Tag Archives: India

Mumbai Revisited

During my trip to Kerala, I stopped off in Mumbai for a couple of days on my way back to the states – I have family there.  Of all places I have been in my life, my trip to Mumbai was the most interesting, eye-opening and fun!

I’m sure many of you have seen Slumdog Millionaire as I have.  The actual living conditions of everyday people did not hit me in the movie until I actually saw it for myself.  And, it then hit me like a ton of bricks.  Just my first day there I saw people living in ‘homes’ made of branches and the shirt off their back.  I saw people eat OFF the street while traffic is going in full volume – and there is some mayjah traffic issues there.  There are slums galore.

But, the moment of truth only came when we were driving down a busy intersection and I saw a 2-year-old kid walking through the intersection between the lanes in his diapers.  This baby was covered in dust and seemed like he was not bothered in the least.

Mind you I had every opportunity to take his picture to show you but for some reason I felt it not right.  So, I don’t know if you will feel what I felt, but all I know is that I won’t ever forget.

Lesson No. 1:  I am really lucky and blessed to have everything I have.  Lesson No. 2:  You make it work.

So, without further ado, here are the highlights from my trip to Mumbai:

Binks insisted on getting a samosa at the airport before arriving in Mumbai.

Then we arrived.

We were immediately greeted by a street vendor attempting to sell us re-printed/copied books.

He stayed for a long time because again he knew we were Americans.

I must say the traffic was the worst I’ve seen in any city.  There are so many people living in Mumbai that it’s unbelievable just how they live.  For instance, for a 750 sq ft. apartment, there may be 5-7 families living in one apartment so that they can afford a space.  Or, you have situations where someone has a three bedroom home and 3-4 families live in one room while renting the other space out to make income.

And did I mention they have corruption issues with the government?

I think the sign is problem No. 1.  Did you “sspot” it?    🙂

We started the day with a tour of the areas that were hit by the 2008 terrorist attacks, including the Gateway of India, Taj Hotel and Leopold Cafe (for lunch).

Then came Leopold Cafe.  Let me preface this by saying that Binks is not a foodie.  At all.  How we get along is beyond me! 🙂  But, to this day – he cannot stop talking about Leopold Cafe.  You again have to take my word on it – it was THAT good!

Leopold Cafe was another site of the terrorist attacks.  The attackers actually had lunch in the cafe before they began their tirade on restaurant, killing at least 10 people.  The windows where the bullets went through still remain.

The menu was thorough and had plenty of cuisines.

The drinks were offered in volumes.  I think this was the pitcher – of Kingfisher, nonetheless.

I swear it was full prior to this picture.  *burp* *hiccup*

The service – awesome and attentive without being pushy!

The food?  There are no words.

And, obviously there is no food – thanks a bunches Binks!

Then we took time to go to Juhu beach, the most famous beach in Mumbai.  Now, Juhu is a suburb of Bombay – and let me tell ya – rich to say the least.  The movie stars live here, but unfortunately I didn’t see any.

And no, it isn’t the cleanest beach.  But it is crowded – as are most things in Mumbai.  We of course made sure to hit up the vendors at the beach.

Enter the recent favorite – the gola!  Gola is the Indian version of a slush/sno-cone.  It’s ice that’s slushed and smushed on a stick, which pretty much looks like a Popsicle.  Then, the Gola wala pours any flavor of syrup (pictured above) onto the ice and you slurp on the flavored ice.  I got the chocolate flavor.  I still dream about this.

Then the classic lemon soda.  Simple lemon juice, soda water, and chaat masala.  Yum!

My cousins ordered more but I could only handle so much.

Binks and I was really fortunate to have family here to stay with and show us the lay of the land.  After the snacks, we were on our way home.

So, goodbye Mumbai with your gritty exterior and soulful interior.  One thing I know for a fact is that I’m coming back – even if it’s just to eat at the Leopold Cafe and try the chocolate gola at Juhu Beach.

If you want to get the real feel of India with tons to do, go to Mumbai.  I heart it.

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The American Tax in India and the Best Meal EVER!

Almost everything in India is negotiable.  If you don’t want to pay full price on that ice cream, just tell them what you want to pay and most likely, (if the amount is reasonable) you get your ice cream!

I of course paid full price for that ice cream because I really wanted to try delicious Indian mango ice cream.  Take my word – it was delicious!

Like I said – all things are negotiable save oneThe American. Whether you’re white, black, brown, orange, green or blue, once the Indians get a whiff that you are from the states, it’s over.

Case and point – Binks and I wanted to mozy along on a houseboat for a long afternoon.  My aunt and some family wanted to join.  So, we all went to the houseboat office to ask for the price.  Despite the fact I’m dressed in a salwar and am not talking, there is something that caused the manager to stare at me and Binks, and tell my aunt: “‘The price for everyone is 18,000 rupees.”  (Approx. $400!)  Ridonkulous!

There were about 5 of us, and my aunt had gone previously for less than half that price with more people nonetheless.  And for once, no one was willing to negotiate.  Everyone thinks, the Americans have dollars and it rains money there.  (A post on this later.)

Needless to say, Binks and I high-tailed it out of there.  We went to Alleppey beach instead.

After being in the sun, I needed a refreshing snack.  Enter the orange:

It looks monstrous but if I told you that these pruney wrinkly things uncover the most delicious orangey orange you have ever eaten, would you believe me?  You must! I think I had one-a-day.  They were that delicious and because I like oranges! 🙂

Now for the kicker, after the beach, we drove about 3 hours to the shopping city – Ernakulam/Cochin.  Upon arrival, everyone was hungry and my aunt suggested lunch at the Grand Hotel.  It has of the best and most reputable restaurants in the city, I dare say the state.

First, the fabulous and lengthy menu:

It has everything you could want and more.  Indian and not.  I went for the usual/classic – The Meal and The Fish.  At first, I had no idea what that meant, but I was all in.

We were started off with light airy papads.

Then arrived The Fish.  It arrived wrapped in banana leaf, which the waiter carefully opened.

I don’t think you can imagine all the steam that came out after they unwrapped.  This was the most delicious fish I have ever eaten to date.  Believe me because I ate the whole thing myself.  And, I have no regrets.

Turns out my meal was the traditional thali, which consists of rice and several Indian side dishes, including but not limited to the following:

different vegetable thorans, fish curry (not pictured),

and different chutneys.

My aunt ordered the mutton biryani.

All of the food was so delicious and totally makes me want to come back!  Such great service and a great presentation.  I will definitely make the 3 hour trip back when I go again to visit (post coming soon).

We went shopping galore.  Spent way too much money for pretty things, and finally made our long  journey back to the house.

After that big meal, an evening snack was sufficient.

That looks like an unripe banana, but it was wonderfully ripe on the inside.  You have to trust me on that.

I’m an American, and it’s non-negotiable.

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India Recap Part I – Lay of the Land

I titled this India Recap Part I only because I know that there will be more than one post about my trip to India – whether it be 2 or 87 is beyond me.  All I know is that I took close to 2,000 pictures (and, I happened to get lazy on the last couple of days too).  I’m sure there has to be at least two posts out of those pics!

Overall, my trip to India with Binks was enlightening at the very least in many ways.

First, let me start out by saying the trip started out only like ours would.  Remember when I said it was a mad rush to the finish?  It was that and more.  Binks was working until 10 a.m. and we had to be at the airport at noon.  On the way home at 10:15 a.m., Binks calls to ask, “Hey, do we need a Visa to go to India?”  I almost lost it!  If my parents weren’t there, he would have suffered the sh1t storm of the century!  So, instead of leaving on December 1, 2010, we actually left on December 3, 2010 and camped out in Houston at the Indian Embassy.  Not the best start.

We stopped first in Dubai and saw the tallest building in the world – Burj Khalifa.  There are no words – it is a massive thing this building.

My picture does not do it justice.  I thought Texas had the “Bigger the Better” slogan – then came Dubai.  Everything is done to the extreme – so much so that a lot of office buildings don’t have electricity because they can’t fill it up with people.

We spent about 5 hours in Dubai with family and then were off to Kerala – a hop skip and 3.5 hours away!

Upon arriving and meeting my FABULOUS grandfather, it was lunch time.  We had rice, fried fish, green beans thoran and lemon pickle.  Delicious!

After lunch, it was time for a tour of the property.

Meet the backyard:

As a kid (did I mention I used to live at this house as a kid?!), I ran around this area without any worry or care in the world, and there were tons of fruit and nut trees that I would just pick from and eat out of – I sound like a monkey.  But if you were to ask me to step foot it in it today, I would laugh in your face and run the other direction.  Thank goodness for ‘paved’ areas.

This pathway runs up to this – the infamous river behind the house.  As a kid, everyone in the family (separately by gender) would take baths in this river.

Now, if you were to ask me to take one step down, I again would laugh and scream running away.  (To be fair, when I was a kid, the water was much cleaner – it’s funny how perception works.)

Then, I introduced Binks to the banana trees.  I explained how this:

into this:

I still don’t think he gets it.  These city boys.

Now meet the water supply.

I don’t know why I had to but I had to plead with the people of the house to boil the water for me and Binks.  I don’t care how long it has worked for them, but I’m not taking any chances on this well water.  During our last trip, my dumb sister thought the water tasted fine and left with a severe case of you know

Case and point.

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Hello from India!

Well turns out there is a computer in my family’s house, so I’m not technologically deprived.  Nonetheless, as I don’t have a way to upload my pics, I am not appropriately blog-ready.

But, I have been having a fabulous time in India, and I can’t wait to properly blog about it!

So far, here are the 10 important lessons I have learned thus far:

1.  Hand sanitizer has become my best friend.

2.  Mosquitoes have not.

3.  Clean is subjective.

4.  Squatting requires skill and leg muscles, but desperation works just the same.

5. Check all bottled water to make sure it’s not re-bottled water.

6.  The food is AMAZING!

7.  I am in fruit and veggie heaven.

8.  Munnar must be the most beautiful place on Earth.

9.  Pot holes are an understatement.

10.  Toilet paper is a now a purse necessity.

This has probably been the best trip of my life.  I have been able to reconnect with my family and be around my grandfather.  To top it all off – Binks is loving it, which makes me love it even more!

Life is good.

🙂

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