Made it back!

Trip Start Apr 28, 2006
Trip End Oct 21, 2006

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Back in Mumbai! Basically we have shopped, partied and smoked sheesha for three days, good achievement I think! As it has been our last few days together, we were determined to make the most of it by being as hedonistic as possible! I think we may have succeeded :o) We arrived on Friday - the train journey was never-ending because the monsoon was buggering things up but we got there eventually! Tried some green-apple sheesha at Mocha, the best cafe in the world (after Starbucks of course!) then after a mini-but-impressively-successful shopping spree, we went to the Taj Mahal Palace, the swankiest hotel in Mumbai. They have a nightclub called Insomnia which is apparently THE place to go for Bollywood star spotting. First we went to one of the lounge bars in the hotel, which was the randomest thing ever - this v posh, beautifully-decorated wine bar; with the golf and the cricket on pikey TV screens in different corners and a Chinese band belting out proper cheesy classics in the middle! They did do a request for us though - 'Build Me Up Buttercup' for 'Maz and Moo from UK'! Awesome :o) Later we went into the club part - didnt see any stars but there were a whole load of ugly guys! On the whole I have to say being in India does make a girl appreciate the male talent in England! Luckily we met some more normal guys from Birmingham though - quite ironic to come clubbing in the cosmopolitan capital of India and hang out with a couple of chavvy Brummies but hey!

After going to bed at 6am, we surfaced completely hungover at midday-ish and staggered down the road to Leopolds for some good old-fashioned grease. Slightly recovered, we shopped until it was time to start getting tarted up again! I swear travelling has made me far more materialistic and shallow than I ever used to be! So much for discovering my spiritual side, I've just discovered that I can afford designer clothes here! :oS Oh well, its not about becoming a hippie, its not for me! We went to a retro club called Polly Esther's, where the music was proper old cheese, the kind thats so tacky you cant even dance to it! After availing of the yummy cocktails included in our entry charge, we legged it back round the corner to Insomnia again; where we were packed in like sardines on the dancefloor but at least there was a bit of hip-hop to wiggle our asses to! We were befriended (read: harassed) by quite a few, lets say rotund, Indian guys, all equally bragging about their not-that-amazing achievements and careers, and practically comparing dick sizes openly as they competed for our attention. The novelty of being white! We got what drinks we could out of them anyway; well they were the ones going on about how much money they earned :o) (I'm sure I used to be a nice person!) :oS Luckily some fitty Israeli guys came and saved us - they were quite amused at all the oneupmanship going on! After waking up the unimpressed hotel staff to let us in at 6am for the second morning in a row, we couldnt even be bothered to go to bed, so we went for a pleasant early-morning stroll by the sea and watched the sun come up. Saw the Gateway of India, one of Mumbai's most important landmarks (its just a big arch really) then after breakfast we collapsed for a while, before going to (yes another) shopping mall in the afternoon (Mango sale oh yeah! - not the fruit for the benefit of you males!) We were quite restrained though, the guilt was beginning to set in at how much money we've been spending (sod-all compared to England though but still!)

Anyway, dramatic change of mood... (I am slightly concerned that I'm becoming schizophrenic)...

Tomorrow is a sad sad SAD day!! :o( It marks the end of mine and Fran's time together - the conclusion of an epic three months of museums, monasteries, maniacs, ming and madness in this crazy country they call India (well, technically two months, and one month trekking in the not-quite-so-crazy Nepal!) Anyway tomorrow we will bid each other farewell and go our separate ways - Fran flying off to Bangkok for four months teaching in Thailand, and me embarking on a nice long journey up to Dehradun in the north of India - seventeen hours by train followed by a seven-hour bus ride. Alone... With no-one to bitch and complain with, no-one to help me fend off random freaks, persistent beggars and pushy sellers, no-one to help me build a huge tower of empty chai and coffee cups on the way, no-one to... Ok enough melodrama!! But it will be sad to say goodbye after such a long time, and I am going to be pretty nervous about being on my own out here; it makes a big difference always having someone with you for moral support! At least I'm already familiar with how things work, to a large extent, so it shouldnt be too much of a shock! But I'm looking forward to it as well - it should force me to be more independent, which cant be a bad thing! It will be cool to stay in one place for a prolonged period of time; travelling around is great - staying somewhere different every couple of days - but you do really only get a fleeting glimpse of life in each place. I think it'll be interesting to get a deeper insight into how people live day-to-day in one particular area. I'm definitely excited about doing some voluntary work as well - travelling is quite a selfish activity really - its all about broadening your own cultural experiences and developing your character etc - all taking and no giving. So it will be good to feel like I'm actually giving something back - doing my bit to help and all that - it will also alleviate my conscience for not having given money to any beggars since I've been here!

Anyway, I'm not sure what to expect at all when I arrive in Dehradun on Tuesday. I'm going to be volunteering for an organisation called 'Raphael', who have set up a number of centres to care for people with a variety of different needs. I think I will be helping out at the centre for children and adults with disabilities - well thats what I want to do anyway! Apparently one of their nearby projects includes a centre for people recovering from leprosy, which could be interesting but pretty scary - I read that the injuries they suffer as a result can be horrific - ie lack of noses etc! Maybe just a daytrip there or something! :oS I have no idea what accommodation will be like - I think the volunteers live on the premises, which is handy - but I guess it will be pretty basic standards. At least it will only cost me about a pound a day or less for food and accommodation - you cant complain really can you! Apparently there are going to be two other international volunteers there at the same time as me - I would have hoped for more but fingers crossed they're nice anyway! Hopefully there might be a few local volunteers there too! It sounds like it might be quite strict - the guy in charge is a brigadier and it seems there are quite a few rules - eg you have to ask permission from the matron to leave the premises and you cant wear any clothes that even slightly reveal your midriff etc etc! Not sure what they will make of my tight strappy tops, may have to have a wardrobe rethink when I get there! I dont know how strictly they expect you to adhere to all these rules though, hopefully not very! Just have to wait and see I guess, and hope I enjoy it! EEK!!

So... Watch this space and I'll keep you up-to-date with how I get on - guess I probably wont be writing as often (you'll be relieved to hear!) as I doubt I'll be having as many crazy and exciting adventures as I have been so far!

Til next time,
Han/Moses xxxx :oP
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