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Gentlemen of Leisure

Jan 29, 2010

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One of the things about living overseas (particularly if you move between countries fairly often) is that you tend to travel alot and therefore meet a lot of other travellers. And in a lot of ways socializing with like minded nomads can be quite rewarding. Intense, short term friendships can be formed.

More importantly, information can be exchanged. Like ants along a trail waving their antenna and discharging pheromones, other travellers can be the best way to find out what is going on further down the path. The benefits of this enforced mingling with other travellers are clear, but the pitfalls can be a little more complicated. Essentially it boils down to this: the people you meet whilst travelling are often colossal fuckwits. Continue reading “Gentlemen of Leisure: How many countries have you visited?”

India

Jan 29, 2010

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When in …

Earlier this week in Panaji, Spykey and I hit a restaurant that had been written up in Lonely Planet as "a compulsory pit stop". Now, granted, it's been nearly three years since

Earlier this week in Panaji, Spykey and I hit a restaurant that had been written up in Lonely Planet as “a compulsory pit stop”. Now, granted, it’s been nearly three years since our edition of the book was published, and a lot can change in that time, but the restaurant was anything but “a compulsory pit stop”; it wasn’t shit, it was just solidly average. Probably thanks to its guide book recommendation the place was packed with Western tourists, the stereo was pumping covers of ’80s and disco hits, and the waiters were wearing over-the-top uniforms comprising bow ties and check shirts that were completely out of sync with the budget-ish prices on the menu. Basically, the place was unashamedly a tourist sink. But, you know, whatever.

So we’re sitting there about to attack the food that’s been placed on our table when a middle-aged German man (complete with baseball cap and massive camera bag) throws a tanty because his main course comes out before his starter. Frustrating, yes, but not at all unusual in lower-priced Indian restaurants. And while the German man was probably justified in pointing out the discrepancy and requesting his starter first, he instead launches into a furious tirade, loudly and publicly shaming the waiter, sarcastically putting him down, and patronisingly lecturing him on how to do his job. After the waiter went back inside, looking like he felt like five kinds of shit, the German man followed him and gave some guy who looked like the owner a serve about how other tables who ordered later than him were eating their correct dishes while he was not. This, mind you, in a restaurant where this guy’s entire meal with his wife, with booze, was going to cost him less than five euros.

Continue reading “When in …”

India

Jan 29, 2010

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A couple of weeks back I wrote:

Across the road from the museum was an ATM so we withdraw some money, receiving Rs. 9,000 of our Rs. 10,000 in Rs. 1,000 notes. As other travellers to India would no doubt know, one of the eternal battles here is managing the notes in your wallet. Some vendors will basically refuse outright to give you more than a few rupees change, and proffering a Rs. 100 note for any payment less than about Rs. 80 earns you The Stare. Don’t even think about trying to pay with a Rs. 500 note unless it’s a supermarket, higher quality restaurant, or hotel. Every time we’ve withdrawn cash from an ATM it’s been in Rs. 500 notes so we’ve been working hard to break them whenever possible, maximising our stash of hundreds and tens. But this is the first time we’ve been slugged with Rs. 1,000 notes and we both groaned simultaneously as we started mentally planning how we were going to convert them into usable currency.

Since then I’ve worked out that it’s mainly laziness driving the exact change culture. If you don’t offer the correct money the vendor is forced to go through the gruelling process of opening their cash drawer, taking clips off money, counting it, and handing it back to you, which is about four steps more in the transaction than they would prefer. Once I was at an insanely busy restaurant in Hampi with a huge turnover of money and I had the audacity to pay my Rs. 130 bill with a hundred and a fifty. The waiter’s response was almost outright hostility because he had to walk ten metres to the cash desk and find Rs. 20 change.

You can see the value of having a good selection of notes in your wallet to avoid these situations, then.

So, last week in Arambol we withdrew another Rs. 10,000 from the ATM, again getting stuck with a pile of Rs. 500 notes of which to dispose. But unlike the non-touristy parts of India, it’s a breeze to kill those higher denomination notes in shops and restaurants geared towards tourism. For the next few days we paid for everything with Rs. 500 notes, cramming our wallets full of sweet, sweet change. By the end of the week I had a couple of thousand rupees in hundreds and a couple of hundred rupees in tens. After weeks spent trying to manage the contents of my wallet, guarding the lower denomination notes jealously, this state of affairs had me feeling like the King of Change. No shop keeper is going to give me The Stare in the near future, I tells ya.

Christopher Pyne's Unicorn Hunt

Jan 28, 2010

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India

Jan 28, 2010

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In d(i)a news

On the news menu today we have a selection of highlights from the Goa Herald, 25 January, 2010, chosen because they are interesting for various reasons. These three letters ap

On the news menu today we have a selection of highlights from the Goa Herald, 25 January, 2010, chosen because they are interesting for various reasons.

These three letters appeared in the paper’s weekly “Civic Forum” column which asks readers, “Do you have a complaint against some authority or service? Are there any violations of the law that you would like to bring to the notice of the public? Do you have any suggestions for improvement and/or redressal of services?”

Premises for cobblers
Pravin U Sadessai, Ponda

The cobbler community plays a vital role in our society. Slippers, shoes, and worn-out bags, which would have otherwise been disposed off (sic), are stitched for necessary re-use.

It is disturbing to note that cobblers at various locations do not have suitable premises, as most of them occupy the footpath for acquiring more customers. The concerned authorities should take into consideration the difficulties they encounter during the summer and monsoons, and provide them suitable premises with necessary shed for protection, so that they can continue their work comfortably.

I must admit that the only cobblers I’ve seen in Goa have been on the street, although maybe I haven’t seen any in shops because I haven’t been looking. Also, almost all of them seem to be constantly busy.

Continue reading “In d(i)a news”

India

Jan 27, 2010

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Last week I wrote a piece on rubbish disposal but deliberately kept plastic waste to deal with separately. Lisa and I have calculated that during our three to four months in India we will purchase and empty 200 to 300 plastic water bottles. In a country where official, systematic recycling is almost unheard of, where rubbish disposal is so problematic, and where the plastic pollution problem is already so acute, we’re a little troubled by our 200 to 300 bottles figure.


About three days’ worth of our water bottles

Continue reading “Responsible tourism: plastic waste”

India

Jan 25, 2010

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A man in his early- to mid-twenties, walking through the street wearing a t-shirt bearing the following design:

I am a master of
H. T. M. L.

(How To Meet Ladies)

In his defence, he was walking side-by-side with a similarly-aged woman of stunning attractiveness, so at least he’s not telling porkies.

India

Jan 24, 2010

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A few days ago while checking out the dense shopping strips of Arambol village, store after store selling exactly the same stuff from exactly the same suppliers, Spykey and I came across a vendor with pieces of art very similar to that we excitedly purchased a week or so back. On display were many book pages with similar styles of drawings and similar waves of Urdu text, offered at a price quite a bit lower than that we paid. Initially we thought we’d been had, but a closer inspection of the pieces showed that they were of a pretty low quality and had all the hallmarks of having been mass produced. Most tellingly, these pieces were completely free of imperfections, their paper showing no signs of aging or of having ever been used. Unlike the piece we bought, these ones had no crease lines, no tiny insect holes, and no variations in the browning of the paper. Walking away from the shop talking about the differences, Lisa and I quickly agreed that often it’s the imperfections that help make something perfect.

Continue reading “Embracing imperfection”

India

Jan 24, 2010

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So far this trip I’d only become aware of a couple of things I forgot to pack. One of them was quite important: a surge protector for charging the netbook, mobile phone etc. that is currently waiting at the Panaji poste restante office along with a certain t-shirt of which you will soon become very familiar; and one of them was not very important at all: a stuffed toy in the shape of a pretzel man that I habitually take photos of in exotic locations around the world. Don’t ask.

However, on the way to Arambol beach I became aware of one very important item I left in a box in Melbourne: my board shorts. So, immediately upon arrival I headed out to the markets to try not to get ripped off buying a new pair. In one particular shop I was trying on various designs of various hideousness when I noticed that each design had been poorly hand-painted with the name of a country. I was currently wearing the South Africa shorts so I asked the owner if I could see the Australia shorts. He gave them to me, they fit okay, the price was right-ish, and the little Australia badge was too good to pass up.

I bought them. Check ’em out: