[philiptellis] Walking the world in search of interestingness

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bandra after midnight

Bandra used to be a little fishing village on the west coast of India. Part of the many islands that made up Mumbai city. Amidst tall buildings and fancy cars, you'll still find many small houses roofed with mangalore tiles with tiny by-lanes winding between them. There's a lot to see during the day, but after midnight once the air starts to cool down a bit that's when I like to head out.


On the corner of Manuel Gonsalves Road and Turner Road, right outside Axis bank, is a Kulfi walla. This guy has been around for a very long time. Longer than the bank even (HSBC used to be at that corner before Axis bank took over). He comes in fairly late in the evening, and stays until a little after midnight. He travels all the way from Meera Road on the Western Railway to spend a few hours selling Kulfi in a suburb where he can sell it for a little more. Since it would be really hard (and a little more expensive) for him to carry his cart and stand with him, he made a deal with the security guards at the bank to leave his cart there during the day so he only needs to travel with his icebox.

The Kulfi is awesome. He has a variety of flavours including Pistachio, Mango, Chickoo, Malai and Chocolate. If you want to try all of them, he can make you a mixed plate. Each plate is 125gms of Kulfi for 25 Rupees (200 Rs/kilo). It used to be 10 when he just moved here, but I suppose people are willing to pay 25 for it.


After kulfi, head down Turner road to the sea-side promenade at Carter road. There you'll find guys on bicycles with a flask behind them. The flask contains hot sweet watery milk which they'll either add tea-bags to or instant coffee. Each cup is about 50ml and costs Rs 5. Rather expensive, but then there are people willing to pay that prce, and I'm guessing that a lot of it goes to the cops anyway in exchange for letting him sell his stuff without a license. The tea is really sweet and gets over before you know it, but it's a nice way to just hang out with friends and chat by the sea.


Now there also used to be a dosawalla around here, but I haven't seen him for a while. If you do, give him a try. He actually does have a license to sell dosas.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Visas for an Indian traveller

I live in the US, but travel on an Indian passport. Almost every international trip I make is for business. Most of them to speak at a conference, and my schedule is pretty tight. I've already travelled to speak in Belgium, Canada and Hong Kong this year, and have upcoming gigs in Australia, the UK and Germany. Apart from Hong Kong, I need a visa to enter all the others, and visa processing time is what limits how much I can travel.

On average, it takes 3-5 business days to get a visa. Add to that the time that my passport and docs are in the mail and that's a little over a week that my passport isn't with me. This is for every trip that I need to make, and since I need my passport for every application as well as to make the trip, I can't do them in parallel.

The good news is that some countries let you have a visa for a year, sometimes more, but not all do. European countries grant a visa from the day of entry to the day of departure. My last trip to Belgium got me a 5 day visa. I'll probably get the same when I travel to Germany. My Canadian visa is valid until a few months before my US visa expires (go figure). The Australian visa is valid for a year, and has a fairly simple application process. A UK visa may be granted for anywhere between 6 months to 10 years, but the application process is fairly involved.

Some applications require you to go for an interview, and some don't. Either way, I've always had good experiences with the various embassy staff, but the Australian Embassy in Washington DC has been the friendliest.

Over the next couple of months I'll fly to the US, apply for a German and Australian visa, fly to Australia, fly back to the US, apply for a British visa, then fly to the UK and Germany and then back home to relax for a bit.

I hear that tourist visas are easier to get than business visas. You need to show more money, but need fewer docs. Travellers from Europe and most American countries don't require a visa to most destinations.