Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Namaste India


Today, we board a plane. One that flies through the air across the world and brings us back to our loved ones. It's exciting to be returning home and, at the same time, saddening to be leaving "Incredible !ndia".

We have 6 hours to kill before hopping on a taxi to the airport, which should be a joyous 4 hour event (so we have been informed).

I'm lost for words at the moment, but you should rest easily knowing that we had McDonald's for lunch a couple of days ago. Chicken Maharaja Mac anyone? McAloo Tikka burger?

See you soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tick Tock

The same streets of Delhi that made our heads spin 4 months ago are now like old pals to us. It's incredible, really, how much tougher, sharper, wiser we are to all of India's surprises. We've been going over lately the things we'll miss about India - and the things we definitely won't. Both are long lists, but this is an unquestionably amazing country.

Just a couple more days of shopping, eating, exploring, being here till we hop on a plane, and then one more till we can kiss Canadian soil (or ice). We'll have so much to tell you when we get home.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Choo choo

Ho ho ho! Today we hop on the Howrah-New Delhi Express (Train 2323) at 6:45pm and arrive in Delhi tomorrow at 5:15pm (if all goes as planned, which is unlikely). As you can imagine, we're bursting at the seams with excitement about spending 22 hours on a train. Hopefully it isn't too bad.

Kolkata has been an interesting place. We've eaten some tasty food and visited the Victoria Memorial, but it seems that the thing that stands out most in my memory is the man laying on the street with his diseased arm, gaping open at the elbow, in our faces. It was frightening and stomach-churning, but the worst part was that nobody was doing anything about it. That and we had no idea what to do about it. It was terrible.

Moving on, we're planning on visiting the botanical gardens today, as well as Dalhousie square and some sort of black hole memorial. Hopefully today is a bit brighter than yesterday was.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kolkata Konundrum

After witnessing a man getting knocked out by a cold, hard fisted Indian, we hopped on a rickshaw from Bodhgaya to Gaya Junction where we would catch our train at 11:15pm. That is, if it wasn't running on Indian Railways. We arrived around 10pm on an exciting rickshaw drag race we had against other rowdy Canadians. Unfortunately, all that excitement was lost rapidly as we realized we would have to wait around until 3:15am before our train would show up. Well, at least it -did- show up. Apparently there was a collision between two trains, but we saw nothing of it in the morning newspaper. If it did actually happen, I sure hope everyone is all right.

Anyway, we arrived in Kolkata at 11 where we proceeded to ferry and taxi over to Sudder St, where most budget hotels are. We were accompanied by a full-fledged Italian man named Andreas who recommended a great pizzeria that we will be joining him for dinner at tonight. Boy am I excited.

Anyway, back to Sudder St. As we began looking for a hotel, we were confronted by an Indian man seeking commission by leading us to hotels. Now this is nothing out of the ordinary, except this man was furious. Almost dangerous. We said he wanted to go alone, and he started to yell and make a big scene. He even went so far as to tell Andreas that he should leave India immediately before muttering something about Israelis and pointing his hand in the shape of a gun at Andreas' head. It was startling to say the least.

As we began to walk-- and he followed us because he would get commission so long as he entered with us-- a man informed us that the commission-hungry Indian had lost more than a few marbles due to extensive use of cocaine and 'smack'. Well that did little to comfort us, since he was hot on our trail and didn't seem to be giving up. Luckily, we spotted a grocery store (it's always exciting to see one) and we entered, hoping he would be gone by the time we left. Sure enough, he was.


So we're here now and we've enjoyed a delicious breakfast. It's strange to think that next Wednesday we will be walking upon Canadian soil-- well I suppose snow would be a better word, wouldn't it?

We hope all is well in the motherland and we'll see you all soon. Maybe too soon ;>

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Buddha Baby

We arrived safely in Bodhgaya at 5am this morning. Our train from Varanasi was 4 hours late, so we didn't have to pay for a guest house last night! This dusty village is crawling with monks and around every corner there is a unique and immaculate Buddhist temple and some Tibetan refugees selling colourful goods on the road.

We plan to spend 2 nights here before heading to Kolkata. We are very excited to be finishing our trip soon and returning home to you!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

To Bodhgaya!

First of all, I'd like to make sure that you didn't get the impression that Varanasi is a boring place. It's far from that. In fact, just wandering the streets is quite an entertaining and draining adventure. Every 3 steps there's somebody shouting at you to buy their wares, whether it be silk shawls -- "cheap and best" -- or opium, hash, lsd, and just about any other drug you can think of.

It's tiresome at times, but it's not too bad. The old town, where we have stayed, has been quite a labyrinthe to navigate through, but we've managed somehow. It's always fun to step out of the hotel on to those winding 5-foot wide streets.

Besides all the hassle from the shopkeepers, there's always the chance you'll see a dead body being carried towards the burning ghats (which are 50m from our hotel). Either that, or you see one laying on the ground waiting to be discovered by something besides flies. We stood and watched flames erupt from eye sockets for a while one evening, which was interesting to say the least. Burnings take place 24/7 around here. It's fascinating.

What else can I say? We've enjoyed some really great non-Indian dishes here. I just need a break sometimes, okay? No problem.

Anyway, we're beginning our journey to Bodhgaya tonight via train. We have a ticket to Gaya with an ETA of 1:20am, so we'll hopefully be able to find a hotel to sleep in before heading to Bodhgaya tomorrow morning (it's about 15km away). We ran into one of the people we did our 10-day Buddhist meditation retreat with, and she'll be joining us for the journey. She's an Israeli girl named Chen. She's cool and we all have a great time together, so it should be fun.

Bodhgaya sounds like a very interesting place. It has a population of around 30,000 people (much less than the 2 or 3 million in Varanasi) and was the place where the Buddha became enlightened. Due to its auspiciousness, dozens of countries from around the world that have Buddhist followers have built monasteries in the city, which should provide an interesting variety of architecture. We're excited!

Special Notice
Happy 2nd Birthday, Beckett!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Day 100

Hello everyone!

Believe it or not, we have been rejuvenated in the crazy city of Varanasi. Mostly thanks to over-eating and over-sleeping, I suppose, but nonetheless we're back on our feet and ready to tackle the final 2 weeks of our journey.

There's not really much to do in Varanasi besides wander the narrow streets like rats. We're planning on taking a boat ride down the ganges at sunset and another at sunrise, as well as visiting the nearby town of Sarnath where the Buddha gave his first teaching on the Way.

We've had some pretty good food here including a salami sandwich made with real Italian salami. Ooh baby. We tend to frequent bakeries and I always have room for more Parle-G cookies (similar to my old love of Raja-G, I just can't get enough of these cheap glucose cookies).

We really haven't done much since getting here besides wander around and eat. It's no big deal. We're planning on heading out to Bodhgaya on December 6 and to arrive in Kolkata on the 9th or 10th.

Time's a tickin'!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tiresome Travels Take Their Toll

Hello everyone,

I'm feeling exhausted from all our travels, so this will be short. Things have been pretty ... overcrowded lately. It has been insane, but we've made it through it and we've finally got a clean -- albeit spartan -- room to sleep in.

We have enjoyed a chilling morning safari through Bandhavgarh National Park, which is teeming with serenity. We saw a tiger, but rode no elephants.

We've travelled like Indians. We've searched for hotels in the wee hours of the morning.

It's time for a rest. I've updated the Google Maps itinerary with our actual route and current location. We are planning on taking the 22 hour long train ride back from Kolkata to Delhi on the evening of December 12, but our schedule up until then is flexible.

Good night