Thursday, January 25, 2007

Nirpa is the Best

Just a post to let everyone know that we had the best Sherpa in Nepal...

From : Deep Nishant
Sent : December 5, 2006 2:14:25 AM
To : *****
Subject : Namaste from peacefull Nepal!!

Namaste! Dear Lifa and justina'

How are u?and hooz going on?I am fine and I do Hope that u and Jus... also well there. I am back from trek and I receved a heart full of Gifts (A gift pack you left for me!) thank u so much ! I love u. may Hitory repeats and we have Greet Fun again.

Hope ur fine and Enjoying in India Trip. Did u? my be still ur Journey going on.

wish and Loving


Sunday, December 24, 2006


Now that I'm back in technology-land (aka Canada) You can check out some of the video highlights of Justina and I in India....




Friday, December 22, 2006

Been There, Done That

Well, what can I say?

I made all my flights home - even met up with Jon Major on my flight from Taipei to Vancouver! Small world that Asia....

How about it's great to be home! After the typical stormy adventure that international air travel is, where I always seem to be in the eye of the storm, I arrived in Vancouver to, "Grey skies and six degrees." Ummm ew?

Like I said though it's still great to be home. The showers are enclosed and strong, the peanut butter jars are huge, the breakfasts are not at restaurants, the people are in houses and not standing on the streets staring at me, the signs are in coherent english, and my bed is perfect.

I can't believe it was almost 8 months and I think I'm going to have to re-read this blog to figure out what the heck I did.

Anyways, that's about it for this blog. I'm updating the travel photos section as we speak - but other than that I'm not in Asia anymore, and 2006 is almost done. So bon voyage to everyone else, and if you're in Vancouver gimme a call!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

India who?

One new airport, a coup d'etat and 3 new street Pad Thai vendors on Khao San - and I'm back in Bangkok.

Bangkok is like seeing that ex-boyfriend again after a while, and forgetting why you broke up with them. I'm in love. This place is so clean. I'd eat off the streets if they'd let me. It's amazing what India does to a girl. The new airport is soooo nice. Just like VIA, but less Haida more Thai. The Pad Thai vendors came in handy when my flight arrived at 5am, but my hotel rezzo wasn't until 10am, so I had to wander the streets for a few hours, and indulge. I've only got 3 days here, so i'm cramming in all the street food I can get.

Yesterday I met up with a friend from exchange in South Africa, Asya, who is teaching just outside Bangkok now. We reminisced about the good ol' UCT days while drinking real coffe. Yes real dark, bitter coffee. I love life! Today I did So. Much. Shopping. I'm rationalizing it by thinking about the 8 months I bought nothing, and the fact I'm purchasing in Baht, not dollars - but holy cow. The only thing that made me stop and leave MBK and Siam Paragon is that I physically couldn't hold any more bags. A couple designer handbags, three pairs of jeans, countless cheap Asian shirts, shoes, underwear, knockoff perfume, skully shirts and DVDs...its all to much! (probably all too much to fit in my bags too) I also spent the afternoon taking advantage of cheap beauty treatments. A massage, pedicure, manicure and facial (my new favourite) were on my menu all for under $25. I'm pretty sure they scraped off every last bit of Indian dirt on me.

Now, some final thoughts on India.

I may be here in Thailand now, but I honestly can't stop thinking about that country. It's really weird because my travel experiences in India seem more real now that I've left....Hard to explain but while I was there I think it was just go-go-go all the time that you really didn't have much time to sit and reflect.

First, I left India with that typical Love/Hate feeling that everyone has. I loved hating it, and I hated loving it. India ripped my heart out, stomped on it, and then put it back better than before.

Second, I realized I'm not Indian. I know that sounds weird, but too many people come here expecting to get into the local culture and see the "real" India. UGH! Nothing could bother me more. I had an amazing three months observing the weird and wonderful ways of India, but it was little more than an introduction. I saw things I wont be able to ever comprehend with my Westernized upbringing. Its a country that is just too deep for any travelers to fully engage. Travelers are tourists for a reason, and when they go to a country to travel it, they aren't going to be treated as a local. Yes, some places people are nicer than others, but you're still not a local. This is especially true in India where their culture is just so fundamentally different from ours that you can't expect to understand it and become it in one day/three months/one year.... (If you want a great book to read, and an excellent example of this read Shantram its sooooooo good) It's not my country, it's not my culture.

Third, I want to go back, but I need a long break.

Strike Three! Dehli YOU'RE OUT!

Well before I get to Dehli, I should probably let you all know what i've been doing for the past 2 weeks. A typical day would go like this

0930 - awake to the sounds of the ocean crashing outside our cocohut door, decide which bikini to put on and carefully get out of our mosquito nets and stumble down the stairs to go to the bathroom
1000 - take 37 steps to our favourite restaurant and enjoy a breakfast of PB portugese rolls and Banana Lassis. Chat with Amin and the other waiters who have come to know us and our strange breakfast habits.
1100 - gather the sunscreen, sarong and pink floatie and walk 43 steps to the beach and set up camp for the day.
1230 - head into the water for some floating as it just gets too hot to lie on the beach in 37* heat.
1400 - resume beach tanning, maybe with a book
1415 - give in and go buy an overpriced Coke Light from the beach kiosk
1500 - flag down a "pineapple, papaya, watermelon, drinking coconut, eating coconut" guy and buy a couple chopped pineapples for a dollar
1630 - one more swim in the water with a possible treading water workout if i'm feeling unusually active.
1730 - shower the salt and sand off and resume reading in hammock in the shade
1900 - watch incredible sunset and wonder what you did all day
1930 - pick one of the incredible restaurants to go have fresh tandoori seafood, cheese garlic nan and cold beers for dinner.
2200 - back to bed. and dream about tommorow

As you can see it was a tough tough life that Justina and I got used too. We became locals in our little cocohut complex and made tons of friends with the other British and Irish beachbums who couldn't leave either.

Some breaks to the routine happened when we went on a boat trip to watch the dolphins play in the bay next to ours. Another when we rented Scootys and drove the 80km up to Anjuna to check out the hippies flea market.

On my last night in Goa (and last night traveling with Justina) we decided to create and attempt the First Annual Paloelm Pub Crawl 2006. On the beach there are about 55 restaurant/bars, and we figured if we started at the southern end, maybe we could have a drink at each and make it to the northern end. Remember, we go big! It started well enough at 5pm, enjoying 2-1 tropical cocktails on beach chairs and Kings stubby beers. Then we stumpled a bit when we ran into two British guys who were interested in joining our Pub Crawl, can't talk and drink at the same time, so we slowed down to a point where we came out of the seventh bar and everything else was closed. So we may not have made it, but only because Paloelm couldn't keep up with US! We did make it further to the 24hour liquor licence bar of Cafe Del Sol, which is basically a meeting point for Brits Abroad who drink all night and get up at 3pm only to resume drinking again. I even saw girls wearing JEANS there! gah! We had fun though - and it was defenitly a memorable way to end the saga of Jusfa in India.

It was a bit weird in Goa though, because even though its 'the highest of high season' the place was basically 50% empty. Most people are speculating its becasue of the Mumbai bombings earlier this year, and the next attack is suspected to be against tourist targets in Goa. Sounds too much like Bali or Egypt for some people, and unfortunatley its keeping them away. Although these days, I've learned you can't travel like that, It's as risky to go to the grocery store on Dunbar or Bombay's Victoria Terminus.

Regardless, I caught my Spicejet flight (which clearly states that Chilli powder is prohibited in your carry-on luggage) to Dehli, leaving Justina to meet up with her Mom who is coming to take my place and lead Justina through Southern India. Now in Dehli i'm trying to get used to the whole wearing shoes, pollution, too many people and dirty streets stuff that I forgot about in Goa. Although looking in a mirror for the first time in 2 weeks has been a surprise, I guess I got a little sun ;) Otherwise I did tons of shopping, so much I had to buy a new tourister to tote it all back to Canada. Then got some heena done, and the heena guy noticed that my centre is all outta wack, and thinking i'm some hippie-acupuncture girl tried to convince me to get some treatment for this. Saying I'm mentally and physically exhausted (maybe that was traveling through YOUR COUNTRY for three months with a backpack buddy!). But as the heena was drying I figured why not, so for 1/2 hour i got poked and pulled and apparently now the lines on my hands line up and my stomach is softer than before. All good signs! I had a typical Dehli experience trying to get a cab that was 1/2 hour late - then a bus accident on the highway - then huge lineups at security - then the fun of checkin with Indians, where they try to bring all their belongings in bags bigger than a refridgerator. I made my flight with literally 30 seconds to spare. But I got out of India (no small feat) safely and really enjoyed that first "Sawadeekah" from the flight attendants.

ps. Happy Birthday Christine!!!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Deserve Goa

The sunset over the Indian Ocean from our cocohut - no photoshop needed!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mumbai-bye! I'm Goa-ing to the Beach!

We were warned about Mumbai.

"It's expensive"
"It's hot"
"accommodation is crappy at best"
"It's expensive"
"It's expensive"
"Bragelina and Johnny Depp are in town!"

But how can you pass up going to Mumbai, Bombay if you will...? So we put on our just-get-through-it Indian attitudes that have worked so well in the past months, and walked out of Victoria Terminus and demanded a cabbie take us to a hotel. But of course not only is Mumbai expensive, but all the normal rules in India apply. Randoms on the street will attach themselves to you and demand commission from the shops/hotels you want, and all the hotels will arbitrarily increase their prices by 50% from any published prices. Why? Because they can. Not in the mood to deal with this crap - Justice and I yelled, screamed, kicked and hit anyone who attempted to come near us, and found a hotel on a leafy street near Colaba. We were paying more than double anything we had ever paid for a hotel room in India/Nepal before, but it came with quite a few delights:

a) A pigeon who lived in our bathroom and came in and out at his pleasure
b) Green and white mold on the walls that fell all over you and your stuff when the fan was on
c) A toilet that would not flush
d) A hot-water shower that did NOT send hot water through the pipes, but did send electrical currents through the metal to you while you were standing on the perpetually wet floor.
e) Random crashing into our barely locked door at odd hours of the night

Oddly enough, this was considered a good deal in Mumbai - so we stuck it out for 3 nights.

Mumbai greatly improved though after our first day. Living up to its world-class reputation, its a stunning city created by colonialism and enhanced by the tropical climate. The streets are orderly with cars and no cows, people are well dressed on their cell phones going places, and there are sidewalks with tree lined boulevards! We were staying in Southern Mumbai, a block away from the Gateway to India, built by the British, now controlled by the giant baloon sellers and hawkers who give the promenade some life. We spent our days wandering the cheap-stuff stall lined streets buying silk scarves, 3 pairs of sunglasses (not taking any chances anymore!), bangles, books, Bollywood DVDs and soundtracks... and enjoying drinks at the old time bar Leopolds where any expat/traveler whose worth their worldly attitude, drinks their Kingfishers. We took a ferry out to Elephanta Island, a disappointing World Heritage sight of some old Hindu caves. It was poorly set up and poorly displayed, typical of most Indian Cultural Crap - so we spent our time watching in amazement as Euro tourists bought crappy necklaces for 15X the price we paid for them, and chatting to an Aussie who told us all about how great our next stop in Goa is going to be...YES!

We wandered all around Mumbai, watching the new 007 at the old Regal theatre, and going back to watch a SWEET new bollywood movie DHOOM:II, hitting up Fashion street, the old colonial fort area, watching cricket games in the park, and cruising Chowpatty beach. Chowpatty beach is pretty interesting as its like a Camps Bay or Kitsilano, but dirty and pervy. You can't swim in there without getting the plague, or sit on the beach without getting gawked at. Regardless there are awesome street food stalls and we enjoyed a couple incredible Masala papads and dosas while being talked to by an old Indian guy (you don't have conversations here, you get talked at). Some iced coffee, gelato later (Mumbai is AWESOME) we wandered around the beach and got offered to star...ok be an extra in...a Bollywood movie. Although its a dream of mine to just participate in one dance number, we had to decline as our bus to Goa was leaving that night. Sad but true - my Bollywood aspirations will have to wait for the next trip...Although on the bright side I am staring in at least 349 cell-phone camera movies filmed by pervy men.

So that's how Jusfa did Mumbai. It's a city that brings you from feeling assy - classy in just one day. Unfort. Bragelina actually took off to Vietnam for the weekend, leaving it up to us to take the brunt of the paparazzi, and we didn't see Johnny at any of the Masala Dosa stands! But now it's off to Goa now to do nothing for 2 weeks. NOTHING.

Medieval Europe = Modern India

It all started with wanting Mentos at the bus station in Udiapur...

But then suddenly our bus was leaving. This was no normal bus. The Indians have created this thing called a sleeper bus, that still has all the seats of a normal 2x2 greyhoud bus, but on top of them beds in little cubicles. Justina and I decided that for our 10 hour overnight ride we would opt for a cubicle of our own. Bad move. The bus was about 3m high, and had a very low centre of gravity, so all through the night we were moving and shaking and getting major air time thanks to the "paved" roads in India. 12h later, when I didn't think my cheeks would every stop jiggling, we arrived in Surat (pronounced SURREY-RAT). Surat is a big industrial and commerical city with no reason to vist. Oh ya and it had an outbreak of the plague in 1994.


Yes, you read that right. Medievil Europe AND 20th century India. Consult your grade 9 social studies notes for more about the Bubonic plague. As if that wasn't bad enough for Surat, they are also rated India's dirtiest city. And dirty in India has a whole new meaning. Maybe you should go down to Main & Hastings, roll around a bit, go to the bathroom sans toilet paper on the curb, rub some street oil in your hair, sit on a cow, then go eat dinner with your hands - for 4 days straight without having a shower. That is how dirty India is. But I digress, back to lovley Surat.

We got dropped off on the side of the road in the pitch black in a town where NO ONE SPOKE ENGLISH - not even "railway station". So off we go wandering in one direction to find...da da! The railway station. Our luck didn't exactly improve as we had to get train tickets - working our way Indian style through the "line ups" secured us two unreserved tickets on a local train. We ended up waiting and getting started at for 3 hours sitting on the betal-spit stained floor of Surat Junction for 3 hours until we caught the not-so-local train, but still local enough to take 7 hours to go 200km. The only thing that saved me from puking from exhaustion was the whallas who come up and down the isles selling 'CHAIIIIIII, and SAMOOOOOOOOSAS". We had some of the greatest Samosas ever, and at 10rs for 3, you can't go wrong. Another highlight was the performance of the local lady-boy, square jawed and decked out in a beautiful sari. He must have come straight from Thailand too.

Much later than we expected we arrived in Jalgon, another Indian city with no reason to visit. But it was the closest to the Ajanta caves, which we wanted to visit in the morning. We found a descent hotel, and were off to the train station to try to score tickets to Mumbai. It was that kind of day for us where there were 15 trains a day to Mumbai, but all sold out. So we were introduced to the Indian Railways waiting list. Knowing how these people can't even line up in a straight line, we were doubtful about any organized list system. Just when more things couldn't go wrong for us, we went to a restaurant who served us Mirinda (the other orange drink) instead of Fantas, and the power went off for 3 hours between 5pm-8pm - prime power using time. We killed time eating coconut candies and masala dosas (best food ever, i'll be devoting a whole blog to it soon) and then crashed - tired you could say.

Up at 6am to catch a local bus 60km south to Ajanta - site of the UNESCO World Heritage Ajanta Buddhits caves. The local bus was surprisingly fast, fair and not crowded - good start for the day. The caves are one of those see-to-believe places. About 30 caves that are built in into the rockface in a bend in a river. They're from 200BC, and tottally and completley awe-inspiring. Each one has carved buddha images and pillars with such detail you can't believe its stone you're looking at. There are lots of frescos still on the walls dipicting Buddha's life and whatnot. Really cool. And really worth every single of the 100million stares we got from Indian tourist there.

We ended up catching our overnight train to Mumbai - well a suburb of Mumbai. We caught the only time a train has ever been early in the history of India, which dropped us off in Dadar at 4am. What is there to do at a suburban train station at 4am you ask? Well we decided to check out the action in the local train terminal and set up camp on platform 2, right beside the gypsy women and her kids. A few glasses of 3 rupee chai later, we decided that we needed to get to Mumbai central station, wandering aimlessly in a train station when you're white and have huge backpacks on attracts a lot of attention and I don't really know what compells an Indian man to come up to us and offer to help us, but at the time I wasn't willing to bet on genuine kindness, so we declined the offers and preferred to get on an unmarked train heading in what we thought was the right direction. Luckly they enforce the "ladies only carriages" here, so we had a pleasant journey. Arriving at Victoria Terminus, THE railway station in the commonwealth, at 6am was no fun either. But a couple hours later, after we were unsuccessful at getting reserved train tickets to Goa, we finally got to see what Mumbai had to offer....

Its funny because these 3 days were a great example of what travelling is like. When things go bad, everything goes bad. Local busses, dirty cities, no food, no power.... but then just like that it all turns around. The lows are sure low here in India though - at least traveling to and from Surat was!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Well last I checked in I think my world centered around a camel...Now not so much. From Jaisalmir we went back down to southern Rajasthan, and stopped in Jodhpur. Known as the Blue City because all the house of Brahmins are painted bright bright blue.

Jodhpur (as in the pants) is a pretty busy Indian town, with a population of "Eleven hundred thousand" (a Indlish quote from our hotel owner) So there isn't much to do but wander the narrow streets of the old town, or hit up the market to buy overpriced bangles. Jodhpur also was our entrance to the 'Underground Travel Network' in India. Bascially it involves gettin to the approximate area of a recommended hotel in the lonely Planet, and then balking at the inflated prices the hotel now quotes, and going to the next two or three hotels on the same street for much cheaper and better prices. AND once you get to one hotel, buddy has a friend/cousin/brother/Muslim associate in the next city you're going to, and will hook you up with a free rickshaw and pickup from the bus station. And you're never forced to stay anywhere - its common for me to make small talk about my home country of Jamaica and 4 kids (don't ask long story) with the owners while Justina goes next door to check out the other places. (good rooftop restaurant? Mattress thicker than 10cm? Ample hooks on the walls?). We utilized this network to the fullest in Jodhpur, and lucked out at buddy's brothers hotel that had the best view of the old city with the HUGE fort in the background. All for 50rs each a night. A DOLLAR!!!!!!!!!!!

We did get out in Jodhpur, pulling ourselves away from the seemingly endless supply of milk coffees and saffron lassis we were able to consume on said rooftop, and hike up to the massive Meherangarh fort. You guys know how forted-out I am, but this was apparently the fort Not to Miss in Rajasthan. Included in the tourist price was a free audio tour. Best thing ever. Not only did the guy in my earphones have the best Colonial Indian meets Barry White voice, but it combined the knowledge you gain from having a guide and the sanity you gain from bein able to turn it off whenever you want. (Indian guides in person don't shut up) We wandered the fort for a couple hours, snapped some shots, and generally enjoyed this fort experience! On the way home we grabbed some Frooti mango drinks, and tried to dodge angry cows that take up the whole old city lanes, and avoid the children taking their morning squat in the gutters.

From Jodphur we bussed it to Udiapur, on a recommendation from another traveler. Udiapur = Indian wedding capital of the world. Cause or Effect (?) is that the city looks like one big white frosted lacy wedding cake. It surrounds a lake, that is only a lake after monsoon season, and has more top-end hotels per square foot than anywhere I've been. James Bond 'Octapussy' was also filmed there, and no one lets you forget it. So we spent one night watching the movie on a rooftop wondering how James was able to get rickshaws so easily? The lake palace (runs around $3000US/night...more than my budget for the whole 3 months here) dominates the lake, and although we couldn't even afford the boat over for lunch, I think I saw a rich person turn on their light. Liz Hurley and the pick of British celebs were apparently on their way over for her wedding, but we didn't see Elton at the internet cafe or Bhang shops. Damn. Justina and I also took a cool autorickshaw trip up to the Monsoon palace that overlooks the whole Udiapur valley, for a romantic sunset on our 11-week anniversary of traveling together.

From Udiapur we decided, "Hey why not take a quick cut into central India to check out some Buddhist caves. It will only involve an overnight bus ride, a stop in a town that has never seen a white person, a long local train ride, and 3 sanity-saving samosas!" Stay tuned for that wonderful blog... Pics will come I promise, but I'm at the point where if the keyboard of a computer works I'm ecstatic, let alone USB ports....some PICS can be found here on Justina's blog.

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