The big and really, only, update regarding India. 1,830 words, 4 videos and some pictures. :)
I was going to stay in India until late April. But ... well ... it's just not "me."
So I'm leaving to go to Thailand on 31 March. I'll stay in Bangkok for about a week then head up to Chiang Mai for ~30 days before coming back to Bangkok to fly to Poland.
08-09 May looks like this:
- Train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok on 08 May - FinnAir ($1800 Business Class ticket for $200 in taxes + 70,000 frequent flier miles!) leaves Bangkok at 12:15am on 09 May and heads to Helsinki (10 hour flight) - Helsinki to Warszawa (FinnAir, same ticket), arriving at 10:25am (just a 1 hour flight!) - Train from Warszawa to my hometown of Wroclaw that afternoon (6 hour train ride)
The at-the-border Thai visa is supposed to be only 30 days, but I couldn't book any award travel until 09 May so hopefully they give me an extension without any hassle.
More on that another day...
Here's some fun stuff from India!
1) The Guitar
I've had a lot of e-mails asking about the guitar.
Check out the video I made below. Don't mind the silly editing in the beginning. I was trying to build suspense. (Did I miss my calling? Hollywood? I can be reached at 352 577-0173.)
While driving around on my scooter I ran into a heard of cows. This is a regular occurrence. For whatever reason (oh right, this shit doesn't get old for me, I love cows!) I stopped and began videotaping. A funny thing happened ...
Again, while driving around on my scooter, this happened ...
Other points of interest
No Traveler's TummyI eat from dirty street stands (hell, dirty restaurants in general) every day and have not had "Traveler's Diarrhea" at all like what supposedly happens to "everybody" who comes here. I attribute this to my strengthened vegan immune system. When I used to eat meat I would get sick if somebody sneezed 10,000 miles away from me.
It's DirtyIt really is as dirty as everybody says it is.
Let's break it down ...
a) The air is polluted as all get out. When I first got to Mumbai I went to play basketball with my CouchSurfing host and I might as well have been playing in a smoky indoor bar. My lungs were not happy. Funny thing is, the Indian kids who we played with ALL smoked during breaks. I don't know how they do it.
b) Trash burning is a regular occurrence. All day. Every day. Couple that with almost 100 degree heat and you have the recipe for pleasant odors.
c) There are signs everywhere stating "Don't spit, it spreads TB." Almost everybody spits. Gross.
d) The land is your toilet. If you need to use the toilet (yes, #1 or #2) anywhere you like is fair game.
Goan HospitalityThe Goan phrases for "hello" are ...
- If you're a taxi/rickshaw driver: "TAXI?! YES?! TAXI?!"
The taxi/rickshaw drivers here would rather stand around yelling TAXI! than drive anybody. They don't use meters and will not drive you anywhere (even just down the road) for less than 50 Rupees, but more likely no less than 100. In comparison, in Mumbai I took a 1 hour taxi ride (~15km) for about 200 Rupees. When I was doing the guitar workshop I walked everywhere, but after that I rented a scooter for 150 Rupees/day.
To be clear: You could be 30 feet from a taxi driver and he will yell across the street for you until you acknowledge his poor salesmanship. "TAXI!? HELLO? FRIEND? TAXI? HELLO?! HELLO?!" All day long, no stopping. Every single taxi driver.
Eventually I stopped caring, because I understand they're just trying to make a buck. (And getting the scooter meant I wasn't affected by it anymore.) But if one smart taxi driver broke the "rules" and used his meter he'd be driving/making money all day instead of standing around wasting his voice.
- If you're a shopkeeper: "Hey! Look at my store! Just look!"
I'm a nice guy. So when a shopkeeper would extend a hand and say hello I would shake their hand and say hello. I learned to stop doing that quickly because once they have your hand you literally have to pry it away. Not a good way to make a sale.
I made friends with an Indian-American here and I asked him if this stuff happens to him with the taxi drivers and shopkeepers. He didn't know what I was talking about. So we went walking down the road and every single person we passed wanted our wallets. He got annoyed real quick. :)
BeggarsI heard there would be a lot of problems with beggars but they have all been very kind. I'm not a fan of giving cash, but whenever I have food I offer that. They sometimes ask for money beyond the food, but that's OK. Gotta hustle to live.
Interesting story: one day while walking from the market to my scooter (not a long walk) I ended up giving away all of my apples. So I went back to buy more. On the way back to my scooter this time nobody asked for my apples. Sign of respect? I don't know, but it was nice.
The Cow Is Not Sacred?[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Yay cows! On the beach! Baga Beach, Goa, India"][/caption]
I was talking to a woman who has been in India for decades and I mentioned that I was quite surprised when I saw a guy elbow drop a cow and other people treat them like garbage. I thought the cow was sacred in India. Her response: "What you hear in the news and from outside the country is not how it truly is."
Essentially, I'm told from various people, cows are pests. It's true they are everywhere, and they play in traffic, and they leave cowpies where you'd rather them not leave cowpies. But if they're sacred they're sacred. You treat them like gods, not like dirt. So, while most people here do not eat cows, they don't seem to be well respected animals.
I understand Goa is different (maybe due to the large (30%) Christian population?) and I also understand my definition of "sacred" means more than just "don't eat cows." So my final observation on this situation is: I'm still not sure what to think.
I'm also told in rural areas it's different and cows are, indeed, treated with the utmost respect. And that makes a little more sense. I'm an ignorant American making the only observation I can with what I was presented. Take it as you will.
Wow, that was negative, so what was good?- I love Indian food. For less than 200 Rupees I could almost eat enough to make me puke. For illustration, here is part of a reference one of my CouchSurfing hosts left me: "We had a good time with Karol...[EDIT]...seeing him put away copious amounts of food (in a good way)."
I always laugh when people say I eat a lot because usually it comes from somebody who says they eat a lot and are astounded by my stomach capacity. I'm 6' 5" and I have a metabolism, much like the rest of my body, from the future. That explains that.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Massive 50 Rupee Paper Dosa (also pictured: a fresh squeezed pineapple juice)"][/caption] - 20 Rupee coconuts! OK, maybe this falls into food, but it needs a separate mention. I'd never had fresh coconut before coming to India. I love coconut water and coconut meat! It's full of fat, but that's where my futuristic body comes into play.
- Celebrity treatment. This annoys a lot of people. I loved it, if only for the sheer wackiness of the situation. If I spent every day on the beach I'm sure it would get annoying, but I'm not a huge fan of beaches. Anyway ... every time I'd go to the beach or other touristy areas I'd get swarmed by Indian men (~20-35 in age) taking pictures of and with me. They'd put their arms around me like we were best friends and give me high fives and whatnot. It always tripped me out, but it was awesome. But again, if it happened every day I can see how it could get annoying. It's fun to be "famous" every once in a while. :)
- Nice people. In that same regard, everybody I met who wasn't a taxi driver or shopkeeper or trying to make money from me some other way was very nice. I would go exploring on my scooter pretty much every day and in the little villages/neighborhoods around Goa lots of people would wave, kids would run out and talk to me, and people were just cool. They'd usually think I was lost, but you can't be lost if you don't know where you're going. I mean that literally and philosophically. ;)
- It's cheap. Although Goa is more expensive than most areas of India, it's still cheap. For example, most nice (i.e. not the cheapest, not the most expensive) guest houses cost 500-800 Rupees (less than $20) for a room with attached bathroom.
I rented a nice apartment in Calangute for 18,000 Rupees/month (~$400). A year ago the cost would've been about 20% less. Inflation is nuts here. But again, still cheap. And that price included a living room, bedroom with queen bed, cable TV (haha, pretty useless for me, but it was there), a nice outside porch, and every other day house cleaning (including new sheets/towels).
And if I was the old me I estimate I could get completely shit-faced for about $10/day. Speaking of alcohol, there's a local Goan alcohol called Fenny (~$1 for 60mL) made from cashews (Goa is known for its cashews, mmmmm) that I wanted to try. So I did. Not drinking for 4 months was easy. And I haven't drank for a month or so since I tried the Fenny.
Even though India is not "me" doesn't mean I didn't have a good time. It's just not "me" that's all. It's kind of the whole Right People thing.
For more reading: check out what Chris at Nomad4Ever.com has to say about Goa here. I agree with most of it.
Unrelated, but Kirsty over at NerdyNomad.com just released an awesome eBook called The Underground Guide To International Volunteering. I named it. ;) And yes, I bought a copy as well ($14). If you're interested in International volunteering this has a lot of great info from someone who's been doing it for years: http://www.nerdynomad.com/volunteering (not an affiliate link) - $7 from every sale goes to Hands On Disaster Response. Kirsty is currently in Haiti volunteering with HODR, helping clean up after the massive earthquakes.
Also, I'm going to interview Kirsty about how she makes money passively, which allows her to travel the world perpetually, for Version 1.0 of How To Live Anywhere. :)