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The next day it was time to go to Mumbai, India. Tomorrow I will meet my girlfriend Yes! So I thought..
Arriving in Mumbai airport is crazy. Literally thousands of people go to the customs and when you finally get out of the airport, there is a sea of people waiting. I stayed very quiet and I was very proud of myself for that.
Taking some time to acclimatise, I decided to walk out of the airport to find a place to stay. During the way there was a women, begging. And guess what, she almost had Gato out of the side of my backpack! Luckily, Gato hold on, and I was able to prevent this.
After some more walk, I realised that it would be madness. I had no idea how this city was build. I took a tuktuk and asked for a cheap hotel. He brought me to a hotel that indeed, looked very cheap. It turned out to be 40 euro. Way too much. The owner dropped the price to 28 euro. But still, this is madness. India, developing country. In the end, I ended up in a place with a 10 dorm, with my own bed together with 9 others. My bed was smaller than me and my backpack was in my bed. The bed was incovenient and mosquitos were buzzing around. The airco was straight in my face. 15 euro. Indeed,15 euro for a bed in a 10 dorm. Insane. Already I was getting worried about the next weeks in India.
My girlfriend was going to India and I would meet her there. I was looking forward to that and was very excited. My mobile was on. Then I got a call. The plane from Geneva to London was delayed and therefore, she wasn't able to get the flight from London to Mumbai. A very painfull moment. My bonita was crying and I was trying to stay calm. Not really knowing what I could do or when we would meet now. It has been 4,5 months by now.
After the call, I took all my matrass and sleeping stuff outside on the rooftop and tried to sleep. It didn't work. I just couldn't sleep. Not knowing when to see my bonita, and even more mosquitos around, made it a very annoying time. Then, my eyes started to get an allergic response on the blankets. I went inside again, because the mosquitos were bugging me too much. So, with my head in the airco, my bonita not arriving and my eyes painfull due to the blankets, I tried to sleep, which didn't work.
The next morning my eyes were swollen. I decided to go to the luxury hotel I booked for the first 2 nights to surprise my girlfriend. A 4 star hotel.
I took a tuktuk and upon arrival, I was a bit dssapointed. The hotel didn't look as good as on the internet and the hotel was being renovated. So dust and noise everywhere. I wanted to check my mail to see whether my Bonita was still going to make it. The connection was not too well. I wrote an email to my girl to temper her expectations a little. Luckily, it was almost certain British Airways would be able to get her on the next flight, 13 hours later then the original. After, I checked out the room. To my surprise, luckily, the room was absolutely beautiful. And.. an amazing shower and the bed was soft, very soft. There was a beautiful mirror and luxurious interior. Immediately I fell asleep. After wake up, I got a message that bonita was going to arrive in the night around 1 am. I went to the fitness of the hotel, and since they were renovating, I was entitled to go to the fitness in the nearby 5 star hotel. Beautiful. What a service. After, I spent some time in the sauna.
Then it was time to have some roomservice food and enjoy this to the max. A little bit of sleep and I woke up to get my bonita from the airport.
Mumbai airport was still as crazy as during the day. The plane had landed, but no bonita. After a while, still no bonita. I started to call. Where was bonita? In the end, it took almost 2 hours. There was my bonita. Without backpack. What a great moment. Finally, we could hug each other again after 4,5 month.
We went to the hotel, smiling from ear to ear.
It turned out BA had not brought the backpack of Bonita to Mumbai. They didn't know where it was, but they supposed it was still in Mumbai. For us, though, it was time to finally enjoy being together. A lot of things that would have the label 'adults only'. So that part keeps being for us
We arrived in the hotel around 3 am.
The time that we had left in the hotel we spent at the swimming pool, sauna, fitness and enjoying the perfect shower and amazing bed, in more ways.
Then it was time to move. Up to Goa. A 12 hour bus ride. I was not looking forward to this. The bus was from Hell 'God is busy. Can I help you?'.
Music louder than a 200 decibel disco. Piercing your ears with the most annoying Bollywood movies. The guy in front of us learned that he could put his chair down to the point that he would almost be horizontally and didn't care about us. Time for me to annoy him, since he seemed not to understand he was going to far. We call this respect in most countries. Interestingly, only 2 seats in the whole bus went horizontally down. Why only two? Because all the other people showed respect to the persons behind them, that would be cramped. So every now and then, he got a kick from behind on the chair. If I cannot sleep, he cannot sleep. Simple as that.
After the bus from hell, we arrived in Goa. We went on a shopping spree for Bonita. Since she only had her hand luggage, we had to buy some stuff. British Airways (BA), would send the backpack to Goa.
After the shopping, we went to the sea and found a nice appartment there. Not cheap, not expensive. But more expensive than in Asia or most of the Arabs. In the evening we had dinner at Benny's beach shag. The food was good. Well, it tasted good. Later, we found something else..
We had a nice walk back over the peacefull beach to our cosy bungalow. On the way, some dogs passed by and since my dog attack, I became more afraid of dogs. With that I feeded a paranoia for both myself and bonita. Luckily, most dogs were very nice. Some though, looked a bit too wild. Nothing happened. After a nice walk, we arrived home.
This was the start of the night of hell.
I woke up in the night, having a bit of stomach pain. Not too bad at first. But more and more, I went to the toilet in the middle of the night. No big deal. I had diahrrea more often. Actually, after leaving from Dubai, all was more juicy all the time..so no worries...so I thought.
Then, somewhere in the morning I woke up. The pain in the stomach continued and I started to get a bit of a headache. I told bonita. But she didn't pay too much attention to it. After all, it was just a bit of headache and stomach pain. But then, during the morning it started to increase. The pain became more and more and my head was exploding. At the same time I went to the toilet every 15 minutes and my energy level went down more and more. My head was burning and I was sweating. At a certain point we decided I had to go to a doctor and bonita wanted to arrange a taxi. I just wanted to have a short break to regain strenghts to get to the taxi. After a while, it was time to find a taxi. But by now, my energy level was even lower and my head was really exploding. Bonita already went to a shop close to the bungalow and borrowed a thermometer. Almost 40 degrees fever. I urgently needed to get to a doctor.
I was unable to even drink. My bonita hold my head and put the water in my mouth. I was unable to do this myself. I just wanted to lay down and shouted and made strange noises because of the pain.
In the end, we had a doctor coming to our place. By now I was really feeling terrible. Sweating like crazy and an exploding head plus stomach that was totally empty. A few throw ups had followed.
The doctor just felt my forehead and within 30 seconds after arriving, he knew enough. Food poisining. What else? This is India after all. The country that is famous for food poisinings. He gave me a medical shot in the ass and after about 15 minutes, I started sweating like crazy. More and more. Also, he gave a lot of pills. Actually, most of this, I don't even remember, because by then I was already hallucinating? Or at least in a state of low awareness.
After about 2 hours, I woke up again. I remembered my bonita saying that she was going to the pharmacy (I forgot what for). I also remembered that she said it was 15.34 when she left. That was the only thing I remembered. After, I fell in a deep sleep, only to wake up two hours later. Surprisingly, I felt a lot better, and was able to walk, and think clearly. By now, the sun was almost setting, which meant it was past 17.00. I was getting worried, because my bonita was still not back. So, I started to ask people that worked in the bungalows. But few of them spoke english, and I didn't know much of what happened. Half the night and day had been a black-out.
So I waited impatiently and after a while, Bonita came back, as always with a big smile. Now that I write this, I think she went to the pharmacy, but I don't remember exactly. I am writing this part now the 10th of Jan 2011. About 1 month later.
Bonita explained to me that I was not allowed to eat food for three days. Except for toast and tea. What a 'happy' foresight. Being sick, just coming from South-East Asia, with delicious food, knowing that in India for at least the next 3 days I cannot eat proper food. And, Indian food is my favourite food.
The next few days were hell. My body got weaker and weaker and obviously I started to loose weight. And although I was really tempted to eat, I was not allowed. Just fucking toast and tea. My mood got worse and worse. My bonita took great care of me and we tried to enjoy the moments. But with an empty stomach and eating about 10 pills a day, loosing 3 kilo in 3 days, it's difficult to enjoy. We had some food at Little Tiger. Since a tiger means a lot to us as a couple, this was a great moment. Unfortunately, it was toast and tea.
For my bonita it was also very difficult. She took great care of me, but had also problems herself. Since she has some food allergies, she always has to take care. Unfortunately, in India, it is difficult to decide what you want to have in your meal. So, on the food part, also for her it was a hard time.
One night was really terrible. I don't know whether it was the atmosphere, the medicines or something else, but I got amazingly scary dreams. By now, one month later, I don't remember all, but I am trying to write as much as I can.
Bonita made a remark in the night about the sea that was so loud and high (tide). I just didn't pay too much attention. It's high tide after all.
In the night, a lot of strange dreams started to happen to me. Sea, high tide. Airplanes (crashing?) I saw my grandfather who is in a place where they take care of older people. More and more strange things I noticed in my dreams. I woke up and decided to wake up bonita. She, as always after sleeping (so cute), was very sleepy and unaware. I started to tell her the story and two minutes later, the lighs outside just suddenly went out. Complete darkness. Dogs from the beach started barking and we heard two, minimum two coming towards our bungalow. They were very close, and barking. The light came back for a while, and went out again. Complete darkness again. When I told the story, I started shivering. All was very, very spooky. And I think I never had an experience this extreme with a dream.
Then, just after I finished my story, clouds broke, thunder started and it started raining heavily. Sometimes the light went on and off. Obviously, we were not able to sleep anymore this night.
The next day, to my relieve, we left Goa, 'beach paradise' of India..nothing compared to Paradise Island Koh Tao, or Cat Ba island..we were going to Coimbatore, via Bangalore.
My stomach was still completely empty Very obviously I was loosing weight. My temper got really bad. No food, no joy. I was very pissed of to be hungry, being in fucking India, loosing the weight that for me takes ages to gain.
When we arrived via Goa to Bangalore, we both collapsed. My bonita finally had her luggage back, in Goa, but at that moment, I didn't even care. I made a picture of her, being happy with the bag. But all I could think of was proper food. We bought some overpriced crackers, and the harder my sweet bonita tried to make it fun and deal with it, the more annoyed I got. I just don't like crackers. As a snack, fine, but not for breakfast, lunch, dinner and second dinner. Come on. I had sweet dreams of the mango shakes, and green curry with chicken in Bangkok. Oh..i adore that place. I needed decent, proper food.
Once we arrived in Bangalore airport, we collapsed. I was very tense and hungry and bonita started to cry. An Indian couple took us under their wings and gave us positive energy. Bonita told me that if I wanted to leave India, now was a good moment. Bangalore is an international airport. I decided to stay. After all, we had the bag back and soon, I would be able to eat proper food again. So we went. From Bangalore, we flew to Coimbatore. This was with a propellor airplane. The pilot was Duke! Duke? The Dukes of Hazzard? Duke, with an extreme American accent. I just had a picture of a guy from Texas that loves flying in prop airplanes. His enthousiasm was enormous. Duke would fly us safely to Coimbatore in a plane that nearly had 50 seats. The flight from Goa to Bangalore brought us a delicious, clean and proper meal. Which my bonita was able to keep away from me for the whole flight. I understood, but my stomach didn't. She tried so hard. It was very sweet to see. During the Bangalore-Coimbatore flight, I just couldn't hold it anymore. They served a delicious sandwich, a little spicy, but just perfect. In a moment of desperation, I took the sandwich and savored this moment. What a delicious sandwich. After two days of no food finally something that kept my stomach full. Bonita knew that, although she tried with all her might to keep me away from food, this moment had been too much. Delicious food was served all around me. The guy next to me was happily eating the sandwich. I couldn't hold it anymore. Proper food and 'a proper restauarnt' are sayings that I will always relate to India.
All was fine. My stomach was able to cope with it. What a delicious start of a life with normal food again.
We arrived in Coimbatore in the early evening. After Duke, our super enthousiastic pilot, had safely put us and the propellor plane on the ground. It was unbelievable (for me), to have such a small airplane landing on a huge landing stip. And then..rolling on for another two minutes.
We got ourselves a taxi to the center and found a decent place to sleep for an ok price. Now it was time to look for food. A proper restaurant. Nowhere. Not again he? Un-fucking-believable. Everything is dirty. No restaurants that look decent. And we are not high class. My favourite restaurant in Bangkok is a street restaurant, that is build around a tree, in which at least 3 rats have their house. Happy rats . So no, clean means just that there is an amount of bacteria that is just below the limit that my stomach can handle. But here in India, unbelievable. Not so strange that so many people die each year, or die very young.
So, bonita without food, and me with the last part of the sandwich, went to bed. The next morning we went to find FOOD. Finally, some decent, proper, clean food. So we ate in a 5 star hotels' restaurant. It's absolutely insane, stupid, unnescessary. We made the best of it though. Still, I cannot understand how in a country like that, with so many people, and a middle class of 300 million, yes 300 million potential customers, there is barely any restaurant that is CLEAN. Dirtyness all around. But the strange thing is..all the people look super clean. Dressed in nice, washed and ironed clothing. Nicely shaves, hair done. Where do they come from? Where do they eat? Later we found out that the local middle class mostly eats at home, clean, or goes to the 5 star hotel restaurants. I see a huge business opportunity to start a chain of clean restaurants. Simple, affordable, Indian food, for the middle class. But I think I will be the last one to return to this country. And everyone,everyone seems to be happy. Noise, dirt, smog. It doesn't bother them. They look all happy and clean. Everyone is very polite, speaks good or average English. Wow, respect. This country has a huge potential.
Time to get to Mettapalayam. From here, the next day, we were supposed to get the train to Ooty. Ooty is a beautifull mountain village. So, we took a bus to Ooty. The surrounding noise of the traffic, although less than in Vietnam, still hardly bearable. After this ride, we arrived in the most dirty place I have ever seen. In Morocco we have had dirty places, and dealt with it (yes, we always flooded the toilet). But this Mettapalayam. Unbelievable. As you are living on the garbage belt. Plastic, cow shit, empty bottles, banana shells, people spitting on the street, smog (the road goes straight trough the village) and an amazing amount of noise. And yet, the people, happily having painted the third eye on there forehead, happy, (most of them) clean, and in peace.
Time to find a place to sleep. We checked around. First round. 20 euro. Come on, this is India. So we looked further. Heavy backpack with us. We found a place. 4 euro. Sounds good. Let's check it out. The guy that showed our room. Probably he had never seen white people. Very Indian look. Super dark skinn, piercing black eyes and dark hair. Barefooted. Not saying a word. Not flashing his eyes. This intense look for minutes. Not moving one muscle in the face. It was a bit scary. The room was dirty as shit. The bed was still doable. The rest..no name for it. But, we decided to stay. After all, it was just 8 hours before we got the train to Ooty.
The owner / manager was now at the room too and asked me to come with the passport. But the other guy didn't leave. No way I was going to leave bonita here alone with that guy. So we waited until they left. Bonita needed to go to the toilet. And after she came back, she said 'we go'. The toilet was incredible dirty. Imagine, a smell of old piss (luckily in those moments, my nose is very bad), a layer of water and mud on the dark floor. There is a big bin with water, from which you take water with a small cup into the toilet to flush. But even this water was dark and fat. No idea what it was. Probably, by touching something, you could be in danger of getting some mutated hepatitis X virus ( a yet unknown severe virus). So we left and checked in in the place of 20 euro. Still, a shithole. Dirty as shit also. But a little bit less. By now, I really hated India. I came from this beautifull south east Asia, where you get good food, clean hotels and friendly people. Good transportation and everything cheap. People say India is cheap. But later, I talked to more people and found that when they say this, they are talking about the North. Also, the North has a broader range of decent restaurants and hotels.
Anyway, we checked in. Now, time for some food. We checked for 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours. And we asked even to a pharmacist. No one knew a restaurant in this shithole. No one! We looked just for plain white rice. Nothing more. Just rice, boiled in water. That's all. India, the rice chamber of the world. Number 1 or 2 of the largest producers of rice. You know? Indian Basmati rice? Unbelievable. Nothing. The pharmacist even asked to someone passing by. If that happens, you know you are not on planet earth anymore. What a joke.
In the end, we found a supermarket, where we bought some overpriced stuff. We must have been the best customers around. Most people bought 2 things, we bought two bags full of noodles, cookies, crackers and drinks.
We went back to the hotel and asked for hot water. The guy treated us with disrespect. And..no he didn't know where to get hot, boiled water. Insane..
So after a seach of another 30 minutes, we finally found a place that looked proper. Also, families with children were eating here. And...everyone ate with their hands. Dirty hands, not washed. Bonita later remarked 'that's why they all get sick'.
We asked for hot, boiled water for the noodles. And I brought an empty bottle. A woman filled the bottle. Yes, it looked a professional boiling machine. In retrospect, how lucky we were that the manager of the place had a look and asked what we were looking for. He explained that, yes, it was hot water, but not boiled. Imagine what would have happened if I used that for my noodles. An even more severe decease. We got, good, proper hot water for free from him. And, later he said. 'You look sick'. He quickly changed subject. But, we realised how bad we were doing by now.
Next morning, waking up in our shithole. Getting quickly ready to check out. Don't touch anything. The toilet: dirty as shit. And what does it say on the toilet? Anti baccil. Yes, but, stupid, that does not mean that it cleans itself. It means that, if cleaned PROPERLY, there is a less likelyhood of baccils. Unbelievable. 20 euro wasted. I look back to Vietnam, Cat Ba paradise Island. 5 US dollar, 3,5 euro a room in a very clean hotel. Hot water, sea view, internet, airco. Luxury. Wow, amazing. This shithole was about 8 times as much in 'developing country', poor, dirty, India. Huuuuuhhhuuuuuu...Indiaaaa.....Incredible Indiaaaa ( MOVIE).
We got ready for the train. When we arrived at the train station, it took a while to find the ticket box. After some time, someone finally, after first telling us that we had to go somewhere else to get the tickets, and then get back (which didn't make sense to us)..told us that we could get the tickets here. I was already hyper frustrated. Although trying to make the best of it and laughing at those moments, looking back, I think I did better on those moments than ever before. But I had more and more savoring dreams of fresh mango juice, shakes, rice with vegetables and chicken. Delicious green curry and more food.
'The train is full' was the bland answer. At the same time Bonita and I said 'Ok, we go to Thailand'.
We took the bus back to Coimbatore. Not before we got heaps of offers from taxi drivers to bring us to Ooty. We didnt give a shit about Ooty. But the 7 hour train rides was one of the most stunning rides (apparently). But I prefer proper food anyway.
So, after a bumpy ride back to Coimbatore, we checked in in our previous hotel, that, luckily, was clean. In an internet café we had one of the quickest and most efficient decision making moments we ever had together.
We had a list of options:
Hong Kong? I am not sure whether we had this one too.
Quickly we went trough several websites. Airi India, Airasia, Indian Airlines, Kingfisher, Edreams. More and more. Within 90 minutes we found a very good price, and were able to fly the same evening to Bangkok! I was able to honestly, deep from my heart smile of happiness. Not anymore because of this silly situation, but because, hip hip hurray, we went to a place with great food, clean places and cheap cheap
We spent some hours in our hotel and then left to the airport. Just before an important politician would arrive in the city. And.. what a joke, when we arrived in this place, it was hyper clean. Strange huh? I remember when I worked for the supermarket. Just before the country manager would arrive, the evening before we had extra people and cleaned everything, literally everything. And the country manager would know that all was fine and he could happily sleep with a good feeling.
The same happens in India. So Coimbatore, clean, clean. Mettapalayam; shithole.
Mango shakes, green curry: here we come! YES. Food food food. A lot of clean, tasty, healty and clean (again), clean, reliable well cooked, food. No bacteria, no 2 hours odyssee, no overpriced, time consumer searches for food. No, just delicious food everywhere. Welcome to Thailand. Thailand, you should know that I need to regain 3 kilo. And my bonita also lost about the same in one week. We looked sick. Our faces were going inside, like anorexia patients. Fuck it, the suffering is over. Food, food, here we come . I was so happy.
So we flew back. Coimbatore, Mumbai, Mumbai-Bangkok. I forgot which airline. So after one week and spending 600 euro on tickets alone plus 70 euro for a fucking visa for India (calculate how many mango shakes that is), I was happy to, having spent one week in India, be back in Bangkok. FOOD FOOOOOD. The first green curry was like having your first orgasm ever..delicious