India: Budget

I haven’t posted our budget figures in ages, I am going to try and get caught up now!

Number of days spent in country: 49 days

Goal Daily Budget pp/d: $25 CAD

Actual expenditure pp/d: $28.63

Things that were expensive: transport (cost is much higher than we anticipated and a pain to organize), entrance fees to some ruins/forts

Things that were cheap: accommodation, food

The South of India: Part 2

Hello Everyone!

Ross and Chris had read about a beautiful train ride aboard a ‘toy steam train’ to the hill stations of Ooty, and had been trying to book tickets for the ride for several days. All the advance tickets were sold, so our only option was to try and buy tatkal tickets, which are released at 10:00 am the day before departure of the train. That meant that before we hopped on our train from Kochi to Combatore they had to run down to a travel agent they spoke with the day before to try and snatch three tickets as soon as they went on sale. Unfortunately, they forgot that it is AC tickets that go on sale at 10:00 am, while non-AC tickets don’t go on sale until 11:00. Our train out of Kochi was on the mainland of Ernakulam, and left at 11:55 am. We opted to hire a tuktuk to take us to the train station after hopefully obtaining tickets. I sat in the tuktuk while the boys organized the tickets, anxiously looking at my watch as the minutes rolled by. Finally, at 11:10 am they ran out of the agent and we took off at top speed to the train station. I questioned if they were successful with the tickets and they said that they wouldn’t know until later when the agent emailed them as there was a problem with the system. Suddenly, the tuktuk driver stopped at a ferry terminal and said it would be quickest if we took the ferry to the mainland and drove the remaining way as with traffic it could be dodgy to make our train. We were more than concerned as it was 11:20 am and the ferry wasn’t boarding yet. He promised us he could get us there in time and all we could do is have faith. The ferry docked on the other side and he took off at breakneck speed, navigating the roads like an expert. We made it to the train station at 11:52 am, throwing a generous tip his way as we raced towards our train. Thankfully it was delayed 15 minutes and we had time to grab a quick snack before boarding. Once in Coimbatore, we had time for a quick meal before boarding our last train for the day to Mettupalayam, which is where the toy train departs from. We made it to our hotel in a torrential downpour, eager to check our email, only to find the whole town does not have Internet. Luckily, a nice young guy turned on his hotspot for Chris to check to see if we had tickets for the next day or not. Unfortunately, the computer system let us down and the very apologetic travel agent informed us we were without tickets. Luckily, we were only out $3 bucks total. The last remaining option was the station master would release 30 more tickets at 5:30 am. The boys agreed they would go early and get the tickets. They waited ages the next morning while the station master exerted his authority, before finally securing 3 tickets for us. We grabbed quick showers before heading back to the station. We found seats in the general section carriage on the left side of the train, the best seats for the views. We all laughed about what an effort it was to get tickets, but were happy it paid off. We waited ages on the train, the departure time of 7:00 am came and went and there was still no signs of movement. Finally, we were informed there was a landslide and the train would not be able to depart. All we could do was burst out laughing despite ourselves. We disembarked the train, shaking our heads at the doomed journey that wasn’t to be. We made our way to the bus station and quickly hopped on a bus that would instead take us to Ooty. After a 45 minute breakfast stop shortly after we hopped on, we climbed our way slowly to the hillstation town of Ooty, rewarded with beautiful views along the way.

Once in Ooty we tried to arrange accommodation in the nearby Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, but were met by the most unhelpful receptionist at the office of the park and were forced to try and figure out another alternative. We headed to a barbecue restaurant for lunch, which wasn’t open but luckily let us go in and sit down until they opened. The boys went to a nearby travel agent and arranged a driver to take us around Ooty for the day, and drop us at the national park, which they were confident would have a place for us to sleep. We had a massive lunch, splitting their specialty platter which easily could have fed 5 people. We then met our driver and began our day tour of Ooty.

Our first stop was at the highest point in Ooty, a viewpoint overlooking the town and surrounding areas. As we arrived, the clouds rolled in, all but obstructing any view we had. We then moved on to a tea plantation with a museum of history regarding the tea production in the area, as well as a demonstration of how the tea is made. We sampled ample cups of chai while Ross made a few purchases. There was a chocolate factory attached to the tea factory, and we all filled up on cheap homemade chocolates.

Satisfied, we made our way to the tiger reserve. The park claims to have one of the most dense population of tigers in India and was the reason we wanted to go. This journey was more difficult than need be as the road was closed due to construction. Our driver knew a backroad detour that hooked onto the road after the roadblock, avoiding a several hour detour had we not found a way to get around the roadblock. We finally arrived to the reserve and rented the last room available in the entire reserve. They assured us it could fit three people, but when we stepped foot in the room there was only one double bed. There wasn’t anything we could do at that point, we resigned ourselves to the fact all three of us would have to sleep in the one bed.

We quickly made our way to the elephant camp for their feeding. When we arrived they were bringing the elephants to the feeding area, the sound of their chains echoing on the pavement as they walked. It was one of the saddest things I have observed and I immediately wanted to leave. I read once that to train the elephants to bend to the trainers will they take them from their mothers when they are very young and proceed to ‘crush their spirit.’ As I looked at the elephants that sentiment ran true; the sadness eminated from their very beings. This reserve and elephant camp was recommended by Lonely Planet and they either have never visited it themselves, or have a very pathetic and unethical view on the wellbeing of the animals. I have become less and less of a fan of the LP books the more we have traveled, and this was certainly the nail in the coffin for me. The books are outdated as soon as they are printed, the maps are often wrong, and the opinions written are that of one person. I much prefer TripAdvisor where I can get the most uptodate information and opinions from hundreds of people. I intend to write LP a strongly worded email about their recommendation, and that I no longer will be a customer because of it.

We made our way back to our little room, all exhausted from the efforts of the day. We fell into fitful sleeps, unable to move without disturbing our neighbor in the tiny double bed.

We awoke early to try our luck on a ‘safari,’ which I had little faith that we would see any animals on. It took an hour to fill the bus, and the hour long drive had our only animal sightings being ample amounts of deer, and a mongoose. The reserve claims one of the highest densities of tigers but I would be very curious to know when the last actual sighting was.

We packed our bags quickly and waited on the side of the road for a bus going to our next destination, Mysore. After an hour of waiting we snagged seats on a comfortable AC bus.

Once in Mysore we stored our bags at the bus station before making our way to the Mysore Palace. The palace is regarded as one of the best in the world (it was completed in 1912) and we had been told by fellow travelers how incredible it was. An audio guide was included in our ticket and was very informative and added a lot to our visit. The palace was indescribable, one of the most beautiful places we visited in all of our travels. Pictures were unfortunately not allowed, but google the palace and you will see some breathtaking (professional) images.

After viewing the palace we headed to a nearby internet cafe to get some errands done. After we had our fill of the internet we made our way to the bus station to pick our bags before then going to the train station to catch our overnight train to Hampi. As you can tell, we were moving very fast, taking night trains and buses to save on days!

The evening passed on the train in an uneventful fashion until we awoke at 6:00 am for our anticipated stop at 6:20 am. We were told by a helpful local that the train was 6 hours late due to things being stolen from the train during the night. 6 hours. That was a lot of time for us as we planned to stay only the day exploring the vast ruins and then head out on an overnight bus to Goa. There was absolutely nothing we could do about the delay and went back to sleep, hoping the time would pass quickly.

We finally arrived to Hospet, the city closest to Hampi, four and a half hours later than expected. We tried to find a cloak room to store our things but it seemed dodgy and we decided to head to Hampi and figure things out there. Once in Hampi we found a lovely guesthouse that charged us a small fee to rent a room for the day to store our things, and were able to arrange us a tuktuk to take us around the ancient ruins for the day, before dropping us at the bus that evening. We went next door for a bite to eat at a Tibetan restaurant as it had been 26 hours since I had last eaten, and around 16 for the guys. We ordered the thali, and although it took forever as they made everything fresh, it was incredible. The best part was it came with a massive serving of bananofie pie for dessert. They also had delicious fresh juices which we took advantage of. Refueled, we headed out to tackle the most important ruins of Hampi. I say the most important as there are so many, and they are so spread out, we had to choose carefully what we wanted to see. Our tuktuk driver was lovely and made sure to give us bits of information about the places we were visiting. As impressive as the ruins were, I was much more amazed with the surrounding landscape. Massive boulders, bigger than any I have ever seen, dot the landscape everywhere you look, giving the area an unearthly look. We had a very rushed, but very amazing day taking in the scenery and ruins. I didn’t take a single picture all day, I must have been too exhausted from the train. I regret not taking at least one!

Hampi provided me with a new favorite animal (replacing the honeybadger); the sloth bear. I did not know these beasts existed until I read that you shouldn’t wander the ruins at night as there had been sightings of sloth bears within the ruins. The name intrigued me and I did a bit of reading about the creature and it easily surpassed my love of honeybadgers in one sitting. All I have to do now is spot one in the wild! (If you don’t believe me read about them, they are awesomely ferocious!)

We had a quick fruit juice before heading to catch our night bus to Vagator Beach, Goa. We arrived to the bus, our first sleeper in India, and cracked up at the arrangements. Each berth had not one, but two, adjacent side by side sleeper beds. Meaning, you could end up sleeping very uncomfortably close to a stranger. Chris and I had booked two beds together, but poor Ross was a lone ranger. His face each time an Indian man boarded the bus was priceless, you could see the fear in his eyes. He was lucky and had both beds to himself for the entire night.

We made it to Vagator early the next morning, checked into our hostel, and then Chris and I spent the day doing paperwork to renew our licenses for the year. Ross rented a scooter for the day and spent the day exploring the area with other hostel guests. One of them was a fellow Canadian, from New Brunswick no less! We chatted that evening about how small of a world it is, meeting each other in middle of no where India. It was really nice to sit around and banter with a fellow Canuck who understood all of our slang. We headed to the fort to catch the tail end of the sunset over the beach, a stunning end to a long day.

The following day saw the guys head out on scooters in the morning while I caught up on my blog and then headed for a walk on the beach. Although nice, it really wasn’t anything overly special. That afternoon I reluctantly agreed to join the guys on the scooters to head to a more deserted beach. I was reluctant as most of you know my awful history with cycle bikes; two wheeled forms of transformation are just not my cup of tea. I knew my limits from the get-go, insisting I join one of the guys on the back of their scooter. Chris was still getting used to his so I jumped on with Ross. It marked my first time on a scooter, and most certainly my last. Ross was a fantastic driver, yet I could not shake the all encompassing feeling of vulnerability. I kept looking at my legs thinking what a disaster they would be if we even slid slightly. Combined with the ridiculous Indian drivers on the road, I was very close to having a complete meltdown. I made it through to the beach, trying to enjoy the sunshine but thinking of nothing but having to get back on the scooter. The ride home passed a little easier than the ride out, until we were stopped at a police checkpoint. We noticed immediately they were stopping only foreigners, and I was instantly suspicious. They asked for the boys licenses, which Ross quickly produced his and the officer began arguing a class 5 license isn’t suitable for a scooter rental. We knew for a fact it was, and disputed vehemently with them. Chris lost his license to the cause of Rohan’s bachelor party, and they said if he couldn’t produce anything then the fine was 950 rupees ($19 CAD). Ross thought quickly on his feet and handed his international drivers license to Chris, who handed it to me, which I shoved in my purse, pretended to root around for a minute, and then magically pulled it out. Chris handed it to the officer who took a look at it, including the passport photo which was quite obviously of Ross, who was standing directly beside Chris, and all the officer said to Chris was,

This is you?”

Chris nodded confidently and stated indeed it was him, and the officer somehow bought it. That didn’t stop him from then trying to fine us for all sorts of different reasons, until I was fed up and said it was obvious he was looking for a bribe. He said he could write us a receipt for the fine but it wouldn’t be available until the next day. We said either he write us a receipt immediately, or take us to the station, or we weren’t paying a thing. His partner had long since given up on us and had flagged down other tourists, and when we called to him he told us to just go. We hopped on our scooters, the first cop bewildered and still trying to squeeze money out of us, as we peeled away shouting over our shoulders to take it up with his partner. The amount of time Chris and I have spent on the road made us a bit brazen, but it paid off. We relayed our encounter to the other guests at the hostel and one of them hung his head in shame, he had paid a 1900 rupee fine ($38 CAD) several weeks earlier. A good tip to know if you plan on renting scooters- don’t pay a fine unless you have a receipt in your hand!

Once back at the hostel we mingled with the other guests before heading to a local restaurant for some delicious food. Most guests then headed out to an all you could drink party, but Chris and I opted to stay in as it didn’t really seem like our type of place. One of the other guests the next day said it was a very bizarre Russian mega party.

The next day we made our way down the coast to Palolem Beach, a nicer stretch of beach than Vagator, with less people. We found a satisfactory hut overlooking the beach and grabbed a few sundowner beers to enjoy on the patio. The smells from the restaurant beside our hut were tantalizing, and it didn’t take us long to find our way there. We had the best golden fry calamari any of us have ever had, as well as a nice fish curry dish. We wanted to try the local spirit called fenney, and ordered a mixture of the coconut and cashew flavors. We thought it would be slightly alcoholic but more so flavorful, what we got was basically three shots of vodka. That was our first and last dabble in the fenney.

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The next day we woke up early for a swim, and then hit the local stores for some much needed beachwear shopping. All of our clothes are meant for colder climates, so we each found a few new pieces and threw out some old ones. The afternoon was passed very lazily on the beach.

The following day was the hottest day yet, and as much as we tried to stick it out on the beach we had to seek shelter in the room relatively early. We then had an early supper before Chris and I had to catch a tuktuk to the bus station to catch our night bus to Bangalore, the city from which we would catch our flight to Sri Lanka. It was very sad saying goodbye to Ross, he was a great traveling companion for us and it seemed time absolutely flew with him.

Our bus to Bangalore was uneventful other than being an hour late, but once in Bangalore things became complicated. We made our way to the local bus station to catch a bus downtown, but absolutely no one at the station was any sort of help to us to figure out what bus we needed to take. Finally, after half an hour of asking numerous people, a conductor gave a curt nod to signal his bus was going where we were headed. He then told his when to get off and quickly pointed that we should continue to walk straight. We had planned to find an internet cafe to spend the day getting caught up on things. Our bus arrived very early so nothing was open yet, so we headed to a large chain coffee shop to get wifi and our bearings as we weren’t entirely sure where the bus dropped us. The wifi necessitated having a mobile number to activate, which neither of us had, so we chugged our coffee and headed out. We tried to ask directions to people on the street to another coffee shop, but again, everyone was in a hurry and unwilling to help. We finally figured out where we were and found the coffee shop we were looking for, only to be told that their internet was down due to the rain. How ironic, the most tech savy city in India sees the internet falter due to the weather. We shook our heads and headed out to try our luck at a third stop, trusty McDonalds, only to find out that they also require a mobile number to access wifi. *Face Palm*

We decided to spend a few hours there taking care of work that could he done offline, before heading to an internet cafe that Chris had found and was told by the shopkeeper adjacent would be open at 11:30.

We walked into the internet cafe at 12 and the young boy working asked us how long we wanted to stay. We said a few hours, and he informed us in a disgruntled fashion that he was leaving in a half an hour due to the rain. It absolutely boggled my mind that he had paying customers but wanted to leave. He begrudgingly let us print our visas for Sri Lanka before pressuring us out the door. Chris and I were beyond fed up at this point, it felt like everything we were trying to do was thwarted in some way or another. We went back to the coffee shop to see if their internet was up and running, and thankfully it had been fixed and we spent the next few hours trying to get things in order. We had dinner next door at a bar, and then headed to the street to try and catch a cab to the airport. This is one of the easiest tasks in any major city, even in India, but for some reason we were not able to find any cabs that weren’t occupied. We stopped in at a travel agent and asked if there was a stand nearby or somewhere we could go to get a cab, but he said unfortunately there wasn’t and if he called one for us it would cost an exorbitant amount. He told us about the airport shuttle bus, which we had read about, and gave us rough directions to get to the stand. We still had enough time to catch a bus so we set out to make it to the stop. The directions he gave were dodgy and we kept having to stop and ask people along the way. I haven’t mentioned before in my blog about the Indian head bobble, but I feel it is a crucial component of this story. It is a gesture they use frequently to convey their feeling, as we would use our hands or nod our head yes or no. However, the bobble is an intermediate between nodding ones head yes and nodding ones head no. Our entire time in India we have tried to batten down a definitive meaning for the bobble, but were unsuccessful. This was painstakingly highlighted as we asked people if we were going the correct way for the airport shuttle and were answered with the dreaded head bobble. I could have screamed. We eventually asked enough people to find our way to the road the shuttle stopped, but we had no idea which side to stand on, nor what time the next one was coming. We asked several people and were unable to get any answers so we decided to abandon that plan and headed to a jewelry store close by to call us a cab, accepting that we would have to pay whatever price to get a cab. When we asked the people working at the jewelry store, a conglomerate of floor workers and security guards, they said no! It was 5:20 pm and the airport was 40 kms away. Our flight was at 9 pm, meaning we had to leave by 6 pm at the latest. We left the store in a state of despair, standing outfront without a clue where to turn to get help. One of the security guards then ran out of the store and said we had to cross the street immediately as the airport shuttle was in the traffic line and the stop was on the other side of the intersection. Just as the light turned we dashed into the intersection to the sound of hundreds of blaring horns in protest, and sprinted as fast as we could to catch the bus. It did not look like it was going to stop despite our yells, but finally it slowed and it was clear they had seen us. We climbed on, totally out of breath, and laughed in disbelief that we made it. It was a fitting end to the calamity of India, and we very happily boarded our flight to Sri Lanka, closing the India chapter of our trip for good.

My final thoughts on India? It is one of the most valuable places you could ever travel. It overwhelms you in every way possible, challenging you at ever turn, pushing you out of your comfort zone until you feel like you are going to break. That is when you realize how this process is changing you, causing you go grow personally to adapt to your environment. There is no where better to test your patience, and nothing will ever be quite as trying in comparison. Some of our best, and some of our worst travel experiences were had during our two months in India. We are grateful for our time in India, but it isn’t high on our countries to revisit in the near future.

The South of India: Part 1

Hey everyone!

When we arrived to the train station in Mangalore we were completely taken aback; there was very few people there, it was clean and tidy with garbage cans located everywhere, and no one was relieving themselves anywhere within eye sight. What a 180 from the North, I was elated! Best of all, no one gave me any mind, or if they did they quickly averted their eyes when I looked at them. It could not be any more different than our experiences at train stations in the North. Things were most definitely looking up for my opinion of India.

Our train ride passed without any issues, and we arrived to Varkala shortly after 6 in the morning. We found a tuktuk driver, bargained hard, and headed to our hotel on the cliff-side. We checked in to our budget hotel that was surprising value for money. Having slept all night on the train we felt refreshed to tackle the day. We headed for breakfast at a restaurant called Coffee Temple on the otherside of the cliff. Ross had read about Varkala, a chill little town located on the top of a cliff, with a lovely beach located below. As we made our way towards the restaurant we were all very happy with our decision to visit. The sun was shining, it was quiet and very picturesque. At the restaurant I ordered avocado toast with a side of egg and an iced latte. I adore avocado and this was served almost like a guacamole on the toast, and the coffee was strong. If the train station improved my outlook, the availability of avocado and strong coffee were revolutionary.

After breakfast we headed down to the beach to soak up the sun and for the guys to go for a swim. I generally don’t spend my entire time lazing on my towel at the beach, but the ability to do so after such a long time without beach time had me glued to my towel. The guys swam in the water which had a very strong current, keeping them close to shore. Midafternoon brought a rolling rain storm, causing us to sprint up the cliff to seek shelter. Once the rain let up we went for a walk all the way along the cliff to a vegetarian lunch place popular among locals. We each had a thali for a bargain 90 rupees each, and a few chais to pass the time as the rain picked up again. While we were waiting for the rain to stop we spotted the three cutest little kittens playing amongst a stack of bottles, check out the adorable pictures below.

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After lunch we sought out an ATM as we were all running low on cash. It has been a battle throughout our time in India to get cash from the first ATM we visit, they are notoriously out of order, cash, or both. We were able to get cash but for some reason Ross was not. As we left the ATM a friendly dog joined us for our walk back to the cliff. He was very cute and well looked after (he had a collar) but he attracted the attention of every stray dog we passed and there would be a long stand off of the stray dogs barking and being aggressive, while our dog stood his ground dismissively. While his bravery was noteworthy, we didn’t want to get caught in the cross-hairs of a street dog fight so we tried to shake him. He kept up with us for quite a while, but was dissuaded to continue following when we reached the taxi stand where there was a pack of 6 dogs.

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazily on the deck of our private room, where the guys had a meeting with an ‘Old Monk’ who made them neither wiser or sober. As I was getting ready for dinner I heard a commotion outside and when Chris opened the door to the room, I found myself staring into the eyes of that adorable pup who had followed us. 2 hours later he had managed to make it by the taxi pack and find us! We named him Baxter and he sat with us all evening on the porch, sleeping at our feet, occasionally waking for a few pets.

We checked TripAdvisor for restaurants with positive reviews of seafood dishes as Varkala is known for its fresh seafood. We decided on Darjeerling Cafe and made our way there, Baxter hot on our heels, finding it without issue. We inquired if pets were allowed, and they had no issue with our new friend joining us for the meal. We ordered the golden fry calamari, banana leaf butterfish, and coconut prawns. We also ordered watermelon mojitos which were to die for, definitely the best mixed drink I have ever had. All three meals were mouth-watering, we devoured them within minutes, slipping Baxter only a few leftover scraps. The waiter was very kind and without asking, went into the kitchen and brought Baxter a whole plate of bones. He made even shorter work of his plate than we had!

Dinner finished, we headed back to the hotel, said goodnight to Baxter who seemed content to sleep on the mat infront of our door, and hit the hay.

Sadly, Baxter had gone when we woke in the morning, most likely to find new tourists to befriend and get free meals off of. It was a down-pour when we woke and we passed the time by planning the following few days. As Ross only has a few weeks vacation we tried cramming as much into the time as possible, necessitating more planning than usual. By midmorning the skies cleared and we were able to head out for breakfast and then the boys headed to the beach while I worked on my blog.

We made a point of heading for dinner early to catch the sunset as we had missed it the previous evening. We tried Cafe Italliano for our second dinner and being early enabled us to snag one of the best tables in the house for sunset. We watched the beautiful sunset over a few beverages, before diving into coconut fried prawns, grilled barracuda, and grilled calamari. All three were delicious, but the prawns dish was the star of the show. It was definitely the best coconut prawns curry I have ever had.

The mix of the sun, beach and fantastic seafood had us all very content. Fresh seafood has been one thing Chris and I have been majorly craving, and we were definitely doing our best to get our fix. After 5 weeks of almost exclusively vegetarian food, the fish was a welcomed change of pace.

The next day had us catching a quick 30 minute train early in the morning to make it to Kollom. Once in Kollom, we all dashed around trying to take care of as many things as we could. Ross and I headed for an ATM, while Chris took care of booking several train tickets for upcoming journeys. We had a sprint finish to our train,making it minutes before it departed. It was only a 15 minute train from Kollom to nearby Munroe Island where we had booked a highly rated homestay to explore the famous backwaters of Kerala.

We did an immense amount of research about the best way to experience the backwaters. Typically, tourists view the backwaters via exorbitantly priced houseboats. However, speaking with other backpackers and reading many reviews we we were left with the impression the houseboats were a giant ripoff, and most people were left either disappointed or outright angry at unfulfilled promises. The houseboats cannot cruise the smaller canals, only the larger, and many people said the smaller canals are where the authentic experience is. Weighing out the pros and cons of it all, we opted to do a homestay on Munroe Island with a canoe trip around the island to explore the small canals, and the following day take the tourist ferry from Kollom to Alleppey to get the larger canal experience.

We were met at the tiny train station by the owner of the homestay, Vijeesh’s, father. A short tuktuk ride later and we were at the homestay. Our room was brand new and beautiful, we had a lovely balcony complete with a hammock to relax in. The boys wanted to try the traditional drink of the area, coconut toddy, and requested that be arranged when they spoke with Vijeesh on the phone. He brought over a 2 litre bottle shortly after we arrived, and we all tried the drink. It was quite good for a homemade liquor, it tasted a little bit like coconut homebrew. Unlike homebrew however, it had a really nice aftertaste. He warned the guys to not drink the very bottom if they wanted to avoid being on the toilet all night. Armed with their toddy, they headed to the water to try their hand at fishing while I hung back, too tempted by the inviting hammock.

A few hours later they returned empty handed, finishing the toddy and being unsuccessful in their fishing adventure. We had arranged to have lunch and were ushered into the family home for the meal. The meal was served on a banana leaf and consisted of 6 different dishes, rice, chapati, a mackeral each, and dessert. It was one of our top meals of our entire time in India, the flavors were out of this world. The sweetness of the coconut with the contrast of the (more subtle than the North) spice of the dishes was a dynamite combination.

After a brief post-lunch siesta we headed out with Vijeeshes father for a 3 hour canoe trip in the smaller canals around the island. His father was very personable and knew all the flora and fauna of the area, pointing it out as we went. We stopped to see how they make rope out of coconut fibre, where I helped make a rope that will work as a makeshift clothesline if we ever need it. We then had the best chai we have had in India, the flavor was so incredible we ended up having 2 cups each.

The rest of the tour passed by in relaxing and peaceful manner, disturbed only when we needed to duck our heads when we went under the small footbridges. Several bridges had us sitting on the bottom of the canoe, folded completely over! We got a very good taste of local life, observing people going about their daily routines on the water and off. Ross had his hand at propelling the boat the traditional way with the large pole, doing well until he became over confident and almost rammed the boat onto land. We watched the sunset over the backwaters, content with our decision to come to Munroe Island. The canoe tour offered by the homestay is 400 rupees per person, compared to the government run tours of 500 rupees per person, and we were able to see much more.

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When we arrived back to the homestay dinner was ready, and we were joined by two other girls also staying with Vijeesh. We chatted over the delicious food (my favorite was the beetroot chapati), discussing travel plans and our experiences in India. After dinner Vijeesh wanted to teach us a traditional Indian game comprised of a board, what looked like poker pieces, and chalk. It was a bit like pool using your fingers, you had to flick the pieces into one of the four holes in the corners of the board. We had a few beers while trying to grasp the game, a task not made easy with the constant berating from Vijeesh. The game lost its luster quickly, and we excused ourselves to head to bed after 1 game. I think Vijeesh would like to banter like we would amongst ourselves, but things get a bit lost in translation.

We made it to the small train station at Munroe Island just as our train was pulling into the station, hurrying to purchase tickets and hop on. We made it back to Kollom, took a tuk tuk down to the ferry station where we found our boat and were able to board immediately. The boat left an hour later, giving us time to purchase snacks and water in the meantime. The ferry was a tourist only boat, and we departed with only 8 passengers of the 100 capacity. It was 400 rupees per person ($8 CAD) for the 8 hour ferry ride. We sat on the topdeck where we had excellent views and were protected from the sun by a canopy. The time slipped by as we observed life on the backwaters. We took the main route that all of the houseboats also took, giving us the same experience at a fraction of a price. We stopped once for lunch, and a second time for chai. Most of the houseboats docked at 4 or 5 pm for the day, and most boats were docked facing the opposite way of the sunset, and more often than not the occupants view was a concrete wall. We, on the other hand, continued our ride until 6 pm, witnessing one of the more stunning sunsets to date. We were very happy with our decision to take the ferry over renting a houseboat, based on both reviews we read as well as what we witnessed on the water.

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We made it to Alleppey as the skies opened, catching us with all our luggage in a downpour. We quickly negotiated with a tuktuk driver and were on our way to the train station. There was a train leaving in an hour to Kochi (also spelled Cochin) that we were aiming to catch. We arrived in plenty of time, only to sit around and wait for 2 hours as the train was delayed. The rain continued, forcing us to shuffle around to try and find a place under the roof that wasn’t leaking, an almost impossible task. The train finally showed up and was packed far beyond capacity. We had not reserved seats on the train as it was only an hour ride, meaning we had general tickets that cost 10 rupees ($0.20 CAD) each. We tried to sneak in an upperclass carriage in the hopes the conductor wouldn’t be arround to check tickets until after our stop, but an older gentleman tattled on us and we were promptly kicked out by a very unimpressed conductor. We made our way to sleeper, which was still a level above the ticket we had purchased, and again hoped we could stay there without being caught. We were in luck, managing decent seats for the duration of the ride.

Once in Kollom we arranged a tuktuk directly to our hostel, where we all fell into bed without dinner as we were too tired and beyond hungry to venture out after such a long day on the road (and water).

The next day we quickly did our laundry upon waking, hoping it would be dry by the time we had to leave the next day. As Ross only has a few weeks we were moving at lightening speed, leaving little time for things like laundry. We then headed out to explore Kochi for the day, first stopping at the chinese fishing nets and the fish stalls, then the old town within the fort walls, before making our way to Mattancherry, or “Jew Town” (they actually had this on signs everywhere). It was a busy day of sightseeing, but a worthwhile city to visit. The highlight for me was definitely exploring an old antique store that took a solid 40 minutes to walk through. I had to resist temptation to buy several pieces, the old doors and furniture they had was nothing short of incredible. As I walked through I envisioned so many re-purposing projects as I passed certain pieces. They did ship to Canada, but it is risky as much of it is very old wood that has the potential to be declined by customs. In any case, I now have some good ideas of things I want for our future house!

We had high hopes for a seafood feast for dinner that evening, but were completely let down by the restaurant we chose. The seafood was overcooked to the point of being inedible. It actually turned all three of us off seafood for several days. If in Kochi, avoid Fusion Bay!

We headed to bed feeling slightly nauseous from dinner, crossing our fingers none of us would fall ill. The following day saw the beginning of the rigmarole to make our way to the hillstation of Ooty. I will detail this journey, as well as our time there, in my next post!.

India: The Weddings (Part 2)

Hello everyone!

Chris and I made it to our hostel Crashpad, in Jaipur, late in the evening. We settled in, socializing with the hostel workers while we ordered food to be delivered. We made a plan for our few days in Jaipur and then hit the sheets, worn out after our long travel day.

The next day we woke up and had made use of the hostel kitchen and our gift of 10 boxes of Kraft Dinner from Swati and Rohan. It never ceases to amaze me how much I crave KD when away from home for a significant amount of time, I hardly ever eat it when I am in Canada! My taste buds were delighted with the familiar, nonspicy, cheesy flavor. The hostel workers and fellow guests were intrigued by our meal and the pure pleasure we derived from it. It was worth the curious glances and inquisitive looks.

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Bellies full, we headed to the old city to explore the bazaar areas. The winding alleyways were filled with anything and everything you could ever possibly want, and we were able to roam in relative peace. Chris found a man working security for a jewelry store with a stellar mustache and requested a picture with him. The man happily posed and after I snapped the first picture he told me he wanted one more. He then proceeded to untuck the rest of his mustache from behind his ears, holding the tips out in each hand. Chris has high hopes he will one day be able to untuck his mustache from behind his ears. On that note, it is like walking around with a celebrity ever since he shaved his beard. Every Indian man stops to comment on Chris’s lip art, he makes friends everywhere we go, it is nothing short of hilarious.

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After the bazaar area we headed to the city palace. It was a very beautiful palace that we had a great time exploring. Chris’s favorite part was the massive artillery collection, while I enjoyed the ‘Hall of Public Audience’ which also had some black and white photos from an event that took place in the hall. The hall had a very regal feeling and my imagination drifted to how incredible it would be in its hay day.

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After the palace we headed back to the hostel to get a quick nap in before heading to the guys hotel to meet up for what was to be a night out. Sadly, the night ended early with 3 out of 4 guys succumbing to food poisoning. Chris and I made our way back to our hostel feeling thankful to not be ill, especially on such a short holiday.

The next day Chris and I met up with Ross for breakfast as the others were still in no shape to venture out. We headed to the India Coffee House for cheap eats and strong coffee. This is a chain of cafes that were on the verge of being shut down in 1950, but the communist party at the time encouraged the coffee board to make the cafes a Co-operative where the employees own a share of the business. It is still run this way to this day. Prices are rock-bottom and the quality of both the food and drinks was top-notch. Chris and I both had iced milk coffees and they were hands-down the best we have ever had. Don’t miss this place if you find yourself in a city with one of their locations!

After breakfast Chris and I haggled hard with a tuk-tuk driver to take us to 2 forts, and then drop us at a movie theatre afterwards. We ended up paying a third of what some of the guests at our hostel paid just to go to one fort and back! We first visited the Amber Fort and were dismayed by the pricetag of $10 CAD each to enter. However, it was more than worth the price of admission for how well preserved it was, especially one of the halls that was adorned with silver and mirrors. It was one of the most impressive and beautiful sites we have visited in all of India, the pictures do not do it justice. We were not there for sunset, but have been told this is an ideal time to visit.

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After the Amber Fort our tuk-tuk driver brought us the steep hill to the Jaigarh fort, that overlooks the Amber Fort. Chris and my enthusiasm for forts had somewhat dwindled by this time and we hurriedly made our way though. We then made our way to the movie theatre to watch our first Bollywood film. Fellow guests at the hostel had gone the day previous and said it was an amazing experience. The film was two hours long with a thirty minute break in the middle (crazy). The movie, although entirely in Hindi, was easy to follow and definitely cringe worthy. It was really interesting to see the interpretation of western life by the writers, who then mixed it with life in India for a product that really missed the mark on both accounts. The depiction of the main characters, three inordinately muscular Indian guys, living in their penthouse suite and constantly drinking beer or working out or some combination of both, was laughable. The premise was they each found a girl they liked, started dating them, something absurd happens (for example, one of the girls has a male best friend and the boyfriend is insanely jealous), they all break up, and the movie ends with each of the three guys calling their moms. The girls were depicted wearing itsy-bitsy dresses, mid-drift baring shirts, or skimpy shorts. It was worth a laugh and a good experience, but if that is what the average person thinks of western life it is understandable they react to us the way they do. We had hoped the theatre would be full and people would line the aisles dancing and cheering, but it was a rather sad turnout for a midafternoon show. By the end of the movie most of the other attendees had left.

After the movie we had to go quickly back to the hostel to grab our bags, then head to the bus station for our overnight bus back to Delhi to catch our early morning flight to Mangalore. Everything went smoothly, and we made our flight with no issues. Flying into Mangalore the first difference between North and South was very evident; it was beautifully green and lush everywhere the eye could see. The taxi ride to the hotel also highlighted the tranquility of the South versus the North; our driver barely used his horn, there were few vehicles on the road, and even fewer people in the streets. We had been told time and time again how different the North and South were, but we felt it ourselves within that first hour.

Our room was another penthouse suite, we felt so spoiled! Fellow backpackers will understand this statement: it was so beautiful and clean we didn’t even feel the need to wear flip-flops in the shower, a true luxury. We headed down for lunch at one of the restaurants where we had our first taste of Southern Cuisine. After 5 weeks in the North,it was a welcomed change. The guys showed up shortly after lunch and we spent the afternoon and evening relaxing and getting caught up on life. That evening there was a ceremony for Rohan with his family giving blessings and well-wishes. It was really lovely, Rohan looked totally relaxed and happy. Rohan and Swati wanted a smaller, one day wedding and it was easy to see it was more of an intimate affair. We had dinner and then headed to bed to rest up for the big day the following day.

Unlike the confusion over when things were actually going to get underway in the North, weddings in the South happen at precise times based on the stars alignment, so we knew the wedding was to occur at 11:17 am. For some weddings they even give the time to the seconds! The wedding was being held at a different venue so we headed out at around 9:30 am. A tradition in North India is that the man ridez to his wedding on a horse or an elephant. Shortly after we arrived, a beautifully decorated white stallion arrived for Rohans entrance. As we were his guests, we would walk around him as he made his way to the front door. The drummers and musicians began the music and we began our slow walk to the ceremony, with the males in the family dancing ahead of the horse. They were quick to grab the guys to join in the jubilant display of dancing. The guys did an excellent job while I did my best to take pictures and videos to avoid being selected for participation. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip, seeing Rohan so happy atop the prettiest horse whilst killing himself laughing at the guys, the guys having a blast breaking it down for Rohan dressed in their fanciest Indian dress, and the feeling of pure joy exuding from all in attendance. Having reached the entrance to the convention hall, Rohan dismounted his increasingly agitated steed, and met his beautiful bride-to-be. There was some sort of ceremony where family members washed their feet, and then everyone entered the hall.

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We made our way to the second floor and I stopped in my tracks as I stepped foot into the room where the wedding ceremony was to take place. The room was transformed from a boring convention hall room to a stunning gold laden room worthy of royalty. It was one of the most visually appealing rooms I have ever entered, especially considering it was transformed to appear this way rather than having been created that way. I took a ton of pictures and videos to try and capture the beauty of the room to share with you.

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We took our seats on Rohan’s family side and watched as the families prepared the bride and groom on separate sides of the stage. The stolen glances exchanged between Rohan and Swati during this time conveyed their happiness, anticipation and excitement from afar. We kept a close eye on the time so we wouldn’t miss the moment when they were officially wed as they don’t announce ‘I now pronounce you Husband and Wife,’ in Indian culture, everyone just knows. At 11:17 they were both lifted into the air and adorned each other with beautiful fresh flower leis, and they were wed, according to South Indian ceremonies anyway. They then proceeded with the North Indian rituals, including walking around the fire 7 times. Rohan and Swati are such wonderful people, I was overjoyed watching them during the ceremonies, lighthearted and laughing together the whole time.
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Once both ceremonies were complete, a massive que began of all those in attendance to give their blessings and congratulations and have a photo taken with the bride and groom. They had thousands of pictures taken in consecutive fashion, never wavering in their smiles. Swati wasn’t able to eat the entire day either as the wedding happened to fall on the one day a year when women fast from sun up until the first glimpse of the moon to ensure long lives for their husbands. If I was Swati, dressed in the stunning but hot saree, under bright lights, standing for pictures for hours on end with no food in my system; I definitely would have cracked it.

We had a delicious buffet lunch, with the most incredible ice cream and carrot sweet for dessert. We then headed back to the hotel before the guys headed to the beach, and Chris and I relaxed in our room. We have tons of beach time ahead of us, while it is unlikely we will have anything close to as luxurious of a room ahead of us, so we decided to relish in it while we could.

The women broke their fast together at Swati’s grandmothers house later in the evening, but it was really only a gathering for close family. We had met a very lovely colleague of Rohans father who invited us to join him for dinner instead. We went to a seafood restaurant that he had frequented years back, and indulged in several prawn and fish fry dishes. It was a really lovely dinner, and we were taken aback when he insisted on paying. He told us we could repay him when he visited us in Canada, which I sincerely hope he does.

The next day we had to say farewell to everyone except Ross, who was joining us for the remainder of our time in the South. Andy was heading home, while Tom and Benny were returning to Roorkee with Rohan for his reception for his family and friends in the North. The time together seemed to go at lightening speed, but to be able to share in a once in a lifetime experience with some of our best friends in the world is indescribable. I have said it many times, but I must thank both Rohan and Swati, and their respective families for including us and welcoming us as if we were family. We cannot say enough about how big of a privilege it was to be a part of not one, but two Indian weddings. We wish both couples all the happiness in the world, and very much look forward to our weekend in Montreal with Rohan and Swati in July.

That evening, Ross, Chris and myself boarded an overnight train from Mangalore to Varkala to begin our tour of Southern India. I will detail our adventures in my next post. Cheers everyone!

India: The Weddings (Part 1)

Hello Everyone!

I am going to do my best to put into words our experiences attending our friend Rohan, as well as his sister’s, weddings. Both he and his sister are living abroad now and have limited vacation time, so they decided to have their weddings back to back to accommodate this. His sisters marriage took place first, and we were lucky enough to be invited to attend, in addition to Rohans wedding. Both were nothing short of magical; I am overwhelmed with the task of depicting how magnificent they were. I will included as many photos as possible as they will do a much better job than I possibly can.

We arrived to Roorkee, Rohan’s home city, midafternoon after a very pleasant train ride. Roorkee is not a tourist town in any way shape or form, so some of our fellow train passengers frantically tried to stop us from exiting the train as they thought we were mixing up our stops. We thanked them for their concern, but assured them this was indeed the stop we wanted. Rohan had a car waiting for us to take us to the hotel where all of the activities for his sisters wedding were taking place. This was the first time we rode in a car since entering India and it was much more terrifying than our usual mode of transport; auto or cycle rickshaws. The rickshaws are much easier to navigate in the narrow streets and despite having open sides you feel much less likely to be in an accident. The car on the otherhand, felt like a moving target and I was just waiting for us to be in some sort of accident. Luckily, we made it to the hotel without incident.

We arrived to the hotel and were met in the lobby by Rohan, and our friend Ross who had arrived before us. It was one of the happiest, yet most surreal, moments of the trip. We planned our trip around being in India for Rohans wedding, making it a monumental time marker and something we always spoke about in future tense. I remember standing in our apartment in Halifax shortly before we left talking about the wedding being about 10 months into our trip and how it would be a perfect time to see familiar faces as we likely would be growing tired by that point. It seemed so incredibly far away, and the moment we stepped foot in the lobby, cementing that the wedding had arrived, it drove home just how long we had been on the road. We were shown to our room and were overwhelmed with how luxurious it was. We have grown use to varying states of budget accommodation, this was the equivalent to the penthouse suite for us. We headed down for a delicious buffet lunch and a briefing on the days events from Rohan. The boys were to go shopping in the afternoon, while I was to attend a ceremony predominantly for the women of the family. There would then be a break, before the evening entertainment of a famous Indian singer. Then there was to be dinner, and after that we would meet with the choreographers to begin working on our dance that we would perform at the following nights ceremony. Usually, at the Sangeet ceremony, professional dancers perform. However, most of the performances for Rohans sisters ceremony were by friends and family, and his mother thought it would be fantastic if we would participate with our own dance. We were apprehensive to say the least, but comforted ourselves with the fact Tom Forbes would be a participating dance member. (Sorry Tom)

The ceremony I attended was filled with songs sung by members of the family, with intermittent outbursts of dance. The women attending were all dressed beautifully, and their excitement was infectious. I felt a little bit like a fly on the wall as I was the only foreigner there, but everyone was very welcoming and spoke perfect english, answering any questions I had. There were three men hired for the day to decorate the attendees with henna. It was incredible how quick they could transform both your hands and forearms with beautiful designs seemingly created as they went. I found it interesting that the ceremony taking place, something to do with preparing a letter with the priest, took place almost in the background, while the singing, dancing, and endless chatter among the women dominated the foreground.

Once the ceremony ended I met back up with Chris and Ross, who had a fantastic time shopping and each purchased two different Indian dress attire outfits. They were the same size and therefore could trade outfits for the different events. They told me this in a way that was reminiscent of my days preparing for teen dances with my friends, which I teased them about relentlessly.

Now decked out in their new gear, we headed down for the entertainment. The singer was really wonderful, he and his singing partner had beautiful voices. Everyone in attendance sang and clapped along which made for a fun atmosphere. Again, there was random outburts of dance that they tried (to no avail) to drag us to the floor to participate. We were given a free pass since it was only day one, but warned in future days we wouldn’t get off so easy.

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We then had a delicious dinner before meeting with the choreographers to start working on our dance. It was a bit challenging as we were missing the rest of the members of our group who were to arrive the following morning, but the choreographers were determined to make at least a bit of headway. The difficulty of the dance was much more than we were anticipating, which had us in fits of laughter at the thought of performing this infront of people. We called it quits after about an hour, making a plan to reconvene the following day when the others arrived. Having observed some of the dancing that occurred throughout the day which was very simplistic, I had assumed we would be doing something similar. The choreographers on the other hand, were determined to have us doing more of a western style hip-hop dance to Indian music. If we were apprehensive before we were downright terrified by this point, we had less than 24 hours before we were to perform this dance which wasn’t even fully choreographed, and our full group wasn’t set to arrive until the next day!

The next morning we were woken bright and early by Andy and Tom who arrived at around at the crack of dawn, but graciously waited until 7am to wake us. We headed down to breakfast, eager to hear updates on Benny who had a mishap with his visa and wasn’t allowed to board his flight to India. He had reapplied for a new visa and was waiting for approval before boarding the next flight out. After breakfast we met with the choreographers and worked on our dance for about two hours. Considering the time constraints to learn the dance, and the fact none of us were dancers, I think we did well. I don’t necessarily think we were performance ready, but it was the best we were going to be.

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The boys headed out to get outfits for the new arrivals, while I attended Rohan’s fiance, Swati’s, engagement ceremony. It was another ceremony predominantly for female members of the family, and they were dressed even more beautifully than the previous day. They sang more songs, this time more folk in nature, inserting Swati and Rohan’s names to the songs, causing great laughter. Swati looked absolutely stunning, and was showered with gifts and blessings. She had three friends in attendance from Montreal, so it was nice to not be the only foreigner. After the ceremony, myself and the Montreal girls were accompanied by Swati’s sister to clothing stores to find appropriate attire for the events. It was hectic, especially considering I needed to find something pre-made for that evening. For womens clothes in India this is very difficult as most things need to be sewn for your measurements. It really limited the options for me which was a little disappointing as there were so many beautiful fabrics and patterns that I would have loved to have chosen, but they all needed to be sewn. I wished I had had something sewn at some point during our travels as we had spent so much time in India during which I could have easily had things made, but I didn’t realize it would be such a crunch once we made it to Roorkee. I was able to find something acceptable enough for that evening, and two other suits that were partially sewn that they could have done for the following day.
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We headed back to the hotel where I had a quick shower before getting ready and getting together to practice the dance a few last times before the evening got underway. Feeling more confident than we had earlier in the day, we made our way to the outdoor courtyard where the evening was taking place. Our jaws hit the floor when we stepped outside; it felt like we were onset of a music video. A proper stage with a massive TV screen and professional lighting had been erected overnight, along with seating areas comprised of white leather couches, and a bar area. The colors of the seats being white made the vibrancy of all the other colors of the decorations stand out even more. I have never experienced anything close to as incredible before. The video is better than the pictures!
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We chose a table off to the side, not wanting to take any seats for family members. We were immediately bombarded by servers with every type of appetizer and drink under the sun. We couldn’t help gorging ourselves on it all, even though we were all incredibly nervous for our performance. The evening was kicked off by professional dancers, and then followed by different members of the family. With each act we grew increasingly nervous, waiting anxiously for our turn so we could get it over with! Luckily, we were one of the last performances (several hours into the event) and by that point many of the guests had ventured inside for the buffet dinner. Rohan and Swati thoroughly enjoyed our dance, they were seated front row and I could see them busting a gut watching us. We were very happy with how we did, and more importantly that our commitment was over and we could head to the bar. Chris made friends with a man from the fiancee’s side, who enjoyed randomly lifting Chris into the air (see pictures). We ended up eating dinner at around 1 am after a very fun few hours celebrating our dance completion. I will post the video taken by the photographer when it is available to me!

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The next day we were able to sleep in as the groom was from Punjab, and in the morning they were having a traditional Punjabi ceremony in which only close family members attend. We were told to be at the reception area by noon, and were slightly late because my outfit was delivered at 11:45 am. We had a hard time gauging what time to head to events as we would show up at the scheduled time, and be the first ones there by sometimes more than an hour! I was a bit stressed as Rohan did say noon for this event, but again we were the first ones there, despite being half an hour later than intended. I thought there was only African Time, but we learned over the course of the wedding there is definitely also an Indian time. The reception was being held next door on the lawn of an amusement park to accommodate the large number of anticipated guests. When we entered the grounds we were rendered speechless; we didn’t think anything could top the previous evening, but this absolutely blew it out of the water. The intensity of the colors, amount of fresh flowers, and size of the grounds was an assault to our senses. We spent a good twenty minutes just walking around taking it all in. Again, we were completely overwhelmed with servers offering every kind of appetizer and fresh mocktails. It was difficult to resist, but we were learning that the time set for lunch was probably a few hours off, so it was okay to indulge. Chris counted over 100 different main dishes, not including all the appetizers, fruits, pizza station etc. We sat infront of one of the mist fans as it was scorching hot in the midday sun in our dress, and sampled all of the appetizers and drinks as people slowly began to trickle in.

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The bride and groom separately entered the grounds, each having a live drum band accompanying them, and the cannon that I had previously thought was only decorative sprang to life, shooting fresh flowers over the procession. At that moment I understood where the romanticized vision of India that is so rampant in North America originates from; the day was nothing short of magical. It felt like we were transported to another country where it was exotic, colorful and full of the finest things in life.

Swati approached us and informed us all the rides at the park were free for the guests. That is all the encouragement we needed as we had noticed that one of the small rollercoasters did a loop around the reception grounds and would provide a perfect aerial view. We hopped into the carts and we were off, and I almost had a panic attack. It was one of the most unsafe endeavors I have undertaken in life, which says a lot. I was convinced the thing was going to just fall off the singular track it was running on. I couldn’t even focus on the amazing views as I was formulating an escape plan should it derail. Every time we went around a turn the cart made the most horrifying noise and slowed almost to a halt. I was more than relieved when we made it back to the start.

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After the death-defying ride we had a sampling of the hundred dishes offered for lunch, took in the entertainment, and then had formal pictures taken with Rohans sister and groom. We then headed back to the hotel for a siesta before the evening events.

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That evening was the Hindu marriage ceremony and was a family affair, with only close members in attendance. Some lovely guests talked us through the ceremony, explaining the significance of everything going on. It was very meaningful and beautiful; my favorite part of the ceremony was when they walked around a fire 7 times to signify their commitment to one another for 7 lives. I smiled thinking of our weddings and how compared to all that we had witnessed in the previous few days, they seem very flippant. I do, he does, the end. No wonder our divorce rates are so high!

After the ceremony there was dinner, and then we all collapsed in bed. The combination of the heat of the day and all of the activities had worn us out.

The following day we headed with Rohan to Delhi for his impromptu bachelor party. His university friends along with the 6 of us Canadians headed to a bar called The Vault to celebrate Rohan and his upcoming marriage. The bar was really cool as the side rooms were made as if they were ‘vaults’ and could be reserved for large groups such as ours. We had a fantastic evening filled with good food, cheap beer, and good friends. Rohans mother reminded us his wedding was in just three short days before we left, and we made sure he was no worse for wear.

The next day Chris and I lazed for the day while the other guys arranged for a private driver to take them where they wanted to go for the 4 days in between the two weddings. Chris and I had done most of what they were going to do and therefore opted to just meet them in Jaipur in a few days. A private driver is a very viable option for India, especially if you are short on time, but scams and ripoffs are a huge issue if you go this route (eh, boys). There is a website of regulated drivers with set prices that you can look into if you want to avoid haggling and the risk of scams. (I am not sure the address but I am sure if you google it you will find it).

Chris and I headed via train to Jaipur the following day, and I will cover our time there, as well as Rohans wedding in my next post!