Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Buy some Becks...
chill it. He may
come arrive ;^)
Monday, October 27, 2003
Road Trip (Day 9): still more Colva Beach, Goa, India
Trust me, staying a third day at Bollywood resort was no problem. The gym may have been non-existant and the billards table pretty tatty, but the breakfast was once again delicious, the pool clean, and the Kingfisher beer cold. For my morning walk, I headed north on the beach for several kilometers. This velakaran (white boy) was absorbing solar radiation somewhere between "pink" and "bronze" (depending on the anatomy exposed). That's exactly why I brought sunscreen. I picked up my usual cuttlebones for the parakeets and soon came across crows picking at a dead dolphin. I include the pic below not to gross out browsers, but to share one of my favorite body parts: the tail. This species appears to have a fluted rotation before reaching the tailfin. I suspect this has something to do with their acrobatic swimming. The other pic is a small outlet to the sea. I followed it back a few hundred meters towards a village and some netting set up probably for prawn farming. While the stream was shallow, I could see the bottom where a crab was swimming backwards (as they do) towards the ocean. Overall, I was impressed with the clarity of this Goan stream, compared to the stinky muck I see coming out of villages in Chennai and Tamil Nadu. Stinky like my Sify Internet service.
After a finale in the pool, Tyronne & family left in the late afternoon and we all had takeout dinner at their flat. Vernon & I then returned to the hotel where I moved back onto the couch in his room. It was good to be in an air-conditioned room with a working TV. Sify Internet should be so cool.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Road Trip (Day 8): more Colva Beach, Goa, India
I had invited Tyronne & family to be my guests at the hotel and when I returned from my morning beachcombing, they had arrived from Margao and discovered the pool.
We baked in the sun for the rest of the day and I then moved into a separate room to let Charmaine & Vernon enjoy their second honeymoon. I don't remember dinner other than going with Vernon to get Charmaine some tandoori chicken. I headed to bed early and was going to watch the English-speaking TV that is no longer available in Chennai, but the picture "rolled" at a rate to guarantee a headache (and I've had enough of those with Sify Internet).
Saturday, October 25, 2003
Back to the Road Trip (Day 8): Colva Beach, Goa, India
I got up early, had a good breakfast, and walked south on the beach to Colva village (about 30 minutes if one doesn't get mesmerized by the endless coneshells, wildflowers, and fishing community). In the village, I discovered nice seashell earrings and a Kerala Ayurvedic massage. I'm a sucker for both.
While one walks the beach, there is a singular warning at Colva village that I should modify for my apartment building:
"It is dangerous to
swim in the sea connect with Sify Internet.
To do so means to commit [possible data] suicide.
Many people have lost their lives by drowning in the
sea Sify network.
If there is no
lifeguard backup nearby, do not enter into the seas [of ineptitude]."
I don't have my notes, so I've forgotten what we did that afternoon after Vernon got up. Nor do I remember dinner ;^(
Friday, October 24, 2003
And now, a break from our regular scheduled program...
May the Light of Life shine on you.
Your sweets should be kind to your waistline and heart.
And I hope your crackers explode brightly!
I really enjoyed last Diwali with Tejpal and his family in Pune. This year, I'm somewhat alone in Chennai, but had a nice dinner with co-worker Mahesh & cousin Pratibha. Clothes are also bought during this holiday & Mahesh joined me while I picked some new, smaller threads. In the Diwali spirit of fireworks, co-worker Chris took me to Parry, a bazaar where there's enough gunpowder to level Chennai. Readers may remember my noisy neighbors who have no respect for my Call Center timings (sleep days, work nights, come home at 3AM). I try not to get angry, but I got even at 3AM the last few days with "hydrogen bombs" and "bullet bombs" (crackers I should save for Sify Internet).
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Road Trip (Day 7): Baga Beach to Colva Beach, Goa, India
Vernon joined me for breakfast. The sea was at its high water mark and we walked the beach for 15 minutes. Vernon decided to get back to his wife and family, suggesting we find a different hotel closer to their residence. I empathized and there wasn't much more to Baga Beach, but first we shopped for some shirts. Vernon then noticed Rockey's barber shop. He got the sides & back of his head "white-walled" (clipped short), but didn't get any letters or symbols shaved in. I had my beard trimmed and a great face massage. Back at the Baio de Sol hotel, we had a few negative surprises: because we weren't staying 3 nights, they jacked up the room rate, quoting the room as a "sea view". Bollocks! The door to our room and the sitting chairs flanking that door all faced the "river view" (15% cheaper). Pre-season construction on the hotel front had any sea view blocked by the ubiquitous India thatching. I would feel a little better about Rs.1000 per day for the room if there had been hot water, towel change, or room cleaning. Instead, I feel like this hotel is taking lessons from Sify Internet ;^(
We went back into Margao and the parakeets seemed to be holding their own in separate cages. We putzed around the apartment for some time and when everyone was dressed about 7:30PM, Tyronne then directed Vernon & I to a hotel at Colva Beach called Bollywood where he knew the manager and negotiated a great rate. The ground floor room was very comfortable and next to a clean pool.
We then drove (and drove and drove) the families to a very nice restaurant (I'll have to get the name & location from Vernon). We started dinner about 10:30PM, asked the waiter for mosquito coils, and then moved to a table near a fan. I remember Charmaine trying feni and not liking it. I don't remember much about the food other than I tried something Goan, maybe a fish. Everyone seemed exhausted, but liking their meal. Somehow Vernon drove them home to Margao and ourselves back to Colva Beach. Bed came quickly and Vernon's nocturnal renditions moved me to the couch at some later hour. I sure wish my eyes had been open enough to see that step down into the hall. My crash was as surprising as the unexplained dial-up charges associated with Sify Internet ;^(
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Road Trip (Day 6): still at Baga Beach, Goa, India
I awoke with the sound of a fish market right outside our hotel room. In front of the room were some bushes where a guy was throwing fish scraps to feral cats. Vernon was sound asleep after a late night session at the tatoo parlor and a second stint at Tito's night club. Once up, I decided to take a few snaps of the fisher-persons and their catch (kingfish) on my way to breakfast at St. Anthony's which is a seaside restaurant slightly bigger than a typical Goan beach shack. It's also Vernon's namesake as "Tony" is his familiar name. The early morning view of the sea was great as were the scrambled eggs, chicken livers, warm pao (bread roll), and Kingfisher beer (tho United Breweries needs to spell check their advertising). With a good breakfast in me, I strolled south along the shoreline for a 2 hour beach combing. This early time was perfect as the throngs weren't yet crowding the beach & trinket selling touts were at a minimum (I don't think they sleep). There are lots of seashells, but only 2 or 3 varieties and nothing unique. I will suggest that one inspect the cone shell before pocketing it: there is usually a small hermit crab living inside which is unlikely to come out. Removing the crab oftens means killing it and soaking it out with detergent or bleach water. Placing the shell near an ant colony can have a similar cleansing effect. A few kilometers down the beach, I reached Baga village. Here, one will find conventional restaurants, all kinds of retail stalls, wine shops, auto rickshaws, and more touts.
Vernon awoke in the afternoon & we spent a leisurely day poking around the tee shirt and leather shops. I really wish I had a pic of Vernon (Christian) in his new Muslim skull cap looking like our fellow Madras Bull "Big Mo(hammed)". I think I remember it raining pretty hard that evening, but I'm sure we found some food & Kingfisher beer before we went to bed satisfied (a feeling I didn't always get from Sify Internet).
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Road Trip (Day 5): Baga Beach, Goa, India
Cheryl & Tyronne fixed us breakfast which included spicy Goan sausage that reminded me of Mexican or Puerto Rican chorizo. Tyronne & Vernon went to a pet shop for cuttle-bone only to return with that and a new cage AND an additional bird (a calm male to be paired with the bitch). In the afternoon, Charmaine stayed with her sister & the kids while Tyronne showed Vernon & I some potential seaside hotels. Tyronne first took us to an all-inclusive place off Baga Beach for Rs.900 per day (beer included...I was excited). When the manager saw that we weren't Goan, they suddenly had no available room. The manager might have seen that Kingfisher glaze in my eyes. We crossed a small river to Baga Beach proper & found several minimalist sleeping rooms. They were inexpensive, but dark, dingy, and without the air conditioning that Vernon likes. At the end of the road next to the river, we found the Baio de Sol where Tyronne negotiated 3 nights for Rs.900 per. Room 18 (on the corner, wedged between the river outlet to the sea and the Baga Beach car park/bus turnaround) was readied for Vernon & I while Tyronne took the bus back to his family. Vernon & I walked across the car park for a swim in the ocean which was amazingly shallow. One can walk out a 100m past the crowds lurking at the shoreline and the waves are hardly big enough to body-surf. Nonetheless, the local newpaper tells of frequent drownings. I suspect non-swimmers panic when venturing past the sari & salwar kameez-clad waders to a depth where waves might disorient them.
We got out of the water for a cold beer and a fish platter that was out of prawns, but doubled up on the stuffed crab. There was also some kind of fish and calamari (squid) that Vernon loves. We soon returned to the hotel to clean up for a night out. After a short drive that could have been walked, Vernon chose a club called Tito's. We sat at an outdoor bar and tried our first feni, a "country" booze made from either coconut or cashew. We chose the coconut variety as we had heard the cashew "stunk". I thought it was too strong and tasted like a cheap vodka. When mixed with pineapple, it detracted from the pineapple. That was our last feni. An outdoor runway was set up for a babelicious fashion show, but the heavens opened up to drench us. We moved out of the rain into the disco where I enjoyed the people-watching: mostly men dancing with men and older parents looking uncomfortable after their kids had dragged them into such a club. I had enough after returning from the bathroom and Vernon telling me that someone had taken my seat next to him. We proceeded to a tatoo shop where Vernon got an old & poorly done "skull" enhanced with some "tribal" outline. I considered adding to my "iguana" tat, but remembered that the needlework would interfere with my time in the sun & ocean. I have my priorities straight. After watching Vernon's work for two hours, I called it a night at 1AM and walked back to the hotel. Vernon went back to Tito's with the tatoo artists and a strange Japanese guy that was dressed like a monk & continually scratched himself. I crashed quickly & didn't hear anything until Vernon came home at 4AM. His snoring wasn't too bad, tho it reminded me of the squawking made by a modem to a bad Sify Internet connection ;^)
Friday, October 17, 2003
Road Trip (Day 4): Udupi - Goa, India
The day started with a breakfast menu that contained an item from a recommended list that co-worker Mahesh had prepared before I left. I just couldn't handle gud bud (ice cream sundae) for breakfast. The rest of that list contained:
Mangalore dishes (but we had driven past Mangalore)
baradakai sukka (pumpkin)
cauliflower & potato gassi
yanni gahi (eggplant fry)
bondoz sukka (tho I got prawns sukka in Udupi)
minu surra (fish curry)
mangai kari (Mangalore pineapple curry)
border of Karnataka-Goa dishes (we continued on to central Goa)
jollada roti (pearl millet chapatti) with eggplant fry
hot jilabies with badam milk
As we started out, I must say northwest Karnataka is green: lush rice fields as far as the eye can see.
Tho we had been hugging the western coast of India since Mangalore, we saw no beaches until an hour north of Udupi. There appeared to be a small hotel or resort called Turtle Bay and a rock declaring Trasi Beach which was beautiful, empty, and ours for the taking. We did stop for a minute: I had to touch the sand & take two photos. I've since learned that Turtle Bay is one of the few resorts in India to have scuba diving (I have my PADI certification with me) & snorkeling.
We continued north and didn't see the ocean again until just south of Karwar at the Karnataka-Goa border. There is a lot of shoreline construction and a sea wall being built from island to island. The result is extremely calm & clear water building up beautiful white sand beaches. The effort, however, is not for tourism. Rather, it's the building of a new Indian Navy base. Vernon stopped the car for a few minutes and here's the result of my first three photo "stitching":
We crossed into Goa and found the streets more narrow. After another hour, we reached the central city of Margao where Charmaine's sister Cheryl lives with her husband Tyronne & 2 sons (aged 10 & 2). They have a one bedroom flat where we hauled all our bags, bird cage, etc. The well-behaved female parakeet promptly laid another egg and I mentioned that calcium from a cuttle-bone would benefit the birds. After a great dinner at Martin's Corner that included a delicious braised beef tongue, I was graciously offered the bed while Vernon & the 10 year boy slept on the bedroom floor. Everyone else slept on the hall (living room) floor. I felt guilty & also settled onto the bedroom floor, but was warned of the boy's kicking (and I already experienced Vernon's dulcet snoring). Man, that kid was a killer, his legs should have a 007 license to kill. I moved to the bed, but found that all padding had been removed for those on the floor. The parakeets were pretty quiet while doing the vertical bump-and-grind, but at some point of the wee hours, all hell broke loose. With the birds screeching, we thought some rat or pigeon came thru the open balcony window. It turned out to be the "bitch" parakeet, the one who was always fighting with the others, but losing all the battles & many of her feathers. Vernon segregated her from the others by jailing her under a slotted drain pan. Good night to unruly animals like a Sify Internet connection!
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Road Trip (Day 3): Bangalore - Udupi, India
We started the day with a good roadside breakfast & bought some sweets for later. I've taken a liking to sohan papdi (milk sugar like compressed cotton candy). After an early wrong turn, we drove and drove, eventually coming to the ghats (hills at 1000-2000m). The roads were winding & pot-holed, often backed up behind many CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) tankers coming & going from some filling point. There were quick views of waterfalls, turbulent rapids & half-way clean streams as we pressed on thru moss-lined chasms. We eventually stopped at a petrol bunk (gas station) where there was an outdoor cage of parakeets, much like the collection in our car's backseat with Charmain. Wild Zebra finches even flitted about the outside of the cage. A petrol attendant provided us with a photo opportunity by turning on an artificial waterfall. Vernon still has those pix as I was having trouble finding a store with film. We then sped down the ghats towards Mangalore where I eventually found film, but the streams had settled out into silt & sand. It turns out these Western Ghats are "one of eight biodiversity hotspots in the world home to unusual species". We cruised by Mangalore as it became dark & gambled on finding dinner/lodging beyond. Just about everything was closed and we suddenly remembered the Navaratri holiday. We chanced on a hotel in the temple town of Udupi and it too had a huge cage of parakeets. Were the bird gods trying to tell us something? We ordered dinner & mosquito coils in the annoying restaurant. We either ordered too much or were too exhausted to finish. We headed off to bed and quickly crashed (much like Sify's would-be Internet service).
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Road Trip (Day 2): Bangalore, India, for a day
From Vernon's parent's flat, we had a good view of the airport runway serving both commercial & military flights. As an American, I was curious about the MiGs purchased from India's ally, Russia. Vernon's father makes some pretty good wine that adds to the viewing experience. I never did get back to those bottles of Kingfisher beer that I bought. Vernon spent most of the day in his Bangalore office and the rest of us watched mindless movies. We later went out for dinner and after numerous wrong turns, found the Jukebox with its delicious sizzlers (India's version of buffalo steak, well-done, smothered in vegetables & sauce). We later went to Zero G, a roof-top club that was not too smokey, not too crowded, and featured poolside seating. Bangalore's fashionably hip abounded (including some sots from the RTMC motorcycle club) and it's refreshing to take a break from the saree and dhupatta crowds that I sadly associate with Sify Internet service in Chennai. Hey, baby, it's 2003 and OK to play nicely with me ;^)
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Road Trip (Day 1): Chennai - Bangalore, India (330km)
Charmain & Vernon were packing up their flat for the move to Mumbai, so they wanted to spend their last Chennai night at my place. I prepared the honeymoon suite (2nd bedroom) for them & their parakeets. While they estimated an 8PM check-in time, we all know how packing goes. After 10PM, fellow Madras Bull Harsh joined us for home delivered Dhabba Express and every last beer in my fridge. We (minus Harsh) started our trip at 3PM the next day and headed for Bangy. I did get to see & photograph the memorial to Rajiv Ghandi where he was assassinated just west of Chennai. The seven pillars were quite impressive tho sheathed in timber prior to last week's anniversary. Further on, we saw the impression of a motorcyclist on the windshield of a car. The helmet-less rider wasn't moving and the people from the automobile were quite bloody. BTW, for a "National Highway", the road is pretty rough, let alone having stray cows, dogs & careless pedestrians. It grew dark quickly & we saw little else other than glaring high beam headlights until we stopped for greasy mutton biryani (spicy rice) and kosu (mosquito) bites at a hotel (restaurant) in Kolar (home of gold mines). After 10PM, we finally arrived at Vernon's parent's neighborhood near the airport in Bangy. Thinking that most Indian homes are alcohol-free, I bought a few beers before entering their front door, but we never found time to drink them before crashing to bed. The parents were most gracious, giving me a bedroom while Vernon, Charmain & the birds slept in the hall (living room). Tomorrow: a day in Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley, where I enjoyed an Internet connection much better than Sify.
I've included a pic of typical highway traffic. It should be obvious that I'm taking the snap from the car behind the pink bus. It would not unusual for the blue bus to pull into the gap in front of us as it tried to pass the truck. The bus driver would expect us to pull off the road onto the dirt shoulder ;^(
Monday, October 13, 2003
and I'm not writing about Governor Schwarzenegger. How do I recap 12 days of driving across India? Chronological? Places of interest? Considering half my notes, tour book, and Goan sausage were left behind in Mumbai, I'm not off to a good start. I took two rolls of snaps (many from the moving car) and those pix will be developed to CD within the next few days.
I'll begin by thankfully saying my friend Vernon did all the driving in his comfortable, air conditioned Esteem. The drivers across India are much the same, homicidal, and Vernon (Indian) is accustomed to neutralizing their insanity. The route, schedule, and sights to be seen were mostly Vernon's choice or his wife Charmain's. As it was, I rode "shotgun" (wishing I had the real thing), checked the map and noted mileage points. Charmain provided input from the back seat, along with her parakeets. Generally, the environment was greener and cleaner as we headed west out of the state of Tamil Nadu. In the states of Karnataka and Goa, the highways were also better, but they won't last for long if overweight trucks continue to cause deep potholes. We saw several horrible road accidents probably caused by rash driving, but exacerbated by a lack of seat belts and motorcycle helmets. My compassion for these Indian traits is waning and I'm reminded of the Darwin Awards. More tomorrow, but suffice to say, I'm rested, tanned, and doing fine without a damned Sify Internet connection.