Friday, January 20, 2017

India Part 4: Mumbai

India Part 4: Mumbai

India Part 4: Mumbai

Getting around in India has been more of a pain than I had expected so I decided to take a flight from Udaipur to Mumbai. The price wasn't too bad and the flight was an hour and a half compared to ten or more hours on a bus/train. This meant that when I arrived in Mumbai I had a full day ahead of me and I was quite rested.

Accommodations in Mumbai were much more expensive than the other places I had been to so far so I opted for a budget room found through Airbnb. I stayed with a couple of sisters, and their two cats, in the Bandra area. Bandra isn't one of the main attractions of Mumbai but it was pretty cool walking around and seeing daily life in the outskirts of Mumbai. There was also amazing food in Bandra.

Some of the highlights of Mumbai were the docks, the Gateway of India and the beaches. Another sort of silly highlight for me was seeing some giant bats in the trees outside of the place I was staying. These bats were the size of house cats, not something I had seen before in my life.

The docks were a place I just wandered into sort of by accident. There were no other tourists in there so I later looked it up and saw that it was in fact a destination that tourists can and do visit. It was mostly working fishermen doing all the things you'd expect to see working fishermen doing. People were fixing nets, sorting fish, de-shelling shrimp, fueling up boats and eating lunch.

The beaches that I was saw were not your typical vacation beaches (but I do hear there are some nice beaches to hang out in Mumbai), rather it was just a beach on the edge of a very large and busy city. It was cool to see the bridges and the locals who hang out on and around the beaches.

Mumbai is known for having its extremely apparent wealth gaps and that was something that I did notice despite not going out of my way to see the infamous slums.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

India Part 3: Pushkar, Jodhpur and Udaipur

India Part 3: Pushkar, Jodhpur and Udaipur

For the rest of my tour through Rajasthan I went to Pushkar Jodhpur and Udaipur.

For me, Pushkar was the highlight of Rajasthan. I originally planned to just spend one night in order to split up the trip between Jaipur and Jodhpur. As soon as I arrived I realized that this holy city was a place worth exploring so I decided to stay an extra night. It is a very small place but everything about it stood out from the moment I arrived. I now wish I had stayed even longer.

Pushkar has 1000's of temples which must make it one of the mostly densely templed places in the world. This is what gives this extremely holy city the deeply spiritual feeling and vibes that you experience while walking around. It is also a particularly popular place for Isrealis to vacation or move to long term. Many signs are in Hebrew and there is lots of Isreali food which I did enjoy at a local restaurant owned by some Isreali expats. The owner of the hostel I stayed at drove me out into the countryside to meet the Aloo Baba. This is a holy man who has only eaten potatoes for the past 18 years. It seems people bring him potatoes and other non-edible treats quite regularly. Other than that I ate lots of vegetarian food in this strictly vegetarian society. The food was really good, and that is coming from someone who cannot go an entire meal without meat outside of India. I also walked around some temples and the holy lake that the city surrounds.

My next stop was Jodhpur, the blue city. Overlooking the city is an ancient palace that is now only used for tourists. From there you can really see the blueness of the city. Like most places in Rajasthan there was a lot of great food to try, mostly street foods. I walked around the fort, a few temples and just explored the city.

From Jodhpur I took a bus to Udaipur where I spent a couple nights before my flight to Mumbai. Again, Udaipur was filled with ancient forts, palaces and temples. It is also a popular romantic destination for couples. Lots of rooftop restaurants overlooking the lakes where some famous palaces are located.   

Sunday, January 8, 2017

India Part 2: Agra to Jaipur

India Part 2: Agra to Jaipur

The Taj Mahal is a madhouse but it is beautiful.

I took an early train from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. My train out of Agra was later that night as recommended to me by someone working at the hostel I stayed at in Delhi. This was a mistake because there were huge delays and I ended up splitting a taxi with a nice Russian couple.

My first stop in the state of Rajasthan was Jaipur. Jaipur is a beautiful city filled with palaces and a giant fort balled The Amber Fort. The architecture of these old forts and buildings surrounding the usual market and street scenes, as well as the occasional elephant or camel walking down the street, really give you the feel of what Rajasthan has to offer. This was the first day of many filled with the forts and palaces of Rajasthan. There was also delicious food as usual.

Monday, January 2, 2017

India Part 1: New Delhi

India Part 1: New Delhi

I came prepared for the worst: stomach issues, poverty, demonetization and pollution. Those expectations are probably why I liked Delhi better than expected. To sum up Delhi, and India so far, it is beautiful despite being dirty.

The food has been a highlight. I went on an early morning bicycle tour of old Delhi pretty much as soon as I arrived. During the tour we ate some fresh baked roti that was baked right in the street in a mass production for a large portion of the city. It was very fresh but because of the location and dirtiness I was a bit worried that I would be getting sick on my first day. Later in the tour I also tried some fresh guava for the first time in my life followed by a popular Indian breakfast. A few hours later I was still feeling great and have gotten more adventurous with the foods that I eat. And, they have been just the best.

The poverty thing strikes me as being what my hometown of Portland Oregon would look like if the population was somewhere around the 20 million mark that is Delhi. That is to say, it wasn't quite as shocking or awful as I expected, but it is a fact of life here.

Demonetization made me extremely worried as soon as I arrived because it was very difficult to get any cash at the airport and none of the taxis took cards. After finally getting some cash and taking the subway (to save cash) into the city I quickly got the hang of it and haven't had too difficult of a time finding cash.

The pollution is real!

Now for the pictures: foods, forts, markets and temples of all sorts.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Nepal Part 3: Chitwan National Park

Nepal Part 3: Chitwan National Park

This addition to my trip was Rick's idea and was a pretty cool experience as well so. Rick, nice call! Chitwan is one of the few places where tigers still live in the wild. This was the main attraction and unfortunately we didn't see one, but, we did see a handful of wild rhinos. Pretty cool if you ask me. There are a ton of other wildlife in the area which, as you can see from my pictures, can be quite difficult to photograph without really great (expensive) photography gear. I did my best.

Our trip in Chitwan was a 2 night 3 day walking tour with a short canoe ride at the beginning. Other than the wildlife the highlights for me were the first nights stay in a very small village called Madi, and the awesome tour guides. To get to Madi (as well as leave) we had to cross a river. The food out our home-stay in the village was the best Nepali food we had this trip. Also, I haven't seen stars like that in years. After dinner in Madi our tour guide told us about an infamous wild elephant in the area who has killed tens of villagers in Madi and surrounding areas. In the morning or first military checkpoint (the place you show your pass to enter the park) had been visited by this famous elephant. Some damage had been done to the fence and one of the buildings but no one was hurt.

Other than the dozens of deer, boars, crocodiles, monkeys and different birds, there were a couple of wildlife highlights to the trip as well. Very early the first day the guides stopped us and told us to be quite because they heard some rusting in the bushes. To my untrained ear I thought the rustling was so loud that it must be an elephant or a rhino. After a few seconds I noticed that the animal was extremely close, so close that I could hear the deep breathing. Turns out this was a pair of sloth bears. They dig into the ground to find termites and breath deeply to suck them up. We didn't spot them but they couldn't have been more than ten feet away.

The other cool wildlife spotting was a time that our guides really showed their tracking ability. We followed the guide off the jeep path into the unbeaten path like many other times before. After walking around for some time, clearly looking for something that they smelled or sensed or saw signs of that were completely invisible to me and rick, both of our guides started to climb a tree. They quickly told us to climb the tree and before we could even start climbing the loud stomps of a rhino mother and its child came toward us. Luckily they were running away from us because I'm not sure the tree would have been enough. From the tree we could see the two rhinos clearly.

As for tigers, we could see where they clawed up the trees and ground to mark their territory. There were also tons of tracks in the sand and mud every day. One time I think the guide must have got us very close because we got to an area where something had been freshly killed and we could smell the scent of the animal marking its area. The guide eventually decided it must have been a leopard by the way the tracks disappeared.

Overall Chitwan was quite fun and despite not seeing any of the harder to spot animals we both had a good time walking through the jungle with our guides.