so again much has happened in the past few days and with only a couple days left in india i thought i better round up on the first leg of the journey.
a few things have happened since the last blog which fealt like a year ago when i was in pushka. on the bus from pushka to Jaipur a man sat down next to me with about an hour to go. after a few minutes of silence he said hello and started asking about where im from, etc. etc. then he starts asking about girlfriends and if im married and that kind of stuff, i thought ok hes just making conversation, ive heard those kind of questions before from other indian fellows. and then he asked something i hadnt heard before, and havent heard again, "do you want an arranged marriage with my daughter, she is really beautiful indian girl" took me a bit by surprise as u could imagine. so i just laughed a bit thinking it was a bit of a joke, but nooooo, he just stared at me with a puzzled look waiting for an answer. but what can you say without insulting him and his family, so i just said im too young to marry. there was another short silence, and then he asked again. then to try and kind of persuade me he invited me to one of his 'many' properties that he owned in jaipur, erm no thanks.
jaipur is quite a nice city and unfortunately i could only spend one night there, and as i arrived there quite late i managed to get into a fairly nice hotel for fairly cheep after having to explain the economics of how someone filling the room for little money is better than no one filling the room, and i got a long sleep in a nice soft bed, well soft by indian standards.
in the morning i took a rickshaw to the train station to book a ticket to delhi and then went for some breakfast at Lassiwalla - best lassis ever!!! you get like a pint of banana curds and yogurt and whatever else is in a lassi for like 30p - before paying a visit to the city palace. just as i flagged down the rickshaw a man all in black on a black motorbike road up along side me, and lifted his viser, the only man in india ive seen wearing a helmet, and the monobrowed man started to have a go at me because apparently tourists who visit his village ignore him and his neighbours. "im sorry, i dont think most travellers are like that, i havent come across any" but before i could finish i was pulled into the rickshaw and we drove off. later, when we got to the palace, the driver turned round to look at me and told me that that man was big trouble, and informed me that he was part of the Jaipur mafia! very dangerous man apparently. so quite a lucky escape.
after having a look around another palace, and the wind palace, and another 2 forts i was running a bit late for my train, but luckily after trying to get the driver to hurry up, "callo callo callo" i was saying which in hindi is lets go lets go lets go, we managed to get there with seconds to spare, running into the station and finding the platform, i then realised that th train was 30minutes late and i fealt a bit silly.
when arriving in delhi, the first thing i noticed was that the moon is the wrong way round! the crescent is at 90 degrees, like a smile, very strange. and after having to wade through what seemed like thousands and thousands of touts offering cheep hotels, after their commission, i managed to find another posh hotel which again after explaining why it makes sense to give it to me for cheep, they did and it was fantastic!
i then rushed off to the vietnam embassy to try and sort out a visa, not realising it was the vietnam new year and they were all on holiday! waste of time and money! i then got my rickshaw to drop me off at connaught place, such a rubbish place, if you ever go to delhi, dont waste ur time going there, its just like somewhere in europe with really expensive european shops.
i then went back to the main bazaar area and got dragged into a travel agent, after being offered a personal driver to take me around for a week for 400 quid and a trip up to kashmir which did look amazing and i probably would have gone if the trecking didnt cost 100 pounds a day! so eventually they ended up giving me the train tickets and ended up throwing in a couple nights in varanassi once they had bought the tickets. they also gave me a driver who took me to the embassy the next morning and waited for me, and in the end it took over 3 hours to sort it all out and a lot of driving too, so it worked out ok in the end, and im going to try and get them to take me to pick up the visa tomorrow too.
the first train i booked took me to agra, which was an ok journey, took a while and its so hard to figure out when you have to get off the train, end up asking everyone. in agra i woke up for sunrise over the taj mahal. it is the most amazing building i think ive ever seen, its so beautiful, 'a teardrop on the cheak of time" one indian poet said, but not even that describes how amazing it is, its just like a post card photo but youre in the photo and can touch everything, its just incredible. definately worth the 10 pound entrance fee, just so magical, especially at sunrise when you see the marble changing colour, spectacular!
after staring at the taj mahal for several hours, i eventually got up and left to go to a camera repair shop to try and fix my camera which had got sandy and broken when i fell off the camel. we were waiting for ages and eventually the guy who was going to fix it came up and eventually gave me a quote and told me to come back later, which gave me enough time to go have a look around agra fort, which is pretty big, but after seeing the taj it was just rubbish and when i went was very busy because all the tourists who would be looking around the taj mahal werent able to at that time because apparently vladimir putin was in town and was having a look around it, so it was completely closed off. i then went back to the camera shop and found out that the camera was broken and neaded a new lense and zoom which would cost me about 60 pounds, and i was like dam, what a waste of time and asked them to show me other cameras which were very rubbish and would cost more than to fix the broken camera. so think its probably worth getting a new one in singapore in duty free than to trust some indian guys to try and fix it.
the train to satna was better than to agra, i was in a group of 4 beds with 3 other indian guys, one traveller who was pretty old had forgotten to reconfirm his ticket and so instead of being in 2nd class was bumped down to general, dont think he was very happy, general class looks pretty rough. but i was happy, i was in 2nd class and had some good, funny indian guys to play cards with and talk to.
when i got to satna at about 7 the next morning at the bus station i met this canadian couple, swiss couple and a slightly weird german guy who had the biggest beard ever! he looked almost like santa, except german. after talking to some indians on the bus who turned out to have a hotel they wanted all of us to have a look at - surprise surprise - we got off the bus and they took us to kajuraho which was a 5 minute walk, and then showed us around their hotel, it actually wasnt too bad and i managed to get a pretty nice room for just over 1 pound, after a bit of bartering. i had a beer that evening which cost 1 1/2 times as much as my room, thats how cheep the room was.
anyway on the way to the hotel this guy was asking me if it was ok for him to practice his english with me, i was like sure fine, thinking it would be for like an hour at the hotel, but nope, he wanted to take me around the old town and show me everything and explain everything, which just got a bit much, and then he started talking to me about girlfriends and how he finds it hard to talk to girls and stuff which is the reason why he doesnt have one. i was like oh, ok then. but in the evening me, the german santa, a guy from iran and a few other indians with this guy, we were chatting a bit, having a good relaxed time. the man having girl troubles then decided it would be a good idea to start talking to the iranian about religion, thinking he was going to be a guy who really really believes in islam. but in the end it turns out that he believes in nothing and this really pissed off this guy. we were all listening to a bit of music and he started turning it off and shouting at the iranian and was just a bit of a loser, i think this is probably the reason why hes having trouble with girls. the tittanic theme tune then comes on because titanic is a massive hit over here, and this guy hears the opening and quickly grabs the ipod and holds it to his ear and puts the song on repeat for ages. quite a strange guy me thinks.
anyway when we had a look around the old town we were shown a small village where there are 4 hospitals, 4 wells, 4 pumps, 4 everything, this is because there is huge amounts of discrimination between the castes of the people, which to me seems a bit weird, but its true everywhere in india. the only things that there werent 4 of were the school and the maharaja house where all castes could go. when looking around the school it is so nice to see all these children so keen to work and learn, but there is so little funding that they have no desks and chairs, the teachers are volunteers and dont get paid, but like everything in india, it seems to be a bit of a scam for tourists as they ask everyone for donations, but some of the money probably, hopefully does get through to upgrading the school and improving the quality of teaching.
the next day i met up with the canadians and swiss for breakfast, just by chance i bumped into them on the way to breakfast, and we all went to have a look around the karma sutra temples, which to be honest were a bit of a let down. you hear all these things about the karma sutra temples and u think theyre just going to be completely covered in it, but theyre not, theres like 4 or 5 sculptures on each temple in the complex and its not like its the only place where theres karma sutra on the temples. but it is still a bit odd how they put images of sex on their very religious temples.
after having a long look around the temples, we all went and had a look at the shops, the touts there were the most agressive and it seemed that if you didnt go into their shops they were mortally wounded by it and very insulted. but in one shop in particular, the candians were looking at buying a nice big jade and silver necklace. which they were asking for US$250 which was a bit much, and the guy was saying 'ahh whats money, who cares about money, it comes and it goes.' so i asked him, 'if it means that little to you, how about you give me 50 rupees?' just as a joke. he replied 'here take 500' i had a think about it and thought hmmm why not. so i took it and he seamed fairly content. in the end the candians didnt want it and we all walked off. this man came sprinting out after me demanding i give him back the money! 'what ever happened to money doesnt matter, i thought you didnt care about it?!' 'no you were supposed to buy something!' he replied. oh ok well how about i buy this top for 150 rupees, will that do? so we go back into the shop, and i try to buy it with the 500 rupees he gave me, but he was having none of it, and so we all walked out, and i dont think he was too thrilled by it. oh well.
god this has taken me sooo long to type up! and have like 10 minutes left to finish it, but ive still got to write about varanassi. hmmmm...
well i got to satna train station again after a long long bus journey where i met a different canadian couple who were making their way down to goa. and their train was at like 10 at night and we arrived at about 6, so we all decided to go to a nice little restaurant along with all the other travellers who were on the same bus to satna from kajuraho. lots and lots of different nationalities, the group of people headed to varanassi was quite large and all a very good laugh, there was a german, a korean, a japanese guy, a polish ocuple, who were then named the plc (the polish love couple) and an aussie and a greek. we all got on the delayed train and were talking for a while whilst we were waiting, joking around and just a bit of standard banter.anyway thinking that that was gonna be the last i saw of them i got on the train and went to sleep. when we arrived in varanassi it was very early in the morning and we all went to our seperate hotels. when i got to mine i was somewhat conned into going for a boat ride, they were asking for 400 rupees for an hour on the ganges, no way was i going to pay that, but i still gave them a price way over what i should have done which was 150 rupees, should have paid a maximum of 100 rupees and could have maybe even got it for about 50, but oh well, it was with the hotel and it meant that they like me a bit more because i gave them more money than they would have otherwised got. the view from the river looking at all the ghats lining this holy river was fantastic, with the sun just rising and it was so beautiful. when i got back from the boat ride, looking at the early rituals of the local people of having a bath in the river where all the dead were burned to ashes and washing their clothes literally 10meters down the river from the burning ghats, its such a spiritual place. i then had a long walk along the ghats and got lost in a few of the many tiny lanes that lined the ghats. eventually ending up at the main burning ghat where i went up on the balcony to look over the ceremony and where some junkies were explaining all the rituals and just wouldnt leave you alone to watch in peace,l and then tried to demand that you pay a donation to the 'mama' for wood, and explained how it costs 150 rupees for 1kg of wood, when in actual fact it costs 10 rupees for a massive log and about 200 rupees for the whole ceremony.
varanassi is so different to anywhere else in india, its all very in your face with the spiritual side of things but it is also very peaceful and relaxed. but the thing i have found is that you get the feeling that life is cheep here, because the people know that when they die, they will be burnt on the ganges and as a result go straight to nirvana, which makes you feel a bit on edge, especially when walking along the lanes and ghats during the night.
on the first evening here i went to the start of the party on the main ghat where all these rituals happen and it takes quite a long time, but as i looked down t the men performing i could see all the guys that i met before the train and we all went for dinner and just had a good time, and spent most of the following day together, just taking it easy on a nice warm, sunny sunday. which was exactly what i needed after rushing around everywhere trying to see as much as possible.
anyway im just killing time at the moment waiting for my lift to the train station and maybe buy a bit of food for the train. really looking forward to seeing vietnam despite having heard very mixed reviews on it from other travellers. but it should be good, looking forward to singapore so i dont have to keep on looking at my feet, and will finaly be able to eat a bit of beef as i dont think cows are holy there. really missed meat, dont think ill ever become vegetarian, its too boring!
anyway i guess this is goodbye india. hasnt been long enough but at the same time im quite glad im leaving. it all becomes quite stressful.