“India is beyond statement, for anything you say, the opposite is also true. It's rich and poor, spiritual and material, cruel and kind, angry but peaceful, ugly and beautiful, and smart but stupid. It's all the extremes. India defies understanding.”
― Sarah Macdonald, Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure
I read this book while in Sri Lanka, unconsciously but inevitably preparing for a month+ in India. The all being India, that I have for some reason always been drawn to. I've read fiction and non-fiction books about it, watched Hollywood movies, documentaries... but nothing really prepares you for experiencing India first hand. Out of it all, the quote above is the truest of truths when trying to explain India and all its magic.
Fort Kochi, Kerala.
We flew into Kochi, Kerala in the south of India. Although we tried to go into this portion of the trip with open minds and to not succumb to others' prejudices and opinions, we continually heard, and could not escape, the belief that India was an assault on every sense, and even more emphasized at airports/ train & bus stations. We (more so I) had been mentally preparing the entire flight. Carter seemed pretty relaxed, especially since the beer on Sri Lankan Airlines is FREE, so naturally, he took advantage of this perk (x4) on the 45 minute flight. We got off the plane and entered the Cochin airport and it was immaculate. Shiny marble floors, gorgeous statues, a sense of calmness and no lines at immigration. We walked over to the e-visa section and an officer waved us in where there were plush arm chair seats for us to sit in as they granted us our visas, no questions and hassle free. The first pocket of anxious butterflies left my stomach (we joke that we are still suffering from PTSD at customs everywhere we go since being deported from Vietnam). Then onto baggage claim, again a very quiet and peaceful experience; our bags had already dropped and were just getting to us as we walked up. Literally couldn’t have been more perfect. Another wave of relief. Now onto the real test... exiting this heaven of an airport to get to Fort Kochi, our first Indian destination. This is the part we were mentally prepared and geared up for - having to swim through a crowd while shaking our heads no to all the touts and tuk-tuk drivers trying to grab at us, stalk us until we gave in to take their tuk-tuk offer at an exorbitant price as if we don’t know any better. Not to mention, dealing with this sea of bodies all the while being slammed with 45 degree weather. Ok, Here we go...
We walked out, yes it was hot, but there also was a faint cool breeze that was refreshing. There was no one outside; only locals awaiting their guests or friends or family members who were arriving as well. Did we book a flight to the wrong country??? We walked over to the help desk and asked for the cheapest way to get to Fort Kochi and they pointed us to an orange bus that left in 15 minutes and only for .50 CAD cents. Again, absolute perfection. The bus was air conditioned, not crammed, we got a seat in an orderly fashion and left for our destination... what was everyone making such a big deal about??
For the hour it took us to get to Fort Kochi on the bus, there was not one single break of city. This is where we started to slightly see the density and what India may be like in the coming month. We were in the state of Kerala, it has 26 million people, and this was only a sliver on the southern coast of India. Although it was city after city we were passing, it wasn’t as chaotic as we were expecting...AT ALL. We were very pleasantly surprised by this first impression.
Fort Kochi is a small island off of Cochin (okay not small - nothing is small in India) but it only has a population of just over 600,000. It has a very big British and Portuguese influence and because of this it is your atypical experience of India but it is a GREAT introduction to ease in to their culture, language and food... oh sweet baby Santa Claus, the food. Carter and I INDULGED on our first meal (or seven).
We took Fort Kochi by foot the next day. We started with Jew Town. There is only four true Jewish people left - Sarah, who is over 90 years old, who sits in her home and crochets everything from yammachas to wall tapestries to you name it. One other woman runs tourist tours through the oldest synagogue in town, which is also the oldest in India. And the other two are her daughters who help with Jew Town's tourism needs. Jew Town is a livley little neighbourhood on the water with tonnes of different shops and cafes.
At the end of the day, we found ourselves at the main beach just in time for the fishermen to arrive back from sea and weigh all their fish before sunset. Fisherman came in with boats and boats of king fish and squid. So many squid. They were de-inking them before weighing them and that was super interesting to see so much black liquid come out from them. If the inevitable threat of "Delhi-belly" didn't encourage me enough to eat vegetarian while in India, this certainly did.
The beach was also lined with Chinese fishing nets; a gift from the Chinese hundreds of years ago which is a technique still used today. After sundown, these huge nets are submerged into the water and a big light is shone into the water to attraction prawns, squid and fish. The sides of the net are then slowly brought up, leaving the middle of the net still submerged under the water and eventually, the fish are trapped inside.
The beach was disgusting. I am not going to sugar coat how gloriously beautiful India is. It has every type of garbage you could think of. It was like the land of misfit toys from Rudolph but the sunset was gorgeous. A fiery red sun, nothing like we’ve ever seen before (again - probably attributed to the smog and pollution and dirtiness of India). Nonetheless, the locals on the beach came down to enjoy, splashed around the the water, played footy, kids running around, and couples having ice cream. It was really an enjoyable experience if you could see past the garbage. This may have been our first look into the way India can be two complete extremes simultaneously. It's one big giant juxtaposition of itself.
Disclaimer: we frigged up and lost all of our photos from Fort Kochi. We haven't pointed fingers at who done it... but it may or may not have been me, maybe probably. Opps. So unfortunately, we only have a couple cell phones pictures & google images to use for this portion of the blog.
In the few days we roamed around Fort Kochi, we also decided to book the infamous backwater houseboat tour. The Backwaters of Kerala are known as the "Venice of the East", for the windy tranquil canals and lakes that take you away from the hustle of Indian cities into the best form of relaxing nature.
We used Mr Wilson's tour services. What a great name and even better man. He booked us on a house boat outside of Alleppey (Alleppey is a town that is most famous for its backwater tours and is now overrun by canoes/ferries/house boats). Mr. Wilson said if we saw more than 3 boats where he was sending us that we would get our money back. We took those chances. We were driven to a small village and there was a beautiful house boat waiting for us.
Before boarding the boat, Carter got a bottle of coconut alcohol since the local men were raving about it (equivalent to the rice whiskey he and Hayden so thoroughly enjoyed during our time in Vietnam and Laos). We then boarded the boat and were punted (no motors moving the boat, they use long bamboo branches to push off the bottom of the river ways) down the backwaters. Yes, an entire houseboat being pushed around delicately; it’s the authentic and traditional way Indians got around in history. It also makes for a more quiet and serene trip.
We were paddled out to an open lake, and then docked to visit a beach. The beach was very nice and the water was so refreshing but it was a quick lived visit. Carter helped the local fishermen push their boat back out of the ocean and we returned to the houseboat.
When we got back, the on-board chef served us a home cooked delicious Indian meal. Again, new food we hadn’t tried before, or even knew existed, that we absolutely devoured. This time we didn’t catch the names but our favourite was a cabbage fried side dish that had some heat to it. After lunch, the captain turned the boat around and went through the entire canal to the opposite side which opened up to a beautiful lake. The captain set the anchor and Carter and I had some quality time on the sun deck. This was the most memorable part of the entire backwaters trip.
That day, the captain kept saying it was our most very lucky day because there was a ceremony happening that weekend that only happens once every few years. So he suggested we visit the small town and attend the ceremony. We docked at a guest home where we would be staying overnight and are driven down a bumpy road to the temple. When we pull up there are 5 HUGE beautifully decorated (but not too much ie. abusive) Asian Long-tusked elephants. They were magnificent! Like nothing I have ever seen before. Their ivory tusks were enormous! There were drummers and trumpet-like instruments being played and they were SO talented. We took off our shoes to show respect and went into the temple grounds with the rest of the locals. We stayed and enjoyed the ceremony for a couple of hours (even though we didn't really know what was going on and the fact that I basically stared at the elephants the entire time). We're not sure how long it went on but we started to get hungry again, so we left the ceremony excited for what the chef had prepared for dinner.
As we were having dinner and enjoying some King Fishers (Indian beer), "Safari Britters" came out and I realized it was a blood moon shining over us. Not only that, fireworks started up all around us as we were taking pictures of the moon. It really was our most very lucky day! We felt so grateful and fortunate to be able to be in that part of the world, at that exact moment, to take in all India had to offer us.
Our first Indian train ride was headed to Amma's Ashram in Vallikry. We were a bit nervous to board (again due to all the horror stories we’ve heard). We boarded the general cabin (purely local people) and started the 3 hour journey south. Not long after we began within the next few stops, 4 local boys got on who were immediately so friendly and had absolutely no sense of personal space. The one guy jumped right between Carter and I (literally jumped on us before we shimmied over to make room) and started asking us a bajillion questions. I, on the other side of me, had a little 5 year old admirer, that I was quite smitten with as well. His mom would help him translate his answers into English. Before I knew it, there were 6-7 other kids around wanting to talk in English with us as well. We learned that they were all related and hilariously took up the entire cabin of the train. As this was happening Carter took out the camera to capture all the kids, immediately after seeing it the teenagers sitting beside us were asking if he was a photographer and if he could put their SIM card into his camera so they could have professional photos of them taken on the train (this is literally how fast things happen in India) For the next 30 minutes, they each got a single portrait of themselves - smiling, not smiling, mean mugging, arms crossed, arms unfolded, sunglasses on, sunglasses off, with buddy #1-4, inside the train, outside the train, standing, sitting, group photo, only 2, another 2 of them, another group photo... they wanted the photos for Facebook to find girlfriends. Our memory card was full of photos of them, so finally Carter had to say "ok ok, I think we've got enough profile pics to find you all some girlfriends!" They were hilarious and made this train ride so incredibly enjoyable.
*While reading Holy Cow, there was a chapter on Amma's Ashram. Amma is the Divine Mother, I called her the Mother Hugger, as she was famously known for her unique darshans of a warm mother's embrace. Instead of the regular darshan (a blessing from a deity) she would hug her disciples in order to truly hear their wishes/prayers/questions and bless them with what they were hoping to find from visiting her in the first place. While reading this chapter, I didn't think much of it as the whole book had to do with the pros/cons/weird and whacky of many different religions... it was only until I randomly asked a lady sitting beside me at the Sri Lankan airport where she was going in India and she responded "I am going to live with Amma. She is the Mother Divine and is in town for the next two weeks." We took this as a sign of fate... when in India do as the spiritual seekers do!
An ashram is a place of communal living established around the philosophies of the chosen guru. We arrived at the ashram and signed into the international building, we handed in our passports and were given a key and a full sheet of rules. No smoking. No drinking. No drugs. No display of affection. No photography. No shoulders. No legs. No tight fitting clothing. Sooo... what can you do here??
We got settled into our very basic room lined with photos of Amma and then went to get our token to receive darshan (blessing in form of a motherly embrace)... only to hear it was going to be a 3 hour wait. Okay, so we went to get lunch. One perk of staying at the ashram is that for essentially nothing, you get a room and have 3 free meals a day at a whopping 250 rupees ($5). However the meals were like pigs troughs- the rice and curries were in huge vats- so much so we referred to upcoming meals as "slop" from there on out (ex. after we see the mother hugger do you want to grab some slop?) But it was good enough, "edible" and free, so we weren't complaining.
The vibe was definitely very ("very very very" -Carter) weird. It was a public darshan day so disciples, devotees and fans of Amma could come get her blessing for free and it was open to the public. So Carter and I waited in the queue for another 2 hours, moving seat by seat closer and closer to the stage and the Mother Hugger herself. If we had prepared whatsoever, we noticed people bringing her pieces of paper with their wishes and questions they sought to be answered. People were balling. People were smiling hugely. People were all over the place with their emotions after leaving the embrace of Amma. Including Carter. A few words to describe the look on Carter's face during this whole musical chairs charade, would be: confused, awe, disturbed, nervous...all of a sudden he's up next. We were told to go on our knees and inched our way (and were pushed) to the lap of Amma. As she was hugging someone from the left queue, we were getting ready in the right. As soon as one person left, Carter was pushed, tugged and smushed into Mamma Amma's arms/pit. Your forehead is placed on her right shoulder and she holds you for 30 seconds. She held Carter's head, whispered something into his ear in Hindi, and he was pulled up. Next was my turn. As I was set in place by Amma's helpers, an India woman was in Amma's embrace. As she got up, she was crying and talking to Amma as my head is shoved in Amma's left arm. So, Amma is soothing this Indian lady who’s now becoming reaaaally emotional, asking her tough life questions (I can only imagine as it was all in Hindi.) All the while I am still kneeling, head sideways in the mother’s half(ish) embrace. She pat my head a few times, I guess to let me know she's aware I am laying there patiently smelling her armpit. Anytime you’re ready Amma! Suddenly I was pulled over to her right shoulder and the full embracing commences, I am officially being hugged by Amma, the mother hugger! I mean, she’s hugged millions of people around the world so it was a great, warm, soulful embrace. She pulled me back, looked into my eyes (read: soul), said hibberybibberygibberish into my ear... which I can only assume would have been crucial advice from the divine mother herself for a lifetime of health, happiness, success and love...if only I understood Hindi. She placed three things in my hand: a paper bag, a candy, and a heart chocolate. Carter didn’t get anything LOL, so I believe during our extended hug, we truly bonded. Even though I couldn't tell you how many people had actually touched the chocolate heart she gave me, or why it was so melted in my dirty hand...I ate it. I was feeling spiritual as s*** and would ingest anything Amma gave me!
Lifted, gifted and #blessed, we roamed around the ashram a bit more. We signed up for a yoga class the next morning and looked at Amma's schedule for that night. After darshan she would be leading meditation and satsang. We wanted to see what would unfold.
We went back to our room and made our bed with the linens we were given, and laid down..... underneath the cool fan.... and didn’t get up again until 10pm. Meditation was over. Dinner was over. Satsang was over. Oops! Maybe we were so exhausted by the love and blessing we got from Amma or maybe we just weren’t cut out for the wild ashram life. But we got up, and ventured into the slop hall to find the bottom of the barrel slop. We ate with our hands and went back to our rooms as everyone needed to be in their rooms by 11pm, another one of Amma's rules.
The next morning we got up at 6am and attended our yoga class. It was the most spiritual class we’ve ever been to, led by an Indian women with the most soothing voice and best r-roll ever. Our mantra for the class was “remember the core of silence is where you hear god's own voice”. It was an hour and a half class and was completely relaxing. We went to get breakfast and it wasn't until this moment when we found out this whole time there was an Indian dining hall... and a Western dining hall. This entire time and we had been eating the "slop". So for breakfast, we went all in and got egg sandwiches, banana bread, orange juice and coffee. Must have been the luck of the dirty chocolate heart!
After breakfast Carter wanted, needed and demanded to get out of this culty/prison-ish vibe place and I was more than ready as well.
Our next move was to Goa. It was a long distance away, after doing some research we found out all sleeper trains were booked. We soon found out that all sleeper classes in India book out a week or two in advance, for every train at every class. So we bought a general ticket for the 15 hour journey to Goa...
Indian Overnight Train
As we quickly learned, you have to purchase Indian train tickets well in advance if you want any sort of decent seating. However, this was our first sleeper train experience and we didn't know any better. By a miracle we were able to get the general class tickets and had to do so in a rush as it was set to depart 10 minutes after we arrived at the station. Catching this train meant we wouldn’t have to hang around a station for 7 hours to board the next train heading to Goa at 9PM. Knowing we were very pressed for time we had to boogie once at the platform, but we have been in this situation before and know it's critical to stock pile on water and snacks before a long trip because you literally never know when you'll get to stop again. SO, we decided to split up...Carter went to ensure the train at the platform is ours and when it actually leaves and I ran into the cafe and order whatever the heck will get us through the night, when of course, the train horn blows. That’s fine we think, it’ll sit and wait for final passengers to board for at least 5 more minutes. I quickly browse the menu, ask the difference between an aloo and whatever ingredient I didn't understand, put in my order and take out my rupee to pay. Carter who is about 10 meters outside the store standing by the train says “okay, come on Britt. The guy I asked with the official looking uniform said it leaves NOW and he's has boarded the train”. I am sitting there like yaaaaa don’t worrrrrrrry about it, we're good. Then the cashier says it’s 200 rupees and I give her a 500 bill because that’s all I have, when all of a sudden I hear the horn blow three times. Oh shoot. The woman looks at the money, asks “do you not have a 200 bill?” because they never want to give out their smaller notes for some reason - CLASSIC India. "NO IT'S ALL I HAVE & THE TRAIN IS ABOUT TO LEAVE". Now the lady, who is moving at a sloth's pace, has our last 500 rupees so I cannot leave without getting my 300 rupee back. I hear Carter yell again because the train jerks forward "BRITT FORGET THE FOOD THIS THINGS MOVING!". Now the lady is REcounting our 300 rupees to give back to me. My head is on a swivel looking at the money, looking at the train thats slowly rolling, looking at the lady slowly count money, watching the train rolling faster. I grab our last rupees from her, grab our water (crucial) and a random bag of chips and dash out of the cafe without half of our order! As I am running towards the moving train, Carter who has watched 4 or 5 wagons roll by is back peddling yelling "come on girl!" (keep in mind we both have our massive backpacks on our backs and our day packs on our fronts.) As I get out of the store I realize the caboose we are chasing is the 2nd last one on the entire train. I thought we would have multiple carts to choose from, so now I have to run faster to catch it or else we were completely missing it! I hear another by-stander Indian lady yell “girl! You bettah run!!” Carter jumped onto the second wagon from the end thats now moving at a fast pace jog, and although he was reaching out with his hand, he was taking up the entire doorway with his body and massive bags. I only have one hand to grab ahold of the railing because the other is carrying two waters, a bag of chips and our only money. In the last carts' doorway was a little Indian man just casually watching this thriller of “will she make the train” unfold. I ran towards the small man and jump from the platform, thank goodness I am sure this man has experience in this, because in a split second I feel both hands firmly grasp my arms and huck me inside the cart. I am in! I’ve made it on the train. I walk into the cart and turn to go through the cart doors into Carter's wagon...dead end. It doesn’t allow you to pass through into his cart. I turned around to see two Indian men smiling and wobbling their heads at me. The man who helped me in said “handicap only but you sit here, next station move”. I quickly explained "Oh I am so sorry, I didn’t see the sign for handicap only! My boyfriend is in the next cart over so I will change at the next station!". They both laughed out loud “Uh-Oh, next cart is big problem for your boyfriend. Next cart is ladies only cart. Big fine. Big fine. Big problem. Next station, he come here. Is okay.” In the next 10 minutes, I knew their names, where they were from, what they did for a job, saw pictures of their wives and children and recent marriage, and they knew my name, where I was from, my age, what the exchange rate between Canada and India was, how cold Canada was, and my occupation. You have to love indian curiosity. (**I turned around after jumping onto the ladies only cart to find 20 women all staring at me, no smiling or head wobbling. I just apologized and sat hanging out the side of the train until the next station as there were no more seats - Carter)
The train didn’t stop for another hour and a half as we were on the express route, so these men and I become friends in that time. When it finally did stop, Carter and I got out to laugh about how he ended up in ladies only and I in handicap. We then found our proper seats in general second class cart with the rest of the locals.
Indian trains are like nothing we’ve ever seen or experienced before. The chaos, the culture's unwritten rules and etiquette we were very much unaware of; the dirt, the bugs, the throwing of garbage out the window, the fire pits lining the railway, the squatter hole toilet that you can see the ground flash past you as the train speeds away; the stares, the smiles, the head wobbles. Riding the train in India is a whole cultural experience on its own. Let alone our first overnight train trip being 15 hours in the general section. The train tiers range from 1st Class, 2nd Class A/C, 3rd Class A/C, 3rd Class Open, 2nd Class Open, General. Usually, tourists tend to stick to A/C Tier 2 - assigned seating, more foreigners, blankets and pillows, etc. But no, not us! The back of the train is chaos. So Carter and I grab the only two seats open and prepare for a long journey. And it is HOT. Sweating. Baking. Sticky. The train makes our first stop, and the two men from the handicap cart come and find us in the window. They wave and stand there wobbling their heads. The next stop, they come back again to say hi. Now we realize we’ve made train-friends and they’ll continue to visit us throughout the trip.
We hit a big stop and many people got off the train so Carter and I took advantage and headed for the empty benches. We laid our bags flat across the benches, we laid down using the bags as hard pillows and take over the entire thing meant for four people. The Indian way. Except, we’re not Indian. And people want to look at us, talk to us, wave at us, question us, take pictures with us. So we only got an hour of comfort before the first person asked to sit with us. From there on, we were hosting new locals every stop. It was a great experience but now we were on the 8th hour, getting late, and were exhausted. And just as soon as we thought the socializing was over and we could lay back down to catch some sleep, our friends from the handicap cart move into ours and a whole new set of locals hop on the train. But now because our friends knew all about us and could speak Hindi to the other passengers, it was a full out party in our bench area. People staring, looking at our friends, “Canada” we heard several times in the quick sentences, head wobbles, laughs, smiling and nodding their head at us - I just kept smiling back and saying yes in agreeance - even though I had no idea what they were saying or trying to mean. This lasted 3 hours. I finally gave up and laid down anyways, leaving Carter to entertain. Shortly after, people dispersed and found their own places to lay down - mostly these "places" were on the luggage-only shelves right on top of us!! Grown men climbed up on the metal baggage holders and tucked themselves in for the night's journey.
Every so often the train would be going too quickly for it's age and the shape it was in and you would be violently shaken awake. Then we would stop at a station and vendors would walk on and scream “chai, chai, chai, copee, copee, copee!!!” So that would wake you up too. Then someone in the cart would start snoring, and that would wake you up again. And then all hell broke lose as a drunken passer-byer threw his liquor bottle at the train and the men on our train ran for cover to our side of the cart like we were under attack... and we were awake again. Needless to say, it wasn’t a pleasant or relaxing journey but it was a great experience and story to tell. Finally, 3 hours late, we pulled into our station in Goa at 7am. Our friends had set THEIR alarms and got up to ensure we got off at the right stop. Indian hospitality at its finest. We wave and shook hands goodbye and they continued on their route to Mumbai.
Goa is a beach-lovers paradise. Relaxing, chilling, hanging out... whatever verb you want to use for beach bumming it, you can do it here. We stayed in Palelom Beach for a few days and did exactly that. So, instead of writing "we swam, it was fun!... we tanned, it was fun!!... we drank, it was fun!!" We'll just show you a couple pictures of our time on the beach for you to enjoy while it still snows in Canada:
We rolled into Mumbai at 6:30am and before the train even stopped, we had taxi drivers waving at us on the platform to get off the train as it was the last stop. The entire walk down the platform we had “yes sir, where you going!?” “Yes madame, taxi taxi” “sir, where? I take you! Don’t you need ride?” “Sir, where is your hotel? Colbana? Fort? I drive” “good price just for you.. good price, best price!” Welcome to India.
We were tired as this is what Sleeper Class quarters look like (when you don't book enough in advance AGAIN and have to travel as the locals do):
Our “thing” now is to dodge all the hasslers and approach the drivers that aren’t bothering anyone. That’s who we give our business to. So we got a taxi to Fort, in southern Mumbai, where we would be staying. Mumbai is absolutely beautiful. We arrived at golden hour, right after sunrise, and the sun shining through the big hundred year old trees which shone on the old buildings really set the tone for our impression of this city. It was less busy, less chaos, less India than we expected. Streets were fairly big, clean, and had a sense or organization to them. Every turn you took, you also had to stop to admire the architecture of the old mansions and heritage buildings. There was a beautiful mind of sadness to them; if maintained properly through out the decades and decades they’ve been standing they would be ideal and sought after residences but it looked as though they’ve been forgotten and vines and time had taken over.
We explored the area known as Fort; visited CST which is the biggest railway station in all of India and is also an UNESCO heritage site. It is GORGEOUS, both on the inside and out. At night, it’s lit up with multicolour lights and looks like Christmas all year long (you can only imagine how much I loved this building!) We walked down the fashion street which is comprised of 385 fashion and accessory vendors. Vacation Carter went crazy. I had to talk him down from a watch that he just needed to have. We don’t even know what day it is usually, why do we need to know the time?!?
That night we went to the historical AX movie theatre and saw Jumanji. But this was no normal movie experience- we were in the “kiddles“ theatre meant for children. There was about 50 multicolour seats in the auditorium, a play place right outside and the smallest doors to enter we could barely get through. Before the movie began, everyone in the theatre had to stand up for the singing of their national anthem (which we have since found to be the norm in India). I sat beside a 11&12 year old - one of which had seen the movie already and repeatedly kept telling his friend what was about to happen in English, simultaneously ruining it for me. Then there was a 7 year old beside Carter who giggled every time a swear word was said or reference to a male body part (usually 2 mins after the joke was made because he didn’t get it right away). But Carter and I laughed out loud the entire movie, we recommended watching it if you haven’t yet! They also stopped the movie half way through for an intermission and theatre workers came in to take our food and drink order. Strange to us but everyone else wasn't shocked by it. Apparently, Bollywood movies make intermission pauses in the movie; whereas, Hollywood movies don't write them in so the cinema worker just cuts it wherever and whenever we feels like it and unfortunately this break came right before nail-bitter adventure part!
The next morning we got up and decided to head south toward the real touristy area of Colbana. Here was the Gateway to India and Taj palace that towered massively over the sea. Sea of people that is. And most were Indians, we couldn’t move through them without “miss/sir, one selfie please”... but it wasn’t a selfie, it was a pic with them, then they’d call their friend over, and then the entire family would get in. One “picture please” would turn into 7 pictures and 10 minutes worth of smiling.
The Taj Palace was stunningly luxurious, we went in to use the washrooms to live the high life for 15 minutes. We then passed Leopolds, a famed bar and restaurant in the heart of Colbana. From there we met up with Om, one of Carter's friend from University of Hartford who lives in Mumbai.
Our afternoon with Om and his girlfriend was fantastic, they treated us to the most delicious lunch at "The Table" and then we went to another restaurant for more local eats..chat and pans puri. We actually ate and laughed for 5 hours straight. Food coma. Very nice to meet them and very grateful to have friends all over the world! We topped off our afternoon of eating with traditional Indian Paan. Paan is a mix of Betel leave, dried fruit, spices, watermelon seeds (really whatever the creator wants to put in it) used by Indians as a digestive or chewing tobacco of sorts. Wherever you go in India, you will always without a doubt come across men chewing paan. And if you don’t physically see them chewing and spitting it, you most definitely see where they have been because you walk over red stained pavement no matter where you are.
We took one last quick walk of the place at we’ve missed, the cricket stadium, modern art museum and Calbana market. And then we were off for another overnight train.
Mumbai is an absolutely amazing city! Both Carter and I agreed that out of all the cities, of all the countries, we've visited thus far, Mumbai would be a city we could live in. There is SO much diversity because it is such a massive metropolis. A big shout to to Om for taking us under his wing to show us what a beautiful city Mumbai truly is!
Carter Bender & Brittany Wilson left Toronto, Canada to travel the world. Where will they be next? Follow their #cbwtravels blog to find out!