After a good long sleep after that hideous night bus, I finally felt human again. Kate and Liv were up earlier then Nel and I so they went shopping in search of Indian gifts for an hour or two. I used the time to sort out my rucksack, I needed to think about what I was chucking away or giving to the girls to take home for me, no way did I want to lump around my Saree and new leather bag around another country. The chucking away bit didn't take long because I've already got rid of so much stuff in India. When they returned, we looked at the clock and realised we had to squeeze a meal in somewhere today.. and that the meal had to be Biryani - Liv's favourite dish! Hyderabad is famous for Biryani's and Liv had been saving herself for one during the whole time we were in India. We tried one restaurant but they only had enough ingredients left for one Biryani following the lunchtime rush so we went to Paradise restaurants instead. Which was the LP's best choice on Biryani's anyway so in the end it worked out well and they definitely didn't disappoint. Although as much as we munched, we majorly over ordered and still had mounds of rice left on the table once we were done. Next on the to-do's was a visit to the local market; Lad Bizarre. Now you're probably as bored of reading the word 'market' as I am of going to them... Don't get me wrong, I like shopping around the markets but during my 5 months in Asia, I have fully exhausted them. Everything looks the same, the noises are the same and the smells are the same. Patience has now worn out. I was making a visual list in my mind of what the girls wanted to buy and pointed them out when I saw bits them and mentally ticking them of as we went around. That night, the girls had a lovely idea to go to a bar in the area for a pre birthday drink so we went to a rooftop restaurant called Coco's. It was really busy so we had to sit in the inside for a bit, it was playing awfully cheesy music but the cocktails were lovely so it balanced out into a really good time. A table soon became available upstairs and we finished the night off there. It was so much fun, we even put make up on for the occasion. A lovely way to roll in my birthday.
The next morning I was awoken by Kate and Liv walking into my room, carrying a birthday cake, lite with candles and them singing 'Happy Birthday' to me - both Nel and I were a little disorientated at first but that was soon rectified with a sugar rush from the delicious cake; which ended up having Brandy in it. Yum yum. Today was a special day, not only because it was my birthday but because it was also a big part of our trip in India. We had been invited to attend my sisters friends, Indian wedding on that day, and had partly planned our Indian itinerary around it. This wedding wasn't any ordinary wedding day though, this was a ROYAL Arranged Marriage, my sisters friend is a Prince in the state of Anda Praddesh in India. How amazing is that!!! There are alot of princes in India but apparently the difference is our English monarchy recognises his family as Royal. Woowha!! The bridal ceremony was at 10am so we were on a tight schedule to get ready on time. Liv had asked the hotel cleaner to help us put on our Saree's because we obviously didn't have a clue so she helped fix us all up one by one. When I went to reception to call for the taxi, the men who worked there said I looked like an Indian princess which was really lovely but then the photos started again and they each took turns in having a snap with me. We were starting to run late and I had an expected birthday hissy fit about not going in if we turned up late because it would be embarrassing walking in once the ceremony had started. Luckily there wasn't much traffic and we arrived on time, pulling up at one of the famous 5* Indian hotel chains, the Taj Kristna. We saw the brides wedding car outside, it had been decorated in gorgeous red and white fresh roses, this was just the beginning of the amount of flowers we saw that day. As we walked towards the entrance, we went under an array of hanging flower arrangements which lead to a huge descending staircase that circled a tall fountain statue. Each step down was complete with a candle and offerings to the gods, placed on a banana leaf. After we took many photos on the stairs, we entered the ceremonial room and was given a bunched arrangement of white roses that were fragranced with Jasmine, to put in our hair or around our wrists. They could tell this was all new to us four, white westerners so they were really kind to us, told us that we were carrying ourselves very well in our Saree's and then showed us where to sit. Second row from the front!! What an honour, we were sitting next to the cousins of the bride. The ceremony started, they had several traditions to carry out and people were coming and going during the whole thing. The priest was talking in a traditional Hindu language that not many Indians could understand so it was more of a watching type of thing and listening to the music being played by the instrumental band in the corner. People kept coming up to us saying how lovely we looked and thanked us for coming, we were just blown away by their hospitality. Kate was sitting next to a very helpful lady who was explaining the different rituals that were being performed - so useful. During the procession, they came and blessed the first few rows of people and put dots on our foreheads, fingerprinted a sandle wood mixture onto our necks and sprinkled us with jasmine water to welcome us. They also handed out two bangles to each women as a gift, which apparently was worth 500rupees each!! And the best bit, there were canapés and drinks constantly served down each aisle. It felt like we were watching a movie set because of the amount of professional film cameras and photographers that were there. We were getting papp'ed in the aisle as we were talking, trying to not get caught chewing or drinking haha. At one point, a few women were going up to bless the bride. Then one of them came over to us and asked us if we'd like to pass on our blessing. Again, what an honour! We took off our shoes and went on stage, sprinkling rice over the brides head and congratulating her. We sat back in our seats feeling quite chuffed with ourselves, wearing smiles from ear to ear. I saw (Prince) Ani, the husband to be, standing at the back of the room so I went over and said hello, I'd met him a few times back in England so it was good to see him again. Lunch was soon served in two big gazebos outside, it was a huge, curries galore, not to mention the deserts, dribblin'ell. They were amazeballs. People kept coming up to us saying we looked the part and asking about our time in India, they even asked for photos haha. There was then a few hour break between then and the wedding ceremony so we went for a few drinks in the bar, obviously the wedding was dry because they were Hindu so I had to fit in a few drinks somewhere. After our mental/speedy taxi driver got us to the wedding venue ridiculously early, we walked in as they were still setting up, so we just waited on one of the tables in the incredible food hall, choosing the food that we would stuff our bellies with later. People were starting to arrive so we went outside and choose our seats, all the westerners sat together because friends of the family had to be on a particular side so it was nice to chat with them for a while. Ani was soon walking down the aisle, accompanied with his entourage of family members and guests, all standing inline behind him. Shortly followed by his bride to be. They sat on stage facing each other with a cloth hung in between them so they couldn't see each other, I said its like blind date haha, maybe the wrong thing to say. It was such a beautiful setting, even with the amount of people there - which was 6000 people by the way!! Hopefully that paints an image of the scale of the wedding. After watching the priests go through the ceremony routine for a while, we decided to go to get some food and then come back to carry on watching later. Could you imagine doing that in England? We made the most of the buffet again and spoke to the people on our table while we ate. When we went back outside to carry on watching, a lady told us to go on stage and bless the newly married couple so we queued up and shook hands with them both. A short while after we could que again to have our photos taken, we were rushed to the front of the que by one of Ani's family members and even managed to get a photo on my camera!! Rumour has it we'll appear in the Indian version of Hello magazine. We squeezed in a quick bowl of fruit salad before heading back home, we were exhausted and it was a long day. The whole day felt like it had been a dream, such a bizarre, amazing way to spend my birthday. I need to get thinking on next years plans already if I ever want to beat that one.
Our final day in Hyderabad was a very sad one, not only was it our last day in Hyderabad but it was my last day in India. Us four were all going our separate ways that morning, we went to the airport together and all caught the flight to Mumbai. Either there was something in the cabin air or we were just giddy from lack of sleep but we were hyper as hell and were definitely annoying the rest of the people on the plane. We even had four of us, in the three seats at one point; laying on each other, making videos, taking stupid pictures and cheating in our last few card games. As we were getting off the flight, their was a flight attendant calling people who were connecting to Goa, which Kate and Liv was. We thought we would have more time but that was it, it felt like baby birds being snatched from their mother. We all burst into tears, hugging each other tightly; pola opposite of our flight behaviour - the attendants probably thought we were nut cases. There we were saying our goodbyes in the flight tunnel as the plane was clearing out, not believing our 6 months were over. It felt like it had gone so quick but I look back on what we've done, where we've been and it's been the best experience of my life. The time had come for me to travel without my triangle. Nelen was getting off the flight in Mumbai too so I had her with me for emotional support. We stood in the tunnel and watched the two girls walk across the Tarmac onto to their transfer bus, pretending we were in a movie, banging in the windows, crouched on our knees, tears in our eyes. Luckily Nelen just told me to pull myself together and gave me a hug, the giddy mood came back with a vengeance and we again carried on causing havoc for the rest of the day. Nelen had treated herself to an expensive hotel for the night because she didn't fly to Thailand until the following evening and was going to be in India alone so she invited me to use her pool for the day. After we sent a series of funny photos of us in the hotel room, to Kate and Liv, we made use of the rooftop infinity pool. It was gorgeous, never been in an infinity pool before! Although it did feel very odd that the views were of Mumbai's slums. Turns out they had a steam room too so we made full use of that free facility and helped ourselves to a stack of free water bottles. We found an excuse for room service, ordered a sandwich and watched 'Banged up abroad', bit of a scary thing to watch because it was showing people's stories of when they had been taken hostage by terrorists, just from meeting them in a bar. Sent the spooks up us a little bit. Ahh! We had paid an extra fee for the free bar from 6pm to 8pm so we made sure to make full use of it, think we managed to squeeze in 6 glasses of red wine and eat a plate of snacks. Money well spent, although we then went to the bar and bought a rum and coke, which was way overpriced. Opps. Nearly forgetting that I did actually have to catch a flight in a few hours, I grabbed my bags and said the second emotional goodbye of the day. Nelen had been travelling with us for nearly three months now so she was a big part of the group, we've made plans to meet up when were home but still a sad farewell. My flight went pretty quickly, had a cry, ordered more wine, watched a film and fell asleep.
After arriving in Singapore at 7.30am and not sleeping much on the plane, I just wanted a bed but that's exactly what I wasn't going to get. I sat in the departures area for a while, thirsty and hungry, I didn't want to draw money out the cash point because I was only there for the day so I just found somewhere to sit on my rucksack and fell asleep. I slowly slumped myself into the laying position, comforted by my pillow and blanket that I stole from the plane. I managed to get three hours sleep in before I was poked by two security men telling me I'm not allowed to sleep here - dirty and penniless, I felt like a homeless person. Luckily I only had another hour to wait before I could check in to go through to the shops and restaurants, because I was third person in the que to check in, I managed to get an extra leg room, window seat - finally some good plane karma. I bought some new headphones and chilled out in the cinema room while I waited for my boarding call. Once in my extra leg roomed seat, I finally got to watch the last Twilight film, I've been waiting for an airline to show it. Yay. Before I knew it I had arrived in the paradise of Indonesia, my new home for the next month. I was in Bali.