After a week of yoga and beach in Goa, we headed further north to meet up with some folks in Pune and Mumbai. We were looking forward to simply spending some time with friends, experiencing everyday living and continuing the wonderful food fest that India presents.
First stop was a visit with the Murtis (Gita and Raghu) of Pune. Their son and daughter-in-law and granddaughters have been friends for 15+ years, and we have had the pleasure of meeting Gita and Raghu a number of times when they visited Seattle. We were looking forward to meeting them in their neighborhood.
Pune, “The Oxford of the East”, is a smaller town (~2M+) and an easy 3.5 hour train ride to or from Mumbai. Pune is filled with university students and IT workers from all around India. We were told by many younger guys during our travels that it is one of the hot spots for hipsters nowadays. With its higher elevation and cool evenings, the climate is wonderful.
Gita and Raghu are special people and wonderful hosts. We very much enjoyed our morning walk through the agricultural college gardens, the Maharashtrian thali lunch, meeting their friends, discussing the Donald, politics, books and the special order of red guava ice cream with paprika. My goodness, I have found myself daydreaming about this ice cream since we left.
After a reset in Pune, it was off on the Deccan Queen, an early morning train to Mumbai, for a quick day visit to wrap up our 29 days in India.
In Mumbai, we had a chance to catch up with some other friends, Snehal and Falguni Shah. They are old colleagues from back in our Singapore days- 20 years ago. We had a great tour around Mumbai with them, followed by lunch, a stroll on Juhu beach and dinner with Snehal’s folks.
We also did a quick drive past Mukesh Ambani’s multi-billion dollar home in South Mumbai. We did not get any photos, but here is one from the interweb.
While in Pune and Mumbai, we were introduced to even more new and great dishes including kadhi, undhiyu, khandvi, and the chikoo fruit. A highlight of our culinary explorations was our visit to the Mucchad Paanwala for some post lunch paan which is a fantastic mix of sweet spices wrapped up in a betel leaf. (Some put tobacco and other items in there for a different type of experience.)
29 days in India are up. A special thanks again to Gita, Raghu, Snehal and Falguni for their warmth and hospitality. We will cherish the memories!
We saw only a slice of the country, but what a fascinating slice it was. Travelling in India presents some challenges and not recommended for all. There are a lot of people no matter where you go – even out in the countryside, a lot of noise ( a lot of horns and dogs barking constantly), and it is not always easy to get around. With ~ 1.2 billion people in India, the infrastructure is challenged. Power outages are not uncommon (although most hotels and larger businesses have generators at this point). And with all the industrialization and vehicles on the road, there is also a lot of pollution. We only had one or two “blue sky days”. The haze was thick nearly everyday, and by the 2nd or 3rd week, one could definitely feel it. A tiered system exists for travelers which demonstrated itself in a number of ways- e.g. foreigners usually pay more for tourist attractions and museums- not always, but it is usually the case. An art museum in Bengalaru was charging 20x the local rate. On the flip side, foreigners (unfortunately, mostly Caucasians) often get faster service or are encouraged to go to the head of the lines (something we were never comfortable with). For women traveling in India, one needs to be prepared for gawking whether in the cities of Bengaluru or in smaller towns like Munnar. The gawking was harmless and likely just because we looked different but something one needs to get used to when traveling in India. Women can also be overlooked at the dinner table at restaurants. The waiters often served Chris the remainder of the dishes on the table, and then Chris shared. India is a fascinating country, but it is not for the feint of heart. We enjoyed our visit because we had a chance to catch up with friends as well as gain somevknowledge and a perspective on such an important and interesting part of the world. We are not done here by any means. We will need to make another visit to focus on northern India -e.g. Delhi, Rajastan, The Taj, Kashimir, the Himalayas and the Ganges etc. etc.
We are heading out of Asia and moving on the South America. Stay tuned.