A Permanent Blessing: Getting Sacred Tattoos at Wat Bang Phra

We sat cross-legged on the floor in a dim room with around 25 others patiently waiting for a turn before the monk. The monk looked fairly young and he didn’t speak a word to anyone. He barely looked up from his work, only occasionally glancing around at his quitely humming audience or up towards the clock. He worked swiftly and stoically. I watched him intently as he hand-tattooed person after person. The only visible sign of strain: he occasionally clenched the muscles in his jaw as he expertly tapped prayers onto the skin of his subjects with a long metal spike. Two small lizards with tails split into two parts stood motionless on the wall above him. We were the only non-Thai tattoo-seekers at the temple that day.

Besides the murmur of people whispering to each other in the crowd, the only other noise in the room was the sound of a ceiling fan gently clanking in it’s orbit — adding to the growing tension in the air as we inched closer to the front of the room, closer to a turn under the needle.

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A view of the main temple at Wat Bang Phra

This all started when Jamie, Caitlin and I read an article in the Air Asia in-flight magazine about the Wai Kru Tattoo Festival, a religious event held at Wat Bang Phra each year. Hundreds of devotees flock to a small town in the Nakom Pathon province to get a Sak Yant by the monks at this famed temple. The festival sounds pretty wild, with some people going into trances, yelling and thrashing around in the crowd from the spiritual power of the blessings. The festival is in March, so we missed that, but people still line up every day of the year to get some blessed ink. I read somewhere that the monks tattoo about 30-50 people a day. ‘It’s only about 50 km from Bangkok — we must go check this out,’  so we decided while on that plane.

We got an early start and left for the temple around 6 a.m., hopping on a minivan from Victory Monument for just 60 baht a person. The minivan dropped us off on the side of a highway in seemingly the middle of nowhere, where we grabbed a cab to Wat Bang Phra. If you’re interested in going, this guy has really good directions for getting to the temple on his blog.

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A cast of interesting characters on the temple grounds.

When we arrived at the colorful temple on the side of a small river, we found a table to purchase offerings to give to the monks. For 60 baht, the standard offering includes a little bundle of incense and candles, flowers and a pack of cigarettes. We made our way to the temple and we were directed to a room where dozens of Thai eyes watched us as we entered. We placed our offerings on a pile with the others, and sat down to wait for our turn. At one point, the crowd was called suddenly to move to the front of the room where we all bowed our heads and were told to touch each other’s backs in unity as the monk said a prayer. It was fascinating to watch to other people get tattoos, both men and women. Each person bows before the monk and then clutches a pillow while two other guys hold their skin taut for the procedure. Some guys there already had their whole backs covered in Sak Yant, adding a little piece at a time.

You do not get to pick the tattoo or where it goes on your body, you go before the monk and he supposedly reads your aura and decides for you. He gets right to work, and you will only find out what the tattoo looks like when you are done. Some people get an invisible tattoo, which is a similar process but with clear ink, and still offers the protection and blessings of Sak Yant. The monk chants a prayer and blows on your tattoo to breathe power into it when he is done. Many monks themselves are covered in Sak Yant, including on the tops of their heads.

A little more than an hour later, and we found ourselves at the front of the room. Andrew went first, then Caitlin, then myself. The tattoos only take about 10-15 minutes each. After the first few light strikes of the stick, I thought to myself, ‘Hey this isn’t so bad,’ but then he really set to work — and it did hurt quite a bit. Though honestly I didn’t think it was as bad as a regular machine tattoo; the bamboo tattoo is a blunter pain, not as sharp and searing. And it doesn’t last too long. We didn’t get any photos as you’re not allowed to take pictures inside the temple, but if you search you can find some people who got pics.

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A close up of my Sak Yant. This is my second tattoo of the trip — at this rate I’ll be covered in ink my the end of the trip!

The three of us all got the same tattoo, called the Hah Taew, or five sacred lines. Though, Andrew got his on the right shoulder (I guess for men?) while Caitlin and I got ours on the left. The Hah Taew design seems to be the basic, starter Sak Yant given to first timers. Each of the five lines is a different prayer, or blessing. I’ve tried to look up what the prayers actually say, but there doesn’t seem to be an official translation on the interwebs. According to one site, it’s a blessing of “loving kindness, success in all aspects of life, charm, good luck and protection against evil spirits and the banishment of bad luck.”

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Fresh ink and happy faces.

Going in that morning, I wasn’t totally sure whether I was going to take the plunge, but once I was sitting in that quietly humming room before the monk, I knew there was no turning back. And I’m really glad I went through with it! I love the way it looks, and the meaning, and the whole story of behind it. (Side note: I only found out that Angelina Jolie has the same tattoo the day before, long after we decided to go to Wat Bang Phra.) This will definitely be one of my most memorable experiences in Thailand!

 

— Michelle

Here’s a short video someone made about the tattoo festival. The first monk in the video, ‘Luang Pi Nunn,’ is the one who did our tattoos!

 

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Falling in Love With Gili Air

I never believed in love at first sight until it happened to me. Last month, I fell in love hard. With a place called Gili Air.

The island of Gili Air off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia is one of the most beautiful places we’ve visited so far, and easily one of my favorites. I am almost hesitant to tell too many people about it, I’m scared that it might become too crowded and commercialized and spoil the magic of the place. Actually… you should probably stop reading this right now! And definitely don’t go there, it’s terrible! Dreadful!!

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Well anyways, the three islands are Gili Trawangan, known as the party island, Gili Meno, known for its laid-back seclusion, and Gili Air — which we picked because it was said to be a good mix of the other two. We booked a fast boat from Bali, and after about an 1.5 hour ride arrived at what has now become my standard for paradise on earth. Pulling up to the island, I was immediately in love with the vibe — beautiful little beaches, cute bungalows, boats bobbing off the coast, restaurants on the beach, and the bluest water. And the longer we stayed, the harder I fell for the place.

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Grab a horse-drawn carriage at the harbor to get around the island.

Adding to the quaint atmosphere, there are no cars or motorbikes on the island. The only ways to get around are by bicycle, on foot, or by horse-drawn carriage. When you get off the boat and collect your bags, there is a line of horse carriages to meet you and take you to your hotel for a few dollars fare. It’s pretty small, you can walk around the whole island in about an hour.

Though small and very relaxed, there is no lack of things to do here — snorkeling trips, diving, glass-bottom boat rides, yoga, kite surfing, sailing, or just lounging on the beach and swinging in a hammock.

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Sails up! Ahoy! And other nautical sayings.

Here’s a little peek at some snorkeling and sailing we did around the island. We swam alongside a few sea turtles in the crystal clear water — they are such beautiful, majestic creatures, they look so relaxed as they swim around. Great memories.

Every evening we’d head to the west side of the island just before sunset and grab some happy hour drinks from a bar with seats on the beach. And these were some of the most amazing, clear, colorful sunsets I’ve ever seen. For dinner, we would stroll among the restaurants, which displayed the day’s catch on ice out front. We’d pick out our meal from the piles of fresh fish, lobster, prawns, crabs and they throw it on a nearby open wood grill to cook it to perfection. Some of the best fish I’ve had.

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Almost sunset! Time to get to happy hour!

But what makes the experience here really unique is the people. I’m learning more and more that the atmosphere of a place and the feeling you take away from it can be really heavily influenced by the locals. The people on Gili Air made you feel at home instantly and were beyond friendly and helpful. They would ask your name and remember it, and say hi to you days later on a different part of the island. It is so welcoming and refreshing, especially traveling in other places where locals are not friendly to travelers and just try to rip you off with overpriced fares and scams. The island is a very safe, small community — the bike rental stores do not even lock up the bikes at night. Each night as we walked around, the locals would tell us which bar the party would be at that night. At the nightly beach party, there were bonfires, fireworks, Chinese lanterns floating into the sky, and a DJ right on the beach, with people dancing in the sand until morning. The parties are for the locals as much as they are for the tourists, and everyone you’ve met on the island is there hanging out together. This is one of the few places I’ve been where the locals party with  travelers and welcome them openly to their social events. It’s all about the vibe — and I can see why the people here are so friendly and happy. They are living in one of the most laid-back, serene, and beautiful places around.

This place is truly magical. There is just happiness in the air. It’s the only place so far that I really felt sad to leave. If you ever are in the area of have the opportunity, go here. Errr, umm, I mean don’t go — and don’t tell. Anyone. Shhhhhhhhh.

— Michelle

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Seeking Authenticity in Singapore

Singapore is a very clean, organized, futuristic city. I think it may be one of the most organized places in the world. It is a successful scale model, a preview of what the future will be like everywhere. Everything is clearly labeled and efficiency is king. In one of the malls, there were signs by the restrooms telling you how many minutes walk it is until you will reach the next restroom.

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The Merlion in Singapore

After spending a few weeks in chaotic India, we arrived in a place that was the polar opposite – providing a very amusing juxtaposition of extremes. We spent three days in the Little Red Dot, and with the help of a few friends, I think we managed to see and do almost everything there is to see and do.

We explored Chinatown, trolled through Little India, smoked shisha on Arab street, browsed the hip little shops on Haji Lane. We ate everything we could at Hawker stalls, walked through many shopping malls, and took an afternoon nap in the grass on the Esplanade by the Merlion fountain. We had drinks at Clarke Quay and watched an awesome local cover band. We even ventured one evening into the Red Light district, which was definitely one of the more ‘real’ and authentic parts of the city. Our host brought us there so we could see a glimpse of what Singapore was like before the glossy high rises and endless malls took over.

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The futuristic structures of Gardens by the Bay look like something out of a Star Trek episode.

We admired the Marina Bay Sands hotel and strolled amongst the futuristic flora landscapes of the Gardens by the Bay. We climbed up the world’s tallest indoor waterfall in the Cloud Forest (it was not actually cloudy in there), a place that highlighted another defining characteristic of the city:  almost everything is artificial, man-made.

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Jamie is not impressed by the Cloud Forest.

On our last day we decided to venture out of the city to a small island off the coast called  Pulau Ubin. This was one of the coolest and most fun parts of  our stay in Singapore. It also allowed us to see a little bit the simple life that existed before a maze of escalators moved in.

PULAU UBIN

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A quiet scene on Pulau Ubin, a welcome respite from the bustling city.

Our local Singaporean friend, Rob, offered to join us on the trip, and we were all happy to get a little outside the city and enjoy some nature. It wasn’t easy to get to — we had to take a few metro lines to reach the far east side of town and then transfer to a bus. A long bus ride through suburbs and we reached the town of Changi Village to catch the boat to the island. There is no schedule for the boats, instead the ‘Bum Boat’ operators only take people over when there are 12 passengers to fill the boat. So you just wait in the ferry terminal until enough people queue up for the trip. After a short ride, we arrived at the small harbor of Pulau Ubin, where oyster farmers and local fisherman milled about. There are a few small restaurants and bodegas in the village, and a bunch of bike rental shops. There were no new buildings or high-tech anything. It was a lovely, peaceful, friendly little fishing village. We had found the authentic feel we were looking for. It was a place that seemed untouched by time.

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Jamie tests out the tandem bike

We saw some people on a tandem bike, so of course I insisted that Jamie and I rent one of those. This became interesting when we later found out that the bike paths on the island were actually mountain biking trails, some of them quite steep and rocky — not the best terrain for a tandem. So we set out to explore the island and have some fun.

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Bicycle built for two!! We wanted to get a 3 person bike but they didn’t have em.

We navigated the terrain as best we could and stayed away from the double-black-diamond ranked trails. There is a a big quarry in the middle of the island and some small beaches and wetlands. The paths around the island were as scenic as they were serene — we rarely crossed paths with other day-trippers on our ride.

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Bikes and palm trees at the lotus pond.

We took a wrong turn on our way back to the village and happened upon this amazing lily pond and lotus garden. There were two large lotus pond areas with a path along the middle lined with a few palm trees.

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Beautiful imagery at the hidden lotus garden on Pulau Ubin.

It was truly something out of a fairytale. Would be an amazing location for a photo shoot, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Attempting a half-lotus at the lotus pond.

— Michelle

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Adventures in Kerala

Before we move too much further in our travels, I’d like to reflect a bit more back on India.

Specifically, on the very interesting time we had in Kerala. Expedia somehow mixed up the booking for our hotel at the Munnar hill station, which is a busy little mountain town a 5-hour drive from the nearest airport, and we ended up at a very remote mountaintop ‘resort’ called the Green Jungle Holiday Inn. The wind was so strong at this resort, at the top of a mountain peak, that the power kept cutting out so we didn’t have electricity, phone, internet, or hot water.  I penned this from there:

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The view from our hotel room in the creepy hotel.

As I’m sitting in the pitch dark in our hotel room in probably the creepiest hotel I’ve ever been in somewhere 30 km from Munnar, India, let me recap a little about our trip to Kerala so far.

We arrived at the Kochi airport, and through a very brief email exchange, arranged for a taxi to pick us up from the terminal. I was told that the driver would be waiting with my name on a sign. Outside the airport, we immediately saw a short man with a piece of paper that read ‘MR. MICHELLE’ and, since there didn’t seem to be any other Mr. Michelle’s around, we took the ride. After almost 2 hours in a speeding cab though the dense, colorful city, we arrived in what seemed like the middle of nowhere at a very nice and comfortable hotel called the Vintage Inn. The word ‘quaint’ was invented for this sort of place.

We heard about these cool houseboats where you can cruise overnight out on the Kerala backwaters from a town called Appeley, and we wanted to book one for the next day. The arrangements we tried to book online fell through, so we set out to town to book ourselves a houseboat. A short walk brought us to ‘town,’ if you could call it as such, this town was a few streets with about 3 restaurants and a handful of shops with no streetlights whatsoever, and on our walk over there it started pouring rain. We found a dark, dingy tourist office and were able to book a houseboat for the next day and a driver to take us around the area. He was to pick us up the next morning from the Vintage Inn.

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Cruising in the Embassador

The next morning, right on time this squat Indian man with a round belly who stood no more than 5 feet tall picked us up. His name was Cletus, which also coincidentally was the name Jamie gave her walking stick on her 40-days-of-hell Himalayan mountaineering trip. Cletus rolled up in a big ‘ol 50s style white Indian Embassador, which isn’t the best for navigating hairpin turns on steep, windy mountain roads, but you sure look badass and feel like a pimp riding in it. Our first encounter with Cletus was something like this:

– Hey, Clive, errr, Cedric… I hear there is a Fort around here, can we swing that? Fort Kochi?

– Yes, yes, Fort, yes.

– Cool.

After about 10 minutes of driving I started to get skeptical, because the Inn’s website had mentioned something about the Fort being walking distance away. Those scoundrels lied on that website.. hmm. Another 10 minutes or so of village traffic…

– Hey Cletus, are we going to the Fort?

– Yes, yes, we’ll see some very nice scenery, good view..

By the Chinese fishing nets

By the Chinese fishing nets

We turned down a narrow muddy road by the river, ‘Chinese fishing nets, good view,’ Cletus pointed out and drove up us to a canal that did, indeed have some boats with very old looking fishing nets hanging from tall V-shaped poles. No tourists around. The next random stop was at a liquor store on the side of the highway, where dozens of Indian men waited to buy booze through a cage at the front. Cletus brought us in through the back door. There were boxes everywhere piled up to the ceiling, and barely a one-person wide path through.  We made our way in and bought a bottle of rum and several local beers called ‘Strong Beer.’ And then we were off to Appeley to find our houseboat. I never did see that fort.  

THE HOUSEBOAT

A typical houseboat. They have anywhere from 2-5 bedrooms.

A typical houseboat. They have anywhere from 2-5 bedrooms.

After some fruitless haggling with the tour operator on the price of our houseboat, we were taken down a very muddy dirt road over the river and boarded the boat. There was a captain, a cook, and the two of us on the boat. The two crew guys were super nice and accommodating. We set out on the river, which is a series of big and little rivers and inlets around a main lake. Dozens of houseboats just like ours were motoring around, carrying families, couples, and often, big groups of young men who appeared to be on a bachelor party.

I loved cruising along the river and gazing out of the boat. The views were so beautiful and serene. I could sit all day on that boat and just watch life pass by. People on the Kerala backwaters live half in the water it seems, everyone gets around by little boats rather than cars. They live on strips of land out in the middle of the water that are no wider than a house and little yard, with river on both sides.

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A typical house on the backwaters — on a small strip of land with water on both sides.

From the houseboat, you have a front-row seat to 1,000 real-life stories moving slowly by. As we cruised around I caught little glimpses of daily life on the backwater: a man teaching a very young boy how to fish, ladies gossiping and laughing loudly while doing laundry, a man giving his dog a bath in the river, fishermen pulling up their nets to examine the day’s catch.

A scene on the backwaters.

A scene on the backwaters.

The food on the boat was amazing and fresh. Whole fish, curries, fried mango, snacks, veggies, rice… I don’t even remember it all but it was fantastic.  The boat was parked on the side of one of the pieces of land after sunset for us to sleep for the night.

Cletus picked us up from the houseboat the next morning and we began the long, swerving ascent through Eucalyptus forests and tea plantation fields to Munnar. Or so we thought. The hotel was actually about another hour further into the mountains than Munnar.

THE GREEN JUNGLE HOLYDAY RESORT

When we arrived it was almost dark, too dark to go back down the steep driveway and to the nearest town to get dinner. The only man who spoke English asked us over the phone what we wanted for dinner. A bit confused, I asked if we could see the menu.  A menu there was not. He started rattling off a bunch of very random food choices, and seemed to be trying to cater to what American’s might like. “You want French fries? Mashed potatoes? Chicken? Salad?”  In the end I had no idea what we ordered.

Dinner consisted of: a plate of cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots, chicken biryani that tasted mysteriously like Bazooka Joe bubble gum, a bowl of mashed potatoes, onions in raita, a side of ketchup and India ‘pickles,’ which is usually some sort of sweet green pepper pickled in an intensely flavored red sauce. It was one of the weirdest dinners I’ve ever had.

The huge dining hall was totally empty except for us. There were cobwebs on the chandeliers, faded wallpaper and stained placemats.  Several references to ‘The Shining’ have been made since we’ve been up here.

This resort is at something like 8800 km in elevation, and since it’s the beginning of monsoon season. The wind is raging wildly through the trees around us. I’ve never heard wind so loud. At one point I was sure it was pouring rain, and thought I heard thunder, but in both cases it was just the wind howling through the leaves and knocking things around outside.

It sounds like an epic battle between good and evil is raging right above our little bungalow.

I hope the winner is decided before morning.

— Michelle

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The (Unapologetic) Island Life

So we will be the first ones to admit: we have done a terrible job keeping up with the blog.

Though, it’s for what I see as a very good reason: For the past few weeks we were living the island life.

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There are two main factors that make island life and productivity  improper bedfellows:

1. Beautiful islands = way too much lounging in the sun, swimming, snorkeling, bike riding, hammock swinging, Bintang drinking, sailing, surfing,  beach party dancing and sunset watching to be done. And you do want to spend all of your time doing these things. And it is totally worth it (and I have zero guilt about not diverting time to the blog).

2. Lack of reliable wifi. We stayed on 2 islands — Gili Air, which is heaven, by the by, more on that later, and Nusa Lembongan — and in both places a strong wifi connection, like one with enough bandwith to say, stream a short video, was not to be found.

I could live the island life for a while and not get tired of it. Paradise.

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Locals collecting various shellfish at sunset, Gili Air

Also, the massages in Indonesia are so cheap and wonderful, about $5-6 for an hour if you bargain. And you always bargain. Jamie is setting a goal to get around 40 massages before the end of the trip.

We’ve started measuring the value of all things in massages now. For example: If it costs $10 to rent stand up paddle boards for an hour…. ehhh that’s like 2 massages.

Travel Tip of the Day: Check on your bank’s international ATM fees. I sooo wish I had switched banks before I left — Bank of America charges a buttload of fees, which usually isn’t too big of a deal but the ATMs here only let you take a max of $150 at a time, and you have to pay for almost everything (hotels, transportation) in cash!

— Michelle

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Lessons Learned in the Mountains

As my stay in India nears to an end, I figured this would be a good time to write my first blog entry to reflect on my experience in the Himalayas.

40 days spent with 17 other folks (two other females) in, to say the least, challenging conditions. Besides the instructors, I was the oldest participant earning the distinguished name of JamieJi.  I was also the slowest and probably most negative member of the group (I worked on this along the way). I learned early on that lugging a sixty plus pound bag up a mountain was not my idea of fun.  What was even more distressing, I was one of the few people that felt this way, and I also came to this conclusion on around day two.

Besides the obvious mental and physical challenges mountaineering to 16,500 feet brought, it also allowed for spectacular views, amazing relationships with fantastic people, and learning a lot about discipline and how to stay positive in uncomfortable situations.

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Me and some of my mountaineering friends in the Himalayas

One of the amazing people I met was BabaJi, a sadhu that has resided in the Himalayas for the past 20 years. BabaJi wears a track jacket, a simple sarong, and flip flops along with a warm expression and a huge grin. My group had the privilege of breaking bread with the sadhu and listening to his simple yet profound words.  When asked, why did you pick this spot to live, he quickly responded, “because this is the spot that I chose.”  BabaJi told us that people tend to make things more complicated than they need to be, and with the right amount of discipline anything is achievable. I remember walking out of BabaJi’s simple abode that evening, onto the snow covered ground with a crescent moon and stars lighting the way to my tent, thinking all the pain of the climb has been worth it for this surreal experience.

My Himalayan adventure truly brought a dichotomy of thoughts and feelings.  I felt great physical pain interspersed with euphoria from such simple things, such as warm sourdough bread around a table made of snow with good company, or a 10 rupee chai after a grueling four hours of hiking. I learned that you can live with less and be just as, or more happy. So, overall I took away a lot…would I do it again…Hell no 🙂

— Jamie

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When in Bombay

Hey for real! I’ve now been in India for 2 1/2 weeks and we’ve done a lot in that time. We’ve made our way from Mumbai to Goa to Kerala and now Bangalore. Jamie and I have not been doing a good job keeping up with the blog so far and we know this!  We will try harder, I promise 😉

In an old section of Bomany near Khotachi Wadi

In an old section of Bombay near Khotachi Wadi

When I first got to Mumbai it definitely took some acclimating to get used to the culture, food, weather…everything. Here are some initial thoughts I jotted down after a few days in India and in the city more commonly called Bombay:

Mumbai is a full-time bombardment of the senses. It’s an onslaught of sights, sounds, smells, flavors. Prasad noted, “You’ll find that most Indians like strong flavors. You won’t find anything bland.” This is an understatement. There is no decoration or clothing too colorful, no flavor too bold, no such thing as too much jewelry or adornment.

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Sunset view from a Borvali terrace

The things that stand out to me most so far:

Chai: We have the sweet, spiced tea at least four times a day. It’s served on the street in tiny cups and in households with or after every meal, or at any old time. Jamie can’t get enough Chai and says she would have 10 cups a day.

Honking: Cars, trucks, buses, tuk tuks, taxis, bicycles, motorcycles with whole families piled on them, the traffic is insane and lawless in every part of the city. There is no such thing as a stop sign — whichever vehicle is bigger or bolder goes first. Red lights are a brief notion where cars pause before plunging into the intersection.

The sound of honking horns is non-stop 24 hours a day. Horns of all  different tones and timbres — deep bellows, high-pitched toots, long blares, short repeated beeps. A persistent symphony. The unofficial heartbeat of the city, and an important part of it’s personality. With this many people and the number of vehicles on the road at all times and no apparent rules, I don’t know how it works out, but it does.

Crossing the street is like a real life game of Frogger. You have to dash forward, stop in the middle on an island no wider than one person across, and then sprint for your life to make it to the other side. It’s pretty exhilarating.

Heat: And of course there is the stifling heat. 90% humidity. It’s too hot to do very much in the middle of the day, between 12 and 4 or so. You’ll be drenched in sweat in no time. I’ve never been so sweaty in public and not doing some kind of strenuous workout. I don’t know how local people can wear jeans and long sleeve shirts and appear to not even break a sweat.

More soon,

Michelle

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Thanks Wyclef

Thank you Wyclef Jean, for creating this aptly-titled song.

Here’s a remix of ‘Gone till November’ with R. Kelly and some dude named Canibus, which I just discovered. You’re welcome. 1997 y’all.

 

– Michelle

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New York Wishes

New YorkAs I’m mentally preparing myself to leave New York for a much more exotic and less familiar locale, I’ve been trying my best to soak in everything I love about the city.  While no place I’ve visited feels like home quite like this big, smelly city does, I don’t think I’ll miss it too terribly. New York will always be here.

In six months when I return to New York, I expect the following advancements:

1. The Second Avenue Subway will be finished.

2. The Lowline will be a real thing.

3. Williamsburg will no longer be a tourist destination.

4. One will be able to purchase a Cronut without waiting in a long line.

— Michelle

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Nine days and counting

My departure date is now in the Ten-Day Forecast. May 25. A one-way ticket to the other side of the planet.

Jamie has returned to civilization after 40 days trekking in the Himalayas. We have heard from her and she is doing well. She is currently preparing to be in an Indian wedding in Mumbai. I can’t wait to meet up with her there and get this adventure started!

Here is the list of countries we plan on visiting, in their likely order:

India
Indonesia
Singapore
Malaysia
Thailand
Laos
Cambodia
Vietnam
Back to India
Nepal
Hong Kong (Michelle)
Philippines (Michelle)

Much more on that later! Now, I must get back to packing.

– Michelle

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