A Travellerspoint blog

Bangkok Flooded!

The Last Entry Before Home

overcast 34 °C
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I've been spending my final few days in Bangkok doing a lot of wandering around and shopping, buying some things I didn't want to haul around earlier in my trip, and basically spending too much money. I even ate at Subway today, the first time I broke down and ate fast food. As I was walking down Khao San Road earlier today, I noticed the skies were getting progressively darker, and some street vendors had begun to cover their goods with plastic. It was obviously going to rain, but I've never in my life seen rain like this.

It started innocently enough, just sprinkling, but within a couple minutes it started really coming down. This has happened before and it's fun to watch, everyone scurries to find cover and watches the rain pound down, and then it suddenly stops ten minutes later. But this time it just kept getting progressively more violent, and some vendors were struggling to keep their tarps in place. So we're all waiting and waiting. Ten minutes, twenty minutes, there's no end in sight. By this point, I've realized that Khao San Road itself must be lower than the surrounding streets, because water is starting to pool up faster than the storm drains can swallow it. The water keeps creeping up, getting closer to the top of the curb until it disappears and the entire street is just a pool of water. It was six inches deep in the middle of the street, probably a foot and a half at the edges. Some vendors had a fair bit of their merchandise ruined, and there was a bookstore that had a whole row of books on the bottom shelf get soaked. But in true Thai fashion, no one was angry, and I'm sure it wasn't the first time it's happened. It also thankfully cooled everything down. Usually a day spent walking around Bangkok means a shower and a change of clothes by the end of the day. It was definitely a sight though, and just when I thought all the excitement of my trip had passed me by. Some pics:

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Khao San Road incapacitated.

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There goes the curb ..

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The stranded street vendor!

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Unrelated, but I wanted to post it. On the flight from Colombo to Bangkok.

Other than my first flood experience, not too much has happened. I met up with an American guy last night that I had travelled with for about ten days in Vietnam. He was on his way back from California to South Africa, his adopted home, and we randomly managed to meet up again. That'll surely be the last familiar face I'll see before I go home, now only two days away.

I remember eating breakfast on my first morning in Bangkok four and half months ago, and I couldn't even fathom what it would be like to be going home. I've wandered through five countries, seen things I'll never forget and met amazing people that have succeeded in making the time I've spent here the best of my entire life. A handful of them I wish I could take back home with me, and I find myself cursing the fact that some of them I will probably never see again in my life. Thankfully we have the internet. As for myself, I'm sure I've changed, but I'll save that judgement for everyone back home.

So that's it. This is the last entry. Hopefully I'll get around to seeing everyone within a couple weeks, as I'll be in Abbotsford probably until March when I move back to Van and find a job. Thank you to everyone who found the time to read this, leave comments, send me emails and good wishes; it helped ward off homesickness like you wouldn't believe.

So thanks again and I'll see you all soon!

Posted by sam.m. 18:37 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Last Stop, Jaisalmer

Two Indian Days Left

overcast 7 °C
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I know I only wrote a few days ago, but I've got some time to kill before I take the mammoth 19 hour train ride back to Delhi.

I'm in Jaisalmer, about 150km from the Pakistani border. It's a desert area, so it's quite cold. This morning has got to be the coldest day so far. To be honest, I came unprepared with only a sweater and a hoodie, but it's been alright. I had to buy a blanket for the sleeper trains because they don't provide you with one, and there's no heat. There's no heat anywhere actually, and hot water is sometimes only available for a few hours each day. Despite it being a desert, it rained all day yesterday and this morning, the first rain I've experienced in India. Actually, I could probably count the number of rainy days during the entire trip on one hand. Most people come to Jaisalmer to do a camel safari in the desert. It sounds great, sleeping under the stars, bonding with your camel, authentic food. I decided against it, mainly because I don't have the warm clothes and I'm too cheap to buy more. I had also spent the last two days on buses and trains, and hadn't showered due to constantly moving and not having a room, so I was keen on staying put for a couple nights.

Jaisalmer is pretty nice though. It has an old fort perched on a small mountain overlooking the city, and a lot of people still live there. Walking through it is like stepping back in time a bit, if you choose not to look at the internet cafes and 'Italian' restaurants. Before I came here I spent a day in Jodhpur, which also had an amazing fort, supposedly one of the best in India. It came with one of those audio tours, so you could listen to each stop as you went along. It was actually really informative and well put together. Jodhpur is known as the Blue City, as all the buildings are dyed with indigo. Supposedly the blue repels the insects, but I think that's up for debate.

There's a few things about India that I just will not miss. One is the constant hoiking the locals do. I've heard so much phlegm transferred from throat to concrete, it's gross. And things like standing in a line, talking quietly when people are sleeping, and NOT expelling any number of bodily functions in the street are generally lost on them. I think there's just so many people here that privacy no longer means anything. And the constant staring, oh man, when you're eating, reading, on the internet, they just don't care. Even when you look back at them, they just keep staring. I'm not trying to complain, India has actually grown on me and I'd love to come back, but it's a different world.

A few pics:

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I came across this guy on the side of the road in Jodhpur. He was boiling milk, most he sold to the freezing public, but they also reduce it down to condensed milk and use it in their sweets. When they serve the milk, they mix in a bit of sugar for good measure, it's really good. Indians make fantastic sweets too, and they're super cheap so I've been loading up.

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Another stray pup. This poor guy had ticks burrowed in his ears.

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A view of Jodhpur, the Blue City, from the fort. This is just a fraction of the city. Notice the wonderful pollution.

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A great sign at a clothing stand. There was another one on a rug that said: 'Magic Rug: No need for Viagra!'

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Bring the kids! It took me awhile to realize they meant to say 'chilled' beer.

My flight leaves for Colombo on Monday night, and then I catch a flight back to Bangkok on Tuesday afternoon. Then I'm in the home stretch. It won't be too bad, two people I had travelled with in Vietnam are going to be passing through Bangkok when I'm there, so I'll have some company to spend my final days with. Then it's back to snowy Vancouver on Saturday.

Posted by sam.m. 11:36 Archived in India Comments (2)

Romance in Udaipur

semi-overcast 17 °C
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First, a map of where I am:

I can now safely say that I am back to relative normal health. I spent five days in Pushkar, probably a bit too long, but I had a nice room with a balcony and a view of the city, so it was easy to stay there and recover. Pushkar is quite relaxed, which has been tough to find so far.

I arrived in Udaipur last night, and after walking around for a few hours today, I can easily say it's my favourite Indian city so far. Lonely Planet calls it 'the most romantic city in Rajasthan', and I wouldn't disagree. It has very narrow, maze-like streets, so it's easy to get lost, but there are shops everywhere to keep you busy. There's a big lake and rooftop restaurants aplenty, with great views of everything. It seems to be a lot cleaner here than other places I've been, maybe I'm just getting used to it and I don't notice it as much, but it just seems spiffed up a bit. I kind of wish I had spent less time in Pushkar and more time here, but it's no big deal. It's too bad though, just when I'm starting to get into India and enjoy it, I realize I have to leave in six days.

Here are a few pics. Again, I haven't taken nearly as many as I would have liked because I feel self-conscious with my big camera, but I've got a few:

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This was the Republic Day celebrations in Pushkar. India officially became a republic on January 26, 1950, and it's one of the few national holidays, so they go all out. The celebrations went all weekend, late into the night. This was the view from my room.

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A cow relieving an itch on a footbridge in Udaipur. Cows, like stray dogs, are everwhere.

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An elephant roaming the streets.

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The view from the rooftop restaurant at my hotel in Udaipur.

Well, only 11 days total left now. The end is very, very near. I'll try and squeeze in another blog from India, and possibly one more before I leave Bangkok. See you all soon!

Posted by sam.m. 15:26 Archived in India Comments (3)

The Taj Mahal

and 'delhi belly' rears its ugly head ..

overcast 11 °C
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After spending four days in Delhi trying to recover from the head cold I came down with on the first night, I took a train to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. I guess I ate something bad before I left Delhi or as soon as I got to Agra, because I spent the vast majority of my two days in Agra lying in bed, trying unsuccessfully to keep down anything I had eaten. I've been like that for the past three days, hardly getting a meal in save for a few bananas, and I've lost all the weight I managed to gain while in Asia.

I'm in Jaipur now, and have been for two nights. Whatever was in my system is slowly passing, so I'm hoping to be well enough to travel to Pushkar tomorrow. It's only three hours away, but with no toilet on the bus I'm afraid to take the risk!

That being said, the few hours that I did manage to get out of my room in Agra were spent at the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. It was absolutely amazing and completely worth the hype. It's so big! I was almost shocked at the sheer size of it. It's a beautiful structure. It's made out of semi-transparent marble, so it's colour changes based on the time of day, getting more golden as the sunset approaches. It was constructed in the 1600's by a man named Shah Jahan as a tribute to his wife, who had recently died giving birth to their 14th child. Some pics:

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The entrance to the Taj.

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You get some sense of how large it is here. You can walk around on the main platform, and they give you little booties to slip over your shoes.

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This is the Pink City in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. I walked around for a couple hours yesterday, and a guy started talking to me and took me up to the rooftop of his shop. Really nice guy, and nice views. I've met a lot of genuine people since I've been to Jaipur, so I'm optimistic about the next couple weeks.

My goal is to head to Pushkar tomorrow, a little town with a lake and hundreds of temples. I was originally planning on going to about five more cities, but I've decided to cut that down to about three now as I haven't been feeling well. The truth is I'm ready to go home, but I know as soon as I get back to Van I'll wish I was back here. Well, maybe not India, but definitely Asia. I already miss Asia a lot, I've got many fond memories.

Anyways, there's only 18 days left, it won't be long now.

Posted by sam.m. 12:44 Archived in India Comments (2)

Arrival in Delhi

and I thought Bangkok was crazy

semi-overcast 15 °C
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I flew into Colombo, Sri Lanka three days ago, and stayed overnight at a hotel paid for by the airline. It was a nice place too, right on the beach, and I had a long, hot shower, and a great sleep. Unfortunately, all this did was serve to make my transition to Delhi all the more shocking.

I arrived a couple days ago at about 8pm, and when I stepped out of the airport to arrange a taxi, I felt like I had walked into a gangster movie. It was foggy, and all the taxi drivers were wearing dark clothes with black toques, standing next to their black, 60's style taxis. I paid for one (250 rupees, about $7) and I was on my way to Paharganj, the tourist ghetto. Thankfully almost everyone in India speaks English, so it's quite easy to communicate. Apparently there are sixteen languages used throughout the country, so even their parliament is conducted in English. I had a short conversation with Manjit, my taxi driver, and soon he had dropped me off on Main Bazaar, the main street in Paharganj.

I used the word 'ghetto' to describe Paharganj, and there's really no other way to describe it. It's intense. There's cows roaming the streets, dogs, garbage everywhere, and the streets are absolutely crammed with shops and makeshift restaurants. It makes Khao San Road in Bangkok look and feel like paradise. It's not a clean city by any stretch, but I wasn't expecting it to be.

I also managed to come down with a cold on my first night, so I spent most of my first day in Delhi curled up in bed, trying to stay warm. It dips down to about 7 or 8 degrees at night, and of course nothing is heated, so it wasn't fun. But it's the first time I've gotten sick on the whole trip, and I'm feeling better today, so it's not all bad.

But I am culture shocked. Not nearly as much as when I first arrived in Bangkok (almost four months ago now!), but it's very different here. Most of it has to do with loneliness, and not having anyone to go through the first few days with, but it's already passing. Although, yesterday was the first day that I really wanted to go back home. One of the toughest things to deal with here is trusting local people. I know that sounds terrible, but everyone I talked to before I came here told me the same thing: "In Delhi, be weary and don't trust anyone." I can see how's it easier to be duped here than in Asia. The locals speak great English and they know what to say to draw you in. I've already run into problems trying to buy my train ticket with people sending me across the street, when I KNOW that's not where I'm supposed to go. But they're very convincing and very forward, so it's difficult. I have been told that it gets much better once you leave Delhi, so I'm hopeful.

Oh! I saw an Indian guy wearing a Montreal Canadiens jacket, and another guy wearing an old Mighty Ducks shirt. I wonder if they know, or maybe there's a secret underworld of NHL fans I don't know about ..

I haven't had a chance to take a ton of pics, but here are a few:

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Main Bazaar in Paharganj. This doesn't even come close to doing it justice. It's the sounds and the smells combined with everything else that make it overwhelming.

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This is the Red Fort in Old Delhi. If I remember correctly, it was built in the 1600's and was supposed to be the new capital, but the King who had it constructed was imprisoned.

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Another part of the Red Fort.

I will definitely try and take some better pictures. I feel bad even taking my camera out. I feel like everyone is staring at me, "Look at the rich foreigner with the big camera." I felt like that in Asia, but not nearly as much as here. Everything is magnified, it's very intense. Another thing that is very different is the tourists themselves. For one, there are far less, and whenever I do see them, they're dressed like Indians, like they've been here for months, or years. I know a lot of people do come here for long stretches, but I've only seen a few tourists who look like they're a bit lost like me. Virtually all are in groups or couples, and are generally not very approachable, so it's tough to get into a conversation with anyone.

As of today, I've only got 23 days total left in my trip. I can't believe that it's almost all over. If I hadn't extended my trip, I would be home in three days. I'm almost ready to come home though, I didn't realize how exhausted I was until I arrived here.

Up next is Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. I'll be leaving via train the day after tomorrow. Hope all is well back home.

Posted by sam.m. 18:19 Archived in India Comments (2)

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