip. It was definitely relaxing! We’re not sure we’d sign up for a multi-day houseboat tour, but our day trip in the shade of a wood boat drifting along the water was quite pleasant indeed!
The last two days we’ve been spending a bunch of our time with a lovely couple from England: Joe and Caroline. They’re wonderful! We got chatting after they returned to our hotel from eating at the same restaurant. They were supposed to leave Kochi the next day, but we were all having so much fun gabbing that they decided to wait another day before heading out. They’re on a similar journey to us: spending six months headin’ all over the world! It’s always so nice to meet great people and remember what it’s like to have friends again. Sandra and I are obviously completely bored of each other at this point.
Since being in Kochi we’ve eaten at the same restaurant three nights in a row for dinner. It’s a place called Fusion Bay and it’s pretty fantastic! Cheap prices and great food. They’ll even throw you a free coconut pancake for dessert! What a deal! We also ate lunch twice at neat place called Tibetan Chef’s Restaurant. They’re known for their “momos": steamed or boiled dumplings filled with vegetables, chicken, beef, and so on. Very tasty!
Tomorrow morning we take a flight to Maldives for a six day adventure! I’ll try to take a bunch of pictures while we’re gone, but I’m convinced we’ll be effectively off the grid until our return to India on July 13th. We’re very excited to experience such a unique country!
Somehow I made it here to Madurai. We took an early morning cab to get ourselves from Puducherry to Villupuram. Villupuram is a main railway hub, so that’s where our ticket to Madurai originated from. I definitely got a bit panicked in the car thinking I was going to have to open up the door and have a quick puke. I kept it all in for the one hour ride.
Now we were at the train station and awaiting our train’s arrival. I just squatted down on the ground in the blazing heat and lamented my very existence. Still quite achy and nauseous. It’s really the nausea that kills me. I don’t mind aches and pains so much, but the feeling that I may vomit at any minute... I’d rather do without.
Our tickets indicate “Second Seating” as our class. There are a whole bunch of classes on Indian trains, and second seating sounds pretty reasonable, no? We got a look at it by the time the train arrived. It was an open car (like the majority of train cars in India), so it was obvious there would be no climate control for us. But alas, once we boarded we noticed that the ceiling was absolutely covered in rotary fans. Just dozens of them all over the place turning away. Not really enough to make up for the lack of AC, but it was better than nothing.
We sought out our particular seats on this car. I was really, really hoping for a window seat in case the contents of my stomach wanted to be freed back into the world. One of our seats was supposed to be a window, but of course some guy is already sitting there. The travel agent that booked it for us had mentioned that we would be in a “cabin of six”. That sounded kind of reasonable to me. But these aren’t cabins -- just two benches facing each other with each bench expected to hold three people. We were surrounded by several mothers and a small herd of children, so we had to kind of fend for ourselves. Keep in mind I’m mostly on the verge of collapse and am now sweating like a pig from the absurd heat.
I tried to just lay back and relax, and all in all I felt pretty reasonable by the end of the ride. Poor Sandra had her legroom severely compromised for a large portion of the trip when a middle-aged woman decided to sleep on the floor immediately beneath her. When the gentleman next to me got up and left from his window seat about an hour into the ride, I immediately slid over to take over his place from my adjacent middle seat. Not long after, a woman at the “cabin” across from us began signalling to me: she wanted the window seat. I closed my eyes again and let Sandra make vomiting pantomimes to let her know that I wasn’t feeling well. I’m white as a sheet with a permanent frown on here lady: please don’t ask me for my seat! So yes: the ride was near-horrific for me, and only slightly more tolerable for Sandra. But we made it. And in the intervening days, I’ve started to feel quite a bit better!
So now we’re in Madurai. It was founded over 2500 years ago, and is thus one of the oldest cities in India. That’s kind of neat, right? One of the first shots we got was actually of a bunch of people playing pickup cricket while a train wheels by. With some random domesticated wildlife just wandering around as well. It’s a quintessentially Indian photograph!
Our big day out was today when we visited the Meenakshi Amman temple. The temple itself isn’t actually that old (in Indian terms) being completed between 1623 and 1655, but it’s the most popular and impressive temple in the city. We had read that you just paid a small fee to bring a camera, so I was excited to cart my big-boy camera and finally get back into snappin’ some photos. Upon arrival, however, we were told that cameras were not allowed. After walking all the way there carrying my camera. Wonderful. After continuing to ask around, we’re told that you’re only allowed to have a mobile phone camera -- no other cameras allowed. As to why a beautiful temple thinks it’s a great idea to only allow people to take crappy pictures of the area, I’ll never understand. So all we’ve got are iPhone photographs, but hopefully you enjoy them anyway. I think we did pretty well under the circumstances!
The temple is full of lovely carved pillars, painted frescoes, and statues. The super-tall gateway towers are known as gopurams. We took a photo of one in Chennai, also. At one point during our wander around the temple, a lady came up and popped a bindi on Sandra right between the eyes. Then she added a bit more vermillion powder on the forehead from the hairline down to indicate that Sandra was married. So she told us. And she gave Sandra some nice flowers for her hair. Beauty! Unfortunately the stare factor increased dramatically once Sandra appeared to be a pseudo-local, but we still got a nice picture of her blending in without a trace!
I didn’t get any decorations whatsoever. Hrmph.
Tomorrow morning we fly to Sri Lanka! Let’s hope flights aren’t cancelled and the two of us stay healthy! See you on the other side!
WARNING: The following post contains gross content. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. It’s gross. Really.
I was bragging a couple of day’s ago to a friend about how I have an iron stomach. My my, how pride cometh before the fall.
Three nights ago, Sandra and I were having dinner for our last night in Chennai. In fact, when I wrote the last blog post we’d already BEEN to this dinner. But I didn’t write about it because it didn’t seem overly important. It turns out it was fairly pivotal to the next couple of days!
We had decided upon a restaurant that was part of the New Woodlands Hotel in Chennai. Since it was dark out, we were opting to take an auto rickshaw. We looked on the maps, and TripAdvisor had placed it about 1.5km away from our hotel -- so that’s good: we can negotiate a reasonable rate for the drive knowing the distance. Out front of our hotel there are a couple of guys waiting to drive people like us around. Let’s start the haggling battle.
“How much to the New Woodlands?”
“... Yes, New Woodlands. Here, get in.”
“It’s a good price, get in.”
“How many rupees to New Woodlands?”
“No problem, get in.”
“But we want to know how much.”
“It’s a good price, hop in.”
“Can you just use the meter?”
“Please get in.”
“We’ll just walk then, thank you.”
“OK, OK. We’ll use the meter. Please get in.”
So we get in the cab. Meter turns on at 25 rupees. Cool. Driver drives 5 metres straight ahead and turns left into a parking lot.
“New Woodlands Hotel.”
... Great. So it’s literally next door to our hotel: the location was just incorrect on TripAdvisor. We hand him the 25 rupees on the meter, and he shakes his head. In my mind, he’s saying “Nah, don’t worry about it. It’s such a short drive.” But he’s not giving any money back. And he keeps looking at me expectantly and shaking his head every couple of seconds. Then Sandra helps me realize that he wants MORE money than what’s on the meter. For driving us next door. I laugh and we go inside. Not cool, buddy. Perhaps what happened next was just me reaping some karma, but I still think he was in the wrong.
We sit down to eat and ask the wait staff what they recommend. They bring us a South Indian platter and a North Indian platter. Sandra opts for the cutlery approach, but being the true local I am, I start diving in with both hands. Oh, the hubris. Everything tastes so good! It’s all very mushy and wet, and I’m not letting any of the sauce on my fingers escape my waiting lips. You may have guessed the issue at this point: I have carelessly forgotten to engage in the necessary pre-meal hand sanitation ritual.
The meal goes off without a hitch, we return to the hotel (a ten second walk), and I fire off a triumphant blog post in the evening about our new Aeroplan setup. Life is wonderful.
The next morning is our bus ride to Puducherry (formerly known as Pondicherry). At breakfast, my appetite doesn’t quite seem to be with me. I usually love the pineapple slices, but they taste bland and I don’t feel like eating very many. It’s our last day: why am I not downing a tray full of those little chocolate doughnuts they have? I chalk it up to my responsible eating habits being so deeply ingrained. We head off to the bus terminal.
The ride itself was about as one would expect. The bus driver will not stop honking the horn. And the horn must be the same size as the engine, because it sounds like we’re piloting a gargantuan runaway train. Meanwhile, the two guys on the seats opposite us decide to watch (no joke) videos of a crying baby. A scream crying baby. They’re both watching and smiling as they watch this on a tablet. I’m sure one of you is related to the child in that video, but... nobody should ever watch videos of crying babies with a volume level exceeding mute. They actually watched it twice. I try to rest as I seem a bit more tired than normal, but it’s not much use given the surroundings.
We arrive in Puducherry and check in to the Hotel South Avenue. We head up to the room, get our stuff organized, and decide to go for a walk. Puducherry is known for its lengthy promenade along the waterfront, and for its French history and tree-lined streets. We grab lunch at a sandwich place, and I’m starting to feel pretty weird. I don’t really want the sandwich, but it’s lunchtime and I should really be eating. Mexican chicken sandwich. Sure.
By the time we’re back at the hotel, I need to lay down. I’m starting to feel feverish. I’m getting chills, I’m pretty nauseous. I just want to lay down. So I hop into the bed realizing that something has gone very wrong.
Around five or six in the evening, I realize I’m not making it out for dinner. I’ll sleep it off tonight. Get lots of rest and get this crazy thing over with. By ten in the evening, the grand water poops commence. My formerly glorious bowel movements are now merely a dribbling garden hose. Or maybe like if you took one of those big straws from a bubble tea place, sucked up a bunch of caramel pudding into your mouth, and then blew the pudding back out through the straw at terminal velocity. My poops were like that.
It got old after the first five times. Poop. Wash hands. Rehydrate. Walk back to bed. Try to fall asleep whilst nauseous and cramping. Awake ten minutes later to repeat the process. Over the course of the evening, I clocked in well over two dozen of these lovely journeys. My stomach would cramp up during the deed, so it never quite felt like I was finished. And I was so nauseous and achy that it was a small hell just to sit on the toilet. Not a good mix.
There were two particular highlights to the night, however.
At one point during a toilet session I became so nauseous I realized something had to be done. The saliva flows and my body warns me that it’s go time. But the general toilet area was presently in use by my lower half. So in my fever-induced haste I promptly vomited a Mexican chicken sandwich into the sink. Stringy chicken, jalapenos, cheese. Various stringy greens. Everything, of course, able to neatly block the drain such that the sink is now utterly useless and remains full to the brim with putrid waste. Ugh. I’ve managed to add another problem to my list. Once my rectal water jettison is complete, I jump at the chance to unroll swaths of toilet paper, reach wrist-deep into a cesspool of my own filth, and attempt to collect enough regurgitated goop to get the sink functioning again. This is my definition of unpleasantness. I have not felt this sick in as long as I can remember.
Later the same evening, I return to bed from a lengthy toilet session to find my stomach still giving me “Mission: Incomplete” notifications. I’m exhausted, and I really don’t want to get immediately back out of bed to try again. It feels like a big gas bubble is trying to force its way Alien-style out my abdomen. Now at this point in my life, I’d like to think I have a pretty reasonable degree of rectal control. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m the type of guy who can tell a fart from a poop. I know how to open up the pipes in such a way that only the most infinitesimally small quantities of air can escape. Like a blast of eye gas at the optometrist. Like the “p” sound in “poop”. Like a whisper in the wind. So I went for it.
Something’s not right. I turn onto my side. I reach down slowly with my hands for a cursory spot check. Surely I didn’t... there is definitely dampness. There is a reasonable amount of dampness. I can feel it spreading like a plague across my underroos. Houston: we have a code brown.
I shuffle dejectedly to the washroom to do battle for another round. Hands clean. Undees off too, this time. They’ve been soiled in the truest sense. I flick on the lights. Sandra’s got her eyemask on, so she doesn’t immediately awake. I lift up my side of the covers to assess the damage: tango down. There’s a watery, non-pine-scented stain the colour of warm masala chai where my buttocks used to lay.
“Sandra, I shit the bed.”
I am demoralized. She wakes up and helps me remove the sheets. Mattress cover? Non-existent! We discard the bottom sheet and replace it with the former top sheet. We both crawl back in bed and try to fall asleep. This is hopefully the low point of the trip.
The Lonely Planet India defines Traveller’s Diarrhea as: “the passage of more than three watery bowel actions within 24 hours, plus at least one other symptom, such as fever, cramps, nausea, vomiting, or feeling generally unwell.”
Three? More like twenty three. One other symptom? I nailed all five with gusto. That’s way better than a hat trick. It’s a sombrero trick. I think it works because it’s a big hat. And also because of the Mexican sandwich I puked into a sink.
With the exception of a thirty minute excursion to “get me outside”, the entirety of the next day was spent in the hotel room. Needless to say, we don’t have a lot of great photos of Puducherry.
Another day on and we’re now safely in Madurai, India at the "Astoria Hotels”. Yes, a singular hotel with a plural name. Sounds fancy, right? It’s not the Waldorf, but hey, it’ll do. I’m back on the path to health, but not entirely out of the woods just yet. You should hear from us again soon.
May good movements be with you.
First thing’s first: we have our credit card back! After checking back into the restaurant where I was fairrrly sure I left it yesterday morning it was found under the cash tray. What a relief: getting a replacement credit card shipped to you from Canada to here would be more than a bit of a hassle. Sandra has now enacted a policy wherein she will endeavour to ask me “Do you have the credit card?” after completing any given meal. This plan should work swimmingly!
Last night we checked out Jurassic World 3D at the AMPA Skywalk Mall here in Chennai. Kumar took us on a serious drive up there. It was probably thirty minutes via tuk-tuk, but time passes quickly when you’re ripping between the surrounding traffic on these auto-rickshaws!
We had a small scare when we arrived and the cinema looked pretty busy. We wandered up to a ticket vending machine and tried to purchase two tickets to see the show. SOLD OUT. Ugh. We have already agreed with Kumar that he’d pick us up in another 2.5 hours and now we can’t see the movie. But just to verify, we hop in line and try to buy some tickets from a real human being. We slowly creep up to the front, ask for the tickets... and it... seems to succeed? The girl wanders away while I’m trying to pay. Other people are snapping up tickets while I begin to panic that our window of opportunity is closing. But she eventually returns, hands us the tickets, and a cursory investigation shows that they’re indeed for the correct film and showtime. Let’s go!
We line up for the film along with the rest of the swarming crowd. As we’re about to enter, a random local tells us that we actually need to buy a coupon to get the 3D glasses. Apparently theatres in India will allow you to go see a 3D movie without actually providing you with glasses? So I hop back to the snack bar to grab two pairs for us. One dollar later, they’re mine! Back into the theatre. We check the tickets to see if they’re assigned seats, and sure enough we’re in Row R, Seats 1 and 2. I wander deeper and deeper into the theatre checking the letters. A... B... I slowly realize we’re at the back. THE back of the theatre. And then I spot Sandra in the corner. Not only are we in the back, we’re right up against the wall. It seems we've gotten the last two seats possible! How thrilling and inconvenient at the same time.
The movie commences... but somehow the theatre is only about one third full? I ask my neighbour what’s going on -- the show is almost sold out. And if it’s not, why the heck did we get these seats? "Where is everybody?", I ask him. “It’s India!”, he laughs. People just kind of stroll in to the movie when they feel like it. And sure enough, a solid 45 minutes into the film a guy wanders over to take a seat in our row that was still empty up until that point. Weird. The movie was... decent. I’ve gotta admit I had trouble dealing with the 10-15 cell phones that were active throughout the show in various areas. People picking up the phone and having full conversations, people browsing Facebook, and people just talking to their neighbours throughout. Rage... building! Not the same movie-going culture we’re used to! And then about an hour into the film comes... THE INTERMISSION! Which is apparently a very common occurrence here. But this isn’t a four hour Bollywood epic, it’s just a two hour film? Hey, why not toss in a twenty minute intermission? So yeah: going to the movies was a bit strange.
Today has mostly been focused on organizing the next couple of legs of our trip. The current plan is to head to Pondicherry for a couple of days, then to Madurai, and then fly off to Sri Lanka to check it out. Do us a favour and check out the weather forecast for Sri Lanka on Google. Last time I checked it looked like this:
Thunderstorms for days, baby! I guess the temperature is at least warm? Ohh you monsoon season! Apparently it can be a little better in the north and east of the country? Serves us right for travelling during monsoon season. Drat.
We’ve been staying at the Savera Hotel here in Chennai. And we need to talk about the music here. The elevator puts out some super-sweet jams -- traditional Indian music. It sounds really incredible and it’s way more pleasant than North American muzak. Really makes me feel like I'm travelling. I'm sure to the locals it sounds corny and boring, but I definitely elevator dance to it. The music scene definitely takes a turn for the worse when you enter the restaurant for breakfast, however. It’s all alto sax covers. On a loop that lasts about twenty to thirty minutes. The same music every single day. I have no idea how the staff manages not to go completely insane. Now when I say alto sax covers, you might think of something cool like “WHAM! - Careless Whisper”. Here’s a small sampling: "Toni Braxton - Un-Break My Heart”, “Elton John - Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, “James Blunt - You’re Beautiful”. You get the idea. And on some horrific occasions, this musical misstep infects the elevators also. Within those confines, I heard two (again, alto sax) covers of, no joke, “Silver Bells” and “Silent Night”. So it’s Christmas in June here in India!
Now for the biggest news of all: I think we’ve finally made our last itinerary change on the Aeroplan ticket! We have a return date home: we’ll see you just after 8pm on December 21st in Toronto!
I’ve been pretty stressed out the past couple of weeks trying to determine how the heck we’d get home. I will bore you with the details in a separate post sometime on how this “Around the World Reward Ticket” actually works. You know: the ins and outs. Suffice it to say that only after starting the journey do you know if you can make it home anywhere near the date you’d like. The last time we switched up the itinerary, our return date was November 27th. I was expecting that reward inventory would open up on Air New Zealand in the month of December. But time kept movin’ and inventory kept... not opening. After some discussions on frequent flyer chat boards (FlyerTalk), I realized it was pretty unlikely that any award seats would open up from Air New Zealand during the month of December. This is very bad. How do we get home?
As I saw it, we had two options. The first was to stick basically with our existing itinerary, but then skip the existing November 27th flight home from Auckland. We’d just miss the last leg of our reward trip and then pay for a separate revenue ticket to get us home. However, it looked like that’d cost us about 1500 CAD per person. Ouch. So much for the free(ish) ticket around the world, right?
Option two was to move the Aeroplan Reward Itinerary to fly through Asia instead. If we could find an airport in Asia with a cheap flight to New Zealand, we could just send ourselves through there and buy a separate return ticket from there to New Zealand and back, returning just before we would leave for Canada. If we could get the price significantly below 1500 CAD per person we’d be saving money this way.
And I found it! Bali! I did a search on Google Flights (which can be pretty helpful at times) and found a ticket in the time range we wanted that was less than 750 CAD per person. And the airport in Bali (DPS) had lots of available Aeroplan reward inventory to get us back home in December. After one and a half hours on the phone with Aeroplan, I think we’re sorted. There were a few heart-attack inducing moments:
We just received the confirmation of the itinerary via email. We can breathe a sigh of relief.
Tomorrow morning we hop on a bus to Puducherry, India (formerly known as Pondicherry). It’s a French colonial settlement, so we hear they’ve got croissants and stuff. Sounds good. Maybe we’ll celebrate with a glass of wine. What a weight off of our shoulders! Party hard!
Yesterday we decided it was time to see some of the local things we hadn’t visited yet. Our latest intel is that Marina Beach (apparently the second longest beach in the world...? There must be some qualifiers there...) is the big sight to see in Chennai. Been there, done that. So it’s onto some other options!
We started our journey by walking down to Kapaleeshwarar Temple. The carvings on the exterior were incredible! But of course, the temple was closed. I’m sure it would have been great to learn a bit more about it. In my short readings, I discovered that the temple was built around the 7th century. Man, that is old! Great job old carvers!
A bunch of tuk-tuk drivers in the immediate area informed us that it wouldn’t open until 4pm. What to do? A couple of the guys seemed quite tenacious about an option wherein we’d hire one of them to drive us around. He’d take us all over the city to various sites and return us to the hotel for 100 INR. That’s about two bucks. We chose one of them: Kumar! Let’s go!
Kumar took us first to the San Thome Basilica. It’s apparently one of three cathedrals in the world housing the remains of one of the apostles. That seemed impressive to me. We wandered downstairs to an area where you can peek at a patch of dirt that I suppose is the burial place of Saint Thomas. Felt a bit strange. There’s an attached museum that you can check out. I’m sure there’s some great stuff in there, but nothing was really explained. Some rocks with old looking writing in them... but nothing telling you what vintage they were, what they said, that kind of deal. Oops.
We continued on to Fort St. George. It’s a fort that was basically the birthplace of the entire city. Set up by the British East India Company in the 1600s. It still houses government buildings and a museum. No pictures here, as there wasn’t really much of a centrepiece that seemed impressive. It was quite a massive fortress, though!
And now, on to today. We awoke at 4:15am. Why, you ask? Well, to run the MADathon 2015, of course! We thought it’d be fun to run a 10km here in Chennai, so we signed up! Our trusty tuk-tuk driver Kumar showed up bang-on time at 4:50am -- what a champ!
The race itself was pretty entertaining. At one point, we had to dodge around three cows that were moving across the road we were running on. There were maybe a couple of hundred people in total running half marathon, 10km, 5km, and 3km races. The signage was pretty hilariously confusing, with each of the race signs having about 3-4 distances written on them. This is because all of the races were on the same stretch of road and each of them doubled back one or more times. So you’re trying to figure out where you’re supposed to turn around to make a 10km race and you’re madly trying to read something like “3km first turn around, 10km 5km distance, half marathon 7.5km, half marathon second turn around”. You get the gist. We got “lost” at one point and just kind of made it up as we went along. According to Sandra’s GPS watch, we went 10.3km -- so hey, we did it!
Onto tonight! There was a stand-up comedy show going on in a bar attached to our hotel. We checked it out and it was pretty entertaining! There was an Indian comic in from LA headlining and he did a great job. Raj Sharma was the name. We both enjoyed it, but it was unfortunate at times because some of the punchlines were in Hindi. You sit through the whole set-up in English and then just listen to the crowd erupt in laughter at the big payoff in Hindi. Darn. But overall a really fun night!
Downer is that I can’t currently locate one of our credit cards. We think it’s in the restaurant we ate dinner at. Let’s hope for the best as we head back tomorrow to (hopefully) pick it up! Wish us luck!
So here we are in India! After deciding to avoid Nepal due to potential issues with the recent earthquakes, we’ve ended up in southern India during peak monsoon season. The Lonely Planet has a section where they talk about what to see in a country during each month of the year. You may see festivals mentioned, religious ceremonies... that kind of thing. June just says something like: “Travel is very uncommon in this month. Rain is almost constant and temperatures are scorching.” The story checks out. Temperatures are pushing forty degrees Celcius, and theoretically it’s raining for the next couple of months all across the country. Luckily, we seem to have avoided the heavy rains up to this point -- the temperatures, however, are fairly punishing, especially with the humidity!
On the ride to our hotel from the airport we both recalled (with the obliging aid of our driver) how honk-obsessed the drivers in this country are. I’m realizing I should have counted the number of honks our cabbie dropped during the twenty minute ride, but suffice it to say it’s used less like a “Watch out!” signal and more like an “I’m here world: let’s celebrate life!” kind of deal. There doesn’t seem to be a connection between the honking and any nearby pedestrian or vehicle. One just emits the sound out of habit.
Another thing we’d forgotten about India: moustaches are wayyy in. It’s like living in the midst of a Magnum PI lookalike contest. If you’re an adult male and you don’t have that fuzzy caterpillar atop the lip, you’re definitely doing something wrong. You will be shunned. The stache should be thick and bushy, and you get bonus points if you wax and curl the ends.
We’ve done a lot of catching up on sleep here at the hotel. We got a fairly swank place in Chennai called the Savera Hotel -- it has a pool and a fitness area. As a massive bonus, it turns out that the pool does AquaFit on Mondays and Thursdays. So we’re going to try to head into the pool with the old folks on one of those nights and see if we can capture the madness. We’ve noticed that almost all of the people in the pool wear swimming caps here. There’s some kind of ingrained cultural fear of the effects of chlorine on the hair, I suspect. I’m going to look like an idiot swimming around with my luscious locks flowing all over the place.
After spending most of yesterday in bed (excepting a short foray to try to obtain a SIM card), we managed to squeeze in a dinner on the town. I’d read up on a place called Copper Chimney that was nearby and supposedly tasty, but upon arrival we discovered it was closed for another two hours. A passerby quickly herded us upstairs to an alternative restaurant that he appeared to own: Don Pepe’s Mexican Food. India is obviously known for its Mexican food, so we followed along. It wasn’t actually too bad! I quite enjoyed a spicy chicken dish, and Sandra liked her chimichangas. The restaurant was also staffed by a dwarf in a three piece suit wearing a ten gallon cowboy hat. You can’t make this stuff up.
Today we decided to get out a bit and see the sights. Sandra wanted to check out the local mall (the Citi Centre) to see if she could obtain a one-piece swimsuit. She’s decided it’d serve her well, so we wandered around to see if we could find one. No luck there, but we DID locate a “doughnut” store in the mall. India obviously has no Tim Horton’s influence, because they make teeny-tiny-cutesy doughnuts. They won’t sell you just one though -- four is the minimum! But hey, it was the equivalent of a dollar to pick ‘em up. Taste? Let’s just say India could use more Tim Horton’s influence.
We also stopped into a pharmacy to pick up a new razor for Sandra. No matter what store you’re in, the upsell is going on in full force. In a department store, every makeup salesperson was bombarding us with suggestions and hand waves to try to get us to purchase their products. You could smell the sweet stench of commission sales. I guess you could expect that in a department store, but a pharmacy? Minutes after walking in, a store employee was encouraging me to buy “body spray”. I think most Canadians would take at least some offence to the idea of a stranger telling them that they definitely need to smell better. So we arrive at the front counter:
“Toothbrush?”, the clerk asks.
“Uhh, nope, I think we’re fine thanks.”, I respond.
He looks at me. He’s going to try another tactic.
I don’t know what he’s referring to. What the heck is "V Wash"? I look at a lineup of product sitting on the counter in front of him that he’s gesturing toward. V Wash: Feminine Intimate Hygiene Wash. Heck, I’ll give the guy credit: he’s straight up trying to sell me Indian Vagisil on my way out the door. Speaking as a male, if I’d made the purchase it would definitely be one of the great impulse buys of history. I smile, shake my head, and we stick with our original purchases. Some day, buddy: it’ll work and it’ll be glorious.
Then we wandered over to the beach. Marina Beach, to be specific. It’s a bit strange because nobody really swims there, but there were certainly a fair number of locals hanging about. There was a nice statue of Gandhi. And a makeshift midway with carney games! And young boys mounted on horses riding around trying to encourage beachgoers to take a ride. We dipped our toes in the Bay of Bengal, spent some time petting a very cute street dog, and wandered back to the hotel. Apologies if the photo quality seems to have diminished somewhat from past outings: we generally don’t wander around cities carrying “the nice camera”.
We went out to the gym before dinner. This is a subplot on our blog that we will return to. Cue mysterious music.
Now dinner! We headed out late enough that Copper Chimney was open this time around. The meal was great! It’s funny though: as much as we love certain Indian food, there are some huge misses that both of us think are pretty nasty. Tonight it was the Jal Jeera. I tried it out after asking the waiter what was in it. “It’s spicy. Traditional.”. It sounded adventurous, so I jumped in. What came to the table was an opaque murky green substance with what appeared to be corn kernels floating on top. On my first sip, it was cold. Nice: it must be some kind of fruity thing that’ll be cold and refreshing and perhaps spicy. Not the case. It just kind of tasted like salt water. Dead Sea salty. And spicy. That drink didn’t get finished. Our main courses were both great, but we got nailed again with the after dinner treat. “Mint Munch”. It was a mixture of seeds and little white beads and it tasted for the life of me like bathroom soap at a senior’s home. Very floral. Suffice it to say it’s not a great taste to leave in your mouth on the way home.
And now we’re off to bed! We hope to explore a local temple tomorrow if all goes according to plan and we manage to wake up before noon. Can we blame it on the time change?