A night at the movies

February 28, 2014 at 18:40

Going to the cinema here in the home of Bollywood is really something. The first thing you will notice on the big screen is the rather strange, but cool ritual of standing for the Indian National Anthem before the movie starts. Then you’ll se a lot of legal permits of some sort showing up on the screen before each trailer and the movie. But the thing that we might find the most unusual about watching movies here in India is the censorship. I kid you not, we saw the entire The Wolf of Wallstreet without seeing a single boobie or any bedroom action! And after what we have heard from friends, that’s kind of a huge part of the film. So we’re very curious to see the uncensored Wolf of Wallstreet as soon its released on Apple TV. Anyways, we loved the film – with or without the sexy scenes. Censorship is actually surprisingly extensive here.  They even cut out people getting hit in the balls on AFV! And here the other day we saw The Hangover on TV, and they censored this sentence from Stu’s song about Doug: ‘and then we’re gonna give him a best friend hug’. How weird is that?

Marius at the movies

Marius at the movies

But then there is the comfort. I have never experienced a more luxurious cinema. As you can see on the photo above you can sit in huge comfortable chairs – that transforms into a sort of bed – with pillows and everything! Also, you can order candies, pizzas and other foods right to your seat. In the middle of the film there’s also a break, so you can visit the washroom or stretch your legs without missing out on the movie.

The waiting lounge

The waiting lounge

There’s even a posh waiting lounge with a bar. It’s ridicolous! However, all cinemas are not like this. Most of them are just normal, and cost way less. This is a luxurious alternative, as it costs about twice as much. But we had to try it out, and we will definitely go back. Now I can’t wait to take my film enthusiast little brother to this cinema when he visits us in April!

- Andrea

 

 

 

Tourists in South Mumbai

February 23, 2014 at 19:06

Marius and I took a trip down memory lane yesterday. We decided to experience some of the places we went to the first time we visited Mumbai, in 2008 – almost six years ago! The day started of in Colaba, where we visited the Gateway of India and saw the Taj Mahal Hotel. It was nice to come back and to see the Gateway in all it’s glory this time, cosidering it was under renovation the last time we saw it.

Gateway of India

Gateway of India

Since July 2008, there have been quite some other changes as well. The security measures have increased immensely in tourist places like this, along with shopping malls and other crowded places. I guess the terrible Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 may have contributed to these measures which you experience all over the city. Also, I didn’t remember how “touristy” Colaba was. People everywhere seemed to either be tourists or people who tried to sell tourists stuff. But of course, that’s not the case for most parts of Colaba, just around the major tourist attractions.

Tourist

Tourist

On the above picture for instance, you can see me wearing a red mark on my forehead which some “men of the temple”, as they called themselves, put there even though I asked them not to. They wanted 200 rupees for this mark plus a red band they tied around my wrist. They said the more money, the more blessings I would recieve. That’s what you would call a real tourist trap, and it is somewhat annoying to get that sort of thing forced on you. But, hey – I guess it’s all just a part of being a tourist in the middle of Mumbai’s most famous sightseeing area. And after all, I didn’t get totally ripped of, as I only gave them 20 rupees – just to get them of my back.

Marius with some other tourists

Marius with some other tourists

A group of guys came to Marius’ rescue before he was pressed to pay for his blessings. They were tourists as well, but didn’t fall into the tourist traps quite as easily as we did. Afterwards, they wanted to take a photo with Marius, and I took one with our camera as well.

Leopold's Cafe

Leopold’s Cafe

After this, we went to good old Leopold’s for some late breakfast. It hadn’t changed much in the past six years, except for the bullet holes in the walls – a reminder of the 2008 attacks. Both Marius and I were hopeful about getting a glimpse of Gregory David Roberts in his regular hangout, but we had no such luck. After a few sandwiches and some browsing in the Colaba Causeway, we walked to Nariman Point. When we got there, we decided to walk the Marine Drive boulevard, which is about 4.3 kilometres long.

A sunny Marine Drive

A the end of a sunny Marine Drive

Finally we arrived at Chowpatty Beach, which we called it the last time, before we knew that it would actually translate to “beach beach”. Here we met a group of teenage girls who goofed around, having their own photoshoot at the beach. When I was invited to join, I of course goofed along with them. They were just super sweet and fun!

Photoshoot at Girgaum Chowpatty

Photoshoot at Girgaum Chowpatty

All smiles at the beach

All smiles at the beach

After this, our feet couldn’t take us any longer, so we got a taxi to drive us past Haji Ali to the Pheonix High Street mall. I had heard rumours about this place, and it was really just as posh and luxurious as they say.

Trishna

Trishna

The big finale was our favorite restaurant from our last trip: Trishna. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been on a vegetarian diet, but now I’m officially a pescentarian. Because – oh my god – you can’t get any better seafood than this. We went “crazy” and ordered a king crab and a lobster with garlic naan, and it was the most expensive meal we have had since we got here, but it was definately worth it! Compared to what you would pay in Norway for this heavenly meal for two, 450 Norwegian kroner aren’t too bad anyways – especially when that includes a big bottle of beer.

Butter garlic lobster and tomato basil king crab. Heaven!

Butter garlic lobster and tomato basil king crab. Heaven!

It was so much fun to follow the same route as my 18 year old self, and I can’t wait to show our friends and family our favorite parts of Mumbai when they come visit us. Marius and I are just counting the days until our first visitors arrive in April, and we are so excited to be able to experience India and make some unforgetable moments together with them!

- Andrea

 

The madman!

February 21, 2014 at 18:29

Okay. So I’ve noticed something. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. But people have been known to look at me strangely when I eat. Well, not just when I eat. I get a lot a lot of looks everywhere here and people want me to take their picture with them. It was the same in Japan and frankly, I think its just fun!

But the staring I’m talking about here is when I eat. I first noticed it after I asked the waiter at a restaurant we visited what the proper way to eat Indian food was. “Uuh. Not like you do”, was the answer I got. “Okay”, I thought, and had him explain some more. He told me it was strange that I would order both rice AND bread (naan), and especially that I would mix it all together, eating my fish mixed with rice scooped up with the bread I held with my left hand. My right hand holding the fork to help pack it all together. He told me that generally you would order a curry dish and bread, and you would scoop that up with the bread, using your right hand only. If you had ordered rice, you would eat that last, to sort of cool off your taste buds, I guess. And you would of course mix it with the rest of the sauce from the curry dish you had finished.

So, I got myself observing (read: staring at) Indians to see how they eat, and I have to admit, it’s quite a thing:-) I’ve stared at watched people in the canteen of the Capgemini office vigorously to learn how to eat like a TRUE Indian (haha). Well. I noticed the part about not getting rice AND bread, since no matter what I order I never get both. (I have to mention that it doesn’t matter what I order as I seem to get whatever the chef seems to recommend anyway – which is great, in my opinion.:-)

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Hong Kong Noodles (which will set your tongue on fire)

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Hong Kong noodles again (or is it really?:-)

Furthermore, I’ve noticed that people indeed eat with their right hand only. The left arm is usually just casually hanging around, or leaning on the table, not feeling particularly useful at all. Try this: using only your right hand, break your bread and use it to scoop up sauce and vegetables leaving your plate as clean as if it haven’t been used. Of course, you can’t do it – unless you who are reading this happen to be Indian, in which case you are probably thinking: “what’s the issue?”

Best regards, the crazy madman who eats with his left hand and mixes rice and bread

On fire

February 19, 2014 at 16:58

Last night something strange happened that Marius and I haven’t been able to figure out what was about. You see, just as we were getting ready for bed I noticed something strange happening on a hill close by. Something was on fire. And it did not exactly look like an ordinary bonfire happening. Actually, it look like the beginning of a wildfire. And since the flames only grew bigger and the smoke got worse, we didn’t feel comfortable just going to sleep before we got to know what was going on. After all, there has been some wildfires in Norway the past few months that has been out of control and burned down people’s homes, so with that in mind, we wanted to know if the fire was under control.

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Flames in the dark

So we went downstairs to the guys in the reception at our building to ask them if they knew anything about it. They hadn’t noticed it, so one of the guys accompanied us up to our apartment to have a better view of the situation. He said he didn’t know what it could be, but he called his parents who lived close by to ask them, and he told us that “it was just something happening over there”, and that it was nothing to worry about. So we went to bed.

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This morning we expected to see marks of the fire when we drove to the office, but there was no sign of it as we could see. So we still have no idea what happened, but I guess it must have been a controlled fire, as there are no news about it in the local media. Maybe someone was burning grass or it could even be an outdoor cremation happening, I don’t know. Or maybe it’s just us, making a big deal out of a cosy, giant bonfire.

- Andrea

 

‘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

Our green neighborhood

February 16, 2014 at 17:14

On Saturday morning Marius and I went for a walk around the neigborhood to get to know the surrouding areas better. On our way we located the best grocery stores, where to buy flowers and where to get our hair done.

Our street in Cliff Avenue

Our street in Cliff Avenue

We also stumpled across a beautiful park, called the Nirvana Park, not too far from our apartment. It cost 5 rupees to enter, or 0.50 kroner, but it was definately worth every Norwegian øre. Ha-ha!

Nirvana Park, where you where in fact allowed to entry.

Nirvana Park, where you were in fact allowed to entry.

Well inside, the green park was a relaxing break from concrete and traffic. There were quite a few people there having picnic on the grass, paddeling boats or just relaxing on one of the parks benches.

Nirvana Park boats

Nirvana Park boats

Exept from fish in the water, there wasn’t any animals to see in the park. But on the outside on the other hand, right there on the street lay this funny fella.

Cool guy

Cool guy

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing cattle lying like this in the middle of the pavement right next to shopping malls and coffee shops. In a good way!

- Andrea

 

 

 

 

Going veg

February 16, 2014 at 09:10

So, we’re finally installed in our new home in Hiranandani, Powai. So far we have loved it here, set a side a few difficulties with our wifi and some problems getting hot water in the showers. We have been working all week, so we have pretty much just ordered take out every night, since we haven’t got the time to buy plates or even gone grocery shopping.

The last couple of days however, have been spent on shopping towels, bed spreads, frying pans, tea cups and everything else you would need in a new apartment. We even tried to make our first Indian dish while in India yesterday, a sort of cauliflower and pineapple curry, which wasn’t half bad. At least whilst accompanied by a King Fisher beer.

Cauliflower and pineapple curry

Cauliflower and pineapple curry

After going to the grocery store here in Hiranandani this weekend, I have to say I’m really happy with the selection of fruits and greens. I think it’s safe to say that my days of running around several stores to get coriander, are over. People who know me well, knows how I love to put coriander in almost everything I cook. And also, I’m in veggie heaven. In fact, as there’s such a great selection of vegetables here, Marius and I have decided to go veg in our own kitchen and just make vegetarian dinners for a while. When in Rome, right?

Veggie heaven

Veggie heaven

Today we had some vegetarian chilli with beans and sweet potatoes for dinner, served with home made guacamole, tortillas and nacho chips. I was so happy to see mexican food items like tortillas and nacho chips being sold at our grocery store today. And I was even more surprised that the staff who works there actually can read minds. As I was filling my carriage with various foods and house supplies, a guy walked up to me with a can of sour cream, like he just understood that I was making mexican food and that I needed this for my dinner today. Maybe the tortillas in my carriage gave it a way, but still. Pretty impressive!

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I must however admit that it’s challenging for me to think of recipes which don’t include meat or fish AND where an oven isn’t required. In our kitchen, like in most Indian apartments, we have no stove. We only have gas cook tops and a microwave oven, neither of which I have ever used in cooking before, so it will probably take some time for me to get used to a different type of cooking. Luckily we get some really surprisingly good food at the office canteen for just 45 rupees a dish, which is about 4.50 kroner, so we will not starve until we figure this whole Indian way of cooking thing out.

Saturday treats

Saturday treats

Also, in our neighborhood there are a couple of bakeries, which among other things sell cupcakes and macaroons, which pretty much is the best treats I can get my hands on. So while I might make a bit healthier dinners, it looks like the desserts might just even that one out.

- Andrea

How to train your dragon

February 15, 2014 at 11:39

Okay. Maybe the title is a bit misleading. Or in fact, doesn’t have anything to do with the following post… But they do have HBO here, you know! I was watching “How to train your dragon” the other night and it got me thinking how much my cat looks like the dragon the kid rides, Toothless. See:

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Toothless!

But, oh, I digress. I was really going to write about how you get an apartment in  Hiranandani. It is not very simple, it seems. Luckily we have been able to get a really great apartment in the 28th floor of the Verona building here.

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Verona!

We only lease for six months, since we won’t be staying here longer than that, and leasing for that short of a period is almost impossible. We of course found our dream apartment in the Octavius building, very similar to the one we have moved into, only renovated this winter. The owner, however, requested a minimum 1 year lease, which meant that wasn’t going to happen.

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The view!

We are however, very happy with our new apartment, paid for all up front (yes, that’s what it takes to get a six month deal). Overall it is nice. We are going to decorate it a bit more here to make sure its nice and “homey”, so you’ll have to wait for the pictures until then.
But you can see the view from our living room:

I need to give a big thank you to Pritesh at Expatprops, and to Tina Nair who has guided us around Powai, looking at apartments. She’s been a great help, and if you are considering to move here, I would very much recommend that you let her and Pritesh sort you out!

A little info on what you may expect financially when leasing here:

1 month rent to broker
3 month rent deposit (this goes straight to the owner, no deposit account)
1 month rent up front (maybe more)
10 000 rupees for registration
15 000 rupees entrance fee (amount depends on building, some even charge exit-fee)
2 000 rupees for police fees (1500 if you go to the station, but that was advised against – they may charge you baksheesh on top)
1000 signatures on 100 formalities and documents

Luckily it all works out fine:-)

Best regards, Marius

Can I please help you, Sir?

February 10, 2014 at 15:12

Customer service ranges from extremely good to extremely horrible, and it has the ability to leave you smiling from ear to ear, or to leave you with grey hair (which you will probably have tore out of your own skull).

Like I’ve said earlier, the people here are really nice, and they want you all the best. The service at restaurants is great! Usually you have several people who are servicing your table when you eat, and you will get the manager over to ask if everything is okay. Food is prompt, delicious and well presented. Order water, and they will ask you if you want tap or bottle, room temperature or chilled, still or sparkling. Order a Coke and they will ask you to feel the bottle before they open to make sure if it is cold enough for your liking. They will even ask you if it is all right to pour it into the glass before they do so. The detail in the level of service is sometimes astounding!

Room service at the hotel.

Room service at the hotel.

Lunch at Le Pain Quotidien

Lunch at Le Pain Quotidien

Another thing that is over and above what you get in Norway, is home delivery for … everything. “A sofa? Alright, we’ll have it at your apartment tomorrow!” – “A slice of bread, you say? Will have it with you in 10 minutes!” – “Take out menu? No, you can take out anything. What do you want?” You can literally call the grocery shop and ask for a bottle of Coke, and they will bring it to your door, no extra charge! Especially good for those lazy days where you are tired of honking and just want to stay in:-)

The taxis and rickshaws are a bit different. Generally, they know how to take advantage of tourists, so one needs to be careful. It’s not like they are going to steal from you, they will just charge you more than the trip is worth, which isn’t going to be a considerable sum compared with what you would pay for a taxi in Norway. The Norwegian way to get a taxi in a different country is to always settle the price beforehand. This works fine a lot of places, but in Mumbai, you are going to get ripped off for sure. We did this the first couple of days when we went to work, and were reassured that it would cost about 200 rupees (NOK 20). “Fine”, we thought, comparing this to Norwegian prices, “That’s not so bad”. Well, we have learned that if you just tell them to put on the meter instead, it racks up to between 30-60 rupees (NOK 3-6). Of course, some will tell you “No” if you ask them to put on the meter. Then you just head over to a different cab or rickshaw. Mostly they will put it on themselves, if you don’t press them into saying a price beforehand.

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Rickshaw with the meter on.

The worst part of customer service in India is probably when you have to call your telephone company. The course of calling customer service goes a little like this: First, you have to spend the first minute listening to a prerecorded voice telling you everything you don’t need to know. After that you get to press the buttons to maneuver your way through the jungle of different issues that you may be facing. Please note here, that for Airtel, you HAVE TO listen to every option before you can make a selection. After reaching your destination, issue-wise, you will be on hold, waiting for your turn. And you will not like it. For some reason, they try to make you hang up by pushing the craziest trance/dance/dubstep waiting music straight on your ear. I stood 30 minutes in queue, with nothing other than a minute long dubstep version of Pink Floyds Shine on You Crazy Diamond on repeat. My favorite song in the entire world by the way. When talking to them, expect to get put on hold for every little question.

Another thing that you have to get used to when dealing with people who are servicing you here, is the traditional Indian head shake. For me, I can usually tell what it means (it can be either yes or no) by the conversation itself. The problem is that often they do it just like a “no-head-shake” in Norway. And if you are standing next to a taxi driver asking if he can drive you somewhere, and he doesn’t say anything, just shaking his head, you are going to spend a few seconds looking stupid before he eventually beckons you into the car.

Best regards, Marius

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