Tuesday, May 26, 2009



India is different.

South America seemed very similar to the US. Australia was practically the same country. Even southeast Asia didn't really seem that different.

India is different.

India is a really big country, and I knew I wouldn't be able to see everything, but how would I pick what to see? I knew I wanted to see the Taj Mahal, so I thought I would limit the trip to the north. I settled on Delhi, Agra, and Rajastan, mostly because in Australia, I found a rather small Lonely Planet guidebook for those areas. But after talking to others, I realized that no trip to North India would be complete without a visit to Varanasi. Also I heard good things abbout Dharamsala. So I decided those would be the areas I would visit.

On April 20 I flew from Bangkok to Delhi. It was about 10:00pm by the time I got my luggage and made it through customs. Since I was getting in so late, I reserved a room ahead of time and they sent a driver (who was holding a sign with my name on it). The first thing I noticed was the heat. It was incredibly hot that night despite being 10:00pm. I got to my hotel in the Pahargan area near the New Delhi train station.

On April 21 I wanted to take a tour of Delhi. I left the hotel in search of the government tourist office near Cannaught Place. It Seemed like a short walk. It was morning and the city was not quite busy yet. There were a few street vendors and a guy sitting on the curb getting a shave, but it was not a bustling as I was expecting. A guy approached me saying he was a college student wanting to practice his English. As we walked, he asked me the following questions, which, like clockwork, would be asked by many more Indians:

What is your name?
Where are you from?
What do you do in the states?
First time in India?
You married?
Where are you going?

I told him I was going to the government tourist office. He said he knew where it was and would take me there. Since I was a bit lost, I went with him. He took me to this tourist office that basically was a desk and a sign above the door that said this was the government tourist office. I had read about scams like this. They try to get unsuspecting tourists into a tourist office and sell them an overpriced tour package before they figure out how much things are suppossed to cost in India. I told him I didn't think this was the governemnt tourist office. He said it was a branch. I walked away and in literally 2 seconds another guy came up to me. I had the same conversation I had with the other guy. This guy knew the name of the street I was looking for. We got to the a tourist office on that street and he said this was it. I got out my lonely planet guidebook and noted that the government tourist office was on the other side of the street. I went across the street to the government tourist office I was looking for. Unfortunately, it was the government tourist for India. For tours fo Delhi I would have to go to the Government Tourist Office for Delhi. He gave me a map and showed me where it was. It looked a bit further away than I wanted to walk.

I strolled around Cannaught Place a bit. Cannaught Place is a fancy shopping area in New Delhi. It was about 9:30 in the morning and nothing was open yet. Almost all of the stores were shuttered. I went to McDonalds, mainly because it was the only place open, for my first meal in India (and the last fast food chain I would see for most of my time in India). They didn't have breakfast food or hamburgers. They had chicken and veggie sandwiches. I got a chicken sandwich, fries and a coke. The fries tasted the same as in the states. As I was eating, two guys sitting near me, cusriously without food, engaged me in the same conversation as above which ended with them recommending a tourist office.

I decided I would see a few sights in Delhi on my own. Using the map, I went to see the Ghandi Museum, Ghandi Memorial, and Raj Ghat, the place where Gandi was cremated.

I also went to see the Red Fort, and the Jama Masijd (the largest mosque in India). At the Jama Masijd, entry was free, but I had to pay a 200 rupee charge to use my camera. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that was a scam, even though there was a sign up stating the fee. It was a beautiful building built in 1658. It was just after the sunset prayers. As I was walking around, a guy approached me and asked me if I wanted to go to the top of one of the spires. I thought why not. I had to by a 100 rupee ticket. We climbed up the stairs. It did have some great views. I figured he was wanting some kind of tip. He wasn't climbing these steps for his health. He asked for a tip. I asked how much is customary. He said 650 rupees. I told him he was crazy and give him 100. Thus began an argument. 100 rupees is a very good tip. I should have only given him 50. It was at most 20 minutes. He walked with me as I was walking away saying this was an outrage and I should give him 200 more. Then he wanted 100 more. It was like haggling but in reverse. I didn't give him any more. Finally he stopped walking along with me and went off to find his next target. This was a process that would be repeated many, many times while in India.

Gandhi Museum

Gandhi's walking stick he used during the salt march

Raj Ghat - Site of Gandhi's cremation.

Photos from the Red Fort.

Jama Masjid

It was an incredibly hot day and the madness of the city was wearing me down. There are so many people here. Way more than it seems the city is designed to hold. People, cars, rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, and animals all share the same narrow streets. Sidewalks are either non-existent or rendered useless because they're taken up by vendors or parked motorcycles. Rickshaws and motorcycles were buzzing past me way too close and way too fast. By the end of the day my nerves were shot.

India is a confusing place. It's economy is really taking off due to the outsourcing of IT and customer service call centers. But it seems to have the worst technology infrastructure I've seen. The electricity is constantly going out and the internet is terribly slow. Everything is paper based. I've seen hardly any cash registers. Most shopkeepers just throw money randomly into a drawer.

Roads in India generally will have a lane painted down the middle, but that line is really pretty meaningless. Drivers use he entire road. Sometimes there will be three or four cars going one way down a two lane road. Drivers are constantly honking. They honk when they want to pass or want someone to get out of the way. When they honk, the cars ahead of them will get over just enough to give the car enough space to pass, with about two to three inches to spare. Bus drivers will pass other cars into oncoming traffic and get over just a second before the cars meet. It's pretty intense.

India is a pretty conservative country and homosexuality is a taboo subject. But men are very affectionate with one another and it is extremely common to see men holding hands and with their arms around each other. They're not gay, and they would get angry if you asked if they were.

There are cows everywhere. That's the first thing that people who have traveled to India always told me. I thought, "Big deal". I grew up around cows. But it is an incredibly jarring sight to see cows walking down a busy, crowded street among the people, cars, and rickshaws. Hindus believe the cow to be sacred, and beef is not available in India, at least I didn't see any.

Also pigs and camels.

and goats.

It is acceptable for men to urinate on the side of the street. It was about a month before the monsoon season, so it was really dry and dusty. The smell of urine and cow shit was overpowering.

The swastika has to be the most universally despised symbol in the west. But in India it represents the two forms of the creator god Brahma and is a revered symbol that is quite common.

There is definitely a two tiered pricing system in India, more commonly known as scams. There are the official scams like foreigners paying 700 rupees to visit the Taj Mahal vs 20 for Indians. Then there are non-official scams. Almost nothing has a price tag and everything has to be haggled. This was fun at first but got old pretty quickly. In the US, we are used to convenience. Wal Mart, for all its faults, is at least convenient (except for the one in West Nashville that never seems to have more than 4 lanes open) and you know you're getting the same prices as everyone else no matter of one's country of origin. Here, you have to find out what the going price is, offer it, get into an argument, threaten to walk away, and then finally agree on a price. For example, a 1.5 liter bottle of water should cost 15 rupees. When I ask how much a bottle of water is, they usually say 20-25. Then we'd haggle and if they didn't come down to 15, I'd go somewhere else. Whenever I had correct change, I would just ask for a bottle of water and give them 15 rupees. I had to buy toilet paper. I didn't know the going rate on toilet paper, so I asked how much. The guy said 50 rupees. I told him that was ridiculous, gave him 30 rupees (which was probably still too much) took the toilet paper and walked away. This would be unacceptable behavior back home and would likely result in getting arrested. But here it's the accepted way of doing business. The guy really didn't have any recourse. If he had called the police, he would have gotten in trouble for ripping off tourists. Now that I think about it, he didn't really fight much when I gave him 30 rupees. Maybe I should have given 20. The holy grail of traveling in India is getting the price that locals get. Even with getting overcharged, things here are really cheap. I paid on average about $4-$5 per night for a hotel room.

On April 22 I took a train to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. The train stations are incredibly crowded here.

Luckily for us, there is a tourist-only ticket counter upstairs away from the craziness.

On the train I met a Japanese guy whose name, I hate to say, I don't remember. It started with an A. For purposes of this blog, I'll call him Annyong. I had dinner with Annyong and the next day we went to see the Taj Mahal and other sights around Agra. The rooftop restaurant of the hotel offered an awesome sunset view of the Taj. The Taj Mahal is incredible any time of the day. It is best seen at different times of the day when the sun's reflections on different parts.

On April 23, I went to the Taj Mahal at 5:45am. The Taj Mahal is one of those places that is as beautiful in real life as it is in pictures. It almost looks fake. Seeing it in the morning was a good idea because it wasn't quite so hot and the sun's reflection really illuminated the dome well, plus it hadn't gotten very crowded just yet. I took about a million pictures of the Taj from every possible angle.

The Princess Diana bench.

All the stereotypes about Japanese tourists are true. At least they were with Annyong. The dude was all over the place, running around taking pictures and wandering off. He had some serious ADD, changing his plans about every 10 minutes. He kind of wore me out. But he was a good photographer and I picked up some really good tips.

After the Taj, we hired a rickshaw driver to take us to see Itmad's Tomb (Baby Taj), the Red Fort, and to see the Taj Mahal from the back side across the river.

Itmad's Tomb

The back side of the Taj from across the river.

Annyong and the begging children that seem to show up every place you want to take a picture.

Agra Fort.

The next day I took a local bus to Fatapur Sikri.

Fatapur Sikri is a fortified ghost city built in 1585 and was about an hour away from Agra by bus. It's two main attractions are the Dargah Mosque and the palaces of Emperor Akbar and his three wives. It was built in a place that suffered from water shortages and was abandoned shortly after Akbar's death. The palaces and the mosque were very well preserved. I went to the mosque first. As expected, a guy approached me and started talking. I was getting used to the process by now. They never ask you if you want a guide, they just start talking and walking with you. So after about two minutes I said time out. How much are you going to want after this is over, trying not to repeat the argument at the Jama Mosque back in Delhi. He said I could pay whatever I liked. He was a decent tour guide, but he took me to a guy on the ground selling these carved elephants and I got the hard sell. They usually talk fast and don't pause to give a chance to say no thanks and excuse myself. After I said no thanks, I got the sad story about it being off season and they were in hard times. After saying no about eight times and standing up and walking away, they said, "Hey, no problem". When it came time for his tip, I gave him 50 rupees. Again, this is a very good tip for 20 minutes work. I would have given him 100 if I hadn't had to sit through the hard sell on the carved elephants. Of course he acted mad and said the tip was inadequate. He walked along with me as I was walking away demanding more money. This is something about India that really got on my nerves. People walking up close next to me, invading my space, and trying to sell me something or beg for money.

Fatapur Sikri Mosque

Knees must be covered when inside a mosque. They usually provided a cover when I was wearing shorts. Also one's head must be covered.

I hired a state approved guide to see the palaces. The official price was 125 rupees. I offered 100 and he said that the prices were set by the government and not negotiable. I decided not to even get a guide and walked away. He said he would do it for 100. It was an interesting tour and I was glad I had gotten a guide.

After walking though the ruins for about an hour, I went back to the bus stop. There were abut 30 people or so, a mixture of tourists and locals. I waited for about 1.5 hours for the bus back to Agra, but it appeared it wasn't going to come. The locals started leaving. So seven of us got together and after about 30 minutes of bargaining, found a decently priced taxi to take us back to Agra (600 rupees). I had to catch a bus that night to Pushkar.

The god Brahama dropped a lotus flower on the earth and Pushkar floated to the surface. Pushkar is a very important place for Hindus. The lake in the middle of town is considered holy and there are many bathing ghats lining the lake. Or they would be lining the lake if it wasn't mostly evaporated. The monsoons come in June and hopefull the lake will be refilled, but it was quite small when I was there. The ghats (stairs leading down to the water) didn't quite reach the lake. Since Pushkar is a holy place, alcohol, meat and eggs are not allowed. It didn't really seem like it would be my kind of place.

Just to make clear about any references to religous events in this blog, I'm not necessarily saying that I believe the events happened. But I will tell them as how the followers of those religions believe the events to have happened. This is out of respect for the religions and to keep from repeating myself.

I had dinner one night in a rooftop restaurant. I don't think I could ever be a vegetarian, but if I had to be, India would be the place. In the west, we pay far more attention to meat than to vegatables. We will season, marinate, dry rub, score, and basically really go out of our way to season meat and make it taste good. Then we'll take the vegatables and boil them in water with a little salt. In India, they really put the time in and make vegetarian dishes that are filling and actually taste good. When I finished dinner, I got up and while I was putting my backpack on, I raied my arms in the air and heard a strange noise. I had put my index finger up in a ceiling fan. It was bleeding, but didn't really hurt right away. India is the last place I want to get a flesh wound. Ceiling fans are dirty anyway. I'm the farthest thing from a germ phobe, but here in India, I sometimes want to wrap myself in a plastic bubble. Since I was the only person in the restaurant, the waiters noticed me right away and gave me some rubbing alcohol and some cotton. I bought some bandaide and neosporin at a pharmacy. I'm happy to report that my finger has healed quite nicely.

On April 27, my last day in Pushkar, I got up before dawn and hiked up the mountain to the Savutri temple to see the sunrise. I was greeted by a group of French hippies and monkeys. The views were really incredible. Pushkar was nice, but my one complaint (other than the heat) was that most of the temples were off limits to non-Hindus.

I went back to Ajmer by bus on April 27 and had a few hours to kill before my train to Udaipur. I deposited my bags in the cloakroom and checked my guidebook for something to see here. I went to see Dargah and Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra. Dargah houses the tomb of a Sufi saint and is one of India's most important Muslim pilgrimage sites. According to my guide, who was a Sufi priest and wasn't nearly as pushy as guides I'd had previously, this was a holy place for both Muslims and hindus and people came from all over to make pilgrimages. It was packed with people. There weren't any other tourists there as far as I could see. He took me into some sacred room and gave me a blessing. He seemed more interested in me donating money to pay for food that is provided to picgrims than in his own tip.

The Entrance to the Dargah. Cameras were not permitted inside.

After the Dargah, I went to see the Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra. This building was built as a sanskrit college in 1153 but was converted into a mosque after Mohammed of Ghori seized Ajmer in 1198. There are some really, really old buildings in India.

I took the train to Udaipur. I had arranged a hotel ahead of time since I as getting in kind of late at night. The hotel sent a rickshaw driver for me and sure enough he was holding a card with my name on it.

Udaipur is most famous for being a filming location for the movie Octopussy, the 1983 James Bond film most famous for having a cute name that somehow made it past the censory board. My rickshaw driver mentioned this on my way in from the train station. Udaipurians are very proud of this. Many rooftop restaurants in Udaipur have nighlty screenings. Not really having anything better to do, I went to a restaurant to see it one night . I hadn't seen it before. It was an OK movie, but I thought Roger Moore was a little too old to still be playing James Bond.

Rooftop restaurant with nightly Octopussy showing.

Udaipur has a lake in the middle of town with two notable islands. Jagniwas Island is covered by the Palace Hotel built in 1754. Jagmandir Island contained a palace built in 1620 and is said to have provided some of the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.

Jagniwas Island & The Palace Hotel.

Jagmandir Island. In the film, this was used as the palace of Octopussy (Maud Adams) and the women who were members of her Octopus cult. I found none of these women on the island. In fact, I found no one except a few security guards and gardeners. I was the only one tourist on the island.

It was definitely the off season for Rajistan (Pushkar, Ajmer, Udaipur, and Jaipur). The daytime temperature was usually around 105-110. There just weren't many tourists. A good bit of Lake Pichola was dried up and cattle were grazing on it.

One could walk to the Palace Hotel if not for the secutiry guard with the big gun. It also seemed to have far fewer tourists here now than its infrastructure would suggest. There were many hotels and rooftop restaurants. But finding a restaurant that wasn't empty was kind of a rare sight. If this was in the states, most of these establishments would likely have closed down for the season. But I guess the cost of labor and other expense is so cheap here, they stay open. I found myself going through Rajistan really quickly because I never met many people and never found anywhere that I wanted to chill out and spend a few days.

My hotel in Udaipur had a TV. Most of the channels were in Hindi, but there were a few in English. A lot of channels showed Bollywood musicals featuring elaborate song and dance numbers by mostly light skinned Indian actors. I don't know if there is outright racism here, because I didn't experience it myself, but there is definitely a preference for lighter skin in Asia. Most of the people on TV, billboards, and magazines had very light skin.

On my last night in Udaipur, I took a rickshaw up to the Monsoon Palace on a hill overlooking the city to see the sunset. Very Pretty.

On April 30, I took an overnight train to Jaipur. The train was suppossed to get there at 6:00am. This would give me the better part of a day to see Jaipur before catching another overnight train on May 1 to Varanasi. I slept through my stop. I guess I just assumed they would wake me up. It was about 8:30 when I woke up, but I really wasn't that far from Jaipur since the train was over two hours behind schedule. I asked the guy on the train what I should do, and he said to get off at the next station in Dausa and take a train back to Jaipur. There was a train scheduled to depart at 9:00 but usually it was late. The train stopped in Dausa and the guy pointed me where I needed to go and told me I needed to run. The train going the other direction was stopped at the station and was unloading passangers. I ran up the stairs to cross over to the other platform. There were a ton of people getting off the train and crossing the stairs in the opposite direction as me. I was running, pushing people aside trying to get to the train. As I got about halfway down the steps, the train started pulling out. I was really pushing and shoving at this point. I got down the stairs and ran and jumped on the moving train going to Jaipur. It couldn't have been more like an action movie if I was chasing a bad guy. I didn't have a ticket. I was glad they didn't check for them on this segment.

I got into Jaipur and hired a rickshaw into the old town. I saw the City Palace, Jantar Mantar, a few temples, and visited a few markets in the old (pink) city. It was really too hot to be walking sround much, so I took a rickshaw back to the train station and waited for my overnight train to Varanasi. There were many more sights to see in Jaipur, but I was spent.

City Palace. Not that impressive for the price of admssion.

Jantar Mantar. Very cool collection of astrological sculptures.

Sun dial accurate to within 20 seconds.

A few other palaces in Jaipur.

The Old (Pink) City.

My train to Varanasi. India has an extensive rail network that carries 14 million passengers per day. India Rail is the second largest employer in the world.

I got into Varanasi on the morning of May 2. Varanasi is on the Ganges river (here it's called it the Ganga) and is one of the holiest cities in India for Hindus. The river is lined with ghats, where Indians bath, drink the water, and cremate the deceased. Bathing in the river washes away all sins.

Every night they have a really mesmerizing festival.

My hotel had free boat rides on the Ganga. So I took a dawn boat ride and also a sunset boatride.

The Manikarniki Ghat was just a few blocks from my hotel. Over 200 bodies a day are cremated here. At any given time there were as many as eight fires going simultaneously. Hindus who are cremated here receive Moksha, or freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth. There are efforts to promote electric cremation, which is cheaper and more environmentally friendly, but wood burning is an old and revered tradition here.

Only the untouchables can burn bodies. The guy who owns the wood supplying business is one of the richest men in Varanasi, but he is still an untouchable because one can never change casts.

I had a priest give me a guide through the ghats. I was just standing there, watching the fires, and he came up and started talking. I tried to ignore him, but he was really interesting. He explained the process to me. The families carry the bodies through town down to the river. The body is given a final bath in the Ganga. The ceremonial orange clothes are then removed and placed in the river. The body, with a white robe-like outfit is brought to shore and placed on an organized piled of wood (pyre). The body is sprinkled with sawdust and spices. A designated member of the family get's his head and beard shaved. He then brings a fire down from a temple. The fire in the temple has been burning for 1,500 years. Only men attend the funerals. Women get emotional and several have died from jumping on to the fire to embrace the deceased one last time (keep in mind this is the priest talking and not me). He took me for a walk around the burning pyres. I seriously wanted to take some pictures because you really need a visual to get a sense of what's happening. But photography of the cremations is strictly prohibited and are considered very disrespectful to the families.

Not everyone is burned. Holy men, children under 14, pregnant women, and people who died from a cobra bite are not cremated. Their bodies are simply thrown in the river and are eventually eaten by dogs, pigs, and other animals. When animals die, they are thrown into the river. I took both a dawn and sunset boat ride down the Ganga and saw a few decomposing bodies during the boat ride.

There are several hospices around the burning ghat where the elderly and the sick come and wait to die. He asked if I wanted to see one of them. I said ok and he took me in and introduced me to the caretaker. They asked for money to help pay for wood for the cremations for the poor people in the hospice. This could have been a scam, but it seemed like a good one. I offered 200 rupees and they wanted 450. I was in an argument about how much to donate to pay for wood to burn bodies of poor people. It was one of the more strange arguments I'd been in. I'd read in my guidebook that they try to get you to donate some outrageous sum. Nevertheless, when it was apparant I wasn't giving any more money, they accepted and gave me a blessing.

Other photos around Varanasi.

A guy on a ghat who was washing a cow.

Indians are absoultely crazy about cricket. I don't understand cricket at all. Best I can tell, it's kind of like baseball but more boring and the games take longer (if you can believe that).

Beer is widely available in India. Usually costing around $2.50 Normally I would be very happy with $2.50 beer, but when hotel rooms cost $3-6, spending that much money on a beer seemed indulgent.

This is the longest I've ever gone without eating beef. Eating beef is illegal here since the Hindus consider the cow to be sacred. Pork is also not very common due to India's substantial Muslim population. Mutton and chicken were pretty much the only meats available. But meat is not very commonly consumed and the vast majority of Indians rarely eat meat. I would see a cow walking down the street and it's head would turn into a cartoon picture of a big juicy steak, or a cheeseburger. I knew then it was getting time to go somewhere where I could get me some cow.

On May 5 I left Varanasi, taking an overnight train to Amritsar.

Amritsar is home to the Gold Temple, a holy site for the Sikh religion. Sikh is a mixture of Islam and Hinduism, but really different from either. Sikhs from all over the world come to make pilgramiges to the Palace. The Sikhs are very welcoming and offer a place to stay and meals for people of all faiths. I stayed in an onsite dormitory specifically for westerners. Some people were sleeping outside on a marble floor. The meal was a simple one of lentil curries, chipati flat bread, and water. Everyone would take a tray, bowl, and a spoon and sit on the floor in this massive room. Sikhs came by and served food. The meal and lodging were free, but they asked for donations. This was one place where I felt like a good donation was warranted.

Sikhs from all over come to bathe in the pool waters.

Outside the dining hall. Platters used in feeding the pilgrims and guests.

Most Sikhs wear turbans, have long beards, and carry swords.

The evening I arrived in Amritsar, I took a shared taxi to Attari. Attari is the only official border between India and Pakistan. Indians and Pakistanis hate each other. Every night at sunset, they close the gate and lower the flags as part of this bizarre ceremony. There are stadiums on both sides of the border. Thousands of people come to see the ceremony every night. On the Pakistan side, the men and women sit in separate sections. Each side cheers on their border guards with the intensity usually only seen at soccer matches. The guards march in high step, puff out their chests, and seem to almost be kicking their foreheads. It looked like almost the same actions were being carried out on the Pakistan side. The flags on both sides were lowered at exactly the same time and the gates were closed for the night.

The Pakistani side.

Lowering the flags.

Indians are proud of being the world's largest democracy. Elections were going on when I was there. The elections take an entire month.

There's a certain pecking order with other travelers. Whoever has been travleling the longest gets bragging rights. Whoever has been to the most obscure place also usually gets a leg up. They will talk about how great it was, how unspoiled it was, and how they fear that it will change as it becomes more discovered by tourists. Most of the places I've been have been pretty close to the well worn tourist trail. I met two guys in Amritsar, a German and a Belgian who were riding motorcycles pretty much across the world, shipping them where they couldn't pass because of oceans or customs. They had traveled across Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan before crossing over into India. Their trip puts most others to shame.

On May 7, I took a bus to Dharamsala with Sam, a Brit I had met in Amritsar. We met two other Brits Rayanne and Kim and hung out together for the next several days. Dharamsala is in the foothills of the Himilayas and is the home of the Tibetan exile community. Most tourists stay about 6 kilometers away, in McLoud Gange. The Daili Lama resides in McLoud Gange.

On May 9, the word was that the Daili Lama was coming back from a trip to the states. He was supposed to arrive at 3:00. I went to the temple to see if I could catch a glimpse. There were many people there, myself included, waiting to catch a glimpse of His Holiness, the 14th Daili Lama.

His entourage arrived at about 4:30. And then it was over. I caught about a two second glimpse of his holiness in the passenger side. So I got that going for me.

More McLoud Gange pics.

One day we hiked up to Triund. It was rainy and cold, but ther views were still incredible. Donkeys carry supplies such as water and food up to vendors in Triund and points along the way, so the path is littered quite generously with donkey poop. The path up to Triund was not well marked and we got lost a couple of times. We decided that by going "up" we couldn't go wrong. We ended up doing quite a bit of rock climbing, which I had never really done before. We eventually found the path again after some pretty intense climbing. I never thought I'd be so happy to see donkey shit.

Dharamsala definitely had a hippie vibe. Many peeople in Dharamsala looked like they arrived as visitors and found themselves unable to leave. I could definitely see that. I was certainly not looking forward to a crazy 12 hour bus ride back to the insanity and heat of Delhi.

I wanted to meet more locals, but 95% of the Indians I met were touts and beggars. Even on the trains I didn't really meet any locals. The trains were filled with seeming well-off Indians who apparantly have never seen a white person. I found people staring at me constantly. I would walk into a train station or a local restaurant and people would stare at me. I would wake up in my sleeper car on a train and people were staring at me. This must be how really hot girls go through life.

India was a very frustraing place. But it was a very beautiful country very much worth the hassel. I would probably not recommend traveling here in April or May because of the heat. Even though people were constantly trying to rip me off, India was a very safe country. I don't know anyone who has been robbed or had their things stolen in India.

I spent a few days in Dharamsala enjoying the good weather and the atmosphere. I dreaded the crazy bus ride back to the insanity of Delhi, but I had a flight to catch.