Helen’s Travel Corner

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From an email from a friend in India

August 17th, 2009 · No Comments

One really amazing thing about traveling is the friends that you meet. While in Chang Mai I met Nate who travels every summer and I’ve had the pleasure to follow all of his trips via email. This summer he’s been traveling through India. I’ve lived vicriously through his emails filled with epic adventures…and it seems like my nostrils have enjoyed the virtual aspect more so than his in person! With his permission, here’s his last email for you to enjoy a glimpse of India from a born and bred Bostonian.

Straight from my inbox (with no edits), here’s the last email from a summer filled with adventure in India:

Yes, im in bombay. before I start let me apologize for any typos. this keyboard is really bad. This is the last email of the trip. Bombay is by far the cleanest city so far. Got here last night, on an overnight train. Got on the train which I paid an arm a nd a leg for last minute to find that my ticket had been waitlisted and there was someone sleeping on my mat/bunk. Talked to the ticket guy and after five minutes (indian time) of looking at his one page of names showed me to the super upper class car. Awesome. Had my own room with a bed, sheets, dinner and breakfast for the entire trip. Style. A far cry from travelling on the local buses. So got to Bombay and apart from what ive heard from most of the reading and other travelers that ive questioned, I have found bombay to be fantastic. No trash, nice people, wide open streets, lots of green, absolutely beautiful buildings and very little beggar/tout hassle. It might also be that Ive gotten really good at exhibiting the fact that “I really don’t want to talk to you if youre selling or begging.” and the city is fantastic. more diverse than the rest of india and much more modern. it is obvious that t his city has a phenomenal more amount of money running through it than anywhere else. |Ive already had three offers to be an extra in one of the bollywood movies. As much as I would have liked, I declined. Ive heard that the experience of seeing a movie being made is cool but you pretty much stand around for six hours and then are asked to walk fifty feet for one shot. So I chose to see the city today. Great city.
So (very little) to my dismay, I didn’t get to see the taj majal although it was on the list. It happens. Instead I opted to go to Vrindavan and Mathura which are the playground and birthplace of hare krishna, respectively. Turned out to be a way better idea, seeing as the adventure was absolutely amazine. After a week in Manali, fishing and swimming in waterfalls, I needed to see the real india again. So I caught up with my new friends Eli and Nichole and decided to go with them. For this final story, I am choosing to copy it word for word from the journal that Ive been keeping for two reasons, first I don’t feel like telling it again and second, you all can get a very breif glimpse of what Ive been writing to myself for the past seven weeks. Here goes:

So I am back in Delhi… again….WTF. Always back in Delhi. Guess it’s just the jump off point for all of northern india. Bus ride was good. Turned out that Eli and Nichole were on the bus also. They were meeting thier friend Adi here. Real nice person as well. In fact, the nicest people ive met on this trip. Also met two guys on the bus. One english guy named andy. real good guy. teaches computers in London. 6’5. big dude but more of a gentle giant. Also met an american guy from upstate new york. Can’t remember his name. was an agent (commercial) and a bit of a deuche. Very self centered and also a bit borin g. Not as genuine as andy. But they all leave today and im stuck here till the 15th where i catch a train to Bombay.
So we get off the bus the best bus ride fo far. empty. and we go to the guesthouse together. Find the place is booked through but a girl who was on the bus, moran, was booking the last room. She was leaving at noon and was nice enought to share the room wqith me for the next two nights. I was nice enough to let andy and the americen guy (still cant remember his name) leave their bags in the room for the afternoon…….

2 hours later….
So Eli, Nichole and ther friend Adi were going to Mathura, then to Vrindavan. They invited me to come along with them. Absolute Split second decision. So I went with them to the train station with all my stuff ready to just jump on the train with them. Went to the “tourist” ticket booth and he dismessed me to the indian booth downstairs. No dice there either. I think it was because there was some indian guy absolutely flipping out at the window nest to me. Screaming and shouting about who knows what but the guy at my counter also dismissed me with a wave of his hand. I was outta luck. Was about to give up and go back to the hotel when Eli grabbed my arm and took me to a sign that read “assistance.” The wndow was colsed but there was a group of indian dudes milling around in front. Explained to some guy that I needed to get on the train (which left in ten minutes) and didn’t have a ticket. The guy told me to go with him, so i left eli standing there and with a fifty pound bag, sprinted after the guy. He took me down a series of relly narrow back street/paths to a shop that had a new bunch of dudes standing in front with a sign that merely read “travel”. I gave a new guy 1000 rupees (20 bucks) wich is an exorbitant amount for india and he took off in the opposite direction. I had either just gotten robbed or this guy was for real. Sure enough, five minutes later, at 5:40, the guy comes barreling around the corner, ticket in hand. The train left at 5:40. Shit. I grabbed the ticket, not even bothering to collect my change, and amongst the chorus of cheers from the guys in the alley, I sprinted for the station. Platform 2. I got there in record time. No train. Nothing. Must have missed it. But on platform 3 there was a train still waiting. “This is india” I thought and got on it, no idea if it was the right train or where I was going. I didn’t care either. Anywhere it took me would have been an adventure. But I figured if I got lucky it might be the right train and I might find Eli, Nichole and Adi on it. So I walked through the unnecessarily packed trains. And when I say packed you ahve no idea. plus I had a massive bag on my bakc. I literally bulldozed through men and women, over children and bags, hoping to find my friends. On the seventh car, amongst, over and under other passengers, I found them. Now Im sitting here writing with some guy almost on top of me….

7 Hours Later…
It’s 1:21 AM.
Im sitting on a bed in Mathura or something like that. Just had the craziest experience ever. So we got off the train and were welcomed to a massive monsoon thrunderstorm. I mean massive. Lightning strikes every other second for about two hours. And rain like ive never seen before. God definately had a full bladder tonight. We were trying to get to Vrindavan (Hari Krishna’s playground) but due to the monsoon and upcoming festivals (tomorrow is Hari Krishna’s Birthday) taxis were few and far inbetween. We haggled with some short fat man for about an hour, I passed the time by dancing with some indians through the rain in a flooded street. Fnally, we agreed on a price. 300 rupees to take us to Vrindavan immediately. We got about 3 km in the van/taxi before we were swamped by the rain. Like nothing Ive ever seen. The van stalled in the high waters. The streets were flooded up to the bottom of my knees and the car completely stalled. And it was still absolutely pouring. I was already soaked through and through so I didn’t mind. Warm rain is nice but not when youre trying to go somewhere. And we were stuck in it. Eli nd I, after about 5 minutes of deliberating and listening to the driver turn the motor over to no avail, both got out and pushed. Plastic bags, bottles, food, and all sorts of “shit” (which it very well could have been) pummeled our legs as we perfomed a type of running wade in flip flops. Almost lost my flip flops a bunch of times. We eventually pushed the car out of the flooded street but still no start. And it was getting real late. Too late to get a room in Vrindavan with Hare Krishna’s birtday just a few hours away. So we politely asked the driver to find us cheap hotel room. After 1/2 hour we finally go the car started on a running start iwth Eli and I puching again. The fifth hotel we checked had a room. A 2 bed split for 1500 rs. Way too much but it was our only option. So we accepted our karma, took the room and went to eat.
After a meal where we were charged the “foreigners” price (they have separate menus) and Adi who could read hindi and speak a fair amount called them on it, we wnet back to the hotel room to shower and sleep. Upon our return, Eli walked into the bathroom in his towel and immediately and hysterically exclaimed “1500 rupees and no f@#$%#g shower.” Sure enough, we all soon discovered that there was no shower. In fact, the entire shower head had been sawed off completely from the tiled wall. Just a hole where the shower used to be. Amazing and at 1:20 AM. We attempted to complain to the manager/owner but to no avail. The guy just shrugged and in one word told us to “vacate.” We tried to call his bluff on it but he wasn’t bluffing. He actually came up to the room to yell at us some more and kept on saying “vacate, vacate, vacate.” We definately weren’t leaving in the middle of the night in a monsoon so we decided to stay…and use the bucket. That’s how the indians do it. They fill a bucket and pour it over their heads. Now im sitting writing about to pass out in a few minutes. What a day.”

That was straight outta my journal. Great day. I leave on a plane tomorrow at 11 Pm and get into boston sometime on the 19th. Not sure when. But this trip has been amazing. Thanks to Chris for making this trip way better. Motorcycles through the Himalayas was arguable the best experience of my life. Thanks to all of the indians who showed me that personal space is non existent in a country of 1 billion. Thanks to all the Israelis who showed me their culture and religion. Thanks to the dutch who taught me psychadelic trance. Thanks to the indian kids who helped me fish. Thanks to Monty and the Shiva Cafe who helped me find what I needed. And finally, Thanks to all of you who have read the emails and to those of you who responded. A bit of home is nice from time to time but Im back in a couple of days. One final list. Thought i’d make it of the many things I have become completely desensitized to ove rthe past 7 weeks.

Things that I have become desensitized to or really appreciated in India:

Cows, goats and water buffaloes causing traffic jams
serious lack of personal space
really bad music
people being cremated
over use of the horn
lots and lots of spice in food (really good stuff)
rock hard mattresses
more bugs (expecially flies) than you could imagine
trash and garbage everywhere (littering included)
really really genuine people (truly wear their hearts on display)
touts and beggars (ne ne ne……chello!)
extremely kind and generous sikh people
dead animals
breathtaking mountains with glacial rivers
the most resourceful people ive ever seen (they make houses out of everything…even dried cow shit…genius)
really scary bus rides
coke in a glass bottle
can’t think of any more but thanks for reading. Next year either Chile or Israel to see some friends. That is all…


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