A Travellerspoint blog


India will I miss you?

Well I guess the answer is probably yes.....

sunny 43 °C
View Round the world in about 365 days!! on machine's travel map.

It took me a few weeks to work out you can never really love India nor can you hate it, you just have to take it for what it is! One minute you think you have got the country figured out and the next you see something that really makes you wonder how people can live in such way during these modern times. For example I was sat on a train talking to a lovely family, they virtually force food down me, are genuinely interested in what I was doing and seem good people. Just as one of the family members throws all their rubbish straight out of the window a young boy with only one arm comes down the carriage on his 'hand' and knees cleaning it with a manky old brush, you may think this is some scheme that the Indian railways have to get disabled people working!! Not the case this is just a plain old simple beggar trying to earn a bit of cash, most people will not even acknowledge the boy mainly I guess because this is an everyday occurrence and people are numb to the atrocities they see before them. This also leaves you thinking how did this happen to the boy? Was it an accident? Was it his family so that he could make more money begging? or was it some organisation that he managed to get involved in (or his parents sold him to) that also thought by removing a limb it would make him more profitable? I am sure that there are many people with missing limbs in England, but we tend to care for the disabled and not put them on full public display. India doesn't have help like that available!

Going back to the family on the train, whilst throwing litter isn't the worst crime in the world it just goes to show you how Indians can be and this is certainly not an isolated case. Everybody, no matter their class in India litters. I recall whilst sat on a beech recently a young Indian man dropping a plastic bottle, this was a beech that I has spent some time on and whilst it was not the most beautiful beech in the world, it was my little bit of paradise for that time. I had respect for the beech and either put my rubbish in the bins provided or took it home with me. Seeing such an act of blatant disregard for the beech I gestured to the guy and pointed to a bin 10 meters away, in which his response is 'don't worry its India'. India is a very confusing place!!!

Before I came to India the very word conjured up images of a far and distant land where people eat curries and drink lots of tea. Six weeks later and what does India to me? Its a county that's full to the brim with people, it seems that every bit of space is used for homes, shops or farming. Its squat toilet with no toilet roll. Its 5 people on a old dilapidated moped, not wearing helmets. Its people carrying the un-carryable on their heads!! Its the sight of people doing the 'Indian nod', this comprises of a nod and a shake of the head at the same time in a rotation and can mean either yes or no!! Its the sight of two 'straight' men holding hands and rubbing each others stomachs, in a country that strictly forbids homosexuality. The smells of food, chai (tea) and exotic spices emanating from every street corner and not forgetting the lassi (sweet yogurt/curd type drink) in the throw away clay pots. The sight of women putting cow dung in a flat pie shape to dry out in the sun, to then later be used as fuel for fires. Cars, taxi's, bikes and buses all fighting for the same bit of road and using their horns as though the world was going to end at any moment. Animals wondering the street, anything from dogs, cats, sacred cows, goats, chickens, wild boars, in fact if you kill one of India's sacred cows its considered a worse crime than killing a human. Shrines and temples every few hundred meters that depict one of the many gods from the many religions, India seems to have more regions and variations on those religions than you can shake stick at! Its going to a tourist area and feeling like a celebrity when 100's of people stare at you or ask you to have a photo with them, you feel like saying 'god haven't you seen a white person?', the reality is thats the reason why they are probably so awe struck, because they haven't ever seen a white person.

There are obviously some the less desirable sights that will still remind me and probably haunt for many years to come, such as the number of men, women, children and babies who live on the streets. The mountains of litter on every street in every city, town, hamlet & village!!! Indian men taking photos, leering and even touching other female travellers. The constant harassment from taxis and rickshaw driver 'heeeyyy mmmisssttterrr taaaxxxxi?', you actually feel like saying 'bugger off, you have just watched me get out of a taxi, why would possibly want to get another one?'. People always on the rob and think you can afford to pay more than a Indian and not forgetting their ridiculous two tier pricing for tourist attactions.The constant harassment from shop owners and street urchins trying to get you to buy items that you will never have a use for, anything ranging from saris to bongos, I feel like saying 'How the buggery do you think I am going to get a 3 foot bongo drum home?'. People constantly clearing their throats and spitting. On a similar topic most men and some women of India chew something called Paan, this is chewed as a palate cleanser and a breath freshener and often consists of fennel seeds and chewing tobacco. You can tell someone its chewing it as they mumble when they 'speak' to you and their teeth will be all red and stained, though usually its confirmed when the person in question spits the red Paan a few feet away from you. During the long dry spell the streets are literally covered with red stains from the Paan!

My last few weeks in Indian have been great, after another long train journey to the hot city of Udaipur, Rajasthan I arrived bright eyed an bushy tailed looking forward to seeing the Palace hotel in the middle of the lake where parts of the bond movie Octypussy were filmed. As we were at the end of the dry season the lake was just about bone dry and wasn't as pleasing to the eye as I remember it been on the bond movie! That said Udaipur was a really great place to visit and some of the views from the surrounding lookout points were super, smashing, great! It also gave me the chance to play about with my new SLR camera some more!

Here is a Baba that I found in Udaipur, Baba's are basically people that leave their families to a life of celibacy and are legally allowed to smoke drugs.

Next stop Ahmedabad, I arrived early in the morning after not having very much sleep at all. The first thing I had to contend with was an auto rickshaw driver who after driving for 5 minutes stopped to tell me that where I wanted to go was closed and that he would take me to another hotel which I could only assume would be far more expensive and where he would obviously receive a commission!! I was not in the mood for this and eventually reluctantly agreed for him to take me to a hotel that he mentioned, as this hotel was virtually opposite the hotel I wanted to go to and I had seen it on my Lonely Planet map. When we arrived I threw him the money (I wish I hadn't have even done that now) that we had agreed and promptly walked over to the original hotel that I wanted to go to and checked in, guess the moral of the story is that you cannot kid a kidda!!! I was now in an even worse mood and just wanted to sleep, the hostel I had chosen was filthy, smelly and expensive to boot. I didn't have the energy to go anywhere else so I just crashed out!! When I eventually got up and went for a walk round, the city didn't seem to do anything for me (after speaking to others they also hated the place so I don't feel so bad). I have never been a lover of the Indian breakfast, cannot deal with deep fried stodge that early in a morning. Indian food for lunch and dinner I can handle and usually enjoy but for breakfast I like simple things like cornflakes, toast, eggs... It took me nearly an hour to find somewhere that sold toast and to put it bluntly by this time I had already had my fill of Ahmedabad, I found the nearest internet cafe and cancelled my ticket for the following evening and booked a train for that evening, two sleeper trains on the trot!! Still better than staying in that hell hole! I spent the rest of the day getting books to read whilst I relaxed on the beech on my next stop Diu!

It was a non teary good bye to Ahmedabad and hello to the Portuguese settlement of Diu island at the bottom of Gujarat, but I had a train and a couple of buses to catch before I could sit in a deck chair sipping sex on on the beach. The train arrived in Veraval on time at 6:30am, a couple on the train persuaded me get a auto rickshaw up to Somnath Temple with them, they seemed OK and I think they just liked the fact that they had a westerner and all his luggage squeezed in with them!! I had a quick world wind visit to the temple, Somnath is a major pligrimage site for many Hindus and today the temple was jam packed, men on one side of a mental fence and women on the other. With drums beating, cymbals crashing and bells belling (if that is such a word)! I was pushed to the front of the temple where people were given a few seconds in front of the Shiva God and then whisked away for the next person. People were clapping and had their eyes closed and it all felt very spiritual, I couldn't help feel why the hell would people travel thousands of miles purely to see a slight glimpse of Shiva God and then to be rushed away?, I guess religion has this effect on people!! I would have more photos of the event but cameras were not allowed anywhere near the temple, though I did get one sly one from outside.

The couple who I had got the rickshaw up with paid for it and I actually never saw them again! I got the same guy back to the bus station which was basically the same fare as the journey up to the temple. When I got to the bus station I asked how much it was knowing full well that the Indian guy only paid him 50 rupees (which also seemed to be about right distance wise), he said 150 rupees!!! The way back was downhill for most of the way so I was thinking it would possibly cheaper, I threw him 50 rupees and told him what I thought of him! After breakfast in one if the dirtiest bus station cafes I have ever been in, it made Cleckheaton bus station cafe look like Harvey Nicols I found myself on a two hour bus journey to Uma, I was now almost spitting distance from Diu and what I was hoping was going to be my Indian paradise.

Waiting for my next bus in Uma I was desperate for the toilet, I looked over and lets just say the toilet block didn't look the cleanest, I didn't really want to take my backpack in with me so I edged my bets and asked a young Diu born boy that I had been talking to earlier to watch my bag, after all he wouldn't have got very far without a car with the size of the thing. I was just about done and I hear 'mister, mister, bus here quickly', I made a run for it right past where I should have left a couple of rupees to pay for the cleaning of the toilet facilities (I honestly don't know how they had the cheek), picked up my bag and jumped on the bus to Diu, once again renewing my faith in the honesty of the Indian folk, but certainly not converting me to concept of a squat toilet!

One hour later the bus drives over the bridge linking Diu with mainland India and rocks up into the bus station. A short taxi drive and I am booking into the Beach Resort at Sunset Point and putting my bags into a basic chalet overlooking the beech and ocean, that costs about £3 per night. Whilst it wasn't the biggest nor prettiest beach I had ever been to, it certainly was welcoming sight to a pasty looking, travelled out Jamie. Not many people make it Diu as its quite out of the way and as by the middle of June the monsoon will arrive I envisaged the place to be deserted. I also thought it would be an oasis to read, relax, have a couple cheap beers (Diu beer is tax free) and loose my translucent colour.

As I ate some lunch in the restaurant I noticed that the beech was pretty dead except for what looked like two girls sunbathing, I had read that this sort of behaviour attracts lots of unwanted attention from drunk Indians and thought maybe they were locals? But Indian people think the paler you are the better so I doubted that would be the case! That meant they must be westerns of some sort, had I struck gold and had god sent me a couple of hot angels to keep me company whilst I was doing my time in Diu? I eventually went and spoke to them and sure enough whilst I don't think they were angels they were a couple of little hotties called Rosie and Samira from Brighton and basically were pretty much doing the same as me, a bit of time in Diu and then Mumbai for a few days then home! There and then was born the Diu gang, seems like I would not be getting as much peace and quiet as I anticipated! Over the next few days a few more people turned up and we ended up with the original three plus Haf, Phil and Jack, who I would come to spend almost the next 2 weeks with. Though the day we would go to the beech and then on a evening we would go to the carpark and eat cheap, good food from the street sellers, 7 rupees (10p) for fish butty! Or possibly treat ourselves to a good curry at a restaurant! Obviously with the beer been so cheap a 650ml bottle of Kingfisher for about 60p we managed to have a 'couple' of beers most nights, either in the men filled Diu pubs or on the roof of the church, museum come guest house in the centre of town that I had moved to for my last week!

I don't really consider travelling a holiday because you are always on the go and at times its very hard work, but Diu was my time to let my hair down and I can honestly say that it was a really nice no hassle place and I made some good life long friends. The only thing that really lets Diu down is the drunk Indians on the beech taking photos of the girls and generally been pests, makes a nice change for the shoe to be on the other foot :-)

During my time at Diu a few other people made an appearance for a couple of nights, two German girls, an American called guy Kris, an odd Canadian guy called Jimi and a guy from Perth, Oz and his missus from Japan called Nathan & Aki. Nathan and Aki were a great couple and they had driven some 40,000 km from Perth via most of Asia on a 110cc Honda bike, they had some good tales to tell and is quite a feat in itself, guess it reminded me of old Bertha! If people are interested in their epic journey they also have a blog at http://faster-than-walking.com.

I decided to treat myself to a flight from Diu to Mumbai, saving the 26 hours of trains and buses! We had already said good bye to the girls (for the moment) and a few of us had a final curry together as we were staying an extra day. The next morning Phil and Jack went up North and I got my flight to my final destination in India, Mumbai.

As the 60 seater propeller jet lands into Mumbai it passes over slums that go on for as far as the eye can see, I have generally not taken to the bigger cities I have visited in India, as I see the slums below me I cannot help think that Mumbai will be no different! Thankfully I was wrong and loved Mumbai, whilst it does have its seedy red light districts and a population of something like 5 million people living in the cities slums it actually has a really good vibe about it and some really nice places. We spent a pleasant hour at the gateway of India and posing for our last few photo shoots for other Indians! We also managed to find the time to go and see a Bollywood film Kal Kissne Dekha, whist the majority of it was in Hindi it was a really good movie which you could still understand and the 2 hours went in a flash!

Most of Mumbai's washing is done at the massive washing ghats, here you can see 3000 or so people doing the cities washing by hand!! Looking at the methods they employ you can easily see why your clobber comes back with the odd hole! We also visited the Crawford markets and whilst they do actually sell things that would make good presents I still have a way to go and my bag is already jam packed!

Mumbai also has a couple of good bars and whilst the beer is far more expensive than in Diu we did manage to sink a couple of cold ones in the famous Leopolds and maybe a few other bars....

Whist I have travelled in India I have had loads of curries, some better than others. On our final evening together we had one of the better ones at one of Mumbai's curry houses the Delhi Harbour!. A good note to leave on that's for sure!

The girls have have now left to go back home and I have got a day to kill before my flight to South Africa, as per usual when I leave a foreign country I am down to my last few bits of shrapnel! My next flight is in about 11 hours and I only have 200 rupees (£3.50) to my name, whilst I won't be dining at one of Mumbai's flash restaurants I certainly won't be starving, thats the beauty of India!

India truly is an amazing place and I could probably write pages about my experiences and show you 100's of great photo's, but these blogs take me long enough as it is and I am conscious of boring the crap out of you all with my stories! In summary, I am glad I have been to India? Yes, most definitely I eaten some great food, met some nice people, seen amazing and diverse cultures and sights! Would I come again? Yes, I probably would, there is loads more places to see, but saying that I am happy with what I have seen of India on this trip and the world is a big place!

Next stop Johannesburg, South Africa!

Posted by machine 08:01 Archived in India Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Good bye Nepal, hello India!

Last few days in Nepal and then back to India for a second dose....

sunny 40 °C

The last time I wrote an entry I had just got back to Pokhara, Nepal after my 15 day trek!! As you can imagine I took it steady for a few days and let the blisters heal, though some 20 days later they are still healing! Pokhara is a beautiful place and whilst we started to feel the effects of the imminent monsoon on our last night we were blessed with this gorgeous sunset after eating BBQ chicken from a street seller!

Early next morning we got on the bus for the 10 hour journey to Katmandu, Nepal's capital!! Katmandu, whilst is full of things to see and do, it is highly polluted and seems to suffer from having some of the craziest drivers. Imagine roads 6 meters wide with cars, rickshaws, auto rickshaws, cyclists and pedestrians all completing for the same space, its bedlam!! Add to that the constant torrent of shop owners trying to sell you the very same thing that the guy down the street tried to sell you, the homeless glue sniffing packs of kids and various other beggars and you start to get a feel for streets of Katmandu's Thamel district.

Whilst Katmandu is quite a dirty city and I have not made it sound a paradise, it is somewhere that I am glad to have been. For one thing once you get out of the more touristy / back packer side of Thamel there are many parts of the Katmandu Valley that have much to offer. There are more temples, stupas and monuments than you can throw a stick at!

One of the more scared areas is Pashupati, this is various temples and stupas along side some burning ghats. Ghats are basically open air crematoriums, they wrap up the body and cremate it at the side of the river and put the ashes into the river! When we were there many burnings were taking place, the whole ghatt area has the smell of burning flesh, not nice!! Whilst the thought of my family having a massive bonfire when I pass away doesn't sound like my cup of tea, Hindus consider this to be one of the most scared ceremonies! For the record I have been pondering about my method of burial and at the moment I am toying with been cryogenically frozen like Walt Disney or just been thrown down a cravasse, hopefully I will have a few more years before I have to start thinking about those decisions....

Another day we jumped on a bus and went to an area called Bhaktpur, here we visited various temples and certainly got to see the more untouched parts of Katmandu. On the way back we even got involved in some protests, whilst they were mainly trouble free, we did see people burning tires! We were told it was something to do with the prime minister and the president of Nepal!!

After 5 days in Katmandu it was time to say good bye to my Russian friends and get the 17 hour bus night bus to Kakarvitta, the Indian boarder! I will miss Nepal, the country, terrain and its people!! Only in Nepal can streets be littered with people selling the same things on rugs next to the road, can you ride on the top of jam packed bus with the goats, see people fixing the unfixable and get one of the best fillet steaks I have ever had for £3.50!! Some things I will not miss, the spitting (not just your standard spitting but people really giving it some, one morning I got woke up by a women doing it), the pollution, level of the driving and litter everywhere. Though I am going to India, are things going to be much different?

No sooner were we 30 minutes outside Katmandu we got stuck in a massive traffic jam, for about 7 hours in total! Night buses are notoriously dangerous in Nepal, mainly because the roads are so bad and most vechiles don't exactly come with a service history!! It was now 12pm, I was in a upright seat that bounced up and down and was in front of a guy that insisted on clearing his throat every 30 seconds!! As a last resort I had bought some Vallium sleeping tablets for about 10p each, I took half, the next thing I knew it was still dark and we were still driving, I took the second half. Next thing I knew it was 7:30! Whilst I would not condone their use all the time, that particular journey would have been unbearable without! in the end the bus journey took 21 hours.

I successfully got through the boarder crossing and then had to get another bus for two hours to a place called Silguri and then a jeep to Darjeeling, the land of tea!! I have already mentioned how dangerous some of the journeys I have taken have been, this jeep took on a whole new level. We were jam packed in a shared jeep going into hair pins with sheer drops at the side, some of the over taking maneuverers I could hardly watch, they seem to think that flashing the lights and using the horn are enough to stop you crashing into a jeep doing the same thing coming the other way.... To add insult to injury I was sat sideways in the back on a sweaty seat and every time he went over a bump my bottom would get some air and I would get a mini arse ripper, this is a snowboarding term used for when you fall (usually on a jump) and one of your arse cheeks hits the ground promptly followed by the other, causing a ripping effect on the anus..... More painful than childbirth for about 10 minutes, fact!!!

So I was now in Darjeeling, back in the mountains, some 2200 meters above sea level and famous largely for the narrow gage train and tea plantations. The highlights were seeing the various temples (though temple viewings are becoming a regular occurrence now), walking through the market bazzars and a visit to a tea plantation where they produce tea for Harrods. I also got up at 3:30am to see the sunrise at Tiger Hill, we got a jeep and the driver insisted on booming out Akon full blast at that ungodly hour, the sunrise was slightly disappointing, rising from behind the clouds instead of the 3rd highest mountain in the world Khangchendzonga and Everest. What really spoilt it though was the other 1000 or so people who also raced up the hill from Darjeeling that morning in jeeps! I can assure you that if you had to trek to Tiger Hill I would have been stood with a dozen western tourists and the odd Indian tourist....

The next location was Kolkata, after contending with the 3 hour jeep journey back down again I arrived early evening to catch my sleeper train. I was back on Indian trains! My first Indian journey towards Nepal I booked second class air con, this time I decided to go sleeper non AC, this is the way that most middle class Indian people travel and I whilst AC is not that expensive (to us) I wanted to travel as a Indian would and at the same time save brass... What can I say its the Yorkshireman in me! As experiences go it was fine and I slept fairly well once I got on the train....... Seems the ticket I booked was put on a waiting list and there was no space for me, eventually after running around like a blue arsed fly I managed to get on another train that departed 30 minutes later and got into Kolkata 2 hours later! Result! Next morning the time when we were due in went by, I asked a family near me if we were anywhere near (bearing in mind Indian trains have no announcements) and they told me that during the night the train had to go a different way because of engineering works and we were running 4.5 hours late!! Welcome back to India I thought! One of the boys who was sat near me got chatting, his English was probably better than mine and kept me entertained the rest of the way. I think his family were quite well off and would have been in AC class if there had been space, they were from Goa and once again I found myself in company of Indian people who oozed nothing but politeness, honesty and generosity. As we said good bye they even gave me all their telephone numbers and told me to say hello if was ever in Goa, though I thought the young lad also got a good deal with a bike ride and one of my Mum's Sunday lunches if he ever came to England.... This really made me think again and whilst its easy to get the impression that many Indian people are just con artists and beggars I am positive that the majority are hard working, ambitious, clever and would make excellent employees! Maybe that's why the Indian economy has been doing so well over recent years?

I spent a couple of days in Kolkata, mainly to get my camera fixed as the flash had broken in Nepal!! Kolkata is also another city that is very dirty. You can actually see people living in rubbish tips, their houses built out of purely rubbish!! I spent a rainy afternoon in the Indian Museum and I can honestly say that if it wasn't for the rain I would have been out after 10 minutes, imagine room after room of wooden display cases with 1000's of rocks and pieces of bone! One of the 'hi lights' was a 30 meter fossilised tree!! At one stage I thought things were looking up when I found the art gallery, when I got inside they were displaying faded, postage stamped sized paintings! Maybe some people might find this quite interesting, but not for me, certainly missing flashing lights and things you can touch! I was now also starting to realise that the Indians have two tier entry fee's, one price for Indians and another price for foreigners, sometimes the foreign price can be 10/20 times the price of the Indian entrance fee!! In England that would be classed as racism....

From Kolkata the next stop Bodgaya. I was travelling by train, sleeper class and once again when I got on the train and sorted out the high pitched stupid Indian women that seemed to think she was meant to be in seat/bed, everything was OK. She seemed reluctant move and could see the sweat pouring off me from carrying my two rucksacks, plus another bag in my hand and after walking at pace from the emergency taxi I had to get! i had get the taxi as I had stupidly gone to the wrong train station in the first place.... I was not in the mood and she got a Leeds warning, didn't hear much from her for the rest of the journey!

I was in the top bunk of three, imagine a window with two seats horizontally either side then a seat across the window at the other side and a walkway down the middle. Each of these seats is for three people to sit on through the day then come bedtime someone jumps on the top bunk and the back rest converts into a middle bunk. So that's 9 people per bay, though I have seen people sharing and people slept on floors. Sleeping on the top bunk is OK as you can go to bed whenever you want and as long as you have got your bags locked up its not a bad option if you don't mind the heat. They have three electric fans per compartment that essentially blow warm air around, everybody keeps the windows open to try and let a bit of breeze in, but the noise is unbearable. Didn't get a wink of sleep that night, still at least I am doing it the Indian way.... and if I remember rightly I was actually too cold at one point in the AC carriage!

Bodgaya is small two bit town but did have a very impressive temple called Mahabodhi and it felt like the most untouched in terms of the tourist trade to date. One afternoon I went for a walk to some caves where Buddha has meant to have spent a number of years and whilst the caves were a little disappointing the walk was not. I am not sure I went the way the lonely planet had recommended and the more I think about it the more I think that I did off road it slightly. I firstly walked over a sandy flood plain, which once the monsoon comes will be impassible and you would need to walk to the bridge much further down, which in hind sight might be the bridge that the lonely planet mentioned....... I then found myself walking though farming villages, with kids shouting hello and running along with me, when I got my camera out they went mental and I can only liken it to a scenes from Blue Peter that I have locked in my mind when John Lesley would go to these remote African villages and would be surrounded by kids.

Next stop Varanasi, this time I negotiated the train without any problems. Though it did involve getting an auto rickshaw from Bodgaya to Gaya, where the train departed from. I had read on the internet and in my lonely planet guide that this road after dark was quite dangerous and shouldn't really be travelled alone, I didn't have much choice in the matter. Here I was in an auto rickshaw with two Indian guys, who could have taken me anywhere..... Once we got going I reached into my rucksack and took out my leatherman and had the blade at the ready, I knew what the station looked like and thought if they tried anything on they had messed with the wrong person. For most of the journey I was thinking of what I would say if they did try anything, I think 'you have f@cked with the wrong man today boys' was the bookies favourite by the time we arrive at the station, I gave them the money and said good bye! Still made me think that travelling alone in some of these more remote places in India can be quite dangerous.

I was not on the train for long and soon found myself walking round the narrow streets of Varanasi at 3:00am looking for my guest house, this place was like a maze!! Some guy decided to show me the way, obviously he would have asked for a bit of cash for helping me out. He was walking down these dingy streets with sacred cows, dogs and people all lying around asleep, add to that the associated faecal matter of the animals and probably humans littering the paths and it was like dodging a mine field. I made sure that I put plenty of distance between myself and the 'guide' just to make sure he didn't try anything, I also had one hand on the trusty leatherman just in case!! I would read later that the streets of Varanasi are not the safest place to walk around at 3am. I eventually told the 'guide' to bugger off and found my own way to the guest house! Varanasi is one of the holiest places in India, where Hindu pilgrams come to wash a lifetime of sins in the Ganges or to cremate their loved ones. Whilst many people do have a swim in the Ganges I gave it a swerve, mainly because I read that there is something like 500 million times more effluent than the recommended levels for bathing water and I saw a dead body floating at the side of the river not far from where these were swimming.

The guest house I was staying at had a good bunch of people, including a lad and his Dad from Leeds (we get everywhere). One night all 8 of us plus driver in one tuk tuk (possibly a world record? Will have to check with Norris McWhirter) went for a nice meal followed a quick stop at the whiskey shop and a walk along the ghats to see the evenings display!! I got pretty drunk for the second time since leaving England and found myself uttering the immortal words 'I am never drinking whiskey again' the next morning!

Back on the train again now next stop Agra! I boarded the train and found my seat without any problems, by now every single journey on a train had some sort of incident..... Not this time, was I starting to get used to the Indian railway network? Bit of pub quiz trivia for you now that not many people know, did you know that the Indian Railways are the biggest employer in the world? Fact!!

We arrived in Agra early morning, I was now travelling with a Swedish girl called Soffan. We had some breakfast and got down to business, in one day we would go to the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Baby Taj Mahal and a Taj lookout. I can honestly say that Agra was exactly as I expected and was one of my hi lights so far, the Taj is definitely one of the wonders of the world and looks just like it does in the pictures! That night we went for some food, it was quite late nearly 10pm by the time we found a restaurant, the food came out in less than 5 minutes and the rice was cold, I kicked up a bit of a fuss and was going to leave, he persuaded me to taste the chicken which I did and it tasted pretty good, we ate our food minus the rice! Though I wasn't convinced that this would be be last time I would speak of the evening I ate chicken in Agra......

Next day in Agra was quiet, said good bye to Soffan as she was travelling up north and spent the day catching up with work in the blistering heat, just sat around talking on the phone in the shade was exhausting!

That night got back on the train next stop Jaipur, this time I was in sitting class as I was only on the train for 4 hours, by now 4 hours sounds like a quick trip into Leeds. Sitting class was a lot more crowded and was still stiflingly hot, but as I sat there in my reserved seat I actually started to believed that the India train system was a doddle and I had got it cracked. I read my book, listened to some music and looked around me, all I could see is Indian people chatting to each other laughing and joking! I thought if this was England nobody would even say hello to the person next to them never mind strike up conversation with a dozen people around them, maybe its the cramped conditions or the heat that makes Indian people be this way? Whatever it is I found myself sat thinking I wish England was a bit more like this. That journey I had an almost euphoric feeling and remembered exactly how lucky I was to be doing what I am doing! I got off the train at Jaipur, though it seems they have two stations called Jaipur and I was 12 km away from where I wanted to be, after double checking my situation I jumped into the nearest auto rickshaw and disaster was averted. Note to self: when it comes to trains in India, don't count your chickens till they have hatched.

So I am now in Jaipur, not really done much here except catch up on my blog and ride out the after effects of the chicken I shouldn't have eaten in Agra...... This is now the third dodgy stomach I have had in nearly two months and whilst it does not put you on your death bed, it does make you think. I have tried to just eat vegetables as much as possible but every so often I give in and eat meat, after all I love my meat. From now on I will be much more careful choosing where I eat meat....... As becoming veggie is just not an option and certainly does not except you from a dodgy stomach.

Next stop Udaipur....

Posted by machine 08:01 Archived in India Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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