Thursday, March 31, 2005

Day of Nothing

Got up around 9:30. Slept a few hours last night. I'm feeling ok, but my stomach is still a tad iffy. I didn't feel like eating, so went downstairs and got an orange pop and a water.

Wrote in my journal, then hit internet.

I am so anxious to get out of the heat. It's unbearable. I'm going to do my camel trek in Jaisalmer, then I'm going to head north in to the mountains, or off to Nepal.

AFter the internet, went back to the hotel, hotel buddy asked me if I was leaving today or staying. I told him I wasn't sure yet, I'd let him know later in the afternoon.

About 1:00, starting walking to the train station, made a wrong turn and ended up at Pizza Hut. My stomach wasn't feeling that good, but logic told me it was that way because I hadn't eaten since yesterday morning (threw up everything I had eaten last night). I debated going in for something to heat. Finally I did.

I ordered an iced tea and a pepperoni personal pan pizza and inquired as to the whereabouts of the toilet, just in case. I was half expecting the pizza to come out one end or the other shortly after eating. I sucked back the iced tea, then got a 7-up.

I finished two and a half pieces of pizza, and everything was good. My stomach was making weird noises, but it was staying put. I got the rest boxed up and made a walk to the toilet, just in case. So far so good. Paid my bill (200 rupees...about $7 CDN)

I also decided it would be wise to stay here and not travel for another day, just in case. It's a long bus/train ride to Jaisalmer.

Walked back to the hotel. One sketchy looking local started talking to me, he asked me why westerners don't like talking to locals. Oh brother! Typically way to start a scam conversation. He asked me if I wanted to drink beer with him. I told him no, because I wasn't feeling well. He then offered to make me a large sum of money, in a gem/jewellry scam. Umm, no thanks.

Immediately after, another local asked me if I wanted to smoke marijuana with him. Umm, no thanks.

Back to the room and let the pizza settle.

About 5:00, headed out to a department store I saw earlier to get laundry detergent and bar soap. It was closed, so stopped at a nice shopping mall on the way back to see if they had anything...nope. Found detergent and soap at a street vendor just outside the hotel.

Went back to my room and did laundry and watched TV the rest of the night. Watched one of the blondes chicks get booted off American Idol.

Until later.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Violently Ill!

Woke up at 7:30. Slept crappy. The bed here is hard.

I showered, went downstairs for breakfast and had an omelette and a banana pancake with honey (yum!)

My guide/tuk-tuk driver, Mr RAfid, came at 9:00 and off we went. First he took me thru parts of the Pink City, not quite pink anymore, more of a rusty brown. Then to Hawa Mahal, Palace of Winds.

Then to Jantar Mantar, the largest stone observatory in the world. Very cool. Giant sized instruments to make astronomical calculations. It was built from 1728-1734 and was the most accurate observatory of it's time.

Then to the City Palace and Museum, which was ok. Here one can find two massive silver urns, certified by Guiness as being the largest pieces of silver in the world. The stand about 5 feet high, and have a diameter of about 6 feet, I'm guessing. Also at the City Palace, as I was taking a picture of something, one of the workers there, dressed up in a maharaja robe (I guess) jumped into my picture, then wanted me to pay him for being in the picture. Oh brother.

There were lots and lots of foreigners at the observatory and city palace and museum. Most were on group tours and most were older and/or families. Hardly any backpacker types.

Then it was off to a fabric shop, where I saw how they make designs on the fabric, and semi-pressure to purchase. I didn't.

Then headed north of town to Amber Fort and Jaigarh Fort. I walked up to Amber Fort, but didn't stop. I wnated the grand view, so kept walking and walking and walking up to the fort on the top (which I thought was still part of the Amber Fort). It was blistering hot, and I knew I would be getting a sunburn today! When I got up there, I realized it was a different fort, Jaigarh Fort. Absolutely amazing views of Amber Fort and the water palace and the city of Jaipur. Jaigurh also has the worlds largest wheeled cannon. It's humongous, has a range of 22 miles and requires 100kg of powder per shot. It's was only ever fired once, and never used in combat. The fort was also flying to flags, meaning the current maharaja is in town.

Jaigarh is huge, it took my quite a while to find my way around it.

Finally walked back down to the Amber Fort, but didn't go in, I had spent too much time already at the other fort. IN the courtyard in front of the fort, are lots of monkeys, with tourists feeding them. One guy tried to trick the monkey, by holding out his emtpy hand, the monkey ain't stupid, though, and swatted his hand away. Everyone laughed.

Then I headed back to my tuk-tuk driver and stopped my the lake for pictures of the Jal Mahal, the WAter Palace.

I was pretty red at this point, from the sun.

Then he wanted to take me to a "fortune teller", and asked me if I believe in that. I told him know, then asked how much, and he said there is no charge (Ya right!) But I was curious, especially after the story about Soness and the fortune teller.

So, off we go, and when we get there, I learned that the fortune teller works out of a gem/jewellery shop. When we arrived, the mystic was busy with someone else, so we sat outside and watched the world go by, talking with other tuk-tuk drivers who were dropping other foreigners off at the gem shop for pressure sales. We sat outside for about 30 or 45 minutes.

Finally was taking inside the gem shop, there was another white couple in there learning all about gems. I was taken into a back room, where a guy was sitting behind a glass case with lots of gems and pieces of jewellery inside. He immediatelly remarked about my LiveStrong bracelet, which Lisa had given before I left. He said he had done some work for that organization. I thought he was lying, trying to generate a repoir with me, so prodded a bit, without giving up any information about the significance of the bracelet. I asked him what he has done for the organization. He said he as collected for them, and he also done some work for the cancer society in England. So, he wasn't lying. (For those not in the know, the LiveStong bracelet is essentially a yellow rubber band, LiveStong printed on it, and was started by Lance Armstrong (Tour De France winner many times). Lance had cancer, and he beat it, and he has started an organization to support cancer, by selling these bracelets.)

I first asked about payment, told him I was told that there was no charge. He reaffirmed that there was no charge, he has a very successful gem business, and he doesn't need my money, he does this for free. He spoke excellent english, and he asked were I was from, Canada, and he said he born in Victoria, BC. His family moved back to India when he was four years old, but he has returned to Canada many times to visit relatives.

He then started telling me what he does. He's not a fortune teller, he works with alternative healing methods, and can see people's aura's and help provide healing that conventional methods can't. Interesting.

He told me a few different things, like cancer and arthritis will be a problem for me. He made a remark that I have a problem with only one of my knees, which is true. When I do workouts (on a bike, for example), or running for long periods on a treadmill, one knee gets very sore. He told me my gem is CAt's Eye", and that cat's eye would be very helpful for my arthritis. He also told me about chakras, and my throat chakra is a problem. He said I am restless, and I can't meditate, but I need to learn, so I can "settle down" inside. He suggested yoga would be good for me to learn to meditate.

He wanted me to ask questions about things, health problems, or other "alternative" ideas, but I could come up with nothing. I'm pretty darn healthy overall, and don't really have any problems.

Mr Rafid took my back to my hotel, I paid him. A very enjoyable day.

I went up the room, showered in cool water (felt so nice!), then started writing in my journal. Went downstairs to order food (potato curry and rice) and wrote in my journal some more in the eating room. As I was writing, I had a diarrhea fart. Oops. Ran up to the room and had a small bout of diarrhea. Back downstairs, in a new pair of underwear, and sat down, about a minute later, I had to go again, really bad, all of a sudden. I ran upstairs, but didn't make it, some came out going up the stairs. Went into my room, and had a good diarrhea bout, put on a third pair of underwear and went back downstairs. My food came, and I ate about half of it, and I wasn't feeling well. Went back upstairs, and laid down, feeling hot and cold, sweaty, then I started barfing and diarrheaing like crazy. Over and over. I soiled two more underwear. Must do laundry tomorrow!

This went on for about 5 hours, about 11:00, I finally settled down. I was still slightly nauseas, but no more vomitting or diarrhea. I was still kind of hot/cold, and my joints all over were aching. I'm sure the hard bed didn't help.

I started reading in my Let's Go, and I believe I had sun poisoning. It's a condition that can come from excessive sun exposure, and causes nausea, vomitting and all that stuff. I don't think it was anything I ate or drank, as I had breakfast in the morning, then didn't eat anything, only had bottled water and bottled cola for the rest of the day.

I didn't sleep much the rest of the night, watched TV, and tossed and turned. Finally fell asleep, maybe 4:00 or 5:00 and got a few hours anyway. I'm feeling ok today, still a tad upset stomach, but nothing else. I must say, though, just like in SE ASia, my stomach is starting to turn at the thought of "yet more" Asian food, day after day. It's ok once in a while, but my body craves more substance in it's food, meat. I'm going to go to Pizza Hit or McDonalds tomorrow, I think and have to good grease.

Here's what's being advertised on Channel V in INdia right now:
Super Singer Finale, in 3 days...down to five singers. Assuming this is Indian version of American Idol.
Wildest VJ ever to hit TV...All Flesh, No Talk...debuts in 2 days. Not sure what this is about!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Agra to Jaipur...

Woke up about 3:30am, I slept amazing! The bed was sooo comfortable. WAtched MTV until about 4:30, then turned off TV, and went back to bed. Shortly after, the power went out. It was pitch black, you can't see nothign, not your hand in front of your face. About 5 minutes later, it came back on, thank the gods, as the room gets bleeding hot when the ceiling fan isn't going. I fell asleep again and barely heard my 8:00 alarm going off. I was so tired, and the bed was sooo comfortable, I could have slept all day long.

Showered, and I didn't think I had any hot water in this hotel, but after about 5 minutes, the hot water starting coming. Ahhhh! Went downstairs for breakfast, then back to my room and packed, then downstairs about 9:45 paid my bill and waited for my tuk-tuk ride to the bus.

My stay at the hotel (room and food) was 530 rupees, about $15CDN. Food was very expensive.

I want to comment on India's "pop culture". My vision of India is pretty much what I see in Vision TV...the INdian music videos and movies one sometimes catches when flipping through the channels. But I'm seeing another side of the Indian culture, a "pop culture", that is very different than that. It's very Western like, commercials, music videos, TV shows, movies, other advertising (billboards, etc.) show Indians in a very "Western" style. Sex sells, even here. Very attractive women, wearing tank-tops, short skirts gyrating in music videos. You should see this one commercial for a popsicle. Very sexual in nature. The "real" culture in India isn't what you see on Vision TV in Canada. :-)

Anyway, the tuk-tuk driver took me to the dude where I bought my train pass, I hung out here for a quite a while, while he sent someone else to actually pick up my printed ticket from the bus station. Spent an hour or so there. This guy owns a factory, a jewellry factory, and he travels around the world, selling this stuff. He propositioned me. He told me I could pay for my trip if I did a little something for him. Being a business, he has to pay a significant export tax to sell his stuff abroad. Because I'm on a tourist visa, I can take a large amount of jewelery back to Canada with me with no taxes or tariffs. So, he asked me if I would be interested in doing that for him. I could send a bunch of jewellery back to Canada, and then would come and pick it up in June (he's going to be in Canada at that time). Well, my Let's Go book mentions this and says it's almost always illegal, I told him now, and showed him in my Let's Go book. He was quite shocked to read it. Kind of funny.

Got to the bus depot at about 12:00, it at the Sakura Hotel. The guy who runs the Sakura HOtel was incredible helpful, giving me all kinds of advice on where to stay in each city, and to call the hotel when I reach the bus depot, and they will send a pick-up for me, so I don't have to deal with touts, etc. Told me to drink or eat anything given to me on a bus (or train), one tourist got drugged the previous week and had all his stuff stolen. It was awesome. He even called ahead and arranged a pickup for me in Jaipur.

Bus left about 12:30.

I saw so much on the bus ride. This bus ride was much more comfortable than the previous one. The highway was newly paved, the bus much more pleasant. They grow a lot of wheat in this area, and they harvest it all by hand. No animals, no machines.

Brick factories, where they make bricks. They have row housing for the workers, it's almost like a slave camp, families living in these small, one room, brick "houses", so that the mom (or dad) can work making bricks. Sad.

If I were a cow, I'd want to be a cow in India. If I were a bear, I would NOT want to be a bear in India. Saw, on many occasions, locals with bears on the side of the road, the bear being forced to do tricks, hoping that traffic will stop and toss a few rupees to them. Sad.

Children make the travelling all worthwile. Two children were sitting in front of me, and they kept sneaking peaks at me (and my hairy legs) and giggling. I twas funny.

Got to Jaipur abouyt 6:30 my pickup, Mr. Rafid, was there. He took me to a hotel, nice, plain, 200 rupees/night and cheap, cheap, cheap food. I took it. Also made arrangements with him to pick me up tomorrow morning, he'll ferry me around all day, to wherever I want for 277 rupees.

Had supper, then found an internet.

Got an e-mail from Rynette. We missed each other in India, they are in Nepal now, and she said I should fly there now. It's amazing, tons of tourists (not too many in India...they are all heading north), and we could all go on rafting tours or trekking. I'll have to see, depends on how long they will be staying there.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Taj Mahal

UP at 5:00am, showered, packed and went downstairs for my 6:00am bus pickup to Agra. Another girl from Taiwan, Heather, also came down. She speaks perfect english, I thought she was American. She did live in the the US for many years. She was on a one day tour to Agra.

About 6:30, a guy came and picked us up, and we walked down a bunch of back alleys, finally emerging on a big, busy street with lots of tourist busses waiting. Buddy motioned to us to wait, while he tried to find the bus we were supposed to be on.

So, we stood around for another 30 minutes, finally he came and got us and stuck us on this bus. Her and I were the only foreigners. We both thought we were getting a tourist (backpacker) bus. A couple of minutes later, another foreigner, Soness, from the U.S., now living in Japan, joined us. The three of us foreigners sat together on the back seat of the bus.

The bus left shortly after 7:00, and stopped a few minutes later at another stop, and a German guy got on the bus. He was very unsocialable, turned his CD player on and that was about it for him.

It was a long, hot bus ride, on a bus with no A/C (we thought we were getting an A/C bus too), bad shocks, even worse cushioning on the seats, and a highway that made the Laos highways seen freshly paved.

Soness was hilarious. Very funny girl. Here are a few stories she told us.
1) When she was standing outside waiting for the bus Agra this morning, she saw me and Heather appear from the alley, me, the man, walking around like I know exactly what I was doing, I wasn't lost, and Heather, straggling about 10 feet behind me, looking like she's upset, mad, tired, and thinking "I hope he asks for directions". Soness assumed we a couple, and she thought to herself, "That couple will never make it."

She told us that story on the bus, and we started laughing hysterically. I guess to someone who didn't know, I guess maybe we looked like a dysfunctional couple.

2) Soness is single, 30 years old, and very attractive and funny. When she was in Western India (I can't remember the city now), she went to a fortune teller. The fortune teller told her that she would meet a man on the bus to Delhi, she would fall in love with this man, and she would move to Canada. What happens? She meets a Canadian on the bus from Delhi, compatible in the age range. Given different circumstances (i.e. more time), perhaps something could've happened, but alas, she was on a one day tour of Agra (like Heather...and she was flying back to Japan the following day as well), so I would probably never see her again. She thought that whole fortune teller episode was quite intriguing, especially after meeting me.

3) She told a story from her one trip her and her family made to Canada (Banff in particular). They were driving in two vehicles, through Banff National Park, her dad driving one car, her mom the other car (there were a bunch of them). Her mom saw an Exit/Sortie sign along the road. A few miles later, another one. After a few more miles, she saw a few more of these signs. Finally she remarked about how many Exit signs she had seen to a place called Sortie, and figured Sortie must be a pretty big place to have to many Exits to it. Heather, not knowing any French, didn't get it, but I was laughing my ass off.

Anyway, Heathers stories made the travel much more bearable.

We finally arrived in Agra about 12:30. Everybody filed off the bus, but the driver kept me back, because I wasn't on the tour, I was just along for the ride to Agra. He asked me what price range I was looking for for my hotel, I told him about 300 rupees, and he said he would have a tuk-tuk driver take me to his hotel, the tuk-tuk ride being included in the cost of the bus ticket to Agra. So, what could've happened between me and Soness, we'll never know. :-)

I got to the hotel, it was much nicer than the one in Delhi. AFter I checked in, I went to the restaurant and looked at the menu. EXPENSIVE! Oh well. I ordered food, and while I was waiting and eating, the hotel manager chatted me up. He told me about the tour he recommends in Agra. He told me not to go to the Agra Fort. I could take pictures outside, but I'll see much better forts in other cities in Rajasthn. He also suggested that I don't go to the Taj Mahal, because of the cost (750 rupees). Instead, my "guide" would take me to the Baby Taj Mahal, which is only 110 rupees, and pretty much the same as the Taj Mahal, only being quite a bit smaller. The Baby Taj is made of the same marble, and was built before the Taj Mahal. Then he would take me behind the Taj Mahal for a picture...I guess you can get a nice picture of the Taj from behind it. Sounded good to me.

AFter eating and hearing of the tour, he told me he would knock 15% off my restaurant charges as well. I booked a ticket to Jaipur for tomorrow, then off on my tour.

He took my down some back alleys of Agra, then stopped along the road for some good pics of Agra Fort, then of to the Baby Taj Mahal. Very interesting and fascinating. Then he whisked me to the Yamuna river for some rear shots of the Taj Mahal (it looks the same from both directions). All this time, he would advise me not to talk to the kids or locals, they just try to get money from me, etc., etc., etc. He would swat at the kids, like they were flies, when they came rushing to the tuk-tuk.

Finally, for my last stop (SCAM ALERT!), a stop at a marble factory. I sat through a demonstration of the how the marble in the Taj Mahal was manually done, why it took so long to build, etc. They showed me there wares, then the sales pitch. I did end up purchasing three small marble elphants for 500 rupees. They are very nice, will be a nice keepsake.

Got back to the hotel about 4:00, and went to my room, and an old episode of The Amazing Race was just starting. In this episode, they were flying to Mumbai, India. I just had to watch. It was hilarious to watch. It was hilarious. What I saw in the show was exactly what India is like. The part where they had to take the train across Mumbai was hilarious. The women were freaking out, "I'm being groped...someone keeps touching me" and "This is my worst nightmare". It was all very entertaining.

About 6:00, I walked outside and down the street for a bit, and saw a funeral procession. It was just like you see on TV, where they carry the dead body above their heads, with a mass of people following down the street. Interesting, but I didn't have my camera!

Back to the room about 6:30, watched MTV India for a bit, then fell asleep about 7:30.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


I got up this morning about 8:00, showered and went up for breakfast at the rooftop restaurant. I had scrambled eggs, toast, potatoes (awesome!) and amazing coffee. One thing Asian countries can do right is amazing coffee! They have a great rooftop restaurant here at the hotel.

Started walking around Paharganj, towards the train station. The touts here are horrible, they try to be your friend, start talking you up, tell you they are practising their english. They then start telling you about all the locals who will try to sell you stuff, especially to be wary of the tourist information centres, the only good ones are the gov't ones. This, of course, happened to me, he walked with me for miles, telling me he's going to take me to a government tourist office to get free maps and stuff. We walked (the long route) to Connaught Place, where we stopped in a front of a tourist office, and he told me I could get all the information in there. He then said he had to go home, he had to get ready for class or something. I went in, knowing they were trying to sell me something. I did get a map of Delhi from him, though.

As I left the tourist place, the guy came running after me, wondering what the problem was. I pretty much told him he could go know, I didn't need him anymore. I turned around, I kept walking, and I ran into him at least two more times......he would acknowledge me and smile. Bugger!

Of course, during this time, all the shop vendors stand out their shops, asking you to come in and "just look". The shop vendors are ok, at least they aren't "lying" to you, and they don't follow you around. You're trying to be nice, but it's hard.

I got fed up and walked back to the hotel and vegged in the restaurant with a bottle of water.

About 1:00, figured I'd try to go the train station to get a train ticket to Agra for tomorrow morning. I got inside where all the taxi drivers are, was within 25 feet of the building, and a "friendly local" asked me where I was going. Of course, the instance you look like you don't know what you're doing, they jump on you. I told him I was going to get a ticket to Agra. He told me I needed to go to Platform 1. Ah ha! That's right, my Let's Go book says go to the train station, there is a purchasing office upstairs at Platform One, for tourists to use. Maybe I finally got a real friendly local! He walked me away from the main building to a small building across the street, and I was getting suspicious. We came a to a building that had something about Government of India Train Tickets, Platform One posted on the door. I went upstairs, told the guy I wanted a train ticket to Agra for tomorrow, he got on the phone for a minute, then hung up and told me that it was sold out, I was 92nd on a waiting list. He then asked me what my plans were, and he ended up trying to sell me a car trip (with tour guide, hotels, food, tours, etc.), about 17 days, for over $900 US. He was quite the salesman, had all the brochures of the hotels, they were all nice hotels, swimming pools, etc. But I told him that was way to much, no thanks. He then asked me if I would be interested in a bus to Agra, I asked how much, he said 900 rupees. Yikes! He told me it was A/C. Told him no thanks, too much money and left.

Completely frustrated, I headed back to the hotel. The hotel is on the only respite from the constant touts and noise of Delhi. The hotel has a tourist agency in it, so asked about a bus to Agra. 280 rupees. So I bought one. 280 rupees, I think that's even cheaper than the train (according to my Let's Go), so it's all good. Bus picks me up tomorrow morning at 6:00am.

Went back up the restaurant and ate. Talked with a German guy about renewable resources, the Berlin wall coming down, George Bush (and Americans in general) bashing, etc.

AFter that, about 5:00, I was wiped. My brain is still in Moose Jaw time, about 4:00 in the morning. I went up to my room, listened to music, laid down, and eventually fell asleep.

About 11:00pm, I woke up and used the internet. Pretty soon I'll be off to AGra.

Backpackers are "different" here than elsewhere. They totally dress like locals. They try to "fit in", unlike other SE Asian countries, where tourists are just tourists.

Delhi is bad, in terms of touts and crap. Way worse than any other SE Asia city I've been. It's wears on the patience and frustration sets in.

I'm hoping that I get to a place where it's not that bad relatively soon.

Also, got an e-mail from Rynette this morning. They were down in Goa (told me it was beautiful, I should go), and they were heading to the Taj Mahal tomorrow, then flying to Nepal. I'll see if I can meet up with them for a short time there. If not, oh well.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Off to India

Hey everyone.

I woke up Friday morning, Lisa and Randy picked me up at 10:00am and drove me to the airport. Checked my baggage, then we sat around the airport and Courtney came to see me off as well.

The flight to Toronto was uneventful. Toronto airport is boring. There's nothing to do. Not too many shops. Weird. Sat around for 4+ hours waiting for my flight to Delhi. You have to take a bus to the international terminal at the Toronto airport, as we were getting off the bus, there was an old Indian lady (India Indian, not Native Indian) getting off the bus, but there was a big step down the curb, so I gave her my hand, she was quite pleased and happy for the help. It was the least I could do, I was heading to her country.

Flight from Toronto to Delhi was uneventful. I got two seats by myself. There was a handful of backpackers on the plane. A girl from Chicago, Wendy, was sitting in the middle seats, and she had all four seats to herself, she got to sleep across all four seats for the flight. Lucky. As we were getting close to India, we were flying over humoungous thunder storms, I could see the lightning in the clouds from above. It was pretty neat.

14 hour flight to Delhi. It wasn't that bad a flight, actually.

Once at the airport, we (Wendy and I) headed through customs and immigration, picked up our baggage, then headed out of the airport. I found my ride (guy holding a sign with my hotel name and my name on it), and Wendy found her friend that was there waiting for her.

There was another couple from Belgium also heading my hotel, but we couldn't share the same cab, he (cab dude) made me take a different everyone gets their share of the money.

Delhi was crazy...traffic was fairly typical of large Asian cities, except for the cows all over the streets. Insane.

I checked in and went to bed.

Until next time!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Getting ready for India!

Yay! It's been over a year since I got back from my year-long trip through SouthEast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. I've been feeling the itch to travel again. My brother and his wife just spent 5 months backpacking in India, and my dad joined them for five weeks in November and December. I was jealous. I wanted to go to.

Well, now I am.

I'm spending seven weeks backpacking in India. I leave Regina tomorrow (Friday) at noon:25 and land in Delhi Saturday night at 10:15. I have my first night booked at the Anoop Hotel, in the Paharganj district of Delhi.

After that, anything goes. My tentative plan is to spend most of my time in northwest India, and also flying to Nepal for a bit. If time permits, or I'm anxious, I may go south to some beaches for a bit as well.

But, for anyone that knows me and my travelling habits, I have no fixed itinerary. I'm apt to change my mind on the spur of the moment and do something else.

Of course, I will be keeping my journal updated along my travels, so stay tuned!