Monday, January 23, 2006

Northern India - I am officially on the tourist circuit

I left with friends from Bombay/Mumbai January 4th.  We took the express to Jaipur in Rajashtan.  This state has developed their Tourist infrastructure better than any other states I have visited in India. A part of the 'golden triangle' of Agra, Delhi and Jaipur - I finally got to use the book Matt and Erin gave me Christmas 2004.
Jaipur was just a night and day then we took off for Swati Matipur and Ranthabome park.  We were tiger hunting.  Not for kill but to see some.  Numbers are dwindling because poachers can get more money for chinese medicine ingredients than they can working an honest job.  But this park was the best chance in India to see a tiger. 
Jamie and I went out one one canter/truck safari.  A cold 6 AM dark start, to catch the animals in their busy sunrise moments.  We drove around for 4 hours, we saw peacocks, monkeys, and deer but no tigers.
Justin went  out on three safaris and on time number three he saw three tigers!! he has great pictures.  I will create a link to their blog or just steal them and post here.
It was nice to be out of the city, Jamie and I took walks to town.  And just relaxed.
Back to Jaipur.  We decided to call up Asgar, a rickshaw driver we met at the station who offered us an all day city tour for Rs 300.  It all sounded too good to be true for me, I was skeptical, but I just went with it - Jamie and Justin have travelled Eastern Africa for three months and Justin has spent years in Asia, so I have a few things to learn from them on the travel front.
When to trust and when not to, it is difficult to know when to let your gaurd down.  Well this turned out to be an unforgettable experience - Asgar was not available but his nephew Mubarik was.  J & J upfront said no shopping!  We only want to see the sights. We wanted to avoid those commission driven tour of handicraft shops in Jaipur. 
Mubarik said fine! monuments it is.  After a day of sightseeing in the rickshaw we were invited over chai at the rickshaw driver corner with the gang, not only to Asgar and Mubarik's house for dinner in the evening, but their village for a celebration of Eid Mubarik the next day.  After a small huddle, discusssion and deciding if this was a safe decision or not we took them up on it.
This was one of those experiences you can not plan.  It just happens.  I will write more on the details in the village later.  But the time was amazing! 
The Village and Eid Mabarik
We altered our train schedule and substituted the village for Jasailmer without regret.  I ate goat - two small pieces, even though I have only been eating seafood for the past few years I felt compelled to join the festivities.  That is however what this Eid is all about, the goat.  Each family slaughters a goat, eats 1/3 for themselves, shares another 1/3 with friends and family and the other third is divided into several serviings and shared with the poorer families in the village. 
Not all the families can afford to kill a goat, they cost about $50.
The next stop was Bikaner.  We visited the Rat Temple outside of town and I ate the Prasad (sweet you eat after a pooja or temple visit).  I thought it was for me,  lady handed it to me as we were walking in (she was walking out) so I ate it.  I like them, cashew nut, I can not remember the name of the sweet something with ghee.  I realized once we entered that it was for the rats, that are running around everywhere and if one runs across your feet is good luck.  I was not blessed by that experience, but I did see the blonde rat which is also supposed to be good luck. 
Jodhpur, Agra and Delhi were next.  Now I am in Amristar, but slow on the update front.  I have not updated my blog in ages. I have several drafts!
I will have to do pictures and all later.  This is only my second time behind a computer don't want to be inside when there is soo much to see of this wonderful country. 
Indian Kindness - "Guest is god" hindi saying
The people everywhere are soo kind.  As in several other cities and monuments myself and Jamie, Justin too at times we are asked by Indians to be in their photo.  Or to have us take their photo. 
Today in the park (I was away from Jamie and Justin while they ran on their own adventure, to get us train tickets) here in Amristar I was asked by a group of school children to be in their photo. Thirty minutes and thirty pictures later (I really am not exagerating) I leave the park for the protection of the Golden Temple - which is beautiful, peaceful and the Sikh holy place.
Other examples of kindness are the 10 cups of chai we had in the village in Rajasthan out of the 15 offers, a person can only drink so much.  The hospitibality is unbelievable.  Although that was nothing unique to Rajasthan, in Mumbai in the various buildings a called home, I had several chai invitations. 
Jamie and I decided, home, restaruant or street stall chai in Rajasthan is better than Marharashtra (sorrry those of you from Mumbai!)  they do a better job on the Masala part.  Ginger is the secret!
So much to see in this country.  We are off to delhi on the 5AM train tomorrow then to Kolkatta, Sikkhim and I return to Bombay. 

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1 comment:

Deb said...

I check everyone's blog everyday and I was SO excited to see that you updated yours. All I can say is, COOOOOOL!!!!! I am insanely jealous of you!!! I did have so much fun when I was with you this summer though :) Maybe I'll get to make my way back out to India again sometime soon! Do you think you'll stay for long? Traveling is always so fun with you! Post pictures!!! I am thinking of you always :) Please say hello to Mukesh!