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Anjuna, India

We arrived in Delhi for the start of Divali, the festival of lights, breaklights in our case. The bus was the most comfortable that we've been on with air conditioning and without the gaggle of local raconteurs we normally tend to attract on our travels. This was lucky as the 5 mile traffic jam containing the thousands of other Diwaliers meant a leisurely approach to the city. Our introduction to the festival was not such a relaxed experience and for us mostly consisted of the disappointment of early closing times and being burnt by firecrackers thrown by the local youths! Fireworks were the order of the day and on top of the cows, potholes and rickshaws we spent most of our time ducking and weaving through the streets to get food before going back to the safety of our hotel bunker. However, we were only staying in delhi for a short time so after 2 days in tin hats we were on a bus escaping to the safety and sanctuary of the Himilayan Foothills.

Rishikesh is where the Beatles stayed in ye olde 1960's and wrote most of the White Album but anyone expecting any rock'n'roll style debauchery (not us...) would be greatly disappointed. There is no alcohol (or even meat!) for 11kms of winding mountain roads, making it a perfect place for yoga and other spiritual pursuits. Sadly, our spiritual experiences normally involve gin so this lead to earlier nights than usual...though no earlier mornings. Our planned 7:30am yoga session never had a chance but we did manage to get to the 4:30pm session each day, and even saw some improvement along the way. Our instructor Yogi Bear (again, names have been changed to protect the innocent) was certainly bendier than the average bear and wowed us daily with his flexibility, patience and tranquil tones (he loves his Om Chanting). We may have a long way to go before we can rival his skills, but it certainly left us with a goal to aim for. Too much of a good (for you) thing can be dangerous so after 10 days we're back on the road to return to Delhi and the real world.

With our chakras aligned and our karmas calmed we're back on the tourist track to see the Gandhi Smitri, a memorial museum dedicated to India's most famous all round good chap and situated at the spot where he was assasinated by India's 478th most famous nutjob. As ever our timing was immaculate and our visit coincided with a UN childrens journalist conferance (though they all seemed to be way older than us?) so most of the site was closed, but we did get to read a lot and saw Ghandi's spoon, specs and sandels, and of course see the actual spot where he died. We'd include a picture but unfortunately our camera followed his lead and packed in just before we got there.

After a few more days of wandering around soaking up the sights, sounds (but mostly smells) we're off again, to Udaipur, famous for it's Lake Palace which Bond fans will remember as the killer circus hotties' training camp from Octopussy. Luckily enough it's shown all over town on a nightly basis at 007pm so we're able to squeeze in some sightseeing before the movie. The City Palace (palaces are ten a penny round here) was huge, with hundreds of exhibits nearly all of which were dedicated to it's former resident Maharashtra Prabhat Singh...and his horse. He seemed a decent enough guy but we were more interested in the horse which seemed to have some identity issues. They also had a sculpture park and a horrific government museum which we couldn't take pictures of, probably because of the Pet Cemetary style taxidermy on display. With our laser pens at the ready we hopped in the Aston Martin to go and see the show. India used to be a much smaller place back when they were filming, according to Roger Moore the Taj Mahal, the Varanasi Ghats and the Lake Palace are all within autorickshaw distance of Delhi, or perhaps the research budget was blown on his cheesy lines, but we loved it anyway.

The owners of our guesthouse were some of the nicest people that we have met in India, which was a shame as we were only staying one night. They insisted on having tea and cake with us before we left, at least we think it was cake. It's the only way we could think to describe the moist, yellow blocks of vinegar flavoured material we were presented with. We managed to escape further culinary delights to catch our bus to Mumbai, the home of Bollywood, the biggest film industry in the world. They have made over 60,000 films here and the most amazing thing is that they have only had to use 7 storylines to do it. If you've never seen a Bollywood movie here's how they go. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl gets wooed, girls father gets annoyed, boy wins over father through defeat of bad sort, father relents, everyone gets married. Insert a few song and dance numbers along the way and you have yourself the next smash hit in India. Because of the film industry Mumbai is the home of India's beautiful people and has prices to match, we indulged ourselves in one of the slickest bars we have ever been (allowed) in. Perched on the top of one the many 5 star hotels along the beach, with the calming sound of it's toxic water lapping on the shore below, we milked our cocktails for all they were worth and ate as many of the free snacks as we could handle, before sloping off to our not so glamourous guest house. Mumbai is one of the most liberal and cosmopolitan places we have been to, there were even non-western girls drinking in the bars! But we haven't come here for city-slicking and soon we're heading south to Goa for a holiday from our holiday. We're writing to you now from a beachside bar with the sounds of the non-toxic but rather rocky waters below us, which will be our home for the next month (the beachside, not the bar...honest). More to come when we've got some sun...

permalink written by  BecnWill on December 4, 2007 from Anjuna, India
from the travel blog: The World By Knight
tagged Goa, Delhi, IdentityIssues, Prabhat, Udaipur and Rishikesh

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Udaipur, India

Our train took us once again through the slums of Mumbai, but this time during the day. We got to see the reality of how 70% of people in this world, living in shack I can only describe as the kind you might have made as a kid, with scraps from the back of the shed. Some lived in makeshifts tents made out of tarpoleon, with huge piles of rubbish just metres from their door. But despite all this, children laughed and played, women did washing, and generally, life went on. Amazing.

The 7 hour train ride from Udaipur to Ahmedabad was long, but there was so much to see outside that I had no need for reading or writing. The area outside of Mumbai is full of vast planes which stretch on forever. There were rural slums, houses with thatched roofs, and five storey buildings which look so out of place. The sunset was amazing, with a sun of blood orange set over the fields.

Once in Ahmedabad we changed to a sleeper train which would take us to Udaipur. We knew this part of the trip would be cold - Rajasthan has a desert climate, which is freezing at night but hot during the day. Even with a hoodie, my silk liner (thanks Jess!), woollen slippers, and the woollen blankets we stole from the airplane (thanks Quantas!) we were still cold. I managed to get a decent amount of sleep, but Glen spent most of the night listening to music. Once the sun started to come up we opened the blinds, and watched the new year sunset. We found ourselves in a very different world again. Far from the planes of Mumbai, the landscape here is rugged and mountainous. Sparse trees are dotted over the hills, with slate cliffs. The ground is blanketed with straw orange grass. Against the New Year sunset, the place was golden. Ifound myself asking how I had never been here before.

Once in Udaipur we met a lovely taxi driver who took us to a fantastic hotel. Weary of paying the driver's commission on the room, we bargained a room for 400Rps. The room is gorgeous and slightly kitsch, with handpainted details around the doorways and windows, and saris hanging from the windows. It is so lovely, that we are sorry to leave it today as we move on to Jodhpur.

We have spent our time in Udaipur wandering the streets, bartering to get an idea of prices, and exploring back streets. Glen and I both bought lovely leather bound journals (sorry Mum, the journal you gave me is being retired) and a pashmina to keep us warm.

Walking back to our hotel, we saw our first elephant! It wasn't particularly happy looking though. A little sad. And we were offered a ride for 1000Rps. Not paying that much thanks! But cool to see one.

Last night we were sitting in a little cafe, talking to the owner, and we learnt he did reflexology massages. He gave us an evaluation, and could tell that one of Glen's legs is longer than the other by just feeling our hands. We considered having a massage, as he is praised in his 'visitor's book' by hundreds of travellers in all different languages. But we decided that we couldn't afford it this time. Maybe later in the trip.

The back streets are my favourite. We do not feel threatened or in danger exploring these parts, and love to get away from the tourist centres. Children are very keen to meet us, and many speak good English. We met a group of children who were particularly friendly, and later realised they wanted the bag of fruit we were carrying in our hands. We couldn't resist, and after a few minutes they had managed to extract all the fruit we had just bought.

Above all, the people here are amazing. Everyone wants to talk to us, and yes, some want to sell us stuff too. But the sales pitch comes at the end, as an aside. People are genuinely interested to know who we are and where we are from. Some have a scarily good eye for guessing where we come from. Wandering the streets we sometimes get calls of Haere Mai or Kia Ora.

Today we are getting an overnight bus to Jodhpur. We don't expect to sleep much, but by taking an overnight bus we effectively get a night's accommodation.

Happy New Year everyone

permalink written by  Capto on January 2, 2010 from Udaipur, India
from the travel blog: Two months in Limbo
tagged Udaipur

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