Friday, 11 July 2014

Name that World Cup nation

I’m so excited about Sunday’s final that I’ve taken to Photoshop to make a World Cup quiz. The premise is thus: scroll down and look at the 23 pretty pictures. Each one represents a nation that qualified for Brazil. The first person to correctly identify them all wins a Mini Milk and a holiday from Indigo East. Come on England!

World Cup 2014 quiz

Friday, 28 March 2014

I went to Tamil Nadu and this is what happened...

Rick Stein Mahabalipuram
And the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. And the wheels on the bus go round and round, all day long. As apt and profound as these lyrics are, they only describe 75% of the journey from Munnar to Madurai, for the wheels also jerked up and down, up and down, all day long, such are the potholes on the thrilling-but-Jesus-Christ-that’s-a-steep-drop Western Ghats roads. And as uncomfortable and terrifying as this was, the jerkiness massaged my back better than any Ayurveda specialist could. The moral of this incredible story, then, is to save your hard-earned rupees by shunning the spa in favour of travelling on local rattletraps, which will (eventually) refresh and rejuvenate with the added bonus of getting you somewhere you need to be. The downside is that you’ll be contributing to the decline and subsequent extinction of a traditional millennia-old medicinal practice; a reason to visit south India in itself. Still, swings and roundabouts.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

I went to Varkala, Alleppey and Munnar and this is what happened...

A empty bus in Fort Cochin, Kerala

Saturday 15th - Sunday 16th February

I’m becoming rather partial to travelling alone on Indian local buses, primarily because it puts me in point-blank proximity with people and situations I fundamentally do not understand. It’s essentially like being three-years-old, when everything is new and entertaining but you’ve got no real idea what’s going on or what people are saying. And then you fall asleep. This morning’s journey from Cochin to Kollam followed this exact pattern - half-an-hour in an elderly lady boards and sits herself down (that’s right readers, we’re rolling in the present tense; hold on to your hats). Seconds later, she stands up and starts shouting in Malayalam at a seemingly random man a few seats across. He ignores her and retains a nonchalant expression. Frustrated by his lack of response, the orthodontically-challenged woman starts gesticulating and upping the decibel levels. It’s becoming a little awkward - maybe this man has done something unspeakable? He quite rightly makes the decision to stand up and move to another seat a few rows back, at which point the woman directs her attention at someone else. Her anger is making me claustrophobic. She catches a whiff of my fear and she likes it; another trapped victim lies helplessly in wait, somewhere in front of these cataracts. Like Chucky off of Child’s Play, her neck turns mechanically until her eyes meet mine (she thinks - thank you cataracts #LOLLE), at which point I realise her diatribe is arbitrarily directed towards me. Resisting the need to hold the hand of the man next to me, I instead turn to offer him a nervous smile, which he interprets as: “Oh, you find this funny too! I thought you were about to shit yourself. But your facial expression now suggests otherwise! Ha ha ha!” Or words to that effect. In Malayalam. He proceeds to slap the back of the man next to him, repeating his assertion that I think the whole thing is hilarious, at which point they both start belly-laughing before five others join in for good measure. Feeling left out despite unwittingly initiating the hilarity, I half-heartedly laugh along with them, seemingly prompting angry woman to sit down and shut up, which makes me comfortable enough to fall asleep. I have no idea what just happened.

Friday, 14 February 2014

I went to Cochin and Guruvayur and this is what happened...

A passing train in Kerala, India

Tuesday 11th February

5:30 am: Beep beep beep BEEP BEEP beep beep beep. The mind’s response: Goooood morning! You have served your time in the cottage, my friend. It’s time to leave Ooty. Pack your things and let’s get out of here! Yipeee! The body’s: I am very tired. It is five degrees outside and pitch black. And despite those suspicious-looking stains, this blanket feels rather cosy, doesn’t it? You don’t really care about the stains, do you? You’re disgusting. But you’re also comfortable. So very comfortable. So shut the hell up and go back to sleep. When you do, that annoyingly chirpy mind of yours will take you wherever you want to go: a spring meadow with bunny rabbits; a chocolate factory without Oompa-Loompas; maybe even somewhere less innocent like, um, Carol Vorderman’s cockpit.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

I went to Coorg, Kannur, Mysore and Ooty (phew) and this is what happened…

A Theyyam performer in northern Kerala

Wednesday 5th - Thursday 6th February

It’s never a nice feeling when your taxi doesn’t turn up, and by the time I flagged a rickshaw to take me to Bangalore station I wasn’t particularly confident about making my 11:30 train to Mysore Junction, which sounds like it should be a marvellous euphemism. Fortunately, I was gifted a fearless driver who promised to get me there on time; an obligation fulfilled thanks to manoeuvres that in other countries would have landed him with a prison sentence. In India, it meant an extra 50 rupees.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

I went to Hampi and Bangalore and this is what happened...

Virupaksha Temple, Hampi

Thursday 30th January

The eagle-eyed pedants among you will notice that I’m now using dates rather than days. The reason is simple: I’m so awful at maths that even basic sequential patterns baffle me, to the extent that I was unintentionally adding days that hadn’t happened, a reoccurring mistake that threatened to get out of control.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

I went to Goa and this is what happened...

Cola: Goa's best beach
Days 9-11

August 2008: Gordon Brown was fumbling around the prime minister’s office, the English football team were halfway through their four-year hiatus from tournament football, and I was enjoying that lovely little window between graduating and getting a proper job. So I decided to travel to Goa, oblivious to the fact it was the height of the monsoon. On arrival in the sleepy little fishing village/seasonal resort town of Benaulim I realised why it was so quiet, save for the relentless thudding of golf ball-sized drops of rain. The beach resembled coastal Norfolk after a period of chronic global warming, complete with packs of stray dogs. There wasn’t an orgy enthusiast-populated tepee in sight. It was massively disappointing.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

I went to the Konkan coast and this is what happened...

Murud-Janjira Fort, India

Day 5

The journey to Murud, a little-known destination on the Maharashtran coast around 150 kilometres south of Mumbai, took approximately six hours - not necessarily because the roads are shite, but because there’s a lot to take in en route. Once we had escaped Mumbai’s urban sprawl and the subsequent land of the shipping containers, the ‘real’ India started to appear. And very nice it was too - steep forested hills, colourful villages and glimpses of the Konkan railway, one of India’s most aesthetically-pleasing lines. And about five miles from Murud the first palm trees started appearing; always a good sign for the beach-hungry traveller.

Monday, 20 January 2014

I went to Mumbai and this is what happened...

Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Mumbai
Day 1

When I woke up this morning I didn’t expect to be treated to a display from the Indian Army’s bomb disposal team. Then again, I didn’t actually sleep – I spent most of the evening sitting in extremely close proximity to a spellbound elderly Indian gentlemen; the object of his tactile awe being the mid-90s Casio watch around his wrist, or more specifically its relentlessly piercing beep. At this point I should mention that the pair of us were sitting down with a few hundred other people on a plane flying to Mumbai from London. He didn’t say a word to me during the eight hours, not even when I borrowed his pen to complete my landing slip. Now there’s a snippet of detail that will live in your memory forever.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

I'm going to Cumbum

On Monday evening I’ll be embarking on a voyage of discovery, flying east from London to Mumbai. The plan was to explore the sights of one of the world’s most fascinating countries, but after a few minutes on Google Maps I thought it better to instead visit places with funny names. And I’m delighted to reveal my first two destinations: Cumbum and Wankaner. Don’t they sound devine?

Cumbum India