Virgin Atlantic is awesome. The plan from London to Mumbai, India was one of the nicest I’ve ever been on.
If you can’t afford business class (and I can’t, and wouldn’t even if I could) then ask about upgraded coach seating. I didn’t even know about this, but a lot of airlines have expanded coach service with bigger seats, more legroom, and seats that tilt back a little further. That makes a huge difference getting comfortable on long flights. I paid Delta (the first leg to London) $60 and Virgin Atlantic $70 and had big spacious exit row seats and just watched movies and snoozed the whole time.
Mumbai is one of the craziest cities on earth. “Shit hole” doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s insanely polluted, not at all cheap, and so densely populated that it’s hard to even get around. It took me 3 hours in traffic just to get to the city’s main “tourist attractions” of an old British Hotel and a big archway by the polluted port area. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and grabbed an early morning flight south to Kerala my third day. My ranking of the worst cities in the world I’ve ever been now include 1) Mumbai, India, 2) Cairo, Egypt, 3) Caracas, Venezuela, 4) Manila, Philippines, and Reno, Nevada.
Go tanning at least once before coming from the middle of the winter in cold and sunless Connecticut to a tropical climate. My skin is so white and gross it’s scaring people.
The little white towels came along for the journey, which are lifesavers as I’ve started sweating morning, noon, and night again. It’s hot here but not out of control – probably low 90’s but humid – I’m just not used to it yet coming from the winter.
Time change is a bitch. I was so spun out between night and day that I couldn’t even keep track. My sleep patterns have been to take 2 hr. naps 3 times a day but no real night’s sleep. I was completely exhausted and shutting down around 4pm local time at first and it was hard to even to get motivated to go to dinner. Now, it’s better, though I do still wake up around 3 or 4 am.
“Yes, we have no internet,” is the same as “No, we don’t have internet.”
“Yes, we have internet,” might be the same thing as “I don’t know if we have internet,” or “We may have internet but it’s probably not working.” It also applies to air conditioning.
I’m so glad I loaded up my hard drive with movies before I left. But at this rate, I’ll probably watch them all within 3 weeks.
I’ve been in some really poor counties but never one where the discrepancy between rich and poor was greater.
A lot of places in India had their Colonia English names changed to new Indian names, like Bombay to Mumbai, etc. It makes it even confusing because maps, guidebooks, signs, airlines, and especially locals might use the old name, the new name, or a combined form of the two.
Here in Kochi, tuk tuk drivers don’t tell you how much a ride costs. They tell you to pay whatever you want or what makes you happy. They say that in other countries, too, but it’s just a ploy to get you to feel guilty and fork over more. But here they seem really not to care that much.
But they will beg you to stop at a shop and just look around for a minute. They get paid a liter of petrol whenever they bring someone to the shops, so they’d rather drive you around for free fuel all day then make much money.
So I’ve walked in and out of about 5 shops by now and know everything there is to know about Indian rugs and scarves (which are best in Kashmir.)
My tuk tuk driver always takes me to local lunch spots where it’s all Indians. We sit family style at tables and they bring out a huge bowl of rice and numerous smaller dishes of curries, vegetables, and myriad sauces. Everyone eats with their fingers.
I don’t get down like that yet – I ask for a spoon.
They don’t serve naan bread like at Indian restaurants in the states but these crispy fried shells. I thought they were nachos of course so started dipping them in the various sauces, to which they laughed at me.
I paid for the meal and it was 90 Rupees for rice, vegetable curry, a big bottled water, and tea with milk. That comes to $1.50 by the way. And that was $1.50 total for both of us.
Instead of big hotels, there are tons of homestays here, where people build out their nice homes and add on a bunch of rooms. It’s a really cool set up and they are everywhere. I found one a couple km from the center of town for 1,000 Rupees, or $17 a night.
There really are cows walking around on the street, unmolested because they are sacred.
I tried to take a selfie with one of those cow. It didn't work so well, and I found out the hard way that some of those bovines have horns.
Why the hell did I bother bringing cotton shirts? I forgot how fast you sweat them out.
I always thought Indian culture was a big boozing culture, but there are no proper bars in Fort Kochi and it’s almost a dry town. You can buy cheap beer at the “government store” or a few upscale restaurants.
I’ve been told you can buy beer at certain local common restaurants, where it’s called “special tea,” but you have to put the bottle in a bag or keep it under the table. Drinking in public is a definitely no-no.
I thought yoga would be the big thing here but it seems meditation and India medicinal therapies called Ayurveda treatments are where it’s at.
They’re mesmerized by blue eyes here.
The little kids are really friendly and excited to say hi to a foreigner.
I was jump roping in a local park – the only place I could find with enough space to do so - and a crowd formed because they’ve never seen it before.
There are a lot of little annoying mosquitos here, the kind you don’t see but rip your ankles and feet up under the table and get you right on the elbow then you have big itchy welts. Little bastards.
The tuk tuk drivers all know America because of President Obama, who they like a lot. Obama is actually scheduled to come to India in late January, the first U.S. president ever to come here.
There must be some confusion because the tuk tuk drivers call me “Norm Obama.”
It does get confusing when your homestay is called Homestead so you have to tell tuk tuk drivers to take you to Homestead Homestay and they think you are just special so keep asking the name of your homestay over and over.
Breakfast is included, and every morning they keep bringing out plates stacked with French toast until I demand they stop.
The wife of the homestay owner makes the breakfast. She accidentally broke my sunny side up egg when she was putting it on the plate and they wouldn’t serve it to me because it wasn’t perfect. Lol.
Why is it that the most seemingly modest and sexually conservative countries always have a billion and a half people?
The Indian government has blocked about 32 websites because of ISIS threats, including Vimeo, Weebly, and others. I use Weebly for a few websites and it works fine – most of the time.
They definitely love red tape and bureaucracy, and check my passport, inquire about my visa, and sign some official log book every chance they get.
This town has a big Hindu population, but also Muslims, Christians, and even a Jewish enclave, named Jew Town. Between the Muslim muezzin, Hindu chants, and Christian gospel songs, I can hear religious singing from my room at least 8 times a day, from 5 am until 7 at night. I like it.
Jumping on a train tomorrow, about 4 hours south to Varkala Beach on the Arabian Sea near the southern most tip of the country.
When we chat next week I’ll give you a full report.
Norm Obama –OUT!
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