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By this Author: chrisvasil

Pushkar - Camel Fair - but where are the camels?

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Oct 26 Pushkar - Camel Fair - but where are the camels?

Being in North India during the annual Pushkar camel fair, we arranged to spend a day there (but not the night, since it's extremely busy at that time of year). The transit was a bit tricky - we missed the day's main event, which was a camel race which unimpressed people we met said lasted 30 seconds. What we saw was a trained monkey, some dancing, and some contortionism. What we didn't see were camels, in spite of this being supposed to be a major camel-selling event.

Posted by chrisvasil 02:48 Archived in India Tagged events Comments (0)

Jaipur - The Pink City

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Oct 25 - Jaipur - The Pink City

Jaipur is India's pink city, with most buildings made of sandstone.

While Sue shopped I went to the Ladies' Palace, so named because the windows provided the women cover to look at the shops and courtyards without being seen. This is a very fancy building, but
only about 2 meters wide - basically a big 5-story hallway and lookout made to look like a palace. I got a lot of practise taking pics of myself.

Someone there likes me

Hanging with wildlife

At night there's a sound and light show at Amber Fort - we watched from across the moat, saving the price of admission though but losing half the narration.

We wanted to see the illuminated Albert Hall museum by night, so we took the bus to that area (someone on the bus told us where to get off). From there I had some navigation problems, and we eventually saw a gathering of people behind walls. We asked what it is and got invited inside, where a student group was having a gethering. We talked to people and got free food, though no pics - here's the museum.

Posted by chrisvasil 02:47 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Agra - Incredible Taj Mahal and a fort

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We arrived in Agra on a Friday, and the Taj is closed Fridays so we followed a tour group as they went around the outer wall, and found decent views of the Taj and garbage everywhere.

Taj Mahal itself is incredible - the reflecting pools in front of the building make it spectacularly unique, and the large complex lives up to the hype. The inside is a bit small, but very ornate with sculpted marble, some of it inlaid with colored marble (formerly gemstones, but those were taken by the British when they took over).

Don't be mistaken though - Agra isn't a one-trick pony, it also hosts a large fort, with good views of the city and the Taj.

A large stone bath, which the king purportedly took with him when he left the city so he wouldn't have to bathe in strangers' filth.

Posted by chrisvasil 02:42 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Varanasi - River pilgrimage site / tourist trap hell

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Varanasi is a very nice town, except for the fact that everyone there is either selling, scamming, or both. It is famous as the town where bodies are burned and the ashes end up in the river Ganges, in which pilgrims bathe at the 5 bathing ghats.

After we got off the rickshaw near our hotel, a bunch of people followed us, trying to help us find our hotel (presumably to get commissions, which would be added to our price). We managed to get rid of them all except one, who was near us for almost the whole 20-minute walk through us yelling at him, and even asking a policeman to make him stop following us (he reemerged a block further along our route). It turned out he was working for a restaurant across the hotel, so we felt really bad for being so mean to him, but it also made it clear that people here can't tell when people hate them.

Every night there is a ceremony at the main ghat, which involves 5 young religous people praying, dancing and playing with fire.

The next morning we took a boat ride along the ghats, seeing pilgrims bathe at sunrise against the backdrop of 200 year old buildings.

Cows bathing in the Ganges

Laundry being sun-treated by the river Ganges before being cleaned by dhobi-wallahs who smack the clothes against rocks until they're clean as can be.

Sue in our guest house lobby, with cows in the laneway outside the door

Posted by chrisvasil 02:37 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Delhi - Incredible !ndia Indeed

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We had 2 stays in New Delhi: the first for Diwali and the second for a wedding.

Our flight was to Kolkata, and we only found out later that Diwali is only heavily celebrated in Delhi and Mumbai, so we booked a train ticket to Delhi. The journey was scheduled to last 30 hours and was delayed by 10 hours, for a total 40 hours in the train. The train ride was comfortable and mostly uneventful, except for the chai-wallahs waking us up with their calls of "chAI chAI chAI" through the night and for the fact that I became an instant celebrity when I pulled out my laptop: all the kids on the train then crowded around us to see travel pics.

At our first experience in Delhi the guy at the prepaid taxi stand tried to steal 400 rupees from us: I gave him a 500 Rs bill, he put it in the register, took out a 100 from the register, and said I only gave him 100. I then gave him a 500, and after counting my 500s I realized I had originially given him a 500. We confronted him on it, and he gave us back the difference except for 100. We confronted him on that, and he gave us back the last 100. The thieves are shameless and are also fearless of losing their jobs.

There are vegetable and fruit markets everywhere

A lot of swastikas, which is especially unexpected so shortly after leaving Europe. It seems the 2 main symbols in Hinduism are the swastika and the star of David, an odd contrast.

The Lotus temple, belonging to the Bahai religion. This religion is 150 years old, and spreads the word by building temples of a scale and design to make them landmarks.

India gate - a gate leading to a street that leads to Parliament and military buildings, and is surrounded by an oasis of green space in a city that doesn't have much plant life.

Qutb and Qutb Minar are a complex in ruins and a spire, in the Mehrauli area in Delhi where Islam was first established in present-day Northern India, a thousand years ago.

A Hindu temple complex

Cows are everywhere on the streets. This guy keeps them clean.

We returned to Delhi 10 days later for a friend's friend's wedding (same friend whose parents graciously let us stay with them, which was wonderful) - which was great as we (Sue especially) had been wanting for years to go to an Indian wedding.

Posted by chrisvasil 02:35 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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