Friday, 23 January 2009

Travel tips

Yesterday I appeared on Nihal’s breakfast show as part of his ‘Roots’ item to discuss going travelling around India. We dispensed all the generic advice about jabs and mosquito pain-relief, and asking for rooms at the back of hotels to avoid suicide bombings. It got me to thinking about my own travelling and the lessons I’ve learned along the way, regardless of the location, because all travel advice has the same linking strand of wariness. I have tempered them to be specifically about India because now you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire, you’re probably thinking about heading there to rescue some street children.

10) If a man called Vinod, who has a strange jutting-out lump his stomach that looks like it might be a concealed weapon waiting to be gouged out and used against you, is giving you directions to somewhere you’re trying to find because you’re lost, go in the opposite direction. He will be waiting for you on the other side of the wall gouging out a concealed weapon from his stomach lining. He only wants your make-up and spare socks though.
9) If you are offered a ‘special lassi’ on a train, make sure you have a sober friend standing nearby with a warm salty glass of water to help rehydrate you, and to stop you jumping off the train because the Ribena babies are chasing you begging for slimy cuddles. And they haven’t told you what slimy cuddles are. Basically, ‘special lassi’ is code for hallucinogenic sweet yoghurt drink.
8) If you go around restaurants asking for steak medium-rare with a soupcon of pepper sauce, they will get most upset. It’s well done or nothing.
7) If you’re sent down a back alley to a warehouse to buy your beer and told to knock on a small window on its side, pretending you’re a cop in prohibitionist-era America on a bust will not go down well with the locals.
6) Don’t fall in love with the daughter of any importer/exporter of cars. The father tends to be mob-related and will not take too kindly to a tourist taking his daughter on the town when actually he would rather try and set her up with his protégé, as they have an unspoken father-son bond, and you’re just a foreigner on your jollies. He may feed you to his fishes. This is the opposite for women and local sons of gangsters. The fathers will appreciate the passports.
5) Be sensible. Never ever ever keep your money in a money belt. You look like an idiot with a trumped-up bumbag/fannypack.
4) If a lady called Mama Labamba asks you to take a package back back with you on a plane, do it; she pays handsomely, and all she is doing is sending Indian Vogue magazines back to her nieces.
3) If a family called the Followethers ask you to dinner. Don’t go. Mary Followether can’t cook.
2) If you see zebra-striped mosquito, run. Aside from their malaria-ridden bodies, they are the fashion-victims of the mosquito world. So essentially it’s like being infected with malaria by a Shoreditch hipster. Want to tell your grandchildren that?
1) Eat street food. It’s cooked there and then on the day and therefore about 30% less germs than the frozen and defrosted stuff in the freezers of restaurants.

Thus endeth the lesson.

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