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Getting My Sea Legs

A place of contasts


Hi All,

Got into in Mumbai in the middle of the night, which is the trade off for the cheaper flights. I loved Singapore Airlines, good food, you almost think that they are fattening you up for something, and thanks to the digital age everyone on the plane can watch a different in-flight movie. I knocked off three.

After clearing customs I was told by just about everyone, to take the safer option was a taxi into town. I decided on a cheaper way, by taking a 3 wheeled auto rickshaw to the closest train station and then a commuter train into downtown Mumbai. It was a good choice. Although it can be a little tough when you don’t speak Hindi and no one speaks English.

I started the day with breakfast at “Leopold’s’ the place where the Aussie writer/gangster of “Shantaram” fame used to hang out. You wouldn’t go there for the food. Then, off to the barbers for a shave. There is nothing like having someone give you a shave. although I’ve found that you tend to be on your best behaviour when they get to you neck area.

Walked through part of a large slum and contrary to popular opinion, they are thriving communities. Lots of small businesses, kids everywhere and lots of woman carrying water on their heads, who suddenly disappear down small alleys, (less than a metre wide), that lead deeper into the slum. Claustrophobia is not an option!

On my way back something unusual happened to me. I’m gawking at who knows what, when a guy says to me there’s something in your ear, I’m thinking it’s a tick or something, and let him take a small metal paddle to get it out. He proceeds to produce a paddle coated in wax, and mixed in with it, is a small black, waxy core. I am starting to think my personal hygiene needs a huge rethink. It’s around this time he produces his medical qualifications and the prices he charges for removing these dastardly black cores. It’s around R500 or $NZ15 a throw. He wants to look at the other ear; but I smell a rat, and tell him to fuck off, as I realize he is palming the stuff onto the metal stick. He then says he will take a lesser amount and I counter with what part of fuck off he does not understand and in good Indian tradition split the scene. He follows me for a while and I’m thinking I might have to give him a bit of kiwi.

I finish the day by meeting Raj, from Rajastan, (He speaks good English.), who tries to sell me a packet of postcards. You know the ones, printed last century with dodgy colours. As it is late in the day I say all I want is a beer, so instead we have a beer together. He also helps me find some toilet paper, which is about as hard to find as the proverbial rocking horse shite.. My budget hotel does not stretch to paper in the toilets. Hotel Lawrence is clean and cheap and that’s about it.

Anyway Raj is meeting me tomorrow to help me purchase a train ticket to Varanasi and help me buy am Indian shirt so I don’t look like a rich tourist. I wish! It will provide me with a cloak of “invisibility” to guys who want to clean my ears and then extort money out of me.

Well that’s about it.

A special hello to my lovely granddaughter Olive. Make sure you have lots of fun on your trip to Australia.

Regards to everyone
Chris Sig

PS: The big Tside OB would impress over here…. and I have bought a phase book.


Posted by Chris Sig 21:12 Archived in India


Its Crowded

sunny 35 °C


After 4 days in Mumbai I haven't a clue how it works. One thing I can tell you is, its busy. As the guide said you probably "survive it rather than saviour it". It's built on a peninsular and with a population of 18 million and its crowded. This was brought home to me when I went to the ticketing agent to buy a train fare to Varanasi. I open the door to his office and there is, this big guy with a handle bar moustache sitting behind a really tiny desk saying "Come in, come in sir". So I enter and find myself standing shoulder to shoulder with 3 other clients, and I mean shoulder to shoulder. I couldn't help laughing as a couple of them had to stand outside while I did my booking. Mumbai has the biggest urban sprawl on the planet and accounts for a third of India's income. It's busy!
But on the plus side Mumbai does have some huge parks and long, wide sweeping ocean boulevards where Indians go to chill.

It's just that the streets are choker with traffic, and needless to say I have turned into a bit of a sprinter these days, making sure I dodge it. I take pride on a well-executed "crossing maneuver".

Mumbai is the land of opportunity for Indians but in reality very few attain it.

Well its off to Varanasi tonight travelling 2nd class, and rather than sleeping with 72 others in 3rd, I will be sleeping with only 6. Nothing like a bit of luxury! I will basically crossing the continent, around 2000 kms and 30 hrs of travel. Hopefully I can use some of the time to learn a few Hindi phases to go with the one that I have already mastered.

Will have to buy some silica gel to defog the camera or throw it away

Chris Sig


Posted by Chris Sig 06:04 Archived in India

Varanasi by Train

Cruising the Countryside

overcast 35 °C
View Singapore to KL to Georgetownn on Chris Sig's travel map.

One of the last views that I had in Mumbai was a taxi careering down the street with a big bag of grain stuffed in its half open boot and a whole fleet of crows chasing it.
A couple of the crows were actually joy riding on the car itself, holding on for dear life as the taxi swerved around a couple of corners before it disappeared out of sight.

Enjoyed the train trip and was impressed with just how green and lush the land was. Initially it was crops like maize and sugar cane but slowly the farming changed to more rice cultivation the closer we got to Varanasi.

The train consisted of a big fat grunty loco pulling about 60 passenger carridges. The tracks are about 2 metre wide and the ride is smooth. We cruised through the countryside at speeds of I guess, between 100 - 140 kms/hr, The faded, light blue carriages were battered and bruised from years of being pulled around by these locos that have no trouble getting them up to speed .

One of my travelling companions was a 72 year old Indian business man from New York named Krishna who after he retired in 96 he makes a nearly a yearly pilgrimage back to Varanasi. He returns to offer prayers for his late departed father, his family and friends. He felt, he had failed his father some what; by going to America early in his life and thought he did not look after him well enough in his latter years. He was quite an intense man and initially wondered if I liked him but by the end of the journey I really enjoyed his company.

He explained to me lots of snippets of Indian history, the cause of the Pakistan / India hatred. He explained the way that the Pakistanis forced thousands upon thousands of Hindus out of the country, if they would not convert to Islam. and confiscated their lands as well. The Bhutto family was one such family that did the conversion to Islam in order to save their wealth. They had around 100 thousand acres to protect. While he was greatly appreciated by Mahatma Gandhi and the way he led the country to independence, he was sure it would have happened anyway, but it would have been a very bloody affair. He was not so impressed by his ability to run the country. Krishna talked about the human condition & the differences between the various Indian religions. He was the teacher, I was the pupil. He was a man with his wife and children in the States and his heart in India

Varanasi is hot and I have already checked out some of the streets and a couple of views along the Ganges


Chris Sig

PS: I am thumb nailing the photos so you only have to download them as you require this should decrease the amount that you initially have to down load. There are a couple of videos as well.

Posted by Chris Sig 10:35 Archived in India

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