BootsnAll Travel Network

Step 5: Add spices…India

I’m in Mumbai by the way, good guess Dan.

My reasons for cutting off my Middle East quest were pretty much two fold. One, I was kind of getting in a rut with the Middle East (as well as fat). It is interesting, but in reality there is not a huge variation in the culture between the countries. Second, and probably the most influential was the fact that it was getting damn cold, and I didn’t want to buy a jacket.

So, on the ground in Mumbai, my first impressions as India is supposed to be kind of a system shocker. You get a lot of fairly shocking descriptions of India. even to the point that I was a bit nervous about my abililty to get along. People in general fall in love with India, or just hate it. One week on the ground and here are my first impressions.

1) Poverty- I guess shocking if you were coming straight from the more modern countries like the US or Europe, but after South America and Africa, it wasn’t so out of the ordinary to cause “shock and awe.” I still go by a different gauge when people talk about poverty. I rate wealth as follows:

0 Goats= Severe poverty
1-10= poor
11-50 middle class
51-200= rich
201-1000= extremely wealthy
1000+= You founded the Windows operating system

So, based on that where do you fall in? It’s not a fair system right? Well, it’s just like talking about other cultures where owning a car or big screen tv is meaningless. You really have to compare like with like. Also, I’ve seen street people with no roof over their head in every country (including the US), I have been so really, who can throw stones.

2) Smells. Pretty much the same issue. Nothing that knocked my socks off or hadn’t smelled before in most big cities, ie. smog, exhaust, waste, sewage, so nothing too much out of the ordinary for where I have traveled. Now, the fishing dock area with the drying fish mixed with the piled up garbage, that drew a little tear. I do have to say that Natalie did a little bit of a dry heave a couple of times as we were walking around, so I guess if your senses are not used to it, you can be in for a shocker. I will offset this by the smell of spices and cooking in the air. Perfectly delectable.

Beggars. Actually I was very surprised in that I was hardly ever accosted. The only times were on the main tourist trinket street in front of the tourists bars. There was always a group of women and kids hanging out there trying to cash in. I had heard stories of getting hounded by the beggars, but I actually had very little problem. It might be my fellow asian travelers have been good about not giving handouts and are therefore given a green light to pass with no hassles.

Hair and hash. Just a little odd test that I performed. While walking around with my hair in a pony tail (India has got to be the guy pony tail capital of the world), I was hardly stopped by the local hash sellers. When I walked around with my hair flopping in the wind, I was getting stopped all the time. So, need drugs, let your hair grow.

Food. Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. Now, I am in no way condoning vegetarianism as I honestly believe they are freaks, who can live with out some good old dead flesh. Think Big Mac. Anyways, the variety of food, and with the mixture of spices, I am in heaven. After the Middle East which was good but with not a lot of variety, I was taken aback. The five days I spent in Mumbai I ate a different type of food each time by just pointing at something on the menu, and was never disappointed. Just some amazing stuff.

Architecture. Some very beautiful architecture in the city. Much better than all the ruins that I had seen in the Middle East and Egypt. Gargoyles and spooky looking buildings (that are still in use), were just amazing to see. Victoria train station, the University, and the city centre in general had so many beautiful classical buildings.

Weather. Nice and warm and cool at night. Sooooo much better than the Middle East winter I was in. Definitely shorts and t-shirt weather. Just a bit of humidity, but not too bad.

Pricey. Landing in Mumbai was good and bad. It is the most expensive city in India so it was kind of a shocker to the budget, but at least going forward everything will seem such a bargain. The only real expense was the hotels as the food and touring around was cheap. I ended up paying $500 Rupees for a double room with a shower and tv ($12.50US)

Womens dress. A kind of a mix between the Middle East and Africa. They wear the sarees like in the ME, but with the vibrant colors like in Africa. They also wear a kind of mini-tank top thing which exposes their mid-riff, so naughty (definately after coming from the Middle East where ankles were about the only skin you get to see. Guys, nothing special.

T.V. 61 channels with 6 in English and the rest I believe in Hindi. Half of the channels are these spin-off news channels that are kind of like a National Enquirer (outlandish gossipy newspaper in the US) t.v. show. Also there are a lot of Bollywood related shows talking 24-7 about stars whom I am not too familiar with. They are very passionate about their Bollywood, especially in Bombay where it is the center of it all.

Jackie Chan. All that money I was making (a nickel for every time someone called me Jackie Chan), all went away in India. Not even once. I don’t know if it is because we are in Asia now and are close cousins, or because there are a lot of asians working in India, or because there are a lot of asian tourists, but as of yet, nothing. It’s definitely refreshing, but also a little sad because I am no longer a movie star.

Interesting stuff in Mumbai to see. The Archway which was built to greet the British in, and lastly used to kick their asses out. The washing area where a lot of the laundry of Mumbai is done. There is one spot where there are thousands of concrete bathtubs where launderers rent out a stall and hand wash their clients clothes. The government provides free water and millions of pieces of clothes are washed, dryed, and delivered back to their rightful owners every day. Fishing boat landing where the catch of the day is brought in and either sold or hung out to dry. A very aromatic part of town. Victoria train station terminal is were over 2 million people a day pass through. That’s right, over two million. I thought it was a typo, but nope that was correct. Amazing. The old University with the very beautiful classical watch tower and buildings (not as big as Big Ben I was told by Natalie.) The corniche at night was a cool spot to chill out at night just watching the boats and the people.

So that’s where I am and thats what I am doing. Oh yea, I seem to have purged my system of all that crap I ate so my poo is coming along just fine. If it hadn’t, I was planning to be the first person to come to India and meaningfully drink the tap water. Kind of like human Drano, flush the clog.

The Arch University tower Boat work Dried fish to be used in Duck soup Womens group
Snarky- Marriage between two unemployed people doesn’t seem like the best investment opportunity and my system is still hands free.

Kaye- Postcard is in the mail.

Marisa- Happy New Year, maybe see you in India?

Benny- Good old Austria, home of the Kangaroo and “A Dingo ate my baby.” You gotta hate when people think that. I know though, Mozart, Hitler, and my fearless leader Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Yazeed- Good hearing from you. Hope all is well. I just might be getting your old hair style soon. I’ll get back to you if I need helpful hints.

Colin- Wrong answer, now you have to send me a dollar.

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3 responses to “Step 5: Add spices…India”

  1. Wendy says:

    great blog recording your travels.
    The dhobi wallahs (washer men) in Mumbai are quite something to see. I wrote about them recently. Enjoyed reading about Lebanon. Was there 2 years ago.
    Cheers, Wendy

  2. Marisa says:

    I may actually get a chance to go to India this year but not till the fall…you’ll probably be somewhere else by then 🙁

  3. Priyank says:

    Don’t ask me how I found this post but I am curious to read more 🙂 I am from Mumbai, and your perspectives are really interesting. People either love India or hate it.
    I am currently in Toronto, last month was in Israel and 2 months later goin to Peru.

    Hop over to my blog for some detailed Israel travelog.

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