Saturday, September 27, 2008

Registration Paper

I packed my suitcase, picked out a nice comfy outfit and checked-out of my service apartment. The 1.5-hour cab ride the airport made me nauseas but I didn’t care because I would wake up to Malaysia and have myself a steamy bowl of Kuay Teow T’ng for breakfast. Got to the Bangalore airport, checked-in my suitcases and got handed my boarding pass. I proceeded to the custom. The man behind the counter asked for some registration letter and I was like, what the eff is a registration letter. Within seconds, his entourage gathered around him, exchanged some Kannada words and next thing I know, I was taken aside to talk to a higher ranked officer.

Apparently, if you stay more than 180 days in India, you have to register with the Police Commissioner of India. I wasn’t planning to stay more than 6 months but my Indian visa is valid for one whole year so there’s a tiny print that says, “register in 14 days on arrival”. I’m f**ked. I begged, pleaded and told them I have left the country once to Singapore not too long ago without any issues, but there was no way out of this especially with all the terrorist attacks going around India.

I didn’t board the plane, but my luggage did, so the airline people had to delay the flight to remove them. When I eventually spoke to (or yell at) my lawyer, I found out the registration process will take about 2-3 working days, and since my flight was on a Friday night and lawyers don’t work on weekends, I will not be able to get home in time for pre-Raya festivities. Bummer.

I don’t know which is more upsetting; the fact that this country is so paper-driven, my overpaid lawyers are incompetent or that I forgot to read the fine prints.

"it's like fine prints appearing out of no where, throwing a curve ball at you", says Joe Win.

Part 2
Just my luck, the India government decided to declare Monday as a holiday. I have to pay a late fee to the nationalized bank as a penalty but the bank is close on Tuesday because of "Half-yearly closing of banks and Real Time Gross Settlement Holiday". Eid (or Adil Fitri in Malaysia is a holiday for Government offices in India) will fall on Wednesday. Thursday is Gandhi's birthday and also a national holiday. In conclusion, the earliest I can submit my papers will be Friday and processing takes 48 hours, which means earliest I can get my registration papers is Monday evening, but that's not even finalized because who knows what else might come up? *vomit*

"Man.. u r getting a taste of Indian red tape ;(", says Sajeed.

North India - Day 8 & 9 - Taj Mahal & Agra

(It's been a year and a half since this trip to North India but I am obliged to finish posting this trip!)

The four mouse-ketteers in Agra.


We didn't see much of Fetehpur Sikri because we thought it wasn't worth the entrance fee to see the ancient city for 15 minutes before closing time. Tired and disappointed, we drove to Agra and checked into our hotel, had an early night in hope to catch sunrise at the Taj Mahal.

5:30 a.m: Alarm rings. Snooze.
6:00 a.m: Alarm rings. Snooze.
6:30 a.m: Alarm rings. Crap! We've missed sunrise!

Ah, the Taj Mahal, sunrise or not, it was still one of the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Yes, it is breathtakingly beautiful. (Does the composition of this photo look familiar? Hint: Lonely Planet 2008)

Shoe cover required to walk around the Taj Mahal
Before you enter, you are required to cover your shoes with shoe cloths.

Majestic view of Taj Mahal from the side.

The many thousands of people who travelled from far away lands to come visit the beautiful structure.

The walls of Taj Mahal

Windows on the Taj Mahal

More details on the Taj Mahal

Resting at the sides of the Taj Mahal. It was such a sunny day, you could hardly see our eyes!

After the Taj, we dropped Nan off at the bus station, and we continued to explore the other parts of Agra.

Baby Taj
Baby Taj

Local boys jumping off the cliff of an old structure in Baby Taj and into the river.

Apart from the Tajs, there isn't much to do in Agra. We decided to go modern and ended up watching a movie in a mall. It was our first Bollywood experience and the movie was called "Singh is King". It didn't have English subtitles so I didn't understand what was going on but nonetheless, it was amusing to watch.

It was the 9th and last day of our trip and we were craving for non-Indian foods. Since there were a lack of choices, we treated ourselves at McDonald's for lunch and Pizza Hut for dinner. What a way to end a great trip, huh?

And let's not forget...
Us with our dedicated driver, Bhavan
A very special thanks to our driver, Bhavan, who has driven us to 4 cities in Rajasthan for 5 days. (Photo courtesy of Joe)


Prem and I landed in Goa and I can start counting the number of hours I’m sober for the rest of this weekend.

My first drink at Goa - feni, is made of fermented cashews and usually home-brewed but you can get it in almost any restaurants and bars in Goa. We stopped at this hole-in-the-wall and here the bartender is mixing my cocktail of feni with Limca (Indian lime flavored soda, kinda like Sprite except it has a limier taste and it looks a little muddled) into a used plastic bottle.

Mixing a feni cocktail.

We had arranged with Anjuna Hotel at Anjuna Beach to have a car for the whole day. First stop: Old Goa.

St. Francis Xavier Church.

St. Francis Xavier's coffin

Walking on water on Morjim Beach

Sunset at Morjim Beach

Anjuna Beach. We were looking for a spot to lay and soak in some rays when I pass a few Indian men gawking at some caucasian chick in a black bikini. By the time we got on the other side, they made themselves comfortable by sitting on the sand with arms folded, a few feet from her. The beach isn’t crowded because it’s off peak (peak between October to June, I think) but these men will have a blast during peak season.

Getting a massage on the beach … what a luxury, right? But for some reason, I was so disturbed by what I saw, I have to share this with you. A few feet away from where we laid our beach towels, an Indian woman was changing into her bikini and her boobs were spilling out in front of this small India man. It turned out the small Indian man was a masseuse but would lay his hands on her er, private parts. She then pushes his hands away (or attempt to) and try to cover those parts but he would try again and again. When he was done with her, he walked over to us and asked if Merv and I wanted a massage. Merv politely declined with, “I don’t like to be touched” and he walks away.

On this very same spot, we were also attacked by a group of what Merv calls “scavengers”, who blissfully displayed their products on our beach towels and won’t leave until we buy something.

View from a nice little beach shack on Anjuna beach.

We had dinner and dance at Baga. It’s off peak so we were the first customers at the restaurant and the first (and the only ones for the next 3 hours) to hit the dance floor. The club we picked was pitch black when we got there because there were no power in the area and I guess three foreigners were not important enough for them to turn on the generator.

The first 1.5 days was sunny and nice but the rest of our stay in Goa was rainy and gray so we decided to go inland. We visited a spice farm that provided lunch (with complimentary lemongrass tea and on request, a tiny shot of feni) and during off-monsoon seasons, you could bathe with the elephants. I was petting Babu, the male elephant when I heard Prem and Merv snickering behind me. Apparently, Babu’s 5th leg appeared out of nowhere. I wasn’t sure if I should be amused or afraid of an elephant with a hard-on.

Can you spot his 5th leg?

Spice farm


Panjim is a charming little Portuguese influenced town. We stayed at Panjim Inn, which was a bit pricey and had a bad stench from the river across the street but overall very comfortable and clean.

Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi on the Goan streets with fireworks.

Must be nice to have an open-air washroom

Little kids hanging out by the window.

I can't remember his name but the man with the hat is the Panjim Inn owner.

A few hours before our flight and what better way to kill time than to have a bottle of Portuguese wine at Hotel Venit. Merv and I shared a chicken Portuguese dish that is pretty tasty but Prem's mac and cheese was a bit disappointing.

Casa Mendes rose

Hotel Venite

More Goa Pictures

Friday, September 26, 2008

North India - Day 6 & 7: Jaipur

(This post is long over due so I can’t remember much details)
The drive from Jodhpur to Jaipur took a very, very long time. We checked in to Hotel Madhuban at 4pm. This hotel is owned by and used to be home to some descendents of ancient rulers of Patan in Rajasthan. The hotel is decorated with fine antique furniture and elaborate royalty costumes and silverware in display cases. It has an outdoor restaurant area and even comes with a pool, which we didn’t use but attempted to.
Madhuban Hotel living room

Madhuban Hotel swimming pool

We visited the Jaipur City Palace but were not too impressed. I think all in all, we spent about 20 minutes in the palace. Since we were in the car for pretty much the whole day, we wanted to walk to our next destination. The surrounding streets and market by the palace were a bit um, filthy. If Delhi perpetually stank of pee, Jaipur perpetually stank of dung. I was playing with my D40 when I noticed some boys running towards me. They were running because a cow was chasing them, which means the cow was heading straight at me. I of course freaked out and ran with them. When I thought it was safe to stop, I turned around and of course the whole street was laughing, including the three Malaysians traveling with me.

City Palace

Snake charmer in the palace

Street animals

Next morning, we checked-out from the hotel and went straight to Amber Fort. I thought I had seen enough forts by then but this fort was quite stunning. You are not allowed to drive up to the fort, so there was a bit of hike. Alternatively, you could pay for an elephant ride. Oh, and you know how I got chased by a cow at the market, well Merv got chased by a donkey at the fort.

Amber Fort

We took the wrong turn and went on the elephant path.

This elephant is peeing

Underage performers at the fort

View from Amber Fort

On our way to Agra, we stopped by Fetehpur Sikri. We didn't make it into Sikri but did Fetehpur.

Inside of Amber Fort.

Some beautiful motifs on the walls.

A garden in the fort.

More Jaipur pictures

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Merv and I took an overnight train to Hospet - 1st class sleeper with A/C and had a room that we shared with 2 other men. Since we never got too friendly and didn’t find out their names, I’ll call them Man A and Man B. Man A had an ipod but didn’t know how to control the volume so I showed him. To return his gratitude, Man A offered us half of his tomato rice, which was quite tasty but way too spicy. I slept quite well despite train motion but Merv woke me up at 6:40am because he saw a many people squatting on the adjacent train tracks doing #2 . Man B woke up as well and was instantly very chatty but Merv and I were too stoned and could only provide single-word responses. When we finally arrived at 8am, we were rudely pushed aside by brown uniformed bodyguards to make way for some governmental VIP, who turned out to be no other than chatty Man B. We missed our chance of rubbing shoulders.

1st class sleeper and brown uniformed bodyguard.


In Hospet, we met up with Prem (the Frienemy), who introduced us to his coworker Bel and we all took a big auto rickshaw to quiet riverbank, where you can take a coracle across the river to Anegundi. Obviously, these rides are meant for locals because we don’t speak Kannada so we have to pay Rs10, instead of Rs5. See this bridge? It’s not connected and has been in the exact same state for the past 8 years. Apparently, some locals are against completing this bridge to avoid big trucks from having easy access to Anegundi villages and damaging the natural environ and heritage. Anyway, the interesting fact about these coracles; there are usually 2-3 paddlers to a coracle and one of said it could fit up to 40 adults or 10 adults with 3 motorcycles.

It's like time has stopped here and there’s really no rush for to do anything but live. Life from this side of the river seems so simple and candid; I almost forgot that on the other side of the river, or the world, an era is ending.

We checked into Kishkinda Cottage and met the owner, Shama, who happens to also run the Kishkinda Trust. The non-profit organization is dedicated to the conservation of Anegundi heritage. Shama has a certain flair and emits a nurturing-vibe, which makes sense why the villagers call her “amma”. Her niece took us around town to look at some craft workshops that she helped set up and manage.

Village ladies learning how to stitch with a view of paddy field.

Village ladies making bags with banana leaf fiber.

Her niece also suggested we take a tour to go up to the no-name hills to look at some Neolithic settlements. Next morning at 7am, our driver cum tour guide and his two assistants drove about 45mins from the cottage to get to the foothills. At first glance, we were slightly apprehensive realizing there is no path and wearing the wrong shoes. After about 1.5 hours of thorn-scratches (note to self: wear long pants when hiking), constant slipping off big rocks (note also: Vans slip-ons not ideal for hiking) and numerous times of getting lost we finally reached here…


Neolithic graves.

Merv and Prem were bitchy and sarcastic from the hike and heat but both were like me, astonished by the sight. I was surprised how this area hasn’t been guarded off and restored and to my amazement, still in tact. Even though I tried hard looking for "souvenirs", all I found was some shells. Wait a minute, what are shells doing on the hilltop? Apparently, up on these hills is where land used to be, so these shells I found could be ...5000 year-old fossils?

People I know who visited Hampi covers Hampi in two days but since we spent a chunk of this weekend in Anegundi, we pretty much scurried through these sights like a marathon runner. The architecture of the Hampi ruins reminded me so much of the ruins I saw in Greece, it made me wonder who copied whom? Hampi is really peaceful and beautiful, check out my flickr album for more pics.

Baby Ganesha

Communal dining table

Ginormous Ganesha



Stone chariot in Vitthala Temple

Monolithic granite musical pillars in Vitthala Temple

Elephant Stables

After an 11-hour train ride, we reached Bangalore at 6:30am and Prem got a call from Bel. How sweet is that? A check-in call once you reach your destination. When Prem got into work, Bel explained that someone had saw on the local Hampi news that three engineers had drowned , one of them from Chennai (Prem always claims he’s from Chennai but dude is born and raised in New Jersey) and Bel was convinced that it was the three of us. There were no cell phone reception on our overnight train from Hampi to Bangalore, so he couldn’t reach Prem. Bel even called my office and found my cell number but it was my U.S. number, which doesn’t work locally so he was freaking out. Poor Bel must’ve had a long sleepless night and it’s unfortunate the 3 engineers died but we thought the whole situation was quite funny.

More Hampi Pics