Category Archives: Food

India travel tips…so far

Get a mobile phone. You need it to book anything online…and anything online is easier than dealing with Indian travel agents.

Book trains at the post office, either 2AC is a good benchmark to aim for.

Often, flying is worth it…less than 100 bucks and way quicker/safer….plus the airports are a great reprieve from the otherswise dirty streets of India

1.25L of water is probably 18ish rupees. Don’t pay more than 7 for chai, even that is high…and know that you are literally getting 2 ounces of beverage.

If somebody shows you 5 fingers for a price, it is 50 not 5.

Samosas aren’t that great here…parathas, chapatti, and curry however are a whole new world to the west. Ohhhh and the Thalis-yum!

Tourist bus means round trip…and it is also often all Indian tourists

Ashrams are not as glamorous as even eat pray love makes them out to be.

Thums up is like spicy coke with 10 times more sugar.

They like to salt fresh fruit juices, and put sugar on fruit you buy in the street.

Look carefully where you are stepping…there are many animals in the streets dumping the garbage they consumed for lunch, and nobody cleans it up….and it doesn’t really smell much worse than the rest of the street.

Eat with your right hand, something about wiping your arse with your left.

Wash your hands often, and especially before eating…there’s always a surprise that requires you to eat with your hands

Taxes are not included and they are high. Tipping is also expected…for pretty much everything it seems, or maybe I’m just a foreigner so they try…haven’t sorted that yet, but I did have to justify not tipping the guide who yelled at me in Hindi for 20 minutes about not being late returning from the Taj then waited 2 hours for the Indians to come back.

You will see people living in conditions way poorer than in South East Asia. You can’t save them all, but be grateful for what we have at home.

They are conservative…but Sarees show skin, look at one and judge what you think is relative.

Markets are outdoor malls….bazaars are what Western folk would call a market.

Traffic is bad. There are actually cars vs. just motos in SE Asia, it’s a whole new world of traffic jam

If taking a bus to one place, expect to stop at 10 other temples, marble shoppes, and often for food, it took 7 hours to get to Agra from Dehli…a 200km journey.

Use big bills wisely, and be careful not to rip any.

Book in advance…my new found spontaneity is not serving me well thus far.

If you are a girl alone and you have even the most distant of connections, this is the time to use them.

More Indians than you think speak English, be nice and they will at least try, be harsh and good luck.

Kolkata/Calcutta….INDIA!

I was terrrrrrrified to come. As I laid in bed, pretty positively on the verge of dying (no, seriously…if you’ve read Shantaram, I had Cholera, the bug that kills the people in the slum, and I was conveniently reading about it) I…being the somewhat crazy person I am, became convinced that this was the ‘universe’s’ way of telling me the plane was going to crash. Crazy, I know. I legitimately was absolutely positive that the reason I was so sick was to try and get myself to not get on the plane. Once I worried my own heart rate to close to 200bpm I think my body went in to shock at itself and finally went to sleep. Interestingly enough the human body is a wonderful thing and somehow got my ass to the airport in time for my flight. (side note…within 48 hours of me arriving an Irish tourist was raped and murdered in Dehli, a tourist bus exploded, and bombings went off at a massive historical site…needless to say I’m currently more than a little reluctant about my solo mission).

….Where’s my TV? Literally, a French girl (one of only 4 other non-Indians on the flight) and I counted, 22 big screen tv’s were being brought back. What a royal pain in the ass, all the customers were fighting about paying extra…are you kidding me? I would be paying like 100 if my 13kg pack was over 15kg…you have a TV!!! Anyway, after waiting an hour for 3 people in front of me to check in with the coaching of their peanut galleries, I was clear. Security was shocking, but … hey, I’m here.

I had a dismal Subway at the airport and hopped on the plane. The most delinquent plane passengers ever. People standing for take off, children running down aisles, old men selling religious items, people spitting food at flight attendants, and the man beside me who insisted on slapping my thigh telling me to “Move Woman” (<Just for you Sean). Ahhhh welcome to India? (I would like to add that the flight to Delhi was peaceful and tame…something about heading from Thailand, the Bengali’s Las Vegas, that made the flight a little insane on round one)

But then the Kolkata airport was amazing, super easy, all English, brand new. The man at immigration yelled at me and asked if girls were allowed to go to school in Canada where I could learn to write an address because I didn’t have my friends address on hand so I invented a hotel…otherwise pretty minor. Luckily for me, a family friend was there to greet me and take me to her home here in Kolkata as a landing pad in India. Unfortunately I’ve STILL been sick since I got here…so we’re at 9 days with gut wrenching ‘loose motions’ (too much info? Sawrie)….I went to the doctor here, what a place!

Obviously I just wanted to continue my doctor tour. The clinic was busy but used western methods for drawing blood (unlike Thailand), and was very clean and efficient…the doctor was amazing and gave me his card to ask any questions ‘ever, even when back home’ via email. I still haven’t gone for my follow up to see what is wrong but it will all come soon enough. I got an ultrasound as well, where the guy talked to me in Bengali for half of it then said “wait, you are not Indian”….no shit mate.

Anyway, I’ve had glimmers of health during which we were able to go shopping and to a Bollywood movie…which was not as ‘bollywood’ as us westerners think but they did have an intermission and you could order to your seat in the theatre. Lesson one of Bollywood watching, pay attention…everyone and their dog is a Bollywood actor, and when you run into them they will ask you if you thought they were good in their 3 minute appearance…basic knowledge of what the film was about comes in handy. I tried on saris for a few hours…I looked ridiculous in most of them. SLASH they are actually super pricey! Also there is intense security just to get into the mall then again bag checks at every store! We also met with friends for dinner a couple nights and saw the river and Victoria monument. Once I’m better the complete tour will come, although I’m a bit stressed because my sickness has put me behind schedule for India and I only have 3 weeks to begin with.

First impressions of India…not nearly as conservative or dirty as I imagined and men are not nearly as creepy as they were in Kuala Lumpur. I’ve been everywhere but touristy areas and people aren’t even really bothered to see me as a foreigner. The food I’ve had has been amazing but mostly I’ve been on porridge and bread for my stomach. (Might I add how gutted I was to not have another plate of massaman curry in Thailand ). I had some shrimp, fish, and lamb at a Bengali Restaurant when I first arrived (and the adrenalin from the flight made me temporarily think I was cured), which was mind blowing, especially the lamb! Also, Briyani…jesus. So good. Both Kolkata and Delhi have been way less hectic than I expected…apparently its known to be a bit sleepier in Bengal. Don’t take sleepy for relaxed though, there is legit security everywhere… like females in one lane, men in the other, let’s get frisky security.

Phnom Penh 3

….I think it’s 3?

Anyway, we’re in our last week of volunteering at the special needs orphanage. We’ve dusted the cobwebs off of our nursery rhymes and mastered all of the Khmer names and eating habits of each child. It’s a bit gutting to know we’re leaving so soon…but I am looking forward to properly travelling again.

We’re gathering our gifts for the orphanage which consist of formula, cereals and diapers…all essentials that the kids end up going without if volunteers and donors don’t provide contributions. In once sense I really don’t agree with how we’re expected to provide these essential commodities when we’re already donating our time (I don’t have spare cash…hence donating my time?), but at the same time if the kids need it 100 bucks is worth heaps more to them than to me, even in the dire circumstance of backpacking.

My legs are led at the moment due to the fact that we’re biking 15km a day as we traded in our turfed tuk tuk for push bikes saving on cash and contributing to the calorie burn….probably good considering I have an empty bag of soft baked dark chocolate cookie purchased tonight by my side…We’ve also been pretty dedicated to doing the workouts at Olympic Stadium, which are 25 cents for an hour of zumba/tae bo, and cater to every and any cambodian of any age, social standing, and/or attire…
our nurs
Otherwise the stadium is great, there’s stairs, track, soccer pitches, tae kwon do, tennis, and impromptu badminton.

We’ve also discovered some sweet restaurants this week including an Indian joint called Taste Budz on street 282, just off of Monivong and Sihanoukville. Pretty good indian….if I hadn’t been to Penang, great Indian. Relatively cheap….but we hear there are cheaper all-you-can eat places by the lake. We went in search the other night to find out it was ‘closed’. Must love Asia and it’s ‘yeah, it was grandpa’s birthday last month and now we got a new cat so I think we’ll take a day off to watch soaps’ holidays…

Friends is also amazing…pricier because it is an NGO cafe, but the food is great. I’m going to interject here and present my beef with Cambodia. Yes, it is very poor; Yes, it has seen complete turmoil I will never understand; and Yes, I might do the same if I were them…but the use and abuse their tragic history. Every cafe is run by street kids or teaches them to cook, every shop has things made by mothers in need, every traveller is a volunteer… So, all these shops charge extra because they cater to empathetic Westerners who are here volunteering their time…when really they are Massive cash cows for their western owners. All of the major NGO cafe/shops are owned and operated by westerners. Hence the English menus, tons of advertising, and all in one heart string teasers to get the biggest bang for the buck out of each visitor. You would honestly be better off buying from the super local cafes where nobody speaks English…betcha they need your cash more than the others. It’s funny, each of these NGO places always has air con, fresh paint, and recent renovations…Wonder if they hired street kids to install it?

I know that they are in fact poor, and that I couldn’t imagine what they’ve been through. However they definitely have taken their past and turned it into a pity story to scam westerners….not even the Khmer people, more sickening…its the westerners that come, use the story, and benefit off of other westerners. I feel a little sick every time I go to one of these places but it seems all my other ‘good hearted volunteer’ friends quite like it. What gives. Perhaps I’m a cynic…I like to think I’m smarter than ‘scambodia’ as I’ve called if from the minute I entered it. Eating local, buying local, and staying in our somewhat bug infested guest house makes me feel better than eating a ‘really good apple crumble’ recipe by nana in Georgia executed by a Khmer kid, whose brother comes to sell me DVDs during my dinner with begging hands…

Somehow in the next 10 days I am trying to get visas for India, Vietnam, and a 60 day for Thailand. Cambodia is the cheapest place in SE Asia to get all of them (moreso I need Vietnam to continue my journey), but the office hours are while I’m at volunteering…time will tell. Either way these three will cost me upwards of 200 combined…yeesh! good thing I found cheap flights to India, from there to Africa, and from cpt to Athens–Skyscanner I love you.

Lunch tomorrow is Tofu, cucumber, and Carrot…made possible by the knife I bought for 80 cents. Arguably my best purchase in Asia so far.

I’m also going to yoga at Yoga! Phnom Penh tomorrow for a ‘sweat and samadhi’ class. Not only do the instructors and classes seem sweet but they are also doing me a massive favor and helping me get my books for yoga training which would have costed upwards of 80 bucks to get shipped, for only 6 bucks each here in PP!

That being said, I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping fit, probably because we have one home and the laundry lady is AMAZING, so any excuse to get a fresh load washed, dried, and folded for a dollar is a gooder.