« August 2006 | Main | October 2006 »

September 2006 Archives

September 1, 2006

a very brief paris visit

i arrived in paris a few days ago, and at first everything was great. strolls along the seine on the left bank, poking through bookstores, and enjoying the afternoon sun. my plan to be a writer staying at the bookstore shakespeare & co. was working out (i had a plan to stay there for a few days, staying upstairs, helping to sell books during the day, and working on my travel writing), but things don't end up the way you plan them to.

after spending an afternoon exploring the various sights of paris, including sainte-chapelle, i stormed a table at a sidewalk cafe with my moleskine notebook in hand, and the waiter who arrived glanced sympathetically at me when i asked for pernod, asking "pastis?". when i replied in the affirmative, he gave me and my obvious melancholy (it's a long story) a wink, and quickly arrived with a jug of water and a glass with a shot of pastis in it. and so i sipped my pastis and water (an excellent drink anytime, but especially on a hot summer's day) in the shade of a potted palm tree, watched the parisians walk by about the business of their day, and jotted in my notebook. despite the city's many charms and places i'd love to explore and visit again, i decided that paris is not the city for me to be in at this time (again, it's a long story).

since i'm not staying in paris, i've bought a ticket back to london, and i'm flying back tomorrow and staying with a friend for about a week before heading to germany.

September 3, 2006

relaxing in hyde park

somewhere there must be a list of the great parks of the world. and somewhere near the top of that list must be hyde park. from the sinuous curve of the serpentine to the duck-feeding madness of round pond, this park is simply superb. (i'm writing this on a park bench overlooking the italian fountains at the top of the serpentine, having just gotten up from a lazy nap in the sun on one of the lawns.)

during my return to london, i also had the chance to stop by the london branch of trader vic's and enjoy a suffering bastard at trader vics while waiting for my crab rangoon. nothing like an occasional taste of home, and this also was an opportunity to visit another trader vic's in my quest to visit every trader vic's in the world.

i'm staying in a different flat than last time -- instead of the more dynamic neighborhood of streatham, i'm in the rather gentrified yet fairly hip neighborhood of islington just off upper street. my host is a venture capitalist with an amazingly redecorated flat who somehow doesn't mind having me take up space on his sofa for a week, so i've also been exploring the many restaurants, bars, and other locations in the neighborhood with him and his friends.

it's been great to return to london -- with my oyster card firmly in hand, i now finally have the chance to visit many local sights that i hadn't seen before, such as riding the massive ferris wheel that is the london eye, attending an evensong service at westminster abbey and hearing the the choir's voices echo off off of the magnificent vaulted ceiling, roaming through the dinosaur skeletons at the natural history museum (some of which were discovered at the gobi desert locations i'd been to in mongolia!), and seeing the treasures of egypt and mesopotamia at the british museum. in addition, my "regular" bar in the depths of soho welcomed me back with open arms, and it wasn't long before i was deep in conversation with my friends there and throwing down pints of london pride once more.

September 5, 2006

camera broken!

my wonderful canon powershot sd550 accidentally turned itself on in my jeans pocket this afternoon, which jammed the lens barrel when it tried to extend itself inside my pocket and was blocked by my wallet.

since canon's engineers, unlike the makers of every CD-ROM drive on the planet, never anticipated a situation where the camera's extending lens might be blocked by something, instead of retracting automatically when it hit an obstacle, the camera promptly jammed the lens barrel inside my pocket and broke itself.

i'm going to try and either get the camera repaired in tokyo when i arrive in a few weeks, or buy a new camera and try and sell the broken carcass of my old camera for what i can get for it.

in the meantime, i'm switching over to my 2-megapixel cameraphone for all photos, the totally amazing HTC TyTN smartphone. i just got this gadget a few days ago, and have been having a great time with it. plus it can upload to flickr with shozu via any wi-fi connection! good stuff.

my apologies for the lack of image quality in the meantime, but it should only be a few weeks until you start getting images from a 7+ megapixel camera again!

September 8, 2006

soundtrack added

to further my quest of making obsessive lists that overdocument my trip, i've created a soundtrack page that lists all of the music that i've been listening to on my iPod as i travel around the world. enjoy!

arrival in berlin

after an amazing week in london, i'm now in berlin taking in the sights (its a sign that i still use the internet too much when i always want to spell that word as 'sites'), as well as working on my blog, for a few days before heading along to croatia and then turkey.

not much to report yet (other than that the beer is amazing, of course), but just wanted to keep the people updated who are tracking my progress around the world!

props to the budget airlines

the two things that have fundamentally changed about europe since 8 years ago (the last time i spent any significant amount of time here):

1. the inter-EU integration: the launch of the euro, the simplified customs and immigration between EU countries, the number of EU residents spending time visiting or living in other EU countries.

2. the rise of the budget airlines.

the budget airlines have really made an impact on how people (even backpackers) move through europe. instead of long, leisurely train rides that take days to complete and involve getting to know the complete strangers who also were assigned to your compartment, you now arrive at your destination within a few hours without having to do so much as talk with the anonymous seatmates on your flight.

due to the fact that taking a budget flight is usually much cheaper than taking a train to your destination, this pretty much ensures that today's budget traveller will be flying instead of taking a train. since i got a great dose of train riding taking the trans-mongolian train from beijing to budapest, i can't complain of a lack of train riding on this trip, but it definitely is a change.

in the process of all this flight booking, i've discovered two search engines that are excellent at finding cheap european airfares (not an easy task, since the usual US-based travel sites are not very good at finding these airfares), and wanted to share them with you: skyscanner and openjet. (and if you're looking for online european rail ticket info, rail europe is handy, although they often you can get the ticket for less money if you buy it directly at the train station) these sites have been really handy to me when trying to find flights, hopefully you'll find them useful as well the next time you visit europe.

September 9, 2006

global trendwatch: september 2006

while on my trip around the world, it's been impossible not to notice certain trends that are local (for example, the russian love of camoflague clothing), and some that are transcend local boundaries. what i'm listing below are the pan-european trends i've noticed on this trip.

starbucks and mccafe

starbucks is... everywhere. pretty much the exact same experience as at any starbucks at home, at the same (or higher) prices. directly on their heels appears to be McCafe, which is suprisingly popular, although i have yet to see many of these in the US yet.

and with the rise of starbucks comes the rise of....

t-mobile hotspots

incredible global footprint, incredible opportunity. and they waste it with sky-high prices and no free ad-supported option. which, of course, is just begging to have google come along and verrrrry slowly eat their lunch.

capri pants

i was surprised to see several guys wearing these, but since i've now run across these several times, i have to assume it's part of some larger trend in guy's clothing that i've been oblivious to (as usual). it seems that as shorts have gotten longer and longer, they've now started crossing the line into capri pants. go figure.

short socks

for some rason, short/ankle casual socks are very popular with guys lately. maybe it's just a europe thing, or maybe it's like this in the USA now as well. all i know is that shorter socks means less bulk in my backpack, so i'm all for it.

miniature stuffed animals on keychains

girl backpackers are rocking these more than ever. i guess it's a stuffed-animal replacement thing. i've been seeing these everywhere on the backpacker circuit, and don't recall seeing nearly as many of them when i last went backpacking several years ago.

most annoying trend award: blasting music on your cellphone

steve jobs was a smart man when he approved the iPod design because he didn't include any speakers in it. unforunately, once cellphones started playing mp3s, that was all over. So now any jerk with a nokia cellphone can start blasting out his favorite (usually bad) music on his phone wherever he is. it's like a tinny boombox with no bass, which is probably the worst possibly way to share your music with other people. bring back the ghetto blasters of the 80's!

September 10, 2006

late nights and late mornings

since i arrived in berlin i've been staying at a friend's flat in Neukölln, a neighborhood which has a large number of Turkish immigrats, which is a perfect fit considering that Turkey is my next destination after Berlin. we've been out late at night for the last few evenings hitting the bars on Prenzlauer Berg, which has a lot of hipster bars and clubs. and since there are no closing hours for bars, it's far too easy to stay out until dawn, and then sleep for most of the next day. (however, despite the fact that bars can stay open as late as they want, there are laws in force to ensure that almost all stores are closed on sundays!)

when not staying out late or trying to recover from the last evening, i've made some progress through the usual tourist sights of Berlin, visiting the Brandenburg Gate, and through a comedy of errors (changes to opening hours and relocations of museums) i managed to not actually make it inside any of the museums that i'd planned to see. (but i did see my first english-language movie in several months -- Snakes on a Plane, which wasn't that great a movie, but how could i resist once a friend told me about all the internet hype that had preceded it? and now that damn Snakes on a Plane song is stuck in my head.)

this actually is my last day in berlin -- as per my itinerary, i'm taking a late-night flight out at 2:30am (in the first few hours of september 11, which feels a little strange) from berlin to antalya, turkey. i arrive at 6:30am and then get spirited away from the airport by the pickup folks from my pension deep in the heart of Kaleici (Antalya's Old Quarter).

September 12, 2006

first impressions of turkey

when i first arrived in the antalya airport yesterday at 6:30am with only 3 hours of sleep in the night, the signs in cyrillic were as unexpected as the mix of tourists that were with me on the airplane. i never realized that turkey is evidently a major tourist destination for europeans (especially germans) and russians. the english-speaking days of london, where i was just a week ago, were now far behind me.

after yawning my way through the $20 visa application process (which is not too complex, since the single step in the process is providing a $20 bill and my passport to the friendly officer behind the window) and clearing customs/immigration, i headed off to my pension (cheap hotel / hostel) to check in, have turkish breakfast on the pension's roof cafe, and collapse into bed to sleep until 3pm.

since then, i've been up and wandering around antalya, seeing the roman harbor (which is now a marina), checking out the various sights to see, and getting a few snapshots . the heat and humidity and general tourist infrastructure (such as the plethora of internet cafes) has been very welcome, reminding me a lot of my time spent in southeast asia.

the people in turkey have been extremely friendly, and i've really felt welcomed by everyone since i arrived here. in addition, the serious amount of history here (for example, the area around antalya has evidence of human habitation going back 200,000 years!), not to mention the excellent ruins, is a definite draw. i'm off this afternoon to check out antalya's Kaleici Museum, catch up with the group of german archaeology students staying at my pension, and then head over to the Antalya Museum tomorrow morning (which i hear has an excellent collection). in addition, i've been enjoying the excellent turkish cuisine at a couple of great restaurants.

one side note: with the return to a country that gets lots of tourists comes the return of getting the occasional unwanted pitch from overly aggressive store owners or people trying to run a scam on you. when i need to avoid the worst of these, i simply turn into "hungarian andy". (this doesn't mean that i'm one of those people that lie about which country i'm from... i can't say i'm a fan of that practice at all. this is just a simple artificial language barrier i use to avoid specific unwanted conversations.) since i've been to hungary many times, and really enjoy the country, i've managed to pick up a little conversational hungarian to make it easier to communicate in hungary. what i do is if people walk up to me with offers of carpets, boat trips, fantastic discounts, offers to change money, or anything else that is clearly not what i want to do, i simply smile and respond with "no thanks" in hungarian ("Nem Köszönöm!").

since almost none of the hawkers or scammers i run into speak hungarian, this is usually a serious conversation-ender. if they try to restart the conversation in english/german/spanish, or ask "Do you speak English?", i reply with "Beszél magyarul?" or "Do you speak Hungarian?". the person then quickly moves off to find a mark who is less of a hassle to deal with. (and of course, if i do run into some actual hungarians, so much the better! while i don't often encounter hungarian tourists away from eastern europe, i'm always glad to meet new people to talk with.) it's amazing what an artificial language barrier can do to head off conversations that you don't want to have. of course, the key is to only use this when you really know you don't want to talk with someone, otherwise you can miss out on a great chance to talk with some local people and get to know what life in that city is really like.

this takes care of aggressive carpet sellers, which are the only real hassle i've run into here so far.

i know that i'm only scratching the surface of turkey by spending my one week here in antalya and istanbul, but i'm already mentally planning my next (and much longer) visit to turkey. i've got about one more day in antalya, and then i'm flying up to istanbul to explore until my flight to tokyo on the 18th.

September 14, 2006

hot end-of-summer days in antalya

there's a quiet still heat in the streets of antalya today, as horse-drawn carriages of fruit pause in the street, and clusters of men loiter outside their businesses in the street to half-heartedly call out to potential customers or unaccompanied western women. it's not enough heat to kill all activity, but it's enough to slow you down and encourage a casual loiter down the sun-drenched alleys of kaleici.

i just engaged in one of the strangest horse-trades in my life with the wild-haired manager of owl books, the only second-hand english-language bookstore in antalya. in exchange for my copy of "Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi", i received a copy of Armistead Maupin's "More Tales of the City" (for some san francisco nostalgia), a dog-eared copy of The Economist from january ("The best MAGAZINE!"), and a single pear ("The best pear you WILL EVER EAT!"). let me make it clear that the only thing that i actually asked for in return for the Belushi book was the Maupin book. i can see no way that owl books actually turned a profit on this transaction, and it was quite different from any of the painfully serious negotiations that i did with the "book exchanges" in vietnam. it all somehow was distinctly turkish, confusing, and wonderful. when in antalya, buy all your books from this guy.

besides exchanging books, i spent yesterday in a rental car with two americans i'd met at dinner the night before, speeding off to the ruins at termessos. it was here that i finally had a chance to experience my first turkish ruins, and termessos has some quite impressive ones. then we passed by the many aqueducts that cut across the turkish countryside as we headed to the rather odd karain cave, and finally returned home after some misadventures trying to find some local waterfalls.

the one problem in the day was that we accidentally filled up our gas tank when we first took the rental car out (since we received the car with an empty tank and had to get some gas for the day), which means in turkey that you just put US$70 worth of gas in your car! considering the car rental cost was about US$25 for the day, and that we only used about 1/6 of the tank during our day, this was pretty shocking. however, as i predicted, when we returned the car and negotiated with the car rental guy the conversation ensued where no, he can't use the gas, yes, maybe i have a friend who would buy the gas (break out the siphon!), and well, rather than pay you in cash for the gas do you perhaps need any textiles? somehow we managed to walk away from this with most of our money back for the gas, unburdened by any carpets.

tonight i'm booked on a US$67 flight to istanbul, where i'll stay for the next several days exploring the city and its environs, and i'm sure more turkish antics will ensue there.

September 16, 2006

istanbul reflections

i've been in istanbul for a few days now and am having an excellent time. i've already hit the main tourist sites, made a pledge to myself to get a history book on the ottoman empire in the next bookstore i go into, and drink with random backpackers until late in the evening.

evenings involve glasses of efes pilsner with other backpackers are usually accompanied with a game of backgammon on my portable set with a somewhat unwilling backpacker whom i rope into a game or four. all generations of the turks seem to be in love with the game of backgammon -- i will have to play with a turk at some point, but given my relative lack of skill at the game, i will no doubt get demolished in the game unless i roll lots of double-sixes.

it's a cliche to say that istanbul is steeped in history, and yet it's absolutely true. from the stalls in the grand bazaar (whose food stalls yield some of the best kebabs in town to the crowds of locals) to the basilica cistern (one of my favorite places, since i love underground feats of engineering and waterworks), this city has a rich past and both the local sights and culture reflect this.

as part of seeing the major sights around istanbul, i went to aya sofya. i'll never forget standing in aya sofya for the first time, amazed by the history and the design, and in shock realizing that all those history classes i never paid attention to in high school were all actually quite interesting and relevant in ways i never fully comprehended at the time and maybe never even fully appreciated before now.

i'm headed out to tokyo in a few days via almost 24 worth of flights and connections, so this will be my last post until then!

September 20, 2006

arrival in tokyo

The great backtrack has occurred! As per my itinerary, I'm returning to asia to see friends in japan before heading to nepal in time for peak trekking season in october. It's a big backtrack, with a 6-hour time change, but its worth it to me. (after japan the rest of my trip will proceed in a roughly westward fashion around the world.)

After 3 connecting plane flights from istanbul via dubai and osaka, I am now happily ensconced at my friend dave's tokyo apartment.

The first two flights were on emirates, which was nice (although the first flight was on a fairly tatty old boeing, the second one was the more usual high quality brand-new airbus), and although dubai airport at 1am was filled with packs of jetlagged travellers wandering dazed through the airport or sleeping on the floor, osaka was a haven of peace, order, and lots of great ways to spend yen killing time at the airport.

During my osaka layover, within 60 minutes of arrival at osaka I had gotten crisp new yen bills from the atm, eaten a delicious unagi and rice dinner with a draft kirin, and a 15 minute head-and-shoulder massage that did wonders for my own jetlag. Once I arrived in Tokyo, Dave met me at the airport and we immediately began to adjust to my new timezone by staying out until almost 3am drinking and eating in local neighborhood spots.

Ah, back in the land of am/pm minimarkets (which i haven't seen at home in a long time, and the japanese ones use the cooler 80s logo anyways), 7-11s (now evidently merged with a really confusing entity called "seven & i holdings", which also owns denny's japan, and according to their org chart, a bunch of other japanese companies as well -- check our their corporate synergy strategy diagram... it gives me corporate strategy powerpoint shudders just to look at it.),

We've acquired tickets to an all-day sumo match tomorrow, which promises to be top fun. In addition, while I wait for my India visa to clear (my next destination). i'll make a short trip to hiroshima, or possibly check out Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo DisneySea just to do something completely different and indulge my occasional western culture fix.

September 21, 2006

our day of sumo wrestling

If you haven't been to one before, an all-day sumo tournament in japan is quite an impressive thing. as part of the 15-day 2006 September Sumo Tournament, there was sumo wrestling all day on Thursday at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo.

dave had purchased tickets to a 2-person "box seat" in the stadium. what this gets you is two pillows on a slightly raised carpeted floor surrounded by a low metal rail. our box was actually quite roomy, since it was normally a 4-person box that was presumably made a 2-person box so it would sell more quickly (since it was near the back of the first level). normally the 4-person boxes have just enough room for 4 people to sit crosslegged on the pillows).

we arrived at around 11am, and the stadium had only around 20-30 spectators in it. the early matches were much faster than the usual sumo matches, featuring back-to-back wrestling matches with none of the usual salt throwing and false starts that mark televised sumo matches (unranked sumo wrestlers haven't yet earned the right to perform these ceremonies). this meant it was a great way to get familiar with the different holds and moves in sumo.

after a leisurely lunch that was delivered to us in our box (along with a souvenir set of ceramic cups with wrestler's names printed on them), we hung out, watched wrestling, and i surfed the web a bit with their free wi-fi on my palmtop computer. wandering around the stadium, i even ran into a few sumo wrestlers.

the main event began at 4pm, where the highest-ranked wrestlers began matchups against each other, and the crowd really began to fill up in the stadium. the wrestlers indulged in elaborate salt-throwing moves and played up to the audience, along with the drunken shouts of hardcore sumo fans in the seats, this was a lot livelier than i would have believed possible (having only watched sumo on cable tv before, which doesn't even compare to seeing it in person). if i had to recommend going to an all-day sumo wrestling event or attending a japanese baseball game (which i did on a previous visit to japan), i would definitely go to the sumo wrestling game first as the quintessential japanese sports experience. (but go to the baseball game afterwards, those are great fun).

celebrity gossip sidenote for allyson and jess: while we didn't notice any celebrity fuss at the sumo event, it turns out sharon stone was also watching the sumo wrestling with us!

September 22, 2006

camera fixed!

in case you've just tuned in and were wondering why the quality of my photos hasn't been that great, the answer is (i hope) that my normally delightful 7-megapixel canon powershot sd550 has been broken since my mishap in england.

during our trip to akihabara this afternoon to explore tokyo's electronic gadget stores, dave and i decided to take my camera to Yodobashi Camera (a giant camera store in akihabara -- you can't miss it) to see if it could be repaired.

i was expecting that this would be either a.) impossible to repair, since nobody fixes electronics anymore, they just buy new stuff or b.) parts would need to be ordered, which would take weeks, since no repair shops seem to stock parts anymore.

to my great surprise, the electronics store did have a repair counter, and after inspecting my camera and calling canon to confirm their diagnosis, i was informed that my lens assembly would have to be replaced in the camera, and that they had the part in stock and it would take 2 hours and $120 to repair.

i quickly agreed, and now my camera is working once more, so i can now take much better photos for (hopefully) the remainder of my trip! plus they cleaned all the annoying lint that had crept inside my camera's viewfinder, so i think my camera's had a full service as well the lens mechanism repair.

tokyo electronics stores rule -- this is the fastest and best repair that i've had done on any gadget i've ever owned.

September 24, 2006

my visit to trader vic's tokyo

one of the things i had to do as part of my tour of the world's trader vic's was to visit the tokyo trader vic's at the swank new otani hotel.

after taking the subway over to the akasaka-mitsuke station and emerging into the completely surreal black-light space scene ceiling of the station, i knew i was on the track of something good. a short walk over the bridge to the new otani, and some navigation going from bowing door staff to more bowing door staff, i made it to the front entrance of trader vic's (on the 4th floor, if you'd like to know).

after settling down to my traditional samon fogcutter and crab rangoon while i studied the guidebooks for my next two countries, india and nepal, i asked to say hi to the local GM of the tokyo trader vic's. it turned out he was on the premises, and we had a great chat and overall i received an exceptionally warm reception. larry runs an absolute top-notch TV's -- for fellow trader vic's enthusiasts, you should know that it's very much in the style of the beverly hills trader vic's with low ceilings decorated with classic polynesian items and the beautifully thatched ceiling, room after room after room within the bar/restaurant, not to mention the excellent bar itself!

one of the reasons behind my plan to visit all of these trader vic's, besides the fun of enjoying excellent drinks, food, and service, is that they provide a sort of respite from the occasionally trying times of my trip. it's an easy hour of relaxation that allows me to be on familiar ground for a bit and relax, which is more valuable than you might think when you've been travelling away from home for 7 months. it definitely works for me -- it was a great moment to relax between the fast pace of tokyo, and the intensity of india.

trader vic's tokyo is my pick for my favorite overseas trader vic's i've encountered so far. and for the next trader vic's on my list? trader vic's dubai #1 and trader vic's dubai #2!

September 25, 2006

commuting to disneyland

i've been tempted several times during my trip to visit overseas disneyland parks -- i almost made it out tohong kong disneyland when i was over in china, and if i'd stayed in france i might have gone to eurodisney.

but finally in japan i made up my mind -- i am going to finally visit tokyo disneyland, dammit!

"but wait!" you say, "what about all the excellent cultural opportunities you're spurning in order to go to disneyland. first of all, i've been to tokyo twice before, so i feel less pressure to go see "the main sights" that are on the tourist checklist (i checked off most of them a few years back), and more free to just wander wherever strikes my fancy. secondly, i think that visiting a leisure area (even a disney one) in another country actually gives you a large insight into that country by seeing how people play and enjoy their leisure time. and finally, having worked at walt disney imagineering in the past on designing theme park rides (a really fun job, btw), i'd always been curious about tokyo disneyland.

since there are now two disney theme parks in japan, the original tokyo disneyland, and tokyo disneysea, i read through the listings of the rides in both parks and decided to visit tokyo disneysea (it tends to feature the more "fast action" rides like tower of terror). plus, it's new!

so after roughly 90-minute morning train ride from tokyo to the theme park, where i shared the ride with suit-and-tie wearing locals on their morning commute to work, while i commuted to my day at disneyland, the doors opened at the JR Maihama station and I entered the world of disney, tokyo-style.

it's not exactly a regular disney park -- while disney imagineering designs the park and the rides, the park itself is actually owned and operated by a company called "oriental land company". this might explain some of the surprising un-disney-like inconsistencies, like the way the signs are in english-first japanese-second (why?), but the park staff only speak japanese for the most part.

a few off-the-cuff impressions:
1.) park signs and labelling are in both english and japanese -- handy!
2.) park "cast members" only speak japanese for the most part -- tricky, especially when they're trying to tell me "here's how to secure the safety bar on this ride."
3.) the park restaurants sell beer and wine -- sweet!
4.) all the voiceovers in the rides are in japanese only -- confusing! (for me)
5.) nobody builds theme parks (and rides) like disney, especially with their attention to detail. i loved my visits to wallabi world and jerudong park on this trip, but tokyo disneysea beat them hands-down.

thanks to the fastpass system (where you register for a time to come to the ride and skip the long lines!) i was able to visit every ride i wanted to in the park, ran around like crazy checking everything out, and generally had a great time fooling around at the park. if you'd like to see my photos from that day, here they are.

let's hear it for theme parks... nothing like a day of total theme park immersion to refresh a traveller on a long trip!

September 29, 2006

welcome to mumbai (bombay), india

heading from japan to india, the 11 hour air india flight was actually pretty good, especially considering the air india customer service horror stories that i'd read when researching them online.

within the first 12 hours of arrival in mumbai (the city formerly known as bombay), i'd witnessed a bit of the intense nature of mumbai traffic (from the back of my seatbeltless taxicab with the trunk tied shut with twine to hold my backpack in), had the biggest rat i'd seen in my life run across the sidewalk in front of me, had my reserved hotel completely rip me off and threaten to charge my credit card anyways, and had beggars/hucksters/dealers hassle and follow me through the streets.

but then i changed hostels in the morning, met some great backpackers to hang out with for the next few days, toured the beautiful prince of wales museum, and all is well again and i feel grounded enough to relax, explore the city, and try to get a handle on the nature of both mumbai and india.

September 30, 2006

my bit part in bollywood

after reading in lonely planet india about the possibility of working for a day as a bollywood extra when visiting mumbai (center of the bollywood film production industry), i thought nothing of it and turned to the next page in my book.

however, when i was wandering around near my mumbai guesthouse with my new friends alex and allyson (fellow travellers from great britain who happened to be staying at the same guesthouse as myself), i thought, "why not?" so when we were "recruited" (ie. cattle call to get extras!) by a scout on the street we signed up to be extras in a film, the upcoming "Shaka Laka Boom Boom" (i swear that this is a legitimate bollywood film!). this meant a day of hanging around a set with the occasional bollywood star (like Celina Jaitley) heading out of their trailer to film a few scenes, lots of local mumbai extras, and a few other backpackers who'd been roped into being extras as well.

it was overall a great day -- while the set was VERY different from the ones that i'd seen in hollywood (i recall less stray dogs on the Warner lot), the interior of the sound stage was quite professional (despite a very weathered-looking exterior surrounded by scrap wood), and i can only hope that the end product will look good. we worked long hours -- the claim that "you'll be out of there by 8:30pm" quickly turned to 10:30pm, we had to take a public train to/from the studio, the lunch and dinner were barely ok, but hey, anything for fame, right?

so when Shaka Laka Boom Boom hits the theatres in 2007, keep your eyes open for me in a nightclub scene as one of the lead actresses strides past me, or reclining on a sofa at a nightclub/restaurant directly behind Bobby Deol. 15 seconds of bollywood fame! (if i don't end up on the cutting-room floor)

and my going rate for work as an extra in bollywood? 600 rupees per day, or about US $12. not my standard going rate, but definitely not a standard job either.

About September 2006

This page contains all entries posted to gone living in September 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2006 is the previous archive.

October 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.