Monday, September 30, 2013

Back in Vapi

Lon's business in Mumbai has concluded, so we're finally back home in Vapi. Except for a re-arrangement of merchandise in the Low Price supermarket, not much has changed!

First, the obligatory cattle-in-the-road picture:
Six-lane high-speed highway. Clearly no one clued the cows that they were traveling in the wrong direction -- and in the passing lane.

Anyone need a good stiff drink?

Yesterday (Sunday) I took a trip with the Rotary Club to help with a "medical camp" that brings doctors to unserved areas. I doubt if I was much help (mostly "worked" crowd control), but I did get to see a beautiful agricultural area about 80 km (and 2 hours) from Vapi. The ride up into the hills reminded me of West Virginia -- with palm trees!

View from the hotel lunch pavilion where we ate. It was very reminiscent of rural Costa Rica.
One of the villages we drove by on our way. That's rice nearing harvest time in the foreground.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

By the Arabian Sea

The west side of Mumbai (like the entire west coast of India) faces the Arabian Sea with a variety of beaches and harbors. Today we took a short walk along the sea in the posh suburb of Bandra.

This beach is rocky basalt with a nice promenade along it.

This plane was taking off from the Mumbai airport and from our perspective it looked to be riding the guy wires strung between the buildings. (You can just make out the wires if you look hard.)

There's no lack of outlandish apartment buildings in Mumbai!

Like many Asian cities, Mumbai's billboards are oversized and plentiful.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Signs of the Day

This is a transliteration of "FedEx" into Hindi. It doesn't have the same graphic appeal!

Interestingly, English transliterated into Hindi frequently requires more "letters" than the original -- and vice versa -- Hindi transliterated into English can also be lengthy. I guess it's not too surprising that each script is optimized for its own language.

From the back of a tuk-tuk:
Astrology is big business in India. Everything must be done at the most "auspicious" moment.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Do You Want Fries With That?

In one of the Mumbai newspapers this week: How to prepare perfect American-style french fries.

So, let's make it Indian by adding extra steps (that do, admittedly, makes these crunchier and even less healthy). After cutting the potatoes into strips, soak them in salt water for several hours. Then boil for about 5 minutes. After draining and patting dry, deep fry. Remove from oil and let sit on towels to drain off excess oil. Then fry once more to a golden brown.

Indian cuisine is delicious and frequently involves multiple cooking steps. For example, a cooked filling that gets rolled, steamed, and finally, fried. What's not to like when many items are fried in ghee (clarified butter)? I've been trying to cook "healthy" by steaming and roasting -- but that's definitely not traditional Indian cooking!

Today's picture has nothing to do with this story, except that beef goes well with fries!

My turn to pose with the ubiquitous cow.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

More from Mumbai

The area around the airport is not designed for tourists to leave their hotels. However, millions of people live near here in both slums and apartment blocks. We took a reasonably long walk (3 miles?) along very busy streets and through a residential neighborhood. Crossing these busy streets is a skill I'm still working on!

A power and light pole along the yet-to-be monorail system.
This doesn't even come close the web of wires on similar poles in Kolkata.
This is India. Cows rule! No matter how busy the street.
This is about a half-mile from the International Airport terminal.
Right around the corner from the cows. I'm not sure which came first, the trees or the street.
A water bottle is hanging in the tree next to the chair. Clearly someone likes this spot!
In the larger cities, water trucks deliver potable water. The hotel has just finished repairing their swimming pool and has been filling the pool with water from trucks like this.
The airport is named for Chhatrapati Shivaji, the "Hero of Maharashtra" who ended the Mughal reign over most of India. This statue is in a small garden near the entrance to the airport.
To the best of my Google-translate augmented Hindi (but it's probably in Marathi), the plaque says "Victorius Chhapatrai, Victorious Shivaji".

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mumbai Miscellany

Lon's in Mumbai on business, and we had an opportunity to spend a half day shopping and sightseeing. Some things about India are just too unbelievable to be true!

After visiting the Khadi Gram (Cottage Industries) Store in the Fort area, we visited Bora Bazaar a few blocks away:

And right behind us:
Cows are not very common in the heart of old Mumbai, but this one was well-received. As people passed it, they would touch it and then "bless" themselves (akin to making the sign of the cross, but not exactly). It also did "the unmentionable" right in front of us. Mumbai is filled with interesting odors!

Also in the same neighborhood:
McDonald's is ubiquitous. I had to capture the monsoon tarp and traffic congestion to give a full picture.
 And just around the corner from Mickey-D: Pigeons (yes, I've made my choice) are universal urban residents.
A bit further down the road:
How many places to you have to ban oxcarts from limited-access roads?

And the final photo of the day:
The Antilia Building. A 28-floor, 400,000 sq ft private residence for the owner of Reliance Corp., the second-largest corporation in India (after Tata Industries). The building is valued at about $2 billion--the most expensive home in the world. The land values alone in this area of Mumbai are $10,000 per sq meter ($1000 per sq ft).
But it looks even better with an accidental Photoshop enhancement:

"That's all folks!" (for today, that is)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kolkata Miscellany

Today was a festival day in Kolkata: Vishwakarma Jayanti. Vishwakarma is the divine architect/engineer, so he is the god of engineers and factory workers. While it is common to see vehicles decked out with floral garlands, this was the first time I saw the large leaves lashed to the corners. In addition to cars and taxis, many buses and trucks were also decorated.

The Kolkata metropolitan area has a population of over 15 million, yet the yellow pages are barely thicker than my iPad:

Indian can (and do) sleep just about anywhere. It's not uncommon to see someone sleeping on the sidewalk or the street. Here the rickshaw driver is sleeping in his rickshaw:

And finally, India is education-obsessed and exam-obsessed. Pictures of students and their test scores are in newspapers and on billboards everywhere. (This is not unique to Kolkata by any means.) How would you like your SAT scores posted for all to see?

Of course, this is also an ad for the school and/or exam prep academy. The top 50,000 or so students will get admission to a first-tier university -- less than 1% of students who complete secondary education.

Kolkata - Part 2

The old part of Kolkata has wide shady streets with sidewalks on both sides:

The newest parts of Kolkata could be a clone of Northern Virginia -- with cows.

One of many cows grazing in the wide medians of New Town, Kolkata

And the "real India" cannot be suppressed:

Shiny new high-tech buildings with traditional lean-to shops in front.

Tourism is not a big item in Kolkata -- a visitor is pretty much on their own to figure out what's worth seeing. And sometimes even the "natives" aren't aware that museums are closed. For example, I was going to visit the Indian Museum -- India's version of the Smithsonian, but this is what greeted me:

The sign reads:

Time for Plan B (or C or D or ...)

I did get to see the Birla Mandir and St. Paul's Cathedral. In Kolkata, the Christian presence is quite noticeable, and it's primarily Anglican, reflecting the British influence (as opposed to the Portuguese Roman Catholic influence on the west coast of India).

On the steps of the impressive Birla Mandir

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bicycles (and Tricycles)

First, a photo of a standard Indian bicycle:

It doesn't get any more basic than this, although I'm surprised a single-speed bike uses hand brakes rather than a coaster brake.

Just about anything can be delivered on a bicycle. In addition to these, I've seen propane cylinders and stacks of chairs being transported on a bicycle (not on a tricycle cart). Tricycle carts deliver everything from building supplies to food.

Newspapers in Mumbai
Coconuts in Kolkata
Delivering milk in Vapi
Delivering eggs in Agra
Bicycle-rickshaws in Kolkata
Another cycle-rickshaw in Kolkata

Kolkata - Part 1

My mental image of Kolkata (Calcutta) was far from reality. There's a lot of green, the high-rises stop around the 12th floor, and it's relatively clean. I guess I'm learning that Mumbai is the outlier.

Kolkata seems to run on bicycle transportation. There are many more bicycle carts than in other places we've been, and this is the first place we've seen bicycle rickshaws rather than tuk-tuks (which are officially, "auto-rickshaws"). Our hotel is in the heart of downtown Kolkata, where the streets and sidewalk are wide and shaded, and the British colonial influence is palpable.

The Victoria Memorial

in the style of the Taj Mahal, built as a memorial to Queen Victoria

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take photos inside the building, so I'll have to settle for exterior shots.

One of a flock of parrots in the gardens
These horse carts were available for hire -- much like the Hansom Cabs in New York's Central Park.

Across the river in Howrah

This is also typical Kolkata:
A narrow, but busy street in Howrah. Not the cycle-rickshaw coming towards us.
This is a lane for a toll booth crossing the river back into Kolkata. I felt like I was back in a lock in the Panama Canal.  The bottom photo was taken through the windshield. That's a bus in front of us -- you can see how narrow the lane is and how high the walls are.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Along NH 8

Trucks and agriculture ...

This is an auto transport truck in India -- about the size of our 53' 18-wheelers, but much larger than the typical "Goods Carrier" or even a long standard shipping container. When it pulls onto the highway, it blocks everything!

There were about a half-dozen of these trucks carrying large pipe. They really overhung their lane and made it difficult for another truck to pass. If it fits, it ships! No need for warning signs or escort vehicles!

In the rainy season, the land is full of rice paddies (as in the lower left of photo). The rest of the year they make bricks.