A Travellerspoint blog

India

7 weeks in India, 100,000 rupees...

not killing each other yet - priceless!

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India Stats
Modes of transport used in India: 16 (car, bus, train, taxi, motor rickshaw, cycle rickshaw, rowing boat, bicycle, motorbike, jeep, raft, plane, metro, kayak, ferry, foot)
No of different beds slept in: 20
No of overnight trains: 4
No of overnight buses: 3
Miles on the road in India: 3,488
No 0f McDonalds seen: 5
No of McDonalds eaten: 0
No of stray dogs: 134,672
No of times ripped off: 1 (for 40p!)
Maximum no. of layers worn: 8 (Pauline on overnight train)
Weight of Chapatis / Rotis / Naans consumed: 400kg (each!)
Current Rummy score: Pauline 17 Richard 9 ( Finally a game Pauline can seemingly dominate!)

This is a little late as we are now in China but we wanted to round up our last week in India. Since our last blog we spent one more day in Varanasi and decided we liked it but couldn't really decide why. I think maybe because it was more peaceful than the other cities with the river having such an influence on everything that happens there. It's a very spiritual place and apparently lots of people go there to 'find themselves'. We found a really nice bakery that runs a charity and a nice cosy guesthouse but we didn't really look for ourselves so can't really comment on that.

You can all officially stop being jealous of us being in sunnier climes. We have been freezing for the last few weeks and I hit a personal body temperate low on the very much delayed train from Varanasi to Agra. After shivering on the platform for 8 long hours we eventually boarded our train and tried to stow away in the posh (used loosely) carriage only to be literally thrown into the sleeper carriage by the very grumpy conductor. This wouldn't be so bad if we had been prepared like everyone else there and taken a blanket, it was baltic. Luckily for us there were some incredibly pissed Argentinians who happly shared their gigantic bottle of Whisky with us. That helped. In the morning some more new friends insisted on buying us chai everytime the sellers came round and refused to take our money. I think they were pleased that some wussy English folk were feeling the cold more than them. So our nightmare icy journey was actually a pleasure in some respects as we met some really freindly co-passengers. In fact, most of the people we have met in India go out of their way to welcome you, feed you, look out for you and ask you every possible question they can think of before letting you get away! It is a very friendly country once you settle in.

On to Agra, not the most vibrant or picturesque place we've seen but amazing for one, maybe two main reasons. Yes, the Taj Mahal is utterly breathtaking. We saw it from every possible angle, one of which is from Agra Fort which in its own right is worth a visit. I'd go back to Agra a million times to see it again but not for any other reason, sorry. We went at sunrise and were more than a little smug at beating the crowds.DSC_0391.jpgDSC_0414.jpg

On Richards' birthday we were in a small town called Bharatpur between Agra and Delhi. It's famous for the Keoladeo National park. We spent a morning on hired bikes spotting the wildlife which was more my ideal birthday than Richard's but he was happy enough taking photos. Apparently there is one tiger there but they aren't too concerned that you'll get eaten, they make you promise to stick to the paths and that's the health and safety briefing over. One problem, no signs anywhere. I was pretty nervous and peddled mighty fast passed the sunbathing jackals and wild boar. Weirdest sight had to be the domestic dog tucking into a huge cow carcass.

We finished our mini tour of India in the capital Delhi. We'd been told it was a bit dodgy and to steer clear so didn't plan to spend long there. Due to delays we'd lost a day or so as well so only had 2 nights to see what turned out to be a pretty cool place. There are some very modern parts of Delhi and it was a welcome change from the India we had grown used to. Contrary to what we had be warned, we felt very safe there and reflected over a cup of chai with our guesthouse owners that we were sorry not to have had more time to explore. We did manage to see India largest Mosque, the Jama Masjid and Delhi's red fort.

This is where I wanted to write my thoughts on India and my feelings on leaving etc, but Richard says it's too cheesy so no can do. On to a new adventure in China now and we'll try to make our updates regular and concise so we don't lose our audience yet!

Posted by Po Gallon 15:30 Archived in India Comments (4)

# Oh oobee do, I wanna be like you hoo hoo #

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No. of squatters on the banks of the Ganges = 77 and counting
No. of pizzas eaten = 3
No. of times Pauline would like to have eaten pizza or has talked about pizza = 20
No. of hours on longest journey door to door = 23

Hello fans! Yes this is my first official blog entry but I'm sure I don't need to reiterate that all witty bits of previous entries were my creations. Richard is the brains behind the stats though, he's obsessed.

Since our last entry we have continued North and East a bit from Khajuraho to Bandhavgarh National Park and we are now in Varanasi. Quite a few hours spent on trains, drinking chai in train stations and watching cows negotiate (moving) trains while wandering down the tracks. It is really cold here so you can all stop being jealous of the sunshine.

Our safari experiences were incredible. Bandhavgarh was rumoured to be the inspiration for Rudyard Kippling's Jungle Book (hence the blog title in case you thought I was going mad) and although I think this has been dispelled, it's a beautiful place for sure. After only 3 hours sleep, having arrived in the middle of the night to our guest house on the outskirts of the national park, we met up with Kaspar the friendly German and bundled in our open top jeep. At 5am Northern India is chilly to say the least and our million layers weren't quite enough to keep us warm. We set out hoping the tigers wouldn't be too shy and cold to show their pretty faces, they were! There were plenty of spotted deer, various cheeky monkeys, a jungle cat (apparently quite rare), wild boar, owls and eagles so we weren't too disappointed. Nevertheless, we had set out to see a tiger so we embarked on another safari with Kaspar in tow and two Americans we practically kidnapped to keep the cost of the jeep down. Sure we would spot one we set out in the afternoon with high spirits and a spot of sunshine. With only half an hour left before the park closed it wasn't looking hopeful, but some excitable exchanges between our guide and a neighbouring jeep suggested the king of the jungle was near. A commotion ensued ,we all nearly fell out of the jeep as we sped off into the distance, we were flagged down by another jeep and came to a screeching halt. At this point I thought we'd surely scare off whatever was there but no, there she was, the Queen of the jungle right in front of us, an adult female. It was very special. I don't think I breathed for a good 5 minutes as we watched her mark her territory and calmly pass us by. 3 words for you AH-MAY-ZING! Loads of good pictures thanks to Richard's steady hand, the video I took is hilarious as I'm clearly not as calm as the tigress. DSC_0044.jpg

So, Varanasi is quite something else. It's clearly a very sacred place but some people show their respects in a funny way. This is what Richard is referring to by 'squatters' in the stats. Lets just say we wont be taking a dip in the river Ganga anytime soon. In fact its difficult to avoid accidentally snapping the squatters when taking in the view, they are everywhere. It doesn't smell too bad though surprisingly and a dusk boat trip last night was really peaceful if a bit eerie due to the mist rolling in. DSC_0213.jpgYesterday was a strange day. It isn't difficult to find yourself immersed in this place. When we got a little lost down the side streets off the ghats, several funeral processions passed us very closely. That spooked me no end but I guess it's an experience. Nothing spooks Richard though and he calmly navigated his was between a few dead bodies and some of the biggest cows I've ever seen. Richard was yet again unfazed today when we crossed a really long, very unstable, very poor excuse for a bridge across the river. I need to toughen up for China as even this scared the ganga out of me!

We can't believe how quickly our adventure in India is unfolding and plan to make the most of our last week here. Looking forward to the Taj Mahal in a few days when we head to Agra, apparently the fort is good there too. We are still loving the food, I think Richard will have to write another entry just on food before we leave, he discovers a new favourite thing everyday. We have both eaten our body weight in peanut caramel brittle today. tasty good!

Posted by Po Gallon 19:57 Archived in India Comments (4)

1 month down, hopefully 11 to go!

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No. of different beds slept in = 21
No. of days rain (pretty much just a light shower for less than an hour) = 2 / 34
Ratio of cows to people in Mahabalipuram = 1:1
No.of mozzie bites on feet = 14

We've just about survived the first month, although Pauline has thought about coming home about 10 times! Seriously though we have a great Christmas and New Year and hope you all have too.

So we left Mysore for Chennai and stayed with the Shah family who were amazing hosts for four days. We had a cracking time modelling for a new fashion store (see our celebrity interview), going to the cinema and were privileged enough to have an audience with a guru at a Jain temple. Richard also got to experience life on the back of a motorbike on the manic indian roads on a trip to the post office. No protection (helmet/jacket) deemed necessary!

After Chennai we went to a small beach village called Mahabalipuram for Christmas and Boxing day which was just the chillout we needed. Spending the day in 30 degree heat on the beach was certainly different for Christmas. We decided to try and make it more like home by buying as much chocolate as we could (not an easy task) and Pauline had a cheese toastie for lunch. SANY0415.jpgSANY0444.jpgOn Boxing day we got up at 5am (yes 'we', Pauline did get out of bed) to see the sun rise over the east facing beach, which was made more surreal by the realisation that it was the anniversary of the tsunami that affected that coastline 5 years previous. Later Boxing day we got the bus to Pondicherry to experience a french colonial town on India's south east coast. By far the cleanest place we've seen and some great ice cream.

After two days we got the bus back to Chennai and then straight onto a 17 hour overnight train to Nagpur. SANY0508.jpgThe trains have been a breeze and much more comfortable than the buses. Not much to see in Nagpur though, we just used it to break up our journey North. We did try to go to the cinema but the rickshaw driver took us to the wrong one inside a different mall so instead we ended up eating pasties in the supermarket! In the hotel in Nagpur we had our first cockroach in the bathroom experience too so we didn't come away with an affection for the place. The staff in the Hotel however were a class act, and actually booked our next two nights accomodation for us!

We left Nagpur on another overnight train to Jhansi, which is the furthest North we have been, and a bus to nearby Orcha for New Year which is a nice quiet riverside village with some good temples. Can't say we larged it on New Years Eve though. We gatecrashed a party in a nearby hotel but found it to be a big cheesefest and we sloped off at 11.00pm. On New Years Day we went white water rafting and trekked the local nature reserve. We stayed in posh swiss tents on the night which was the best 'payed for' accomodation so far but we spent the night shivering only to realise in the morning there was an electric heater under the table!SANY0550.jpg

So we're now in Khajuraho and today had two full games of cricket with some local kids. Richard was rubbish and embarrased by the nine year olds and Pauline turned out to be a bit of a pro (1 over, 2 wickets)!270_SANY0577.jpg

Anyway, will try and do this more regularly so its not so long winded.

Till next time...

Posted by millfred 05:04 Archived in India Comments (4)

India 'Heat' Magazine Christmas Exclusive

Worlds' first Interview with India's hottest new minor celebs!

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Heat magazine's chief interviewer caught up with India's hot property this week in Chennai. The celebrity couple were launching a new ethnic clothing store in a trendy suburb. No-one knows why they are famous but Richard and Pauline have been pulling in the crowds, stares and interest throughout their journey so far. Here's what they had to say for themselves...

Heat: It is a real pleasure to meet you both, thank you for taking the time out of your hectic travel itinerary to be here today. I know the public are desperate for an insight into your trip, and indeed your lives so let's press on. Let's hear how you would describe India so far in 3 words?

R: Busy, spicy, horny (in reference to constant car and 2 wheeler horns, we think!)
P: Crazy, tasty, wild

Heat: We've seen for ourselves the reactions you get from the crowds here, who would you say has been the most 'starstuck' upon meeting you?

R: Yes, it is getting difficult to get around without being noticed! The school kids are always pleased to see you. In Hampi they were daring each other to say hello, I think they thought I was a football player with my shirt on, name on the back and stunning physique! When I replied, the giggles continued all the way down the road obviously.

P: People seem more amused by Richard than me, maybe it's the ferocious fire red of his beard. I get more inquisitive stares than hellos. Infact, one girl stared a hole through me on a bus in Goa and didn't avert her gaze for the entire hour. It's weird, I never know whether to stare back or not so I just smile and look away. I found it a bit unnerving at first but i'm getting used to it. In a nature park in Pune, more people took photographs of us than of the animals! I wonder how many Indian family albums we are in so far?

Heat: Just curiosity I suppose, still, must take a bit of getting used to coming from being relative nobody's in UK to this level of exposure. So we've heard a lot about where you have been in previous blogs, we'd like to know what have been your highlights and low points, if any, so far?

R: Low point? Getting on the Hampi to Bangalore night bus. The highlight, getting off the bus, you can't call that a road!
P: I'm sure Richard has enjoyed more than he's letting on there, but that bus ride surely was horrific. So far my highlights have come daily. Waking up in new places, exploring, talking to locals, getting advice and obviously the wildlife. The low points, erm, maybe the same things actually, when i'm tired and something goes wrong, what was a highlight and perk of travelling one day becomes a pain in the arse the next!

Heat: You must have tried so many new foods this month, have there been any disasters and what have you enjoyed the most?

R: I tried to think of a top 5 foods and ended up with 10 so here we go...vada pav, any dosas, ghulam jamun, butter chicken,thalis, buns puri, goan sausage, black dahl, malai kofta and mysore pak (which I would have enjoyed more of had Pauline not used the plastic bag as her sick bag!). The only thing I haven't liked was Pani Puri. we tried this Indian delicacy on Chowpatty beach in Mumbai and it took all of our strength to keep it down! Sorry India. It's not for us.

P: Couldn't agree more on that one, don't think i'll be trying that again. Apart from that though i'm in pure veg heaven. Loving the snacky food and breakfasts. Addicted to dosas. Loved all the things we tried with Nisha in Pune and with the Shah's here in Chennai.

Heat: So you'll be hoping pani puri isn't on the Christmas menu then! I know you have both been overwhelmed by the sheer size of India and it's 1 billion people, you must have seen some weird and wonderful things so far?

P: Yep, i'm pretty sure I've seen at least half a billion men have a wee in the street, some turn away so i'd like to thank them for that. Other odd sights and experiences are standing for the Indian National Anthem in the cinema in Bombay, 7 people on one moped. too many to remember i'll get back to you... oh the black market down the harbour in Chennai was an experience for sure.

R: Men in the street are very affectionate towards each other, they hold hands a lot and cuddle. Most recent funny experience was here in Chennai, where our host Naina turned off her engine and refused to budge in a traffic jam until the rickshaw driver blocking her apologised. Girl power!

Heat: So you've made a few long distance journeys already, are these just a necessity or have you enjoyed them?

R: Well. I've mentioned the nightmare trip from hampi...

P: I do like watching the world go by from the bus, the streets here are so hectic that you are never bored on the bus as there is so much to see. I've seen a few crazy things through the bars of the local buses. The overnight buses are ok, some better than others. The first sleeper we took from pune was mental. still not sure why its called a sleeper, not-going-to-get-to-sleeper would be more accurate in my opinion. Think we'll stick to trains where possible, the scenery is amazing and so far no cockroaches, bonus. Hopefully our celebrity status will improve and we'll be upgraded soon.

Heat: With so much to see and do and such a rich culture, you two must have learnt a lot?

P: yeh for sure we have, loads of interesting history, my brain can't remember it all but bits keep popping into my head that i've picked up from here and there. Each place has a story or two to tell and we are doing our best to learn them. Oh and Carrom ( i think it's called), a mix between pool and tiddlywinks, love it.

R: Our hindu wedding experience was interesting and as a lefty eating with my right hand has taken some getting used to. I've learnt two hindi words!

Heat: So we know how much you are both missing your family and friends at home but what else do you miss, anything you weren't expecting to crave?

P: I miss neighbours, not the boring couple next door, the TV programme.

R: Boosts, jelly babies, sausage and footy!

Heat: And finally, you both must be so excited about seeing more of the world but what is on your 'not to miss' list here in Incredible India?

P: Moving onto the North and exploring there. People here have told us that Varanasi is cool and we can't miss out Rajasthan. Oh and of course i need the obligatory 'Diana' picture at the Taj Mahal.

R: Boat trip down the Ganga at Varanasi, who knows what the North with have in store for us.

Heat: Sounds fabulous, we wish you all the very best. I'm sure you'll be safe following your blessing from the Jain Monks yesterday! Any final comments for your readers?

R&P: HAPPY CHRISTMAS xxx

For an insight into the Orly fashion launch see the following link (be patient and wait till the end to see the star catwalk attraction).

http://chennaionline.com/video/city-feature/ORLY---Mens-wear-store-launch/2525.col

Posted by millfred 11:02 Archived in India Comments (1)

Hampi Bizarre

Day 15 to Day 19

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No. of times Richard has dropped video camera in the sea = 1 (it survived!)
No. of Mahatma Gandhi roads seen so far = 7
No. of times Pauline has tripped over her own feet = 23
No. of hours thinking of stats = 12!

Well it's been a busy week and we've travelled from Goa to Hampi, then to Bangalore and we are now in Mysore.
Hampi was amazing, unlike anything we've seen before. The boulder strewn landscape, awe-inspiring temples and history of the place totally bowled us over. We loved it. india2010-12-16_008.jpgindia2010-12-16_011.jpgindia2010-12-16_005.jpgUnfortunately, leaving Hampi was a bit of a trauma due to no lights on the rickshaw to the bus stop (middle of the night) and we can now confirm there is no actual road between Hampi and Bangalore, most uncomfortable bus ride yet and zero sleep.

Bangalore was a typically busy city and the first place we saw a rat (or two) but was welcoming as always and we had a lovely timing meeting up with Hector over a couple of cold beers. (no alcohol in Hampi!)SANY0351.jpg

Whistle stop tour of Mysore today. the palace is cool and when we arrived last night it was all lit up especially for our arrival. (96000 bulbs no less)SANY0406.jpg

On to Chennai tonight on the overnight train. Hoping for a smoother ride and not too many cockroaches!

Posted by millfred 15:28 Archived in India Comments (2)

Gotta Goa

Day 13

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Average no of black outs in Goa per night = 5
Average no .of switches in an Indian room (half of them useless) = 15
Bottles of suncream used in 2 days = 2
No of table tennis games before Pauline flipped out = 0.75

Last couple of days in Pune were quality, got the overnight bus to Goa which was cramped, bumpy with one persistant mozzie that we could only hear not see until the last 10 minutes! Funny experience though. Good job we travelled as a couple though since you have to share a double (not much bigger than an ironing board) even if your on your own. Cosy to say the least! Goa is everything expected hot, laid back, colourful and cracking beaches.SANY0268.jpgSANY0297.jpg Moving on to Hampi next (once Pauline has control of her motions anyway!) .

Next update coming soon. Send us your comments and we'll happily answer your questions (we've become mini-celebs in India anyway so we're used to the exposure!)

Posted by millfred 11:53 Archived in India Comments (6)

Week 1

Maharastra Melange

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Its hard to know where to start summing up our first week away but here goes...

You've already heard a bit about Mumbai. The highlights included our night in Bandra, the amazing food, Victoria Terminus, taxi rides and friendly people, leopolds (although we couldn't afford to eat there the beer was good!) and generally finding our way around this bustling place. We tried to go and see a bollywood movie but it turned out just to be a comedy about a guy who worshipped barack obama with no subtitles so we left at the interval which was handy as Pauline had started to nod off! Later that evening we were scouted on the street (quite common apparently, but I like to think they saw star quality) to appear as western extras in an actual Bollywood production being made now. We had to turn them down due to all the other offers we had (pre-blanned bus ride to Pune)!

The day after we went to Elephanta Island (9km out of Mumbai harbour) where they have a lot of Hindu gods statues carved into the rock faces. On the way back our boat's engine blew and we had to get towed back - this was all the more stressful as Pauline was convinced one shifty guy on the boat was a terrorist (think he was just dying for the loo!). Later we walked to Chowpatty Beach and had some Pani Puri ( dough balls filled with what tasted like sea water) and nearly both threw up on the spot in front a few thousand indians tucking into a Maharastran delicacy).

On Monday, we travelled by Bus to Pune which we thought might be more chilled out but with at least 4 million people of its own proved otherwise. If anything the traffic is more crazy because they favour the moped over any four wheels. Here we met our host Nisha who had kindly offered to put us up for the week.

Tuesday we met Nisha's friend Naina who gave us advice on travelling round India and also invited us to her cousin's wedding the same day! We spent the morning visiting some beautiful temples and then upon our return to Nisha's house were provided with traditional Indian wedding clothes (the traveller combats weren't going to cut it apparently). We then went to the grooms apartment complex where I was further kitted out with the Pagdi turban and Pauline a Bindi (decorative marking on the forehead). 270_SANY0224.jpgWe then followed the procession into the five star hotel and were witness to the whole ceremony including the lavish food. We couldn't believe the hospitality and welcoming we had from a party of total strangers! This it seems is what India is all about.

We are having trouble uploading photos but we'll try to put some on facebook in the meantime. Heading to Goa on Friday on an overnight sleeper bus, bit of chillaxing on the beach should be lovely.

More stats to follow in the next mini - update.

Mill & Po xx

Posted by millfred 23:17 Archived in India Comments (0)

Mumbai Madness

Day 4

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No. of times we went through a red traffic light = 25? (apparently you don't have to follow them at night!)
No. of frantic trips to the toilet = 0 (surprisingly no reaction to the food yet!)
No. of mozzie bites = Richard 1 Pauline 0 (who'd of thought it)
Beard length Richard = 3mm Pauline = 4mm!

Still going strong (maybe pushing it) here in Mumbai. Off to see a bollywood show today and to Elephanta Island (caves and massive Shiva statues) tomorrow. Struggling with the humidity which is keeping us tired all the time. Had a great time with our indian hosts Jasmin and Ajay last night! Our wonderful guides in Bandra

Our wonderful guides in Bandra

Thanks for hospitality and the pan guys (pretty sure we only went so you could see our faces)!Richard tastes Pan

Richard tastes Pan

Pauline tastes Pan

Pauline tastes Pan

Pics and videos to follow when I can find a computer with a usb port.

Keep the messages coming and stay tuned.

Posted by millfred 15:50 Archived in India Comments (4)

Mumbai Madness

Day 1

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No. of hours delayed = 5
No. of near misses in the taxi airport transfer = 42
No. of times taxi driver chose to open the door on the motorway to spit his tobacco out = 4
No. of chapatis consumed = 4

Mumbai so far is crazy, but amazing. Everything we expected as well as the unexpected! Didn't get too much time to look round today due to the flight delay but even at 6pm it was roasting. Managed to go explore a bit and found the Gateway to India, were looking forward to what this city wil throw at us tomorrow.SANY0216.jpg

By the way you can click on each blog entry title (i.e. Mumbai Madness ) to comment.

Posted by millfred 20:49 Archived in India Comments (7)

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