Sunday, October 26, 2008

Happy Diwali

Today is the first day of the 5 day Diwali festival. We are in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, it is night time and the city is glowing brightly with tiny butter lanterns, firecrackers and gaudy, blinking light displays. We enjoyed the view very much from the 14th floor of the Om Hotel, in the revolving restaurant!

We've been traveling quite intensely the last few days, have covered a lot of distance. It hasn't always been pleasant. After spending 2 nights at the Golden Temple in Amritsar (which is an amazing place that swept me off my feet that I'd like to talk about for a minute just here inside these brackets ... All are welcome; it is a sanctuary! Waves of people sit in lines on the floor, their plates filled with dahl, rice, vegetables and chapati bread [which is made by machine apparently, and is actually not very good but it doesn't matter much because it is a gift]. That's right, free food - and accomodation. They feed ~40,000 people a day. It doesn't matter who you are; if you are hungry, you are fed. The temple itself is lovely, and we waited in a long, sweaty line the first day to see inside, but enjoyed much more walking around barefoot [before entering one must remove ones shoes, wash ones feet and cover ones head] on the white marble around the temple at night. I felt so peaceful during those walks.) Where was I? Yes, after spening 2 nights at the Golden Temple, we got on a sweet 5am luxury train to Delhi, had lunch and then took a bicycle rickshaw to the bustand where we learned no bus from there went to Agra, so we got on one of those crazy Indian city buses you read about for a half hour ride to another bus stand where we hopped on another one of those buses you read about for a 6 hour ride to Agra. After crashing, we woke early EARLY to go to the Taj Mahal for sunrise. It was spectacular, and we joined in with everyone else in photo fever. (We were more goofy than the rest though.) After breakfast we got a supposedly delux bus for a ride to our current location, Jaipur, which took way too long because of all the stops made to pick up and drop off bags of some sticky sugar liquid that dripped on us and our stuff.

Tomorrow night we plan to head to Udaipur on a sleeper train. We've heard it's very nice there and I'm hoping it's somewhere we'll want to spend some more time. The worst thing about many of the places we've passed through lately has been the air quality. I feel like in the last week I've shaved some chunk of time off my life just from inhaling so much air thick with exhaust and garbage burning. The garbage burns are brutal - on every corner around here. Gahyuck! Please take a deep breath in and, if you're lucky enough, enjoy your relatively pure dose of oxygen.

P.S. There are lots of camels in this province!

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