*Full picture gallery below*
“Delhi Belly,” the “Montezuma’s Revenge” of India, is greatly feared by travelers. In the best case scenario, it can ruin your trip. In the worst case, you’re going to the hospital. Maybe you don’t even leave the hospital. This is definitely something to be feared as a traveler in India and should dictate your eating, drinking, and hygiene habits while here. Continue reading We got “Delhi Belly”
Along with a few other sites, today we planned on checking off our last of the three UNESCO “World Heritage” sites in New Delhi: Red Fort. I gotta be honest with this one, it looks like a construction zone and is really in no way picturesque inside. This place was touched in many areas by Shah Jahan (the Taj Mahal guy) and you can see it in some of the white marble and the patterns used with it. However, a lot of the marble inlays, including jeweled flowers, have been gutted and are missing. Many of the buildings are being renovated or are in serious disrepair. Most of the landscaping is unkempt. Whatever bureaucrat at ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) is in charge of this place should be fired. Or maybe a UNESCO visit might prompt some cleaning. In any event, it’s one of the big sites on most itineraries, but we didn’t think it was worth it. Of course, even if we were told that ahead of time we still would have went. Just like the Trajineras in Mexico City (believe it or not they’re also a UNESCO site). It did take a few hours to explore though because it had a few museums included, so not a total ripoff or anything. Continue reading UNESCO has failed us again
Now that our time in India is coming to a close, I think we’re just beginning to really work effectively as a team when dealing with the large variety of predators that are encountered on the streets here. Shopkeepers are easy, just keep walking… or if inside and not going well… leave. Beggars…. ignore them, they do not exist. No eye contact whatsoever. I don’t care if they’re doing back flips, I don’t see them. Of course we know better than to take a picture of any random person on the street, but better not take one of them even if they ask. They’ll pull that trick too: “Take my picture, Take my picture!” Then hand’s out immediately for rupies. Fell for that once with a little girl that stalked us for a while in Agra Fort. She latched on to Martha and then (among the legit picture frenzy of college kids wanting pictures with us) she asked us to take a picture with her. That’s when the mom descended with a couple other haggard flea-bitten kids asking for money. That girl stalked us for maybe an hour for that little bit of change. Last time I fall for that though. Yesterday when we were at the Lotus Temple, we had a couple of the nicely dressed college-type kids that made small talk, practiced their English and maybe took a picture with us. I was surprised at how permissive the security was being with my camera, so I busted out the tripod completely and went down to the pool to take my time framing up a nice shot. I’m totally focused on that when a couple kids come up and make some curious small talk, no big deal. Then, as I’m putting my stuff up this kid (who looked just like the last group) starts asking about a picture. He had a cell phone and was well dressed, so I said sure, let me put my camera up and we can take one. “No, take a picture of me.” ….”ummm, no man.” He then snaps a few pics of me. A little irritating, but kinda the usual here. Then, the little bastard holds out his hand and says “some rupies please sir.” I think the most likely visible rage that instantly boiled over my face combined with “For taking a picture of ME?! Have you lost your mind?!” set him aback a little. Some of these guys really have some nerve. Continue reading “Helpful” Touts
On the way to our “First Class Sleeper” train car, we walked past dozens and dozens and dozens of open-air hard seating general cars. They had bars on the windows with very sad faces peering out, with people packed in tightly on hard benches. Thousands of people. It looked like the train to some forced labor camp. I was getting a little worried after walking and walking as we started to near the front of the train and only passed more and more and more of these jail cell train cars. Eventually we found our car though, the only one on the entire massive train, and it only had four private cabins. Three of the cabins had four bunks, and one had two bunks, which is amazingly the one that Martha and I got! Out of this entire massive train that surely was carrying more than 1000 people, we were the only couple with secure, private quarters. When we got in there and were able to lock the door behind us I was like Thank God! Some comfortable sleep without having to keep one eye open. Martha was sure that everything was covered in cooties and leprosy though, and I started accusing her of acting like the blonde lady in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” I’m not gonna lie though, the cabin did kinda look like something out of “Silent Hill.” It definitely wasn’t decorated by Martha Stewart. They passed out some clean sheets though and the A.C. started kicking real good and we both slept pretty well for the four hour ride to New Delhi. Continue reading It’s peanut butter Delhi time!
After reading a lot of India travel blogs, one thing becomes clear: Agra is not a place many people are fond of after actually visiting there. It’s often the place where travelers end up getting really ill during a visit to India. It’s filthy, smelly, has packs of wild dogs roaming the streets, and aggressive touts are at every turn. The thing is, none of that matters. People will still come, and they know it. There are limits to how disgusting the town is permitted to be though, but all of that is mostly to keep up appearances on paper. Pollution levels are monitored and industry is more heavily regulated in the area. The Taj Mahal is nearly white, and has a lot of ornate engravings. Token efforts are made to keep it that way. In recent years there was a proposal to drain the (somewhat) picturesque river behind the Taj Mahal and build a dense complex of definitely not picturesque shopping malls for tourists. When UNESCO threatened to withdraw the “World Heritage Site” status of the Taj Mahal, that plan was scrapped. Interestingly, a large portion of investor money for the project “disappeared” without any explanation. What a lovely, exploitive little town. Continue reading Everybody Hates Agra
After a restful night in our fully air conditioned “oasis in the desert,” we started another day of sightseeing with our trusty tuk-tuk driver Vijay. We had asked him to be there at 8:45 a.m. to make sure we started as early as possible–and it turns out he was more punctual than we were! We still managed to make it to the Hawa Mahal by opening time though, and he instructed us on where to walk and how to avoid touts in the area. Well, at first we thought he was exaggerating since we didn’t see very many people inside or on the way to the complex. As we made our way outside and to the front for the real view, this was where we put our anti-tout tips to work. Ladies with babies, crippled people, small children and old men were persistently begging for rupees, selling junk, or just trying to get our attention. By acting oblivious and shooing people away after a polite “no” we managed to find a way to enjoy the beautiful facade of the Hawa Mahal. Interestingly, the Hawa Mahal was designed to allow royal ladies to look down and observe the happenings on the street without being seen. I can totally see why this was necessary in a country where it’s fairly normal for dirtbags to catcall and act out towards any woman out alone. Continue reading Jaipur. Check.
As we planned out this trip, we received plenty of advice…. some solicited, some not so much. Some advice has proven priceless…. and some has proven worthless. And now, as the India segment of our trip has gotten underway, I recall the words of an Indian surgeon I worked with in Cambridge: “Nothing can prepare you for India,” she said. She was absolutely right…. Nothing can prepare you for India. Nothing.
On our flight out of Moscow, we had our sleep routine all planned out. The flight to New Delhi left around eight p.m., and it was only about halfway full. As soon as the cabin doors closed, we jockeyed for available seating real estate. A middle-aged Indian woman had taken up an entire row of four seats and invited Martha and I to take the one in front of her. Martha took the two seater row we were in and sent me to the open four seats. There were a couple European girls in a two seat row next to it, and they had big frowny faces as soon as I grabbed it. Landing gears up…. seat belt sign off…. pile of Aeroflot complimentary blankets wrapped up into a giant pillow and padding all hard seating areas…. 15 mg of Temazepam for me…. 4 mg Ambien for Martha…. and the six and half hour flight was over in no time. I woke up as we started our descent, just as we crossed the border from Pakistan. I saw that we flew over Kabul, Afghanistan and just south of Islamabad, Pakistan. We landed in Delhi just after two a.m. Continue reading Nothing can prepare you for India