Where has the time gone - can't believe my trip is almost over although at least I am only home for a few days to see my family and then off again on another fabulous trip with Erlend for company this time! Cant wait and am so chuffed that I have some time with Erlend before I have to get back to the reality of working, dog walking, cooking, household chores (what are they again??) etc! All good things have to come to an end though, but I have already started to think about where/when I will head off to next....:). My bank balance will need a number of years to recover, but no harm in planning ahead! So, back to the trip, cant remember where I left off last, but think it was as I headed to Jaipur? I was really looking forward to seeing the 'pink city' as I had seen many pictures of it, but to be honest was a little disappointed - its more like a terracotta colour and although the palace itself is pretty, the rest of the city is like the rest of India. It was painted pink (the colour of hospitality) for the visit of the Prince of Wales (dont have my book here, so not sure of the dates) and it has stayed like that since, although now dirty and crowded like the rest of India. Went to see the water palace, which was built in the middle of a lake for the Queen to visit and that was pretty although Eilean Donan in Aviemore is nicer!). We seem to hear the same history here, of one King, Agbar the Great, who was a reformer and had three wives, one Hindu, one Islam and one Christian, he built a lot of palaces but apart from him no-one else seems to have done anything much! Quite of a lot of the architecture is Hindu-Islamic and it was quite interesting when we began to recognise the different styles. I had expected a lot of old colonial buildings, but these have long gone, although Connaught Square, a semi-circle of buildings similar to Bath, remains, but even that is spoiled by shops and billboards. We spent a lot of time on the bus here in India and we had some good times as a group, but havent been left with any great desire to come back. So, as I was sitting on the bus for 7 hours yesterday, started to think of a summary of my whilstlestop tour.
Russia - interesting architecture and history, stern, unfriendly people, no-one speaks English, which is good as it forces you to at least try, pretty crap food;
Siberia - food slightly better, but not much, people slightly nicer - scenery lovely
Mongolia- nice people, great culture, beautiful scenery, food semi okay.
China - FABULOUS - culture and history really varied and interesting, brilliant sites, amazing food. No-one speaks English unless they are scammers, but again forces you to try. People stare, but only because they havent seen Westerners except on tv and are respectful and non threatening. Nice scenery -would go back in a minute - there is so much to see and hear there!
Cambodia - the people are named by Lonely Planet as the best reason to visit and I totally agree - they are just amazing - I love the atmosphere there. Although I do remember the culture shock I had when I arrived.... It is a developing country with extremely poor people, but feels good just hanging out there. History was interesting - no architecture obviously, but some really pretty scenery. Again, would go back in a minute!
Thailand - just as I remembered it - beautiful beaches, nice buzzy atmosphere and lots of fun!! Sure I'll be back to see my pal Shirls again!
India - hmmm - Taj Mahal is amazing, but really that was it for me. Not much history to speak of really, just the British invading and ruling, blah blah - nothing much of note prior to that. We actually seem to have done some good here starting up museums, infrastructure,cricket (!) etc, so didnt feel embarrassed to be British!. I didnt feel comfortable the whole time I have been here, but people say it takes a while to get used to it, so maybe I havent had long enough. Will I come back to try again - probably not.
Anyway, feel pretty sad to be signing off from you all as I have enjoyed 'talking' to you. It was great to read your messages, especially when I was on my own with no-one else to speak English to and no telly! The internet was my lifeline so THANKS to you all for the messages - will see you all soon xxxxxxxxxx