heading off from jodhpur to loop back through jaipur (to pick up a bag we were storing when we had stayed here previously, worked out well as didn't have to lug around trip inbetween), as jaipur is also 'the silver capital'of india there were a few things we'd spotted last time and after doing the rest of our india trip and knowing our budget could now get. after 2 nights in jaipur, it was onto dehli by bus-we had heard plenty of stories and weren't really up for mass-crowded, dirty centre of dehli so we wussed out and headed for a tibetan settlement on northern outskirts of dehli. turned out to be a wonderful move as we both really enjoyed the glimpse of tibetan life we had seen thus far and were pretty much shopped out so relished the oppurtunity of a quiet, tranquil village with great tibetan food out of hustle-bustle (and i'm sure our families appreciated this quiet time too as could email!). crappy time for flight from dehli to bangkok (arrived 5am), and also short flight so no sleep-so our poor friend juanita, who was waiting for us in hotel, pretty much as soon as we got there we crashed out for a couple of hours-although enough time already to notice the differences in price expectation, after hotel concergiege picked us up at the airport-what we naively thought was free service after all touts we had been experiencing and bargaining hard with in nepal/india! after waking from a groggy sleep, time to do some exploring-well kind of, we got as far as the markets and then down one street to check out a travel agent and get some lunch. we knew that we probably wouldn't be able to travel independently and get to see much in the small amt of time we had here. so by that afternoon, travel agent had condensed what we wanted to do in the 10 days we were here-and was straight into it, around 5pm boarded a bus northbound for chang mai. aaah thailand is bliss, so set up and easy for tourists! even our overnight bus was comfy (despite our nazi 'bus hostess'walking up and down the aisle), with big leanback seats, a little food container and a toilet on board! it was so nice not having to organise our accomodation when we arrived in chang mai, we were free to drop our bags and roam-good shopping in chang mai, tried to find a couple of the many temples here. that afternoon we met with our trek leaders at our hotel-''book'' and ''bird'' for the trip we start tomorrow out of chang mai. These guys were both pretty young and obviously very experienced at their jobs. they needed to photocopy id from our passports and seemed most offended when we insisted that one of us come with them to do it, these guys were so friendly and open but i guess we had got used to having our guards up. anyway, i jumped on the back of book's scooter and we hurtled through the streets of chang mai to go to the photocopy place, bike is a really good way to get around! parted with all our instructions and list of what we needed to bring etc for next couple of days and organised pickup from motel in morning. then we were onto a real thai restaurant for our first proper meal in thailand-discounting crackers on the bus and breakfast cereal-and all went as hot as we could go! time now to check out the night markets, plenty of temptation here with good quality stalls lining the streets till late.
Location: jaisalmer, India
Arrive in Jaisalmer after very long (think 10hrs from memory) overnight bustrip from Udaipur, stayed a little longer than planned there due to both of us copping our share of sickness. Jaisalmer is a little out of the way for the short time in India we have remaining(9days!)- (about as far east as you can go in india's north before hitting pakistan, thar desert inbetween), had to prioritise and cut out one stop where hoping to get to, there is still lots we want to do before flying out of dehli so bit of tight schedule! However, both of us were keen to check out this 'desert town' where a quarter of the city's population lives inside a 12th century fort, we had a few reccommendations from other travellers met along the way that is a must and also place to do a camel safari into thar desert. And boy, this place did not disappoint us!!! Arrived early in morning, found very hard to get decent hotel for price we wanted to pay ('new years' prices), lot of hassle and i nearly burst my boiler to one hotelier who attempted to double the price on me (plus some of them you were good as committed to doing a camel safari through hotel if stayed there)- was getting a bit too tough now, didn't trust anyone, poor ang must have been wondering what happened to the placid, gullible travelmate she started with-patience was thin and we were absoultly exhausted! Finally found this absoultly gorgeous haveli (old family home converted into accom) inside the fort, our room was the most glorious bright yellow and right ouside our little double hatch window was wall of fort! The sandstone carving of fort walls harboured hundreds of these simple havelis, as well as a palace and temples-narrow paved streets were like warrens. Arrived morning of new year's eve so crashed out for a while once found haveli in hope we'd improve our social life a little and find somewhere to party tonight! Had a quick look through the winding alleys outside the fort, where main shopping was to be had-every city we visited seemed to have its specialities in merchandise and Jaisalmer's was textiles(especially beautiful embroidered quilts, pillow covers etc with mirrors, sequins the lot) and leatherwork. Leatherwork absoultly amazing and often using embroidery as well-mostly camel leather which is plentiful round these parts! Anyway, to cut a long story short, ang and i weren't sure where to go for new years but badly felt need to let our hair down, were offered by some indian shopkeepers to join them for a desert party-tempting although decided probably not ideal not knowing anyone in middle of nowhere, so settled on going out for dinner to italian restaurant-were sitting there enjoying a few kingfisher beers and wondering what everyone was doing back home when an aussie couple came in who i had borrowed latest lonely planet guide from on bus here. nicest couple and they were heading down to a 'garden'party at a local hotel with a package deal on that included full buffet dinner, music, entry and fireworks. turned out to be a bit of a fizzer but great company with ash and rob as well as a dutch couple- indian music was sooo loud that almost couldn;t hear ourselves talk and dancing on stage was a whole heap of young indian men pelvic thrusting their slim little hips, no girls singing or dancing of course! Anyway struggled but managed to last out till midnight! Had organised a camel safari to start morning of 2 Jan that afternon, lasting 3days and 2 nights.
Location: Udaipur, India
From pushkar, we headed on an overnight bus south-east to Udaipur, we managed to book sleeper spots on the bus so with the help of earplugs, a really warm sleeping bag (one of nepal's best buys!) and a sliding door from sleeper bed and rest of bus managed to get some sleep. also travelled down with chris and chantal, a sydney couple that we had met on an earlier train trip and reunited a few times since-so it was quite good having a few more numbers plus a guy, to deal with inevitable hassle (now seemed to be getting used to-pushkar must have been good chillout!) once we got off bus. we were all totallly exhausted, it's a bit of a spinout emerging bleary-eyed from an overnight bustrip and into a day just beginning in its full force! checked out one dud hotel, then took turns sitting in a cosy little restaurant with a family atmosphere and free rum balls while someone else checked out other places to stay. ended up at a place really close to lake pichola (Udaipur built around lake, amazing views from the rooftop restaurant) and just across the bridge from city palace and main tourist section. Udaipur is often dubbed the 'most romantic city in rajastan' and 'the venice of the east', so am looking forward to checking out!
Location: Pushkar, India
happy christmas everyone!
am sitting on a rooftop restaurant in pushkar, Rajastan. amazing view down over lake, can see mountains surrounding, white bridge over to ghats on other side of lake where camel man waits to show you camels in the hope that you may buy some grass for him and baba (older holy man). can see doves clustering by side of lake between people and on rooftops; as well as big, bare-bummed monkeys jumping between the buildings. nice being up here, can hear hustle downstairs but removed-although this town is alot quieter than most places been>nice not having the traffic, rickshaws. was good to be here for christmas, started with christmas party at sunset hotel-new years style! (this actually turned out to be a bigger celebration than new years) the party was advertised as being on 25th/26th December and i asked at the restaurant about whether they have party both nights, turns out bit like our new year's eve>with countdown from chrissy eve to chrissy day, then shouts of 'happy christmas', a few bangs and a cake! Chris and chantel, 2 aussies we met in train to agra, also met us there and even had little chrissy presents for us! This restaurant tops-went 1st afternoon got here>all these cane chairs out front and other side of street, coloured fairylights between trees, campfires with chairs crowded around-1 of which quite large, nice--looking dog decided to call home, he wasn't moving for anyone! and awesome view over eastern side of lake as well as goodlooking waiter! anyway back to party, 200 rupees (so about $6.50) bought us 2 tickets-1 to massive buffet dinner, and the 2nd to entertainment part of night. traditional dancers, these beautiful women, full skirts, veils, bodies almost a bit african like in their movement. Manage to seperate their top and bottom half-1 lady got ang and i up to dance witth her and much younger girl-harder than looks and large western crowd but hey, gave it a go! am proud to say have participated in every traditional dance been to which is unusual for me! we are crowded around fire with our yak-wool blankets with random others. next up firedancer, bit sadistic in the end-have some photos in page. then there is dancing led by bit painful dj but is so fun to dance without a care! party winds up shortly after eve passed, spend christmas day firstly contacting our families, then chill out at a yoga teachers place that backs onto some fields back of pushkar, nice to just chill-before doing bit of yoga (have tried thus far to do some at each town we visit in india, didn't do any in agra but puskar lots of possibilities.) later that afternoon we climb up the top of a hill that overlooks the town, with a temple +man and his monkey guarding it and a few other travellers already there, to watch the sunset on chrissy day.
Location: kathamndu, Nepal
our time in nepal is nearly over, decided to spend a couple of days after trek in kathmandu (looking around a bit more, getting some nice woolen products to lug around next 6wks, catching up with new friends) before heading to royal chitwan national park on way down to border of india. i cannot express how much i loved our 'nepal adventure' trip with hamalayan encounters over the last 9days-you just have to look at the photos! we were blessed with beautiful weather and even though got a bit crook at times and found it hard to keep up, at the end feel fantastic. we had a constant backdrop of breathtaking scenery on our walks, in a country that is so vibrant in colour and abundant in natural beauty. such a variance in landscapes from rapid flowing ice green rivers, to rocky river beds and lush river beds, to snow-capped moutains and then straw coloured wheat and old rice crops to bright yellow mustard oil plantations. this has definatly been one of the best experiences of my life to date and feel quite close to the 10 others in our trekking group from all over (south african, scotsman, aussies, malaysian, american), as well as our guide harry and assistant guides. the nepalese people we have met along the way when passing thorugh villages seem to be such a warm, content race living a very traditional life. in stark contrast is the armed police and gurka''s that seem to roam everywhere in this coutry and often stop traffic for inspections, march on our bus=that is when i'm especially glad that have chosen to operate through a tour company in order to see more of nepal!