Istanbul: A Welcome Experience of Familiarity & Modernity

Goa was a truly relaxing delight. Josh availed himself of the Indian beer Kingfisher for the last time as we spent our days at the beach. The ocean is clean with playful waves, soft sand, and very few people, as we were at the end of the tourist season.

We arrived in Istanbul yesterday, and never thought the overwhelming sentiment upon landing in the middle east would be the comfort of familiarity and social modernity, but I guess 7 weeks in India will do that to you. There is quite a bit of uncertainty about the proper categorization of Turkey – Asian, European or Middle Eastern (though the entire concept of Middle Eastern entails it’s own uncertainty)? Our impression of Istanbul is that it is like being in Europe, and it is strange after a couple months in India to see people on Dates! Young people holding hands, social groups that include humans of both genders, women in tank tops, Aryans.

Photos to come from this singular Eurasian-Middle Eastern country.

-j&d

 

Our hangout at the beach at Hotel Vivanta.

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Our hangout on the beach at Leela Resort.Photo May 03, 6 41 26 PM

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Another honeymoon cake, with tasty champagne.goahoneymoon 

Sign recommending driving the scooter rental at posted speeds, which we obeyed.goabike

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Southern India, Cows, and Playtime for Josh

Southern India is nicer than the north in that the cuisine is easier on the western digestive track, the people are nicer and more genuine (in our experience, and except for the part of Northern India that is essentially Tibet), the people seem to be more literate and can help you out, and the people are nicer – they will help you out and they aren’t trying to charge you 600% more for being white and 800% more for being American (seriously some merchants freaking ask you what country you’re from before giving you a price). And the merchants are not as aggressive down here: they only follow you for half a block insisting “madame, madame! It is free to look! Just come in, see what we have, no cost to look. Madame! MADAME!” (I am trying to work up the nerve to yell “ayi-yai-yai” and see if it would impede their aggression. I really do want to buy something, but after 6 weeks here just walking by a store evokes anxiety.)

On the other hand, electricity, internet and sometimes hot water are not so reliable. And when you request a “double bed” – kind or queen, like, for a couple – 90% of the time they push two twins together. Sometimes they don’t even push them together, but then other times it’s like a “four star” place and they at least put a king size sheet and comforter over the 2 twins.

[[Diversion: Let me qualify – this was our experience in 2 weeks of Kerala, just one state of four in Southern India, and this also didn’t apply to our stay in Mumbai, but there we stayed at Taj Majal Palace, voted “Top City Hotel in Asia.)

Our hotel in Goa has been divine, and our 5 hours at a hotel in Bangalore was something to be recommended as well.

Ramanashree California Hotel

We never intended to end up in Bengaluru, as the natives call it, but the government decided to close the Goa airport for routine maintenance, so our direct flight was cancelled, and we were rerouted to Bengalaru with a 7 hour layover. The airline offered a free lunch as compensation. The trick here is, upon arrival at Bengaluru you have to claim your bags, exit the airport, re-enter and re-check-in, and you can’t check-in at an airport in India until 2hours before departure. So we were going to be stuck outside the airport for 5 hours, and we didn’t even bother to look at how long that “free lunch” voucher was good for. We took a cab 22km to the nearest hotel with wi-fi (correction: the nearest hotel that bribed the airport information desk – Ramanashree Hotel California), paid for a room, and enjoyed 5 hours of functional internet for the first time in almost 2 weeks. ]]

Anyhow, we spent a few days at a “5 star” resort on a swamp (they use the euphemism “Lagoon”) in Kottayam, Kerala, which had zero internet access, massively incompetent service, weird outdoor bathrooms where your towels get soaked when it rains, which is not uncommon, and they gave us a packed breakfast on the day of our departure (because it was included in our plan) which was covered in ants. The room we stayed in, however, had great AC, was beautiful and spacious, had reliable electricity, and there was an amazing pool (though the pool staff won’t really serve you unless you get up to go get them; not a problem, just not very 5-star).

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We went on a great walk through the butterfly and cow preserves of the grounds, and Josh played with swings, cows and some monster lizards.

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We are glad to be in the tourist land of Goa. A few Indians warned us that Goa has been ruined by tourism, but it has all the comforting amenities and the liberal social and dress codes of the West, and we are happy to be here. It is also nice to be treated as humans instead of foreign milk cows that are expected to pay 2-10x what locals pay.

Fun Times from Goa!

-j&d