2 Days in the Capital City

Jaipur, India
We arrived in Jaipur after a public bus ride lasting just shy of 4 hours. It held 25 people, and guess what...25 people were taking the bus. There was such little room on the bus that I had to ride with my day pack on my lap for hours. We arrived a little before 1:00 in the Capital City of Rajasthan and got our rooms. I am sharing with Sam and unlike all others we got a refrigerator. This will be very essential for keeping the drinks cold for later at night. Most of us went out for a quick lunch, since our hotel charged an arm and a leg. We ate a nice little western-style coffee/cafe. We returned to our hotel for a orientation walk around the city. Ajit took us into the city...we all needed to hire rickshaws to get get there though. It only cost us 20 Rps. each and there were 4 of us to one rickshaw. We walked around and took in what the capital city if Rajasthan had to offer. A lot of begging and high-pitched horns from the traffic. We all went our separate ways once we got to the heart of the city center. I split off and went to the City Palace (see photo on right). It sucked. Maybe I've just seen much nicer things, but it just had no original architecture, art, etc. Most of the others didn't even go inside. It cost me 50 Rps. ($1.00 USD) and it was NOT worth it. I walked in the direction of our hotel. I met some guy named Sonny who asked me a question. I was reading a lonely planet on the side of a street when he had asked me, "Why do tourists always read their lonely planets in stead of just talking with the local Indians"? I told him it was because most of the people tourists talk to try to rip them off, sell them somethings, or drive/ride them somewhere. He said he wanted to show me 'real' India, and since I had no where special to be, I went along with it. He asked me to join him for a cup of chai, and with much skepticism, I complied. We walked between some buildings into a very trashy and authentically poor Indian chai stand. A young boy, the chai walla, poured a glass for me and for Sonny. We were drinking and Sonny started telling me about some handicapped people making jewelry and that the profits went to a good cause and were cheaper than the street vendors who sold to the tourists. I was laughing very hard inside because I knew he was trying to pitch his business to me and sell me some shoddy jewelry, but I played along. I mean he was right...he did show me the 'true India'. This true India I talk about is the nation of lazy con men, but they don't see it that way. It's part of their culture to rip you off and to get the "rich person's money". I don't speak for every Indian, just the majority that I've come in contact with, which if you take a look at a map, I've covered a pretty good area to have a good unbiased data sample. You're the safest when you ask a professional banker or hotel manager. Don't bother asking ANYONE else because even when you approach them they have an alternative motive to get your money. I've said this before, but being poor has weight in the matter, since Cambodians and the natives of Lao both are more poor than these Indians, yet they are honest people. Again, I don't speak for all Indians, and you have to understand I'm in a tourist area. But it would be nice to be somewhere visiting where the locals in that city are willing to help you and not cheat/pester you. Enough said. I've met MANY nice Indians who have tried their hardest to help me. After Sonny took me into his jewelry shop I said. "later bro" and ditched him and through out his business cards...I did tell him I wasn't going to buy anything, but he was too dense to realize I had him figured out before he even knew my name.

Of course I got lost on my way back. I mean would you expect anything less...or I should say more? I tried to ask around for directions, but no one spoke English and where I was trying to find. My map in the Lonely Planet was 'very' limited also. I finally fired a rickshaw driver on bike to help me. He had to ask 4 or 5 men to find my hotel, but we finally got there. I got the price down to 30 Rps., but I gave him 35. I ate dinner at the hotel last night and it was horrible. Quite expensive as well...A couple of us wanted to order Pizza Hut, but that never happened. We drank on the rooftop of our hotel and I went to bed around 11:00.
Woke up the next day and left for the General Post Office (GPO). I took a tuk-tuk there for 50 Rps. and then paid a man 70 Rps (see photo on left). to package my stuff. I sent 4 saris, 2 patchwork wall hangings, and 2 books. One book is Lila, I bought it in Thailand, but it's just too big to lug around here. The other book, 'The White Tiger', is for you Mom...read it. It shouldn't take more than a couple days, very easy read. My package weighed in at 3.440 kg, which is roughly 7.5 lbs. Sea mail wasn't offered this time of year so I was able to choose from AIR or SURFACE mail. Air mail was 1565 Rps. ($31.30 USD) and surface mail was around 600 Rps. ($12 USD). Air took 15 days, while surface only took 30 days. I wanted to send it via surface mail, but I just couldn't understand how the hell you can send ANYTHING via surface from India to American when there was no land mass between them? I just went with air. I walked around, taking in the city life if Jaipur. I must have been harassed by 25 to 50 drivers demanding I tell them where I am going. I said, just walking around, but that wasn't enough. I was surprisingly patient and polite to EVERY one of these 'beggars'. I simply said, "No thank you, I know where I'm going and would like to walk. Have a nice day sir". If only that was enough, they would follow me and verbally demand I let them drive me around. I never once lost my cool. There are SO many beggars here, kids, cripples, mothers with their children...I refuse to give them any money so I bought some individually wrapped candies for them. I handed them out to the children that came up to beg, they looked very happy to have them, but proffered money. They couldn't speak English and I told them, "beggars shouldn't be choosers". I chuckled, and they didn't comprehend, so I felt there was no damage done. You can see a typical road in Jaipur, with all the load honking below in the video.

I actually got back to my hotel and didn't take ANY wrong turns. It was a 4+ km walk and took me well over half an hour of brisk walking, but I made it. Today at 2:30 we're meeting in the lobby to go to a Bollywood movie in a very nice cinema. It's supposedly one of the finest in Asia. The movie is from 3:00 to 6:00 and is in Hindi. A three hour movie with NO English subtitles. Tomorrow we are taking a bus to Bharatpur, India.

2 Days in Pushkar, India

Udaipur, India
The cooking class in Udaipur was very fun and lasted over 3.5 hours. We learned how to cook many dishes (see photo on left of me cooking). At night we went to the Monsoon Palace to watch the sun set. This was the palace that was in the movie with James Bond called Octopussy. It was very unimpressive, the palace that is, not the sunset. We left the following day at 6:15 to catch our 7:00 train to Adjer. The 5.5 hour train ride sucked since it was hot and we had no a/c (obviously). After arriving in Adjer we took taxis for 20 to 30 minutes to get to our final destination.
Pushkar, India
After arriving in our hotel we were given our room assignments. Since there was an odd number of boys we have been rotating who gets the single room and this time it was my turn. Not only did I have the room to myself, but I had the nicest of all the rooms available in the entire hotel. My bed was of the king-size' and I even had an air conditioner--thought I blew the fuse on it within the first 3 hours. I had a color TV with over 25 stations, although everyone single one was in Hindi. My bathroom was enormous, although fairly simple. At lest this time the since was inside the bathroom and we even got a mirror. Every surface was marble except for, or course, the ceiling. My bed had a very nice cover thing on it, which I am not sure of the name (see photo on right). We met for lunch and then went out for a walk into the city (see photo on left). After reaching well into the city I turned back and went back alone just because the others were all going off to go shopping. From the time I left the hotel until the time I returned was a little over and hour and a quarter. That's quite a lot of non-stop walking in 95+ degree heat. Please see photo of the city. At night we met for dinner on our hotel's rooftop restaurant. Just a reminder...this entire city does not serve any alcohol, egg, or meat since it's a holy city. At dinner we watched bootlegged copy of Slumdog Millionaire on a big screen TV. The audio and video tracks were off by a few milliseconds which we all got used to but was still pretty annoying. Everybody enjoyed the movie, but I thought it was 10 times more emotionally powerful when I saw it at home on the big screen. Some of it was because of the 'non-cinema' atmosphere, but I think the biggest thing is the following--I've been in India for a couple weeks and have been to Lao and Cambodia, both of which are VERY poor, and have gotten used to what was shown in the movie so it wasn't really a 'shocking experience' the second time I watched it. I got a pizza with vegetables, fruits, olives, mushrooms, etc. which took 90 minutes to get. This place was very slow. I got a banana split, which was OK, but nothing like back at home. I think when I'm in Jaipur tomorrow I'll go to an ice cream place or a McDonald's for some real dessert.

Today I ate a light breakfast, chai masala and a fruit salad. We all went to the lake where all but 5 of us got puja done. The people actually paid some buy 100 rupees to get a string tied on their wrists and then the 'priest' said a prayer for them and their family. Man what gullible people. And get this, our tour guide got the guy beforehand to do it. All the lonely planets say not to do this because it's a scam. For god's sake, who needs to be told that paying someone to say a prayer for you is a rip-off? Afterwards we went to a place called Pink Floyd's cafe where they played Pink Floyd and other psychedelic music. They apparently served hash drinks as well as opium teas and shakes. Afterwards the others got falafel, but I went my own way...staying with that group just slows me down. They take so damn long for everything. I went to look at some shops that had paintings, but I wasn't 100% that they weren't just prints so I left. I went to 4 or 5 other places looking for some type of patchwork. I wanted to buy some hing else since the journals were cheap enough that paying to send them home wasn't economical. At the last place I went to I found 'something close' to what I was looking for. Ideally I wanted a dark blue wall hanging with yellow, gold, or orange patches. I decided on just getting two patch works. One is dark blue which can be a wall hanging our rug and the other is orange and can be a wall hanging our a table runner. It's quite long for a table runner though. See the photos on the right, these are the ones I bought and plan to send home with my journals.

On my way back to the hotel, about 10 minutes way, the 'hotel guy' gave me a lift on his motorcycle. I was back in my room writing in my journal (as I do EVERY DAY), the power went out. It stayed out for a little under an hour. I'm down the road now on the Internet because my hotel charges too much and charge per picture I upload. This Internet is dial-up speed and the computer is SO DAMN SLOW. I had half of this posting written and it just crashed on me, so I had to re-write it ALL over again. I hope you can share in my pain. Tomorrow we leave our hotel for a 4 or such hour bus ride to Jaipur, the capital or Rajasthan. Cheers!


2nd Day in Udaipur

A Long Day in Udaipur
Today was a very long day. It started by me waking up at 7:00 sharp to go for a run and do some 250 sits up followed by 125 push ups...and man am I out of shape. I got back, showered, and the dropped of my laundry at some place that looks like it has been vacant for years. It was a good 20 minute walk from my hotel and I'm almost 80% sure that I'll be able to find it again when I have to pick up my stuff. I made it back to my hotel by 9:30 to meet the group. Ajit, our guide, was going to take us around the City Palace (see a picture of me inside on left). I had to pay 50 Rp. to get in and another 200 Rp to take my camera in...DAMN!. It was just OK. After seeing so much, it couldn't compare, but it was nice still the same. Afterwards we went to a silver jewelry shop so that some people could buy stuff for themselves and as for gifts. The stuff was pretty crappy, but I guess the others had NO idea on what constituted as quality and what as cow manure...but that just confirms my initial assessment on how these people are the 'typical' western tourists...that is, they have no individual thought, they just pay whatever they are told to pay, and are just ignorant people. Just last night all the girls were talking about how they couldn't wait until they had their fortune read from a palm reader. They were discussing the 'science' behind it and then they finally asked what I thought. I told them how you can 'cold read' someone based on what they wear, how they speak, their posture, etc. I told them there was no science behind it and it's entire market is perpetuated by voodoo worshiping undereducated people. Well, obviously I didn't say that, but God knows I wanted to. I went to look for some saris with the Norwegian girls, and then after that went with Lisa, the German girl. I went to AT LEAST 6 or 7 different places and shopped around for price and quality. I bought 3 saris from one place and then 1 from another place. In total the initial asking price was around 4500 to 5000 Rps for all 4. I bargained and bargained for the better part of 2 hours. I ended up walking out on 2 shop keepers hoping they would call my bluff, they didn't. Luckily the other 2 did call it and immediately ran after me in the streets demanding I come back to hear their 'new Final Offer'. That's funny, I always thought a final offer meant they would not give another one? I was able to get the saris for a total of 2400 Rps., which was about half of what they had originally asked for them. Now for comparison, the others in my group ALL PAID what the shop keepers ORIGINALLY ASKED FOR. It's sad because I KNOW that all of these people (likely) will suffer severely from this down turning economy. Maybe if they were not completely thoughtless they would not get ripped off. I am sorry, I digress, I don't mean to turn this blog into a negative group-session, but you have to understand. It's very hard for me to be surrounded by people that had the level of comprehension about their surroundings I likely had more than 7 or 8 years ago. UGH. Anyways, I went to an incense 'place' with Lisa, which was behind some type of kiosk and in a very very grungy little closet-filled shack. The guy claimed that all his incense was 'home made'. OK that was lie number one. Next he was saying that he exported to all the major distributors in the world. OK that was lie number two. Next he claimed that he couldn't go any lower as I told Lisa to haggle since he was already selling it at cost. That was lie number three...and boy was that the worst of the lies. But get this LISA actually believed him, felt bad, and then offered 100 Rps. more so he could make a profit. I wanted to kick her for that...but instead I bit my tongue and went to the post office to mail my post cards, all 7 of them. That reminds me, have any of you received mine yet? I only had to pay $0.24 per post card, which is much less than the $1.15+ I paid while in Lao. The post office looked like a repossessed car garage no larger than 750 sq. ft. There was no feeling of semblance and I had ask 4 people there how to go about sending a post card to America. I received my stamps and had to ask manually glue each of the stamps to the post cards, since they were not self-adhesive. They were just paper. I even had to use my own finger to get the glue out of the container and onto the post card...how precious. Afterwards I got two big bananas that only cost me 5 Rps (10 cents) and then went to shop for some leather bound journals. I LOVE THE FEEL OF LEATHER BOUND JOURNALS. I went into 4 or 5 shops that carried these journals to test the waters. I got a pretty good idea of what the selection was and their prices. I spent no less than 45 minutes shopping in the place I decided I would actually do my purchasing (see picture on right). I love opening them up and then closing them and wrapping the leather strap around to fasten them closed. They just felt like something right out of "Raiders of the Last Ark". I don't know what it is about them, but whenever I hold a leather bound book I can't help but feel that the book has some inherent value and meaning...which is stupid, but oh well. I ended up buying 7 (yeah you heard me, ) journals. Some as gifts, some for myself, and some in hopes to sell for a profit. But I got a pretty good deal since I bought in bulk. The shop keeper even offered me a nice hot chai, which I gladly accepted. I am going to go to the 7:30 showing of Octopussy w/ James Bond at some rooftop restaurant close by. I'll have my dinner while I watch the flick. Apparently part of the movie was filmed here, in Udaipur, so many local places have DAILY showing of it.

I am not sure why this group is not as good as my last group? Maybe because they are younger they are less experienced, and therefore less mature. Maybe it's because many of them are from England and that's how the British are (I don't really think this is correct). Maybe it's the type of people that come to India, but that also doesn't sound right. I really don't know why these people are so immature. Well I shouldn't say immature...more so childish and less intelligent. And I'm not using my typical 'high standards' for intelligence. I think I miss Kim and Lyn from my last group. If you're reading this KIM and LYN I MISS YOU GUYS SO MUCH. :(. O well, cheers everybody. Remember even though I am ranting on and on about my group don't think I'm not still getting along with them. I do a very good job adjusting to my atmosphere and 'having fun', but it's just not the ideal group. I'm enjoying every bit of my trip here in India. It's just very hard coming from such a great group in South East Asia.


Jodhpur to Udaipur

Last Night in Jodhpur
Last night we went out to eat last night at a very nice restaurant called "On The Rocks". There was a reserved room waiting for us. This room was stacked with plush couches and the walls were made to look like rocks as if we were inside a cave. There was a color TV and western music was being played loudly. This was a VERY rich place. We arrived around 7:15 and many of us were quite hungry, but we were only having drink now and had to wait for the table. We waited over 1 hour and 15 minutes. By the time we finally ordered we had all decided what each of us were ordering. I got Mutton Ra-Ra and it was great...man did I miss the taste of meat.

Udaipur, India
The next morning (today) I woke up at half past 6:00 and packed my bags...AGAIN! We hailed auto-rickshaws and went to the bus stop. We left Jodhpur at 7:30 sharp and were on our way to Udaipur. We made one 15 minute stop around noon for the bathroom and some snacks. I asked where the bathrooms where and a man said anywhere and made a hand gesture pointing all around. I took a leak to the right of a food stall with my back facing the bus. Others went to urinate as well, but in front of me...staring at me as they walked past. We then boarded the bus again and drove until half past 3. I sat next to Deb, who had a window seat. We moved up a row immediately since we noticed, by the rancid smell, a splatter of vomit on the window beside us. I took a sleeping pill immediately and got a good hours sleep (at most). I read the last 200 pages in my book and listened to at least 60 Dave Matthews Band songs. I have never read that many pages in one sitting before. The book turned our to very insightful and I'm glad I read it during my travels in India. I recommend you all read it. It was called "The White Tiger" in case you forgot and it won some 2008 book award. It made me think about my driver in Delhi, Mr. Kamal, and it makes me very sad. O well. I'm in Udaipur right now and it's very nice. Much more touristy than the other cities we've been to so far. I actually see other white people here. I'm thinking about buying some journals and maybe a new hookah, but the shipping may make any purchase pointless. It's much hotter here in the south. We are staying in a hotel that is right on the lake. We have a rooftop restaurant that is 5 or 6 floors up, so the view is great. Our room has plenty of space, but the bathroom is far from luxurious. There is just a bottom part of a toilet and we have to manually flush the toilet by filling a plastic jug with water and repeatedly pouring water into the bowl. I don't mind at all. I think I am going to plan my next trip around the United States. I think it would a great experience to backpack around the 'middle' states, maybe a feel a motorcycle/camping trip coming my way?

Anyways, here are pics the sights that are in Udaipur, India:
The Lake Palace (see picture above left)
The Taj Lake Palace (see picture above right)