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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

BOPPING AROUND INDIA

Note - the nice thing about India is that if you don't mind an amazingly bumpy dirty bus to ride in for six to twelve hours, you can completely change your environment for $4.



RESTAURANT REVIEW

Aroma Royal - excellent Thali but it's one of those places that tack on an unlisted 20% 'service tax'. Personally, I hate that kind of shit. In my case it was only 20 RS - which is really nothing - but is enough to make me say 'and that's the last time I eat there!' Maybe most of their business is once ever tourists.

I'd like to say that kind of stuff should be illegal - but I've not seen many cops and they certainly don't have a 'tourist police' like in Thailand. That is an organization which helps keep tourists from being ripped off by the locals. Not in India my friend.

Where the hell was this restaurant? Who knows - it's an opportunity to rant against the 'service tax'. If you eat at a nice restaurant and don't want to get stung with that, you could try asking if they have it in advance and hope they don't lie to you. Which thye might.



ARRIVAL IN BUNDI

After a 5-6 hour bus ride, I finally got into Bundi. Finding a place to stay was a pain in the ass. The Lonely Planet stuff as usual was either outdated or overly enthusiastic. I eventually got frustrated and checked into a kind of scary place called 'Havelirin Paying Guesthouse'. I guess they have to specify 'paying' in the title for some reason. It was seriously delapitated. After checking in and ditching the heavy bag, I found another place called the Havel Prince which was 50 RS more (300 RS/night) and claimed to have wifi. This is what we call 'a lie'.

In India, they don't seem to distinguish the difference between having a computer hooked up to the internet which guests can use, having wifi that only reaches to an area you won't be spending a lot of time in - like the restaurant - and having wifi in your room. It is frustrating.

At the Havelirin Paying Guesthouse, I was checked in by (and had my room cleaned by) a fifteen year old girl who was working hard and dilligently at her families business. Such a change from the stories I've heard from American parents about their fifteen year olds.

Guest houses like HPG could seriously benefit from minor repairs, upkeep or even a bit of paint which I've been told isn't expensive here. Why they don't is a complete mystery to me. All of India seems to be suffering from a serious 'lack of maintance'. Probably due to poverty.

After getting settled in, I took a look around the part of town I found myself in. Brochures (and the lying Lonely Planet) often describe 'quaint mideval streets' and such. That is one way to put it. Another way would be 'badly designed death traps with people riding scooters with reckless abandon while you dodge cowshit and touts'.

The fortress (which also had a palace that looked like a fortress) which loomed over the town made for a nice backdrop, however.

Aside from the maps, I've begun to despise the Lonely Planet India guide. I'm really happy that a) I've never bought one before and b) I got this one used and heavily discounted. After reading the LP review of Bundi, it sounded like a good place to chill out for a week or two.

The reality was completely different for me. Aside from a couple nice spots the Guptas showed me (see below) and the fortress which made a nice backdrop, the tourist area is a place best avoided. I'd advise a day max or avoid for this destination. The places to visit should you choose to go to Bundi, the fortress (and fortress like palace), 84 pillars (see video), the queens bathroom (see video), the lake where Kippling hung out (see video). Actually, if you watch my videos you can either decide 'no, that's cool I'll go' or say 'well, thank God, I don't have to go there now!' Either way is fine with me.

Pretty much the only thing that made it special were the kind and generous Guptas. That's it.

In case you are wondering if this was 'just a Logan thing', no, I've asked other tourists "So - what do you think of Bundi?" I have gotten back less than complimentary words and nothing really positive from the tourists I've spoken to thus far. If someone was to Bundi and enjoyed themselves, feel free to talk about it in the 'comments' section below. Remember - your vote counts. Well, not really. But if it makes you feel better, by all means, post.









MEET THE GUPTAS

How I met the Guptas. When I was staying in Blacksburg, Virginia I met a guy named Ankit. I knew that some day, I'd be going to India. We spoke about Indian culture and such. We kept in touch on Facebook. When he discovered I was going to India, he put me into contact with his parents.

What I was thinking would happen and what happened - different. I was thinking we'd have tea or maybe a meal. Instead, they put me into their guest bedroom.

Dr. Gupta is a surgeon. His wife is the principal of a school. Both are highly educated, intelligent and graceous people.

They have a lovely home above a government hospital. This hospital is one of the ones that the poor people are able to use for a very minimal charge. With the exception of the small Hindi shrine off of the dining room, their home looks like and has all of the stuff in it you'd find in the average American home.

They had pictures of their son Ankit who I had met in Virginia hanging on the wall. Some of the pictures just didn't look right. I thought about it and determined it was because he wasn't wearing glasses in some of them. I should have volunteered to draw them onto the pictures in order to make him look right.

I saw it as a sign of tremendous sophistication that they didn't have a television in the living room, dining room or kitchen. They may have had one in their bedroom, don't know.

I found it very interesting that they own - and use - a Lonely Planet guide book.

Eventually, after a busy day I made my faux pas.

I had mentioned alcohol. The doctor mentioned that he had a bottle of whiskey. While he wasn't interested in drinking any, I could have some if I wanted. He broke the seal on it and opened it up. Below is the conversation:

Dr: "You'll want to try a little first to see if you like it."

Logan: (Pours a shot, tosses it back, nods) "Yes. It's fine... Um. Why are you staring at me like my head will explode?"

Dr: "You just drank a whole shot of whiskey 'neat'."

Logan: (Pause) "Is that bad?" (Longer pause).

I wisely refrained from mentioning that yes, I have and can drink half a bottle in a night. Probably a wise ommision. Ah well. You live, fuck up and learn.

So I had another shot but it was after that when a little voice in my brain said 'Time to go - now.' Whether my intuition of it being time to go was correct or not, I've learned to depend on it. It's probably better to leave too early than too late anyway.

But I was happy that they took their time to show me some of the nicer and more interesting parts of Bundi. It was very generous of them.







THE FORT

I was sitting around sharing cigarettes with the employees on the fort (probably in a non-smoking zone) and found out some interesting stuff. Most of the fort (and palace which I group with the fort as it looks 'fort-like') is privately owned. A little bit is owned by the government. The government stuff gets the standard substandard maintance. The private stuff gets none. It's kind of sad as it is pretty much the only or at least the main tourist attraction of Bundi. Should it crumble too badly, I can't see anyone wanting to go to Bundi.

As far as the interior of the fort like palace goes, honestly the outside looming above the town is cooler. I made a video in which I nearly cracked open my head on a low stone doorway. Not all that nifty on the inside.






UMMAID BAGH RESORTS

Another review of another place Logan couldn't afford to stay - even if it was half off normal price.

For 2500 RS (that's about $50 USD at the time of this writing) you can stay here in air conditioned tents. Not kidding. Actual tents with air conditioners. Weird but I'm sure it keeps them cool.

The lure of this place is complete peace. It is very close to the same lake Kippling liked so much. So did some of the royalty of old as well. They build lake watching structures I've got in one of my videos.

This place is amazingly peaceful. Personally, I'd suggest it if either a) you are in Bundi and want to see something completely unexpected after the trashy town or b) India has gotten to you and you'll just start screaming if you don't get some peace and quiet.

Their staff is the kind that if they see people standing around talking, they'll bring over chairs in case you feel like sitting.

The owner of the place is an actual descendent of the kings. His name is Maharaja Rajendra Lingh Dugari. He has some of the most impressive side-burns I've ever seen. (See picture).

If you're into peace, quiet, bird watching and organic farming - go there. Tell them Logan sent you so that you have the pleasure of watching him look at you, pause then politely ask "Who?"





ONWARD TO UDAIPUR

I had heard Udaipur was a cool city. The Lonely Planet guide even called it 'romantic'. [I wouldn't call it 'romantic', but its not a shithole.]

The bus was leaving at 10 AM or so. It was scheduled to arrive at 8 PM. For those unfamiliar with the Indian bus system, this means 9:30 PM. Without a stop longer than a literal two minutes. No bathroom breaks, no bathroom on the bus. No food or drink other than what you brought with you or think you can get and get back before someone takes your seat.

I pretty much didn't leave my seat. I got one, the backpack got the other. The bag is too big to put on the floor or stuff into the over head bin. People looked at it like 'why does it get a seat when I have to stand?' Fortunately, they weren't able to communicate with me or I'd have had to tell them I had a midget stuffed in there. I was contemplating doing so some time then pulling him out at unexpected times to scare the other bus passengers. Things like this are why the gods choose to limit my wealth.

When I said I didn't leave my seat, I'd like to say 'I didn't intentionally leave my seat'. The roads in India are bad enough that there were countless times I was literally catapulted into the air. They have an 'oh shit' bar on the back of every seat to clutch on to while you are being subjected to near death experiences. It gets used. There are a few missing. It makes the imagination run wild. Like the buses.

When I got to Udapur, I decided to have the tuk tuk driver take me to a place listed in the hated Lonely Planet guide called Nukkad Guesthouse. It wasn't that I was especially keen to get to that guest house but if I got there, I'd be in the tourist section where all of the guest houses were located.

I got dropped off there and they had one room left. It was smaller than a U.S. jail cell but only cost 200 RS. Since all I wanted to do after being shaken violently for ten hours was sleep, I was happy to take it. They promised me they would get me a better room in the morning and they had wifi. [The wifi part is what we call 'a lie'. But I did get a better 450 RS room.]

The next morning, I got up early. It wasn't because I couldn't have slept for another few hours - it was because someone was caterwalling on the loudspeakers. I figure it is probably something religious. Though, come to think of it, in India they might not mind either way. In the states, the first time would generate tons of noise complaints or - in the right neighborhood - a homicide.

So, I got up early and went out looking for a place that had wifi (real - in my muther fucking room wifi) and for breakfast. I found a place labeled '24 hour cafe'. It wasn't. That was just something to paint on the wall. So, I made a video of the town from their abandoned restaurant rooftop then wandered off to find somewhere open. I found an overpriced bakery that promised 'real' coffee. Cafe Namaste had 'real weak' coffee and a soggy piece of pie for 90 RS. They had a placed named 'Hotel Gangaur' nearby which showed nightly reruns of the old (rather lame) Bond film 'Octopussy'. They show it every night because it was set in a Hollywood version of India. Hotel Gangaur costs 500-2500 RS per night and no wifi.

I went to several places and have not discovered one in this town that has wifi. One owner even asked me why guests would want wifi. I told him we lived in the 21st century and wifi is a part of that. He didn't get it. Hell, later I saw typing classes given on actual typewriters. Yes, real 1950's typewriters. Remmingtons. I was told this is how they learn. I said "Even India has computers - I've seen them."

So, after spending the morning playing the game "What does wifi mean to YOU?" I ended back up at Nukkad Guesthouse. Sad face.

After a frustrating morning, it got better. I met up with a nice couple, Irina and Thomas - both living in France. We went to the palace and had a nice time wandering around the city.

Udapur - way too much traffic on the curvy mideval streets. It's a bit of a pain to navigate around. Once you get out of the 'tourist zone' it's authentic India.

We were wandering around and Thomas spotted the disappointed look on the face of a couple tourists. We compared our thoughts on it and decided they were disappointed because they wanted to be the only westerners in their 'authentic Indian experience'. It always amuses me when you come across idiots like that. Of course there will be other tourists around. Oh, good for you! You've wandered ever so slightly off of the tourist path - but you're still in a touristic town! If you want to see nothing but Indians it is very simple. Go to a small town with nothing to see. Wish granted.

What's my opinion of this town thus far? Well, honestly it would be much better to stay if they had what I consider 'real wifi'. They don't. Worse, they think it is just silly that anyone should want it. One idiot makes a bad decision and everyone copies him. That's what they call a 'business model'. In towns where someone has 'real wifi', most everyone copies that person. Interesting. So, I'm going to probably stay for a day or two. I'll stomp around the town, make more inquiries and then probably move on. I'm going to try to access the computer to see if there is any word from Matt but other than that, move on. I've had towns that have had wifi before and I'll find them again. Hell, I'd like to have a wifi detector to discretely walk around with. I'm not going to use my laptop because the temptation might be just too much for some people. Side note, they also have a very unfriendly checkout time of 10 AM common in this town because (again) some bright spark figured out he could squeeze tourists a bit more by doing that than the usual noon. Be warned.

Since I don't have easy access to wifi, yes, more of the misleading Lonely Planet. Fortunately, you don't have to take Logan's word about a lot of the stuff I see. Hell, I think I make enough videos that you can form your own opinion. If I can ever find real wifi and upload those...

In Udaipur, near 7 Karmantri Sadan, opposite the Nagar Parished Office, I found a liquour store. I purchased three small bottles of whiskey to try them out. Of those 'Bagpiper' - it's the smoothest. The worst is the brand 'Bonnie'. The middling one is 'Green Label'. Something I found interesting is the place is fortified. They keep the gate locked while you are in there - as though they are suspecting people will rush the place and smash it. They have no business cards though I found the address elsewhere. Only by word of mouth they told me. Interesting. I suspect religious views against alcohol are a problem here.








NUKKAD GUESTHOUSE REVIEW

Costs of rooms vary. You can get something smaller than a prison cell with a rock hard bed for 250 RS. I'm currently in the 450 RS windowless room. Good points: Plenty of shelving for your stuff. Pretty good illumination which is a bit rare in the penny pinching Indian places I've stayed that are usually somewhat dark. Downsides: The shower is an on or off thing. Sometimes it gives water, other times the tap doesn't seem to function. I'm not sure what's up with it but I'm guessing the hot water boiler is nowhere near the capacity it should be. I wish these Indian places would get the mechanism for making water hot as it is pumped through the pipes (so you get a somewhat hot shower) like in SE Asia but that tech doesn't seem to have hit India yet. A lot of people here seem to believe cold showers are healthy rather than annoying. My room is also right next to the families quarters so I get that noise in addition to lots of noise from the street. If I had wanted to hear a family, I'd have had one. Like all Indian hotels I've been to thus far, if you don't have earplugs or headphones you can sleep with like I do, you had better be a deep sleeper. India is noisy as hell. Another annoying feature of the place is that they lock the doors at 11 PM. This isn't horribly crippling though. Since India doesn't have much in the way of alcohol, they don't have much in the way of nightlife either. Things seem to close at 9 PM or 10 PM. I personally just don't like being locked in. Would I recommend staying here? If you can find a room within your price range and don't need wifi or mind the added noise of an extended family - sure. It seems clean enough and the plumbing in the room I have doesn't leak. Getting a room here could be tricky, however. They do a brisk amount of business, probably due to Lonely Planet. Note - on my first night, I saw a good sized rat scuttle across the floor. I don't recommend this place any more... The previous day they had promised me a mouse trap to get rid of the mouse. A mere 20 hours later, one was brought. It is an interesting trap as it's a little box that has a metal door slam down over the extrence when the bait is messed with. This causes the mouse to be trapped unharmed. As a bonus, he still gets to eat the bait. I was told in India, they don't kill. I explained it was very different in America. The mousetraps are made to kill. I didn't go into detail so as not to horrify the owner of the guesthouse.





JODHPUR

In the morning, early at 7:30 AM the bus should be moving out to whisk me away. The bus schedule thinks I will arrive at 2:30 PM, I suspect 3:30 PM to 4 PM. I am a bit concerned that I have an assigned seat. I'm wondering what we will do with my big bag. Every other bus in India I just stuck it on the seat next to me. They don't have buses I've seen with the baggage storage under the bus and I'd be worried that it would be stolen out of there anyway. If necessary, I'll just stick it in the aisle and hope not too many people fall over it.

It is the way of India.




MAT MAT MAT...MAT MAT!

Only a week or two left in the 'Matt countdown' to see if he will actually be able to secure the time off of work to go to Nepal. It should be a lot of fun if he is able to go so I remain hopeful.





INDIAN CUSTOMS

By the color of someone's turban and the way they tie it and wear it, you can tell their caste and such. Well, that's what's in the Lonely Planet guide. According to Indians I've spoken with that is true sometimes. Other times, it is rubbish. People dress in whatever they want in some places. Logan's guess is that in the cities it probably doensn't mean a lot. When you get rural it does.


First born parties. When your first kid hits one year old - big party. There may be smaller parties for other children and such if you are rich but people usually shell out for the first party. It is also the custom for the guests to bring money for the kid (not the parents - it goes to the kid) in the amount of 50-100 RS. At the party I was at the parents weren't having it. That tells me they were wealthy enough that the kid will have enough money. Now these first born year old parties have a lot of people attend. Like 500 or 1000. They may or may not all be there at once. Apparently people will show up, eat, socialize and leave. At the party I attended there was quite a lot of food. These parties only serve vegitarian food so that all of the guests can eat. There is never any alcohol. The party I was at had amazingly loud music and a couple of people dressed like weird animals cavorting around. I have no idea why.


Walmart - the spreading evil. Dr. Gupta told me that Walmart was looking at India and thinking 'a few billion more customers would be cool'. Word is that they made the right bribes to the right government officals and everything was going to go forward. A brave, new world. However, the Indian people freaked out and protested. There are tons of Indians that have shops that only generate a few dollars income per day. This is enough for the people to eek out a living on. Given Walmart's less than sterling track record with their employees as well as the utter annilhation of the 'mom and pop' stores, this would be a really bad thing for lots of Indians. This has 'temporarily halted' Walmarts encursion into India. However. Big money, big bribes and powerful people disconnected from the guy living on the three dollars a day his store makes will eventually allow Walmart access into the country with or without people wanting it. This is what the Indian folks I chatted with believe. I believe it too.







TRAVELER'S TIPS

If you decide to do over a 4-5 hour bus journey in India you are either desperate or a massochist. The buses have little in the way of shock absorbers and the roads are epically bad. After a bus ride, you will be able to look at someone and say "This ass has taken quite a pounding today!"


Sleeper buses are what we call 'a lie', unless you can sleep while being catapulted into the air at irregular intervals and shaken inbetween. They will, however, cost you more money.








TRAVELER'S LORE

All of the travelers I've spoken to thus far have recommended the dirty hippy hangout of Goa. I am concerned they may have made a drum circle.


JULY-AUGUST-SEPTEMBER

The rainy season.




COSTS

Remember the silk sleeping bags I mentioned earlier? Finally found them here - 500 RS. Debating whether I should get one or if it would be unused stuff.

Entry to the palace in Udaipur, 75 RS. Camera fee - 200 RS. Yes, they'll search your fucking bag for cameras. Really.

Fancy Thali restaurant, 150 RS.

Classic car museum entry fee in which you get to see less than ten cars, 150 RS. No, I didn't want to bother.

2 comments:

  1. SO here's a question you: what's up with all the blue buildings?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not really sure if it was

    a) custom
    b) society decision which was made into law
    c) blue paint sale

    I suspect C.

    ReplyDelete

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan | Portugal: Faro

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