Travelling Blog - India: 25/07/06 - 20/08/06
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I have been privileged. I have done what most of my peers could only dream of doing and more importanlty I have done it in the Homeland.

I have eaten a Tangri Kebab. It was delicious.

Welcome to New Delhi, the bustling capital at the forefront of the 2nd biggest nation on the globe. Though I have only been here a week (I started writing this a few weeks ago) I have come to love the vibrant energy of the city. Its vast network of bazaars selling anything from jalebi to "rolex's" is awesome, as is the culture (and architecture) influenced largely by the previous Hindu and (to a great degree) Muslim rulers. I am also thankful that I have not had a case of the shits yet, even more so since I have no immodium on me.

So onto the trip. Delhi is massive and there is loads to see. I enjoyed my one week there, and it was great having dad as a guide taking me around to the cool places and, more importanly, paying for me.

Tomi, my friend from Japan joined us shortly after and we began our whistle-stop tour of India, starting with Agra, home to the world famous Taj Mahal.

I am usually unimpressed by major tourist attractions, prefering to find hidden gems and more interested in absorbing the atmosphere of a place. But even I could not help but be awed by the beauty of the Taj. The last time I was here I (apparently) was more interested in chasing squirrels, but this time Tomi and I ended up staying here for about 3 hours, talking to random Japanese women and chilling in he gardens.

Agra Fort was also imprssive. I thought that it would be boring and I wasn't even sure that I would get in after arguing with the ticket booth person about whether I was Indian or not. After a fake indian accent and insisting that I was from Delhi he finally let me in. (the accent didnt work in the Taj though and i was reduced to being a foreigner again).

Next stop. Varanasi. This place is famous throughout India and is a major spiritual base. Tourists and pilgrims come from miles to see this place, especially the aged who believe that dying here will liberate them from Moksha, the cycle of birth and death.

Personally I thought it was crap. And luckily Tomi did too. And so we headed north to Sarnath, where we crashed in a Japanese Temple for the night. The place was quiet and serene, a world apart from what I had become used to since arriving in India. Apart from the 6am wake up call for morning meditation I really loved this place, and it was a shame we had to leave after only a night and a day.

Next stop was Bodgaya, the place of Buddha's enlightenment. It was a nice place, with the tiny village centering around a temple and the tree where Mr. Buddha decided to become a dude and start a new religion. Tomi and I did some more meditation here, where I had to try as hard as I could not to fall asleep (our train was meant to come at 1:45 the previous morning, but had been 3 hours late, meaning we had had a bad sleep). Tomi and I then hung out with 2 kids who insisted on being our unofficial giudes (12 and 14 yrs old). They also liked discussing philosophy - cool but unusually. I could never imagine a 14 yr old in the UK talking about philosophy, perhaps doing dope or smoking behind a public toilets somewhere.

Kolkata was next on the list but only for 2 days. Tomi and I split up temporarily. I went to see Mother Teressa's first Missionary and Tomi went and saw a Hindi movie which he loved. It was also interesting walking through a Communist Party Rally dedicated to some guy called Joshi.

A long 26 hour train journey to Chennai to see my friend from university followed. What a great host! Tomi and I really enjoyed our time down south where we saw some fantastic beaches and went swimming in the Bay on Bengal. A night on the town also beckoned, where I FINALLY met some good looking Indian ladies (that doesn't include the Indian ladies back home!) . The Indian nightclub was a blast and after partying the night away we finally made it home in the wee hours of the morning.

It was also in Chennai that a curious policeman started telling me how Bill Gates was Indian...I never knew that.

After almost continuous travel for 2 days Tomi and I finally made it to Dehra Dun, situated on the foothills of the Himalayas. I was hoping to get away from the rushed city life here but it wasn't to be so Tomi and I headed even further north to Mussoorie. We were hoping to have some peace and quiet for a bit but it wasn't to be...this week was India's Independence anniversary and also included a religious day, so the place was packed and not at all what we were expecting.

We were going to head back to Dehra Dun, having given up finding a hotel (except for the fancy places charging extortionate prices), but then we met 5 other travellers in the same predicament as us. Coming together like a kebab and nan bread we decided to head back into the Hill Station to find a place to put all of us up...and after an hour of looking (including one "hotel" that couldn't put us up because we were the 1st foreigners to ask to stay and they didnt have the appropriate forms) we finally found one. Then the 7 of us went out.

Hooking up with other travellers was great. In our group were 2 Danes, 1 German (nicknamed David after his impromptu singing of David Hasselhof songs), an Irish guy who has been travelling the world for years going from one teaching job to the next), a Japanese guy, me and a Dutch guy (27 yrs old), who's inability to make it back to the hotel in time when he had the shits resulted in him actually shitting his pants! hahaha! the joys of indian food....

The next day the group headed to Kempty Falls, a beautiful waterfall in the middle of nowhere. Despite the large crowds we found a nice place where there were no other people. The water was clean and we could finally clean ourselves. For the first time since reaching North India it finally felt like we had escaped the cities.

The group split up soon after that, all of us going our separate ways, and the Dutch guy deciding to stay in a hotel for a few days to let his "problem" pass and thus avoid any more accidents. I also found out from one of them that Jesus died in India, in Srinagar, after "surviving" the cruxifiction....hhhmmmm

And now I am in Rishikesh staying with an uncle who I do know and who can get me things muh cheaper.

This is chilling time before Tomi finally heads back to Japan in a few days.

As for me, I dont know what my next step is. The recent problems in the UK (hope it didn't affect anyone receiving this email) as well as worsening relationships between India and Pakistan in the last month has made this an especially bad time for me to travel to Pakistan. What's more I am not sure that I will even be given a visa in which case all my plans are screwed.

So that's the India trip so far. There have been highs and unfortunately a few lows. The touts are annoying as hell and it would give me great pleasure to have a ban on touts that piss tourists off. More importantly however, poverty is widespread and there should be no place for it in the modern world. Well done to Bono (no doubt an Indian), Bill Gates and everyone else who is trying to make a difference in the world today. If you ever come to India please give your money to recognised charities. Your money will go further there than simply giving to beggars on the street, where your money will only solve their short-term problems.

I am sorry for the length of this email, as well as my lack fo replying to people. I will get around to you shortly. I am having difficulty updating the wesbite but I'll get it sorted as soon as possible, along with pictures.

Take care one and all

Absy

x

ps book recommendation - Q & A. I forget the author but it was a fantastic read and gave me a great insight into the real India so visible now after my last month of travelling