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  • hardie karges 3:21 pm on February 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Varkala   

    Varkala, Kerala, not Ready for Prime Time: Bank Notes and Skank Notes 

    Beach at Varkala, Kerala, India

    Beach at Varkala, Kerala, India

    The state of Kerala, way down south, is where those beach-combing backpackers-in-the-know go when Mumbai leaves them feeling cold and Goa leaves them feeling guilty.  Here you’re back in the ‘real India’, at least, both good and bad.  The good is that you’re actually in a foreign country, not just a tourist colony.  The bad, depending on your tastes, is that alcohol once again is a precious commodity.  That’s no problem for me, but it is for some people.

    But the worst part is that the banks don’t work.  You never really know until you enter a country or a province whether your ATM card is going to work or not.  Theoretically they always do, but sometimes they don’t, depending on whether they’re inter-connected with international systems.  In Pakistan I could only find one, plus all their branches, of course.  In India I’ve had no problem, until Kerala.  My ATM card worked at the train station in Trivandrum, so I figured no problem.  In Varkala, I have no such luck.  (More …)

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  • hardie karges 2:45 am on February 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Thiruvananthapuram, Trivandrum   

    Trivandrum, India: City Down South 

    Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum, India

    Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum, India

    My train is scheduled to depart Margao at 1 p.m., so I wend (OE: present tense of ‘went’) my way along the back roads from Panaji through Goa at a leisurely pace.  It’s cheaper than direct taxi.  And if Panaji is the crown on the throne of old Portuguese Goa, then Margao is the belly, the mid-section, the population base, the place where once-Portuguese Goa cuts the crap and stops pretending.  India ‘liberated’ Goa—according to the billboards—over fifty years ago, after all, and I doubt that more than a few, if any, still falar a lingua.  Only a third of modern Goa is even Catholic these days.

    Trains rarely leave on time, of course, and this one is no different. That’s okay.  I’m scheduled in to Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) at 0500, so a few delays might be nice.  Trains are a good way to travel in India, BTW, dirt cheap and with stations usually centrally located, so convenient.  There is a slight problem with etiquette, though.  It’s rare.  People pretty much sit where they want and do what they want as long as they look like they’re in the right class of service, for their caste, and their dress.

      (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 12:53 pm on February 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Mapusa, Panaji   

    Goa, part 2: Saudade y alegria, vinho y cafe… 

    Palette for the Palate: market in Mapusa, Goa

    Palette for the Palate: market in Mapusa, Goa

    The thing about Goa is that it’s no single one thing for any one single set of tastes. It is many different communities—and beaches—scattered over an entire Indian state. This is logistically problematic. If you aren’t careful, you might book a room far off the beaten track, without really knowing it. Fortunately I figured that out in advance. Motorbikes are standard issue here, but I don’t care for them, though it’s almost easier to just get one, than to have to avoid the constant offers to rent. If you really want to see everything and do everything, you’ll need one.

    This is a decentralized version of India at its most extreme, and presumably where most of its long-term ex-pats base and blend into the woodwork. India’s trying to limit it, but with little success, so as not to impact its legitimate tourist industry, which is really not much, by international standards. Goa claims a full third of India’s relatively meager—for its size—six to seven million annual tourist arrivals.

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  • hardie karges 3:20 pm on February 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    Goa, part 1: Video Night and All That Trance-Dance… 

    Anjuna Beach, Goa, India

    Anjuna Beach, Goa, India

    This is the point in a trip—about two-three months in—when I usually feel the need to go home, get domestic, charge some batteries, do some chores, and start planning the next one. That not being the operative concept these days, finding a chill deal on the road is the next best thing. One of the myths about long-term travel—and there are many—is that it requires constant motion, transfers and connections. Now that’s silly. After a couple months of some hard fast travel, it’s nice to kick back, buy some groceries, and do a little settling down, for at least a week or two. Goa’s good for that.

    Goa is a bit hard to describe and comparisons don’t come easy, simply because it’s unlike any place I’ve ever really been before. The easiest comparison might be with Bali, but it could only happen in India, really, even though its roots are Portuguese and European. That means that wine, beer, liquor—and bars—are freely available. Though not illegal elsewhere, bars are rare and ‘wine shops’ seldom seen and scuzzy. It seems as though, as in many Muslim countries, to drink alcohol in India is discouraged but tolerated, as long as you feel dirty and guilty about it in the process. (More …)

     
  • hardie karges 12:15 pm on February 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Osho, Poona, Rajneesh   

    Tale of 2 Countries: Sex Guru Put the Poon in Poona 

    Osho aka Bhagwan Sheee Rajneesh

    Osho aka Bhagwan Sheee Rajneesh

    I’ll have to admit that, had I not lived in Oregon from 1981-84, I probably would never have heard of Poona, India, and probably would have passed it right by. After all, it’s not really on the tourist circuit, backpacker or otherwise—unless you’re a sannyasin, one of the Osho faithful. Osho used to be known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and as fate would have it, he lived in Oregon almost exactly the same years as I, 1981-85. Before that he was already famous in Poona, and for many of the same reasons— controversy over his religious teachings.

    But in Oregon the problem wasn’t so much religion as politics. It was a daily melodrama made for the tabloids, a highly laughable joke, had it not been so real. Maybe closest in narrative to Mao Zedong and his wife-led Gang of Four, the Rajneesh story was almost a caricature of a pseudo-mystic Eastern guru duping Western gullible travelers into trading their fortunes for quickie enlightenment. It was led by a dragon-lady confidant, embellished with more Rolls-Royces than anywhere else on the planet, and was consolidated on a huge rural compound that was often at odds with the Oregon locals.

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  • hardie karges 3:28 pm on February 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Film Festival, , , , , Mumbai   

    Mumbai Maybe: 98.6 and MIFF’d 

    CST Railway Station Mumbai, India

    CST Railway Station Mumbai, India

    Mumbai is India’s Big Apple, its Big Mango, its City of Lights, its city to which all roads lead, its London San Fran Rio Capetown Singapore Shanghai Tokyo all rolled into one big chapati (or maybe ciabatta?)—with a dash of hot sauce. This is the one Indian city that can truly claim to be world-class, and not be joking. As such it’s cleaner than the others. It’s also more expensive than the others.

    It’s worth it. So what if prices are twice that of Delhi? It’s still cheaper than Bangkok, and that’s a whole lot cheaper than New York. For that you get a relatively clean spiffy place, and maybe even a grocery store or two (I’m investigating those rumors right now). Of course if you really like cows and their various waste products, then you may be disappointed here. I’ve seen but a few, apparently attached to temples for religious purposes—and served proper grass to eat, not human rubbish.

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  • hardie karges 10:10 am on February 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Islamabad,   

    Islamabad, Pakistan, where even the power blackouts are orderly… 

    Ialamabad, Pakistan: model city

    Ialamabad, Pakistan: model city

    Islamabad must be exactly what Pakistan’s founder and architect Muhammad Ali Jinnah had in mind back in the 1940’s during the debate and struggle over colonial India’s future, the implied suggestion to Nehru and Gandhi being, “We’re not like you. We don’t want to be like you. We’re not part of what you are.” Islamabad is not only unlike anything India has ever produced, it’s unlike anything in Pakistan, also, with grid-like sectors traversed by broad boulevards and infinitely straight avenues extending for miles across the vast mountain-ringed plain.

    It probably resembles some Persian Gulf fields-of-dream-cities or some planned Communist capitals more than anything else, for this is a modern purpose-built capital along the model of Washington DC, Brasilia, Astana, or Naypyidaw, something of a mock-up job, one thousand buildings in search of a city, something that takes time, sometimes a long one. That does have its benefits, though. For one thing: addresses are easy to find, since everything is strictly labeled by sector, street, and house number. The IRS would love this.

      (More …)

     
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