Tuesday, 28 February 2006

A little new feature

Since it can be hard to find facilities where I can properly update my weblog, there will soemtimes be a certain log between my most recent post and where I currently am. For that reason I will from now on change my location every time I log up so everyone can see where I currently am, independant of where my last post was from. Today I am in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Kerala: Fort Cochin

After Goa we moved on to a different state offering a bit less comfort but a bit more culture and nature: Kerala, forming the south western tip of India. First we went to Fort Cochin, an old port city which has been influenced by several european states (Portugal, Britain, Holland) and many other countries.

The waterfront of Fort Cochin is dominated by these chinese fishing nets. They are lowered down to the water, and then when the fish has swum over them they are raised back up with no possibilities of escape for the fish.

Fort Cochin was an important port in the old times, and it was home to a sizable jewish population, which has existed there for thousands of years. Many jews left for Israel in the late 1940s but a small community still exists - one of very few remaining in India. I went to their 500 year old still functioning Synagogue. There were tons of tourists (many jewish tour groups from abroad) which made it a crowded experience, but I was fascinated by the ceiling decorations shown above.

Kerala is famous for its good seafood. Near the chinese fishing nets, the days catch is displayed. You can buy a fish or shellfish here, and have it instantly grilled at a nearby stall.

To show our ultimate cultural dedication, we went to a dance recital. This form of dance called Khatakali is unique to Kerala and highly ritualized. Normally it is performed in all night sessions out in the villages, but we saw a shortened tourist version. I feel confident that a full effort was made to make it authentic and correct, though. The dancers are accompanied by music and occasional singing but they do not utter words themselves. They are confined to expressing themselves through their movements, facial expressions, sign language and an occasional scream.

The basic storyline is one of a deceitful demon, Nakrathundi, trying to trick the hero, Jayanthan into marrying her. In the above picture she has taken the form of a beautiful human, Lalitha (the yellow faced girl). The hero is very interested in the lovely lady, but gets suspicious when she insists he must marry her without his father's approval. So he rejects her...

...after which, Nakrathundi, takes her demon form and confronts the hero. In the end he manages to cut off her arms, legs and breasts before sending her back to the underworld. Then order is once again restored in the world.

Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Parasailing in Goa

Before I left Goa I had the opportunity to do some parasailing which was a big experience.

Here I am being pulled by a boat on the Arabic Sea.

Close-up of me hanging in the air perhaps 50 metres over sea level. You can see the shoreline in the distant background.

On the way up, waving to the camera.

View down to the boat on the descend.

As a little bonus I enclose a picture from Baga Beach, which was the third we stayed at in Goa and also the most commercialised. As can be seen it is dominated by charter travels. This particular picture shows a guy who is actually fishing at the beach, while people are playing in the water all around him!

Saturday, 18 February 2006

Street kid project

We went to a project which saves kids off the street and gives them a home and education. Really good stuff, and all the kids looked to be doing very well. I added a link to their website (links are in the menu on the right). Check it out and donate a bit online if you like the cause. It seems the money is very well spent.

One of the homes, this one called Victory House. This particular one is for boys age 10 and up. They have other homes for girls and smaller children. The boys are not standing deliberately in line, they are just playing football and waiting to receive the ball.

Rob and Mike playing footie with the kids.

Friday, 17 February 2006

Goa's portuguese heritage

Goa is one of the few parts of India that was never under British rule. In stead it was ruled by the portuguese, which has certainly left it's mark on the state as can be seen from the following pictures from Goa's two former capitals, Old Goa and Panjim:

Mike and Rob (the english guys I'm hanging out with here in Goa) in front of Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in the newest of the old portuguese capitals, Panjim. This is a trademark sight for Goa - old whitewashed churches surrounded by palm trees. Unlike the British, the Portuguese made an intense effort to convert the natives to christianity - not always using the nicest of methods (banning hinduism and burning heretics being a case in point). For that reason Goa is one of the largest and most important christian enclaves in India. Only the christian Northeast (between Bangladesh and Burma) rivals that position.

The largest cathedral the portuguese ever built, including those in Portugal. This picture from the earliest portuguese capital, Old Goa, which was cleared completely due to a disease prone location near various swamps.

Small church in the middle of the charming, old portuguese neighbourhood, Fontainhas, in Panjim.

Another picture from Fontainhas - like walking the streets of Porto!

At the end of the day, however, India is still mainly a hindu country and even Goa despite it's very visible christian past is today 2/3 hindu. Here I am in front of a temple dedicated to the Monkey God Hanuman, which presides in all it's colours on a hill top visible from many parts of Panjim. A striking contrast to the many white washed churches.

Thursday, 16 February 2006

Goa! Pictures from heaven on earth

I made it to Goa, the former portuguese colony on the Indian Subcontinent. I stayed on the very lovely Palolem Beach, from where I show some of my pictures best capturing the idyllic atmosphere:

Sunrise over Palolem Beach.

Charterable boat lying ready on the beach.

A small boat in front of the Beach.

We chartered a boat to go Dolphin watching in the wild. Here is a shot I managed to get of a mother dolphin with her baby. I had to enlarge it a bit so the quality is not as high as the other pics.

Mike and Rob in the boat. They are two english guys I met in Bombay. By chance we were on the same train just across from each other and since then we've been hanging out together.

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Portraits from Bombay

I continue my series of pictures with a couple of portraits of different, interesting people from Bombay. All of them I met while near the set of the film Outsourced on which I worked as a stand-in.

Brother and sister.

Old lady who was very insistant I should take a picture of her.

This man saw e take the above picture and was then equally insistent that I should photograph him also. Quite a poser.

Curious little girl who followed me around for a while while I was looking for photo opportunities.

My next post should be from Goa where I am curently enjoying myself with the beach, palm trees and trance music.

Sunday, 12 February 2006

Cricket Fever in Bombay

Cricket is THE national sport in India. The enthusiasm for the game is great in most places but perhaps few places more so than in Bombay. This was clearly demonstrated to me as I walked the streets of Bombay:

A cricket game at the Oval Maiden. This is a large ground in the middle of the city where people meet to play very organised as well as more spontaneous cricket games. The ground is big enough to hold at least 10 games at the time.

As I walked around Bombay there was a One Day International match on between India and archrivals, Pakistan. Here you can see a crowd of people gathering outside a cafe window to catch the action on the smal tv screen inside. India lost the game.

Another place people line up to watch the game on tv. You can see the screen inside and the two groups of Indians lined up at the only two angles where the tv can be seen from outside.

Street scenes from Bombay

I didn't devote all of my time in Bombay to the questionable project of getting my foot inside the indian and american film industries. I also had some time to wander the streets with my camera in hand. Here are some pictures of street scenes in Bombay that in one way or another say something about the city:

On the right the landmark Gateway to India and on the left the landmark hotel Taj Mahal Palace. Both have interesting stories behind them tied to India's colonial past. The Gateway to India was meant as a grand entryway for new incomers to India arriving from Britain. It ended up instead being Britain's gateway OUT of India as it was through this gate that the very last british soldiers left India after independance in 1947. The hotel on the left was built by a wealthy Indian as a protest after he was refused admittance to the city's previously best hotel, Watson's Hotel, which had a strict all-white policy. Watson's with it's racist admission policy is now long gone, but the Taj Mahal Palace is thriving.

A religious ceremony of some sort. There wasd lots of chanting going on.

Compared to Delhi, Bombay has more of a real city feel. It is less spread out and more pedestrian friendly. There are plenty of tall buildings as you can see in the background and the former british presence is felt very strongly in the city itself, as here where you can see an old english church.

One of many grand squares that further the sensation of Bombay being a real city as we know them in Europe. Note the classic small Bombay taxis.

Chowpatty Beach in the heart of Mumbai. The water is not good for bathing, but it is a real beach none the less. The locals come here in large numbers in evenings and weekends.

A local street bar serving a drink pressed directly from these large canes. I never sampled it myself, though.

Saturday, 11 February 2006

Working Bollywood AND Hollywood in 24 hours

I came to Bombay (now officially called Mumbai) and within a day or so I had been contacted on the street by a casting agenty who wanted me to be an extra in a Bollywood movie. The pay was ridiculous, but I decided to do it anyway solely for the sake of the fame.

Here I am dressed to play the role of tough London Cop Keith Drummond, who will take his position guarding the Prime Minister of India in a hotel hallway while talking to his collegue Sam Anderson. Unfortunately Keith couldn't find a hat to match, so it's a little bit small and also he didn't get the right London Police colours. But that's okay, not many amongst the Bollywood audience will know the difference anyway.

A shot from one of the sets, this one inside the presidential suite of a five star hotel, supposed to be in London. This movie is being made by a very famous director and producer, and allegedly will be a top 5 movie when it comes out in about 6 months. It doesn't have a title yet, but I expect it will be easy enough to identify it when it comes out.

So you think working in the entertainment business is all glitz and glamour? Us movie stars don't have it as easy as you think. All the time you have to wait for the next shoot - or in my case I had to wait for 12 hours for my ONLY shoot. I should be on screen for about 3-5 seconds and for that I spent an entire day from 8:00 in the morning to 22:30 in the night. On the picture above you see some of my co-London cops trying to pass time while waiting to go on.

The following day I was assigned to help out at the set of an american low budget feature film called Outsourced. I don't get to be in the actual film unfortunately. My role was to be stand-in for the hero of the movie (a guy who apparently gets outsourced to India where he falls in love with a local and then has to deal with such a relationship across cultures and distance). Not on film that is, but when they were setting up every new scene. A lot of equipment has to be moved and the director has to constantly be able to see how this affects light, view, colour, frame, angles etc. It was interesting to see how a low budget American movie was considerably more high tech and more time consuming to make than a high budget Indian movie. And the lunch was better to. It was also amusing to see the american crew trying to control the local enviroment. As you can see on the picture above, the movie was shot in a public space and the tapings would constantly be interrupted by dogs, birds, honking cars, naughty children and randomly yelling old ladies.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Humayun's Tomb and surroundings: Last pics from Delhi

Just before I left Delhi I managed to finally see the Tomb of Humayun one of the early, great moghul emperors.

The actual Tomb seen from the front. There were many tourists but by a lucky strike I managed to take it with no tourists in the frame.

Inside the tomb, light is coming in through one the of the many decorated screens.

Me in front of one of the beautiful old gates in the complex.

Two little squirrels playing peek-a-bo. Yes, yes I know - this picture is soooo cheesy. But still cute, right?

Monday, 6 February 2006

Jantar Mantar (Astronomical Observatory in Delhi)

Before I left Delhi I finally found the time to visit the old 18th century astronomical observatory called Jantar Mantar. I have perviously shown pictures from a similar observatory in Jaipur, but here are some that hopefully show some different aspects of it.

Four construction workers renovating the all red Jantar Mantar. Work like that literally sets it's mark on you.

Looking into one of the astronomicval instruments. My guide wasn't too good, but as far as I could understand you can tell which date of the year it is using this construction. Exactly how I don't know. I think perhaps my little brother, Ole, who visited the observatory in Jaipur can give the explanation. Ole, you can write it as a comment.

Here I am inside the calendar (if it is a calendar)

Me on top of an instrument which based on the position of the sun over it can tell you when it is midday in a series of places around the world.

Leaving Delhi

Asd I am writing this I am sitting in a webcafe in Mumbai (Bombay). Yesterday I said my final goodbyes after doing the same at work friday. Now I am well and truly on the road...

I will continue to update with pictures to the degree permitted by the technical possibilities on the road. However I still expect my pictures to lag behind a little bit, so they might not necesarrily reflect where I am right now. My next two posts for instance will be from Delhi.

Thursday, 2 February 2006

Trip to Rajasthan: Tigers of Ranthambore!

I end my series of posts from the trip to Rajasthan with some pictures from perhaps the most memorable event. Spotting three wild, adult tigers!

A large female known to the guides as "Tigress of the Lake". She was lying less than 10 metres from us.

Rikke and Jacob in front of the Tigress. Notice how little the distance. This is an actual wild tiger and it is not in any way fed by humans. The canters we drove around in are open so the tiger could easily jump into the canter if it wished to do so.

First tiger we spotted, standing on this romantic meadow in front of the shallow waters. It had just finished chasing (unsuccesfully) a herd of perhaps a hundred deer, a scene we were lucky enough to witness from a nearby hilltop on the other side of the lake.

The tiger crawling back into the cover of the high yellow grass. It is well camoflauged in this terrain.