Puri is a religious beach town and home of Lord Jagganath, the Hindu God that looks a lot like a South Park character. It also has a lot of foreign tourists, espresso and legal marijuana. Obviously the ideal choice for a weekend get-away.
Ali & I boarded the 14-hour train and 1-hour bus ride and arrived on Saturday afternoon. First, we ordered beers in this restaurant with a garden courtyard. Beers in public! Ahh! We kept spotting white tourists and couldn’t help but stare. I kept smiling at them and trying to get them to talk to us but none were taking the bait. It seemed all the other foreigners (dreadlocked, barefoot, dazed and confused) were there to get ‘immersed’ in India and ignore our invitations to sit at our table.
We did manage to befriend Sabir, a Kashmiri who worked in one of the antique shops and was dating a French girl named Eva. The four of us hung out every night, eating gigantic prawns, pizza and making mojitos on their rooftop.
They recommended we go to ‘Madustan Healing Center’ for the best massage in Puri. It took us forever to find and it looked like some sort of shut-down prison. We entered and walked in on the middle of a ‘laughing yoga’ session. Indian gurus, foreign hippies and children were sitting on mats with self-induced hysterical laughter. Ali & I were sort of hiding in the corner, feeling really awkward and not sure whether to stay or leave. After the yoga was over, we tried to inquire about massages but it was really weird and the guy said we could come back tomorrow for an appointment with the famous acupressure doctor.
So we left and instead went to this ‘unofficial’ massage parlor, where this man and his wife were doing discount oil massages in this really shady hotel. It seemed pretty sketchy at first, I had to lie down on this hotel bed that was flush against the wall in this dingy little room. But soon I forgot where I was as the wife started kneading my feet and calves. She was incredible. Then she proceeded upward. I won’t go into details. Lets just say she massaged literally every square inch of my body. It was a bit odd. I booked an appointment for another one the next day.
Other adventures include our trip to Konark, home of the Sun Temple and supposedly the birthplace of Kama Sutra. After an hours worth of bargaining with 4 different gatekeepers to let us in for the Indian price of 10 rupees (versus the 250 rupee fee for foreigners), I finally succeeded…I am my mother’s daughter after all. The Sun Temple had these carvings all over it and if you look closely, you see all these erotic scenes – like orgies of men, women and children. Blowjobs, handjobs, men doing it while holding the woman upside-down. Two men embracing each other while 2 women where on their knees blowing them. A pretty ridiculous contrast to the sexual repression and conservatism in today’s India.
Back in Puri, we returned to Madustan to get in on the yoga, acupressure and hopefully score that famous massage. The yoga session started with standing on these wooden boards with spikes. It killed. People started actually jumping up and down on the spikes. It seemed like the torture would never end. Then there was some chanting and afterward, animalistic growling. Then we had to walk around in circles with our fingers on our nostrils blowing out snot. Before we got to the laughing part, the doctor was ready for our acupressure session. I thought the wooden spikes hurt until I had acupressure. They were pressing so hard, cracking, bending. I was worried they were going to break something. Then the doctor starts pulverizing every section of my hand, asking which sections hurt. Everything hurt. And each section of the hand apparently reveals the status of a different area in your body, like the tip of your pinky finger is your kidney, and the skin between your thumb and forefinger is your pituitary gland, etc. etc. Soon the doctor uncovered what is wrong with me…I am not a vegetarian. He proceeded to imitate a goat, bah-ing sweetly, and then made gestures that he was getting his throat slit and started screaming and crying like a wounded goat. He warned me to never eat goat, egg or fish again and my health would be restored. That lasted for about 4 hours until I had fish curry for dinner.
On our last day, Ali & I went for a swim in the Bay of Bengal. We tried to avoid the section where the men defecate in the water. I had to go in with all my clothes on because none of the women in Puri wear bathing suits. It didn’t matter though, the water was the perfect temperature and felt so good since it was scorching hot outside. (Sorry for wearing your clothes in the water, Ashley. And sorry I keep wearing this damn outfit every day.)
Heading back to Koraput, we tried to measure our expectations for the trip against the outcomes. We didn’t get to have many exciting new conversations with Westerners, but we did have quite a few drunken rambles with each other, one revealing Ali’s desire to give people true happiness by washing their feet. We didn’t do any all-night bonfire dancing ragers on the beach, but we did do some bizarre moves with the morning yoga crowd. And last, Ali didn’t get to make-out with an Indian girl like he was hoping, but he did get his ass felt by a male masseuse.