beaneater's India Trip
Pondering on Presentation
I can't decide whether to node all this separately or just in the
one node. An unedited version of this is on my web page, at
http://beaneater.org.uk, which is why this (edited) version is
in one chunk But it's a bit long, so I think I might split the
longer day write-ups into separate nodes at some point, and link
to them from here. But some are too short to do that to, so
they'll stay here. And should I add to the daylog pages, or be
evil and namespace? /msg me if you think I should split
some of this off...
Oh, and retro in some entries means I wrote that entry a couple of days afterwards; my comments now are mostly in italics. Enjoy!
Day One - 30/31 August
What a day.
Got up at 8ish, to finish packing all my stuff, for India and the rest of the things for my new Edinburgh flat. My dad arrived around 10ish; we packed the car and drove to Edinburgh. Finished sorting out the flat, and by around 2, it was time for us to drive to the airport.
At Edinburgh airport, I tasted my last taste of "normal" food (and drink), before saying goodbye to my father, and later embarking on a flight to London. After a period of terminal confusion caused by different directions as to which terminal I should fly from, I finally checked in, and met up with Phil. The trip to Delhi was non-eventful, although interestingly the book I had chosen involved a plane crash. Oh joy.
In Delhi; wonderful. A very busy, bustling city, the most prominent feature of which appears to be the extremely high number of touts and scams. After a few minutes, we'd already lost count of the number of people who were "practising their English", seemingly involving directing us to shops which would give them a commission. And a "free map" which turned into a travel agent trying to sell us a tour of India.
Day Two - 01 September
Which we bought today. Two days of getting into the way of avoiding being scammed into something we don't really want, and then we slip. Having spent a day with the driver, who was very good, and didn't lead us into even one shop, I suppose we trusted them a little. We went into their air-conditioned office thinking "don't buy it", but sat down and were somehow convinced by them that it wasn't a ridiculous price to pay to see Rajestan. And it wasn't, for a driver and a car, but that's a relatively expensive way to go.
Anyway, as for today, we were driven to all old Delhi's main tourist sites - various temples, tombs, and suchlike, which was quite enjoyable, although very hot and sunny, and we quickly acquired temple fatigue. We managed to avoid most scams and touts, although we did end up in an argument with a non English speaking rickshaw cyclist who tried to take us for a ride in both senses of the phrase.
And to sum up the driving in Delhi, two words appear on the back of many vehicles: "please horn". And they do.
Day three - 02 September
And so to Jaipur. We met up with our driver at 8, then started out of Delhi. A long car ride later, we arrive in Jaipur. However, we do have to very forcefully refuse the driver's commissioned lunch and hotel, instead finally managing to get dropped off in the centre of the city, and walking to a hotel we read about.
As for Jaipur... a nice little town, with lots of shops (I ended up buying one silver bracelet) and a few nice things to look at - we were wandering about on foot. Most interesting though, was the festival that was being held there on that day. A huge procession, with uncountable numbers of floats (the backs of India's identical trucks, done up with Hindu scenes). Very enjoyable.
An interesting walk home, however. Lacking the proper sense of where we should go to go back to the hotel, we walked for some
time before finding a rickshaw to take us back to the hotel. And just as we thought he wasn't, because it was taking too long... we arrived. Perfect.
Day four - 03 September (retro)
Next came Pushkar. An odd one this. Pushkar is a holy place, so there are lots of temples, vegetarianism is prescribed and alcohol proscribed. So called priests proffer flowers which apparently lead to ceremonies where the foreigner is asked to donate largish amounts of money "to Shiva". I'm sure.
We wandered around a little. Lots of stalls, quite a lot of westerners - we chatted a bit. We also tried a lassi in a cafe - different at least.
Around mid-afternoon we went back to the hotel, and stopped doing anything.
Day five - 04 September (retro)
Woke up not feeling particularly well - we were both a little weak, Phil more than me. The drive to Bikaner was quite long, on what was almost a single track road, requiring off-road driving for overtaking or passing a car going the other way. Exhausting.
On the way into Bikaner, we saw a temple where holy rats are worshipped. Apparently the souls of those who would be killed by the god of death (I forget the name of the incarnation) have their souls reincarnated in the mice/rats here. A "one of a kind" temple, indeed.
Day six - eight - 05 - 07 September
And then came sun, sand... and sand - we went on a camel safari.
First Bikaner - and not much of it at that. We went into the centre to have a look around, but due to a not insignificant degree of heat and the fact we (Phil more than me) were feeling a bit week, we had a quick look around the obligatory palace then headed back to the hotel for some rest.
As for the safari? Well I'm now sitting in bed after getting back, and I've spent ages removing sand and dirt from myself and some of my things... It's everywhere! The desert was pretty much as you'd expect, great expanses of sand, interspersed with bushes and some slightly sparse farms, plus a few villages.
Two nights we spent under the stars, sleeping on blankets on the sand, which was peaceful if not comfortable. I'm going to enjoy tonight's bed, methinks. Resting my weary self - along with my rather painful bum from riding on a camel and a cart for two days. Still, it was very enjoyable, with lovely scenery, friendly village people, and lovely food cooked for us in fires sunken into the sand. Even if I was left with a sandy mouth for a while after each of them.
Day nine - 8 September
After a better night's sleep than I'd had in a while - and I certainly wouldn't have minded it being a little longer - 'twas
time to leave for Jodhpur. The journey took us until around 3,
at which point we made it for the Blue Citys magnificent fort for a look around. This was very picturesque, with a wonderful view of the city below.
We managed to get our driver to drop us into the centre of the town rather than at his chosen hotel (the one that would give him commission of course - in India it seems everybody is in on the commission game). There was one particular hotel which I'd spotted as being quite a good bet, but we spent some time failing to find it. Asking a random (Western) stranger in the street provided the name of the guest house whose room I'm writing this from - a nice family run place (think b+b).
At this point, I realised that for all the holiday so far, I'd
been keeping the wrong date (as had Phil who I travelled
with). How can you go for over a week in a country, travelling
around, with all the arrangements that entails, and yet have
the wrong date? Anyway, this meant that day nine == 9 September
Day ten (retro)
Today was our second day in Johdpur. We were after a nice quiet relaxing day. We almost made it.
I wandered around in the morning to meet our driver while the shops were still closed (they were just about to open). 'twas interesting watching everybody going about their morning business. Later we managed to buy books in a lovely little bookshop, which had a surprising range of some things, like computer programming books.
We had some hassle with money changing - we couldn't - but otherwise managed to relax quite nicely.
Day eleven (retro)
We went to Udaipur today, after managing to change money in the
morning. First however, we visited Ranakhpur - and I for one was glad we did. As we got near the place, we had to go up through the hills, and the scenery changed from the scrubby desert we had gotten used to to a more lush, green vista, with trees and hills and stuff.
A wonderful Jain temple is the main attraction of Ranakhpur, and I felt it was quite special. We'd been in a fair number of temples, but this was definitely the most peaceful and spiritual feeling - and I'm not a spiritual person. Apparently the place has 1444 pillars; it's certainly full of them.
Udaipur seemed a nice place, and we got a nice cheap hotel room (around £3 per night for the two of us!).
Day twelve (retro)
Spent the morning complaining to the representative of the company we hired our driver from about his arguments about hotels and the fact he had to loan money from us, in the hope of some compensation, at least the days we had left. No such luck.
A nice wander through the winding streets of Udaipur was interrupted by yet another festival. The third we'd wandered into, by my count. Ended up going along with the procession dancing and covered head to foot in coloured powder for our troubles. A real pain to wash out!
After such an exertion, we just had a couple of drinks and chilled out in our hotel. And found out that in the time change, we'd lost a day, our watches being one day out. Took us a fair while to figure it out..
Today we left Udaipur by bus to go to Rajkot, via Ahmedabad. The train station was so huge and ultra-beurocratic that we had to go and get a bus for the second half of our journey. And the 4:30 bus originally quoted left around 7:15! I suspect it was a different bus though, the former being cancelled.
Left Rajkot for Junagadh.
sixteen - eighteen
Now we're in Diu. It's a very nice little island and town, which is rather popular with travellers. Apart from here, we didn't see a single western face in the whole of Gujerat - now we're slightly surrounded. Meeting up with people everywhere.
Diu being ex-portugese, the laws are more relaxed than in Gujerat proper, meaning alcohol is freely available. So I've spent a couple of nights getting drunk for a change, once merely on the hotel roof, but last night at a party by an old church building. Twenty or so people turned up for barbecue and beers into the morning.
Quiet night last night. Today we plan to do...nothing. Sit by the beach for a while, then eat, sit a while, then bus it back up to Junagadh...from where we will get train DOWN to Goa. Once in the station in Goa, we'll get buses back UP to the town we want to go to. All in all, we're all over the place.
By this point in the trip, my diary was getting rather run
Anyway, we're in Goa now. Some ride... We got a bus up to Junagadh, stayed a night, train to Rajkot then a sleeper train to Bombay, where we intended getting a sleeper to Goa. No such luck as the train was diverted. Instead we waited 2 hours to reclaim our 500 rupees as we were running low on cash, and then got a bus down to Mapusa in Goa, incidentally arriving the better part of the day and 1-2 bush journeys shorter than we expected.
Goa seems quite nice and relaxed, although the beer's more expensive than Diu - around Rs 40-50 (60-75 pence UK) per pint bottle. Still, great.
And then the diary died
At that point, I ceased writing a diary. While I'm HTMLifying (and
diary, I shall reminisce about Goa. There was much sun, sand, rocks, and beer involved, lots of nice food and views... Generally a very enjoyable and very relaxing time.