A Travellerspoint blog

Haridwar

A holy city by the Ganges...

sunny 34 °C

Written on June 28...

P.S. The guys beside me is still watching porn!! hehehe, it's been a good hour! He has to shift/rearrange his "pee wee" from time to time! HAHAHA!

I made my way to Haridwar via the night bus, which left Shimla (I hitched a ride with Mouchi and Mr. Rana from Manali back down to Shimla). The bus left at 8:40pm and arrived in Haridwar at 6am, which effectively saved me 1 night accommodation (which is good because –despite a hefty discount on the 10-day trip- I’m grossly over budget). Early on, a young guy sat beside me and started chatting me up (it’s true: they talk a lot these Indians!! Hehehe they say so themselves).
He was basically and “anti-Indian”, very critical of his society and culture (he had some point, but was too harsh – about the spitting, the sanitation, the driving habits, the girls, the men, everything!), so the conversation was a bit weird. I didn’t agree with him on most, but as he said, my opinion might change if I lived here for several years…It probably would, as I see his points, but oh well…
One funny time was when he asked me my religion and I told him that I wasn’t religious. So he asked me where I pray…I said I don’t… His face! Hehehe I said that at least 50% of the people didn’t practice in Canada, so he asked me where they prayed… I said they don’t! His face! Hehehe, he really didn’t believe me that people could go on with their lives without praying every day! Hehehe I’m not saying it’s better, but it’s certainly a reality! Hehehe
Anyway, I slept pretty badly the whole journey and was pretty bummed out when I lost my blanket (it was a sarong I bought in Thailand – the perfect blanket!!!) out the window… India is eating my Thailand souvenirs (I forgot my toe ring in a hotel somewhere along the 10-day trip, and now this sarong!)… of well, it’s only things, but I’m pretty bummed out about both these things…I used them a lot…
Anyway, upon arrival here, I decided to go and stay in an Ashram (kind of monastery). I found a great one, where for a “donation” of 200R/day, I get 3 meals a day, a private room with (cold) shower (which is good because it’s hot here!) and “Indian” toilet (but I’m used to it by now so it’s ok). I also met this female Swami, who showed me around the ashram (the property is approx 1km square, massive!). They have 750 rooms (!!!!) and about 200 people living FT on the premises. They grow their own plants and produce their own Ayrvedic medicines (she showed me the factory), which they sell throughout the world. It’s a nice place to stay because they are not promoting a specific religion, they are about finding spirituality through meditation and concentration of the mind, aka energy and God as one, whichever way you want him (Buddha, Shive, God, etc). I like it. We meditated briefly together (I’m still a very novice beginner – but I’m definitely interested in the concept and it’s application). Concentration of the mind is something I heard of In Thailand at my cousins yogi school and here, and it’s something I will really invest some time trying to achieve.
On a different topic, the town of Hariward is what I call “real India”. I have now come to realize that there are probably 10000 “real Indias”, but this was my image of it, so I’m glad to finally see it. It’s pure chaos on the streets, with a mix of a few cars, but mostly rickshaws, tuk-tuks, bogeys pulled by horses and people walking everywhere. It’s noisy, polluted, dirty and loud but I LOVE it!! I went to the Har-ki-Pairi Ghat, where people, thousands of people, wash away their sins in the Ganges every day/night. It’s a wonderful, hectic crazy scene but totally enjoyable. I have a few pics which I’ll post shortly, but I’m running out of internet time, so gotta go!
I will go visit the town of Rishikesh tomorrow (a day trip from here, only 1 hour away by bus) as I don’t really want to stay there (I hear it’s filled with hippy westerner yogis and those who sell to them) –it’s not exactly my scene.
On that note, still loving India, soooo sorry to only have 10 days left here, I really should have booked a longer trip here, will need to come back and explore other parts of it!

Posted by Mistrale 04:09 Archived in India Comments (0)

Kinnaur and Spiti Valleys

It's in the Himalayas!!!

sunny 20 °C

Started on June 27th, finished on the 28th, recollecting the events of June 15-25 (I think!)..

Written on June 28:
I AM SOOO ANGRY!!!!! I just found out that all the pics got deleted from my camera!!!! These were all my pics from India so far!!! and a few from Thailand!!!!! ARRRGGGHHH!!!! It happened when I brought my camera to get a CD done for Mouchi (of the 10 day trip). I had to hand-in my memory card to the guy at the shop to burn the CD (they won't let us do it ourselves) and didn't even think about the potential for him to delete the pics from the card (it's totally not necessary)!!! Anyway, I'll be able to retrieve a few hundred pics (from the CD left with Mouchi), but it still SUCKS ASS!!! How could he just take the liberty to delete my pics!?!?!? He's lucky to be several hundred km away from me right now!!! (actually, maybe not, they may still be in his trash box...hmmm...I'll look into that). Well, no need to say that you're not getting any pics for this leg of the journey! Too bad as there was some good ones... arrgghhhhhhhhhh!

(Funny side note: the young guy beside me is watching porn on his computer! Hehehe)

Ok, back to the original entry (started on June 27):
Oh my, I know I write this almost every time, but there's WAY too much to talk about here, I don't even know where to begin!!!!!
Alright...let's begin with the beginning. We ended up gathering 2 other tourists (Brigitte, a Dutch girl and Andy, an English guy) to go on this trip to the Himalayas, or more specifically the Kinnaur and Spiti valley. We started in Shimla and finished, 10 days later, in Manali.
We tried to get two more people to go with us (to save some $$ by cost sharing) but we didn't succeed, so we took off on the 15th, bright and early in a jeep with Mouchi and a driver (Mr. Rana - who doesn't speak English, but understands some).

I must explain that the road, right from the beginning and throughout this entire trip, is nothing like anything we have in Canada. It's bumpy, partially paved and/or rocks/gravel/mud, rarely wider than 1 car width, often carved through the rock (half tunnel), and always on the side of a mountain with the cliff way too near! Yikes! We had plans for 8 nights, and had left 1 night free, in case we wanted to stay 2 nights in one town or something. Well, within the first 3 hours of the trip, we came to our first, and most important, roadblock. A semi had partially fallen off the cliff (only the rear wheel, but still) and this was completely blocking traffic in both directions for God knows how long, minimum 5-6 hours. We then decided to head back to Tattapani (Andy and Brigitte hadn't been), spend the night there instead, and then head off on our planned journey.
We did and it was very nice. The following morning, as we were ready to leave, we met Grace, a British girl, and somehow got her to come on the trip with us. This would turn out to be a big mistake, but oh well, she seemed nice. So we head off to our first destination, a village called Sarahan. Like all the villages we visited, it was very small, but there was SIGNIFICANT infrastructure work being done. In this case the road was being widened (more than doubled to be exact) and the bridge was being redone (in fact, throughout our journey, we only crossed fairly new bridges, as the river, called the Sutlej, starts in China and is "regulated' by a dam (in China), which overflew in 2001, causing a massive flood which destroyed every single bridge crossing the river (which we followed for over 5 days). There was a bit of a conspiracy theory going on about this, as the flood occurred in the middle of the night (around 2am) and destroyed a town where the Dalai Lama was staying (people though that the Chinese did it on purpose to kill him... doubtful but not impossible I guess...).
Anyway, I've got many great pics, which (...well, I might get back one day) I will try to post tomorrow or within a couple of days. The scenery throughout the trip was absolutely gorgeous. We were always surrounded by high mountains, but the scenery changed from lush and green (with a mix of cacti’s and coniferous side by side! weird!) to complete desert (starting around day 5) and glaciers...
In Sarahan, we visited the Bhimakali temple, and as for every temple visited after, we had to wear a little felt hat (provided at the entrance) and remove any leather items, knives, etc.
The culture "up there" is very different from any other part of India. For one, it's rough mountain terrain -with harsh winters, and remains cool at all times (no higher than 20-25celcius, much less at night) - the road is only opened from April to October-, and the people look more Asian, there are many many Buddhist temples and Tibetan refugees. One thing that we kept seeing, and that remains sticking, is the swastika, which was "popularized" by the Nazi's. The cross is actually a sign of life and good luck here, but the Nazi's flipped it around (literally, the "arms" point the other way, and figuratively since any westerner cannot see it without thinking of the Nazis). It was therefore very strange to see it on doors of restaurants and on flags of Gumpas (temples)!
We then head off to a town called Sangla, where we stayed in a gorgeous hotel, with absolutely breathtaking view (in fact, the quality of hotels on the trip exceeded what I had experienced so far!). We went for a walk and explored the surroundings. Houses in this part of India and built with a mix of timber frame (aka a beam every 1-2 feet horizontally), filled with stone and the roofs are made of slate! Absolutely gorgeous, but I wonder how it fares on keeping the heat in and rain and snow out…
Sangla is in a valley, and seems quite fertile, with endless orchards of apricots, apples and walnuts.
Mouchi also taught us a very very fun game called Kabati!!! I had never heard of it, but it's apparently quite popular around here, being played in Universities and by kids in general (I saw it being played for Phys Ed in a school at the last town we stayed in!). It's essentially like playing tag, but with rules and boundaries and the "attacker", must say “Kabati Kabati Kabati” at all time, to prevent him/her from breathing. He/she must tough someone before running out of breath, hehehe, it was a great time! We have the funniest video (taken on Brigitte's camera) of us playing. I really hope I can get my hands on it at some point in the future...
We then head off to a town called Chitkul, where a wedding was just finishing. The girl had left with her husband to his village, but the people were still putting food away and everything. This was,b y far, one of the most rustic villages we visited although very cold. We stayed in a hotel ran by a family (we actually stayed with the family), and went on a easy trek, then a hard one up the mountain! The altitude makes a big big difference, with less oxygen in the air...
We then went to a town called Kalpa, which is notable for it's great view of a mountain called Kinner Kailash. There are apparently 7 "Kailashes" in the world, and they are called the same because of their tip, which has a particular shape (I had a pic, it doesn't loook THAT particular to me, but whatever). Still very nice! The town is said to be the winter home of Shiva (God)… hehehe…
We then head off to a town called Nako, a very cute village with tiny alleys running between houses made of stone and mud, animals everywhere (mostly donkeys and horses) and where I waited almost 1 hour for a “sunset over the Himalayas”, which turned out to be very anticlimactic (the pics weren’t so great, and not great colours… I kind of anticipated it would be such, but kept hoping until it was clear it would just get dark and colder…oh well!)
This city was the turning point from greenery (Kinnaur) to desert scenery (Spiti).
We then head off to a town called Tabo, where we stayed at the Gomba (monastery). The town was, as usual, very small, but quite nice. Andy and I got a great tour of the temple by a Monk, who explained the exquisite paintings on the walls, statues and overall temple. This site is a World Heritage Site for it’s best preserved Indo-Tibetan art in the world. We also sampled "momos", which are essentially chinese dumplings, either fried or steamed. Momo's are awesome! On that note, the food in this region is composed mainly of chow mein and momos...nice for a few days but would get very boring very fast!
We then head off to a village called Kaza, which is the capital of the Spiti valley, making it slightly (very slightly) bigger, but more noticeably, the only town with internet access in the area! yay! I was feeling very deprived, but at 80R/hour, I didn't stay long (I pay less then 25R/h right now!!). On the way to Kaza, we stopped at the Dankar Monastery (Tibetan run) which is perched on a steep hill. It was also very pretty. Pics would not have given it justice anyway, but there were nice….
For the final night, we went from Kaza to Kibber, which, at 4205m, claims to be the highest village in the world (later specified as "the highest village with a motorable road and electricity"). This village as notably NOTHING at all other than a couple of guest houses and a school. There are no shops (which is really really weird) This is where I saw the girls playing Kabati in school. It was very fun to watch! On the way, we stopped at yet another Monastery (after a while they really all look the same: a Tibetan monastery is a Tibetan monastery!), called Kee, which is noticeable for being the oldest and largest Gompa in Spiti.
We head off to Manali on the last day, where we all (finally) split up! Manali looked very different from Shimla, but felt similar dur to the vast amounts of Indian tourists. The town is divided in New Manali and Old Manali. All the westerner hippies hang out in Old Manali and the Indiand in New Manali. I had enough of westerners, so chose to stay in New Malani where I happen to catch a show given in the honour fo the last day of the summer festival in the town. It was a great show of Indian traditional and current music and dancing! Quite interesting! At some point they had some technical difficulties and I couldn’t understand what they were saying (talking in Hindi), but the word “cassette” from time to time…hehehe cassette!!!! On that ntoe, most Indians still have “old cameras” (aka not digital)..I would know as I must be on at least 100 different rolls (I thinkt hey came in rolls of 24 and 48 pics… I can’t remember.. wow, it seems so cumbersome when one knows digital! I should feel even more flattered that they are wiling to spend a whole pic on me when they only have a few…anyway)

I must say that 10 days with the same people, almost 24/7 was a bit much. Actually, I think it would have been fine with Andy and Brigitte only, but Grace turned out to have a really bad attitude, quite hypocrite in fact, and since she was staying in the same room as Brigitte, it rubbed off on her. With two people, out of 4, with a bad attitude, I started looking forward to the end of the trip around day 5... Oh well, it was somewhat predictable I guess and overall, it remained a very very nice experience and Andy even booked another tour with Mouchi as he had such a great time…I think this was a perfect example of “you make your own trip” if you want to me miserable, it’s very easy! It’s also very easy to have a great time!
We had many great laughs, both with, and about, the Indians (they really think different than Westeners!) and they laughed at us too! It's all good! For example, and this happened pretty much every time we asked a question such as...can we get 3 chais (tea)? Upon understanding the question, they would deliberate between them for a good 3-4 minutes, and then give an answer, generally yes! hehehe, what the heck were they talking about? I'll never know!! Mouchi and Mr Rana would also often chat together in Hindi and laugh their heads off. Mouchi would tehn tell us the story, which would not be funny at all (to any of us), but Any and I would laugh just at the sheer absurdity of the jokes and their sense of humour, while Brigitte would be listening to her IPod and Grace would be sighting heavily!...anyway, I gotta get these two off my head and I want to remember the good times!

Well, on that note, that’s that for Kinnaur and Spiti valley….

Posted by Mistrale 05:22 Archived in India Comments (1)

Tattapani

very pretty!

overcast 26 °C

Written on June 13...

So we set off to the town of Tattapani, a local bus ride which is said to take 2 hours. I've now come to the conclusion to always add at least 1 hour for every 2 "planned" hours. Not surprisingly, the trip took 3.5hours.
Driving in India is sure to be one of the most dangerous activities on earth. It is bound to be scarier and more dangerous than BASE jumping (which I believe currently holds the title of "most dangerous") hehehe, I got a VIP seat (not really, but it felt like it), the seat at the very front, beside the driver, giving me a full panoramic view of the dangers lurking. It was scary in town where cars and motorbike and big trucks were cutting in and out on the narrow zigzaging streets of Shimla, and it was scary in a different, but very real, way during the entire trip, zigzaging on a narrow mountain road (aka, if I looked out, all I could see was the cliff, very steep and long!). We often had to pass or maneuver around incoming traffic (mostly other busses and big trucks, on a road that can barely accommodate 1 of these vehicles!!). Many times I felt like on the ride at Play Land, the one where you're in a small car and turn abruptly at every end and always feel like the car is going to fall off! Same here, but for real! Much scarier! hehehe The driver was clearly quite experienced though, taking time to change the cassette (of wonderful ...khe khe khe... Indian music) and/or spit out the window! hehehe From my seat at the front (where I was soon joined by an elderly lady) I could barely see the state of fullness of the bus (which was ever increasing) to the point where people where doing the trip hanging on the handrail of the doors (there are 2 doors on every bus, thank god! as one could not possibly walk down these alleys when they are full). Overall, a good time, but I was glad to get off that bus!!
The scenery was quite gorgeous, driving fairly high on the mountain, and seeing valleys, trees, a river, little clutter of houses, etc. Very nice indeed, kinda reminded me of the Interior of BC, but with higher mountains.
Tattapani, is a very small village and we stayed in a hotel that is mostly known for its hot spring. Man it's hot!!! Like burning hot!! and they diverted some of the spring to a bath where people submerge themselves in the water!!! I actually managed to do so, for about 5 sec, after almost 1 hour of meddling around the bath, starting with the feet, then the legs, etc! Still, way too hot for comfort, but apparently good for the skin, joints, etc! The hotel was ok, located right on a big river, which was great, but power kept cutting in and out (mostly out, for hours at a time) and the shower only worked once, after that we hgad to use buckets to wash. On the last day, there was even a shortage of cold water, so I got given water from the hot spring! I think I burned my back a little! Hehehe! Worst hot “shower” ever!!! hehehe
So anyway, not much to report about this town. Mouchi's a trekking guide, so we went on a little easy trek (for my feet, which are getting better and better, since yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I've been able to go down stairs the "normal way" - aka 1 foot on each step, without pain) as opposed to my previous “sideway, one foot at the time, with pain" method.)
We ended up at a river where locals where beating sticks of wood in the water to "tenderize" them I guess. They use them to weave baskets. Anyway, they did that uninterruptly for at least a couple of hours, then proceeded to gather the wood in bunches and walk them back up the side of the mountain to the main road (several trips of at least 1km up hill with a massive bunch on their head!!!) People work so hard here (physically speaking) compared to anything I've ever seen anywhere else!
We stayed in Tattapani for a couple of days and I made a friend in Mouchi. He’s a great guy, and he taught me some basic words in Hindi, which will prove useful if I make it to smaller towns where people don't speak English, or just to know what the heck I'm ordering in a restaurant (aloo means potato!!! haaaa! it was like a revelation!!! hehehe). In return, I taught him some French (guides are impressive with the number of languages they must have basic knowledge of!, I remember in Thailand, guides could speak better French and/or Hebrew and/or whatever other language than I ever expected - the same situation applies here...by better I mean 2-3 sentences and a few words, but still!). He's from Kashmir, and we also got to talk about the situation there, which was very interesting. He left the place at 12yrs old when the trouble started (mid 80's) and up to a couple of years ago, the place was completely shut off to any tourists, as there was a fair bit of terrorism. It's now been deemed safe by the local authorities, thus the massive tourist push, and he thinks that it's only a matter of time, less than 1 yr before the foreign embassies lift their travel advisories....we shall see I guess!!

We came back to Shimla yesterday, on the same bus with the same driver hehehe, to my great joy and sorrow at the same time (at least I know he can do it, but I also know how he does the trip - aka almost recklessly! hehehe). This time I didn't have such a good seat and fully felt the crush of people on the bus (combined with the fact that my knees only fit in the seat through some contortions) and are leaving tomorrow for the Kinaura and Sippiti valley in the Himalayas, which is apparently the next best thing to Kashmir. So far we will be joined by a Dutch girl and a couple, so that should be fun. On one side I'm happy, as it means that the next 10 days will be quite easy (no need to worry about hotel, making my way, etc), but on the other side, I'm a bit unhappy about opting for what I feel is a bit of an "easy out" of this trip, as it will be too easy... anyway, I'll have 2 more weeks left in India after this, so plenty of challenge to come (I hope!)
On a last note, Shimla is a pretty enough city, somewhat reminding me of Qc City, with the older buildings, lots of hills, and lots lots lots of tourists! hehehe A major difference however, is that there a monkeys roaming everywhere here! I LOVE MONKEYS! (with a bit of caution however, as they are wild animals and will not hesitate to bit anyone attempting a foolish move, such as trying to corner and/or pet them for example!) Still, it's so great to see them around!
The weather has been a bit cool here, probably around 25, but when you're used to 45, 25 is cold! hehehe
On that note, no news from the next 10 days, but probably too much to say upon my return!
Cheers!

Posted by Mistrale 06:03 Archived in India Comments (0)

Tour of New Delhi and trip to Shimla

soooo much to say!!!

sunny 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).

June 10-
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.
Cheers!

Posted by Mistrale 03:42 Archived in India Comments (0)

I love it! Really!

To my great surprise, after all the negative hype I had been getting for soo long!

sunny 40 °C

Written on June 7...

LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!! Ok, I've only been around a couple of blocks in my neighborhood, which is known as a shady part of town, but I'm totally in love! The people are soooo nice and friendly. I was somewhat expecting to have to be on my guards all the time (I still kinda am of course), but it's actually a lot easier than I was anticipating. I can't wait to see other parts of the country, as if this is shit (EVERYONE told me to get out of Delhi asap because it sucked ass - I honestly don't know what they were talking about), the rest must be out of this world great!! There are nowhere near as many beggars as I expected, and they are nowhere near as pro-active as in Cambodia, so it's great. People say hello and chat me up all the time. The only annoying ones are the travel agents! Man, these guys will talk you into buying a trip with them if you give them enough time! It actually almost worked, as the guy lured me in his office by asking me to read a letter he had got in french (clever little bastard!) and obviously that was the beginning of discussions about my itineary and stuff. His "brother" (I doubt the actual blood link but whatever) arrived, also working at the agency and talked me into a 3day homestay in a town up north that's apparently great bla bla bla. I was into the idea, but not at the same time, but it sounded good... and they had so many "testimonials" (travel agents often ask you to write a little something after a trip you enjoyed so they can show it to other travellers). We had agreed on price and everything, and and he was writing the receipt (I hadn't paid yet) when his phone rang, he answered it and started chatting for a while, so I opened my LP and remembered that this town (can't remember the name) was in the Kashmir area, for which there's a strong travel advisory against (I checked the Canadian web site just before coming to India). LP even said that travel agents would tell you it's all good and safe, and to check the situation before going. When he hung up, I told him I should check on the travel website before booking! He got furious!!! He said " you think I'd send you to a place that's not safe!!" and slammed his order book, the picture books and testimonial book and put everything away angrily. I said I didn't mean to offend him, but he just told me to leave and never refer anyone to him!!! I said fine and took off!! It really shook me though, as it was totally unexpected and so sudden and emotional! Pinaki (the guy I met on the plane) had told me that Indians were a bit too emotional for their own good, I guess he was right!!! Oh well, now at least I'm not going to a place where many tourists disappeared and/or got killed and where there there's a mini war with Pakistan!!!
It still took me a little while to get over such an emotional outburst! My first since I quit working! hehehe I guess I'm losing my edge! ;-)

Anyway, aside from that incident, I'm just walking around with a perma smile on my face, as I love it here and I think that Cat Stevens was wrong when he sang "you can't get by just upon a smile". It worked great in Asia and seems very efficient here as well! hehehe
Later in the day, as I was scrolling (actually partial limping is more accurate - the pain has shifted from the balls/all of my feet to my ankles, but at least the swelling is gone), when another guy approached me asking the same questions as everyone else (in the same precise order as everyone else): where are you from? ahh Montreal? ahh french?? aaah How long have you been in India?? ahhh Where are you going next?? ahhh and then he proceeded to try to talk me into going to his office (yay, another travel agent!!) for a trip to the same freaking region! Are they trying to ship us all up there or something! hehehe I believe them when they say that it's gorgeous and I'm missing an opportunity (after all, it's in the Himalayas), but my mind is set now and there's no way I'm going there. There are other "safer" (nowhere in India, or in the world as a matter of fact, is really safe, but still) towns to go to in one wants to experience the Himalayas (and I certainly want to!). So anyway, despite many no's and walking away, he tried and tried over and over again, before finally giving up. Travel agents: Tenacious little bastards!! hehehe
About a minute after this guy left me alone, another one approached me, to ask if I was a model and wanted to see if I was interested in become one! I burst out laughing at the sheer absurdity of the proposal and said there was no way, not going to happen! hehehe, Do I look that guillible!! hehehe Anyway, good times! It's a bit draining, but so fun at the same time! However, I must mention that other people have chatted me up with no other apparent motive than just wanting to be nice, so you never know!
I now have the tel number/business cards of Pinaki (guy from the plane), a doctor who studied in the US who I can call if I get stomach problems (hehehe) and a guy's father who drives a car for a tour or whatever! hehehe Other than Pinaki, I have no intention of contacting any of them, but it's funny! hehehe! I'll need a rolodex before the end of the trip! hehehe

On a unrelated note, I fulfilled my duty to eat at McDonalds (this is where I met the doctor) and had a kind of open top square pie (crust made of bread) with a filling of chicken curry something something! I decided a long time ago that I would not eat meat in India (sanitation is way too off for that), but I figured that McDo meat is not real meat, so I made an exception there. It actually turned out to be real chicked breast meat, to my great surprise, but it's McDo, so it's almost antisceptic anyways, so I think I'm good. hehehe It was actually quite good, and barely had the McDo taste. On a surprising note, the fries did NOT taste like everywhere else (I'm thinking of writing a complaint to HO! hehehe), they had a bit of another taste...I can't quite put my finger on it...weird and not as good.
On that note: I bought a few gorgeous mangoes (to peel myself) and had one, but it didn't taste like the mango I know and love. It almost had a spicy taste! very weird! I took the two remaining ones and gave them to begging kids and they would certainly enjoy it a lot more than me!

On another unrelated note: I haven't met many fellow travellers yet, with the exception of 2 guys (on separate days, guys not related), a South African and a Nigerian, staying in the same hotel as me, who both wanted to take me out/come to my room with me. The first one, on the first night, actually called me in my room (the room has a tel!!! I hadn't had that since I left Canada! You should have seen me jump when it rang! hehehe). I was like: hein?? hmmm no! Another bunch of tenacious guys!!! They are both here on business, spare parts for automobiles (smells fishy to me!). The second guy at least asked me if he could call me, so I was able to say no in person! Anyway, I don't know if it's only me being racist (I wouldn't want to, but I might be a little...you tell me), but when I see them all I can think of is the rate of Aids in the Southern African countries... major turn off... so I've kindly told them that I was tired tonight, maybe tomorrow (we all know that means no!!! - but not them I think...) Anyway, is that racist or is it a bit justified??

On a final unrelated note: It's so amusing to see cows just hanging about around on the street and stuff. I was wondering what they ate (I haven't seen a patch of grass yet!), until a guy caused a major traffick jam by stopping to give a cow some bread! hehehe Everyone around here honks for everything (like in Cambodia, Thailand is so quiet in comparison!!). The traffick jam immediately became a horn symphony (or cacauphony) hehehe!
That and I almost (oh so close!) stepped in a major cow dump (I had my head up looking at everything but where I was going and saw it at the very very last fraction of a second! hehehe, note to self: keep your eyes on the road!!! hehehe

Ok, real final note: The power keeps cutting in and out here, it's so funny! There's a generator to keep the "important stuff" (aka TVs, computers and some emergency lights), but the rest shuts off for 4-5 secs, then starts again, then stops and so on most of the time! hehehe

Ok, not kidding, actual last note: I was told by, pretty much everyone, to bargain any price by cutting it in half and take it from there. Well, the merchants on the bazaar street are not willing to negotiate much at all! I'm so surprised! I walked away from a couple of places who were not willing to go below, i.e 125 when they started at 150... I expected easier dealings here, but they are actually quite dead set on not going below a certain (seemingly high in my opinion) price...weird!
Well, that's that for that! I booked a tour of "the important sites of Delhi" tomorrow and have my train ticket to Shimla for the following day.
I swear this is the final note: Before coming here, I hadn't realized that it's high domestic tourist season in India, as the kids are off school and the parents take them places and travel and stuff. With a population of 1 Billion people, it shows! As a result, I'll have to start planning my trip a little better and far in advance (it'll certainly be good practice for Europe) as, for example, the train was full for tomorrow. Unfortunately, this also means that hotels are charging the big bucks... I hate high season, low season is really the only way to travel!
Cheers!
P.S. I love this heat, it's sooo...hot! hehehe

Posted by Mistrale 07:29 Archived in India Comments (0)

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