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Good night, good night! parting is such sweet sorrow…

April 21, 2014 at 17:06

Our friends left our fair Verona this weekend, leaving us in a state of sorrow for missing them. But we shall not be sad for too long; there are yet many things we need to do here and before we know we are home with them again. We’ve passed halfway in our visit here, marking a milestone on our way to a better understanding, new friends, great experiences and a richer life.

It has truly been great to have our friends here. Andrea and I will follow up with some posts and pictures over the next days to show you what we have experienced. A short recap for now: We spent the first couple of days in Mumbai, where we put two feet in different worlds. First by visiting Dharavi like we did with our former guests, to see the “grassroot” of the city. I’ve detailed that earlier here. After the visit, we decided to head to Aer Lounge on top of the Four Seasons Hotel. We had some food and drinks and watched the sunset from the 34th floor of this insanely luxurious place. The day after we took a trip to the beautiful Elephanta Island in the Mumbai bay.

For the week we headed to Goa. Although I had to do work, I had the fortune of a 7 hour battery life and resort-wide wifi, so it’s safe to say I got the chance to tan (unsuccesfully I might add) at the same time. We stayed in some beautiful straw shacks at the Mariposa Beach Grove, with a 5 km stretch of beach pretty much to ourselves. It was the perfect week. The food we ate, prawns, calamares, lobsters, king fish, snappers and a bunch of other delicious sea-faring creatures were all bought from the fishermans village next door based on what we felt like having that same day. I would recommend everyone to go to Agonda! We even managed to get some dolphin watching in!

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Well back in Mumbai, we jumped right back into the urban life, with visits to the national park here, and we also managed some shopping before I came close to a heat stroke because I wanted to show off and run to the top of the Kanheri Caves. Not my best move.

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But alas, the times are over. Our friends have left, but I’d dare say we are closer than ever before, and we have shared some amazing moments over the last week.

Needless to say, we miss them and look forward to seeing them again. But first, we need to stock up on some more of Incredible India.

Look out for some detailed posts and more pictures the coming week :-)

Best regards, Marius

Waiting..

April 10, 2014 at 13:47

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Our first group of visitors are flying over Turkey now, and I wish that airplane could fly just a little bit faster, ’cause we just can’t wait to greet them at the airport. This has been the slowest day ever… Come on, come on, come on!

- Andrea

10 things I love about India

April 8, 2014 at 05:10

The other day I came across an about.com-article called 10 things I hate about Norway, and I was surprised on how irritating I found criticism about my own country and our neighboring countries by a foreigner living in Scandinavia. (So I guess she’s right about number three…) Anyways, as an expat myself, I can understand how customs, traditions and behaviors are different from each country, but then again I honestly can’t find one reason to hate India. If I did, I probably wouldn’t live here in the first place. So I decided to write my own list: 10 things I love about India. So here it goes:

1. The people! Indians are some of the most welcoming, friendly and helpful people I have ever met. The people working in shops, restaurants and hotels are extremely service-minded. Also, if you would find yourself lost in Mumbai, you’d be sure someone will stop and help you. And if this person couldn’t help you, he or she would probably stop a bunch of other people to ask them. If you’re invited home to someone you can expect to be offered plenty of amazing food and drinks and have a great time. Indians make great hosts and friends. And they smile – a alot!

Making new friends

Making new friends

2. The food! Don’t even get me started on Indian food. I can probably never get enough garlic naan. Curries, raita, biryani.. Just bring it on! The spices and herbs are like nothing else, and Indians even make European food better. Ever tried Indian french toast? If not, do it now! And if you’re a vegetarian you will be very close to heaven in India, as the veg food here is just amazing. And I haven’t even tried someone’s mother’s food yet, which I hear is the best food in India!

I love Indian food

I love Indian food

3. The nature. India being a huge country have almost every climate and landscape you can imagine. From the mountainous north to the tropical south. Beaches, jungles, mountains, oceans and deserts. There’s so much to see. Even the urban jungle of Mumbai has it’s own beaches, lakes and a national park. That’s just amazing. Also, heaven on earth is actually situated in India – in Kerala to be precise! And don’t forget about the animals who live in India’s nature. They have both tigers AND lions here! And if that wasn’t enough they have monkeys and elephants too.

Juhu beach in Mumbai

Juhu beach in Mumbai

4. The culture. Of course there isn’t one single culture in India, and as a student of anthropology I know I really shouldn’t use such a blurry term. But what I mean by culture in this list, is the varieties of religions, foods, dances, spiritual places and practices, arts, languages, music, rituals, myths and ceremonies, which all come together in an atmosphere that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. It is colorful, it is fun, it is spiritual and it’s like nothing you have ever seen before your first trip to India.

In Powai

In Powai

5. The weather. I can’t believe how we Norwegians survive our cold winters and the darkness which comes with it, and then when we think it’s all over, our summers just rain away. In Mumbai however, we have had sunny days every day since we first arrived in January. And January is actually part of India’s winter, which is like a very nice Norwegian summer. Now it’s starting to get a bit warmer, but I still enjoy it very much. I can’t believe I live in a country where my worries about the weather are centered on whether it can be too hot. In the Norwegian language that would usually translate to the weather being to good.

Sunny weather in Mumbai

Sunny weather in Mumbai

6. The society. India is known as the World’s biggest democracy. And when you think about it, it’s quite remarkable how they arrange their elections here with 814 million voters. It is a six week process which started yesterday. According to the Indian Constitution, every person in India should not have to travel more than two kilometers to vote, which means that election boots sometimes get rigged up for one person only. I love how that says that every voice counts in a country of over 1.2 billion people.

Powai

Powai

7. The history. India has such a rich history. And there’s so many historical places to visit. From ancient Buddhist caves to colonial buildings. And I think it’s safe to say India is home of one of the World’s most famous historical persons as well. How many of you have never heard or read a Gandhi quote? No? Just log on to Facebook.

Kanheri Caves

Kanheri Caves

8. The diversity. In everything. From food, to language, to religion, to culture to landscape. India is truly a land of many colors, and the various regions of the huge country are all very different from each other in these ways and truly unique. And of course the different places within the regions differ greatly too. In fact, a total of 1600 different languages were detected in India in 1961, and more than 30 languages are spoken by at least a million people.

In Jaipur

In Jaipur

9. The colors. The clothes, the dancing, the festivals, the movies are all just so colorful. Indians are known to be a colorful people, and it’s for a good reason. Just after I moved here I realized how boring my clothes are. Black, blue and white. Where did my pink, orange, purple, red, yellow and green clothes go? Also, the festival of colors is just an amazing experience. I think I will have to bring some of these colors back to Norway and throw them in the faces of my friends next year. Happy holi! 

The festival of colors

The festival of colors

10. Incredible India! All the points in this list combined makes India one of the greatest countries to visit as a tourist. The country has something to offer for every taste. You can go on a luxurious city shopping trip to Mumbai, travel from Vuitton to Gucci to Louboutin to Choo, while eating at some of the World’s best restaurants and have your cocktails with a view of the Mumbai skyline. You can go skiing in the mountains or climb the Himalayas in the north. Or how about a relaxing beach holiday in Goa, spotting for dolphins while doing your morning yoga by the ocean? You can also have your honeymoon on a river boat in Kerala, surrounded by peace and quiet or go on a romantic wine tasting trip to Nashik’s beautiful vineyards. If the urban jungle is more your taste, you can go museum and sightseeing hopping in the World’s second largest city. Or why won´t you just go find yourself on a spiritual trip to an ashram, getting advice from gurus and holy babas or go for a pilgrimage to a holy place. Maybe it’s one of your dreams to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the beautiful Taj Mahal, or travel to Varanasi and experience the holy river Ganges with all it’s rituals and ceremonies. You can even go on lion and tiger safaris in the jungle, visit ancient caves and spot monkeys, snakes and crocodiles from an elephants back.  The list goes on and on and on. Best thing about India? It has got it all!

- Andrea

Oh no!

April 6, 2014 at 18:40

India lost against Sri Lanka! That’s such a shame. I am just starting to learn the basic rules of cricket, and I must say I enjoy the matches on TV these days quite a lot. But not tonight, though. I am of course a fan of the Indian team!

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Cricket on screen

We watched the game at Café Mangii, where we also enjoyed mezze and some really tasty iced tea.

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Mezze platter at Cafe Mangii

Now, we’re back home watching The Nanny from our sofa, giving each other foot massages. Haha. There’s nothing like Fran Fine’s voice on a Sunday. Let’s hope the next three days will go past really quick, ’cause we can’t wait until Thursday and Friday!

- Andrea

Great week

April 5, 2014 at 13:28

We have had such an amazing week with our visitors, my father and Marianne, here in Mumbai. In a relatively short time we saw, heard, smelled, tasted and experienced a great deal of this city of contrast. In Mumbai you have everything a tourist could wish for from luxurious hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, to temples, mosques and other spiritual places, to extreme poverty and slums, to beaches, oceans and jungles. Maximum City has got it all. And our visitors had an eye opening experience in many ways during their week here.

Luxury at Renaissance Hotel

Luxury at Renaissance Hotel

At Suvarna Temple in Powai

At Suvarna Temple in Powai

In Powai

In Powai

When we asked them what was the best part of their vacation, they hesitated before they both answered ‘Dharavi’. Coming from a small place in little Norway, they were of course blown away by the massive global city of Mumbai with all it’s luxury and modernity, but the one experience they will remember forever was to get a look inside the place known as Asias biggest slum. Like Marius wrote about in the last post, Dharavi has got some negative associations to it’s name, and it was really great to see Dharavi for what it really is and get our preconceptions challenged. Again, a big thanks to the wonderful guides of Be The Local.

My dad, me and Marius

My dad, me and Marius

Now that our visitors are safe and sound back in Norway it’s really quiet and lonely here in our apartment, and we miss them already. Luckily, however, it won’t be quiet for too long, as we’re picking up a total of five new guest at Chhatrapati Shivaji already next week! We can’t wait!

- Andrea

 

Dharavi

April 1, 2014 at 19:54

We had a day of sightseeing around the city the other day. More specifically, sightseeing in Dharavi. We don’t have any pictures, as picture taking is not allowed in there, of respect to the people who live there.

Dharavi is a slum lodged north from the intersection of, and in between the western and central railroads in Mumbai, west of Bandra and Mahim. Sporting an impressive million people over two square kilometers, it is arguably the biggest slum in all of India.

We had a tour with Be The Local. It is a fantastic little company based in the center of the city-within-the-city. The founder is a student at a Mumbai-based college who was finding himself rather tired of trying to find a part-time job to pay his dues through college. A Dharavi local himself, he got a brilliant idea: Arranging tourist trips into the slum areas! Your first thought may be that going on such a tour is making commerce on frolicking through other people’s misfortune. But that is where you would be dead wrong. The tour is all about showing what Dharavi is truly about, an area with huge industries, people working, children playing, schools, doctors, shops, restaurants – you name it.

I admit that in the beginning I thought the tour would be a sort of “sunshine-trip” through the good parts of the slum. I was wrong. The slum itself is a good place, and I’m thinking that from now, I won’t even call it a slum.

We started our tour at the ticket office of the nearby Mahim station, where our guide Ahad picked us up. We walked on, crossing the overpass into this fascinating area. The first part we saw was the recycling plants. People working on sorting, crushing and working plastic waste into small pellets that can be reused. They also recycle aluminum through a rigorous process, creating large bars that are sold off for profit. Both materials are either gathered around Mumbai, or bought from people who gather it. They say 40 % of all recycling in Mumbai is done in Dharavi.

Further inside, we got to take a look at the biggest industries in the area, pottery, textile and leather. It was really amazing to see that the prejudiced ideas of a slum with the apathetic faces of the poor and sick was replaced with the reality of smiling and skilled craftsmen and -women creating high quality goods to be sold to an international market. 80 % of all leather made in India is from Dharavi, and it is the chief export in their – yes, you will not believe this – 1 billion dollar economy.

We walked through the housing quarters as well. That was amazing almost to the emotional. We crouched through narrow corridors between the houses just wide enough to fit a person, and not quite high enough to keep the power cables and steel bars a safe clearing from the top of our heads. It was dark and warm, but on both sides we passed apartments where people were sleeping, eating and just plain living. The most peculiar thing was that in the midst of these dark and clammy alleys, were very high quality and clean, though small, apartments. They are actually available for rent from as low as four dollars a month.

We went on through the area, and there was one thing that we all agreed upon. Never anywhere before have we seen children so happy. It was amazing to see how the children blissfully roamed the streets laughing and playing cricket or tag.

We also visited the main office of Be the Local and got to meet the guys behind the concept. The company aims at giving part-time jobs to Dharavi locals who are studying at the universities, by having them guide tourists through different tours of Dharavi, or Mumbai in general. It’s strictly a for-profit business with the fortunate side effect of giving back to the society. Our guide Ahad was a third year student at Mumbai University, on his way to a bachelor in accounting and finance.

We finished the tour shortly after, an amazing experience richer, and with a good deal of presumptions hacked away. I for one, knowing that most of the people of Dharavi are not rich, will never ever address them as poor either.

Thank you, Dharavi, for giving us a day so full of good experiences. We are definitely never going to forget the vibrant life that you hold!

Best regards, Marius

Our guests love India

March 30, 2014 at 06:47

We welcomed our guests at the airport Thursday night. Friday we took things slow, and Saturday we went for a trip to Borivali. We went to Sanjay Gandhi national park, and we took a hike at the Kanheri Caves and went on a tiger and lion safari among other things. It was great fun, and our guest agreed that if this was the only thing they would experience for the whole trip, they would be happy, because thay had such a great experience.

My father and Marianne at the Kanhei Caves

My father and Marianne at the Kanheri Caves

Some people wanted a photo of our guests

Some people wanted a photo of our guests

But luckily their vacation in India have just startet, and there’s much more to see and do.

Ancient Buddhist caves

In front of one of the 109 ancient Buddhist caves

Buddha

Buddha statue

My father with some of the many monkeys in Sajay Gandhi NP

My father with some of the many monkeys in Sajay Gandhi NP

Today we’re going to have a relaxing day with a Sunday brunch at the Renaissance hotel. We’re just going to eat a lot of food, drink a lot of cocktails, read books on a sun bed and spend some time in the pool. I can’t wait!

- Andrea

Get well soon

March 27, 2014 at 13:46

Turns out what I thought was symptoms of dehydration last weekend, actually was the start of a cold. So yesterday I woke up with a really sore throat and a bad shape, which couldn’t happen in a worse time, since my dad is arriving Mumbai today. He’s on the airplane right now, and I can’t wait to see him!

So yesterday I spent my whole day in bed, eating my way through throat pastils and pain killers. I feel a bit better today, so I’m hoping I’ll be better by the time my dad has got rid of his jetlag tomorrow.

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C-vitamins, pastils for sore throat and antibacterial mouth washer

 

No matter what, Marius and I will make sure he has a great time here in maximum city!

- Andrea

We’re so excited

March 25, 2014 at 13:23

..and we just can’t hide it! We’re about to get some visitors from home! It will be so much fun. We’re starting to miss home quite a bit now, and there’s nothing like friends and family to cure our homesickness. Also, none of our visitors have ever been to India before, so it will be so much fun to experience this incredibly awesome country with them! We have saved almost all of our city sightseeing until our guest arrives, so we will be just as excited as them to see all the cool things Mumbai has to offer.

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Taj Mahal hotel

First off, my dad will arrive in just two days and he will spend an entire week with us. Then, in April my mom and my little brother will be spending two weeks here, along with three of our best friends who are all staying over for Easter! It will just be too much fun, and we just can’t wait! I’m just in loss of words on how much I’m looking forward to this, actually.

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Colaba

And if that wasn’t enough, another two of our best friends just booked their tickets to Mumbai, and they are joining us for 11 days at the end of June!

We just feel so lucky to have such a big group of friends and family who actually come all the way to India to visit us while we’re here. And now, we just have to get ready for a maximum India experience, that we’ll all remember for a life time.

No pressure, India…

- Andrea.

Dining outdoors

March 24, 2014 at 10:08

When you come from Norway you really appriciate the opportunity to eat your food outdoors. The winters in Norway are too cold for this, and Norwegians usually seize the opportunity to barbeque outside or enjoy a “utepils” (outdoor beer) the minute the sun comes out in spring. The days in which this is even possible without getting cold or soaked from rain are numbered in Norway, so we really appriciate all the sunny summer days we get and we try to make the most of them.

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Barbeque in our garden in Norway last summer

Here in India we have gotten warm and sunny days everyday since we arrived in January. And we really enjoy it – even though it can get a little too hot for us sometimes, as I complained about in the last post.

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Dinner outdoors

People here, on the other hand, seem to enjoy a cool atmosphere (however not as cold as in Norway of course!) whenever they can, and Mumbaikars therefore seem to enjoy their food indoors in airconditioned restaurants. In Oslo the outdoor area of a restaurant would be fully booked on a sunny day, while the indoor area would look like a ghost town. Here it is usually the other way around.

However there are some amazing restaurants here in Mumbai which comes with the opportunity to serve dinner under the sky every day except during rain season. One of them is the first restaurant we had our dinner at after coming to Mumbai two months ago. It’s called Skky, and it’s right here in Powai.

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Skky

Right next to our building with a view of our apartment, there’s also a very nice vegetarian rooftop restaurant called Breeze, which serves Mediterranean food and tapas.

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Breeze

Some day soon we also want to visit the famous Aer bar on top of The Four Seasons, but I think we’ll save it until we can experience it with our guests, who are coming to visit us very, very soon!

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Aer Lounge

I’m sure the last photo is dramatized quite a bit with Photoshop, but I have a feeling that the lounge still is pretty impressive.

- Andrea