Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shake your Delhi-Belly

After Udaipur, I headed to Delhi. I’d been warned about Delhi by loads of people. Everyone says it is really chaotic and just absolutely mental! But none of these warnings could properly prepare me for what was really install.

I arrived early in the morning and headed over to Parhaganj, which is a backpacking area near New Delhi Station. This place is crazy! So many people, so much poverty and a bunch of random tourist hotels thrown in-between the Chaos! The touts here are relentless too. Everyone seems to be just “heading your way” and states that they don’t won’t to sell you anything. 100% of them are FULL OF S#%T! I could not walk 5 metres without some smooth talking moron yelling at me or start following me. Getting to and from destinations was a hassle too. I was starting to lose my mind trying to get a decent auto-ric fair or even to get one of the douche-bags to turn on the meter!

Once I got to the sights however, I found them quite peaceful and a welcome break from the Delhi madness. The most notable places that I visited were the Lotus temple, humayun's tomb, and The Red Fort.

The Lotus Temple is a Bahai worshipping spot. Bahai is a small time religion that seems to acquire quite large facilities to worship in. The design of the temple is very similar to that of the Sydney Opera House (not as cool though, in my mind). The temple is in the shape of a lotus flower… Duh! I did enjoy walking around snapping shots of the place. Really cool! But I didn’t bother to venture inside.

After the “flower Tower,” I went over to Humayun’s tomb. People describe this place a “mini Taj Mahal,” but it is actually built 100 years before it. Also I feel the design and style of it is quite different and very unique. I did get there just before they were closing though, so I was forced to rush around the place a little quicker than I would’ve liked.

In the evening, I tried my best to avoid the town of Parhaganj and spent my time either in a restaurant or in my room. And that night turned out to be a rough one! The ol’ famous “Delhi-belly.” I was sick, cold and miserable. Tough times! I got through it and managed to sleep in a bit the next day, despite the loud noises coming from outside.

Finally after much delay, I bravely stepped outside and may my way over to The Red Fort. To be honest, the fort was nothing really spectacular. While over that way though I could see the Jama Masjid Mosque, which is the largest one in India.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Bondage in Udaipur

The AC sleeper compartment was well comfortable! So glad I upgraded from the basic sleeper! I managed to sleep nearly the entire trip from Ahmedabad to Udaipur.
Udaipur is famous for being the “romantic” town of Rajasthan and is also referred to as a “fairytale” city. It was also the setting for the 1983 Bond movie, Octopussy. The pride of this fact has never seemed to wear off the locals, as they replay the movie in most restaurants every single night!

The town really is quite pretty. Set along Lake Pichola, there is a fantastic city palace as well a lake palace, which takes up an entire island in the middle of the lake. This palace is now a 5 star hotel, which cost around 19,000 - 69,000 Rupees a night (convert that one to AUD)! Most of my time here was spent walking around the town photographing. I did visit the city palace too. It was cool, but it looks a lot more impressive from the outside. I also managed to eat plenty of good curry, drink lots of chai and catch up on a bit of reading (read the White Tiger, which seems to be the most heavily flogged book in India).

On my last day, did a quick visit to a nearby car museum that houses 22 classic cars (owned by some Maharaja). One of which was a Rolls Royce used in Octopussy.

At night, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot going on. I did manage to catch Octopussy twice though, which seemed to be as exciting as things got in the evening.

Overall, Udaipur is a nice place and even with all the streets full of people, cars, auto-rics, motos and cows, It does still have a sort of peaceful feeling about the place which I quite liked.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Time to wave your Mumbai!

I have to admit, I've never really been that psyched about coming to India. I just felt like it was something I had to do.
Before I came, I had the expectation that the place would be pretty full-on! Lots of traffic, quite dirty, plenty of beggars & touts and a better than average chance of getting diarrhoea. So, I was not all surprised when I received all of the above!

My first morning in Mumbai consisted of a bit of running around, trying to sort out train tics for onward travel. But once that had been sorted, I went out and did a bit of exploring. The first thing I saw was the train station. Sounds boring, but it’s actually quite impressive. It's huge! I guess the English designed and built it with the intention of using it, but bounced on out of India not long after it’s completion. But it makes Sydney's Central station look like a bus stop!
After the station I wandered round a nearby market for a while and bought a "silk" (more like satin) sheet for the train as I had booked the lowest sleeper class where bedding is not provided. While I was in the market I stopped for some 'Thali' for lunch. 'Thali' is awesome! So much good food and they just keep on bringing it. Definitely won't be the last time I have it while I'm in India, I'm sure!

After lunch, I went down to the University and High Court to look around a little. These buildings too are truly amazing. Even more so than the Station! It does fascinate me that the English put so much work into designing and building such amazing architecture in a country they were merely occupying. But I guess they did have a billion cheap labourers on hand after all.

Across from the Uni was a bunch of cricket pitches and Indians in their whites playing a few games. This was pretty cool to watch.
Later that day I walked down to the 'gateway of India,' which is a large arch down by the harbour. This place was rather touristy and full of touts, but still relatively interesting none-the-less. Next to the Gateway is the 'Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.' No, it's not the big white ice cream cone! But it is a beautiful building that has been converted into a 5 star hotel. This place is also the location of where there was a terrorist shooting a few years back.

On the 2nd day I hopped onto a boat and headed over to 'Elephanta Island.' There aren't any elephants here but there are plenty of monkeys! After seeing monkeys in many other places before, they really don't excite as much as when I was a
kid. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy seeing a good monkey fight and do wish I owned one and could train it to be my duelling buddy. But pretty much now when I see a monkey I just keep them in the corner of my eye and pray they don't try a
nd nick my stuff.

Anyway, enough about monkeys! Elephanta Island is famous for a series of impressive Buddhist caves that have some really nice carvings and sculptures. I didn't know what to expect when I arrived there, but I actually really enjoyed wandering around through the caves checking out
the carvings.
After the island, the day dragged on a bit. I had a train out of Mumbai booked for 9:45, but really struggled to find a way to fill my time. The trouble with travelling solo is that sometimes you get bored real quick! I don't love travelling alone, but sometimes it's the only option. The advantage is being able to make your own plans a
nd decisions. The disadvantage is like I said... Getting bored! Generally I meet plenty of people while I travel, but often you have some quiet times, which tends to increase your anxiety and nerves.

My first sleeper train in India was rather interesting. It was packed full of people, dirty and really uncomfortable. I had to use my jumper as a pillow and couldn’t sleep due to the insane shaking of the train. Usually the shaking doesn’t bother me so much, but this was more than just a slight rattle!

Anyway, after a crappy night I arrived in Ahmedabad. I wasn’t staying here (thank God), just spending the day while I waited for my next train.
Once I arrived, I checked my bag into the station’s cloakroom and set about exploring the city.
The only real thing notable here was ‘Sabarmati Ashram,’ which was Ghandi’s former headquarters. The Ashram was relatively interesting and was quite a nice peaceful place. I was pretty tired though from the night before, so while I was at the Ashram, I found a nice piece of lawn and had a bit of a snooze. It’s not everyday you get to sleep in Ghandi’s backyard! He does have nice grass though!
For the rest of the day I walked around the city looking for sights on the Lonely Planet’s map, most of which I couldn’t find. The day was LONG and I was quite happy when the evening arrived and I boarded the train on out of town.