Happy Mid-Year-ish!

Woohoo! We survived half of 2017. And two days (almost). Way to go us!

[I feel like we need to celebrate more things in life.]

Cool. Did I have resolutions for this year? Can’t remember, so obviously I haven’t been keeping up with that. Oh, there was the one about BLOGGING MORE HAHAHAHA sorry if you fell for that; it’s my version of the April Fool’s prank (what did I even do for April Fool’s day this year?) which is maybe not very funny but whatever.

IMG_20170413_171303

In Udaipur – Cutest little hostel with the greatest artwork!

So what’s happened so far? Two weeks in Singapore, three months in India, two-ish months in Thailand. Singapore was pretty cool – catching up with friends and family, some of whom I think were guilted into hanging out with me because they didn’t know when they’d see me again, and (mentally) preparing for India. I had no idea what to expect when it came to India, and the mental preparation was worth it.

IMG-20161225-WA0016

Family that probably doesn’t need to be coerced into spending time with me.

Honestly, of the 40-odd countries I’ve been to, India tops the list by a mile when it comes to MOST DIFFICULT. Just the lack of infrastructure for tourists, the language barrier, the bureaucracy, the inefficiency, the men – every. single. day. was an exhausting struggle.

IMG_20170417_162751

And can we please get non-child beer??

Sure, there were good times and I met some really cool people along the way, but on the whole, would not recommend. Or would, if you want to test yourself. Lots of people love India (and I was told I would too), but I am not one of those people, thank you very much.

IMG_20170422_152349

Exhibit 1298142: Madness in India

And now Thailand. It was such a sigh of relief when I arrived (in the middle of the night, mind you) and everything was so. fricking. easy.

IMG_20170429_101330

As easy as a beautiful, delicious, satisfying cup of coffee. Which I (almost) never got in India.

Getting out of the airport. Finding the hostel. Getting to places. Not having to deal with creepy men staring all the time. I hadn’t realized that I’d been holding my breath, but Thailand is when I heaved a sigh of relief.

IMG_20170423_080346

The Thai massage also helped in the heaving of the sigh of relief.

Of course, it has its downsides, but I’d much rather deal with Thailand than India. And for the most part, the company here has been outstanding – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and now my small village Nam Phong. I’d definitely feel much less kindly toward Thailand if I hadn’t met such great people along the way.

1499008385989[1]

We’re a pretty odd bunch, here in Nam Phong.

1499008261189[1]

We’re a pretty sexy bunch too, even if I say so myself.

1499008285307[1]

These housemates. And our cats. ❤

What do the next six months hold? Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I’ll be here in Thailand for the next three months, serving the rest of my time in prison. I mean, my contract. [hypothesis confirmed – do not like children]. After that, who knows. I have absolutely zero plans for the last three months of the year. I kinda want to wander around Asia for a bit more, but I’m also coming to the realization that Asia isn’t really my scene. I kinda want to get to Africa, but the possible lack of decent internet might screw my current earning potential over. I want to go back to Latin America, but what if I’ve built it up to something more than it is in my head? And Europe would be cool too, but I’m too broke for it.

IMG_20170215_102350

Take me with you!

Well, since I’m completely and entirely undecided, suggestions and recommendations are welcome! But for now:

IMG_20170505_143919

Tiempo para dormir!

  **On a side note, I was going through my pictures the other day, and realized that my pictures from between Kalpetta and Madurai have mostly disappeared – Allepey, Varkala, Kochi, Munnar and Kodaikanal will only ever exist in my memories. Sad.**

IMG_20170508_182204

This is my sad face. Do you not see the sadness?

Advertisements

Chennai and the Sru-Kalyanam!

#throwback
Three months late! I’m totally skipping like…weeks of my India trip and all of my time in Thailand so far to write this post about dearest Shrewpa’s wedding! Updates about the other bits in between may or may not follow in the months/ weeks to come, so stay tuned.

Robin (my friend from the UK who really wanted to attend an Indian wedding so I invited him to Shrew’s, with her permission) and I arrived in Chennai from Pondicherry. Pondi is only 150km away from Chennai, but it took almost 5 hours for that journey – don’t ask why; the only explanation is “It’s India”. After Robin dropped his stuff off at his hostel, we headed to meet my mum at her hotel.

IMG-20170313-WA0005

Mum in India!

Bit of backstory as to why my mum was there – when I told my family that I’d be travelling around India next and that I’d be in Chennai for Shrew’s wedding, they very excitedly decided to meet me there for a few days to check India out (after 20 years) and do some shopping. It worked out perfectly, because I needed to buy clothes for Shrew’s wedding anyway, so they could do the shopping, I could wear the clothes, and then they could take the clothes back to Singapore while I carried on enjoying life. My dad had gone to Thanjavur for a couple of days and my sister and niece weren’t arriving till the next day, so it was just mumsie, Robin and me for shopping day 1 of 1000000 (I kid, but it felt like we spent sooooooo many days shopping).

My aunt who lives in Chennai had invited us for lunch, so after stuffing our faces with superamazing biryani and mutton and chicken and all sorts of other things (it’s definitely a thing: Indian families = eat till you burst), we headed to an 11-storey Pothy’s to get ourselves wedding-ready. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was overwhelmed before we even began but off we went.

Robin’s outfits were first order of business, and since he’s a guy, he was done with his outfits in about 20 minutes. He hung around valiantly for another 30 minutes or so while mum and I tried to pick outfits out for me, but eventually gave up and went back to his hostel, leaving mum and me to it. Good thing he did too, because we only finished with the shopping about 4 hours after that. x_x

 

 

 

 

End of Day 1 in Chennai.

Day 2 was slightly better – we visited the Kapaleeswarar temple and Valluvar Kottam, before picking my sister and niece, up from the airport. Decently fun, and the heat of Chennai made bearable by the fact that we were ferried around for most of the day in an air-conditioned car (perks of travelling with family)!

 

IMG_20170313_115605

Huge chariot at Valluvar Kottam

 

 

The next day was Shrew’s wedding Part 1! The morning was some sort of ceremony for the couple to get blessings from their elders so that the wedding would go smoothly (I think). Robin and I turned up mostly to mingle, to eat and to get some henna done. It was probably the only time I managed to have a conversation with the kalyana ponnu, Shrewpa.

IMG_20170314_104714

Kalyana ponnu, Shrew, and me, with a very distracted Shnoo

 

After that, it was back to the hotel to chill and relax before getting dressed for the evening celebrations! The nichayathartham, or engagement ceremony, is basically where the two families officially and publicly promise to marry their kids to each other. We basically spend most of it taking pictures and trying to figure out what was going on (as people usually do at Indian weddings).

 

IMG_20170314_200243

Wedding glow.

 

 

IMG-20170314-WA0010

No escaping now.

 

Robin and I showed up just in time for the Kasi Yaatra the next morning, where the groom pretends he’s going off to Kasi to live an ascetic life and the bride’s father stops him by promising his daughter’s hand in marriage. Rather elaborate play-acting which I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

IMG_20170315_072848

“Here is an umbrella full of flowers! Marry my sister!” – Karthik

 

After that, the bride and groom were hoisted on their uncle’s shoulders and they tried to garland each other. It looked like fun for the couple, but I can’t imagine how the uncles must have been feeling. (Bursting with joy, of course!)

 

Next was the couple being sat on a swing (that represents the ups and downs of married life, apparently) and fed bananas and milk by the married ladies of the family.

IMG_20170315_073613

Shrew’s face – ups of marriage, Ram’s face – downs of marriage.

 

The proceedings after that point were not too clear – some sort of prayers, and then more prayers, and then eventually Sru-Ram were married! Woooohooooo!

 

IMG_20170315_094804

But we decided to take pictures anyway.

 

Throughout all of that, there was a ton of food, and one of Shrew’s uncles constantly kept checking in on us about whether we were enjoying the food and festivities. It was good fun and like at all Indian weddings, I ate too much.

After that, it was time for some much needed R&R before I got dressed to go for the evening reception. Robin wasn’t feeling very well, so I didn’t have a date but still, it’s hard not to have a good time when there’s good food. And just like that, it was the end of SruRam Kalyanam! Thank you both for having us at your wedding!

 

The wedding was over, but our stay in Chennai was not. The next day, Robin and I met up with my parents, sister and niece (cute little grub child I want to eat her) to head to Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We tried (and failed) to pass ourselves off as locals, and ended up getting a guided tour around, which was pretty informative.

IMG-20170316-WA0013

With the family at Mahabalipuram.

 

The rest of the time my sister and niece were there were spent shopping and eating for the most part, so I’ll skip over that to the other interesting thing to happen in Chennai.

IMG_20170317_141220

I was squashed in the back with all the shopping. -_-

My sister and niece had left, and my parents wanted to do more shopping (surprise) before they left, so Robin and I bailed to go to an amusement park instead. It was quite a hassle getting there – for some reason, some of the buses on that route said they wouldn’t stop at the amusement park, so we ended up having to wait ages to get the right bus and it was all very annoying but finally we managed to get there. The entrance fee wasn’t cheap but it was worth it. We were expecting to have a laugh at the lame rides, but it ended up being pretty fun. We went on a few of the major rides (not the scariest one though – who knows when the last time was that the rides had been serviced), and had a pretty good time! Not a must-go, but decent enough to kill a few hours.

IMG_20170318_124125

Check out the tacky dragons at the amusement park – Dizzeeworld!

Then it was time to say bye to the parents before their flight, and that was about it for Chennai! It was fun (minus the shopping bits) but I must say I’m not dying to go back again. Still, worth it for the time I spent there.

IMG_20170318_182222

Bye parents!

Kalpetta! Land of (failed) treks.

[I’m awful with updates – this happened maybe two weeks ago. I’m in Kochi about to head off to Munnar soon now.]

But not really. Ehh, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

Bus from Mysore to Kalpetta – a direct bus from the KSRTC bus station for 143Rs at 7am, and I arrived 4 hours later. Absolutely brilliant ride: I fell asleep part way, but woke up as we were driving through the nature reserve areas, hoping to see some wild elephants. No go, but it was still lovely scenery!

Reunited with Anna (from Germany/ Bangalore) in Kalpetta! So good to see her again – such a great girl. And she had a friend with her, Yossi from Israel. Cool cool cool. First order of business was food! Woohoo! Obviously I had the fish curry thali. Delish.

After that, we accompanied Yossi for a beard trim, and then Anna and I went wandering around the back streets of Kalpetta. It was lovely walking around the quiet streets and soaking in the atmosphere, and of course catching up with Anna!

Eventually, we headed back to the hotel to chill and discuss plans for the next day. We settled on hiking Chembra Peak (2100m, highest peak in Wayanad, 2nd highest in Kerala), so got our provisions for what was supposed to be a 6-8hour hike round trip. We also joined forces with a German couple who was also heading on the hike, and made plans for a 6.30am departure from the hotel the next morning.

It was all clouds and fog as we set out early the next morning, but undeterred, onward we went. First a bus to a neighboring village, Meppady, then breakfast there, and we got in a jeep (900Rs, round trip) to the forest ranger office to buy our tickets.

At the office, we were told in no uncertain terms, that we were not allowed anywhere near Chembra peak. Apparently, as of 4 years ago, authorities had ruled that the last section of the trek was out of bounds, and the highest we could get to was the heart-shaped lake, but Lonely Planet didn’t get the memo. Since we’d already come all that way, we coughed up the 1500Rs Group Entry fee and headed off on our trek with an unsmiling fellow, the mandatory local guide. The trek was fine, not really as easy as it’s made out to be (kinda steep in some places), but completely worth it for the great views enroute. Well, the great views we would have seen if everything hadn’t been shrouded in a blanket of mist.

IMAG0411

“But I swear in the days still left, we’ll walk in fields of gold.” – Sting

Still, the lake was lovely (not really heart-shaped, unless you’re somewhat creative in your interpretation of shapes), and we hung out eating the ton of food we’d bought in anticipation of an 8-hour round trip hike.

The views on the way back were much nicer, and seriously, Lonely Planet, if you’d updated your info to include that bit that the last segment of the hike is closed, we’d have gone later and caught some other incredible views. In any case, Trek 1 semi-failed, but it was still a great day.

IMAG0425

Anna was a little confused about where the scenery was supposed to be.

Deciding that it would be prudent to inquire with the local tourism office before heading out on any other hikes, we headed out to do exactly that the next day.

After much back and forth and explaining over and over again that we wanted to hike and not just walk to someplace for 20 minutes, and having the official there call the forest department for us (he had no idea about opening and closing hours or anything, really), we were finally told that no, it was not possible for us to do any hiking because all the parks/ reserves were closed. “Dry season, ma’am. High chance of forest fires, ma’am.”

Well, fancy that. With not much else to do , we started back toward our hotel in town but hang on a sec! What’s that building on top of that giant boulder? A temple?! Let’s get there!

We headed off in search of this mysterious temple on top of a boulder, after asking several passers-by (who were convinced that the 2.5km was far too long to walk and that we should take a tuktuk instead). Obviously, we ended up walking straight up some jungly path and over bare rocks and lost the non-existent path for a while before we finally arrived, in a less conventional way, at the temple. Gorgeous views, and totally worth it.

 

Two random local guys who were hanging out by the temple told us (well, me. In Malayalam, no less. Gonna add that to my ever growing list of languages) that there were some caves down another tiny path. Our original trekking plans may have been foiled, but this sounded even better. The caves were pretty cool, except for the part where the two guys decided they would follow us around, but Yossi’s presence was useful in deterring them (somewhat).

 

 

Cave exploring done, we decided to find an alternative route back to town and started off on a rather tiny, probably animal-made trail. It might not have been that smart in retrospect, but after quite a bit of slipping and sliding and swinging and swiping through the forest, we emerged right by….someone’s backyard. She must have been quite startled at the sudden appearance from three random foreigners the forest, as was her mother. They stared at us as we walked by smiling quite happily, pleased with having survived our forest trek. The mother inquired (in Malayalam) where Anna was from – her blonde hair and blue eyes are a constant source of amazement to the locals, and she seemed quite pleased that we were well and healthy.

Forest adventure over, we started making our way back to our hotel, smiling and waving at the locals to whom our presence was most unexpected. Some of them called out greetings which I tried to reply to (probably not very successfully), and as we were checking out a really cool tree that was growing out of the rock at an impossible, a middle-aged couple passed us by, bickering. They were speaking in Tamil (a language I am marginally better at than Malayalam), so I said hello to them.

 

The change in the lady was remarkable – she broke into a huge grin and came over and grasped my hand exclaiming “இது நம்ம ஆளு, நம்ம ஊரு பொண்ணு!” (She’s one of us, she’s from our land!). It was absolutely adorable, and although I had to correct her misconception that I was from Tamil Nadu, she was absolutely thrilled to find someone who spoke Tamil and besides, she was fascinated by Anna and Yossi. She asked us a bunch of questions in usual Indian fashion (Where are you from? What are you doing here? How old are you? Are you married? Why don’t you want to get married? Are they married? Do they have children? Why don’t they have children?), and invited us to her house for tea.

 

We didn’t have anything else to do, and she seemed really keen on having us visit her (she actually said come again tomorrow and I’ll prepare lunch for all of you, but when we said we might be leaving the next day, she insisted on tea), so we followed her to her house. Along the way, she asked more questions and I translated for Anna and Yossi and we all gradually learnt her life story – From Pondicherry, but moved to Kalpetta about 40 years ago when her father passed away (her mum passed away when she was born), because she had no other family. She had six children at a young age because she felt lonely, and she worked as a cleaner at several banks in town. She’d saved up money little by little over time to buy the plot of land where her house now stood and had finally finished building the house just a year ago. Her name – Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

 

IMAG0451

Her house, nestled on top of a boulder too.

 

We arrived at her house and she immediately called out to her daughters to prepare tea for us while getting us chairs to sit on. She disappeared for a while, leaving us to sit in the sparse living room and attempt to cajole her granddaughter to smile at us (baby Gayathri started bawling instead). When she returned, she served us tea and vadai, and she sat down on the floor to ask us more questions and tell us all about her children and her life.

 

IMAG0449

Baby Gayathri was not impressed by us.

 

Thinking back on it fills me with a warm sort of happiness, at how she didn’t even think twice about inviting three complete strangers into her home and sharing the little that she had with us. All three of us may be richer than her in terms of the amount of money we have in the bank, but truly, she is a goddess of wealth. Eventually, we said our goodbyes, and as we were leaving, she told us that we would always have a place in her home in Kalpetta, should we return. Many people may say thing like that, but there are few who actually mean it, and I know that if I do one day return to Kalpetta, she would welcome me to her home like a long lost daughter.

IMAG0450

The delightful Lakshmi and her family.

 

We spent the rest of the day chilling at the hotel, the next day, I decided to leave Kalpetta and head to Alleppy for some backwater exploration.  I booked myself on a RedBus sleeper bus and made arrangements for my hostel in Alleppey, and off we went to spend our last day together in Kalpetta by the Pookot Lake.

IMAG0461

We decided to investigate an abandoned property nearby. Just because.

 

 

It turned out to be much nicer than any of us expected it to be, and we spent a blissful few hours hanging out in the shade of some trees.

IMAG0469

Very chill lake.

IMAG0473

That’s actually full of water lilies.

IMAG0474

Minions.

After that, it was lunch, a rest and all too soon, time to say goodbye to Anna and Yossi. 😦

 

Some friends you meet on the road become friends for life, and I knew I would miss these guys dearly. But such is the traveller’s life, and Alleppey awaited!

IMAG0457

All of Rio de Janeiro is a Favela

15 Mar – 22 Mar

The title is in jest – if your delicate sensibilities are offended, well, I don’t really care.

Rio de Janeiro is not too far from Paraty, and we managed to catch a relatively early bus, so when we arrived, it was mid afternoon. Honestly, when we arrived, I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. Rio seemed rather filthy, with a vague air of malice hanging about it. Perhaps it was because of all the hype, but I was not impressed.

Leftovers from Carnival, adding to the generally unsavoury atmosphere in Rio. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Leftovers from Carnival, adding to the generally unsavoury atmosphere in Rio.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Anyway. Dona Raquel, Daniel’s mum, had invited us to stay with her, so we headed over to her place, where we met Daniel, who was in Rio as well. After lunch and a quick shower, we headed to the bus terminal to buy Daniel’s bus ticket back to Paraty, a journey during which Daniel and Junior tried to spook me with horror stories of Rio (Junior had lived there for most of his life before he moved to Paraty). It kinda worked, probably because the area around the rodoviaria is pretty shady, with a significant number of homeless people (who looked like they were drunk or drugged or both) wandering around aimlessly. Well, once that was done, we headed to Niteroi, Rio’s less (in)famous little brother, the city on the other side of the bridge. It was a nice bus ride over, with a great view of both Niteroi and Rio.

No picture of the bus ride, but here's a picture of the sunset instead Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

No picture of the bus ride, but here’s a picture of the sunset instead
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We ended up in a tiny town called Manilha, where we first headed to their friend’s home (he is also called Daniel) for tea and then to church, where Daniel was giving a guest sermon. It was a pretty nice evening, and Daniel (of Niteroi) gave us a ride back to Dona Raquel’s place.

Happy churchgoers! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Happy churchgoers!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The next day was Sunday, and Junior wanted to go to his parents’ house to surprise them. But first, he took me on a little tour around Rio. We saw the Maracana stadium (only from the outside, sadly),

THE Maracana Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

THE Maracana
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

went to a park

On the way to the park - in the background, some mountains that pretty much surround Rio Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

On the way to the park – in the background, some mountains that pretty much surround Rio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and visited a museum that used to be the old residence of one of Brazil’s governors

Gorgeous building, really Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Gorgeous building, really
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

but had an exhibit on dinosaurs (and a whole bunch of other things) instead.

Yay dinosaurs! But really, a history of Brazil's Portuguese colonial times would have been more fitting. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Yay dinosaurs and mummies! But really, a history of Brazil’s Portuguese colonial times would have been more fitting.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

After that, it was to Junior’s home in Rio, which (according to him) is in what used to be one of the worst favela’s in Rio. Honestly, it didn’t seem that bad, but there was a significantly larger population of scantily-clad women and cars with Funk music blaring out of their boots.

Big open market where the bus dropped us off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Big open market where the bus dropped us off
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

But back to the surprise! Needless to say, when his mum opened the door for us, her expression was absolutely priceless. She (and the rest of Junior’s family) was absolutely delighted to see him, and it was really good to see them all again as well (even as I write this, several months later, the memory brings a smile to my face). I got to meet the rest of Junior’s wonderful family, and it was an absolutely lovely day.

Newest addition to Junior's family - Vitor! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Newest addition to Junior’s family – Vitor!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Well, since my phone died in Paraty, I was essentially uncontactable in case of an emergency, so I wanted to buy a new phone in Rio. So that evening, Junior brought me to one of the million shopping malls in Rio to try to find a phone that suited my needs (i.e. cheap smartphone with whatsapp capability that wasn’t blocked for international SIM cards). The bus ride there was absolutely insane – a less experienced driver would surely have caused an accident at the speed he was driving at, on the kind of streets he was driving on, but we arrived to a delightful surprise! There was a funfair going on, and being the children that we are, Junior and I decided to go on the most exciting ride they had. Super fun and such a throwback to childhood days.

Funfairs turn adults to kids again! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Funfairs turn adults to kids again!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Well, the mall was boring after that, and I found a phone that worked but didn’t buy it because the store closed while we were distracted by ice cream. So it was another roller-coaster bus ride (all bus drivers in Rio, and possibly in all Brazil/ Latin America have superpowers, I’m sure of it) back to Junior’s house after that, where we called it a night.

After lunch the next day, we headed back to Rio to explore a little more. I also got a truly Carioca experience, because we took the train back to downtown, something tourists never do, apparently. It was a really interesting experience, and I got the chance to see what Rio’s favelas are like. I even made a video of the train ride, secretly.

It is apparently common for people to hang out of the doors (which they force open) of the train Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

It is apparently common for people to hang out of the doors (which they force open) of the train
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Favelas don't look that bad, but maybe I'm blind Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Favelas don’t look that bad, but maybe I’m blind
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Having made it safely back downtown, we explored a bit of Rio, checking out some of the iconic sites there. It was great having Junior as a tour guide, because I could focus on soaking in the city without worrying too much about where we were going (or how to navigate the crazy traffic).

Cool building in downtown Rio Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Cool building in downtown Rio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

After wandering around for a bit, we caught a ferry over to Niteroi!

Crazy queue for the ferry though. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Crazy queue for the ferry though.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

If the view on the bus was good, the ferry was better.

Rio, from the ferry Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Rio, from the ferry
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

And cheaper too (God only knows why anyone would take the bus instead).

Niteroi, from the ferry Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Niteroi, from the ferry
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We walked around Niteroi(‘s shopping centre) for a bit, and then took the ferry back to Rio.

Row of lights which is actually the bridge which connects Rio and Niteroi Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Row of lights which is actually the bridge which connects Rio and Niteroi
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We caught a really strange, but interesting performance at a museum

Performance art, where people actually talked to us. It was odd and we didn't quite understand what was going on. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Performance art, where people actually talked to us. It was odd and we didn’t quite understand what was going on.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Rio at night is a lovely(ish) sight Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Rio at night is a lovely(ish) sight
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and then it was back to Dona Raquel’s house for me to get my stuff and head to my CouchSurfing host’s place.

It was, quite frankly, the worst CouchSurfing experience I have ever had. Well, to be honest, I was somewhat aware of the situation, but I guess it was just more than I had expected. So, I had sent CouchRequests some time back, asking for a place to crash for Carnival. This guy had invited me over, and when I checked his profile, he had quite a number of good references, but also a bunch of people who had said that his place was dirty, because of the 7 or 8 dogs he had. Well, generally, a dirty places don’t bother me too much, and I’m a big fan of dogs, so I thought I could deal with it. Unfortunately, this was not the case, because when I got to his place, I was greeted by a very strong smell of unwashed dogs as well as poo and pee. He informed me that one of his dogs had just had puppies, so there were now a grand total of FOURTEEN dogs in his relatively small apartment. He showed me to the place where I was to sleep, and left me to my devices. I tried to settle down to sleep, but unfortunately, the entire atmosphere of the place was making me really uncomfortable. To top it all off, the dogs spent the whole night yowling and barking, which was really just…I don’t even know how to describe it. I decided that I couldn’t stay there any longer, so in the morning, I made my excuses and left for a hostel. The guy seemed pretty cool about it, but he later sent me an angry message, so I guess not 😦 such a pity, because he seemed pretty cool, despite the state of his house. Well, in any case, that’s in the past now.

After dumping my stuff at the hostel, I went out to meet Junior and finally bought my phone. Good thing Junior was there too, because non-Brazilians apparently can’t buy phones in Brazil (weird system, I know). Armed with my new phone, we set off to climb Pão de Açúcar.

Pao de Azucar, which is now commonly known amongst tourists as Sugar Loaf heh Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Pao de Azucar, which is now commonly known amongst tourists as Sugar Loaf heh
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Well, actually the smaller hill next to it, but you know, same difference. It was an easy trek

View from a secret spot off the trail Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

View from a secret spot off the trail
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We met a little monkey on our walk too! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We met a little monkey on our walk too!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and with great view of the bay area.

I'm not part of the view, but it was a cool tree to perch on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

I’m not part of the view, but it was a cool tree to perch on
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We even got to take the cable car down (for free!) which was the perfect icing on the cake.

Cable car view! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,

Cable car view!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

After that, we headed to Copacabana beach for a leisurely evening stroll,

Copacabana beach - that's the full moon in the distance! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Copacabana beach – that’s the full moon in the distance!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

unfettered by the hordes of tourists who usually occupy almost every square inch of space during the day. Lovely day that really got my mind off the CouchSurfing fiasco.

One of the most famous things in Rio, apart from Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, is the giant statue of Jesus Christ, Cristo Redentor, on Morro do Corcovado. And get this – despite having lived in Rio for most of his life, Junior had never been to visit it. He finally had an excuse to, with me around, and we decided to go the next day. As I was heading there, I met a Brazilian girl, Dani, and her two Argentinian friends, Wally and Dario who were also heading there, so we decided to go together.

Pretty cool view on the train up to  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Pretty cool view on the train up to Morro do Corcovado
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Despite being quite expensive, it was worth it – fantastic views,

Overlooking Rio Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Overlooking Rio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Back view of Jesus Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Back view of Jesus
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

And the front! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

And the front!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and good laughs at the silly tourists who were making the typical pose (I plead guilty as well).

Silly tourists Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Silly tourists
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

After that, we split from Dani and friends who were heading to the beach, and wandered around Rio a bit more before heading to Arpoador to catch a gorgeous sunset.

Walking along Ipanema Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Walking along Ipanema
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Sunset  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Sunset from the Arpoador – View of Morro Dois Irmaos
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We chilled out there for a while, and then it was off to Lapa to check out Rio’s famed nightlife. Maybe because it was midweek, but it didn’t seem particularly impressive.

Lapa at night Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Lapa at night
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The famous arches of Lapa Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The famous arches of Lapa
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

I still had fun though, and Lapa, despite its distinctly hobo vibe, still seemed like a quaint, bohemian place.

The steps of Lapa, which are (also) famous and add to the bohemian vibe there Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The steps of Lapa, which are (also) famous and add to the bohemian vibe there
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

It was quite late by then, so I accompanied Junior back to his home for the night.

After being in small, quiet little Paraty for almost three weeks, being in Rio was rather overwhelming (I really am a small-town kinda girl at heart!), so we had a quiet (or as quiet as a home with more than 10 people living in it can be) day in Junior’s house, just hanging out in the pool and watching TV. Very coincidentally, there was a program on TV about Singapore (can you believe that!) which I enjoyed watching, but which also made me miss (the food back) home. It also happened to be Junior’s mum’s birthday that day, so in the evening, there was a celebration with the rest of Junior’s family. Such a lovely bunch of people, and being there reminded me of my own family celebrations back home.

Feliz aniversario mae! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Feliz aniversario mae!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The next day, it was time to say goodbye to Junior and (my) family (in Rio), as Junior was heading back to Paraty. Back in Rio downtown, I had a relatively calm day, running errands and taking it easy. That night, I went with Dani and friends with some other people from the hostel to Lapa again, and it definitely was more vibrant, with lots of people partying on the streets. Very fun night, although my wallet fell out of the taxi as I was getting out without me noticing and I lost maybe R$40 due to my own stupid carelessness. 😦

One of the people I met during the church retreat in Paraty was Camila, a really sweet girl who lives in Rio. She had invited me to hang out with her the next day, so we, along with her friend Mimi, headed to the Jardim Botanico, for an afternoon of sightseeing

Giant trees and a tiny Camila Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Giant trees and a tiny Camila
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The largest lily pads in the world! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The largest lily pads in the world!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Cristo looked quite cool, shrouded in clouds Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Cristo looked quite cool, shrouded in clouds
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and camwhoring.

The garden trio Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The garden trio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

A very pleasant day we ended by going to Copacabana beach and chilling out to Camila playing the guitar and singing.

Entertainment for the evening Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Entertainment for the evening
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

With that, I had had enough of Rio for the time being, and I decided to get back on the road. But not for long, because my next stop was Buzios!

Cue Cheesy Song Lyrics about Leaving on a Jet Plane

Written 17 November 2013

Not(e)book by Epìgram: Journaling the trip!

Not(e)book by Epìgram: Journaling the trip!

So it’s really happening! After waiting for more than two years, I’m finally off on my South American adventure! It all feels quite surreal and I don’t think I’ve quite come to grips with it, but I suppose it’ll sink in soon, or at some point. But then again, Sushma is getting MARRIED in three days and that hasn’t sunk in yet.

The days since the last update have been interesting enough. The butterflies which appear to have taken up permanent residence in my tummy have quietened down somewhat, and it was mostly just time spent with family and friends whom I won’t see again for a while. Getting all the hugs and well wishes and blessings from everyone was lovely, and I’m so thankful for all the people who came to send me off.

With the Friends, Changi Airport, Singapore, Nov 2013

With the Friends, Changi Airport, Singapore, Nov 2013

Just goes to show how blessed I am to be surrounded by all these wonderful people. I might miss them more than I expect, hmm.

With the Family, Changi Airport, Singapore, Nov 2013

With the Family, Changi Airport, Singapore, Nov 2013

I’m on the flight to Kochi now, and feeling rather sleepy. I suppose I should get some sleep or something so more updates as and when I have time/wifi! Till then, safe travels everyone! xoxo

P.S. I’ll add some pictures to this post once I get myself connected to a computer!

P.P.S Pictures added! -02 Dec 2013