Thursday, April 23, 2009

dry days...

well i have officially entered my last week in goa, i can't believe it has been 6 months already! today is the last day of elections here in india they started on the 21st, apparently here drinking and voting don't go together. for the last 3 weeks all the liquor shops have been closed, you could get a drink at a restaurant or bar, (if they drink in that area), but not anywhere else. but on the 21st until 5pm today it is "dry days". no booze served anywhere, if you happen to have some at home that's ok but you ain't gonna find any around as the fines are pretty heavy if you get caught selling some. they couldn't even have any in the shack so, as i live about a minute away robert the shack owner stashed it all at my place. so it's been pretty mellow the past couple days, last night he closed the shack and 4 of us went out to dinner. when i came back to goa last week i found out one of his cooks left so i have been helping out when needed, as they only have 4 guys to finish the season, where there's usually 6-8 working. it's been pretty interesting, the other cook doesn't speak english so if it's just me and him in the kitchen it can get pretty funny. we both seem to think if we just speak slower in our own language the other will understand, that doesn't really work that well though.......the beach is pretty dead, some of the shacks have closed down and a lot of the beach sellers have gone home, it's definitely the end of the season. it's very peaceful right now though i'm still loving it.

delhi was ok, i was only there for 2 days, i met 3 canadians about 5 minutes after getting off the train, they were arriving from agra. so i went with them to find a room, then hung out for my 2 days. one of the guys and i shared a cucumber from a street vendor the first afternoon and by that night i had a fever and diarrhea. we both said when we were eating it that we probably shouldn't be it was only a couple bites so we went for it. and we both paid for it as he was sick for 4 days after. so the next day i was pretty tired but wanted to see something so the other guy and i went to the red fort, then i had to go back to my room. i pretty much stayed there till the next morning when i popped 2 imodium's and got on a plane to goa. i've pretty much had a funny tummy since but nothing like before, hopefully things even out when i get home.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

chillen by the ganges

i am sitting in an internet cafe, listing to a snake charmer outside play his flute. it is the same tune over and over again, you think the snake would get sick of the music and stay in the basket, not come out.
so from dharamsala i took a 5 hour bus ride ( it was supposed to be 4 but we go a flat tire) to a small town called chakki bank, where the nearest train station is. it was another crazy ride, the only non indians on the bus where 2 british guys going to amritsar my self and a lady from california who happened to be going to chakki bank as well. so we sat together as neither one of us really knew when to get off the bus. we just made sure everyone around us knew where we had to go and the ticket guy as well. the woman, named indu is almost 60 and lives in oakland. she was visiting a friend in dharamsala that she hadn't seen since she was in her 20's. after talking more she told me she used to be an editor and still writes a bit but for the past 10 years has been cooking, so we had lots to talk about. we were both thankful that we were going to the same place as we were dropped off on the side of the road at about 8pm near the town, and it's always easier to figure things out when there's someone else with you. so after climbing on the roof of the bus to get my bag, ( usually there's guys around at stations to do this for you for 10 rupees, $0.25 but not on the side of the road) we found a rickshaw to take us to the train station. i only had to wait a half an hour for my train but she was going to varanasi and had to wait 3 more hours. after 13 hours i arrived in rishikesh the next morning.....

rishikesh is full of temples and ahsrams, it proclaims itself to be the yoga capital of the world, everywhere you go there are signs for yoga and meditation retreats. and there are many sadhus, spiritual men walking around looking permanently stoned. i don't think they really are, it's probably all the yoga and meditation, they're just very at one with themselves. i have spent most of my time exploring the area, sitting by the ganga reading or trying to avoid the shopping stalls. the days here are quite pleasant, sunny but not excruciatingly hot, and for all 3 nights i've been here there have been the craziest storms i've seen. lightning, thunder, rain and wind for most of the evening which also means on and off power, usually off. so i hang out on my balcony and watch the show. luckly there's a good restaurant in my hotel so i don't have to go far for dinner.
tomorrow morning at 5am i have to take a taxi to haridwar, about and hour away as not many trains actually come to rishikesh. i will take a 6:22am train to delhi and arrive around noon, then spend tomorrow and saturday there and fly out sunday morning for easter in goa.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

free tibet

well i never met the dalia lama, apparently he's to busy for me. actually he wasn't even here when arrived, he was in delhi for 5 days touring around as they're celebrating 50 years in exile this year. but i did learn lots about tibetan refugees and how china has treated them, (not very nice). so dharamsala has been a great learning experience, and i would love to come back here and volunteer one day. i spent some time at the tibetan museum where they show the history of how china took over tibet, and the pain and torture and they inflicted. i never really knew how bad it was and i'm shocked that it's still going on. i can't believe they let china have the olympics when this is all happening.

i also did a couple yoga classes and of course the tibetan cooking classes. i did 3 days of classes, one was tibetan bread, another was momo's which are like potstickers or gyozas, and the third was soup, which happened to be on a very cool stormy day. also lots of shopping, there is so much to buy here and a lot of it supports the refugees so i felt like it was my duty to help them. i guess it's rice and dal from now on.

i have also met a lot of cool travellers here, as there area so many. it's definitely a good place to meet people, everyone seems to be staying here for a while though so i am heading alone to rishikesh tonight, which is fine as i do like my alone time. i will be there for a few days then delhi for a few then on april 12th i am flying back to goa for my last 2 weeks before heading home. i have to go south to bombay anyways so i thought i'd head to the beach one last time, as i already miss everyone there and i've only been up north 2 weeks!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

up to the hills

so i managed to find the golden temple, i could actually see it from my guesthouse. it was absolutely beautiful. i spent 3 days in amritsar and went to the temple every day to see it at different times. the first day was overcast so i didn't see the sun set over the temple, but the next day was fine. there were thousands of people there, i would have to say that in all the time i spent there i only saw about 10 other "westerners" as we're called, not very many white people at all. the whole complex where the temple is is huge, after you check your shoes and cover your head you walk through some water to wash your feet. then down to the amrit sarovar, the pool of sacred water. this is also where the city got its name, amritsar. the temple stands in the middle of the pool, with a long walkway leading into the temple where thousands of Pilgrims were waiting to go in and make an offering. i didn't go through, i just watched from outside. there are 4 priest inside keeping up a constant chant that is heard over loudspeakers, i could hear it from my room as well. there is also a huge dining hall where they feed you rice, dahl and chapatis, apparently they feed around 40,000 people a day all for a donation, they don't ask for any money, it was pretty amazing.

the other major sight i saw was the jallianwala bagh memorial. jallianwala bagh is a large outdoor park area where on april 13th, 1919 about 20,000 indians were holding a peaceful protest against the "rowlatt act", an act that gave the british authorities emergency powers to imprison without trial indians suspected of sedition, (rebelling against the british government). without notice 150 troops stormed the park and opened fire on the protesters, within 6 minutes more then 400 were dead and 1500 injured. there is a huge well in the park, now called the "martyrs well" were 120 bodies were pulled out of as people jumped in to flee the bullets. well that's my history lesson for today, other then these two places i just wandered around the old city. through the alleys and tried to get lost, but you can always seem to see or hear the golden temple so i could always find my way back.

after 3 days i needed to get out of the city so i hopped on a cycle rickshaw, paid the guy 40 ru ($1) to take me and my bag to the bus station. im sure 40 rupees was to much but i couldn't feel good paying him less to cycle and my big bag, with his skinny little legs, i don't know how they do it. i caught a local bus to dharamsala, which is north of amritsar up in the mountains, it was a crazy 7 hour ride. we arrived around 8pm and i found a place to stay had some tibetan soup and went to bed.

so far i really like it here, it's pretty cold here compared to what i've been in, at night it's around 10c and low 20's during the day. i've had to buy some pants and warm tops. technically where i am is called mcleod ganj, it's about 4km above dharamsala, and is where people come when they say they are going to dharamsala. it is the headquarters of the tibetan government in exile and the residence of the dali lama and many tibetan refugees. it's a beautiful village, but very touristy and full of white people, but i guess i'm one of them so oh well.....many people come here for long term stays, to take month long yoga courses or massage classes. or just meditate and hang out. im taking some tibetan cooking classes, my first one's tonight, 3 in total, the tibetan food is so good here, i'm loving the momo's. well i'm going to go see if the dali lama wants to have lunch.....

Friday, March 27, 2009

heading on up!

well after spending some quality time with my new friends at taha travels in baga, i settled on a train ticket to amritsar instead of flying. the cost was the main reason, almost $250 to fly and only $45 for train, although flying would have been approximately 38 hours faster then the train......even after i had my ticket no one in baga believed i was leaving, as i kept changing my mind and tickets to stay longer. but i surprised them all by actually getting on the train at 2am on the 26th. it was very hard to leave baga, and since i have to get to bombay to fly home i may do a quick stop back there before i leave, there's just something about the place that keeps pulling me back.

well except for the very loud children that were in my area of the train, the 41 hour ride was pretty ok. i did lots of reading, lots of looking out the window and lots of sleeping, or trying to sleep. the scenery was very different from the south, not so may trees and not as green. instead of looking at water and palm trees from the window, i was seeing brown patches of land, slums and falling down buildings. we arrived in amritsar last night around 8pm and i hopped in a rickshaw and went to the guesthouse, for the first few minutes i wondered why the hell i left goa. what was i doing in this crazy, busy noisy city when i could be enjoying a quiet evening on the beach with friends. but now i'm ok and am actually enjoying a little time on my own, experiencing a new place, not knowing where i'm going. on that note i'm off to find the golden temple......

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

stuck in goa

well i was supposed to leave here on the 16th, on a train to jaipur but unfortunately i had to cancel my ticket as i was not up to travelling. last week i went to south goa with peter and anita, a lovely austrian couple and robert who is from goa and runs the shack we sit in. we hopped in a little green car and headed to palolem, which is a beautiful beach about 2 hours away, ( goa is not that big). peter and anita come to goa for 4-5 months every year and usually spend 3 weeks at christmas in palolem, and the rest in baga. so they know their way around there. it was a beautiful drive down, and that night was full moon as well as holi. which is a hindu holiday where they throw coloured powder or liquid on everyone. as well they stay up all night marching around playing the drums, it's quite the celebration. on our way back the next day we stopped a lot along the way and checked out some beautiful little villages and beaches. even though it's so close south goa is much quieter then where i am. it is also a lot greener, more rice fields and farms. where as north goa seems to focus on development and tourism.

after returning from our little road trip i started to have some stomach cramps and then the diarrhea came, and with the cramps lasted almost 4 days till i went to the doctor and got fixed up. that was the 14th, so by my birthday i was feeling a bit better, but pretty exhausted, but still determined to celebrate! we spent the whole day at the beach, lots of fun had by all. the next day however i was not ready to get on a train for 26 hours, so now i am looking into flights to amritsar as it's going to be to hot in jaipur by now. so that's my plan as of now.

Friday, March 6, 2009

hot! hot! hot!

well i am starting my last week in goa and as much as i'm excited to head up north it's going to be very sad to leave. it has been a great couple of weeks hanging out here, relaxing and spending time with new friends. not all my time has been spent at the beach, but as the temperature is hanging out at around 38c with 98% humidity, i'm definitely there at some point during the day. especially if there's a power cut then it's unbearable at home, you need the breeze of the beach. i went into panjim (the capital of goa) the other day with a french canadian lady who i met through susi. her brother lives in vancouver and owns the stock market in granville island. we went to see slumdog millionaire, she was a little disappointed but i liked it, i'm glad i got to experience india before seeing it. there is an austrian couple here, peter and anita as well as their friend remy a french cook, they come every year as well. i've been hanging out with them, lot's of fun..... going to the markets and restaurants.

i've also in the last few weeks been offered 3 different cooking jobs for next year here in goa, and i'm seriously considering one of them, i'm actually torn between two so i guess it would depend on the $$$. neither one would be cooking indian food, one is a very busy greek restaurant, who wanted me to start right now. the other i'm considering is a restaurant owned by the guy who runs the beach shack we sit at, he has become a good friend and has a family restaurant in calengute (5 minutes away). and it needs a makeover, something different, like a good chef (that's me!) i would rather work with him but don't know if he can afford me, i would be happy with a 1000 rupees a day (about $26cad) but that's a lot for here, most guys get 1000-3000 rupees a month! so we'll see. the other offer was from a couple guys who have a travel agency here and want to open a restaurant and want me to be the western chef, but they don't even have a place yet so i'm not betting on that one.

well on the 16th i will be heading to jaipur for a couple days depending on how hot it is there, then my loose plan is to hit the taj mahal for a day, then up to delhi to catch a train to amritsar to see the golden temple, then to dharamsala and rishikesh and maybe leh as well. all subject to change at a moments notice.......