July 24, 2009

Delhi-Jaipur by train

17th of july

After hanging out in Delhi(16 millions people) for the day and walking around the bazar area, we left 2/3 of our luggage at a guest house situated in front of our first hostel the Smyle Inn.

We crossed the bazar crowd, a mix of people, animal and dust to get to the New Delhi railway station. More than a hundred of people were sitting on the floor waiting for their ride. It seems like the crowd never move as it’s always pack everytime we come.

For the first time of our life we saw a man so skinny that we thought he was going to die, he was laying on the floor, asking for money.

We crossed bridges to get to platform 12. People are everywhere, sitting on the side of the shaded bridge… We got there on time. We had a sleeper room witout AC and shared it with 4 other persons. At the train reservation office they manage to put all tourists together, which I wasn’t wishing for my trip to India… anyway they were very nice. Three Japannese and one American. It’s interesting to see how much more Asian are traveling as backpackers.

The night was noisy, food and drink sellers were welling every 2 minutes “chai” “coffee” during the whole ride, even when everybody were sleeping.

One of the other unique experience we have riding the train from Delhi to Varanasi is the sight… seeing Indians pooping in the nature, not hidden at all and at every passengers view, we can see all the details… of course we are not perverting on them but we can’t avoid seeing them. Imagine you are in the train waking up and excited about seeing as much as you can of India and looking at every piece of India landscape, trees, green vegetation and right there in front of your face, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 man pooping, one of them very comfortably as he is reading a magazine... Then the city comes and even closer, right by the train rails, some more “poopy man”… In the evening and in the morning you can see at least 100 of them in an hour… Amazing India !!!! We are still laughing about it.

18th of july

We got into Varanasi (1.5 million people) in the morning. We didn’t know where we were going and we decided to look for a guesthouse to have a shower and leave our bags there for the day after a long and sweaty trip from Delhi.

The arrival at Varanasi train station was a real eye opener, as shocking as India can be I guess. A group of touts (con artist), 6 or 8 of them spotted us and were looking at us like we were pieces of meat as our cabin was full of tourists. It really annoyed me and we close the window on their face.

While people were disembarquing, poor kids were running thru the whole train looking for leftovers or forgotten items.

We got out of the train and the touts were right on us like sharks. We runned away, and got out facing another dirty and messy town, making me loose all hope for a clean and peacefull Indian city experience….

We were shadowed by more touts and rickshaw drivers. We crossed the traffic jam to try to loose them. We got to the other side of the street and some more touts surrounded us. I waited for Noah in one of the hotel lobby while he looked for a place for the day. A big group of Indian were waiting to check out in the lobby and some women dressed in beautiful saris asked me to take picture with them. It was propably my first enjoyable experience with Indian excluding any money exchange. It gaves me hope about having Indian friends and erase all the bad feeling I had since Delhi.

Noah got a room close to the train station and it made everything easier and mellow for us.

A rickshaw took us to the Gange, THE holly river.

Everyday, thousand of people travel from all over India to come here to have a bath, cremate their family bodies and spread the ashes into the Gange, the door to a world where everybody is equal.

Along the river on the temple side, a holly city have been built, where pilgrims, students, tourist, marchands, goat, dog and cows live in harmony. Coming from the main noisy street, I felt better and more relax in here, it is another world…

The view of the Gange wasn’t spectacular at first. In front of us was a giant sand bank with some people on boats.

Then we walked down the straits and on each sides, all along the river, peoples were swimming, boats loaded with Indians dressed in their best outfit were cruising … on our right a cremation ceremony was held. The best cremation is made with wood fire. It cost around Rs4000 (80 USD) and takes 3 hours. The other option is the electric burner and it cost around Rs700 (13 USD) and it takes only 5 minutes to have your ashes. It is sure very cheap and could be a good industry for the country.

We hired a boat. I didn’t want to touch the water, as for me it was more polluted than holly. What realy impress me at the Gange is how people strongly believe in the power of the river, turning the brown and polluted water into something drinkable. The swimmer face were as relaxed and happy as the faces of a tourist swimming in a clear blue lagoon. Some mans were fishing, other washing their clothes, brushing their teeth, washing their mouth, cows were having a bath… It’s just amazing how beleiving in something changes everything… At one point, those who believe in the power of the river, who don’t think about the filthfiness of the place, are somehow more free as they don’t bother as we do…

19th of July

Agra (Pop: 2 millions)… the Taj Mahal city. We arrived there more organized than in Varanasi, we learn the lesson. The guest house pick us up at the train station. We stayed at Rose Guest house, situated in a residential area, the rooms are a bit dirty and old but we can’t be too picky in India… The owner were very nice, probably the first ones who didn’t try to sell us something. We found out that day that the Taj Mahal entrace was free from 2pm and for three days for Shah Jahan's birthday, the Mughal emperor who built this mausoleum in memory of his favorite wife, we could enjoyed it as many times as we wanted. The Taj construction start in 1653 and it took 21 years to finish it.

We walked out to visit the area. Mecanic shops, dump with cows on the other side, fruit stall, food cart… people were looking at us like we were from Mars, I guess there’s not a lot of tourist walking on the area, we were the only one. We kept walking and the street got narrower and busier, the air was dusty and hot. We saw Agra Fort from far and walked towards it. Car part shops were sharing the block with flour maker, bag shops. Before we got to the fort, we crossed the dusty fruit market and the very busy bus station. I saw for the first time a real slum situated on the other side of the fort. All the river had no water but instead black mud full of plastic bags and trashes. Kids were following us to beg for some money. It was really hard to see so much poverty, and think about the beautiful fort and Palace. It doesn’t make any sense, how can a country have such gap ?

We arrived at the Fort entrance. The locals pay Rs25 for the entrance and the tourist Rs500. The Fort is gigantic, red and have some very beautiful stone carved walls and pillars. From there we saw the Taj Mahal for the first time… The locals are the main visitors and it is really nice to see that they are take interest into their heritage.

We got out after an hour visiting and enoying a quiet place then took a rickshaw for the Taj Mahal.

We ate at a restaurant there and had some Indian food. It was really good, I love the garlic nan (local tasteless crepe), dipped into a curry sauce miam !!!!

We waited for 30 for the free entrance… many people were waiting also, womans in colorfull sari were sitting under a three, young indians, some tourists…. Some kids probably living in the slum, were selling their souvenirs thru the crowd and were mainly dealing with locals as they represent 95 % of the visitors. Some of them became our friend and Raj offered me the Taj Mahal souvenir key chain, after trying to sell it to me.

The locals usually like to talk to us and once a person start, the group get bigger and bigger. They are really nice and usually want to be friend with you. We got along with a group of young people who came to see the Taj for the day and we went inside with them. The sight of the Taj Mahal was breathtaking, it is one of the most beautiful building I ever seen, perfectly constructed, strong and ageless, in perfect shape after 350 years, all built into marble. The park was crowded and colorful, full of life, indian woman walking gracefully in their sari. Wearing it is like an art…

The queue to get in was long and it was really hot, our eyes were hurt from the reflection of the white marble floor.

Beside the sculpted marble piece around the tumb, the interior part we were aloud to see wasn’t as spectacular as the outside. We got out very fast and sit in the garden. It was so peaceful and fresh, hassell free, pollution free and green.

Too thirsty after the wait under the bright sun and the heat, we had to get back out into the busy street to get water…

We went to eat at Mc Donald. For us it is a safe way to eat and they have good vegetarian burger… no cow meat in India, yeah !!!! They should hav vegetarian burger at every Mac Donald I think…

20th of July

We overslept, feeling comfortable on our bed in the AC room. I did some laundry as I was running out of clean clothes. We then had lunch at Pizza hut, they have delicious pizza with garlic and parsley ring. We don’t really want to eat in the street after what we’ve seen and it is hard to find clean Indian restaurant.

We felt better after the good lunch and walked around the area. We sat on the side of the road and watch the traffic and the cows. They hang out in the middle of the road and no body touch them, they are holly and they do what they want… almost (they are not aloud to steal food from the vegetable stands).

It was amusing to watch the traffic. There are probably more rickshaw than car in India, as small as they can be, they are usually packed and you can see 6-8 people in it. Tourist get to ride them alone... too bad.

We went back to the Taj Mahal for the last time that afternoon. It was very crowded, more than the day before. May be a hundred thousand visitor were there, and may be a milion for the day, if not more… we stayed in the park and enjoyed the beautiful view of the Taj Mahal filled with life and energy. After a little while, some rain drp got us out, and we hang out with our little friends. They escort us all the way to the main gate to say goodbye.

21st of july

We got up early to go to the train station. Supposely departing at 6.15 am, we left 4 hours later. I finished my night on our bag at the train station. I didn’t know I could sleep so good on a such little area…

We rode in the non-AC sleeper coach, surrounded this time by Indians. They are very curious and very nice. I ended up spendind the whole trip with my neighbour from the next compartment, Rekka. She was so nice and willing to share some time with me. We talk about everything, her sons, her life. She will go to Canada in August to visit her older son for two month and that’s why she was very happy to be able to have someone to speak to so she could improve her english before Canada. I walk her out of the train, she wanted me to meet her husband. Then I jump back on the train to arrive in Jaipur at 3pm.

The guest house manager was waiting for us at the train station. We drove thru Jaipur to get to our Guest House. The family welcome us as never in India, gave us flower lei and red point with rice on our forhead. We were their first foreigner guests and they treat us like kings. They are really really nice and were very helpful, making sure we had everything we needed, and giving us tips about the rides. It feels so good to be with people like them, I felt like they were family to us. The room was clean and big with a nice big garden. It is situated in a residential area of Jaipur, a good place to relax and get away from the dusty busy city area. They own a naturotherapy center where they teach yoga, like a retreat center.

We went for diner at a shopping center nearby. A lot of shopping centers are being built all around India, like in Thailand and Malaysia. The type of shopping center where you will find the same product as you will find in the street but in a clean and covered place, and of course, more expensive. It’s less interesting than the street market as they mostly have the same product everywhere, mainly clothes but it feels good to be in a clean place.

We treat ourself with some ice cream and it was really really delicious…

After a good night sleep we woke up to check if we could see the partial solar eclipse but it was too cloudy to see anything. Vishwa, the owner of the guest House, brought us our breakfast a curried rice with vegetable and nuts.

We hired a taxi to visit some of Jaipur monuments. The most important one for my guest house family is the Amber Fort, a huge fort with wall going on the hills like a snake, linking it to another fort sitting above Amber fort. Mirror walls and marble lace, jasmin garden and maze alleys, cobra dancing and art marchand...

Jaipur (pop 2,5 million), known as the pink city, is an interesting city to visit, has many gardens where you can relax and beautiful architecture... The city still have many red old building. Slums are like recycling center, every trash go thru but most of it stay in...

The heat exhausts us very easely ad we had a big nap to end the day before a late train ride to Jaisalmer...


1 comment:

Georges ABOLIN said...

bien tripant votre trip !