To travel is amazing. Is cool. Is exciting. But to travel is also tiring and exhausting. Now that I’ve been back for a month, I realize how tiring traveling can be. The fact of moving… More
This morning I was looking for a title for this entry and I couldn’t find it. I was about to call it “Untitled” until I arrived at my hostel in Goa.
But let’s go back to the beginning.
My train to Bangalore was pretty much on time so when I arrived there it was really early in the morning. After checking my backpack at the train station I met a CSer (not my host) for breakfast. He then had to leave and there was another CSer waiting for me. Nirmal is a very nice and polite guy. We walked a bit around the city and then we went for lunch at a mall. Food was OK but nothing worth writing home. At three he had a meeting so we parted our ways and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the mall trying to recharge my phone (that always takes centuries) and waiting for Dan, my host, to let me know where we could meet. He finally got off work earlier than expected so we met at the Metro Station and went together to his place. By the time I was exhausted so went to bed straight after shower.
The next morning with Dan we roam around the town and had lunch at this beautiful and quiet place called Yogisthaan, an oasis in the chaos of the city. The rest of the afternoon we chilled at home and went out for a walk and early diner before catching my train to Hampi. So far Bangalore is one of my favorite cities as it looks very european in a way and has plenty of nice places to eat and chill.
I arrived in Hampi after the usual night train ride and I almost immediately fell in love with the place. Hampi is a village known for its amount of temples. And they are very nice indeed but to be honest I fell in love with the place itself and it’s surroundings. Hampi was founded by the river Tungabhadra, in the Karnakata region. Although a very touristy spot it still preserve its village essence and life is quiet and easy there. The area on the river bank it’s absolutely astonishing. There is a lot of greenery and at the same time it looks a bit like the desert. Enormous rocks and banks of sand intermingled with spots of forest where people have built their temples and shrines dedicated to their gods. And it’s so peaceful and relaxing… I could have stayed there forever!
And the good thing about this place is that it came at a moment in my trip that I really needed it. Even Alfredo, a guy met on the train that was staying in the hostel in front of mine realized that it’s time for me to go home. My patience is really exhausted and every single twitch in my every day life is cause for big discomfort and stress for me.
The hostel I booked was OK. 1985 hostel and restaurant is where every other hostel is. In the center of Hampi, very close to Virupaksha Temple. I wouldn’t say it’s OK for western standards but it was OK for me. Single room with private bathroom for 8€ was a bargain.
So with Alfredo from Madrid (but that actually lives in Lanzarote) I roam around the area for the two short days I spent there. Close by there is also a waterfall (if you wanna call it like that…) hidden in a banana plantation that we found thanks to a local guy who guided us there.
My time is running out so the night of my second day I took a bus to go back to Goa where I planned to spend a couple of days before heading to Mumbai to spend my last 2 days before heading back home.
The bus ride was as good as it gets and by 6 o’clock I was back in Goa bus station. I had made a reservation at JUNGLE by thehostelcrowd as I had such a good time at its twin in Palolem (there is was called SUMMER). I arrived by local bus and had to wait a bit to be able to check-in as it is not allowed before 2.30pm. And here, although India they are as precise as a Swiss watch. 2.30pm it is. Not a minute before. And what an unpleasant surprise!!! I paid for a bed in a hostel and I have been guided to the west (shitty) wing of the same hostel. Basically JUNGLE has 2 buildings. One is nice, the other less… and very much so… I was furious. So I complained a bit about the “maintenance manager” (as he called himself) that took me and a couple of other guests to the “west wing” and thought that I would have written about it in TripAdvisor and booking.com and that it’d be it. But then I decided that no, I really wanted to complain with the manager as he also refused to cancel the second night I had booked as there is a policy of 48h advance cancellation (when I made the reservation yesterday…)
So after taking a good shower and having thought of what to say I headed back to the main building and asked to talk to the manager. And then and there I lost it… In the end he admitted that I was right, that nothing about the second building was specified on the website and he agreed to upgrade me to the nice building without any extra charge (this dorm is actually for 4 people against the other that is for 6).
It’s then that I realized its really time for me to stop this trip and head back home. After a beer and some French fries (comfort food! Great invention!!!) at The Mango Tree restaurant nearby I went back to the hostel and apologized to the manager for the foul language and the aggressive attitude. I think he understood my reasons even if not the way to express myself and the fact that after 7 months spent in Asia being “attacked” non stop one can take only so much.
So in the end I will only stay one day in Mumbai and honestly I think it’s better this way. I will try to take advantage as much as I can of my time in Goa and let go all the stress and anger accumulated lately. I wanna be as fresh as a rose for my homecoming.
If I was completely adamant about my feelings towards the east I would say that Pondicherry is not worth the trip and Chennai is a shithole (in my opinion of course) but I’ll try to be more polite and provide a more constructive point of view.
The bus ride to Pondicherry has been everything but pleasant. It was not a sleeping bus so I had to sleep basically seated and had in from of me a big guy who put his seat all the way down and considering his weight he was practically sleeping in my lap. Thus my night was all but comfortable but eventually I arrived at destination. From the bus station I easily walked to my hostel… that I couldn’t find because there is no sign outside or anything that gives it away. Thankgod there was this old lady sweeping the street that saw the stupid tourist half lost and by way of signs and unintelligible sounds she indicated the door to the hostel.. and it was locked. The manager arrived not long afterwards and he showed me to my “room”. Basically a closed corridor with a curtain as door… So I had a private instead of the dorm! I should consider myself lucky. Valentine hostel is more a private house than a hostel. There are 3 real small rooms and 2 “rooms” with curtains as doors. The beds are mattresses on the floor and there is one common bathroom. Considering the fact that I paid 8€ per night it was a rip off. But for some incomprehensible reason the whole city is very expensive. I really don’t understand the fame of Pondicherry. The city itself has nothing particularly interesting or curious to show. Apart from the “promenade” and the old French area there is nothing to see. The beach is no beach at all and there is no grand monument or palace to visit.
Under the advice of my host I went to Indian Delights for breakfast. And then again back for lunch or dinner the following day. The place is famous with locals, the food very basic Indian food but it’s good and extremely cheap. On my second day I had also beer and French fries with one Israeli guy from the hostel at this place called De Bussy rooftop bar. Nice place but not particularly “ethnic”.
The following day I found this grocery store where I finally found unsweetened peanut butter! I was on cloud nine! The place is called Grinde. I finally found unsweetened peanut butter!!! A bit expensive but worth the money!!! I also indulged myself in buying some soaps and teas.
I then boarded the train to Chennai. I couldn’t stand the idea of another bus, of 4 hours of honking non stop in the middle of crazy traffic. I grew allergic to honking and the sole idea of having to digest that anymore than necessary makes me sick. I’d rather be on a train with the usual vendors calling for “chai, chai….cha-chai… chai” or “coffee…coffee coffee coffee ” or “briyani, veg briyani” “samosa” and all the likes. You’ve got the idea…
It was my first “short” day morning train ride (Not counting the trip to Goa) and it was OK at the beginning. Then, the last couple of hours I just couldn’t wait to get there. If I had known…
Arrived at Chennai station I was looking for the metro. Supposedly I could go with the metro to my hostel. I asked everyone and apparently there is no metro from there so I resigned myself to book a Uber. The nice guy arrived in a few minutes and half an hour later I was at the hostel… or so I thought. It took me a while to find the actual place that in the end proved itself not to be the actual place at all. I read a review in booking.com that there were two places with the same name. The Royal Palace Guest House is actually a house for local workers. The guy at the “reception” there called the actual place that I booked and they promised to be there to pick me up in 5 minutes…. Indian time. Half an hour later I was still waiting. I called them myself two more times fuming furious! Eventually I arrived at Royal Meriton (the real name of the hostel) at 10pm. I arrived in town 2 1/2 hours earlier… Reviews for this place in booking.com and Agoda are amazing. It looks like this is really a king’s palace… Of course not. Of all the facilities numbered in the website the only one that reflects reality is free Wi-Fi. Even the breakfast picture is fake. The breakfast is in reality very poor. This morning I had this kind of cous-cous with whole cloves in it and a vegetarian soup so spicy that it gave me heartburn.
I didn’t sleep that well as at some point during the night (or early morning) this Indian guy entered the dorm I was sharing with a German guy, switched on the light, and put fan and AC full power… I eventually managed to go back to sleep but I was so cold that I had to steal a blanket from one of the empty beds. So after the not so special breakfast I got out to go to the train station to buy the ticket to Bangalore for that same night. In theory that’s something that can be done online but I tried a couple of times and I didn’t make it… Surprise surprise….
So. I arrive at the station with a local bus. Horrible traffic and honking but it all took 30 minutes. At the Central Station I look for the ticket counter… No where to be found. I asked a couple of people working at the station. They didn’t even understand the question. Against to what a lot of people think, not everybody in India speaks English. Far from it… Anyway. Let’s go back to the tickets. So I was asking this police man and a Japanese (Chinese?) guy says, I know, I know!!! So I follow him. He indicates a blue building OUTSIDE the actual station. There! First floor! I thank him and go to the first floor of the blue building. At the first counter I ask to pay with card. Of course not! Counter 22 is for card. So I go to counter 22. The lady behind the window asks (without even watching me) for a copy of my passport…. So I start to heat up… Where can I make one? Next building… What else! I go out of blue building and search for the next building… That I cannot see. I ask to a police man who doesn’t understand the question and sends me towards the toilets… Keep calm and breathe… So I ask again to someone behind some counter and he tells me that the Xerox office is down the lane, after the market. More or less 10 minutes walk from the main station… The Xerox “office” is on the first floor… again. There are several actually so I turn around a bit until I find one that is not too busy, meaning that is attending only one customer. I get two copies just in case and walk all the way back to counter number 22. I fill in the usual form and hand over the xerox copy of my passport. Can I pay with card? Oh no! Not this counter… I can genuinely kill someone by now. Thankgod the “card counter” is the number 21 so the lady that was attending me moves over and re-does all over again. I finally get my ticket. It took me about 40 minutes in total and had to pay 100R extra because I’m a tourist…
I’m ready to visit the few interesting things that this city has to offer. I walk towards Fort St George that is by the sea and then I plan to spend the rest of the morning in the area where apparently “all” is. But.. BANG!!! once again I “stumble” upon a pole that was crossing the pavement WAY too low and my head starts to bleed… Some passers by stop a tuk tuk that will take me to the hospital. I didn’t really want to but I was bleeding a lot so I thought that maybe was not such a bad idea after all. At the hospital I skip the line just for being white (sometimes it has its perks!) and the… doctor? nurse? that “visit” me (in the corridor) wants to give me stitches. I ask if it is really necessary and they say no. So my nice tuk tuk driver takes me out and drive me away where, I gather from his broken English, they will give me a shot and put a band aid on my head.
I have to make a short digression on my tuk tuk driver here. As I arrived at the hospital and was waiting to be assisted he nicely cleaned the blood off my face and in that moment I almost cried. I thought of what Lonely Planet said of Chennai. That the city itself is not much but the people were precious. Maybe I finally found a place in India where I was not a SWTWALOM… as if…
Back to trip in tuk tuk we arrive to this dodgy “clinic” where a few patients are waiting in the “waiting room” (1sq m) and being a white face I have the honor to once again skip the cue and enter first. The “doctor” asks me what happened, my name, if I’m allergic to some medicine and then injects me something…and then the “nurse” cleanse my cut and put me some ointment and a band aid. Off I go, after paying 120R. OK… With the prescription I go next door and buy some painkillers and something else and the ointment of course. 103R and off I go. At this point I don’t feel like doing the tourist stuff anymore. I just wanna go back to the hostel. The main road to get the bus is only 15 minutes walk away so I thank and pay my nice tuk tuk driver and start to walk. Ten steps later the nice guy from the tuk tuk arrives from my back and offers to drive me. I think “so nice of him!” and arrived at destination where I can take a bus back I ask just out of courtesy how much it was. I honestly thought he would say it was for free. It must have been the blow on my head of course that made me even think such thing. He says 20R so I gave him 100 because I have no 20s and he acts as if he wanted to keep them. I’m like… Wait what? So I kind of ask him and he says that he has no change and that he’s been nice and drove me around so he deserves it. OK, now I see the asshole! So all this time I thought he was genuinely nice but I was very wrong. So I kind of told him to f#ck off (a pattern by now) manage to get only 50R back and left him there to get to the bus station.
I spent the rest of the day at the hostel getting devoured my mosquitoes in the lounge area, checking my photos and writing this blog. Now I’m on the train, 11.15pm to Bangalore scheduled to arrive at 5.10am at destination. Hopefully it will be a bit late. My host in Bangalore won’t be available before 11pm. I managed to find a couple of CSers that will keep me company until 11.00pm. Can’t wait to leave this city….
Palolem. I could have stayed there forever. The bus dropped me (for once) in front of my hostel. SUMMER by thehostelcrowd has recently opened its doors. It’s a bizzarre construction with the chill out zone outside the hostel itself on a mezzanine level. But the rooms are clean and spacious, and the only bathroom is close to the European standards. The included breakfast is also very generous and the guys adapted to my dietary restrictions.
But I went there for the beach so I was curiousto check it out… and this time it was more than decent. It is a big and wide streak of sand, with very shallow waters. It didn’t give me much of an opportunity to swim as I’m used to but I was still very happy. And although Palolem is a very popular place for tourists the place is very quiet and peaceful. There are a few very nice restaurants. I tried Magic Italy, an Italian (doh!) restaurant where both pizzas and pastas are very good. Then I also tried Zest that is a very cosy place and even if the food is very good an interesting is far too expensive. Then I had lunch once at Avocado Garden where I tried the vegan burger and I had a hard time to finish it.
During my days in Palolem I spent some time with Chim a very pleasant girl met previously in Jaipur. Chim has a shop in Palolem where she sells her own design clothing, soaps and most interesting she sells pure coconut oil. And although this was not time to make it she took me to the “mill” where she gets it done. The mill is still built of stone and until recently it was operated by bulls. Now they modernized and it’s a small tractor that does the “dirty” job. But it is still oil cold pressed and it couldn’t be more natural than that.
So I after extending my stay in Palolem twice and getting some sun tan I was ready to leave otherwise I would have stay there for the entire time I had left in India. On the night of my fourth day I boarded a train at 12.40am (one hour late of course…) and got off in Cochin in the afternoon of the following day. I left Goa to Kerala, god’s won country as they call it here. The landscape is beautiful but it is more trafficked than Goa and I had time to get used again to honking and traffic after the peaceful break of Palolem.
Hostel by the Sea is a hostel located in a kind of government building. Very curious by all in all not bad. They don’t have hot water (because the temperatures outside are hot!) or PoS machine but it is very cheap and very conveniently located. Cochin (or Kochi) is a very small town on the sea where Vasco de Gama landed first when he arrived in India. There is really not much to do and after a couple of laps the tour is done but still a nice place for a couple of days. You can take the ferry to the mainland for 4 rupees each way and it’s a 20 boat ride but the mainland Cochin is just another big city not particularly interesting. After 2 days there I was supposed to go to Alleppy to your the backwaters but if I wanted to visit the east coast I didn’t have time. I had to decide what to do. Alleppy? Munnar? Madurai or Pondicherry? I decided for the last one and took a direct bus at 4pm scheduled to arrive at 6am the following day.
At Mumbai train station I bought my ticket to Goa for the following day and then I booked a Uber to go to my hostel. The stupid driver took an eternity to get to the meeting point and he dropped me off half way through. I protested of course but there was really nothing else I could do so I got off the car, I told him to f#ck off and booked a second car. And this time the driver took me to the right address in a very polite and friendly way. Arrived at Welcome guest house I was taken aback by the horrible choice I made. Of course I checked first on Trip Advisor and Booking.com before but somehow I got tricked. The reception of the hostel was smaller than my bathroom and the room (just one) is behind a curtain behind the reception. Basically on the street. Thankgod the place is located in an alley so it is still pretty quiet. But I had the “last” bed, in the middle of the room, no electric socket, no head lamp. Of course I asked to get a better one but the guy at reception replied it was all booked. All the guests were local except from me and another western guy.
I resigned myself and said that it was only for one night but when I woke up in the middle of the night because this Indian guy was snoring like a pig with sinusitis (he woke up the entire dorm!!!) I realized that the place was “all booked ” because there were a few friends of the receptionist passing some hours there and now they were gone. I was furious and changed my bed with one close to the wall so I managed to at least charge my phone (my tablet, iPod and power bank were all dead…) and when it was 6 am I got up and left for the train station where I boarded the 7.10 am train to Goa. It was supposed to be a 12 hours train ride but we left 20 minutes late and by the time we arrived at destination we were 1.30 hours late. From the station I had to drive 20 minutes to get to the hostel and I had to bargain some 1/2 hour to finally meet a guy decent enough to not take complete advantage of me. With the wind in my hair (…) we drove on his motorbike and when I arrived at the hostel it was already almost 9.30 pm.
I usually book 2 nights wherever I go but for some reason unfathomable to me this time I just booked one. The managent at Folklore hostel were super nice and professional in a friendly way when I did the check in and when I told them I was planning to stay 2 nights they told me that they were fully booked for the next couple of days. The hostel is recently opened but it works very well. Spotless both the rooms and the bathroom, decent Wi-Fi and good breakfast. I had Poha and black tea and it was nice and quiet in the garden but then for some reason they decided that they needed some music to accompany the breakfast. And they thought that techno music full blast at 9.00 am was the best option…. But then in the following days I discovered that techno music is pretty popular here. It doesn’t matter time or place. It always sounds appropriate… Figures…. Since I couldn’t spend another night at Folklore I booked a couple of nights at Caterpillar hostel some 10 minutes drive from my previous location. And it was one of the owners and managers of Folklore to drive me there!!!
Caterpillar is more expensive and less nice thank Folklore but still a nice stay, as I could use the kitchen and cook food for myself. As soon as I checked in I walked the 10 minutes that separate me from the beach and what a disappointment when I got there!!! There were lost of bar all playing loud music, people screaming on the shore for getting splashed by friends, water scooters and banana boats. Not what I really expected.
On my second day there I had breakfast at this place called Michele’s Garden Cafe (there is also a guest house annexed) . The place is very nice and the food pretty good but a little too pricey for the amount they serve. Then for lunch I followed Happy Cow advice and went to Bean Me Up where I had the best vegan lunch so far. It was massive and a bit expensive but it’s all local organic food and they make their own bread. But this unfortunately was not enough to keep me there longer and although I finally managed to move out of the city and get to the beach I was still not satisfied and after a couple of days in Anjuna I decided to try my luck and move further south to Palolem.
I arrived in Varanasi the ancient city, the sacred city after a bumpy, cold and sleepless night ride. It seems I’m not getting much sleep anywhere these days. As usual the bus stopped in the most unlikely place and from there we had to find our way into the city. Of course there were plenty of tuktuks waiting for us but I tried to book a Ola cab (the Indian version of Uber). When it works Ola works pretty well but when it doesn’t…. Well you can imagine. I booked three times a cab and one of them cancelled on me, the other two didn’t show up. In India money is apparently not an issue. If you feel like working you do, otherwise you don’t. So in the end I had to resign myself to share a tuk tuk with a guy from Belgium that was in my same bus. We agreed on a price but arrived in the city the tuk tuk driver told us to get off as he “couldn’t go any further “. There is apparently a restricted area in Varanasi, but from where we were many tuk tuk went further… Anyways… So me and Belgian guy had to take a rickshaw, that dropped us 5 minutes away…
We got off pretty angry and parted our ways. I had booked at Chatter box hostel and he was going some place else. I started to walk and found out that there is a “pedestrian area” in Varanasi where cars and the likes cannot enter as the alleys are very narrow. But motorbikes are of course more than welcome honking their way through the maze. And cows of course are welcome (gigantic cows), and stray dogs and their puppies are welcome so you have to walk your way skipping motorbikes, cows and their enormous dumps, dogs and vendors.
The entrance to Chatter box is pretty dodgy and there’s no sign to indicate that the hostel is there but then the place is pretty neat and very quiet and I was, at least for a few hours, alone in the dorm. As I was tired from the previous sleepless night I took a nap and then decided to go out for lunch. Following the directions and suggestions of “Happy cow” and went to Nyiati cafe. The place is very small therefore usually full but the food is very good, fresh and inexpensive.
Satisfied with my lunch I went back to the hostel to find out that I had a roommate, Angel from Madrid. We started chatting and had a good connection straight away so we decided to stick together for a few days. In the evening we had dinner next door , in this pretty famous place called Brown Bread Bakery (not to be mistaken with the one of the same name located close to Golden Temple, pretty horrible place). I had enough of thali, rice and fried food by then so I tried my luck and ordered a pasta with walnut sauce and a salad to share with Angel. The salad was OK, the pasta not so much but hey, this is India, you’re not supposed to eat pasta!!! After dinner we went to the banks of Gange river to assist to a very strange ceremony of dances, songs and fire. Very complicated and really interesting. They perform a lot of acts of devotion to whatever god they have and then in the end they wash their heads with the river waters…. when in the meantime a few blocks down they wash and burn dead bodies or else in some case they drown them with a stone tied to their feet.
The following morning we went again back down the river banks to assist at the washing ceremony when people take a plunge in the Gange before going to work and so use the same plunge to wash themselves.
The following day Angel and I boarded a train, my first train!!! headed to Khajuraho to visit the “Kama Sutra temple“.
While walking around the city I realize how good it was to have Angel on my side as he was showing off his muscles – he’s a PE teacher – and so people, men to be precise, were intent to check out his body and I was the invisible side kick.
The night ride on the train was far better than the one on the bus but I still couldn’t really rest. Indians can be very noisy, many snore (I’m not being racist, it’s a fact confirmed by locals) and the berth are not extremely comfortable. Moreover as it happened in the bus, I got frozen by the gusts of cold night air coming in from everywhere. On the train, thanks to his “good body, good muscles” Angel made friends with this local guy who at some point got stuck something in his teeth. As he was trying to get it out with a piece of paper I offered him my dental floss only to discover that he had no idea what that was. So I told Angel to teach him how to use it… and Angel told me he had no idea either!!!
Arrived in Khajuraho we took a tuk tuk to our hostel called Prem’s home stay that a girl from our Varanasi hostel had talked about with much enthusiasm. Prem’s place is a bit far out of the city but it is a very pleasant place, quiet and peaceful. The room we got was nice and clean and Prem is extremely helpful and friendly.
The morning after our arrival we rented bicycles and went visiting the famous Kama Sutra temple. The complex is pretty impressive, in the very center of the city, clean and well maintained. In the area is possible to visit some 6 or 7 beautifully decorated temples and some of them have on their walls some pretty explicit sex scenes which is very curious considering the fact that Indians are not open about sex affairs and naked bodies.
That night we had dinner at Raja’s cafe. The food took a long time to arrive. I was in the mood for salad and I ordered one with sprouted lentils. Such a disappointment. The sauce they used was something weird with a particular unpleasant taste so I had to eat a cookie afterwards to clean my mouth from that horrible taste. At night Angel had belly issues due to the fact that he had milk for breakfast that morning (having milk is not good for your health, I tell this to everyone!!!). But he decided that he was willing to travel the following day as planned and at 9.30 am we boarded a train to Udaipur. Although Khajuraho and Udaipur are only 800km apart, it took us 21 hours to reach our destination. The train network in India is pretty complex and not necessarily user friendly.
Another almost sleepless night and we arrived in Udaipur, a very nice city on the lake Pichola, kind of quiet (as quiet as India can get that is) with a very nice Royal Palace to visit.
We booked a room in Hotel Lake Star that looked very good in the pictures. Arrived there we discovered that the place is under a major restructuring so not at all what presented in the pictures. Still our room was nice and clean and I couldn’t wait to have a good night sleep in my bed!!! The next morning we had breakfast in a cafe nearby called Little Prince restaurant by the lake. Awesome food and good prices!
In Udaipur Angel and I decided that out ways were to part. I wanted to move south to reach asap Goa and some quiet beach. Angel was going back to Delhi to catch the flight to his next destination. I planned to spend just one night in Udaipur and the second night take the train to Mumbai but I discovered that the direct train to Mumbai doesn’t run on Monday. Of course… So the option was to spend two days travelling and sleeping on trains or stay one day more in Udaipur and take the train on Tuesday night. You guessed right. I stayed one night more and not to pay for a double room all by myself I checked in at Banjara hostel. Not the best place I’ve been, management is pretty unfriendly and uninterested but the room was OK. The first day after Angel was gone I took back my role of “stupid tourist with a lot of money ” and I wasn’t invisible anymore. Darn!!! I tried to book my train ticket over internet only to discover that international cards are not accepted so I resolved myself to go to the train station. Where once again I was the “STWALOM” and I had to pay 100 rupees extra just for being a foreigner. …
That night for dinner I met with Sanjay a very smart local guy met through Couchsurfing and we had dinner at Dream Heaven where I had a veggie burger with a ton of fries. Yummy! That same night I was back on a train with Valentina and Javier a couple met thanks to Angel. Some 14 hours later (and another almost sleepless night) we were in Mumbai.
I really don’t know how I managed to “escape” from Nepal but I did. I actually almost missed my flight because the taxi I ordered for the airport “surprisingly” arrived late… And for this reason I didn’t manage to change my Nepali money into India money (the importance of this will be clear later)
When my India visa was granted I was almost disappointed. I applied just for the sake of it but at that time I had lost all my will to travel. I just wanted to go home but since I was just around the corner I thought… “eh, what the heck! ”
So when I finally landed in Delhi I was tired and had no interest in visiting anymore but the idea of finally seeing the Taj Mahal was too enticing. I had managed to get myself a host that promised me to come and pick me up at the airport. Yeah, the airport. A pretty big area… And of course no Wi-Fi… I thought Deepak would wait for me at the arrival but I exited the airport and he wasn’t there. OK then I’ll change my money, I will by a SIM and I’ll text him…. Naive me. Nepali money has barely no value outside Nepal. Only 1000 rupees banknotes are accepted and of course I didn’t have any. OK then I’ll use the ATM…. as if… Same issue I had in Nepal. I had money but I couldn’t get it. I almost cried…. I was stuck once again and blamed Nepal once again. And I thought of all I read about India where everything is a scam and everyone is a bad person. And then I saw this guy and asked him if he could call my host… And he did and Deepak came out of the airport and together we took the metro. I was so relieved that I almost cried some tears of joy. But I was still very on the lookout if my host was really there to get my money (that was worth nothing!!!)
On the way to his place – that is pretty far our from main Delhi – I thought he would kick me off the motorbike that we took from the last metro station, and steal my money and my passport. Again all the voices in my head, telling me to be alert, in India they’re all criminals and thieves. But we finally arrived safe and sound to his place and he introduced me to his family and his dog Stella which I fell in love with. We then went out and met one of his best friend. The following day Deepak took me to a money change place and even if I lost money in the change I still managed to get rid of stupid Nepali rupees.
Unfortunately those days Delhi was covered in a very thick “fog” and the air was pretty bad. I visited from outside the red fort. I was not ready to spend easily the cash that was so hard for me to get, especially when, once again, the entry fee for the tourists was 5 fold the price for locals. The rest of the day I just walked around the city waiting for Deepak to leave the office and when we met it was dinner time and we went home where upon request I cooked dinner for the both of us.
The two nights I booked with Deepak were over and even though he said I could stay longer I preferred to book a hostel closer to the center to make it easier for me to do stuff. HOG hostel was not what I had really expected but it was cheap, OK clean and easy to move around from. But that day I didn’t leave the premises. I was so tired and overwhelmed by the “fog” and the constant honking that I preferred to stay inside and take a rest. The day after was my last day in Delhi and I said to myself why not visit a bit before leaving. I was in touch with a couple of couchsurfers and we were supposed to meet to visit some sort of old village in the city but I got there before them, the place was impossible to find, no one knew where that was and I had a nervous breakdown and had to go back to the hostel. I slept it off and later in the afternoon I met with the same two CSers from the morning and visited the stairs well an ancient well that now is empty but the structure is absolutely fantastic and then we visited a Sikh temple, watched them prey and we had a communal free dinner with them. It’s been quite an experience.
Morning comes and I board a bus to go to Jaipur to start my trip towards the south. I took a local bus that it’s an adventure for itself but I would have never expected to see at some point boarding the bus some policemen taking into custody a “criminal” kept on a chain (on his wrist) like a dog. It was almost surreal but the prisoner looked pretty at ease and even joked with a couple of passengers. Only in India!!!
In Jaipur I booked a room at Lazy Mozo hostel for just 1€ for two night I wasn’t really sure what to expect but for 50c a night I couldn’t ask for much. The place is new, just opened one month ago. And you can tell. They need to find their marks, how to behave and how to do things but it was fairly clean and the house is very nice. In Jaipur I visited some building in the Pink City but the only one I was ready to pay for was the Hawa Mahal especially because for once, locals and tourists pay the same price to enter. The place is pretty amazing but it’s missing some soul. After that I met with a CSer for lunch and had dinner and beers with another.
The two days planned in Jaipur were over and I was ready to go to Agra to finally fulfill one lifelong dream: visit the Taj Mahal.
I arrived in Agra in the evening and had dinner with some guys from the hostel I checked in. Moustache hostel is a pretty cool place, clean and with a nice atmosphere. It’s also very close to the Taj Mahal so in the morning I got up at 5.30 to avoid the mass of visitors and went to get my ticket. 1000 rupees is kind of a lot of money (around 13€/15$) but I came to India basically just to visit the Taj so I couldn’t not go. After I got my ticket I stood in line to wait for the doors to open (from sunrise to sunset) and when I finally enter the site at 7 my heart was beating fast. Visiting the Taj Mahal has been a dream since I can remember and I don’t even know why. When I finally faced it tears almost filled my eyes. The place in the fog of the early morning has a charm that no words can express. And as the day went by and the sun came up, it totally changed to become a spectacular garden for the beloved princess to find her resting peace. To make my visit more interesting I downloaded a free app called Captiva Tour with which you can listen to the story of the origins of the Taj Mahal without having to hire a guide. It’s been just perfect.
I spent the rest of the day at the hostel and took a little walk around the city. But Agra is an ugly town and people are just there to harass tourists trying to sell you everything they can. Thankgod I took the bus to Varanasi at 7.30pm and left.
I’m on the plane to Delhi. Kathmandu and Nepal are still a fresh memory. All in all I can’t really say that Nepal has been a pleasant experience. Since the moment I’ve touched land I’ve had problems and worries. Until the last moment.
The Annapurna base camp trekking has been nice, although cold. Being in nature, away from cars and traffic and people and chaos has been a refreshing break. The last few days I had a roommate – Paul – that literally saved me from going mad. I met a few nice people, even locals, I had good food but I don’t really think I’ll be back to visit Nepal, at least not in this life. I also cancelled my volunteering because goimg to the Dang would have meant to travel “12” hours on a bus. And honestly I wasn’t ready to do that. It would have been too much. It would have been fatal for my nerves. The “6” hours bus back from Pokhara had already been very tiring. I was not ready and willing to face again another “ride in hell”.
So I decided to buy my visa to India (which surprisingly enough was extremely easy) and leave the country before planned but at the moment of buying the ticket I was stuck as the website didn’t accept my cards and according to Nepal laws you cannot fly on a ticket bought by someone else….and once again I was stuck. Chance though sent me a guardian angel called Paul from France. Without even knowing me Paul offered to buy the ticket for me and soon said and done he booked the ticket to Delhi and paid it with his own CC (of course I have to pay him back). And finally, at peace knowing that I was finally able to leave the country I managed to enjoy my last moments with Paul and some other cool people met thanks to couchsurfing. But I really think that Nepal has been a big disappointment because I was expecting so much. I was so looking forward to visiting that I had imagined a land of fairy tales. But that doesn’t exist and Nepal is just another country in Asia. With its pros and cons. Anyways…
Once again I met a few cool people that by themselves made the trip to Nepal worthwhile. I trek up to 4000m without any training. I escaped two or three life threatening situations (in traffic) so I guess I can still consider this stop as a positive one.
Maybe next time – if ever – I come back, I will just skip Kathmandu and move to nicer places.
- Fire and ice 👍👍
- Gilingche 👍 👍
- Western tandoori… OK I guess
- Mahaaja 👍👍
- BK’s good
- Chick n falafel 👍
- Aniyor…. Uhmmm
- Himalaya Java cafe 👍
- New Satkar 👍