Thursday, November 26, 2009

Where to GOAAAA ?!?

1 week in Goa is definitely not enough. I say that not because I love beaches (although I do), but because it is a state to be discovered! Our number 1 pointer for those travelers heading to this paradise is to see it all, and the best way we found possible, renting a scooter of our own.

We thought best to recap each beach/area through our Goan adventure.


Baga Beach: This was our fist stop and place of residence in North Goa. A busy touristy feel, full of middle age Russians who love Vodka and small speedoes. The nightlife is crazy, if you like that I'm on spring break in Cancun kind of feel. The beer is super cheap (Rs 60-70, $1.40), with 2 for 1 deals from 6-11pm. There is a great beach, lots of beach shaks, and friendly Goan people trying to sell sell sell on the beaches.

Calangute Beach: just south of Baga Beach (5km or something), very similar but with less nightlife. The beach shacks have more variety in terms of food and drinks, but fairly similar to its northern cousin.

Ajuna Beach: This place is amazing for Wednesdays of the week. Ajuna Flee Market!! What a place to see, even if you don't like shopping, there is live music, tons of food, and people galore to watch and hang with. Back to the shopping, it is great if you need to do it all in 1 place. Bardering (haggling) is easier then it looks... because everyone has the same stuff! So you can say to one guy, Rs100, and if he says no, move to the next one, and eventually they'll crack and be fighting over business for Rs50! Very fun indeed. OH, and the beach here is great, a lot smaller than Baga, but very nice in its own way.

Vagator Beach: Our favourite by FAR! Now although we were only here for a day trip (via our amazing scooter), we loved its relaxed chill vibe, cheap and delicious restaurants, and amazing beach/rocky scenery. The sunsets here are absolutely stunning and it should be a must visit when in Goa.

Morjim Beach: Ahhh beautiful Morjim, home to my lovely Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. We didn't get to see too much of this beach in the day, but made a night of it, searching for the turtles to come to sore. They tend to lay their eggs in the month of November. Unfortunately we didn't see any, but being there was so surreal. The only thing is that the beach was full of garbage! For being a secluded beach, especially one with endangered creatures using it for breeding grounds, I wish there was more of an effort to clean it up!


Old Goa: Full of churches and cathedrals, this place is full of Portuguese history. Beautiful buildings and lots to learn.

Panjim: The capital of this state, we just ventured through it. The one neat thing is, it has a night casino, one you can only reach via boat... because its in the harbour! Casino Royal. We didn't end up going, 1 because it left at 930pm (and it was around 6pm when we were there), and 2 because it was $80 just to get on (each). But if you have the time and money, definitely a place to check out!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mumbai Alert

What a happening city. This is a place like no where else in India (or anywhere we've been to yet). The city seems 10X more developed and organized than Delhi, and there aren't cows parading around.

The place we stayed, Colaba, also where the famous Taj Mahal Hotel is, has the majority of sights to be seen, along with all the happening restaurants and bars. Colaba also hosts The Gateway of India, a ferry getting you to Elephanta Island, and many bustling street stalls, markets and lodgings.

We arrived in Mumbai late at night via plane from Udaipur. We went straight to the pre paid taxis (Rs 350), and headed straight for Colaba. We didn't know where we were staying, but knew the area in which we wanted to room (near the Taj Mahal Hotel). So after haggling and running around the streets, I found a nice hotel (way over our budget), Appollo Hotel, Rs 3500/night, down from Rs 5800.
The following day we knew that there was no time to waste in this huge and expensive city, so it was off to Elephanta Island. Luckily, our hotel was a mere 10min walk to the Gateway of India (where the ferries for the Island are). They run every 20min and cost Rs120. The boat ride is around 1 hour 20minutes, and can get quite sleepy at times. We enjoyed sitting rooftop, with the great view of the harbour and the city behind us. Make sure to wear SUNSCREEN here though! Especially as this has been the furthest south, the sun being the strongest yet!

Elephant Island is made up of rock-cut temples in dark gloomy looking caves. Entry fee is Rs 150 for tourists (not too bad). Something we found interesting, this being a part of the Unesco World Heritage Site. These cave temples are carved into basalt rock of the island (pretty cool), and we were told that these carvings represent some of the most impressive temple carving in ALL of India. These temples were are thought to have been created between 450 Ad and 750 (super old).

The next day we decided to be more adventurous and took the local city train (so many people jumping off and on) North of the city. We went to Sanjay Ghandi National Park (so weak and I wouldn't recommend it), then to the biggest laundry spot in India, also called Dhobi Ghat (so many people washing and drying thousands of clothes, for households and businesses), Haji Ali's Mosque (this immaculate building is a sacred mirage off the coast, looks like its in the middle of the water), and to Mahalaxmi Temple (the busiest and most colourful temples in all of Mumbai).

Mumbai is also known now as a place where terrorists attacked, Nov 26, 2008. We went to the Taj Hotel (the very place they were aiming), also to Victoria Train Station, and to Leopold's Bar and Restaurant (the bullet holes still in the walls).

And to top it all off, Jeffery and I also partook in a Bollywood Commerical. We were approached by a 30 year old man on the streets of Colaba, who asked us if we would be interested in doing a commercial (he originally said chocolate or sunscreen but it ended up being life insurance). We said yes and away we went, 2pm - 2am. A long ass day, full of ups and downs, but in the end, we were Rs500 richer (each) and met 5 other really nice people (Australians, Kiwis and another Canadian). If you are in Mumbai, you may get luckier than us and be in the background of a movie, dance dance dance!

From Mumbai now to Goa... bring on the beaches...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rajasthan Hospital Adventure

We are finally writting another entry after a week and a half hiatus. We have travelled through Rajastan at this point and are heading to Goa from Mumbai today on a 12 hour sleeper AC bus.
When we last wrote we were in Jodhpur heading to Jaislamer on a 5 hour bus through the desert to the small little town on the border of Pakistan. Jaislamer had the feel of Risikesh and Mcleod Ganj in one, right in the middle of the Thar Desert. The city surrounds the fort which sits high on the mountain side looking over the town and the surrounding area. The fort has lost much of its grandeur due to enviromental problems, it is slowly sinking because its built on unstable soil. The fort is small and has little to offer. The reason most tourists visit Jaislamer is to do the camel safari. We couldnt do the Safari because I (jeffery) was terribly ill.
We left Jaislamer sooner than expected because I was so sick and the Thar desert was not a hospitable place for someone to be with my condition. We took a 15 hour sleeper bus to Udaipur, supposedly the most romantic place in India. The ride to Udaipur was bumpy and very long. I would not advice anyone to take the same route as it was all backroads and we went an average of 40 km the entire trip. If i was going to Jaislamer again i would first go to Jaislamer then go to Jodhupur because the road is a highway, therefore, its a much better route.
Udaipur was great we arrived at 6 in the morning and jumped into bed and fell asleep until the afternoon. When I awoke I was shivering terribly so we decided it would be best if I went to the Hospital. When we arrived we were told to go to the Emergency room, right away I was looked after. I told the doctors my symptoms and they acted quickly. They took my blood and gave me an X Ray within 30 minutes. I was admitted and given a huge room for myself on the top floor. The doctors first thought I had malaria, then they changed it to severe bacteria buildup in my intestines. My liver and spleen were inflammed and I had a 102 degree fever.
Needless to say the doctors were great and everyone in the hospital thought I was Brad Pitt. The doctors would come in and chat with me and then leave it was some what of a circus at times. I was hooked up to an I.V. and given liquids for my sickness. In all I was there for 3 days until I was better. The experience was better than i expected and Marsha really helped me out with everything. She went through many weird instances such as; the antibiotics that were used on me we had to purchase before hand. Marsha had to push and shove in line to get the medicine, IVs, everything, because Indians dont understand lines. She said it was a really intense situation.
Udaipur was the best backpackers city in Rajastan that we visited. The whole city seemed to be tailered to us. Octopussy played at every hotel at 7 pm. The hotels overlooked the lake and the floating hotel. It was a really amazing scene. The only problem was that we were in the middle of a low depretion as cyclone pythan moved through the area making Udaipur very cold and wet.
We then took a flight from Udaipur to Mumbai which was an hour and a half. The airport was very nice, but as I mentioned before the cyclone was causing havoc in the area. All the flights before ours were cancelled. At one point a guy working for the airport was told to go outside with a huge balloon. All the tourists laughed as the man let go of the balloon. The guy worked for the airport and was testing visibility and wind direction!! We finally took off that day luckily and arrived in Mumbai in one piece.