Well I've made it safely to India and I haven't stopped since I got here! Before I even got to the border there was a "slight" issue in Nepal that cocked up my finely laid plans! I was supposed to reach Sunauli (Nepal/India border town) at around 3 PM, all was going well on the bus, was talking to a lovely Nepali family with a gorgeous little baby when we were told that there was a strike. Nepal is notorious for daily strikes that affect transport, can cause curfews and generally disrupt everything. Usually it's the political parties but sometimes (Like in this case) it's the local people. What had happened prior to this strike was a crash between a motorbike and a truck. The motorbike guys' friends beat the life out of the truck driver who was subsequently on his deathbed in hospital. In protest to the motorbike guys' friends, the truck driver's friends and his company decided to strike and block the road! We stopped in Pokhara for 2 hours and then drove to where the blockade was. By this time it was 4PM, we were in a tiny town (But I got cheap food! Happy days) I was (as I always seem to be these days!) the only foreigner on the bus and when it got dark all the lights went off in the town! I was happy until a cockroach ran over my foot when I was sitting outside the bus, so at that point I decided sleep was the only option. After flicking through my Nepal lonely planet I was slightly diisturbed to read "Travelling by night bus is quite possibly the most dangerous thing you can do in Nepal" Great! We finally got moving at around 1 AM, the police had banged some heads apparantly and cleared the strike! So my grand plan of arriving early at the border town, spending the night in a cheap hotel and crossing to India in the morning, refreshed and clean didn't quite work out! I made it to the border just after 6 AM, smelly, dirty, exhausted and STARVING! I bargained for half an hour to borrow a hotel room for an hour, showered and crossed the border straight away! Thankfully it was the easiest brder crossing yet and I was in India in a matter of minutes!
All was (Almost) perfect after that, I got on a bus to Gorakhpur (To get my train to Delhi) and was unfortunately the recipient of some unwanted attention from a "Holy Man", basically a scam artist who wanted to bless me and then take my money. HE spet the first hour on the bus sitting way too close and squeezing my leg till I yelled at him to leave me alone!! Some holy man!! As you can imagine, I was a little pissed off by the time I got to Gorakhpur but thankfully since then everything has improved!!
I safely got my train, safely met dad in Delhi (yay) and have been spoiled rotten since! The train into Delhi was interesting though, the sights of the slum towns as you arrive on the train is something else. And Indian train station are EXACTLY as they appear on the telly. I N S A N E!!! We spent the first day sightseeing in Delhi and eating plenty of paneer!! We had a train that night to Agra, The Taj Mahal and a well deserved beer! Anyway, the Taj... WOW. Even more beautiful than I imagined and really quiet as it's off season now. (The reason being, it's like one million degrees out here and the sensible poeple are staying away!) We wandered around for a few hours, and as usual, I was taking my customary pics with my United shirt, Salusbury shirt and Sedulus shirt when I got told off by a tour guide! Apparantly you're not allowed to do that...but screw it I got the pics and they're great!! Haha. (they wouldn't let me bring Ted in though :o()
After the Taj we took a trip to Fateh Pur Sikri, Akbar's Palace. A King who lived here with his 3 wives, one Christian, one Muslim, and his favourite, the Hindu wife! This was again very beautiful, lots of gorgeous pics but LOTS of people wanting our money.Beggars I can handle, and we've been giving lots of money and food to kids (Which we're technically not supposed to do but it's very hard to say no to a 4 year old in bare feet who's bones you can see sticking out!)but SO many people out here see my white face and automatically assume I sohuld tip them...for nothing! One old guy, in a mosque of all places banged a wall to show us it was hollow and put his hand out! Dad gave him a few rupees, and then the even older guy standing next to him followed us around saying he had helped!! Madness!
After Agra we headed back to Delhi so I could drop off my passport (For yet ANOTHER visa, thankfully no worries this time, Mongolians are GREAT!) and spent another day shopping and eating before catching a train to Jaipur in Rajhastan. This place was COOL. IT's know as the "Pink City" as one of the early Maharajahs built most of the "old town" in pink stone. IT all looked really beautiful! We had a mad day of sighseeing, the Amber Palace, Wind Palace and water palace, all absolutley beautiful. All were bulit and inhabited by different Maharajahs at different times. (Like a King of that part of Rajhastan) That night before our train we went to Choci Dani, and I can only describe it as Indian Disneyland! We paid for a ticket and entered a little fairyland of little huts and brightly coloured stalls, loads of food on offer (I stuffed myself with Pani Pourri and spicy peanuts), elephant and camel rides, row boats, archery stalls, massage stalls etc but the highlight for me was the Rajhastani dinner we were given. YUM!! The Rajhastani food is si milar to Gujarati food, dall, rice, kudi and simple curries, just like what I eat at home, so once again, I had a very happy belly!
We're now back in Delhi to collect my passport before heading to Udaipur, Ahmedabad and Jamnagar, where my Grandfather was born. As wonderful as the Taj was, I'm most excited about this part as I get to meet family members I've never seen before and learn a bit more about my Shah history which should be great.
India so far has been amazing. I heard horror stories from people about how mad it was and I agree, it's nuts but there's something about it that I love, and I've alredy planned to return next summer. DOn't get me wrong, it's not perfect, everyone is trying to sell you something and rip you off, you can't walk 5 seconds without being accosted by someone who, on seeing my tourist face decides I'm an idiot who must be parted with her money, but I'm not as easily fooled as I was a year ago and manage to ward them off with a smile and a bit of an Indian head wobble!! I've been practising that and my Hindi for the last week, by the time I get home I'll be wearing a Sari and (If dad get's his way) will be married. Haha just kidding.
ANyway, so far I love it, the food's great (Though I've had a wee bout of "Delhi Belly", thanks for the drugs mum, they came in VERY handy!) the people are crazy and the whole place is just a total assault on all senses! Happy days.
Hope you're all well,