It Touches My Heart

Monday, January 23

This post is a farewell to my friend who I've lived with, worked with and traveled with for the past 6 months. We went through a rough patch over that whole Hans Island thing but not even a cold Arctic island that our countries (Denmark and Canada) were fighting over could keep us apart.

We've spent way to much time together partying, doing a hugely overambitious project at work our last week and some how we never killed each other. I'll miss ya. Have fun with family and friends back in Copenhagen. Hope I see you again soon!

Que soundtrack ... I know it touches my heart too!

nicholas, 4:39 AM | link | 2 comments |

Hyderabad, bad, naughty!

Tuesday, January 17

Partying in India never disappoints whether it's three people standing around my old house dancing to rap music at 4 am or a car full leaving Hyderabad and driving into the wilderness to find what seemed to be a mythical club.

We got into Hyderabad at 8 am after miraculously managing to get some sleep on the 12 hour bus ride from Bangalore. The bus itself set the mood for the weekend with red, blue and green lights inside and cranking out hindi music so loud that I couldn't drown it out even with my ipod on full volume.

We got into Hyderabad and went straight to the Monster office to meet my friend Aman from back in Chandigarh. The office was in the middle of a posh looking neighborhood with a mix of huge houses and little shacks. After heading to his place for a shower we set out to do all the tourist things in the city like eating biriyani, visiting charminar ... and finishing off with beers sitting by the lake before heading to a club. As usual they claimed it was 1,000Rp charge to get in but miraculously when the group of trainees from Hyderabad showed up with a bunch of girls, we walked in for free and proceeded to get free drinks. The club was actually nice too and we smoked apple tobacco from big pipes and danced to trance which seemed to be the theme for the night.

It wasn't long before the cops showed up and at 12:00 sharp shut down the bar. After much deliberation over what might still be open / let us in we packed into the back of a car and headed for Treasure Island. The DJ from the club was with us and claimed it would be great and he could get us in. When I lost feeling in my legs and outside the car window it was deserted brush, I started to wonder if this was worthwhile. Finally we drove through a gate and 4 guys made us all get out of the cars. Next thing I know we were in for free and walking on a bridge over a swimming pool towards fires and a fenced in DJ area. It should like it's great right, however as with so many parties in India, no one was there. What do you expect from a resort / club 45 min outside the city in the middle of nowhere. I wonder sometimes about the business plans that people come up with here. A total of about 40 people in an area big enough for 2,000 danced and drank and made special requests to the DJ's who ignored them and played trance all night long. It was ridiculous and I loved it. Plus I got to see two girls from Montreal I had met in Goa again. I gotta say some people, like them, really hold up our Canadian stereotype because they are some of the friendliest people I've met in India.

A rickshaw ride and an hour later we finally got home and climbed the fence into my friends place since the gate was locked. This turned out to be a bad decision as we found out the next morning when the landlord asked him to move out because of it. I hope it was just some strange anger management issues that will pass but landlords here can be very strange and parental for some reason.

Now I'm back in Bangalore enjoying some western lifestyle and meeting with some companies so next time I'll give you the Bangalore update.
Ahhh a monster got Mads!

nicholas, 12:58 AM | link | 3 comments |

Chai Talk and WTF is going on in Canada?

Thursday, January 12

Location: The Indian Coffee House, Cochi
Rating: ***/5

Cochin, like other parts of Kerala I've seen is a strange mix of various religions combined with a colonial past and an influx of tourists. Along with this is the communist flags and jeeps with loudspeakers campaigning in the State wide election. This international flavour of the city led me to expect something special from the chai and I was not too disappointed.

The Indian Coffee House is a staple across India serving decent food from their limited menu. While lacking anything that resembles atmosphere the red plastic chairs and waiters headdress that look like they're made from folded napkins do lend to the experience. While my tomato omelet was far too spicy to be considered breakfast food and blackened with pepper, the chai was tasty. I must admit that in fact I ordered a coffee however at the Indian Coffee House the chai and coffee are nearly indistinguishable due to the sheer volume of sugar and cream added to each. The warm sweet drink was light with an inviting froth on top that refreshed me despite the hot and humid sea air.

Ok I have to break into this Chai talk with some politics because I just read that the Conservative Party of Canada (we're voting on Jan 23 for those who don't know) have a 10 point lead in the polls. What happened? I don't read the newspaper for a few days and Canada turns upside down. This i scary stuff!

Admittedly I have not followed this election with my usual diligence partly because I'm overseas but also because I assumed it would have similar results to the last one. How wrong could I be! But seriously do we really want a Conservative government. For starters Stephen Harper is the lamest guy in the world and he'll even admit his lack of personality as he has on many occasions.

I can just imagine every visiting dignitary coming up with excuses to skip diner at Sussex Drive. "Uhhh yeah, this is President Kuizumi. Sorry Stephen I can't make it to discuss beef imports and the FTA with Japan. I have to ummm, wash my hair and there's a good documentary on the ahhh ... CBC about rainbow fish I want to catch."

In an attempt to catch up I've gone quickly through the platforms of the parties and I will say there is nothing totally insane about the Conservative platform (except maybe that arctic defence thing, I mean come on!) But I can't forget that this is the same party who for months said they would reopen the gay marriage debate and somehow do it without using the notwithstanding clause while every legal expert told them it was impossible. It's the party who made deals with the Bloc to bring down the government and force an election with no regard for national unity. This is the party who from reading their platform is suggesting at least a couple of constitutional reforms. This is a leader that forced small C conservatives like Belinda and Scott Brison to cross the floor. I come from the Conservative heartland and while the party has adopted a moderate tone in this election it still has the same MPs who in the past have voiced very concerning views on gay rights, the Charter, and immigration. The most concerning thing however is that the votes the conservatives are winning are not a result of visionary policy or leadership but punishment for Liberal screw ups.

In the end we all have to make up our own minds but before you step into the booth lets all remember, especially you Quebec voters, that we rarely make good decisions when we're angry. So take a deep breath and imagine it's a swim suit competition between the caucuses of each party. Paul is trying to look cool in his straw hat but Belinda steals the show in her retro bikini. Layton looks great in some board shorts while Harper runs Baywatch style down the beach in his speedo with MacKay and Stockwell in wetsuits pulling up behind on their seadoos. Hmm tough choice....Good luck Canada, I hope we all make it through this one alright.

nicholas, 3:19 AM | link | 2 comments |

What Gods Country?

Tuesday, January 10

I heard before I came to Kerala that it was Gods Country. While I'm not sure which god since the state has a crazy mix of nearly every religion on the face of the earth, it is definitely a gods country. While I've only spent a day on Cochi, it is definitely not the most scenic place. However the mix of Portuguese, Indian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Christian is amazing. Actually I just walked down Jew Street. While it sounds like a politically incorrect thing to say I promise that's actually what the street signs say in big letters.

We got into Appali late at night and found a decent hotel that had HBO, a nice treat since I have not seen moving pictures in awhile. Mads and I were supposed to meet a couple of friends and go house boating but our friends got impatient I guess since we took so long to get there (see last post for the trials of reaching Appali). We checked at their hotel to find out they were already gone and then we rushed to the dock where the house boats leave from encouraging the rickshaw driver to go faster the whole way. When we got there we had one of those amazing moments that only happen in India. No we didn't find our friends. After a few agonizing minutes trying to explain who we were looking and what we were doing to a guy who didn't speak English, he pulled out his phone and called his friend. His friend spoke English and quickly said he'd help. Before we knew it, Mads and I were walking up and down the dock along with some complete strangers all looking for our friends. It's amazing how despite feeling like people are constantly trying to cheat you, Indians will amaze you with how they will go out of their way to help you.

Anyway, it turned out that the Kerala god was on our side after all since it rained most of the day our friends were out house boating. Mads and I relaxed and watched a movie and then headed out in beautiful sunny weather onto the backwaters the next day. House boating in Appali truly is amazing. We sat and ate delicious fish and pineapple prepared by our cook, swam and sun tanned. When the sun started setting it was one of the most amazing things I've seen with palm trees framing the pink sky that reflected in the rice paddies and on the lake all around. Gotta give it up to the Kerala God, he/she/they did good work making this place. Sadly the chai on the boat was not very good and I don't think it contained any tea what so ever so I am still in search of good South Indian chai.
nicholas, 3:19 AM | link | 1 comments |

Chai Talk

Sunday, January 8

Location: Brahman Restaurant, Allapuzah (Alappi), Kerala
Rating: **/5

It literally took us days to get to Kerala which only heightened my anticipation for some South Indian Chai. Between Hampi to Allapuzah was one of the longest trips I've taken in India. Despite the short distance we ended up getting messed around by travel agents, spending the night in some small town, and practically killing people to get onto a bus that was standing room only.

Buses in India truly redefine the term mass transit. The bus that we took from some small town,. I don't know how to spell the name, to Cochi was actually very comfortable however at the first stop hundreds of pounds of steel grates were loaded onto the roof. While it was impressive to watch the men climb to the top of the bus with obviously very heavy piles of metal on their heads, once we were on the road again it was quickly clear that we were over loaded. Every bump in the road, and there are many, combined with the buses suspension to create a kind of amusement park ride sending the bus on an up and down roller coaster for at least 10 seconds. A speed bump along the way caused the entire bus to bottom out on the road for two bounces which I'm sure sent sparks flying at the car behind us. When we got to Cochi we were stuck in the Saturday night rush at the bus station. After not managing to cram onto the first two buses Mads noticed that everyone was getting on the buses at the back of the station where they filled with gas. We ran back and jumped into the moving bus and made our way to the back where there was a little room to stand. Dripping in sweat we stumbled of the packed bus, finally in Allapuzah.

I tell this story to explain how badly I needed a relaxing chai for breakfast the next morning. We asked a rickshaw driver to take us to a nice restaurant and ended up at the nice looking Brahman. The masala chai came quickly however on first sip I knew it would not satisfy. While the mixture of tea and milk highly favoured the tea as I enjoy and expected in the south, the masala mix did not have the same rich flavour I have come to expect. The tea was spiced heavily with cloves giving a bitter wooden taste. The addition of nutmeg and cinnamon could have salvaged the chai but sadly there were none in the masala mix they used. Luckily my fresh pineapple juice was delicious and saved the experience. Hopefully I can get a better masala chai on the house boat we plan to take tomorrow.
nicholas, 1:32 AM | link | 1 comments |

Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, January 4

Well I had a lovely new years forgetting what day it is laying on the beach in Palolem in Goa. I practically forgot that it was new years except for the crowds at night. Palolem is the most laid back place I've ever been. It takes at least an hour to get anything you order so when in urgent need of a beer it's best to just go to the bar and get it yourself. Mads and I were getting mad at it the first day and he want to talk to our waiter after waiting 1 1/2 hr for a chicken sandwich. The guy just said, "yeah, everyone waits that long" and the food came 20 min later. It was a great introduction to the paralyzing state of relaxation that is Palolem. Its amazing how fast I became desensitized and the 2 1/2 hr wait for our food on new years eve seemed completly acceptable.

New Years was good times with three or four parties in front of different restaurants down the beach. Each one had it's own special moments including at all of them some Indian guys getting into fights. The best was at the first one when a guy right behind us was suddenly thrown to the ground and kicked in the head. He got up and fought back splashing some blood on Mads and my shirts before being thrown down towards the ocean by some big guys. Two minutes later he was back fighting with a nice guy in a Santa hat that had Merry Christmas written on it who was selling drugs at the party. Ahhh, good times always come from mixing foriegn girls and some drunk locals. Of course the night ended late at a rave in a cove around the bay and I woke up the next morning / afternoon back in my beach hut with a big cut on my toe. Not sure how that happened?

But we had to break out of our comatose state and get a bus to Hampi, unfortunately all the nice deluxe buses were sold out so as per a few travel agents advice we took the local bus. As usual the times they told us for buses were totally wrong leaving Mads and I in Karwar, a little dusty town that we have renamed the ghetto, overnight in a hotel I am sure used to be a prison. I was literally eaten alive by something, either mosquito's or something from the mattress so after another 10 hours on a public bus stopping in every little town on the way to Hampi I was in desperate need of some anti itch cream.

Hampi was worth the visit though and I'm getting back into relaxation mode after watching a bad movie at a restaurant last night, walking around some ruins and having a long lunch overlooking banana plantations and a beautiful river.

Hope you all had an exciting new years and enjoy the start of a brand new start in 2006!
nicholas, 5:28 AM | link | 1 comments |