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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

LOGAN VS THE CAMEL

PUSHKIN POWER

From what I've been told, there is not enough electricity to power Pushkin. The solution is to have regularly scheduled power outages. These last from 8 AM till 10 or 11 AM. Another is from 3 PM until 5 PM. Many places have battery backup. Mine doesn't.



RESTAURANT REVIEWS MINE VS LONELY PLANET

After experiencing some of the restaurants Lonely Planet India recommends, I have to say 'My findings were different'.

Lets take an example:

Rainbow Restaurant. Their review reads as follows:

"Set on a small rooftop with a view over the lake, the Rainbow hums with satisfied customers. The pasta is excellent, and the ice-cream sundaes overflow with sugary goodness. The hummus with fresh pita is pretty darn authentic."

My review:

"After about fifteen minutes of nobody bothering to take my order, I said "Fuck this" and went to a different restaurant. Note that the place wasn't hopping with customers - the people who were working there were lounging around.

I wish that I could comment on the food but with that kind of service, why would I want to order anything and sit around indefinitely? I leave it to you, the reader, to decide which sort of review is more useful.


I went to a place called 'Out of the Blue'. The food taste great and the order was taken very quickly. The food arrived very quickly as well. I can't really recommend it though because I got 'traveler's tummy' from it.


I'm still looking for a 30 RS 'thali' street food vendor. Sure, food is not really 'expensive' for $1-4 per meal but if it is sixty cents for a full meal it is like you are eating for free. [Note that later I did find an inconveniently located one which was only 40 RS. Good food, cheap.]


Although the rooms and wifi (slow but it's in the room!) are fine here at the Hotel Paramount Palace, I can't recommend the restaurant. They are slow and fairly apathetic at times. I placed an order for a 'black coffee'. The guy who got the order then wandered off to the market. Irritating to discover after you've been waiting twenty minutes for it. The food here is edible but not tasty.



LOGAN AND THE CAMEL

When I first got to this state (Rajasthan), I was thinking that a 10-12 day camel ride might be an interesting and unusual thing to do.

Instead of being the kind of dumbass that goes and immediately books one (they are out there - believe me) I decided to go get a short ride. After two or three hours in the saddle I figure I'd have an opinion.

Due to the natural motion of the camel, you get repeatedly rammed in the ass and nuts. I was really worried that I would be singing like Frankie Valli by the time I got done with my brief ride. Yes, the camel driver said I was riding the beast correctly.

To add to the misery, there was also a short iron bar affixed firmly to the saddle to assist with mounting and dismounting. It wasn't at all necessary but it did manage to remind me that I was fat with every step the camel took. It pokes into the gut pretty effectively.

After riding a camel, I understand why the people that did historically had a reputation for extreme violence.

In the movie "Lawrence of Arabia", I heard somewhere the actors and such found that foam padding helped quite a bit. It was a success with the natives who kept the stuff after the film crew had buggered off. I would suggest bringing a large thick piece if you are wanting to try out camels. You can thank me later. Try to get a saddle without the iron bar should you get a choice.

The only other thing to note is to not try to go fast up or down hills as this causes the camel to jump which can throw the rider. If you want to go fast on the flat bits, you get the exact same jarring as going slow but faster. This is unlike a horse which is a real pleasure to ride when it goes fast because it smooths out the gate. Camel riding compared to horse riding - it's like being at a permanent 'canter' on a camel.

Needless to say, a long journey is not something I'm going to be even contemplating on camel back.

An interesting fact I found for gamers out there: The camel can jog (trot) for about half an hour. They are pretty much just the plodders across the desert - not good for prolonged fast movement. Also, any shooting off the back of a camel should be wildly reduced in accuracy. It's much worse than going over a pot holed road in a crappy car. If the camel is moving faster than a walk, forget it. You are firing pretty much so people can hear bullets. Note, this is for an untrained rider. I have yet to see anyone who is a skilled rider do any nifty tricks for me.



INDIAN CULTURE

I have become convinced that Indians love noise. If the town is too quiet, some sort of celebration will commence. Horns honk constantly in traffic. One wedding is several days of racket. Given what I'm hearing of the wedding (the same simple beat over and over for three fucking days), yes 'racket' is the correct word - not music there. It is often the same tune over and over and over... Upon further reflection, I have several ex-neighbors I would like to have deported to India. They liked making plenty of noise and would fit right in!



PHILOSOPHY

Is religion a form of mass hysteria?



STONE WORKERS

While wandering around outside of town (lost), I came across some store workers. They told me a bunch of interesting stuff. To make a piece of stone (nifty design) by hand that is about a meter by a meter takes a month and costs ten thousand rupees. I have no earthly idea who can afford that stuff but it was interesting. In the video section you can see the video of the meeting.

Overall, it looked like a rough life to me. They lived in tents on the building site. The progress is slow and tedious. I have no idea if they are paid well but I doubt it. Everyone in this particular business was related. Whether that is from the cast system or just nepotism going horribly awry, no clue.



JAGAT PALACE

I was wandering around outside of town lost (again) and I came across a huge palatial structure which turned out to be a hotel. Three hotels actually but the name I got out of it was Jagat Palace. This place costs 6000 RS per night to stay in. All of their customers come from tour package groups. If you're wanting to see India in the most 'sterile' way possible a tour package seems to be your best bet. I have no idea how much they are paying for it but if a hotel room is $125 per night I'm guessing it's a large amount.

When I showed up, the manager came out to meet me and give me a tour of the hotel. Although only guests are normally allowed to wander around the hotel there is apparently something about Logan that screams 'reporter' and so I get treated like one and with lots of courtesy. Given how I dress and act I honestly can't say why.

So, the manager showed me around and told me some facts about the three building hotel. They have two different restaurants. All of the rooms are 'super deluxe'. I'm thinking they had better be for $125 per night. He showed me one of the rooms. It includes a double bed, mini fridge, desk, table to put your suitcase, etc. It's a nice room.

According to the manager, the hotel is usually about 60% full year round, almost exclusively from tour groups. When I was there I saw not a living person anywhere outside of the staff. According to the manager the guests don't actually spend a lot of time in the room itself. They arrive late in the day and due to tight schedules leave early in the morning. This baffles me. You pay a lot of bank for a very nice room and aren't around to enjoy it outside of a couple hours a day. Baffling.

I guess that's the kind of thing people do when they are trying to cram all of India into two or three weeks.

In order to help me celebrate my last night in Pushkar, the manager kindly offered me a room at a 'discounted rate'. I laughed and said I didn't think I'd be able to afford even the discounted rate. He asked me how much I paid for a room. In Rickesh (sp?) I told him that I was paying 200 RS per night but here I had decided to splurge and treat myself to a 450 RS per night room. He agreed I would not be staying at his hotel.

I appreciate the time the manager took to give me the tour of his palace. If people would like to see pictures of this amazing and amazingly expensive place, check my photobucket link for Pushkar.



PRIEST SHAKEDOWN

Yeah, I fucked up and forgot some of the data I had read. To be fair, I've read a lot of stuff. Anyway, while I was out wandering around lost, some guy gave me the pedals of the flower and told me to go put it in the holy lake. Something in my brain urged me to break line of sight and ditch the flower but I thought 'why not'. So, I went to the holy lake. The priest tried to tell me that three different Hindi deities each needed their own 100 RS. I gave him 100 RS total and told him they could split it. Later, he asked for his tip and looked none too pleased when he got ten rupees. I just wanted to toss the flower in the lake, not spend five minutes repeating phrases that were nonsensical to me. But I walked out with a piece of colored string around my wrist and a red smudge on my head I washed off with Mountain Dew as soon as I got clear of the place. Toss not the flower pedals in the lake unless you want the ritual! They are very pushy about it.



GYPSIES

After leaving the holy lake area, I had two young (20's) women approach me in a friendly fashion. I was instantly on high alert. This is India. Young women do not approach men and talk to them. Even being the innocent bystander in this got me some dirty looks from people standing around. When I inquired as to why Indian women would approach a man, they told me they were gypsies. I became extremely suspicious at this point. My bag hands normally on my left side. They wanted to shake hands. Being polite, I did so. They then wanted to shake left hands. I stared at them until they withdrew the hand. I know how to pick pockets. I'm not dexterous enough to pull it off, but the mechanics of it are fairly simple. Giving up control of your hands is not really a clever idea. Eventually, I gave them the 'fuck off' look and they went away to find someone more gullible.

Locals told me that an Indian couple kissing in public nearly started a riot of disapproving people. Beware of women in India! Well - if you're a man. Women, your mileage may vary...

To quote one of the Harry Potter films, "Constant vigilance!"



LONELY PLANET SAYS WHAT?

A lot of businesses claim to be recommended (or in some cases 'recomanded') by Lonely Planet. This is what we call a 'lie'. Even if it is true, I don't consider most of what is in the book to really be indicative of any reality I get to experience. ("Stay here - it is the best value at only $100 a night! Weee!")

When I see signs like that, two thoughts always spring to mind.

a) Need any other guide books bother? Life is much the same as if there was only Lonely Planet to choose from.

b) That business is full of shit.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Small containers for pills are useful. Many of the medicines (anti diarrhea and such) come in blister packs. Blister packs don't survive very well. Have one or two very small containers to transfer the horse pills into so you don't have to eat them out of the bottom of your bag.


Remember that the only people who probably don't have an agenda are those outside of the normal tourist zones.


The nicer the restaurant is, the more chance they will tack on hidden charges like 'service tax'. These charges may not appear on the menu such as at the 'Aroma Restaurant' in Pushkar.


Some people will tell you that torn money is worth only a fraction of its value. They are full of shit. It's just another scam.


If you tire easily of haggling and avoiding scams, you will quickly tire of India. Lying to get money right now is pretty usual. Either travel with someone who doesn't quickly tire of these things or bring extra money.



VIDEOS

Coffin Train to Ajmer
Religious Ceremony
Wander through the streets of Pushkar
Pushkar life on the street
Cafe Enigma
Pushkar hotel 1
Funeral
Camel 1
Camel 2
Camel 3
Camel 4
Camel 5
Camel 6
Camel 7
Wedding
Jagat Palace balcony
Stone Workers



COSTS

Three hour camel ride, 500 RS + 100 RS tip.

Round of tea (at 5 RS per small cup), 60 RS.

Thali - several different dishes - usually three - served with japati (round flat bread) and rice. In a restaurant 100 RS, on the streets 30-40 RS.

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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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