I can barely lift my suitcase anymore, it got transformed into an overfed monster, but an elderly guy at the bus station put it on his head and climbed the ladder to the top of the bus to put it on the roof. He got a good tip for that :)
We got very tired from the bus ride or from the climate change (from boiling hot to chilling) that we slept all the time, slept and ate, slept and ate, but could also be a group effect, when I'm by myself I'm much more efficient. I got tired of doing nothing, grabbed Ally and went to a waterfall. The 3km walk to a natural thing was not natural at all, it was filled with endless stalls, traffic and hundreds of honking cars. We didn't even go to the top, and I didn't even take a picture. On the way back we bumped into Rich who nobody added on facebook, and nobody wrote him where we stay. 1 day of Rich filled energy is enough to last a year. He wanted to spend another day in Amritsar and leave the day after, and I almost told him that they can see the temple in the evening or early in the morning, but my brain caught up in time and told my mouth to be quiet :)
I have about a week before my visa runs out and I still have no idea where to go. I went to a book store and picked up China Lonely Planet. Initially I thought to go to Beijing and make my way down the coast, but after looking at different itineraries of coast routes, and internal routes and all of China routes, my head started spinning, I am not ready for yet another difficult and huge country. Besides, visas seem to be hard to get, and apparently there is no Chinese embassy in Delhi, only in Mumbai. I went to internet cafe, opened Google maps, and stared at the world map thinking of where to go next. Europe? Central America? SE Asia?? I'm looking at tickets, prices, visas, I leave the internet cafe 2 hours later stressed out and almost crying. I have no idea what to do :(
Andy is leaving soon and I'm not in the best of moods. Feeling a bit foggy inside and waiting for the moment to hit me.
We wanted to have a quiet evening, buy cheese, olives, white wine a relax on the balcony. Found a white wine store and asked them to put a bottle in the fridge with a pick up in a few hours. A few hours later we come back only to find out that the owner took the bottle out of the fridge because he thinks it won't taste good! What?? We were standing there in disbelief!! We went to a beer store instead and took 6 bottles of ice cold beer, at least they know what tastes good and what doesn't.
It was funny when Ally looked at me, at Andy, at me, at Andy. She said that we have the strangest dynamics she's ever seen. I bet she's right! :) We always pick at each other, disagree with each other, can't decide what we're gonna share for dinner, have different views, dreams, perspectives. When Andy and Ally are talking, they share common interest in movies, books, music, something that I’ve never seen, read or even heard of. And when they talk, my percentage of participation hovers around zero.
Andy is like India to me. I learned to accept and appreciate something/one that/who I don't understand, and a world away from my ideas.
Ally is a nice, sweet girl who still says thank you and excuse me when ordering or asking for something, words that I haven't heard in a long while now. She said that India is making her tougher, she can actually call a waiter and ask for the bill or send an order back if it's wrong, and she's afraid that when she'll come back home, she'll go back to her shy self. We were laughing, and told her that it's not a problem. If the situation will arise again, all she has to do is to come back to India and order one train ticket and she'll be right back on track :)
While Ally and I were chatting, Andy pops out of the room all white, I've never seen him so scared ... there is a scorpion in our bathroom!! I got excited, but he started freaking out, I was lying in the bed, what if he were to crawl in the bed?? Is he poisonous, how do we get him out??? Andy give me your shoe! I say - Why MY shoe??? Because it's heavier, give it to me now! I have no idea about scorpion behavior, can it run, can it jump, can it hiss and breathe fire out of its mouth?? How does it act? I took the shoe and smashed it. I felt very bad, I would've rather got a glass and paper and set it free outside, but we had no glass in our room :( Felt bad, kinda killing one of my kind (I'm a scorpio by horoscope) :(
Andy left to Delhi to meet his friend, and Ally went with him. I keep telling myself that everything will be alright, but if everything will be alright, why do I have tears in my eyes? Everything will be alright, everything will be alright! I think this will be my last trip. I've been moving all my life and it hurts too much to say goodbye so many times.
Next day I closed myself in the room and lied in bed, feeling the "hit".
Andy's gone. Is it time to meet my soul mate? While I'm looking at all the guys who are passing by and considering my chances with the bright red mo-hock dude, I'm wondering about psychics and their "abilities". Do they predict the future, or actually influence it? I'm going to chose paths in my life which correspond to psychics predictions. Good that my predictions were all positive, otherwise I might just sit there and do nothing thinking that psychic said that I won't have money in my life, so what's the use of trying?? Psychic said that I won't have a significant relationship and I won't marry, so might as well just sleep around. Psychic said that the world will end in December 2012, so might as well spend all my money or gamble it away.
McLeod Ganj is home to Dalai Lama and from here he governs Tibet. India was kind enough to give Tibetan refugees land, and now in McLeod Ganj and in nearby Daramasala there are over 130,000 refugees. Indeed this town doesn't feel Indian at all, and the Indians you see are mostly tourists.
Went to a talk of an ex political prisoner. In 1949 China invaded Tibet on the claims that it was always part of China. Tibet is a beautiful natural high plateau with Buddhist residents who protect and conserve the nature. Since Chinese invasion the forests are cut, wild animals are gone, water is polluted, people's freedom is taken away. The man who talked said that they put "Free Tibet" posters around the collage when Chinese police came in and arrested him and his friend for 5 years in prison. They were tortured, they put nails under their fingernails. They now give injections and use electricity to make prisoners mentally disabled. His friend had died from tortures. On one day the prisoners protested the Chinese flag that was put up on the prison during the Tibetan holiday. The authority let 500 soldiers into the courtyard area where the prisoners were protesting and bit them savagely. After the beatings the whole floor was covered in blood, and 8 people were killed. Life in exile is good, but their families are suffering. They don't have any contact with their families, since the communist Chinese government watches every step and every move of political prisoners' families. China imported millions of ethnic Chinese into Tibet to mix the population so much so that the Tibetans will lose their identity. The jobs are mostly given to Chinese and not to Tibetan. Tibetans try to protest, and so far 42 people have publically burnt themselves to raise awareness, but the Chinese government says that they're mentally ill. The only way to escape to India is to go through Himalayas on foot through high altitude, harsh and unknown conditions for months. A walk to India or to death?
Dalai Lama's perspective: Tibet is big with small population. We need the help of the Chinese to build infrastructure, get better health and education, we cannot do it on our own!
When youth confronted him, he said that they're outnumbered by the Chinese, they need hundreds of thousands of weapons, and how are they going to get it? From whom? And how are they going to bring it to Tibet?
My perspective: I think that he knows the independence is impossible, and though he would like to have independence, he can't say it out loud. People will get disturbed, more blood will be shed. He's helpless, and he just tries the best option there is for Tibet. Appearance of peace. Other countries won't help Tibet, they won't fight for it. They have nothing to gain and go to war against a huge communist army and an economic giant of cheap goods that make Western living affordable. There is no hope for Tibet :(
Now I'm very happy that I didn't go to China, I'm very mad at it, and don't want to spend any money to support it!
Went to a restaurant which showed a documentary about Dalai Lama. In there met a guy who told me a story about him being scammed. He arrived in Delhi for the first time, bought a train ticket and went into a station. At the x-ray machine he was stopped by a station employee, was asked to present his ticket for a check, and was informed that his train was cancelled. Why won't you go to Kashmir? Meanwhile I'm sitting there and shaking my head, didn't you read Lonely Planet??? I mean, that's the first thing you do when you come to a country is check a list of common scams. And Kashmir is number 1! If it were to happen in reality (a canceled train), which never happens, but say it does. They would've offered him help to get a ticket to the next train, to take a few trains with connections, if there are no tickets, then take general class. Not a 2 day train or a flight into hell knows where! He agreed and bought a boat package for an insane amount. In there, didn't get the service that he was promised, they were following him around anywhere he went, and then requested a huge tip which luckily he didn't give. It's hard to know where is the truth just on arrival to India. That's why Mumbai and Delhi are huge tourist rip-off cities. Tourists just don't know any better on arrival. It reminds me of a bag that I fixed for 100 rps, when it should've cost no more than 10.
Woke up early to go to Dalai Lama's birthday. Same number of people as in the border ceremony, but everybody's sitting calmly, relaxed, there is order, everybody's quiet. It's so much more important than the border ceremony, yet what a difference! Then too many people walked through the isle, I couldn't figure out where he is, I guess he's the one under the big umbrella. I couldn't hear the translation too well, and my butt and legs were hurting from sitting in the tiny space that I had, so I left, but at least I saw his face :)
Walked around the complex enjoying the views and looking at Tibetan prayer rituals. When they pray, they put their hands on a piece of cloth, sit on their knees, slide forward till completely lying on the ground, slide backwards, stand up and put their hands together in front of their chests, and like that many many times. No wonder they're in such a great shape! :)
p.s. I bought a ticket to Thailand. It's close, it's cheap and they give a free 30 day visa on arrival.
Back to Delhi...
I like Delhi much more this time around. Actually I've noticed that I like places more the 2nd time around ... all except Buenos Aires. I've been there 3 times, and every time, oh, what a nice city. Half an hour later ... I hate it !!
Delhi is green and modern, I'm travelling in an excellent subway system, looking at all the modern women who wear something else than a sari. The memory of real India is very distant and unbelievable now.
Went to see my friends whom I met in Chile. They live in a modern neighbourhood built for the sole purpose of providing residence for the employees of big companies which set up their offices nearby. Even though the buildings are new, they're not maintained and almost black on the outside, there are still no sidewalks and some cows, and among the boutique stores kids are begging for money. Had to go through 2 security checks before entering the building. They said they were worried about cycle rickshaws from the subway station, and were surprised when found out that I paid the local price :)
I was surprised of the difference between rural and city life. They don't know their neighbours and have only 1 child. They have a cook and a cleaner who cleans for 3 hours every day and it costs $100/month! They use seatbelts and turn signals, something that I haven't seen in India yet!
Woke up early to go shopping. 20 cycle rickshaws asked me where I want to go, red fort, Jama Masjid? I didn't even pay attention, didn't get irritated at all. There were many beggars, in very bad condition. Some of them shouldn't even be alive. It's never good to give money to children. The money doesn't go to them, it goes to their keepers. The kids might die, but at least new children won't be disfigured and spend their lives begging.
My last day in India and I'm very tempted to buy a sari. I entered the first sari shop, saw 3 saris and bought one. Usually a big mistake, cause I have no idea how much the saris cost, but I liked the owner, he knew good English and seemed very honest. My friends took me to a mall where they cost at least $100. I got this one for $38 including a tailored blouse which was ready in 2 hours. Later when I found a whole sari street, I was pleased that I paid a very good price for a very nice wedding style red sari. I also bought bangles and a tikka (forehead jewelry), and I'm all equipped for something very special. Although I still have no idea what this special occasion will be :)
Now I'm looking for a Ganesh statue. Some tuk-tuk wanted to charge me 200. That's way too much. Even if you want to rip tourists off, you should say 100. 200 is even too much for Canada! One driver was driving me around with a hope to get a commission, but too bad it was Sunday and most of the stores were closed.
I'm in a market, but there is no street food and no restaurants. I asked for a recommendation of a restaurant and was sent to one. It was packed, it's recommended in LP as well, but it's super expensive and the food is really bad. It was so bad that I didn't even finish it. Why is it so popular? As always when I eat spicy food, my nose starts to run a little. I've been outside for only a few hours, but when I blew my nose, the whole napkin was black!
In the metro, the end wagon (or 2) are dedicated to women only. At the last station, the end wagon becomes the front wagon, so at the end of the lines there are guards spreading themselves wide around the doors letting women exit first before the stampede of guys will begin. With women and men clash I'm sure it prevents quite a lot of groping! At every station near women's wagons there are guards whistling at any guys who want to get in.
Went to see the lotus palace. Didn't like it at all. It's meant to be a place of worship for all religions. It's nice, but it wasn't worth the trip. So many people there, it's crazy! I jumped the queue 3 times. Once to get into the temple grounds, 2nd time for shoes, 3rd time to get into the temple. Payback time! hahahahaha!! Saw a couple of Russian tourists. So out of place. So clean, very well dressed, the guy was even wearing white pants! For who are they dressed like that??
Did some shopping in the backpacking area. No more problems with bargaining. Price for a small Ganesh was 500, I bought the big one for 500. Felt good not to feel bad :) Also bought a table runner and pillow cases. It's hard to imagine what my future home would look like, and if it will fit at all, but for $1 for a piece, one cannot go wrong.
All day of running around, and I'm exhausted. At 10pm I find out that I don't have enough money, all the ATMs don't work, and I have to go 2kms to the train station :S I go to sleep after 12, to wake up at 2 to go to the airport. When I ordered a taxi to the airport, I asked if there are other people going because the price is per taxi, not per person. They told me that there isn't anyone else, and what a surprise it was when another woman sat in the taxi next to me. There is nothing better than to get ripped off at the last hour in India! Oh well, at least I jumped the queue 3 times :)
During the security check where the lady officer metal scanned me, she couldn't do it in public, and every woman is taken into a small room which is covered from public view. At the x-ray luggage scan, some Russian girls had half a bottle of whisky with them that they couldn't take on the plane. One of the girls almost started crying, and told them that she'll drink it right now! At 3am!!!
What I've noticed in the airport is that all the Indian people have a very fair skin complexion, pretty much like mine. Nobody's too dark. That's why they all want to be light, because lightness is associated with higher caste and includes plane rides! Indeed most Indians have never been outside their country or even outside their city.
At 3am all the duty free shops are open, and I'm walking among the perfume ads with my jaw dropped. All the ads show usually semi naked women, all hot and ready, with their breasts out and grabbing some guy. What are we doing to Indian culture, these pictures and ideas have no place in India. No wonder Western women get so harassed in here, they don't realize that it's not real!
I'm leaving India, and after so much hassle, sweat, fighting, bargaining, effort ... I'm feeling sad. India is a great country, though it requires a lot time and patience to understand it. I've accumulated new strengths, new ideas, and new appreciation. There is no country in the world like it, it's something unique that you won't find anywhere else. 3 months have passed now since I left, I'm looking back at pictures and I miss it. It's definitely Incredible India!
Few new pics are added to the end of the album: