Wednesday, March 28, 2012

28Mar. Mumbai, India

Black and yellow taxi is pretty small for 4 passengers but three of us packed into tiny space of back seat with two of us leaning forward.
Not so comfortable!
But, it will be less than 10 minutes ride anyway.
We went out with Rene and Renee here in Mumbai.
There were desperate looking taxi drivers waiting for a big fare of day tour at the cruise terminal.
These taxis somewhat came inside the pier through the security gate.
They are usually more expensive than the taxis we get from outside of the security gate.
And we all knew it from our previous experience.
It only takes about 5 minute walk to the gate for us but it could be challenge for some elderly passengers with canes and walkers in heat of Mumbai.
Our first destination is the Taj Mahal Hotel and so is for many other cruise passengers who are not on ship’s tours.
It is usually for a shopping or dinning as well as short break with cool A/C of the hotel lobby.
We attracted lots of street venders selling huge balloons, fans made out of peacock feathers and post cards when we got off the taxi.
Greg wanted to pamper himself in hotel spa and two ladies wanted to go for shopping in Colaba market behind the hotel.
Meanwhile, I decided to update my Facebook and blog.
It is hard to find any place for Wi-Fi so I had to settle with small dodgy internet café in the market.
We all met again at the hotel lobby after few hours.
Greg was so refreshed with services he got for the last few hours as well as two ladies with their shoes.
Fellow foodie passenger has been raving about this restaurant for great crab dish where we wanted to try for lunch.
It is called Trishna and it is very close to our favorite restaurant the Khyber.
We found few other fellow passengers in the Trishna already.
It is rather small and casual place with over staff.
Chili crab, prawn masala, lamb saag and prawn biryani were all good but we must have ordered too much.
We decided to check out the biggest local market in Mumbai, the Crawford market.
Taxi driver was running late to returning to the ship yesterday in Goa and we all screamed out the way he drove like lunatic.
But we soon realized that the way of Mumbai taxi drivers maneuvering their tiny match box size taxi is absolutely insane and miraculous.
There are no road rules and lines in this mega city.
There were horns blowing constantly from every corners but nobody seemed to listen.
It is absolutely miracle that we have not witnessed any road accident.
All, four of us were screaming, laughing and giggling like we were out of our mind whenever we were pushed aside or found ourselves in opposite lane facing big buses and trucks.
As we got off the taxi at one of entrances of the market, we were soon surrounded by swarm of local street venders who were persistent.
It was hard to walk through the crowd on the busy street alone.
We were also mesmerized and overwhelmed by the scene in front of us.
The market was full of shops, street venders and local shoppers in different Indian outfits, apart from their traditional saree, women in burqa, Catholic nuns, Buddhist monks…
People were pulling overloaded carts, carrying huge baskets on their heads, loud horns from taxis and cars, donkeys, scooters, push bikes, stray dogs…
We were all looking at each other and shouted the same with big smile “we love this crazy place!’’
At no time, we spotted one of the market alley with full of wholesale Indian jewelry shops.
Two ladies just could not resist the unbelievable prices and its designs!
They were so excited like kids in a candy shop and surely enjoyed the real bargain.
We were taking lots of photos in other section of the market for Indian spices, tropical fruits, vegetable and pets include birds.
What an incredible place!
We were all exhausted after so many giggles and fun we had today from both taxis and shopping.
It was about 4 pm when we got back to the ship for a quick change.
Our usual table mates were going to join the dinner at the Khyber.
I have sent an e mail to the restaurant for reservation and did not get the reply until this morning.
I had to drop by at the Khyber to confirm the dinner booking when we finished lunch at the Trishna.
Our table mates needed to be advised for the details before dinner time.
We all seated in the restaurant that reminds us caves.
It was cozy and nice with candle lights.
Nine of us tried to let the waiter to recommend and ordered dishes for us.
With bit of success of our try, we managed to order 11 dishes includes garlic naan, cheese naan, papadum, samosa, two biryani rice, Khyber lamb, mutton masala, prawn curry, chicken Tikka, chicken skewer and some yoghurt dips.
They were all nice as expected.
There were so much of foods even for 9 adults.
Some of us are not so familiar with spicy food and tried only a little.
While some of us ended up having more than two portions of dish and enjoyed them. ^^

I have noticed this wall is newly painted since last visit 2 years ago

We always start of a day from Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai

Recommended by fellow passengers, we visited Indian Restaurant Trishna for lunch.

Papadum, yumy!

Trishna is specialized in crab dish. We ordered crab, fish curry, prawn saag, garlic naan, cheese naan and bryani rice. Not bad at all! ^^

We were joined by two fabulous Renee and Rene

Greg in front of Jewish synagogue

Crawford market is awesome and so unreal. Lots of bargain and fun place.

Bird market
Enjoying forty winks in the middle of market. zzz

Victoria railway station. One of the most beautiful architects in Mumbai.

Dinner time already? hhh
We were waiting for our table mates to arrive.
Our usual table mates decided to join four of us, too.
Nine of us at the table.
Which restaurant?
Of course the Khyber restaurant again. ^^

Cave like interior. Cozy.

Assorted Naan breads were so fresh and yumm!

Chicken Tika Masala, Khyber Lamb, Mutton curry, prawn, samosa, naan breads almost everything except beef!
All of these are so delicious!!!
9.5 out of 10!
Another happy ending with my palates in this unbelievable and marvelous city.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

27Mar Goa, India

Old Goa is UNESCO Heritage listed city for its Portuguese influenced historic Cathedrals and Churches.

Due to tidal changes, we had to leave the port at 3pm.

Greg, Renee and I hired a taxi and tried to make the most out of relatively shorter day.

We were soon on the road after short discussion and negotiation with a taxi driver at the pier.

Suraj the taxi driver took us to Old Goa first to see the most famous Cathedral Bom Jesus.

We were there 2 years ago but Renee has not been here.

Suraj locked his car with car key inside when we returned from the Cathedral.

He was embarrassed and apologetic.

Half an hour later, key arrived like a magic and we were on the road again.

He took us to Tropical Spice Plantation located in a small valley with lush tropical rainforest and swampy lakeside.

Cows, buffalos, elephants and white herons are scattered on the edge of the lake.

First we were welcomed with red dot on our forehead and flower lace.

Hot tea made of fresh ginger with other herbs was quite nice.

We were grouped with a couple from Britain and another couple from Sweden.

Plantation guide took us into lush plantation and showed us all different herbs and spice trees.

Those are pepper corns, vanilla pods, beetle nut tree, cashew nut tree, cinnamon tree, nutmeg tree, clove tree, turmeric tree and root, love apple tree, Indian basil, piri piri the hot chili, lemon grass, curry leaves, bay leaves and many more exotic Indian herbs and trees.

We were baptized (?) with very cold holy water on our back neck when we finished spice tour.

We later realized that the small entrance fee we had paid included a lunch buffet.

Few different curry dishes, dal, kurma, masala, poppadum, pickles were good enough to go for seconds.

We found it interesting that the disposable plates we used are made of dried palm tree flower cover.

Complimentary cashew nut wine tasted like vodka and served in a bottle made of coconut shell.

Indian King Fisher beer was cool and nice.

There was couple of elephants for tourists who want to ride around the plantation farm but we did not have time for it.

Suraj was driving back to the ship almost like lunatic but in his best skill to avoid any accident as we were running out of time.

We all were just amazed and laughing, the way of driving in this incredible country.

We were very happy to be on board on time although we were not worried that we would miss the ship. ^^

A Hindu temple in Vasco da Gama where the ship docked on the way to Old Goa

Bom Jesus Cathedral in Old Goa

Inside the Cathedral

One of many churches and museum in Old Goa

Tropical Spice Plantation Entrance

Ginger tea was quite nice.

Family of buffalo

Very fresh Pepper Corns

Indian legal drug, Beetle Nut tree

Process of cashew nut seems very complicated and highly elaborate

Recipe for Beetle Nut snack with herbs rolled in sweet tree leaf. Chewing it can give people a high like a drug

Top end right are couple of cashew nut fruits. One nut from one fruit. That is the reason why cashew nuts are expensive.

Below right are cigarette rolled in dried banana leaves for sale

Never heard of this fruits called Love Apples

Cinnamon tree

Clove tree

Vanilla vine climbing on a big tree trunk. Vanilla is the second most expensive spice followed by Saffron as it needs to be germinated by human hand one by one. It is usually a job of humming bird.

Turmeric tree

Lunch buffet

Cashew nut wine

Yum ^^

Playing with elephant

26Mar Mangalore, India

Not even Barbara, the ship’s travel consultant said that she cannot expect much.

She has never been to this place for the last 15 years during her career on cruise ship.

Mangalore is located in the south east of India.

Cashew nut is the one of the biggest industry as well as tourist attraction here, yet it is not developed and known to the outside of India much.

That makes this place more exotic and not spoilt and we strongly hope that will remain as it is.

We were formed a group of 6 this morning to hire a van taxi at the pier.

Renee, Diane, John, Sky, Greg and I were all happy with outcome of the negotiation.

We visited 2 Hindu temples, historic St. Aloysius church and a bazar market.

Then, we were introduced to a very nice hotel for local gourmet lunch.

We were so taken by the Hindu Gods, chanting music, thick smoky scent, monks burning offerings and its worshipers inside the temples.

It has so much spiritual atmosphere around the Shiva.

Very friendly and smiley monks were also fascinating.

Photos and video taping is not allowed inside the temples, disappointingly.

Prayers were not supposed to be disturbed and camera flash and digital screens carried by insensitive foreign tourists can be quite annoying.

I was actually appreciative that they allowed us to enter their sacred place for prayer.

Ocean pearl hotel has many restaurants in different styles.

We were recommended to Coral restaurant where we found many tables are already occupied by fellow passengers from our ship.

They were all putting their thumbs up to us which indicates good food.

We let the restaurant manager Ganesh recommend us their specialty foods as none of us know much about Indian food.

Restaurant manager reminded us actor Omar Sharif with his black mustache.

We ordered two Naan Breads, one with garlic and the other with cheese as well as Poppadum.

Masala prawn, Honey chicken, Yoghurt dip, Biryani rice…

They were all spicy but not so hot but delicious.

We were all smiling when we returned to the ship with big satisfaction of having another good day.

And, tall five bottles of Indian beer King Fisher during lunch definitely contributed our happiness. ^^

Photos from the top;

Newly built Gokarnanath Temple with two black elephants at the gate

Sacred Hindu cow on marble floor

Shrine with humanized monkey statue kept in

In front of main temple entrance

St. Aloysius Church

St. Aloysius High School building

Traditional Hindu temple SharvuMahagauathi Temple Mangalore

Yummy lunch with cold beer. What can I ask more?

Cashew nuts in different flavors at the local super market shelf. Most of us had big grocery shopping today. Drinks and snacks for glass of wine in the cabin. ^^

Cows reminded us that cows are sacred animal in India.