After surviving India and spending a few weeks in the relatively cool northern region of Thailand, I was ready to indulge myself with Thailand’s most attractive draw: it’s picturesque southern beaches. The day I arrived by night bus in the town of Krabi was sunny and clear. My hotel was from from any sort of beach, but I made it to the waterfront to take my first dip into the Indian Ocean.
I debated with myself over whether I should plunge into the arid lands of Rajasthan and see the proverbial Indian highlights, or go to some cooler nepal-bordering province in the north where I could possibly do some trekking and perhaps escape the chaos of big cities. In the end I figured that Rajasthan would give me more of an “all-Indian” experience; I’ll save himalayan trekking for another trip. The first leg of my journey in Rajasthan was on a night train that took me to the “blue city” of Jodhpur.
The city lays in the shadow of what’s said to be one of the preeminent forts of India. I took a ride on the zip-lines that run over a small lake behind the fort.
I never tired of this view over the city. The Brahmin, the highest caste of the Indian social structure, living in the city have been painting their houses blue for centuries. Apparently today all castes are allowed to join in.
Next, I was off to Pushkar, home to an annual camel festival in November that has made the town a sort of haven for hippie travelers who come to see the show. I was probably fortunate to have arrived a few weeks earlier, avoiding booked-out-accomodation and prices that are said to be up to five times the normal rate. The lake, which acts as the focal point in this small town, is a holy place for the Hindu, who are supposed to bathe in its waters at least once in their lifetime.
With so many camels converging in the city in preparation for the upcoming festival, it was a golden opportunity to join in on a camel safari. While a bit painful on the inner thighs, riding out into the arid countryside on a seven-foot-all camel was an unforgettable experience. Accommodation for the night was a bit rustic (we were given our camel’s saddle to use as a blanket), but the chance to sleep under the stars in a lonely desert landscape was a welcome respite from the traffic and car horns that fill most of my evenings here in India.
While I’ve heard how hundreds of millions in India live on less than a dollar a day, I’d never had much of a meaningful conversation with this class before the trip. Our camel driver told us he was making $25 dollars a month, most of which he sent home to his family living in a different area of the state. Two travelers and two guides shared a night in the wilderness, but there was little else in their lives that they would ever have in common.
And the last destination in India: Jaipur.
The biggest sun dial in the world. Accurate to two seconds.
One last Indian fort….
On the 1st of November I’ll be heading to Bangkok. My current plan is to do Chiang Mai in the north, perhaps with some trekking around Pai, and then to find some beaches in the south for snorkeling, swimming, and hanging out before returning home.
Out of the safety and care of good people we could trust and into the heart of Delhi. Nothing could have prepared us for the abrupt change. Of course we had faced some of the same overcrowding and chaotic traffic in our travels up until then, but it had been nothing like Delhi. We stayed there for almost a week, with one day-trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, before Sayaka had to go back to Japan and I moved on to Rajasthan. In that week we saw a different side to India then we had at the peaceful grounds of New Hope. And to be honest the worst of it – the poverty, traffic congestion, pollution, and living conditions – were much worse than I had expected. I had been exposed to all of this to some extent in Mexico, China, and the Phillipines, but Delhi seems to have it all at a whole different level.
Ten days at an orphanage in rural Kothavalasa, India. One protestor uprising over the Andhra Pradesh state splitting into two and one cyclone that tore through the Vishakhapatnam costal region. Thankfully our rural location a good distance from the coast kept us out of harms way through both incidents. Little was felt in the New Hope India orphanage but an overnight power outage caused by protesting power plants workers; but random power outages are an almost daily occurence here, so everything was running normally – at a slow pace that took some adjusting to.
When you find the cheapest flight possible for a journey abroad, you have to expect that your flight is going to be anything but convenient. I was prepared for a few layovers and little leg room. But I didn’t realize how toiling four flights in a span of about sixteen hours would be. We spent the day airport hopping across China with the country’s infamous budget airline, China Eastern Air: Tokyo to Shanghai, Shanghai to Beijing, Beijing to Kunming, Kunming to Kulkata. Even though it was all within the same airline company, it was apparently such a complicated arrangement that the airline agent couldn’t book it when I called them, and we were forced to go with Cheapoair.