Monday, November 17, 2008

Jaipur: Time to relax.

So I met up with Gabriel to goto Dal Lake, he stumbled upon me while I was guess what?..Yes..eating, and he started cracking up once he saw this. My cellphone wasnt working so we were unable to meet up with everyone hoped to see them there. We took a rickshaw to the lake (which is always fun little adventure), but Gabriel's humor made it that much better. He would scream at people as we went by and scream at the driver or myself. He is hilarious. We arrive at the lake and it is surrounded by cedar trees in the mountains. In september pilgrims come and take a dip in the lake. I forget why it is a holy lake but it is. This lake isnt to be confused with the Dal Lake in Kashmir. The one in Kashmir is absolutely stunning for words to even attempt to describe from what I have seen just in pictures alone!

We went to find food and stumbled upon a resort hotel that had a restaurant on the roof. With sublime views and cheap prices how could we be anything but stoked? At the end of our meals Gabriel asks if I want a Cappucinno, I tell him that would be delightful and he tells the waiter, "We would like 2 cappuccinos, please."
"2 cups of what?..."
"No no..A Cappuccino..." He then went on to explain what it is and how to make one and the waiter went on his way very confused.
Gabriel and I were stoked to see what we would end up with. So we get our Cappuccinos and they taste more like a mocha. Im not complaining at all, it was a damn fine cup of coffee whatever it was. After we walked around the lake, saw some nearby shrines and guess what? I bought more food...I bought some bananas, they are so cheap and delicious here its hard not to. I tried giving part to a stray dog, but he quickly ran away. We ran into Ashly and Sandra, talked for a bit, exchanged info, then went on our ways. Then it was time for bus.

They had no compartment in the back to store the luggage so I kept mine with me on my lap. I thought it was open eating, but I was quickly told by someone,
"What is your seat number? You are in my seat!"
So I went to my assigned seat that was written in Hindi, and had to keep my 40lb backpack on my lap the whole way. Needless to say sleeping was interesting. No crazy driver I was a bit disappointed to say the least. Met a man from Turkey, we shared a Chai and Indian sweets on our 2 minute food break.

I arrived in Chandigarh at like 2 in the morning and got an autoricksaw to find a room. This took about an hour. Everywhere was full, and asleep. Alot of people sleep in their store. But the fact people were in deep sleep did not stop my driver from violently shaking each person to ask "Room? Room?" It was hilarious, it reminded me the scene in the movie "What About Bob" where the father is trying to wake up Bob violently for like 10 minutes. I think they woke up because of my laughter that was peaking out of my clenched lips. On the way to our 34th hotel he picks up one of his friends for the ride, and he lights up a joint while were driving. So the whole rest of the way I had pot smoke being blown in my face (not too stoked on that). I found the only place in town, who wanted way too much for their concrete wall and floor room, on the roof, and with a shared bathroom that made me laugh that I was going to be paying to stay in a place like this. But I had no other choice. Chandigarh is very exspensive city which I will find out full force the next day.

I woke up early the next morning to get all my sightseeing/errands done asap so I can checkout before 12. First things first, I went to find a bus ticket asap to get out of here to Amritsar. I found a place in my guidebook to be taken to, told the driver the name of the place and where but he clearly did not understand either. He spent an hour cyclying around asking people where this place is. I finally just say stop and I walk to a local travel agency, book my bus, then tell him to goto the rock garden. Not bad price, I haggled and got a reasonable price. I only had an hour left to spend in this 12 acre museum. It was intense. It was a labrythn just trying to stay on the right path. Abstract rock formations of people, animals, and landscape were te sights to see. I wish it would say what some of the sculptures were made out of. Unlike anything Ive seen in America. Looked like a museum in America on LSD. I took many pictures for you all to see when I get back. I wanted to buy souvenirs here, but they couldnt make change for a 100 ruppee note. (thats like 2 us dollars). Needless to say I was a bit let down but its ok, be happy. Awesome museum.

ThenI had to go back to hotel and grab my luggage. I saw a nasty taxi stand that looked and smelled more like a street urinal I see in Delhi that read "Aroma Taxi Stand". I wish I couldve taken a picture but my battery was dead from the museum. Then he takes me back to where my bus will pick me up. He charges me for the time he spent not being able to find the travel agency, but I pay him what he wanted with a hope it goes toward some good for him or his family. Haggling wasnt worth the effort, just get me out of this town, it reminds me too much of Delhi.

My bus then left for Amritsar where I did not have to have my luggage on my lap, stoked. So we stop to get food, I order and I walk over to eat away from the crowd and as soon as I sit down, I am instructed to get on the bus. Seriously like 5 minutes have passed. So there I eat my food in the bus, they were cool with it so whatever. I am if they are. I get into Amritsar around 7pm, get myself a bus ticket the next day to Delhi where I will then have to get a ticket to Jaipur. I was not stoked to have to stop in Delhi, but there is no direct bus unless I want to wait 4 days. Not an option. 1 day is enough in Amritsar. So I try to stay at the Golden Temple but the line was too ridiculously long and I was too tired to wait. I found a guesthouse nearby, cheap, close to temple, and a great view. I take my ice cold shower, then crash.

I wake up the next morning and go to the temple. Check in the shoes and walk in. On my way I am downing my water to throw away at the first trashcan Ive seen in India. There I met a man in an orange suit, orange turbon, and has a sword on his hip. Talking to me in his native language making hand gestures that make no sense to me. After 5 minutes of being totally intrigued by this man, I figure out he wants me to take a picture of him. So I do. This guy was a charecter. So before you hit the temple grounds, there is a ditch with flowing water for your to clean off your feet before entering. After, I then was given an orange srap to cover my head and in the quarters I went. It was beautiful. The temple was around hundreds of feet of water, where many people bathed. Interesting...The golden roof shimmered like a jewel in sunlight. The roof is made of around 750 kg of gold and resembles an inverted lotus flower signifying the Sikhs devotion to live a pure life. 4 priest keep a sacred chant flowing 24 hours which is broadcasted on loudspeakers which I heard clearly all night in my hotel room. After walking around the temple I decide to go in, I dont know much about the Sikh religion so I followed what everyone else was doing. I bowed when they bowed, touched what they touched etc. Downstairs were the priests in the middle, with females on one side, males on the other, sitting in the midst of it all. Infront of the priests were the donations and a man racking them in a slot that I guess lead to a storage box below. Ive never seen so many rupee notes and coins. He was raking like a mad man, and the money kept flowing. I gave my donation, bowed, then continued up the stairs where more people followed along the song with a book. I just sat and listened. Then after some time went up on the roof and overlooked the whole temple grounds. I saw people bathing in the waters, or women just walking around the quarters of all different color saris.Men wear alot of color too, its awesome. Pinks, blues, greens, purples, blacks, whites, all colors. I love this about India, lots of colors. I then leave the temple, get prasad (food offeringwhich happened to be very tasty). I then ran into a Swedish man and his friend from Kashmir. They asked where to enter and within minutes I was getting solicited to come to his guesthouse in Kashmir. Young fellow maybe 16. The swed maybe 35. The kid seemed sincere with actually reasonable prices and the swed said, "I had the time of my life there and they are going back in Feb. There isnt really any trouble there, you just get hassled to fill out alot of papers, I did not have any trouble whatsoever." We exchanged info and might go together. We shall see.

Outside the temple I bought some books on their religion to help me better understand their beliefs. Everyone I met was very warm and inquisitive about me. I then was solicited to go see the border closing ceremony between Pakistan and India. Ive been told it was quite the sight to see and his price was cheap so I accepted, got my reciept, then went and got some food. A nearby restaurant served the best Paneer Butter Masala, Ive had in India so far. Paneer is cheese that has a texture like tofu, so its basically cheese and butter in a sweet but alittle spicy curry sauce. Very tasty.

Outside the restaurant I am flagged down by 6 kids to come and talk with them. Ages ranging from 12 - 18. Its interesting to see the difference between Indian boys and American boys. Indian boys and men hold hands with one another or have their arms around one another alot. They dress up their hands alot. They wear femine gold or silver bangels and have lots of femine rings. They also wear very femine jeans with designs all along the back pocket, that strike me as hilarious that a guy would wear them, and tuck their shirt in them nonetheless. Lets also say that the pants accent certain areas very provactively and prodimently. Aside from their attire, they are very immature in the way they talk and hyper as well. I think american boys tend to age or mature alot faster. The oldest kid there (maybe 18) acted like the rest of the boys who were 12.

Then more foreginers ame to wait for the taxi for the border closing. I met a couple from New Zealand who informed me alot about trevelling tips. I got alot of good useful info from them. Theyve done quite abit of travelling, this is their last stop before hitting Thailand. Theyve been to Canada, The States, Frace, Italy, Egypt, Australia, now India and soon to be Thailand. (I feel like Im forgetting a country or two but yeah.) Nice people. Then I met two women from Poland who told me they were from Iceland when we first met but then when we said goodbye they said "You know we are actually from Poland." I hit it off well with one of the girls but have no desire for anything of that sort right now in my life, so I did not purse my intuition. Then there was an asian lady from Canada. She was your typical asian always add "ah" at the end of every word, with her thick asian accent, and was always ahead of us walking to the ceremony screaming us "Oh..Come on you guys-ah!" While driving to the ceremony we saw a school bus full of children screaming at us, the driver was no older than 12. She could comprehend seeing this. "That-ah driver was-ah like-ah 12 years-ah old! I cannot-ah believe that-ah!!"

The border ceremony was quite the expierience. First off I keep a knife that my buddy Patrick gave me for my trip on me at all times, and I always forget to leave it in my bag when going to public events or sightsn where it can be an issue. Well, it got through a wand metal detector, and 2 patdowns. Just to show you how much they really search or care for that matter. The ceremony was the funniest thing I have seen in awhile. There was a gate that seperated India and Pakistan, where each side took turns cheering, taunting,playing loud music, raising their flags, and screaming at the other side. This is the best part, at one point soldiers dressed in tan military outfits, black boots with a white cuff that covers most of it, and a hat that has a red fan on top that resembles a mohawk, would walk steadfast towards the gates overly emphazing on their steadfast pace and when they got to the gate, would raise their leg straight infront of them and then stomp on the ground so hard I thought their intention was to try and break down the wall with the vibrations of their feet. Pakistan did the same at the same time. It was absolutely hilarious to see. I took videos of it. Their stomping showdowns, made me laugh so hard I thought I would pee myself. Literally. Ive maybe laughed that hard less than 5 times in my whole life. They were so serious with these stomps and serious face paced walks placing much emphasis on the swaying of their hands and stomps on their feet. At one point they opened the gate for 1 second to shake hands, then more stomps, screaming, dancing, taunting quickly followed. I have not laughed that hard in a good while. I cant wait to show you the video.

When we got back into town I said goodbye to girls from Poland and the asian from Canada, then went and got food with the couple from New Zealand where we talked about travelling the whole time. After I went and got my baggage from the temple, ran into the awesome orange clothed Sikh, took a picture with him and waited for my bus. I pulled out my Ipod, and as a side note: Never let Indians see you have an Ipod, they will swarm you in heaping groups wanting to hear American Pop Music putting your earphones in their ears, rubbing their hands all over them etc. Not good. I put my antibacterial hand santizer all over my earphones after that. This bus ride was interesting. I get to my seat and say to myself "Wow, theres alot of room".
I put my music on and try to sleep.

"Can you move your seat forward? How is she supposed to get in like this?! Maybe you should take those out, do you not have a brain?!?"

Little did I know my seat was pushed back. There was plenty of room for an average sized person to get through but his wife was a bit on the heavier side. I moved my seat forward and refrained from making the millions of rude statements that were going through my mind. The bus ride was smooth and I think I was able to sleep a few hours.

We arrive in Delhi, where you get over charged for everything unless you haggle HARD. Im still learning how to and did not have the energy to put up a fight. Its Delhi, it happens and its why I hate Delhi. I got my bus ticket and waited again for another bus to Jaipur. Nice bus, lots of room. However, when I would recline my chair to sleep, my chair would be bumped to upright position from the guy behind me. He was travelling with his wife and two kids, so there wasnt alot of room for them all. I kept it upright for their comfort, however the slightest pressure on the seat would make it recline so needless to say this was a chore. Whats up with my reclining seat situations?

We reach Rajasthan and it reminds me of what I had in my minds eye of Africa to look like. We arrived while the sun was setting in the deepest red I have ever seen. We were surrounded by desert plains, giant foxtail bushes, straw houses, trees, camels, mud huts, and garbage everywhere. Beautiful landscape. I get to the last stop where I get off and get a rickshaw to a local cheap hotel. Perfect budget and nice people and atmosphere. Restuarant on the roof, I am beyond stoked. Such a blessing after travelling steadfast the past 3 days. I unload my luggage, get my book, and head up to get some food. I was highly famished, exhausted, and dehydrated. I met a man whos name I dont remember because I can pronounce it. He was a short warm nice man and would talk to me with one feet twisting a way a little girl's foot would twist if they are shy or embarassed. His food was very tasty and nourishing. He made me Palak Paneer which is mashed spinach and cheese with Rice and some Chapati. He takes great pride that he makes his food fresh. It was very tasty and I could tell it was fresh. Very good. He also can arrange my trip around Rajasthan, he owns many guest houses all cheap prices. I like this. He gave me quick itinerary of how I should travel around then made a good cup of . Oh how I love Chai.
"What you want to drink? Beer? Whiskey?" he said with a giant smile.
"Do you have Chai?"
"Yes ofcourse, no beer? No Whiskey?"
"No thank you, just a Chai, that would be perfect."
"You dont want beer, whiskey?"
"No, I prefer Chai"
"Yes sir"
Indians dont understand that I dont drink or smoke bhang (pot) so its easy to not get into that subject. I say "I prefer Chai" to everything. How can an Indian argue with that?! How can anyone!?!? :)

After a nice meal, I take my ice cold shower, journal, and hop into bed. I start to read and I fell alseep in the midst of the 3rd or 4th sentence.

Today Ive spent the majority of the day on the internet, updating my blog, emailing people, counting my bites from my bed critters, etc. Its nice, I didnt want to do anything today. No sightseeing. Just chill. Maybe finish my book, and lots and lots of Chai. The past few days have worn me out to say the least. I am very grateful to do nothing today. I slept in late and I spent my morning talking to a man named Soni, who offers to be my guide for all the sights around Jaipur. Very nice man, he wants to give everyone the best service to build up his name for more business by word of mouth. "I want you to be happy with my service." as he says. He charges whatever you want to pay because that is what God said "Soni, you are going to make this amount today" and he takes each rupee equally with a smile. I will have him take me around tomarrow, today is do nothing day. Their friendly, helpful hospitality has contributed greatly to my relaxation day. Time to relax.

So my little friend suggests to take a bus to Jaisalmer (ride some camels), then goto Udaipur (check out their palace resort around a huge serene lake), then goto Pushkar (holy sightseeing and shopping) then back to Jaipur for my meditation course which reminds me to say, I cannot serve. They said I had to have taken a minimum of 5 courses to serve, which isnt what I was told in the other center by the main teacher. So ill just participate again, be happy.

Much love to you all.
Blessings and peace.