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31 October 2005

calling to me from the confines

i really needed to take care of my travel arrangements for the upcoming months. this long term travel has been a bit of a balancing act. i want to allow myself enough flexibility to change plans if i really enjoy a particular spot and want to spend extra time there. on the other hand, the cheapest fares are usually secured only by booking at least a month in advance. given the timing, i still think the decision to cut out china is a good one... it allows me to concentrate more on the southeast asian countries. i know i'll be back in asia at some point in my life.

i'd already been to air india and they would not issue me a delhi -> bangkok ticket until i could prove that i'd be leaving thailand by showing an onward travel ticket. i'd planned to travel from thailand overland through malaysia and into singapore where i would catch a flight to indonesia. a flight from singapore to jakarta, indonesia, would prove onward travel. fortunately, singapore airlines offers e-ticketing, so i booked my flight, printed out my confirmation information, and walked back to the air india office.

ticket from mumbai -> goa: secured. back to the more important ticket: delhi -> bangkok. the man looked at my confirmation printout intently and seemed skeptical... asking how i intended to get from bangkok to singapore. 'i'll be taking a train or bus.' he looked at me strangely and consulted with a nearby woman in hindi. she typed a bit into her computer and asked me the same question the man had just asked a moment earlier... 'how are you getting to singapore from bangkok? you need to show how you're going to get to singapore.' [sigh] a repeat of my last visit.

me: 'i'll be traveling overland by train or bus.'

woman: 'but you can't get to singapore overland.'

shit. had a made a geography mistake? no, i was certain that thailand borders malaysia and that there is a connection to singapore from malaysia. i wished i'd brought my se asia guidebook as proof.

me: 'i'm sure i can. those countries are connected.'

the woman consulted with yet another woman in hindi.

second woman: 'you can get from malaysia to singapore, but not thailand to malaysia.'

me: 'no, i'm sure i can. thailand shares a border with malaysia.' i hoped that there was in fact a border crossing station along that border... this was the one thing that i wasn't certain of. damn, should've brought the book.

the second woman broke out a world atlas and began flipping through the pages. i would be vindicated. sure enough... thailand shares a border with malaysia.

second woman: 'but you won't be able to travel down there. no one does it. you'd have to take a motorcycle... maybe there would be a bus. no one would do that though.'

me: 'but i'm a backpacker. that's what i do. that's _all_ i do.' [i absolutely _will not stop_ until i've crossed that border!]

i really wished i'd brought my guidebook to consult the overland routes from thailand to malaysia. as i continued to argue my point with the second woman, the first woman typed madly into her computer and looked up. 'you can buy a return ticket to india for only rs2500 more.' quick calculation... about $55 us. [sigh]. i sensed it was the only way they were going to sell me the ticket. they'd worn me down and had won the battle. i could have left and returned with my guidebook, but i didn't think that would get me anywhere and it would have just overloaded my day with admin. i left the office with three tickets: mumbai -> goa, delhi -> bangkok, bangkok -> delhi.

done. flights secured. what a great feeling. i decided to spend the remainder of the afternoon in mumbai's fort area.

i needed to learn more about cricket. i recently saw an interview with an indian who said that he thought the two most cohesive forces in indian society were cricket and bollywood. lee and simon were cricket fanatics and had explained the rules to me. while walking near the bombay university, i saw several games in progress... some with players that appeared to be from an organized club... others just pick-up games. while i was watching, several children came up to me and started chatting. i sensed straightaway that this was a genuine conversation... one of the first i've had here... that wouldn't eventually be steered towards money. i told the children that i wanted to learn more about cricket and that was really all i needed to say. all were incredibly excited. 'photo! photo!' i took several photos of the cricket superstars in various poses and then handed over my camera so that they could get a few shots of me. great kids. i finally left with a big smile on my face.

i wandered the fort area in a similar fashion as i'd wandered in the north side of the city. within ten minutes, i had officially lost track of where i was on the map. more streets... more markets... i eventually made my way back to colaba.

yet another nap... then out for food where i ran into lee and simon on their way back to the terrace restaurant we'd visited the day before. some delicious chicken tikka laziz... then back to the gokul bar... an internet cafe visit... and finally back to the hotel.

despite the slight complications in the air india office, i had a great day. i feel like i'm finally adjusting to the pace of the city... learning how to deal with people better... in general just relaxing more. the sights of the city are becoming less foreign... i know what to expect when i walk out the door of my hotel each morning. i did miss halloween a bit... it's without a doubt my favorite holiday and my grip reaper costume was sitting idle and calling to me from the confines of the storage space in boston. but this year i'd be celebrating an entirely different holiday on the other side of the planet... one of the biggest in india... diwali! a festival of lights. the fireworks had already begun.

posted by paul on Mon 31 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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