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H - Seeing the world...

a travel blog by H

Here's how it will go (if all goes to plan that is):

India (Delhi) --> Nepal --> India (Bombay/Goa) --> Thailand (maybe Cambodia) --> Singapore --> Australia --> New Zealand --> Fiji --> L.A.

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Getting to grips with blog...

Liverpool, United Kingdom

So I should be packing or something really, but I thought it would be much more fun to fight the technology-battle with this blog. I will try not to bore you all too much while I'm away with lots of long paragraphs, but instead I shall put lots of photos up! How does that sound?

permalink written by  H on October 9, 2007 from Liverpool, United Kingdom
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From Theatre in the West End to Heathrow Airport

London, United Kingdom

I'm all packed (i.e. just about managed to squeeze 5 months worth of stuff in a 50l backpack) and heading to London with the parents tomorrow morning. Will be watching Phantom of the Opera at Her Majestys Theatre tomorrow evening, which is a bloody good start to it all if you ask me. I'm writing this in advance because I don't know where I will be the next time I write, so farewell for now =) Keep in touch! xx

permalink written by  H on October 10, 2007 from London, United Kingdom
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First thoughts of India

Delhi, India

Things I Love about India:

- The FOOD! Its's soooo good and eating out is amazingly cheap. Bananas are 3 for 1p
- The bright colours the women wear

- How friendly, smiley and helpful they are (especially after you speak to them in Hindi or wave anyway). They also seem to have very close knit families which is so lovely
- Indians never seem to be in a rush and are very patient people. The are also very hard working!
- The monkies at the side of the road!
- The cows at the side of the road
- Tuk Tuks! (crazy nippy motorbike-type taxis you hop on after haggling price for)
- The weather (at the moment anyway)
- Rural areas are very green and grow soooo much sugar
- Chai (Indian Tea)
- Cheap hostels (tonight it is less than a quid each)
- How proud Indians are to be Indians (or from what the people we have met have said)
- The lack of backpackers here!

Things not so good:

- Being scammed! and ripped off cos they think we are rich and will pay what we pay in england here!
- How hard we have found it to book trains!
- Obviously, the poverty... it's heartbreaking having children come up to our taxi asking for money for food
- Accidentally eating whole chillis and feeling like there is fire in my mouth lol

Stuffs i find strange/funny:

- The traffic...they have no rules except that you can do what you want as long as you beep your horn!
- Being stared at everywhere you go

- They all seem to know and like the name Helen
- Cows pulling huuuuge wagons around
- Dogs everywhere (not had rabies jab = run like the wind away from them)
- How diverse the country is, wealth-wise.

Have been to the Lotus Temple in Delhi a.k.a Syndey Opera House! And to Dali Haat, which is a big market did really good food! Also have been to a school set up by the CSW for Dalits (the poorest people), which explains the photos. They have done amazing things to set that up for them as the have great education now, wheras before they were not allowed into schools!

Off to see the Taj Mahal tomorrow, leaving hostel at 5.30am to see it at Sunrise.
Till next time,
H xx

permalink written by  H on October 17, 2007 from Delhi, India
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Taj Mahal

Agra, India

Whoa this feels like a long time ago now..

The night before we went the Taj Mahal, we stayed at a place near Agra called Bharatpur because our taxi driver, Mhabar (who we had been with for the past few days as this saved time compared to busing it, and wasn't too expensive) had invited us to his home for dinner. We had discussed and very much liked the sound of a moonlight view of the Taj from a hostel in Agra, but after a bit of thought, and a toss of the coin which made us realise which we'd actually prefer...we ended up going to his house. Did not regret it because his family were so lovely and welcoming, treated us like royalty as they cooked authentic indian dal for us, we drank the niceset masala chai and they watched us eat (despite the fact that the mother and daughter were fasting). Afterwards we managed to get a demonstration of Hindi dancing (only after we danced for them lol). Was an amazing experience to get a glimpse of Mhabar's life (Becks got the photos).

Despite being a great guy though, Mhabar turned up 15 mins late to pick us up the next morning, so we saw the sunrise on our way to the Taj as opposed to at the Taj. Therefore, we missed the changing colour from red to orange etc which was a shame but it was still a lot less touristy when we got there. I dunno how to descride it cos i'm crap with words but it was stunning/beautiful and you've just got to be in awe of how it was built when you know the romantic story and see how the semi-precious stones are embedded in the marble (we went to a craft museum after it which showed us how it would have been made)

(took far too many photos)

After a couple of peaceful hours there we were pretty hungry due to a severe lack of breakfast, and it began to get busy so we went to a place nearby where you sit on the floor to eat, and a monkey was constantly dropping mushy fruit on us from the trees above! Love it!

Saw the Agra fort from the road but had to get back to Delhi so didn't bother going in, and the Red fort in Delhi is meant to be better which we planned to visit. Stopped at another tomb on the drive back, so overall it was a day of seeing amazing craftsmanship in the form of buildings and a long drive back to Delhi.

permalink written by  H on October 30, 2007 from Agra, India
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To Nepal... (this should come before the trek blog entry)

Kathmandu, Nepal

Got to Kathmandu, Nepal on 20th October just in time to catch the end of Dasain, the Hindu religious festival. Un/fortunately (not sure which) we didn't see the animal sacrifices that day, which we heard from a girl called Reb who we be-friended that evening were extremely horrific! The band we went to see after another cheap meal out in the evening were really good, played all the classics like Dire Straights, Blondie, Chillis etc. It was a place called Shisha Terrace..don't think it was tobacco in the Shishas though going on how a group of Nepalis were acting..

Next day we did the Buddhist temple thing. Went to Durbar Square by cycle rickshaw (poor guy with 3 of us crammed on!). It's a really interesting place and would have liked to stay longer, relaxing on the steps of the temples, and learn more about the buildings but we were keen to get to the Monkey Temple!

So I had heard that the wild monkeys up there did tricks like slide down bannisters and steal things from you, so after a while of just seeing them eat i decided to offer one a leaf...Not the best idea cos it yoinked it from my hand along with a big swish of its claws

into my flesh! Cheeky (nasty) monkey gave me 3 little scratches on my hand. There were a lot of Buddhist monks at the top, and the view of Kathmandu from there was awesome!

permalink written by  H on October 31, 2007 from Kathmandu, Nepal
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Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

Pokhara, Nepal

Puked up my malaria tablet this morning, which was a great start to the day.. Got worse though when we got hit by another bus on our way from Kathmandu to Pokhara! At the time i had my back turned to the window and was talking to Hannah on the seat next to me and a Guy from Taiwan called Chang across the aisle. He said later that he saw it coming, scary! All i remember is hearing a real loud crash/glass smashing noise and the bus coming to a stop with deadly silence from everyone on it! Then, looked around, realised everone was looking in my general direction, noticed I had a LOT of glass pieces on me and then turned to see it was my window only that the other bus has smashed! In our hour wait to return to the bus, we found out the other bus came round a corner too fast and its back end hit us. The glass was all over the 3 of us...tiny smitherines which looked like glitter. Only a few tiny tiny cuts to show for it, could have been a hell of a lot worse and still feels sureal that it even happened! Kept finding pieces of glass in our bags/hair/bras which were a little reminder!

The next day we caught the bus from Pokhara to start our trek (this time we sat on the roof which was loads of fun, best air-con ever, maybe a little too cold though). Missed our planned stop of Phedi but this cut out a day of our trek as we started from Nayapul. All worked out just dandy really. In total we spent 7 days doing The Annapurna Sancturary Trek (4 up, 3 down). This was pretty fast pace as 7-10 is recommended. And also we got a lot of respect from people as we carried our own backpacks rather than hiring a porter! (they carry soooo much stuff on their heads, its unbelievable. Felt real bad for them as it much be such hard work). We also didn't have a guide so went a little out of the way a couple of times but mostly it was either obvious/there were locals around to ask.

Anyway, the trek was without a doubt the best thing i've ever done! So glad we did it, and although I felt knackered at times it was totally worth it was the beautiful rivers, waterfalls, wildlife and friendly locals/porters constantly saying Nameste (hello) along the way... plus, obviously, the stunning mountains which surround you at the top (Annapurna Sanctuary). Another once-in-a-lifetime thing we did was to sleep in the dining room at the top (as there was no spare rooms and we wanted to see the mountains at sunrise. Also we hadn't seen them all yet as it was cloudy when we got there). This room was maybe twice the size of a normal lounge and there were 34 Nepali porters/Indian tourists sleeping in it! We were crammed in, forced into the spooning position. Pretty pissed off at one point as an Indian tourist behind me tried to grope me, but i promptly told him to get off, which he did, then had a giggle in Hindi to his mates. Didn't sleep that night cos it was just really uncomfortable as could not stretch out or move position much at all, but it was definiately an interesting experience and makes you feel bad for the porters who have to do it all the time!

The last evening on our trek we stayed at a place called Ghinu which had natural hot springs by the river! B.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l. I have not been in one before and there could be no better time to do it than after a trek which caused achy quads and buttocks =) From this,

back to Pokhara the next day where we went for a meal and drinks/pool with some Nepali guys we met at the top, was a lovely end to an awesome week. We hired a boat on Pokhara lake the day after for 2 hours and then went for a meal where i ate buffalo curry! Tough but tasty =) Looking forward to trying more new things....

permalink written by  H on October 31, 2007 from Pokhara, Nepal
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Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Bharatpur, Nepal

Had 4 days in Chitwan National Park where I:-

- Got a ride on the back of our guest house owner's (Ganesh's) motorbike
- Saw many a buuuutiful sunset over the river

- Went to a Tharu culture evening, where the Tharu people performed dances with sticks to drums and they had some other crazy dances in crazy costumes (e.g. giant peacock!). After they danced they invited people on the stage to dance round in a circle so I got dragged up by Ganesh, and so promptly grabbed Hannahs hand to drag her and Becks up too! Was such a good laugh..
- Conquered the jungle by getting a canoe ride down the river (with 2 of the guys from our guest house as guides) and walked for 3 hours back through the shrubs, trees etc. Got rather scratched as we had to fight our way through the bushes, but was totally worth it to be with relatively unspoilt nature! All I actually saw was a croc in the river, lots of birds and millions of red cotton bugs and leeches (ewww)..oh, and monkeys but they are everywhere anyway! Later that same day, we did the elephant safari where we saw loads more (mongoose, dear and rhinos!). Gutted bout the lack of tiger spotting, but it's rare people see them now.
- Spent an evening round a bbq learning Nepal songs from some pissed locals who work as guides for jungle trips..they like their rum!
- Bathed the elephants in the river! (Becks has the photos. Her blog is www.statravelblogs.com/beckybouk). Basically scrub them with a rough Stone as hard as poss and they love it! Also I sat on her back afterwards and got splashed with water from her trunk, then dunked in =) Another sureal moment being so close to an elephant, it was defo one of my fave moments
- Went to see the baby elephants at the breeding centre. Not sure what I really feel about the whole thing actually cause they get tied up for parts of the day, hit with sticks when they try to escape, and breeding elephants purely to train them for safari...hmmmm...

permalink written by  H on November 11, 2007 from Bharatpur, Nepal
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Back to India

Mumbai, India

Stepping over the border (over a metal bar) between Nepal and India was pretty odd, and straight away could tell we were back in India with pushy jeep taxi drivers trying to get us into their jeep! Crammed 4 of us into the middle section so the 1 1/2 hour journey to Gorakhpur wasnt the most comfortable. This busy town has a busy rail network which we stayed near, ate at a locals place where they looked at us funny when we asked for the menu and there was no cuttlery (had chicken curry, which tasted reeeally good!). Was expecting Delhi Belly after this experience though!

Our train to Delhi was 14hours, and my 1st overnight train (we splashed out on 3 tier A/C). Went very smoothly, just an hour delay and actually got some sleep! The other 2 people sharing our carriage were a wealthy Indian couple. The guy was extremely chatty, and told us he has the cure for HIV/AIDS/Cancer/everything else! It's called Transfer Factor. Spread the word! :-/ really impressed with the train, and love how they constantly come round with cheap chai, coffee, panne (water) and food!

Did more sight seeing in Delhi (Jama Masjid and the Red Fort), and the next day, after a month of avoiding it, and progressively getting more and more slack with what we ate...me and Hannah both got the dreaded Delhi Belly! We blame the street mo-mo we ate!

Flew to Mumbai and stayed at our worst accom yet (we each saw a rat while we were there). Mumbai is loads different to Delhi. 1st thoughts:

- so much more developed with more modern buildings, sky scrapers
- lots of black (and yellow) cabs
- contrast between rich and poor! saw pretty grim slums on drive to accom
- roads are much more developed and less manic
- less pestering people
- a LOT hotter/humid. was 33 degrees on landing at 5pm and stayed so hot all evening
- people actually have pet dogs as opposed to just strays everywhere

Watched some cricket at the uni field, went to Chowpatty beach for sunset, and saw a few fireworks for Divali celebrations. Then had to head to the impressive train station (Victoria Terminus).

Got to Goa by overnight train and headed straight to Palolem where the beach is absolutely stunning, lined by palm trees, and we're staying in a beech hut! The lower "sleeper class" train was lots cheaper than our last train and worked out just fine as were were in a carriage with other travellers (a really lovely chatty couple). Have been in the sea which is unbelievably warm and bought a frisbee for our time here =) Also, went to some bars last night for a few beers and had cocktails with Becks at Cafe del Mar (the main bar with all the travellers).

I know it's crazy i'm inside doing this blog when its such a beautiful place out there, but I'm feeling a little crappy with my Delhi belly and the Sun is rather strong for my dehyrated self (I threw up my malaria tablet this morning along with the orange/rehydraton sachet i'd had for breakfast). Getting hungry again now so best get off (hungry helen=grouchy helen).

Hope this ain't been too waffly. Till next time my friends x H x

permalink written by  H on November 11, 2007 from Mumbai, India
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Goa, India

permalink written by  H on November 12, 2007 from Goa, India
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Bangkok, Thailand

permalink written by  H on November 17, 2007 from Bangkok, Thailand
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