A Travellerspoint blog

Mumbai - our last stop on the way

Palm trees, sky scrapers and slums

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So... that was the last stop on the way. Flew in from Delhi (1200km away) and got picked up by Anuj's mother's driver (HOW HANDY!)

After lunch went to Ekta & Anuj's apartment. On the 19h floor of a brand new building with a view on the lake. Palm trees around, all looking like Miami ;)

Bombay is very different form other cities. Is very obvious that more affluent people live here than in Delhi for instance, hence the beautiful residences and sky scrapers. It's also the most cosmopolitan of the Indian cities. But at the same time, next all these nice buildings there are large parts of slums &shanty towns - with people living basically in the streets, in constructions which wouldn't b called a house in Europe.

Ekta and Anuj were taking great care of us - we went to a club for dinner (Hursh and Akshe joined in) and it was great fun. Later on we were going around by car with 7 ppl in it (yes, everything is possible in India), in the middle of the night went to c some temples and had amazing chicken biryani by the beach. YUM

Next day we went sightseeing with Ekta - that was an over 1.5h drive from where they live in Bombay to the famous Gate of India.

There are plenty of gorgeous Victorian buildings in the city, giving it a very British character

After a very nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant with Anuj, Ekta + Anuj's mom we flew back home
BOOHOO

that's the end of the trip im afraid...

- Bombay
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Posted by Camerowska 05:12 Archived in India Comments (0)

Delhi - having a private driver rocks!

back in the capital

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So we flew back 2 Delhi from Jodhpur. It was a very quick flight - not even an hour

Stayed at a really nice hotel Yatri House. Really nice and taken care of. Not to be confused with a Yatri palace - located in the middle of the Paharganj - the HORRIBLE main bazaar - same location as we ended up the 1st night in India with Dorotka. That Yatri Palace was a copy of our one, which was listed in the Lonely Planet. We know this, as were taken there first - by an official (government) cab driver who had no clue where he was supposed to go. It got quite scary have to say when, we were in that cab in the middle of the extremely busy market, where everybody (cab driver, ppl who directed him there etc) were shouting for us to get out of the cab and go 2 that hotel. But I knew our one was supposed to b west of the Paharganj (thank God I had been there before so I recognized it!) - and we insisted on going to look further for Yatri HOUSE - which the cab driver agreed to do after he went & checked himself it was Yatri PALACE where he brought us to.

Eventually it took us over 1.5h (150% of the flight duration!) to get to the hotel - half of the time going in circles, while the driver kept on asking ppl where to go... nicccceee (that's a

Lesson learned:
where available, to go to the hotel from the airport/station, ALWAYS take hotel pickups instead of a regular taxi in India

We had actually booked one, 3 times more expensive than the taxi - but since we flew in an hour earlier than planned, we naively thought it would b faster by taxi...).

ANYWAY! We finally got there and were VERY happy to see a very clean and nice place!

and next day (THANKS to ABHI - he keeps saving me!, we are extremely grateful!) we had a driver arranged. He came pick us up by an air-conditioned car (thank god for AC!) at 10am. Btw, if anyone is interested, that total LUXURY of a private driver and a nice car, at our disposal for the whole day was only 1000 rs inclusive a nice tip 4 the driver - which is about 17eur... for the 3 of us together ;). I love India [THANK YOU ABHI!]

We drove around the city for the whole day - 9h to be specific. We did all the sights (the Fort, Humayun's tomb, Ghandi's memorial/grave - Raj Ghat, the lotus temple etc). At the end of the day we went 2 the Dilli Haat again (I had been there with Dorotka and Abhi before) - where I went totally NUTS and bought over a kilogram (!YES, 1kg) of jewellery... all nice & handmade - from camel bone, from coconut shells, from wood etc. Such nice things u rarely find back home - and if so, they're expensive - and India is a paradise for shopping :). Poor Menno and Chris... they totally lost hope while i was plundering more and more of the jewellery stalls - they were sitting on the ground, looking like 2 beaten puppies and nicely asking me to hurry up shopping ;) [SORRY BOYS I REALLY TRIED to do that ASAP]

Then we went 4 a great dinner with Abhi - at Connaught place. it was really nice, great food and drinks (haha, first time alcohol 4 Marta since a VEEEERY long time - in Rajasthan they only had beer which i don't like - and even that they were not allowed to openly sell - only ''undercover'' - writing on our bills ''big Cola'' instead of beer ;))

Anyway... it was a VERY NICE day!

Stayed for 2 nights at the Yatri house - and off 2 Mumbai from here

- Delhi
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Posted by Camerowska 05:07 Archived in India Comments (0)

Jodhpur - the blue city

blue blue blue

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so... Jodhpur was busy.. like Jaipur


2 b totally honest I didn't quite like it (sorry Anamika!) - it looked gorgeous from the fort on the hill. Truly blue (in the past only the Brahmin-caste members were painting their house blue, but over the years it became a common practice and now almost everybody has a blue house from the outside)

When we were IN the city itself: it was very crowded and busy. Rickshaws everywhere. And as a result of many people living there and all the busyness: it was also quite dirty - even as for an Indian city

The best part was a market by the clock tower and a nearby shop with tea/spices where we got a full explanation on tea, on how 2 distinguish fake from real saffron, on spices, etc. We were also treated to (officially!) the BEST tea EVER - which in fact is a tea with no tea - only cardamon, cinamon and saffron - high quality, dried, and boiled in water for 5 min together. Amazing. We all bought some of course ;)

The fort was very nice. The biggest of the forts we had seen. In private hands of the maharaja (who seems 2 own half of the town anyway ;)) and very well managed - in a very European way in fact (with the museum shop etc).
It was really in a good state - all the rooms with furniture and nice fabrics. Nice!

Oh yes, and the hotel was great 2 - with a direct view on the fort and a rooftop restaurants (and these banana/chocolate pancakes 4 breakfast we will remember 4 a long time!)

- Jodhpur
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Posted by Camerowska 14:47 Archived in India Comments (0)

CAMEL SAFARI in the Thar desert

among the camels

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It was GREAT! Although our butts are hurting like crazy after so many hours of sitting on these funny creatures - which are miving back and forth all the time (its VERY different from riding a horse)

It was great. We could lead our own camels (apart from Chris - who got an EVIL CAMEL - he was told he COULD lead it himself, but he happens to have that ugly custom of running into the bushes every now and than… no thank you!)

We met some really nice people - haha, especially the funny Italian-photographer boys John & Giuseppe. :)

The camel guys were singing funny songs all the time. We were going through the desert for hours. NOTE. It's not a sandy desert u might be picturing based on some movies. It's a desert covered with funny plants (cactuses mostly) and some funny (salty) watermelons.
The sand dunes are only in 2 places. We went there twice. During the day, and at the end - to see the sunset. It was GORGEOUS!

On the way we visited some primitive villages - with no electricity and people living in clay houses.

I really enjoyed the safari. And the funny lunch we had at the oasis. Cooked on fire by the camel boys. It tasted really good - I enjoyed it more than some restaurant food!
We went back to Jaisalmer after it got completely dark

- camel safari on the Thar desert by the Pakistani border
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Posted by Camerowska 14:39 Archived in India Comments (0)

Jaisalmer from a 1001 nights

sand stone everywhere

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Our hotel is VERY nice. Rajasthani style, alls and everything made of sandstone (even the bathroom) - and our room has a direct view on the fort - amazing!!!

And we just love the rooftop restaurant - we go there often - to just have a drink, to lie down on the cushions (on those little balcony-beds to lie down on). We can c all the stars from here as you don't see as many lights as in a city

Jaisalmer is SO DIFFERENT - it's quiet, people are even nicer than anywhere (despite of what I had heard) - they aren't nagging us 2 buy their things in shops - usually they just invite to come in and that's it. What a difference

And they seem helpful and all - NOT pushy!

City is GORGEOUS, everywhere these houses of carved sandstone - looks like LACE! It really does look like a city from 1001 nights (thx Tjasa 4 the tip 2 come here!)

Very nice change after Jaipur

We love it (my 2nd favourite, after Varanasi)

Its a small town in the desert, close 2 the Pakistani border

2morrow we r having a full day camel safari - we will b taken by jeeps 50km in the direction of the sand dunes (and Pakistan) an there get on our camels and go on them for 8h with a lunch break, c the sunset on the sand dunes, and the stars, and then get back to the hotel by jeeps

VERY much looking forward!

We got some safari gear today (boys: pants & funny desert hats, i got a shirt with long sleeves). More 2 come 2morrow

I'm now writing this from the rooftop - will now go back 2 enjoy a drink with the boys

- Jaisalmer
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Posted by Camerowska 03:32 Archived in India Comments (0)

Jaipur = one big market

no sun no fun

sunny 37 °C

After a night in our SUPER-GREAT hotel (SERIOUSLY!, we got upgraded, as they didn't have the rooms they promised at our GREAT hotel, they moved us for that night 2 a better one from the same group - 200m away) we went sightseeing in Jaipur. AMAZING interiors, Rajasthani style - WOULD upload pics, as (surprisingly) i have both the time AND working batteries in my hard drive, but there is no USB slot on this comp... how handy!

ANYWAY
we have seen a HAVELI (this funny facade-building - made my maharaja for his harem - so the woman wouldn't get bored - and they could look into the street, but at the same time 2 ensure his ''exclusivity'' for them ;) - they couldn't go out 2 the street

We also visited an astronomic observatory - with big instruments made of sandstone. all calculated/designed by the maharaja/genius - with e.g. solar clock with 2 sec precision . VERY impressive all these things they could see!

MOTTO OF TODAY:
no sun, no fun
= as everything only works only when the sun is shining.

oh well... it does shine (EVEN TOO MUCH) all the time now

We went shopping

Traffic here is SO CRAZY. So many rickshaws/cars/horses/camels/cows/bikes /busses everywhere. and horning all the time (this is apparently the way 2 move here - as nobody looks in the mirrors - so if u want them 2 get off ur way u need 2 horn)

we went 4 dinner to this nice rotating restaurant - a rotating tower with a view all over the city (which is 2.5mln ppl btw!)

2nD DAY
We hired an airco-jeep with a driver from the hotel, NICE one, really big too. For all 5 of us, for 8h. Cost: 900rs = 15eur (for all 5 ;))
Was great., we went 2 the Amber fort (and had our elephant rides!! YAY - beautiful fort, lots of pics of course. We also went 2 the monkey temple - eventually we didn't get 2 c THAT many monkeys, as they were apparently smarter than us (!!!!) and NOT spending the noon in the burning sun (its still like 37 degrees in the shade...) - but we have seen enough of them anyway. Also saw some cobras dancing (2 the music)

Now at the hotel. Went back 2 swim in the pool and relax. We r still going 2night to that park - with food, drinks, Rajasthani dances, singing, traditional handicrafts etc etc etc

BY THE WAY: if anybody was wondering ;): our stomachs r NOT really enjoying the Indian food anymore. The only things that we feel like having is pizza and french fries (no, no masala for me anymore please :-S). It's not that we get sick because the food is prepared in a dirty way. No. Since we don't get sick fro continental food… It's all the spices our stomachs cannot bear. We r at the point when we sometimes look for something healthy to eat, and the healthiest thing that wouldn't make us sick are potato CHIPS... FUNNY... my own stomach has been behaving really nice for a few days now - but that's only because i had NOTHING Indian for like 48h. Other than that we r fine. Its not serious actually, its just that u have a constant stomach ache and every now and then some of us would have some additional ''entertainment'' caused by the bellies... hmhmhm

3RD DAY IN JAIPUR:
The girls were leaving (4pm train 2 Delhi) - 2 go back home

And we (Chris, Menno & I) stayed out, went shopping 4 souvenirs, walked around

it did get a bit dodgy in the end - not that anything happened, but i guess tit was TOO MUCH 4 all of u - people nagging to buy their stuff, rickshaw drivers nagging to go with them, CROWDS and rods of people, intrusion of our personal space all the time. We ran away from that 2 a nice restaurant again, with AC and quiet ambience. All we needed at the moment

At night we left by train 2 Jaisalmer (night train, it was late 1h in Jaipur, but arrived only 30min late in Jaisalmer)

was actually quite a nice journey

- Jaipur
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Posted by Camerowska 08:24 Archived in India Comments (0)

Agra - we have just seen the Taj!

AMAZING, I'll say no more!

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THANK GOD we chose that nice hotel
(WE REBOOKED - from the very dirty one we had booked - but then we went there for Dinner with Dorotka and saw how bad it was, so we changed into this great one - Amar - expensive of course - as for Indian standards, but great)

European standard

NICE. we deserved it !

we didn't want 2 go 2 sleep (as we would have collapsed afterwards), but 4 diner 2 c the Taj Mahal from some rooftop

It was a VERY dirty restaurant. haha the waiter by (who couldn't read and wrote) was walking on top of our table with his bare feet (!) - in order to close the shades… It was BAD. Thats why we barely ate anything - maybe apart from Chris

but the Taj view was amazing!

NEXT DAY:
Taj-Mahal day it is!

I wont even attempt 2 describe it

No point

will upload pics

it was more than amazing!!!!! And huge (first you see that thing you've known from pictures, but when you actually see it, you cant believe it.. it looks small from a distance. But when you keep approaching you notice the little ''ants'' = people walking around it and then you realize how enormous it is)

Then we saw the Agra fort. Again, great! Beautiful
NO point describing. You got to see that!

and will go 2 Jaipur later on tonight - by train

need to RUN NOW

others waiting 4 me @ a rooftop bar - still with the Taj view

will upload pics soon-ish

the internet/computer speed here makes it impossible!

- Agra
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Posted by Camerowska 07:10 Archived in India Comments (0)

Calcutta day 3 - WEDDING-WEDDING - the ACTUAL thing ;)

Durga Puja and marriage

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So.. in the morning went with Baja 2 c all the funny constructions made especially with lots of effort for the Durga Puja festival - its taking place in many places (also in Varanasi), but its biggest in Kolkata
They made these big temples for the godess Durga (the one with lots of arms). They were all ''fake'' - as in: some were made of paper (!), some of bottles from some drink, some from cardboard

FUNNY

Wedding party in the evening: AGAIN in Indian outfits of course. It was so funny. Started at Apoorvs - he and Ekta were riding in a silver shiny bling-bling carriage pulled by horses to the location where the bride's family was

Guests dancing all the way there

funny VERY loud Indian music (hired orchestra) - I guess the whole point was to make lots of noise, it was not necessarily about the quality of music itself ;)

It was such an experience 4 us

Everything absolutely different from what we know

the ceremony itself started at round 23.00

Apoorv had said they negotiated with their parents - who wanted the ceremony to last 7h (YES SEVEN) hours. But they got it down to 45mins. Turns out: they were ''cheated'' = the ceremony ended up being over 1.5h anyway ;) guess the parents won anyway :)

Apoorv and Anamika were sitting on thrones

She was wearing this VERY heavy dress with all the embroidery. The whole gear was supposedly 30kg! - together with the jewellery!

all done with reading of the Sanskrit by a holy man. He was putting some pears on the ground, sprinkling them over with some seeds (?). Not the kind of wedding you get to see in Europe. Apoorv and Anamika had to walk around the fire he set in the middle of the room (!). After they walked around it for the 7th time they were MARRIED.

Again, we had a blast, and got pampered with great food!!!! Amazing actually

Actually,,, we got pampered there all the time… private drivers of Apoorv, all the food we wanted. Everything served to you… I already said that before, but I could really get used to that ;)

We didn't sleep at all that night

straight from the party went 2 get our stuff from the apartment and were driven 2 the airport

flight 2 Delhi at 5.50 am

them train 2 Agra
no sleep 4 us :)!

2h flight

Actually a VERY nice plane, nicer than many I flew in in Europe

Not that I could see much as I was very sleepy.
But Menno instead, changed into a n energizer bunny and was talking all the time. We saw the Himalayas form the window

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Posted by Camerowska 02:59 Archived in India Comments (0)

Calcutta day 2 - party for all the families (WEDDING day 2)

Sick-ish throw-ish up-ish

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it's such a pity.. but I still have no time to write about it all… and this is THE most amazing thing that is happening around us - the wedding!

so... 2nd wedding day

after a bit of sights in Kolkata (Victoria memorial) with Husrh and Akshe we went 2 change again - again into Indian outfits

In the evening: great wedding party (no 2). At a restaurant. With great food and lots of dancing (take a look at the video's)! Everyone was dressed up nicely (actually, imagine CHRISTMAS, multiply by 10 - and that’s how many colors of the dresses we could see). It was all bling-bling and amazingly different from what we wear in Europe.

Surprisinly, at the beginning of the party a sort of ''engagement'' ceremony took place. i.e Anamika got a ring from Apoorv (?) - funny, we do all that way earlier in Europe :)
We had a blast

Oh yes, the motto of the day: sick-ish throw-is up-ish... u can only imagine what happened 2 me :). Felt WAY better afterwards :)

the funniest thing is: u never know what u had it from - from food, from water, from the weather, it could b anything... and we r trying 2 b very cautious actually... we r weak Europeans!

Posted by Camerowska 14:50 Archived in India Comments (0)

Calcutta day 1 - WEDDING rooftop party

check out our Indian outfits

rain 30 °C
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sorry guys, have no time to write - therefore only a summary:

Arrived in Kolkata
Actually. For the 1st time train was early (4 am instead of 4.20)

Got picked up by Apoorv and Hursh
Chrissie and Carmen had already arrived by plane from London

Sleeping: at the apartment Apoorv rented for us - together with Hursh and his friend Akshe

Menno arrived later by plane

PARTY: on the roof with all the friends of Apoorv
Finally met Anamika (bride) and Ekta (Apoorv's sister, with whom we had been emailing back and forth). And the rest of the family. And that's A LOT of PEOPLE! :)!

It was amazing. Too much to write about. So different from anything we know. Just check the pictures…. (sorry it was so hard to sort them out - I'll put the m together with the last Kolkata entry, mixed up with the following wedding-days

Oh, btw: i could get used 2 all the servants, drivers etc ;)!!! Easily

Posted by Camerowska 15:30 Archived in India Comments (0)

Bodh Gaya - where Buddhism started :)

us = Japanese tourists

sunny 37 °C
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It was amazing

Despite the fact it was more like a "Japanese sightseeing" (SORRY MAICO ;)) - as we had only 2h there => we were running around and taking pics

But it was worth it anyway!

We took a rickshaw. Actually, for the 1st time in India it was actually nice that we had someone nagging offering their (rickshaw) services. We hired a rickshaw for a day an d the guy took us all around the places, dropping us off in front of the door so we could c all

Bodh Gaya: this is where a prince was sitting under a tree and got ENLIGHTENED (the enlightened = buddha! - therefore the name). We saw all the temples - also ones made by other Buddhist countries (a Thai one, a Japanese one), and a huge Buddha statue

When we got back to Gaya… Well… this is actually when it got LESS nice…
I guess I forgot to mention that both towns are in the province of Bihar. Apparently THE most dangeroujs proince of India. Later on I even heard from my Indiian friend that they've never been there - BECAUSE it's so dangerous… Apparently there are herds of these bandits that attack cars with tourists (and not only). On the way it all looked as some military terrain - with guards with weapons (and we are talking machine guns!) were walking around every nicer-looking house… nice… we were aware of the fact it was not safe there. But we wanted to see the Buddha-stuff anyway…

So… by the time we got back to Gaya it already got dark. We still had like 3h to our train to Kolkata. We were very hungry and actually wanted to find some restaurant to spend these 3h in. However… Easier said that done.. There were actually NO restaurants there. And we are not talking some fancy places. No. Not even some crappy place where we could sit inside of some building… We started feeling really unsafe. On top of that, there was some guy (clearly mentally disabled) who started following us. He asked for money. We ignored him at first. We picked up pour backpacks from the storage. He kept on following. All the time he was holding a glass with some drink. All of a sudden, when we were walking (and he was behind us) we felt some cold liquid on our backs. Apparently he spilled it over us (I might hope it was his drink and nothing worse). We felt really bad / unsafe. We quickly decided to go to some street store and just get some food (as in: chippies, VERY healthy!) so we could take our malaria pills and just go to a waiting room of first class at the station. We went to a store. The weird guy was still following. And he didn’t understand English - when we were telling him to leave us alone. We asked a guy at the store to tell him in Hindi to go away. That didn’t help either. Luckily, he was not allowed to enter the waiting room, so that's where we spent the rest of the time we had in Bihar… :-S

Oh yes, I also went to call Hursh, as we had agreed upon, so they would pick us up at the station in Calcutta. I went to the phone booth. On the floor there were like 5 rats :-S. NIIICE. Luckily they got equally scared of me as I did of them and they ran away.

Finally we could board our night train on the way to Calcutta

- Bodh Gaya
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Posted by Camerowska 15:23 Archived in India Comments (0)

Varanasi - train only 4h late ;)

try not 2 step into cow-pies :)

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Scheduled train arrival time in Varanasi: 8.20am
Actual arrival time: 12:20...

That would b 4h delay... and 15h on that train altogether... [Which was btw way better than I expected it 2 b]. I actually slept pretty well on the train (with my earplugs and airplane sleeping-goggles on and wrapped in my sheet form home :))

by the time we actually got 2 the hotel it was 2:30pm (that was after a loooong auto rickshaw ride with the 3 of us - Drotka, Ricardo - an American we met up on the train who was supposed 2 stay @ the same place, me + our 3 huge backpacks... all that in that small thing... and we actually bumped into like 3 things on the way (bikes, other rickshaw) & also pushed some other rickshaw forward [when the driver considered it moving 2 slow...]

We were only dreaming of shower after that [last one we had was in Delhi the previous day in the morning...] - and its 37 degrees in the shade all the time...

THE HOTEL IS GREAT 4 a change. The view is amazing - on the Ganges and the ghats [stairs ending in the river] - where they perform all the rituals of cleansing in the holy water. We live on the top floor in a room with balcony. They warned us not 2 leave any stuff on the balcony, or the balcony door open when we leave, as crazy monkeys would take our stuff and play with them. How cool is that :)

After a long shower/laundry session we went up 2 the town with Ricardo

haha, and that was an experience again. U wouldn’t believe how much cow-pies r lying around EVERYWHERE. The streets in they r really NARROW (1-1.5m so). It’s a real LABIRYNTH (I’m not kidding its really hard 2 find the way anywhere, u r lost after 5 min) [Babisku: its like where we went on holiday, just make the town x 10 the size in terms of space it takes on the ground and 5 times higher - the buildings r 5 storey high!]

And there’s cows everywhere walking around. And motorbikes moving around beeping. No rickshaws r allowed by the ghats (they wouldn’t fit in anyway)

We live quite close to the burning ghat - where they actually burn dead bodies. Apparently all Hindus want 2 die in Varanasi as then their souls will go 2 heaven. Or at least: get burned there after death. Not all bodies may b burned though - some (of e.g. holy men, pregnant women) r thrown in the water just like that

also: a couple of huge sewers end up here... people swim, bathe, wash, and their ashes r thrown in there 2...

BY THE WAY: our lonely planet says the Ganges water in Varanasi contains 1.5mln faecal bacteria coli per 100ml of water (while safe for bathing figure would b less than 500!!!!)... niceee... nevertheless: the Hindu's want 2 bathe in it - in order 2 wash away all their sins..

I guess I will keep my sins for a later occasion and NOT bathe there this time...

Anyway: we had a nice dinner on a rooftop restaurant (on the 5th floor, over the whole city) with Ricardo [the food was, of course, very yummy!]

I COULD upload the pickies, but my hard drive just died. And i couldn’t charge it (only1 socket in the wall in the room and the power cuts last 1/2 a day anyway...]

I’ll try later 2day anyway!

DAY 2:

We took an early morning boat trip (4am up an running in the boat) together with Ricardo. It was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING to see the city waking up and all the rituals in the Ganges. This is THE most important thing to see in Varanasi - the way the Hindus cleanse themselves in the morning in the river. They were also washing the clothes (read: beating the crap out of them on the rocks - I still don’t get it HOW on Earth they can have these beautiful colourful clothes after having beaten them to death like that)… SOme other peoplw would just was themselves (and yes, brish their teeth using their fingers) - all in the above-described ''cleansing'' Ganges water…
It was an amazing view

haha. actually. Today the first Delhi-belly incident took place. I was feeling kind-of weird since morning. But when we were actually in the middle of the river, I felt worse. I must have looked green on my face, since even the boat-man noticed. He couldn’t speak much English (although he really tried - and attempted all the time to explain some rituals / give info about buildings we passed). Anyway. He noticed I wasn't feeling fine. And he only said "Ganga, Ganga good!"- and pointed at the water. I immediately realized he's right about what it would be best to do. And didn’t wait with that too long ;) - YES, I THREW UP INTO THE HOLY GANGES. haha, needless to say, 1 minute later I was feeling WAAAY better! Ganga good!

- Varanasi
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Posted by Camerowska 13:29 Archived in India Comments (0)

Fathepur Sikri - It’s a GOOD CAR madam!

Knock on wood, still no Delhi-belly :)

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So....train 2 Agra at 7.15am. Quite ok. AC worked. Was clean enough.

Got off in Agra: went straight 2 a prepaid taxi stand. Got a 1/2 day ride 2 Fathepur Skiri (abandoned city, 55km away) & back in an AC car. 900rs for 2 (15eur)

A really nice guy Rashid was 2 go with us next 2 the driver. He could actually speak Eng. We set off. ALREADY at the parking lot: the car wouldn’t start. So the friends of Rashid had 2 push it. No biggy...

Until we got to an intersection 5 min further. A REALLY busy one. Engine died. Wouldn’t start. Police guys came, told the guys to pull of. HOW DO YOU PULL OFF a car which isn’t working - and that: from the middle of an INDIAN intersection (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH A NORMAL INTERSECTION!) - this one was absolutely FULL of vehicles of all kinds and sorts... but they managed. Police guy was arguing with them... but the car started and we went 2 nearby gas station (20m away we’re talking). They tanked it. And it was SUPPOSED 2 start. By then we already got annoyed (we only had 7h in Agra and had to catch another train in the afternoon, time was ticking and we were by no means getting close to the destination, on top of that, the airco wasn’t working – of course, the engine was dead and nothing worked). So i asked if we can go back and get another car. But no, IT’S A GOOD CAR MADAM (riiight... other than it not-starting…)... They anaged to start it. But then it died again... So they agreed to go back and get another car. We got another one. Small one. My backpack wouldn’t fit in. So they wanted 2 put it on the ROOF (HELL NO!). When all was finally in the car: it went easier. Got to Fathepur Sikri (I’m not describing the way our lives have been risked 55 times during that ride - how i pictured myself under these huge busses, beeping at us and trying to push through - as bigger users of the road)

Fathepur Sikri was magnificent. with stone carvings - big see-through screens which looked like lace (very thinly made, i have no idea how - u will c when i uplod the pics – it’s silly 2 write about this, u need 2 c it!)

Now 2 make long story short: on the way back our 2nd GOOD CAR broke down as well... AGAIN at the biggest intersection in a village... felt like in an ants house.. Again, friendly ppl pushed the car off and it started... got to Agra on time…

Left our luggage, went to dinner at Shanti lodge where we were supposed 2 stay in a few days (2 check it out, after our experience with Namaskar). Roof terrace VIEW: MAGNIFICENT – straight in the Taj, wont even try 2 describe –will put here pics 2morrow! SO CLOSE. AMAZING! Food: good, could have been served in cleaner bowls… but oh well (STILL NO DELHI-BELLY- knock on wood!)

but the hotel was crappy – the bathroom: DISGUSTING and DIRTY – if possible, worse than namaskar… I don’t even want 2 think about it… boys and girls who will join us in Kolkata: WE SHOULD look 4 a different one! (Dorotka will write u email about that!)

now will spend the night on a train 2 Varanasi! :-S leaving at 21.00

- Fathepur Sikri
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Posted by Camerowska 16:11 Archived in India Comments (0)

2 faces of Delhi

Not going to the Delhi markets any time soon!

sunny 40 °C
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So... that was a funny day... nothing will surprise us here anymore...

After breakfast we set off 4 Delhi-sights. After discarding like 8 rickshaw wallahs - who wanted 2 charge us (=stupid tourists) 2 much, or bring on the way 2 a store of a friend/brother/father /cousin/etc, we finally gave in and took a rickshaw for 20rs (=0,34 EUR) AND visited the luxurious store we were taken 2 (no obligation 2 buy). It was, again, FUNNY - and the adrenaline level went up after seeing the driving 'skills' – as we were taking over other rickshaws/busses/cars /carts/bikes/people/cows /dogs

We got to the old part of Delhi - to the Red Fort. niiicce! a really nice place 2 c. a whole complex of palace buildings. all with very delicate carvings in stone etc. After that we went across a very busy street (AGAIN, risking our life, and that all not an hour after breakfast yet!). We had 2 go through a very CROWDED (and that: even for Delhi standards crowded!) street to get to the biggest mosque in India = Jami Masjid. THAT WAS NOT PLEASANT! i put my scarf on in a second after i noticed what’s going on. People EVERYWHERE. All bumping into u, touching, trying 2 sell u crap :-S

Had 2 take the shoes off at the mosque - and got this funny looking cloth 2 put over my skirt (as apparently below-the-knie length isn’t decent), had 2 pay 2 take my camera in as well. it wasn’t THAT stunning (the mosque). It WAS big. And fill of ppl. And it was 40 degrees C...

After seeing that we decided 2 go 4 a bite - to the famous KARIM's restaurant (yes Menno, one from the FEAST INDIA). we got 2 dishes (Dorotka a mixed veggie-thing and me: Karim specialty - some green curry-like dish with their funny white cheese (YES, INDIANS ALSO HAVE WHITE CHEESE - not only us Polish ;)) and different seeds etc. And naan. We r trying 2 stay away form meat for now (we have seen some meat in the market - lying around in the 40C sun, covered with CROWDS of flies - YUK!). It was all great food at KARIM’s. Although the guy didn’t seem 2 understand why we insist on unopened Coke bottles :-S

And THEN! We thought we were smart (!) and found that major-looking street to get to the Delhi Gate...

LESSON LEARNED:
major-looking streets (on the map) are NOT always major

We soon found ourselves on this 3m narrow street. With TONS of ppl. Electrical cables (TONS OF THEM) hanging 4m above the street. EVERYWHERE. And bike-rickshaws and motorbikes beeping all the time, trying 2 get through the crowd. Also very soon we noticed we were the only tourists (or white people for that matter) in that whole street. And it was NOT nice to walk there... Especially that it seemed 2 b a more Muslim street - with lots of women being totally covered from head 2 toe - and we were clearly sticking out. And the street seemed 2 have no end... we were walking and walking, and the street was getting more and more narrow. It’s not that anything HAPPENED to us... but I’m pretty sure I wanna stay out of markets 4 some time!!! My personal space barrier was beyond crossed.

And then we decided 2 walk and c the tomb of Mahatma Gandhi. It was SUCH a contrast... Quiet surroundings, situated in a park. British influences very visible. People with whole families sitting on the grass. PERFECT. Peaceful (WHAT A DIFFERENCE). Again, shoes off by the Gandhi grave.

And then the sun set... in a matter of MINUTES. we were observing the sun going down. and then it got DARK... and we were in the middle of nowhere & had 2 call Abhi 2 make appointment 4 later.. And NO public phone there of course! After haggling (unsuccessfully) with a (motor) rickshaw-wallah we took a bicycle one... that was SLOOOOW!

And again: scary moment when we stopped on the lights: this beggar guy (disabled/? leper, moving across a VERY BUSY intersection on (what was left of) his knies. We were talking, watching the scenery and didn’t notice him come closer to the rickshaw from the back. And all of a sudden. I felt someone touch my knee-pit unexpectedly. He scared me so much!!!

But anyway... finally we got to the Delhi gate.. And there we were. Again the only two a) girls b) white people c) tourist (ALL APPLY), after dark. Looking 4 a phone booth that was SUPPOSED 2 b there... NOT NICE!!!! We found the phone, called Abhi – and made appointment in 40min at the INA market – Delhi Haat. And here comes a flash: NOBODY wanted 2 take us that far by rickshaw... and there were no cabs... we started asking the rickshaw guys 2 take us there – but they were all saying they wont go there (2 FAR!)

niiiiceee.. Dark. Scary. :-S YUK. Just before I lost my hope: there’s this guy who came to help us – he was JUST nice (didn’t want anything), he stopped a rickshaw for us and negotiated the price. They driver agreed to 110rs (2eur). HAPPY us. Happy, until he was trying to cheat us. We got 2 the destination and the guy demanded 220rs (supposedly: 110 x 2 ppl) – which WAS NOT the agreement. But I have 2 say I got pretty scared again… I gave him a 150rs. He kept saying he wants a 220…. So I gave him another 10 and said we leave the rickshaw. Luckily we were in a NICE part of South Delhi. We quickly found the Delhi Haat and Abhi came. YAY! I was SO happy 2 c him after 4yrs! (he had studied at my uni in Warsaw).

The Haat was a sort of government-subsidized market – with craftsmen form all over India selling their goods (at more less fixed prices – NICE change after having 2 haggle all day). It was REALLY nice… and Abhi was helping. He showed us around and explained a lot of things – where certain things came from, how they made them etc. Dorotka and me got ourselves a pair of shoes each (D: nice slip-in shoes for 200rs, and me: VERY nice camel-leather-pink flip flops for 180 = not even 3eur)!

It was SO different form what we have seen all day till then. Visibly middle-class families with children. Peaceful. Not crowded. Comforting

And then we went 4 dinner. To a fancy restaurant/bar in New Delhi. Could go for a fancy bar ANYWHERE in Europe! Seriously. SUCH a contrast again... we got nice cocktails, some Indian cheese tikka with spices and sauce. Then some veggies with sauce. And the funny different sorts of bread (paratha? I think its spelled) was the best. IT WAS SO NICE of Abhi 2 take us there (by car, again, what a change – a first NOT-ABSOLUTEL-INSANE driver we have seen there so far – peaceful, driving slowly, actually OBEYING the traffic rules (!) etc). it was so nice 2 catch up with Abhi. He told us many things about India, explained a lot etc

And Abhi was SO nice, after hearing our roach-stories, and after being worried we ended up in Paharganj area: he actually offered 2 take us out of there, so we could stay @ his place. AND NO, WE DID NOT OPPOSE! What a relief was THAT. That we didn’t have 2 sleep @ that horrible place there (Namaskar hotel!) after dinner Abhi drove us there (Namaskar) where we packed our bags in like 20 seconds and were ready to GO!

ABHI WE ARE YOUR FANS! We are SO grateful you took such great care of us, you are the best!

So we spent the night at Abhi’s nice apartment. WHAT A DIFFERENCE WAS THAT!- we only got there at like 1am though – and had 2 get up at 5.45 2 catch our Agra train...

- Delhi
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Posted by Camerowska 16:11 Archived in India Comments (0)

not yet "Delhi-belly"

hurry makes u worry!

sunny 40 °C
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so... arrived last night.. 22:50 local time. Doroka picked me up :)

haha, but then the hotel-pickup guy, who dropped her off at the airport and was supposed 2 wait wasn't there anymore... riiighht... called the hotel... twice... he was supposedly on his way... riiiiiggghttt. 1h later we find him (with the help of another hotel taxi guy). he was just sleeping in his van all that time... was even difficult to wake him up... and that was all while he was ''on his way''... ;)

Lesson of the day:
HURRY MAKES YOU WORRY!

WELCOME 2 India


got to the hotel at like 1am or so...
(after having survived the taxi ride... they ARE crazy drivers... - i need 2 make a movie of that!)

hotel... well... that is nowhere CLOSE 2 my standards of the cleanliness of the hotel... started off with a big roach (4cm long., one of these far ones :)) welcomed us in the bathroom :-S. hmhmhm... i made a lot of noise, and we had 2 call support from the hotel staff to deal with the PROBLEM :)

oh yes, Carmen, Menno & Chrissie: TAKE SHEETS FROM HOME. AND PILLOW CASES!!!!! and EARPLUGS!!! i basically slept 1h last night - the ''airco'' (NOTHING close 2 what WE call AC) was making noise like a tractor, and then it was hot when we turned it off : :-S UGH. haha, toilet paper comes in handy TOO!

we just had breakfast. after having survived a 200m walk along the market where everybody apparently wanted to kill us with their rickshaws/bikes /motorbikes/etc = they even POINT at stupid tourists with their vehicles and r clearly pleased when we jump away 2 seconds before they hit :). I guess they r collecting points for that or so :)

breakfast: toasts with cheese and tomato - nothing fancy, not 2 get delhi-belly 2 early :). btw: breaktest cost: 2eur for TWO (with drinks ;))

we r meeting Abhi 2night and going 4 dinner with him

Posted by Camerowska 05:34 Archived in India Comments (0)

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