Posts Tagged "india"

The Mumbai Milk Scam

Posted by on 2 Nov, 2008 in Travel Bites | 1 comment

India 7: The lengths people will go to, to con a tourist

Mumbai, Friday night, after dark.

Our “cool cab” drops us off by the Gateway of India. The moment we get out the taxi, a man with a four foot yellow balloon with green spots asks us if we want to buy one. He slaps it as if to demonstrate what we’re missing out on. Unsurprisingly we said no. Moments later, a young Indian women approaches us and introduces herself and starts trying to tie flower garlands around her wrists. We refuse and walk away but she is persistent. We say that we don’t want to buy them but she insists, she says don’t worry, it’s a gift. For Diwali. Ok, we say, thank you, and walk away, but we’re sure this won’t be the last we see of her. We walk down the seafront and notice she is following us, about twenty paces behind. We walk for a good ten minutes and she is still following us.

Eventually the seafront road turns inland and on our left, shopkeepers sell their wares onto the street, on small tables and stands. The girl approaches us again and says in stilted English “Can you buy milk for me?” pointing at a carton of powdered milk on a shopkeeper’s stall. It’s for my little brother.

Read More

A night out in Mumbai, local-style

Posted by on 31 Oct, 2008 in Travel Bites | 0 comments

India 6: Mumbai “Beer Bars” and Extreme Culture Shock

As you may have already gathered, after a week in Ahmedabad we still hadn’t been able to do the work we set out to do, so we were told to fly to Mumbai and do some installations there. Mumbai is a different world from Ahmedabad – a global metropolis – but that’s for another post. This post is about a strange experience we had on the Friday night after we arrived. My Indian colleague Lakshmi and his friend Puru took us out “on the town” in Mumbai to show us how Indian guys enjoy themselves. The first stop was a place called “L.P. Restaurant Bar” in Andheri.

However when we got upstairs we found something that wasn’t quite what we expected. We were ushered into a small room about the size of a pub function room. On a raised stage in the corner, an Indian band played and sang something that sounded like a blend of karaoke, Bhangra beats and europop. Disco lights flashed around the room. We were shown to our seats on upholstered benches which lined the walls of the room. In front of us was an oval glass table with ornate gold-painted metal carvings for legs, of Adonis and Aphrodite like figures. At various locations around the room stood about ten waiters dressed in beige Noel-Coward lounge suits.

Read More

Adalaj Wav Stepwell

Posted by on 31 Oct, 2008 in Travel Bites | 1 comment

India 5: Is it a temple? Is it a tomb? No, it’s a stepwell

Just outside of Ahmedabad on our way to the Nature Park we visited a small plain looking temple, at the driver’s suggestion. It was a square building made of white bricks, nicely decorated inside with bright coloured garlands and mirrored. As we were about to leave I noticed some steps down through an iron gate. What I saw then was absolutely breathtaking and I realised this is what we had come to see.

Descending five storeys down into the ground, but open to the sky, was a series of pillars and arches on a huge scale. It felt like something you might see in ancient Egypt or in an Indiana Jones film. I certainly had some slight nervousness as I descended down the steps and it got darker and darker.

Read More

Look at the strange cow-eating white men!

Posted by on 30 Oct, 2008 in Travel Bites | 1 comment

India 4: Strangers in a strange land

From the first night Steve and I went for a walk around Ahmedabad, we noticed that people were looking at us a little strangely. Not with any kind of negativity or judgement but more a sort of genuine fascination – the way you might find your eyes drawn to a person with bright green hair or an unfortunate birthmark. It took a little getting used to. After a couple of days it struck us – we were the only white people in town – even in the hotel. It seems the local people rarely see any non-Indians.

It turns out that Westerners rarely come to Gujarat, so in a way it was the ideal introduction to India. We realised just how rare it must be when we asked a rickshaw driver to take us to Le Meridien and he’d never heard of it or been there, even after we got there (Le Meridien is the most expensive hotel in town).

But it was also interesting to realise that we’d been there a couple of days without even realising we were in a minority. I found that quite weird at the time – my last experience of being in a minority was in Atlanta, Georgia, USA where everyone was black. I felt quite nervous and like I stood out, I was acutely aware of being different. Not so here. There’s something about the people and their attitude that makes you feel very safe and at ease. It would take me a couple more weeks of being in India to really be able to put it into words.

On our first evening as we sat in a restaurant a little Indian girl of 10 or so years old and said in her best attempt at English. “Hello. What is your name?”. Her mother stood behind her and looked on proudly. We introduced ourselves, asked her name, exchanged smiles and she went away happy. This sort of thing happened all the time.. Children would call out “Hello How Are You” in the street as we walked past. We even had a few shouts of “Welcome to India!” which was really touching. But this was nothing compared to what happened to us at Lothal.

Read More

How to get a drink in Ahmedabad

Posted by on 21 Oct, 2008 in Travel Bites | 3 comments

India 3: “Dry County”

The first time we went out for a meal in Ahmedabad, Steve and I were in for a surprise. Steve tried to order a beer and we were told that alcohol is illegal in the state of Gujarat! Gujarat was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi in 1869, and he believed that alcohol was a major social evil and a cause of many of the world’s problems. In deference to that, the state of Gujarat made it illegal to possess or consume any form of alcohol.


Fortunately we found out that as a foreigner in Gujarat, it is possible to obtain alcohol. Here’s a handy how-to guide, from our experience:

  1. Take your passport to your hotel front desk, between 11am and 6pm (no earlier and no later)
  2. They produce a document that proves you are resident at that hotel, along with dates and a reference to your passport number.
  3. They also provide a photocopy of your passport and Indian visa.
  4. Locate a licensed “liquor shop”. These are few and far between, probably only 2 or 3 in the whole city. We found one at Cama Hotel, just 5 minutes walk up the road from our hotel.
  5. Enter the liquor shop, which will most likely look more like a library reading room than an off-licence, with a few solitary spirit bottles on the shelves and a stack of beer crates.
  6. Decide what alcohol you want to consume in the next 7 days. You are allowed one bottle of spirits, 3 bottles of wine or 10 large bottles of beer.
Read More