Donate Button



Donate today BECAUSE Logan will probably use the money to fund his upcoming RPG. More entertainment for YOU!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

WELCOME TO INDIA, BITCHES

BAGGAGE

The weight of my bag was 21.2 KG. I will figure out a way to lighten it later but I did add a bit due to the wire mesh backpack 'lock'.



INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The first smell of New Delhi? Sewage. Not even kidding.

I am glad that I kept the two pair of pants I had made in Egypt by inept tailors. There was a big temperature drop between Bangkok and India. Here, nobody is asking me if I want a room with air conditioning. I'd laugh and ask if it comes with a heavy blanket instead.



WELCOME TO INDIA

Checking into the country (customs and visa checking) was a breeze. He did try a couple of questions but I have my lies down pat. "I will be here for one month then departing as soon as my friend from England joins me, blah blah blah." I have no idea if this will actually happen nor what I will do if it doesn't. But you have to sound convincing when your schedule can be summed up as 'flexible'. The only pain in the rear is you have to fill out an 'arrival card'. Not a big deal, several countries have both arrival and departure cards. They didn't give me a departure card.

When I first got to New Delhi, I had one simple goal. Escape New Delhi. I had been hanging around Bangkok for a couple weeks waiting on a visa. The last thing I wanted to do was hang out in yet another major city. The information I had got on New Delhi made it even more unappealing. More touts, more beggars, more traffic. So, I knew when the airplane touched down that I would be seeking a way out.

My first objective was to get from the airport to a place called Pahgarganj. This is a district packed with cheap places to stay. More importantly, it also had the train station right there.

I was told (via the internet) that a cheap way to get to Paharganj was to go to the 'office of the Ex-Servicemans Air Link Transport Services' AKA "EATS". Great acronym but if that place actually exists, nobody there knew about it and I never did find it.

They have a way to get a fairly cheap taxi in the airport. They have a police run taxi service. You get a ticket after paying. When you give the driver the ticket he is paid from that ticket. I asked about that and was told 325 RS. I wanted to try out the local bus instead. Partially for the experience, partially because I knew it would cost less. At first, the guy behind the counter said 'there are no buses'. I gave him the 'I know you are lying, please tell me the information'. In American slang, it has been popularized by black comedians as "Nigga, please". Since I am not black (so far as I know) I can't use this wonderful, short and witty saying. Saying just "Please" doesn't work without the voice tonalities which don't come across in typing so well. Not being able to use just that one saying makes me sad I am not black enough. To get across this, I will use the contraction of "Please" with quotes around it. Anyway, I gave him the "Please" look. He admitted there was a bus outside.

Just outside of the airport, they have various pillars labeled 'taxi' or 'bus'. The bus one did indeed have a bus and the people on it said indeed they were going to the Ajmeri Gate - which is at Pahgarganj and the bus station. Wonderful. The bus cost is only 75 RS. The people on it were friendly and made sure I got off at the correct place.

From my ride through New Delhi, it didn't strike me that I would be missing a lot. I can come back later if the desire grips me. They have something a lot like the 1800's 'London Fog'. This is a very visible cloud of polution. Amazing amount of polution caused by too many people all wanting to live together.



STARE AT THE FOREIGNER!

As a foreigner, you are apt to get stared at quite a bit. Whenever people stare at me, I figure there are three different reasons. One or more may be applicable.

a) They are curious about these foreign devils infesting their country.
b) To them, I am 'exotic'.
c) Their lives are so amazingly boring that staring at a fat, crippled white guy is 'high entertainment'.

Whenever one of the guys on the bus would stare at me, I would give a big cheesy smile and nod. After the fifth time, he ran out of desire to look at me. Or got freaked out.

I do find it odd that foreigners are still stared at here, only because there are so many foreigners.



TRAIN STATION OF DOOM

In a lot of the poorer (third world?) countries, there are certain buildings which are given guarding. Electric plants, newspapers, train stations, things like that. Here, they had an x-ray machine at the train station as well as some guy with a helmet and machine gun behind some sand bags waiting for the revolution to come. He cautioned me about trying to sit in his field of fire. I sat somewhere else. The x-ray machine was pretty prefuntory. I'm not even sure if anyone was really watching the stuff as it fed through it. You also had to go through a metal detector. It would go off but nobody was searched.

I had watched the TV show 'An Idiot Abroad'. I distinctly remember a scene where the idiot (Karl Pilkington) was trying to line jump and everyone freaked out. Here, people were literally crawling over me. I often gave the "Please" look but to no avail. When I finally got up to the 'inquiries' desk, the guy was totally incomprehensible. In addition to very bad English, he insisted on speaking into a very bad microphone which distorted him.

I decided to stand in a different line. When I was able to claw my way to the front (wearing the heavy bag) I found the information that the other person had given me and I had verified with him to be totally false. The 'inquiries' guy had told me that a train left at six AM and I should go to counter sixty-eight. There was no counter sixty-eight and a train left in an hour and a half at 11:55 PM. I told the person at the desk I wanted to buy a ticket. He was the most glacial (slow) person I had ever seen. In a job where you have a lot of frantic people and need someone who can move quickly they got the opposite. I have no idea why. In order to purchase a train ticket here (but not a bus ticket) you need to fill out a form. Someone else from the line volunteered to fill my form out for me because I was trying to get Mr. Speed behind the counter to assist me. The form was a bit confusing because they didn't ask to see any ID. You could put down pretty much any information you feel like. I think it's a remnant of some other bureaucracy that is just sticking around for no real purpose. Perhaps they have very stupid crooks here?

A buddy of mine I have on Facebook (who knows India well) suggested a city that I should go to. Unfortunately, I didn't have access to the internet to find out where the hell it was. So, I had to go with what I'd written down during my 'research phase'.

After securing my train ticket, I wanted to eat my first meal of the day after tons of hours of travel. I had considered attacking the person who sat next to me on the plane because he had ordered the $4 curry meal and I didn't. I figured 'hey, I'll be in India soon and can have tons of Indian food'. Bah. I wanted it sooner rather than later. So, at the train station, I noted they had a pretty decent sized cafe teaming with Indians. It was cheap too - 50 RS (that's a buck people) for a huge meal the size of a medium pizza with lots of different dishes on it. I have no clue what I'm eating but it is all vegitarian so I really don't care what it is. The drink was 40 RS so under $2. The food was much better anything I've eaten at a train station before.


At the New Delhi train station, announcements were given in both Hindi and understandable English.

Compared to some countries I've been to, India is dead easy to get around in.


Although the train (sleeper) I went in was OK, I did spot some of the regular trains. I would put their condition as 'alarming'. Many had bars over the windows and such. It didn't look very inviting. The sleeper car I was in was very unusual. As people who have been reading my blog for awhile know, I've been in a few sleeper cars in the past. Normally, the arrangement is thus: you have a cabin. Within the cabin are four bunks. The bottom bunks are better as you don't have to climb up, there is a place to store your baggage underneath the seat, the beds are a couple of inches longer and also it isn't so hot as higher up. In India, this is not the case. There are no compartments. The entire train car is just filled with beds stacked two high. The only privacy you have is a curtain.

I told one of the guys in my little grouping "You realize this means if just one person on this train snores, nobody gets any sleep, right?" We all had a good laugh until everyone eventually went to sleep. The guy across from me had something very wrong with him and was one of the loudest snorers I'd ever heard. As I listened to all of the unusual breathing, I was thinking my buddy Bert (who works at a sleep clinic) would have much to say on the problems that assailed that group. From the 5-6 hour trip, I probably got an hour of sleep. It wasn't extremely comfortable and very noisy.



HARDIWAR

I checked out a couple different hotel rooms. The one I decided on was pretty grim. It was dirty and infested with insects. This was the best choice from the ones I looked at. The prices ranged from 200 RS to 500 RS and you got the same thing for all of them.

I figured I could do my usual trick of checking into a place for one night then go out and see if I can find a better place the next day.

I'm not claiming to have seen the entire town, but I did drive over several kilometers of road. The word that came to mind was 'shithole'. One girl on my Facebook (was it Claire from France?) said it 'wasn't a nice place'. She gets the understatement award.



STREET FOOD

The stomach was a rumblin' so I looked around for a place to eat. Indian street food is very much a case of 'if there aren't other people eating there, stay the fuck away'. I found a small metal cart with a metal counter built around the edge. It was hammering out the business so I bellied up to it with the locals and just pointed to the guys plate next to me and held up one finger. I got the same as he was having. It was great. Some sort of 'daal' (bean paste?) and puffy bread. Now, something interesting about a lot of the street food places - they are all you can eat. If you want more, you ask for it. Pretty amazing. I don't - eating less is somewhat better for my health and if I get hungry sooner I can eat stuff from somewhere else and sample more dishes. But I think that's interesting. The price is about 25 RS (fifty cents) so it's basically a free meal.

Unlike some countries I've been to (SE Asia) here street food is usually served at a temperature I'd call 'piping hot' - in other words, you can burn your mouth on it. Unlike Georgia where bread is carried around in the back of vans, here it is made on the spot and is also 'piping hot'.



RISHIKESH

I did manage to find a bus headed to another place on my list known as 'Rishikesh'. I figured it couldn't be any worst than Hardiwar so I grabbed my bag and set off for it.

The first place I stayed at was called the 'Tourist Hotel'. It was a pain to check in because they don't like foreigners to stay there. I asked if they were serious and they explained to me that various forms had to be filled out and given to the police when foreign people stayed at a hotel. I asked why they called it the 'Tourist Hotel' but that conversation went no where fast. I ended up checking in and negotiated the room rate from 350 RS down to 300 RS per night. They threatened to riot if I tried to go lower. It was a noisy dump but really close to the bus station. I went scouting and found a hotel more centrally located in the town for 400 RS.

I didn't end up staying there, much to my surprise.

In the morning, I went and found a tuk tuk. So did an older lady from Sweden. She was suspicious of the tuk tuk driver trying to get more people into the tuk tuk and she was right to be so. I was taking it because everyone else wanted 100 RS for the drive but he was happy with my offer of 30 RS. The place I was to get dropped off at was first but the Swedish lady said the part of town it was in was horrible. Since I had my gear with me, I had complete flexibility. Decided to tag along with her and find out what the part of town she was going to looked like.

Boy, I'm glad I did. It moved from 'grotty urban sprawl' to 'get out your camera and take a photo!'

I moved from 'working man's India' to 'hippy spiritual India'. Good change. Much more peaceful here.

While I was wandering about, a different lady suggested I eat at the 'Ganga View Restaurant'. I did. The view was sensational, the food merely OK. Total cost, a little over two dollars including three cups of coffee. I had met a nice Ukrainian couple and was spending time chatting to them and working on my Russian.

The full name of the town I am currently (at time of this writing) in, SWARGASHRAM, RISHIKESH. Say that three times really fast...



SPIRITUALISM AND INDIA

Fear not, I am not coming to India to find a guru and freak out with spiritual stuff. I did my spiritual freaking out back in the eighties before it was fashionable. I've done meditation and all that stuff. Here, I'm digging it because it is a little quieter.

I know there are a lot of people who would label this as 'the real India'. I think they are wrong. It is just another facet to India. Now, I just need to get me some wifi and I'm happier.



MONKEY!

Be careful when carrying any sort of food around. The bag I was carrying had some food in it and I discovered monkeys are fast and their claws are sharp. Fortunately, when it comes to food I am just a bit faster. I managed to rescue my bag from the filthy monkey and stomped off with it. He did follow like an overly insistent tout but gave up. My belly wins!

So, I can write 'accosted by monkey' under my list of stuff I've experienced.



INDIA AND THE INTERNET

It's amazing how the internet has changed my opinion on places. Now, when my wireless doesn't pick up any possible internet connections I think 'my god - what a backward hick spot'. My friend, all of the places I've been thus far in India have been like that. India has very little wifi and what it does have they think to charge for. I find that kind of sad since everywhere else in the world (well, maybe 20 countries I've been to recently) has internet for free - usually in the rooms! They don't even have a lot of internet cafes thus far. We'll see if that changes or if I can figure out a way to get online cheaply or for free.



MORE INFORMATION ON LOGAN'S UNDERWEAR THAN YOU EVER EVER WANTED TO KNOW

After buying and trying a pair, I figure that an XL set can fit me. Yeah, it's still a bit of a ...stretch... This fits size 100-105 CM (inches is 40-42 for those stuck on the old system). It didn't make me feel like superman or sing in a high tone so that is close enough for me.

After again changing where I was staying, I went back to try to buy five pair of underwear to replace mine. Wearing the same five shorts for nine months hasn't been kind to them. I bought the two pair the man had left. He came back with another set and told me there were more in the back room. They were fire engine red. SK = 'shop keeper'

ME: "Seriously?"
SK: "They are sexy underwear."
ME: "Sir, nobody who wears this size of underwear will ever qualify as 'sexy'."
SK: "Weight doesn't matter."
ME: "It does if you accidentally crush the woman under you."
SK: "So no sexy underwear?"
ME: "I feel sexy enough."

One of those special times when I wish a hidden camera crew was following me around. Another was the honesty story - below.



HONESTY

I was waiting for an eye doctor to return and sitting in a store when this conversation happened between me and a college age Indian guy who was running the store. (This is the abbreviated version). After finding out a bottle of Fanta was 15 RS, I gave him two 10 RS notes and got the Fanta. We had this conversation. The shop keeper is 'SK'.

SK: Do you know why India is not doing better?
ME: Why is that?
SK: We are hard working. We have the manpower. We have the resources. We (Indians) lack honesty.
(We discussed honesty for a bit as I finished my Fanta).
ME: So you think Indians would do better if they were more honest?
SK: Absolutely.
ME: Good. I'll tell you what. Here is 10 more rupees. I'll have another Fanta.
SK: Fanta is 15 rupees.
ME: True, but I gave you 20 for the first one and you never gave me change so now I'll give you 10 more rupees, you'll give me a Fanta and we're even. And India does just a bit better.

Although he gave me the Fanta, he did try for the another five rupees when I was on the way out. I reinterated this conversation and left - fearing for India.



TRAVELER'S TIP

Quite a few forms in India ask for your address and phone number while you are in India. The phone number they can let slide but they do want an address. Have one for them. I have an address of a guest house I was thinking about going to but never quite made it to. Their address has gone on lots of paper work. After a year, it would be tempting to stop by and ask if I have any mail.



INDIAN CUSTOMS

Disclaimer: This is information gleaned from other people. I can't vouch that it is absolutely correct. Also, some of the information is my own wild speculation.

Indians eat dinner late. During the winter, they eat at 8-9 PM. During the summer, they eat at midnight.

Indians love to made noise. They sometimes talk loudly, sound their horns constantly and even use firecrackers when they feel the urge to make just a bit more noise. What I've seen of it thus far is a noisy country.



AND FOR TOMORROW?

In my wanderings, I found an even better place. They have internet they think they'll be able to charge me for (which I shall work on getting down), hot showers, lovely view of the river and other stuff. Basic room 250 RS, nifty room with a view, 350 RS. I'm going to move over there and see how I like it.



COSTS

'Police' pre-paid taxi from airport to train station (New Delhi), 325 RS.
Bus from airport to train station (New Delhi), 75 RS.
Train station meal, very nice, 50 RS.
Train station bottled drink, 40 RS.
Basic breakfast (street food, excellent), 25 RS.
Complicated foreign breakfast, 100 RS.
Coffee, black: 15-25 RS.
High quality underwear (shorts), 184 RS ea.
Toilet paper (big roll), 25 RS.
Body wash, 110 RS.
2 liter bottle of Fanta, 70 RS.
600 ml bottle of Fanta, 28 RS.
Bottle of Fanta, 15 RS.
Hard on for Fanta, free.
Taxi (tuk tuk), 40-150 RS.
Taxi (tuk tuk), fixed route, multiple passengers, 10 RS.
1.5 liter bottle of water, 15 RS.

4 comments:

  1. The Top Gear Christmas special was them in India. They had fun with a two-odd hour wait for train tickets too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The bright red underpant seller obviously subscribed to the Lt. Ulman theory of sexy; if it's red, you can't go wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  3. xray & machine gun nest at the train station is likely because of the terrorist bombings.

    I found it amusing you having difficulty in sleeping due to someone else snoring. I wonder who was noisier once you did fall asleep.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ulman would have bought them, true.

    Agree Pete but if I were a terrorist there, I'd pretty much have to shoot someone to get caught. The security was pretty lax.

    Do I snore that loud? Christ, I hoped I was a bit more quiet.

    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

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

For videos with a Loganesque slant, be sure to visit here. You can also Facebook Logan.

If you enjoy this blog, please donate! Help Logan keep on traveling.