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Year View| Summary| Highlights| December 2000 (Month View)
01.12.2000 – Friday 1 December – Chennai
- • After an enjoyable twenty hours and forty-six minutes, I detrained in CHENNAI – an expensive place where it’s very hard to find accommodation. I’d met a few Swiss girls on the train, who were a bit worried and had no idea where to go or what to do, so I took them under my wing and we all went to the Salvation Army Dorms, who, after we told them enough woeful tales, took us in for 70 rupees a night. We were put in 13-bed rooms, which were nearly full – the girls in a separate dorm. Foreign girls and Indian men do not mix.
02.12.2000 – Saturday 2 December – Chennai
- • I went and emailed at a 15-rupee place, where I got an email from Shan saying his Gramps had died. Diana, an American woman I met at the Salvation Army place, who had gone to India with her boyfriend but had recently split up and was now on her own and a little bewildered, wanted to find a travel agent so she could figure out how to get to Australia, so we did that.
- Spencers Plaza
- • I went and found Spencers Plaza, which is very big, with a western style supermarket, complete with air-conditioning and actual proper scanning checkouts – amazing.
- • I changed $US50 at 46:15 getting 2308 rupees, and then went for a walk around Chennai to see what it was like, having a good time in the process. Diana and I had a strange, romantic dinner by accident – we’d popped into what appeared to be a normal Indian style restaurant, but were ushered into a large ornate back room where we were served hand and foot. We were the only people in this large ornate hangover from British days, with our own waiter. The food was nice too.
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03.12.2000 – Sunday 3 December – Mamallapuram
- • The three Swiss women and I left the dorm, and, for 40 rupees, crammed ourselves and all our luggage into the one rickshaw, which took us to the MAMALLAPURAM bus, which left at 8:45 AM for a two-hour trip.
- • I got a 50-rupee hut at “D Neelakandan Dhevaki, 5 Radhas Village”, which looks quite good. It’s sort of a house-stay type of place, catering to long-term tourists who want to relax at one of India’s famous east coast relaxation beaches. Funnily enough, I met an Austrian man I’d met on the train to Puri, and a few times on Puri beach, jogging around the beach here. I walked around Mamallapurum and did the touristy thing, looking at some temples and things like that, and then went and walked up and down the beach. It’s a touristy place, but quite small and very nice.
04.12.2000 – Monday 4 December – Pondicherry
- • I left my hut, having already been out to find milk, during which time it rained and I got soaked. A one hour forty-five minute trip later and I was at PONDICHERRY, and after much walking in extreme heat I finally found a 60-rupee room at the “Ajantha Lodge”. I waited until it was cooler and then walked around and had a look – it’s an uninspiring city, even the beach is all rocks.
- • I thought I’d struck gold – I found a shop that sold cornflakes by the kilo, so I bought a kilo of the world’s worst, hardest, most inedible cornflakes. They were so bad I couldn’t eat them so I gave them to a beggar. Cornflakes and milk are both quite hard to find in India, and I was always on the look out for both.
05.12.2000 – Tuesday 5 December – Tiruchirappalli
- • I left Pondicherry on a bus, arriving in TIRUCHIRAPPALLI five hours and fifteen minutes later.
- • I found a 60-rupee double room at the “Modern Hindu Hotel”, and walked around Trichy, which seems like another uninspiring city with no major sightseeing things listed in the “Lonely Planet” book. I bought some more cornflakes, which were edible this time, and did some washing. I wouldn’t bother with Trichy again.
06.12.2000 – Wednesday 6 December – Madurai
- • I left the hotel and caught a three-hour bus to MADURAI, and then a short, very crowded city bus to the train station, where I found a 55-rupee room at the “MMS Lodge”.
- • I paid a 150-rupee deposit on my room and found an email place where, for 30 rupees, I got this email from Ric: “GoaArambolOMShantiresteraunt”.
- • I then went and saw the 2000-year-old Sri Meenakshi Temple, which is suitably impressive. Occupying six hectares, it is comprised of 12 incredibly ornate towers ranging from 45 to 50 metres high. Madurai is the cultural capital of the Tamil peoples, and has been an important trading centre at least as far back as 4 BC when the Greeks had an ambassador there. As with most of India, it’s changed hands continuously over its history, never actually being a part of the whole of India until it came under the control of the British East India Company.
- • I went to bed early and the hotel was a bit noisy, but not too bad.
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07.12.2000 – Thursday 7 December – Rameswaram
- • I left the hotel and caught a 38-rupee city bus to RAMESWARAM. Tamil Nadu is the only place in India, and I wouldn’t be surprised, the world, where the buses run all the time, all night long, never stopping, and you can get anywhere cheaply and relatively easily. It was a three hour forty-five minute journey, one part of which was along this hugely long bridge out in the ocean. It’s a strange feeling to be driving along through the ocean with land a very long way away.
- • I got a room at the “Santhana Lodge” for 50 rupees, which seems to be ok, with an attached toilet and a bucket shower – which I availed myself of, before doing some washing. I wandered around, looking at their impressive temple, which forms the centre of this small town poking way out the side of India, half way to Sri Lanka, and wandered up the beach and generally just relaxed and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere of India.
08.12.2000 – Friday 8 December – Kanyakumari
- • I left the hotel and caught a bus to TIRUNELVELI via TUTICORIN, then another bus to NAGERCOIL, then another short bus to KANYAKUMARI (Cape Cormorin) – a total of ten hours travelling time. What actually happened was that I missed the bus I was meant to catch, and not wanting to bother waiting, I hopped on the next bus at random – something you can do when in what must be the best bus-serviced state in the world.
- • I ended up in places that I suspect Europeans have either never been – or not in living memory. The people would peep out from behind buildings, run, and get their kids to show them the strange white man, then if I looked their way they’d pull back behind a building and hide – a strange experience. Some of the braver brought their kids out for me to see. Then, after passing through this strange time-warped area that the world seems to have forgotten I chanced upon what you’d expect to find in a place like this, an immense rocket liquid propulsion facility, and then shortly after, an enormous wind power farm, which seemed to go for miles. The only way to describe this entire experience is “strange”. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me to find I’d been stuck in some sort of time warp effect – the two contrasts are just too much, but it was amazing. Then, to top it all off – on my last bus trip, having been through areas where no one seemed to have ever seen a white man before, let alone could speak English, I had an in-depth political conversation with an Indian professor and was invited to sample his hospitality – and daughters.
- • I went to bed at the 50-rupee dorm I’d found at the “Youth Hostel”. I am the only person in the entire hostel, which is attached to the posh “Hotel Tamil Nadu”. They had to open the hostel especially for me. This whole day has a strange surrealism about it. I also found and bought some expensive Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, which were very nice.
09.12.2000 – Saturday 9 December – Kovalam
- • I left the youth hostel and looked around a bit before catching a two hour thirty-seven minute bus to TRIVANDRAM (THIRUVANANTHAPURAM). I got a 60-rupee room at the “Bhaskara Bhavan”, which seems ok with an attached toilet and shower, but no shower rose – but can’t be too fussy.
- • I caught a bus to KOVALAM BEACH and had a look around. It’s funny, it’s almost identical to the Daintree area back home – this beach could be Cedar Bay, and the surrounding bush is the same too. There are many tourists here, with very few clothes, and lots of sunburn. I have a funny feeling the Indian “lifeguards” standing on the cliffs with their binoculars probably aren’t looking for drowning men, and if you’re a drowning woman, you might be better off not getting rescued. I only stayed three hours and then headed back to Trivandrum, where I emailed for 30 rupees, but did not send a general email, only a few replies to people.
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10.12.2000 – Sunday 10 December – Bus – Kochi
- • I caught a bus to VARKALA, where I stayed two hours. It is a true tropical paradise in all sense of the word. Walk through the beautiful rainforest-like scenery and out onto a perfect sandy beach, then out into the perfectly clear water, while naked women lay sunbathing, or strumming guitars in small grass huts or reclining in hammocks under the palm trees. I wonder how much longer places like this can exist – apparently Kovalam used to be like this only a few years ago, now it’s full of fat, blotchy American and British businessmen pretending they’re in paradise for a week.
- • I then headed on to KOLLAM (QUILON), stayed for lunch, and then continued on to KOCHI (COCHIN).
- • I found a simple single 70-rupee room at the “Basoto Lodge” with a common bath. Check-in was 4 PM, with a 24-hour checkout. I went for a walk and bought 500gm Kellogg’s Cornflakes for 75 rupees, and then headed off to bed.
11.12.2000 – Monday 11 December – Kochi
- • I bought some milk and had my cornflakes, before changing $US50 at 46:20 to 2310 rupees at the State Bank of India, ERNAKULAM. I took a ferry to Fort Kochi, where I looked around for a while before heading back to the hotel where I showered and checked out at 4 PM.
- • I reserved a seat on one of the fancy comfortable tourist buses for MYSORE, which cost me 210 rupees plus a 5-rupee reservation fee.
- • The eleven hour fifteen minute trip in the “Ultra Deluxe” coach was comfortable – apart from the freezing cold. It got so cold in the morning that I had to stay awake rubbing myself to keep warm, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it, my bag being packed away somewhere.
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12.12.2000 – Tuesday 12 December – Mysore
- • I arrived frozen and found a 60-rupee room at the “Hotel Durbar”, in Ghandi Square. I caught a bus up the 1026-metre Chamundi Hill, walked down and then back up the more than one thousand stairs that pilgrims climb to improve their karma, and then went to the Indo-Saracenic Mysore Palace with Francis, a 28-year-old Québécoise I’d met. The palace is amazing, all gilded gold, stained glass, mirrors and gaudy colours amongst the marble and elaborate woodcarvings.
13.12.2000 – Wednesday 13 December – Bangalore
- • After a three hour fifteen minute trip, I arrived in Bangalore where I found a 75-rupee dorm at the “Bangalore Guest House”. I emailed home for 30 rupees, and then went and looked around Bangalore and booked my bus for tomorrow. Bangalore is one of India’s “modern” cities, dubbed India’s “silicon valley”, and it shows. I went to MG road, City Markets and watched “Mission Kashmir” in Hindi at a huge, very impressive and extremely loud, screened theatre for 35 rupees, which is expensive for India. The movie went for two hours and forty-five minutes including the intermission, which all Indian movies seem to have. I really enjoyed it even though I didn’t understand a word – I think it’s a brilliant film. I left my alarm clock here in the rush to leave at 6:30 AM.
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14.12.2000 – Thursday 14 December – Hassan
- • I arrived in HASSAN after a three hour thirty-four minute bus ride, and then another bus to HALEBID, then BELUR. I looked at some temples at both Belur and Halebid, and sat in a nice English-style park and read my Bible at Hassan. So far, I have been offered every known form of Marijuana, LSD, Opium, Speed, Ecstasy, and today “White Cake”.
- • I caught an eight hour fifty minute bus, which was quite bumpy, and I didn’t sleep at all, although I did doze a little.
15.12.2000 – Friday 15 December – Hampi
- • I caught a short bus from HASSAN or HOSPET to HAMPI and got a 50-rupee room at NETRA. The room was ok and the food fantastic. I walked to all the temples and so on, except the Lotus Mahal, which cost $US10 to see.
16.12.2000 – Saturday 16 December – Bus
- • I left the hotel and caught a short bus to HOSPET and then a nine and half hour bus to GOKARNA, arriving past 7 PM, in the dark, where I found the most basic room yet, for 30 rupees. It was just a mat on the floor, and an amazing toilet. A cat came in and slept with me, and I had to light some of my mosquito coils for fear of the mosquitos.
17.12.2000 – Sunday 17 December – Gokarna
- • I walked up to the beaches, which is quite a long walk and it was very hot. Nearly everyone was white, with lots of small children – this being the only place I’ve seen any sizeable collection of young Europeans in India. There were many topless and nude people, despite that being illegal in India, and I saw the best sunset that I’ve ever seen. There were no waves, but the water was nice and clear and a good temperature.
- • I am now sunburnt after swimming and walking. I’ve decided on my domestic policy for when I get home. There are some nice dogs with pups and a nice cat here.
18.12.2000 – Monday 18 December – Panaji
- • I feel sick. I’ve left the hotel. The man next door also feels sick. I’ve caught a bus to MADGAON, then on to PANAJI, where I’ve had extreme difficulty finding a room. I eventually found a 60-rupee room, plus 10 rupees for the tout I was forced to use, at the “Venus Lodge”. It’s very small and basic, but it’ll do. I change $US50 at 46:10 to 2305 rupees and sent email for 30 rupees.
- • Silas sent me his Cairns address.
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19.12.2000 – Tuesday 19 December – Arambol
- • I caught a bus to MAPUSA, then on to ARAMBOL, a two hour seventeen minute journey. I met Ric at the OM Shanti Guesthouse, and am now sharing a room with him. They had to push-start the bus each time it stopped – it’s pretty funny push starting a full size bus, luckily, there are so many Indians. It’s very nice and somewhat funny to be travelling around a foreign country knowing that you have a friend from home who is also around somewhere, and then meeting him again like this. My timing was perfect – I’d just got sick of the incessant struggle of travelling, finding accommodation, fighting off Indians, and being a tourist and needed some relaxation.
- • I ate a 30-rupee Cheese Macaroni, 15 rupee 7-Up and 35-rupee veg spaghetti.
20.12.2000 – Wednesday 20 December – Anjuna
- • I went to the ANJUNA flea market with Yvonne, a lovely Swiss woman, on an Enfield 500. They have all these Enfield motorbikes, modelled after something not made anywhere outside India for the past fifty years, but still produced here, it’s funny. They have all these Second World War era trucks too, that they still produce new here, having bought the factories from the Germans after the war.
- • There was a rave party in a bamboo forest – what a spin out. A huge forest of bamboo in the middle of nowhere in India, with a clearing in the middle, and the bamboo splattered with iridescent paint and surrounded by ultraviolet lights while German and American DJ’s play incessant music all night to thousands of tripping foreigners. It’s a mind-blowing experience, literally for some people.
21.12.2000 – Thursday 21 December – Arambol
- • I caught a bus back to Arambol and walked on to the next beach, relaxing and enjoying myself.
22.12.2000 – Friday 22 December – Mapusa
- • I went to MAPUSA with Neil, a British man who Ric had been talking to for a while before I arrived. We went and checked out the Mapusa markets, swam in the ocean, and bought more cornflakes.
- • I had dinner with Yvonne and Jeff, both of who have now moved into the OM Shanti Guesthouse.
- • All I remember is chocolate milk
23.12.2000 – Saturday 23 December – Arambol
- • Ric went to a wedding. I walked up to the big Banyan tree on the hill, and wandered around exploring the amazing beauty and peace that is here.
24.12.2000 – Sunday 24 December – Arambol
- • Neil and I went looking for Masala Dosa’s, that famous southern Indian meal that neither of us has yet had. We ended up having to go five kilometres south, but it was definitely worth it. I am quite sure Indians have the best food on earth – and they make it so cheaply and easily.
- • Yvonne and I climbed a nearby hill and watched the sunset – which is somehow different over a new ocean, before heading down and having dinner. This is a truly amazing place – it is like a small enclave from the horrors of the world. Most of the people here are either Indians who are just so chilled it’s amazing, or Westerners who spend half the year in their home country, and the other half here. There are Italian restaurants, owned by Italians, German bakeries run by Germans – in fact there’s pretty much everything you could want in the way of food.
- • Yvonne and I stayed up all night, as there was a party next door, which began at midnight and didn’t finish until 8:45 AM.
- • Veg Cheese Spaghetti, 35 rupees.
25.12.2000 – Monday 25 December – Christmas Day
- • I had apple pie and ice cream for breakfast, followed by five samosas. I am very tired, which isn’t that surprising seeing as I’ve pretty well been not sleeping – and didn’t at all last night. Neil came around for dinner and we stayed up late. This place is just so peaceful; there are no worries on my mind. It’s also my birthday; I guess my body must be 20 years old now, if you don’t include the time within the womb.
26.12.2000 – Tuesday 26 December – Boxing Day
- • I got up ridiculously late, in what is soon to become normal, and Ric and I didn’t get out of our room until 3:30 PM, lazing about and talking. I went for a swim and finished off the day with a buffet dinner.
27.12.2000 – Wednesday 27 December – Arambol
- • I checked my email for forty minutes at a rupee a minute, and then changed $US50 at Rs 46/– into 2003 rupees, and paid my OM Shanti bill, including the room up until tomorrow. There was a wedding next-door, with lots of loud music at 7:30 AM and most of the day. I went for a long swim – a very long swim, not getting out of the water for six hours or something ridiculous, and now I’ve got water in my ears, sand in my eyes, and I’m so worn out, but wow, the waves were good and I’m so happy and peaceful.
- • Cheese Veg Rice and Coke
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28.12.2000 – Thursday 28 December – Arambol
- • I did very little. The norm here seems to be to laze, chill out, sleep in, sit around in the shade of palms, and swim in the perfect ocean – finishing the day off with some fine dining and a late night talking or partying.
29.12.2000 – Friday 29 December – Mapusa
- • I went to the Mapusa market. The bus was very full, and I had to stand all the way. I bought a blanket cum ground sheet for sleeping out.
30.12.2000 – Saturday 30 December – Arambol
- • Yet another perfect day in paradise.
31.12.2000 – Sunday 31 December – New Year’s Eve
- • I checked my email, but e247 was down. I received an angry email from Mum and Sarah.
- • We had a party next door, which was somewhat dampened by the police turning up and doing a bamboo charge – the Indian equivalent of a baton charge, and confiscating some of the sound equipment. A nasty scene was only just averted after the Indian police had charged us all with their bamboos, hurting several of us, and then found themselves surrounded and grossly outnumbered by some very angry westerners. Subsequently, the party didn’t start on time and was stopped several times, and it also rained on and off, but was a truly beautiful way to see in the New Year
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