A Travellerspoint blog

April 2009

A Ruin or Two

and a whole lot of boulders...

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Our next stop was Hospet, which apart from being renowned for it's sugar production is really just a junction town that people pass through. It took us ten and a half hours to get there and it was the first long haul bus trip we have done in India. There was a lady on the bus that we exchanged a few words with, she was dressed in very brightly coloured clothes and had more bangles, rings and necklaces on than I could count. We saw a few women dressed like her at the market in Anjuna, I am not totally sure what the significance is but there was a sort of gypsie quality to her. We arrived in Hospet late and after avoiding the many tuk tuk drivers offering their services we found a bed for the night. As you have probably gathered we did not travel all that way to visit a bus terminal, we came to visit Hampi, which was a further twelve kilometers away and the site of the capital city of the Vijayanagar Hindu empire that rose to conquer the entire south in the 14th century. It is a site of desolate temples, compounds, stables and pleasure baths, surrounded by a stunning boulder-strewn landscape.
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We walked up over a large area of flat rock in order to get a good look out over the surrounding countryside which is punctured by clusters of palm trees and of course more of these massive boulders.
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The statues at Hampi were carved out of single boulders, for example this one of Ganesh which sits in a temple on the site.
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Unfortunately the area has been "touristified" to some extent but in the midday heat it does provide a convinient way of seeing the extensive site, i.e. a tuk tuk tour. That said you do feel like you're being shepherded around as you disembark when you're told to and then wander around a bit and get back in. However there are some impressive ruins to explore, mainly lots of temples that despite there crumbled state do give you a good sense of the grandeur they once possessed, and how they imposed upon the landscape.
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The architectural feats that were achieved all those years ago was also highlighted in the water tanks that were constructed. Both practical and aesthetically pleasing.
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In order to see the first temple we had to remove our shoes, which was a little disconcerting given the general cleanliness of the area but we did get to see an elephant and lots of monkeys.
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After our time at Hampi we returned to Hospet, which really is a bustling little place. As I said there is nothing very notable about it but there are enough places to find some decent grub and we had an ok room. It was in a lodge rather than a hotel and we got the impression that people tended to stay for quite some time, and in effect lived there. Another feature was 24 hour checkout which meant you pay for a full 24 hours after arriving which provided good value for money. So we made full use of our time there before embarking on the next leg of our journey to Bangalore. Which is where we are now and so far so good.

More soon,

Laura and Adam

Posted by LauHot10 01:59 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Anjuna - Hippie Haven?

We think not..

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For one reason and another we ended up taking a tuk tuk to Anjuna, which is about 30minutes north of Panjim. It is meant to be the hippy heart of Goa, but Adam said when we arrived 'this can't be it,' and unfortunately he's continued to say it, with good reason. It is the one place he's visited which is so far removed from his expectations that it is quite unbelievable and I have to agree. Even after we trekked with our packs away from where the tuk tuk dropped us off we have not found but one hippy. Instead there is a beach with some bars/restaurants/guest houses which play trancey type music and there are a lot of Westerners. On the whole it has a more touristy/beach resort for the young kind of vibe than anything vaguely Woodstock.
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Our accommodation came in the form of another beach hut though which was a plus point.
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We did arrive on a Wednesday though which was good because there was a massive Flea Market for us to mooch around, although not necessarily so good for our pockets. My clothing purchases were on the whole not good and Adam bought some more flip flops which the jury are still out on. Generally the market was quite good though if not a bit repetitive and a little tiring with all the energy you have to exert with the required haggling. Still it provided some retail therapy.

The next day we took thinks fairly easy, did a bit more mooching around, had a pizza cooked in a wood oven which although not very Indian was very tasty and then we scaled a hill and got some good views out over the coastline.
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Anjuna turned out to be a very uninspiring place which as Adam said was the last thing I was expecting it to be. We did have some hope that the hippies of Goa were hiding in the forest away from the busy, touristy beach so decided that the next morning we would go see if we could find them.

Unfortunatey our hippie hunt was not very successful, and our trip into the forest just provided us with breakfast. My mood was slightly lifted by a kitty and a doggy that decided to pay us a visit though, always a sucker for something cute!
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After the critters departed feeling fairly downhearted we decided it was time to wave goodbye to Anjuna and head back to Panjim. I was not feeling too good after a bad headache which interrupted my sleep so we caught a taxi back to Panjim and spent another night there. In fact we returned to the bed bug place after checking out the competition and realising money wise we got a good deal, although we made sure we got a different room! The next morning we both woke up bite free and headed for the bus station.

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 01:50 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Portugal - Indian Style

Thumbs up despite letting the bed bugs bite!

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ur shortest journey between destinations so far saw us arrive in Panjim, the capital of Goa. The bus ride from Margao only took about 30 minutes and it was a welcome change. We decided to stay in Fountainhas, the Spanish district of the town as it was described by our guide book as atmospheric. First impressions of Panjim are that it definitely has a Latin feel to it, which is due to a visit from the Portuguese for a number of years. The general architecture of the place would sit nicely in any sea side town in southern Europe.
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There is obviously an Indian twist but generally if someone plonked you in Panjim and removed all the people you'd be slightly hard pressed to decipher where you were. Especially with there being a number of churches dotted around the place, something we haven't encountered too much since being here.

Another Portuguese influence which has taken roots, this was highlighted when a beggar said 'God Bless You' to Adam when he gave him a 10 rupee note.
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Not saying that I haven't enjoyed the authentically Indian cities we have visited, the fact that they have been so far removed from any where I have experienced before has made them both fascinating and I suppose at times a little daunting. It was almost comforting to arrive somewhere that was a little more familiar and with the colourful buildings and leafy main boulevard, Panjim is a pleasant place to be.
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We settled on a room at the Comfort Guest House, which I suppose was fitting. The man running it was a little dictator-ish, but he provided us with some good information even if it was delivered in a fairly abrupt manner. After settling in we decided that we would go for a wander around and see what the place had to offer. We discovered a nice centre to the town with some shops and a market area selling lots of shoes and clothes. Then we stumbled across the cinema but were gasping for a drink and something to eat so went in search of some sustenance.

Adam decided to try something new, which thus far has proved a fairly unsuccessful option when it has come to food and unfortunately it was the case again. His Goan Special Thali (a kind of taster of lots of different Goan foods – bit like Tapas) was fairly hit and miss and he ended up feeling pretty unsatisfied, I chose the safer and more boring option of a Mushroom Masala which was good. Over lunch we discussed the option of going to the cinema, a little guiltily actually, it seemed kind of naughty to do something you could do at home. In the end though we decided it would be interesting to see what it was like here and bottom line we just fancied it.

We saw The Fast & The Furious 4, it was really the only option and we'd both seen at least 2 of the others. For the fourth instalment it was pretty good, definitely better than 2 and 3 in my opinion, so we weren't disappointed. As for the Indian cinema experience, well no big cultural differences to divulge except that before the film starts they play the national anthem and you have to stand up. I think Adam was almost waiting for this because he was quick to tell me stand up, turns out they did the same when he went to the cinema in Thailand. They also had a short intermission and people seemed quite happy to leave mobile phones on and answer them when they rang. Apart from that though it would seem the cinema is a fairly universal experience, based on my limited research!

After the cinema we went to an internet cafe and booked our next flights. We now fly out of Tiruchirapalli on the 22nd May to Kuala Lumpur and then to Manila in the Philippines on the 27th May. Both flights are with Air Asia. With that little task ticked off our to-do list we headed back to the guest house and this is when I began to itch!

I have now experienced bed bugs and I can say with no reservations that it was downright horrible. After a fairly fitful sleep due to the bouts of half conscious scratching, I woke up with about 20 little red lumps on me. Despite my lumpy exterior we headed out to catch a bus to Old Goa. This was the capital of Goa until some date which I can't remember, but basically until the Portuguese realised it made more sense for their capital to be close to the sea where all the importing and exporting was happening. Old Goa is set back into denser forest/jungle about 20 minutes away from Panjim and consists of a couple of fairly impressive churches (one of which is now a museum) and a ruin called St Augustine's Tower.
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We got there in the middle of the day so walking around was pretty hot but it was a good place to visit and the church of St Francis Xavier was impressive with the gold facade behind the altar.
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There were also some very colourful flowers which contrasted nicely with the white of the buildings.
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Ofcourse there were a few shops to lure in the tourists and we allowed ourselves a couple of purchases, I bought the obligatory magnet (have to buy one in each country) and Adam settled on the tackiest plastic Jesus he could find.

In the afternoon we went back to the market and loosened our purse strings. I bought myself a watch because now my mobile is not so prominent in my life I have no way of telling the time, well apart from asking Adam and he was getting bored of that. I also bought myself some new flip flops, as did Adam which claimed to be produced by both Reebok and Nike! He has since regretted buying them as they have already come apart and look about 10 years old. I think he blames me a little because I thought the boy selling them was sweet and felt a bit sorry for him, so may have encouraged him just a tad!
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He also bought some trousers but thinks they need some tailoring – it was a successful trip in varying degrees!

That night we pushed the two beds apart (this is how a lot of doubles in India are) and we both squeezed on to Adam's single so that I could avoid the scurge of the bugs. Thankfully I woke up the next morning with no new bites and was ready to move on again. Our next port of call was Anjuna and we planned to get the bus there, we just had a few things to deal with first. The purchases we'd made in Nepal were beginning to way us down so we decided it was time to unload a few things and send them back home. We found our way to Deepak Stores which is where it was all packaged up. It was a little like stepping back in time, not a jiffy bag in sight, instead our belongings were put in a little cotton bag and hand sewn up. The man was so lovely, he gave me some free postcards of Old Goa and flitted around his little shop like a butterfly. As Adam said it was like he'd never had a customer before, there was no haste to his movements, I almost had to thrust the money in his hand as we left. I'd rather deal with him any day though above the man in the post office, who has to be the rudest person we have encountered so far. I almost shouted at him but decided it wasn't worth it, he was definitely in need of some customer service training though!

We forgot about him though and made our way to Anjuna.

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 01:36 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Benaulim - Great Introduction to Goan Beach Life

Sun, Sea, Sand and a few Shakes!

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The next morning Adam tried to get some sleep on the top bunk and I sat down and had a good conversation with the American lady Sarah and her daughter Jenny while we watched the changing scenery which became more lush and interspersed with massive rivers. It turned out that we were all heading to the same place, Margoa which houses the main station in Goa and then from there to Benaulim to find some beach tranquillity. Once we arrived we attempted to share a taxi but they wanted to charge silly money so we found a bus and then another bus and then a bit of a walk and we reached the beach of Benaulim. We all went our separate ways and Adam and I went in search of accommodation. After a few places we settled upon Blue Corner and one of their Coco Huts.
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The hut was literally on the beach about 25 metres away from the water, and although the room was pretty basic it was all very clean and there was definitely a certain charm to it. The only downside was the fairly ineffective fan which rotated lethargically and did little to cool us down. Which wasn't much use to Adam who by now was feeling really bad.
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I have to say that over the next few days there is very little for me to actually report, the first couple of days we spent at the beach were generally centred around Adam getting better and a bit of sitting in the sun. Thankfully we didn't have to go far to get fed and watered as the blue corner restaurant was perfect situated and served up great food, the best we have had so far. So we just lazed around and enjoyed a few choc shakes and some pretty nice sunsets.
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Once Adam was beginning to feel better we walked up and down the beach, went in the sea and then went out for a spot of Dolphin watching.
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We did see a few but they were really only glimpses and we felt a bit swindled when we got little over half an hour out on the boat as we were promised an hour.
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That said it was nice to be out on the water and actually doing something. As much as it was great to slow down the pace at the beach and it was a good place for Adam to get better, after three days we had reached our beach limit and needed to move on.

After a short bus ride we are now in Panjim, the capital of Goa and so far it seems like an interesting little place where the influence of the Portuguese colonisation is still evident.

Will let you know how we get on.

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 07:20 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Melting in Mumbai

It's a very hot pot!

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Our arrival in Mumbai, despite the fact that it was at 4am, was an immediate introduction to the heat which has been with us ever since. It turned out that our destination station was not really in the centre of Mumbai and therefore we had a bit of a way to go to find ourselves a hotel, something which attracted the vultures (taxi drivers). We did fall prey to one, due to being a bit railroaded, but once he decided to tell us how much he was going to charge us for the pleasure we made him take us straight back. After a bit more chit chat at the station we chose one guy to take us in, for half the price and he just seemed a little nicer. He took us to a couple of hotels in central Mumbai, which he said would be cheaper than than the usual tourist hotspot of Colaba and I think location wise it was a better option. None of the hotels really appealed so we opted to go off on our own and ended up at Hotel Swampni, which despite looking pretty run down from the outside was surprisingly clean inside and the room seemed fairly recently renovated.

After a quick refresh we headed out to explore Mumbai and book our train ticket to Goa. We had heard there was a sleeper train that left around 11pm and so decided we would aim to get the one leaving the next night, which would give us pretty much two full days in the city. We found Central Mumbai Station and a McDonalds! I'm afraid to say we gave in to curiosity about whether it would taste the same and also a need for something familiar I suppose. I indulged in a McChicken Sandwich and Adam tried the McChicken Maharaja Meal, obviously there were no beef products on the menu.

Once we were full of Indian fast food we went to try and get a train to Colaba, where the Gateway to India is and also the famous Taj Mahal Hotel.
I did also try to enquire where we could book our ticket to Goa but had no success with the busy man and the mounting queue. So instead we put that on the backburner and took the local train to Churchgate Street and then after a little bit of a walk we saw the sea for the first time on our trip. From the road which runs along the coast you get a good sense of Mumbai as a city, it certainly is the most modern city we have been to in India.
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It just has a more metropolitan feel, the roads are wider and the architecture is more sophisticated. It is also a massive city with a population of 25 million and there seem to be enough taxi cabs to ferry them around, when we first arrived in the early morning they lined the streets, in some places three deep waiting to start their day.

We took a cab to the Gateway to India which is right next to the Taj Hotel.
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There are still a few areas which are boarded up after the terrorist attacks last year. Although generally it looks fairly unscathed. While wandering around the area Adam decided to buy a book of postcards from a street seller after his fairly impressive pitch and then we used them to negotiate a little round trip with a cab driver to see the main sights of Mumbai. These included a big shoe in a park, we didn't really figure out its significance but it did offer up a good view over Mumbai, then a floating temple in the sea which unfortunately up close was really very run down and so we decided to just view it from the outside, and then lastly a communal, outside, laundry area where we were told 6000 people would be washing clothes, there weren't that many when we arrived but it was still interesting to see.
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The next hour or so was spent trying to book our ticket to Goa, which after a bit of too-ing and fro-ing we managed to do and so our train was set to leave the next day at 23:05 from Mumbai CST. Satisfied with that we headed back to our hotel and after a rest grabbed some dinner and then wandered around the street markets for a while. We discovered a fruit market in an old building where we bought some oranges and apples, it was quite amazing how you could just wander off the main drag and find these bustling little streets which seem to be endless, full of people selling clothes, shoes, electronics, and food. It's like another little world.
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With our train not going until very late we moved rooms the next morning to a smaller, cheaper one just to give us a base for the day. The rest of the day we just mooched around central Mumbai and came across our first mall, we attempted to do a bit of clothes shopping but were generally unsuccessful, although Adam did buy some socks.

A little while before we were about to go to the station Adam started to feel unwell, and so the thought of a 12 hour train ride in a non a/c compartment was not really the most pleasant of thoughts. Still we got ourselves to the station, but then we couldn't find our train on the board so we went to ask and were informed that we were in fact at the wrong station and apparently CST does not stand for Central Station. I actually can't tell you what it does stand for because I only saw the sign briefly as I dashed in to the correct station and scanned the boards for our train which was leaving in 5 minutes. Of course the platform was the furthest away and we were right down the end of the longest train we've been on, but we made it and found our seats which were with an American mother and daughter and a Swedish couple.

I have to say that I slept fairly well despite the noise and bumpy ride, unfortunately the same cannot be said for Adam who had a sleepless night as his illness really took hold.

Thankfully the beach was not too far away...

Posted by LauHot10 07:11 Archived in India Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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