Sunday, March 22, 2009


If I had just arrived in Calcutta and it was my first day in India I would seriously be freaking out right now. But I know India. I love it here. We see so much about places like this at home, on western TV, and think that they must be so impoverished and filthy and a real dreadful place to live. Poverty is staring me in the face. And it is filthy. But there is also real beauty here you just have to know where to look for it, or maybe you just have to want to see it.

Each of the major cities I've visited in India; Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and now Calcutta, have a unique character to them and I feel comfortable in each for different reasons. Here in Calcutta, the street food is what drew me in immediately. There are street vendors cooking up food on every corner and they all smell so great. Yesterday I had a fresh made grilled sandwich and some mango juice and this morning we had an egg sandwich and some chai. Amazing.

I completed 8 dives on Havelock in the Andaman's. Diving is freaking crazy. I love it! I saw everything from stingrays to baby Nemo fish. Definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far.

Anyways, since I keep getting shit about not posting pictures here are a bunch from the last month or so... I will provide a better update soon. Thanks to all of you who have been emailing me. It's so great to hear from people at home.

Catching up with friends in Kodaicannal. Miss you guys.

The Indians love to be in pictures with us so we thought it was high time we got into some pictures with them!

Pilgrams paying their respects. Kanyakummari, Tamil Nadu.

Not all Indians are Hindu's. Sometimes it takes places like this to remind you of that. This is a magnificent church I visited, also in Kanyakummari.

The most southern tip of India. Kanyakummari, Tamil Nadu.

View of the beach from our cliff resort in Varkala, Kerala.

A relaxing canoe ride through the Keralan backwaters.

Me and Jess on a backwater tour outside Alleppey, Kerala.

Sometimes...this is India. Our bathroom at Paradise Beach, Karnataka.

Palolem Beach, Goa.

Just one of the stellar sunsets in Palolem, Goa.

A small church we found when exploring around Anjuna, Goa.

Our beach accommodation in Anjuna, Goa.

Fishing boats anchored off the coast in Anjuna, Goa.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Extending Paradise

The Andaman Islands. Wow. If you dont know where they are look it up on a map. These little islands, in the middle of the Bay of Bengal, belong to India but they are actually much closer to Myanmar and Thailand. We are staying on a small island called Havelock. This is my paradise on earth. We both love it so much that after only 4 days we had to come back to the main island to change our flights and extend our visas (we'd initally only booked for 1 week).

I dont think the words I know will do this place justice in describing it. The water is pristine. You can see clearly down almost 10 meters. We went snorkeling the other day and I've never seen so many colorful schools of fish and brilliant corals in my life. I had heard that there was world class diving here but not being a diver I didnt really understand how great that is. I'm taking my PADI course this week... 6 dives. I can't wait.

And it's not just the water and the beaches that are amazing. It's not touristy like Goa. There are many westerners of course, but it doesnt feel like Goa. I haven't once been called into someones shop to buy something nor have I been approached on the beach to 'just loooook'. I think these might be the only beaches left in India where you can actually sit alone and not see someone else or be harrassed to buy necklaces or have your body covered in henna tatoos.

Havelock is pretty small, there is no internet or ATM and its a 2.5-4 hour ferry ride away depending on what ferry you luck out with. The accomodation is basic, but stellar. Everyone is very friendly and the only real nusance is the Isreali crowd, if you know what I mean. We of course found some other Canadians on the island and have shared a few bottles of Rum while exchanging travel stories. One of them, Rick, is a founder of an orphanage in Cambodia and is going to set me up with a place to stay if I'm interested in working there for a while. This is what I love about traveling.

Yesterday was an Isreali holiday, and I'm not lying here, we were told by several different groups that the objective of the day was to 'drink until you can't remember'. Apparently it's in the bible or something. So I did what I was told. haha. Good thing Jess was there to turn the lights out and put me in my mosquito net otherwise I may have woken up attacked by hornets, I guess they like to come out around 3-4 am and are drawn to light.

But other than last night partying is pretty rare in that sense. It's a real laid back vibe and even as far as parties go, this was small and reminded me how few people are actually on the island.

One thing I've learned is that they will be opening an international airport here next year. The thought of this really breaks my heart. Right now you have to enter India and then make your way to the Andaman's so it keeps them relatively under developed. Once they start flying here from Bangkok or Singapore our cozy little beach huts will no doubt be leveled to make room for 5 star hotels. What is even more sad is that the locals are excited about this because they see it as an opportunity to make more money.

So I recommend to everyone, if you come to India you must come here. This is my favorite place, not for cuture of course, but for just relaxing and enjoying the unrreal and untouched beauty of the islands.

OK, one last thing I have to mention is about my short time in Chennai. After a 12 hour overnight bus from Kodaicannal we found a basic room and headed into the city. I wanted to get a haircut and I really needed a shave so I thought I might knock them both off at the Indian barber. We were in a local, non-tourist area of the city and when you're a white person walking into a barber shop there it's just assumed you want, and can afford, the works! So what I expected to take 20 minutes took 2 hours. I had my head massaged, my hair cut using only sissors, no electrical tools here, head massaged again, face massaged, washed, shaved with a straight razor, and washed again. There was also a short break for chai, of course. Then he proceeded to put a facial mask on me, washed my face again, applied a new mask, washed, massaged my head and face, then we breaked for chai again. Then I got the finishing touches around the edges with a straigh razor, had my head and back massaged and handed the guy 200 Rupees ($5). All in all a pretty fun experience. Maybe not so much for Jess, she wasnt planning on spending 2 hours in the barber shop drinking chai and watching cricket with the Indians :)

Happy Birthday Dad!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tamil Nadu

We've managed to escape the sweltering heat, for the time being anyway. We are in a small mountain town called Kodaicannal, situated 2000m asl in the Western Ghats of the most southern Indian state, Tamil Nadu. It's a breezy 25 degrees here with almost no humidity, a far cry from the +40 degrees celsius we were experiencing in Kerala.

After leaving Alleppey, we cruised down the backwaters for about 8 hours to southern Kerala to meet up with two of my friends from EWB, Nicole and Carly. We spent 3 days in Varkala which was like being back in Goa, although I think it was actually more touristy. But it was nice, all of the beach restaurants and accommodations were situated on a very high cliff overlooking the ocean and a beautiful beach below. This place again made me lose my India feel a little bit but it was so great to catch up with my friends from university and the town was the perfect place for that!

The four of us then decided to head south, to the most southern tip of India, Kanyakumari. This place was spectacular, there were so many beautiful Christian churches and the shore was lined with hundreds of colourful fishing boats. This is where both the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal meet the Indian ocean. As much as we enjoyed this place however, it was just too hot and we decided to head for the nearby mountains.

This place is truly amazing. The people are very friendly and the food is fantastic. Yesterday the four of us rented a boat and peddled around the local lake. Today we set out into the forest with a guide to explore the rockfaced cliffs.

I think we will be heading to Chennai tomorrow and attempt to catch a flight to the Andaman Islands as soon as possible. I hope the Islands will give me a chance to get my ass back into shape for the trekking that's ahead of us in Northern India and Nepal. I've definitely been smoking to much of the local tobacco and havent been doing much physical activity next to swimming and carrying my pack from hotel to hotel. Maybe I will run on the beach everyday or something.

I tried to put pictures up today but somethings not working. Hopefully in the next day or two.

All the best to everyone at home.