A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011


Holi Festival, Mathura

sunny 28 °C

As we settle further into the way of life in India it seems to get easier. The culture shock is gone, the fear and uncertainty of all things different is gone and the anxiety is gone. We spent the week-end in a town about three hours from New Delhi called Mathura. Mathura could almost be classed as little more than a small town by Indian standards with roughly one and a half million people but what makes it different is they celebrate Holi festival like no other. Holi is the reason why we’re in India so the long trek and hassle was worth it. Holi is a Hindu Krishna celebration celebrating good over evil. It includes burning effigies, mad dancing, screaming music and drums and best of all, the colour. Coloured dyes are thrown at you or wiped on you with a good hearted “Happy Holi” The local people celebrate Holi over two days and it’s a time when all are considered equal. It is a celebration of love and a time for more reserved Indians to cut loose. They will spray coloured water, some drink alcohol, take some kind of narcotics and generally celebrate like its 1999. The Indian people welcomed us with open arms and especially our hotel manager who was our guide and protector for the first night. Some Indian men can get a bit frisky and it seemed we all came in for a little bit of unwanted attention. It is not typical and is mostly caused by the celebration and the high. The following day we headed down to the Krishna temple and decided it might be a little dangerous for Patti inside so we stayed on the street and once again got covered in colour. The kindness really is overflowing and a great time was had by all. Let me say the kindness doesn’t extend to the cyclo riders or the Tuk Tuk’s, they still charge a foreigner double. Living in Muthura for a couple of days was pretty hard travelling. Matt picked up another bug and was unwell. It’s not the kind of place that has corner shops, it doesn’t have footpaths. The dust is ever present and moving around was difficult.
A week in India feels like a month. It has been more difficult for Patti because of a lot of unwanted attention. There is lot of staring and invading of personal space and we have found that we’ve had to give the odd gentle nudge to a few more persistent admirers. It has be hilarious on occasion with people openly taking photos of us or wanting us to be in their photo. Matt and I were chatting to a couple of English travellers on a train platform and we found ourselves surrounded by about twenty curious Indians.
We all had a massive laugh after catching the wrong train back to New Delhi we stepped into what can only be described as a madhouse with anything from cows walking on the platforms, beggars, cripples, artificial limbs, people sleeping, living, urinating, cooking, yelling, screaming aggghhhh! We stepped out into the grand bazaar and I genuinely meant it when I said it was good to be back. That’s when I knew India had gotten under my skin. We quickly found our hotel had something to eat and while Patti and I wandered the inner bowels of the bazaar, the boys hired a Tuk Tuk and went in search of a park to hit a shuttlecock around. While Patti and I had a glass of tea and watched the craziness from a café the boys decided they’d forgo the ride home in a Tuk Tuk for a McFlurry. Nothing like a walk in the heat and dust. Can’t help a Mac attack. Andiamo

Hi All
India has been amazing; I love the colour and exotic looks of the Indian women. The saris and dresses of the women are very colourful and it seems that despite their status in society anyone can wear beautiful materials. There does seem to be a definite class system ranging from very poor beggars and ragged children on the streets to more wealthy people who drive cars, children who have braces, wear glasses and are obviously well educated. The people with less appear to be more tribal in appearance, with darker skin colouring than the more educated people. I don’t know how easy it is for someone to break out of his or her class situation. The Indian people are very interested in tourists, when you bring out a camera or the laptop they immediately come over to look and are very curious to see photos of themselves or to ask about where we come from and to see photos from Australia. I wish that I had put more photos from home on the computer.
I think that Brenton and Matt have had their eyes opened a lot to how little some people have in life. Brenton has a very soft heart and to see children begging in ragged clothing on the streets has touched him. The disabled people that he has seen on the streets also have touched Matt. It is very hard not to give to everyone who needs it.
Well I have to talk a little on the cows of India. They really are very sacred. They are allowed to wander wherever they wish to go. They walk through the main bazaar, poke their heads into stalls, one decided that it liked the colour of a scarf yesterday and tried hooking it with its horns. They walk along the streets, up ramps onto the train platforms and through the middle of crowds of people and you never hear a harsh word to get rid of them. They were untouched by coloured powder and water through the Holi Festival, unlike some of the dogs. I don’t know if they are owned by anyone in particular but they are truly respected by all.
I loved our visit to the Taj Mahal and the Baby Taj, the work involved in both place was amazing. Each place had different things to offer. They both are works of art, the Baby Taj has some lovely hand painted panels within the marble as well as inlaid marble work, whereas the Taj Mahal’s sheer size and intricacy is fantastic.

Posted by mike1967 01:06 Archived in India Comments (1)

New Delhi

I really don't think anything can quite prepare you for India. I'm glad we have had 2 months in Asia to go part the way to numb the senses a little. Aswell as the usual hiccups of nobody turning up and trying to find a hotel at 11:30 pm in what looks like the biggest of all s#+t fights you have to do battle with the maddening crowds, the constant hawkers and the smell of ahhh, humanity. That's a nice way to put it. The cliche' is you either love it or hate it, problem is that happens at the same time. The colour of the place is amazing and once again we have ended up in the "not so affluent but certainly effluent " area around the famous Connaught place. The Tuk Tuk drivers are as mad as any i've ridden with and the constant horn blaring and movement can be pretty tiring. Getting a hotel off the street is the key to keeping sane.

We braved the train system and caught an aircon seat to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Surprisingly the train was a great and comfortable experience and the Taj is breathtaking. What makes it more so is that it seems like an oasis in a dust bowl. We got there early but by the time we left half of India was there. The story around it is pretty interesting. Must have been ok, Matty said it was cool.

The people here have been typical of most that we have encountered in Asia. Life is very hard and they see westerners as being filthy rich and comparitive to them, we are. So as a consequence it is rare that you are approached and there is not some other motive. Having said that not all people we have met are thieves and certainly not all are angels, just like home you need to have your wits about you and don't be suckered. Andiamo

Posted by mike1967 23:57 Comments (1)

Back in Beijing, haggling at Yashow

sunny 18 °C

Beijing the second time around has been a much easier ride for us. We are masters of the underground and for about 30 cents you can get anywhere in the city. We've been taking in some of the sights and sampling more of the food. As we get to know the area we are in we seem to be finding the little gems that every city has tucked away around corners and down alleyways. We've just about seen most of the tourist attractions in Beijing so now its going to lesser known markets and coffee and cake on a street corner watching the throngs of people move through. We've been back to the clothing market ( Yashow ) and Matty bought himself a genuine knockoff Rolex at the Silk market for 60Yuan. He got it down from about 2200. I've had a ball haggling with the sellers. It's all pretty well good humored. Go's something like this.
Seller: how much you want to pay for those jeans, top quality, I give you best price. ( types on massive calculator 600Y)
Me : I thought you were going to be nice, i don't want them now, too expensive
Seller: don't be mean, ok, ok only for you, no profit for me 400Y
Me : no, no more joking 50Y
Seller : (looks pouty) you not my friend, i give you best price, no more joking. 280Y
This continues on for another 5-10 minutes while she accuses me of being a tight arse, on one occasion i was told I was a bad father, there's no profit, I should go somewhere else and that I must be joking asking that price. I say that the quality isn't that good, I can get it cheaper in Vietnam, another seller offered it cheaper, and she started the joking asking that price anyway. Eventually
Me: (Stern face) Last offer, no more joking and just because you're nice. (type in 95Y )
Seller: Ohh! just because i need the sale, ( starts putting the jeans in a bag) types in 120 Y. Shakes her head and says she's too soft.
Me : 100 Y that's it. Ok deal?
Seller : Ok deal, you good negotiator!
Me: yeah sure

Andiamo mike

Posted by mike1967 17:00 Archived in China Comments (1)

Beijing Zoo

We went off the the Beijing Zoo to see the Pandas. They were the first thing that we wanted to see. They were lovely, they looked just like they would sit in a corner of your bedroom like a stuffed toy. I thought they looked a little dirty in colour, probably because of winter their cages and enclosures were very bare and just dirt, no grass and no water in the water areas. Maybe in summer when the weather is nicer they play in water and keep themselves cleaner and whiter. However they were great to see. I just wanted to take one home. They have amazing teeth and jaws to chew through the bamboo. I thought the zoo looked a little neglected, windows on the enclosures were dirty and a little hard to see through. Some of the animals were in little cages with not much room, but you can see other areas where some thought has been put into creating an interesting place. Maybe it is different in summer when they come out into the bigger enclosures. I came away from the zoo feeling a little sad for the animals, such magnificent creatures being locked up.
Mike and I are feeling much more comfortable about getting around in Beijing. We collected our Passports with our Visas for India yesterday so are now looking forward to the next part of our trip.

Andiamo Patti

Posted by mike1967 16:40 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Summer Palace, Beijing

sunny 2 °C

We've now mastered the subway in Beijing. Getting around is easy as long as you don't mind being treated like a sardine. We headed off to the Summer Palace to see what promised to be pretty special. The Summer Palace is more a collection of buildings and pagodas rather than one big building. The Emperor's used the area for relaxation and reflection. The Palace is built around a massive lake that makes the whole thing look pretty amazing. The lake was half frozen when we were there giving it a ghostly atmosphere adding to the mystery of it all. The art work on the tunnel reflects the different seasons and each building,bridge or pagoda is constructed, decorated and located to represent something. A lot of the Palace has been re-constructed over the years and it's hard to see original work in places. I'd imagine it must have been really something in its original state, the grounds are beautiful and you can just imagine the gentry wandering around the estate completely oblivious to the commoners outside the wall. All in all not a bad day, although I think root canal work would have been favoured over it for Matthew. Not one of his favourite spots. Enough said.

Posted by mike1967 16:32 Archived in China Comments (0)

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