Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Vikhroli: Around a Mumbai Suburb

Vikhroli is a suburb in Mumbai and lies somewhere in the centre of Mumbai. It is nowhere near any tourist attraction and in fact, it takes probably an hour or so to get to one. Considering that I have about 5 to 6 hours to spare including 2 hours commuting, I decided to just check out the neighbourhood.

Nothing faze cows in India
When you are in India, this is a common sight - cows sitting at the side of the road, or even right smack in the middle. Motorist driving in India has superb skill in navigating around this holy animal.

I walked out of the residential area towards where the shops were, lo and behold there's a supermarket! Grin - it's fun to poke around in supermarket when you have time and see what kind of food there are on the shelves in different countries. I thought I'll start the day with coffee and got myself a can coffee, ahem... but I did finish it, waste not...

The other outlet that I spend a bit of time was a little book store, there were books for young adults written by Hindi authors too! Anyway, I continued my walk to the waters. Grin.

Yup, this was in Mumbai

I sat around for a bit, taking in the view and jotting down in my journal. There were two other guys there, sitting at the best spot in the house, at a corner, under the shade. My spot wasn't too bad but I had to move every now and then to get under the shade.

I sat crossed legs and by the time I got up, my feet has gone sleeping and I was limping to wear off the numbness. One of the passerby looked worried and started saying something to me. I don't speak Hindi and he doesn't speak English but somehow I worked out that he thought I had injured my foot. I also somehow managed to tell him I was ok. 'Sign' language and 'OK' seems universal enough. ;)

I walked back to the shops and picked out what I wanted to have for lunch. I decided to get a dosa from a food stall. Against all the advice of not eating street food in India, I went ahead with it anyway. I justified that it was cooked hot, that should have some comfort. This did not give me food poisoning but food from some restaurant in Agra did. Go figure.

Kaala masala dosa

Yes - I actually have a fork in my bag, a spoon too.. LOL

I asked for takeaway thinking that it would be easy to eat, a bit like a wrap. I was wrong, it came with dipping curries.

Super messy
There comes the issue, it's not ideal to do a takeaway as I was reluctant to eat such messy dish at where I was bunking. I did something that was probably a little worse than eating street food - I ate the street food in the street, sitting on a staircase, with the food placed on a flat hand rail. All was good and I even got myself an ice-cream cup from the supermarket as I made my way back to the accommodation.

A little fluffing around, Little P returned from work and we were ready to get to the airport to catch our domestic flight to Udaipur. ^^

Side note: Keeping fingers crossed for a clear day!

Monday, July 21, 2014

India: 12 hours itinerary in Mumbai

I reached Mumbai at 5.25am on a Thursday morning. My flight left Melbourne at 7.30 pm on Wednesday and had a two hour transit in Changi Airport. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, the primary international airport in Mumbai is the first airport I encountered which segregates immigration check by flight class instead of foreign or local passport. Yes, if you are one of the many who traveled on an economy class, you get to queue with your fellow flight passengers.

I was picked up from the airport to the apartment that I bunked, courtesy of Little P. It was way too early in the morning, so I had a shower and a nap while she was hard at work. :P

Knowing that I would probably sleep the better part of the day away, I set an alarm and dragged myself out of bed to see Mumbai. Technically, I was in Mumbai for close to 2 days but only day 1 was spent doing the touristy bits. Whilst I did spent day two sightseeing, I was nowhere near the tourist centre of Colaba, in fact I was about an hour's drive away.

I took a cab to Gateway of India.

Gateway of India was built during the British Raj in Mumbai  overlooking the Arabia Sea. It is located on the waterfront in the Apollo Bunder area. This monument was erected to commemorate the landing of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary when they visited India in 1911.

This gateway was right next to the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel and symbolises "power and majesty" of British empire.

A bomb was planted in a taxi which exploded near the gateway in 2003 and was the disembarkation point of the terrorists participating in the November 2008 terror attacks of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower.

One could take a boat ride here to get to Elephanta Island, the boat ride itself take about an hour. I gave this a miss as the island itself would take half a day though it does look very interesting. This is actually one of the few things I had listed down as I would want to check out.

I had a walk around the area and stopped for lunch at Leopold Cafe. Leopold Cafe sits on Colaba Causeway and was one of the first sites attacked during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

I ordered a garlic naan (Rs 90) and half size chicken tikka masala (Rs 400) for my lunch, washed down with a glass of cold coffee. I made a rookie mistake of forgetten to request for less sugar or sweet for my coffee (Rs 70).

This was yumm....

The sweetest coffee I had to date... even after watered down
After a fulfilling lunch, it was time to walk off the calories. I turned left from Leopold Cafe and walked along Colaba Causeway. Colaba Causeway is officially known as Shahid Bhagat Singh Road and house many stalls selling souvenirs, trinkets, jewellery, etc along it's walkway. Me being the boring one, only walked away with two pieces of Mumbai magnet.

Up till this time I do no have a map with me, so I popped in one of the hotels off Colaba Causeway and grabbed a free map. I then realised my next intended stop was at the opposite direction, so I retraced my steps and passed Leopold Cafe again, towards the other side.

I probably walked for another 30-40 minutes, passing Regal Cinema, one of the oldest and now rare stand alone theatre left in Mumbai till I reached Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). Strangely I think I only saw probably just another couple of foreigners along the road at that time. I am curious as to why they commute as I did see other foreigners at the tourist site but not when I was walking. Shrug.

CST was formerly known as Victoria Terminus (and definitely easier to pronounce) and was so named in honour of the Queen and Empress Victoria. It was opened on the date of her Golden Jubilee in 1887. CST is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. It was renamed as CST in March 1996, in memory of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the great Maratha Warrior King.

At the time of my travel, entry was not permitted to these part of the building. I only took pictures from outside of the gate. There was a security guard standing just next to the gate. In the midst of me taking shots of this beautiful building, two school girls came up and asked if they could have a photo with me. Mmm.. I can't be that exotic looking, especially considering my hair is still black in colour. Anyway, I obliged and they wished me "Welcome to India" :)

Female carriage
Despite being in the train station, I didn't board on any train as the next stop I wanted to go was on a different train line. Otherwise, it would work out perfectly. I flagged down a taxi and told him I wanted to go to Mahalaxmi train station. Seeing that I was a tourist, he asked if I wanted to go to Dhobi Ghat. This massive outdoor open air laundry place is just next to Mahalaxmi train station, 6th station on the Western Line from Churchgate. I paid Rs 73 for taxi fare from CST to Dhobi Ghat.

According to this webpage, this dhobi ghat is a registred organisation, called the Dhobi Kalyan and Audyogik Vikas Co-op Society. It was initially formed in 1890 to service the city's English and Parsi population.

From here, I walked for another 30 minutes of so, heading towards Haji Ali Dargah. Again, I have not met any tourist during my walk, maybe they took a cab instead? I'm unsure but 30 minutes isn't a long walk, really it isn't. Mmm.

Haji Ali Dargah is both a mosque and dargah (tomb). According to legends, Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari (R.A.) once saw a poor woman crying on the road, holding an empty vessel. He asked her what was the problem and was told by the woman that she stumbled and accidentally spilled the oil she was carrying. If she was to return home with an empty vessel, she would be beaten by her husband. The Saint asked the woman to bring him to the spot where she split the oil. At the spot, he jabbed a finger into the soil and oil gushed out. The woman, overjoyed, filled up the vessel and went home.

Thereafter, Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari (R.A.) had a recurring and disturbing dream that he had injured Earth by his act. Full of remorse and grief, he became seriously ill and decided to travel to India with his mother's consent. Years passed and before his death, he advised his followers to drop his shroud in the ocea and it should be buried by people where it is found. Haji Ali Dargah was built at the very site where his shroud came to rest, on an islet off the coast of Worli in the Southern part of Mumbai.

The accessibility to the dargah is very much dependent on the tides. It is only accessible during low tide. There are many stalls along the causeway leading to the dargah.


That, was my last stop for the day one in Mumbai before hailing another taxi and made my way back to the apartment for the night. If I had a little more time on day one, I would love to check out the Thieves Market too.

Side note: Pocky is dangerous....

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ph(f)oto Friday: Cafe Cuba

I was in need of coffee on my day two in Mumbai and found this. I thought it was one of those canned coffee from vending machine over in Japan.

How wrong I was. This was actually a soft drink in coffee flavour... = ="

Side note: Trolley luggage or backpack?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

7 Days in Mumbai, Udaipur and the Golden Triangle of Incredible India

This was a rather unexpected trip. It started with Little P had a chance to travel to Mumbai for work and asked if I would like to see the Taj. If so, she would extend a couple of days and pay our respect to the world famous mausoleum. After I checked with my manager on annual leave and what not, I pounced on the rare chance and proposed if we could do the Golden Triangle.

After all the dramas of Little P getting her visa approved, then me applying for mine (there will not be any travel if Little P's visa was not approved), followed by getting the flight tickets. By the time my visa was approved, it was less than a week from travel date.

From visa application to flight booking, there were dramas and blond moments stamping all over it. It started with me absent mindedly left my passport at home on the day I wanted to apply for the visa. We were already pressed for time and the visa application has a 5 day turnaround processing time, so I had to rush home, grabbed my passport and hurried out to the Indian visa processing site centre.

After the visa was approved, I had difficulty in getting the flights I want, the airline website kept on defaulting my selection to another flight. I tried all internet browser I had from IE to Mozilla to Google Chrome but none of it work. I finally had it done by buying my flight ticket via the phone.

The last of it was my camera broke down the first morning we were in Udaipur, just as the holidays begin. Ha! Anyway, it was now history and we had a ball of a time in India. :)

This was the most luxury trip I had taken thus far (in both monetary and planning). Given lack of time for proper planning and probably a bad idea to travel in India without sufficient information, we decided to engage a tour operator to assist in accommodation booking, car rental (with driver) and ground tour. A friend had previously traveled to India and used the same tour operator company after recommendation from her friend in India, we decided to go with this.

As Little P was traveling for work, it was decided that I would only joined her in the last couple of days in Mumbai before we took a local flight to Udaipur and then the Golden Triangle. My flight out of India was via Delhi but she had to double back to Mumbai. I took a late evening flight after work and reached Mumbai the next morning.

As fate has it, we made the trip in end of February which was winter in India, and had a superb weather overall as we were traveling to Rajasthan.

Day 1 - Mumbai
Day 2 - Mumbai, Udaipur* (Shikarbadi Hotel)
Day 3 - Udaipur*
Day 4 - Jaipur* (Four Points Sheraton)
Day 5 - Jaipur*
Day 6 - Agra* (Wyndham)
Day 7 - Delhi
*overnight stay

Side note: I need a sunny weekend!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Uluru: Around the rock... or to climb?


Our second sunrise in 3 days time - at Talinguru Nyakunytjaku over a complimentary hot cuppa of coffee.

We were then allowed some time to walk around the rock, before the bus came back to collect us. We started on the Lungkata Walk and would have to be back before our flight during mid day.
Photography were forbidden on parts of the walk.

Lungkata is a blue-tongued lizard man, who came to Uluru after he heard that there were many other beings there and that the land was good. One day, he stole an emu wounded by Panpanpalala, the crested bellbird man. Despite knowning it was wrong to steal another hunter's food, Lungkata killed it and lied when Panpanlala came looking for it.

Anyway, after Panpanpalala realised he was tricked by Lungkata, he doubled back and lit at fire at the base of the rock. Overcame by the smoke and burned by the flames,  the great lizard rolled back down the face of Uluru and fell to his death.

As we didn't have much time, we thought we would doubled back and started on Mala Walk, then we saw there were people climbing the rock.

The first quarter of the climb looked fairly ok but there was one bit of it that is free climbing with nothing to hold on to. If you could overcome that, you would reach the bits with metal railing, all the way up to the top. I won't discuss the ethnical of whether to climb or not to climb, but there are a whole heap of rules before one would be allowed to climb.

Looking over to Kata Tjuta from Uluru

That was our last visit of the National Park before we hopped on our shuttle bus and headed back to the Ayers Rock resort.

Side note: I want to go into my hamster ball...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ph(f)oto Friday: Uniqlo in Melbourne

Uniqlo goodness has finally reached Melbourne shore. Though, unfortunately I think it is more pricey here comparing to prices with it's Asian counterparts. Nevertheless, better than none!

Side note: If you are to cook a three course Malaysian meal, what would be the three?