Tuesday, March 23, 2010

To you, with love, from me in India.

Well well well. Where to begin? A lot has happened since I last updated this blog. I've had some major realisations, decided I need to play cricket again, got browner and grown some of the best facial hair I have ever had. The major realisation really has been that I have realised how lucky I am, and have been throughout my life. The amount of opportunity's I have and have had compared to these people. Also it's really hit me how important family and friends are, without them, what are you? And for this reason I am deciding to come back to the UK at the beginning/middle of June and have a great summer at music festivals, playing cricket and having barbeques with family and friends. And have some serious chill-time.

I have been all around and about Kerala really since I my last post. I started in Kovalam then headed to Varkala. A touristy beach resort lined with steep cliffes. It was beautiful, and I met an incredibly cool French traveller who was literally just going wherever the hell he liked! He really taught me to just chill the hell out a bit, stop travelling so God damn quickly, and also consciously think about the moment, I might never see these things I'm seeing again. I did listen to him, but we both decided to depart from Varkala the next day. He went off to Chennai, and I had to wait at the train station in Varkala for 5 hours, awaiting a train to Allepey, or Allapuzha as it is now known. The 5 hours went really quickly. I read some philosophy, drank some Pepsi and just watched in awe at the people going about their lives. Massively deformed beggars crawling across the ground in innovative ways come up to you and hold out their hands and tap you on the knee, policemen walk around holding themselves very high, thinking higher statuses than they are, little kids running around with squeaky shoes and jingling gold bangles around their ankles and wrists, and then there are the normal working people, always in such a rush to get anywhere and who will fall asleep absolutely anywhere, even when a train goes steaming past blowing a never-ending horn people sleeping are totally unphased. India is so different. Everyday I am inspired more and more by what happens around me. When I eventually arrived in Allapuzha I was harrassed by rickshaw drivers, "Hello Sir? Where are you going? Excuse me. Excuse me sir!" I have developed a technique now to just look at the floor and carry on walking past, I feel terrible for totally ignoring them, but if you give them just the slightest look you will get harrassed and they will follow you down a road for like 100 metres, until you finally lose it then they will speed off laughing at you! You have to quite like being harrassed and being the centre of attention here. Always someone trying to give you 'the best price' or wanting a photograph taken with you. I feel special at these times, and I am developing great respect for the Indian people. They work so hard and have such powerful ambitions, but it must be so hard for them.

Anyway, from Allapuzha I went to Cochin. I instantly liked Cochin. A busy city, off the beaten track and a major city throughout the colonisation of India. I trained in a gym thr first night there! No shoes were allowed which was different! Carrying 20kg discs around I was especially careful! It was great to experience a gym environment in India. Pictures of Mr. Universe lining the crumbling walls and people chatting and helping you out! And constantly chatting away to you! People talking to each other and laughing, in gym! This is great, and the gym should be about having a laugh and getting on with it. From Cochin I caught a bus first thing in the morning to Munnar. The bus drive up to Munnar was spectacular. Cruising along the winding roads, staring down at vast valleys of plam trees, then looking out onto acres upon acres of tea plantations. These were some of the most amzing views I have ever witnessed. Almost on a par with the Lake District! The next day I hired a moped with a cool guy I met on the bus called Ross. We cruised around together from 9 in the morning till 7 at night getting lost in the mountain roads around Munnar and the surrounding area. It was the best day so far. The next day I headed to Vypeen Island. A little island about 30km long and about 5km across. I was told by a fellow traveller whom I met in Mumbai to stay at this little beach house on Cherai Beach, so I decided to explore out and find this house. The heat was horrendous compared to the cool breeze of Munnar. Heaving my bag around in 35+ degree heat, and whatever humidity, asking where this little house was. I was about to give up when I saw this lime green coloured house he was on about. I felt a surge of joy, and let out a little scream! I firstly dropped my bag collapsed at a table and ordered fish curry with rice, a pepsi and a cup of chai. This was the best Indian food I have ever had. Unbelievably fresh, and just over a pound for all you can eat rice, a whole curried fish, unlimited poppadoms and red onion salad! I then asked about the little room, and the guy there showed me it. I took it instantly for two days and those two days were incredible. Just lazing around eating curry, drinking chai and swimming in the Indian Ocean. They were a special two days. I thanked them and then headed off back to Cochin to catch a train to Bangalore, now known as Bengaluru. I couldn't get a train as they were all fully booked (bloody population levels of India!) so I had to book onto one leaving today. This is where I am so far then, waiting to catch a train to Bengaluru then heading staright off to the old, spiritual, hindu, ruined templed town of Hampi.

I am beginning to sweat uncontrollably now from typing as it's the hottest part of the day here, and for some reason always seems to be a couple of degrees more humid in train stations!

Thanks for reading, and guys never hesitate to e-mail me! I like hearing of life back home! x

Sunday, March 14, 2010

43 hour train journey to paradise...

I have just really started my proper travels in India now after arriving in southern Kerala, in a place called Kovalam. It's beautiful, and quiet also I seem to be able to breathe easier compared to that in Mumbai! But it was a long way down... The train took 43 hours, but was so interesting. Gazing for hours out of the window in distant parts of Andra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala at the people who just live off the land, cut off from the major cities around them. Just going about their business ploughing fields pulled by oxen, carrying buckets of water on their heads then heading back to there hut made of a wooden structure with a sort of matted hay for the walls for a cup of chai. It really made me think we have so much we don't really need in the UK such as the latest gadgets and this and that. However, it makes us feel comfortable. Just in my bag I had more with me than everyone in my carriage put together! But I do I need everything? I think yes, I need all these t-shirts and these vests and this many pairs of underwear and paracetamol tablets. But do I really need them? Most probably I would survive without them... To sum up, the train was a long haul but so inspiring and great food coming up and down the carriages every half hour which helped time pass along!

I did feel at one point throwing my bag of the train when it was stationary and trekking up a mountain to see where it took me, but I decided against it. Maybe would have got eaten by a tiger, or died of thirst...

I'm really looking forward to the next couple of weeks and looking forward to seeing what unfolds, what I see and what I learn.

Always keep an open-mind wherever you are!

I've just read this post back to myself and it's a trifle terrible, but really I just want to mong out on the beach from the journey here. Will do better next time! I promise :) x

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sorting yourself out in Mumbai...

Right, sorting yourself out in Mumbai. Firstly, I don't want anyone to properly take what I write as factual, it's just what has happened to me. Also don't really listen to anybody absolutely literally, as people in the 'west' especially are really paranoid about India. Just get here and you will love it! Also learn for yourself! For me that's one of the main things of travelling! But trains anyway... As I have quickly learnt, always check the time, date, platform, train number, arrival/departure, everything printed on the ticket. Especially check the outward date. I bought a ticket the other day and just looked properly at it yesterday... It stated my departure date was 23rd of March when I am amost 100% sure that I said I wanted to leave for Trivandrum in Kerala on the 11th March. But don't worry, I tried not to anyways! the best way is to go to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Mumbai CST) and just cancel your ticket. The cancellation fee will cost Rs 40, I don't quite understand why as it's their mistake but anyway, that's like 60 pence. This is for the long journey trains. Also get buses everywhere when in the city if you don't want to walk. It costs Rs4-8 per journey. Trains are great as well but busy, and if your unsure about the platform number ask anybody. Well not anybody but someone who looks approachable. They will be really happy to help. Note to keep your elbows close to your sides as the trains are ridiculously crowded, and people elbow you in the ribs when getting on and off, it reminds me of a rugby scrum. But the trains are absolutely fine and it's like Rs8 for a journey an hour out of the city centre.
There is loads to do in Mumbai. It's like the major cosmopolitan city of India. From glitzy Bollywood to high-end cocktails bars, there is a city rapidly growing, and the apparent poverty screams that you are in a very apparent developing India and not some city in Europe. Home seems a long way away! I have been here over a week now and still have bearly seen anything... Don't be too phased by the sheer numbers of people commuting in and out of the city. Get stuck right in to city life and Mumbai will be a much more enjoyable place. The food here is out of this world... Generally eat anywhere, unless it's a really dirty looking food stall, and so far I have found food stalls to be better, fresher and easier to eat at than restaurants.
That's really about it! You can easily learn for yourself. It's the most incredible city I have ever been to, no wonder there are adverts saying 'Incredible India' on black taxis in the UK, it really seems to be the word to suit this place! I love it...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Birthday, and last day off before I start shooting for the Bollywood film again!

It's my birthday! 20th birthday and the start was special. Headed down to the Gateway of India this morning to watch the sunrise, what a way to celebrate! Hmmmm... What to do today? Was seriously hawked and gawked at today trying to find a hotel to stay in. If you are looking for a hostel/ hotel in Mumbai, Colaba is where most tourists 'hang out' and Salvation Army is a good place to stay. Anyway, 20 is going to be a good year... A lot will happen... Anyways I'm heading out of Mumbai next week I've decided. It's quite expensive (incredibly cheap compared to UK) but I am on such a tight budget. Also I want to get out of this amazing, incredible, breath-taking, but unbelievably crowded city. But I will return later on in my trip I think. I'm headed down to Trivandrum in Kerala by train and gonna go for sleeper class, I think that the ticket is around 500Rs which is £7.20 (approx) for a 20+ hour train journey. How much would a 20 hour train journey cost in the UK? London from where I live, Lancaster is around £50 if you book on the train and it takes 3 hours to get there, so say that rate for a 20 hour journey in the UK would be around £300-£350! But you can't get a train for 20 hours in the UK - thank God...
Thanks for reading and I'll be blogging again in a week or so. Just started and trying to get my head around this blogspot.
Thanks again x

India Trip - Mumbai

Dear Readers,
This is my first blog for my travels whilst 'on the road', and basically I've set it up to help other people who intend to travel and want to gain a bit of knowledge where to go, for family and friends to keep up with me on my travels and for the person where adventure and ambition is in there heart. This is for you. Firstly, where to start... I feel that travelling, adventuring and helping less privileged people than myself has always been within me. I recall my mum and dad saying that as soon as I could walk, I was off and there was no stopping me. I'm 19, 20 tomorrow, and I'm in the first proper trip of my life, discovering India, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. I started my travels really going to Cape Town in South Africa to volunteer in a children's orphanage called Masigcine, in a township named Mfuleni, throughout late September and October 2009. I was in Cape Town for a month. The experiences I got from this trip were invaluable, and I will never forget the place, the kids and the people. From this I wanted to see more of the places that are totally different to that of the UK. I thought, India... And here I am. In a youth hostel composing my blog. It's an unbelievable, incredible place. Crowded, dirty, crazy roads and poverty, lot's of it. But I love it. I've only been here 4 days so I can't really say I love it yet, but right now, at this moment, I love it. Carrying my bag into the hostel I was instantly approached by a Bollywood extra scout and found myself on the first day working on a Bollywood film set, in a CIA or MI5 type-room, pushing trollies and carrying evidence boxes around all day. By midday I was offered a job til this coming Tuesday, which I immediately took. It's paid work, 500Rs per day, but the hours are long 7.45am - 11 pm and even though you don't do much it is pretty tiring, but on the plus side the food in fucking good. The people who do extra work, also are in the same boat so everyone gets along well. An extra, who is from Mumbai said "In India, if you are working hard, they will make you work harder..." and that seems to be the working ethic here. Also, I want to become an Actor, actually now I suppose I am an Actor, so this experience is fantastic for me. I auditioned at all the top Drama Schools in the UK last year. I did well, but was fortunately unsuccessful. I say fortunately beacuse if I would've got in, I would not have had the expereinces to call upon and inject into roles from even the experiences and sights I have now. Anyways time is running out on computer so need to wrap up.
Thanks for reading and anything e-mail me. I'll be blogging again soon.
Ben x