Get lost ...

A few weeks back, I spent some time with friends on the northern coast of Taiwan. We went off in search of a waterfall using the car's GPS which meant that we couldn't listen to music. Sure that we were on the right track, we switched off the GPS and put on some tunes.

It was only seconds before an iPhone was pulled out of a pocket to put us back on the radar. Technology seems to be taking the fun out of getting lost which is exactly what I did today.

I missed a turn and ended up in what seemed to be a tiny abandoned mountain village. I stumbled upon bits of interesting randomness.

Empty houses and a Mercedes with a flat sitting out front. I am glad I don't own a GPS. It's important to get lost sometimes.

Retracing back to familiarity is the easy part.

Looking back in time ...

My three-month trip to India was about one year in the making. Saving enough money and negotiating the time off with my boss was tricky but manageable.

Before the trip, I did lots of reading about the culture so that I would have some idea of what I was getting myself into. I'm not sure that any amount of reading could have prepared me for what was actually presented.

Here is one piece of many (with some edits) to follow. Written on my blog in January 2009 regarding the plane ride over:

The plane consisted mostly of Indian men. I saw two wives that were both holding infant babies. Three or four other foreigners were on the plane as well, all male. The long ride over seemed to be a quick introduction to India and it wasn't overly impressive.

The plane had thirty rows, the first ten being business class. I was in row twenty-three. One of the flight attendants started serving row ten and over one hour later she still hadn't reached my row.

All international flights offer free alcohol. The men were ordering vodka straight up. The flight attendant would serve about three or four rows and just as she moved the cart forward, the few rows she had just served started turning on their service lights requesting more drinks. She would serve them and then once again move further down the aisle but only to have those she had just served turn on their lights frantically looking for a refill. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen and it continued on and up to the point where people from the back of the plane started getting up and going to the cart for drinks. The flight attendants were more like bartenders.

The man that sat directly across from me must have rung the service bell fifty times. The light above his seat was on more than it was off. I kind of wanted to break every one of his fingers. The flight attendants were annoyed by his constant badgering and eventually ignored him which caused him to become more of a ... you know what!

Others threw their garbage in the aisle and the flight attendants walked over it or kicked it out of the way instead of picking it up. My chair was continually bumped and I was feeling rather annoyed at the end of hour number four.

Welcome to India!

I landed in Delhi quite late in the evening and spent my first month traveling through the north. It has proved to be the most challenging travel to date for me.

Let's start with the Indian News. One thing of interest was the section that contained faces of the unconscious or the deceased. It stated where and when accidents had occurred and estimates of ages along with special features. The hospitals had no idea who these people were and put photos in the paper in search of identify. Empty eyes staring back at me didn't go well with my morning chai.

Oh, the chai. Little stands were everywhere and if you had 4 or 5 rupees you'd find yourself able to buy a few delicious hot mouthfuls served in a paper or plastic cup. Yum!

Men dominated the north — it's a real man's world. Aboard a Delhi city bus, we drove past a huge billboard with one third showing a picture of a man and his name stated just below. It looked as though he might be running for mayor. The majority of the sign had big bold red letters that said, 'I hate working women'.


Armed guards roamed the streets of Delhi. On two separate occasions, the main roads were temporarily closed due to the President coming and going. And by closed, I mean the sounds of loud horns and hums of traffic being immediately drowned-out by quick blasts of whistles and sirens. Men with big guns were running and yelling. I followed the locals in fear having no idea of what was happening.

The Mumbai attacks had happened three months prior and I recall thinking that my father would re-kill me if I actually managed to get myself killed in India. Traffic was stopped and everyone was removed from the main road, standing behind armed barricades. We were left waiting for what seemed like an eternity, which is about the same time it took for my heart to return to its normal pace.

The food was definitely the best part about Delhi. So, so delicious! In most of the north, really. OK — in ALL of India, the food was absolutely fantastic! I couldn't stop eating!

I booked a three-hour train to Agra but it took well over six hours to get there. This is when I started to learn that waiting is key in India.

Words cannot even begin to describe the beauty of the Taj Mahal. It was massive in size and powerful in its stance and left me breathless. Being as mesmerized as I was, I found it hard to finally drag myself away. Truly a sight to see!

Definitely worth note: Admission Fee Locals - 25Rs ($0.56US), Admission Fee Foreigners - 750Rs ($16.80US).

A week and a half into my trip had given me a variety of experience. Some days I would arrive home feeling amazed but on others I found myself in tears — every ounce of my energy drained.

I opted for the bus throughout my travels of the north. They often drove in the oncoming traffic lane for the greater part of the journey. I was always very thankful to get off the bus in one piece!

Quotes taken from my blog during my travels:

I got harassed in Jaipur. Not overly pleasant, but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle.

It is nice to be out of the chaos that surrounds you as soon as you step outside the door of your hotel. - said in Pushkar.

I now find myself, after being on a horrible sleeper bus, in Udaipur. The bus left Pushkar at 1:00am and arrived in Udaipur at 8:00am. The roads were so bumpy that it was impossible to get any sleep. On top of that, the guy working on the bus actually tried to grope me. How unprofessional of him. Instead of a handful, he got a foot in his chest. I was going to log an official complaint at the bus station in Udaipur, but there isn't a station here. Only a small stand littered with rickshaw drivers and none of them are going to care. They'd probably find it quite humorous.

I had a really nice room in Udaipur, splurging at 450Rs a night. I decided to stay there a few extra days to catch my breath. It was fortunate that I met some great travelers at this point as India was really starting to test my patience. I had a lot of feelings of frustration.

Udaipur was one of my favorite spots in India. Drought was very apparent; however it was flooded with beautiful mountain ranges and amazing sunsets to go along with — and then there was the BEER! Beer made India a lot easier to swallow.

Alcohol was not available in the north (unless you looked hard enough) nor was meat. I spent the first month and a half of travels being a vegetarian.

I eventually braved the newspapers again only to find most of it incomprehensible. Police officers beat up young kids for stealing 10Rs? Someone left a three-year-old child in the streets of Delhi? What?

Quotes taken from my blog during my travels:

Yesterday, I saw a little boy that couldn't have been more than two. He was playing in a pile of garbage on the side of the road wearing only a shirt, no pants. He was covered in flies and looked as though he hadn't been given a bath since the day he was born.

I don't know if I'm going to be strong enough to make it through the next two months. I don't want to comprehend some of the realities I've seen.

Ah, India. What a crazy place. I feel as though you constantly need to be on guard. Every person who approaches you has some form of ulterior motive ... mostly to do with them getting your money, among other things. It seems very few can be trusted.

Last night I went for the best dinner I've had in India so far. I will go back to the restaurant this afternoon as the chef has offered cooking lessons for free. I, of course, will give him a donation for his time and obvious talent! Very looking forward to lunch!

This place amazes me although I'm not sure I like it here so much. The sights are spectacular yet shocking. The sounds are fantastic with prayer calls four to five times a day and the constant hum of traffic, horns and birds! Aroma after aroma from various food stalls make my mouth water only to then turn a corner and be smacked in the face with the smell of urine.

I miss hot showers and clean fluffy towels and raw veggies and brushing my teeth with running tap water. These to me are simple things in life yet they are only luxurious thoughts to so many others.

Ending up in the desert town of Jaisalmer was not in the initial plan but most certainly should have been. Being approximately 100km away from the Pakistan border was interesting; jet planes cruised overhead every hour or so. I went on an excellent two-day camel safari!

One thing I admired about Jaisalmer was that the strays didn't seem to be starving. Most of the street animals along the way were quite shocking for me — I found myself fighting back tears more often than not. In Jaisalmer, each family is required to provide a minimum of two Chapatis for the cows and dogs that wander the streets.

Quotes taken from my blog during my travels:

It's hard to believe I've been here almost four weeks. I remain up and down about India but the last few days in the desert have really changed my mind. I spent a lot of time talking with the guys that took us out on the trek and their stories are great. It's an amazing life they lead and by no means an easy one.

One thing I will say about India is that it continues to fascinate me — positively and negatively. Either way, it opens my mind to different ways of thought.

I started becoming aware of what growing up in India would be like. Many people in the north didn't seem to have basic mathematics skills. I recall ordering a coffee in Jodhpur at 20Rs and an omelet at 30Rs. The waiter, who seemed to be about 20 years old, got out a calculator to do the math. After handing him a 100Rs note, he again pulled out the calculator to figure out the change.

I spent many days reading on the pillowed floors in the restaurant of the guesthouse where he worked. If he wasn't serving, he was often staring into space. I wonder why a guy his age wouldn't take the time to teach himself basic math knowing he would need to use it every day. Weird.

Quotes taken from my blog during my travels:

Goa. India has been a dream of mine since my early 20s. It's been my main goal for the past year. I worked hard to get where I am today and much to my disappointment; I'm about ready to throw in the towel.

Last night, just after 10pm, I was in bed with the lights out and the TV on. I heard a funny noise outside the balcony of my window and it was moments later that I heard the window being pushed open and then in came hands attempting to move the curtain out of the way.

I arrived exactly four weeks ago today and feel as though I've given India a fair chance. I see that I have had to change the person I am. I walk with my head down and sunglasses on to avoid lustful glares. I've also learned that the shaking of hands is most definitely a no-no. It's draining, really.

I look around and see other travelers having the time of their life. I wonder why it is that I am not ...

I imagined myself spending a month or two in Goa but left the area fairly quickly.

I had 2 months to go with no game plan. I started borrowing South East Asia guidebooks with Laos in mind, perhaps making a stop in Northern Thailand and then heading back down into Cambodia. I thought it would make for a nice little trek with the time I had left.

Being not too far from Hampi, I decided to jump over for a quick look and I am so, so glad that I did! What an awesome place!

The landscape in Hampi is captivating. I'm not even sure I can properly begin to describe it. It's loaded with old temples, ruins and massive boulders which sit oddly on balance with smaller boulders. Imagine a gigantic rocky desert, with greener than green fields containing palms, banana trees and rice fields. Another must see!

I stayed in Hampi for over a week and collected my thoughts with some real cool folk. My shoes were stolen at one point but persistency paid off. I sat in a small room that was meant to be a police office until someone found them for me — and someone did, as I knew they would.

I was starting to learn how to play. I stopped looking at South East Asia and started really looking at India — Southern India. So many places too little time.

Quotes taken from my blog during my travels:

It is the most beautiful palace I've seen in India so far ... stunning!
- said of MySore palace

The south is so much different than the north. The food is spicier! The women actually work! And they speak to me! Best of all, men don't consistently use their penises as hand rests.

I suddenly feel as though three months isn't going to be enough. Go figure! I have so much more I'd like to see which means I most likely will bring myself back to this insane place!

The north and south really are like night and day. It was a whole other world in the south and it was one that I enjoyed immensely!

Power cuts were frequent and it would remain off for the majority of afternoons. Armed guards were still stationed throughout the south. They wore brown uniforms and had big, long guns but seemed to be taking public buses. That struck me as rather strange.

On one trip, two armed guards got on the bus sitting down across from me. One placed his gun across his lap so the barrel was aiming towards my leg. That was the second time I'd had a gun pointed at me in India. I can't say as though I feel very comfortable around them.

Quotes taken from my blog during my travels:

Men like to pee wherever and whenever. You can be walking behind a guy and all of a sudden he just stops, turns around and totally whips it out with no consideration of his surroundings. It's crazy. I hate that I'm totally used to it and can even anticipate it at times. Not good.

Alleppey. Seven weeks in and was doing extremely well in avoiding seeing a 'number two' incident until two days ago. Passing a shallow body of water close to the main road, I catch a glimpse of a guy standing ankle deep in water and plop it goes. Yikes! What kills me is that not even twenty meters away there are five ladies also ankle deep in the same water doing their laundry. Are they oblivious as to what is happening beside them?

I am in Kolkata, 41°. It's hot and noisy and polluted. I am trying to force myself out of this chilled room to head to the market for food. I'm not sure it's going to happen today.

From Alleppey, I traveled down to the southern tip of India. The backwaters in Kerala were remarkable. Diving in Lakshadweep was extraordinary. Kanniyakumari is where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet. Brilliant!

From there, I went inland and up through Tamil Nadu, slowly making my way towards Kolkata.

There aren't any quotes, as I wasn't doing much blogging. I was having the time of my life instead!

I can't say enough good things about the south. I'm so glad I stayed and I definitely will go back.

No question.

Thursday April 14th, 2011

Fun, fun website: Wordle

The words above came from one of my school writing assignments. I guess it's fairly obvious what the assigned topic was.