I promise! Maybe some updates of Oxford… some pics of venice… I promise something soon!
Before you even think it – I know it has been a very long time since I last wrote…. and I will be honest in saying that you are just going to have to wait to hear the details of my recent venture. What I will say is that the mountains in Nepal are beyond amazing and trekking around them is something I will never forget. Nor having a birthday in the mountains or riding atop a bus through the beautiful scenery of Nepal – it has been a fun couple of weeks….
But where I did leave off was when me and Amy left Dharamsala and went on an extremely long bus towards Agra, where the famed Taj Mahal is. Touristy though it is we both thought it worth a visit – though in the heat we were experience, and it was very very hot, we wanted to do little except go to the Taj and rest with a nice glass of fresh juice (pineapple is my favourite) or a lassie. On the afternoon when we arrived we did little but this – wandering a little then when it was too hot to do even this return to our hotel and we chilled. With a lovely view of the Taj in the background, I admit our hotel was well placed. As the sun went down we had a lovely view of the Taj’s whiteness dimming and taking on more sunset-like colours. Still beautiful though.
My first view of the Taj
Note the little kid playing in the corner – in sight of the Taj, I love how for some places this marvolous building is commonplace and playing is a much more entertaining experience.
Amy reading the night we arrived – we both got through books while here – mine was a Jodi Picould book – very good although not particually deep, but kind of what I wanted. We chilled the evening away, we were both still knackered from our epic bus journey and so had an early night. We had decided to be at the gates to enter the Taj sometime before six as that is when they opened, so an early night probably was a good idea.
We did indeed arise early, before dawn and as only a few – well many but a few compared to the hoards who would arrive later at the Taj – tourists were there. We waited our turns and got some good photos of the Taj in the morning light, some is perhaps not right, many is more like the amount of photographs I took. Here are some of my favourites…
Above – I love the two birds flying by the white stone… Below – I quite like the fact I captured this man captuting the Taj on his phone – it works as an image.
Above – The gateway you walk through to see the Taj. Below – the classic cliche photo, had to be done.
Below – I can’t help it! I love photographing reflections!
Below – even the floor is decorated so beautifully.
Oh my gosh. we walked up to where the Taj is – onto the white marble itself. When you walk on the marble, as it is a place of reverence for the Islamic faith you wear no shoes. Or that is what the locals and most toursits do. As an aternative you can wear brightly coloured bags over your shoes. Me and Amy chose not to do this, the feeling of cold marble feels wonderful under the feet. This woman pictured below however clearly has no problem wearing the bags over her shoes despite how it clashes with her pure white attire. Brilliant fashion move on her part me and Amy thought!
Opposite the either side of the Taj were two mosques, interesting to see the diference in colour, the brown-red of the mosques against the white of the Taj. The light played beautifully on their walls…
We sat a while and read in the shade of the Taj – a beautiful place to pause…
Again – one of the great things about being to a place like this early is that you see the place in a really interesting light, how the light plays lets say at seven in the morning is much more interesting than at lets say mid-day – as you can see in the image below.
After we had a nice time resting and reading, absorbing the amazing building that we sat in the shadow of. Yet eventually the heat that came with the sun – and by I say heat, I mean, never ending extreme heat – the kind that all you can do is sit and drink cold drinks…. as we were hungry we decided breakfast would be a good idea we left the Taj Mahal, which you can only enter once with your ticket – a ridiculously priced ticket that is something like triple the price of any other ticket purchased across India…
But aside from tha, we returned to the touristy area of Agra, where the tourist stalls were and the coffee shops and had a nice long and refreshing breakfast. Just what we wanted. after we went for a short wander around the stalls, I say short because of the heat it could not walk around for long. I do not mean, it was a bit hot, rather, it was baking, the kind of heat you feel physically ill when you are doing anything outside. Too hot. So, soon we had to retire to our hotel where we spent the afternoon chilling and having a rest – finishing the books we were reading and skyping home, an uneventful afternoon but not an unpleasent one.
We caught yet another night train out of the city – sleeping on diferent kinds of Indian transport seems almost normal now – it was uneventful as far as I can remember. We arrived inVaranasi, already baking hot from the sun that had barely risen above the ramshackled buildings and had one of our first experiences being ripped off in India. I am sure we have before, but we knew soon after this experience that we had been ripped off – and despite that being a huge annoyance it turned out to be a blessing in disguise in the end.
What happened was that our autorickshaw driver took us to the wrong hotel – on purpose. A number of those recomended in Lonely Planet have had other hotels use very similar names to theirs. So Sunrise Guesthouse becomes Sunrise Resthouse, and so on and so forth. We were brought to a place a little out of town, on the ghats yes but quite a ways down from the main ghats, not in the hectic center. After a drink upstairs – where we had the first view of the Ganges and the ghats beside we had a much needed rest. It was the middle of the day and just too hot to do anything else.
Our first view of the ghats from our hotel.
In the evening we went for a walk, in the part of town where our hotel was. We soon realised we had been duped. Both Amy and me were not best pleased, but it meant we got to see a place in India that wasn’t exclusivly for tourists, as many of the places we have been to recently seem to be. We ate at an awesome little place, with a few tables and chairs inside, a kitchen round the back and an oven out the front for the nans (they were really good nans) it was a great atmosphere. After we wandered on and found a local lassie stall, where you could order either plain or sweet lassies in a big or a small clay cup. Two benches were set out for the customers and most of the people there were locals. It only cost 10p for a small cup – and the sweet lassies were delicious. No, they were beyond that, they were simply divine. So very tasty. I think we will come back tomorow!
We met a lovely group of ladies The ladies were really friendly – we chatted with a mix of the Hindi I’ve picked up and the English they knew. Mostly English I will admit but it was nice to chat to the locals, it’s often one of the highlights of travelling. It was a good evening.
Above – the group of ladies I befriended, below are a line of men sitting placidly drinking their lassies…
Because we were tired after the past week full of trains and busses – night trains and busses I should say we slept in later than we usually would. Which, for me being the night owl and not finding early mornings the easiest of things much prefered. It was nice to sleep in. However, (And I am sure you knew that was coming – there is always a but) because we slept in we missed the part of the day that was coolest, when we went out for a walk along the ghats we realised we had gone out too late. We sat for a short while on the main ghats – but it was just too hot to be out. So back to the hotel we went – to chill, sleep and watch yet more Castle. It really is a fun show. It does make me want to go to New York though, what a cool city it is!
In the evening we did go for a walk along the ghats – when it was much cooler and comfortable to be outside. It was beautiful in the late afternoon light. We passed people bathing in the river, groups playing cricket – carefully avioding hitting the ball away from the river. The groups ranged from little kids – their aim trying to be to hit the ball to older children gaining skill but still showings odd moments of clumsiness to the teenagers and adults group which was much more organised and even had a referee… and many more spectators, we watched for a while, it was entertaining. India has most definitly made a cricket fan out of me. Who’d have thought it.
It was nice wandering by the river, peacefull for us with the chaos that surrounded us – I am really going to (well, as I am writing this post-India I do miss rather than going to, but at the time I did consider that I would… does any of that make sense?) miss India, the scenery, the chaos, the colour and the people, how welcoming and friendly they are. I shall miss this country.
One event that I almost forgot to add in, (this is added after I’ve written the majority of the Varanasi section but I had to add in this story) and it will probably not come across how funny it was for me and Amy, but I will still write it down was an animal we saw on the ghats. You can see a range of animals. From cows to water buffalo, chickens and goats. This story is about the last. We were on the ghats, I was taking a photo, Amy looking at something else. We were intereupted by somone making a strange sound – “bluwuhuhuh” is how I can best describe it. I thought it was made by an old man trying to clear his head but not sucseeding and creating a very strange sound – perhaps he was not quite right in the head…. but when I looked there was no man, just a bunch of goats wandering the ghats. He must have moved so I thought, it was not goat noise. But no – the sound came again. This time there was no mistaking it, it came from one of the goats. “bluwuhuhuhuhuh”. Me and Amy stared in amazement – too shocked to even laugh, although we soon did in an “oh my gosh what the heck is that” kind of way. “bluwuhuhuhuh” it bleated (?) again. Very much not right in the head. We moved on – better not to stick around where a goat is making very non-goat noises… for both me and Amy now, we cannot think of goats without thinking of this particular goat and any reference to a goats voice, all we can think about is “bluwuhuhuh”.
Not the goat from my story – another but I liked how this one was posed.
The following morning we rose early, we aimed to be at the main ghats by sunrise but infact rose too late and by the time we reached the ghats the sun had risen and we could feel it getting hotter. We did go for a boat ride – but I did not photograph as much as I have in the past – the majority of photos I took were the day after. (See lower down on this entry) Oh, incidentally it was Easter Sunday this day. It is amazing how being in such a diference culture means you do not realise what the holidays back home are. Currently as I am writting this it is about to be half term – but I only realised that because of what people are saying on facebook. So after the boat ride I had some time to myself to reflect – it was lovely to sit on the ghats surrounded by people but in my own personal quiet. Near the end of my time before I met up with Amy I had some really sweet women come to where I was sitting and change from their wet sarees to their dry ones – really nice to sit and chat with them after as well. A nice morning.
In the afternoon we sorted out our train ticket from Varanasi up to Darjeeling – we would catch a jeep for the last part as the toy train is inactive due to a landslide. Hard to believe that it will be our last stop in India! In the evening I went to a church service in the city – it was all in Hindi so I do not actually know anything that was said but it was good to be in a church. Later on I met up with Amy again and we had another evening wandering the ghats. We bumped into a guy who we’d been on the camel trek with and hung out that evening – going back to the same place we had had diner the first night. Oh my gosh their thalies were good! It was a fun evening.
The following day was our last. This time we woke up before dawn and were on the ghats before the sun rose. We took a boat on the river and as our hour progressed we saw the sun rise, people come on their pilgrimages to the Ganges to bathe and one of the burning ghats being used – where it is considered holy to burn your dead as it is on the River Ganges. Apart from the last event I tried to capture everything. I did take a lot of photographs – so I hope you enjoy them!
This was really early, pre-dawn. It was so quiet… very unusual for India!
A group of kids on the other side of the river.
A woman bathing in the Ganges.
People swimming in the Ganges.
The birds near the river. I found it amusing there was one green bird – the rest pigeons.
People wash clothes in the river. As it is a holy river does that make the clothes holy too?
Our boatman. It was a good ride. After we had seen the sun rise on the boat and had rowed up and floated down the Ganges we wandered a little on the ghats, people watching, seeing the locals interact – I saw many people meditating andcontamplating – or so it seemed to me. It was nice to wander, no aim of getting anywhere just absorbing what was is around you.
I really like this image – it reminds me of the three wise men. I love how they seem to be debating – all in diferent colours… I found it fasinating to watch .
Oh – this is really sweet. The two images below are where two girls got ready after their time bathing in the river, the older doing the youngers hair – it was a really sweet moment to observe.
I was pleased with the images I got – it is not hard to get some good images here – easy almost. Such a beautiful place. After we had had our fill of the ghats me and Amy went to the small streets of the city – where the shops were and did a bit of shopping – Varanasi is famous for it’s silk and I will admit I bought a scarf for myself! We also found is amazing toy shop – very old fashioned but with beautiful toys! So sweet!
Eventually we had our fill of the streets and shops as well. We headed back to the hotel for we did not have too long before having to head off for our train. Our train did not leave from the city of Varanasi but a town just outside. We took a tuk tuk there with time to spare but he – thinking we were tourists and that he could, tried to rip us off by picking up a friend of his and driving him to another part of the city. It was only when we threatened not to pay – as we were cutting it close by this point that he got a move on and we went on a wild – very speedy ride to the station we wanted to get to. We did make our train in time, but not with too mich time to spare. On the train we were in a section with a large family, intent on staying up late – making lots of noise in the process and meaning we had a lousy night sleeping – usually both me and Amy have decent sleeps on the train, but not tonight. It did not help that they had to disembark sometime around four in the morning and before they left they seemed (well, it seemed from my bunk – I was trying to ignore them) that they were having a party pre-leaving the train. So not one of my best nights.
When we arrived at our destination – I do not quite remember which town it was, but I digress, we caught a jeep to Darjeeling. It was refreshing being out of the heat – a noticeable diference after the heat of Varanasi. We climbed up the hills passing the tea trees that covered the hillsides – and later mountainsides. It was beautiful to see and I admit I was looking forward to having a good cup of tea!
We reached Darjeling in early afternoon and with a guy who we-d met on the train went in search of a hostel – ending up in one with a suspendous view of the surrounding mountains – when it was cleap – which it was when we first arrived you could see mountains in the distance, the himalayas. We are going to be surounded by them in a few weeks! We had a rest then a wander into town. I took a panarama of the view on our way…
By the time we had had a cup of tea, well a pot of tea… it was getting a little on the late side and we headed back to our hotel for an early night. Much needed after the sleepless night on the train the night before.
On our following day we had wanted to take the toy train – due to the landslide it is no longer running the majority of its journey. To add to this the train that day was all booked up – so we booked ticket for the following day. That day we went for a walk – we decided to visit the zoo and the Himalayan Mountainering Institute. The zoo was interesting but as I often find – slightly sad that these animals are in cages and not in the wild. The Institute was really interesting. Talking about the diferent himalayas, where they are and how high they all are. We realised that the pass we would walk over on our trek is higher than anywhere in Europe! How cool is that?!
View on the way to the zoo.
Cool butterfly we saw.
There was a lot of information on those who had climbed Everest. The first two people were Edmund Hillary (who I found out last night (as in when I am writting this) was interviewed by my Grandfather. Super super cool!) and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. No one knows who got to the top first – for both men refuse to say who reached the peak first and that fact has gone to the grave with them. Amazing men.
We wandered back up to the town. We did some odd jobs and had some tea – although I have loved the Indian chai, to drink some black tea is really nice – and reminds me of home, proper tea. I even found some digestives somewhere – a good afternoon. The evening we spent chilling, very nice.
Oh – I almost forgot about this. This is a sign we saw on our way back to Darjeling town from the zoo, I found it quite funny…
A pretty church we saw on our way back up to the town.
The next morning we went to visit Tiger Hill. From here at sunrise you have a beautiful view of the Himalayas. So, dark and early we rose and caught a jeep with a few other travellers and went to see the sunrise. It was really beautiful. Worth the early morning. There is something about sunrises that is just magical.
When we returned to the hotel we had a sleep – it wasn’t really a nap as it was still early and we wanted to catch up on sleep. Very nice. In the early afternoon we went for our journey on the steam toy train. We went to a small town outside of Darjeeling on the train – Ghum. It was not so good as I thought it might be as the train ran for the most part alongside the road, the latter part of the journey has the best views, but it was still enjoyable. This train is very different however from the Darjeeling Limited train portrayed in the film…
The station we left from…
On the train…
The view – it was a pity as the weather was not the best today for views…
I quite like the silloette here.
Ghum – where we had a short stop. Not the most interesting of places…
On our way back…
It was fun being on a steam train all the same – even if the view that day was not the best. It is the experience that counts… for the rest of the day we chilled. I was not feeling too great if I remember correctly and so we had a low-key afternoon. After the speed in which we travelled in our last fortnight of India it was nice to have a restfull time here.
The following day we left. Good bye India! We caught a jeep back to the town which I cannot remember the name of and from there a bus to the border. But… I will tell of my epic (and yes – it was an epic journey) into Nepal… oh what a journey it was!
And so I bid goodbye to one of my favourite countries in the world. For good reason. The people are wonderfull, the scenery spectacular and the experiences I had there unforgettable. After travelling China alone is was great to have someone else to share it all with and travelling with Amy was awesome. So many shared experiences that no one but us will ever get and so many memories that will remind me of my time in India. No, my first time in India….
And so, the last time I can say this… I love India!!!
As I am trying to fill in the gap between leaving Rajasthan and arriving in Nepal – where I am now incidentally I will give a brief account of what we did in the middle points. Unlike much of our trip our last week or two were much more organised into a few places rather than cramming in many. First we wanted to visit delhi, the crazy hectic hub that is the capital of India, from there we had a side trip up to Dharamsala – where for a few days we stayed in the mountains and enjoyed the much cooler (In Delhi and in the places after Dharamsala it was beyond hot) weather, there was even a proper storm with lightning and thunder! We came back to Delhi after and onto Agra where we saw the Taj Mahal, onto Varanasi where we rode on a boat on the Ganges and finally catching a bus up to Darjeling where we again enjoyed the cool over many cups of tea. Oh that tea was good!
So that was our last few weeks – they were amazing, a mix of everything that makes India great, with a lot of what hinders its greatness and a bit of Tibetan and Nepali thrown in.
So, Delhi. What a city it is – with however many thousands of people it is jam packed. We arrived in the morning after a night bus from Pushkar – I will save you from hearing the details of that… but we were pretty nackered. I had to go out to post my package home though, most of what I bought in India so far… I hope it gets back okay! I visited Cognaugh Place, one of the central hubs of the capital. It was great to send though, a load off my back if you will.
When I came back me and Amy went to visit the back streets of Old Delhi. They were really cool. Tiny allyways leading to yet more allys crammed with shops. There seemed to be diferent districts, we started in one that was full of saree shops and stalls selling material – really cool to see all the diferent colours! We then went onto the district selling paper, cards and stationary – we passed many printing places. Not the modern prints I mean by that, but the old fashoned type – with a printing press and ink – super cool! Here we saw a traffic jam – with a horse pulling a carrage waiting too – how cool is that?!
We soon ended up on a proper street though, this one full of mechanic shops selling oil and tyres with cars, bikes and tuk tuks outside being taken apart or seen to, an interesting area. Here we saw a goat tied to a post box, today is the day for the random sights… but then again in India this is not too random. I love this country.
We ended up by a market next to the main mosque in Delhi – much fun wandering round but we decided to wait to the following morning to visit the mosque. We saw kids playing cricket in the parks next to the market – well cool to see! We did not stay for too long though, returning to our hotel for a rest – we had not really slept much the night before and then out for a wander down the touristy street and diner, a good night if an early one.
Me at the market by the mosque.
The next day Amys alarm woke us up early, (it was not meant to be set but oh well, early starts are good) we were going to see the sights of Old Delhi – should be good! Below are two of the sights that we passed on our way – a guy making a gigantic pot of some Indian dish – looks good! As well as a man reading his paper while drinking his morning chai, one of the best Indian inventions, for sure.
The mosque was interesting, beautiful arcitecture. I got some good photos – although both of us did have to wear the most ridiculous robes that were garish colours with equally garish designs. Oh how great it is to be a tourist…
Feet! With a little bit of horible robe…
At the mosque we met a really nice girl who we ended up spending the morning with. We went to visit the Red Fort soon after – one of the important sights of Old Delhi. The best description would probably be was that it was big and red. A cool place though, we wandered in and had a look round the diferent parts – there was a room where the ruler would issue decrees and have audiences as well as a mosque inside the fort. On the way in and out there was a passage full of market stalls selling touristy stuff. It was fun to talk to the girl – she was a student passing though and wanted to spend the day around Delhi – nice to meet real people. I still had my cold so was not feeling the best, which often results in not apriciating the place quite as much. I did (of course) get some good photos though.
As I said, it is very red….
Cool flower design on the wall.
People looking out the window
Another cool flower design.
All the shops on the way to and from the inside of the fort.
The main gate into the fort.
From there we returned to the streets and allys of Old Delhi – it was a much quieter day for which we were soon to discover was due to a festival that was on. It was fun wandering the streets with our cameras though and trying to capture the essence that is Indias streets and people. Such an amazing country it is hard to pin down – but we gave it a go!
Sometimes is great to look up…
As I said, good to look up – I love the design here.
A pile of material on sale
One of the printers
A dog asleep
A doll in a shop – it made me and Amy chuckle.
Cool colours eh?!
We did get caught up in the festival though, we had chatted to a cool guy who owned a sweet shop and told us the reason for the streets being quieter – he is in the photo above. Anyways, after leaving the shop we passed through the ally and entered one of the streets full of people. We had people pass us by playing instruments, people dancing and we were both given pink drinks – it tasted like milk and a fried snack – everyone seemed to be happy and enjoying the festives – it was fun to witness and both me and Amy agree that India is a place that has many cliches – but most of them are true. Like how the rickshaw drivers driving skills leave much to be desired, how there are cows literally everywhere and how you will come across random festivals in the streets in India with no warning except that there is a little more noise than usual ahead. It makes India though and I would never want this country to stop being like this. The festival that we were swept up in was awesome though, that is for sure.
The festival approaches….
Watching part of the procession – it was cool to be a part of it.
People at the festival
The festival passes by.
We then walked on to the station where we could catch a train back to our hotel – but on the way we saw this and it made us laugh how there was the sign with people queing outside. I love shots like this!
We soon headed back to the main strip – getting dinner and having a wander around in the night. It had been a good day, even if the Old Delhi streets had been quiet. We decided to visit the more modern part of Delhi the following day, well, it is called New Delhi.
First we visited the main history museum – getting in for only 1 rupee as Amy was a student and I… well they let me in for a rupee too, very nice of them. It was interesting, there was a cool section on the miniature art – reminded of our time in Rajasthan. It was interesting to find out about the origins of India – it is such an old country, well place where there has been civilisation – it is fascinating to see how it has progressed over time. Most definitely worth 1 rupee!
We wandered along one of the main roads to the India Gate – where we had a rest on the grass and had a refreshment. Very nice in the heat – for it was hothere – I mean, like, if it was this heat in England it would be in the national newspapers how hot it was. The Gate was cool – although I do think I prefer the one in Mumbai.
We tried to find a craft museum – only suceseding after walking a long way and only to find the place being renovated and so virtually empty. Not good. So we went to the Rail Museum. A place quite obviously meant for children but good fun for us as well. So the photos tell!
Amy by a train
We then went to see the museum that was at the place – it was really interesting, showing the history of trains in India and facts about the diferent famous train lines – for example the train we went on when leaving Ooty. Below are some of the interesting things we saw. First the skull of an elephant that tried to charge headfirst into a train – the train came off better unfortunatly… below is the train Gandhi was on when he had the experience that partially made him into the man he is known for in India – and below that the letter that was one of the important factors for toilets in trains! Got to love some of the stuff you learn in museums!
We then took the toy train around the grounds – seeing many diferent types of trains – I saw a good number of British towns and cities written on the sides of the trains – places I of course now miss! After the ride we had a wander round the diferent trains – clamboring over some of them to pear inside and imagin what it would have been on them when they were in service – that must have been wonderful!
Isn’t it sweet?!!!
From the train museum we returned to the main strip and another night there. The following day we went to look round Old Delhi for a whie, it was most definitly more busy than yesterday, all the shops were open and people were everywhere. I sometimes think you would be hard pressed to find a place in the whole of India with no people at all…. anyways, I got some good photos of the back streets when busy! It was fun to walk around with my camera capturing the essence of an Indian city, an amazing country.
It was not long before we were heading back and sorting out all our stuff for our next place – Dharamsala. This is a place I have wanted to go for a while, it is where the Tibetan Government in exile is, it is up in the mountains and it should give us a break from the heat – a much desirable thing! We caught a night bus there – a long journey on a very uncomfortable bus… but then should I expect anything diferent? We arrived in the morning and embarked to find a hotel – it was beautiful in Dharamsala. My wish was granted and it was cooler as well!!! So nice.
Then we had a moment where you realise how small the world really is. For, round the corner came Jake, one of the people who we had met in Jaipur over the Holi festival and had at the time joked that we might bump into later on in our trip – strange how these things happen! We went to catch up and eat breakfast, kill two birds with one stone in a ways – we found an awesome place that had cakes, pies and muffins – how great a breakfast can you have?!
Jake was doing well – had been in the area between here and Jaipur where we had last seen him while we were travelling round Rajasthan – it is always nice to see a face you know when travelling. Soon though we went to find the hotel we were to stay at, a small place that gave part of their earnings to helping Tibetans who flee Tibet – good to stay somewhere with a good cause, and there are duveys here! Like, we will need to be kept warm at night – something we have not needed for over a month – strange the things that appeal after a while travelling. When we had chilled a little we had a wander round the town – it is a really cool place. It is nice to see a mix of people, Indian, Tibetan and tourists from everywhere. There were stalls all along the main road leading down to where the Tibetan Monastry was – where the Tibetan Government in exile and the Dala Lama were. We did not visit there yet though – we just had a day to relax after our mamoth journey up to Dharamsala. For diner we went to a Japanese restaurant – really nice! Nice to have something completly diferent I have to admit.
Rain! How I miss rain!
The next day we went to visit the Monastary where the Dala Lama lived – it was intersting to see the Tibetan culture from this side – where they are free to express what they want and where they are trying to preserve their culture. I really love my time in the Tibetan part of China – the people were so lovely and their culture was amazing – it makes me miss being there if I am honest. Except that here the Tibetan way of life has embraced the modern world a lot more. The monastry was beautiful though – outside there were monks who were arguing – well, debating. When they would make a point they would slap their hand in such a way – really cool to watch! Even if I had no idea what they were saying!
Again we had a day chilling – I had caught a bug (as in I did not feel well, I was not capturing insects I would have you know) and so really wanted some time to chill, which I have to admit after a action packed time in Rajasthan was really nice. We rested the day away having a nice diner in the evening – a good day.
In the evening we went to see “the Lion Man”, a Tibetan guy who every night gave a performance. At first he did some singing of Tibetan songs and did some Tibetan dancing – really cool to see and made me miss the Tibetan areas I had seen when visiting China. He then did some, what can only be described as an “experimental” dance – which was interesting to watch and a little funny but generally was not my thing.
Me, Amy and Jake
On our last day in Dharamsala we had a chill day, really nice to have before another epic journey back down to Delhi. A little bit better than on the way up but not by much. Just long and enduring. When we finally reached the city, just as the sun was rising we caught another bus to Agra – where, as I am sure you all know, the Taj Mahal is. Oh yes we are doing the tourist thing!
And I am afraid I will have to leave it there…. I did not finish the post in time before leaving before my trek and so I will update it in a few weeks… sorry! But I will leave you with one photo of the Taj!
So when I left off my last post – posting it up on record time I might add… both me and Amy had The following day we visited the City Palace, it was interesting, a place that has a long history, some gergous art and a fasinating collection of armory – I especially liked how they had created a “Welcome” Sign out ofdiferent kinds of wepons…. for example the O was two guns placed handle to tip, very bizar.
We then wandered around the Old City – it was awesome to get lost and see all the locals in the side streets, get passed by plenty of cows and to have a juice break and people watch. A great afternoon. There is nothing quite like the back streets of an Indian town/city – full of the locals chatting or sleeping, drinking chai, bright sarees displayed in windows of shops, the streets are more often than likely, in fact in almost all cases a mess, rubbish and cow dung everywhere but there is something about the little alleyway streets – they are awesome.
That night I had a great night hanging out with the guys that we had spent Holi with – playing cards and having a right on chin wag. Well nice!
The day after we visited Amber Fort, one of the most famous forts in Rajasthan – one of my favourite that we saw in the state. We arrived early, partially so that we were there before the day got too hot, because the light was better and because it is always less touristy the earlier you go. You could get an elephant up the hill that the fort stood on, but we walked, cheeper and to be honest probably as fast. The fort was beautiful in the morning light though – such a lovely colour and against the blue sky it was just stunning.
(The Elephants – they still have a little of their Holi makeup on!)
We spent the morning walking around the fort – it was stunning, the architecture was amazing. Narrow passages led to empty rooms, to other courtyards and to the more famous sights around the fort. One of the most famous of the areas where the Maharajah held public audiences has the walls covered with small pieces of mirrors and little pieces of diferent colours of glass – just georgous. There were some cool designs on the walls as well – one with a weird bug! Strange but certainly cute! We got a lot of good photos, something important to the both of us. The day was perfect as well – bright blue sky to contrast the amber of the stone. A really good morning.
(A spelling error, at least in India they correct them – unlike in China)
(This looked a little like a Dali painting to me – cool in my opinion)
(The random bug on a wall)
(Some of the women who worked there having a rest)
(Will there be a time I do not find monkeys amusing?)
(A maze of rooms, courtyards and allyways)
(I love this photo for the composition – I think it kind of works….)
After the fort, and some lovely lunch we headed to a Printing Museum in the town by the fort. It was awesome. It was focusing on the traditional craft of block printing onto material, looking how the craft had almost vanished to be restarted in the 60′s by designers bringing new styles and designs to India from the West. Some of the designs and the clothes themselves were beautiful, crafted with such care. It was great to see the craft still happening and being contined. One of the men in the museum worked at carving the blocks that would be used in the printing – such detailed work, amazing to watch him at work.
We had a quiet evening, Amy had a bit of a cold and I was knackered from the day – it was our last night in Jaipur though so me and Amy as well as the pair of girls (the group of gour had already left) and Jake went out for a nice diner – a fun evening. We were really lucky in the people we met here, especially because it meant we had a really good day playing Holi, which will always be a highlight of my trip. After diner we all went out for a coffee – in my case a desert, bring on the muffins and ice cream! We had a laugh, as I said, we had a great bunch of people here.
The next morning we had to leave earlish, so we packed up and off we went – said goodbye to everyone and caught another lovely (Please note the sarcasm there) bus to Bundi – a town in the south part of the state. We arrived in the afternoon, time for a wander a drink (I had a wonderfull (No sarcasm meant there) pineapple juice, in fact I had two, Amy had a lassie) and we broused all the shops selling all manner of things, we saw saree shops and shops selling pots and pans as well as those selling jewlery – I think those were meant more for the tourists… but it was a nice afternoon wandering. That evening we had a nice diner and relaxed at the hostel which was run – at least those in charge were all women. It was cool chatting to them and hearing their story of how they started the hostel against much oposition due to their gender, but they had prevailed and had a thiving hostel. There was the cutest little girl there, the daughter of one of the owners – so sweet!
Oh my gosh, there was one event of the day that I almost forgot to put in – Amy is as shocked as I am that I could even concieve to forget it…. the pineapple incident. So. I thought in Jaipur it would be great to buy a pineapple, as a snack along the ways, althought I did not eat said pineapple in Jaipur or on the bus. When we arrived in Bundi we had had half an hour or so chilling in our room with the doors and windows open – recovering from our bus journey and the pineapple lay, quite harmless on the table by the bed. All was well. Until, that is, Amy saw a little brown hand moving along the bed and when she gave a cry to alert me to the little grey hand I just had time to see a monkey run from our room outside carrying, as you have no doubt guessed, my pineapple. I tried to chase the monkey, but as you can guess the monkey was faster and had the advantage of being able to jump over to other houses, so I had to watch him settle down and begin to eat, my stollen pineapple. Amy found this whole episode hilarious, although I cannot deem why…
The next day me and Amy had planned to visit the fort in the town, being the main attraction and us wanting to take advantage of all the places to see in the area. However, when woken by the alarm to get us up early we both agreed similtaniously that sleeping in would be a better option. We had not had a nice morning just relaxing for a while and now was the perfect time. It was perfect – so nice just to chill. Once we had packed, for we were leaving that night, we had chilled downstairs for a while and talked to the owners and our fellow travellers. We even learn how to make sweet paratha – so darn good! We loved this place where we were staying – but we felt that we would either have to stay here for a week, to chill and to see the diferent sights of the town or we would only see this place for a short time – to stop in and see how great it was and add it to a list of places to stay on future trips to India. We had another wander round the town, we had planned to see the fort but did not get there having a coffee instead. We returned to the hostel in the evening and had their thali, (The general Indian meal, it has dhal, a veggy dish, rice and chapatti) sooo good.
We caught our night bus to Udapur, like all night busses it was endurable. Not nice, or comfortable but it got us there and meant we paid for one night that was both our travel and accomodation in one – in a ways. We arrived early in Udipur, a beautiful if not a quite touristy town. We looked for a room which took a while as there were not a few places but settled on a place with an average room with an amazing view. You could see the mountains that stood over the lake (we could see a little of the lake but it was mostly obscured by the buildings in front) the colours beautiful in the morning light. We chose the right room.
We rested through the morning, we needed it after our sleepless night and then spent the rest of the day wandering round the town. We arranged a cooking course for the next few days – I am going to learn to make Masala Dosa!!! Cannot wait. The town, well the part we were in, was most definitly made for tourists, but it was still nice. I am glad we decided to only stay the night in Bundi and a little longer here perhaps. We went down to the lake where we came to the edge of the main palace, I have a cool photo of Amy from there!
That evening we had a nice diner on the roof of our neighbours hotel and watched Octopussy – the James Bond film that was filmed in this town. We had a laugh counting all the Indian cliches, snake charmer, tuk tuk driver driving in a crazt fashion, elephants and camels, colourful sarees, impromtu festival that just appears in the road in the middle of nowhere… the list goes on. I think they had most of them though! It was a fun film, cool to see the town where we were in the film. Although I think the film will always remind me of Udipur rather than the other way around.
The following day we had our cooking lesson – really good fun. We learnt how to make the Malasa Chai, the Indian tea that is sold everywhere, the best perhaps being found on the Indian trains, not quite sure why but it is always the best there. We learnt how to make Alu gobi and red curry and chapattis – so tasty!!! The woman who was teaching us had both learned to cook from a course as well as learning throughout her life as a woman of the home, she was chatty and full of ancidotes, how if you chew a piece of garlic every morning it will help your indigestion. It was a really fun morning and afternoon.
We had a rest that afternoon going down to the lake in the early evening to see the sun set and take a boat around the lake to see the town from the water – a really nice ride. The light was just georgous. We came back to the land for the sunset though that was just stunning – so beautiful. A really nice evening.
We did not have a proper diner perse due to still being full from the cooking earlier – only a snack and then bed. We had an earlier start the next day, both of us seperating and having a wander round the town before our lesson. I wandered into the more real backstreets, where the Indian people, not the tourists, wandered the streets, paying homage to their gods in small temples, buying and selling fruit and veg and ushering the cows down the street. There is something about India that just appeals to me, the chaos and order nixed together, the people so friendly and the wide range of colours that area everywhere, oh my gosh I love this country.
The second day of the cooking course was as great as the day before. We made raitar, chutney and of course my favourite, masala dosas! I can now make the dish – and oh am I going to when I get home! It is a perfect snacky bruch meal. We had a great lunch trying all the diferent dishes, as we had the day before. It was great to eat proper Indian food that we had made.
That afternoon we had planned to visit the temple but ended up just wandering the town again – and doing a bit of shopping. In my defence, there was a lot of cool stuff and it was cheap…. although I do very much have Woldt genes when it comes to shopping, so its not technically my fault! Again we were not too hungry that evening because of the food eaten earlier and so had a snack diner – quite nice though.
The following day we visited a Jain Temple that had been recomended to me by a guy I met in Hong Kong who had travelled a little around India – he described it as the most beautiful temple he had seen, and it was worth seeing. We had to get a long bus there, but it was worth it. We had left early so to get there before the heat of the day really kicked in and so it was a peacefull place to visit. The temple itself was beautiful, all white marble carved into intracote shapes, the temple was filled with pillars all carved similarly with hidden details only noticed when you looked up close. The place was beautiful, both me and Amy sat for a while just relaxing, it was a nice day.
There was a tree in the middle of the temple, well, to the side. It was strange to see a tree in the middle of the white stone – I admit it did remind me a little of Minis Tirith, even if it was not a white tree, it was a cool place.
We left in the afternoon, meeting some cool Korean people on the bus back to Udipur, nice to chat to other travellers again. This was our last night in Udipur – it will be sad to say goodbye as it has been a great time here.
The next morning me and Amy split up – I went for a wander before having an art lesson – I really wanted to learn how to do the Indian style of painting where they paint miniture scenes, often elephants or camels or scenes of couples, often one being a God. I have seen these across India and think them beautiful, such a diferent style of painting to what I do. I painted an elephant! How you paint in this style is to draw your subject, not from life but from imagination or copying. You paint over in a light orange colour, one that will be painted over in due course. You then fill in the subject with a base colour, in the case of the elephant a light grey. Then you add the details, a black line around the subject and a lighter colour for the details such as jewlery. I was quite pleased with mine I will admit! It was fun to chat to the artist and his staff that worked in the shop selling his and his apprentises work. I then visited the main palace, it was beautiful but after so many places that are quite similar I perhaps did not appriciate it as much as I should have. The colours were beautiful there though, contrasting blues and reds against each other… so lovely.
View of the city
I love the blue and red here
One of the signs that made me chuckle and at the same time be a little concerned is the sign in the photo below – see what I mean?!
I met up with Amy half way though the palace, good to see here although I guess she took a lot longer wandering through the palace – fair dues as she is a history student. We chilled the rest of the afternoon away, going down to the lake to take advantage of the afternoon light and watch the sun set. Beautiful, we then went for diner where we chilled watching night fall and where we waited the evening away as we had yet another night bus that evening. Joy.
A group of school girls by the lake
I have gone on so much about night busses I will pass on this one – it was exactly the same as all those before it. We arrived in Jodpur in the early morning. We took an autorickshaw to our hostel and like so many other mornings following night busses spent time sleeping. Not for too long though – we wanted to visit the main fort in Jodpur, one of the most famous forts in India. It had never been taken by force and was an imposing place. The inside though was beautiful. Beautiful colours and fasinating details. A day well spent. The view from the walls was amazing of the town. Jodpur is known as the blue city – most of the houses in the main town are painted this colour. It suposedly keeps the mozzies away and cools down the houses. It made a beautiful photograph though.
Holes made by canon fire
Almost like a Wheres Wally picture….
A chair that fits ontop an elephant – hot cool!
We finished looking around the fort earlier than we thought and so we visited the main market in Jodpur, wandering around the stalls, pausing for a lassie and having a good chat while doing both. One of the best things with travelling with someone who you know well is that you can chat about so much and continue conversations over more than one, or two or three days. Its fun to chat – that I most definitly learnt from my Mother.
Will cows ever stop being cool to photograph in India?!
That afternoon it was the semifinal of the cricket world cup. I have not really talked about the cricket world cup much on my blog, but in India it is a big deal. It is like the Superbowl in the US or when England plays a football match in the Football World Cup. Not only that but the tournament is being held in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India – and so everyone, I mean everyone was talking about it. You could talk to anyone working a stall in a market across India and start a conversation about cricket and you could be talking for an hour… cricket was the game that children play in the streets of India, often in the roads, from a pair of kids batting and bowling to a whole group in a much more organised game. Those who were in the Indian cricket team were stars, heros and were most likely some of the most famous faces in India, save for the Bollywood elite. As I said, cricket was huge. Even so, this game that was happening, the semi- final was not just any huge cricket game in India. It was India against Pakistan. As one Indian person later told me, this match “is war”. It was taking all the rivalry, distrust and unrest and putting it into a sports match against each other, how India wanted to win this match… I think it was as, if not more important than the final. Oh my gosh it was good fun. We wandered back from the market towards our hostel and everyone, I mean everyone was watching it. People stood huddled around telivisions, around radios. The British equilivant perhaps is England against Germany in the Semi Final of the Football World Cup… perhaps even bigger. What amused me and Amy more though was how the roadside temples, dotted everywhere throughout India were not filled by the usual worshipers, no. They had tv’s in, filled with cricket fans cheering their team. In one of these temple turned cricket world cup rooms we joined a group of fans cheering India batting their way through the match. It was the first half so we would wait until the second half to see how well they had done. They were good though and the fans who watched across India knew it.
Tv in the street showing the match
A woman looking down while we passed below
Kids we passed by
At a stall where I bought some spices – really cool stall!
Some guys we hung out with to watch the match
When the first half ended we returned to our hostel, we wanted to chill for a bit – we were knackered after our action packed day. There was wifi at the hostel and so I wanted to work on this blog – I was still on my middle of India post back then. We knew though, soon enough, that India had beaten Pakistan and was into the World Cup Final – go on India!!!!!
The next day we had signed up for a tour of some of the villages around Jodpur, we wanted to visit the country a little and see somewhere that was not so touristy. The tour was fun, we had tea in a traditional house of a local family, their kids were so cute! We also visited a potter and a guy who worked as a printer using the traditional technique that we had seen near Amber, very cool.
We also visited the sight of the first tree huggers, the story goes that the Maharajah wanted a road built through a wood of these trees that were sacred to the local people. When the guards who were set to chop down the wood an old women who saw them stopped them and said how they would have to kill her first before the trees and she wrapped her arms around one of them. The guards were not too bothered by this killing her and carrying on with their job. When the old womens village heard of this they followed suit wrapping their arms around the trees and dying to protect them. At some point soon after a local person visited the Maharajah who started this, telling them of the events that had happened and begging that the trees be saved. He consented and built the road elsewhere, giving the land to the people who thought the trees sacred and issued a decee saying that the trees would be not be chopped down from then on. The place we visited was the piece of land where the people had died and where a monument now stood in memory of them, a sad story.
We were dropped off eventually by the market and after another wander around, as well as another of the tasty lassies that were served at a stall there we returned to the hostel to chill before our night train out to Jaisamer, where we would do a camel trek!
On the way from the market to our hotel
When we arrived in Jalsamer we were quite literally asulted by men trying to convince us that their hostel was the best one to stay at. Oh my gosh, they were push, loud and would not shut up how many times you told them. They crowded in around us and did not give us a moments peace until we chose where we were going to stay – somewhere a little out of town, but somewhere we had heard of and was cheap. In fact the cheapest place I have stayed while travelling, coming in about £1 a night. How great is that?!
The place we had stayed, as part of the deal gives you a lift to their hotel – we slept for quite a while, very nice then went into town to try and sort the camel safari we wanted to do for the next few days. Our hotel tried to convince us that theirs was far superior – of course, but we had refused and wandered into town to see which place we wanted to find for ourselves – deciding in the end with “trotters” and a three day, two nights, can not wait. We decided to spend the following day in town however, as the cricket world cup final (India against Sri Lanka, just a little bit of a big deal…) was taking place and we did not want to miss that! We chilled the afternoon away, getting one, if not the best lassies I have had in India. A makiahania (I think that is the right spelling….) lassie, basically a sweet lassie with spices, raisins and many other delicious things, well nice!
The next day was much the same – in this area it was seriously hot. Like, you cannot go out in the middle of the day as it was just too darn hot. Oh my gosh it was not good. We wandered around a little in the morning, joining in the celebrations for the world cup. I admit, when we saw Sri Lanka’s score at the end of their time batting, and it did not look good – high in the 200s. (I do find it amusing that in two months I not only have gone from finding cricket boring to liking it, but I can actually talk about score and such, good one India!) Even the restaurant owner who was watching the match with us doubted that India could surpass Sri Lanka.
But as the match neared the end, we saw that they were gaving it their best. At first it looked like they were playing well but not quite well enough, but soon, with one of Indias best batters they started to get more and more 4s and were definitly in the running. That batter, whos name I cannot remember for life or love took 97 runs, three short of a century – poor guy. But he did India proud and when Dhoni (The capitan and the only player whos name I remember!) took to the field, (Is that the right expression) when he started to bat anyways it was clear India just had to hold on and they would be victors. It was still awesome though, when Dhoni hit an Amazing 6 to win the game – what a shot it was!!!! And India exploded. Like, everyone was partying, cheering and celebrating. I cannot even describe how it was in India that night – fireworks went off and parties started, a happy country. This was their national sport and they won it on their home turf. Good on them!!!!
We did not stay out though, as we had an early start the next morning – pre-dawn we were waiting for the jeep that would take us away to do our camel trek! We waited, with a cup of chai of course – the ultamate drink for an early morning – with John, an American guy and Mom a Chinese girl. We soon set off though in the dark through the desert, watching the sun rise on the way and stopping at a random point of the road for breakfast – well nice! Our guides all hung together no doubt comparing the match the night before, we heard many “world cup”s, “Sri Lanka”s and “cricket”. They all seemed happy though.
Soon we were heading out, we mounted our camels and for the next few hours started our trek into the Thar desert. We were joined shortly by Phil – a German guy and the desert that passed by was sandy covered in shrubs.
(Sunrise on the road)
(My camel – acording to the guides it “had a few screws loose” – great)
For lunch we stopped under a tree where we stopped for lunch. Not only for lunch really but for the hot part of the day. It got, really, really hot. So we rested, ate our lunch, a grand combination of dhal and chapatti – oh and a strange crisp like things that had many diferent bright colours. We had a good chat between the five of us. Somehow when me and Amy get in groups like this we seem to have really deep conversations – this was one of those times. We talked about politics, religon and our opinions of India and how the system works here. It was good fun!
(Phil, Amy and Mom)
We had a sleep too which was nice, really nice! But all to soon we had to pack up and leave again, into the blistering heat. On our way in the morning we picked up a stray dog – Amy named him Jeffery. We was cool. When we passed through a village he got many growls from the local dogs – Jeffery walked in the middle of our group keeping his head down. It was when we had to stop for water that he became vunrable and the dogs went for him – they literally turned into a ball of fur. Not good! Jeffery though was made of stern stuff and soon after came over to join our group – very much intact. We were out of the village soon and back on the camels for another couple of hours till we reached the dunes, where the camels were watered and we went off to photograph.
(Jeffery on the lookout)
(Mom and John)
(Our guides behind us)
The dunes we georgous. The light, on the dunes was stunning and the colours of the dunes against the sky was just amazing. There were ripples on the sand and marks from diferent animals – it was amazing to be there, it really was. But, as usual with me the photographs speak much better than my words. The dunset though was out of this world, well, very much within this world but you know what I mean!
(Animal Marks in the sand)
That evening our guides cooked us an awesome meal of dhal, rice and chapatti – such an awesome meal. We ate as the stars came out – they were beautiful. They really were. Again we had a nice chat between us, our guides joining us soon after, fun to chat to them.
We awoke nice and early, as the sky was lightning and I watched the sun rise over the dunes from where I slept. It was beautiful and very peaceful. We had breakfast and soon enough were all packed up. The other guys were all going for a two day hike and so as we were going for three we parted ways. Sad to see them go but at the same time it will be nice being just me and Amy tonight. The morning proceded much as the day before had – we treked in the morning past much the same kind of scenery that we had seen the day before. In the middle part of the day we rested under another tree and had a sleep – our guides as well. Nice to rest.
Amy and her camel
In the afternoon we had the chance to walk through a small town – really cool and on the way out we passed a small herd of camels passed us by – very cool.
A cool building in the village
The rest of the trek was spent treking on to the dunes where we would spend that night. The dunes were not quite as good as those the day before but were still cool. We took some good photos of the sun going down again, so beautiful. Our guides came over to where we were and we spent the next while sliding down the dunes having a laugh. After diner we all hung out under the stars – so cool. I got a good photo of the stars with the two guides standing in front. Very cool, the stars were amazing. Then we laid out that which we would sleep on – sleeping under the stars is so cool, very peaceful to fall asleep under the stars…
We woke again in time for the sunrise, really cool to see over the planes. Georgous.
We spent our last day going through the desert, making our way back to where we would be picked up. We stopped off at a town that was abandoned – the houses were stone-brick shells of what they originally on – cool to see what the village would have looked like. We stopped for a while for lunch, where we lost one of our camels to another guide who turned up and of course spend a good while sleeping. It really was too hot to do anything but sleep. We soon continued on though and it was not too long till we reached where we would be picked up – we bid goodbye to our guides and clamboured onto the jeep to go back to Jaisamer.
There we visited a hotel that was linked to the place we had booked our trek and had a cold shower – so nice. Like, really, really nice. It was good to get the dust and sand off – we were covered last night. We chilled for a while until our train, for, you guessed it – we had a long train ride that night. Well, we had a train that arrived in Jodpur in the morning and then another that arrived in Jaipur in the early afternoon. We heard there was a festival on that afternoon – we had gone back to the same place we stayed at before and so heard of it, though how great is our luck! So off we went in the festival, in the middle of town. I stood next to this awesome old guy who told me what was going on – it was a festival for women – there was a procession much like at the elephant festival we went to before Holi – elephants painted up, camels, a band and lots of dancers but there were diferences as well. For example, at the end there was an idol that was carried past that people threw money at. It was an interesting event to be at, even if it was not as good as Holi.
A woman in traditional dress is interviewed for the news
The woman who was interviewed and the man who chatted to me
The next day me and Amy split – I wanted to visit a village where traditional paper making and hand printing on cloth happens – a place I had heard of from when we visited the printing museum near Amber. (seems like an age ago though!) I caught a bus there – a really cool journey. The bus was tiny but as all Indian busses manage to do fit a huge amount of people on it. It felt like the London Underground. At rush hour. Just before Christmas. It was not even the busy time of the day for them but people kept coming to climb on the bus till people were literatlly clinging on from the doorway. What an experience!
I did finally make it to my town though and so began my search for where they made the paper. I passed school children and shops but I did not find what I wanted and finally asked a guy at his house with his family. He told me it was in the house next door and so there I waited, only to be told that a guy who works at the paper factory (handmade paper – at a factory, an oxymoron purhaps?) was coming to pick me up. Not quite which I had in mind but still. He turned out to be a nice gentleman who was a graphic designer at the factory. He showered me around and explained how they make the paper. It goes something like this,..
First the cloth that makes the paper is shredded into small pieces. As you can see happening here.
The shredded paper is soaked and treated, mixed for a few hours. This makes it into the paste that is used in the next stage.
Then the paper mix is in what can only be described as a tub. Two men have a frame covered in a thin cloth, the paper mix covers this as they dunk it in the tub. They pull the frame out, cover it with a linnen sheet, turn over and add to the pile! When they have finished this they press them all to squeeze out all the water.
What is left is the layers of paper attached to the linen cloth…
All that needs to be done is for the two to be seperated, as you can see the workers doing below. Then it is hung out to dry.
The paper is then put between two pieces of metal sheet and flattened. This means the paper has a smooth texture and is soft to the touch! All that needs to be done now is for the paper to be cut and used for whatever purpose the factory has for it!
The finished product!!!
I did take a few more photos though — knowing me and you no doubt do now you would know that I would, so here are some more images!
A woman working at preparing the material before it is shredded.
The men at work
Paper hanging drying
It was really interesting. I did not really get to talk to the workers, but then I do not think they spoke English and so it would have been hard anyways. I bought a sheet of paper – really cool to have! The guy who was the designer who showed me around then gave me a lift to see a place where they do traditional block printing on material – how cool! On the way we saw some people dying cloth, just by the side of the road which was pretty cool and also cardboard left out to try in a field… so that is where it comes from!
We reached one of e workshops where they do the printing and we found an old man working around a long table with a block printing the material. It was really interesting to watch him at work – he had such a steady hand. The design as well as really beatiful – as you can see.
Man at work.
Tools of the trade.
Completly finished – isn;t it beautiful!
The guy who gave me a lift had to return to work and I felt I should leave this guy to his job so I wandered into the town towards where to catch a bus back to Jaipur. The market there was in full swing, really cool to see a place that is not touristy and has normal people doing normal things. I got some good photos of this – it was fun to meet the local people and joke around, what little I could with me speaking no Hindi and they little English, but it was still fun.
Shirts for sale, Indian men always seem (well, for the most part) to be in perfectly pressed shirts.
A womans hand that has had henna applied. Me and Amy both have had it while in India but this example of it is really beautiful.
Some people who I passed by. It was great to meet normal people, who did not try to get you to buy something and whos only interest in you was as a customer. I did not stay long though, I caught a bus back to Jaipur, not quite as exciting as the journey over although I did like the script in the front of the bus.
I met Amy back at the hotel and we soon were off to catch our bus to go to Pushkar, a town known for its affinity with hippies through the past half a century. It really was a hippie town. Not only because it was full of people who fit into the “hippie” catogory, but because of the atmosphere of the town and the people there. I admit, I did not find my time here the most exciting, but then I had a cold. They really do dampen whatever you are trying to enjoy… and so we rested and chilled out, did a little shopping… took advantage of our time here before going on to the hecticness of Delhi! Which will, of course, be told about in my next post… as well much more! I leave with only one picture of Pushkar – a cool piece of grafitti seen -Banksi has come to India!
(Just a small note to say I am soon going on a trek in Nepal – yes I know I am reallybehind in writting this but oh well. You will just have to wait a little longer for the next post!)
We arrived in Jaipur to find that we had arrived just in time for the big Hindu festival Holi – one of the big festivals of the country. Not only that, but the day before Holi was an Elephant festival – oh yes, a real life elephant festival. Oh my gosh this is going to be good. (It was, it really was.)
The hotel we stayed at we had been recomended by some girls we met at the train station that morning. We had arrived early, like so early that we had to stay in the station a little while till it grew into a little more normal hour. We were with a lovely Polish couple, a little older who were only in India for a few weeks. When the hour became a more resanable one and we had heard of this hotel we caught an autorickshaw to the place – a well nice place a little out of town but with a friendly staff. That first day we did little but rest – we had had a long journey and not much sleep. We had a little wander around but rested for the most part – it was the following day when the festives began.
In the morning we visited the Jantar Mantar, where a group of strange sculpture like instruments stood. They were built by Jai Singh begining in 1728 to calculate and measure time and to watch the stars as well as other things. They were interesting to look at and it is amazing the ways that these people who lived hundreds of years ago found to tell the time, to see what they believed in concern of reading the stars. Each instrument was beautifully crafted and the light caught n between as well as the colours was beautiful. I did enjoy photographing the place as well, as you can no doubt see.
We wandered round for a while, then wandered the streets around the old town. It seemed quieter than it should – due to the festives that would begin later. We had a juice break, you do need to make sure you keep drinking due to the heat – for it was hot, like, not hot as in a warm summers day in England, but like, baking hot.
We reached the place where the Elephant Festival was long before it started and sat in some chairs left out where the elephants would no doubt walk by. It seemed very planned out, very organised and we were a little put out by this – where is the Indian sense of chaos that is everywhere around the country? We were not assured when the security guides who worked at the festival tried to usher us to where there were proper seats with a barrier in front – we refused and sat in the “normal” area – much better!
When the parade started it was awesome – the elephants were covered in diferent colours and patterns – one with a tiger!!! They were beautifully done, the men riding them in awesome costumes – the whole thing was done so well. They rode past, exhibiting their painted faces and being photographed by the hordes that were there to see them. There were not just elephants though as well, camels, horses and other performers dressed up in traditional dress as well as some truelly weird outfits were there, such an awesome procession!
After a while most be stood up and walked around, seeing the diferent elephants and the designs on them, the diferent performers, very cool to wander around. There were bands there was well, such a cool aray of people and animals. Soon we realised our fears of the event being organised and boring were completly unfounded – for when people had left their seats or standing positions they flocked round the elephants and the diferent performers – chaos ensued. Every now and then you would hear announcements over the loudspeakers “will all English speaking people please take their seats” and then (I am guessing) the same thing was said in Hindi… but most people ignored them. I love India.
Finally though the guards did create order and we found a place to sit – there were some well sweet local kids and we saw some dancers doing this amazing local dance. So cool! There was a bit of a crowd in front though – so I did not get a good view – it was still cool though.
We ended up sitting next to some of the dancers – they had not performed yet and they were really good fun to hang out with and chat to – the guys were all in yellow and the women beautifully made up and dressed. One of the guys tried to teach me how to dance Hindi style – twas awesome! It was just fun to hang out with them though, to banter a bit – to meet some friendly people is just a nice thing to have when you travel. They had huge piles of flower petals – can’t wait to them in the performance!
We followed them to the front when they moved to perform – it was AMAZING! So much fun. They danced a lot – and they were really good at it, they were the fanalie so they had to be good but it was awesome to see! There was a bit where the women had to hit the men with sticks – something to do with the original story of Holi – good on them! What was funny was the woman and guy who were nearest us first followed the dance but then you could see her really trying to go for him – a look of determination across her face while he tried to get out of the way – well funny!
We found out what the flowers were for – they poured them over two of the dancers dressed up as two of the Hindu gods who were suposedly drowned in flowers and so this was acted out – they then proceded to throw the rest of the flowes over the crowd – I definitly got some on me! It was, I admit, so much fun! It was fun they recognised us as well.
They then kept on dancing – and this is the cool part – I joined in. I had danced a little – well, copied them dancing but this time I went all out, Hindi dancing is so much fun though! Amy join is as well and soon everyone was dancing – soon we appeared to be in the middle of a rave – that we started! Music blasted from the speakers – the dancers and elephants had gone and Holi commenced!!!! So much fun. The tradition in Holi is to have what seemed to be powder paint and when meeting someone, greeting them with a “Happy Holi” you rubbed colour on their face! Soon we were covered in colour, as was everyone else – so cool! We bumped into the guys from our hostel – well, girls and Jake, but were soon off dancing and “playing Holi”!
We ended up covered in colour – so much fun. When we returned to the hotel we both skyped home, still covered in colour and wanting to share what we had both seen – so cool! I can not wait for the festival to really commence!
The next morning we had breakfast with the other guys staying at our hostel, there was a group of four English girls just out of school travelling together, a pair of English girls much like me and Amy just a little younger and Jake, an American who was travelling alone in India – good on for him. It was one of those times where you really get on with everyone and we all had a blast for Holi – so much fun!
The main guy who ran the hotel had bought a large amount of paint and the powder paint that people tended to use when “playing Holi”. So, that morning, we threw paint at each other, covering each other in diferent bright colours, red, orange, green, tequoise, purple, yellow and so many others. We were all dyed bright after a couple of hours and we all had very much enjoyed “playing Holi”.
Some of us, well me, Amy, Jake and Alice decided to see what it was like in the main city, with people playing holi. It was great, we stopped off for a drink and had many people pass us by and run colour over our faces, hair and shoulders – we were all multicoloured! It was so much fun! It was great to get into the festival proper – to greet so many diferent people with “Happy Holi”, covering other people as well and just having a laugh. We ended up taking a tuktuk back to the hotel – a crazy affair as we would have shouted at us “Happy Holi” – and we did a fair bit of shouting it back! Such fun!
We had a quiet afternoon, just chilling which was nice! Nice to recover – have a shower! That last bit was veeeery nice, even if we did seem to be semi-dyed after. My hair was mostly green! Very strange to have non-blonde hair! We all chilled over the afternoon, really nice. That night was we ordered pizza. In our defence there were no places open… really! I nice evening though!
And so that brings the end to my Holi post! It was one of the coolest things that I have been to on my trip, from the beggining of the elephant festival to ending up with gree hair….. just awesome.
India. It is dirty, you get hasseled from dawn till dusk, it is too hot and the bathrooms are awfull, but oh how I love India….
When I last posted – sorry again for the wait till I posted on this blog, we were about to leave Mysore on an early bus towards Ooty, so off we went! The journey was rather long and boring, winding up through the hills, except for one occurrence, spotted by Amy, we saw a real, live, elephant that was being ridden by a local – just as we were passing by – but that is so cool – or at least I think it was!
Ooty has quite obviously been touristafied – meaning it was full to the brim of hotels and restaurants as well as a stupendous amount of auto-rickshaw drivers determined that you will travel with them – we forgo them all, walking instead to the YWCA past an old abandoned racecourse that dominated part of the town.
In the afternoon we visited the lake, a place that reminded me of where my Mother grew up in Upstate New York – right in the country where everything was green and smelled of grass, trees and nature. The lake was a little run down and over touristy – in a tired sort if way but it was cool – the weather was a lot cooler here than we have had so far in India which was a really nice change. We rented a boat for a little while and tried to row over the lake – good fun! I’ve never properly rowed before and I discovered it is not as easy as it seems… still a fun afternoon.
Me and Amy in the boat
Something we saw on sale by the boats – made me and Amy, the true geeks that we are, laugh
That evening we went out with some guys from our hostel – nice to be social with some other travelers… The next morning we visited the tea plantations on a tour – very much worth it – maybe not so much at the beginning – it seemed a little like Scotland (The guides words not mine) but after a while, after walking through the plantations we were very much back in India. The plantations were super cool – hills covered in tea bushes – all flat on top so the leaves could get the right amount of light, the gaps in between zigzagging here and there creating doodles across the hillside. Women and men dotted around the tea as we walked picking the bright green leaves and filling sacks with them. Everything was so green!
Our lunch was basic but amazingly good. Given to us on palm leaves we had dahl with rice and a papad – poppadom in British talk and a full glass of tea to finish with. Oh my gosh it was tasty.
We had a little rain as we finished walking up one of the larger hills, joined by three dogs that, apparently to the guide, do the walk every day with who-ever is on the tour. Well sweet. The view when we got to the top though, stunning. The hill fell away leaving a spectacular view of the land below – gorgeous.
On our last day we rested in the morn, getting the steam train back down to the heat that afternoon. What a ride it was – so darn cool. The views were outstanding as well – at first it was sloping hills covered with the tea bushes that we had seen the day before, but as we continued on the hills became more mountainous and the tea trees gave way to trees and bushes that covered the scenery around. We rode over bridges where all we could see were the wooden planks holding us up as we overrode them and passed small stations that looked as if they were from a diferent era – which in fact they were. The train had been running for many years and you could almost imagine those oh so very English children arriving here and not know what to make of this place. It must have been magical.
But back to my journey – when we arrived it was pitch black and so began our bus hopping. From Mettupalayam, where the train arrived we caught a bus to Coimbator arriving an hour or so later, we then caught a local bus to a bus stop somewhere in the city, then another to the long distance bus station I think…. where we caught a night bus to Maderai. Whew, it was a lot of jumping on and off buses, but we were blessed by the fact that all the busses we wanted were about to leave when we found them, so no waiting around. Some very helpful bus conductors helped us out and we quite literately jumped onto the bus to Maderai as it was pulling out of the bus station – brilliant.
The journey was no so much fun, we had to sit at the back as most of the seats at the front were taken and so we were bumped around much throughout the night. We arrived still exhausted and a little grumpy at around 4am in Maderai and the hotel we wanted to stay in was booked out, not surprising really. (Oh, and we did try and book it in advance but they told us they did not do prebooking) so we found a cheap hotel with a bed and were sleep faster than you can say Maderai.
When we rose some hours later, much rested we booked a place in the hotel we originally wanted then had a wander. We visited a tailor and had our tops made to go with our saree’s and did a few other jobs. We rested as well, which was a very much needed part of our day – not an overly exciting day but a necessary one. We did pass the main temple – what a view! Can’t wait to visit that tomorrow!
The following day we visited the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which we had sighted the previous day and the central attraction of the town. It was amazingly designed, a number of towers covered in thousands of sculptures of diferent gods and their followers. The detail of these was perfect and they made a real sight. We sat for quite a while by the Lotus pool, very much empty due to the dry season but a fun place to people watch, we were approached by a few diferent groups of people and it was fun to chat to them, to get to know some more local people.
Like in the Monkey temple, well, the main temple in Hampi, we had to remove our shoes while wandering the temple area – really fun to walk barefoot everywhere! We wandered down a few of the other passages, there were some lovely details around, like on a few of the floors there had been chalk drawings made, gorgeous. Oh, and there was an elephant as well! Elephants are just cool, they don’t even need to try and this one was no exception. If you gave it a coin it would lay its trunk on your head as to give you a blessing. Funky.
We wandered around the town a little in the afternoon and returned to the temple a while after to sit and enjoy people watching again. I brought my long zoom lens and took some detailed photographs of the temple, some of the sculptures are esquisit.
We visited the small art gallery, filled with diferent objects that varied from fans to idols and interesting wander round.
On our way back we passed a line of school children, obviously on a school trip. Theyw ere lining up to go, but when we started to wave and take a photo of them chaos ensued and we had almost all the children bunched around us posing for photos and chatting to us. Well good fun with the exception that their original line was destroyed… the teacher did not seem to mind luckily and even took a photo for me of us with the kids – score!
We tried on our sarees that night, as you can see – Amy looked very pretty in hers!
On our last day in Maderai we visited the flower market in the morning – it was a little ways out of town but definitly worth it, for we saw where all the flower garlands had been made. These are sold all over the city by women, who sit there sewing the flower buds together so that passers by can buy and hang them in their hair. The flower market was strange place due to the mix of the flowers, brightly coloured and their fragrance filling the air with the rubbish that littered the walkways between the stalls and seemingly everywhere that was not taken by vendors or people wandering the stalls. A very strange combination.
In the afternoon we returned to the town to have a long wander, people watching as we passed through the streets ending again at the temple and pausing there to people watch at the pool and to write my diary. I was still in Goa when I started there – but I caught up to date pretty soon. Yet again though, before we could wonder where the time had got to we were off to catch our night train to Chennai, the capital of the area and otherwise known as Medras.
Apon arrival we sorted out our hostel and as is good when traveling around we visited the main train station to book our tickets away from the city – this time though we have a very long journey – we are leaving the South and going to Chhattisgarh, a small regon in the middle of the top area of India – where we are going to visit the more less-touristy India and where there are supost to be some epic markets! (Indeed, there were!) Meanwhile, at the station we met a fellow traveling who was booking a ticket to Ooty, we got very excited and overload them with information about the journey and what to do in Ooty, it was fun to meet another traveller again. Johnny was traveling round for a few weeks but was planning a tour for the following day and did we want to join – saving costs. We agreed and so our middle day in Chennai was sorted!
That afternoon we visited Fort George – not really worth a vist as it was a few walls and that was about it, the main area by the entrance to the fort was taken up by a call center and so we wandered round Geroge town a little, stopping for a fresh pineapple juice, oh they are good. However, apart from the tasty juice we did not find much of interest and returned to the hotel quite early.
Sign on the edge of the court house that made me and Amy chuckle
We met up with Johnny the following day and visited a number of the sites of Chennai – the Vivekanandar Illam, a building dedicated to the memory of a famous Indian Monk named the Wandering Monk. There were some really beautiful paintings that depicted the history of Buddhism, I found the one describing how “the British tried to destroy our culture” an interesting one…. Perhaps more interesting though was the buildings history. It was originally meant to contain ice. In 1842 an American (of course) imported ice from the states to India and it was housed here – how cool is that?! The building was painted pink and off white and very much reminded me of a wedding cake.
We visited the cathederal after that – a beautiful white building. The stained glass windows were georgous. It was nice to visit a church after so many temples and a peacefull place to stop for five minutes.
Lastly we visited the main museum in Chennai, housing the history and art museums of the city. There was a cool complex of different buildings, one showing old stones sculpted into images of gods and hero stones, one filled with beautiful bronze sculptures, an art gallery with some really gorgeous work inside and one based on natural history. It was full of stuffed animals, but perhaps the weirdest thing was the “human with a horse” – skeletons of, yes you guessed it a human and a horse, just a little creepy to see them together.
Piece of art from the gallery
(the slightly creepy display of “human and horse”)
The last building I visted was the Childrens Museum. This did not have quite the same effort as some of the others, at least that part I saw. It was full of dolls showing different cultures from around the world. It, was, hilarious. For example, below I took a photo of what was displayed in the Celtic section….
Of course, that is Ireland/Wales…. people in robes singing in the wood…. and there was a poster (as I said, lots of effort) of diferent clothing through diferent ages of the world around the world – I did find the captions funny, the two British ones especially.
By now it was quite late, so me and Amy returned to have some diner and Johnny was off to Ooty, it was fun to hang out with a new person – a good day.
(Me, Amy and Johnny)
Our following day was amazing as well. We visited a craft village south of Chennai. It was both interesting and fun. (As I was taught by my Mother that all places you should visit when travelling should be!) There were diferent sections based on the different districts of the Southern States of India with mock houses and streets to show off what the places looked like. Inside the mock buildings were examples of craft from that area and from India in general – really interesting and some beautiful work – in one place there was a loom with a women making a saree by hand – georgous. There was also information about the culture from that area, one place showing off how the letters had changed in the alphabet – really interesting how a line with a blob turned into a completly different shape… and in the center of the complex were a group of stalls selling diferent crafts – I bought an elephant.
Both me and Amy also had henna done on our hand and arms – as I am writting this mine has almost vanished, which shows how bad my writing of the blog is at the moment… Sorry. It was a cool place to have it done though, really beautiful.
We had then planned to visit an artist village in between where we were and Chennai – but instead of the village we found a group of deserted buildings and sculptures, broken windows and plants overtaking it all as well as a few vagabond old men wandering around, we left pretty soon, the artists had aparently left.
We left for the north that evening, and travelled all night and the following day – a very long day. We reached Jaipur late, getting an overpriced room that, wait for it, had HOT water! Its one redeeming feature. We rested the following day with exception of a trip to the tourist information. We caught a night bus south that night.
We arrived in Jagdalpur the early hours and I can only describe what happened next as a result of it being early morning having no sleep and being a little bit moody – fair dues as it was 3am… but I kind of, well indeed I did, fall off a bus.
I would say that it isn’t as bad as it sounds but at the time it seemed not great – that is for sure. I had my what can only be described as gigantic bagpack on my back and so when I steped down my footing was not sucure and so I found myself on the floor with a twisted ancle. Amy being the great person she is though helped me off to the side and soon off to our hotel we went in a autorickshaw. We got our room and slept for a good while, me with my leg propped up a little swollen. We had a lazy day the following day, my ancle wasn’t as bad as I had thought the night before but still not great so the days rest was just what we both needed. A nice, quiet day.
The following day was market day in Jagdalpur and so we had a nice wander around, watching the people go back and forth, carrying all manner od iteams on their heads and pulling all manner of animals – chickens espeicially were being sold. It was sad to see them cooped up with half lost feathers in large baskets, then taken out and while they were still gazing around in wonder (well, perhaps not wonder, I do not know how much thought chickens have) they were weighed on scales soon to be carried away by the buyer or attached to buyers motorbike with as many other chickens that were bought – a very strange sight to see live chickens attached to a motorbike…
(Being weighed and carried away)
All in all the market was amazing – so much to see, hear and smell, the woman here all seem to wear the most beautiful sarees – so georgous. Mostly it was just fun to wander round and watch this world that is so diferent from my own go on around me. And to photograph it, that is certainly a joy, to be able to capture the world around me. Here are some of the photos!
(Umbrellas are useful in the heat)
(Fish would be nice, but the flies that were around them, not so much)
(Sweet! Even if he does look a little like a monkey!)
So that evening we had an amazing diner at our hostel, oh my gosh the food here is just so good and had an early night. We were planning to go to a market a little bit further a field – but one that should be quite good. It was – set in a village an hour or so away from Jagdalpur we found a market similar to the days before except it spread out over a field, plastic covering many of the stalls from the relentless heat and sellers trying, no matter how you responded, to encourage you to buy their wares. It was great fun wandering around, although I did not photograph quite as much as the day before, it was still very cool. We stayed a long while, I bought a hand made hair pin and Amy a man on a horse – very cool.
Another place we visited that day was a museum on the different tribes and villages that made up the area, the history and culture of this part of India is fascinating and their different traditions are so interesting to learn and wonder over. Some of the crafts they do are beautiful and so creative and detailed – I keep thinking that I must come back to this area some time in my life, it is too interesting and beautiful and area not to.
Again we had diner at the hotel and yet again ate until we could almost pop, the food was that good. As well we organised a driver for the day after, the market we wanted to visit could not be accessed by public transport, we thought we could have managed it and perhaps we could have but looking back now I doubt it, so I driver we booked. We also planned ahead to see a waterfall in one of the nearby National Parks – should be a good day!
We first went to the Tirathgarh Falls, in the Kanger National Park. It was beautiful there. The waterfall fell over layered rocks layered horizontally, all gold and orange. A small temple stood on a hill opposite the waterfalls and although the waterfall was not large, you could guess what it looked like after monsoon when the water would overrun the whole of the falls. Monkeys were everywhere, their young ones clinging to mothers and playing amongst themselves. We finished by walking by the top of the waterfall and seeing the leftovers of a market that must have been here some time – what a gorgeous place for a market!
But not the best place, as we were soon to discover. The market we went to that day dwarfed all other markets we had seen and no doubt will see. I will create the setting of the journey there before I get to the market though. After the waterfall we drove for perhaps an hour through the dry Indian countryside, passing small villages, trees bare of leaves but loaded with hay – we guessed so that the many cows that we passed by would not get to it, we passed old women and young boys herding goats, cows, oxen or a mix of the three. We drove over rivers and streams, by small woods and passed many ant hills, their creations of amber dirt stacks I found amazing, the brief glansesof them that I saw. From this we entered a wood, then more of a forest we took it to be, tall thin trees creating shady dappled light, much prefrable to the stark sunlight directly under the sun. The floor was covered in layers of old leaves, the new on top could make a relaxing walk if you chose to go on one. The trees ranged from the usual green to golden yellow, orange to red, beautiful against the deep blue sky.
It was here that the market was, our quiet road had, bit by bit become busy with locals walking along in the direction we were heading, to open up to a large space under the trees where the stalls stood, many still under their plastic coverings selling all manner of things, similar to the two markets I had seen on the two previous days but still surpassing them for the setting here was so much more exciting. Just the fact, it was in the middle of a wood, we hadn’t seen any settlement larger than a hamlet for a good half an hour pre-entering the wood yet here were a large amount of people bartering over all manner of things. Everyone here were locals, from the villages in the surrounding areas. We could tell from the excitement that followed us that foreigners here were uncommon, tourists rarely put the effort in to come here and that made this place even more enticing and exciting.
We wandered up and down the market, round most of it to get a good look before settling down for a rest in one of the areas where the locals had a similar idea and sat in groups. We wandered a little more and paused to have a chai (Indian tea, so tasty!) and samosa – a good lunch! We sat on a wooden plank supported by tree stumps and watched the stall owner heat up the water and milk, add the tea, masala and ginger and boil it all over the small fire dug into the ground. I am guessing his son went from customer to customer collecting used cups and plates as well as dolling out fresh cups filled with tea – we were not disappointed, the tea was excellent.
(Boys who had served us the tea)
(Design on the plastic above where we bought our drink)
One of the other cool places in the market was the clothing section. Tailors set out their sewing machines, run of course by the pedal controlled by their feet – amazing to watch. Above them lines of saree tops were hung, a colourfull line with the green of the trees as a backdrop. Georgous. It seemed so strange though to see them there, the market seemed as though it had been placed at random in the forest and yet at the same time it worked being there, the people, stalls and of course not to forget the cows that ambled round amicably.
I bought a saree at the market – I already have one of course, from Mysore which is famous for the silk found there but I wanted one that could be used for day to day wear and that on returing to England could be used for a throw or turned into an outfit for day to day wear. I will always remember though, whether it is turned into a throw or a dress where the material came from, from a market in the middle of a forest in India. To me there is most definitly something cool about that. We wandered round a little longer and paused in the area that people seemed to be resting. We were followed by two boys who liked being photographed – creating strange poses at times, no doubt to keep the camera on them. Sweet kids.
Finally we returned to our driver and left, returning past the beautiful Indian scenery to our hotel and to the great restaurant that was there. We were leaving the following night and only had planned to go see the main waterfall that is, after monsoon anyways, the widest waterfall in Asia.
You could see the potential in the waterfall to be the widest in Asia, but now in the dry season it quite clearly was not – only a small amount of water was falling but that was still beautiful, still powerfull. I would admit however that I prefered the waterfall on the previous day. (That I have no photos of…. sorry!)
We met, at the top of the waterfall where the current of the river was not strong a group of women and men – very seperate – bathing and cleaning clothes. The women were friendly and invited us over to their side of the river to join them, but despite dipping out feet in the rivers bottom was too slipperly to walk across – the locals did, we watched two girls cross with huge baskets on their heads, but we did not want to fall in and we dount would have. A fun time though.
(Me in the middle of the river)
We paused at a cafe having a drink before heading back – a nice moment to rest a while. We left in the end though and on the ride back I had one of the moments where it seems to occur to me, despite me knowing the fact full well that I am sitting on a bus, halfway across the world from where I call home, in India. Such an awesome feeling to be here. Love it.
We then had my up to this date, longest bus journey, a chain of busses anyways. We were heading into madhya pradesh and so had a bit of a ways to go before we got there. First we took a night train north to Raipur, it was like most of our nice busses, long and uncomfortable. We bumped around through the darkened streets trying to sleep though not sucseeding for much of it. The blasts from the bus, ranging from sounding twenty minutes apart to a few seconds apart, the duration however long the driver wanted did not help in sleeping. Though, I do not know why we should expect it to be any diferent.
We arrived, blurry eyed at the wonderfull hour of quarter to four and were shown by a nice Indian guy to where our bus was – all the lights turned out and quiet. After he banged on the door for ten minutes however a man appeared looking even more tired than we informing us the bus left at five but we could step on till then. He and his coworkers readied the bus while we rested and when we finally left we were asleep on the bus.
For the next twelve hours we were on that bus – it was a journey and a half…. we saw a lot of the India that most people who vist this country from apar pass by, we watched the sun rise over the dry bush covered land, watched the locals jump on and get off at their various villages, saw the ranging colours of houses, all bright and the women in every possible colour saree. I also saw a local in bright orange dress, a pipe slung over his front and holding a pitch fork covered in flowers. Awesome.
But it wasn’t necisarrily fun, it was an experience, but not fun perhaps but the experience was worth it to see the more real side of India, something I very much want to see. It was bumpy and there wasn’t room really to stretch my feet, it was hot and dusty, even in the bus. But it was amazing, at the same time, story of travelling India.
So after twelve hours we arrived in Jabalpur. We had booked our hotel the night before and so it was easy enough to reach and we spent what was left of the day chilling. Nice to do so. The next morning we began the last part of our mamoth journey, a bus to Umaria then to Tala – both similar to the day before in how it was nice to see a more real but in a much shorter time frame. We were tired as well from the journeying and so when reaching Tala we enjoyed an afternoon of rest. Oh it was good! We did organise our safari for the day after, an early start but should be good!
It was, it was cold and when we rose to catch our jeep, along with two couple we met the previous day. As we entered the park dawn was not far off. Our guide pointed out tiger tracks – so cool! They were huge, and we eagerly looked out for tigers – to no avail. I admit I was a bit dissapointed that we did not see any – I have a feeling that the area we visited in the park does not see as many as some of the other parts of the park – but oh well, it was still a really fun safari.
We saw lots of animals, some gorgeous birds, monkeys and deer – so beautiful but it was really cold in the morning!!! We did not see any tigers either – quite disappointing if I am honest but at the same time we will have another chance in Rajasthan…. hopefully! A cool morning though.
(Those well cool birds with the awesome beaks!!!!)
(can just see a deep in the long grass)
There was a really cool tree as well – a tree on top of a tree! Well cool!
We had the rest of the day to chill – so nice to do so I admit. Tala was very quiet, it seemed the tourist season has passed, I do not know if that is good or bad – but we had a nice afternoon chilling. The next morning was much the same, we thought of doing another safari but passed. We had another full afternoon and night of travel – love the travelling. We returned to Jabalpur then caught a night train to Bhopal. There was something here I really wanted to see – just outside Bhopal and yet both me and Amy did not want to stay too long, so we had agreed to go for the day and catch another train out of Bhopal that night. So on arrival we left our bags at the station and caught a bus to Bhimbetka.
At Bhimbetka were a grouping of caves that have some of the oldest cave paintings in the world. They were hidden atop a hill in the middle of nowhere. Quite amazing really. They were not hidden down in caves underground like many of the caves that had prehistoric pantings in France but were out in the open. Aparently due to the climate, the placing of the caves and the materials used has kept the paintings not only intact but still brightly coloured.
It was so interesting to see these images from such a long time ago – to wonder over what the people who painted were like, what they hunted and believed. We will never know but these paintings give just a hint of what might have been. There were some beautiful paintings, covering the walls of these very normal caves. Hunting scenes full of bison, boar, horses and other animal that neither me nor Amy knew – oh and and elephant!!! We thought this so cool – they were a big deal thousands of years ago, as they are now. It seemed to me as well as though there were people painted on their backs – maybe my imagination? Perhaps.
Another of my favourite paintings was one of a man on a horse that had what seemed like a mountain scene behind him, naturally in the rock but it seemed like a perfect coincidence that the rock was of this colouring and shape, that a painter, whether for art or religion saw this and painted the man on a horse, we will never know though.
We wandered around the caves seeing all the diferent paintings, finally walking back down the hills to the entrance. We did not have to walk all the way though, we caught a lift with a lovely family who had also visited the caves. They were a typical middle class family, parents with kids and seemingly well off. This did not make them any less lovely, they not only chatted to us but gave us a lift to the nearest town where we caught a bus back to Bhopal.
We had thought we would not have too much time between arriving back in Bhopal and catching our train out of the city, but due to being offered a lift we came to be in the city far earlier than our train out and so spent the afternoon wandering round the small streets of the town, having a drink and ice cream, people watching – it was a nice afternoon.
We did though, at last catch our train and out we went, speeding our way through the night towards Orcha.
Orcha is town filled with huge stone boulders alongside a thin flowing river looked over by ruins from a bygone Indian era. Such a cool place, there is a little market and the main towns streets are by one of the large temples on the other side of the river to the main palace, well ex-palace. We arrived in the late morning, had a wander, a late lunch and wandered up to the fort for sunset – it was beautiful. One of the funnier events we witnessed that day at the market was how a cow sidalled over (trying to be subtle, if cows can be subtle) to where a woman had layed out her branches of a plant that the fruit is often used to snack on by locals. The cow, after *subtley* getting closer made a grab for the branch pulling not just one branch but many – they had all been tied together. The woman on the stand went from chatting to her friend on the stall next to her to yelling at the cow and swiping at it with a stick – but it had one piece at least. Mission achieved on the cows part.
We rose early the next morning, wanting to visit the ruins in a nice light – and it was worth it. The light was delicious, the stones a georgous shade of golden brown, a range of yellows, browns and reds – so worth the early rising. There were not many people about either, making it peacefull in the morning. We spent much of the morning visiting the Raj Mahal, the main palace. It was beautiful, so many wonderfully carved doors and openings, diferent designs… well the photos speak for themselves.
Shadow on the wall
View from one of the higher floors of the palace
One thing I have noticed about India is how blue the sky is – it is such a vivid shade, just georgous.
Detail of the window screen from the outside, loved the variation
The palace from the outside by the camel stables
We visited the other ruins by the palace, all beautiful and all covered with windows, doorways, stairs and balconies – it felt like walking through an Echer sketch, as me and Amy wandered separately I would see her crop up at different point on different floors and different sides – so it felt especially so.
That evening we wandered through the town – having a look through the market, quite nice. Nice just to wander round a little and have a relaxing evening.
The next morning we left to go to Rajasthan – very much looking forward to this part of the trip! I will try and post about it sooner that I did this post! Sorry for the long wait!!!!
Oh my gosh. I love India. What an amazing country it is! I have been here just over a month, seen some amazing places and eaten some truly delicious food. Oh, the food is so good! The main reason I have not been able to post so far is that I there is no wifi in the places I am staying, meaning it is very hard for me to write my blog and upload photos – sorry! Hope you enjoy this much delayed post of my first month in India!!!
I began my Indian adventure in Mumbai – one of the great cities of India. I flew in after the flight from Hong Kong (Via Delhi – I had a good film on the plane too – The social Network – well cool! As well as Wall Street Never Dies – okay) and got into Mumbai at 2 in the morning. The airport was dark but full of life, jostling men trying to convince you that they would give you the best lift to wherever you were wanting to go, very much alive despite the hour. I did find the guy who was picking me up at the hostel I was going to – one of the reasons I chose the hostel. I had a sleep till a more reasonable hour – going out for lunch with a guy from the hostel as I waited for Amy to arrive. For those who don’t know I am travelling India with my old school friend Amy – she has been in New Zealand for the past 6 months, having traveled through Russia and China previously. We will hopefully be travelling through India to Nepal and hopefully South East Asia. When she arrived we had a mini-reunion catch up – chilling for the day and acclimatising ourselves to India – can’t wait for this trip!
The next day, our first real day in India we caught the train into the city – travelling in the woman’s compartment. On most trains this is usual – a carriage at the front of back of the train for women only. It means you don’t have to worry about being hasseled and is often a lot less busy than the usual compartments. The women in the compartment wear a range of outfits – from Saree’s to to Tunics with trousers – all bright and colourful. Its an eyeful of colour being in the woman compartment – and all the clothes are so beautiful! I must get a Saree before I leave – and one of the tunics perhaps a little sooner to fit in more while we travel India.
When we arrived in central Mumbai we visited the Gateway to India – a memorial to those arriving in India – a huge arc, beautifully carved. The buildings in this city seem European, British but with a definite Indian twist. Perhaps it is the palm trees surrounding them.
We wandered round the streets by the Monument for much of the afternoon, having lunch in a small roadside restaurant – awesome food yet again – how is Indian food always so good?! The streetside stalls lining the streets were full of interesting crap – with the ventors trying to convince you you will need a cornet, or book, or dress and many such things. We did not buy anything though, enjoying wandering.
We ended our wandering that day on the Oval – a green park where there were a number of cricket matches going on – some with men in white with all the proper equipment and some just kids with a tennis ball and a bat. Cricket does seem to be the sport that everyone plays and gets involved in. It fits though, a hot day, yellowing green grass, palm trees and old Victorian buildings in the background. Wonderful to watch.
That evening we went out for more great food and an early night. Our tuk tuk driver had no idea where our hostel was when coming back from the center – so we spent an exciting half an hour being driven around, to and fro between the other tuk tuks and taxis across the suburbs. A fun ride, we got to see a slightly different side to the city perhaps.
The next morning we returned to the center – via the woman’s compartment again. We visited the Prince of Wales Museum – an old fashioned but fascinating museum filled with relics of India’s past. On the bottom floor were ancient carvings in rock – much more voluptuous than the cave sculptors I saw in China, that’s for sure. Also on this floor was the section dedicated to the animals within this country – in other words many stuffed animals, birds, deer, tigers or snakes, nothing escaped the museum. Interesting if a little morbid.
On the floor above were some beautiful small paintings of Hindu stories and myths – painted with such detail and with such colours, beautiful. The stories they told often concerned women conferring with the gods. Some gorgeous work in books as well.
There was a section on Tibetan culture and art as well, some really interesting pieces, especially and I have seen Tibet from the Chinese side – the Indian seems very different already. Some beautiful art and sculptors. This makes me want to go to Tibet – proper Tibet even more… one day, one day.
On the third floor were paintings and artifacts from across India and throughout the history of the country. Paintings of those who had lived and governed within. Some really beautiful art – I felt almost as if I was back in the National Gallery pausing through huge ornate rooms, wooden floored, gigantic oil paintings lining the walls.
Another room contained glass cabinets filled with odd ornaments, vases, bowls and other oddments. The objects in themselves seemed interesting but as a group seemed daunting to see the detail in each item… does that make sense? The room reminded me of part of a story I heard when I was little, when long ago I heard stories read to me by my mother. One that always stuck out, perhaps because of the inventions and the charm of the story. In The Princess of Oz, a book by the guy who wrote the Wizard of Oz, the different characters, including the Tin Man and the Scarecrow were taken hostage by the gnome king. He were there to rescue and imprisoned friend, in a room filled with bowls, ornaments and any kind of nick nac you could think of. Each object in the room was a person, tricked by the gnome king and turned into a vase or toy whistle and to rescue their friend, they had to guess which object, in a room filled with much brick and brack – not an easy task. One by one the characters entered the room, all to guess wrong and be turned into a different item themselves when they guessed wrong, till only Dorothy was left. She, with the help of her hen, (Of course there was a hen to help…) found each person who had been turned into a different nick knack, much to the gnome kings annoyance… and so the story goes on. But this room in the museum reminded me of that story and so I enjoyed a room I usually would breeze through.
We spent a long time in the museum, afterwards though we visited the main station, Victoria Terminal where trains arrived from and departed to all over India. I beautiful building, very British, or European I should say, but at the same time very Indian. A cool place to visit – one we would see again when departing the city.
We then wandered down the streets, pausing in a shop selling clothes most Indian women seemed to be wearing, tunics with trousers in varying colours, all beautiful. The clothes here, for women anyways are gorgeous, so beautiful, and so bright! Love it. We got the train back to the hostel soon after and had another gorgeous diner out – Indian food is so darn good! Like, apart from the fact that after a while it may make your mouth numb from the spiciness, it just tastes good! And the chapati and nan you can get with are just… anyways. A good night if a quiet one.
On our last day in Mumbai we first visited the washing area of Mumbai. This is where, if you need washing, you send your dirty clothes – a whole area filled with white sheets swaying in the breze and many bright colourful shirts lines up contrasting both beautifully and terribly at different points. Amid all the drying clothes men beat and washed the different outfits, the whole area was a mix between the people scurrying about washing and hanging the clothes and the iteams themselves hanging in the sun drying off.
We went with a few others from the hostel, a nice bunch of people and after we had seen the washing machine of Mumbai we moved on into the center of the city where we had been to site see for most of our trip. We had a small lunch, good food and then we wandered over to the markets – on the way I saw yet more kids playing cricket – its just so popular here! I loved this photo as well – so much action!
We then reached the markets. They were so cool. First we went to the covered market that sold fruit and veg in one section, watermelons, limes and pineapples just some of what could be found there, laid out in piles and rows in the sun – across the market were the animals in caged rows – in my mind not as bad as in China but still not as good as back home. The animals were sweet, even if it was sad to see them there in the cages. The rest of the market was not so interesting as these two parts, many stalls selling different kinds of things, some food, packaged up in boxes, others hammers and different objects which could be used to fix a house.
(The sensible people sleep in the middle of the day!)
We then moved on to the fabric market – which was like, oh my gosh so cool. Fabric of every hue and colour were displayed in many stalls along the small walkways in between, men and women sat in stalls bargaining over prices and fabric was layed over spaces measured and cut. The different fabrics ranged between the simple and the ornate and complicated. There were fabrics for shirts for the men, whites and greys as well as fabric for the women, I won’t even try and name all the colours, every colour imaginable. So beautiful. But for the British tourist not cheap – they quite clearly put the price up drastically for me then for the locals – so I did not get a chance to buy any of this gorgeous material.
We wandered round a little more, going back into the people packed streets and wandered between stalls and shops viewing the different wares for sale. A fun afternoon. Soon however the sun was reaching the tops of the buildings and we had a train to catch that night. We returned to the hostel on the train…
and back again soon after to go to the train station. We had two bunks on the air conditioned part of the train, basic but nice. Quite similar to the Chinese trains – at least these parts are. When we woke up, the sun was just risen over the green and luscious fields that was Goa. Palm trees, river with mist hanging over their waters and luscious rice fields was what we passed, stunning in the recently risen sun. Did I mention that I loved India?
We arrived in Goa and after a short taxi ride to the bus took a local bus to Palolem – a town by the beach in South Goa – recommended by someone in Guangzhou when I was still in China – what a world away that seems! Oh my gosh the scenery was stunning! Green, and I don;t just mean the bland kind of green, but lime green bright and beautiful, palm trees, red ocher earth and a sky the shade of blue you get for about three weeks in England but no longer….. I can understand why people came here fifty years ago and didn’t leave for a long time, I can really understand that.
On the bus, we met two guys heading the same direction – well, two Western guys. Lorenzo was a Italian yoga instructor, two things which don’t usually seem to go together but worked for him, hair and beard in dreds and a yoga mat under his arm he was just cool. I’ve never met an Italian yoga instructor but there is a first time for everything, right?
The other was a seasoned traveller from Ireland – Terry who when we reached Palolem recommended us a good place to stay, cheap and cheerful, proper basic beach huts. Every year they are disabled and all is left are the bases during the monsoon season, when no one comes and they are all rebuilt after at the beginning of the following season. Ours was orange, and contained a bed in the main hut and a small bathroom behind a ranchacled wall. As I said, basic, but there was a charm in its perfunctory self.
We soon made our way to the beach though and we walked in the sun along the waters edge enjoying the coolness of the water and the feeling of sand between toes – how nice that is! When we had enough of it we went into one of the many, many restaurants that lined the beach and had a little lunch, not much as it was too darn hot for anything more, but a little. Amy had a rest then and I caught up on some reading and my diary. A nice relaxing afternoon. It is too hot in that middle part of the day to do much but sit in the shade, but that is quite nice to do if I am honest. For so long – well, pre-Mumbai I have been in China during winter and it is rather nice to be somewhere hot where there is not only sun but somewhere to cool off when you are hot. I can understand beach holidays now the way I just couldn’t on a warm summers day in the South of Wales…. here it makes much more sense. We did go in the sea that afternoon and it was lovely, cool but not cold – nice in the sun. That evening, after a wander down the beach, we had dinner at our hostel. We ate fresh fish barbecued with a delicious sauce with – such a nice meal to have! The fish was just…. so nice.
I wish our nights sleep was as good as our meal, but unfortunately it was not. We underestimated how cold it would get and so we were freezing in our so simple beach hut. Not so good. I woke, well, I got up when it was beginning to be light. Still chilly but peaceful on the beach except for those who rose early for running. I wandered along, enjoying the morning, the air and watched the sun rise over the palm trees behind the sea.
Along the beach was more people though and as I walked up closer I saw it was a group of people all dressed up for filming a film there, quite cool. I stood and watched a while, interesting to see what they were doing. I guess they were filming one of the dance scenes – but they did not quite seem to know what they were supposed to be doing and after hearing the same music start up a couple of times I moved on.
After a bit Amy joined me and we walked to the end of the beach, very quiet here and just starting to warm up. We were set for another hot and glorious day. After walking back along the beach, past the filming that wasn’t seeming to go very fast and a couple of kids that were playing cricket on the beach we found a place a little away from the beach and had a good hearty breakfast. If you come to India, I would recommend that you have the pineapple juice here. Its like eating a pineapple through a straw. oh my gosh it is good!
We had another relaxing day, chilling and organising the next few places we wanted to go which was fun. We popped into the sea and had a wander around a little. Not much. Quite nice to summarize our day in a few short lines. We had dinner is a small place away from the beach, so much cheaper and just as, if not nicer than the food there. We had proper Goan food as well and oh my gosh it is tasty! There was one street of shops behind the beach and wandering it was fun despite being hassled at every store by the locals to buy their, much more desirable products despite being exactly the same as their neighbours. A bit of an early night, but after the terrible night previously not unwelcome.
Amy got up earlier than me the following morning and I met her later as she had met me the day before. It was our last full day in Goa, a sad fact but you can only have too much beach and there are sites to see across India! We had a nice breakfast at a more local place, good chai – tea. We relaxed some more then, had a swim and chilled in the sun. Good life. In the evening we got our cameras out, good photographers that we are and took some well nice photos of the sun set. Simply gorgeous.
We had dinner at the same place as the night before, good and cheap and desert at a more Western-aimed place where we saw some British football. Very strange to see the manager in a coat! I went out that night with some guys who were also staying at our hostel – nice to be out and have a chat and a laugh. The beach is peaceful at night, well, its peaceful all the time but at night I suppose you pause and notice it more, perhaps.
We were off the following morning quite early. We had a brief breakfast and then on a bus back past all the gorgeous scenery – so darn pretty! That afternoon found us in Pajem, where everything was closed for Sunday. This town was very much influenced by the Portuguese, who landed here many years ago. We were informed by the landlady of the guesthouse where we were staying that there was a festival on and it might be worth a visit for us that evening. So after a wander round the town and a brief time on the computers – cut short when the power failed, we made our way to the festival. Oh my gosh it was cool! Stalls lines the streets selling good and food, lots of different kinds of sweets. At the top of the hill was the temple shrouded in lights standing out against the falling light behind. We wandered up and saw all the pilgrims to the temple, a really cool experience. We wandered the streets more that evening, photographing all the while the people passing us by.
(A little bored perhaps?)
(Amy in the ever-moving crowd)
(What a cute kid!)
(This is like, the cheekiest grin on a kid I have ever seen!)
(A well cool keychain!)
We soon found our way to food though, not as good as some we have had but not bad, and to our hostel where our bed – a proper bed! Waited for us.
We had an early start. That morning we went to Old Goa, where there had been, long ago, a huge city. It could have compared to London or Paris, or Rome so I was told in size. It had been deserted long ago as well and all that was left were the churches, huge towering structures that was all that remained. They were beautiful and having travelled round a fair bit of Europe felt as if they were out of place. We seemed to be wandering round somewhere in the mediterranean rather than India, the buildings just did not seem to fit. They were beautiful though, especially one that was based on St Peters in Rome, but much smaller. A nice day wandering around.
(A very cool archway leading to nowhere – I half hoped it would be a gateway to the ways (sorry – Robert Jordan reference) but it was just a plain non-adventourous gate. Oh well.
That evening when back we went out for another wonderful diner, at somewhere small and where ordering the food was a mission – but very much worth it. Gosh I love Indian food. I think I slept better that night – a nice fact. The next day, well the majority of, was meant for exploring the town. We began by searching for breakfast, which we had at a small but packed cafe on a small street we happened across. In this place everyone had the same meal and it was probably my best breakfast to date. Simple but good, bread and Dahl and chai to go with it was delicious. Quite simply. We did not hang around though and decided that making our way towards the market might be a good idea. Next to the market we discovered was a cinema and after failing to see a film in Mumbai – they did not show any of the good Bollywood films on the day we visited, we decided to see one here. Patil House was the most recent film out and so we found ourselves sitting in a cool dark cinema less than fifteen minutes later. It was a good film, it really was. There was singing and dancing. Despite being in Hindi we could guess what was going on – there was a fair bit of English too. There were gorgeous outfits and a good bit of humour. However, there was one disadvantage to this film we were watching. Well, to us anyways. It was set in London. In Southhall. Laugh you might, that after trying to see a proper Bollywood film we saw one set in London, but it was good. It was all about cricket and about how an Indian guy aimed to play cricket for the England team despite being forbidden to do so by his father. A good film and it grew on me the more I thought of it, but seeing one set in London was not quite what I expected. Oh well! It was still worth it!
We wandered a little round the markets – it was early afternoon by this point and most people, well the vendors of the fruit stalls mostly, were asleep or resting while we wandered round. So it was not that interesting really.
(view from ablove down at the fruit and veg)
We wandered round a little of the older part of the town as well, which felt as much part of Portugal as part of India – well a nice mixed version. The colours of the houses were all bright and the street names were painted blue on white tiles – all so gorgeous. Wandering the streets with our cameras was fun.
(The driving school we found in the town – seeing as the Indian style of driving is chaot
(Some kids playing in the street)
Soon though, all too soon as it always is, we found ourselves on the bus East towards Hampi – a town Amy insisted on visiting. For a good reason, it was, well, it is one of the coolest places I have visited – for it has the ultimate draw to it – a Monkey Temple.
It is not actually called the Monkey Temple, rather the Virupaksha Temple, built in 1442 dedicated to a form of Shiva – but there are monkeys running and climbing all over it, so to me and Amy it is forever remembered as the Monkey Temple. On arriving in Hampi after a disastrous nights bus ride however, (Extremely bumpy, to the point that Amy almost fell out of her bunk every five minutes) we rested and wandered among the small alleyways and streets watching the locals and the cows that freely wandered and of course watching the monkeys that jumped and played everywhere.
We stopped for a drink on the main road between the two big temples, watching the kids play is so much fun here as they have no inabitions about being watched. One child especially – he did seem a little odd poor boy posed for a few photos. A fun area to be though.
Some of the kids we passed were so cool – and there was such a relaxed vibe about this town – even the animals seem to be chilling most of the time.
Sometimes when travelling you need to have time to chill – this day was one of ours, we found a cool cafe that played different films in the evening and had a rare night of eating Western food while watching True Grit. A good Western by the Coern Brothers with a great script and brilliant acting. A good night.
The following day was our main sightseeing day and it saw us on rented bicycles riding around the coutryside in the hills immediately round Hampi. There were some really interesting temples and what must have been palaces, there was even an elephant stables!
There were some really cool arches as well – I thought them so pretty!
On some of the walls were really cool images of the elephants and different animals – it was cool to be able to see the details of the place.
A fun day, nice riding around, but oh so hot! The evenings are so much nicer! On this evening we went down to the riverside, where during the day the locals washed and cleaned their clothes – the riverbank was full of people to see the sunset that evening though. There were gorgeous reflections of the womans Saree’s in the river. The sunset was beautiful as well.
The following day we chilled out a little more – we were catching a night train to Mysore, another cool town in the region but first we had to explore the Monkey Temple – they even had an elephant there… so cool. It was a very cool temple though and one thing that I like about the temples here are the fact that you wear no shoes – the feeling of stone under your feet is well nice. Fun to watch the monkeys as well.
On the way to the next town where we would catch our night train we passed a cool festival – people out in all the finery and the oxen covered in flowers – so cool to see!
There was a purple train at the station as well – pretty!
While Hampiwas amazing because of the atmosphere of the place, the fact there was an Indian Jones style Temple and just the feeling of excitement had by the town, Mysore was exciting from what we did while there. Not only was there a Maharajahs Palace – oh yes, there was a pretty awesome market and a silk factory where they made the silk and the Saree’s from that silk – fascinating.
We visited the silk factory first – a little out of town but very much worth the visit. We saw the process of making the silk strands, of dying the silk and the machines that wove it into the beautiful Saree’s that we saw in the shop. The men who worked in the factory were so proud of their work – showing us with excitement all their different jobs and how the process worked.
In the afternoon we wandered a little around the market – pausing to chat to different people and see the different stalls. Everywhere there were small tvs showing the cricket – the sport that grips India. There is a huge tournament going on currently and to argue over who will win, to ask the score provides a way to chat to the local people and to befriend people. Fun to chat to the different people – even about cricket. (That is meant to be a joke of course – cricket is a well fun game!…..) We bought some purfume from one – despite that we were buying from his stall I still would say that he was friendly. Nice purfume as well.
(The cool guy who sold us purfume)
The next day we went out and each bought a beautiful saree each – well I bought one, Amy, who had been looking forward to shoping for a silk saree for a rather long time, bought two. They were both georgous. So was mine – it was blue and pink, but a bright shade. Can’t wait to try it on properly!
In the afternoon we visited the Marharajas Palace. It was georgous, built when Britian still ruled the waves a lot of the materials were said to have come from the UK – creating a strange mix between a British style and an Indian one. The most famous room of the building was one filled with pillars and mirrors, beautifully designed. All I wanted to do at that point was to visit when it had been created and go dance within. You could almost see the women in long dresses spinging round within…. No photography within though! Very much a pity. Watching the sun set outside was quite nice though! We met a lovely family as well who visited and it was nice to chat to them as we stood outside.
There was a stunning sunset as well – the light filling through the ornate roof. Stunning.
When the palace was built, electricity had just become available and was thus becoming popular when building such huge palaces, this bring no exception. Luckily for us we were there on a Sunday and so could witness when the thousands of lightbulbs that covered the palace and diferent buildings around the grounds lit up. Oh my gosh it was amazing. A photographers paradise – and so I have many shots of the lights – believe me though, I have cut the selection down!
(The building all lit up – so cool!)
On our last day we wander, yet again round the market, I visited the meat market, and like so many have warned me, it made me realise that it probably is not the best thing to eat meat in this country while I am here. Heat and meat do not mix.
There were some crows hanging around as well – no wonder really, but I got some good photos of them – so of course you must see them! Crows do seem to populate much of India, they are everywhere!
There was a cool guy who was a printer for diferent designs for diferent products – very cool to see him at work!
So round the market we went, soon though, it was time to leave and off we went! Next we visited Ooty, Snooty Ooty it was called of Old by the English, we do create weird names don’t we? And so I leave you to wonder what else I have been up to – I will try to update the next entry sooner than this one has been, I have heard there is actual wifi in the North…..!
Did I think that this current trip in Hong Kong would best my last time in this menopolis? I did not. Last time I not only did the touristy bits – Victoria Peak, Lamma Island and the Giant Buddah to name a few but I did have fun going out as well – woop woop to our night at TGI Fridays then to “Ned Kelly’s Last Stand” for a drink. I did not bank on it being the Chinese New Year though, a celebration that gripped the whole city – especially the money purses of the hostel owners…. but thats not the point – what a party it was! If I had written this pre-top ten of China, this time in Hong Kong would most definitly have been in there.
(The entrance to Chung King Mansions)
I arrived this time without a reservation, after wading through the Indian touts – the men who badger you that their hostel is the best – and you should not go anywhere else because they will give you the best price, I caught the lift to the hostel I stayed at before. Now with a common room! I had arrived late afternoon, too late to go the Indian Embassy I ended up spending the night hanging out with a cool bunch of fellow travellers. A well good night.
The next day I sorted out my Indian visa, well, I went there with a filled out form and hoped that I would get my visa in time. I should, they told me. There was a slight chance I might not get it before the Chinese New Year and so have to wait for a few more days – lets hope that doesn’t happen! I bumped into the guys I had hung out with the previous evening and we all went for an Indian, Chung King Mansions, where we were all staying is the hub of Indian people in Hong Kong, at least it seems that way. The food there is either Indian or Kebab places, good food! So Indian it was, and a good one!
That night we all went out again, I got that Barbra Strisand song stuck in my head and both I and all the others were in the mood for dancing! So out dancing we went. To add to the greatness of the night it was Ladies Night – so we got a free drink (well us ladies did) in the first place we went to. Fun to be out!
We did find somewhere cool to dance as well – and they even played the Barbra Strisand song! Awesome! One of those nights that is really cool. We ended the night going food cheap food – as you do and as there is a Mcdonalds every fifty yards in Hong Kong (no joke) we got that – breakfast meal – rock on!
The following day, I did yet more jobs, making sure my flight was all good – it was, ad had a wander around town. As I had done all the touristy stuff I wasn’t bothered to do much sightseeing. Sorry Mum. It was cool though, wandering around and people watching. That evening, a few of us went out for a quick bite late that night – like, 12ish. I wanted Indian again, bit of a craving, not good. However, all the Indian places were closed. McDonalds then, but we had all had that much, much earler so off for a walk we went for food. In the end we had hotpot, Chinese style. On a few plastic seats in the street around a small pot over a fire we huddeled – it was a bit cooler now in the early hours. But it was a good meal and a grea atmosphere. Smalgroups of different Chinese people were out eating too and we sat around eating our fish and greens from the hotpot – it was good! One of those nights I must remember. We all forgot our cameras – so there are no photos to capture the inprompu diner, but purhaps that is best. Some things remain best in the mind.
The following day I went to Lamma Island – the Island with no cars. Twas nice. I didn’t get to do much, but I had a salmon and cream cheese bagel. The highlight of my trip to the Island. I am sure that to most of the readers here they will wonder how, a creamcheese and salmon bagel can be a highligh. My responce to that query would be that they do not know what it like not eating cheese, or salmon, for over four months (Sorry, rarely eating either these iteams – I did eat good cheese a few times in China and I ate salmon once, in Ikea Chengdu) and then eating it, it is bliss. But it was also nice to sit in a cafe in the sun watching the sea and listening to some cool music. A nice afternoon. That evening we hung out yet again, good fun and visited the Jazz Bar that I had been to on my previous trip to Hong Kong. It was fun to be back and to hang out with the group that we had in Hong Kong.
The next morning, being a Sunday and me not staying in China, meant I could go to church. After four months of not visiting a church, mainly due to not finding them in China, I very much wanted to go to a service. I had visited a church in Hong Kong on my last visit – The Vine, (Amusing as my church back home has the same name!) really enjoying my time there and so went again. That morning there was a guest speaker – Jackie Pullinger. Her sermon was on Compassion. How it was a word that had to be created when writting the King James Bible, it means gut renching feeling for people, for those who are needing. It was challenging about how you see people, how you can walk by people who need help, love, healing and walk by and do nothing – or not feel anything. It’s hard to talk about a week after hearing the service, remembering what she said – but it was awesome. It was great to be in a worship service as well – such a good service!
After I chatted to a woman next to me, she was planning to go to a practice for a flash dance – I think that is what it is called – where you dance in a public place to a famous song – many people joining in till it becomes a group event almost. It was in Victoria Park - a park at the center of Hong Kong full of people hanging out during the New Year celebration or there to visit the New Years Fair in the park. It was a cool dance, but I do not know if I will get to go to the final dance.
At this point – unfortunatly, I was getting a cold. I supose it was better to get a cold in my last week of Hong Kong, when I intented to relax and not see a lot rather than in India, where I wanted to sight-see, but still, colds are not good. I can not really remember what I did the following day – I had done little but rest the night before, but it was not eventfull. Really at all. Sorry. The day after I did little but wander round Hong Kong and sort out my camera, the sensor had got a little dirty, so getting it cleaned was as much an envestment as a cost.
The day after I got my Indian visa – yay! Nothing can stop me going to India now! Woooooo! That day was New Years Eve. Let the party comense. Just about everything sightseeing was closed. So I wandered around a little, seeing some of the parade floats. It was quite nice just wandering around. That night me, Lucy and a British/American couple went the fair in Victoria Park, which I had passed a few days before. It was a flower market – flowers being a typical gift for New Years. The market was packed. I felt like a sardine at many points…. so busy. To the sides of the walkways sellers yelled their wares, lots of rabbit toys and cushions. One of those experiences that was really cool – such an atmosphere. Near the end of the market was a long wide isle of flower stalls – some really beautiful plants – all giving a rich smell – orchids, roses and lillies. Amazing. Despite the business as we left, around 11.30 we saw more people arriving than leaving. Well cool.
The next day I packed up my stuff – which had spread out over the room I was staying. Not an exciting day, but necisary one. Quite cool to be packing for India, I can put all my jumpers at the bottom of my bag as well – so cool!
(The view from my room – up and down)
That night was the night of the New Years Parade. Me and Lucy – a fellow roommate went outside to watch the parade from by our hotel – it was very American, well, Western. Lots of people dressing up as rabbits. A few brass bands – one that played a really cool version of Bad Romance, fun! There waa huuuuuge balloon dragon well – good fun!
(The photo above is of a weird procession that had the most bizaar outfits – as you can see)
(The Thai Procession)
We finished watching it in our room on the 13th floor of Chung King Mansions – really cool to see it from above!
We did not reallyt do much except see the parade – just go out for some food - another night time of wandering. The day after was my last full day in Hong Kong – well sad! I had a nice wander around the part of the city that I had been staying in – and paused in a park to rest a while. The weather now is warm but not hot – just right really. Anyways, not much really went on. That evening we wanted to go to the fireworks for New Years – Hong Kong being a city I always remember seeing on the TV back home as having good fireworks for our New Years – I am sure they celebrate the Chinese New Years in style. And they did. The guys I was hanging out with and I all went to the bay – a little further along than I would have liked, but we got a good spot. We had a drink while we waited then, the fireworks began. They were well cool. Not only did they have every colour they had smily faces, rabbits, and the number 8 – so cool!
We watched them all. Well good fun. Below though are some of my photos that did not quite turn out how I imagined – but I quite like them. I know the blurry thing is like a proper kliche now – however, I think these look quite cool. I hope you do too.
(oooo, I forgot about this photo – I just liked it as it looked like a flower!)
After the fireworks we did not hang around really, going back to the hostel to hang out – much like my first night in the hostel. Good fun hanging out – we did have a bit of a laugh. (Oh my gosh that sounds so British!) Anyways, another good night. My last legendary night in Hong Kong….
The next morning all of us who had been out the night before as well as a Colombian who was travelling and a Dutch guy who was on time off from the militaty all went out for Dim Sum – the South Chinese meal where you get a little of everything and share. I am pleased to say that my last meal in China (If you count Hong Kong as Chinese – if you don’t my last meal was still Chinese – I had Kong Pow Chicken (Penuts and chicken) in Guangzhou) and it was good. A lot of seafood – some really nice prawn dumplings – well nice! I took a photo of everyone round the table as well so you can actually see who went, a good bunch of travellers.
There on out! When we arrived back I took the bus to the airport with the German guy who we had met the day before and off I went to the airport. It felt very odd being in an international airport on my own – for maybe the first time, I felt purely independant – strange as I have been travelling on my own for over four months – but you are always surrounded by people – this, being in the airport, I felt… I don’t know how I felt, but it was cool. As was seeing dusk fall over the mountains by the airport and my plane waiting there….
Adios China! I will miss you!
Here is my Top Ten of what I have done in China – it’s been edited as I have travelled around, but some things do tend to stick in the list…
1. The Great Wall
Even after over four months of travelling. This is still my number one site I have seen and been to in China. Why? It is hard to say, a mix of things, of history and coincidence. The day I visited the wall was beautiful and hot. I do not know about you, but when the weather is good I feel so much more like travelling and seing the world. I wantto go and explore. As well as this the people I visited the wall with were really friendly. I got on with them well, we chatted and bantered and had a laugh. Being with people you get on with, encouraging and being encouraged, makes such a difference between finding a place okay and really enjoying yourself. This is especially true when travelling alone.
The Great Wall, well, is the Great Wall. It is one of the most famous sites to visit in the world we live in – I think anyways. When you walk on it, you walk on history. You are, quite literally, standing on something that was shaped by and consequently shaped a nation, two nations really. To be able to do this is, as I so often like to say, amazing.
Lastly, when I visited the wall, we walked past the part where most of the crowds and tourists had gone to – walking on the wall where it was falling apart a bit, trees and bushes climbing over it growing in your path. Not many people where here, it seemed adventurous. We climbed up the wall which itself climbed one of the mountains and had one of the greatest views I had seen on the wall. Most probably not my best view on the trip, that would come up one of the mountains or in Yangshuo perhaps, but at the time, at the beginning of my trip, it was pretty good. I got some good photos as well, which is always a joy – to not only love where you are and what you are doing but it capture it around you as you experience it.
2. Trip into the Wild West of China (Tibetan part of Sichuan – Dege, Ganzi, Danba)
In the middle of my trip I took a week long expedition (Well, a couple of buses, but it felt like an expedition) into the Tibetan part of China, in the north west of Sichuan. This is not “officially” Tibetan, but the people and the culture is and so you can see the culture without having to go on the “official” tour of Tibet, which is touristy now. The trip was spontaneous. I decided to do it a day or two before I left. Wow, am I glad I decided that.
I will not go into the trip here – it would take waaay too long and I already have on this blog. (See the Wild West entry) But it was beautiful, adventurous, not easy but the effort made the trip so much more worth it as I had to work to see the places I went to. The Tibetan people were so friendly as well, I will always remember wandering the streets of Dege with an English speaking Tibetan guy who was so happy to meet a “real” English person, not American, English. He taught English and was so glad to speak it to a native speaker – he even showed me his class room. He wanted to visit one day he said, but it wasn’t easy. One day he would.
The scenery I saw was some of the best I saw in China. Mountains have always appealed to me, here they were huge, snow capped (snow covered as often as not) and driving over them was one of those – I must not forget this moments. If you ever visit China, you have to come here.
3. Climbing Huang Shan Mountain
This I put mainly because I saw some of the most beautiful sights I saw on my trip. I was there two days and took over a thousand photos. Enough said – an image says a thousand words, so I will let them speak for me.
(Oh, and on this expedition I will always remember stairs, oh how I hate stairs!!! But the achievement of walking both up and down allthe mountain and all the peaks I scaled made it worth it.)
4. Christmas in Kangding
The next best place to be at Christmas after being at home with family, was in Kangding. I spent the holidays with Kris and Steph and their family who own a hostel in Kangding in Sichuan, China as well as Ryan and Elizabeth - a couple who are living in Chengdu as well as Alan, an Irishman based in Cambodia but travelling for a yearand Georgigro, the Tibetan worker at the hostel. We all had a great time, ate way too much food, including Hank, the turkey who came up with Ryan and Elizabeth, playing different games – most of the time loosing to the brilliant Steph and watching the kids get soooo excited over Christmas. I spent a few weeks at the hostel pre-Christmas, which was great as it was nice to be somewhere for a duration of time longer than a few days and I got to cook there – how I miss cooking! Waking up every morning to see mountains and the glacier in the distance was no hardship either!
5. Watching the tennis at the Shanghai Open
I am a huuuuge tennis fan. I watched some of my favourite players – some of the best in the world, play some great tennis. It was so much fun. Like, sooooooo much fun. And I saw all the great players! I had a great view, got to watch Andy Rodick practice and even got to yell a “com’on Murray” for Andy Murray. Did I mention it was a well fun day?
Andy Murray – British number 1
Rafael Nadal — Number 1
Roger Federer – Number 2 (But perhaps Greatest player of all time)
6. Watching the sun rise on Hua Shan with many many Chinese people
During my time in Xi’an I travelled to Mount Hua Shan. I decided to trek up the mountain overnight, to arrive at the top for sunrise. I did not, however book on it being Nation Week – meaning the people walking up was ten times the normal amount or even more than that. It. Was. Packed. Unbelievably so. But, get to the top we did and we did (after a bit of pushing) get a view of the sunrise, with many, many other Chinese people. When the sun glinted over the Eastern Mountains there was a huge cheer. After the sun had risen a little more, we made our way down seeing the beautiful mountain hidden on our climb by the dark.
Perhaps my best way of describing my Hua Shan experience is a parody of the MasterCard slogan: Cost of travel from Xi’an to Hua Shan: 20Y, Cost of food before climbing the mountain: 26YY, Cost of entry to Hua Shan: 100Y, Cost of seeing the sun rise over the Eastern Peaks of Hua Shan with hundreds of other Chinese people: Priceless.
Yangshuo seems to be a popular destination of travellers in China and there is a good reason why. It is beautiful. I loved this place both for its nightlife and society as well as its stunningly gorgeous scenery. When I was cycling through the peaks, through this beautiful scenery – I thought how I must remember this, to never forget it. The joy of seeing new places, so different from home.
The most recent venture on my list, visiting Zhangjiajie was like visiting another world. The park is full of towering peaks, standing singular, rocky stacks with space around. I am guessing they were formed by an earthquake then weather and tree erosion over the many years since. Different from anywhere I have ever seen – and I doubt ever will see.
Perhaps though, what made the trip outstanding was the weather, (Sorry, my British nature showing through) it snowed all day, the grey peaks peering through the mist snowflakes covering them white. It was so beautiful and amazing to see in this cold – but worth it weather.
9. Tiger Leaping Gorge
Not an easy trek, not helped by the cold I had throughout – but one of the great achievements of my trip. This was one of the places I very much wanted to see in China and it was worth my expectation – absolutely beautiful. We walked alongside the Yangtze River for much of the gorge, eventually reaching the river near the end and seeing the Tiger Leaping Rock in which the Gorge gets its name. Yet, as I said before, this is one of the great achievements from my travelling in China.
10. Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan
It might have rained while I was here, but it was still stunningly beautiful. The park was full of rivers, lakes and waterfalls, pools of water coloured different shades of blue, green, aqua and many others and trees that surrounded the pools varying different shades of orange, yellow, red and brown. Apart from the areas frequented by tourists, the park was quiet, the paths were near empty and as I wandered along enjoying the variety of colours I could listen to the birds and leaves – very peaceful. A lovely day.
What almost made it into the top 10, but not quite….
My Horse Trek in Songpan, Visiting the Expo in Shanghai and visiting the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an.
(The British’s contribution to the World Expo, Shanghai)
I can’t believe that I have less than a week in China. This past 4 and a bit months has passed so fast, I have done so much and seen some truly amazing places. It has flown by yet at the same time, remembering getting on the flight to Beijing, visiting the Great Wall, climbing mount Hua Shan and Huang Shan seems like so long ago. Even my time Sichuan seems like ages ago, but the time since has past so fast. I think I am both dreading and looking forward to leaving. China is like that, both love and dislike mixed together, but little middle ground. People yelling right next to you on their phones, I will not miss, nor the people spitting everywhere and Oh how I will not miss the honking of bus/taxi/car drivers for long periods of time on the roads. Although I am sure I will have these things in India where I next go, especially the last. But the beauty of this country, as well as meeting some truly interesting and lovely people makes me wish I would not leave. Oh, and now that I think of it, I will definitely not miss Chinese tourists that are everywhere, with the guides with handheld microphones and speakers and flags on sticks waving in the air – but then I will find them wherever I go in the world… But still, the time has passed quickly, though I am sure I will come back sometime. Soon I will be in India though, in the warm, huzzar!
(Edit – I have now left China. I have had to write and upload for so much that by the time I finished it I have actually left China. For much of this I wrote out of China, but that is not a bad thing as there is no ban on many things on the internet as is the case in China. Anyways – enjoy reading of my last month in China!)
Anyways, I will get back to my narrative and stop reminiscingof what has already happened. Not that I will now not be recounting my adventures of my last month, but rather starting it. When I last wrote – I apologise for the delayed post, (nagged for especially by my Mother) but I was either visiting the places I will now write about or travelling. So, anyways, I was on my way to Guilin, which I reached late morning, made my way to my hostel and sorted myself out. It was cold, I have always felt more inclined to do inside stuff when it is bad weather, but there was not much to do inside, so off I went. There were two sites I wanted to see in Guilin, the first was the two Pagodas. Both by a lake near the center of the city.
They were cool, one being on a small island hardly bigger than the Pagoda within the lake. On the path there were fish – seen above, quite cool. I then made my way to the next historic site in Guilin, the Solitary Beauty Peak, a lone hill in the middle of a flat Guilin. There were other historic buildings around as well, although they had been built in the last century due to the Japanese pulling the originals down when they invaded China. Originally, the Emperor of this region used to live here. A cool fact of the place was that in the Emperors time he was the only one allowed to climb the peak.
I did climb myself to the peak, it was not as beautiful view as I had hoped, but the day was cloudy and did not lend itself to great views. It was still cool though, and the modern city stretched before me, a completely different city to that which the Emperor would have seen.
(Some locals who were dancing to some music)
After visitingthe peak, the temple on the top (see above) and the buildings at its base, I returned to the hostel, quite cold and looking forward to the warmth the hostel would offer. There was a little fire there, burning what I think was coal. It was nice to sit by the warm. I signed up as well for a tour of the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces, one of the recommended things to do in the area.
Off the next morning I went with a group of people, two Australian girls, two Americans as well as some others. The bus journey was long, the day similar to the day before, cold, misty and icy. Not the day for good views, but oh well.
Indeed, the views at the rice terraces were not great, the mist covering much. The paths were wet and/or icy, I slipped a few times while walking around. We climbed up one of the hills, overlooking the rice terraces the mist obscuring much but not always ruining photos I took – I think the mist can sometimes make more interesting pictures than you could get on a perfectly clear day.
The ice was cool as well, found all over the terraces where we walked. Many of the bamboo trees were curved with the weight of ice on their leaves. Ice coated much of the flora, looking like glass tubes with green centers. Even in winter, with no flowers or growth nature is beautiful.
On the huts dotting the hills there were the coolest icecles, dripping from the roof, curled like transparent claws.
We did not spend a huge time on top the terraces, we were all cold – so we went for lunch at a local house restaurant. It seemed it would be a restaurant in summer, but due to the lack of visitors, we ate in the kitchen/room the owners stayed in, huddled around a fire they had. It was nice, sitting there, eating the local food. For one of our dishes – stir fried vegetables, they had to go collect more spinach from their garden, fresh it was and we had rice, from those very rice fields – it definitely tasted good, better than most rice I had eaten in China. Cool to eat rice in the rice terraces as well.
That evening me and some of the people I had travelled with that day went out for noodles – nice and cheap. We hung out that evening, not much going on but nice to be around people. Both I and those I had walked up the terraces with the previous day were going to Yangshuothe following day, the place famous for the huge hills that seemed to rise at random from flat ground by the Li River. It was one of the famous places travellers seem to visit while in China – a place I was very much looking forward to visiting.
(where we got food that evening)
The next morning we all set off. Yangshuo exceeded my expectations – it was totally awesome. A beautiful place – even, maybe especially when shrouded in mist as it was when we arrived. It was another cold, misty day, not great for sightseeing round the area, so this day I decided to pass on going on the river with the rest of those whom I travelled up with, finding my hostel and going for a coffee instead. In the coffee shop I met Merav, an Israeli travelling round the south of China – currently waiting for a local artist who was giving her an art lesson. This sounded amazing. I asked if I could join her – Chinese art I have always admired, in China, hundreds of years ago, they were painting with depth, proportion and scale that we would not reach in the West for many years, we were painting in a flat unrealistic way. I have admired it since trying to do some ink paintings back in school years ago – the chance now to try it seemed well cool. However, it was a while till the teacher would return, so I ordered lunch, only to see the guys who I had come up with from Guilin outside the cafe. We lunched then wandered up West Street, the touristy street lined with cafes and shops selling all the touristy stuff I had seen across China. I did buy some art – some beautiful paintings of the area and a t-shirt saying I am happy,in Chinese I did see one saying – I have no money, go away, a tshirt especially useful to show street vendors, but it was too cold to wear it while in China and would be pointless outside the country.
Finally the local artist – Forest was his name – was ready to teach and the others had to go back to Guilin, they were only there for the day – so off we went back to the cafe for our lesson. It was so cool. I did a fair few paintings, none of them good, but it was fun. The black ink soaked into thin paper so fast, you had to be really careful with every line you painted. I did a fair imitation of the peaks in Yangshuo, Forest added a small boat and little house to my painting, his deft hand creating light brush strokes I tried but could rarely achieve and the painting was complete. I admit, I was quite chuffed with it. Mirav did some good work too – it was fun to paint again and I did well into the evening. A good day, one that was nice to be inside, by a fire.
The next morning me and Merav went north of Yangshuo up the Li River to where we could walk down the river from one village to another. We passed a few towns and many villages on our way there, finally being dropped off by the river to be accosted by old Chinese women trying to sell us a bamboo boat down the river. On the way there we met Geraldine – a French girl who was also travelling China and going to India soon after, as I was. We caught one of the boats – made more of plastic than of bamboo – to take us a little down the Li river to where we could walk along, which is awesome. It felt like you were sitting on the river – so flat was the boat. The views weren’t bad either, the weather clearing up and presenting us with a blue sky.
(I was reminded of LOTR when I saw how this came out – how they rode in Elven boats down the Great River in the first book, in fact a lot of the images reminded me of that, which, of course added a sense of adventure to this trip for me – as those who know me would suspect)
We alighted onto the bank of the river at a point which the boatman chose, it was not chosen by any of the other men controling any of the other boats heading downstream, but ours did. It was nice though, we walked alongside the river, marvelling in the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. For the country was amazing, the peaks – not hill s nor mountains but a mix between the two, creating outstanding landscapes.
After a few hours of walking along the river, the path we were on curved up from the river to run through fields of crops and coarse grass, though little was left to nature. Only the woods on the peaks were left to themselves and the paths crisscrossing over the fields. Like the river, it was a sight to see. I would recommend anyone coming to China to see this place.
Oh, I almost forgot about this. This was a well cute little girl – who after this photo was taken ran o hide from us behind her Mothers legs. But what w funny was that she has so many layers of clothes on that her arms stuck at such angles. In China they don’t really bother with central heating – they put on many layers instead. As the weather has gotten colder, the more layers I see on children to the point where they look more ball shaped than child shaped. No joke. One kid I saw at a station had arms pointing out at right angles and seemed only able to wave his hands, his arms so encased in warm clothes. I thought this kid was cute though.
I also saw some of the orange groves here, the oranges contrasting against the green of the hills and blue of the sky.
Oh, this is another funny story of this walk on this day. We were walking along the road, for the track beside the river had turned into a road through fields surrounding, anyways, we pass such a field with crops in, much similar to those we have passed before except there were cows in this field. A really sweet looking calf as well, though rather skinny. We paused to photograph the cows, as we paused to photograph most of the interesting sites we passed, see the photograph below. The peace was broken however by a woman running at the cows yelling at them. This was rather unexpected. She swished a stick at them moving them to a field over, well, all except one that she had to chase a while. Mirav asked for a photo just before this began and I got an amazing photo (on her camera, not mine regrettably) of her standing there smiling serenely as if she were in front of some historic sight smiling for a photo and a woman chasing a cow with vigor. Well funny.
We were passed by a man gallopinghis horse down the road as well, I thought I captured the moment well. It felt like a Western but in China. Oriental cow boys.
The photograph above is one of the roads we walked down, it was fun walking together, chatting about many different things but little that I remember now. We did discuss what it would be like to live in this place, a beautiful place to live perhaps, for the first few weeks, then, without people or a proper job it would get boring. Maybe a good summer getaway house. This we agreed on. As a place to walk through however, it was stunning. As you can se I am sure.
We came to the river again after a while on the track/road. We saw some boats moored up by the side and as we were a little tired and had to cross the river anyways, we caught a “bamboo” (as they called it, really plastic) boat to Xingping, the town we were originally going to walk to. It was late afternoon at this point, the sun was reaching the peaks in the West. We realised soon after it would have been hard to walk any farther than we had, making the boat seem worth the money and we relaxed into the scenery around us.
At the end of the time on the boat, we reached the bank where all the boats seemed to end up. Just a short walk (by our standards of that day) from Xingping. Here was a famous site however, the place where the image on the 20Y bark note is taken from. A really beautiful area of the river. The view was facing west however, meaning in other words that the sun was shining its late afternoon rays right into my camera lens, making a good photo hard, but oh well, it was still very, very beautiful. I do admit following the Chinese tourists and photographing the view with a 20Y bank note in the image. How cliche I am getting!
The photo below is I think one of, if not my favourite photograph of the day. It’s a postcard shot, but it captures the peaks, the river and the reflection as well as the sun sinking into the horizon…. This is why I travel, to see such beautiful places like this.
We walked back to Xingping, resting only a little in the town to look at some really outstanding art work made by Chinese farmers who had turned artists, really beautiful work, then off to our bus – it was a long day, but a great one. Just before getting on the bus I took this photograph below of the sky above, looking as though it should be in a Monet painting. If only the weather would hold. (It didn’t.)
That night I visited Geraldine’s hostel, Monkey Jane’s Inn, where they had a lively bar and where all the foreigners who wanted to be social went to creating a lively atmosphere with a mix of people from many different cultures. In fact, rather than call people by their names, which if I am honest will be forgotten quickly, (This is not meant to be mean to the people I meet – those who I spend more time with of course I will learn their names, but both I and most other travellers I think, are constantly meeting new people, often for only a day or so and then never seeing them again.) so we went by nationality. From that night I remember Canadian, Australian, Irish, and even Manchester. I of course being England. While travelling, I have found, you are often put into a category from whence you came, its a place on a map and so travellers can identify with that. But back to my brilliant night. There was no one thing that made it good, it was just fun to hang out, have a laugh and chat to different people.
On the following day the grey clouds had returned, though you could perhaps see more than on the day I had arrived. One strange thing I found out at my hostel – I was staying at the same place as the French guy from the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Well, I suppose both destinations are two of the must go places in China, most people I spoke to in TLG had gone or were planning to visit Yangshuoon their trip round China. Yet it was still strange to recognise a face when travelling – something you do not expect when moving from place to place around Asia. Though you never know when you might see people again…
In the early afternoon, after some lunch in town I met up with Geraldine and some people she had met on a local cooking course – cooking Chinese food from that area. Funnily enough, they were all French. Well, French, on the French side of Switzerland and an Irish girl who grew up in France. Although I speak en petit Francais, I did not understand much they said – for they were all amazed to find a group of others who all understood their own language. But it was still good fun. We decided to cycle to Moon Hill, one of the peaks of the area that has a moon shaped hole within. I hadn’t been cycling in a long time, but it was mostly flat and so not so bad. At first we followed the wrong road, but I did not mind as it mean I was cycling through a beautiful country and being able to absorb it. On the journey to and from Moon Hill I kept thinking – I must remember this, remember the joy of seeing and being in such a gorgeous place. It is one reason I travel.
Moon hill was cool, a bit of a steep climb, (not helped by aching muscles from the cycling) but worth it for the view – even if it was shrouded in mist. After viewing the peaks from below up it was strange to see them from a higher viewpoint.
After the ride back we all went out for diner, well nice. Good to chat and have a laugh. There are some advantages to going to more… touristy destinations, this being one of the foremost. Meeting people, especially when travelling alone. I felt though, in summer, (when it would be warm! Oh I miss the warm! Can’t wait for the warm in India!!!) it would be even more full, the restaurants and bars teaming with people, both good and bad. More people to meet, though I doubt you get to know the people as well as when there are fewer people.
Anyways. I went back to my hostel to hang out after diner. I watched a few films – Eat, Pray, Love, good but a bad script I think. Not a scratch on the book and in the film it shows a lot of Italian food – oh how I miss good Italian food! Also Remember Me, not so good. Later that night I went out again to Monkey Jane’s Bar – another legendary night!
The following day I had even a later start. I had little planned except for going back to Guilin so I rested and wandered round a little. In the evening I did go back to Guilin and booked my ticket to Zhangjiajie – the Avatar place as I like to think of it. Going to be cold though so I have heard! Geraldine might come as well, which will be cool. I have always liked the idea of meeting another traveller and going on with them to another place, this I think is my chance. Anyways. Merav, Geraldine and I all made our way back to Guilin in one piece and had an early night. Well nice.
Geraldine decided to come with to Zhangjiajie – getting her ticket in the morning. That afternoon we both bit goodbye to Merav and caught our first train to a town South West of our destination, (Can’t remember the name, sorry) then buying one of the worst, and I mean the worst, fast food I have ever bought. In my defence, we were hungry, there wasn’t time to get a proper meal sitting down and that due to our next train, so we went for the fast food option. It was all in a little booth, with frozen chicken (not cooked properly we later found – not nice) fried and fries as well. The woman who was working there went on her own time, I think she put the fries into the bag individually. Oh my gosh it was bad. But it was food so we tried to eat as much as we could. We had a night train booked to Zhangjiajie and so wanted something in us before we got on.
Okay, I know I have moaned a lot on this entry, but there has been a fair amount to moan about in my defence, but that train journey was not so good. Mainly due to the mother, Grandmother and toddler who decided to yell (and waking the kid up to scream) at like, two in the morning. They had to get off the train at 4am waking us all up with the yelling and child crying again as well. As I said, not good night. But it got us there. Bleary eyed (but freezing, so much for thinking the middle/south of China would be warm!) we left the train and went to our hostel – meeting some cool Russians there who were also going to the park, the one which the mountains in Avatar are based on. One of the Russians was named Natasha – how cool?!
A little later (After shower and breakfast) we set out to the park. It was…. amazing. I can only assume an earthquake ravished this reason thousands, of not millions of years ago and since ice and nature has aroded the left overs. What was left was breathtaking.
There were loads of monkeys as well! They were like, super cute but did get quite aggressive, at least the males did I think. There were some really cute baby monkeys that were playing, I could watch them for hours – its so sweet seeing them play and run away from each other to their mothers who are gathering food.
We took the cable car up one of the main peaks – it being afternoon and too late to walk and in my perspective worth it for the view. I was leaning by the window out to get good photos for the most part.
(Well Sweet, a heard made of ice is melting)
When we got to the top we wandered round a little, taking in some of the views of the peaks, then made out way down. It wasn’t a great day for photographing – being misty and grey, but it created a sense of eeriness and otherworldliness that made you think of Pandora – the world in the film Avatar in which these peaks proved inspiration to those who designed that world. I almost expected to see a dragon come flying over the peaks, alas they never came.
We walked down the mountain – stopping many times to photograph the view, which was awesome but often covered by trees. Lots of stairs too – making me glad we took the cable car rather than walked. It was beautiful though and there was no one else there as we walked. The path was covered in ice fora large part of our walk down – slippery! Although I am pleased to say I did not fall on my ass once. Truely. But I will let the photographs speak for themselves…
(Why does the monkey cross the road?)
That night we were all tired and hungry, not really eating any proper food all day. So we went out for dinner at what we thought was a Western restaurant – it wasn’t. The food wasn’t bad but we ordered (for more than one person too) A dish that looked tasty on the menu – pinapple and some kind of meat, maybe chicken but was actually a soup that I am sure had pig intestines in. I tried a little of it – but…. pig intestines aren’t for me I decided.
The next morning me and Gereldine went back to the park – the Russian guys we met were going to go a little later, but we got up early – well, er, at 7.30 anyways. It was dark though – so not nice to be up at that time – and extremly cold outside. There was meant to be snow forcast later, so I am not overstating myself.
At the park we walked a path that wound through the peaks from one side of the park to the other by the river that ran through the park. Covered in trees the peaks were obscured from view partially, but it was peacefull walking, even if the river was at low tide.
(A small waterfall - really beautiful. There are icicles there as well if you can spot them)
(The path we took)
(The question is though – are there dragons inside?)
The next three photographs I took of the peaks with the sun hanging low over – I (and am sorry now for going photographie) used high f stop and a longer exposure – meaning the image is darker but you get the sun perfectly above the peaks – the weather was grey and misty so although I won’t get the peaks with blue sky and a bright sun behind the I do get these more moody eeiry photographs. I am happy.
We then walked on through to the “Path to the Heaven” – Cool name eh?! We did not realise at this point however that it would mean stairs – aaaaall the way up to the top of the peaks. If you are a follower of this blog, you will know of my aversion to stairs. But, apart from the huge climb we are about, at this point, to start there were no other stretches of climbing to do.
So we started on the stairs. I supose in retrospect they were not too bad, at first they curved their way up, giving false hope that you would have a stretch of flat walking – finally however the stair-builders gave up all pretence and the stairs ascended straight up. A stairway to heaven perhaps?
(How the stairs began)
(From now on I will listen to the “Beware of Falling Rocks” Signs)
When we reached the top – what an achievement – we found the youth hostel that is in the park. It is very bizarre, to climb a peak with nobody else around only to find a youth hostel. We decided to go in and have a small break and found the woman and man who ran the hostel stretched out by a heater in front of the tv watching the most cheesy Chinese soap I have ever, ever seen. Me and Geraldine annoyed the owners a little, partially I guess by turning up in the first place but mainly for laughing at their soap. It was so over dramatic and we could tell – I think, what was going on. It was nice to sit by a heater as well – it was very cold outside, okay if you are walking but cold all the same. As we were walking up to the hostel we noticed it had started to snow – like forecast – nice!
We walked down the road from the hostel towards the scenic areas at the park – it was cool walking on a road, but became really icy at some points. It felt like proper winter as well, snow and ice everywhere. I was almost tempted to start singing Christmas Carols… but I didn’t. The view from the road was gorgeous. It clearly wasn’t the best viewing place, but as somewhere to walk through, pretty cool.
We made it to the viewing area at last – along with all the Chinese tourists climbing on and off their buses. Man, I can’t wait to go to India and not see Chinese Tourists. I am sure they will crop up in some places though. The views here were….. it was like stepping into Avatar – gobsmackingly beautiful. Stacks stood surrounded by air and covered by trees and snow, steep walls of rock sloped down from heights, trees clinging onto ever crevice they can find. Amazing. But as I have said many times – pictures speak louder than words.
(Left is the path that we walked along to view the peaks – slippery as!)
A bit of a drop….
I almost felt I had to take this photograph, (above) apart from being a cool shot, which it undoubtedly is, one of my semesters in uni was on surveillance and I almost feel compelled to photograph security cameras in weird places – and isn’t this a weird one? Who do they want to catch on camera?!
At this point it was properly snowing – as you can see above. But it wasn’t just a few flakes that didn’t stick but thick and the kind of snow covering you in white. One thing I noticed about snow was that it was proper snowflakes. I don’t know if you think this or not – but I have noticed that back home snow flakes seem more snow blobs than flakes, not having any shape, well, kinda looking like individual flakes but not the kind you draw on pictures when you are little. Here, they are the traditional shape. Maybe this is just me getting excited about a small – non-excitable thing, but I think its well cool seeing snow-flaked shaped snow flakes. Yes. Well, here’s a photo of them!
See what I mean?! It is well cool!
We walked on the walkways surrounded by these beautiful peaks. It was properly snowing by this point – but it made you feel as if you were in another world – a Christmas story perhaps. The peaks loomed out of the mist and snow, eiry. It made me glad I had come now rather than in another season. Then it might have been easier to see this amazing view, you and thousands of others most likely. Seeing it in a world of white however fewer see and it is just as stunning.
This was a sign we saw just by a bridge between two peaks. It was is a funny sign, but you wonder why they have to put the sign up?!
By this point, as you can see it was snowing really heavily, this made good photos but it meant I couldn’t see that well in the end. Finally we had enough of the cold, snow and views. We took a bus with the Chinese tourists to a giant lift that went down the peaks. On the bus I tried to take a photo of the occupants, only to have photos taken of me, oh well. They all cheered though when I did take the photo of them – well bazaar!
It was nice to be warm though. When we got off we had to get a lift down the peaks to the base of the peaks. Well cool to watch the peaks from being on the same height to them towering over us again. We then caught a series of buses back to the city – where we turned on the heating and left for food. We both, after a cold day of wandering around in the snowy park wanted comfort food, stuff which we could have got at home and so went and ordered at a Western restaurant. Well nice. Sometimes you need food from home. When we got back to our room, it was nice and toasty warm. Oh yea.
Geraldine left early the next morning while I left that evening. I had done little in the day except relax, but when you travel for an extended period, in other words longer than a month, you need times of doing, well, not much. I also had over a day of travelling, which, despite the little you do is exhausting. First I had a night train to… to a little town which I cannot remember. It was small and there was nothing to do there. I was woken up around 5 by the train lady and sat the window watching outside before my stop. The world flew by, covered in snow gleaming a deep blue from the night, steadily growing to a lighter shade as the sky lightened. A few windows gleamed golden, early morning country folk rising early for the day as well as early morning drivers pinpricks in the dark. It was a beautiful world, as I sat by in the train it seemed to be a dream world. There are a couple of times where the travelling is almost as special as the destinations, the trip to Dege in Northern Sichuan over the Tro La Pass was one – the travelling although is often non-space, the time in-between, between places where you do stuff, see stuff and meet people where you are waiting, with nothing to do and people to meet. During this time, flying through a silent white China, I felt in another world, watching. To add to this I listened to some pretty cool music, Porcelain by Moby and Yellowby Coldplay particularly standing out. One of the moments where you love the travelling, not just seeing different places, but loving the actual travelling as well.
The rest of my travelling was not so fun. When I arrived in… the town where I was changing trains I had a 4-5 hour wait. I did little but sleep and listen to music then a 18 hour train to Xiamen. I originally thought I arrived at 5pm – but when it reached 8pm and we were still going strong I guessed we were stopping at 5am instead.
We did arrive at 5am, the city was still buzzing by the station – early trains are clearly regular here. The rest, as I was driven off by a taxi, was more subdued. The few returning party goers or early shift workers, but, for the most part quiet in the soft glow of the lights at night. After around fifteen minutes of driving around the same area I had the feeling my taxi driver, who had nodded vigorous when I came up to his car by the station, was not so sure where my hostel was. He took me to one of the big hotels, expecting I think for me to want to go there. I didn’t. So on we drove, seeing the city – if quiet and deserted still quite cool to be driving around at this time. The cost of the taxi was rising more and more, at one point the driver left the taxi to go get directions – as the meter was rising. Not so good. But he did not complain when we did reach my hostel and I paid him less than asked – still more than was recomended for the journey, but not overly.
I thought this would be the end of my troubles, but no. I should have learnt that when you have one problem, you get lots. I also forgot, after months of hostels that are near-empty, that I might have to prebook a bed – being the run up to Chinese New Year. So on arriving, at around quarter to six I was informed that there were no beds free that night, nor in any of the other hostels in Xiamen. At this early in the morning, I did not want to think about not having any where to sleep let alone wait for the day ahead. The woman at the desk, who I had woken up, kindly let me stay in a bed until later that morning, God bless her. When I got to the room thought I found that someone had borrowed the duvet and so I had to rest under my coat, oh well I did not intent to sleep long anyways. When I did come back down tot he office, and asked about dorms in other hostels, but no. All other hostels were fully booked. This was bad news, but she seemed curious – why was I not staying in a dorm at their hostel, they had a bed for two nights….. funny how things work out. So after I had moved all my stuff and freshened up I readied to go out – I wanted to see the Island by Xiamen- Gulang Yu. Coincidentally I met a group of Nanjing students visiting Xiamen planning the same day out as me. So I went along with them. One of the girls had her mother visiting from Belgium – made me miss mine a bit if I am honest….
We got the ferry over to the Island and spend quite a bit if time wandering about. The Island had been colonial and so was full of old European buildings, most with an air if disregard to them but beautiful none the less. The streets were small and cobbled for the most part lined with small adds and end shops as well as overpriced coffee shops and cafes. There were some really cool little shops, stuff shops – the kind of stuff I like to buy. Expensive stuff though. Champagne Tastes on a beer budget…. but I was good, and did not buy anything. It was a grey day for us, raining on and off as well as misty. We made our way finally to Sunlight Peak, the highest point of the island where there were some rocks – high up enough to have a good view of the island and over the water to Xiamen. Some nice views of the island.
The view of Xiamen from Sunlight Rock
A sign on the way down Sunlight peak.
The two other women who are studying in Shanghai, left to right, Liesbeth, Pema and Liesbeth’s Mum
People photographing from the top of Sunlight Peak.
A well cool hut/store building
We then caught the cablecar over to the Aviary, one of the other sights to see. The cable car was the proper old fashioned kind, really cool to be on. The aviary…. was not so good. Well it was, but I felt self conscious of the birds welfare in the place. In the bird show there was one that had few feathers on its front, poor thing. But it was cool to see the birds there.
Below and above are of the birds
We wandered down through the town, having a Chinese Seafood lunch, really good food and pausing in different shops. My favourite perhaps was one that had postcards with photographs on the front – as most do I hear you say, but these were more… artistic. Of ordinary things but photographed in a beautiful way. Not only did this shop sell post cards but had a table to write your letters on and a box to put them in when you finish. It was a cool place, arty, the kind of place I like. But this shop made me want to photograph those kind of images – so as we wandered the streets I took some more bohemian photos – capturing the islands atmosphere.
When we had finished wandering around, we headed back to the mainland and to the hostel to rest a while. That evening we went out for food, having a great time sharing food and company – Korean/Chinese food. Very nice stuff. (Man that sounds pompous English)
The following day I returned to the island, this time alone – the group I had gone with the day before were travelling to the country nearby. It was nice to wander by myself, I got to see more of what I wanted, including the piano museum, which had different types of pianos inside. The best I think was a piano that was made to fit into a corner, at a 90 degree angle – very bazaar. I had an early dinner at Pizza Hut, much nicer here in China than back home, like, a proper posh restaurant here. I’d had pizza craving for a while so it was nice to satisfy that. A quiet day though. The following was much the same, I had a night bus in the evening so spent the day working on odd jobs. One cool thing is that I have travelled on most kinds of transport on this trip I am doing. Now that I think about it the list goes something like;airplane, night train, day train, night bus, day bus, minibus, car, taxi, (I count them as separate – count them the same though if you will) motorbike, bicycle, tuktuk, subway, boat, raft, horse and of course my own two feet. Quite a cool list I think. That evening I added the nightbus, a cool way to travel that had three rows of beds, two beds high. I didn’t have a great nights sleep – the road was bumpy and the curtains did not block out the street lamps much at all – but it got me to Guangzhou, my last stop in China…
Guangzhou was fun even if I only spent a few days there mainly hanging out. I visited the Banyan Tree Temple, the only site I mised on my previous visit (Cool, the trees were huge and towered over you, amazing) and again visted the cool French restaurant. I had a cheese, mushroom and truffel dish – well yummy! I also drank quite a bit of coffee. Before leaving I rarely drank this stimulant. Now, four months in I drink it more regually, once you get used to the taste, so it seems, its rather nice! What else did I do in Guangzhou…. um, not anything more I can think of. So after writing thoasands of words about Yangshou and Zhangjiajie, I write as little as one paragraph on Guangzhou. No photos either – Sorry!
And then onto Hong Kong. I think I shall do a Hong Kong Special, it is not strictly China, so I will not class it as such and it will most definitly fill up (even these past 5 days) a blog entry. So, wait up and it will be coming soon!