Even fairer than Verona… Goa!

April 26, 2014 at 19:15

We traveled to Goa for the week of Easter, and what a trip it was! Previously, Andrea and I have traveled to northern Goa, more precisely Anjuna. We loved it back then, but this time, heading south to Agonda… Well, what can I say? It was probably one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever been to. And what more: We had a stretch of probably 5 km of white sandy beaches pretty much to ourselves, if you don’t count a few cows, some dogs and a batch of newly hatched sea turtles.

No people!

No people, just cows!

We stayed at the Mariposa Beach Grove. I haven’t tried any of the other hotels/beach huts in Agonda, but I find it hard to believe that any other could match this one. We stayed at rs. 2250 (NOK 225) per person in rather luxurious beach huts with huge comfy beds and roofless bathrooms – for showers under the starry sky, or the searing sun, whichever is preferable.

The huts at Mariposa.

The huts at Mariposa.

A view to the sea and bar area.

A view to the sea and bar area.

The insides.

The insides.

Bathroom under the open sky. Our toilet even housed a little frog - which the staff where nice enough to set free.

Bathroom under the open sky. Our toilet even housed a little frog – which the staff were nice enough to set free.

Mariposa is as far from a resort as you could come. Basically you rent one of five huts next to the owners house. They do all their cooking at home and the bar and restaurant area is pretty much just an extension of their house. This gives a feeling that you are staying at someones home at the same time that you enjoy your own total privacy. The “homey” feeling is increased immensely by the sincere hospitality they show you. I wouldn’t call it service – it’s just plain friendliness. But they really do know how to keep their guests. Lunch and dinner was dictated by our own wishes, as the owner asked everyday what we would like to eat, and based on our answers headed to the fishermans village next door to bring back a newly caught delicacy. Whether it was red or white snapper, calamares, king fish, prawns or lobster, they always made a delicious meal, which we ate with some beer, wine or champagne on the side (all from Sula, of course:-).

Some unfortunate freshly caught lobsters on their way to becoming a delicious meal.

Some unfortunate freshly caught lobsters on their way to becoming a delicious meal.

Fresh seafood!

Fresh seafood!

We generally floated the days away on our sunbeds, everyone but me getting a healthy tan (at least I didn’t get red either), or just out in the ocean body surfing the waves. One morning we even managed a bare feet biathlon along the beach, which I lost because I have eaten way to much Indian food since I came here! The evenings went by with too much good foods and drinks and a great deal of card playing – which pretty much is a description of what I consider a perfect vacation.

That is not to say we did nothing on our five days. We had one day of boating where we went to some other beaches and had a bit of dolphin safari. We managed to see lot’s of dolphins, even though they were a bit camera shy. The other beaches were really beautiful, but we felt really fortunate as we all came to the conclusion that we had settled on the best one.

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Dolphin safari!

Maja had her birthday when we were there, which we celebrated with cake and champagne. Mons also took her to a spa at The Lalit futher south. All in all, I think she could have done worse for her birthday than Agonda :-)

We enjoyed our week very much, although I had to spend a bit of time working from the sunbed. It wasn’t too bad – if you need to work, Agonda is probably one of the best places to do it!

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Andrea wasn’t complaining. And how could you, when you look like this.

Best regards, Marius

JASHN 2014!

March 4, 2014 at 17:53

This weekend was a weekend of festivals. Following our trip to Suvarna Temple on Thursday, we headed to Capgemini’s own festival on Saturday. It’s for employees and their families only, and it gathered an impressive 16.000 people in an outdoor complex in Bandra, a little south of where we live. Quite the contrast to the max 150 people that Capgemini-parties in Norway gather! To think that they host these types of parties at every major city Capgemini is represented in makes the whole idea mind-numbingly huge. There were fashion shows and talent competitions with singing and dancing, all with only Capgemini-employees on the stage – apart from the two hosts – one guy who is a Bollywood actor and a girl who is an anchor on a TV-station here.

The stage.

The stage.

Another thing there was an abundance of, apart from people, was foooood. They served everything from Sheesh-kebab to Chaat to sugar-cane juice. I ate till I was close to exploding, and then we had some ice cream :-)

Pressing sugar canes...

Pressing sugar canes…

... into this refreshing beverage.

… into this refreshing beverage.

Sunset at Jashn

Sunset at Jashn

After the sun set, we decided to head on to a bar, as it was our Indian friend’s birthday. We headed in a cab, south, towards Worli, along with two Indian friends and another Norwegian colleague of mine who is here to work for a month, driving over the bridge that connects Bandra and Worli. Of course we went Indian-style, with six people in a taxi. We even got pulled over, but our Indian friends told the police that we were tourists just looking to see the city, and they let us go without any hiccups:-)

The gang who notoriously raided Mumbai on Saturday.

The gang who notoriously raided Mumbai on Saturday.

The choice for club fell on Hard Rock Cafe where we had some more food(!) and beers (and unfortunately, tequila). After this, we headed around the corner from there to Shiro, a club which we, funnily enough, got thrown out of the last time we were in Mumbai. It is a semi-formal club, and the last time we were there, we were actually looking for Hard Rock Cafe, which of course is around the corner. But that time, we thought that Shiro was the place (it’s rather poorly marked and signs are pretty non-existent). We were told at the door that we weren’t properly dressed to go in, and as such had to leave. We though it was kind of strange, as we had never heard of a dress code to get into HRC, but I remember us thinking that “Oh well, India is a strange place after all!” Haha! We did find out at a later date though, courtesy of our taxi driver, back then, where the actual entrance to HRC was.

Anyway, we danced the night away at Shiro – which is sort of strange for me, as I don’t really dance – but hey, that’s what tequila is for, right? After Andrea had, unsuccessfully, tried to wing man our friend into hooking up with what we found out was a bride-to-be at her bachelorette party, we decided enough was enough, and headed out for some more fun. We took a taxi even further south, past Haji Ali Mosqué, and to Marine Drive, where we jumped of and went for a nice night-stroll. Along the way, these guys with huge cans of chai on the back of their bikes sold us some hot refreshment, and we bought some fresh fruits from some kids. I almost choked, as I found out they put spices on the fruits. Like, really, really, really spicy spices. After walking around for a while, we decided to say good night to South Mumbai and Nariman Point and head on home to hit the pillow sleeping.

Best regards. Marius

‘In fair Verona, where we lay our scene’

February 19, 2014 at 07:18

The first thing we thought of when our broker took us to look at the first flat, was that it was meant to be. Not only does the Verona name bring to mind assosiations with romance, as the home of Romeo and Juliet (hurr-hurr), but this was the apartment we had been recommended before we even arrived in Mumbai. Karsten, who lived in India for a couple of years, has been nice enough to take the time to give us some good advice on moving to Mumbai and he has helped us connect with some of his friends in the city. And in doing this he told us about a flat that was available next door to one of his good friends. Coincidentally, we ended up meeting this friend in the elevator after viewing the apartment, and now we live here.

Fountain and flowers in front of Verona

Fountain and flowers in front of Verona

I must admit I have one problem with our flat that is not possible to fix: the height. As I have some issues with great heights, I guess it’s not ideal to live in the 28th floor. But I’m starting to get used to it, and there are some perks. For instance we live high enough not to get bothered with traffic or other annoying noises. And of course there’s a great view coming with this floor. Also, we are high enough to get great glimpses of big birds, like this one:

Bird outside our window

Bird outside our window

I don’t know what kind of bird it is, but I guess it’s some type of hawk? We even had an eagle sitting on the ledge outside our window the other day.

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Verona Building

The Verona buidling has, as most buildings in Hiranandani, a greek apparance to it. And it is quite well maintained and has beautiful green surroundings. It’s right next to the Heritage Park, which is our view from our windows. Here you may participate in various activities, like running or walking in the jogging track that surrounds the park. Next to our building we also have a dog park, where dog owners and dog walkers take their dogs for some fun and games. Marius and I really miss our pets back home in Norway, so this park helps a little with that.

Stray dogs also enjoy the dog park.

Stray dogs also enjoy the dog park.

All in all, we really like it here. And we are very greatful for the fact that we are able to live in such a green and quiet neighborhood, although we have moved to one of the worlds biggest cities.

- Andrea

Lazy Sunday

February 9, 2014 at 15:11

This Sunday is the most relaxed I can remember being, in like forever. We wanted to sleep long, but awoke by ourselves at around 9. We just put on the TV and cozied under the blankets for about an hour before we got up and went to the pool.

I started reading Paulo Coelho’s new book, “Manuscript from Accra” on the sun bed. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with his books. Some of them I think are really boring and stupid. Others are really  inspirational and great, in the sort of way that makes you feel like you grow as a person. My favorites are “The Alchemist”, “The Pilgrimage”, and “The Devil and Miss Prym”. I really like how his books are always centered around a really simple subject, that he splashes a bit of spirituality and magic on, to create a story that is really fun to read.

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Anyway, we hit the shower because we were to meet our future neighbor and her friends for lunch at the Renaissance Hotel. They were really, really nice and we had a great time!

The lunch buffet at Renaissance is crazy. There’s one section for starters, one for main course, and one for desserts. And by section, I sort of mean restaurant. We payed about 2600 rupees (NOK 260) for the food with free drinks. Free drinks doesn’t mean two cokes and a coffee. It means full selection of cocktails, beers, soft drinks and wines. I was in heaven, of course. The price also covers a trip to the gym and the swimming pool, which we will be sure to visit another time.

After the four hour meal, I came down with a severe case of itis, so I had to sleep it off at our hotel. So that’s where I’m still at. I haven’t moved an inch. We were planning on heading over to Juhu Beach again tonight for some rooftop open-grilling, but we’re beat.

Oh. Tottenham’s playing now. That’s my queue for a trip to the bar:-)

Best regards, Marius

Juhu!

February 8, 2014 at 16:19

It’s Saturday night, and Marius and I are not out partying with the Mumbaikars. No, we’re in our pajamas in our hotel room watching Liverpool beating Arsenal five – one. After a full day exploring the Bandra and Juhu areas we have thrown in the towels for the night. Sure, we are getting used to the Indian sun, the massive crowds, the noises and the traffic, but we still find it tiresome at the end of the day, and especially at the end of a long week. We are still at our hotel waiting to move in to our apartment, and we are getting really tired of living in our suitcases. But hopefully and according to the plan we will be able to move in on Tuesday and finally get our own place. The Ramada Hotel has been a really good home for us the past two weeks, but now it’s time for us to move on.

The Pool at Ramada Hotel

The Pool at Ramada Hotel

Now that the weekend is here we thought it was about time to visit some of the other areas in Mumbai other than Powai, Vikhroli, Andheri and Malad, which are the only places we have been to since we came to Mumbai. Since we spent our time in south Mumbai the last time we visited the city, we decided to check out Bandra and Juhu. Bandra is a nice area with lots of nice stores, cafées and restaurants, and we spent our time here window shopping in Linking Road, eating ice cream and browsing the local markets. After a stroll in Bandras streets we took a rickshaw to Juhu beach, which was just so much more beautiful than I had imagined. I have been told it’s crowded and dirty, but it is actually a really nice beach with white sand and palm trees and a good atmosphere.

Juhu Beach

Juhu Beach

Of course, you won’t see any people in their bathing suits soaking up the sun, but you can enjoy the beach with your clothes on, which is not too bad either. Also, it’s not recommended to take a swim here because the water is so polluted. So don’t expect the typical tourist beach with water activities and topless sun bathing, but rather just enjoy the cricket matches, the flying kites, the sand and the view of the ocean.

Juhu Beach

Cricket game at Juhu Beach

It was just perfect to get some sun in our faces, wind in our hair and sand between our toes to get that good summer feeling we have been longing for the last few months in Norway before we came here.

Wearing way too hot, but appropriate clothes.

Wearing way too hot clothes for the occasion. 

After a stroll on the beach we went for some early dinner at the Hard Rock Café in Andheri. We hadn’t been to this one before, so we thought we had to try it out. After all, Marius and I have developed a kind of OCD with regards to visiting the Hard Rock Café in every city we go to. Marius had his much longed for burger and fries and I had my favorite HRC dish, sizzling fajitas.

A hungry and grumpy Marius before his dinner.

A hungry and grumpy Marius before his dinner.

On our way back to the hotel we had to ask our rickshaw driver to let us out before we reached our destination. Because just besides the hotel gates stood a pair of cattle tied to a wall on the streets. Obviously we had to go greet our new neighbors and take a picture of them.

New neighbours next to Ramada Hotel

New neighbors next to Ramada Hotel

They were so beautiful! And by the way, much friendlier than they look!

- Andrea

 

 

 

Our first week in Mumbai…

February 2, 2014 at 12:30

.. is almost over. And we are so happy to say that we don’t have any regrets about moving here! When we talked about moving here it was the first week we thought would be the most challenging. And if that is the case we will probably have a really great time in this mega city. So far we have just loved it!

Hiranandani

Hiranandani

This week we have been viewing apartments, met with our new colleagues and just tried to come to know the area. We are really happy about Powai, where we are going to live. Hiranandani is a beautiful area, just filled with good shops and restaurants. And we could not be more happy about the Capgemini offices in Mumbai and the people who work there. They have just been so welcoming and they made us feel at home straight away. Obviously those are the two places we will spend the most of our time, so we are oh so glad we feel comfortable at both our neighborhood and our work place. 

Other than that we have spent quite a bit of our time shopping, eating and exploring. We have been to some malls, among them R City mall, which is the nearest mall to where we stay. Here they have international restaurant and café chains like TGI Friday’s, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Starbucks and so on, in addition to indian and other asian restaurants. They also have lots of good international shops like Tommy Hilfiger, Gant, Sunglass Hut and indian shops like Global Desi and Fab India.

R City Mall food court

R City Mall food court

We have also been to Infinity Mall and Inorbit Mall in Malad, which both host my favorite inexpensive shop abroad: Forever 21.

Forever 21 in Oberoi Mall

Forever 21 in Oberoi Mall

And the food.. For some strange reason we haven’t had too much Indian food yet. Maybe it is because we’re still trying to adjust to moving from Norway, where everything is familiar, to India, where everything is supposed to be very different. But still, we have tried some really good food this past week. For our Japanese or Chinese food we go to the incredible beautiful Skky Lounge in Powai, for our Italian we go to Red Olives and to satisfy our Belgian and French liking we go to Le Pain Quoditien.

Skky Lounge

Skky Lounge

 

Pasta at Red Olives

Pasta at Red Olives

Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien

It is safe to say I will need to start working out soon before my pants won’t fit anymore.

- Andrea

 

So it begins, this story…

January 28, 2014 at 19:59

In the first chapter of Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts, he describes in detail the feeling of that first meeting with Mumbai. He describes the first thing you meet, the very distinctive smell, which he calls the worst good smell in the world. The next thing you notice is the heat. It’s a clammy, dense sort, and it will make you sweat more than you thought possible.

It’s true what he writes, about the smell and the heat. I know this from the last time we visited. Back then, we arrived in late July. It was the warmest I had ever felt, and the humidity was extreme. It took a few days just to get used to breathing. But this time, arriving in January, it wasn’t like that at all. The smell was still pretty distinct, but the temperature was just right. Coming from -15 degrees Celsius in Norway, to about 25 degrees here was a blessing. So what I feel I have the most in common with Gregory David Roberts on this visit is the premise, as he writes: “So it begins, this story, like everything else – with a woman, and a city, and a little bit of luck.”

I have my amazing wife with me to Mumbai, the city we, thanks to the hard work of good colleagues in Capgemini India, are fortunate enough to be able to visit and work in.

We arrived during the night to Tuesday, after a rather long trip from Oslo. We travelled with British Airways to London first. The plane from Oslo was unfortunately delayed, or as the stewardess so politely told me: “We’re not late, you probably just didn’t read the clock right.” Well, it turns out we WERE late. About 35 minutes. Which is a lot when transfer time is a mere hour. Fortunately, another steward moved us to the front of the plane so we could run from there. He also made sure someone met us so we could be fast-tracked through security. Thanks to that, and the fact that they checked us in even after the gate closed, we made it.

Flying over Dubai

Flying over Dubai

Landing in Mumbai, we went through security, customs and passport control with no big happenings, before we boarded a taxi the hotel had sent. What you’ll notice first and foremost, travelling by car through Mumbai, is the diversity in living standards, people, and architecture. The taxi took us through slums, fancy hotels, past Indians, both Hindu and Muslim, rich residential areas, forests and lakes, under a water pipe line, past homeless people and into our 12 stories hotel, Ramada. We were beat, and went to sleep pretty quickly.

The streets of Mumbai at night

The streets of Mumbai at night

The day following, we got up for breakfast, slept some more, and ordered a taxi to go to the R City Mall. We had to drive through Hiranandani, hopefully our home in a short while. It is absolutely huge, and we spent a few hours trekking through. After the obligatory vacation-coffee/frappuccino at Starbucks, we ate at T.G.I. Friday’s. The prices here are quite different from Norway. We ended up spending 1800 rupees for the two of us, or about 180 kroners. I dare the statement that it would have cost us three times as much back home.

Driving through Hiranandani.

Driving through Hiranandani.

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After buying a few things at a local store, we headed back to the hotel for the SKKY lounge experience. It’s a rooftop bar next to the hotel, with great food and great atmosphere, as you can see from the pictures.

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Best regards, Marius

Our last trip to India

January 5, 2014 at 02:06

Our first meeting with India was a good one. I was just out of high school, 18 years old, and ready to see the world. Marius and I paired up with to other friends and landed in Mumbai without a clear plan. Immediately I kind of fell in love with the big city. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Noisy, polluted and dirty at first glance, but still – it was something quite special about the place. The smell, the people and the atmosphere we experienced just driving from the airport to the hotel with cows in the roads – we were all blown away.

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Since then Marius and I have travelled to quite a few other places in the world, but we have never had that kind of first meeting with a new country. Some people call it a culture chock – I like to see it more as an epiphany. As we had never been outside of Europe before we got to experience a country that was so different from our own – and we all loved it.

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Mumbai was a great city to start of our journey in. Thanks to our friend Tonia we got to see all of the major tourist attractions in a very short time. Being a Lonely Planet-fan at the time, she got us covered. We experienced Elephanta Island, Gandhi´s home in Mumbai, The Gateway of India, The Taj Mahal Hotel, parks, national parks, beaches, mosques and temples. We even went to see a Bollywood movie at the cinema, and later ate at Leopold’s and was offered to be extras at a movie when we went outside. Sadly we had to decline.

After a few days in Mumbai we took a 22 hour train ride to Agra. Like every other tourists who visits India, we had to see the Taj. The train ride itself was a great way to see the country. Lonely Planet, or “the Bible” as we called it, recommended to stay in sleeper class instead of first class even though the prices wasn’t that different (in European tourist standards), and of course we did.

It turned out to be good advise as we got to know very interesting people when we shared our space. We even got to know a new friend, who we still keep in touch with today, who was kind enough to help us arrange a fantastic round trip from Agra to Jaipur, so we could experience even more than we had planned. We got to see Fathepur Sikri, Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal, Baby Taj – any many other places and museums I can’t remember the name of. Our friend invited us to his beautiful restaurant and hotel Yoshis Resort on the way – for free, and we also met him and his family for dinner in Agra when we came back. It was a great experience.

And then, we got to see the great Taj Mahal. I must say I think it is everything it’s cracked up to be. It was beautiful – and huge! We spent hours wandering around it, studying the details and just sat there looking at it.

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After a great time in the north we headed towards the south for some relaxation much needed after a very busy week of sightseeing. We sat on a train for two days to reach Anjuna in Goa, and we stayed there for a whole week. There was some sightseeing there as well, but for the most part we just relaxed at the beach or by the pool, and shared delicious meals together on the local restaurants. Oh, Indian food! I love it!

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Our trip to India in 2008 was the perfect first backpacking trip. We came home after almost three weeks feeling we had been gone for months and with more souvenirs and stories in our backpacks than our friends and families could carry.

 

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Now we’re finally going back to our first crush – curious of how much she has changed in the last six years. We can only hope that she will treat us as good as she did the last time.

Andrea