A Travellerspoint blog

Confession Time

Udaipur to Thailand 23rd April to 15th May

Ok so I wrote this a few weeks ago before the fullmoon party, i'll get an update on that madness shortly. Enjoy...

Bless me Bloggy Blog for I have sinned. It has been 4 weeks since my last entry. During that time I have committed so many sins, like eating too much meat, not performing exercise duties, drinking firewater (a lot) and general debauchery. I’m afraid there’s probably going to be more of the same for the next week, I’ve been forced to attend James Zabiela at Zouk in Singapore and then the Fullmoon party in Thailand. I do promise however that afterwards I will accept your penance of laying off the firewater and being kinder to oneself, for a while at least ;-)

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Well now that’s off my chest I’ll rewind a wee bit. The last time I was waffling, I was in Udaipur in Rajasthan, apparently India’s most romantic city. I can confirm this as 100% true as I was lucky to spend my time with 2 amazing girls, Elyse from Australia and Miriam from Spain, and of course they both loved me very much (that’s what Udaipur does to people!). I can’t talk about L.O.V.E and not mention the guy on our train, innocently reading a magazine until the train jolted and he dropped it to reveal a porno. I have to say fairplay to the guy, because once he realized he’d been stung he just picked it up and read it openly, pure Legend!

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The romance aside, this was my first taste of Rajasthan, the land of the Kings. Named so because everywhere you go there is or was a King of that locality, who usually built a stunning palace or 10, really just because they could. Imagine Monaco then think of a country littered with Monaco’s and deserts in between and you pretty much have Rajasthan.

The town of Udaipur is no exception and from the roof of my hotel I could see 4 palaces, 1 that the King currently lives in and 3 that were featured in the Bond movie Octopussy, 2 on a lake and 1 on a faraway hilltop. The Movie is a kind of claim to fame that the restaurants all jumped onto in the 80’s and you can watch the movie pretty much everywhere every night. I just can’t understand why they’ve been showing it for such a long time and still haven’t realized its crap. Though in fairness that’s mostly the acting, the palaces themselves do look pretty cool both in the movie and in real life.

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The land of Rajasthan is known for its colour which was evident everywhere from the fresh food and spices in the markets to the colours of the Sari’s and Turbans. It’s culture is also pretty famous and Elyse, Miriam and I were lucky enough to go to a show in Udaipur that included stunning dancers, incredible singers and musicians, and puppets whose heads came off (part of the show). It climaxed with an old lady dancing with first 3, then 6 then 9 pretty large bowls placed on her head, which wasn’t amazing enough for her so she danced on some glass just to add the cherry, easily one of the highlights of Rajasthan for me.

So my next stop was Jaisalmer, which was an experience to say the least. I do try to stay positive when I write this but its pretty tough for this place. In 2 days I maybe had some sort of conversation with maybe 150 people and only 1 didn’t try to rip me off or sell me something. One guy even said ‘Hello friend, won’t you please come to my store so I can rip you off’, I thought that was funny so I stopped to have a chat and then he tried to rip me off! I suppose at least he was up front. Anyways, I did do something fantastic there, I went on a Camel ride into the desert to see the sunset. This is generally the main reason why people come here and it didn’t disappoint. I got into a jeep with a smiling driver who didn’t speak English and turned out to be an opium addict, but I liked him straight away and we headed for the desert where I met the camel driver. He was a really interesting guy who told me about the difficulties of life in the desert, but you could tell that he loved the place and was more than happy to put up with any hardships. Although he did ask if we could give him some of our Irish weather, even just a little bit of rain would be nice! What a dry sense of humour he had! Ahem, moving swiftly on…

Desert Sunset

Desert Sunset

Camel Walk

Camel Walk

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Colour 1

Colour 2

Colour 2

…and swiftly on I did move, to Delhi that is. My Indian adventure coming full circle after a month of extreme highs and lows. Overall though I’m really happy with the time I spent here and I’d definitely like to come back, it’s another beast altogether compared to Asia or Australia and is much harder to travel but the rewards for that effort are pretty incredible and I’d recommend anyone to be prepared to check it out.

Now after a month in India where I ate mostly Vegetarian, drank very little, exercised most days and slept early there was only 1 thing going to happen in Bali, my next stop. Yip that’s right, as soon as I got there before I even found a hotel I went to a bar and the weeklong madness began. I have to say that even all the Aussie bogans (aussie name for scally/steko) with their dodgy Bintang t-shirts and singlets (vests) couldn’t make me dislike Bintang beer one iota, crackin stuff it was and as my mate Dave put it, I only had a ‘Bintangover’ once! I stayed in Kuta beach, the main tourist area of Bali for 2 nights, then went to meet my friend Nadia on a little island called Gili Trawangan. The island is mostly for diving and snorkeling, but it’s a proper cool little resort too with great restaurants and bars. The party continued there and 1 of the nights I ended up in an open air club jammed with punters dancing and partying in the lashing rain, which didn’t dampen the party much at all.

After a few memorable days there catching up with Nadia, I headed back to Kuta and partied some more. This time checking out the huge club Skygarden, one of the best clubs I’ve ever been to. It had great music, loads of rooms and nooks and crannies to explore, a cracking view from the top, free drinks for 2 hours every night and great shows including an incredible mix of traditional Indonesian dance, fire dancing and contemporary club dancing, which honestly blew my mind! After India I think it’s fair to say I made up for lost time in Bali, a place I fell in love with, not just because of the fun side but also the people who were as friendly as anywhere I’ve been to.

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So next stop was Singapore, the cleanest and probably nicest city I’ve ever seen. I had another amazing night at Zouk, the worlds 9th best club according to DJmag, where James Zabiela played a stormer and even played a version of Radiohead’s Everything in its Right Place, the remix by Northern Ireland’s Dibby Dougherty. It was then hangover-ville once again for my trip to Koh Phangan for the Fullmoon party, with stops in Kuala Lumpur and Hat Yai before getting the boat across to the Island for 4 days of bucket fuelled brilliance, which i'll try to recall next time I post, my short term memory isnt great anymore for some reason hmmmm???

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Well, thanks once again for travelling with me, hope you enjoyed my dribbles ;-)

Eddie

Posted by Redmundial 05:49 Comments (0)

Wagah Border Ceremony

Border closing ceremony with Pakistan

At last i've been able to put up my vid for the border ceremony. Its only a short clip, but gives a bit of an idea about the atmosphere there. Its like a football stadium split down the middle with the border in between, on one side are the Pakistanis and on the other, the side i was on, is the Indians. Theyre pretty mad all of them to be honest, trying to shout louder and longer than the other side, the soldiers doing crazy co-ordinated walks and salutes before a quick handshake and salute and the borders closed for the night!

Posted by Redmundial 23:37 Comments (0)

Enlightenment

Shimla to Agra, Including McLeod Ganj and Amritsar

Sorry its taken a bit longer to put this entry up, i've tried a few times but i've had 2 powercuts and some dodgy net connections. This time, at last it worked!

I'm in Udaipur at the minute, but i'll probably just cover that off on my next entry, which will probably be just before I leave India for Bali next week. I came to Udaipur 2 days ago from Agra, I promised I wasn't going to gloat about my trip or where I am, but 2 days ago this was the view from my Hotel:

Taj from Hotel

Taj from Hotel

The magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra. I can honestly say the pictures don’t do it justice at all, up close it really is an incredible sight, truly one of the wonders of the world and one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was built and completed in 1653 by The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (or should I say 20,000 of his ‘employees’), in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal who died during childbirth of their 14th child at the age of 39, the poor woman must’ve been knackered! In all seriousness though, if this is what he built in her memory I can only imagine how beautiful she was herself.

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After it was completed things didn’t go so well for the old romantic, he was overthrown by his son allegedly because he wanted to build a black replica across the river for himself, which could have bankrupted the Mughal Empire. So he spent the last 8 years of his life in a cell at Agra Fort overlooking his stunning tribute. Apparently, he had one of the best views of the Taj during his stay, I’m sure that made everything alright then.

Since my last entry, when I was in Shimla, it’s been an eventful 10 days. I left Shimla for McLeod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Govt. in exile. I thought I’d surprise his holiness with the visit, but he called my bluff and went to Dublin at the invitation of his friend and Derry man, Richard Moore. I didn’t mind too much, Richard’s story is pretty incredible and probably warrants the friendship of the great man. He was shot and blinded by a rubber bullet during the troubles in Northern Ireland, but went on to find and befriend the soldier who shot him, a real beacon of light for friendship and reconciliation if ever there was one I reckon.

Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama

Ok so the Dalai Lama wasn’t about, but even so I have to say McLeod Ganj is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. When I arrived it was dark and pissing down, so I just got to my hotel, got a feed and went to sleep after the long journey. When I woke up the next morning and opened my curtains I had the biggest smile my whole trip so far. At last the snowcapped peaks I was looking for right there in front of and way, way above me. I was so happy I even done a wee dance, luckily no one was about to see that though!

Snowcap

Snowcap

Aside from the natural beauty of McLeod Ganj and the laidback nature of the little town in the hills, the other main feature of the place is the plight of the many Tibetan’s living in exile here. I can honestly say I have never met a group of people more kind, gentle and genuinely friendly as the Tibetan’s. A people rich in history, tradition and warm sentiment and certainly not deserving of the treatment they receive at the hands of the Chinese Government, who are at this very moment essentially trying to wipe out the Tibetan way of life by moving Han-Chinese to Tibet, who already outnumber the 6 million Tibetans bravely residing in their occupied homeland.

Tibet Wall

Tibet Wall

While in McLeod I had the pleasure to meet some of the ex-political prisoners during English conversational classes. I was invited by a crazy Celtic fan from Glasgow called Steve, who was really passionate about these guys. So much so that on our last day with them we sang You’ll Never Walk Alone, partly because I’m a Liverpool fan and Steve’s a Celtic fan and the Tibetans we chatted to, including a Buddhist monk were football mad, but also because we felt the meaning of the song wouldn’t be lost on these amazing guys with equally amazing stories. To thank us and to wish us luck on our onward journeys they presented us in the traditional Tibetan way, with white scarves and warm embraces. It was a really emotional moment and one I’ll keep with me the rest of my days. I would love to show some pictures but was asked not to take any to ensure the safety of the ex-prisoners. I can only presume the Chinese don’t know they are in McLeod, and it should certainly stay that way I think.

Freedom Wall

Freedom Wall

I had 7 fantastic nights in that wonderful town, but time is always a-ticking so I had to move on. Next stop Amritsar and the Golden Temple, home to the Sikh religion. The journey was another 7 hours on a bus, not too bad in all, and it actually gave better views of the whole snowcapped mountain range behind McLeod, but the bus was too bumpy so I didn’t get anymore pictures. Also, I met a fella from Tipperary in Ireland with the same first AND second name as me! Apart from my Dad and Grandfather I’ve only ever met 1 other person in my life with my first name Edmund, never mind both so that was pretty bizarre.
When I arrived in Amritsar there was the usual hustle and bustle at the station, but I’d booked a hotel ahead this time, something I’m learning to do more and more here. So bish, bosh, bash I got a motor rickshaw, got checked in and had a nice snooze. As the Aussies say ‘Too Easy Mayte’!

Once I was rested I met with the other Eddie and 2 nice Americans, Jenny and Aaron and we headed to the border with Pakistan to watch the border closing ceremony at Wagah. This without a doubt is a highlight of any trip here. You sit in a grandstand on the Indian side while just across the road the Pakistani’s also sit in their grandstand with the border wall in between. On each side there’s cheerleaders and huge sound systems whipping the crowds into a passionate frenzy that cumulates with soldiers on each side doing the ministry of funny walks sketch from Monty Python, taking the flags down and doing the quickest handshake and salute, before slamming the gates on each side shut for the night.

The next day I had to get a train to Agra via Delhi (15 hours), but not until the evening. So obviously just to kill time I took a wander round the Golden Temple, not because I wanted to or anything like. I have to say though when I got there I was astonished not just by the beauty of the central Temple, which is covered in Gold plates, but also the surrounding walls and serenity within the entire site. Now I’m not religious but it did give me a pretty nice feeling walking around and seeing the pilgrims’ devotion to something higher. One of the things that make Sikhs so special is that they are inclusive with everyone no matter what religion, colour or creed. An example of this is the food hall within the temple, said to feed 60,000 to 80,000 people A DAY, FOR FREE! It doesn’t matter whether you’re a pilgrim, a tourist or simply hungry, everyone is welcome. Its open 24 hours a day and has been for a very, very longtime! They even provide dorms for free, although they do accept donations of any amount, which isn’t a lot to ask really.

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I spent a few hours there in the day and then went back again at night for a different view before my train left, and wasn’t disappointed at all. So after another walk around the temple I went and collected my bags and caught the sleeper train (complete with bed) to Delhi and then on to Agra, and here I am. Well I hope that wasn’t too long and boring. I’m off next to Udaipur in Rajasthan, The Land of the Kings no less. Udaipur is where they filmed the bond movie Octopussy, and it’s supposed to be very nice, so it should be interesting. As usual I’ll get all the dirt and some more pictures up next week wrapping up my time here in India. As always thanks for travelling with me.
All the best.
Eddie

Posted by Redmundial 00:36 Archived in India Tagged temple golden amritsar mcleod ganj dharamsala tibetans wagah Comments (1)

Rollercoaster of Emotions

Delhi to Shimla

Welcome back to a new edition of me waffling about my goings on ‘on the road’ here in India. The last one was just to get me started really, I’m notorious at starting one thing and then doing something else, but I promise I’m definitely gonna try and keep this blog going.

I was only in Delhi for 1 night and the next day I met my Indian friend Sunny and some of his family and we drove for about 3 hours north to the province of Haryana to his family’s home. Sunny hadn’t been back for 4 years and had a lot of catching up to do, but he made time to introduce me to his huge family over 2 days, including a party on the 1st night with Bhangra drums and dancing (no booze though). His father has 9 brothers and 2 sisters, with children, grandchildren and with family friends there too there was a lot of people to meet. His family are Sikh and I can confirm firsthand that they are some of the most hospitable people around (I wasn’t allowed to pay for anything for 2 days!!).

Sunny and friends

Sunny and friends

So after an amazing introduction to Indian family life I took off on a packed bus north towards Kalka where I’d get the ‘Toy Train’ through the mountains to Shimla. When I arrived in Kalka though I started to feel the effects of some street food I had in Haryana. According to lonely planet 30-70% of people get ‘Delhi Belly’ within the 1st 2 weeks of arriving here, its safe to say I’m in that category.

So a few antibiotics and 2 days later I went and booked onto the Shimla Toy Train, but there were no seats available only a first come first served carriage. Luckily I got there an hour and half early and got a seat for the 6 hour journey. After all the seats were taken people came in their droves and squeezed onto the train for standing. At one point I expected some guy to jump out from Guinness book of records and say the record had been broken for the number of people packed into a train carriage, but no we took off, and to be fair to the people standing they didn’t seem too bothered, they were laughing and smiling, although after 4 or 5 hours understandably that changed. I couldn’t complain to be honest, like I said I had a seat and that only cost me 33 rupees, which is about £1/$1.70!

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The toy train route is classed as a UNESCO heritage site and it didn’t take long to see why. The track was built by the British when they were in control of India as a way to access Shimla, which was to become their summer place of governance, because of the cool mountain air. Along the route you wind around mountain after mountain, through 103 tunnels to the dizzying height of 2,205 meters (7,234 feet), halfway to Everest base camp which is 5,545 meters (18,192 feet). The views more than enough to forget your sharing a carriage with half of India, although not for one little girl who was sick on mine and her dads legs :-(. He was less than happy, she was just happy it was out!

Eventually we arrived at Shimla train station about 6pm. I’m always a bit funny arriving at bus/train stations/airports. Usually there’s a million and one taxi/tuktuk drivers/touts trying to get your attention, your tired but have to be alert to make sure not to make a wrong decision i.e. dodgy taxi/hotel etc. This is probably the most vulnerable you are to thieves and tricksters as well. I literally fought my way through and got a taxi to take me to the YMCA, and yes I know “young man theres a place you can go…”, but despite that it was a nice place and most importantly clean! That’s something that often eludes you when you’re here is a clean environment, it really makes you appreciate what we have at home, clean water/streets/air etc.

Apart from a clean room and bathroom, the other things the YMCA offered was a great breakfast and an amazing view of both Shimla and the valleys below and beyond. A perfect place to sip on some Chai, Indian tea mixed with lots of sugar, milk and spices such as cinnamon. Shimla itself is a cool little town, founded in 1822 by a Scottish Civil servant called Charles Kennedy. It’s a tourist town set in the mountains, where Indians and foreigners come in their droves for the cool air and amazing views. I was hoping to see some snow topped mountains, considering I was in the Himalayas, but the weather was a bit too hazy and they never materialised. My next stop is McLeod Ganj, home to the Dalai Lama and further north, so hopefully I’ll get to see some real Himalayan mountains then. Catch ya then ;-)

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Posted by Redmundial 01:31 Archived in India Comments (0)

The Eagle Has Landed

25 °C

Today I arrived into Delhi after a great flight from London, 9 hours with Kingfisher airways. When I booked it I was half expecting to be sharing a cargo hold with caged chickens or something. In all fairness I couldn’t have been more pleased, the food and movies were great, I didn’t have to pay for any drinks and my neighbor on the flight, a Swedish fella called Andreus was good conversation to boot.

So I arrived anyway and got through immigration fairly fast. I’m not the most patient person in the world when I’m tired and immigration queues are when you have to show that you are patient (and not a drug fiend), or you might end up seein that wee room on banged up abroad. No thanks!

I walked out of arrivals and as I’d arranged there was my name on a sign for my lift to the hotel bang on time. The drivers name was Khan, a shy fella from Nepal who had worked in India for 15 years. How he has survived driving in Delhi that long I’ll never understand. Not even Hanoi in Vietnam can really prepare you for the drive from the airport. No one uses indicators and everyone ignores the lane markings completely, so I was a bit nervous to say the least but sure it was an adventure all the same.

Khan the Man

Khan the Man

the nice relaxing drive...naaaat!

the nice relaxing drive...naaaat!

I’m only in Delhi for 1 night before meeting my friend Sunny, who’s visiting his family here in India after a long stint in Oz. The plan is to drive north towards the state of Punjab, I’m not sure exactly where, but I’ve just been told by a Canadian couple I met at dinner that it’s amazing no matter where you go there, the best place they visited in 9 weeks here. Huge Mountain ranges, insanely hospitable people and lots of whisky, right up my street! I’ll try to get another update on all that soon as well as a few pictures. Bye for now. Eddie :-)

Posted by Redmundial 20:13 Archived in India Tagged traffic delhi kingfisher Comments (0)

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