Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kerala Backwaters

With raging hangovers and a vague memory of playing rugby with a coconut on the way home the previous night we caught the train then the auto then the boat ride to our next destination! Tonight we are staying at a 'homestay' in the backwater area in Kerala. The backwaters are a series of rivers that are below sea level. The people here live on the sides of these rivers which they use for washing just about everything and getting around. Very relaxing being on the boat. Its also popular spot for the very rich indians to holiday here in a houseboat.

The house i stayed in...swanky

Your Joe Maxi taxi..

Just having a bath! Bit rude i know taking pics like this but we were buzzing past on a boat!

You can call up the boat taxi if you want to go the Toddy bar. Even though we were all hungover and the swaying of the boat wasnt doing us any favours we were a little let down to here that Kerala is quite a religious and so a 'dry' state as in alchol-free. Our guide warned us not to mention drinking to the people we'd be staying with! Personally i would cope this night without alcohol! Then we found out about this alcohol that comes from inside the coconut tree, something like sap and its called Toddy. (the guys who extract it are called toddy-tappers!) When its freshly extracted its about 4% alcohol and after 24 hours it can rise to as much as 15%. Its a creamy white liquid. This area is also famous for its 'fat rice' the only place you can get it seemingly as theres not enough to sell its basically very fat rice grains!

We eventually arrived at the houses we were to be staying in. We were all exhausted...ok nobody to blame but ourselves! it was time to sit at this familys table for dinner. The wife of the house just kind of hid in the kitchen and peeped out to smile when she heard our exclimations of how delicous the food was, the kids were at school and the husbund just stood at the table staring at us eating. I was really so tired small talk was a struggle and he was standing right beside me just staring! All you could hear was the slopping noise of rice into the mouth and swallowing noise. Then he shoated EAT WITH RIGHT HAND!!!!!! Jeeeezus calm down if you werent staring at me Mr possibly i could concentrate on that!! So i slopped a bit more rice in (with right hand) then went for a quick shower before meeting up with the others.

Wow SUPER HUMID here!!! i have never experienced humidity like it, just the same as being in a steam room with added mosquitos! However this place was really stunning so the humidity was a small price to pay. The area was mostly rice fields, banana and coconut trees. One local said that during the monsoon it floods really bad and when he was a kid he used to try and catch the fish that were swimming around his house much to the frustration of his parents from their house being ruined!

looks dry....feels very wet and humid!

swampy areas...sun was just beginning to set ...beautiful or what!

We walked to the edge of the river and got into a small canoe and went on a very relaxing tour of the rivers. The guys pushed the canoe along with big sticks, the water dept can vary but it can be as deep as 10 metres in some parts. Unfortunately i wasnt allowed jump in for a swim! It was so lovely to sit back on the canoe considering our seriously hungover, tired condition, we drifted along for about an hour taking photos of just about everything that moved when one of the guys driving the boat broke into song! It was quite sudden but he had an amazing voice and it echoed all down the river. The other guys steering the boat banged their sticks on the boat to the beat of the song and joined in the choras. He told us it was some song the slaves would sing while they were working...i wondered was he trying to pass on a message to the local guys watching us go past on the canoe! The song was seriously catchy and after another 10 minutes or so chatting he suddenly burst into song again! I had this song in my head for the next few days...weeks...still there!

lady in the rice fields

We got dropped off at the houses we were staying in, played some card games with the kids, had dinner (the father not present this time!!) then a deep deep sleep! I had a quick walk around this guys garden before we headed off the next day...banana and coconut trees slightly different to back home! This was such a different place, ive never seen anything like it, not one thing similiar to life back in ireland and such a complete change to the chaotic indian cities!

I never got to try the Toddy in the end but some of the boys that stayed in another house did. By the look of thier faces when they were describing it im glad i didnt! I cant write down how they described it but even a few days later if someone mentioned the word Toddy they guys nearly wretched! Anyway, out of this lovely backwaters wonderland back to reality!

Friday, January 23, 2009


My first overnight indian train and i have to say it wasnt bad at all! We were luckily enough to have comfy sleeper beds, i slept so well and woke up with a bunch of indians sharing the bed...sitting all around me! We checked into our hostel quite close to the beach in Varkala. This place was the perfect spot to relax after the last few hectic days. I just spent the day chilling out not doing much at all walking around the cliffs beside the beach, going for a swim absolute heaven! Its a pretty touristy place though so it didnt feel like being in India at all but sure ill have plenty more real india in the future so no worries!

A few of us went for a swim that night about 2am, the sea was so calm and so warm. This beach had a sandbank so if you swim out for a little bit all of a sudden the water is so shallow again. I was lying on my back in the water, just floating around looking up at the totally clear sky full of the brighttest stars ive ever seen thinking...oh i wish i was back in work!!!....sure....roll on the recession session! (anyway big sorry there to those reading this in work...)

Pretty much the similiar stuff the next day, had a little dance with my poi on the beach, chatted and chilled out in the sun while drinking chai..mmm delicious. Bit of a drunken night that night, lots of fun and divilment in a place called Rock N Roll bar where the cocktail were delicious but also quite lethal! The DJ had just one Beatles CD which was GOOD but after about 4 runs of it, it was enough so as one does, one of the guys gave their MP3 player to the 'DJ' to plug into the speakers and happy days we were all now dancing to the Proclaimers!

A not very welcome early start the next day to catch a train but we managed just about!


Sweaty, smelly and tired arriving into Maduri after 8 hour train journey. But some amazing scenery on the way much greener than i thought india would be.

Seemed really chaotic chennai-style as we arrived into the station. Checked into our hostel, quick throwing bucket of cold water over me then off to have a look around. This town has the really beautiful Sri Meenakshi Temple but unfortunately it was covered up being repainted i think in preperation for a festival. This town is just a small one of only 1.5 million and there was going to be another 3 million coming for the festival jeesus maddness!

I have to say for the first time im getting used to the maddnes, the crazy streets full of tuc-tucs, cars, bikes, cows (also cows in the shops!), kids, beggers, mad men, saried women, food stalls and dogs lying about all over the place. I started to feel a strange comfort in being swamped by people and tuc-tucs and i started to find this not altogether so mad anymore!

this is a very funny mad mad mad little man!

I really like the mentality of the people here too. A place we went for brekkie (curry of course!) one of the guys really wanted black tea but it only came with milk so when he asked any chance of without the milk the answer was 'tea milk for you it good tea and milk yes' and you just think yeah sure why not ill have it with milk so! Same with everthing really, nothing seems to be written in stone, 90% of the stuff on the menus is not available or you've come at the wrong time of day for that particular thing, or just they have one thing available and yes it good for you! im not really too bothered about that kind of thing at all but it does force you to just totally go with the flow these little things arent important.
Eating with the fingers still a bit tough but my hand does have a consistently nice curry smell these days!

That night we went in search for a bar! Found one that had the airconditioning on so high we would need our winter wollies with us to survive in there, the atmosphere was a bit dull too just two guys sitting in the almost complete darkness, staring into thier drinks, in the ice cold, in complete silence! We bumped into this mad man (see above pic) who took us to a less cold bar. Between himself and his friend they had about 10 teeth and that might be an exaduration! This bar very nicely turned on some music for us and we had a few beers. This little mad who i could easily fit in my backpack along with my clothes started telling me all about his 2 sons both named Shiva( after and indian god), where he lives somewhere under a bridge in a big house and his wife...and i quote...a big black momma from morocco! hahaha.....crazy man he had a few screws loose but seemed harmless and highly entertainting. He also had no gag reflex, we poured him a glass of beer and he just tilted back his head and poured it in! Tried this a few times and thought we better not refil the glass more than an inch next time!

Next day we headed to a market and i bought some more light indian lady style clothes day time is really getting warm! i also bought some jangly indian lady ankle braclets. The temple was closed during the day (the gods sleep then i do believe) so it was a pity i didnt get to visit it but instead i headed to the Ghandi museum then went back for a little sleep before catching a night train.
A guy making things at the market

I really liked this little crazy place, very funny, friendly crazy people and i'm starting to really settle in like i never thought i would!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I was pretty wrecked the next morning after my night of battling with the mozzies. Anyway leaving this mad city now for a little village called Mamalapurran or something along those lines! The journey took about 2 hours and after about 40 mins the scenery dramatically changed from two-bit little shops, crowded dirty streets to more barren roads and less crowded and dirty streets....progress! We checked into our hostel...the address on the business card is simply 'near bus stand'!

(the main street)

Supercool..cows roaming the streets just what i had been waiting to see! We had lunch by the beach, the water isnt clean enough to swim in but how nice to be at the seaside! Cows relaxing on the beach (actually cows everywhere!) , fishermen with their little boats and nice cool breeze. We rented bikes and went for a cycle around, thank god its not as manic as Chennai i couldnt imagine surviving long on a bike there! Our guide told us a little about the different gods as we walked around the temples, and that this was one area that had been hit by the tsnumai and that he had been on the beach at the time it happened...survived obviously but quite scary to stand on the beach and look at the sea imagining the big wave.

Here there is also a famous big stone, its just resting on a hill and looks like its going to topple off. There have been many attempts to move it including slicing half of the back of it off to spread the weight to the front and hopefully make it topple but no very secure! Many people doing 'leaning tower of pisa' type photos holding up the stone!

Some kind of art can take pictures of just about anything here in India and it looks so good! The women here wear nothing short of the brightest colours.

After this we headed out to an orphanage nearby. Im really not the best person with kids in fact i just dont know how to handle children at all at all so i was actually a bit nervous what the hell am i going to do here! However the little girls took a shine to me 6 girls in each hand showing me around their rooms, the toilet the medicine press etc! It was a very good experience and i think i got more out of the visit than the kids did! All they wanted was a little affection even from a total stranger the 10 year olds were so tiny, much smaller than an irish 4 year old and they couldnt believe how old i was at 25!

Just as the mosquitos were tucking into us and i think most of us were feeling weak from not eating all day and heavy sun we headed back to our hostel. Since we walked around many temples earlier ( in a clockwise direction!) we infact had been 'reborn' so with this new, fresh, sin-less start we figured we 'deserved' a few beers that night.

This place was certainly calmer than Chennai apart from a few little girls selling beaded necklaces almost having me at breaking point with a constant 'lady..hungry, hungry, hungry, very hungry, lady, hungry, hungry' and they follow you for most of the day if it wasnt for one of the guys i was travelling with screaming JEESUS!!!which made me burst out laughing i may have given in and bought the beads...or maybe i should have just bought them anyway...

Friday, January 16, 2009


bit camera shy for the moment!

Ohmygod so im in India Yay! I had built up my arrival so much that i felt a bit disappointed there wasnt 500 people at the airport running towards me trying to sell me things just one quietish lad wondering if i would like a taxi. It was HOT though my god and there were people everywere!! I sorted out a prepaid taxi and headed off into the maddness. I was still feeling totally calm and relaxed maybe there was something in the water at abu Dhabi airport...anyway the taxi drive to Chennai centre was cool i could see all the craziness going on but i felt i was in a safe little bubble. The taxi driver had a few kids not sure of the ages and his hobby was eating.

The place i was staying was nice i'd a big room, TV, own bathroom and balcony i wanted to go for a wander but as soon as i sat on the bed i realised i was totally wrecked. It was hot but not as bad as the summer i spent in a shoebox of a caravan with 3 friends in the south of spain during a heat wave...then again its still 'winter' here.

The next morning i had my 1st Indian meal! I ordered...mmm something and was presented with a silver tray with about 8 little bowls of different spices and curries and some rice plopped in the middle of the tray.....mmm no fork....totally forgot about Indians eating with their hands it was a bit messy i have to say trying to shovel rice with curry sauce and whatnot into your mouth but im sure ill get the hang of it...delicious. I gave the guy about 50c tip and he nearly wet himself i forgot how poor things are here. So my next big step was cathing a tuc-tuc to meet couchsurfer Kathiva for coffee. JAYSUS.....fecking MADDNESS!!!! You just get in your vehicle and beep your horn and go as fast as you possibly can!! Kathiva was a lovely girl and took me to the calmness of a coffeeshop near the college. We chatted for what seemed like an hour but was actually 5! Headed home in another tuc-tuc with the driver being cutest tiniest old man ive ever seen in my life, had no idea what he was saying to me but woo-hoo happy now to say ive gotten over catching a crazy tuc-tuc!

Your local Spar...

Next day brekkie was spices, curry, a flat thing seemed like it was made from squishy rice and a fried doenut thing with peas inside....curry for breakfast will take a little longer to get used to but all the same totally delicious. Met up with CS Sneha who brought me to a total hidden paradise cafe in a leafy garden. Sat and had coffee and great chat. She spent a year living in Belgium and thought....its mad there!! She said westerners wearing dull greys, black etc made her a bit depressesd as the indian women wear nothing less than bright florescent colours, with that she brought me to the shopping centre to get some indian lady clothes.

Before now id been in a totally calm little bubble looking around thinking ...gosh isnt it really mad here...but not actually acknowledging that i was actually in the middle of the maddness!

Culture shock hit today. First a little girl came up to me looking for food, she was so tiny and dirty with flies all over here and her little tiny dirty dress falling off her, the second thing was in the shopping centre and young boys 'accidently' being pushed towards me so they could fall onto my boobs then just not one thing being the same as at home...the smells the sounds the shops the traffic it hit me im in India! After getting kitted out with some Indian lady style clothes i decided to walk a bit back to my hotel to try and find an internet cafe on the way. I have to repeat myself..feckin MADDNESS!! It was raining quite heavily, people everywhere, cant walk on the footpath as its full of rubbish so you've to push your way along the side of the road with the crazy tuc-tucs, trucks, motorbikes wizzing past. Eventually found a dindgy internet cafe and by now i was feeling still yes im going to totally enjoy india but that will be when i get over the culture shock!

On the way back to the hotel this tuc-tuc driver was shouting' Lady..want to ride with me in my tuc-tuc??' i turned to look at him to tell him no....he had a mad look on his face totally off his head on something, his eyes were blazing red and there was some brownish liquid dripping from his mouth. I just thought ha ha ha no thanks i like my life and again in fits of laughter made the rest of my way home on foot bursting out laughing at every driver or person who stopped me.

Yeah its going to be ok here!!

Sooooo i decided to join in a group tour for the next 2 weeks just to get more settled into India before i head off by myself again. I checked into the hotel we were meeting and felt a bit aprehensive about who im going to be paired up with! anyway happy days i had a really nice group all from australia. We went for dinner and few drinks. Outside the place while trying to sort an auto back to our hotel there was a really thin old man with just some cloth wrapped around him putting his hand to his mouth signalling he was starving i felt like running back into the restaurant and grabbing the half the food we couldnt finish we are such gluttons.

Sign in the bar...

That night was the worst night ive had so far in any hostel or hotel. My room was totally mosquito infested. At first i kept feeling little tickles all over my face, arms, legs i just kept swatting away where it was tickling. After i few hours i had enough i needed sleep, i turned on the light and my bed was totally covered with squashed mosquitos yuck!!and they were all over the room i got my spray and went a bit mad screaming f**k off!!!!like a crazy woman trying to bat them with my towel, i was so so overtired! About 4 am i got out the mosquito net hung it up and got about an hour sleep, my feet were sticking out from the net and the mosquitos had a feast. God damn i hate them....

Abu Dhabi

I hardly slept a wink on the overnight flight to Abu Dhabi i watched a Bollymood movie to get me into the mood for india arrival. It was a beautiful warm morning when i arrived, palm trees, clear blue skies...ahhh heaven and massive change to bitterly cold Europe! I tried to wait for the bus to the city centre but i was so so tired i ended up forking out for the taxi. I met CS Faris in a cafe and got some caffine into me ASAP! Faris was a cool guy who was good friends with CS Evelyn that i had stayed with in Vienna. He had to go back to work for a meeting so he dropped me off at this 'urban park' area and we would meet up later.

Wow Abu Dhabi is cool but strange!!From the plane all you see is desert then all of a sudden this city emerges. But its very man-made. Everywhere the grass is like a carpet, shiny office blocks and hotels, flowerbeds on every corner, fountains everywhere, palm trees and spotlessly clean and men everywhere working around the clock to keep it like this. I walked along a lake so so beautiful absolute paradise then i met some locals. I was a big attraction in Abu Dhabi! Everytime i sat down some man would come over and ask if we can have a chat.

The chat consists of 3 questions:
1) where are you from?
no. Ireland
right yeah ok holland!

2) what age are you?
25...might start throwing in a 16 or 45 see what reaction i get!

3) are you married?
definately YES!!!

I also had a few guys come up looking for photos with me and some old dirty Egyptian man who really took a shine to me (ie before i learnt to say yes for are you married question!!) kept telling me i make good wife for him ...yeah ok!!!!

Luckily i was sooo sleep deprived that i couldnt help but just break down in laughter. Faris told me about one of the massive shopping centre areas so i thought i'd head there get some more caffine and hopefully a break from these crazy men....Faris later explained to me that there is something like a 10:1 ratio of men to non-local women so the competition is on!

Mosque overshadowed by shiny buildings

The shopping centre was Huge. It was a mad mad mix of the local people, the men dressed like Ali baba and the women totally covered in the black gowns from head to toe and in contrast to this were the totally plastic westeners who seemed to be going for a Dolly Parton look. Strange!! The other strange thing was the women who were floating around in their black cloaks totally covered up and they were looking at sexy dresses...mmmm.

Around 4pm i started to give up the fight to stay awake i met up with Faris again and we tried to find somewhere cheap for me to stay abu dhabi only has 5 star hotels. Anyway i was so so sleep deprived that we hunted down the best bargin in town at E95 a night....and i didnt care one bit. May as well lap up the luxury before heading to India the next morning. This room had a phone beside the toilet....incase you feel the need to make a call then, slippers, gown, millions of soaps, etc etc ahhh heaven! The plan was to get freshened up and meet up with Faris for a drink but i rested my head on the pillow for a second and i was out cold.

Abu Dhabi magic mushroom inspired airport

Next day my heart was racing ohmygod going to india!!!!!!! It was racing even more when i got to the ariport but a strange thing happened as soon as i sat in the waiting room with the other indians getting onto the plane and had a look at them i felt a total sence of calm and knew everything was going to be ok! Excire and delire to be almost there!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Prague, Ogrodzieniec & Frankfurt

I stopped over in Brno the night before going to Prague as there was a couchsurfing party but my mind was miles away i was too excited about meeting Dave in Prague to care about this party. I did meet some nice people, drink cheap cheap Czech beer and have 3 hours sleep on a floor before catching the bus to Prague.

I fell asleep the second i sat down in the bus. I opened my eyes after a while there was a snowy blizzard i fell asleep again, when i woke up we were in Prague no snow just light rain. I checked into the hostel and slept for a few hours. Not to bore you with the details but i met Dave at the train station that evening and it was great!

We wandered around Prague the next day. Everywhere there were huge buckets full of huge fish, and you choose the fish you want the guys kill it there and then for you (by wacking it on the head a few times with a of those things you dont want to see but curiousity gets the better of you!) and they chop of its head, gut it and descale it on the street! Dave explained that its what people have around here for Christmas dinner...Carp instead of our Irish turkey and ham...mmmm and stuffing!

La la la having the craic in the big bucket

Two carp met their maker

Across the river in the old part of the town was an old church and cool old streets. I think Prague is the most beautiful city ive been to on this little trip so far...mmm i know maybe i said this before about a few other places but i will definately visit here again. Dave wasnt too into seeing the sights or just wandering about for no reason so i had to bribe him with..lets just go down here...just few more minutes this way...oh i really think down here will be good!

This was when the guards were swapping over, it happens each hour and the one that is left there must stand motionless for the hour not even allowed to look around and there are hoards of kids trying to distract him. Im not sure i'd like that job im not a big fan of kids...not yet anyway!

I could not bribe Dave enough to queue to see this church inside....he had a point though it may have taken all day and it was feckin freezing!

The new part of the city was just as beautiful, it still had really old buildings and tasteful new buildings. And brilliant christmas markets on every corner. There is no way you could not get into the Christmas mood with the smell of mulled wine and tasty klobasa sausages on the grill, huge christmas trees decked out with the fanciest lights and everybody wrapped up really cosy with hat, gloves and scarf. There seemed to be more tourists than locals around so everyone was on holidays and just laughing, enjoying the mulled wine and the Christmas feeling.

The 'new' part of Prague, still looks pretty old to me, i really like it

The next day we moved to a different hostel right beside the river in an old building with an amazing view.

We went to a bar that night called Chateau Rouge....highly recommended!! A really cool, ´well worn´ kind of bar with great music, crazy staff and strange but cool decorations inside...kind of like a vision someone had while eating magic mushrooms! Absinthe is the local speciality in Prague...or maybe its just that its legal in Czech republic but anyway its for sale everywhere and of course isnt travelling about trying the local foods and drinks!

In this bar Chataeu Rouge we tried the home made one with a picture of a skull and cross bones on the bottle. The guy did the big rigmarole before melting the sugar on the spoon etc and it went down very well indeed. We made friends with a crazy Australian couple that night and danced away with them until being kicked out at closing time. Thank god Dave is very good with directions or we would never have found the way home! We had about 2 hours sleep in the hostel before getting up to catch the train to Katowice ....mmmm very tired before catching a train now thats unusual for me!!

Climbing the fairy on the way home...

Dave is from a small town in the forest in Poland in a place im sure i´ve spelt wrong but its something like Orgodzieniec. I REALLY love forests and mountains and combined with the snow it was super cool outside!! The days were just perfect lazy days as it got dark so early we spent the time it was bright exploring and messing in the forest, and when our toes were numb and it was getting too cold we went back to dave's warm house for food then out again to meet his friends.

Climbing a steep hill

He brought me to a place where there used to be a huge outdoor pool but it has been deserted now probably because of lack of money to care for it.

I had the traditional Polish Christmas dinner with 12 courses and yes the fish..Carp! It was delicious, very unusual chrsitmas dinner for me but really nice.

All dolled up for the christmas dinner...felt nice to make a last effort of looking well, wearing perfume etc before Indian maddness!

Anyway right now im in a hostel in Frankfurt and catching my flight to Abu Dhabi tonight. The hostel is in the red light district its pretty safe but very amusing view from my bedroom window last night of junkies trying to stamp on something imaginary on the ground, trying to catch imaginary things in the air and the prostitutes just hanging out! This morning really drunk, dirty old men poured out of the clubs and i think a few of the guys in the hostel visited some of the bars here last night!

I cant believe time went so fast from when i flew to Brussels a few months ago to today when i leave Europe for who knows how long. I think the best has yet to come..i feel the excitment in my stomach like before a first date!

Bye Europe for now!