S: INDIA January 20th - March 12th 2009
BC: If you were to see these things in Canada your heart would drop and you would be disgusted. Dogs all over the streets trying to find food or waiting patiently by someone making food, men with no legs moving around the dirty streets with his arms and a piece of wood on rollers, mounds under blankets that you hope are just people sleeping, little kids everywhere begging for food or rupees, little indents on the side of buildings for men to pee. Everything is old and dirty, no fresh paint, dust everywhere, stains that have been there forever, potholes that won't get fixed, crooked and faded signs. Although all this is ugly and depressing to us, it is nothing to them. They care more about their countries history, their Gods, their families and what they can do for their unborn children's children.People here with nothing to their name will give everything and help anyone as much as they can, even if they cannot speak the same language. It's truly amazing. It shows what is important to them when you walk into a temple or tomb. They are flawless and well maintained, everyone is quiet and at peace in the middle of a chaotic city. Something you cannot explain and only experience.
FC: India 2009 Beautiful Chaos
1: Monday January 19th 2009; The day Sean and I embarked on our 17 week backpacking trip. We started in India. We arrived Wednesday January 21st with just a little drama. In short; our airport taxi driver took us to a friend's place to try and get us to book a hotel with them instead of going to ours that was already paid for, only took us an extra hour of arguing. A good indication of how crooked India really is, but oddly it makes India... well... India- Beautifully chaotic.
2: The next 3 days we spent in Delhi, booking a month long tour of Rajasthan, doing a city tour and adjusting to our surroundings. Our first day we made a friend, Vikash who took us for lunch, helped us book this tour, enjoyed our first India beer with him and bought my first Punjab dress. The second day we had the city tour, which included Birla Mandir (Hindi Temple/Sandstone and marble everything), Humayuns Tomb, Sari store, Lodi Temple and Lodi Gardens. We ran into a huge group of school kids at the garden and were soon surrounded by 20-30 kids with questions and taking pictures. We ended the day at the Monkey Guru Temple. The next day we were catching our train to Amritsar at 7:20 AM. We ended up getting
3: on the wrong train... which was heading 1 1/2 hrs the wrong way! Once we got to Madras we found out we just missed the train we needed to get on and had to wait another 1 1/2 hrs for the next train. We could only get a general ticket aka a ticket to a cart that locals just jump on when they cannot pay. To say the least it was CRAMMED! We were told no white people ever go in that cart. Sean sat on a rice bag in the middle of two men and I sat up in the luggage above the normal seats with 5 guys! During that 13hr ride we understood that staring is a part of everyones hobby in India. Everyone was very interested but could not speak English, they were all very helpful and nice. The most smiles I've ever seen in such a small crammed area!
4: We finally got to Amritsar to see the Golden Temple. We put our stuff in lockers, walked through a stream to wash our bare feet and I covered my head. We then walked around in the courtyard. The Golden Temple was made by the Sikhs after a woman brought her crippled husband to a river and it healed him. It holds the 'Holy' water that heals and removes the bad. | We then went and visited Jallianwala Bagh Park where a British officer ordered his men to open fire on 15-20,000 protesters. 379 were killed and 1200 wounded. The only exit in the park was the one that the officer and his men were blocking. It was a very respected and sensitive place to visit.We revisited the Golden Temple at night and the bridge was packed full of people chanting to celebrate Republic day.
5: The next day we needed to catch a train to Chandigarh, another train mistake (I did not realize it was military time and meant 4:30 AM!) but we made it. It is a beautiful modern city that is very organized and clean. We learned that the city was not the only thing modern, there are more "love marriages" here (not arranged). During our stay we shopped, walked around and visited The rock Garden by Le Corbusier. It consisted of statues, fountains, walls, all made of recycled materials (bottle caps, toilet bowls etc. Sean and I seemed to be more of a hit than the park, we had locals swarming us for photos the entire time!
6: After a nights sleep Sean was back to his normal self. We started with another long drive of 5 hrs to reach Karni Mata Temple aka Rat Temple! There are many tales to go along with this Temple, but the main one is that all the rats are reincarnated story tellers. There are hundreds of them running around in this temple. AND to make it worse you have to have bare feet to enter! Although it is said that if one runs across your feet it is good luck. | Now to start our Rajasthan trip! We got picked up by our driver Raju very early and were off to Jhunjhunu. A great way to see the countryside! Our hotel reservations were at Mandawa Heritage Hotel. It was beautiful and every inch of the walls were hand painted. Sean was very sick so we had a Doctor come see him, he got some shots and medicine. It ended up being a very expensive 3 US dollars!!
7: After the lovely Rat Temple we went to Junagarh Fort, amazing! It took over 300 years to build this fort, they started by moving sandstone with wagons, then boats, then a rail system. The history in this fort is unbelievable. Numerous rooms all with different themes, one was covered in tiny Mosaic mirrors, one was clouds, wind, moon, flowers, etc. One room was full of swords, saws, nails on wood that people would dance on. There was a table that was over 150 years old that royalty had played cards on. The yard of this fort was picture perfect as well. The Maharajah slept in a bedroom on the top floor, in a bed too short so he could get up easily and mirrors on the ceiling so he could see intruders coming. We learned a lot in this fort! The Maharajahs hall had a marble floor, carved sandstone walls and the ceiling was intricate wood. The last maharajah was 7 when he started!
8: Our itinerary in Jaisalmer included two huge activities, a camel ride and the grand Jaisalmer Fort! Our first was our camel ride and night-over in the Sam Desert. We drove out to the desert and by 3:30 pm we were climbing onto stinky, farting camels, mine was Lalu. We went on a ‘trail’ ride and over some sand dunes; after a while we stopped and took a break to look around. We took a ton of pictures and tried running up the sand dunes (terribly hard to do!) Then we rode the camels to our home for the night... A couple canvas tents in the middle of the Sam Desert. We had our fire-cooked supper under the amazingly bright stars above. It was absolutely beautiful.
9: The next morning we rode our camels to the top of a dune and watched the sand gypsies perform a couple dances, and bought bottled coke... that was surprisingly cold... in the middle of the desert! We rode back to Raju's vehicle and drove back to Jaisalmer. We showered and ran off to the Fort as all the Jain temples in it are only open for 1 hour around lunch time. It was unbelievable. The view from the top was breathtaking. Within the fort was a ton of vendors selling all sorts of knick-knacks. I picked up two wall hangings, some anklets from some gypsies, a camel hide wallet and a beautiful journal. I also got my first hand henna done!
10: After our lovely visit to Jaisalmer we were heading to Jodhpur, on our way we got a flat tire luckily by a little stop over! Raju fixed it up as best he could and we kept driving. As soon as we got there we went to Mehrangarh Fort. This Fort was covered in lattice work that the women would look through up in their rooms. It also had a lot of gold and hand painted pictures everywhere. We had audio tapes so we learned a lot. There was a ceramic hand at the entrance and a lot of henna on it; we learned that they would put their hand print on this piece of ceramic to pay thanks. Once we were done there we went to a spice shop, there was a 15 year old girl in charge, she told us she took over after her father had passed as she had no other option. Her dad started this business years ago selling his spices from his bike and now they are shipping spices worldwide!
11: We then decided it was time for supper and while looking for a place to eat we had a couple rickshaw guys asking us if we were looking for ‘On The Rocks’. We had no idea what they were talking about and then found out it was a restaurant, and a very fancy one at that! We went and were amazed. It was at the back of a hotel in an outdoor garden area, about 8 tables and a fire pit in the middle, we had delicious food by candle light and even got some ice cream. We blew our budget for the day but it was worth every penny! We went back to the hotel and all of a sudden there was a ton of music outside. It was a wedding parade going by! We stood there and watched for a while. There was a band playing, an elephant, horse and carriage, and a ton of people. They go all out for their weddings!
13: Today we made our way from Jodhpur to Rankapur; we stayed in a little cozy place on the side of a curvy tree lined road. There were two more Jain temples to see here. We unloaded our stuff and off we went. They were unbelievable, marble everything and the detail that was put in every square inch was crazy! One temple had about 130 pillars and not one alike. In Jain temples there is absolutely no talking aloud, it was a nice change to just look and enjoy in silence. Very peaceful. After the temples we walked back to our hotel and met some foreigners! This was the first time we had seen foreigners, and let me tell you we were just a little excited. They told us about a trek they planned around a lake at 5, so we joined them. The lake was beautiful at sunset; we walked around it and saw a couple crocodiles in the water. It was nice to just sit and stare without the hustle of India around you. It felt very much like home. We had some beers and supper with them and shared all of our crazy stories of India. It was a great end to a great day.
14: Monkeys! Monkeys! What a great way to wake up. We found out that monkeys love the tree beside our room so we got to wake up to monkeys doing their morning rituals. It was pretty cool; we watched them for about 20 minutes. Our neighbor's started throwing bananas at them and they swarmed the outside of our room, it was kind of scary at times! After breakfast we were off to Udaipur! On our drive over we went through a village or two and their lives are way different from the cities, the cows actually have owners unlike everywhere else where they just roam the streets. We also learned that they dry out cow poop and use it to fuel fires to cook on... not my type of oven!
15: Udaipur is an incredibly romantic and fairytale like city. I fell for Udaipur. We ate lunch and dinner on the roof top restaurant. At supper you could see the lights of Monsoon Palace up in the mountains and Lake Palace in the middle of a lake with a slight reflection in the water. Our hotel was very fairytale like too. We had a little windowsill bed with little colored glass lights above and bright colors. I spent quite a while sitting in there writing and reading. Our second day in Udaipur we ventured out into the streets and looked around, bought some jewelery and went to a dance ceremony. It was unreal! Ladies were dancing around with vases on their heads and kept adding more themselves. I think the one got up to 12 vases!
16: We left magical Udaipur and drove 5 hrs to Pushkar. We stayed in a very nice hotel here, poolside room! Pushkar is a nice little city, home of hippies. Lots of backpackers. We strolled around and looked in all the little shops, lots of jewelery and paintings. It was a nice quiet city to be in for a change. We went to see a Brahma temple, it was very neat as a lot of locals were doing their daily prayers at the time, and we could hardly even see the statue of Brahma.
17: Next to Jaipur! We got in late and went off to find a restaurant right away. While walking I ended up stepping into the stream of sewage flowing under some pieces of wood used for a bridge... sooo we had to run back to the hotel and I needed to wash off my foot! There were a lot of temples to see in Jaipur, but we decided on Amber Fort as it was the cheapest! The really nice things about this fort is that it was not blocked off anywhere! We could walk all over it. We also walked around Janta Marta, an astronomical observatory.
19: On our way from Jaipur we stopped in Ranthamborg for a safari ride, we didn't see any fascinating animals, but it was fun. From there we made our way to Agra to see The Taj Mahal! We left early in the morning so we could see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. It was actually unbelievable!!! We weren't sure what to expect as it's talked up like crazy but it was absolutely breathtaking. We walked around for an hour or two and took a lot of pictures! It was an amazing start to the day. After that we took the rest of the day to browse the city and relax.
20: Amber Fort, Jaipur
21: Here are some pictures from various times of our travels through Rajistan. Top left our driver Raju, right some boys who entertained us at a train station, and then some views of the streets we drove by! The page on the left is the view off the top of the Amber Fort in Jaipur! The beauty of India!
23: After our trip to the Taj Mahal we drove off to Khajuraho, home of the Kama Sutra temples! We visited the west temples on our second day and it was interesting! Oh my! It still confuses me that a religious temple has erotic forms on the entire outside, every inch! There were 5 temples all made from 950 ad to 1150. A lot of labor and time was put into them. After seeing lots of interesting positions we went for lunch at an awesome roof top restaurant! It became our hang out. After some lunch we went to the south and east temples, which are not as old as the west. They were not as impressive but still cool to see.
24: Khajuraho : Rata Resturant and South Kama Sutra Temple
26: Our next stop was Varanasi! What an experience. We learned so much here about the Indian culture. We saw an aarti ceremony, which is a ritual of worship done 1-5 times daily. At the Ganges River they do it every night. The amount of people there was crazy and they all began chants etc. It was an awesome experience. When we got back to the hotel we heard a lot of music outside and realized that it was a wedding parade taking place.
30: We woke up early the next day to experience a huge piece of Indian culture. We took a gondola ride at sunrise on the Ganges River, it was beautiful. After our relaxing ride we walked over to the burning ghats and saw what they were all about. It is surprisingly peaceful. There are a number of processes to go through until the body can pass over fully. There were 3 bodies in the process when we were there. Once we were done witnessing this we decided to walk along the ghats. We ran into a lovely lady and her daughter who were selling jewelry. We sat with them for a while talking and I got some earrings made! We then went to a factory as our rickshaw driver was hoping we would buy something and then we realized it was all work done by children so we we left as soon as we could!
31: Sean making friends with another puppy! Varanasi
33: From Varanasi we traveled to Aurangabad. Here we able to see the Ajanta Caves, which are caves along the side of a mountain that were found in 1819. They are believed to date back to the 1st and 2nd centuries. There were numerous Buddha carvings and paintings in 20 different caves along the mountain. Some included paintings of angels which we found very interesting! The next day we went to the Ellora Caves, the same idea but there was one section that was unreal! It was a huge temple/building that was carved out of the side of the mountain, not connected! It took 7000 laborers 150 years to chip from the top down! The determination in this country is unreal.
35: Our time in Mumbai was a mix of feelings and events. We sent home a package, stayed in our first dorm, went to a cinema to take advantage of a/c, tried to see one of their big malls that ended up being under construction, and then finally made it to something enjoyable! Chowpati beach. We got there at sunset and was it busy! Holy. There were so many locals. We then went to the street markets and browsed. We had our first bargaining sessions in India! Whoa what fun!
36: Arabol, Goa
37: After discovering Mumbai we took an overnight bus, plus a couple other buses to Goa. Specifically Arabol beach. This was a nice calming beach that was full of hippies! | It had lots of good restaurants and activities. We woke up to yoga on the beach! At any time during the day you would see a frisbee being tossed around or amazing hoola hoop girls. We made friends with some lovely people and enjoyed our relax time.
38: From one beach to another! We arrived in Calangute after a couple days on Arabol. This was more of a tourist beach. We found an awesome place to rent for a couple nights. We had a bathroom, fridge and a tv in our room. And the lady we were renting from was awesome! Sean made friends with her dog. Here we rented a scooter and went to a market, walked on the beach to Baga, another beach town and enjoyed having our own little 'house'. While lazing on the beach we met a mother and daughter and hung out with them for a couple days. The mom was from India so we got to learn a lot of information from her. We went out one night with Lucky, the daughter, in Baga to see what the night life was like. It was tons of fun! We sat at a lounge and then went to a club. We also went on a big boat cruise and a bus tour. On the bus tour we went to a famous burial at the end of a dock and two Catholic churches, One of the churches housed a saint's body that has been preserved for years. Then we went to a house that was 250 years old and instead of paying a lot to go in we made friends with a little puppy and called her Mango! Once we got back to Calagute we figured out how to get to Nepal and said bye to our new friends. The last few days we hung out on the beach and soaked up some rays.
41: Now we are off to Nepal!! Mountains here we come.
42: New Delhi
43: New Delhi
44: Our last couple days in India we went to Qutub Minar and the ruins around it. We didn't get to see it the first time we were in India and I'm glad we came back. We also went to a Mosque that Sean was hoping to see. At night we shopped around our hotel to get some last minute gifts and Jenny and I got some henna on our hands. | At the end of our back packing trip. Back in chaotic India!
47: New Delhi train station
48: Our last night with Jenny, our friend from England that we met in Nepal. We Had a great supper and then played cards and reminisced. Then when it came time for her to leave we said our sad good byes. It was pretty quiet in the room after. Not easy to say good bye to a friend that you just traveled with for 2 months! | Sean and I left the morning after, and we were happy to experience India again before we went home. It was a very tough place to travel in but we learned lots and will never forget our experiences from this entire trip! To many more travels in the future!
49: Above Thali, Right view of the sleeper trains, Below buying grains in the market, and Left an over-loaded truck.