Saturday, November 03, 2007

India 5: Udaipur city


It' s a pleasant town by the lake and famous for its palace and temple. As you can probably tell from the picture, the pace is slow here. It's from some detail that you learn that there's something special about this town. "Miniature" is the special art form they master here. If you have the time to draw things nicely on your wall, that probably means that your life is wealthy/relaxed enough that you can afford to have a hobby. Anyway, exquisite colorful pattern of animals, humans and buildings can be seem on the streets, and this miniature art is also the focus of the exhibition in a local museum.

After having breakky with my new friend at the hotel, I headed out alone to explore the city. Yes, despite the fact they can easily invite the other person to hang out together for the day, stubborn people will pretend that they are still very independent and don't need any company. I went out for a walk and the major sites - temple and city palace - are all within walking distances. I met some local kids in an alley while I wandered around and they insisted on showing me their special swimming spot along the lake, I went along, they jumped in, invited me to join as well. The weather is warm, the water seems nice, and I haven't swim since in Pukhet few weeks ago. It's tempting but eventually I turned around and walked away.


Miniature and some nice deco on the door.


Jagdish Temple


Sitting in a roof cafe, having my lunch and chai, and watching "the traffic" goes by.


The traffic gets "busier"...


Day 2.
I am here for only one night and will jump on the 16-hour overnight train to Mumbai this evening. After waking up, I ordered Pakota for breakfast. Pakota is something like tempura that they coat stuff with some powder and then deep fry them. But the difference is, as you can probably guess it again, the coating has the taste of curry as well. I learnt about making pakota before while I was in Australia. At that time we use chickpea powder as the coating but the result is not quite like this one. Anyway, I met Joanna again after the meal. She's about to check out and move to a community near this city. She's the kind of traveller that will actually settle down somewhere and live like a local. I forgot how it happened but we ended up deciding to rent bikes to explore the city and the neighborhood for the day. It's pleasant to ride along the lake, and we went to some village and a museum that display traditional craft work and culture.








What more can you ask for when you have your own island, a boat, cozy tent and a tree?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

India 4: Udaipur

It's not really that comfy to sleep but again I chose to spend my night on the overnight train from Jaipur to Udaipur. I woke up a couple times but the 9-hour journey actually passed quite quickly. I always pick upper berth while booking for overnight train so i can be far from the hassle of the aisle. Since I tend to go for the cheaper non-AC carriages, many things would happen in this "open" space. Vendors would jump in and try to sell you some food that wrapped in leaves while the train stops. Beggars would approach in many different ways. Anyway, upper berth is also a good place to observe but not to get involved.

After arriving Udaipur in the morning, I noticed another backpacker leaving the station alone so I went forward. "Hey would you like to share a rickshaw to town?" She's from Poland and has been traveling for around 1 year as well. For some reason she can't take a plane, so from Europe she traveled overland thorough middle east, worked there for a while, and then came all the way to India. Her response was something like "er..Ok..I was thinking about getting the local bus, but since you asked..."

This is how it works for rickshaw drivers to get some extra money. They will offer a low price to take you somewhere, and then will drop you off in one or several gem stores or souvenir shops first. They can get paid by the time you stay in that shop, or get certain percentage from the price you paid. Our rickshaw driver is a good but sincere business man. I booked a room in another hotel already and Joanna has a place that she wants to go as well, but we both ended up staying in the place that our driver asked us to "have a look" before he takes us to where we wanted to go. Hotel Monalisa it is. We each got one's own room but then traveled to some sites together afterward.

People would get the impression that most people don't usually travel alone in India, but I guess that's not true. I'm not saying this just because I travel alone there. Indeed tourists would come and go, and most backpackers would move as a small group. But at the same time India tends to draw certain type of people. People that have some kind of detachment in their personality. This kind of "detached" people would hang around on their own. This's probably why I have problem finding a travel partner here. People who rush around would stay in a group and have their itinerary. People who are alone tend to be the kind of people who like to be alone, or want to hang around in a place for a bit longer. As for me, I'm the kind of people that travel alone, "sometimes" like to be alone, love to hang around but end up rush around. It's hard to find a second person that has such travel behavior. Anyway, this is to explain why I spent most of the time by myself.

I'm a bit too chatty today that this post is now longer than how most people would ever bother to read. Let me stop here and I shall continue it someday. didn't even start to talk about the city yet...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

India 3: pink city

So far i wrote about Delhi and Agra, so maybe I should at least finish the golden triangle. Here it is.


Again, I woke up at 5 and rushed to the train station. My driver was waiting for me outside the hotel, and the sky was still dark when I left.

We managed to get to the station on time but the train didn't. According to other backpackers, this is not unusual since India is such a big county. We then waited for more than 3 hours until the train would finally show up. But I guess the delaying is actually a good thing for me. I found a stange code on my ticket while waiting and another backpacker told me that it means i'm on the waiting list. The delaying gave me the time to sort it out and find my mis-spelled name from a list on the billboard.



Jaipur, is also known as the pink city. As you might have seen in the photo, the city is in red and famous for the romantic pink glow during sunset.






The Amber Fort


View from jaigarh

Monday, June 18, 2007

India 2: Golden triangle



It's called the Golden Triangle of India. To some people, it's what India is all about. Delhi, Agra and Jaipur form a tourist loop that most visitors to India would come by. For me, I wouldn't mind following the crowds, especially before I get to know this country well enough.

So, the first stop is Delhi, the capital of this huge country. I might have said some bad things about this city but that's probably because I didn't give myself enough chance to see the whole city. I had some unpleasant experience dealing with the cycle-rickshaw drives/riders. So, after visiting Jama Masjid and Red Fort, I booked an early train to leave Delhi without even checking up the Modern part of the city, New Delhi.

I left my hotel before sunrise and walked to the train station alone. Pahar Ganji is still in some kind of madness even before the sun comes up. When I left, some part of me was secretly happy about not having to come back again since I plan to fly out of India from another city in the South.

It was a comfy 2-hour ride to Agra. Agra is famous for the gorgeous Taj Mahal. I did something that I didn't expect myself will do - I hired a auto-rickshaw and a driver to shuttle me around. The driver waited outside my hotel since I arrived and kept reminding me that he has 4 kids to feed while offering me a good price. I eventually gave in and stepped into his cab. He has been quite helpful in the beginning but somehow started the old trick of taking me to gem stores after lunch. After visiting 3 shops, I got quite depressed from the game we were playing and asked him to drop me back to my hotel, from where is around 10-min walk to Taj Mahal.

There's a long queue of Indian people waiting to get into Taj Mahal. Foreigners have to pay a much more expensive price to get in, and somehow that gave me the privilege to cut in to the front of the row. And I got in about an hour before sunset. It's said that the marble of the building would change its colour as the sun starts to set, so I hung around till the sunset. Unfortunately the colour didn't really change much, but rather greyed out. Still, it's beautiful and upsettingly romantic.







The train I booked to leave Agra is again quite early and will leave from another train station, which is quite far from where I stayed. Getting to that train station became a problem. Somehow I met my driver again that evening. he warned me that it's hard to get someone to drop me to the train station that early and offered to pick me up at 5 am. He named a price,which is maybe twice as the normal charge. Considering that he has 4 kids to feed and I can at least count on him for getting me to the station timely and safely, I said yes.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

India 1: flight into the foreign

"India is the kind of place that you can find your peace of mind." said Martin, a Brit that I met in the east coast of Australia. And a couple weeks later, I bought an one way ticket to Delhi from Bangkok after getting my visa to India in the local embassy.

I was not alone when I arrived. It was an indirect flight from Bangkok to Delhi that passengers had to spend one night in Bangladesh, and that gave us plenty of time and a chance to form a small alliance. 4 of us all travelled alone then. A 70 something Australian guy - M, a Japanese Yogi girl - K , a 40 something Italian carpenter - R, and me. M and K have been to India many times so they leaded us to the city with local bus. And upon stepping into the bus, I came to realize that I'm in a place that's far from the world I know. The seats are scripted with patterns of a language that I can't recognize at all, and most of the passenger are turbaned men.



Anyway, it's a great comfort not to land in a world like this alone, but our alliance only last for another one hour after we got to our destination- Pahar Ganji. Although most of us had not booked for hotels yet. We are all too different, and all too stubborn to follow someone else. 4 of us ended up separate and went to 4 different hotels after we got there. I have been told that it's easy to find a travel partner here cos India is the kind of place that travellers would try to cling to each other in facing this unknown territory. Obviously that's not the case for us.



Pahar Ganji is the cul-de-sac for backpackers, so I met them on the street one after another in the coming 2 evenings. Those who been to India know how and where to find their retreats. M and K each has a place on their mind that they want to settle down for a while. And R, after being in this hectic city for over 24 hours, decided that he can't stand it anymore and need to escape to a beach or some mountain as soon as possible.

As for me, I had an itinerary that I try to fulfill. So I moved on., and wondering when can I come across to my peace of mind in a hectic world like this.


Cycle-Rickshaw



Jama Masjid



To be continued...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bombay experience

mumbai

This one is about travelling. I always believe that the best picture that will pull you back into the sensation you felt while in a certain journey is never the beautiful postcard-like scenery shot.

It's a hot afternoon, I was in a bus with my big backpack and about to leave Mumbai. India never stops to surprise me with even the smallest thing that you can spot on the streets. And then, there's this moment that I strongly felt the urge to bring out my camera while the colours around me and the composition in my sight got so overwhelming. Green, red, orange, blue, a door that remains open, and a story happening.

Yet I can still feel the stare, which I constantly get from the locals and never know how to respond.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Year 2007

Happy New Year to all and ....

taipei101

We were a bit far off but that's Taipei 101 for sure. ;-)
Hope this year will be as good as the last one for me.

Friday, December 15, 2006

itinerary on google map

If anyone would care, this is how my itinerary was like.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bon App├ętit

After having curry ( or whatever that tastes like curry ) everyday for 3 weeks in a row, I start to wonder if curry or some of its ingredients are addictive. Instead of getting tired of that taste, I actually craved for this magical mix of spices in the final few days of my trip in India. But the craving is easily cured when I started to have problems in my stomach right after leaving India and I easily blamed it on India. Anyway, here are few of the nice dishes.

idly
Idly is a kind of rice cake that is typically served as breakfast, which comes with several sauces/dippings. In this case, they are (from left to right) coconut, chilli, mint, and ,you can probably guess it, .... curry.

thali
Thali is another safe option that you can usually go for while dining in India. They usually come up as a big plate of rice and several different side dishes. Most of those side dishes are curries of different tastes though. This one also comes with 2 pieces of Puri, the deep-fried crispy ..euh... thing.

biriyani
Biriyani is one of the few things that you can find that tastes not so much like curry. Some of the essential spices of curry, like turmeric powder, are also used in almost every other dish in India, so basically you can't really get away from that curry-like taste if you want to try something Indian. Veg Biriyani is another safe option that I usually went for, and they generally come with a sauce that mixs curd (yoghourt) , onion, coriander and other stuff when being served in South India.

masala dosa
Masala Dosa. Masala basically means mixture, and Dosa is the name of this crepe-like pancake. It's my all-time-favorite, the first meal and the last meal I had in India. Under the folded crepe you can find a nice mixture of mashed potato and veggies. They also have many variations like Paper Masala Dosa and many many other styles that all taste great.

Apart from these more recognizable meals listed above, they have another at least 100 meals that with very different names but all come up as dark curries, which can be served with rice, naan or chapati. You can find one of the example here. In the very beginning of my travelling in India, I always managed to try a different name from the menu every day. I stopped doing that pretty soon after realizing they tend to be just another variation of the curry I had yesterday.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Goa


I'm now in Goa. What are the cows doing on the beach? Haha, I have been wondering that as well. But this is India, they are everywhere.

The journey so far of heading south has showed me a very different aspect of India. Goa is a Christian area that they do eat beef here, and the religion also reflects on the clothing that more modern dress can be seen on the streets. As to the famous beach here in Goa, I can definitely see the charm of it. Although it's not that clean, I have 3 very peaceful days here. I have limited time to finish the whole loop of travelling so I'm heading further south tonight with the overnight train again.