Friday, March 27, 2009

Traveling North

Well Pieter has arrived and we are no longer in Bangkok. We stayed there for a few days seeing the big sights. The grand palace was pretty amazing, i'll try to get some pictures up eventually haha. Bangkok is fun because its easy to get around, we took tuk-tuks, the metro, the sky train, taxis and river taxis. The river taxis were pretty fun, although the sky train was air conditioned which was awesome in the heat. Bangkok continued to be very very hot while we were there and i was glad to leave more for that then anything else. We also wandered around Chinatown and saw the largest solid gold Buddha which weights 5 1/2 tons which was pretty crazy. And we went out to Khao San Road one night because thats what all the tourists do haha, but it was fun. It is definitely a different crowd that come to Thailand then the people we met in India, but its fun still and now that we are out of Bangkok maybe we will meet more people that are here for more then the parties. After bangkok we took the train to Chiang Mai which is where we are now. The train was similar to sleeper trains in india which was great. I continue to be surprised about how well developed Thailand is, i guess at least compared to India, even the small towns we saw from the train looked pretty nice. We plan to hang out here for a few days and we just signed up for a 3 day trek through the hills including two nights in a trible village so thats the plan right now. After that we will slowly make our way towards Laos i think. Also in other news Anjali bought her tickets to come meet us at the end of her semester so i'm super excited about that.

More Nepal Pictures

A few more pictures, haha, since I am so behind with them. The first two are in Nepal again when we did the mountain flight in a very tiny plane.

Next we have the busy streets of Kathmandu, the temples in the center of town, Swayambhunath or the Monkey Temple with all the prayer flags and another huge stupa outside of the city.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A few Nepal Pics

Riding an Elephant and seeing a Rhino in the morning fog at Chitwan National Park.

We rode on top of the jeep! It had the best view of the jungle.

The boat we took over to the jeep ride.

Marabu Storks are huge.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Goodbye India, Hello Thailand

So I have arrived in Thailand, actually I've been here almost a week now. When i updated last Eric and I were still in Cochin. He headed back to Delhi and I stayed for another day before taking the train to Mumbai. His last day in Delhi included a Holi celebration which sounds pretty crazy, you can read about it on his blog Holi isn't really celebrated in the south much although at breakfast i did see some young men running around throwing pink powder at each other, but no one else seems to be celebrating. And the next day on the train i noticed that some of the people selling chai and stuff that came by had strange smudges of colors on their hands and faces, haha. My train was 24 hours, but not too bad. I arrived in Mumbai last in the afternoon and was going to try to take the local train into town, but it turns out that during rush hour its totally crazy, people hanging out of all the doors and with all my stuff i decided that was a bad idea. I may have done better braving the train because the cab driver conned me out of 400 rupees, but oh well.
The hotel i booked was described in the Lonely Planet as decent once you got passed the paan stained stairwell that looked like it was right out of a b grade horror film, haha which was surprisingly accurate, but upstairs it was actually alright. Free breakfast, free water, free books on the bookshelf, what more could i need. It also had a good location so i spent my two days wandering around markets, hanging out by the Gate of India on the waterfront and going to two movies. I saw Slumdog Millionaire again and this very strange Hindi horror movie called 13B where there was no English, but it wasn't too hard to follow the basic idea. I also ate more dosas and uttapam in a two day period then was probably good for me, but since it was my last two days i think its alright. My flight was at 5am and since i didn't want to pay for a room and have to leave at like 2am i camped out at the airport. Getting through security and immigration took me almost 2 hours at like 1am, i can't imagine how busy it is at a normal flying time.
I arrived in Bangkok with no plans at all, i didn't book anything in advance so i could get a feel for things and see how it went. It seems like Thailand is especially easy to travel around, its set up well for tourists. I'm not exactly sure what i was expecting, but i was thinking Bangkok would be a bit like big cities in india but maybe a bit less dirty and a bit more touristy. Everything I'd heard about Bangkok suggested that it was big, loud, crowded and not all that pleasant. I was surprised to find a city that more resembles Tokyo then New Delhi. It seemed to me quite peaceful, quiet, friendly, clean, sure there are a lot of cars, but they all drive normal, follow traffic rules and don't even honk much. I was talking to two Scottish girls who were saying how Bangkok was the first place in asia they had been and it seems pretty crazy and different to them, but really compared to India its amazingly calm and easy to get around. That being said for the first few days I missed india more then i expected to, i mean i was excited for Thailand, but I think i will always love india more then anywhere else. India is more difficult and crazy, but its a wonderful place and i was sad to leave it.
I think because i was a bit sad to leave india and because i was on my own for the first time in two months i didn't really feel too motivated to see the sights in Bangkok. I figured that Pieter and maybe Anjali would want to see them all anyways when they arrived so i decided after a few days to get out of the city for a bit. I'm now in Kanchanaburi which is west of Bangkok. The main thing its known for is that it is close to Erawan National Park and it is home to the Bridge over River Kwai. I went to the park yesterday which was pretty awesome, there is a river with 7 waterfalls most of which you can swim in and around which is exactly what i did. I went with a tour group which made it more fun instead of doing it all alone. The tour guide was pretty silly telling us things like don't feed the monkeys or they might end up eating our arms and legs off, and telling us about thing kind of thai drink that if you drink too many you will get a hangover that make you feel like a dinosaur, which he impersonated quite well, haha. I also went to the Railroad museum, which is all about the Burmese Thailand Railway that the Japanese built during World War Two. They wanted to make a supply line into Thailand and they built the railroad by using POWs and forced Asian labor. Out of the people who worked on it, about a third of them died, more then 100,000, due to the horrendous conditions they had to work in. It was a pretty depressing story, but i didn't know anything about it before, so i'm glad i went and got some history. Well I think i have rambled on enough, although i haven't even mentioned thai food yet, but i'm sure i will have plenty of time to do that later.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pictures, long overdue

Alright, I have made it to Thailand, but before i write about that here are some old pictures.

Here we are at the Taj Mahal and below at Fatapur Sikri outside of Agra.

The Varanasi Ghats and below inside the fort in Jailsamer (sorry these are way out of order)

Camel safari and camping out in the desert.

Jodhpur from above, and Udipur in the hotel Pieter's family and my family met 13 years ago.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Last week in India!

Well my time in India is quickly coming to an end, in two days i take a 24 hour train from Cochin to Mumbai and after two days i have a flight to Bangkok. Its pretty crazy, seven weeks has gone by very fast. Last i updated we were in Pondicherry, which was over a week ago and lots has happened since then. We went from Podi to Madurai on an all night bus. Madurai was nice, but the main temple, which is huge, was all covered up so they could repaint it, so that was sad. We still went inside and saw some of is, but the outside would have been nice to see. I liked Madurai, its a big enough city, but not too big to be all crazy and overwhelming. We also say the Gandhi Museum which was pretty nice, and free, which is always a plus. I also had the best Thali ever there, it had like 12 kinds of dishes, with rice, papadum, chapati, soup, chips, and fruit all for the equivalent of $1. I love indian food, haha.

From Madurai we headed to Peryier National Park, which was also very nice. We did an all day hike with a guide and four other people which was pretty fun. The only animals we saw were Gaurs and monkeys, but the forest was nice, it was a lot more like a jungle then other places we had been. We also saw a Kathakali dance show there which was pretty crazy. The make up they do is really elaborate, but it was a bit hard to follow the story. Traditionally the shows can last all night, but this one was only and hour which i think was good haha. After Peryier we we took a bus up to Munnar in the mountains. It was really nice to get away from the heat, we actually needed blankets at night! There was some confusion because we had to change busses in Theni before Munnar but for some reason the bus driver keept thinking we were saying Chenni which is way far, haha, so everyone on the bus thought we were crazy tourists and told us we needed to get a train there not a bus, but in the end we figured it all out. Munnar is cool because it is surrounded by tea plantations, so much tea its crazy. We hired a taxi to drive us around and see the sights, it was fun. We also went on a walk to a nice view point, which made me realize how it had been awhile since i'd hiked anywhere much above sea level, its hard work, haha. There isn't much else to do there, expect look at the tea so we headed out the next day to Kottyam.

As soon as we got to Kottyam we hopped on a local ferry to Allupey so we could book a backwater tour for the next day. The ferry was nice, 2 hours floating along canals picking up people who live along them. I got my hair cut, which i had been meaning to do forever and we we booked an 8 hour tour to Kollam. The tour was nice and relaxing, tho some how we picked one that we were by far the youngest people on it, so we didn't really make friends but it was fun all the same. It made a few stops along the canals for lunch, tea and fried bananas. I did manage to sunburn my knees which was to bad, but oh well. One of the women on the tour commented that we were the first Americans she had seen for a while and i realized that the whole time i've been gone we have only met one other American, in Nepal, which surprised me, but i guess Americans don't travel in Asia as much as Europeans do.

After we docked in Kollem we shared a taxi with a family to Varkala beach, which is quite touristy, but a really great beach. Its the kind of place that hippie travelers come to hang out for a month and swim and learn yoga, but it was fun. We swam and ate basically for two days and didn't do much else. Our time in south india had been much more relaxing then in North india, which i'm not complaining about. It was a bit strange on the beach tho because at one point we saw a lifeguard/policeman make a group of indian men move away from the tourist side of the the beach, it seems kind of weird that they were not allowed to swim on the same side as we were. Although at the same time in Malabalapuram we were swimming and soon I was surround by a large group of young men asking to take my picture in my bathing suit and running into me 'accidentally' in the waves which made me a bit uncomfortable. Its weird being a tourist sometimes.

Anyways, after Varkala we took the train to Cochin. The train was a bit of an adventure because we took it second class unreserved with is very crowed and hot but way cheap. For part of the four hour trip we had to sit up on the luggage rack, or stand, haha, but we made it with no problems. We now have a day of sightseeing here and eric flys back to Delhi tomorrow! So I will have about 10 day traveling on my own before i meet up with Pieter in Thailand. Ok that was a long post, i should try to update more often haha.