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Friday, July 30, 2010

Kerala Backwaters & Pondicherry

Today I am writing about two places that are on the opposite side of the country: First about the paradisaic Kerala Backwaters, which are on the west coast of India and then about charmingly European Pondicherry, which is on the east coast. What an awesome combination! What both places have in common is that they used to be European colonies.

Kerala Backwaters
The most relaxing trip in India so far was this one! Seven of us (Alex, Martin, Adrien, Laure, Lotti, Cyrielle and the Indian himself) rented a house boat in Alleppey to float on the Kerala Backwaters for 24 hours. Don't get me wrong if I say house boat. I am not talking about a stationary house boat or a Seattle-type of house boat. I am talking about THE house boat of all the house boats. We had a three bed room house boat with a huge open living room in the back of the boat, a kitchen in the front of the boat. Each bed room had its own bathroom. On top of that three human beings were included in the price of 220 CHF/USD (same thing). Isn't that what they mean when they talk about great value?
After and before embarking the house boat we spent some time in Fort Kochi, a former Portuguese colony. A very relaxing place with beautiful trees and the fascinating Chinese fishing nets.
Experience it yourself in the Kerala Backwaters photo album.

Pondicherry
Pondicherry is east of Bangalore directly on the sea shore. I arrived there by night train and the most fabulous memory of the night train I made at the first stop in the morning. The Indians would go out of the train and break off twigs from a tree, put these twigs in there mouth and use them to brush there teeth. Amazing!
Pondicherry used to be a French colony and the city itself has two parts: the Tamil part (Which is very noisy, dirty and vibrant) and the French part (which is boring, relaxing and asleep). As you must know by now I prefer the noisy and dirty places on my travels; in the Tamil part I walked into a beautiful fish market as you will see in the pictures. The fish market is dominated by women, I could hardly find any men there. They are the ones getting the fish I guess. In Pondicherry I ran as well into two Australian girls, Beate and Mia, that would tell me about my past and future of my life using numerology. My life number is apparently a 7 (Digit sum of my birthday = 3+8+1+9+8+5 ). What is your number? I spare you all the details of my past and future here, but just ask me if you want to know more.
After roaming around in Pondi for a while I took the bus to Mahabalipuram to meet up with Cyrielle, Laure, Lotti and Antoine (French friends). Unfortunately I didn't take any pics of them but only of fishermen doing there morning toilet on the beach. Mahabalipuram was a bit too touristy for my taste but it was wonderful to hang out with the French equip. On Sunday they even took me to an orphanage which was a special experience.
Find all the pictures in the Pondicherry photo album.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Day at the Office and Happy Temple Hunting

A Day at the Office
Please step closer and have a look at my office. I invite you to join me on a day at my office and meet my office mates. They go by beautiful names like Manjunath, Maheshwari, Keerthana, Genus, Arun, Shweta, Vyoma, Narendra, Mukesh, etc. There is a huge variety of names but at first all the faces looked pretty much the same to me and it was hard to memorize the names. But now, after almost three weeks at work, I even know the difference between Sashi and Sitendra (especially since he got his head shaved two days ago). A good way to learn the names is to read them off the badges everybody has to wear - the funny thing is just that all the difficult names get shortened. My badge says "Flavio P". The receptionist was getting a bit tired after seven letters.
A good work day usually starts out around 8:30am with an extensive breakfast. I fell in love with a dish called Aloo Paratha. It is a flat-bread stuffed with potato and is served with yogurt and pickel (spicey stuff). While eating I chat with my work colleagues about relationships, girls, wedding and travel plans - most of the time we are gossiping about other people in the meal hall. After breakfast we always have a Chai Tea (with extra ginger for me).
Later at around 12:45pm, after getting some work done, we go for lunch. The food variety is humongous and so is the crowd trying to get food. Once we sit at a table the food sharing will start. There are usually tasty and less tasty dishes on the table. So what happens is that Manjunath usually goes ahead and just picks what he likes from any plate on the table. Of course it is expected that you steal some food back from his plate. Indians are much more open about sharing the same plate with another person. One has to be especially careful about the dessert. It can be gone in less than a second... Indians do not consume any beverages during the meal. Only after washing the hands they will start drinking water.
After lunch we will head back to our office. I am usually busy emptying my mailbox which has a ridiculously small quota of 25MB. Every single day I have to take a decision to keep the humorous emails of my Indian peers or not... At around 5:30pm I will call my driver to meet me down at the reception and we would head back to the apartment...
Check out my office pictures.

Happy Temple Hunting
The first big weekend trip in Bangalore was to Mysore to see the palace there and to Belur, Halebid and Somnathpur to see Hoysala temples. Simply check out the Happy Temple Hunting pictures. There is not much to describe.

Indian Prices (40 INR = 1 CHF = 1 USD)
Now I want to give you a feeling for Indian prices. 1 kg of beef is the same price as 10 liters of water or one McChicken Meal Large. Check it out yourself.

1 kg beef = 120 INR
1 kg mango = 70 INR
1 kg watermelon = 11 INR

1 liter petroleum = 42 INR
1 liter water = 12 INR
1 liter Coca Cola = 35 INR

1 km in an auto-rickshaw = 7 INR
1 km in a Toyota Innova = 12 INR

1 vegetarian meal in my meal hall = 36 INR
1 non vegetarian meal in my meal hall = 55 INR
1 McChicken Menu Large = 109 INR

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rajasthan Part II + Arrival to Bangalore

Rajasthan Part II
Remember magical Rajasthan from my last blog post? Today I am talking about the less magical sides of it: namely spitting, burping and farting. All of these activities seem quite popular in rural areas, even among women. I already joined in on one of these habits: burping. My photos will show you a beautiful Jain temple in Ranakpur, the blue city Jodhpur, my desert safari in Jaisalmer, the fort of Bikaner and many havelis (huge private mansions with an atrium) in Mandawa. All of these places are strategically positioned along the trading route that connected India with Central Asia. Trading brought a lot of money into these cities and big forts were built to control and secure the road. The region itself does not look rich though because many of the wealthy merchants left for Europe or Overseas. Check out the pictures: Rajasthan Part II.

Arrival in Bangalore
Arriving in Bangalore was a blessing. The climate and temperature are wonderful. Big trees seam the narrow streets and the monsoon that arrived brings a bit of rain every day. I am living in a nice three room apartment in a neighborhood called Koramangala. It is a proper residence colony with walls around the colony so only authorized people can enter. The first evening I met the other three interns from Switzerland: Alex, Adrien and Martin. I share my apartment with Alex and currently there is an Indian family in another room. We share a huge living room and kitchen. Each room has its own bathroom. In my next blog post I will show you my crib in more detail.
The first weekend we had a look at Lal Bagh, a beautiful garden in Bangalore, we strolled around the city market and checked out Iskcon temple. Later we saw the parliament with a strange engraved sentence: "Government Work is God's Work". After the sightseeing weekend we started our internship at Accenture, next week I will give you more details on work and living in India. I will as well make you familiar with Indian prices. First check out the pictures: First Days in Bangalore.