A Travellerspoint blog

Mangalore

Wednesday November 30

The day started out foggy and cool but by 9, the haze had burnt off and by noon, it was quite hot and drippy humid. Fortunately, we are experiencing Indian winter, so the daytime temperatures aren’t much different from our Canadian summer temperatures.

Lyle and I chose different excursions today. On his trip, Mangalorean Legacies, he visited an old plantation farm where there were demonstrations of pottery making, a hand-pounding ‘beaten rice’ operation that produces a dry cereal, an oil seed processing operation that produces massage oil, cane furniture making, and weaving using a handloom to make cloth.
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The farmhouse was owned by a landlord prior to Indian Independence Day in 1948 and then was turned over to the workers. It contained many artifacts and cultural displays. School groups were visiting the farm at the same time.

Traveling to the farm was also an experience! The numerous sights along the way included a strongly worded sign regarding using cell phones while driving.
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Donna’s tour, Highlights of Mangalore, started with visiting a large cashew nut processing plant which originally exported cashews to many different countries but now exports solely to the Netherlands. I observed the process for roasting the nuts in their marble hard shells, then watched the women crack open the shells to separate the kernels from the shells. The last stage of the process is to peel the skin off each nut individually. It’s VERY labour intensive work and I will appreciate it with every cashew I consume. The shells are saved to extract cashew oil which is painted onto wood in their homes to keep away termites.

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The working conditions at this factory were deemed to be good: it was very clean and the uneducated women who work there get paid 6 USD a day (considered a good wage), they get free childcare and health benefits. Of course I had to buy some of the product – so I got some fried, salted cashews and some with black pepper!

From there, my group toured the Gokamanatheshwara Temple, dedicated to Shiva. It was a stunningly beautiful, large temple complex with a number of buildings clustered together. Our Hindu guide gave us more explanations of the structures, symbols and practices than I have heard elsewhere so I was extremely pleased. For example, she pointed out that all Hindu temples in India have a golden radius pole that marks a sacred energy point. Temples were constructed at these points to draw people to these areas of beneficial, healing energy.

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I then visited the chapel at St. Aloysius College. Our guide’s family had attended this large “semi-government funded” school plus college for several generations. The interior walls of the chapel are completely covered with frescoes portraying the life of Jesus and the disciples, and the ceiling is covered with oil painting (which appeared to be more historical, e.g. showing Europeans in ruff collars). All of the paintings in the chapel were painted by one artist from Italy in 1899. It has been compared to the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Our guide then took us to the main vegetable market. It was interesting to see different kinds of vegetables and leaves/herbs and to hear all of the different medicinal uses of them. Our guide is a nutritionist by profession so was eager to share some of her knowledge. Indians consciously incorporate this knowledge of different food properties into their daily meal preparation.

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One morning at breakfast, I was coughing and one of the dining room helpers, Akash, came by and said I should have some Chai tea with ginger to help get rid of my cough. The tea came back with about a half inch of chopped ginger in the bottom of the small juice glass. It was yummy and gradually, I have got over my cough. Each morning I look for Akash to prepare my chai but he’s a busy guy. He said his role on the boat is to ensure that the Indian passengers get their chai tea in the morning because without it, their day just doesn’t get off to a good start.

Posted by HosMiniTravels 09:17 Archived in India Comments (0)

Goa

Tuesday November 29

Today, we chose the tour, A Taste of Goa. We had to drive a fair distance from the port to reach Old Goa, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a narrow road with lots of traffic, and along the sides, it could have been any tropical country. You only knew it was India when you saw the people and their style of dress.

In Old Goa, we visited a couple of old churches, one of which contained the remains of St. Francois Xavier, who is the patron saint of Goa. We also briefly visited the Shantadurga Temple.
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The Portuguese influence was quite obvious in Goa – especially in the architecture, the Christian majority population, and the lunch we enjoyed at an organic spice farm, with some fish dishes prepared as the Portuguese would have done using local spices. After lunch, a guide showed us different spice plants and explained how they can be used for specific health benefits.

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We have been isolated from North American/Canadian news and Lyle didn’t learn till today about the Ottawa Grey Cup victory!

Posted by HosMiniTravels 15:09 Archived in India Comments (0)

Mumbai, India

Sunday November 27

Our first impression of India was the smell of smoke. Even in our cabin, I smelled smoke and was somewhat concerned until we went out on deck and realized that the air all around us smelled of smoke (wood fires with a touch of unidentified acrid chemical – like plastic burning).

The first people we met Sunday morning were a couple about our age. I expressed to them my excitement about visiting India and they just beamed. The husband explained: “We are both Indian, but we were born in Africa and have lived in Canada. This is our first visit to India.” What a beautiful start to the day!

Beside our ship in the harbor were numerous naval ships. This is Naval week in Mumbai and crowds of Indians are lined up to take tours of the ships.

We’ve spent 2 days travelling around the city in tour buses and come away impressed that a city with a population of 20 million can function so harmoniously. It must take an incredible spirit to live and get along in such a dense environment. People seem to have a generous spirit and, apart from some of the street vendors, are not pushy. Of course, there is the constant beeping of horns, but vehicles are beeping to get someone’s attention rather than out of aggravation. We were mesmerized by the constant interweaving of all kinds of traffic.
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On Sunday, our tour took us to Highlights of Mumbai: the Gateway to India outside the Taj Hotel, through the Hanging Gardens, past a number of large cricket fields, and along Marine Drive with its pigeon sanctuaries. We went into the temple of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the Gandhi Museum, the Prince of Wales Museum and looked into the Dhobi Ghat laundry area. When Lyle saw the laundry area, he recalled seeing a TV program about the complex coding system these illiterate laundry workers use which analysts have unsuccessfully tried to decode. The laundry workers gather laundry from customers across this immense city and return everything to its owner within a week. Despite the workers’ lack of education and illiteracy, they never misplace an item.

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We felt we could have lingered much longer in the Gandhi Museum and the Prince of Wales Museum. The former pays tribute to Gandhi with pictures of his life and quotes on the walls, and dioramas of events in his life. The latter has explanations of many artifacts representing India’s diverse religions, along with an archeology section. Outside the museum, an area was being set up for a wedding celebration with white and red drapery and a floral design being created on the sidewalk.
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After we got back from the tour, Lyle went out for a walk and found groups of all ages playing cricket on the street.
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We finished the evening by watching the movie Gandhi. It was a perfect reminder of how significant and influential a person he was.

Monday November 28

Today, we took the Religious Beats tour that took us to several Hindu temples, past the Zoroastrian fire temple and burial grounds, past the Haji Ali Mosque, and into St. Thomas’ Cathedral which is dedicated to the only disciple of Jesus who may have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the gospel. It is believed that he landed in India in 52 CE. Finally, we were welcomed into the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue established by Jews from Baghdad.
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Mumbai is a colourful, bustling, diverse, cosmopolitan city. Pictures describe it better than words can.
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Posted by HosMiniTravels 14:36 Archived in India Comments (0)

At sea

Saturday November 25

While we have been at sea for these last 2 days, Indian immigration officials have been onboard inspecting everyone’s passports and visas, approving us for entry to India. It was a very organized, efficient process. We’re very glad that we made the extra effort to get our Indian visas before leaving Canada as the passengers without visas have to stay onboard for the 5 days while we are at different ports in India.

We’ve kept busy reading and taking in the various activities – a little yoga for me, swimming for Lyle, walking around the decks, looking out at the ocean, chatting with interesting folks from around the world, and enjoying fabulous stage performances and singers in the evening.

Posted by HosMiniTravels 14:40 Comments (0)

Muscat, Oman

Thursday November 24

Today, we enjoyed beautiful Muscat, Oman - the second cleanest city in the world (after Singapore).
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Rational organization and colour coding are obvious everywhere (e.g. most buildings are white or light coloured because of the heat; no buildings can be taller than 14 stories because the Sultan wants to preserve the view of the mountains surrounding the city; there are about 7 different colours of license plates – each with a significance; there are different colour water trucks depending on the intended use for the water).

The flags in these countries typically have a band of white representing peace, green representing either agriculture or the colour of Mohammed’s turban, and red representing strength and the conflict with the Portuguese. Throughout Oman, we noticed that many homes and buildings were draped with festive lights and oversize flags, left over from celebrating their national day on Nov. 18.

Oman is divided into two sections. One is at the tip of the Arabian peninsula, strategically guarding the Straits of Hormuz (and benefitting from revenue of traffic through the straits). Oman shares this revenue with Iran, its neighbour across the strait. The other much larger section is on the Arabian Sea. Abu Dhabi and Qatar have built pipelines hundreds of miles long across the desert so they can load ships on the Arabian Sea and avoid tankers going through the narrow straits. This also reduces their vulnerability in case of any dispute over the Straits.

Muscat is hemmed in by rocky hills, and around the harbor area, there are numerous mud-walled forts and defense towers built by the Portuguese 500 years ago. We visited the outer area of the palace of Sultan Qaboos, the highly respected leader of Oman.
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The national religion here is Ibadi Islam which predates both the Shia and Sunni forms of Islam. For more info, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibadi Omanis tolerate religious freedom for Christians and Jews. We visited their Grand Mosque with its beautiful, tranquil courtyards and exquisite Swarowski crystal chandeliers, an immense handwoven wool carpet and floral tiles in the men’s prayer hall.
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The women’s prayer hall was much less impressive. There was strict observance of propriety, e.g. at the entrance to the mosque, women who were not already sufficiently covered from head to toe had to put on an abaya and burka (headscarf) if they wanted to enter the mosque. Some abayas are quite pretty with colourful floral patterns. However, out on the streets, most Omani women wear the black abaya and headscarf.
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Many of our fellow passengers have commented on how gentle, respectful and hospitable the Muslim people we have met are. There is no danger of things being stolen. Everyone has come away with quite positive impressions of the Arab countries we have visited.

The weather so far has been really pleasant – definitely not too hot, and usually a good breeze to keep it fresh. We’re bracing ourselves for hotter weather in India.

Posted by HosMiniTravels 14:40 Archived in Oman Comments (1)

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