Thursday, 28 June 2012

Hyderabad


We had to make a stop somewhere in between Hampi and Aurengabad, it's two long trains which I wasn't ready for. We picked a random, strategically fit city in between with good train connections, and it happened to be Hyderabad. For some reason, non touristic cities are always so expensive in terms of accommodations and the quality is not good at all. Although restaurants are cheaper and better ... weird! Rickshaw driver took us to some hotel which was "cheap". It was called dreamland. Not sure about a dream, I think it came closer to a nightmare. "Modern amenities" didn't even include running water. When I told them there is no water, they came into the room, grabbed a bucket and filled it up from a big bucket which was outside. Andy said he's not touching it. Locals probably splashed around in it and washed their hands (and you know what that means)!
We went for breakfast. On the way some guy came talking to us. Meanwhile I'm sleepy and grumpy. According to my rule of "not talking to Indian men" I ignored him as much as I could. Andy gave him some answers while I tried to persuade Andy to stop talking to him. Complete ignorance is what I was going for. But nope, he followed us and followed us. Said that it's a hobby to talk to foreigners, he gets to learn from them about culture and all. He asked me what's in my opinion the main difference between cultures. I said that Indians are liars, cheaters and keep following you when you tell them that you don't want to talk to them! He was like a leech stuck to us, and we gave in. Fine, you can have breakfast with us, but after that you go! Ok? - ok, ok. We couldn't find any breakfast places open, it was still too early in the morning. One hotel was open, and it was a nice looking hotel. We went in, and he got scared. - Ok, when we get in, you say that I'm your friend ... ok, ok? They only served a buffet, and I wasn't hungry for a buffet, so we found some local joint. There was only us in the whole restaurant. He kept asking us questions. What we do, what we studied, how much we make. Then he said, you're rich, I'm poor, give me money. We're said that we can buy him a samosa. He said samosa is not enough, why if we have money we can't give it to him? I said that money doesn't grow on trees, and we have to work hard to get it. If he wants money, he should go and earn it. Every time he was saying or asking something he would touch my hand. I told him another difference between cultures. In Canada we don't touch people we don't know. We respect personal space and I don't appreciate him touching me. Friends are ok, strangers are not. Then he switched the topic and started asking about relationships in Canada. I told him that people usually have a few bfs/gfs before they get married. He asked me if I'm married. No I'm not. Am I a virgin? No I'm not. He asked a few more questions then he reached over the table towards my shoulder. I'm thinking, if there a bug on my shoulder. It was like slow motion ... did a filling from a samosa fall on my shoulder? His hand is coming closer and closer, I don't understand what he's doing, and then he grabs my breast! I slap him hard! (first time in life that I slapped someone). Andy (who was sitting next to me) jammed himself between me and him and was yelling at him to get the hell out. I'm in shock, Indian is in shock, Andy's in shock. The guy doesn't move, Andy keeps on yelling, I'm in too much of a shock to understand what's happening. He left, and I was left trembling. Andy said the guy was lucky to leave alive since he's not violent. Some of his friends would just beat the hell out of him.
We went to a Golconda fort. We didn't know how to get there. People don't really speak English. They just look at you when you speak to them, or first look, then turn away. It's not rude, it's just they're too shy to speak, so they pretend you're not there. After waiting for half an hour for the bus that didn't show up one local told us to catch another bus that will bring us closer. At that point we gave up and when the bus stopped, we took a tuk-tuk to the fort. It was beautiful, very big, half broken half intact. Some king in the late 16th century built this fort to be a new capital on India, and marched 300,000 people from Delhi to Hyderabad thousands of kms. The journey took 4 months, a lot of people died, a lot stayed somewhere on the way. The fort was built on a good strategic location, however there were water shortages and a few years later, the 4 months journey was made back to Delhi.
I didn't like the first half of the day, the Indian/buses/heat, not only that, I started to get my heat death panic attacks again. We were going up the stairs, when we run out of water, with no shade and still a lot of steps to climb, my heart was racing and I thought I'll collapse and roll all the way down. I hid somewhere behind a wall away from the sun, but the heat from the rocks was doing just as a great job as the sun. When I finally climbed to the top, a huge tour group on a company function day caught up to us. There were hundreds of them, and they all had cameras and cell phones. There were so many pictures taken of us. When I sat on the stairs to relax, I lifted my head and there are 10 cameras in my face of people sitting beside me and someone taking a picture of me and "him" while I'm not even looking. I hate that!!! I started yelling at them. I pose for Andy to take my picture, and while he does, so do other 20 people! Till the end of the fort I was walking with my head down and covered by either Andy's hat or my hands. When we were at the top, hiding in the corner, we heard another voice from behind the wall "Ok, guys, no more pictures". A British guy stood up "you feel like a celebrity in here too?" I asked him. That was also the time when I stopped being in shock from the morning incident and actually started laughing ... I was thinking how stupid can you be to act that way?
The guy’s name is Carl, he loves India and comes here all the time for long vacations, he stays at nice hotels, always eats at good restaurants and always has a driver or a guide. He's like a guide himself. While we were walking in the fort, he was telling us all the history and important architectural nuances. For a long time he didn't meet any tourists, and spend these 2 days with us. We didn't mind at all. I like it when Andy finds a friend. They have fun, and I get to go where I want on my own, but with them as my security :) Carl is just as stubborn as me. First he tried to argue what's right, what's wrong, where are things located, how to get there. We ate at the restaurant and he told me where the train station is, pointing in a wrong direction. I said that it's not there, it's the other way. He told me that he's in Hyderabad not the first time. I told him I'm good at reading maps. We argued more and more, by the end he gave up and didn't argue with me anymore. I was thinking about it. Why is it so important for me to prove that I'm right. Who cares where that train station is? But how can I give in when I know it's not in the direction where he's pointing at?
Sometimes I let them lead. But after I asked them where we are or where we're going, and didn't receive an answer, no more leading for them. I do not want to get lost in a 45 degree heat. The walk has to be planned. We only have 1.5 days, we have to crumble all the sights that could be seen in a week in such a short time, and it has to be balanced between heat/shade/AC and be made in the shortest and most efficient way possible.
We later went to a health museum which was cool. It had a lot of info, how to stay clean, how to fight diseases, how viruses/bacteria work, different properties of fruits/veggies/vitamins and minerals, but the most interesting things were fetuses in different development stages and canned babies who were born with deformities. They looked like they belonged in the horror movie. I haven't seen anything like that in my life, and it was quite unbelievable. We then went to a beautiful modern art gallery. One of the things I'm waiting for when I'll return to some stable form of life is to start painting again. I discovered that I like to create things ... I think I'll be making my own cloths too :) Maybe jewelry as well, but it might require too many tools.
Then we went to a beautiful temple made out of white marble, and inside it had buddism, judism and christianity quotes all talking about the same things. How to be good and how to lead a happy life without sin. Very clever.
Next was a beer at best western hotel which was built like a castle. I remember in Canada, Best Western was one of the worst hotels, in here it's one of the best. It was built out of stone with knight statues inside and a medieval feel. I didn't drink beer, but I enjoyed the AC feel at the underground bar which was barely lit with nice cushiony sofas. The beers were expensive, and Carl sensing our secret budget calculations offered to pay the bill.
We then went to an amusement park (after taking 10 mins to cross the road!) to take the boat to the buddah statue in the middle of the lake. But it was overcrowded, the lineup was huge, and the statue wasn't impressive. We didn't go on any rides, but it was worth to pay 10 rps to see local kids have fun. I didn't understand why there are so many people at that park, or why 100s of kids splash in shallow brown water, but then I remembered that I didn't see any amusement places in India at all. No nice green parks, no attractions for kids. So I guess anything is better than nothing at all.
Later we went to a very nice "Waterfront" restaurant which is the best restaurant in Hyderabad. "The best" doesn't mean expensive at all. We didn't know how to take a tuk-tuk there without being ripped off. Just like we couldn't take a tuk-tuk from Carl's hotel, we had to come up with some other attraction that's nearby. "You stay at this hotel? You go to this restaurant? I'll charge you triple the price!"
The atmosphere in the restaurant was amazing. It was dome shaped, with pot lights, a server per table, and right on waterfront overlooking the buddah statue. But still they managed to mix the orders and gave us 1 menu less. They always do it. Why can't they have enough menus in restaurants? Every single time when we eat out (and that's breakfast, lunch, dinner every day), no matter how many people we are, we usually get 1 menu.
It was quite intimidating to eat when you know you're being watched by your waiter who'll appear in a split second when he'll see that your glass needs to be refilled or not enough rice/curry is left on the plate.
We arrived to the hotel early in the morning, and this was a 24 hr check out hotel. We barely convinced the manager for the permission to check out at 7am. Too bad for Carl ... that means very early breakfast for him as well :)
At night I couldn't sleep at all. It was just too too waaaayy tooo hot! It's not only that the air was hot, and it felt like the fan spinning the boiling air in circles, it's also that the bed absorbed all the heat and sleeping on it was like sleeping in an oven.  I got tired of getting up and taking showers, it didn't help, and only when I took the whole bucket of water and poured it on the bed could I fall asleep. Our hotel was right on the main road, and at 6:30 there was so much noise that I couldn't hear what Andy's saying who was only 1 meter away from me. We get outside, and there is no traffic on the streets! Those Indians, the horn is the best feature in their car!
I think Andy has a heat stroke. He looks barely alive, he doesn't talk, has hard time moving or keeping his eyes open. When Carl saw him, he kindly offered his AC room where Andy could come back from the dead.
Carl and me had breakfast in a rather broken down dining room. He said that every time he comes to this hotel, year after year the quality just goes worse and worse. Most of the chairs have oil stains on them, the paint is peeling off the walls, and half of the lights don't work. For a 4 star hotel, I would give this dining room a motel rating. And that's not even including the lack of English of hotel staff. Carl ordered black coffee and was served tea. We called the waiter, and told him that we ordered black coffee. The waiter took it away and we were waiting while Carl's eggs were getting cold. After a while I told him, I hope you know that your coffee is not coming because he has no idea what you want. He called the waiter back and asked him if coffee is coming. Yes yes ... the waiter came back in half a minute with the same pot of tea that was served to Carl the first time. Not tea, B L A C K   COOOOOOFFFFEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Finally another waiter heard who understood English.
After taking a tuk-tuk to the center, we were already ready for coffee day. I convinced the guys not to have it just yet. It's still early in the morning, and it's good to sight see for a bit while it's still "cool". We weren't let in into the mosque because my hair wasn't covered. I pointed him to the women who were inside without anything, but the guys pulled me away. You know it's pointless to argue with them, they'll just come up with other reason not to let us in. Fine! We then went to a palace. This palace was actually nice inside. It consisted of 4 buildings, had a nice collection of neatly arranged weapons, very old family photographs, china and antique cars. After that we walked for a while just to get hot and dehydrated enough to crawl into the coffee day ... just in time! :) We order the coldest most frozen drinks while hanging our tongues out underneath the AC. Coffee day didn't have any change at all and we were a bit stuck until Andy pulled out a huge stack of 10s! Me and Carl were yelling at him ... what a traitor!!!! (jokingly). It's IMPOSSIBLE to get any change in India. And apparently when Andy gets a few 10s, he would put some away to be used in emergency case. It should be illegal for bank machines to dispose 1000 rupee notes. Nobody would accept them. Change is so rare in India that 10s and 50s are worshipped. If you get into a tuk-tuk without exact change, 95% you'll have to run around begging store people to change your money. Something that I think a tuk-tuk driver should do. The problem is that they don't make enough money to save, and everything they make, they spend right away.... although mostly on the useful things like alcohol and tobacco.
We later took a walk around the bazaar which was filled with all sorts of bling and skin whitening powders/creams. A lot of cosmetics in India in filled with whitening products. Usually the whiter people are from higher casts and westerners are considered to be gods. All the commercials of expensive real estate, diamonds or electronics are filled with smiling white people. It's very very rarely that Indian faces appear on the huge billboards. And so all India tries to be white. They really don't understand when we tell them that in the west people are sunbathing to be dark. Oh the horror!! They're shaking their heads in disbelief. I think all the people try to be someone they're not. White people want to be darker. Brown eyed people wear blue lenses, curly haired people straighten them, and straight haired people curl them. Why can't people just accept and love the way they were born?
We entered some college. We just entered, and Carl is waving for us to keep on moving? What's going on? We get out, and he said that guys surrounded them and started asking questions about me. What's our relationship? We're all friends. Then they proposed to share me. Creepy!
We then went to one of the best lamb restaurants in the city, and man it was good. First we had to wait about an hour to be seated. We didn't mind, since the restaurant was AC'd. In the waiting area it a chaos full of people and running waiters, but at the table it was like a little oasis of nice furniture, good and friendly service accompanied by the best lamb ever, nyam nyam :) Which btw reminds me of a fruit seller lady in Varkala, who went around the beach singing a nyam nyam song.
Pinapple cut cut cut
Watermelon cut cut cut
Banana cut cut cut
Nyam nyam nyam nyam nyam
:)
We told Carl about the breast grabbing incident and he told me that next time any harassment would happen, I should take my shoe off and wave it near his face. It's considered to be the sign of utmost disrespect and shame, and if other women would see that, they will all come to the rescue. It would take me a while to take my sneakers off, but maybe I should carry a spare flip flop in my bag, and if waving won't help, then I could smack him with it :)
We wanted to go to a snow park, but if turned out to be way too expensive. It would've been so so cool :(( They give you warm and waterproof clothes in there. There is actual snow, and you could snow fight and slide down the hills on tubes ... it cost $8/hr... sounds funny how little it is say in Canada, but travelling in India it means breaking the budget. well, it's that and taking a tuk-tuk there and back. Oh well, we're going to the real mountains soon anyway.
Goodbye Hyderabad. For an unknown/random intermediate location it surprised us quite a bit, so we were happy with our choice.. and we got to meet Carl!
In the station I was ready to put my suitcase in the wagon when with a half a meter space, 3 girls jumped in front of me while they clearly saw that my suitcase is already up and ready to be put on the train. I got fed up with that, put the suitcase down on the platform and quickly put my arm on the train as the other girl was ready to push in front of me again. She bounced back from my arm. That's the only way they get it. I already understood, when you need something you either have to use force or yell at them, common sense and manners just don't work in here. Why if they have reserved seats which are booked and waiting for them can't they wait 5 seconds in line??
Random memory: just remembered how one girl in Delhi said that the locals probably think how boring westerners are with all of their plain clothes, when the Indian women all dressed in a rainbow of colors with as much jewelry as can fit on their hands/fingers/feet/face ... I'll have to disagree. While it could be beautiful and exotic in the center of Toronto, I've been to India 4 months already and absolutely ALL women are dressed exactly alike. The only thing that's different is the color of the sari ... what's so interesting about that?

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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Hampi


I love overnight trains. I save on accommodation, it's comfortable, you get to meet normal Indian people who can actually afford sleeper class ticket, you can chat with them and eat with them. They would always offer you whatever they're eating. They're usually pretty happy, will always help you with luggage, stations, will wake you up if necessary. But more importantly you go far during the night without spending all the day moving around. But for some reason I can't sleep when the train is not moving ... maybe because I'm impatient, or maybe because the rocking motion helps me sleep. I arrived in Hampi completely sleep deprived, got the worst and the most expensive room and felt like a zombie for the rest of the day. I couldn't go to sleep because I had to find out good accommodation and a popular spot that every tuk-tuk driver would know so that I could write an email to Andy (from Varkala) who would be arriving the next day.
Finally a cheap place to do laundry. South America was so cheap, they were charging about 80 cents per kilo, here they charge from 30 - $1 per item!! In Hampi it was 10 cents, so I just handed my entire suitcase in for a wash. It wasn't much cleaner when I got it back. My pants still had mud stuck to them, and my shorts and Adidas t-shirt magically disappeared :(
The whole time after Madurai I was on my own in completely non touristic places, and I missed some human interaction. I went for breakfast to the most packed cafe so that I could meet someone. Apparently I wasn't the only one missing talking. Maria, the girl on the next table started talking to me the second I sat down. I ordered tea, but when I put honey in it, it was overflowing with ants. I didn't look at the honey bottle which was half honey/half ants. Maria said that the black ones are ok, they do no harm, it's the red ones that have some acid in it ... oooooh, ok... well if black ones are ok, I'll guess I'll add some protein to my diet! Naaaaaahh :))
Maria is from Germany, but lived in Indonesia for a while. She built a house there, said it was beautiful, relaxing, like a paradise. Then a lot of her friends started to come for vacation and her house was always full of guests. Her neighbours got jealous because they thought that she opened a hotel and was charging people, and look how much money she's making, meanwhile she didn't charge anybody anything. They started accusing her that she's dealing drugs, it got worse and worse, and one day she just took the next flight out, since having drugs in possession (which they could've hid anywhere in her bike or a house) in Indonesia means death sentence.
I have no idea why we met at 8am in the morning for breakfast, since I still didn't accumulate enough hours of sleep from the night before. I usually work with averages. If I sleep 4 hours one night, I need at least 12 hours the next night, so it would average out to 8 hours/night :) In the morning Maria brought James a funny British guy who would say fantastic, amazing, smashing, intriguing, and thrilling to any small phrase.
- It was a pretty good tea we had at the train station the other day
- Wow! brilliant !!
James was late a few times, just by a few minutes, but Maria was joking that he's the girl of the pack, that we're always waiting for him. I'm German, I'm never late! She said.... But then every time we met, she would always set up a range. "Let's meet for dinner between 7 - 8". Why between 7 - 8? Who sets up time like that? What if I get there at 7, and then I have to wait for another hour for her to show up? It took me a few times to make sure that she will arrive there at 7. I don't understand that logic at all ... but then it hit me: Germans are never late, so instead of being late, they just make up this huge range to accommodate for their "perfection".
Maria decided to have bong lassi for breakfast (lassi mixed with marijuana), and she peered pressured James to share it with her. Hampi is a holy city, so no alcohol is allowed, as pretty much in most places in India. They actually went as far as having dry states. But in touristic places they would serve beer in a tea pot, and marijuana mixed with lassi, and would have funny names on the menu. Bong lassi was called lassi.com. What you have to look out for are the prices. If a regular lassi costs 20-30 rps, and lassi.com costs 300, then you know you hit the target. Peer pressure doesn't work on me, and I only had a small sip. Man it was strong! Ok to share this cup between 5-6 people, but not between 2! At first they had a lot of energy, and couldn't sit still. We decided to rent bicycles to cycle around Hampi. We made it to the nearest temple which was a 2 minute ride. Climbed inside, and they crashed to sleep for 5 hours. I didn't mind it at all, because my sleep accounting was not yet in order. Their happiness and over-hyper-activeness turned into exhaustion and paranoia (when James thought that the temple would collapse on us, and that the police would suddenly find them and put them to Indian jail). They started feeling extremely sick and were barely able to move. James said that 4 days later he still felt it. Their munchies came just in time for me to meet Andy in the restaurant. I couldn't help but laugh when Maria ordered tomato soup, and chapati, and french fries and oh, don't forget the double burger!! :)
Andy came !!! YEEIII :))
We went to the town temple where the temple blessing elephant shook Andy's hand. The temple was called “sri sri sri virupaksha”. “Sri” means something like “respect to”. There are a lot of names of restaurants/ tour companies/buses that are called Sri/Shree Krishna (god’s name)… another example is Sri Lanka (respect to Lanka (king’s name)). We were laughing. It’s triple respect as in: re-re-re-spect! Temple’s in the house!!! :))
 Then went to the nearby ruins for the amazing sunset views. I think this is the best sunset I've seen in a while, and definitely the best sunset pictures! This is where James got scammed by the local police for drinking in a holy city. James is a nice guy. Him and a few more guys took 1 beer each to the ruins to watch the sunset. The police fined them 1000 rps each!!!! Poor tourists ... or poor James. It should never cost this much, and you can ALWAYS get away with not paying. The police is very lazy, and they would've gotten away with 100 rps fine in total if you demand to be taken to the police station and pay the fine properly. This means that they have to walk, miss the opportunity of "fining" someone else, fill out forms, and actually not get any money out of it. They would accept any amount if you know that it's the case.
In the morning met James and Robert for breakfast. Robert is 20 years old, and came to Hampi to volunteer for 4 months with the kids teaching them English. I would’ve loved to do something similar and actually get close to Indian people instead of just seeing one side of them, which is usually not that good.
They didn't have change in the restaurant, gave me more money and asked that I'll give them 55 rps later! 55 rps??!! That's a lot of money! I've never encountered that in India before. Change is always a problem in India, since the ATMs always give either 500s of even worse 1000s out, and nobody ever has any change. The best bets are hotels, expensive restaurants, and train stations. Sometimes I would walk with a 500 ruppee note for days and wouldn't be able to change it anywhere. We came back to the restaurant for dinner, next breakfast/lunch, and I still didn't have 55 rps to give them. They haven't said a word. Very surprising!
We then went for the walk to the other side of the river. On the map it looked like 6kms, in reality it was more than 20! We left in the morning and came back at 9 at night! There is a big problem with Lonely Plants maps. Things look close, but end up being almost always twice the distance. I think India is so big, it just doesn't fit on the map :)
Everybody we met on the way run up to us. Hi, your name? Your country? That's all they want to know, or that's all the English they know, and it's usually as far as the conversation goes. Sometimes it's so bad, you say it 100 times a day. Sometimes I don't even look at them, keep walking ... Yana ... Canada. But then I feel bad, it's not their fault that they're hundredth person to ask me that in a day, and not the first one, or even the tenth one, when I still have the energy to sound enthusiastic or friendly. Everybody's taking our pictures, or if they don't have a camera, their pictures on our camera (which at the end of the day we delete ... they're just way too many). I don't think even if I'll stumble across a famous person on the street, I would say anything to him/her. Let them have their peace and quiet, they deserve it!
I'm not irritated by their sneaky pictures as much, I just put my hand in front of my face and look down.
There were no restaurants in the area and we ended up in some local bar where the ground is filled with broken bottles and the locals are driving away on their bikes drunk. They don't have coke, or don't want to pay for coke, so instead of drinking rum and coke, they drink rum and water. They had some snacks to go with their drinks and that's what we had for lunch, which was not good and over spicy. We didn't have anything to wash it down with. We ordered sprite, and they said yes it's coming. It wasn't coming for a while. We saw the guy running around. "Is the sprite coming?" - Yes, yes. And then we don't see him again. What does that mean? It means that they don't have sprite and they're now too embarrassed to say that they don't have it, even though they can have fanta or coke or pepsi, and they would rather disappear than admit their mistake.
Also "I don't know" doesn't exist in Indian language. When you ask for directions, they would rather send you somewhere rather than say "I don't know". I already learned how to differentiate between the two. When they just point somewhere, it means they don't know, if they point and say something like 2nd left or give a landmark, then it's a sure bet. They would also say "yes"/"no" if they don't know. That could be annoying at times.
- Can I have sunny side up eggs please?
- Yes, yes!
All the orders come, my eggs don't come ... GRRR ...
- Are my eggs coming?
- What eggs?
-----
They sold whole walnuts at the shop. I'm not sure if we wanted any, but I asked them if they have a nutcracker.
- Yes
We later decided that we do want walnuts. We waited until all the Indians were served that were now in front of us. Finally it came our turn.
- Can we have nuts and a nutcracker?
- We don't have a nutcracker
... but I already knew it. I somehow learned to differentiate when their yes means an actual yes ... just like a head wobble.
570 steps up to the hanuman (monkey god) temple. At the bottom we bought a bag on bananas to feed to the monkeys on the top, but were almost attacked by a huge monkey on the bottom who saw the bag and was sure it was all for him. We would've given up if it wasn't for the brave local with the stick who came running and yelling at it and waving the stick up in the air.
On the top there were lots of monkeys. I'm scared of monkeys because I know what they can do. They can be cute and fuzzy until they want something from you, then they're gonna gang up on you and scratch your eyes out. Although they are my favourite animals just because how smart and human like they are. At first Andy was throwing the bananas to them, but then the locals said just to hold the banana in his hand, and the monkey would come by, stand on his feet and calmly take it from the hand. Or he would hold it up, and they would jump to get it :)
We were getting late for the last boat across the river, but when we got to the bottom, we were offered a tuk-tuk for 300 rps for 6 kms!! Hampi is a very touristic place very near Goa. So stupid tourists come for a vacation and do a quick jump to Hampi, and pay these prices because they just don't know any better. Tuk-tuk should cost 10 rps per kilometer. We told them that we're even ok with paying 100. They didn't barge, and we didn't either. They told us that we'll miss the last boat across the river unless we take a tuk-tuk, but according to LP we already missed it. We couldn't pay even if we wanted to. If we allow them to use us, they would use the next tourists as well. It's the principle of backpackers "inc". Sometimes I wouldn't even pay 5 rps extra. Just because I'm white, it's not a reason for me to be ripped off! I met a lot of backpackers who wouldn't give in as well... "Pay it forward"!!!
They were desperate for the money, and kept driving by our side trying to negotiate. But our theory goes like this: if the price it too high in the beginning, no further negotiations are possible even if you give us a fair price. They have to learn their lesson not to be greedy! They actually did get down to 100, but we declined. We had no idea how to cross the river. The guys being all macho wanted to cross the river in complete darkness with day packs and cameras/iPods/phones and we heard that they're crocodiles in there! No thank you, I'm not crossing, I'd rather pay $2 and stay in the accommodations on this side of the river and will cross in the morning with the boat.
We reach the river, it's dark and there is no living soul in sight. We yell "heeellllloooo", and after a few minutes heard a "heeeelllooo" from the other side. The small round shaped bamboo boat thingi was coming to the rescue. We knew that he would give us a crazy price because he have no other choice but to take his boat. And it was a very slippery situation trying to negotiate when we knew that he could just paddle back to the other side and we would be stuck. That's where principles do not work well at all :)
At the guest house they promised us electricity 24 hours, maybe with 10 minute outages, which seemed reasonable. But this night it went off for 2 hours! I couldn't sleep at all. I was covering myself with a wet towel to cool off a bit, and also somehow I managed to get a bottle of water at 2:30 in the morning. It's all about stupid room construction. It's actually quite nice outside, but the rooms are boiling hot. If they would put 2 windows on both sides, there would be a breeze and an outside temperature.
Hampi is gorgeous. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in the world. The scenery is magical and almost unreal with thousands of giant boulders somehow lying on top of each other for miles and miles. (LP) Hampi was once Vijayanagar's capital in 1336, which grew into one of the largest Hindu empires in Indian history. By the 16th century, it was a thriving metropolis of about 500,000 people, with busy bazarrs dabbling in international commerce, brimming with precious stones and merchants from faraway lands.
Hundreds of temples that are scattered everywhere around the region add a fairytale feel to the place. I have no idea how it's so unknown to the world, I don't think places like that exist anywhere else!
The problem with it though is that the locals started using the structures of the temples to build their houses/stores! … in the world heritage site!! UNESCO started destroying some of the houses, and promised to bulldoze all houses which are not cleared out, so now locals started to take down all the valuable pieces of their houses like roofs and doors and moving somewhere else. The town of Hampi is half in ancient ruins and half in modern ruins. Walking in some parts is like walking in a war zone.
We rented scooters for the day. They were ok, though the steering was misaligned, they had problems starting, and oh, the breaks didn't really work. We drove around the whole day from temples to temples, exploring them all. We saw so much, queen's bath, elephant enclosures, cart, wedding temple, and 100s of other temples, statues, holy men bathing and chanting in the water. Absolutely beautiful!
It felt like the whole day I was just saying: Lets go here, lets go there, lets have a coconut, take a break. It occurred to me that no one really objected. At one moment I decided that I won't say anything for the suggestion of the next place to see. We get out of the temple, I'm quiet. Everybody else is quiet. We stand in silence for a few minutes. "Where do you want to go ?" finally someone says. I pretend I don't hear. We are not moving ... I don't understand why doesn't it bother anybody? After maybe 10 minutes of indecisiveness, I get back into my role. I'm wondering ... am I a natural leader or people don't want to make decisions for others, or people in general just don't want to think at all?
In Hampi my bag tore, and I had a hole in my jeans. I gave them to a tailor without asking for the price first. I wonder what's gonna happen when I'll come to pick them up? I come to the tailor, she shows me everything, then she shows me the jeans, I fixed it here, and a bit here, and here and here ... oh, oh I think! I ask her how much. She says that I should give her how much I think is a good price. I hate when they do it. I usually give them how much I think and they start yelling at me that it's not enough. And it's not because I gave them not enough, is because it's a technique they use to get more money out of tourists. I tell her that she should give me a fair price ... she thought for a bit and told me 50 ($1). I was in shock and gave her 100 for excellent job and honesty!
Next day we went for a walk on the river to a small lake. We had to jump over boulders (which I love!) except that my shoes are slippery, and it's not that I don't trust myself, I don't trust the shoes. I would stand there, look at the next rock, make a little whine sound, and would have 3 pairs of hands helping me :) Once we were at the bottom, and had to go to the next set of rocks, and I was literary flown to the top.
The lake was cool, it was just for us. We had to go through a little cave to go in and out. There was water very deep to swim in some parts, at other parts the rocks would be a few cms from the surface where we could chill in right in the middle of the lake. There was also fish that would nib at us, and occasionally one of us would scream like a girl (and it wasn't me :) ) when the fish would suddenly mistake a toe for a worm :)
The whole day we sat in the restaurant, sat in the sun, in the shade, in the lake and at 8pm I'm so exhausted I couldn't keep my eyes open.
Hampi is great! It's sad to say goodbye, but great adventures await!

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Friday, 1 June 2012

Mysore & Bangalore

Went for a walk. As usual one guy started to talk to me and as usual I ignored him. He kept following me telling me that he's not a rickshaw driver (they always use the same phrases in different cities ... can't they come up with something original??) and started telling me where to go what to see. I said that I don't need any help, I'm just walking around. He smiled at me with him toothless smile, and kept helping me. I don't need any help, thank you very much! Guys in India do not help anybody. Either they want money, or to take you to their shop, or to try and have sex with you. That's guys in the weird age of about 17 to 30 when they're still unmarried virgins, and their hormones shoot through the roof. He wouldn't get away from me, I kept walking in my direction and he kept following me. All I did was say aha to all his commentary without hearing much of what is being said. Finally he said that he has a shop where he sells aurvedic oils. I'm not interested. He said that my ego is too big. I said that it's not big, I don't want to talk to him, I don't need any help, and I don't want to go to his store. He started to blame me that we white girls treat them like shit, and what we think we're so much better than them on and on and on ... Aha! Finally I reached a market, said goodbye and went inside. He asked me what's going on, am I not going to his shop? I said no, I'm going to this market and started walking. I heard something like fuck, fucking, ass ... I did make a right decision of not talking to him. I've been too long in India now to learn not to talk to Indian men!
In the market, I peaked inside. All seems to be normal, sellers selling fruits and lots of flowers for their gods. I took a deep breath and started walking along one alley. The second I put my foot in the alley, madam, madam, look, look here, flowers, colors, flowers, flowers, flowers??!!! I walked less than 50 meters and run out the small side exit to the street. It was less than a 20 second walk and inside I was boiling. I wonder how long it will be till all the water boils out? Will I get more understanding or will I just explode?
In the evening it started to rain. I hid in a small shop that doesn't really sell much. There are a lot of stores like that where you can buy 1 or maybe 2 things. What's the point of it? I asked the owner if the business is doing well ... he said not so much. Maybe he should buy more inventory. I read a newspaper, and came across 2 interesting articles. In one, a Muslim father sues his daughter’s Hindu bf's family. The couple went for a trip and the father filed a police claim that his daughter was abducted. When the court dismissed his claim, the father exclaimed "Oh god, see what has happened!", the judge said "God will look after everyone". Big enough to hit the news! It's a little bit understandable though, because when British gave India independence in 1947… “the muslim party wanted a separate state and Indian party campaigned for a greater India. British couldn't bring two sides together and a civil war emerged with Hindus and Muslim being slaughtered. More and more violence happened and a decision was made to divide the country. The division was extremely tricky and some areas were clearly muslim or Hindu, but most of areas were mixed. The resulting bloodshed was far worse than anticipated. Trains full of muslims fleeing westward, were held up and slaughtered by Hindu mobs. Hindus fleeing to the east suffered the same fate at Muslim hands. By the time chaos had run its course, more than 10 million people had changed sides and at least 1 million had been killed” (LP).
Hindus and Muslims are still in conflict till present day. I heard on numerous occasions that in a state of Gujarat, Muslims bombed a train of Hindu holy man, in response the government(!) gave order to local population to freely shoot and kill any muslims they saw on the street for 3 days! I love religion. It brings so much peace and happiness. It's like it's not enough all the separations that are inevitable such as countries, race, gender, color, let’s throw religion into the mix as well so that everybody could hate everybody else.
Going back to the newspaper, the next article was from Los Angeles where they came up with dogTV, so that your dog will be entertained, relaxed and stimulated for 8 hours, while the owners are at work.
Mysore is big, and a taking a tour was a good idea. A whole day tour from 8am to 9pm was $3 so why not? This time I was relaxed. Learning from a previous tour that most of the time it takes to wait for people to get on the bus. I took my book, and was happy. The French girl who was on the tour wasn't as relaxed as me, and swore she would never take a tour again. The “organization” is just not an Indian word unless it's used in a phrase "organized chaos" which I read in a book, and it's exactly what I think of India. The guide said that it's 500 entry to all the sights, and we should give money to him now. I said that I want to pay for everything myself, but he said that this way we'll get a group discount. Well, we didn't get any discount, had to wait until he gets all the tickets, and at the end everything added up to 400! Not only that, at every entrance he tried to get money from us for that entrance. You give me 100; But we already gave you 500; oh, ok, ok. Like that every time!
The art gallery was very nice, but the French girl didn't like ... she's from Paris, it's understandable.
Next was the zoo. It was a very nice zoo, very big, very clean, not too many people, looked after animals, and a huge variety of them too. We were given 1.5 hours to see it all. First half we looked around, 2nd half we were constantly looking at the watch and running towards the exit.
Saw a temple ... another temple ... yeeiii !! :S
The royal palace was beautiful. We took a useless (but free) audiotour. We didn't have passport or enough money to give as a deposit, which was $20. I tried to convince him to take my Ray Ban sunglasses which worth $200, but I guess he thought nobody would be that crazy to pay so much for sunglasses. Every time I'm more and more convinced that palaces are more beautiful on the outside than on the inside. In the court yard a little girl came running towards me and offered me her hand to shake. I'm in my usual zone "No!", she run away. I have to differentiate between cute kids who want to shake your hand ask for your name and country, and dirty kids who ask for your name and country and then for some rupees. My chilled out mood of Munnar has been long gone. The girl clung up to her mother. Matilda (the French girl), said "look you made her cry". I felt bad, and outstretched my arms to her. She run up to me. I picked her up. Asked her a bunch of questions, played with her hair and dress, and let her go. We walked off ... Gosh, I really don't like kids I tell Matilda. She started laughing at me ... for sure it didn't seem like it while you were playing with her. Well, I had to compensate for making her cry!
Matilda wanted to explore the palace more and told our guide that she won't be coming back, but 1 hour proved to be enough. We come to our guide. He looks at us and starts trembling.
- Where is your bag?
- On the bus
- You're staying on the trip?
- Yes
- Oh no, no, no, no, no
He covered his face with his hands shaking from side to side "no, no, no, no, no, no, no"... "ok, no problem!"
What??? :))) We just transferred to another bus, where they had to squeeze people in for us to sit. Never a problem in India, people always seem to find space, and even if there isn't any space, others will squeeze in without any complaining or show off discomfort.
Saw a temple ... another temple ... yeeiii !!
Went to gardens which were very pretty. Lots of Bollywood video clips are made there. There are fountains, and dancing fountains and lights. Very nice! I was pleasantly surprised. In this part of India, they compensate cheap entrances by expansive camera charges. I just kept on walking with my camera hanging off my shoulder. They were screaming at me, camera ticket, camera ticket. I said "no camera" and walked passed them. I had to wait for Matilda to pay for hers. Common, she was travelling quite a lot, I don't understand what got into her. I don't mind paying camera charges when I'll actually take pictures. But now it was already getting dark, so what do I have to pay for?
While we were walking and talking, 1 guy was walking beside us with his ear almost at my mouth. "May I help you?" I asked. He said he wanted to hear what language we're speaking. Doesn't he know that it's rude to listen to somebody else's conversations?
We were very hassled by the kids to buy something. Madam, eat, food, food, his hand with the palm up, food, food. I looked at him and he was chubby. I don't give money to beggars, hope he'll have better luck with someone else. Another one selling postcards. Please madam madam madam, I need for school, please take, almost crying x 100 times in a never ending loop. We walk off, he comes with us repeating the same sentence without any breaks in between with super speed and a very whiny voice. The locals beside us just stood there. It continued for 5 minutes until I asked one of the locals to shoo him away. One hand gesture with mahalahabahala yell, and the kid was off. Next time I will time how long it will take them to go away if I'll just ignore him. After a while he came back with the same broken record of a whine. I imitated him, he looked at me and walked away.
At night I did reiki. This time it was super cool, I did all the 7 chakras, and tried to concentrate on my 3rd eye because I was eager again to see the color, I didn't :( But I did manage to stop my thoughts. I was noticing what I was thinking and it was "Ok, relax now, breath, stop thinking", Oh damn it, I'm talking, not not thinking, let’s try again "do not think, do not think" ... I'm talking again!!! But I did manage to see and feel emptiness, although I was still humming something. I was concentrating so much that I was forgetting to breathe. It was a very nice experience. Then when I lied to sleep, and I couldn't sleep cause I had too much energy, I would feel that me and my body are separate, I could observe it from outside, nothing needed to move, to be scratched, I was perfectly comfortable. Then there was some laser vision that drew a shape of a sand watch with green laser color which started spinning extremely fast, and while it was spinning it was growing bigger and bigger, and then my body was jerking on its own. Pretty cool stuff!! :))
In the morning went to a Tibetan colony. India gave land to Tibetan refuges in 1959 after Chinese invasion. There are posters everywhere "Thank you incredible India for generous support towards Tibetan causes". The settlement was a nice change from the rest of India where everything was tidy and clean and not broken. There were monks everywhere with maroon and yellow robes. I went inside one monastery, it was extremely beautiful with three 18 meter high golden plated status. 1 of Buddha, and 2 I already forgot who. I went inside the temple and read a book, but every time I lifted my eyes up, I was again and again and again mesmerized by its sight. I couldn't believe the beauty of it, and if it weren't for the noisy gangs of Indian tourists, I would've been in heaven.
I remember on the tuk-tuk drive we passed a lake, which seemed as a nice place to spend a few hours. It was really hot, and I wasn't sure in which direction to go. I didn't have much water left, and I was walking for a long long time. I thought I'm gonna get a sun stroke. I don't think I made a right turn at some junction and was walking maybe for an hour under a blazing sun before giving up on the lake idea and taking a tuk-tuk to the bus station. The tuk-tuk turned around and we drove all the way from where I started walking :(( I was devastated ... all this effort for nothing. I started being philosophical, forget about an hour spent walking in the wrong direction ... what about life choices that we make. How long do we stay at a destructive relationship, a bad job, making wrong life choices, going in a wrong direction before realizing what we're doing and turning back. It must be hard to realize that the further we are in a wrong way, the further we have to go back, just to start at zero again. How many people turn around???
At the bus station 1 guy asked me where I go. I usually rely on local information, otherwise there is no way of knowing anything. The problem is choosing the right candidate for my questions. This wasn't a candidate, and I made a mistake of telling him Mysore. He then didn't get away from me. He was coming back and back, pointing me to the right bus. I thanked him but continued sitting and reading a book, I wasn't ready yet for another hectic bus ride, I needed to get my senses back together after the walk. He didn't board the bus until I did. He kept me a seat and told me to sit beside him, I really didn't want to, I wanted to be left alone at peace, and he looked suspicious to me anyway. I reluctantly sat, but continued to read the book and to ignore him. Thank god a middle aged man shooed him off, since for a single man and a single woman to sit next to each other is almost forbidden. He was standing behind me in a packed bus, talking and talking and talking, I wasn't listening, and wasn't replying to him. He kept on talking. I heard him make a phone call and saying "Mysore" ... this can't be good. The book I was reading was in Russian, at some point a finger was jammed into the pages with some question, I slapped his hand hard and told him to move away. He was saying a lot of "ok-ok" phrases, very popular in here, which doesn't really mean anything. He finally said that he gets of here "ok-ok?". I kept on reading. He didn't go to Mysore as he said, I didn't really know what he wanted from me. Really annoying!
I'm thinking a lot these days. I can't change this place, this culture of 1.2 billion people. I try to change things, and I try to tell people what I think. But how can you fight something that is?? Especially as an outsider?
Again I notice more and more that there are no women outside, especially walking. If there are women, they are usually either travelling somewhere (very small amount) or selling some fruits/veggies. I was walking for hours in the city, and after getting tired of constant stares, I put my head down, and was looking into the ground, a habit that still stays me with. It keeps my nerves in a better shape. I got a little headache from my sunglasses, and hung them on my shirt. One old man, short, traditionally dressed, was walking towards me, and grumbling something. Once he got near me, he started spitting on me. What's going on?? I have long pants on, covered t-shirt, I look down and the sunglasses went a little bit too low and about 1 cm of my cleavage was showing ... oh the drama!
And now for the famous head wobble. Every Indian wobbles his head probably 90% of his waking life. At first I was very confused by this concept. The different meanings I found throughout my journey are: yes/no/maybe/it's nice/no thank you/you're welcome/I like it/I don't know what you're talking about/aha. So pretty much it means everything and nothing at all. What I think it means is just an acknowledgement of what you said was being heard.
In the restaurant one evening, an Indian family sat at my table. As usual they initiate conversation, they want to know my good name (or sweet name), everybody's name is "good" in India. Where I come from, why I came to India, how long I stay here, and what I think of India. After a few minutes I was invited to stay at their house. I didn't really want to, but how do I say "no"? An idea kicked in!! I wobbled my head and got away with it :) I was so happy with myself, I managed to generate a response without giving an answer :)
Went to Bangalore especially to see the aerospace museum … I'm such a girl!! :)
I asked a tuk-tuk driver to take me to a specific hotel. He stopped at some other hotel, and said it was the cheapest one for $16/night. Take me to the other hotel I said. But madam, this is the cheapest hotel you'll find. It's good, family oriented.
- Take me to the hotel in the book
- But madam, this is a good one, go take a look
- Take me to my hotel
- But mad...
- Start driving
- Madam, this hote...
- Stop talking, start driving!
I must have said "Take me to my hotel" at least 10 times. I'm learning not to give up! Hopefully it will become useful in real life, although I'm not sure if my defense will kick in unless I'll have an annoying tuk-tuk driver to combat.
"My" hotel was perfect. It was nice, modern, clean with excellent service at the reception, well minus 1 guy. It was in a very good location, and for $10. I had to wait an hour until someone checked out, because single rooms are unheard of in India, who in their right mind travels on his own? My computer's battery was dying and I asked the guy at the reception to plug it in. He said no. Look at all these cables, and they will go from a reception desk all the way to me. No madam, I'm very very sorry, but it's impossible! I got so angry! In my mind I thought, maybe your country wouldn't be such a shithole if not everything would be impossible!!!!!
Overall I've been to 3 different internet places. All have the same rules that you need passport info to use the internet. Some require an actual passport, some would do with a photocopy, and some would just let you write the number which I remember by heart. Same things, different rules. We all live in the walls that we build ourselves!
It took me an hour to get a train ticket with only 3 people in the line. Why do things in here take so long??
And on I went for a day of adventure. I only had 2 days in Bagalore and tons to see. I was taking tuk-tuks all the time, which was a bit uncomfortable since the maps in LP on different areas weren't connected, and I had no idea where I am and how far places between each other are. I overpaid by a lot these days, but at least I got to see everything.
Went to a sultan's palace which was very boring and really not worth at all. Nearby was a temple. I'm not too excited by temples anymore, but this time there was a 10 year marriage ceremony which was fun. They took 2 gods which symbolize man and woman, carried them all over the temple, put holy water on them, some flowers, walked around with the fire. Then took offering plates, and put some flowers, powder, fruits on a plate. Put them on, took them off, put them on, took them off. Then made people pray to bananas and coconuts, repeat some chants while constantly ringing a bell. The holy men didn't look too holy, they stood there bored with their hands crossed, looking somewhere to the side and chanting and chanting.
Then I took a bus to see 2 more temples. It's never possible to get lost on the bus, absolutely everybody will look after you, ask where you're going, and will make sure that you get there. In the Ganesh temple, the Ganesh was huge and fat, and with so many flowers around him that you couldn't see him at all. Nandi (Shiva's bull) temple was a bit better, and you could actually take pictures in there. Bangalore is a modern city, and pretty big on steakhouses. How could I miss such an opportunity? I went to the most recommended steakhouse. The meat was good, but they put too much black pepper on it, and I spent a lot of time scrubbing it off. Nevertheless it was great to eat steak in the middle of India where you say "Holy cow" as the juices tingle your taste buds :)
The center of Bangalore is very modern. It's one of the Indian software capitals, and you would see posh modern buildings on one side with men dressed in business suits caring suitcases and iPhones, and garbage rotting on the other side of the road. I went to a very nice coffee house, where I had one of the best coffees ever. It was packed, and I was sitting there people watching. One girl caught my attention. She wore tights, tight t-shirt that showed a cleavage, ballet shoes, modern short(!) haircut (Indians are very proud of their long hair), and she was smoking! I got so excited, I almost asked the permission to take her picture :)
There were different coffee facts written on the walls of the cafe. One of them was "Turkey passed a law that a woman can divorce her husband if he doesn't provide her with cup a coffee each day".
I then went to a technology museum and a very expensive mall that's full of Rolex, Luis Vitton, Armani brands. Beautiful mall, no customers :( I wished I had a date with me in Bangalore. The restaurants were extremely beautiful! 5 star decor and atmosphere with the most expensive dishes going for $10 ... if even.
Was a bit disappointed by aerospace museum because I wanted to see space shuttles, but there were mainly planes :( Although MIG was on display and a heat shield for a satellite. Except the models, there were mostly pictures of different presidents who came to see India's space program. See ... we can be important too!
pix are here: https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/MysoreBangalore