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MONKEYS!

Mumbai

Previously:

And Now …

Mumbai

In the wee small hours of … the morning, we boarded our plane in Udaipur and headed to Mumbai. It was time for the last stop on our grand India tour / honeymoon. (And thank goodness, because we were worn out at that time and I’m sick of writing about this. You know it’s going to be a good post when I start off with whining.)

The funny thing about the airport experience was that a woman, an Indian woman, walked up and asked me if she was at the right gate for a flight to Mumbai … you’re going to ask the white guy? Lady, thanks, but I’m not fountain of knowledge. We were at the right gate though.

P1030547

You wouldn’t know it to look at the place, but it was very nice.

When we landed in Mumbai we did one of the most American things you can thing of … we went to a Starbucks. Lauren and I had left very early in the morning, too early for breakfast, but by the time we landed we were more than ready for some food. A blueberry muffin and coffee for each of us and what a thing it is to eat foods you know after two weeks of new foods. I was sad that it was something so cliche as Starbucks, but blueberry muffins are delicious.

Our hotel lobby was so hip there was a no geriatrics sign hanging (hyuck hyuck). There were a few tables, a kitchen area, and almost constantly one or two employees hanging out. The rooms were all right off the lobby so it was quite small, but very modern and cool.

Cruising around town.

Cruising around town.

The one downside to the hotel … there was construction going on. The kind of construction that made it sound as if one of the construction workers was going to accidentally put a hammer through our room wall at any point. In fact, from our room, if we opened any of the shades we stood face to face with the construction workers on their bamboo scaffolding (which appeared to have been constructed on a dare).

In the early afternoon our guide came and met us in the lobby. She was, well, first off, a she, and secondly she was a bit loony in a fun way. For Lauren our guide reminded her of a good friend of hers – the kind of woman that not only takes no ish (that’s the PG word for shi*) from no one, she proactively takes no ish from no one.

One of the dabbawallas

One of the dabbawallas

She understood, partly from us telling her, that we were wiped out feeling. Message received, she had us covered. We did a bit of a driving tour of Mumbai, getting out to view the dabbawallas (the amazingly accurate and low-tech food delivery system), the Gandhi museum, and the public laundry area. Toward the end of our driving tour she told us a number of places to try that were walking distance from our hotel, including a delightful tea room. Lauren was feeling a bit off so we opted for that. We bid her goodbye, enjoyed tea, and then mostly confidently (me) but also full of fear (Lauren and I) we depended on our sense of direction to get back to the hotel. We made it!

The public laundry

The public laundry

Due to the lack of full energy/wellness feeling we had a very low-movement night at the hotel.

The next day we met up with our guide and headed to Elephanta Caves on Elephanta Island which features religious carvings dating from the 5th or 6th century AD. The carvings were beautiful.

View from the boat ride.

View from the boat ride.

On the boat to the island we chatted with some Swedish students who were working in India for an internship/semester abroad kind of thing and they had enjoyed quite the experience thus far. Two of them were very stereotypically Swedish looking – very blonde, very light blue eyes, pale skin. They said they had taken a tour of some slums in Mumbai and a woman literally shoved her baby into the arms of one of the girls for a picture. Lauren and I’s brown hair perhaps kept us from more unique encounters.

One of the carvings.

One of the carvings.

Well … I’m wrapping this trip up in a hurry because, as stated previously, I’m ready for a different kind of thing to write about on Fridays. Telling true stories gets boring – it’s time to go back to oddball nonsense.

High: The carvings in the caves were beautiful and impressive, it is a shame so many were destroyed.

Low: The next “morning” our flight left at 3 am, the driver was a friendly fella who chatted with us and was happy our visit to India went well. The agent was an absolute punk who looked like a very angry, mean, Indian Burt Young.

Our mean-spirited guide, ol Indian Burt.

Udaipur

Previously:

And Now …

Udaipur

You know what I did? I wrote a post about Udaipur. It wasn’t blow your mind good, it wasn’t bad … But it took some time. And then when I went to schedule it … It was lost. I didn’t type it up outside my browser first so … It was gone. Really gone. Oh the frustration. So I’m not going to give Udaipur the same treatment the other cities got. And perhaps you’ll prefer that, because this will be much less wordy. This will be a short picture tour.

At our hotel, in the courtyard, updating my travel journal.

At our hotel, in the courtyard, updating my travel journal.

 

Udaipur India

Possibly the only graffiti I saw in India.

 

Udaipur India

Inside a temple

 

Udaipur India

View of the city from the City Palace (which still has “formerly” royal family residents).

 

Udaipur India

Touring the City Palace – a tall man (6’6″?) was a main attraction for a school field trip.

 

Udaipur India

Watching an artist “paint” on water. (That’s water under all that thick layer of green powder.)

 

Udaipur India

View of the City Palace from Lake Pichola.

 

Udaipur India

At Jagmandir Island (where J Lo performed at a very rich family’s wedding).

 

Udaipur India

Out cruising on Lake Pichola.

 

Udaipur India

The view from our hotel – the neighboring building was under construction and had families living there. Including a family of monkeys passing through (note the ones on the left).

India Video

I was going to write about Udaipur today buuuuut … I’m feeling lazy. So here’s a video I made.

Deogarh

Previously:

And Now …

Deogarh

India

On our drive to Pushkar

Deogarh, if you say it with a pirate voice, sounds like it would be the ultimate pirate nemesis. Also, say it like you’re greeting your nemesis.

After leaving Jaipur we headed to the land of roses: Pushkar (bet you didn’t know that was the land of roses). Apparently, remember how last time I talked about celebrities being the de facto credibility establish-ers, well Kate Winslet was the celebrity of choice in Pushkar. She gets all her roses from there you know. We stopped off at Pushkar for a brief tour on the way from Jaipur to Deogarh.

India

Colorful trucks are standard – and they are awesome.

In Pushkar Suraj (our pal and driver) stopped the van and let a guy with flowers in. Oh yeah, that day was Valentine’s Day. I had assumed the guy was a street peddler … but nope!, he was our guide! Sorry, guide. He hopped in and handed Lauren the flowers, saying happy Valentine’s Day and then asking if she liked the flowers. He then said I owed him because now I wouldn’t have to buy her (meaning Lauren) flowers. We both fake laughed. Apparently we fake laughed too much because we repeated this exchange about four more times over the course of the next two or three hours.

This guy was not good, but he was so bad I was kind of taken with his opposite charms. Among some of his gems:

  • American women are nice because they are satisfied with just flowers. Indian women want jewelry.
  • In your culture people associate warm milk with going to sleep … But here milk is what women give to men … Then they become like raging bulls! (Here he gave me a sort of nudge, nudge.)
  • (Later, adding to the milk conversation) We don’t need any sort of drugs … The Indian population is over 1 billion people so it’s pretty clear!
Pushkar India

Walking around in Pushkar.

Lauren’s absolute favorite moment came from, of course, a rose. In describing the amazing power of roses he told us how since we were in a semi-arid region roses might be used in place of lotion, he then rubbed his forehead with a flower petal, they can be used in place of lip balm, he then rubbed his lips with a rose petal, and they can be used if your eyes get dry, he then rubbed one of his eyes with a petal! So. One key detail: this fella had just bought this rose from a street vendor … His demonstration eye was red and gross looking the rest of the time we were with him. Might be time to work on your routine, pal.

We grabbed lunch where there was us and one other couple in a room, with two waitstaff people, one of them was in the room for more than half the meal hovering – wondering why we didn’t want to eat more when we declined on things and then when he brought them anyway, getting frustrated that we hadn’t finished our meal …

Deogarh India

Oh this little old place? It’s just a palace.

And then we were off to Deogarh!

We pulled up to our hotel, which was a legitimate palace! built in 1670, and a guy hopped outside, manned a drum, and beat out a sweet bass introductory song alerting the village that we had arrived. (It was a very small town, so honestly people at the furthest part may very well have heard this.) The clerk told us that at 630 we would be meeting the Maharani and at 7 there would be a performance of a traditional dance from that region.

Deogarh India

I climbed to the roof, where we wrote emails to family and enjoyed the view.

…Oh! … Ok! …? I think that captures our reaction. A Maharani is basically a queen (the female equivalent of a Maharaja). Of course, there’s no royalty still in India, but everyone knows this woman is the queen. Lauren and I headed to our room (which was NUTS – you walked up two different staircases and down another one to get to it, it had a giant padlock to get in, and our room was actually two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a huge walkway) and there we schemed, “how do you talk to royalty!?!?”

Deogarh India

Oh and the pool was nice too!

The hour arrived and we headed to a courtyard area to meet with the Maharani. After a few minutes a very well dressed woman came out and joined us. She sat across from us and I felt a vibe of, “ok, impress me, plebeians.” What I really wanted to do was say, “ok, you may have been a baby or born a few years after Indian Independence – what was it like growing up in a world where you’re suddenly free of the British, but stripped of your title?” But instead Lauren and I complimented her on the beautiful palace, the countryside, the country in general, and thanked her for talking with us. I said that I thought men in India dressed in western clothes to make the women even more beautiful with their vibrant, beautiful clothes. She laughed at that (boo yah, just a couple chuckle heads and the queen) and said that she thought it was a shame that so many men wore western clothes – but they buy them second hand for incredibly cheap prices and they are easier to wash than traditional clothes. She also said that she found that English was creeping more and more into Hindi and that is a shame as well.

Deogarh India

The traditional dance performers!

Basically us westerners are the devil. Sorry, lady. I’m kidding, she said all of this in a natural manner, as someone mourning the changing of the times and losing traditional practices. She was, without me being able to point out one particular thing that was very different, the most elegant person I have ever met. Her movements, her way of speaking, her relaxed nature, her conveying without saying a word that she is comfortable and feels a sense of ownership of any situation … it was impressive.

The next day Lauren and I did nothing and it was great. She got a mani-pedi at a spa and I got a shoulder and head massage. The same guy did both, and while giving Lauren her mani-pedi he asked if she thought I would enjoy a foot massage too, so he threw that in. The foot massage was awesome – the head massage was frightening. It was like a 10 minute long noogie … except slightly comforting.

Deogarh India

I climbed to the roof to watch the sunrise. The early wake up was worth it.

It was a much needed full day of rest after a very action packed trip. At this point we had Udaipur and Mumbai to go and Lauren and I were both feeling in need of more days of nothingness and guide-free non-thinking.

High: The hotel itself or getting to meet a Maharani (the hotel/palace was AMAZING)

Low: I should’ve gone walking out in the town, but instead … I didn’t

Up Next: Udaipur

Jaipur

Previously:

And Now …

Jaipur

First, a fun fact. Did you know that city names that end in -pur (like Jaipur, Udaipur) have Hindu roots whereas towns that end in -bad (Islamabad, Ahmedabad) have Muslim roots. I don’t know what you’ll do with that, but it’s interesting, eh?

India flower

Big, pretty flower number 1

In case you saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it was filmed in Jaipur and Udaipur (the next stop on Lauren’s and my grand tour). As part of the fancy shopping we would do, we heard many phrases that would indicate how expensive the items were (as I talked about in this postcard). The funny part was that, in addition to price-increasing phrases like ‘dying art,’ shops would establish their credibility by mentioning the celebrities who had shopped there. In Jaipur, due to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the celebrity of choice was Judy Dench (a really down-to-Earth person apparently). I don’t know if the celebrity cred was due to us being American (perhaps British guests get told about the types of fancy tea a shop has), but it was entertaining.

Moving on.

Big, pretty flower number 2.

Big, pretty flower number 2.

We departed Ranthambhore and arrived in Jaipur after an interesting drive. We went from dirt roads with potholes so big the word hole isn’t big enough, to a pristine highway-type road with a median covered in beautiful flowers. All the while passing the usual mix of colorful trucks, and random vehicles of all types. On the way to our hotel we passed by a community of people living in tents, this setup was in the city but not in the inner city area. Not more than ten minutes later we arrived at our hotel. The mix of colors, sights, sounds and tastes in India is also accompanied by a mix of emotions – India is not a place where I could imagine much self-pity happening, because around every corner is someone who appears to have a life much tougher than you could imagine.

After the hotel arrival we spent the day admiring our surroundings, including some of the most beautiful flowers we’d seen. I had not associated India with flowers before going, but now a beautiful flower will always take me back to that beautiful country.

Big, pretty flower number 3.

Big, pretty flower number 3.

The next day was a full one. We met our guide, who we really enjoyed, a doctor and professor (talk about feeling spoiled) who was easy to talk to and seemed to know about everything we talked about. We met up with him around 9 am and were with him until perhaps 9 pm. Dr. A first took us by Hawa Mahal, which is a site you’ll see if you Google Jaipur. It’s a facade, a giant wall of windows for women to look out of while festivities and men went parading by below on the street. (The place I was talking about in this postcard.)

Jantar Mantar - these are some of the sign-specific devices.

Jantar Mantar – these are some of the sign-specific devices.

From there we visited Jantar Mantar, which was just plain cool and I still want to look up the math behind it. First, there were structures built that could tell you the time of day which is accurate within twenty seconds (even today!, and this was built in the early 1700s). Not satisfied with this, they built a version 10 times larger, making the time accurate within 2 seconds. Pretty good. In addition, there are instruments which tell you what sign you are, and specific clocks for each sign. So, how could you build a giant sundial 90 feet tall to accurately tell the time within 2 seconds? Why, you build the angle of the sundial at 27 degrees, the latitude of Jaipur of course! How did someone know the latitude of their city in the 1700s? You got me.

After the astrological instruments we saw the City Palace. This palace, like many others, had rooms dedicated to seasons which would cool or heat better – so you would live in the monsoon season room during the month or two a year of monsoon season, then the cooler room during summer and the warmer room during winter. What can you say, it’s good to be royalty.

Walking around Jaipur - I wish I had taken close up pictures of all the colorful powders for the upcoming diwali festival.

Walking around Jaipur – I wish I had taken close up pictures of all the colorful powders for the upcoming diwali festival.

Inspired by the astrological instruments, we met with an astrologer who, among other qualities, has an @aol email address. Adorable. The process was fascinating. Lauren went first, sitting to his left, and she wrote down her birthday, time of birth, and I think a few other facts. He asked a few more questions, and then with a magnifying glass took a good long look at her hands, her face (“close your eyes please”), had her look up and away to study her … neck/ear?, and then another good look at the hands. All the while making notes on his pad. The notes looked to be scribbles in this object in his notebook that was on every page – apparently marking something in one corner vs another has significance. If you hadn’t guessed, I’m not a big believer in the stars being able to tell me about myself or anyone … And yet, what he said was pretty accurate. He told us a few things about ourselves on the spot (when it was my turn I had to switch seats with Lauren to be on his left) and then we also got emails with a full write up.

In the Jaipur City Palace!

In the Jaipur City Palace!

Among many of the unexpected items in the email, the border is all swastikas. In India (and many other countries) that symbol is not associated with the Nazis because it was well-established before those dopes came along and tarnished the symbol for a lot of western countries.

After the astrologer and lunch, we had time for shopping. I bought a tailored jacket (how swanky) and Lauren bought a ring with the stone that would help maximize good energy (according to our astrologer). The ideal thing is to have your stone touching your skin, but if that doesn’t work you can carry it in your pocket or some such thing like that. I declined to buy a stone since I’d never wear it, and because I’d just bought a blazer for myself.

Approaching the farm where our elephant ride happened.

Approaching the farm where our elephant ride happened.

We then spent some time in a coffee shop with the good doctor, where he and Lauren talked books (with Lauren’s extensive India reading to prepare). We left India with a list of movies and books we should dive into to get a better idea of India.

From our coffee and chit chat we headed to Amber Fort where we removed our shoes, my belt and Lauren’s purse (because it was made of leather) and we headed to a Hindu temple in the fort. The doctor told us that we could get a blessing and that this would entail having a drink poured in my hands which I would then drink. Ok, sure, I’m game. In the temple the good doctor led us to a priest who put the red marking on our foreheads (tilaka), put a garland around our necks, and into my hands went this drink. I tipped my hands and woah, for a culture that does not really drink, that is one strong drink. Then with my hands still wet I was to pat my head at the top and sort of comb down. Because Lauren did not also drink I was told to pat her head as well. Then as the good doctor spoke to us he asked us to continue to face the priest’s direction.

With our pal, the elephant!

With our pal, the elephant!

Leaving there we walked around Amber Fort, learning about it. We were now not only dorky, tall, extremely noticeable white people, we were also adorned with flowers and the tilaka … I felt like a dork.

After Amber Fort we did what anyone would do – an elephant ride. The ride itself was … bumpy. But feeding the elephant a banana and just standing near it was amazing! What a giant, awesome animal!

A room in our hotel which featured beautifully painted walls. The hotel was 175 years old and built as a residence for the rulers of Samode.

A room in our hotel which featured beautifully painted walls. The hotel was 175 years old and built as a residence for the rulers of Samode.

As you’ve noticed I’ve gotten more brief as the day has gone on but that’s because it’s Friday morning and I’m about to shower and go enjoy the day!

High: Too many! Jaipur was amazing – the astronomical devices, the meeting with the astrologer (just watching him work was awesome, the whole setup was bizarre and fun to me), the elephant encounter and of course our guide.

Low: A silly one, but I had pictured Lauren and I each on a different elephant by ourselves … Having now been on an elephant and seen how they can walk where they want and don’t care how much you yell at them in your local language (like our elephant driver guy did) – I understand that each of us going solo would have actually been quite terrifying.

Up Next: Pushkar/Deogarh

Often our hotels knew it was our honeymoon and would have a little cake waiting for us in our rooms which was awesome. The spelling errors were a secondary delight.

Often our hotels knew it was our honeymoon and would have a little cake waiting for us in our rooms which was awesome. The spelling errors were a secondary delight.

Attn: Ellen (4/1/15)

Front

Ellen DeGeneres postcard

Back (apologies for my handwriting!)

Ellen DeGeneres postcard

The text of the postcard is

Dear Ellen,

That wraps up my India postcards. If you would like to hear more, my co-workers, friends and family would be glad to have someone else listen to me ramble.

Need another reason to have me on your show? You got it: I’m pretty tall, so I could change light bulbs with only a 3-step ladder while others might need a regular ladder.

Think it over!

Sincerely,
DumbFunnery.com or @DumbFunnery

Why am I doing this?

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