Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Travel Plans: Intoxicated in India

In one month I will be departing on another lengthy backpacking trip.  March 29th in the early morning I leave Vancouver and following two stopovers in China, if all goes well, I will arrive in Bangalore India. This will be the fourth time I leave my comfy home life for an extended time with just a backpack and a guidebook. My trip will be open-ended, just the way I like it, and I plan to continue to update this blog throughout the journey with pictures, videos, and of course, nightlife and booze articles.  'Read More' to view my rough itinerary and some of the drinks and nightlife I will be exploring.
March 29th, 2011: Depart YVR in the early AM, stoppingin Beijing 8.5 and for 5 hours in Chengdu.  I intend to have a Multiple entry visa for China so I am hoping to leave the airport for at least a few hours in Beijing to indulge in some Chinise cuisine and maybe a few shots of Baijiu.

March 31, 2011: Arrive
I arrive a couple days in advance of the Cricket World Cup Final which will be taking place in Mumbai.   As cricket is the most popular spectator sport in India there should be a great deal of excitement surrounding the final and I intend to head to a bar to take in the excitement.  Bangalore is known as India's 'Pub City' and also India's 'Beer Capital', and yet disappointingly, all the pubs and bars in Bangalore shut down by 11:30pm as required to by law. Needless to say, I expect a subdued nightlife in Bangalore but I am looking forward to getting my first taste of the Indian beer selection in one of Bangalore's many pubs. I also look forward to my first taste of Indian cuisine in India.  I love Indian food, but I can't help but to assume that the Indian food, to which I am accustomed, may differ greatly from the day-today food served in India.

No exact dates from here onwards but when I am satisfied with the time spent in Bangalore I will move onto the small state of Goa.  I will most likely head for the city of Margao which Goa's cultural and commercial capital where I will be checking out the usual tourist sites including relics of the former Portuguese imperialists.
In addition to sight-seeing, I will be looking to sample some of the famous Goan Feni.  Feni is a liquor that comes in two flavours, cashew and coconut , one from the cashew apple, and the other from the sap of the coconut tree. I also may venture into trying some of the local wines, although I do not have a very sophisticated palate for wine and would be a poor judge of quality.
Goa is famous for it's nightlife and rave scene which has even given rise to it's very own genre of music, Goa Trance.  I see it as nothing short of my duty as author of this blog to immerse my self in as much of Goa's nightlife as possible.  

Moving onwards to the mega-city of Mumbai, one of world's largest.  Mumbai is one of the most liberal cities in India when it comes to attitudes to alcohol. Bars exist at virtually every street corner. Nightlife in Mumbai spans the gamut from performances at five star hotels to discos.  I'm hoping to check out some of Mumbai's nightclubs and am hoping to avoid those that play western hits in favour of a DJ spinning some contemporary Hindi Pop.
Presumably I will be able to sample some shots and cocktails made with Indian Made Foreign Liquor, often abbreviated IMFL, is a term used to denote western-style hard liquors such as whisky, rum, vodka, etc., which are manufactured in India. What distinguishes IMFL from foreign made spirits is that irrespective of the final product the starting ingredient is a neutral spirit distilled from molasses. For example, whereas a whisky in most countries would be distilled from grain, Indian whisky is made by adding whisky-like flavoring and coloring to neutral spirit obtained from molasses. 

Udaipur, the capital of the former princly state of Mewar is a beautiful city in Rajasthan, India famous for its lakes and palaces. It was a backdrop for numerous movies including the James Bond flick "Octopussy".
Udaipur is referred to as the "Venice of the East", the "Most Romantic City of India" and the "Kashmir of Rajasthan."
I recently discovered that Puppet shows are an inseparable aspect of Rajasthani culture and that puppet shows at the Bharatiya Lok Kala Museum in Udaipur run in the evenings. I'm hoping for an Indian version of the muppets.

Jodhpur is also known as the Blue City, an apt name as most houses in the old city are shades of blue. From what I have seen in pictures, the blue city scape is stunning.  A number of historical sites including the Mehrangarh Fort dominates the city and is the largest fort in all Rajasthan.

From the Blue City to the Golden City. The city is dominated by the Jaisalmer Fort. Unlike most forts in India, the Jaisalmer Fort is a living fort, there are shops, hotels, age old havelis (homes) inside the fort area. Jailsalmer is also home to a relatively well known government authorized 'Bhang' shop.  'Bhang' is marijuana, and in India bhang is taken in different forms such as smoke, mixed with sweets and drink. I intend to indulge is a Bhang Lassi (essentially a weed milkshake) during my stay in Jaisalmer... you know....for cultural research.

Known as 'the Pink City,' (colour cities are apparently popular in Rajastan) Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan in India and is a major tourist attraction amongst Indian as well as international travellers. It belongs to the tourist Golden Triangle of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. It hosts several attractions like the City Palace, Govind Dev ji Temple, Vidhan Sabha, Birla Temple, and several massive Rajpur forts.

New Dehli
Delhi is said to be one of the oldest existing cities in the world, along with Damascus and Varanasi. Estimated to be over 5,000 years old, Delhi is said to have been built and destroyed 11 times. Delhi's nightlife scene is reported to have undergone a total transformation in the last decade. There are plenty of modern, cosmopolitan bars and nightclubs and while everything is theoretically to shut down by 1AM things can keep going much longer.

Agra is the home of the Taj Mahal, the most famous architectural monument in the world, and two other UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Agra Fort in the city and Fatehpur Sikri are nearby. The city has little else though. The sites are some of the wonders of the world and no trip to India is complete without at least one visit to the Taj.

The city is sacred to Hindus and also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. However, the scene of pilgrims doing their devotions in the River Ganges at sunrise set against the back drop of the centuries old temples is probably one of the most impressive sights in the world - definitely a must see destination on any trip to northern India.  Over 60,000 people come down to the waters edge every day to take a dip in the sacred waters of the Ganges. Try not to think too much about the dozens of sewage pipes and sunken corpses in the waters around you and you'll find it's not nearly as bad as you expect once you're actually in it.

Kathmandu, Nepal
The largest city and capital of Nepal and the namesake of the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu has a wealth of cultural and historical sites, including the famous Durbar Square, that I plan to explore.
Beer and mixed drinks are available at almost every bar and restaurant but I am more likely to go for the cultural experience of trying the local 'Nepali wine' (raksi) or 'Nepali Beer' neither of which are said to taste anything like their namesakes.

Pokhara, Nepal
It is considered by many to be the most beautiful place in the world. One of the Nepal's most beautiful spots, Phewa Tal (lake) is surrounded by a combination of monkey-filled forests and the high white peaks. The reflections in the mirror-like water in the early mornings are said to be something you must see at least once in your life. In the Pokhara region there are often open-air dance parties, I will do my best to be there are the right time to attend one.

The capital of West Bengal and one of the largest cities in India. Abject poverty mix inexplicably with crumbling British Raj-era gems, sprawling gardens and historical colleges.
Liquor shops are scattered around the city. Kolkata has drinkers of all sorts-the regular working class to the aristocratic Bengali. Pubbing and night-clubs are also common in Kolkata and I think this will allow for a suitable final party before departing from India.

Southeast Asia
From Kolkata I will likely fly to Bangkok to meet with friends and get reacquainted with Southeast Asia.  The itinerary is likely to be less and less accurate, the longer it is.  I do plan to stay in Southeast Asia for a month or two before heading to China, Taiwan, South Korea, Mongolia and the Russia via the Trans-Siberian Express.

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