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Monthly Archives: December 2012

With Dabangg 2 being released thought I should watch number 1. Of course the biggest problem with this movie is that it has Salman Khan in it, who we all can’t stand, for both his sleazy acting style and his behaviour in real life too. So if this movie had had anyone else it would have been far better. Its still a good movie, with the usual preposterous police plot combined with the sibling rivalry stuff so beloved of Bollywood writers. New girl Sonakshi Sinha impresses, and there are all sorts of subplots to keep up the interest as well as a knockout soundtrack. 74/100

Arrived very early in Kannur and walked for ages to find our hotel, the Mascot Resort. Was half expecting Basil Fawlty to appear as the hotel’s manager, such was the surreal nature of all our exchanges with the staff there. Eventually settled into a sea facing room and had a nice South Indian buffet breakfast. Walked down to the lovely Payyambalam beach which will no doubt one day be a bif tourist destination and had lunch in the funny little park. Caught an auto into town, changed money and went on the net before a delicious thali lunch at a restaurant in the main street. Went back to the station to get tickets for Kochi then back to the hotel where we watched the setting up of an engagement party in the garden. Had a reasonable Chinese dinner at a nearby restaurant, the Cabane Bamboo.


Next morning went to the well organized bus station. Caught a bus driven by a maniac to Mahe, a former French colony, which had a nice waterfront and lots of bottle shops. Caught another bus onto Thalassery, one of the oldest British colonies on the west coast, where we first had an excellent lunch at the Paris Hotel. Walked through the busy town to the Fort which is well worth a visit, and the historically interesting graveyard, with the oldest grave dating back to 1792. Walked back to the old Malabar style wooden mosque opposite the Paris Hotel. Caught a bus back to Kannur but on the way decided to hop off at “drive in beach” (Muzhupillangad) where everyone drives up and down the beach, many doing lessons. At the beach met a local historian who had written a book about the history of the area. Watched the sunset then caught another scary bus (admittedly very impressed with someone driving a 40 year old bus like a WRC rally car) and ended up having dinner at the weirdly named Broad bean hotel in the bus station. brand new and a pretty good restaurant too. Had a bit of a hassle finding any transport back but finally made it after a long and unusual day.


Walked into town on my own for a change, and for part of it was entertained by the excellent marching band of the St Theresa’s girls school. Very professional and great musicians. Changed money, checked emails and discovered a great bookshop, DC Books in Fort Rd. Boring lunch at the Indian Coffee House then auto back and spent some time by the pool. Caught a rip off taxi to Kannur fort where we caught up with our historian mate again. Fort really cute and well looked after. Walked through army cantonment to bus stop, army seems to have a lot of land here. Got off in Fort Rd and spent lots of money at the bookshop, then dinner back at the hotel after a long wait.


Next day and its a daytime train for once. If you want a truly zen moment, sit in the doorway of a train through Kerala, watching villages, palm trees, waterways and farm animals flash by. Still my favourite travel experience of all. Arrived in Kozhikode (Calicut) and caught autos to old wooden mosques, which are quite unique and cute. Lost a bit of time in this busy mainly Muslim town when we got dropped off in different places by our auto drivers, but eventually found each other and then found the buffet at the Malabar Palace Hotel which was good value but sadly ran out of lots of the tastiest things and didn’t replenish them. Had a look at the crappy beach then back to the station, walking through some nice textile markets on the way. Hopped onto our train to Kochi, arrived at Town station, Ernakulam then autos to our hotel, the Broadway tower hotel in TD West Rd, which was clean and functional. Quite late by then so ate very oily stuff at the Punjabi place across the road.



Nice dosas for breakfast then off to VEEGALAND by autos, lots of fun as usual but much more crowded than last time. Lots of school groups this time too. Had a nice thali lunch there and got very wet. By the way, its now called Wonder La park now. Bus back and dinner at Sealord’s rooftop restaurant which was Ok but really slow.


Last day now, walked down to find the Sunshine residency where we stayed last time but it had closed up. Luckily Buhari’s restaurant was still there for breakfast. Checked out some bookshops and music stores, had morning tea at Cafe Coffee Day which was the usual overpriced rubbish. Went on a shopping spree to get rid of our rupees, best buy was a beautiful wooden Ganesa statue. Repacked all our purchases back at the hotel, then off in an Ambassador (wonder how many will be left by the next visit?) to the fancy new airport outside Kochi. Bye bye India sob sniff..

Arrived at Margao station and got a prepaid taxi to theAroma hotel at Panjim, where we then had to wait some time for a room as it was naother hotel with the confusing 24 hour checkins. Worth the wait as the rooms were very nice and overlooked the lovely gardens opposite. Breakfast at Cafe Coffee Day then changed some money and bought yummy cakes. Walked across the park to the Church of our Lady, a glorious white building up a wedding cake staircase. Walked through the cute old Portuguese town, then split up for dinner, with Dylan and I satisfying our thali cravings at the Shiv Sagar and the others going italian.


Next day caught the bus to Candolim beach which was a bit of a surprise as there were hundreds of tourists all over the beach. Rented a set of beach chairs and an umbrella and were well looked after by Francis from Joshua’s beach hut restaurant. Had a nice lunch at Frank Zappa’s on the beach too. Had a relaxing day (apart from Aidan dislocating his shoulder again, thankfully it popped back in) in the water and reading on the beach and watching the fat white tourists getting their sun fix before going back to Europe. Could see the fort from where we were and the famous stranded ship. Watched Australia play South Korea in a bar before an ordinary dinner in a tourist restaurant. Many restaurants had Russian menus and signs. Got a taxi back as buses had finished for the night.


Slept in a bit before eventually getting down to the chaotic bus station and a bus to Old Goa. Nice trip along the river. Hopped off at Old Goa and first walked down to the river and watched the ferry that goes to the island, then looked at the impressive archway with its Vasco Da Gama statue. Looked at the pretty interior of St Cajetan’s church, then massive fortress like St Francis church, the biggest in Asia. Main chapel was very decorated but other parts quite dark. Crossed the road to the Bom Jesus church to see the preserved remains of Francis Xavier but can’t see much of him. Bus back to town then later caught a bus to Miramar beach to watch the sunset, enjoyable time watching the locals enjoying a bit of down time. Finished off with a splendid buffet at the Marriott hotel, all for only 900 rupees! Ate a lot.


Spent the morning souvenir shopping before getting a driver to drop us down to Majorda beach near Margao. Majorda beach much quieter and prettier than Candolim but still lots of Russians. Set up at the friendly Mishma’s restaurant and spent the afternoon swimming, eating and boozing. Went for a walk and strolled through the fancy Kenilworths hotel which was totally set up for Russians, swam in the pool with enormous fat Russian men and their hot and sometimes topless wives. After dinner at sunset on the sand caught taxi to Margao station. Really enjoyed Goa this time, will have to come back for sure.

So it’s now 2 years since we went to India and I still haven’t finished writing up my India diary. Better get cracking! Must finish it before we head off to Sri Lanka in January.

So to Mumbai (though I still wish it was Bombay).

Arrived at a very quiet Mumbai Central station, Caught taxis to our hotel at Nana Chowk near Grant Road station, the Krishna Presidency, which was really nice. Wandered up to the nearby house of Mahatma Gandhi which is now a very interesting museum devoted to him, thus completing our Gandhi tour. Especially loved the dioramas of his life. Then walked to Kemp’s Corner where we had lunch at an Israeli felafel shop. Then up the hill to Malabar and the Hanging Gardens. Took the adventurous under construction path down the hill back to our hotel, where we vegged out for a while. After our rest we walked to Chowpatty beach and watched the sunset and had very disappointing bhel puri, nothing like I remember it from the 1980s. Beach was very quiet and no beggars at all unlike last time. Had dinner across the road from hotel at Shetty’s restaurant, food Ok and included a lecture from Mr Shetty on how to eat Indian food.


Next morning had a reasonable buffet breakfast at the hotel before catching the local train from Grant Road to Churchgate station. Tickets were only 4rs and even got a seat, surprisingly no one on the roof or hanging out the doors. No sooner had we walked over to the Maidan than a man stopped the boys and offered them, then all of us roles in a Bollywood movie – at last, finally discovered! Of course we said yes, a bit suspicious but also very excited as we had had no luck trying to find a Bollywood tour that morning. We organized to meet next morning at Colaba. Anyway, continued on our way to COlaba and then the famous Taj Mahal Hotel, still lovely and ornate in side despite the tragic happenings of a few years ago. Onto the Gateway of india, and the Shivaji statue. Average lunch at Kemals beofre walking up through the British part of town past the museums and popped into the beautiful Sassoon Library and the fascinating synagogue painted sky blue that Madonna once visited. After being sidetracked by an excellent CD shop (Rhythm House on Dubash Rd) went through an odd market selling sex toys to the nice gardens of Horniman Circle, with an ornate church and the Town Hall and State Library. Walked back past the famous Flora Fountain then past Churchgate along Veer Nariman Rd via a very good internet cafe to the Kam Ling Chinese restaurant for some yummy Bombay style Chinese food.Caught a very empty train back to our hotel. I love Mumbai!





Up early to check out and get down to the Maccas at Colaba for our big film break. Lots of backpackers waiting there, as well as a woman whose son was also at Leichhardt high school. A taxi took the kids first to Mehboob Studios, at Bandra West. A bus then came along to take the rest of us. On arrival we were handed breakfast, anyone with facial hair was asked to get it off and then we were fitted with our costumes. I got a lovely brown suit! We discovered the set was the control room of London Rail, and we were in a movie with great Bollywood actor Boman Irani called Tezz. I’ll go into more detail another time, but all in all it was great day and even if we all ended up on the cutting room floor it was one of them most unique travel experiences ever for us. A few dramas getting back saw us staging a Gandhi style hartal on the bus because they wouldn’t drop us off at Victoria Terminus as promised, but eventually the bus drivers cracked and took us there. Incredible station, so ornate and huge with thousands of people around. Found our train and settled into our sleeper, not the nicest one we’ve had. Happy that i woke at the right time to have chai at Ratnagiri station where the exiled King of Burma lived (not in the station of course!). Will have to return to Mumbai again however, as we lost a day of sightseeing because of our movie.


Sethi records his friendship with building labourer Ashraf, who lives on the street in Delhi. Ashraf is full of incredible stories, but you are never sure how true they are, and would make an interesting movie. It is certainly an interesting read, and a great insight into Delhi street life, but I just feel that maybe Sethi could have gone a bit deeper into why certain things happen – he seems a bit reluctant, or perhaps too lazy, to look at why people like Ashraf and his friends are living on the street, and how the labour market operates, and who runs it. The book touches on so many things that need to be brought out, such as slum clearances, violence, alcoholism and drugs, homelessness etc ¬†Ashraf and his colleagues are very amusing, and certainly have some envious freedoms, but their lives could and should be better. More down to earth than Katherine Boo’s book, but not as deep. 70/100

It was reading this book in 1982 that really made me want to go to India. So with the release of the movie version coming up I thought it was time to re-read it 30 years later. I have always considered it my favourite book ever, and all I can say is that after reading it again it certainly remains that way.

What can you say about it? It has everything Рquirky characters, history, politics, love, supernatural happenings, amazing places, astounding plot twists, incredible language. Probably what I like about it most is how Rushdie captures such a sense of place, whether it is Bombay or the jungles of the Sundarbands, and the way places and characters are interlinked with historical events.  It will be interesting to see if a film can capture all of this too! 99/100