A Travellerspoint blog

January 2008

Romance in Udaipur

semi-overcast 17 °C
View Southeast Asia on sam.m.'s travel map.

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:


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.


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


An elephant roaming the streets.


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:


The entrance to the Taj.



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.


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:


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.


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.


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)

Back In Thailand

Only six days to Delhi

sunny 34 °C
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I guess it's been a few days since I last wrote. My apologies. But Happy New Year!

After flying back to Bangkok from Hanoi on Boxing Day, I made my way to Koh Chang, an island off the coast of Thailand, near Cambodia. I had plans to meet up with the Aussie and the Kiwi I had met over Christmas in Hanoi. We didn't book ahead based on the travel agent's recommendation that there would be 'plenty' of accomodation on the island for New Year's. This was dumb. We got there on December 30th, and found that the entire island was completely booked out, and the only room available was at this woman's house for 1000 baht (about $30). Since there was three of us, it wasn't that expensive, but when we got there, it was just a space in her living room with a couple mattresses on the floor. No door. We moved into one of her crappy bungalows for the same price on New Year's Eve, and then bolted the next day.

New Year's was a good time, though. We went to a backpacker's place called the Treehouse on Lonely Beach, and it was overflowing with people, but very, very relaxed. There was even a fireworks show. My sandals got stolen though. Either that or I was too drunk to find them at the end of the night. But it wasn't a big deal, I think I paid 55 baht for them, which works out to less than $2.

After New Year's, we decided to find some much needed quality accomodation and found an awesome place on the opposite side of the island. It was like a hotel, but it was built over the water connected by a long pier. We spent six days there, rented motos virtually every day and explored the whole island, finding beaches no one went to, navigating dirt paths that these scooters were absolutely not designed for, and generally just lying in the sun. We also took a boat on one of the last days to a smaller outlying island that had a very picturesque little beach. I admit that I shaved my beard off before I got to the island because I didn't want to be disgraced with a beard tan, but it's coming back in nicely, and by the time I get back to Van (which isn't too far away now), it'll be full again.

I'm back in Bangkok again, this time for almost a full week before I leave for India next Sunday, the 13th. I'm pretty excited to see a culture completely different from Southeast Asia, and I've heard many people simply cannot handle the culture shock India provides. I'm reading a fantastic book right now called Shantaram, a true story written by an Australian that broke out of maximum security prison in the 80's, escaped to India, lived in a slum, fought in an Afghani war, acted in Bollywood, and ultimately got caught and spent more time in an Aussie jail. It's probably the best book I've ever read and it has great insights into Indian life. Apparently it's being made into a film starring Johnny Depp. As for my trip, I actually fly into Colombo, Sri Lanka and spend a night there first, before flying to Delhi the next afternoon. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to look around the city, but they're not giving me a visa, so I'll probably be confined to my hotel room. I'm planning on doing a full tour of the state of Rajasthan, in the northwest of the country. Apparently there's a ton of culture there, and the Taj Mahal is just east of Rajasthan in Agra. I've only got three weeks, and I'll be back in Bangkok again on February 5th, before flying back to Vancouver on the 9th.

I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed; it's already been three and a half months, and the next four weeks will surely pass quickly. I'm glad I went away for so long though. If it had only been two months, or even three, I don't think I would have been as satisfied as I already I am. The time allowed me to get pretty homesick at one point, and then plenty of time to work through it to the point where the last three weeks have been some of the best of the trip, simply because I appreciate being away.

Some pics, I haven't taken a ton lately, so there's not much to choose from:


This was the little peninsula beach on the smaller island next to Koh Chang. There wasn't a soul around but us.


Another empty beach we took motos to. The dirt path to the beach was downright dangerous at one point, which made it so much more rewarding to get to.



I've been reading that there's some bad storms hitting the West Coast? Do you guys have snow or what? See you all soon ..

Posted by sam.m. 16:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

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