Mumbai is the Bomb (Eh!)

Saturday, December 31

I couldn't resist the lame joke, sorry. But seriously Mumbai is one of my favorite cities I've seen in India. I was only there for 3 days but I could it's the only city where I said, I could live here. Landing in the warm humid air was a nice change from the freezing wind in the rickshaw in Delhi, rushing to the airport where the only reason we didn't miss our flight was because it was delayed due to fog. My karma must be sooo good right now becuase I can't believe how great everything has turned out these last few weeks.

So first night in Mumbai we slept at an AIESEC trainee house out in the more slum part of the city. Even that was nice though because at 1AM we found a place for Chicken tikka and beers (good luck finding that in Chandigarh). The next morning after noticing that some insect literally ate half my right arm, we took the hour long taxi ride to Colaba, the tourist trap and party center for backpackers. The colonial buildings sprung out of the small huts and suddenly we were on the water with the Gateway to India in front of us and the huge crazy blend of European and Muslim architecture that is the Taj Hotel.

I was sold on the city as we wandered around and saw an amazing food market and the best shopping to be had in India. You can buy anything here and people barley try to mess with you compared to say, Delhi. So that night we busted the bank and started with drinks at Leopolds which was right beside our hotel. It's a trendy little tourist spot now that must have had more charm in the old days from what I've read in Shantaram. Then we met some American girls and decided to live the high life going to the club in the Taj Mahal hotel.

It's been so long since I've been clubbing I almost forgot what it's like to stand in line for a half hour just to get into a place. The line was a great mix of rich people from the hotel, foreign Indians mostly here for family weddings and backpackers. Once we squeezed into the packed club and looked around it was clear this was as posh as we've been in India. There was marble everywhere and carved marble looking like the stuff at the Taj Mahal used as screens between rooms. We decided to get a drink and after standing in line at the bar for 10 min we were told to stand in line somewhere else to buy drink tickets and then come back to the bar. Only in India do they create systems to discourage people from spending money at the bar. So 30 min later after making friends with numerous other foreigners and bitching about the system we had our long island iced teas and went dancing. It didn't take long for some of our favorite Hindi songs to be played and it was Salam Numaste that dragged Mads and I and the two American girls onto the stage where we stayed until the bar closed at 3:30!

All in all i loved Mumbai and I can't wait to go back plus I got another really bad hair cut and head massage (I look like a little kid) but the beach and sun in Goa is pretty nice and last night I watched the sun set as I drank a beer on the balcony of our beach hut. Ridiculous I know. Happy New Years eveyone!

I couldn't get my own pic up top is what Taj Hotel and the harbour in Mumbai look like, I couldn't believe it was India either.
nicholas, 12:53 AM | link | 1 comments |

Christmas in Chandigarh

Thursday, December 22

Well this is it, my last day at work in Chandigarh. It's been an experience if nothing else but I'm ready to go traveling and hit the beach for New Years. Christmas in Chandigarh is shaping up nicely. We had a great party bankrolled by one of the American companys a trainee is working for. It was unbelievable to have champagne, wine and real cheese. It's the first time since I've been here that I've had food I would probably also have at home and it made me a little homesick but mostly it just made me hungry.

We are having a Christmas dinner on Sunday in the nice and decorated trainee house. I even got my cooking instructor (I've been taking Indian cooking classes and I just learned how to make butter chicken and naan, we gotta have a big Indian dinner part Jill) to make us some plum cakes for us. Here are a few photos from my farewell party which involved drinking in and spinning in circles in front of our house. That's Kent the other Canadian face down in the dirt trying to dig back to Canada. With no good clubs in Chandigarh we have to make your own entertainment.
That's Kent the other Canadian face down in the dirt trying to dig back to Canada. With no good clubs in Chandigarh we have to make your own entertainment.

nicholas, 10:53 PM | link | 2 comments |

A Morning in the Life of Nicholas

Monday, December 12

It strikes me every now and then how different my life in India is from my life back home and yet I don't notice that much anymore. I was telling my parents the other day about how I was so annoyed because one of our hot water heaters is broken and it takes forever for everyone get hot water for a bucket shower in the morning. They said, "you have a bucket shower?" So to give you a taste of my life in India I've decided to take you through a typical morning in Chandigarh.

1. First, depending on if anyone remembered the night before, I have to get up 20 minutes before I actually want to in order to turn on the hot water heater in the kitchen. After 20 min some steaming hot water is ready and I can fill up my bucket and carry it to the bathroom. The shower is a marble floor with a drain in it that is always clogged with my room mates hair.

2. I then layout all my shower supplies along the edge of the shower and mix some cold water into my bucket so that I don't scald myself. It's freezing in the bathroom these days because the window is broken and the temperature gets to around 5C overnight. The first cup of the cup is like heaven but that's quickly followed by goose bumps and shivering so you have to dive back in for more hot water.

3. Rationing is important so that you can get all the soap off with a single bucket of hot water. I find a half bucket is needed for shampoo and soap.

4. Now it's time to towel off in the freezing cold bathroom. This occurs as fast as possible and I throw on my clothes which likely have not been washed in some time because I have to hand wash them myself in the same bucket I shower from. Needless to say a bucket is a very useful item in India.

5. I then stumble out to the kitchen and make some coffee in a pot of boiling water and pour it through a screen. I toast my bread over the gas stove's flame. Coffee saves my life because I am then alert enough to navigate the roads of Chandigarh on my bike.

6. So I hit the street and ride through two life threatening traffic circles on the way to my office. I have not been hit yet but I ran my front tire into a cycle rickshaw the other day and gave it a nice wobble. Oooppps, but there seems to be an understanding here that you are bound to hit things on the road and no one thinks much of it. Then I get to work and it's just another day in Chandigarh.
nicholas, 5:38 AM | link | 8 comments |

I think I'll be ridiculously good looking for a living

Friday, December 9

I figure I better just put this photo on the web before someone else does because I know there are many copies of it floating around. But here's my explanation for it.

Traveling in India is hard work. Buses are uncomfortable and the roads make it almost impossible to sleep. I haven't ridden on many trains yet but the train to Shimla above was not that comfortable either. We'll just say this photo captures what traveling in India is all about. Being dirty, hung over, tiered, sweaty and falling asleep with your head half way out the window and yet still getting off for another adventure.

I guess the unbelievable amount of whiskey I drank the night before helped me dose off for awhile. Damn I'm hot!
nicholas, 4:32 AM | link | 5 comments |

Paan Talk

Thursday, December 8

Location: Chandigarh, Sector 17, walk two block back from Gymcanna's Pub towards the Taj Hotel and it's right beside the road.
Rating: *****/5

For those who have not been to India or even if you have been if you didn't party with locals you probably never had the delicate treat that is paan. I have not tried much of it but thanks to my fiends Aman I am now a recognized customer if not a regular at the best paan shop in Chandigarh. There are a number of types of paan but the basic idea is a bunch of stuff wrapped in a betelnut leaf that you suck and chew on. I'm a fan of the sweet paan because it doesn't have tobacco in it.

This particular paan stand is the only light you'll see as you head towards the Taj Hotel at night. A small open window with dirty glass jars filled with who knows what and a friendly guy that mixes it all up before your eyes. First the betelnut leaf is put down and some kind of sweet liquid rubbed on it. Then what I think are rose petals, coconut, mint and who knows what else is put in before wrapping it all up. The first one I had was the regular size. I struggled to get it into my cheek to suck on so I've now moved to the smaller paan. When you initially get it into your cheek the sweetness releases first followed by mind and a slightly nutty flavor. The paan usually lasts about 10 min depending on how much you chew and suck on it. Then comes the struggle to get it out of your mouth and clean out everything from in between your teeth. While it's a messy treat it always leaves my mouth fresh and tasty and there's always at least one or two green things stuck in my teeth (hot I know).

The newest addition to the paan family is the mint cigarette. Now I don't smoke, seriously I cough like crazy when I try to be cool and smoke but he gave me one for free so how could I refuse. I picked a Marlboro because I'm a classy guy. First the cigarette was coated with some brown jelly (I don't want to know what it is) and then rolled in what looked like dried mint. I was skeptical but when I tried it I was sold. Like breathing in vics vapor rub followed by the usually cigarette buzz. If only my lungs didn't feel like I stuck my mouth on an exhaust pipe the next morning I might actually get to like them. In any case it's a nice treat from time to time and yeah, I can quit whenever I want.
nicholas, 2:48 AM | link | 6 comments |

A weekend in Tibet (almost)

Monday, December 5

So this weekend I had a comatose trip to the mountains which is exactly what I needed. On Friday night / Saturday morning we hoped on a freezing cold bus to Dharamsala. It's an old hill station in the mountains and where the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Dali Lamma stay. The bus ride up was nice because there were not many people on it but it was freezing. It was probably around 2c and the buses are not heated and none of the windows close properly. Luckily I was thinking ahead and even though it was a pain I took my blanket. There were four of us and within an hour we all had made our blankets into cocoons and pulled them up over our heads. The bus ride was unbelievably bumpy and once again I'm not sure if I slept or just floated in a semi conscious state as another bump sent me a half foot off my seat.

We got into Dharamsala at about 9am and had a not very tasty parantha for breakfast in a small restaurant with an amazing view of the sun rising over the foggy valley. There is not much to do in Dharamsala so we started hiking up towards McLeod Ganj where the actual town is on top of the hill. After about 30 minutes of walking up a steep hill we decided it's time to catch a taxi the rest of the way. Once in the city we found a nice little hotel with hot water (yey) and a fantastic sunset view out over the hills.

After we were settled in it was straight to veg momos and coffee for me. These tasty little Tibetan treats are like a steamed perogey filled with mixed veg or mutton if you want. They were so tasty sitting on the sidewalk in the sun the I barley even complained about another bad cup of coffee. Then we hit the market and shopped up a storm buying Tibetan jewelry. It was so nice because instead of the usual hassle involved in an Indian market everyone just sat back and let you shop away.

A beautiful sunset into the foggy hills was followed by the best pasta I've had in India. I have to say that for me India has earned a reputation of consistently making the worst pasta in the world. I was pleasantly surprised by Nick's Italian Kitchen with homemade spinach and cheese ravioli and an atmosphere that made me beg for a glass of red wine which off course was no where to be found.

Sunday was another relaxing day visiting the Tibetan monetary and taking photos in front of the Dali Lamma's house. He was there this weekend but not giving any talks which is too bad. He starts a week long teaching session next week and I wish I could go but guess I'll have to hang with him another time. In the temple they have an organic, vegetarian restaurant for visitors where I had the best thin crust pizza in India. The menu even said real olives (I wonder what the fake ones are). Another sunset and we got on a crowded public bus back to Chandigarh. I sat with my bag in my lap the whole way and my knees have bruises from being jammed into the seat in front of me but still it was a fantastic trip and I could have stayed weeks up there.

Leave a comment and tell me what you did last weekend.
nicholas, 10:34 PM | link | 3 comments |

Many Many Happy Returns of the Day, My Birthday in India

Friday, December 2

I feel so old. I turned 23 a few days ago on Nov 27 but being in India the party was on Indian time and happened just last night. Actually there were two other people who had birthdays in the same week so we combined for a huge bash in a Canadian Consulate Mansion. Thanks to Samantha for hosting the party and showing me the first place that felt like a real house in India. When I walked in the door immediatley I was amazed. There was real furniture. Couches, chairs and brand new appliances in the kitchen including a microwave and a toaster. I toast my bread on a fork over the flame of our gas stove. It gives it a nice propane flavour that really goes well with strawberry jam.

There were carpets on the floor that I swear were thicker than my matress is and furniture that is actually comfortable. So after all the drooling, mainly over the fact that there was a fully functional kitchen in the city we proceeded to party. I got some great presents including a belaclava for the cold winter up here and to hold up some chai stands, a toy gun to fend off rickshaw drivers the next time they throw rocks through our windows and the soundtrack to DUC. If you have not seen this movie yet (chances are you haven't) you should head to your local hindi movie store and get it. Half the movie takes place in Calgary and there are some lumber jack assasins that get their asses kicked by some Indian cops out by Canmore and a dramatic flashback scene to a German restaraunt in the middle of nowhere near Banff getting robbed by some young punks. It's a very bad movie but has great sentimental value for me becuase it was the first hindi movie I saw in Chandigarh.

So as the night went on we were feeling a little bad for the guard who sits in a little booth in front of the house all night protecting us for not much of anything. So a few of us headed out and he kindly invited us into his booth. It was actually pretty nice in there with a little heater and a fan. He's 22 years old and is married with a four month old son. He asked if I was married and I said I'm way too young but then realized that's kind of relative I guess. We had a nice chat and I made him some chai that for some reason turned out red but he was polite and drank it anyway.

As the party in the Canadian mansion wound down my 36-C house mates (aka dirty sexy which is what is sounds like in an indian accent) headed for home. Of course the party didn't end there. We had whiskey and water at home, the traditional Indian drink so Mads and I stupidly played last man standing when we got home. I guess it's a Danish game and the only ruld I could make out was drink till you drop. We stayed up way too late and today is the toughest day at work ever. I made the usual "I'll never drink again!" promise this morning but I know that Indian whiskey is just too tempting and I'll break it soon. All in all a nice birthday party despite the headache which I think is worse now that I'm 23.
nicholas, 4:14 AM | link | 1 comments |