Thursday, May 27, 2010

Goa, India

Hello, We are making progress slowly on this blog, but it will happen eventually. Bear with me.

On the west coast of India there is a former Portuguese colony, named Goa, which was occupied until the 1960's. When the Portuguese left the colony it had a European atmosphere, but when the influence left, unfortunately the cleanliness and the influence left as well.

The main attractions are the historic churches, the spice plantations, and the beaches.

We began at the churches which date back to the 16th centuries.

Chapel of St. Francis Xavier.

It was very interesting to see this sort of design and architecture in India. We felt as if we were in Europe.

One of the strangest things that we saw was the body of Saint Francis of Assisi,a missionary to India. When we read up about this man we found some very interesting history. It was said that his body did not decay for many years after his death. His corpse can still be seen inside the casket, which is on display in the church.

Not such a pretty face anymore.

From there we went on to a spice plantation. It was set up for tourists, but we still had fun seeing all of the spices and fruits being grown that we use on a regular basis back home.

Below is the cashew nut which grows on the bottom of the cashew fruit. Many also eat the fruit.


Vanilla beans

A baby pineapple

At the end of our tour we were served a fantastic traditional meal on a banana leaf.

The beaches of Goa had lots of volcanic rock. We enjoyed walking the beaches, but were often overwhelmed by locals try to sell us trinkets. It was not the best time of year to visit. It was very hot, so there were not too many tourists. As a result the vendors were desperate for income.

We rented a motorcycle and buzzed around the town and it surroundings. We love to see the countryside from a motorcycle.

Don't ask! I don't know why. It was just cool looking.

And like much like the rest of India, there are cows everywhere.

Baskin Robins was a fantastic find. We really enjoyed the AC and the ice cream. It was very hot while we were there.

There were a number of times during our trip that doing laundry became a difficult or a suprisingly expensive problem. We found a place that washed our clothes one day, but without an machine drier, they were not dry the night before our flight onward. I made a clothes line in the room and we were able to dry them out by morning.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hampi, India

An ancient capital of India awaited us, full of history and culture. Our excitement grew as a tuk tuk ride ushered us into a beautiful landscape, strewn with enormous boulders and patched together with palm tree shaded rice paddies. The city boasted dramatic Hindu temples jetting from the center of town, people bathing and washing laundry in the sacred river, and boys tending the herds of goats among the rocky terrain. Palaces stood on the mountainsides and ruins from centuries past were scattered around every valley resting in silence. This was Hampi. This was India.

The following video was of our ride into Hampi. You may be surprised to learn that the music was being played by the driver of our tuk tuk. After asking our permission, he cranked up the tunes as we headed from the bus station into town.

Our arrival in Hampi.

The main bazaar was a road lined with booths, leading up to a grand temple. People wandered back and forth, bartering for trinkets and idols. Barefoot men and women played instruments and children smiled sheepishly, waved, and occasionally peeped a "hello" followed by giggles. Of course there were also cows wandering as if lost amongst the crowd.

At the foot of the temple were two large towers with wheels mounted on them so they could be rolled down the main road.

There was a festival underway, which carried with it lots of music, enthusiasm and excitement.

Although there is some initiatives in place to protect the heritage, the Indians continue to live in, have business out of, and picnic in the ruins. Overall they remain greatly unprotected. We even saw that the local police station had set up shop in one of the more stable structures.

We finally found the cows that produce strawberry milk.

Helping sweep in front of the shop.

Purchasing idols and shrines for the dusty bookshelf back home.

"Hi.....Hello....Hello....What's your name? hehehe .....I am six years old"

Coconuts for sale.

The brightly colored dust that is used to mark the forehead of people and idols. It is also thrown into the air during times of celebration.

When one enters the temple you are required to take off your shoes. Then they promptly charge you a fee of 20cents for "keeping" your shoes while you are gone. It is a bit nasty to be walking amongst the bird, monkey and bull poop, not to mention human. It seems like a pretty crazy place to go barefoot.

Offerings are given in the forms of color, money, and flowers to various idols scattered about the temple complex.

Monkeys get into mischief.

Down by the river we watches as people washed their bodies, their clothes and their livestock.

Swimming during the heat of the day was popular as well.

A family picnic.

Washing clothes.

The clothes are wrung out and then laid on the hot rocks to dry.

In order to reach all of the guesthouses, one must cross the river in a tiny boat. It was nice to leave the busy, dirty town and have a peaceful oasis to retreat to.

We found some comfortable bungalows overlooking rice paddies and the river for about $6 a night.

The swing was fantastic for the afternoon when it was too hot to be out sightseeing. We hung around the guesthouse, ordered food, and enjoyed fresh pineapple juice.

While staying there we rented a bike on a few occasions so we could get out and see some of the local countryside and explore more of the remote ruins.

Crazy forms of transportation.

The locals in the countryside are completely different than those in the city. They are more interested in you as a person and less in what you will give them or buy from them. We enjoyed chatting with these boys one afternoon.

We were shocked when we learned that these ladies were working on the road. They broke the rock off the mountain, hauled it in larger hunks to the construction site, and then continued to break down all the rock into small pieces. They would then scatter the gravel over the road by hand. Dirt was hauled by horse and cart, then poured over the gravel, and packed into a road base. It looked like extremely difficult work, especially in the heat of the day.

An old aqueduct. The ancient city ruins made me feel like I was in Rome or Greece.

One afternoon we wandered down to the river to swim and were found by one of the local boys who was tending his fathers goat herd of 100 or more. He spoke very little English, but took great interest in showing us around. He gave us a tour of where to swim and where the best view was. He got a kick out of the camera and loved to have his picture taken.

After a relaxing afternoon in the river, we headed out to look for a restaurant. We meandered down a path trimmed with banana trees.

The mango tree restaurant had a good reputation with others and so we gave it a whirl.

We loved the food and enjoyed looking back toward the boys and his goats on the other side of the river.

One evening we wandered about the ruins which were within walking distance from the city.

We were fascinated by the small boats which they used to ferry people across the river.

I believe that they are known as Welsh coracles; A sort of basket made from bamboo or the like, covered with canvas, that is then coated with tar.

We caught rumor that the best place to take in the view of the area as well as enjoy a fantastic sunset was the Monkey Temple.

We rented a motorcycle to get there, and then made the trek up the crazy steps.

There were numerous monkeys to be seen, and numerous boulders too.

A panoramic view to the west.

A panoramic view to the east toward the city.

The ruins of the main palace complex.

The monkey temple.

Watching the sunset.

The next day we hiked around the main palace ruins which we saw from the mountain top the evening before.

You could see the Monkey Temple mountain in the distance.