Joh’s Guide To Life In Mumbai

[INTRODUCTION] – I originally wrote this post at the conclusion of my traineeship with the Times of India in 1996, so if any facts are a bit out of date it’s because they are.

“Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

It was about this time last year.  I was chatting with my flat mate over a bottle of Margaret River Chardonnay when the topic of travel came up.  He was planning to travel the world the following year, and as he was telling me of his aspirations, I looked over his shoulder to a picture of him posing the tourist pose in front of the Taj Mahal.  It was at this point that I first thought of India as something more than some Asian country that plays cricket and likes a curry.

Not long after I took the plunge and applied for the International Traineeship Exchange Programme, a venture undertaken by AIESEC, an organisation which had been a part of my life for the previous 3 years.  Here the big question arose… “Where do you want to go?”  That was a toughie.  Where in the world do I want to go?  Let’s see.  Scandinavia would be cool, and the Caribbean.  Or somewhere exotic like Zimbabwe, no Brazil.  All these places to choose from, all with a recurring theme.  Different.  A culture, a life different to my 23 years in Perth.  Then I remembered the picture of Ben before the Taj Mahal.  How about India?  Yeah, that would be different.  India.

I put in my forms for my traineeship, and in early December I received a phone call from my girlfriend at the time, who was attending AIESEC Australia’s National Conference in Adelaide.  The first thing she said was “You’re going to India.”  I could tell the concern in her voice as she said it.  My Mum quietly freaked as well.  She kept saying “Why don’t you go somewhere nice like Canada?”  What’s the point of that?  That would be just like staying here.  I want to go somewhere different.  Besides, India won’t be so bad.  I can handle myself.  This reassurance was as much for myself as it was for the people close to me.  India won’t be so bad.

That’s a nice story, isn’t it?

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A Night On The Wall

The Great Wall of China is big. Nothing new about that statement you may be thinking, but for the first time traveller to Beijing wishing to see a part of this ancient horde-repelling superstructure, it provides something of a quandary choosing exactly which part. There’s Badaling or its neighbour Juyongguan, restored sections close to Beijing that attract their fair share of tourists (and the touts they attract). Then there are the sections at Mutianyu and Huanghua, less restored in parts but still close to town. Or there’s Simatai and Jinshanling; further out of Beijing (about three hours away) and less restored but less crowded and seen by some as a more authentic section of the Great Wall. Each part has their own pros and cons, but a bit of on-line research led me to a unique opportunity… to not only visit and walk along the Great Wall of China but to sleep on top of it overnight! And sure enough, with a couple of e-mails to a company in Beijing I was on my way.

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Joh’s Guide To La Tomatina

Spain is a country that has a passion for food. Sure the French are proud of their haute cuisine, the Italians are brought up on Mama’s al dente pasta and the number of big boned Americans… well they’re no strangers to the feed bag. But Spain is another plate of tapa altogether. From leisurely lunches that span hours to sunset-tinged paella at a beachside café, the gastronomic splendour of Iberia is tantamount to a spiritual discovery. The place even has a Museo del Jamón (HamMuseum)!

But what happens when that passion gets mixed in with a generous portion of crazy? Two hours of sleep deprived, cerveza fuelled, tomato propelled shenanigans; evoking a kind of surreal landscape that resembles the bastard union of ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and ‘Animal House’, with a splash of spaghetti western thrown in for good measure is what. Welcome to La Tomatina.

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The Good, The Fun and The Cheap (A Tale of Three Breweries)

Back in my university days, I remember attending an event where one of the speakers was the Master Brewer of the Swan Brewery in Perth, a man by the name of Ken Arrowsmith. One thing about his speech that caught my attention was a quote that he cited, where he said:

“There may be clever directors, a wonderful secretary and highly cultured clerks, but the man that makes the beer is the man that makes the brewery”.

I liked it so much that I managed to obtain the card he was using which has the quote written on it, even getting Ken to sign it. Ever since that day I have been able to keep the principle behind the quote on the card, as well as the card itself, close to my heart. So when I made my first trip to Europe, high on the list of things that I wanted to check out were several of the continent’s landmark breweries. As it turned out I ended up making my way to three of the finest in what became a mini brewery crawl (in amongst other stops of course… Man does not live on beer alone after all!). Taking in the cities of Dublin, Amsterdam and Copenhagen; the crawl became The Good, The Fun and The Cheap. Read on…

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