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Published: November 28th 2011
Oh friends. What a 24 hours we've had. Spoiler alert: We did actually make it to India in one piece (possibly mentally in shreds). But we're feeling a little worse for wear at the other end. After a late night at the Night Market (and an ill advised later night for Aisha trying to catch up on emails), we woke up with plans to pack our bags, lug the huge amount of shopping we'd managed to acquire in five days to the Post Office to send home (NB. Will - DEFINITELY don't pick this one up on your bike. IT'S HUGE!), then head back to Tai Pan for one more awesome massage before we headed to the airport. But what can we say? Damn those plans for never going to...themselves?
After a lovely suprise phone call/wake up call from Suzie and Barry (Aisha's parents), we slowly started packing when all of a sudden a deafening alarm rang. Not 'beep beep listen for the whoop whoop' style - this was an old metal alarm, like a school bell. INSIDE our room. About a metre above our heads. We checked out in the hall to see what was happening but people were
just milling about confusedly while one girl was trying to decide to go down the fire stairs. We decided we'd prefer a false alarm evacuation than hanging around and waiting for the fire, so we ran around like chooks with the proverbial heads cut off trying to work out what to bring (Aisha managed laptop, cameras, hat, personal bag. Tess managed shoes that weren't the in-room slippers and her orthotics. Way to go.) then ran down the nine flights of grimy, garbage dumping ground flights of stairs (pretty sure they contravene some fire code) with another girl. False alarm. Whee!
After that little diversion we didn't get to the post office for a while. Might we add that Hong Kong put on its first and only remotely blue sky the day we were leaving? After buying the various supplies to pack the parcel, filling out forms and standing in line we got to the counter to discover it is cash only and we didn't have enough! Cue more faffing around and an exceedingly rapid course of urban sprinting by Aisha to find an ATM. By the time we finally got out of there (and god bless the Post Office
Port of Hong Kong
(a small part thereof)
for being open on a Sunday!) it was 2pm and we had yet to eat breakfast, let alone lunch, so (sad trombone) we had to skip the massages and hightail it to the airport. The double decker bus to the airport is really cheap, about $4AUD for a 45-odd minute ride. Because we'd arrived in HK at night, we hadn't seen the view out towards the airport - it's actually really beautiful. Hong Kong is a MASSIVE port, so much bigger than every Sydney dock put together. With his AQIS hat on, Aisha was playing 'Spot the Shipping Container Company' as we looked out across the harbour surrounded by green craggy mountains.
We came to appreciate and enjoy Hong Kong in the end (although not 'love' it, like Tokyo). You can just jump straight in with Tokyo, whereas we found we took a while to get into things in Hong Kong. Going to Macau actually aided our appreciation for Hong Kong as (sadly for Macau) HK is much nicer to actually be in by comparison! Hong Kong would be a very tiring place to live though, it feels like the kind of city that would wear you down. And
a sign in the post office noting the new legislation that came into effect earlier this year to increase the minimum wage to $28HKD/hour (about $3.60AUD/hour), as if it were something to be proud of, drove home that things aren't easy for the residents of Hong Kong. One last thing. It is pretty easy to understand why the SARS outbreak begain in Hong Kong and not uber public health conscious Tokyo. Personal hygiene - it's a thing! Learn about it!
Air India turned out to be pretty good, their Boeing 777 was the nicest plane we've flown on so far, very spacious and modern. Although we felt slightly discriminated against when they brought out dinner and had apparently made the executive decision to give the two whiteys a special, non-spicy (read: non-delicious) meal, while everyone else got biryani. The attendant was concerned when Aisha requested a 'normal' meal instead, as he didn't think Aisha would be able to cope with the spices. Surprise, Air India man! He could, it was very mild (positively wussy even).
By the time we reached Delhi it was midnight according to our body clocks, but only 8.30pm local time. We had to change
planes then fly to Mumbai, then change planes and fly south to Trivandrum (only 90km from the southernmost point of India). Can we just say - Indian airport security is whack. You seriously have to show you passport, boarding pass, stamped 'bag tag', or something else to a new officer about every five paces. Plus it is compulsory that everyone gets frisked, except the ladies get to be frisked behind a privacy curtain. Oh! We also saw a policewoman (the police are kind of paramilitaries and their uniforms are quite military looking: read mostly camouflage and berets) wearing a military sari! It was plain khaki green with her sergeant's stripes on the sleeve. We have never seen more people roaming airports carrying fully loaded assault rifles in our lives....talk about two tickets to the gun show (har har you see what we did there).
Somewhere between Delhi and Mumbai Tess managed o ingest something that her body would have prefered she hadn't. We couldn't even believe it - the first case of Delhi Belly and we hadn't even left the airport or reached our actual destination! By the time we'd waited til our 6.30am boarding time for Trivandrum Tess
Delirious in Mumbai airport, the second 3am we had lived that day
This photo documents the exact moment Tess lost the will to live.
was pale as a ghost and feeling decidedly subpar - of course, by this time we'd been travelling for over 12 hours and hadn't slept in over 24. Basically it was pretty hellish. The two hour flight was the final straw and dragged on into eternity, with Tess whimpering to herself most of the way, but we finally reached the capital of Kerala alive and intact about 9.30am local time.
It's winter here and OH MY is it hot and humid. There are palm trees everywhere. The people are pretty low key compared to what tourists experience in other parts of India and basically mind their own business and leave you alone. Aisha did get what can only be described as a 'look of amazement' followed by a very excited but friendly "Hello!!!!" from a guy walking past who just couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. We know this is just 'India Lite' and the really intense stuff is yet to come, but even Trivandrum can feel a lot to deal with at times. The poverty is in your face; there is rubbish EVERYWHERE; corrugated shanties line many of the streets; the roads and footpaths are crumbling to
pieces with huge holes in them, cars vie for space on the roads with trucks, auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, scooters, bicycles and pedestrians; and car horns are applied liberally and without hesitation. We did take an auto-rickshaw back from the town this afternoon - 20c, saved us walking back in the soup and saved Tess' face from inventing a new shade of red, plus it was awesome fun!
We're only here for one more night while we rest and regroup, then we'll be heading slowly north through Kerala for the next three-ish weeks before our 50 hour train ride to Delhi for Shivangi's Indian wedding extravaganza!!!
Looking forward to our first proper night's sleep, love to you all and- zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
PS. Congratulations and lots of love to Mum and Dad/Jill and Bruno on today, their 30th wedding anniversary! Apparently the traditional gift for this one is pearl. They are currently living it up in Campbodia and Vietnam on amazing trip, a much better gift to themselves than any pearl we probably didn't get them! xxxx
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