Friday, 15 February 2008

On the road to Ooty.

9/2 - Tea, toast and hit the road. Got a rickshaw to the bus station. Bartered him down from Rs30 to Rs20. Another 12p saved. Why bother? Because this is India.
Asked 3 different officials at the bus station for the time of the next Ooty bus. They were consistently different. I don't know why I asked, it will come when it comes, that is how it works.
Boarded and off. Once we get into the mountains, this is a new India. We stopped at the services, a roadside cafe and afterwards the views just get better and better as the road got worse and worse. At one point there was an Indian standoff between our purple chariot and flash white coach that looked to be carrying Yanks, tables between seats etc. The road was not wide enough, so someone had to back off. After about 10 minutes banter and a lot of gesticulating, much to the amusement of both sets of passengers, our purple charioteer won. Go on you Purples!!
This is tiger country now and I was wondering what they eat up here, then I saw a peacock perched in a tree. "Tiger snack"
Then a herd of Bambis. "Tiger main course"
I suppose there is always the odd human for pudding too.
Saw my first tea plantation. How can anyone get excited over a tea plantation? But I did. As we rose up the mountain there were lots of tea plantations and I still got excited. They made me think of my Mam for some reason. Work that one out siblings.
It has rained for a good bit of the journey and the bus has sprung a leak, just were I am sat, so am a bit damp, but loving the ride too much to care.
At first glance Ooty is not as nice as the journey up, but there is not so much hassle here, still the same noise though. It is nice to walk around with a fleece on for some reason. I had a jumper too to start with, but it is definitely not that cold, especially wandering around.
It is a busy little place in a beautiful setting in the hills, with a racecourse and a sports stadium. The stadium is open, so I had to wander in. Come on I'm a gladiator at heart.
There was quite a few of the older locals doing laps around the athletics track and the younger ones chasing a football around on the pitch in the middle. It is bouncing like a superball. Took a wander up to the botanical gardens, but it is dusk, so just gave it the once over. It looks like a posibblility for tomorrow, a good place to chill and there should be some serious people watching as it is Sunday.
Had tea in the sidewalk cafe. It serves Western and some eastern food. I went for the Thai fried rice with green curry. "Sorry sir, only fast food". So I had the Popeye pizza and where is bloody Olive Oil when you've just had your spinach???? I did get a nice smile from a tall blonde lass in there, no I wasn't dreaming again. I think she was missing her Grandad.
Ooty is surprisingly easy for me to get around, nice wide roads and the pavements are not too high. I will check out the lake tomorrow and see if I can find some difficulties there. I was going to move onto the nature reserve, but think I will give Ooty another day.
I am going to have to miss out Kerala, which is a highly acclaimed State by everyone, but I would have to rush it and so not do it justice. Again it leaves the door open for a return holiday. Pramod and Mahesh wont be happy, 2 old work colleagues, it is there home State.
Off back to hotel, which I forgot to tell you about. Hotel Mountview. I would have bartered for the price, but when I saw the size of the room I was too gobsmacked. The bathroom is bigger than most of the rooms I have stayed in. It has a telly too, so I am off for a footy fix.
The room is a bit cold, so I will keep the fleece handy I think.
And that is my first day up a height in India.

Mysore day 2.

8/1 - Up and at 'em early. Too early, everywhere is shut. Had breakfast with the Kiwi lass. She is here on a yoga course. Mysore is developing a name for teaching a brand of yoga. She had a tale to tell about hiring a flat. She had booked out of the hotel yesterday to move in, but an Indian saga meant she had changed flats twice, ended up back in the hotel and is moving into the first one today. Nothing is quick here, except the rickshaw lads when they see you. I have never seen a rickshaw lass yet.
The Kiwi lass asked my plans. (I know, why bother planning). I'm off to Mangalore on the bus tomorrow.
"That has to be the worst bus ride in India, why not try Ooty" (which was on my list originally).
So there goes the plan. I am off to Ooty tomorrow.
I have had to curtail my itinerary, I was too ambitious, or stupid, with hindsight, but it leaves the door open to return.
I have pondered now and come up with the perfect plan for touring in India. "There is no plan, just go with the flow."
Wandered along to the bus station to see if I need to book for Ooty. It doesn't look like it. I'll find out for sure tomorrow.
Mysore is a bit overcast today, which is nice heat wise, but it makes the sweat roll even faster. I would say perspiration for you ladies, but I can't spell it.
Took a wander to the Devaraja market, which is a great place to wander around, up there with the palace in a different way. Loads of fruit and veg stalls, household stalls, bangle stalls. The paint stalls are really vivid. Not decorating, picture paints and the ones for the bindi dots on the head. Conical piles of bright powder.
Surprise, surprise. I checked out the price of the bangles. Not for me, for Paige. 12 for Rs10. 12p?? A bit pricey I thought, but being big-hearted I bought some to post to her. The lad told me the ones I was looking at are plastic, these metal ones would be better. Ay Ay, sales pitch??
"How much???"
"Same price". Gobsmacked I bought them. Why can't India be like this always.
Because then it wouldn't be India, you idiot.
I walked around a bit and thought perhaps these bangles are a bit small, so I went back to check out the bigger ones. "How much?" "12 for Rs10". Oh go on then, I'll take 12. Big spender.
Got approached by a lad. No, not that type of approach. He knew a coffee shop, just like in Amsterdam. "Do you now Amsterdam?" "Yes I know Amsterdam" I declined, but he collared me again later. I must look like a dopehead, or perhaps just a dope.
I was up early. Train-lag I guess, so went for 40 winks. Up and out for my e-fix. Check the emails etc. The bloody VAT man is after me. I'm in India for goodness sake. Kelly will sort them out.
The rush hour is upon us and the chicken run begins to cross the road. It quite fun, but I haven't been hit yet. The traffic fumes in India are serious, they can be tasted.
Took a wander to the Post Office, near the bus station I went to earlier, but the route is completely different. There are street vendors all over the place selling all sorts.
It looks like there is a storm brewing. Back to freshen up. It's also 18:00, mozzy hour, so I need to slick up. I've been lucky so far, just the odd bite.
I was going to go up the local hill tonight, Chamundi hill, check out the view, but decided to chill, perhaps a good idea with a storm coming. Ate at the hotel, limited but good. Pulled a chair out of the room and sat on the communal balcony for a read. The storm never came, but I am chilled.

Still on the road to Mysore.

7/1 - Having been prompted by my brother, just a quick note to all you commenters. Thank you for posting comments. I definitely do read them all and always smile. I have trouble keeping up with the blog, so don't get time to answer all comments. HONEST!!
I do appreciate them. It is like receiving mail when I was away from home in the Army. Always waited for expectantly and always a boost when received, so keep posting them, good or bad. They are a boost from home. Thank you all.
And now to continue the waffle.
Into Bengalaru/Bangalore on the overnight train to get the connection to Mysore. My Mam and Dad must have been up and watching out for me, as the platform for the Mysore train was next to the one we arrived on and only one step with plenty of posts to lean on. I was expecting a bit of a hike and took a deep sigh when I saw most people disappearing down a subway, but nice one Mam, my Dad would have told me not to be so soft.
The train to Mysore is not one seats can be reserved on. It is called a fast passenger train. I think that is because you have to be fast to get a seat. I did not bother with the hassle, just dumped my rucksack on the floor at the end of the bogeys, as they are called over here, by one of the doors and sat on it. There was only 2 of us there and it is good to look out the doors at the passing scenery, good and bad scenery.
Then Mr Murphy showed up along with 10 or so young lads in high spirits. They were around 20 years old and out for a day trip, or so it seemed. They were a good laugh, but the scenery went missing as they jostled for position to hang out the door. Another lad was in his last year training as a doctor. He must have just had a session on muscular dystorphy. When he asked what was wrong with my walking etc I told him and he started to schpeel out some fact on dystrophy and give me advice on walking sticks. He is a canny lad and typical Indian in his concern. He wanted to carry my rucksack when we got off, but I told him to bugger off, in case my Dad was watching.
I used the Queens English though, which he spoke better than me.
I met 2 English lads too in the party end of the bogey and jumped a rickshaw with Denis into Mysore. Might I add that I bartered him down from 100 to Rs40, another 80p to the good.
We stopped at a hotel of Denis's choice. He liked the description from the Lonely Planet. He would not have liked the description of his face as he walked down the stairs after checking the room out. It is the cone thing to check them out first. The cost was about 2 quid a night. Denis said "You would not have liked them Gil." They had squat toilets too.
So off we went. The rickshaw driver was determined to take us to a hotel of his choice, nothing to do with the commission he would receive. He wanted to take us there all the way from the station, but we held strong. Does that sound macho??? It can be bloody hard work
We came out the rickshaw driver hassling to take us to his hotel, but I opted to walk and Denis came along and so did the rickshaw driver tooteling along beside us. He is a determined lad. 20 yds up the road a right and there was a big hotel with a big name Dasaprakash, I think. It was less than a fiver a night. A Kiwi lass in reception checking out said the rooms are great, but Denis likes to look, so off he went. I booked in anyway, the Kiwi lass was bonny, so she must be right. No wonder I am single. Denis came back and upgraded to a double. He wanted a balcony. He is not fussy for a fiver !!! And he wanted it west facing. He is a good character though.
The room was just the job, not flash, just enough and the first thing I did was put some dhobi in, much needed, less than 3 quid. (There's no pound sign on the keyboards here). There is even hot water in the mornings and the staff are friendly and helpful, although I wish someone would steal the pea out of the car park attendants whistle. 2 beeps for come on, lots of little ones for "Slow down you idiot" and a long blast for WHOA!!.
I had a good kip on the train, so was showered and back on the busy, noisy streets of Mysore by 11:30. There are lots of persistent hawkers, too many for a place this size, 1,000,000, which did surprise me, the size. I wandered around a bit and made my way to the Maharaja's Palace. When I told Paige, the granddaughter, I had been to the Kings palace, she asked if he was in. Alas no, but the Palace is magnificent inside and the gardens are impressive too.
A hawker got me outside, there were one or two. "Sandalwood incense sticks? Only Rs200 for a pack, these are my last 3 and I have to go back to the factory"
"No thanks" (Best Queens English, that I can do anyway).
"2 for 200?" He was particularly persistent.
"No thanks" Still polite.
150? No, 2 for 200, No, 2 for 100, No, 2 for 50, No.
A bit of a come down in price, but I held out too long, or just long enough really. I didn't want any, but it was interesting.
It was not allowed to take pictures inside the Palace, which is a shame, because it is spectacular. The police guard on the entrance tried to get me to divi up Rs20 because I still had my camera in my bag. A bit of a try on I reckon. When I just kept playing dumb, which was easy, he said "OK sir, carry on". Although after thinking about it, "sir" ??? It might have been someone else.
The inside is magnificent and there is a parade here, annually, that marches through the grounds and performs on the parade square in front of the Palace. I bet that is something to see. I was told it gets booked up very quickly.
Mysore is worth a visit, just to see the Palace. The hawkers can take off some of the gloss, but I am getting used to them now, unless I am tired.
Wandered the other way back around the outside of the Palace. There are odd beautiful buildings scattered along the route. It is the Milton Keynes of India, in the respect that I have never seen so many roundabouts, but the cows in the streets here are real. The roundabouts usually have something of interest in the middle too.
Wandered back into town and found the cake shop that is famous. I stumbled across it, honest guv. Tried a few. They can be bit sickly, but go well with black tea. I might have to come back.

Around places such as the bus station, there are lots of street sellers, mostly selling fruit and snacks. It give the place a warm feel. Don't ask me why it just does. Perhaps because they are friendly and smile a lot.
Some of the back alleys are full of fruit stalls, usually of one type of fruit. No thought to aesthetics, just piles and piles of bananas or cucumbers or whatever.
Other alleys have stacks of clothes stalls. It is an interesting little place. I did get lost at one point in some back alley. At first I felt on my guard, but then the kids run out and people say "Hello sir, where you come from?" and put you at ease. Then I got mugged.
Only joking Val, pick yourself off the floor. Found my way back to the hotel. INTACT.

Showered and back on the streets. Which reminds me, I forgot to tell you, in fact 2 things. I have been offered earwaxing, travellers cheques scam, pot, several times and today FINALLY, I got tapped up on my way to the Palace, very pleasantly I must say, but I did not fancy him. I'm glad I realised before he asked which hotel I was staying at.
The other thing, when I was getting hassled for rickshaws on the way to the palace, I was told it did not open agan until 15:30, so could they take me to see something else. I am sure I checked my watch, then declined. I had a break after a few hundred meters and when I went to check my watch, it wasn't there. BLOODY HELL!! I thought. I sat and tried to figure out where it had been lost. I was 90% sure I had lost it, as the strap was dodgy, but by the end of the walk I was convinced it had been purloined (just in case that is spelled wrong, I failed English O levely. Twice). I couldn't figure out who had taken it, but they must have took pity on me, because they left it on my bed in the hotel room. Paranoid or what after the wallet incident ????
So back on the streets. Went for a thali, lots of little dishes served up with rice, just in case you didn't know. There were no utensils or plate, or food. Joking about the food. There is a banana leaf on the table. It was smashing, a bit like a transport cafe, the food is slapped on the banana leaf then a couple of great laddles of rice and the lads keep coming back and offering more. A Malaysian friend, Arifah, showed me the knack for eating with your hands, so I didn't do too bad and I enjoy it if I am honest. I am not sure how to eat the yoghurt though. There was a teaspoon in that, so I used that.
Back to the communal balcony, or outside corridor, for a read and a relax after a long pleasing day. It would have been more pleasing if the bloke had been a lass.

No pictures yet folks. I'll add them later. This internet cafe has no CD player or USB ports.

6/1 - Up and having an easy morning before heading off. Banana porridge and a brew for breakfast. Wandered along to the local WH Smiths and swapped my book. I wonder what WH Smith back home would say if you asked to swap a book for another? For once there are some clouds and it is cool. Stopped at the hippie bar in Hampi for some lemon tea and toast whilst listening to Bob Marley crooning or whatever the reggae equivalent to crooning is. Picked up my gear to go to the bus and the bloody clouds have gone. I wont be sorry to say goodbye to these digs, Vickys, they are miserable buggers and just want your money, but what can you expect from a bloke called Vicky? I will be sorry to say goodbye to Hampi though. This is a "way out man" place to stay. It is alcohol free, but I have been offered marijuana a couple of times by the locals. Mind you it could have been mint for all I know if I'd taken it. I'd probably have thought it was some kind of weak menthol weed. Wandered off to the bus stop with more than a little sweat and more than a little harrassment from the rickshaw drivers, but I held out for the bus and saved myself a quid. I also bartered for my rickshaw at the other end in Hospet and saved myself, it must have been 8p. Another 3 or 4 years in India and I should have made back the money in my wallet, I'm only about 58 pound 92p down now.

I was hoping for a left luggage at the train station, so I could have a wander, but no joy. There is nearly 6 hours to the train. I locked my luggage to the rack in the waiting room and went to see the station policeman about my wallet, as the police in Hampi told me to. This bloke told me I had to go to the police station about 60Km away. Could this be the ducking of responsibility I am seeing here. I gave up and went back to the waiting room and now I know why all the mattresses in India are so hard, it is training for the formica benches in the waiting room and it worked, I had a good kip.

I got nattering to an Indian lad on the platform. I'm sure they put a sign up behind me "Gather round this idiot". After a couple of minutes there were about 8 or 9. They just like to try and talk to strangers and they don't come much stranger. It was the same questions, married, kids age, from where you come, your good name? Your good name is a commonly used phrase. They all burst out laughing just after I told them my age. One of the blokes was the same age. I was told he said, "Look at me, 54 and scrawny and he is iron man" Little did he know.... I must admit I do look a big, healthy bugger.

And here is the train, my first overnighter. Each open section has 8 beds. The seats fold out to make beds. 6 are about 5 foot 6 inches and 2 are 4 foot 6 inches. Being 6 foot 2 guess which one Mr Murphy reserved for me? I slept great considering, but the problem with the overnight train is you miss the scenery.

Next up Mysore.

5/2 - Up and at it, went to the Verupaksha temple, the big one at the end of the bazaar. Rs 2 to get into the inner temple and Rs50 if you want to take photos. Being tight I didn't bother with the camera. Good decision, it is worth visiting, but the big picture is what sits in the memory. I did get my red spot and a carnation and a red spot and a rose. A flower for each ear. I don't know what the blokes were priests or monks, but the first old lad was a smashing bloke. He directed me to the inverted tower. Somehow the shadow comes through a small opening and is inverted. Our Mick will probably tell you how it works. I donated my flowers to a couple of the statues outside, it seems to be the done thing. I didn't fancy walking around with them behind my ears all day.

Decided to get a bike to go exploring on, or mostly off, as there are no gears and the hills ground me to a halt quickly, but it was the best Rs35 I've spent so far. The brakes worked well, as I found out when I got cut up by a cow. A real cow, not some woman on a motor scooter. It decided to cross the road when I was full pelt downhill.

You may be surprised to hear that I came across temples on my tour. The Queens bath was pretty cool. She must have been a big bugger going by the size of the baths. It was a good building though in nice grounds. The inside is in one of the pictures above.

I think the Krishna temple/bazaar and the Elephant stables are the picks of the day. Another 2 pictures above and the one with the colourful kids.

I think Hampi must have been the 16th century temple supermarket where all the big bosses came to choose the temple of their liking. They are all over the place.

There were a lot of school trips around today and they were good fun. At the Queen's bath they were enthralled with the map of India in the Lonely Planet when I asked them to show me where they were from. They come from far afield to Hampi. They were all smiles trying to talk to an Englishman and probably taking the mickey in Hindi. There were a few class photos along the way. They love to pose for the camera and see the results.

The young kids in the saris look great. The different class stands out a bit. One set of kids had plain blue uniforms and no shoes and another had the saris, bangles etc. They were all good fun though, I enjoyed interacting with them and them me.

At the Elephant Stables the teachers fired the kids off to reak/reek/cause havoc, as there are no elephants there and then they got in on the act and came over for a chat and photos all around. I don't know how unusual it is to talk to a Westener, but it seems to be sought after by a lot of Indians.

I asked to take a photo of a toddler and then Mam and Nana were over. We were all drinking coconut milk straight from the freshly opened coconut, Rs5 a good deal. When they had finished they dumped them on the floor. I gestured to the bin, but they went off smiling. The coconut man came and bowled them all into the bush. He was good at it, he'd obviously had plenty of practice. See if you can guess which of the photos was the teachers.

I've had a great day with the kids and ruins. I am not a ruins person, or even ruined, but some of these ruins are great places to just sit and chill. The school parties come through in a flash and there are not many Indian tourists around, it is really peaceful. I am supposed to have missed the best ruin, but I saw the steps through my binoculars and got the bike out instead.

Just in case I am not chilled enough I took a walk to the Mango Tree for a bit of snap and back to pack. I wish I could have gotten the picture of the internet cafe to the end of the text, but I have not worked it out yet. The picture sums up India in a lot of ways, modern yet still in the past. Off to pack for the next leg.

Photo link

Sunday, 10 February 2008

A new day in Hampi

4/3 - It may be a new day, but I am fuming again about that git who stole my wallet. Not to worry, it will pass and this is a good place to make it do so.
Woke up early, so took advantage of the cooler time and set off strolling. This is a fantastic town of old ruins and I don't mean me. They are everywhere and the boulder formations defy logic. They must be superglued up there. I took advantage of my early morning fresh legs and headed off up the hill away from the Virupakasha temple, the big one. The hill has wide steps leading up it, so thought I'd check out what was over the top. The old age of the steps means the height varies at different places along their width, so I was able to zig-zag my way up, past the big Nandi statue, or monolith. It is a bull, a big bull, a bit like me I suppose. Met Rose and Nathan there, the 2 Californians, they have parked their bikes and whizzed on ahead.
These boulders are weird, they have been there thousands of years, so I suppose they are safe.
Made it to the top, chuffed with myself. It drops off into another valley. I thought sack walking down there to have to come back up. I walked around the big boulder I was shading behind and there is this big old temple down there, so off I plod, down the hill. Actually the Hematuka hill and the temple down the other side, something along the lines of Achyutaraya. It is smaller then the V one and in a state of needing a bit of repair, but it is some place. It reminds me of the Inca temples, not that I have seen them. They must have been in that dream with the blonde. They are really peaceful, there is hardly another soul around. I guess they couldn't make the hill, HUH. This would be a good place just to sit and read and chill, there are plenty of shady places to sit and it is really cool in the middle building of the temple. Being in this place is like stepping back in time. If a trip to India is on the cards, Hampi should definitely be on the itinerary. Mind you I probably say that about most of the places I visit, but this place is unique in my experiences so far. I like the tranquility of the temples.
I have taken shed loads of pictures, but I wont be able to do Hampi justice. A lot of the temples have walls extending away from them, these were the bazaar areas, this one is no exception, so off I set away from climbing the hill down the one time bazaar and guess what I found? More temples. There's even a Sunderland temple, well it is painted red and white stripes, what else could it be?
Came around another temple which is in use and getting lots of tourist visitors going in, but they all come out with a red dot on their heads, so I am staying clear of that one. I'll just sit at the gate and watch these women AND men doing their dhobi in the river and laying it out on the rocks to dry. There are some round boats down there too, so got my binos out to check them out. Tourists keep coming along and getting in them and disappearing off down the river. They perch on the sides. They are completely round, like 3 men in a tub. They look to be made of whicker and have a tarpaulin stuck to the bottom. I'm not sure if they are waterproof, as they empty them out when they come back. It could be from the rowing though.
A group of about 8 couples have made their way down to the river launderette and are stipping to the waste hoying their kit into the river and laying them out to dry. They are all ages
"I think this might be a good time to put my binoculars away" thought the dirty grumpy old man.
The saris must be fine. 2 women held a couple of pieces up in the wind and sun for about 10 minutes and they were dry. The saris look to comprise of about 4 parts. They are like huge flags layed out on the rocks. Whilst they are drying, they get on with some other washing, then put them back on when they are dry. They add real colour to India. The different parts are sometimes contrasting, sometimes the same. Paige will be pleased to hear my favourite colour is pink.
I think the bare belly thing in the UK has come from here. Loads of the women of all ages show a bit of belly in their saris, but in a more subtle way than the UK lasses.
One old fellow waded out a bit and sat on a rock meditating. Another waded out to another rock and started giving himself a bath. He got a bit adventurous and moved out a bit deeper, too adventurous, he slipped and went under. You should have seen his old dear get in there after him, she was like greased lightening. She went over herself, but was back up like a salmon and pushing him out. He got a helping hand and forgot about his missus struggling for a few seconds, then gave her a hand.
Some cows turned up at the temple, real cows, not ........ They sauntered through one gate and out the other. Then some monkeys turned up and startled a group of Italians. They were good natured though and the monkeys.
Decided I had letched enough, so moved on through an arch of the powerful looking boulders and on through a banana plantation. A group of school kids approached, between 6 and 10 years old approximately. The first one said "Goodbye" so I said "Hello" This triggered a chain reaction right through the group, Goodbye, Hello, Goodbye, Hello, Goodbye. You get the picture. We all carried on our way smiling and laughing. Probably I was the happiest.
I passed a school first thing this morning. It was built into the bazaar ruins in Hampi bazaar. The kids only looked about 3 or 4. One Dad was dropping his daughter off on his motor bike. She had to go in front of him, she was too small to hold onto him from behind. He never got off the bike, just said their goodbyes and off she toddled. Another of the kids came up to him and they started having a right old chat, he was like an old man. The blokes daughter was definitely a point of the conversation, they lad kept pointing to her. I worked it out in the end, he was proposing to her.
I ended up somehow back at Hampi bazaar with again the offers of rickshaws, guides, maps, postcards. A few ladies offered me a massage in the best possible taste. I told one lass I was past a massage. Her mate understood me because she burst out laughing. Picked up a couple of oranges and bananas for Rs 10. The old dear wanted 20, but the lass before me got a wacking great mango and about 12 bananas for 20, so I declined. She smiled.
Back to the room for a pit stop and a cool off, then back into the sunshine. 3 blokes dressed as monks I guess. They had painted faces, peacock feathers in their turbans and bright coloured clothes. I think they were Dutch as the clothes were predominantely orange. They hugged each other and said picture, so I obliged and......... you guessed it. Out came a book, "Put your name and country in here" They pointed out all the people who had signed and the amounts they had contributed, 100, 200, 500, 700. They forgot to point out that the handwriting of the amounts was all the same hand. I gave them 30, probably too much. They put up a bit of resistance, but when I asked for it back they settled for it. I passed them several times during the day and got a knowing smile from them.
Set off to the Mango Tree a restaurant/cafe recomended in the Lonely Planet, passed another banana plantation, another Sunderland temple. This Mango Tree is a real hippie joint, if you pardon the expression. Ratan mats to sit on at low tables looking out over the river. I set myself up at the top leaning on the big old mango tree, forgetting that I had been shit on in Ganpatipule, but I got away with it this time. I ordered my mint tea, read my book for a while and watched 2 old lads tending the paddy fields.
I bumped into an English/French couple on my way back that I met on the train. They told me they were off for a nap. I told them they were getting old then promptly went back to my room and fell asleep.
Up showered and buzzing after my power nap. Tried to book my onward train ticket online, but you need an address for delivery, so that was a waste of time. I'll take being ripped off by the hotel bloke instead.
Went for some snap in a rooftop restaurant. Most of them are rooftop. I had to try at least one. The menus are all pretty similar and even look to be printed in the same place, but the food is OK. It looked really good in the Mango Tree.
Anyway, a cuppa and off back to apply the moisturiser and anti-wrinkle cream, OK OK off back to brush my teeth and bed.
Until another sunny day tomorrow. Tot ziens.

And so off to Hampi for real.

3/2 - Back to the station. Shared the taxi with a couple of Californians, Rose was very chatty and so was Nathan in the end. They are off to Hampi too. I lost them in the station. I told them to crack on, I go at Gil's personal pace, but guess who I was sat next to on the train, Rose and Nathan. How weird is that? Not very. The tickets are pre-booked, so it was a bit.
There is some great scenery on the way to Hospet. It heated up on the train in the afternoon, so did the hanging out of the door trick. Tried the egg biriani on the train, it was average, but hit the spot. The train has loads of backpackers, Hampi, the final destination is obviously very popular.
Got talking to some Indian lads on the train, they are going to have to learn to talk Geordie, we got talking cricket, as usual, and it took me 2 minutes to understand a word the were saying. I suppose as we were talking cricket, I should have realised it was Lords.
The train turned up about 45 minutes late, but managed to make up about 20 of them. I may be turning native, I spent a lot of time hanging out of the door.
Pulled into Hospet. The Indians cannot wait for everyone to get off, before they force their way on, so proper people crush developed. I was struggling to keep my balance. REMEMBER THIS !!!!!!
I got hassled the instant I got off the train to take a rickshaw, but headed for the ticket office to reserve my onward ticket for a few days time. Good planning ay? Well nearly, it is Sunday, the office shuts early, which worked out well, as I had planned the route the wrong way, there is a quicker one.
I gave into the rickshaw man, it has been a long hot day, I could not be arsed to barter. He tried to organise taking me around Hampi tomorrow, but I stalled while I checked out his price in the Lonely Planet. It was a rip off, so I declined.
Asked to be taking to Vicky's lodgings. They asked Rs400 and it looked OK, so I went for it, a bit over charged, bu it is about 8 quid a night. Now remember "REMEMBER THIS" ? I went to pay, but my wallet had been pick pocketed getting off the train at Hospet. It was in my front pocket, which is really deep, but the crush meant I never felt a thing. It took a bit of gloss of things for a few minutes, I was ready to leave India for these few minutes, but knew it would subside if I waited. Cancelled the 2 cards that were in my wallet and went to try the one from my money belt. PHEW it worked, I had only got Kelly to check the PIN for me 2 days ago. Coincidence???
Better book my flight to Malaysia whilst I still have a card. I went to report the theft to the police in Hampi, he told me I had to go to Hospet. He ducked that one.
People in general have been really good to me in India, but it only takes one bastard like this to make you almost wipe the goodness away. I wont though, there are people like that all over the world. I reckon the Hospet station is targetted because of all the backpackers. I am over it now, for 5 minutes anyway. AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH That's better.
Back to the tourist bit. Hampi is a magnificent place. The high number of tourists means it is splashed with commercialism, but only around the bazaar. It is a relic/ruins town and really very beautiful and quite unique in my experience so far.
Off to bed and see what tomorrrow brings.

And so off to Hampi

2/2 - Up and off to Margao station. The rickshaw driver told me to go to platform 2. Got there and thought I'd check with the bloke in the Chai stall. "There is no train to Hospet today". WHAT !!!
Checked my ticket, he's right. I have been given a ticket for the 7th, not 2nd. The ticket bloke at Vasco, must have mistaken my 2 for a 7, or thought, there is no train tomorrow, he must mean the 7th, either way it is off to the reservations office to change it and there's no bloody bannister. Back to the Residency and in a new room by 9:00. The lady who booked me in yesterday was on the desk when I came down. "Aren't you booking out?" "I have and I'm back" She laughed and I can understand why. Travelling in India will make you laugh or cry. It is a must to be relaxed about it.
So another day wandering in Margao. The market is good fun, it is packed with stalls selling all sorts. The town really rocks, it is go, go, go all the time. There are still hawkers, but not too many. I have developed a look that I use when NO, No , no, NNNNOOOOOO doesn't work. The look seems to work well. Have time to kill, so had my haircut, Rs 50. Margao is real Goa, not the tourist version, it is a good people watching place. There are still quite few tourists here, possibly stopping over before tomorrow's train, in my case twice. The municipal gardens are nice, they form the hub of the town and when rush hour comes, so does the fumes. Every town seems to be the same in India. Called into a local restaurant, Tato, for some mushroom masala. Loads of the restaurants are veggie. I never know what I am ordering, so I'm an unknowing veggie since I came to India. It seemed to cause great interest to the Margaons as I ripped up my chapati and hooverd up my masala. I got plenty of smiles, or laughs, I'm not sure.
The football was on as I passed a bar that lots of whities seem to use, Louglins I think, so I called in for a beer and a watch. IT is a dump and the beer was warm, but only 30p so I finished it and went to watch the football in the hotel. One advantage of the Residencies, there is a tv in the rooms.

The next leg to Hampi

1/2 - The plan was bus to Panjim, bus to old Goa, train to Margao and train to Hubli night in Hubli, to Hampi the next day.
It went like this. Got the bus to Panjim, decided to get the bus to Margao, at the window, saw the bus goes to Vasco too, which is where the train starts from, so got the bus to Vasco. The conductor from the Candolim bus was really helpful. I never know whether I am being helped for money or just out of good nature, this lad did it out of the goodness of his heart. I think that tends to be the way out of the big cities.
Whilst standing in the train ticket queue, for about an hour, which can be normal at the larger hubs, I noticed the train I was going to get to Hubli goes on Thursdays, yesterday. All that planning by the pool went well then. Oh well, I am nothing if not flexible. I'll get the train to Hospet tomorrow, from Margao, Vasco does not look too clever as a place to stay. It is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet and I don't fancy trugging around with all my gear looking for a place to stay.
Jumped onto a local passenger train, I have never been on a passenger, as opposed to an express, train. The locals hang out of the doors on these. This one was quiet though, but they still hang out of the door. The only differnce to Sleeper class on the express trains is the seats aren't upholstered. Got off in Margao, probably the first thing I've done right today. I almost blew this. I asked 3 railway staff if I needed a ticket or do I pay the conductor. I got the Indian wobble of the head and the distinct impression I paid the conductor. 15 minutes before the train, I thought I would just try one more time. I needed a ticket. Luckily enough, there is a local counter as well as the long distance counter so it only took a minute. Rs 6, not even 10p.
Prepaid rickshaw to the Margoa Residency. Now I know the Residency part is a chain and that is what the rooms are like. It is OK for Rs700.
Margao is a smart little place, busy, nice municipal gardens. Loads of street sellers come out after dusk, mostly clothes and food. It has a nice feel to it. I like Margao. I found Sheila's internet, Rs10 per hour, it was 50 or 60 in Candolim.
Spotted a clothes shop that had only 3 football shirts hung up, Inter, Newcastle and Sunderland. What odds would you get on that? They all looked the latest authentic kit, but weren't. I bet the Newcastle one stays there a long time.
Ordered some bahjis in a local restaurant. They weren't the bhajis like in the UK, but they were bhajis and tasty. I can spell it anyway I want, they do over here. I knew what the pudding was, shrikhand. I have got a liking for that. A glass of lassi and cup of chai. 1 pound 20p. You cant whack it.