soooo much to say!!!
12.06.2007 34 °C
Written on June 12...
Alright....wow....I'm still totally loving India. It's very weird, as I feel that I really "belong" here. So far, except for a few hours (I will elaborate in time), this portion of my trip is the best! I totally recommend it to anyone who even remotely might be thinking about coming here!
Let's backtrack to my last day in Delhi, June 8. I booked a tour of the town and ended-up the only white person on a bus full of South Indians, also tourists in Delhi. It's so funny here how many people have asked me to take a picture with me...I'd say it happened at least 15 times so far (in what...5 days??)hehehe. Some ask me to pose with them, others just take a picture of me and others (probably more than I've noticed) sneak a picture from their cell phones. hehehe, whenever I notice, I make a point to look straight at them so they know that I know! Overall, the Indian people are incredibly nice and polite!!!
So anyway, we went around to several sites, all the main ones actually and I took some pics which I'll post later (you should see where I'm writing from, It's a tiny space - 4 computer stations- crammed in a space 6ft wide by maybe 15 long!hehehe, I can barely type, never mind trying to hook up memory cards and camera cards!hehehe) We stopped at a restaurant, which is actually one of the only "actual restaurant" I've been to so far. I ordered whatever vegetarian (which I what I've been doing so far: Me: veg? them yes, M: ok!) I LOVE this country for that, every restaurant has a good selection of "veg" food, being the diet of a good portion of the population.
What we get is actually a fairly safe bet: rice (that's for sure), Dhal (which is some sort of lentil in a sort of stew - the lentil varies from kidney beans, chick peas, yellow or green lentils), a chapati or naan bread (shape and texture also varies), some sort of mix veggies stir-fried in a curry'ish paste..and that's pretty much it! but it's plenty!! It's so filling I barely eat 2 meals a day! Most of the time, I simply follow my "go where there are many locals" rule and end up in a small restaurant where most people eat standing up, and where one gets a Dhal with a naan for 15 to 20 Rupies (1$ = 38 R). The portion is never really big, but it totally does the trick!
Contrary to what I expected, the food is rarely (read: never) spicy in a "hot" way, but is generally full of yummy tasty spices! This is the first country where I actually prefer the food "in the country" as opposed to the version we get at home.
Anyway, at the reswtaurant, I tried to eat with my fingers, like everyone else, but was vigorously offered a spoon (I guess I wasn't doing too good –it’s really hard!!-..or maybe they were just trying to make me feel as comfortable as possible, which is very possible). The highlight of the day was a visit of the Indira Gandhi house/museum. She was the daughter of “the Gandhi we know” and got elected twice as prime minister of the country before being assassinated on her property (there’s a memorial plaque at the exact location)!! I really felt strong feelings for some reason….I don’t know, but I think it’s marvelous and astonishing that a woman would have made it to the head of a country like India while it’s no where near happening in Ca (Kim Campbell doesn’t count!!)…
We got back fairly early in the evening and I was still full from lunch, so I decided to only have a lassi as a shop around the corner from my hotel (where there's always a crowd -good sign). OH MY GOD!! best lassi in history!!! If this is how it is here, then I had never had a lassi before!!! It's a milk drink, to which they can mix a banana, or dried fruits (I went with that) or drink plain. It's soooo refreshing, filling and good for the stomach (it's recommended to foreigners to help cope with the different bacteria found here). Actually, I haven't had any problems whatsoever so far, in fact, my stomach is better here than it was in Thailand! yay
I then laid low and got to bed early as I had to be at the train station by 5:30ish and, more importantly, the South African guy had called me the night before to tell me he loved me (!???!!! I told him - with my jaded perspective- that it was impossible to fall in love just like that! hehehe! Probably not entirely true, but definitely in this scenario!) Anyway, I was trying -and succeeded-to avoid him.
June 9 -
The poverty of the place struck me a little more when I stepped on the street, to go to the train station- only to find several several several people sleeping on the street (to be fair, with the weather at 44celcius during the day and 35 at night, they probably slept better than me!) but anyway , they were mostly rickshaw people (a little seat pulled by a guy on a bicycle) sleeping on their contraption, but also many sleeping on cots on the sidewalk.
The train left on time (!!shocks of all shocks!!), and I was quite happy with my first class ticket, although I now know I can also easily travel 2nd class. The first portion of the trip was spent sitting beside two older men, which was absolutely great. We talked about India, they gave me their opinion and explained many things. One of them was still working and gave me his card (of course! hehehe) so now I have the contact info of a lawyer if I need to! hehehe. We mostly rode in the country side, so I got to see that aspect as well (very different from town of course!)
We then switched to another train (I'm pretty sure I was 2nd class there) in Kalka, to go to Shimla. I was now sitting on a 2person bench, facing another two person bench. A married couple and the brother of the man where my travel mates for this portion of the journey, so we got to talk about other things of India, and about their perspective of it. I talked fashion with the woman (who spoke impeccable english, better than the 2 men together!) and I found out that it's totally a woman's choice whether she wants to wear a sari or the "punjab dress" ( I bought one (225R) and was wearing it for the trip. They were clearly happy with that, so I'll try to buy a second one, might as well try to "blend in" (hehehe, as if THAT can happen here! hehehe, I must be a least 15cm taller than anyone, not to mention blond and white! hehehe).
She noticed my toe ring (on the second toe, after the big toe) and she asked me : Why only 1?, I was like: ?? here, when a woman gets married, she starts wearing a ring on the 2nd tow of each foot, as well as ankle bracelets, the red dot between the eyes and a red line starting at the base of the hair on the forehead, following the hair line separation (where the hair falls on each side of the head). Good to know! They don't wear a "wedding ring", and men don't wear anything at all. I said that was a bit unfair, and how were we to know who's married and who’s not (men-wise) the husband answered : It's easy, the men with (mimicking heavy stressed-out face) are married, the other ones (looking like a jolly dog ready to play) are single! hehehe HAHAHA!
They got off one town before my stop and two younger men, approx 25ish, took their seats. I then got to speak with that generation and get their perspective! How fascinating! All in one day!!
Essentially, the summary is: the older people don't really like the English, but will admit that they brought good in a few ways 1. the railway, 2. english, 3. they sort of unified India (before the English, it was ruled by the moguls (muslim) and it was not "1 country".)
The younger don't care too much about the english, but face a fairly glim future, with way too many people for too few god jobs! In India, you have to be an entrepreneur or you face poverty! That's probably why so many Indians have a shop in Canada, it's sort of the same situation for them in both countries.
Overall, this was a memorable day -because of the people and the gorgeous scenery-, despite the fact that the trip took 14 hours!! and the train broke down twice (and had to stop every 20mins or so to cool down the engine by hosing it with water!hehehe). The brother of the husband works for the railway and told me that these engines are 25yrs old and that there are no more parts being made for them! they're definitely on their last leg! Combining that to the fact that the ride is a steady uphill (up mountain is more accurate) trip, for...more hours than acceptable...I'm surprised the engines made it 25 yrs!! hehehe
I finally made it to Shimla, around 8pm -almost 3 hours late-,only to find out that there are no cars or rickshaw or whatever here, it's a "walk only" town in the downtown core, where everything is up or downhill!!! yikes! My feet had started bothering me again (well, never fully stopped, but the swelling was coming back), so I nearly cried when I saw how far I had to walk. This feeling of "OH fuck!" was greatly enhanced by the fact that I hadn't booked a hotel yet, and that Shimla is the town where way too many Indian go on vacation (this is their summer- remember). As a result, prices are sooo freaking high and there is almost no vacancy. I ended up paying 880R (!!!!! 1.2 times my entire daily budget!!!!!) for a fairly shitty room (it was ok...but there was no water - water shortage here, due to soo many people and the end of dry season -F'in great!!).So anyway, I decided that I was either finding a new place or getting the F out of here the following day. This was my few hours of unpleasant time that I was referring to at the beginning. I fully realize it could be worst).
I forgot to mention this so far, but shops don't really open before 10am,if not 11, here in India (how great!? totally my kind of schedule! hehehe). I didn't think of this when I set out, bright and early, at 9am to go to the tourist office (best place to book tickets), only to find out it didn't open until 11am... I then set out to get a new place, only to not get very far. This is when I met Mouchi (not sure how he spells his name, it's a short for...Mouchafat I think), a trekking/tour guide (yes, yet another one!! these guys are really really relentless and numerous!!). Anyway, for some reason, I didn't tell him off too much, as he was making sense in his proposal, and I was feeling a little overwhelmed/annoyed at the perceived cost of the rest of this trip (freaking Indian summer!!). So anyway, I decided to hire his services (250R/day for 2 days) as he said he would take care of my feet (which he did, the results are quite amazing!!) and show me a great little-cheaper and more quiet- village called Tattapani. Alright!
Well, I gotta go for now, but there's more to say, so I'll try to log on again today or tomorrow.