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

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

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