A January 1986 trip
to India by Chryselle
Quote: I was lucky enough to spend the first 8 years of my life in India. Cows, rickshaws, monsoons, acrobats and the occasional snake-wearing priest became a part of my everyday existence. I took all these wonders for granted, not realizing how much I would miss them a few years later.
A quick point about Indian food: North Indian cuisine is usually rich and contains cream, milk, and cheese. So curries from this area are thick and savory but not pungent. Curries from South India, on the other hand, are relatively thin and extremely spicy, but just as savory as the ones from the North. Goan cooking is altogether different. It's a combination of Portuguese staples (such as pork and fish) and Indian spices. Goan food is a definite must-try for non-vegetarian connoiseurs.
A word of caution: Only eat at restaurants that have a reputation for cleanliness and quality. You may be tempted to try certain delicious looking edibles from street vendors, but unless you're willing to risk getting serious food-poisoning or even dying, don't!
**Warning: The following is a big no-no for tourists**
One of my fondest and most delicious memories is of the kulfi-walla (i.e, kulfi man. For those of you who aren't familiar with Indian desserts, kulfi is an extremely rich and creamy ice cream). Every night a merchant, carrying a heavy earthenware pot filled with ice and kulfi, roamed the suburban streets yelling something that sounded like 'eeeoooy'. If you were interested in purchasing some, you had to stick your head out the window and call 'Kulfi-walla, kulfi-walla'. Somehow or the other, he heard your voice and made his way to your apartment door (a most magical venture if you imagine the number of people and the apartments in a place like Bombay). He would then scoop out a conical wedge of ice cream onto banana leaf and proceed to cut it into pint-size dials. I remember enjoying this delectable treat on many a balmy Mumbai evening!
It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed by the juxtaposition of sights, jumble of sounds, and riddle of smells. India is gloriously textured with over a thousand languages and an inestimable number or subcultures. It’s no wonder many tourists return home feeling dazed and confused. The best way to fully appreciate this vast and mystical land (and to avoid "Speedy Tourist" syndrome) is to take it slow. Pick out a handful of cities and states that you’d especially like to visit and spend enough time in each so as to fully understand the people and their traditions.
Take an auto-rickshaw somewhere, anywhere! These cutesy three-wheeled, doorless vehicles look like a funky combination of bumblebee, moped, and Volkswagon Beetle. If you happen to be in Bombay (or Mumbai, as it is now called), you definitely won't regret taking an evening spin along the 'Queen's Necklace'. Of course, a rickshaw ride is not for the novice haggler or faint of heart as the drivers can be double-dealing and reckless, resulting in bumpy, sometimes chancy adventures.
Riding in an autorickshaw during the monsoons is one of those happy adventures that can only be fully appreciated by a six-year-old on her way home from school exams. You see, for some strange reason exams fell during the monsoon season and on a few occasions, the school bus got caught in flood waters. When this happened, I used to hail an autorickshaw and let it putter and bob its way to my doorstep.
Attraction | "Agra and the majestic Taj Mahal"
A visit to India is not complete without a tour of the Taj Mahal. Located in the town of Agra, the Taj Mahal is the epitome of true love and devotion. It was built by the grief-stricken Mumtaz Mahal in 1612 as the final resting place for his wife who died in childbirth.
If you can, try to find a nice spot to view the structure during sunset. The sun reflects off the marble causing the entire monument to glow with brilliant shades of vermillion.
The admission cost for tourists is $18.50 USD (500 Rupees) and $0.50 (15 Rupees) for Indian Nationalists.
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Visit Goa, a veritable tropical paradise. The moment you bury your feet in the warm, golden sand and smell the salty, spiced air, you'll realize why most people call this place a gem. Goa is home to exotic wildlife, arcadian beaches, flamboyant traditions and one of the friendliest set of locals anywhere!
Being Goan, I got the opportunity to attend a traditional Goan wedding in Calangute. It was a blend of Portuguese and ethnic traditions. The bride wore traditional Portuguese white lace and satin and everyone spoke Konkani (a Portuguese-Indian dialect). We jived and danced to Konkani masala music (a goan take on traditional masala music), ate spicy goa sausages, rice, kulfi and other gastronomic delights from turgid banana leaves and all-in-all had an amazing time.
Attraction | "R & R in Lonavala"
If you’ve ever seen a Hindi movie then you’ve probably already gotten your first glimpse of Lonavala. This quaint "hill station" is well known among locals for being a popular R&R hideaway. Though I must say, after a bumpy car ride over craggy mountains (called "ghats") and crooked roads, you certainly will deserve some much needed rest and relaxation!
The best way to get to Lonavala is by train. All Bombay-Pune trains make regular stops at Lonavala. There’s also the option of flying to Pune airport and then taking a connecting train.
While travelling to Lonavala, try to make a stop at one of the tiny, and sometimes ancient, Hindu shrines scattered throughout the ghats. The prettiest one (in my opinion) stands humbly on a precipice, overlooking a waterfall at the edge of the town of Khandala.
When in Lonavalla, don’t forget to try Chikki – a sweet candy made from sugar treacle, rose water and different kinds of seeds and nuts.
The Gateway is built from yellow Kharodi basalt and reinforced concrete. It is positioned at an angle to the main road, making it a perfect focal point for postcard-quality pictures.
When visiting the "Gateway of India," don't forget to click a few shots of the "Floating Temple." This spectacular Parsi temple is connected to the mainland by a single pedestrian bridge. The bridge becomes flooded during high tide, giving the illusion that the structure is actually floating.
Directions: The "Gateway of India" is centrally located in the spacious Appolo Bunder area and is within walking distance from many of Bombay's major hotels.
By visiting Mani Bhawan, you’ll get a glimpse into the life of one of the greatest heroes of all time. The peace and tranquility that was Gandhi resounds from every room.
Directions: Mani Bhawan is located at 19 Laburnum Road near the August Kranti Maidan (where Gandhi launched the "Quit India" movement in 1942).
Hours of Operation: The residence is open every day from 11:00am to 6:00pm except on Mondays.
The Clock Tower has a certain British flavor to it. In the old days it used to play "Rule Britannia," "God Save the King," a Handel Symphony, and fifteen other tunes that changed four times a day. Now its repertoire is limited to an imitation of the Big Ben.
Directions: The Rajabai Clock is situated in the gardens of Mumbai University and contains the university library.
Hours of Operation: It chimes at the quarter hour from 11:00am to 5:00pm.
Immortalized by Bollywood, frequented by industry giants, despised by environmentalists, loved by dreamers--Bombay is a city of carefully chosen contradictions. From its modern sense of style to its classic structures, Bombay provides ample nourishment for the imagination!
My grandfather’s good friend owned a farm and every Saturday, he’d setup a petting zoo at Bandstand. Coincidentally, every Saturday evening, my family would climb Mt. Mary’s steps (a set of 1000 steps leading to the famous Mt. Mary’s church in Bandstand), make a short prayer stop at the church and then head over to Bandstand for the sunset. Afterwards, I, an all too anxious 6-year-old, would rush over to the petting zoo to visit my best friend "Baa," a snowy, soft lamb. I am certain he knew I was coming because he would bleet loudly and spring up and down with joy. My grandpa’s friend always allowed me (and only me) to take him wherever I wanted to go (which was usually wherever Baa wanted to go). I had such fun feeding him milk, chasing him around the promenade and reciting his favourite poem, "Baa Baa Black Sheep".
Fondest Memory: Going to school in a sparkling clean uniform thanks to our Dhobi walla…. Well, perhaps I wasn’t that grateful as a child (after all, I was less than 8-years-old), but in retrospect, I’m definitely a lot more appreciative. I never fully understood the convenience of having someone handwash and iron my clothes until I had to do it myself. Thank you Mr. Dhobi walla for your hard work and diligent efforts!
Of course, if you are a tourist at a Bombay train station, you are probably on a heightened sense of alert already. But just in case, watch out for locals trying to sell you exquisite and well-packaged silk apparel at unbelievably discounted prices. Many times, the pieces are badly damaged and unwearable. Through ingenious folding and careful packaging, major flaws can be camouflaged. So unless you are allowed to carefully inspect the material, or plan on redesigning the item anyway(which is a definite possibility if the silk is of a good quality), don't waste your time.
Jungle, Papua New Guinea