Today is my last day in the Maldives. How sad. This week has been so fantastic! I’ve felt such peace and love here. I had breakfast first, some kind of curry with kidney beans and chick peas, served with roshi, of course:
I went to the beach for my last morning swim.
And met the cutest hermit crab:
I met Kamey for lunch, and enjoyed grilled reef fish for the last time. It was good to see Kamey one last time.
At the airport I bought some stamps, and used my last bit of Maldivian currency on a passionfruit jam:
Back to Bangalore! As my dad said, “welcome home”! I was warmly greeted by Divya and her friends, who were having fun on this Saturday night. I dropped my bags at her home, changed, and we went to a busy restaurant/bar. I’ve gotten used to having Divya order food for me. We had various shared plates, mostly of spicy and flavourful meats. Our favourite was the deep-fried, bacon-wrapped chicken on a stick! After we left, there was a man riding a bicycle that said something to us. When I asked what he had said, I found out that he was biking around and selling tea from a carafe on the back of his bicycle! So I asked for a cup, it was delicious!
Divya took me to MRJ’s for breakfast today, to try some different kind of dosas. Dosa is a kind of Indian bread. We shared an idly, which is a grain (not rice) with herbs and nuts in it.
Then we had the dosa (not sure what the name is). It has a lot of butter in it, and was served with a side of melted butter. Inside is a flavourful mixture of potatoes, chick peas, and other vegetables.
We stopped at Fab India for a couple of final gifts, then stopped at a flower cart on Divya’s block. I’ve admired the chains of flowers every day I passed the stand, and the music festival is the perfect occasion to wear some! In Hindu these chains of flowers are called mallige hoovu, and are often worn in the hair as a decoration.
Divya’s family took us to lunch today. After hearing that I like spicy food, they chose a restaurant called Nagarjuna, which serves Andhra style food. It’s from northern India. The food here is served on banana leaves. It’s a common custom in India, especially at weddings. We wet our leaves with water to wash it before our food was served.
They ordered chili lime chicken (on the left), and another kind of very spicy chicken (on the right).
And some chicken fried rice, that we ate with onion-soaked yogurt sauce. The rice was definitely tastier with the yogurt!
Divya’s dad ordered the meal below specifically for me! I’m not sure what it’s called, but there’s spinach dal, and a carrot dish. You mix the dal with the rice, and with chutney or other dipping sauces if you like. I’ve really enjoyed saying “yes” to tasting everything on this trip, even without knowing what it is. So freeing! So nice to say “I eat everything,” when invited to a restaurant or a home-cooked meal! What a fascinating culinary experience this trip has been! I like being vegetarian for a number of reasons, but it’s been so fun to totally break out of that comfort zone!
After lunch (thanks Divya’s parents!), we headed to WEEKENDER for day 2. I have to be at the airport at 2am tomorrow to catch a flight to the Maldives, so I packed my luggage and took it with me. I’ll head to the airport directly from the music festival. I snapped this picture on the way to the festival grounds: it’s a vineyard! There are vineyards and orchards lining the streets, so beautiful and unexpected for India!
Flower crown time! I felt like a princess, and loved the jasmine scent.
The first band we saw was Inspector Cluzo, from France. They played fun music, and interacted with the audience a lot. The crowd and I loved it!
Later in the day I saw Jon Hopkins, who I also saw at Pitchfork in Paris 10 days ago! I snuck up super close to the stage and danced danced danced!
The night ended with MuteMath. For their last song, the singer crowd-surfed on a platform, it was wildly fun!
Divya and I got up late today. We had breakfast, dressed, and headed to WEEKENDER music festival! We went with a bunch of her friends.
This is Sarish, Divya’s friend and business partner. We’ve spent a lot of time with him, and I’ve gotten to know him a bit. He’s incredibly polite, a true gentleman, and he has a fun and lively spirit. He often picks us up when we head out to meet with friends. Thanks Sarish!
WEEKENDER is near the airport, about an hour drive away. Bangalore is crowded with buildings, but out here there’s enough space for this big fest. There are five stages, and a bunch of booths selling food, drinks, and souvenirs.
The different stages loosely represented different genres of music. There was one stage for rock, another that was mainly heavy metal, another that featured some Indian music, and my favourite was the EDM (electronic dance music) stage. I realized today that I’m in a bit of an EDM phase, and I don’t mind that one bit! Today I saw a bunch of bands:
My favourite act was Peking Duck, who ended the night at the EDM stage. They sampled a large selection of music, from old school classics to modern hits. They won me over when they mashed ABC by the Jackson 5 with Sleepyhead by Passion Pit. I also really loved the reggae mixed with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by the Beatles, and oh, so much more! I’ve taken to doing a voice recording at live shows, and I enjoy replaying the low-quality recording, reliving the night.
Today’s my last day in Goa. I had a masala omelet for breakfast, and the most delicious iced coffee I’ve ever had! I may have enjoyed two in a row!
I walked away from the beach and to the town. The area where the flea market is held was eerily empty.
Ondi had told me yesterday that 5 or 7 chilies and a lime are often strung together to ward off bad energy and bring good luck. I saw this discarded by the road. The chain of flowers are often used as decoration, or as an offering to the gods.
I thought this place was especially cute. The writing says “the butterfly fairies”.
I came across this building under construction. I’m not sure what kind of brick this is, but it made me think of adobo. Most of the construction in Bangalore is with cast-in-place concrete, and sometimes CMU (concrete masonry units). These red bricks seem to be commonly used in Goa.
The tropical canopy is beautiful. I felt like I was walking through a dream!
I walked to the German Bakery, per Ondi’s recommendation. I first thought, “why would I want to go to a german bakery in India?” but I was pleasantly surprised that it’s not really German. It’s a health food place!
They have a beautiful outdoor seating area. I sat in the booth below. The table is coffee-table height, and you sit on a pad on the bamboo mat, and rest your back against the part that’s painted white. So comfortable and laid-back! You can stretch your legs out, sit “criss-cross apple sauce” (that’s the PC version of Indian-style). I ordered a ginger kombucha (pictured above), and a tonic made of lemon, ginger, honey, and turmeric (not pictured). The tonic was delicious and sooo healthy, I plan to include it in my regular diet when I return to the US.
I hurried back to the beach. There’s one item left on my Goa itinerary, which was to try the local favourite fish curry rice. It ended up being one of my favourite meals! It doesn’t look like much, but there’s some fried king fish, and a curry sauce with more fish. Deliciously spicy! This meal cost $5, including the beer and a tip.
I rushed back to my beach tent just in time to meet the taxi that drove me to the airport.
Once back in Bangalore, I took a much-needed shower. Divya and I met some of her friends at Fatty Bao, an Asian restaurant I’ve heard a LOT about. It’s a beautiful rooftop, with tropical plants and a view.
We shared a bunch of different appetizers, and I ordered mushroom ramen. I’ve always wanted to taste real ramen, but it’s not usually vegetarian so I’ve never had the opportunity. Though I’m eating meat now, I couldn’t resist the ramen with oyster and shitake mushrooms! The broth had been simmered for 14-18 hours. Yumm!
I spent the morning in the sun, and in the ocean. Meditating here has been fantastic. Some things in the world are naturally meditative, like running, writing, watching burning fire, watching birds fly or fish swim, and watching the waves on a beach.
I walked the entire stretch of beach. I’ve been enjoying lemon soda here, which is a mixture of fresh squeezed lemon juice, carbonated water, and sugar. Delightfully refreshing, and only about $0.50! Kingfisher beer, made in Bangalore, is good too, and costs about $1.
I had a beachfront coconut, then Ondi, a friend I made in Chicago and helped out at the Renegade Craft Fair, picked me up on her scooter, and took me to Thalassa, a Greek restaurant with a beautiful view of the setting sun. Ondi made me feel incredibly safe on the scooter. She took her time, carefully navigating potholes and intersections, and drove in a relaxed manner.
We enjoyed some white wine, and caught up.
We even got to see a traditional Greek dance, complete with plate-smashing, to celebrate the wedding of an Indian guest.
She invited me to her home, where her mother-in-law, Umma, prepared dinner. I watched her make some fresh roti.
After, she drove me back to my tent on the beach. We went to a nearby bar, listened to Goan trance music, watched the waves crash on the beach, and enjoyed a shisha. It was a glorious, glorious day!
Even though my flight was rescheduled an hour later, I arrived in Goa before 9am. I got a prepaid taxi from the airport stand – always get it from the airport, and not from a random driver standing outside. The hour-long ride to Anjuna beach cost 1050 rupees, about $20. Crazy, I’ve spent the same for a 4-mile in Chicago! Most of the way the road was parallel to the coast, and I enjoyed the view along the way. We passed many rice fields with the occasional grazing cow, and some white cranes too!
I’m staying at “FiveFive,” a restaurant that also has five luxury tents, right on the beach. I was warmly welcomed with a cup of tea. The picture below shows some bungalow-style lounges, and the tents are just behind them. The second picture is the view from my tent’s porch.
The first thing I did was change my clothes to be more comfortable in the heat. I’ve worn pants for most of my trip, but I ditched them and wrapped a stole in the fashion of a skirt. It’s so hot and so humid that most of the time I’m sweating constantly. I’ve taken to carrying a handtowel with me to wipe the sweat from my face. Only when I’m sitting in the shade, sipping something cold, and barely moving does the sweating stop. Cold drinks literally vaporize in the heat, and let off steam; it’s the opposite phenomenon of warm breath in cold air. I’ll mention now that many Indians don’t drink chilled drinks; it’s believed to be bad for the throat.
I had breakfast at FiveFive: an Israeli-style breakfast with eggs and deliciousness.
And saw a cow walk up the beach!
Today is the weekly flea market! Ondi, a friend I helped out at Chicago’s Renegade Craft Fair, has a booth there. I said hi to her, and wandered through the market to find a few final gifts. I’ve been told by everyone that haggling is important, and this was my chance to give it a try. I think I did ok. The sellers were incredibly insistent, calling out to customers, and trying to lead them to their shops.
Then I spent the rest of the afternoon walking up and down the beach.
I had a simple vegetable curry and avocado salad for dinner, and spent the evening writing in a bungalow lounger. Restless, I headed out to gaze at the almost-full moon.
Late night snack attack! There were two elderly women making snacks for people outside one of a large restaurant/bar. I had an egg fried with onion and garlic on a bun for 50 rupees, about $0.82. It was crazy delicious!
Today Divya took me to her friend Aru’s family fabric and sari business! It was so fun to see all the patterns and colors, and learn about the regional styles. I tried on the purple sari below, hopefully I’ll share the picture of it on me soon!
The three of us headed to Monkey Bar, a really popular American-style bar that I’ve heard a lot of talk about. I ordered a cocktail with Indian ingredients per Aru’s suggestion. It’s called the Mangaa, with vodka, aampanna, sweet lime, jeera, and salt. No, I don’t know what those ingredients are. It was tangy and refreshing, and had an unusual texture.
Divya took me for a ride around town. We passed the high court:
Drove by the State Assembly:
And through a huuuuuge park!
We went to a craft fair, and I purchased some additional gifts and souvenirs.
Then we met with some friends at Toit (yea, the bro-version of “tight”), a brewery just a block away from Divya’s place. We ordered potato skins and pizza, and I had a beer flight. It was just like Wisconsin, except for all the Indian patrons.
Divya and I called it an early night, as I have a flight to Goa at 6:20am tomorrow!
I’ve been waking up pretty late these first days in India. Today my nose is stuffed and my throat is tickled; a common cold, probably from the drastic change in weather between France and here. It was in the 50’s most of my time in France, but Bangalore has been about 85 degrees with moderate humidity. This is perfect weather for me!
I started the day with a delicious lunch: spicy fish; rice with homemade yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and curry leaves; curried chicken; and freshly made dosas. We eat with our hands, using the dosas to pick up the food. There’s a sink adjacent to the dining room for us to wash up after meals. Divya’s family is from the coast, so they eat a lot of fish and seafood. I’m learning that a lot of Indian culture is regionalized. India is a huge country, and much like the US there are vast differences between different areas, most notably north and south. There are 29 states, and the type of food and bread, the language, and even the manner of wrapping a sari varies between them. Rice is commonly enjoyed with fresh yogurt, and Divya’s mom had me try mixing in some pickled mango – which is actually spicy and tart, not sweet at all. The rice is a nice relief from the spicy curries served at each meal, including breakfast.
Divya took me shopping! First we went to Chumbak, which has colorful modern patterns on everything like clothes, bedding, and dishes. Then we headed to a couple of clothing stores. Divya commented that my proclivity towards fabrics with hints of gold is just like what most Indians prefer. I bought myself a tunic, and several gifts for friends and family.
I dropped my shopping bags at the house, and we went for a walk through the neighborhood. This beautiful park is just a couple of blocks away from Divya’s home.
We stopped for a fresh coconut along the way. First they cut a small hole at the top and give you a straw to enjoy the coconut water. Then they cut it in half so you can eat the coconut flesh inside.
The trees here are beautiful. Many of them have huge trunks and branches that stretch 30’. Some of the trees have fern-like leaves, with bright orange flowers.
We met a friend for coffee at a super cute internet café. I was surprised by their entirely American menu, including items like pepperoni pizza, chicken noodle soup, and club sandwiches. I ordered their signature coffee. It was delicious and had some chocolate in it.
We met Divya’s friend Natasha for dinner at an Indian-Afghanistan restaurant. We had chicken kebabs for a starter. They were not small pieces of chicken, but rather entire chicken thighs on a stick that had been roasted. We shared a paneer and a briyani, which was lamb and rice with spices, served in a little pot with bread dough stretched on top.
After the meal, they brought a bowl with hot water and lime for us to cleanse our fingers.
How do I describe India? Well, let’s first remember that I’ve only been here a couple of days.
My first experience here was simply riding to Divya’s home from the airport. The airport is outside of the city, and as we approached the center of Bangalore the streets got more and more crowded with a mix of cars, trucks, three-wheeled doorless auto-rickshaws, dirt bikes, and scooters. Bicycles are common too, as are pedestrians, because sidewalks are often obstructed. The rules for driving here are very different than what I’m used to. They drive on the left, and lane markers are largely ignored. When traffic is slow, scooters squeeze through the cars, and when traffic is fast, cars navigate past the scooters, dirtbikes, and auto-rickshaws (the slowest vehicle on the street). It’s chaotic, competitive, and the manner of passing would be regarded by americans as “cutting off”. It’s even common to cross over the divider into oncoming traffic in order to overtake slower vehicles. They do use turning signals, which helps, and drivers tend to honk as a warning when passing. But there’s so much honking, it must be hard to figure out who’s honking and why! The car horns here are higher pitched and sharp sounding. Intersections are completely nuts. There are traffic lights at larger intersections, but often you’ll see intersections without any regulation, and cars have to creep into oncoming traffic to cross. You absolutely have to be an assertive driver, or else everyone would pass you and you’d get nowhere.
People often load scooters with large items, often held by a passenger. I’ve seen scooters with a 20″ crt TV; with 4-5 huge water cooler bottles; stacks of packages; sacks of lemons; and this guy below who had two toddlers in front of him, and two young kids in the back. It’s common to see women ride “side-saddle”, as their saris would prevent them from straddling the scooter. It’s also common to see small children perched on the top bar of bicycles. Sometimes there’s even a little a little seat for them.
There’s a larger disparity of privilege and poverty here. You’ll see beautiful mansions, and people begging on the street right in front of it. There are lots of street vendors, peddling everything from grilled corn, peanuts, and coconuts, to beach balls, flowers, toys, and trinkets.
Today Divya and I joined her brother, Nishanth, and his friends for brunch at High Ultra Lounge. Brunch has gotten super popular in India over the last few years. High offers an all-inclusive sushi brunch with unlimited food and drinks for 2200 rupees, around $37. The rooftop lounge has an air-conditioned indoor area, and a large open air patio, both with beautiful views of the entire city. Brunch here has incredible service. We were a large group of around 20 people, so the servers simply brought platter after platter of food, and we could request whatever food/drinks we wanted as well. The bartenders were working hard!
Soon the DJ turned up the music and the tempo. Friends ordered rounds of shots. The staff set up mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails, so that both drinkers and non-drinkers can participate) along the water feature, and knocked the shot glasses into the tumblers like dominos. It turned into an all-out party, and everyone was dancing, including the servers!
We left around 6pm and drove back to Divya’s home. She passed out for a few hours, and I surfed the internet. Then we were called down for another home-cooked meal.
I absolutely LOVED my flight! I read reviews about Air India yesterday that made me nervous. Mainly they said they weren’t fed enough, so I packed the rest of my French cheese and bread for the plane. But damn, that flight was awesome! Lots of leg room, beautiful plane, great service, two delicious meals, and a fancy entertainment system all to myself. I love long flights, and this one was about 7-8 hours I think. I watched two movies, and fell in love with each of them: The Perks of Being a Wildflower, and The Fault in Our Stars. I did sleep for a few hours in between. Soon I stepped off the plane and into Dehli.
I stepped outside. That city has a lot of smog; you can even smell it inside the airport. The sky was hazy and you can’t see far. As I was taking in the scenery, a couple of men approached me offering me a ride or directions. I told them no and disregarded them the way I do to random men in the US. But it reminded me of what someone in France had told me: that women in India, especially tourists, have to act like they’re princesses, like they’re above everyone else, and only then will they not be harassed. I’ve learned that manner of acting from NYC, and when the situation calls, it comes very naturally to me.
Check out the Indian toilet! It’s common to have a little shower head next to the toilet, but I’m not sure why yet. Maybe to use as a bidet?
Also, why is my face lotion considered a threat to airport security, but no one seems to have a problem with this:
Divya’s dad had a flight departing shortly before my flight arrived, so I was greeted with a car and a driver. The traffic is absolutely crazy! Lots of honking, no real traffic lights, a mix of cars, trucks, scooters. I thought it was funny that women ride “side saddle” style, which is necessary if they’re wearing a sari. There are palm trees and dry red dirt everywhere, stray dogs, and auto-rickshaws! We arrived at Divya’s house. We caught up – it’s been 3.5 years since we’ve seen each other! I took a nap, then headed downstairs for a home-cooked meal. Her mom had prepared this delicious meal that we devoured with our hands.
It’s Saturday night! Divya’s friend picked us up, and we headed over to another friend’s apartment. It was like a normal night with friends in the US: cracking jokes, talking about friends, movies, and current events, drinking, and listening to music. I felt right at home. Someone’s mom even made gingerbread cookies!
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