Author: flightofthecanadians

Travel Books: India

There’s a ton of literature surrounding India. Award-winning novels from Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children), also from Canadian authors, Arundhati Roy and Rohinton Mistry.

I’d read a few novels set in India: White Tiger by Aravind Singh, and although never explicitly declared as India, the experience in How to get filthy rich in rising Asia, would still apply. (filed as a Travel book: Philippines).

I wanted to read a travelogue of India, someone’s personal experience wandering around. And, as usual, following my eBook catalogue through Toronto’s Library, I had a limited reach. Nevertheless, I found one I really liked by a Canadian author no less:

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I found he lays out India’s history very simply, and with an insight into the conflict between Muslims and Hindus, particulary when the country was divided by the Partition. Also he offers depth into the Mughal Empire and how it was hugely influential in creating India from Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi – plus how Delhi itself was borne out of one conqueror’s architectural ideas to the next. All in all, I found it a good reference for developing a working understanding of what I was seeing as we travelled in India. Worth a read if you plan to travel there.

Books on my list

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A journalist follows families in one of Mumbai’s biggest slums – finding examples of resilience along the way. Or that’s what the book blurb tells me. Meant to be good.

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Another Canadian author. Follows the civil war and government crackdown between the 70s and 80s in Bombay (now Mumbai). Won awards – and high praise.

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Another book on Mumbai. About the city’s many facets, and how it all interacts to make it the place where so many people concentrate their time to make a living from below in the slums to up high on the movie screens as part of Bollywood industry.

image One-time war journalist in Iraq, returns again and again to India over the course of 20 years and writes about its effects on him.

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Chennai – Good bye

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This was our only photo in Chennai (CHUH – NYE) – our last dinner on the roof our hotel.

We only had two days in the city. The last two days of our 10 month long trip, and we chose to spend it at a buffet table and a shopping mall. We were tired, and wanted a couple of days to gather our stuff and relax before our next leg of travel back to our home and native land.

Suffice it to say, we didn’t have any grand tales to share from our time in Chennai.

Instead maybe some advice:

1. Go to more breakfast buffets.

2. Take your time there: don’t blow your appetite on an overfilled, first plate of waffles and pancakes.

3. Aim for four plates. For example, start slow with salad. Move over to the omelette station next, and pay service to some sausage and bacon. Then for your third plate, you could bring in some insulation like pancakes, waffles, or french toast. This means you can finish on a light note. As your reliever, go with some fruit.

4. Get the fresh stuff: is there one piece of french toast left in the container? do another couple of laps, or distract yourself with the colours at the salad bar then double back to get the new batch.

5. Treat it as your own food museum: people spend hours touring museums, taking history in slowly, one piece at a time. There’s no reason you can’t do the same. Consider a buffet, your own edible museum or art gallery that you can enjoy, bit by bit, digesting it all slowly.

Enjoy.

We’ve now been back in Canada for a couple of months, and I can confidently say that the first impression of life here is cold. Not groundbreaking news for winter in Canada – but we’d been living under sun for the past 10 months, and hadn’t been below zero in a long time. Our East Coast is having it rough, getting hammered with one snow storm after the next, which I think, is well summed up in this ditty:

Toronto is just cold. I know, in comparison to other parts of Canada like Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northern B.C, and Quebec we’re living in a paradise. My eyelids aren’t freezing shut, my nose hairs aren’t growing icicles, and it doesn’t hurt to breathe outside. And yet, I still feel cold. Maybe the sun has made me soft.

There’s a lot of good things to being back:
– fast WiFi
– good coffee
– personal laundry
– maple syrup

And some bad:
– The Toronto Maple Leafs

It was an amazing trip overall – with a ton of different experiences along the way, which I’m sure we’ll return to again and again as our memories are randomly triggered.

” Do you remember that drunk guy singing in a microphone on that Indonesian ferry?”

” Remember those mountain goats we saw off the trail in Nepal”.

” Remember that Chinese trekker who had a teddy bear on his bag to remember his wife”.

Blah, blah, blah. We can go on forever – and think it enormously interesting, while boring the shit out of everyone around us. However, in place of our subjective impressions, here’s something we can include people on: our trip by the numbers.

Months spent travelling: 10

Countries visited: 10

Planes taken: 32

Longest single flight: 14 hrs 35 mins. (Vancouver to Auckland)

Trains taken: 5 (overnight) + 2 (day)

Longest single train ride: 14 hrs (Delhi to Varanasi)

Buses taken: 2 (overnight) + 19 (day)

Longest single bus ride: 13 hrs (Mumbai to Goa)

Tuk-tuk/rickshaws taken: 100+ (at least)

Cars/Taxis taken: 40-ish

Cars we rented and drove ourselves: 2

Mopeds we rented and drove ourselves: 5

Boats/Ferries: 7

Longest continuous day of travel: 26 hrs (Phuket to Sukothai)

Guesthouses stayed: 84

Nights sleeping in airports: 2

Bouts of food poisoning: 2 – Marc 0 – Rose

Countries where one or more nationals mistook Rose as a fellow citizen : 8

Scuba dives: 12

Highest altitude climbed: 5416 metres (16, 878 feet)

Lowest depth swum below sea level: 30 metres (98 feet)

Trail hikes: 4

Longest hike: 20 days (Annapurna Circuit)

Major news stories of our disappearance: 5 (Google search: Marc + Rose + Nepal)

Strangers who asked me to pose in a photo with them: 4

Temples visited: beaucoup

How many times we changed time zones: 10

Most times zone crossed in a single day: 10

Total distance travelled: 98, 885.4 kms (two times around the earth + 18k leftover)

I may fill in a few spots here and there, add some more travel books and odds and ends. But otherwise, that was our trip.

Merci bien. Thanks for reading.

The Big Bangalore

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You may not have visited in person, but chances are you’ve been to Bangalore before.

With 8.4 million people, Bangalore is India’s third most populous city, home to a massive IT industry plus a huge outsourcing industry that includes call centers.

In the past 10 years, if you’ve called a company for customer service and spoke with someone who had an Indian accent, it’s a good bet they were in an office in this city.

Popularly called the “Garden City of India” and “Pensioner’s Paradise” for its nice climate, Bangalore drew attention from the British in the 19th Century who, also appreciating its environment, decided to move their garrison to the city.

From there, its early infrastructure grew with telegraph and rail lines connecting it to the rest of the British Empire in India. This led to demand for more services and Bangalore became the first Indian city to receive electricity from hydrolectric power. Three years later, perhaps seeing the city had favourable services and infrastructure, the Indian Science Institute was founded in Bangalore.

In retrospect, this move was a watershed moment for the city, as the Institute laid the foundation for science research that would attract further business, eventually leading the city into being the IT hub that it is today.

All interesting enough, but Rose and I weren’t here to admire its modern industry – we had to get in costume:

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Then accessorize:

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Because, we were invited to a three-day, Indian wedding bonanza for one of Rose’s friends – Anastasia – who was marrying the man of many smiles – Johan.

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Did I mention it was a THREE day wedding. That was our first clue that we weren’t in for a modest affair with mild fanfare and a small guest list. We were one of 450 guests who had come from all over the world: Australia, Dubai, England, Denmark, France, U.A.E, Canada, U.S, India and people I’m sure from a bunch of other countries of whom I didn’t get a chance to meet.

The second clue things weren’t going to be like any other wedding I’d experienced before?

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Festivities began with Rose and I each wearing our own particular Indian ensemble that suited the opening night. Outfits for which we consulted with shop owners at length for an afternoon in a fashion quarter of the city:

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“Is green enough? Is it flashy enough? Is it too flashy?”

All concerns faded, as our attention turned to the opening night kickoff with Johan arriving by horse drawn cart in behind a marching band:

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The only other entrance I’d seen that might compare to this was probably a Wrestlemania.

Things carried on into the hotel grounds where all the guests were staying, and as a nod to the city we were in, Johan and Anastasia then received flower necklaces via a delivery drone that descended from above the palm trees.

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High tech would then take a curtain call, as the couple, sitting in a ceremonial swing, had rose petals dropped on them by another drone: this time a helicopter whose bay doors swung open to drop its ordnance.

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The night continued on the dance floor where Rose held her own, and I did my best singing along to the choruses of Drake songs like “Best I Ever Had” (which I learned fairly easily since Drake likes to repeat words a lot) while the core dance crew knew the lyrics top to bottom.

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But we couldn’t make it past the first party on the first night, and headed to bed while others carried on until the early morning.

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Next day was a pool party, and as conscientious hosts, service attendants passed out Tylenol and sunglasses to late night partiers from the night before.

We got some sun, had a swim, got a shot with these guys who were part of a Carnival theme around the pool:

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Then I got a shot of Anastasia and her bridesmaids who, tired of standing around the pool or their Tylenol was wearing off and they thought it could help, decided to jump in:

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Eventually after they’d dried off, and others had had their fill of booze and food, we all moved to a park to throw stuff at each other. Specifically, colour:

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Holi is an annual Indian festival that takes place in Spring (Feb/March) where people throw vegetable dyes at one another. It’s meant to signify the victory of good over evil – Spring over Winter – light over darkness – dogs over cats (kidding) – and coincides with the vernal equinox every year.

But here, it was just for the sake of it:

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Everyone got cleaned off, and the rest of the night was pretty laidback, so I got some shots of the decorated hotel grounds:

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Of course, all of this until now was a lead up. Day three was the actual wedding day, and a new costume day where Rose and I got to see the clothes we got made in Jaipur for the first time:

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Saris are an accordion of fabric. I think it was something like 5 metres in all, for which Rose had to ask someone to arrange, twist and turn around her so it would fit and hang properly.

It worked out, and we made our way to the church where the wedding ceremony would take place.

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I’m not religious, and don’t go to church that often, but one thing was exactly as I remembered it from all the previous times I’ve been – uncomfortable pews. What does God have against a seat cushion or some padding? Or is it meant to be uncomfortable so the priest has our attention?

En tout cas.

We headed back to the final night of speeches, massive amounts of food and booze and a newly renovated poolside decorated just for the moment:

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This time, Rose and I held up our side and made it to the after party and….the after-after party. Thank you very much.

I won’t say how I felt the next day.

We said goodbye to the newlyweds and made our way to our last stop on our 10 month travel run – Chennai – where we say our final goodbye.

Talk soon