Location: Delhi, India
Well it's the final countdown, dah nah nah nah...this song has been in our head non stop for the last few days! Only two days to go and I'm home -arrgh! But thought I'd write a quick entry on India before I leave (the final one - boo hoo I know you all must be sad!)
So India, well everyone said it was meant to be really hard so we were expecting the worst but we've had a great time here, the people have been really friendly and eager to help and the food has been gorgeous, although I still can't force myself to have curry for breakfast! The only downside is, we have only had a month here so have been rushing through both the north and south at break neck speed, oh well just means I'll have to come back, what a shame!
We started off in Mumbai, home of Bollywood movies, the biggest film industry in the world and added our names to the ranks of stars here. Yes, my debut in a Bollywood film has been made! However, it was not quite what we expected, we thought we'd be wearing beautiful saris but actually we were meant to be prostitutes as they were shooting a scene in Amsterdam. It's not as dodgy as it sounds but we had our doubts at first! And don't worry I kept my modesty by refusing to wear the bikini top and hot pants they had planned for us! However the director wasn't too happy with us unimportant extras causing such a fuss, as he kept saying 'oh you're only a blur!' Anyway it was all good fun even if we did have to dance sober to house music and we even got paid! Anyway the film is called 'Kalyug' meaning end of the world and is out in a month or so check it out!
Mumbai, however is a city of two halves and despite being the richest and most western city, it also has the biggest population of homeless people and that's saying somthing in India. At night there were literally thousands of people lining the streets sleeping, it was such a sad sight to see and during the day these thousands of people turn into beggars who don't leave you alone even when you're in a taxi!
From here it was on to Goa, party town of India, however, just our luck not at the moment as it's not the season. Had a lovely few days topping up on our tans on paradise beach as it was known but did nothing like the partying we did in Thailand - Gandhi's birthday being a 'dry day' didn't help much either! Lovely place but a bit too many ageing hippies and frisbee playing Israelis for my liking!
Then, on to Hampi, an old Hindu kingdom. Really loved it here as unlike Angkor Wat or the other temples we've visited, it wasn't so touristy and the temples weren't just set up in a big complex far away from anything, they were part of the town. You look up from your chicken tikka masala (yes they do have it here, all lies that they don't) and there is some humungous temple behind you. We got bikes for the day and managed to do a fair bit of exercise as we got lost trying to find it all! From here it was a nightmare bus journey on a clapped out bus on the bumpest roads possible onto Jog Falls, which are meant to be the highest waterfalls in India. However, this was a bad decision on our part and really not worth it. It was in the middle of nowhere and took us days to get there and back again. It also didn't help that we arrived really late at night having nowhere to stay so were really scared that we would have to spend the night outside with all the monkeys and stray dogs, luckily we didn't. The actual waterfalls were not worth it either, it was raining when we went and we ended up having to clamber across little rock pools to get to the bottom avoiding leeches and running away from over friendly monkeys on the way - yes again!
Next stop was Kerala, a really beautiful state right down in the south, really lush landscape with palm trees absolutely everywhere. It had a really relaxed atmosphere, which was nice unlike the craziness of the north. From here, we decided a bit more relaxation was needed and decided to head off in the hope of doing a bit of meditation and yoga in an Ashram. We'd heard about a guru known as the 'Hugging Mother' who is famous because she does precisely that and has a huge following in the US (she would, wouldn't she??) so set off to her back yard. Unfortunately she wasn't there (as she was touring the US and Europe!) so we didn't get to do any yoga or get a hug but we got shown round the Ashram by some of her 'devotees' and got a good insight into the whole place. Its motives are good; she has set up lots of charities, hopspitals and schools to help the poor of the area but it was also bordering on cult -weirdness. They had all these stories about how she'd turned water into milk and was a living deity like Jesus etc etc. We just nodded politely and ate our pizzas !
We then took an internal flight up to the north to save time cos the overnight trains here, although good get a bit tiresome after a while when someone sits on your head at 3am! We spent most of our time here in the state of Rajasthan which was really beautiful but very different to the south, much more Muslim influenced and very barren and desert like. Spent a lovely few days in Udaipur, the most romantic place in India (apparently) eating on rooftop terraces overlooking the three lakes which haven't been full in five years so we were very lucky. If anyone's seen the James Bond film, 'Octopussy' then you'll know it, it was filmed here. Then it was a horrible few days in Jaipur which was a huge city where we got hassled none stop by people even on the rickshaws, and the girls got Delhi belly! I escaped, dunno how as I am always the one to be ill but just as well as three people fighting for the toilet wouldn't have been fun!
Now back in Delhi and off to see the Taj Mahal tomorrow, our third wonder of the world for the trip! Delhi is really cool and everything I expected it to be, absolute mayhem traffic (we had the scariest taxi ride of our whole trip here) and cows and people everywhere! London is going to seem very calm and boring in comparison. So anyway back in 2 days, have to say am not dreading it as much as I thought I would, although I'll probably take that back in a few days when I have to start looking for a job but 5 months in Asia has started to take its toll. Constant staring and hassle, day long bus journeys on bumpy roads and consant beeping no longer have the novelty value they did in China. We have noticed a distinct decrease in our patience and tolerance levels so just as well we're coming home! That said have had the trip of a life time and would do it all again in an instant, if only I had the money....
Anyway, time to say bye for the final time, you guys will no longer be bored by me any longer and see you all soon! Will be in touch with everyone soon. Be prepared for the moutains of photos...
Ciao for now,
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Sorry for the lack of diary entries for the past month, or actually you might be quite glad not to be bored by me again! Anyway this has been due to the fact that internet is very expensive here and that there is not an awful lot to say about Thailand. You will get the jist of our time here quite quickly - sunbathing and partying! It's been a hard life! Anyway have really loved it here, it has been a really nice break and more like a month's holiday than travelling. Thailand is really beautiful, those beaches are really what you expect to see! Will definitely be coming back here for a holiday in the near future. Apart from that have met lots of really nice people in Thailand, it has not been hard to meet people at all. Thought we'd meet lots of annoying gap year 19 year olds and chavs but hasn't been at all. To everyone I've met hope you are all checking out the webpage and make sure you all keep in touch!
So we started off in Thailand in Bangkok...well all I can say is it's pretty crazy but it's starting to feel like our second home, this is now the 4th time we've been back here as everywhere you go in Thailand you have to pass through here. However, Bangkok can be a very dangerous place for us as the shopping here is amazing - Diesel jeans for 8 pounds and enough flowing skirts and tops to kit out the entire audience of Woodstock! The Khao San road is a 'backpacker ghetto' if ever you saw one -it has anything your average backpacker could ever ask for! Whilst here we saw a lot of Buddhas - recling ones, emerald ones, sitting ones, standing ones you name it! The highlight was one that was 46m long, which was pretty impressive. Apart from that we got in some practise on the Redbull Samsung buckets for the Full moon parties. These are absolutely lethal - the Samsung is 80% and the Redbull has enough Taurine in keep a bull awake for days! (It's not speedas everyone thinks, that's just a myth.) Oh and yes for those of you that are interested we have seen a lot of Lady Boys, some are really good and you can see a lot of Western Men that have been fooled. We mostly like to laugh at them but did end up saving one guy from them....
After Bangkok it was on to Chiang Mai in the north where we did a two day trek in the jungle.The whole trip was an experience to say the least and really good fun. We had a really nice group which made it all the better, we were like a little family! The trek itself was pretty hardcore especially for people like us but this time we were with all English people so there were no intrepid French to put us to shame. The trek was hard enough the first day but the second it rained loads as it does in the jungle and the jungle turned into one huge mud slide. I have never seen so much mud in my life and my trainers and all my clothes will never see the light of day again. By the end we were wading through rivers so it's not surprising my clothes didn't last. The whole trip was pretty authentic and we really roughed it this time, no electricity, just candles (in a bamboo hut - slightly worrying), hole for a toilet across a river, no running water and the best thing -our beds were above a pig sty with only bamboo slats separating us from the pigs! Needless to say it was not the best nights sleep ever - every time the pigs moved underneath us the whole floor shook. The next day we did lots of fun things but very unsafe things, (safety conscious is not in their vocabulary here!) like elephant riding in the mud - I kept imagining the elephant slipping over and us being squashed by it! And then bamboo rafting, this was practically white water rafting as we had no helmets and had to keep ducking to whizz under fallen trees at a rather startling speed! One of the rafts broke due to someone's rather too energetic paddling (Ben!) which then meant everyone lept on to ours and ours sunk! All brillant fun even though the water did not look too appetizing.
We then went down to the islands to hit the beaches and perhaps get a tan. I think we've finally managed it now, although the fact that we never make it out of bed before 2pm doesn't help much. The weather has been on the whole pretty good so we've been lucky as it is monsoon season at the moment. Our first stop on the islands was Ko Phi Phi, which is one of the one's that the Tsunami hit last year. However this hasn't stopped it from being the most beautiful island that we visited, you know the usual - dazzling white sands and turquoise clear waters, it must have been really amazing beforehand. That said there is a lot of devastation still aparent here and some of the streets are eerily quiet. 2000 people died here which is about 3rd of their population. However the people here had a really admirable determination to survive, just in the 6 days we spent there we saw shops finish re-building, import their stock and open up for business. We told ourselves that every penny spent here helped these people get their lives back on track - cue a lot of money spent on more beads, sarongs and alcohol. Nearly experienced a Tsunami for ourselves here as there was another earthquake in Sumatra (the fault line near Indonesia) whilst we were here! Apparently they have a couple a month so I was quite glad to leave alive! It was scale 5 so we didn't feel a thing thank God as probably would have panicked and ran up the nearest hill! Did the usual mandatory boat trip here with the snorkelling (still don't like fish) except this time it was to visit Maya beach where "The Beach' was filmed. So now when we watch 'The Beach' (as it's on in every internet cafe here) we spend out whole time going "I've been there' and annoying everyone around us! It was every bit as beautiful as in the film and we felt like Bond Girls arriving there in our snorkels and then climbing through the rockpools to get onto the beach. Evenings were spent at a really cool bar on the beach where they did fire twirling which is really amazing. We did lots of dancing on the beach and even some night swimming but after 6 days we were ready to go as things are still pretty quiet here. Although it's nice to lose the package tourists and just have an island of backpackers.
And island of backpackers we certainly got on Ko Pha- Ngan... Before heading down to Haad Rin in the south which is Ground Zero for the monthly Full Moon parties we decided to spend a few days detoxing and chilling out in the north of the island in order to recharge our batteries for Full moon, we were already a bit ill by this point. It was really beautiful here, little secluded coves set against a jungle backdrop but absoutely nothing to do so by the end of three days there we were raring to go to the Full Moon party.... So Full moon, it was everything I thought it would be and more...The nights leading up to it were almost as good as the actual Full moon night itself as there were less people there so you didn't lose eachother. On average about 7000 people descend upon Haad Rin for Full moon. The beach was not as big as I expected and consists of a small strip of bars pumping out different types of music into the night. We sensibly chose a bungalow slightly away from the bars to enable us to sleep at bit at night but we never got home before 6am anyway so it didn't matter. Dancing on the beach is so much fun! Anyway Full Moon night also became my pretend 24th birthday (arrgh- can now say I'm in my 'mid-twenties'!) as my actual birthday was spent on an overnight coach. We got into the spirit of it all with glowing tatoos and horns, which turned out to be a God send as it allowed us to find eachother. I made it to 9:30am, so about 12 hours of partying, not bad, although this was definitely thanks to the Redbull buckets. However, I now never want to touch another drop of the stuff as I didn't sleep properly the whole time I was in Haad Rin and for about 3 days after. That stuff is dangerous but doubt the Full Moon party would be the same without it!
The journey back up from the islands was a bit of a nightmare and this is the only annoying thing about Thailand. You are ferried about from cafe to cafe before you get on your bus to spend money as it is all owned by the same companies. This doesn't sound too bad but when you miss your boat or bus or whatever at the expense of being made to stop at some motorway cafe and buy food at extortionate prices you start to feel a bit helpless and rather pissed off! To make matters worse the companies are literally professional thieves. We got off this overnight bus to find that our bags had been rifiled through whilst we were sleeping! They had 12 hours to have a good look! Luckily we had nothing valuable in there as we'd been warned about this happening but some friends of ours had their camera and cards stolen. Crazily, this happens a lot and all the companies are in on it and won't help you track down the bus. Even the police don't bat a eyelid! Thailand has definitely got the art of scamming down to a tee, but guess this is what comes with tourism. It is quite sad though as you have to be sceptical of everyone but tourism makes money and that breeds corruption.
Anyway enough of that, we still had a great time here and ended up having to extend our time here cos the girls' Indian visas run out whilst we're in India so they had to get new ones which took us 5 days. We weren't expecting this but made the best of a bad situation and headed off for another island - can't complain really! We went to Ko Samet just near Bangkok where we had a really nice time and topped up our tans a bit more and continued the partying... Now ready to head off to India in a couple of days which will probably be a bit of a shock to the system, Thailand has made us soft again! But I'm sure nothing can be as hard as China, at least they speak English in India! Am home the 25th October by the way, for real this time, can't keep extending it anymore!! Time to get a job and repay all this money!
Hope you are all well and thanks for all the birthday messages and cards,
Lots of love