India – Part 2 (The Chills and Thrills)

Jumping all over the place with my posts just to keep all 8 of you guessing!! We are back to the sub-continent, back to India. In the last post, we got to Baga and experienced some horrible people. You’ll be pleased to know there are more horrible people in this post.

We need to cover off the southern part of our trip to Goa and then Mumbai. I’ll jump right in to it.

Our taxi journey from The north of Goa to the south of Goa, which took us nearly three hours, only cost about 30 quid, so cheap. As we got closer to our beach that we were staying on “Patnem” the taxi drivers vocabulary became very restricted it seemed he could only say the word “Patnem” he proceeded to drive round and stop at every person he saw wound down the window and he said “Patnem” we’d see another local 100 yards down the road and do the same again. It was quite amusing for us.

A particular highlight of the journey was a monkey which ran across the road, it went as quick as it came and we never got to take a picture.

In the south we were staying at a hostel/B&B called Namaste. It was idyllic, it was on the beach front and only about 20 venues on the whole beach. We each had a room and mine and Jacks over looked the ocean. We couldn’t wait to explore.

There is a clear difference in the “vibe” (please excuse my use of that word) between the north and south, I think the best way to describe it would be that the North is More like Benidorm in India and the south is chilled out and feels like one big yoga retreat, this is enforced by a bunch of people doing Yoga across the beach every morning. We even had a go ourselves

Us practising our Yoga!

Our days followed a similar pattern, wake up have breakfast on the beach, get a taxi to another beach and then come back have 5 minutes in the room before getting ready and going out and not forgetting to speak to Gary before going out to make sure he left some beers in an ice bucket for when we returned the the hostel later that night.

One night when we were sitting on the beach at about 2 o clock in the morning we were approached by two girls and a boy, they started sitting with us and being the polite guys we are we offered them a beer. Not willing to open beers for strangers with my teeth I told them they’d need to find a way to open the beers themselves, so one of the girls rummaged around in her dreadlocks and had a bottle opener weaved in to her dreadlocks…..I hope that paints enough of a picture of the kind of people we were dealing with. Now that we are all drinking together I tried to progress the conversation when I hit a stumbling block, I was met with the response of “woah, why do you need to know that let’s not get political” to the question “what is your name”. The conversation was not fruitless however when they told us the story of a backpacker who was killed last night walking the streets. Sounded like a urban legend but to save confrontation we decided to let them have this. After a few more beers they went on their way and we went to bed.

It really was Hippy central, that’s not a bad thing but it is a bad thing when you’re made to feel like the odd ones out because you’re on a two week holiday and not some trust fund paid for hiatus from work. Anyway the next night the beaches all suffered a black out so we started to head home from the beach, we couldn’t see where we were walking but knew the terrain underfoot had changed it went from definite sand to a harder more “crunchy” surface. I reached for my phone to give some light and found to all of our disgust that we had been walking on a pathway of spider crabs and we must have sadly and completely unintentionally killed a few. It was a weird situation there were hundreds just on the beach so naturally we were all like “what are they doing that’s weird” when a bloke from behind us chimed in “they’re dying man” thanks Random dude it was rhetorical. Horrible experience. As we continued to walk much more cautiously now the lights came back all of a sudden which meant the night could continue.

We are clearly approachable guys, as we were summoned by a girl who said “can I follow you” so we let her. It turns out the waiter at the bar she was in was being a bit creepy so we let her join us. She came with us for a few drinks then back to our hostel. It got late so we tried getting her a Tuk Tuk to which there were none available so we walked her to her hostel, her hostel was guarded by security. We had no trouble getting through security….he was very sleeepy! We then managed to get a Tuk Tuk home.

A day or so later we were sitting on a beach minding our own business when an aging club promoter approached us offering tickets to a silent disco. Being the absolute lads that we quite clearly are we said yes and planned for a big night out. First big night out since garlic naans at 4am, we were ready. The party turned out to be decent and we stayed out as late as possible and headed home around 12 or 1. It was only when we were leaving that we realised the Grant was no where to be found, he’s a big boy so we decided to head home without him, sure that he’d find his way back to Patnem beach. Jack, Alex and I were sitting having a beer a few hours later when my phone began to vibrate, it was Grant, he was asking whether I could meet him at the entrance of the beach with money. Curiosity got the better of me and so I headed there with money in multiple pockets. The situation turned out to be a lot less exciting than I had hoped and he just needed me to pay for his taxi, it was the second thing I’d given him that night. Grant is very coy about that night and his location for much of it but nevertheless I am sure it was a night to remember. We were leaving Goa the following day.

Checkout at Namaste Hostel was a bit weird, we needed to pay for our accommodation and the beers that we had nightly! We stood at reception and told them we were checking out and they took our keys and were like “bye” and we were like excuse me but we need to pay and they were like “yeah yeah yes very good sir” and we continued to stand there and were trying to push them along to take our payment because our car to airport was waiting for us….still they were like “yessir good sir” so in the end we had had enough and started to walk out the moment we turned to walk away we had workers around us telling us we needed to pay, happy to give them our rupees we went on our way next stopped Mumbai……

We arrived in Mumbai and got a taxi to Hotel Apollo in the Colaba region of Mumbai. We had a couple of planned activities we wanted to do afternoon tea at the Taj Hotel, we wanted to go to a rooftop bar on the top of the Four Season hotel and visit the “slums” we had three of four days to do this we knew it would be ok.

A personal highlight from Mumbai was our hotel, this isn’t a glowing review and I’m not slating the place either it’s a highlight because it was funny. The staff out our hotel outnumbered the guests it seemed, it was a 24 hour hotel but if you returned late at night the staff would be asleep in the corridors and would make half an attempt to get up and open the doors for you, we would tell them all to go back to sleep it was just a bit surreal being surrounded by sleeping workers. We had one staff member join us in the room to watch the cricket for half an hour and another man who told us his shift in the elevator was 12 hours but because he needed the money he was going to pull a double shift! I’ll end the blog with us leaving this hotel.

The Taj Mahal Palace

The world famous 5 star hotel was splendid and surprisingly cheap, the afternoon tea was only 15 quid. We weren’t their usual clientele, probably a bit too loud and more active than the 70+ aged residents none the less the staff were more than amenable to us, even topping up our plates with dishes they thought we’d like, just ask Alex!

We didn’t know at the time but afternoon tea was not the last time we were going to visit the Taj Hotel. We had to go there after our evening/night at the the four seasons.

AerFour Seasons

Aer is the four seasons rooftop bar. It gives some amazing views of the city and is a always a recommendation of mine when speaking about this trip.

We went to the Four Seasons twice. On night one we turned up and found out it was a “Red Day” which meant some bars, including this one, would not be serving Alcohol. So on the first night we had a very expensive non alcoholic cocktail and left, the highlight of the night being Alex and Jack wearing shorts and being forced to swap their shorts for some of the staffs Ill-fitted trousers before they were allowed to enter the bar! The lack of alcohol was the reason we ended up back at the Taj, one of the only hotels allowed to sell alcohol on the anniversary of Gandhi’s death (I’ll circle back to this).

The second night, in the four seasons, we all came appropriately dressed, picture this four young guys sipping on a cocktail in a relatively empty bar, relatively empty apart from another group of what looked like work colleagues. Anyhow the sole female in this group approached us and asked us in her American accent, guys are you staying here for a few drinks? Amazed that a girl would approach us, between us we managed a timid “yes” she told us she’d go and get changed and come back and have a drink with us. We spent the next hour deciding who had the best chance to get to know this lady and we hadn’t really come to decision when she came back done up clearly ready for a night out, we on the other hand weren’t so instead of having a drink with this lady we basically all just ran out on her we finished our drinks and was like…..bye. Not sure why we didn’t that really as we didn’t head home we went to an Irish bar in a local shopping mall. The bar man mugged me off for nine pound when he gave me a fake Guinness, I drank it and swiftly moved on to a cheaper beer. After a few more drinks we decided it was home time and as walked through the shopping centre we heard a band playing and so decided to check it out. There was about 100 people watching this band and no one was dancing or clapping or anything they were just watching, so I took it upon myself to get the party started and went up and danced, eventually I was joined by my friends and we got a couple of others up on the dance floor as well. The people who didn’t dance were now at least smiling, we then headed. Back to our hotel filled with joy as we walked past our sleeping hosts.

Grant must have took this picture! Or he refused to be in it but it’s at the top of the four seasons hotel.

Taj Mahal Palace – Night 2

After our unsuccessful night in the four seasons we Googled where we could get a beer and it turned out that proper posh restaurants were allowed to sell alcohol, so we headed to the poshest one we knew. We got there and had a few beers, not long in to the evening we detected some English accents sitting in some chairs near us. We decided to go and speak to the owners of the accents, which was 2 girls from Brighton or Bournemouth I cannot remember now. The girls were, let’s say forward, they were with a young local man who they told us was their “photographer”. At one point when the girls went to the toilet the man was showing us some of his star gazing shots on his camera, when the girls returned and saw us all looking at the camera they had clear looks of shock and worry on their faces and they immediately questioned us “what pictures did you see” we didn’t see any pictures of them but their reactions have always made me wonder what shots could have been on that camera. After a few drinks the conversation had become random and varied as it does under the influence of alcohol and so we were now talking about star signs. Grant, with no substantial proof to contrary, labelled star signs as “bullshit” to which one of the girls replied “that’s exactly what I expect a Gemini to say” Grants retort was “ok I am a Gemini but I didn’t say that because of where the stars were when I was born”. We let this clearly sexually driven conversation play out and there were tears and tantrums before we called it a night, not before planning another night out with the girls. This lead to the biggest tantrum, close to tears Grant banned us from seeing them again he said that if we go out with them he will not come up so the following night we pandered to his will. (And people say I bitch and moan when I don’t get my own way). In a running theme that was not the last time we saw one of the girls a few years later she showed up on Channel 4’s surreal programme “naked attraction”.

The Slums

Cos it’s called “the slums” you think bad straight away, i think it doesn’t really draw an accurate picture. The slums is essentially a glorified industrial estate but on the industrial estate people also live there. The reason I say it’s no so bad is because there are shops, schools and all the houses we saw all had satellite dishes. What I will say is a lot of it smells, it’s very cramped, the jobs some people have ridiculous I.e. separating smashed glass in to separate colours, and according to our tour guide they earn next to nothing.

In one factory we went in our tour guide said “it’s messi” referring to me, they all stopped and looked and eventually one person said “you are not messi” he was right of course, he then proceeded to go upstairs and fetched a Messi Argentina top and gave it to me, I thought as a gift, it was not a gift, as then wanted me to buy it….I did not. I think the slums had a major effect on Grant he did not seem to enjoy the day.

Anyway we had a great time in India it was definitely one of my favourite places to visit and we got a great send off from our hotel staff. At the top of this part about Mumbai I mentioned Gary from the lift on his 24 hour shift and the sheer volume of sleepy staff members well, we checked out and a fight almost broke out about who could take our bags down the stairs as we were taking the lift. In the lift we decided to tip Gary and he started stuffing the money in his pockets before we reached the ground floor. At the ground floor the doors opened and there must have been 10-15 workers all with their hands outstretched we started giving money out like we were making it rain conscious that we would run out of money before we got to the last person, thankfully we didn’t but it needn’t have mattered if we did as we were waved off by the herd of staff we saw them dividing up the tips, it became clear to us why Gary from the lift was frantically stuffing his pockets full of our money…..he wasn’t going to share!!!!

Gary – from the lift
The sleepy staff
The staff waving us goodbye

In the airport we saw a BBC news reader.

The end.


India – Part 1 (The Hustle)

The planned trip was Delhi, Goa and Mumbai. I’m going to split this in to two so it’s not well long… will be positively short in comparison to South America part two. I’ll do Delhi and Goa part 1 in part 1 and I’ll go Goa part 2 and Mumbai in part two after South America part 3 in Feb/March…..keeep up guys

I have to admit the trip did not start well. After sipping Bellinis at Heathrow airport for far to long we realised that it was final call for the flight heading to Delhi, we downed the final dregs and started running whilst simultaneously looking for our gate. It’d be a really short post if I said we missed our flight here, but we didn’t. We made it! I had booked my flight separately from Jack, Alex and Grant and so was sitting a few rows away from their luxury exit seats, their exit seats which would later become a lot less luxurious.

Half way through the flight, I felt woozy. Stuck in a middle seat I was conscious of how often I got up but the wooziness got the better of me and I had to make my way to the toilet! I was violently sick and felt a bit better so went back to my seat until another wave of sickness hit me and I had to rush back to the toilet. After the third time of this happening within an hour I decided I could no longer disturb the poor lady sitting next to me so with no where else to go and my three friends soundly asleep I decided to lie down in their extra leg room like a dog! It was cosy and it had much better access to the toilets, and the only inconvenience was that of my friends, who let it be felt by a few kicks to the ribs.

The sickness passed and we landed in Delhi. We’d been warned that Delhi was busy. When we landed we were pleasantly surprised that the airport was empty and even when we got to the subway, empty so we presumed the rumours were just that, rumours.

They were not just rumours.

We got of the train at Delhi station came outside and I literally laughed out loud! There were so many people it was absolutely ridic. What made it funnier was Alex had a suitcase rather than a back pack and when he was dragging it along there were three people between him and his suitcase at all times. Anyway Alex’s long arms aside picture the scene there were thousands of people outside this station and most of them were trying to get over a small walkway/bridge over the railway tracks and this is where the fun began 😂.

We joined the crowds trying to cross the bridge and were chased up the stairs by an official looking man who told us we needed to pay to cross the bridge, this seemed strange to us as no one else was paying. The man said casually that it because we are foreigners. He was only asking for about a pound each so we were going to pay until Jack pipes up and said “hmm come over here” we followed him and out of ear shot of the suit Jack told us he’d read about this and it was a scam, lonely planet done us a favour. Instead of confronting the man about this we decided to do what any polite young Englishmen would do and just walked in the opposite direction and decided to go round the railway rather than over it.

Walking round the busy part of Delhi was fun except it seemed every Indian was intent on sending us to Connaught place I am not exaggerating when I tell your hat every single person we spoke to sent us there it was ridiculous, before we knew why we eventually found out, the fact that everyone sent us there was encouraging. That encouragement soon turned to disappointment when we found Connaught place, it was just a hot bed of conmen. “Travel Agencies” everywhere. These travel agents were telling us that due to Barack Obama’s upcoming visit all tourists would need a security pass, we knew this was bullshit but the sheer amount of people telling us meant we were going to give in, after all all they wanted was a pound. So we picked out the most trustworthy looking conmen and entered their shop, to ensure minimal amount of conning two of us stayed outside and two of us went in. I stayed outside. A taxi driver approached me and said “these are bad men, where is your hotel” so I told him and he said I’ll take you there (for the equivalent of about 2 quid) so I rushed in the shop told the guys about the taxi driver and we jumped on the mans taxi and headed to our hotel.

We arrived at our hotel in Paharganj and despite the slight unnerving metal detector at the reception the hotel was very nice.

Delhi has some fantastic places to see and we only had 3 or 4 days, it was about 5 years ago I can’t remember exactly. Anyway, our main focuses were

  • Jama Masjid of Delhi
  • Delhi as a base for a trip to “Agra” home of the Taj Mahal

Jama Masjid

This is one of the biggest mosques in the whole of India. It’s located in the Old part of Delhi so we headed there on our first full day. The old town is I think authentic would be the best word to describe it …and we stuck out a sore thumb! Naturally a starey bunch of people anyway the locals were even more intrigued by the white 6 foot (not me or Grant) obvious tourists walking through the streets. Anyway we got to the mosque and went in, took our shoes off first obviously and went for a nose around. I mean it was big and I’m not really sure what else to say, there was some great views from some of the towers. Weirdly at the top of one of the towers a local man asked for a picture with me, something that become a bit of a running joke throughout the India trip, anyway not one to disappoint I obliged

He looks very pleased to be there

After this, and still in old Delhi we hailed down a Tuk Tuk to drive us to Jaipur Gate. This driver quoted us 300 Rupees, about 3 quid I think and started to drive us. He then stopped at a checkpoint got out and asked someone for a cigarette right in front of us! Got back in the Tuk Tuk and told us he had been fined and we would have to give him 500 Rupees, Grant wasn’t having this and said we literally saw you ask that man for a cigarette, you didn’t get fined, and we aren’t paying you. This didn’t seem to bother our driver who carried on driving us to “Jaipur Gate”. After a while Jack said we were going in the wrong direction for Jaipur gate so we demanded the man let us off the Tuk Tuk, once he let us off he tried charging us more money, which we didn’t give him. I realise I’ve moaned about this journey a bit so to lighten the mood whilst in the Tuk Tuk to to wring place we did see a naked man escorted by Police with sticks so you know…..every cloud.

Long story short though, we never saw Jaipur Gate. Instead we got the subway back to Paharganj and found a reputable company to organise our trip to The Taj Mahal, once that was done we headed back to our hotel.

Our hotel was an odd place, pleasant, just odd. As we were walking back to our rooms a man started following Jack and Alex and they had to run back to their rooms, thankfully Grant and I were more lucky and no one followed us. We got in our room, which was freshly clean and prepared for a little nap when there was a tap on the door so I answered and it was one of the men who worked at the hotel. “Sir we have cleaned your room” he said. I replied “thank you”. He still stood there for an awkwardly long amount of time so I had to clarify and I just asked in way that came out much ruder than I intended “what do you want, money?” Thankfully the rudeness went straight over his head and said yes so Grant and I scraped some money together and paid him.

I was later told by Alex and Jack that the man who followed them also wanted money, scared to confront said man they shut the door before he caught up and then slid money underneath the door.

Taj Mahal

The next day was the planned trip to the Taj Mahal, we were half expecting no driver to turn up at 6am that morning. Our half expectations were not met when we saw a car outside our hotel, a car but no driver. We needed to investigate the lack of driver and so we approached the car when we saw a small man running towards us giggling, behind the giggling man were two dogs playfully running after him. It came as no relief as the man introduced himself as our driver, he later told us he’d been feeding the dogs but they scare him so as they got playful he ran off. Prem, our driver for the day became one of the highlights of The Delhi prt of the trip.

The drive to Agra, of the Taj Mahal is about 4 hours from Delhi so it was a long drive, we spoke to Prem about life in India to pass the time until about half an hour before we got to Agra where we stopped for breakfast, a breakfast where it seemed no matter what you ordered you came away with a Masala Omlette, so after four unordered masala omelettes we were ready to get going we walked back out to meet Prem who was standing with a younger more slender man. Prem told us he would like to introduce us to our guide for the day, we all shook hands. I think it was Alex who piped up with the obvious question of how was our guide going to get to the Taj Mahal as Prem’s Toyota Prius was already full with Alex, Jack, Grant and myself. Prem told us, as if it wasn’t a problem, that our guide would be joining us for the remaining 30 minutes. So after a painfully claustrophobic car journey we arrived at the world famous site and arranged to meet Prem in a couple of hours.

We annoyed the tour guide with stupid questions for the entirety of our tour so much so that he would walk off and then when we’d join him he would just be doing the tour but to no one. The bits we did hear though were interesting and it is a well cool building, I enjoyed it. In Agra there is also an old fort that we visited which was decent mainly because of all the Monkeys that were there.

A candid picture of the tour guide 🙂

Our journey back was the highlight, after we visited an obligatory gift shop Prem was ready drive us home.

The roads in India are “fun” for want of a better word and Prem managed to make them more fun as we were leaving a service station, he decided that a good time to take a selfie of him and his new found English friends was as he was pulling on the motorway. We all cried out Prem ‘no not now’ and instead Alex took the selfie! We survived thankfully.

Here’s Prem

Prem, it turns out had recently become a father, he told us about the Hindu tradition of naming the baby after 21 days, I often think about Prem’s nameless baby and hope she’s doing well.

Anyway Prem got us back to Delhi and all was good. We decided to have dinner in Old Delhi that night as Jack had read about a decent restaurant so we made our way over there and never actually ate in the famed restaurant. We were walking through the back streets of Old Delhi where there was no street lights and only a handful of people when the sounds of call to prayer started in the streets, lost, out of our comfort and signal zone and extremely hungry the sound was enough to send us searching for a Tuk Tuk to drive us back to the safe bustling cow ridden streets of Paharganj. Once there we ate in a local restaurant where we were given the choice of Meat or Vegetable, none of us felt brave enough to try the mystery meat so we all ended up with Vegetable curry and a prison style silver cup of water. The reason this noteworthy is because for all for of us this meal came to 3.30, absolute bargain. I wish I could point you all (Alex, Grant Jack or one of the five others reading this) in the direction of the restaurant but it was a very non descript place and the name was in Arabic sooo sorry about that.

The next day we were making our way to Goa for the first half of our beach holiday.

Our trip in Goa consisted of two parts a stay in the North of Goa and a trip for a few days in the South of Goa. There are a couple of highlights to the trip in North Goa one was a horrible Englishman abroad and one was a greedy Indian man. See a balance of horribleness. I’ll cover the greedy Indian man first, he was the owner of our Hotel in Goa. When we checked in he slowly counted our money about 4 times, that is no exaggeration, and we had to sit in reception and watch him. Once he was finally satisfied that we had paid the right amount he took us to our rooms, not before asking for our passports “to put in his safe” which was actually the seat of his moped. Anyway he showed us to our room, we walked in and he told us this two person room was for all of us and so some of us would have to stay on the floor on mattresses, we refused and showed him our booking which confirmed we had booked two rooms. The greedy landlord then knocked on our new neighbours door and told them that we were staying in their room, this time they refused, this lead to the man to take us to an empty room and let us stay in there, to this day I have no idea why he didn’t just give us that room straight away. The problems didn’t end there, Grant had bought WiFi with his room and complained when his dongle didn’t work so the greedy landlord came up and tried to connect his phone to Noones surprise this didn’t work. The owner opened a window and ordered Grant to “try now” Again this did not work. The problems with this accommodation continued when we struggled to get our passports back, eventually, after a day of them being his moped seat he returned them. On check out the man said to us “Good Review eh?” Needless to say we did not give him a good review.

Would you leave this smiley man a good review?

The second story of The northern part of our trip is a quick shout out to the most obnoxious English man abroad. When wanting another drink at 1pm in the morning he just held out his empty bottle, in an outstretched hand, without breaking conversation with his mates the waiter came and got the drink, he kept his hand outstretched and waited for the waiter to put a drink back in his hand. The man did not say please or thank you once…..horrrible.

Finally one thing I remembered as I wrote this and it was a personal highlight…..we found a night club that served Garlic naans at 4am in the morning. Loved it.

Anyway I’ll finish off India another time as this one is getting longer and longer and I swore to myself I would shorten them.