Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mauritius - day 5

28 January 2017

We started the day off with a round of shopping at Port Louis market. Port Louis is the capital city of Mauritius and also its most populous city. It is considered to be the country's economical, cultural and political centre.

Driving inside the crowded and noisy city was quite an experience. In fact, it kind of felt like India, but drivers in India can probably get away with a lot more. Also, we couldn't find any carpark near the market, so Viv decided to park by the roadside and wait there to make sure teh car didn't get towed away. The area was marked 'taxis only' but there were plenty of cars parked in that stretch. Again, you just couldn't shake off that India wali feel.

Xena decided to stay back with her daddy. I breathed a huge sigh of relief because we were about to storm into Port Louis market -- the crowded, noisy, colourful, crazy place where we would bargain and storm off shops and do all sorts of drama, and I just didn't have the energy or resources to lug Xena along for the 'performance'.

The market itself felt like Chatuchak in Bangkok -- but maybe a crazier version of it. Shopkeepers were yelling out to showcase their wares. We shuffled along, looking at stuff, but trying not to catch any shopkeepers' eyes yet.

Dad wanted some kind of Mauritian memento for himself, while Mom wanted to buy some souvenirs for her sisters, friends and neighbours.

After much hunting, Dad found a dodo figurine he was happy with. 

Mom and I found some purses we liked. Some of them had dodo designs, while others had flowers and other things. Almost every third shop had the same purses, but at different prices. Finally, we found the shop that allowed us to bargain like mad because we told the shopkeeper that we wanted 12 purses, which pleased him to no end. 

Normally, bargaining makes me nervous, but with Mom by my side, I was at my assertive aggressive best. The shopkeeper didn't even have 12 pieces, but he went and bought the extras from another shopkeeper we had rejected because his purses had been more expensive. That guy was not at all pleased. It was hilarious. 

Happy ladies, all shopped out!

As we made our way back to the car (which had not been towed away, yay!), Mom suddenly remembered a neighbour that she hadn't accounted for. It would have been insane to go back in for that one purse, so I told her we would pick one up in another place.

Our next stop was the Caudan waterfront, a major shopping destination in Mauritius, which houses shops, banks, restaurants, casinos and cinemas. We did some window-shopping at the craft market there -- no actual shopping because we had seen the same things at Port Louis market for a fraction of the price!

The only thing we bought was this little dodo figurine that Xena really really liked. 

Mom and me by the waterfront

It was the Chinese New Year weekend and there were lots of decorations everywhere. 

And of course, wherever there's anything tree-related, there's Dad!

Strong Mama? Naaah, featherlight baby!

There was a big food court with stalls selling all kinds of food. We got ourselves a table by the waterfront and had lunch -- biryani, rolls and some set meals. I don't know why I have no photos of the food. I was too hungry, I guess.

There was a cute, animal-themed playground next to the food court and Xena spent some time playing there, as Viv fed her the rest of her lunch. 

After lunch, we walked around a bit more, exploring the place. There was a honeymooning Indian couple (those wedding choodas, man! You can see them from a mile!) and they requested Viv to take a photo of them in the... I'm not kidding... TITANIC POSE! It reminded me of the 'Titanix pose' from AIB's hilarious Honest Indian weddings series.

I remember this photoshoot vividly because as I was posing happily, apparently a bright blue exotic Mauritian bug had fallen on my neck from the wall behind me. Clueless helped to swat it off, but not before a bunch of curious onlookers had seen my crazy 'get the bug off me' dance!

Next, we were off to the Grand Baie bazaar, also popular for souvenirs and other touristy stuff. 

To our disappointment, the market looked deserted! It was closed, presumably due to Chinese New Year. 

We decided to walk inside and take a look anyway, leaving the parents in the car. To my utter surprise, we saw one shop that was open. However, it only had clothing items. I described the purses we had bought earlier at Port Louis market and asked the shop lady if she had them. She hollered at a boy who promptly disappeared and reappeared holding the purses! 

Without Mom, I was really nervous about bargaining when the lady quoted 250 Mauritian rupees for one purse. But I decided to take the plunge and guess what the final price was? 200 rupees for 3 purses! I kid you not! I didn't even have to haggle much. That was my first and only counter proposal and the lady readily agreed. Wow.

Next, we headed towards the Grand Baie beach and found a spot in the shade to chill and chat. 

The view of the bay was gorgeous. 

I walked around, taking photos. 

I was in love with the colour of the water. That explains the 36726476 photos.

I had read somewhere about Grand Baie beach being a great place for a Mauritian street food called dholl puri, and so Viv took off in search of it. He scouted the whole place and finally came back, armed with the dholl puri (it was like a rolled-up dal paratha; I reckon the 'dholl' is 'dal') and some kind of weird and wonderful lemon-orange drink. 

SO delighted to see the dholl puri!

Yeah, he's a keeper! :)

Dad, meanwhile, had gone on an excursion of his own. 

He had seen a temple across the road and decided to check it out. 

He came back armed with photos of a VERY pink temple. 

A stump of a holy banyan tree?

Xena and Mom, meanwhile, had embarked on making some kind of a structure out of dry sand, decorated with fallen leaves. I had no idea what it was, but it sure seemed to make them happy. I think that white spot in the centre is a Mentos. Why, child, why?

Next up was Mon Choisy beach -- the longest in Mauritius and also one of the most popular. We got there earlier than expected and it was still too sunny to set up camp at the beach itself. So we decided to stay put in the 'holding area' under the trees till the sun went down.

Viv got hungry and got himself a fried rice from one of the food vans in the area. The rice came accompanied with some chilli, which delighted Viv to no end. He asked the guy if he could have some extra chilli and the guy said challengingly, "If you can finish that, I'll give you more." Whoa. Well, he was wrong. The chilli was still too mild for Viv's taste, but I advised him against going for more. You do not want to mess with the ego of a food-serving guy.

After a meal of fried rice, Viv decides to burn some calories by doing some weights. 

We also found another stall selling pineapples and raw mangoes soaked in some kind of magical solution. I fell in love with the pineapples instantly, but it was my parents' reaction to the mangoes that was the most heartening. They simply couldn't get enough! We went back for seconds... and thirds!

Mom relishing the mango (that didn't seem to interest Xena even a little bit)

Dad enjoying his sweet-sour-spicy raw mango

Dad even went and struck up a conversation with the mango sellers Dev Anand and Priya, who turned out to be -- surprise, surprise -- from Bihar! Well, their ancestors, I mean. Because we asked them where exactly in Bihar their ancestral place was, and they said they had no clue.

Mauritius has a very rich bird life, and wherever we went, we saw tiny, colourful birds. Check out the sheer number of birds on this tree! Thanks to the flashcards given by Air Mauritius, Xena was able to identify all the birds we pointed out to her. 

Xena had remembered to take her sand-digging tools and soon, she and Mom had made a pretty cool 'temple' decorated with some small, spiny fruits that were abundantly found all over the beach. 

Panorama shot of Mon Choisy beach captured by Viv

And then of course, it was time for the group photos!

Happy family 

We watched sunset at the beach and then quickly wrapped up so we could get out of there before it got too dark.

As expected, getting the car out of the very, very, very crowded carpark was a pain. Poor Clueless had to get out of the car and be the traffic marshall to guide Viv. We also encountered some black African people who started yelling very loudly. At first, we thought they were scolding us for something, but it turns out they were only (I think) trying to help guide our car out. Phew.

On the way back, we googled on Viv's phone to look for dinner places and this restaurant called Happy Raja popped up. The menu looked really good. But we were turned away from the door because we had not made a reservation (duh!) and they were full. We even called them from downstairs to see if we could "break the system" but to no avail. Sigh.

But the trip to that mall was not a total waste because Xena finally got to do some "driving"!

We settled on burgers from Speers and pizzas from Debonair Pizza. The food was quite good though the pizza took AGES to arrive.

It was a very long drive back, and Xena immediately fell asleep in the car. We got back only around 10 pm, but the roads were good and Viv seemed to enjoy the drive, even though I know he doesn't like to drive late in the night.

And that was that for day 5.

Click here for Mauritius - day 6.



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