After leaving my beloved Istanbul I’m now in India since last Tuesday. The flight with Air Arabia only cost 160 Euro from Istanbul to Bangalore, but I had to endure a 15 hour stopover in the United Arab Emirates. Since hanging out at the airport for that long isn’t really an option, I decided to go see some of Sharjah, but immigration took a bit longer than expected:
me (walking up to the counter): Good morning!
Immigration officer #1: Hello!
(She checks my passport for a while)
Immigration officer #1: Where are you from?
(She consults with another immigration officer. We establish that I’m not from Australia one more time. We consult a third officer. No, not Australia. They send me to another counter.)
Immigration officer #2: Hello. Where are you from?
Me (hopeful): Austria.
Immigration officer #2: Australia?
Me: Austria! Autriche. Oesterreich? Avusturia… In Europe. EU. Mozart.
(He calls for another guy, rinse and repeat the Austria-Australia confusion. He takes my passport, says he’s gonna check something and disappears. I can see him through a window, he takes a big book and apparently tries to figure out where I’m from. About 15 minutes later he reappears, smiling.)
Immigration officer #3: I found your country, in Arabic we call it… (sorry, I forgot). And we also know why we didn’t recognize your passport (proud smile): you’re a diplomat!
Me: (scruffy, wearing dirty baggy jeans, mildly surprised and really amused): No, I’m not. It’s a standard EU passport, they changed them 1 or 2 years ago and look a bit different now… Anyway, thanks for your help!
(Immigration officer #2 still doesn’t exactly understand what’s going on, starts flipping through my passport, sees the page with my Hong Kong visa on arrival, smiles and decides to also give me one. Of course he doesn’t use a new page, but squeezes it in next to the HK one. He’s right though, the Arabic script indeed looks kinda neat next to the Chinese characters.)
Finally out of the airport I see two guys who where on the same flight as yours truly. We decide to go to the city center together and while chatting on the bus I discover that they are from Hungary. Which by the way also seems to be totally unknown in the UAE. Apparently nobody gave a shit about the Austro-Hungarian empire in the Middle East. But then, why should they? Anyway, we get to Sharjah, stroll around for a bit and then they tell me that they’ll rent a car and go to Dubai and that I can tag along if I want to. Sure do, let’s go! Once we reach the car rental an elaborate sales pitch follows. Long story short, the two of them rent a car including a driver, who’ll show them Dubai and its sights. And I can come along, for free. Sweet! So basically I ended up seeing a lot of Dubai and Sharjah in my quite limited time there. And honestly that was quite enough. It just seems too much like a fake place with no soul and unless you are really into skyscrapers and big malls it’s not all that interesting. It did have it’s funny moments though, especially in the tucked away Somali restaurant where it seemed like we were the first white people to ever eat there and especially when 3 random guys walked up to us on the street, only to say “Hello, Michael Jackson!” and disappear again immediately.
Hm, getting lazy now, so cutting the story short: made it to India, met Spy at the airport (for those of you who don’t know him, Spyro and me traveling together is probably not good for world peace), crashed at his hotel room. Since Wednesday we’re supposed to stay with Dilip, but somehow always end up crashing at Murali’s nice penthouse apartment (I wonder why).
Random India info: food is good, although a bit repetitive. People find us very exciting. Even more so than in China. In fact a lot more, cause in China nobody ever walked up to me, shook my hand, kissed it, stroked my beard and then left without saying a word. Within the course of 10 seconds, while negotiating with an autorickshaw driver. Different strokes for different folks I suppose. So far we saw cows, buffaloes, monkeys and a lot of other small animals roam the street, but Spy already saw an elephant on his bus trip, which makes me insanely jealous.
What we do: Yesterday we went on a road trip to a place I can’t pronounce, where we did a boat trip next to some waterfalls with beautiful scenery around. We also played some hurling on the beach and
had dinner at a little village on the way back home, where the locals seemed very excited by our mere existence. Today or tomorrow we’ll most likely do another road trip before heading to Tamil Nadu and then further down south (although that’s only a tentative plan, since we really suck at making real ones). Yes, at the hottest time of the year. No, we never said we are smart.
That’s it for today, better stuff to do than hanging out in front of a
Love you all,