09 June 2012

India Remembered

When I lived in Taiwan I saved up my money for a three week trip around northern India. It was my first time traveling solo and even though I had a Lonely Planet I can't say I did the trip in any sort of organized fashion. I arrived in Delhi where a friend put me up. After that I had plans to head to Agra, then on to Varanasi, maybe Udaipur to see the lake palace...that didn't really work out for me.

I did make it to Agra but I'm sorry to say that my pictures of the Taj Mahal are not really very good.

 That's pretty much what I've got. Let's also take a moment to remember that in 2003 digital cameras were not as readily or inexpensively available as they are now. I was using a little, cheap 35mm film camera on this trip and I was a pretty crap picture taker anyway. Also since these have since been converted I could only convert the ones I still had negatives for (remember film negatives?!).

 Above and Below are from elsewhere in Agra.

I sadly don't even remember what half these are pictures of...what I do remember though is that if you go to Agra make sure you have transportation out arranged before you get there. Aside from the Taj and a palace of some sort near by there is not a lot in Agra that you want to spend time on. Get in an out in one day if possible. I didn't manage that and was stuck there for several days because all the trains to Varanasi were full and I didn't have a back up plan.

 I think this is one of the random palaces in Agra. Maybe.

Not everything in Agra was awful though. It was in Agra that I learned about Butter Chicken, which to this day remains my favorite Indian dish, and coconut coffee. And if you haven't had coconut coffee you need to run to Dunkin' Donuts now and get it. I prefer it iced and Lauren and I spent a lot of mornings mixing canned coffee (find in the the Asian food isle of your grocery store), cream of coconut, a dash of milk, and ice. Yum.

In order to escape Agra I caught a bus to Pushkar which ended up being my favorite stop. I think I stayed there close to a week. Apparently every fall in Pushkar is a camel fair so large that you have to book your tent space a year in advance. I was not there for that sadly, I was in India in May, during a drought so bad there were literally birds falling dead out of the sky, and there were relatively few tourists.

One afternoon I took a walk around a small lake. The bridge that crossed the lake, which was made of concrete, was holy so I had to take off my shoes. Remember I said drought? 50 C makes for very hot concrete. This was when I was almost eaten by a rabid monkey and my flight was blocked by a cow.

This cow. Cows are holy so I wasn't sure if I were allowed to push it out of my way or not. It was a weird dilemma.

More monkeys. These did not try to attack me.

And not that I remember the name of course but I think my favorite hotel on this trip was the one in Pushkar.

Countryside around Pushkar.

I spent a lot of time shopping in Pushkar and drinking chai. Although I never did figure out the trick of drinking boiling hot chai out of a handleless, glass shot glass without scalding something. Pushkar was easy. I don't know if it's because tourism was so low or if it's just the general town attitude but this is the one place I didn't feel pressured (outside of a few street kids who spoke better English than I do) and could just relax and experience.

From Pushkar I ended up on another bus (don't do that to yourself. Take trains) this time to Jaipur. Jaipur was fun if a little on the pushy side. I ended up hiring a rickshaw driver for the entirety of my stay. It was a little annoying because I also got dragged to his "friends'" shops where I was obligated to look at things...on the other hand I also ended up with some nice things. He was also great about suggesting places that I might find interesting and would probably have missed otherwise. Like Monkey Temple.

Me feeding the monkeys. I wanted to feed the cute little babies but the adults were quite ferocious about getting the food (which you bought at the entrance of the temple area. Also no mocking over how bad I look. Let's remember that it was a) 50 C and b) before Lauren introduced me to good hair products.

The temple itself (below) I sadly couldn't enter but even from the outside I thought it was impressive. And either I didn't take or cannot find a photo of it...but I was standing in a kind of courtyard (which you can sort of make out in the above picture) and directly opposite this temple was an identicle one.

Also I went here. I don't know what this is or where it is more specifically than 'somewhere in Jaipur' but it was cool.

I loved traffic in India...not in the I love massive amounts of people and exhaust fumes kind of way but in  that amidst all the cars and trucks, motorcycles, bikes, and rickshaws were also the occasional elephant and that the sea of traffic would part around the cows which wandered onto busy roads.

Jaipur is also known as the 'Pink City' because of the color of the stones.

I will hazard a guess and say that this is probably outside the Birla Mandir temple. I remember meeting this little girl and her parents and she insisted we have our picture taken together.

He also took me to this place...and I don't remember what it was called...but it was kind of like the Disneyland of Rajasthan. We were blessed on our way in and we had a sampling of food from across the country, there were musicians and dancers, and I rode both an elephant and a camel. I liked the camel better.

After Jaipur I think I stopped over in Delhi and got a bus to Daramsala in Uttar Pradesh. I don't have many pictures of this area because I spent my five days there taking a massage course, dating my massage instructor, getting sick, hiding from what was apparently my new fiance, and hanging out with monks. Because Uttar Pradesh is both so far north and so high in altitude it was not nearly as hot here as where I had been. So I think I got sick not because I was eating tainted food...but because I was eating. The most depressing thing about my trip was that I basically forced myself to order food once a day and would eat half (because it was just too hot to eat!) but I love Indian food more than anything. And even in Daramsala when I could eat it was all Tibetan food.

The refugee Tibetan government and the Dali Lama live in Daramsala and as such the population is very heavily Tibetan.

This is me with the monk who showed me around the monastery and later rescued me when my bus back to Delhi to get the plane to Bangkok basically just seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Even though I had a ticket for it.

So this hasn't been the best post in the whole world. I'm sad that my memories of India are a little blurry and that I can only find some of the pictures I took (although as we see it's not like they were fantastic pictures to begin with) but I hope to make up for that someday soon with a return trip.

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