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Nancy’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 23 Oct 2005

Location: Delhi, India

MapOkay guys this is it ... after this one I will well and truly be signing off from Planetranger and sadly leaving behind all the adventures I have tediously relayed to you all over the last six months!!! Unfortunately in just over a week I too will be stuck behind a desk staring at a computer occasionally brightening up my days by re-reading my diary entries and reminicsing about jumping out of planes and climbing mountains ... okay before I make myself well and truly depressed I will give you a brief update on India (I know sounds impossible right?!)

Okay so we have now been in the India for almost a month and we will be leaving this amazing but crazy country in two days ... so like you Zoe we too have been having quite a few lasts of late. For instance we have had our last overnight train journey two days ago(thank god), our last check-in (usually into shabby guesthouses so again, thank god!), our second to last Indian meal (this would not have been thank god until Tara and I both got food poisoning from some mint sauce that hadn't seen a fridge in a few days ... I know it wasn't curry but I got to see a lot of the Indian I ate that evening in quite a horrid manner so associations and all ...), our last day of cheap shopping ... okay you get the picture! It's really quite sureal to think that in a couple of days we will all be back in miserable blighty and that a whole six months will have passed in which I have seen and done some amazing things ... oh and of course met some really cool peeps! I was just thinking the other day that we will have seen three out of the seven great wonders of the world on this trip (the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat and the Taj Mahal) ... how cool is that!!! When I think of all the things we have seen and done it is then that I realise how lucky we've been to have come and done these things and I shouldn't complain that I have to come home, especially as we have met so many young Asian people who found it incomprehensible that someone could go away for that long and visit that many countries, many of them have never even left their own city/town let alone their country! Anyway ... back to India I realise you don't want to hear the inner thoughts of Nancy, get to the real stuff woman!!!

So I really will keep this one brief cos I will be home soon and I can tell you stuff in more detail when I see you all ... this is just a quickie in case anyone reads it before I get home and for those of you we have met along the way who 'claim' to read our webpages ... you know who you are!!!

So we have well and truly done a whistle stop tour of this massive country ... and boy what an enormous feat it was!!! We started in the South where we visited Mumbai (and for those I haven't told already (I know there's not many!) we made our debut into the film industry there... huh um, Bollywood extras I'll have you know!), Vagatore and Palolem in Goa (beautiful beach resorts), Hampi and Jog Falls in Karnataka and Cochin and the backwaters in Kerala ... I know I'm exhausted just writing all that!!! Yep, we did over do it I have to say and I think after five months of travelling in Asia (those of you who know ... it's not always the simplest of things!) it was probably a bit over ambitious to try and see so many places in such a short amount of time! But hey we still saw some amazing things and the few days on the beach in Goa were very much appreciated! By far my favourite place in the South was Hampi. It is a beautiful, dusty (as much of India is) little town that was once the grand seat of the famed Vijayangara empire. Although it was devastatingly destroyed by Moghul invaders in the 14th Century the town still contains an amazing charm and the splendid remains of palaces, temples (which are still active - thousands of Hindu devotees visit them every year) and gateways are really mind blowing. I have to say (probably to much disagreement) that I found Hampi much more enchanting than Angkor Wat, which although magnificantly grand, lacked the charm and sense of spiritualness that Hampi naturally oozed! Angkor Wat, for me, was too much of a tourist attraction, which therefore made it hard to envision the old active empire it used to be. The people and city of Hampi was still very much entwined with the ruins of the old empire and that is what made it so special ... however, it has only recently been recoginsed as a world heritage sight by UNESCO so I'm sure things will change there quite drastically in a few years. Also at the moment it is not that easy to get to and there are not any posh hotels so it is not quite catering the rich, two-week holiday type tourists yet ... in fact when we walked around the ruins we didn't see one other western tourists, which was very nice and very unusual for tourist attractions in Asia!

We also had a really nice time in Kerala, where the way of life is very relaxed and easy going making it quite different to most of India. In fact as the only state in India to independently elect a communist party there is a distinct difference in the Keralan way of life. Homelessness and unemployment is still significantly lower than other states in the South and education for both men and women is marginally higher ... in all this leads to a less competitive, and therefore often aggressive, character in Kerala making backpackers' time there generally stress free and much more enjoyable. The state is very green and lush - palm trees absolutley cover the whole state - and the backwaters give it an added beauty as boats slowly meander along them all day with fisherman, tradesmen and quite often tourists. I do have to say though that backwaters in no way compare to the Mekong Delta ... I can't really tell you why but the Mekong had something special about it!

Just a quick tip for any of you venturing into South India at any time soon ... unless you are interested in seeing a mediocre waterfall, scattered with monkeys that chase you if you growl at them and which is only reachable by a number of horrible bus journeys give Jog Falls a miss!!!

Okay so after just over two weeks in South India we ventured up to the North ... absolutely knackered and heads full of horror stories about Delhi belly and unwanted male attention. I have to carify that on most counts the horror stories are absolute nonsense and just make a good story for a 'hardened' backpacker to recount. Until now (and I don't feel too much that I am tempting fate as I only have one whole day left here!) we have only encountered one over friendly kiss goodbye, a few invasions of personal space and a couple of spine-chilling stares! We are quite good at avoiding eye-contact now though and are not too put out of shape by constant staring and the occasional wondering hand as you brush pass somebody ... oh the joys of backpacking!!!

Anyway, in the North we had set ourselves a bit more of a realistic itinerary ... Delhi, Agra (the Taj Mahal), Udaipur and Jaipur. We haven't been to the Taj yet but I think this will remain the same even after we have seen it ... hands down my favourite place in the North was Udaipur. It is an absoultely beautiful place (I know I say that a lot ... oh god I'm starting to sound like a certain person ... beeeautiful!!!) but really the Lonely Planet is not wrong when it says it is one of the most romantic places in the world! It is a city (although it avoids all the hustle and bustle that dominates all of India's main cities) that is set around 5 lakes and is surrounded by mountains. The main lake is the artificial Pichola lake that has at it's centre Lake Palace and other such intricate buildings, at it's borders beautiful old white buildings, and as it's backdrop tumbling green hills and mountains. It was really nice to just sit on one of Udaipur's numerous roof terraces enjoying the stunning surroundings and listening to the washer people below who slap colourful clothes against the lakes shore all day while their children splash around and swim in the lake itself ... really it is like a dream place and the perfect place to recuperate after a few days of hectic travelling! We also met a guy who my mum had met when she went to India who lived in Udaipur and he showed us some of the less toursity parts of Udaipur (particulalry the surrounding countryside and villages) and this was really special ... when he told us he felt very happy and privileged that he lived in Udaipur he wasn't wrong ... also he was an artist so lots of inspiration there that's for sure!!!

Jaipur was a horrible place where we got hassled unbelievably and got sick so there's not much to say there really. Delhi is pretty cool and although mental I quite enjoy the buzz here ... like much of India if you can get pass the fact that lots of the country is used as a public toilet, a public dustbin and a public farm you can start to really enjoy it and you begin to see all the colours, smells and sights that make this country so fascinating and enjoyable!

Off to see my third wonder of the world tomorrow ... won't be saying that again in a while ...

Cheers for listening!