Vibrant, smoggy, individualistic and manic- this is India! If you land in Mumbai at an odd hour (530am) get into your pre-paid cab and head to juhu beach. Pick a hotel to gather your thoughts in. juhu hotel, with its friendly staff won’t mind if you drop your luggage off while you pace up and down the beach with hundreds of others, all on a mission to go…nowhere! How nice it is to begin the work day at 10am. Take a look around and notice the yoga-doers, the 2 or 3 white faces, the dried up seaweed, the rubbish and the gazillion birds being fed. Yes, the birds are being fed in a country that still has one of the highest poverty rates. What’s the source of income for them? The two minute stop while the traffic stops at a red. Little girls carrying girls even younger than them. Whose children are they anyway? At the same time, you just want to be left alone.
Too many rickshaws, cars and bicycles. Constant honking. There are days declared for no honking…but then it just wouldn’t be Mumbai! Why bother having any lanes and pedestrian walks? Whizzing on a moped in the streets is exhilarating. But hold on when those speed bumps arise, as you may land on your bare head. If you dare, take the public train and hang out the door from one station to the next. There are just too many people in this city. Yes, the entire population of Kenya is less than this one city alone!
One can get overwhelmed by all the shops and malls randomly spread out through the different districts. Pashminas in every colour and beads in various shapes and sizes can be found at one of the many stalls in the colaba area. Just around the corner, you have the Gate of India, under construction, and across, the grand Taj Palace Hotel. Stroll through and window shop at the only louis vuitton. Take a walk on the side streets and admire the old architecture and washed out buildings. After a while, colaba, juhu and bandra can all look the same…especially when the night falls. Chor bazaar is anarchic, especially on Fridays. If you don’t need a stereo or a car part, don’t bother!
Bhel puri, pani puri, you got it. But the deprived can relish in a maharajah mac or tandoori chicken pizza from pizza hut..everyday. tantalize your taste buds with fresh mango smoothies or a cold lassi. If spice is not your forte, do not forget to ask for mild butter chicken or yellow daal.
If you are lucky enough, you may see a movie shoot or meet up with people working in the industry of bollywood. Yes, it is larger than Hollywood! And make sure you get the low down. But where are those john Abraham look a likes and the gals that look like ashwariya? Definitely not gallivanting on the streets of Mumbai. Young lovers stroll down chowpatty beach, coyly, but hand in hand. Flocks of girls strut their stuff on the beach wearing the latest jeans from fashion street. On either side, high rises continue to go up; ones that only the real swanky can afford. Yes, for a million dollars, you too can breathe in the smog of Mumbai. Mumbai is definitely a city for walking about and discovering. You never know what you will see or who you will meet!
Bangalore, the silicon valley of India; pretty and much less hectic than Mumbai. This place shuts down at 11pm, including the bars. There isn’t a whole lot of sight seeing to do, but stroll through the streets of Brigade area and find man made parks, gardens rather, where residents do their walking exercises. check out the leela kempinski. Unless you have an exact address to where you would like to go, you will surely get lost, even if you take a rickshaw.
If you are looking for some peace of mind or enlightenment then find an ashram in the outskirts of Bangalore. The art of living centre provides and intro course that lasts about 3-4 days. Be prepared to get back to the basics and follow the 10pm curfew. Enjoy the harmonious bhajans at satsang, a celebration, every evening.
Be lazy in kerala. The best Indian food perhaps, comes from the south; colourful and delectable. Girls, don’t stay out past 11pm or you may get scolded by the police. The beaches in trivandrum are not much to brag about, but you can definitely lose time on the strip browsing for jewelry and sipping on interesting concoctions. Head to alleppey, about 2 hours away by car and rent a houseboat for 22 hours. They come in different shapes and sizes, some equipped with TVs and DVD players. Let your private chef serve you south Indian breakfasts, lunches and dinners as you float through the backwaters. Enjoy the sounds of the birds or take part in a photo shoot! Overnight, you will dock in a small village. Take a walk around the rice fields and remember to bring plenty of pens!
Do not forget to put your sunblock on. And bug spray, a necessity. People are generally friendly, though language differences can be a communication barrier. Watch out for cab drivers taking you on longer routes and then trying to overcharge you! If you have lots of time, then take the train at least once from one city to the next. If you are limited in time, there are plenty of domestic airlines to chose from, all reasonably priced. There is just too much to see and do! So pace yourself and make sure you have a good pair of shoes on!