Throughout this journal, we have been focusing on all the wonderful things we have seen and done. The hundreds of photographs that I have uploaded are designed to help you feel like you are along for the journey. However, to paint a more realistic picture of the true experience of travelling in developing countries, we feel we have to share not only the GOOD, but some of the BAD and the UGLY as well.
For this reason, we decided to develop a special SCRATCH 'N SNIFF journal entry so that all of your senses can experience the essence of the photos in this collection. If you are having trouble smelling the scents from the photographs, you should consider upgrading to the new Microsoft VISTA - we hear it really stinks!
These photos are just the start of the collection, from time to time we will add more and we will alert you to new entries when we send out an update notice. Stay tuned for more sensual delights!
1. The "Five Rupee" Store in Kanyakumari: We were thrilled to see that there was lots on offer for the thousands of pilgrims who make the trek all the way to the tip of India. Many of these travellers have precious little to spend and it is great to see that they can afford to buy souvieners for their families at home.
2. The Gnaman Hotel in Thanjavur: Each evening at 5:00 pm the staff of the hotel burned the most lovely smelling incense in the hallways of each floor. The first night I thought the hotel was on fire when I opened the door and saw all the smoke, but the fragrance told me we were safe. What a relief!
3. Jasmine Garlands: The sweet smell of jasmine at the temples and from the garlands in the ladies' hair is unforgetable. I know I will be transported back to South India whenever I smell jasmine again.
4. Public Toilets in Hyderabad: Bravo to the City of Hyderabad for building numerous public toilets throughout the city! The toilets are clean and well-maintained and the city has also posted signs near the toilets indicating "Public Toilet Five Minutes Walk Ahead".
5. Hand-operated Wheel-Chair Bicycles: These bikes converted for the disabled to operate by hand were a surprise to see and allow for more mobility - now if the cities could improve the roads and sidewalks so that more of these bikes could be used, I would really cheer.
6. The Warmest Water At the Beach: Three cheers for Palolem Beach for having the warmest water we've ever experienced. Not a moment's hesitation in jumping right in, and then a current comes by and your feet feel positively hot!
7. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a mobile phone. Taxi drivers, vegetable peddlars and all the shop keepers. Many of these small business people choose a plan that do not charge them for incoming calls. Customers can order a taxi, groceries or even ice-cream on the phone and have it delivered almost immediately to the house. When we ordered vanilla ice cream for Anil one evening, the shop had a system that recognized the phone number and the name and address appeared on their computer. I know this is available in Canada at the pizza shops, but this is India!
8. Hot water from the bathroom sink tap! What can delight the senses more than hot running water. It is one thing to use the geyser to heat water for a daily bath, but when hot water gushes from the sink too, it's almost too wonderful for words.
9. I have used a clothes dryer for the past forty years so it was easy to forget the powerful bleaching effect that the sun has on white laundry. I have come to appreciate the sun's work on the small stains and the general greyness that white clothes acquire while on the road in India. Everyone hangs their clothes inside out so that the coloured clothes don't fade too fast in the powerful sunshine.
1. We have become so accustomed to a smoke-free enviroment in Canada now that most cities have banned smoking indoors that we found the heavy cigarette use of the European tourists really offensive. To top it off, they tend to butt their cigarettes out all over the beaches, like the sand is just one big ashtray. Thank goodness the beaches in Varkala and Goa are cleaned each day by teams of women workers.
2. The cities and towns have begun to cover over the open drains on the sides of the roads with large concrete slabs. Now there is some semblance of sidewalks to walk on, along the slabs. The streets are getting busier as cars now join the hundreds of bicycles, autorickshaws and cows. However, every now and then a slab is removed to unclog the drain below and sometimes the slab is not replaced. If you are not watching where you walk, it's quite possible that you could fall into one of these drains. This happened to someone we know while we were in Bali several years ago. Jerry could have seriously hurt himself, and he was covered with sludge when we pulled him out. For this reason, we always warn each other when we see a "Jerry-hole" in a sidewalk.
3. Stray dogs are a problem in all developing countries. When resources are strained, there never seems to be enough money to neuter the stray dogs. They must survive on street scraps that are thrown in the gutters and they must dodge the heavy traffic. They are a pathetic lot and rabies is not unheard of. I have been kept awake for hours at night with the sounds of howling and snarling dogs - I resent seeing them sleeping all day after keeping me awake all night.
4. In early evenings, many of the seaside restaurants display the morning catch on tables at the front of the restaurants. Chunks of flesh are cut from the large fish exposing their spines and numerous ribs. We not only do not eat seafood, the sight and smells are really offensive to us and we have to hold our noses as we pass by. So many people tell us that "fresh fish doesn't have a smell" but we have to disagree. Fish smells like fish, just as oranges smell like oranges and chocolate smells like chocolate. If fish didn't smell like fish there would be no point in eating it, why not just chew on a piece of cardboard.
5. Both Anil and I lost our watches during our trip, while this was BAD at first, we chose to turn it into something GOOD. Now time has little meaning for us, if we need to know the time, we can ask someone else wearing a watch or check the time on our mobile phone.
6. There never seems to be hooks on the backs of the doors in public washrooms and hotel bathrooms. Hard to juggle everything and use a squat toilet at the same time! We started rating the public toilets on a 5-point scale; the rating helped the other person decide whether to use it or wait for a better one further along. Hooks on the doors helped to increase a toilet's star-rating.
1. The cities in India are taking more and more responsibility for all the garbage that is generated every day by the millions and millions of urban residents. We have noticed a marked improvement in the cleanliness of the cities, with waste containers and dumpsters in heavily populated areas. There are even signs like "Keep Our City Green and Clean" and many municipalities are banning the use of plastic carry bags. However, there are places where the garbage is left next to the dumspters because the people are too lazy to put it inside or else the dumpster is overflowing. In the tropical heat, the smells are overwhelming for tourists and residents alike. Please press your smell button NOW.
2. We noticed two really UGLY sights at Kovalam Beach. As more and more shops and hotels have been built, there has been an increased demand for electricity. Too bad the power lines were placed in front of the shops instead of behind, because it makes it hard to take a picture of the lovely beach at sunset without getting power lines in the frame.
3. There are two beautiful beaches in Kovalam that meet at a rocky point. It is here that the fishermen store their boats and nets during the day when they are not in use. When we visited here six years ago you could walk between the shops and the rocks on a stretch of sand dotted with fishing boats. During the past six years, the sea has eroded the sand and created a low lying area when the tide is out. It is hard to believe, but there is now a sewage outlet depositing unmentionable "stuff" creating a sludge lagoon. In order to walk from one beach to the other, it is now necessary to stay on the path directly in front of the shops. How sad....
4. Most cities and towns in India have waterways that pass through the city limits. During the monsoon season, these waterways can be full to the brim with fast flowing water. However, when the dry season comes, the water levels drop precipitiously. The little water that remains becomes so polluted and smelly that it is almost impossible to describe. It's alarming to even think about the fact that this black goo probably taints the ground water from which millions of people drink and bathe each day. We are fortunate that we can afford to buy bottled mineral water, but what about the poor?
5. I mentioned earlier that many cities are starting to build public toilets, some are free and others charge a nominal fee. It has always been my contention that the primary function of a municipal government is to provide safe drinking water and to dispose of waste, both human and commercial. We are told that the funds collected through taxation are sufficient to run modern cities, but that corruption is so rampant that even these two basic responsibilities are not met. I cannot imagine the frustration people living in India must feel when they see their cities in such a state. We are free to leave if we don't like what we see and smell, but they must endure it each and every day. There is progress, but not fast enough for everyone to be satisfied. Only time will tell.