Friday, July 28, 2017

India : Munnar, All The Way Up

It was one hell of a journey from Erode to Munnar. It took us 4 different buses and nearly 10 hours (or more I can't really remember) to reach Munnar. The perfect phrase to describe our situation wa "lost in translation". First, we thought it gonna be a smooth sailing after Kavin explained to us in details on how to get to Munnar. From what he said, we only need to take 2 buses and we should be in Munnar in no more than 6 hours.

from google
After we left from Kavin's wedding, we straight away went to Erode main bus station. Kavin even asked the cab driver to find us a right bus to go to Munnar. We took the first bus going to Tiruppur that cost us only INR24 each. Luckily we all got a seat throughout the journey except for the last bus. That last bus was epic, and we'll get to that.

 It all began in Tiruppur. The confusing and gross part lol. Once we reach Tiruppur, some of us tried to find toilet due to 'almost exploding bladder'. It was hot, so we drank a lot of water and along the journey the road condition wasn't so goo and the bus kept jumping and braking all the time. I'd like to think our urinary bladder as a bottle of carbonated drink (eg: coke). You know what happen when we shake the bottle non-stop and hold it for so long. I hope you get the idea. Then we found a public toilet and it was bizarre. The toilet basically a large cubicle with a size of 20sqft and with a very shallow drainage along the wall. The concept was 'pee where it suits you'. The smell was so terrible my friend even made a joke about it. He said he saw 5 people entered the toilet but only 4 made it out. Maybe the other one died of suffocating. Yeah it was that terrible and I didn't even imagine it would be that bad.But we all managed to come out safely lol.

We asked around about the next bus to Munnar but they said there is no direct bus to Munnar from Tiurppur, and we actually need to take another 3 buses to reach there. WTF right?! First we need to catch bus to Pollachi (INR36) then take another one to Udumalaipet (INR18) and only then we can find a direct bus to Munnar that gonna cost INR71.We arrived in Udumalaipet aeound 7pm and while searching for the bus to Munnar we were told that the last bus of the day to Munnar was about to leave. We ran and we made it on time. What sucks was the journey gonna take around 4 hours (it was a cold one) and the bus was fully packed with people. We were standing (also sleeping while standing) for 3/4 of the journey until we reached at this one stop that only about half an hour away from Munnar. Bear in mind that the route was all hilly and surrounded by jungle (kind of). Oh and at that stop almost all the people hooped off from the bus and we finally got seats!

One of our friends already vomitted several times. The journey was rough. Lots of climbing and sharp corners, and sometimes the bus also brakes so sudden so that the driver could show us bison, elephants,deer and other wildlife animals that can be seen along the route. We finally arrived at our destination around midnight and it was just walking distance to our hotel. We checked in and had a very good night sleep.

The next morning we had our regular tiffin breakfast before we done a tour around Munnar. Munnar is in Kerala territory and one of the India's largest tea growing region. The mountain scenery was magnificent. We rent a jeep for one day tour. It fits 9 of us and cost us INR1500. To take tuk-tuk is cheaper but we need to be divided into 3 so we chose jeep. There was 8 stops altogether. I think first we went to botanical garden. Need to pay for entrance fee but I can't remember how much. We didn't enter jus wandered around taking photos. We also went to tea plantation and there was instant photo printing service. Quite cheap actually. To print your photo with tea plantation background, on the spot, that was nice. After that we went to 2 dams where we met a nice Syrian couple. The tour lasted for half of the day and it actually gets dark pretty early in Munnar. At night we walked around the town to get dinner. Munnar is a nice place to realx and chill. The environment was so calm and not as busy as other town. Down here are some of the photos that I managed to take while I was in Munnar :

Sunday, July 9, 2017

India : The Traditional Wedding

I've witnessed a lot of wedding ceremony, Kavin's was exceptional. So cheerful, non stop traditional music, a lot of good foods (all veggies because they all vegetarian), vibrant colors, and a lot of other things that I don't know how to put it into words. So beautiful and extravagant.

                                                 this is when we arrived at the hall on the first night

 group photos all wearing Indian traditional clothes

 one with the beautiful couple

Basically, it was a 2 days event. The first event started with Kirtana going to temple to pray. Then Kavin's mother went to the temple to take Kirtana to wedding hall. Once arrived in the hall, the bride and groom are seated together on the floor covered with mat. Before that several guys marched to the temple, took some water from the temple and gave it to Kavin to drink it. So many things happened around the area of the wedding hall and the temple, I think I missed some of details. Oh the guys marched accompanying by music from the drums and flute. I was kind of a unique music. The one that you hear when someone playing flute in front of the snake to tame it, but this with sound of the drums. So loud.
Once they are seated, several old ladies came and sit with them. Around 10 people. Later, they mixed some kind of foods with addition of milk, flour, rice and some other things that I couldn't identify. They mixed it using their bare hands. What happens next was so unexpected. The old ladies grabbed the mixture of the foods with their palms and forced Kavin and Kirtana to eat it. Like really forced it into their mouth. They looked reluctant but they accepted it to be pushed down their throat lol. And they were laughing too, the old ladies and so were we.

                                                                  the "forced eat" ritual

After the "forced eat" ceremony was done, we thought that was it. We thought wrong. After they finished the brids and groom, they went straight at us, the foreigners from not so far away land. Actually it was not their custom to force eat us with that food mixtures, but they wanted us to experience their culture and have a more understanding on their culture. We tried to run but later we gave up. The thing actually tasted quite nice until we found several strands of hair inside it. Only after that, all the guests were invited to eat. Buffet style but at every foods station there were people standing there to help you withe foods. It was all vegetarian.

 around the ceremony

 just enjoying our food

 the best "roti maker" in town

the end product

To my surprise, I never thought veggies would taste so good until I ate at the Kavin's wedding ceremony. There was a lot of foods and you can eat as much as you can. We filled up our stomach and chill with the other guests. It was nice, they were all so kind towards us. After most of the guests went back, the ceremony continued with close relatives. We were there also because we were like special guests. They really honoured us by letting us stay in the hall for the whole night until the next morning. This time Kavin was seating on a chair with his uncle beside him. I can't remember his uncle name but he is the big brother of Kavin's late father. And now Kavin's uncle is the head of family and that is why he was the one seated with Kavin on that night. Other relatives met Kavin and his uncle, and exchanges some words, one by one. It was like they agreeing and blessing the unity Kavin and Kirtana. Later that night we were told by Kavin that he wasn't actually married yet. The marriage will take place on the next day. Then we all went to sleep.

chilling with the other guests

 Kavin with his uncle

they took turns.while 2 of them playing, another 2 sleeping

Some of the relatives just slept on the floor. We went upstairs and set up our hammock. At 4am the musicians started playing the drums and flute non-stop until 10am.

What interesting here was Pato decided to sleep in a hotel nearby. Maybe he wasn't feeling too comfortable sleeping in a hall. So in the morning we called him on his cell around 7am and told him to get ready because the real wedding ceremony about to get started. He said he was just taken shower and about to go out. The hotel was about 10mins walk from the hall. Suspected nothing, we continued to have fun in the ceremony and enjoyed every foods offered. So the ceremony went on with beautiful music and decorations, the guests came with all sorts of beautiful and colorful clothes. I really admired the cultures and they were so nice to us. Treated us like one of them.

After a while, we realized Pato still not arrived yet and it was almost 11. We tried to call and text but we got no answer from him. We were worried sick and told about this to Kavin's uncle.They discussed among themselves for like 5mins and suddenly it was like Tamil action movie. Kavin's uncle snapped his finger and instructed all the youngsters to go look for Pato. They were all with bikes. I followed one of the bikes. We separated into several groups. The rider and I was looking for like 15mins around Erode town and tiny little alley until the rider got a call from somebody and we immediately returned to the hall. I didn't understand a bit what he was talking to me. When I arrived at the hall, Kavin's uncle told us to relax and calm down because he said Pato was found. He didn't tell the details but he said Pato is coming and the other group of guys that helped will bring Pato to the wedding hall. And finally he arrived with smiling face. We were puzzled because we thought something bad happened to him but why he was smiling. Later on he explained to us right after he picked up our phone call he felt a bit sleepy and decided to take a short nap that turned out to be a long nap instead lol. So everything was good but he missed the important part of the ceremony where Kavin and Kirtana circle the fire together as they embarked on a new journey as husband and wife. We continued on eating for hours until our stomachs can't take it anymore. We filled up our stomach pretty good because we got a long journey ahead. It was a tough journey but we made it. It wasn't easy to get to Munnar from Erode without any proper planning but it was a joyful ride!

 "baju melayu" & "baju kurung" FTW

pato was found safe and sound lol

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

India : A Day In Erode

Our day started pretty early despite of the exhaustion from yesterday journey. We had kind of buffet breakfast (we can order several things but there is a limit) in our hotel. The weather was looking good and very promising. So I guessed we can do many stuffs and go to many places around Erode today.

The breakfast

Hustle or get hustled

Pato trying to cross the road in front of our hotel

First thing first, of course we went for a shopping spree. The fact we were in India, we should find cheapest saree and kurta. And my sisters requested at least 3 pairs each for them to make "baju kurung". We tried to find around our hotel first but we can't seem to find a good deal on saree and kurta. But we kept on walking and searching. During this time, we were separated into 3 groups because there was a lot of shops to go through and everybody got no time to for anybody. Actually I wasn't into shopping much when I'm travelling. Same goes to Napek and Pato I guess because later on we decided to stray away from others looking for random things and shooting for random photos and videos while we were exploring around the area by ourselves.

Street view

I do admit we look like a local 

Bashir showing some photos he took to the locals

Napek and I blending in with them locals

We were like childs I swear. Laughed all the way, ignoring glances from the locals and running around while recording everything. We even made a tutorial video on how to cross a busy road in India like a boss. While exploring, we found a coconut hut where you can buy and drink coconut juice while chilling beside the busy road of Erode. Oh it was the best feeling ever when the coconut drink flowing down in my throat after hours of walking under hot scorching sun. While drinking, some of our friends passed by and joined us for some refreshment also. After that we regrouped to go other places. We find "tuktuk" and tried to negotiate the prices and to bring us tour to interesting places around Erode. We found 2 "tuktuk" for 8 of us with a fair price.

Whats new today

Just chilling

The first place we went was a mosque. If I'm not mistaken, that was the only mosque in Erode. Muslim population is not so many over there. The mosque actually kinda hidden among other houses building. Hard to find it unless there is a local to show you the way. We stopped for a while and took some photos before we proceeded to our second destination, Erode Government Museum. The entrance fee was INR5 and we need to pay for another INR20 for cameras. The museum wasn't much fun because I'm not into museum. But it was my friends who made it better. You know how they say it "the worst possible scenario could be the best one if you are in the right company". We enjoyed every bit of it. Just in front of the museum there is a temple that charges you INR5 for entrance fee and INR50 for camera. We went for it because from the outside the temple does look interesting. We walked around and spend about 40mins taking picture and tried to read every scriptures on the wall. There was also a circus beside the temple. On the banner it says something like "only human will be performing because we are against animal cruelty"

In front of the museum

Inside the mosque

Somebody explaining and somebody trying to understand

Inside the temple area

Got surprised by Mr Dino here

A metaphor

The crew

We lingered around the area for a while and found ourselves in front of sugar cane stall. Seems interesting although quite dirty for even street food standard. The seller was a middle-aged woman with her daughter. She mixed up the drinks with lemon. I was quite surprised at first, we all were. But actually it tasted nice if you put aside the dirty part. I guess all the street food and drink stalls in India are like that. I'm not being a stereotype but that is what you could expect from a street stalls worldwide mostly. I remember from this one episode of Bizarre Foods (or other foods related tv show) the tv host specifically said there is nothing wrong to tried all the street foods in India but only drink from bottled water or canned water if you are not a local. It could be dangerous he said. Our stomach just not built for it, even my Malaysian friends that used to study in India they all cook and drink only from bottled mineral water. Luckily nothing happened to us afterwards, only 3 of us got diarrhea. But hey, it just made our stomachs stronger lol.

The forbidden drink

Later that day we continued to walk and found a tuktuk driver that suggested us to go to Pentaloons mall. He said they sell cheap clothes and good quality too. So we went there and guess what, he spoke the truth. I bought 5 pair of kurtas for myself. On the way back the four of us got separated and I was glad we got separated because we later found the best briyani stalls ever in India. It is a small stall on the side of small road. We smelled it first then we caught a glance of deep fried chicken. The smell and colour of the chicken tempted us to go inside and ask about the price. The seller then showed us briyani rice inside in a big pot. We then knew it was gonna be the best lunch of our trip even it was only day two haha. So we had a chicken briyani each with add on deep fried chicken. After we filled up our tummy we headed straight back to hotel to get prepared for the wedding ceremony. And not to forget, we told the awesomeness of the chicken briyani that we had to our friends just to get them jealous haha. And there goes our day 2 in India.

The deep fried chicken that made us stop

The best chicken briyani ever

In the middle of Erode

Just a random uncle

India : Munnar, All The Way Up

It was one hell of a journey from Erode to Munnar. It took us 4 different buses and nearly 10 hours (or more I can't really remember) to...