Posts Tagged ‘India’

24-Nov-2014 Mumbai Vegetarians

Monday 24 November 2014 Leave a comment

I read a great article in the LA Times about some Mumbai vegetarians. In a very meat-centered world, it is great to notice people somewhere, anywhere tipping the balance back towards vegetarianism. When I was in Rishikesh and Vrindavan in India the whole city was vegetarian (and alcohol-free) and it’s just great to feel part of the majority rather than the minority.

The rest of India is still about 50/50 with vegetarians so is just great to travel around.

Mumbai’s strictly vegetarian enclave gives flesh-eaters the evil eye

In a roughly 2-square-mile patch containing some of India’s priciest real estate, a firm and sometimes militant vegetarianism prevails. Most residents of this old-money section of South Mumbai are Jains or devout Hindus, and not only do they not eat flesh, but they also don’t want it anywhere near them. Eateries serving meat and seafood are all but banned, and stories abound of certain apartment buildings refusing to consider prospective residents who are what Indians call ; sometimes with more than a soupcon of judgment ; non-vegetarians.

They’re pretty fascist about it, says food writer Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi. I’ve seen Bengali friends and others complain that they’ve tried to move somewhere and the building says, ‘Oh, you are fish-eaters, you’ll smell up the place, so we won’t give you the apartment.

A menu by prominent restaurateur Sanjay Narang that included tandoori chicken and lamb curry ticked off neighbors in an apartment building on an exclusive boulevard fronting the Arabian Sea. Narang shuttered his ground-floor establishment in 2005 after residents above reportedly spat on his patrons, dropped nails on them or keyed their cars. So what’s a global food and beverage behemoth to do in such circumstances? If you’re Starbucks ; which seems intent on cracking every lucrative Indian market ; you go with the flow. The coffee chain’s new outpost off palm-fringed Marine Drive doesn’t sell the local-style club sandwiches or murg kathi wraps ; flatbreads stuffed with spiced chicken; found at dozens of other Starbucks in India. The brightly lighted display case contains only meatless fare: a hummus and pita platter, a spicy red bean sandwich, a mushroom and sun-dried tomato filling on ciabatta.

There are no potatoes, onions or omelets in sight, either, in deference to Jains, who eschew not only meat but also eggs and root vegetables plucked from beneath the earth. Muffins, cakes and pastries made with egg are clearly labeled, in keeping with Indian law.

It’s a Jain area, explained Sanjay, a young barista. Their preference. Starbucks’ Indian office did not respond to questions. But the menu is clearly in line with snack shops and ice cream stalls in the neighborhood that bill themselves as 100% pure veg, including doughnuts that come in eggless varieties. If you open a non-veg restaurant there, said Sanghvi, even if they don’t force you to shut down, you will shut down eventually because the richest people in the neighborhood are vegetarian and your business doesn’t survive.

India may be overwhelmingly Hindu, a religion that regards the cow as sacred, but national surveys suggest that less than half the population is vegetarian. Mumbai, as India’s long-standing commercial capital, is home not only to native Marathis but also sizable minorities of Muslims, Zoroastrian Parsis, Christians from western India and Bengalis from the east ; all generally non-vegetarians. Some of the city’s best-loved dishes include meat and seafood: Persian-inspired lamb cutlets, aromatic chicken biryani and the pungent dried fish known as Bombay duck. But perhaps because of metropolitan Mumbai’s sheer density ; 21 million people packed into a narrow strip along the Arabian Sea ; residents have carved out enclaves where they can live among those who eat and worship as they do.

The penchant seems to run strongest in South Mumbai near Marine Drive, a sea-hugging thoroughfare that in British colonial days was dubbed the Queen’s Necklace because its streetlights resembled a string of pearls. Patrons line up outside Veg and Proud restaurants that promise Jain Food Available. Many of the gently decaying old apartment blocks are occupied almost exclusively by Jains or well-connected merchant families from the neighboring state of Gujarat, who are strict vegetarians. (Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Gujarati, served visiting heads of state an all-vegetarian menu at his inauguration in May.) The influx of these groups has not sat well with some native Marathis.

Marathis don’t get accommodation of their choice because they are Marathis and non-vegetarian, local lawmaker Nitesh Rane said recently. He was attempting to explain a tweet in which he urged Mumbai residents to start cleaning up all the Marathi hating gujjus from there once for all.

The Starbucks sits near a series of Gujarati-owned diamond boutiques and sweet shops and next to the Shree Krishna Hindu Merchants Club, a members-only establishment named for a Hindu god. The club naturally forbids meat (although it was long known for hosting underground high-stakes card games). To the west lies Malabar Hill, the city’s toniest district and site of a famous Jain temple, where many grocers don’t stock eggs and the handful of stalls that sell frozen meat and fish have faced occasional pressure to close. Basant Todi, whose family runs Kurries and Burries, a fast-food place across from Starbucks, said: Ninety percent of the people in this lane are Jains. If you have non-veg items, they will avoid you.

His tiny, colorful eatery features a typically eclectic Mumbai menu, including nachos and tom yum soup. But whereas its first location, in a suburban office park, serves Thai curries and khao suey, a Burmese noodle dish, here it has excised those dishes because they require onion and garlic. You can’t make a Jain khao suey, Todi explained. There are rare exceptions to the meat-free zone. An outpost of Domino’s Pizza, which once took chicken toppings off its menu, is currently non-vegetarian. And then there’s the venerable Kobe Sizzlers, which has been serving chicken, lamb and seafood stir-fries out of a buzzing ground-floor location for 35 years. Owner Urmila Sheth, a Gujarati grande dame wearing pearls and a giant diamond-studded nose ring, said hers was one of the first stir-fry restaurants to open in Mumbai. As the neighborhood has become more gastronomically conservative, her meat-heavy menu appears to have been grandfathered in. Yet even Sheth has recently converted to vegetarianism after deciding she couldn’t stomach the idea of a chicken being slaughtered. Her son, who helps manage the business, eats everything, she sighed, but Sheth no longer dines at her own restaurant.

I can’t stand anyone eating fish at my table, she said.

29-Oct-2014 A Fine Balance Book

Wednesday 29 October 2014 Leave a comment

afinebalanceThis month’s book for Book Club was “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry. I have read it before and loved it and I have read of bunch of his other ones also.

I loved the book again, I love the slow-paced build-up. I love the snippets into Indian life and different religions and customs but it’s not rammed hard at you. It’s good.

Obviously, it’s set in India which always puts it firmly in my radar, I love books about India. The 2 tailors, from a lower caste are definitely underdogs, I am always a fan of under dogs. Dinah and Maneck complete the key four characters, are an interesting mix of people and backgrounds but the story goes well together and I felt like I really cared for them, which is quite rare in a book. It follows that successes and failures.

Here were some cool quotes I’d bookmarked:

The proofreader nodded, ‘You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.’ He paused, considering what he had just said. ‘Yes,’ he repeated. ‘In the end, it’s all a question of balance.’

Which is obviously where he got the name of the book from. Very true.

But how firm to stand, how much to bend? Where was the line between compassion and foolishness, kindness and weakness? And that was from her position. From theirs, it might be a line between mercy and cruelty, consideration and callousness.

 This is one of the great truths, most people and society in general likes order, but you can’t be impassionate about choices, there has to be some give – it’s not a black and white world.

‘The rules should always allow someone to win,’ Om insisted. The logical breakdown troubled him. ‘Sometimes, no one wins,’ said Maneck. ‘You were right, it is a stupid game,’ said Om.

 I think this is a wry comment on life – no one wins, everyone dies, rich, poor, sick, well. Even if you lead a long and healthy and fruitful life you still get to see everyone you hold dear die in front of you.

‘So that’s the rule to remember, the whole quilt is much more important than any single square.’

 An uplifting comment … the meaning is obvious. Don’t worry about one setback – put it in to perspective with your whole life.

People forget how vulnerable they are despite their shirts and shoes and briefcases, how this hungry and cruel world could strip them, put them in the same position as my beggars.’

 yes, you may have it all now, but fortune, luck or karma have a way of changing everything, even in the blink of an eye.

‘After all, our lives are but a sequence of accidents – a clanking chain of chance events. A string of choices, casual or deliberate, which add up to that one big calamity we call life.’

So true, I often remark to Dawn that life is like one big random accidental series of occurrences!

Some additional links:

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21-Oct-2013 Poor little rich slum book

Monday 21 October 2013 1 comment

poor little rich slum book  coverI bought this book in Kolkata when I was there earlier this year just a few days after I’d done a tour of the Dharavi slum in Mumbai.

I read this week in just a few days as it was short quick book. It was a good read mainly about the slum via snippets of interviews with people who live and work there. Obviously if you have been there you have a better understanding of the whole situation, the fact it’s been there so long it has some semi-official recognition and how they are trying to re-locate people out but it’s got this great community spirit so people prefer staying there. It’s poor for sure with few facilities but it’s a very vibrant plane, and feels very communal. If you are ever in Mumbai then it is so well worth going on a tour there. An awesome experience indeed.

See following links:

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22-Aug-2013 Yoga

Thursday 22 August 2013 Leave a comment

After work I caught the train to Caringbah to meet Dawn for Bikram Yoga. We have been going since October 2009. Although the main classes are the “beginner’s” series it’s not really that easy. And although it’s the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises every single time it’s never boring. I guess some days some things are easy and some hard and then on other days it’s just different (like running in many ways). The classes are usually quite full 30 people+

Ultimately I don’t think I am that good, and struggle to really nail them, but I’ve been going long enough and often enough to know most of the bits to do, and make it look convincing. I usually stand near the front as often I get in just before the start and most people leave those spots free for the good people. so funny! But it means I get a clear view in the mirror so I can see where I am going wrong.

Dawn of course is waaay better than me, but she’s a natural at everything. It’s good to go together although we don’t usually go next to each other and I am sure it looks like we are not even a couple as we don’t chat much etc !!

I always knew I was very stiff after doing all those years of running and knew I should do some stretching but just never liked the idea of a “quick stretch”. I knew something like yoga would be more my thing, and of course I have a weakness for anything Indian ! I then cased out all the different types of yoga and decided that Bikram would be a good place to start as the heat quite intrigued me and most reviews said this was what all the fit people do.

We have done Bikram now in Caringbah, Darlinghurst, Byron Bay, Mt Maunganui (NZ) and all the teachers are of a similar standard. They often have their own little quirks but overall the standard is very consistent.

After yoga we often go to woolies and make the best use of our time. Often get home at gone 10.30pm and today was no exception. Watched Skins and went to bed no far off 1am.

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23-Apr-2013 Summary of Bangla-Dash

Tuesday 23 April 2013 Leave a comment

I emailed the following summary to all the people that donated money to my Bangla-Dash adventure.

It was funny as I am still getting emails from the Smart Traveller website about the situation in Bangladesh, and this arrived just as I was sending the email:

Current Advice Level: “High degree of caution”
Change Summary:
It has new information under Summary, Safety and security: Civil unrest/political tension and Local travel (hartals/general strikes can involve the shutdown of all activity; violence surrounding hartals may target public transport and private vehicles).

Anyway, the summary is :

This email is to all the people who donated money to my recent Bangla-Dash adventure – many thanks for your kind & generous support. I met the people that will receive your money, and can report that it is being wisely spent and will make a small difference to the world, but a big difference in a small village near Sonargoan just outside of Dhaka.

Short version:

I went to India to run 290km from Kolkata India to Dhaka Bangladesh to raise funds to complete building a school just outside Dhaka. I carried $5000 cash which I was very relieved to safely handover! I completed 40% of the run (115km) through the Kolkata metropolis and rural West Bengal villages as I was stopped in Bangladesh due to an unprecedented general strike over 4 days that prevented any traffic movement between towns, stopped ferries etc. However when the strike was lifted for just one day we were able to grasp the opportunity to run to the town where the school is being built and I was able to meet the builder, architect and project manager. Whilst disappointed that I was unable to finish the run due to political issues, I know I would have been able to physically finish and ultimately a life lesson is that sometimes things are outside of your control and you just need to just let nature take it’s course. I specifically chose this project because it would be difficult and there was a chance it might not go according to plan, but I had a great adventure doing it and met some great people and saw some great sights. I enjoyed meeting many people in India and Bangladesh and never once felt threatened or unsafe, in fact I clearly saw that people everywhere are just people trying to make the best of their lives and for their families, it was a real refresher on how similar we all are, as people of this world. I am impressed by my friends Marc and Chris’ desire to continue with a difficult project in a difficult country and the three of us are still continuing to seek donations to fund a second school.

Long Version:

Sometimes you just have to go with your heart.

Last year I read about 2 teachers, an Australian and an American who had been working in Bangladesh and had this idea to do a sponsored run from Kolkata India to Dhaka Bangladesh, a total of 290km in about 4 days. I was mightily impressed by this – I have been a runner for many years and was keen to attempt some kind of “journey run” for a charity and was half looking for inspirational ideas. I am very interested in India and even went to India for 6 weeks in 2012. The timing of their run wasn’t good for me, but I followed them up afterwards and found they had raised more than $20,000. They donated half to a school that was being built and which opened in January 2013 and they lined up an architect to design a school that they would fund and build to replace an existing shed that was being used as a school by a disadvantaged community.

I contacted them to see if they were planning on doing the run again, they weren’t, but they said if I was keen to run myself then they would help with the logistics in Bangladesh. They seemed like genuine friendly blokes doing something very worthwhile but the idea was pretty scary. I decided to commit to doing the run anyway and try to raise some money myself and trust that it would turn out ok. Sometimes you just have to go with your heart.

Timing was difficult, it was February and Chris was the only one still in Bangladesh, but was leaving in June. The weather would be best in March or April, but I couldn’t go in March (too hot and/or too wet afterwards). As he is a teacher and we would borrow the school’s minibus, I would be limited to the school holidays in April, although he was going away overseas for much of the holidays with his family, so we locked in the only week that we had to do the run.

Luckily I had been training hard over the summer and I just had to sort out my flights and logistics for the 82km that is on India side of the border. All my injections from my India trip in 2012 were still current. I emailed my friends, family and work colleagues to see if anyone would donate to the cause and to date have received over $4500 from about 80 different people. Chris in Bangladesh was very impressed as this was pretty much just the right amount remaining to complete the school building – the funds will be used for the solar-powered lights, shelving and furniture and some teacher-training.

I left Australia on 26th March with $5000 in a large pile of crisp $50 notes from Westpac Bank safely in my backpack. I had a few days sightseeing in Mumbai and then a few days in Kolkata where I planned the start of the run, the route and surveyed the first section. I visitied Gandhi’s house/musuem and also Mother Teresa’s which I enjoyed greatly as well as having soem great indian food. I would leave as early as possible on Weds 3rd April, starting from Howrah station and running across the Howrah bridge then find my way out through the suburbs and head for the Bangladesh border. I purposefully brought as little as possible, just to fill a very small backpack – later weighed by the side of the road at 9.2kg – however try carrying it on your back and it still feels heavy!

I started running at 5am totally scared out of my wits – would I find the way ? Would I be safe by myself ? Would I get squashed by the crazy traffic ? Would the Police just decide I wouldn’t be allowed to do this ? Luckily I found my way out of the city ok, and as it got daylight and I got further out the conditions improved. But boy was it hot ! Luckily there were lots of places to get water, cold drinks and the ever-present sweet indian chai. Most people saw me as like an alien that had dropped from the sky, in disbelief. Who are you ? where are you going ? where have you come from ? why are you running ? As it was hard work running, often all I could manage was a wave and a smile!

I had allowed myself 2 days to make the 82km to the border with Bangladesh and my appointment with my support crew. Doing it in one day would be tough and there were a thousand things that could delay me, so I went on the side of caution and planned for two days. I figured 47km on day one would leave an easier 35km for day two. I reached the town of Habra, 47km into the run at 3pm on day one and was shattered, with badly blistered feet and literally almost ready to pass out. If truth be told, the previous few hours had been hard. The road was narrow and I was close to a lot of traffic and my rest breaks were becoming more frequent.I stopped and sat and drank anything I could lay my hands on but there was no hotel so I took a rickshaw to the next village to stay the night. They’d never had a foreigner stay there before and I slept beside the mosque.

On day two I took a rickshaw back to Habra and continued my run, gently, as my feet were still sore. I ensured I took time to rest properly and tried to eat some food but I just didn’t fancy anything. It was just as hot today, approx 40C. I made it to the border at Benapole at just gone lunchtime. I received a txt message to say that my crew would meet me at a hotel in the town of Jessore and I should catch the bus there. I made the border formalities still in my running kit and dripping with sweat, so everyone waved me through as I probably looked too poor & deranged to worry about. I got changed, and caught a bus to Jessore, ate and slept. In the morning I met my crew who said that for the first time ever there was a general strike over the weekend (starts Thursday night in Muslim countries) and that we would have to drive back to Dhaka as the only alternative would be to stay in Jessore for 4 days as its too dangerous to travel between towns during a Hartal. Even then, we saw some demonstrations and found some ferries were already stopped leading to traffic jams several miles long already.

The run was pretty much over as we would lose all our available days to the Hartal. The newspapers had lots of stories of demonstrations, torchings and people being killed, so it was not idle threats. Luckily however on Sunday night we heard that the Hartal planned for Monday would not be happening so we rapidly made a plan to run the 35km from Dhaka to Sonargoan to visit the current school and building site. It was great running without my pack and running with Chris who had put in so much planning for the Bangladesh side of the trip. It was truly the highlight of my trip to make it to the village where the school is in the process of being built (completion approx June). I took some photos and its pretty clear that this is a very poor village indeed and the people can do with as much help as possible.

I stayed on in Dhaka for a few extra days but all the other trips we had planned were cancelled as there were more Hartals called and made planning anything very difficult.I decided to catch the bus back to India and made my way home eventually.

Please email this onto any of your friends or family who may also wish to donate as we are still trying to raise more money. Any help will be gratefully received!


 -My website & blog diary :

-My photos from the trip :

-Chris’ photos of the run to Sonargoan village

-You can make a donation at

15-Apr-2013 Mumbai to Sydney & Home

Monday 15 April 2013 Leave a comment

I didn’t have many Rupees left and so only had a quick look through the shops (although I could go to the ATM if required – but I guess I don’t like shopping much and airports are usually over-priced factory-produced stuff). I did feel a bit hungry and so bought a masala dosa – a last gasp return of my appetite.

As the flight was gone midnight, the leg to Singapore was totally in the dark and I slept for most of it.

I had about an hour in Singapore’s Changi airport which seemed heaps better than when I came through before. Maybe it was a different section. I bought a fresh juice and looked thru the shops but didn’t buy anything.

On the flight to Sydney I listened to music and watched films.

I hadn’t checked in any bags as just had my rucksack. So I got a quick getaway and hopped on the train. My Indian Vodaphone Sim was still working (I left my Australian one at home, so couldn’t use it) I txted Dawn and she met me in the rain with Jazmin at Sutherland. It was great to see them again and great to be back.

I had a great time away but it’s always good too come home!

14-Apr-2013 Kolkata to Mumbai

Sunday 14 April 2013 Leave a comment

By the morning I still felt totally shite and still wanted to go home, so bought a chai, sat down and drank it and decided that was what I would do. I guess I came to do the run, and the run was done, so travelling off down south, whilst a good plan, felt a bit aimless particularly as Dawn and the kids were all off work and off school.

All the travel agents were still closed as it was only 8.30am or so. I went to the Swiss cafe and had a banana lassi (that was on Dawn’s recommendation) and a honey lemon ginger as I still couldn’t bear the thought of any food. Then I found a travel agent that was open so bought a ticket for later today to Mumbai (2.30pm flight). I went back to the hotel for a bit of a rest and pack and txt Dawn again, then checked out and got a taxi to the airport. The domestic airport was pretty new. I had a bit of time so bought a magazine and took some selfies. I was looking for a barbers to shave it off but couldn’t find one. I didn’t even feel like a coffee.

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#Beard #selfie at #kolkata airport by #kevintiller

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#Beard #selfie at #kolkata airport by #kevintiller

A post shared by kevin tiller (@kevintiller) on

The flight to Mumbai was fine. I then caught the transfer bus to the International Terminal. I was surprised to see the slums/chawls go right up to the very wall of the airport. I half expected to see a “Beautiful Forevers” billboard there as in the book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers“. That is a great book and worth reading!

My plan to change tickets almost came undone as I wanted to change the ticket at the Singapore Airlines desk but you can’t get into the terminal buildings in India without a valid ticket. I figured I could just blag my way in. I couldn’t (am guessing it happens a lot) and they sent someone out to negotiate with me. We got it sorted in the end, after some hours. I fly out at 0015 Monday morning and arrive Monday night in Sydney. I then spent a while just hanging around the airport.

Final photo in India:

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#mumbai airport by #kevintiller

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30-Mar-2013 Flight to Kolkata

Saturday 30 March 2013 Leave a comment

As mentioned before, the only reason for flying Mumbai-Kolkata is because I need to be there over the weekend and there were no trains available. I like the pace of trains and want to see more of the countryside. Still, them’s the breaks.

I figured I would leave approx 8am to get to the airport before 9.30am for my 1130am flight. That is heaps of time even allowing for anything to go wrong. I was up at 7am and soon packed. It was easy to tet s cab ($6). Checked in and bought a roll for breakfast with a chai and read a free newspaper. Not much world news ! The flight was fine, it was quite empty so had loads of room. Just read my Indian Outlook magazine on how Samsung will eat Apple.

At Kolkata I pre-paid for a taxi and caught that to Sudder Street. I was very keen to look at the route to/from the airport as that is on my running route. A total obstacle course and I am wondering what I have let myself in for – roadworks,  holes, pavements, fences, traffic all over. Hot, dusty & exposed. Kolkata is not really even like much of Mumbai – it has a general sense of decay & grime. Quite depressing.

As I hadn’t even picked out a hotel I looked like freshmeat to all the varioys touts -hotels, taxi, change money,  hasish – everything. I got a room in a small guest house.  It’ll do for now – a bit grimey, no air con, dodgy lock on door. I went out for a walk without my pack & got a chai. tried the phone and found vodaphone kolkata is different than mumbai so am technically roaming but barely any price difference.  We’ll see. I went back to my room for a rest, sort my bag out and drop off some laundry. After a while I went out to survey the scene. Lots of people. I came here with dawn for a few days in 1989 en route to Darjeeling but can’t remember much if anything of our time, other than thinking it was decaying and grimy even back then.

I spent an hour walking but it felt like forever. I just got hot & tired. I found a spanish cafe down a side courtyard and got some pasta/tomato with honey lemon ginger.  I didn’t fancy eating indian for once even though there were a couple of decent looking places. I didn’t fancy something on the main drag and liked the idea of something off to the side where I could out with a few drinks (non-alcoholic of course) without being rushed or hassled. I don’t seem to have seen many places like that this year. There seemed to be a big group of Spanish people coming in – you don’t see many travelling around much.

After a few honey lemon gingers I went straight back to the hotel and was in bed asleep by 10pm as it had been a long day.

29-Mar-2013 Running & Juhu

Friday 29 March 2013 Leave a comment

As I had wanted to do the bicycle tour this morning but couldn’t as all the tour guides were busy (some big corporate booking, bastards!), I decided to be a bit more adventurous and go for a run instead.  I was up and awake at just gone 5am and got ready including a small pack containing passport,  phone,  money etc and left hesitantly at 5.45am as it was still dark. I ran in the road as the pavements are just too uneven and I could easily have fallen and got injured and I DEFINITELY don’t want that. I ran quite quickly and easily,  I guess it’s been a few days since I last ran. I was aiming at Nariman Point and run the whole of Marine Drive to Chowpatty Beach and back with a lap of the cricket oval. I got the first few roads wrong but the made it to Nariman Point. Lots of people walking,  yoga etc even quite a few serious runners. Eventually it got daylight and at Chowpatty I walked on the beach,  took some photos and had a coconut juice which was refreshing but all the stopping slowed me down. The key thing was to run a steady pace. It was hot and sweaty and putting everything in the serious waterproof bags was a smart idea.

I bought a herbal drink from a guy, which was quite spicy so wasn’t the best idea. Turning off Marine Drive was harder as I had to run on the pavement as there was now more traffic. I made it round the oval – lots of cricketers again – and bought a small sugarcane juice. Back at the hotel approx 8am. I had a shower and rinsed my kit and hung it up on my washing-line that I’d brought with me! Smart thinking!

I had to call vodaphone to activate my phone and the I went over the road for a coffee.  Eventually it activated but I couldn’t work out why I couldn’t txt until later – I had bought a data plan but not a talk plan. I did that for $4 and I was good to go! I didn’t have breakfast other than the coffee.  I decided to go to Juhu beach and check it out way to the north as I didn’t want to just stay in Colaba today.

I went by cab and was impressed the driver used the meter.  There was a lot of traffic and it probably took more than an hour however I was not in any rush as I was still tired from the run. Eventually we got to Juhu, the meter read 315R. I gave him 320 and the driver said “no 500”. I pointed at the meter and reminded him if the deal so he turned the meter off and made his demand again.  I gave him an extra 50R and walked off. Juhu beach was ok but there are a million better at home in Australia. I was quite hungry but bought a coffee and looked at the food stalls and decided I wasn’t that hungry after all.

I walked through the town and ended up at the Hare Krishna temple and they had a service on. It was very much like the one at Vrindaban last year. I didn’t stay long and it was way hot outside.  The town was really scruffy and not helped by all the roadworks.

I went into a coffee shop to have a cool sit down and bought a lime-mint uce tea and fiddled with my phone which was now working yay!

I decided to walk to the railway station as I didn’t want to go by cab on principle. It was a ling hot way but interesting. I got a coconut juice just by the station. Other than water or fresh juice, it’s about the only cold drink I have. I don’t like sugary drinks or stuff in plastic bottles.

The train ticket cost 10R still took an hour to get back but was more interesting than sitting in traffic. I really enjoyed the train and will try to use it again.

I walked around a bit and went back to Colaba from Churchgate station. I biught a book and a magazine for tomorrow’s flight – the only things I have bought other than food & accommodation as I have to carry it all and my bag is JAMMED FULL. I don’t really need stuff. If I buy any souvenirs for the family I will buy in Mumbai just before I fly out.  I then went to starbucks to upload some more photos – my mobile plan will probably be ok but figured I could save it for when I really need it.

Dawn was online at the same time so we txt and emailed although we didn’t speak but it felt like we had. Between 6pm-9pm I went back to my room to write my diary and have a siesta. Then I went to another place for a thali a bit like yesterday’s although this was spicier. I was quite hungry but actually got full very quickly. I don’t usually eat a lot. I had 2 excellent lime juices. Back to my room to write some diary.  Put the tv on but went to bed before midnight as I was so tired due to the run and being uo so early.

28-Mar-2013 Dharavi slum tour & movie

Thursday 28 March 2013 1 comment

I guess my body clock is still all over the place as I woke up approx 4am after falling asleep in front of the tv playing hindi mtv. I turned the tv off and went bsck to sleep till approx 5.30am. I got a chai from the guy at the front desk and wrote some of my diary.

I had booked to do the Dharavi long slum tour today (it’s pretty rare for me to book anything). There is a link to the tour info here:

It left from around the corner at 0830am and would last approx 5hrs. I figured I should eat breakfast first. Most of the places around here were closed except Leopold’s so about 7am I left to have a walk around to see what I could find. Up at the big traffic circle there are a few bus stands that had some cheap street food type places and I settled on one right next to the maharashtran state police station office. In fact it was perfect. I ordered the same as the guy next to me was having – a puri bhaji – about 3 or 4 puris and some potato onion spice mix and a chai. All up approx 60 cents. I stood and ate with all the other guys. I got some water to take on the tour with me.

I got to the meeting point approx 0820am. I met Janet an engish woman who has been teaching in mumbai since last august.  Just after 830 the  2 turned up with the guide – a Dutch bloke who has been living here for 2 months and his girlfriend from NZ who lives in Germany.  Quite a mix!

We drove off apparently through the red light district but you couldn’t see anything and stopped at the dhobi ghat washing area then stopped to use the loo and get a coffee before walking into dharavi.  I had a pretty goid idea of what to expect from one of the largest slums in the world as I’d seen some tv and read a lot about it. It was endlessly fascinating and the guide talked about the history & economics etc.  It was a well-run and sensitive tour. It’s like a maze if alleyways,  raw sewage,  industry,  but spotlessly clean houses – each really just a small room. Dharavi has a population of more than a million so is incredibly dense. By the end about 1pm even I was quite tired.  It was hot about 30c with a lot of walking & stopping.  The others all got dropped off at various places so I got out by the start. I got a veg thali for lunch. I tried to book a cycle tour for tomorrow but they were all booked out by 75 English. Another time maybe.

I went back to the hotel for a shower then went to get an indian sim card as it looks like mine used a ton of data eeven though I had been careful and it was so expensive.  Indian ones have massive limits and are much cheaper but I had to get a photo and a photocopy of my passport and fill out a massive form which I did. If wifi was more prevalent I might not have bothered.  should all be working by the morning.

I bought a ticket for the 1945pm movies tonight. Then had a bit of a siesta. Dawn called for 23mins so got all the news from home. I put the new sim in my phone, quite a hard task as I have this rubberised army-grade waterproof cover. Anyway I went to the movie and bought a samosa instead of popcorn.  The film seemed to have a storyline that I couldn’t follow and I dozed off.  After the film,  gone 10pm, I felt very hungry so decided to walk to a restaurant that is supposed to do a good thali. It was a long way and I was knackered when I got there without even using a map. The gujerati thali was quite simply massive and never ending ie you ate something and they came to top it up. I even turned them away with new dishes that I didn’t even look at there were just so many. It wsd generally spicy but not excessive.  Some were salty, some sour and some sweet. It was amazing especially as it only cost $6. I got a taxi back afterwards as there was no way I was going to walk back ($1). By now it was after midnight so went straight to bed and slept immediately.

I thought I would jot down some notes on food & water hygiene or at least what I do – and as you might imagine its like the rest if me – consistently inconsistent!  I do eat the street food, in fact I look out for it by choice. I buy bottled water although I do clean my teeth in tap water. I usually avoid ice as I am sure in most places you can’t really guarantee the water quality. However I am not over the top about ice avoidance. I have hot drinks eg chai whetever. I think getting dodgy guts is expected but usually I don’t feel ill. It just comes & goes quickly !! I haven’t consciously thought about this before I guess it’s just evolved over the years and just feels right to me. Of course when in remote areas you’ve just got to get through the best you can, big cities have more choices and you can be pickier. Remote pkaces are harder with less options.

There are some photos on worth seeing as I am typing this on my phone and I can’t be bothered to link & embed them properly!

27-Mar-2023 A loose day in Mumbai

Wednesday 27 March 2013 1 comment

As I didn’t sleep that well, I was up around 6am and sorted out my bags a bit better then went out for a walk to survey the surroundings and take some photos. I saw the water – it was right next to the hotel – as the sun was rising. Also went to the Gateway of India. It’s a big archway that is famous throughout India’s history. Up close it’s a bit like any monument – need to be careful I don’t get too blasé as you see so many temples & monuments they just blur after a while.

I also went past the oval where there seemed to be about 15 separate games of cricket going on at the same time. I bought a sugar cane juice, it was really nice. I enjoyed walking around, looking at stuff and taking photos and I feel I got to know the area quite well.

I eventually found a better hotel, quite expensive compared to what I was paying last year but not expensive in the big scheme of things and I guess that’s what you should expect – it is Mumbai and I seen a few other places even more expensive.  2350R is about $40 however it’s got an en suite and hot water and toilet paper – I can’t be bothered buying & carrying my own so often end up using my hand like half the rest of the world!! It also had a tv and aircon. I went back to the old place to check out and get my bag. I stopped at a place for breakfast as I was quite hungry now. It sold coffee indian style with milk & sugar but the food wad a bit weird.  The menu board said “brain” which could have been an abbreviation of a poor translation. Anyway it looked like everyone was eating brain with these hunks of awful white bread so I drank my coffee and left. Later on I found a decent looking place and had a foul-looking & tasting veg roll and chai for breakfast as I was by that time positively starving.

I moved in to the new hotel, had a hot shower,  cleaned my teeth and felt better about the world. I took some photos of people who’ve been covered in coloured powder as part of Holi – there was a big party near here but that’s not really my scene – you could hear the music from miles away. Chelsea would have been there for sure !

More info about Holi here.

I then tried to sort out a train to Kolkata for Friday night or Saturday but at least 2 places said that ALL trains were full. I even saw the online bookings and wait lists so decided to fly (and will catch the train back).  Plane was about $150 whereas the train is $100 but takes 30-38hrs. I got a plane ticket for late saturday morning so don’t have to rush in the early morning but will still have time to suss out a place to stay in Kolkata in the daylight as it gets in at 2.10pm

It was interesting as the agents have a login to and bring up all the flights etc – I could order them by time, airline, cost etc and saw that at any time the price was the same. You could even see the agent’s comission etc. He pays from his account and I gave him the cash. This is exactly what they did in kashmir last year.

I then bought a green coconut to drink the juice for 60cents. Lovely. I went past a decent looking restaurant so stopped and had lunch. I am pretty good at going into places by myself now. It feels a bit weird at first. Maybe even a bit sad! Rice, dhal, roti, lemon tea. Left feeling full but relaxed. I can feel my pace slowing down now it feels like ages since I was at work!

I had met  a tour guide tout earlier and was thinking of doing a small tour of Mumbai. I normally hate tours & anything over-organised but if you do it one-on-one you get individual attention, can skip past the stuff you don’t like, can ask questions & learn heaps more than in a larger group (where I’d normally switch off). Also it would be good to see whatever sights there were and get a better feel for the geography. Anyway I then met anothet tout and knocked him down to a fair price so did it from about 1pm to 4pm.

We went to the laundry washing area although pretty much everyone had the day off partying – there were a lot if drunk and drugged up people wandering around (bhang – marijuana is very commonly used). Then we went to the fisherman’s colony, same but still very interesting. Then nariman point,  marine drive and malabar hill – lots of ecoensive areas, the jain temple (I think the jain’s are great). Then the hanging gardens – very hot & exposed here, then the temple of silence where the pharsees are chopped up & fed to vultures instead of burying or cremation. Of course a trip to a souvenir shop and of course bought nothing. The highlight wad Gandhi’s Mumbai residence back in the 1920s. Then the railway terminus. A great tour and worth the $40. I got dropped by my hotel where I had a late siesta for 3hrs as I was so tired by now.

About 8pm I realised my phone’s mobile data was not working due to using all my data so went into starbucks one of the few places with free wifi which appears to be much rarer than in delhi or even rishikesh last year. I had seen a sign for a phone plan unlimited Internet for $8 a month. Telstra ? So maybe everyone just uses 3g. The coffee wad the same poor quality that they have back home! I haf tried to buy a lical sim but 3 olaces said you couldn’t activate as everything shut for Holi so it must have been true. I emailed dawn, topped up my credit.

I walked around a bit more and bought a veg kebab roll,  really good but very spicy and I like very spicy foods!! I read about the street stall in the lonely planet guide which I had got the downloaded pdfs. Although India changes so quickly you can’t rely on any guide and I like exploring stuff by myself in any case. But it was good to know where the good street food stalls were.

I stopped for a pineapple juice and a satsuma juice – you can only drink so much plain water and I don’t like drinking the fizzy sugary drinks.

I got back to my room about 9pm wrote some of my diary. At about 10pm I thought I would grab a coffee befire bed so went out. It was quite funny that all the street stalls were packing up. I had been out & about from very early before they’d setup, during their setup, in full flight and afterwards – their complete daily lifecycle.

Leopold’s cafe was pretty much straight downstairs and is a key focal point in the area  – it’s been there since the 1800s. It’s quite expensive and I figured it would be full of foreigners but it wasn’t. As usual the sheer number of Indians in their own country totally drowns out the very small % of non-Indians. I came to India for the experience so that suits me better. I had a double expresso – poor quality – for a bit less than $2. If people ordered beer they got like a see-through keg for their table with a beer-tap that they to pour for themselves. I’ve seen that before!

I reflected on the day, a great success in many ways.  I like Mumbai. I like India but its ckear that it’s such a massive place sn despite all I have read about and seen I probably know so little.  We sre all just a small speck in a massive world.  Humbling.

Back in my room I had a shower no hot watet this time but overhead someone else complaining so I didn’t bother even mentioning it. It’s India after all! ! I watched some hindi mtv and fell adleep writing my diary.

There are some photos on worth seeing as I am typing this on my phone and I can’t be bothered to link & embed them properly!

26-Mar-2013 Airport & flying to Mumbai

Tuesday 26 March 2013 Leave a comment

I got up at 6am to pack the last few things. Weighed myself 76.6kg. I am predicting that it won’t change much by the time I get back. Left at 7.45am with dawn & charley dog. We walked along thee beach naturally! Met jaz & chel by the ferry as it was the school one. Had said goodbye to ko at home. Ferry then train to the airport, trip spent pondering the sheer enormity of what i was going to do. I checked in then bought some fruit & juice as wanted to start off right – saw my work friend and running mate michael rensford & daughter who were going to phuket. Then I had a coffee and used the free wifi – pretty amazing  technology really. I posted some photos to instagram then did one last check of work emails. On the plan it was a freaking airbus A380 – Hope it’s safe!  I was on the top deck but still in economy. Although I am writing these notes and displaying them in public,  they sre really for me & my kids and maybe even their kids…

I bought a copy of the Guardian Weekly to read and The Smith Journal to read as it always has some different & unusual items. The first one in this issue had these messages that I decided were auspicious for this trip :
– leave it to chance
– know nothing
– obsession is vital
– if you don’t evolve you’re dust
– even shit ideas are worth something
– people don’t care so much
– activism happens
– sometimes you have to go too far
And that was just the first article !

I then listened to the uk charts for 1977 – inflight music options are great these days ! It reminded me if silver jubilee in worthing and our summer holiday in cornwall and elvis dying. Then I listened to the same but for 1979 reminding me of being 13 and driving up the m1 in a commer van to scout camp in the Lake District.

My goals for this trip are – in order:
1) come home safe & in one piece
2) finish the run
3) do fun things in interesting places

Of course I am very grateful for this opportunity to do this trip, huge thanks to dawn who cops the worst of the deal.

The trip to Singapore was 8hrs with only 50mins to change planes. The final leg was 5hrs. Changi airport is like a big U and I am going from one tip to the other. You could catch the train but figured that wss for lazy people snd I needed to stretch my legs so I walked. It wasn’t too far. Went past s lit of shops but didn’t stop as wasn’t sure how much time I had, and can’t buy anything as I hsve no room to carry it. I could have got a coffee but only just made the plane’s last call.

Taking off it seemed like there were lots of golf courses snd ships. Thought the airport would be fancier but it was just ordinary – maybe I have seen too many ?!

At Mumbai, we fly low over the city which was cool. It felt weird coming back so soon after nearly 6 weeks here last year. I got my bags quickly and pre-paid for a taxi to Colaba. The trip took about an hour. Mumbai is MASSIVE! Of course never having been here before (other than a plane refuel about 30 yrs ago literally! ) I had no idea where I was or anything. The cab driver at one point asked me if I wanted to go one the Sea Link – of course I had no idea what he was going on about and I was like “nah just take me to my hotel” and didn’t really realise that it was the quick way (for an extra toll). So of course we went the very slow way thru the traffic. We could barely find the hotel and he had to call ahead on his mobile – I was impressed that he wasn’t going to charge me – they are so widespread here also. The hotel I picked out was full due to the Holi festival across India. So were a few others I tried. In the end I just checked into the closest hotel I could find that had a spare room as it was 1045pm and I’d had enough (Sydney time was 0415 by now!!). It was called the hotel delight and wad very cheap & scungy and cost $8. I decided I would find somewhere better in the morning. The toilets and room were clean so that was something. I bought a bottle of water and really wanted something to eat but couldn’t be bothered.  Bed at 1130pm but didn’t sleep too well. Txted dawn about 2am as she was probably awake as the kids were going to school.  Or maybe she was at work – I hadn’t even checked !!

There are some photos on worth seeing as I am typing this on my phone and I can’t be bothered to link & embed them properly!

7-Mar-2013 The big difference between ‘memorable’ and ‘fun’

Thursday 7 March 2013 Leave a comment

  There was an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald the other week about tourism in Bangladesh. Not many people travel there so it’s quite rare to see articles about it. It was well worth reading.

 “One short week: a thousand stories, a million experiences. Definitely worth $145 for a visa” (It’s actually AU$150).

That article aside there are quite a few civil disturbances in Bangladesh at the moment, this article one of them from the Australian newspaper:

Schools and businesses were shut yesterday across Bangladesh on the second day of a general strike as huge numbers of police were deployed to stop the deadliest bout of violence since independence.At least 61 people have died in clashes since last Thursday when Islamists erupted in outrage at the sentencing to death of one of their leaders who was convicted of war crimes dating back to the 1971 liberation conflict.

More at The Australian newspaper.

There are some really “good” photos at the Washington Post also.

My friends in Bangladesh say that it is localised and not too much of a problem although the Australian Government is taking no chances and has updated the safety section of the SmartTraveller website.

In more peaceful news, I saw these photos of Indian trains, which I have travelled on before with success & enjoyment. I will also be on a train for 30hrs+ from Mumbai to Kolkata.

One of my friends said that the Bangla-Dash would be an EPIC adventure. Yes I think it will be !

13-Jul-2012 Back from India

Friday 13 July 2012 Leave a comment

Well it’s great to be back home and see our family again. Kody was a very impressive young girl, behaved well, tried the food as much as can be expected and was a real credit – just took everything in her stride.

Since being home I have missed home cooked food, going running, going swimming (although it is very cold … but still great).

It’s good to have changed the flights and come home a couple of days early as Dawn has been off from work, the other kids were home and its good to get my head clear before starting work again.

I didn’t take a mobile phone with me and it was just great not having to worry about a phone. I still haven’t turned mine on again !

During June-July 2012 I went to India for over 5 weeks with my 10yr old daughter, Kody. I did write quite an extensive travel diary, and I am in the process of typing it up and adding to this blog. You can read all the posts in chronological order here. For some of that time we were in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, helping out at a school. Feel free to check out some photos here:

Kody’s travel diary is online here.

3-Jun-2012 Delhi Arrival

Sunday 3 June 2012 Leave a comment

The plane ride to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) was largely uneventful ie Kody was not sick and she ate some of the food. We got there at 4am and all the shops were shut. Had to take a train to the main terminal. Stretched out on a bench and chair. We bought a lime juice and orange juice and some toast for Kody at a coffee shop but she turned her nose up at the toast. At 8.40am we got the flight to Delhi – it was very busy and a smaller plane ie cramped.

Eventually (11.30am) we arrived – the time is starting to mean nothing as we keep changing timezones and I don’t wear a watch anyway. We didn’t bring a watch or phone or computer, just Kody’s ipod with a small speaker and a camera (all chargeable by USB). We did bring an indian plug and USB-adaptor. The plan even had a USB-charging point on the back of the seat in front!

Delhi airport was good. It said it was 36C with a high of 43C but it was also very humid. We got some money out of the ATM (we just took a credit card to use in ATMs and then everything else would be paid in cash). The we walked outside and straight into the Metro terminal which was also air-conditioned. 80R each for 4 stops but it took a long time although gave us a good glimpse into the Delhi suburbs – lots of derelict-looking buildings! I read that the Metro was built for the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and was semi-aircon. Coming out of the Metro station was our first real taste of India and wow it was a real shock ! For me it was like deja vue on how I remembered India more than 20 years ago, but until then Kody was quite impressed by the airport and Metro. I did say that all airports are the same the world over. She kind of got it as we came out of the Metro – a wall of humid air, shit-smelling, building site type roads, people coming over to haggle and barter and this sense of “Oh my god, we’re all alone!” Chaos and squalor.

We were going to walk to Pahrganj to a hotel, but it was quite disorienting and with our bags I knew that Kody was not up for it so we got an auto-rickshaw luckily at approx a fair price of 50R. Kody was impressed with the daredevil ride!

He dropped us off at Pahrganj. I made our way on foot to the hotel hare krishna that I’d picked out (no connection with the Hare Krishnas but it got a fair write up in Lonely Planet). 600R for no AC, 700R with ac, so we took the AC. Despite it’s off-putting front door and alleyway, the hotel was good, had wifi, ticket booking, lots of marble floors and stairs. The double room was good also, and even a western toilet that made Kody much more comfortable.

We settled in and changed etc then went out for a walk up the road and back and bought some indian-style trousers for her (250R) and a large pineapple juice (no sugar please!) for 30R and checked out the henna stands. Kody is desperate to get one. We went back to the hotel for a bit. The guy there was trying to sell us tours of Delhi, Agra et. We went to the computer to check email (me) and Facebook (Ko) then called home (20R per min). The internet was 20R for 30mins so very cheap.

When we were walking a beggar-type girl came to us and asked for money to buy milk. She took us to a shop and I said we would. She picked out a massive container of baby milk for her brother (she looked 6 or 7 and he brother about 1 or 2). We just bought her a small container which we was annoyed about.

Eventually we had a shower, it was probably cold water but because we were so hot and sweaty it felt warm but refreshing. By now it was approx 5pm – we were knackered but still too early to go to bed so we caught a rickshaw to Connaught Square, had an ice-cream and walked around the circuit. Kody bought some bracelets for her and school friends. Then we had a cold drink which we took to the park to have, once we found out how to get in and pass the police check (separate queues for males and females).

Back at the hotel we had dinner on the roof – rice, chapatis and one dish of veg and paneer. Kody ate some – a lot more than I thought so I was quite impressed.

During June-July 2012 I went to India for over 5 weeks with my 10yr old daughter, Kody. I did write quite an extensive travel diary, and I am in the process of typing it up and adding to this blog. You can read all the posts in chronological order here. For some of that time we were in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, helping out at a school. Feel free to check out some photos here:

Kody’s travel diary is online here.

2-Jun-2012 India – The Big Off

Saturday 2 June 2012 Leave a comment

Amazingly, after so many months planning, the big day has arrived. I first agreed with Dawn to come just before last Xmas and decided in January this year to bring Kody with me. I was keen to bring one of the girls but only Kody was keen – I figure it will be a great learning experience for her. Then I pieced together the voluntary effort at the school in Vrindavan (after quite a lot of searching for something that seemed appropriate and in line with what we (or I) wanted. Then I put together the rest of the itinerary, but it’s not too fixed, and then finally all the other practical minutiae like visas, tickets, jabs, what to bring and what to leave etc. I did buy a new camera specifically that can be charged via USB.

So Saturday, up at 7.30am as Kody needed to leave approx 8.30am for Soccer at Kirrawee. It was good that Dawn and the other kids made the effort to come and watch. Then some chores at Miranda and Sushi for lunch, then home to finish packing and sorting out last minute emails and working out an easy way for Dawn to let me know when she’d be home to ring.

Then a final run at the beach and a swim in the fading light at 4.30pm (it is mid-winter), raining and cold but I really enjoyed it and as a last time for 6 weeks it was great .. perfect even.

We left for the airport approx 5.30pm, by car to Sutherland then train. Checked in and the kids had a quick bite of food and I had a coffee then said our goodbyes. Kody and the other girls were quite upset as we are a small and tight family. Made it to the plane ok but in the middle aisle so no views, but it was dark anyway so no great loss.

The trip feels like a “just crazy enough to work” idea – long, but not too long, planned, but not too much. We are taking the bare minimum of stuff, but hopefully got the basics covered. Definitely out of our comfort zone but hopefully will provide us with some rewarding experiences. I want my children to understand, really understand, what a privileged life they lead in Australia.

For me, a big part is to not take my mobile phone, I just want to feel away from it all.

My goals for the trip are:
1) to get home in one piece, safely.
2) a stretch goal is to enjoy it and want to do something else similar – and hopefully encourage the kids to come too.

ps I had a “to die for” number 1 haircut/buzz cut on the day we left (administered by the ever-loving Dawn). I know it’s usually short but this is VERY short.

During June-July 2012 I went to India for over 5 weeks with my 10yr old daughter, Kody. I did write quite an extensive travel diary, and I am in the process of typing it up and adding to this blog. You can read all the posts in chronological order here. For some of that time we were in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, helping out at a school. Feel free to check out some photos here:

Kody’s travel diary is online here.