Archive for January, 2013

Pune

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

So, I was writing blog posts, but when internet was available didn’t really have time to post them.
I’ll get them up slowly!


The trip to Pune was uneventful. While it’s close geographically, about 100km as the crow flies, it’s significantly higher up, and the road winds up through the hills for quite some time. The drive took nearly 3 hours total.

Our driver gave us a small tour of sorts on the way in, pointing out some sights and landmarks. Pune has a large military presence, and this shows in particular how clean the city is compared to Mumbai (although still some way to go compared to Australian cities)
We drove up to a hotel, and the porters started taking our bags… but the hotel name didn’t match what we’d been told by Vanessa. A quick phone call sorted it out – our actual hotel was just next door, so he didn’t miss by much.

St. Laurn was a much higher class of accomodation to Mumbai. To be expected given it was organised by the bride to be for a large number of visiting family and friends. I believe we had 3 floors of the hotel booked out entirely.
Being New Years Eve, there was a party planned at one of Sunny (the groom-to-be)’s families place, so I had a nap before some cars were organised to ferry us over.

The party was quite an experience. Bollywood music blasting, some amazing Indian nibbles and Kingfisher strong – a rather dangerous beer of 8% alcohol content.
Shortly before midnight hit, one of Vanessa’s friends, Sid, convinced us to have a shot of some cashew liquor called Fenne (although I’m not sure on the spelling). Bad mistake though, it tasted absolutely foul, and upon checking, we still have no idea how strong it actually was – the percentage was not labelled!
New Years hit, hugs all round, more Bollywood dancing and eventually time for sleep.

The next day we set out (a little bleary eyed) to hunt for some outfits for the next night – an evening of song dance and food as a pre-wedding celebration.
Sunny and Vanessa joined Kylie, Toby (another friend) and myself to a few stores.
We travelled by auto rickshaw, or ‘rick’, a mode of transport that Kylie and myself had not mustered the courage to try in Mumbai (helped by the fact that they are restricted to only certain areas of the city). The little three wheeled tuk tuk’s as they are also known are little two stroke three wheeled zippy things, with room for three on a back seat behind the driver. In Goa, unless you hire a private vehicle, there aren’t really any such thing as normal taxi’s so there’s little alternative. The experience was not as traumatic as one might have expected, the only issue being the lack of english most of the drivers possess. Luckily during our time in Pune, there was almost always someone on hand attending the wedding who knew enough Hindi to get us safely to the destination.

After being regailed of Toby’s exploits when picking his Shyrvani the previous day (apparently taking over an hour and going through almost every single one in the shop) I was slightly apprehensive… Kylie however picked the first dress, and after looking through about 10 or so Shyrvani’s myself, I picked the second one I tried on, a green and gold number, together with a gold scarf.
Alterations were included in the price and we left it there to get taken in somewhat to pick up the next day.

Next stop was some shoes, with sandals for everyone!

Later I had one of the more bizzare experiences so far. Some more friends of Sunny and Vanessa were catching lunch at ‘Phoenix mall’ so we grabbed a couple of ricks and headed over. After walking through a metal detector and a quick bag check, it seemed as though we had just left the country and arrived back in Australia. The mall was almost identical to any in Melbourne. You could be mistaken for thinking you’d just walked in to Chadstone. It did really hammer home the difference in wealth between the rich and the poor. I imagine the security on the door isn’t just to stop security threats but also to weed out those who don’t really have the money to be there.
Some lunch and shopping were had, before headin back to the hotel to get ready for a ‘night of celebration and dancing’.

Wearing my new shyrvani, scarf and sandals, the guys hung out on the roof of the hotel for a while as the girls had to arrive first apparently. We arrived at a rather standard wedding reception type hall, with some Hindi additions, such as a wedding seat positioned on the stage.
The night started with the bride, groom, and some friends done an interpretive dance of how Sunny and Vanessa met, in a Hindi style of course, together with an amusing commentary. Then the night was essentially one big Hindi dance party, with a buffet meal thrown in. By now I began to recognize a few of the current Hindi pop songs, even if I didn’t know the lyrics at all.

The next day Kylie and myself attended a Hindu blessing ceremony for the groom. Together with his mother and father, and a Hindu priest, many offerings of fruit, nuts and rice were given, although I was only able to hear occasional explanations as to what was going on – each of the major gods, Shiva, Vishnu and Brama were asked for their blessing, together with each of the star signs.
At the conclusion of this, apparently it is a tradition for the groom’s clothes to be ripped off by the females in the room… Sunny managed to save his jeans (although sacraficed a few belt loops) but his shirt was ripped beyond repair. The first of many different traditions we encountered as the week continued.

The next day was the wedding proper. With some time to kill in the morning, a few of us decided to catch a movie in the morning as the ceremony didn’t start until 4pm or so. We headed to the nearest cinema which was showing ‘The Hobbit’ at a reasonable time and paid the equivalent of about AU$1 for the showing!
The cinema was actually much the same as any Australian cinema, except for the 5 minute interruption near the start of the movie as the sound suddenly stopped working. Unfortunately, being the epic-ly long movie that it is, we were forced to leave before it finished, so I’m still going to have to cach it once I get back to Australia!
The wedding time arrived, and we arrived at the Catholic church it was being held at. Again, the church was much the same as any Australian one, although an above average one. The ceremony was a full mass, with communion, although it was interesting to note the small differences in how the mass proceded, such as the response to ‘The Lord be with you’ being ‘And in your heart’ as opposed to ‘And also with you’ I’m accustomed to.
The ceremony was lovely, although the two video cameras hired to film it had some rather giant lamps on them, leaving vision a little blurry after they faced at you for any period of time.

The reception afterwards was right next to the hotel we were staying at – extremely convenient! After the standard speeches, the night also turned into a Hindi dance party, together with the buffet from the other night, but with the addition of a now newly married couple rightly claiming the spotlight (literally, given the previously mentioned video cameras!)
The night concluded with us crashing Toby’s room for some drinks after the reception ended.

The next day we had a quiet lunch at Sunny’s aunts place again. Some people were rather late, somewhat understandable given the previous night. Getting up was a little bit of a struggle myself. The food was lovely again, although I was somewhat amused to see that even the nicest houses in India still have their amusing differences at times from western ones – the fans being used did not have plugs; rather the wires were put directly into the wall sockets! Completely safe :\

Early morning and we shared a taxi with another wedding guest to the airport, and we were off to Goa!

More Mumbai

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

So I’ve been stuck with very limited internet the past few days due to extremely expensive internet.
For some reason it seems that the more expensive the hotel, the more they charge for internet… go figure.

Mumbai! Our second day consisted of a trip to Elephantia island – a small island about an hour boat ride from Mumbai proper. It’s known for a few cave temples cut out of the rock a short walk from the pier. The trip out was rather interesting. Mumbai is swaithed in smog most of the time, and out on the boat you couldn’t see more than a couple of kilometers into the distance. There is a huge number of boats just sitting in the harbour, and they would appear out of the smog and fade into the distance…

The caves themselves where personally underwhelming. Perhaps due to comparing them to Egypt… also despite signage saying there was a free tour guide, we couldn’t find one, and we didn’t feel like taking one of the random touts up on their offer 😛
The lunch we had after the caves was awesome though. Just a random little restaurant, but awesome food.

On getting back we did a small walking tour from the Lonely planet book, just seeing some of the local architecture. Saw a few museums and galleries which we resolved to come back to the next day.
After arriving back at the hotel, we decided to go to Jura beach – reasonably nearby to our hotel, and found a random asian restaurant, just off the beach. Very westernized and comparatively expensive, but was still quite nice. The beach itself was absolutely packed.
It felt kind of awesome to be able to actually direct the taxi home afterwards.

The next day we headed in to check out the modern art gallery. It was showing an exhibition of the artist Ramkinkar Baij, apparently the father of Indian modern art – there was a wide variety of paintings and sculptures. Having the entire gallery showing all one artist was quite interesting to be able to follow the progression of his art.
We then crossed the road to the museum. The presenter of the audio guide at the museum had a very sly sense of humour. Hightlight was the hindu sculpture collection. There was also an ancient egypt visiting exhibition, but having been to egypt we skipped through it pretty quickly.

We then caught a quick taxi ride to Haji Ali mosque – a mosque built on a rock which is only accessible by a causeway at low tide. It was extremely crowded, almost entirely with locals. We didn’t enter the mosque itself, as most of it was under construction at the time anyway.

We then attempted to get a taxi to the Mumbai Hard Rock Cafe – as Kylie attempts to go to one in every country she visits. The driver, after saying he knew what we meant, then proceeded to drive around in circles for the next 20 minutes, before eventually asking someone who did know. It was rather empty, but the staff there were awesome. It seemed the staff outnumbered the patrons about 3-1.

The next morning, we grabbed breakfast at the little cafe pointed out to us on the first day, which was unfortunately shut. Was sad we only just found it open on the last day we had in Mumbai, because it was actually awesome! But our ride to Pune turned up (organized by Vanessa, Kylie’s friend about to get married) and off we went!