INDIA - Mumbai, Goa and Kerala - 2009

09/07/2019

India 2009, was our second big trip and one of the most intense...

India, is a mix of various emotions. Emotions that, run through us all the time we are there. Both transmits us a feeling of happiness and beauty, as well as despair and anger...

Beauty in the overall concept of life, is a very subjective feeling. Something invisible, that each of us builds and defines as we grow as people. Depending of our emotional state and surrounding situations, not everything is beautiful, not everything is ugly, and India is a mix of these two feeling...

"In the great battles of life, the first step to victory is the desire to win."       Mahatma Gandhi 

About India and travel preparation...

There are few places in the world that mark us most, than India. Home to over 1,300 million souls. 3.287.00 km2 of sub-continental geographical area. 2 official languages (Hindi / English), 21 other officially recognized languages and dozens of other languages and dialects. 4 great religions and a immensity of many others. Ancient cradle of the oldest civilizations and human cultures, make India a unique place in the world and one of the most attractive to visit...

Two weeks on land, where cows are sacred...

2009, was at the climax of the financial crisis in Europe and beyond. We and like of many other Portugueses and citizens of the world, were living a period called the "Financial Squeeze" after many years of fat cows... Given the apparently "Apocalyptic" scenario, we decided "irresponsibly" leave everything behind and go two weeks as far as possible and that our money allowed. Situation this that came to reveal more responsible and sensible than saving that same money, in any bankrupt, or in disastrous investments... 

From the Philippines, to India...                                                                                                                        After having been in Philippines two years before, going to India, didn't seem to me any "Boogeyman"... and in true it wasn't, but gives a miserable cold in the belly and some headaches. However much information and preparation can be obtained and assimilated, everything in India, can happen contrary to what we can plan... but, it is worth it. 

Soul Traveller... 

As a temporary traveler of a particular place, search to concentrate on some pre-established zones and explore these places within the time available. Long before the start of the trips, I make a more or less meticulous preparation about the country I am going to visit. In the case of India, it took a few months to prepare the trip... besides the passport, valid on time, to deal with visas, traveler's medical consultation and vaccination. India has terrible tropical diseases, so it should not be facilitated. Passport and visas, not either...

A matter of designation...                                                                                                                        Personally, I don't like to call myself a Tourist... I like before designate myself, as a Traveler. A traveler, temporary. Someone who is temporarily in a certain place in the world and who tries to enjoy the best of those places...

Traveling in India in a personal way and independently of Travelers, is not a very easy situation there... Unfortunately most Indians, see us as a very desirable target to constantly slaughter with their skills and tricks in the art of withdraw much money as possible in everything they make us, or sell... in some situations, becames quite unnerving. It is unpleasant the fact they think that all Westerners who visit their country, are all rich and as such if they are there, they can be completely plucked... I understand poverty, I don't understand indifference.

It's said about India, that only after some time of being there, begin to gain some emotional immunity... I can't stop thinking and agree in part with this theory, because it really takes us some time adapt to social hegemony and understand part of the complex society, which is India. In that part of the Earth Globe, the millenary social stratification still prevails. Poverty (more than 800 million) is the corrosion that erodes body and soul, which transforms men into human beasts and take us to question our own existence and the way we view the world and others...

Tourism in India, in my opinion...                                                                                                    A good part of tourism in India, is made by two main categories and one sub-category, of Tourists... Backpackers and Tycoons, are part of the two main categories. I am the sub-category...

Backpackers; poor people, usually young people, with spirit and thirst for adventure. These of homo sapiens sapiens species, apparently exotic, have almost all the time of the world to travel... As a rule, they are completely indifferent to cow shit on the ground, like mines ready to explode on their feet. The flies and everything that smells bad, is no problem for them either... Just as they also have the bad idea to enjoy everything and with pleasure, as who lives the best dream of life... crazy people!

"Tycoons"; old and young, rich... these are part of another species, yet to be defined... They usually ramble the Olympian Gods, like who wants to leave an invisible mark nowhere... are, as a rule, sophisticated and love selfies. This beautiful speciesis is practically unable to decide what to do, out of their natural environment. For this reason, regularly resort to buy of tour packages, of more or less personalized, very expensive and almost always very limited in time and social interaction, but full of "l`amore". In such sumptuous conditions visiting India, is usually the pinnacle maximum of exotic pleasure. Who doesn't like, or wish, to stay in beautiful Golden Palaces and live the "Thousand and One Nights"...? For these "fortunate", India, is just pleasure. From Indian society, they carry only smiles and the smell of incense. The smells bad and the poors, are almost always far from their idyllic routes...

Sub-category; humps species without feathers, with a strong tendency to survive the existence of being someone... we, in both times we were there,went the rare sub-species of "homo sapiens sapiens occidentalis", in India. The one Traveler, who suffers and suffers, at the hands of those "demons"... and who likes to suffer, for stupidity or spiritual masochism... Or maybe for the simple fact of wanting to love what one hardly loves, but really want to, love... India, is like a magnet. First, impel us and then attract us...

Observations:
Positive; from Portugal, it is possible to get a great price for plane tickets, (Mumbai or New Delhi) depending on the advance in buying the tickets online...      
Negative; The visa is mandatory for citizens of Portugal and is expensive. What saves on tickets, spend on visas...

Note: to aconites (Aconitum napellus) and unloved ones, who are most likely to excommunicate my website and my "Persona".                                                            I hate hypocrisy. I can't see light where darkness reigns, nor can I dazzle the sun, just for the pleasure of seeing apocalyptic chaos in all that shines... the truth, is the truth and it's worth it... I love India, one day I'm going there again, but I saw and felt a lot that I didn't like... 

About Goa; old colony and jewel of crown of the Empire of Portugal, the "Rome of the Orient", conquered independence in 1961. From the architectural exuberance of the past, stayed the famous Churches and Convents (UNESCO World Heritage). Along the coast, the Forts that once defended the land from enemy attacks from the sea, now lie with their backs to the sea and almost swallowed by the green fury of the vegetation. Some streets in Panaji and in other places, still keep some names from Portuguese memory, on locality blackened by the soot of time and stuck in the corners of old houses of style Portuguese colonial, which in an apparent and desperate agony of abandonment, still pretend to live. And, a few more things, which stubbornly persist and resist the torturous forgetfulness... In fact, when we were there in 2009, Goa seemed to me more like a ghost clinging to the past, than one of the richest states in India...

Walking on the blackened and sticky streets of Panaji, was somehow disappointing and nostalgic. As if we entered in a temporality carousel, whose time slowly erases the memory of the past. Carousel full of emotions, but kind of broken and rusty...

For cultural and family reasons, Goa was our first option in choosing of the trip to India. This option, that despite all the superficial inconveniences, just wasn`t better due to the persistent rain, who together with the high and suffocating humidity of the air, left our skin sticky like gum. No matter how much baths you take, the gum on your skin comes back quickly...                    

Almost in despair and in the paranoid prospective of starting to gain moss under the nails and all the pores of the body, we leave Goa and follow for Kerala... 

PHOTO GALLERY - State of Goa, India 2009

About Kerala; arrive in Cochin, in the state of Kerala, was an unexpected adventure... no matter how many plans are made in India, there is almost always something that will not work as we wish, because in India things are worth what they are worth and there's no use complaining...

Even though it was more expensive, we bought direct plane tickets from Goa to Cochin and unexpectedly we were making two unforeseen stopovers. One in Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu, which is on the east coast of the Gulf of Bengal and another stopover at the end of the world, in another place that I have no idea... of this unexpected trip, stay the fact that I can say that I have already crossed almost all of India by plane.

Hours after the departure from Goa, we were finally at the Cochin International Airport...

Kochi or Cochin, was one of the strongholds of Portuguese colonial expansion, in India and in the world. In this small part of the world, our famous Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama died and was buried, who was later transferred to Portugal. In the oldest part of Cochin, along the portuary zone, it is worth visiting some of the representative Portuguese history (Church of São Francisco, where Vasco da Gama buried, the Fort Kochi and the Indo-Portuguese Museum).

Other attractions to visit in Kochi, which I lively recommend; Chinese Fishing Nets (personally, it was one of the things I most enjoyed seeing in Kochi...). Walking through old colonial-style neighborhoods, in the shade of imposing tropical trees. Visit the old spice stores and some of the older stores. Another of the great attractions in this place, is the pleasure of being able to taste some beautiful prawns or fish, all fresh and freshly grilled. Fish and shellfish, are bought directly from fishermen, in the fortress square. Part of these sea delicacies are caught in Chinese fishing nets, which are right in front of the fort. What we choose is weighed, paid for and then goes directly to the grill. One of the best wonders, in Kochi...

Still in the Ernakulam district, on the Thevara waterfront, I recommend taking a boat trip on Vembanad Lake. Along the waterfront of Thevara, there are several local tourism companies that make maritime tours by the lake, in panoramic and small dimensions boats. The tours take about two hours and the price is quite low...  

Vembanad Lake - Kumarakom; In India, geography is almost always represented on a scale of great epic proportions and Lake Vembanad, is no exception to this rule. The lake is not only the longest in India, as in its widest part, the opposite of shore cannot be seen. In the crossing that we made in the local sea transport, from Kumarakom vs. Muhamma, I initially had the idea that I was sailing on a sea bay and not on a freshwater lake...

Part of our trip to India, included spending a few days on the shores of Lake Vembanad, between the humid zone and the Alappuzha Peninsula, which is ingrown between Lake Vembanad and the Arabian Sea. Our choice, was undoubtedly a pleasant option...

Geographically, Kumarakom and Alappuzha, are part of a vast humid zone ecosystem, which extends over several kilometers of navigable channels, lakes and mangrove forest. Along the shores of the lakes and secondary channels in the highest areas and rich in sediments deposited by the seasonal floods, rice fields grow in a perfect vegetable green. Between this immense liquid and vegetable profusion, lives a vast community of people adaptable to the circumstances of the time and the luck of nature. Are not rare the times, that the all area is completely flooded in the monsoon season...

The tours we did between Kumarakom and Alappuzha, I keep in my memory, pleasant memories of that geographical point of the Globe, which I strongly recommend to be visited. Especially, after the monsoon season when the flood of waters calms down and peace reigns over the land again, the lakes and canals become more full of life and color. As in a choreographed frenzy, then the supreme miracle of chlorophyll occurs and it is at that time of year that the sublime green of the vegetation, becomes even more green...

Last stage of my trip, to India ... Mumbai megacity! 

Greater Mumbai or Bombay, the megacity with more than 12 million people and the capital of the Maharashtra State, is the 4th most populous metropolitan region in the world... 

Arabian Sea, view over the southern part of the city of Mumbai. Boat crossing between the Gateway of India vs. Elephant Island. India 2009
Arabian Sea, view over the southern part of the city of Mumbai. Boat crossing between the Gateway of India vs. Elephant Island. India 2009

Mumbai, has an excellent and modern Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, probably the best of India. The two times I was there with time, I thought it's very superior to Indira Gandhi International Airport.

Three days in Mumbai, is not a long time to can see everything with calm. Mumbai, is very, very big... the few days we were there, we chose to stay in the urban area of the Colaba peninsula, near to the Gateway of India. This area is the most interesting and popular to can stay, even if it is the most expensive area in Mumbai.

Beside to the Gateway of India, it is easy to take a boat and go to Elefanta Island, a World Heritage. The boat crossing is very pleasant and cheap. Anyone who has time, is worth spending the whole day there. You can go on a boat and return on any other, at the end of the day... the trip to and from the island, contemplate this option of coming on another boat (see timetable to return to Mumbai). Near to the Hotel Taj Mahal & Tower, there are good cafés and restaurants, including the famous Leopold Cafe. On a street relatively near to Leopold, there is a good street market, Colaba Causeway Market. For those already returning home, it´s worth to do some last shopping, in this market... 



PHOTO GALLERY - Gateway of India vs. Elephant Island, Mumbai.

Such as the Poet wrote, "The dream commands life"...                                                        

I grew up with the idea, that if we dream a lot about something I really wanted very much, it could later be realized, either by spontaneous desire or magic... unfortunately, the reality is quite different. Materializing our dreams in a physical reality, most of the time, takes a lot of work to accomplish. But, it's worth trying.                                                                                                                                              When dreams and imagination take wing, all we want to do is fly, fly as far as possible. My wings, were my dreams and the desire to fly...                                                                                                                  

The first trip I made to India, was one of the trips that most marked me. Whether due to the singularity of the country, either by the global context of the year I went there...                                      I hope that somehow my travels Post, in particular about my trip to India, will contribute to someone's dreams anywhere in the world, become a beautiful and great flight...                                                                                                                                                                                                               J.P Oliveira  



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