Monday, 25 February 2013

Kerala

Kerala is the most relaxing place to visit in India. Almost everything is the polar opposite to Northern India; it's quiet and peaceful, people are helpful and happy to see you, and tourists aren't treated as idiots with lots of money. If we were going to come back to India for a holiday, it would definitely be here.

We spent an afternoon walking around the Hindu festival which we guessed was responsible for the earth shaking fireworks and Gangnam Style blasting through the backwaters at 6am, and found a tiny temple surrounded by thousands of children with intricate make up and tiaras (yep, the boys too) and bright red pirate bandanas. They parade around the temple every day for twenty one days, meaning that the surrounding countryside is full of families living in tiny tents for three weeks so their children can be blessed by the goddess of the temple. The children were all excited to try their English, and once a few had spotted our cameras and asked for a photo, we were mobbed by hundreds of kids all wanting to pose for us. On the way home we even bumped into the two tuk tuk drivers that had taken us shopping the day before, who both stopped us for a chat and tried to insist on taking us back home for free. Tuk tuk drivers of New Delhi, take note.

















Goa

Despite getting horrifically sunburnt thanks to our dodgy ayurvedic sun screen (made of carrots), we loved Goa; the sun, the sea, the seafood and the 60 year old man on the table just behind us smoking a giant spliff in a restaurant full of families with children.








Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Jodhpur

We are sorry we've been MIA for so long... Blame Kat, she threw up on this 600 year old giant mountain fort. 





The projectile vomiting pretty much confined us to our hotel in Jodhpur. Really sadly it also meant we had to skip our camel trek in Bikaner and head straight to Jaipur to catch our flight south, or rather wait at the airport for 4 hours watching Indian people shouting at each other. We were getting more and more irate, only to be told with the classic Indian head wiggle that we would somehow make it onto our flight to Goa, which had already left Mumbai, before finally getting put on another flight (the replacement of our replacement flight) so overall, SpiceJet are ****, don't fly with them. We did eventually make it to Goa though, 5 hours late, but we're now so sunburnt, happy and full of watermelon, beer and the tastiest prawns in the world that we are stubbornly hopeful about our SpiceJet flight tomorrow, despite the nationwide strike. Wish us luck. 



Saturday, 9 February 2013

Pushkar and some unexpected dinner guests

Pushkar is a tiny town in Rajastan, away from the craziness of Delhi. As it's a 5 hour train ride, a tuk tuk and a bus over the mountain away from Agra, not so many tourists make it quite this far (apart from for the camel fair, but that was in November) so we don't get assaulted by shop owners or tuk tuk drivers quite as often. Saying that though, Kat did get attacked by a friendly Indian lady who wanted to shake her hand, only to not let it go, blob an ugly flower on it in henna which she'd been hiding in her sari and then demand payment (Ryan gave her four rupees and Kat dragged him away before he could swear too much). We have learnt our lesson and are now hideously anti social. Aside from that incident, Pushkar had been a nice break from hectic Delhi and Agra, which both left us feeling a bit like everyone saw us as walking, talking pots of money (four hotel porters in Agra, two of whom had run to pick up our bags before we could, followed us to our room and all expected tips). 
The trains in India are actually much nicer than expected (provided you book a class with seats), with tea and meals, free bottled water, air conditioning and comfy reclining chairs, much better than national rail could manage at less than a tenth of the price, so our journeys haven't been too bad.

Pushkar is a Hindu town, the only one with a temple dedicated to Brahma, so today we went off to explore it and somehow got forced into making puja at the lake, as well as getting thoroughly india-ed at the bazaar. All the other foreigners we've seen have been in giant swooshy clothes, tie-dyed scarfs and sandals, so we decided we needed to fit in and we get hassled a lot less now that Ryan's shirt says 'ohm' and Kat's wearing ridiculous Aladdin trousers. Our hotel is lovely, miles ahead of the one we unfortunately stayed at in Agra, with paintings all over the walls and loads of hot water, perfect to recover from two 3am starts in a row. We've spent hours and hours on the roof terrace keeping the resident tortoise company, with mango juice, banana shakes and cinnamon tea on tap for pennies and watching the monkeys who get fed leftover chapattis from the kitchen. Last night what we think was a mourning ceremony was taking place next door, with wailing for hours, and today was monkey day (we think that was what they said), so there was live Indian music being blasted across the rooftops all morning, so we're getting our recommended daily intake of culture as well as a tan. 


For, the other side of the mounntaaaiiinnn - was all that he could see





count the monkeys!


this little chap joined us for dinner


the views from our hotel's roof terrace 



Friday, 8 February 2013

Agra, the big Taj and the baby Taj

We arrived in Agra early, having left our hotel in Delhi at 4am and were (quite politely) accosted by a tuk tuk wallah at the station who drove us to our hotel, and then offered his services as a driver and tour guide for the rest of the day for the huge sum of 600 rupees (about £7). Walking around in Agra is a bit of a mission and involves dodging cows, crazy speeding motorbikes and bicycle carts piled high with 5ft stacks of shoe boxes, so we agreed and sped off to the Taj. He also took us to a few less packed places like the site of the planned black Taj on the other side of the river and a smaller, but much more ornate tomb, nicknamed the 'baby Taj'. After this we were both a little sunburnt, and being absolute party animals we were both in bed by 7pm in order to wake up and leave the hotel at 3am to catch the train to Ajmer. This should have been easy, but proved a bit more problematic when the only tuk tuk we could find broke down half way there. Luckily enough we were able to hail another from the side of the road before too long, and eventually made it to the station.


















Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Delhi

We're in India! The road our (very nice) hotel is on is the main bazaar street in Paharganj, which means it's mental as soon as we step out of the lobby and we don't dare get the camera out, so there's a bit of a lack of photographic documentation of where we're staying. Today though, we went to see Humayun's Tomb, which meant finding the metro, getting rid of our new best friend who told us getting his bus was a much better idea, going through x-ray scanners and getting laughed at by a crew of Indian girls (we are hoping it was because we were the only foreigners, not because we smell horrific). The tomb itself was beautiful, in a quiet park with boys playing cricket using a stack of bricks as the wicket. Coming home, Ryan had his first ever ride in a tuk tuk (scroll down for the picture of this momentous occasion) and his first masala dosa. Also, Kat may have pimped her bag.