Sunday, December 27, 2009

In Vagator, Northern Goa, India

Goa is not really India, its Goa, one of these tourist/traveler created beach paradise places. I am in northern Goa which is known as the more touristy/party area, which is why I'm here before New Year, and it is the right place for that. I have met so many heads that come here every year, or have been here for many months, and many of them live very similar life styles to mine. But there is that element of fakeness with all these foreigners that have come here to create their own paradise. All in all, its a pleasant place to be and many people consider this a version of paradise, so I've been able to get to know a good group of people and get into my comfort zone.

On Christmas eve night I met a nice Norwegian guy at the internet cafe that was also traveling alone so we hung out for the evening to celebrate together. We just went to a small hole in the wall bar and drank some. Then we found some street food around midnight that was in front of the church garden square. That was cool becuase there were lots of dressed up Christians going to the midnight mass and the church and garden had tons of lights. After food we just went back to the guest house and hung out a bit before going to bed.

I woke up early on Christmas day because check out was a 9 am, so I packed and got a taxi to Vagator. I paid for the taxi because I really didn't feel like dealing with the public bus that involved a transfer in Mapsa. It only took an hour to get here and I was checked into a pretty nice guest house by 10. The guest house is actually more than I'd want to pay but its new years so the prices are higher and now that I've found some cheaper places I can't be bothered to move, plus they are all full.

After a nap I made my way down to little Vagator beach. It is a very nice small beach with rock outcrops on either side. Up on the hill is 9 bar which used to be the hip spot but now is just an empty bar that plays really loud Goan trance trying to relive the old days. On the beach there are a bunch of women selling stuff that are very pushy and anoying but after a few hours they all knew my face and left me alone. I went into a beach bar called the Boom Shankar that was playing loud mellower music that drowned out the 9 bar. I actually really like that place and have met several people through hanging out in that bar.

On Christmas night I hung out with a nice Irish guy I met at the Boom Shankar and two Indian guys, it was a pleasant evening of good conversation and a couple games of chess. The next day I spent most of the day hanging out at the Boom Shankar. I had been moving for three days straight and needed to relax, plus the Boom Shankar is my kind of place so I could pleasantly spend my day there reading my book and talking to other travelers. I became friends with a guy raised in Eugene but lived in Holland for 20 years and is much more European than American, named Keola (which is a Hawaiian name). Later the Irish guy came back and we relaxed while watching the sun set. I called it an early night and just went to my guest house, had some dinner, read, and went to sleep.

Yesterday I got out and walked around the area a bit trying to get the know the layout of the Vagator/Chapora area. I walked the long way to little Vagator so I could see where some of the clubs people talked about are located. At little Vagator I ran into Keola and he took me over to Chapora because he had told me about it the day before and offered me a ride. Chapora is actually about as far from my guest house as little Vagator so I can walk there easily. Chapora is an amazing little town, it is definitely the shakedown street of this area. There is a juice shop that is packed and a tree outside in the center of town that is always just full of people. Everyone is relaxing, talking, and smoking chillums in such a open and free way. It makes me wonder, because police are everywhere else enforcing the law but not in Chapora and everyone knows the mellow place is Chapora.

After a couple hours drinking juice I headed back to my guest house for lunch and to read my book. I actually read through sunset and then went to the Boom Shankar at the beach but there wasn't anyone I knew, so I headed up the hill to the Chill Out Bar where I ran into a friend of Keola's and I hung out all evening talking to different people. I talked mostly to a guy named Kevin who was a wealth of information and a fun guy to talk to. Today I am going to meet Kevin at the Chill Out later and go to a big festival a bit further south of here for the day. Everyone seemed to know a handful of the DJ's that are going to be at this festival and talked very highly of them so I figure I'll check it out, plus I got a group of friends to go with.

Some thoughts I've had while being here are that I come to the same realizations every time I travel (well basically the same as last year). Like that I like my life in the States and have developed a life that I fully enjoy. I like my good friends better than most of the people I meet, sometimes I'm lucky but not all the time. I'm not traveling out here for all this touristy stuff. I'm here and am going to do my best to enjoy myself but I party at home I don't need to find it on the other side of the world, plus I like my parties better. But for some reason I always feel obligated to see the places everyone goes and talks about just so I know I'm not missing something. I'm here to experience culture and see new and different things. So basically I'm going to do new years, then go to southern goa to see that, and then move on to hopefully more cultural and exciting things.

Insights into Goa are strange. Like I already said it is a place created by foreigners but also each state in India is actually more similar do different countries in the EU than states in the US. The laws are so different and the boarders have real check points (in this way more intense than the EU). So Goans really do consider themselves different than the rest of Indians and treat other Indians as immigrants. As a result most Goans are well off and the majority of the Indians are immigrants. Another thing is because of the parties and all the foreigners the police get tons of money in bribes. This made it so the police station is actually the biggest nicest building in the whole area. Also Indians are fighting to get into the Goan police force so they can get their cut. There is a four year waiting list and they usually are only allowed to be here for about two years until they have to go back to where they came from. That makes it so the police that are here try to get as much as they can while they are here. All this makes it feel very much like a police state (similar to Jamaica), and has made it so I'm not renting a motorbike because I don't have an international license. People say its no problem but you have to bribe the cops a couple hundred ruppies every time you go through a check point. I don't feel like dealing with this so I'm trying my best to walk everywhere or hitch rides with people.

Anyway, that's all for now, I have to get ready to go to this festival and see what the day brings me. Pictures aren't uploading correctly, maybe at the next place. Peace and Love to All!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Arriving in Mumbai India, to Panjim Goa

The flights and transport from Orion's flat to the airport went well. Actually the transport to the airport went better than expected and I left an hour early and arrived at the airport an hour earlier than expected. The plane ride was good and I sat next to a really nice British woman that is moving to Goa permanently. She was really kind and told me all about Goa and invited me to go to Christmas dinner with her in Vigator and possibly see her Portuguese Villa that her and her husband bought.

I got into Mumbai at around one in the morning. I got a taxi from the pre-pay booth which I guess is the most reliable way but the guy didn't know the hotel I booked over the internet. We drove to the area and kept asking other taxi's and rickshaw's (same as tuk tuk's in SE Asia) until we ended up at the right place. Then the rooms were being worked on so they took me to another hotel owned by the same people. It was actually a very nice and fancy hotel but in the middle of some slums in Mumbai which isn't too hard since a huge portion of the city are slums.

the view from my window in Mumbai

In the morning I talked to the receptionist about getting a night bus to Panjim and then ate my complimentary crappy breakfast. After arranging the bus I decided to walk around the area of the hotel to get some sort of feel of what Mumbai is like. I didn't realize how poor the area was until I was walking around. For one I was the only foreigner I saw in about 2.5 hours of walking up to a couple Km from my hotel. The main street was crazy so I ducked into a ally/street, it felt safe because of how many people were walking there (and it was pretty much).

I wish I could describe what it was like in these slums accurately. I was never more than a meter away from anyone to give you an idea of how many people were in this area. All the buildings were constructed and built very close to each other occasionally with very small alleys between them (which I never walked into). Almost every building had a store front and they were small establishments that did nearly everything, with a mettle workshop, next to seamstress, next to a tea shop, next to a clinic, next to a cell phone spot, next to a shoe fixing place, ext. There were even goats and chickens around, and some area's with Buffalo's in a corral thing. Random unofficial markets were all around, I turned one corner and saw a vegetable market in a slightly wider part of the walkway. Personally I've never seen a place with such obvious poverty without any begging.

After walking around a bit someone offered me some tea and I stopped and drank some tea with him and and his friends. Even with the poverty he would not let me pay, which left me with a good feeling, but then the next person that talked to me tried to sell me drugs. A police guy told me I should be careful of pick pockets, and another 3 guy's tried to sell me drugs (I guess that's the only reason a foreigner usually walks around there). Finally I decided to go back to the hotel when someone asked me what I was doing and I said walking around and he responded “you want to see poor people?”, I said “No, living people”. But that made me think twice about walking around anymore. I did not take any pictures of the slums because I did not want to walk around a bunch of poor people with an expensive camera.

Next I ate some lunch in the hotel and the receptionist took me to the bus station to help me find it because he was off his shift and it was on his way home. He was really nice and it took us over an hour to get to the bus station because of traffic. I got an idea of how extensive the slums are and we drove through the Mumbai National Park because there was less traffic that way. He helped me get into the bus then I was off on a 16 hour journey to Panjim, 3 of which were just getting out of Mumbai. That has to be the biggest poorest city I have ever seen. One cool thing I saw was in one neighborhood a lot of kids were playing with those Chinese fighter kites which I know my dad would have thought was cool.

Now I'm in the capital of Goa Panjim in a very cheap place (which would be cheaper is it wasn't right before Christmas). This is a cool city that's small enough I can walk everywhere, and it has a lot of Portuguese architecture because Goa used to be Portuguese. I had some lunch which is funny because I still don't know what most of the food is so I choose something and order it without knowing whats going to come. So far everything I've ordered has been good.

my guest house my room is the right grate on the very top, not a balcony

a walking bridge from where I am over to the buses

some cool statues in town

Now I'm in my room after taking a nap. Its cool having this netbook because I can write this in my room without paying for internet and then just copy it in the internet cafe. That's all for now, and I have been gradually getting my traveling feet back. Meeting all these people that love India, especially Goa helps, but it also feels good being in a third world country. India definitely has all the smells, sounds, and colors associated with a third world country and is more intense in these ways than anything I've ever seen, in a good way!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Beginning of Another Adventure

I'm off on another winter of traveling. I actually left Seattle 5 days ago and flew to London to see a very close friend named Orion from college that lives in London now. The plan this year is to travel for four months with three and a half months in India and a week in London hanging out with Orion on either end of the trip. It was actually the same price for the plane tickets straight to Mumbai and with stopping in London and it had been way too long without seeing Orion. It was been a great few days hanging out with Orion and meeting some of his friends and sharing stories from the last four years.

The first night I was here which was Thursday I relaxed at Orion's flat with him and his girlfriend Julia. It was a really nice and relaxing and I was tired from all the traveling. It snowed that first day and the next morning there was a light layer of snow on the ground. Orion and I went on a little walk in the morning to get some fresh air and see what the snow did to the city. Then we didn't do much all day but talk but there was a lot of catching up to do.

That night we went out drinking on Londship Lane in Duliich with a bunch of Irish rugby fans because one of them is Orion's fiddle instructor and we were invited out. We didn't get out until about 10 and actually got turned away from the bar when we got there. Orion's friend was able to get us in but I guess we weren't dressed up enough for that neighborhood. We only went to that first pub and then one more and went home before they closed but Orion and I remember coming home but not getting into bed but we both woke up in our respective beds.

So the next day we both felt like crap all day, it really doesn't make much sense because we didn't drink that much. Anyway, we were invited to a party that night in a penthouse with a great bunch of people and pulled ourselves together by around 10 again and headed to the party. It was an amazing little party up on a penthouse condo with a DJ, jamming in another room, about 20-30 people and an amazing view. Orion says its the best view of London he has seen and I can believe it. We ended up staying up very late, the party didn't start winding down until about 5. I have always been impressed with the kind and nice friends that Orion meets and this party showed his ability to meet good people.

That party basically destroyed the possibility of doing anything the next day since we woke up at 2 in the afternoon. We just recovered and cleaned up the flat making some curry for dinner and going to bed early.

Today I woke up early with Orion because he had to work and walked to the train station with him. Then I went back to the flat, ate and hung out until mid day when I headed into the center of the city to meet Orion for lunch. He works in a very busy area in the center of town but we met up fine and went to a pub for lunch. After that I walked around the city and saw Trafalgar Square, and the Parliament Buildings but went back to the flat quickly because it was pissing down rain.

Right when I got back to the flat the rain turned to snow and the city started having problems. The buses even stopped running. I actually leave pretty early tomorrow and I hope everything works out. Its not that big of a deal though because its one flight so it can be delayed and I'll still be fine. Well I'm off a friend of Orion's that he lived with in Edinburgh when I visited him for a month, so we've had a nice dinner all catching up and its about time for sleep to prepare for some more traveling tomorrow. Sorry about the absence of pictures but I haven't pulled out the camera at all.