A Travellerspoint blog

Mumbai

Saying Farewell to India.

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Mumbai & Goa. Goa & Mumbai. Last stops on my India trip. Closure to Asian backpacking. Gateway to australia, Christmas, Texas, and family. I'm not someone particularly good at endings. In fact I'm terrible at them. I choose to look ahead and ignore the possibility that good things may change.

In Goa, my brother and his fiance joined us. In Mumbai, we left Amy for Australia. Thats the big short of my endings.

Mumbai proved a brilliant closing scene for the India adventure. Stage left: a dizzying cosmopolitan place: Bollywood, industrialists, poor, and rich. Mumbai - formerly Bombay- jealously projecting its (well warranted) economic liberalism and global city perspective yet, almost contradictorily attacks its old British-Portuguese colonial legacy that created the city in the first place. Like all wonderful and interesting places, Mumbai-Bombay proved counter intuitive, elusive, and deliciously multidimensional.

I stayed in the fairly posh neighborhood of Colaba 0 known for its Bollywood antics, luxury stores, backpackers, and British edifices. Its only one very unique corner of Mumbai. It is no slim dog back alley so I did not in any way get a holistic view of the place. Yet Mumbai - specifically Colaba - was a mirror of what I imagine India wanting to develop into. It wants to be posh casual luxury and respect. It yearns for the UN security council post and world class status as well as a nationalist pride in its textiles, film, media, and Indian heritage (its Mumbai not Bombay remember!). It wants American media and multiculturalism. European standards for art and national pride, and Japans quality and market efficiency. It wants to do all this and re visualize it and remake it as Indian.

India is globalization at its best (and worst). Its easy to spot the inequalities across geography, race, and industry. And it equally simple to hone in on the disintegrating cultural traditions and historic mindsets. Yet, its also clear that India simply isn't becoming "like everywhere else".

Its taking Hollywood and turning and to Bollywood. And doing it well. Bomby to Mumbai. Hot dogs to delicious veggie cutlets. A western-capitalist vision of tolerance and commerce blended with a decidedly Vedic mindset.

So with bittersweetness, I left India at its most excited state. The flurry of change and excitement of Mumbai - palpable - even sticks to me now on the sterility of my outbound flight. And this isn't just about Mumbai - its India's own mood of reform and change. True the struggles the place faces stick to me. THe poverty of Rajasthan... the simple despair uttered by a tour guide in Himachal Pradesh "nothing changes, the poor are poor and the rich rich here. There is no opportunity for me". I'm leaving on a high note entirely thankful and overjoyed by what India had to offer.

Posted by achamy 17:49 Archived in India Tagged india change mumbai backpacking economic ending globalization Comments (0)

Goa - Patnem, Panaji, and beyond..

Indic portugese and decaying European vacationers

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So... Goa. Its been a picture perfect postcard. The kind of shaddy palms, clean coast lines, and smooth waves lappign against a shoreline dotted with pina coladas and book laden sun-seekesr. Goa, a former Portugese colony turned luxury tourist mecca - is that sort of vacation spot agreeable to almost anyone.

When people claim India is diverse there is no easier comparison than the states of Rajasthan and Goa. Rajasthan is poor, relatively unclean, with gorgeous ancient castles and medicval cities.... A distinct mood of the "old world Orient" with caravans and maharajas. And Goa? Goa is southeast asia-meets western India. Its relax. Its European colonial charm mindling with a modern vacationers requirement for places that just move slow - escaping the hustle and bustle of "real time" and, worse, "real life". Its deliciously cheap fish cooked on a beach and equally unexpensive bars and booze. Goan is Catholic-Hindu, European-Indian, Coastal life & relaxed charm. And in many ways you couldn't choose a better place to end a sometimes rough Indic backpacking venture.

We started in teh sleepy beach towns of Patnem and Palolem. Really nothing but a bunch of beach shacks, yoga classes, and westerners loungin gin beach towels. That and it was absolutely stunning. I spent almost 5 days there recovering from a terrible unknown travelers malady with lime soda as my only form of nutrition. Eventually an ayurvedic traditional medicine shop proved the cure and in less than 5 hours I was back up to speed. Where western medicine fails, traditional Indian ayurvedic medicine seems to be victorious.

From there we headed to Panaji - a magically colorful place echoing Iberia in its bright stucco architecture, catholic vibe, and relatively clean streets. It was the feast of St. Xavier where the whole community - Catholic and Hindu alike - turn out for the festivities. We headed to giant pavillians where mass was undertaken and witnessed thousands standing in hour long lines to pay respects to the miraculously non-decaying body of Goa's patron saint. The fair itself was dusty, dirty, and rather boring but... absolutely facinating in an anthropological sense. Indian fairs - at least in Goa - are more an excuse to shop and picnic. It reminded me of Fourth of July with fewer fireworks and more curry vindaloos....

It was in Goa where I met up with my brother. Instantly upon first meeting, I could feel the pull of the states. In a few weeks, I would head to a family reunion in Oz... Christmas in Texas... and finally a New Years in Washington. Bittersweet was the feeling and I quickly buried it in the sight and sounds of Goa. Why worry of the future when in a place so spectacular?

Posted by achamy 14:58 Archived in India Tagged st. india goa festival xavier oz palolem panaji patnem Comments (1)

Udaipur

The end of our Rajasthan Roadtrip

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City of lakes. Venice of the East. The Pearl city. Udaipur, our last destination in Rajasthan has many aliases. It is the India you only imagine in folk tales. With palaces floating on lakes, intimate alleyways, and elaborate picturesque shrines it is easy to understand its self-professed slogan as the "most romantic city in India".

We stayed in a tiny room at a lovely 300 year old haveli along side a lake in full view of the floating palace. Our days were spent idle - painting, reading, and taking in the view. For two days it rained - that sloppy cold rain that calls for hot coffee and cozy cafe. So, in a sense, the rain wasn't a huge bother... instead forcing us indoors, introspective, and with good books in our arms.

The main draw to Udaipur for me really was the classes on the art of miniature painting. Miniature paintings, as the name implies, are tiny tiny paintings (some no bigger than 2 x 2 inches) renowned for their intense details. Udaipur, to a greater extent, and all of Rajasthan - to a lesser - are known for this fabulous ancient art form. When it was all said and done, I made three miniature paintings. And it is not an easy endeavor! Each work took at minimum 4-5 hours and the end result is a painting only the size of your hand. The real challenge really isn't in the drawing its in the concentration. If you can quiet your mind (and hand) miniature painting comes at ease. But, with months of fanciful travel behind me, I found it incredibly refreshing to be productive! AND (for someone who regularly doodles and paints) to really be making art again.

Beyond painting, we took in a few sites: the Jain temples of Ranakpur, the wonderful City Palace of Udaipur. Most of the time though was spent sitting on a roof gazing at hte spectacular views of lakes and palances below. Really, I cannot emphasize it enough. The place was stunning. As nice as any romantic capital of the world: Paris, Venice, Rome, San Francisco. Perhaps more romantic if the orient is more your flavor. Cinematic is a way to describe it - archways, ornate temples, windy streets, night wedding processions... In fact James Bond and the recent film "the Fall" has shot locations here! Cinematic indeed.

In a way, Udaipur was the beginning of the end for my "India trip". After Udaipr, I would have two weeks left. Mostly spent in the tropical beachtime laze of Goa. The sightseeing part of the trip had slowed and the last few weeks were to be a complete recharge: Ayurveda, yoga, painting, cooking classes. Endings can be bittersweet: a welcome return home to both family and friends and the less-welcome worries of work and day-to-day responsibility. As I left Udaipur to a plane flight out of Ahmedabad I was looking forward to the laid back beach side classes and... eventually the trip with family onward to Australia before Christmas.

Posted by achamy 05:27 Archived in India Tagged india painting udaipur rajasthan roadtrip classes minature Comments (0)

Photopost: Rajasthan Roadtrip

The Golden City of Jaisalmer, Blue of Jodphur, White of Udaipur and the lovely temple of Ranakpur.

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Jaisalmer, India: A Haveli (Historic mansion)

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The Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur (the Blue city). A famous palace-fort of the maharajas of Rajasthan.

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My anthropology minor feels uncomfortable taking "exotic" photos of the locals in turbans but sometimes I just can't resist.
At the fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan

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Ranakpur Temple... Near Udaipur, Rajasthan. One of the most famous/prettiest Jain temples in the world.

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Cows! Oh how they are everywhere in India (especially Rajasthan). Taken in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

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The famous Lake Palace hotel of Udaipur. Formerly a palace of the maharaja it is famous for being in the James Bond Film (Octapussy) and the indie-film "The Fall"

Posted by achamy 06:29 Archived in India Tagged india photo the palace indian lake fall photos udaipur jodhpur rajasthan post jaisalmer haveli octapussy Comments (0)

Jodpur: the Blue City

Looking heavenward and journeying onward....

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Enter Jodhpur. A sprawling blue roofed city set upon the borderland of the shrubs of the Thar desert and the grass of West Rajasthan. For my traveling-companion-childhood-best-friend-Amy Jodhpur (the so-called "blue city") was the place she was most looking forward to. For me, without any real preconceptions, it proved to be, at first, a bit of a let down. From the vantage of a windy mountain road opening into the city, there is nothing but a patchwork of cereleun, white, and honey. All, magically flat roofed buildings, sleeping below an immense brown-stoned fairy-tale palace-fort. Within the city however, it was all exposed sewers, messy markets, and crowded dirt roads.

India is undoubtedly the most photogenic of countries. Every animal - pigeon or cow - sits posed and ready for the rose colored lens of a camera. Jodhpur proved no different. After just a night, and a choice hotel selection, the city was reborn into a romantically dishoveled princely state. From the rooftops of our two hundred year old historic hotel and the gorgeous luxury of the Mehrangarh Fort, the blue roofed valley was stunning. Hawks circled above and people paraded the streets below in vibrant saris and turbans. Maybe the best place to be in Jodpur WAS above - somewhere high between the earth and the sky. The maharajahs knew this with their hillside palaces and fortresses. The locals too understood this with the standard of picturesque rooftop patios and gardens.

Indeed, maybe the prevalence of rooftops and blue walls somehow had elevated the people of Jodhpur heavenward. In every shop, we were treated with such sunny smiles we hesitated in our typically smart haggling. Servers politely smiled and welcomed us to India. A lofty mood... no an elevated mood... seemed to be the way of things.

When we left Jodphur, I felt very Indian in my demeanor. It seemed natural to passively meander through the dirt and rubbish of life and paint a house the color heaven.... to find beauty in the quotidian. Looking up at immobile star and sky it seemed silly to travel-on-the-run as our Rajasthan Roadtrip was thus far. Staying a few days - perhaps a week - and soaking it all in seemed almost a spiritual imperative. The impressive temples of Ranakpur awaited us and then onward to a long needed siesta in the Venice of the East: Udaipur.

Posted by achamy 05:34 Archived in India Tagged india fort city blue roofs rajasthan ranakpur mehrangarh roadtrip driver jodphur Comments (0)

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