A Travellerspoint blog

Goa

28 °C
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We're in Goa, staying at Palolem beach. If an "authentic" Indian experience is what you're looking for, this is not the place to come, granted it is peak season and Goa is Indian- and foreign tourist mecca.

Of Palolem Beach, I think there are too many people. There are too many bars and too many restaurants. There are too many package holidays. There are too many tourist shops (even though I love the stuff) and I get annoyed when the response to "how much is this?" is, "How much you want to pay?" So, perhaps somewhat stubbornly (but I do not care), I give an answer just as ridiculous and annoying as theirs and say Rs 50 to everything. (For the uninformed at home, this equates to a wee bit over R8.)

On the brighter side (I seemed to have slipped into a grumpy mood after an email I sent and after hearing that my dear fridge was switched off and my poor sister had to deal with 9 day old rotting fish. [I do not care about the neighbours- they throw lit cigarettes on my car]), the water is warm and the sea has that mesmerising tropical-beach-rhythm. There are many palm trees (in between the tourists), and somewhere to the north is a market that I will visit after New Year.

While these photos are completely honest and what you see is what I saw, I'll be the first to admit that if this is the only impression you ever get of this part of Goa in peak season, then it is flawed...Granted it is beautiful, but perhaps I just prefer less exploited beauty.

Okay, this is taking ages- the computer has absorbed my mood...I'll publish this and add photos later when life is less temperamental

...I'm back and Palolem's internet is up and strolling. I'm also in a slightly lighter mood despite deciding that shopping here is a complete nightmare and rip-off. I still haven't budged from my Rs 50 for everything except for the blow-up tube I bought for the sea. I vow to buy nothing else until someone is mildly honest about their prices. The internet's stroll is preventing me from uploading pics at any pace other than snail. I'll post what I can.

Our hut:
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Posted by JayneHol 21:55 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Body

I found the photo. Nothing more said.

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Posted by JayneHol 21:51 Archived in India Comments (0)

I love you. I love you not.

sunny 22 °C
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We arrived in Varanasi and got driven in a sweat-smelling mini-loaf most of the way through completely chaotic traffic. The last 10 minutes were walked and I was fortunate enough to have the ever-accumulating weight of my backpack transferred to somebody from the guesthouse.

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Oh, Varanasi! In one simple sentence, this is my impression of it: everybody wants something more. Personally, I find it odd. I find it uncomfortable and I dislike its ability to intrude through people who always have an ulterior agenda. It’s friendly with a cause. It’s unfriendly with intent.

It is, but it isn't.

And it has a population of lost-cause westerners, who I shall refer to as Yesterners. Yesterday’s westerners- people who seem to be on an endless search for some solace or meaning, but simply appear to be lost in the awkwardness that is varanasi.

I’m at odds with Mother Ganga too and my reasons for this suggest that I may have more of a Buddhist spirit than a Hindu one. I’m not sure The Ganges really enjoys having the corpses of pregnant women, leppers, the snake-bitten, children and holy men sunk into it.

We saw a body being rolled over the side of a boat and into the river this morning (sadly deleted the picture accidentally). I have to be honest, what a completely uncomfortable feeling. The hole in our boat made me experience a mild sense of panic.

For the masses of pilgrims who bath in the water of Mother Ganga each day, I suspect the slight possibility of encountering a relative’s floating leg or torso is not much of a concern. The spiritual reasons why five groups of people get ‘sunk’ rather than cremated are beguiling ones, but the logic of the situation is at odds for me. (Drinking the holy water is a completely different story and one which I admittedly have little desire to contemplate.)

Anyway, I’m just pleased that I committed myself to brushing my teeth AND rinsing my brush with bottled water only.

On a lighter and less ‘culturist’ note, we tried street food today! While walking in town we got side-tracked by this: basically batter (like crumpet batter, but more crunchy and bread-like when cooked) is put onto a hot pan. Then onion, tomato, coriander and many spices are sprinkled on top. They sort of sink into the batter and cook with it. We figured deep-fried ingredients that we had seen being chopped in front of us couldn’t do too much damage, so we sampled one. It was quite pleasing and I’m happy to say that 10 hours later there are still no signs that it disrupted my digestive system in any way! (If anything did, it was the “chicken” we were meant to have for dinner, but avoided after a bite because it either wasn’t cooked or wasn’t chicken. Oh, also, I’m not sure why we even attempted chicken in the first place in a predominantly vegetarian place.)

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Besides being threatened (and conned), first thing this morning, for taking a picture near where bodies are cremated on the side of the river and having our guesthouse shut down by the police, there was some comfort in this day. The two river trips were very peaceful; the Ganges filled with floating candles was beautiful, the skyline of kids’ paper kites (exactly like in The Kite Runner) is enchanting, the chanting from down the way has also finally stopped (thank goodness) and I finally won a game of scrabble. (It’s arguably not my strength.) Oh, yes, I also bought two beautiful sarees for a ridiculous price.

Anyway, we have a long day tomorrow with two flights and we’d like to get in an early morning swim across the river and back.

(We are contemplating taking up lessons- there’s a place down the river that offers them. I suspect these may help us develop strategies for navigating either bodies or the feisty fish that apparently eat them.)

Some pics since our arrival:

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The following are from yesterday:

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Posted by JayneHol 19:39 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Train to Varanasi

-20 °C
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The train trip was about 81% pleasurable. Naturally this is not in comparison to the bullet train, the blue train (although ours was blue) or Swiss Railway, but from what we expected (in my case, the worst), it was nice. The conductors shared our compartment so the bag theft issue was sorted. And then a Dutch family replaced them, which meant that we weren’t stared at.

The trip only lost points because of the unsympathetic smell of urine in the squat loo. Western loos on these trains are a lost cause.

The best part was arguably waking up early and seeing the countryside. It reminded me a lot of China, except the people are obviously Indian and instead of grey pants, the women wear saris in the fields. A slightly privileged and romantic view of this side of India, I’m sure.

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Anyway, the person in the photo is of a man who was selling a version of breakfast on the train. He stopped and stared at me, saying nothing. We only figured out after a good many minutes that he simply wanted his picture taken. Then he smiled and was off. Thank goodness the freakiness got removed from that situation!

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Posted by JayneHol 19:36 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The last few hours in Jaipur

sunny 24 °C
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Okay, so there are a few days to catch up on. Let’s start with the last day in Jaipur.

We were slightly pushed for time because of our train departure and because packing a heavy bag with many large presents takes time, skill and obviously patience. We decided to head to Amber Fort in the 3 hours we had available. Admittedly, we had also taken our time having breakfast because Lucky, the persistent Auto Rickshaw driver was waiting outside…to pounce. And so he did.

Lucky is the epitome of Indian charm. In fact, Lucky is Indian charm. We heard many times how he woke up at 7am (instead of 11) and denied another girl a ride just so he could wait for us. Well, most likely, Carolyn. He was openly infatuated with Carolyn.

And so was the bottle store owner. He fell for Carolyn when she bought some wine on Christmas night. We paid him the 70Rs we owed him the next morning, had many pictures taken and as a token of his gratitude, were pressured to drink a Bacardi Breezer at 11am.

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We then climbed in Lucky’s Auto Rickshaw and sped precariously through the crazy traffic. Lucky is an ironic name. After at least 4 near misses in the traffic and having a mild collision with a bicycle, I counted myself lucky to be alive. (And lucky to have had a drink prior to the ride.)

We left for the train after an incredibly speedy climb up to the fort, being ripped off for peanuts (literally), a massive lunch and an unwanted diversion to a gem jeweler.

We naturally regret not having more time for the fort.

Here are some pics:

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Posted by JayneHol 19:04 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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